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More misused phrases – caring less

When you can’t be bothered about something, or it’s beneath your notice or interest, you say, “I couldn’t care less.” That n’t  is really important. It means there is no level of caring below the level you feel for X: your interest in the matter is at absolute zero.

If you say, “I could care less,” that’s another example of a meaningless adaptation of the original. That phrase means there are things that are less important to you than X, so in the great scale of interest, it isn’t at the bottom. So any impact the phrase is supposed to have is gone.

I know language adapts and grows, and I’m all for that, but when the adaptation loses the original meaning, we shouldn’t do it.

Charlie’s latest newsletter

Welcome from stormy England. It blew a hoolie last weekend and this weekend looks just the same – had to cancel an author/reader lunch today because we’re all cleaving to our settees and battening down the hatches.


The most exciting development at the moment has been listening to audio samples for narrators for the Lindenshaw books. It’s a real thrill to hear how other people interpret your characters and also an eye opener. I’ve always said that characters belong as much to the listener/reader as to the author and often I discover all sorts of things about the people in my books that I didn’t realise, simply by talking to my readers. For example, I’ve been told by four people—all of whom should know—that Orlando Coppersmith from the Cambridge Fellows series is somewhere on the autism spectrum. I didn’t write him with that intention, but if he is, then I’m pleased to know the fact.

Am reposting the link  for the Portsmouth Book Fest programme as the embedded links to the individual events don’t always work. Just to remind you, it’s ‘Is the romance genre all fluff and kittens?’  on March 5th with me trying to keep several other authors under control.  Then there’s Mysteryfest on the 7th March, an all day conference (with light lunch) in which I’m popping up twice. I’m also looking forward very much to listening to Len Tyler speak, as he’s one of my favourite mystery writers.

Thanks to all those who tweeted their favourite LBGTQTIA+ books as part of Romance Reading month. There’s a move abroad within the RNA’s rainbow chapter to make the second Sunday of each month a day for a rerun of that.  Next one would be Match 10th so…

Share your favourite LGBQTIA+ novels to @RNAtweets using the following hashtags. #DiamondRainbowReads  #RNA60 

This week’s excerpt is inspired by an exhibition that’s currently on at the Imperial War Museum London, and which I doubt I’ll be able to visit, given the pressures on the old diary. It’s about keeping the troops entertained in WWI, which is right up my street, and made me think of one of my favourite creations, Madeleine from Awfully Glad.

“Welcome, gentlemen. So nice to see you again, Captain.” She offered Corry her hand—he bent over it, lips hovering just above the knuckles.
“And you, too, my dear. I hope your sister is well?”
“She is, thank you. Doing some nursing work. We all have to play our part.”
“Indeed.” Corry grinned.
“And how’s Elizabeth?” Madeleine asked, gently wafting herself with an improvised fan. Apparently it wasn’t just the young officers who were getting overheated.
“She’s keeping well. Being brave for the sake of the boys.” Corry’s smile softened as he spoke of his wife and family. “Now, may I introduce some of our men? Madeleine, this is Lieutenant Browne.”
“Delighted.” Browne delicately shook the hand presented to him, then slipped back as the other two jostled for position, Hampson being bold enough to kiss the red-gloved fingers.
“You sang so beautifully. Like an angel,” Cole said when it was his turn, blushing from neck to hairline.
“Thank you, although I mustn’t take the credit. It’s an excellent company.” Madeleine turned her deep blue gaze on Cole. “What did you think of the tenor? Such a fine voice. He was in the West End, of course, before he signed up.”
“Um. Yes. Very good,” Cole stammered, looking like a nervous schoolboy. The flower of King George’s army rendered helpless by a pair of sparkling eyes and a dress which had slipped to show just a touch too much shoulder. Maybe it had been deliberately arranged that way.
“I saw him in The Mikado when Noah was a boy.” Corry laughed. “Are they allowing them to sign up at his age?”
“That was his father, as well you know, you naughty boy.” Madeleine slapped the colonel on his arm with her fan. “I shall have to report back to Elizabeth.”
“Heavens!” Corry raised his hands in mock surrender. “No mentions in one of your dispatches, please. She’ll have my guts for garters.”
Madeleine smiled, then inclined her head regally. “Now, tell me about yourselves, lads. Have you got sweethearts at home?” She winked at Corry again, the pair of them evidently enjoying the discomfort of the younger men. “Or would it be wrong to mention them? I understand a lady’s name should never be mentioned in the mess. We should adhere to that rule.”
The conversation turned to a gentle probing of where the officers came from. Gradually they lost their unease, opening up their hearts to pour into Madeleine’s willing ear—to the extent that they became bold, bolder than was perhaps wise, in the circumstances.
“Sorry if we’re being forward, but we wondered if you would join us for a drink, afterwards? There’s a little estaminet…” Hampson’s words petered out under Madeleine’s piercing blue gaze.
“But of course. Once I’ve changed out of my working clothes.”
“Oh, yes. Come on chaps, let’s leave the lady to it.” Whether Hampson was in a hurry to leave the room to spare Madeleine’s modesty or hide his own blush, who could tell. The blush deepened to an ugly red at her reply.
“Oh, no need for that.” She favoured Corry with a wink. “Stay and keep me company.”
“I…ah…we…oh!” Hampson’s eyebrows shot up as Madeline unpinned her wig and removed it, to reveal short cropped hair, a couple of shades darker than his, dark auburn with sweat. She smiled, but not her usual coquettish smile; this one was masculine, the lines of the mouth suddenly hardened. The illusion had been broken.
“Lieutenant Samuel Hines, gentlemen. Female impersonator extraordinaire. And a very old friend of the family,” Corry added, maybe in case his officers thought he spent all his off duty hours hanging around with men wearing lipstick.
“Not so much of the old,” Sam replied in a voice which had gone down an octave since he’d last spoken. He began to wipe the make-up off his face. “Sorry to shatter any illusions,” he said, addressing Cole, who was clearly trying to give the impression he’d known all along. “Better you know now before we get to the estaminet. A bit of footsie under the table might have ended up with you getting your shins raked.”
Corry laughed. “You should have seen Sam on the rugby pitch. Usually played hard but fair, except when the ref wasn’t looking!”

And finally – Has to be one of the exhibits from another IWM site, this time at Duxford.


Using “the proof of the pudding”

Following up from my last please use English properly post, I’m having a wee bijou rantette about how the perfectly good expression “the proof of the pudding is in the eating” has morphed into the meaningless and completely daft “the proof is in the pudding”. We’re back to the two meanings of proof, this time as a noun. 1. Proof as in evidence that something is correct. 2. Proof as in test.

The proof of the pudding is the test of it, which happens when it’s eaten. No matter how nice it looks or smells, if it tastes naff, the pudding fails the ultimate test. So, for example, you have to use something to see whether it works properly.

In that case, what the hell is “the proof is in the pudding” supposed to mean? The test (or the evidence) is in the pudding? Like the sort of silver charms or coins you get lurking in a Christmas pudding, you take a scoop and voila! a piece of evidence appears. I’m being silly, I know, but it illustrates that the saying is pointless twaddle.

Rantette over.

Don’t forget to tweet today!

The RNA is an inclusive and diverse organisation and recently opened an online Rainbow Chapter for members of the LGBQTIA+ community.  On the 9th February (today!) during Romance Reading month it would like to provide an opportunity for readers to share their favourite LGBQTIA+ novels to @RNAtweets using the following hashtags. #DiamondRainbowReads  #RNA60 

Please join in.

Using “the exception proves the rule”

I get very cross about misuse of English and certain phrases in particular. “The exception proves the rule” is one such. Prove has two meanings: 1. To demonstrate something is correct and 2. To test something, like when you prove a cake. The people who get it wrong clearly don’t understand that it’s meaning 2 we’re talking about here – using meaning 1 is nonsense. Example:-

I have a theory that all cats are black.
I see a grey cat.
They say the exception proves the rule: that means that this exception demonstrates the rule is true.
Therefore all cats are indeed black.

Daft, isn’t it? Yet I’ve heard people say something very similar. This is how it should work.

I have a theory that all cats are black.
I see a grey cat.
They say the exception proves the rule: that means that this exception tests whether the rule is true.
Therefore all cats are not black.

If you use this saying wrongly, I forgive you. Just don’t do it again, eh?


The excitement about a bridge

About a mile from where we live they’ve been replacing a bridge over the motorway. It’s taken a couple of years and has been a fascinating process. On three occasions they’ve had to shut the motorway entirely for a whole weekend: once to demolish half the old bridge, once to put the new bridge in and once to get rid of the other half of the old structure. It’s been a source of great excitement locally (we don’t get out much). For a start, the sight of an empty motorway is quite eerie:


Also, the ‘chompers’ they get to eat away the old bridge look remarkably like large dinosaurs, especially when they get into action.



Couldn’t get a great video of the black one right at the far side in action, but you do get the ‘sauropods grazing’ impression with this. (The video does play the right way up, honest!)




Charlie’s latest newsletter

I guess it’s too late in the day (in the UK anyway) to catch you all with “Pinch, punch, first of the month,” although I managed to inflict it on my family members this morning. Needless to say they weren’t impressed. Great local excitement today, though.


I had a wonderful surprise to be one of Padme’s reviewed audiobooks of choice for 2019. The original review said, “There’s just something about Charlie Cochrane’s WW1 era stories that really bring the time to life and Promises Made Under Fire is no different.”

Is the romance genre all fluff and kittens? I think we know it isn’t, so if you’d like to hear a group of us discussing exactly why that hypothesis is wrong, get your tickets now for our March 5th panel at Portsmouth Book Fest. Then there’s Mysteryfest on the 7th March, an all day conference (with light lunch) that should be a right ripsnorter.  The panels, not the lunch – or maybe both.

Don’t forget to have your tweeting fingers ready to share your favourite LBGTQTIA+ books as part of Romance Reading month.

The RNA is an inclusive and diverse organisation and recently opened an online Rainbow Chapter for members of the LGBQTIA+ community.  On the 9th February during Romance Reading month we would like to provide an opportunity for readers to share their favourite LGBQTIA+ novels to @RNAtweets using the following hashtags. #DiamondRainbowReads  #RNA60 

Today’s excerpt is from the aforementioned Promises Made Under Fire which is available as an ebook  and audio version.


France, 1915
Lieutenant Tom Donald envies everything about fellow officer Frank Foden–his confidence, his easy manner with the men in the trenches, the affectionate letters from his wife. Frank shares these letters happily, drawing Tom into a vicarious friendship with a woman he’s never met. Although the bonds of friendship forged under fire are strong, Tom can’t be so open with Frank–he’s attracted to men and could never confess that to anyone.
When Frank is killed in no-man’s-land, he leaves behind a mysterious request for Tom: to deliver a sealed letter to a man named Palmer. Tom undertakes the commission while on leave–and discovers that almost everything he thought he knew about Frank is a lie…


At Brookham station I asked the porter for directions. I was told to go down to the church, where four roads met, turn left, go about a hundred yards, and the house I sought would be on the right. When I reached the crossroads, it felt suddenly—and strangely—as though I’d reached the crux to the whole matter, the corner which once turned can’t be gone back round again. I’d have stayed there all day, dithering, if a car hadn’t come flying around the corner, horn blaring, and nearly scared me out of my skin. It stirred me like a bugle call.
I set off along the road, towards a neat village green and a row of large cottages. The one I wanted was set slightly back from the road, a handsome building dating back perhaps to Georgian times. The garden was beautifully kept, as was the house itself, a picture-postcard vision of rural perfection.
Walking along the path, I couldn’t help stopping to smell the blossom—big, blousy flower heads, full of a subtle fragrance. I could imagine becoming drunk on them, forgetting for a while the questions buzzing through my head and the thought of returning to the front. The sound of footsteps on the gravel and a hearty voice interrupted me.
“They’re lovely, aren’t they?”
“Mr. Palmer?” I asked, flushing at having been caught indulging in such a foolish pleasure.
“Dr. Palmer. And don’t let me stop you enjoying the blossom. I love this time of year.” He was tall, lithe as a willow wand, reaching up easily to finger some of the thick, waxy petals. I tried to put an age to him, but failed. If I hadn’t known he was a doctor, I’d have put him as nothing more than a student. “They’re a promise of summer around the corner. And peace, please God.”
“Amen to that.”
“I believe I had a friend in your regiment,” he said, eyeing my badges. “Frank Foden.”
“That’s who I’ve come to see you about. He left a letter for you and asked me to deliver it, by hand.” The thing looked horribly crumpled now, having been dragged around so long. “I’m sorry it’s taken such a time for me to fulfil my commission.”
He took the letter, turning it in his hands, face suddenly as white as a ghost. “Thank you,” he said, mechanically. “I’ll open it later.”
“Of course.” We stood in silence, a wall of awkwardness between us.
“I’m forgetting my manners. Can I get you a cup of tea—or better still, a beer?”
I hesitated, unsure of whether to intrude on his obvious grief. Palmer seemed to be taking things a lot more to heart than Mrs. Foden had. In the end it seemed impolite to refuse. “If it’s not too much trouble, I’d love a cup of tea.” I hadn’t realised how dry my throat had become. Nor how much I wanted to continue in his company, although that realisation came later, over tea and sympathy. “My name’s Tom Donald, by the way.”
“Ah, yes. Of course. Come in.” He ushered me into the cottage, calling, “Mavis!” as we entered the hall.
An elderly maid appeared from what must have been the kitchen. “Sir?” She gave me a swift appraising glance, then smiled. I’d clearly passed whatever test she had in mind.
“Any chance of a pot of tea?”
“Kettle’s on the boil right now.” Mavis disappeared behind the door.
“You’re home on leave?” Palmer asked, as he led me into the lounge and offered me a comfortable chair before the fire.
“Yes.” I sat, suddenly at a loss for small talk. “Nice to be back for a while.”
Palmer looked intently at me. “Would it be a chore to talk about your days out in France?”
“No, not at all.” Rather that, than a series of platitudes.
“We won’t be mawkish.” Palmer smiled. Dear God, he was beautiful, just as beautiful as Veronica had been in the pictures Foden had showed off. So beautiful it knocked what little sense I had out of me. “I bet Frank got into all sorts of hair-raising scrapes. Tell me about them.”
I was lost for words, until I remembered the stories I’d prepared for Mrs. Foden. Now they could find an outlet—less bowdlerised and with the added spice of a few extra ones, too, not suitable for her ears. Enough to last us over tea and cakes, once I’d got into my stride. He swapped a few about Foden from pre-war days.
I put all the questions I had back into store for a while. Palmer and Foden were clearly old friends and his grief wasn’t hidden well enough for me not to know it was running deep. If it eased his grief to talk about his old pal and my old comrade then I was happy, too, at least for the time being.
I’d hoped the things I wanted to know would come up naturally, in amongst the reminiscences, but by the time I was worried I’d outstayed my welcome, I knew that was a vain hope and I’d have to bite the bullet.
“Before I came here I went to the hospital in Leavale, to try to find Veronica. I wanted to pass on my condolences in person. Even though we’d never met, I felt I knew her. Frank even showed me parts of her letters.” That was the first time I’d called him by his Christian name, Palmer’s familiarity rubbing off on me. “I think I lived vicariously out in France, basking in her warmth.”
“Ah. I see,” Palmer said, after what seemed an age. “You wouldn’t have found her at the hospital, of course. Not the easiest person to track down.” He raised his hand to forestall the inevitable question. “No. This is a tale that would be far too long in the telling. I’ll jot down a few notes for you to look at on your way home. If you still want to know more, after you’ve read them, then come and see me again. I’m usually here on a Wednesday—off duty.”
He went to the bureau, scribbling down some sentences on a piece of paper and sealing it in an envelope addressed to me. The handwriting seemed vaguely familiar, even though my name was in block capitals.
“Thank you for coming, Captain Donald.” He shook my hand then pressed the envelope into it.
“I’d say it was my pleasure, but…” I didn’t need to finish the sentence.

And finally – a picture from last year’s Book Fest, where I failed to persuade the audience that Cadfael was the greatest fictional detective. This is a wonderfully typical picture of me, in that I have my eyes shut. As usual.