My latest Sherlock Holmes short story Miss Violet Dixon (deceased)

My latest Sherlock Holmes short story Miss Violet Dixon (deceased)
The front cover created with Gimp with help from Aubrey Watt on You Tube.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

This is new for me, two blog sessions in consecutive days...must be because I've finished writing and it's a Sunday and so I can't use the mower!

I was moved to write some more as I found the 'The Room 2' the fabulous follow up game for the iPad had been released. If you have not been wowed by 'The Room' then toddle over to the Apple store and download it for your iPad. It's now free (as 'The Room 2' is now out) and the graphics are mind blowing. I really, really recommend this puzzle game. It is not one of your cheapie "Escape the Room' type games, it is a wonderful use of the iPads interaction with its owner.

We have a 'stealth' cat who is coming into our house at night an stealing our cats food! Grrr, we have had to close our bedroom door at night (after 40 years of leaving it open) as our new cat jumps on the bed and snuggles down and it un-nerves me to be just dropping off and have something leap on the bed! Our black Labrador, 'Truffle' sleeps on her duvet on the floor at the end of the bed and would see off any 'foreign' cat but with the bedroom door closed, she doesn't hear it padding past. I am attempting to put in place a high-tech solution, I will move the wireless security camera from the garage and install it temporarily to watch the food bowls. It is motion activated so we will see who is coming in!

The best solution to all this is to install a cat flap in the garage door that reads the cats micro-chip. All cats and dogs in France have to be tattooed inside their ear with their pet id number or be injected with a micro-chip. These new fangled cat flaps read the chip id and only allow in the cats with the PIN that it 'knows'. They are a tad expensive, about £80 ( $140 ) but might be worth it in the long run.

I was looking for some interesting facts and background for my next book and there are some really interesting places with write ups of everyday events in Victorian times. One of them was in Ryde on the Isle of Wight where there is a monthly record of events that goes back into the 1850's. The language form is interesting in itself but the reports presented are fascinating, e.g. revolver practice on the pier by the Coastguard!

I will, honestly, try to post on my blog more frequently. It is just that once a new book gets underway I tune in to it so much that I exclude stuff unintentionally...a bit like Holmes...but I don't forget meal times ; )

Enjoy your week,

Dick xx

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Well, it's windy as a windy thing today...and looks like rain for the next two days. Hey-ho, that's what a Breton winter is like!

I released Sherlock Holmes and The Lymington Affair into the World on Friday morning...and no complaints yet! It is a nice 'people-y' book with Holmes showing (for once) that he does have a softer side and that Watson has a sweet tooth! If you haven't bought it yet it is for sale on Amazon (everywhere). I have gone with the Amazon Select option which means that Amazon prime members can borrow the book for nothing and also they run promo's etc. We will wait and see, it is only on Amazon Select (exclusive to them and not available elsewhere) for 3 months. I will then launch on Smashwords.

Christmas is nearly upon us and Alex is writing cards and wrapping stuff. I write cards to colleagues and distant family members, all good stuff. A little bird has told me that I might be getting a deerstalker for Christmas! I'm sure that it will go down a storm on a windy beach on Christmas day! we have our children joining us for a few days over Christmas via Paris. Ryanair are going to pull the plug on flying into Dinard in spring next year. I think they are arguing that the E. Mids route is really a summer route. Hmmm, flights have always been pretty full when we have been on them.

Joining Linkedin has been an interesting thing to do, I have had such great interaction with other authors. I have had loads of advice and links to really useful places. It is a great way to join in with folk who have an interest in your area (not just writing, ALL areas of work and leisure). It is a superb networking tool, I heartily recommend it.

Hopefully, my model yacht might get an outing at Christmas when the 'kids' are over for Christmas, my daughters fiance is a keen radio controlled flier. Our town has an old, covered Lavoir, a small communal washing 'baths' about 8m x 3m made from stone. It is about 60cm deep and should be ideal for a quick sail for the yacht. The electronics are now installed to control the sails and the rudder, just need a nice gentle breeze.

A friend of ours came back to Brittany for a few days from the UK last week and very kindly split some logs for us. We are working our way through the logs from 2 years ago. We have had 7 'Red' days lately and the big log fire in the lounge has been getting some hammer. The stone fireplace keeps the room warm overnight, just like a storage heater. We burn mainly oak and chestnut, I don' mind burning the 'butt ugly' pieces but I keep thinking that I would like to have a go at carving some of the nicely figured stuff, not throw it on the fire!

Anyway, have a great week!

Dick xx

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Sunshine again! Another sunny day but with a bit of a chill wind....may have to get the mower out and take a tour round the garden. Although it's a ride-on, there are 5 different lawns to cut! Some are quite small but fiddly with bushes and trees that have been planted in them. I have removed several since we bought the house as it was ridiculous trying to drive the mower round them!

Sherlock Holmes and The Zhou Bell has reached its final day as a free download at Smashwords so if you want a free ebook, pop along today before midnight (GMT+1). The latest story, Sherlock Holmes and the Lymington affair is hopefully going to be published next week. It is about 75 - 80% written then I have to fiddle with the language a bit to make sure that it is suitably Victorian. The new front cover is nice, it took me a while to find the right picture that I hope will give not too much away!

I'm struggling at the moment as I am reformatting my other stories to tidy up any spulling mistooks and grammar errors before resubmitting them to Amazon and Smashwords. This is OK except that both of these demand book files in Word format and I generally work on my Mac. I have to write and edit stuff on my little Windows Netbook which is giving me eyestrain! Anyway, all the Amazon ones are done and now show as a second edition. This will please the 'kind' reviewer who loved the stories but hammered me for my clutzy formatting and punctuation. I have also done the same thing for Smashwords but I'm awaiting for them to be reviewed before they can be accepted for their Premium listing. I had major probs. with inserting a hyperlinked table of contents and removing dodgy carriage returns. Should be OK...we'll see!

We were invited out last night by some French friends for a soiree. The evening started with a nice glass of sparkling Vouvray from the Loire with a dash of blue Curacao. Have to say it looked like a prop. from Harry Potter! Plus I read that Curacao is coloured with Brilliant Blue (E133 I think) which apparently makes your wee blue!! The meal was a Raclette, a do-it-yourself cheesy grill experience. Each person has a little 'shovel' which you pile up with cheese, ham, sausage, onion and tomato and then stick under a little grill in the middle of the table. It was yummy but very filling! Desert was something quite un-French, an apple and red-fruit crumble! Apparently, English crumble is / has taken France by storm! I have to be a tad careful as small seeds / pips aggravate my diverticulitis which is a very painful inflammation of the lower bowel.

Next week seems to be looking colder but perhaps drier. I have already had to grace the beach with waterproof / windproof trousers. It is getting colder, we had 3 days this week on our Red Tempo tariff (read the previous entries in the blog for further info. all the electric radiators were turned off and the wonderful log fire in the lounge was brought into use and kept us snug.

Watch out for Sherlock Holmes and The Lymington Affair, I will try my very best to get it out by next week. In the meantime, I will put the book cover on the top of the blog. Have a great week and think of me becoming Myopic on the Netbook!

Dick xx

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

It's a  gorgeous, sunny warm day after about 5 really grey and rainy ones. The sun is so warm on my terrace I may sit out there and have lunch! Yippee!

The sale of my new book Sherlock Holmes and The Zhou Bell is increasing slowly. I have given away about 90 so far so if you want a copy, nip along to Smashwords. It's free until the end of November.

I had a greal email from the editor and secretary of The Sherlock Holmes Society of India a couple of weeks ago. They would like to showcase my books in their December issue of their magazine! They will also include an interview I did for Smashwords too. All very encouraging plus there is a possibility of getting my books into print in India and also worldwide through MX Publishing. This is something I will follow up.

Speaking of ebooks, a friend of mine alerted me to the fact that Rick Steins's cook book about his journey through India is currently reduced from a staggering £25 to a miserly 49p as a Kindle Ebook. I have to say that the photographs are superb. I use the free reader app. on my iPad and having the hyperlinks within the text is really useful.

This seems to be a totally book related post, I saw today that Amazon now have an Australian site and my books are already on sale there. So, if you have some 'rellies' down under, please point them towards my books on that site : )

The fine weather has meant the guy who we have employed to clean the outside of our house has been able to come and jet wash off the moss/algae killer that he sprayed on a couple of weeks ago. It's quite labour intensive as the algae has been on there a looooong time and doesn't want to let go, even though it's dead! It will look good when it is done.

Still not been cold enough to light the fire here in Brittany, a friend of mine in the UK said that they had had frost and it was crunchy under foot. I must say that the very clear night that we had last night meant that the air was quite cold this morning about 7:30 a.m.  The car was covered with condensation but no frost. It is extremely rare that I have to use de-icer, perhaps once per year! Sometimes there is little light front on the windscreen but I reach for the IKEA family membership card which makes a terrific little ice scraper for the car windows.

Anyway, have a great week. Sorry for all the book related stuff but I'm pumped!

Dick xx

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Just decided to do a Halloween marketing offer! I'm now offering my very latest ebook 'Sherlock Holmes and The Zhou Bell' for FREE!! Yes, absolutely for nothing! Pop along to Smashwords and download it in whatever format you like and enjoy it! Let me know what you think and leave a review!

Dick xx

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Beautiful day here in Brittany, typical weather, a superb contrast between bucketing it down with rain and beautiful sunshine with temperatures reaching 18°C. Some friends of ours came over on the Plymouth to Roscoff ferry on Friday and we have been having fun ever since. Today we went to an open air market in Plestin-les-Greves which was fun with on and off showers and then back home for lunch before we visited a local Breton Museum which was holding a cider festival (I was driving!!).

The cider festival had lots of exhibits on show as well as cider making, model railways, livestock, crepe making etc, but in the courtyard there was a still making Calvados. Now, Calvados is to cider as brandy is to Champagne. The still was in production (legally) producing a firery clear, colourless spirit. Quite a few of the locals were trying this really high strength stuff straight from the still....brave folk! Other folk were watching the traditional method of producing the apple juice using an apple mincer (a scratter) and then a traditional apple screw press with layers of oat stalks between the layers of apple purée. Folk were buying the freshly pressed apple juice and also the matured cider from last years pressing. A good time was had by all, I particularly enjoyed the clog (sabot) making demonstration where you could buy a pair of children's clogs for €5.

I have to report that the sales of my new story Sherlock Holmes and the Zhou Bell are proceeding and I look for more folk to buy it as it is a cracking story. I am waiting for it to be vetted by a human at Smashwords before it is accepted onto the Premium list and then it can go live at Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes etc.

My next story is in the works, I wrote some of it some time ago when I was building my pond yacht. I hope to have it published before Christmas. Just as a tease, the story finds Holmes having one of his rare breaks from being a detective when he offers to teach Watson how to sail at a south coast town. There Holmes falls ill and it is up to Watson to nurse his friend back to health. Others around Holmes have fallen ill and he must find the source of the malady, is it natural or man made? Our detecting duo must try and solve the case.

Well, as it is now 11:30 pm after a tiring day I will say goodnight and try and post a little more as the week progresses.

Have a really good one,

Dick xx

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

At last I have re-sized the giant front cover for my book for this blog and I've managed to get it published on both Amazon and Smashwords! I have to say that I thought that the formatting was interchangeable....hmmm...dream on Dick. So, after a major wrangle with the formatting of the table of contents, I have managed it ...and very good they look too!

The trouble with a Mac is that you have to lash out shed loads of money to get Word onto it. I usually bumble along using the freebie software Libre Office but when it comes to uploading ebook files, it has to be in Word format, not ODT. Having said that, Smashwords will not accept .docx so you have to upload your file for publishing as a .doc file.

Enough of this techy stuff, just go out and buy the book, it's good! I have generated a 50% off coupon for Smashwords if you want one. Just enter the discount code DX59S at the checkout. The link to the book on Smashwords is
The code is good for 5 days so it runs out on the 20th October.

If Amazon is your thing, I'm sorry there is no discount code but here's the link

If you like the book, leave me some feedback and tell your friends. Drop me a line here and tell me what you thought of it.

Have to say it is warmer here in Brittany than in the UK but I'm missing the food already! The choice of flavours, the variety of fresh food and the freshness...and of course the prices! One thing I did discover when I was in the UK was the teabags from Lidl. I had heard on a blog that they were good and so I bought a packet of 'Knightsbridge' black label tea bags and they are superb! I usually drink coffee but these teabags are magic. I am having to restrict how much tea I am drinking as we only bought a box of 50. Must get friends to bring some more over when they visit : )

The dampness of Brittany gives us the gorgeous greens of the countryside but this is the first place that I have lived where things start growing on my car! I have lichens on the bumper! Just shows how good the air quality is here! However, on the outside of our house is a coarse render between the bits of exposed stone. This is a great place for moss etc to take root. Every so often you need to have your house de-mossed and pressure washed...not a cheap hobby when access is difficult and you have to hire a cherry picker for the job! This task SHOULD have been done whilst we were in the UK but wasn't...the guy doing it blamed the weather! All our neighbours said that there was glorious sunshine whilst we were away...grump...grump...grump. Still, he is coming back on Thursday (weather permitting) to spray on the 'anti-mousse' which needs 2 weeks to work before being power washed off. I hope the house will be sparkling!

Anyway, have a great week, we have friends coming over from the UK overnight Thursday so a fun time should be had by all!

Dick xx

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Well, I am home safely in Brittany after the madness of 10 days in the UK. What a change from the rural roads in Brittany with the odd tractor in front of you to the madness of big city driving! The noise, the number of people and the incessant music blaring out in shops! Wow, I had forgotten!

I drove down overnight from our home in The Midlands, setting off at midnight for the 250+ mile drive to the ferry port at Plymouth. Good journey, our black Labrador snoozed most of the way only to grumble at the port security staff as they checked our car before we boarded the ferry. Crossing was good, it was smooth despite 2 metre waves. Heads down in our cabin and a good sleep meant that the 6 hour crossing passed very quickly.

Food choices and prices in the UK always amaze me. In Brittany and France in General there seems to be a reluctance for hot, spicey foods. We had both Indian and Chinese food whilst we were in the UK and they were delicious. Chinese food is available in France but it tends to be quite bland with a lot of influence from Thai and Vietnamese cooking. Indian food is much harder to find and the level of spice is much lower.

My favourite eating out experience was at our favourite pub in Denby village (famous for its wonderful stoneware cookware and dinner services ). I had a fabulous fillet steak with a Stilton (a delicious traditional British blue cheese) sauce. Yum!

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Today finds me in the UK stocking up on all the yummies that you can't buy in France....but that is not the only reason I am here ; )

My grand daughter had her fifth birthday and so we came over and as a present, we were requested to buy not something high-tech but something that has it it's origins that probably go back hundreds of years...a rocking horse! A bit of assembly was required and said horse was presented. It was an instant success and our grand daughter has been glued to the saddle ever since! I have never seen myself as an Ostler but I when she wanted to show her horse to somebody else it was a case of shouting to me over her shoulder "Bring the horse!". I felt like part of a 17th century period drama!

This week has been a flurry of activity seeing friends, getting my 4x4 repaired (bit of a trauma driving through a large city after being used to the country roads of Brittany), buying stuff...but...I managed to finish off the first draft of my latest Sherlock Hollmes story, SH andThe Zhou Bell.

I have already created the book cover using the excellent free program Gimp (a bit like Photoshop) on my Mac and now I have to learn how to REALLY format and edit my book properly. The feedback that I have had has been very positive, folk loved the plots but the formatting needs attention. Something for me to work on once we are back in France later in the week.

As this is being typed on my iPad whilst sitting up in bed, I will leave any further news until I can access my laptop.
Enjoy your week.

Dick xx

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Not weather again!...Well, just a bit.

Today finds me not talking about the weather! Except to say that the table and chairs on the terrace is going to be put into the cellar because of fog and damp related issues!

Coming from a culture in the UK where the respect for Sunday has dwindled with shops staying open and kids playing on the streets etc., Brittany is in some ways refreshing. The only shop open here is the bakery (you must buy French bread fresh every day else it goes limp and chewy). This is fine until you have a weak moment and decide to do a bit of DIY and you break something important or you are lacking that last final plumbing bit....and the DIY store is shut...and you realise they are ALL shut! Why do things always break on a Sunday? Not only that, here in my bit of France you can't use the mower / strimmer / chain-saw etc. on a Sunday because it makes a noise and disturbs the neighbours. Fine....except that Sunday may be the only day when the weather is such that you can mow! Damn, talking about the weather again!

Writing more of my new Sherlock Holmes story this week has been a bit of an 'on-off' kind of thing. I have been side tracked into doing things related to marketing my books like offering a 100% off discount code on Smashwords to different Sherlock Holmes groups in different parts of the world. These range from India to Canada to the Czech Republic. If anyone is interested and reads this blog, you can pop along to Smashwords and find me or follow this link to my author page. Click on my book Sherlock Holmes and The Birchwood Affair and purchase it in whatever format you like and at the checkout enter the discount code DS64U to get 100% off....yippee! A free book. This code is valid until the 25th September.

Finding the right title for a book is something I find difficult. It has to be something that will attract readers so they open the book and read a bit, something related to the content  but snappy. I am having trouble with the current book I am writing which is making saving it on my laptop a nightmare with different file names as my ideas for a title change. I MAY go with Sherlock Holmes and The Zhou Bell, that has a nice ring to it! ; )

Google Drive is proving to be a god send, I tend to work on three different platforms, my MacBookPro laptop running LibreOffice, my Windows Netbook running Word 2010 and my iPad using CloudOn (a brilliant free bit of software that uses Word). I switch between the machines depending where I am. When I finish a writing session I save it on the machine I am using and also to Google Drive. This means at some time later in the day I can download the latest version from Google Drive onto a different machine and carry on....even if I am back in the UK.

Have a great week, share with me your writing experiences and download the free book.

Dick xx

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

It seems like I always start off my blog with a mention of the's wall to wall battleship grey and very wet at the moment!

I would like to talk a little more about my writing and I would like anyone who reads my blog to send me a comment about novels being at least partly factual. What I mean is, in my genre of 'Thriller / Mystery" the action may be set in real places that exist/ed. In my Sherlock Holmes novels there is a lot of hokum to generate a story line but places, events and in some cases people really existed at that time.

In the new novel that I am writing which is set in 1889 London, an antique Chinese bell on loan from the Chinese emperor is stolen from the Victoria & Albert Museum. Clearly this location exists but the story of the loan of the bell does not! I try to make the story fit the dates, the name of the Chinese ambassador is real as is the time frame for the emperor and the details of the bell and how it was made is also true. It takes me weeks to research things like dates, places, people, correct stations for journeys, railway companies etc. etc.

At the end of the day, does it really matter? Will the average reader care if the year isn't right or the train for Exeter didn't run from Paddington Station or the London Great Exhibition wasn't in 1861?

To me as a writer, I think it does matter. I enjoy the research and it is a bit like a giant jigsaw where I pull pieces of information together to develop the plot. Indeed, sometimes I have to rewrite the plot to fit the history! It would really niggle me if it wasn't right. Maybe it is me being a bit OCD and a Virgo to boot! My dining table here is littered with sheets of A4 that have print-outs from historical sources which I have annotated. Thankfully, we have few dinner parties here in rural Brittany and this pile of paper and my laptop can remain on the table for much of the time.

This morning I had a surprise when I looked on Amazon to see where my anthology was in the rankings. I was amazed to see that in the Historical Thriller section it was at No. 5 in the 'Hot New Releases' list and at No.26 in the Top 100 'Best Sellers'. Wow! A big thank you to all the folk who have bought my books at Amazon and Smashwords. If you haven't bought a copy of Sherlock Holmes Fireside Collection, trot along to Amazon and search either for me or for the title and treat yourself!

Have a great week,

Dick xx

Monday, 9 September 2013

Summer seems to have finally departed here in Brittany, there is certainly a coolness in the air of an evening and for the last few days it has been a bit damp and miserable. Daytime temperatures are hovering in the high teens (ºC) and at night they have dropped to below 10ºC when the sky is clear.

Still, we have had a corking summer, our daughter and her partner flew over to see us last week and whilst they were out on a nice coastal walk, he proposed to her! So, we have a summer wedding to look forward to and enjoy next year. I hadn't realised that you have to plan about a year ahead for these things otherwise they get booked up. Some venues are booked up a year and more in advance!

The Internet between Brittany and the UK has been buzzing with emails and photographs about possible wedding venues, photographers, guest lists etc. plus the costs of such items!! Being the bride's parents still has a sting in the tail even though they left home and set up their own home about 10 years ago!

The change of season means that we will have to order some wood for our large wood burning fireplace in our lounge. It is a bit of a beast and consumes at a rate of knots (no pun intended!). Last year we bought 2 Cords of wood and stashed that in the underground cellar. One cord is 3 cubic meters and the farmer who brings it loads up his trailer and then just tips it outside our basement garage door and then it has to be barrowed into the cellar. With my arthritis and heart problems, we have to rely on a friend doing this for us. He also brings his axe and splits the larger logs into more manageable pieces.

Finding suppliers of wood is quite difficult here as the farmers tend not to declare this income to the French tax man and so have a fairly tight circle of clients and only reveal their existence by posting a mobile number and will only accept cash. Our supplier has either run out of wood already or has packed it in as when we rang today he had none. To his credit, he did give us another number to try and we do need some more, we get through about 2 cords a year @ about €185 a cord.

Towards the end of September sees us planning our autumn trip back to the UK. Hitch up the trailer to the 4x4, put the cats in the cattery and go back to our flat that we have kept in the UK. My wife is vegetarian, a strange concept to the French. The trip back with a small 'coffin sized' cool box which soon gets filled with vegetarian goodies that will be consumed frugally over the next 3 to 4 months is an essential. I top up with some DIY bits and bobs that are far cheaper than in France, some computer bits and maybe a carpet cleaner. As almost all homes over here have hard wooden / tiled floors (the only fitted carpets I have ever seen have been in homes owned by Brits.) with the odd odd rug, the idea of being able to hire a carpet cleaning machine is quite alien. I may have to invest in one if I have space in the 4x4.

Anyway, have a good week where you are.  Good news on the publishing front, I have submitted my books to Amazon and they are now on sale there! They have only been live for 2 days (as of 9th September) and I have sold 11.
Here are the links 'Sherlock Holmes Fireside Collection  and 'Saline' can be found here

Dick xx

Monday, 22 July 2013

Well, was that Summer? Today is quite a bit cooler than of late, pale blue/grey sky and temperatures warmer inside the house than outside! For the last couple of weeks we have had glorious weather, temperatures here on the North Brittany coast of 28ºC in the shade. It has meant that the flowers in the planters on the terrasse have needed watering in the cool of the evening and also I have had to set the height of cut on the ride-on mower to 3. Any lower and I think the grass would have been toast!

Friends from Albi in the South of France, not far from Carcassonne stayed at the weekend on their way for a 'holiday' in the UK. Weather was kind for them and their two daughters ran themselves ragged of an evening playing on the Xbox. I was exhausted as a spectator! Large, cold beer required! Dogs are not allowed on almost all the beaches here from 1st June to 1st October. Poor Truffle (our black Lab.) has firstly been missing the beach and her dip in the sea and secondly, wearing a black fur coat in hot weather is no fun. We do take her to a local beach (tide permitting) around 10pm when it is cooler and she enjoys her tennis ball being thrown. When she gets too hot she just goes to the shoreline and lies down, letting the cooling Atlantic flow around her.

When it is floor to ceiling grey skies here, I often think of moving further South....that was until our Albi friends told us that the temperature in Albi has been generally 35-37ºC and hotter! In their house it has been a fairly constant 30º during the day only dipping to 25º at around midnight! Note to self, next time you get the idea of a move to somewhere warmer....don't even think about it! They told us that they waited for 2 hours in 39ºC for the Tour-de-France to pass by. Doesn't bear thinking about!

Motoring here in France is an event / extreme sport rather than a mode of transport. In Morlaix today the standard of driving was getting towards the top of the list of French driving insanity! Just coming back towards the N12 and home, approaching a traffic island I see a mini (new BMW sort) with its nose out waiting to join a roundabout I'm approaching. I can only see the mini and not the traffic behind it as there are small shrubs on the approach road. As I am far enough away for said mini to join the roundabout, he does.....and the 5m caravan he is towing! Shocked Shocked Shocked

A loud shout of "Whaaaaaaaaat???" fills our car. I think I must have been on best behaviour as the car is usually full of expletives when bad driving occurs! The caravan is a full size, 4 berth job, not a tiddly pop-up thingy. Clearly he was waaaaaaay beyond his braked towing capacity. Being a little a-retentive, I came home and looked at the towing capacity of a mini.....750kg. Said caravan must have been well over that! Looking at the size of it, it must have been well over that unladen never mind all the holiday gear inside!

The risks some folk take! I have seen a few quite bad caravan accidents over the years coming down from the North of the UK to get to Plymouth. Caravans upside-down and totally destroyed, stuff everywhere, cars flipped and caravans sideways. These folk don't just risk their own lives. evil01

Enough grumbling from me! Had some good news this week, I had a CT scan of my liver done and it was fine. My tri-glycerides were high and as I don't drink a lot, my French GP wondered if there was a liver problem. all the liver chemistry seemed OK, he was just wanting a peek to check for any physical abnormalities. Fortunately, none were found but sometimes these things are a two edged sword! I have a meeting with the doctor. He confirms that my liver is's fatty. He reels of a fair old list of all the things I can't now eat. Basically anything that it high calorie. He wants me to lose some more weight. I have already lost 10kg (22lbs) since coming to France. So, the diet starts and I will lose more weight, it is for my own good and if I wan't to avoid anymore stenting or heart attacks, I NEED to do this.

Well folk, enjoy the rest of the Summer, we have family coming over in mid-August for a week so I may have a weak off the diet and quaff the odd glass or two of Champagne. I will try and post more often but the call of a new Sherlock Holmes story beckons. I already have the outline of a story from a real historical event, I now have to re-tell it, weaving in the contribution of Holmes and Watson. Damn, there goes a trade secret!!

Dick xx

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Another sunny day and  I'm alive....a good enough reason to open a bottle of Champagne! Well, that's my excuse. With a pint of beer pushing £4 in the UK, I feel fully justified in opening a superb bottle of Comte de Senneval Premium Brut Champagne bought from our local Lidl for €12.99. I've even put a stopper in it and put it back in the fridge after only 2 glasses!

Summer seems to have finally appeared here in Brittany, the seasons here start much earlier than the UK but Summer seems to have been taking its time. We put the ride-on mower onto it's trailer and went to our holiday home in central Brittany on Friday. The grass was over knee high on the lawns so I had to set the mower on high and do half a cut at a time and leave the grass box off. Our black lab was unfortunately standing near the cottage as I went passed and looked like a dog in cammo as she got covered by the grass shooting from the rear of the mower as I sped past.

Looked a lot better after I had done it and our next trip will be to bring the big petrol strimmer so that I can do the edges. I always pay for it for a couple of days after either mowing or strimming. The movement in my shoulders aggravates my arthritis and I am in great pain for at least 2 days. As I am only on Paracetamol, I get little relief. Alex assures me that this time of the year is peak grass growing season but I am not convinced, the growing season seems to start in February and goes through to November!!

I have treated myself to an Android TV stick. This is basically a tiny box, the size of half a cigarette packet which contains a computer running the Android operating system. In my case, Jelly Bean, 4.2.2. It's brill, I can access the Internet on my TV, stream movies from my computer or directly off the net, use Skype, run any Android app from the Google Play Store, display my photos, watch live UK TV...loads of things. I can sit back on the sofa with my legs up and send emails and surf to my hearts content. Brilliant. Just have to wait for my wireless keyboard to arrive as it's slow using a wireless mouse and the onscreen keyboard. If you are interested, have a search on Google or an MK808B. The 'B' suffix indicates that it has Bluetooth capability which is good for wireless keyboards and any other Bluetooth devices like gaming headsets etc.


Dick xx

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Sorry I haven't written for a long time, lots of things happening! For the last 12 days I have been back in the UK....very cold compared to Brittany! The seasons in the UK seem to be dragging their feet and seem to be about half a season adrift! We had to move our trip by a week as there were heavy snow falls in the North of England so we held off for a week. There was still snow on the ground a week later and our 4x4 was iced over each morning. Remind me again...what is de-icer? : )

I am always amazed at how cheap food is (and most other things) in the UK compared to France. As we drove North from Plymouth with a tank of nice French bio-diesel we noticed the price of diesel at the motorway (freeway) services. It was up to £1.52 a litre! In France I was paying €1.34 a litre which works out at £1.16 a litre...a whopping 36p a litre more expensive in the UK! For us old folk, that's over £1.60 a UK gallon more expensive. Still, nipping into Tesco and being able to buy a slab of Cheddar cheese at half price, a Ginster's Cornish pasty for £1 and a Sharwoods Indian ready meal for £1 did go some way to ease the pain!

I took my completed model pond yacht over to the UK, I had hoped that I could sail it but the R/C transmitter and receiver got "lost" somewhere between getting to the airport in Guangdong and actually being loaded onto the plane. The tracking just went dead, somebody has my stuff! Anyway, the seller kindly refunded the full amount including the postage, all I lost was about 6 weeks of waiting! Very frustrating though. I did get to fly a R/C plane courtesy of my daughter's partner, he let me fly his 'trainer' plane in the local park. I think sailing my boat might be a little more sedate and not be such a white knuckle experience for me.

I bought 3 mobile phones whilst I was there. The first, a very cheap almost throw away Alcatel phone which with Quidco cash back cost me £2.95 for taking on walking trips or down to the beach where sand getting into it will not be a big problem. I had a Virgin media Sim with some credit on it but the phone was locked to O2 but after spending the princely sum of 99p on eBay, I obtained the unlock code and now I have the perfect "Granny in the glove box" phone. The second phone was also from O2, a Sony Xperia Tipo. This will replace my wife's HTC Explorer which she can't get on with at all. I'm surprised it hasn't found itself embedded in the wall! Fortunately, that didn't need to be unlocked as my wife uses the Tesco Mobile network and that is run by O2. I didn't know that any phone locked to O2 would run quite happily on any of the other networks that they provide airtime for, e.g. Tesco, Giff Gaff and others.

The third phone was for me. I have been limping along with a Blue Chip NEON mobile for about a year. It works but it is like watching paint is soooooooooooo slow! Anyway, I splashed out and bought an unlocked ZTE Kis III aka V790. I bought it BNIB (Brand New In Box) on eBay and won it with a bid of £56. This included free UK P&P. It is a terrific phone, I really like it and it came with a 2GB micro SD too. It runs Android 4.0 ICS and I am VERY impressed. Now I'm back in France I have put a 'FREE' mobile network Sim in it. The FREE Sim costs me €2 a month and gives me 120 mins. of calls to French mobiles and landlines and to landlines in 41 countries! Yes, all for €2 a month!! For 99c more I added 20 meg of data, unlimited texts and MMS in France. An absolutely corking deal!

This post seems to be all about wheeler dealing and the cost of stuff. I think it's the result of the comparison in costs between the two countries...I apologise. Next time i write something on my blog I will avoid talking about money, I think it may just be a rant about how I am becoming a grumpy old man and becoming increasingly intolerant of rude and inconsiderate folk!


Dick xx

Monday, 11 March 2013

Here we are...I thought that winter was over and then...snow!! It has been snowing heavens hard since around 9am and only now at 6pm has it stopped! Still gusty wind and the sky is very grey but the temperature seems to have risen a bit from 0ºC. I went out to Mr. Bricolage to buy a couple more bits for my model yacht (more on this later) and had to wipe down all the windows of my car as they were covered with snow and they covered again even as I was clearing them! Really blizzard conditions but it won't last, the weather here is too mild and being near the coast gives an even milder climate.

So, my yacht! Well, the hull is complete except for the radio receiver which is still winging its way to me from Shenzhen. I have finished laminating the nice brass rudder to make a long racing one and done the scary bit of drilling the hole in the bottom of the hull for the rudder tube! All seems to be well and my servo's are installed and the 'horns' fitted. I had to make the mast crane and the long horn (or servo arm) for controlling the sails out of aluminium sheet left over from the keel. The trip to fetch the aluminium sheet was 'interesting'. I had forgotten a basic rule for buying things in pay for the little things. What I mean is, a friend and I went to 'Bricometal' to look in their scrap bin for a small piece of 2mm aluminium sheet (about 30cm by 10cm would be fine). as we go in, there is the scrap pile and a great off-cut about the size I needed and a sign saying that you pay by the kilo. Hmmm, OK, the piece there is a bit bigger than I need but it's from the scrap pile. There were some really tiny bits and oddly shaped bits that they were trying to sell that really should have been junked. I've seen better bits thrown in the skip at the tip!

My friend recognises the chap who is in charge there, it's the grandson of his neighbour and they are chatting away and I'm's a titchy bit off the scrap pile, maybe mates rates or even a freebie! Nope! My friend suggests that the chap cuts the aluminium to the exact size I need to save me cutting it out with my jig-saw (not a problem as I have a blade to do this and it's not a big job, just a rectangle of 310mm by 50mm). Chap takes the sheet, cuts it on his computer controlled guillotine and then weighs the bit I need. How much is that? Well, it's €4 for the metal PLUS €2.50 for him cutting it +VAT!! Grrrr! If I lived in the UK I could have bought a bigger sheet off eBay for £1.99! I should have known, everything is "extra" over here. You want a new tyre for the car, they quote a then pay them for fitting it, for the new valve, for balancing, for disposal of the old tyre and all plus VAT! Adds a lot to the bill.

My yacht has the mast made and drilled for the rigging, the metal work for the rigging is being made for me as I can't find any stainless dental wire here. The sail material and rigging line is on its way from the UK, just needs Alex to run up the sails for me...after she has completed her OU assignment...obviously! With a bit of luck, we may be ready for a maiden voyage towards the end of the next week....maybe! It depends on the post. I will fit the deck to the hull tomorrow so it will look like a real yacht. Perhaps it's time for a photo opportunity.

Hope the weather is better where you are.

Dick xx

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Yesterday was the last red day on our Tempo tariff! Yippee! No more will I have to set the alarm clock for 5:55am to leap out of bed and turn off all the electric radiators before the 'Peak Tariff' kicks in at 6am. There is a huge difference in price between the lowest and the highest rate per kWh. On a blue day, off peak is nearly 9 cents a unit whilst a peak unit on a red day is over 51 cents a unit!

My model boat is really taking shape! I have completed the basic hull and I have taken it off the building jig. I have used 3mm ply instead of Balsa as model shops seem a bit few and far between over here plus I had some in the sous-sol. Now I have to fill in all the gaps between the panels to make it watertight. I've used a special hot melt glue from my glue gun to coat all the internal seams and joints between the hull and the bulkheads. It's a black, hard but flexible glue which at the moment looks ugly but I intend to cover it with decorators caulk which in turn will be overpainted with primer before the top coat is applied. All the inside will need painting to waterproof it and I have been researching the materials for the masts. Hollow fibre glass tubes which are used in kites look favourite and I shall pick some up when I go back to the UK in a month or so.

Having snow feature in our lives last week was a novelty! We woke to a white carpet of a couple of centimetres which lasted about half a day! The pets were not pleased and it was the first time our new kitten had experienced it....nasty white stuff! He didn't stay out long! The problem with having a black coat is that snow stands out so much, our black labrador came in looking like a reverse Dalmation! The cold weather is not doing my Arthritis much good and stiff joints are the result. Some French friends of ours have gone to Marocco for 6 weeks to get some sun. One of them suffers like me and she sent us an e-mail saying that it was wall-to-wall sun and her Arthritis had disappeared. Hmmm...was I jealous? I think so but with one dog and two cats you can't just nip off for 6 weeks.

Dick xx

Friday, 22 February 2013

Definitely chilly here in Western Brittany, the temperature fell to the lowest so far this winter to -1ºC, still much higher than most places in the UK! Beautiful clear night again with fabulous stars and it was a great sunny start for the day which has now turned cloudy. There is a wind blowing from the East which is very cold and yesterday afternoon on the beach it was OK when walking on the outward 'leg' of our walk but coming back, walking into the wind it was bitter! Last year the east wind in the winter was so cold that we each ended up buying a 'Thinsulate' lined knitted Balaclava for the beach. All you could see of us was a pair of eyes! : )

I have been looking for a new plot for my next Sherlock Holmes story and found some interesting information from 1900. I won't say more as it would spoil the story. However, the beginning of the story finds Watson learning to sail by meeting up with an old friend to sail his model yacht on the Round Pond in Kensington Park (something that goes on to this day!). This has awakened in me a desire to build a model 'pond' yacht. I have always admired the kind of "half" yacht hulls that are sometimes on display in old fashioned pubs. They are usually there to show the shape and design of race winning yachts, some from the Americas Cup. Anyway, I have found a manual on how to build one and then found on ebay a CD Rom with hundreds of different boat plans on it. I really would like to build a 1m long racing yacht in the style of those used in the Americas Cup races. Soooo, that might be a little project for me.

We do have a very large 'sous-sol' or underground cellar. It's about 65 sq. metres and has a garage door, not that we put our cars in there as it is full of trailer and ride on mower, 9 cubic metres of cut logs and loads of other stuff, including our 'summer kitchen'. This seems to be a common French idea so that if you are preparing something a bit smelly like loads of fish or you are making jam or bottling fruit, you don't have to fill up the upstairs kitchen with fishy smells and jam jars. This area does lend itself to being a great workshop space, if I can get to my bench! I do have almost all the tools needed (except for the band saw) so watch this space!

The sales of 'The Rattle-Jacks Affair' are picking up at Smashwords, I sold 2 copies yesterday. The compilation of the 5 stories I have published so far is a great deal at $4.99. Enjoy!

Dick xx

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Well, it's another sunny day in all you Postman Pat fans will recognise! It has been glorious sunshine for the last 3 days here in my bit of Brittany. Loads of nice warming passive solar energy coming into the house which saves on the heating bill! The downside of this is that the nights are so clear that when we wake up in the morning the lawn and the car are covered in frost. We do have fabulous views of the stars from our town as the mayor, in his wisdom, has decided to turn off all the street lamps (I do mean ALL) at around 10:30pm to save energy and money also. So, once the street lights are off, we get wonderful views of the night sky.

Sitting out in the warm sunshine on our terrace (patio) with a glass of bubbly in one hand and a smoked salmon canape in the other reminds me why we chose to live here. When it's piddling down with rain and the wind is trying to blow the shutters off the windows....that's another story! If only winter in Brittany could be like today...or even a bit predictable! We took Truffle, our black Labrador to the beach on Sunday lunchtime and we literally had the whole place to ourselves. The French are such creatures of habit, from 12 noon to 2pm it's lunch time and tumbleweed time in towns up and down the country. Best time for the Brits to shop except that there is only usually one till open!

Dick xx

Friday, 15 February 2013

I decided yesterday to have a radical approach to my Sherlock Holmes ebooks. Ah! An Anthology! That must be the way forward! Now, this might not be the brightest idea that I have had financially as each book normally sells for $1.99 and now I'm selling all 5 books for $4.99... Bargain!! Hmmm, we'll see. Click on the book cover and have a look on Smashwords, see what you think.

Making the book cover with a free graphics program called GIMP (which is the poor man's Photoshop) was a challenge and I had to refer to You Tube (again!) for a tutorial for some bits. Making a 'box' for the 'boxed set' (not shown here) was an interesting project and something I might consider again, if I write another five stories ;-)

I have actually started my sixth story, 'The Lymmington case' which is a true detective story rather than the last one where Holmes was trying to get a young girl off the hook. This latest one involves Holmes and Watson taking a break by travelling to Lymmington. Holmes teaches Watson to sail and then illness strikes. However, they are not the only ones to fall ill and the pair become involved in some true detective work. I shall say no more as a) I don't want to spoil the plot and b) I haven't written it yet!

On a completely different tack (notice the nautical reference?) EDF have only 5 more red days to go so I have been relieved of wood carrying duties for our big wood burning grate. I am an artist (at times) and I look at the textures and patterns in things. Some of the split oak logs that we burn are often beautifully figured. A pity to burn them really but needs must. I would much rather carve them than burn them.

Dick xx

Monday, 11 February 2013

I published my fifth Sherlock Holmes short story on Sunday! Yippee! This time it is not a 'Who done it", it's more of a 'Get me off the hook!' story. Again it is a story based on real events that happened just before the start of the 20th century.The story is called "Sherlock Holmes and the Rattle-Jacks Affair. Now, whilst it is a catchy title, it doesn't really give you much of a clue about the book! The book cover gives you a clue....Rattle-Jacks are small pieces of waste coke that were sold off cheaply to poor people to heat their homes from a gasworks. I've allowed folk to read 40% of the book free but if you want to know how it ends, you are going to have to spend the massive sum of $1.99 (which is about £1.49 in old money).

Spring seems to be trying to peep around the door here, I have daffodils that are about 8" tall in the lawn and the lawn itself is getting clumpy and needs mowing. It doesn't help when a large black retriever comes along and gives it a bit of extra nitrogen! I now have large green circles in the lawn. We are lucky that the garden slopes and so we have no puddles but I tootled down to the wine cellar last week to find rain water coming in through the ceiling, The wine cellar is located below the patio/terrace and I think there has been so much rain that it just hasn't been able to soak away.

Speaking of wine, I bought a very nice bottle of Chianti last week from Lidl for about €4.50. I haven't been a fan of Chianti, I have to say, since buying a bottle on an Italian train station (you remember the ones, half covered in raffia and used as candle holders in Italian restaurants!) and then falling asleep and being spectacularly ill over a friend in a white shirt! In my defence I was only about 15 at the time and at the time he was sleeping on the railway carriage floor! Apparently he did punch me on the nose for that but I was so hammered I felt nothing! School trips, eh! Teachers have no control! Anyway, after almost a 50 year gap, I tried some more Chianti and it was delicious!

Dick xx

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Hmmm, nothing more plaintive than a Labrador that either a) wants its dinner or b) wants to go down the beach. Well, as din-dins has been served and duly scoffed, its answer b)! Wall to wall gray today but it was low tide at 5:05pm it is a great time to go for a stroll on the sand. Take the 'Whanger', the plastic throwing stick that I use to launch the tennis ball and Truffle is in her element!

It's strange how little things become funny (or maybe it's just my sense of humour). The afore mentioned tennis ball was bought for 90c at Decathlon and has a big green spot on it to denote its bouncy-ness. All Truffles Tennis balls have had names, obviously, the latest one is called "Spot" as in 'Spot the ball!'. She has had four Australian ones, "Bouncer" named after the Lab. in the Australian sit-com 'Neighbours', his cousin 'Bounder' and the two Aborigine ones "Fellah belong beach" and "Fellah down under" who lived under the floor in the the boot of the 4x4! All good fun but I worry about me and anthropomorphic Tennis balls!

Just a heads up about cheap air travel from France. France is notorious for expensive air fares, just do a comparison for say a flight to the US from Paris compared to flying from London. Anyway, if you need to travel within France or to other destinations in Europe, there are a couple of airlines you might have missed. Air France is starting to run a service called Hop! and two others you should look out for are Transavia and also Volotea. These offer some great bargain travel, especially Volotea with prices down to €29 !

Dick xx

Saturday, 26 January 2013

After two weeks of red days on Tempo we are, I think, finally clear! The weather seems to be warming up for the coming week so EDF (our energy supplier) will be saving the remaining red days for February!

My latest Sherlock Holmes short story has been published at Smashwords! Sherlock Holmes and The Bishop's Tie-Pin is a slightly humourous tale involving a wayward Bishop, a Victorian massage parlour, secret papers falling into foreign hands, blackmail and also Watson getting his kit off! What more could any Sherlock Holmes story want? I have allowed folk to read 40% of the story as a 'try before you buy' experience so enjoy! You can find it here...

Just as a word of warning to folk in France who think they may in future send in their UK tax return can't! Despite the fact that you will be bombarded with stuff from HMRC about filing on-line, you can't. The reason being that the 'foreign' pages that you have to fill in are not on the HMRC on-line tax reurn pages. We fell foul of this after health probs. and a visit to the UK for a 'BIG' birthday celebration meant we missed the UK submission by post date. We THOUGHT we could submit on-line but no....phoned HMRC as a £100 fine EACH was looming and was told that they knew it was a problem. All they could offer was either to send in a pleading letter and hope the £100 would be waived OR use some 3rd party software for submission that had the missing foreign pages. Hmmm, looked into this, paid £25 for the 'Taxcalc' software, dead easy to use and saved us £200 in fines! Plus, as we send our tax returns by recorded delivery from here in France, that costs us about £16 as there are lots of sheets, the nett cost to us was £9 and we can use it next year! Result!

Have a great day, the sun is out here, the temperature hasn't fallen below zero and we have had no snow at all...even the grass is starting to grow!

Dick xx

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Today (and for that matter yesterday!) is a RED day, what I mean by this is that EDF (our electrical supplier here in France) has decided in their wisdom to make today a RED day. We are on a tarrif called TEMPO which meand that for most of the year we pay a lot less for our electricity than the basic rate but there is a catch! During the winter months when demand is very high, EDF decide it's a RED day for those on the Tempo tarrif and our electricity costs not 9 cents a kW but 50 cents a kW!!! So, on red days almost everything gets turned off! We know the day before what 'colour' day it's going to be so we can bake bread and run the dishwasher the night before.

On a red day I have to set the alarm clock for 5.55am so I can hop out of bed and switch off all the electric readiators and then go back to bed. We have a big stone fireplace in our lounge which burns logs and we currently have about 9+ cubic metres of wood stored in the sous-sol (the cellar / underground garage). So, a nice fire is blazing and we are warm! Temperature outside is a not so balmy 6ºC whilst inside it's a warm 19ºC. Better than in the UK where it's struggling to get above 1ºC

On a completely different topic, I still find it strange that some websites that I go on (particularly in the US) will not let me write my name as Dick as it assumes I am being rude. Hmmm, this I sometimes can get round by putting D!ck but why should I? Once more we are hit by Nanny State syndrome. Yes, we want to protect folk from obscenity but not at the expense of avoiding reality and contextual common sense. We have a friend who works in a school in the UK, my name is blocked by their mail server whenever we write to her. So, what happens then if the kids want to go and see the pantomime Dick Whittington? Madness!

Monday, 7 January 2013

Today finds me out of bed and dressed...wonder of wonders after the really nasty run in with the Norovirus. A night of wall to wall vomiting was not pleasant and as both me and Alex had it, things were not good! Fortunately, our rushes to the loo were staggered (in more senses than one!). We have been like Zombies, brain running at 33rpm, feeling like our ribs had been beaten with iron bars! Yesterday was better, we both managed a Weetabix (we couldn't keep a sip of water down before!) and just lay in bed and slept..and slept! Today we both woke with a tight chest feeling rough but better, if that makes sense, still, we improve!

My Sherlock Holmes short story is getting hits at Smashwords, glad I managed to upload it before the Norovirus took hold. Read a chunk and give me some feedback, pop along and download 33% of it as a freebie. Find it here   Scroll down and you will see the downloads page and from there, select whatever 'flavour' your ebook reader needs. You will like it, I enjoyed researching it and writing it ; )

Dick xx

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Well, a much belated Happy New Year from me. You find me this morning propped up in bed recovering from the very nasty Norovirus. New Year found us looking after the black Labrador of a friend of ours. Charlotte is a big softy and she and our Labrador are great friends. Charlotte had a twisted ankle and hopped every now and then so we were very careful with her when at the beach.

Our small town is keen on energy saving and all (and I mean ALL) the street lamps are turned off at 10pm. So, a late night walk for the dogs before bed saw me with my fluorescent 'gilet de securite' (the high viz fluorescent and reflective waistcoat from the car) and the dogs in the doggie version! The local Gendarmes also wear these as do the Customs officers who now and then make random checks of the local motorists to make sure they are not running their cars on 'red' diesel (this is the specially coloured diesel used by farmers in their tractors and is sold to them at a tiny fraction of pump prices so their is a great temptation to use it). One night we were out walking with the dogs, who looked like drug sniffer dogs, when a car approached, saw us and immediately slowed and drove at the speed limit. Must have thought we were the French 'Old Bill'.

Our friend returned from spending New Year in Versailles bringing with him the Norovirus. He thought it was food poisoning from a dodgy prawn but no, it was the Norovirus which he passed on to us by shaking my hand and a bissus (kiss) to my wife. Twenty four hours later we were vomiting for England. This lasted for 12 hours and today we feel like we have been beaten with iron bars. Our friend was so disorientated with this that he filled his diesel car with petrol. Lots of money to be towed to a garage, more money to have the tank drained and more to refil the tank. Norovirus seriously messes with your head.

Still, before I was smitten by this, I did manage to finish my third Sherlock Holmes short story, The Cagliari Affair which is now published at Smashwords. Just pop along to Smashwords and download a chunk for free and see if you like it before buying it! Enjoy!