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In every day life, John Jackson, a former Ship's Captain now retired. He still retains an avid interest in the Hash House Harriers, Rugby, Food, Romantic Fiction, Philately, etc etc etc.

Monday, December 19, 2016

A Year Ends – and a New Year Begins.

It's definitely time for a new blog entry. For many of us, 2016 has not been a year of unalloyed joy, and too many friends have left us. This includes a rush at the end of the year, so here's hoping for a better 2017!

I got my MS back from my New Writer Scheme reader with several pages of comments, all of which have been acted on, and I am STILL hawking it around looking for an agent. I have also submitted to a couple of the publishers who take direct submissions and entered a couple of competitions. All part of the process we must go through.

On a lighter and brighter note, it is Christmas, and we have both our daughters with us for the big day, and DD1s partner, Richard. Good bloke! The tree is up, and we are off to pick up a large piece of organic rare-breed leg-of-pork this morning. We never have turkey – because, if you go out in December or January, you ALWAYS have it elsewhere.

No sooner did I post the last blog entry in October than we got surprise tragic news when we lost Les Moriaty. Only 4 weeks before we had dined together with Glynis and Esther in Reading. We knew Les wasn't well, but we didn't see this news coming at all.

Les's Birthday in Reading, in October.
In a horrifying period of 16 days I also said farewell to Frank, an old friend in Holland and to the force-of-nature that was Carole Blake. So sad, and all of them much missed by their friends and family, and by me.

Frank, Anton and I in Chiang Main, 2006.

Carole at the HNS Conference, Oxford, Sept. 2016

Fortunately, life goes on and it is our job to enjoy it as much as we can, and I'm certainly trying to do that.

Sue Moorcroft's launch of the excellent "A Christmas Promise" was another cracking evening in Nottingham, and I got to take my long suffering OH along to meet several friends. There was also a goodly contingent of RNA Members there to support Sue.
Sue Moorcroft's Launch for A Christmas Promise

Seeing and chatting to Jo Baker and Tracy Chevalier again in Harrogate was great, especially showing Tracy the profile pic of another friend, Abbie Vandiver, who is spending the next 3 years working on the Girl with a Pearl Earring in the Mauritzhuis. (they now chat on FaceBook)

Abbie Vandivere

And so, the calendar moves on – to first, the RNA Winter Party, 

Some nifty planning took me to the RNA London Chapter Xmas Lunch and the Combined London Hash Xmas Party all on the same day.


The London Hash Xmas Party featured some EXCELLENT costumes!

This was closely followed by the BMPH3 Xmas Party over in Brussels. Another chance to top up on chocolate and beer.

I am not going to let the chance go by of giving a special nod-of-thanks to Jenni and Anthony Keer, for their hospitality, and for Anthony's expert skill in repairing and reconditioning our dining table. The table is about 300 years old, solid oak and made from old ship's timbers. Time had taken its toll and one of the hinges had wasted away. This is not something to be repaired via a quick trip to B&Q!

When we got the table unpacked at home Pam burst into tears in a totally good way. My sister is in the antique business so I know a little of what to look for, and this was an impressive job. Well done indeed Keer Antiques

Now I need some time to relax, plot the next bit of the book and enjoy Christmas, as I sincerely hope you all enjoy yours.


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Season of Mists, Mellow Fruitfulness – and Holidays.

Time for another blog update.

On the writing front, I am waiting for the return of my MS from the RNA New Writers Scheme; (it's coming at the end of this week!)
I've already had some addition comments that I want to act on, but I need to get my reader's report back first. Once I have it, I will work through it systematically and address any issued my "reader" brings up. (there will be loads, but that's how you make it better!)

I got some help and crit on the book, and on historical writing at the Historical Novel Conference in Oxford at the start of September. Many friends from the RNA both organising, speaking and just attending (like me), so it was really good to meet old friends and make new ones. There are pics in my last blog entry.

No sooner was I back from Oxford than we shot off to France for a holiday. A week in a gite in the Aveyron, in South West France, followed by a week in Brittany, in a gite where we have stayed before.

While the gite in the Aveyron was lovely, and our farmer-owner charming, and came with two sheep and four donkeys, we suddenly realised how remote the farmhouse was. What would happen if, God forbid, we had a serious accident or event? While I speak French, P does not (apart from shopping-French), and she can no longer drive. The nearest house was about 3k and 2 valleys away! No mobile signal, and only intermittent Wifi. It's definitely time to acknowledge the passing of the years and stay somewhere with decent communications. *sigh*.

Still, a good week, with visits to our favourite cities, Cahors and Albi, plus a new one – Villefranche-de-Rouergue. We also topped up on wine, big time. We even got the bubbly for our daughter's wedding! (Labastide Brut) The cave even opened in their lunch hour for us and gave us a complimentary case.

The drive to Brittany took 11 hours, but we made it, and as Madam knew us, she was happy to stay on site until we arrived, about 8 pm. We did spend the next couple of days relaxing though – and did very little except bimble around the wonderful coast, and eat seafood – AND meet up with some old friends who were on their way back to the UK.

Since our return, life hasn't stopped, though we have caught our breath. I went down to Reading to meet with Glynis Smy and a few others, in a repeat of the weekend we had in Canary Wharf last year. Good food, wine and talk – and most of all, good company.

Next week it is off to Nottingham to meet Sue Moorcroft for the launch of "A Christmas Promise". I'm taking Pam too'

, then it's the Harrogate History Festival, and we have tickets for Jo Baker, Phillipa Gregory and Tracy Chevalier!! 

The end of the month sees me at another Blogger / AuthorShenanigans in Birmingham. The last was really good, and this one will be too. If you want to go, contact Kim Nash on Facebook. May be see you there?

On a domestic note, the Hedgehogs are eating like mad – and I think they will all make their target weight before they fall into hibernation. They really like sunflower seed hearts and mealworms.

All comments most welcome!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Keeping Busy!!

Time for another Blog update, just before we head off to France on Holiday.

As usual, the calendar just gets fuller and fuller. One advantage of being retired is that we have the time to do a lot more.

No sooner was I back from the RNA Conference in Lancaster, than we were off to Harrogate to the Great Yorkshire Show. This is now the largest show of its kind in the UK, on a purpose-built showground, and is always a fun day out. 

We came back with some plants and bits of food, etc. The horses and other beasts were magnificent, and the "big kit" on display from the manufacturers of Farm Machinery was truly astounding. We always make a point of going early, so the traffic isn't too bad. Even the weather smiled. 

The following weekend saw me back down to Balsall Heath, to join friends from Warwick Hash House Harriers on their 200th Run. Several of us had been there on Run 1. Again, the Weather-Gods smiled, and friends assembled – some from Spain and points even farther away, for an afternoon of social running, walking and an occasional sociable beer. 
The Mean Lean Running Machines of Warwich H3, and their Friends

They come in all sizes,

They come in all ages.

and assume all positions.

But they are all old friends and practically housetrained.

Note: I have a note from my Mother, and am excused the Running and Walking bit, on account of me being deficient in the working-leg department to the tune of One! 

Warwick Hash on Facebook

My fellow author friend, Lynda Stacey has her first book out, and a bunch of us met up for a celebratory dinner to mark the launch.

Lynda herself, with her OH Hayden.

 (good bloke!)

House of Secrets is an excellent tale, and the subsequent sales have been really good. Roll on her next book.

House of Secrets on Amazon

This wasn’t the only launch I went to. Every year, I head off to Silverstone for the classic racing car meeting. This year, it coincided with the book launch of "Falling" by Julie Cohen.

Falling - Julie-Cohen

 Julie is not just a really good writer, she is a really good teacher of writing. That has been VERY helpful for someone like me. Even today, I keep two of her maxims at the front of my brain when writing.
1.      Repetition is DEATH!!
2.      Resist the Urge to Explain.

We all had a cracking evening in Waterstones in Reading. Lots of wine, lots of chat, lots of pics, lots of friends.

This year at Silverstone, I was joined by an old friend, Alan Brooks ("Sperm Whale") He makes me look slim, hence the nickname.

Love the Passenger Instructions!

 The event gets bigger and bigger, but there is still room to wander around, and an awful lot going on. Some great racing too, with cars going back to the 1940s. 

I confess to a great love for the Formula Junior cars, and for the awesome Lister "Knobbly" Jaguars. This is the sort of racing I knew when I was growing up.

Two weeks later, I was off to a Ball! The London Hash House Harriers 40th Anniversary Ball, held at the London Welsh Clubhouse at the Old Deer Park in Richmond. 

Everyone dressed to kill, and – once again – a host of old friends came out of the woodwork for it. Well done to "Last Tango" and her team for pulling it off. A cracking night.

And so we came to the Historical Novel Society Conference. This was held at the Mathematical Institute (The House of Sums) in Oxford, and we were, for the most part, billeted at St. Anne's College, almost directly across the Woodstock Road.

The Historical Novel Society

Fay Weldon was warm and witty, as was Jo Baker. Carol McGrath was an excellent compere. There were no "pregnant pauses"

I took over 500 pics, and have posted in excess of 300. Hopefully, I got a shot of most people. A good proportion of gentlemen there, and an equally good proportion of foreign visitors, mostly from the USA, who host next years conference in Portland Oregon.

This was my first HNS conference, and it was packed with an unbelievable list of speakers, including Fay Weldon, Tracy Chevalier, Jo Baker and Kate Williams, who all great to listen to, plus a host of other luminaries who were entertaining and informative.  

Kate Williams

Richard Lee. Founder of the HNS and its Chairman

Tracy Chevalier

For some reason, the area where we were assembling for lunch and coffee, etc. didn't have a PA system, so I got called on to shout loudly to get people moving towards the main lecture theater at the appropriate moment.

Melvyn Bragg was also there.

And so to the Gala Dinner.

All the nice girls love a Sailor!!

There is a tremendous cross-fertilization between the Romantic Novelist Association and the Historical Novel Society, so there were many existing friends there. It was also another weekend of people tapping me on the shoulder and saying "Hi! Your my friend / follower……" I love it when that happens.

My OH asked me what was the difference between the 2 conferences, and which I enjoyed more.
Well, I enjoyed them both equally. They were both a great way of spending a weekend amongst friends and making common cause in a highly sociable milieu.

The difference – for me – is that I learn more of the "Craft of Writing" at RNA Conferences and more about different ways of looking and writing about history at the HNS conference. So both SERIOUSLY good.

Finally, the Hedgehogs. They are still coming regularly and are all putting on weight. We now have 4 (we think). Mr and Mrs Snuffles and 2 smaller ones who could be their offspring. They all need to make a minimum weight of about 600gms., and I reckon ours are all doing just fine. 

They will probably disappear off to sleep in early November. 

We have actually bought a "hedgehogery" which we will be putting out in a corner of the garden shortly. We shall see if one of them uses it.

Enjoy the rest of your summer;