Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Quickie No.2

Since I last wrote I have been at Lord Byron's home, Newstead Abbey, the Sealed Knot put on a good show with what must have been over one thousand re-enactors over the weekend.We re-enacted on both Saturday and Sunday and both days were hot and sticky. 

Anyway another 7 things I like about the UK (blooming Bill Bryson!)

8. Airshows - the memorial flight Lancaster and Spitfires and the Red Arrows

 9.Welsh Castles

Got to go washing machine repair  guy just got here at  5.30 for his 11 a.m slot

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Just a quickie!

Well, I couldn't leave my boasting page up for ever!  Just been so busy. My poor cat Ted has had lots of his teeth out, so is miserable and blames me. As well he should, I'm the one with the opposable thumbs that can hold a toothbrush.
Poor creature now has poultry flavoured toothpaste. Yummy.

The Nationwide Bank replied to my long list of complaints by starting with "We understand  that.." then listing my long list of complaints exactly as I had put them on my letter. They also enclosed a nice leaflet on how to get in touch with the Banking Ombudsman.

Shopping in Sainsburys was mayhem, everyone stocking up for the Bank Holiday weekend.

Following the guru Bill Bryson, who ended his book Little Dribbling (a comment on his age, I suppose. I won't ask what's been dribbling,) I'm going to list 15 things I really like about this country.

1.Cornwall, especially the far west and it's beautiful sea views.
2. Lyme Regis and the Cob, and Jane Austen's Persuasion.
3. Bath and the Minerva Bath Spa
5.The Sealed Knot
6. Steam Punk
Blimey is that the time? I've really got to run - do the rest later!

Saturday, 21 May 2016

I'm in the Amazon bestseller ranks!

Quite excited today, I've found out I'm in the Amazon bestseller ranking. See below:-
 Wow! I am 17,109 out of 6 million books on Amazon!   After pushing the book for so long and having a sale (reduced price of £6.99 for the book and £4.99 for kindle in the UK, my book is also discounted across the world on your local Amazon websites.)

Thank you everyone who has bought the book, and everyone who will buy the book. I hope you enjoy it.
So, I'm not an Amazon millionaire yet, but I don't care. My book is out there and selling, and that's what it's all about.

I'm sure that every women of the English Civil War, who was not rewarded for her service to the King or Parliament, and who protected her home and village, are cheering wherever they may be.  Recognised at last for their contribution to the history of this country.

Thank you thank you - bows out!!

Thursday, 19 May 2016

England via Bill Bryson

One thing I like about Bill Bryson is that he doesn't mind getting old. He jokes about it. Looks forward to it. Measures his achievements in a mildly anarchic fashion as he goes along and doesn't give a toss about what other people think of him.

He's loved for it, it puts into words the things we'd love to say but daren't. He also makes us laugh as he does it. He has a list of fifteen things that he says everyone should be able to dislike without having to justify or explain them to anyone.

His are in his new book The Road to Little Dribbling.

Mine are: 
1. Tattoos.
2. Mothers who don't control their children properly and allow them to run riot.
3. Telephone sales calls from "Darren" in India - quite obviously really named Sahid.
4. When someone hears how old I am, suddenly says "Oh Bless."
5. Men who are too lazy to shave.
6. Women who are too lazy to dress properly. Going out in PJs is not acceptable, not even for a child, unless they are being rushed to hospital.
7. Dirty restaurants, dirty homes, dirty people, dirt. (Yes, I know that's more than one!)
8. Politians - every single one of them.
9. Jeremy Clarkson.
10. Nationwide Building Society.
11. Very skinny super thin girls.
12. Talking to computers on the phone when you NEED to talk to a human.
The Simpsons put this really well, Homer phones the police. They reply:
"Press one for murder." "Press 2 for suicide."  "Press 3 for armed robbery." "For any other crimes please press 4."
13. Breast feeding in public. Please no. Have some dignity. I don't want to see a bare boob in a restaurant or a museum. "Oh but it's natural" the mother's cry.  So is masturbation, but I don't want to see a random bloke whacking one off in a public place!
14. BIG ONE HERE, changing history to make it politically correct.  If we do that how on earth can we learn from the past? 
15. Political correctness and Health and Safety to the point of stupidity. For example, children play such violent computer games now that it would make a convicted murderer shudder. But The Sealed Knot re-enactment society of which I am a part, are not allowed to show blood in case it traumatises the little dears.

Thank you my dear friend Jean to re-introducing me to Bill Bryson. Thank you Bill Bryson for allowing me to vent, I read your book Notes from a Small Island when you and I were young.  I was born a day after you in the same month and the same year. But Bill, I'm a woman and a vain one at that so I'm going to add another hate to the list.

16.Getting old.



Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway.

Ulcer under control, legs getting slightly better, writing taking off. Amazon being silly billys (Forgot to change my book price to the sale price really frustrating.)

I'm starting work on my costume book soon and  it should be fun. I even have an assistant now. HA!  My dear hubby!   I used to be his assistant at the BBC and now he's going to be mine.

A beautiful sunny warm day, the cats are out baking themselves like WAGs on a beach
White and pink blossom is heavy on the trees, there's a heady perfume from the multi-coloured stocks we planted at the weekend.  The garden looks spectacular.

I'm missing the white clouds of blossom from our bushes on the bad neighbours side as they cut them down last year. Haven't planted anything in that border so it's a bit wild. I'm hoping the stinging nettles and brambles and what's left of our bushes will deter them from coming over the fence. It's good for the butterflies and birds anyway.

I'm not afraid of them, they're just a pain and a nuisance. Anyone who prefers stone hedgehogs to the real thing are just strange.

What I am afraid of today is writing.

Suddenly hoovering the carpet seems terrifically urgent. I should sit and write, but I can't while that spider's web needs dusting away.  Funny, it seems that the more you clean your house when the sun shines, the dustier it seems to be.

I have literally lost the plot.  I am involved with writing five books at the moment, two are finished but need illustrations and three - A Farthing for Oxford, a faction book about the English Civil War in Oxford, Back Down in Overdown - the latest Hilary Long mystery, and
the Historical Clothing Collection book.

I'm struggling writing the faction. Because readers believe it. History is something we can guess at. We can sometimes prove it with research, but we can't be there - well not yet. Time travel has yet to be invented, but if Einstein-Rosen bridges exist, most physicists believe they would collapse shortly after they were formed, so I doubt anyone would be able to come back and tell us the truth. 

Back Down in Overdown should be fun, marketed as a cosy murder mystery series, the characters suddenly took themselves down very dark roads when I wasn't looking, and bringing them back is difficult but not impossible.

Then there's the Clothing book, I can't wait to get started on it! I like the idea of being a creative again, framing shots, travelling to shoots.

So Despite Feeling the Fear and trying to Do it Anyway, I have chickened out and written
my blog instead to try and clear my head.  Using it as mental floss!



Thursday, 12 May 2016

Falling to bits!

Twisted my knee, so my kneecap is sitting to one side. Doctor pushed it back, ouch!
Have to keep off it for a while. No walking - rest.  I hate the R word!

Also got stomach ulcer which he prodded and poked till it really hurt!  Thought you went to the Doctor to get better not worse!

So no stress. Anyone know how to turn your brain off? If it isn't storylines or research, it's planning to go and do stuff, make stuff, re-enact stuff. Worrying about my friends, one who's just lost her mum, and another who is deperately ill.

I work at Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire, as a "welcome host" as we are now called. See:


I walked round Waddesdon for five hours yesterday, a strange day, so many visitors that at one point people were asking how they get upstairs, because there were so many visitors in front of the staircase they couldn't see where it was!

It is a spectacular place to be, the art, the ambiance. I've been there 3 years this week.
It's my escape from reality, my little holiday from real life. There isn't even a phone signal there - so no-one can call me. Lovely. 

Unless my knee sorts itself out the Doctor told me I shouldn't go back for a week or so.
I have to REST the R word again.

So do I need a holiday from Stress?  Yes I do, but don't know how I do that anymore. When I worked for the BBC, (poor Beeb under seige from the Government at the moment), I used to go shopping. John Lewis, M&S, River Island, Shue, never really got on with NEXT, I don't
like grey and black clothes, I like colour.  I'd buy things for the house, for my son (who incidentally won't link to me on Linked In!  As if I didn't know he'd lost his job. Thanks to Activision.) Things for me. Nice expensive things as a treat for working so hard.

Or I'd go to my beloved Cornwall and walk on the sticky Sennen sand, and shop in the 
Galleries in St Ives.

Took this photo from our room in March last year, when we stayed at Tregenna Castle.

There's only one thing wrong with that now. Being an author doesn't really pay that much, Or at all (get the violins out!) Thirty pounds a month from Amazon doesn't go far.  I keep plugging away trying for my big break. Quite stressy.

We haven't managed to get away this year because of this..
Amber Evans, who like me is also falling to bits, poor lad. We nearly lost him last year.
He needs medication twice a day to keep him alive. He gets stressed out in the cattery even though they are lovely, and the cat pens are nice,he doesn't cope and it's a visit to the vet
every time we get him back. 

So I've finished my list of things to do today, it's beautfully sunny and the cats are sunning themselves on top of our newly planted pots, life's not so bad, I suppose.

My stomach has just reminded me that it really hurts!  So I'm going to keep a low profile today, keep off my feet and try not to worry about too much about anything. Is that even possible?


Monday, 9 May 2016

The Wild West Experience!

Well, it started well enough, loaded the caravan, put the cats on the feeders, and closed them in with their own toilets after they'd being out all morning.  Headed up to Newark in Notts. Bit of a boring Motorway run but quick enough. Arrived about 2.00.
Lovely pretty green park to camp in, lovely sunny warm day, lovely friends to meet up with. Looking forward to dressing up and being in Newark Castle and the town.

Then things changed, as they often do when I'm about. Don't know why they should, but they often do. Perhaps I'm a catalyst for this stuff.

We were sitting in the caravan having lunch when I noticed that there was a man sitting on a park bench watching our caravan. We were on the outside of the camp, looking towards the Sconce and the parkland. The trees were newly green and full of blossom. All very nice except for this guy, who was staring at our van. He was watching the van for a good two hours, now and then on his mobile.

Dog walkers came and went, kids on bikes, elderly people came and sat for about five minutes, mums with prams and toddlers, family groups. Boys playing football. All fine
all normal.

This guy didn't move. 
Andy went out to clean his Musket and mine, and I started to scrape some Jersey Royals sitting with my back to him. I looked over my shoulder and he'd gone. Thank God for that. What a wierdo.  Then I heard my hubby talking to two girls. Not that odd, Sealed Knot Camps are always a great pull for tourists, even when we are "off stage" so to speak. Noseyness I suppose.

I heard the girls talking. Both aged about 12/13 hard to tell,
 they were plastered with make up
"Is this your tug?" One asked, "does it have a cooker?" 
"Does it have a fridge?" The one with the scruffy plait asked.
"How many does it sleep?"

Gypsies. I thought they're scoping out the van for their dad.

Andy was chatting away, telling too much info. So annoying!  He doesn't speak to his friends and relatives who actually want to talk to him and see how he's doing, but I have in the past
stopped him giving his bank account number to random callers over the phone.
"But they're Barclays." He said. 
"How do you know that? anyway they'd have your details!"
I'm off the subject.

I thought it was time to put in an appearance.  Both girls seemed shocked, it seemed they thought he was on his own.

They were just asking him if there was a toilet and if the back bedroom could be closed
off from the front, and how the front beds were set out.
"Hello girls - can I help you?"
"Oh, we're not doing nothing."
"What do you want?" I came out of the van.
"We want to come and put our tents up next to your van."
"You can't." I said, "This is a Sealed Knot site."
There was a short discussion about what we were in Newark to do. Yes we were the
people who marched through the town with drums last year and were at the Sconce
"We'll go over there then." They pointed to the football field.
"That wouldn't be very wise."  Andy said being sensible, thinking two young vunerable girls should not be on their own in the middle of a park at night.
"You can't tell us what to do, we can do what we like." Came the retort.
"Tell you what, I'll go and get the security guards that roam the site and they can tell you why it's not a good idea."
They started to figit and get scared "We aint done nuthing."
"Not saying you have, just saying that the security guards can explain to you why you can't be here."
"My Dad's just over there and he's got loads of security guards, he'll bring them over."
"Where does he work?" I asked, the conversation was now taking a turn from the realms  of reality into fantasy, as the two girls got flustered and started saying anything that came into their heads. "Work?" they both looked at each other puzzled.
"Tell you what - you go fetch your Dad and I'll get the security guard to talk to him ok?"
"We're travellers." they blurted out.
"I knew you were." I said, " What with all the fancy designer handbags and make up."
Cheap knock-offs obviously but I didn't say that to them.
"We've been to four places." They boasted
"Ever been abroad?" I asked.
"Probably on holiday." They seemed confused.
They were very sticky and hard to get rid of - eventually I said -
"Andy dinner's ready, sorry girls we have to go." Andy came in and we ate our food, the girls stood for a while and when the security van came (as it did every 15 minutes) they left.
I waved the van down and told the Security men what happened, and they said. "But they're only kids."
"Do you know why you're here?  Because last year at this time our camp got raided by gypsies trying to take stuff and our Commander and his wife had to sit up all night trying to prevent trouble by calling for help on their mobiles."
"Blimey," said the younger security guard looking a bit excited. I thought this was going to be

I phoned my sister for advice. As a health worker she deals with travellers all the time.
"If I were you, I'd leave before it gets dark, they don't bring cars to tow vans anymore, about four or five men will snap the locks and push it onto a low loader, it'll be gone in five minutes."

SO now we come to the Wild West bit.

We told our CO we were leaving. He told us we were over reacting. My Gut told me I wasn't,
every time I ignored my Gut Feeling things went wrong, so I wasn't going to do it this time.
"My caravan is new, I'm still paying for it, call me a coward if you want, but I'm going home."
"Let her go," his wife said, "She won't be comfortable until she does. If it feels wrong, it's wrong."
"Last time." He said as if to comfort me, "When they turned up mob handed, we got our muskets and swords and charged them and they ran away. Knotters can take 'em."

Like the Wild West I thought on the way home.  When we got in we found the cat feeders hadn't opened, they had at last worn out.  So it was just as well we left when we did, or our poor cats would have been in a terrible state.

They say things happen for a reason, so perhaps that was the reason.


Thursday, 5 May 2016

What Now?

Remember my very ill friend Della?  Well, I went to see what's left of her today. Frail weak
in pain. Fighting for every breath with her chin still on her chest.  She's tired weak and angry and wants her life back. Last year she was upright and just waiting for an operation to help her shoulder, not make her ten times worse and a cripple.

The Doctor gets off scott free and she's waiting now for another operation to correct his mistake. So she is paying the price for his mistake - AGAIN.
I didn't sleep last night, lots of weird dreams, my mind I suppose, trying to work out ways to help her. 

Then at 8 a.m a different friend texted to tell me her mother had died overnight. She was 95 and my friend was the youngest of her five daughters, and her carer.

I was just about to get in the shower when I heard the gardener outside cutting our grass, so I pulled on some jeans and a top and went out to see to him, he cut the back grass and told me about a giant called Ye Hale Lad who was about 10ft tall and was taken by King James to join his court as a curiousity.

The day is sunny and hot. Far across the globe, Canadians have lost their homes and everything they own in a huge fire. My heart goes out to them, they have no choice but to be brave and scared. Yes, they do sometimes go together.

Della told me about the bush fires in Australia, how the oil comes out of the Eucalypus trees and catches fire, and how balls of fire bounce in the wind catching everything alight.

I'm going to vote today, mainly because women suffregetes gave their lives and their reputations, so that I could.  I live in a Tory area and have seen the mess they have made in the Cotswolds, UKIP are watered down Nazis, the Green Party are a bit luny, so I'll vote for what's left - whatever that is.  There is no one who represents what I'd like to see.

Affordable housing. Loads of houses are being built, but no one can afford to buy them.
Smaller more sustainable family groups. Less potholes in the road. The dissolution of both Oxford councils so that stops them fighting with each other. People who commit murder put away for life - not 3- 8 years or so, their victims don't suddenly pop back to life after that time do they? Common Sense to be used instead of financial reasoning alone.

Right, so I'm voting for the man dressed as a Crocodile, the Monster Raving Luny Party.
Gosh I'm tired. What a day.

What now?

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Its all about you!

Last week on the iplayer catch up I found a programme by Giles Coren, called "My Failed Novel."  This will be interesting I thought to myself, wonder if I can pick up any tips.

WELL... the bits Giles read out seemed to be, excuse my language here, as I quote: "Shit  Fuck, slimy stuff coming out of my arse, bollocks, etc etc" and so it went on.  At the time he had £30,000 advance, an agent, a publicist, all the trappings of a successful author, without really being one.

At one point he was actually cribbing about his rich family and having every advantage as it didn't give him the "grist" to allow him to write what he wanted.  

Giles, if you had been born into (untrendy)East End Shoreditch, been beaten up at school for being a nerd, had to work from the age of 15 and 3/4 - all right it was a Saturday job in Woolworths. Had your Uni grant donated to the family to keep the wolf from the door. I really don't think you would have appreciated it much. Grist it may have been. Career building it wasn't.  When you come from an East End working class family, and a woman, everything and I mean everything, is ten times more difficult.

From the discussion with Dad, "What's the point of you going to Uni? You're a girl, a couple of months in you'll get pregnant and get married, what a waste of time when you could be earning money."

From the hundreds of refusals from newspapers and magazines when journalism was a strictly male preserve. I wrote to Marjorie Proops, the most famous woman journalist of the time and she very kindly wrote back telling me how to make a start.  But that only
works if someone will giad five you a break.

Unknown to me my father had filled in a Civil Service application form for me. I went for the interview because he insisted I did. "While you live under my roof, you'll do as I say."
So an interview and two aptitude tests later, I had a job in the Registry of Business names
whether I liked it or not.

My wages were directly given to Mum, and I got enough back for food at work, and bus fares. " After all," she said, "We kept you all this time." As if it were an option, and you could just put kids out in the street to fend for themselves - oh yes -I forgot in Shoreditch - lots of people did!

Then my Dad gave me the worse advice ever, Socialist that he was. "Don't tell anyone you've got a degree. People like us don't get degrees, you'll only be laughed at."

So I managed to claw my way out of the Civil Service after a year, and changed my job without telling Dad. I started as a secretary in ITN in Wells Street, with the hope I could someday move up. My claim to fame there, was that I was sick over Alastair Burnett at a Christmas party.  All the drinks were free, so I in my innocence tried EVERYTHING, and when Alastair came round with little dead things on sticks, one look at them and I  
barfed big style!

All this time I wrote and wrote, hoping one day to make it as a writer.  I worked for the BBC in Staff training, setting up projectors, and cameras, learning teeline shorthand in which I got very proficient 80-100wpm. I even made a little programme insert for Radio London.

I wrote a script for a BBC sitcom based on my then marriage and its ups and downs, it was made by the BBC with a professional writer, and I learnt the hard way about "Staff No Fee".

So Giles, years and years passed, my writing largely ignored, no agents came forward and offered me advances.  I had some successes, articles published in Ariel the BBC staff magazine, BBC website, Guardian, short stories in women's magazines. Writing late into the night while working during the day.

There was one point at the BBC when sexism was so rife, that I was going to pin a cumberland sausage to the front of my skirt when going for an interview, to see if it made any difference to my career prospects!

Where am I now?  An author, still haven't got an agent, but I believe even without a £30K
advance I'm doing well, now have my books in 5 bookshops, and my e.fiction are selling well on Amazon.

I hope I engage my readers, not disgust and alienate them. 

Giles Coren I hope you appreciate how lucky you are, and how you don't have to be particularly talented to do what you do. As you're so well supported because of WHO you are.  You actually seemed shocked at the amount of work and craftmanship that goes into writing. When one author told you that you have to have a sentence that is beautifully crafted and cleverly written enough to make your reader gasp. You asked whether you had to put that at the front or at the back of the book.

He smiled kindly and said "You put it in every paragraph."