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, 27 February 2013

Yesterday was the last red day on our Tempo tariff! Yippee! No more will I have to set the alarm clock for 5:55am to leap out of bed and turn off all the electric radiators before the 'Peak Tariff' kicks in at 6am. There is a huge difference in price between the lowest and the highest rate per kWh. On a blue day, off peak is nearly 9 cents a unit whilst a peak unit on a red day is over 51 cents a unit!

My model boat is really taking shape! I have completed the basic hull and I have taken it off the building jig. I have used 3mm ply instead of Balsa as model shops seem a bit few and far between over here plus I had some in the sous-sol. Now I have to fill in all the gaps between the panels to make it watertight. I've used a special hot melt glue from my glue gun to coat all the internal seams and joints between the hull and the bulkheads. It's a black, hard but flexible glue which at the moment looks ugly but I intend to cover it with decorators caulk which in turn will be overpainted with primer before the top coat is applied. All the inside will need painting to waterproof it and I have been researching the materials for the masts. Hollow fibre glass tubes which are used in kites look favourite and I shall pick some up when I go back to the UK in a month or so.

Having snow feature in our lives last week was a novelty! We woke to a white carpet of a couple of centimetres which lasted about half a day! The pets were not pleased and it was the first time our new kitten had experienced it....nasty white stuff! He didn't stay out long! The problem with having a black coat is that snow stands out so much, our black labrador came in looking like a reverse Dalmation! The cold weather is not doing my Arthritis much good and stiff joints are the result. Some French friends of ours have gone to Marocco for 6 weeks to get some sun. One of them suffers like me and she sent us an e-mail saying that it was wall-to-wall sun and her Arthritis had disappeared. Hmmm...was I jealous? I think so but with one dog and two cats you can't just nip off for 6 weeks.

Dick xx

Friday, 22 February 2013

Definitely chilly here in Western Brittany, the temperature fell to the lowest so far this winter to -1ÂșC, still much higher than most places in the UK! Beautiful clear night again with fabulous stars and it was a great sunny start for the day which has now turned cloudy. There is a wind blowing from the East which is very cold and yesterday afternoon on the beach it was OK when walking on the outward 'leg' of our walk but coming back, walking into the wind it was bitter! Last year the east wind in the winter was so cold that we each ended up buying a 'Thinsulate' lined knitted Balaclava for the beach. All you could see of us was a pair of eyes! : )

I have been looking for a new plot for my next Sherlock Holmes story and found some interesting information from 1900. I won't say more as it would spoil the story. However, the beginning of the story finds Watson learning to sail by meeting up with an old friend to sail his model yacht on the Round Pond in Kensington Park (something that goes on to this day!). This has awakened in me a desire to build a model 'pond' yacht. I have always admired the kind of "half" yacht hulls that are sometimes on display in old fashioned pubs. They are usually there to show the shape and design of race winning yachts, some from the Americas Cup. Anyway, I have found a manual on how to build one and then found on ebay a CD Rom with hundreds of different boat plans on it. I really would like to build a 1m long racing yacht in the style of those used in the Americas Cup races. Soooo, that might be a little project for me.

We do have a very large 'sous-sol' or underground cellar. It's about 65 sq. metres and has a garage door, not that we put our cars in there as it is full of trailer and ride on mower, 9 cubic metres of cut logs and loads of other stuff, including our 'summer kitchen'. This seems to be a common French idea so that if you are preparing something a bit smelly like loads of fish or you are making jam or bottling fruit, you don't have to fill up the upstairs kitchen with fishy smells and jam jars. This area does lend itself to being a great workshop space, if I can get to my bench! I do have almost all the tools needed (except for the band saw) so watch this space!

The sales of 'The Rattle-Jacks Affair' are picking up at Smashwords, I sold 2 copies yesterday. The compilation of the 5 stories I have published so far is a great deal at $4.99. Enjoy!

Dick xx

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Well, it's another sunny day in all you Postman Pat fans will recognise! It has been glorious sunshine for the last 3 days here in my bit of Brittany. Loads of nice warming passive solar energy coming into the house which saves on the heating bill! The downside of this is that the nights are so clear that when we wake up in the morning the lawn and the car are covered in frost. We do have fabulous views of the stars from our town as the mayor, in his wisdom, has decided to turn off all the street lamps (I do mean ALL) at around 10:30pm to save energy and money also. So, once the street lights are off, we get wonderful views of the night sky.

Sitting out in the warm sunshine on our terrace (patio) with a glass of bubbly in one hand and a smoked salmon canape in the other reminds me why we chose to live here. When it's piddling down with rain and the wind is trying to blow the shutters off the windows....that's another story! If only winter in Brittany could be like today...or even a bit predictable! We took Truffle, our black Labrador to the beach on Sunday lunchtime and we literally had the whole place to ourselves. The French are such creatures of habit, from 12 noon to 2pm it's lunch time and tumbleweed time in towns up and down the country. Best time for the Brits to shop except that there is only usually one till open!

Dick xx

Friday, 15 February 2013

I decided yesterday to have a radical approach to my Sherlock Holmes ebooks. Ah! An Anthology! That must be the way forward! Now, this might not be the brightest idea that I have had financially as each book normally sells for $1.99 and now I'm selling all 5 books for $4.99... Bargain!! Hmmm, we'll see. Click on the book cover and have a look on Smashwords, see what you think.

Making the book cover with a free graphics program called GIMP (which is the poor man's Photoshop) was a challenge and I had to refer to You Tube (again!) for a tutorial for some bits. Making a 'box' for the 'boxed set' (not shown here) was an interesting project and something I might consider again, if I write another five stories ;-)

I have actually started my sixth story, 'The Lymmington case' which is a true detective story rather than the last one where Holmes was trying to get a young girl off the hook. This latest one involves Holmes and Watson taking a break by travelling to Lymmington. Holmes teaches Watson to sail and then illness strikes. However, they are not the only ones to fall ill and the pair become involved in some true detective work. I shall say no more as a) I don't want to spoil the plot and b) I haven't written it yet!

On a completely different tack (notice the nautical reference?) EDF have only 5 more red days to go so I have been relieved of wood carrying duties for our big wood burning grate. I am an artist (at times) and I look at the textures and patterns in things. Some of the split oak logs that we burn are often beautifully figured. A pity to burn them really but needs must. I would much rather carve them than burn them.

Dick xx

Monday, 11 February 2013

I published my fifth Sherlock Holmes short story on Sunday! Yippee! This time it is not a 'Who done it", it's more of a 'Get me off the hook!' story. Again it is a story based on real events that happened just before the start of the 20th century.The story is called "Sherlock Holmes and the Rattle-Jacks Affair. Now, whilst it is a catchy title, it doesn't really give you much of a clue about the book! The book cover gives you a clue....Rattle-Jacks are small pieces of waste coke that were sold off cheaply to poor people to heat their homes from a gasworks. I've allowed folk to read 40% of the book free but if you want to know how it ends, you are going to have to spend the massive sum of $1.99 (which is about £1.49 in old money).

Spring seems to be trying to peep around the door here, I have daffodils that are about 8" tall in the lawn and the lawn itself is getting clumpy and needs mowing. It doesn't help when a large black retriever comes along and gives it a bit of extra nitrogen! I now have large green circles in the lawn. We are lucky that the garden slopes and so we have no puddles but I tootled down to the wine cellar last week to find rain water coming in through the ceiling, The wine cellar is located below the patio/terrace and I think there has been so much rain that it just hasn't been able to soak away.

Speaking of wine, I bought a very nice bottle of Chianti last week from Lidl for about €4.50. I haven't been a fan of Chianti, I have to say, since buying a bottle on an Italian train station (you remember the ones, half covered in raffia and used as candle holders in Italian restaurants!) and then falling asleep and being spectacularly ill over a friend in a white shirt! In my defence I was only about 15 at the time and at the time he was sleeping on the railway carriage floor! Apparently he did punch me on the nose for that but I was so hammered I felt nothing! School trips, eh! Teachers have no control! Anyway, after almost a 50 year gap, I tried some more Chianti and it was delicious!

Dick xx

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Hmmm, nothing more plaintive than a Labrador that either a) wants its dinner or b) wants to go down the beach. Well, as din-dins has been served and duly scoffed, its answer b)! Wall to wall gray today but it was low tide at 5:05pm it is a great time to go for a stroll on the sand. Take the 'Whanger', the plastic throwing stick that I use to launch the tennis ball and Truffle is in her element!

It's strange how little things become funny (or maybe it's just my sense of humour). The afore mentioned tennis ball was bought for 90c at Decathlon and has a big green spot on it to denote its bouncy-ness. All Truffles Tennis balls have had names, obviously, the latest one is called "Spot" as in 'Spot the ball!'. She has had four Australian ones, "Bouncer" named after the Lab. in the Australian sit-com 'Neighbours', his cousin 'Bounder' and the two Aborigine ones "Fellah belong beach" and "Fellah down under" who lived under the floor in the the boot of the 4x4! All good fun but I worry about me and anthropomorphic Tennis balls!

Just a heads up about cheap air travel from France. France is notorious for expensive air fares, just do a comparison for say a flight to the US from Paris compared to flying from London. Anyway, if you need to travel within France or to other destinations in Europe, there are a couple of airlines you might have missed. Air France is starting to run a service called Hop! and two others you should look out for are Transavia and also Volotea. These offer some great bargain travel, especially Volotea with prices down to €29 !

Dick xx