The Last Last Ride

It’s been ages since I posted a Friday Flash story. This story was longlisted in The New Writer Poetry and Prose Competition 2011. 

The Last Last Ride

IMG_7090 You’d stay on this small roller coaster ride all summer long if you could and if I were a rich man, I would let you. Is it fun riding around in circles? You’re only nine; of course it’s fun. Most things are fun when you’re nine, except doing your homework, tidying your bedroom and going to bed when you’re told! But going round in circles, that’s real fun.

Another ride? OK.

I’ll take some more photos for your Mum. For me too, but I won’t need to look at them. I’ll remember this moment like it was yesterday. Last year, you were losing your baby teeth; the Tooth Fairy had deep pockets. Now you have a beautiful wide smile. One baby tooth hangs on stubbornly but soon that will be gone and then that smile will be perfect. You’re not a baby any more, except to your Mum. You’ll always be her baby.

It’s a quiet day and the operator lets you go round an extra couple of times. I’ve lost count now. You never grow tired of this ride. Your Mum can’t understand the attraction but I understand much better than you think. I never grew tired of the ride when I was nine. My ride was different; a fairground carousel in a Northern seaside town with beautiful carved wooden horses painted in garish colours taking part in an imaginary race. Each horse would pull ahead then fall behind whilst I clung on tightly to my charge, looking out for my mother and father. They stood together patiently as I sped by, going round in circles, smiling and waving at a happy little boy that would soon grow tired of such childish things, who wanted to grow up too fast. It was a lifetime ago but yesterday too. I wonder what they were thinking then? Now I’ll never know.

IMG_7085Another ride? Last one, OK? And then we’ve really got to go.

At the end, you run straight past me towards your mother. She looks tired and distant but, as you approach, her face lights up as she listens to you, all breathless and excited. You grow more like her every day. You look to me for signs of weakness and plead for a ‘last last’ ride. You pull a sad face then flash that smile, not sure which tactic will work best. You know I am the verge of giving in but I smile and shake my head. It’s time to leave.

It’s getting late and your Mum’s tired, but the nine year old in me wants to say yes. I wish we could stay, that the ride could go on forever.

I wish for a ride when the world wasn’t on my shoulders, when I didn’t disappoint, when time didn’t matter and going round in circles was just fun once again and not a punishment. I want that ‘last last’ ride too.

 

 

Photos © PDomican LRPS

‘The Drowning of Arthur Braxton’ – Book Launch

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Last Thursday (April 11) was the launch of Caroline Smailes’ new novel ‘The Drowning of Arthur Braxton’ published by Friday Project at Belgravia Books in Ebury Street near Victoria Station.

I first came across Caroline  as a contributor to the 100RPM project last year and she’s always one of the nicest people on Twitter. However until Thursday, we’d never met in person. She’s really just the same in ‘real life’ (people on Twitter tend to be) and it was a pleasure to catch up with someone who is always  encouraging and full of fun.

This is the second time I’ve taken photos at a book launch, the first being ‘The Night Rainbow’ by Claire King. It’s not that easy. Much as I love books, they provide a distracting background and it’s difficult to get well composed photos in such a confined space especially if, at this shop, there’s no vantage point over the floor space. It really is a case of gaining experience, taking plenty of photos and learning from mistakes.

Having said all that, I’m quite pleased with the full set of images from the night.  The author tends not to see a lot of the event as they’re the centre of attention, which is nice in one way but they don’t get much of a chance to see who’s there and what else is going on so it’s good to get shots that capture the feel of the evening.

Needless to say it was a lovely relaxed evening, helped by wine and cake. It’s always great to meet new people especially those who were just names on Twitter before. The only frustration I have is seeing afterwards that someone you know from Twitter was there and you didn’t recognise them from their avatar!

I haven’t started the book yet. I’ve read Caroline’s other work which has that gritty but also humorous feel to it which reminds me of growing up in the North and it has received critical acclaim so I’m pretty confident that I’ll enjoy it.

Thanks to Caroline, her publishers and Belgravia Books for hosting a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

p.s. If you ever get the chance to visit, this is a wonderful independent bookstore. Not an inch of shelf space is wasted and it’s a great place to browse and buy.

Living without Amazon – How’s that working for me?

I joined Goodreads last weekend. Yesterday it was taken over by Amazon. I can’t say I was chuffed.

I used to be a real fan of Amazon but over time I’ve come to realise I don’t like Amazon’s current business practices. It boils down to this. You get a cheap product very easily and with fast service but everyone else helps pay for the discount whether that’s a reduction in the author’s royalties on a published book, corporation tax forgone which would have helped someone vulnerable in society or a small business paying tax being squeezed by Amazon on their margins.

[Update 17/5/13:Amazon paid just £2.4m tax on £4bn sales in UK last year. They also received £2.5m in Government grants!]

That’s just my view. Amazon will say, well you know what they’ll say. There’s lot of information available in the public domain if you want to read up about it.

You may agree with all that or you may not. I decided to make a change and move my custom away from them. I started in a small way last year. However my New Year’s resolution was not to buy anything from Amazon unless it was a ‘necessity’ or it was only available via them. How’s it going? The answer is surprisingly well but with a few lapses and a couple of grey areas!

The Lapses

I strayed. I was ill for most of January and February and only left the house when necessary.  So, before I got fully into my stride and started exploring alternatives, I bought some ebooks to read, a Stofen omnibounce and a stylus for my iPad partly out of my own lack of understanding of the product and an inability to find a sensibly priced equivalent elsewhere. Amazon was just easy and convenient especially when feeling like death! Having confessed my sins, I’ll move on.

Non Book Stuff

Generally, within 5-10mins, you can find anything that is sold on Amazon at a similar price elsewhere but anything which falls under the category ‘cheap s*** from China’ takes much longer to source.

Both Jacobs and Jessops went bust last year and the pro dealers don’t discount so, for camera equipment, Amazon was the next logical choice in terms of convenience and service. I used a Canon forum to ask for a reliable alternative. They found me one that was cheaper than Amazon!

For office supplies, I’ve gone through old Amazon receipts and noted who supplied what e.g. inkjet cartridges. Using online tools and my business experience, I can make an educated guess about whether I’m happy to trade with them directly . Most companies seem happy to supply direct (although they might have a minimum order) and have a shopping cart or take orders over the phone. The prices are similar to what you’d pay on Amazon but of course the company makes more direct profit which is then subject to taxation. I’ve had no problems with anything so far.

Published Books

Published book purchases are easy. I won’t buy from supermarkets who are just creaming off on the bestsellers but there are loads of ‘real’ book shops more than happy to take your money. The chains e.g. Foyles, Waterstones offer a comparable service to Amazon but you can also order through a smaller shop. It probably won’t be in stock but if you’ve a To Be Read pile, a few days wait isn’t going to be too much of an issue.

Now I’ve built up my TBR pile, I’ve started to use the Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green (they’re about to open a new Children’s bookshop in Brookman’s Park). They offer free delivery on orders over £5 and a free out of print booksearch. Tim and Simon are nice guys, love books and put on interesting events in their shop (I’ve written about the Tracey Thorn event previously). I can give them my money or reward the Finance department of Amazon for their ability to minimise tax. It’s an easy choice. Other enthusiastic bookstores are available.

To be clear, there’s plenty of choice still available to book buyers. There’s absolutely no reason to buy a physical book from Amazon if you don’t want to. It’s just laziness or impatience on the part of purchasers (myself included) helped by many authors and publishers on social media who just include a link to Amazon without suggesting any other alternatives.

Published Ebooks

This is a more difficult area but other platforms and devices are available. The problem is availability and promotion. Publishers seem reluctant to make the effort to offer and publicise ebooks on different platforms. Amazon are really good at physical distribution. That’s hard to replicate due to capital costs but they’re also trying to dominate the market for ebooks to deter competition in the future. They’re succeeding but I would have thought a group of programmers with some backing could develop a publishing platform to compete with Amazon fairly easily. It’s an area I’ll confess I need to learn more about.

To be honest, I liked ebooks (especially when I was ill) but moving back to physical books has been enjoyable nor is it much more expensive except for the crazy 99p (or 20p!) promotions which Amazon use to try and stimulate the market for e-readers purchases.

I don’t believe it’s right that Amazon can set prices for Kindle independent of the publisher. However to be fair to Amazon, authors and publishers also have a choice of how much to promote the offer on Amazon when their book is being reduced to a lowball price so it’s a a grey area for me. Money is tight for everyone and if an author/publisher  is inviting you to buy it and they’re the ones who’ll suffer on the royalties, then it’s a bit rich of me to say don’t!

Personally I think it’s more about the big picture so I’m clenching my teeth, trying to ignore the lure of a cheap book and think about the people on benefits being targeted which could have been paid for through corporation tax. As a ‘leftard’ (I was called that this week), it makes me feel better.

In summary, I’m not sure why Amazon should control the ebook market in years to come. Personally I’m happy to read real books in preference to ebooks (for as long as they’re printed) but it’s more of a worry for the industry to let a company that just wants to flog ‘stuff’, whatever stuff it is, have such a dominant position.

Self Published Books and Ebooks

I have more sympathy with self published authors who don’t have the resources of a publisher or might not have the knowhow to publish on multiple channels. They do however have a choice of whether to go with Amazon or not and how they set their own prices. My general principle is to ask the author if an alternative exists and if not, I’ll make a decision and order via Amazon if I’m really moved. I tend not to buy fiction unless it’s by someone I know but mainly work related ebooks which often are free (as they promote the author’s professional career). I think I’ve downloaded five or six and paid £1 for a couple of them. It’s another grey area, I’ll admit.

Is it possible to live life without Amazon?

The short answer is yes provided you put in a modicum of effort and learn a little patience. I’m comfortable overall with my personal choice and would encourage others to give it a go

I’ve diverted about £450 so far from Amazon directly to UK retailers. This includes books, camera equipment and office stationery. I’m not sure how much Amazon would take out of that and I’m sure the FD of Amazon hasn’t noticed me yet, but if more people do that, it’ll make a difference.

I can’t fill my boots with cheap books anymore. However this has forced me to think more carefully about the books I want to buy and to seek out quality via fellow writers e.g. Tania Hershman has given me some recommendations on flash and short stories. The process of selecting, buying and reading books has become less mechanical and more enjoyable so overall I think I’m on top.

The one thing that has surprised me most in this journey is not the laziness of the consumer which is understandable (as I demonstrated) but the willingness of the traditional publishing industry to go along with Amazon having seen the (now smaller) music industry follow an equivalent digital path. The motives of publishers will be financially driven and I don’t know enough about publishing business models to understand whether there are genuine reasons to go along with Amazon to the extent they do or whether they’re just sleepwalking? Perhaps others could comment?

This item was amended 17/5/13 to include Amazon’s latest sales and tax payments.

A Twitter Manifesto

Here’s my Twitter Manifesto. This is how I run my Twitter account to meet my needs. It’s a work in progress so I’m going to amend it as time goes on, I learn new things or people tell me off. Some of it you’ll agree with and some of it you won’t. Some of this may seem plain wrong. I appreciate that.

Introduction
There are millions of people on Twitter and hundreds of them interested me. I couldn’t keep up with them all. Lots of other people just wanted to sell me something. It became stressful and I started not to enjoy Twitter. So I had a major rethink and cut it back to something manageable. Now I love Twitter again. Here’s my ‘strategy’ warts ’n’ all.
Topics
On this account @petedomican, I tweet mainly about the following (in no particular order):
1. Writing and books including my own work
2. Photography including my own work
3. Politics – Always a tricky one. I try to be fair and recognise that there are different sides to any argument but I feel there are some bad things going on in the world these days.  I’m not a member of any political party but I’d say I’m probably unlikely to be voting for the Tories or UKIP anytime soon. Others have described me as a ‘leftard’. I’d describe myself more as an ‘equalist’, interested in a ‘fair’ society and a committed European. I have a slight obsession with Denmark.
4. Football – I support Spurs and Benfica. It’s both a blessing and a curse.
5. Marketing, business and social media including my own work (although I’m setting up a separate account to tweet about this more).
6. Random stuff -TV, music, podcasts, creativity, F1, humour (slightly warped)
It’s likely you’re interested in some things and not in others – it’s a weird mix. I try to be aware when I’m overdoing a topic to death but if it’s the Budget or Benfica are playing Porto, it’s probably best just to ignore me for a few hours.
Agreeing / Disagreeing
Some people seem to go into a huff if someone disagrees with them and block/unfollow them. I tend to be fairly open minded about most things (or at least just rage silently). I’m happy to be corrected on a factual error or for you to disagree as long as you’re reasonably polite. I’ll stand my ground and argue my corner. If you cease being polite, I’ll just stop. Some people though can just never give up on an argument. At some point I’ll say we’ll just need to agree to disagree.
Dislikes on Twitter
People who ‘tell it like it is’ (it frequently isn’t), people who don’t get how fortunate they are in life e.g. thinking you’ve hard up just because you have a large mortgage and two kids at private school or generally nasty people e.g. racists, people who hate disabled people, foreigners etc. Oh and my particular Twitter pet hate – hashtag pun masturbation e.g. ‘Smack my witch up #medievalsongs’. It’s rarely funny and I instantly mute the hashtag. I’ll admit that last one is a bit random but I thought you ought to know.
Following Me
I’m always surprised and delighted when someone follows me. I tweet about particular topics (see above), some of which don’t tend to sit well together for some people. If you unfollow, I’ll notice and maybe I’ll be sad for a while but I’ll survive and I won’t be offended. ‘Live your life, be free’ as pop goddess Belinda Carlisle used to sing (and probably still does, somewhere).
I don’t automatically follow back so if you’re just looking for lots of followers then probably not best to bother. I live in Welwyn Garden City, UK so if you’re a tree specialist in Austin, Texas, you’re probably not to get much work out of it (that one’s true by the way).
I keep Facebook for friends I know from ‘real life’ or those I know very well from Twitter and wish I knew them in ‘real life’. Please don’t make it awkward. Let’s stick to Twitter and see how we get on first.
Following You
I follow people who I find interesting, funny, thoughtful, insightful or generally good eggs. I like to interact with them at some level and I like to read their tweets. I’m now following between 350-400 people and that feels roughly the right number I can cope with for the moment. The consequences of this are:
1. I don’t automatically follow back so if you think it’s being impolite or insulting, then sorry but now you know the reason.
2. I need to periodically review who I’m following to keep to a sensible number. Sometimes people who were great a while ago lose interest in Twitter (and it shows) or just start using Twitter to promote their wares. I wrote a whole blogpost about people who just use twitter to promote themselves. It’s worth reading because it seemed to strike a chord.
3. If I follow you and you send me a DM promoting your wares as your first interaction, I’ll automatically unfollow you. It’s a no no!
If I unfollow you, please don’t get too upset about it. Yes it’s personal in a way but it’s just Twitter for God’s sake! Chances are we’ll never meet and you’ll forget about me. People in real life grow apart too. Remember all those ex colleagues who never keep in touch
Favouriting
People tweet to say thanks for ‘favouriting’ my tweet. Please don’t, there’s no need. I favour a tweet to read it later or where it has some information I need. I’ll then ‘unfavourite’ it.
Lists
I add people to private lists. I don’t tend to use them a lot of the time but sometimes I want to look at Twitter and avoid seeing the results of a sports event or avoid politics so I’ll only look at a subset of people. I should use them more.
Reading your Tweets
I scan my timeline whenever I can but I don’t spend my life on Twitter. I pick a lot of things up but often I miss things. If you need to get my attention, mention me. If it’s really important DM me. Note that promoting your wares may or may not count as the most important part of my day especially if we’ve only just met.
Retweets
I retweet things that interest me, promote people and things I’m interested in or things that amuse me. However I’m aware I overdo retweets so sometimes I try not to RT things. Please don’t take it personally if I fail to retweet something you think is noteworthy. But just because I RT something doesn’t mean I necessarily agree with it. I tweet things that I violently disagree with just because it’s awful and needs to be shared. I usually preface these with a ‘coming up’ tweet.
Scheduling Tweets
99.5% of my tweets are live. I use scheduling for the following:
1. Scheduling tweets publicising my blog posts or an announcement so that there’s a reasonable chance people will see one mention over a few days
2. Where there are multiple tweets which need to be read together. Sometimes I need more than 140 characters and 20secs to make my point. Must try harder.

#ff (Follow Friday)

This is in theory a good idea as you come across new people but it has become a nightmare. I don’t normally do #ff but occasionally I’ll tweet one #ff and a reason why I think you should follow them. If you don’t that’s fine. If you do #ff as a regular thing, please don’t tweet lists of people. It’s pointless. I’m not going to wade through your lists and it’s more likely I’ll mute or even unfollow you. That’s really horrible I know, but scrolling through 230 names then seeing other people RTing their mentions and thanking a whole list of other people isn’t my idea of a Friday night.

Being Wrong

I try to be nice all of the time but sometimes I’m not. I get things wrong, quite a lot. I’m human and I’m sorry.

 

This article was updated 24/3/13 to include #ff and several edits.

The Peculiarly British Bedsit Disco Queen

isbn9781844088669-detailAfter last night’s event, I now have a vision of someone in their early thirties moving next door to Tracey Thorn. After six months their friends ask them about the neighbours.
‘Tracey and Ben, they’re really nice.’
‘What do they do?’
‘Dunno, really. I’ve never asked.’ And so the next time they meet, the neighbour asks what her what she does for a living.
‘I’m a musician’ she says
‘Anything I’ve heard of?’ asks the neighbour not really interested in music, expecting that she might play third violin in an orchestra occasionally.
‘Probably not, I was in a band called Everything But The Girl.’
‘Oh right, ok then’ the neighbour replies and moves the conversation on, only to Google it a few few hours later. ‘Oh f***!’ says the neighbour as the Google search comes back on screen.

Of course, everyone of the sixty odd people crammed into The Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green knows who Tracey Thorn is and they’re all here tonight to hear her talk about her autobiography ‘Bedsit Disco Queen – How I grew up and tried to be a pop star’ which is a funny, candid and compelling account from childhood in Hertfordshire to becoming a Marine Girl, meeting her husband Ben Watt and how, as Everything But The Girl, they went on to make nine albums and sell nine million records (during the course of which Ben developed a life threatening illness), through to her semi retirement to raise a family and her first post EBTG solo album.
Tracey opens by reading a piece of the book about meeting and playing with Paul Weller. It’s funny and self deprecating but it’s an interesting passage about how we feel awkward when we meet our heroes (see later) but also how, even so early in their career, fellow musicians held EBTG in such high regard. The main act is an interview with rock critic Pete Paphides. It’s a fascinating interview covering her career, the history of British music and the pressures of the record industry.
A few times she uses the phrase ‘peculiarly British’ as she talks about situations such as touring where every meal is prepared for you, yet you crave for something different but are afraid to make a fuss for fear of offending anyone or being called a diva and how they reacted finding out that the laundry bill in the Fours Seasons in LA was more than the entire recording budget for their first album. If we were in America, there’d be whoops and cheers at the mention of Paul Weller, George Michael or Massive Attack. But it’s a book shop in North London and there’s just people listening quietly and respectfully as we British tend to do.
At the end of the evening, there’s a book signing and I take my place at the end of the queue. I ought to tell that I’ve loved her work ever since I first heard ‘Eden’ in 1984. I ought to say that ‘And I miss you (like the deserts miss the rain)’ from ‘Missing’ is perhaps the most perfect line from the most perfect song ever written about losing someone you really love or the fact that ‘Oh, The Divorces’ makes me well up ever time I hear it. But I don’t say any of  that because I’m peculiarly British too and saying that that would just make me look a complete idiot. So instead I say something inane. She smiles politely, signs my book and probably thinks I’m an idiot anyway. I have my excuse. I’m a fan and, despite all her down to earthness, she is and always will be the Bedsit Disco Queen.

Thanks to The Big Green Bookshop for putting on this event. Amazon run huge distribution warehouses and sell books alongside printer cartridges and garden furniture. Tim and Simon love books, run a bookstore, put on events for booklovers and and sell books. There’s a world of difference.

Messing around in (narrow) boats

IMG_4563I had a great  morning on Saturday taking photographs for Reach Out Plus a local charity helping people with special needs and disabilities at their centre at Nash Mills on the Grand Union Canal (near Hemel Hempstead). It aims to support special people to overcome exclusion and discrimination, develop their skills and broaden their experience. On the waterway, they have a small fleet of craft offering riverboat experiences and holidays.

The purpose of the day was to launch their new fund raising appeal. Other than getting speech pictures, some general atmosphere shots and pictures of the boats and kids, the key shot of the day was to get a photo of all the supporters and the appeal message. Large groups are always a challenge to organise. People have short spans of attention, it’s cold and it’s easy to miss someone not doing what they’re supposed to be doing e.g. in this case holding letters at the wrong height / angle. The major problem was finding somewhere to get a shot from. The obvious places had plants growing in front of the camera so the only thing to do was to traverse across a flower bed on a steep bank until I could find a clear space. It’s then a case of directing everyone as forcefully as possible while trying to be humorous (and keeping my balance) then taking as many shots as possible in order to get one where most people are looking at the camera. I didn’t get ‘the’ perfect one but this is pretty good given the whole thing was done in about five minutes from start to finish.

Luckily the session seemed to work reasonably well. The kids were just lovely, happy to pose for pictures and hopefully the photos will help the charity publicise the appeal as they try to raise funds for their ongoing activities.

Square One : Photographic work in Progress

Ther Festival, Wimbledon, 27th July 2012 I know it’s nearly Spring but like many people I’ve been ill. You’d expect that, you’ve probably been ill yourself at some point. Flus, colds and that Novovirus, eh? You wouldn’t forget that in a hurry. The problem is I’ve had the lot (so it seems have others) and there’s now a ten week chunk of my life I’m never going to get back. 2013 was always going to be an interesting and challenging year. I hadn’t reckoned on starting it at the end of February.

So, as I am getting back to something like ‘Square One’, I’m cracking on with what I should have been doing. Two goals for the year are to produce a photo book and to apply for my Associateship of the Royal Photographic Society (I’m a Licentiate at the moment). I’ve developed the rough selection of images to choose from and created a proof PDF through Aperture. I now need to find a cheaper printer than Apple for the final version when I’ve made my final selection and if possible an e-format too. On demand books are expensive and I need to bring the costs down. Blurb looks a cheaper option but it’s still really pricey.

My subject matter is the Ther (Chariot) Festival held in Wimbledon each summer for which I’m the photographer. I’m finalising the picture choice at the moment which is an agonising choice between great photos in their own right and photos which aren’t quite as good but tell the story. It’s an extremely colourful and unusual event which is great for providing good photos. The downside is that you have to take the photos as given. You can’t interrupt a religious ceremony just because you’d like them to stand to the left a bit. It’s all about doing the best you can with what’s available sometimes working in very crowded spaces. However judging panels don’t particularly recognise this and are notoriously difficult to please!

For my Associateship application, I’m still undecided whether to do prints, go digital or submit the book or what to submit. I also have a good portfolio of Olympic venue shots which might be more suitable. It’s an involved process with lots of pros and cons plus cost so I’m reading the very long Distinctions document and thinking about all the options carefully. Decisions, decisions!

The Launch of ‘The Night Rainbow’

On Wednesday, I was delighted to attend the launch of Claire King’s ‘The Night Rainbow’ at Daunt’s wonderful bookshop in Marylebone.

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I’ve gone on about ‘The Night Rainbow’ (a lot, sorry) for two good reasons. Firstly, Claire is a friend. We worked together many moons ago in London and shared that Northern sense of humour that made the full on heads down madness of London a little more bearable. And, since I started writing, she has been a great source of encouragement and help.

Claire brings people together and good things happen; it’s a gift. I love seeing my friends do well in any aspect of life but, outside sport, it’s rare to be present at a moment when someone’s dream comes true so I wanted to be there to celebrate her success.

Secondly, when I put all my bias and partisanship aside and sat down quietly with a proof copy of the ‘Night Rainbow’ over Christmas, I thought it was an extraordinary book. I could see why Bloomsbury snapped it up and why they have put a lot of love and care into it. It has its own beguiling mood and rhythm which is captured perfectly by the trailer. .

Being a photographer, I took my camera along and took a few photos just to capture the moment*. The setting is fabulous. If you haven’t been to Daunt’s, go and visit them. There is nothing better than talking about books, whilst being surrounded by books (oh, and drinking wine). It was lovely to see a collection of Night Rainbows in the shop window and a huge pile of them on the shop counter beforehand; even better to see that they had all been sold at the end of the evening to find their way to new homes far and wide.

I took away two things from the evening. The first was that, as much as I love Twitter, making personal connections with someone just adds something else entirely. Secondly, that as writers, editors or just book lovers, we really need to champion our remaining bookshops and libraries and we must never undervalue the skills and sheer hard work that go into writing a novel and bringing it to an audience.

So, after a very long wait, it gives me enormous pleasure to write my final sentence. ‘The Night Rainbow’ by Claire King has been published by Bloomsbury and is available from all good bookshops.

*If you’ve a strong objection to having your photo on the gallery e.g you’re wanted by Interpol, please let me know the number of the photo and I’ll remove it.

The Night Rainbow – Claire King

I’m delighted that my friend Claire King has her first novel ‘The Night Rainbow’ published in the UK by Bloomsbury today. I’m delighted not just because getting a book published is such a big thing but because it is an extraordinary book. Here’s the marketing blurb:

During one long, hot summer, five-year-old Pea and her little sister Margot play alone in the meadow behind their house, on the edge of a small village in Southern France. Her mother is too sad to take care of them; she left her happiness in the hospital, along with the baby. Pea’s father has died in an accident and Maman, burdened by her double grief and isolated from the village by her Englishness, has retreated to a place where Pea cannot reach her – although she tries desperately to do so. Then Pea meets Claude, a man who seems to love the meadow as she does and who always has time to play. Pea believes that she and Margot have found a friend, and maybe even a new papa. But why do the villagers view Claude with suspicion? And what secret is he keeping in his strange, empty house? Elegantly written, haunting and gripping, The Night Rainbow is a novel about innocence and experience, grief and compassion and the dangers of an overactive imagination.

It’s a good summary but I think it struggles to capture the mood and language. Fortunately Bloomsbury produced this wonderful trailer which does exactly that. 

If you’re going to buy one book this year, make it this one. I don’t think you will regret it.

A New Year Resolution

Apart from the usual swim the English Channel, run a marathon, learn 37 languages stuff that we all say and never do, I’ve decided on one simple resolution. Before I buy anything, I’m going to think about what I’m buying and who I’m buying it from.

I’m going to think about whether a company treats their suppliers fairly. Do they pay them a fair price and pay them on time or do they screw them into the ground? Do they treat their customers fairly or do they treat them merely as a source of revenue? Do they compete fairly? Do they make a fair contribution to society or do they use tax avoidance schemes just because they can and soften the blow with a bit of ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’? Do they pay their staff properly or do they use dodges such as ‘zero hour contracts’, ‘internships’, ‘workfare schemes’ or ‘apprenticeships’ under the pretext of helping people into work whilst doing it to save on the wage bill?

I suspect many of the companies we deal with will be found wanting in some respect but I’m determined to start dealing with companies that act responsibly not just in their own interests and stop dealing with those that put profit above everything else.

It won’t be easy and it will mean some tough decisions, some of which I’ll get wrong but it’s something I think we all ought to be doing. It will also hurt me financially.

My first task is to find sensible alternatives to Amazon who are incredibly handy for just about anything, are absolutely massive yet hardly pay any UK tax. Has anyone any suggestions?

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