Jenny Kane: Coffee, cupcakes, chocolate and contemporary fiction / Jennifer Ash: Medieval crime with hints of Ellis Peters and Robin Hood

Tag: fun Page 1 of 6

Two weeks to go: Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange

While 2020 has been a right-off in many respects, when it comes to book releases, it has been non-stop over in my café corner! This is very much NOT a complaint.

Hot on the heels of Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange, two weeks from today, the second novel in my Mill Grange series will be available to download onto the reading device of your choice!

As the first conkers begin to fall and blackberries adorn the hedgerows, it is the perfect time to welcome Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange into the world!

Autumn Leaves at Mill Grange

At Mill Grange, the work – and the fun – never stops! As autumn brings coolness and colour, change is in the air for all at the manor…

Sam Philips’ time in the forces changed him forever. Supported by his friends, Sam is keen to help make beautiful Mill Grange a safe retreat for injured army personnel… but his crippling claustrophobia means Sam is living in a tent on the grounds! Enlisting the help of charming village stalwarts Bert and Mabel Hastings, Tina Martins is determined to find a way to help him conquer his fears. But why does she feel like he is keeping a secret?

After discovering evidence of a Roman fortlet on the manor’s grounds, Thea Thomas is thrilled at the chance to return to her archaeological roots and lead the excavation. She spent the summer with handsome celebrity archaeologist Shaun Cowlson – but now he’s off filming his Landscape Treasures show in Cornwall, and Thea can’t help but miss his company. Especially as someone else is vying for his attention…

Welcome back to Mill Grange and the beautiful village of Upwich, full of larger-than-life characters you can’t  help but adore.

‘Mill Grange’

Although Autumn Leaves is the second book in the Mill Grange series, it works well as a standalone adventure. With a respectful nod to the fabulous archaeology show, Time Team, Autumn Leaves takes the reader, not just to Exmoor, but on to Bodmin Moor in Cornwall as well.

Available for pre-order from Nook, Kobo, as well as Amazon UK and Amazon US.

COMING 10TH SEPTEMBER

Here are some of the fabulous pre- release reviews

“I absolutely loved this story about two archaeological sites, both country house based and two couples and being a huge Time Team fan enjoyed the filming element and subsequent tensions associated with this in the story. Shaun is presenting archaeological shows for filming and is close friends with Sam who has bought a country house which he hopes to use for recovering ex army traumatised people where they can relax, participate and join in the archaeological discovery of a Roman site, unusual for Cornwall. There is jeopardy all round – the young Sophie whose crush on him threatens Shaun’s relationship with Thea. There’s Sam who has a huge phobia about entering buildings and sleeps in a tent outside. Tina whose story I very much enjoyed is working on her relationship with Sam. The story follows many twists and turns as there is a race against time and a competitive film company pitching to film at Mill Grange. Even so all is not what it seems. Will Sam overcome his phobia,; will Sophie see sense; can Thea untangle mysterious occurrences ; will the filming happen at Mill Grange. As in Shakespeare there’s a long way to go before all falls into harmony and the read to find out what happens is compulsive. I highly recommend this start to a new series from Jenny Kane. The plotting and characterisation is flawless.”  Netgalley 

“Thoroughly enjoyed reading this second book and catching up with the characters again.” Netgalley

“A great follow up in the series at Mill Grange. It was lovely to be in the Exmoor countryside again, and to visit the Culmstock Beacon, an added bonus. This second in the series at Mill Grange was a wonderful re-introduction to some of the larger than life characters – I especially like Bert and Mabel. Looking forward to the next adventures at Mill Grange.” Netgalley 

***

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange: Blog Tour

On the 25th June, I was thrilled to announce the publication of my latest novel – Midsummer Dreams in Mill Grange.

This week my publisher, Aria, have kindly arranged a blog tour to celebrate its launch – starting today.

Fitting really- as today is my birthday!

Why not drop by all of these brilliant blogs to read a little from my Exmoor based romance?

Blurb

A warm-hearted, feel-good romance from Jenny Kane, a Kindle #1 bestselling author.

Thea Thomas needs to get away from her old life… and the interfering ex who won’t leave her alone. When she lands a job heading up the restoration of Mill Grange, a stunning Victorian manor in Somerset, it feels like the perfect opportunity to start afresh.

What Thea didn’t anticipate was how hostile the volunteer team, led by the formidable Mabel Hastings, would be about accepting new leadership. And with the deadline looming before the grand opening, Thea is in desperate need of more volunteers.

A broadcast appeal on the local news attracts the interest of arrogant but undeniably attractive celebrity historian Shaun Cowlson, who wants to make a TV programme about the restoration. It’s hard enough adding one more big personality to the mix – but then her ex turns up as one of the volunteers! What seemed like a dream come true is fast becoming a total disaster! Can Thea find a way to save the manor?

You can buy Midsummer Dreams at Mill Grange from all good ebook retailers, including-

Nook, Kobo, as well as Amazon UK and Amazon US, 

Happy blog tour hopping!

Jenny x

A Cornish Wedding: 10 days to go

A Cornish Escape will be published in 10 days!

Previously known as Abi’s Neighbour, A Cornish Escape follows on from A Cornish Escape, and continues the story of Abi Carter. This sequel introduces new characters- some nice- and some who are going to take a little getting used to.

Here’s the blurb to help you picture the scene…

Perfect for fans of Cathy Bramley, Heidi Swain and Milly Johnson, A Cornish Wedding is the best kind of summer escape.

Abi has what she’s always dreamed of: her perfect Cornish cottage, great friends and a gorgeous boyfriend. But her idyll is shattered when a new neighbour moves in next door.

Rude and obnoxious, Cassandra doesn’t make a good first impression on Abi. But with the unexpected wedding of Abi’s friend Stan to prepare for, Abi has bigger things to worry about.

However, avoiding her new neighbour proves harder than expected and Abi and Cassandra soon realise they might have more in common than they first thought. . .

To whet your appetite, I thought I’d share a short extract from A Cornish Wedding.

There is a business suited woman standing outside the house next door to Abbey’s House…and she’s not happy…

Extract

The untidy, clipboard-wielding woman started talking as soon as she climbed out of her Mini. ‘Hello, my name’s Maggie, and I’m from –’

Cassandra cut impatiently across the formalities. ‘Sennen Agents, obviously. It’s written across your car.’

‘Oh, yes. So it is.’ Maggie paused, ‘Anyway, I’m sorry I’m late, I got stuck behind a tractor down the lane.’ She jingled a key ring in front of her. ‘I have your keys, Miss Pinkerton.’

‘No, you don’t.’ ‘I don’t?’ The estate agent frowned, looking away from the woman that stood before her in expensive couture with crossed arms and a far from happy expression. Flicking through the papers on her clipboard, Maggie said, ‘I was instructed by a Mr Justin Smythe that you would be accepting the keys on his behalf?’

‘I meant, no, my name is not Miss Pinkerton. It is Ms Henley-Pinkerton.’

‘Oh. I see.’ Maggie refrained from further comment as she clutched the keys a little tighter.

Determined to make sure the situation was clearly understood, Cassandra pulled her jacket on, turning herself back into the sharp-suited businesswoman she was. ‘In addition to your error regarding my name, there appears to have been a further mistake.’

‘There has?’

‘Mr Smythe has not purchased this property. He has merely rented it, with an additional agreement to sublet it as a holiday home. I am here for two months to make the place suitable.’ Cassandra ran a disdainful eye over the beautiful exterior stonework. ‘It would seem that my work is going to be well and truly cut out.’

‘This is a much sought-after street, Ms HenleyPinkerton. And this particular property is in excellent period condition.’ Feeling defensive on behalf of the old miner’s cottage, Maggie bit her tongue and flicked through her paperwork faster. Extracting a copy of the bill of sale, she passed it to the slim, angular blonde. ‘I think the misunderstanding must be yours. Mr Smythe has purchased number two Miners Row outright. It was a cash sale.’

Snatching the papers from Maggie’s fingers, Cassandra’s shoulders tensed into painful knots. Why hadn’t Justin told her he’d done this? She was convinced she was right. And anyway, he’d never deliberately make her appear foolish in front of a country bumpkin estate agent…  Yet as Cassandra scanned the document before her, she could see there’d been no mistake. Closing her eyes, she counted to ten, before opening them again to regard the badly dressed woman before her, who was once again holding out the offending set of keys…

A Cornish Wedding is available for preorder from all good retailers, including-

Amazon- mybook.to/CornishWedding

Waterstones – https://www.waterstones.com/book/a-cornish-wedding/jenny-kane/9781786157843 

Happy reading!!

Jenny xx

Romancing Robin Hood: A tasty taster

Romancing Robin Hood is a contemporary romance is based on the life of Dr Grace Harper, a medieval history lecturer with a major Robin Hood obsession. So much so, that instead of writing a textbook on medieval life, Grace is secretly writing a novella about a fourteenth century girl called Mathilda, who gets mixed up with a real outlaw family of the day, the Folvilles. (Which you can read within this same novel)

Grace is so embroiled in her work and her passion for outlaws, that real life is passing her by. A fact that the unexpected wedding announcement of her best friend Daisy, has thrown into sharp focus…

 

Extract from Romancing Robin Hood

…Daisy hadn’t grown up picturing herself floating down the aisle in an over-sequinned ivory frock, nor as a doting parent, looking after triplets and walking a black Labrador. So when, on an out-of-hours trip to the local vet’s surgery she’d met Marcus and discovered that love at first sight wasn’t a myth, it had knocked her for six.

She’d been on a late-night emergency dash to the surgery with an owl a neighbour had found injured in the road. Its wing had required a splint, and it was too big a job for only one pair of hands. Daisy had been more than a bit surprised when the locum vet had stirred some long-suppressed feeling of interest in her, and even more amazed when that feeling had been reciprocated.

It was all luck, sheer luck. Daisy had always believed that anyone meeting anybody was down to two people meeting at exactly the right place, at exactly the right time, while both feeling precisely the right amount of chemistry. The fact that any couples existed at all seemed to Daisy to be one of the greatest miracles of humanity.

She pictured Grace, tucked away in her mad little office only living in the twenty-first century on a part-time basis. Daisy had long since got used to the fact that her closest friend’s mind was more often than not placed firmly in the 1300s. Daisy wished Grace would finish her book. It had become such a part of her. Such an exclusive aim that nothing else seemed to matter very much. Even the job she used to love seemed to be a burden to her now, and Daisy sensed that Grace was beginning to resent the hours it took her away from her life’s work. Maybe if she could get her book over with – get it out of her system – then Grace would stop living in the wrong timeframe.

Daisy knew Grace appreciated that she never advised her to find a bloke, settle down, and live ‘happily ever after,’ and she was equally grateful Grace had never once suggested anything similar to her. Now she had Marcus, however, Daisy had begun to want the same contentment for her friend, and had to bite her tongue whenever they spoke on the phone; something that happened less and less these days.

Grace’s emails were getting shorter too. The long paragraphs detailing the woes of teaching students with an ever-decreasing intelligence had blunted down to, ‘You OK? I’m good. Writing sparse. See you soon. Bye G x’

The book. That in itself was a problem. Grace’s publishers and colleagues, Daisy knew, were expecting an academic tome. A textbook for future medievalists to ponder over in the university libraries of the world. And, in time, that was exactly what they were going to get, but not yet, for Grace had confided to Daisy that this wasn’t the only thing she was working on, and her textbook was coming a poor third place to work and the other book she couldn’t seem to stop herself from writing.

‘Why,’ Grace had forcefully expounded on their last meeting, ‘should I slog my guts out writing a book only a handful of bored students and obsessive freaks like myself will ever pick up, let alone read?’

As a result, Grace was writing a novel, ‘A semi-factual novel,’ she’d said, ‘a story which will tell any student what they need to know about the Folville family and their criminal activities – which bear a tremendous resemblance to the stories of a certain famous literary outlaw! – and hopefully promote interest in the subject for those who aren’t that into history without boring them to death.’

It sounded like a good idea to Daisy, but she also knew, as Grace did, that it was precisely the sort of book academics frowned upon, and she was worried about Grace’s determination to finish it. Daisy thought it would be more sensible to concentrate on one manuscript at a time, and get the dry epic that everyone was expecting out of the way first. Perhaps it would have been completed by now if Grace could focus on one project at a time, rather than it currently being a year in the preparation without a final result in sight. Daisy suspected Grace’s boss had no idea what she was really up to. After all, she was using the same lifetime of research for both manuscripts. She also had an underlying suspicion that subconsciously Grace didn’t want to finish either the textbook or the novel; that her friend was afraid to finish them. After all, what would she fill her hours with once they were done?

Daisy’s mobile began to play a tinny version of Nellie the Elephant. She hastily plopped a small black guinea pig, which she’d temporarily called Charcoal, into a run with his numerous friends, and fished her phone from her dungarees pocket.

‘Hi, Marcus.’

‘Hi honey, you OK?’

‘Just delivering the tribe to their outside quarters, then I’m off to face the horror that is dress shopping.’

Her future husband laughed, ‘You’ll be fine. You’re just a bit rusty, that’s all.’

‘Rusty! I haven’t owned a dress since I went to parties as a small child. Thirty-odd years ago!’

‘I don’t understand why you don’t go with Grace at the weekend. It would be easier together wouldn’t it?’

Daisy sighed, ‘I’d love to go with her, but I’ll never get her away from her work more than once this month, and I’ve yet to arrange a date for her to buy a bridesmaid outfit.’

‘Well, good luck, babe. I’m off to rob some bulls of their manhood.’

Daisy giggled, ‘Have fun. Oh, why did you call by the way?’

‘Just wanted to hear your voice, nothing else.’

‘Oh cute – ta.’

‘Idiot! Enjoy shopping.’

As she clicked her battered blue mobile shut and slid it back into her working clothes, Daisy thought of Grace again. Perhaps she should accidentally invite loads of single men to the wedding to tempt her friend with. The trouble was, unless they wore Lincoln Green, and carried a bow and quiver of arrows, Daisy very much doubted whether Grace would even notice they were there…

Blurb

Dr Grace Harper has loved the stories of Robin Hood ever since she first saw them on TV as a girl. Now, with her fortieth birthday just around the corner, she’s a successful academic in Medieval History, with a tenured position at a top university.

But Grace is in a bit of a rut. She’s supposed to be writing a textbook on a real-life medieval gang of high-class criminals – the Folvilles – but she keeps being drawn into the world of the novel she’s secretly writing – a novel which entwines the Folvilles with her long-time love of Robin Hood – and a feisty young girl named Mathilda, who is the key to a medieval mystery…

Meanwhile, Grace’s best friend Daisy – who’s as keen on animals as Grace is on the Merry Men – is unexpectedly getting married, and a reluctant Grace is press-ganged into being her bridesmaid. As Grace sees Daisy’s new-found happiness, she starts to re-evaluate her own life. Is her devotion to a man who may or may not have lived hundreds of years ago really a substitute for a real-life hero of her own? It doesn’t get any easier when she meets Dr Robert Franks – a rival academic who Grace is determined to dislike but finds herself being increasingly drawn to…

 

Buy Links Romancing Robin Hood is available from all good paperback and e-retailers, including…

***

Happy reading,

Jenx

NEWS: Abi Carter has “A Cornish Escape”

Exciting news time – and boy, don’t we all need it!

As you may, or may not, know – last year my publisher (Accent Press) was taken over by Headline Books. As a result, I’m thrilled to be able to announce that my two biggest sellers to date – Abi’s House and Abi’s Neighbour- are getting a new lease of life.

With beautiful new covers- and new titles- Abi Carter and her friends will be down in Cornwall sorting their lives out- and eating a lot of chips again- very soon.

I hope you love the covers!

Blurb – A Cornish Escape (Published on 7th May 2020)

Abi’s life is turned upside down when she is widowed before her thirtieth birthday. Determined to find something positive in the upheaval, Abi decides to make a fresh start somewhere new. With fond childhood memories of holidays in a Cornish cottage, could Cornwall be the place to start over?

With all her belongings in the boot of her car but no real plan, a chance meeting in a village pub brings new friends Beth and Max into her life. Max soon helps Abi track down the house of her dreams but things aren’t as simple as Abi hoped.

Can Abi leave her past behind and finally get her happy ending?

Blurb – A Cornish Wedding (Publication date to be announced)

Abi has what she’s always dreamed of: her perfect Cornish cottage, great friends and a gorgeous boyfriend. But her idyll is shattered when a new neighbour moves in next door.

Rude and obnoxious, Cassandra doesn’t make a good first impression on Abi. But with the unexpected wedding of one of her friends to prepare for, Abi has bigger things to worry about.

However, avoiding her new neighbour proves harder than expected and Abi and Cassandra soon realise they might have more in common than they first thought.

But with the wedding only weeks away, can they set aside their differences before the big day?

***

(Please note- the stories are unaltered- so if you have read Abi’s House and Abi’s Neighbour, you have read these novels before.)

I had so much fun writing Abi’s two novels. Both books mean a great deal to me, as they are based on my childhood memories of my time in Cornwall – especially in and around Penzance, where my grandparents lived their whole lives.

I’ll be in touch soon with buy links – and with news of a blog tour to celebrate the relaunch of Abi’s adventures.

Happy reading – stay safe.

Jenny

PS- Yes, I do have brand new novels coming very soon too xx

 

End of the month blog: end of an era

It’s that time again – for the very last time!

I’d like to extend a huge thank you to Nell Peters for writing so many of these fabulous blogs over the years. You’ll be missed hun!

Sit back, relax, and enjoy this final summary of the month, with a decidedly Nell take on life!

Good morning, everyone, on this last day of January. So, how has 2020 been for you so far? Whatever your answer, grab a drinkie poo and come with me now to while away a mo looking back upon what has happened on this day in years gone by – plus whatever else takes my fancy.

Over a hundred years ago during WWI (even I can’t remember this), Germany initiated large-scale use of poisonous gas during the Battle of Bolimów against Russia (1915). Exactly two years later, Germany announced that its U-boats would resume submarine warfare after a two-year hiatus – and following a series of collisions during a foggy night in Scotland in 1918, two Royal Navy submarines were lost with over a hundred fatalities, while another five British warships sustained substantial damage.

Fast forward to the Second World War and in 1945, US Army private Edward Donald (Eddie) Slovik was executed for desertion following a court-martial, the first such execution of an American soldier since the Civil War (1861-5). This was on the same day that approximately three thousand inmates of the Stutthof concentration camp were forcibly marched into the Baltic Sea at Palmnicken (now Yantarny, Russia) and executed.

On a less depressing note, two days before my mother was born in 1927, Mrs Pransky gave birth to a son, Norman Zachary, in Boston, Mass. He grew up to be Norm Prescott, co-founder (with Lou Sheimer) of Filmation Associates, an animation studio. Amongst their prolific output were Star Trek, The US of Archie, The New Adventures of Gilligan, The Original Ghostbusters, Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle and Ark II – all during the mid to late seventies. Norm died in California aged seventy-eight and was survived by his business partner, wife and two sons.

Comedian and TV/radio presenter, Patrick Kielty celebrates with forty-nine candles today. Born in County Down, N Ireland, he is one of three sons born to businessman John (Jack) Kielty, who was shot dead on 25 January 1988 (six days before Patrick’s seventeenth birthday) by the Ulster Freedom Fighters, allegedly to stop him appearing as a key witness in Central Television’s defence of a libel action brought by Jim Craig.

Craig was suing the television company over a broadcast which suggested he was a racketeer and he is said to have ordered the assassination. Almost twenty years later, Patrick was invited to conduct a joint in-depth TV interview at 10 Downing Street with then UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair and Irish Taoiseach (I have no idea how you’d pronounce that!) Bertie Ahearn, to discuss the Northern Ireland peace process. Since 2012, he has been married to fellow presenter Cat Deeley.

 

Also in 2012, on this day, the Toyota Corolla was announced as the best-selling car of all time, having sold over 37.5 million. When I had #1 son in Montreal, I got rid of my Pontiac Firebird (sniff) and opted for a Corolla as a rather more sensible vehicle for maternal to-ing and fro-ing – and regretted the decision for every second that I drove the thing. Even though the model was bigger than those produced for the European market and hefty snow tyres are de rigueur for everywhere in the east, it really couldn’t handle winter driving – no chance whatsoever of making it through a six-foot snow drift, which would present no problem at all for the average American gas guzzler.

I knew for sure we had to part company when I’d had it for about a year and I was driving the boy to a paediatric appointment – it was coming to the end of snow season and there were huge filthy, icy puddles everywhere. Driving through one such half-frozen mess, there was a resounding bang and the inside of the car – plus the child in his car seat – were covered in dirty globs of ice and muddy water. Not a good look. When I could pull over, as well as taking some very deep breaths to try to regulate my heartbeat – the son finding it all highly amusing – I found that most of the rear floor had rusted away and the upward force of the water I’d driven through had sent the mats in the footwells flying, providing a complimentary shower in the process. Cars are old and rusted at five or six years maximum there, because of the amount of salt and grit they have to spread to keep roads anywhere near passable – but wrecked at a little over a year old was beyond a joke. Having learned my lesson, I opted for a very substantial Oldsmobile tank next.

31/01/12 was the day that (His Eminence, if you’re that way inclined) American RC Cardinal, Anthony Joseph Bevilacqua, died aged eighty-eight in Pennsylvania, after suffering from cancer and dementia. He was joined at the Pearly Gates, or the other place, by American artist Dorothea Tanning aged one hundred and one; Tristram Coffin aged eighty-nine, an American folklorist, seen off by a bout of pneumonia and Mike Kelley, also an American artist, who committed suicide aged fifty-seven. After Kelley’s death, art critic of The New York Times, Holland Cotter, described him as ‘one of the most influential American artists of the past quarter century and a pungent commentator on American class, popular culture and youthful rebellion.’ Pungent, eh?

Who remembers the US TV drama series, Ally McBeal (1998-2002)? The part of young lawyer, Nelle Porter, was played by Australian/American actress Portia de Rossi, who was born as the not-quite-so-exotic-sounding Amanda Lee Rogers, on 31st January 1973. No prizes for guessing she’s hitting the ripe old age of forty-seven today. Aged fifteen, Amanda decided to reinvent herself, so pinched the name of a character from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice and added a random Italian last name. Like Prince Charles, she was educated at Geelong Grammar School (other alumni include media mogul Rupert Murdoch; John Gorton – Australian PM 1968–1971; Mizan Zainal Abidin of Terengganu – King of Malaysia 2006–2011; Tim Macartney-Snape – mountaineer and author; billionaire businessman, Kerry Packer; and singer-songwriter Missy Higgins) and went on to study law at Melbourne University. How appropriate. Portia’s second marriage was to comedian, actress, and TV chat show host, Ellen DeGeneres, in 2008. So, does that make her Portia de Rossi DeGeneres? We won’t go there.

Since we last spoke, we’ve had a General Election, Christmas and New Year, to name but a few. We voted on the same day as middle GD’s school year Christmas assembly, when they performed the story of Kris Kringle (which they called Christingle) in a huge, freezing cold church in town. Because of the setting, in theory anyone could attend, and I was indeed honoured to have a local vagrant come and sit next to me halfway through. If he was hoping to warm his bones, he picked the wrong place. Meanwhile, each child climbed up the several steep steps of the pulpit to speak their lines – and as they are only six or seven years old, some could hardly see around the lectern, let alone over it! But they all did brilliantly, encouraged to do their best by very supportive teachers. It’s a lovely little school and we’re hoping that little sis will also get a place there from September.

A few days before the big event, I stayed over in Twickenham, meeting #2 son for dinner and #3 when he flew in from Mumbai the next morning. As is becoming our usual routine, we ‘did’ the three family graves at the cemetery (this time in rather inclement torrential rain and freezing, howling winds) and then went to visit my mother in her care home. After as much random, repetitive and off-the-wall conversation we could cope with, we sped back to Norfolk for early dinner with #4 and his family – the OH was noticeable by his absence from the gathering, as he was off to watch the Rod Stewart gig at the O2, a work/client thing. Phew. I’m definitely getting way too old for all this! The next morning, #3 and #4 flew to Amsterdam for a few days, returning on Christmas Eve, #4’s birthday.

The OH also returned on 24/12, after a visit to his elderly mother in Dorset, so I spent our anniversary on 23rd alone, apart from a sparkly tree, a bulging fridge and a couple of glasses of wine. Hic.

We had a great family Christmas – #3 hasn’t been home to celebrate the 25th with us for a few years, globe trotting as he does, so it was an especially happy break. No time for dust to settle and we were all back down to London for a few days over NY, including our annual trip to the panto in Richmond. This year it was Snow White – intriguingly, the dwarfs were not vertically challenged, but of average size and crawled along with the front of their costumes depicting short legs. Does that make any sense? Comedian Jo Brand played the Wicked Queen, but appeared bored out of her skull by the whole thing and should probably stick to stand-up and appearances on Have I Got News for You etc. Nevertheless, everyone enjoyed it – and the dinner we had afterwards at Zizi’s, before those old enough (or indeed young enough!) to stay up, saw in 2020.

Just before he was due to fly back to Bangkok, #3 needed to get his iPad looked at, as something was malfunctioning – that meant a trip to the Apple store in either Norwich or Cambridge, both approx. an hour’s drive for us. He set off early for Norwich, but was back after thirty minutes or so. The person who has a really responsible job running operations throughout India, Thailand and Hong Kong (I’ve heard him on business calls and can see why he earns the big bucks) had forgotten to take his iPad. You couldn’t make it up. He also very nearly left his passport behind, as he was heading out the door for Heathrow at the end of his visit.

Multi-married film star, Elizabeth Taylor, got hitched to #2 groom, British actor Michael Wilding in February 1952. He was twenty years her senior and while Taylor found their age gap appealing because she wanted the ‘calm and quiet and security of friendship’ from their relationship, he hoped that the marriage would aid his flagging career in Hollywood. They had two sons together, but while Taylor was away filming, Wilding was allegedly entertaining strippers at their house – classy. Taylor said ‘I do’ for the third time on 2nd Feb 1957 (my mum’s thirtieth birthday), two whole days after her divorce from Wilding was finalised on 31st January.

Talking about divorce, unless anything major occurs between me writing this (in advance, as always) and Brexit on 31/01, the UK will leave the EU today. Decision made, let’s hope Boris pulls – if not a rabbit – at least a hamster out of the hat. Meanwhile, we have the shenanigans of the royal family to keep us amused on darker days. I imagine Arrogant Andrew is rubbing his podgy little entitled hands together, not quite able to believe his luck after others also blotted their copybooks quite spectacularly, taking public attention away from him. At least long enough for him to nip down to Woking for a pizza. Off with their heads!

Finally, I am also doing a bunk. This is my last guest blog for Jenny, at least for the foreseeable. I really need to devote more time to salvaging what little remains – if anything – of my writing career!

So, I’ll bid you all a final ‘Toodles!’, with huge thanks to readers for coming along for the ride, and to Jenny for putting up with me for so long.

Take care.

NP x

Once again, many thanks Nell. Wonderful stuff. Wishing you much success with your writing.

Jenny xx

 

 

 

 

End of the Month Blog: November ends

Unbelievably, we have reached the end of another month, and here to celebrate (commiserate??) is Nell Peters with her final round up of 2019!

Over to you Nell…

Well shiver me timbers – it’s the last day of November, and now that I’m writing the blog bi-monthly it means this is my last for 2019! How crazy is that? So, better make it a half-decent read, I suppose.

Quite a bit of family stuff suggests itself – excellent, as that involves absolutely no research, just some excavation of the memory bank. I’m so lazy!

Returning to the beginning of October (which seems an awfully long time ago now), we toddled off to the Corn Exchange in town to watch GDII perform in her first dance show – she’s been going to classes on Saturday mornings for about six months now and loves it. Apart from the routines, I was most impressed by the organisation of a large number of small children, including quite a few boys, by half a dozen teachers and chaperones – I had enough problems with four!

The nippers mostly performed according to age and we waited with bated breath for our little star to take to the stage with other six year-olds. She made her entrance in a turquoise tutu, with gossamer wings attached to her back – the latter being an emergency replacement pair after the first were delivered battered and bent into a very unfairly-like shape. GD remembered all her steps but added her own artistic interpretation, when she lifted her skirt to hitch up her tights – I’m afraid she gets her lack of poise and elegance gene from yours truly, other granny being far more refined. OH (no Fred Astaire himself) has suggested she might like to swap the dance lessons for instruction in Sumo wrestling, or similar.

On the work front, confusion reigns. The small, independent publisher I had two books with was taken over/merged with one of the big five – good news you might think? Maybe, but I’m not holding my breath – having been under-published by the original lot (that’s a euphemism for abandoned at launch) it’s not boding well so far as it seems (from the sparse info available) that they will be concentrating on books already in the publication pipeline. Absolutely fair enough as a priority, but they are not taking submissions of new work until 2021(!) – and no real word as yet re the already published books they have taken under their wing. I was not alone in not knowing I had been sold until an email was received out of the blue, welcoming me to the new company. That was the last communication I received. Mm… Watch this space, or not.

A little late, but I managed to finally get some dates out of the OH as to when he could take time out for a holiday – he could only spare a week, but I wasn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth! We decided to return to a rather nice hotel in Majorca that we went to a couple of years ago – the week we booked was half term for most, but as it’s not a particularly child friendly place, we decided to risk it.

Before we left I needed to take a trip to Twickenham to see my mum, as I hadn’t visited for a while and guilt was beginning to bite. I was planning to do just a day trip, but #3 intervened and booked overnight accommodation for me at the Marriott Hotel, which forms part of Twickenham Rugby Ground. He stays in Marriotts for work in Jaipur, Mumbai and Bangkok and so collects a ridiculous number of loyalty points (he’s at the Jaipur hotel for an average of 150 nights a year, for example), some of which he generously donated to my stay. On checking in, I found I didn’t have any old room, but a suite – top floor, with a lounge, bedroom, two bathrooms and a whole array of luxurious touches, overlooking the pitch. How the other half live! Too bad I was on my own…

That evening, I met up with the lady who had been my parents’ primary career, plus #2 son who lives locally for drinks, and the next morning, #3 flew in from Jaipur. He arrived at the hotel (in shorts!) and ordered a pint of Guinness at eight o’clock in the morning, his excuse being he was still on Indian time and anyway, Guinness is not available there so he had some catching up to do. When #2 turned up, we had breakfast – the hotel staff are no doubt currently reconsidering the concept of an all-you-can-eat buffet. In case you were wondering, I had two small pieces of GF bread with strawberry jam, leaving the gannet impressions to the sons, especially #3, who obviously hadn’t eaten for a month or more.

We went to see my mum, armed with loads of flowers and bite-sized snack bits – her appetite for regular meals isn’t great, but she does love her junk food. The conversation was at best random, at worst completely and incomprehensibly off the wall, but frankly I don’t suppose we can hope for much better at this notch on the dementia spectrum. My sons have strict instructions to shoot me, if ever I am similarly afflicted. From the care home, we drove a few miles to the cemetery where my dad and other relatives are buried – I have an arrangement with my cousin, Keith, that whoever visits sorts out not only my dad’s stone, but also those of our grandparents and his parents who are there, only a few plots away. That day, the gorgeous cream roses we’d bought proved a bit of a challenge to arrange in strong, gusty winds – we did our best, but half of them had probably blown away before the car nosed out of the cemetery gates.

That being a Friday, it was all back to Norfolk for a family invasion weekend, so we had an early Halloween dinner and sparklers, as we thought that was the last time we’d all be together for a while (we have these gatherings every fortnight with varying numbers) – the OH had pronounced that he would be in Berlin for the next one, but had in fact got his dates wrong. I’m not saying a word!

#3 had come home to take GDI (aged eleven) to New York over half term, as a reward for doing well in the SATS exams she sat (see what I did there?) before she moved to senior school in September. They were initially keen on going to Hong Kong, but decided against it, as the riots worsened. How very lucky she is – I have three degrees and I don’t think anyone even took me out to dinner as a ‘well done you’ for passing any of them. Sniff. Grizzle. Pout.

They were away at the same time we were in Majorca, sending us copious numbers of pics of them posing at all the usual suspects, like the Statue of Liberty, Empire State, sitting in an off-Broadway theatre about to watch Chicago etc etc, while I reclined on my four-poster sun bed, trying not to appear too jealous. I did enter into the spirit of things to a small extent, when I sent a video of the most awesome thunder/lightning storm I’ve ever seen, taken from our second floor balcony on our first night. After that, the weather was brilliant. The only fly in the ointment/there goes the neighbourhood moment was when James Argent checked in with a couple of burly mates (this was just after he’d been banned from EasyJet for some ridiculous antic on the tarmac), as he was doing a gig in nearby Palma – he’s a singer, apparently. I was waiting for the OH in Reception when they arrived and I don’t think he could have announced his name any louder – sadly wasted on the guy behind the desk, who very obviously didn’t know him from Adam. Insistence on having the best rooms similarly fell on deaf ears. Can I just explain here that I have never seen TOWIE, but I sometimes read the Mail online (don’t judge me, it doesn’t have a pay wall!) and in their sidebars there are often snippets about Gemma Collins, who I understand is his on/off girlfriend. Nevertheless, the OH was truly horrified that I knew who this person was! JA looks pretty big in pics and he certainly is – in height as well as weight. I’m 5’9” and he dwarfed me.

The rugby semi-finals were shown on TV in the lounge of our hotel, and I took my maternal duties seriously, WhatsApping a running commentary to #3 while he tried to find the game on TV Stateside, where it was four o’clock in the morning. Having been raised in Twickenham, I’ve really had enough of rugby to last me a lifetime – rerouted bumper to bumper traffic jams on match days, no chance whatsoever of getting on any form of public transport, ditto entering a pub if you are that way inclined. The more enterprising locals set up fast food stalls in their gardens, or rent out their driveways for parking, while the majority simply grit their teeth and hibernate until it’s all over.

And all over it was for England’s hopes of lifting the Rugby World Cup in Japan. Males of the clan crammed themselves into the playroom (biggest TV) for the final, played on the next of our invasion weekends, with not everyone present knowing who to support. The OH was born in the UK, but spent his formative years in SA and #3 (enjoying the last couple of days of his holiday en famille) spent part of his gap year there, returning whenever he can. One of my sisters in law told me she has an even greater dilemma when watching international sporting fixtures – she cheers for 1) SA, 2) England and 3) Australia, where she now lives. How confusing!

 

In 1976 on this day, rugby union player Josh Lewsey was born. He shares his birthday with Jonathan Swift, Anglo-Irish satirist, essayist and political pamphleteer, born in Dublin in 1667 (died 1745); Chrissy Teigen, American model, born in Delta, Utah in 1985; Chanel Iman, American supermodel, born in Atlanta in 1989 – on the same day as Margaret Nales Wilson, Filipino model. Obviously a good day for models – the latter two were born on the day that Deutsche Bank CEO and board member, Alfred Herrhausen was killed by a Red Army Faction terrorist bomb. Not such a good day for him.

I mentioned Marriott Hotels earlier – they are a multinational with many subsidiaries, including Sheraton Hotels and Resorts, Ritz-Carlton, Autograph Collection, Gaylord Hotels and Le Méridien, plus a whole lot more, and 25% of shares are still owned by the Marriott family. Lucky them. Not so lucky for their client base on 30th November 2018 however, when 500 million accounts were jeopardised by a massive data breach during one of the world’s largest ever company hacks.

Think I’d be pretty hacked off too. So sorry!

On that dodgy note, I will leave you.

Merry Christmas (General Election permitting – it will be such a relief not to have others’ strident opinions shoved down my neck like I’m some sort of half-wit!) and a Happy New Year to y’all.

Toodles. NP

***

Huge thanks to Nell as ever.

Have a fabulous festive season!

Jenny xx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opening Lines with Chris Chalmers: Dinner At The Happy Skeleton

This week’s opening lines features the latest novel by Chris Chalmers.

I have to say, Dinner at the Happy Skeleton, sounds a hell of a lot of fun!

Over to you Chris…

Dinner At The Happy Skeleton – The Blurb:

Dan is the kind of gay man for whom the Noughties might have been named. Warm, witty and serially promiscuous, his heart melts at the sight of a chocolate brown Labrador — but with men it’s a different matter. He’s thirty-nine and as single as ever, not counting the couple he just met online. An arrangement that looks oddly like it’s going somewhere, until Dan gets fired from his job in advertising. With time-out and a payoff in his pocket, summer presents a world of possibilities; just as the memories surface of the ex he blames for the thinly-veiled chaos of his life.

From London to Ljubljana, a yen for closure sets Dan on the trail of the man who fed his ego into a shredder. Through an eerie encounter at the home of the Olympiad and a sleepover at the Dutch Embassy, run-ins with a fading porn star and the celestial manifestation of Margaret Thatcher, he ultimately confronts his past. Until, with his Big Four-O rapidly approaching, destiny beckons from where he least expects it.

‘In Dan, Chris Chalmers has created his most appealing protagonist yet … An eye-opening, always entertaining romp through modern sexual mores, with a sweet beating heart of true feeling at its core.’ SUZI FEAY, literary journalist

YOU MIGHT AS WELL ASK THE DONALD…

If you’re planning a late summer getaway, here’s a suggestion for a poolside page-turner with a difference.

Literary critic and Booker Prize nominee Philip Hensher called Dinner At The Happy Skeleton, ‘the perfect novel for a sunny afternoon. Full of charm and vim and sauce…’ And unless it’s the last white-chocolate Magnum in the shop, I’m not about to argue with him about anything.

Expect mid-life crises, bed-hopping, fun and adventures off the tourist trail, as Dan the out-of-work advertising man blows his latest redundancy cheque on a hedonistic summer of self discovery. What begins as the chance to take time out from his career turns into a quest to trace the ex that serial-singleton Dan blames for the smouldering ruins of his love-life.

Working on the principle that asking any author for an objective view of their novel is like asking Donald Trump to recommend a skyscraper, I’ll say no more. Try the first 500 words of Dinner At The Happy Skeleton for yourself. And if you like them, get in quick because the ebook is 99p till the end of August.

I call that sauce for your sun-lounger and a bargain to boot.

FIRST 500 WORDS…

CHAPTER ONE

I love waking up next to Jack. He is five foot five, comedy small, so not what you’d call any of my types. But his skin is naturally smooth as a baby’s; a bonus in a man of thirty-four. I nuzzle his head under my chin and try not to think of the spider-legs running amok over my own shoulders. The red lights on his ceiling say 07:18. Another seven minutes till we are officially behind schedule.

‘I need a slash,’ he growls, in a voice cracked by dawn.

‘Do Thunderbird Four,’ I say. ‘If you loved me you would …’

Jack is cute, with chipmunk eyes and cheeks you want to bite. He is a living Action Man, compact and perfectly proportioned with hair like a tennis ball. But he doesn’t love me really.

Thank God.

He tuts as his head disappears. The hummock under the duvet shifts and deflates until his feet appear at the bottom of the bed. The rest of him follows as he folds into a heap on the carpet and crawls for the door … It lacks the smooth entry and splosh of the little yellow submarine exiting the belly of Thunderbird Two. But it makes me laugh, every time.

At that moment there’s a clink of china and a swish of designer silk as the bedroom door opens, narrowly missing Jack’s head.

‘Brew,’ says Phil, stepping over him.

He puts three mugs on the bedside table. Then he slips out of his dressing gown and climbs back into the bed.

*

A threesome isn’t something you go looking for. No, scratch that – it’s exactly what you go looking for when you’ve been around the block as many times as I have. You just don’t expect it to turn into anything.

I met Jack and Phil online the previous August. We chatted, suggestively, two or three times. I enjoyed the frisson of not knowing which of the two guys in the photos I was talking to, and since for once they were both quite tasty,it didn’t matter.

As for the day we met – well, that was all quite Cynthia Payne …

So I’m sweaty and hungover, eager for fun if knackered from the night before, as I trudge up Denmark Hill with a rucksack full of sex toys. It takes me a while to find the address in a neat and tidy street that feels (no pun intended) anally suburban. Multi-hued children on tricycles clatter over paving stones, and though the net curtains don’t actually twitch like flamenco hems it feels like they should.

The taller one answers the door and shows me into the kitchen, where the shorter one is emptying the dishwasher from Sunday lunch. A tiny telly plays on the granite worktop as I tear a can of Fosters from the four-pack I picked up at Sainsbury’s.

‘I didn’t know what to bring,’ I say, my rucksack betraying otherwise as it thuds on the terracotta flags.

BIO and SOCIAL LINKS:

Chris Chalmers lives in South-West London with his partner, a quite famous concert pianist. He has been the understudy on Mastermind, visited 40 different countries, and swum with iguanas. Aside from his novels, his proudest literary achievement is making Martina Navratilova ROFLAO on Twitter.

You’ll find him on Facebook @chrischalmersnovelist, on Twitter @CCsw19, and at www.chrischalmers.net

BUY LINK, paperback and ebook:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dinner-Happy-Skeleton-Chris-Chalmers-ebook/dp/B076X98C31/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1566576917&sr=8-1 

***

Another fabulous set of opening lines!

Thanks Chris.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Romancing Robin Hood: A tasty taster

Romancing Robin Hood is a contemporary romance is based on the life of Dr Grace Harper, a medieval history lecturer with a major Robin Hood obsession. So much so, that instead of writing a textbook on medieval life, Grace is secretly writing a novella about a fourteenth century girl called Mathilda, who gets mixed up with a real outlaw family of the day, the Folvilles. (Which you can read within this same novel)

Grace is so embroiled in her work and her passion for outlaws, that real life is passing her by. A fact that the unexpected wedding announcement of her best friend Daisy, has thrown into sharp focus…

 

Extract from Romancing Robin Hood

…Daisy hadn’t grown up picturing herself floating down the aisle in an over-sequinned ivory frock, nor as a doting parent, looking after triplets and walking a black Labrador. So when, on an out-of-hours trip to the local vet’s surgery she’d met Marcus and discovered that love at first sight wasn’t a myth, it had knocked her for six.

She’d been on a late-night emergency dash to the surgery with an owl a neighbour had found injured in the road. Its wing had required a splint, and it was too big a job for only one pair of hands. Daisy had been more than a bit surprised when the locum vet had stirred some long-suppressed feeling of interest in her, and even more amazed when that feeling had been reciprocated.

It was all luck, sheer luck. Daisy had always believed that anyone meeting anybody was down to two people meeting at exactly the right place, at exactly the right time, while both feeling precisely the right amount of chemistry. The fact that any couples existed at all seemed to Daisy to be one of the greatest miracles of humanity.

She pictured Grace, tucked away in her mad little office only living in the twenty-first century on a part-time basis. Daisy had long since got used to the fact that her closest friend’s mind was more often than not placed firmly in the 1300s. Daisy wished Grace would finish her book. It had become such a part of her. Such an exclusive aim that nothing else seemed to matter very much. Even the job she used to love seemed to be a burden to her now, and Daisy sensed that Grace was beginning to resent the hours it took her away from her life’s work. Maybe if she could get her book over with – get it out of her system – then Grace would stop living in the wrong timeframe.

Daisy knew Grace appreciated that she never advised her to find a bloke, settle down, and live ‘happily ever after,’ and she was equally grateful Grace had never once suggested anything similar to her. Now she had Marcus, however, Daisy had begun to want the same contentment for her friend, and had to bite her tongue whenever they spoke on the phone; something that happened less and less these days.

Grace’s emails were getting shorter too. The long paragraphs detailing the woes of teaching students with an ever-decreasing intelligence had blunted down to, ‘You OK? I’m good. Writing sparse. See you soon. Bye G x’

The book. That in itself was a problem. Grace’s publishers and colleagues, Daisy knew, were expecting an academic tome. A textbook for future medievalists to ponder over in the university libraries of the world. And, in time, that was exactly what they were going to get, but not yet, for Grace had confided to Daisy that this wasn’t the only thing she was working on, and her textbook was coming a poor third place to work and the other book she couldn’t seem to stop herself from writing.

‘Why,’ Grace had forcefully expounded on their last meeting, ‘should I slog my guts out writing a book only a handful of bored students and obsessive freaks like myself will ever pick up, let alone read?’

As a result, Grace was writing a novel, ‘A semi-factual novel,’ she’d said, ‘a story which will tell any student what they need to know about the Folville family and their criminal activities – which bear a tremendous resemblance to the stories of a certain famous literary outlaw! – and hopefully promote interest in the subject for those who aren’t that into history without boring them to death.’

It sounded like a good idea to Daisy, but she also knew, as Grace did, that it was precisely the sort of book academics frowned upon, and she was worried about Grace’s determination to finish it. Daisy thought it would be more sensible to concentrate on one manuscript at a time, and get the dry epic that everyone was expecting out of the way first. Perhaps it would have been completed by now if Grace could focus on one project at a time, rather than it currently being a year in the preparation without a final result in sight. Daisy suspected Grace’s boss had no idea what she was really up to. After all, she was using the same lifetime of research for both manuscripts. She also had an underlying suspicion that subconsciously Grace didn’t want to finish either the textbook or the novel; that her friend was afraid to finish them. After all, what would she fill her hours with once they were done?

Daisy’s mobile began to play a tinny version of Nellie the Elephant. She hastily plopped a small black guinea pig, which she’d temporarily called Charcoal, into a run with his numerous friends, and fished her phone from her dungarees pocket.

‘Hi, Marcus.’

‘Hi honey, you OK?’

‘Just delivering the tribe to their outside quarters, then I’m off to face the horror that is dress shopping.’

Her future husband laughed, ‘You’ll be fine. You’re just a bit rusty, that’s all.’

‘Rusty! I haven’t owned a dress since I went to parties as a small child. Thirty-odd years ago!’

‘I don’t understand why you don’t go with Grace at the weekend. It would be easier together wouldn’t it?’

Daisy sighed, ‘I’d love to go with her, but I’ll never get her away from her work more than once this month, and I’ve yet to arrange a date for her to buy a bridesmaid outfit.’

‘Well, good luck, babe. I’m off to rob some bulls of their manhood.’

Daisy giggled, ‘Have fun. Oh, why did you call by the way?’

‘Just wanted to hear your voice, nothing else.’

‘Oh cute – ta.’

‘Idiot! Enjoy shopping.’

As she clicked her battered blue mobile shut and slid it back into her working clothes, Daisy thought of Grace again. Perhaps she should accidentally invite loads of single men to the wedding to tempt her friend with. The trouble was, unless they wore Lincoln Green, and carried a bow and quiver of arrows, Daisy very much doubted whether Grace would even notice they were there…

Blurb

Dr Grace Harper has loved the stories of Robin Hood ever since she first saw them on TV as a girl. Now, with her fortieth birthday just around the corner, she’s a successful academic in Medieval History, with a tenured position at a top university.

But Grace is in a bit of a rut. She’s supposed to be writing a textbook on a real-life medieval gang of high-class criminals – the Folvilles – but she keeps being drawn into the world of the novel she’s secretly writing – a novel which entwines the Folvilles with her long-time love of Robin Hood – and a feisty young girl named Mathilda, who is the key to a medieval mystery…

Meanwhile, Grace’s best friend Daisy – who’s as keen on animals as Grace is on the Merry Men – is unexpectedly getting married, and a reluctant Grace is press-ganged into being her bridesmaid. As Grace sees Daisy’s new-found happiness, she starts to re-evaluate her own life. Is her devotion to a man who may or may not have lived hundreds of years ago really a substitute for a real-life hero of her own? It doesn’t get any easier when she meets Dr Robert Franks – a rival academic who Grace is determined to dislike but finds herself being increasingly drawn to…

 

Buy Links Romancing Robin Hood is available from all good paperback and e-retailers.

***

Happy reading,

Jenx

End of the Month:There Goes July!

Surely not? Surely we can’t be saying goodbye to July already?

Yet, Nell Peters is here, so it must be time to see out another month.

Other to you Nell…

Good day, one and all. You may have to bear with me for a while, as I battle with my new- fangled laptop and Windows 10. I say ‘new’ although I have in fact had the cursed machine for roughly a year and hardly opened it, but was shamed into doing so because #3 son (the nomadic one) was due home for a week and I knew he would nag me mercilessly unless I got to grips with the darned thing and all its foibles PDQ. Also, if he saw me hitting this shiny new keyboard with aplomb, I figured he might overlook the snazzy new iPad Pro (new earlier this year) that is languishing somewhere in one of my desk drawers gathering biscuit crumbs. Any suggestions that I am a Luddite are … well, probably true.

Enough of my technical hitches; are you still awake and sitting comfortably? Then let us begin.

Andrew Marr – he of the interesting aural formation – was born in Glasgow on 31st July 1959, and so will need sixty candles for his celebration cake. A journalist, television presenter and political commentator, he started work on The Scotsman after graduating from Cambridge with a First in English, and from then on became a ubiquitous media presence, writing for various newspapers and popping up all over BBC radio and TV.

Politically, he was formerly a Maoist and a member of the Socialist Campaign for a Labour Victory group, now known as the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty. At Cambridge, Marr admits he was a ‘raving leftie’, and so well known for handing out copies of Mao’s Little Red Book that he was referred to as Red Andy. On BBC TV recently, controversial windbag, George Galloway said, ‘I knew Andrew Marr when he was a Trotskyite, selling …’ (ergo, embracing capitalism?) ‘…Trotskyite newspapers to bewildered railwaymen outside King’s Cross Station.’ Marr now lives in not-very-Trotskyite Primrose Hill, London, with his wife, political journalist Jackie Ashley of The Guardian, and their three nippers.

Sharing Marr’s date of birth are another English journalist and author, Kim James Newman, and Stanley Jordan, an American jazz guitarist whose playing technique involves tapping his fingers on the fretboard of the guitar with both hands. A frustrated bongo drum player, perhaps? Last but not least, we have the sporty contingent represented by Mike Bielecki, baseball pitcher for the Atlanta Braves, born in Baltimore, Maryland and Australian golfer, Peter Senior, born in Singapore, Malaysia. Happy birthday, y’all.

Speaking of Stanley Jordan and his bongo-style guitar playing – even if it exists only within my fetid imagination – it was also sixty years ago today that the first exhibit of bongos opened at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Fancy that! The zoo now occupies one hundred and eighty-three acres in Ohio and is divided into several areas: Australian Adventure; African Savanna; Northern Wilderness Trek; The Primate, Cat & Aquatics Building; Waterfowl Lake and The Rain Forest, plus the newly added Asian Highlands. The exhibit opened on the same day that Harry Rodger Webb, aka the evergreen Wimbledon-in-the-rain warbler, Cliff Richard, and his backing band, The Shadows (anyone know if their drummer also played the bongos?), had their first No. 1 hit single, Living’ Doll – the biggest British single of 1959.

Fast forward five years to 31 July 1964 when the Rolling Stones played their first ever dates in Ireland – the first in Dublin, and the second on their way home via Belfast International Airport, in Ballymena, although the latter finished early because of violence in the audience. While all this was going on, after six unsuccessful missions the US unmanned Ranger 7 spacecraft was busy snapping the first close-ups of the surface of the Moon, and sending as many pics as possible back to Earth before the craft was destroyed upon impact with the lunar surface.

Wags at NASA referred to the programme as ‘shoot and hope’ – which is pretty much the same way I take photographs.

But unlike my masterpieces, the Ranger 7 images were one thousand times clearer than anything ever seen from earth-based telescopic equipment. Amazing to think it was just five years later, on 20 July 1969, that Apollo 11 astronauts, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong – while Michael Collins stayed in orbit aboard the command module – landed the Eagle without mishap and walked on the Moon. Incidentally, and in keeping with his political moniker, Michael Collins briefly served under Richard Nixon as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs. Back to the Apollo programme; on this day in 1971 Apollo 15 astronauts became the first to ride in a lunar rover (aka a Moon buggy), a space exploration vehicle specifically designed to negotiate the tricky terrain.

While the old saying goes that bad things happen in threes, I think #4 might argue that should be four. On the Friday that he attended the funeral of his friend Michael, who died of cancer at a ridiculously young age leaving a young family, an outing was planned to an open air cinema in the evening. The Greatest Showman is our six-year-old middle granddaughter’s favourite film (so far) and she was super-thrilled at the prospect of seeing it again, as was her younger sister. So, after dinner by the coast en route, the family headed off to the magnificent grounds of Holkham Hall in Norfolk, armed with blankets and huge sweaters. #3 was in charge of organising the tickets and obviously got carried away, opting for the VIP package – though they were indeed excellent seats. As the curtain rose, so to speak, there was yet more excitement, at least until the equipment threw a wobbly seconds later – whether a dodgy connection or someone forgetting to put a coin in the meter we’ll never know, just that there was nothing to be done and it was time to leave. Tears, of course, and even the solemn promise to buy the DVD as soon as was humanly possible didn’t console completely – but at least the complimentary first drinks had been consumed.

When he went into work the next morning, #4 was made redundant out of the blue, along with everyone else – they were given a cheque in lieu and shown the door without ceremony. The founder of the business died just after my dad a couple of years ago and apparently his widow decided, practically overnight, to pull the plug. Bit of a shock to all. As he made his way home on foot, two drunks (bearing in mind this was roughly 10.00 am!) tried to mug him. Fortunately, their inebriated state hindered them considerably in their pursuit of extra beer money and his long legs (he’s 6’3”) facilitated his escape, practically unscathed.

The following weekend was rather more successful, when the OH and sons #3 and 4 went on their annual pilgrimage to Goodwood – the Festival of Speed, not horseracing. While there, they torture themselves by ogling the sort of high-end vehicles none of them will ever be able to afford and take a helicopter ride, imagining for just a short while that they are magnificent men in their flying machine. Yeah right. The birds are actually for sale, with zillion quid price tags, and are typically snapped up early on. I am definitely in the wrong job!

Jenny and I are both a year older since we last chewed the fat (gross expression!) We celebrated our birthdays on 13th July, along with Patrick Stewart (Star Trek), Ian Hislop (Private Eye), Ernö Rubik (cube man), Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones), Chris White (Dire Straits) and Julius Caesar (et tu?) – although there is speculation he might have been born on 12/7 and there doesn’t appear to be anyone around still to verify.

Some slebs have chosen the 13th to get married; DH Lawrence (1914), Walt Disney (1925), José Ferrer (1953), Halle Berry (2013) and Jimmy Kimmel (also 2013, the day that Glee star Cory Monteith died of an overdose, and eighteen people were killed, with forty injured when a gravel truck collided with a bus in Podolsk, Russia).

While Jen did a bunk on her hols, for me it was a lovely family BBQ day at home. The early morning rain cleared and the sun came out, so a great time was had by all in the garden. I actually dusted off the iPad and had a Facetime conversation (my first, and possibly last) with #3, who was dodging monsoon conditions in Mumbai. In the latest move in the campaign to drag old fogey Mum into the 21st century, #2 gave me an Amazon Fire TV stick as a gift – more technology angst! We’ve always refused to have Sky, or anything else – much to the boys’ annoyance when they were at home, because ‘everyone else has it!’ We simply don’t watch that much TV, and apart from the OH’s spasmodic grumbles at the absence of Sky Sports when he can’t watch the rugby, we’ve never missed it. At least the remote for this newest gizmo doesn’t appear to have too many confusing options …

As I write this in advance, we don’t yet know who will be the UK’s new PM from 24/7 – just that it will either be Boris Johnson (why would someone whose first name is Alexander, want to call themselves Boris?) or Jeremy Hunt. I know little about Hunt, except that you have to be quite careful how you pronounce his name – to call him a Runt would be very rude after all, but a friend was at Eton with Bojo, David Cameron, George Osborne and I forget who else. He says Johnson has always appeared to be a bit of a buffoon and sometimes plays on it, but in reality he is very savvy – it’s just that his tongue can’t keep up with his stream of consciousness, as it hurtles toward his lips in a bid for freedom. Whoever gets the keys to No 10 and assumes guardianship of Larry the cat, let’s hope they can find the brakes on the handcart that is taking the country to hell.

To wind up, an update of sorts on the Apollo 11 Moon landing. James Burke covered the momentous event for the BBC in 1969, as their science correspondent, but when interviewed this month he said, ‘Fifty years on: was it worth it? Not for the new science and technology. Not even for the view of a vulnerable planet Earth from space …

However, the project was a part of the weapons race that would eventually bankrupt the USSR. And Apollo certainly advanced the art of management and organisation … for the majority of the population it’s only history. Been there, done that. As is, to an extent, everything ‘space’ since. Talk of interplanetary derring-do remains back-burner material, given our present focus on earthly matters such as pollution, climate change, starvation and resource depletion.’

Strange sentiments from someone who devised and presented the excellent TV programme, Tomorrow’s World and who was once described by The Washington Post as ‘one of the most intriguing minds in the Western world’. Without the Apollo series and other exploratory missions, we might not have the ISS hovering above us and met its most popular inhabitant, Tim Peake, who engaged young and old alike with his antics and inclusivity – there wasn’t much ‘been there, done that’ when he ran the London Marathon in real time on a treadmill, for instance. But perhaps I missed Burke’s point entirely as sadly, I don’t have an intriguing mind. In any event, I prefer to believe that the success of Apollo 11 was indeed ‘one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.’

I am now clambering down from my soap box to say Toodles. Thanks, as always, to Jenny for having me. Hopefully see you in September.

NP

**

Check out one of Nell’s novel’s- A Hostile Witness-  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hostile-Witness-Nell-Peters-ebook/dp/B0191NJIMC/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Nell+Peters&qid=1563820679&s=digital-text&sr=1-1 

A huge pleasure as ever Nell. I hope you enjoyed your birthday as much as I enjoyed mine.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

Page 1 of 6

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén