Mental health, 1935-style

”As the gale tore at her with renewed frenzy Tess put up her arms as if to fly. She closed her eyes, her legs wobbled and buckled.


La Fret Point, Portelet, Jersey

She visualised the rocks rushing up to meet her, the agony to follow. Slowly, very slowly she opened her eyes, lowered her arms, tucked her collar closer around her neck and struggled back to the cottage.”

From ‘Tess of Portelet Manor‘. Mental health, depression, suicidal thoughts – all are openly talked about these days. Help is available. Not so in 1935 when you just had to deal with it. Or not.


Winchester Sunday morning run

I treated myself to a day off writing – my WIP will reach its conclusion in the next couple of days. Instead I pulled on my (now slightly smelly) running gear and headed off on a sunny morning.


City Bridge

To date I’ve been happy enough to do circuits of the neighbouring facilities briefly described in my last post, but this morning I headed to the southern edge of the compact city centre to reacquaint myself with the water meadows. The trails out that way are tailor-made for pedestrians. DSCN0410Bikes not so much though they are well catered for further out. Past Wolvesey Castle (970), the Hospital of St Cross (1132) and Winchester College (1382), this part of the country would be easily recognisable to those medieval folk if they were to pop back today for a visit.

The River Itchen splits into two branches and winds its way gently, reluctantly, towards the sea at Southampton.DSCN0412

Leaving the water meadows one joins the cycle network. One curiosity is Five Bridges Road, running straight across the meadows, but which seems to have been extinguished as a highway, leaving it free of traffic. This was possibly at the same time as the controversial M3 works back in the 1990s.


Five Bridges Road, open for runners 🙂




Hockley railway viaduct was abandoned as part of the Beeching cuts in 1963. It has particular links to D-Day with huge amounts of hardware and troops using the route to the south coast in the preceding 12 months. Happily it has been recently restored and made available to the cycle network.


Hockley Viaduct

Finally, a bit of hill training up St Catherine’s Hill, an ancient hill fort, which gives great views of Winchester and the surrounding land.



St Catherine’s Hill – it’s gotta be done…


…just for the view.







(No Winchester Cathedral yet – that will be my final stop before flying home.)

Can’t beat a retreat

It’s the first one of these I’ve done since 2012 and it sure is the way to go. My hidey hole this time is the cathedral city of Winchester, a most pleasant place within easy striking distance of Jersey, and the English south coast.DSCN0405

My garret is an Airbnb in a terrace yards away from the remnants of Hyde Abbey where, in the year 1110, Alfred the Great was reinterred. A few yards onwards is the Hyde Tavern where, after a pint or two of strong ale, one can imagine the Saxons of old carousing and singing rugby songs.IMG_20180910_192545

So my days begin with a bit of a run through the spacious recreation grounds nearby, and onwards through the nature reserve along a section of the lovely River Itchen. Then a healthy breakfast in town before getting down to work.DSCN0395DSCN0397






Any blog followers who remain will know that this WIP is on the dark subject of human trafficking, particularly that of children enslaved to work in the brothels of Sonagachi, Kolkata. Whether or not anyone cares to read it, it’s a project I’ve been wanting to bring to fruition for a number of years now. And it’s going well. 10,500 words in my first three days bringing the story towards the endgame, 60,000 words in all to date.DSCN0407

Still plenty to do but now I can start thinking about edits, proofing etc. In particular I need some affirmations that, in writing of a location that I’ve never visited, and by writing the young female character in the first person, I’ve not made too many blunders.


Go forth. Act decent. Call your mother from time to time.

I rarely reblog, but here’s an exception written by Kristine, an American journo and top blogger. She sets out a single precept that we should all live by.


Author Simcha Fisher gets all the credit for my headline. It’s what was on the card I gave my recently minted high school grad last month. And it’s a mantra I wish I could brand into my fellow citizens here on planet earth.

My most cynical friends and I have been having a debate since the world got less civilized. Since it’s been ok for a standing president to insult women’s looks and intelligence. Since the Kardashians became people more interesting to the American public than authors, artists and educators with big ideas . Since we separate small children from the only people in the world who will love and protect them like no other. Wasn’t it Eminem that said: “Somewhere deep down there’s a decent human being in me, it just can’t be found?”

Let’s just say this debate amongst my friends has raged for a while.

They talk…

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In St Martin’s Church graveyard, Jersey

‘They had been married for 44 years, happily married, yet he had not shed tears at the funeral, or since.

Anne had left him quietly and in the natural way of things. Although sad, he had accepted her passing without fuss. He wondered about his reaction and had fully expected there to be some deferred effect, but this had not been so.DSCN0309

He moved on, slowly, reluctantly, before arriving at Charlie’s simple, white headstone. His great grandson, six weeks old. A simple inscription from his heartbroken parents and angels watching over Charlie from the corner of the headstone. As he knew there would be, tears streamed from Hedley’s eyes as he shook his head, turned, and walked away.’

From ‘A Jersey Midsummer Tale’

Idle Hour, Cork

I’m the opposite to a party animal. I like my pubs quiet and serving a perfect pint. But nearly seven years ago I recalled a cracking night in Cork.

Back On The Rock

Down at the fag-end of Cork city’s docks there’s a nondescript bar. Go in there most times and you’ll find it devoid of customers, atmosphere, anything. Just a wooden floor and some cheap chairs and tables. You drink your pint, read your paper and head off elsewhere. Yet venture in at weekends and you could be in a different time and place. Venture in on the Saturday night of a long (public holiday) weekend and you wouldn’t want to go anywhere else for your kicks. It’s busy getting on for 10 and good music is playing. You go in because you’re thirsty, Charlie’s Bar back down  the road was impossibly noisy and packed and anyway this is the last bar out this way.

Idle Hour, Cork

There are several barmen busy behind the small bar so you get served quickly enough once you manage to squeeze in at the counter…

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How Not to Sell Books

Haha. Apologies to any writers who have been sucked in by the title. I did my best to dissuade you really. See, I’m the very last person on the planet to give you tips on selling. Be it cars, real estate, electrical goods, fish, I just can’t sell. I’m rubbish. I’d have been a sad case back in the days when guys in cheap suits used to go door-to-door selling encyclopedias or hoovers.

‘Morning Madame, can I interest you in our latest…’
‘Not today, thank you.’
‘Oh right. Good day then.’ *Doffs hat, goes next door.*

door to door

I had a short, ill-fated spell in charge of an Irish fitness studio. Just as the global recession deepened in 2009. No one was interested in memberships, however deeply discounted. A silvery-tongued and trained salesman might have had different results.

As to books, I’ve written and self-published seven. They may not be classics but I’ve read worse. But I’ve never had the inclination to spend time marketing them. It’s like having a shop without a sign or a window display. And unsurprisingly I’m not in the Amazon best sellers list.

WCM cover

But then a strange thing happened. A surge in the sale of one title, A West Cork Mystery. We’re not talking millions here, or hundreds even. But for six months, sales were steady (though sadly they appear to be tailing off now.) Multiply the figures by seven and I’d be starting to recoup some costs from this writing malarkey.

sales graph

So tell me, what happened? Did I get a good review somewhere? (There are only a few on Amazon.) If I knew then I could try to exploit or replicate the matter.

P.S. If you disappointed writers have stuck with this post, here’s a tip. Follow and its Twitter feed. Of all the plentiful self-publishing and marketing advice out there, I always find their stuff digestible and practical. I might even start using some of it some day.

St Ouen, Jersey, on the run

It’s been a while since I did one of these Smilebox things. There’s nothing quite like heading out into Jersey’s lanes on a summer morning, but before it gets too warm.

Here I manage a gentle 11 miles or so, stopping frequently for a photo op, or a chat with friends. St Ouen is a country parish in the north-west of Jersey. There’s an old joke that you need a passport to cross the parish border. Certainly St Ouen marches to the beat of a slower drum.

So join me for a few minutes on a virtual run.

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Early evening, Les Blanches Banques

Yesterday evening I had an hour or so before I was due to pick up my little jogging group. The nearby sand dunes, the Blanches Banques on Jersey’s western shoreline beckoned. They were shrouded in mist and I was quickly into a timeless zone, one that would have been recognised by the original Neolithic settlers of this place.

And, armed with pocket camera, I was soon lost in this amazing and living landscape. Click on pics to enlarge, and for captions.

Our ancestors left us these. Did they foresee 21c joggers admiring them?

The Blanches Banques has a pretty special eco-system, ever-changing, delicate, with many unique or rare species of plants and insects.

A bit of more modern history, and nature’s defiance.

Always worth a visit and you always spot something new. And yes, I just about made it out of there to meet my group!

Here comes the (Jersey) sun

Mr Blue Sky please tell us why
You had to hide away for so long
Where did we go wrong
(Jeff Lynne)

It seems to have been a long and lonely winter. Wet and windy rather than particularly cold. For the first time I’m beginning to understand why so many retired UK folk head off to warmer climes for a few months.

Manx Loghtan sheep - Duncan Foster pic

Duncan Foster’s pic – Manx Loghtan sheep at Devil’s Hole on Jersey’s north coast.

I’ve not found it easy to get out running the miles that I need to stay in race shape. (A ponderous 54min 10k last weekend.) Good intentions the night before have too often vanished on seeing what the next Atlantic front has blown in. Jersey sure is a windy and exposed spot in the wintertime.


Lydie & Maureen with the sand dunes as a backdrop.







But maybe we’ve turned the corner. Jersey’s 45 square miles beckons once more. Its endless country lanes with their banks, hedges and ancient walls. Forbidding old granite houses, brighter new developments in keeping with the landscape. Lush farmland which just needs to dry out a little more to welcome the Jersey herds from their winter quarters.


Jersey’s south coast cliffs with Corbière lighthouse in the distance.

Then our coastal paths with breathtaking views of bays, cliffs, the other Channel Islands. Wooded trails, quietly and unobtrusively upkept when we’re not watching. And, for the observant, so many reminders of bygone days and echoes of those that preceded us.


In the woods, St Peter.


Old Jersey lavoir, designed as a communal laundry facility.

Here’s hoping for a long summer and to ending it in better shape than when I started.

Little darling, I feel the ice is slowly melting
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been clear
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
And I say it’s all right
(George Harrison)