Monthly Archives: April 2014

Blog Radio Interview today

Going to have my first ever Internet Radio interview today at 4 Boston time, 9 Irish time, and 10 Spanish time.

I’ll be talking about my novel Leaving the Pack which is out in just two weeks!
For those who couldn’t tune in on the day, this same link will now bring you to the podcast of the radio show. It’s a great show, but if you only have time to listen to my parts, they’re from around 40-50 mins, 72-77 and 115-116.

There’s an excerpt and some spiel about my inspirations… hope you enjoy it !



Returning European Bison to the Wild

This is great news, and have disseminated the news today that some bison from British and Irish wildlife parks have been taken to Romania where they will be set free in the Carpathian Mountains.

I have been thinking about bison myself in writing a sequel to my novel Leaving the Pack: one of the characters is from the Carpathians, and lived there before the bison were driven to extinction in the early 20th century, and his grandson would like to do some rewilding for nostalgia’s sake.

And now that I read this news, I wonder, if one day soon there will be so many wild populations of bison throughout mainland Europe, that they can join up again into an actual range once more – and who knows, maybe bring it back to places like France and Northern Spain where it lived in the times of the Romans.big boar jabali

I saw a huge wild boar galloping through a wheat field last weekend. And I can’t help hoping that someday it could be a bison, or herd of bison…

how to write a novel in a year


This guy Chuck Wendig gives great advice. As someone who is trying to transmogrify into a full-time writer,, with the publication of my debut novel Leaving the Pack, I know that it’s hard to fit any actual writing into the few hours I have between when my wife leaves for work and I have to go collect our child from the crèche. Cooking food and cleaning up after lunch saps time, and as for cleaning the house properly, I consider myself defeated. Television watching used to be something we did together. Now one watches to wind down after a day job while the other writes despite being tired, too.

Nevertheless, when it comes to getting a novel written I don’t know if this particular piece of advice is hugely necessary, despite the fact that it does, indeed energise potential writers to actually become a writer, by writing. It might get someone to see that the novel is not an unscaleable mountain, but at the same time, if someone really wants to write, they’ll get their few hundred words done at some stage during the day. They’ll decide not to go for that walk on a Saturday morning, to tap away while their spouse has an afternoon nap on Sunday, type up the notes they wrote on the bus that morning while the family is watching nonsense television.

Writing is a hobby for most of us, before it becomes a job. At least it was for me. There was no pressure to write. It was a pleasure. There were off days, of course, and many moments of wondering whether there was any point in wasting time writing (yes, I said that) my substandard stuff when I could be reading good stuff instead. Writing is a bastard hobby for taking time away from other cool hobbies. How much easier is it to watch good TV and keep up with the facebook commentary.

But I kept being drawn back to it, kept plugging away and writing thousand words here, five hundred words there, expanding notes scribbled while on a park bench. I looked forward to airplane rides and long layovers just so I could be alone with my writing pad and my computer. Three hours in an airport lounge was bliss.

For me the real pain in the arse was sending out submissions. That was an activity I had to force myself to do, had to have a completely free morning to get done. The rejections came in after two weeks or three months, some a standard PFO and some pleasantly encouraging. They still come in, but there are more of them, now that I have decided to try become a full time writer, I spend more time sending out stuff.

But I never stopped writing stuff. In the twenty or so years I’ve been an adult, I’ve finished five novels, a long play and a sitcom. OK, so two of the novels are short – 30k kids book which is for just the wrong age for everybody though they love it, and a 60k YA book that nearly got accepted until the editor changed companies and the replacement wasn’t as interested. I will self publish these eventually if I don’t see anyone wanting them, because I just discovered that the sending out submissions forever is no longer necessary. Definitely drawering these is not an option I need to consider.

I was unaware that self-publishing had become so easy until after I eventually found my first contract. It’s ironic in one sense, but I had never considered self-publishing at all before, because I didn’t want to just put out something that was shite. I wrote for a hobby. If my story was bad, then so be it. I might berate myself for wasting time I could have used to read, but I didn’t need to worry about having a ton of books in my spare room that even friends were embarrassed to have on their bookshelves. I needed someone in the business to tell me my work was worth publishing. Now that someone has (way to go Tirgearr Publishing!) I can more confidently put out other stuff that is not quite to their, or other publishers’ specifications. I suppose that’s the problem with writing for a hobby, for oneself instead of writing “what people want to read”: you’re left with a few novels that aren’t seen as very sellable. But how many great novels were in that category, until they weren’t? Now that it’s possibly no longer just a hobby, though, I’m totally writing what people want to read!




Interview with Jeff Gardiner, Author of Treading on Dreams and Igboland

Interview with Jeff Gardiner, Author of Treading on Dreams and Igboland.

Interview with Jeff Gardiner, Author of Treading on Dreams and Igboland

Today I am doing my first ever guest blog interview, with Jeff Gardiner, a Nigerian-born author who’s also published by Tirgearr Publishing. I’m very excited!



First off, welcome Jeff! This is my first author interview on my blog, so thanks a million for coming by. I hope my questions are not too run of the mill for you: I’d hate to be that interviewer who the Hollywood star gets mad at because he’s been asked the same questions a million times!

You’re a fairly prolific writer, working in a lot of different genres, including speculative fiction, fantasy, the occult… What is your favourite genre to write, and what made you turn around and write a novel like Igboland (published by Crooked Cat Books)? I know it was based on your parents’ experience, but was there something specific that gave you the impetus to tell that story now, after all these years?


This is the novel I always wanted to write. It’s been brewing for a long time, but I wanted to do it justice. I’m very proud of Igboland (not that I’m not proud of my other books) because it is very personal. I began it when I felt I could finally do justice to the subject matter. The research into Igbo culture and beliefs took some time, and I was always nervous about getting something wrong, or of writing something unintentionally insulting. I really do have this sentimental feeling that Nigeria is my spiritual home. Maybe it is only now that I have ‘come of age’. I hope that doesn’t sound pretentious.


Not at all. Many people only find their spiritual home after visiting somewhere very different to the place they were born and raised and lived their whole life.

You have some wonderful photos on your blog of you and your parents in Jos, Nigeria. Can you just give us a short overview of what happened during the Biafran war (for those of us who are a little too young to know much about it) and whether that forced your parents, and other whites out?


My parents actually had a wonderful and positive time out there. They were evacuated at one point to Jos, and the war affected things like post/mail, plus access to certain foods and necessities. Whilst some individuals did make political comments, they never encountered anti-white feelings directly, unlike Lydia and Clem in Igboland whose experience was similar to some records from missionaries at that time. The Biafran War began with military coups and a number of changes in government in Nigeria. Very generally, the northern regions were dominated by Muslim caliphates (Nigeria is still divided into hundreds of different tribes and languages). The southeast is made up of many tribes, the largest of which being the Igbos (pronounced ‘Eebo’). Igbos were chased out of the north, creating millions of refugees, fleeing south. It was often referred to in news reports as ‘ethnic cleansing’. Civil war ensued with lots of bombing and pogroms, that involved killing, looting and worse. The Igbos became keen to have their own independent state called Biafra, which roughly covered the old geographical area of Igboland. The Nigerian federal government refused to recognise Biafra and conflict intensified. The British government supported the federal government (there was definitely oil, money and corruption involved here, but we might never know the full truth of it). By the end of the war millions died. In my novel, Grace is an Igbo lady who suffers terribly and is typical of the many people left homeless by the civil war.


I read just the other day that there are terrible civil conflicts currently rocking Nigeria, with atrocities like the killing of schoolchildren and mass kidnapping taking place. I know that Nigeria is a big country, but do you know if these independence movements are occurring near where you lived as a child, and if so, are they related to, perhaps a left-over of what happened in the sixties?


An Islamic jihadist group called Boko Haram claim responsibility for much of the bombing in the cities. Their big claim is that ‘Western education is sinful’ and they want to bring in strict sharia law to stop the ‘westernisation’ of Nigeria. Most of this is happening in the built up areas, particularly the capital Abuja, all north of Igboland.


I’m sure that’s some small comfort at least.

You say that there were people in the area at the time that had never seen a white person. Are there many whites there now, do you know, or have they left?


My parents met people who had never seen white skin before. I would imagine there are still many bush villages where white folk are not seen very often. Many of the churches, schools and hospitals set up by missionaries are now run by Nigerians themselves and there is a greater sense of independence. Nigeria gets a bad press, with tales of bombings, corruption and military coups, but many Nigerians are successful in sport, the arts and in business. It is sometimes said that Nigerians are more successful after leaving their home country.


They say the same about thing about the Irish. I hope that in my case it comes true!

Your father helped run the local school, while your mother ran a small dispensary to help with minor ailments. Nowadays, do they have a better educational and medical service in place? Do they still rely on outside help?


They are much more independent now, although my parents have stayed in touch with some of the families they befriended, and one family has relied on my parents and various churches to help them raise money to build and equip a maternity clinic in their town. That is still an on-going project.


We know that Nigeria has a huge wealth of resources, most notably oil. Do you think these riches have been a boon to the Igbo people?


No, I think it has been a boon to the federal government, and the Igbo people have been marginalised. Sadly, it is probably what creates the desire to fight, in the end. It’s the same old story. Money is power. Nigeria is considered the capital of corruption. We’ve all had that email from the Bank of Nigeria guaranteeing you millions of pounds.


Yes. One of the reasons for the bad press, sadly.

In the novel, the heroine has a culture shock living in an African bush village. Do you think a visitor today would have the same sense of culture shock?


Probably not so much in the cities, but life in the bush is still very traditional in places. Living so simply would shock any westerner. We take our wealth for granted and whinge about not having enough choice, or get angry when our computer crashes. I think some people would still be shocked that others live with virtually nothing.


Very true. We get angry when facebook puts our news feed in the wrong order!

In terms of how they live today, are the Igbo people still as close to nature as they must have been then?


Odinani is the name for Igbo beliefs. Their view of God (Chukwu) is one of great reverence, and much of their intercession is done through Ani, who we would call Mother Earth. This respect for nature would be considered ‘hippy’ or ‘green’ in the UK, but the idea that we love our world, which gives life to us, is inordinately sensible and very logical.


If only such logic were as prevalent in the halls of many Western Parliaments…

You probably have few memories of your time there. Are there any mentions of local wildlife in your mother’s diaries? Any story of an encounter that might have been notable – did they eat bush meat for example?


My Dad ate rat meat quite often, when visiting different villages. Usually it was unidentifiable meat made into a stew with lots of pepper and spice in it. He always thought it best not to ask. They encountered wild cats, some snakes, scorpions and lots of mosquitoes! My favourite wildlife tale from my parents involves driver ants, which I have adapted in Igboland, so you’ll have to read the book for more details.


Will do!

Have you ever been back since? How did it feel? Do you have a Nigerian Passport? Would you ever consider living in Africa?


No, I’m British, with British parents. I haven’t been back, but it’s not out of the question. My birth certificate has columns on it for father and mother’s tribe.


Finally, your other novel just out – two in one month, that’s pretty impressive! – is called Treading on Dreams (published by Tirgearr Publishing). This is a more psychological novel with a very contemporary setting compared to Igboland. How do you think the inner turmoil experienced by the protagonist due to his unrequited love compares to the “outside” stresses from culture shock and civil strife? Are they comparable? Can the former be just as devastating to a person as the latter?


Certainly – for that individual. It’s all relative, but whatever trauma you experience is important and profound to you. You can argue that some people are dealt a harsher hand and this helps put your own woes into perspective. Donny in Treading On Dreams suffers a breakdown. He is obsessed with housemate, Selena, who tells him she ‘just wants to be friends’. Being sensitive but determined soul he won’t take no for an answer and begins to believe, only to have all his dreams crushed. Unrequited love is something that many of us can relate to. When you’re in it it’s hard to see any happy ending, and it makes people do very strange things. In this novel, Donny does a great deal of growing up, experiencing some hedonistic pleasures on the way!

We all love reading about hedonistic pleasures, even if in our own life we’d prefer to be more logical and self-controlled!


Thanks a million Jeff, for stopping by! It’s been very informative – for me at least! Best of luck with the two novels, and I can’t wait to see what genre your next novel will be in!


You can read more about Jeff and get his books at the following links:


Jeff’s Blog


Amazon UK


Amazon US


Tirgearr Publishing


Crooked Cat Books

Further thoughts on Spelling and Grammar


In case I caused a misunderstanding in my recent post regarding spelling and grammar, and our current use of computers, I would like to make a more few points on the subject.

I don’t think that either of these two, especially spelling, should deteriorate as a result of our constant use of computers. Nor does, or did, handwriting always hide bad spelling. My own handwriting is atrocious. My sister, a trained secretary who can type faster than I will ever hope to, has to decipher my writing when I write a letter to my parents. And I do write them letters, despite seeing them on skype every week, for I am one of those who never stopped writing letters. I began at the age of 13, writing to Mary, my pen-friend in Durham, who unfortunately died a few years ago. When her mother wrote to tell me, she said that Mary had always commented that I had the most important skill to be a doctor (I am only a PhD, like Dr. Phil): the indecipherable handwriting. When I wrote exams, I always did the second draft very slowly, making certain that each letter was legible.

My handwritten drafts of poems or stories are, happily, though, proof from the casual over-the-shoulder perusing that family members have such an annoying tendency to try. How do you understand that chicken scrawl, they wonder aloud. My little secret is that I sometimes don’t (the most common situation is after I write something after getting home from a night out – or worse still, while in the car or other means of transport on the way home from a night out). I usually have a fairly good memory of what I wrote, though, and I get the gist of the flow as long as I don’t leave it for weeks or months before I write it up. If every third of fourth word is just a blur, I can still figure it out:  like those “how powerful is your mind” things I was talking about, on the Internet – except I write my own.

When I am typing up, though, I have to fiddle with the screen or change windows until said family member leaves me alone. It’s amazing, isn’t it, how offended they get, then, when you tell them to piss off and let you work, saying “You never want me to read what you’re writing,” when there is a copy of my last novel lying unread on their desk top.

Of course, that is not to imply that there aren’t a whole heap of errors on my typed draft. Whether I am writing from scratch, from brain to page, or transcribing, I always type faster than my brain really can, just like I handwrite faster than my hand can move, and though I said I use the delete button more than the space-bar, that’s only on emails. the word documents get cleaned up later, with an mouse and the good old right-click to correct errors. The red underlining slowly disappears and I am left with something approaching illegible, if not readable. If the spell-check didn’t exist, though, I would go more slowly, I think. And I would certainly proof-read all my texts better before sending them off. Do kids do that so much, though? It doesn’t seem to be the case. Either that, or they see the mistakes and they can’t be bothered to right click the mouse, because they know that the standards are perhaps slipping, and people will still read and reply to their emails or whatever it is they are sending.

My first drafts are also littered with errors because I am not the greatest speller in the world. I am forever mixing up the h and t in strength and length to write strenght, and lenght, (because weight has them the other way around) and do all of the other things that show up in lists of the most common mistakes… But most people don’t know that – even though I admit it at the white-board of my class every now and again – because I always double check. I got to the computer type it as I think it should be and see if the little red line appears. With spell-check, it should be easier to keep your writing clean. But I always had a dictionary at hand before I had a computer. When I left home and moved to Spain, though my parents helped me out in buying a laptop to write up my thesis corrections, I stole their dictionary: a Marion-Webster (American spellings!) from the 80s that was the only reference book we had in the house – I am ignoring the completely useless set of encyclopedias that seemed to come without an index and were not in any logical order, much less alphabetical that sat on a shelf in the playroom for twenty years. Believe me, my parents didn’t need the dictionary. I was the last kid out of the house and my siblings never touched it much. I still do: I still have it, after taking it to Boston and back, and picking up a thesaurus or three on the way. My vocabulary isn’t too hot, either, despite my voracious reading. Sometimes my wife asks me the meaning of an English word and I find it hard to explain: “I mean, I kinda know what it means, and I’ve read it lots of times, and I know what context it normally comes up in, but a definition… let me check.” Without a thesaurus and dictionary, my poems would be pretty much poor, or poorer than they are. That old dictionary would be right there beside me in my bookshelf if I was writing this in my office, but I am in a park, watching the cotton seeds drift down from the poplar trees like summer snowflakes across the sun-rays through the trees and wondering how park benches can be redesigned for laptop writing comfort. Getting the words write matter to me, of course.

In my hand written exams I always corrected spelling as much as I could using the available vocabulary that was written on the exam sheet – something I always advise my students to do (especially those learning English as a Foreign Language). Any spelling mistake of a word that is written in the question or elsewhere on the exam is not a spelling mistake, it’s laziness.

That, my friends, is our big problem. Maybe the sheer quantity of text we have to write at speed makes it harder to pick up a few small errors and typos, but the vast majority of what we are experiencing that frustrates us is not small mistakes. It’s silly mistakes, stupid mistakes, repeated mistakes: mistakes that make it obvious the writer is either lacking a little education or lacking a lot of interest in making his or her words work correctly.

Another problem, related to that, is that not only are texts sent between individuals lacking in correct structure, but that ill-written texts are being (self)published as books and people are reading them because they’re free. I read through a short book about blogging, myself, that was advertised by the author as free on Kindle, and the amount of typos and spelling errors was such that I was a little embarrassed for the author.

Two days ago, some “writer” posted on a facebook writing page that he “had got half his book wrote,” and wanted advice on whether traditional or self publishing was the way to go. Everyone was a little too supportive, to be honest. I told him it was a long road, but at least he was on it ( I was on it more than twenty years). Others just said “self”, but we’re doing a disservice to the guy, and to potential readers if we let him put his work online before it is vetted by someone who knows the basics of grammar.

Nevertheless, I put the parenthesis around the self part of self-publishing, because there are print books out there that are just as bad, if not worse. When the Twilight series came out, several of my high school biology students read them voraciously. At first, I jocularly suggested they read something a little more worthy, but stopped as soon as I saw some of the other books they were even more addicted to. I won’t give the name because that would just be publicity, but let’s say that it was “Chic Lit” involving young ladies of colour in a sorority. I am sure it sells a lot of copies, written with the diction and spelling that I’d be aghast to see in an ESL student.

If this is what students are reading, I can but expect their essays to be somewhat lacking.

Some will say that these kinds of books are just breaking conventions that are old hat, anyway. If so, I can stop bothering to proofread and edit my work, then. And that message my publisher – which I waited many years to finally get so I could prove to myself my writing was worth reading – just sent me regarding formatting and punctuation can be safely ignored. But I don’t think so, like, seriously.



Spring poem, more distraction.


Aspen Drift


The downy seeds of aspen drift,

Dancing across the evening sun on

The wind from silvery shivering-leaved poplars,

Threaten to clog my mind full

From now till summer’s final winds

Sweep them out:

Stuck in the simple act of observation

Until autumn.

Poem: the Advantages of Anthropomorphism

Was reminded of this the other day when listening to an onpointradio show about cats and dogs getting personhood…

It’s a topic I’ve thought about a bit in relation to my book on the sociology and future (or lack thereof) of hunting, which I hope to get back to later in the year…

Not quite the scientific method, though..


The Advantages of Anthropomorphism


Sometimes, if we would examine events

Could think of these things, from another’s

Point of view, and see all sides of situations,

Such things, which are now hard to understand,

Should be much more explicable…


Anthropomorphism is frowned upon, but why

Is the worm crawling across the asphalt?


In the same way that the squirrels have not forgotten

The location of their acorns, for they can afford

To ignore the extras as the winter thaws

And spring buds burst with sap, more appealing,


We could imagine we were the moths, wandering

Between raindrops with no moon, full or not,

To guide them past streetlights in the damp night

To what we know not – well, we all know what.


Will the earthworm drown upon the grass?

Is it trying to escape the rain? No. There is no

Escaping, nor a need, but instead it is taking

Advantage of the damp to strike out from its

Little patch of grass, in search of pastures new,

Be that soil or sex, past our artificial boundaries.


How to Write a Book Review

always good to know! My debut novel will be out in just over a month: May 16th. I’ll be looking for reviewers…. 😉

Some thoughts on grammar and spelling


There was an article in the Irish Times on Friday (April 4th) saying that English teachers in Ireland need to pay more attention to the basics of ” language structure, paragraphing and syntax.” This was because a report by the State Examinations Commission said that some [Leaving Certificate] examiners were concerned “with the level of control of the more formal aspects of language displayed by some candidates.”

This was followed by a letter by Hilda Geraghty, an English teacher. The letter pointed out that students of Irish state examinations are not required to “show understanding of how language actually works and is put together through parsing and analysis.” Ms Geraghty suggested that perhaps this should be taught, since currently Irish school children learn the parts of speech only when learning foreign languages (I must add some emphasis on the word foreign, because when I learned Irish, I learned many verbs in the modh coinníollach, without ever knowing what the hell the modh coinníollach was used for until I was nearly finished school [for the foreign readers, this is the Irish Gaelic for conditional tense]).

While I agree that grammar standards are less than stellar, I am not sure that the reason the current crop of students fail to dazzle with their grasp of the mechanics is due to the fact that they aren’t taught it explicitly in school.

You see, I wasn’t taught the mechanics of sentence structure or grammar, either. In fact, as an English teacher, teaching foreign students, I always remark that we don’t need to learn the grammar, more than a few rudimentary points, because it’s pretty easy compared to other languages, like Spanish (most of my students are Spanish, obviously). Instead we pick up the grammar from speaking and reading as children. It was only when I started to teach the language that I needed to know the grammar as something external to my use of it. And I learned that grammar mostly though conscious analysis of the way I said things (against how I didn’t say things) and thinking of the rules. The rules were all there, internalised, and I only had to think of the exceptions, of sentences that followed the rules, to be able to describe the rules to someone who needed the rules to learn. Eventually I did pick up a grammar book, but that only confirmed what I knew.

I got the rules of grammar, the same way I got the spelling and vocabulary I have from reading books. That is one of the main things missing from the lives of current students, I suspect. You can only internalise the correct rules after constantly reading text following the correct rules.

But books are only one part of the puzzle. The fact that we are reading more text now also influences things, because we are also writing more text. That is a double-edged sword, because it means that not only do our mistakes stand out now more than they might have done with handwriting (I recall my university supervisor telling us one of his previous students had had lovely swirling handwriting and it was only after she handed in a typed essay that he realised how bad her spelling was – his brain had just been assuming the words were correctly spelt, like with those messed up texts we see on the internet that prove how powerful our brains are…) but it also means we are reading other people’s text, which might not be correctly written, and contains multiple mistakes as often as not.

Why is this? Well, one part of it is just lack of education and/or proper care. People don’t always notice when they make a mistake and others then read that and might think it’s ok. People’s texts and emails are not proofread the way a book is. When I taught biology in the US, I used to gripe about there, their and they’re, the way everyone seems to on or whatever other web pages sends that stuff to my facebook page… But when I returned home, or read an email from some folks in Ireland, I realised that lots of people I know (looking at my own family, too!) make the same errors. I don’t know why I’d never noticed. Perhaps they used to write letters…

Now, with everyone using a computer, several things have happened at the same time. The fact that typing is now expected from everyone where it was once a skill learned in schools for secretaries, means that mistakes are more obvious, especially spelling mistakes. Spell check only corrects really bad things. Typing on the qwerty keyboard is difficult, not to say a pain in the arse. (it’s another topic I have a problem with, like wearing shirts and ties… but that’s anther day’s rant) It took me a long time pushing myself with a computer program repeatedly typing fear and bear and near and gear ad nauseum for me to get it half way decent, and I still use the delete key more than the space bar…. Yet we expect students to master computer skills without mastering the keyboard. I know there are some old writers who can punch out a paragraph faster than me with just their two index fingers, but most can’t. My students are still amazed when they see me typing a sentence while looking at them instead of the keyboard. How many have the patience to go over their text and correct mistakes? More to the point, why in hell would they write properly in the first place if the meaning can still be gotten across using fewer words, fewer letters in each word and eliminating things like apostrophes, which are just for pedants, aren’t they?

The prevalence of text message, that old bugbear of traditionalists, has not only made people lazy, but the fact that it began on phones that did not have a full keyboard, and where space was limited, meant that we put the car before the horse and now we can’t be surprised if it looks arse-backwards. Who was going to write a full word using telephone key? If the message had to be truncated to fit in one text rather than paying twice, well, vowels could go; “You” only needs one letter…. And whaddya know? Peple stll undrstood. So just because they now have all the keys and What’sapp costs nothing, doesn’t mean texters are suddenly going to write full words and stuff when a few letters, abbreviations and acronyms will do, FFS, SMH! If I learned to drive a car with one hand because someone decided to strap my arm to my chest for a few years, do you think I’m going to hold the steering wheel with both now, all ten and two? No, I’m hanging my arm out the window to catch the sun, tap the rhythm of the sounds from the stereo, which I turn on while I hold the wheel with my knees.

So now, kids have been reading other people’s badly written texts for several years, with fewer books to counteract the bad mistakes and suddenly it seems like proper English is, like, difficult and shit.

Which it is.

So maybe we should give a bit more of a run down on the grammar, return to spelling tests in high grades, and definitely get kids reading more books, even if it’s on their computer (I have a couple they’d love!). But we should also teach them to type, properly, from a very young age, and not just tap on a tablet – and, as soon as possible, please, I implore, phase out the qwerty typewriter, so we’re not putting obstacles in their way.