Sunday, 24 December 2017

Happy Christmas from Singapore

          We have finally moved to Singapore after months of frantic activity and precious little activity on this blog. I feel bad about that, so to make amends here is a super sized blog with oodles of photos and a brief account of how we've ended up moving half way across the world.
           Last Spring, when my attention was fully focused on preparations for the launch of Blood and Bandages, my husband Richard, an Airbus 320 training captain, was working for Airbus Asia Training Centre in Singapore. 

Richard in Jakarta in January 2017. In March - April he would be in Singapore working with Airbus Asia.

         He was engaged on a six week contract to train Airbus pilots from various airlines. He had been doing the same type of work for seven years and worked overseas every other month. He rarely returned to the same country so each month had to adapt to another time-zone, culture, climate and airline's practices. It was not an easy gig and it was taking a huge toll on him and our family life. Hence,  when he was offered his dream job with Airbus Asia in Singapore, he seized it with both hands. The clincher was that he would be 'home' almost every day. The prospect of being re-united as a family and couple was thrilling but discussions about the future job offer had to be postponed due to the imminent launch of Blood and Bandages. Thus, when Richard returned from Singapore our attention was fixed on the Shoreham Centre, not the Far East.
             The launch was a great success.

140 people attended the event including family and friends and representatives from the Museum of Military Medicine, Friends of Surrey Infantry Museum and the Italy Star Association. 

It was a relaxed and friendly evening. On my left is Colin, one of my oldest friends from my College of Law days.


William was on sparkling form despite his recent hip replacement which had left him virtually housebound. 

            A flurry of press interest and book talks requests followed.

In our old back garden with Charlie Rose for BBC South East Today.

At the BBC's Brighton studios with Mark Carter for BBC Radio Surrey and Sussex.

With Christian Hewgill for Forces TV.

           William and I were thrilled with the response but between engagements Richard and I discussed the job offer and the implications of leaving the UK. Our greatest concern was the impact it would have on our parents. We were close to both sets as both lived in Shoreham. They had seen Tom grow up and we knew that losing us, particularly when they were in or approaching their 80s, would be a hard blow. We decided to wait until the offer was definite before telling them. It came in June and the news was initially greeted with shock and tears before turning to support and understanding. They had witness the toll nine years of comings and goings had taken on us and were pleased that there was a chance for change. It was also important to tell William, not only because it effected the book, but because we had become very close friends over the years. He accepted the news with grace and sadness mixed with a fierce determination to enjoy what time we had left. So after a much awaited family holiday, Richard returned to work his last contract, a month long assignment to Indonesia. Meantime, I started making plans for our pending re-location. I contacted ex-pats for advice on international schools in Singapore, sought out estate agents to let the house and organised home schooling for Tom's last few months in the UK.  William and I also embarked on a summer offensive to promote the book.  


At the Armed Forces Day in Worthing with Sophie Cook and the ladies from Bellydance Rocks. William thought he had died and gone to heaven.

At the Queen Alexandra Hospital Home. We were positioned next to WSCC Library Service and a chance conversation led to an engagement to speak at Shoreham Library.

At the War and Peace Revival with fellow author, Penny Legg.

           With Richard's start date looming up, we needed to make a recce visit to Singapore to find Tom a new school and us, a new home. Richard flew in to join us direct from Indonesia and it did not take long for Tom and I to fall under Singapore's spell.

Peranakan terrace in Joo Chiat/ Katong area of the East Coast of Singapore.

Gateway to the colourful and crowded Little India in Singapore.

The super trees in Gardens by the Bay waiting for the free light show.

They even had a Marks and Spencer!

           Luckily, we returned with both home and school fixed and three weeks later, on 11th October, Richard left to start his new job with Airbus Asia.
At home, the tasks ahead were daunting.  Tom and I were due to join Richard on 6th December so there was eight weeks in which to de-clutter the house and select that which should be shipped to Singapore and that which should be stored; supervise Tom’s home-schooling and ready the house for the new tenants.  It made every past challenge look like child’s play and would have been impossible without our fantastic friends. They pitched in instantly and whole-heartedly. They sorted out the loft; did regular dump runs; packed up the kitchen, bedrooms and study; took countless loads to charity shops and weeded and pruned the garden in freezing conditions. Meantime, Tom impressed his tutors with his thoughtfulness and talents.  On 14th November, what was left of the contents of our home, were packed into a container and shipped off to Felixstowe. 


 I've never seen such hard and helpful workers as the men from Sante Fe. 

 With the house now empty, Tom moved in with his grandparents while I moved back with my parents and the decorator started work on our house. 
Despite the domestic upheavals, I still had to prepare and practice five book talks and I wish I had been better prepared for the first ones.


14th October talk with Patrick Soulijaert. I was still learning to give powerpoint presentations.

William contributed to all bar one of the talks regardless of the lateness of the hour and distances involved. It was wonderful and reassuring to have him there and his personal recollection of events added tremendous weight and humour to proceedings.


With Ian Bayley of Sabrestorm Publishing after a talk at the Museum of Military Medicine. I'd done so much packing by that stage that I'd got tennis elbow. 

With Sharon Penfold and Gary Baines from Shoreham Fort. They went on to attend two other talks.  

            The final talk was on a chilly November night before a packed and attentive audience of the 1940s Society in Sevenoaks. William and I were delighted but the evening was tinged with sadness as this was our last talk, and at 102, neither of us was under any illusions about the significance of the event.


At the end of our final talk in Sevenoaks. 

           Unfortunately, there was little time for reflection as the next day I embarked on a two-week period of farewells that saw me travel to Guildford, London, Westerham, Hereford, Rhymni and Caerphilly in Wales. Tom stayed at home to continue with his studies, scouts and jujitsu.


A farewell brunch with Sandie Clark, a dear friend who was so instrumental to the success of Blood and Bandages.



In Caerphilly with my parents, Auntie Mary and glamorous cousin, Anne-Marie. Anne-Marie hopes to come to visit us next year.


Smashing it at the Karaoke with my girlfriends at one of my leaving dos in Brighton.

My last day in the UK with two of my great friends, Mandy and Sarah. Shopping, lunch and tears. 

           It was lovely spending time with such treasured family and friends but the departure date sped up to meet us and on 6th December, Tom and I were re-united at Gatwick where we said a tearful good-bye to our families and began our 17 hour journey to Singapore.       
By this time Richard had spent his first month in a hotel and the second in a bedsit. He has found a flat for all of us into which he moved while Tom and I were flying out to meet him.  He was cock-a-hoop when we arrived.




View from our flat on the 26th floor in Farrer Park  Singapore.

          We have now been here for a few weeks ago. We haven't established a routine and I feel a bit rootless. That said, we have already been out and about and made some new friends amongst the British ex-pat community. 


At the Riverside Safari with Kai Kai the giant Panda having lunch in the background. Astonishing.



At the carol concert at the British High Commissioner's residence organised by the British Association, one of the most friendly and interesting associations we've ever joined.

Tom has visited his new school and Richard already feels like an old hand. The contents of our house has arrived in Singapore and will be delivered to our permanent accommodation when we take possession on 29th December. 
This has been an incredible year and we are looking forward to building a new life together and exploring our new home. 
On the writing front, I'll keep blogging, promoting Blood and Bandages and embarking on new writing opportunities. In fact, I've already volunteered to join the feature writing team with BEAM, the British Association's monthly magazine.
Of course, we’ll miss home terribly and have been warned that at some point we'll experience a crushing sense of homesickness. I hope that we will have good friends around us to help us through and will be cheered by the knowledge that we are returning to Shoreham Beach in July.  
All that's left to say now is thank you for dropping by. I want to  wish you a peaceful and happy Christmas and a wonderful 2018. Hope you don't mind, but I've got a little present for you. 
See you in the New Year with an update on how we are getting on. 

Monday, 30 October 2017

Third autumn book talk on Blood and Bandages on Wednesday 1st November

     I'm almost half way through my autumn book talks, so I wanted to share what's happened so far.
     There was a good turnout at Shoreham Library on 10th November.


     William Earl, the 102-year-old star of Blood and Bandages was there. He was on fine form despite having recently returned from a five day wedding in Italy.


     The audience's questions were many and varied and it was touching to learn that more than one person had been moved to tears.
     Sadly, William was not well enough to join me at the second talk, a joint presentation with Shoreham author, Patrick Souiljaert on 14th October to raise funds for two local churches.


Our presentations were well received and we raised £132.00.
     As always, it was humbling to hear the stories recounted by the children of deceased World War Two veterans. Indeed, since Blood and Bandages came out, I have been contacted by those the book has touched and they always start by saying, "My Dad never spoke about his time in the war," before  recounting some treasured memories of when he did. Their regret at knowing so little is tangible and I'm touched that William's honest and detailed account of his war helps to fill some of those gaps.
     The 14th October talk was filmed by AECAST.COM. Here's the link to my presentation and Patrick's is here, (sound starts at 03.52 and vision at 04.11).
     The next talk is at The Museum of Military Medicine at 7.30pm on Wednesday 1st November.  Tickets can be obtained here and I will be signing books afterwards.
     The subject matter will be different from the earlier talks as I'll be telling the story of how Blood and Bandages was written. I've touched on this in earlier blogs, but the talk will be more expansive and will cover my personal struggle to get it done.
     Hope to see you on Wednesday.
     Ta-ra for now.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Shoreham book talks on Blood and Bandages - fighting for life in the RAMC Field Ambulance 1940 -1946.

     This is a seriously busy week. Besides Tom's home-schooling and sorting out what to take to Singapore, I will be preparing two brilliant talks on my book, Blood and Bandages - fighting for life in the RAMC Field Ambulance 1940 -1946.


These entertaining and informative talks will be about the book, its theme and how I approached it.

     
Along the way, I'll be offering advice to aspiring writers.

William with Miss Alli Godfrey and two of his great grand-children at Glebe Primary School after talking to years 5 and 6.

      William Earl, the vibrant 102-year-old World War Two veteran and star of Blood and Bandages, will be joining me for Q and As. He won't fail to move you with his thoughtful views of what it was like to serve his country.
     These family friendly talks provide a rare chance to meet one of a dying breed of exceptional men and I urge you to come.
     The first talk is on
Tuesday10th October 
at
7.00pm
at 
Shoreham Library 
Pond Road
Shoreham-by-Sea
BN43 5ZA
     Tickets are £4 and can be purchased in advance from Shoreham Library or on the night.  
     The second talk is on
Saturday 14th October
at
7.30pm
at
St Peter's Church 
West Street 
Shoreham-by-Sea
BN43 5WG

     This one is slightly different because I'll be speaking alongside another Shoreham writer, Patrick Souiljaert author of Stairs of Breakfast. 

Patrick and I prior to interviewing him for the Beach News

     His talk on life with cerebral palsy and overcoming adversity will be fun and thought-provoking.
    Tickets are £5.00 (£3.00 concessions) and can be purchased here,after the 9.00am mass at St Peter's or on the night. Proceeds are going to St Peter's Church, the Church of the Good Shepherd and Adur East Lions. 
      I'll tell you more about this talk when I speak to Sylvie Blackmore on BBC Radio Surrey and Sussex at 1.15pm on Sunday 8th October .
     It would be wonderful to see you on 10th or the 14th October and don't be shy. Come and say hi.
     See you soon.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Autumn Book Talks on Blood and Bandages - fighting for life in the RAMC Field Ambulance 1940 -1946

     I'm delighted to say that since my last blog on Blood and Bandages, excellent reviews have continued to appear on Amazon Books.




     All About History has added its voice saying that, 'Blood and Bandages is easy to read and a unique perspective of WWII,' while Books Monthly described the book as a 'Superb account of William Earl's career as a Nursing Orderly in various WW2 campaigns.' There's even a waiting list to read it at the local library. 
     Talking of which, it'll be at Shoreham Library on Tuesday 10th October at 7.00pm, that I'll begin a series of five autumn book talks.





     For about 45 minutes, I'll be talking about how the book was written, the role of the field ambulance in World War Two and aspects of the Italian Campaign. William will then join me for a question and answer session before we move onto a book signing. If you would like to come, tickets can be purchased here.  
     Hot on the heels of the first talk will be a second event but with another local author, Patrick Souiljaert. 
     It will be held on Saturday 14th October at 7.30pm at St Peter's Church, West Street, Shoreham-by-Sea.  Patrick will talk about his autobiography, Stairs for Breakfast and Screw it, I'll take the Elevator, before I speak on researching and writing Blood and Bandages. The evening will draw to a close with questions and answers and a book signing. Tickets can be purchased here. 
     There will be a short break before I move onto the scarest of the five talks, the one at the Museum of Military Medicine in Aldershot. It will be held on Wednesday 1st November at Keogh Barracks Ash Vale, Surrey at 7.30pm. The Museum was closely involved in the final stages of Blood and Bandages and it was one of their dedicated curators, Rob MacIntosh, who first described the book as 'far more than a military history.' Nevertheless, it is with trepidiation that I will talk to an audience, the majority of which will be uniformed members of the regiment of which I speak. In contrast, however, I anticipate that William will feel totally at ease with those with whom he feels an instinctive affinity.  
     The penultimate talk is scheduled for the Shoreham Society on Friday 17th November at 7.30pm. It will see William and I return to St Peter's Church Hall to talk about the operation of a field ambulance and the process of writing the book. Tickets can be purchased here.
     The final talk is fittingly at my publisher's society, the 1940s Society in Sevenoaks, Kent. It will be held in Otford Memorial Hall, on Friday 24th November at 8pm. I will be talking about the role of the RAMC in World War Two and William's experience in the field ambulance.
     With the last talk over and done with, I will start saying my good-byes to England, for in December, we move to Singapore.
     Leaving my family and friends and a country I adore, will be tremendously hard. I've already been buffeted by waves of homesickness as the enormity of the move hits home. However, it is only with sadness and not regret that we will leave because for years, my gorgeous husband, Richard, has had to work abroad for most of the time. Thus, when he was offered a permanent job based in one place, we jumped at it.  Yes, he will still have postings abroad, but these will be limited to weeks not months. So, after almost eight years apart, Tom can have a full-time Dad again and I can have a full-time husband.
Richard and Tom.

     As I'll no longer be a 'single parent,'  I'll have more time to devote to Tom and my writing. I have a second book planned and will return to my beloved scriptwriting. I will continue to blog, but it'll take on a different guise and possibly a different name. 
    But this is not yet good-bye, it's just advanced warning. I'll still be around until the beginning of December so please do come along to one of the book talks and say hello. It's always a thrill to meet someone who reads my blog. 
     For now, thanks for dropping by and I'll see you again soon. 

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

The RNLI's part in the evacuation of Dunkirk May 1939

To mark last Friday's release of Dunkirk the movie, I'm re-publishing a blog I wrote in May 2010 on the RNLI's role in the rescue. It's an eye-opener and I hope you enjoy it.

Last week, I featured the Royal Escape Race, and on Friday went to Brighton seafront to watch the start. It was surprisingly exciting to see the flotilla glide from Brighton Marina, assemble, turn towards the sea as one, then BANG, race off to the west.












The Escape Race commemorates the flight of Charles 11 from England to France. Today, I'm featuring another flight, but this time going the other way; the flight of the British Expeditionary Force, (BEF) from Dunkirk to Dover. 

When war broke out on 3 September 1939, the newly created British Expeditionary Force (BEF), was sent to take up a defensive position along the Franco-Belgian border. Its Commander-in-Chief was John Gort, and by early May 1940 he had 394,165 troops, and 200 tanks in place. 

It didn't last long. On 14th May, one German army group attacked the BEF, pushing them back to the French frontier, whilst another invaded France through the Ardennes. It left the BEF surrounded on three sides and after Gort's unsuccessful counter-attack at Arras, the order was given to withdraw to Dunkirk for evacuation to Britain. 

It was a massive undertaking. On 26th May, Operation Dynamo was launched. An order was issued on BBC radio to all owners of self-propelled pleasure craft between 30-100 feet in length to send all particulars to the Admiralty. Their role was to assist the Navy and RAF in the evacuation of the BEF and allied troops. Up to 900 vessels were involved including 39 Destroyers, 36 Minesweepers, 77 Trawlers, 26 Yachts, one of which was skippered by C.H Lightoller, a former officer on the Titanic, and some smaller craft. Between them they took 338,226 troops off the beaches at Dunkirk, including 40,000 from the French Army and 220,000 allied troops from Cherbourg, Saint-Malo, Brest and Saint-Nazaire.

Dunkirk was repeatedly described as hell by those who were there. They were constantly attacked from the land and air as they waited helplessly on the flat sandy beaches. The sea was strewn with shipwrecks and bodies. The air stank of burning oil and buzzed with the sound of Stukas. Over 5,000 soldiers were killed, 235 vessels were destroyed, 106 aircraft were lost. Over 100,000 men were left behind and the tanks and large guns were abandoned. Despite the selfless courage that was shown throughout those 10 days, on 4th June 1940 Winston Churchill described what happened in France and Belgian as 'a colossal military disaster.'

Inevitably, the lifeboats were amongst the smaller craft involved in the evacuation. They had 145 motor lifeboats in their fleet and at 1.15 p.m on 30th May, received a phone call from the Ministry of Shipping asking them 'to send as many lifeboats as possible as quickly as possible to Dover.' 1

The Ramsgate lifeboat, the Prudential, and the Lord Southborough from Margate, sailed direct to France. Another 17 lifeboats, including the Rosa Woodd and Phyllis Lunn from Shoreham, assembled at Dover.

As today, in 1940, the lifeboats were manned by skilled and experienced volunteers who knew the limitations and capabilities of their specially designed boats. Thus when the coxswain of the Hythe lifeboat, the Viscountess Wakefield, was told that he should run his 15 tonne lifeboat on to the Beaches, load up with troops and bring them back to England, he told them it was impossible. He also pressed for written assurances that their families would get pensions, should any of them be killed during the evacuation. The coxswains from Walmer and Dungeness supported him and they were in good company. This was one of Sir William Hillary's concerns when he originally founded the Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck, (which became the RNLI), in 1824; that the bereaved families of the lifeboatmen should not be left destitute. 

This apparent awkwardness was just too much to bear, 'the harassed and overburdened Naval officers were organising..a complicated and perilous operation. They wanted boats. They wanted men. They wanted no more argument.' 2 They sent the coxswains packing and appropriated their boats. Fearing further arguments from the other coxswains, all the lifeboats answering the call were commandeered and sent to Dunkirk with Royal Naval and RNVR crews. 

Eighteen lifeboats worked the beaches at Dunkirk. The nineteenth lifeboat worked in the English Channel rescuing men from ships and boats sunk en route by German aircraft. 

James Hill Staff Captain, The Royal Fusiliers, recalls, "a great big lifeboat came in, a lovely one...they all got on, and looked over the top and then, of course, the thing stuck on the sand with the weight of them... the Brigadier.. and half a dozen other good chaps got out, and they pushed and shoved, and gradually the lifeboat went off." The Thomas Kirk Wright from Poole, fared better as it was a surf lifeboat with a draft of only 76cm, still, one of her motors was put out of action by a crew unused to her propulsion system. 

Turning to the two lifeboats that were manned by the RNLI, the Ramsgate lifeboat rescued 2,800 men and the Margate lifeboat crew were described as 'an inspiration to us all as long as we live' by the commander of Icarus, a destroyer with which she worked on 30/31st May. 

Apart from the Viscountess Wakefield, the lifeboats returned safely but damaged from Dunkirk. The Viscountess Wakefield did run around on the sands of La Panne and was the only lifeboat to be sunk during the operation. 

Regarding the contribution made by the RNLI to the evacuation, 'two facts are beyond dispute. The lifeboats did magnificent work at Dunkirk. But if they had been manned by RNLI crews they would have achieved even more.' 3

So, what happened when the men finally left the hell of Dunkirk? I'll let James Bradley, Gunner, The Royal Artillery, tell you;

"I fell asleep, and I don't know how long it took to get across the Channel, because I slept all the way. And the next thing I knew was a sailor standing over me shouting, "Wake-up!, wake-up! are you going ashore or aren't you going ashore?" ...Where are we?" I said, "where are we?', he said, "Dover, you bloody fool!" And I thought, "well, I don't even mind him swearing at me, it's Dover." So I pulled myself up and went off, went down the gangplank. 

And I knew I was back in England..they'd got tables there with loads of tea and buns, and so forth, and I was ravenous. I think I ate six buns, which was greedy really. But I, my stomach was so empty! And then the military police where there too, and they were saying, "Keep moving, Keep moving! And they had the train in the station.

And I said, "Where's the train going?" Nobody knew, but anyway, "Get on the train, you must get out of here, must get out of here!" - because there were masses of troops coming off, although we were now very much the tail end. And then we drove across England and stopped at side stations, and people were all waving...the WVS.. and I thought, "Oh, this is England, you're worth fighting for!" 

Ta-ra for now.

Riders of the Storm by Ian Cameron Weidenfeld & Nicolson 2002
Storm on the Waters by Charles Vince Hodder and Stoughton 1946
3 Riders. ibid

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

An interview with local speaker and writer, Patrick Souiljaert.

     I hope you enjoyed reading the inside story of Blood and Bandages.
     William and I have now moved onto the book's marketing phase and last weekend, we had great fun at the Armed Forces Day in Worthing.
William and I set up our stall. 
(courtesy of Brian Woodford)
 
While we were there we met...
the engaging Sophie Cook, ex-RAF Tornado aircraft engineer and Labour parliamentary candidate for Shoreham and East Worthing,

respectful ex-medical personnel with whom William established an instant rappour

and the fun-loving ladies from Bellydance Rocks who made William's day. 

     Our next 'appearance' is on the Mark Evans show at Seahaven FM on Friday 30th June at 7.20pm

Me, William and presenter, Mark Evans at the Seahaven FM studios.

     As promised, from now on I'll be reverting back to my previous blog style, interviewing characters of local interest. To that end, I recently met Patrick Souiljaert, beach resident, public speaker and author of ‘Stairs for Breakfast' and 'Screw It. I'll take the Elevator.'

Patrick and I gearing up for our interview

Patrick is 43 years old and has lived on Shoreham Beach since 1984. He has Cerebral Palsy, (CP).
Patrick Souiljaert

When I was born, the umbilical cord got wrapped around my neck. I couldn’t breath for four minutes and suffered brain damage. This caused my CP. CP effects my movement, co-ordination and muscle stiffness. It also means that I have to use four times more energy than regular people when I walk and talk. Like any disability, there are various degrees of severity and unfortunately my voice has also been effected.  If it hadn’t been, people would probably have been more at ease with me and just seen me as a guy who couldn’t walk properly. 
My CP does not effect my intelligence. Nor stop me from leading a regular life. I feel like I’m an able bodied man stuck in a disabled person’s body.
             In fact, I always thought I was a regular guy, but when I got into property investment, people kept telling me that I was inspirational and should write my autobiography. That was great, but they had no idea that my physical challenges were a piece of cake compared to my emotional struggles. So I spent a few years thinking about what and how I could write about my life before I actually started.
I type with one finger and to write an honest autobiography, I had to relive the very difficult and emotional times. After 15 months, I had managed to write 216,000 words, so many that I’ve split my story into two books.
The first book was called ‘Stairs for Breakfast.’  I chose that title because in 2011, I went to view a second floor flat. When the Estate Agent met me outside he saw I had CP and asked if I was OK to walk up. I told him that I ate stairs for breakfast. I’m working on the second book now. It’s called, ‘Screw it, I’ll take the elevator.’ It’s being crowd-funded so I can self-publish again.
As well as writing I’m a motivational speaker, and am currently seeking funding and support from Kaleidoscope Investments who help disabled entrepreneurs with their businesses.
In my mind, I can do anything, but I am also realistic. Having a disability is about knowing what you can do, accepting you have certain limitations and then overcoming them. And that’s what I do.
I see my CP as a gift and my can-do attitude is my greatest asset.

Patrick with his tireless PA, Maggie Paluch

On 14th October, at 7.30pm at St Peter’s Church Hall, West Street, Shoreham-by -Sea, Patrick and I will be talking about writing our respective books and signing them. Tickets are £4.50 and I will let you know how and where they can be purchased nearer the time. 
In a fortnight, I'll be featuring another local resident, Kyra Berry, who will talk about what it was like to be a Presiding Officer during the recent General Election. 
Thanks for dropping by and I shall look forward to seeing you on 7th July. 

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Final part of the inside story of writing Blood and Bandages - fighting for life in a RAMC Field Ambulance 1940-1946

So there I was, paralysed with writer's block with a deadline looming.
     Up until then, I thought you got writer's block when you ran out of ideas. Not so. It's when you feel an overwhelming sense of helplessness and a complete loss of confidence. You can only think of one thing, that you were a blittering idiot to think you could do it in the first place. Thoughts unlikely to help you succeed.  Yet again, a friend came galloping to the rescue. Leia Vogelle, another screenwriter, suggested that I mix things up by tackling odd numbered chapters first or working backwards. It was a simple and brilliant idea and gave me enough oomph to leap back into the saddle.  With my confidence restored, it was time to revisit the TLC manuscript assessment in ernest.
     In his assessment, Karl French suggested four areas for improvement:-

1.     the chronology. He suggested starting with a flash forward in time to create a good hook and then flashing back to fill in the gaps. It was a more sophisicated approach than I'd intended and I had insufficient time to think it through properly. I therefore passed on that advice.

2.    the context. He advised that I needed much more and it had to be written in a clear and vivid way so the reader always knew when and where they were. He also confirmed what I already knew, that I had to move between the personal to the slightly wider context of the 214th Field Ambulance and Black Cats to the much wider context of the Fifth and Eighth Armies and World War Two. In short, the writing equivalent of playing a squeezebox. I accepted this advice.

3.      William's account. Mr French advised that all gaps in action and information should be filled with additional interview material where possible. I accepted this and there was one big gap, the reason for William's compassionate posting home at the end of the war. William had always glossed over this, but now I pressed him and discovered that it was due to highly sensitive circumstances at home. William did not want any of that information to appear in the book but some had to in order to explain the compassionate posting. After many days agonising over the right wording, we concluded that it was best told in subtext. 

4.      the edit. Mr French identified places where there was an inbalance between the space devoted to personal recollections and that to context. To correct this, he suggested that some of William's letters and stories could be reduced or condensed. He was right.

More research on context. 

    While I followed Mr French's advice, Ian Bayley of Sabrestorm Publishing worked on the book's front cover, title and price. 
     The book's front cover was crucial so Ian and I met at the Museum of Military Medicine and trawled through their photographs. One showed a nursing orderly's role at an advanced dressing station so we chose that. Ian chose other images which could illustrate the text while I asked the ever helpful Mr McIntosh, one of the curators, if he could do a technical check on the final manuscript. He agreed. 
     Next, Ian came up with two possible titles - Death without Glory or Blood and Bandages and he  decided on the book's price, £19.99. Blood and Bandages would be produced in hardback with a dustsheet and an initial print run of 1,500-2,000. With those details in place, Blood and Bandages went on pre-sale with Amazon.
     As the first deadline approached, the 'final' draft was sent to Rob McIntosh. It was nerve-wracking sending the manuscript beyond the inner sanctum of me, my closest writing friends and Sabrestorm. His response was cautiously awaited. When it came it was incredibly positive. Not only was it technically correct it was also succinct, excellent and astute. I was relieved, perhaps I really did have the ability to create the book I'd always imagined. Nevertheless, I still felt that it could be improved and Ian's patience began to wear thin as deadline after deadline slipped. 
     I finally handed it in a week after the final, final deadline. Ian gave the manuscript to his designer and shortly afterwards I received an e-version of the book. Seeing my text and William's photographs incorporated into a book was incredibly exciting. Moreover, Ian had clearly spent a considerable amount of time sourcing generic shots which were thoughtfully dotted around the text. It looked marvellous and I was comforted to know that my publisher cared about the book as much as I did.  My job now changed from being a writer to a proof-reader. 

Proofing - a ghastly job.

     It was not a natural fit and unfortunately, I went further than checking for typos and changed some of the text too! I made so many changes that the layout had to be altered and we missed the printing deadline. I could tell that Ian was not happy. While he re-submitted the book to the designer and negotiated a new printing date, I realised that I had created a problem for myself too. More amends meant more potential mistakes and when it came back, I had to weed out every single one of them. Checking every single dot, coma, hyphen, dash, capital letter, abbreviation and footnote was the most soul destroying, monotonous and exasperating part of the whole lenghty process. Despite days and days of checking, it later transpired that some typos had still managed to slip through to the final proof. 
     Unaware of this, I submitted it to Ian and once securely in his hands, things moved fast. First, I received the banner. 

William and I toasted it with a bottle of fizz.

     Next we received the first copies of the book.

 That was something special.

     There was a brief pause in action before it was time to organise the book launch. Sandra Clark, (who had been so intimately involved in the book from the outset), offered to read the script I'd based on the book with former EastEnders star and friend, Paul Moriarty. 
     
 Paul Moriarty and Sandra Clark rehearsing the script of Blood and Bandages for the book launch.

     Ian 'sold' tickets, while I organised the catering, helpers and programme. Eventually, all was set for the book launch on 28th April. 
    Over 140 people came, including representatives from the Italy Star Assocation, Surrey Infantry Museum and Mr McIntosh from the Museum of Military Medicine. Spirit FM and Juice FM sent a reporter and it was also covered in the Shoreham Herald.

 It was a joyous and moving occasion.

     After the launch, there was a flurry of media interest. William and I were interviewed on BBC Radio Surrey and Sussex, Forces TV and for a special report for BBC South East Today. I was asked to appear on The Whole Nine Yards with Roy Stannard on Seahaven FM to talk about my life and career on 8th June from 7-9pm.  Waterstones are now stocking the book. On Amazon reviews have included comments like, 'This book is fantastic', 'I couldn't put it down,' 'Rarely do you discover a book that explains wartime facts in an easy to read style without overlooking the human element of the subject.'  Movingly, strangers have contacted Bill and I to ask if William may have helped their father or could have known him. I was delighted to tell one gentleman that not only did William know his father, he appears in the book! The response has been thrilling and my next aim is to sell enough books to get Blood and Bandages onto the Sunday Times bestseller list. So, if you've already read the book, please write a review on Amazon. If not, you can buy the book here and here.
     Marketing aside, it's now time for me to put Blood and Bandages on the back burner and dust off the stories which have been languishing in my bottom drawer for almost seven years. It's been an incredible journey but I'm looking forward to returning to the world of fiction. I'll break myself in gently though by starting with a radio drama... based on Blood and Bandages.
     Thanks for dropping by and see you in a couple of weeks, when I'll be featuring another Shoreham Writer, Patrick Souilijaert, author of Stairs for Breakfast.