“Somebody throws a Brick against the Door of my Carriage”

Last night, the BBC’s “Grand Tours of Scotland” series focused on women travelers. It included a look at walking in the countryside and even took us to Gretna Green – where couples still “run off” to for marriage. It also briefly reviewed the time when women did not normally travel alone because they usually weren’t allowed to.

Screen capture of BBC iPlayer "Grand Tours of Scotland" page.
Screen capture of BBC iPlayer “Grand Tours of Scotland” page.

At one point, the presenter shared how 19th century women needed male chaperones, and in explaining that did so including a clear inference at how unnecessary and sexist that was, a “need” concocted by men purely to keep women in their place.

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An Ancient Picture-Making Device

Over time I’ve posted various photos here (and over on Instagram) that I’d taken years – urr, decades – ago with my then 35mm camera. (One sample is here.) Well, I “re-discovered” it in a drawer yesterday underneath a pile of other half-forgotten stuff. Yes, my friends, this is it:

Front of my 35mm camera. [Photo by me, 2016.]
Front of my 35mm camera. [Photo by me, 2016.]

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Chasing “Love”: From England To Odessa To Moscow

You may remember “Melvin.” He is the ex-husband of a friend of ours. Back in August, he moved to Bulgaria.

For some years before, he had been involved with a woman from Odessa, Ukraine whom he’d, well….met on the internet. We don’t know really what went on there, but he’d been to visit her numerous times. A year or two ago matters were apparently taken up a notch: a house was bought there (uh, he’d bought it for her in HER name only: I kid you not), lots of money was also sent her way, and he was planning on moving there to be nearer her….

Free Stock Photo: Windows start button on a computer screen.
Free Stock Photo: Windows start button on a computer screen.

….and then, she, well, “vanished.”

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“My dear and beloved….”

Okay, I’m going to risk showing my age again here. If you are around mine, you likely recall this as well. We are perhaps of the last generation that actually wrote letters on paper, by hand, which we stamped and put into the post:

Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a postmarked stamp.
Free Stock Photo: Illustration of a postmarked stamp.

I recall email catching fire when we were in our twenties – in the early 1990s. I got my first PC in 1994. The web came on about the same time.

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“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”: This Novelist’s Reaction

Okay, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Read no more of this post if you have not seen the film, plan to, and care about this subject.

You can, of course, read on if you don’t care.😉

**********SPOILER ALERT**********
I REPEAT: LAST WARNING: Do NOT read on if you care about spoilers!

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We The “Peeple”

If you despise Facebook and don’t use it because you consider it too intrusive and even at times a bit, uh, creepy, well, brace yourself…. because as the Washington Post tells us:

Screen capture of the Washington Post.
Screen capture of the Washington Post.

I have no idea how many of you read me and never make yourself known. And that’s fine. That’s entirely your right, of course.

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Future Academics Will Find Lots Less Paper

Good morning. This might be called PART II to yesterdays’s post:

Screen capture of title of yesterday's post.
Screen capture of title of yesterday’s post.

That retired English literature professor’s disdain for “social media” embraced by “young people” led me to thinking. How much has changed in novel writing over the last few generations. One aspect of such change has zero to do with annoying kids insisting on using Twitter on holiday when, AS WE ALL KNOW, they should be sitting on Bournemouth Beach immersed in The Great Gatsby.

“The Great Gatsby” first edition cover, 1925. From Wikipedia.

I don’t write my novels longhand. True, there is nothing new in someone doing that of course. We know typing has been around for over a century.

But a typewriter is just another form of physical writing. What’s changed in the last two generations is increasingly everything is on computers. And those computers are becoming ever more sophisticated.

As you may know, I’ve been proofing the Distances manuscript using a Word file emailed to my Kindle. (The last part of that sentence would’ve totally baffled F. Scott Fitzgerald.) I’m not inking out lines and words and scribbling in planned changes above them or in the margins and handing those changes to my devoted secretary…. who is invariably a lovely, ever-helpful woman who works for close to nothing because I can barely pay her, and she can type, because, being a man, as you know I’m a pathetic typist….

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“You kids….and get off my lawn too!”

In a world full of young adult fiction readers who are also “social media” users, who could seriously argue the likes of Twitter are destroying novel reading among the young? For the two streams of entertainment aren’t mutually exclusive: reading a novel is one thing, while networking and socializing is another. Most people can walk and chew gum at the same time.

However, this retired English literature professor lumps them together:

Screen capture of the Daily Mail.
Screen capture of the Daily Mail.

His summation of novels in single tweets is amusing. However, his tweets are obviously not replacements for reading the full novels themselves. That said, I’ve also never seen the issue positioned before in that thrown back on itself manner.

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The Office

Like great athletes, we world changing novelists have our writing superstitions, peculiarities and habits. I’m discovering mine include “routine” and “order” – which I sorely miss when I lack them. Meaning this is just not gonna cut it for much longer:

The heart sinks a little. What will be the office. Trowbridge, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]
The heart sinks a little. What will be the office. Trowbridge, Wiltshire. [Photo by me, 2014.]

Ahhhhh! That’s to be our office here! Eventually!

I’m trying desperately to finish the sequel. Sigh. In recent days, I’ve been working (when I can) on the last bits on a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 – a nifty device that is part PC/ part tablet. Unlike iPads, it has Word, which is indispensable. It also has Flash; again, iPads don’t.

You may think you don’t “need” a PC anymore, but you do. We also don’t have proper broadband yet either. (Sky says that’s coming Monday.) So I have to use mobile internet, which flickers… 3G to 2G, to GPRS, to E and back to 3G, and so on…. unpredictably.

But I have also learned that the other day I had a paperback sale out of our friends’ Chipping Sodbury shop! I won’t mince words: when people buy your work, it’s an immensely satisfying feeling. You must be doing something right!:-)


The Winds of War novel arrived on Sunday. More reading! Lots more!

The Winds of War,
“The Winds of War,” by Herman Wouk. [My photograph.]

The first order went astray, so Amazon.co.uk dispatched another. The historical timeframe in which Winds is set got me thinking about how, pre-internet, pre-blogs, I’d have informed you I’d received the book at last. I might have sent you a telegram:


Telegrams were once probably the best means for non-telephonic near instant communications. They were common pre-war and during World War II. How quickly we forget.

And, if I recall correctly, they were used in Winds. You paid by word, so tried to keep messages concise. This below is a classic about how a telegram could be “misunderstood.” In 2013, the BBC told us:

A reporter wanting to know the age of actor Cary Grant sent: HOW OLD CARY GRANT.

The actor’s supposed response?


Hilarious. A bit of a smile for a Monday.:-)