Friday 14 June 2024

Talking to the Author by Lynne Benton

 Recently I attended various sessions in the annual two-week Bath Literary Festival.  I always enjoy choosing which sessions to go to, particularly as the festival often includes some of my favourite authors – those whose books I most enjoy reading.

This year I went to hear seven authors talk about their books, which was great.   I was also able to buy copies of their latest books and queue up to talk to them and ask them to sign my copy.  It is always interesting, and in some cases a real joy, to have a chance to actually speak to a favourite author and tell them how much you enjoy their books.  Some of those I met, I found, were very happy to chat to me too, which was even nicer, and I came away on a high.

I hope they were pleased to find so many people keen to buy their latest book.  As a writer myself, I know how good it feels when someone tells me how much they’ve enjoyed one of my books.  Especially if it’s someone I don’t know.

Of course, this is why School visits are so important if you write for children.  When I was a child, way back in the fifties, I don’t remember ever meeting a writer face to face, though as an avid reader I would have been in seventh heaven if one had come to my school.  Maybe it didn’t occur to anyone in those distant days that this might be an option – or that children needed encouragement to read!  (I certainly didn’t!)  I suppose at that time the one writer who would have guaranteed to set all hearts racing would have been Enid Blyton, before the powers-that-be decided her books might corrupt young minds.  (Not that children agreed!  Whenever I went to the library as a child there were always several children waiting by the B section for the Enid Blytons to be returned so they could take them out.)  So I can just imagine the reaction of the entire school if the great lady had actually come to visit our school and talk to us!

And how wonderful it would have been if your parents had been able to afford to buy one of her books!  That would mean you might actually get to speak to her and ask her to sign it for you!  I’m afraid the cost of a new book would have been beyond most of our parents at the time, so I bore this in mind when I did my last school visit a few years ago.  Before going I had a load of bookmarks printed (with pictures of my books on), which I gave out to all the children.  This meant that as well as signing any books they bought, I could also sign bookmarks, so that every child would have a chance to come and speak to me if they wanted to, if only to tell me their name. They all seemed happy to queue for that too, which was lovely.  Clearly there’s nothing like the personal contact!

These days I suppose the only author who would guarantee the sort of hero-worship Blyton received back then would be JK Rowling, though children nowadays are much more used to reading lots of different books by different authors, and to having them visit their school.  Though I suspect that many of us who do, or have done, author visits to schools will probably have been asked if we know JK Rowling.  Children also, of course, accept that we must be very rich: at that same school visit one child asked me in awed tones, “Are you a multi-millionaire?”  Because of course, as everyone knows, all children’s authors are multi-millionaires, aren’t they? 

However, although that is, unsurprisingly, far from the case, I appreciate that these days when I go to a Literary Festival I can buy a book from a favourite author, and meet her (or him) face to face.  And talk to them.  It is still a great joy.


Thursday 13 June 2024

Going Into Double Figures by Sheena Wilkinson

My tenth book is going to be published on 23rd September 2024. Yay! It's special to be going into double figures. I feel like a Big Girl.

Of course, when the time comes I will let the book slip out quietly into the world without fuss. I won't acknowledge that it's a significant achievement or do anything likely to draw attention to it or me. 

Only joking! 

I'm planning a BIG PARTY not only to launch that book but to celebrate having got to Book Ten and still being here, still writing, still brimming with hope and ideas and enthusiasm. 

Every book deserves to be celebrated, because every book marks the culmination of hard work -- often in the writing, and even more, for me at any rate (or for my long-suffering agent!) in the selling. And I do think a tenth book is worthy of an extra fanfare. And if I don't do it, who will? 

Some people will think I am having Notions. That is OK. They don't have to join in. But there will be cake and champagne and speeches and obviously you are all invited. 

The book isn't announced yet... but here is a clue:

I plan to tell you ALL about it next month!

Wednesday 12 June 2024

Wake up, Mr Kean by Bridget Crowley review by Lynda Waterhouse


Wake up, Mr Kean by Bridget Crowley review by Lynda Waterhouse

Wake Up Mr Kean is a funny and exciting time slip story with a Cornish setting.

Charlie and his Mum have recently moved to Penzance from Newlyn on the Cornish Coast to start a new life following an incident in which Charlie’s fisherman father was lost at sea.  Charlie is adjusting to his new life when he  meets Mr Clemo who runs a second-hand book shop and is a former actor, ‘Once an actaw , always an actaw, I daresay.’

Clemo is a leading light in the Pam Drams – The Penzance Amateur Dramatic Society. They are trying to raise funds to save The Old Theatre that stands in the yard out of the back of the Hope and Glory pub. Charlie is drawn to the Old Theatre and encounters a man there with wild eyes and black curls and his rendition of Shakespeare holds him spellbound. After this encounter Charlie is determined to save the Old Theatre. He also meets a lad, Davey, who is struggling to ‘manage’ the old actor so that he can give one of his electrifying performances. They connect through time.

The story is beautifully written and has a strong sense of place. It shows the lives of local people. Many landmarks are featured: Penlee Park, Morrab Library, and the Promenade, and events such as Mazey Day feature in the storyline. The time slip element is inspired by a performance given by Edmund Kean, the great nineteenth century actor at the Old Theatre. It is refreshing to read a story set in a seaside town that is solely about the locals and their lives.

Sparkling dialogue is one of the strongest elements of this story; establishing character, showing not telling, and moving the plot along. The lively dialogue is peppered with Cornish. The story is filled with a variety of colourful characters, quite literally in the case of Jowan Spargo and her changing hair colour.

Despite its particular setting the themes explored are universal. The issues of creating homes for local people in rural areas and not only providing profit for property developers, versus the need to maintain the heritage and recognise the magical history of a place is relevant in many places.

Throughout the course of the novel Charlie discovers that not everyone has good intentions and that people, even his mother, can have mixed feelings. As Charlie witnesses the growing friendship between Tom, the pub landlord, and his mother it makes him uneasy but it helps him to understand and connect with Tom’s challenging daughter, Bel.

People are not perfect. Even Edmund Kean had his struggles. As Charlie says to Bel, ‘Perhaps what we want isn’t always the best thing. Maybe the best thing takes some getting used to.’

For many years Bridget has inspired and supported me to design and deliver creative writing workshops in art galleries and museums. She has an innate connection with children and a wicked sense of humour. Check out her website at to hear more about her fascinating life.

Here’s hoping her magical writing can be ‘rediscovered’ and her latest novel is enjoyed by a flotilla of new readers as it deserves to be. You can also buy the book in audio, read by Bridget.

ISBN 978-1-917022-32-3

Jelly Bean Books

Saturday 8 June 2024

Resilience for writers by Keren David

 For months now I have failed to keep my monthly appointment with this blog. The month turns and I think -  I must remember, I should write it now, and then the days go by and the 7th dawns and  -  I must write it, I must write it -  and then it's somehow magically mid-afternoon on the 8th of the month and I realise that once again I forgot. Dang! 

But it wasn't just that I forgot, if I am completely honest. There was also a feeling of having nothing much to say, and having to be very careful about what I did say. That  - as a Jewish writer who wants nothing more than peace in the Middle East, but wants that peace to include Israel, the world's only Jewish country  - my voice was somehow not one that people in the book world would want to hear. That the subjects close to my heart  -  say, the huge increase in antisemitic incidents in British schools -  would be judged as somehow unworthy, not important. So, month by month, I cancel myself.

 I am not alone in this feeling, it is discussed all the time by British Jewish writers (and in other countries too). That feeling has increased with the recent row over the funding of literary festivals. Is there a place for our voices in British publishing? We're not sure.  And I feel rather daunted about posting this, worrying about aggressive and offensive comments. 

This week, for my day job,  I went to a conference for Jewish professionals , and the theme was resilience. How do we build it in ourselves, our organisations, how do we nurture it in our colleagues? 

 It made me think about how important resilience -  the ability to cope with bad things as well as good times -  is for writers. So often things don't go to plan. That wonderful book, which you worked so hard to perfect, is rejected. Or it's published but fails to make a splash. Or a critic misunderstands it. Our editor leaves, our publisher goes out of business. We don't get short-listed, we make no money, we feel like failures.  We need strategies to deal with all of this. This is what I've learned.

1) Talk and listen. Find good listeners -  but also be a good listener in your turn. Try not to isolate yourself. You are not alone, even if you feel you are.  I have wonderful writer friends, who I can turn to with any kind of  question or concern. We support each other -  but also, just having these people in my life makes my writing career worthwhile, they are a reward in themselves.

2) Curate the noise  We are overloaded right now with information -  in publishing it tends to be about what sells, what doesn't, what wins prizes, what doesn't. A lot of this is just unhelpful. Limit your exposure to much of it. Just pick out, as best you can, things that are inspiring, illuminating, trustworthy. The sources may surprise you. 

3) Make cakes  One of the best things I did last year for my colleagues was set up a Bake Off competition, raising money for a good cause. We cooked, we ate, we donated, we felt good and we forgot our own worries for a while. We had an action plan. It doesn't have to be cakes, but any kind of volunteering or fund-raising is a great way to put your own troubles into perspective.  And making things -  cakes, crafts, art, gardening - is also stress busting and creativity boosting. 

4)  You're the boss of you  How many writers feel they have to please their agent, their publisher, their readers? And how many find that helpful? Yes, you're professional, you have a business relationship with publishing professionals, but you get to say what sort of writer you are. No one else decides that for you. 

5) Take notes Everything might seem terrible, but those events and feelings are what great books are made of. Just write it all down.  Hopefully you can make sense of it later.

5) Remember to laugh  The best aid to resilience is a sense of humour. And when it's incredibly hard to laugh, when everything seems dark and hopeless, that's when we need to remind ourselves that we can and must laugh at the absurdities of life. That's when we need to read funny books, watch comedies and smile at strangers. If I can do it now, so can you. 

Thursday 6 June 2024

Keeping Grief Away by Paul May

I read a lot of fiction. SF, thrillers, detective fiction, literary fiction, all kinds of stuff. In none of it do I find rape, murder, genocide and war occurring so regularly as in the Carnegie Medal winners I've been reading in the last few months. This month I've read Buffalo Soldier by Tanya Landman, 2015 winner (rape, lynching, murder, genocide, ethnic cleansing, American Civil War, Indian Wars) and Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys, 2017 winner (rape, murder, ethnic cleansing, maritime disaster with thousands of deaths, WW2). Did I enjoy them? Not really. Is enjoyment even an appropriate response to these novels? Well, probably not. Are they children's books? No. So why, then, are they not adult books? (Not that that is even a category). The subject matter is at least as extreme as most adult fiction that I read. I'm beginning to suspect that an important distinguishing feature of YA fiction is that it lacks complexity. I know that's a ridiculous over-simplification, but it does relate to Mal Peet's comment that he didn't like YA because he thought it was 'condescending'. And by complexity I mean complexity of meaning, of ideas, and not simply a complicated plot.

Both these books are the result of extensive research and Tanya Landman has been very clear in interviews about the danger of allowing the research to show through in a novel like this. I'm not sure she entirely succeeds in stopping that happening, but young readers would learn a lot from this book, and indeed many reviews say just that: I learned a lot. The quality of the writing will no doubt pull readers through to the end, although the plot devices which link the whole, slightly rambling story together do feel a bit clunky. But then, I recently re-read Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens and the plot of that well-respected novel creaks even more. But Dickens is a writer who uses symbolism and metaphor to deepen the effect of his stories. In Our Mutual Friend the River Thames runs through the book both concealing and revealing the dead and the living. There are people who seem to be dead but are alive, people who are alive but pretend to be dead. There is layer upon layer of meaning, whereas Buffalo Soldier is essentially a simple, linear story whose theme is freedom. Simplicity is not necessarily a bad thing, and complexity is to be found even in picture books for the very youngest children, but I'm just trying to figure out why books with such adult subject matter, books about adults who aren't even all that young, end up being marketed to a specific age range rather than to all adults. 

My greater difficulty with the book, however, was with Landman's decision to tell the whole story in the first person in the voice of Charley O'Hara, a newly-freed slave girl. That bothered me, not because of cultural appropriation but because it undermined my trust and made me question the character's authenticity. I think I might have been OK with it if this had been a third-person narrative. Then the author wouldn't have been pretending to be the character, there would have been opportunities for other points of view and there could have been a certain authorial distance. I have no problem with authors writing about characters with different race, ethnicity or gender from themselves, but the first-person narrative here made the novel less effective than it might have been.

While I was reading about white people writing black characters the Uncle Remus stories of Joel Chandler Harris came to mind. I fished out my 1883 copy of this book and then started reading about Harris on the Internet before realising that a) Harris is a controversial figure (I think I already knew that) and b) Harris's Uncle Remus stories have been incredibly influential both on children's fiction and on the wider literary world. They are also a perfect focus for discussions about cultural appropriation. Alice Walker, for example, wrote a piece called Uncle Remus, No Friend Of Mine. She grew up in the same town as Harris and said, 'he stole a good part of my heritage.' All this is too much for this post, but I'll return to the subject once I'm done with the Carnegie.

My reservations about Salt to the Sea were similar in some ways to those about Buffalo Soldier I can only admire the vast amount of research that went into this book, and its intent to inform readers about the 'worst disaster in maritime history' in which about 9,000 people died when torpedoes from a Soviet submarine sank an overloaded passenger vessel carrying refugees from Eastern Europe away from the advancing Soviet troops. I was also very grateful for the maps on the endpapers. But I found the narrative structure of the book incredibly irritating. We have four parallel first-person narratives. One character tells a tiny part of their story, usually in just a few pages, then the next character takes over, then the next and the next, then back to the first character again. This never varies and it wore me out. 

As for the characters and the plot, well, there was good and very bad. Alfred, a German sailor, is an almost complete caricature whose dreadful skin condition mirrors his corrupt and revolting soul. And there is a slightly Dan Brown-ish plot strand about the fabled 'Amber Room.' The two female characters, Emila and Joana, are more rounded and convincing, and all the characters are linked by the idea that each of them has a secret. I can see that when you're telling a story where every reader knows that the characters are going to get on a boat and the boat is going to sink, you're going to have to do something to preserve the narrative tension, so we have those secrets and the 'Amber Room' and of course we have a love story. But really, that love story is a bit of a damp squib. It is certainly not Leo and Kate on the Titanic.

If you want a book about war and genocide in the 20th century I recommend reading Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut. It has stuck in my mind  for over 30 years since I first read it, but while I remembered vividly the book's extraordinary climax I had completely forgotten that one of the major characters was a writer of Young Adult fiction. She's called Circe Berman and writes Judy Blume-like books under the pseudonym Polly Madison. Her books are good, by the way. Paul Slazinger, a literary novelist and friend of the narrator thinks they are 'the greatest works of literature since Don Quixote'. Others aren't quite so sure. Librarians, teachers and the grandparents of teenagers suggest that they are 'Useful, frank and intelligent, but as literature hardly more than workmanlike.' Kurt Vonnegut's view on the matter remains a mystery. 

Bluebeard is a very funny and complex book about grief and how we deal with it, and it served to remind me that there has been a certain earnestness and lack of humour in many of these grim Carnegie winners I've been reading, so it is with considerable relief that I turn to One by Sarah Crossan, which won the Carnegie in 2016.

This novel about conjoined twins is funny, moving and startlingly unsentimental. This is another first-person narrative (I read somewhere not so long ago that this is one of the identifying features of YA literature) but in this case I wasn't at all bothered by a young Irish writer imagining herself into the body of Grace, one half of the pair of twins. I wondered why this was and I think the answer is twofold. First, Grace does not speak with any kind of an accent. She is simply herself, articulate and vivid. 

'We take the train home/ with Jon/ and pretend we can't hear all the words around us/ like little wasps stings.'

Jon says he can't imagine what it's like for them.

'"It's like that,"' Tippi tells him/ and points at / a woman across the aisle with a phone/ aimed at us like a sniper rifle.'

I should have mentioned that this novel is written in a kind of blank verse. I had my doubts about this, since at first glance it did at times seem more like prose written out in a different way, but the technique quickly grew on me especially because it gave the writer so much scope for different kinds of emphasis. It was beautifully easy to read. And actually, now I think of it, it's reminiscent of Vonnegut's style, splitting the narrative into very short sections. It also leaves space for the reader's imagination to fill, literal space on the page, but also space in your head.  The book has 430 pages but barely 30,000 words of text, which is very short for a YA novel these days. 

So, why was I never for a moment worried that this was a book based on research by an author writing about a situation of which she had no direct knowledge. Well, it's because Sarah Crossan makes her characters live. Or rather, her characters in this book live for me in a way that the characters in the books I discussed earlier didn't, for me. There's just as much research gone into One as into Buffalo Soldier or Salt to the Sea, but the book isn't only about the ethical dilemmas confronting conjoined twins and their parents and medical practitioners when they have to consider separating the twins. This story is about Grace and Tippi, about who they are, about how they deal with life and death, about how they relate to the people around them. In Buffalo Soldier and in Salt to the Sea I felt I was being educated about the American West, about WW2. I always felt the characters were secondary to the mission. One is a remarkable feat of imagination from Sarah Crossan. I loved it, and have no intention of spoiling your enjoyment by telling you any more about it. Just read it, if you haven't already.

But to return to WW2, as the list of Carnegie winners has so frequently done. J G Ballard reviewed Bluebeard when it was first published and said this about Kurt Vonnegut:

'For Vonnegut, the most significant events in his life seem to have been his experiences as a captured American soldier during the Second World War, which formed the core of Slaughterhouse 5, and some moment, presumably during the 1960s, when he realised that the next generation had learned nothing from the tragedies of the war, and had even begun to lose all sense of its own past, that great casualty of American culture.' (The Guardian 22nd April 1988)

We're a few more generations down the line from the 1960s now and there's no sign of humanity learning any lessons. If Buffalo Soldier and Salt to the Sea help to remind this generation that we need to do things differently they will indeed have been useful. I don't think Vonnegut would have been optimistic about the prospect of that happening. His (fictional) solution to the problem of how to make human beings behave better was to have us evolve, a million years into the future, into furry seal-like creatures with flippers and small brains who can't do much harm to anyone or anything. That's in his 1985 novel, Galapagos.

In the mean time Vonnegut has some things to say about 'keeping grief away'. Here is Circe Berman, the YA author whose husband has recently died and who has been keeping Rabo Karabekian company over the summer, but is now returning home:

'I asked her if she would write. I meant letters to me, but she thought I meant books. "That's all I do—that and dancing," she said. "As long as I keep that up, I keep grief away." All summer long she had made it easy to forget that she had recently lost a husband who was evidently brilliant and funny and adorable.

"One other thing helps a little bit," she said. "It works for me. It probably wouldn't work for you. That's talking loud and brassy, and telling everyone when they're right and wrong, giving orders to everybody: Wake up! Cheer up! Get to work!"'

Pau May's blog/book pages are here. 

Monday 3 June 2024

RESEARCH JEWELS - Jack the Giant Killer


Growing up as part of a large Cornish family, evidence of giants, fairies and mermaids was part of my everyday life. I knew giants existed because I'd touched the giant's heart stone on St Michaels Mount many times. 

Recent research of traditional local legends and myths has thrown up a massive treasure trove of wonderful stories so, I thought I'd do a condensed version of some of them here. Jack and the Giant Killer is one of the better known...

In the days when giants roamed the moors and beaches of Cornwall, there lived a boy named Jack. Jack could swim and wrestle better than any other boy for miles around.

At the same time, on a small island called St Michaels Mount, lived an evil giant called Cormoran. He was twenty feet high and as wide as three men. 

The people were terrified when he waded over to their village looking for food, they ran and hid in their houses. Cormoran laughed as he stole their cattle and sheep and wrecked anything in his path. 

    But Jack was as brave as he was strong. And when the giant destroyed his parents farm and stole his pet pig, Pinkie, he knew it was time to free the villagers of this menace. One moonless night, he swam to the giant's island. The waves were high and the water icy cold, but Jack swam on. 

He heard the giant snoring in his cave, so just outside, Jack dug a pit. He worked all night and dug it deep and wide. Then he covered it with branches and stones. As the sun rose over the sea, Jack took his horn and gave one long, loud, blast.

    An angry Cormoran stumbled from his cave and saw Jack. 'You disturbed my sleep, boy. I'll boil you for my breakfast.'
    'You'll have to catch me first,' Jack said, and he ran and hid behind the rocks and watched.
    In a rage, the giant lumbered after him, but as soon as he stepped onto the branches of the pit - he fell through and was killed. Jack rescued Pinkie, his pig, and swam back to shore.

    He was now a hero. The villagers celebrated and gave him a belt with letters of gold saying: Here's the brave Cornishman, who slew the giant Cormoran.

Jack went on to have more adventures, slaying more giants in the most gruesome of ways - but I'll leave that for another time. ๐Ÿ˜Š

Sunday 2 June 2024

The strange things we say By Steve Way


I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to learn a language using the ‘Michel Thomas Method’ – I’ve found it very useful – and one interesting comment he makes is that by learning another language you often learn more about your own. That also applies to teaching your own language. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching several Spanish and Latin American students English online for a few years now and it’s taught me things about my native language that I’d never considered – or been taught – before.

A few aspects of the language have always puzzled me, however. Even from a relatively young age it struck me as odd, when learning history to encounter statements such as, “Henry VIII built… such a such a place.” I couldn’t help imagining a portly bloke, wearing a round hat and a burgundy dress, shoving a wheelbarrow around a construction site. How absurd to say he built the darn place, lots of other folks did the hard graft. It always struck me as unfair that these workers didn’t get a mention. Actually, calling on my sketchy knowledge, (I was probably too busy imagining King H laying bricks than paying attention) I believe he demolished as many places as he built. (Though it wasn’t him doing the demolishing of course.)

Inevitably idioms are some of the particularly quirky aspects of any language. For a nation of animal lovers, we seem to have adopted some pretty gruesome examples, such as ‘flogging a dead horse’ and ‘there’s more than one way to skin a cat’*. However, what about some of the everyday phrases we take for granted?

“Do you need a lift? I could drop you off at the bridge…” (“Aaagh!” Splash!)

“I’m just off to pick up the kids…” (They get heavier every day.)

“Make yourself at home. Pull up a chair…” (Wouldn’t it be better to pull along a chair? I’ve already got my arms full, with all these kids of mine I’ve picked up…)

Maybe it’s because I attended a humble comprehensive** that I don’t particularly remember studying the use in English of the passive voice and conditionals. However, it seems most English language courses for students from abroad are obsessed by them. They often have to learn seemingly endless conjugations and tenses of the passive voice – frankly most of my students know these far better than I do, though it seems to me that the sentences they have then learned to construct through hours of arduous study are only likely to be used by the average person once a millennium.

They also expend a lot of mental effort grappling with the various permutations of the conditional form. In my ignorance I had no idea that sentences I used unthinkingly had terms attached to them, such as the First conditional for a likely event (“If it rains, you will get wet”) through to the Third conditional for a now impossible outcome (“If I’d actually done some work at university, I would have got a decent job afterwards”).

What I find most amusing about these terms for the conditionals is the existence of the so called Zero conditional, the statement of plain facts (“If you heat water, it will boil”). I can’t help imagining that at some time in the past at Make Up the Grammar Rules HQ someone dashed into the boardroom screaming hysterically, “They’ve discovered a conditional that’s simpler than the First Conditional… What are we going to do?” After the initial panic had subsided, interspersed perhaps with comments such as “Oh no!”, “This is awful” and perhaps appropriately, “If we don’t find a solution to this quandary, we will look foolish” and “If we had thought of this before, we wouldn’t have this problem now” perhaps they reluctantly had to name it the Zero conditional, relieved at least that no one managed to form an even simpler conditional form that would have had to be called the Minus One conditional.***

Another idiosyncrasy of language courses for those leaning English seems to be that certain words are – presumably inadvertently – not used. I often use articles from other sources and was – appropriately – astonished when it transpired that none of my otherwise highly advanced students had come across this word. Likewise with terms such as having flair or being gifted to describe someone showing talent, along with expressions such as “run of the mill” and “creating a stir”.

One concept many of my Spanish speaking students find difficult to comprehend is the idea and apparent attraction of spelling competitions. For Spanish speakers this would be a nonsense, like a football team playing against no opponents. This is because, unlike in English, each letter is only associated with one phoneme and each letter is sounded. (There are some exceptions of course but they are so few they would be soon learned.)

As you can imagine they are befuddled by words such as comfortable and favourable containing two adjacent silent letters. It’s been through working with my students that it’s dawned on me that you can only hear half of the letters in the word ‘height’ and since the second e in heightened is only lightly sounded (I believe the technical term is ‘Schwa”) that means only 55% of the word is expressed. The word acknowledged is an interesting oddity, given that the k in know is silent… but the c is sounded as a k!

Just one last little addition of which I am modestly proud. As is often the case my students (as well as previously GSCE students in the UK) ask me for guidance in correctly making a distinction when speaking between can and can’t. I don’t know if it’s help but I came up with this little ditty. “I can do the Can-Can but my aunt can’t”.


*Though presumably not the same cat.

**To be specific Dorcan Comprehensive in Swindon, which I was proud to attend and wish I could thank the largely excellent staff there for all gained from doing so.

***A good friend of ours, Seรกn Heaver, a former physics teacher told me when we were discussing this notion that a similar zero law of thermodynamics had to be devised when it was realised that a simpler law than those already assigned numbers existed.