Another re-print coming out from Agora tomorrow.

thegeorgianhouse3

Be warned! This is rather a naughty story, although I didn’t expect to find it when that particular day started off.

thegeorgianhouse1 (2)The old darling and I were on holiday in Edinburgh, which was one of our seven favorite towns. I had just started planning a story set in Georgian Bath because that is another of our favorite towns and would give us a perfect excuse to visit it at frequent intervals. In it my heroine was going to work as a wet-nurse in a Georgian House and lo and behold there was another Georgian House in Charlotte Street in Edinburgh, all according to the waitress in the hotel we were staying in, fitted out exactly as it had been in the Eighteenth Century. So naturally, we went to take a look. It was as you can see from the picture an elegant house, but it had a surprise waiting for us in the master bedroom. Everything there was as we would have expected it, four poster bed, plenty of pillows, carpeted floor but… lying on the bedside cabinet was a huge, brass enema syringe, big enough to dose a horse! We had a very friendly guide showing us around this particular room and when I said ‘Good God what is that?!’ He laughed and said ‘Ay it is formidable!’ And then went on to explain why, ‘They were such gluttons’ he said, ‘so they got monstrously constipated and it took a dose like that to get them moving so to speak. They called it a clyster.’  And when I’d finished laughing, an entire scene fell into my mind. So that I had to stop and pull out my notepad and write it all down. 

‘Here is a feisty heroine, who takes up a jug of water to the master of the house in his bedroom and then finds he is making hideous advances to her which she certainly doesn’t want or welcome, ‘adjust your petticoats me dear.’ She tells him over and over again that she isn’t willing, but he is a huge, stout, powerful man and persists. She searches about for a weapon to fight him with and finds the clyster. Whacks him across the head with it and while he is groaning, makes her getaway.’

The new book had started.

And now that new book is an old book being re-issued on Kindle by my new publishers Agora and due out tomorrow! Pre-order your copy here.

Cover

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This entry was posted on April 17, 2019. 4 Comments

We need to deal with the snollygosters

I’ve been taking a good look at these two disgusting pieces of blatant propaganda and wondering why there are still Brexit voters who don’t know how skillfully they were conned. But sadly there are. We see them out on the streets on TV, men and women alike, red in the face, bellowing their slogans, baying and bullying and mad-keen to start a punch up, attacking anyone they’ve been brainwashed to dislike, or who has a different opinion from them, or the police, or the MPs who haven’t voted their way, full of hatred and aggression. In the 30s, when Moseley led his uniformed thugs through the streets to ‘deal with the Jews’. And watched them baying and shouting slogans and itching for a chance to beat someone up, we called them Fascists.

So let’s analyse the lies the Brexiteers were told, and how they were manipulated, starting with the ones on this bus so that those of us who don’t agree with them have a few facts and figures to answer them with.

LIE 1. It may be true that we send £350 million to the EU. BUT we also receive many millions back in subsidies for groups that need it, like farmers for example, so the sums balance, and often in our favour. The propaganda team who designed these slogans were careful not to tell the bellowers anything about that.

LIE 2  This government are privately committed to privatising the NHS and are well on their way to doing it. (Mark Britnell let that cat out of the bag long before they were elected) so none of this money would be given to the NHS. But you will notice that the designers are careful not to say that. They just suggest that it could be done. ‘Let’s fund our NHS’

brexitbus

Nigel Farage’s chunk of lying propaganda is even more blatant and dishonest. It doesn’t say there are millions of Turks who will crowd into our country when Turkey joins the EU, it simply shows a long queue of men who look like eastern Europeans, with the twin slogans ‘Breaking point’ and ‘The EU has failed us all’ People who had already been told by newspapers like the Mail and the Sun and others of that ilk that the Turks were coming, sucked it all up. But it was a lie.

I’ve said this before on this blog but I think  it’s worth repeating here. Because of an arcane ruling that no MP may call another MP a liar because ‘MP’s are gentlemen and gentlemen don’t lie,’ liars in the House are able to get away with any lies they like, no matter how gross. They are snollygosters, to a man and a woman – people who act for personal gain and are without principles.

easterneuropebrexit

So what personal gain did all these ardent, right-wing, propaganding Brexiteers work for? They are already very rich men, every single one of them. Well, perhaps it will help us to understand what is going on to know that the EU plan to bring in a law to make rich men in the Union pay their taxes wherever they are due which seems perfectly fair to me, but has led our rich men into a costly and determined campaign to take us out of the EU before it can affect them.

This morning The Guardian has revealed that ‘a series of hugely influential Facebook advertising campaigns that appear to be separate grass roots movements for a no-deal Brexit are secretly overseen by employees of Sir Lynton Crosby’s lobbying company and a former advisor to Boris Johnson. These guys have spent as much as £1m promoting sophisticated, targeted adverts heaping pressure on individual MPs to vote for a hard Brexit. Their collective Facebook expenditure swamps the amount spent in the last six months by all the UKs major political parties and the UK Government combined, they have paid for thousands of different targeted Facebook ads encouraging members of the public to write to their local MPs and call for the toughest possible exit from the EU.’ Their money is talking and talking clearly. They want out of Europe and out quickly. They are very skilled snollygosters.

And while I’m at it I’d like to say I am getting bloody sick of Theresa May claiming that she is acting ‘for the Nation’ SHE IS NOT. She certainly doesn’t act for me. Nor for any of the other 16,141,241 who voted against Brexit inBrexit-7-lessons the original referendum. The figures are worth considering because the Brexiteers now talk as if none of us who voted against it have any worth or rights at all, they were doing it from the day the results were known. And in fact if you look at the figures with a slightly wider lens you will realise that there were actually more people who didn’t vote for Brexit then there were who did. 17,410,742 voted FOR Brexit which is 51.89% of the total votes cast. 16,141,241 voted AGAINST Brexit which was 48.11%.

But the total electorate in England was 38,386,900 people. 33,551,983 actually voted so a little minor arithmetic will show you that 4,834,000 didn’t bother to vote. A second referendum could well product a very different result, especially if the men who had produced their untruthful propaganda were brought to account. I think that’s why the Brexiteers are opposing it so strongly.

We need to be very, very careful in these dangerous, lying times. I shall let Louis Macneice have the last, wise word.

I am not yet born; O hear me.
Let not the bloodsucking bat or the rat or the stoat or the
club-footed ghoul come near me.

I am not yet born, console me.
I fear that the human race may with tall walls wall me,
with strong drugs dope me, with wise lies lure me,
on black racks rack me, in blood-baths roll me.

I am not yet born; provide me
With water to dandle me, grass to grow for me, trees to talk
to me, sky to sing to me, birds and a white light
in the back of my mind to guide me.

I am not yet born; O hear me,
Let not the man who is beast or who thinks he is God
come near me.

Let them not make me a stone and let them not spill me.
Otherwise kill me.

This entry was posted on April 4, 2019. 8 Comments

My house is becoming a refuge for battered machinery

The bits and pieces are lying about all over the place, speechless and totally useless, rebuking me by their presence, and my guilty conscience is growing larger and more troublesome every time I see them. I’ve tried saying sorry but they just maintain a tinny silence.

But what can I do? I didn’t mean to kill any of them. They were killed by accident.

The first to go wasphoneinfridgemy mobile. Poor thing. I got up one morning and reached to switch it on and it wasn’t there. Much grumbling and trying to think where on earth I could have put it. Under the pillow? No. Under the bed? No. In the wardrobe? In the bathroom? In my handbag? In the kitchen? Among the cushions on my three sofas? But never a sign of it. I tried ringing the thing but there wasn’t so much as a squeak in answer. In the end I got thoroughly fed up and decided I’d have a cup of tea and start breakfast and I opened the fridge to get out the milk and there it was, lurking and silent. I couldn’t for the life of me think how it had got there, but a night in the cold had killed it. It wouldn’t ring and it wouldn’t work.

So I had to buy another one.

 

A few weeks later theipadinwashingkiller instinct had me in its clutches again. I find it difficult to sleep so my regular bed mate is my iPad on which I read one novel after another, whenever I need to. That morning I was in a rush and I wanted to get my washing done first and had left it all in a heap in the middle of my bed. After breakfast I went upstairs and scooped it all up and took it down and put it in the washing machine, feeling I’d made a good start to the day. Wrong! When the washing was finished, I opened the door of the machine. And the first thing that fell out was my iPad! Dead, dead, drowned and never call me mother. 

So I had to buy another.

 

 

The third casualty was a pair of bathroom scales I’d been using for about thirty years and this time I wasn’t the murderer! When I came home from my second stinscalesincupboardt in hospital after my heart attack I was put on statins although I did tell the doctor that I found them very hard to tolerate I was consequently, decidedly ill with constant diarrhea, nausea at mealtimes and considerable difficulty in swallowing. I consequently lost rather a lot of weight, so much so in fact that I became alarmed and weighed my self every other day,which looking back on it, was rather excessive. It annoyed my older daughter very much and she took out her annoyance on my poor weighing machine which she confiscated and took away. Some months later I dared to ask her if I could have it back and she laughed at that and said she had hidden it in the house and it had been under my nose all the time. I passed that message on to my Charlotte who found it almost at once, it was in the airing cupboard, hidden behind a door I rarely opened. It had blushed bright orange and was dead, dead, dead.

So yes you’ve guessed. I had to buy another! And now I have three reproachful corpses, one frozen, one drowned and one baked alive.

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!

 

 

This entry was posted on April 2, 2019. 3 Comments

One last hope for Blake’s Cottage.

Yesterday afternoon I gave a talk to the local Probus group in the Inglenook at Pagham  and a happy occasion it was. They’re a lovely friendly group and made me very welcome. and listened with great attention while I told them the story of Blake’s trial for sedition and how the villagers perjured themselves to get him off.

During the course of it I showed them pictures of the cottage as it was, and Blake’s little drawing of it and one of the pictures that were taken of the inside of the place the last time we were allowed to visit it. They were shocked by the state it is in and some of them came up to talk to me afterwards to ask what could be done about it, suggesting that the English Heritage might step in – Oh how I wish they would! – and wondering whether there was a local  organisation that would stand up for the place.

So  I told them about the Felpham Village Conservation Society and how their leader wouldn’t allow me to meet up with the members and tell them what was going on – or not going on – and  how consequently none of them were taking any action about it, even tough they are the only ones who could. They  thought that was terrible and I had to agree wit them that it was. And that made me think  that I ought to make one more attempt to stir them into action.

When I got home I looked up their website again. And there they were, still proclaiming that their motto is ”Preserve, Protect, Promote” and describing themselves in these splendidly philanthropic terms.

”The Felpham Village Conservation Society exists to conserve the historical, cultural and aesthetic significance of our built and natural environment. We are nonpolitical and inclusive, having an open membership to every householder living within the Parish and those from without who use and value our facilities and environment. We seek to protect what is good, to improve those things that fall short and to enhance our community wherever possible.”

It made me grieve. They are such well meaning, excellent people and they’re having the wool pulled over their eyes by one powerful man who wants to believe that everything in the garden is rosy

So now here I am making one last attempt to get help for our special cottage before it is condemned and pulled down.

This is an appeal to anyone in the FVCS who follows my blog., particularly  if you take  your motto seriously. Please could  you contact me. Time is running out for our historical cottage and you are the only people with enough clout to do something about it. One old woman like me can be pushed to one side, belittled and ignored. A prestigious local organisation could not.

You can contact me by phone 01243 266042 or through my email berylkingston@hotmail.com. Please give this thought and get in touch.

My fingers are crossed.

 

This entry was posted on March 21, 2019. 3 Comments

‘I’m going to write my war novel.’

says the young writer in her twenties or thirties. And I hear what she says and cringe, because I know from having read, or dipped into, quite a lot of ‘my war novels’ that, even if it’s competently written, ten to one it will disappoint me. And the reasons for my disappointment are always the same. It  is because the writers present their characters as though they are living in the 21st Century. They speak in the same way as we do now, think in the same way and act in the same way, our thoughts, speech and actions being very closely linked. I don’t correct any of them because I can see what a lot of work has gone into their creation but it upsets me because it belittles the courage of most ordinary people who were involved in the horrors of the Second World War – and the four year carnage of WW1.

In the late 30s. when the members of the newly emerging ARP were being prepared and trained for the jobs they all knew they would soon be doing when the air raids began, they were given clear instructions. ‘Always stay calm,’ was the first and most important. ‘No matter what you are seeing or what you might be feeling, don’t let your casualties know it. Tell them ‘We’re here. We’ve got you. You’re going to be all right.’ If you cry or panic you will put them them into even deeper shock than they’re in already. Stay calm.’

And through the ten terrible months of the London Blitz and the bombing of ports and cities all over the country, and all through the attacks by doodle-bugs and rockets, that’s what they did. I saw it at first hand.

Let me tell you a true story about what the war was really like.  I found it in the Mass Observation diaries, the first-hand day-to-day accounts that ordinary people kept all through the war and sent to the Mass Observation team, and it was written by a young woman in the ARP. She had been on duty all night long rescuing people from the wreckage of their homes and shelters, as the bombs continued to fall and she was cycling home ‘feeling very tired’ when she was hailed by a rescue team who were still working on yet another bomb site. They told her she would do because she was skinny. They explained that they had an injured man at the bottom of a pit. They’d managed to dig down to him but they couldn’t get him out until the heavy lifting gear arrived or they would bring the rest of house down on top of him, and he was in pain and needed morphine. Would she go down to  him?

She stripped off her uniform so that it would be easier to squeeze down and was lowered into the stink, darkness and danger of the pit. When she reached the bottom she found that the man was horribly injured. Most of  his face had been blown away. There were black holes where his eyes , nose and lips had been and he was plainly in agony. ‘But,’ she reported, ‘I remembered my training and kept calm. I told him he was going to be all right and that we would get him out and I gave him the morphine.’ She stayed with him until the drug had taken effect and the heavy lifting gear had arrived and then she was hauled out. She wrote about it so calmly, it made me weep. ‘I put my clothes on,’ she wrote. ‘Then I was sick.’ I’ll bet she was. ‘Then I went home.’

Now that’s courage and compassion of a very high order and that’s how most people were. I hope when my 30th book is published later this year, my readers will find it equally revealing and honest. It is called ‘Citizen Armies’, and is about a Warden, an Ambulance Driver and their two daughters who are nurses. It starts on the day the war was declared and is written from diaries I kept at the time, so the speech, thoughts and actions are as accurate as I could get them. Respec’, fellow citizens! I honour you.

I’m going to end this blog with a poem I wrote more than half a lifetime ago, because it shows how our language changed when we were at war and what it was like to spend our nights in the cellar waiting for a bomb to fall on us.

Under Fire

My childhood stopped abruptly when I was nine
Bitten off by war, in whose foul maw
My generation lost our innocence.

Everything changed after the first blitz.
The days descended into dark and dust,
Clogged with alerting, soon-familiar smells.
Old brick, damp wood, escaping gas and shit.
Even our words were changed.
Scrimping became a virtue, light a crime,
Food became “rations”, fire “incendiaries”,
Bombing, an “incident” producing “casualties”
We needed euphemism to deflect
Too much, too sudden, raw reality.
A “raid” could sound quite thrilling
“Down in the drink” disguised a sea-killing
“Missing” postponed the mallet shock of “dead”.

The sirens’ fear-inducing wail
In the first frightened week could drain us pale,
But by the third alarm we’d learned to counter panic by routine.
Boots on your feet and blanket on your arm
Down to the cellar, in a coal-damp dream, settle the baby, find the cat, pour tea
Thread grandma’s darning needle, make a bed.
Ignore the laboured droning overhead, the enemy above us in the air.

Under the stair and crouched by coal,
We heard another reassuring sound
Of night trains rumbling in the Underground.
And meters gave their old familiar cluck,
Though every shift disturbed the dust, which stuck
Like black snow on the cards we held and played, to show we weren’t afraid.
The ear-high light bulb flicked and flickered and swayed
To the rhythmic thump of railway line ack-ack
And we were all together in that foetid black,
Our nightly vigil staunchly automatic.

The adults round me, stolid and phlegmatic
Revealed the value of control and calm,
That cowardly hysteria does the most harm
And should be feared and shunned, and rightly hated,
That bravery is quiet and under-rated
And constantly contained,
That the responsible are self-restrained.
We learned that terror carries you past grace,
Past hope, past fear, past feeling to a space
Beyond sensation.
Learned too, no matter how you pray or cry,
That “if your number’s on it”, you will die.

Our resignation was a comfort to me in our cellared nights
And holds and guides me still,
Do what I will.

Citizen Armies will be published on September 2nd 2019 by Endeavour. How’s that for timing?

This entry was posted on March 19, 2019. 7 Comments

I’ve suddenly acquired a social calendar!

And I have to say I feel quite dizzy. After months of never ending hospital, clinic and doctor’s appointments, to have my eyes examined,  bloods taken, medicines  dispensed, to take part in cardiac rehab – which I have to admit is was quite fun although a tad painful – with appointments pending to have my hearing tested and my feet cared for by two sweeties who have become an old friends over the years – as has my cardiac nurse, I certainly knew I was being cared for but I was beginning to feel more like a package of troublesome symptoms than a person.

And then suddenly, out of the blue, came three social invitations that had nothing to do with my creaking bones, diseased arteries, stents, poor hearing, limited eyesight and all the other elderly conditions that have been turning me into an impatient patient. There were three doors opening, labelled FUN.

The first is this Friday, as ever is, and it’s been arranged so that I can meet up with the team at my newest publishers, Agora. My sister is coming with me at their welcoming invitation, because she is better at finding her way around London than I am, and afterwards I’m going home with her so that we can scoot off to Guildford together the next day to do a bit more research for this new book. Yippedy-do-da!

 

The second is the following Tuesday when I’m invitehand-and-flowerd to drinks by my other publisher Endeavour Media at the London Book Fair. Yippedy-hick-do-da! That one will be interesting as well as sozzled because they are inviting a lot of their writers I’ve already ‘met’ quite a lot of them on Facebook and Twitter but this will be a chance to meet them in person.

 

the-inglenook-hotel

 

The third is an event  that I’d agreed to and had almost forgotten about, a meeting with the local Probus group, whom I’ve met before and who are always welcoming and great fun to be with, at which I am scheduled to give a talk about my local hero, William Blake.

 

And then, as if all they weren’t goodies enough, I had an email from Endeavour to say that they are going to publish ‘Citizen Armies’ on the most appropriate date, the second of of September this year. The next day will be the 80th anniversary of the day WW2 was declared and that is the day on which novel 30 begins. I’m usually not very good at timing – except when I’m giving a talk – so this is news to cheer about.

I feel as though I’m back in the world.

This entry was posted on March 4, 2019. 3 Comments

A belated expedition

And when I say ‘belated’ I really  do mean it.

Five months ago, in early September, Lottie and I made plans to visit a very pretty village called Amberley and start work on the research for Novel 31. We chose our day carefully to give us plenty of time for everything we wanted to do. We’d decided to go on a Wednesday, the pens and notebooks were packed, the questions we intended to find the answers to were listed. It was all systems go. The only trouble was that my personal system had decided to go in a different direction.

In the early hours of Wednesday morning I had a heart attack, as most of you know, and was taken to hospital by an ambulance that arrived, as promised, within ten minutes of my 999 phone call  I left a note for Lottie in the study, because I didn’t want her to arrive at her usual time and find me gone without an explanation. It wasn’t very helpful as she recalls. It just said. ‘Had to go to hospital. Nothing serious’ so I’m afraid it came as quite a shock to her to find out what had actually happened, which is not what I’dintended at all.  But by then hospital routines had taken me over and I had to put novel 31 behind me because we couldn’t work on it.

It took rather a long time and the insertion of six complicated stents before I was home and could pick up my life again. And it’s taken five months in all before I’d recovered enough to venture out with my notebook and set about the research.

But there we were and the sun was shining and Amberley was every bit as eccentric and beautiful as we had hoped it would be and the locals we met and talked to were welcoming and helpful. It was a great day. and by the end of it we both knew how much our ‘Damned old woman’ was going to enjoy living there. We shall go  back of course, as we always do, because there’s always more to do. A lot of the cottages are covered in wisteria, as you can see from the pictures, and we want to see that in bloom. And we haven’t visited the castle.

Watch out Novel 31, we’ve got your measure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This entry was posted on February 25, 2019. 4 Comments