All posts in The Long Hard Road

ALMOST THERE!

ALMOST THERE!

Well I didn’t have long to wait for those trailers! I’ve loaded them on to Twitter, my Amazon Author Central page; my Smashwords profile; my Goodreads Author page; my Freado (BookBuzzr) profile and last but not least this website.

I’m waiting for the Independent Author Network (IAN) to load them up and together with YouTube then that’s pretty much my full set.

You can watch the Video Book Trailers on YouTube at these URLs:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHuTlzdm7uk The Final Straw VBT on YouTube

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hD_u9rHn6sA Unfinished Business VBT on YouTube

All three book tours are under way now and there have already been a couple of rounds of Questions & Answers on Twitter. I have had three Author Interviews posted on various sites and the links can all be traced via my Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/EdwardCTayler or on my Twitter page at

https://www.twitter.com/@ted_tayler

This week I have seen a big shift in improvement in my health! On Tuesday I started back at school invigilating and was thrown in at the deep end with Biology in the morning and Geography after lunch. Then I went out in the evening for the first time in a month! I was playing snooker for three hours, including a Semi Final one frame shoot out which I won! (Perhaps I should play without practicing ALL the time!) I was shattered! The next morning I had five hours straight with 4 different A levels running simultaneously and a Food Technology paper to follow. I was asleep in the chair before three pm, but I’m almost there!

The stop off points over the next week on the Orangeberry Book Tour for ‘A Sting In The Tale’ are as follows. Try to take a look at some or all of these; I hope they’re interesting, they should be I put a lot of thought into the things I wrote.

17th May – Guest Post at My Reading Problem
18th May – (*4)Book Review at Just My Opinion
19th May – (*5) Book Review & Author Interview at UnEnding TBR Pile
20th May – Guest Post at My Life in Books
21st May – (*6)Book Review at Top o’ Mornin’ To Ya
22nd May – (*7) Book Review & Author Interviewat Books & More
23rd May – (*8)Book Review at Paws on Books

Meanwhile the OBBook Tour for ‘Unfinished Business’ is just gathering speed and these are the ports of call next week.

17th May – Twitter Blast with OB Book Tours
18th May – (*1)Book Review & Guest Post 1 at The Reading Cat
19th May – Excerpt 1 at Blog-A-Licious Authors
20th May – Guest Post 2 & Book Feature at Quality Reads UK
21st May – Excerpt 2 at Paws on Books
22nd May – (*2)Book Review & Excerpt 3 at Author’s Friend
23rd May – Excerpt 4 at Everything 4 Books

Lynne and I are off to a friend’s wedding do tomorrow night. We’ve known Chris since he was about 14 I guess, so thirty years at least. It’s about time he settled down! I think he’s made the right choice; Sam seems like a lovely girl. My son Steve & his wife Jan will be there too; plus about 100 other people I know from town and around! I think there’s a good night in store!

On Monday evening I have what might be my last Snooker AGM. I’m desperate to find someone to take over the role of Secretary that I’ve held for 23 years. The plan is for my successor to work alongside me between August and next May, and then they can fly solo.

I have one exam every day next week as half term approaches; fortunately there are no really long grueling sessions until we go back in early June. This time last year I was writing the series of 12 short stories that became ‘A Sting In The Tale’ but I don’t have the urge to write ‘Sting 2’ just yet; perhaps next summer if the book tour throws up some solid reviews and extra sales.

Everything is ‘on hold’ in the writing department at the moment. This summer is an important barometer of how far I’ve come. In September or October Lynne & I will sit down to decide what I do next. Which series should I concentrate on? Could I do both? Perhaps the market I’m trying to crack is too cluttered, too much opposition and the short stories with a wide selection of genres is the way to go? Time will tell.

Not so long to wait this time! I’ll be back next weekend with this week’s news and the itinerary for the Book Tours as we travel deeper into the heartlands of the USA and the UK! Happy days!

NEVER TEMPT FATE!

NEVER TEMPT FATE!

I apologise for not writing to you earlier! I’ve had a few health problems that have knocked me sideways it has to be said. I was struck down on the night of the 15th April and have been in and out of hospital for tests & treatment ever since. Fortunately there’s nothing terminal, but my lifestyle will have to change to something more suitable for a man of sixty eight summers!

I’m a lousy patient and as well as driving my wife up the wall I’ve been sliding further down towards that black pit of depression. Today was the first time I actually imagined that I could do something other than lounge around in a chair watching TV.

I finally visited Roger Calcutt at wiltshiremedia this morning, instead of on the 16th April as I told you previously. Was I a ‘one take’ person or was it a nightmare? It was perfect; the images looked superb and Roger had composed a piece specially for the backing track to ‘The Final Straw’. I can’t wait to see the final versions.

You will be able to catch the Video Book Trailers on YouTube shortly and I’m planning on adding them to my Author Profile on Amazon, Smashwords & Goodreads as well as this site. For the time being I’m concentrating solely on the two novels; maybe one day I’ll do something for the book of memories and the short stories.

Two book tours started on Tuesday (the same day as my last visit to hospital for three months; fingers crossed!). There’s a tour for ‘The Final Straw’ which is concentrating on reviews and a summer long extravaganza for ‘A Sting In The Tale’ You can catch all the details day by day on Twitter and Facebook. I’ll keep you posted on the highlights on this blog as the weeks slip by.

On the 13th May the ‘Unfinished Business’ tour gets up and running. This is another marathon and there will be lots of activity on Twitter and various blog spots across the States and Europe. I will still be pestering reviewers for a rating. If I don’t get 100 for each of my novels then it won’t be for want of trying.

Lynne has been wonderful this past month; I couldn’t have asked for more support and TLC. Sadly we missed out on our annual trip to Ibiza because of my condition but we have confidently booked holidays in August & September in Wales & Majorca. As for Ibiza, if we can find a week where an apartment is vacant that suits us then we’ll pop over to see our old friends and get some late sunshine.

Every day is ‘three steps forwards two steps back’ (or the reverse!) at the moment. I need to get myself up together before Tuesday, not for the ‘Unfinished Business’ tour but the exam season has started and I’ve already missed a week. I don’t want to let the kids down. I’ve looked after the Year 13 students since Year 10 for definite and some probably before that. This Year’s Year 11′s will have had to put up with me in the Main Hall since their first year at the ‘big school’.

I’ve been knocked down, but I’m back on my feet again. I’ve learned a lesson – never tempt fate. The biggest mistake I ever made was giving last month’s blog post the title I did!

If you’re lucky then some good always comes out of bad things that happen to you in life. For me I was reminded yet again how lucky I am to have my family. My kids have been brilliant.

I’ll be back in a couple of weeks to update you on the tours & any other news. Hopefully I won’t need to issue any more bulletins on the state of my health! If you want to help in a small way to make me feel better then why not follow the tours on Twitter and Facebook, then drop into Amazon and download a copy of one or other of the books? All those 5 star reviews can’t be wrong surely? There are far worse ways to be spending your summer than escaping into one of my books (believe me I know – I’ve been through some in the past few weeks!)

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?

‘Time marches on.’ ‘Time waits for no man.’ ‘Time is a great healer.’ I could go on but you get the picture!

I’m pretty much geared up for what the summer will bring now; all my preparations are either complete or well under way. The Guest Posts and the Author Interviews have been written and sent off to Orangeberry ready for the three book tours. I have had ‘Unfinished Business’ added to the website as you will have seen on your way in here. I like the ‘slider’ effect so that all the books get a viewing don’t you? It makes the site look a little more professional.

This week I visited Roger Calcutt the bass player we had with us on the reunion gig in November 2012; he runs wiltshiremedia and as well as recording bands in his studio he does videos & trailers too. I’m returning on Wednesday (16th April) to do my first voice over! Will I be a ‘one take’ person or will it be a nightmare? The scripts and the images are agreed for trailers to ‘The Final Straw’ and ‘Unfinished Business’. Roger has an almost limitless selection of rock music snippets for us to choose from too so they should be worth a watch.

You will be able to catch the final Video Book Trailers on YouTube and I’m planning on adding them to my Author Profile on Amazon, Smashwords & Goodreads as well as this site. For the time being I’m concentrating solely on the two novels; maybe one day I’ll do something for the book of memories and the short stories.

I’ve spent hours chasing down reviewers over the past month. I’m running out of ideas. I’ve contacted over sixty people and received a positive reply from around twenty (which is a good ratio!). The reviews will be posted between May and September on a whole variety of sites. Some bloggers have asked me if I will be available for interview & I have agreed in every case so by the autumn the tours will be over and the books and their writer will have had plenty of exposure.

The question is – what then? Even if every reviewer I’ve contacted direct, plus those posting reviews during and after the virtual book tours, provide me with a positive 4-5 star review I’ll still be only half way to the sort of number of reviews that get people to sit up and take notice. That’s being optimistic as quite a few potential reviewers didn’t post anything at all last summer when ‘The Final Straw’ was doing the rounds on the virtual tour for the first time.

So where will that leave me? I won’t really be out of pocket, because this enterprise has still only cost me about £12 per week since I started trying to sell WLTDANN back in August 2011. That’s as cheap a hobby as many I could have got involved in and I wouldn’t have been in touch with so many fantastic people or learned so many new skills. I have few regrets about the last three years. Sadly, based on the experiences of the last nine months, nothing I can do will make any difference. I need a miracle or someone who DOES have the clout to get my books to a wider audience.

It’s frustrating because at the moment I don’t KNOW whether my books are any good; it’s reassuring that my family and friends enjoy them and the handful of reviews that I’ve received from my peers were very encouraging but I need a few reviews by say some top Amazon reviewers. (I HAVE approached them believe me – I’ve tried!) If they tore my books to shreds then the decision at the end of the summer would be easy. I’d quit while I’m behind!

If they were as encouraging in their reviews as the others then in October/November I’d start on the next leg of the journey – the ‘Cat and Mouse’ series or ‘The Phoenix.’ At least I would have something tangible to bolster me through the winter and next summer’s book tours would see me starting a little further up the ladder than I am at present. Maybe 2015 would be the year when one of my titles makes it into the Top 100.

We’re off on holiday to Ibiza towards the end of the month and as soon as we return I’ll be off to school for the exam period. The book tours start on the same day so I’ll be busy!

Take care of one another. Have a Happy Easter and I’ll be back in a few weeks with another update. Who knows? Maybe I’ll have some good news for a change!

EXCERPT AND NEWS FROM ‘UNFINISHED BUSINESS’

UnfinishedBusinessFINAL200x300_300DPI

UnfinishedBusinessFINAL200x300_300DPI‘Unfinished Business’ is available to buy on Amazon NOW! Be one of the first to read this thrilling sequel!

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Unfinished-Business-Ted-Tayler-ebook/dp/B00J9V1DJI/

Read about the day that DCI Phil Hounsell meets his new sidekick DS Zara Wheeler in this excerpt from Chapter 8:-

‘Will someone please track down his passport photograph? He holds a British passport; he only got one at the last minute so he could get away to The Gambia with his boss when we were closing in on him over the Gibson girl’s murder. At least it will give us something useful to match against any CCTV images we can come up with.’
Phil Hounsell was warming to his task now; he could feel he had the room with him, there were no heads looking out of a window or staring at the ground, indicating that they thought this was a waste of time.
A young female officer spoke up. She was seated at the back; Phil couldn’t remember her being introduced when they arrived perhaps she had crept in while he was in full swing earlier.
‘It would be useful to get a credible image of this man out to the police authorities immediately surrounding our patch. He won’t be sitting around in the city waiting for us to pick him up. Our role in this investigation could well be all but over.’
Danny saw that Phil was about to explode; he stood up and walked forward to stand shoulder to shoulder with his old boss.
‘We didn’t come all the way up here to pass the ball on to someone else, okay?’ he said, fixing the young woman with a stare, and then looking at each of the other officers in the room ‘This is personal for us. We know this guy. You would all walk by him in the street without a second glance. He’s invisible; which makes him extremely dangerous. Phil Hounsell touched Danny Bevan on the arm, a silent thank you for the support, but also a signal that he was back in control of his emotions and ready to continue. He carried on Danny’s theme.
‘We had our suspicions about the deaths of both of his parents; sloppy police work and Bailey’s cunning and intelligence left us with very little except suspicions. After Sharron Bailey’s death her parents both went off the rails for some time, who wouldn’t? Karen Bailey hit the bottle and her husband was cheating on her with his boss Sue Owens. In 2003 a local councillor started a campaign to clean up the gang culture that was rife in the town and was shot dead by a member of one of the gangs. We believe now that Colin Bailey had some personal grudge against this councillor and when someone else took him out, this was the final straw and nine people were killed inside a couple of hours only a few days later.’
‘We were persuaded to believe at first that it was the two gangs flexing their muscle, but one of the dead men was the doctor who had delivered Sharron Bailey fifteen years previously and had performed a hysterectomy on her mother. Subsequent inquiries by the medical authorities suggest that this doctor was rather too keen to subject patients to the knife and eliminating the possibility of Bailey’s wife ever having any more kids was almost certainly too hasty; knowing what we know now about Colin Bailey’s attitude towards people who have caused him grief, then this doctor was yet another long term target.’
‘Karly Gibson was a young girl who, like many of her generation, was footloose and fancy free. There was no evidence she was particularly promiscuous, but she had friends and boy friends like I have Indian takeaways. She was also pretty much the age his daughter would have been if she had lived. Colin Bailey killed her. We could prove that. She met Bailey in a pub and chatted to him when she felt like it and ignored him once too often. It was as simple as that; I don’t believe he was attracted to her sexually; I reckon she reminded him of Sharron and he would have taken her under his wing like the daughter he had lost.’
‘We were so close to picking him up! He got away by the skin of his teeth and joined his boss in The Gambia. She had sold her home, her business, cashed in everything so they could be tucked up in a safe haven while we were left powerless to react. How much she knew about what Colin Bailey had done, who knows? If she did know and helped him escape then they must have had some incredibly strong bond. What sort of woman could love a stone cold killer like that?’
The room fell silent.
The young female officer spoke again ‘Are you on his radar Sir?’
Phil Hounsell looked at her again. She wasn’t much more than twenty five, maybe five foot five and about seven stones wringing wet. She blinked at him from behind her distinctive red rimmed glasses.
‘I didn’t catch your name, sorry’ he said.
‘Mouse, Sir’ called out Dave Butcher one of the senior members of the local team. Several of the other people in the room laughed. The young girl blushed.
‘DS Zara Wheeler, Sir’ she replied.
‘I’m afraid so Zara’ answered Phil.
‘We had better find this Colin Bailey then, before he finds you’ Zara said, blinking again.

Whet your appetite? ‘Don’t delay; download today.’
I think I’ve got a catchphrase! Should I patent it?

Back soon.

READ AN EXCERPT FROM ‘UNFINISHED BUSINESS’

From CHAPTER 1

Colin Owens was going back.
His cloak of invisibility was still giving him good service despite the years he’d been living in West Africa, spending his days lounging in the sun and plotting. He had made the occasional flight to Europe, as had his wife Sue. Colin’s trips had been for cosmetic surgery; minor alterations to his nose and jaw line. Sadly, Sue’s journeys back to Europe had been far more serious and ultimately futile.
It had started out as yet another sun soaked lazy morning at their luxury villa at Cape Point. They had breakfasted late and while Colin used one of his recently acquired skills to drive their beach buggy into the local town of Bakau for a few odds and ends, Sue had taken a leisurely shower and as she had on thousands of mornings previously, checked her body for things she hoped she would never find. Colin found her sat on the end of their bed when he returned.
‘I’ve found a lump dear!’ she said, then crumpled. Colin consoled her and tried to convince her to remain positive.
‘We can afford the best treatment darling’ he had told her ‘let’s get moving quickly and hit this thing hard, head on. You’ll be fine. Don’t worry.’
The tears were soon gone, followed by anger and a steely will to fight whatever was going to be thrown at her. Sue Owens returned to the UK and sought out the best medical help. She made those long flights back and forth for almost two years, but she was to discover that she was in that small percentage of women who despite all medical efforts, are destined to suffer the hell of secondary cancer which spreads beyond the breast and the lymph nodes into the bones, liver and lungs.
Sue’s last flight home, ironically on her sixty third birthday some ten months before, had been when she resolved not to fight anymore, but to see out her final days with her second husband; the man she had married despite the knowledge that she had gained from her trip down into the tunnels of the Shaw Park mines almost a decade before. The man she loved unreservedly, despite knowing he was a stone cold killer.
Colin had listened to her decision as they drove back to Cape Point from the airport. He spent days trying to get her to change her mind to no avail. Sue would find him sat on the veranda with his laptop staring into space, the screen showing yet another possible treatment option that he was researching, no matter how expensive or bizarre. Every now and then a tear would appear on his cheek. Colin didn’t readily show emotion and Sue loved him even more in those final weeks than she had before, but as each week passed, all treatments having been withdrawn, her body slowly began to lose the battle that it was now fighting alone.
The end was painful for them both and as Colin had cradled Sue’s head against his shoulder on that last terrible afternoon, he had known that as her life was slipping inexorably away, the softer loving side of him that Sue had uncovered and nurtured was slipping away too. When the end had finally come and Sue’s ragged breathing had fluttered to a standstill, Colin hadn’t shed a tear. His heart was now a solid block of ice.
Colin was alone in the world.
The next few weeks were spent arranging a simple funeral for one of the only two people he had ever truly loved; the other of course being his beloved daughter Sharron, who had been so cruelly dispatched by Neil Cartwright, a man Colin had thought of as a friend, someone he believed he could trust. In his naivety, Colin had handed his little girl over to a practiced and cunning sexual predator.
Sue Owens was buried near Cape Point overlooking the beautiful home they had shared since they had made their hurried escape from the UK. The villa was sold and the proceeds, together with the sizeable amount remaining in their joint bank account, were safely tucked away in accounts in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands.
On the long overnight flight from Banjul to Schipol airport in the Netherlands, Colin had time to think; time to remind himself why he was making this journey.
The unfinished business back in the UK could now be dealt with once and for all. His constant checking on what was happening back ‘at home’, while he and Sue were enjoying the high life in The Gambia, had given him lots of new projects to attend to. The first priority however was Neil Cartwright. Colin allowed himself a brief smile of satisfaction as he closed the file on his laptop with all the data he had gathered on his first target.

We’re almost there! You can pre -order ‘Unfinished Business’ here!

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/414477

UnfinishedBusinessFINAL200x300_300DPI
The book will be listed on Amazon on the 31st March (at the latest!) but if you want a FREE copy today in return for an honest review on Goodreads/Amazon then email me at tedtayler@hotmail.com and I’ll send you a copy.
Over to you!

Back soon with another excerpt to tickle your tastebuds.

BOOK EARLY TO AVOID THE RUSH!

BOOK EARLY TO AVOID THE RUSH!

It’s that time of year again! I’ve finished writing the book and I’m starting to catch up on the chores that piled up while I was stuck in the study grafting away. I’m sure you remember the drill from the previous titles?

Once I had typed the last sentences of ‘Unfinished Business’ I needed to get someone to proof read it; last time it was Bob my brother, this time my wife Lynne stepped up to the plate. Once we were happy with the content I got the file prepared for the publishing stage. A very helpful and efficient lady Lucinda K Campbell from the States sorted that out in a couple of weeks.

The next important stage was getting the front cover designed. No problems in deciding who to ask! It had to be Melissa G Alvarez of bookcovers.us. This took a little longer than usual as she was taking time out while a foal was being born on her ranch. Horses are her passion and the new arrival took priority for a week or so.

The results are there for you to see. This cover gives you the first images of DCI Phil Hounsell and his new sidekick DS Zara Wheeler plus the updated picture of Colin Owens (Bailey) after a nose job and a little cosmetic tampering of his jaw line.

When you read this book, what’s in store for you?

The sequel to the award winning ‘The Final Straw’ sees Colin Bailey return to the UK after almost a decade abroad. With a new name and a new face he still has scores to settle. His meticulous planning takes him ingeniously across Scotland and the North of England ticking names off his list with the police completely baffled.

DCI Phil Hounsell pitted his wits against Colin before and so he is sent to Durham where he teams up with super intelligent young DS Zara Wheeler; together they track their man to Manchester and then eventually south to Bath.

The final scenes take place on the streets of the Roman city; Phil Hounsell’s family is threatened and in a dramatic conclusion reminiscent of Holmes and Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls, the two men struggle above the foaming waters of the historic Pulteney weir.

You’ll need to get to the very end to find out what happens to Colin and Phil. Perhaps there will still be ‘Unfinished Business’ and Phil and Zara might work together again – could there be a series I wonder? Perhaps Colin lives to kill another day, but where and for who?

That’s entirely up to the reader. Keep your eyes peeled for a competition later in the year. Whichever way people want the characters to develop will determine what I write in the late autumn and over the winter.

If you want to pre-order ‘Unfinished Business’ so that on Monday 31st March you can be one of the first to read this thrilling sequel then here’s the link: -

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/414477

So after the preparation, the uploading of the book and getting it accepted on the premium listings, what’s next? A long hot summer I hope!

It will be pretty much the same experience as last year. I’ve booked an Orangeberry Virtual Tour to start in early May. Oh, there are just a few differences to last year – I’ve booked a mini tour for ‘The Final Straw’ to persuade people to read the first book before the sequel (always best!). Then a midi tour for ‘A Sting In The Tale’ to get the reviews and exposure that I couldn’t afford to do over Christmas and New Year when it came out. Then a maxi tour for ‘Unfinished Business’ on the back of all the pre orders and the book riding high in the listings!

Lynne and I have put aside a ‘fighting fund’ and we’re giving it our best efforts this summer. Fingers crossed it pays off! You can help of course!

The book will be listed at the end of March on Amazon (UK/US and the Far East) but pre orders aren’t available on my self published items as yet. I’ve asked KDP to look into the possibility and perhaps by the time the next book comes around it will be an option.

As soon as the Amazon link is set up then I’ll be hitting Facebook, Twitter and this blog as hard as possible to get the message across! The quicker you all buy the book then the sooner I can stop pestering you. Lynne’s opinion of ‘Unfinished Business’ after her proof read? ‘It’s excellent; better than ‘The Final Straw’. When will you be starting the next one?’ (That’s high praise from my sternest critic!)

I’ll be back before you know it with all the details of the tours, the links and all the news that’s fit to print in a couple of weeks. Then we’ll be jetting off to Ibiza for our ‘chill out’ holiday before returning to that long hot, extremely hectic summer!

AND THEN THERE WERE THREE

Bucephalus2011AND THEN THERE WERE THREE

Welcome back! At last the sunshine has returned and people greet you in the street with a smile rather than scurry past you without a word, their heads bowed against the wind and rain!

This latest chapter is another farewell I’m afraid; rather like a few others I have written for you lately. My late mother used to say that ‘things come in threes’ and regularly I could have proved her totally wrong, but two weeks ago there was news of a third friend/colleague who had left us. I told you about my old deputy head Mr. Gibson, who had died at 102 in my last offering and a month or so before that it was Frank Knee who had reached his 80th year the previous summer.

On February 19th Philip Keith Wheeler died suddenly. He was a much loved husband, father, grandfather, friend and bass guitarist who left us far too soon. He was just sixty four.

It has been well documented in my book of memories ‘We’d Like To Do A Number Now’ that Phil and myself first met at school. He was a few years below me and we both travelled to Trowbridge Boys High School each weekday on the school bus from Melksham. How we discovered a love for the same brand of music I can’t for the life of me remember now fifty years later. Slowly but surely though we set about finding those special people that had both the musical talent and the ‘itch’ that needed to be scratched and persuaded them to join with us in making the type of music that we loved.

The next decade is covered in detail in the book and so I’ll leave you to remember what you read in 2011 or pause while you take this opportunity to catch up…. Okay, everybody on the same page? In the mid 70s Phil and wife Jane upped sticks from the West Country and moved their family to southern Ireland. It was only in August 2011 after the book had been published that Phil and his family got back in touch. Dave our guitarist for several years summed it up brilliantly ‘That book of yours was like throwing a pebble in a pond; the ripples just kept spreading wider and wider.’

More and more faces from the past appeared and old friendships were renewed; some hatchets were buried. We had all moved on, but we found time to gather together and reminisce from time to time. One notable occasion was on August 30th 2011 when Phil, Dave, Paul the drummer and I met up for the first time in almost 40 years. It was an emotional afternoon.

When a second book was suggested we all considered what input we might provide; that first meeting threw up all sorts of possibilities! In the end we decided enough was enough as far as ‘war stories’ were concerned. A reunion gig was planned for Ralph our roadie’s 65th and Phil was keen, but business and distance won out in the end. The gig went ahead and we three ‘originals’ enjoyed the experience, but sadly it was a one-off.

Phil and I kept in touch over the next two and a half years; his wife and young daughter Rosie have been friends on Facebook throughout. Phil and I discussed the possibility of a trip over to Tralee to meet up again when time allowed. That opportunity has now gone.

Life is short; we must enjoy it while we can. The lesson I’ve learned this past few days is that those things I have on my list of things ‘to do when time allows’ will need to be done as soon as humanly possible; tomorrow may already be too late.

Goodbye old friend. Thanks for helping me make such splendid memories.

That’s all for now; I’ll be back soon. Thanks for dropping by.

WATER, MUSIC AND A GAME OF CARDS

WATER, MUSIC AND A GAME OF CARDS

Hello again! Thanks for dropping by. Change is continuous; or so they say, but although we’ve been extremely fortunate in our neck of the woods as far as floods are concerned, we have had over FIFTY successive days of rain. Some days it was just a few spits and spots and on several it was a lot more! In fact last week we had our February ‘quota’ in around thirty six hours!
There is always balance in life though; our heating bills are way down as it has been so mild!

As these extremes of weather appear set to become a more regular feature then clearly we need to do something different to counter them? I watched the rivers being dredged each year from my boyhood through to my late twenties; I don’t recall exactly when they stopped but we have paid the price for their omission. Ah, if only it was that simple I hear you say! Well who made it so complicated? There are at least half a dozen agencies with a percentage of the responsibility for looking after the rivers and their environs; none of them know what they’re doing and neither has any money to do it with! Dredging on its own won’t solve the problem. Perhaps it would help if only one agency controlled the whole enterprise and was properly funded with regional departments? Maybe it would help if the amateur ‘quango’ merchants were removed and people with local knowledge took on the task?

The first thing we should do is to stop building on flood plains. If it is unavoidable then planning permission should be dependent on any properties being raised up three to four feet; at least that would mean those householders would escape being flooded every few months!

As for the music we move some way away from George Frederick Handel I’m afraid! The heading of this chapter is not about the Water Music, but Water, then Music, then another subject altogether.

Last month was all about the possibility of my putting together the musical entertainment for a section of this year’s Party in the Park. Sponsorship appears to be a stumbling block sadly, so no more progress on that front.

The local pub where I review the bands has just changed landlord; I’m not pointing the finger at anyone, but a rumour that live music wasn’t on the new people’s list of priorities had gained momentum over the weeks since Christmas and so Tom Sangster and I started looking for a new venue (tick) a willing partner (tick) and a collection of bands that would provide the quality and variety that we were looking for (tick tock). Some bands would have been on the outside looking in, some would have been brought back into the fold; either way, new blood would have been sought out, something we lack at the moment.

The new people squashed the rumours immediately and our project is now on hold! My live music fix will still be available in the same place as it has been for the past twelve years! I just can’t help wondering whether Tom & I should still go ahead; at least we would give new bands a go and not serve up a diet of cover bands with a stagnant playlist.

Finally we reach the game of cards! When I was in the Third Year Sixth Form at Trowbridge Boy’s High School in 1963 I shared the room with three other students:- Richard Hunt, Paul Martin and Richard Mead. We had finished our A Level exams in the summer and for various reasons we returned for an additional year. Richard Hunt for instance was attempting to improve his grades in Maths in order to get into Oxford or Cambridge. Fifty years on I can’t recall the specifics of why the other two were there, but it was a similar objective.

I had already started singing with a group; well practicing anyway, we were nowhere near ready to be let loose on a live audience at that stage! I had done well at History but my languages results were a bare pass, so I decided to buy some time before joining the real world. I know, you thought everyone was desperate to get out of school! I wasn’t ready to leave. My timetable was rather sparse initially but they persuaded me to add in a couple of ‘O’ levels and also Scholarship Level History, which quite frankly, I didn’t know existed!

When this ‘S’ level was abandoned heaven knows, but it must have been decades ago so I doubt if anyone reading this would know what a question paper would consist of. The syllabus was so vague I thought it would be a breeze; how wrong I was! I remember one question from a past paper that I was given; it was a three hour paper and you were invited to answer two questions from a list of five. The question was: – ‘A coal miner earns the same salary as the Prime Minister. Discuss.’ Exactly, I dropped the subject after two terms!

The four of us were pretty much in the same boat; we had lessons that covered about 60% of our week and a lot of ‘free’ periods; we spent it playing cards! Our common room was ten yards from the staff room. One lunch time we were well into a game of brag and voices were raised either in victory or defeat, depending on where you were sat; the door opened and in marched the Deputy Head.

Gerald ‘Guy’ Gibson was around fifty years old and had served with distinction in WWII. He walked with a stick. He looked at the table, strewn with cards. He looked at each of us in turn and gave us a right rollicking! He told us to stay where we were and disappeared. We thought he had gone for the Head. We thought all sorts of things in the next three minutes! He returned with a book.

‘If you must play cards’ he said ‘could you at least play a decent game and learn to do it quietly?’ He handed the book to Richard Hunt, who was one of his prize Maths students and suggested if we needed any help he should knock on the staff room door and ask for Mr Gibson; if he was free he would gladly oblige!

No prizes for guessing what the book was; it was the bible at that time on the game of bridge. So with Guy Gibson’s assistance we learned to play and the four of us spent many happy hours avoiding any studying. I was never fortunate enough to be taught by him; there were only a few instances of him looking after a class when another teacher was absent where I was under his wing, so I didn’t have the pleasure that many others did.

I have a great picture of him in the quadrangle waving his stick to attract the attention of ‘a passing taxi’. This was part of our contribution to the school magazine in the spring of ’63. The four of us had come up with a story board which necessitated a string of black & white photos with short captions telling the story of a bank robbery foiled by someone who was supposed to look like Inspector Maigret. Most teachers would have refused to be involved; Gerald Gibson thought it was a hoot!

Gerald Gibson died at the end of January just before his 103rd birthday. There were a handful of teachers who left a lasting impression on me. Gerald ‘Guy’ Gibson was a thoroughly decent human being; even though our paths crossed only briefly in my eight years at the school, he was someone I felt extremely fortunate to have known.

I’ll be back in a few weeks with news on ‘Unfinished Business’ which I hope will be published in early March. Hope you’ll be back too? Take care and bye for now!

OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW

OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW

Did you make any New Year’s Resolutions? Have you given up on them already? I made two resolutions and they are both still intact.

If you have been reading these chapters for a while you will know there are a couple of things that never change for me. Firstly, I never give up. Even when there’s absolutely no chance whatsoever of something happening, however hard I try and everyone else would have packed in long ago, I never listen; I keep plugging away. I keep searching for that loose brick that will allow me to break down that wall; it doesn’t matter how long it takes, I’ll find it one day!

The second thing isn’t something I’m particularly proud of, but at least I’m honest enough to admit I suffer from it. When someone annoys or upsets me I’m a little like my anti hero Colin Bailey (but fortunately for them not quite as extreme!); I don’t have a list of people to bump off as he does, but there are people for whom a little payback is due and if my 2014 resolution on that front brings the odd success then it will be most acceptable.

The middle of January means Mocks for the students at school, so I’m working for three weeks; this will be summer number thirteen for me watching over young people taking their GCSE’s and A Levels. Hundreds of faces pass you by and perhaps only dozens make a lasting impression. Some of those that I’ve met since 2002 are still friends today; others disappear from the town never to be seen again. Whichever category they fall into then Invigilating is still without doubt the most rewarding job I’ve ever done.

In the week or so after New Year, before the exams began, I cracked on with ‘Unfinished Business’ and I now have 65000 words written. I think that leaves ten to fifteen thousand to write, you can never be sure, but I should finish the book by the middle of February at the latest. Then it will be off to the States to chase up a book cover design and get the manuscript edited ready for publication; all from the comfort of my own home!

The next cloud on the horizon will be how to advertise the new book? My Goodreads adverts for ‘The Final Straw’ have reached over 300000 readers to date, with a reasonable number of sales for my modest financial outlay. I’ve just this week launched a campaign to publicize ‘A Sting In The Tale’ the collection of short stories that I published in early November. Another modest outlay has been required for that too!

Orangeberry (who organised my award winning book tour last summer) recommended I spend around three times what I’ve spent so far – but they say to spend it each month! I don’t have the funds to do that I’m afraid. If I had five grand lying around to risk losing then fine; but even if I covered all of the advertising options they suggested, there are still no cast iron guarantees that I’d sell two thousand books to get my stake back, let alone have a best seller on my hands that solved my marketing budget problems for some years to come!

My old mate Tom Sangster has been asking me to get involved with Party In The Park and the Music Festival for a couple of years now. He came up with a proposal for 2014 that would see me taking on a project for this July’s PITP; it’s still early days, but I have given him the outline for my four hours of live music in a venue away from the main stage. If the sponsorship comes through and we get the green light for my proposals then I’ll let you know the details. It will take the evening’s entertainment in an exciting new direction.

Tom doesn’t like to take risks, so a couple of covers bands and a headline tribute act will be the limit of the musical experience for those in the open air this year, as it has been since the first year. There will always be an audience for that I guess, but it doesn’t inspire me to pay money to go to watch it.

How on earth can it inspire the next generation to pick up a guitar or a pair of drumsticks? They’re the equivalent of the dance bands churning out tunes from yesteryear that we avoided like the plague when we were teenagers. Those of you who read my first book of memories will know that there were dozens of venues available for new music to flourish that sprung up during the Sixties; they were enlightened times. There are a lot fewer venues around today overall, and those that give new music free rein are few and far between I’m afraid.

We know only too well in our own small town that the two or three live music venues ‘play safe’ and book in the same bands time and time again. The bands become too familiar and some get lazy, trotting out pretty much the same set ad infinitum.

I’m not blowing our own trumpet here (I can hear a few voices going ‘here we go again!’) but when we first started we knew perhaps fifteen songs. It was enough to fill an hour as a support band. Every Tuesday night we’d have a practice. Our target was to learn three new songs each week. Initially that just pushed our playlist up to thirty songs, which meant we could do a gig in a pub or club all on our own! Move on six months and we had trimmed back our practices to every other week because we were gigging so much, but we now had perhaps eighty songs we could offer; we pruned that list back to about fifty and dropped three older tunes for every three ‘newbies’ added at our practices.

We switched from an R&B outfit to a soul band after two & a half years; that meant learning thirty brand new songs before we could get back on the road properly. We took a week off work and grafted. A few tracks from the old line up remained for a month perhaps, but we transformed our set completely in the time between repeat gigs for the covers bands we hear in the Nose.

Then we did the same exercise three years later when we switched from a seven piece soul band to a four piece hard rock outfit. This time a third of the new numbers were our own material; the process was the same; a week’s holiday, hard graft in the practice room and a few missed gigs while we got ready. It’s not rocket science! It’s called keeping things FRESH!

I would love to be able to have a venue where new music featured every weekend in town; during the week it would be hired out for practice sessions and workshops with local musicians (young and old) pitching in to advise and encourage. A pipe dream maybe; but something has to change.

Talking about change; some things don’t! They seem to keep popping up with annoying regularity. I’m talking about unwanted visitors to my website. I had this problem about eighteen months ago! We managed to stem the flow back then, but I keep a weather eye on the comments and who is taking a look at the blog posts. A large number come in via Facebook and are pretty much anonymous, but one in particular came via a website which left a big hint as to who they were. It provided a bit of light relief to the lousy weather we’ve had so far this year.

I’ll be back in a few weeks with updates on everything featured in this post. Hope you’ll be back too? I’m thinking of adding a new feature ‘A funny thing happened on the journey to and from school today’.

Take care and bye for now!

ABSENT FRIENDS

ABSENT FRIENDS

Next Monday I’ll be joining some old friends to say goodbye to Frank Knee. I can’t recall exactly when I first met Frank; I know where it was to within about a yard but which year it was escapes me.

It was the mid 1950s and I was sitting by the side of the cricket pitch at Melksham House; I was putting small numbered metal squares onto a wooden board on the instruction of the scorer. Total runs scored, wickets and contribution by the last man out. It was pretty basic stuff that was required back then. Frank was keeping wicket for Avon Sports & Social Club and although I was sixty or seventy yards away and I couldn’t hear what was going on, I have no doubt he was chatting to his fellow fielders and the opposition batsman. Not the ignorant ‘sledging’ that passes for professional cricket today; just regular social banter that was common to their generation; in other words, good natured humorous conversation.

Frank was good at conversation. He wasn’t too shabby at several sports either! He played cricket until he was forty, he was a fine striker of the ball and was quite at home in the slips when better wicket keepers were available for selection. Aged forty, he decided he was a passenger in the field with his age and weight. He became an umpire; not just someone who put on a white coat and stood in the middle, but a good umpire; firm but fair. Just as with his playing days, he hung up his coat on his terms, rather than wait for someone to query whether his eyesight or hearing were starting to fade!

In the winter he played snooker and was Secretary of the local League for 20 years. This coincided with the tremendous growth in popularity of the sport with the advent of colour television. Frank was in charge as fourteen teams became forty and half a dozen member clubs grew to fifteen. As a player he never played below the top division; a strong competitor and tremendous company. You’ll recognise a familiar theme when I say that in the mid 1980s he stopped playing snooker and stepped down as Secretary; he accepted the role of President for five years, and then retired to the list of Honorary Vice Presidents.

With his sporting days behind him, playing and officiating, Frank decided not to linger in the club bar that had been his second home for so many years. With all the sports he was interested in he was likely to be in for an hour or two most nights; team selection, matches, collecting subscriptions, league meetings etcetera. Not long after he stood down from the Snooker Presidency he moved to the King’s Arms in the Market Place for his Friday night drinks.

Several of us joined him. Week after week, year after year we would meet up for a few pints and lots of conversation. Frank would stand in front of the fire place (which was a great spot in the winters with a roaring log fire!) and the conversation would flow. Which subjects did we have on our agenda? We covered the complete range of sports of course; politics, classical music, work, family, travel and memories. Frank had loads of memories. Sometimes you heard a story or two that you had heard before, but any Friday night we spent in his company was always entertaining.

Our Friday night gang entered quizzes together and won fairly regularly, Frank’s knowledge was extensive and provided someone else had a stab at the pop music questions we were in with a shout!

Other people knew him through his work or his love of classical music; some went to Promenade concerts with him. I’m sure they would have similar memories of how enjoyable it was to be in his company. It never failed to surprise me how many people knew him. As he became a Friday night fixture in the King’s Arms then dozens of people, young and old, would drop in for a chat, then move on to another bar in town. We socialised together for almost twenty years on Friday nights until Frank found the walk from Bowerhill too much, especially if he couldn’t rely 100% on the last bus turning up to get him back home!

Frank died on Monday 6th January 2014 aged 80.

On Monday we will have the opportunity to say goodbye to an old friend. I hope that as many of those Friday nighters’ are able to be there, plus many who knew him in the parts of his life that I didn’t.

In the evening I shall raise a glass of a good red wine and make a toast to ‘Absent friends!’

I’ll be back next week with all the latest news; I hope you can join me then!