Sunday 23 August 2009


I've written about Chrissie Gittens before in one of my writing posts but we've just been in contact by e-mail and I've just finished her collection of short stories - Family Connections - which I'm going to review in my Reading Section so she's very much on my mind.

This lady is obviously one heck of a busy person but she still took the time some years ago to write out a list of publications for me that might consider my short stories.

She was 'Poet In Residence' at Ivydale Primary School, London, when Lou was teaching there. Lou told her about my frustration about not being published so that is why she wrote the list.

And two of those publications came up trumps:-

* Quality Women's Fiction where I had a short story published


*Mslexia , which is a superb magazine for writers with a mix of articles, stories and poetry. It was here that I read about Hazel Cushion and her new publishing press Accent Press, which I contacted and had two short stories published in the Sexy Shorts Collections. I also went to the launch party for one of the collections at Antony Worell Thompson's restaurant in London and met writers like Sophie King. I still subscribe to Mslexia - it really is a brilliant magazine.

And it was reading one of the recent Mslexia publications that I saw the name Chrissie Gittens, who had just had a poetry collection published by Salt Press. 'I know that name!' I thought.

So, I found that precious piece of A4 paper in my files and yes, it was the same name.

I then googled Chrissie's website, where I got her e-mail address and sent an e-mail reminding her who I was and how much she had helped me, and Salt Publishing and ordered a short story collection plus her new poetry collection. And within a few days, I had received an e-mail from Chrissie, thanking me for thanking her (and, yes, she remembered Lou) plus the two books.

That I ordered a poetry collection was a first for me. I studied a lot of poetry for my exams a long time ago, Yeats, T.S. Elliot etc, but none since until I started to read and enjoy the poetry in Mslexia. I realised how much I could learn as a writer from poetry and so buying Chrissie's collection was an obvious progression. I shall review it when I've finished reading it.

And having read her short stories, I'm pretty sure I'm going to enjoy the poetry, because the short stories were the best I've ever read. And it was no surprise to discover that a number of these stories, plus some plays, have been broadcast on Radio 4, which has an extremely high standard.

Also, I learnt on Chrissie's website, that Jo Good, who published Quality Women's Fiction but sold it to an American writer a few years ago and so I stopped subscribing, has just started up a new writing magazine - The Yellow Room - so that's an avenue for my writing again that I didn't know about.

So, thank you Chrissie Gittens. You're an absolute star.


I want to say a big thank you to my husband, John, of daftnotstupid fame for updating this blog site. I am well impressed.

The Dog in the Pram

The Dog In The Pram
a short story by
Maggie Knutson

This story was a runner up in The Exeter Short Story Competition 2009 and you can read it in its entirety here.

The dog would simply not budge. I hissed as loudly as I dared: “Scram! … Scat! … Scoot! … Push Off! … Get Lost!” but he just stood defiantly in my Grass Enhancement Area and fixed me with his gaze. I took my shoe off and hurled it towards the creature. It struck him on the chest and pain flickered across his eyes but still he would not move. I am not given to anxiety but I could feel panic spread through me like an injected drug. “Go away!” I breathed. “Please go away!” I sank onto my allocated Square Block of Patio and switched off my mind for a minute to gain some composure.

The dog sank down, too, his back legs sprawling outwards like plump, furry chicken legs and his front paws crossed comfortably, as if he had settled down to watch The Screen or was waiting for supper. One thing was for sure: he looked in no hurry to leave.

In The New World, governed by the only political party left - the B.C. Party (originally the Politically Correct Party, then the Be Correct Party and now just the B.C. Party) - there were three categories of dogs: Working Dogs To Help The Human Race, Laboratory Dogs To Advance Science, and Pet Dogs To Reward Key Workers.

If you want to read more, just follow this link

Maggie Knutson Copyright 2009

Sunday 16 August 2009


Sorry to harp on about this but I haven't been well since John and I returned home from Morocco at the beginning of July and not only is this really beginning to annoy me but I'm also wondering if I've actually got a new, unnamed virus.

It all started on the day of our return, when I got the squits, which has plagued me ever since, apart from, annoyingly, yesterday. I know I definitely had an ear infection (two lots of antibiotics) and then, hot on the heels came what my doctor pronounced as swine flu, although now I'm not so sure about that.

However, to be on the safe side, I isolated myself for a week, staying mostly in bed sleeping, which was actually quite pleasant, and spending about half an hour on my computer in the evening, which was a lovely distraction, plus re-watching The Wire Season One again, still marvelling at its brilliance.

Then, when I thought I was over the worse, I allowed myself the pleasure of crawling out of bed at noon, belting up the dog into the backseat of the car, driving to The King Alfred Pub on the outskirts of Winchester and parking in one of the few two hour free parking spaces in Winchester. (Since I wrote this bit, all the free parking spaces there have become 'verbotten' because road works are going on i.e. two blokes sitting in a large machine drinking tea and chatting - so that little treat is out for at least a week!)

Then I would take the dog for a brief walk (just in case he packed his bag and left the house in disgust because I wasn't giving him his essential walking rights); then have a hot chocolate in the pub's garden (the food is great there but the coffee is foul) plus a ciggie (don't even begin to lecture me about that - a girl's got to have some pleasures) and revising my character lists for my new novel.

Thus refreshed and re-energised and the dog back in the car (in the shade with the windows down in case you're going to have a go at me about that, too), walk the brief distance to River Park Leisure Centre, my swimming bag on my back, swim a pathetic ten lengths in the pool to prevent my muscles from seizing up, walk back to the car, go home and go back to bed. And for a while, this little routine worked well and I was feeling at least part way human.

But by last Friday, I had totally run out of steam, not only unable to do anything, not even a walk or a swim, but also having to recall John from work so he could drive me to my osteopath, Nick Harding, who is fantastic, for an appointment. So far so good until we got to Sainsbury's car park (Nick is based at the Surgery within the Sainsbury complex.)

And then I totally disgraced myself by weeping copiously, much to the consternation of passers-by, because my left shoulder and arm accidently received a hefty blow by the back of the passenger seat falling onto me (and I'm not going to say who was to blame for that; suffice it to say that it wasn't me) and it jolly well hurt.

Collapsed in a heap in the Surgery, again causing consternation, and only stopped weeping when I started to tell Nick about a radio play I had heard the day before.

The next morning, John took me to my doctor (yes, I allowed myself to get in the car with him again) where I said, rather pathetically to the doctor: 'help!'

My doctor was absolutely brilliant: prescribed another dose of antibotics for the gastroenteritis, took a large quantity of blood from me and gave me two two tubes for urine and the squits. I was to take them to hospital when the task was done and leave them in their out of hours box. On no account, though, was I to take the antibiotics until then.

No problem, I thought, anticipating the soon to be had relief gained from the antibiotics.


The peeing was fine - I could pee for England - but mysteriously, the squits had completely stopped. If I'd known that all I needed was to go to the toilet with a tube placed at the ready to stop the diarrhoea, I'd have tried it weeks ago.

I still had to wait in town for my prescription, thought, so I decided to use the opportunity to go to Boots (my very favourite shop) and use all the extra points and money off coupons before they expired.

Big mistake.

Whilst at the payout counter, I was so tired that I had to hang onto the rail and getting back to the car was agony. And no antibiotics that day, which at least gave me a chance to read the instructions carefully. I've never had this antibiotic before - Ciprofloxacin - and as well as the grim list of possible side effects, there were detailed instructions about what not to eat/drink unless you took the medicine one and a half hours before or at least four hours. So, just working out when was the best time to take these tablets was a major feat. It's like you now need a degree just to take medicine!

Success came on the Sunday, though, so now I could take the antibiotics using my dragonian timetable.

It's Monday today and already I'm beginning to feel better. Hopefully, the tests will reveal the cause/causes of this horrible malaise and I can build up enough strength for our famous Holiday in Italy in September, which is only three weeks away.

But something strange has happened during this time which could well be a new, as yet unnamed virus, which I am now going to name - The terrifying compulsion to tidy and clean virus.

Because, every time I ventured out of bed, I just had to systematically go through all my drawers and shelves in every room, sorting out what was to give away, what was to throw away and what was to keep. I would, have course, have to clean the drawer or shelf, too. And while I was dozing in bed, I would plan out what I would sort out next. It even reached a point when I had several tasks on the go at the same time, with little piles of books/magazines/cosmetics etc littered all over the place.


Lou was horrified when I told her I was writing this blog (believe me, it's a therapy for me because I hate waiting for the results of medical tests, just in case something really nasty crops up). 'Mother, you can't write about your tummy bug in such graphic detail,' she said.

Having felt compelled to do so, though, I'm wondering if I've actually got the unpolitically incorrect Jeremy Clarkson virus, going well beyond the bounds of civilised decency. However, there's one small flaw to that. I can't imagine Jeremy Clarkson has ever, in all his life, contemplated cleaning and tidying anything. And I bet he doesn't even wash/clean his own car/cars!

And I don't think there's a cure for either of these viruses - if they do actually exist. But if they do, I stake my claim to have them named The Maggie Virus.

But to finish on a positive note, a big plus during these last few weeks is that I have been listening to lots and lots of programmes on Radio 4. It really is the best radio station in the world and it's one of the multitiude of reasons to be proud of being British.

There really are some excellent programmes, although I have to admit that I tend to sleep through most of them, but that play I was telling Nick about was so wonderful that I actually cried (okay, not too difficult to do that to me at the moment but it was so beautifully moving).

The play in question was on Thursday 13th of August, at 2.15, called 'Dear Writer' by Jane Rogers and the starring the superb Anna Massey, whose voice is like a mature, smooth red wine.

Anna played a children's writer who was suffering from writer's block until she received a letter from a fan, pleading with her to write another book. And so a correspondence between the two developed. This young fan of hers, who was pretty unhappy about her family and her life, would tell Anna about various incidents in her life Anna started to weave them into a delicously descriptive and moving story.

But as the play progressed, I began to suspect that maybe the young girl was actually Anna's own inner thoughts and so the story started to take on a new depth. And the ending was just right - positive but in a very natural way. Brilliant.

If you wish to hear it, you can catch it on the BBC website until this Thursday. I'm certainly going to do that.

Plus, it's given me loads of ideas for my own writing, which I'm itching to start again.

P.S. I have come to a decision - to hell with agents and publishers. I'm going to post my novel on the web for free so it just needs John to set things up, unless by some miracle I can find a last minute publisher when I'm better. I'll let you know when it's available and then you can make up your own minds as to whether it's a great novel or a load of squits.

P.P.S. John has just posted my short story The Dog In The Pram next blog up.

P.P.P.S. The medical tests showed up nothing more benign than an infection - not pleasant but not life threatening.

Peace and good health to all of us.

Saturday 15 August 2009


Blow me down if Polly and The Billet Doux's debut album 'Fiction, half-Truths and Downright Lies' was reviewed in the Independent On Sunday the day after they appeared on Radio 4's Loose Ends.

This group really is getting around some.

Sadly, their music is not to the reviewer's taste, his/her argument based on the idea that it was the kind of music that Terry Wogan might once have played on his Radio Two show.

However, when I spoke to Polly about this she was as chuffed as hell that:-

a. the album had even been reviewed in such a prestigous Sunday newspaper (there's no such thing as bad publicity)


b. Terry Wogan actually loves their music and is going to play tracks on his show, which has an enormous audience.

"Keep the review," I said, "and gloat over it when you're really famous, as I intend to do with all my rejections from agents and magazines."

Somehow, I think that Polly and The Billet Doux will be well famous way before I am/not.

Anyway, there are plenty of excellent reviews of their music to read if you google their name, including a glowing report from this year's Glastonbury performance.

I pride myself on recognising talent when I see it and am so chuffed that I've been able to see them play live and for John to record some of their performances.

And by the way, thank you to the person who left a comment on my blog about the Loose Ends performance. It would seem that comments can only be accessed, at present, by clicking on the title of the relevant blog but John plans to fiddle around with my computer so that comments are more readily available, because I 'lurve' comments.

And since I've mentioned my computer, you might be interested to know that I've traded in my Mackingtosh (is that how you spell it?) Apple (nicknamed 'Fucku' by me), for a Dell, which is infinitely better/quicker/more user friendly and seems to see me as an ally rather than foe to be thwarted at every turn.

And a final thought, forty years since Woodstock yesterday and doesn't Jimi Hendrix still sound amazing!

Saturday 8 August 2009


Was slumped in a chair in the kitchen just now (approximately 6.40 p.m.), watching John get supper ready and bemoaning the fact that I'd spent the whole day incapable of doing anything but sleep (this swine flu is NOT a gentle little illness), with Loose Ends (Radio 4) tinkering along in the background, when John shushed me and turned the radio up.

And playing, on national radio, was POLLY AND THE BILLET DOUX performing their single 'Follow My Feet'! And boy did they sound good!

Yippee! It has raised my spirits sufficiently to give me the strength to not only hold a glass of wine but also drink from it.

Now I can't wait to get better to go see Polly and say well done!

Thursday 6 August 2009


Guess what - I've got swine flu - probably. I've not had a blood test to comfirm this, because the NHS aren't doing blood tests anymore, but I've got a fever, most of the symptoms and an inability to stay out of bed for more than half an hour or so at any given time (unless it's to lie on the settee to re-watch The Wire Season One).

Now, don't get me wrong: I hope I have got swine flu because the 'experts' say that once caught, it can't be caught again, and I'd much rather have it now and not when it returns in the autumn, possibly hooked up with a nasty little friend, such as bird flu, and then the world really will be in trouble.

It's been a funny old time for me since we returned from Morocco at the beginning of July. I brought back with me a tummy bug and only the fact that our seats were in close proximity to the aircraft loo saved me from severe embarrasment.

In fact, I had to almost crawl through Gatwick Airport (and was asked by an official if I was okay, which I thought was very thoughtful) to get through baggage and customs to find a Boots shop, thankfully open, for anti-diarrhoea tablets and rehydration sachets. And then I moaned most of the way home in the taxi in a pathetic kind of way.

I took about a week to recover from that and am now seriously wondering whether I should include incontinence pads in my luggage next time we go on holiday...just in case. This actually has been a consideration of mine since John and I caught bacterial gastroentoritis in Portugal some years ago. I won't go into the details - you probably think that most of this blog is 'too much information' already but hey, these things are important and can affect us all and someone needs to write about them - but suffice to say that we left a very large tip for the cleaners and I'd love to know what cleaning products they used because they really were effective.

So, I'm over the tummy bug but then I start to feel 'not quite right' but soldier on for a couple of weeks until one of my ears starts to hurt like hell so I go to my doctor, who pronounces ear infection and gives me a course of antibiotics, which seem to do the trick.

But once the course has finished, I start feeling 'off' again and get an appointment to see the duty doctor at my surgery, convinced that I just need another course of antibiotics, which is usually the case for me. Have you got a temperature she asks me. No I reply.

So, I waltz into the surgery, past all the large signs saying 'DO NOT PASS THIS POINT IF YOU HAVE A TEMPERATURE' and wait with all the other patients until it's my turn.

I then tell the doctor what my symptoms are, assure her I just need another course of antibiotics and allow her to take my temperature to prove my point. Only...I've got a temperature. Great. This sounds like flu, she says, but I still push for the antibiotics (stupid fool that I am) and reluctantly, she gives me a presciption. I'd already decided that I didn't want tamiflu because I've heard that the side effects are unpleasant, including feeling/being sick.

I take the antibiotics and for a day I feel much better and then I don't. And then my head feels as if it's going to burst, my throat is razor-sharp sore and I'm having difficulty breathing. This is turning out to be not nice at all.

After almost a week in bed, I felt sufficiently better to have a short swim and walk the dog. Big mistake. Cause I can hardly move today AND the sun is out and I'm missing it. If you want to feel sorry for me, then feel free, and if you want to offer up a healing prayer to God, the Universe, The Virgin Mary or anyone else, then also feel free. And thank you.

P.S. My blog doesn't have a spell check and I've used some very big words that I know I've mis-spelt and aren't in my dictionary, so give me a bit of slack, I beg you.

P.P.S. Almost forgot to include my main message, which is: if we do not farm animals humanely, with plenty of space and conditions for them to live a normal, healthy life, then we are going to continue to get these nasty, deadly viruses. Mankind's fault again so don't go blaming God.