Hop, skip and jump to the heartbeat of life

Ruth HartleyArt Process, Creativity, Family, Imagination, Poetry, Songs, Writing, Writing Process2 Comments

The Child in the Garden

The child in the garden goes hop, skip and jump and sings to herself.

She dances her world into being.

The garden is dusty, dry sand, withered leaves and sharp-edged stones.

The child draws in the dirt.

The garden is a clearing in a forest, a marketplace of musical insects, a place where snakes wait and creatures watch.

The child weaves sticks and leaves into deities.

The garden is contained by a fence, contrived by another, controlled by a chemist, policed by plastic toys.

The child shuts her eyes and becomes an android warrior. Read More and Comment …

What a writer does and doesn’t do all day

Ruth HartleyArt Process, Books, Imagination, Learning, Music, Promotion, Publication, Reading, Writing, Writing Process1 Comment

All beginnings are hard – just look at the time already!

It’s a good morning’s work when I sit down at my laptop in my pyjamas, before breakfast, ignore my husband, begin at once to write, and then carry on for hours. There were many a good night’s work done when, as a single woman, I wrote after supper, then continued writing till the small hours, too busy to even refill my wine glass.


What happened this morning?

I lay prone, worshipping the sunshine – and my garden  – through the bedroom window while Beethoven’s Pastoral played on France Musique and I reviewed my ideas for this post. I did my routine exercises – stretching under the duvet for 10 minutes – got back into yesterday’s clothes and headed downstairs for breakfast. (We are out tonight – I may shower and put on clean clothes before then.) I cooked, ate, decided on the line of least resistance for supper – no shopping – just  veggies with all the leftovers made into curried fish cakes. (Some may have to be dumped in the compost.) I sorted out the dishwasher and sink and put another load of laundry in the machine. The laundry liquid bag (ecological, of course) had split and spilled – it’s a horrible sticky job to clean it up.  Next I opened the post and turned to The Week’s Wisdom. Is the wisdom I agree with proof that I am wise or good marketing by The Week? Here’s the rub, however, and the literary allusion: if I am wise why do I bother to bankrupt myself by writing?

The writing trap compounded by the marketing trap

It’s true – I’m trapped. Read More and Comment …

The Society of Spectacle and what ‘appearance’ signifies for writers

Ruth HartleyArt, Art Process, Creativity, film, identity, Politics, Promotion, Reading, Society, WritingLeave a Comment

Marketing books and the writer as commodity

The crowd screaming in derision in The Year of the SexOlympics

I didn’t know yesterday what I would post today until a television programme last night that was supposed to be amusing made me angry. There was noisy laughter, mockery and four-letter words. Frankie Boyle, the presenter joked that Guy Debord had shot himself in his heart – or  – maybe his head – but what struck me was his mention of Guy Debord’s theories. I saw those as explaining the dilemma that present day creative artists face. We are offering stories or visual images for people to see or read but what we are forced to include is a commercial version of ourselves as part of the ‘deal’ when our ‘falsified’ appearance may have little to do with what we have actually made.


Guy Debord and his book, The Society of the Spectacle

Guy Debord

As I first heard of Debord only last night I can’t pretend to be ‘au fait’ with what The Society of the Spectacle but from what I understand, he is expressing much that I feel is true. Debord says “All that once was directly lived has become mere representation.” He argues that the history of social life can be understood as “the decline of being into having, and having into merely appearing.” I wonder what he would have made of the World Wide Web and social media if he had not committed suicide in 1994? Nowadays police tell young women that the images they ‘photoshop’ and place on Facebook are so unlike their actual self Read More and Comment …

Tears, fears, longing, belonging and living.

Ruth HartleyAfrica, apartheid, Art, Colonialism, Creativity, Displacement, Family, Freedom Fighters, Human rights, identity, justice, Migration, Poetry, Politics, Power, Race, Racism, Religion, South Africa, War, Zambia2 Comments

Why I cried about who I might become

Delacroix’s painting of Liberty on the Barricades in Paris

“Why do you want to become a French citizen?”

I was asked this question at the end of a gruelling two hour naturalisation interview. I burst into tears.

“It’s such a difficult and important decision,” I replied, sniffling. “I’ve had to leave too many places I thought of as home. I want to live somewhere that I know to be good and just.”

I might have added “and that will accept me as a citizen”.

I might have asked “What other option do I have?”


It’s a long story that I’ll keep short

My painting of Apartheid 1994

Henry Tayali’s painting of the fight for freedom


I was born a British citizen in the Colony of Rhodesia. It was my home and I loved it. As I grew up I hated its racism. so when Rhodesia declared independence from Britain I chose to swear an oath of fealty to the Queen and remain British. I was working in South Africa then. Cape Town became my home and I loved it. As I wasn’t a South African citizen I had to report to the police routinely. That was okay. I was treated well because I was white. In fact, in those days, curious as it now seems, I would have put “European” instead of white on my immigration form. Read More and Comment …

Spain, Flamenco, Ladino and Duende

Ruth HartleyArt, Art Process, Music, Songs2 Comments

A few days in Seville

The Casa Rosado in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Plaza Espana, Seville








I have an odd relationship with Spain. I knew very little about Spain and yet, curiously, it is an intimate part of my family, and therefore, of me. This is how it began for me. My grandfather was a wool-broker from Manchester who traded in Buenos Aires, Argentina, close to the Casa Rosada of Eva Peron fame. My father spent his childhood there. Dad told me he remembered little of it. He spoke no Spanish.

One Christmas in Granada

Partal Palace, Alhambra, Granada

Alcazar Seville

It was therefore a shock on a visit to the Alhambra, to encounter the ghost of my father  in the form of a Hidalgo, a Spanish gentleman. Dad’s upbringing had somehow imprinted Spain into him. I watched as this old stranger breathed out the exact sound of relaxation that Dad always made, smiled distantly as Dad used to, then arranged himself, straight-backed, and straight-legged in a chair, with his fox terrier at his knee and his stick neatly by his side. Read More and Comment …