Welcome to my blog. I am not a very regular blogger, but I try to keep this site updated with news and information. If there's none of the above I may just share my random ruminations.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Jeff Gardiner visits WRITER CRAMPED

I am pleased to welcome a fellow Accent Press author to my blog.  Hello, Jeff. Thank you for visiting me and telling me all about PICA. It sounds like an enthralling read.

Jeff Gardiner's YA novel, PICA, explores a world of ancient magic, when people and nature shared secret powers. 
Luke hates nature, preferring the excitement of computer games to dull walks in the countryside, but his view of the world around him drastically begins to change when enigmatic loner, Guy, for whom Luke is reluctantly made to feel responsible, shows him some of the secrets that the very planet itself appears to be hiding from modern society.
Set in a very recognisable world of school and the realities of family-life, Luke tumbles into a fascinating world of magic and fantasy where transformations and shifting identities become an escape from the world. Luke gets caught up in an inescapable path that affects his very existence, as the view of the world around him drastically begins to change.

PICA Extract

A magpie (Latin name – Pica pica) has been persistently knocking on Luke’s window, and everywhere he goes he sees magpies. One day he decides to let the magpie in…

As soon as I pushed the window outwards the waiting bird hopped in, making a sound that almost equated to a tut. That can’t be right. I was imagining things again. My first fear that the magpie would squawk and flap about madly was unfounded, but I still felt nervous in its unpredictable presence, and had to keep trusting it wouldn’t poo on my bed. 
But it didn’t. In fact, it acted with excellent manners. What kind of bird was this? Wild birds don’t enter houses after knocking politely. If a bird does accidently get into a house it goes completely mental and craps everywhere. This one looked at me with eyes that gleamed with intelligent understanding. It knew me. I swear, it looked at me and knew I wouldn’t hurt it. In the old days I would have looked for a stick or a weapon. Now things were different, and I stared back at him with utter fascination. I moved even closer, confident I wasn’t in any danger.
‘You need to choose your friends more carefully, Luke.’ 
I stumbled slightly and had to grip the windowsill with my fingertips to hold myself up.
What the –?
The sodding bird had only gone and spoken to me. It snapped its beak, glared at me sideways, then flicked its tail. 
Was that for real, or had I lost the plot? Being with Guy had obviously turned me into a nut-job.
Up to now, I’d witnessed some amazing sights – but they could all be explained in encyclopaedias. However amazing the creatures Guy showed me, each one existed in the real world. But a talking bird? Now we’d suddenly jumped into a different dimension. 
And it had used my name. 
Had Guy sent this amazing bird to me to blow my mind even further?
It had to be Guy’s doing – sent on a crazy mission … unless …
Now I felt really stupid talking to a bird. 
‘Hello, Luke.’
Bloody hell. Take me to a padded cell. I’d lost it. Maybe I never had it!
‘Guy? Is that …’ This was crazy. ‘… is that you?’

If, like me, you've been inspired by this tantalsing extract to seek out Jeff's book, you can find PICA at W.H.Smith or at  Barnes & Noble . Of course, it can also be purchased through Amazon - UK, US or Australia

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

“Superb writing”

......who me? 

It goes without saying that reviews are important. But hang on ... does that statement truly “go without saying”? Have the reading public any real idea what a difference a good review makes? I am not just talking about sales figures. And anyway, it’s a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy that books with a lot of reviews will have better sales than those with only a few. What we know for sure is that the author with 150 reviews for a particular title, has probably already sold getting on for that number.  And the author with only 10....?  Well, you can do the math, as they say.

Of course it’s not as simple a calculation as it looks. Perhaps you need to analyse the type of book. Is a more escapist story read by people who are more likely to leave stars and reviews? And is the more challenging story read and enjoyed by those who are less likely to leave comments and enthuse?

Is one author very proficient at promoting herself, making friends, and optimising every social media channel?  While the other is less comfortable with that side of things, and is probably allowing opportunities to gain visibility slip past her.

Does one author give away hundreds of review copies, while the other doesn’t even like asking for a review.

All this sounds like special pleading.  To be brutally honest it probably is.  An author who believes in what she’s written, has to rationalise why her book, over which (cliché alert) she has sweated blood and tears, hasn’t sold. Why isn't it in the Times Literary Supplement’s top ten, why hasn’t it been longlisted for that prize or received a gazillion 5 star reviews on Amazon? But when I started to write this piece I was not actually thinking about sales or celebrity, money, prizes or public plaudits, I was considering something subtly different.

The true difference a good review makes is to the author’s self-esteem, to the author’s well-being and sense of achievement. It gives her permission to say to herself: “I haven’t been wasting my time. I did create something of value.”

Last year, when LIFE CLASS was about to be republished, I contacted Anne Williams. I had seen her name on social media and knew she was a prolific book blogger and reviewer.  That is all I knew.  But I stiffened my resolve and approached her, asking if she’d be interested in featuring me.  Anne proved to be a charming and friendly correspondent, and I duly did an interview click here which came out in November. Although I didn’t ask her to, Anne offered to read and review LIFE CLASS. Needless to say, I was delighted.

When Anne's review arrived in my inbox (she allowed me a sight of it before it went live) I was overwhelmed.  It actually made my knees go weak. But what I really want to share here is a snippet of our subsequent email conversation.

“I really, really, really loved it,” Anne assured me, as if suspecting I thought she was just being kind. She then went on to say, “I actually desperately wanted to say something about the part where...[deleted!] ...and the wonderfully real bedroom scene that follows, but I didn't want to risk giving away too much of the story - but that was such superb writing!”

The sense that a reader has really 'got' you, is precious.  I will treasure “superb writing!” far above any number of five star reviews,  for a long long time to come.

But please don't hold back if you feel moved to award LIFE CLASS the aforementioned accolade!Winking smile Winking smile

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Sisters - A special bond.....

and sometimes a source of inspiration

I was sitting on a beach in Greece, when I had the 'Eureka' moment. Of course - they HAVE to be sisters! But, before I explain what I’m talking about, you need some background about my sister and me.

We are very different people. Janis is older by nearly five years and has enjoyed a long and successful career in personnel (these days I should probably call it human resources). Of the two of us, Jan was and is far more outward going, social and talkative, and, it has to be said, bossy. But I was a shy kid and was often lost for words when grown-ups talked to me. If I stayed silent, my big sister would butt in and answer for me.  I liked that.  It saved me the embarrassment of having to try to explain myself. It also saved me the bother.

I am creative.  My first jobs were fill-ins until I landed a position as junior illustrator, in an advertising design studio. I worked in that area of art for about ten years but then, when my son was little, I turned my hand to writing and quickly had two novels published. Ever since, although I’ve continued to write, real success has eluded me, and I’ve essentially been a stay-at-home mum.    As an adult I am more of a loner than my sister, more quiet, inward-looking, a bit indecisive and I can be stubborn.  But when I reflect on my nature, I perceive a duality.  I still lack self-confidence, and yet....  there’s an unassailable core of self-belief in me - or maybe it’s just misguided optimism - that one day, I will be successful.

A few years ago we were on holiday as a foursome - my husband and I, with Jan, and her partner, Roger. The resort we’d chosen was mainland Afissos, on the eastern side of the Greek Pelion peninsular, on the Pagasetic Gulf. Jan & Roger are seasoned Greek travellers; over the years they’d spent very many extended holidays there, mainly island-hopping. They’d been to Afissos before, had really loved it and wanted to show us the quiet, largely unspoilt resort, which was still redolent of the old Greece. It had apartments and a few modest hotels but - although Greeks holidayed there - the small, harbour side village was not yet fully geared up for the hordes from other parts of Europe.

We were in separate, modern but small, apartment blocks.  They were called self-catering - but not a lot of self-catering went on. After a long hard day on the beach, we’d return home to shower and change, and then Jan and Rog would walk from their block to ours bringing lemons which had dropped ripe and luscious from the many trees en route. And we’d sit up on our balcony drinking duty free gin and tonic.  Several lemony gins later we’d wend our way to the sea front, debating... “Now, which taverna shall we eat in tonight?”

I didn’t have TORN - the book I was currently writing - with me on holiday. I say “writing”, but it’s more precise to say I was going through the long and dispiriting process of showing it to literary agents, receiving their rejections, RE-writing it, and sending it out again.  But I was also attempting to cultivate the seed of an idea for my next book.  It was refusing to germinate.  Pretty much all I had was the title - LIFE CLASS.  I had attended life drawing classes for very many years. There was a changing group of students, as well as a changing cast of tutors.  There had to be a story in there somewhere, I reasoned, but I had only got as far as a rudimentary decision about my characters. There would be four - two men, two women.  But “Who are these people?” I kept asking myself.

Now, back to our favourite beach.... It was a fifteen minute walk outside Afissos, so it didn’t get crowded. And very importantly, as far as we were concerned, this beach had a wooden kiosk on the more solid ground at the back - built and run by an entrepreneurial English woman and her Greek husband - where we could get drinks and snacks.

I don’t recall precisely what Jan and I were talking about that day. She was probably being a bit officious and annoying, and “big sistery”.  I was probably being intransigent and mulish, because I hate being told what to do - even if the person doing the telling is patently right.  So, there we were, sitting in the sun, digging our toes into the gazillions of tiny, different coloured shells and pebbles that made up the beach, and having a not very serious - and almost certainly pointless - argument, when I suddenly had the brainwave. The two major female characters in LIFE CLASS had to be sisters!

We do also have a baby brother, Laurence (pictured here).
Sisters don’t always get on, of course, but the bond between them can be so much deeper, more complex and long-standing than mere friends. And I had a wealth of experience to draw on. No need for research.  I know my sister well; I know myself.  All I needed was the big cocktail shaker of my imagination to mix us up a bit. And so, Dory, the career woman, and Fran, the arty stay-at-home mum, were born.  As for their adventures?  There may be some real experience in the ingredients of the cocktail, but...  I’m a writer, aren’t I?  It’s (almost) all made up!

NB When I came to look for a picture of just my sister and me, in Afissos, there were none. Not even one which I could edit. I then, looked through a few albums, before and after that time. The only one I was able to find is the one above, taken during the winter following that holiday.  

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Opening Excerpt From Life Class

I am utterly thrilled.  LIFE CLASS is the last book in my three book deal with Accent Press. It now sees the light of day in its new incarnation. 

Lyn Sofras, the Manic Scribbler, says: 
"....kept me spellbound, unable to find a place to stop reading and therefore carrying on long into the night. I love it when a story does that for me and that's why it has to have five stars. Read it - you will not be disappointed."

About art, life, love and learning lessons, LIFE CLASS follows four members of an art class, who meet once a week to draw the human figure. All have failed to achieve what they thought they wanted in life. They each come to realise that it’s not just the naked model they need to study and understand. Their stories are very different, but they all have secrets they hide from the world and from themselves. By uncovering and coming to terms with the past, maybe they can move on to an unimagined future.

Chapter One - Christmas Eve

‘I work in the sex trade,’ was her usual answer. It amused her to watch the battle for self-control on the face of whoever had asked the question, and their dawning relief when she added the qualifier, ‘… the clean-up end.’
      Her job had always had its lighter moments, but today, since she’d come back from her lunch break, her mood had plummeted. On the pin board above her microscopes, official instructions about hygiene, circulars, and timetables jostled with the cartoons and jokes members of staff had attached. Her contribution – NEVER TRUST A SMILING HETEROSEXUAL – was boldly inscribed on a Post-it note. Even though she’d become used to seeing it, it usually it made her smile. Now, it was neither funny nor relevant.
     She had only seen the patient’s back view but had recognised the boy instantly. And it was impossible not to start putting two and two together, given whom she’d spotted waiting in his car outside.

Earlier, she’d walked back from the city centre, her mind buzzing, consumed by thoughts of the house, her mad offer for it … and its owner. She’d had to juggle with her bags, umbrella, and key fob to get the boot of her car open and stow her purchases. Just as she slammed it shut, the sun came out and a sudden flare off a puddle momentarily blinded her. She averted her eyes. In that instant, she recognised the man she’d been thinking about, sat in the car parked next to hers.
     What a comedown. But it didn’t have to mean anything. Perhaps it was just a bizarre coincidence. Even if they had come together, there were any number of explanations. Perhaps he’d come as a ‘buddy’, or in loco parentis to support the boy. She rubbed at her forehead. Why was she trying to convince herself that the obvious conclusion was the wrong one? And what was it to her, anyway? If you work in this field you can’t be judgmental, she reminded herself. Other people’s lifestyle choices are none of your business.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Who knew The Battle of Britain lasted for longer than one day? Not me.

It was done and dusted in about an hour after Sunday lunch, wasn’t it?

Whenever this pivotal moment in the war is mentioned, I always think of my parents.  They had no connection with it other than it was fought above their heads, but for many years, my understanding of the battle was grossly distorted by an anecdote they told, which came down in family lore.  

It wasn’t until I was a grown up woman with a child of my own that it really came home to me how close WW2 was to my own life.  Even though the world I grew up in was peppered with bomb sites, there were still ration books, and my parents’ reminiscences were full of stories about their wartime experiences, the war was somehow remote to me.  It was long ago.  The olden days.  History.  I never truly absorbed, on an emotional level, what my parent’s and grandparent’s generation went through during those years. 

But I am not writing this to expound on their heroism, or their contribution to the war effort.  My father, John Allan,  had what is known as a lucky war.  It could have been very different.  Before the war he’d joined the Territorial Army, but he’d lied about his age.  When war was declared he was sent to France with The Expeditionary Force.  He was too young and his mother immediately wrote to The War Office informing them that a mistake had been made.  It was a mistake which, in any other circumstance, might have passed with a shrug from the powers that be.  

But my grandmother was a woman to be reckoned with, and although I can’t know for sure, I guess she pursued this indefatigably, writing to them over and over again.  Their simplest recourse, under the assault from Gran, was to give in; her son was sent home before the debacle of Dunkirk. After my father died I found three letters from The War Office, which confirmed the story.

My Dad then spent the remainder of the war posted to various locations inside the UK. For a long time he was in South London, first as a gunner on anti-aircraft gun emplacements,  then his artistic skills were utilised in the making of plotting boards - I’ve always assumed these were used in planning bombing raids.
 He always claimed that one of the men he worked with, at this time, was Cecil Day Lewis.  It has to be said that my father was an embroiderer of the truth but I have just Googled Cecil Day Lewis and apparently he worked for The Ministry of Information during the war.  It is not a tremendous leap of the imagination to put the two men together at some point.  It was only after the war was over that my Dad was sent out to Germany with the British Army of the Rhine.

My parents had just begun ‘courting’ as the war began. My mother, Irene Kelsey, wasn’t herself called up into the ATS for a couple more years, and so in October 1940 she was an eighteen year old, still at home in Orpington, with her parents and younger sister.  And, very luckily, her nineteen year old boyfriend, my Dad, was stationed nearby and was a frequent visitor.

Stubborn, fiery, and anti-authoritarian, my Mum, was also down-to-earth with a prosaic, matter-of-fact streak. Later, she was an early adopter of the underlying principles of Women’s Lib.  It was a movement which confirmed instincts she already possessed.

My Mum & Dad in 1940. 
Back to the war.   It was a Sunday in October 1940, and my Dad was at my Mum’s home, to join the family for Sunday lunch.  He loved my Mum’s parents, and loved his future mother-in-law’s cooking.  The two men - my Dad and my Granddad - their bellies comfortably full of main course and pudding, got up from the table to go outside and watch the skies. And while there, the spitfires buzzing above, I am quite sure they enjoyed a companionable fag.

“Rene! Rene! Come and look at this,” my Dad called to my Mum.
“I can’t!”
“Because I’m doing the washing-up!” she shouted back. Her tone of voice needs no qualification.   I can just imagine it; in her mind it was something that HAD TO BE DONE at that moment, no matter what.  But at the same time she wanted her boyfriend to know that she was deeply resentful - even if she couldn't yet put it in these words - of being stuck in this archetypal female role. 

So, that's the story. For all of my young life I thought my Mum missed seeing The Battle of Britain because she was doing the washing up. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Being an Archaeologist for the Day at Plumpton Roman Villa

In June, my husband and I travelled from Gloucestershire to East Sussex, to stay with my sister and her partner.  It’s always a joy to spend time with them, but on this occasion “Fun” was not the only reason we made the trip.  I am currently writing a book that has an archaeological theme.  It as yet has no title, but the elevator pitch is ‘Educating Rita meets Time Team’! 
An impression of  Plumpton Roman Villa in its heyday

My sister, Jan, has been on many archaeological courses and, through the Sussex School of Archaeology, is in touch with what’s going on in her locality. I wanted to get a hands-on feel for the practicalities of field archaeology, so I’d asked her if she knew of any upcoming digs which invited interested amateurs to join in.  

Stock image of the site when the turf was first removed.
Jan identified a day-long introductory course called ‘Excavation Techniques for Beginners’ sited at the Plumpton Roman Villa Excavations. It sounded perfect and we both signed up for it.

No longer in the first flush of youth, I am now rather stiff and creaky. As the day approached, I began to worry. Jan kept stressing that working on a dig is very hard. “Knackering” is the precise term she used.  I was also a bit anxious about the weather.  This is England after all. The prospect of trying to dig heavy, wet earth, bundled up in rain clothes, was not appealing.  Nor was the idea of its opposite - getting scorched.  I also assumed there’d be little prospect of actually finding anything. Surely they wouldn’t set a bunch of amateurs loose on an area that was likely to give up many - if any - treasures?  I imagined myself wet, muddy, exhausted and in pain, scrabbling waist deep in a barren trench.  

I planned on wearing cargo pants (to give me lots of roomy pockets for my notebook, camera and pen etc.), and a shirt over a light-weight, long-sleeved Tee shirt. Optimistically, I added a brimmed hat to the ensemble.  If it was sunny I could strip off a layer without the danger of getting burnt, and I could protect my head.  But if the worst came to the worst and it was wet, I included a light-weight hooded water-proof.  All eventualities covered, we set off.  Fortunately it was the sunhat I needed.

The whole area of the site is quite large. A corner of it, now covered in tarpaulins, was thoroughly excavated last year but, over the great majority of the site, only the surface turf had been removed. Clearly visible were the changes in colour and texture which indicated the location of old walls.
There were about ten of us and, after an overview of the project and a demonstration of the techniques we were to employ (including the use of the mattock), we were divided into pairs and a strip was allocated, well away from the 2014 excavations, or the patterns on the surface of the site which marked the outline of the original structure. 

Each two-man team was required to stand a metre or so in from the perimeter and we were told to work slowly back towards the edge, keeping in line with the other teams.  One of the pair had the mattock, swinging it gently in backward strokes - just taking off the surface of the earth to a depth of around three or four centimetres - and the partner’s task was to collect the loosened earth and examine it. Anything that looked interesting was to be put to one side in a tray, and in due course shown to the team leader, Annalie Seaman MA, and the rest tipped into a bucket, which had to be regularly emptied onto the already impressive spoil heap built up from the scalping of the turf and the 2014 excavations.

My strip

 I chose to wield the mattock first, and my sister was the collector and identifier - then we planned to change places, in order to use a different set of muscles.  As I’ve already said, I had low expectations of finding anything at all, other than soil, stones, more soil and worms, but, from the dislodged material of my very first mattock stroke, Jan picked out a rim section of a pot. And we weren’t the only ones to unearth objects of interest. All along the line, artefacts were being found - there were fragments of shell, shards of pottery, tiles and a terracotta material, which looked like bits of brick.

After a picnic lunch, we were given kneeling mats and archaeological trowels (like a small plasterer's
trowel) and we went back to the line where we’d originally commenced the mattocking. Side by side, the pairs worked backwards again, but this time gently scraping, and then brushing, another layer of earth from the surface.  And the finds kept coming for me and my sister.  
None of the fragments were larger than the palm of my hand, but most were far smaller. By the end of the day we had penetrated the surface by no more than six to eight centimetres, so it was evident there was far more still to be found in this area of the site.

When it was time to go home, I had to walk away from my own strip, leaving a tile with a ridge along one edge (round 10 cms), as well as various bits of brick, protruding tantalisingly from the ground.   
I am convinced that the productivity (if I can put it like that) of the area we were working on, came as a surprise to Annalie.  She theorised, given the roof tiles and Roman ‘brick’ we were finding , that the villa had toppled towards our corner of the site. From the way she talked, I guessed it was a scenario previously unsuspected.  
And while we were there, the ‘official’ metal detectorist working on the spoil heap even found a Roman silver coin.

Silver Roman coin found by the official metal detectorist
Many of life’s big events fall short of my expectations.  I am a writer after all, and I doubtless build them up, imagining everything bigger, brighter, more glittery and exciting than they could possibly be in real life.  I felt for two of our number for whom the archaeological excavation beginners experience had clearly been underwhelming.  Not only did this pair of young teenage girls appear to be incapable of following Annalie’s instructions, one of them expressed the hope that she would find a skull, and the other thought she’d be allowed to take her finds home.   For much of the time after lunch they skived off, lying gloomily in the sun, and tapping into their hand-held devices. 

But for me, being a real archaeologist for the day greatly exceeded my expectations. It was informative, rewarding and thrilling.   The sun shone and my own ‘old bones’ stood up very well to the exigencies I put them through.  I even ended up with a certificate!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Cowboys and Heroes

The actual culprit.

During the summer of my thirteenth year, I was knocked down by a Thames van right outside my house.  It was a serious accident. Apparently there was a lot of blood. But a police car happened to be cruising the area, and it came upon the scene just after it happened, and radioed it in.  I was carted off to hospital very swiftly and actually made a fairly speedy recovery (although I still blame my creaky knees on being hit by that van, and the dis-function of my thought processes is obviously due to undetected brain damage!).  But ever after, my family would tease me that it was that knock on my head that ‘turned me on’ to boys.  It’s certainly true that I’d not noticed Stuart Ollerenshaw, who lived a few houses up from us, or Richard Early, who lived near the bottom of the road opposite, until after the smash.  But I actually remember having an eye for a ‘good-looker’ for some years before my argument with the van. 

I always say that Elvis Presley was before my time, much to the outrage of women only a few years older than me.  I have to explain what I mean.  Elvis was already a presence in pop culture when I began to take an interest in such things. Because of that, he somehow didn't belong to me. He was old hat. I discounted him. I didn’t even like Cliff Richard.  The way he sneered when he sang obscurely embarrassed me.
The pop star I did have eyes for was the wholesome Jess Conrad - dark-haired, chisel-jawed, and a wide, pearly and engaging smile.  It was just a pity he didn’t have much of a voice. 
And, after watching The Guns of Navarone on a rainy afternoon on holiday in Cornwall, I fell for the American actor and singer, James Darren. These two were pinned up, side by side on the drop ceiling above my bed.  James Darren was also good looking, in a dark-haired, sculpted style. I eagerly bought his records, which I’d been unaware of until I spotted him in The Guns of Navarone. But the description gravelly hardly did justice to his singing.  You had to love the man first before you could love the voice. 
He wasn’t really a top of the tree pop star then, and it’s not altogether surprising he is not played much (or ever?) on Radio 2 now.
As a child, growing up, what most influenced my world was the television.  And what was on TV - morning, noon and night - swamping both channels? Cowboys!  I blame this blanket coverage for making me intolerant of watching a Western feature film now, no matter how many Oscars, or review stars it’s been awarded. I’ve had it with deserts and cactuses and buttes and saloons and tumble weed! I over-dosed years ago. 

But in the days of my addiction I was in thrall to this world. I even had a ‘Hank’, a cowboy ventriloquist’s puppet with a big moustache. (Anyone else remember Hank ? He was on children’s TV, and the show was a mix of puppet and cartoon.) But I was never romantically interested in Hop along Cassidy, Roy Rogers, The LoneRanger or The Cisco Kid. The protagonists in these shows seemed old to me, and the ‘romance’ was in the world created and the eponymous heroes' weekly exploits, not in anything heart stirring.

The first adult TV series I recall that did disturb strange feelings in me, was Wagon Train. In my view the hero of Wagon train, was the scout, Flint McCullough, played by Robert Horton, and if an episode didn’t revolve around Flint and his adventures (romantic and manly) I was always deeply disappointed. Looking at him now I can’t really get what I saw in him.  I guess my hormones were practising. 

I definitely know what I saw in the dark, chisel-jawed Jess Harper, played by Robert Fuller, in Laramie.  I can still see it now. Looking back through the mists of my memory, I recall that Jess had a cohort in the story, but he was blonde and fat faced and therefore of no interest to me. Without Googling, I wouldn’t have remembered that he was Slim Sherman, played by the actor, John Smith.

Rawhide was the next Western series that made an impression. For many years I claimed to have ‘discovered’ Clint Eastwood, who played Rowdy Yates, because in my family I was alone in my admiration. So when he went on to bigger and better things it was somehow down to me. There were many further ‘cowboy’ series, which we sat and absorbed uncritically as a family, and I am sure people will have their own favourites, but no matter how hard I tried (and I always did try) I could never conjure up the same enthusiasm for any of the characters in Bonanza, nor in any of the other similar Western formats. Not, that is, until Gunslinger.  
Gunslinger was a very short-lived show, much to my chagrin, and only one series was made, presumably because it was not so universally popular with the U.S. audience. Googling the show it seems it was considered darker, more nuanced and ambiguous - and that is probably why I loved it.  More importantly, I instantly fell for the reformed gunslinger of the title - the most chisel-jawed and moody of all my cowboy crushes. His name was Cord, played by Tony Young, and he “worked undercover for the local army garrison commander, to help keep peace in the territory”. All too soon, Gunslinger finished, and that was the end of my cowboy heroes.  

It was only after the accident, and that knock on my head, that the Beatles appeared on the horizon. And with their arrival, the pubescent girl’s need for heroes to worship, really kicked-in hard and heavy. I could go on, listing the pop stars who floated my boat after the initial heat of my Beatles obsession died down a bit, but I won’t. All I will say is that I am still drawn to slim, dark men, with high cheek bones and a chiselled jaw (so it won’t surprise you to learn that George Harrison was my favourite Beatle).

Now, in my maturity, I can appreciate, and write about, men with a variety of different attributes. After all, a handsome face isn’t everything. It’s far more important to love the man first, and then the way he looks - the precise shade of his light, reddish brown hair, the flecks of marmalade and green in his hazel eyes, his freckles - become beloved too. 
But it’s been an interesting exercise to look back at all those heroes - a lot of them in cowboy hats - and recall with ease what I saw in them.

NB. There is another story to be told about one of the policeman in the car that came upon my childhood accident, but I’m saving that for another day.