About Me

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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.

Friday, 17 October 2014

I'm feeling great! Now when was the last time you heard me say that?

I'm feeling good today. I know that's not headline news stuff but, actually, for me, it is. Some of you may know that I have been ill with Pulmonary Embolism, blood clots in my lungs, since about this time last year. It hasn't been fun feeling ill most of the time, having difficulties breathing and, at times, even walking. Well, after some rough months of illness, I got diagnosed in March this year and then the medication began.

First of all a few weeks of self-injecting with a drug called Tinzapanin sodium - this was a great way of getting over any squeamishness I might have had about sticking needles into myself. Soon I was doing it as if I was merely putting a pin into a pin cushion. This was the emergency treatment which was designed to stop the clots from growing any larger.

Then I was moved on to Warfarin tablets, the stuff often used as rat poison, yes, I know, charming,  I thought so too. I had to take these tablets for six months, the plan being that they would lower my blood's coagulation rate so that the blood clots could begin the long job of dissolving without the danger of new clots forming. This, of course,  increased the danger of haemorrhaging so I had to carry an emergency card just in case I had an accident because the scene would have been rather bloody. I was told I couldn't have a tooth extracted or any surgical procedures while I was on Warfarin.  I was also told that the doctors didn't want me to take it for more than six months because, six years ago, I had had a brain haemorrhage. So you can see, this has been a difficult year.

These daily doses of Warfarin where regulated by regular blood tests to see the level of coagulation in my system.

This ritual was performed twice a week, then once a week, then eventually once a month, unless the level of anti-coagulant dropped. I was often recognised as the man with the bandage on his arm.

After all those scans and x-rays, I wasn't too worried about this blood-test regime and, gradually, I started to feel better - less breathless as the fluid on my lungs dispersed, and, eventually, I felt almost energetic again. The consultant decided after regular visits to the hospital, that six months of Warfarin should do the trick as they could find no underlying cause of those blood clots and decided that they were probably caused by the severe lung infection I suffered last winter.

Pulmonary Embolism is a serious, in fact a life-threatening condition so it is with relief that I can now consider myself out of danger. There's a 1 in 5 chance of developing another clot once you have had the condition but, I'm told,  that this is unlikely in my case and I certainly hope that the doctors are right. I have to repeat  something I have said on these pages many times before: yet again, in my experience, the British National Health Service, in spite of its difficulties, has been fantastic. Without its care, I might not have been here writing this. So, as I said at the top of this blog, the fact that I'm feeling good today is news-worthy - well for me anyway.

Before my diagnosis, I did a number of public readings of my novel, Stephen Dearsley's Summer Of Love, without realising that I was seriously ill. I'm glad I didn't realise the danger I was in when I took part in the Polari Literary Salon readings at at the Royal Festival Hall in February but, looking at the short video that someone took, I can hear that my breathing was anything but normal. Phew. No such problems next week then when I'm reading at Needlewriters Lewes with the poets Sian Thomas and Liz Bahs.

I plan to read from  my first novel Stephen Dearsley's Summer Of Love (published by Ward Wood Publishing) but also from my new one, Blue Notes, Still Frames, to be published by Ward Wood in 2015. If you are anywhere near Lewes, UK, it would be great to see you there - no wheezing or breathlessness and definitely no blood this time, I promise.

Monday, 13 October 2014

I'm one of three East Sussex writers booked for the next Needlewriters Lewes.

I'm getting ready for my next novel reading and this time, very conveniently, it's in my home town of Lewes, UK, just down the road from my house at the building known as The Needlemakers.  I shall be sharing the evening with two other East Sussex writers, the poets Sian Thomas and Liz Bahs.  http://www.needlewriters.co.uk/

The building was once a candlemakers' factory that,  during World War I, became a surgical needle manufacturers. It now houses an eclectic collection of specialist shops and a splendid cafe where the Lewes Needlewriters' meetings take place four times a year. The events are usually well attended because Lewes folk appear to like the mixture of readings, food and drink. The atmosphere is always benign and receptive so I am really looking forward to it.  http://www.needlemakers.co.uk/

The Needlemakers Cafe doesn't just russle up great meals, it makes an excellent performance space too in the middle of our arty and rather liberal town here in the South Downs National Park. So, you might like to come on down next Thursday and make a night of it with some wine, supper and, I hope you'll agree, some interesting readings.

I am now thumbing through my novel, Stephen Dearsley's Summer Of Love (publisher Ward Wood Publishing) trying to decide which passages to read - the bits that give the spirit of the novel without giving out too many spoilers.

I'm also trying to decide whether to read some of the Fibonacci poetry that I have recently put together in a collection called Brief Encounters about, yes, some of my brief encounters,  or, maybe to include a chapter from my new novel, Blue Notes, Still Frames, also like Stephen D, set in Brighton and due to be published by Ward Wood in 2015. I may just go with the flow on the night. These Needlewriters events are always supported by Matt Birch who runs Skylark, one of the Needlemakers shops, a splendidly Lewesian emporium that stocks not only books but arts and crafts many with an ecological and ethnic bias.  http://www.skylarkshop.com/

Matt Birch at Skylark

Matt is one of that great but endangered species, an independent bookseller, and I, for one, am impressed by his support for writers - and not just us local ones. He will be selling tickets for the event but he will also do a display of the books being read on the night so, if you haven't done so already, this would be a great opportunity for you to buy yourself a copy of my and the other readers' books - the authors' signing will be free!

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Syria and Iraq: A few RAF planes will not do the job

So we're sending a few bombers to join the other nations who are using their planes to do too little too late. David Cameron, the British Prime Minister may talk big about defeating the monstrous organisation known as ISIS but if he really thinks that our RAF planes are going to make any difference then he's as naive as he thinks we are. Let's not be taken in by the rhetoric: this is a public relations job by our silver-tongued marketing Prime Minister.

A few planes against a vicious, fanatical and murderous army is just not enough. We are becoming the talk big, do nothing country and all this new bombing campaign will do is attract more crazed murderers to further acts of terrorism against the UK. If we buy into this without looking at the small print we're in for a big disappointment.

If we want to end this horror then we have to do more than just shout loudly and do the minimum to save face. We have sat back while the Syrian president has committed genocide against his own people and we have sat back while ISIS grew in strength. Isn't it time that we actually tried to stop the carnage? Isn't it time that the grisly activities of  President Assad and ISIS are brought to a conclusive end?

How many Syrian and Iraqi people have to die (let alone the British and American hostages) before the United Nations declares enough is enough. Maybe, Mr Cameron believes that half a dozen British planes can end the horror of the last four years. Isn't it just a sham to deny the necessity of going into Syria and Iraq where hundreds of thousands of civilians have died and millions have been made refugees? Or do we just not care here in the West with our isolationist instincts?

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Scarborough's pioneering theatre picks a winning team.

Charlotte Harwood and Christopher Harper in Slipping 

I was in Scarborough's Stephen Joseph Theatre this weekend to see Slipping, a new play by the young writer Claudine Toutoungi - directed by my son Henry Bell.

Henry Bell in Scarborough

. I have to acknowledge my prejudices here. 1) I'm the director's Dad  and 2) I'm not immediately attracted to eye operations. Well, firstly, I saw beyond both prejudices last night watching this powerful , witty and emotionally gripping production - son or no son and as for that eye stuff there was no need to look away - no horror just enlightenment about how we are affected, changed and, ultimately challenged to accept who we are and how much we can ever know about other people.

This is a terrific production - design, music, outstandingly well acted and, yes, directed, giving this new play every possible chance to make its impact.

Charlotte Harwood and Christopher Harper commanded the stage in this potent two-hander, playing doctor and patient but, in this play, showing how many different personalities compete within each individual. Both actors gave us an epic cast of different personality types. A brilliant achievement superbly observed.

Congratulations all round - no less to the Stephen Joseph Theatre for investing in new work by unknown writers.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Me in China: Kungfu, Fouchou and my Bonsai tree.

I have always liked the idea of growing Bonsai  and, for my birthday last week, I was set up for the challenge and given this beautiful little tree called Syzygium buxifolium or Chinese myrtle. As today is China's national day, it's good to celebrate that great but far from free country's culture with something of such beauty.

I'm a little bit daunted by the responsibility of caring for it but I've placed it on my desk so that it's in the right environment, next to a South-facing window, with some direct light and plenty of air as I mostly keep that window open unless it's really cold outside. I know not to over-water it and that I should use rain water or cool boiled water to prevent it drying out in summer. I will turn it weekly to control the growing pattern and trim the roots every two or three years. Mostly though, I hope, I shall sit and watch it grow - already it has injected a Zen-like spirit of tranquillity into my working space.

Chinese Myrtle grows to its full height in Southern China including Fuchian province where I visited in February 2008 - it was in China, rather than Japan, where I first saw Bonsai trees growing in ornamental parks like this one in Fouchou.

I was visiting China with my White Crane Kungfu club, White Crane Fighting Arts, to study Shaolin Dog Boxing with renowned Master Lin Zaipei.


Apart from the Kungfu,  there was time to see the country,  visit temples and, of course, to eat and drink the Chinese way.

I even earned myself a certificate in Shaolin Dog Boxing presented by Master Lin Zaipei himself.

Of course, when we weren't training, there was also time to go out on the town in Fouchou city.

I had a great time there so it's especially good to have this little Chinese Bonsai tree as a daily reminder of the positive aspects of Chinese society while we, at least, are allowed to see in our media, those brave  Hong Kong demonstrators taking to the streets demanding democracy from the often hard-faced government of leader Xi Jinping.

Wish me (and the tree) luck, everyone, but don't forget to wish luck to the great Chinese people too - when I was there they were welcoming, hospitable and very charming.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

The Umbrella Revolution - new iconic images from China, 25 years after Tiananmen Square.

The people of Hong Kong are still out there on the streets demonstrating, illegally but charmingly, for full democracy for their state within a state. They want free elections and object to Beijing imposing a list of 'suitable' candidates on Hong Kong. China must be worried that the demonstrators raised all those umbrellas against the heavy-handed use of tear gas. Umbrellas, civilised, decorative and fragile, will become a potent symbol of humanity pitched against brute force.

The demonstration, apparently lead by a huge body of students and academics, has been handled with charm and smiling faces and that is a lesson for all of us. How difficult it must be for the Chinese government to keep credibility internationally when these images spread around the World.

 These fresh-faced, optimistic but plucky people have won our support without lifting a finger in violence.

It is easier for Chinese leader Xi Jinping to keep these images away from his own people  - all he has had to do is censor the media and social networking websites.

The non-Democratic Chinese government dreads its people seeing images of protest especially when they are calling for democracy and freedom. So the brave people of Hong Kong will not be seen in mainland China.

Twenty-five years after the last major demonstration against Chinese autocracy, more plucky Chinese demonstrators risk the wrath of their unelected rulers. Today's demonstrators,  just like that brave student in Tiananmen Square all those years ago,  have created images that will haunt us all just as, presumably, they must haunt Mr Xi Jinping.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Tory women and the irresistible appeal of men's paisley pyjamas.

What is it about paisley pyjamas? If we are to believe what we read in the British press today, then they are irresistible if you are a Tory woman. Or so one of our tabloid newspapers found out when they got a male reporter to pretend, on  Twitter, possibly illegally, to be a young woman, improbably named Sophie Wittams, a 'Twentysomething Tory PR girl.'

In all fairness, real Tory PR girls might be able to resist paisley pyjamas but that's not what junior Tory minister, the even more improbably named, Brooks Newmark thought when he sent Sophie a photograph of his genitals popping out, seductively, or so he thought, from his irresistible paisley pjs.

The resistible and now former Minister for Civil Society, Brooks Newmark

I can only assume that Mr Newmark thought that Tory girls not only find him irresistible but that they also have a weakness for men in paisley. The former Minister for Civil Society resigned over the weekend when it was also revealed that he was the co-founder of Women2Win, a campaign to, er, attract more Conservative women into Parliament.

Brooks Newmark (r) attracting women into the Conservative party.

This is what Women2Win have to say in their publicity pamphlets: 'Having gone from 17 to 49 MPs in the 2010 election, Women2Win aims to continue increasing the number of Conservative women MPs by providing support, advice and training to women who wish to enter Parliament or get more involved in politics.'

I wonder if they will be using photographs of men in paisley in their future publicity campaigns. It will all depend, I suppose, on which Twentysomething Tory PR girls they employ.