About this blog

This is a window into the weird world of Anglicanism, as experienced on a Cathedral Close. Has anything much happened since Trollope's Barchester Chronicles? You will still see the 'canon in residence' hurrying across to choral Evensong, robes flapping, as the late bell chimes. But look carefully and you will notice he is checking the football score on his iPhone as he runs. This is also a writer's blog. It charts the agony and ecstasy of the novelist's life. And it's a fighter's blog. It charts the agony and ecstasy of the judo mat. Well, the agony, anyway.

Monday, 31 December 2012


This year my challenge is to blog an entire novel in weekly instalments.  I will be doing that over on my other blog, which you can find here:  http://catherine-fox-novel.blogspot.co.uk/  Sunday evening will be the slot when I upload the new mini-chapter.  I will alert you all via Twitter.  Follow me if you don't already: @FictionFox.  If you can't be doing with all that scary social media stuff, get a young person to explain it to you and create you an account.  Or rather, a middle aged person.  According to my sons, Twitter is what middle aged people do because they can't get their heads round Facebook.  

So why blog a novel? For several reasons.  The first is that I've been living with this particular setting and cast of characters for about 7 years now.  I've had several goes at casting it in novel form, but without success.  This is deeply frustrating.  I know there's a band of loyal fans out there wondering when I'll stop faffing about writing martial arts books and tell them instead whether Harry and Isobel ever got married (they did), and what happened to Andrew Jacks (he's fine).  So after a lot of thought, and many tears, I've decided to stop trying to write a Big Important Booker Winning Novel about the Church of England, and play to my current strengths, which seem to be blogging and the gentle art of taking the piss.  With the occasional foray into being serious, of course.

Oh, it's awful grim times being a mid-list novelist these days, my dears.  How ever brilliantly your agent spins your writing career, potential publishers can access your sales figures in a nano-second, and see that they are being lied to.  So unless you are already a celebrity, or young and 'eminently marketable' (i.e. hot), you are not going to look like a good bet to the marketing department.  Obviously, if Justin Welby were abducted by aliens and the current dean of Liverpool tapped up to replace him, my agent could get a bidding war going for my shopping list.  I have concluded this is unlikely on several counts.  Hence the blog-a-novel idea.  

The world of publishing is changing rapidly.  Nobody knows what it will look like in 10 years time.  Paper books? eBooks?  One thing is certain, however: people will always be looking out for a rattling good yarn with convincing characters whose fate they care about.  There is a huge market out there.  There are a lot of good writers currently not managing to get their stuff out to their potential readers.  Understandably, these writers (who carry on writing in the face of failure and rejection, because they can't not write, poor fools) are beginning to think they may as well cut out the middle man, especially if the middle man isn't buying their stuff any more.  

So.  My new project.  For years I've been secretly jealous of Victorian novelists.  Back then you were allowed to be omniscient.  You were allowed to believe in things, to have a grand narrative.  You were not taken out and shot for telling not showing.  And you could publish your novel in serialised form.  Readers could lobby on behalf of their favourite characters and suggest possible twists to the plot.  They could point out the author's errors.  All this will be possible this year as I write ACTS AND OMISSIONS.  Initially, I will respond to any criticisms in the conventional manner of authors receiving a list of queries from a copy editor: Piss off and write your own book if you're so clever.  But when I've stopped sulking, I will try to heed your advice.

I will use this Close Encounters blog to tell you all sorts of writerly things about the novel as it comes off the press.  Things like 'Where do you get your ideas from?'  For example, I got the title from the small print of a job application form, which said something like 'You have a legal obligation not to harm yourself or others by your acts and omissions'.  It has a nice theological ring, I think.  Besides, 'Devices and Desires' was already taken.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Fast Away the Old Year Passes

Well, that's almost an entire year of buying myself no clothes or accessories.  What do you reckon? Will I go out at the crack of dawn on Tuesday to hit the Sales in an orgy of acquisitiveness?  No, actually.  I've sort of gone off the whole buying clothes thing.

And what have a learnt during the year?  I know--I'm going to do bullet points!  I know how to do bullet points.  One day I will know how to do spreadsheets and powerpoint.  But today I will rest content in the modest acheivement of bullet points. 

I have learnt that buying new clothes does not
  • fill the emptiness
  • make you clever and successful
  • change your life
  • make you thin
I have learnt that old clothes can be
  • worn ingeniously
  • mended
  • put up with
  • discovered in the back of the wardrobe when you move house
You can acquire new clothes without buying them by
  • borrowing them
  • being given them
  • nicking them off clothes lines
Here's a list of new clothes I have been given this year:
  • fabulous silk linen coat with big splashy floral pattern 
  • red long-sleeved T-shirt
  • pastel pink jeans
  • tiger print top
  • amazing long purple velvet coat
  • pair of sandals
  • two necklaces
  • pair of grey tights with stars on
  • cream scarf
Blimey.  That's actually quite a long list.  There are people in this world who don't get half that.  And yet compared with what I would have bought, but for my New Year's Resolution, that list is footling.  

Here's a list of things I bought for myself:
  • pair of £1 sunglasses
The main thing I've gained in the course of this experiment is an ambition to have nothing in my wardrobe but what (to paraphrase William Morris) I know to fit me, and believe to make me look fabulous.  This may lead me to spending more on less, I fear.  But overall, to spending and owning less.  That way I hope to avoid the anguish of standing in front of a mirror wondering if this outfit makes me look fat/muttony/weird.  And of being a mindless buying machine.

The other thing I've learnt is that, frankly, nobody but me much cares what I look like.  A dazzling smile is the best accessory.  It pulls any outfit together.  And with that uncharacteristically pious thought, I will bid you adieu for the year.  Next year I will be blogging an entire novel a week at a time.  Hold onto your birettas.

Sunday, 9 December 2012


Time slows down.  It's almost as if weeks not seconds have passed.  My breath hitches, and I finally step over the threshold into Pagan Purple's Purple Chapel of Prayer.

Oh. My. Holy. Eggy-bread.  My gaze swerves erratically round, like a silver ball-bearing in one of those machine things with buttons you press, but whose name eludes me because of the total panic I'm in. My inner thighs quiver.

No!  I gasp in shock.  What the heck IS all this stuff?  Hanging from the watered silk violet walls there's all kinds of hard core relegious paraphernalia.  Ciboria.  Dalmatics.  Chrismal sets.  Don't tell me he's into the High Church scene?  The air reeks of Prinknash incense.  I can see stuff outlawed since Vatican II.  Illegal Latin stuff.  

Triple No!  There's an icon of a woman bishop winking from behind a Monstrance!  In blatant contravention of General Synod's latest ruling on the subject.

Oh get me out of here! 

And then I see it.  Worse, far worse than the Anglo-catholic tat, I spot a hand-tooled leather-bound boxed set of the Left Behind Series!  Can this get any worse?  I reel back.  Then my horrified gaze takes in the gaping hole in the floor.  It's a full-sized adult baptistry.

My brain is exploding.  It simply cannot accept the evidence of my eyes.  He's an ecumenical.  The man I love is an ecumenical.  What kind of sick inclusiveness is he planning for me?

'So, Miss Boron,' he growls, 'what do you think?'

'Mff... nggng-mmff...' I splutter, because I'm biting my lip which makes it difficult to speak clearly.

He fingers his riding crop meaningfully.  'You're biting your lip again,' he growls.  'You know what that does to me.'  He reaches out a long finger and pokes me in the eye.  'Sorry,' he explains, 'I was trying to tuck a wayward curl behind your ear.  You were saying?'

'PERVERT!' I scream.  'You... you took an OATH to use only the forms of service which are authorized or allowed by Canon!'  I sweep my arm jerkily round the room.  'So what's all this... this STUFF?'

'These are my devotional aids, Miss Boron,' he murmurs, his steely grip encircling my waist.  I smell his smell.  He smells of Pagan Purple.  My favourite smell in all the world.  Yummy.  'I'm a complex man.  I have complex requirements.  Sometimes they... shall we say they transgress the boundaries of vanilla Anglicanism?'

'You sick ecumaniac!' I spit.  I tear myself from his steely grip and blunder unseeingly out of his Purple Chapel of Prayer and run.  My inner goddess is sprawled on the purple carpet, moaning.  I kick her in the head and escape into the night.