Anyone who thinks that writing for a living is a quiet, gentle occupation is just SO wrong. Do you imagine a scene with the writer, coffee by his side, sitting serenely tapping away at the keyboard, pausing only to think for a few seconds before beaming with pleasure and then tapping away again? Wrong.

Writer sitting at keyboard scratching head, swearing and cursing. Types one sentence erases it. Gets up to find missing sock. Sits down again. Reads last few sentences. Child rushes in screaming there is a snake in the garden which has now gone up the drainpipe. Tell child to get gaffer tape from camera box and tape up bottom of drainpipe. Scribble note to husband to flush gutters when he gets home. Drinks coffee. Gets up to make more coffee. Child rushes in to say neighbour’s child has fallen in the pool. Ask is it drowning? No, then go back out and play. Taps out six more words, reads, deletes them. Gets up makes more coffee, then sits, then gets up and scribbles shopping list. Phone rings, reminder piece is due tomorrow. Child rushes in, takes one look at face and disappears. Someone turns on TV, scream at them to turn it off. Taps out two more sentences, pause search for right word, decide to check sales figures for 17th time that day. Doorbell rings, scream out for someone to answer it while moaning that Tolstoy never had these problems. Go to make more coffee, change mind make for liquor cabinet… to be continued.

I suspect Henry VIII never had this problem. He would have made sure his study was peace and quiet. I bet he didn’t have servants running in every five minutes saying that France was threatening to attack, or there was a punch up between the ladies in waiting, or that Catherine had just ordered a dress costing thousands, or the greenfly were attacking his roses. Ah, to be royalty. But then poor Henry did have his problems too.

The caption for this picture which I also included last time was Henry eyeing up the talent.


He wanted the Pope to give him a divorce from the first one, Catherine, because she was arrogant. He had married her a very long time ago, she only produced a daughter and he wanted a son, and anyway, he fancied Anne Bolyn.

The Pope refused and so Henry divorced her anyway and set up the Restoration and made himself head of the Church of England.  In case the Pope got in first, he sacked all the churches and monasteries and took all the precious artifacts and kept them for himself.


FOR SALE – ancient abbey great location, good address, in need of a little TLC. Planning permission to extend already granted.

Sadly ANNE only produced a daughter so he had HER head chopped off because SHE got it wrong as well. He married again, and again and again and again, and got one son who was quite poorly, so he lost interest and took up tennis instead, while bullying Cardinal Wolsey into handing over Hampton Court…. to be continued.


Hampton Court (nice tea shop).


So what rubbish am I going to bore you with this morning? I do console myself that there are lots of really well written blogs out there giving tons of great and useful advice on writing, publishing and even reading books! Well of course you know you won’t get anything like that here.

But just a quick aside. I would like to thank those people who have taken the time and effort to write reviews, not only for my books but for other authors as well. When I only read books before I started writing them, I occasionally wrote the odd review if I thought the book was exceptional, or if Amazon nagged me with a host of emails asking me to give my opinion of….  In those days I had no idea that you were not likely to be accepted by a promotional company if you did not have dozens of comments of a certain rating. You are persona non grata even if your book could rival Shakespeare for literary content and brilliance.

A group of authors are contributing to an anthology of short stories by be published to raise funds for the Macmillan nurses. I’ll keep you updated on the progress, but hopefully there will be lots of support for it – it’s for a really good cause.

Now to the serious stuff – our journey through history. We have come to my favourite king. Here is a clue….

He is no stranger to anyone. He was known for being a very strong king, cutting people’s heads off and having 6 wives.


Any idea? Yes, of course it’s Henry VIII. You notice they still have very little imagination with names – I’m sure he would sound more interesting as Cedric I, or Algernon I, or even Humperdinck I. But no we have yet another Henry, following seven kings all with the same name. As the young would say borrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrring.

Now if you get confused with all this wife stuff this is the little poem to learn – Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, died.

That’s the history of what happened to them but of course it doesn’t help identify who is who. It’s possible after these history lessons you will be more confused that ever, but that doesn’t matter.

Now before we look at the women in his life here is something you might not know about England’s most notorious king. As you might guess, kings were supposed to be big and powerful so that people would obey him and be good, faithful, hard working and king-fearing peasants.

Unfortunately Henry was a skinny lad so this would never do. He was actually forced to buy his 32 inch trousers from Marks and Spencers (he never went at sale time as that was beneath his dignity). But when it came to having his portrait painted he realized that this would never do, so he told his court gentlemen to collect all the pillows from around the palace and borrow some clothes from nearby fat people so he could appear big and important. That’s the reason we all have the image that Henry VIII was a large fat man.

Here is one more picture as a teaser for next week.

CATHERINE AND ANNEAll will be revealed next time.

POETRY AND THE TUDORS (warning contains nudity)

I have read that many of you attended the London Book Fair but this is one event that I am quite sure all of you missed. It was the award for the best poetry written in 1934. The winning poetess was flown over especially from her rural hovel, somewhere south of Siberia, just especially to receive the award and to read out her poem.

The presentation took place in a small side room next to the public loos and the little old lady who is now rather frail, will celebrate her hundredth birthday next year. Sadly her voice was so faint that the public speaker system was of no use whatsoever, especially as Lydiahadkgl Yadokovexaniaslobsky was scared of the microphone. The problem was solved when someone ran in with a megaphone from a nearby pawn shop and she used that instead.

The judges were overwhelmed with the strength and beauty of the poem which they proclaimed was full of hidden messages, multiple layers and underlying sub texts, and I have permission and the honour to reprint it here for you in full.

I am, I am not. I am not what I am. Therefore I am. Not.

Brings tears to your eyes doesn’t it? Well enough of the serious part, and let’s get on with our totally inaccurate history lesson which is correct in every detail.

We were approaching the Irish question under the English king Henry VII and this was QUICKLY solved during his reign by allowing the Irish to have their own parliament. And it worked brilliantly, as only the English could sit in it and only the English could pass the laws. They hoped that the Irish would not notice.


This was a very exciting time in history, as it was also the age of discoveries such as Copernicus noticing the moon for the first time and shouting about rotation for which, OF COURSE,  he was quickly put to death.

COPERNICUSThis is a very nice picture of Copernicus taken in the photo booth at Boots the chemist while he was still alive.

And this was also the age of exploration. For example there were the adventures of Christopher Columbus the first real American, who was Italian to start with, but worked for the Spanish after being rejected by the Portuguese and threatening to go to the British. This shows the typical welcome extended to Columbus and all his men when they landed. It’s quite surprising they could tear themselves away and sail back home.



When I was young one of the books I most enjoyed reading was “Hilda a New Zealand Schoolgirl.” I thought she was just the greatest as she rode to school each day on a horse. Oh, if only I could do that. OK, it wouldn’t be quite as glamorous riding through the suburbs avoiding the traffic. She rode through the bush, enjoying nature. Somehow I didn’t think my mother would re-locate down under just so I could ride a horse to school. There was another thing about Hilda which I much admired and that was her motto (and apologies to any Latin scholars reading this) Equatamor in Ardeus – appalling spelling I’m sure, and Google translate does not give me the same meaning at all, but in the book it was quoted as ‘Calm in Hardship.’  I’ve tried to follow this and it’s rare that I dissolve into a huddled heap when things go wrong. I’m much more likely to go away and think things through and then work out plan A followed by plan B and, just in case plan C – I have been known to work my way down to plan Z. Then I can quietly face a situation or problem and make the best of it.

Which is a long introduction to the parapet. The moment you join any social media and post, or, you write a book and put it out there for people to read, you poke your head above the parapet. Basically you are asking for trouble if you think everyone is going to like what you say and/or write.

All writers need reviews, they are like oxygen to a drowning man, and like many other writers I read books with an eye to writing a review to post on Amazon. Most of them I enjoy but sometimes I don’t like a book for all sorts of reasons and this week, I nervously sent a message to a writer to say that their work was not really for me. I felt so guilty and I hoped they wouldn’t hate me forever.

This morning when I checked my messages there was one from a reader who gently and politely told me that ‘Amie’ was not for her, not the kind of thing that appealed to her at all. I read it almost with a sense of relief. While we are all thrilled to get 5 star reviews from readers, we are aware that a long list of perfect reviews may seem more than a little suspicious.

So, was I upset? No. Years of working for a variety of clients has prepared me for the fact that you can’t please all of the people all of the time. It’s normal, it’s natural and if we were not all different we would all be reading the same book, watching the same film, listening to the same music and new artists would never get off the ground.

I must add here that the comments this morning as to why she didn’t get past chapter 2, were fair and constructive. She made a valid point and I shall take it to heart and hopefully it will help to improve my writing.

Now, I am not now talking about ‘trolls’. No, I didn’t know what they were either until I got chatting to other authors. Apparently there are people who write reviews that viciously attack the author rather than the book. I’ve been told they roam the internet in packs and trash a certain book possibly resulting in falling sales. I find it hard to believe as I just could not deliberately hurt anyone and a couple of decades ago I adopted a new motto ‘Do No Harm,’ I liked the sound of that one and I don’t have to worry about lousy Latin translations either! Any review I write will be honest, but hopefully constructive, or at least a reason why I didn’t like a book or product. If your work / post has been criticized, take comfort in knowing that at least someone has noticed you and has taken the time to acknowledge it. There will be millions out there who will love what you have to say, it’s just getting the word out.

Enough of me on my soap box and lets go back in time to…. THE TUDORS! My favourites.

Yes they were the Welsh kings who the people decided they wanted next on the throne and the first of these Tudor kings was Henry VII who defeated all the other POSSIBLE kings at the battle of Bosworth Field and took away all their roses. After the battle the crown was found hanging up in a hawthorn tree at the top of the hill, the first time this had EVER happened.

CROWN BRIANWith thanks to Brian for the cartoon.

Henry VII was a miser and very good at statecraft and EXTREMELY good at exhorting money from his subjects especially the very poor ones. At the same time, there were pretenders to the throne who had to be executed to prove they were only pretending they should be king.

HENRY VIA portrait of Henry VII looking thoughtful.

One of these pretenders was Warbek Jerkin, who refused to have his photograph taken in case they noticed he did not look anything like the little prince who had apparently been substituted for the other little pretend prince who was murdered in the Tower by nasty Uncle Richard, or maybe not. I do hope that is all quite clear and you understand it as I have no idea what I am talking about.

Next time we move on to the Irish question, which I believe has still to be answered.


You cannot imagine what Lucinda E Clarke is doing to me now. For those of you who have read about me, you will know that I was living happily in my home town in England, and this Lucinda person uprooted me and sent me to Africa. As if that was not enough she then had me filming some really ridiculous and gruesome stuff and then civil war breaks out. Honestly life was not easy.

But then, just as I was ready to relax, along comes another situation and it can only spell disaster. If it wasn’t for Angelina, I would get on the next plane home and forget about all this nonsense. I’m really very scared and I have no control over this mad woman who continues to put me through hell in a foreign land.

OK, so I do love this continent, it grabs you and doesn’t want to let you go, but perhaps you could ask her to be kind to me and not put me in any more danger. Let me just sit and enjoy the wildlife, what is left of it, and go to bed feeling safe and secure each night.

I have a feeling though that she is not going to listen to any of us. I’d better let her finish this blog, she wants to teach some more history, although it bears no resemblance to any of the history I learned at school.

EDWARD VWe are going back a bit here. but don’t worry if you are confused, it is unlikely you are as confused as I am. We are going to race through a few kings as they were not particularly interesting. So, following on from in the meantime….


there was Edward IV part 2, he caught a COLD while fishing, 12 year old Edward V, who reigned for 2 months before he was SMOTHERED to death and  Richard III killed in battle at 32, and he only reigned for 2 years anyway. I doubt if any of the pictures above match the right kings, but you get the general impression of kings I’m sure, so that’s OK. It can’t be that important who is who and it what order they came.

But we do have the ongoing discussion over whether Richard III killed those poor little BABIES IN TOWER. Some say he did, some say he didn’t. However, if being dug up from a public car park in Leicester in front of the whole world isn’t punishment enough I don’t know what is.


So with all this smothering and sneezing and yet another royal drowning in a butt of Malmondsey wine and even an attempt to give his kingdom to a horse, we whizz quickly past quite a few kings  But everyone was convinced that the Stuarts were not ready yet to ascend the throne and decided that the Welsh kings were the right choice.

And do you know who the Welsh kings were?  Watch this space.


I really am losing it these days. On Monday I included a short extract from the latest book here on my blog and I have only now found the pictures which match the story, so I thought I would share them with you. So here come the chicken ladies. A really great bunch of people who were just so committed to what they were doing and they worked so hard to make their venture a success and support their families.


They came to welcome us, singing and dancing.


Do you think these chickens like being upside down? I doubt it somehow.


This is the truck which ferried the chickens to the school – thankfully not in our car!


The children gathered to say thank you to the chicken ladies – then for the birds, it was time for the pot.

You may remember that we have come to the end of the Hundred Years war – although an interesting fact is that since records began there have only been 4 years when there has not been a major conflict somewhere in the world.

But don’t be fooled into thinking that England won the war by being better soldiers or planning a better campaign.  The TRUTH is that it was really stopped by Joan of the Ark of Noah, who heard voices and went about unfairly DEFEATING the English. The outcome could have become very nasty, but luckily the French decided that she would make a good martyr – and burned her at the stake.  Thus England was saved.


Here she is on her pony.

Everyone noticed that the middle ages were coming to an end, and the barons were determined to stave off the Stuarts for as long as possible.


Their plan was to start the Wars of the Roses and they all picked different coloured flowers to show which sides they were on. But, in the meantime….

And I will leave you quivering on the edge of your seats until next time.


I may have been a writer for many, many, many years, uh lets just make that a couple or it will show my age, but there are still times when I stare at the blank screen and think “What next?” Well today is one of those days. My mind has gone totally blank and I may just lie on the sofa and read, a real treat. So, I am going to cheat and include a passage from the new book before I continue with the history lesson.

If I thought the abattoir took some stamina that was before I went to the chicken farms. Yes, in theory they were free range chickens, housed in a barn, and yes, in theory they could run around, if they could find the space to move. I’d thought that free range meant running wildly and happily around in a field. But no, as long as they were not in cages they were classified as ‘free’.

The smell was quite indescribable, but the cheerful band of friendly women who greeted us with songs and dances, holding palm fronds in one hand and a chicken dangling upside down in the other, were oblivious to the stench.

When they wanted to move the chickens from one barn to another they waded in amongst them, grabbing legs and bundling half a dozen in each hand, with more squeezed under each armpit, before flinging them over the wall into the next pen. I guessed they knew what they were doing, as after stumbling for a few moments, it looked as if the chickens could still walk.

After we had gathered all the footage we needed at the farm they told us we were going to drive them to a nearby school just down the road, so they could present a few chickens to the children as a public relations exercise. They didn’t use those exact words of course, but I could see that their gifts would help keep everyone happy.

I really didn’t want a crowd of squawking, screeching chickens in the back of my car, especially as I had no idea how far this school was. In Africa, ‘just down the road’ could be just that, or 100 kilometres or more. I didn’t feel I could refuse to give them a lift in the crew car, which happened to belong to my husband. I borrowed it from him for shoots as it was large, powerful and had an enormous boot.

As one of the ladies came to wait by the car, three chickens dangling upside down from each hand, I noticed with horror that there were little mite-type creatures leaping about in the chicken feathers. I shuddered. How many would drop off and snuggle down for a sight-seeing drive to visit the rest of the province’s finalists? Did these little black creatures bite? Did they carry diseases? And then it also dawned on me that chickens weren’t house trained either, though I wasn’t sure if they could commune with nature while hanging upside down.

At the last possible moment, much to my relief, another customer arrived in his bakkie to buy chickens, and I managed to persuade him to give the ladies, and their infested birds, a lift to the local school. I bribed him with the promise he would be on national television, and I would get the finalists to say on camera how delicious these particular chickens were, and how he was their favourite customer. I lifted my eyes to heaven and hoped that He would forgive my lies. It was all in a good cause wasn’t it? I was only protecting the health of my crew.

Time to leap back into the past now as we move on to the next king.

The next king Henry IV part 2, had only been one year old when he originally came to the throne the first time and was rather a weak king, as the barons had difficulty understanding his commands.


Actually these pictures of Henry look a little older than his baby pictures, but I’m sure they will do. You can use a bit of imagination can’t you? It’s really terribly difficult finding suitable photos of them as they were all so terribly camera shy.

MAP FRANCEENGLISH FLAGNow here we have another outline of France and a British flag. You need to put the flag over France to show it was British and not French, because it was during Henry’s reign that the Hundred Years war came to an end, it had lasted longer than 100 years anyway and everyone had got a bit bored with it.

In the next thrilling installment, I’ll tell you who won what, if I can find out before Friday.


More Truth, Lies and Propaganda is out in paperback, so I met my deadline. That was a relief as I’ve never missed one of those since I first began writing in 1983. Whoops, maybe I should not have added that date, difficult to pretend I’m only 25 now!

A few more photos which illustrate some of the stories in the new book.

This is a group photo I took of an elderly farmer. He had an enormous number of cows and was a very sharp businessman. He’d built up a huge herd, from only one cow. He spoke excellent English.elderly dairy farmer and familyAttaching first mat of second rowThese ladies north of Springbok in the Eksteenfontein area building a traditional hut.

DSC01786 It’s difficult to see what these goats find to eat in an area that looks almost totally barren.

HOUSING WORKERS & DONKEYThis poor donkey was working hard in the heat, mixing water with soil to make mud bricks. A method as old as man. It was almost surreal to see this when there were cars parked nearby, a mixture of the old world and the new.

What a great link then back to the old world and a little more about Henry V or Prince Hal – well let’s be honest we don’t have time at this speed to learn very much about any of them do we?  Just to remind you what he looks like.


The one with the crown on. Now Henry decided to be the perfect English king, appearing in the Hundred Years war and declaring that ALL  the treaties with France were to be regarded as null and void. And to remind you what that looks like, here is an outline of France.


(Now admit it, isn’t that the most boring map of France you have ever seen? )

Well, since the current French king at that time was mad, this made it very easy for Henry to invade France and there was a memorable battle called Agincourt which Hal won, displacing the French DOLPHIN as ruler of Anjou, Menjou, Poilou, Tourain and Angaine. However his fame went to his head and he quickly expired.  –   But, the French have NEVER forgiven us for Agincourt. (With apologies to the French).