Not the normal Father Christmas Experience

Father Christmas

Every year I dress as Father Christmas and visit the children’s Christmas Party at a local nursery school.  Usually I hand out presents to the children who are dressed in their Christmas finery, the boys in Superman suits, Spiderman suits, in Father Christmas or Rudolph Jumpers and in one or two cases dinosaur suits. The girls mostly wear princess and party frocks or dresses with Rudolph or Santa on the front, without exception; boys and girls, all wear enormous smiles. After I have given out the presents and before my accompanying elf leads me to the next classrooms the children sing me a song or two, usually “When Santa got stuck up the Chimney” or “Jingle Bells.” I love it and so do the children.

This year has been a little different, I changed into my Father Christmas outfit at my daughter’s and she drove me to the school, I did get some excited attention from grown up ladies waiting on the kerb for us to pass.

I went around the school waving to the children through the classroom windows, ho hoing and shouting Merry Christmas as loud as I could. The boys and girls were wearing their Christmas finery and enormous smiles as usual but although I was sung to and the children enjoyed themselves it wasn’t the same, for either them or me.

Father Christmas would be my second career choice after multi billionaire playboy, to be able to give happiness is probably the greatest gift we have. Even if I can only manage it for a few hours a year I gratefully grab the opportunity.

I hope things will be back to normal next year.

Merry Christmas Everyone.

The Moment Before Impact by Alison Bruce, a review

The Moment Before Impact by Alison Bruce

Most of us I am sure are familiar with books that you can’t put down because you want to know what happens next but don’t want to the story to end because they are so good, this is one of those books.

The story is set in and around Cambridge, the streets and places are familiar to those who live in or visit the city. For others who do not share that familiarity with the city, a Google search makes it accessible and I am sure encourages readers to visit and see it for themselves.

The plot is engaging and draws the reader in, Celia Henry a tenacious former reporter tries to make sense of the circumstances leading up to a serious road accident. Those involved have become  the adults she watched growing up as children while their neighbour.

An open and shut case becomes increasing more open and less shut as the story moves on with Celia prompting the police to look again. The story grips and holds the reader as it twists and turns revealing more of the back story.

One word describes it for me “Brilliant” but don’t take my word for it, read it yourself.

More please Mrs. Bruce

The Moment Before Impact is available on Amazon and in book shops.

Time Will Tell, written by Eva Jordan. A review.

Time Will Tell by Eva Jordan

Time Will Tell is an onion of a story, as each layer is peeled off another is revealed beneath. The  book weaves together a murder mystery and a family saga.

The back story, set in the sixties London’s East End, is familiar to those of us who lived through those years.  My knowledge of the East End came from those who had migrated to my home town courtesy of the slum clearances but although I didn’t know the East End first hand, I knew the time.  I lived through the sixties, enjoyed the music and the overwhelming sense of optimism. The world was getting better. I suppose having known that time and that optimism, its crashing reversal in the later seventies and eighties hurt those of us of a certain age far more.

Time Will Tell gives an insight into the criminality lurking under the surface in the East End and the picture is both detailed and compelling.

The catalogue of villainy from the East End  crime gangs, slowly surfaced over time with the holding to account of the Krays and Richardsons. It also became apparent as time passed that there were hidden figures, those not held to account at the time.

It is not all about the past, the central topic, the quest for justice and exploitation are all too present problems.

We travel with the well drawn characters, as they carry us along through the story, we care for them.

The final twist is a real gem.

A damn fine novel, an excellent read from Eva, she is a talented writer. I am looking forward to her next book.

Time Will Tell is Available on Amazon,

Leaping off

Killing Time in Cambridge

Well, I have leapt off the diving board and published my novel Killing Time in Cambridge. The first printed paperback book arrived on Wednesday and I have had my first review for the Kindle version.

Rather mixed feelings, relief that I have finally done it, a sense of tiredness and anticlimax. I hope that it will not only sell but more importantly those who read it enjoy the story, The feedback so far has been favourable.

My next novel is underway whether it will get finished is always an open question but I am pleased with the opening chapter. It is slightly different from the first, with different characters. However if Killing Time in Cambridge proves popular Arnold Lane may have a second outing.

If you would like to buy it on Amazon click here:

Killing Time in Cmbridgehttps://www.amazon.co.uk/Killing-Time-Cambridge-Philip-Cumberland/dp/1916481779/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1606719444&sr=8-1

David Richard Todd in Memoriam

David with Jarvis the Cocker Spaniel

Last Monday the 19th of October a great many of the occupants of Wyton village in Cambridgeshire lined the streets to say goodbye to a truly remarkable man. The workforce of the company where he had worked since leaving school, stood at the roadside and clapped as the hearse passed by, carrying David Richard Todd on  his final journey.

David  was a loving husband, a wonderful dad, a caring son, brother, brother in law uncle and friend. He was also an international athlete, Beaver pack leader and thoroughly decent human being.

David was born in 1961 grew up in Woodhurst was educated locally and started work aged sixteen as an apprentice at the Beamglow Company in St Ives. Eventually he was to become the company’s Technical Manager.

When he was seventeen he suffered life changing injuries when his motorcycle was in collision with a double decker bus. For a few weeks he clung to life. As he was overcoming this battle the realisation that his spine was so badly damaged that he would no longer walk again dawned.

He was moved from  Addenbrooke’s  to Stoke Mandeville Hospital, the wards at that time were the wooden huts that remained after the second world war.  The conditions were cramped, there was barely space between the beds for even a chair. It was while he was there that the amazing character of the man shone through. He would say how lucky he was, mentioning fellow patients that had suffered even more horrific injuries than his own and his concern for their well being.

After many months he left Stoke Mandeville returning home to live with his parents and back to work at Beamglow. He learned to drive a car and was soon back on the road, the song by Manfred Mann’s Earth band, Davy’s  On The Road Again seemed to be his theme song.

He married Angela in 1983. they stayed together until David’s death and were a devoted couple. Their marriage was a true partnership.

Encouraged by his time in Stoke Mandeville David became a proficient sportsman, playing basketball before turning his talents to wheelchair racing. He became successful at this, not only racing in Great Britain but also representing his country internationally, in the process travelling widely throughout the world.

When interviewed for his first management position, David was asked how he could manage people from a wheelchair? His reply if he couldn’t manage people it wouldn’t be possible to get on and off planes in foreign countries, ensured the job was his.

His son Stephen was in the local Beaver group, when it seemed likely to close because the leader was stepping down David stepped forward and took on the role. He continued for fifteen years, the children loved him and it gave them a practical demonstration on how to overcome disability.

David travelled widely his last major holiday was a road trip in the USA with his son Stephen. Driving along Route 66.

Three years ago David was diagnosed with cancer, after surgery things seemed to be improving unfortunately the cancer returned, spread and became terminal. He wanted to die at home, Angela insisted she be allowed to care for him in the closing days of his life, she told the doctors, for her caring for him in sickness and in health meant exactly that.

In the early hours of the first of October David lost his last battle to an infection he no longer had the strength to fight. He died at home.

I have lost a real hero, those that knew David were inspired by him, learned from him and gained immeasurably from contact with him.

David during his wheel chair racing career

The world is a poorer, emptier place without him.

Standing on the Diving Board

The Front Cover

I am getting close to finishing my book the writing is done and the corrections are well underway. The cover design is nearly finished and I hope to publish very soon.

It is an interesting situation for me to be in, I have had some writing published and been touched that people have enjoyed my work. There is no greater vote of confidence than someone buying your work, no, perhaps there is. A lady picked up a copy of “Where The Wild Winds Blow” at a U3A meeting looked at my name badge and asked if I had written anything in the book she held. When I said I had, she leafed through the book and started reading, “Where does the Pope buy his Frocks?” after a few minutes she was laughing out loud. It was a moment of pure magic for me.

At the moment I have mixed emotions, I want to be finished and published but hesitant, wondering about how much more polishing and tweaking it needs to make it as good as possible.

 I suppose the closest analogy is someone standing on a high diving board for the first time. Edging their way to the end wanting to jump, to dive in but worried that the neatly executed movement they have planned will end in a belly flop.

There is only one way to find out and I will in the next few weeks when I dive in.

In the meantime:

Where Does the Pope Buy His Frocks?

“I often talk to myself, sometimes out loud, mostly though within the confines of my mind. I am not sure whether it is just my way of marshalling thoughts or a rehearsal of how the words may sound when spoken.”

“That’s very interesting Mr Fontain,” said Miss Rogers, my analyst, “But you must realise there are times when sharing your thoughts vocally may not be appropriate.”

“I don’t know, sometimes it can liven up a boring occasion, even make it interesting.”

“It can offend though.”

“No one has the right not to be offended.”

“What about the occasion of the Queen’s visit?”

“All I said was she is not my mum and I wish she would stop sending me begging letters.”

“But why use the megaphone?”

“She was a long way off and I wanted her to hear, I am fed up with her writing to me, I don’t even know the woman. It got a lot of laughs though, a cheer and a round of applause.”

“What about the fight afterwards.”

“The Queen started that, well some of the blokes with her did.”

“The police?”

“They had no right to try and steal my megaphone, it cost me a lot of money. It is a good job the people nearby thought the same, I’ve still got my megaphone thanks to them.”

“Would those people be the Fens Republicans?”

“I think some of them might be, I know a couple come from Ely, some from Chatteris and at least one from Huntingdon.”

“The Queen had to cut short her visit because of the fighting; a lot of people were very disappointed.”

“Well, they shouldn’t have started the fights then should they? As I said, no one has the right not to be offended. When I am offended I don’t start fighting people and trying to steal their stuff do I?”

“No, you use your megaphone. What about the visit by the Pope to Cambridge?”

“All I said was I wonder if he got his frock from Marks and Spencer or John Lewis.”

“Through your megaphone wasn’t it?”

“Most people thought it was hilarious. I think even the Pope had a chuckle.”

“That caused more trouble.”

“The police again, trying to nick my megaphone, it was a good job most of the crowd were on my side and I had my bike handy for a swift getaway.”

“The getaway caused problems too didn’t it?”

“The students on their bikes you mean?”

“Yes, they blocked off most of the roads in the city centre to stop the police didn’t they?”

“I heard about that. Again, it was the police causing trouble; you would think they would be chasing criminals wouldn’t you?”

“How on earth did you manage to smuggle you megaphone into Parliament?”

“It wasn’t easy, I had it wrapped up in a parcel and pretended to be a courier delivering it to an MP. Once I was in I got changed and sneaked into the chamber.”

“But why shout out Black Rod stole my elephant?”

“Because what I really feel, what I genuinely believe, I cannot say. My voice is silent on the really important issues – on the lessons we haven’t learned. Mostly, I talk to myself; that audience always listens.”

“Okay, Mr Fontain same time next week. Back to your cell now.”

I am a proud member of Whittlesey Wordsmiths, a writing and publishing Cooperative, you might like to find out more about these books from our collection

Click on the picture to read more or order from Amazon

Front cover of a Following Wind click on the picture to read more or order from Amazon
The Railway Carriage Child. Click on the picture for more information or to order
Witch Way Click on the picture for more information or to order
A year before Christmas click on the picture for more information or to order
Unleash Your Dreams: Going Beyond Goal Setting (NLP, the Law of Attraction, the Universe and You Book 1) by [Stephen Oliver]
Unleash Your Dreams. Click on the picture for more information or to order.

A Guest post from Stephen Oliver

Stephen Oliver's Author Blog

Stephen is a member of our local U3A writing group.

He is an excellent writer. His stories are well written articulate and above all entertaining. Most of Stephen’s work is within the Science Fantasy genre it is always a good read.

Some of his short stories are published by Whittlesey Wordsmiths in their anthologies, Where the Wild Winds Blow and A Following Wind.

Here are Stephen’s thought on Submissions:

Submissions

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about submissions to agents and publishers, given that I’m sending out three different books and a whole bunch of short stories to them. I have come to several conclusions about how much work is involved, what information you need to know, and how much preparation you need to undertake.

I’ll call the agents and publishers AP’s to shorten the article.

I now have around a dozen different versions of my manuscripts on the computer. Some AP’s want double-spaced, others 1.5 lines spacing. Some want Times New Roman, others Courier New. Some want indented paragraphs, others require no indentation, but want an extra 6 point space at the end of the paragraph. And so it goes.

Then comes the file formats: .txt, .doc, .docx, .rtf., .pdf. Attached to email, embedded within it, or uploaded via the submissions page. In the latter case there are often length limits on the number of words or characters in the upload space, often not stated.

How much do the AP’s want? 5 pages? 10 pages? 30 pages? 3 chapters? 50 pages or 3 chapters, whichever is the shorter? The whole manuscript? (Hurrah, but don’t count your chickens yet; I’ve been rejected at this point, too.)

The bios: short, long, one-liners. How much do they want to know?

Publishing histories; what have you already go out there? Short stories or books? Self-published or traditional?

Social media links. Are you on Facebook? Pinterest? Twitter? Instagram? Are there any interviews available? If so, where? What are the links?

To read the rest of his blog Click on the link:

http://stephenoliver-author.com/2020/09/05/submissions/

A chance encounter.

 

Aaron

Aaron in training for his marathon hike.

I usually go cycling several times a week. Nearly always every Wednesday with the local U3A cycling group other times with individuals from the group or on my own. Often, you pass people on the cycle tracks with a hello or other short greeting, occasionally by chance, the opportunity presents itself for longer chats.

On Saturday I was sheltering under a railway bridge from the rain along Southbank. I had stopped to have a drink from my flask when a man came walking in from the Whittlesey direction. He was a tall well-built chap and was carrying a heavy-looking backpack.

We struck up a conversation, Aaron was training to walk around Great Britain to raise money for charity. He thought that the journey around the country would take him two years

When we met up he had walked twelve miles so far and had another four to complete before getting home. I left Aaron to finish his journey and returned home. I said I would mention our meeting and his monumental journey on my blog. Hopefully, Aaron will read this and send me further details of his planned journey. I certainly admire his spirit determination and fitness. I wish him every success.

 

Witch Way a review

Witch Way

Witch Way

Cathy Cade’s book of short stories and poems is a wonderful collection of well-written pieces, each one beautifully crafted.

The range of subjects is wide and eclectic embracing beautifully written children’s stories, fascinating mysteries together with truly delightful poetry. There is something in here for everyone, every item is a brightly polished gem.

My favourite but only just is the beautifully picturesque Witch Way. The characters inhabit your imagination, so beautifully are they drawn. It is for me like watching a film of the story rather than reading the words on the page.

It is a gift few writers have.

Cathy is a writer of extraordinary ability I am looking forward to reading more of her work.

Available on Amazon

Witch Way on Amazon

It will soon be available on Smash Words too:

Smashwords

Cathy’s Blog is always worth a visit:

Cathy’s Blog

An early morning Cambridge.

Close up of clock

Close up of the Grasshopper clock Corpus Christi College Cambridge

I  needed to go to Cambridge to take photos when there was sufficient good daylight and an absence of people. Fearing greater activity with the easing of restrictions, I rose and ventured out early, very early in fact. Leaving my house just before 5 am, I was parked up in Cambridge at 5.57, there was just one other car in the car park when I arrived. Using back roads for the journey in I saw probably no more than six vehicles but I did see a black squirrel, it darted across the road in front of me.

Black Squirrel

Black Squirrel from Dash Cam

I had brought two cameras, just in case, I didn’t want to repeat my journey, normally I use the guided bus, parking at St Ives. Given the current state of affairs and the necessity of an early start I used the car. Walking along Emmanual Road beside Christ’s Pieces another squirrel scampered out to cross the road a grey one this time.

Grey Squirrel

Grey Squirrel crossing Emmanuel Road, no traffic fortunately.

Cambridge was the quietest I’ve known it. The combination of a Saturday, the earliness of the hour, lack of students and the lock down all combined to give the place a sense of total abandonment. The destination was the corner of Benet Street and Trumpington Street, to photograph the Grasshopper Clock housed on the wall of the Taylor Library at Corpus Christi College.

Graashopper clock at Corpus Christi College

Graashopper clock at Corpus Christi College

 

It is for me a beautiful piece of work, functional artistry.The clock is mechanical, using principles first developed by John Harrison in the eighteenth century. The grasshopper sitting on top, gobbling the minutes up one second at a time There was just one person I saw sleeping rough a woman in a shop doorway along Trumpington Street. An improvement from the many I have seen in the city at other times. Why can’t we look after people better?

Deserted Trumpington Street looking towards Gonville and Caius College

Deserted Trumpington Street looking towards Gonville and Caius College

I was back in the car and driving away before 6, the walk back to the car park saw market stalls being set up but I didn’t notice one shop that was open. The same car was the sole occupant of the car park when I left for home.

Christ's College entrance

Christ’s College entrance

 

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