Sunday, 27 March 2011

Sod's Law in Seighford

I said In my last post that I would tell you a little bit about my experience of Sod's Law because I think it has influenced my life.

It happened in the summer of 1969, the year I returned to Seighford (pictured on the right)after enforced emigration to Australia. I was 16 years old when my father came back from the pub one night and declared that we were going to the promised lane, but that is another story. I was now 18 years old and life was never more full of excitement.

Seighford is an idyllic village set about three miles to the west of Stafford. It has a village green, a pub, a primary school, a ford and a village shop. As far as housing is concerned the village was made up of a few farmhouses, a few private properties and the inevitable quota of council houses that are common in Staffordshire villages.

Actually there were two lots of council houses in Seighford. The Cumbers, is a row of 10 semi-detached house running alongside the main road that passes through the village and Bramall Close which runs off to the side.

Anyway, before my father dragged me and the rest of the family to the other side of the world we lived at 12, Bramall Close. However, when my father had had enough of the land down under he managed to get us a council property eight doors away. So after going to the other side of the world and back we ended up living at number 20, Bramall Close, Seighford.

Now, if you are wondering what this has got to do with Sod's Law, stick with me because I'm just about to get to the plot. On the evening of the day in question I had arranged to go out for a couple of pints with Robert, a mate who lived in The Cumbers. At 7:30, Robert picked me up as arranged and I jumped onto the back seat of his scooter, which was an unusual Zundapp model(The most popular scooters at the time were Lambrettas and Vespas).

Anyway, as we roared (well perhaps it didn't roar, but you know what I mean)out of Bramall Close instead of turning to the left in the direction of the Hand and Cleaver pub, he turned right and pulled up outside his house on The Cumbers.

"It's a bit nippy," he said, "I'm just going to pop in and get a jacket. Take it for a whizz if you like."
Well I'd got a provisional motorcycle licence, and I wouldn't mind checking out the performance of the Zundapp, so I took it up to Waterfall's Corner and back, which I suppose is a distance of a quarter of a mile and must have taken something like two minutes. The ride was good and I was impressed with the power of the Zundapp and was feeling quite happy as I turned the scooter around outside The Cumbers to wait for Robert. This was when it all went terribly wrong. A police car that had followed me back into the village from Waterfall's corner stopped and the officer inside wound down his window.
"Does that vehicle belong to you sir?" He asked.
"No it's a friend's," I replied, "he's just gone into his house to pick up a jacket; I was just trying it out."
"Have you got a licence?"
"Yes," I said pleased with myself that I wasn't breaking the law, but then as I handed my licence over I realised the scooter wasn't displaying any 'L' plates.
"Sorry," I said, "I've just realised that it hasn't got any 'L' plates, but I only went down to the corner and back while I was waiting for my friend." He didn't seem interested in what I was saying.
"Are you insured to use the vehicle sir?" he asked in the same mono tonal voice.
"My friend's insurance will cover cover me," I said hoping that I was right.

Anyway, Robert came out with his jacket and after a short conversation with the policeman it became clear that he didn't have any insurance either. My little ride through Seighford, where the police are as rare as vegan tigers, cost me a hefty fine and two endorsements on my licence.
Never again would I do anything without considering the consequences and I am therefore an overcautious soul.
If the police hadn't turned up that day in Seighford I would probably gone on to live a life of wanton pleasure. Ah well...

On the left you can see one of my sketches of Seighford Church.

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Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Rod Licence

Hi All
A couple of days ago I received a reminder from The Environment Agency that my rod licence is due for renewal. I don't wish to grumble, but how the heck did it get to reach the figure of £27. I know they do some good fishery work, but are anglers subsidising the the rest of their activities? And are the number of anglers who are dodging the rod licence fee increasing faster than the revenues that are collected by the agency?

Anyway, when I received my rod licence reminder it made wonder if I should bother to buy one this year. My life at the moment is rather complicated and fishing unfortunately is low on the agenda. If I manage to get out half a dozen times and add the bait and day ticket cost to my rod licence fee, each day out will cost me about £18. I know some people might think that isn't a bad price for a day's pleasure, especially those who attend football matches, but to me and a lot of others it's a lot of money. River Sow at Little Bridgeford
So, will I buy a rod licence this year? The answer is probably, but not because I want to help the environment agency with their good works, but because I don't want to get caught and pay a £2,500 fine. Actually, I don't think the chances of being caught are that great.
Those who live around Stafford will probably know the back road through Little Bridgeford, where you go over the badly designed railway bridge before crossing the river Sow. It's only a bit of a ditch now, but in my younger days it was much wider and stuffed with fish. Even when I wasn't going fishing I would often stop to look over into the clear waters and admire the view of the big torpedo shaped chub. I fished it often and I would start on one of the deep bends by the bridge and slowly worked my way downstream.

One day in the mid-seventies I parked my motorcycle in the lay by next to the bridge and began a fishing session. As usual, I slowly worked my way down the river and was well on my way towards Great Bridgeford, when I noticed a van pull up next to my bike. The occupant got out, looked across the fields in my direction, and then began walking towards me. I carried on fishing but at the same time wondered what this bloke could want. Perhaps he was interested in who'd got the fishing rights. I was shocked when he reached me. "Can I see your rod licence please sir?" he asked.

Of course,I produced mine, but it left me wondering (the fact that the world's gone mad obviously isn't a new phenomena) if the licence checkers worked on a commission basis, how many would be wondering across lonely fields to try and catch a dodger. If I was doing the job I'd go to places were there were lots on anglers. And here's the rub, I've been an angler for over fifty years and the incident I have just told you about is the only time I have ever been asked to show my rod licence. However, before you go running off with the notion of not buying a rod licence because the chances of getting caught are slim. Let me remind you of a thing called Sod's Law, the very first time you cast a line without a licence will be the day the agency man turns up. Even if he doesn't, you will probably shudder every time you hear a vehicle pull up, or the clunk of a van door shutting.

In my next post I'll tell you about my experience with Sod's Laws and if you have any tales about the rod licence I'd be please to hear them.

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Friday, 18 March 2011


Hi all,
Are you one of those self-publishing writers who thinks printed books are still the bee's knees and hate electronic books? If you are, I'd just like to tell you that you are missing out on some real opportunities.

I am a self-publishing author and I'm selling my books in both print and electronic formats. Interestingly, because I'm a self-publishing author, I keep a close eye on my sales and I can tell you now that my e-book sales are outstripping the printed versions by about ten to one. So if you are a self-publishing author and have only gone down the printed route to publication you are missing out big style.

If you are an unpublished author or still writing your first epic, you need to give as much thought to self-publishing electronically as with books aimed at the print market.

Self-publishing is an exciting place to be right now. Anybody who has the determination to write a book can publish it for less than £10. Yes, that is all it needs to cost you to have a copy of your book in your hand and available to the rest of the world.

The point is, that in years gone by, many would be authors got tangled up in vanity publishing. They would pay a lot of money to see their book in print and pay out another shed load of money to have hundreds of copies printed. The salesmen were very good at convincing them that the more copies they printed the cheaper each copy would be.

The good news is, you don't have to bother with vanity publishing anymore. You can write your own book and through self-publishing make it available in all the popular e-book formats and print, all for less than a tenner. You will only need to order one copy of your book for proofreading purposes and that's it. When somebody wants a copy, they order it and one copy is printed and dispatched to the customer. This is called print on demand and it is absolutely brilliant for self-publishing authors.

By the way, many self-publishing authors, myself included have given up actively seeking an agent or trying to get a deal with a big publishing house because the odds of succeeding diminish by the day. Producing a synopsis, a covering letter, author's bio, etc and putting these into a package with several sample chapters is very time consuming and can become costly by the time you are on your sixtieth package. I wouldn't mind, but after all that hard work about 50% of the recipients won't bother to reply even if you have included a self-addressed envelope.
So if you want to write a book, be it a block busting novel, your memoirs, or instructions on how to build a model of tower bridge from kangaroo teeth, just do it. You can publish it for less than a tenner in print and electronically and do your own marketing. You don't need anybody else getting involved and taking a cut, your destination as a writer is in your own hands. The picture on the left shows me reading my novel Bossyboots. I sent the picture to my local paper with a press release and it was printed in the next copy.

My book, How to get Started as a Freelance Writer Plus a Guide to Self-Publishing and POD is an interesting read for anybody who would like to make some money from writing. If it's a new career you're after or just a desire to make some money from an absorbing hobby my book is a good starting place and absolute bargain if purchased in the electronic version. In my next writing post I will discuss the issue of formatting. Print books and e-books need to be formatted differently. For example, an e-book should not include any page numbers.

If you want any more information about me or my books, please click here.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Scott and Neidpath

Another day unfolds during our holiday in Scotland. We are now at the half-way point of our holiday in Peebles and after yesterday's long journey around Jedburg and Hawick, we decided to stay closer to our base in Peebles.

Today we would undertake a much shorter trip and visit Abbotsford, which was once the home of the great Scottish novelist, Sir Walter Scott. He was one of the first best selling authors and penned a total of 26 novels. The best known of these being Rob Roy and Waverley. Abbotsford house is a magnificent building, which stands close to the river Tweed in a beautiful piece of countryside mid-way between Selkirk and Melrose.
We enjoyed the visit around the house which seemed to us to have more class than some of the stately homes we have visited in England. Being an author myself, I was jealous of the views Scott enjoyed whilst writing his novels. Looking from the gardens over lush meadows and to the sparkling river beyond, it would be difficult to avoid inspiration.

The garden was also a treat even if it was a little formal for our taste. Having sampled the garden we took a delightful woodland walk that gave us some outstanding views over the river Tweed and the hills beyond. After our walk we took refreshments in the tearoom and after visiting the gift shop we returned to our car to find a place for a picnic.

I had seen a place on my map called Scott's view, so seeing as we were having a Sir Walter Scott day, we headed there. Passing through some rolling countryside we followed the signposts and eventually ended up in the right place. Here was a lovely view of the Eildon Hills that Scott apparently enjoyed on his frequent trips around the area.

It is said that the horse pulling Scott's hearse on the way to his internment at Dryburg Abbey automatically stopped as it passed the view, just as it had done so many time with its master.
After our picnic, we took a steady drive back to Peebles and took the dog for a walk along a lovely back lane that followed the course of the river Tweed. Despite having a leisurly afternoon, we arrived back in Peebles too early to return to our caravan, so we decided to have a look a Neidpath castle which is situated jut a mile west of Peebles. The castle is set in a wooded gorge between the main road and the river Tweed. One can only get tantalising glimpses of this 14th century castle through the trees which makes it look very romantic.

Up close, Neidpath castle is a very rugged structure (the walls are 11 feet thick) that sits on a rocky crag overlooking the river. I'm not really that struck on old castles, but this one has some charm and in the great hall there were some batiks depicting the life of Mary Queeen of Scots, who stayed there in 1563. This lady stayed everywhere and must've been to more places than Bill Bryson's suit case.

Anyway, Niedpath Castle was a fine end to another busy day in the Borders. If you want to find out more about me, my writing services or my books please click here

Thursday, 10 March 2011

No 1 The Gudgeon

Hi All,
Yes, it might surprise most of you to know that the humble gudgeon is my all time favourite fish. I've fought some great fights with river severn barble, and I've subdued many a fercious pike. I've caught big tench that have made my line whistle in the wind and some even bigger carp that have made my clutch scream. However, these fine fishing moments are nothing when compared with a match winning catch of gudgeon.
My proudest moments in fishing have come from winning a lot of matches and seeing the admiring glances that came from other anglers as I regulary filled a spot in the frame..
On the right you can see some of the trophies I won, most of them through the existence of the delightful little gudgeon

For two years in succession I managed to win my local championship that was fished over a number of matches on our local canal. Each of several matches was fished on a different stretch to even out the luck of the draw, so consistency was the name of the game. I had a plan and a style that worked for that water, but the gudgeon was the fish that allowed it all to happen.

I won't go into details here, but my plan was always to go for gudgeon from the moment the whistle blew. I'd go straight in with a small whip, just over the near shelf, with a rig that would get my bait down quickly.Other anglers couldn't wait to have a crack at the roach that might be living on the opposite side, so they went straight over hoping to take a few before the boats became a problem.

While they were splashing about on the far side, I'd be putting a steady stream of obliging gudgeon into the net. Ninety fish in the first hour and another sixty in the second was my target and if I achieved that I knew that I'd have a good base weight. For the last three hours of the match I would alternate between the far bank, the centre channel and my near side swim. The latter would very often rejuvinate after a short rest. I would also change my rig so that the bait decended more slowly and this often brought me a few small bonus roach and perch.

I give more details of my tactics and the need to have a target weight in my book, the details of which can be found by following the link at the bottom of this post.

Anyway, the gudgeon is a most obliging fish. It has a fantastic appetite and will take a range of baits. It might not weigh much, but it has a big rubbery mouth and is always easy to unhook. It won me a lot of trophies and a nice amount of pools money, so it will always be my favourite fish.

Here's one last thing about the gudgeon. I looked up the fish in my Bloomsbury dictionary and the entry says it is a small fish and often used as bait. Well I'd never dream of doing such a vile thing to such a magnificent fish. How about other anglers, have you, or do you know anybody who uses gudgeon for bait?

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Saturday, 5 March 2011

E-book Week

Hi all,
Just a quick post to let you know that next week is, read an E-book week.

To celebrate the occasion, one of my E-book distributors,, are running a special promotion. Authors, such as myself, are being encouraged to reduce the price of their books so that people are given a chance to appreciate the joys of reading E-books.
Anyway, this E Book promotion is fantastic news for readers, so I have decided to take part and I am offering two of my books for sale with a whopping 50% discount. These prices will apply only for the week commencing 6th of March. So if you want a great bargain, click on the link below and that will take you straight to my author's page.

E-book Promotion

Happy reading.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Dryburgh & Jedburg

Hi all, with the death and destruction of the previous day still fresh in our minds we decided that we'd do something even more tranquil than usual. We'd enjoyed walking around Melrose abbey so we thought we'd give another two a try.
First on our list was Dryburgh Abbey, much of which was was built in the twelfth century. It is a very pretty abbey and sits in a secluded loop of the river Tweed near the village of St Boswells. The ruins are impressive, they are spread out in a landscape that in places is almost garden like. The site is dotted with trees and bushes that help to set off the beauty of the rugged brickwork.
There was only one problem with this little bit of heaven that we'd chosen to visit on that day, and that was the horrible noise. Workmen were attacking one of the buildings with all the power tools that they had at their disposal and a few more they must've hired for the day. My wife and I seem to be very unlucky in this respect because we attract restoration men and noisy workers where ever we go. Quite often when we visit a building it will be covered in scaffolding, or if we visiting a secluded garden, the day we choose to go will be the day the borders get strimmed by a moron using something powered by a two stroke motorcycle engine. Luckily we had seen quite a bit of Dryburg Abbey before the noise started and were able to take in a walk down to the river Tweed to distance ourselves from the very unholy racket.

Eventually, we'd had enough of the noise and carried onto the next Abbey on our list at Jedburgh. Unlike Dryburg, Jedburg Abbey is set in the town so we wouldn't be enjoying any peace here either. However, we did have a pleasant walk around what is an attractive town and enjoyed going into the gift shops and finding a bite to eat. The street parking was handy and the atmosphere relaxing. Below is a photo of the Abbey and you can see that the setting is distinctly different to the one taken above of Dryburg.

It was by now mid afternoon so we decided to return to our caravan in Peebles via a circular route that would take us through Hawick which sits on the banks of the Teviot. To break up the journey, we stopped off at a small wollen mill, which was stuffed to the rafters with all the stuff you always find in every wollen mill you will ever visit. Never-the-less, my wife was tempted by a green wollen scarf that she bought for me and it still comes out every winter.

After driving through Hawick, which is only spoilt by being spliced for it whole length by the busy A7, we turned right onto the B711. This looked like it would be a quiet road flanked by beautiful countryside. As it happens we were right on both counts. The road was even quieter than a lot of the back roads we'd driven in the highlands. This road had a real feeling of remoteness about it. Other vehicles were rare and houses almost non existent. The countryside however,was terrific, and we were treated to an ever changing slide show of forests, valleys and rivers.

The journey through this wilderness back to Peebles covered about 40 miles and at times it seemed to be taking so long that we were convinced that we were lost, but we were on the right road. There only was one road, and it might have been long and winding, but it was one I'm pleased to have travelled.

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