A grand weekend, part 2


Saturday had ended with the discovery that the Cochranes’ very favourite thing – crazy golf – was to be found right next to the Allianz ground. So close that we parked in the players’ car park! As a result of which, as we left we encountered various peeps driving in. Like Liam Williams, whom we let go over a speed bump first. How lovely to be flashed by an international.


Plenty of lovely players on view at the game, including Faz and Mako and Nick Iziekwe.

Also on view was the lovely Jamie Merrow who was able to make use of our spare ticket.




The invisible condition – Blog hop (and giveaway) for autism awareness


Autism Fact:  Autism itself does not affect life expectancy, however research has shown that the mortality risk among individuals with autism is twice as high as the general population, in large part due to drowning and other accidents.
Read more blog posts via the master list

A notice has appeared on the door of the disabled access loo at our local branch of Waitrose, reminding people that some disabilities are invisible.
This strikes a real chord with me, as we know a chap who’s been afflicted with juvenile arthritis and who’s suffered a bit of stick when he—totally legally—parks in a disabled bay, displaying his blue badge, and then emerges from his vehicle. “What? He’s young and walking, so what the hell is he doing there? Whose badge has he nicked?”
The same attitude can apply in the case of other problems that don’t leave a huge physical sign. How can a bystander know if the girl wearing trousers is really a double amputee, or the man wearing gloves has an artificial hand? Even though different body forms are becoming less of a thing to hide in the media—great to see guys like JJ Chalmers presenting some of the Commonwealth Games coverage—there’s a tendency to think that if someone ain’t in a chair, or hasn’t an empty sleeve or another obvious issue, they ain’t got a problem.
And, of course, this particularly applies to conditions like autism. Too often youngsters on the spectrum get labelled as ‘just naughty’ or adults are called ‘weirdos’. Much of this is due to ignorance on the part of the person doing the labelling, although some people have a natural tendency to slag everyone off so name calling gets applied any time they don’t like something! Sometimes it’s a case of just not thinking: folk who’d naturally ensure that a person in a chair got helped with accessing where they were going might not even consider that another person could have a need for extra consideration because their issue isn’t evident.
We were on a cruise earlier this year, and one of the people we came across was clearly on the spectrum, given his body language and manner of speaking. I wonder how many of my fellow passengers would have given him the same dispensation they gave the woman wearing the big ‘Partially sighted’ badge or the lady with the large hearing aid. Or would they just have decided to give the ‘slightly odd bloke’ a wide berth?
Would it help if everyone who needed some extra consideration bore a label saying what they needed help with or would that make things worse? I wish I knew the answer.

I’m offering anything from my back catalogue as a prize to one winner, to be drawn from comments on this post. And here’s a snippet from Lessons in Chasing the Wild Goose, featuring Orlando Coppersmith, who four people – all of whom should know – have told me is on the spectrum.

Autumn in England is lovely enough, a palette of red and orange hues painting the trees and bushes, but autumn in Cambridge is perfection. Especially in the last few weeks of freedom before the dunderheads appear. And autumn in the Fellows’ Garden of St. Bride’s college seemed to have reached perfection this year, with a profusion of ornamental shrubs and small flowers—which Orlando Coppersmith couldn’t quite put a name to—twinkling beneath the trees. What he could put a name to was the colour of the sky, although no artist would recognise the term “Jonty Stewart’s eyes blue”. Yet that was exactly the shade the heavens had adorned themselves in.
The colour of the sky had prompted his visit to the garden, en route home from taking part in some “frightfully important and totally incomprehensible mathematical stuff” as Jonty would have termed it. Why not spend a few minutes in a place which had played a significant role in his burgeoning relationship with Jonty, sixteen years previously? The fact that he could sit on a bench and rest his aching legs for a while wasn’t lost on him, either. Why on earth had he agreed to take part in a late season cricket match, especially one against a team of such notable batsmen? Even Jonty’s wily spin had been to little avail, although he’d not had to go haring after the ball to all corners of the field, having inveigled himself into a place in the slips where running would be at a minimum.
Still, Orlando wasn’t going to complain: that would be conduct unbecoming of a Professor of Applied Mathematics and, worse than that, Jonty would rib him for it. Jonty, whom Orlando realised with a jolt, was not fifty yards down the path and might well be heading in his direction. He quickly produced a set of papers from his briefcase and contrived an air of intense concentration.
“I wondered if I’d find you here.” Jonty’s voice sounded through the railings of the gate he was poised to open.
Orlando looked up, as though completely surprised. “Oh, hello. I was trying to find a moment’s peace.” He waved the papers.
“Sorry. Didn’t realise you were hard at work with your sums. I thought you might be sunbathing. Or resting your legs after the cricket.” Jonty, having closed the gate carefully behind him, plonked his backside two feet along the bench.
“Why exactly did you think I might be here?” Orlando asked, neatly sidestepping the aching legs issue.
“You were seen by Swann, that rather nice new porter. Limping along—you, not him, and his words, not mine—in this general direction. I deduced,” Jonty grinned at the word, “that you’d not make it all the way home so would likely seek a few minutes of repose. And what nicer place could a man find to repose in than this?”
“That last point is indisputable,” Orlando conceded. “Although I’ll take issue with ‘limping’. I merely had a stone in my shoe at the time and had to find a suitable place in which to remove it. I have killed two birds with the proverbial stone.” He brandished the papers again, having realised he’d contradicted his earlier statement.


A grand weekend, part 1

I do love it when reality exceeds expectation, and this weekend was one of those occasions.

We’d always planned to have this weekend watching my beloved Saracens (to celebrate my umpty-tumptieth birthday) but had anticipated the match being on Saturday so going up, watching game, having a meal and coming home Sunday morning. The match, however, got scheduled for the Sunday afternoon, so we had to rejiggle the weekend. Mr C, who has great ideas, suggested we go to RAF Hendon museum on Saturday morning, which we did. It was blooming brilliant. Loads of planes, great display about the RAF in WWI (including the role of women).



As it was such a lovely day, youngest daughter suggested we go to Highgate cemetery and see Karl Marx – along with other luminaries. Old Karl does nothing for me, but I was moved to see the graves of both Douglas Adams and the lovely Sheila Gish. Amused by this tribute, too.


Topped it all by Mr C having the winner in the Grand National!

Part 2 to follow, which includes a bonus JL Merrow.



Newsletter 196

I mentioned last time that I have had a significant event recently (the 20th anniversary of my 40th birthday) and we’re having a family celebration for it this weekend. I get to see my beloved Saracens, whom I’ve supported since they played in the local park, turn out against Bath at their impressive London stadium. This is very close to Hendon RAF museum so I get to see a plane or two as well. I’ll be losing my short on the Grand National somewhere in between…


Most months I conduct interviews for The Big Thrill (the International Thriller Writers e-zine) so it was a great thrill to be interviewed myself in this month’s issue about the release of Lessons in Chasing the Wild Goose. John Darrin certainly comes up with something whackier than I usually manage to. He certainly got a lot of interesting answers from me!

I’m always blogging hither and yon, and this month I’ve got some thoughts about authors getting out of the house which will go up at the BSB blog this weekend and the blog hop for Autism awareness I’ll be taking part in next week.

All Lessons Learned is still on special offer on kindle so if you need to nab it, get in now.

Don’t forget to drop into the Cover? Art! exhibition at Harbour Lights cinema gallery if you’re in the Southampton area. The exhibition runs from 4th to 30th May 2018.

Today I’m including an excerpt from Awfully Glad, which gets referenced briefly in Lessons in Chasing the Wild Goose.

A stockbrokers’ office in London, clearly a prosperous business. Sun streaming through newly polished windows. At a desk, one of the junior partners, doing very well considering it’s only been a year since the armistice.
A year. Was that all? On occasions it felt like a hundred, at other times like it had only been last week.
Madeleine’s costumes were long gone, donated to the local operatic society, who’d been extremely grateful, given the quality of the fabric, although they’d need adjusting for any woman who wasn’t built like a wing three-quarter. That was a part of Sam Hines’s life that had been put away along with the puttees and other mementos of the war.
He kept a picture, though, on one of the office shelves, framed in silver and with his Military Cross draped casually over it. If anyone asked, Sam said it was his cousin, that his medal was dedicated to her. If they asked further—which they usually didn’t unless they were female—he said she’d died that December, just weeks after the war ended, which was figuratively if not literally true, as that had been when the Macaronis had given their last, triumphant performance.
And the cousin story explained the remarkable resemblance between the glamorous girl in the photo and the respectable stockbroker in the office. A wiser man might have kept the picture hidden altogether or been bold as brass with the truth itself. Sam wasn’t ashamed of what he’d done—he knew how much his audience had valued his performance, the part he’d played in keeping up morale—so why would he want to distance himself from it now? He honestly couldn’t say.
Still, he had other things to keep his mind on now, not least a diary full of work for the week.
He studied the appointment book, seeing several familiar names there. Some old buffers coming in to discuss their portfolios, men he’d have to smile and be polite to when they started on about the war. He’d make sure he had his medal out in plain view when they came along. One or two names he noted with real pleasure, widows he was helping to eke out their mite—not the usual clientele, but they’d been drawn under the wing of old Mr. Mullally and he’d been pleased to help. Then there was a name which rang a bell, but he couldn’t quite work out which belfry it came from.
Mr. J. Browne. New client.
School? University? He’d run across somebody with this name before, although he guessed it wasn’t that uncommon. He hadn’t been one of the Macaronis, certainly, nor—Sam was fairly confident—in the regiment. At training? At the rugby club?
A sickening idea hit him in the stomach. At one of his other clubs, the ones where you might well meet a fellow rugby player, but not an institution dedicated to that game. A club at which to indulge in a more dangerous sport, one that could leave you open to blackmail—or violence—no matter how discreet you tried to be.
Browne. Yes. While he still couldn’t pin down the name, that was the belfry from which it rang. He was certain Browne had been an attractive man. One he’d been involved with at some point in the past? Sam didn’t think so. He usually remembered their names. Then maybe someone on the fringes? An observer of the game? And was this chap Browne coming here to make the ultimatum—pay up or else?
Pull yourself together.
He’d let his imagination run away. It would probably turn out to be some other old buffer with nothing to do with what Sam got up to of a weekend. By Wednesday he’d know for certain, so why worry about it now? But the still, small voice in his head kept nagging at him, wishing that the appointment was sooner, so the cloud of worry wouldn’t hang over him all through Monday and Tuesday.
For whatever reason, the name of Browne buzzed like a fly in his head. Or a bullet passing too close for comfort.

And finally, a picture from last spring, seeing as this one seems to be so long in coming!

World War 1 commemoration – in the air

Our diaries for this year resemble the map of the London underground, only more complex and less pretty. This weekend we’re having our family do for the 20th anniversary of my 40th birthday, and are heading Hendon-ward to see Saracens play at home. Hendon, of course, means a visit to the RAF museum will be on the cards.

Imagine my delight when I discovered they’ve got a WWI related display – will I be able to get that propeller in my handbag?