25 October 2015

The other day I did something very stupid.....yes, even at my age, so here's the sorry saga. All my life there's been an irritating itch deep within both ears. A week ago I was watching TV when I absently used the end of my glasses' arm to scratch inside my right ear. The old, worn plastic sleeve suddenly cracked under the pressure and a piece of plastic was embedded in my ear!  Frantically I tried to pull it out but it was impossible as just a sharp, slippery tip was poking out. The doctor's surgery was closed, on answer phone, and the woman on the emergency 15 number who eventually answered from Timbuktu or somewhere asked me where my nearest hospital was! Then, aided by our very useful local phone directory, I tried a domiciliary nurse. He arrived but only succeeded in pushing the object deeper into my ear drum. Sleepless night, then next day the doctor attempted to syringe it out. No good. Following day I managed to get an appointment with the hearing clinic in rue Rigal here in Gaillac.  I'm pleased to report that, after waiting 2 hours in his waiting room, he pulled out the offending object simply with a form of pliers. Success. But what's this I read? France is soon to get rid of all phone directories!  My lifeline in times of crisis. Who to complain to?  I know I'll look in my phone directory.

18th October 2015

Here's the latest graduand waiting for the book launch of the moment, '3rd Degree Murder', this Friday.  Only 5 days to go!  And it's now available for pre-order from Amazon anywhere in the world - see link on the right. As promised, here's a world exclusive extract describing the dastardly Prof. Axel Sloan, to whet your appetite. Just go to my Facebook Events Page on Friday, anytime 10 - 6 p.m. Here's the link: https://www.facebook.com/events/909706395761162/


Axel Sloan whistled to himself as he studied his reflection in the Gents’ cloakroom.
Not bad, not bad, he thought.
He’d come a long way since his poor beginnings, growing up in the squalor and poverty of the East End. Against all the odds he’d won a coveted place at the local grammar school, much to his father’s socialist disdain for what he considered elitism. Axel remembered the long trolley-bus ride for the eleven-plus exam, the rubber tyres hissing on the wet roads, the overhead wires somehow just avoiding electrocuting the bedraggled passengers within.
Even now, after all these years, he remembered his first long trousers, borrowed from his dad, tightened to an inch of his life by that S-clipped black and red elastic belt. His hair had been Brylcreemed down to a glossy finish, despite various unruly stray hairs springing up at the crown.
Around his neck had been one of his dad’s regimental ties. “Got to look smart, son,” his dad had said, not realising how old-fashioned it looked on a young lad out to impress the world.
“Your mother may be the one who wants you to go to a posh school, but while I have anything to do with it, you’ll at least look the part. I’ll not have a son of mine bringing disrespect to the family.”
He’d passed and was offered a place at a brand new Grammar School for Boys. This was a school where boys were meant to use their arithmetic skills to build a career in a safe office job like accountancy, or strive to be a doctor or lawyer. This was what his mother dreamed of for her son; so much better than working in the markets, with all the attendant risk and uncertainty that came with it. She wanted something far better for her son.
“How did you get on?” his mother asked him when he’d returned from the exam.
“Oh, okay,” he replied nonchalantly.
They waited all summer to hear the results. He smiled, remembering the day they’d finally arrived. His mother had been looking out the window for the postman to turn up with the envelope. “He’s late, he’s late,” said his mother anxiously. “Look, he’s gone to John’s house over the road.” Sure enough, Axel could see his friend jumping up and down in the window, waving his envelope in the air. Then the postman came to their house and his mother opened the envelope whilst Axel looked unconcerned.
So, it was true. He’d passed for the prestigious Grammar School and found out later that John had only passed for the Comprehensive. Despite his father’s foreboding, Axel became the star of the family. He smirked to himself. He’d passed despite putting in his English essay about how to swindle money out of passersby to start your own business! Well, he shouldn’t have put the word ‘swindle’ but that was what it was, really. Nowadays he liked to call it creative entrepreneurship.
But going to grammar school had been the making of him, not so much in his exam success – which he sailed through surprisingly easily – but in how to carve out a career for himself irrespective of how many others he trampled over by so doing. He knew instinctively how to succeed.
Sometimes he’d wander, whistling, around the open-air markets, listening to the stall holders make their spiel about how cheap their goods were and what a bargain the unsuspecting customer would have. As he grew older he realised it didn’t really matter what type of goods you were trading, the same philosophy held true. Buy cheap by telling the seller what rubbish it was, then sell with a huge mark-up, telling the customer it was the bargain of the century. Simple really. All you needed was a brain and some street-wise common sense.

In later years he used the same philosophy when buying his first house. He wandered around the property, pointing out the cracks in the ceiling, the damp patches in the hallway, the ‘huge’ amount of work that was required to replace loose tiles in the roof and to fix the leaking downpipes, then offered thirty per cent below the asking price in order to do the repairs. It always worked, allowing him to sell the same house for an enormous profit several years later.........

11 October 2015

Getting excited...
Less than two weeks to go to the book launch party of the decade.  Yes, 3rd Degree Murder will be released onto an unsuspecting world on the 23rd.  There'll be valuable prizes, University Challenge quizzes, music videos (especially from my favourite decade: the '60s), and surprise photos. But, what's the book all about and what's it got to do with a university?  Well, it's a play on words.  There's clearly an unintentional murder, but the hazards of gaining a PhD (3rd, science) degree are also prominent. Those familiar with my writing will know there are always underlying themes. There's an intriguing culture clash between Maliha, a Muslim student and a Jewish secretary. How do they get on, especially working for the same hated professor? Mirroring recent, real, media reports, Maliha suffers a horrifying rape at university. How will she cope? And the Jewish secretary suffers constant anti-semitic comments from her professor.  So, in the end, who actually killed Professor Axel Sloan? Only one way to find out.  If you haven't already, go to my FB page and 'join' or ask to be my 'friend' and I'll send you a party invite: https://www.facebook.com/events/909706395761162/
....next week don't miss the first world exclusive of an extract from 3rd Degree Murder, available for pre-order from Amazon very soon and definitely on the 23rd.

4th October 2015

As a writer it's always exciting when awaiting a publisher's imminent verdict on a new manuscript. My two latest ones, called Lamplight and Vichyssoise, are books 1 and 2 of my David Klein series set in wartime Germany and France - the latter covering transportation of a victim to the notorious Drancy camp. Both are a lifetime's work. So it was with annoyance that I read of the recent shenannigans in Nice, where the Alpes-Maritimes prefecture unfurled a giant Nazi banner over the front of the building, in the middle of the historic Vieille Ville area and the Cours Saleya antiques market. Yes, this happened last week!  Had the neo-Nazis made a terrible come-back?  No, it turned out to be for a film. Realising the commotion that it caused, the prefecture then put out an explanatory press release at the end of the afternoon. The film, like my book, is also set during the dark times of Jewish deportations to Drancy. But what kind of idiocy is it to put a Nazi flag on a prefecture building, causing many, particularly the elderly who remember, to cry out?  Him indoors said it didn't help that the maire's name is Adolphe!!  You couldn't make it up.