An Interview With Author Martin Gore

British theatregoers relish the theatre all year round but at Christmas time, nothing can beat the lure of a traditional pantomime and at the height of summer, the seaside revues. The Cromer Pier Show is an iconic piece of British theatre that is of the standard of a London West End production. Author Martin Gore set himself a real challenge – a work of fiction set in a real place, namely Cromer Pier. Having written, to date, 9 pantomimes, 3 plays (and 3 novels), as well as dabbling in Amateur Dramatics himself, I believe Martin is possibly well placed to write such a book. And what a lovely, feel good read it is too! This book has it all : a goody, a baddy, a misunderstood, a love interest, a starlet, a has been and a hero. The ideal book to curl up and read during the Winter before planning your road trip to Cromer, of course. I caught up with author Martin to find out about the lure of Cromer …. Welcome Martin….

Hello, I’m Martin. I’m a 64 year old Accountant who semi-retired in 2015 to explore my love of creative writing. In my career I held Board level jobs for over twenty five years, in private, public and third sector organisations. I was born in Coventry, a city then dominated by the car industry and high volume manufacturing, but when I was nine years old I told my long suffering mother that as I liked English composition and drama I was going to be a playwright. She told me that I should work hard at school and get a proper job. She was right of course.

I started as an Office Junior at Jaguar in 1973 at eleven pounds sixty four a week. I thus grew up in the strike torn, class divided seventies. My first career ended in 2015, when I semi retired as Director of Corporate services at Humberside Probation. My second career, as a Non Executive Director, is great as it has allowed me free time to travel and indulge my passion for writing, both in novels and for theatre.

The opportunity to rekindle my interest in writing came in 2009, when I wrote my first pantomime, Cinderella, for my home group, the Walkington Pantomime Players. I have now written nine. I love theatre, particularly musical theatre, and completed the Hull Truck Theatre Playwrite course in 2010. My first play, a comedy called He’s Behind You, is now available on:

https://www.silverbirchingtonplays.com/product-page/he-s-behind-you-by-martin-gore

Pen Pals was my first novel, but the two that followed, The Road to Cromer Pier, and the newly published sequel, The Road from Cromer Pier, are based on family holidays as a boy, including trips to the end of the pier show, known then as the Summertime Special Show.

I’m an old fashioned writer I guess. I want you to laugh and to cry. I want you to believe in my characters, and feel that my stories have a beginning, a middle, and a satisfactory ending.

The Road From Cromer Pier” is the follow up book to your previous novel, “The Road To Cromer Pier” – although it can be a stand alone book –  the story is set in 2019 in Cromer.  How difficult was it to write a work of fiction based around and about a real place? 

Very difficult, for a number of reasons. When I approached the theatre in 2017 they kindly invited me to a meeting to discuss the current show, and I discovered that far from being an archaic piece of British theatre it was, in point of fact, a West End standard show. This in itself required a pretty fundamental rewrite as I needed to do justice to the show and its cast. Another practical difficulty were names. To inadvertently portray a person with the same name as a baddie was one of my biggest fears, so I went for relatively obscure names, and googled them first. On the other hand, readers who love Cromer love the story too, so being set in a real place does have an upside. Some places are renamed too – in particular you won’t find a Majestic Hotel in Cromer!

What was it particularly about Cromer Pier, Cromer and its Theatre that inspired you to write your novels?

My father was from Norwich, and we lived in Coventry, about as far from the seaside as you could get! So, for a seaside holiday Cromer was an inevitable choice, given his love of fish & chips and Cromer crabs. We stayed in several different holiday flats, included Mrs Rippingales on the sea front, called Bloomingdales bed and breakfast in the first book. As I grew older I came to love musical theatre as my father did. I’ve been involved in the Amdram world for sometime as a writer, sound technician and actor, so writing what started out as a play about the end of the pier show seemed interesting. I liked the idea of someone suddenly faced with a life changing disaster running away to a place where life was so much simpler, the safe haven of his childhood holidays.

I loved the variety of characters – are the characters based on observations of people you’ve come across in the past and incidents you’ve experienced ?  Who were the hardest characters to portray?

Having spent a good deal of my career in financially troubled companies I guess Tom Stanley is a bit autobiographical, so the business stuff in the book has a basis in first hand experience. Portraying his feelings for his wife in bereavement was very difficult of course, but comments I received suggest I pulled it off. As a male writer, writing female characters is inevitably challenging. The second book deals with stage fright and domestic abuse, so I researched those topics very carefully to make sure that the story line was credible. 

I had a soft spot for the widowed turnaround expert Tom and for Janet, Karen’s mother. Do you have favourite characters? 

Lech Wojiek is probably my favourite, as he makes a journey from hapless magician who could barely speak English at the start of the first book to successful mainstay of the show in the second. Lauren’s developing relationship with Cyril in the first book, in particular when he turned up at the railway station and talked her out of leaving, is probably my favourite moment, and it was the lack of Cyril’s back story that gave me the idea for the sequel, which I never intended there to be.

You have, so far, written 9 pantomimes, 3 plays and 3 novels. Were there any aspects of writing your Cromer Pier book series that surprised you, either by being harder or easier to write about than you expected?

To be honest I’m most surprised that I’ve written three full length novels at all! I’m delighted that they have been well rated on Amazon, and earned the lovely comments people have made about them. I learned a good deal through my first novel, and the work of my editor, Alice Bayton, who ruthlessly culled my tendency for repetition. I guess that commencing my writing journey with pantomime was a good way to start, given that you start with the framework in place. The most difficult pantomime to write was Beauty and the Beast, because there is no natural comedy in the story, but it’s still my favourite. Hearing people laugh at what you write is simply wonderful. My biggest frustration is that I haven’t managed to get the play version of the first Cromer Pier book performed, but I haven’t given up yet!  

If “Cromer Pier” was to become a TV film, who would you pick to represent the main characters eg Tom,Karen, Lionel, Cyril  ? What about the singers, Hannah & Amy?

Well obviously, they’d need to be Britain’s greatest! Emma Thompson as Janet? Bill Nighy as Cyril? Jim Broadbent as Lionel? Lily James as Amy? Colin Firth as Tom? Kate Beckinsale as Karen? Kate Winslet as Hannah? Well, I can dream!  

Have you always wanted to have a career in writing or did you have other aspirations? 

Only as a nine-year-old, then the reality of earning a living and raising a family took over, and I don’t regret that. As a council house kid who made it from Office Junior to Director, I’m committed to building aspirations and life chances of our young people, and launched the ‘Song for Hull’ project as part of HullCity of Culture, linking schools with NHS careers via a rock concert experience. The last one featured 400 kids and an audience of 1100 at Hull’s Bonus Arena.

Are you a  bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book? 

No, I’m not really. I tend to read more biographies to be honest, on ebook. When I read fiction, I tend to go to Hailey, De Mille and Goddard, but my wife is trying to broaden my horizons. My writing is rather Archer like by way of genre; family sagas with lots of interwoven story lines.

Is “The Road from Cromer Pier”  available to purchase worldwide?

Yes indeed, via the mighty Amazon.

For Pinning Later

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Smart casual is a far as I go really, even for Teams meetings in my Non-Executive board meetings. I haven’t worn a suit in two years, and I don’t like formal wear like DJ’s. I do have a couple of formal pairs of shoes, one brown and one black, but I mainly wear casual now.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I wear a lot of Crew, but I do like shopping, unusually for a bloke. I like independent shops, and Jarroldsin Norwich and Cromer have stocked my books when others will only accept orders. I like to support the smaller guys whenever I can.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

To be honest I daren’t buy any trousers as I’ve put on some lockdown weight and won’t admit it! My golf shoes are pretty near worn out, so my trusty Echo’s need replacing. I have big size eleven feet with a wide fitting!

Boots or Shoes? 

I only have walking boots, so casual shoes are all I need now.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc

www.martingore.co.uk / @authorgore on twitter / Martin Gore on facebook / instagram

Fabulous chatting to you Martin! Thank you for the copy of The Road From Cromer Pier for reviewing.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Martin Gore.

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An Interview With Travel Expert, Mark Bibby Jackson

At the moment, travelling anywhere is pretty restrictive wherever you live due to the pandemic and various rules imposed by most countries. However, you can still dream and plan those trips – and this week I’m chatting to travel expert Mark Bibby Jackson whose knowledge of those far flung places knows no bounds! Hi Mark and welcome!

Hello. I am Mark Bibby Jackson, the editor of the websites Travel Begins at 40 and London Begins at 40, as well as the award-winning author of three thrillers set in Cambodia (one of which is yet to be published). I write about travel for a number of publications around the world.

You have lived in Cambodia for over a decade and travelled extensively around south east Asia – what made you decide to move from the UK to South East Asia?

Initially I came to Hanoi in Vietnam as a VSO Volunteer in 2004 and settled in the region. I discovered that I could re-invent myself as a magazine editor and freelance writer having spent far too many years chained to an office in London. It also gave me the great opportunity to explore the region I had first visited in 1992.

You have written 3 thrillers set in Cambodia. Why did you decide to write books of this genre based in Cambodia?

I have always liked the thriller genre, although I read little of it in my youth. When I had lived in Cambodia for a number of years I realised the wonderful material it provided for a thriller novel. I am a massive fan of the late Andrea Camilleri. I felt that I could create slightly comic thrillers set in the same tone as the Montalbano series, rather than adopting the noir tone of many novels set in South East Asia. 

You’re passionate about travelling and South East Asia, especially Cambodia, is close to your heart. What are your top 3 tips for travellers venturing to that part of the world? 

My top tip to everyone for all regions is not to rush your travel. This applies to Cambodia as it does to everywhere else. Take your time and try to discover the real Cambodia, you won’t regret it. My second tip is again pretty generic – push your comfort zone. Whether it is eating spiders, sleeping on a mat in a monastery or driving a tuk tuk through Northern Thailand you gain so much more by pushing yourself just that little bit. Finally, although I normally advise people to try to get off the beaten track, if you are in the region you really have to visit Angkor Wat. There truly is nothing comparable with this majestic temple. Halong Bay in Vietnam and Luang Prabang in Laos, are the other unmissable South East Asian destinations. 

So, as we are talking travelling, where have been your favourite places you’ve visited or lived in so far? 

I normally answer Nepal to this question. The first time I visited was in 1994, and I was immediately blown away by the mountains. I still think this is my favourite travel destination, although for travel experiences the Galapagos Islands tops the lot. 

Having been to Thailand myself, food is a big thing and the spice markets are a lovely assault to your senses! Your 1st novel based in Cambodia is “To Cook A Spider” – and spiders/other insects are certainly on the menus! What was the most unusual meal/food you have eaten?

My big confession is, despite my earlier advice, that I have never eaten spiders! I did drink snake blood once on the streets of Vietnam, and often ate strange dishes that turned out to be the intestines of some animal or other. I always try the local food and drink wherever I go, but especially now that I no longer eat meat, I don’t really try anything too exotic. I did eat Cholera in Switzerland, but this turned out to be a very tasty potato, cheese and apple pie that the locals had developed during the time of cholera when food was scarce.

If we were in a cafe/bar/restaurant in Cambodia, about to indulge in a drink and nibbles/meal – What would you recommend we ordered?

Most tourists try the amok which is coconut paste dish normally made with fish. If you really want to try what the locals eat then you should go for the prahok fermented fish. It tastes far better than it smells. However, I would recommend you go to Kep and eat some crab in the local crab shacks overhanging the sea at the crab market. Try one of these cooked in Kampot Pepper. It really is quite magnificent. 

When it comes to your personal reading delights – what genre/authors do you read? Kindle or book? 

I mainly read thrillers nowadays. However Dostoevsky, Camus and Hardy are my favourite authors. The Outsider is one of the most amazing books I have read, and I think it changed my life in many respects. The Brothers Karamazovis the best novel I have ever read, although it took me at least three attempts just to get over the names. I haven’t managed to get into the Kindle craze. I just love the feeling of holding a book in my hand and flicking through the pages. 

 You are also Founder & group editor of websites – Travel Begins At 40 and London Begins At 40. In your opinion, what are the top 5 things that people over the age of 40 consider important when choosing a travel destination? Is there much difference from the desires of younger travellers?

I think it depends very much on the traveller, and there are many 40-year-olds who travel just like they did in their teens. However, I think that the 40+ traveller is more inclined to be interested in the food, culture and history of the people they are visiting. Although younger travellers are very much interested in food and sustainability, when travelling they are more likely to look for bargains in order to make their money last longer, as well as places with a lively nightlife. The older you get as a traveller the more likely you are to look for places away from the crowd rather than trying to find the crowd. Beaches are for leisurely strolling as the sun sets, rather than for partying under the full moon. 

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I’m a jeans and t-shirt guy. I have a massive neck so shirt and ties really never worked for me. I am also totally informal, although I do like wearing hats. I have had the same suit that was tailored for me in Cambodia quietly collecting dust in my wardrobe for a decade – it probably no longer fits me. Again my footwear choices are determined by necessity rather than fashion, as I have very wide feet and a high instep. So, its trainers and comfortable walking shoes for me. Although I am partial to Campers. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I normally buy my clothes at stores like Mountain Warehouse or Blacks. However, I recently got an Azuaya Panama hat. I think this will definitely be my hat for the summer. 

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Some comfy walking shoes, preferably ones that can cope with the English winter.

Boots or Shoes?

Neither. Trainers work best for me. But I never buy boots as I hate the feel of something rubbing against my ankles. It’s a big foot thing.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc

For Pinning Later

Web: https://www.travelbeginsat40.com/

Twitter: @TravelBegins40

Facebook / Instagram: @TravelBeginsat40

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mark-bibby-jackson-aa541613/

Thank you Mark for your fascinating insight into the world of travel – I’m hoping that the world will soon open up again so that the many wonders of this world can be experienced once again.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Mark Bibby Jackson

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An Interview With Brand Relations

I’m having a chat this week with Richard Horwell of Brand Relations, a specialist food and drink marketing and branding company. Brand Relations has been behind the launch and development of over 100 brands in the UK. Hi Richard and welcome ….

Hello. I am Richard Horwell and I am the Managing Director of Brand Relations, which specialises in Branding and Product development in the Food & Drink Industry. Brand Relations has been in business for 13 years and to date has been behind over 100 brands.

What inspired you to launch “Brand Relations”, specialising in food and drink marketing and branding? 

I initially developed the 4 Minute Wine Cooler called VinChilla and won the Electrical Product of the Year Award in 1999, I later sold the company and moved to Miami, but after three years of partying there I decided to return to a more sedate lifestyle in London. As I already knew the food and beverage (F&B) industry well, I decided to set up Brand Relations, originally as a marketing company to help start up F&B brands. Over the years we’ve evolved into rebranding international brands entering the UK market and helping entrepreneurs, looking to get into the F&B space, take their dream from idea to reality. I developed my own drink Ibiza Ice, a sparkling wine cocktail in an aluminium bottle. This was sold all over the world and especially at festivals. Two years ago, I sold the brand to a Dutch billionaire – every brand owner’s dream. 

Are there certain types of food recipes that are easily adaptable for mass production than others?

Yes, no doubt. Anything that can be stored at ambient temperatures tends to be much easier to produce and develop. This is because chilled goods are high risk and have high wastage. We work with an amazing recipe developer who has been in this industry for a long time. She is great at replicating any recipe into something which is healthy, tastes great and costs as little as possible, but still using the best ingredients. It seems nearly every client these days has a challenge for us when they walk through the door, but we usually find a way.

Copyright © Brand Relations

What type of initial research would you recommend before looking to manufacture that old faithful family recipe? 

Market research is the key to the success of any brand. It’s very easy to think of an idea and think it’s going to make millions within the first few years, but without proper research how do you know whether or not it has been done before or if there is even a market for it? How do you know what’s worked and what hasn’t? you need to be sure you don’t repeat other people’s mistakes. Research is key – before you do anything, before you spend any money on creating the product, do your research. A family recipe that works at home in grannie’s kitchen doesn’t necessarily work on a mass-produced scale, so my best suggestion is research the market and speak to professionals about taking your idea to the shelf as quickly and smoothly as possible at the lowest price. Finally, try to avoid preservatives if you can, in this day and age, the market rejects them 

On average, how long does it take to prepare a food or drink product from the initial recipe stage to being marketed in supermarkets?  What are the main points that a supermarket would look for? 

It depends on the product but usually 3-6 months from idea straight through to shelf. Supermarkets shouldn’t be your first port of call, as they can kill a brand, consumers shop in supermarkets pretty much knowing what they want and so don’t take the time needed to look at new ideas. If you go to the Premium Retailers and Health Stores to start with, then those consumers who are looking for new ideas and brands can engage with your product. This builds loyalty and over time, when you have a following, you can go to the big boys and be sure your product will sell. 

Copyright © LindaHobden

You have lived and worked in the UK, USA, Australiaand the Middle East.  Are there any major differences between the countries when it comes to marketing & branding? 

I have found that the UK, USA and Australia are similar in their tastes and desires from the food and beverage market, whereas the Middle East market is very different. At the end of the day, it’s about communicating with the local audience and each market wants to buy something local and so this needs to be reflected in the branding, as well as the communication of the brand.  

Do you enjoy cooking?  If so, what is your speciality

I’d love cooking a lot, my favourite styles of food are French and Italian, but all that said my partner is a Thai chef so I have to say I get fed the best and freshest Thai food ever.

© LindaHobden
  1. Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing ?

I was in Miami just over a year ago and went into a specialist running shop where I was kitted out with Hoka One One trainers. It was like walking on air. Now I have a whole range of them that I wear with suits or jeans; wherever I go, they go too.

  1. Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? (apart from your own!) 

I love quality fabrics on clothes and fashion that doesn’t really date. I am too old to be trying to wear the latest fashions, so I stick to the likes of Tom Ford, Gucci and Roberto Cavalli to go from smart to casual. 

  1. What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

I don’t really have a wishlist, if I see something and I like it I buy it. I did see a Joseph Cashmere coat for the winter which I will be buying, their clothes are always great quality and full of style. 

  1. Boots or Shoes?

As I said, I love my trainers but I do love cowboy boots too, sadly they don’t love me too much as after a few drinks one night I tripped and hit the pavement outside Raffles in London, cutting my head open and needing stitches. I now only wear them on nights I am abstaining!

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT BRAND RELATIONS:

For Pinning Later © LindaHobden

www.brandrelations.co.uk

https://www.linkedin.com/company/brand-relations-ltd/

https://www.instagram.com/brandrelations/

https://www.facebook.com/brandrelationsltd

Twitter: @brandrelations_

Thank you Richard for an interesting insight into food and drink mass production and marketing. I don’t think I’ve perfected my family favourites enough yet to go into mass production! 😊

Linda x

All photographs have been credited in the article.

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Spotlight on NABAS

Party season is fast approaching and if you are looking to decorate your party room with balloons and other event accessories then who better to give advice than NABAS – The Balloon And Party Professionals Association – the only registered trade association for the balloon and party industry in the UK. I caught up with current chairman, George Oustayiannis… hello George and welcome…

Hello! I’m George Oustayiannis and the current Chairman of NABAS, and Director at GO International, the UK’s leading importer and wholesaler for everything party!

What is the story behind setting up of NABAS?

NABAS was set up almost 35 years ago (2022 will be our 35th Anniversary). All the leading manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers and decorators came together to form a non-profit association, run for the members, for the members, with a number of benefits. It was created to be a voice for the industry.

What would you say are the pros of hiring, say a balloon professional that is a registered member of NABAS?

 Without doubt, the knowledge that a NABAS member is insured, and that they have a network of over 650 members willing and able to help and support them.

What perks does being a NABAS member offer a balloon and party specialist?

The ability to network with your peers, as well as having access to leading manufacturers, wholesalers and balloon decorators. We also have dedicated team of NABAS approved instructors, as well as the most comprehensive insurance on the market.

Apart from being Chairman of NABAS, what specialist balloon & party profession are you in?

I’m also on the Board of Directors for The Impact Group – an invitation only organisation of the UK’s leading wholesalers.

Have you always wanted a career in the balloon/party professional spectrum or did you have other aspirations?

As the eldest son of a very traditional Greek family, I had two choices. I could be a lawyer or a doctor.  But if I wasn’t that bright, they’d settle for accountant. I actually started in law, and became a city broker, and was the youngest divisional director for one of the city’s leading firms. But my wife decided I didn’t want to be a broker anymore! I’m afraid I took away my parents “Church Bragging Rights” with the “What does you son do for a living?” question.

What advice would you give to anybody thinking of starting up as a balloon and party  professional?

Join NABAS! The wealth of knowledge and support is unparalleled.


Personal now, what outfits/footwear would you normally wear when in “party mode”?

As casual as the host allows. I spent far too many of my earlier years in a suit and tie. I try and avoid fancy dress, and only ever looked remotely acceptable as Batman, because I could hide my true identity behind a mask!

Boots Or Shoes?

Shoes, as a Piscean, I hate any kind of footwear and  can’t wait to go barefoot! Shoes are so much easier to kick off, or quickly put on when need be!

For Pinning Later

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can learn more about NABAS

www.nabas.co.uk  

www.gointernational.co.uk 

Thank you George for chatting to us today. Let’s hope the parties can go ahead as safely and as healthy as possible this year!

Linda x

All photographs (apart from the Pinterest and header pic ) have been published with kind permission of NABAS.

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An Interview With Author Paul Ver Bruggen

I am so pleased to welcome author Paul Ver Bruggen onto my blog tonight. Every now and then, you come across a book that totally blows you away ; a book that has you totally engrossed from start to finish; a book that you could read again and again and never get tired of it. I would rate The Gaming Room by Paul Ver Bruggen, as one of the best books I have read this year. In fact, if I had to name my top 10 all time favourite books it would definitely be on the list along with classics such as Daphne Du Maurier’s “Rebecca”, F Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” and D H Lawrence’s “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”.

BOOK REVIEW

The Gaming Room is a fusion of history, romance and psychological thriller. There are two intertwining stories – one set in the 21st century; the other 18th century – both separate stories yet linked . In the 18th century we meet John Law, gambler extraordinaire, who aspires to become banker for the French monarchy….. and then, in the 21st century we meet his descendent, Theo Law, who also takes a gamble as he launders money via on the Dark Web for the Russian Mafia as well as the Vatican. And a trip to Venice they both take … 11/10 for me 😊

INTERVIEW

Hello Paul and welcome!

Hi. I’m Paul and I’m that unusual person: I live in London and I’m actually from London.

I’ve been happily married for many years to Carin, an American, originally from Detroit, Michigan, and we have one daughter, Skyler. 

I work as a freelance video producer/director and a writer of fiction.

I love singing, cinema, cycling, reading, playing tennis and baking bread.

“The Gaming Room” is my first published novel.

Who or what inspired you to write your excellent book “ The Gaming Room”? 

I was first inspired by the extraordinary real life of John Law, a gambler and financier in the early 18th century, who killed a man in a duel and was forced to flee London. He became the most powerful man in France, made and lost a vast fortune and spent his final daysin a notorious gaming room in Venice, overlooking the Grand Canal. 

I then decided to interweave his story with that of a fictional moneyman, his 21st century descendant, Theo Law, an investment banker turned major money launderer for the Russian mafia. 

Then came the biggest inspiration of all – I had them haunt each other across the centuries.

I really enjoyed reading your book, “The Gaming Room”.  I loved the way the modern day chapters featuring Theo Law entwined with the 18th century John Law and although both were distinctly different “stories” it was surprisingly easy to immerse yourself into both centuries equally! I loved the characters equally too – John and Theo and surprisingly, Maggie!  Which character was the hardest to write about?

Theo was actually the hardest. Almost all the others were either based on historical figures or someone I knew or had met, including Maggie. (An ex-girlfriend’s alcoholic mother, from the East End.)

Also, Theo speaks in the first person – you hear most of what’s going on inside his head and he has to carry that whole section of the book.  He’s a tricky combination. He’s behaves badly, but he also has to be redeemable, and to some extent likeable, so that you care enough about him to want to stick with the story.

Were there any aspects of writing The Gaming Room or indeed, writing about any of the characters, that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?

One of the things that surprised me was the way the two stories seemed to echo each other quite naturally, without my having to force things. And then there was the decision for the two main characters to haunt each other and eventually meet in a kind of parallel universe. Like so many decisions in writing fiction, theyseem to be taken for you, as if your unconscious is at workthroughout.

In terms of characters, John Law’s partner Catherine really took me by surprise. My wife, Carin read an early draft of the novel and thought the women were all too passive. I set about making Catherine a rival to Law as much as his advisor. Suddenly she took off as a very strong character and, indeed, seemed to take over the whole story! She was so real to me that I was actually in tears when I wrote her final letter to the dying Law.

What era of the story did you enjoy researching or writing about the most – the 18th century John Law or the 21st century Theo Law?

As regards research, the 18th century story was obviously the hardest. It was a mountain of stuff, not just on the macro, political level, but on the more micro and every day – what did they wear? what did they eat and drink? what card games did they play? Exhaustive and exhausting!

On the plus side, there was a real historical story that I could base my own narrative on.  Sometimes it felt like I was channelling the spirit of John Law and that was very enjoyable.

Overall, I derived a real sense enjoyment from how and where the book was written. It was mostly in long hand, on trains, buses and station platforms, or at lunchtimes, in local cafes. There’s somethingoddly satisfying about scribbling a scene at the court of Louis XIV in Versailles or some steamy lovemaking with a courtesan in Venice, whilst travelling on a very crowded tube train between Queen’s Park and Oxford Circus!

Growing up, did you have aspirations to become a writer or did your career hopes lie elsewhere?

I really wanted to be a novelist from my mid-twenties and wrote a couple of duds, as you do. Gradually, as my career as a Producer/Director took off, I set fiction to one side, and didn’t return to it for over 20 years. I then had to write another couple of duds before I got to The Gaming Room. It’s been a long journey.

Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book?

Now that I write more, I’m less bookish – I just don’t have time to read as much as I used to and I usually only manage to read our book group choice, or something that’s part of my research for the current novel. 

I think The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is probably as perfect as a novel gets. 

I must be getting younger instead of older, because I used to be a stickler for actual books and now I usually read them off my phone. Help

 Is “The Gaming Room” available to purchase worldwide?

It’s available on Amazon UK and US in Kindle and paperback.

If you could visit any place in the world to give you inspiration for your next book, where would you go and why?

The novel I’m working on is set in Italy during the Renaissance. My first ports of call would be the Arena Chapel in Padua and the Palazzo Ducale in Urbino, both of which are important locations in the story. 

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing? What’s lurking your wardrobe? Boots Or Shoes

If I do say so myself, I’m a snappy dresser. When I was travelling regularly into Soho and the West End, I put a lot of money and thought into it, especially the colour palette. Now I put less money, but just as much thought.

Then, my wardrobe ranged from anything Italian to the Jermyn Street shirt merchants – T.M Lewin, Charles Tyrwhitt, Pink etc. – to the smart casuals like Ben Sherman and Banana Republic. These, together with the odd foray into TK Max, particularly for shoes –suede Chelsea and Chukka boots – and the posher charity shop and stalls in Notting Hill and Portobello, for cashmere woollies and tweedy coats. 

Now, it tends to be ‘vintage’/charity shops for everything – and they’re not always so posh. And it’s not always cashmere.

Sadly, the Ben Sherman shops folded a few years back, but for personal, biographical reasons, they were my true favourites. Along with a mohair suit and sharp pair of brogues – even now, I have many pairs – a Ben Sherman shirt was de rigeur for a smart, trendy young geezer growing up in East London in the ‘60s. 

But there’s also another side to my fashion sense. No, I’m not a cross-dresser, but I do cross the Atlantic.  I’ve spent a lot of time in the US down the years – hey, I married one – and I take a shine to that Western look that includes vintage Levis, suede waistcoats,cowboy shirts and fancy cowboy boots. (I leave off the spurs – although I am a supporter…) At one point, after I’d spent some time on a filming job in Texas and Louisiana, the Western style almost took over my whole wardrobe. YeeHaw!!! I had to work hard to haul it back towards the classic English preppy and it now remains a mellow blend of the two

For Pinning Later

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc

https://www.facebook.com/BruggenVer

Twitter: @Bruggenver

https://www.instagram.com/bruggenpaul/

Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed today; thank you for the copy of your book The Gaming Room for reviewing; and thank you to Ben Cameron for introducing me to you and your writing!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Paul Ver Bruggen

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An Interview With Meee

Not an interview with me but an interview with Sid Madge, founder of Meee (My Education Employment Enterprise) ! To date, Meee has transformed the lives of over 20,000 people, from leaders of PLCs and SMEs to parents, teachers, students, carers, the unemployed and prison inmates. That is a lot of people! I caught up to Sid to find out more about Meee ….Hi Sid and welcome 😊

Hi, my name is Sid Madge. 


What made you decide to launch Meee (My Education Employment Enterprise)?

I started the Meee program after I was giving a talk in a school in Wales to a group of young teenagers. I asked them to describe themselves using one word. 

The first lad I asked answered “weirdo”. I smiled and said well what a great word, so creative. And he said, “No I’m bullied, I don’t like being at school, don’t see the point in education and don’t like learning”. I was horrified. I went round the rest of the class andothers used words such as freak, misfit and weirdo.

That session had a profound effect on me, so I did some research on young people and mental health. I started running workshops in schools with teachers and then worked with the unemployed and people in prison. I did a Tedx Talk and wrote my first book and followed up with two more.

My belief that this really could work, grew.

We started working with businesses and we’ve had tens of thousands of people through our programmes. We’re developing specific tools for personal development, and professional development around leadership, around culture. It’s been an amazing journey and I’m very grateful.

I guess your job isn’t an easy one as some people’s aversion to change is not that easy to solve! What sort of reasons hinder their adaptability?

Yes, people have multiple barriers to change. There’s a great saying is there no one likes change, except a wet baby!

Too often we see the process of change as negative and that’s what makes it so hard. We have to accept the situation we’re in and then create change – think of those amazing people who have got through extraordinary adversity, for example, Helen Keller, John Wilson who started sightseers International. It’s those people who have determination and the ability to regard change as positive. Others include Kobe Bryant who sadly died last year, Michael Jordan Ariana Huffington. They embrace change and that’s what Meee does. 

What approach do you tend to use to help people believe in themselves?

It’s best to start in safe conversation, exploring values and where our thinking comes from.We’ve got a great programme called Fuel and that’s all about Feelings and Understanding Emotions and Logic and Learning. I think once you start having those conversations around values, purpose and your own performance goals people start to change. They realise that they are their own instruments of change. They may have developed negative beliefs but a process like this can help them change their internal script, and help them change their lives. 

What is it about your job (& Meee) do you enjoy or gives you the most satisfaction? The downside?

I love what working both with young people and adults and taking them through a process of change. People of all ages have change their lives, but they do the changing and we’re there to guide and support.

When you listen to the stories of what they’re achieving for themselves, for their families, for their friends, for their communities there is no greater gift. 

The downside? I want more people to do the programme but finding the money is often challenging. But we’re getting more corporations involved so that we can then subsidise the education work and work in prisons. 

You are also an author of “Meee in Minute” series of books which each offer 60 ways to change your life – work or family – in 60 seconds.  What are 5 of your top tips?

• Words matter – think about the words that you use and how they impact others

• Never stop learning – there is so much to learn from yourself, from other people from going places, from doing things e.g., reading, writing, watching films etc, exploring the world. There is learning in everything that we do.

 • Remember that we all matter. Every single person matters. We’re all in this together and everybody can make a huge contribution to this wonderful world when you find your purpose and your passion.

• Think about the energy that you have – it’s a finite amount that we get every day so spend it wisely, 

• Honour your negative feelings. We all have them in a regardless of who we are. What’simportant is to acknowledge them but not to feed them. If you’re in a bad mood find out why, and what you can do to move the dial and put yourself in a better mood.

Growing up, did you always want a “People related” career or did you want to pursue a completely different direction?

At one point I wanted to be a vet, but I thought I wasn’t clever enough! I discovered the world of branding and design which has been great to work in, but it was never truly fulfilling. When that young lad said the word weirdo that changed everything.

Do you think the COVID pandemic has made a difference in the people’s mindset regarding change and life in general?

I think Covid has changed a lot of things. It has made some people more fearful but it’s made some more optimistic. It’s made us question things and what is truly important. I hope we’velearned that we’re not invincible and need to look after each other and this wonderful planet.

As you are based in the UK, are your services available worldwide too?

We are based in the UK but we deliver worldwide

©Linda Hobden. – Jeffrey West store in Piccadilly, London

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Trainers shorts and T-shirts mainly. I love being casual but also love dressing up smart too for the right occasions. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I love John Lewis and Fortnum & Mason. For convenience Amazon is useful – although I don’t think they aren’t doing the retail world a huge favour at the moment.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

My clothing Wish List is more about the children. I have three young children and I like buying clothes for them. I also like finding second-hand clothes. Recycled cool stuff is good for me especially as since the start of Covid I haven’t had any in-person meetings.

Boots or Shoes?

I used to wear a lot of Jeffrey West boots love love love his boots but now it’s trainers, it’s shoes and I love my slippers.

For More Information:

For Pinning Later. Lincoln’s Lego Exhibition 2019. ©Linda Hobden

Web: www.meee.global

Web: www.meeebooks.com

Twitter twitter.com/Meee_HQ
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/MeeeHQ/
Instagram www.instagram.com/meeehq
YouTube https://youtu.be/fISupZWZMQc 
TEDx https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bR3Cyjs62c8

Photographs have been published with kind permission of Meee (apart from header, Pinterest photo, and Jeffrey West shop – ©Linda Hobden)

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Spotlight On The Andalusian Mystery Series

In the UK, the nights are drawing in and what can be nicer than cosy nights by a roaring fire, curled up in an armchair with a hot chocolate toddy and a good book? Even better when the books are mysteries based in the sunnier climate of Andalusia in Spain. Author Paul S Bradley has written 5 books in the series so far, and I was fortunate to receive his first book in the series to review: Darkness In Málaga.

MY REVIEW OF DARKNESS IN MALAGA

Darkness in Málaga is a crime mystery set in Spain and a story of many parts expertly woven into one. It is a book inspired by a true murder and a dedication is made at the front of the book to the memory of Cecilia Natalia Coria Olivares who was murdered in Nerva on September 8, 2008. So where do I start? It begins with a young girl being abducted; a group of African refugees fleeing Africa to reach Spain; a corrupt official; a wily detective, Leon Prado, who fears he may have lost his way as he tries to solve the abductions; then there is Phillip, who was in the British Intelligence Corps, who retired in Spain to lick his emotional wounds after his acrimonious divorce from his gorgeous Russian wife; Juliet, a beautiful British waitress, half Phillip’s age, but somebody he would love to know better; Amanda, the CNN film maker, following the refugee story. When Juliet goes missing, Phillip helps Detective Leon Prado, to piece together the kidnaps, along with Amanda. But that is only the start of it….things get darker, much darker. I loved it! It had enough suspense to keep me interested, some romance and light hearted moments too…

So, I just had to invite author Paul Bradley onto my blog about his writing, his life in Spain and his fashion choices, of course! Hi Paul and welcome:

How does one describe a person who lives in a quaint village by the beautiful blue Mediterranean, and travels, pandemics permitting, around the Iberian Peninsula with small groups of North American Alumni showing them the fascinating mix of ancient and modern Spain? Fortunate, one could say, but as it is me, I will go a step further. I have not lived and worked in Spain for over thirty years by accident. Coming here was a deliberate and planned attempt to redesign my life away from the London rat race. I had always dreamed of loving what I do and not just work because I needed to earn money. I risked all, and thankfully it paid off. It was dodgy restaurant translations that opened the door. When I informed the beach restaurant owner that he was offering me Ironed Squid instead of grilled squid, I was immediately pressed into service to fix his poor communications materials. Then the restaurant next door wanted the same and I was in business. That evolved into property and lifestyle magazines, guidebooks, and travelogues. Pre-Google, someone had to physically gather material about this marvelous country and happily that fell into my lap. As I grew older, and some kindly Governments started sending me money every month for not doing much, it gave me the opportunity to switch to writing novels, something I can do until the wooden box beckons.

“Darkness in Málaga” is the first in the series of 5 books of the Andalusian Mystery Series. The others are: Darkness in Ronda; Darkness in Vélez-Málaga; Darkness in Granada; Darkness in Córdoba. What inspired the book series?  Are they stand alone books or best read in numerical order?

According to Mark Twain, one of the key ingredients to good writing is; write what you know. I’ve always admired JK Rowling for her ability to conjure up imaginary worlds from nowhere, although I suspect that the smoky gothic spires of Edinburgh contributed much to her fantasies as she gazed out of the window of the café where she started writing Harry Potter books. After all these years, I know Spain better than most Spaniards, so it seemed logical to set my books in my adopted homeland. Agatha Christie stories have endured many treatments over the years, and I love them all. Around the time that I was thinking about starting to write fiction novels, I happened to be escorting a group around Northern England. We stayed for a few days at the Old White Swan in Harrogate where during the winter of 1926,the enigmatic crime writer stayed to escape the madding crowd. She posed as Mrs. Teresa Neele until after ten days the banjo player recognized her. It prompted me to write crime mysteries set in Spain from where emerged the Andalusian Mystery Series. The first four cases can be read alone but are linked together. Darkness in Córdoba, which is currently a work in progress, is a stand-alone case but involving the main characters.

Having lived in Nerja, Spain since 1992 , are your characters based on observations of people you’ve come across in the past and incidents you’ve experienced ? Who were the hardest characters to portray?

Following on from my preferences to write what I know, readers may be interested to discover that all the characters in my books are loosely based on people that I have met on my travels. I change their namesand personal details, but their physical descriptions and behaviours are recognizable. I often use the threat of including my travel clients in my book if they complain too much. If they are particularly bad, they are likely to be the antagonist. I can’t say it encourages people to behave any differently, but it raises a titter and helps with sales. Without a doubt the hardest characters to invent are politicians. I say this becausethe motivations of policemen and criminals are pretty much the same the world over, but politicians are a breed of their own. Trying to keep them well grounded in any plot is difficult because they are always trying to self-promote, or make a point, and I’m often tempted to let them to the detriment of the storyline.

Were there any aspects of writing your book series that surprised you, either by being harder or easier to write about than you expected?

Writing experts, particularly my editor, bang on about showing not telling. This was a difficult transition for me as a travel writer because I was used to describing what I saw and weaving those visual memoriesaround historical facts gleaned from guides, brochures, or libraries. Fictional stories need real characters that actually think, speak, eat, sleep and dream. The story is revealed through their thoughts, dialogue, and deeds. It took quite a while to develop the required experience to do that with any level of competence.

As you not only live in Spain, but have also travelled extensively around the Iberian Peninsula, what are your top 5 favourite places that you recommend visiting whilst in Spain.

Spain is one of the most diverse countries I have ever been to. It is more mountainous than Switzerland, and the landscapes vary from emerald-green to dusty desert the further south you go. It’s the gateway to Africa. Travelers from all over the dark continent have been crossing to her shores since time began looking to trade or discover a better life, and continue to do so. It has abundant agriculture of almost everything imaginable. It’s safe, affordable and has an unbeatable climate. Wine lovers could spend years exploring the vineyards of La Rioja or Ribera del Duero. Historians can drool over the wealth ofmonuments and there are so many archeological discoveries, they now tend to photograph them and carry on with whatever building project revealed them. Numerous languages are spoken, and every town has a beautiful church or cathedral packed with religious artefacts. But it is the people that set this country aside. They are the warmest, kindest, and most considerate that I have ever had the pleasure to have known. The consequence of this is that everywhere you go, is a memorable treasure. You would have to waterboard me to extract five preferences so assuming you have, here goes. San Sebastian is for the gourmet; Toledo is unbeatable for religious history and dramatic location. Ronda for bullfighting fans,bandits and so much more, Barcelona for the young and dynamic, Madrid attracts the elegant and discerning.

Have you always wanted to have a career in writing or did you have other aspirations?

Writing was the only subject I was good at during my school years. Regrettably, I didn’t recognize the importance of that at the time and no one pushed me in that direction. I recall doing homework at the military boarding school I was sent to sitting next to several boys who knew exactly what they wanted to do. I could never work out if this were true or if their parents had told them what to aim for. My father was keen for me to join the army but polishing boots and being shouted at for six years deterred me from more of the same. Like most lost souls of limited academic achievements, I launched myself on a voyage of discovery trying numerous jobs eventually ending up in sales and then running my own business. The writing of proposals was all I excelled at which prompted me to enter a writing contest for the Sunday Telegraph. I came second and won two hundred pounds. This minor event was the spur that changed my life. For the first time I felt I had accomplished something and built on that, eventually coming to Spainand putting it into practice.

Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book?

I grew up in Market Harborough, Leicestershire where my mother was an infant teacher. She took me and my sister to the library every week. I love everything about books. From the browsing experience to the final choice, to the thrill of opening the first page. I don’t mind ebooks, but I do prefer an actual book.

Are your Andalusian series of books available to purchase worldwide?

The Andalusian Mystery Series is available globally in ebook and Print format in most major online bookstores and can be ordered by your local bookshop.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I’m a jeans, shirt and V neck pullover person in the short Spanish winters, and because I love hikingalong the beach or in the mountains, I’m well provided with Mephisto walking shoes. In the warmer months, like most of the year, it’s shorts, short sleeve shirts and Mephisto sandals with a rather weird Australian paper hat to keep my scalp from frying.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I love playing virtual golf on wgt.com and occasionally browse Facebook to see what my daughters and grandchildren are up to. However, as I spend most of my days in front of a screen, I try and avoid them in the evenings. With the outdoor life in Spain, that is not too difficult.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Even after, thirty years away from the UK, I still haven’t changed the Marks and Spencer’s socks and underwear habit. With such a long lockdown marooning me here in Nerja, stocks are starting to dwindle.

Boots or Shoes? 

Believe me, after six years spitting and polishing boots at a military boarding school, it’s no contest. Shoes every time.

For Pinning Later

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc

www.paulbradley.eu

www.facebook.com/PaulBradleyinNerja/

Thank you very much Paul for taking the time to chat on the blog, for the copy of Darkness in Málaga… I am eagerly working my way through the other books in the series 😊

Linda x

All photographs (apart from Pinterest & header) have been published with kind permission of Paul S Bradley.

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An Interview With Perfino

What do you get when you cross essential oil scents with jewellery? Perfino, of course! Perfino is an innovative natural scent jewellery brand that combines expertly blended, 100% natural pure essential oils with exquisite jewellery. Intrigued? I caught up with founder Kim Brookes to find out more. Hi Kim and welcome…

Hello! My name is Kim, founder of Perfino natural scent jewellery and a natural fragrance obsessive. It’s on the gentler end of addiction but I find it hard to walk past a flower without putting my nose in it and just love the smells of nature.

What inspired the setting up of “Perfino”?

I was always a big fan of perfume until I realised how harmful it can be. 

Most perfumes are made of mass-produced synthetic chemicals. It may call itself rose but it won’t have any rose in it. In fact, you won’t know what is in it as ingredients are not disclosed. It seems strange that we are so careful what we put in our bodies but pay little attention to the synthetic chemicals we put on our bodies, some of which can be absorbed into the bloodstream.

So, I looked for a new way to wear natural fragrance so we could still enjoy great scents without compromising our bodies. I worked with some incredible jewellery artisans to find the perfect way to encapsulate natural essential oil blends into jewellery in a sustainable way,and immersed myself in the blending of natural essential oils, until I found the solution, which is Perfino.

I love the idea of natural scent jewellery – wearing scent all day without chemicals touching your skin!  Let’s get down to the basics – what does the jewellery set comprise of and where do you put the essential oils? 

The set includes a recycled solid silver or gold vermeil necklace, six super absorbent lava stones straight from mother earth, and 10ml of pure natural essential oil which has been blended to provide a fabulous scent. You simply add a drop of the oil to the stone which sits inside the necklace, close it, and wear it. Our essential oil blends give out a much gentler and natural fragrance than perfume, and one that can last all day long. The scent is gentle, discreet, and for the wearer’s own personal enjoyment.

Out of all your essential oils collection, do you have any favourites? What are the popular scents amongst your customers? 

My personal favourite is “…and breathe” as it is led by rose absolute, a gorgeous but very precious oil. It takes around 10,000 roses to produce a teaspoon of rose absolute, which I have blended with ingredients which compliment this incredible fragrance.

My customers really love “…deep love”, possibly as it has some wonderful neroli oil in there making it quite romantic and dreamy. It’s very popular as a gift for loved ones as it says it all.

As you are based in the UK, are your products available to purchase overseas? 

Yes, we are based in the Somerset but we sell all over the world and have had orders from San Francisco to the Seychelles as there’s really nothing quite like Perfino out there.

A couple of hypothetical questions now!  Firstly, if you could go anywhere in the world for inspiration to create a new collection or to capture a new fragrance, where would you  goand why?

That’s a tricky one as the essential oils come from all over the world, often in very exotic sounding locations but ones where the harvesting provides badly needed fair trade income to the agricultural workers or pickers. I would love to go to deepest darkest Brazil where they continue to discover new plants and fragrances, and where there is a growing appreciation of how these should be protected.

Secondly, which famous lady would you pick to be the “Face” Of Perfino and why?

 Well, like Perfino she’d have to have a cool and subtle style and be a force for good …so I’d pick the Emma Watson, a truly fragrant woman of substance.

Growing up, did you always want to be a jewellery designer or did your career aspirations lie elsewhere? 

As a child I loved fabrics and in my dream other life I might have been a fashion or textile designer. I made clothes for my teddy, then myself, and then my kids, but for jewellery design I have been able to spot talent in others rather than being the talent myself!

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing? 

I have a mania for natural fabrics particularly linens and silks, and comfort – so anything that hangs well with a pop of colour, and a lovely scented necklace of course! As for shoes, I just adore Superga, but cannot resist a rubber fleece lined Tretorn Chelsea boot, whatever the weather.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? (Apart from your own!) 

I am a big fan of Ebay as it is such a great way to recycle, and many items are brand new. I enjoy Sezanefor great French style, and am in heaven immersed in any far away market.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list? 

A huge warm coat for immersing myself in after wild swimming which I am dabbling in but not yet convinced…and a new pair of Tretorns.

Boots or Shoes? ( & Why?) 

Shoes – boots make me think of winter and I am definitely a summer person

For Pinning Later

Links you would like to share e.g.website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about Perfino 

https://www.perfino.co.uk 

Instagram @perfinouk

Facebook @perfinouk 

Fabulous chatting to you about a fabulous product, Kim! I love it ❤️

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Kim Brookes/Perfino

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An Interview With Author Shaun Hand

During lockdown I read a book that was sent to me to review by book publicity agent Ben Cameron – a book which made me laugh, cry and pine for a night down at my local pub to “people watch”! This book was called “The Sadness of The King George “ by author & musician, Shaun Hand. It was a book that was laugh out loud funny; the characters were absolutely believable; and, as it says in the book blurb, “unflinchingly honest”. The story is set in a local, rundown pub “The King George” in the West Midlands – an old style pub that has sticky carpets and tables, soggy bar towels, regular customers who sit or stand in the same places exchanging the same words of wisdom; the Saturday night aggro; run by the pub landlord, the Gaffer, who no one sees; the mouthy barmaid, Siobahn, who runs the place like clockwork although no one really appreciates her; the pompous barman; the young 20 year old barman who wonders if there is more to life than pulling pints, pondering over love and looking forward to the next fag break; and Amy, the new young barmaid – full of hope and object of desire. Written from the viewpoint of the 20 year old barman as he tries to find his way through life especially when it comes to love, work and being cool. So, it was with great pleasure that I was able to catch up with the author Shaun … Hi Shaun & welcome…

Hello, I’m Shaun Hand. A life-sized writer, musician, charity shopper, and amateur gardener from Birmingham (the UK one).

“The Sadness of the King George” is a refreshing modern tale of life from the old pub – a young 20 year old unconfident lad who serves the locals, the confident barmaid, the landlord, the characters who frequent the local on a daily basis –   What made you decide to write “The Sadness of The King George”?

Thanks! I wanted to write it ‘cos that’s the world I lived in from the time I was 18 to 35, pretty much half my life! It’s a world that’s dying as the 21st century establishes itself, and so I wanted to capture it realistically, good and bad.

The book characters are all absolutely believable and probably found in most pubs in the UK – as you worked in pubs and bars in your twenties too, were your characters based on observations of people you’ve come across in the past and incidents you’ve experienced ? Who were the hardest characters to portray?

Totally — although some were exaggerated or embellished for effect. The hardest one to portray was probably the narrator because although he was partly based on me at 20, he was also based on about four other people, and so I had to be careful sometimes not to just make him do or think what I would do in real life.

Copyright © LindaHobden

Your first book was “Pop Art Poems: The Music Of The Jam”  – vastly different genre to “The Sadness Of The King George”. Were there any aspects of writing your book that surprised you, either by being harder or easier to write about than you expected? 

It was the first time I’d ever written a long-form piece of fiction, and I think the biggest, most pleasant surprise for me was a point pretty early on where one of the characters started telling me what they should say and where the story should go rather than the other way round — I realised that they’d come to life and that it was becoming more of a novel than an idea.

Hypothetically speaking, if you could go anywhere in the world to get inspiration for another book, where would you go and why? 

I don’t think I’d need to go anywhere specific, really. I tend to write about smalltown, suburban England, so maybe somewhere to escape that! I’ve got a romantic notion of going off to a B&B in Llandudno or somewhere for a week and just writing.

Have you always wanted to have a career in writing or did you have other aspirations? 

I always wanted to be a professional musician, but having tasted the reality of the work involved to barely make ends meet (leaving your family for months on end to go touring etc)and some of the darker side of it, I think I’m happier and more fulfilled being a writer who does books, music, poetry, whatever takes my fancy. Right now, that feels more liberating to me than any amount of distance I could travel to play to four people for no money (or even no people for four money).

Copyright © LindaHobden

Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book? 

I am, and I read more and more avidly as I get older, but I don’t have a favourite genre. I love anything with a good story and vivid characters, but then I also love a good music or author biography (I’ve just finished Billy Bragg’s book about skiffle, which was brilliant). The only author I’ve read everything by (even the bad stuff) is George Orwell. My wife put me on to Sarah Waters, and I’ve really got into her; Fingersmith is a brilliant book. Also slowly working my way through David Bowie’s 100 Favourite Books list, although some of it’s a little too dry for me.

And books, absolutely, every time. I can’t walk past a charity shop without having a nose. Kindles just don’t have that magic, or the smell.

 Is “The Sadness Of The King George ” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes. You can either line Jeff’s Bezos’ pockets or contact your local indie bookseller. It’s orderable through Waterstones too.

You are also a musician with your band FABRIK – what instrument do you play? What music genre?

My main instrument is the guitar, but I also play piano and bass and make drum loops for us to write songs over. We’re pretty trip-hoppy but a bit weirder. If you like stuff like Portisheadand Massive Attack, then we’re probably your kind of thing.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I flit between two extremes: trackies and trainers if I’m round the house, just nipping out, or just want to be comfortable. If I’m going out, DJing, gigging, or just want to look good, then it’s a suit with some nice loafers or these black-and-white 1920s-style shoes I got from one of those “4 shiny suits for £10” kind of shops years back.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

For clothes? Probably H&M. I live in Wolverhampton and everywhere else decent has shut down. Increasingly, I’m getting stuff from charity shops; I don’t like buying clothes online really.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

I’ve got me brother-in-law’s wedding coming up, and I’d really like to get a decent dark blue, fitted double-breasted suit for it, but I can’t find one that wouldn’t make me look like an early ‘90s Tory MP. Beyond that, I’ve got a few suit jackets from charity shops that need taking in.

Shoe-wise, I’d love some decent brogues and could do with some boots — trainers with jeans limits the kind of top you can carry off, and loafers with jeans can be dangerous territory. I need some new wellies too for me gardening.

 Boots or Shoes? ( & Why?)

Shoes because I like wearing brightly coloured socks (teddy-boy style, not ones with novelty patterns).

For Pinning Later

 Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc

Buy book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sadness-King-George-Shaun-Hand/dp/1916084575/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Instagram: @shaunpatrickhand

Twitter: @shaunhandauthor

FABRIK: https://www.fabriktheband.co.uk/

Thanks very much for the nostalgia trip – I really enjoyed the book and the customer antics! Thank you Ben Cameron for sending me the book to read and review in the first place.

Linda x

The photographs of Shaun have been published with kind permission of Shaun Hand; the other photographs were taken by LindaHobden.

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An Interview With Njori

I’m talking about cooking utensils this week – namely the Njori Tempo, the first pack-away smart induction cooker. The Njori Tempo is the brainchild of Jack Raison and Nick Orme. The Njori brand designs and develops innovative kitchenware and its prestigious clients include TV chef Jamie Oliver. I caught up with co founder Jack Raison to find out more about his products and cooking passions … Hi Jack, welcome 😊

Hello, my name is Jack Raison and I’m one of the founders of Njori.

What inspired the setting up of your brand Njori and the introduction of the first pack -away smart cooker?

Nick (the other co-founder) and I are both design engineers and have been working together, designing/making products for other people for years. During this time, we obsessively talked about food and cooking and came up with a few concepts and business ideas together. When we first came up with the idea for the Tempo, we both agreed that if it existed, we both would have bought one already.

What are the attributes of the Njori Tempo?

The Tempo is a versatile precision induction cooker. We wanted to create a device that gives people accurate control over the exact temperature they are cooking at to help refine recipes and perfect their technique. We found that the sensors and systems required for this can easily be applied to a whole range of different techniques, so it can also be used as:

An exact pan temperature regulated cooking surface,

A water circulated sous vide cooker,

A temperature regulated deep fryer,

A slow cooker with the option of using an external temperature probe to monitor internal temperatures of what you are cooking,

It has built in scales so you can measure your ingredients straight into the pot,

The scale functionality can also be used to ‘reduce by weight’ for exact reductions.

Have you got a favourite recipe/food that you would highly recommend making using the Njori Tempo?

Fried chicken has always been a passion of ours. We’ve spent years perfecting a sous vide fried chicken recipe which is incredible. The Tempo obviously has you covered on the sous vide front, but also the exact control over the oil temperature is ideal for really perfecting your technique. With most deep fryers, the temperature of the oil isn’t very accurate and drops a lot when cold food is added. The Tempo counters this change and brings it back to temperature straight away.

What are the benefits of using the Njori Tempo as opposed to using conventional cooking facilities or camping stoves?

Conventional cookers are normally set to 9 different levels and are basically just ‘power output’ levels. This means that whatever level you set it to, a pan will get hotter and hotter over time. It’s up to you to be able to tell when our pan is at the right temperature for what you’re cooking and to keep it at the right temperature while it’s in use, often resulting in burnt food. The Tempo can be set to an exact temperature, so no matter what you’re doing, you know the pan temperature is what it’s supposed to be. This is especially important for more adventurous things like sugar work, tempering chocolate, sauce making, etc.

As you are based in the UK, is the Njori Tempo available to purchase internationally?

Yep. We’ve recently closed a Kickstarter campaign in which we had backers from many different countries ordering them. We have developed two different power systems to work on the different international voltages.

What are the dos and don’ts when it comes to caring for your Njori Tempo?

Nothing that isn’t quite obvious. The nature of induction cooking and the smart systems make it a very safe device. It’s obviously an electrical device, so I guess the only ‘don’t’ is don’t put it in the dishwasher.

Have you always wanted to design innovative kitchenware or did your career aspirations lie elsewhere?

Generally, yes. We’ve more recently been making all sorts of random things for other people, but we both started out designing for clients like Joseph Joseph and Jamie Oliver. It hasn’t been that intentional, but we both always end up working on kitchenware.

Hypothetically speaking, if you could create your ideal 3 course meal what would you cook & eat?

That’s a big question, and the answer would probably change from day-to-day. Right now, I’d say sous vide and grilled spanish style pulpo (octopus), then our signature sous vide fried chicken, and for dessert – I would probably just have more chicken.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I’m quite into overshirts at the moment. And I recently got a pair of Adidas Ultraboost 20’s, which I love. They are so comfortable I barely take them off.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Er, not really. I recently found Everpress which is a great website for people to sell their own t-shirt designs. It’s almost like crowdfunding for t-shirts.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

More ultraboosts!

Boots or Shoes?

I do love a good boot, but they are harder to find the perfect one, and are pretty seasonal, so I guess I’m a shoe guy!

For Pinning Later

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about Njori Tempo

www.kickstarter.com/projects/njori/njori-tempo-the-smart-cooker-for-adventurous-chefs

njori.com

.instagram.com/njoricooking

Thanks for the chat, Jack. I think the Njori Tempo looks super cool yet practical.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Jack Raison & Nick Orme.

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