Are you ‘woke?’

Apparently, according to Wikipedia, you are labelled woke if you are aware of injustices and inequalities in the world, especially racism. OK, I put my hand up to that, as I do to caring about all unfairness in the world. And I guess most people I know do as well. Not only do I care, I want governments and organisations to act to change these wrongs and evils. Is that wrong? Does that need a special label? Surely not, it’s just basic humanity to care for others not so fortunate as ourselves. So, if that’s being woke, I’m woke, and happy to be so.

On some media platforms, the term woke can be read as derogatory, used to describe people who support Black Lives Matter, LGBT causes, the Me-Too movement, and plain old equality and social justice, and in that it has become political and used by right-wing extremist groups who want to point a finger at those they wish to belittle and diminish. Calling someone woke if they are aware and care is not a big deal; an unnecessary label maybe but not something I’d leave sleep over; using it to berate and be offensive to people standing up for fairness is not OK and needs to be called out.  

I don’t belong to any political party, nor am I right or left-wing, judging issues as they arise on their merit or otherwise. All should be treated with dignity and respect – like you’d want to be treated yourself – embracing an inclusive society where kindness and rationality prevail.

~

 My recent publications

Life in four stories 

Four shorts: two about life, love, and death; one a poignant and disturbing memory that dangles a question unanswered; and one a wild fantasy – plus the first chapter of my latest book, Otto and Frankie.

All proceeds go to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to help the most vulnerable communities fight COVID – 19.

By buying this book you are helping fund ICRC in its valuable work.

Thank you.

Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk

My latest novel, Otto and Frankie, is about a dying man’s fight against injustice, his wife’s unusual affair, and the love from his long-lost daughter. 

Otto and his daughter Frankie could not be more different. He’s rich, an acclaimed author, human rights activist, and lives in England. She lives in New York, just about survives from one pay cheque to the next and hasn’t seen or spoken to her father for twenty years. Dutifully reunited by his impending death, she’s amazed to find him a kind and noble man who, while grappling with his wife’s bizarre affair, champions for the world’s forgotten and dispossessed to his last. After Otto’s death, Frankie’s admiration for her father leads her into a dangerous and life changing pursuit. 

amazon.co.uk. amazon.com.

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A huge victory for polar bears

Two polar bears show their joy at the news an appeal court in America has rejected the US government’s proposal to drill for oil in their backyard.

For polar bears life is a worry. Their habitat, the ice cap of the Arctic is melting. Unless the melt is halted, polar bears will have nowhere to live, threatening their existence. A consortium made up of Defenders of Wildlife, Greenpeace, and Pacific Environment brought a lawsuit against the US government’s plans to drill for oil in federal Arctic waters, offering conclusive evidence that the plan would endanger local communities, animals, and the environment. The consortium won, and the plan has been halted before it starts.

This is a victory for the bears, the local community, and the environment. Well done, but the oil companies will be back and need to be fought.

To read the full article, go to White Wolf Pack,  an organisation for the protection of polar bears, wolves, and other threatened species.

To find out more about Greenpeace and donate, click here.

~

 My recent publications

Life in four stories 

Four shorts: two about life, love, and death; one a poignant and disturbing memory that dangles a question unanswered; and one a wild fantasy – plus the first chapter of my latest book, Otto and Frankie.

All proceeds go to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to help the most vulnerable communities fight COVID – 19.

By buying this book you are helping fund ICRC in its valuable work.

Thank you.

Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk

My latest novel, Otto and Frankie, is about a dying man’s fight against injustice, his wife’s unusual affair, and the love from his long-lost daughter. 

Otto and his daughter Frankie could not be more different. He’s rich, an acclaimed author, human rights activist, and lives in England. She lives in New York, just about survives from one pay cheque to the next and hasn’t seen or spoken to her father for twenty years. Dutifully reunited by his impending death, she’s amazed to find him a kind and noble man who, while grappling with his wife’s bizarre affair, champions for the world’s forgotten and dispossessed to his last. After Otto’s death, Frankie’s admiration for her father leads her into a dangerous and life changing pursuit. 

amazon.co.uk. amazon.com.

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What a mash up

It was one of those days when we both had much to do and neither had thought about what we were having for supper. It’s a store cupboard/freezer meal, we agreed as we stared at an empty fridge at 6:00pm on a Sunday, knowing we had little chance of finding a shop open. We’d done a big online order on Saturday, for delivery this week, and had forgotten to consider Sunday. I set about to figure something out. 

It didn’t turn out so bad after all. Finding a couple of frozen salmon filets bought when there was an offer on, a few potatoes and a bunch of kale a day or two passed its used by date, I realised I had the ingredients for Nigel Slater’s Salmon Colcannon. Dead easy, delicious, and including the time to boil the potatoes, took no more than half an hour.

Basically; it’s lightly cooked salmon and sautéed kale mixed into mashed potato with plenty of butter, pepper and salt, and maybe an extra dribble of olive oil and a sprinkle of parsley, if you have it, to finish. A bright and cheery dish we’ve had several times, and it never fails to please us. So as long as you’ve got some salmon in the freezer, some potatoes, and any kale like green you can make it. Of course, if you plan in advance to make it, use fresh salmon. Here’s Nigel Slater’s recipe again.

~

My recent publications

Life in four stories 

Four shorts: two about life, love, and death; one a poignant and disturbing memory that dangles a question unanswered; and one a wild fantasy – plus the first chapter of my latest book, Otto and Frankie.

All proceeds go to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to help the most vulnerable communities fight COVID – 19.

By buying this book you are helping fund ICRC in its valuable work.

Thank you.

Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk

My latest novel, Otto and Frankie, is about a dying man’s fight against injustice, his wife’s unusual affair, and the love from his long-lost daughter. 

Otto and his daughter Frankie could not be more different. He’s rich, an acclaimed author, human rights activist, and lives in England. She lives in New York, just about survives from one pay cheque to the next and hasn’t seen or spoken to her father for twenty years. Dutifully reunited by his impending death, she’s amazed to find him a kind and noble man who, while grappling with his wife’s bizarre affair, champions for the world’s forgotten and dispossessed to his last. After Otto’s death, Frankie’s admiration for her father leads her into a dangerous and life changing pursuit. 

amazon.co.uk. amazon.com.

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2020 – Goodbye, good riddance, don’t come back!

After an awful year beyond description, the news of a vaccine for COVID and a change of guard in The White House, makes next year look a whole lot better than this one. It will be. And that gives Christmas and the New Year an added sparkle. Yes, I know it won’t be the same as Christmases past; parties and mixing will be difficult and cheer will be in short supply, but we have just witnessed an historic, life-saving achievement. In less than a year, a vaccine for a deadly disease, capable of ripping through the world’s population with devastating and catastrophic results, is ready, safe, and available for mass inoculation, and more vaccines are just round the corner. This has never been done before, taking years – almost ten in some cases – in the past. What’s not to cheer about that?       

The UK kicks off the immunisation programme next week, a programme that will reach out to immunise the entire world population by the end of next year. In a year’s time, the end of 2021, the world will look a very different place.  Let’s be grateful and thankful to those that’ve made this happen.

Let’s raise our glasses.

~

This will make you smile. Family in South Australia find live koala in their Christmas tree

~

My latest novel is called Otto and Frankie – about a dying man’s fight against injustice, his wife’s unusual affair, and the love from his long-lost daughter. 

Otto and his daughter Frankie could not be more different. He’s rich, an acclaimed author, human rights activist, and lives in England. She lives in New York, just about survives from one pay cheque to the next and hasn’t seen or spoken to her father for twenty years. Dutifully reunited by his impending death, she’s amazed to find him a kind and noble man who, while grappling with his wife’s bizarre affair, champions for the world’s forgotten and dispossessed to his last. After Otto’s death, Frankie’s admiration for her father leads her into a dangerous and life changing pursuit. 

amazon.co.uk. amazon.com.

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Those who suffer, suffer most

I have a new small book of shorts out, Life in four stories, and all proceeds go to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to help their COVID – 19 work.

COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the world. All our lives have been affected, whether it be by catching it, knowing someone who has been infected by it, tragically losing a member of our family or a friend, or having our lifestyle curtailed by restrictions to slow its spread. 

But for people living in conflict zones throughout the world, the virus is widespread and another peril in their already vulnerable existence. With their health systems ravaged by war, their hospitals destroyed or seriously damaged, and immediate threats to life, such as gunfire, shelling and bombings, Covid prevention and treatment is sparse. 

The ICRC works tirelessly to help protect those in conflict zones from this deadly infection.

By buying this book you are helping fund ICRC in its valuable work.

Thank you. I hope you enjoy it.

Life in four stories

Four shorts: two about life, love, and death; one a poignant and disturbing memory that dangles a question unanswered; and one a wild fantasy – plus the first chapter of my latest book, Otto and Frankie.

Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk

My latest novel is called Otto and Frankie – about a dying man’s fight against injustice, his wife’s unusual affair, and the love from his long-lost daughter. 

Otto and his daughter Frankie could not be more different. He’s rich, an acclaimed author, human rights activist, and lives in England. She lives in New York, just about survives from one pay cheque to the next and hasn’t seen or spoken to her father for twenty years. Dutifully reunited by his impending death, she’s amazed to find him a kind and noble man who, while grappling with his wife’s bizarre affair, champions for the world’s forgotten and dispossessed to his last. After Otto’s death, Frankie’s admiration for her father leads her into a dangerous and life changing pursuit. 

amazon.co.uk. amazon.com.

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How you suffered for you sanity

I feel for the creative arts and all those involved and associated with it, not only financially, where venues and performers have been devastated by Covid restrictions and closures, but for the sanity of artists and performers. For them, performing and creating is the oxygen they need to breath, the adrenaline supply they survive on, and their raison d’être. Their friends, family, and their private lives will give them succour; but for all performers, from a stand-up comedian in a pub to a ballet dancer or opera singer, being unable to perform must be akin to losing your eyesight, cauterizing the flow of creative juices that propel you forward. And it’s not only the performers that are suffering, there’s a host of others that make a gig what it is, the list too long to mention. All are suffering – financially as well as mentally, and my heart reaches out to them. Last night, I heard on the radio the beautiful and poignant song Vincent – by Don McLean about Vincent Van Gogh – and thought how the sad line,  How you suffered for your sanity, has a relevance to all of this.

Everyone has been affected by Covid; artists and performers are not alone in their plight, and I have sympathy with all, and go along with every support measure, but I suppose, because I, like many of us, visit the theatre, watch movies, listen to music, and go to gigs, galleries and exhibitions, I’m aware of the worry and pain of those in the industry. 

Live performances in all forms will start up again, movies will be made, music will be recorded, museums, galleries and exhibitions will open up as before, and new and old artists will emerge from their bunkers, but I hope those that have suffered so much will not have fallen by the wayside or lost their sanity.

This may sound gloomy. It isn’t supposed to be, just heralding the severe circumstances of those that entertain us, and an industry I care for. 

Just after I started writing this, we heard that at least three vaccines are on the way, making next year very different from this.

~

My latest book is called Otto and Frankie – about a dying man’s fight against injustice, his wife’s unusual affair, and the love from his long-lost daughter. 

Otto and his daughter Frankie could not be more different. He’s rich, an acclaimed author, human rights activist, and lives in England. She lives in New York, just about survives from one pay cheque to the next and hasn’t seen or spoken to her father for twenty years. Dutifully reunited by his impending death, she’s amazed to find him a kind and noble man who, while grappling with his wife’s bizarre affair, champions for the world’s forgotten and dispossessed to his last. After Otto’s death, Frankie’s admiration for her father leads her into a dangerous and life changing pursuit. 

amazon.co.uk. amazon.com.

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At last, a wind of change

Often something happens that changes my outlook on life. It could be personal or something that affects us all. I call myself an optimist person, thinking the best of everyone, that good will prevail, a glass half full person. But with this year being the award-winning, best ever year for bad news, I found my optimistic skin beginning to wear thin, and close to bursting. Then came a couple of glimmers of hope: an American president elect who’s likely to bring changes for the better, and positive news on Covid vaccines. It’s too early to cheer, but 2021 could be markedly different from this depressing year.

This wind of change gave me cause to reflect. I’ve written twelve books and several short stories. Eleven of these books are crime thrillers, and one, the latest, is a change of genre, about life and how people deal with its challenges – love, relationships, loyalty, grief, infidelity, and other tests on our character and emotions. So, I asked myself, do I continue writing in this new genre or write a few more crime novels? To help me in this decision, I took a look at the books I’ve written. 

I’ve written about a man faking his death, a murderer meeting up again with the man he thought he’d killed, a man who forgot he’d attempted to kill his wife, a chef who uses his restaurant to conceal his drug dealership, a man who pulls up his wife’s dead body in a fishing net, and a group of terrorists holding the world to ransom by threatening to drop a dirty bomb on London. 

I then created my Harry Fingle character, a guy searching for the truth who was chased by the same assassin over three books. After I’d done with Harry, I wrote two psychological thrillers: one about a night runner who was suspected of being an arsonist, and one about a man who mistakenly thought his wife was dead and remarried.

It was then I thought I’d lay my dagger down and write about people’s experiences and feelings.

My latest book is called Otto and Frankie and is about a dying man’s fight against injustice, his wife’s unusual affair, and the love from his long-lost daughter. 

Otto and his daughter Frankie could not be more different. He’s rich, an acclaimed author, human rights activist, and lives in England. She lives in New York, just about survives from one pay cheque to the next and hasn’t seen or spoken to her father for twenty years. Dutifully reunited by his impending death, she’s amazed to find him a kind and noble man who, while grappling with his wife’s bizarre affair, champions for the world’s forgotten and dispossessed to his last. After Otto’s death, Frankie’s admiration for her father leads her into a dangerous and life changing pursuit. 

amazon.co.uk. amazon.com.

And so, I’ve answered my question, I’ll be writing more in this new-for-me genre.

To find out about my other books see the Books page.

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Vulnerable and endangered

I’ve always had a love affair with elephants. They’re peaceful and passive, apart from when they’re frightened or think their offspring are in danger, they’re vegetarians, and they can live for up to seventy years, mainly spending their time in search of food. Weighing in more than three thousand kilograms and standing about three metres high, they have no problem standing out in a crowd! They’re highly social, forming travelling herds of two or three families, and have a self-awareness and show empathy for their dying or dead.  So impressive.  

But they’re vulnerable and endangered.

‘African elephants are listed as vulnerable and Asian elephants as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). One of the biggest threats to elephant populations is the ivory trade, as the animals are poached for their ivory tusks. Other threats to wild elephants include habitat destruction and conflicts with local people. Elephants are used as working animals in Asia. In the past, they were used in war; today, they are often controversially put on display in zoos, or exploited for entertainment in circuses. Elephants are highly recognisable and have been featured in art, folklore, religion, literature, and popular culture.’ Wikipedia.

~

My latest book, Otto and Frankie, is available in all formats. It’s different from anything else I’ve written and took almost three years in the making. 

It’s about a dying man’s fight against injustice, his wife’s unusual affair, and the love from his long-lost daughter. 

Otto and his daughter Frankie could not be more different. He’s rich, an acclaimed author, human rights activist, and lives in England. She lives in New York, just about survives from one pay cheque to the next and hasn’t seen or spoken to her father for twenty years. Dutifully reunited by his impending death, she’s amazed to find him a kind and noble man who, while grappling with his wife’s bizarre affair, champions for the world’s forgotten and dispossessed to his last. After Otto’s death, Frankie’s admiration for her father leads her into a dangerous and life changing pursuit. 

A compelling read, I’m told.

amazon.co.uk. amazon.com.

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On vampire bats and sleep

 With America about to vote for madness or sanity and new lockdowns beginning to spread throughout Europe and the UK, these two clips should make you smile. 

  • Apparently sick bats self-isolate, while lobsters, monkeys and fish avoid other ill animals. I guess if only humans could detect infection so easily, we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in.
  • Do you share your sleep patterns with a bear, wolve, lion, or dolphin? Pass Notes on Sleep.

My latest book, Otto and Frankie, is available in all formats. It’s different from anything else I’ve written and took almost three years in the making. 

It’s about a dying man’s fight against injustice, his wife’s unusual affair, and the love from his long-lost daughter. 

A compelling read, I’m told.

amazon.co.uk. amazon.com.

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Tasty tuna

Being a fan of tinned tuna, this clip – ‘Yes we can! 17 delicious ways with tinned tuna, from salade nicoise to melts and fishcakes’ – bought on an unjustified twinge of hunger in me – it was 8:30 in the morning and I’d just eaten breakfast. Packed full of tasty-looking recipes, I rapidly changed my plans for supper that night, and picked one to try. Having searched the kitchen and found an out of date pack of orzo in the cupboard and a few almost mouldy olives in the fridge, I chose  Ottolenghi’s baked orzo puttanesca (see featured image). I didn’t use the exact ingredients he suggested but substituted with what we had. It was delicious!

If you want to say to me, ‘how could you eat that pet food? Ugh!’ Let me tell you I’m used to those comments. My wife says them every week when I make my own version of salad niçoise (recipe later). I’m quite fussy, and having tried almost every tin of tuna on the market, I’ve settled on a couple of brands I like and are sustainably sourced, and buy whichever one of them is on offer each week, but being the only person in the household to eat tinned tuna, I have to buy the mini cans. 

My love affair with tuna started with fresh tuna, which I still buy for a treat now and again – searing it for only one minute on each side, leaving it uncooked inside. Again, delicious. But with sustainable fresh tuna being expensive, I’ve tried and like tinned.   

Salad Niçoise – my recipe for one.

This is very rough and ready and influenced by what I find in the fridge.

  • Tinned tuna 80-150g
  • New potatoes 100g
  • Half a fennel bulb
  • One red pepper (I deseed mine, but it’s not necessary)
  • About 80g of fresh kale, uncooked and finely sliced. (lettuce or another brassica is fine, I like the strong taste of raw kale)
  • Small handful of olives
  • Handful of coriander (again not essential, depending on what’s left over), well chopped
  • Capers: about a dessertspoonful
  • 3 or 4 tinned anchovies, chopped (optional)
  • One hard-boiled egg
  • Sometimes I throw in a handful of croutons
  • Seasoning

Method

Turn the oven on to 180 fan. Put the potatoes and egg on to boil, seperatedly. Slice the fennel and the pepper into thin 1cm slices and place in an oven proof dish. Season, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle over half a teaspoon of a hot spice – I use ras el hanout, but chilli, za’rtar, smoked paprika, and similar are all good; use whatever takes your fancy. Now give the fennel and pepper with the seasoning and spice a good stir around before putting in the preheated oven for twenty minutes. Meanwhile, chop the kale very thinly, place in a big bowl, and dress with olive oil, a little wine vinegar, and pepper and salt. Massage the dressing into the kale, using your hands. Once massaged, leave for at least ten minutes. When the egg has boiled for eight to ten minutes, take it out, run it under a cold tap for two to three minutes, then peel off the shell and leave aside. Check the potatoes. If they’re cooked, drain and leave aside. By now the fennel and peppers should be ready. If so, take them out of the oven and leave to cool a little.

Open the tin of tuna, drain, and break it up with a fork. Add the potatoes and tuna to the kale and toss around. Scrape the fennel and peppers into the bowl, making sure to scoop in most of the cooking oil. Now add the olives, capers, coriander and anchovies and toss all again. Chop or slice the egg to your liking and add, together with croutons if using. Season, and give the whole thing another light toss. It’s now ready to eat. Enjoy    

Experiment and play around with this dish. Use tinned beans or cold, cooked green beans instead of the peppers and fennel, and cold, cooked pasta instead of the potatoes. Use as little or as much tuna as you wish. It really is an easy dish to get together in about half-an-hour, usually from what’s in the cupboard. It could still be a little warm when you eat it but is fine cold.

My latest book, Otto and Frankie, is available in all formats. It’s different from anything else I’ve written and took almost three years in the making. 

It’s about a dying man’s fight against injustice, his wife’s unusual affair, and the love from his long-lost daughter. 

A compelling read, I’m told.

amazon.co.uk. amazon.com.

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