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Sunday 28 April 2013

Step One - Being the Pack Leader

In the books it sounds so incredibly simple: you must teach your puppy that you are the pack leader or he will believe he is the Alpha dog, which is stressful for him and will make life difficult for you.

Step one – something as simple as going for a walk.

“Always leave the house first – the pack leader is always in front.”

So, following the instructions, I stand erect, have a confident air, step into the sunshine, wind or rain and walk briskly and...yank. At the end of the lead is a dead weight. Bertie sits on the threshold looking up at the sky with a bemused expression, which says, “I think I’ll just stay here. You go, if you like.”

Much commanding, cajoling with treats and eventually lifting outside, later...

“Make sure your dog walks either beside you or slightly behind you. You are the pack leader.”

Fair enough...

Off Bertie goes ahead of me. He is far quicker and more agile than I am and for a while there is good deal of rather undignified jostling for front position...

“If your dog runs ahead, call him to you or tell him to sit.”

There is something particularly humiliating about calling, “Sit!” in a public place, while being dragged along by a small Bichon who is great at sitting in the kitchen when I have treats in my hand and we are alone (“Yes,” he says, “I can adopt the cutest and most well-behaved pose – anything for a puppy treat!”) but outdoors, treats are insignificant compared to the countless smells to be explored.

Next thing, he weaves a sort of web with the lead as I try to pull it in and I find my legs so bound that if I try to move I will fall over. Bertie sits down and...if you have ever seen a Bichon, you will know that they can and do laugh!

We make some progress eventually and things fall into place until Bertie decides he doesn’t want to walk anymore and I end up carrying him halfway home. I arrive back exhausted. He licks my face as though we had a wonderful time...and now he wants to play...and the games he chooses...well that’s another story. And now it’s time for a walk. Okay, stand erect, shoulders back...I am the pack leader...

Thursday 25 April 2013

Happy Birthday, Princess Alice!

Happy Birthday, Princess Alice!
As I am currently working on a new biography of Princess Alice, which hopefully will be out within three to five months, I have been thinking a great deal of Alice’s connection to Osborne House and what an idyll that place was for her. It is very touching that the gardens and Swiss Cottage remain as they did in Alice’s day and I think nowhere quite captures the spirit of Alice’s childhood like that part of the Osborne estate.

Wednesday 17 April 2013


A few days ago I got a new little Bichon Frise puppy who is such a delightful and lovely little fellow that I wanted to put his picture on the blog. He is called Bertie after Prince Albert (although Prince Albert never went by the name Bertie, Albert was not quite right for this little chap!)

He is so quick and so clever that I am amazed by him!! 

Wednesday 10 April 2013

A Patent on Vegetables and Fruits?

This morning, I received an invitation to sign a petition, which I urge you to consider:
It seems that time and time again, without the knowledge of the vast majority of the population, laws are passed to profit certain companies at the expense of the health and freedom of the rest of the world. More and more people are waking up to these shameful practices but so many of us feel powerless when governments and government agencies are involved.

It seems to me that so much of what is wrong and has ever been wrong in the world, is the result of shady deals carried out in secrecy. This was true – as I found startling evident while researching my Shattered Crowns trilogy – of the way in which the nations of the world were dragged into the horrors of WW1; it has been true of numerous other disasters for humanity. Once these behind-the-scenes deals are brought into the light and we are no longer brainwashed by the doctored news force-fed by many newspapers and television stations, the secrecy is dispelled and so, too, is the darkness in which these people carry out their evil plans.

This sounds very extreme and, some years ago, I would have been reluctant to believe it and would have dismissed it as nonsense, but we need only look around the world and ask ourselves a few questions such as, “Why is cancer suddenly far more prevalent than it ever was in the past? What is in our food, which was never there before? Why are there suddenly dozens and dozens of adverts in every TV break stressing cancer and other ailments – do they want us to have these things imprinted in our psyche???”

Why do we go on believing the scare stories that politicians tell us...such as there is a world food shortage and so we must succumb to allowing companies to profit from doctoring what is natural and from withdrawing from sale certain herbs, which have been used beneficially for centuries, so people do not have access to the means of tending their own health?

I heard an interesting statement once which made me question why I had never thought of it before! How many people take daily medication – which profits drug companies enormously? Is it impossible to heal certain physical problems, and necessary only to control them? Or, is it more profitable to provide drugs, the side-effects of which mean it is necessary to take other drugs, and make a fortune out of keeping a nation chronically sick?

An excellent video: Forks over Knives, shows the way in which many people whom doctors have diagnosed as terminally ill or incurable, have restored their health by changing their diet...and yet now companies have the arrogance to assume they can go even further into doctoring the food we eat...and ridiculous politicians back them!!! 

Please consider signing the petition, if not for your own sake, for the sake of your children and future generations!

Some other interesting articles:

Wake up World!

Undermining democracy and public health


Saturday 6 April 2013

The Alphabetical Quiz Book

If you enjoy quizzes, you might enjoy my new little 'Alphabetical Quiz Book' which is made up of twenty-six quizzes - one for each letter of the alphabet from Art to Zoology - each with twenty-six questions, the answers to which are also alphabetical (yes, even including twenty-six answers which begin with 'X').

I created the book during a brief break from working on my next 'proper' book which I hope will be available within six months.

"The Alphabetical Quiz Book" is available in both paperback and Kindle format worldwide. (In the Kindle format the answers can be found by following a link at the end of each quiz, and, in paperback, the answers are at the back of the book).

Monday 1 April 2013

The Murphy-Arcadelt Chronicles

I was fascinated to read of the novels of Peter M. Cooke, author of the Murphy-Arcadelt Chronicles - a series of seven novels spanning the years 1900 to 1963 and following the fortunes of two families whose lives are intertwined - as I am unaware of any other novel or series which features the Salvation Army at the beginning of the 20th century. To my delight, Mr Cooke has kindly written this guest post, describing the inspiration for and background to his work:

"I've been a member of The Salvation Army all my life -- my parents came into it in their early childhood. Their own mothers were members, though they lapsed soon after marriage.

I've always had affection for 'the Army'; I've made a study of its history; I've contributed to its periodicals. Came the time when I felt a career change was called for, then I worked for it full-time, discovering talents I never knew I had. I worked first in its Editorial Department, and then in the Literary Department, helping to produce its books and periodicals -- assessing manuscripts; 'marking-up' copy for the printers and 'making-up pages' (in the days of 'hot metal' -- now long gone, of course); proof reading and so forth.

One colleague, Norman, and I often had 'coffee-time conferences' when we talked about the books we'd like to write and books we thought 'the Army' ought to publish (not always the same thing, of course). As a result of one of these I was given the task of writing the biography of one of its outstanding composers, Eric Ball. On another occasion Norman said he'd like, when he retired, to write a novel about 'the Army', though when I reminded him of this he'd forgotten all about it. But I'd already had the idea of writing 'an everyday story of "Army folk"' for The Salvation Army itself which had been turned down.

Some months later I travelled north from London to my home town of Nottingham to attend the funeral of my father's youngest sister -- Nellie -- the last survivor of the seven siblings who made up my father's family. There came into my mind again the idea of a novel about 'the Army', and, like a flash, the idea of making it an historical novel, with several of my parents' siblings sketched into it. Thus, the two maids-of-all-work in my book Maggie's Tale are my two grandmothers, who as girls were house maids, and seeing a Salvation Army procession go by the window went to find out more; Bridie, in the second one, is based on my father's eldest sister, Lottie, whose intentions to be a full-time officer were never fulfilled; Harvey, in several of the books, is basically my father's brother Harry, who was told by his fiancee that he 'could have either "the Army" or me, but not both' -- and who made a wrong decision. And later regretted it.... And so on.

In the first of the seven, Maggie's Tale, we find the two girls, maids of all work, Maggie Murphy and Lucy Wibberley, linking up with the organisation when it starts work in their town in 1900; losing their positions because the salvationists are not considered respectable; applying to become officers; what happens to Lucy when she's accepted, and to Maggie, when she isn't.... In the second, Cosmo's Tale, we meet Cosmo Beresford Arcadelt, who gives up a life of Downton Abbey-like privilege when he joins its ranks, and learn of his marriage to Lucy; also of the growing-up of Maggie's two daughters, Bridie and 'Little Lucy'. In the third, Harvey's Tale, we find his elder brother, Wennie (short for Wenceslas) dealing with a broken romance, and Harvey himself making a disastrous marriage.... And so on.

Time and space are insufficient to tell of the remaining four, which take the story of the Murphy and Arcadelt families forward to 1963. Sometimes actual events in Salvation Army history are woven into them. Each one is of a uniform length and format - about 76,000 words in nine chapters.
                                                                                            -- Peter M. Cooke


... awesome knowledge of the period.... Very impressive. -- J.L.

The ending was masterful and came as a complete surprise. -- F.L.

I look forward to the next. -- A.K.

You described the various characters in such detail that they really came alive to me. -- M.P.

...writes with the eye of the poet for detail, but produces the fast-moving story of the novelist.... -- P.D.P.

...succeeds in bringing early SA history to life in his well-researched, fictional account. ...an interesting way to introduce today’s Christian soldiers -- whether Salvationist or not -- to the fascinating world of early SA courage and determination in the land of the Army’s birth and beyond. -- EM (USA)

...a fabulous idea to write an Army-based fiction. ...really enjoyed following the story against the historical and social background. -- DB

A splendid read. ...awesome research -- KL