Last Friday, 4 January, I had the privilege of giving my ‘Latecomer Novelist’ talk to the Redhill and Reigate U3A group at Park Church in Reigate. I can’t remember feeling more at home among a group of people I hade never met before. I was welcomed by Lynne, who showed me where to park and even help me carry my books into the hall. Mike, the president, also made me welcomed and I spoke, before and after my talk to a number of members about writing and getting published.
The talk seemed to go down well and my sincere thanks are due to Elizabeth who organised my visit, Mike and Lynne and all other members present who listened so patiently and, of course, all those who bought copies of my novels. So, as a result of my visit, I’ll be donating £16 to the Rotary Charity, ‘End Polio Now’ which the Bill and Linda Gates Foundation will make up to £48 in the fight to eradicate polio
This is a nice little story. My son lives in a quaint, pretty little village in Northamptonshire called Kilsby. It’s about 5 miles north of Daventry. It has a new village shop managed by a lovely lady called Andrea. A week or two ago my son went in to buy some supplies and overheard a conversation between Andrea and one of the volunteers, a lady called Margaret who was telling Andrea that all she wanted for Christmas was a nice young man to take her for a ride in his Rolls Royce.
Out of earshot of Margaret, who is in her eighties by the way, Greg told Andrea that his dad was coming up to stay with Greg and Sue for Christmas and that, although dad didn’t own a Rolls Royce he could do at least as well by taking Margaret for a run in his Bentley.
So much to Margaret’s astonishment, dad turned up on Christmas Eve and took Margaret for a little run, only about 5 miles but Margaret was delighted. She wouldn’t stop talking the whole ride and I bet she’s told everyone about how her Christmas wish came true – well, almost! And maybe she was hoping for a younger man!
I was so pleased with the signing I did on Friday at WH Smith’s busy store in Sutton High Street. Once again I met some very interesting people. A lady from Sao Paulo, Brazil bought a copy of ‘Expulsion’ and told me all about her home city. A kind gentleman bought not only a copy of Expulsion but also one of ‘The Harpist of Madrid’ a number of which the shop had in stock. A lady whose daughter might want me to help her publish her novel also stopped by and told me about her daughter’s novel and the problems she’d had with her publisher.
So many thanks Simon Bruckland, the store manager for allowing me to do the signing in his shop and to Dawn his supervising member of staff who set me up and encouraged me! I managed to shift 16 books altogether, a good few hours work and a pleasure to be there!
I’ve had a very busy time in the last week and a bit. It started with three sessions of signings of my latest – ‘Expulsion’ – in the WHSmith store in CenterPoint in Wimbledon. And what an amazing three days they were!
I met some incredible people. A lady from Finland told me about how her family survived the second world war by speaking Finnish in the concentration camps. An historian related his theory of the identity of a queen in the Bayeux Tapestry. He’d written a very informative article about it, a copy of which he brought in for me the following day! A Japanese lady whose son is at King’s School wanted my advice on studying for a degree in physics which is what her son wants to do.
The fourth signing was in the WHSmith flagship store in Kingston-Upon-Thames. Again a fascinating day on Saturday. I spoke to the Headmistress of Cheam Infants School which is just around a couple of corners from where I live in Worcester Park. Her husband, also there, is an accomplished golfer! A gentleman who works for Penguin Random House stopped to speak. And I spent some time talking to a lady who is Marketing Director for a firm which makes and sells advanced cyber security systems.
Amongst all this chat, I actually sold all but 60 copies of ‘Expulsion’ in the four sessions!
So many thanks to Alex, the manager of the Kingston store and his wonderful staff as well as to store manager Ashley in Wimbledon and to his equally brilliant people, for making me so welcomed and giving me the opportunity to do these signings in their stores. Thanks also to all those folk who stopped to talk to me … and of course those who bought copies of ‘Expulsion’!
On Friday I’ll be in WHSmith’s store in Sutton High Street from about 10.30 until 4pm.
Welcome back to my website and hello to anyone visiting for the first time!
As my followers already know, I’m a member of Nonsuch Rotary Club which serves the community in and around Sutton, Surrey.
Well, tonight we start our Santa Christmas collections. We have the real Santa Claus, fresh from the North Pole, on the back of our lorry and go around many roads in Worcester Park making quite a noise broadcasting Christmas carols and collecting from the generous occupants of the houses there.
Just to let you know, I shall be the driver! You can follow Santa, and therefore where I am by clicking on http://www.nonsuchrotary.org and clicking on the ‘Follow Santa’ link at the bottom of our web page. The site also tells you in advance where we will be over the coming two weeks! Last year we collected over £10,000 pounds and are hoping to make £11,000 this year
So see you, tonight, Tuesday night and Monday and Tuesday nights of next week! This is a ‘not to be missed’ experience for all the young children in our area.
Last week, a several of us Nonsuch Rotarians headed off for Portsmouth to visit the Historic Dockyards in Portsmouth. What an amazing day. I’d never been there before but Chris F, our in-house historian did brilliantly as our guide.
Our first stop was HMS Warrior a stunning iron hulled ship built in 1860. She is a true knockout: an actual warship and the very first of her kind. I’ve never seen as many cannons, small arms and swords on any ship before and couldn’t believe her colossal size. She’s powered jointly by steam and sail with retractable tunnels to reduce drag. What an innovation!
Then to see the war torn sail from Nelson’s flagship and then to HMS Victory herself. Such an elegant looking beast: we didn’t go aboard but are sure to at our next visit!
The Mary Rose was our next stop and what an incredible achievement to raise this 16th century wreck from the Solent and preserve her in all her glory. I was simply incredulous at the huge range of items brought to the surface with her: weaponry, including cross bows and arrows, cooking utensils and a whole cooking range; clothing, furniture and not least a complete skeleton of the ship’s dog.
The day was far from over as we left the Dockyard and headed for The Lighthouse concert hall in Poole to watch and listen to the Bournemouth Symphony perform Bruckner’s magnificent 9th Symphony, one of the best symphonies ever written, in my view, and ‘one of the greatest achievements of the human mind’ according to Terry Barwell, the author of the programme notes.
The five of us who went to Finland in 2015 to celebrate Sibelius’s 150th anniversary met Terry there along with a schoolboy friend of mine, David Billinge, from Poole Grammar School and, surprise, surprise, we met the two of them again at this concert!
An brilliant day out, despite the late night homecoming!
Yesterday, I did another of my book signings in WH Smith’s store in Sutton High Street and what an interesting time it was. It was for my third novel, Expulsion. My first sale was to Phillip N, a fascinating character and the son of one of my Rotary Club (http://www.nonsuchrotary.org/) friends. He didn’t know I’d be there and I was totally surprised to see him. We had a good old chat before he left with his signed copy.
Another interesting man was a guy who told me he was 86 and who had lived as a child through WW2. He said his family were pressing him to write a biography but he hadn’t and probably wouldn’t. I told him that if he did, as a publisher myself, I could probably get it into print. ‘You’ve inspired me to do something,’ he said. ‘So now I’ll have to buy your book!’
A charming young lady from Albania (or was it Armenia?), accompanied by her two daughters also bought a copy. That’s her with me in the picture taken by one of her daughters.
A kind and generous lady, called Diane, also bought a copy. And what a co-incidence: I met her again in Marks and Spencer’s on my from the signing! She said she’d let me know what she thinks of the book and I’m sure she will!
I met lots of other lovely people too, many who bought the book and many who just stopped for a chat, like a guy who wanted to learn Spanish and a lady who is a physics teacher at Carshalton High. She had trouble believing that I used to teach physics myself once!
So thank you again, Simon Bruckland, the store manager and his friendly, encouraging staff for another great day in your store. I’m dying to get back to do a pre–Christmas signing, probably in November. And thank you all those discerning readers who bought a copy of Expulsion!