Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Strictly Comes to Bognor

Really looking forward to Sunday afternoon - Ian Waite and Camilla Dallerup will be at the Alexandra Theatre here in Bognor.

As you will realise I am an avid fan of 'Strictly Come Dancing' and 'It Takes Two'. Dancing is in my blood. As a child it was the ballet and tap, then into my teens I learnt ballroom dancing. Unfortunately very few teenage boys wanted to dance so it was mostly us girls dancing together. In my 20s when living in south-east London I was fortunate enough to have lessons at the Frank and Peggy Spencer School of Dance. Unfortunately, I didn't live very long in that area.

Nowadays my ballroom dancing is restricted to cruises where I usually manage to get in quite a few dances with the dance instructor. I am glad to report that my dancing has vastly improved over the past few years.

But - would you believe! - I married a man who disapproved of dancing. Nope, the marriage didn't last that long. And I still don't know why I did it.

Roll on Sunday!

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Model Murder - Chapter 1


Wish I was going downhill instead of up, the youth thought, panting heavily as he cycled towards Great Camden and home.  His parents weren’t going to be happy – polite way of putting it, he grimaced, sweat pouring down his fair face.  More like bloody mad at him for being late.  But he and his mate, Dave, had to finish the game, didn’t they?  You can’t leave it at the most exciting part. And it’s only six-thirty now.  He sighed – half-an-hour late!
What’s that? he thought as the road levelled out and he could see something lying in the road ahead of him.  As he came nearer he could see what it was. ‘Fucking Hell!  A body?’
He stopped and stood straddling his bike, his feet looking far too big for the spindly jeans clad legs - as if waiting for the legs to catch up growth wise.  It was a woman in a blue dress. ‘Miss?  Miss, are you alright?’  And he wondered why he’d asked when it was obvious she wasn’t.  It didn’t look as if she was breathing and he didn’t want to touch her.  Yuck! How would he find out if she was alive?
Panic subsided and he pulled out his phone to call the three nines.  Thank goodness it was just the one number. He was sure that if he’d had to find other numbers he would have screwed it up as his fingers were shaking and wet.
‘There’s a lady laying in the road.’
‘Is she alive?’
‘Don’t know.  Can’t see ‘er breathing.’
‘Have you checked?’
‘Don’t know ‘ow.  Look, I’m late getting ‘ome.  Mum and Dad’ll be mad.’
‘How old are you?’
‘Fourteen.  Why?’
‘You sound older.  Can you wait there until someone comes?’
‘Like the cops or someone?’
‘Exactly like the cops.  Where are you?’
‘On the road what comes up towards Great Camden, it turns off a turning off the A twenty-seven.  ‘Bout ten minutes by bike from the town.’
‘What’s your name?’
‘Jezz Watson.’
‘Can you describe yourself?’
‘Why?’
‘So they’ll recognise you.’

‘But I’m the only person ‘ere!’  And he switched off the phone.  No way did he want to waste the battery.  He kept looking around – anywhere but at the body.  The trees, the hedges, back the way he’d come.  And towards Great Camden and home. Then he heard the siren.  All blues and twos as the car approached fast.  He waved like mad to stop them. Be a bloody crime if they run over her, he thought.
.....................................
Available on Kindle:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00JALI8MM

Friday, 8 September 2017

A Favourite Aunt - Into the new house.

In the 1960s it was still the norm for married women to stay at home to look after the house - and their husbands! I often wonder how many people suffered from some of Sylvia's experiences. Here is what happened after they had moved into their new house and Sylvia was really happy to be there.

...........................

On Monday morning, having seen Colin off to work, Sylvia danced through the rooms. 'My own home! This is mine! I love it!' Then washed up their breakfast things, made the bed and set about cleaning the place. Yes, the builders had had it cleaned but not very well.
One of the advantages of the minimalist look was that it didn't take long to wash the woodwork and floors downstairs. After lunch Sylvia gave herself a treat and opened up one of the boxes containing some of their wedding presents. This one contained glassware which she carefully washed, dried and put away. Well, as best she could. Tumblers went into the kitchen cupboard but a set of fruit bowls and some wine glasses of hers had to be left on a shelf in the living room until such time as Colin was prepared to buy the living room furniture.
When he arrived home in the evening and noticed the glassware he grumbled, 'You've started unpacking.'
'It has to be done so we can find things,' his wife pointed out.
'Yeah, but can't we do it at the weekends?' he asked sulkily.
'Gardens to be dug over?'
'But we can unpack in the evenings,' he pointed out, adding, 'As you aren't going to go out to work, you can start the digging during the day.'
'Tomorrow I have to walk over to Lingfield,' (about two miles away), 'to do some shopping and when I get back I need to do some baking. If I'm to keep up with the laundry I will have to do some washing and ironing each day. And on Friday I'll need to take the bus to East Grinstead to do the big shop. That's after the baker has been and I've paid him.' Okay so she'd kind of exaggerated a bit but she was entitled to some time to herself wasn't she? 'Anyway, we need to get everything unpacked for when the visitors start arriving. They will want to see their presents are in use.' Or something, she added to herself when she thought of some of the gifts. And wondered where the visitors would sit, bearing in mind that there were only four kitchen chairs.
And, of course, as soon as he came home from work and had changed from his work clothes into something more comfortable Colin expected dinner to be served. And on went the radio and, after cleaning up the dinner things, out came the pack of cards and Sylvia quickly discovered that Colin didn't like losing. She thanked her lucky stars that she was an expert at losing - lessons learned when playing board games with her young sister.
Wet Saturdays were usually spent traipsing around one or other of the two nearby towns. Not to spend money, just to pass the time. Colin didn't read or have any hobbies which was why, she realised, he hadn't allowed her to bring her piano to the house. Also, of course, he couldn't play the piano.
'It's old fashioned and won't fit in with our decor,' he had decreed.
As time passed she also discovered that so far as 'the arts' were concerned, he thought they were a waste of time - and money. Not that he included knitting and sewing as arts. They saved him money.

The next battle was driving lessons. Yes, she could buy bits and pieces in the village, but she had to walk into the next - and larger - village of Lingfield at least once a week for items she couldn't get from the village shop. She could also get a couple of books from the mobile library but that only visited the village once a week. And on Friday day she took the one-an-hour bus to East Grinstead. As an avid reader, when there she also had to go to the library which wasn't in the shopping centre. With several books and all of the shopping it was a heavy load. Admittedly, on some Saturdays Colin drove her into East Grinstead, but not to the library. What she did dread were the wet Saturdays when he couldn't get out into the garden so on said Saturdays he insisted mooching around the shops. Not one of Sylvia's favourite pastimes.
'You know, Colin, it would really help if I could drive. Even if I could only use the car on Saturdays. That would free you up to work in the garden.'
Her husband did not look happy. 'I don't mind taking you shopping on Saturdays. You know I enjoy going around the shops.'
Which, of course, was Sylvia's problem. She just wanted to get around the shops as quickly as possible. Not waste time.
And she discovered over time that she especially didn't enjoy shopping for clothes when he was around. He had very decided views. No sleeveless dresses or blouses and her skirts must cover her knees. And this was the era of the mini-skirts. She also had to be careful at the hairdressers to ensure that not too much was trimmed off. Her hair had to cover her ears.
She continued to try to persuade him. 'If you go to work by train, I could pick you up at the station in the evenings.' After all he could walk downhill to the station in the mornings. 'It would save us some money and I could do the shopping on Fridays, giving us both Saturday in the garden.' She played what she hoped would be her trump card.
He sighed. 'Alright. I'll start teaching you on Sunday.'
That wasn't what she had meant and it turned out to be a lesson she would never forget. With three pedals to choose from and a sprung loaded gear stick the Austin A40 was not the easiest car to learn on. Especially when the teacher kept saying 'Give it more.' More what?
Colin's idea of driving lessons was around the narrow country lanes full of curves and, as it was the weekend, busy with Sunday drivers out enjoying the countryside.

After nearly crashing into a bridge Sylvia gave up. But she wasn't defeated. He might not give her much money for housekeeping but she reckoned she could squeeze enough out of it for driving lessons.
..................................

Available on Kindle and in paperback.   https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B072LK5GNV

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Women over 60 Going to Work!

Oh, calamity, women are going to have to work past the age of 60! I can hear the chorus of thousands of women who, like me, have had to do so. In fact, at the age of 79 I am still working.

Where do policitians and journalists get the idea that this is something new? 'Twas ever thus.

It wasn't until the mid-1980s that, when I was in my mid-40s, that I found a job that paid quite well for women. Mind you, it still wasn't the equivalent of men's salaries. Fortunately there was some overtime which I utilised very well. Some saved and some used on travel (when I made copious notes and took loads of photographs). By the mid-90s I had developed Repetitive Stress Injuries in my wrists, right arm and shoulder and lost my job. Did I get compensation? No way - I was working for a large City solicitors. They very generously gave me early retirement with a partial disability pension that didn't even pay the rent.

No chance of retirement for me. So I learned how to become a journalist and here is where the travel paid off. Yes, I was an internationally recognised journalist. Then tourism changed but by this time I had learned how to write novels. Which is why at 79 I am still able to work.

I am one of the lucky ones. Bearing in mind how diabolically low women's wages were for most of the 20th century, women weren't able to save for the future. This was especially hard for single women. No chance of buying their own homes so we are still renting. And rents these days are through the roof. I have to continue working because my State pension only pays my rent.


Instead of bemoaning the fact that in future women will have to work past the age of 60, we all think it is about time the Government did more to help the rest of us. Certainly past the age of 70 no one should have to work to supplement their income. 

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Listening to the Band

What do you do on a wet summer's afternoon? I'd guess most people watch telly. Not me on a Sunday in July. Nor did the people in the almost full auditorium at the Alexandra Theatre in Bognor Regis. We were right royally entertained by the Royal Marines Association Concert Band led by Lt. Col. Chris Davis, OBE.

The concert opened with, naturally, with the National Anthem, followed by a Fanfare. During the first half we were treated to some marches, a Rossini overture and some solos. Jon Yates (former Professor of Trumpet at the Royal Marines School of Music) played the beautiful 'Through the Eyes of Love' and ex-Army lady Lisa Lyster gave us the evocative 'Home Away from Home' on her flute. Both tunes that you will recognise. At the end of the first half we had the music from John Williams for ET.

Following the 20 minute interval (during which much ice-cream was consumed) the second half opened with the overture to Lawrence of Arabia. Can you remember the opening with the heart thumping sound of the timpani? On this occasion Connor Lyster (son of Lisa) wielded the drumsticks. It really was a thrilling opening and Connor looked as if he enjoyed bashing seven bells out of those big brass kettledrums.

This second half had an equally varied programme of music from the Big Band sound to Vaughan Williams. And we had a solo from Conductor Chris Davis - on his electric violin - the exquisite Ashoken Farewell.

Then we came to the Finale. The Evening Hymn and Sunset, a Tribute to the Armed Forces then we all stood and waved flags whilst singing Land of Hope and Glory.

I am now looking forward to next year's concert at the Alexandra Theatre.

For details about the Royal Marines Association Concert Band - and to buy by their CDs and souvenirs - do visit their web site at www.rmacb.org.uk


Most importantly all the monies raised go to Charity.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

South Downs Murder Mysteries

When creating a series of books it is important to give it a name. With my Cleo Marjoribanks series it was easy. I could not ignore the lady! But the South Downs Murder Mysteries seems to have caused confusion for a couple of people. So, let me explain.

The first book, Antiques in the Attic, took place in a fictitious small town at the edge of the South Downs. In the second book, Model Murder, the victim lived in a large house located near this same town. The third book which seems to be causing the problem - Who are the JCs? - has three major locations: A fictitious coastal resort just south of the South Downs, the original town up on the Downs and Southampton.

Once having given the series a name you can't change it otherwise your fans won't recognise it as the same series!

Hope I have cleared the matter up.

Ta-ra!

Thursday, 6 July 2017

'Ghosts in the Guest House'

An excerpt from the third Cleo Marjoribanks Murder Mysteries - a morning when all did not go according to plan!

Our morning followed the same pattern as the previous day until I decided that I'd had enough of dress shops. 'I want to go and look in that shop that sells Lladro,' I said as we came out of what seemed to be the tenth dress shop.
'You like it?'
'Love it.  I think it's time I added to my collection.'  There was a screech of tyres.  ‘What the.'
A large car had pulled up beside us and both passenger doors flew open.  A couple of men got out.  One grabbed me and the other went for Evita.
Afterwards we agreed that men really should learn not to attack from the rear.  My heel and full weight went down on my assailant's instep.  He yelled and loosened his hold.  I turned and put a knee into his family jewels at the same time swinging my bag at his head.
Then I saw the gun in the driver's hand - he was leaning across the passenger seat to the open door - and continued the bag swing.  Gun dropped and he held his wrist.  Good.  Hope it's broken.
I turned to Evita who was screaming fit to bust and her attacker was trying to hold her and put a hand over her mouth.
'Heel!' I yelled.
Message understood.  It was his turn to yell.  Imagine a drill bit in your instep.  Blimey!  We were doing some serious damage here and passersby were just watching.
'Call the cops!  Policia! Film it!'  I yelled in English and Spanish.
My handbag came into use again on Evita's bloke's head as she struggled to get out of her shoe - it was well and truly embedded in his foot.
Then a shot rang out.
'Everybody down!' I yelled.  No idea why.  Should have yelled 'Run', then they wouldn't have been showered with glass from the shop window.  He'd shot a mannequin - no blood spilled, thank goodness, other than from a few cuts.
Evita got free of her shoe, I just swung out in every direction with my bag and, praise be, along come the cops.  All bells and whistles, so to speak.  Our two attackers scrambled to try to get back in the car which was now moving.  They almost made it but the driver just wanted to escape and put his foot down.  The car shot forward, doors swinging, which hit the other two knocking them to the ground.  The car?  It collided with a cop car.
It didn't take too many policemen to bundle the three dumbos into police cars while other members of the force shuffled the gawpers away and, as more officers arrived, finally penned them behind barriers and started trying to interview them.  I can guess quite a lot of phones were used to take photos or film the action and it looked like some people were showing them to their interviewers.  But I bet a lot weren't and those'll be going onto some social networking sites.
Evita and I were handed into the back of separate police vehicles and I got out my phone to press David‘s speed dial number.
'Excuse me, lady, are you alright?' A plainclothes officer flashed his identity card at me.
I replied in Spanish.  'I am but my bag isn't.  Incidentally, the young lady who is with me,' I pointed at the other cop car, 'is only seventeen.  And she is the one they were after.'
'Momento.' He left and went to the other car to return almost immediately with a tearful and limping Evita - only one shoe.  Good job she was crying as it meant she had most of her face covered with a couple of tissues.
While that was going on I picked up the phone. 'David, you still there?'
'Yeah.  Where are you?  What's 'appened?'

'Someone tried to take Evita.  We fought them off.  We're now in a cop car.' and I gave him directions.  Then put the phone away. Just in time.  'Come here,' I invited Evita who got in beside me and literally fell into my arms.
...................

As some people didn't like the 'cockney-speak' I have now edited it out! 

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B010ZSYL38

Friday, 23 June 2017

WHO ARE THE JCs?


This is the opening of 'Who Are the JCs?', the third of the South Downs Murder Mysteries. The locations for this book, as well as a town on the South Downs, include the town of Merian (on the coast) and Southampton.


CHAPTER 1

As Ruth Goldstein was helped by the waiter to take her seat at the table the gentleman on her left greeted her. 'Good evening,' and gave her a bright smile, his hazel eyes twinkling.
She returned his greeting, then concentrated on the menu. Eventually the table was full and the waiter took their orders, after which the eight diners introduced themselves.
Ruth, knowing from experience that they might never see each other again after this meal said, ruefully, 'I'm sorry, but I probably shan't remember your names.'
The lady on her right chuckled. 'Don't worry about it. None of us will.' She then lowered her voice, 'Bit of a waste of time really.'
'True,' Ruth agreed. 'But at least we don't have to wear name badges.'
'Now that would be truly awful. Like being on a school outing.'
The Wine Waiter reached their table and, after he had ordered a bottle, the man on Ruth's left turned to her. 'You don't drink?'
'No. Never have, although my late husband did.'
'I'm sorry to hear that he is no longer with you.'
'Thank you. He died four years ago. Your wife is not with you?'
'I'm divorced.'
'Oh dear. So many marriages seem to fail these days. I'm sorry, but what did you say your name is?'
He gave her one of his charming smiles. 'Don't worry about it. I'm Josh. Like you I am on my own on this cruise.'
'And you are retired?'
'Not really. I don't have what is called a day job. I work for myself and have staff to look after the business.'
Conversation ceased whilst they consumed the first course and Ruth looked around the table. Two couples she thought were probably in their mid to late sixties. Two ladies together. Sisters or friends? Probably in their seventies. Josh, wearing heavy gold rings on both hands, an expensive suit and silk tie, whom she thought was in his mid-sixties. Young enough to be her son. And she wondered what they all thought about her.
What they saw was a dumpy figure in a mid-range beige and green dress. Her short iron grey hair was well cut and showed her round face off to advantage. She had never worn much make-up and now that her sallow skin was wrinkled she wasn't tempted to overdo it.
Josh return to their conversation. 'I noticed that as you were being shown to the table a couple of waiters greeted you.'
'Yes, I've been on the Oriana before.'
'I guessed that. This is my first time. I usually go on Cunard but thought I would try P&O for a change.'
Conversation then became more general until coffee when they discussed what they had chosen to do that evening.
'What are your plans, Ruth? Going to see the show?' Josh asked.
She shook her head. 'Not tonight. I'm very tired. I'll have a read and an early night.'
'So you will be fresh to begin your cruise tomorrow. Very wise. Where would you advise for breakfast?'
'This dining room. The Peninsular,' she reminded him of its name.
'So I might see you in the morning.'
At that point there was movement around the table as the diners prepared to leave.

'Milly, I am so lucky to have met such a nice gentleman,' eighty-three-year old Ruth Goldstein told her younger friend as they sat at the kitchen table in Milly's kitchen on a dull September morning.
'It certainly sounds like it. Very nice to have a bit of company. How lucky he was on your table the first night.'
'Wasn't it?' Ruth was recently back from her latest cruise. Since the death of her husband she had taken to cruising in a big way. 'You know I love my cruises. I get to meet some really delightful people, see places I've never seen before. And, of course, there's my dancing.'
Milly Stewart had met Ruth and her husband, Reuben, at the Assembly Rooms where they and other friends went regularly to the ballroom dances. Following a few months of mourning Ruth had been persuaded back to dancing. 'They have dancing every evening on board?'
'Most evenings. Even if the dance hosts aren't there, there is some music playing for us.'
'Which ship was this one?' Milly couldn't keep up with the ship's names. All she could remember was P&O and Cunard.
'The Oriana. My favourite. It has a proper ballroom. Some of the other ships I've been on have dancing in the Atrium which isn't very nice.'
Milly decided not to go there. She had heard Ruth's complaints several times before. 'So tell me about your gentleman friend.'
Ruth tittered. 'I wouldn't call him that. After all he is about twenty years younger than me. Very smart. He's retired,' (which makes him at least sixty-three Milly thought), 'but he does own some property that he rents out.'
'So he's well heeled.'
Ruth leant across the table and whispered, 'He's a millionaire.'
'Really?' As they were in Milly's kitchen she wondered why her friend had whispered the words.
'Yes. And so generous. On one of the Dress Nights. You know, posh frocks and dinner jackets,' she expanded at Milly's puzzled look, 'he bought champagne for dinner.' The old lady sat back with a satisfied smile, her brown eyes twinkling.
'Very nice.' Not being a lover of champers Milly didn't know what else to say. And as she knew Ruth didn't drink alcohol wondered why buying a bottle of fizzy wine was such a big deal.
'And before we got off the ship he bought me this.' She pulled a gold chain from under her jumper.
'That's lovely, Ruth. Must have cost quite a bit.'
'Probably. He wouldn't buy rubbish.'
'You didn't choose it?'
'No, it was a total surprise.' But she didn't confess to having bought Josh a parting gift of his favourite aftershave.

                             ********************************

I hope you enjoyed the opener and now buy the book, read it, recommend it and - of course - give it a 5* review! For which I will love you forever!

At the moment the book is only available on Kindle - if I receive enough requests for the paperback version, then I will create it. 




Sunday, 18 June 2017

Why Some of us Self-Publish.

What a blessing Amazon is for those of us who seem to have spent most of our lives writing books but not getting published. Obviously at first our books weren't well written. And I confess that my first attempts were embarrassingly awful!

We gradually improved, went to classes or workshops, worked hard and learned our trade. But we still couldn't get published. Why not?

We had excuses and advice from agents and publishers and enough rejection slips to paper a room. The favourite excuse was 'not our type of thing'. A popular piece of advice is 'write about what you know'. So I did. A crime novel set in Spain with the main characters being a Spanish detective and an English hotel rep. Response? 'We don't publish courier books.' Oh what a laugh - it wasn't a courier book. Obviously no one had actually read the manuscript.

Still I kept trying as I know thousands of other writers have done and continue to do.

Now many of us are published - on Kindle (or on some other e-reader) and we sell our books. If your writing isn't any good you don't sell your books! The only way to find out is to go ahead and publish them. If they don't sell find a good editor to advise you where you are going wrong.

For me the best thing about self-publishing is that I don't have to try to mind read as to what agents/publishers think is going to be the next popular type of book. How would they know anyway?

Of course one thing that all self-published writers need is promotion. Which is where you, dear readers, come in. If you like a book then PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, give it a star rating (obviously we all want 5 stars) and recommend it to your friends. If you see a link to the book (or another in that series) on Twitter, Facebook etc. etc. please re-tweet - you know what I mean! We rely on you to spread the word.


In the meantime, thank you all very much for your support. 

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Large bottles of shampoo etc.

This morning I spent ages in the chemist's looking for a small bottle of shampoo. No, not a travel sized one but one that I can hold without dropping it! Of the vast array of shampoos and conditioners I found only ONE. Simple (200ml) - thank you for that one.

I have come to the conclusion that manufacturers of things such as these and shower/body washes aren't covered by the disability act (or whatever its latest name is).

I understand why they use bottles containing 400ml/500ml - it is more profitable for them. Unfortunately for those of us who have hand/finger/wrist problems these size bottles are almost impossible to use. Usually half of the contents end up down the drain because we constantly drop them.

Another thought which I have is, that when you are under the shower your hands are wet.....

No point in complaining to Trading Standards, is there? 

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Dirty Deeds on Downdene

Here is the opening to the second Cleo Marjoribanks murder mystery: 

There I was doing my vastly improved dog-paddle up and down the pool when the phone rang.  Yeah, I know that like all modern marvels it can answer itself but, I dunno, it sounded urgent.  I made it to the steps and clambered out, grabbed a towel and picked up the receiver as it was about to self respond.
“Hello.”
“Queen of the Nile, how’re you doing?”
“Hi, Primrose.  I’m fine.  You?”
“Fine!  Fine!”  This was said airily and I grew suspicious of my crime journalist friend.
“Really?  So to what do I owe the honour of this call?”  A peal of laughter came down the wire and I held the receiver away from my ear so that she didn’t split me ear-drum.  Prim is a sweet girl, born on Primrose Day and as her surname’s Day, her parents got a bit carried away.  (Primrose Day?  19th April, the anniversary of the day Disraeli died and, as primroses were his favourite flowers Queen Victoria had the day so named in his memory).  When I first knew Prim her hair was braided and trimmed with hundreds of beads.  Noisy.  Now she’s got it short and curly.  Natural like.  She’s black, beautiful and works on one of the national dailies.
“Not much gets past you does it, Cleo?”
“At my size, ducks, no.  So, why are you calling?”
“Well, I hear lover boy’s got himself another murder to investigate.”
I frowned.  “Really?  How did you hear about this before me?”  Not fair.  David hadn't mentioned it.  That's DCI 'Steaming' Kettle and my lover.
“Contacts,” Prim responded succinctly.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, alright.  So what are you calling me about?”
“Thought you might have some idea about it, but as I’ve been the bearer of the news I guess you don’t know anything.”
“You guess right and I’m not going to get involved this time.”
“No, I’m sure you're not,” she said disbelievingly.
“I’m not,” I told her indignantly.
“Okay.  Don’t you want to know anything about it?”
Can’t keep my curiosity to myself can I?  My friends know me too well.  “Not really.”  I tried to match her earlier airy tone.
“Come off it, girl, course you do.”  Yeah, she’s also a cockney but it don’t come out as often as mine.
“You’re going ter tell me anyway, aren't you?”
She chuckled.  “Of course.”
“Go on then,” I urged as she kept me waiting.
“Seems like an estate agent dropped dead in his soup at some do in Lymington last night.”
“Oh?”  Definitely interesting.  So who had done for him?  A disgruntled client?  Someone who had been gazumped?
“Well, not exactly in the soup.  It was a bit later than that.  At the moment the cops aren’t calling it murder, just a sudden death which they have to investigate.  Seems strange to me that Steaming is in on it, though.  Doesn’t it?”
“Definitely.  Wonder what he was given?"  The victim I mean.  "In Lymington you said?”
“Yeah.”
“So I gather you’re on your way down here?”
She laughed again.  “Well, I've been told to come down there and thought it might be a good idea to visit you?”  Why was she querying it?  She knew I’d want her to stay here. “I thought I could stay in the house instead of the flat over the garage.  You know, keep you company while lover-boy is working.”
“What d’you mean, keep me company?”
“As they say in my job, if you ain’t got contacts, you ain’t got a job.  No point in not using them, is there?”  I could almost hear the smile.
“You win.  What time shall I expect you?”  We fixed an approximate time in the afternoon, then she asked, “What you doing?  Sounds as if you’re in the pool room.”
“I was just practicing.”
“Good girl.  I’ll give you some more lessons, if you like.”
“So that I can start powering up and down the pool the same way you do?”
That made her laugh.  “Sorry, Cleo, I don’t think you’d quite manage that.”
“I don’t think so either.  Anyway, see you later.”
I put the phone down and picked up me robe and put it on.  That was the end of my swimming practice for the day.  Time to go and shower and get dressed.  I should explain that the pool room was once a conservatory.  When I bought this place it was missing most of its glass and the plants had run wild. 
The house is a 1920s mock Tudor effort and the old girl who’d owned it before me kept cats and didn’t do no housework.  It was in a right sorry state.  Mind you, I did get it at a bargain price, but had to spend a lot to put it right.  It’s smashing now.  My bathroom’s got a spa bath and I’ve had another two rooms made into a guest suite and that’s also got a spa bath.  Got a thing about them, I have.  I've also got a 'community' one in the pool room and another in my flat in London.  And there's a flat over the double garage.  That's actually for a housekeeper but now I keep it as a 'guest suite'.  In the garage are my Land Rover and my precious Rolls Royce Silver Wraith.
I know it sounds daft, but do you know I actually got dressed before I made my next phone call?  I could have laid on the bed abso-bloody-lutely starkers and no one would have seen me and I admit that I’m not exactly a pretty sight when naked.  At least, I don’t think so.  Suppose I ought to tell you something about me.
The name’s Cleo Marjoribanks – pronounced Marchbanks as I often have to tell people who get it wrong.  People are never sure whether my hair is naturally red but my colouring is fair and I do freckle.  I leave it for you to decide!  And I tend to load on the paintwork, especially the eye-shadow which confounds people when it comes to the colour of my eyes.  You know, are they blue, are they grey or are they hazel?  Depends on the eye-shadow.  Me nose is straight and little on the large size and I have a very determined chin.  No, I'm not beautiful, but I think you could call it interesting.
I have to wear glasses when I’m driving because I’m short-sighted.  Not quite blind as a bat.  And I’m what’s called 'stately' so I go crazy with clothes.  Lots of caftans - they cover a multitude of sins.  And the regulatory strings of beads to wear with them.  The problem with them is that they catch on the most unlikely things.  Whoever is with me at the time usually ends up scrabbling on the ground trying to find the missing beads.  Because I’m well-endowed the beads won’t lie flat against me chest.

Kindle edition:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B008ORNGCU
Paperback edition:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1520418264

Thursday, 18 May 2017

A FAVOURITE AUNT

Many years ago I saw a programme on television about women in the 1960s who had left their husbands. A very brave thing to do when the only 'Right' a woman in England had was the vote. There was something called the Married Women's Property Act which said women were entitled to 50% of the couple's 'property' but had to prove their had contributed 50% to the household. Bearing in mind that many married women didn't go out to work - or whose wages were miniscule - it was impossible to prove they had contributed 50%.

For a woman without children things were 'reasonably' simple to leave an abusive husband as she only had to fend for herself. But if there were children and the wife took them it was a whole other ball game.

In the television programme it was revealed that some of the women who took their children were subsequently deprived of them - either into care or custody was given to the husband. Many of these women ended up turning to drink and cigarettes and some, unfortunately, committed suicide. A few battled through and survived.

'A Favourite Aunt' is a novella about one of the survivors. Christina married in 1960 and it all went wrong from the beginning - no matter how hard she tried.

Please read this book - especially if you are a child (or grandchild) of such a disastrous marriage. You will then understand exactly what happened and why.


The book will shortly also be available in paperback.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B072LK5GNV

THIS BOOK IS NOW AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK. 

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Cosy, Thriller or Psychological?

As a writer of 'cosy' crime I can say - categorically - that there is nothing cosy about crime.

For some strange reason, a few years ago the term Cosy Crime was coined as a way of categorising Crime Novels that don't contain violence. Leaving those of us who write it rather puzzled. There are three basic categories in the crime genre:

CRIME - minimal violence, very little blood and gore. And - not necessarily a story about murder.

THRILLER - contains violence, blood and gore and bad language.

PSYCHOLOGICAL - pretty self-explanatory. Can include violence and bad language. Books on such 'subjects' as a woman (or anyone) in jeopardy.

West Sussex Libraries used to divide these books into two categories - Crime and Thriller. Then decided to shove them in together. Those of us who prefer one or the other complained but were unable to get the message across. Aren't librarians taught the difference between the genres?

And, of course, those of us who write so-called cosy crime are waiting for the day when someone devises a more sensible description! 

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

English Spring

Following a few days of summer-like weather a couple of weeks ago we are now back to 'the big chill'. Even had snow in Scotland and the north of England. Unfortunately, the mini 'heat-wave' had people assuming that spring had arrived and summer couldn't be far away.

Oh dear, oh dear. Some are now busily unpacking their winter clothes!

A mistake I will never make because I can remember May 4th 1984. I had flown overnight from Florida and was standing on Gatwick station freezing! I had assumed that the weather wouldn't be THAT cold but had taken the precaution of wearing trousers and a jacket. I needed fur lined boots, thick sweater and a parka!

And I have photographs taken that week with people wearing their winter coats.

No good blaming the climate-change. English weather has always been erratic.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Who are the JC's?

Here is the opening to the third South Downs Murder Mystery, 'Who are the JC's?' I do hope you enjoy it and, of course, buy a copy! 

CHAPTER 1

As Ruth Goldstein was helped by the waiter to take her seat at the table the gentleman on her left greeted her. 'Good evening,' and gave her a bright smile, his hazel eyes twinkling.
She returned his greeting, then concentrated on the menu. Eventually the table was full and the waiter took their orders, after which the eight diners introduced themselves.
Ruth, knowing from experience that they might never see each other again after this meal said, ruefully, 'I'm sorry, but I probably shan't remember your names.'
The lady on her right chuckled. 'Don't worry about it. None of us will.' She then lowered her voice, 'Bit of a waste of time really.'
'True,' Ruth agreed. 'But at least we don't have to wear name badges.'
'Now that would be truly awful. Like being on a school outing.'
The Wine Waiter reached their table and, after he had ordered a bottle, the man on Ruth's left turned to her. 'You don't drink?'
'No. Never have, although my late husband did.'
'I'm sorry to hear that he is no longer with you.'
'Thank you. He died four years ago. Your wife is not with you?'
'I'm divorced.'
'Oh dear. So many marriages seem to fail these days. I'm sorry, but what did you say your name is?'
He gave her one of his charming smiles. 'Don't worry about it. I'm Josh. Like you I am on my own on this cruise.'
'And you are retired?'
'Not really. I don't have what is called a day job. I work for myself and have staff to look after the business.'
Conversation ceased whilst they consumed the first course and Ruth looked around the table. Two couples she thought were probably in their mid to late sixties. Two ladies together. Sisters or friends? Probably in their seventies. Josh, wearing heavy gold rings on both hands, an expensive suit and silk tie, whom she thought was in his mid-sixties. Young enough to be her son. And she wondered what they all thought about her.
What they saw was a dumpy figure in a mid-range beige and green dress. Her short iron grey hair was well cut and showed her round face off to advantage. She had never worn much make-up and now that her sallow skin was wrinkled she wasn't tempted to overdo it.
Josh return to their conversation. 'I noticed that as you were being shown to the table a couple of waiters greeted you.'
'Yes, I've been on the Oriana before.'
'I guessed that. This is my first time. I usually go on Cunard but thought I would try P&O for a change.'
Conversation then became more general until coffee when they discussed what they had chosen to do that evening.
'What are your plans, Ruth? Going to see the show?' Josh asked.
She shook her head. 'Not tonight. I'm very tired. I'll have a read and an early night.'
'So you will be fresh to begin your cruise tomorrow. Very wise. Where would you advise for breakfast?'
'This dining room. The Peninsular,' she reminded him of its name.
'So I might see you in the morning.'
At that point there was movement around the table as the diners prepared to leave.

'Milly, I am so lucky to have met such a nice gentleman,' eighty-three-year old Ruth Goldstein told her younger friend as they sat at the kitchen table in Milly's kitchen on a dull September morning.
'It certainly sounds like it. Very nice to have a bit of company. How lucky he was on your table the first night.'
'Wasn't it?' Ruth was recently back from her latest cruise. Since the death of her husband she had taken to cruising in a big way. 'You know I love my cruises. I get to meet some really delightful people, see places I've never seen before. And, of course, there's my dancing.'
Milly Stewart had met Ruth and her husband, Reuben, at the Assembly Rooms where they and other friends went regularly to the ballroom dances. Following a few months of mourning Ruth had been persuaded back to dancing. 'They have dancing every evening on board?'
'Most evenings. Even if the dance hosts aren't there, there is some music playing for us.'
'Which ship was this one?' Milly couldn't keep up with the ship's names. All she could remember was P&O and Cunard.
'The Oriana. My favourite. It has a proper ballroom. Some of the other ships I've been on have dancing in the Atrium which isn't very nice.'
Milly decided not to go there. She had heard Ruth's complaints several times before. 'So tell me about your gentleman friend.'
Ruth tittered. 'I wouldn't call him that. After all he is about twenty years younger than me. Very smart. He's retired,' (which makes him at least sixty-three Milly thought), 'but he does own some property that he rents out.'
'So he's well heeled.'
Ruth leant across the table and whispered, 'He's a millionaire.'
'Really?' As they were in Milly's kitchen she wondered why her friend had whispered the words.
'Yes. And so generous. On one of the Dress Nights. You know, posh frocks and dinner jackets,' she expanded at Milly's puzzled look, 'he bought champagne for dinner.' The old lady sat back with a satisfied smile, her brown eyes twinkling.
'Very nice.' Not being a lover of champers Milly didn't know what else to say. And as she knew Ruth didn't drink alcohol wondered why buying a bottle of fizzy wine was such a big deal.
'And before we got off the ship he bought me this.' She pulled a gold chain from under her jumper.
'That's lovely, Ruth. Must have cost quite a bit.'
'Probably. He wouldn't buy rubbish.'
'You didn't choose it?'

'No, it was a total surprise.' But she didn't confess to having bought Josh a parting gift of his favourite aftershave.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Antiques in the Attic - Part 1

This is the first book in the South Downs Murder Mysteries. Unlike the Cleo books it is written in third person and involves police procedural. Hope you enjoy it - and, of course, buy a copy. It is not only available on Kindle but also in paperback (from Amazon).

"Did you get them?"
"Nah."
"You know where they are?"
"Er…"
"Well?"
"It's like this, mate, 'e didn't tell us nuffin'."
"You said he would."
"Well 'e didn't."
"You'd better try again."
"Bit difficult."
"Why?"
"Better you don't know at the mo, but I got n'idea where they are."
_______________________

Not another wet and dreary day, Sarah groaned as she drew the curtains and viewed the bedraggled garden.
And she should be feeling happy.  The divorce was over, she was free and Kevin was paying her maintenance.  And so he should, she and her friends agreed, some pointing out that he was lucky they didn't have any children.
But at least I'd have some company and something useful to do, she mournfully mused as she went downstairs to get breakfast.  Should she have it in the kitchen or take it back to bed?  It was Sunday, the shopping done, the house clean and no chance of gardening.  Bed, she decided, gathering up from the front door the heavy bundle that made up the Sunday paper and putting it on the stairs - it was too heavy to throw up to the landing.
Whilst waiting for the coffee to drip her thoughts turned to Kevin and his reaction when she had told him a few months ago that she wanted a divorce.
____________

"But why?" he whined, a sorrowful look in his sky blue eyes.  Eyes that she had once thought were beautiful.  "We're doing alright.  We're both working, have this nice house and a car.  And money in savings."
"What else do we have?" she asked, glaring across the table at him."We work, we come home, eat, watch telly and go to bed.  We never do anything else."
"But when we've got enough money saved we can start a family.  We always said that."
"Kevin, that was six years ago and I can't remember when we last made love," she expostulated.  Looking at his mean mouth and cold blue eyes she wondered now what she had ever seen in him. 
He turned away awkwardly and cleared his throat.  Why on earth did this married man in his thirties always get embarrassed when sex was mentioned, she wondered.

(Oh yes, her closest friend and confidante, Zelda, had a theory or two.  One was that Kev was impotent and the other that he was a latent homosexual.  But then Zel always had theories about people.)

"Look, er, well," Kevin began as he looked out of the window at the garden, "I can move into one of the other bedrooms.  Yes, that's what I'll do," he added more decisively as he turned to look at her.
"Kev, I don't think that is going to solve our problems."
"But we get on okay and are good friends."
"Is that what we are?  Good friends?"
"Of course."
She shook her head, her loose long brown hair swinging in a way he used to like.  Or, at least, had said that he did.  "You really don't get it, do you?"
"Get what?"
"I'm bored.  B-O-R-E-D."
He looked puzzled.  "How can you be bored?  I'm here every evening and weekends."
"Kevin Stewart I would like to do things other than a boring office job, come home and cook a meal, wash up, then sit and watch television programmes in which I have absolutely no interest whatsoever."
"But you read," he whined.  "Perhaps that's why you're bored."
"Grrr.  Reading is the only thing that keeps me sane.  I'm sick of doing a boring job, housework, cooking and cleaning up," she reiterated.  "You don't do anything about the house to help."
"But I'm working all week."
She had slammed out of the room.
__________________________

I must get a new toaster, she reflected as she buttered the almost singed bread.
Carefully carrying mug and plate she went to the stairs, realised the newspaper was too bulky to fit under her arm so went on upstairs without it.  She'd read it later.
The rain was still pouring down.  Obviously this was turning into a typical English summer.  Sarah sighed and returned to her book.  Might as well have a longer lie-in.  Now she was on her own she could please herself.  No more whining and whingeing from he who should be obeyed.  She put down her book.  "I can change my job and get a career," she told the walls.  Why had she only just thought of that?  Probably because she'd had too much else on her mind, she ruefully reflected.
The telephone interrupted her contemplation of a future career.  "Hello."
"Hope you're sitting down," Zelda responded .
Sarah chuckled, "I'm still in bed and thinking about finding a career."
"Hold that thought.  I haven't got much time.  Gotta go to the grandparents' for lunch.  Have you got the radio on?"
"No, I'm just enjoying the silence."
"So you won't have heard."
"Heard what?"
"First of all, what car does Kev drive?"
"Not sure but I think Milly said he'd bought a Ford Focus."  Milly being Kevin's mother with whom Sarah had a good relationship.
"Oh dear."
"Why?  What's happened?"
"According to the local news a man has been found dead in his car on the Downs not far from Findon.  It’s a Ford Focus."
"Do you know how many men drive a Focus?"
"Not a lot.  It's supposed to be recognised as a woman's car," Zelda responded dryly, "but I've seen a lot of men driving them.  But what if he's committed suicide…."
"Not Kev.  First off, he hasn't the guts and, secondly, he loves himself too much."
"But his Dad died of cancer."
"So what does that have to do with anything?  They didn't particularly get on.  Too much alike," Sarah added dryly.
"Yeah, but he might have thought he had cancer and what with the divorce and then his Mum not taking him in….."
"Nope.  He might have been upset about losing his housekeeper but he'll hope to soon find a replacement.  What he doesn't realise is that there aren't that many gullible women out there."
"Especially when it comes to a divorced man."
"Exactly, but I’m sure he's got his sob story worked out."
"Whatever.  By the way, why wouldn't his Mum have him back?  Seen sense?"
"She has a gentleman friend."
"Good for her."
"Yes.  He looks after her and takes her dancing.  And he's persuaded her to go on a cruise with him."
"Oh, wow.  You always liked her didn't you?"
"We get on really well.  She was dead chuffed when I told her I was getting a divorce.  Told me it was the best thing I could do as the Stewart men weren't known for changing their attitudes."
"Bet Kev didn't like it when she refused to let him move in."
"I'm sure.  Plus it must have been a shock to find out about George.  I hadn't told him."
Zelda laughed.  "I would have loved to have seen his face when he found out."
"Me too.  Apparently, when he turned up on her doorstep with his laden car, George opened the door."
"Well played!"
"I thought so.  It was a good idea because then Kevin couldn't bully his way in.  Had to go to a hotel."
"Did he tell you this?"
"Of course not.  Milly told me.  He told me he wouldn't stay with her until that man had gone.  What he doesn't know is that George doesn't live there."
They laughed then Zelda remembered she was in a hurry and they rang off.


Sarah was destined not to have a longer lie in as, no sooner had she picked up her book again, than the front door bell pealed.  She got out of bed to look out of the window.  A strange car.


e-book:https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00C2Q655O 
Paperback: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1520418167


Monday, 13 February 2017

Homicide in Hampshire, Part 1.

Welcome to the opening paragraphs of the first Cleo Marjoribanks book, 'Homicide in Hampshire'. I love the art of creation and especially enjoy writing about Cleo. Mind you, after five books, I think it is a case of Cleo telling me what to write!

I hope you enjoy this snippet enough to buy the book - either on Kindle or paperback (via Amazon). And don't forget to give it a great review! For that you will always be a friend.

I snatched up the phone in the pool room (using me skirt to hold it, of course.  No point in reading mystery novels and doing it all wrong), all the while staring at the thing in the pool.  It had to be Janet Spencer.  It was wearing her dress.  And there was red in the water.  I knew she was dead and, while talking to the police, I wondered how I was so sure she was dead.  I know I should have jumped into the pool to get her out and begin resuscitation but…  The thought of what I might see made me gaga, so I scarpered, at least as best me high-heels would let me!  (As I can’t swim, it probably wouldn’t have been a good idea anyway.)
I shot off straight down the hall, grabbed handbag and keys from the table near the door then scrabbled with the door locks.  Why are they always a problem when you’re in a hurry?  At last I was out in the night air and could take deep breaths. 
And don’t ask me why I was in the pool room when I’d just come home.  If you walk indoors and see lights on that shouldn’t be on what would you do?  No, not what I should have done – panicked.  I went to investigate.  Course it wasn’t until later that I realised I’d been stupid.
It felt like I was standing outside for ages before I heard the cops arrive.  Blue light flashing and siren moaning, just like a sick cow.
The car pulled up in front where I was leaning against the wall by the open front door.
One of the coppers eased his bulk from the car “Constable Brown,” was the terse introduction.  “Are you alright, madam?  Are you Mrs. Marj-or-ibanks?”
“Pronounced Marchbanks,” I corrected automatically.  “I think I’m alright.  Yeah, I called.”  I moved away from the wall and pointed into the house.  “Down there, all the way to the end is the pool room.  She’s in the pool.”
He went in, at the same time indicating to the other – younger - man who was also now out of the car, to stay with me.  Did they think that if they left me there alone I might get into their car and escape?


.............................

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B005LO72BA  -  Kindle

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/152017098X - Paperback.