Monthly Archives: January 2016

Because Burns Night isn’t just about the haggis….

Because Burns Night isn’t just about the haggis….
Burns Night Supper

Or the whisky! This is me last night trying to take a picture of the beautiful bowl of mashed potato, but whisky exchanging got in the way….


I wrote a love poem from the Haggis to the Potato:

Ae Fond Fork (with apologies to Robert Burns and his beautiful Ae Fond Kiss)  by Sarah Salway
Ae fond fork, and then they dig;
Ae mouthful, and they don’t give a fig,
Fortune paid no tribute to your roving eyes,
Your green skin, when you were peeled naked and shy,
But Spud, from my oat-soaked belly I’ll nae
Forgive that uncouth neep who clapped your ain
Cute face buttered and salted until you cried,
My sweet root veg, trembling now by my side.

And honestly things ain’t so ratty
Cos naething can spoil my tatty,
For to taste you was to mash
You, mash but you, you fore’er my smash,
Oh even had we never snuggled so closely, dear,
On our Burns Night plate, licked almost clear,
Never shared a hob, a pan, sneaky tastes by the cook,
Our love is true, for you I’d ne’er overlook.

Fare thee well, thou creamy soft potato!
Fare thee well, you put on quite a show,
Thine be ilka roots and tuber,
Seeding, chitting, lifting (thank the bard we’re nae sober),
Ae fond fork, and then they dig,
Ae mouthful, and they don’t give a fig,
As you leave the plate, they’ll swallow you,
But down their laughing throats, I’ll follow you.

Artist Date No 2… A very long train journey

Artist Date No 2… A very long train journey

I’ve been away on an Arvon Tutor Development Week, so really I’ve had a whole week of an artist dates, but I was sharing my artist really with lots of other artists, so I wanted to do something special. Or specialer. After all, we went wassailing. What could be better than that?

arvon week

But… I went back to the original definition – “When choosing an Artist Date, it is good to ask yourself, “what sounds fun?” — and then allow yourself to try it.” And remembering that what’s fun for me may not be your ideal date, I took the very slow train home from Devon to London.

IMG_1956 IMG_1957

I know! GO ME!

But look…. all these sheds just bursting with stories…


I’d written a lot about memories and history over the week, and I kept coming up with how my granddad used to work on the Great Western Railways and my dad was born in a street called Railway Lane. But most of all I remembered how my granddad had a pass for all the railways, and he’d take me on trips whenever I went to stay. It was always the journey, not the destination that seemed important.


And so I wrote, happily aware that I wasn’t going to be disturbed for several hours, apart from when – HURRAH – an actual snack trolley came round. Now, that doesn’t  happen when I’m writing at home.


Then I saw this statue – at Templecombe station. It seemed to be a man reading to a hedge…

IMG_1965When I got home, I did a bit of quick research:

The statue was created by Siobhan Coppinger and Alec Peever for the National Garden Festival at Gateshead in 1990, as part of the British Rail exhibit, the theme of which was Railway Time. The artists wanted to explore how the environment and elements are constantly changing, rather like our perception of time itself.

The sculpture forms a working sundial and has as its central concept British Rail, the railman, ‘holding time’. The railman is holding a timetable, the pages of which are being blown away by the wind, creating an arc around the man. His raised arm forms the gnomon of the dial, and the fallen pages mark the hours.

Isn’t that fabulous? Almost like all my memories of my grandfather had been turned into a sundial.

IMG_1964And really what was I doing on the train but ‘holding time’? Of course, I could have got the fast train, but I was lucky not to have to rush back.

I enjoyed every minute of it!

News of an exciting yoga and creative writing retreat:

News of an exciting yoga and creative writing retreat:


In the space between the mat and page, magic happens!

A weekend of creative writing, mellow movement & breathing.

Join award-winning writer, Sarah Salway ( and Freestyle Yoga Project Co-Founder, Anna Robertshaw-Freeth for three days of poetry, poses and peace. This retreat is suitable for all abilities, whether it is your first time to share your writing or you are new to yoga. With a group of likeminded people, you’ll be led through a variety of mellow, fun and practical exercises to create new healthy habits on both the mat and the page.

We will be based at Tilton House (as featured in The Observer, The Independent, The Telegraph, Times Online & The Guardian) nestled underneath the South Downs and edged by woodland with far reaching views across the Sussex Weald. The Georgian country house was once home to economist John Maynard Keynes and ballerina Lydia Lopokova as their retreat for contemplation and calm.

What better place to get your creative juices flowing!


Friday November 11 to Sunday November 13 2016.

Early bird offer of £450, (if paying by the end of April 2016 in full) or £495, based on 2 people sharing.

To book, please contact:

Includes; accommodation in a shared room (all decorated using natural materials), six delicious chef prepared vegetarian meals, tea/coffee, snacks, fruit & water provided from the local spring.

Two creative writing sessions with Sarah, using inspiring poetry and prose readings as well as practical exercises to help you surprise yourself on the page. We will look at journal writing, as well as creating new work, and you will leave with writing prompts and suggestions for future writing.

Two mellow yoga sessions with Anna in the heated yurt. We will move, breath, release, relax, unwind and remind ourselves of the connection between our bodies & mind, suitable for ALL abilities, whether completely new or old hat…

Explore the woodland, gardens and lie and gaze in a hammock at the night sky, in five acres of Sussex countryside.

Elegant and comfortable bedrooms all with great views of the Sussex Weald or South Downs.

We will share our favourite readings by the open fire in the library one evening, but you’re also welcome to read or write quietly here during the weekend.

Free Wi-Fi access.

All weather tennis court (balls and rackets supplied)!

Library / sitting rooms full of inspiring books & dreamy views.

Glorious walks, inspiring views, bike hire available on request.

Five minute stroll from Charleston Farmhouse, home of the Bloomsbury set.

Three good pubs within an hours walk.

Holistic treatments available upon request.

Send me a postcard…

Send me a postcard…


If you know me well, chances are you’ve had a postcard or two from me over the years. I love them. As you’ll see above, I shamelessly put my own work on them but I also have used them in writing installations, such as ‘write a card to a stranger’ in Greyfriars in Canterbury.


indie piece

So it was a real pleasure to be interviewed at the back of last year by George McDonagh, a student in Radio Production at the University of Westminster, and to hear today that the feature he did on The Puzzle of the Picture Postcard got him a rather good mark! Congratulations George. You can hear his piece by clicking here. I’m a bit squeaky in it, but there’s some fascinating stuff about collecting postcards.

Artist Date No 1

Artist Date No 1

With my new found devotion to Hygge (“the absence of anything annoying or emotionally overwhelming; taking pleasure from the presence of gentle, soothing things”) and because it’s so gloomy outside, there was no doubt about my first artist date. It had to be no. 24:

Make a corner of your bookshelf for favourite/comfort books and DVDs. Secrete a bar of chocolate there.


And what joy looking for, and finding them, and putting them altogether. I probably ‘deselected’ four times as many when it came to putting the books and DVDs on the shelf, and some may only be there temporarily. And that little blue book, I hear you say, one from the end on the right hand side? Sshhh….


And yesterday I asked for new box set suggestions of Facebook. I’m such a big fan of programmes like The Bridge and Fargo, but was finding my Christmas body count was reaching desperation levels. Particularly as I seemed to be desensitised to blood and gore. To keep them together, for me as much as anyone else, here are some of the suggestions:

Thank you to everyone for these brilliant suggestions!




My challenge to myself last year was to read books from FIFTY different countries. I chose the number not just to be hard-core, or make reading a competitive sport, I read all the time anyway, but because I thought if I push myself out of my comfort zone – America, Britain, Europe – I’ll have to go out and search for new books. And that was the point. Besides I know myself – if I have something quantifiable, I’ll do it. And I did it – from ALBANIA to ZIMBABWE. I’m pretty impressed with myself, but to be honest, it wasn’t in the least bit hard. In fact, it was a pleasure – mostly – from start to finish. Particularly when friends have given me books from their home countries, or countries that mean a lot to them – almost like a letter, or way of understanding them better. The surprises have been massive too – the slapstick farting humour of an Iranian book, rediscovering the off-the-page energy of Australian writers, the poignancy of a debut Irish novel, brilliant Czech titles, wondering all over again why Canadian women writers are so damn good, crying crying crying, laughing again, shiver, and lastly, finding my two favourite novels of 2015 – Scarlett Thomas’s The Seed Collectors and Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel.

But mostly this is a LOVE LETTER to the translators of these books, most of whom I have tried to credit here. Amazing. And of course, the publishers who helped to open my eyes last year – particularly Pushkin Press, And Other Stories, and Peirene Press. I’ve taken out subscriptions to the last two, I’m looking forward to continuing this journey!


1.Broken April, Ismail Kadare ALBANIA

2.A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara AMERICA

  • The Palace of Illusions, Kim Addonizio, AMERICA
  • Honeydew, Edith Pearlman, AMERICA

3. Thus Were Their Faces, Silvina Ocampo (Daniel Balderston) ARGENTINA

4. Cloudstreet, Tim Winton AUSTRALIA

  • The Shiralee, D’Arcy Niland, AUSTRALIA
  • Tender Morsels, Margo Lanagan, AUSTRALIA

5. The Man I Became, Peter Verhelst (David Colmer) BELGIUM

6. All Dogs are Blue, Rodrigo de Souza Leao (Zoe Perry and Stefan Tobler), BRAZIL

  • The Mystical Rose, Adelia Prado (Ellen Dore Watson) BRAZIL

7. The Tongue Set Free, Elias Canetti BULGARIA

8. The Peripheral, William Gibson, CANADA

  • Station Eleven, Emily St John Mandel, CANADA
  • Stone Mattress, Margaret Atwood, CANADA

9. Stones in a Landslide, Maira Barbal (Laura McGloughlin and Paul Mitchell) CATALANIA

10. Chinese Ghost Stories, Lafcadio Hearn, CHINA

11. Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age, Bohumil Hrabal CZECH

  • Closely Observed Trains, Bohumil Hrabal (Edith Pargeter), CZECH
  • How I Came to Know Fish, Ota Pavel CZECH

12. We, The Drowned, Carsten Jensen (Charlotte Barslund with Emma Ryder) DENMARK

  • Nothing, Janne Teller, DENMARK

13. Arabian Nights & Days, Naguib Mahfouz (Denys Johnson-Davies) EGYPT

14. By Night The Mountain Burns, Juan Tomas Avila Laurel (Jethro Soutar) EQUATORIAL GUINEA

15. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett, ENGLAND

  • The Seed Collectors, Scarlett Thomas, ENGLAND

16. The Conspiracy & Other Stories, Jaan Kross (Eric Dickens) ESTONIA

17. The Beggar & The Hare, Tuomas Kyro (David McDuff) FINLAND

  • The Listener, Tove Jansson (Thomas Teal) FINLAND

18. Suspended Sentences, Patrick Modiano (Mark Polizzotti), FRANCE

  • That Mad Ache, Francoise Sagan (Douglas Hofstadter) FRANCE
  • Novels in Three Lines, Felix Feneon (Luc Sante) FRANCE 

19. Me, Margarita, Ana Kordzaia (Natalie Bukia-Peters and Victoria Field) GEORGIA

20. The Mussel Feast, Birgit Vanderbeke (Jamie Bulloch) GERMANY

21. Butterflies in November, Audur Ava Olafsdottir (Brian FitzGibbon) ICELAND

22. Shadow Child P F Thomese, (Sam Garrett) HOLLAND

  • Love Life, Ray Kluun (Shaun Whiteside) HOLLAND

23. Journey By Moonlight, Antal Szerb (Len Rix) HUNGARY

24. The Three Mistakes of My Life, Chetan Bhagat INDIA

25. My Uncle Napoleon, Iraz Pezeshzad IRAN

26. The Iraqi Christ, Hassan Blasim IRAQ

27. Brooklyn, Colm Toibin IRELAND

  • The Good Son, Paul McVeigh, IRELAND
  • Young Skins, Colin Barrett, IRELAND

28. Missing Kissinger, Etgar Keret ISRAEL

29. Jack Frusciante Has Left The Band, Enrico Brizzi (Stash Luczkiw), ITALY

  • – The four ‘Neapolitan Novels’ by Elena Ferrante, ITALY

30. The Tale of Genji, Murasaki Shikibu (Kencho Suematsu) JAPAN

  • Salad Anniversary, Machi Tawara (Juliet Winters Carpenter) JAPAN
  • Seven Japanese Tales, Junichiro Tanizaki, (Howard Hibbett) JAPAN

31. The Dead Lake, Hamid Ismailov (Andrew Bromfield) KAZAKHSTAN

32. The Vintage Book of Latin American Stories, Ed Carlos Fuentes and Julio Ortega, LATIN AMERICA

33. Under the Tripoli Sky, Kamal Ben Hameda (Adriana Hunter, from French) LIBYA

34. Signs Preceding the End of the World, Yuri Herrera (Lisa Dillman) MEXICO

35. The Coming, Andrej Nikolaidis (Will Firth) MONTENEGRO

36. Once We Were Warriors, Alan Duff, NEW ZEALAND

37. Earth Weeps, Saturn Laughs, Abdulaziz Al Farsi OMAN

38. Train to Pakistan, Khushwant Singh PAKISTAN

39. Esperanza Street, Niyati Keni PHILIPPINES

40. Chasing the King of Hearts, Hanna Krall (Philip Boehm), POLAND

41. Now And At The Hour of Our Death, Susana Moreira Marques (Julia Sanches), PORTUGAL

42. Adventures in Immediate Irreality, Max Blecher (Michael Henry Heim), ROMANIA

43. The Heart of A Dog, Mikhail Bulgakov (Michael Glenny), RUSSIA

  • There Once Lived a Mother Who Loved Her Children Until They Moved Back in, Ludmilla Petrushevskaya (Anna Summers) RUSSIA

44. Omeros, Derek Walcott, SAINT LUCIA

45. Consider the Lilies, Iain Crichton Smith SCOTLAND

  • The Rental Heart, Kirsty Logan, SCOTLAND
  • The Book Collector, Alice Thompson, SCOTLAND

46. The Vegetarian, Han Kang, SOUTH KOREA

47. The Garden of Secrets, Juan Goytisolo (Peter Bush), SPAIN

48. The Alphabet of Birds, S J Naude SOUTH AFRICA

49. Reef, Romesh Gunesekera SRI LANKA

50. Let The Right One In, John Ajvide Lindqvist, SWEDEN

  •  New Collected Poems, TomasTranstromer (Robin Fulton) SWEDEN

51, The Dark Side of Love, Rafik Schami (Anthea Bell from German) SYRIA

  •  Cinnamon, Samar Yazbek SYRIA

52. The Forty Rules of Love, Elif Shafak, TURKEY

53. The Sorrow of War, Bao Ninh, (Frank Palmos and Phan Thanh Hao) VIETNAM

54. The Hungry Writer, Lynne Rees, WALES

55. The Boy Next Door, Irene Sabatini ZIMBABWE