Category Archives: Housekeeping

We want information – information . . .

Just a quick update to report that next week I’m going to be appearing as a panellist at the inaugural debate of The Information Project. This is a new initiative, organised by local Crystal Palace residents – in particular those behind the brilliant Overground Festival – intended to spark debate around the proposed redevelopment of Crystal Palace Park by the Zhongrong Group.

The first debate is entitled ‘Who Owns Culture? Park, Space, Building’, and will take place at 7.30pm next Wednesday (30th April) at The Salvation Army, Upper Norwood. I’m really looking forward to taking part, not least as my own feelings about the redevelopment are very ambivalent, and this gives me a great excuse to try to get my thoughts in order.

In other news, the Kindle editions of both of my novels – So Long, Shakespeare, and the Crystal Palace Park-based railway fantasy Strange Air – have been reduced to 99p on Amazon for a very limited time.


New interview – and update

As ever, I’m not blogging as much as I’d like at present. The day job is exceptionally busy, and I’m spending any spare time preparing the plan for a third novel – while continuing to promote the first and second.

As I explained at my self-publishing talk at Upper Norwood Library on 25th January (thanks again to the amazing library staff for inviting me), my current tactic for the latter involves disciplining myself to blog a little less – instead spending time reaching out to others who have shared interests, and potentially bigger platforms than my WordPress and Twitter audiences.

It’s an approach which I explain in more detail in a chat I recently had with a local Crystal Palace editor called Danielle Wrate – and which has just been published on her excellent website.

On a similar note, and in the spirit of last year’s autumn update  – i.e. as much to aid my own memory as anything promotional – I thought I’d also post a few other recent links regarding Strange Air:

(1) A review on local website Inside Croydon

(2) The podcast of my appearance on Croydon Radio’s Arts Show, with Janet Smith

(3) A little thinkpiece I wrote for Bromley News Shopper about the proposed reconstruction of Crystal Palace Park by the Chinese investor Mr Ni Zhaoxing and his ZhongRong Group.

(4) A post I wrote for the wonderful local blog Dulwich OnView about how the roots of Strange Air – though telling the tale of Crystal Palace Park and Thomas Webster Rammell’s pneumatic railways – in fact lie in the deserted Crescent Wood and Paxton Tunnels, in and around Sydenham Hill

Finally, I’m delighted to say that the book is also now available via the Crystal Palace Foundation – the result of delicate negotiations, which absolutely does not mean that Foundation endorses my novel’s supposition that a bunch of aggrieved Victorian skeletons lurk beneath Crystal Palace Park, trapped in an abandoned Victorian railway carriage . . .

Reflections on self-publishing

Just a fleeting update to say that I’ll be appearing at Upper Norwood Library this coming Saturday, 25th January, to talk about my experiences of self-publishing – covering the publication of both So Long, Shakespeare and Strange Air, and also offering a few reflections/tips on the process for any aspiring authors.

I’ve been preparing the talk this evening, and am really looking forward to delivering it – even if it has proved worryingly difficult to remember some of the ins-and-outs of my decision-making over the last year!

The talk starts at 2.30pm, and is free to attend. Full details are available over on the Upper Norwood Library website.

Lost and pound shops

A belated happy new year to all readers, and especially those followers who came on board after Bard to the Future was Freshly Pressed in mid-December.

I thought I’d begin 2013 with a little postscript to one of my most-viewed posts in 2012: namely, my paean to the much-missed Blockbuster on Westow Hill, Crystal Palace.

Several people got in touch after I lamented the closure of our local, impossibly large and unusually peaceful video rental haven, asking what was to become of this prime Upper Norwood retail unit. For several weeks, rumours grew that it was to become a Poundland, or some other variety of 99p/£1 store, and so finally, over the weekend, it transpired.

I was passing on Saturday afternoon, and managed to grab this picture of some tasteful signage being – well, not so much erected as plastered all over the window to the detriment of any daylight whatsoever.


I’m no expert on the different denominations of pound shops, so I defer to Hermit’s superior knowledge on Virtual Norwood, where he confidently asserts that this is to be a Poundmart, not a Poundland.

But in truth, of course, as both his and my photo illustrate, it is neither. It is, in point of fact, a Foundmart, since that what the sign is poised to say. (I confess to quite liking the stance of the poor chap in my picture, captured in the first throes of his perplexity over the unfortunate positioning of the frame.) I wonder what a Moundfart – sorry, Foundmart – would sell? Presumably piles of ‘lost and found’ junk. Bits and bobs of unrelated goods, thrown together for no good reason other than their being too cheap for people to bother re-claiming.

What’s that, you say? Pretty much like a Poundmart? Alright, then. Poundmart it is.

Frivolity aside for a second, though, I’m conscious that not everyone is particularly enamoured by the ever-increasing ubiquity of pound shops and their ilk. Personally, I see them as serving a purpose, and am not averse to nipping in to pick up supplies (e.g. batteries) which are either shamelessly overpriced elsewhere, or tricky to find. The latter, in particular, is where they fill a crucial void – a void, very specifically, left by the late-lamented Woolworths.

Like Top of the Pops, I always think it’s one of the great mysteries of the past decade that Woolworths was allowed to fail. As the ensuing influx of pound shops demonstrated, there remains a huge market for odds-and-sods shops, filling the gaps left by bigger, brighter stores, and selling everyday stuff that is either needed urgently or best bought in person – and therefore not suited to purchase online. I’m no retail expert, but I do think Woolworths might have survived if only it had made it deeper into the recession – while also giving up on entertainment sales, where the web was clearly so much better.

After all, Crystal Palace-wise, there’s not a huge world of difference between what the Woolworths on Westow Hill had become and the Poundstretcher that took its place. It’s just that one, like Blockbuster, had fond sentimental associations (at least for me), while the other – in its unambiguous functionality – feels lifeless and unromantic.

As the poor guy in my photo would surely appreciate, it’s just a matter of perception.

Shakespeare and the authorship issue: further reading

So Long, ShakespeareAhead of the Christmas break, my novel So Long, Shakespeare is being offered at the super-bargain price of 99p over at Amazon UK. I know I’m biased, but I reckon it’s perfect holiday reading – enough intellectual stimulation to keep your brain ticking over, but also incident, humour and fantastical ideas aplenty. The offer won’t last long, so don’t delay and head over right away.

In associated developments, I’ve just posted a handpicked list of the best Shakespeare authorship websites. There are over 30 in total, categorised by candidate. I figured it would be a useful resource for anyone new to the issue of Shakespeare’s ‘true’ identity, as well as providing useful context for anyone reading – or having read – my novel.

Here we go

I’m a writer, based in south London, and this is my blog. I’ve written several plays and two novels. The two novels will soon be published at all good eBookstores – and probably one or two bad ones as well.

I’ve invented* this site to tell people a bit more about me. There’ll be a bit of babble about the books, but also more general witterings about music, guitars (NO WAIT COME BACK), literature, films and life here in ‘The Fresh Air Suburb’, otherwise known as Crystal Palace. Hopefully some of this blather will be comment-conducive, and we can have a nice little chat to make this whole ‘having a website about me’ thing a little less awkward.

Agreed? Good. Then let’s get started.

* Full disclosure: WordPress invented this blog for me. I just pressed the right buttons, in more or less the right order.
Dulwich Books of West Dulwich - 6 Croxted Road, SE21 8SW - 020 8670 1920

Winner Best Independent Bookshop UK & Ireland 2014



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