Friday, 31 May 2019

A Beginner's Guide to dealing with your Brexit Party MEP


"The European Parliament is the only directly-elected body of the European Union. The 751 Members of the European Parliament are there to represent you, the citizen. They are elected once every five years by voters right across the 28 Member States of the European Union on behalf of its 500 million citizens."

Most of us have the blighted misfortune to be saddled with a Brexit Party MEP .  I propose that time might be usefully spent pestering them to stand up for our interests, so that they quickly come to wish they never to have been born into this world.
Are you with me?
Let's go!
(This is what democracy is. We require our representatives to stand up for our interests not act against them. We require diligent attendance and serious engagement with the issues. Let's hold these people to these standards and give them hell when they fall short.)
"The Code of Conduct ... sets out as its guiding principles that Members shall act solely in the public interest and conduct their work with disinterest, integrity, openness, diligence, honesty, accountability and respect for the European Parliament's reputation."

Links

About | MEPs | European Parliament

This also looks like a useful resource:

First email
I'm NOT going to suggest a pro forma. Any correspondence that looks suspiciously copied will be deleted unread. So ....

1. Find a topic that you feel strongly about, in relation to the EU: climate change, pesticides,scientific research, EU citizens' rights, Freedom of Movement, Erasmus, Euratom, food standards etc etc your choice.

2. Your email begins: Dear Mr/Mrs Fred Smith .... then introduce yourself as his/her constituent. Remind them they are there to represent your interests and ensure the success of the UK's future within the European Union.

3. Now you can express your concerns, your worries, and what actions or initiatives you want them to set in motion on your behalf. BE POLITE & PROFESSIONAL.

4. To ensure your email is considered, you MUST put your full name, address, post code after you sign the email to show that you ARE an actual constituent.  (Don't worry, Data protection rules mean it cannot be shared with any outside group.)

5. I suggest as well as cc yourself, you also cc. any other Bxp MEPs in the group.

The primary aim is to get them to behave like responsible representatives, but the secondary aim is to ensure they are sanctioned when they do not. So it will be important to log your correspondence and then make a formal complaint to the EU when it goes unanswered.

I'd give it 2 weeks after your initial email ~ then a follow-up to request an acknowledgement. 2 weeks ~ then a follow-up to say you still haven't received an acknowledgement. 2 weeks~ then a repeat of your first email.  2 weeks ~ then a request for an acknowledgement of the 2nd email. 2 more weeks ~ then you can complain .

Use this link to write to the EU and ask what you can do to hold your MEPs to account:

Remember to check votewatch Europe to keep tabs on how they vote: If they vote in a way that you think is wrong:
"I have reason to believe that the following MEPs in my area (names) are acting against my country's interests and those of the EU. What can I do to hold them to account?"

Don't forget that we also want to be sending a message to the European Union that we take participation in EU democracy very seriously. So the really important part of this process is to lodge a formal complaint if you are not satisfied with your MEP.
Please note that one aim of this is to get the European Union to apply more stringent controls so that MEPs elected with the sole purpose of undermining the institution have a much harder time doing so. These deplorables have had it much too easy for much too long.
Let's not forget that thugs like these subverted the rules in order to steal our democracy from us. Let's now rigorously use the rules to win it back.
And if nothing else it will make us feel better because we are doing something, rather than having to constantly endure things being done to us that we never voted for (no-one voted for!) and which the majority does not want.




Sunday, 10 February 2019

Transports of Delight: Why I love buses..


Before I reached 60, I never used buses. They were expensive, unreliable and took far too long to get where they were going, or so I thought. I have subsequently discovered how mistaken I was. Now that I am a member of the Bus Pass Crew, I know better. Apart from the occasions when they decide not to show up, there is very little about using the local buses that I don't like.

Interestingly, it was the presence of a local bus route, with named local stops, that was one of the things the Inspector on our Town Green Public Inquiry asked me about, when the obnoxious council barrister was trying to prove that where I live is not a proper ''neighbourhood''. He would only have to stand in the queue waiting for the 657 (it used to be the 625; we don't know why they changed it) or the 366 from Luton to see that we are a community.

I have got on the first morning bus into town, looked around, and realised that I know everybody on board. And there are some great conversations to be had. Here, using the bus has a set routine. You board and greet the driver. You scan your pass. You greet any passengers that make eye contact as you find your seat. You move to the back of the bus automatically if a mum and buggy get on. You vacate the 'elderly' seats without being asked. When you leave the bus, you thank the driver. If a stranger boards who is unsure of where they are going, you all pile in with your helpful ten pence worth.

Mind you, I live in a relatively small town. I also use the buses in London, and the contrast is unbelievable. London buses are so unfriendly.The first time I got on a London bus, I tried to scan my pass on the Oyster card machine, causing it to go into conniptions. I got glared at by the driver. I tried to leave the bus by the front, not the centre doors. I got glared at by the driver. I said thank you as I alighted. I got glared at by the driver.

Here, because it's usually the same set of drivers, they get to know who we are and where we catch the bus. I have known certain nice drivers to stop at non-designated stops to let elderly people off with heavy bags of shopping, and one morning, when I was walking up to the local school in the rain to invigilate, the bus drew alongside, slowed, and the driver gave me a 'do you want to get on' look. That's how we roll where I live.

The other thing about buses is that occasionally, something happens that just fills you with delight and reminds you that the world is so much nicer than it appears on the surface. Like the time I was travelling back from Welwyn Garden City and the bus stopped to let a little playgroup board. The kids were wide-eyed, noisy and fizzing with excitement at catching a bus. The leaders settled them into the front seats (hastily vacated) as best they could, but it was a bit like trying to organise a panic. As the driver pulled away from the kerb, one of the leaders gamely squatted down in the gangway, and very discreetly and slightly anxiously began to sing ''Wheels on the bus'', in an attempt to calm things down.

And then, something happened. First, the people in the nearest seats started to join in. Then those sitting behind them joined in, followed rapidly by those further back, so that by the time the bus crested the hill outside the town, everybody on board (except for two college students at the rear of the bus who were desperately trying to pretend they weren't there) was singing along to ''Wheels on the bus'' and doing the hand gestures, to the rapturous joy of the little playgroup, who clearly thought this was what happened on every journey.

That's why I like buses.

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Holocaust Denial


Search Results for:
Last / Maiden Name = Flatauer        First Name = Alma        Place = Berlin
                                                                                                                         
Alma Flatauer: 1889 Berlin, Germany List of murdered Jews from Germany.    Murdered

Alma Flatauer 1889 Berlin, Germany Page of Testimony.                                  Murdered

Alma Flatauer 1889 Berlin, Germany List of deportation from Berlin.                Murdered

Alma Flatauer 1889 Osnabrueck, Germany Page of Testimony.                          Murdered


We live in a 'post fact' (or as I prefer to call it, downright lies) era. This means that the internet is currently ablaze with Holocaust deniers, claiming that the massacre of Jews, gypsies, disabled people, and gays, under the Nazis did NOT happen.

The survivors of Hitler's 'Final Solution' are gradually dying. Those that are left, frail but undaunted, spend their last few days having to tell their harrowing stories over and over again, as the stinking sewage of denial washes through social media. When they are gone, who will bear the torch?

As many of you know, I am the daughter of German Jewish refugees, and post the fiasco that was Brexit, I have applied for and received restored citizenship, so that my descendants will never have their 'Citizen of the World' status wrenched from them, as my grandparents' and parents' right to citizenship was by the German government. At the head of this piece is the visual proof, taken from German documentation, of the 'fate' of my paternal grandmother.

But this is my mother's story, not mine: she was born in Berlin and as the anti-Jewish laws started coming into force, she was in her early twenties. She had to leave university, where she was studying art & design, and went to work for one of the many Jewish organisation that had started getting Jewish families out of Germany as they could see what was going to happen in the future.


She helped organise Jews leaving Germany, and her refugee organisation supplied the papers and documents needed. These organisations also helped make the situation of German Jews very public and were hated as a result. Eventually, Hitler decided to close the borders. The last train was scheduled to leave Berlin on December 7th, 1941.

The way my mother always told it: she sent her own parents to the UK where, as the Daily Mail article shows, the identical 'anti-semitic/illegal immigrant' rhetoric was alive and well then, as now, but she felt it her duty to stay in Berlin and help out to the end.


So it wasn't until the last day that she packed her suitcase and headed for the station. The queue stretched for yards. She stood in line, wondering whether she was too late. Then the German police started going down the line, checking passports and documents. Time ticked on. Finally they reached her, and roughly demanded her papers.

My mother handed them over. A brief scrutiny. A consultation. A list was checked. Then she was beckoned out of the line and ordered to go with them. Her heart sank. Was she about to be refused exit? Was she going to be imprisoned? Tortured? Deported to a work camp?  She followed the police .... along the platform ... past the waiting crowd ... straight to the barrier where the train was waiting.

A curt command and the barrier was raised. She was pushed onto the platform. The barrier was closed. Still not quite believing what had just happened, she took her place on the last train and came eventually to the UK, where she met and married my father, also a refugee. Nine years later, I was born in the UK.

My father's family refused to leave Germany, believing, as so many EU citizens, migrants and refugees believe today, that civilised people would never try to deny them their human rights. They perished at Auschwitz. My parents died many years ago. I am now the bearer of my family's story.

If you read a tweet, or an article, or a book by someone denying that Hitler and his military machine ruthlessly and systematically exploited, tortured, and murdered eleven million human beings whose only 'crime' was that they were not ''them'', then remember this: the people who ignore the mistakes of the past are destined to repeat them.
Over and over again.

Add caption

Friday, 18 January 2019

Fuelling the Writing Process


Surprise has been expressed in some quarters at the amount of coffee that I drink while writing my Victorian Detective series. Lest it be thought that I spend all day sitting in front of a laptop, mainlining caffeine, I probably need to point out that the coffee cup: word count ratio also includes other writing-related activities that may take place at different times of the day and in different places but can include coffee as part of the journey.

For a start, there is thinking/planning coffee, which happens while counting the fish in the pond, re-arranging various drawers, reading the paper, de-frosting the fridge or moving objects upon the desk. Okay, I call it thinking/planning coffee, but let's be gut-honest, you know, and I know you know exactly what it is.

There is also research coffee. Research is something most writers do, especially those who write historical fiction, because every little detail has to be absolutely accurate. You can wing it, but sod's law dictates that if you do, your book will fall into the reviewing hands of the one and only world-expert in the winged area, and they will take great delight in exposing your ignorance to the wider reading public.

I use two sources for research: the internet, which is brilliant for very specific information: Victorian funerary practices, the acceptable length of mourning for different family members etc. However I also like to get out and use the local library, because there is something about the serendipity of working along the shelves and discovering something you didn't know you needed until you came across it. It's a bit like Topshop, but with books. I once found a whole page on how the Victorians decorated their Christmas trees in a book on Celebrations - and used the information in Diamonds & Dust.


Both research sources involve copious amounts of coffee naturally, although the best thing about extra-mural research coffee is that it is usually accompanied by research cake. Victoria sponge cake, of course!

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Not ANOTHER flaming blog about BREXIT?

'Oh what a circus, what a show'
Sometimes, you have to 'take one for the team'. Thus, on October 14th, one brave Remainer, David Chalmers manfully donned his incognito anorak and went along to see what the other side was up to. This is his verdict.


"Yesterday afternoon I attended the "Brexit Roadshow" in Torquay. I had reservations about donating £5 to a cause that I obviously don't support and guess I could have watched the event online, but I wanted to get a feel of the atmosphere first hand. I am glad I did. The event was supposed to be sold out, and to be fair, once I was in the hall I only saw the occasional spare seat. The only person I saw under 40 was the man in his twenties, who took my money on the door.

That was the first thing that struck me - the lack of any young people in the audience and that I was probably amongst the youngest in the hall. The hall contained approx 1,500 grey haired men and women - mostly in their 60s and 70s - with far more people in their 80s and 90s than in their 20s and 30s. These are the people, taking it upon themselves to demand the right to decide the fate and future of the rest of the country. It was quite shocking, and I reckon that were the cameras to have panned the audience it would brought home to the rest of the country just what is going on here. An older generation trying to take the country back to some fantasy land of their childhood with no desire to look at reality or to accept the future.
What does this remind you of? (clue >>)














Tim Martin of Wetherspoons, Farage and Rees Mogg were the main speakers, but before I comment on their individual speeches, what was apparent was that no-one was going to give any real facts. All speakers reverted to simple statements with no explanation or detail. We have heard - "take back control, take back our fisheries, make Britain great again etc" all before, but their was no attempt to deal with all the challenges that the reality of Brexit has thrown up. In fact when they did address those issues they chose to trivialise them. Martin actually claiming that the trade across the Irish Border was small and trivial, to be easily sorted. Rees-Mogg joking that a NO Deal would mean a rise in the cost of caviar and that a few lorries might get delayed for a short time at Dover

This was an audience that really believes that life will be better on our own, because they have no understanding of how the world works in 21st Century - and neither do they want to know. There is an obvious mistrust and dislike of Europe and all things European, in contrast to the cheers when the Commonwealth was mentioned. But that does raise the question of what parts of the Commonwealth ? - bearing in mind that I saw not one non white face in the hall.

That Tim Martin , a man who runs a chain of pubs. puts himself forward as the spokesperson for British business would be laughable, but these are not times to laugh, and the people listening to him didn't seem to care. He talked of switching to non European products being served in his bars, as if this would solve all the problems Brexit poses for British companies. He even called for a general boycott of EU products and talked about upholding democracy. The best thing anyone wishing to defend the democracy of our country could do, would be to send him a message he would understand, do as I have done for the past two years and not set foot in one of his establishments.

Farage is ever the showman and he knows how to play an audience. His jokes about Theresa May did cause great laughter, but I was surprised that Rees Mogg - although not on the stage at the time - was prepared to come on after the harsh criticism of his party leader.

Farage wants to revive "The People's Army " and called on everyone in the hall to write and go to see their MP - whose contact details were on a sheet on everyone's chairs. They hate Sara Woolaston and they hate the Chequers Deal and regard Theresa May as betraying the result of the Referendum. They just want to Leave the EU - and don't want to hear what this might mean in reality. To them they have achieved this wonderful thing, which they have all been striving for, for the past twenty years and don't want another Referendum - the people have spoken - now the politicians have to just get on with the job and make Brexit happen.
Unfortunate facial shadowing
It's going to be interesting to see how many respond to Farage's call for them to get back out on the streets and resurrect the fight of two years ago. Are they up for it? There is nothing new in their arguments of two years ago - quite the contrary they are actually offering less of a vision. Farage's hint that this fight might go on longer than the next few weeks suggests that he is preparing to fight another Referendum.

When Farage suggested that the Remain side were the aggressive ones - I wanted at that point to shout out - "Remember Jo Cox" and recall the number of times two years ago that I had a fist put up to my face.

After Farage, Rees Mogg was quite a come down and his speech was much more subdued. His job was to tell the audience that Brexit was really a very simple thing to do and that it was being prevented from happening because his colleagues in Government were not really in to the task. A NO Deal scenario would not cause any long term problems. Obviously !!

So there you have it . The message is one of betrayal - as on the side of the bus - and they just want Leave and don't believe or want to know what this could mean for our country. I felt people were there for the entertainment and nostalgia as much as anything else. Not once were young people mentioned - there was no talk of opportunity, or the future. It felt like a mixture of attending a meeting of the flat earth society and the revival tour of a fading rock star. What we need to do is expose them to the rest of the country and put forward our vision for its future. We have to win this!" ....

We Will Remember Them: Armistice 100


No shelter from the kniving wind
No solace from the driving snow.
No warmth, no comfort or bright cheer
In heav'n above or earth below

from 'Trench Winter. November 1916' by Noel Clark 

If you're following me on Twitter, you'll know that this comes from my YA novel Jigsaw Pieces . Noel Clark is a character from the book and his short life as a soldier poet in the first world war makes up one of the story strands. In a few days, we will mark a hundred years since the outbreak of that so called 'War to End all Wars', and there must be very few UK people who don't have some link back to the 1914-18 conflict. My link to the 'war to end all wars' comes via my late father-in-law, the wonderfully named Herbert Inkerman Hedges.

My father-in-law was the youngest of twelve brothers. The eleven older ones joined the East Riding of Yorkshire Regiment and marched away to fight the Hun. They were all killed at the Battle of the Somme. He recalls his parents telling him how the telegrams kept coming, day after day, until the news of the last son's death was delivered.

I'm always intrigued by the way wars throw up poets. It's not just World War One, though that cohort are probably the best known. Poetry was also being written during World War Two, on both sides, in the Iraq War and is still being produced in Afghanistan today. I think the proliferation of soldier poets during times of conflict is directly related to the situation they find themselves in.

Poetry demands an inner ordering, a precise selection of vocabulary and structure - it's the verbal equivalent of piecing together a complex jigsaw - the picture only emerges when all the pieces are correctly placed. The control needed to make a poem is in direct contrast to the chaos that soldiers live in daily. Poetry is a way of containing their world and making sense of the senseless. It is therefore both therapy, and a psychological outlet for feelings and emotions too horrific to be dealt with in 'normal' prose.

Those who have read Jigsaw Pieces know the story of Noel Clark an imaginary World War One poet who died tragically at the age of nineteen, is closely linked to another soldier from that time: Billy Donne. What you do not know is that Billy was an actual person. I came across him quite by accident in a small article in the Times in 1997. It was headlined 'A happy 100th for man with mysterious past'. I used his story almost to the letter: Billy Dunne (the correct spelling of his surname) couldn't speak, and drew pictures of battlefields, just like his fictional counterpart. He was placed in a mental hospital in 1923 for unknown reasons, and no family had ever claimed him. His story touched me so much that I felt I had to write about him. The link with Noel Clark is where fact and fiction elide.

During the upcoming commemorations for the remembrance of World War One, we shall no doubt re-read many times the 'big' soldier poets: Owen, Sassoon and Brooke. But actually I find just as much pity and pathos in the work of the women poets of that time, who did not share in the fighting at the Front, but shared in the suffering, and the changed lives. It is their sense of loss, their attempt to learn to survive survival, that makes their verse so poignant. One of the best is Margaret Postgate Cole.

This is her poem Praematuri:
When men are old, and their friends die 
They are not sad,
Because their love is running slow, 
And cannot spring from the wound with so sharp a pain;
And they are happy with many memories,
And only a little while to be alone.

But we are young, and our friends are dead
Suddenly, and our quick love is torn in two;
So our memories are only hopes that came to nothing.
We are left alone like old men; we should be dead
- But there are years and years in which we shall still be young.


Thursday, 11 October 2018

The Kindness of Strangers or How I got Run Over While Thinking about #Brexit

Being a razorblade in the parliamentary candyfloss

There comes a time in the life of every Grumpy Old Sod when mortality turns up and smacks you in the face. It happened to this GOS last Thursday (11th October). I'd returned from protesting with fellow anti-Brexit campaigners outside Parliament (see pic). I decided to reward myself for my verbal prowess with some cider.

The supermarket, which shall be nameless coz I refuse to do product placement was on the other side of the road from the bus stop. I looked left. No traffic. The road was clear. I looked right ~ there was enough road between me and the oncoming queue of rush-hour cars to launch a bid for the opposite pavement, where the cider lived. I stepped into the road.

I remember the BANG.

Next thing I was lying in the road, with cars screeching to a halt all round me. They say just before you die in an accident, your whole life flashes in front of you. Mine didn't, so I decided I was going to survive. I had a go at levering myself off the road, dimly aware that all around me in the vertical world, people were on their phones, holding urgent conversations.

Which is where the kindness kicked in. A nurse (she'd phoned the ambulance) and a first responder (who'd phoned the police) happened be passing and had stopped to help. Having ascertained that nothing major was broken, I was gently lifted off the road and propped against a wall. The driver of the car that hit me appeared. It was an electric car. I hadn't heard it coming. We both apologised to each other.

A PCSO in a van arrived. I was placed inside to await developments. It was decided not lock me in the small back compartment where the naughty people go. The driver and I continued apologising to each other. While we waited for the 'official' police to arrive to take our statements, I enlightened him about Brexit, a topic he hadn't thought about much, though his dad was against it. He decided he agreed with his dad and me. Result!

The police came, blue-lighting merrily. We both made statements. It was suggested I should go to hospital to have the bump on my head and other bits checked. I declined. Having watched '24 Hours in A&E', I knew how the script played: you are brought in on a stretcher; you lie around for hours waiting to be seen; you lie around some more waiting to be X-rayed; you lie around even longer until they get the results; you are told nothing major has happened and are sent home with painkillers.

I decided to cut out the middle section and go for the 'home with painkillers' bit. The kind PCSO drove me back in his police van. I do not know what the neighbours thought. I am not sure what I think either. Maybe it is a warning not to let Brexit take over my life. Maybe a sign that I am slowly going, to use the technical jargon, completely gaga. But at least I am here. Though sadly, still without any cider.


Monday, 8 October 2018

Library Louts!


I first posted this blog a couple of years ago because I was so angry at the closures of public libraries, in particular several branch libraries in the London Borough of Brent, where I started my career. Now that this vile government has cut local government grant cuts to the bone and beyond, leading to more closures, I am still angry.

My first encounter with books was via the local library in Welwyn Garden City, my home town. Dumped in the children's library, age 4, I selected a book from the box (in those days all picture books had the same plain library covers). I opened it up and there was Orlando, the Marmalade Cat, his Dear Wife Grace and their three kittens, Pansy, Blanche and mischievous Tinkle.

Apart from starting my well known love of cats, it also started me on the path to reading, which led me, in time, to become a writer. My parents did not consider buying books for young children as a necessity, as many parents for a variety of reasons, still don't. Without the books I borrowed each week, my life would have been impoverished.

As I said at the outset, I started off my library career in the 1970's working for Brent Libraries, and knew all the six libraries that have been shut very well. Many served poor, ethnically diverse communities and were used by people who could not afford to buy books for themselves, or for their children. The staff were treated with the utmost respect by locals, who valued what we offered and what we represented. I vividly recall being beckoned to the front of a long queue in the local Caribbean greengrocer - the owner succinctly informing the rest of the line that: 'this is the Liberian lady - she got to get back to work!'

Here in Hertfordshire, our libraries have recently been 're-structured to meet the needs of the modern user'. As far as I can see, this means they shut at odd times, just when you want to borrow a pile of books, and far too much space is now given over to desks of computers, at which people sit and dicker all day. Mainly playing mindless games. Books? Nah, don't need them. Got to move with the times. Books are relegated to fewer and fewer shelves.

I find it hard to put into words how upset I was at the disclosure that Kensal Rise library had all its books carted off in the middle of the night by Brent Council workers. The furtive and underhand way in which this wicked deed - sorry, I find no other words to express it - took place, resonates with all those other occasions in the past when the banning, or burning of books has marked a civilization in crisis, or steep decline.

The playwright and novelist Michael Frayn has commented of the closure of Brent's Kensal Rise library:
        ''They took the books out and the plaque down? So the library is now an unlibrary, in the way that people became unpersons in the darkest days of the Soviet Union. I hope they took the titles of the books off as well. Removing unbooks from an unlibrary - who could possibly object?''



I do.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Cover Me!


They always say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but that never stopped anyone.

I have received both praise and 'stick' for my covers. Interestingly, the praise has always come from readers, who appreciate the nuanced designs, with their nod to original Victorian covers. This is deliberate ~ if you read the novels, they are not just fast-paced detective stories, but a 'homage' to the style of novels of that period, which I frequently reference as I go.

The 'stick' has come from various publishers who've approached me to ask if I'd consider letting them take the series over ON CONDITION that they changed the covers.

Original early Victorian book covers

The fact that you are looking at the new cover for Fear & Phantoms (recently published via Amazon in both book and ebook formats) gives you an indication of my response. Thanks but no thanks. My covers are designed by designer and friend Gina Dickinson, thus adding an extra personal dimension to them. They also have background pictures supplied by photographer friends I follow on Twitter. They are now published under the Little G imprint (my own). They are special and it is a joy to share them with you.

It always amuses me, when scrolling through Twitter, to pick out the 'I bought an off-the peg cover' books. It's so easy to do. Frequently you see the same muscled bloke or shapely young lady with accompanying pout in different settings, and wearing different clothes depending upon the genre. There seems to be a smallish pool of cover models out there. And although many of the cover suppliers SAY they do not re-use a design once you have bought and paid for it ~ they do. Believe me. Seen it with my own eyes, Guv.

So I shall continue to have my own bespoke covers, using Rosewolf Designs and referencing Victorian ideas and scenes until I run out of ideas. And if you are interested, here's the blurb for the new book:

"When a young man's body is discovered buried deep beneath the winter snow, Detectives Stride and Cully little realise where the discovery will take them. Is his murder a random, one-off event, or could the death be linked to the mysteriously elusive individual who has already brought down one of the City's long-standing private banks?

Mishap, misunderstanding and mystery dog their footsteps as the Scotland Yard detectives find themselves in very murky territory indeed, at times struggling to keep their heads above water in the umbrous underworld of murder and financial fraud. Can they unmask the dark brutal mastermind lurking at the centre of it all, before he strikes again?

A taut, gripping historical crime novel that lays bare the dubious practices of the Victorian banking businesses and entices the reader into the shady world of high-class gambling houses, where fortunes can be made or lost on the luck of the cards.
In the great tradition of Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle, this sharp witty series of detective novels brings back to life the murky gas-lit world of Victorian London."


So that's my cover philosophy. That's how I roll. How about you ~ what makes a 'good' book cover? And can you really judge a book by it?



Monday, 3 September 2018

The PINK SOFA meets Writer and Farmer, Diana Ashworth



Many years ago, in 1961, I was sitting, age 11, on the floor of the Assembly Hall of Hatfield Girls' Grammar School. My navy blazer was itchy, my navy pleated skirt was too long and my socks kept subsiding. Sitting in the same row was a small blonde girl with a cheeky smile. I asked her whether she'd be my friend. Diana Buck ( as she was then) and I have travelled many different paths over the succeeding years. And now we are here. I have a new book out. Diana has a new book out, and THE PINK SOFA is agog and beside itself with curiosity. 

It’s a miracle!
Diana's new book www.logastonpress.co.uk

I can take it that you are all readers but I bet you take reading for granted. The process of reading is absolute magic – It’s a miracle! When you think about it – when you read someone’s sentence you are running their thoughts through your brain – through your neurones. Forget Sex – reading what someone else has written is a much more intimate act – You are sharing their very thoughts, memories and ideas (it’s all a bit more sophisticated than bodily fluids).

I’ve come to writing via a circuitous route – Carol will tell you that sitting behind me at school could be a painful and embarrassing experience if ever I was called upon to read aloud. Dyslexia hadn’t been invented (well, it wasn’t recognised) but it didn’t hold me back – just limited my choices a bit. 

I was a family doctor for 35 years.  I spent a lot of that time trying to work people out and trying to explain things in parables.  My first partner, Tom (the best doctor I have ever met) said ‘Never try to explain anything in abstract terms (especially not to men) always find a solid metaphor!’  He wasn’t sexist for his time – this was 40 years ago!
I also studied neuroscience – I think of personality as being the stuff of ideas hung on some sort of genetic matrix, like washing on a line or a clothes horse.   The washing is the memory of all those seminal events that have shaped us and the line is our personal wiring (my own wiring is not very quick when it comes to interpreting symbols).
 Some people think in a straight line, and hang their thoughts, their memories and their experiences out like that, on a line – and some of us don’t.

When we go to sleep we take the memories down, off the line, smooth them out, fold them up and put them away – to be retrieved as necessary (sometimes a little shrunk and sometimes stained by a stray red sock!)  That’s how psycho-analysis works – a process of folding up and putting away so that some great metaphorical purple duvet-cover doesn’t get in the way for the rest of your life.

When you run a writer’s thoughts through your neurones (when you read their book) you can tell how they think and how they process their thoughts, what sort of line they have – some have rotary driers with recurring themes – the yellow cardy of childhood abuse that is difficult to dry and comes round and round. An increasing number of literary prize-winners seem to put their thoughts into a tumble drier -- when they come out they are knotted and inside out, intertwined with other ideas.

Hemingway thought in a straight line without even the diversion of an occasional adjective. D H Lawrence wrote a knotted string, each paragraph a half hitch on a linear narrative giving a distinct rhythm. Others write in great arching hoops like a coiled hose pipe (Virginia Woolf). Me, in my head I have a three dimensional pictorial map of my world, and I hang my experiences on the low branches of trees, on gorse bushes (like a gipsy), on the backs of chairs, I hang them over gates -- sometimes the wind catches them and they soar into the air for a moment swirling and flapping and then splash down into the mud to be trampled by all the animals in my world. 

This sort of memory seems to give what I write what people call a strong sense of place. If I visit the town where I practiced medicine for years and I drive through its streets I am almost overwhelmed by the recall of events attached to almost everything I see – every road, almost every house has some burden of memory – a death here, a rape there, the drug addict with the flick knife that was faulty (thankfully) living up those steps.

Ten years ago after a series of seemingly random co-incidences we, that’s Alan (my husband), myself and Pedro (our newly acquired and wayward dog) bought a derelict farm in Mid-Wales with 25 acres.  We hadn’t intended to move, we had no connections to Wales and we had never had any desire to practice extreme farming -- something about the place just ensnared us.

‘They’ll do! They’re are the ones I want’, said the old farmhouse, probably in Welsh, and the couple, (the ones the old place wanted) were drawn into the life of the place – inspired by its beauty, its creatures, its moods and its stories.

I was telling a friend about all the delights, the strange differences we noticed in this new environment and the adventures that we were having -- she asked me to write a light-hearted diary column for the magazine she edits (only three issues a year) and that is how it all began.  A door that closed decades ago had reopened! 

Once she had tried to edit my first submission she must have had second thoughts because she encouraged me to go to Uni and do an MA in creative writing. This I did and it was very therapeutic, as was the Penguin Guide to Punctuation which is considerably cheaper!  After more than 20 episodes she suggested I send the collected manuscripts to a publisher she knew who occasionally sent the magazine review copies.   This I did too…  My book is now out.   

I apologise if this makes it sound easy – it wasn’t – it isn’t.  I read avidly (still slowly but retentively) and consume audiobooks and I re-read and endlessly correct my own work and…  I have been extremely lucky.  But, gosh, it’s satisfying!

Iolo’s Revenge, Sheep Farming by Happy Accident in Mid-Wales by Diana Ashworth is published by Logaston Press (www.logastonpress.co.uk)