Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Past

Funny thing about Christmas. When it's just gone you breathe a sigh of relief and wonder why you bothered, yet come next October you're planning the next one. At least, that's what it's like for me.

I've realised, over the past few days, that I rely too heavily on my grown-up children at Christmas. The thought that they might NOT come home for The Day turns my stomach to water and makes my blood run cold. Yet what happens when they've all got families and want to spend the time at home? Even my elder daughter brings her lot to my house on Boxing Day and we end up crammed into my small, cluttered house having to eat a buffet lunch because there's no room round the table.

My late husband and I hosted Christmas for my parents and his aunt and uncle (surrogate grandparents for the children) from very early on. There were the odd ones where we spent them with my parents or aunt and uncle, like the Christmas immediately after my father died, or when aunt and uncle were in Australia, but mostly it was everybody to ours! And they stayed overnight, too. It was easier that way, everybody could have a drink and the children loved it.

Later when we moved to Whitstable, we used to go and fetch Aunt on Christmas Eve (3 hour round trip) and take her back the day after Boxing Day. My mum was either living with us or up the road by then.

So, for around 35 years, I've had Christmas. The traditions grow up and change, inevitably, because I no longer have four children clambering into bed with me on Christmas morning. Instead, it's after we've had our first glass of fizz that we open our presents. And, for the last 23 years, we've had what started life as the Leftovers Party on the 27th, but is just Mum's Party now. The guest list has changed but there are always guitars involved. At least, I assumed so. But, again, I realised things have changed and there will probably be no more parties on the 27th.

And my children have changed. I now find the old role reversal in play, and I really didn't expect that until I was at least 75! But change happens, and we have to expect it and accept it. I suppose if I still had a husband it would be different, but I don't think there's any danger of a new one on the horizon at my age - would I want one? Er - no.

So I'll go back to being mad old cat lady who writes books. And try and ignore next Christmas until it thrusts itself upon me and I come out with the inevitable "Um, will you be here for Christmas Day this year?"

Funny thing about Christmas. Makes you think.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The Government's Wasting Money - What?

Well, there we are. We didn't get the World Cup. Oh, never mind, we're spending millions on the Olympics. Debt? What debt?

Oh yes, the Olympics are REALLY good for us. They're encouraging children to do better at sport. Local authoritites and schools are improving their sports facilities beyond imagining, not, it has to be said, just for the benefit of the children or the local athletes, but, certainly in my area of wealthy (ha!) south eastern Britain, because they want other countries to train in them. So, they are spending thousands, nay, millions, just at the time the Government, bless its cotton socks, has cut every budget possible.

No-one has yet explained to me why, when apparently we can lend Ireland millions, spend billions (non-recoverable) on the Olympics and spend a fortune on sending Cameron, Beckham and William to an expensive and failing jolly, the ordinary man or woman in the street, which is most of us, are going to suffer from the "cuts", in some cases to the danger of our health, homes and families.

And education? Fees? Don't talk to me about fees. I have one child who is still in debt - and will be for years unless she wins the lottery - and they want to charge more. And what is it Osborne keeps saying? It isn't a debt? It's just a future tax. Well, that's exactly what student debt is now, and we still call it debt.

Yes, cuts are necessary. But not wholesale. You prune a tree, you don't cut off all the branches at once. It certainly won't leaf, flower or fruit if you do that, not for years, and meanwhile you have disposessed hundreds of creatures, birds, insects and small mammals which will now die. Or just nip off to the next tree, of course, except that we don't have a "next tree".

Nick Clegg and his party have lost any credibility they may have once had, and might just as well fold their tents in the night and be gone. The Conservatives appear to be trying to return us to a class system moribund since World War Two. Labour - well, ants without an anthill.

I'm not a political commentator, but I have never felt this angry before. I'm a traditional English woman who loves her country, by which I mean I love our towns, our countryside, our seaside, our people and, in the main, the way we do things. When we're allowed to.

There was a lot of talk at the last election about "Using it or Losing it" referring to our votes. Well, if using my vote has resulted in this mess, I don't think I'll bother next time.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The Green Carnation Prize Winner 2010

The Green Carnation Prize Winner 2010
After many hours of discussion and lively debate (and not a tantrum in sight) the judges have managed to whittle down the five shortlisted books for ‘The Green Carnation Prize 2010’ and have come up with their winner…
Paperboy by Christopher Fowler
‘Superman, Dracula, The Avengers, Treasure Island...when you’re ten years old, you can fall in love with any story so long as it’s a good one. But what if you’re growing up in a house without books?
Christopher Fowler's memoir captures life in suburban London as it has rarely been seen: through the eyes of a lonely boy who spends his days between the library and the cinema, devouring novels, comics, cereal packets - anything that might reveal a story. But it’s 1960, and after fifteen years of post-war belt-tightening, his family is not ready to indulge a child cursed with too much imagination...
Caught between an ever-sensible but exhausted mother and a DIY-obsessed father fighting his own demons, Christopher takes refuge in words. His parents try to understand their son’s peculiar obsessions, but fast lose patience with him - and each other. The war of nerves escalates to include every member of the Fowler family, and something has to give, but does it mean that a boy must always give up his dreams for the tough lessons of real life? Beautifully written, this rich and astute evocation of a time and a place recalls a childhood at once eccentric and endearingly ordinary.’

The judges Paul Magrs, Nick Campbell, Lesley Cookman, Katy Manning and Simon Savidge have had a tough time: they thought any of the five books could have won, so it was no easy mission. Simon Savidge who will be taking over as Chair in 2011 said “it was such a difficult decision, each book had its own strengths. ‘God Says No for putting you into the mind set of someone I never thought I could understand and enraging you and making you laugh out loud, London Triptych for its characters (one of which might just be my favourite character of the year) and historical feel over the generations, Children of the Sun for being an importantly disturbing and shocking tale and Man’s World for its humour, emotion and more.’
Yet in the end they were all agreed that Paperboy, which is a memoir with a delightful fictional feel in parts as he writes in the voices of those he remembers. Paul Magrs Chair of the judges for 2010 said 'Paperboy is about the forming of a gay sensibility - but more than that, it's about the growth of a reader and a wonderfully generous and inventive writer. It's a great wodge of social history - of back-to-back houses, plasticine models and exercise books, and how Lois Lane's adventures were always more interesting than Superman's. It's modest, funny and brilliant.'

About The Prize
This year a new literary prize for works of fiction and memoirs by gay men was introduced… Judged by a glittering panel of writers, bloggers and readers ‘The Green Carnation Prize’ is probably the first of its kind in the UK and one we hope will go from strength to strength in future years to come…
The Green Carnation Prize was born when suddenly it was literary award season again and longlists were getting bandied about like crazy. And we thought – wouldn’t it be fun and great to do something a bit different?
And then we thought – there’s no prize yet for gay men’s books in the UK. That’s a scandalous thought. There ought to be something that celebrates and publicizes the breadth and variety of their work. Writing by gay men can be funny, exciting, harrowing, uplifting and challenging – and it can range right across the genres. It can also be created by men from all classes and races.
So here we are – this small panel of co-founders and judges – setting ourselves the somewhat daunting task of looking at what the queer fellas have brought out this year.
There’s no prize money in this… Maybe a bit of kudos for the winner! There’s simply our love and devotion as well, of course – and a bit of shouting about the writing we love. Maybe one day we’ll get sponsorship or something. We also hope we can draw attention to some great male authors that definitely need to be read no matter what your sexuality.
The Green Carnation Prize 2011
Yes, the winner of The Green Carnation Prize 2010 has only just been announced but already plans are in progress for the second year. Publishers will be being contacted with the new submission dates and deadlines after New Year and a new judging panel, with some familiar faces will be announced within the next fortnight.
You can find further information on the website http://greencarnationprize.wordpress.com including more on our delightful judging panel and further updates on events and additional announcements.
Contact Information
For further information, images or any other enquiries please email greencarnationprize@gmail.com

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Green Carnation, The Write Place and The Blue Bear!

The short list for the Green Carnation Prize has been revealed and garnered, again, no publicity from either the broadsheets or the trade press. What are they waiting for? The short list, a mix of debut novels and those more established writers, reflect the tastes of the judges and is as follows

Paperboy – Christopher Fowler (Bantam Books)
God Says No – James Hannaham (McSweeneys)
London Triptych – Jonathan Kemp (Myriad Editions)
Children of the Sun – Max Schaefer (Granta)
Man’s World – Rupert Smith (Arcadia Books)

All of us founder judges will be involved with next year's prize, for which we will hopefully have a sponsor. Will that make the meeja sit up and take notice? The winner will be announced on December 1st.

Last week I went to speak at The Write Place in Dartford where I baffled a crowd of aspiring writers with my in depth knowledge of publishing. Well, I told them a bit about how it happened for me, anyway. You would think, wouldn't you, that a train journey to somewhere only 45 minutes away by car would be easy. No. Two hours it took. How did two of my poor children commute there to college for two years each? Bless them. Anyway, thank you to Elaine Everest and Francesca for the bottle of wine, and Michael for the lift to and from the station.

Finally, I went to The Playhouse Whitstable last night with son Miles and daughter-in-law-elect Clare to see the great Arthur Smith supported, ably, by John Maloney, who made me cry with laughter. But however funny these gentlemen were, the high spot of the evening for me was when Arthur sang his traditional "Arthur (Simon) Smith and his amazing dancing bear" finishing song, and through the curtains came THE BLUE BEAR! This means nothing to anyone not connected to the theatre and pantomime, so I shall explain. Many years ago, A full size blue bear costume was given to the Playhouse and stored in the wardrobe. (Wardrobe, in this case, being a store, not a cupboard.) I was directing Babes inthe Wood, and inspiration struck. We would have the traditional ghost chase scene - but use the Blue Bear instead! And so we did. Stage manager Iris Manning donned the costume and the blue bear became a hit. I then used it in many more pantomimes and it suffered many indignities. It has been retired for many years now, so it was delightful to see it appear last night - and in such an illustrious presence! So thank you Pete Smith (no relation) for rescuing it and allowing its head to fall on yours. Much appreciated.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Guildford Book Festival and Cotswold Bookstore

Last week was notable for the mileage my little car got under its bonnet. On Tuesday, my daughter Phillipa (she who has just finished at the Royal Academy of Music. And is "resting") offered to get up at the crack of dawn - or before, actually - and drive me to the Guildford Book Festival, where I was on a panel with Linda Regan, my old Bad Babes buddy, Suzette Hill and chaired by Simon Brett. No photographs, unfortunately, but we had a good time and each received a bottle of wine for our trouble. Lovely to see Simon again, as we rarely cross paths, yet always come up together on Amazon.

Then on Saturday a friend offered to drive me to Moreton-in-Marsh, where the Cotswold Bookstore was hosting a launch/signing for my latest book, Murder Imperfect. Publisher Hazel Cushion, of Accent Press, was providing wine and nibbles. I am sad to say that the RAC route I downloaded before we left was - er - pants. We ended up in Cheltenham. Luckily, my son Miles telephoned to say good luck, and I was able to ask him to look up the book shop's number. They therefore knew we would be late.

When we arrived at this really lovely book shop, one window of which was full of my books surrounding a large version of the map Susan Alison created for them, I was greeted by a cheer and applause. The shop was packed, and I was set to signing straight away. I met so many lovely people (real ones, not authors) who all bought multiple copies of the books. However the treat for me was getting together with so many friends. In the photograph above, left to right, are Susan Alison (map creator, who signed books with me) Gilli Allan, Adrian Magson (crime writer and friend) Katie Fforde, her sister Jane Gordon-Cumming and publisher Hazel Cushion. This was taken by Tony, book shop co-owner, right at the end of the event after the wine had been packed away, and many friends had already left. Also there at some point were Anita Burgh, the writer who most encouraged me well before I became a novelist, Catherine Jones, some other RNA members and Maureen Vincent-Northam, another Accent Press author. I expect I've forgotten people, but it wa a bit of a blur, and Hazel kept me well supplied with red wine. (Surprise surprise.)

I was then presented with a beautiful bouquet and a copy of the new Justin Thyme book, and Hazel took me, my friend who drove, Adrian and his wife and Hazel's two daughters who had been helping with the event, to lunch in a lovely pub. We had a lovely, stress free drive home and I collapsed on the sofa. I felt like a star, and had the best time ever. So thank you to everyone who came, to Hazel for the wine, nibbles and lunch (and for being a fab publisher) and most of all, to the Cotswold Bookstore, Tony, David and Nina, for asking me.

This week, I'm off to The Write Place, Dartford, to do a guest spot. It's all go, you know.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Murder Imperfect is out!

Early, as usual. I only checked on Amazon because my friend Paul Magrs reported that his latest, The Bride That Time Forgot, due on October 28th, was there.  Never mind, at least that means it'll be available when I do the Crime and Coffee event at the Guildford Book Festival on Tuesday with Simon Brett, Suzette Hill and Linda Regan.

Also, next Saturday I have my very first proper launch/signing at the Cotswold Bookstore in Moreton-in-Marsh. A strange venue for books set in Kent, but they "discovered" me due to my similarity (!) to the Agatha Raisin books and I've sold quite well, apparently. They've done a feature window with a large copy of my lovely Steeple Martin map, specially done for me by the artist, Susan Alison. I'm going to bring it home and hang it on the wall.  I'm hopeful of seeing lots of friends at the signing, as there are many RNA members lurking in the Cotswolds. I've also been fortunate enough to secure a lift from a mad friend who doesn't mind leaving at 7 in the morning. Thank you, Peter.  This is A Good Thing as my lovely publisher, Hazel, is bringing wine and nibbles and I would have been seriously upset if I hadn't been able to partake.

The Thursday after that I am to be a guest speaker at The Write Place writing school in Dartford, on November 1st we are announcing the short list for The Green Carnation Prize and on November 11th I'm on a panel at the Folkestone Literary Festival with Thomas Emson (who happens to be married to an old friend, Marnie Summerfield Smith) and Danuta Kean, industry commentator and all round good person.  Finally, on December 1st we announce the winner of the Green Carnation, hopefully at the Cadogan Hotel. OK, who gets the connection?

So, busy, busy, busy and still trying to work on the second version of Murder to Music, which has to be with the publishers by the end of December (manic laughter) for publication on April 11th 2011. It is the first of the three book deal announced at the London Book Fair earlier this year and the cover is here:

Also, back at the London Book Fair, Hazel negotiated a deal with an Australian distributor, who reports that I'm selling quite well down under. That's nice. Also a new deal with a US distributor who is pushing me at the Americans.  All good. Why aren't I a millionaire?

Oh, and the other thing, my nice webmistress, Aimee Fry, has revamped my website for me, so if anyone reads this, could they let me know what they think? And of everything else, of course!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

The Green Carnation Longlist

On Tuesday evening, 31st August, the four judges of the Green Carnation Prize, (l to r) Simon Savidge, Lesley Cookman, Paul Magrs and Nick Campbell, met for dinner in Bloomsbury and decided, amid much wine and laughter, and a few differences of opinion, on the all important longlist. Here it is:

  • Generation A by Douglas Coupland (Windmill Books)
  • Bryant and May Off the Rails by Christopher Fowler (Doubleday)
  • Paperboy by Christopher Fowler (Doubleday)
  • In A Strange Room by Damon Galgut (Atlantic Books)
  • God Says No by James Hannaham (McSweeney’s)
  • London Triptych by Jonathan Kemp (Myriad Editions)
  • Mary Ann in Autumn by Armistead Maupin (Doubleday)
  • Children of the Sun by Max Schaefer (Granta)
  • Man’s World by Rupert Smith (Arcadia Books)
  • The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas (Tuskar Rock Press)
  • City Boy by Edmund White (Bloomsbury)
Congratulations to all the authors - and the publishers - and I wish you could all end up on the short list, which will be announced on November 1st.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Green Carnation

This week a new literary prize has emerged. It all started when the Man Booker long list was announced and a friend of mine, the writer Paul Magrs, whose review of Murder in Steeple Martin can be found through a link in a previous post, asked why there wasn't a prize for gay male fiction called (ahem) The Man Fooker Prize. Twitter took it up in a mild way, I of course, thinking it was a great idea, and then Paul said "You'll be a judge, won't you, Lesley?" And suddenly, it was real.

Over the week, Simon Savidge, London editor of Bent Magazine and a fellow judge, got together a website, Paul, Simon, I and Nick Campbell, the fourth judge, worked on getting the name out there and asking publishers and publications to back us. We began to get a cautious response, but, surprise, surprise, we uncovered a hitherto unsuspected nervousness among publishers. There were many reasons why, eventually, we were brought to accept that if we wanted the award to succeed, we needed to change the name. So we did. In a nod to the great Wilde it has been renamed ‘The Green Carnation Prize’. I am, naturally, very thrilled to be part of this, although my reading plans, especially when I'm on holiday in Turkey, will be severely compromised! Please, if you read my blog, put the word about. We will announce the winner, probably in London, on December 1st, World Aids Day. Watch this space!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Sometimes, nice things happen

This week, having sent off Murder Imperfect to my long suffering editor last week, I had a couple of days off, cleared out the office and the understairs cupboard and discovered I have a new deadline for a new book, Murder to Music, due out next April.

A few weeks ago, I sent a large parcel to son Leo in Manchester. It never arrived, and all attempts to trace it have failed. This morning - guess what? A large parcel in a blue plastic bag arrived addressed to the Occupier. Inside was my parcel - all wrappings ripped to glory, but contents intact. Well done - I think - Royal Mail. As one of the things in the parcel was a framed photograph of my parents before they married, I was delighted to receive it.

Another Nice Thing was, as Philly and her friends, Katie and Ender arrived on my doorstep this morning, so did the local paper. And there was a double page spread of the Marlowe Theatre pantomime, including Katie as Maid Marion, and in the blurb, Philly and I both get a mention. (Helps when you know the panto company's administrator.)

Leo in Manchester has sorted out his differences at work, and Lou is looking forward to her appearance at the Vintage at Goodwood festival in a posh frock. And the custom built guitar pedal I ordered for Miles's birthday (in May) has finally arrived. Sometimes, nice things happen.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Shows, Graduations and Conferences

Since my last post there have been three Notable Events. All of them in London and occasioning Very Bad Feet. The first was daughter Phillipa's final show at the Royal Academy of Music. She played Sarah Jane Moore in Sondheim's Assassins and was, of course, brilliant. So she can act, now? I couldn't walk the following day.

Next, the graduation. Held in St Marylebone Church, a beautiful building right opposite the Academy. Best friend Elly's dad Graham and I were the chosen two and travelled up at the crack of sparrows to be seated at 9. The ceremony began at 10 15, but we were entertained by the Academy's Brass ensemble, which was superb. Apart from the graduands, Fellowships and Memberships of the Academy were introduced by the wonderfully voiced John Suchet and we were treated to a terrific jazz tuba piece by one of the honours students. After all the pomp and circumstance everything went a bit to pot, as there were free drinks in the Duke's Hall. Needless to say, our little group, now enhanced by two other members of Philly's course, a twin and a mother, were the last to leave having consumed our own bodyweight in wine. We managed to get to Pizza Express to have a rather late lunch, then the proud graduands left to get ready for their ball (held in the Gorilla House at London Zoo???)

Due to this once in a lifetime experience I missed my grandson's fourth birthday and got into trouble with my elder daughter.

Finally, the RNA 50th Anniversary conference. Now, I know I don't write romance, but, as I've said before, most of my mates do. So off I went, again at sparrow's, and eventually dragged myself and case from Greenwich Station to the conference venue at the farthest point of the Royal Naval College on the hottest day of the year. I, my feet, knees and hips were complaining bitterly by this time and it was only ten o'clock! My friend Bernardine nobly agreed to show me where the accomodation was after lunch. This turned out to be In Greenwich. Not on site. Off we went. Then back we went to listen to the inestimable Carole Blake, agent extraordinaire (unfortunately not mine). Then, oh, my, back to the accomodation, whereupon Bernardine, Susan Alison (wonderful artist who drew the map for my books) and I decided to order a taxi to go to the Gala Dinner in The Trafalgar Tavern that evening rather than risk the hoi polloi of Greenwich - and the distance - in our finery.

It had been, apparently 32 degrees all day. If I could have gone home at that point, I would have done. However, the Gala Dinner was lovely, and although we didn't manage to make contact with many people (terrible crush, my dear) many friends were duly greeted.

The following day, in loose white and feeling like an Indian gentleman, off I went again on the long trek. Today, however, Bernardine, Susan, a friend from the US, Rosemary, and I appropriated a table in the courtyard and refused to move All Day. We remained cool. We attended no sessions, but received friends and admirers at our table with a gracious wave of our hands. We even decided not to go back to the accomodation before the evening bar and barbecue, also held in the courtyard. Altogether a more relaxing day.

Yesterday, morning spent in the courtyard, attended the plenary speech by Joanna Trollope, a lot of which I didn't agree with, (with which...Huh?) had lunch, back to the courtyard and then a lift all the way home with the lovely Jane Wenham-Jones, with whom I share a publisher. We shall be doing an event together for Ramsgate Arts on August Bank Holiday. Thanks, Jane.

Apart from the depredation of hips, knees and feet, three good events. If I receive any pictures, I shall upload them at a future time. I am also pleased to announce the return of son Leo to the blogosphere and online in general. And thank you, son Miles, for looking after the cats. And happy birthday Louise for tomorrow, July 13th.

Now back to the revisions.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


I am conforming to a stereotype. I have, slowly and subtly, turned into a mad elderly woman writer with cats. My eldest son says I am turning into a recluse. I am depressed. And I STILL haven't finished Murder Imperfect.

This, of course, may have something to do with the depression. It's a long time since I was diagnosed with clinical depression and it was due to external reasons (can't remember the official term now) so I'm guessing it might be now, as I am not naturally a depressive. But the symptoms are vile. And the sense of persecution is appalling.

I have some experience of the illness in family members, and I have learnt the hard way not to believe everything you see. Some people are brilliant at putting on the good face. I used to tell my children when they were young that if they pretended they were being good, that's how it would look to the general public. "Play at being good while you're with Auntie Thing, and she'll think you really are!" Perhaps this is not necessarily a good thing, although if you go about with a face like a kite and refuse to talk to anybody, those around you will walk away. Possibly for ever.

So I must get myself out of it. Now, don't you go saying "Pull yourself together, Lesley, look at what you've got to be grateful for." I know, I know. And I'm sure, when I've finished the book - nearly there, now - and started going out and seeing people again I shall return to my usual self.

But there, you see. I'm conforming to the picture of the tortured writer. Who knew?

Monday, May 24, 2010

New review

I was delighted this morning to receive a message from Paul Magrs to tell me he'd reviewed my first Libby Sarjeant book, Murder in Steeple Martin. I was even more delighted to find he was a highly respected writer and academic. His website is http://www.paulmagrs.com/(still can't do proper links) and the review is here: http://www.facebook.com/l/dc2d9;paulmagrs.com/blogs/?p=526

Having suffered from some kind of viral infection for nearly two weeks, I got even more behind with Murder Imperfect, but I'm on the home straight at last. Perhaps it would be A Good Thing to get on with the next one as soon as this one's gone off!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Deadlines, LBF and contracts

Murder In The Green came out early and has received very good feedback. Hazel Cushion, the MD of my publishers, Accent Press, invited me to their party at the London Book Fair, an event sadly depleted by the cloud of volcanic ash preventing overseas editors and agents from galloping in with cheque books in hand. However, the party was good, we went on to dinner and I got drunk. Telling people at home was odd - they were all surprised. I have an unfortunately good tolerance of alcohol...

Good thing was, I have been offered a new three book contract over two years following publication of the next book, Murder Imperfect, due out in October. Bad thing is, deadline for said book has been brought forward, as they want it out at the BEGINNING of October, not the end. So I'm currently buried in the office with a "Go Away" message on the answerphone.

My son, Leo, has gone back to Manchester to work, daughter Phillipa is just embarking on the very last phase of her course at the Royal Academy of Music, where she is playing the lead in the Sondheim show "Assassins" for the end of term production. Son Miles and daughter Louise are still more-or-less where they were, except that Louise is beginning to work again. Last weekend two gigs with her old band the Pasadena Roof Orchestra. So good luck to all, and I'll try and remember to post more regular updates!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

How Publishing Really Works

There is a terrific blog of this name, read by many in the publishing business, including authors and aspiring authors. The lovely lady who runs it, Jane, had her arm twisted up her back to persuade her to allow me to contribute, which I have now done. You can read my post here. Any of my nearest and dearest who take issue with anything I've said (Lies! Lies! It's all Lies!) please email me privately!

A bereavement in the extended family caused a couple of weeks of upset, made worse by coming, as it did, on certain anniversaries. I intend to make up for it beginning tomorrow, Mother's Day. Actually, starting tonight, as I'm going to a party. Mother's Day tomorrow, and will see 3 out of 4 children, as dd1 has her own children now. I have, however, sent her a card. Monday, jollies at the theatre with friends while my mate Ali auditions people for her variety show in the summer. Well, we are a seaside theatre company. Just because we haven't got a pier...

Tuesday's a big day. I shall be attending the Romantic Novelists' Association Awards lunch, sitting with my friend Christina Jones and meeting up with many others. There have been pictures on here of previous occasions, where I look somewhat - um - tired and emotional. This year, however, I won't have the chance, as instead of going to the pub afterwards and falling out in time for the last train, I have to hot-foot it back to Whitstable as I'm going to see Barry Cryer in the evening with family and friends. We have now seen Harry Hill (who will be coming back in June), Jo Brand and Paul Merton over the last few months, courtesy of a Whitstable newcomer, Nick Wilty, himself a comedian. We are now comedy capital of Kent. Pleasing alliteration.

Wednesday I shall go back into my shell and get back to work. Murder Imperfect is at last going reasonably well, although still only on Chapter Eight, and I've got ideas rattling round for the next one already.

Once again, could I ask anyone who reads this blog (anyone? At all? No?) to comment below? Otherwise, I have absolutely no idea if it's worth it! And "no comments" makes me feel like Wilhelmina no-mates.

Possible update after Bank Holiday Monday, when Murder in the Green escapes into the wider world. See you then.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Another rant against everything

Is it something to do with the election? Is the government trying to prove that it knows better than we do, that the rule book grows longer and longer as if it's some hidebound boarding school? Dads must not carry children on their shoulders. OK - in some circumstances that is dangerous, but surely only the thickest (and no, I'm not going to apologise) dads will do that in, say, supermarkets or railway stations.

Over the last weeks there have been more nonsensical "laws" being postulated than in almost any other time in the last ten years. For goodness' sake, why don't they just shut everything down and ask the people? We live in a democracy which is fast becoming an autocracy, in which Big Brother (the original, Wayne) is a mere baby step away.

This blog is supposed to be about me and writing. As an author/writer/novelist (there has been some discussion on the title amongst fellow authors/writers/novelists) I take a mild, if irritated, interest in the doings of the supposedly great and good. But it is becoming increasingly angry, see both of the last two posts. Spleen is being vented and I want someone to take notice. Someone who is in some position to Do Something About It.
All comments addressed to Gordon Brown, please.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010


This morning I received an email forwarded to me by a friend, who, on having read my little rant of last week, thought it might strike a chord. It did of course. Here it is:


Don't you wish that you had written this?

This was actually taken from a passport application and a member of staff copied it, as it made her laugh all day.

Dear Minister,
I'm in the process of renewing my passport but I am a total loss to understand or believe the hoops I am being asked to jump through.

How is it that Bert Smith of T.V. Rentals Basingstoke has my address and telephone number and knows that I bought a satellite dish from them back in 1994, and yet, the Government is still asking me where I was born and on what date?

How come that nice West African immigrant chappy who comes round every Thursday night with his DVD rentals van can tell me every film or video I have had out since he started his business up eleven years ago, yet you still want me to remind you of my last three jobs, two of which were with contractors working for the government?

How come the T.V. detector van can tell if my T.V. is on, what channel I am watching and whether I have paid my licence or not, and yet if I win the government run lottery they have no idea I have won or where I am and will keep the bloody money to themselves if I fail to claim in good time.
Do you people do this by hand?

You have my birth date on numerous files you hold on me, including the one with all the income tax forms I've filed for the past 30-odd years. It's on my health insurance card, my driver's licence, on the last four passports I've had, on all those stupid customs declaration forms I've had to fill out before being allowed off the planes and boats over the last 30 years, and all those insufferable census forms that are done every ten years and the electoral registration forms I have to complete, by law, every time our lords and masters are up for re-election.

Would somebody please take note, once and for all, I was born in Margate on the 4th of March 1957, my mother's name is Mary, her maiden name was Bloggs, my father's name is Robert, and I'd be absolutely astounded if that ever changed between now and the day I die!

I apologise Minister. I'm obviously not myself this morning. But between you and me, I have simply had enough! You mail the application to my house, then you ask me for my address. What is going on? Do you have a gang of Neanderthals working there? Look at my damn picture. Do I look like Bin Laden? I don't want to activate the Fifth Reich for God's sake! I just want to go and park my weary backside on a sunny, sandy beach for a couple of week's well-earned rest away from all this crap.

Well, I have to go now, because I have to go to back to Salisbury and get another copy of my birth certificate because you lost the last one. AND to the tune of 60 quid! What a racket THAT is!! Would it be so complicated to have all the services in the same spot to assist in the issuance of a new passport the same day? But nooooo, that'd be too damn easy and maybe make sense. You'd rather have us running all over the place like chickens with our heads cut off, then find some tosser to confirm that it's really me on the goddamn picture - you know... the one where we're not allowed to smile in in case we look as if we are enjoying the process!
Hey, you know why we can't smile? 'Cause we're totally jacked off!

I served in the armed forces for more than 25 years including over ten years at the Ministry of Defence in London. I have had security clearances which allowed me to sit in the Cabinet Office, five seats away from the Prime Minister while he was being briefed on the first Gulf War and I have been doing volunteer work for the British Red Cross ever since I left the Services. However, I have to get someone 'important' to verify who I am -- you know, someone like my doctor...
who, before he got his medical degree 6 months ago WAS LIVING IN PAKISTAN.....

Yours sincerely,
An Irate British Citizen

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Beanstalk Broke

No, no-one can have that title because I thought of it and I shall use it. And it's true. The beanstalk broke, Jack fell ten feet to the ground and the follow spot turned the pink fairy green. There were other little catastrophes - like me forgetting to introduce the Princess, the dog food in the bakery scene (?) refusing to open and the music for the spectacular Hoe-down skipping leaving the ensemble repeating the same moves over and over again like a surrealist dream.

Ah, well. Maybe we'll get it right by the end of the run. It's particularly appropriate for me, though, because my next but one book, Murder Imperfect, for which I have to write a blurb today (aargh) starts with a panto disaster. There. Now you really all want to read it, don't you?

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Headmistress Effect - a rant against practically everything

I am SICK TO DEATH of being told what to do. By the government, the aspiring government, the health Nazis, the social reformers and practically everyone else who thinks, somehow, they have a right to tell everyone else The Way To Do It.

Take, for instance, this supremely daft idea of David Cameron's to give married couples a tax break in order to promote Marriage As A Way Of Life. We are no longer ruled by the Christian Church, it is no longer evil to live with a partner, of either sex, and the presence, lurking at the bottom of a dusty drawer, of a piece of paper stating that X and Y stood up in front of a person in a long white frock or a smart navy suit who did nothing more than say a few words at them, is not going to stop the breakdown of a relationship.

And today - exemptions from debt for students who get first class degrees??? I am so incensed I can barely type the words.

So far in the naughties and now the - what? teens? - we are no longer allowed to smoke anywhere but our own homes (and watch it! They'll try and stop that next) and the Milk Marketing Board, or whatever it likes to call itself these days, is telling us we are now ready to change from semi-skimmed to skimmed milk. Have they told the cows?

The attitude has slithered down to otherwise intelligent individuals, too. There have always been people who have no fear of telling you exactly what their opinion is on any given subject, and, again, telling you what to do. But now these people, and a good many more, show total disapproval if you deviate from their notion of How It Should Be Done.

I am fed up with it. (Had you guessed?) I really didn't think I would grow up to live in an Autocracy, but it appears to be the way we are going. Big Brother reigns, OK. And not on telly, either. Isn't there anybody out there in some sort of position of power who will tell the afore-mentioned organisations that they are being bl**dy daft? It's 2010 and most of us are grown up. As long as I don't kick the cats, and I'm nice to my children, I'll do what I like, thank you very much.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to everyone and anyone who reads or happens on my blog.

In December, I received copies of three of my re-jacketed books, which makes me feel like a real writer, with different editions. I am deep into final rehearsals for two weeks of panto coming up, from which I shall post pictures when I get them. Philly has recovered from her operation on December 7th, and will now undergo intensive vocal therapy to get the singing voice (tested to the limit at our Christmas party!) up to scratch.

Half an inch of snow which fell an hour ago is now melting, and lunch is cooking. Son Leo's girlfriend, however, who was meant to be eating it with us in a couple of hours, is unable to get through due to being reliant on buses and living in a village. Unfortunately, Leo doesn't drive, so he's no help! Ah, the problems of young love!

Leo is temporarily living with me again, so burglars take note. I am Not Alone. (Still haven't quite recovered from last Valentine Day's burglary.)

Thank you to all my readers in 2009, and I hope you will continue to buy/borrow in 2010.

Love from Libby and Me.