Sunday, 14 September 2014

Congratulations Marc

I posted a few days ago about Marc's Thames Path Challenge. 100km in 24 hours. 

Well, he's done it. Marc finished the walk at around ten to eight this morning. Official timings are yet to come. But he has the medal. 

Marc was raising money for the Celia Hammond Animal Trust.

Once again, congratulations Marc a great achievement.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Ten Books of Yesteryear

Over on that scourge of social media a friend challenged me to name 10 books from my youth of some significance – or words to that effect. It’s amazing, the second I’m asked that the first thing is I can’t remember any. But with a little coaxing the mist cleared slightly and out came some jumbled thoughts. Here I explain why I picked the titles I did, but I’ve not mentioned very much regarding content of these stories.  

Ten books that have stuck in my mind for one reason or the other. In no particular order, the books that have survived the memory wipe to be recalled here are:

My first book review

The Secret of Moon Castle
By Enid Blyton
This appears to be part of a series that I never knew at the time. I think the combination of the words Moon Castle must have been the trigger for me. I have a some memories of this, particularly an L shaped room. The book itself by the time I no longer owned it was falling appart, I do remember that.

Interestingly I just looked this up on Wikipedia, it states it is part of a series of 5 books then goes on to list 6 titles in the series. Certainly was a mysterious series of books.

Doctor Who and the Cybermen
By Gerry Davis
I've limited myself to just two Doctor Who titles in this list, and I've a different reason for selecting the two I have done. This was one of the first Doctor Who novelizations I owned and in the end I actually knew the backcover blurb off by heart. One day our school library obtained three Doctor Who titles, this being one of them. A mate and I stunned the school's librarian by performing a 'mind reading' act where as he read the back cover in front of her, with my back turned I recited what it was they were looking at.

The Belgariad (series)
By David Eddings
One of my first forays into sets of fantasy fiction. This epic series set me on my path for fantasy.

Silly Verses for Kids
By Spike Milligan
There is no way I could leave this book off the list. My copy had the orange cover, I've seen it online with a blue one since. It was just bonkers, and so many of them stuck in my mind to the extent that it doesn't take much to set me off quoting it even today. 'String is a very important thing...'

Doctor Who and the Horror of Fang Rock
By Terrance Dicks
My second Doctor Who of this list. TV series and novel both by Terrance Dicks and the edition that stands out for me is the original with art work by Jeff Cummins. I remember reading a library copy of this whilst off sick from school. It was hard going, since all my body wanted to do was sleep, but I wanted to read it. I remember the GP calling back round to see how I was a couple of days after his first visit even now, but I had no memory of his first visit even then.

I could quite so easily have filled this list with Doctor Who books, but I made sure I allowed other titles to get a look in. I had to include a Terrance Dicks since he wrote so many of the Doctor Who novels and it really was these books that made the young me want to read. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Terrance at several Doctor Who conventions and having the opportunity of thanking him for these books that got me enthusiastic about reading which has had a massive impact on me.  I’ve also got several prints of the covers from artist Jeff Cummins who also attends these events and every time I see this artwork it gives me a buzz and happy memories.

The Servants of Ark (trilogy)
By Jonathan Wylie
Another collection of fantasy and prophecy that caught me and I remember reading quite obsessively.

The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe
By C.S. Lewis
I first encountered the wonderful world of Narnia during story time at school. Could even have been the start of my love of fantasy. Enough said...

Fantastic Mr Fox
By Roald Dahl
This book is as old as I am. Although the edition I had was from the Puffin print a few years later. We had the Puffin book club at school where parents were encouraged to buy books from a small leaflet which we brought home every few months. I think that was where my Spike Milligan Silly Verses also came from. There were a few Roald Dahl books, I also have fond memories of 'The Magic Finger' as well.

Twentieth-Century Short Stories
By various authors
The Machine Stops, by E.M. Forster, Odour of Chrysanthemums by D.H Lawrence. The Destructors by Graham Greene and The Lumber Room by Saki are the stories I recall in this collection which was part of our 'O' Level English course. There was beauty in the bleakness that Lawrence wrote, but just do not get me started on the farce that was our English Literature class. That is another story in itself.

Another point to mention, was that my next-door neighbor also grew Chrysanthemums and so as I child I knew their scent every year when they bloomed.

Ninety-Nine Dragons
By Barbara Sleigh
A young boy goes to bed, but rather than count sheep he counts dragons. Just my sort of thing and something I could imagine doing on those summer nights during the summer holidays as a child when I couldn't get to sleep.

At the end of the assignment I’m supposed to nominate other friends to do the same. But I’m challenging you my reader, if you made it this far try for yourself to think over those books that have some significance to you.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Marc's Walk for our Furry Friends

Has everyone finished throwing buckets of water over their heads? Yes? Good. Now can we have your attention please? To paraphrase what they say on the BBC, “Other charity events are also available.”

Marc in training wearing the
Thames Path t-shirt...
Marc, a long time friend and editor on the Karl trilogy, is endeavouring to walk 100km in a 24 hour period as part of the Thames Path Challenge in September. He will be walking to raise money for the Celia Hammond Animal Trust.

This charity walk/run takes place over a 24 hour period and goes from Putney Bridge to Henley over weekend of the 13th/14th September.

...and in the Celia Hammond vest
As far as I know he is the only entry raising money for Celia Hammond at this event.

He has chosen this charity because of the special care they provided for the boys during their lives, two little furry fellows commonly known and Bertie and Pilch. (You can find out their full names on his JustGiving Page where you can also help by sponsoring him. You can read more as well on his Facebook Event page)

I absolutely adored these two, and so did everyone else who met them.

Celia Hammond Animal Trust run clinics in Canning Town and Lewisham, and have a sanctuary in East Sussex and a branch in Tunbridge Wells. They provide refuge for cats and kittens who for various reasons cannot be taken elsewhere. Provide low cost neutering and veterinary services for those for those unable to afford private veterinary bills and do not qualify under other charities, and help rescue and re-home animals in need, amongst other things. 

You can find out a lot more about them by visiting their website:

Bertie taking up editing duties
Some of you will already have seen a photo of Bertie in the past. On occasions when Marc was away the boys would come to stay with me. Even after Pilch had passed away Bertie still came to me for his holiday and on one occasion took up editing duties on book 2 of the Karl Trilogy.

Until recently the internet was only good for one or two things, cute cat pictures being one of them. So here I present some cute photos of the boys along with some fond memories I have of them. I know there are plenty of warm, loving, affectionate little critters out there, but in my experience I have never met another pair like them.  

Two brothers planning something.

It’s in their memory that Marc is doing this walk and it’s in their memory that I post this and ask that you do more than just like the post but make a donation, no matter how small, every little will help Marc reach his target.

Or you can text your donation by sending a text with the code MMCH69 and the amount you want to donate to 70070.

For example: text MMCH69 £5 to 70070

I remember one time staying over at Marc’s, whilst selling my flat and buying a new place. Now selling and buying is very stressful. The woman I was purchasing from phoned me on the Saturday morning and practically screamed at me that she had heard my buyers were pulling out – which was complete rubbish. As a result she would be pulling out and was going to put the place I was buying back onto the market. After the call I was on the point of cracking, two little furry heads appeared at the window – they had gone out to play earlier – and within seconds they had both bounded over to give me kitten cuddles.

Two little terrors at dinner time.

Pilch was quite a cheeky boy at times.  But it was harder to get him to pose for a photo.

Bertie decides to take up the WiiFit.

If ever I stayed over I would always wake up with either or both of them snuggled up against me. Even in summer when it would be too warm, Bertie always made sure he lay in touching distance. It’s this sort of trust and affection given by an animal that to me is very humbling.

Whatever it was Aunty, we didn’t do it. Promise.

He might have always been slightly smaller than his brother , Pilch could sure eat. 
‘Please Aunty Derek can I have some more, my brother ate mine.’

We got here first.
No idea where you're going to sleep tonight.

Now which of these do I want to listen to?

Bertie and I posing for a selfie.

Whenever I went over to Marc’s, Bertie would always dash into the living room from 
where ever he was, leap up onto the arm of the sofa and wave a paw at me, meowing profusely 
until I sat down so that he could nuzzle me then snuggle up against me. What a welcome.

Many thanks,

Derek, Marc, Bertie, Pilch, Karl & everyone in Miltonburg & Esmay

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Bitten by Dracula at The Pleasance.

I’m more of a werewolf boy than vampire myself, but when the Edinburgh Fringe Preview email arrived from The Pleasance Theatre the other day one show stood out as intriguing. 

This was Action To The Word’s Steampunk adaptation of Dracula. Not quite sure what to expect we were presented with a rock opera/steampunk electrifying production, that delivered so much more than I could have dreamed of.  

This seventy minute production delivers a fast paced telling of the story, true to the original, but with an injection of originality. Jono Davies as Dracula is the first new vampire I’ve seen for a very long while that I can believe is dangerous because of his power of seduction. If he turned up on your doorstep you would let him in rather than say ‘not today thank you,’ like the reception I feel most cold calling vampires would now receive. I had no problem believing how Jonathan Harker would have originally been captivated by the Count before he literally rocks up in Whitby and claims his dominance there.  

Performed by a magnificent musician based cast who play all the music live this is a must see for anyone who like vampires, rock opera, steampunk or any combination thereof.

Written and directed by Alexandra  Spencer-Jones, supported by a fabulous creative team this show is amazing, with wonderful atmospheric lighting, set design and costumes - this show really must go a lot further than this year’s Fringe.

Dracula staring Jono Davis and Rachel Bright is on at the Pleasance Theatre Islington until 27th July before moving to Pleasance Courtyard in Edinburgh, 30th July – 1st Aug (previews), 2nd Aug – 25th Aug (not 11th

For more details go to:

Friday, 11 July 2014

Mystery Model - Completing the Basic Structure

And so we come to the part where I put the last pieces of this 3D jigsaw puzzle together.

The roof pieces which I started with quite some time ago are now ready to be fixed into place. I find sticking the tiles on can be quite laborious at times, often left as late as possible and often causes me to slow down the work. This time I decided since the model was being built in pieces I could get this done and out of the way first.


I've stuck on the last parts of the towers, including the projecting rear tower. I've also added some triangular supports for this tower which were not in the original design.

The only piece not yet attached is #22 this is the stone column support from the first floor at the front of the building. Since this piece is very likely to get knocked off as I twist and turn the model I'm leaving it to last to attach, so you'll see some photos where I've pinned it in place and others where it vanishes whilst the rest of the framework is completed.

Previous article in this series: Mystery Model - Top Floor

Next article in this series: Mystery Model - Front of Building (Coming soon)

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Mystery Model - Top Floor

The model is growing - the second floor pieces get added on.

Piece #19
The second floor really was a jigsaw puzzle since this one was created in many pieces and I had to refer back to the original photos to try and identify which parts went where.

No I still have not found the book I drew up the original design in and listed all the pieces.

Here we have the central main section (part #3) just above the entrance.

To the right a rear room with its own roof and the front tower continuing up. Between them is going to be a section of just sloping roof.

To the left are parts 15 a rear tower and #19 a sloping extension extending the main section.

Rather than build the internal walls on these I've used strips of foam-board on the interior joins. This gives me something to glue together but does not use the whole sheet of foam-board up on internal walls. The strips I think will give the model enough internal support. They also give me something to hold onto on the inside of the model when twisting it about to work on at different angles.

Previous article in this series: More Wood
Next article in this series: Mystery Model - Completing the Basic Structure

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Postcards from Miltonburg

Over on Karl's Facebook page I've been running a series of 'Postcards from Miltonburg'. I've included one or two on this blog from time to time to give some colour to recent posts. But it's not an easy thing to achieve living in a suburb of London, to generate a series of photos that would fit a theme of Ye Olde Worlde. You have to avoid modern housing and constructions, people clothed anachronistically for the period you want to represent, buses and cars thundering past, in fact anything that breaks the spell.

This really leaves me with very few options locally, just the local park, hopefully when there are not too many people about and a few holiday photos that reside in the collection that can be adopted and manipulated.

Parsloe's Park has become the edge of the woods around Miltonburg, photographed from very tight angles to avoid parts of the Becontree Estate in the distance popping up through the trees. Photos in the collection come in a variety of shapes and sizes depending on how much I've had to crop. A visit to Cornwall gave me images of Bodmin Moor and Tintagel which have found their way into the collection along with The Bishop’s Palace in Lincoln.

That's all well and good, but not only is this world from the books Olde Worlde, it's also somewhere else in the universe, with a different sun, planets and moons in the sky and hence different light.

So now we need the additional tweaks - I need to adjust the brightness, contrast, colour depth and tone of the picture. A few years back that would have been quite a task. Getting the photos printed and then scanned and the amount of processing effort to get them adjusted based on what you had to work with in the first place would have been incredible. The photo editing tools were out there, but I find I could spend hours in front of the pc struggling with these tools not really knowing what was going on and not having the time to work through and comprehend some of the tutorials.

Now we have these mobile phones devices which do just about everything except make the morning coffee. (I’m not much of tea drinker.) They have apps, which are quite simple and quite powerful for image manipulation that would have taken some computers from my youth ages to achieve and process. There are quite a few of these apps out there but I’ve found PEStudio (Photo Effect Studio) does just about everything I need from cropping, re-colouring,  light manipulation plus the odd special effect thrown in for good measure. However I cannot find it the App Store any longer to tell you who made it, and there are no credits on the app that I can find. However I’m sure there are many others that can provide the same. And what’s more the image is transformed into a whole other world within a matter of minutes allowing me to post it direct to the page in question. So different from how things used to be.

Dungeon in Bishop’s Palace (Lincoln) becomes the Dungeon in Esmay

The Hurlers in the distance on Bodmin Moor (Cornwall) becomes Karl’s long walk home

Parsloes Park (Dagenham) with some cropping becomes secret way to Gerranthaul’s

View from Tintagel Castle (Cornwall) becomes a coastal climb for Karl & Spiker

Own model stone circle becomes gifted with special Solstice light