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The first poster

The first poster

I am delighted to announce that I have today fulfilled my ambition of having a book written by me on sale. It’s only a wee book about a snail and it’s only on sale in one shop in Dundee but it means the world to me. Thanks especially to Lainey my illustrator, brother Joe for his editorial skills, Dick who has printed the book for me down in Great Yarmouth and all who encouraged me to try to do this. Even if I only sell one it will have been worth it! Thank you.


Day 2/100: Feliz Navidad

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Quite appropriately I am penning my last blog post before Xmas on our 100th day in Vilanova Park. We will be returning to Dundee on Friday with a flight to Newcastle and then the train up home. We are very much looking forward to coming back especially with Artemis’ christening on Sunday which will be a big family event.

It’s a bit chilly today and we have the halogen heater on in the Magic Caravan although the sun tends to come out in the afternoon if it’s not there when we waken up. Yesterday was a particularly beautiful day and it was also quite warm, certainly warm enough for me to have my Sunday breakfast outside as you can see from the photo.


There’s nothing like a nice cuppa!

Mike and I walked up to the Watchtower this morning at 9 o’clock. As I said, it wasn’t sunny (and there was a definite chill in the breeze) but we cruised up the steep hill with n’er a break in our stride and were soon at the top admiring the views both north into the countryside and south-east over Vilanova to the vastness of a grey Mediterranean Sea which blended seamlessly with the sky. Someone must have stolen the horizon! Suddenly we spotted a single beam of sunlight pierce the clouds and illuminate the water directly below it as if the Almighty were making contact with some unseen vessel afloat on the becalmed sea. A genuine moment of awe and wonder for us both stood quietly on that Catalonian hilltop.

I have renewed daily or bi-daily contests with Mike at the table tennis table. But now we are playing for the Copa Vilanova which I bought last week at the local trophy shop in town. My friendly adversary was delighted to become the first recipient of that award but I am equally delighted to tell you that I have since wrested it from his sweaty palms after an epic encounter in which all 6 games went to the wire, including two deuces and two games of 21-19, one to each of us. However the photo is taken after Mike’s well-earned victory.


“Championes, championes…………”

Fred has also had to do without the Vilanova Cup after I fluked a win last week while he was distracted by Jeanette who had come up to watch. Despite the victory I was still disappointed that she wasn’t wearing one of those short pleated skirts! Her son Emile flew in last Wednesday and accompanied Fred, Bob and me to the Camp Nou to see Barcelona skelp Celtic arses with a 6-1 reaming in the Champions’ League. What a display the Catalans put on for us! The Hoops managed “we’re on the road again…….” a couple of times, the odd “Get tore in tae them!” and peaked when they celebrated winning a throw-in!

Cue that music!

Cue that music!

Fred and Emile

On Saturday evening we gathered in Fred’s awning once again, this time for a buffet to say farewell to Mary and I as the rest will be here over the festive period. We all brought an astonishing array of goodies while Jeanette provided us with sumptuous puddings and we had another great time including a game of Settlers which Heather won. Unfortunately I had to cut out early as my stomach was reacting badly to 18 days on the Atkins diet and I was in bed by 11.30 p.m. End of diet for me, thank you, even though I lost half a stone.


“When Santa got stuck up the palm tree ……….”

It’s getting all Christmasy around here as you can see from the photos but the idea of Santa Claus and palm trees still manages to upset my brain a bit. Mary did a great job decorating the Magic Caravan and it’s really nice at night with the main light off and the tree lights on. Guess who’s playing Santa for the kids at the Times English School this week? You got it, yours truly has been roped in again for an outrageous moment far from the comfort of Dundee. Did I ever imagine I would one day be Santa Claus in Spain? Well actually, if I were to be totally honest, no! But there you have it! What’s Spanish for “Yo Ho Ho”?


Xmas Caravan

The first 250 copies of “Socrates the Sprinting Snail of Sorrento” have now been printed and should be in Dundee today. The publicity drive has been led from here in Spain but Scott and Lainey have done the leg work in Dundee trying to find outlets willing to try and sell the book. I produced a poster and e-mailed it to Scott for copying and putting up in local places. So far only Nisa on the Perth Road have said yes to taking the book while I await word back from Spar and Coop Head Offices. The big stores require a lot more formal negotiations and that will happen in the New Year if I am successful locally.

I have contacted Radio Tay, DC Thomson’s, St. Paul’s Academy my old school, the Midlands’ Amateur Football Association, Kelso AFC, St. Mary’s Lochee parish and primary school and a few independent booksellers, as well as appealing to all my friends and relations on Facebook, Twitter and this blog. Maybe it’s because it’s Xmas time, but no-one seems to be getting back to me with ideas very quickly. I’m already geared up for rejection which all writers need to be, but I really don’t like when I’m simply ignored by people I ask for help.

We sent out our e-card to all our family and friends yesterday so that takes care of that. It’s so much better than sending real cards which would be an awful hassle from here in Spain and folk have been very quick to respond positively to the delivery of the animated card. Still we only have 4 more days and we’ll be back among you again in Dundee for what will definitely be a hectic 2 weeks. Looking forward to seeing you all soon but we have to say especially our wonderful granddaughter who gets christened on Sunday. Eve and Gavin have kept us up-to-date with constant photos and Skype calls so we have watched her grow from afar but can see her whenever we want. Well done technology!

Here’s the latest pic of Artemis and her Dad, and if you don’t go all tingly then you’re already dead. God bless you all and Merry Christmas!


As you can see, she is in the best of elf!

Day 2/92: OMG, this is exciting!


The past few days have provided us with enough excitement to last us a lifetime. But it’s not because we’re out here living and working in Vilanova (although it’s definitely better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick). Guess what! To our surprise Jeanette has left the land of Hamlet and winged her way back to Vilanova Park to pluck her one and only Fred out of the depression he had been slowly slipping into since her departure. And in a trice Mr. Grumpy has become Mr. Happy! Personally I don’t put the big grin on his otherwise gnarled face down to the proximity of an affectionate partner but rather to her outstanding cooking skills, proven once again on Friday past when we all rolled into Fred’s awning for a culinary treat with some alcoholic accompaniment.

It had been quite a hard week for Mary given the number of extra one-to-one classes she had had to do. They were more bother than they were worth as she had a one hour lesson at ten in the morning then nothing until 17.15 when she had the kids until 18.30, then nothing until 20.00 when she had another one hour conversation class! That was the story Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, meaning when Friday night came she was ready for a bit of fun. So after the fun we went to dinner…… no, only joking folks! (Unfortunately!)

There was a further factor that came into play however. It all started with me chancing upon the scales as I raked around in the tent looking for my winter hats and gloves. So I thought, let’s go out onto the road and have a check of how heavy the temple is after 3 months en España. I say the road because the electronic scales only work on a hard surface and Mary’s heart wasn’t available. Well, was I in for a shock! Despite checking the LCD in kilos then stones and pounds, and pounds alone, there was no denying the digital bad news. I was officially pies! No need for accurate data but I was heavier than I’d ever been in my whole life (and it sounded horrendous in kilos!) I could hear Joe sing “He IS heavy, he’s my brother!”

So, how did I react to this revelation of increasing gravitational pull? I announced to a somewhat taken-aback Mary that I was going on the Atkins Diet! Honestly, I decided for the first time ever to try a regime instead of just getting thinner by willing it, something that didn’t always work. Mary, being still besotted of me and desperate to please me in every imaginable way, said she would join me on the diet, having used it once very successfully in the past and therefore able to provide me with the necessary advice.

So poor Jeanette took all of this on board and prepared a feast which could be enjoyed by Atkins dieters and normal people alike. Boy, didn’t we eat well! One bowl of Beef Thai curry, one of Chicken Thai curry and a bowl of Beef Stroganoff for non-nippy food man, Mike. We naturally sampled all three dishes and found them quite delicious. The domestic goddess then served up an Atkins pudding, something we had no idea existed, using various cheeses and nuts for a wonderful culinary creation. No bread, no rice, no pasta, none of the amazing cheesecake she  placed right in front of me. How disciplined we were! However I cracked the second time the Ferrero Rochers came round, grabbing one of the little golden clusters and proclaiming Atkins could go forth and multiply!

The happy banqueters

The happy banqueters

Atkins dessert

Atkins dessert

Coffee time was an unexpected pleasure when Jeanette provided us with café à l’alcool, mine being proportionately a huge brandy (Atkins remember) with some coffee in it. The others were equally delighted with their “additional ingredients”.. Meal over, we launched into Fred’s musical lyrics game which descended into near chaos as the laughter got louder and louder. I genuinely cannot remember an evening in company where we laughed so much. Even Fred grinned occasionally! Meanwhile, the newcomers, Kevin and Bob the Scotsman, were joining in with the mirth, adding their dry wit to our crasser efforts.

Out of the blue, Het, Mike’s better half and the world’s greatest knitter, produced a present for me, a knitted Socrates the Snail. We gasped in admiration at this wonderful creation and I immediately tried to buy the copyright from her but unfortunately she was not stupid enough to accept my offer of 5 Euros.

Woolly Socrates!

Woolly Socrates!


This brings me rather neatly to the latest update on my children’s book “Socrates the Sprinting Snail of Sorrento”. And what news it is! Thanks to my friend Dick who just happens to own a printing firm in Great Yarmouth, I can announce that there now exists a genuine paperback version of the story, complete with illustrations by Lainey. There is only one at the moment, a draft version soon to undergo very minor amendments, but with its own ISBN number and everything we finally have the book in print. I hope to give the go-ahead for the first print run tomorrow or Tuesday and with a bit of luck 250 copies should reach my flat in Dundee by Friday next.

Meanwhile I have produced a poster advertising the imminent arrival of the books for sale and Scott and Lainey are trying to persuade the local shops to take some to sell over Xmas. Not the big stores like Waterstones or W H Smith which require a much more formal approach and business plan, but hopefully they will eventually be interested. I have contacted several places in Dundee but so far only heard from Radio Tay which wants to see a copy. This is where you come in dear readers. If you know of anyone who might be able to help me get the book “out there” then please have a word with them and try to persuade them to help me sell the book on a sale-or-return basis.

The title of today’s post reveals that I am now beside myself with excitement at the thought of seeing my work in print very soon, as the one existing copy is not here in Spain and I’ve only seen it on Skype. When that happens, another item on my Bucket List will be ticked. I leave you with a sneak preview of the front cover in the hope that it will soon be on sale wherever you are! Thank you.

Remember, you saw it here first!

Remember, you saw it here first!