Tom Fleck & The Black Caravel

31 Oct

My friend Harry Nicholson asked me to review his new novel, The Black Caravel. I helped proofread his last one, Tom Fleck, but I’ve had no hand in this book.

So, first impression: I loved it!  It’s quite a short novel but packed with incident and likeable and interesting characters.

The Black Caravel is a sequel to Tom Fleck.  The latter is fully titled Tom Fleck: A novel of Cleveland and Flodden, and is set in 1513.  The novel tells the story of 18-year old Tom and his adventures, which climax at the Battle of Flodden.  You can read more about it here; as well as the first chapter.  I highly recommend it.

The Black Caravel is set twenty-three years later, in 1536, when Tom is a happily married family man.  From the blurb:

1536 is a year of rebellion against Henry VIII’s seizure of England’s abbeys. Barbary corsairs raid northwards.  Despite the turmoil, Tom Fleck must journey to London.

You don’t need to have read the first book to make sense of the second – Harry reminds us of pertinent details quite seamlessly – but, as I might have mentioned, I recommend that you do, just for the joy of reading good historical fiction.

I confess to loving Tom Fleck.   He is brave, principled and adventurous.  He’s what is popularly described as a book boyfriend: the man I would marry (after Jamie Fraser) if I could somehow dispose of the Hub without going to jail, assuming of course that I could bring a fictional character to life and he wouldn’t object to my complete lack of skills that would fit me to live in the 16th century (me being no Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser).

What I love about Harry’s books, however, handsome hero aside, are the fascinating details he weaves into his stories.  I now know how to prepare a rabbit for the pot, making sure to steep it in brine overnight; and that gulls dine on dead men’s eyes first (despite that nugget, let me assure you that the books are not gruesome, although they don’t shy away from the unpleasant realities of their setting).  I discovered from reading the books that Harry has a real love of nature which is not something that appeals to me, and yet it was engrossing to learn for example of the herbs that freshen your mouth or which heal in some way. 

Harry has a background in seafaring and his knowledge litters the pages of The Black Caravel without showing off in any way.  He writes what he knows, and the books are better for it.  

Perhaps more importantly, Harry has a way of getting to the nitty-gritty of his subject matter, leaving us to draw parallels to today:

Tom watched them depart and wondered at the brave poverty.  It was a topsy-turvy world.  Such a struggle to live.  Hard knocks and cold drownings, and all the while velvet-clad folk in London’s great halls dined on swan.

Dining on swan aside, I couldn’t help thinking of the modern world with its food banks; it’s rich/poor divide; its drowning, desperate refugees.  A struggle to live indeed.

So, I’ll say it again, even though I’ve said it twice before:

                                                Tom Fleck and The Black Caravel:

                                                                               highly recommended!

Tom Fleck by [Nicholson, Harry]

The books are available on Kindle or in paperback:

Tom Fleck: Amazon UK, Amazon US

The Black Caravel: Amazon UK, Amazon US In the UK, this book is currently available free with Kindle Unlimited, so why not buy the first one at its very reasonable price of £2.24?

Incidentally, Harry is a gifted enamellist (I think they’re called).  Check his blog for some wonderful work; including the two originals which are his books’ covers.

*

And finally…

From Wikipedia:

Muphry’s law is an adage that states: “If you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written.”[1] The name is a deliberate misspelling of Murphy’s law.

Just so you know, although it wasn’t a criticism, when I wrote, I helped proofread his last one, Tom Fleck, I actually wrote: I helped proofread his last one., Tom Fleck.

There’s a reason Muphry has his own Law.

Freaked!

14 Oct

Image result for funny head

Image from http://www.dailyhaha.com/_pics/top-of-the-head.jpg

An email came to my inbox via my Kindle:

Wowchers for Linda: 3D Virtual Reality Heads

I’m not gonna lie, the thought of floating heads, real or not, freaked me out more than a little; but I had to check the email because I just couldn’t imagine how that would work.  And really, what would be the point of a virtual reality head?  Would you take it to work and say to your colleagues, ‘Look at the size of my pimple’? You’d have to pass it off as a pimple because who wants to work with a person with two heads?  Though it would come in handy during boring meetings, when the head could pay attention and you could doze off for an hour.  You’d have to ensure the head knew not to eat the biscuits, though…talk about messy.

I rather enjoyed meandering on the possibilities of my must-have future floating head.  It was a bit of a letdown, then, when I opened the email, to see that my Kindle had merely cut the title short.  What was really on offer were 3D Virtual Reality Headsets.

Sigh.

Reminds me of the Freecycle offer that once landed in my inbox.  I’ve mentioned this one before but it’s worth repeating:

Offered: One child.

Seems they’d pressed ‘enter’ too quickly because what they meant to offer was one child’s bicycle. 

I swear it’s a true story.

Talking of Freecycle, I can’t remember where  I read it but this story’s a little more apocryphal:

Saw advert on Freecycle this morning: “Wanted: hair dryer for my wife.”

Wonder how many emails he’ll get with, “Sounds like a fair exchange.”

 

Rogue’s Gallery

10 Oct

Happy birthday to the Hub!
IMG_3229

Such a cheerful man.  You can see why I’ve stayed married to him for so long, can’t you?

He was a good glass; a reliable glass...

Here's how I did react

A honeymoon pic.  He was twenty.

DSCN0832A barrel of laughs.

A silent Hub

A self-portrait he made which freaked the heck out of me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Linda pregnant 1996005When a man looks that good, here’s the inevitable result…

The Week Ahead

1 Oct

Image result for mr darcy lake

Read all about this creepy sculpture here

Here’s what’s on my calendar for this week:

Monday: Clean the windows; replace nets.

It has to go on my calendar or I simply won’t do it.  If it’s written down, it’s effectively an order given by me to me and I’m scary when I’m annoyed so I have to do it.

Tuesday: Shop for and visit (via bus) friend housebound with broken foot.

She makes the best cheesecakes in the world; I daren’t neglect her.

Wednesday: Day out with friend.

We’re going to Lyme Hall, where THE Pride & Prejudice was filmed.  Expect the lake to fill up with my drool.

Thursday: A.M.: Deliver a writing workshop for charity.

Of course it’s for charity: who in their right mind would pay me?

Thursday: P.M.: Choir

Those cats won’t imitate themselves.

Image result for mr darcy cartoon

Friday & Saturday are free.

So far.  I need to put in some time on my poetry collection as I’m now a month behind, so maybe I’ll schedule that (Monday refers).

Sunday: Stockport Writers.

I’m chairing.  Hm.  Maybe I can get them to write about their interesting week…

Every Day: Ten minute writing exercise as soon as I wake up.

An October challenge.  This morning’s scribbling made absolutely no sense (what I could read of it).  I may have to change it to ‘Ten minute writing exercise as soon as I’ve had my first cup of tea and washed my face and woken up a bit’.

Every Day: Cook, clean, walk the dogs, nag the Hub.

Yawn.

Today: Think up lame blog post so readers will feel less ignored.

Using my diary to tell you why I’m too busy to blog is inspired, I think.  Expect more of the same.

Hello?

Where did everyone go…?

In Which I Attempt To Smooth Over My Long Absence By Offering You Some Old-Fashioned Entertainment

22 Sep

Hey sweeties, how are you all?

Apologies for how long it’s been since I last posted.  In my defence, 2016 has been the busiest year of my life, one way or another.  I took a couple of weeks off in August to recharge my batteries but hectic life started up again in September.

Some highlights: as a volunteer, I now run a monthly creative writing workshop at a mental health charity here in Stockport.  I have also delivered other workshops elsewhere, including at the school where I’m a governor.  I’ve given a number of poetry readings.  I finished the holiday club script and dived straight back into editing my second poetry collection.  I have been up and down the country by train for various reasons, most of which – but not all – involved watching Alex perform in one thing or another.  We’ve had both boys home, together and separately.  And I joined a community choir (because I obviously don’t have enough to do).

I love to sing.  I have a pleasant voice; not great.  Naturally, if I’d had training, I’d be a massive superstar a la Kylie Minogue (same height) or Susan Boyle (same great looks), but instead, thanks to my parents’ complete lack of foresight, I’ve had to settle for a wobbly command of mid-range notes, sung in the my-dog’s-embarrassing-howl style.  Nevertheless, I love being part of a choir.

I especially loved it last Saturday, when the choir held its fifth anniversary concert, singing a collection of music down the centuries, from Mozart and madrigals to the Beatles, Coldplay and Adele (what is wrong with that woman?  Someone Like You…total stalker anthem).

Here’s my problem: I’m easily distracted.  If I sit in the middle of the Altos, I can sing the alto line-tune-harmony-whatever.  Place me anywhere near the Baritones or Sopranos, however, and I’m all over the place, and not in a good seeing-the-world-and-all-its-wonders way.  I’m the musical equivalent of a wrecking ball, bashing the closest notes in a frenzy of must-get-through-this-no-matter-what and taking down anyone within range before they’re even aware that the trill under the bridge has escaped to eat anyone unfortunate enough to cross its path.

Image result for free to use singing funny

This is not a case of false modesty: I cannot hold a tune if my neighbour wavers even a little from my particular party line.  It is for this reason I opted to sit near the back of the Altos on Saturday night, at the end of the row closest to the wall.  I was safe there; and everyone was safe from me…until three surplus Sopranos were moved to the only empty seats on the stage, next-but-one to me.  Ah well; I smiled a lot, sang the unison parts and mouthed the words when the tune overpowered me. The audience seemed to enjoy themselves all night so I don’t think they noticed; though the Mayor of Manchester did leave early…he said it was for another engagement, but he would say that, wouldn’t he?

The most exciting thing for me was that I got to perform with Alex!  Granted, he was a featured soloist and I hid behind my scores the whole night, but still, I performed with my baby!  He sang the lyrics to Billy Joel’s For The Longest Time and the choir sang all the backing ‘woh-woh’ bits. Thirty-six members of the choir sang the ‘woh-woh’ bits, that is; and one member kept getting distracted and forgetting where she was up to.

The harmony lyrics are basically, Woh-oh-oh-oh…For the longest time.  How hard can it be?

Pretty hard, actually, if you’re trying to listen to the child who once sat in your stomach like lead pillow stuffing sing like the angel who gave you stretch marks on top of your other angel’s stretch marks, and thirty-six other people won’t shut up so you can hear him.

Now for the promised entertainment: I’m not going to give you For The Longest Time because there’s some woman in the back out of time and out of tune; instead, I give you a little bit of Gershwin.  You may recall Alex’s frequent collaborator, Sam Gilliatt, who played Jesus to his Judas in Godspell; and Greville to his Bert in two separate productions of The Tree of War.  Here they are showing off their natural onstage chemistry.  You can thank me in the comments.  Incidentally, this performance came after one ten-minute rehearsal, thirty minutes before the show.  Both boys had been busy with other things and that was their first opportunity to rehearse together.

Fred & Ginger Fred

Postscript:

My favourite comment of the night came from the sweet geriatric lady who told Alex, ‘I’m one of your groupies.’

 

Meet Me In Tring?

12 Aug

MSND-P-005.jpg

Photo © Adam Trigg 2016 www.adamtrigg.co.uk

Hello folks.

Apologies for the lengthy absence; I’ve been busy with one thing and another – including the world première of my script,  An Unexpected Hero.  It debuted in grand style at St John’s, the church across the road from my house.  We had an audience of at least twenty children each day!  Academy Award, I’m on your trail…  

In all seriousness, it was just a little something I knocked up for our church holiday club, but I had fun writing it and it kept me busy.

Alex has been busy, too.  He is currently appearing as Caliban in The Tempest at Pendley Shakespeare Festival in Tring.  Last week he appeared as a Fairy and Wedding Singer in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The festival has been going for 67 years.  You can read all about it here.  They stage two plays in three weeks, using a mix of amateurs and professionals for cast and crew.  It’s very popular.

I’m going to see it on Sunday.  The Hub wanted to go with me but he’s not well enough, which leaves us with a spare ticket.  If you live in that general area and can get yourself to Tring for the Sunday Matinée, you’re welcome to use it. Email me at cosgrifflinda1@gmail.com if you’re interested.

I’d say first come, first served but I can’t imagine I’ll have many takers, seeing as how most of you live abroad.  But you never know.

And if you can’t make it on Sunday but you live nearby, the show runs until Sunday, so pop on down to see some fine open air theatre.

 

Viv

15 Jul
My favourite photo of Viv

My favourite photo of Viv

I never truly understood the concept of a heavy heart until this past week, when I heard the news that my beloved friend Viv had died.

Many of you knew her, whether online or in person; many more must have read her comments on my blog: she was one of my greatest supporters and cheerleaders. I loved her very much.  I’m glad I told her so.

I am not alone in my love: once the news had been posted by her family, on her blog, comments poured in from all over the world; dismay and sadness were the chief emotions, but many happy memories were shared.  The comment box not being enough, other bloggers posted their own tributes to Viv.  She deserves each and every one.

This isn’t a case of not speaking evil of the dead: she was a genuinely good and generous woman.  She was passionate about music, nature, the environment, quilting, poetry, education, friends, family…but most of all, she was passionate about life.  She lived.  She lived fully.  Despite pain and suffering, she lived right up to the end.  You could never accuse her of apathy.

She was always honest – here’s what turned out to be her last critique of one of my poems:

No and thrice no.  In questionable taste and unfunny!!!!!

I shall treasure it forever.

DSCN0956My heart has been heavy because of her loss; but also because I wanted to write this post – even had it roughed out in my head – but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  If I put it into print, then it became true: my dear Viv has gone.

My dear Viv has gone.

Upon hearing the news of a beloved’s death, people react differently: some cry, some scream, some freeze.  Some pretend it never happened. Some can’t believe that it happened.  All wish it hadn’t happened.

But for each person, no matter their reaction, there is one constant: emotion, like a boulder, sits on the chest – in the chest – where the beloved once resided.  Like Sisyphus, we try to push it away.  Unlike Sisyphus, we eventually succeed.  It may take months, years, decades but, sooner or later, the unbearable loss becomes bearable, and only love remains.

Once a person lodges in your heart, they never leave.  An osmosis occurs; and separation is merely physical.

Viv will always be a part of my life; I will always remember her.  How could I not? Before I met her, when we were friends online only, her personality was such that I was convinced ‘Viv’ was short for ‘vivacious’.  Imagine the full force of her charm and sweetness (she was often tart in print; never in person, that I ever saw) once we actually did meet.  I loved her at once.  You would have, too.

ViV compressed

Photo © Blake/Hutt
Viv graduating from the Open University

Do yourself a favour and visit her blog, if you haven’t before.  She wrote poetry from the heart – like she lived her life – but it was always accessible.  Enjoy her rants on war, politicians, terrorism, the way we treat the environment.  Revel in her sublime appreciation of nature.  Mourn the loss of a unique and special woman; and, like me, be grateful if you knew her at all.

 

Worldly Winds

It's not easy being me!

Vivinfrance's Blog

mainly poetry, also quilts, pictures, life-writing and the occasional short story.

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