August 2018


Crime fiction fans: Bromo’s back

Bromo Perkins returns.

The latest story in the ongoing investigations by Richmond’s favourite cynical sleuth will be available in paperback and to download as an e-book from next week.

All the heavy lifting has been done by the wonderful team at Design For Writers and everything has been uploaded to the international websites of Ingram Spark.

Ingram Spark will also be making both versions available through all the major websites and booksellers.

No matter where you live, copies will thus be readily available to order by logging in to www.ingramspark.com

Watch this space…..

Memoir dilemma: knowing when to stop

The rhetorical response to the unanswerable has traditionally been to ask “how long is a piece of string?”

An alternative, as recent experience has taught me, would be to comment “how long is a memoir?”

Having decided it was about time the work in progress was wrapped up, the sudden discovery of  another must-follow line of enquiry emerged. And it was too tempting to ignore.

A  report in the Plymouth Journal revealed that a great-great-great-great-grandfather  I had so far blissfully ignored had been swept off the landing stage at the Eddystone Lighthouse off Cornwall’s rugged coast by a freak wave. As the newspaper bluntly put it, he “sunk to rise no more”.

It was a story clearly needing further exploration as his death would inevitably have had a drastic impact on his wife, then eight months pregnant, and  their five  young children. Thus any thoughts of  signing off on the memoir were deferred yet again while these lives were researched.

Within two years 4x great-grandmother was listed as a pauper. With only a teenage son out at work, money was beyond tight.

Eventually, as others came of age, things improved. She took in a lodger (which has overtones of something else as he remained well beyond normal tenancies), secured an annuity and lived in reasonable comfort until the age of seventy-four, even employing a servant in her final years.

It was one more chapter crying out to be included in a book titled Celtic Skeletons.

But still the book could not be completed. That same day an email lobbed from a woman in Minnesota, USA.

She was a complete stranger. At least until I checked the family tree and found her to be not only a cousin but the daughter of a petty crook and long-term prisoner whose terms in and out of gaol and numerous appeals for release I had fully documented along with a home life that could best be described as tumultuous.

And here was his daughter, now about to celebrate her 87th birthday, thanking me for providing her with details of her family’s early years. To which she is adding several memories and personal details. 

It was a bonanza and a bonus for any memoir writer. Which is what makes it an endlessly fascinating and enjoyable field of writing endeavour – and why Celtic Skeletons remains a work in progress.

As long as a piece of string. 

Postcards No.7: at the crossroads on the Costa Brava

lloret-de-mar

An uncrowded beach, family-run inns and guesthouses, fishing boats and genuine local cuisine: a place familiar to millions but unrecognisable in this postcard scene from the 1950s.

There were none of  the earlier mentioned struggles of recollection when I turned to the next two postcards in my time-worn pile.

So much to remember here. So many highs. Such a crush of never-to-be-forgotten places, people, events and incidents enjoyed in a couple of weeks.

And memorable on a different level for being a time of decision-making; truly the crossroads on my journey through life.

One cannot help but wonder, and doubt, if the boozed-up thousands who nowadays

Lloret de Mar 2

Truly unspoilt: Lloret de Mar in the day before the tourist hordes.

throng the high-rises, restaurants, bars, discos and clubs of this grossly overdeveloped strip of once idyllic Catalan shore derive even a smidgen of the happy and abiding memories that have been mine for more than fifty years.

These were fifteen days of wonderment, unabated pleasure and a simmering of youthful romance.

It was where I learnt how to make a salad dressing – something in those austere days unknown and almost unheard of unless it oozed as a thick cream from a Heinz bottle.

This was thanks to another lone, but more worldly, traveller living in our small guesthouse only a few steps back from the beach. He called for vinegar, olive oil (surely to be used only for medicinal purposes), a shallow dish and condiments.

I watched fascinated as he melded them into an unctuous concoction, part of which he spooned over our salads and the remainder he invited me to use as a dip for chunks of newly-baked bread.

It was my initiation into a world of food I never knew existed and which has given me lasting pleasure ever since.

The culinary wonderment continued. As the message on one postcard naively notes, “I had a meal the like of which you’ve never seen, consisting of prawns, shrimps, mussels and squid in a rice dish plus chicken. Paella it is called.”

I also commented, “The way these people eat is unbelievable.”  A comment probably resulting from a visit I made to the legendary Los Caracolas (Snails), already then more than a century-old and still today the haunt of the world’s movers and groovers.

Somehow its status among the rich and famous passed me by; I was simply in awe of the setting, the atmosphere  – and the food. This was fine dining in extremis, but done with not a single hint of snobbery or elitism. How could there be when little ol’  twenty-something me from the back-blocks had not only passed through its doors but also could pay the bill.

These explorations into the culinary world were not the only steps into unknown territory. There was my first attendance at a bullfight  (okay, each to his own) and being enraptured by the whole extravaganza.  Call it my Hemingway period.  “Will go again,” said my postcard home.

Diane and Me, Lloret De Mar 1950s

Catalan cellar nights: with Diane [get that jacket and tie!!]

Then there were the night-time excursions into the cellar bars for copious wine and Catalan folk music. This was usually in the company of locals of my own age as I broadened my knowledge of the language that I had already been trying to learn back in England.

Again there was a wide-eyed comment on the postcard: “Just got in at 3.30 am – early by their standards.”  And again, “I’ve seen the fishing fleet return three times now at way past 3 am.”

Back then the local boats would pull up on the beach and unload a haul of anchovies. Today?

Nearly always throughout this Spanish interlude I was accompanied by Diane, a delightful young woman I had met back in Worthing. She worked in her family’s travel agency which was right at the forefront of  what became a massive explosion in packaged holidays.

Already they had built their own villa in the hills above Lloret as a base from which to run holidays to a handful of guesthouses in the area.  It took little persuasion to get me to book one of their Lloret de Mar packages, especially as Diane would be there to escort and guide me.

Coincidentally, not only had I been learning Spanish but also contemplating changing careers to become a tour host, preferably based in Spain.  The money was good, the commission a bonus and there was a long break in the off-season when I could teach English in Spain.

The two weeks in Lloret took me closer to making the change, especially when the involvement with Diane deepened (siestas at the hillside villa, Sunday family lunches at her home back in Worthing,  the hint of a job with the firm … and more, suggested Diane).

It was touch and go.

Then family intervened. Let’s just say mum and dad were not best pleased to have me decamp to live among a lot of foreigners, drifting around Spain, an uncertain income and, above all, that big no-no of “no security.”

Back then parental control and influence were far stronger. Not like these free-wheeling times when even pre-teens seem able to dictate terms.

So I relented and, as is often said, the rest is history.

But I can’t help wondering down what paths I would have wandered if I had followed my passion.  And what did become of Diane?

One thing is certain; I would be making a big detour around what the once alluring Lloret has since become.