... and then, suddenly, very quick ...

Did I say that “Slow Furies” was to be published on 23rd September? It seems that Amazon know better! Though Waterstones website is “taking advance orders”, Amazon is assuring visitors that they can have the book by next day delivery - and several good friends have already placed their orders.
In addition (by an irony that anyone who reads the book will discover!) the local daily paper, The Doncaster Star, has rushed out to take my pic - with the book, of course - and should print it tomorrow. Waterstones in Doncaster (yes, these days Doncaster has a real bookshop) have indicated that they’ll carry it, and happily accepted a poster - as has my dear old Foulstone School, where a former colleague is networking news of its arrival around all the other former colleagues still in post, or in touch. And The excellent Jim, self-appointed liaison officer for the class of ’66 at York University, has patched an email about it around his circulation list. Oh, and the Alumni website is already featuring it.
A positive welter of publicity!
Bound to be in the bestseller list soon!
(Oh, and Amazon are advertising the book at £6.29 instead of £6.99 - how do they do that?)

share this:

Very, Very Slow

... in fact so slow, you can’t detect any motion at all. An observation which might be applied to many things. A dead sheep for example ...

(This old lady hasn’t moved for two years, since I first saw her in a pine wood on Alonissos)
... or a dead Blog (this one hasn’t moved for 18 months, I’m afraid: ain’t been a lot to say, perhaps)
... or a book.
Ah, yes - a book. A book with a very slow title. Slow Furies, which I wrote originally four years ago, and have revised at intervals ever since - most recently inspired by the lovely online writing community called Youwriteon - finally found a publisher last October; and now a mere 11 months later, is about to burst upon the world. Which, by comparison with my blog (not to mention the dead sheep) is remarkably swift.
I am, of course, terribly excited. I have pre-production copies already, and they look, with Patrick’s really elegant cover design and a generally very professional job by Olympia Publishers, tremendous. Now I have to hope that they sell. Not that I’m bothered about the income (always nice, though!) - but like everyone else who ever wrote a book, I want it to be read. And appreciated.
Launch date is 23rd September - so watch this space!

share this:

Winter Things

I imagine that four months’ silence is long enough for any reasonable person to have supposed that this Blog is dead - but just in case anyone is still curious enough to look ... another entry.
Winter - always bad, but this year intolerable. I suspect that, like many people, I quasi-hibernate as a means of getting through the short, dark, cold, wet days - and the long nights. Suspended animation. System just ticking over. Waiting for sun and spring. There are, of course, those wonderful days when the sun shines and the grass looks almost green, and the catkins hang like coloured ribbons on the hazel branches, promises of good times coming. Then the spirits lift again. But then winter bites again. Brrrrh!
We’re just back from a couple of weeks in France - sandwiched between a fortnight on Fuerteventura and a fortnight (still to come - hurray) on Lanzarote. France was - as ever - lovely of course. But it’s still northern Europe - and the snow in Brittany made every effort to prevent our reaching our wee house, which when we miraculously arrived was deep in fresh snow, too. The moorhen whose passing left these tracks had been usurped by a frozen pond, and later on I watched as a big, black-bottomed, white-whiskered Coypu skated desperately over its frozen lake. Ice and snow are rare enough in the southern Vendee for both these animals never to have experience it before. Wonder what they thought?
We solved the winter by nipping out for une petite Balade whenever weather allowed - and staying indoors by a log fire for the rest. Nice. Cosy. Oh - and twice in the past week the blessed sunshine warmed our courtyard up for us to lunch en plein air. So perhaps this interminable winter will eventually lose its grip. Can hope.
Oh - and for the first time in some months I see that my book has had a sale! See, Alan, the future is full of hope whichever way you look.

share this:

Pensées Françaises

Time  to introduce La Belle France to these pages. For those who don’t know, Margaret and I have the good fortune to own a small (very small!) house in the rural Vendée. Our year is pleasantly divided between France and the UK, therefore - the best of two worlds. We may get back to France in another blog. The reason for introducing it here, is the picture above, La Tour de L’Octroi, Fontenay-le-Comte. Now Fontenay (our nearest town when in France) is an astonishingly beautiful little Renaissance town of real dignity. L’Octroi (which doesn’t really lean like this) is a minor 19C addition to its architectural gems and sits beside the lovely Vendée river. Very pretty, I hear you comment: and, under your breath, so what?
Well, for the time being, L’Octroi is a bookshop, specialising in second-hand and rare English books and MS and run by the excellent Cid Jackson. Don’t ask why. I don’t know why a 19C monument in the middle of France should be an English bookshop run by a West-Yorkshireman. It just is so. Take my word.
Back to those words: book shop. Now I know that my novel is neither second hand (in spite of Amazon’s peculiar listing of it!) nor rare. But there’s just an outside chance that I might persuade Cid to carry a few copies - just to see if it sells. So how about this for an ironic oddity. My book, which I could not publish in the UK, is published in America. I can’t persuade any S.Yorkshire shops to carry it - but maybe - just maybe - the first shop into which you can walk and buy it will be 600 miles away in mid France.
Funny the way things turn out.

share this:

Anybody out there?

The abiding question, of course - for everyone. But especially important to those who commit their thoughts to blogs. Or to books.
And today I have a good feeling. There is someone out there. Books first of all: at long last my publisher has updated its website, and I can discover that people have been buying my book. OK, only twelve of them so far (so far = the first month) but that’s twelve people now reading my book. Which is what publishing is all about. We are under way.
And the Blog? Well, my email this morning brings a really warm mail from a former pupil who has caught up with me via the website and wants to tell me so. Wonderful! Google’s clever algorithm bridges the decades, and I have a voice from the past at breakfast time.
All good stuff.

share this:

The Blue Aegean Sea

... on, beside, in or under which is where we’ve spent the last fortnight. These two, mother and babe, were amongst some 30 or 40 dolphins that came to say hello as we cruised the Marine Conservation park, in the northern Aegean, about 10 days ago. They, and the staggeringly beautiful lesser Sporades, are the abiding and as yet unfaded memories of a beautiful holiday on Alonissos. The Marine Park was set up primarily to protect the remaining 300 Mediterranean Monk Seals - which we caught no glimpse of. They breed, the last few of them, on a tiny, remote island called Piperi, near which no boats at all are allowed. But we did get to cruise among the dolphins, to swim on the beaches of deserted islands, to see the delicate, rare white marine lilies that bloom in profusion on the beach of Psathoura - and generally to appreciate what a rare and fragile place we had fetched up in.
I sat, one morning after swimming, for an hour or more with my feet in the rocky water of the busy harbour at Patitiri, just gazing at the miniature wildlife garden around me. Those empty whelk shells, lying on the rock - surely they move? Of course they do - every one contains a tiny hermit crab, creeping around the crevices, fossicking for food. And the blue-black disks on that rock side? Little crabs, feeding with the delicate, almost fussy precision of a gourmet, on invisible water-born scraps - pincers as fine and polite as silver cutlery. Oh - and there’s a Blenny, stripe-camouflaged, easing its way across the bottom on elbowed fins between the glass-like shrimps. And around that rock wave, like medusa-hair, the water-woven tendrils of some sea-anemone. And these, only the animals whose names I know. Itinerant fish flash in and out of the scene, multicoloured tordepoes, or quivering, pale disks. All wonderful.
I never cease to be fascinated by the rich diversity of the world we inhabit - and I hope I never will.
In the harbour one day we saw the grim, black-robed, bearded form of an orthodox monk, waiting for his motor-boat to be fixed - presumably the solitary monk who lives, the only inhabitant, on Kyra Panagia over the strait. I felt sorry for him, stuck in a world that is not enough for him but only second best to some imaginary alternative. This one will do me.

share this:

A good week

OK - so who are these children got up in fancy dress?
This week saw our 43rd wedding anniversary, which we celebrated with a trip up the Yorkshire Dales for the day and then on to my brother and sister-in-law near Kendal, for an evening meal. Lovely day - but impossible to believe that it’s the forty-third such. Only when you dig out (as I just did) an image from the past do you understand quite how remote 1966 has become - we were what we looked, in those far off days. Children.
But what a fantastic journey into maturity it has been, and in what company! Margaret and I have spent getting on for 16,000 days together now, and they just get better ...
Love, as I am fond of saying, is not something you fall in. It is something you make - hour by hour, day by day, year by year, crafting it and changing it and growing with it. Wonderful.
We took a bottle of Chateau les Rigalets 2002 with us to Kendal. “Cuvée exceptionnelle, sur des fruits noir, trés suave en bouche, rondeur et finesse caractéristique du Château les Rigalets,” says one reviewer. We’d go along with that. It was one of a hoard of six dozen assorted Cahors and Bergeracs we brought back from our last foray into the Lot valley, and it was a fitting wine with which to celebrate the passing of one more very good year. Not, perhaps quite in the same league as the 1966 Pomerol our family bought us for our 40th celebration, but pretty fine.
Wine and marriage seem good partners: the more you discover about them, the better they are.

share this:

Made it!

Well - after all the trails and tribulations I can finally say that my book The Edge of Things is fully published on sale, and available*. Amazon.com finally got to list it yesterday night. I find, in fact, that its true publication date was 9th July, but since it's extremely difficult to buy from the publisher, Xlibris, the effective date is when Amazon list it.
So this is the end of one very instructive and often tortuous journey, just getting the book published - and the start of another one - selling it!
In my experience people either are, or are not good at selling. Every school staffroom I ever worked in always had one or two characters (where are you now, Phil Addy?)** who could be relied on to sell anything to anyone - and half a hundred like me, who curled up in embarrassment at the very thought.
And this is odd, when you think about it: after all, writing a book is an act of enormous egotism - let alone publishing it. So why should selling it be so different? Is it a form of residual, British snobbery - the aristocracy's historic distaste for "trade"? Or is it just that, like any other form of mollusc, writers are braver inside their shells, than out? Anyway Here we go!

* http://www.amazon.com/Edge-Things-Alan-Robertshaw/dp/1441530835/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1249120479&sr=1-3

**Phil was a great teacher of Humanities who, as I recall, found selling so much more to his taste that he hung up his chalk and went off to manage a store in Paris: a life change I always marvelled at.


share this:


So there I was, cooking a couple of duck-breasts, flash-fried, hot over the gas-blue flame, deep in the unctuous fat of their own flesh. Kitchen hot and smoky and aromatic, full of the promise of rich, red meat, gold and pink and, in its heart, deep red.
In the corner of my eye comes the spider. Tiny bodied, long legged. Running. Displaced by my cooking fumes from somewhere above the hob. In flight.
I turn back to the flame, burning blue and hot over the enamel of the hob. Then suddenly, there is the spider again. Moving swiftly on long, impossibly thin legs. Looking for a better place to be. But running - yes, running now - across the enamel. Running straight for the flame.
Into the flame.
A single moment when movement stops and long, hair-thin legs stop, buckle, crumple in the heat.
And the spider is still and dead.
I do not, can not, comprehend what drove my fly-eating arachnid friend to self-immolate. And in such purposeful, driven haste.
Just thought I’d share that moment. Still don’t understand.

share this:

La Dolce Vita

.. which just happens to be the film I’m watching at this minute. The sweet life. Don’t know about the film - but life is certainly sweet as I write. The book - of course. Now technically published, though only available through Xlibris. But I have two copies, right here - and they look and feel very good indeed.
Now we wait ... for Amazon (not .co.uk I suspect, but .com) to pick it up. Then you can all buy it! (I wish)
In the meanwhile, as I say, life is sweet. Bricolage has broken out here (= France) again - as it does from time to time - more lambris to hide the damper bits of our walls. Hard work, and much fun. Soon our entire house will be made of pine cladding!
In the meantime, good wine (plenty) and sunshine (not quite so much) makes this a blessed country to spend time in. And food!
La Dolce Vita indeed.

share this:

See Older Posts...