It was a real privilege for me to give a talk, a week or so back, to Leatherhead Rotary Club who meet at the stunning Police Federation Headquarters in Leatherhead. What a friendly and welcoming bunch of people they are. They fed and watered – or rather beered – me in one of the nicest venues I’ve given one of my talks.
I spoke about ‘A latecomer novelist’ who is me, of course. I covered how to write a novel, how to get it published and how to promote it through book signings, the online media and giving talks such as this. And I introduced the members to Juan Hidalgo, the most famous but now forgotten Spanish composer of the 17th century. He is the subject of my first novel, The Harpist of Madrid.
So many thanks to Simon Edmands for inviting me, President Gary for introducing me and everyone else for making me feel so welcome as well as those of you who bought copies of my books! A great night to remember!
Who would have guessed that afer just over four years as a member of Sutton Nonsuch Rotary Club, two weeks ago I was inaugurated as president of the club. I regard it as a great honour and I’ll do my level best to serve the club well.
Last Thursday, and following my blog article of the week before, thousands of former Taiwanese government employees, civil servants, police officers, military servicemen, schoolteachers and many others, marched on the government offices including the office of the Prime Minister. Their aim was simple: to protest over the Taiwanese Prime Minister’s decision to cut all these retired and loyal servants pensions by a massive 50%.
What an injustice. How would any of us retired souls in the UK like to be treated in this way, especially after giving our working lives to the honest toil of serving our country. We wouldn’t endure it for one moment and we too would take up the cudgels of protest.
I make this personal appeal to President Tsai Ingwen. For the sake of your retired former servants, please reconsider the injustice that you have laid at their doors. Please do not inflict this misery upon them but find another means, perhaps by taxation, government savings or selling government assets, of solving the pensions problem. I’m sure you are an honourable person and will equally show your subjects the honour they deserve. We love the people of Taiwan and have many friends among them.
Today I had the great privilege of conducting a book signing in Waterstones in Sutton, the London Borough of which lovely Jan and I are residents and have been for the last 41 years.
Although the day started slowly – it took nearly two hours to sell one book – things really picked up after 2 p.m. and by the time I finished at 4, I’d sold 14 copies of my latest, ‘Expulsion’. As always on these occasions, I met some really interesting people. One lady lived in Andalucía and knew so much about the history of Spain in the 17th century, she made me feel quite humble! A French guy – on a zero hours contract with a local hotel – reckoned that the Jews were the main reason the Moors invaded Spain. I was quite taken aback by his theory but still didn’t believe him. A lady from Canada bought a copy. Her father lived in Valencia for much of his life and had Moorish blood from many generations back. She was almost in tears saying, ‘I just have to buy it’. Bless her.
So a big thank you to Katherine, the store manager who invited me to do the signing and to her wonderful staff who made me feel so welcome! And not least, many thanks to all those people who bought a copy of ‘Expulsion’. I hope you enjoy this unusual yarn.
Lovely Jan and I have many friends in Taipei, the capital of the great country of Taiwan, Republic of China. Many of our friends there are retired public servants including members of the security services, the military and the police. So you can imagine my astonishment and consternation when I learnt from one of my friends there that president Tsia Ing-wen has decided to half the pensions of these former loyal and hard working men and women. Something like a half a million will be affected.
The reason she gives is that the pension funds are losing more in payments than is being paid in. Surely there are other ways of dealing with this crisis. Taxing some of the richer companies in this prosperous country may be one possibility. Retired public servants there are, needless to say, totally outraged. There have already been countrywide protests, mostly in the capital but also in other towns and cities. A huge protest involving over a quarter of a million people is planned for 15 June.
All I can say is good luck to those intrepid protesters in the event of 15 June. If there is any justice on this issue, President Tsai will change her mind. We truly hope so.
You probably know from our previous blogs that our Rotary Club, Sutton Nonsuch, is twinned with Meppen Rotary, a great club in North West Germany. It hardly seems just over a week ago that a group of our German friends from the Meppen club came to visit us. In these exchanges we stay in each others’ houses and this year, Gerd and Helen and Irena came to stay with lovely Jan and me.
Irena, Gerd and me by the tree. Picture by Helen!
We had a great time as did all of the others. On the first day, we took our three guests to Denbies’ vineyard near Dorking and had lunch there. We also visited the art exhibition and bought some original paintings, one from Lita Rossier, a close friend of Janet’s and mine!
Brighton festival fun!
Before we went to a sumptuous dinner at John and Barbara Goodhead’s house, which…
Yesterday I did a book signing at the wonderful store that WHSmith have in the Bentall Centre in Kingston. I met some truly interesting people there, many of whom bought a signed copy of my latest novel, Expulsion.
One of the first people I met was a lady who loved Phillipa Gregory’s novels and quite took to mine, having read the first page. She recommended Patricia Cornwell’s book Ripper which connects this notorious killer with the painter Walter Sickert. A must read for me! A guy who also bought a copy had this amazing theory that Jimmy Saville was a member of MI5! I doubt it but a thought provoking view.
One of my afternoon encounters was with a man who knew a lot about nuclear fusion and the Thorium reactor. It turned out that he was a builder with a consuming interest in all things likely to help our survival on this planet.
Another man told me I was holding the book wrongly. He told me to hold it so potential buyers could read the title and see the cover, something I hadn’t thought of before, despite my twenty or so signings to date! I thanked him as he was about to leave the store. ‘By the way, what’s it about?’ he said. ‘The expulsion of the Moors from Spain, said I. ‘I’ll have it,’ he smiled!
A man in his sixties, I imagine, knew a lot about the Moors and their invasion of the Peninsula. We spent ages chatting about the ‘Reconquest’. I felt sure he’d buy a copy. Then he wished me luck and went. Five minutes later he re-appeared with his wife whom he’d told about Expulsion. ‘We had to come back to buy it. Dedicate it to Sue!’, he laughed.
And finally, a guy who said he was from Jamaica stopped by. I said I thought I recognised him. ‘You should,’ he said. ‘I bought a copy of your “Emerald of Burgos” when you did a signing upstairs in Waterstones about two years ago!’
Last of all, I thank Alex, the new manager in this flagship store for allowing me to do the signing and his friendly staff who helped me set up and encouraged me the whole time I was there. Many thanks to you all.
Hello regular visitors to my web-site, occasional visitors or those who are visiting for the first time.
This is to thank all of you for helping me achieve 10,000 hits on the site. The truly amazing thing is that you who have visited represent 93 different countries from all over the world. Not surprisingly, most who have visited are in the UK, my home country, but many of you are in places as far apart as Colombia and Mozambique, Angola and Ecuador, Latvia and Myanmar.
Since we started, over five years ago, I’ve put up 182 postings on the blog and I think you must have found them vaguely interesting to keep coming back.
So thank you everyone who has taken time out to visit the web-site and a special thanks to my followers and to Rohan Renard (http://www.360ripple.com/) who created the site for me.