Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Views across Northumberland

In the Adventures of the Billy Goats Gruff I have often dwelt on views, particularly of distant hills. When I have thought about the boys next steps, there has always been one hill in view on their return journey; the Cheviot. 
It is an odd feature of the landscape, visible from many places as a distant hump, but as often concealed from view by folds of the land or, as today, by the weather. 
I am sitting in a play park in Prudhoe with an expansive view northwards. There is the sweep of the Tyne Valley towards Hexham to the west and Newcastle upon Tyne in the east. There is the ridge of high ground which separates the Tyne from the other river basins of East Northumberland and also marks the route of General Wade's military road and, of course, Hadrian's Wall. Opposite Prudhoe there is Harlow Hill, a minor hill by most standards, but distinctive. Eastwards is Heddon on the Wall, another notable rise on the ridge, while in the distance westwards the ridge rises into the more significant crags of the Whin Sill, a dolerite intrusion that carries the Roman Wall across the wild lands of western Northumberland - that is Trolldom.
At the edge of sight today there is a further ridge, though I am not sure what they represent - probably the watershed of the Blyth/Wansbeck basin. On clear days the next line of hills would be the Simonsides, a line of northward facing sandstone escarpments south of Rothbury and beyond them the Cheviots, of which only two hills are visible clearly; The Cheviot and Hedgehope Law.
Beyond the Cheviot lies the Till Basin, the ancient land of Din Guaire which was the home of the Grufflings long ago. The Cheviot, glimpsed from afar by the brothers, will call them home.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Goodreads Author

I have at last re-established the fact that I am the author of The Adventures of the Billy Goats Gruff. I was listed as the author for quite a while, but I think when Amazon bought it up, they must have killed the link. It is a simple enough process, and I should really have got round to doing it ages ago, but you know how you look at a set of instructions on how to do something and then you think that it would probably be easier to do something else completely different.

Now that I know what to do, do you think I should claim to write under the pseudonym of J.R.R. Tolkien as well? These things are moderated, so I'm sure that someone might notice.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Paper book availability.

Well, I guess it was inevitable in the current book market that my little book should founder a little in the sea of literature, which is becoming a scene with almost as many contributors as there are consumers. I have been informed that last year I sold less than a hundred copies, and so it will only be available in print for a short time longer. If you have been putting off getting a copy, I strongly recommend that you do so now, and if nothing else, you will be getting your hands on a rarity!

What am I doing about this? Well, I am talking to you, for a start, and more importantly I am doing a quick second edition. Mostly this means having another look at the syntax, having read the book out loud for the first time recently, but I have also picked up a few errors such as referring to Eadmund as Eadwine on several occasions, which I noted has confused one reviewer!

The new edition will be out on Kindle in the near future, and I will of course keep everyone up to date with news here.

P.S.Ласкаво просимо всім моїм шанувальникам в Україні, мені шкода, що я можу використовувати тільки Google Translate би подякувати вам за ваше регулярних відвідувань. Я сподіваюся, що вам сподобалося дізнавшись про "Пригоди козлів Графф". Так благословить вас Бог!
Якщо це нічого не значить для вас, або що ми називаємо по-англійськи "Gobbledegook", будь ласка, коментувати, але майте на увазі, що якщо ви відповідаєте українською, мені доведеться використовувати Google Translate, щоб зрозуміти його, так що відповіді англійською мовою буде оцінили!

Friday, 21 June 2013


Well, that's half of the summer gone, we are at the mid point, so now we can look forward to the nights closing in, the days getting shorter.

Remember the Words of House Stark ...

You have to admire George R Martin for coming up with such a catchy and easily parodied hook for his books. Every time someone Tweets or puts on Facebook, some comment about it soon being cardigan weather, they are advertising the Song of Ice and Fire series, even if they are thinking more of the Game of Thrones TV series. Either way, it's good money coming in to the author.

I'm sure he didn't imagine that these Words would have the impact they have, I would see it as being more of a reflection of the position of House Stark, that in a world where the seasons are unpredictable, it is the ones in the north who will need to remember winter the most through the long summers, for it will hit them hardest when it returns, with or without the White Walkers.

Living in Newcastle upon Tyne, I have often wondered on the use by the TV series of the Yorkshire dialect for the Starks and their allies. I approve, by the way, but it does then rather beg the question ... does that mean that Geordies are the Night's Watch? After all we are far to the north of the "Northerners" and we have a wall running through our fair city. By extension, north of the Wall there are the wildlings of Northumberland  and the Borders, and of course the White Walkers must have Scottish accents.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Sighs: an exhalation of breath or a sign of emotional turmoil?


"What's the matter?"

"Nothing, why?" 

"Ah, well, you just gave a big sigh, that's all." 

 I don't know how many of you are familiar with that little scenario, but I get it all of the time from my wife, in some permutation or other. I really think it is a gender thing, possibly the root cause of so much misunderstanding between the sexes. Obviously I cannot speak for all Malekind, but to me a sigh is just a large exhalation of breath about 80% of the time. Possibly more. Only rarely will I sigh because I feel I am sad or exasperated or whatever other feeling could be expressed by a sigh. I am far more likely to be sighing because I have been breathing shallowly and feel the need for a good oxygenating breath. Or I might sit down suddenly and exhale sharply from the change in position. 

I think that to a woman, a sigh is one of a collection of non verbal modes of communication that they employ consciously to express dissatisfaction, a sense of hopelessness, or just as a way of eliciting an emotional response from their audience, e.g. the above "What's the matter?" If that audience is another woman, fair enough. The response will probably be uttered, and the woman can either make a dramatic denial of there being anything wrong (and thus confirming that there is) or she can pour her heart out to her confidante. If the audience is a man, there is a high chance that the sigh will be misinterpreted as a needful exhalation of breath. 

Some men are naturally more attuned to sighs than others and some men learn to invest time and effort into listening for these verbal clues - especially early in a relationship, when failure to interpret a sigh at a critical juncture can result in withdrawal of privileges, possibly on a permanent basis. Failure to pick up on a well placed sigh has its own set of feedbacks in the female mind, not least of which is a feeling that there is a deliberate refusal to pick up on such an obvious message, such as the "We have been at this party far too long, they are all your friends, the music is rubbish and the food is worse, so make our excuses and let's get out of here." You have to admit that is a lot of message to fit into a simple exhalation of breath.

I think we are back full circle to the female misinterpretation of the sudden exhalation of breath. Here is where the really fertile ground for misunderstanding lies. As the female mind is more sigh conscious, the response at the top is wide open to misinterpretation. Firstly, the denial is in fact an admission that something is wrong and therefore the cue for further investigation, which leads to increasingly vehement denials from the male, who has in fact just made the mistake of breathing out a little too forcefully. The terrain gets worse if the sigh occurs during, or immediately after a conversation. This can mean that the male disapproves of whatever the female said or subsequently did and this is therefore a followed by a more intense cross examination of the hapless and increasingly bewildered male. 

 At this point the male may sigh again. This time it probably does represent an expression of emotion or exasperation.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

A little bit of self-promotion

I've just joined The Independent Author Network. You can see my page at It would seem that in order to succeed as an author, you have to spend more time trawling the internet for new ways to flag the interest of new readers than you do writing. There are any number of platforms out there that I have yet to get to grips with; Tumblr,  Pinterest, Stumbleupon, etc. I see that Reddit has survived from quite a way back, but I'm sure that there used to be a load of other services like it that have gone the way of the dodo. Ah well, it is a fast changing world online. Anyone been on Friends Reunited recently?

Wednesday, 1 May 2013


Hal an tol, jolly rumble-oh!
We've been up long before the day-oh!
To welcome in the summer
To welcome in the May-oh!
For summer is icumen in
And winter's gone away-oh!

Here we stand, as the sun rises on the month of May. The BBC is probably poised to launch its Springwatch programme on us yet again. Yet there we have one of our oldest folk songs telling us that we are welcoming in the summer, for it is but six and a half weeks to midsummer. I know that I have technically jumped the gun on the actual date of the ancient festival of May Day (also known as Beltane (Irish) or Calen Haf (Welsh)) by a few days, but the words of the song clearly speak of welcoming in the May, so I have timed this post to go out at sunrise in Newcastle upon Tyne on the 1st of May.

Will I have been up long before the day? Probably, probably not! Let's just hope that it feels like the beginning of summer.

Why am I so fascinated by all of this? It is a reaction to something that always annoys me in desk diaries, which tell me that summer begins on the 21st June, which is patently nonsense. More importantly, when I am writing of times which did not have this sort false view of the seasons, if I talk about "the beginning of summer" I need it to be clear that I am talking about early May, not late June.