And a Merry Christmas to You Too

It’s Christmas Eve.

 

People ask why I don’t like Christmas. I could reel out a string of reasons long enough to knit you a yuletide pullover, but here are a couple of the more poignant ones.

Thirty years ago today, we cremated my wife’s father after he died suddenly in the run-up to Christmas 1987. Yesterday would have been my mother’s 91st birthday, but she passed away almost 20 years ago.

Christmas serves to remind me of these two people who were important in my life. I had a great deal of respect for Ronnie, my father-in-law, who was a genuine military hero. As a crewman aboard The Amethyst, he lost a leg when she ran the gauntlet of Chinese guns on the Yangtze in 1949. My mother was a tiny, fierce woman, and she was the only person who ever had any measure of control over me.

There are other people also missing from my life: my younger brother (pictured above with me a long, long time ago) and my brother-in-law, both comparatively young men when they died. I also have stillborn grandchildren who I’m sure would have grown up into fine young women had they survived the trauma of childbirth.

If all this sounds a little gloom and doom, it perfectly sums up Christmas from my point of view.

There are upsides. Tomorrow, we’re at the first of the season’s parties, when we get together with Carol’s family. We don’t see so much of one another nowadays, and it’s always pleasant to see them.

And of course, reverting back to the original, pre-Christian midwinter celebration, the passing of the solstice means spring is right around the corner… Well, twelve weeks round the corner but it’s surprising how quickly time passes. Another few weeks and the days will be significantly longer, we’ll be sprucing up the lawnmower ready to swing into action, and we’ll be actively anticipating Benidorm.

Having said my piece, I will now clear off and let you get on with your festive frolics.

From me to all of you, have a happy Christmas, and I will be pestering you again this side of the New Year.

 

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And That’s Another One On Its Way

In amongst the furore of Christmas approaching with all the doom-laden inevitability of another rise in gas and electricity prices, yesterday saw the release of Sanford 3rd Age Club Mystery #16, The Squire’s Lodge Murders.

It’s hard to imagine that five years ago when Crooked Cat Books published the tale of a grumpy 3rd-ager and his two fun-loving, female companions, who turned a weekend in Filey into a murder investigation, that it would run to 16 books. I certainly didn’t plan for that length of series, and I must confess that a couple of years ago, I was bored with the entire thing. But Joe (RIP?) and his pals remain perennially popular, although for obvious reasons the jury is still out on this latest title. It hasn’t been out long enough to garner any reviews.

Peril in Palmanova appeared to mixed opinions. By and large, diehard STAC fans were disappointed. It was too short, and it left too many unanswered questions. The Squire’s Lodge Murders sees a return to a more detailed and (I hope) more intriguing, traditional mystery with a glut of murders and a range of suspects.

Does it answer the burning question of Joe’s fate? I’m not going to tell you. If you want to know, you’ll have to read it. It might do. But then again, as I said to my good friend Lesley Cookman, author of the Libby Sarjeant series, I may choose to string you along for several more books.

That is a hint, by the way, that the Sanford 3rd Age Club Mysteries are far from finished. There will be more, but I can’t yet say when they will appear. To begin with, there are issues of a highly confidential nature bubbling away in the background, and for obvious reasons, I can’t discuss these. I’ll make the announcement at the appropriate time.

Beyond that, more importantly, I’m working on a new series, the first of which will be due out early in the New Year. Not exactly hard-boiled, but certainly not cosy, these are crime novels, and I’ll tell you more about them as we get nearer to the launch of the first title.

For now, The Squire’s Lodge Murders is available as an e-book exclusive to Amazon, and you can find it at:

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

And it’s also available in paperback from Amazon.

 

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On The Sick List… Again

Three weeks now, and I cannot shake off this damned infection. I’ve undergone three courses of antibiotics, one of them quite powerful, and still I’m stuffed up, coughing up crap, breathing like a man of 90, unable to sleep, unable to focus for longer than a few minutes at a time. Oh, and I’m thoroughly pissed off.

The Squire’s Lodge Murders, the 16th Sanford 3rd Age Club Mystery, launches on Wednesday, and theoretically I should be gearing up for it, but I don’t know if I’ll be well enough to do anything about it, other than chuck up the occasional plug. I may yet manage a launch do on Facebook, but it’s likely to be short, and video, which is usually so popular, is out of the question. Remember Billy Connolly’s voice like a goose farting in the fog? Well I have a voice like a frog farting in a snowstorm. Even the speech recognition software is struggling to understand me.

And talking of speech recognition software, my son-in-law, Tim Gates, recently purchased a new version of Dragon Speak Naturally, and he very kindly passed his old software to me. My PC is so ancient it won’t run modern software. It’s steam powered, and the turbine is operated by a trained budgie, who spends most of the day pedalling away in exchange for birdseed and millet. I bought it from the Flintstones. The PC, I mean, not the budgie.

This older version of Dragon runs well on my machine, and I have to say that 12 hours after first installing it, I find it very responsive. There are certain areas which don’t work as well as the Microsoft inbuilt speech recognition program. For example, when working with MS Word, the AutoCorrect function doesn’t work properly, which is a bit of a bugger, because my typing is so bad that I make extensive use of AutoCorrect, usually for character names and locations.

Doubtless, there will be a workaround to cater for this, and I’ll get there one day. For the time being, Dragon allows me to write (I use the word write when what I really mean is speak) much faster and more accurately than I can with my stubby, arthritic fingers attacking the keyboard.

For the time being, all I can say is don’t forget the release of The Squire’s Lodge Murders on Wednesday. Will we learn what happened to Joe? I’m not going to tell you (evil cackle). You can do like everyone else and read the bloody book if you really want to know.

Keep your eyes peeled on Facebook for a possible launch thrash.


Peril in Palmanova, Sanford 3rd Age Club Mystery #15, published by Crooked Cat Books, exclusive to Amazon at:

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide


The Squire’s Lodge Murders, Sanford 3rd Age Club Mystery #16 published by Crooked Cat Books, on December 13th 2017, and is available for pre-order at:

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

 

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Warning Lights

In case you haven’t noticed, the temperature over these last few days has been low enough to send your average polar bear shopping for thermal underwear. To boot, I’ve been very ill… again. So has the missus, and as per usual she blames me. Whatever’s wrong with her, she claims she caught it from me. I find this odd. To my certain knowledge, insanity is not contagious.

Be that as it may, I didn’t really need any more problems, but yesterday the car decided to throw a tantrum. The battery warning light came on and stayed on. This usually indicates that the alternator is on the blink.

So this morning I tootled off down to one of these motorists supermarkets, where they sell everything from windscreen wipers to cans of matchpot paint for touching up the bodywork, and I asked them to run a battery and alternator check. The young fella, who’s probably studying for his 11-plus during the week, assured me that the battery was knackered. In the meantime, the offending warning light had gone out, indicating that there was nothing wrong. So I asked him to carry out an alternator check… And he didn’t know how to do it.

As luck would have it, I did, and with everything running, headlamps, heater fan, front and rear windscreen wipers, hazard flashers, et al, the battery charge was still above 12 volts, and I had the suspicion that he was simply trying to sell me a new battery at a cost of £70.00.

Although we may never know why the battery warning light came on and stayed on, I suspect it had something to do with the cold weather and trick wiring.

Fortunately, I know about cars, and I’m not easy to con. After checking the vehicle over, we both agreed that the only thing really wrong was a shortage of indicator fluid for the CD player.


Peril in Palmanova, Sanford 3rd Age Club Mystery #15, published by Crooked Cat Books, exclusive to Amazon at:

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide


The Squire’s Lodge Murders, Sanford 3rd Age Club Mystery #16 published by Crooked Cat Books, on December 13th 2017, is available for pre-order at:

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

 

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Breathless

No, missus, this is not a phallic symbol, nor an artistic interpretation of the Northampton Lighthouse (which was actually a lift-testing tower). It’s a vaper.

I’m now in the worst throes of chest problems that I’ve suffered for a good few years. This is the third infection I’ve had in the last three weeks, and it’s proving an absolute bastard to get rid of. I’ve already had three courses of antibiotics, and I’m now swallowing six spoonfuls of liquid shit every day in an effort to loosen the crap clogging up my pipes.

A little under three years ago, I ran into the same problem and ended up at North Manchester General. As a result of that, I stopped smoking.

In the weeks that followed, I felt so much better, and the surprising thing was I had no withdrawal symptoms. It was cold turkey, sure, but I was so unwell than I didn’t notice any of the usual side effects.

I went three months without a cigarette, and it never troubled me, other than one time, and what happened? I bought a packet of fags and before you knew it, I was back on 40 a day.

I’m in the same position now as I was that January night in North Manchester, with the possible exception that I’m at home rather than hanging around A & E, and I’ve just taken the decision again.

As of now, I am a non-smoker. I quit. I’ve had enough of the weed dictating my life. I will never touch another cigarette for the rest of my life.

Course, I’ve said this before, and it’s all come to nothing, but this time I have a secret weapon and it’s the vaper.

From now on, the only smoke in this house will be electronically generated… Except when the trouble and strife is cooking chips, and forgets about them while she’s watching Strictly.


Peril in Palmanova, Sanford 3rd Age Club Mystery #15, published by Crooked Cat Books, exclusive to Amazon at:

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide


The Squire’s Lodge Murders, Sanford 3rd Age Club Mystery #16 published by Crooked Cat Books, on December 13th 2017, is available for pre-order at:

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

 

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Of Cat Attacks & Rapper Tracks

Notwithstanding fog and heavy rain, I’ve been out this morning, paying a visit to the optician.

Regular readers will know that a couple of weeks back, I broke my glasses. They proved beyond repair so this morning I went for my eye test, which because I’m diabetic is supposed to happen every 12 months. I wasn’t far out. It’s only 2½ years since the last test.

We went through the usual rigmarole: which line can I read on the chart (printed in Huddersfield) does this lens make the circle appear clearer or fuzzier (what circle) and so on.

Delivering her summary, the optician, a pleasant young woman who reminded me of Mina Anwar, said I had two small cat attacks, but they were nothing to worry about.

I found this slightly disconcerting for the simple reason that we don’t own a cat. True, we do get them calling into the garden, but usually when we open the back door they bugger off.

Determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, I asked, “What do we do about them?”

“Normally, they zap them with a laser.”

I was appalled. I mean, I prefer dog to cats, but I wouldn’t hurt your bog standard moggie. “Isn’t that a bit extreme?” I asked. “And how did these cats get to attack me in the first place?”

The light dawned in her eyes. “Not cat attacks,” she shouted. “Rapper tracks.”

As far as I was concerned, this was just as mysterious. “Well, I can’t understand that. I only listen to classical music, not rap.”

She groaned. “CAT-ARE-ACTS. Don’t you have any hearing aids, Mr Robinson?”

“Course I do. But who takes hearing aids along for an eye test?”


Peril in Palmanova, Sanford 3rd Age Club Mystery #15, published by Crooked Cat Books, exclusive to Amazon at:

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide


The Squire’s Lodge Murders, Sanford 3rd Age Club Mystery #16 published by Crooked Cat Books, on December 13th 2017, is available for pre-order at:

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

 

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Five Hours Of My Life And £15.00 In Taxi Fares I’ll Never Get Back

I started feeling manky about three o’clock yesterday afternoon. Light headed, shivery, excessively fatigued. I couldn’t work out what was wrong. I’ve just come to the end of a course of antibiotics to combat a chest infection, so it couldn’t be anything to do with that.

Time passed and at half past six I finally rang the doctor’s out-of-hours service, and they asked me to come down and see them at the local hospital. We left our house at a quarter to eight. We wouldn’t come back until quarter to one in the morning. And because I felt so rough, I couldn’t drive so we had to poppy up for taxis both ways (total cost, £15.00).

In between times, the out-of-hours GP sent me to A & E where, after hanging around for an hour with the sick, lame, lazy, and drunk, I underwent assessments with the triage nurse, an A & E nurse, and a junior doctor. He ordered a full set of bloods, a couple of paracetamol to get my temperature down, and a set of chest X rays.

And the upshot of all this is another chest infection. An absolutely humongous infection which, if I hadn’t spoken to the medics, would probably have floored me by this morning.

As it is, I’m on a second course of antibiotics: Clarithromycin 500mg, twice a day, and Amoxicillin 500mg three times a day.

One of the most extraordinary things to come out of the entire fiasco is the state of my lungs. I’m a heavy smoker, I already suffer with COPD, and I would have expected the X rays to show some serious deterioration. They didn’t. For someone as clapped out as me, they’re in reasonable fettle. Not good, but not as bad as I would have expected.

So there you have it. Another fun-packed night in the Robinson household. My thanks, as always, go to the dedicated NHS staff who have to put up with pains in the arse like me.


Peril in Palmanova, Sanford 3rd Age Club Mystery #15, published by Crooked Cat Books, exclusive to Amazon at:

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide


The Squire’s Lodge Murders, Sanford 3rd Age Club Mystery #16 published by Crooked Cat Books, on December 13th 2017, is available for pre-order at:

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

 

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They Say It Comes In Threes

I was having a good day yesterday. After the exhausting trip around Blackpool on Saturday, I slept really well, but I was still up early and hammering away at the keyboard (or chatting away into the microphone) by seven o’clock. By the time Her Indoors saw the light of day about half past twelve, I’d added almost 5,000 words to my WIP, my Nano project.

As a matter of interest that now stands at 11,500 words, and I’m well on target to complete 50,000 words before the end of the month.

I digress. Let’s get back to the main thrust of this post.

By one o’ clock yesterday afternoon I was feeling the pinch and in need of an hour’s sleep. I shut everything down, drank off the dregs of my cup of tea, and with the intention of hitting the settee for an hour, took my glasses off.

And right at that moment everything crashed.

As I took the glasses off, the arm came away. A couple of expletives later, armed with jeweller’s screwdrivers, I set about repairing them only to discover that for technical reasons which I won’t go into, mainly because I don’t understand them, they were beyond repair.

This was a disaster. Aside from a matching pair of sunglasses made up to the same prescription, they’re the only glasses I possess. I can’t drive without them, and because they’re varifocals, I can’t read or use the computer without them. I didn’t fancy working on the computer or reading or even driving in sunglasses, so we shot off down to the opticians at the supermarket where I always go for my glasses, where they carried out emergency surgery, knocking out the lenses from the sunglasses and putting the plain lenses in that frame.

I’m diabetic. I’m supposed to have my eyes tested every year, but working on the principle of if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, I tend to go every three years. So, after much finger wagging and tut-tutting from the optician’s assistant, I’ve made an appointment for an eye test and new goggles next Monday.

The missus insisted on coming with me yesterday. God knows why. She doesn’t drive so it’s not as if she could take over if the mangled glasses fell off my nose. When we got to the supermarket, while I negotiated with the optician, I learned precisely why she’d come with me. She wandered off looking at the Christmas goodies. And as I came away with my repaired speccy-takels, she insisted on picking up a few things in the way of Christmas gifts.

Now remember, at this point the only thing that is gone wrong with my day is a pair of broken face irons.

I always use shop and scan, and as she picked up these bits and pieces, I scanned them and grumbled about the price. The missus handed me three items of female persuasion, which I scanned and dropped into the trolley. Then she saw a better deal, and swapped the items over. Because we’re using shop and scan, the original items have to be removed and the new ones added, which I did. Then she changed her mind again, so I went through the same process again.

As luck would have it, I’m a Yorkshireman. People accuse us of being tight-fisted. Nonsense. Cautious is the word I would use, especially where money is concerned. So, as I made my way to the checkout, I looked at the amount she’d spent on these ‘Christmas bits and bobs’ (her description, not mine). It came to coppers over £47.00.

The next stage of the process is scanning everything into the checkout. Because some of these things were security tagged, I had to call an assistant to remove said tags. While this is going on Her Indoors shows up with a bottle of scent for herself, priced £12.00. I’m grumbling that I’ve already scanned everything in, she’s grumbling then she wants this bottle of toilet water, and the assistant is grumbling that it’s time for her tea break, and somewhere in amongst all this confusion, the bottle of scent was added and the price rocketed to over £70.00.

Call me old fashioned, but when I was a lad 47 plus 12 came to 59, not 71. It took another 10 minutes to sort it all out, I got the price back down to £59.00, and I still don’t know what went wrong. I do know that the assistant had missed her tea break and that my temper was on the up. So much so that I walked out of the shop and scan area without paying for the goods.

I’ve been accused of many things in my life, sometimes justifiably so, but I’ve never been a thief. Fortunately, I realised the mistake before I got to the tobacco counter, went back and paid for the purchases.

Driving home in high dudgeon, confident that my glasses wouldn’t fall off my face, I figured that was two strikes and I had another one to go. That happened later in the afternoon, but it’s of a confidential nature, so I can’t tell you anything about it. Suffice to say, it put the seal on what had started as a fine day and ended up nothing short of an unmitigated, bloody disaster.


Peril in Palmanova, Sanford 3rd Age Club Mystery #15, published by Crooked Cat Books, exclusive to Amazon at:

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide


 

The Squire’s Lodge Murders, Sanford 3rd Age Club Mystery #16 published by Crooked Cat Books, on December 13th 2017, is available for pre-order at:

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

 

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It’s not that time again is it?

November 5th. Today is the day when we in Great Britain celebrate the anniversary of the last man to enter parliament with truly honourable intentions: Guy Fawkes.

He was a bit of a berk, mind you. Apparently when he laid his barrels of gunpowder, he tapped the sergeant-at-arms on the shoulder and asked, “Have you got a light, chum?”

I know all about this because my granddaughter is a historian.

With Guy Fawkes Night out of the way, we turn our attention to the dreaded big C… Christmas (cue theme from Jaws).

I’m not religious. The last time I was in church it was to give the vicar a quote for re-grouting the tiles in the lavatory. I don’t ram my atheism down anyone’s throat, and I don’t appreciate them trying to ram their faith down mine. So to me, Christmas is a secular event.

It’s also a humongous drain on finances. Her Indoors spends money like it’s about to go out of fashion and she needs to get rid of it as quickly as possible. Contrary to popular opinion, and not simply a tightwad; I’m a professional tightwad. I’m one of those who switches the gas off to turn the bacon over. Where the missus will snap up a tube of toothpaste for £1.00, I’ll walk another half mile through the rain, fog, sleet and snow to get the same toothpaste for 99p.

It goes against the grain, therefore, to lash out literally hundreds of pounds, most of which is spent on other people, to celebrate a festival which as far as I’m concerned isn’t festive. I meanersay, it comes at the darkest, coldest time of year, a time when common sense tells you that the best policy is to stay indoors. And what do we do? Trail here, there and everywhere for family parties. And because taxi fares are so outrageous (where does anyone get the brass balls to charge the thick end of £20.00 for a six-mile journey) I have to drive, which means I can’t have a drink. For me, then, Christmas means celebrating with a glass of lemonade, and since I’m diabetic it should be a glass of sugar-free lemonade, which as we all know, tastes like cat piss and soda on the rocks.

And as we move through November, my missus, will ask the inevitable question, “What do you want for Christmas?”

QWell, I’d settle for an hour with the young lass across the street. She’d probably bring on a heart attack, but the undertaker would never get the smile off my face.


Peril in Palmanova, Sanford 3rd Age Club Mystery #15, published by Crooked Cat Books, exclusive to Amazon at:

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide


The Squire’s Lodge Murders, Sanford 3rd Age Club Mystery #16 published by Crooked Cat Books, on December 13th 2017, is available for pre-order at:

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

 

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Cough, Cough, Ouch

It’s been a while, but yesterday I woke up in some considerable pain, which I recognised immediately as a chest infection, and I had to go dashing to see the doctor.

I was right. I’ve had so many of them that when it comes to these things, it’s not often that I get it wrong. I’d been feeling manky for a couple of days, but the cause only made its presence known yesterday morning when I woke up to a stabbing pain every time I took a breath.

It’s self-inflicted. I’ve been a heavy smoker for almost 50 years. You can’t do that without inflicting serious damage, and I have breathing difficulties all the time. I can’t leave home, not even to go to the shops, without carrying my Ventolin inhaler. And I keep promising myself I’ll do something about it but it never seems to happen.

I did stop two years ago. A similar situation to now. I had a serious chest infection, a lot worse than the one I’m suffering now, and over the space of three days I reduced my tobacco intake to zero.

I went three months without a smoke, and it didn’t trouble me one iota. Then one fine Saturday morning we were out shopping in Manchester, and we got into a blazing row. Don’t ask me what the row was about. Like all our arguments it’ll have been something trivial like the cost of sausage rolls rising by a penny. Anyway there we were arguing like hell, she stormed off in one direction, I went in the other, and said to myself, ‘Why do I bother?’ Whereupon I ducked into a newsagent’s, bought a pack of 20 cigarettes, and before you knew it, I was back on 40 a day.

Before the bombardment of well-intentioned advice begins, let me tell you that I know and have tried every anti-smoking method in the book. I trained as a hypnotist specifically to deal with the pain of arthritis, but found it just as useless when it comes to stopping smoking. I’ve done all the other ‘tried and tested and certain’ methods and none worked.

You see, there’s a little secret to stopping smoking which none of these methods stress. You have to want to stop… and I don’t.

There are those situations where I’m quite comfortable without. A long flight, for example. You can’t smoke on aircraft these days, and it doesn’t bother me. Theoretically then, if I can go without a cigarette for hours and hours on end, I should be able to go without forever. But I don’t want to.

I don’t drink, I don’t gamble (the missus took care of that by pinching all my money) I don’t seek out the company of loose women (if they’re that loose, they’d probably fall off me) so smoking is the one vice I permit myself.

And before you tell me that I’m a drain on the NHS, forget it. One course of antibiotics every 18 months is not likely to bankrupt the state healthcare system, and there are bigger drains on it than me.

Naturally, I intend stopping. I just haven’t found the time to fit it into my busy schedule yet. I’ll get there. In the meantime, I’ll keep swallowing the penicillin and coughing up crap.

Yesterday wasn’t all bad. I got back from the doctor’s just after ten o’clock and found an Amazon parcel on the doormat. It was my paperback copy of The Squire’s Lodge Murders. The ebook is scheduled for release on December 13th, but it’s available for pre-order right now (see below). Paperbacks are not subject to the pre-order system, so the moment they’re posted to the Amazon site, they’re available for purchase, and if you feel like treating yourself to six quid’s worth of Sanford 3rd Age Club mayhem and mystery, you can find it at:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Squires-Lodge-Murders-16-Sanford/dp/197929805X/

Alternatively, if you’d rather wait for the ebook, you can pre-order it on one of the links below.

That’s it for now. Have a good weekend and I’ll catch you on the flipside.


Peril in Palmanova, Sanford 3rd Age Club Mystery #15, published by Crooked Cat Books, exclusive to Amazon at:

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide


The Squire’s Lodge Murders, Sanford 3rd Age Club Mystery #16 published by Crooked Cat Books, on December 13th 2017, is available for pre-order at:

Amazon UK

Amazon Worldwide

 

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