Chatting With The Queen

One of my earliest memories is of standing outside a building with a tall policeman while my parents went inside to vote. He was dressed in his smart Metropolitan Police uniform with the traditional helmet. The police have always been there to look after the innocent as well as catch the guilty. Many voters this week would have been guarded by visibly armed police, but going to vote is still safe in this country. A snap election that most people didn’t want, other important issues clouded by terrible terrorist attacks, people braved the rain to vote and the result was as confusing as the run up. If you enjoy political discussion you will find it twenty four hours a day on radio, television and the internet.

I am more interested in what The Queen says to the stream of prime ministers who have had weekly hour long private audiences with her throughout her long reign.

After an election the new Prime Minister must visit Buckingham Palace to tell the queen he or she is forming a new government. While the PM returns to Downing Street to utter the words ‘I have been to see The Queen’, Her Majesty has to sit down and write her speech for the opening of parliament.

Alas, the speech is written for her and I wonder how often the words ‘My government will…’ nearly choke her.

It does not matter whether you believe in God or The Queen, I’m sure she does and unlike politicians who never keep promises, has kept her sacred vows to serve the country. Wouldn’t it be great if she decided she could best serve us by writing her own speech.

As part of my research I wondered if The Queen would like to be my Facebook friend. To my surprise she actually has a Facebook page;

https://www.facebook.com/HMRoyalQueen/

I’m sorry to say only 196,569 people have Liked it, which is poor considering how many people in her kingdom are on Facebook. I was also disappointed she had made no comments about the election; not even a sad or angry emoticon.

I sent a message to see what would happen. Watch this space to see how the conversation continues.

Chat conversation start

09:43

How wonderful it would be if Her Majesty was allowed to write the Queen’s speech herself and hand out some sensible suggestions.

Thanks for messaging us. We try to be as responsive as possible. We’ll get back to you soon.

Her Majesty has not replied yet, but I’m sure she will soon when she’s finished writing her speech.

London Bridge Is Not Falling Down; It Never Will #londonbridge #Ilovelondon

TanGental’s thoughts speak for all Londoners.

TanGental

London Bridge is falling down,
Falling down, falling down.
London Bridge is falling down,
My fair lady

It’s nothing special, London Bridge. Not as iconic as Tower Bridge; not as twee as Albert or as sharply modern as the Millennium. Its popularity stems as much from the ability to take pictures of other parts of London. Functional, really.

How many times have I crossed it? Stood on it? Dad used to tell of the London smogs of the 1950s when he feared walking into the parapet and falling into the river.

How many ways have I crossed it? I’ve walked, I’ve run, I’ve cycled. I’ve driven and been driven. I’ve caught buses, shared cabs. I’ve been sober and drunk. I’ve tripped and fallen and I’ve smiled and cried.

What views have I taken in from it. Tower Bridge…

by day and

the new, the Shard

and the old, The Tower…

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Ringing Round

When I was in my last year of The Brownies and aiming to get my Golden Hand badge, part of the test was to make a phone call; a far cry from this week’s news of a major revamping of badges with Rainbows, Brownies and Guides encouraged to take part in new challenges involving app design, entrepreneurship, “speaking out”, upcycling or vlogging.

But my little task was still a big challenge for me. We did not have a telephone at home and it was about this time that my friend and I were sent up the road to the phone box with some coins, a set of instructions and a mission; to phone my father at the office. To this day I have no idea what was so urgent that could not wait till he came home from Waterloo with all the other commuters. My friend was sensible and two years older than me, but still we did not achieve our task; the mysteries of Buttons A and B defeated us.

Meanwhile, back at the house of a complete stranger, a respectable middle aged woman, my task was to phone Brown Owl. I was as terrified as anyone going for a driving test or important job interview; I failed, probably the only Brownie in history to have to do a re-sit for her Golden Hand.

A letter in the paper the other day suggested we had forgotten how intrusive the telephone was, how wonderful emails are and how infuriating people are who refuse to use them. I heartily agree, emails were made for me. I have never liked phone calls; they always come at the wrong moment, or the phone stops ringing just as you race in from the garden with muddy hands. Hands free phones are a help, but still interrupt your favourite programme.

I admire people who efficiently get on the phone the moment something breaks down or a letter arrives in the post requiring action; I’m more inclined to write on my list of things to do – phone insurance co. ring boiler repairs.  When it comes to personal calls I procrastinate… they might be cooking/eating their dinner, feeding the baby, making love, watching Eastenders, I’ll call later… later they might be having an early night… I’ll call tomorrow…

Emails can be written any time and the receiver can read them when it suits and not be caught off guard; with time to think of a good excuse not to come to your coffee morning. The other advantage is to message all your friends, club members etc at the same time, but there is always one person in every club or group who does not do email and constantly complains ‘Why can’t you just ring round.’ We should not rush to judge; how many decades passed between the phone being invented and everyone having a telephone in their homes? Even people who are on the internet forget to check their emails and miss important messages.

Technology rolls on rapidly; we don’t use our mobile phones as phones, but to read our emails. Emails themselves are being superseded by What’sApp and Facebook Messenger. How easy it is to message six people at once on the other side of the world and send them photos. On your computer you can follow Facebook and have several message boxes open in the corner of your screen…

And then there’s Skype and FaceTime etc which bring us round full circle to actually talking personally to someone. Ironically ‘Televisionphones’ have been invented, but they are not the screens attached to our immovable house phones that we once imagined. Now we can wander around in our pyjamas showing relatives on the other side of the world what our new house looks like.

But emails are so useful if you wish to avoid eye contact or awkward conversations.

The first story in my latest collection ‘Someone Somewhere’ starts with the words ‘I got an email from him…’ an enigmatic message is the only clue to a lost son…

Someone Somewhere

Someone is somewhere, but are they where they should be? If everyone knew where everybody was there would be little for authors to write about. My new collection of stories ‘Someone Somewhere’ features the first appearance of an unusual young private detective who specialises in missing persons. He is still patiently waiting for me to finish writing his novel, but in the meantime he features in several stories.

Incredible numbers of people go missing every year and for some poor families this means their loved one has literally disappeared off the face of the earth. Other people are just out of contact with former friends and family, who, used to not hearing from them have never reported them missing. Ironically, with the internet and Facebook we may know exactly the whereabouts and activities of a Facebook friend we don’t even know in real life, but have no idea where half our family are.

Sadly some missing people are inevitably dead, perhaps their fate will never be revealed. Even in a world of closed circuit television and electronic trails it is still possible to intentionally disappear or be taken against one’s will.

Then there are the mysterious possibilities that can never be proved one way or another; people who claim to have been kidnapped by aliens are not usually believed, unless you subscribe to conspiracy theories of government cover ups. Either way, ordinary people and authors are never likely to find the truth. The same applies to people who have fallen through a time slip. Perhaps the most surreal scenario is that none of us are real, just characters in someone’s novel; we could be deleted at any moment….

If you dare to read Someone Somewhere you will find the boundaries hazy between lost and found, living and dead, human or personhood.

Only £2.49 at Amazon Kindle.

 

Fantastic Families

In junior school days my friend and I bought two white mice from Aldershot Market and reassured our parents they were both male. We ended up with forty mice; my father had built himself a designer shed, but the only carpentry he ended up doing in it was making mice cages. In various homes there followed a succession of guinea pig cages and aviaries, but I yearned for larger creatures. By the time I was fourteen I realised I was never going to get a horse, but our parents relented and we got a dog; who became pregnant on her first heat. We begged to keep one of the puppies, this was considered by my mother to be greedy, as soon as you get what you want you want more. We kept a puppy.

If you give birth to a boy and girl people assume your family is complete, but two didn’t seem to be enough. The friend with whom I shared the white mice came from a family of six children; all beautifully brought up in a small house; my parents marvelled at the efficient running of the household. Large families have always fascinated me; I don’t know how many couples fantasize about having lots of children, but for most of us it is medical dramas and financial disasters that dictate family size. When you are expecting your third baby everyone assumes it was a terrible shock and cannot believe you did it on purpose. My mother could not accuse me of being greedy this time as they had produced three of us.

When I walked my children to school there was a local family I thought of as the Droopy Family; parents, son and daughter so pale and wan, I could not imagine how the parents ever had the energy to procreate. The opposite of droopy families would be the Fantastic Family. Many of us might privately think our families are amazing; we can never credit how we produced a head boy and a head girl and launched three totally different people into very successful lives.  But Fantastic Families are rare, they are large and amazing.

I was not one of Amanda Owen’s  Twitter followers; by chance I read in the newspaper about the Yorkshire Shepherdess. Despite a traumatic first birth by Caesarean she has given birth to nine children on one of the most exposed and remote farms in the Yorkshire Dales.

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/feb/04/amanda-owen-yorkshire-shepherdess-nine-children-childbirths

By any reckoning this makes her a Supermum and by necessity the family lead an environmentally friendly and healthy life.

I became aware of a very different  family after watching BBC Young Musician of the Year; I love the music, but as I am very nosey, the best part is where they visit contestants’ homes and families.

In my novel ‘Brief Encounters of the Third Kind’ Emma Dexter is a brilliant musician in a very ordinary family, who find it hard to support her financially and emotionally.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Brief-Encounters-Third-Janet-Gogerty-ebook/dp/B00AWVNH3E

By contrast her husband Paul Jones comes from a family of four children, all great musicians, with a famous conductor father and pianist mother. I thought the Jones family were larger than life, but when cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason won Young Musician of the Year 2016, we met a family more amazing than I had created. Seven children all musicians, with interesting names and mixed heritage good looks. I recently caught up with a documentary about the family who live in a rambling house conveniently detached from close neighbours; practising going on continually; pianos in the hall, violins in the bathroom, mother’s life devoted to organising them. The father’s job was not specified, but anyone who has had to feed teenagers and make sure homework gets done will wonder how this family operates financially and practically. On Saturday mornings the family are up before dawn to catch the train from Nottingham to London to attend the Royal Academy of Music.

http://www.kannehmasons.com/

I wonder at what stage families change from fending off disapproving  looks when yet another baby arrives, to buying a house that matches their status as a Fantastic Family. Writers rarely create families that match up to real life.

 

My Series of #FamilySaga Authors. Today with Janet Gogerty #MondayBlogs

Many thanks to Judith Barrow for inviting me to be interviewed.

Judith Barrow

Over the next few months I’ll be chatting with authors who, like me, write Family Sagas, (#familysaga) a genre that can cover many countries, years  and cultures.I am thrilled that so many excellent writers have agreed to meet here with me. I’m sure you’ll find them as fascinating as I do. All I can say is watch this space. Your TBR list of books will be toppling over!!

janetToday I’m chatting with Janet Gogerty. Janet has been writing for nearly 10 years and still enjoys being part of two writing groups. She’s inspired by anything and everything and enjoys writing about ordinary people; but usually they find themselves experiencing strange events!
When she was encouraged to tackle a novel her daughter suggested she used her short story ‘Brief Encounters of the Third Kind’ as she wanted to know what happened to Emma, whose fate had been left in the air…

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Reinventing The Printing Press

The printing press was invented nearly 600 years ago, Gutenberg credited with the birth of mass communication; but of course the written word goes back much further. Has the invention of the E-book been as important as the invention of the printing press? Not in terms of mass communication; radio, television and the internet surely qualify for that.

Have Kindle books revolutionised our reading habits? Real paper books have survived radio, television and the cinema so are unlikely to suffer a demise. But e-Books have brought new delights; reading in bed in the dark still gives me a wicked thrill when I recall my childhood self trying to read with a torch under the covers without being caught. Packing one slim item for holiday reading, or on the commuter train with nobody knowing which book you are reading… But people still love the feel and colour of real books and I never dare take my precious Kindle on the bus or to the beach hut, paperbacks still have their use.

But for the Indie writer Amazon Kindle provided a tempting doorway into self publishing with a worldwide audience, not necessarily translating into world record sales, but with the opportunity for your aunty on the other side of the world to download your wonderful novel onto her Kindle in seconds.

Self publishing is not new; famous writers in history have published their own novels or pamphlets of poetry. In the modern world unknown writers must first find an agent, who in turn must find a publisher who in turn may let months slip by and still reject the precious manuscript. No wonder lots of writers have turned to what used to be called vanity publishing. They have the advantage of real books to show friends and take to local bookshops for signing events. They may be very successful or could end up with boxes of books in the garage.

Print on Demand is another development which is an attractive proposition. When I first started reading writing magazines one editorial suggested we would soon be wandering into bookstores with a memory stick and downloading our novel, returning later in the day to collect a printed book. That hasn’t happened, but recently Kindle Direct Publishing announced that authors could now create paperbacks as well as e-Books for free. Of course the publishing costs come out of the book sales, but at Chez Gogerty Publishing House it seemed an opportunity too good to miss, as I was just editing a collection of short stories, Tides and Times. Even if we only produced one real book to give my 91 year old mother it was worth a try.

Cyberspouse is always willing to face a technical challenge if it involves no financial outlay. After several attempts at downloading his own  cover design, the book was accepted, then we had to wait for it to go ‘live’, then we ordered one copy…

We were not disappointed, it looked and felt good, we ordered five more. One of the reasons why Amazon is so successful, why we can’t help using them for everything under the sun, is that they always deliver in all senses of the word; they tell you it’s on it’s way, they tell you when it will arrive.

After four years of extolling the virtues of Kindle books to my writers’ group, mostly to no avail, the five copies were snapped up. So now to finish writing my next book with renewed vigour and to turn my back catalogue into paperbacks.

How does all this work? Obviously by magic. In a mountain cave somewhere are lots of little Amazon Elves beavering away at a printing press. I just hope there is not an international scandal involving zero hours contracts and mistreatment of Elves, so that we are all expected to boycott Amazon and sign petitions on Facebook…

 

TIMES AND TIDES

Do you like short stories, do you read them or write them? Do you listen to them at writing groups, story slams in the pub or on BBC Radio 4? Short stories are of a more useful size than novels to pop in or drop in, but perhaps you prefer the journey and involvement of a novel.

I have to confess that in between school and starting at a writing group, my short story activity was confined to listening on Radio 4 while feeding babies or doing the housework. But we have so much fun at writers’ group listening  to stories as good as any on the radio and as I have just published my third collection of short stories you will guess I love writing them.

But what should a short story do; answer a question, satisfy us with a neat ending or leave us completely in the lurch? A short story can produce an interesting or dramatic dilemma without having to worry what happens in the long run. In my latest collection of 25 stories you will find cosy endings, dire results or the fate of characters may be left to your imagination. Buy for £1.99 on Amazon Kindle and decide if you dare read them.

Llamas and Labradoodles

 

Help, I need a llama.

Most writers would rather not be seen or heard, but just read. Unfortunately readers are unlikely to read your books if they don’t know you exist. We Indie writers are unlikely to be seen talking to James Naughtie on Meet The Author, BBC News or heard talking to Mariella Frostrup on Open Book, BBC Radio 4. But we do occasionally get interviewed on other writers’ blogs and are advised to tell the world about ourselves on our websites. This is where the Llamas and Labradoodles come into it; we cannot let the readers imagine we just sit at a desk in a dreary little room, they want to picture what sort of household surrounds the holy spot where our lap top or desk top sits.

It is amazing how many writers have six chickens, three Labradoodles, four llamas in the field outside their writing shed and five cats which drape themselves over the keyboard or keep the author’s feet warm. I can see great advantage in owning creatures; writers need exercise and while walking your four great Danes you can think up your next chapter. Free range eggs would be excellent for breakfast after your 6a.m. start at the keyboard and rare breed sheep, whose wool you have spun, dyed and knitted into a warm and very individual jacket, would make you look the part of an other worldly author.

Alas it does not have the same kudos to say you live with twenty pot plants and have some grey squirrels in your little garden. I’m not sure how we come to have no pets; perhaps it’s their disadvantages. Everyone knows dogs are a greater commitment than children as they don’t go to school or become gradually independent and you have to walk around with plastic bags… well you know the rest. I have wanted a horse since I could talk, but they are too expensive. Little pets? I could only bear to have them if they would be happy, which means sufficient numbers to keep each other company and vast enclosures with adventure playgrounds.

I have had pets, as a child and for our own children, with varying degrees of survival and happiness; mice, gerbils, finches, fish, terrapins, cat, dogs… but for now the only rescue animal in our house is ‘Chocolate Moose’  who we acquired from a charity shop at Christmas. He is a very cuddly character, with a zany personality; but is no trouble and doesn’t run up vet’s bills.

A Topical Story

A deliciously topical story…

Anecdotage

           This week’s post is Part 1 of a story in which the principal character is one you will recognise from media coverage. Foisted into the public eye, perhaps more than she has been comfortable with I began to imagine how she feels and if, maybe, she has regrets about the life she has chosen for herself…

               Behind Him

                It is like the sea, she thinks, a tidal surge with flashes of light. In reality the flashes are cameras and the surge is people. She puts her hand to the high collar of her coat and swallows, composing her expression, breathing in long, steady breaths like she has been told. There is a roar, startling her and she realises she’s lost concentration for a moment then she remembers and raises her…

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