Review: James and the giant Peach at the West Yorkshire Playhouse

Sharing Stories – The Rosie Project Chat

Leeds Book Club has been participating in the Arts and Minds Network‘s ongoing project on raising awareness of mental health issues. We met up this week to discuss the latest book in our series! 
Venue: Crowd of Favours
Date: 15th July 2014
Time: 6pm

***** SPOILERS *****

***** SPOILERS *****

***** SPOILERS *****

BLURB (from Amazon)

‘I’m not good at understanding what other people want.’

‘Tell me something I don’t know . . .’

Love isn’t an exact science – but no one told Don Tillman. A thirty-nine-year-old geneticist, Don’s never had a second date. So he devises the Wife Project, a scientific test to find the perfect partner. Enter Rosie – ‘the world’s most incompatible woman’ – throwing Don’s safe, ordered life into chaos. But what is this unsettling, alien emotion he’s feeling?

the rosie project

The Rosie Project



All in all, we admired Don Tillman as a protagonist. While we (and he) recognise that he views the world from a different perspective; at no point did we ever feel like he was the object. When we laughed, we laughed with him – not at him.

Indeed, there were certain aspects of his housekeeping that we were in envy of – the structure essential to his well being was very well depicted. And attractive. Similarly – we had a interesting side chat about his views regarding pictures/paintings on walls – once you become familiar with them, you stop seeing them – so why bother? (I can’t let this one go to be honest – I have this poorly articulated thought that you don’t hang things on walls purely for your own enjoyment – they are to be shared with everyone you invite in…assuming you want to invite people in!)

Of particular interest to me was how atypical Don was from the traditional Rom-Com hero, yet despite his less usual traits – he is unmistakably the hero. Fictional heroes – particularly in films – are rarely depicted as other than tropes. Those with differing abilities, mental health challenges and so on are almost invisible on the silver screen so to have a leading man like Don was very refreshing.

Regarding his position under the spectrum ‘umbrella’, we considered autism and aspergers syndrome and whether it mattered which Don had – especially when viewed in consideration with how high functioning he is. Which obviously enough led to a quick chat about labelling – the value of knowing what/if any diagnosis you may have versus living without ever having a label attached to your behaviour. We all of us hesitated to assess whether the conditions were depicted accurately though it certainly did resonate with other information we’ve come across.

One of the other interesting aspects was that while Don has certain obvious hurdles to overcome, so does every other character. No one is depicted at having a total grasp of every aspect of their life – Rosie’s life is almost off the rails – she has started to believe her own lies. Gene and Claudia have serious marital, trust and communication issues…and no diagnosis was ever needed. More importantly – from a readers point of view, it all fit together beautifully, providing a fully realised world, populated by realistic characters.

One of our members expressed a little concern that Don’s eventual realisation of affection for Rosie didn’t seem to sit well with his earlier highly routined and structured behaviours – it was difficult to visualise him breaking his own rules when we had seen him mis-read situations (the flirty lady in the initial chapters); struggle to read emotions and as a result seek second opinions from Gene and Claudia. His comfort with Rosie had stemmed from his removal of her from consideration as a potential romantic partner – the ending seemed to contradict that with his willingness to be so flexible. It was a well reasoned point and half of us stared at the member with open fish mouths, mumbling something about  ‘but…romantic…sweet…darn it…you’re not wrong…but…’.


Doe eyed freaks, the lot of em

Course after we’d dissected Don’s potentially out of character behaviour, it was time for Ruby…sorry Rosie to take the stand.

While in the main we did genuinely enjoy her story and arc, it was impossible not to recognise that she contained certain Manic Pixie Dream Girl qualities.

Unpredictable, emotional, scatty and Most Likely to Appear holding a cigarette and/or a glass of wine, Rosie turns Don’s neat, organised and structured life upside down in a…dare I say it…predictable turn of events.

And yet, despite all that, Rosie exists within these pages as a…well a normal woman – no more irascible or enchanting than the rest of us. Don sees her as strange and odd…but then again he sees almost everyone in this way. Rosie is far more than a mere collection of quirks and mannerisms. It is her back story – The Father Project – that provides the structure for Don’s journey and her motivation that keeps propelling them forward.

 “It was really important that Rosie wasn’t just a manic pixie dream girl, a cardboard cutout, that she wasn’t just there to serve him,” Simsion says. “That took a lot of work.”

Written initially as a screenplay



*Note – we had one Spinal Tap score – an 11/10


Details of the Sequel

The Rosie EffectThe Rosie Effect will be released in September 2014!

With the Wife Project complete, Don settles into a new job and married life in New York. But it’s not long before certain events are taken out of his control and it’s time to embark on a new project . . .

As Don tries to get to grips with the requirements of starting a family, his unusual research style gets him into trouble. To make matters worse, Don has invited his closest friend to stay with them, but Gene is not exactly the best model for marital happiness.

As Don’s life with Rosie continues to be unpredictable, he needs to remember that emotional support is just as important as practical expertise.

You can follow Prof Don Tillman on twitter



Listening along to Dark Briggate Blues

chris nicksonLBC’s pet author Chris Nickson has just released Dark Briggate Blues – the first in the Dan Markham series (at least I hope that it’s the first; I’m only on chapter 10 and I’m hooked!).

A jazz inspired noir, this book in set in the 1960’s and has a fantastic soundtrack.

Check it out on Spotify HERE 


Leeds 1954. When Joanna Hart came into his office, enquiry agent Dan Markham thought it would be an easy case. All the blonde with scarlet lips and swinging hips wanted was to know if her husband Freddie was unfaithful. But when the man is killed, Markham’s involvement makes him the prime suspect. As the evidence piles up against him, he realises someone had set him up.
In a deadly game, Markham has to battle to keep himself and his client alive. All he can rely on are his wits and the rusty skills he acquired during his National Service in military intelligence. But can he hope to be any match against the killer who has spies on every corner in Leeds and a reach that goes all the way to Whitehall?




Dan’s music (or Track Listing)
* Miles Davis – Round Midnight

* Ella Fitzgerald – Blues In The Night

* Bud Powell – Un Poco Loco

* Count Basie – One O’Clock Jump

* Billy Eckstine – Stormy Monday

* Charlie Parker – Donna Lee

* Sarah Vaughan – Someone To Watch Over Me

* Thelonious Monk – Blue Monk

* Duke Ellington – Prelude To A Kiss

* Tubby Hayes – Round About Midnight

* Ella Fitzgerald – Do Nothing ‘Til You Hear From Me

* Coleman Hawkins – Body And Soul

* Dexter Gordon – A Night In Tunisia

* Lester Young – A Foggy Day In London Town

* George Shearing – How High The Moon

* Art Tatum – I Got Rhythm

* Billie Holiday – God Bless The Child

* Thelonious Monk – Round About Midnight


The Story of the Other Wise Man – Henry Van Dyke

Originally posted in 1895, this beautiful story has become part of our Christmas lore. 

The links lead to a HTML version of the story by Project Gutenberg.

The Story of the Other Wise Man
Henry Van Dyke
Who seeks for heaven alone to save his soul,
May keep the path, but will not reach the goal;
While he who walks in love may wander far,
Yet God will bring him where the blessed are.


You know the story of the Three Wise Men of the East, and how they traveled from far away to offer their gifts at the manger-cradle in Bethlehem. But have you ever heard the story of the Other Wise Man, who also saw the star in its rising, and set out to follow it, yet did not arrive with his brethren in the presence of the young child Jesus? Of the great desire of this fourth pilgrim, and how it was denied, yet accomplished in the denial; of his many wanderings and the probations of his soul; of the long way of his seeking, and the strange way of his finding, the One whom he sought—I would tell the tale as I have heard fragments of it in the Hall of Dreams, in the palace of the Heart of Man.

Part 01 – Introduction

Part 05 – A pearl of a great price

Free e-versions
iTunes            – The Story of the Other Wise Man
Kindle            – The Story of the Other Wise Man
Project Gutenberg – The Story of the Other Wise Man

Please note – re calendars

The Calendar and Book Clubs at a Glance pages will both be taken down for a few days.


We’re working on making it easier to see what’s on and where!


In the mean time, our first book club of the New Year will be:

Where: White Swan

When:  11th of January at 6:30pm

Discussing: The Vet’s Daughter by Barbara Comyns

Christmas Read-a-long 2014 – Act 05



caesar tv 02

WC – 08th of Dec 2014 – ACT 05

Scene 01 – The Plains of Philippi

Scene 02 – The field of Battle

Scene 03 – Another part of the Field

Scene 04 – Another part of the Field

Scene 05 – Another part of the Field (it’s clearly a big field)

caesar tv

Available FREEProject Gutenberg

Available FREEiTunes

Available FREEKindle

Isn't that Elton from Clueless?

Isn’t that Elton from Clueless?

Andrea Gibson – How It Ends

On each occasion that this poem is receited; it has a unique opening. Ms Gibson uses the actual time period elapsed; a device which provides context for the experience and connects with the audience anew. I particularly like it because it pushes the event further and further back without reducing the emotional impact. The song in the background, I believe, is DeVotchKa’s How It Ends.

Every time I revisit this piece, I am struck by newly realised imagery and thoughts – it’s one of those forward moving momentum builders that strikes a different chord depending on what’s happening in my own life.

How It Ends

It has been [X] years,
[Y] months
And [Z] days
Since the first time I saw you naked
Since the night you ripped off your shirt,
Stuck your boobs in my face and said
Touch them
I touched them like a diabetic third grader opening a Snickers bar
You said
I thought, yes I am
But you are so soft, I said,
Your lips, they’re like whale blubber
That wasn’t my best line
But it worked
Tonight in the grocery store, I found one of your hairs in my underwear
I pulled it out in the frozen food section and screamed
THAT is so gorgeous, it could kill a man!
Good thing I’m a leprechaun
Baby, I have no idea how this will end
Maybe the equator will fall like a hula hoop from the earth’s hips
And our mouths will freeze mid-kiss on our 80th anniversary
Or maybe tomorrow, my absolute insanity
Combined with the absolute obstacle course of your communication skills
Will leave us
Like a love letter
In a landfill
But whatever
However this ends,
I want you to know, that right now,
I love you forever
I love you for the hardest mile we walked together
For the night I collected every sharp knife in the house
And threw them one by one on the roof
Then told the sun,
Listen show off,
From now on, you are only to give me blades of grass;
Things that are growing and soft
‘Cause there’s this girl who says she wants to float on her back
Through my bloodstream
And when she does,
I want my rivers to reach the sea
D’you hear me, lover?
Do you know, the night you told me you had a crush on my ears,
I swore to never to become Van Gogh
And look, baby,
They are both still there
Just like my firefly heart is still right there in your glass jar
I never trusted anybody more to poke enough holes in the lid
So on the nights you sleep like a ballerina,
I try to snore like a piccolo
And I press my lips to your holy temples
And I say,
I crash in to things in the dark
Even when the lights are on
And I am wrong more often than I am writing
And even then, I am often wrong
But when my friends are in the bathroom at the bar
Rolling dollar bills in to telescopes,
Claiming they can see God,
I will come to you
Holding my grandmother’s Bible,
I will press it to your chest
And I will bless it with your breath
And when you ask if I wanna roleplay Altar boys fucking in the kitchen during Sunday Mass
I will say,
Hell yes
But only if you leave a hickey on my ass
In the shape of Jesus’ palm
So I can be sure I got nailed
You will never lose me to the wind
You are the lightning that made me fill my chest with candles
You are the thunder clapping for the poem that nobody else wants to hear
You are an icicle’s tear watering a tulip on the first day of spring
You melt me alive
You kiss me as deep as my roots will reach
And I want nothing more than to be an eyelash fallen on your cheek
Then being collected by your fingers
And held like a wish
I promise
That whatever I do
I will always try my best
To come true


The Poetry of Jill Scott


Jill Scott


Actor, Musician and poet.

(I don’t agree with all of her stances and statements but love her poetry)

Haiki #2
It was a loud cry
When I was brought to this world
Been loud ever since

When the women gather
Ever watch the women?
How they laugh?
bend from the waist
wind make wheat do.

They listen chile
all up in they whole selves.
They be smilin”
All them molars and wisdoms showin”
Like Cheshire cats
They be cookin’ too
Season fish
serve fresh squeezed lemonade

Legs wide for best air
bras relaxed on the floors
“Rules…sit out on that porch and wait!”
they say
“We busy”
Yep they be busy too
Sewin’ highlights
Makin’ quilts of days to come and gone gone
They be singin’ too chile

‘Bout all them good convulsions
those sweet sweats
those screamin’ yeses
th lacks of yep.
They be cryin’ too
hand holdin’
sewin’ raggedy edges
It’s beautiful chile
Truly”But don’t rush”
They say
Don’t rush
Gone head on outside

You’ll know fo yo own self soon enough


Chris Nickson Exclusive Short Story – Christmas 1890

Once again, Chris Nickson has kindly provided us with a special Christmas treat – a short story featuring Annabelle Harper (nee Atkinson) – instantly recognisable to fans of his Inspector Tom Harper series!

LBC would like to thank Chris for this short story and for his extraordinary kindness and friendship over the last few years!

Christmas 1890

by Chris Nickson

Crossgates Station  c 1890 Has nothing to do with the story, but I thought it was interesting

Crossgates Station
c 1890
Has nothing to do with the story, but I thought it was interesting

‘Excuse me, luv, do you have one like that in a plum colour?’ Annabelle Harper pointed at the hat on display behind the counter. It was soft blue wool, with a small crown and a wide brim, decorated with a long white feather and trailing lace meant to tie under the chin.

The shop assistant smiled.

‘I’m afraid not, madam. We only have what’s on display. ‘I’m very sorry.’

‘Doesn’t matter.’ She put down her purchases, stockings, bloomers, garters, and a silk blouse. ‘I’ll just take those, please.’

Be polite to everyone, that’s what her mother had said when she was younger, and it was a rule Annabelle had lived by. It cost nothing, and a little honey always ensured good service.

The Grand Pygmalion was packed with people shopping. Women on their own, with a servant along to carry purchases, wives with long-suffering husbands who looked as if they’d rather be off enjoying a drink somewhere.

Four floors, two hundred people to help the customers, wonderful displays of goods. It just seemed to grow busier and busier each year. But it was the only real department store in Leeds. She waited as the girl totted up the totals.

‘I have an account here, luv.’

She saw the quick flicker of doubt and gave a kind smile. Couldn’t blame the lass. She didn’t sound like the type of person with the money to shop here. Then the gaze took in her clothes and jewellery and the girl nodded. Annabelle had brass.

‘Of course, madam. What name is it?’

‘Mrs. Annabelle Harper. The address is the Victoria public house on Roundhay Road.’

Everything neatly packed and tied into a box, she walked out on to Boar Lane. A fortnight until Christmas and it was already cold. Bitter. A wind whistled along the street from the west. All around her she could hear people with their wet, bronchitic coughs. It’d probably snow soon enough, she thought.

Omnibuses, trams, carts and barrows moved along the road, a constant clang of noise. On the corner with Briggate, by the Ball-Dyson clock, a Salvation Army brass band was playing, their trumpets and tubas competing against the vehicles and the street sellers crying their goods.

She pulled the coat closer around her body as she walked, clutching the reticule tight in her hand. Plenty of crime this time of year. Married to a detective inspector, she couldn’t help but hear about it. And she had enough cash with her for something special; she didn’t want to lose that.

Strolling up towards the Headrow, all the lights in the shops were already glowing. Only three and it was almost dark. Roll on spring, she thought, then stopped herself. Never wish the days away. Who used to say that? She racked her brain. Come on, Annabelle told herself, you’re not old enough to forget things yet.

Then it came. Old Ellie Emsworth at Bank Mill. Annabelle was ten, she’d been at the mill a year, working as a doffer, still too young to be on the machines. Six days a week, twelve hours a day for not even two bob a week when all she wanted to be was out there, away from it all. Ellie had worked the loom all her life. She was probably no more than thirty-five but she looked old, worn-down.

‘I know you don’t like it here,’ Ellie had said to her one day as they ate their dinner. Bread and dripping for Annabelle, all her family could afford. ‘But don’t go wishing the days away. They pass quick enough, lass. Soon you’ll wish you had them back.’

She smiled. For a moment she could almost hear Ellie’s voice, rough as lye soap.

People pressed around her as she walked, some of them smiling with all the joy of the season, others glum and po-faced. Christmas, she thought. They’d never had the money to make a do of it when she was little. As soon as she had a little, when she’d married the landlord of the Victoria, she’d given presents and spent all she could afford.

Even the Christmas after he died, she’d been determined to put on a brave face. A big meal for friends, presents that saw their eyes shine. It made her happy.

And now she had Tom Harper. She had the wedding ring on her finger and she felt happier than she had in a long, long time. This was going to be their first married Christmas and she was going to buy him something he’d never forget. A new suit. A beautiful new suit.

Along New Briggate, across from the Grand Theatre, the buildings were bunched together. Business on top of business as the floor climbed to the sky. Photographers, an insurance agent, gentleman’s haberdasher. You name it, it was all there if you looked hard enough.

The girl stood in the doorway of number fifteen, a broken willow basket at her feet. At first Annabelle’s glance passed over her. Then she looked again. For a moment she was taken back twenty years. She was ten again and staring at Mary Loughlin. They’d gone to school together, started at the mill together, laughed and played whenever they had chance. The same flyaway red hair that the girl had tried to capture in a sober bun. The same pale blue eyes and freckles over the cheeks. The same shape of her face.

‘Wreath, ma’am?’ The girl held it out, a poor thing of ivy and holly wrapped around a think branch of pine. ‘It’s only a shilling,’ she said hopefully.

Her wrist was thin, the bones sticking out, and her fingers were bare, the nails bitten down to the quick, flesh bright pink from the cold. An old threadbare coat and clogs that looked to be too small for her feet.

‘What’s your name, luv?’

The girl blushed.

‘Please ma’am, it’s Annabelle.’

For a second she couldn’t breathe, putting a hand to her neck. Then, very gently she shook her head.

‘Your mam’s called Mary, isn’t she?’

The girl’s eyes widened. She stared, frightened, tongue-tied, biting her lower lip. Finally she managed a nod.

‘She was, ma’am, yes.’

‘Was? Is she dead?’

‘Yes, ma’am. Three year back.’

Annabelle lowered her head and wiped at her face with the back of her gloves.

‘I’m sorry, luv,’ she said after a while. ‘Now, how much are these wreaths?’

‘A shilling, ma’am.’

‘And how many do you have?’


She scrambled in her purse and brought out two guineas.

‘That looks like the right change to me.’ She placed them in the girl’s hand. Before she let go of the money, she asked, ‘What was your mother’s surname before she wed, Annabelle?’

‘Loughlin, ma’am.’

‘I tell you what. There’s that cocoa house just across from the theatre, Annabelle Loughlin. I’d be honoured if you’d let me buy you a cup. You look perished.’

The girl’s fingers closed around the money. She look mystified, scared, as if she couldn’t believe this was happening.

‘Did your mam ever tell you why she called you Annabelle?’

‘Yes ma’am.’ For the first time, the girl smiled. ‘She said it was for someone she used to know when she was little.’

Mrs. Harper leaned forward. Very quietly she said,

‘There’s something I’d better tell you. I’m the Annabelle you’re named for.’


She sipped a mug of cocoa as she watched the girl eat. A bowl of stew with a slice of bread to sop up all the gravy, then two pieces of cake. But what she seemed to love most was the warmth of the place. Young Annabelle kept stopping and looking around her, gazing at the people and what they had on their plates.

She was twelve, she said. Two older brothers, both of them working, and two younger, one eight and still at school, the other almost ten and at Bank Mill.

‘What does he do there?’

‘He’s a doffer,’ the girl said and Annabelle smiled.

‘That’s what your mam and I did when we started. Finally I couldn’t stand it anymore and went into service.’

‘But you’re rich,’ the girl said, then reddened and covered her mouth with her hand. ‘I’m sorry.’

‘I’ve got a bob or two,’ she agreed. ‘I was lucky, that’s all.’ The girl finished her food. ‘Do you want more?’

‘No ma’am. Thank you.’

‘And don’t be calling me ma’am,’ she chided gently. ‘It makes me feel old. I’m Annabelle, the same as you. Mrs. Harper if you want to be formal.’

‘Yes, Mrs. Harper.’

‘What does you da do, luv?’

‘He’s dead.’ There was a sudden bleakness in her voice. ‘Two years before my mam. So me and Tommy, he’s the oldest, we look after everything.’

Annabelle waved for the bill and counted out the money to pay as the girl watched her.

‘What work do you do? When you’re not selling wreaths, I mean.’

‘This and that ma’a – Mrs. Harper.’

‘And nothing that pays much?’ The girl shook her head. ‘You still live on the Bank?’

‘On Bread Street.’

‘Can you find your way down to Sheepscar?’

‘Course I can.’ For a second the bright, cheeky spark she remembered in Mary flew.

‘Good, because there’s a job down there if you want one. I own a bakery down there, and someone left me in the lurch.’ The girl just stared at her. ‘It’s not charity, you’ll have to work hard and if you’re skive you’ll be out on your ear. But I give a fair day’s pay for a fair days’ graft. What do you say?’

For a second the girl was too stunned to answer. Then the words seemed to tumble from her mouth.

‘Yes. Thanks you ma’am. Mrs. Harper, I mean. Thank you.’

Annabelle looked her up and down.

‘If you’re anything like your mam you’ll be a grand little worker.’

‘I’ll do my best. Honest I will.’

‘I know, luv. You’re going to need some new clothes. And I daresay the rest of your lot could use and bits and bobs, too.’ She took a five pound from her purse and laid it on the table. ‘That should do it.’ The girl just stared at the money. ‘Don’t be afraid of it,’ Annabelle told her. ‘It won’t bite. You buy what you need.’

‘Do you really mean it?’ The words were barely more than a whisper.

‘I do.’ She grinned. ‘When I saw you, it was like looking at Mary all over again. Took me right back. You’re just as bonny as she was.’ She stood, the girl quickly following. ‘You be at Harper’s Bakery at six tomorrow morning. Mrs. Harding’s the manager, tell her I took you on. I’ll be around later.’

‘Yes, Mrs. Harper. And…thank you.’

‘No need, luv. Just work hard, that’s all I need. You get yourself off to the Co-op and buy what you need.’

The girl had the money clenched tight in her small fist. At the door, before she turned away, she said,

‘Mrs. Harper?’

‘Yes, luv?’

‘Sometime, will you tell me what my mam was like when she was young?’

‘You know what? I’d be very happy to do that.’

She watched the girl skip off down the street. Who’d have thought it, Mary calling her lass Annabelle? She shook her head and looked up at the clock. A little after four. She still had time to go to that tailor’s on North Street and order Tom a new suit for his Christmas present.

* * * * *

On the Edge of Darkness – GUEST

LBC regular reviewer Michael has been reading again…

Thanks again Michael!




A compelling story of a woman trapped in the wrong time, and a powerful, deadly curse that haunts three generations without mercy…

Adam Craig is fourteen when, near an isolated Celtic stone in the wild Scottish Highlands, he meets Brid, whose exotic, gypsy-like dress and strange attitudes fascinate him. They become friends and, in time, passionate lovers. She leads him, unsuspecting, into the sixth century where – training as a Druid priestess – she has mastered their ancient mysteries and powerful, dangerous magic.

In her obsession with Adam, Brid is seen as a traitor by her people, only escaping death by following Adam to Edinburgh when he leaves home to study medicine.

As the years pass, Adam makes new friends, and finds new love. But Brid, consumed by jealousy, haunts him like an evil shadow until, fifty years on, Adam’s granddaughter, Beth, helps him discover the secret that will free them from the terror of Brid’s curse.


one the edge of darknessBarbara Erskine’s books usually involve two or more present day characters
being haunted or willingly or unwillingly possessed by historical figures
who have found a window from the past to interact with this present day
world. This novel goes one stage further where Brid, a girl in druidic
training in dark ages Celtic society is able to step into our present day to
snare in love Adam, the son of a puritanical Scottish parish minister.

Adam grows up, trains in medicine, falls in love with a present day student,
thus envoking the wrath of Brid, who crosses into our time and follows him
to the south of England and proceeds to plot her revenge.

Without giving too much away, this novel is much more brutal than some of
Barbara Erskine’s other novels, perhaps too tragic in a way to feel fully
comfortable with the storyline. However, like all her others, there is a
well woven tale of past and present coming together with consequences in
both worlds.


* * * * *

Visit Michael’s Blog HERE



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