My Little Angel

In April 2017, my daughter, Angela Gates, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of motor neurone disease known as progressive bulbar palsy. The life expectancy from diagnosis is between six months and two years.

Despite the unexpected trauma, Angela greeted this condition with a fierce determination to fight all the way, an attitude that is entirely consistent with her approach to life. But there is only ever one outcome with MND, and sadly Angela lost her battle on Sunday, 18 November. She was just 49 years of age. She died suddenly and peacefully, and the only positive her family can take from this is that she is free of this terrible condition.

While our thoughts are naturally with her husband, Tim, and daughters Victoria and Hannah, it’s also a time to reflect upon her life.

Conceived out of wedlock, born after her parents hurried into marriage, she was a cheerful child, one who could light up a room with her giggles. When she was eight years old, my wife and I split up and divorced a year later. Traumatic enough for any child, but life-changing for her and her brothers at such a young age, and yet she maintained her essentially bright outlook.

After leaving school and going on to college, she became a legal secretary, and eventually gave that up to become a mother at the age of 23. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Her first two children, Charlotte and Laura, were stillborn, but her pregnancies were so far advanced that the unfortunate babies had to be named and granted a Christian burial.

Angela greeted what many young couples would consider a complete disaster with her usual strength and stoicism, and her motherhood wish was granted in 1995 when Victoria, was born. Hannah followed a year and some months later.

It seemed at this point that her life was complete, and it was enhanced some years later when she successfully secured a degree from the Park Lane annex of the University of Leeds.

More trauma waited in the future, when her marriage to Derek broke down. This is neither the time nor the place to go into the reasons for that, but at length she settled down with the man who would become her second husband, Tim Gates. Angela was happy, content, planning to marry, when the devastating blow of MND hit her.

She would not let an irrelevance like a totally debilitating disease stand in her way, and in August 2017, it was my pride and pleasure to escort her into the wedding room where she would become Mrs Gates. I enjoy making videos, but pride of place in my collection is one that I did not produce. It’s the video of Angela defying the speech impediment imposed by MND to say, “I do.”

Despite her deteriorating condition, she never lost her sense of humour, and I recall her chuckling at my suggestion that once the arthritis finally cripples me, she and I could hold wheelchair races round the local supermarket.

We live some distance away, and the last time I saw her was about four weeks ago when she was recuperating in a hospice in North Leeds. She was completely without speech, communicating via a whiteboard and marker pens, but even then, she could still smile at my reference to her ‘Darth Vader’ breath mask, she could still pass the occasional flippant remark, and she was hellbent on getting home, back to a life which was anything but normal, but which she so desperately wanted.

At the same time, she never lost her selflessness. In conversation with my granddaughters, I learned that she had already made plans for Victoria’s wedding, scheduled for 2020. Angela knew she would never make it, so instead she planned to arrange for Hannah to deliver a card on her behalf. It’s entirely typical of Angela to be thinking of others when faced with her own insurmountable troubles.

Some memories come readily to me. On my 49th birthday, she sent me a card which read, “One to go to the big five-oh”, in response to which I commented, there’s nothing like reminding the old man of his advancing years.

When she was a baby, I’d been delegated the responsibility of bathing her in front of the fire. She was about nine months old, and she did not want to get out of the bath. So I left her to play while the water was still warm, and she was in fits of giggles as she used the lid of the soap dish to scoop water out and throw it all over the carpet.

I remember just a few years ago when she jumped out of an aeroplane, skydiving in aid of Tommy, the charity supporting research into stillbirths. I like flying, but as I said at the time, I prefer to stay inside the aeroplane. Naturally, she had an instructor tied to her back.

But that was Angela. Courageous, determined, good-humoured, filled with an overwhelming joie de vivre which let nothing stand in her way.

She leaves behind a husband and two wonderful daughters. She also has three brothers and a half-sister, and of course her parents ­­– myself and my wife, my ex-wife and her husband – and we are all, naturally, devastated by her passing. there are also many, many friends, people whose lives she touched and illuminated with her selfless geniality and sparkling humour. Nothing can fill that gap other than our memories of Angela… Not Angela as she became, but Angela as she was; the bright, sprightly girl, the woman of indomitable spirit and courage, the girl with the smile in her voice.

Angela kept a blog Entitled ‘Little Legs’, a self-deprecating chuckle at her diminutive size. In its latter stages, she detailed the slow progress of the disease. The last entry was in April of this year.  you can find it at: https://angie1926.wordpress.com/

Victoria too kept a blog, entitled ‘Daughter of MND”. A frank and open discussion on what she and her sister were going through as they watched their mother slowly deteriorate, you can catch up with that at: https://daughterofmnd.wordpress.com/

Tim wrote a short book detailing their life and marriage from his point of view. Entitled ‘Marrying MND’ it’s available from Amazon, and all proceeds from the book go to the Motor Neurone Disease Association, a charity devoted to helping sufferers, and contributing to research into this devastating condition. You can find more details at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Marrying-MND-Our-minutes-fame-ebook/dp/B078W7BQYW/

My thanks go to the staff at Leeds General infirmary, and Saint Gemma’s Hospice, Leeds, and the MNDA for the care and assistance they gave to my daughter throughout this appalling episode.

A year and a half ago, just after Angela was diagnosed, I put up a post dedicated to my dog, Joe. He was terminally ill and we’d had him put to sleep. I said at the time that it was the most difficult post I had ever written in 10 years of blogging and 30 years of writing. This piece, dedicated to my wonderful daughter, has now claimed the title.

Angela, we love you and miss you.

Angela Gates: June 28, 1969 – 18 November, 2018

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Hello Ena

Did you know that today is Hello Ena… well, most people pronounce it Hello Een, but I’ve never heard of anyone with named Een, so I think they must mean Ena.

It coincides with the 2nd day of the Crooked Cat sale, and there are hundreds of books reduced to 99p/99ȼ (excl taxes). It’s exclusive to Amazon. So what are you waiting for? Get over there, and get them while they’re hot and cheap.

You can find links to all my titles on this site at:

http://www.dwrob.com/my-books/the-sanford-3rd-age-club-mysteries/

Tonight, of course, is the night the witches ride, but I didn’t realise how modernised the black magic industry has become until the last time I was in Leeds, when I found the ex-wife servicing her vacuum cleaner, the modern day equivalent of a broomstick.

I don’t know why I’m telling you all this, because you already know it, but what you might not know is that you can have this level of idiocy delivered direct to your inbox every so often (I haven’t worked out yet whether that’s once a month, once every two months, or when I can be bothered).

All you have to do is sign up to my newsletter. You’ll find a link near the top of the page, and if you can’t find it, I’ll repeat it here:

http://www.dwrob.com/newsletter/

If, like me, you spend a fair whack of your time on social media, you will know that there are hundreds, thousands of authors out there offering you free books to sign up to their newsletters. What am I offering?

Nothing. I’m a Yorkshireman. What else would you expect? I don’t give books away… well, I do, but I usually give them to charity shops, and it’s only then because I need the space in the spare room.

Instead, I will shower you with my innate wit (aka cynical, neo-stupidity) and there will be news of new releases, news of forthcoming live video, news of un-live videos, by which I mean recorded, not  zombie movies. And there will be irresistible offers of cheap (and odd free) books, and contributions from other authors, all wrapped up in my heartily felt joie de vivre. You never know, I may even tell you why I think most of this world needs a good chuckle.

So that link again, in case you missed it: http://www.dwrob.com/newsletter/

Go on. You know you want to.

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Facebook Live 30th October 2018 Halloween

I’ll be running weekly FB live sessions every Tuesday. Pure daft.

Enjoy.

 

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Off, I have never been so…

It’s 8 months to the day since my last post, so grab yourself a cup of tea and pin your lugholes back: I’ve a lot to tell you.

A couple of weeks back my car napped it. Fuel pump shot. Only, as it turned out, it wasn’t the fuel pump. It was the electronic control unit for the pump. Estimated repair cost: £800-£900. The value of car: £200. No contest. I got £80 for it scrap.

A couple of days ago, I bought a replacement. The guy wanted £750 for it, but he came up against one of the toughest negotiators in the business – my wife. She beat him down to £650. The last we saw of him as we drove away, he was sobbing into his wallet which wasn’t quite as full as he’d anticipated

My new, second hand rustbucket is an ageing Renault Clio 1.2. It’s not pretty to look at, but then again neither am I. As long as it gets me where I’m going, and that’s not far these days, I’m happy.

Chuffed to have saved £100, I got onto my insurers to change the car details, which usually incurs an administration charge of about £40. No chance. Cost of changing insurance: £144. Bear in mind that it was only the car that was changing. Nothing else. After the customary screaming fit, I shopped around to try and find a decent quote and I got one or two which were reasonable. But when I took into cancellation charges on my current policy, which is only halfway through the year, I would have still ended up paying through the nose.

So much for saving £100 on the cost of the car.

Other problems are less amenable to such rapid, if expensive resolution. A part of the reason I’ve been quiet for so long is deteriorating health. Arthritis, COPD, type II diabetes. I’m pushing up towards the big 7-0 and these things happen. Most of it a self-inflicted, so I don’t moan too much, but it is seriously debilitating.

Beyond that I’m concerned for my daughter Angela, who has Motor Neurone Disease.

In addition, one of my sons is having relationship problems, while another son is suffering similar health problems to mine. Of the fourth child, I’ve heard nothing for months.

I’m not trying to depress you, but this awful set of circumstances has taken its toll on my creativity and productivity. Mind you, I’m assuming you missed me. For all I know, you might be saying, ‘Thank God for a bit of peace and quiet’.

I’m slowly getting back into the swing of writing. For fans of the Sanford 3rd Age Club Mysteries, there will be nothing new until early next year, at which point the rights to the series will revert to me. This is not a reflection on Crooked Cat Books, who as far as I’m concerned, have done an excellent job over the last six years. For contractual reasons, I’m not at liberty to say anything more. When the rights come back to me, the series will be republished with fresh covers, and I hope to be picking up where we left off with Squire’s Lodge Murders.

Despite the hiatus of the last eight months, Robert Devine made his debut with reprints of two former Crooked Cat titles. Voices is now republished as Ghosts, and The Handshaker has reappeared as Dominus, both now owned by me and authored by Robert Devine.

Why the pen name? David Robinson is best known for light-hearted works, and these books, universally acclaimed as top drawer, sold very poorly. People could not square the dark and gritty tales with a writer who routinely laughs at the world.

Robert Devine has more titles in the offing, including sequel(s) to Dominus. For more information you should go to:

http://www.robertdevine.uk/

There’s very little on the site at the moment, but you can register your interest, and Mr Devine is likely to begin blogging soon.

And that’s about it for this entry, so drink your tea before it gets cold.

Oh, there is one last thing. I almost forgot.

Today sees the start of the ‘internationally famous’ CROOKED CAT SUMMER SALE.

All my titles are reduced to 99p on the Amazon UK site, and there are similar reductions on the worldwide site. Aside from that there are hundreds of other bargains from Crooked Cat.

So if you’re new to the Sanford 3rd Age Club Mysteries, you can pick up all sixteen for less than twenty quid.

Why are you waiting? Go to:

http://www.dwrob.com/my-books/the-sanford-3rd-age-club-mysteries/

For more information.

See you later.

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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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