IMG_8374I had a great day today. Helen Ottaway, Karen Stewart and Sheila Hedges invited me to their On-Air Book Group and gave me the platform to discuss An Other’s Look and crowdfunding in general – and they gave a big shout-out for where to pledge. It was so enjoyable and I will definitely be listening to their book group next month.  Thanks to everyone at Frome FM for making me very welcome.

FromeFM is a Frome based non-profit community radio station run by Frome Community Productions CIC. Produced by over 100 members, it broadcasts new programmes every month online and on 96.6FM. FromeFM provides niche music programmes; Frome focussed debates and reportage; sustained support for and coverage of the work of community groups; and radio for children.

It’s just great.

Exploring the real world… crossing the bridge

April, 2018

I am more popular than I used to be. Friends and family who used to wince when they saw me now ask if they can visit for the weekend. They pop in on their way to Wales or Cornwall, or their yurt in Devon or their tepee in the Forest of Dean. I’ve had to buy extra bedding and a blow-up mattress just to keep up with demand. They bring their pets. Their children eat my biscuits. I can change a bed in under a minute.

My partner, Sally, wonders if my new popularity has anything to do with us moving to a town of genuine charm, in one of the most attractive parts of the UK, but I just smile when she says that. Popular people have to put up with these jealousies.

When our guests arrive I like to give them a tour of the town even if they don’t want one. And I always start with the town bridge. I say that three things are likely to strike them when they cross the bridge: (1) the piece of social history that is the old lock-up; (2) the glorious copper-gilt weather vane (aka the Bradford Gudgeon); and (3) the wing-mirror of a passing car.

Let’s face it, it can get a bit tight.

I suppose that’s the nature of old bridges – they’re narrow. Especially a thirteenth-century packhorse bridge that was widened just once in the seventeenth-century to accommodate ‘larger’ traffic. Seriously, what were they thinking back then? Surely they could have foreseen the mirror-to-mirror width of a modern long-wheel-base panel van.

As we cross the bridge I ask my guests to watch out for yellow jackets. Not the wasp variety, nor the cyclists who whizz past, nor even the fluorescent caterpillar of pre-school children who, from a distance, look like the Minions from the Despicable Me films; but the people in high-visibility yellow jackets who work to keep us safe.

The Lorry Watch volunteers.

The bridge has an 18-tonne weight limit. I know this because there are signs that say so on the roads that lead into Bradford on Avon – albeit a few are a bit bent and battered. And the Lorry Watch volunteers keep an eye on the traffic that crosses the bridge, just in case a driver has missed the signs and discovered that he or she are having to squeeze their fully-laden 4-axle articulated truck over a pedestrian-lined bridge that was originally designed for a horse and cart.

This is important work. I used to cycle in South London, along Streatham High Road, between Brixton and Croydon, and I know what it’s like to be up close and personal with a moving vehicle that is three hundred and fifty times heavier than I am. It focuses the mind.

The Lorry Watch volunteers are out in all types of weather reminding drivers of the bridge’s weight limit. I should imagine it’s a job that can be under-appreciated, especially by drivers who are trying to get from one point to another and have inadvertently strayed into their scrutiny. But I appreciate it, and I show my guests the work they do so that they can appreciate it too.

Back on the tour, we cross the bridge safely and I point out the shops, the churches, the parks, the canal, the river, the railway crossings, the restaurants and all the pubs. I talk in a loud, ill-informed, scattergun way that only a newcomer without any training in tourism can. Sally says that I’ll have them wincing again in no time. I say I want a yellow jacket.

For you to read

I’d like to tell you why I’m so excited by An Other’s Look that I can override my natural awkwardness and ask people to help me; why I am willing to thump the drum and rattle the cup and toot the whistle for pledges.

An Other’s Look is my second novel and builds on all that I thought I had learned when writing The Wrong Story. In this book I wanted to write about journeys and change and transitions, and I wanted to exorcise a few personal demons. I wanted the writing (and the reading) to be fun and I also had some unfinished business with three of the characters from The Wrong Story – Germaine, Tom and Gerard.

But two months into its writing I realised I hadn’t learned as much as I thought, and I had to go back to basics – and I mean basics: what the hell is a story anyway?  I knew where I wanted to go, I just didn’t know how I’d get there. As part of this reboot I thought I’d just let my characters talk and butt out while they did so. I’d let them chat to each other while I tried to figure out what to do.

But what happened was that their dialogue and interactions took over and drove the story forwards faster than I could type it. I’d found a working method that just flew. What emerged six months later was a story with plot lines that all converge on a lonely and isolated Spanish peninsula town called Las Sombras, in north-west Spain.

Hence the thumping and rattling and tooting. I can’t wait for you to meet these characters – the damaged academic, Germaine Kiecke;  the bereaved artist Tom Hannah and his new young muse, Alta; the Machiavellian Gerard Borkmann; the ageing voice-over artist Charles Cubberley, his Belgian wife Margot and his fellow actor and nemesis, Roger Pendleton; the sinister hotelier Rodolfo whose wife and father-in-law have both gone missing; his avenging sister-in-law, Luisa, and his wan, ghost-like son, Claudio. I even want you to meet the characters in Germaine’s parallel, augmented reality world of the Happy Family game.

After all, I wrote it for you to read.

(An Other’s Look is currently being crowdfunded by Unbound Books. You can pre-order a copy and support its publication by following this link.)

Frome FM (96.6FM)

If you fancy some lunchtime conversation, tune into the Frome FM Book Club (96.6FM or online) on Friday, 27th April, at 1pm. I will be talking about An Other’s Look and how I came to write it.

I’m doubly excited about this because we’ll also be discussing Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick and The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen. My book in such exalted company!

The Wrong Story Blog Book Tour

The Wrong Story, is going on a blog book tour. Here’s the poster with its itinerary. I’ve asked it to send postcards. Do you think I should have a tour T-shirt made up?

The Wrong Story Blog Tour Poster

By the way, if you want to help its sibling to get out there and join it, there’s still time to pledge for An Other’s Look at https://unbound.com/books/an-others-look/

An Other’s Look – The Journey So Far

If you’ve already seen this video on FaceBook and Twitter then I do apologise, but I like it so much I thought I’d share it with you.


Join the journey.

Exploring the real world… swimming

March, 2018

It’s been a very good six months since Sally and I moved to Bradford on Avon. We love the cheesemonger and the bookmonger and all the beermongers. We’ve been for walks, met friends and entertained visitors. But most of the time it has been autumn and winter, the seasons when frankly my body tries to hibernate. I move less and eat more – a lot more. There’s just something about the nights drawing in that brings out the biscuits.

However, now that springtime is more than just a rumour I’m in the mood to shift some timber. So much so, that I’m contemplating regular exercise – and not just a daily stroll to the newspapermonger either. I mean actual exertion.

But what exercise? I’m not a natural runner – I shuffle along like a stiff-legged zombie – and I don’t want to pay for a gym when there are so many tow-paths and riverbanks and woodland trails to explore, and although I like cycling it’s not in the Lycra, time-trial kind of way.

And then, while leafing through the Gudgeon, I was reminded that BoA has a swimming pool. I love swimming. I used to go all the time until about three years ago when I stopped and took up lounging around in the house instead. But in my mind I have always been someone who swims regularly. For me, a well-run swimming pool is like a well-run library, a social necessity. And BoA has both. What was I waiting for? I grabbed my towel and trunks and hurried out.

Once the librarian had redirected me, I arrived at the swimming pool and was shown around by a friendly and helpful pool attendant. There is a Main Pool and a Teaching Pool. The Main Pool is 25 metres long, has a proper deep end, and a lifeguard. There is also a sauna. This was going to be great. My plan was to knock off a quick 40 lengths, bound lightly to the sauna and then cartwheel my way home. In my imagination I was already cleaving through the water like a shark.

However, three years is a long time out of the water.

First of all, I got in at the wrong end, the deep end – the very deep end.  So there was more thrashing my way to the surface than I had envisaged. And once I was afloat and able to launch myself in the right direction, I remembered that 25 metres can feel longer than it looks. About a mile. I don’t know how long I took to reach the shallow end but it was definitely darker outside than when I arrived.

Not that such things matter. Swimming is a democratic pastime. Whether you are the gasping, pop-eyed piece of driftwood that I had become; or a hazard to shipping who veers diagonally across the pool on your back; or a person who glides side by side with a friend and chats with effortless ease as if relaxing on a sofa; or a splash-machine who attacks the crawl like you’re burying a bone; or a torpedo in the fast lane who really does cleave through the water like a shark; the pool is there for everyone.

After half an hour, I hauled myself up the ladder and tottered back to the changing room. I felt inspired. So inspired that I went back to reception and signed up for a year. What a great place to live. I went home, hung out my towel and… tucked into a plate of biscuits.

There are still a few more days before springtime.