Out Now!

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Tales From The Murenger

The cover is the work of the magnificent Maria Zannini, the beautiful formatting the work of Leonora da Vinci, otherwise known as Veronica Sicoe.

Tales From The Murenger, what can I say? Most of these stories have already been published in various anthologies, all are set in or around Newport, my own chosen Arkham. Some may not want to read ‘Stories that darken the soul.’ Some may object to my depiction of Newport as ‘A dark and seedy, magical city,’ but for me ‘dark and seedy’ suggests fertility, and there’s no doubt Newport is magical…if you know where to look .

So, if you want to understand a psychopath’s mind, need motivation to diet, have a healthy fear of rats, and ghostly old men, if you ever thought you’d rather fancy a cat or are considering buying a mirror, want to know how long a werewolf lives and how not to make a deal with the devil, this is the book for you. Out on Feb Ist, available for pre ordering, and a snip at just $2.99 or £2. 37 in real money.


Friday, 20 January 2017

Poo Sticks and Poo Ships

I stepped aboard my dad’s ship when I was maybe nine or ten and ever since have always wanted to go to sea. I remember being assailed by the smell of oil and salt and sugarcane and bananas and stranger smells from faraway countries. I remember what seemed like acres of clunky painted steel, corridors and stairs, wood, tarpolin and mounds of neatly piled rope. I imagined ploughing through rough seas, night watches in Sou’westers, hearty breakfasts and mugs of strong tea.

On that basis, at the age of 15, I set off to train as a ship’s cook, but then life happened and I became a teacher instead. Ship’s Cook or Teacher? In my experience, whatever choice a person makes has its own unique wonders. Having said that, I can’t get rid of the urge I had as a child.

A cruise would be the easiest option, though the idea of a floating town is hardly attractive. At one point I researched the possibility of going as a passenger on an ordinary merchant ship. There are websites devoted to this form of travel. I thought it would also be significantly cheaper, but it wasn’t.
So for the moment, to the despair of my wife, I watch reality programmes on cruise ships – a holding operation you might say.

But last week an arresting image held my attention and prompted this post. On the Royal Princess, the programme in question, there was a blockage in one of the sewage pipes. The camera zoomed in on a beautiful pattern of blue piping, but it was the commentary that gripped me. This ship has a crew of 1400 devoted to the needs of 3,000 passengers in their 1,800 cabins consuming 110 tons of food a week. Mercifully there are 3000 lavatories but what eventually happens to the waste? We are talking about, on one estimate, 21,000 gallons of sewage a day.

It’s estimated that a billion gallons of sewage is dumped into the sea every year by cruise ships. Regulations allow ‘treated’ sewage to be dumped 3 miles out from the coast, untreated sewage 12 miles out from the coast.

A few companies have ‘Advanced wastewater purification systems’ but most still use an older less efficient technology that effectively dumps bacteria, pathogens, heavy metals and other contaminants in to the once pristine waters of the Antarctic, the Caribbean and Alaska. It is the human urge to travel and explore. It is also the human urge to poo, but on such an industrial scale? And should I add mine to it? Maybe we should all be issued with ‘dog-poop’ bags and take the stuff home with us. It might makes us think twice about that extra dessert.

Friday, 6 January 2017

Pasty on Avon

Cold sucks the joy out of you. A week or two ago we went to Stratford on Avon along country roads dense in fog and mist. Stratford itself was clear under blue skies, but it was bone-frozen cold. When it’s really cold you walk, muscles clenched and sinews taut. Even my teeth were cold.

Under these conditions you find yourself immune to history and culture. It comes to something when the highlight of the day was a Cornish pasty. It was peppery, with just the right combination of swede and beef. And it was hot.

I consoled myself we’d been to Stratford before, in happier, warmer times. Even so, there is always something of interest, and besides I had my new iPod touch with a rather fine camera to test. 

This is Shakespeare's birth home where his father worked as a glove maker. 


I’d like to say it was warm inside, but it wasn’t. I was though attracted to the hearth, for obvious reasons, and also because these were the original stones where the boy Shakespeare and his siblings would have parked their bottoms, fought over a pasty and sought to stay warm.

We went to ‘New House,’ Shakespeare’s grand residence in his later years. This now consists of a facsimile gate, a knot garden along with a slightly larger garden behind, and an exhibition hall where there are myriad gems like this.

 But no actual house. That was knocked down years ago. The Cavern suffered a similar fate.

Finally we went to John Hall’s house, the residence of Judith Hall, Shakespeare’s daughter. John Hall was the local Apothecary with a clientele of over two and half thousand. Uncomplaining souls the lot of them.

                            Recipe book and mixing tub. Eat your heart out GSK and Pfizer

 John Hall kept a detailed casebook of his prescriptions. One was for a woman called Cooper Marit who, ‘ perceived vapours or wind rising ascending from her Feet into her Stomach,’ as she suffered from swooning. John Hall prescribed her a powder made from hart’s horn, ivory, ginger, coriander and nutmeg. Ibuprofen it was not.

Time for another pasty (untouched by John Hall) and home