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!
Hello everyone who has visited my site whether you are one of my many followers or whether you have just stopped by in passing.
I just wanted to thank you for your support over the past 7 years, that is since I started running this site. Since I started you have between you generated over 12,000 hits on the site. Truly amazing!
And an especial thanks to all those who, as a result, have bought one of my three published novels!
So thanks again everyone and I hope you will continue to support me!
On Saturday last, I had a very busy and interesting time signing and selling copies of my latest novel, ‘Expulsion’ in WH Smith’s modern store, in Wimbledon. It’s in the Centre Court Shopping complex.
Once again, I met some knowledgeful people who were only too pleased to stop by and talk about my books. One guy who used to own a pub in Ireland said he knew the writer Brendan Behan, who was a self confessed member of the IRA. A charming lady from India told me all about her son who is a fellow writer who lives and works in Dubai. He is about to publish his third novel. I explained that ‘Expulsion’ was my third, too! Another lady told me her brother-in-law is a nuclear physicist, as indeed I was early on in my career. We chatted quite a lot and she bought two copies, one for her husband and one for her brother-in-law as a Christmas present. So shopping early for Christmas!
So that you Ashley Keogh, the store manager, for kindly inviting me to do the signing in his store and all those people who chose to buy a copy – or more than one – of my book! Thank you also to Ashley’s staff who showed such interest and encouraged me!
Welcome to my web site or back again if you’ve been here before!
It was a real pleasure and privilege for me to have an other book signing on Saturday in the flagship WH Smith store in Kingston upon Thames. What a great day. I spoke to some very interesting people some of whom bought a copy of my latest novel ‘Expulsion’, which was the one I was promoting.
One lady came all the way from Adelaide, Australia – not just to see me of course – and promised to read it on the plane home! A lady called Stephanie was waiting for me when I came back from my lunch break. She was delighted that she caught me just before she’d almost given up and bought one unsigned. A guy called Noel stopped by and said he had to have a copy as he’d bought both my previous books at this very shop! The good news was that he’d read them and enjoyed them, just what a writer loves to hear. Another guy said he wouldn’t buy one because he bought one from me at my Christmas signing and gave it to his wife. He liked it, too!
So thank you, Alex Clayton, the store manager, and Karina Haughton-James, the supervisor, for inviting me, making me feel so at home and generally looking after me. And thank you all those enthusiastic readers who bought a copy of ‘Expulsion’.
This is the provisional title to my new novel. It is a sequel to my first, ‘The Harpist of Madrid’.
I thought I’d tell you about it, even though it’s not quite ready for publication. So I’m kind of ‘whetting your appetite’. It’s a crime thriller, set in seventeenth century Spain. It starts with the wife Juan Hidalgo, the lead character in ‘The Harpist’, attempting suicide. It then turns to the story of two women who investigate the death of Juan Hidalgo’s son while he was at university, sixteen years before.
You may well ask how a death which occurred sixteen years before can be sensibly looked into, bearing in mind the lack of forensics available all those years ago. But you’ll be surprised how realistic it seems when you read it!
Anyway, I thought it was time to let you know about it. I’ll write again when it’s in print and available!
I could not have been more welcomed than I was last Thursday (26 July) at Kingston-upon-Thames Rotary Club, who invited me along to talk about my latest novel, ‘Expulsion’. I was impressed by the sheer amount of work this club does for the local community and how well networked they are into local charities, schools and other local organisations in the Royal Borough, including the Chamber of Commerce and the Council itself.
I learnt all this from President Ann who has been in post less than a month. I was also impressed by the sheer number of lady members. Our club (Nonsuch Rotary https://www.nonsuchrotary.org/) ) has some way to go if we are to attract more female members but this club has achieved an almost 50-50 mix.
The venue for this lunch time gathering was The Antoinette Hotel (https://www.antoinettehotel.com/). The lunch was superb and served by the hotel’s friendly staff.
I thoroughly enjoyed my couple of hours at the club, including speaking to this very dynamic group. So thank you, Paul, for inviting me, Anne for hosting me and all those members who bought copies of my novels. I hope you enjoy a summer read!
On Tuesday, I had the privilege of giving a talk about my books – ‘A latecomer novelist’ – to the Kingston Branch of the NHS Retirement Fellowship. And what a lively group of individuals they are! It was quite an experience listening to their friendly and enthusiastic chatter and that was before the meeting even started.
Their secretary, Frances McMullen, introduced me and I spoke for about 50 minutes. I covered how I came to write my first novel (‘The Harpist of Madrid’); about how to write a novel; and how I got the book into print. I covered the things you need to do to be an author and went on to mention my second and third novels.
The talk prompted some original and amusing questioning, not least about how I conducted the research for this series of novels and how I set myself up as a publisher. One of the audience asked if she could put her sister into contact with me about publishing a book her sister had written. I agreed, of course.
I thoroughly enjoyed my session with this amazing group and wish them every success in the future. I sincerely thank Frances for inviting me, our family friend, Janet Sadler, for suggesting I talk to the group and all those members of the group who bought copies of my books. I hope you enjoy reading them!
A few days ago, I had the wonderful privilege of talking to a special group of people. They were the Parkinson’s Support Group of Epsom, Ewell and Kingston. I spoke about my books and how I came to write them. I called the talk, ‘If I can write a
novel, so can you’ and I truly believe that, given a little guidance. For example, what Stephen King says in his brilliant book, ‘On writing’.
I so enjoyed talking to this group who showed great interest in my talk and asked some interesting questions, some of which I hadn’t been asked before.
So thank you, Val, for asking me to your meeting and to all those of you who bought copies of my books.
Every year, our King’s College London PhD group have a reunion, somewhere or other, so far at various select venues in the UK. This year, Jenny Barnwell organised a great reunion at Simpsons (Michelin star) restaurant in Birmingham.
We had a truly spectacular meal in this amazing restaurant. As usual the best part was the company. There is nothing quite like being among friends. We exchanged experiences we had had since we met last year. Who knows where we’ll meet up in 2019?
Thanks Jen for choosing such a stunning place to meet!