About Me

My Photo
Lewes, East Sussex, United Kingdom
Hello and welcome! I am Colin Bell, a novelist and poet, previously a TV producer-director of arts programmes, also known as the blogger Wolfie Wolfgang. I hope you find something here among my daily blogs. I write about anything that interests me - I hope it interests you too. Let me know.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

A relaxed week in the South of France at Sète

Last week, I got back from seven days in the delightful Mediterranean town of Sète in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of Southern France where I rented an apartment over-looking the Marina in this small port town which is punctuated with canals earning it the name of the French Venice. Here though, I was far away from the madding crowds of Venice because Sète, so far, has escaped the influx of tourist crowds even, apparently,  at the height of the summer.

In March, it was the perfect destination for an Englishman wanting to get away from it all for a week even if the sun doesn't always shine. Actually it shone more than I deserved at this time of year and it only rained when it wanted to.

Standing on the top of Mont St Clair, the town's very own  and very steep hill, I could work out some of the geographical complexities of this town which is very nearly an island with the Mediterranean on one side and the vast inland lagoon known as the Étang de Thau on the other.

Sète is a seaport but it is also a seaside resort with miles of sandy beaches which look like most of the Mediteranean coast must've looked in the days before the Med got, well, too popular for comfort.

I don't know how long it will be before this charming place will escape internationalisation but, walking along that practically empty beach last week, I dared to hope that it won't be any time soon.

Oh yes, and when I was on the beach, the sun definitely shone and pushed up the perfectly moderate temperature to something that could be described as almost hot. The beach is a short walk from the centre of town where my apartment sat contentedly over-looking the Marina with its fishing boats.

I was in the white building in the centre of this picture, on the second floor with pleasant balcony that let me take in the views.

I was high enough up to get under-flown by the seagulls who looked as if they were reverting to their taste for fish rather than the contents of holiday makers' picnic baskets or rubbish bins.

I was aware of their beady eyes scrutinising me as I sat there but they decided, obviously, that I wasn't of much interest when there was a little fishing fleet offering much tastier pickings.

Fishing here, it seems, is often a family affair and it was good being able to watch the evening's dinner being carried ashore every morning.

Just as welcome was the little late-night bar across the road which opened in the mornings to serve excellent espresso coffee allowing me to appreciate that, yes, I really was in France.

The people of Sète look decidedly French but with a touch of Italian.

Inside the bar, everything was pretty French too. The Au bout de la rue ('the end of the road') was just about perfect if you want to visit France as its most unpretentious and welcoming. After a few days I felt like I had lived here all my life.

I wasn't working, of course, so I shouldn't assume that everyone else was just enjoying themselves but the people of Sète give a good impression of knowing how to keep themselves entertained.

I was happy enough to wander round town between cups of coffee and others seemed content to saunter too in a place where the views are often surprising.

Life here, it seemed, doesn't have to be a constant rush.

There was never very far to go between bars that let you sit either inside or out.

In fact, I could have got dangerously used to café-crawling.

I was truly charmed by the town's unpretentious manners and I sincerely hope that it manages to stay that way.

I like the way balconies are often used as splendid bicycles racks for anyone fit enough to carry their bikes up several flights of stairs.

Street level is special in a town where there are numerous tree-lined urban spaces and, of course, always somewhere to sit and to drink coffee.

I wasn't just idling, I promise, even though I have always enjoyed street watching.

No, I was in town to see my son Henry who has been living in the South of France since January - lucky man.

He tells me he is loving la vie francaise and he does appear to have fitted into the scene with ease.

Later that night, we went with some of his friends to a bar called  La mauvaise réputation ('the bad reputation')  just round the corner from the apartment. I liked the name  and felt it fitted the mood of the place but, at the time, I didn't realise that it was named after a famous song written and performed by one of  Sète's most famous sons.

Georges Brassens (1921 - 1981) was a singer-songwriter, a respected poet who grew up the tough way and who never quite gave up his anarchist instincts. It seemed entirely appropriate that he should've been born here in this delightfully independent-minded town.

Georges Brassens (1921 - 1981)

Monday, 30 March 2015

I'm proud to appear alongside so many writer friends and acquaintances in Lewes' The Needlewriters, a new anthology.

I was supposed to have been at the launch of a new poetry anthology last Thursday but, unfortunately, I was struck down with the latest lurgey and had to take to my bed instead. I am sad to have missed the launch of this excellent book, The Needlewriters, which is an anthology of work by the writers who have appeared at Lewes' Needlewriters events since its beginning in 2008.  The readings take place just down the street from my house, at the intriguing Needlemakers centre which was built as a candle-makers before becoming, quite literally, a needle-makers factory, supplying syringe needles for the medical corps treating the wounded in World War One. It is now a pleasant complex of arty shops and a restaurant.

 I was proud to have been asked to read there after the publication of my novel, Stephen Dearsley's Summer Of Love and now, I'm doubly proud to appear in this anthology along with so many writer friends and acquaintances from all over Kent and Sussex.

Needlewriters have also produced The Needlewriters Companion,  an online anthology with extra work from all the contributors - you can find it by using the link below:


The book, The Needlewriters can be purchased (£10) either directly from the publisher, The Frogmore Press,


or from Lewes' splendid Skylark Shop - unlike Lewes's other rather anonymous and centrally-controlled bookshops, its owner, Matt Birch,  is one of the few great independent booksellers who actively support local writers. He even sells copies of my novel (thanks Matt!)


 Those of us who are lucky enough to live in or around Lewes can be truly grateful for the support that this small town gives to literature and the other arts.

Monday, 16 March 2015

George Harrison comes to Lewes News

Once a month, an excellent newsletter comes through the letterbox of all lucky Lewes residents - mine arrived today and, to be honest, I'd forgotten all about my role in this month's issue.

Because Lewes is a relatively civilised town, our local newsletter runs a monthly poetry page and today it's my turn to be featured within its pages with the reprinting of my Fibonacci poem, George Harrison (published last year by Musepie Press in the Fib Review).

It commemorates my meeting with George, one of the Fab Four, during my television days. Seeing it again brings back some vivid memories of the days when I was lucky enough to meet most of The Beatles.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Getting my Lewes garden in order for the gardening year ahead.

After a sunny and relatively mild weekend here in South East England, I can look out at my small Lewes garden and enjoy the results of some intense gardening - doing the work I should've done in February but completed, I think, in the nick of time if I'm to get another dramatic display of roses in the summer.

So with lacerated hands from all that rose pruning and the few aches and pains that usually accompany that first major gardening day of the year, I can now enjoy the rather late display of crocuses without any sense of guilt at jobs not done.

I've always liked the look of the garden after its end of the winter clean up - it is probably never as orderly again at any other time in the year - the later luxuriant wildness that I try to encourage is all based on detailed neatness at the beginning of the year.

Monday, 2 March 2015

George Best, Miss World and Me: What better subject for my latest Fibonacci Poem?

George Best and Mary Stävin.

As a youngish man in the early days of my career in television, I had the intriguing and unlikely job of having a breakfast meeting with one of the most talked-about of all British footballers, the legendary George Best. We were scheduled to meet in London at the decidedly posh restaurant in up-market department store, Fortnum and Mason in Piccadilly. I arrived as myself, a media type, an unglamorous journo on day-release. He arrived with his current girlfriend, the then Miss World, the very beautiful Swedish actress, Mary Stävin, best known, perhaps, as one of the 'Bond Girls' in the James Bond movie, Octopussy.

Mary Stävin and Roger Moore in the James bond movie,Octopussy.

 The photograph above of George and Mary was taken that year and shows that they were, no exaggeration, a very handsome couple. Not only was I the odd-one out in the glamour stakes but I had no interest either in the Miss World contest or football.

George Best in action.

Strangely, we all got on really well - well enough for me to tell George that I was hoping to get fit and had recently started going to a once-a-week fitness class at the Stretford Leisure Centre in Greater Manchester. OK, I know, not very cool. The rest of the breakfast, when the work had been done, was devoted to this famous and now ( for a time) sober athlete giving me one-to-one advice on my fitness regime. He told me I was wasting my time only taking exercise once a week and, it was thanks to him, that I started the regular fitness regime that I have followed ever since that day. I owe it all to George.

I've been writing a lot of what is known as Fibonacci poetry in the last seven years and, recently, I've been fitting some of my television career memories into this toughly disciplined short form style where each line has to  conform to a strict syllabic count using the arithmetic code popularised in Europe by the medieval Italian mathematician, Leonardo Fibonacci. This weekend six of my new poems were published in the specialist Fibonacci journal,  Musepie Press' The Fib Review, and one of them was my poem about George. My thanks, as always to Mary-Jane Grandimetti, the editor of The Fib Review, who has encouraged me since my early days as a poet and who has now published 49 of my Fibs in 16 consecutive issues of her great journal.

Here is the page featuring my George Best poem but, for the rest of my Fibs and for many more by other poets, click on the link below:


If you're a real glutton for punishment, click on the writer archive section and you'll find links to all 49 of my Fibonacci poems.

 Meanwhile, I have to start thinking about #21 of The Fib Review hoping to come up with something to send in  next time.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Ousing with February charm and mud - the River Ouse at Lewes.

One of the many advantages of living where I do,  in Lewes, UK, is that I have open country less than a five minutes walk from my front door.

The sunny February weather has been just too beautiful to miss, so yesterday afternoon I went for a walk down my local river, the Ouse and, as you can see, February doesn't get much prettier than this.

It was the light that drew me out of doors with my camera for a delightfully wicked stolen hour when I could have been working up here in my study.

Having a rural river walkway - try saying that after a few drinks - is an added temptation to anyone who likes playing around with a camera.

The clean February sun lit the rushes and skeletal trees with feature film artistry.

 River reflections doubled the landscape.

The river banks came to life with Nature's equivalent of studio lighting.

Canada Geese ploughed watery sky blue furrows as they paddled undisturbed.

It was worth crossing East Sussex' s legendary mud if you could avoid it sucking off your boots. I wonder if this is why the river is called the Ouse.

Back at home, there was a bit of cleaning up to do.