Saturday, 28 November 2009

Football, Play station, lager, X Factor - I am now threadbare and incapable of contribution

Surprisingly, I've never watched the X Factor, so let's nip that one in the bud for a start. I used to drink lager, in fairly copious quantities as it happens, but those days have gone. I'll have the odd crisp cold one in the summer, but otherwise it's a real ale or Guinness. Or something else. I used to play football, and have always been an avid Spurs fan, but football has lost its appeal these days so I rarely watch it on television and I don't think I've been down to White Hart Lane to watch a game for a few years now. Which leaves me with the Playstation. A tool that I have very rarely used - more of a Megadrive/Nintendo/X Box man in my time, although it is ages since I have actually played on one. Just don't have the time these days. Sigh...

So, where I am going with this ostensibly aimless rambling? I just dont seem to be able to take part in these conversations anymore. It may just as well be a foreign language to me. I would seriously struggle to sit in a Wetherspoons pub, drinking Stella and talking about playing football on the Playstation these days. To be fair, rarely am I invited to do as such. But it is a slight concern all the same. Am I turning into a premature huffler? Should I book my place in a home for domino players? Should I tune my radio so that it picks up the Archers? Should I purchase a cardigan? Do I get excited by beige? No, perhaps I'm not that bad. Just yet.

In my defence, I do possess a tattoo, I do listen to loud music and will swear copiously if emotions deem fit. Having said all that, I did hear myself come out with the following line the other day and perhaps this is the most significant indictment of them all:

"If that happens, we'll be in a bit of a pickle."

Pickle. A pickle. So there we have it. At the age of twenty-nine, I have become sensible.

Right, where's the football...

Monday, 23 November 2009

Traffic in the build up to Christmas - why?

This has never made any sense, but then traffic never does. Let me give you an overview. From January, every-so-slightly, day by day, week by week, the traffic improves. By Easter, it is fractionally better, with rush-hour journeys taking five or ten minutes less. Obviously, during the school holidays the traffic is much better. Then, as the nights grow lighter, the traffic continues to improve, presumably as the number of students commuting lessens (with exams looming). Finally, by the time the school summer holidays come, the roads are nice and empty. Relatively speaking.

Throughout the course of the six week break, the only nightmare traffic is during Fridays on the motorway network as families rush for the beaches or airports - it is particularly bad during the August Bank holiday, but otherwise, during rush hour, it is fine.

Then, September comes. For obvious reasons, the traffic worsens. Children are back at school, student back at college or university and people retrn from holiday. Then, as October arrives, the nights darken and people set out earlier for their journeys. I understand all that - makes sense. However, why, for pity's sake, does the traffic worsen, day-by-day in the build up to Christmas?

Are there more people on the road? Where do these people come from? Are they flown in especially to annoy me? Don't tell me that it is due to Christmas shopping, as how would this affect early morning rush hour traffic? Every year it is the same! Literally, every day it is bad bad bad until the point at which the schools break up a few days before Christmas. It has started already...

Answers on a postcard please...

Friday, 20 November 2009

New Review of The Silver Knight...

As ever, I am to be relied upon to flaunt my wares in as aggravatingly nauseating way as possible. Still, I have made the effort to write novels, so I assume I can be forgiven for thrusting the resultant matter into your immodest gazes...

I came across another
review for The Silver Knight the other day and wanted to offer it to those still unsure as to the content matter or undecided in their purchasing decisions... here it is...

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Am I a Luddite Deep Inside?

There are times when I think technology is great. After all, I run my personal website and blog, I have published my novels online, all my music is ripped and organised to iTunes and I have a marketing career that comprises of promoting e-commerce websites.

Having said all that, when I see that books are soon to be replaced by electronic readers and that they are not too far from creating robotic humanoids that can be programmed to replicate real people for those whose relationships have ended, I start to wonder if we shouldn't just go back to the Middle Ages...

A microchip is made from silicon. It is no substitute for a heart and a soul.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Website Additions...

I have been adding some pages to the website and thought I would let you all know in case you were in the process of wandering on by...

The promotional videos to The Road to Inheritance and The Silver Knight are now embedded in the site, whilst each book now has its own page beneath the series page - it all comes down to SEO classification, but I shan't bore you with that now.

I will be doing the same with the interviews section in due course and I apologise in the meantime for any errors - do let me know!

Monday, 16 November 2009

Should I get excited by a Ford?

I am currently thinking about the prospect of changing my car. Not this year. Perhaps not even next. But at some point in the next eighteen months. Of course, what I want and what I can afford are two vastly different matters (sadly) but I am starting to formulate one or two ideas. Given the fact that I am rapidly turning into a middle-aged curmudgeonly extra from Emmerdale, I have been impressed by a number of 4 x 4s on the market, however, I have also been swayed by the improving virtues of the Ford Focus.

Some models are fairly powerful, comfortable, with all the extras you could want... and yet I cannot allow myself to feel overwhelmed with excitement. Probably a good thing really. Either that, or I'll change my name to Seth.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Christmas Hamper Lunacy

True to form, I have been in frequent receipt of the usual batch of Christmas Hamper brochures these last few weeks. From the relatively affordable "budget" options (!!!) to the palatial extravagance of John Lewis and Harrods, the choice is often tempting but always ignored.

For as much as I like the idea of a magnum of champagne, bottles of classic French wine, vintage ports, mature cheeses, boiled hams, Belgium chocolates, luxury crackers, rich pies, pots of Stilton, etc I am not entirely convinced by the idea of having to pay several hundred pounds for the privilege. Sometimes even over a grand.

Where does the cost come from? The wicker hamper? What use is that, except for taking up even more room in my house? Who buys these hampers? Surely not business anymore? Even if you had the money, surely it would be more cost-effective to buy the component parts separately?

Maybe I should start my own consumer watch.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Start your Christmas shopping early with "The Silver Knight."

Much as I detest the flagrant commercial abuse of the Yuletide period (I think I saw the first Christmas related item back in June), I am sure you will forgive my impudence when I draw your attention to the fact that we are soon to be ensconced in yet another round of Christmas shopping.

Upon that note, what a superb time to be thinking of unusual and indeed unique gifts for those around you! Which is why I must quite unashamedly plug my latest novel, The Silver Knight...

I am sure your loved ones would enjoy reading the first instalment of Jack Templeman’s Wars of the Roses as they sit before the log fire with the crackle and cheer of merriment ringing in their ears and the slight discomfort of an unripe fig lodged deep in their ever-occupied bellies. The trials and tribulations of young Templeman will, I am sure, go down a treat with the aid of a large festive tin of Roses, bottle of wine, or dare I say, even a celebratory nut.

The promotional video to The Silver Knight is available on YouTube, whilst there is a full review and discussion available on Litarena. I also talk about the themes and content of the book on my website.

So, to purchase a copy of The Silver Knight (paperback copies start at £10.98), simply visit the online Lulu store at: (Alternatively, I can arrange signed copies on request)

You know you want to!

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Mark Smith Aerials - Dudley

I have just enjoyed the most incredibly splendid service from the above company. When we moved to our present address earlier this year, we had a shockingly poor reception from our aerial. As we had Sky TV it didn't seem to matter, other than the fact that we had a perfectly adequate Free-view box for the bedroom that we were unable to use given the weakness of the signal.

Spotting an advert in the local paper, we phoned Mark Smith Aerials up and organised a visit. Within an hour, they had replaced the roof aerial with a new digital version, replaced the leads down the wall, set up free-view in both the lounge and the bedroom and tuned in both televisions. They also explained the technicalities of digital TV in terms I could understand. All for £140!

You know me - I like a moan and a complain. You also know that when I big something up, it must be good. These guys are good - if you live in the Black Country and have any aerial problems you need to contact them now!

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Remember Remember the Fifth of November...

...gunpowder, treason and plot. Of course, many people will probably have come to the conclusion this year that Guy Fawkes had the right idea, when one considers the expenses scandal. Year on year, it seems, people lose respect for politicians, leaders and statesmen as a whole.

There was nothing hugely different, in principle of course, from the Catholic verses Protestant conflict that plagued northern Europe from the reign of King Henry VIII midway through the sixteenth century through to the Jacobite risings during the time of the first two Georges in the eighteenth century – to that of the current battle between the loosely Christian-based capitalist nations of the west and the fundamental Islamist states of the middle East and Africa. In both cases, each party firmly believes they are right, with horrendous violence often being their ultimate weapon of choice.

The Gunpowder plot was similar, in essence to some of the Muslim terrorist plots of the past decade. The September 11th Attacks obviously spring to mind, although reading the current list of charges against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed throws up a host of foiled plots such as the destruction of various buildings and places of significant note that leaves one feeling chilled to the bone with “what could have been.”

Had the message not been leaked back in 1605 (I haven’t go the time nor the inclination to detail the reasons as to why the plot failed here, but suffice to say that someone within the plotters spilled the beans to someone who would have been killed in the explosion in order to save them and they then informed the powers that be), and Guy Fawkes had not been found lurking in the depths of the Westminster cellars, then the outcome would have been monstrous. Everyone in the Lords Chamber, including the King would have been killed. Much of the Palace of Westminster would have been destroyed, Westminster Abbey would have been damaged, whilst nobody within a hundred metres of the blast would have survived. Death, horror and total anarchy would have reigned supreme and, whilst I’m sure the Catholics would have enjoyed the prospects (in the Name of God), the signs are that it would have done little for their cause (consider the mess that the Civil War left England in several decades later).

To those proponents of such revolutionary change, one only has to consider the true cost of human life in such acts. Perhaps, we should say “Remember, remember the bodies falling out of the World Trade Centre Towers?” Remember remember the women and children slaughtered in the planes. Remember remember the mean killed as they went about their business, trying to earn a living for their families.

I’ve actually stayed as a guest in the house in York where it is claimed that Guy Fawkes was born. Fortunately, his plot was foiled and unfortunately for him, he was arrested and rather gruesomely executed. Four hundred years later, the beds are very comfortable and the beer tastes great – I would thoroughly recommend it.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Illness & Asthma in the Lakes

I must preface this by mentioning that on the Monday of half-term, just prior to setting out for our holiday in the Lakes, I received the flu vaccination. It was purely done on the advice of my doctor, who was adamant that as an asthmatic I should definitely be protected from the seasonal flu virus.

So, with my body so clinically treated against a bout of the illness, we set off on the M6 bound for the Southern Lakes. I had estimated a leisurely journey of around three hours, including a brief rest stop, to reach Kendall, plus a further short journey through Windermere to Ambleside. Optimistic? Try doubling it. We had had no idea that this particular half term holiday would lead to such a goldrush towards the fells of Cumbria. However, it was not simply the fact that the journey took a wopping six hours that caused me a near-breakdown. When we arrived in Ambleside, we discovered that the B&B had no immediate parking and we would have to drive to their private spaces just outside of the town. In order to find this secluded "pen" we were provided with a map and informed that it would be "simple" to find. Well, a combination of the unforgiving on
e-way system, more traffic congestion than rushhour in Tokyo and the fact that the map was the most lamentable effort in the history of cartography, all conspired to send us through our final hour of hell, before finally (after the seventeenth lap of the town) we located the green gate and parked up.

Not knowing whether to laugh or cry
or simply sink to our knees in despair, we trudged back into the town to find somewhere to eat. Little did we realise that we had missed the time slot for a pub lunch by five lousy minutes...

I have to be honest and admit that we enjoyed an excellent meal at a place called the Priest Hole that evening. However, I was starting to feel tired and unwell (factors I attributed to the flu jab) which meant that with the bed as hard as concrete, I decided to take a
Beechams tablet to help subdue the symptoms and help me to sleep. What ensued was the worst night's sleep I had ever had. Or had not. For I failed to sleep a wink. My mind was buzzing, my back aching and my nose and throat sore. Finally, as the light came flooding through the curtains of our stuffy, airless room, I decided to prise myself up and abandon any faint hope of overcoming my insomnia for once and for all. It was then, as I fumbled for the packet of Beechams, that I realised the cause of my predicament - for the capsule I had taken was not the restful, nightime dose, but the caeffeine-rich daytime supplement...

Feeling by this time fairly dreadful, I topped up on painkillers and, after a token cooked breakfast, drove to the village of Coniston. The Lake of Coniston is famous for the record breaking pursuits of the late Sir Donald Campbell and was of course the location of his spectacularly tragic demise. The virtues of the painkillers must have been significant, for I was able to undertake a successful fell walk in addition to the exploration of two of the nearby lakes. Despite the autumnal drizzle, the scenery was fantastic, although it nearly finished me to complete the hike.

That evening, we took a meal at one of the restaurants featured on the "Kitchen Nightmares" program (and I can report that Gordon Ramsey has done his bit well) and from then on, things deteriorated rapidly. Feeling shockingly ill, I attempted to sleep, only to suffer a horrific asthma attack which nearly led me to hospital. The following morning we were due to visit the Beatrix Potter Museum but only ended up going home early. The journey took...that's right...six hours.

Next time we'll get it right, next time... you can stick your flu jab...