Ghosts of Christmas Past – Episode Three

Over the years there have been very different Christmases; in one Scottish town we had too much food with one family on Christmas Day, then a Boxing Day with the other family who didn’t appear to have any food in the house; we went out searching for food, but all the shops were shut.

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One year the longed for white Christmas arrived. My sister and brother-in-law were coming on their first holiday back to England. We had just bought our first place, a small two bedroom ground floor flat, which had the fortuitous novelty of gas central heating. Everyone had told my sister a white Christmas was very unlikely in the south of England. My brother-in-law’s sister lived with her family in a village near Dover, they came up to stay with us to be reunited. It snowed and there we were six adults and two toddlers almost snow bound in a flat that now seemed very small. I recall that all the adults had different drink requirements, but at one stage we couldn’t get any drinks as brother-in-law had been pinned in the kitchen by his sister for a tearful argument about how fairly their precious time in England was going to be shared between she and I. As she was having us all for actual Christmas Day and Boxing Day I’m not sure why she was complaining. My husband was relieved to avoid the trip to Kent due to his shift work and was going to spend the day with my aunt and uncle who had been deprived of the rest of us for Christmas. It began to look as if none of us would get to Kent if the trains and roads were snowed up… we did and Christmas morning was beautiful, trudging through snowy fields with the little ones , then back to a roaring log fire in their cottage. Alas the circle of heat emanating from the open fire did not spread to the rest of the cottage. It was freezing, especially for the Australian contingent, the bathroom, being a mere asbestos attachment to the rest of the building, was particularly uninviting.

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If you have access to children Christmas feels more real and we had a few years with four generations, though children are a risk as well, they are liable to be sick all over great aunty’s sofa.
Christmas is something to be ignored and got through for some people, while for others it brings enormous stress as they juggle extended families. But it would seem strange for the year to peter out devoid of any celebrations.

For writers Christmas provides plenty of plot possibilities. In my Brief Encounters Trilogy three Christmases pass, with an ecclectic group of people assembled each time; plenty of tension and opportunity for both love and discord.

Leaflet 2015 back

 

 

Sunday Salon – the alternative to the Sunday Supplements

Dip into two books and two television dramas.

I review every book I read on Amazon and Goodreads and also share my reviews here.

This week, two very different English novels; one dark, one light.

Out of Time  by Jaye Marie

4.0 out of 5 stars In the mind of a killer.

By Janet Gogerty on 21 September 2018

Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase

I hadn’t read the previous novel about Kate, so knew nothing about her, but Kate knows nothing about herself either when she wakes up. This is a thriller with no heroes, the Snowman is desperate to help her and it seems at last he can, but it is not to be. If this was a television thriller the Snowman would save the day, but the story becomes more complex. We follow the killer’s thoughts as well as the other main characters, an advantage of books over screens. The reader will never sympathise, but we might comprehend what’s going on in Jack’s mind. Michael is another character who we think might save the day, but he is a mix of flaws and must face up to the grief he has caused the woman he loved and the other woman who loves him. This is not a novel for the faint hearted; what starts as a mystery of unconnected murders is also the story of those unfortunate enough to be in the path of a killer or know his intended victim. We know from the news that bizarre killings can occur when a murderer becomes obsessed and this murderer is obsessed with Kate.

Mum in the Middle by Jane Wenham-Jones

5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and humorous.

ByJanet Gogerty on 8 October 2018

Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase

I downloaded this novel onto my Kindle as it sounded fun and we have relatives who have become DFLs* on the Isle of Thanet. But this is a story that would make an enjoyable read for anyone with family or lively family as neighbours. Whether you are married, divorced or thankful to be single, the lives of Tess and her family and friends will probably sound familiar. The story bowls along, with prospects of romance dashed at every twist and turn and plenty of modern life problems.

*‘Down From London’ – a good train service from St. Pancras, lower property prices and the seaside have made the Isle of Thanet, Kent a popular choice for workers needing to commute and also artists and entrepreneurs.

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Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

How do you watch television these days, perhaps not even on a television set? But drama serials are still ever popular, whether we sit down each week, catch up digitally or binge watch. I like the idea of the TV schedule, but inevitably if we’re out or have visitors I am thankful we can record or catch up. PAUSING programmes is also a brilliant asset as my good intentions to leave the computer or the kitchen by 9pm always fail.

There have been so many good dramas lately we have some still to watch. My two recent favourites were very different.

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray is a long novel that many people on social media have confessed to not having read. But with a film and at least four television adaptations we can be forgiven for not being sure if we have actually read the book. BBC 1967, 1987 and the one I remember really enjoying was a few years ago – no it was 1998! So how would ITV’s new production compare?

Thackeray, played by national treasure Michael Palin, took his rightful place as the narrator at the beginning and end of each part; he watched his characters go round and round on a carousel.

The story starts in 1813 England, a turbulent society embroiled in war for twenty years. Thackeray introduces a world where everyone is striving for what is not worth having. The impossibly smart red and white soldiers, beautiful women, lovely horses and clean streets were not out of place because he wanted us to watch his characters in a performance. The battle field sequences contrast with this.

Becky Sharpe has nothing, but is determined to have everything, whoever she hurts on the way. We are whirled through years of love, heartbreak, family troubles, business disasters and tragedy with one love story ending happily.

https://www.radiotimes.com/news/tv/2018-10-12/vanity-fair-cast-itv-amazon

BBC4 on Saturday nights is a must if you love Scandi Noir or anything with sub titles. We have followed Danish politics, Swedish thrillers, Sicilian detectives, Paris police, Belgian undercover in French and Flemish, but most recently it has been Outback Noir.

Mystery Road in six episodes, was filmed in the Kimberly region of north Western Australia. Having lived in Perth, Western Australia and with family there, I try and watch any Australian series that come our way. I have never been to that part of the state, another country to suburbanites in the city. The series was worth watching for the scenery alone, wide landscapes of dusty red soil and long roads, a fascinating country town and a cattle station homestead that makes you yearn to live somewhere with endless space. A great cast did justice to a complex story linking past and present with layers of secrets. The old landowning family, the indigenous people and European backpackers all find their lives bound together in small town life.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/latestnews/2018/mystery-road

 

 

Into Infinity

Grand Prix, everyday traffic – noise and pollution, I hate it, bring back the horse.

…but put big fuel guzzling engines up in the skies and I love them, carbon footprints forgotten.

I don’t fly often, perhaps if I did the novelty would wear off, but for me a trip abroad begins the moment the cabin floor starts to slope upwards and the engines blast into full power. A window seat and clear sky provide the fascination of identifying landmarks, but if the plane ascends through heavy cloud cover there is still the fun of being up in a fluffy heaven.

 

My first ever flight was across the world, when we emigrated to Australia. My novel ‘Quarter Acre Block’ was inspired by our experiences; in that story none of the Palmer family had flown before, but in real life my father had been a flight engineer in WW2. He was determined we would fly rather than sail out. I have flown across the world a few times since then, but perhaps more exciting was my shortest ever trip, flying in a light aircraft from Jandacot, Perth, Western Australia across twelve miles of Indian Ocean to Rottnest Island – real flying.

But mostly I have been on the ground looking up. At Farnborough Air Show, as children, we would marvel as jets flew silently by, followed several moments later by their sound.

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Years later, living very near Heathrow Airport, we would spot four planes in the sky at a time coming into land, at night like ‘UFO’ lights. But the aeroplane we never tired of watching or hearing was Concorde. If many Concordes had been built and flown the noise would have been unbearable, but the two flights a day were an event; teachers in local schools would stop talking at eleven a.m., working in an airside passenger lounge with a great view of the runway, we watched her take off like a graceful bird. On winter evenings I would dash out of the kitchen into the garden to see her glowing afterburners soaring up. Alas poor Concorde…

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The end of August brings the Bournemouth Air Festival, now in its eleventh year. If you don’t like the noise, are not interested in aeroplanes and live near the cliff top, there is no opting out, unless you go on holiday. Roads are closed, there are diversions, daily routine is disrupted as over a million visitors come over the four days. But this does not affect me. With visitors coming I have no intention of going anywhere except the kitchen, local shops and the sea front.

 

The longer the journey your visitors have made and especially if it is their first visit to the Air Festival, the more likely it is to rain. But with the festival spread over four days there is always some good flying weather. The cliff tops make ideal viewing and the beach is crowded. You can book a place on board a boat, but if the weather turns rough you are stuck out at sea! There are hospitality tents and deals at cliff top hotels with balconies.

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It all starts tomorrow, so in next week’s blog I’ll fill you in on the highlights and weather, with hopefully some photographs.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Quarter-Acre-Block-Janet-Gogerty-ebook/dp/B00A6XDUQM

Sunday Salon – Guest Blogger

Second in the series of occasional blogs by my Sister Down Under

Return To Sender

I often send Birthday cards to relatives in England, and as I seal down the envelope and stick my address label on the flap, I always find myself wondering if there is any point. If the address was to be incorrect, would they take the trouble and expense to send it all the way back to Australia?

37072684_10213413731471370_3835982618025787392_nI now have my answer. The other week, I received a blue envelope with an air mail sticker and an Australian stamp on it, and it was addressed to me. Someone had crossed the address out with a blue pencil, and there was a red Royal Mail sticker on it declaring that the address was unknown. It wasn’t a surprise that the address was incorrect, as it belonged to the youngest of my nephews, the inventor in the family, the itinerant creator of firework displays with a bedroom full of enough electronic equipment to drain the power grid of the Southeast of England. What was surprising was that the Australian postmark said it was posted at 6 pm on the 26th of July, 2011. Seven years ago. 

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So, yes, they do go to the trouble of returning letters. And an awful lot of trouble by the looks of it. Not for the Royal Mail the conventional route of placing it on a plane to fly half way around the world. No, this was more like the challenge taken on by Michael Palin to go around the world in eighty days without flying. The Royal Mail Postman was to get to Australia travelling overland, and taking sea journeys only when it was unavoidable.

What a tale that post man must have to tell! Imagine the deprivations and adventures he must have encountered on his 7 year odyssey! Crossing the channel to France was probably easy, but was he then waylaid by a French temptress, dallying with her for many months before silently slipping out at dawn one morning to continue his journey? Did he scale the Alps and get caught in a storm, to be nursed back to health by a local farmer and his daughter?

 One imagines him crossing the Mongolian plains, joining the Mongol herders, living in a Yurt and learning to survive off the land. He would have regretfully had to say goodbye, explaining the Royal Mail always gets through, and he would put his uniform back on with pride, not withstanding that it was getting a little threadbare. He would have gone on a pilgrimage through India – retracing the steps of his colonial forefathers who had first brought British law and the British postal service to that teaming and untamed land. Then on to South East Asia, tiring now of the crowds and the jostling, longing only to reach that wide, open land of Australia.

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What a relief he would have felt as he stepped off the small fishing boat at Darwin, only to be arrested as an illegal immigrant. He would have spent quite some time in detention, and despair would have been his companion as he waited for his superiors in London to confirm who he was and what his mission involved. There would have been a delay at their end, while they overcame their incredulity and double checked his credentials before rejoicing that he was not, as believed, dead – the first (or so they thought) postman to die in active overseas service.

And finally, catching a cruise ship (courtesy of the Royal Mail in gratitude for his services) around the coast to Fremantle. What a reception he would have from his Australia Post colleagues – glad to see him, but at the  same time a little jealous that they could no longer boast they had the longest mail routes in the world.

And as for me – time to tell my nephew that he isn’t unloved, and that I did send a card, but something happened to it along the way

Kate Doswell,  15/07/2018.

Some Like It Hot

As new migrants in Australia, the first time the thermometer hit one hundred degrees we were very excited, a Century meant it was very hot; instead of sheltering behind venetian blinds in the relative coolness of indoors, in the days before most homes had air conditioning, I walked around marvelling at the sensation of the dry heat. If the thermometer hit one hundred degrees Celsius you would be dead. After a week of the temperature reaching over one hundred degrees Fahrenheit every day, the novelty wore off.

Since then the world has moved to Celsius, leaving only the USA and a few other countries using Fahrenheit. But one hundred sounds more dramatic than the slightly higher forty Celsius. When I worked at Heathrow, an English girl told me the first time she arrived in Kuwait she felt as if she had been blasted by a giant hairdryer. A Kuwaiti passenger told me no one had to work if the temperature rose above fifty degrees, but officially it never got hotter than fifty. A Singapore passenger told me the heat was not a problem as every building was air conditioned. I asked ‘What if you want to go for a walk?’ He looked puzzled. Why would you want to go for a walk?

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Those who have lived in hotter climes might wonder at the fuss we are making about our heat wave in Britain. Temperatures over thirty, so early in the summer, have weather forecasters excited. We have had heat waves before and after our wet winter the reservoirs were full, so we shouldn’t run dry yet. Despite the usual comments such as ‘it won’t last’ and ‘we’ll pay for this later’ the heat wave shows no sign of ceasing, though some places have had rain. Our relatives, visiting back from Las Vegas, saw rain only once and looked forward to getting back to their air conditioned house.

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We are not prepared for hot weather, we don’t have air conditioning, shutters and awnings or a tradition of siestas. In the garden, early morning or evening watering has become part of the domestic routine for those who cherish their flowers. The holiday atmosphere is fun; breakfast and dinner in the garden and days by the sea. Our beach hut feels worth the rates we pay the council for the tiny patch of concrete it stands on; it provides shade, changing room and a kettle. Daily swims have become the norm; as far as I’m concerned there is no point in having hot weather unless you can paddle or swim in a pool, river or sea.

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Hot weather is no fun for those who have to work out in it and especially fire fighters. The heat has brought destruction to the moors with peat fires. It is equally oppressive for those who can’t get out. A lady told me it’s the first time in ninety four years she hasn’t worn a vest!

But the biggest cloud, or absence of cloud hanging over our holiday mood is What if it never rains again, is this another big warning about global warming?

ANZAC Day

Today is ANZAC day and what better way to mark it than with these poignant words from a special guest blogger. In the first of an occasional series my Sister Down Under writes about a unique island.

A Very Humble Monument   by Kate Doswell

Some thoughts for ANZAC day   25th April, 2018.

 

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I’m not sure what it’s like in other Commonwealth countries, but in Australia we take our war memorials very seriously, and rightly so. “Lest We Forget” is inscribed on most of them, and as we read down the long, alphabetical lists of names, we are reminded of the truly terrible cost of war. Even in tiny outback towns, the list seems far too long, far too many of the youngest and strongest of the community taken from those that are left behind to carry on.

Most of these monuments are made of stone, imposing obelisks in bluestone or limestone or granite, depending on where they are situated. They are usually in the centre of town. Running around the monument and integral to its form is a ledge wide enough to sit on. People may sit and contemplate awhile, or simply pass by on their daily business or as a visitor to the town. How many, I wonder, stop and read the names and wonder at the fate of these lost men? Do the locals become so used to it that they just pass by?

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However, not all monuments are as striking or as prominent, and last week I found one that was truly humdrum. It was on the Island of Rottnest, 20 km from the West Australian Port of Fremantle. For many years this Island has functioned as a much loved holiday playground for the people of Western Australia, and the tourists who come to our isolated part of the world. It has a rather grand Roman Catholic church high on a hill, but the Anglican church is represented by a much older, but more modest chapel of limestone and whitewashed render.

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I visited the chapel late in the day, as there were other tourist activities that had claimed my attention. The door was stiff to open, and the interior gathering the gloom of the impending sunset, so the first thing I noticed was the distinctive smell of very old (to our European Australian eyes) limestone buildings from the early settlement era. Above the altar, I could see a simple, but attractive stained glass window depicting The Annunciation. Turning from there I looked at the pews, some thought to have been made by the Aboriginal Prisoners for whom this Island acted as a prison for 60 years. There were brass plaques on the wall in memory of various European families who had played important roles in the Island’s history, but the one that caught my eye was one on the door of a storage cupboard at the back of the chapel. It looked relatively new – certainly not crafted by the Aboriginal men in the 18th century – and I guessed it had been built and installed after the chapel was reconsecrated in 1965. It was utilitarian – capacious and solidly built but without ornament or distinctive features. Except for the plaque. A simple paper notice, its words carefully handwritten in Old English script, and framed with a plain wooden frame, so small it could be covered by two hands.

“This cabinet is dedicated to the memory of those Rottnest Islanders who served their country in times of war and peace.”

I have never seen such a monument before, if I can even use the word monument. Is this the only place in the Commonwealth to have such a homely reminder of the dead?

 

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I didn’t open the cupboard, I had no business to do so, but I imagined it containing vestments for the visiting priest, the chalice and paten, hymn books and orders of service, all the paraphernalia of a functioning chapel. I thought of those remembered by this most humble of monuments, and wondered if they would have been disappointed, aggrieved, or even angry that they had nothing grander built in their memory? But then again, maybe they would have been pleased that, having it placed on an object that was in regular use for the worshipers, they would readily and frequently come to people’s minds. These people, no doubt, would have attended this chapel, maybe some even came in the week before they left to sail away to war. Now, each time someone opens the cupboard and sees that little plaque, they are back here again. Back home to stay.

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Observed on 25 April each year, Anzac Day was originally to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli against the Ottoman Empire during World War I. It is one of Australia’s most important national occasions. It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War.

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Quarter Acre Blog

The first time Australia was mentioned was at breakfast on a school day. I was astonished when Mum said

‘How would you like to go to another country?’

Where had this idea come from? The furthest we had ever been was a hundred miles to visit my aunt in Cheltenham.

I replied instantly ‘If I can have a horse.’

I had always wanted a horse and what other reason could there be for going to another country? I would need no help caring for it due to my extensive reading of the Kit Hunter Show Jumper series and all the other pony books I could lay my hands on.

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‘Australia?’

I returned from my reverie to hear what Mum was saying. A new picture presented itself; warm weather, living by the seaside and swimming every day. I couldn’t actually swim, but had been up to my chest at Frensham Ponds and in the sea, while Mum and Dad sat in deck chairs huddled in coats and rugs.

But my most vivid image of what our Australian life would be like came from my favourite television programme, The Adventures of the Terrible Ten. Ten children living in rural Victoria, who all had ponies, discovered some old packing cases and built Ten Town. They never went to school or saw their parents.

Mum said I might get a horse, would probably get a dog and would definitely go swimming. But for now the whole adventure must be kept deathly secret; until we knew for sure we had been accepted for migration. This meant absolutely no one, not even my best friend or my younger brother and sister. I kept the secret.

 

It was spring now and by autumn we would be ready to go, not on the dangerous voyage of the early settlers, but Mum and Dad would be burning their boats. Cheap flights at ten pounds each for Mum and Dad and free for children; but it was a one way ticket. My parents expected never to see England or their relatives again.

In the meantime a momentous year lay ahead. It was our last year at junior school; the first year Top Of The Pops was broadcast and in the garden shed our pet white mice were multiplying rapidly. As top years we went on school holiday for the first time to the Isle of Wight. It was a very pleasant holiday, but two strange things happened. As a Church of England school we knew several of our classmates were Roman Catholics, it made no difference to them or us. But on the Sunday of the holiday, one poor catholic boy was to be marked out as different. All of us were to attend morning service at the local church, but Eric’s mother had decreed that Eric must go to the catholic church. As a relatively new boy he was already slightly different; now as his lone figure trudged off in the opposite direction, to the mysteries of candles and incense, he had become an outcast. Later that day, as we ran around in the grounds of the hotel, some primeval, sectarian instinct took over and we all chased Eric; convinced in that moment that we were going to lynch him. Luckily the teacher came out blowing her whistle and normality was restored.

Peter was another unfortunate boy. For some reason he was the only child of our class of forty who didn’t come on the holiday. As we ate dinner one evening, the headmaster came into the dining room looking very distraught. Peter had run away from home and managed to reach the island before being caught by the police. We all thought him very clever to have got that far and very sad that he still wasn’t allowed to join us.

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Back at school our summer term was nearing its end; we practised maypole dancing ready for our centenary celebrations and Mum and Dad visited the headmaster. Later that day he entered the classroom to chat to us; a common occurrence, but this time I realised with horror he was talking about me. I had kept my promise and not told a soul and now was mortified the headmaster was telling everyone I was going to Australia! Having spent four years mostly unnoticed, I was now the centre of attention as everyone turned to look at me.

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As autumn arrived life became surreal. The date was set for our departure. I had passed my eleven plus, but it would make little difference to my future, the Australian schools were comprehensive. Our little school gang had been split in half, four of us were going to grammar school; one mother didn’t come out of the house for a week with shame that her daughter had failed. For a few weeks I experienced a glimpse of what my life might have been at a girls’ grammar school, dressed in bottle green uniform with the excitement of Bunsen burners.

Soon our house was sold and we had reached the point of no return. As the taxi collected us for the airport my grandparents stood stoically waving and my school friend Wendy skipped up the road after us; she would be the only person from those days to stay a lifelong friend.

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The taxi had been late, very stressful for my parents. As we arrived at London Airport     (now Heathrow) our friends and relatives were waiting, wondering if we had changed our minds. We rushed through with hardly time to say goodbye. The airport was much smaller then; as we climbed the steps to the plane we could see our loved ones gathered on the balcony waving. Except for Dad, it was the first time we had been on an aeroplane. I was really excited until I noticed the big card in the seat pocket. How to put on your lifejacket! Until that moment I had not considered the possibility that planes could crash. I wondered if we would reach Australia.

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My novel Quarter Acre Block was inspired by our family’s experience. It is not autobiographical, but people who have read it ask which things were ‘true’. Find out more at my website.   https://www.ccsidewriter.co.uk/chapter-six-fiction-focus

 

Goerge Had Six Moths To Feed.

After nearly five years floating in the ether, the first novel I published on Amazon Kindle is now available as a paperback. Quarter Acre Block was inspired by my family’s experiences emigrating to Australia as Ten Pound Pommies; ironically the paperback costs £10.00  (£9.99 ).  I have not yet written a novel inspired by my return to the United Kingdom, as a twenty year old on a six month working holiday which has stretched till now; suffice to say I have family on both sides of the world and there have been many journeys back and forth over the years, few of them mine.

Project Paperback QAB took on some urgency as Australian visitors were coming to stay; Kindle Direct Publishing paperbacks are not yet available in Canada or Australia.

Technology at our In House Publishers is rarely new; second hand computers, smart phones and other devices pass through the house, passed down from family who are upgrading or bought from ‘Pete at work’. Quarter Acre Block documents were in my new computer, in the external hard drive and on various memory sticks, but we couldn’t find the HTML document that had formed the original Kindle book. I wanted to add pages at the beginning and end that could not have existed in the first version, ‘By the same author’  ‘About The Author’, so with my Kindle at my side as reference I treated the Microsoft word document as a final edit. It was good to read the novel again and the Palmer family were pleased I had not forgotten them, but I was mortified to find more than one mistake in spelling and grammar. Had gremlins crept in? There was no escaping the fact that the same errors occurred in the Kindle version.  I am not alone in this, I have enjoyed plenty of e-books where letters have swapped places and full stops have fallen off; perfection is hard to achieve, but it was galling to read that George had six ‘moths’ to feed.

At last the book was ready to download, with a new cover and perfect pages. Before you press Publish, Amazon comes up with a helpful spell check, a feature not available when we first published. Six errors… four were colloquial, wheatbelt should have been The Wheatbelt, but the glaring mistake was Goerge. One of my main characters, George, had endured the indignity of having his name spelt incorrectly in the first chapter; I can only hope that like the jumbled letter quizzes on Facebook – only people who are highly intelligent can read this – readers did not notice.

We ordered one copy to check it was fine. The visitors arrived on Thursday, the book on Friday. I ordered ten more; they were due on Sunday, an e-mail from Amazon on Sunday afternoon stated they had been delivered and left in the porch. The porch was empty, the visitors were going on Tuesday morning. On Sunday evening the neighbours came round with a parcel that had been left in their porch. On Monday evening we gave our visitors their gift and luckily they had enough room in their suitcases to take copies for my mother and niece; at 95,000 words the book is quite heavy, I had saved a lot on postage and packing.

In all the excitement we had not noticed one glaring omission. There was no title on the spine… on Amazon Kindle nothing is set in stone, you can go back in at any time and change the book, future copies will not be spineless. Perhaps those first eleven copies will be famous rarities in a hundred years time…

Read my previous blog on how KDP print on demand first came into my life.     https://wordpress.com/post/tidalscribe.wordpress.com/383