We’ve Got it Covered

Yet again the book cover designer at Pen & Sword books has come up trumps. I’ve been in a bit of a battle with the publishers over the title, as they prefer to ‘reverse’ non-fiction titles, ie put what is supposed to be the sub-title as the main title. It’s something no other publisher does as far as I know, but they feel it is essential so I have to go along with it. But just when I was feeling disappointed with that, along came the cover and I immediately broke into a smile, because I love it – just as I did my previous to book covers with the same publisher. I’ll keep my countless hordes of loyal followers informed of the book’s progress.

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Voices from the Past

On a recent trip to Whitby I found myself drawn to the graveyard surrounding the church at the top of the hill, near the famous abbey. I always find old gravestones interesting and poignant, and this visit reminded me that when I was doing some family tree research a while back I signed up for a site called billiongraves.com, a worldwide database of headstones and transcriptions. As well as using it for my own researches I decided to take pictures of some local gravestones and upload them just to do my bit, but after my initial flurry of activity, other things got in the way and I stopped doing it.

The Whitby visit rekindled my enthusiasm, and I’ve decided to make it my mission to visit churchyards around my home county and occasionally beyond, photographing gravestones and uploading them. When I’m taking the pictures I don’t always take a lot of notice of what’s on them, but when I get back to my computer and start uploading and adding the details into the system, I start to notice things.

There are obviously a lot more deaths of young and relatively young people than we would expect today. I suppose it shouldn’t be so surprising, and the same point applies – on the older gravestones at least – to many deaths occurred in the winter months. The other day I took around twenty photographs in a picturesque little village churchyard, and when I examined them later one particular one got to me more than the rest (there’s nearly always one!). As you will see from the picture (you might have to enlarge it to see the lower entries) within eight years a whole family apart from the father had been wiped out, with someone dying almost every year after 1852. The mother was only 47 when she died; none of her children lived beyond the age of 22, and only three of the seven got beyond their teens. I can only assume that an infection disease was present in the family. It probably wasn’t an acute, aggressive one like cholera, and the way the deaths are spread over a period of several years makes me think of tuberculosis, which to which most of the Bronte family gradually succumbed to the same disease one by one. (I’ve done some delving, and I think William the father, died in 1880.)

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More Than Skin Deep

Tattoos seem to function as a modern type of post-it note – they remind us of the names of our loved ones, our children and their birth dates, just in case we should forget. They give us little reminders of what attitudes to take in life, what we believe in, and so on. The good thing is that, unlike little notes, they don’t get lost or curl at the edges. (But they may be inclined to become wrinkly and hard to read as we get older – by which time we’ve probably forgotten who we are anyway, let alone all the other stuff, so it doesn’t matter.)

As a Buddhist I believe that we should turn our attention inwards rather than allowing it to be pulled out in all different directions too much so that we lose our centre. In other words, I should live within myself – or to put it in a slightly more literary way, as my latest tattoo demonstrates:


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Capture the King!

I am pleased to announce the publication of my book King Charles II and his Escape into Exile.

It was inspired by one of my trips to Mere in Wiltshire. The local pub (The George) has a ‘King Charles’ room, and makes a big thing about Charles having visited there when he was fleeing for his life after defeat at the Battle of Worcester in 1651. Not that I’m of a cynical turn of mind, you understand, but I kind of assumed that maybe Charles was in the general area, but that his visit was an apocryphal story to pull the tourists in. One day I decided to look it up, and found that it was true. The king didn’t stay the night as he did in numerous other inns along his tortuous route, but the landlord was a Royalist and Charles and his party did call in for a quick pint before resuming their journey. I also realised that the whole story of his escape was interesting and exciting. Charles, who was then only 20, was trying to recapture the throne after Cromwell and his Roundheads had executed his father. When the battle was lost he knew he would almost certainly have suffered same fate, so with the help of a trusted few people he made a several hundred mile journey disguised as a peasant or servant, surviving several close shaves.

Happy reading!

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Literary Pilgrimage

The latest port of call on my occasional literary tour of Britain was to Doughty Street in London – the former home of Charles Dickens. Just entering the street itself, with it’s well-preserved Georgian houses, was like walking into past, and it was a great time to go because the museum was dressed up for Christmas, thus looking even more Dickensian than I’m sure it normally does. The Doughty Street house was where Dickens was living when his career took off, and is, apparently, the only one left standing of the several London addresses he lived in.


He was only there for three years, but in that time the Pickwick Papers took off, followed by Oliver Twist, as well as his popular journalistic writing, and he was internationally famous by the time he moved on. The museum retains the ‘early Victorian family home’ style and feel, and I really enjoyed it and would certainly go again in the future.




There was a moment when I thought I caught a glimpse of the great man himself. Must have been my imagination…











The first ever author home I visited was ‘Bleak House’ in Broadstairs, Kent. It was then a museum but has since had a chequered history from what I can gather. It became a hotel but that has apparently closed in recent times.

Since then I have been to Thomas Hardy’s birthplace in Dorchester as well as the nearby house he had built in later life, and Dove Cottage in Grasmere in the Lake District. They are both well worth a visit, but my two favourite such places are elsewhere.


At number 2 in the charts is Chawton, Jane Austen’s family home in Hampshire. A lovely place to visit and an excellent museum.




But my favourite literary home, one I’ve visited several times and will certainly return to, is the Howarth Parsonage in Yorkshire. It’s somehow the most atmospheric writers’ home of all the ones I visited, and of course it was a place of not only great literary triumph, but so much human tragedy.


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Don’t Buy Anything…

Till you’ve read these informative, in-depth Amazon reviews. I know it’s Black Friday and all that, but without the guidance below from helpful reviewers you might make a purchase you later regret:

I just couldn’t get into this book so can’t review it. 1 star (But now you have reviewed it, my dear…)

Is a pain – can’t get back to the menu using kindle on the iPad. 1 star (The author of that book should be ashamed)

Will read it later, but so far it looks very good 5 stars. (1 person found this ‘helpful’ –  WHAAT?!)

This book was well packaged and it arrived when promised. I haven’t read it yet, but I feel sure I will enjoy the experience. 5 stars (Perhaps it was a book about developing the power to foresee the future?)

I object to the use of curly quotes. 1 star


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Good old Snoop…

Something I can identify with:




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