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Monday, December 18, 2017

Paul Temple and the Barracombe Boxes part 1

Begins today!

It's becoming a Christmas tradition to have one of these old Paul Temple strips running over the Xmas and New Year period. This one is an extra-long series, so there will be six episodes per day until the first week of January. There will be other odds and sods posted during the next few weeks, but this allows us – I'm including Robert Kirkpatrick, who has been supplying many excellent artist biographies for the past couple of months – to have a bit of a break.

The strip dates from 1966, the artist is John McNamara and the writer is credited as Francis Durbridge but the strip was probably ghost-written by someone else.


Saturday, December 16, 2017

E E Briscoe

Robert J. Kirkpatrick

E.E. Briscoe was one of the most prolific artists employed by the Amalgamated Press between around 1903 and 1925. Some sources say that he was also a notable book illustrator, although only a handful of books which credit him as an illustrator have been traced.

He was born in Battersea, London, in 1882, his parents being Edward Briscoe, a printer and compositor (born in Ashton, Northamptonshire, in 1855, and the son of a labourer), and Emma Jane (née Scaldwell, also born in Ashton in 1855), the daughter of a shoemaker – they had married in Islington in June 1879. Christened Ernest Edward Briscoe, he was the second of four children, the others being Herbert (born in 1881), Florence (1884), and Oliver George (1885), all born in Battersea. At the time of the 1881 census, the family was living at 9 Queen Square, Battersea; ten years later, they were at 30 Pickets Street, Clapham.

Briscoe learned his craft at the Clapham School of Art, founded in 1884 by a group of local residents (one of its most notable alumni was the illustrator Margaret Tarrant, the daughter of the illustrator Percy Tarrant). He illustrated his first book, A New Guide to Lichfield Cathedral, in 1902, and at the same time he began working for the Amalgamated Press. He went on to draw countless black and white illustrations for several of the company’s boys’ story papers, beginning with The Boys’ Friend, followed by Cheers Boy Cheer and, perhaps most notably, The Boys’ Realm, for which he illustrated numerous sporting stories. He was also closely associated with The Nelson Lee Library, for which he drew a lengthy series of sketches of public schools – indeed, his drawings of the Nelson Lee’s fictional St. Frank’s school were based on his sketches of Eton College.

Other Amalgamated Press story papers he worked for included The Union Jack, The Gem, The Boys’ Herald, The Champion, The Dreadnought, Sport and Adventure, The Penny Pictorial, The Rocket and Little Folks. His work also appeared in The Boy’s Own Paper, Chums and Our Kiddies, and in annuals and similar large-format books such as The Pip and Squeak Annual, The Adventure Book, Our Boys’ Tip-Top Book, Hullo Boys: The Wireless Uncle’s Annual, Our Girls, The Best Book for Schoolgirls and The Greyfriars Holiday Annual. He was also an occasional contributor to Punch and, rather unusually perhaps, Peace News.

In an interview recorded in The Collectors Digest (August 1956) Briscoe recalled that while he enjoyed drawing the school buildings for The Nelson Lee Library, he was not keen on doing “sketches illustrating common expressions such as ‘grinding his teeth’ – I thought them very cheap and childish. However in those days I wasn’t able to pick and choose although later I was able to refuse such commissions that I thought were vulgar or not in accord with my beliefs – for instance I several times refused any work in connection with blood sports and in time that type of thing was not offered to me.”

He also occasionally turned his hand to writing – one of his short stories appeared in The Boys’ Realm in July 1920, and he also wrote for, as well as illustrated, a number of stories for The Pip & Squeak Annuals. He was also responsible for the text and illustrations in Byways of London: Picturesque Nooks and Corners Sketched and Described by E.E. Briscoe, published in 1926.

As far as is known, he illustrated only two children’s novels: an edition of Tom Brown’s Schooldays published in the 1920s, which contained 16 full-page black and white illustrations and a colour frontispiece; and Scouts of the Prairies by Wingrove Willson (the pen-name of Walter H. Light), published in 1925.

In addition, he was a member of the Royal Academy and the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours.

At the time of the 1901 census, Briscoe was living at 58 Fernlea Road, Steatham, with his parents and three siblings – his father and brother Oliver were both working as printers, and Hebert was an engraver, with Briscoe himself described as a newspaper artist.  He married Rosie Lilian Conner (born in Gibraltar in 1883, the daughter of Frank Conner, an innkeeper) at Chard, Somerset (where she was an assistant mistress in the Infants’ Department of the local National School) on 16 May 1907. He was living in Balham at the time, and the wedding notice in the local newspaper noted that the couple intended to settle in Warlingham, Surrey. However, at the time of the 1911 census the couple were living with Briscoe’s brother Herbert, who was working for a photo engraving company, at 10 Linden Avenue, Thornton Heath, Surrey.

In his Collectors Digest interview Briscoe described how he was stationed in Cairo during the First World War, where he was able to mount three art exhibitions. Unfortunately, there are no online records confirming his military activities at this time (bearing in mind that many of the army’s records were destroyed). After the war he placed his work with the artists’ agents the Byron Studios, in Farringdon Avenue, London.

In the 1920s and early 1930s he and his wife lived on the Isle of Wight, moving to Felbridge, Surrey, in 1932. They later moved to Tonbridge, Kent, where his wife died in December 1953. He had long given up illustration work, and was focusing on watercolour paintings of towns and landscapes. He died three years later, on 27 September 1956, at the War Memorial Hospital in Edenbridge, Kent (his home address was Littlecote, Uckfield Lane, Hever, Kent).  He left an estate valued at £3,905 (around £85,000 in today’s terms).


Books illustrated by E.E. Briscoe
New Guide to Lichfield Cathedral,  1902
Picturesque London, The Anglo-American Oil Company, 1920 (with Jessie Currie)
Byways of London by E.E. Briscoe, John R. Battley, 1924
Scouts of the Prairie edited by Wingrove Willson, Goodship House, 1925
Tom, Brown’s Schooldays by Thomas Hughes, T. Nelson & Son, (1920s, re-issue)
Our Girls’ Yarns by various authors, Renwick of Otley, 1930
Ourselves and Our Neighbours by B.G. Hardingham, T. Nelson & Sons, 1934
Richard Jefferies’ London by Samuel J. Looker, Lutterworth Press, 1944
Shakespeare’s Stratford-on-Avon by Laurence Swinyard, Charles F. Kimble & Sons, 1946

Friday, December 15, 2017

Comic Cuts - 15 December 2017

The first volume of Forgotten Authors is finally out and I'm very pleased with the results. It's not exactly flying off the shelves and is currently sitting at 422,134th in Amazon's best-sellers rankings. It has, on the other hand, breached the Top 100 of the Amazon Kindle Store's category for Books > Literature & Fiction > History & Criticism > Books & Reading, having reached #75.

The new book lags behind The Men Behind Flying Saucer Review, out earlier this year, which is at the lofty heights of 254,883th in the best-seller rankings. As you can imagine, I'm not exactly dining out on these kinds of sales. Indeed, there's barely one good meal in the profits from both books.

Still, I'm hopeful that sales will pick up by good word of mouth and the second volume should be out some time in January. I would have said December, but with Christmas and New Year racing towards us, I'm finding plenty of distractions. There are, I think, three essays to write for volume two and I have most of the research done for all of them. I had a couple of certificates to buy—one birth, two death—which I purchased on Wednesday, so I'm hopeful that I can wrap-up most of the essays completely in a matter of a couple of weeks.

Although I may tinker with the contents before publication, at the moment the authors included will be Bracebridge Hemyng, Philip Richards, Frank Barrett, Ernest Protheroe, Charles Granville, Louise Heilgers, Alfred Barrett, C. E. Vulliamy, Evelyn Winch, Frederick Foden and David Roberts. But, as I said, that's not yet written in stone.

I forgot to tell you what happened with my laptop. As mentioned a couple of weeks ago, a failed attempt to put on some new anti-virus software left me with an all but useless box, designed and coded by some of the smartest minds on the planet that might as well have been a Tupperware box full of sand for all the good it was doing me.

Photo of our driveway, taken on Monday morning.
I had a friend look at it and he stripped most of the old programming out and installed some new software so that I can continue to play DVDs on the machine and surf the web. I'm pleased to say that it hasn't worked so well in years. I am, however, going to run into a problem at some point, because Firefox (my favoured browser) is going to stop supporting Windows XP, which is the operating system I have on that ancient machine. You can't blame Firefox... after all, Windows stopped supporting XP years ago, which is why it's prone to bugs of all descriptions. It's unlikely that I'll find—cheaply—another laptop with such a decent-sized screen (14½ by 9 inches) as laptops, in their drive to become more portable, got smaller. So what I might have to do is buy myself a second-hand tablet to do my internet browsing on and use the old laptop solely as a DVD player. It'll probably work out cheaper than trying to upgrade the laptop.

Talking of Christmas, Bear Alley will be providing its usual Christmas offering of an old Paul Temple strip for you to follow daily. This is quite a long one, so I will  be publishing it at the rate of 6 strips per day, so you'll at least have some reading matter if you want a quiet minute away from the mince pies. This will begin on Monday and run into the new year, although that won't be all that's on offer, as I'm sure other bits and pieces will find their way onto the site over the coming weeks.

We have our regular artist biography from the pen of Robert Kirkpatrick appearing tomorrow, and I'd like to take this opportunity to publicly thank him for doing such a sterling job of writing these pieces while I've been busy putting the book together. To prove how grateful I am, I will be loosening the chains that keep him attached to his keyboard. But only slightly. I don't want him wandering off.

Our random scans for this week illustrate a handful of old yellowbacks by the remarkable W. Stephens Hayward, author extraordinaire and bankrupt who gambled his way through a family legacy the equivalent of half a million pounds and who drank himself to death at the age of 35.

You can see why I chose him for the opening essay in Forgotten Authors!

The covers here include Hayward's  early science fiction yarn, The Cloud King, which might be the first SF serial in a boy's weekly paper.


Thursday, December 14, 2017

Commando issues 5079-5082

Commando issues available 14 December 2017.

Brand new Commando issues are out now! Expect fraternal face-offs, firefighting infernos in Sicily and Kuwait, and the toughest postie fighting in France… It’s all in a day’s work for our Commandos!

5079: Brothers
Latvian brothers Maris and Andrejs Vejonis joined the Wehrmacht after the Baltic States were annexed by the rise of Communism. However, it didn’t take them long to realise their mistake, as they witnessed first-hand the brutality of the Waffen S.S. But they were about to discover that the Russkies were just as callous, as Andrejs swaps sides and takes up arms with the Red Army. Now, fighting on either side of the battlefield, more than once Maris and Andrejs find themselves staring down the barrel of their brother’s rifle…
    Colin Watson’s thrilling story of fraternal friction perfectly fits into the Eastern Front setting, while the brothers’ chalk and cheese personas are rendered charmingly in Castro and Morhain’s art in both the old and young versions of the men, as well as the insets on Ian Kennedy’s cover.

Story: Colin Watson
Art: Castro & Morhain
Cover: Ian Kennedy

5080: Winged Dagger
Left behind by one of his own men after being shot through the leg by a German sniper, S.A.S. Major Jeff Turner was rescued by Italian villagers – but it wasn’t enough. Though saved from death, Turner was pronounced an invalid, meaning his days in the S.A.S. were over as he was reassigned to a firefighting detail. However, it wasn’t long before Turner came face to face with the man who left him to die… The man now in charge of his S.A.S. regiment.
    With spectacularly moody interior art by Gonzalez, the sheer grit of Spence’s story becomes apparent from page one. Topping this all off is a dynamic red and green cover from Penalva with thick oil strokes, really adding to the bulk of the S.A.S. figures.

Story: Spence
Art: Gonzalez
Cover: Penalva
Originally Commando No. 437 (November 1969) Reprinted No. 1255 (September 1978)

5081: Fire Fight
Their mission was to hold an oil refinery in the middle of the Kuwait desert. Reinforcements were due at dawn, but that was a long way away for ex-firefighter Carl Strode and his team, especially when Iraqi trucks pulled up, infiltrating the facility with guns… and bombs. This would be the hottest situation Strode had ever been in – but was he up to the task?
    With each page of Dominic Teague’s story more tense than the last, the stakes are raised along with the thermometer in this mighty issue. Expect blinding flames and dark shadows from Rezzonico, as well as a terrific first Commando cover from Neil Roberts, showing Strode overcast with purples, the flames changing from orange to white-hot behind him in an explosive panorama.

Story: Dominic Teague
Art: Rezzonico
Cover: Neil Roberts

5082: Special Delivery!
An ex-postman and stickler for the rules, when Corporal Johnny Bishop’s squadron is destroyed by a Stuka bomb, honour and determination meant one thing: he would deliver the surviving letter – even if he died in the process. But the British Expeditionary Forces’ retreat to Dunkirk was not the easiest route to navigate, as Junkers, Panzers and Nazi soldiers in their deadly Blitzkrieg chase Johnny right to the French coast.
    In Mike Knowles ‘Saving Private Ryan’-esque story of finding one soldier amongst an army of men, Knowles juggles action and tongue-in-cheek humour, with C. T. Rigby providing superb accompanying artwork to both aspects. Ian Kennedy’s cover is a real treat too, with our hero reaching out to reader, the eponymous letter clutched in his hand.

Story: Mike Knowles
Art: C. T. Rigby
Cover: Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No. 2661 (May 1993)

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Gerald Palmer (1935-2017)

The large opening frame is an example of Gerry Palmer 'ghosting' for Frank Bellamy.
Gerry Palmer, best known to comic fans for his association with Eagle comic and the ‘Dan Dare’ strip, has died, aged 82.

Born in St. Helier, Jersey, in 1935, Gerald Palmer was a schoolboy during the German occupation of the island between 1940 and 1945.

After showing some exceptional talent at school, his headmaster, Edmund Blampied—an established Jersey artist himself—helped him secure a grant which allowed Palmer to study at Portsmouth Art College.

With his National Diploma in Design secured in August 1955, Palmer headed for London with his portfolio and was employed as an editorial art assistant at Hulton Press in Fleet Street, drawing spot illustrations for Farmers Weekly and several papers before joining the staff of Eagle comic in 1957. “As staff artist, I was often asked to complete submitted artwork—bringing it up to the quality demanded in order to satisfy the standards set by my superiors,” he told Adrian Perkins in 2004. “I can still recall having to retouch several of the highly detailed centrespread paintings from Leslie Ashwell Wood.”

Enjoyable as the work was, it was not financially remunerative and Marcus Morris had to intervene to get Palmer a pay rise after he found his finances strained. Seeking other opportunities, Palmer responded to a job advertised within Hultons to work with Frank Hampson at his Bayford Lodge studio in Epsom. Palmer, who had to commute via two buses from Esher, joined the studio in 1958 and worked alongside Keith Watson on backgrounds for the ‘Dan Dare’ episodes ‘The Phantom Fleet’ and ‘Safari in Space’. Palmer later said that he got on well with Hampson, recalling only one bone of contention between the them: Hampson, an almost pathological perfectionist, would often ask his assistants to redo pages, working over the weekend if needed. “Frank often asked me to stay working late but, being somewhat strong-willed, I refused as I had a very busy social life; and besides, it was in my contract that it was a nine-to-five job.”

The Hampson studio was disbanded in 1959 while part-way through ‘Terra Nova’, and Frank Bellamy was tasked with painting the strip. Bellamy preferred working alone, and for most of the year he was employed on Dare (1959-60), he would produce one page, leaving Don Harley, Keith Watson or Palmer to produce the other in a compatible style.

Following Bellamy’s departure, and with Don Harley and Bruce Cornwell established as the new Dan Dare art team, Palmer drew a variety of editorial features for Swift (‘Jimmy Hanley’s Notebook’, ‘The Editor’s Notebook’, ‘Ancient Wonders’) and illustrations for Eagle, including a number of cutaway drawing for the centre pages. The preparation for these sometimes involved trips to manufacturers to obtain first-hand information and photographic reference. In one instance Palmer, along with art editor Charles Pocklington and a Fleet Street photographer hired for the day, visited Lotus for a feature on the Lotus Elite. The photographer, looking for a scoop, took the opportunity to roam around the factory, photographing several prototype cars until being caught, resulting in the three visitors being escorted to the factory gate.

In 1961 Palmer went freelance, continuing to provide illustrations for Eagle (including the ‘Kings of the Road’ cover feature) and contributions to Eagle Annual and TV Express Annual.

For much of his artistic career, Palmer was able to concentrate on painting, both as an aviation artist—he contributed to exhibitions of the Guild of Aviation Artists (GAvA)—and as a painter of portraits, seascapes and landscape in pastels and watercolours. He contributed illustrations to magazines and books, the latter including three volumes on aircraft for Hamlyn: The Story of Flight by John Llewellen, Irwin Shapiro & Maurice Allward (1970); Aircraft  by John W. R. Taylor (1971), for which he produced 290 full colour illustrations; and Spotlight on Aircraft by Graeme Cook (1972).

In later years, once again living in Jersey, Palmer was able to concentrate on painting and also established himself as a modeller and sculptor, an example of the latter being an 8-foot bronze sculpture of golfer Harry Vardon, cast at the Underwood foundry, Mayenne, France, and unveiled by Tony Jacklin at Royal Jersey Golf Course on 30 July 2001.

Palmer also designed stamps for the Jersey Post Office, his designs including a 20½p stamp dedicated to the RNLI rescue of the ‘Cythara’ (1984) and a set of aircraft designs to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain (1990).

Paintings of local life and landmarks and landscapes painted in France, Spain and Yugoslavia, can be obtained as prints. Recently, he returned to Dan Dare, producing two paintings for Spaceship Away..., one of the Anastasia (2006) and a collaboration with Don Harley on a 1960s-style Dan Dare spacescape (2009).

Palmer, who lived at St. Brelade, Jersey, counted designing and model aircraft, from skimmers to gliders, skin diving, sail boarding and sea fishing amongst his hobbies. He died on 16 August after a long illness. He is survived by his sister, Jean, wife, Valerie, children Christopher and Fiona, and four grandchildren.

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

Rebellion releases for 16 December 2017.

2000AD Prog 2061
Cover: Staz Johnson & Chris Blythe

The Galaxy's Greatest Comic rounds out its fortieth anniversary year with the traditional bumper Xmas special, a 100-page beast of an issue featuring a stunning line-up of creators and characters!
    Bad Company are hunted men as they search for the truth behind the Ararat war in 'Terrorists' by Peter Milligan and Rufus Dayglo; the ABC Warriors are at each other's throats as Mars descends into chaos in 'Fallout' by Pat Mills and Clint Langley; Merlin has awoken and unleashed the Motherless Men in Book 5 of Brass Sun, 'Engine Summer,' by Ian Edginton and INJ Culbard; Bill Savage discovers the reality behind the 'Thousand Year Stare,' courtesy of Pat Mills and Patrick Goddard; we flashback to a significant Justice Department character in a one-off The Fall of Deadworld story by Kek-W and Dave Kendall; Ace Garp celebrates the festive season in his own unique way, by Eddie Robson and Nigel Dobbyn; the long-awaited tale of what became of Starlord can finally be told, courtesy of Kenneth Niemand and Henry Flint; and lawman Judge Dredd is caught in a fix... Plus much more!

JUDGE DREDD: ECHOES by Michael Carroll (w) Colin MacNeil (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
BRASS SUN: ENGINE SUMMER by Ian Edginton (w) INJ Culbard (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
SAVAGE: THE THOUSAND YEAR STARE by Pat Mills (w) Patrick Goddard (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
BAD COMPANY: TERRORISTS by Peter Milligan (w) Rufus Dayglo (a) Dom Regan (c) Simon Bowland (l)
THE FALL OF DEADWORLD: AVA by Kek-W (w) Dave Kendall (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
ACE TRUCKING CO. by Eddie Robson (w) Nigel Dobbyn (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
ABC WARRIORS: FALLOUT by Pat Mills (w) Clint Langley (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
STARLORD: WATCH THE STARS! by Kenneth Neimand (w) Henry Flint (a) Simon Bowland (l)

Saturday, December 09, 2017

R. Noel Pocock

Robert J. Kirkpatrick

While T. M. R. Whitwell was well-known for illustrating some of P. G. Wodehouse’s early novels, he was not the first Wodehouse illustrator. That honour belonged to R. Noel Pocock, who illustrated Wodehouse’s first two books in 1902 and 1903, and who then re-invented himself as a comic artist and an illustrator of fairy stories.

Pocock was born on 16 June 1878 at West View House, New End, Hampstead, and christened Ralph Noel Pocock. His father was Noel Lewis Pocock (1848-1907), a solicitor; his mother was Alice Jane née Topham (1851-1937), the daughter of Francis William Topham (1808-1877), an artist who was particularly noted for his watercolours and occasional engravings, and who presumably sparked Pocock’s interest in art. They had three other children: Guy Noel (1880-1955 – he became a schoolmaster and writer), Philip Noel (1882-1914 – he also became a schoolmaster), and Doris Alice (1890-1974 – she became a prolific author of girls’ stories).

Shortly after the birth of Guy Noel, the family moved to 4 Oakfield Villa, London Road, Reigate, although by the time of Doris Alice’s birth they were back in London, at 4 Highgate Rise, Kentish Town. It is not known where Pocock was educated (other than having private tutors until he was around 13), although it was probably at Highgate School, where his brother Guy was a pupil. What is known is that he hated his time at school – writing shortly before he died he decried the “brutality and stupidity” of the public school system and revealed:
For me, school was compulsion, dreariness, an education in evasion of boring and useless tasks, by a set of men so uninspiring as to be fit for nothing better than cricket-avengers…..School did all it could to make me hate academic learning and standardized games, and long to get out of that time-wasting, penal institution, and learn something about the world I had been born into.
Reproduced in In Memory of Ralph Noel Pocock, edited by D.K. Will, privately published, 1959. This is mainly a collection of Pocock’s “reflections” on life, faith, psychology and education, and a small selection of letters, and is disappointingly short on biographical detail).

His writings were later to heavily influence Kurt Hahn, who founded Gordonstoun School in 1934, and Pocock’s legacy lived on in the shape of the school’s Pocock Workshops, where pupils learn carpentry, metal-work and pottery.

After leaving school he studied briefly at the Royal College of Art in Kensington, leaving after a year or so to visit Sweden. On his return to London, he moved into a studio in Hampstead, and later travelled again, mainly to eastern Europe.

There is no trace of Ralph N. Pocock in the 1901 census, although it is apparent that he was working as a black and white artist (and author) at this time. He was contributing to The Public School Magazine and Granta, and within a few years he had contributed to several other periodicals, including Sandow’s Magazine, The Royal Magazine and Pearson’s Magazine (for which he illustrated two P. G. Wodehouse stories in 1909).

His first book work appeared in 1902, when he provided 10 black and white plates for P. G. Wodehouse’s school story (and first novel) The Pothunters, which had earlier been serialized in The Public School Magazine. In the following year he provided 8 black and white plates for Wodehouse’s A Prefect’s Uncle, and he also contributed plates to Wodehouse’s Tales of St. Austin’s, alongside T. M. R. Whitwell and E. F. Skinner. (Given his hatred of public schools, it seems rather surprising that he was happy to illustrate public school stories).

His illustrations for The Pothunters were, it must be admitted, of a very low quality, with some of the pupils looking far too old. By the time he illustrated A Prefect’s Uncle, his style had improved. The frontispiece in particular reflected the humour of the story, and it was this perhaps led Pocock to change direction – in 1906, he began producing full-page comic drawings for The Sketch, and a year later he also began doing the same for The Bystander. He also changed his professional name from R. Noel Pocock to Noel Pocock. His work also went on to appear in Black and White and The Tatler, and in 1908 he helped design a poster for that year’s London Olympics.

In 1910 he produced 24 colour plates for an edition of Robinson Crusoe, published by Henry Frowde, Hodder & Stoughton. The following year, he returned to comedy with a series of pictures for two books of comic verse by A. E. Johnson – The Navy’s Toast and Below Zero: A Travesty of Winter Sport. In its issue of 30 November 1911, The Scotsman described the latter as “an amusing album of grotesque coloured pictures ... These clever comical compositions poke fun at all sorts of winter sports – tobogganing, ski-ing, curling, skating, sledging, and so on; and are accompanied by appropriate bits of parody in verse by Mr A. E. Johnson, clever and funny, like the pictures.”

At the time of the 1911 census Pocock was living in Woodville Road, Bexhill-on-Sea, Sussex, with his widowed mother and sister Doris. In 1913, he changed his style again, when he produced 22 colour plates for an edition of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, published by Henry Frowde, Hodder & Stoughton. Jeffrey A. Menges, in Once Upon a Time…: A Treasury of Classic Fairy Tale Illustrations, published in 2008, noted that Pocock’s work “displays the influence of the American illustrator Maxfield Parrish. Centred heavily on the figure, Pocock’s work reveals a realistic treatment, despite the exaggerated emotions and expression, small touches of pattern and colour also pull in the viewer’s attention. The simple settings of Pocock’s illustrations are enhanced by a canny use of lighting to add dimension in darkly wooded areas.”

As if to demonstrate his versatility, he also produced in 1913 a number of illustrations for Alice in Holidayland, a parody originally published for the North-Eastern Railway Company, in which Alice goes on holiday to the Yorkshire coast. His illustrations, along with those of fellow-artist F. H. Mason, were themselves clever parodies of John Tenniel’s original drawings.

In June 1914 the publishing and printing company Lawrence & Jellicoe, of Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, advertised a new catalogue of sporting prints, with Pocock one of the featured artists. After the outbreak of the war Pocock joined the 4th Battalion of the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry. He served for a time in India, reaching the rank of Captain. At some point during the war he was also, according to In Memory of Ralph Noel Pocock, attached to a special branch of the Intelligence Service because of his knowledge of the politics of the Balkans. He also spent two years on the General Staff in Simla, as a psychological adviser to the Indian Government.

It is not known what he did after the war, other than illustrating an almanac for the cigarette manufacturers Abdulla & Co. in 1920, and an edition of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes for T. Nelson & Sons in the same year. He also produced a small number of highly-regarded colour pastel drawings.

On 19 June 1923, when he was living at 3 Golf Links Avenue, Hindhead, Surrey, he married Doris Katharine George, the daughter of Herbert Tidmarsh George (1863-1957), a landscape artist, at the parish church in Hindhead. (They had met for the first time when Pocock was visiting Switzerland). Afterwards they travelled to Austria before settling in Bealieu, between Nice and Monte Carlo. In the mid-1930s, they returned to England, settling first in Sussex, and then, in 1939, to The Malt House, Clun, Shropshire. By then, Pocock was no longer working, and Katherine was recorded as a nursing sister.

After the Second World War, during which he undertook local ARP duties, he moved to Beach Farm, Linley, Bishops Castle, Shropshire. His last few years were beset by ill-health (a legacy of several bouts of malaria he had contracted in his early life), and he spent most of the last 18 months of his life confined to bed. He died on 21 June 1949, leaving an estate valued at £7,377 (around £70,000 in today’s terms).

His brother Guy Noel, who was educated at Highgate School in London and St. John’s College, Cambridge, where he obtained a BA in 1904, taught at Cheltenham College and the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, and later worked for the BBC. He published a number of books – novels (he was also a published poet), essays, anthologies, and books on writing and teaching English. He died in 1955.


Books illustrated by R. Noel Pocock
The Pothunters by P.G. Wodehouse, A. & C. Black, 1903 
A Prefect’s Uncle by P.G. Wodehouse, A. & C. Black, 1903 
Tales of St. Austin’s by P.G. Wodehouse, A. & C. Black, 1903
The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, Henry Frowde, Hodder & Stoughton, 1910 (re-issue)    
The Navy’s Toast by A.E. Johnson, Hodder & Stoughton, 1911  
Below Zero: A Travesty of Winter Sport by A.E. Johnson, Hodder & Stoughton   
Grimm’s Fairy Tales by Jacon & Wilhelm Grimm, Henry Frowde, Hodder & Stoughton, 1913      
Alice in Holidayland by F.W. Martindale, North-Eastern Railway Company, 1913
Bulgaria by Frank Fox, A. & C. Black, 1915 (32 col. Plates by Jan V. Mrkvitchka & Noel Pocock)
The “Abdulla” Almanac 1920, Abdulla & Co., 1920
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, T. Nelson & Sons, 1920

Friday, December 08, 2017

Comic Cuts - 8 December 2017

About 20 weeks ago, at the tail end of July, I conceived the idea of updating a bunch of old Bear Alley essays and putting together a book under the title Fifty Forgotten Authors. Don't laugh, but I thought that this was something that I could probably have done in time for Christmas. Of course, everything takes double the time you expect, and in this case probably a lot longer.

Trying to bring these older pieces up to scratch has been thoroughly enjoyable; I've kept up a reasonable pace and most of them are unrecognisable compared to the originals, some of them expanded by many thousands of words. By October it was obvious the book was going to be huge and I needed to scale back. Hence Forgotten Authors Volume 1 contains probably about a quarter of the contents of the Fifty Forgotten Authors book. But that's still 66,000 words, making it a substantial book in its own rights.

The first volume is now almost ready. Although I spent last Friday and most of Sunday doing the research for one of the authors that will be included (I hope) in volume 2, I've spent the rest of the week working on two versions of the text: an e-book version and a print version. There are no substantial differences between the two, but it's necessary to treat them differently. For instance, the e-book version will have endnotes while the print version will have footnotes. I prefer footnotes, so you can see immediately the source of some quote or piece of information, rather than having to dig around at the back of a book. E-books don't have a foot to each page, so all the notes are at the end, but hyperlinked to and from the main text, so you can zip down to read the note and then zip back to the point in the text you just left.

The first computer I can remember seeing was the giant computer in Billion Dollar Brain. As a child of the Sixties, the only computing class we had at school involved carefully colouring in lozenge-shaped ellipses on a card with a 2B pencil which was then sent off so that, a week later, we could get back a print-out of our names from Honeywell, so I've had to teach myself some rudimentary stuff about html and the like. When I put together The Men Behind the Flying Saucer Review, for instance, I struggled with footnotes and the e-book version looked a mess, so I had to rewrite the text to work footnotes into the text where I could, including lengthy web addresses.

I've now solved the problem... kind of. In my usual, stumbling fashion, I managed to figure out how to place the footnote numbering in line with the text, rather than as a superscript (which is how it appears as I'm writing these essays and how the footnotes will appear in the print version). I had to go through each and every footnote (all 158 of them) and convert them manually. There was one footnote that refused to convert, which I eventually solved by revising the master text, saving this new draft as html, cutting and pasting the new version over the old version, then figuring out how to rename the links... to tell you the truth, I'm not 100% sure what I did, but it seems to have solved the problem and the link now works perfectly.

The print version will have an index, so I spent Tuesday and Wednesday compiling that and by the end of play on Wednesday I had a final version of both an html file for the e-book and a pdf of the print book.

These will be heading off to Amazon later today. I'm writing this Thursday morning while I'm waiting on another printer entirely to fix a problem with one of my old books. POD printers update their software every now and then and it can cause problems with older files. The latest printed copy of one of my books had a couple of illustrations missing (probably due to the layering I'd designed into the pages); so I'm writing this while a proof of an updated version of the book is slowly downloading to my computer. Who says that men can't multi-task!

Once that's sorted, I can start uploading the new book(s). It might take 24-48 hours for them to go live, at which point I'll publish a set of links from the main Bear Alley Books page that will enable everyone to order copies.

It's now some hours later and the e-book has now been uploaded to the Kindle store, which is saying it could take up to 72 hours to process. I've also uploaded the book to Createspace and that, too, should be available within 72 hours. (I seem to recall, having done this once before, that it's actually quite a bit quicker.) Links to follow.

Long-time readers might recall I was putting together a scrapbook of artwork by Don Lawrence, gathering together artwork he had drawn for papers like Bible Story, Once Upon a Time, Look and Learn and Speed & Power. The guts of the book were designed back in 2016 and to the right is the image I intended using as the cover. Well, the collapse of the pound following Brexit put the kibosh on the book... colour printing abroad is paid for in dollars, and the pound dropped by about 13% in value against the dollar in a matter of days. It has since "recovered" to stand 11% lower against the dollar and 15% against the Euro than it was 18 months ago: the pound was worth $1.49 and €1.30 to the pound on 23 June 2016, today those figures are $1.34 and €1.13.

To cut a long story short, the book will now be appearing as a special edition of Illustrators, published by Book Palace Books as a co-production with Bear Alley Books. There will be a few changes, no doubt, but I'm hopeful that the book will come out as the 160-page full-colour collection I originally envisaged.

The last time I spoke to Book Palace head honcho Geoff West he told me that he already has a few plans afoot for other special editions. The next regular issue (#21) will feature Rodney Matthews and J. Allen St. John, amongst others, and then there will be a war special featuring artwork by some of the leading Italian artists – De Gaspari, Biffignandi, Caroselli, Dell'orco, etc. – who worked for the UK through Studio D'Ami. Both of these have "Winter 2017" dates and I'm pretty sure Geoff said they were already at the printers. Hopefully we'll see the Don book by Summer 2018.

Today's random scans are a selection of titles by Dail Ambler under her own name and her most famous pen-name. She used plenty of other names during her days as a "fiction factory" in the early Fifties... but you're going to have to get the Forgotten Authors book to find out more about this very interesting lady. Meanwhile, I hope the following give you some ideas about the sort of books she wrote...


Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

Rebellion releases for 6 December 2017.

2000AD Prog 2060
Cover: Simon Davis
JUDGE DREDD: BLACK SNOW by Michael Carroll (w) PJ Holden (a) Quinton Winter (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
SLÁINE: ARCHON by Pat Mills (w) Simon Davis (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
THARG'S 3RILLERS: THE HOUSE OF GILDED PEAK by Eddie Robson (w) Steven Austin (a) Gary Caldwell (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
ABSALOM: TERMINAL DIAGNOSIS by Gordon Rennie (w) Tiernan Trevallion (a) Ellie De Ville (l)

Saturday, December 02, 2017

T. M. R. Whitwell

Robert J. Kirkpatrick

The name of T. M. R. Whitwell was once very familiar to readers and collectors of boys’ school stories, and also to readers of the boys’ magazine The Captain, for which Whitwell illustrated numerous school stories, in particular the early school stories written by P. G. Wodehouse, some of which were subsequently used when the stories were issued in hardback

Whitwell was born on 11 July 1868 at 136 Victoria Park Road, Hackney, north London, and christened Thomas Montague Radcliff Whitwell. His father, Thomas L. Whitwell (born in Stepney in around 1837), was, at that time, a law student (he later became a solicitor’s clerk), who had married Eliza Birt, the daughter of a financial agent, in Bethnal Green in 1865. This was Thomas senior’s second marriage, his first wife, Marian Birt, whom he had married in Bethnal Green in 1860 and with whom he had two children, William Clarence Birt Whitwell (born in 1861), and Edith Marian Whitwell (born in 1863), having died in 1864. A third child, Ruth Eliza, was born in 1867. At the time of the 1871 census, the family was living at Montague House, Clarendon Street, Walthamstow (with T.M.R. Whitwell recorded as simply “Montague”).

It is not known where Whitwell was educated, or where he received his art training (if, indeed, he received any). There is no trace of him in the 1881 census. However, he was working as a professional artist at the time of the 1891 census, where he was recorded as one of 10 boarders at the Swan Hotel, Doddinghurst, Essex. In 1892, he was recorded as a correspondent for the magazine Cycling, with his earliest known work, The Cycling Album: Being a Selection of Sketches from “Cycling”, appearing in 1893. (He was, at around this time, a member of the Hainault Cycling Club along with his brother, who was at that time a solicitor’s clerk, and later a member of the Essex Wheelers Cycling Club). Two years later, he provided almost 100 illustrations for Industrial Explorings in and around London, written by R. Andom (i.e. Alfred Walter Barrett, who had published the comic novel We Three and Troddles the previous year). The book was a humorous look at “workaday” London, taking in “such industrial concerns as piano manufactories, rope works, gasworks, paper works, and wire works, in the chatty and lively descriptions of which the author is materially helped by the effective drawings of his co-explorer, Mr T.M.R. Whitwell.” (The Daily Telegraph).

On the 30 April 1896, Whitwell, who was then living at 15 Parma Crescent, Clapham Junction, married Sarah Jane Hanson Southan at the Holy Trinity Church, Hastings. Born in Wellington, Shropshire, in 1875, she was the daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Southan – Thomas, a civil engineer, had died in 1889, and Elizabeth was running the Washington Hotel in Hastings. The couple subsequently moved to 50 Lancaster Road, Stroud Green, in north London. (The marriage certificate recorded Thomas’s father’s profession as “solicitor”, as did his brother William’s marriage certificate in 1898, suggesting that he had moved upwards from being a solicitor’s clerk).

Three years later, Whitwell began his long career as an illustrator of boys’ school stories. He illustrated a short school story by R.S. Warren Bell in the very first issue of The Captain, published by George Newnes, in April 1899, and he went on to contribute illustrations throughout the magazine’s complete run until the last issue in 1924, illustrating 31 serials and numerous short stories. Many of the serials were subsequently issued as hardback novels with Whitwell’s illustrations, although most were issued by publishers other than Newnes. His best-known work was associated with P. G. Wodehouse – he illustrated his school story serials The Gold Bat (1903-04), The Head of Kay’s (1904-05), The White Feather (1905-06), and Jackson Junior and The Lost Lambs (1907 and 1908, re-issued in hardback as Mike). These were followed by The New Fold (1908-09, re-issued in hardback as Psmith in the City) and Psmith, Journalist (1909-10). Some of his original Captain illustrations were subsequently used in the early hardback editions of these stories published by A. & C. Black. He was also one of the illustrators of Wodehouse’s short story collection Tales of St. Austin’s, published in 1903.

In 1916, Whitwell began providing illustrations for Cassell & Co.’s story paper Chums, and in 1919 he began a six-year association with The Boy’s Own Paper, published by the Religious Tract Society, again with some of the serials he illustrated being subsequently published in hardback. He also provided illustrations for a handful of novels, all school stories, published by James Nisbet & Co., Blackie & Son and the Oxford University Press. His only illustrative ventures outside the field of school fiction, apart from the two Psmith books mentioned above, were for an adventure story by Argyll Saxby (in 1900), and another R. Andom book, On Tour with Troddles, in 1909.

In the meantime, Whitwell’s marriage had floundered within only three or four years. In the 1901 census he was recorded as a boarder at 7 Acris Road, Wandsworth, with Arthur Trespass, a saddler’s manager, and his family, and his wife was back at the Washington Hotel in Hastings with her mother. (In 1902, Whitwell was listed in The Post Office Directory as an artist at 12 New Court, Carey Street, Holborn, presumably a studio address.  He was still there in 1916).

In June 1910 Sarah Whitwell petitioned for her conjugal rights, claiming that her husband had refused to “live and cohabit” with her – she was living at the Washington Hotel and he was living at “Lyndale”, Cambridge Road, Wanstead, Essex. Her petition was upheld and in October 1910 Whitwell was given 14 days to return to her. However, he failed to do so, and so at the end of November 1910 Sarah filed for divorce, on the grounds that, firstly, her husband had failed to comply with the earlier order, and, secondly, that he had committed adultery with an Olive Henderson – they had been living together as husband and wife at 98 Mantilla Road, Tooting Bec Common, Surrey, since 3 November 1910. The marriage was subsequently formally dissolved in September 1911.

Shortly before this, the 1911 census had recorded Whitwell living at 6 Tabley Road, Holloway, north London, with a son, Thomas Montague Radcliff, born in Islington on 10 January 1911, and Olivia Henderson (rather than “Olive”), described as a housekeeper. Sarah Whitwell was, at that time, the manageress of the Washington Hotel. Thomas and Olivia (actually Olivia Philippa Henderson, born in Poplar, London, 1869, the daughter of Charles Henderson, a coach painter) subsequently married in Islington in the summer of the following year.

Whitwell died, of cardiac failure associated with a chest tumour, on 16 February 1928 in the General Hospital in Northampton, without leaving a will. His home at that time had been in Great Linford, Buckinghamshire. His first wife died in Hastings in 1939, and his second wife died in Tonbridge, Kent, in June 1955. His son, who had married Winifred Biggin in Croydon in 1935, was recorded in 1939 as a poultry farmer, market gardener and part-time solicitor’s clerk – he died in Shaftesbury, Dorset, in 1983.

Whitwell’s brother William became a solicitor’s clerk (1891 census, when he was living with his aunt, Emma Whitwell, in the City of London, along with his father), before becoming an author and journalist (1901 and 1911 census records). However, the only piece of writing that has been traced attributed to him is an article, “Round Rochester in Dickens Land”, in the magazine Cycling in August 1905.

Whitwell was a particularly distinctive artist, and his illustrations are almost all instantly recognizable. However, his work has not been universally liked – writing in 1966, Richard J. Voorhees (in his biography of P. G. Wodehouse, published in New York) commented:
... the illustrations [in Wodehouse’s school novels] are atrocious. Once they must have attracted readers; today they could only repel or amuse. Whether black and white or in color, they make the schoolboys look at least thirty years old; one character, who wears glasses, looks fifty. Not only fashions in drawing, but also fashions in dress give the boys a formal appearance in the least formal circumstances. When they are cheering on a runner as he lunges toward the finish line, when they are painting a statue in the park with tar, even when they are smashing windows, their high collars and tight jackets suggest not so much a scene of vigor or violence as a posed picture of a school group.
This was, it must be said, rather harsh. Whitwell was responding to the texts he was illustrating, and he did so with a certain degree of style and authenticity, in a style that was frequently different to most of his contemporaries. His pencil drawings in particular were often meticulous in their detail, and very delicately drawn. He was clearly well-regarded by the publishers who used him – he illustrated around 40 public school novels  –  and also, presumably, by the authors whose work he illustrated. Perhaps one measure of the esteem in which he was held was the generous number of plates which appeared in some of the books he illustrated – Tales of Greyhouse, for example, written by R.S. Warren Bell, had 16 black and white plates, and three other of Bell’s books had 12 plates. P. G. Wodehouse’s Mike contained 12 plates, and The Gold Bat and The Head of Kay’s 8. This compared with an average of 4-6 plates in most other books.

Yet despite his output, and his association with P. G. Wodehouse, he has been ignored by all the standard reference books. Why this was the case is a mystery.


Books illustrated by T.M.R. Whitwell
The Cycling Album: Being a Selection of Sketches from “Cycling” Dangerfield Print Co., 1893
Industrial Explorings in and around London by Robert Andom, James Clarke & Co., 1895   
The Tiger-Man of Burma and Other Adventure Yarns by Argyll Saxby, “The Boy’s Own Paper” Office, 1900
Tales of Greyhouse by R.S. Warren Bell, George Newnes, 1901
Acton's Feud: A Public School Story by Frederick Swainson, George Newnes Ltd., 1901       
Tales of St. Austin's by P.G. Wodehouse, A. & C. Black, 1903       
The Gold Bat by P.G. Wodehouse, A. & C. Black, 1904           
The Head of Kay's by P.G. Wodehouse, A. & C. Black, 1905       
Green at Greyhouse by R.S. Warren Bell, Chapman & Hall, 1908
Mike: A Public School Story by P.G. Wodehouse, A. & C. Black, 1909
For the Sake of His Chum by Walter C. Rhoades, Blackie & Son, 1909 (dustwrapper)
On Tour with Troddles by R. Andom, Cassell & Co., 1909
Psmith in the City by P.G. Wodehouse, A. & C. Black, 1910
Black Evans: A School Story by R.S. Warren Bell, A. & C. Black, 1912
One of the Awkward Squad by Tom Bevan, James Nisbet & Co., 1912       
The Feats of Foozle by Gunby Hadath, A. & C. Black, 1913       
Dormitory Eight by R.S. Warren Bell, A. & C. Black, 1914       
Rob Wylie of Jordon's: A Story of Public School Life by F. Cowley Whitehouse, Blackie & Son, 1914   
The Skipper of the XI by John Barnett, Blackie & Son, 1915       
The Secret Seven by R.S. Warren Bell, A. & C. Black, 1915       
Sheepy Wilson: A Public School Story by Gunby Hadath, James Nisbet & Co., 1915
Psmith, Journalist by P.G. Wodehouse, A. & C. Black, 1915
Greyhouse Days by R.S. Warren Bell, George Newnes, 1918
The Three Prefects by R.S. Warren Bell, A. & C. Black, 1918       
Joe Doughty by M.M. Guy, A. & C. Black, 1918           
The Adventures of Two Runaways by Ascott R. Hope, A. & C. Black, 1918 (re-issue of All Astray: The Travels and Adventures of Two Cherubs, 1902)   
The New House Mystery and Other tales of School and Country Life by Ashmore Russan, “The Boy’s Own Paper” Office, 1918   
The McKickshaws at School by Ascott R. Hope, Ascott R., A. & C. Black, 1919 (re-issue of Half-Text History: Chronicles of School Life, 1897)
Forge of Foxenby by R.A.H. Goodyear, Blackie & Son, 1920
The Boys of Sancotes: Some Yarns of School Life by Harold Murray, “The Boy’s Own Paper” Office, 1920       
Schoolboy Pluck by Harold Avery, Nisbet & Co., 1921
The Sporting House: A School Story by Richard Bird, Humphrey Milford Oxford University Press, 1921
The Boys of Castle Cliff School by R.A.H. Goodyear, Blackie & Son, 1921
Pickles of the Lower Fifth by Rowland Walker, S.W. Partridge & Co., 1921   
The Prefects' Patrol by Harold Avery, James Nisbet & Co., 1922
The Shadow on the School by Frank Elias, Frank, “The Boy’s Own Paper” Office, 1922
The Four Schools by R.A.H. Goodyear, Blackie & Son, 1922       
The Greenway Heathens: A Public School Story by R.A.H. Goodyear, Nisbet & Co., 1922   
A Fifth Form Mystery by Harold Avery, “The Boy’s Own Paper” Office, 1923
Tom at Tollbar House by R.A.H. Goodyear, Blackie & Son, 1923
The Two Captains of Tuxford: A Story of Public School Life by Frank Elias, “The Boy’s Own Paper” Office, 1924   
His Serene Highness: A Public School Story by A.L. Haydon, Robert South Ltd., 1925       
On the Ball: A Football Story by Sydney Horler, Blackie & Son, 1926   
According to Brown Minor, or The Feats of Foozle by Gunby Hadath, Hodder & Stoughton, 1924 (re-issue of The Feats of Foozle)       
The Moreleigh Mascot by Richard Bird, Blackie & Son, 1927   
One of the Best by R.A.H. Goodyear, Nisbet & Co., 1930 (re-issue of The Greenway Heathens)   
Every Inch a Briton by Meredith Fletcher, Blackie & Son, 1933 (re-issue)
Tales of Wrykyn and Elsewhere by P.G. Wodehouse, Porpose Books, 1997

Friday, December 01, 2017

Comic Cuts - 1 December 2017

Just over three weeks until Christmas and I think I'm reasonably well organised as far as pressies and cards are concerned. I've still got to write in the cards and wrap the pressies, but the hard part – the bit where you have to make decisions – is over with. Actually there's one pressie that I'm still waiting on delivery for and another that requires a bit of extra work, but I'm this (I'm holding my finger and thumb about half a centimeter apart) close to finishing.

By rights, I should have had a nice, easy week. That's not what happened. It started out OK. I was posting out some drafts of the Forgotten Authors essays to some folks and getting some very nice feedback, which pepped me up for the weekend.

On Monday I planned to plough through a couple of shorter pieces that will probably not appear until volume 3, but they were amongst the ones that wouldn't require a huge amount of work to bring up to scratch and I wanted to sort out my laptop. If you were here last week, I mentioned that my computer had picked up a virus; thankfully it was isolated and removed pretty quickly, but it did give me pause for thought that my laptop – which is ancient and still runs Windows XP – could probably do with a check as the original antivirus software had run out years ago, and Windows no longer supported Windows XP and wasn't updating  their anti-virus software.

So I picked what looked like a popular choice, Avast, and downloaded it. A terrible mistake. Everything slowed to a snail's pace and attempts to run the programme froze the screen. I had to pull the plug a few times just to get the computer to turn off, risking greater damage to the hard drive than the bugs did. I cleared off just about every file I had on the machine, thinking it may just need some extra space in order to operate. Thankfully, I only use the laptop to watch DVDs in bed and access newspapers online, so dumping old files wasn't a hardship. I cleared half the 56gb drive. Tried to use some of the administrative tools to further clean-up/check the hard drive but Avast wasn't having any of it and froze me out again.

According to them, you have to download a programme to remove the original programme! Which I tried to do, but it wouldn't download. Eventually I used Window's own programme for removing the errant programme. Unfortunately, it has also removed something of use at the same time, as my laptop no longer recognises the external DVD player and I can no longer play DVDs. It does recognise the small stick drive that I bought recently, so I can at least transfer some odds and ends back onto laptop. And the internet still works, which is also useful.

I'm planning to ask a friend for some technical advice on whether I should jettison Windows XP in favour of one of the operating systems available for free. As I said, it only needs to power a DVD drive and allow me to read the internet, so I'm hopeful I can get the machine back up to speed with a more up-to-date operating system that can cope with the latest anti-virus software without crashing the machine.

Tuesday was rather more pleasantly interrupted by my Mum coming over and Wednesday by a trip to the dentist for a check-up (I'm pleased to report that I passed with colours... not flying colours, but definitely not stalling and falling out of the sky colours) and I don't have to go back for another six months. I'm writing this Thursday lunchtime while I'm waiting for someone to come round and redo the felt on the shed roof and fix our shower door... jobs which he'd already been paid for (by our landlady, not by me) two months ago.

Despite the disruption I've still managed to add a couple of essays to the total, so we've reached 27 out of 50 and 109,305 words. I've also finished the cover to the first e-book, which is our column header. I should have that book finished next week, if all goes to plan and I'm already well under way with the second volume which I think is only two essays shy of being finished. Plus a bit of tidying up. And then some rewriting, designing and proofing. Oh, and a cover. So that'll be ready early next year.

Random scans. East meets west...