Putting the story into history.

31E5F96D-F167-433A-8774-6D2C9264D470

This blog is for all sorts of people – friends and fans who have known me for more years any of us care to remember – writers I haven’t met who want to learn the tricks of the trade, and particularly how to breathe life into a story set in an earlier time in history, even – with a bit of luck – young men and women I taught at Felpham Comp, or teachers who became my friends. Now that I’m eighty-eight, any opportunity to meet with old friends, make new ones and hear their stories is golden. And besides, stories are such fun.

So do come along and join us, whoever you are and whatever reason might bring you there. We shall be waiting with our tales wagging.

Advertisements

Hearts of Oak

heartsofoakbookcoverAgora have put up another one of my back-list today.

I originally called it ‘Girl on the Orlop deck’ but we’ve changed it to ‘Hearts of Oak’ from the popular song that was being sung in the pubs at the time of the Battle of Trafalgar.

Come cheer up me lads, t’is to glory we steer.
To add something more to this wonderful year,
Tis to honour we call you, not press you like slaves,
For who are so free as the sons of the waves,
Hearts of Oak are our ships, Jolly tars are our men,
We’ll fight and we’ll conquer again and again.

It’s the true life story based on a girl who disguised herself as a boy and joined the Navy. She ended up on the Orlop Deck on the Victory at the time of the Battle of Trafalgar.

It is available to purchase on Amazon now. Click here to get your copy.

This entry was posted on June 20, 2019. 3 Comments

A bright light in a grubby world and a determined shark

Somebody called ‘Artemis’ wrote on Facebook on Tuesday morning ‘we are a mean nation of mean people.’ 

It seemed a very sad thing to be saying but I had to agree with it, given the present unsavory jockeying for the positions of Prime Minister, the widespread greed for money and power, the brutal faces of men – and women – on the streets, punching and kicking out at anyone they hate, and the spitefulness of trolls on social media. But it isn’t all gloom. There are still gentle, compassionate and empathetic people around in our society. Thank God.

I met one such last Thursday on my first train journey out of Bognor for nine months. I was feeling a bit apprehensive, not just about travelling which I ought to be used to by now, but about the fact that I didn’t know where I was going when I reached Victoria. I had arranged to meet up with my new agent at a place called The Rail House Cafe in Sir Simon Milton Square. Charlotte and I had looked it up the day before but couldn’t find it and I didn’t really want to get lost looking for it!

Luckily there was an affable man, sitting opposite me, busy at his laptop. We had smiled at one another from time to time as we both worked, for naturally I had a pen and notebook in hand. When we’d passed Clapham Junction, he packed up his laptop and had obviously finished work for the time being, so I asked him if he was going to Victoria and when he said he was, asked him if he knew where Simon Milton Square was. He looked it up on his phone, told me it wasn’t far from the station and tried to give me some idea of how to get there. Then, because I was obviously looking baffled he said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll take you there.’ I told him that was very kind but protested that it would take him out of his way but he said no, he was going to Westminster and had thought of taking the tube but he could walk just as easily.

He escorted me to the Square and then into the Cafe, which I’m sure was out of his way, and what is more he pulled my heavy case all the way. I thanked him very much indeed and told him he was a good Samaritan, but he said ‘No, no, I was glad to be able to help you.’ I thought what a super guy he was, a bright light in a grubby world. I had a lovely meal with my agent and then went on to travel to my sister’s where I was going to stay for a few days and finally got home on Saturday evening.

And that very day the shark homed into my email. He greeted me as though we were the best of friends, ‘Hi Beryl’ although I didn’t know him from Adam, but then he moved on to say ‘you’re using two of my photos on your blog but I have no record of any request from you to do so. Please, can we discuss it.’ 

That sounds pretty harmless doesn’t it, but it was not. Be warned all my writing friends and blogging friends out there, if you want to use a picture that you’ve found on Google or any other search site, you have to pay a fee to be allowed to do it and not just a tiny token fee but considerable money. The gentleman who contacted me estimated that I owed him £3,000. He agreed on a very much smaller sum eventually but it was money he was after and money he got.

So if you are thinking of putting a picture on your blog, be very careful where you get it from, the images found on Google etc may be subject to Copyright and you have no way of knowing except that the photographers name might be posted on the bottom of the picture. In my case in one of the pictures the name was there but I didn’t even see it because it was so small.

Fortunately for us there are companies that will allow you to use photographs on their sites for free, if you Google ‘copyright free images’ you will find a list of them.

I’ve now removed all possible sources of income for the various gentlemen who make a living out of charging fees for the use of their pictures from my blog. And any other areas where they might have been found or be found on my various websites.

We have to be very careful folks. This is big business we’re talking about. The gentleman who contacted me, told people who had come to a meeting to hear how this particular business venture could be handled to their best advantage, that he had made £45,000 out of it.

Sorry about the picture-less blog this time. But you can see why it is so denuded.

Take great care. In this regard at least, Artemis was right.

Are we looking in the wrong direction?

And are we asking the right questions? There are now, ten contenders for the job of Tory Prime Minister (and counting!) and I guarantee that most people won’t know most of them from Adam – apart from Boris Johnson, seen here in full unpleasant roar. And possibly Michael Gove, seen here looking smug as usual.

Where should we be looking? I would suggest it should be at the things and people that matter. Our society is falling further and further into confusion, destruction and poverty. Walk down any high street and you will see more and more shops closed or closing, visit any food bank and you will see more and more people struggling to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. Our GPs are finding it more and more difficult to cope, our hospitals are under appalling pressure, schools are strapped for cash and report more children in extreme poverty by the day. And all the media are interested in is giving publicity and air time to these unprincipled men and women.

Perhaps what we should be reminding ourselves about are The 7 principles of public life, written by Lord Nolan in 1995. They are as follows and as pertinent as they were when they were written.

1. Selflessness
Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest. I wonder how many of the pushy ten have ever given that a thought.

2. Integrity
Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.

3. Objectivity
Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.

4. Accountability
Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.

5. Openness
Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.

6. Honesty
Holders of public office should be truthful. Are you listening Boris Johnson! 

7. Leadership
Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.

I suspect that the ten or more pushy hopefuls for May’s job would not be able to agree to a single one. And if this is the case what sort of leadership are they going to offer us?

We live in appalling times.

This entry was posted on June 3, 2019. 3 Comments

Cheating

And no, it’s not kids cheating in school or lovers cheating on one another or any of the scores of cheats in politics. It’s me. And the re-issue of this particular book has made me face up to it because it all began with something my loved-to-bits, adopted sister told me.

thumbnail_War Baby Concept

She phoned me up one morning to say, as she often did, saying, ‘You’ll never guess what I’ve just done?‘ which intrigued me, as it always does. And when I asked ‘What?’ she said, ‘I’ve found my natural mother.’ Which I certainly didn’t expect.

But sure enough, she had and was in the middle of making arrangements to meet her. Bit by bit as the weeks and months passed, I heard the whole story of the search and how she’d set about it, and wrote it down because it had taken a lot of effort and was almost too good to be true. It was also very touching, for when Carole and her mother finally did meet, they got on very well indeed, despite their original misgivings. Carole showed her mother pictures of her two children, her mother told her how her own life had progressed after she’d had to hand her over for adoption and when they said goodbye they kissed one another and her mother said ‘I think I’ve missed a very great deal.’ 

The scene between Bobbie and her natural Mother was the first part of this book that I wrote and it ends with the same words taken from the life. The two characters were fictional, of course, but what they were doing and saying was real. Or to put it another way, I was cheating! And the awful thing is, I do it all the time!

I took the descriptions of life in the trenches in the first world war from an old relation of mine called Jessie Garnsworthy, who was there, and the description of the twelve-year-old child in ‘Everybody’s Somebody’ leaving home to go and work in a great house, miles away from her family, from his wife Minnie Garnsworthy, who had had it happen to her and had always accepted it as ‘one of those things’.

And now that I’m sitting down thinking about the amount of cheating I’ve done, I can’t remember a book when I haven’t nicked something or other.

boroughmarket3

The Borough Market I described in ‘Everybody’s Somebody’ and its sequel ‘Citizen Armies’ was the Borough Market I visited and enjoyed in my teens. And whenever any of my fictional characters visited a pub, it was a pub I knew – The Windmill on Clapham Common, Jack Beard’s and the Mitre in Tooting. And worst of all, I set my very first novel in Tooting,where I grew up, and as if that weren’t bad enough, they lived and worked in the house and shop where I had live as a child. Wonderfully easy to write but cheating.

 

Well at least my descriptions were accurate!

War Baby is released on Thursday the 23rd of May and is available here! 

This entry was posted on May 19, 2019. 4 Comments

And spring comes round again

Blossom 2019

My cherry tree is in bloom again, lifting my heart and making me feel that good weather is on the way. Despite all the talk of climate change, the impact of that tree is still superb. Which is not to say that the climate isn’t going to change, despite the claims of that great member of the intelligentsia, Donald Trump.
The climate is changing before our eyes, day by day and although we certainly can’t stop it, Greta Thunberg and the young protesters that follow her are absolutely right, we cannot ignore it and we need to prepare for it.
And now at last, I think thanks to those same protesters, the more responsible newspapers are beginning to talk of the climate crisis too. This morning’s Guardian says ‘Climate crisis ‘may force UK towns to be abandoned” and quotes Emma Howard Boyd of the Environment Agency who says ‘Flooding will not be held back by building ever higher defenses. The coastline has never stayed in the same place and there have always been floods but climate change is increasing and accelerating these threats. We need to develop consistent standards for flood and coastal resilience in England that help communities better understand their risk and give them more control about how to adapt and respond.’  She goes on to remind us of the tidal surges that have happened in the last few years  ‘In 2013 a tidal surge forced thousands of people to leave home as parts of the North Sea reached higher levels than flooding in 1953 and in 2014 a stretch of the railway link in Devon was destroyed in storms and flooding.’
thamesfrostfair
Even in a relatively short lifespan like my own, I have seen huge climate changes. The sea froze in the winter of 1940, the snowdrifts out in the countryside were 20ft high. And that is nothing compared to the freezing winters of Elizabeth the 1st time, when the Thames froze so solid that people held ‘Frost Fairs’ there and roasted oxen whole on it, without any fear of melting the ice because it was so thick.
In fact climates changes and has shifted throughout history. In the Sixteenth Century Thomas Nashe described spring in this pretty poem in which he says that ‘cold doth not sting’ in the spring:
Spring, the sweet spring, is the year’s pleasant king,
Then blooms each thing, then maids dance in a ring,
Cold doth not sting, the pretty birds do sing:
Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo!
It’s stinging us now when the temperature drops, spring or not! Perhaps one of our own 20th Century poets should have the last word.
Bagpipe Music by Louis MacNeice 1906

It’s no go the merry-go-round, it’s no go the rickshaw,
All we want is a limousine and a ticket for the peepshow…

It’s no go the Yogi-Man, it’s no go Blavatsky,
All we want is a bank balance and a bit of skirt in a taxi…

The Laird o’ Phelps spent Hogmanay declaring he was sober,
Counted his feet to prove the fact and found he had one foot over…

It’s no go my honey love, it’s no go my poppet;
Work your hands from day to day, the winds will blow the profit.
The glass is falling hour by hour, the glass will fall for ever,
But if you break the bloody glass you won’t hold up the weather.

 

Cui Bono

Pardon my Latin but it’s the most succinct way I know to put our current political problem into words.  They were originally written by Cicero, who was a famous Roman orator, and whom I read and agreed with when I was studying Latin in the Sixth form.  And he was quoting the words of another famous Roman called Cassius who was a judge and a wise one. When trying a case, he never failed to enquire, cui bono or WHO STANDS TO GAIN? explaining that ‘Man’s character is such that no one undertakes crimes without hope of gain.’ So what I want to ask here is ‘Who stands to gain from leaving Europe?’ So many things are being said about Brexit and passions are running very high and very ugly but nobody is talking about the real reason behind the drive to get us out of Europe. And it is there, if we know where to look for it. The Guardian published it but I couldn’t find it anywhere else. Well there’s a surprise! So here it is.

”EU Finance ministers are battling over a controversial proposal to slap a European Tax on US tech giants like Facebook and Google.” The EU – no less – preparing to take on the mega-rich boys who don’t pay tax. I can hear the howls of anguish. And it doesn’t stop there. According to a report  from Petr Jezek MEP,  seven EU countries – Belgium, Hungary, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta and The Netherlands  – have been labelled as tax havens, in an EU Parliament report. It is just possible that the mega rich who thought they were so snug and safe in their well-hidden tax havens are going to be winkled out and made to cough up the taxes they owe. And about time too.

So let’s have a look at some of our mega-rich and especially the ones who have pushed Brexit so strongly and incessantly and told so many disgraceful lies to get what they want.

reesmogs

Jacob Rees Mogg is probably the loudest and most noticeable at the moment. He has made £7 million since Brexit and is desperate to avoid the 2019 EU Tax avoidance clampdown. Educated at Eton and Trinity College Oxford. Co-founded a Hedge Fund management business called Somerset Capital Management LLP. His estimated net worth in 2016 was around £55 million (or, if we include his wife’s prospects) £150 million. Wants to be PM

 

 

JH

 

Jeremy Hunt has a net worth of £14 million and was educated at Charter House, Oxford. Another man who clowns to get out of trouble , like his great friend, Boris Johnson

 

 

 

boris

Boris Johnson has a net worth of £1.5 million and was one of the biggest liars in the Brexit campaign. Remember his promise on the big red bus?  He was educated at Eton and Balliol College, Oxford. Plays the clown to avoid getting into trouble. Very ambitious. Wants to be PM

 

 

 

Farage

Nigel Farage, the big mouthed white chief of Brexit, now starting a new party with backing from rich friends like Aaron Banks and encouragement and air time from his friends at the Daily Mail and the BBC. Has a net worth of £2.4 million. Went to Dulwich College. Great friend and admirer of Donald Trump. Need I say more?

Arron Banks the mystery man behind the Brexit campaign, pictured here clowning with a ham roll. Excessively wealthy.

arron

And the list goes on. Everywhere you look there are men and women who stand to gain from not paying any of the taxes they owe. And there are milllionaire companies set up everywhere to help them to do it.

And here’s a final titbit. An anonymous employee of BAE Systems – 2016 revenue £16.82 billion, Defence, Security and Aerospace Company – admits that his company does 95% of Saudia Arabia’s work in the Yemen. And guess who is on the board. Why none other than Mr Theresa May. Oh they’re all in it together.

If only the EU could put a spoke in their wheels and we could be in the EU to help them to do it.

Always ask cui bono.

 

This entry was posted on April 29, 2019. 3 Comments