Before I start today I’ll do a bit of groveling. Fred’s Diary is holding a competition for a travel story and I have a couple of entries in. Can you vote for me please? There’s a really nice prize. This does not apply to you if you like another story better, or want to vote for a friend, so there is absolutely no coercion from me here, but you don’t believe everything I write do you?  Here is the link just in case

When I was in my first frantic scribbling phase and sending manuscripts in all directions, to radio, magazines and newspapers, there wasn’t a commissioning editor in London or Johannesburg who wasn’t swamped by my efforts. They must have groaned every Monday morning as they tried to find their desks beneath the piles of stories, articles etc sent in by me.


There was one lady in Durban who I will always remember. Why? Because she sent me the nicest rejection letters you could ever wish to read. I’m not sure how she did it, but instead of telling me I was submitting garbage, or she wouldn’t touch a particular subject with a barge pole, she made up some reason or excuse that kept my enthusiasm alive.


I wish I had kept those now as they were a masterpiece in tact and empathy.

I swore that if I was ever in that position, I would do the same, so years later when I was lecturing, I would always sit with the students to gently explain why they got an F, or a mark they were unhappy with. Some took it in good faith, while others would simply argue that they should have got an A. They were not willing to learn from a low mark, they were more interested in passing than actually learning.

My take was that if they repeated the exercise, putting all the ‘wrong’ things right, then they will have taken a giant leap forward. That was the whole point of the project to learn from it. If they knew it all before enrolling on the course, there was little point in them coming to college at all.

Some took my advice, others didn’t, they were too busy arguing to learn anything.

I always found it amazing that after that first assignment, I could stare at 70 odd faces and earmark the five or so who would be successful. They just had what it takes. Difficult to put my finger on why, or how I knew. Was it a different slant on a subject? That elusive spark of creativity? Their enthusiasm? Heaven knows but I was never wrong. One student I took out on shoot for qualify for his work experience, a necessary qualification for graduation, eventually became my business partner and he bought the company when I left South Africa. He had that indefinable something that contributed to our success.

KZN BP Misc wasing

I mention this as I have been in touch with two authors in the last month whose books I just could not award the usual five stars. One was really upset and told me my book wasn’t worth 5 stars either yet they had given me a glowing review. So why, I asked didn’t you give it 3 stars which you thought was fair? Emails flew back and forth as if the “you should have given me 5 stars” would have changed the content of the book.

The other author admitted they had doubts about the realism of the plot and was going to have a good think.

While I’m not the guru of whether a book is good or bad, like all of us I am entitled to give my opinion from the reader’s point of view. I am not talking here from the viewpoint of a writer, just the average everyday reader.

No prizes for guessing who will probably succeed in the long term.

Well it’s thankful that Oliver Cromwell did not run England for a long time or he might have caused even more havoc.  When he was younger, he quarreled so badly with his neighbours, he had to move house, and at one time, wait for it, he was a tax collector. He then became a rabid puritan, was sent to Parliament and began to get big ideas. Then it was into the army and when his Roundheads won the war, he was free to bring in all kinds of terrible laws.

Now while he was quite happy to see the illustrious king have his head chopped off (poor Charles) he said that England should not have a king. So, when he won the war he called himself The Lord Protector of England, Wales Scotland and Ireland and signed himself Oliver P.  Lord Protector is another name for king. You couldn’t trust politicians even in those days. He was existing on a miserable income of £100,000 a year – you do the conversion to today’s money.

He had the very best PR service as in 2002 the BBC poll listed him among the 10 greatest Britons of all time – which of course is quite wrong.

Next he set about making people’s lives miserable with all kinds of stupid laws. One example was you were not allowed to knit on a Sunday! Yes, really. In fact you were not supposed to do anything on a Sunday except go to church and pray. If you even went for a walk and you were not on your way to church you could end up with a hefty fine. Playing football on that day could end up with a whipping.

Swearing was punished by a fine and if you swore a lot you could be sent to prison. Most forms of work were banned on a Sunday and women caught doing such a thing could be put in the stocks.


I wonder if people had to wait until Monday to throw rotten tomatoes at them. Is throwing decaying vegetables a form of work?

If you think this is bad wait till I tell you the really awful stuff on Friday.


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