Tales from an author

The Excitement of Having a Book Published #selfpublishing

Across many years, I have enjoyed a (modestly) successful writing career, with the publication of eight books on a variety of subjects – history, politics, football, a fantasy novel, and mental health.

I always feel excitement as I complete writing a book, prepare it for publication, and receive the first printed copy. I have admitted in previous Blog posts, that the actual promotion of a book – that has been launched towards a potential readership – is not something I do with confidence. I am not sure why, as I have managed to build something of a public profile, through consistent activity, and have appeared on television a few times.

So here I go again!

My new book offers a new approach to British history, stretching from the origin of Stonehenge, five thousand years ago, to current controversy surrounding Brexit and the future of the nation. First published in 2008, this panoramic survey of themes in our history, along with their contemporary relevance, has been expanded and revised. The development of the states of England, Scotland, and Wales, along with their unification as Britain, is explained. Among a varied cast of people, there are detailed profiles of Boudicca, Saint Swithin, Ethelred the Unready, King Canute, Richard the Lionheart, Samuel Pepys, and George III. Combining profound events with amusing trivia, this kaleidoscope of stories is a thoroughly entertaining popular history.

I believe British History provides new insights into familiar episodes. It develops several previously-published essays, plus material adapted from other books I have written. The recording of history by participants, chroniclers, diarists, and historians is viewed, along with the way in which the relevant events have been reflected in books, films, and television programmes. Our history is a constantly evolving process, rather than something that is fixed, and stuck in the past.  Hopefully I have been able to reflect the way in which individuals interact with events, and understand their place in history.

The book is available as both a paperback and a Kindle download.

I have announced its presence in the world via Twitter, and contacted the local newspaper (we still have one where I live!) asking if they are interested in featuring the book.

I have also made a short You Tube video about the book:

The book opens with a chapter that takes a rapid trip through the prehistoric era, centring on Stonehenge, as follows:


Near the end of Thomas Hardy’s amazing novel Tess of the D’Urbervilles (published in 1891), there is a dramatic scene at Stonehenge. Angel Clare, the husband of Tess, remarks that Stonehenge is “Older than the centuries; older than the D’Urbervilles”. Besides being far older than any Briton we are able to trace by name, Stonehenge is probably the most unmistakable building – or ruin of a long-lost structure – in Britain. It is also a tangible connection to the people who lived on our island in the prehistoric period.

The recorded history of Britain begins with the arrival of Roman invaders, a little over two thousand years ago. Prior to this, there is prehistory, stretching back many thousands of years.  For most of that time, Britain was attached to the European landmass. Around 9000 BCE, following the Ice Age, rising sea levels created the water which divides western Britain from Ireland. The sea level also rose to the east, and Britain was fully separated from continental Europe in about 6000 BCE. The hunter-gatherer method of survival was gradually replaced by farming, with the latter approach reaching Britain, from elsewhere in Europe, probably between 5000 BCE and 4500 BCE.

Work on the site that became known as Stonehenge commenced in around 3100 BCE, when an earthwork, comprised of banks and ditches, was built with the use of primitive tools. A construction of this type is known to archaeologists as a henge. The first set of stones arrived around a thousand years later, with the installation in about 2150 BCE of the Bluestones. These were transported from the Preseli Mountains, in the south west of Wales. It is amazing to think that approximately 80 of these stones, weighing up to four tons each, were moved across a distance of 240 miles as far back in time as four thousand years ago. Current thinking suggests that the stones were transported using a combination of rollers, sledges, and rafts. The likely route appears to have taken the stones from the Preseli Mountains to the coast at Milford Haven, along the southern coast of Wales to England, where they were floated along the western River Avon and then the River Frome. An overland trip from Frome (Somerset) to Warminster (Wiltshire) was followed by spells on the River Wylye, and the Wiltshire Avon, before offloading at Amesbury, from where the stones were dragged to Stonehenge. Most of this is an educated guess, but aerial photos of the two mile stretch from Amesbury to Stonehenge provide lasting evidence of the final part of the journey.

The Outer Ring was constructed circa 2000 BCE, using Sarsen stones, which were brought from the Marlborough Downs, about twenty miles north of Stonehenge. The journey was shorter than that taken by the Bluestones, but the transportation across land of the Sarsen stones, which weighed up to 50 tons each, must have required a monumental effort. At Stonehenge stone lintels were placed on top of the Sarsen stones, with these constructs being held in place by powerful joints. Modern theory suggests that a system of levers and ropes was used to manoeuvre the stones into their final positions. Further building at Stonehenge continued until around 1500 BCE, at which point the Bluestones were re-arranged into what is now the Inner Circle. Britain had by now moved into the Bronze Age, which stretched from about 2200 BCE to 750 BC. As people learned how to produce bronze, by mixing copper with tin, tools became more sophisticated than in the past. This in turn was followed by the Iron Age, and further improvements, with iron being stronger than bronze.

The work of archaeologists and scientists has provided us with good estimates of the period when Stonehenge was built, and the method of construction. It appears, however, that the purpose behind the building of Stonehenge will always remain a mystery. Many theories have been advanced as to who built Stonehenge, and why. The most credible suggestions focus on the possibility that it had an astronomical, or other scientific, purpose. These are suggested by the alignment of the stones with the sun as dawn breaks on June 21 – the longest day of the year. Other serious contenders advance the idea of Stonehenge as a religious temple, in view of the importance that worship has always held in human society. Running alongside this is the possibility that Stonehenge was a burial ground for the leaders of the people that built this enormous edifice. There are many apparent burial mounds in the vicinity of Stonehenge. One of the most commonly-known suggestions is that Stonehenge was built by the Druids. This idea appears to have originated with John Aubrey (1626-1697), an antiquarian, folklorist, owner of estates in Wiltshire, and author of the book Brief Lives. The theory is probably incorrect, as most evidence suggests that the Druids used forest temples as places of worship, rather than stone buildings. Nevertheless the modern-day Druids have regularly gathered at Stonehenge for the Summer solstice festival. The earliest surviving written reference to Stonehenge appears in History of the English by Henry of Huntingdon, which dates from about 1130. Henry wrote about “Stanenges, where stones of wonderful size have been erected after the manner of doorways” and added that “no one can conceive how such great stones have been so raised aloft, or why they were built there”.

 Wiltshire by Arthur Mee, a book published in 1939 as part of Mee’s The King’s England series, provides descriptions of the history, traditions, topography, and architecture of Wiltshire’s towns and villages. Mee opens a piece on Stonehenge with the statement:

About ten miles northward of Salisbury, it is the most finished work of a mysterious race of men who scattered circles and avenues of stone, stone places of burial, and stone monuments over many parts of the world. Most of these memorials are primitive, but Stonehenge is elaborate and massive, with signs of design and a fixed purpose.

Later in a delightful account, Mee writes:

It has been said of Stonehenge that it is an Ancient British work, a Druidical work, a Saxon work, even a Danish work, and a scholar has in our time suggested that it was erected by immigrants from Egypt.

Other theorists have seriously advanced alternative cases for the French, Bronze Age Greeks, or aliens from another planet as builders of Stonehenge. At times the supposed scholarship on Stonehenge has become entwined with the fantastical. The most famous of the legendary explanations of Stonehenge revolves around the traditions associated with King Arthur. The tale first appears in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain, which was written in the 1130s. According to Geoffrey, during the fifth century Hengest, an invading Saxon leader, massacred 300 British nobles. Aurelius Ambrosius, the British high king, decided to raise a memorial to his fallen supporters, and Merlin, the mentor of Arthur, had the idea of transporting the Giant’s Ring stone circle from Ireland to Britain. An earlier legend suggested that the stones had been moved by giants from Africa to Ireland, and placed on Mount Killaraus, as a stage for the performance of rituals. Uther Pendragon, the father of King Arthur, led an expedition to Ireland, during which Merlin used magic to relocate the stones to Britain, whereupon they formed the rings of Stonehenge. Following their deaths, the bodies of Aurelius Ambrosius and Uther Pendragon were reputed to have been buried at Stonehenge. Most of this is obviously fiction, but Aurelius Ambrosius gave his name to Amesbury, the town near Stonehenge. Meanwhile there are other Arthurian links to the area. Salisbury has been seriously suggested as the site of the Battle of Camlann, and Guenevere ended her days in a convent at Amesbury.

The reason for Stonehenge is lost in mystery, but there can be no doubting the continued affection for the building among the British people. During 2002, a poll of the general public declared Stonehenge to be one of the seven wonders of Britain, alongside Big Ben, the Eden Project, Hadrian’s Wall, the London Eye, Windsor Castle, and York Minster. The enduring importance of Stonehenge contrasts with the transitory nature of the Millennium Dome, built in London to mark the year 2000.

Very little of the original Stonehenge has survived into our current age. Over the centuries most of the stones have been lost – probably being plundered for use in other construction. It was not until 1918 that ownership of Stonehenge was transferred to the British government, and conservation became a priority. In 1978 public access to the actual stones, as opposed to the surrounding area, was curtailed. The restrictions have been continued by English Heritage, which has managed the site since 1984, balancing the need to conserve Stonehenge with a wish to make it accessible to the British public, and the many foreign tourists for whom it is a magnet. The work of English Heritage, and similar organisations, such as the National Trust, plays a vital role in preserving the physical presence of British history. In parallel, historians maintain and develop our history in written form. It is a wonderful ongoing process.



#TheBeatles #Revolver (1966)

Beatles Paperback Writer

An enduring debate among fans of the Beatles tries to answer a question, which is their best album? Ultimately it is difficult, probably impossible, to quantify this. So much of the judgement is subjective, with people arguing the case for their individual favourite. Over the years, my mind has hopped in assessing the relative merits of Revolver (1966), Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), and Abbey Road (1969), but Revolver has generally been my favourite Beatles album.

The quality of songs is outstanding on Revolver, with great variety, building into a showcase of the brilliance of the Beatles. Besides Paul McCartney’s majestic Eleanor Rigby, and the novelty of Ringo Starr singing Yellow Submarine, there is an amazing trio from John Lennon – I’m Only Sleeping, She Said She Said, and Tomorrow Never Knows. George Harrison offers a couple of great songs in Taxman and I Want to Tell You. The studio experimentation of Sgt. Pepper began a few months earlier in the Revolver sessions. Revolver was recorded between April and June 1966, shortly before the Beatles ceased touring, feeling frustrated that screaming fans were drowning out their music, while constant media attention left the band with little peace.

A notable part of the appeal of Revolver is the way in which it displays an eclectic mix of styles, but also has unity, powered by the guitar and drums sound common to the uptempo numbers. There are also dreamy lyrics that flow from Eleanor Rigby to Tomorrow Never Knows. The album title is a clever reflection of the way in which records revolve. There is also the original cover, with the psychedelic collage by Klaus Voorman on the front, and a photo of the band on the back – both in stark black and white. Revolver still sounds and feels modern – more than half a century after it was recorded. The 2009 remastered CD version of Revolver has enhanced packaging, including illuminating liner notes, although these are not as extensive as for the Sgt. Pepper reissue of that year.

Here is a track-by-track run through the record:

Side 1 (approximately 18 and a half minutes)

1 Taxman. The album begins with a 1,2,3,4 countdown, leading into George’s scathing complaint about the way in which his income was subject to punitive tax rates. There is also a scorching guitar solo, provided by Paul, in contrast George normally being the band’s lead guitarist.

2 Eleanor Rigby. One of the greatest songs in the Beatles’ catalogue, this is a minimalist piece, with vocals from Paul accompanied by a double string quartet. In just a few seconds over two minutes, Paul conjures up the lonely tale of a vicar and a spinster.

3 I’m Only Sleeping. John tells a tale of the point where sleep becomes awakening. This is enlivened by a backwards recording of a guitar line.

4 Love You To. A philosophical love song from George, accompanied by Indian musicians. George’s interest in Indian music had seen him play the sitar on Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) the previous year, and would develop in 1967, as Within You Without You featured on Sgt. Pepper.

5 Here, There and Everywhere. Paul provides a great love song, inspired by the Beach Boys’ God Only Knows, from the Pet Sounds album, which arrived not long before Revolver.

6 Yellow Submarine. We navigate the sea in a submarine, with a lovely sing-along, led by Ringo.

7 She Said She Said. John’s tale of an LSD trip, as he hallucinates about a mystery woman, the year before Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.

Side 2 (approximately 16 and a half minutes)

8 Good Day Sunshine. Paul brightens the mood with a song about the joys of love, and sunshine.

9 And Your Bird Can Sing. A rather cutting song from John.

10 For No One. Paul’s lament for a failed romance.

11 Doctor Robert. John’s story about a drug dealer.

12 I Want to Tell You. An often-neglected marvel, tucked away near the end of Revolver, with that album’s trademark sound, as George asks more questions.

13 Got to Get You Into My Life. Paul’s take on soul music, in the year after the Rubber Soul album.

14 Tomorrow Never Knows. The amazing finale of Revolver is John’s psychedelic take on Eastern meditation. Forty years later, on the Love album, George and Giles Martin merged two songs of Eastern thought into a splendid idea, with the start of John’s Tomorrow Never Knows vocal leading into George singing Within You Without You, while the drumming from the first song strengthens the music of the latter.

Perhaps the only flaw is the brevity of Revolver, at just under 35 minutes. There is also a lop-sidedness, with side 1 being longer than side 2 by two minutes. Side 2 feels short, with first four songs there totalling under eight and a half minutes. The length of Revolver may have been standard for the time, but Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited, released the previous year, clocked in at 51 minutes. The 2009 liner notes mention that the single Paperback Writer / Rain was recorded at the Revolver sessions. Perhaps these two songs could have been added as bonus tracks at the end of the Revolver CD. Perhaps, with the agreement of the surviving Beatles, Paperback Writer and Rain could even be integrated within the main sequence, leaving Tomorrow Never Knows as the finale to a Revolver Revisited?

Moving on from that thought, I have devised an alternative 16 track sequence, which would take increase the length of the album to just over 40 minutes, while balancing the two sides to about 20 minutes each. I also adjust the division of the non-John / Paul lead vocal songs, where there are originally three George / Ringo songs on side 1, compared with only one on side 2. My track list has split the George / Ringo songs evenly, with two on each side. I also ensure that each of the vocalists has a song that either starts or ends one side of the fantasy album. The Beatles originally intended to give the album that became Revolver a magical title, Abracadabra. Another idea was Four Sides of the Circle, reflecting the way in which four men had made a circular record.

Side 1

1 Taxman

2 Paperback Writer. The A side of the single omitted from the album appears early in the expanded version. Paul’s tale about the wonders of story-telling flows into the next track ere.

3 I’m Only Sleeping

4 Eleanor Rigby. The sleepiness of the previous song gives way to the harsh reality of loneliness – by reversing the order of the original tracks 2 and 3.

5 And Your Bird Can Sing. The tempo changes, with a quicker song, moved over from the brisk start to side 2.

6 Here, There and Everywhere

7 She Said She Said

8 Yellow Submarine. Tracks 6 and 7 from the original are re-ordered, to allow Ringo to close side 1.

Side 2

9 Good Day Sunshine

10 Rain. The B side of Paperback Writer is an under-rated gem, a brilliant burst of psychedelic rock, with lead vocals by John – and even the reversal of a vocal line near the end of the song. Here Rain follows neatly on from the sunshine of the previous track.

11 Love You To. I think the bright Indian introduction to this song – now delayed from side 1 – is a neat clearing of the musical sky after the preceding Rain. Thereafter my track list replicates the original Revolver sequence for the last five songs.

12 For No One

13 Doctor Robert

14 I Want to Tell You

15 Got to Get You Into My Life

16 Tomorrow Never Knows



#AliceInWonderland #LadyOfShalott #GlassOnion

Here is another extract from my new novel – with a bizarre poem.

Alice was suddenly feeling very alone. Indeed she felt a bit like that mysterious woman. Which mysterious woman? With a bit of thought, Alice remembered what she meant. The idea that had popped into her head was about The Lady of Shalott, a poem by Alfred Tennyson. This had inspired an atmospheric painting of the same name by a painter, and his name had been….“J M W Turner….no not Turner….J M W Watercolour….no….and it was not Watercooler….oh I remember now, he was J W Waterhouse.” The Tennyson verses about unrequited love drew upon a tale featuring Elaine of Astolat – linked in some way (Alice could not quite remember….how?) to King Arthur. The lady in the poem experiences a sad existence, watching the reflected activity of other people in a mirror (“shadows of the world appear”), and weaving stories she observes into a tapestry.

Trying to re-orientate herself, Alice said “Do I know the things I used to know? Let me see. Try Geography. Britain is England, Scotland, Wales – yes that seems okay. Now try to remember the states that made up Yugoslavia. What were they? Croatia, Serbia, Titograd, Yugotours, Sveti Stefan, Spassky, Bonsai Eva Herzigova, Macedonia, Alexandria, Cleopatra, Albania. No I do not think that was quite right. What about the provinces of the Netherlands? Should be simple. There is Holland, North Holland, South Holland, New Amsterdam, Edam, and New Zealand. Maybe not? Will try to recite some of The Lady of Shalott.” Alice began her favourite poem but, like a northern song, the words appeared to be going wrong:

Weaving a tapestry, the Lady of Shalott

Visions reflected through a glass onion

Catch a glimpse of a fair maiden

Her feet sore from bunions 

Fixing a hole in the ozone

Nearly ending the verse, that’s your lot

“I’m sure those are not the right words”, said poor Alice, and her eyes filled with tears again as she went on, “I am so very tired of being all alone here!” As she said this she looked down at her hands, and was surprised to see that she had put on one of the Rabbit’s little white gloves while she was talking. “How can I have done that?” she thought. “I must be growing small again.” She got up and went to the table to measure herself by it, and found that, as nearly as she could guess, she was now about two feet high, and was going on shrinking rapidly. She soon guessed that the cause of this was the flapping of the fan, and dropped it hastily, just in time to avoid shrinking away altogether.

“That was a narrow escape!” said Alice, a good deal frightened at the sudden change, but very glad to find herself still in existence. “Now for the garden!” and she ran with all speed back to the little door. Alas, the little door was shut again, and the little golden key was lying on the glass table as before. “Things are worse than ever,” thought Alice, “as I was never as small as this before.”

As she said these words her foot slipped, and in another moment, with a splash, she was up to her chin in salt water. Her first idea was that she had somehow fallen into the sea. “In that case I can go back by railway,” she said to herself. As a young child, Alice had come to the general conclusion that, wherever you go on the English seaside, you find some children digging in the sand with wooden or plastic spades, then a row of beach huts, and behind them a railway station. In later years, Alice understood the symbol of the steam train thrusting into a dark tunnel. Now she made out that she was in the pool of tears, which she had wept when she was nine feet high. “I wish I had not cried so much!” said Alice, as she swam about, trying to find her way out. “I shall be punished for it now, I suppose, by being drowned in my own tears! That will be a queer thing, to be sure! However, everything is queer today.”

Alice was wearing a rather fetching blue and white dress, bought for a fancy dress party as far as she could recall, and found swimming in this a bit of a challenge. Alice was also wearing a pair of black and white chequered hold-up stockings, and a pair of high-heeled black shoes.




Re-Blogging an excellent piece on #PattiSmith #Devotion – amazing book I have read recently.

I started this review at three in the morning. I woke up with a pain in my side; probably the result of poor cooking decisions on my part. I sat in a large chair, covered myself in blankets, and wrapped a heavy scarf around me for a shawl. The pains subsided with the writing, and […]

via Devotion: Patti Smith —

#AliceInWonderland #AmWriting #Fantasy

A day on from a Blog piece about my new novel, Alice’s Adventures in Fantasyland, here is an extract from the first chapter, in which Alice is transported from Britain to a different place.

       1 An Enchanted Garden

“An enchanted garden, and a golden afternoon” Alice declared. Alice was sitting in the grounds of Strawberry Fields Forever, a National Trust stately home, with her friend Sadie. The house, situated at Lyndhurst, a quaint village (or was it a town?) in the New Forest, retained the decor of the late 1960s, when it had been owned by a wealthy hippie, Mean Mr Mustard, and his sister, Polythene Pam. Alice and Sadie had just eaten lunch, each having chicken salad followed by strawberries and cream, washed down with quite a bit of wine. Alice checked the incoming texts on her mobile phone, replied to those requiring a reply, updated her Facebook status, and skimmed through the latest happenings, plus thoughts from dozens of people, on Twitter. This brought her up to date, if only for a moment, in the ever-moving world of mobile communication. Putting these things aside, Alice sat in the sun with Sadie, enjoying a rare moment of carefree relaxation. Sadie mentioned the stunning surroundings – the grass and trees were bright green, and the sky was bright blue. Sadie started to read The Diary of a Nobody, by the Grossmith brothers, a delightful Victorian novel, brought to life with lots of hand-drawn illustrations. Sadie was looking for inspiration, as she hoped to become a paperback writer.

Alice plugged herself in to her IPod, and listened to songs by the Beatles – including a lot of tracks from Love, the surreal remix and mashup album. Towards the end of the glorious 80 second edit of Glass Onion, Alice closed her eyes, saying she was “resting” them, and dozed. Entering the place where wakefulness drifts into sleep, when in bed at night, Alice often experienced something she called a “mini-dream,” a dream of just a few seconds, from which she would exit, briefly awaking, before falling properly asleep – her “golden slumbers.” Alice had a “mini-dream” about eating giant strawberries, and told the detail to Sadie, who seemed unsure what this meant.

Alice drifted on to the image of a White Rabbit, seen wandering the grounds of Strawberry Fields Forever. The Rabbit seemed almost human, as it was wearing clothes, and muttering something to itself about the passage of time. The Rabbit even took a watch from a jacket pocket, and announced the time as “fifteen minutes,” without specifying any relationship to an hour of the clock.

Intrigued by this, Alice wandered towards the Rabbit, which hopped through a gap in a hedge. Alice noticed a group of four beetles, as she continued to pursue the Rabbit, which jumped into a narrow tunnel. In a moment of spontaneity, Alice squeezed into the tunnel, and felt herself to be moving at great speed. The strange thing was that she was not falling downwards, instead she was being sent in a roughly horizontal direction, apparently by some unseen wind or other power, through an ever-twisting tunnel. Alice felt a mixture of fear and exhilaration, as if on a rollercoaster ride, and wondered where she might arrive. Perhaps the other side of the world, or was this a route across the universe into another dimension? How long would the ride take? The answer to the latter question came just a couple of minutes after entry to the tunnel. All of a sudden, the helter skelter journey stopped, as the tunnel reached a fork, and the power pushing Alice forward ceased. Alice took the left prong of the fork, having seen the Rabbit do this. Passing a sign advising that this was Penny Lane, Alice walked along a wide, empty, corridor, and found herself to be alone. Where had the Rabbit gone to? Where was Alice? Was this a place far away from the lonely people?

In a dash to follow the Rabbit, Alice had left her handbag, with her mobile phone and money in it, by the chair in the garden of Strawberry Fields Forever. In any case, she did not know where she was, and whether her phone and money would be of any use in this new place. More importantly, how could she get back to where she had been? “Help!” Alice whispered to herself. As she walked what appeared to be a long and winding road, Alice was reduced to tears.

Alice walked further along the corridor. Having seen a table in the distance, Alice walked towards this, and found a small golden key placed on top of the table. There were several doors leading off the corridor, but Alice could not get the key to open any of them. Then she saw a single curtain in the corridor, and moved this to reveal a small door. The key opened this door, leading into a tiny corridor. Alice crouched down low, but the corridor was too small for her to be able to safely enter. Alice wished she could navigate the corridor, as it led to the loveliest garden she had ever seen – or imagined. The garden had tangerine trees, marmalade sky, cellophane flowers of yellow and green. It all seemed splendidly surreal, and reminded Alice of something. Then she realised, and said “It is Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds brought to life.” Alice was experiencing a day in the life of a wonderland. Suddenly, as if moved within a giant kaleidoscope, the scene shifted, and Alice could see a walrus and some eggmen, sitting in an English garden, waiting for the sun. “I am the Walrus” reflected Alice, meaning a song, as she did not really think she had turned into a walrus. Actually Alice wished she was a rather naughty girl, the sort who would let her knickers down, just like sexy Sadie, after the fancy dress party, as they shared a brief moment in the park.

Speaking to herself – as there was nobody else here (was it here or there?) to hear her – Alice said “I wish I could shrink down to somebody small enough to get through to the garden.” Alice locked the door, stood up, put the key back on the table, and found that a bottle had mysteriously just appeared on the table. The bottle had the words “Drink me” printed on a label. Alice realised it might not be a good idea to taste the mystery drink, as it might be harmful, even poisonous. On the other hand, with strange things happening, it might be worth trying the drink. There were not any ingredients listed on the bottle – perhaps it was a dubious alcohol mix. Alice tried a quick smell, followed by a small sip, and it seemed okay. Alice drank about half of the contents of the bottle, and suddenly felt herself to be shrinking. Before she knew it, Alice had been reduced to about two foot in height. Alice walked back to the door that led to the garden, but then remembered that she did not have the key. The key was on the table and, trapped by her small stature, Alice could not reach the key.

The small woman resumed talking to herself, saying “Now Alice, you need to concentrate.” Alice repeated similar phrases, as she said (she said) things to herself. As a child, she had been very fond of pretending to be two people, and Alice occasionally reverted to that frame of mind. Alice said “It’s no use now to be pretend to be two people! Why there’s hardly enough of me left to make one respectable person. I cannot recall anything so strange as this happening in my life. At least, not since that piano – or harpsichord – had started playing to me for no real reason”. Alice found that a small cake had appeared on the table, with the words “Eat me” marked in blue icing. Alice thought that eating the cake might return her to her normal height, at which point she could reach the key to the door. Alice started to eat the cake, and was soon growing back to normal height. She grabbed the key. Alice was not now able to fit into the tunnel, but reasoned that by drinking the rest of the drink she could make herself shrink again. This did indeed happen. Looking through the door, Alice hoped to walk into the enchanted garden. Perhaps she might find the White Rabbit, or even a human being, in the garden. Alice wanted company, as it was eerily quiet, and she did not even have her IPod with her.





How Does an Author Promote Their First Novel? #AliceInWonderland


How does an author promote their first novel? I have recently published my first novel. This is something I have wanted to do for many years. Part of the reason for delay is that I have been busy writing factual books. The first sentence of this Blog piece deliberately ends with a question mark. I am not so much offering advice on how to promote a novel, as asking myself, and anybody reading this, how is it done?

Belief in the quality of my writing has always been dwarfed by a lack of confidence in promoting the books, and myself. I think a lot of this is due to my struggling with Asperger Syndrome and OCD. Here is a link to something I wrote about how these things affect me. It was one of my more popular posts on this Blog – and received some comments.

In the case of my novel, there is the complicating factor of my not even being sure that publishing it, without a pseudonym, is a good idea. It is my first foray in the world of….(dare I say it?)….erotica. The whole book is not erotica. There is a lot of gentle comedy, updating the tales in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland books to the present day. There may even be aspirations to literary fiction. Most people, this generally includes myself, do not talk openly about their sexuality, but people are equally fascinated by the concept. I ask myself, will the book be welcomed as an interesting piece of work? Will the “oddball” nature of my novel cause people to take my other writing less seriously? Or will it be largely ignored? For a long time, I lacked the confidence to explicitly tell family and friends, who know I have been writing the book, the direction in which it was headed. Now the novel, Alice’s Adventures in Fantasyland, is available for all the world to read, as both a paperback and Kindle Ebook.

Much of my output has been self-published, but a couple of books have been issued by mainstream publishers. Both of these were books of football history which, after an encouraging start, lost some impact as they became out of date. In the first case, the publisher went bankrupt, while in the second the book was quietly allowed to fade away. Like many writers, I have the ongoing difficulty of getting a publisher without having a literary agent, while attempts to get a literary agent are stalled by my relative lack of prior success getting a publisher!.

It is often said that many writers have a large ego about their writing, combined with a lack confidence about promoting themselves. The outlook of the muddled creator of a piece of art has been likened, by various people, to famous lines from W B Yeats:

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity

The anxiety I have always felt, due to mental health issues, has made dealing with publishers on a personal level difficult. Similarly I have attempted to sell my books in person at book fairs, but lacked the confidence to make much of this. I used to be good at writing and emailing press releases, but terrible at following up with telephone calls to real life journalists. More than 30 years after I started writing books, I am often overwhelmed by a feeling that it will be difficult to be a major success. Should I continue to follow my big dream? Should I settle for the limited level of literary success I have been able to enjoy? In an attempt to prompt myself to be more active, I am writing this short piece, with the intention of updating it as things progress.

I hope to return later with more to report.

Writing Week 2 #Asperger #OCD #Orwell


Hello again, here I am with the second instalment of the planned series of Blog posts about being Asperger, and my writing. There is not a great deal of progress to report, as I have been feeling unwell since posting here last week.

I managed to upload a video on YouTube, in which I talk about the new book, and give a short reading. So far it has received a grand total of 23 viewings, plus a few complimentary comments on Twitter.

The second chapter of Obsessive Compulsive Asperger explains my enthusiasm for Story-Telling. Here are a few paragraphs:

“Begin at the beginning, and go on till you come to the end: then stop”. This advice was given by a King to a White Rabbit, during a bizarre trial, staged near the conclusion of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (published in 1865). There is a lot to be said for starting stories other than at the beginning – I often begin in the middle, hop backwards to the opening, and meander through several digressions, before reaching something like an ending. The curious world of Wonderland has been an unlikely influence on my story-telling, as an imaginary counterpoint to the facts I normally rely upon. Following this short diversion, it is time to mention I have been fascinated by stories for almost as long as I can remember. Good stories entertain and inspire us, often providing vital insights into people’s lives. Stories can be fact or fiction – and sometimes a hybrid.

In my youth, I planned to develop the enthusiasm for books, by becoming a writer. I started to read the works of George Orwell, who remains my favourite author, due to his profound ideas, expressed in a conversational prose style. Besides books published in his lifetime, I enjoyed The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, a posthumously-compiled four volume set. The series opened with Why I Write, an essay from 1946, in which Orwell gave a summary of his literary career. Orwell argued that writers are motivated by four factors, the first of these being “sheer egoism”, caused by a wish to be recognised as a clever person. Next came “aesthetic enthusiasm”, which could follow from appreciation of external beauty, the taking of pleasure in the usage of words, and a wish to share experience. The third factor was “historical impulse”, with an author finding facts to be used for posterity. Orwell’s final motive was “political purpose”, with writers seeking to be an influence on people’s ideas about the direction of their society.

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What is my motivation as a writer? I think – we cannot always be certain about motives – that the central factor is a wish for communication. I feel a need to connect my enthusiasms, ideas, and knowledge with those of fellow human beings – often the effects of Asperger Syndrome make it more comfortable to do this through writing compared with other interaction. I also seek to give permanent record to experiences, many of which would otherwise be forgotten – probably a manifestation of my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Enjoyment in the creation of a piece of writing is followed by a sense of satisfaction when it is published, read by others, and discussed. From the preceding sentences, it appears the second and third of Orwell’s themes are predominant for me. I must confess that ego plays a big (too big?) part, while politics has often been a feature of my writing. My books may appear diverse in nature – spanning history, politics, football, autobiography, and fiction – but they form part of a logical progression, as writing is interweaved with other activities. The books and experiences are twin facets of the developing story of my life, with personal activity placed in a wider context (I could say “the bigger picture”).

I have developed a role as something of a raconteur, offering funny (sometimes slightly exaggerated) tales of my experiences. Stories are told, in animated fashion, at social gatherings, sometimes fuelled by alcohol, although audience participation (or even heckling) often proves a more effective stimulant. I have a love of trivia, and thirst for knowledge, taking delight at links between odd scraps of information. Interesting turns of phrase are often adapted to new purposes in my writing. I also make (I think) good use of irony.

#Asperger #OCD Literature – Week 1

I have posted a few previous pieces in this Blog about my writing, and uncertain confidence in promoting it. I am particularly proud of my latest book, entitled Obsessive Compulsive Asperger, and have therefore decided on a more concerted effort.

The book is available from Amazon, and a bargain at £5.99.

The content is neatly summed up by the following blurb

This is an amazing kaleidoscope of stories. With pen in hand, and tongue-in-cheek, Andrew Godsell plays the roles of writer, public servant, politician, minor television personality, and English eccentric. The author visits John Noakes, discusses football with Bryan Robson, out-wits Anne Robinson on Weakest Link, shakes hands with Ed Miliband, touches Bruce Springsteen, and shares an anecdote about mistaken identity with Patti Smith. Andrew writes with courage about the darkness of a struggle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome. He also finds light by weaving fact, fiction, and fantasy into a modern-day fairy tale.

The plan is to post a Blog piece each week, combining an extract from the book with a summary of the progress (if any??) that I make in promoting my writing.

With my conditions meaning that I work best with a structured plan, I aim to post during each of the next 22 weeks – one week for each chapter in the book.

Alongside this I intend (despite not being great with new-fangled technology) to upload some videos on You Tube. My activities and opinions have attracted some media coverage across the years – so I think I must be doing something right.


The first chapter of the book recalls – mostly with nostalgia but also some anxiety – my childhood. Here are a few paragraphs:

My father had been a close friend of John Noakes during the 1950s, when they served in the Royal Air Force. In 1972, with my brother and I regular viewers of BBC’s Blue Peter, dad wrote to John Noakes, seeking a reunion. One day a neighbour told us that John had arrived looking for dad, while we had been out, and left his telephone number. Dad called John, and our family met up with the Noakes family at their home. We encountered Shep, the Blue Peter dog, looked after by John, but there was not any sign of sticky-back plastic. Mark expected to meet Peter Purves and Valerie Singleton, and was surprised the three Blue Peter presenters did not live together. Following this, John and his son made a return visit to us at Fleet. This was my first brush with celebrity, and I learned that John Noakes was basically an ordinary bloke, despite having found national fame. Meeting John sticks in my mind as a great childhood experience, and a story I still enjoy re-telling – here’s one I did earlier (could not resist that).

The Easter holiday of 1973 included a visit to Stonehenge. I remember being captivated by the aura of Stonehenge, with the ancient stones sat in quiet isolation, holding thousands of years of memory. This was a wonderful survival into the modern era of our earliest past. I felt the power of history, something which still holds my imagination. Sometimes stories develop, and expand, over a long period of time. Fully 35 years after the visit to Stonehenge, a piece about the place would form the opening chapter of my book Legends of British History, which arrived in 2008. The trip to Stonehenge occurred during a weekend with granny and granddad, at their home in Salisbury. Mum, dad, Mark, and I frequently visited granny and granddad, and retain happy memories. There was tea-time, with lots of cakes, followed by our eating suppers of crusty bread with cheese and pickle, before retiring to beds where the sheets and blankets had been tucked in very tightly by granny. In the sitting room, a large clock ticked solidly, and chimed each hour. Displayed in a bookcase below the clock, granddad had a collection of books, mostly history and novels, some of which I read. Alice Rattue, a great grandmother, was a lively character, and I recall visits to her home at Green Croft Street, in Salisbury, the street in which she lived for most of her life. Always seeming to wear grey pleated skirts, Alice swore quite a bit as she recounted disputes with a next door neighbour. Although illiterate, Alice was able to write her name. Alice had been born in 1892, a few months after William Gladstone became Prime Minister for the fourth time, and she died during the first of the two 1974 General Election campaigns. The February Election led to Labour regaining power, nearly four years after losing to the Conservatives.

Many of my happiest childhood memories stem from holidays in the sun, at Goodrington, a village adjoining Paignton. Mum’s extended family visited Goodrington in each year from 1974 to 1980. On the first of these trips we stayed in a cramped boarding house, owned by a grumpy couple, which did not live up to an enticing name, Paradise Lodge. In subsequent years we based ourselves in the comfortable Goodrington Lodge Hotel. We became friendly with the family, named White, who owned the hotel, and several other regular visitors. The hotel was a short walk from Goodrington Sands, the two parts of which are known as the “morning beach” and “afternoon beach” respectively in our family. We used to rent a beach hut at the southern end, which had soft sand, and base ourselves there in the mornings. We would move to the northern part of the beach, with compacted sand, in the afternoon – to enjoy swimming, making giant sandcastles, and playing tennis. The tide comes in fully on the “afternoon beach” so in practice it could not always have been used – but I have the recollection of many afternoons on that beach rather than the opposite. On Wednesday evenings there was a regular disco at the hotel, hosted by the manager, John White, who endeared himself to young and old alike by inadvertently introducing records by Showaddywaddy as performances from Showaddyshowaddy – seemed even more of a tongue-twister. The discos were preceded by cricket matches in the neighbouring park, with our family being joined by other guests. The games got rather competitive, from my perspective – there were arguments about the rules, plus displays of frustration with opponents and team-mates alike.

Cricket was a sport I followed with interest, including attendance at a few Hampshire matches. During 1974, I saw part of a County Championship game, in which Hampshire (the previous seasons champions) beat Worcestershire (who went on to win the title this year) by an innings. The trip was organised by Neville, who was a keen cricketer, playing for Droxford, a picturesque village near Hambledon, “the Cradle of Cricket”. In 1977 Fleet was the scene of a benefit game for Barry Richards, the brilliant South African batsman who played for Hampshire. An injury prevented Richards from playing that day, but I was able to get him to autograph my copy of the benefit brochure. The progress of the England team featured in excellent BBC coverage, with television pictures being complemented by Test Match Special on the wireless – the word dad used for radio.

Dad was my hero as I grew up, with his offbeat sense of humour, and enthusiasms, being a great influence. Mum was the more practical, and steady, member of the family. Mum was also, as dad often remarked, an excellent cook. My parents grew a variety of fruit and vegetables in the back garden. I had lovely moments on Summer afternoons, sat in the garden, eating blackcurrants or strawberries, and watching butterflies flit among the flowers and plants. Each year we travelled to Cheltenham, the home town of the Godsell family, for the August bank holiday weekend, staying with Yvonne, a sister of dad, her husband David, and their daughter Elaine. Dad and David took Mark, Elaine, and I on visits to Pittville Park, with another cousin, Linda. I recall boat trips, with my poor steering rendering return to the perimeter of the lake problematic. On one occasion, reaching an island, I rapidly hopped onto land, whereupon Linda tried to do likewise, but fell into shallow water, and had to wade ashore. We would also visit my dad’s parents, Christopher and Phyllis (nee Cook-Cove). It was saddening to see Christopher, my grandfather, suffer very poor health for several years, leading to his death on March 19 1976.

I attended filming of an episode of Are You Being Served? at a BBC studio in London, during November 1978. With mum having obtained dozens of tickets, a coach trip was organised, with mum, dad, Mark, and I being joined by lots of friends. It was fascinating to see how the programme was made. Prior to filming, we found ourselves in a studio corridor, alongside Wendy Richard and Penny Irving, who were dressed up as Miss Brahms and Miss Bakewell respectively. Dad exchanged hellos with Wendy and Penny. As a curious teenager, suddenly catching sight of a prominent pair of ladies from the exciting world of television, I was left in silent admiration.

Having previously gained a place in the junior school’s chess team, I represented Court Moor at that game. My place in the Court Moor team was secured by a good position in a school chess tournament in the latter part of 1978. I became rather obsessive about chess at this time, with enthusiasm turning to stress about my performance in the competition. My GP referred me to a paediatrician, who prescribed a course of Valium. Unfortunately the doctor also appeared to be a paedophile, who felt diagnosis of my condition required him to attempt a sexual assault. I managed to prevent an assault. I felt shock, combined with a wish not to alarm my parents, and did not say anything at the time. I thought I had dealt with the matter. I took Valium for a few weeks, did not feel any better, got worried about being on the medication, and stopped taking it. I was wrapped up in wider anxieties, about school work and my future. For some reason, which I did not really understand, I was lonely during the latter part of my time at Court Moor. Having been outgoing and popular, I became rather introverted, and was suddenly lacking in real friends. I was a bit of an oddball, who did not fit in, and suffered some bullying.

In May 1979 a General Election was won by the Conservative Party, with Margaret Thatcher becoming Prime Minister. I subsequently wrote about this grim event in the book A History of the Conservative Party, published a decade later in 1989. I felt the outgoing Labour government, in which Jim Callaghan had replaced Harold Wilson as Prime Minister (1976), performed fairly well. The Labour government’s position unravelled during the “Winter of Discontent”, as the effects of industrial disputes were exacerbated by severe weather through the Winter of 1978-79. Long afterwards, I can still recall (picture this) myself walking home from the centre of Fleet, on a cold day in February 1979, with lots of snow on the ground. I had just bought Blondie’s Parallel Lines LP, this being the start of a record collection, which grew rapidly in the next few years. Besides Blondie (fronted by Debbie Harry, an adorable illusion), my initial favourite artists included Elvis Costello (lyricist of genius), and the Sex Pistols (leaders of Britain’s punk rock movement). In August 1979, I bought Because the Night by Patti Smith, a passionate love song that had been a major hit on its release the previous year. I also purchased discs by Buddy Holly, tragically killed in an air crash back in 1959, at the age of just 22. With a great admiration for the Beatles (and a wish to extend A Day in the Life into Strawberry Fields Forever), I became interested in John Lennon’s solo records. The senseless murder of Lennon, in 1980, left millions of people around the world with feelings of immense sadness.

I acquired several records by Bruce Springsteen during 1980, starting with the Born to Run single. Next I bought Bruce’s Darkness on the Edge of Town, a remarkable album, released two years earlier, portraying a life in which struggle is combined with optimism. On May 30 1981, an excited 16 year old attended a concert by Bruce and the E Street Band, at Wembley Arena, which lasted nearly three hours. The highlight was Because the Night, a song Bruce recorded for Darkness on the Edge of Town, but decided not to use. A tape of the song had been passed to Patti Smith, working on Easter – an album with an alluring cover picture of Patti – at the same studio complex as Bruce. The intermediary was Jimmy Iovine, multi-tasking (or multi-tracking) as engineer on Bruce’s album and producer of Patti’s record. With Bruce’s approval, Patti penned changes to the lyrics. Bruce performed Because the Night in concert with his set of words, but had not released his version as a record. I learned that a legendary track, The Promise, intended for the Darkness album, was another omission, and wondered when I might get to hear the song.

Our family had a seventh successive Summer holiday at Goodrington in 1980. Some members wanted change, but the only problem I could see (or feel) was hard potatoes, served at dinner in the hotel restaurant. Walking through the reception of the Goodrington Lodge one evening, I overheard John White on the telephone, complaining to the supplier that the potatoes would not go soft when boiled, which meant residents were not eating them. John had raised this with a delivery man, who said the hotelier was going soft in the head.

Theresa May Creates a Constitutional Crisis

During the 2015 General Election campaign, Theresa May, as Home Secretary in the Con-Dem coalition, claimed that the emergence of a possible minority Labour government, backed by the Scottish National Party, would be the biggest constitutional crisis in Britain since the Abdication in 1936. May’s idea was met with derision.

In the recent General Election campaign, May and the Conservatives kept banging on about their offer of “Strong and stable government”. They contrasted this with the “Coalition of chaos” envisaged if the small Conservative majority was replaced by a progressive government led by Labour, with support from the SNP, Plaid Cymru, and the Green Party. The Tories also consistently smeared Jeremy Corbyn, saying his dialogue with Sinn Fein – which eventually helped the Good Friday peace agreement for Northern Ireland in 1998 – equated support for IRA terrorism.

Now we have a minority Conservative and Unionist government, with the weak and wobbly May desperately clinging on to power, through an unholy alliance with their “friends”, the Democratic Unionist Party.

Jeremy Corbyn has said that Labour, energised by a positive campaign (Jeremy is too modest to add that he has been an inspirational leader) stands ready to take power. As a political activist who supports a written constitution for Britain, I have concerns about the vagaries of the current unwritten constitution.

The Hansard Society has produced an excellent briefing on possible scenarios in a hung Parliament.

The document is well worth a read.

I wish to draw attention to a few specific points.

If May’s government is defeated on the Queen’s Speech, convention suggests she should resign as Prime Minister, and advise the Queen to invite Corbyn, as leader of the second largest party, to attempt to form a government (see pages 11-12). This is only a convention, which means May could suggest that the Queen try to appoint another Conservative (is that Boris Johnson, the £350 million man, waiting in the wings?) as potential Prime Minister.

The whole possible process of May proposing a Queen’s Speech, being defeated on this, and a subsequent vote of no confidence, followed by a vote of confidence in a new government, means the current uncertainty could last several weeks. The reference on page 13 to a “technical drafting error” in the Fixed Term Parliament Act casts further doubt on the transparency of the process.

Much has been made of the regressive nature of the DUP, who oppose gay marriage and abortion, but support creationism being taught in schools. There are also suggestions that the Conservative and DUP agreement conflicts with the legal responsibility of the Conservatives, as the British governing party, to be neutral in dealings with the Northern Ireland parties, in line with the Good Friday Agreement. With the governance of Northern Ireland in limbo, following the collapse of the Sinn Fein and DUP administration earlier this year, this has major implications.

There is also the elephant in the mainstream media room. The DUP have consistently had close links with loyalist terrorist organisations. For many years, the mainstream media have not so much underestimated the extent and horrors of loyalist terrorism, as pretended it simply does not exist.

Now where did this loyalist terrorism start? Back in 1912, when the Unionist Party, as the Conservatives were then calling themselves, founded the Ulster Volunteer Force, as a private army that sparked civil war in Ireland, and derailed the plan of a Liberal government to give Home Rule to Ireland.

Back in 1912, the Unionists argued there was no mandate for the Liberal government’s programme, as they were a minority administration, only kept in power by the informal support of Irish Nationalist MPs.

A century later, May is arguing the complete opposite to justify her Conservative government!

I think Labour should be very clear about what is happening, remain united, and press the case that we have the solution to the crisis. By keeping our nerve, Labour can win power, either in the new hung Parliament, or by our momentum leading to victory at the next General Election – widely expected to be held within the next few months.

May and the Tories – who cried wolf about a crisis in 2015 – have suddenly plunged Britain into something that has potential to be the most severe constitutional crisis for over a century.

My life doesn’t understand me.

Interesting first post……..when will the saga continue?

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