Archive | June 2019

Putting the story into history.

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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.

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.

This entry was posted on June 13, 2019. 2 Comments

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