Summer in London 3
There is always a good exhibition somewhere in London, often too many. A trip to the Royal Academy on Picadilly is usually worthwhile. We wanted to see the Matisse exhibition this time. How fascinating. There was not an enormous number of painting but they were exhibited alongside some of the objects he used for his work. The idea was to encourage the viewer to look at the objects the way an artist might. I love his use of colour and textiles and this exhibition was no exception. I’ve often thought that if I was asked what books I would want on my Desert Island, a copy of Matisse’s work would be the first thing I’d chose.
There was also an exhibition of the work of Charles Tunnicliffe in the same building.
He was a Royal Academician best known for his illustrations for books. Think Tarka the Otter. (Memo to self – must read.) What became more interesting was copies of the cards he did for Brooke Bond Tea. The cards were in the packets of loose leaf tea and one could send away for a book in which to stick the cards. Seeing those cards and the book brought back all sorts of memories. I’d collected the Birds of Britain. We started talking to the room steward who told us his had collected the Birds of Africa as he had lived in Uganda as a child. He showed us the Ladybird series of books ‘What to Look for in Winter’, and it’s companion volumes. Tunnicliffe was an amazing artist and deserves to be remembered.
To the Grandfather I didn’t know
Last night August 4th 2014, like many others I watched the broadcast from Westminster Abbey. We had switched off all our lights at 10pm and had a single candle glowing in the dark, as we commemorated the date and time a century ago when Britain plunged into World War I. My Grandfather was not killed during the war, but he died early from the injuries he received. He was gassed and never fully recovered from that, so that my Grandmother, a weaver, as many women were in Lancashire, continued to work after the war ended in 1918.
He died before my mother was married in 1939. Her brother Jack the child in the photograph was the one who walked her down the aisle to giver her away; my Grandmother would have walked alone. Although he knew he had one grandchild, Keith the eldest son of my Uncle Jack, he never knew about Roger, Keith’s brother nor myself or my younger brother Stewart. My Grandmother was a widow for over thirty years, dying when I was 26. Not for her the comfort of a shared life, shared memories and experiences into old age.
We, his grandchildren, never knew him and I don’t remember either my Grandmother or my Mother reminiscing about him. I don’t know which regiment he served with or what he did during the war. I know he loved horses and from time to time my mother said he would groom and harness the team of horses that drew the hearse in the small town of Haslingden Lancashire; black horses whose coats gleamed and who wore black ostrich plumes on their heads. He must have been interested in Art because I have a set of three books published by Odhams Press of Long Acre London in 1934 called The Worlds Greatest Paintings. My mother said they were an offer by one of the daily newspapers.
Of course, compared with too many, my family were lucky he did come back alive when so many didn’t. But the only way I can remember him is by this photograph; for me he will always be a handsome soldier with a pretty wife and young son.
The route to publication has moved on another step. I have checked through the printers proof again. This time instead of doing it on the computer screen I printed a hard copy of my novel. There are 350 pages so I printed four pages using both sides of an A4 sheet of paper. It is beginning to look like a book, with an acknowledgements page and the publication details as well as the publication rights. I found only six changes needed making. I’m sure there are others but I’m missing them. I will get it returned to me again to check there are no more changes necessary. I do hope there are none, as I’m sure the law of diminishing returns sets in and I will fail to spot any mistakes in it.
I think the next version will have the front and back cover in place. We have yet to finalise the draft blurb, so that’s another step
to get through. Interestingly I met a writer friend on Tuesday, who complained that the blurb for her book was written by the publisher and she was not consulted. One of the differences between traditional publishing and independent is the lack of control, once a writer has sold the publication rights, over the presentation of the novel to the public.
The same author expressed how dissatisfied she was with the marketing of her book. I am paying for a marketing campaign, so I do expect some publicity to be generated. The other job I had this week was to answer a questionnaire about my book which included providing another summary of the story and biography which included any media interest in my personal story. During my Twenty-five years at the Bar I did do a number of cases which attracted a great deal of publicity at the time, but most of it was some years ago. I thought two might still attract some media interest today.
The first was the killing of the fashion designer Ossie Clark by his lover Diego Cogolato. Ossie Clark was very successful designer in the 1960’s along with his then wife Celia Birtwell. There is a wonderful painting of them both by David Hockney in the National Portrait Gallery. By 1996 Ossie was living in a one bedroomed council flat in West London and Cogolato under the influence of a mixture of drugs killed him. He was diagnosed as suffering from a drug-induced psychotic state. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter and after I mitigated on his behalf he received a sentence of six years.
The other case featured in the newspapers only five years ago, when a young woman called Alex Griffiths was successful in her A level examinations. The Times, no doubt looking for a different angle to report on the announcement of the results chose to write an article about her, because as the baby she was stolen from St Thomas’s Hospital within hours of her birth. A nation-wide search followed, and she was found alive and well three weeks later. I represented the woman who stole her, coincidently also called Griffiths, Janet Griffiths. She too was diagnosed with mental health issues, in this case she had Munchausen’s, not the by- proxy type that has been much in the news over the last few years, but the original illness. She received a hospital order and was released after about eight months. She was to die about four year later of cancer. It is not often a barrister gets to know what happens to the victims and defendants in cases in which they appear, but I am pleased that on this occasion I did.
My non-writing life has taken me away from my computer for the last two weeks. Certainly I have been unable to make any sensible contribution to this blog. I have however managed to send out my manuscript to a ‘Self Publishing’ Company for a quote to prepare a cover design, format the novel for e-readers and for printing, and made an appointment with another company to discuss an advertising campaign. I think I’m trying publish my novel the easy way, rather than handling all aspects of self publishing myself. I tell myself it’s cheaper than keeping a horse, which seems to be the preferred hobby of most of my neighbours. Do I detect a horrible pun there?
Amazon make it seem so easy, your book published in hours but that rather unsettles me. Am I being a wimp about it or not? I’m not sure.
Just spent a few days in London, reminding myself why I like the city so much. Of course there are the usual tourist things, the theatre and art galleries, the major sights. We went to see The Magistrate at the National, and it was a very enjoyable evening, a bit like a panto. But it’s not that, although the cultural life was the reason I moved to London. I think the attraction for me is the energy that so many people hurrying around seem to engender. There is always the possibility of some suprise, of changes occuring that create a new experience. The Shard glittering in rain, a new art gallery, an extension of the Serpentine Gallery, being built in Hyde Park. It’s still wrapped in its plastic sheeting so its shape is a secret but the architect is Zaha Hadid, so it should be an exciting addition to the landscape. I came across a class for nervous cyclist (or even teaching those who can’t) in Little Wormwood Scrubs Park. I watched an elderly woman on a three wheeler set off cautiosly round the park, and two girls who said they hadn’t ridden bikes for years racing round. That’s another new addition to the street scene, the blue rows of ‘Boris’ bikes. These are the sort of places and events I need to keep my novels up to date.
I’ve also discovered a pedestrian route under the Westway which would make a great setting for a crimestory. It runs between a number of sports facilities, a sand ring with two disconsolate looking ponies, empty fives courts, a climbing frame and a sculpture that looks like a set of coloured pencils bent in peculiar shapes. Next time I go I must take a camera and photograph the route.
The photograph is the set for The Magistrate from the back of the circle.
Does anyone have any other ways of keeping the locus of their novels real.