Thursday, 29 December 2011

Confessions of a travelling stockman

Introduction to a book I may just write sometime next year   

“Wake up, ya wee runty English bastard!”
Sharp and excessive pain swirls around my already aching ribcage.
       “Urrgghh! Wh’t time is it?”
      “It’s gone nine thirty. Judging started half an hour ago!”
      Diving out of my makeshift bed of a tangled sleeping bag on top of sweating straw, my head pounds like a smithy’s anvil as I grab for my clothes and hop continuously on one leg whilst trying to coordinate a bare foot into the correct channel of a mouldy pair of jeans. An inevitable fall backwards into the dusty straw doesn’t deter my frantic determination to get dressed and run in the same instant. As though hurrying through a knee-deep swamp of leak and potato soup, I head towards the alleyway where a group of well respected, well dressed and well orchestrated men smugly groom their shiny animals with intricate attention to detail. Mine is where I left it, lying in night’s worth of filthy mire, its hair matted with sweat, still adorned with brown hessian halter, dark green patches on its one side.  Struggling to produce a needle-sharp comb from my pocket, I drag at the tufts of dark hair whist pulling on a once-white shabby smock that looks as though two tramps have worn it in an Olympic mud fight. Whilst the line of impeccable animals disappear into the distance, my hands shimmer with pain as I drag my bloated beast to its feet by the razor sharp rope, pulling it into the direction of the show ring like a fisherman dragging a net-full of flapping mackerel onto a trawler. Somewhere in the distance, someone, perhaps everyone, makes a disgruntled tutting sound, the same one my PE teacher used to make when I failed to complete that handstand on the gym-horse many years before. Yet, somewhere in the depths of my battle scarred mind, I still believe I can win.

     Does anyone else ever have a recurring nightmare such as this? Do you awake in freezing sweat at 3am, tugging the duvet from the bed and yelling: “Come-on, you lazy bitch”? If you do, the chances you are not married? Not for long anyway. If you do, it is very probable that, at some stage in your life, you have earned your living as a livestock showman.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Starting over

    For years I always believed that I would eventually get around to writing books and, looking back, I realise that it took a quite a bit of subconscious planning before that became a reality. A starting block as second son of as a farmer with few qualifications is far removed from the modern ambitious novelist with their English A levels, degrees in creative writing, following a natural path through the media and honing their skills through a vocation. Mine, it has to be said, was something more of a struggle. In the past I have documented my interesting and unconventional path from farmer to city analyst, and subsequent revelation to give it all up in the name of sanity. Although a break-up of a long term marriage and move to a foreign country were never quite written in the road map, I think somewhere under the grey cellular matter, my life headed that way driven by a hidden desire to be writer. By a pure twist of fate (I do not believe in luck, only that one makes one’s own), a local UK publication accepted my offer of providing a monthly column about my exploits in rural France, which presented me with a spring-board to get some words in print and a chance to experiment with styles.
    Now, 2 years on since I started my first novel, I have a total of ten books in print, each of which is selling copies, although sadly not in their thousands, and getting good reviews. I am not quite sure how I evolved into being a children’s author, possibly because my animal stories are suited to that generation, probably coupled with the fact I have never really grown up. However, for once in my life, I feel as though timing has at last been my good friend. Within the next few years, the digital publishing industry is about to embark on the biggest and fastest revolution in its history since Gutenburg’s invention of the printing press and I am very excited to be part of it, directly from my own armchair.
    Over the last year or so, I have learned some valuable lessons about writing, editing and self promotion but, (there is always a but), many of them I wish I had learned the year before. You see, I didn’t set out to write what I have written and, although I have enjoyed every word of it, I feel that children’s novels may perhaps not be the easiest market to get into, digitally or otherwise.
    My father often refers to me as an entrepreneur and, although I have never accepted that handle wholeheartedly, I suppose I should take some credit for the chances I have taken during my life when the chips were down. Using a fearless sense of vision, the time has come again for me to change, to rethink, and to experiment. So, as from 2012, I am embarking on a mission, to become someone else.
    Creating characters is the greatest fun that a writer can have, so I am taking the chance to do it in real life! What fun? Profiting from a host of material that I have gathered from a variety of blogs and other sources, I am starting again, with a clean sheet of paper, with a new identity and a new direction. I will not divulge the pen-name I have chosen yet, although I have already brought this person into being through social networking. One of the reasons I need a new author identity is that not all the words that I am intending to write will be suitable for children and I do not want jeopardise my existing audience.
    For the past month, I have sketched out a new novel, plot, target audience, route to market and complete project plan, which are the very things I should have done first time around. The initial book in a series is well underway and I have to admit it is quite exhilarating, throwing off the shackles of conformity whilst teasing the adult mind. Before you ask, NO, it is not porn (or Erotica to give its politically correct genre), but humour. I have enjoyed making children laugh for a couple of years, now it is time to bring a smile to a bigger audience.
    The experiment will be documented as it moves along, with a goal of reaching a certain amount of sales within one year, whilst earning my living doing something else.
   A few close friends and followers of this blog will be the first to get sneak previews, updates and share in my new challenging experiences.
   Here’s to starting again. Cheers me dears!


Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Hellfire publishing

      It doesn’t seem that long ago since Amazon was just a river in South America surrounded by receding rain forests, and kindling was something that was used to light a fire.
      Oh how they must be laughing at us now, missing all that irony, as the hottest selling product this Xmas will be called the Kindle Fire! Using a small fire to stop us burning a rain-forest? It’s as poetic as it is brilliant. You have to hand it to them, no wonder Amazon is destined to become the world’s largest company.
      But what of the meteoric growth of the Kindle market? Analysts are predicting upwards of 2 million Kindle devices being in our Christmas stockings this year (although Amazon themselves refuse to divulge actual sales figures). Don’t buy a book, buy a device for which they can choose their own books. Again, a great strategy that can only evolve into self-fulfilling world-domination by Amazon. Despite traditionalists helplessly clutching their treasured cardboard covers, not since Nazi Germany has the world seen the written word confined to the fireplace with such gusto, as we all eagerly embrace this change.
      So what does it all mean? Well, for one thing, it signals the end of the all powerful scathing literary agent, of whom all authors covet and despise in equal measures. With ebooks, the author, any author, now has a vehicle to take them to market without needing to hire the agent-taxi as a conduit.
      It almost certainly indicates a rapid fall, or at the very least a major contraction, of the publishing giant, without whom no author would have previously made it out of their own pipe-dream. Should we weep for these two long standing members of the literary community as they are thrown to the very pavements they used to strut in their spotted bow-ties, now to contemplate the Big Issue about which they once sniggered? Well maybe. A little.
      Will we survive without them, us mere writers? Possibly, but possibly not.
      However, as I see it, another seemingly unnoticed problem is emerging, and it is thus. The rapidly digitalised pronouns and verbs towards which we are frenziedly careering, lack just one vital ingredient. CONTROL.
      Before I elaborate on one of my trademarked opinionated theories, let’s just take a brief look back to the chain that originally linked the book industry together.
      We have the author, obviously; that literate, well educated person who writes glamorous words that we all want to read. Then there is the filter, a literary agent, who makes highly crucial decisions about what will and will not be allowed through the gate into the world of eager readers; we have already discussed her. But (I know, never start a sentence with BUT, it’s on page 10 of the manual), there are a few more links in the chain that have been slightly overlooked. Next comes the editor, usually but not always, appointed by the publisher, who goes through the work with a tooth-comb, finding not only spelling mistakes and typos, but making sure the words all gel together into something approaching coherent content. We then have the well-documented fat-cat publisher, the business brains who, along with experienced marketing executives, use their contacts to get the book out onto the correct shelves accompanied by some kind of publicity fanfare. That is, assuming they think it is good enough.
      So, back to my theory. The impatiently anticipated digital revolution can profitably function without the agent and publisher, we are all more or less agreed on that. Instead of the salesmen, we have the Amazon platform, although there are still a clever and sometimes expensive degree of publicity required if one wants to make any serious sales. However, (I couldn’t start two sentences with BUT!) the fundamental flaw in the spectacular digital literary revolution is….it's rubbish.
      Now before you hit the delete button on this post, hang on. I am not saying the industry is rubbish. I am talking about all the rubbish that is being produced, on an hourly basis, by people with no more writing skills than a dyslexic brick-layer.
      As an author, I frequently question my own work, you have to. If it was brilliant, wouldn’t every agent in the world have fought over it instead of arrogantly ignoring my submissions? Probably! Early reviews of my writing frequently told me it needed editing, and it did. Thankfully now, it has been, and it is a million times better as a result. (I know one thing for sure, a good editor would certainly have trimmed this post!)
      The problem the industry now faces is that the thousands upon thousands of rejected writers are now filling the main (possibly soon to be the only) high street cyber-shop with their trash, completely unregulated. Amazon is becoming the Pound-Shop (Dollar-Store) of the literary world and we all know what they mainly sell in those stores?
      Again, as an author, I follow the social network, gathering followers, reviewers, information and knowledge. I am always on the lookout for other author’s work, reading blogs, downloading ebook samples, and I have to say that some of the garbage that is out there is unbelievably bad. So many writers are (#am)writing, chasing daily word count, franticly racing towards the end of their manuscript, irrespective of its appeal to intelligent purchasers. As soon as the last two words are written, up it goes into the marketplace and, this is the worrying bit, people actually buy it, for 99 cents. Never since the days of the rag-and-bone man has so much rubbish been sold for profit.
     So, with that bombshell out in the open, where do we go from here? The answer has to be backwards surely? Just when does Bruce Wayne step in and clean up the streets, saving us all from the illiteracy of paranormally romantic proportions? Will the self-regulatory methodology, that has made e-bay such a phenomenally reliable place to shop, apply to Amazon? No it won’t, because we are all too frightened to put up a bad review, for fear of the backlash of a wounded author. If we like it we tell them; if we don’t, well we put it in the recycle bin and forget it, rather than wasting our time composing some sentences that requires effort, and possibly exposing our own uneducated writing skills in the process. Amazon doesn’t care, they just keep on selling the goods.
      When I had my first novel rejected, to start with I sulked for a few days, piqued at the thought of someone daring to pass judgment on me. Thankfully, what I did next was to relook at the work, take advice, rewrite, get more opinions, before submitting it again and subsequently self-publishing it. It stood me in good stead.
      Please, authors and readers everywhere I implore you, with the industry on the brink of the biggest revolution known to word-kind, each and every one of us owe it our fellow reader to encourage the bad reviews, from people we don’t know, so that we may keep the streets clean. If bad reviews stop us selling bad books then, quite simply, they are not bad reviews at all, are they?
      Now, is that ‘Good thinking, Batman?’

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Recycled cat

    Not only do the single years go by so rapidly these days, but it doesn’t seem five minutes since Sir Steve and Lord Coe were unveiling their plans for a 6 week London traffic jam for 2012. And now, it’s here. This year is not just an Olympic year but also a bissextile one, during which, come late February, unmarried ladies will be allowed to make indecent proposals to us poor unsuspecting chaps. Be warned, fellas. Go fishing on the 29th Feb!
    Having at last got my computer back together, some recent interactions through the modern conduit of social-networking websites have brought me together with a few old school-friends and, wow, what a scary thing that is. I have to admit that it is good to see old faces popping up online, including some very dated seventies photos with hairstyles that thankfully never came back into fashion. Come to think of it, they probably weren’t in fashion those days either! Sometimes it makes me realise how lucky we are in my generation that this level of technology has arrived just in time for us to rekindle some of this nostalgia, as long as it is not abused. At the very least, its arrival will allow us to document history from the common man’s perspective from this moment forward.
    This morning a new revelation arrived at our door in France. Yes, at last, after possibly twenty years of their existence in UK, we now have a wheelie-bin. Two wheelie-bins, in fact. To us, this means that we will no longer have to endure the inconvenience of heaving leaky bulging bin-bags into the back of the family car every day and delivering them to the stinky communal receptacles 500 yards down the road. But, more importantly than that, it means that, after hosting a few world eco-summits and patronisingly nodding their heads, France has eventually complied with EEC rulings of environmentalism, and is starting to recycle. A nice man also delivered us a pamphlet advising us of what we must put in the bin that will be of use to the environment, although we have to wait for a separate letter to tell us when said bin will be collected, also possibly informing us in advance of which days the collection staff will be on strike! I deduce from the picture on the glossy leaflet that we must now recycle plastic, paper, tin and cardboard. This brings me around to wondering what else will be left over for the ‘couvercle gris’, and then I note, for some reason, that yoghurt pots are non-recyclable. That and dog pooh. Well that will be a weekly bin-full then, won’t it? It’s rather a shame they couldn’t leave us our own bottle-bank too, to save those embarrassing monthly trips with all the empties, which we now have to make under the cover of darkness to avoid awkward encounters with our gossiping neighbours.
      Whilst on the subject of recycling, and I am not sure if this is the same in UK, I have just discovered that our large Xmas tree, which has currently taken over most of our sitting room, is not only recyclable but refundable too. It appears that when it has served its purpose, we can take it back to the shop from where we bought it and get our money back, despite its toothless state. How brilliant is that?! Do you think I could try that with the dishwasher? Or the cat, perhaps?
      Following four winters of relentless shivering (and moaning about it, apparently) inside our draughty old house, we have this year invested in a log-burner. After a few weeks of speaking to local firms and hearing horror stories of ex-pats being ripped off, we eventually bought one off the internet from a firm in Scotland. Let’s face it, if it can keep them warm up there where it snows all the time, then it has to be OK? I have to say I am astounded by the level of heat this thing chucks out. I don’t think this house has ever been as warm in its 300 year history, with the possible exception of when it burned down in 1854. We can now watch episodes of The Frozen Planet without actually getting frostbite ourselves. In fact, were we so wanton to do, we could probably watch TV in our underwear. Perish the thought.
      Some of you may recall that, earlier this year, a new kitten joined our happy throng of pets, for the sole purpose of keeping the vermin down. To be fair to young Spike, he does seem to have got the hang of catching small mice and voles. Unfortunately, he also seems to have found another purpose, that of an alarm clock! One that goes off 15 minutes before daylight, every morning, without fail, without a snooze button!  The horrific noise he makes is like an unyielding cross between a police siren and a Susan Boyle record; it is completely unbearable. In the winter, this behaviour is slightly more acceptable because I am usually up by that time, but what about next summer, when it gets light at 4.30am? The thing is, I am not even sure why he makes this ghastly din, save for the malevolent purpose of waking us up. It’s not like he is hungry? The dam thing is as fat a bronze turkey, and whenever he does come in the house, the dog beats him up. We even went so far as to have his testicles removed last week, but that didn’t seem to stop his morning chorus one bit, apart from making him sound more like Justin Bieber! So how do I stop this problematic intrusion? Any ideas? Maybe I could utilise that empty wheelie-bin, they are pretty soundproof aren’t they? Especially with a couple of breeze blocks on the lid!
      So, a new year brings new plans, new challenges and new ambition. Will this be the year that the economy lifts out of recession, newspapers become honest, world weather patterns steady down and Bruce Forsyth finally gets put out to pasture? Well, one could hope for all of those things, but above all please, please, no more ITV documentaries about expats living happily in the Dordogne. Were the dreadful people depicted on that program as commonplace as it makes out, I, for one, would be leaving before the year is out!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Ethical marketing?

    If you are like me, and everyone else in the world with an internet connection, then you must get daily emails asking you to buy things that you don’t want? It’s called marketing.
    I have to admit, in these days of everything online, I am prone to use the internet as a marketing tool too. Social networking very often isn’t social anymore, when your so-called friends are constantly trying to sell you their wares. It is unethical and, in some cases smacks of desperation. We all know that, but still we cannot resist from time to time,
    But here is another method that I utilise; that of junk mail reply.
    I remember reading an article a few years ago, advising people how to deal with junk mail through your letter box. It advised us to pick up all the mail, stick it in the pre-paid envelope that arrives with it, and post it back from whence it came. Because a pre-paid envelope is only paid for when it is used! So by sending the mail back, the culprit who sent it to you, ends up paying twice for postage. Simply genius!
    I have now adopted the same approach to junk emails, becuase I too have a product to sell; that of a series of children’s books, along with my profile and brand as an author. 
    My mission is simple: the more people see my name, the more I will be remembered! And eventually, some of it might stick. I want people to say: ‘Who is this guy, Andy Frazier? He crops up all over the place!’
    So, starting this month, I pick up all the emails from my junk bin and open them; being sure to virus-check them first. If there is a reply address, I add it to my marketing mailing list and if not, I visit the website of whatever product they are trying to sell me, and get an address from that. Then, each week, I mail out my latest book flier to the whole list with the words emblazoned in the subject line:

Do you think it will catch on? Or will my name be confined to the realms of the junk bin for all eternity? Even if I become famous for being a junk-mail outlaw, at least someone will have heard of me, surely!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Tomorrow is another day.

    Up early again, to get some more writing done, this time before 5am. The mornings are my best time, when my mind is still fresh, before the trials and rigours of an ordinary life tread all over it like pair of jack-boots.
    But are all mornings writing mornings, or do I just try to cultivate them that way? I am up, I made the effort, so stick some words into the document in the name of completion and subsequent stardom.
    This morning was too early, 3am in fact, so I read for a while before getting up. Then it’s a quick look at twitter, facebook, last night’s emails. These days I get more email at night than during the day. I blame the Americans for that.
    OK, settle in, read what I wrote yesterday, refresh the story. As I try to pick up where I left off, I spot typos, re-editing required. Another half-hour gone.
    My switching on the kettle has woken the better half, and she pads dreamily into the kitchen, via the bathroom, rubbing her sleepy eyes and reaching for a tea-bag. I try to ignore her, I need my peace, that’s why I got up so early. She takes her cup back to bed, thankfully without conversation.
    The kettle smells of chloride, so I de-scale it using Coco-cola. It’s nearly 6am. Then I yawn and rub my own eyes.
   OK, to write, come on brain, let's get imaginative. This is a children’s story, about a piglet. It has to be fun; funny even. I remember once reading a biography of the comedian, Eric Morcombe, and him saying that people used to sidle up to talk to him, and expect him to be funny. And he wasn’t, only when he had a script to work from.
   You see, writing isn’t scripted, well mine isn’t anyway. I think up a story, with a rough idea of how many words it will be, create some characters, wind them up and let them loose. Invariably, they start running, building, climbing and laughing, all of their own accord. I just fuel them, every morning, fresh from a night filled with un-contaminated dreams, and off they head, blindly towards the end of the book. The end. Polite applause.
    Except, do they always tread the right path? Or, just possibly, some mornings, maybe the brain isn’t really there at the races. On those days, maybe the plot should just stay in bed instead of bumbling on through the undergrowth?
    Yesterday, a new character turned up purely by chance, totally unexpectedly popping up from behind a hedge, I quite liked that, quite liked him in fact. Then, the cat woke up, the dogs barked, daytime things started to happen and I went to work. Writing stint over, 2600 words done and dusted before breakfast.
    Now, this morning, I am not sure who this character is anymore. He wasn’t in the script, because there isn’t one. And, today, he doesn’t want to dance.
So, for once, I shall send him back to bed, and write a blog instead. Time to go and sort out the kettle, have a bath and let him rest.
After all, in the words of Scarlett O’Hara, tomorrow is another day.

Thursday, 10 November 2011


    A visit to the bar, the first in a while, brings me back home, via the French side-roads, safely before midnight.  The fire is still blazing and the dogs have been happy in my absence, although they are tumultuous about my unusual late my return.  I had my dinner before I left, a good few hours ago. It was a tasty stuffed red pepper, as I recall. Stuffed with what, I can’t remember, but at the time it was not only substantial, but delicious. Albeit, far too much for one person.
    Wendy is away this week, doing stuff that Wendy does. She is so brilliant at her job that, nowadays, it seamlessly fits into our routine, allowing her, and us, the freedom of a foreign country rural lifestyle. Although I used to be in the same trade, it berates me now that sometimes, often in fact, I forget what it is she actually does do. All I know is that she does it very well, and I bless her for that.
   This year has been the longest, hottest, statistically memorable summer on record. And it hasn’t really ended yet, as we near mid November.
    I love summer but, when it comes to November, I somehow look forward to frost and soup. Frost culls things, on behalf of nature, and a good one saves us gardeners a lot of hardship, as long as we are prepared and ready for it.
    Soup, on the other hand, has even more purpose. Soup has a function for all but the most sheltered of the human race. Soup has a deep history, soup has warmth, soup…..has soul.  Without soup, the world would be a poorer place.
    But what is in a soup? Does it matter? Is it important, and is soup contained by its contents?  No!
Left-overs, that’s what it is. My Granny, and maybe your Granny, made most of her meals out of left-overs. Way back then, it was an art to use every part of everything edible. To throw away things was a social crime. Ladies of substantial merit were vigilant in how they made sure that nothing, but nothing, was wasted. And thus, soup as we know it.
    It’s boiling now, I can smell it, even before I can hear it.
    Pepper, courgettes, carrot, bacon, black radish, onion and potato. These things are all in my pot, and part, but not all, of what soup should be. For there is no recipe, just ingredients. Chuck it in, that is what the pot is calling out for. Soup makes its own flavour, so it does.
    I probably wont eat/drink much soup tonight…but something in my make-up made me want vegetable soup before I went to bed.
Be careful what you wish for, eh? It could be snowing tomorrow.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Who the heck is Auntie Florette?

    Computers. They drive you mad all day, with their temperamental-ness, randomly losing things and having go-slow days. I threaten mine with violence on a regular basis; it teases me so much I am convinced it has a mind of its own. If it were a human, I would have given it the sack without statutory sick-pay. But then, as if out of cussedness, all of a sudden, it breaks down and dies. And now I miss it and want to apologise for all the bad things I said to it. Well, to be precise, I miss all the files, emails, writings and things that I won’t know that I have lost until I need to look for them. But most of all I shall miss our 1000 photos from last months trip to New Zealand, all of which have been lost in the pile of techno-mush that was, until yesterday, my computer’s hard drive. Oh well, all the more reason to go back to NZ and take some more?!
    As you may guess, we are now back in the Northern hemisphere and once more ensconced in our French farmhouse, waiting for winter to arrive and the rain to start. It’s official. The continued drought that we have endured since February this year is the longest and driest in living memory. Drier than an evening at my Auntie Florette’s, as one local put it, or at least I think that’s what he said. (I had never met his Auntie Florette, so I couldn’t comment.) But all this extreme weather does get you worried doesn’t it? We constantly hear of earthquakes carving up places where they never were before, or freak floods washing away entire townships. I have never been an ecomentalist who buys the whole global-warming ideology and, despite all the media hype, I think it quite conceited of the human race to believe the current problems are all of our own doing. But, I have to admit, climate change appears to be happening wherever we look and things are indeed warming up. Will it soon become too hot for us to live in France anymore? Ooo, possibly a major problem to face up to? Maybe, it will be for some of the knotted-hanky sandals-and-socks ex-pat brigade, but it’s fine by me. Who knows, perhaps in a few years time they will have sun in Scotland and they can all move there? Or possibly Greenland? Meanwhile, I will exchange the sheep for a few camels and bask on my sun-lounger for as long as the fridge manages to maintain ice for my gin and tonic.
    Joking aside though, the ground here is so hard it needs a chain-gang to break it up. While we were away, our two dogs managed to escape through the hedge and (again) terrorise our neighbour’s chickens. I did feel sorry for our house-sitters when they told us of how they were confronted by our ornately tattooed gypsy neighbour at the door, along with his entire family, who came round in a lynch-mob to report the escapade. The dogs were confined to leads after that. On our return home, my first job has been 4 days fencing and, armed with wooden posts and a sledgehammer, that has been no mean feat. I now have a stooped back and biceps the size of barrage-balloons after managing to drive 50 steaks no more that 6 inches into the ground. It will be spring before I can complete that job.
    The long winter evenings inevitably bring us round to the nights in front of the TV once again. We now have somewhere near 700 channels to watch. Or not watch, as the case may be. How is possible to put so much rubbish on our screens? Every evening, I scroll through the listings, avoiding Strictly-come-x-factor and Ross Kemp on Alien-Nutters, in a vain hope of finding something remotely intelligent to watch, only to eventually give up and read a book. Or write one.
    I am actually reading an excellent one at present called 1000 YEARS OF ANNOYING THE FRENCH!, which is a highly amusing account of Britain’s differences with France over the ages but, obviously, told from a British perspective. It covers, with great satirical detail, many of the wars in which our two nations have completed, including the BEEF wars of the late 90’s, a subject close to my heart. The lack of edible beef in this region has been well voiced before in this column, but I do believe that when it comes to importing Les Rosbif from UK shores, the French are still hiding behind the stooshie that was once mad-cow disease! The irony that they have the nerve to brand Britain with ‘mad’ cows when our small farm is surrounded by these towering deranged hot-footed Blonde d’Aquitaine bovine creatures is not lost on me. C’est la vie. We will just have to carry on eating the lambs from the field (or in future, curried camel?) until it is resolved.
I couldn’t come back from the Rugby World cup without bringing at least one rugby story with me:
    The All Blacks were playing England, and after the half-time whistle blew they found themselves ahead 50-0, Ritchie McCaw getting eight tries. The rest of the team decided to head for the pub instead of playing the second half, leaving Ritchie to go out on his own.
"No worries," Ritchie told them, "I'll join you later and tell you what happened." After the game Ritchie headed for the pub where he told his teammates the final score: 95-3.
"What!!!!" said a furious Graham Henry, "How did you let them get three points??!" Ritchie replied apologetically, "I was sent off with 20 minutes to go!"
 As each day shrinks with the cold, that dreaded word ‘Christmas’ looms on the near horizon. Yes, that time of year when old Scrooge hides his head in disgust, as the world fritters away its borrowed money on pointless gifts. Except, no! This year, this old entrepreneur has decided that everyone should buy books for children as Christmas presents. Because, you see, children seem to be losing the ability or inclination to read. It appears that X-Factor and X-Box have now taken up positions well in front of the good old written-word for 8-14 year olds, and parents are doing diddly-squat to combat this decline.
Once again, Andy Frazier has a solution. About 7 of them to be precise, all reasonably priced on my website ( or Amazon! So go on, keep a poor underpaid author in cheap grog this year, and invest wisely in the wellbeing of a child near you. They are, after all, the future of our species!

Friday, 21 October 2011

NZ Tripping, part II

   Today we left the Bay of Plenty and its troubles behind and headed down to Napier. A pretty drive over the mountains took us via Lake Taupo, a place I remember vividly, where we stopped for a dip in the hot springs. Napier is sensational town. It was destroyed by an earthquake in 1931 and rebuilt using art deco architecture. The net result was like walking back into Chicago in the 30’s and I half expected to see Al Capone come round the corner in a Model T Ford! The town revelled in the style too, with many shops selling classic clothing and hats, while new buildings were developed in the same style.
   Our ensuing drive, the next day, took us down through the glorious Wiarapa valley, the home of New Zealand’s sheep industry. I was quite astounded by the lack of them though, compared to my last tour here. It seems that the sheep population has declined from 70 down to just over 40 million over the last 3 years. Much of the ground is now farmed by the diary industry, with some of the better ground turning to grape and wine production. Such a steep decline has, of course, now pushed up the price of lamb as demand outweighs supply. Maybe they have been a little too hasty?
   As the valley opened out, we made a quick stop at the legendary TUI brewery which, although still brewing fine beer, is now set up for tourists. I dined on Paua fritters for lunch, the first time I had tried them and hopefully the last, they were ghastly!
Our journey South ended in the capital city of Wellington, one of the world’s nicest cities. A great choice of hotel from my better half found us on the tenth floor overlooking the beautiful harbour which drifted into bright twinkling lights as the warm evening on our balcony wore on. I tried my best to capture the scene on camera but, as is often the case with beauty, the only way to truly capture it was in my own memory. Wellington is packed with things to do, but sadly time was against us and all we could squeeze in was a whistle stop tour around the museum of culture. It is very hard to get an understanding of how the Moari tribes once ruled these lands with their ritual ways before the white man took it from them, cornering the remaining few tribes into ghetto’s and slum suburbs. On TV, the ceremonial dance of the HAKA, done by the All Black team at the start of each rugby game, may look as comical as it does barbaric, but when witnessed first hand, it is plain to see its links with the inner feelings of the Maori race. Repressed yet content, the fierce ritual represents a proud nation, living with sacrifices in the name of harmony.
    Sacrifice is what came next, as once again we flew to Auckland for more rugby in Eden Park. This time the sacrifice was from the Welsh, when one of their main players got sent off by a dubious decision from the referee, leaving them a man short and somewhat helpless against a gallant, if poor, French side who booked their slot in Rugby World Cup final. There will be no welcome in the hillside for this referee, as the final whistle sounded to a dejected roar from the team and the whole Welsh nation, many of who were reduced to tears, many more who will remain angry for a good number of years. With my French beret on, I could only utter the words c’est la via, c’est la sport, to anyone wearing a dragon or a leek.
    As I write, the final game looms against the All Blacks, and there will only be one winner there. Without being too presumptuous though, New Zealand do deserve emerge as champions, purely due to the spectacular way in which this Rugby World cup has been organised and to the Nation, (to a man) for their welcoming attitudes.
    We now find ourselves in the Bay of Islands, 4 hours North of Auckland in what is essentially a tropical area, amongst palms and silver ferns. We have decanted into a campervan which rocks erratically as we peer out of our window over the bay through rain and high winds. After two weeks of mostly nice weather, it is a bit of a shame that we cannot get to enjoy all this part of the country has to offer, but it is only Spring down here and the rain is much needed.
    One last paddle in the sea before breakfast on the most beautiful beach I have ever been on, watching the sun rise over an idyllic catamaran moored just offshore. This is the stuff of dreams and I believe mine will keep recurring until I come back here, maybe next time for good.
Then its back to Auckland one more time, for a 24 hour journey hemmed into a sticky seat. It’s time to adjust my watch again, except I haven’t worn one in years. Diet starts tomorrow, at lunchtime…or is it breakfast? What day is it again?

Welcome to America

    Unfortunately, the advancement of aeroplane travel has still not extended to include fuel economy of the scale that will afford a jumbo to travel 12,000 miles. For that purpose, a return trip to UK from down under requires that we make a pit-stop in USA. For pit-stop, I mean exactly that, a refuel, load on some more mediocre food and a change of crew. Not a problem, you say, just a chance to stretch the legs and use a proper toilet. But hang on; this is USA, so let’s no assume simplicity. After all, it means we mortals would have to be allowed to step on hallowed turf and, for that pleasure, we would have to be identified.
    Firstly, unless we have a US visa, which we do not, we must pay $14 for the right to arrive in USA without one. We have to do this online, which includes entering all our personal and credit card details into a system while an overhead camera records our input. This, in itself, I consider to be a rather dodgy process, as anyone who wishes to illegally retrieve the security tape would be able to do some pretty decent dining out on all those card numbers. So now, for every person entering the US, they already have our secure payment details, and our money, in their system before we even touch down. After being crowded into a holding pen, we are summoned to once again clear immigration, despite us doing this before we originally boarded the plane and our identities already being in the ‘system’. Here it gets a little more intense. When asked by the pan-faced custom’s officer to hold up my right hand, I really thought he was going to make me swear my allegiance to the President or, at the very least, sing two verses of the Star Spangled Banner. But no, this was to take my finger prints, like a common criminal. Then a photo opportunity, smile for the camera, so this too can go on record. So here we are, after one hour on US soil, giving just about every personal detail we possess to the American system. I only just refrained from showing the guy my arse for his files too.
     A quick trip to toilet, I note the disabled cubicle is so huge you could turn a lorry in there, let alone a wheelchair, and we are herded back onto the plane once more.
A sign says, USA welcomes visitors! It didn’t welcome me and I didn’t welcome it. Does this country live with permanent paranoia? Or maybe I am becoming a homophobe?

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Big fat fishes are Wales

After some deliberation, 10 reasons why I will support France on Saturday.
  1. 1972-77, boarding school on the Welsh borders. Wales won every international game and rubbed it in with salt (and more painful substances).
  2. During my early years in business, I bought hundreds of cattle in Wales, and not all of them were what they were supposed to be.
  3. Wine: French make it, Wales do it.
  4. 1972-77, boarding school on the Welsh borders. As a 9 stone full back, I got trampled too many times by hot footed backs from Llandovery and Brecon college. They laughed.
  5. Nigel Owens, Gareth Thomas, Max Boyce…..Little Britain.
  6. Jonathan Davies on TV: God, does that guy ever stop complaining?
  7. I live there.
  8. Borth.
  9. 2006 Lions tour,  New Zealand. Despite us being on the same side, every Welshman (to a man) complained about Clive Woodwood at every opportunity.
  10. They wouldn’t support us if the boot was on the other foot.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Tripping down under

I write to you this month with a narrative from our recent trip to New Zealand.
The first leg didn’t start too well, it has to be said. We underestimated the rush-hour traffic and  arrived at Bordeaux airport to be confronted by a cantankerous Easy-Jet check-in attendant who blankly refused to check-in our cases because we were one minute late. She would, however, let us check them in if we paid a princely sum 50 euros each and then carried them to the plane ourselves. What a wonderfully vulgar business cheap air travel has evolved into? Arriving to an exceptionally blazing hot day in Luton, considering this was nearly October, we accept the usual rudeness that awaits us from the airport staff. So many times I wonder what the interviewing criteria must be to get a job in that place? Inaudibility, belligerence, impertinence, all these words must surely be on the application form? It’s a wonder any of them can even read it? I am still working towards my next business venture, printing t-shirts with the words: I H8 LUTON AIRPORT! I am sure they would be a top-seller.
After queuing for an hour in the sunshine, we shuffle onto the shiny bus which should take us to Heathrow, to find that it has the heating on full blast. One of the travellers asked if the driver could switch on the air-conditioning, as the atmosphere really was stifling. At that very moment, I was compelled to take out pen and paper to write down his retort, word for word, so I could relay it with amazement back to you, the reader who resides in this country. For it was far and away the most baffling excuse I have ever heard:
“You get what you get, this is England,” said the driver. “In the summer, when it’s hot, it’s hot and it’s cold in the winter!” Our hour long trip was probably the warmest I have ever been, outside of a Borneo rain forest.
An eight hour wait in Heathrow was also stifling as, so I was told, they were unable to switch the air-conditioning on as it was nearly October. I guess who ever was in charge of that task was already on his 6 month winter break.
I know little of Thailand, other than the odd visit to a few of their restaurants, and was blissfully unaware they had a national airline. All I can say is they must have had it for some time, as the Jumbo we were on for our 24 hour flight was still fitted with ashtrays and rattled from time to time, quite alarmingly, for no apparent reason.
No matter, here we are, in the land of the long white cloud.
First up, Auckland. We have been fortunate enough to stay with a man who runs a brewery, which is quite handy. Not just any brewery either, one called Heineken who just happen to own 60% of all the NZ breweries. Our most welcoming host took us on a tour around the city, including a trip up to Mount Eden, which is a dormant volcano and a great viewpoint. At least, I hope it is dormant. Auckland boasts 52 dormant volcanoes in its close proximity, and I couldn’t help wondering if the earthquakes in the south of the island might suddenly wake them up. Thankfully they didn’t.
The town was alight though, but with tourists either wearing white rugby shirts or kilts, as we prepared to see our beloved nation take on the old foe, Scotland, in a winner-takes-all rugby match. The Kiwi’s, many having Celtic ancestry, sided with the Scots and the stadium was packed with saltires and blue painted faces. Lots of banter and friendly rivalry prevailed between the two groups of supporters throughout the whole day until it was somewhat quelled when England managed to emerge from the game victorious. The Scotland fans remained gracious, as farewells were made over a beer or two, such is the nature of the rugby game. Wendy, my better half, being also of Scottish parentage, did refuse to speak to me for some time, but eventually her English side forgave and moved on.
Move on was exactly what we did next, as the following morning, after an all too short sleep, we caught an early flight to Dunedin in the far south of the country. I instantly fell in love with this little town, with its Scottish origins and place names, nestled into the side of an estuary. Dunedin is what Edinburgh was originally called many years ago and the two towns bore a great resemblance. However, for this occasion, the Scottish flag had been replaced by a sea of green, as thousand of Irish descended on the town to support their team against Italy. Not only the Irish wore their native colours either, as the entire local community offered a hand, decorating themselves and their houses in all things green. At the game, 99% of the crowd cheered on the Irish, helping them overcome a steely Italian side who I couldn’t help but feel sorry for. More partying and craic was had, as thousands of happy revellers poured more money in the Heineken pocket, well into the small hours. By this time, our own energy levels had declined towards empty and we retired to our quaint old bed and breakfast, voices croaking from singing endless verses of The Fields of Athenry.
From Dunedin, we headed to Queenstown, the outdoor activity capital of the universe. Here we could enjoy throwing ourselves of bridges, various aerial sports or any amount of near-drowning experiences in the nearby lakes and rivers. It seems that unless you can kill yourself doing it, it isn’t a proper sport in New Zealand! Our hotel had the most spectacular view from the window, over Lake Wakatipu and to the snow-capped mountain peaks known quite simply as The Remarkables. An old steam ship ambles into the harbour, the toot of its whistle echoing around the nearby hills, like a scene from the African Queen. Meanwhile, I exchange pleasantries with John Inverdale in the hotel foyer. I feel the urge to pinch myself to see if this real. This town too is full of Irish, some with sore heads, as they make their way North to their next rugby encounter. On the road to get here, one local farmer also shows his support for the Irish by painting his sheep in orange, white and green stripes. Rugby support here certainly is serious business.
After a restful day, we took a 7 hour drive through the heart of the South Island amongst some of the most stunning scenery imaginable. A quick lunch on the shores of the teal blue Lake Tekapo, gazing to a backdrop of the snow capped Southern Alps and the towering Mount Cook. In Maori, Mount Cook is aptly named as Aoraki, which means ‘cloud piercer’, and it was certainly doing that today. 
By late afternoon, after a brief altercation with a hidden highway cop, we arrived in the heart-breaking town of Christchurch. I have fond memories of this city from my trip 6 years ago but sadly now the town centre and much of the surrounding area has now been condemned, since it had two major earthquakes earlier this year. We stayed with friends who live locally (originally from Leominster) and were given all the updates on the horror that happened on February 22nd, when the second earthquake hit, sealing the town’s fate. It was such a shame, as this town is known as the home of rugby and we had originally scheduled to watch quite a few games here in their brand-new stadium. This morning we walked quietly around some of the town, seeing many buildings beyond repair, including the never-used stadium itself. Christchurch’s iconic cathedral, one of the oldest buildings in New Zealand, was missing a wall and its roof, exposing its insides to the world like an old lady showing her underwear in public. I had to hold back a tear.
Fortunately, our next stop was much more cheery, in a small town called Blenheim, bang in the middle of wine country. Now I would argue that where we live in France, near Bordeaux, is probably the capital of red wine production for the world.  The Kiwis, however, will now stake a claim to producing some of the world’s finest whites; their chardonnay’s being exceptionally good, with their smooth buttery texture. We stayed for a night at the Brookby Ridge vineyard, right next to the world famous Montana Estate. As I write, I can look out from the balcony in our lovely cottage high up on a ridge amongst the vines, down on to thousands of hectares of grapes, including Cloudy Bay to the west and beyond it, over the straights to the city of Wellington in the North Island. Our host casually mentions that this vineyard may be for sale and my heart skips a beat. Should I phone my bank manager now, or in the morning!? If only.
A short drive through the mountains found us in Nelson, a wonderful little city nestling on blue shores, which claims to be the sunniest spot in New Zealand. The place seemed vibrant with a great young culture, lovely restaurants and a host of British-type beers. Being fairly starved of the latter in both this country and our native France, we had a super night out with our welcoming hosts, Sean and Faith, indulging in as many as we could. The following morning it was time to don my England shirt once more as we made the short flight back up to Auckland through Nelson’s quaint but efficient airport, saying a sad farewell to the South Island. Or maybe it is just au-revoir?
Our re-acquaintance with Auckland was not quite so fruitful, as we went back to Eden Park stadium, this time to see England knocked out of the Rugby World Cup by the French. I wouldn’t mind if they had the decency to play a good game or two, but the whole England team seemed to have stuttered from the start and their final demise almost felt like a kindness as it put a wounded animal out of its misery. Obviously, with my French connections, I have now switched my allegiance to France, although, as I write, I believe it may be Wales who will reach the final.
Moving on from Auckland, we hooked up with a friend of a friend who manages a deer farm, just south of Hamilton. I have worked in the pedigree cattle and sheep industry for many years but I had no idea about deer and their produce. On this 1400 animal stud, our host, Bill Robinson, explained how the best animals are sold on for breeding, many of which produce ‘trophy’ antlers of over a metre in size. The antlers are exported mainly to USA and China to adorn the walls the wealthy. The remaining animals are kept for producing ‘velvet’ which is exported to the Far East, where it is used in herbal medicines, and this farm has an output of 1.5 tons of the stuff. Deer antlers grow at a rate of 2-3cms per day and are harvested at 60 days growth by means of a hacksaw! Although this may sound somewhat barbaric, the whole operation is slick, hygienic and humane and the farm also produces excellent venison as a by-product, which was very kindly provided for dinner by Bill and Deb.
As often happens in springtime, the next couple of days brought torrential rain and with it some quite nasty storms. We arrived in the Bay of Plenty on the West of the North Island to see the waves fiercely lapping over the promenade, amidst a gathering of camera crews. The storm has blown a tanker up onto a reef, 5kms offshore and there is already oil washing on to the beach. Teams of volunteers are out there with spades trying to gather the evil black scum before it kills too many seabirds, but as I write the TV News presenters, who are positioned outside our hotel window, make grave predictions that the whole ship will break up and the coastline will be swamped by a 1700 ton oil-slick that will scupper their entire holiday season and possibly hang around for up to 10 years. For a country that has suffered mining disasters and major earthquakes in the last 6 months, I sincerely hope that this eco-disaster can be avoided, but it seems it is once again in the hands of the gods. Bizarrely, I was asked to do an interview for national TV on the subject but, for once, I declined the chance of offering my sometimes offensive opinions, despite wondering why the boat had seemingly been on auto-pilot when it ran aground at 17 knots. The boat’s skipper has since been charged with negligence, his prosecutors pointing out that everyone in NZ knew where that reef was so why didn’t he?
On our way down the coast we called in for a beer with Mark Jeynes (son of Rose, Rock Cross’s most friendly barmaid) and his wife Kristy, who run a 250 Jersey dairy farm. Most of the area was under water after 6 inches of rainfall overnight, but nobody seemed too worried. When it rains in New Zealand, it doesn’t mess about. I have to say that Mark has the most impressive collection of Brittain’s toy tractors I have ever seen!
From here we head down through Napier on our way to Wellington, before flying back to Auckland once more. Next week, we are hoping for a bit more R&R as we shoehorn ourselves into a camper van for a few days, and head North to the beaches in the Bay of Islands.
I have to say that New Zealand is one of the most pleasant places in the World I have ever been. From its scenery to its friendliness, it never stops giving.


Monday, 26 September 2011

Do literary agents have to be so rude?

A series of children’s books finished, 2 months of editing completed, the time has come to submit a few manuscripts to an agent or two. I picked up one from the Writers & Artists Yearbook whom seemed ideal for the novel I was wishing to get published. They had a good list of authors and plenty of experience. I studied their website and looked at a lot of their published work.
Please phone before you submit any work, so we can discuss it, said her website. Best time between 9-10am or late afternoon.
I phoned at 9.30, Monday morning. Deep breath....ring, ring...
A disinterested voice answered.
Author: Can I speak to ***?
Agent: Speaking!
Author: Your website says you are looking for authors from a certain area, I live in that area and have written a few good stories.
Agent: What is your book about?
Author: It’s a series about animals….
Agent: (interrupting) There is a downturn in the global is hard to sell this kind of story.  And don’t bother to send it to us if you have sent it to lots of other agents. Everyone does that, sends it to London agents first and when they get rejected they send it to us. We have a huge pile.
Author: It would fit in with your series of books about ab-xyz.
Agent: We can’t sell them in UK, only Scandinavia.
Author: What? Well how about this boy’s adventure story, it is set in a town near you, in your required area.
Agent: I am not sure, you would need to ask my daughter.
Author: Oh, is she there?
Agent: No.
Author: Oh, well the book is about a boy growing up in World War 2 and is getting great reviews.
Agent: We don’t want anything old, we are a modern agency..
Author: (shocked) Pardon?
Agent: Can I give you some advice, never phone agents before 10am, we work long hours and don’t get to work before ten.
Author (shocked again): That is the time it says on your website….?  
Agent: And don’t bother phoning this week as we (the poor agents) are off to Frankfurt book fair, everyone will be.
Author: Can I email you a submission of this book or not.
Agent: Well, you may have to wait 4 months for a reply…but don’t send it if you have sent it to any other agents…
Author: I don’t think I want someone as rude as you as an agent thank you…

I have to pose a question. Why is the publishing industry in trouble?

Monday, 12 September 2011

Fake claims

   Grapes harvested, crops being sown, rugby season started, Xmas adverts on TV? Yep, the summer is officially over and it’s time to go and cut some firewood again. Wow, that soon came round, where did the year go? Fortunately this year, my neighbour has felled a lot of large oaks so, with the aid of one of our visitors, we have managed to gather a few tree trunks and cut them up into manageable sizes ready for our ever-hungry fireplace to gobble up. As you may have guessed, this year we have decided to winter in France.
   All this talk of winter does seem quite bizarre actually, because as I write it is 32 degrees and there are visitors in the swimming pool. We have had endless visitors this month and thankfully, for once, they have hit a warm spell. Our most honoured guest is my sister Sarah. For those of you who know her, Sarah is making good progress and, ably aided by her three daughters, her life is starting to gain some degree of normality again. I am sure 3 weeks in the sun will help too although sadly due to doctors orders, she is no longer allowed a glass of wine (when anybody is looking!).
   Meanwhile, Wendy and I are dusting off our supporters shirts ready for our trip down under at the end of the month. When I next write, it will be from 12,000 miles away on the bottom side of the planet, where we will be sampling some rugby and local cultures in New Zealand. For those of you who may follow the Rugby World Cup, England have to play Scotland in week three, both of whom need to win if they are to proceed to the next round. And that, as always, brings a divide in our household which this year will spread to the terraces in Auckland when my better half will be donning her kilt and Jimmy-hat, shouting for the other side. Methinks a draw would be the most peaceful result and would save a bit of sulking!
    We now have a new member in the household. I only briefly mentioned to Wendy a few weeks ago that we had a mouse problem in our pool-house. The blasted little creatures had eaten holes in the pool-floats and our fat lazy black and white feline, which sleeps all day on a garden chair, seemed pretty uninterested in doing anything about it. Perhaps she needed help, or possibly replacing with a thinner one? How about this for coincidence…within two days, some enthusiastic barking could be heard from the other side of the garden where Louis (the Pointless Pointer) was pointing to something hiding in the wood pile. It turned out to be none other that a 5 week old kitten, which had arrived from who-knows-where, possibly looking for a home. So impressed was I with his perfect timing that young Spike is now living in the pool-house and hopefully, quite soon, the mice no longer will be. Anyone got a home fat lazy B&W cat?
   While we are giving away animals, we still have our neighbour’s ram in occupancy, which we don’t want. The burly brute is not content with regularly beating up our own ram and has now turned on us. A few days ago I was alarmed by screaming coming from down the field of the female variety. I bounded down to investigate, just in time to see Wendy fending off the damn thing like some sort of toreador as it repeatedly charged at her with its head down. Fortunately, I made it just in time to defend my maiden with a large bass-broom and gallantly saved the day. It seems that the sheep was just protesting because he hadn’t been getting enough bread to eat, poor thing. I know one thing, if he tries that stunt on me he will be in sausages faster than you can say ‘rosemary and garlic’!
   This week I have witnessed some of our visitors getting that good old-fashioned holiday by-product, a suntan! You remember that? The moment when your skin tingles a wee bit while you eat your evening meal amongst the mosquitoes? Can’t beat it. But it seems that now the entire western world no longer requires the sun to achieve this effect, choosing instead to spray themselves with evil brown chemicals and then stay indoors. Not only that, but this fake tan is an all-year-round thing. It appears that white people no longer wish to remain white in the same way the late Michael Jackson no longer wished to remain his own natural colour. Maybe it is because we live in a hotter climate, but I really find this most bizarre. British women (along with their larger American cousins) spend £340m per year on getting a fake tan so that they can look like Kate Middleton (or in the American’s case, Oprah Winfrey). Why don’t they just go on holiday or at least go outside? It would be much cheaper, more relaxing and far more natural. And now we read that the latest fashion is to fake-tan your children from the age of four? How ludicrous is that? When I was four, I was brown because I played outside in the muddy garden! Maybe this new vogue is just created by those jealous women who can’t afford to buy an African baby on e-bay like Madonna or Angelina (the lips) Jolie? It is definitely wrong and should be outlawed!
   Another growing culture that annoys me, which I am afraid to say yet again stems from America, is those dreadful adverts on TV that ask you if you have had an accident lately. Because it seems that there is no longer any such thing as an accident? Cut your finger, blame the knife manufacturer. Fall down drunk? Blame the drinks company. Run out of money? Blame the government. It is criminal! Walking down Broad Street in Birmingham last year, I was approached by a spotty youth with a clip-board, asking me if I had been in hospital lately. I said, “yes thanks, I was visiting someone”.
   He said: “No, I mean have you (taps his nose knowingly) been in hospital, you know, like hurt yourself or somefing? Because if so, you could make a claim!”
   “Against whom?” I asked.
   “Always someone to blame,” he says cheerfully.
   “Would I be to blame if you were to go to hospital?” I ask him, raising my fist. He then threatened to call the police and said I was harassing him! Apparently, he has rights, but I don’t. Maybe I should put in a claim for him wasting my time?
   Ladies and Gentlemen, my revelation to you for this month is as follows: Accidents happen, get on with life!

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

They say that time is a healer

They say that time is a healer! Not sure who wrote the quote but Phil Collins did sing it once. And it’s true.
Eight months ago, my sister had a tragic brain aneurism that very nearly cost her life. At the time, full of emotion I sat by her bedside watching the heart monitor and wrote this piece: . It wasn’t exactly a prayer, just a plea, a cry for help to anyone who might listen. I also used social networking to drum up support from her friends, my friends, friends of friends and total strangers! Thankfully they all chipped in. Months and months of hard work followed including vigils, hospital visits, assessments, consultations and family management. The outlook was prescribed as bleak, don’t build up hope, prepare for the worst…. The surgeon shook his head as he told me she would have to be exceptional to pull through, I told her she was. And she is.
Yesterday she arrived here in France, looking gorgeous in her sun dress, and giving me a hug. Yes, she is still a little confused but the progress she has made in the last six weeks since she came out of hospital is nothing short of amazing. We sat and chatted about what had happened, about the doctors and the surgery, her disbelieving some of it, as she sipped her first glass of wine in 8 months. Who knows where it will go from here, but hopefully forwards. She still requires 24/7 supervision, and her daughters have coped with that magnificently, but her independence is coming back and with it that smile and blatant stubbornness that she always beat me with when we were kids. She is sitting beside me now, drinking tea and I am the happiest man in the world. In my blog of 22nd Jan I said I would pay and I gladly will. Thank you.