Monday, 19 May 2014

Loch Ness Monster seen in New Forest

Loch Ness Monster in the New Forest
 I gave a talk recently in Dorset and so spent an extra day cycling around in the New Forest. I knew about the wild ponies and was not discountenanced to stumble across the odd wild donkey or two. What I was not prepared to meet were the monsters. 

I gave this one a wide berth. I was not deceived by its pretence of grazing on bluebells. I could see that it was a vicious carnivore.

Having crossed one dry ford I could not understand how the downstream ford could be so deep. Where was the water coming from? I took off my shoes and socks to cycle through. 

This runner decided to try to jump it. This was his second hop. His first landed in the deepest stretch of water.

But in some places the water was just too pretty to be believed.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Neither Civil nor Servant has arrived

My new book has arrived! 

Neither Civil nor Servant - Twenty-four years in the Immigration Service

It is a stunningly designed hardback containing over 400 pages of scandalous details and hilarious anecdotes, most of the latter at my expense. Interspersed in the text are sixty quirky illustrations, many of which have emanated from my pen or pencil.  I rather like the running gag of, 'the view from my office window'. When you see the various locations in which immigration officers have checked passports you will realise how one could feel just a little privileged, for example, to be paid to sit and look at the coast of France.


The book is available now from all the usual sources. If you would like to read more details, click on the 'what books have I written?' link in the right hand column of this page.

Monday, 12 May 2014

One day at Sandling Park

For just one day in the year, the Hardy family, owners of Sandling Park, near Folkestone in Kent, generously open their gardens to raise money for charity. 

 We turned up fifteen minutes after opening time and it was already busy.

I am not a flower gardener, I grow stuff to eat, but this garden is stunning whatever your leguminous predilections. 

It is famous for its rhododendrons and azaleas and probably many more flowers and shrubs whose names have never caressed my tongue.

If you think you would like to wander through 25 acres of woodland such as this, mark up your diary for May 2015.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Charlie Chaplin and the UndergrounD

On Saturday I had to go to a NADFAS meeting in London. It was in a pub called 'The Three Stags' in Kennington Road, London, near the temporarily closed Imperial War Museum. This pub's claim to fame is a partitioned corner of the bar named 'Chaplin's Corner' wherein, it is asserted, Charlie Chaplin's father would spend many an hour over a pint of beer. I drank water.

 Arriving at Lambeth North tube station I was astonished to find that the passenger exit to the street for those who did not wish to use the lift was this hole in the wall. It looked like the entrance to a wartime bunker, but the slip of the girl in front of me stepped through it quite confidently and so I followed and together we climbed the spiral staircase to the street. 

On the way I paused to feel some ceramic tiles on the wall. I had never been to this station before but suspected that it was one of the many which had been designed by the gifted Arts & Crafts architect, Leslie Green.

Sure enough, on reaching the street, I turned and admired the characteristic three-arch design faced with blood red ceramic tiles.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Strolling in Stratford

Last week I visited the home of Britain's greatest writer in Stratford upon Avon to give a talk to the local U3A group. Just opposite the venue stood Holy Trinity Church at which William Shakespeare was baptised and where he is buried.

Shakespeare's baptism and burial place.
Holy Trinity Church, Stratford upon Avon.

Just up the road, I visited the home of another of Stratford's great writers: Penny Freedman. Over a cup of tea we reminisced about various drama ventures we had been involved in, Penny having directed me many years ago in The Lady's Not For Burning and Macbeth at the Gulbenkian Theatre in Canterbury.

Penny is a scholar of Shakespeare and author of Power and Passion in Shakespeare's Pronouns. Recently she has employed her knowledge of the Bard's works in a series of murder mystery novels: All the Daughters and This is a Dreadful Sentence. If you like a good thriller, written cleverly in a literary style, go to: and read all about them.