Hello, and thank you for visiting my site. I hope that you'll return often and always find something of interest about my world and what inspires me to pick up a pen. (This is a figure of speech, unfortunately. My handwriting is terrible!) Here's what I've been up to recently...
2 August, 2018
‘Workhouse Orphan’ is now available from Amazon in paperback or as a download. I have a small stock, so please let me know if you would like a signed copy. I’m also more than happy to give an author talk to any interested group. Although the book is aimed at the younger reader, a great deal of research has gone into it and the subject matter makes it appropriate for any age group.
23 July, 2018
Will toiling underground in a Yorkshire coal mine be even worse than life in a London workhouse? Young David Dawson is given no choice in the matter and can only hope for the best, but what of the younger brothers and sister he has been forced to leave behind? Trying to think up a plan to rescue them is at the forefront of his mind as he gets to grips with backbreaking work and the almost incomprehensible speech of his new co-workers.
While this is a work of fiction and has a positive resolution, I hope that it may serve as a reminder of the inhumane treatment doled out to ‘paupers’ all over our country until well into the 20th century. Once inside the grim walls of a workhouse, families were split up and given no say in their daily lives. Outside, they might well starve or freeze to death. Orphan children were particularly powerless, their fate at the whim of the Board of Guardians.
This novel is set in an era when thirteen is considered high time for a child to earn his or her own living. Things have moved on since the days of Oliver Twist, but conditions are still harsh. His education cut short, young David faces a future of exhausting manual work in an industry known to be the most dangerous in the UK.
My inspiration has come from the cherished memory of David Robert Davidson, a workhouse boy from London who was briefly married to one of my great-aunts. Ten years younger than she, he was her second husband, the first having already perished in the Great War. In the photograph above, I believe David to be the young man posing with the Lewis gun.
He had been sent up to Hartshead, a small mining village in the former West Riding of Yorkshire, to work as a ‘hurrier’, pushing along heavy carts full of coal. As far as I have been able to ascertain, his reason for marrying was to take care of his friend’s widow and children until he was called up and to ensure their entitlement to a pension should the worst happen. Unfortunately, it did. David’s name is included on a memorial plaque in St Peter’s, Hartshead and honoured each Remembrance Day.
I should stress that ‘Workhouse Orphan’ is NOT a biography. The details of David’s short life that have passed down the family are too scanty for that. All I do know for sure is that his widow and stepdaughters thought the world of him. When they emigrated to the USA in 1919, they took with them his regimental photograph, from which the detail above is taken, and the certificate issued in recognition of his sacrifice for King and Country. Both were cherished until the last stepdaughter died, at which point they were sent over to me. A younger cousin now has charge of them.
23 July, 2018
Not having seen Ariel Dorfman’s challenging psychological drama ‘Death and the Maiden’ before, I really had to do my homework in order to do this performance justice. I was very glad that I had. The Harrogate Dramatic Society may be an amateur group, but there was nothing amateurish about the production. The three actors were word perfect and very convincing in their roles. The set was excellent and the scene changes well organised and slick.
The only sour note came when my review appeared in the press. Although the original I submitted was comfortably inside the prescribed word limit, someone had taken it upon him/herself to cut it, thus removing some well deserved praise. There has since been an apology and the promise of the review appearing in toto next week. If it does, I shall reproduce it below.
News flash! It did and here is the much improved version.
29 June, 2018
Submitting stories overseas is a new departure for me and I’m thrilled to report that one of my murder mysteries has just appeared in a magazine only available in Australia and New Zealand.
That’s Life Fast Fiction is glossy, bright and pays well. What’s not to like!
11 June, 2018
Here’s a screenshot in which you can actually see me lurking in the background. As the episode was filmed several weeks ago and broadcast last Friday, I’m not giving away any secrets by saying that Chastity and Paddy were announcing ‘their’ pregnancy in the Woolpack. Supporting artists (‘extras’) are told how – or indeed whether to react to whatever is going on, so I’m not just being nosy.
One of the things I’m often asked by fans of the show is whether cast members are like the characters they portray. In the case of Emma Atkins, I’d say definitely not. Charity has a very hard shell and always puts herself first. Emma, on the other hand, is friendly, chatty and even relieved me of my suitcase on one occasion, carrying it off the minibus to the village set for me and all the way into the canteen.
Natalie Robb strikes me as very much like warmhearted Moira. She was first to the rescue when I fell flat on my back in the Emmerdale graveyard during the filming of Edna’s funeral!
Mark Charnock, best known nowadays as pub chef Marlon, first came to my attention in his role as Cadfael’s young assistant, Brother Oswin. I loved that series from start to finish and so was thrilled to bits to have the opportunity to chat about it with him one lunchtime. Amongst many other things, he told me how relieved he was to be cast as a novice and therefore not forced to have a tonsure* like the older monks. He still has a fine head of hair!
*Tonsure (/ˈtɒnʃər/) is the practice of cutting or shaving some or all of the hair on the scalp, as a sign of religious devotion or humility.
18 March, 2018
Almost seventeen years ago, a lady from the RSPCA arrived at our home with a pair of ‘hard to place’ kittens, offspring of a feral mother. It had never occurred to me before that black was the least favourite colour for would be adopters to request. Why? Goodness knows. Superstition about witches and their familiars, perhaps?
Given the chance to name one of them, our younger son immediately decided on Tom. Not the most imaginative name for a tom cat, I suppose, but it stuck. He was Thomas on formal occasions and his subsequent paperwork for the vet. His sister became Tabitha, Tab for short.
They were so shy that we hardly saw them for the first few weeks and kept accusing each other of leaving exterior doors open. The food we left out for them always disappeared overnight, though. Tab was much warier, but Tom gradually gained enough confidence to jump up onto the sofa beside me and allow himself to be stroked. Eventually, his sister followed suit, although not before opening up my right arm from wrist to elbow with her tiny claws the first time I attempted to pick her up. I still have the scars to prove it!
Tom and Tab squabbled as siblings will and he often elbowed her out of the way when treats or a warm lap were on offer, but they were always together. Will she miss him as much as we do? It’s hard to tell with cats, but she must wonder where he is now. Unfortunately Tom, always the larger and bolder of the two, began to deteriorate last year. His back legs lost all their strength and he started to waste away. Towards the end, he was on three different types of medication, but the vet told us that there was no hope of improvement.
We console ourselves with the knowledge that he had a comfortable life far in excess of what might have been expected when he was born. Farewell, old chap. You’ll never be forgotten.
16 March, 2018
Well, that was fun! I showed some photographs about a turn of the (19th/20th) century workhouse and mining village, outlined my story, read some extracts and then let the Squigglers loose on the art materials provided. Very promising start. Thanks due to Shaun Doyle from Ripon Library (who also took the photo) and Vicki Lever from North Yorkshire Youth for their support and enthusiastic participation.
26 February, 2018
I was very pleased to take part in this event in York last night and to meet so many pleasant and enthusiastic people.
The four workshops ran simultaneously, with Toni ringing a bell when it was time for the groups to move on. The spaces allocated on the top floor of Waterstones were comfortably far apart, which prevented any overlapping of sound, and plenty of chairs were provided.
With only a short time to spend with each group, I had to take a whistle stop approach to my subject but managed to cover all the main points as well as read out a few examples. Everyone left with a handout and – I hope – an increased understanding of the nature of flash fiction and what can be done with it.
We sold a few books too!
22 February, 2018