A sack of potatoes, a lovely surprise and a puzzle.

I’ve got an odd mixture for you today. I thought this was the weather for a miscellany, as it doesn’t seem able to make up its mind whether to grill us brown or drown us. There won’t be any pictures with it, I’m afraid, because my grand-daughter/amanuensis is away on holiday, so it’s not quite the mixture as usual. But here goes. I’m going to start with the surprise, because it was a lovely one.

I had to go into the doctor’s surgery last week for my annual diabetic check-up and I’d arranged to see the one doctor in the practice I still know. There are lots of new names nowadays and I’d rather see someone  I know. She was patient and thorough as always and seemed fairly pleased with how I was handling the diabetes. And in the middle of the consultation, a pretty girl in a uniform I didn’t recognise came into the room looking for a form, which she found very quickly. Then, to my surprise, she turned to speak to me.

‘I’m really enjoying your book,’ she said. ‘If I’d known you were coming  in this morning I’d have brought it in and asked you to sign it.’

I told her I was glad to hear it, which was putting it mildly. and then I asked her which book it was.

To my considerable surprise, it was ‘Citizen Armies’ the new book that was published just a week ago and she’d bought it from Amazon. ‘ I like a book, she said. ‘I like to hold it in my hands.’

I told her she’d made my day. I could have hugged her. That was a surprise and a half.

Then a few days later I stumbled on an enigma and reached for my deerstalker. I keep the occasional eye on visitors to this blog, partly to see what interests my readers and partly because I’m vain and like to see how many people read it. That morning,  I’d had six visits and one person had looked at three rather particular old sites, the Latest news on Blake’s Cottage, Who remembers Violet Elizabeth Bott? and an analysis of how the three man triumvirate who now own the cottage had set up their Blake Cottage Trust in the first place and been given the bulk of the money to buy it. That’s a curious mixture and very particular, because it’s someone who is interested in the state of the cottage, and in the way it was bought and in an analysis of a spoilt brat.  The blog about the spoilt brat has been visited by one person on quite a few occasions over the past few months along with another one about what makes a bully, and that’s been making me wonder. And now this. It’s just possible that someone will read this blog and think,’That was me’. If it was, could you sent me a message and tell me. I’d really like to know. There’s a story behind this and my nose is twitching.

And the sack of potatoes? I haven’t forgotten it. How could I? That was me, walking along the corridor from my study and suddenly falling flat on my face like the proverbial sack. I was a bit stunned for a moment or two and lay where I was feeling giddy and unable to get up. My daughter was in the garden repairing the shed and I knew she would come in sooner or later. Which she did, so I was soon rescued and no bones broken. And I can’t say my life is dull because it’s full of unexpected things.

What next I wonder?


Bit of fun for Remainers

If you are a Brexiteer give this one a miss, you will hate it if you read it. I’ve had quite enough hatred directed my way from rabid Brexiteers ever since that dishonest referendum that I really don’t want any more of it. The first belly-full incidentally came a few days after the referendum result when a young man I followed because he was a trustee of the Blake Society and I assumed he would be a good egg, was braying in triumph because the leavers had won. He said that it was the ‘most powerful election result ever’. I had the temerity to point out that there had been another and much more influential election result in 1945 which had led to the formation of the National Health Service and our welfare state, but he then got back to quote figures to prove how much better his result was and to say ‘we won, get over it’, which has since become the slogan of the rabid Brexiteer, to such an extent that a lot of us feel we have no right to any opinion at all.



So for Remainers who have been told that they ‘lost’ and that was the ‘end of it’ and that we should ‘shut up and accept it’ here is a bit of fun to cheer us all up. It was put up on Twitter yesterday and is a splendid pastiche of the Lord’s Prayer. It made me laugh out loud, so I wrote to the writer and asked if I could use it on my blog and here it is with thanks and credit to @CyberHibby:

The Brexiteers Prayer

Our Farage, who art in tax havens
Criminality be thy game
Thy Brexit come
Thy will be fucked
From Land’s End to John O’Groats
Give us this day our Daily Express
And forgive us our ex-pats
As we condemn those who trespass against us
And lead us not into expert advice;
But deliver us from the unelected EU
For thine is the (Dis)United Kingdom
The corruption and xenophobia
Unlikely to be forever
A mentalist.

Have fun with this all you sturdy Remainers and take heart. I think if we had a second referendum now, a lot more people would vote to remain than to leave. We are a more knowledgeable electorate especially after the ‘Yellow Hammer’ has sung. There is a general election coming. And there’s a hell of a difference between our lovely, intelligent William Beveridge, who spelled out the way our NHS could be founded and run, and our present non-elected PM.


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

Pyracantha in Autumn



No news today about any signings I’m afraid because it’s all taking a very long time but as soon as I have news I will put it up, in the meantime I thought you might enjoy a touch of flamboyant Autumn colour.

This pyracantha was planted by my old darling when we first moved in to the house to provide food for the birds in the winter, which it now does in lavish quantities. Over the years it has become rather an impressive tree and Lottie and I are fond of it because it has also provided a secure and hidden place for a pair of willow warblers to nest in, which they’ve done for the past three years. They are very shy birds and need the cover.


Earlier in the year we were dazzled by our cherry tree, which inspired me to poetry, sorry about that folks, but I get inspired to poetry by all sorts of things, some of them more or less suitable, some wildly inappropriate and when I can find a cap that fits I like to wear it.

Here is this particular cap with love to my particular cherry tree:

Cherry in November

Gloriously, the lovely cherry
Warms our chilly autumn day,
Waving flags of celebration,
Gold in the November grey.

Shouts her challenge, loud and heady,
Down with death, with woes, with fears,
Till she stands bereft and slender
In a pool of golden tears.

She, who in the frost of Easter,
Wore a cap of fragile lace,
Soft and white and soon to tatter,
Absolutely out of place.

Singing to us in the garden,
Death is conquered. Do not fear.
Young and feminine and tender,
Love’s reminder every year.

Everybody’s Somebody is out to keep Citizen Armies company!

I wish I could tell you what the companion pair would cost and whereabouts in my particular area they could be found but the publishers of Citizen Armies seem to be having considerable difficulties getting the book in two of the big distributors Gardners and Bertrams, so I can’t say anything yet until it’s sorted out. It’s demoralising.

I will get back to you in another blog as soon as it’s been settled and am pushing the publisher for information, because I would like to persuade local stores to sell them and allow me to come in and sign them for my friends and fans.

In the meantime they can both be purchased on Kindle. Heygates bookshop in Bognor has very kindly agreed to host an event and I’m gearing up to nag Endeavour to take action to make the event possible by providing the books.

With luck, I’ll be back!


Citizen Armies is out!

Just a quick reminder to my friends and fans that my thirtieth novel ‘Citizen Armies’ has been published today by Endeavour. It is available to purchase via Amazon here


Keep an eye out as its prequel ‘Everybody’s Somebody’ will be published by Agora on the 5th of September!

Advert over!

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

Bertie’s best man speech

This is the final taster for Citizen Armies that I’m going to put up. And as there’s been a lot of stupid talk from our politicians about the ‘Spirit of Dunkirk’ and how wonderful it was, I thought I might counter it a little by letting one of my characters who was there, tell it as it was.

Jim and Rosie’s first daughter Gracie who has worked as a nurse since the war began, is getting married to her wounded soldier Sam and as you would expect it is a loving occasion. 

Then they stood with their arms round each other until Bertie rose to his feet and interrupted them, saying, ‘Come on, Mooch. Cut it short. I got a speech to make.’

He was such an affable looking bloke with his chubby face, his broken nose, his wide spaced brown eyes and his mop of untidy brown hair that the room hushed for him and waited.

‘I asked my Mum what I was supposed to say at this wedding,’ he began, ‘and she said, ‘Tell ‘em a story. Everyone likes a story. Only make it a good un.’ So that’s what I’m gonna do or try to do.  It can’t be a story about what Sam here was like as a boy on account of I didn’t know him then. We met in the army. So it’ll have to be a wCA FINAL COVER AUGUSTar story.’ And when Sam winced, ‘Don’t make that face. Truth will out you know. Well then, it goes like this. We was on a beach in France, not sunning ourselves an’ whatnot, but being strafed by Stukas, shelled an’ bombed an’ I don’ know what else. Thousands of us there was an’ we’d been waiting to be took off for so many days we’d lost count. And me an’ Sam  an’ a bloke called Les, kept each other company an’ swapped ciggies when they was running low and huddled up together at night when it was bleedin’ cold. Pardon my French. An’ finally, it was our turn to wade into the sea and be picked up by one a’ the little boats. And then wouldn’t you know it, just as we was standing in line ready for the off, the Stukas came over, an’ we was machine gunned.’

‘Les took a hit, poor sod. We could see the blood spurting out of his leg. So he says, ‘You two go on,’ he says. ‘They won’t take me, not like this.’ And Sam says ‘Bugger that for a lark. You’re coming with us. Just hop on your good leg an’ lean on my arm. Don’t worry. I’ll take your weight.’

‘And that’s what he did. Must ha’ been nearly half a mile struggling forward with the water getting deeper with every step. But we got there and we was hauled aboard a fishing boat. And it wasn’t till then that we saw Sam had been wounded as well. Hadn’t said a word to either of us an’ his leg was bloody as Les’s.’ Then he turned to look at Gracie and spoke directly to her. ‘You married a hero, Gracie,’ he said.

A third taster from Citizen Armies

In this novel I have tried to be as realistic and as close to the real facts of being at war as I could. My first taster showed Jim the air-raid warden dealing with his first casualty but of course air-raid wardens, ambulance drivers and all the other services who worked all through the night when the bombs were falling, took their share of death and injury, even a tin hat wouldn’t save you from a direct hit.

So here is my Rosie coming a little too close to a serious explosion, she had just met up with an old friend of hers who was working with the WVS handing out tea to rescuers and casualties and the extract starts as they were remembering one another.

‘We worked together when we was girls,’ the woman said, as two more firemen arrived. ‘In Arundel Castle. I’m Maisie.’

Memories pushed the chaos of the raid aside and crowded into Rosie’s brain; she could see them walking the babies in the grounds, cleaning their nappies and feeding them those horrid bottles, strolling up and down the High Street in Arundel on their afternoon off, feeling like swells in their Sunday best.CA FINAL COVER AUGUST

‘D’you remember our tea shop an’ the sticky buns?’ Maisie asked and turned to her next customer to ask, ‘What can I do for you sir?’

But she didn’t get an answer to either of her questions because at that moment there was a blinding flash of light and a deafening roar and Rosie and the three firemen were punched off their feet by a force that felt like a blast from a furnace. It was so powerful it pushed the air out of their lungs and left them gasping for breath. Rosie landed painfully and stayed where she was, huddled on the ground with her face away from the blast, stunned and still, while the debris fell all round her. It had happened too quickly for her to feel afraid and, as far as she could tell, she was still in one piece but she was too numb to know whether she was hurt or not. When there was no more debris falling, and the air had settled a little, and her breathing had righted itself, she tried to sit up and found she couldn’t do it. But she managed to raise her head and saw that the mobile canteen was lying on its side and was badly damaged, that the tea urn had been blown right out of the canteen and was lying yards away, crushed under a pile of bricks and leaking tea, that her ambulance had vanished and that there were five dark shapes lying higgledy-piggledy on the ground a few feet away from her, half hidden by the dust cloud.

Then she heard a voice calling to her. ‘We’re on our way, Rosie. Stay where you are!’ And she tried to answer it and couldn’t do it. A face loomed into her line of vision and she recognised it but couldn’t remember who it was.

‘You’re all right,’ it said. ‘We’re here. Don’t try to move.’

‘I can’t,’ she said, and was annoyed to hear how croaky her voice was. It was a struggle to focus her eyes too, but she knew her rescuer was one of her fellow ambulance drivers even though she couldn’t see him properly. ‘John,’ she said.

‘That’s me,’ he agreed. ‘I’m just going to check you over. OK? Have you got any pain anywhere?’

She was struggling to say no when the pain suddenly began, almost as if he’d given her permission to feel it by asking about it. It was so overwhelming it made her pant. ‘Right arm,’ she managed to say, and then there was blackness.