Monthly Archives: October 2016

Do bordellos even have pianists any more?

Young Woman Seated at a Virginal, about 1670-1672


Ever had that feeling that you were somehow getting out of touch with modern developments, and that contemporary culture was passing you by?

I’m not  merely talking about the endless plethora of sub-musical boy-bands which manage to fade seamlessly into each other as one after another they disappear back into the dark. There are times when I feel a sense of brotherhood with the High Court judge who legend insists hadn’t heard of the Beatles.
During the course of today I was talking to a young lady who wanted me to fill in a questionnaire. I suppose that could be misconstrued, but actually it was a competition where if I correctly graded four fat bullocks from their photographs, I’d win £200. Anyway as part of this questionnaire she rather shyly asked my age. When I told her, she said how much she wished that she to had been born in the 1950s and had lived to see the 1960s in the flesh rather than just hearing stories about them.

Actually I suppose the ‘60s might have been special somewhere, but frankly even those of us who were in our early teens at the end of them probably heard stories about the interesting bits rather more than we experienced them.

Personally I reckon the 70s had more interesting music, and as a tribute to the 70s I still dress now pretty much as I dressed then. No flairs obviously, no tie, and the hair isn’t as long as it was. Still, after chatting today one regret is that you cannot get the interestingly patterned shirts that we had back then.


I suppose that once you’ve found something worth having, you’re unlikely to abandon it for the next transient craze. Well not if you’ve got any sense. So currently I’m listening to ‘Shine on you crazy diamond’, from 1975  rather than some ‘emo music to cut your wrists by’.

I suppose it’s easy to fall in with sentiment so beautifully expressed as “Change and decay in all around I see,” and drift semi-detached to whatever is this week’s version of ‘modern culture.’

But this evening we had a discussion about comments one can make to telephone cold-callers. Here I mentioned my suggestion to one of them that they might wish to take up the post of honky-tonk pianist in a bordello as it brought with it a chance to work in a better ethical work environment than their current job.

But it was pointed out to me this evening that even this suggestion is based on cultural references that will doubtless mean nothing to somebody working in an Asian call-centre.

Did they put the phone down on me because I’d offended them or because they were simply bemused?

And do bordellos even have pianists any more?

(Note you may not want to answer that question even if you know the answer lest it in some way incriminate you.)


Now that it’s feeling autumnal, it’s the perfect time to sit beside a fire contemplating the mysteries of the infinite. But between ourselves I’d prefer a good book.

Enjoy the quiet life of a middle aged cartographer. Well it was quiet until somebody finds the naked body of a young woman hastily buried in a marsh. The journey to discover her identity and hunt down her killer leads our protagonists across the Land of the Three Seas, through ambush, civil strife and even light opera.





On the road


The weather these last few days been so good, especially for October. So I decided that I was going to get out for a decent walk.

I always find that a long walk gives you time to think, and without people constantly bothering me it’s great for getting rid of stress. I even left my phone at home.

Admittedly that was by accident, I just forgot it, but as it always travels switched off, it didn’t really make any difference.

I decided to get the train to Cark and Cartmel station and walk home, which is, in theory, about 20-22 miles depending what route you follow. I’ve done it before, in the heat of summer, and that got tough. So my idea for today was that I’d play it by ear, I could always get the train home at Ulverston if I was feeling particularly weary.


Technically I’m supposed to be winding up to do some book promoting because I’ve got a new story coming out, but I’ve subcontracted all that to Tallis Steelyard who said he’d do it for me.


So with a light heart and an easy conscience I set off. I got a good start, I was walking out of Cark at about 9am and it’s a long slow climb for nearly an hour up the ridge that runs to Bigland Tarn.




From there you drop down onto the bottoms and across the footbridge to Greenodd



(By the way, these are, as usual, borrowed pictures. I still don’t possess any form of camera. Which is another great saving in time and effort)

Here I got a bite to eat in the coffee shop before going over the tops and down into Ulverston. I decided to keep going at that point but somebody noticed me wandering along a couple of miles further south and gave me a lift home so I obviously looked suitably lost and pathetic. So I probably did fifteen or sixteen miles.

In the first three hours walking I must have seen perhaps four people. In the next bit it was almost crowded, even outside the major conurbations of Greenodd, Ulverston and Urswick I probably ended up saying hi to half a dozen people.

But this area must surely be one of the most unspoiled and empty areas in England, especially at this time of year.

But what did strike me was just how cheerful, friendly and generally nice people were.

So at this point I really must apologise for writing a blog without the obligatory rant. I know I have to do better, and I promise I will try, but frankly after a day like today, meeting people like those I was meeting, it gets awfully difficult to rant.


And here’s the book I got Tallis to promote for me!


As a reviewer commented, “This is a great collection of quirky little tales which are a spin-off from a series featuring Benor Dorffingil. Tallis is his friend, landlord, drinking companion and a jobbing poet. There are some lovely phrases used in here, as you would expect from a wordsmith like Tallis, who presents us with his pragmatic take on life. It’s an example of what happens when a minor character takes the reins and gallops off on his own. A great little book.”

Casually discarded Calvin Klein Underwear and the risks every white witch must face.



All right, they may not have been casually discarded. But discarded they obviously were.

I suppose at this point we may need a context. I was walking down the road heading for town. There are various parts of my route which are scenic, and there are other bits where the nicest thing you can say for them is the verge is very wide.

There at the side of the road, not really on the verge, not really on the road, was a pair of discarded Calvin Klein underpants.

I suppose it’s one of those things that can provoke thought. How exactly did they come to be discarded? After many years of experience I can say with confidence that when I’m fully dressed it is pretty well impossible for them to fall off by accident.

What is the drama behind this incident? Have we a case of the wandering, kilt-clad Scot who suddenly getting back in touch with his inner manifest destiny, to the skirl of pipes played by a piper heard only by himself, cast the offending garment away and walked off without them, kilt swinging proudly and only a little chilly.

Or was our Scot a man so thrifty that he kept them until the elastic finally gave up the ghost, and rather than abandoning them, they abandoned him?

Or has news leaked out that Calvin Richard Klein has done something, sponsored somebody or whatever that the wearer of these pants found so offensive that before the news broadcast had even finished than he tore his trousers off, removed the offending underpants and cast them contemptuously aside.


One of the advantages of living in a rural area is that you see aspects of people they never display elsewhere. I was checking young stock one morning. This involves walking from field to field meeting and greeting. I climbed over the gate from one field to walk along the lane to the next field and there, in the lay-by, was an assemblage of female underwear plus a pair of long boots.

After some thought I decided that I’d better mention it to the police, because you never know. A WPC came down in a car and I showed her to the place. She surveyed the underwear, bra, pants, and the really long boots.

As the WPC said, it wasn’t the underwear of a lady who should casually discard anything structural.

But they’d not had any disappearances reported and nobody had reported the clothing missing.

The only clue was that the clothing had been rained on, so it had to have been discarded the previous evening. After some thought the WPC came up with the suggestion that actually what we had was evidence of a white witch who had been dancing sky-clad to bring on the rain.

When the rain actually came, (pretty heavily if I remember correctly,) She’d just shrugged on a few clothes, dived into the car and had driven off, forgetting the rest. Certainly she couldn’t have put the boots on in a hurry.

Well it made as much sense as any other theory that I’d heard.


I’m not claiming it was all about a woman in love, but it might have been.

As a reviewer commented, “As usual, the storyline is well executed, in a deceptively causal tone, the characters believable and the conclusion contains a clever little twist making the whole read very enjoyable.
I love the way I learn a little more about the City, its inhabitants and customs, as well as the main characters, with every book.
Excellent little details about things like the local wines, food and clothes also add and enhance the story.
I’m looking forward to reading more in this series.”

Fine for October


Here October has been fine, and there have been some nice days. Given that my Saturdays seem to revolve around sheep feet and worming, I’ve not felt at all guilty taking a couple of other days off.

On Sunday afternoon I walked out to Foulney Island. From our back door, it’s an hour to the far end of the island, at low tide. At high tide it’s further because you’ve got to walk to the end of the causeway rather than cutting across the sands. It’s an amazing place, sticking out into Morecambe Bay, with a sky that goes on for ever and an endless expanse of sea.

Not only that but even in October it was shirt sleeve weather, I didn’t need to put a jumper on until 4pm. Yet looking north up into the Lakes you could see clouds with amorphous rainbows showing that there were showers working their way south.

Today I escaped again. Walked into town, got the train up to Foxfield, walked via footpaths to Broughton to collect stuff from the vet and then back via Angerton Moss to Kirkby in Furness where I picked up the train again.

The East side of the peninsular and the Angerton bottoms is almost like a lost world. I walked for an hour along quiet lanes and saw nobody. You look over wet woodland, moss, or sheep pasture toward the Lakes and the Furness Fells.



It’s funny. As I was setting off this morning I was pondering something my youngest daughter mentioned, that up until they’re aged about five, dogs and children are at a comparable stage of development. Obviously in the case of the Border Collie, at this point they can reach a level of world weary cynicism that it takes humans another forty years to master. But actually if you have a properly trained child and a properly trained dog, they’re pretty well made for each other.

And in the way that chance so often does, I was on my way back home when I saw a small child with a puppy on a lead and a mother following close behind who was struggling to stop herself laughing out-loud at their antics. It’s nice to see parenting done right.

And last night, wandering across Barrow I was near some sports fields where some lads were kicking a ball about in the gloom. A car screeched to a halt by me and a young mum, with two other children in the car, leap out and shouted, “Ryan, you get yourself here now. You are going to so catch it when you get home.”

At this point, realising that she’d almost blown my cap off with the force of her shouting she looked at me and said “Sorry.”

I just smiled, told her I’d had children of my own, and anyway, it was good to see the job being done properly.

And it was. She was out there looking for the little beggar and ready to haul him home rather than just sitting about whinging about the kids of today.

And with a big of luck, because somebody smiled and congratulated her on doing it right, she might not have given Ryan the ‘what for’ he probably deserved.

And as I walked back through town from the station this afternoon, there in Barrow’s premier shopping street was a shop hiring out Scary Clown costumes, complete with bloodstained cardboard chainsaw. Yours for £55 for the night.

Oh Joy.