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I met up with a student today in the centre of Newcastle to take her on a tour of her newly-adopted city. The normally bustling streets were empty. The Theatre Royal was closed. The Tyneside Cinema was closed. St. Nick’s Cathedral was closed. The Grainger Market was open but half the stalls were shuttered.

On the plus side, the Geordies were as friendly as always, Central Arcade was splendid, and I did get to try out Chinese vegetable dumplings. They were good but, according to my student, not ‘the best in England’ as the website boasts.


Newcastle from Grey’s Monument






Grainger Street.


easy steps

I saw an advert for a YouTube video called something like ‘Learn to write in 6 easy steps.’

It made me think.

It made me think that was 4 steps too many.

So here’s my ‘Learn to write in 2 easy steps.’


  1. Write.
  2. Finish what you started.


Beyond that there’s nothing else to learn. Well, nothing that anyone else can teach you.




I’ve almost completed the edit of London Rain.  It should be available in a week or so. It’s a short novel and it’s quite open-ended. The idea is to present you with a character and situation that, when the story and the various plots are ended, makes you think, hmm, I wonder what happens next?

I probably need to do one more deep dive into the actual text, I can probably chop out a few more things to make it a little lighter.

More to follow.


The first in the Mark Barrett series, NQA is on free kindle download from tomorrow ’til Thursday.

Click image for link:

Katie Lies

I had a bit of a bad experience with a tenor saxophone I bought from a dealer on eBay so I currently find myself with only an alto sax – and alto is my least favourite saxophone. It’s not that I dislike it, it’s that I just like it less, which is a shame cos in sonic terms it’s the prettiest of the saxophones. Tenor is big and husky, soprano is the ice princess, and alto is the sweet, lyrical saxophone that you hear on Baker Street and Careless Whisper (though, whisper it, but that’s actually tenor sax speeded up).

So, bearing in mind that both Baker Street and Careless Whisper (sic) are riffs, not solos, here are the three best alto saxophone solos played on pop records.

Doctor Wu (Phil Woods on alto sax, also probably one of my top 5 favourite songs ever)

Just the Way You Are (Phil Woods again)

Will You  (Wes Magoogan on alto sax)

London Rain countdown

I have 9 days to complete the edit of London Rain and am nowhere near done. I need to edit the text and edit the structure. The tone and the relationships are mostly there but the inner details still need working out. For example, as always, my characters spend too much time drinking tea, so I need to reduce the teapot count.

It’s only about 140 pages/5 chapters.

I don’t want to jinx it by saying it’s doable, so I’ll just get on with it. Structure first – get the shape of it right = then an edit of the text itself. Mostly I write and edit using word but I need to print it out and see it on paper, that’ll help with the structure.


My mother always said I had blue eyes when I was a kid, and I think on primary school photographs they are indeed blue. But when I first took any notice of them I saw they were a murky green. Eyes the colour of pond scum is how I’ve always described them.

A whole back I was checking myself in the mirror and I’m sure my eye colour has faded. They’re still green, just not as ‘pond scummy’ as they were – they’re a lighter shade.

Is that even possible?


I’ve enjoyed the lockdown. Got the thing I most want, and a lot of it, time. Time to do stuff. Time to reflect. Time to read. Time to write. I’m still working as a tutor, it pays the rent and doesn’t take up much space as I do it all online now. Being solvent via tutoring allows me to write cryptic novels about people who are astonished at the world, and it allows me to not focus on a single genre, which is great.

Also I’ve had time to do other things.

Archery for one.

Always fancied learning how to use a bow. I learned how to use guns a couple years back, but I didn’t chase it up, didn’t get a licence or anything, though I might go back to it at some point. But archery, I’ve only been a few times and I’m still learning, but I enjoy it very much. It’s like meditating. You focus and you switch off, and then you have a good shot. If you think about it, it’s no good.

You have to get the form correct, otherwise you have no control. The best shot is the one you barely feel. If the arrow wobbles or the bow judders or the string kicks back too much, you got it wrong. If you’ve ever watched Olympic divers, when they hit the water and leave the barest of ripples, it’s like that. A good shot is effortless. But mostly I’m making bad shots, so I have a lot more practice before I can achieve any sort of consistency.

I was chatting to Danno about it and he said, if he took up archery, he’d want to use a bare-bow, no sights, no counterweights, just learn to shoot instinctively. That’s pretty much my idea too, but last night I one of the instructors was using his compound bow, which is pure machine, all wheels and pulleys. It’s a thing of ugly beauty and it looses arrows at about 300 feet per second.

So, as I’m learning how to shoot, I’m gathering information for the second and third book of the Jago series. Jester is an archer, amongst his many other skills and now that I understand how a compound bow works it’s going to be in the novel, somewhere towards the end of both the second and third books.

woker than thou

I don’t comment much on the current tidal-wave of wokeness that’s engulfing the Anglo-Saxon world at the moment but I’ll take the opportunity to quote the Saintly Ms. Burchill on this topic:

“Wokeness is yet another marker of class privilege.”

Or to put it another way, Woke is the value system adopted by affluent people from the upper echelons of society. The ranks of Woke are filled with affluent young white women, who employ wokeness to differentiate themselves from ordinary people. It’s a form of narcissism, dressed up as an urgent righteousness.

Meanwhile, in the USA, the Woke have begun burning books.


JB’s article here:



It’s illuminating to witness how the ‘woke’ cleave to tyranny.

I’ve only had one friend ever quote the GDPR at me. I’d sent an email to a group of pals, of whom she was one, and she replied quoting the aforementioned EU-imposed regulations at me as a reason not to include her in a group email.

I was happy to follow her request, she had a fair point, but I wasn’t happy to have a friend quote regulations imposed on me by an unelected foreign power when she could have just asked. Ironically, despite invoking a law created by anti-democratic bureaucrats without anyone’s consent, my friend is a progressive and believes that consent is mandatory for everything.

Except when it isn’t.

I bit my tongue at the time and said nothing, and I didn’t hear from her for a while. Then she got in touch and apologised for such a heavy-handed message. I replied in a light-hearted tone that she was perhaps getting a touch woke.

Haven’t heard from her in six months now.