Saturday, 15 September 2018

We're jamming!

Ok, so. One more time.

If you follow me on twitter, read this blog (and have done regularly) or know me personally, well... you can't help but know (and probably tire) of my opinion of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

Honestly! His name, his silly hat and funny costume, his unerring habit of putting his foot in it seem to make him a natural stand-in for Mr 'Justin' Tumble, in my opinion.

This week he as good as said you can't be a religious leader without being political. I've nothing whatever against that. The problem, as Peter Cook once memorably had it, is that neither has he.

Not that long ago he was writing (or authorising to go out above his name) this:

Then earlier this year he was saying this:

Jesus was highly political. He told the rich that, unlike the poor who were blessed, they would face woes. He criticised the King as a fox. He spoke harsh words to leaders of the nations when they were uncaring of the needy.

And now he's well-and-truly in the political mire with a speech to the TUC and a damning indictment of Amazon's (among others) tax status.

For what it's worth I don't think you can be a proper religious leader without ruffling a few political feathers. Not if you're doing your job properly.

I'm just asking for a little more consistency.

In other news...

Let there be music. Lots and lots of loud music. We're a musical family (my sister - I think, affectionally - calls us the Von Trapps) but I fear even we may have strayed too far into noisy territory with the addition of the latest instrument to the musical menagerie.

On Friday, my daughter returned home with a trumpet. That adds to my son's trombone. And to mark the occasion they jammed together, very loudly and for quite a long time.

It was the excitement, I suppose. The newness of it all. Enthusiasm. Theirs, I mean. Because although I'm all for it (the general educational benefits of music are beyond doubt)...

I need a pair of ear-plugs.

Any suggestions?

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Back to School

Well, we survived! The first week back has been and gone and that awful transition from summer holidays to schooldays is a memory.

I always used to dream, as a teacher, of writing books in the six weeks holidays. It never happened. I also used to have the ubiquitous anxiety dreams about the classroom before the new term, dreams in which bells ring but you don't know where you are, classes you aren't prepared for appear and - worst of all - kids suddenly stop listening to a word you're saying.

Now I'm a writer I seem to have started having anxiety dreams about books. To whit, my next book, The Glorious Dead, which is out in just under two months time.

In last night's version publication day had come and gone but the book was missing. I went looking for it - at the printer's, the publisher's, I'm not quite sure where - and it eventually emerged but with a different cover and in a dreadful state.

I'm not a Freudian. The manifest content of the dream is obvious and I don't think there's any more to say than that. It's the season, the back-to-school season, for anxiety dreams and I'm having them.

Only now, they're about books. I suppose you could argue that it's somehow symbolic of something but - like the classroom dreams I used to have - they seem fairly easy to explain without recourse to repressed instincts or memories or forbidden desires.

One key element in Freud's dream theory is the concept of wish-fulfillment. But I certainly don't (secretly or not) want publication day to go anything other than smoothly, so how do you explain that?

I'm not sure he (Freud) can. He tries by claiming the latent content (missing, damaged books) is symbolic of something - something morally questionable, to say the least.

So my anxiety dream of books might be a sign of my repressed desire to... what? Answers on a postcard, please!

In other news I've recently finished reading an excellent book on the Iliad. Having taught the poem to an A level group last year (and written a brief study-guide to it) I've become more and more obsessed with it and constantly amazed by its relevance. The treatment of the war dead chimes well with my latest book, of course. And in  Achilles in Vietnam by U.S. psychiatrist Jonathan Shay uses Homer as a starting point to examine combat trauma.

It's a fascinating read, combining two of my current all-consuming interests: psychology and epic poetry and is highly recommended for anyone (if there is anyone?) out there with similar interests.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Clean sweep...

'We' (that is, those of who fortunate enough to reside in the developed world) generally live in a cleaner, more bacteria-free environment than ever.  But is it really healthier?

We've probably all read reports that link the rise in allergies to excessive hygiene. Apparently, a bit o' muck really is good for us, stimulating the immune system as it does.

And conditions like asthma and bronchitis as well as skin irritations such as eczema might also benefit from a less-than-scrupulous approach to household hygiene.

Which is where e-cloth's come in. Because the safe, environmentally friendly (not to say money-saving) way to clean is using... water. Yes, together with some clever high quality fibre products from e-cloth, a little water (plus some elbow grease) is all you need to remove (they say) over 99% of bacteria. So, no more need for all those dangerous plastic chemical products lurking under the sink.

Not only is this great news for your purse and the environment, but not using all those different types of chemical around the house will also help your health. Chemical cleaning products are a cause for concern, research has shown, for over 50% of us and almost a quarter favour natural chemical-free cleaning.

The secret to e-cloths is in the structure of the high-tech fabrics. E-cloth’s are made up of literally millions of tiny fibres which have been carefully split and woven into different ways to deliver specific cleaning qualities. The greater the concentration of fibres per square centimetre, the greater the cleaning power.

This tiny fibre technology (fibres in e-cloths are at least 100 times finer than a human hair) means they pack a cleaning punch with the addition of just pure and simple water. No detergents, soaps or solvents.

Here are e-cloth’s Chemical-Free Cleaning Tips

  • Clear out your wardrobe – pull out clothes you no longer wear and let your wardrobe breathe. Pack them away and pop some lavender pouches in with them to keep them smelling fresh
  • Sprinkle bicarbonate of soda on mattresses, carpets and rugs. Leave for a few hours for it to work its magic, then simple vacuum away
  • Clean stains with apple cider vinegar. Mix a couple of tablespoons of salt with apple cider vinegar, rub the solution in the stain on your carpet, then use a vacuum to lift the rest of the solution out of the carpet
  • Use an eco-friendly product, like e-cloth’s clever  tiny fiber cleaning products – they only require water to remove over 99% of bacteria (so no toxic chemicals involved)
  • Use an essential oil diffuser with your favourite essential oil scent to leave your home smelling lovely

Disclosure: we've recently been sent a range of e-cloths to use although these are in addition to a range of their products that have been in regular use chez Charlie for some years.

Saturday, 25 August 2018

A story of survival, courage and triumph

Boarding schools went through something of a revival (apparently) in the wake of the Harry Potter phenomenon. Which is just as well, really, as there's plenty of evidence that - prior to Ms Rowling's appearance - they were anything but suitable places to bring up children.

Mind you, I'm not sure Hogwart's would qualify for that, either. But then, that's fiction.

So, to be accurate, is Christine Clayfield's new book No Fourth River. But it's a novel based, as it says in the blurb, on a true story - hers.

We've become almost inured in recent years to tales of abuse by members of the Catholic church. But Christine's own experience of almost daily humiliation by the nuns makes for especially challenging reading. As Christine says,

I suffered at the hands of my tyrannical father during my childhood in Belgium. He told me I was worthless and useless [and] sent me to boarding school... I was only five years old.

But Clayfield's book is also an inspirational tale of how - in spite of everything - she has created a new and successful life for herself. She is now a happily married mother of twins and a self-made millionaire as a result of many highly successful entrepreneurial ventures.

The book is 'gripping, harrowing, uplifting and inspiring' - a story of survival, courage and triumph.

No Fourth River is published by RASC publishing (ISBN: 9781999840914) and is available (price £10.47) from Amazon.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

World Orangutan Day

It's World Orangutan Day today (19th August).

No, I didn't know about it either.

But I should. We all should. And Greenpeace is doing it's best to make sure we do by launching a campaign to encourage people to take action to help save this amazing species.

To this end Greenpeace has just launched a new film and children’s book to highlight the issue of palm oil in our everyday products and the link to rainforest destruction. It features a young girl who discovers a lost orangutan in her bedroom named Rang-tan.

Consumption of palm oil is rising and the cost to the climate and environment is devastating. Currently, most palm oil is used in food products – from chocolate to oven chips – although it is also used in cosmetics and, increasingly, in biodiesel.

As a result, Indonesia has more threatened and endangered species than any country on earth. The Bornean orangutan population has decreased by half since 1999, and a new species of orangutan discovered is Sumatra in 2017 is already endangered – mostly due to the destruction of their forests for palm oil.

You can find out more about the campaign here: And if you'd like a free copy of the book that accompanies the campaign you can pre-order by emailing (They're not be charging for the book, only the cost of postage.)

Meanwhile, please do watch the video and sign the petition.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Life's a beach...

I promised you beaches yesterday and beaches you shall see!

This is Newgale, one of the widest, sandiest and sandcastle-friendly beaches we've found. No matter how sunny, how many people there are, there always seems to be space on the beach... at least, at low tide. The carpark, however, can be a different matter.

We've also visited the slate-black beach of Abereiddy before, which is worthwhile if you want a change from yellow sand...

... and blue sea. This is the so-called 'blue lagoon' (looks green to me!) which is famous for watersports, apparently.

And - maybe not a beach - but nearby Porthgain is always worth a visit, too. Very good pub there (The Sloop) apparently (not that I'd know)...

And another place less beach than harbour (but, frankly, if the kids can find a bit of sand to dig up they're happy) is Solva...

Back to beaches, and there can't be many finer than this...

Broadhaven lives up to its name, being broad (at low tide) and a veritable haven of tranquility and calm... which you'll need, because getting there isn't easy!

All these beaches look empty in our photos and - if so - that's probably because we're often in the habit of doing as the French do - going late afternoon and staying into the evening. The sun's not as hot but the sea is warmer. And most of the visitors (having been there all day) have gone home.

So far, we've only mentioned Pembrokeshire. But our tour also took in the Gower and so to finish, how about Three Crosses...

There are many, many more of course. We've done no more than scratch the surface. But it's been a pretty good summer for beaches so, if the weather holds, you can have these recommendations on us!

Hwyl fawr!
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