The funeral of Margaret Thatcher

I watched the funeral procession of Baroness Thatcher today on TV. I do not propose to write about her politics here; she did things during her premiership of the UK with which I agreed, and also things with which I did not. But I could say the same of almost any politician who has held power on either side during my lifetime.

The threatened protests in London were minimal but the BBC contrived, by art or by happenstance, to look another way at a moment when, we were later told, protestors had thrown something at the horses that drew the gun carriage on which Mrs Thatcher’s coffin was borne. I saw only flowers cast into the street as the procession passed; a mark of respect, as I interpret this action, like the applause that I heard.

But I also heard boos. The thing I want most to observe about this is that however distasteful or objectionable the protests of those who openly celebrate the death of an elderly lady, I am very glad that I live in a country where we can so protest if we choose. I observe that in this we are under constant threat. We must be vigilant against the powers that be who persistently chip away at our civil freedoms little by little and tell us it is for our own good – chief constables who constantly press for greater powers and politicians who bombard us with new laws and sneakily disguised forms of taxation, for example. Protests against that I would support. As Mrs Thatcher said in a related context, “No! No! No!”

On a lighter note, I found most inspiring and dignified the uniformed Chelsea Pensioners, men and women a generation or two older than me, who manned the steps of St Paul’s and stood smartly to attention for longer than I am sure I could if I tried. I see them every year in the poppy day parades and always marvel that in spite of all handicaps they somehow manage to stiffen the sinews and march. How wonderful! I hope I may have such fortitude at their age.

The Lewis Man, by Peter May

I read a good book the other day #1

The Lewis Man book jacket

This might well turn out to be the longest book recommendation I ever make, so make the most of it. I had to tell you about this book at length because it has something in common with my own mystery/romantic suspense series. They share a theme; not the main thrust of the story, but a sub-thread within the story.

Just think for a moment: Are you a Do Your Duty And Look After Your Elders sort of person, or an Out of Sight, Out of Mind, Put The Silly Old Fart’s in a Home And Forget About Them sort of person? In either case it behoves us to think what might be our own fate when we grow old and feeble and begin to suffer from dementia. This might happen to you!

In my books, Enoch is an elderly character who I tried to depict in a very natural sort of way complete with all his frailties, the usual ills of old age both physical and mental: things like constantly wanting the loo and being overwhelmed by a sense of grief and survivor’s guilt for a lost partner. But Enoch is at least still compos mentis, if a little slower of thought than he used to be – all of which is what makes him the “very different detective” of my blurbs.

In The Lewis Man Peter May has brilliantly depicted life for someone who is not only elderly and frail but also trapped in dementia. That’s not what the book is about, mind. The Lewis Man referred to in the title is a body found preserved in the acid peat of the isle of Lewis in the outer Hebrides; a bog-body such as has been found all over northern Europe. I don’t want to spoil the plot so I won’t say any more about it, but I wish I had read The Lewis Man before I began writing my first novel, for Peter May has shown me a technique that I might have found useful.*

By adopting the device of Read More →

A Cat on the Doorstep

We had a cat once. In fact we had two. Smut arrived one day on the back doorstep of my parents’ house, the place where I was born, and made himself at home. He was a totally self-contained creature, completely independent in body and spirit. He brought home a rabbit one day bigger than himself. He wrestled it up the stone steps to our back door, his contribution to the household economy as I suppose, for he did not make a meal of it for himself. Instead he Read More →

Sunset Glossary: Or English like what she is spoke


Editorial note: Since this article was written Sunset over Salhouse Broad has been revised and re-titled to become the Just One Mistake mystery and romantic suspense trilogy. So wherever you see Sunset, read JOM (or any of its individual titles). The glossary still applies.

A writer’s choosing to use dialect or technical words in a novel is apt to be fraught with misunderstanding. Not all readers will be familiar with these localised words, or with the peculiar usage or spelling of them that we often find in our English regions. They may not be recognised for what they are, so there is also a risk that some readers will revolt against what they see as the author’s laziness in failing to check his spelling. Nevertheless, used in the right places and in moderation dialect and idiom can enhance the depiction of character. Who does not know perfectly what is meant when, in Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow, Lucille Fallon in answer to a question in court says, “He done it.” And to a further puzzled query, “What he been sayin he do.” And again, “Yes sir! He done!”.  And do not those deliberate (mis)spellings and carefully chosen words instantly tell you something interesting about the speaker?

That’s why in Sunset over Salhouse Broad/Just One Mistake Rob often starts a sentence with Read More →

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