And Meanwhile…

… now we’re beyond the wedding I can turn my attention to publishing my next book, a contemporary magical mystery romance called

The Art Of Spirit Capture

It’s all edited, read and re-read and will hit your bookshelves on 17th October. It will be available for pre order as an ebook shortly. Meanwhile I need to sort out the paperback formatting so I’ll probably dip out of blogging for a few days.

Here’s the cover

And here’s the blurb

Jason Hales is at his lowest ebb: his brother is in a coma; his long-term partner has left him;
he’s been sacked; and Christmas is round the corner to remind him how bad his life has become.
After receiving an unexpected call telling him he’s a beneficiary of his Great Aunt Heather’s
estate, he visits the town he vaguely recalls from his childhood, where his great aunt lived.
Wanting to find out more, he’s soon sucked into local politics revolving around his great
uncle’s extraordinary glass ornaments, his ‘Captures’, and their future.
While trying to piece his life back together, he’ll have to confront a number of questions: What
actually are these Captures and what is the mystery of the old wartime huts where his uncle
fashioned them? Why is his surly neighbour so antagonistic? Can he trust anyone, especially
the local doctor Owen Marsh and Charlotte Taylor, once a childhood adversary, but now the
lawyer dealing with the estate? His worries pile up, with his ex in trouble, his flat rendered
uninhabitable and his brother’s condition worsening. Will Christmas bring him any joy?
Set in the Sussex countryside, this is a modern novel with mystery, romance and magic at its
core, as well as a smattering of hope, redemption and good cooking

Some of you kindly offered to host a guest post to be tied into the launch. Now I have that date, perhaps you’d confirm if that works for you still. Either in the comments or via mail on glepard@saqnet.co.uk.

Hope you’re all as excited as me…

And thank you all, for reading, for supporting and encouraging my writing. It wouldn’t be half as much fun without you all.

And the wedding…?

Two families intertwined…

Posted in Books, miscellany, publishing, writing | Tagged , , , , | 32 Comments

A Transformation

Over the last three years we’ve worked to transform various parts of the garden. One bed, originally called the Hot Bed because it was always in the sun looked like this. It’s the bed on the right of the old arch, with roses and crocosmia and a mess of other plants. The triangle bed on the left was for roses and weeds (those pots of fox lilies and hostas were temporary to hide a multitude of sins)…

Oddly, there are very few photos of either bed; they were both rather… meah…

Then in the winter of 2019…

We began the big dig….

We removed the arch, dug out both beds, removed a tonne of bindweed and reached the underlying London clay… and we had the odd weather delay. We did successful replant the roses and a few peonies that had been there years.

Gradually we created a space. For 2020 (as we hit the buffers of Covid) our plans revised to grow veg…

The other, triangular bed had a makeoever too

Poppies!. All from seed saved from previous years. It allowed the clean up of the weeds to be given a second go – with bindweed you always miss some first time around. Second too in truth.

The veg was going great guns, but it’s a lot of work…

And the crops were splendid

And the triangle bed, after the poppies finished became…

The sunflower bed!

As 2020 ended we thought we’d let these beds go, have a rest while we decided on their future. Oh sure… ‘Dad, about our wedding…’

We striped them and threw down a tonne of poppies… just for some spring colour

Meanwhile we grew over 2000 plants from seed… (well, the Textiliste did).

Then in mid June and sacrificing the seeds (we have plenty) we stripped them all out, threw down packets of wild flower seeds and plugged in some of the seedlings (corncockles and straw flowers mostly) as well as dahlias in the triangle

June led to July and we played games with nature to hold her back; the cold she supplied and the rain helped – thanks Mother N!

August, the month of the wedding: had we held it back too much…?

No, we just about got it right…

And since the wedding?

It keeps getting better and better. I think the happy couple were pleased…

Posted in gardening, miscellany, weddings | Tagged , , | 32 Comments

The Genesis Of An Epic #blogbattle #storyideas

This month’s #blogbattle prompt is ‘precious’ and if you want a go, here’s the link.

Gollum Prendegast stared out towards the less than Misty Mountains and yawned. The sun beat down on Middle Earth, creating a dusty haze. Boring. Even the streams were barely a trickle. Nothing ever happened, he mused, not in Middle Earth. He often wondered if life was more exciting in Upper and Lower Earths, if there was more pizzazz, more… everything. What was the point of living amongst elves and dwarves and men and those godawful smelly hobbits and everyone just got on with their lives. Like that’s all that mattered.

‘Gollum, where are you?’ Mrs Prendegast appeared at the kitchen door scanning the yard for her lad.

Gollum tried to shrink below her eye-line but like mothers everywhere across the centuries she knew exactly where he was, pulling him from the Myrtle bush by his elongated ear. ‘You hiding from me, my little precious? I’ve a job for you.’

Gollum’s already sloping shoulders sagged. Why did she insist on that name? ‘Yes, mum.’

‘Go down to the river and fetch some water. The pump is playing up and all I’m getting is sludge.’

Gollum took the proffered pail and headed off. Yes, he understood sludge. That was all…

‘Helloooo!’ The cheery voice was such a contrast to Gollum’s miserablist thoughts that he wondered if he was dreaming. ‘Yes, you there. The lad with the eyes like poached eggs and… are they ears?’

Cheeky sod, thought Gollum though he recognised himself. ‘Yes, what?’ He chipped.

‘Oh sorry to have stretched your haemorrhoids I’m sure,’ snarked back the stranger. ‘I’m a stranger and I wondered…’

‘No.’ Gollum turned away, heading off toward the river bank. ‘I bet he’s some crook,’ he mumbled to himself.

The stranger had an odd lopping gait but he moved quickly to Gollum’s side. ‘I’m a scribe,’ he said, in a voice that, to Gollum sounded rather desperate. ‘I’m Tolkien.’

Gollum sniffed. ‘Doesn’t pay.’

‘No, it doesn’t. I could get good money translating the Elvish Book of Doom, but I prefer fiction.’

‘Eh?’ Gollum looked at the stranger like he was bonkers.

The stranger mirrored Gollum’s expression. ‘Being a scribe. It doesn’t pay.’

Gollum shook his head at the stranger’s obvious lack of intellect. ‘I meant being too keen doesn’t pay, not in my experience.’

‘Too keen?’

‘You said you were too keen…’

‘I…’ the stranger gave what may have passed for a laugh indoors with the kettle on but out here it could easily have attracted several mammals seeking either a mate or some food. ‘No, my name is Tolkien. Not too keen, though some have accused me of a tincture of boyish enthusiasm.’

Gollum turned away, bored already. ‘Why not use your given name? Be less confusing.’

‘Oh sure.’ The stranger clearly wasn’t put off easily, ‘Which of Jerkbuttock Ripefanfango Ribbaldtit would you suggest?’

Gollum pondered. ‘Maybe your initials?’

The stranger nodded, giving this some thought. ‘Might work. Thanks.’

‘Your welcome.’

They’d reached the river bank. It was very nearly dry. The stranger watched as Gollum scrambled to the trickle and dipped in the pail. The scribe said, ‘If you like I could include you in one of my stories. Make you famous. Sort of a hero.’

Gollum peered bleakly at the stranger. Tosser, he thought. ‘Yeah, that’ll work. I’m the dullest person I know.’

‘No, come on, everyone has something interesting,’ prompted Jerkbuttock.

Gollum pondered the idea. ‘I found a ring once. Had this inscription.’

‘Oh yes? What did it say?’

‘Made for Ratners. Cheap crap if you ask me.’

‘I’m sure I can include you in my next epic.’

Gollum scraped at the last drops of water and straightened up. ‘If you do, make me a baddy, will you? They always have more fun.’

The stranger nodded as he turned away. This morose creature was getting him down. A ring. Maybe it could be a romance. ‘What’s your name?’ He called over his shoulder.

‘Gollum.’

The stranger sighed. Yep a baddy and with a name like that no happy ending. Though perhaps he could still be a hero of sorts… He wandered off seeking new ideas and some shelter from the sun. Ahead a group of dwarves marched in line, shovels over their shoulders. He hurried towards them. Maybe they’d have some stories he could nab.

Posted in #blogbattle, creative writing, miscellany | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments

Bosom’s Bounty #writephoto

I’ve had a second go at this week’s #writephoto prompt here

The whole village turned out. Pollop on the Nadge had never seen the like. It was quite the thing even if more than a little disconcerting. The last to bed on the Friday, Dennis Pubes who always watered his mechanical gerbil last thing at night swore that there was nothing on the village green and despite his predilection for a bed time creme de menthe and maple syrup hot toddy, he assured one and all that he was clear headed. However when the preternaturally early riser, Petunia Epiglottis set out to walk her dog, Master Bates, named after her favourite cartoon character and not its love of pinstriped trouser legs, the village green was no longer empty.

Millicent Loin proffered the opinion that it was an act of ‘lefty vandalism’; Major-General Sandstorm Reticent thought it was a cunning device to secretly house asylum seekers under their noses; and Armand De Necque-Brace tried to convince one and all that it was a doorway to an underground bunker where illegal though strangely titillating experiments were being carried out on Mexicans.

It was the paperboy and part time cabbage painter, Dobble Double who voiced what became to be the accepted wisdom. ‘A time machine.’ His theory was based on an old photograph of the village taken after the celebrations for the victory in the Battle of Jenkin’s Ear It was agreed that a guard would be maintained day and night to ensure that whoever first used the time machine was properly welcomed in a traditional English village way: sticky cake, scalding tea that covered the drinker’s teeth in tannin and a free go on Mrs Rhomboid’s zesty tombola.

After three weeks with no sign of activity the local entrepreneur and kisser of frogs, Bosom Underwired approached the chair of the parochial parish council with a proposition: if no one was coming to Pollop, then Pollop needed to draw them in. ‘If we advertise we’ll get visitors, people who’ll use the shops, bring in money, fame, kudos…’

Several members were unsure. Visitors weren’t universally welcomed but few people could resist Bosom’s blandishments. It was easy to become enveloped in her enthusiasms which had been known to strain relationships and cause temporary deafness.

So it was that crowds began to flock to Pollop and camp around the now accepted time machine. That is until…

‘Hermione Athena, where have you put you doll’s house furniture?’ Number 24 Olympus Drive in the foothills of the gods’ domain and home to Atlas and Pallas Athena and their children Horace and Hermione was in a ferment. Pallas was cleaning in expectation of a visit from her uncle Zeus. While not fussy as a rule, if Uncle Zeus saw a mess he had a tendency to reduce it to smouldering rubble and she had just had her Valhalla decorated.

‘Mum… it’s all put away.’

‘So what’s that on Horace’s planet?’

Hermione and her mother peered at the hive of active around Pollop on the Nadge.

‘That’s the bandstand you second cousin Achilles gave you isn’t it?’

‘I didn’t put it there, Mum. Horace has been messing…’

‘Oh for pity’s sake,’ Athena smiled at the gawping multitudes who had frozen in a series of terrified poses as the God’s carefully manicured through huge hand reached down and plucked the bandstand from the centre of the village green. ‘Sorry, this shouldn’t have been put there. I’m sure the grass will grow back.’

She put the model bandstand in the toy box, making a mental note to ask Horace why his people seemed a little disappointed to see her. Normally the appearance of a god-person triggered an outburst of awe.

Meanwhile in Pollop, the denizens and visitors were struck dumb. Everyone that is except Bosom who happened to be recording the event and had captured the god’s intervention. One thought cascaded through her head as she played back the recording. Money.

Posted in #writephoto, creative writing, flash fiction, humour, miscellany | Tagged , , , | 16 Comments

And Breathe…

And so a week on and we can put up our feet and cook our toesies…

Posted in weddings | Tagged , | 20 Comments

Toilet Terrorism #writephoto

This week the #writephoto prompt is

Ambrose Porcelain rubbed the dirt off his fingers and stood back, admiring his handiwork. The subtle metalwork, the discreet plumbing, the sheer chutzpah, the…

‘Oi, sonny.’

Ambrose spun round. The dawn light was barely making shadows across the neatly trimmed park grass yet the figure running… no, barrelling given its spherical nature… toward him was both as unexpected as it was familiar. Constable Risible Erratique had an impressive girth, if you were auditioning to play one of Holst’s planets but not if you were aiming to arrest the Toilet Terrorist, the Peter Pan of Pissoires.

Ambrose bent to his trolley and turned to where he’d left his van. He knew he could get away; he’d outrun Erratique at least three times but now he hesitated. After all this was his last commission, his final creation. The Banksy of Bogs was about to unannonymise himself and why shouldn’t the Persistently Perspiring Policeman be the first to know. He put his tool bag down and waited.

When, finally Erratique arrived at Ambrose’s side he was both red in the face and blue in the gills. To say he was breathing heavily would be as unnecessary as saying politicians oozed insincerity. Ambrose waited for the Bobby to regain a semblance of composure. And he waited. In the end he led Erratique to a nearby bench and offered him a somewhat moist hobnob and swig of water.

Erratique looked up at the unprepossessing youngster. ‘I thought you’d be taller.’

Ambrose shrugged. ‘I thought you’d understand.’

‘Me?’

‘They’re for you.’

‘Me?’ he squeaked again.

‘Not just you, people like you. Outdoors people.’

‘How does building…’ Erratique fumbled for his notebook, ‘twenty seven illegal urinals…’

‘Twenty-eight. There’s one in the gardens to Buckingham Palace. I imagine their security people didn’t want it known, but by all accounts the gardening staff are grateful.’

‘Right,’ Erratique made a hurried note, ‘twenty eight obscene…’

Ambrose half stood. ‘They’re beautiful.’

Erratique stilled him with a restraining hand, looking at the neoclassical structure. ‘As a bandstand, yes, but as a place where any Tom, Dick or Harry… maybe Tom or Harry is better… where they can expose themselves to delicate sensibilities…’

‘In South London?’

‘I’m quoting the Tabloids. This ain’t France. You can’t take the piss out in the open like you can over there, you know.’ He scratched his chin, mumbling, ‘one minute you’re decapitating royalty, the next and every bloke is expected wave his wand for the world to gawp.’

‘The Tabloids said that’s exactly what I’m doing, taking the piss by building these under your noses.’

‘Figure of speech. Look, there’s laws on bog building, you know. Committees and wotnot. I agree they look fine but if you want to protect, why not do something useful? Like throw eggs at your MP.’

‘This is my preferred method. It’s satisfying and a relief, to be honest. Do you know how many times my mother made me pee behind a bush because either there was no toilet or she decided it was too dangerous because she couldn’t see who was inside it?’

‘I haven’t a…’

‘That was rhetorical. These open sided facilities mean mothers like my mother can allow their little jonnies to perform both discreetly and openly.’

‘Hardly discreet…’

‘Have you tried?’

‘No, but…’

‘I’ll show you. Hang on.’

Before PC Erratique could move, Ambrose was halfway to the new building. He slipped inside. Calling over his shoulder, he said, ‘you can still see me?’

‘Yes.’

‘But not what I’m doing.’

‘You’re not doing anything obscene?’

‘You’d not know, would you…’

A hand on his shoulder made him jump. Ambrose met Erratique’s sympathetic gaze. ‘You’d probably get away with this if you’d made it more…’

‘Discreet?’

‘British. You’re nicked, sonny. Come on, pop him away and we’ll get the bus to the Nick.’

Posted in #writephoto, competition, creative writing, humour, miscellany | Tagged , , , | 16 Comments

Post Wedding Garden

Funny thing, gardens. Put a marquee down and the grass squeaks and squeals like a tickled gerbil.

But plan all you like for the flowers to be at peak bloom on the big day…

And, bugger it, if they don’t explode into a fissile pandemonium of colour four days later… but Dog, I’m sure, appreciates it.

Posted in gardening, weddings | Tagged , | 56 Comments

How Inalienable Are Our Rights?

Some while ago, pre  Covid while in Edinburgh, we passed some EDL (English Defence League, for those readers who haven’t come across them who support a very narrow right wing xenophobic view of what it is to be English) people. If you wanted stereotypes there they were – shaven heads, aggressive tattoos, trainers, jeans and hoodies – two were even play wrestling in the street. Apparently they were from Sunderland. Why were they there? Did I really care? Nope. What was noticeable was that for the ten EDL members there were the same number of police. That is the price for hating what someone says but defending their right to say it.

Made me think about a history lesson years ago when we discussed Oswald Mosley and his black shirts and the introduction of the Public Order Acts in the 1930s resulting from his activities. How that must have jarred with the sense of freedom of expression that arose after the traumas of WW1. The fundamental right to protest was constrained because it was being violently tyi00abused. Let me quote here:

This Act created the offence of conduct conducive to breach of the peace. This section was repealed by the Public Order Act 1986. The offence under this section is replaced by the offence of fear or provocation of violence.

What’s wrong with this? The legislation also means political protests have to be approved by the police. No uniforms can be worn. On the face of it, having some controls to stop riots seems fair and thus far, with the possible exception of its use against some flying pickets in the 1970s and 80s, it doesn’t seem to cause much long term debate or  comment though it is always a subject that is ripe for debate. The recent overturning of convictions of those Extinction Rebellion supporters for blocking the Public highway is a case in point where the police’s application of its powers was criticised in the courts as effectively overzealous.

But the addition of conditions to widely drawn rights is something that generally disturbs me and is a hot topic: free speech and cancelling for one. I’m pro free speech and anti control speech. We need to offend, often. But we need to offend without seeking to cause violence. We need to tolerate more and respect less, perhaps.

Isn’t it odd (as in, it’s not odd at all) that once the changes are in place successive governments never repeal the laws that give government more control? 1986, the height of the Conservative’s power and they changed the law. Why? Because the 1936 Public Order Act wording was too vague to guarantee prosecution.

If you add conditions to an exiting position some future government, at the time of some unforeseen emergency, will be able to push the envelope further.  We’ve seen it with public right of protest, with habeas corpus (where recent governments, using the generalised fear of terrorism post 9/11 and 7/7 have sought longer and long periods to hold people without trial – A labour government proposed 90 days without charge which Parliament rejected albeit allowing 28 days which was bad enough -, the same government, incidentally, that supported the unconscionable incarcerations at Guantanamo, just to show it’s all about power and control and not about political persuasion – the left are capable of being as egregiously intolerant as the right), and with constant snipings at press freedom. On the other side there is the sanctity of life/assisted suicide debate, seeing to add conditions to free up a long held absolute restriction (and I accept some will argue that this is just as bad, given it opens the way to a future widening of the initially limited exceptions proposed).

I worry therefore about Covid laws. Will they go or be kept, just in case of another pandemic and used in unintended circumstances?

I accept nothing is inalienable.  Even the right to life where doctors can turn off machines that keep human husks alive  or deny possible medical treatments.

But hard won freedoms should be diluted little and with enormous care. It’s too easy to  slip into indifference and allow small erosions until it is too late.

Odd that those unappealing members of the community made me think about how their rights are curtailed and how we need to be very careful in how we justify that curtailment.

Odd too that it is a French man who nailed the basic concept when discussing free speech

‘Sir I disagree with what you say, but I shall defend your right to say it.’

Posted in miscellany, politics, thought piece | Tagged , | 24 Comments

The Dangers Of Digging #pictureprompt #carrotranch

Another prompt, this time from Dede and Kid and Pal over at the carrot ranch.

One hundred years after the final battle for control of the galaxy, the last remaining superhero had bowed to the inevitability of waning powers, changing tastes in graphic fiction and a congenital allergy to stretchy fabrics that triggered a series of unfeasibly large testicular goitres. He had subjected himself to gene modification transitioning into a hobbit-like cave dweller. Now the evidence of those epics battles – the increasingly large stage sets, the ubiquity of green screens and CGI beauty parlours popping up in every high street and mall – had almost all gone.

Thor’s hammer was a rather challenging roundabout on the A472 outside of Cirencester. Captain America’s shield formed the centrepiece of a somewhat tawdry water feature that visitors barely noticed as they passed the site of Magnetron’s final demise (marked by a two mile scar in the landscape and a tendency amongst boys born within a ten mile radius to effect an involuntary hair toss). David Banner’s underpants, so often shredded on transition to Hulk, were sold in small strips by the few remaining aficionados as modern day quasi religious relics. The only item that had retained any lasting affection was Wonder-woman’s tiara which had become invested with a mystical propensity to stop mansplaining.

These days, it was left to the archaeologists to try and uncover any remaining signs of the presence of the once ubiquitous superheroes. One group of determined detectorists had identified a site worthy their attentions. It didn’t take long for the first bespoke metal detector to beep manically. The team set to, digging carefully, their excitement growing. Finally one voice, at once reverent but also fearful spoke. ‘Is that Ironman’s mask?’

Before anyone could reply the eyes lit. ‘Mask? It’s more than a mask, puny person. It is I, Ironman, back from cryogenic preservation to save you from the barbarian hoards. I am…’

His next words were drowned out as, first one and then all of the diggers frantically shovelled the earth back into the pit. It took little time as they worked feverishly not stopping until the turf was in place and the site levelled.

For a while, no one knew quite what to say. Finally one querulous voice broke the silence. ‘Ironman? What a pillock?’

The accompanying nods were both sage and relieved.

‘Pub?’ Said another.

‘Too right,’ added a third.

‘Bit close that time,’ came another.

‘Maybe we should stick to Sudoku.’

Posted in carrot ranch, miscellany, photo challenge, prompt | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Scenes From A wedding, Part One, Breaking With Tradition

Posted in weddings | Tagged | 25 Comments