Long Walks and Elephants …

17/06/2017 // by Jan Moran Neil

Creative Ink writers: Jane MacKinnon and Maureen Bradley have won the poetry and prose (respectively) ‘Rhyme & Reason’ competition this year.

Judging is absolutely anonymous and Jane won with her outstanding poem ‘The Long Walk’.
There were over 100 entries. Nick Wastnage judged the prose competition and
Maureen Bradley’s ‘Make the Elephant Go Away’ which was work shopped at Creative Ink
was a worthy winner. Competition is fierce. The editor: Jill Wallis is retiring this year. If
anyone is interested in taking the editorial reins please contact me.

The Tuesday ‘Get Inspired’ class starting in September is now full. I have two places left
on the ‘Get that Book’ arrangement for the summer through to November. Email me if interested. My Summer evening workshop with Catherine Klyhn is also full. (Catherine has hired the Seasons cafe in Amersham to accommodate numbers and to fit in with my Seasons theme – how does she do that?) but if you want to come to the Autumn evening workshop on Wednesday 13th September contact me.

Please do come to one of my Red Lipstick & Revelations perfs:

Gerrards Cross Bookshop – Wednesday 28th June -2.30 – 3.30 pm – £5 to include great cake. Saint Andrews Church 12 Packhorse Gerrards Cross SL9 7QE. Contact: www.chilternbookshops.co.uk

Regional winner of Independent Bookshop of the Year 2017/Winner of 2016 Vintage Independent Bookshop of the Year
Beaconsfield Library – Thursday 13th July 2017 -2.30 – 3.30 pm. Free Entry.

‘Red Lipstick & Revelations’ Performances

06/06/2017 // by Jan Moran Neil

The autumn ‘Get Inspired’ Tuesday course begins on Tuesday 12th September for 5 consecutive weeks – £180 – to include 3000 word assessment, coffee and biscuits at the Fitzwilliams Centre, Beaconsfield. 10.00 am until midday. There are three places left. Email me if you would like enrolment and syllabus details.

My poetry collection ‘Red Lipstick & Revelations’ is available on: http://www.indigodreams.co.uk/jan-moran-neil/4593516523

If you have enjoyed please leave a sentence or two on Amazon.

These are my performances and book signings going forward:

Gerrards Cross Bookshop – Wednesday 28th June -2.30 – 3.30 pm – £5 to include refreshments. Saint Andrews Church 12 Packhorse Gerrards Cross SL9 7QE. Contact: www.chilternbookshops.co.uk
Regional winner of Independent Bookshop of the Year 2017/Winner of 2016 Vintage Independent Bookshop of the Year
Beaconsfield Library – Thursday 13th July 2017 -2.30 – 3.30 pm. Free Entry.
Gerrard’s Cross Philosophical and Literary Festival – Poems and Pints. Saturday 23rd September. 7.30 pm for 8pm at The Memorial Centre, East Common, Gerrards Cross, SL9 7AD. £8 to include a drink. Tickets available on the door and in aid of the Memorial Centre and Mind. Please contact me if you would like to read from and sell your own collection.
South Africa:
Fish Hoek Scribblers – Thursday 19th October 2017 -7.30 pm. Contact: www.facebook.com/groups/FishHoekScribblers
Fish Hoek Library – Friday 27th October 2017 -10.00am. Contact: fishhoek.library@capetown.gov.za
Off the Wall – Thursday 2nd November 2017 – 7.30pm at A Touch of Madness 12 Nuttall Road, Observatory. Contact: www.facebook.com/fbotw/

For my Father/100

19/05/2017 // by Jan Moran Neil

The Great and the Good –
For my dad 24/5/17-15/7/77

My father died on St. Swithin’s day, 1977, and it rained for a long time after that.
We were given no notice of this major event. He lived three score years, depriving us of those very important ten, when he could have seen me married, could have seen his last grandchild born; could have known her, if only for moments. My daughter will only ever know her grandfather through my eyes.
He was the steely structure around which we built our lives and when he died, the foundations were almost blown apart.
I suppose I should have read the writing on those walls which once existed. But at twenty two, you have mental dyslexia. Unplanned events shock you. You haven’t learned to watch out for life’s secrets. But then, what can prepare you for the sudden failing of a heart? Even if you are given last moments which are irreversibly spiralling downward.
My father planned everything. He planned my birth, whilst Mum always says she has no idea how it happened at all. So heavily into planning was he, that we were stunned to think that he could not have been aware of his imminent departure. One week after his death, I realised that he could not have possibly known. A renewed ten year passport arrived in the post. It is clearly my most redundant possession and yet my heart has never been able to part with it.
No. My father was more prepared for his death when he was stationed in Nairobi during the war. His letters, immaculately uncensored, reminded his mother that there was thirteen pounds in his Post Office savings account, which could be claimed from the superintendent “should anything happen to me”. Apparently my grandmother sat in her Belfast terraced house and cried for days afterwards.
I believe the key to my father’s sudden surprise in his last moments was given to me in our Ford Escort van outside the Cash and Carry store when I was seven years old. After a deal of philosophising about the unknown secrets of life and the stacking of tinned tomatoes, I told him that death frightened me. He said, “Then don’t give it any attention.”
He held no death insurance. “That’s like backing a horse you don’t want to win,” he said.
Dad’s unplanned event shocked him. He gave himself over to mental dyslexia on a voluntary basis. He would never have agreed to teach my sister’s eldest daughter ‘Battleships’ if he felt that he was not going to fulfil that promise. We were so cross about the ‘Battleships’ and absence of his UHU glue for filling the gaps. Grief is a long, hard road no matter how many times you have been round the track.
In the years following his death, I searched for pieces of him in anybody. I scoured the streets for his likeness in the faces of old men, despising them for their differences and their survival.
I looked into myself for a recognition of the inevitable genes that must be passed on. I saw none. It is only in recent years, when identity has become more fully stamped that I see the similarities. He was able to settle the attention of a room upon himself with one subtle stroke and a string of jokes. I’m not a straight copy. I’ll do it with anecdotes.
We found my father’s secrets in the week after he died. Cupboards full of them. Notebooks full of those jokes in alphabetical order, with key words to aid memory. He was heavily into mnemonics. I realise in writing this that I have my own notebooks. Each anecdote is carefully recorded for future public scrutiny. There’s the love of order and penny counting, an insistence on dental hygiene and the similar way I labour the changing of car gears.
What else did he pass on? Eccentricities. Like the time he laid eggs on East Croydon station. He asked my mother to sew up the pocket in his overcoat. He boiled the eggs at work. He ran for the train.
My sister and I watched a man in the main street, surrounded by people, staring up at the sky, lost in thought. It was ages before we realised it was Dad.
I have shopped in carpet slippers and once set out in mid-winter for Africa in ballet pumps.
He told me we were here for our children; to give them a better life than we have ever had. And that our children would pass that on, until eventually there would come a generation that would have this planet and other planets for themselves. Heaven.
He gave me his surname. He gave me his initials. J.E. And he called me by my own Christian name, without offering up any pretentious nicknames.
What he wasn’t able to give me after the age of twenty two, was his presence and the lumps of nepotism I watched being heaped upon my contemporaries. And I was angry with him for it.
I was angry that he had spent his life posting me notifications of what the future might bring and failed to deliver his final notice. I was angry not that he said the cup of tea I made him was rotten, but that he had not told me it was his last one. It was the most important cup of tea I was ever to make in my life and I didn’t know.
My dad ‘raged against the dying of the light’ in those last moments, whilst I looked on helplessly and my sister held a bottle of Lucozade. My mum told him it was going to be all right. It was not going to be all right for a long time. We were to continue raging for him; with one another and against one another.
The day after his own mother died, I took the train up to Victoria with him. He was heading for the sleeper to Stranraer and for her Belfast funeral. He silently took a secret from his coat pocket. He smoothed his thumb over the creased faces on a faded brown and cream photograph, as if in a caress. It was a photograph of his father and himself, aged about nine. I was nineteen. I had never seen a photograph of my grandfather or my own father as a child.
“Do you still remember him?” I asked naively. I was then the same age that he had been when he lost his father.
“He is as clear and close to me as my mother is now,” he replied. Then back into the cupboard of his pocket the smoothed out photo went. He looked out of the train window and stared up at the sky.
There are moments which herald the future and this was one of them. Doors open and the future comes bounding in. I lost him quite soon after that railway ride. For, on his insistence, I was to accept a good job in Canada. And, setting aside the months after his death when I could no more tell you what he looked like than God, I can safely say I carry a clear picture of him in some pocket of my brain. That is all I am doing now, some forty years on; taking the picture out and showing it the light.
Above all, my father gave me his ordinariness. Few are born to be great. We were born to be ordinary. I cannot paint this man with words. And I cannot describe the sense of ‘all rightness’ I felt when I looked out from the school stage on first nights and caught the light from a Fresnal glinting on his huge spectacles.
He was not a famous illustrator, or writer, or movie star or a successful businessman. He worked as a railway clerk at Clapham Junction station. He owned a grocery shop. He did shift work and he wasn’t always there on Christmas mornings because people still had to travel.
He was a man who gained respect by what he did rather than what he said. “A gentleman and a scholar,” they said of him at his Orange funeral on the Newtownards Road. “A man who always paid his dues to the Lodge promptly and in full.”
But he could be pedantic. He switched off lights when you were in the room to save on fuel. He paid up domestic bills before we went on holiday leaving us short of the extra luxuries. He could talk dental appointments when you wanted to talk career crisis. I cannot count ‘quality time’ conversations with him past the age of eleven. He never hugged me past the age of nine.
He never sat on a pedestal. He doesn’t now. I did not worship the ground that he walked upon, because he and his Protestant ethic taught me to worship nothing but our Creator. In short, and in time, we re-built our walls because he had laid the foundations so solidly.
My father was not great. Good job; I had no need of great men when I was a child.
But he was a good man. Good enough. For me.

In Search of an Editor …

08/05/2017 // by Jan Moran Neil

This is the first time I have printed someone else’s words on my blog but I don’t think I can say this better than Jill Wallis, the editor of ‘Rhyme & Reason’ raising funds for the Iain Rennie Grove Hospice.

Hi, all. Many thanks to those of you who have sent your entries for this year’s Rhyme and Reason competitions on the theme of Freedom. We have just over three weeks to go to the deadline on 1st June, so do get writing if you haven’t already sent me your entries. http://www.renniegrove.org/docs/default-source/event-pdfs/rhyme-and-reason-entry-form-2017.pdf

I’d really like to make this year’s diary extra special as it will be my last year as editor. I’ve been involved for about ten years now and feel it is time to pass things over to someone new, as I pursue other interests. The Rhyme and Reason publication has been going now for over 25 years and it is vital that it continues, so do please contact me, or Hayley Webb, our Rennie Grove link (hayley.webb@renniegrove.org), if you feel you could take some part in ensuring the project continues after I leave. In these days of computers, geography really doesn’t matter, just a willingness to liaise between contributors, Rennie Grove and the publishers. (training/advice will be provided).

I do hope someone will come forward, as it has been a privilege to be involved with the book, and with all of you, during this time. Do make sure this year’s book is a cracker! Regards, Jill

Jan here – I’ve done the editing job many years ago but will support anyone who thinks they might like to have a literary plunge.


‘Red Lipstick & Revelations’ Book Launch and ‘The Search for the Missing Reading Glasses’.

24/04/2017 // by Jan Moran Neil

‘Red Lipstick & Revelations’ Book Launch and ‘The Search for the Missing Reading Glasses.’
Many thanks to the 60 attendees who supported the Book Launch of my poetry collection ‘Red Lipstick & Revelations’. These days there are such demands on our time; the world is a small place and people travel but I am so grateful to those people who have or do belong to Creative Ink for Writers and Actors, Past and Present Rhyme & Reason Committee members, Quaker Poets, Cambridge and Royal Central School of Speech and Drama Alumni and friends and family who came along. (My 5 month old granddaughter attended and slept through most of our performance …)
Someone said – and was that the sexy Jess Cox or my sexy daughter Jen Dannhauser? – that attending a poetry recital on a Saturday night is. not. sexy. Well we all were sexy especially Jess and Jen who dazzled us in red and with their readings of poems by Jan Moran Neil. You can buy copies here if you haven’t already done so


and book me for my show ‘Red Lipstick’.
I thoroughly enjoyed myself until I realised I had lost my reading glasses which will cost what I probably made on the sale of my books. But hey ho, I had a better time than if I had forked out for a party and tomorrow our Creative Ink ‘Get Inspired’ classes start and what do you know? I had planned to read Elizabeth Bishop’s villanelle – The Art of Losing. Much better to lose reading glasses than one’s sight. Look on the bright side if you can.

PS Comp copy of ‘Red Lipstick’ for anyone finding my glasses.

‘Red Lipstick & Revelations’ Book Launch/saturday 22nd April

09/04/2017 // by Jan Moran Neil

Blog 161 – ‘Red Lipstick & Revelations’ Book Launch and Reading – Saturday 22nd April.
I put this as my heading just in case anyone reads this and would like to come along to Barn Hall, Amersham Community Centre at 7.00 pm for 7.30 pm on this date. I will be reading along with a couple of Creative Ink for Actors for about an hour. There is a licensed bar, free entry and free car parking. Just let me know.
I’m just back from Cape Town where I met with the Fish Hoek Scribblers and my friend Sybil for whom I wrote a cinquain a few bi-months ago.

Bold, Poetic.
Loving, writing, thinking
Of you, dear friend

She’s recovering well from her stroke and I am recovering from my Sudden Hearing Loss. (SHL) but more the steroids I was blasted with before I took flight to Cape Town. Susan Swart, a Tinnitus Specialist in Cape Town www.43deanstreet.co.za told me that the body has an amazing ability to heal itself.
Creative Ink ‘Get Inspired’ classes this term are full with a waiting list. The theme is Time. It’s a great healer. The sun helps too. Isn’t it good to see it has its hat on today?
Here’s the link for the Rhyme & Reason entry form for poetry (which I am judging) and prose. Theme: Freedom. Closing date: June 1st.


Happy First Mothers’ Day

26/03/2017 // by Jan Moran Neil

Happy First Mothers’ Day to Miss Trial and Mothers for whom this is the First Mothers’ Day. The Early Months can be a trial. But we are mad about Maddie. So happy First Nanas’ Day to me.

2 places left on the Creative Ink ‘Get Inspired’ course beginning on Tuesday 25th April for 5 weeks excluding May 23rd and May 30th. Email me for details.
Free Entry to Creative Ink for Actors reading from my poetry collection on Saturday 22nd April at Barn Hall, Amersham Community Centre – 7.00 pm for 7.30 pm. Let me know if you and friends would like to come.

My Marlow FM 97.5 Radio Interview

14/03/2017 // by Jan Moran Neil

My Marlow FM 97.5 Radio Interview with the inimitable Diarmaid Fitzpatrick
Mr Red Hat (who manages my website and is one of my oldest friends – no – I mean one of my longest standing friends) had uploaded my Marlow FM 97.5 Radio interview with Diarmaid Fitzpatrick. It can be accessed by hitting the button at the left hand button on the home page of my website.
The first person to discover the word for the constant condition I have will get a free poem appraisal. I hope that has whetted your appetite to listen to me reading my poetry from my recently published ‘Red Lipstick & Revelations’ published by Indigo Dreams Publishing and to stay to the end of the interview and discover which word I forgot to mention. Clue: worse things have happened at sea to people – the trouble is the sea is in my head.
I must now go and bath the baby. No – I mean – I really must go and bath my granddaughter: Madeleine Lily.
3 places left on the Creative Ink ‘Get Inspired’ course beginning on Tuesday 25th April for 5 weeks excluding May 23rd and May 30th. Email me for details.
Free Entry to Creative Ink for Actors reading from my poetry collection on Saturday 22nd April at Barn Hall, Amersham Community Centre – 7.00 pm for 7.30 pm. Let me know if you and friends would like to come.

Marlow FM Radio 97.5

19/02/2017 // by Jan Moran Neil

You can catch me reading from my collection ‘Red Lipstick & Revelations’ published by www.indigodreams.co.uk on www.marlowfm.co.uk being interviewed by the inimitable Diarmaid Fitzpatrick. Marlow FM Radio 97.5. MId-Morning Matters/Friday 17th February – 10.00 am/Listen Again.

Thanks to all who have said they are coming to the signing and reading of ‘Red Lipstick & Revelations’ on Saturday 22nd April at Barn Hall, Amersham Community Centre – 7.00 pm for 7.30 pm. Free entry. Licensed Bar. Let me know if you even think you might be able to make it.

There are 4 places left on the ‘Get Inspired’ Tuesday morning classes beginning April 25th for 5 weeks to exclude May 23rd and May 30th. £170 to include 3000 word assessment, coffee and biscuits.

‘Get that Book’ arrangement – £120 for 4000 words including synopsis and one and a quarter hour one to one consultation.

Bread Pudding Days …

11/02/2017 // by Jan Moran Neil

Bread Pudding Days by Jan Moran Neil

On soggy days
when the rain spits
my mother’s house is filled
with the warmth of cinnamon sticks,
rich dried fruit
and softly sifted sugar.
She folds and wraps our words:
- the bargain cost of my orange gloves
- the price we paid for our lost loves
- our woeful tales of wicked hate
- our splendid plans to be great.
All are measured, sieved, considered
for their mixed worth
baked into something sturdy,
crusty, spongy and deeply palatable.
And in that cooking fragrance
- the weight and varied textures
touching half remembered edges -
my mother’s syllables and smiles stretch on:
a balm against the greying bits,
a refuge against the rain which spits.

For Muriel – 10.6.22. – 14.2.01.

You can buy my poetry collection ‘Red Lipstick & Revelations’ here.


Book Reading and Signing at Barn Hall, Amersham Community Centre on Saturday 22nd April – 7.00 pm for 7.30 pm. Licensed Bar. Free Entry. Email me.

4 places left on the Tuesday ‘Get Inspired’ Creative Ink for Writers’ summer term starting 25th April for 5 weeks to exclude 23rd and 30th May. Email me.