Mrs Peel, you’re needed

With respect to Game of Thrones fans, you perhaps have to be of a certain age to feel the full weight of the passing of Diana Rigg. (And if you aren’t, the heading of this post may not mean much to you.) Not only was she one of Britain’s best actresses in one of our best ever TV shows – the Avengers – but her part was one of the first strong female lead roles in television, and no one could have filled it better.

Oh, and she was my first and most enduring childhood crush!

The affection between Diana and Patrick Macnee – John Steed – was genuine, and in this screenshot that I managed to capture from their final ever scene together, as she stops at the door to look back you can see genuine tears beginning to form in her eyes.

RIP Diana Rig.


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Helpful Reviews

A lot of us authors wait with trepidation to see whether the Amazon reviews are good or bad (or whether there even are any reviews). Here at Rambles of a Writer we compile some of the most useful reviews of all books and other products to save you the spade-work. Here is a selection

Hubby ubub hgt 5f5f 5g6yggy…. hh7h …. big putt yttr (An in-depth review of a biography – 4 stars. Perhaps they added the review while on Amazon looking for a new keyboard)

Chardonnay Scraggins, fashion guru and one of today’s celebrity guest reviewers

My fault – nothing wrong with the book but I thought it was a biography as I prefer non-fiction to fiction (1 star – Yes, your fault – as in, not the author’s fault to whom you have given a one-star rating.…)

Yet to read the book, but the item arrived damaged with a page torn. (1 star – a torn page – the worst fault an author can make when writing a novel)

Haven’t read it yet because the print was so small (1 star – so you are waiting till your vision improves? If only you had gone for a long-distance drive to test your eyesight out before buying the book you might have saved yourself the heartache.)

Enjoyed the previous novel so I’m looking forward to plunge into this offering. It arrived well packaged and fairly quickly. (5 stars – and one person found this in-depth review helpful…….)

I really love the new lamp. It looks really great. I am terrible putting things up but it was very easy and intuitive. A lovely addition to the living room – and at a darned good price! (5 – a seemingly innocuous review by our standards – but it was a book review. Perhaps the same person who has problems with their eyesight.)


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Health and Safety Gone Mad: Part II

Once again, the Powers That Be are determined to stop us having fun. 

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Literary Competitions

This posting is going to be told from the perspectives of three women, moving between the present and four different points in the past at which seminal events conspired to change their lives forever.


December 1992

I pad across the wooden floor of my loft apartment to pour myself another prosecco, the events of last night still echoing in……………….

Ah, bugger it – that’s enough of that. The truth is I was never going to write today’s posting like that – in fact I’m writing it specifically to take a break from all that. Let me explain.

By day I am a writer and editor, but by night, when the shadows fall and the downtrodden cry out for a superhero, I rip open my shirt to reveal the costume of a reader for a literary competition. I’ve come to realise that stories about things that actually happen (as opposed to emotions and issues) told chronologically from one person’s viewpoint, are now passé. That kind of old fashioned stuff might be all right for your average reader, but it ain’t going to win a literary award judged by people who know better.

I have to wade through so many entries in a relatively short time that I’d become accustomed to the fashion and was coming to take it for granted that this is simply how you write good fiction. Then I came to a story written from the perspective of one person that moved forwards chronologically, in which things actually happened, in the real world rather than inside people’s minds, and it was such a refreshing change!

Otherwise, though, this literary trend is hard work. By the time you’ve jumped from Jacasta to Aurora to Allegra and get back to Jacasta, you are trying to remember who the hell Jacasta was in the first place. And anyway, are we now back in the present or have we jumped back in time again? And does it matter?

The other thing I noticed is that I seem to have slipped under the radar as a pale, male and stale (the worst of the worst) reader. Publishing and that general world is largely the domain of females, and certainly, if my experience is anything to go by, literary competitions (open to all people and genres) are dominated by female writers writing about females for a female audience, to be judged by an exclusively female panel of judges. Men do occasionally appear in the stories, usually as bastards, useless, or both.

So, it’s a woman’s world – but don’t get me wrong: that’s a Good Thing. Only the haters could complain about it. And even though there is an enormous gender disparity, I’m sure there will be a major campaign to redress this imbalance, and some activists will come to the aid of downtrodden men soon. Very soon.


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Health and Safety Gone Mad

Here’s another example of how the authorities are turning us into a nanny state. What on earth is wrong with killing two birds with one stone as well as saving water – garment cleaning and infant bathtime? (As well, no doubt, as lots of tumbling, bubbling fun for the little one!)


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Captain Satsuma

Today, I’m please to present another interview with a newly published author! I came into contact with James Hopson through my freelance writing advice work, and I’m please to say that his original, entertaining and colourful story Captain Satsuma has Landed is now in print. Let’s hear a bit about both book and author:

It’s certainly a quirky title! What’s it about and what age group is it aimed at?

Captain Satsuma was created to encourage children to have a good diet and healthy and active lifestyle. The book is for early readers, 5-8 age bracket. It’s a fast-paced fun adventure story with lots of humour.

Did the idea pop into your head or did you have a plan to write about health matters for children and devise a character to convey the message?

I never envisaged ever writing a book. The idea came after spending some time with a lovely little girl with complex health problems. She asked me if I would like to do some drawing with her. When she produced a satsuma for a snack, I decided to create a funny character for her. After that she wanted a story, so I thought ‘Why not’ and perhaps I could help other children too.

Had you tried your hand at writing before you came up with Captain Satsuma?

I’ve never tried really tried my hand at writing before, certainly nothing like this project. I do like moto cycle racing, so did a yearbook once. I was too shy to share it with anyone though at the time. Some 25 years later an ex top rider saw it and really enjoyed it.

I think my favourite books that I read as a child played a big part in inspiring me to write. Was that the way with you?

My inspiration has come from the little girl I mentioned earlier. Her whole taste for life is infectious. I actually worked for my dad in his greengrocer’s shop on Saturdays and school holidays, so I do know more than a little about fruit and vegetables.

The illustrations look great – did you happen to know someone with the necessary skills, or did you do some research to find someone suitable?

I found Russell Becker, my illustrator, whilst doing some research. I visited Russell and as soon as we started chatting I knew he could draw the characters exactly as I envisaged them. He’s so good to work with and really professional.

You have created a very impressive Captain Satsuma website – is it all your own work or do you go to a specialist company?

Russell’s a website developer too so we worked together to produce what you see today. I put the ideas to Russell and he uses his creative skill. It’s a good partnership. You have to keep updating your website regularly.

Er…yes, of course – that goes without saying. [Note to self…] It’s become more and more important for authors to get involved in their own marketing, but I’ve always felt that writing attracts the kind of people who aren’t necessarily comfortable with the idea of self-publicity. How have you found it?

Marketing is something I knew more about than writing if I’m honest. I come from a sales background, so I understand how important is. In the self-publishing world, it’s not easy. Your funding everything yourself. You’re not only competing against established and recognised names and books, you’re competing against their budgets too.  I consider every avenue open to me.

When can we expect Captain Satsuma’s next adventure?

I’ve done the drafts for four more Captain Satsuma adventures. If everything goes to plan, then spring 2021 is my goal. I’m having so much fun creating stuff around him. I want to tackle real issues with him, pointing out important things to children. This has its challenges, especially when you’re trying to get messages across in an engaging way.

Do you have any plans for writing something completely different in the future – maybe a different age group, or even the adult market?

I have considered writing a story about the pets we’ve had. I love animals, so it might be a good fit. I enjoy writing for children. Though my story of Captain Satsuma is fantasy, it does contain a lot of reality in it. I’ve written it as I see things myself in today’s world.

Thanks James, and good luck with the book!

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Grave News

I’m still pursuing my hobby of photographing old gravestones to upload to the genealogy website, and the latest batch is from one of my favourite churchyards, which is a quiet, secluded place tucked away at the back of St Leonard’s in the village of Wollaton, Nottingham. I think the one pictured must be the oldest I’ve come across so far. Samuel Slack died at a tragically young age, but it’s fascinating to think that Samuel Pepys was still alive when he was born, and our man’s father probably remembered the Great Plague and heard travellers tell tales of the Great Fire that happened down in London.

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More Midwinter Violins

Having received the message mentioned previously from the son of Sally Miall/Bickenell,  I came across yet more information about her so I thought I would neatly package it all in one new posting.

This is the message I received a couple of days ago: 

Dear Rambles… I would use your first name but I could not see it on your wordpress page. Sally was my mum, died 2010, lovely person and very bright. She had six books published in total, below, but they never did brilliantly. I hope someone writes about you too in the future! I am just finishing my first novel; lockdown miracle. Regards from Marcus Bicknell.

Books by Sally Miall previously Sally Bicknell née Sarah Greenaway Leith

The Midwinter Violins (1973)
The Summer of the Warehouse (1979)
Follow that Uncle! (1980)
Night & Day (2006)
Sheep May Safely Graze (2006)
The Beamish Boy (2007)


Sadly, these books are very hard to get hold of now. But the thing that prompted me to write about her again was that I found out more about her life – and it was fascinating. I discovered that there was a Wiki page  about her, and it reveals that as well as being an author, not only was Sally a (race-winning) rally driver, but a Bletchley Park code-breaker!


If you are reading this Marcus, by the way, I replied to your message – I hope you got it!

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Midwinter Violins

I originally posted this a couple of years ago, but I’ve just had a nice message from the Author’s son, so I though I would bump the posting up!

Rambles of a Writer

I came across a children’s book from the early 70s in a charity shop, and bought it as much for the cover as anything. I love the artwork in old children’s books. I’m also of the opinion that the 60s and 70s were the golden age of children’s literature. The stories could still be innocent and maybe not as completely realistic as modern novels are expected to be, but were tighter and less wordy than much older ones. Basically, they were great form of escapism and good, old-fashioned story-telling.

This one is called The Midwinter Violins by Sally Bicknell. I really enjoyed it and I wanted to find out more about the author but it wasn’t easy because it was a long time ago and she wasn’t a best-seller. She didn’t write many books and it’s just about the only one you can still find in print.

It struck me…

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A Cure for Corvid-19???

When I’m doing historical research in old newspapers for a book I’m working on, my eye is often drawn to the advertisements, especially the ones for miracle cures. This morning I came across a newly discovered preventive lotion and accompanying book Manhood: the causes of its Premature Decline, with plain directions for its perfect restoration. Not only that, but a NEW AND ENLARGED EDITION was promised. This obviously being of no relevance to me (and anyway I checked on Amazon and it’s no longer available), I moved quickly on and found something possibly even more useful.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you HOLLOWAY’S OINTMENT, an extraordinary cure of scrofula, or the King’s Evil. As if that weren’t enough, it is also handy in cases of Bad Legs, Bad Breasts, Burns, Bunions, Chapped Hands, Cancers, Elephantitis, Gout, Piles, Sore Nipples, Scurvy and many other complaints. We know it works, because the advertisement features a testimony from Mr Barker of Drypool. In his case it cured A BAD LEG OF MORE THAN SIX YEARS STANDING. Maybe if he’s sat down a bit more he wouldn’t have needed the ointment, but that is a mere trifle, because it seems to me that in the face of HOLLOWAY’S OINTMENT, what chance would puny Corvid-19 stand? Available now from Professor Holloway, 214 The Strand (near Temple Bar), as well as all respectable Vendors of Patent Medicines throughout the civilized World. The government has no excuses now – look out for my petition on soon.

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