My latest Sherlock Holmes short story Miss Violet Dixon (deceased)

My latest Sherlock Holmes short story Miss Violet Dixon (deceased)
The front cover created with Gimp with help from Aubrey Watt on You Tube.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

OK, how is Boxing day going? I'm assuming of course that you live in a country that has Boxing day....a very British tradition. Here in France it is just another working day! Very odd!

Christmas day was quiet, just the two of us and the family via Skype on the iPad. Once again were were blessed with a bright sunny day and we headed for the beach. We met a friend with his Labrador at the beach and had a good run (well, they did!) I toddled along, taking it steady. Then the heavens opened, Alex had made a flask of tea and had warmed some mince pies so we sat and munched whilst the rain shower passed and then the sun came out and off we went on the beach. Still some rough seas, the beach is safe and flat but there was quite a lot of Kelp (the sort of seaweed with a thumb thick stem about 2 feet (60cm) long) with long flat 'leaves' at the end) washed up on the beach. Sometimes in Autumn we get a lot of bladder-rack seaweed washed up and then the locals drive onto the beach with a small trailer and fork a load in and then take it away as dressing (like manure) for their garden plants.

Christmas gifts had already been opened. I had lots of fun things from my wife and a great present from my daughter and her partner. A special artists brush to use with the art programs I have on my iPad. Had a brief go with it and it blends colour beautifully. If you are interested, have a look on Google for Nomadbrushes. Lots of biscuits and other bits and a bottle of scotch from my son and his partner....always very acceptable. I don't usually watch the TV at Christmas but I always enjoy the Top Gear specials so that sorted me out for evening viewing.

Still on a techy note, I have installed a new browser on my iPad as I wasn't happy with the Atomic browser and changed to Mercury. This has the great feature of being able to synch. with Firefox (on my Mac) so that all my log-ins, bookmarks etc. can be sent to my iPad. Really useful.

Have a good Boxing day, more mince pies and a slice of Christmas cake on offer at coffee / tea breaks throughout the day.

Dick xx

Sunday, 23 December 2012

We braved the fog and the drizzle to see the 'creche vivante' and..... it had gone! By 4 pm all that was left were a few bales of straw and a bored looking sheep on a piece of rope being led round the stalls by Santa!

Hey ho, we had a good nosey round, there were a dozen or so little chalet-like stalls selling a variety of Christmasy items, from last minute things to freshly roasted chestnuts and hot wine! The stall of the 'town twinning committee' had quite a few typically English things...notably Christmas crackers that are completely alien to the French. We were a bit concerned that due to the very damp conditions they might have also got damp and would be a disappointment to the French on Christmas day if they didn't pull with a bang! The guy roasting the chestnuts over a brazier had not pricked them so every now and again one would explode with a 'bang'! He apologised (in French) for his "farting chestnuts"! Nice!

Farm produce seemed to feature highly on the stalls, lots of farm honey, spiced loaves, fois gras, lots of sausages, some shell fish and even a snail farmer! He was there offering his 'Bio' snails. In France, they don't use the term organic, you have to look for the word 'bio'. There were a few cottage industry type stalls with embroidery, painted porcelain, cushions, hats and scarfs. How much of this was actually home produced is debatable. The quality was mixed, some were very nice but some items were poor and I think had a huge carbon footprint, travelling from the orient!

Home again to ice the Christmas cake, the mixture of Jim Beam bourbon and Harvey's Bristol Cream sherry have added to the flavour. We will no doubt enjoy that and a very nice carrot cake with a Philadelphia and Fromage frais topping. We use the Lorraine Pascale recipe as per the Radio Times "Great British Cakes' pull out. Yummy!

Have a great Christmas, my Sherlock Holmes stories are a great late gift at $1 with the discount codes. Look on my home page at Smashwords, top right hand corner for how to gift a book to someone.

Dick xx

Friday, 21 December 2012

Weather patterns are strange things, coming from the UK I am used to a 'good mix' of weathers but here in Brittany it's a land of very sharp contrasts. Today started out quite sunny but now is almost wall to wall grey with the odd fluffy cloud. The weather here can change within a few minutes going from horrendous sideways rain to brilliant sunshine. Not only that, across the other side of our small town you can have the opposite of your weather! Must still be pretty breezy and rough out at sea as the field next to our house is covered in Seagulls.

We live about 5 miles from the sea in an area rich in agriculture. When it's time for ploughing, the gulls have a good time following the tractor, picking out the worms from the newly made furrows. Living here has taught me some things about the Breton countryside I didn't know. I had never seen artichokes growing in a field and indeed, I had never tasted one and didn't know the technique to eating one either! The beautiful Breton horses used for ploughing are a contrast to the Shire horses I am used to in the UK. They are hugely powerful and our town has a day when these magnificent beasts are paraded through the streets...followed by a parade of ancient tractors, some still in use!

Have a great day!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

What is it about American websites that won't allow me to enter my name as 'Dick'? With all the on-line pornography freely available they have to penalise me for my name. I had to resort to entering it as 'D!ck'. The thought did cross my mind that I should change my name to 'Nobby'!!

Christmas is almost upon us and the decorations are up in the French towns around us. The town of Plougasnou not far from us is running a tiny Christmas market. Part of this is a 'creche vivant' where the nativity scene in the stable is portrayed by real people and with live animals AND a baby born in the town during the year. A really nice idea! We will pop along, it's happening the weekend before Christmas in the square in front of the church. Twinning is hugely popular in France where a town is twinned with a similar one somewhere else in Europe, it tends to be Germany or the UK. Plougasnou is twinned with Helston in Cornwall and the twinning committee is running a stall at the Christmas market selling 'English' things that many French folk will not have tried. Hot, mulled wine, mince pies, Christmas puddings and even Christmas crackers will be on sale! The committee nipped over to jersey specially on a buying spree to get typically English things.

Just to join in the spirit, I have gone all Christmassy and my Sherlock Holmes ebooks are only $1 until 2nd January 2013. So, if you fancy an ebook for yourself or as a gift, use these discount codes at the checkout at

To buy a copy of 'Saline' with 33% off use the code SF84C

To buy a copy of 'Sherlock Holmes and The Star of Bithur' for $1 use the code TW39E

To buy a copy of 'Sherlock Holmes and The Birchwood Affair' for $1 use the code BL45Y

You can send these ebooks as gifts to friends, just look on my Smashwords page 
Look in the top right hand corner for the 'give as a gift' button.

Having a new kitten (the story of his arrival in the Gillman household I will post later!) is proving difficult. Jean-Claude (a play on Jean-Clawed!) likes to be warm and my laptop seems to be favourite! Typing with one hand while trying to keep a kitten off the keyboard IS difficult! I think he should have his own email address of Jean-Claude24 which could be Jean-Claude van Cat! Please excuse any typos...I blame Jean-Claude!

This is Jean-Claude or J-C taken on my daughter's iPhone on her visit here last weekend. He is cute!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Well, here it is, my first blog! I have set this blog up to keep folk up to date about living in Brittany and also what I am currently up to. At the moment, I am making some headway into a very nice bottle of Taylor's Reserve Port (circa. 2006) with a nice hunk of Stilton cheese and some home made bread!

Since moving here, the north coast of Brittany, just east of Morlaix in 2008 my wife and I have enjoyed the slower pace of life compared to the hustle and bustle of the UK. Both of us left fairly hectic teaching jobs behind and it is nice just to sit and chill. Walking with our black Labrador 'Truffle' along the beach is brilliant. Even in summer the beach isn't crowded and we have one of those bendy plastic ball-throwers (which we call 'The Whanger'...apologies to any American readers who may think that that is perhaps not the right word!) that Truffle loves. Having The Whanger means that I can actually throw the ball as I have arthritis in my shoulders. Surprisingly, you can't buy them over here. Every dog owner we meet wants to know where we got it from.

I have continued to write and I have completed my second Sherlock Holmes pastiche, a short story entitled 'Sherlock Holmes and The Birchwood Affair'. I've also edited the first pastiche which I wrote after my heart attack (which finished my teaching career). The first is called 'The Star of Bithur' and both have been published through Smashwords. As it is so laid back here, I find I spend a lot of time on my laptop so why not continue to write? The problem is coming up with a story line...but help was at hand recently from an odd and disturbing direction...withdrawing from some prescription pain killers. A really horrendous experience which I wouldn't EVER want to repeat. The only good thing that came out of it was that during the withdrawal, which took a month, my brain was firing off in all directions and the creative part was in overdrive! The result of this was my first sci-fi book, 'Saline'.

I have to say that the process of self-publishing with Smashwords was a doddle....but only if you had prepared the ground fully by reading their free ebook on how to make sure your story was in MS Word .doc format and was formatted correctly. This ebook is invaluable as I had written my latest story, my first sci-fi ebook using my iPad, my Mac and also my Windows netbook. This meant that the formatting was all over the place as the various bits were in PDF from the iPad which was changed into RTF for LibreOffice which uses .odt before changing to a plain .txt file to nuke all the hidden formatting and then using Word to create a .doc file needed for publishing to Smashwords!

I decided to publish both of my Sherlock Holmes pastiches and also 'Saline with Smashwords as it is a totally FREE way of publishing ebooks. It hasn't cost me a penny and I have sold five copies of Saline and I'm a whole $11.02 better off (as of 18th December). I think that works out at paying me about $1.25 a week!

Using Gimp, the free art / photo package wasn't easy but did produce (as you can see) a rather nice front cover for my book. I found the tutorials on You Tube enormously helpful. A special thanks to a young lady called Aubrey Watt for her easy to follow You Tube tutorial!