Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Scan it, Pre-Order It...

Maaaaan, Ah am just so dam' technosavvylicious!



Saturday, 26 November 2016

An Awfully Big Adventure

Adam and yours truly at The Blacksmith and The Toffeemaker
Well, I arrived back last night from a whirlwind trip to London to sign special edition copies of Gibbous House. “27 hours, 3 airports, 100 books signed, plus 1 reconnaissance mission to the site of January’s launch party” – oh, and a chance meeting with a Royal Air Force Wing Commander in the hotel bar. Those of you who know my great friend Adam will know just who struck up the conversation with such a rare beast in the Kings Cross Royal Scot Travelodge at 12.00 a.m.
Adam and I had met up because he (and I) was disappointed he wasn’t going to make the Gibbous House launch party in January. So, in the way that good friends can, we managed to meet up with a mere 24 hours notice in London.

I can report that The Blacksmith and Toffeemaker hits the optimum blend of the Bohemian and boozy, at least from what I saw on Thursday last.

Signing books at Unbound
 On Friday morning, I got up early with a fuzzy head, packed my tiny rucksack - toothbrush and pants, if you must know - and attempted to make sense of Google Maps' directions to Unbound near Regent's Canal, somewhere near the Angel, Islington. This involved a long walk up Pentonville Road. For a country rube (Cateto in Spanish) it was a bit like virtual reality Monopoly, for obvious reasons. After a couple of stops for fuel - coffee, that is - I turned up at the Unbound offices. Many thanks to those at Unbound, especially Caitlin Harvey, who made me very welcome and answered all my stupid questions. If you're one of the lucky people I signed books for, the message reads "Thanks for making this possible", plus my signature which is still less legible. I managed not to get too tired by drinking more coffee. It only took an hour and so I made my way towards St Pancras to have lunch before catching the train to Luton.
It was only 12 so lunch was a bit hard to source.
I ended up in a "cockernee pab" in a back street. The owner was a gruff and skeletal fellow who might have been 30 or 60. 

"What time is the kitchen open?" I said, after embarrassing myself asking if he had Guinness on draft when the promotional item was on the bar in front of me.

"In ten minutes, when I get 'er up."

From the Northumberland Gazette
The food was great - and Thai, by the way - like the lady who cooked and served it. The pub's called the Dolphin. The only other person in the bar was a guy in his late fifties. He was on his phone, telling the person on the other end that he was working in an open-plan office. I suppose he was.  

Whilst at Luton, waiting with three delayed planes-ful of people travelling to Poland, I got this picture on my Facebook feed. Gibbous House has featured in a newspaper, and it's not even on general sale yet.

So, all in all, an awfully big adventure, but boy was I tired when I got home.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Gibbous House in 3D

Well here it is at last. It is a very nice-looking book. Why not tell your friends to buy it? Demand to see it in your local library (before they close it down)- Order it at bookshops! Available from 12 January. Make it sell.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

If you are one of the generous souls who pledged for the special edition of Gibbous House signed by the author, you will be pleased to hear I'm making a flying (literally) visit to that there London to sign your books. I'll arrive on the evening of the 24th November, sign the books on the morning of the 25th and fly home that evening to southern Spain.

Naturally I'm quite excited. I hope to make a not-so-dry run to the Launch Party Venue, The Blacksmith and The Toffee Maker Pub in St John Street.

Anyway, exciting news, for me at least!

Monday, 31 October 2016

An Old Blog Post Won't Ever Let You Down...

I wrote this some time ago for a post I put on a CW website associated blog. Anyway, here it is;

 English Meetings

     I have a student who works in Real Estate. That's rare enough, nowadays, but she's from Romania. She does classes because she wants to go back to working in the garment industry. I'm helping her perfect her portfolio/presentation/interview pack. We refer to this weighty document as all three. Her plan is to write directly to the top man at places like H & M, D &G and so on and ask for an interview. It's possible she has already written some letters. I think she's a little mad, but I don't say so. She pays me, after all. She takes three hour chunks of my life; 3 times a month. An intense person, her voice is both loud and penetrating: not a pleasant experience at a range of 3 feet. There's a room at the Doctor's surgery that I use free of charge: there's a sign on the wall. Speak quietly please. Remember that this is a Doctor's Surgery. The sign was made by me. It's the least I can do: I'm sure the noise drives the Doctor mad. Last week, the class (she calls them meetings!) began with her apology for not preparing anything. This of course meant that she was going to talk and I was going to listen. My task was to steer her towards telling me something remotely interesting, to take my mind off the voice. Anyway, at one point she raised the subject of the recent finding of a body in a well on the outskirts of Alhaurin. The well was on a finca; a house in the country with a modicum of land. She told me that she had rented this property out for a while. First to a French couple on a 12 month let and then a French man who disappeared after one month of a six month contract. La Romana looked quite pleased with herself as she slipped in the titbit a friend from the Guardia Civil had given her. The remains of the corpse were wearing Marks & Spencer pants. So the deceased couldn't possibly have been French. I didn't have the heart to mention M&S's ventures into France 10 years ago and the proximity of Gibraltar. Still, the second option is unlikely, and who would wear 10 year old underwear? By the way, towards the end of that 3 hour session, my student showed me an e-mail from a big-wig at Hugo Boss. Good for her. And one in the eye for cynical old me.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Sunday, 23 October 2016

p-p-p-p-p-p-pick up a p...

A Penguin.  

No! Not that one, this one. Please note the logo in the corner of this image. You can pick up this particular Penguin from 2017.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Tweety Pie

Monday, 17 October 2016

Nothing Much About Nothing Much

A sunny day today. I often park some distance from where I have to be. The exercise must do me good, I suppose. Coín's a nice old fashioned town. It has narrow streets and those streets are so convoluted. There must be 50 ways to meet your mother. It's the kind of town where the locals do meet their mother, mother-in-law, cousin, or even the person who they sat next to in school. Naturally they stop to pass the time of day.  Sometimes it feels like everyone else on the street knows each other and nobody knows me.

I quite like it, to tell the truth. "Being an "Outsider", I mean.

I'm not a great one for "get-togethers". Nowadays, a group of more than four makes me feel uncomfortable. Oh, you probably wouldn't be able to tell. But I know I have that secret flint, the icy core, inside. Always been that way. Sometimes I'm amazed that I got through 23 years of Air Force service, although it was a close run thing, at times.

As a guiri, I'm not expected to understand a single word of the average Andalucian's effort at Castellano (posh Spanish). But I do. It's great material for someone who thinks they're a writer, as I do, with however little justification. The Coínos are as unguarded in their own language as your average English tourist on the Costa - although with less risk of being understood by a "foreigner". "Guiris": that's the word they use for foreigners. It's not awfully respectful. They used to use it for any stranger in town, which, for many years, applied to the Guardia Civil, who were prohibited from serving in their home town.

Some days I miss an England that doesn't exist now. Local pubs - Witherspoon-ed out of existence. Village cricket? Only in certain counties. Jumpers for goalposts? There's no grass to play on. If I'm honest with myself it probably ceased to exist the year before I was born. My adolescence coincided with the 70's: the Brown Decade. Go on, google fashion and home decor images from that decade: everything was brown. The cutting edge of design was something in orange. That's got to have an effect on someone, hasn't it? No wonder punk arrived with such a bang.

Some of this distance between me and other people is down to a dread of meeting new people. I just know they're going to say 'Where are you from?" I don't really have an answer. Not one that approximates any kind of truth. So I give them the construct I've been giving out for over 35 years. It takes around two minutes for me get to 'So I'm probably more Scottish than anything...' Yeah, I know. What kind of answer is that?

Anyway, that's why I don't have that many friends.  

So, if you feel that you are my friend, you probably are, this is just to give you a clue about why you've always found me a little odd. 

Sunday, 28 August 2016

New Year, New Author

Amazon will have Gibbous House available from 12 January 2017...D.V.


Awaiting details of the Launch Party, event of the year in a pub somewhere near Unbound's
offices in that there London... watch this space! 

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Cazorla Blues (Lunch at Juan Pedro's)

There are a few places to eat in the old square in Cazorla. They do look like tourist traps, so perhaps we should have known better, but it was a hot day and the blue of the sky, never mind the sun, hurt your eyes to look at. El Cliente was panting and lethargic; he's an old dog; we rescued him from a waste container, fourteen or so years ago. The town was crowded. The locals, as usual, were all terrified of a dog too big to go in a handbag. Around lunchtime on Friday, the narrow streets of the Casco Antiguo were blocked by van-drivers making their last deliveries in order to knock off early and have a beer in a café in a side-street as far from the tourist traps as possible. I couldn't blame them. We cowered in doorways as they squeezed past, wing-mirrors folded in.

So when we got to Plaza Vieja, we were irritable and ready to sit down and eat, just as soon as we had enough beers to replace the sweat expended in climbing the steep slopes to the old part of town. We sat on the less shady side of the street, a tourist-y thing to do, I know. Electric fans with a reservoir of water who knew how old sprayed fine droplets over all the tables on the terrace, us and whatever food we might order. I should have known it wouldn't go well when I asked to see the menu and the waiter threw the photo-copied sheets in their plastic folder onto the table in front of me. The man, I apologise for this, was a miserable shit. I tried to hold onto the 'I'm OK, You're OK' mantra from my “dealing with the public” training from many years ago. The theory is you imagine factors and motives for people's rudeness and then you can understand. It was bollocks then, and it's bollocks now. No wonder Spanish people don't tip. Nearly 15 years I've been here and I still can't get used to the general absence of customer service. We overheard this waiter's name, but I've forgotten it. He had two helpers, who delivered the food. One of them, a wizened old character who looked as though he'd slept rough, arrived from somewhere across the square with pan tostada, a tomato and two cloves of garlic. Now I like a Catalana as much as anyone, but I've never been given it in kit-form before. Still, it was something nice for the dog. If it's bread, he loves it. I ate the raw tomato and neither of us bothered with the garlic cloves. The other guy working at least smiled, but there was something a little off about him and I wasn't sure if he'd been given the job out of… well, you know.

Anyway, I did learn from the menu that Meson de Juan Pedro had been established in 1910. When the mixed grill arrived it appeared that some of the meat had been cooking since then. Best of all, it transpired that all the food was cooked in a building about 50 metres away round a corner. In my miscreant youth it was the kind of restaurant from which I would have 'done a runner', but we paid up the excessive bill.

So, finally I got to do something very un-tourist-like. That's right, we didn't leave a tip.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Gibbous House!!!

I have received and returned proofs. There is a provisional date for publication and availability on Amazon and in a bookshop near you.

Friday, 10 June 2016


I love the sound as I drop the bottles into the bottle bank. “El vidrio tiene mas que una vida” Glass has more than one life, literally. I always think there must be a better translation than that. Something that a government department might pay some post-Mad Men creatives to come up with over prêt-a-manger and bottled water. “You only live once, but not your glass.” Okay, perhaps even a British government department wouldn't pay for that one. I don't count them, the bottles that is. Not any more. Occasionally, someone I know drives past and they count for me anyway, before they make an entirely predictable joke. I always say I don't take the bottles to the bank every day, but that is a lie.

In summertime, when the LED thermometers outside the chemists' show 43°C, it can take 15 minutes to walk a few hundred yards. Of course, when it's so hot you're going to the rubbish bins at least once a day. Usually someone fly tips half a knocked-down house around your carefully tidied waste disposal area at least once a week. In Spring or on a dry winter's day you might try to smarten up the disaster of old guttering, broken bricks and bags of cement that have turned to solid bolsters of concrete: not in the Summer.

We used to pay a toothless old fellow 10 Euros to tidy round once a week. If it took him twenty minutes, bully for him: if it took a couple of hours, bully for us on our small and ageing urbanización. Inevitably, at one of those interminable meetings for the Community of Owners, it was decided that we were wasting our money. Well at least we had a very tidy six months.

There. That's the last. I enjoy dropping these bottles in whether the bank is full or empty. The shattered glass plays a different arpeggio of notes every time. The sun is high in the sky, and it must be over the yardarm somewhere. I think I'll have a beer when I get home.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Los 3 'P's and The Longhair

 This is a work of fiction, the restaurant is real but the people aren't. Any resemblance to real people living or dead is purely coincidental

Pablo, Paco and Pepe are sitting on the terrace outside. To tell the truth, it is a pavement blocked by assorted chairs around two mis-matched tables. Los Tres ‘P’s have occupied one. The same one they sit at every day. The sky is the non-reflective grey that threatens rain but doesn’t follow through. The old men are wearing scarves and not-quite-Panama hats with heavy top coats. The occupants of the other table are wearing shorts and short-sleeved shirts. Their hands clasp the glass containing their coffee that is too hot to drink but a blessing for their cold hands. The British couple, for this they surely are, are facing the road. Normally they would sit at the tables on the wider pavement to the front of La Higuera. Javi and Maria haven’t put any out today. All three ‘P’s have managed to sit with their backs to the Guiris. Watching them shiver might make them feel even colder.

The three old men will only go inside if it actually does rain. Even then, they will repair to their table when it stops. They are drinking the black tar that is called café corto by the locals. In addition each of them has the chupito -shot- of their choice. Pablo has Ponché, Paco – brandy and Pepe has his clear and dry Anis. Los Tres ‘P’s don’t play cards, nor do they read the paper – in fact Paco can’t read and doesn’t care, while Pepe can’t either but sometimes pretends he can by picking up the flyers that unemployed youngsters scatter on restaurant tables throughout the town. Pablo pretends not to notice when Pepe holds them upside down.

It is 5 o’clock. Pepe nudges Pablo and all three twist in their chairs to look up the hill towards the High School. They manage to avoid catching the Guiri Tourists’ eyes. Anyway, they’re watching the Guiri Teacher saunter down the hill towards the restaurant. He doesn’t teach at the school. What state school would employ a Guiri? There are enough unemployed teachers in the town, both Paco and Pepe have grand-daughters who cannot get a job. No, the Guiri with the horse’s mane for a hair-style teaches English to adults in the town who can afford it. Good luck to him, Pablo thinks, but he doesn’t say so to the others. They’ll only say his son has the family business, so what does he know.

The longhair doesn’t greet the Guiris. None of the old men can understand this. Don’t all Guiris know each other? Even so, Los Tres ‘P’s and the Longhair will indulge in the game they play every Tuesday and Thursday. The table is right next to the side entrance. Longhair and Los 3 ‘P’s will attempt to wait until the last minute before offering a salutatory ‘¡Buenas Tardes!’ before the Longhair enters the restaurant. The three Alhaurinos lose if Longhair says it and they do not reply before he is inside, and the Guiri loses if he has to stop and return the greeting from the doorway. This has gone on for about a year. Ever since Longhair started teaching English to the boyfriend of the owner of the restaurant’s daughter. Honours are about even.

Pepe splutters, a little anis dribbles down his chin. Pablo almost drops his coffee and Paco’s straw hat falls off. The Longhair has stopped. He has said ‘good afternoon’ and ‘¿Como estan ustedes?’ and he is standing waiting for an answer. It is very awkward, but there is nothing for it. Los 3 ‘P’s half rise from their chairs, there are hand-shakes and introductions. The foreigner tells them his name. It is quite unpronounceable.

Well, the game is over, but maybe the Longhair isn’t such a bad fellow after all. He sends out 3 chupitos after he gets to the bar.