Monthly Archives: October 2015

Visiting Rollie


Nobler men
May yet redeem our clay
When we and war together
One wise day
Have passed away.


St. Nicholas, North CotesWar gravesIf you’ve been paying attention* then you’ll know that as well as my ongoing medieval saga The Raven’s Wing and my regular gig over on Daily Picspiration I am putting together a biography of Rollie Buckolz, an American airman who hitch-hiked five hundred miles to join the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1940, way before the USA joined the second world war, so that he could come over here and fight for freedom. Although I suspect he was beguiled more by a sense of adventure than by any feelings of duty.

HeadstoneThose who died youngRollie is buried a long way from his South Dakota home, in the churchyard of St. Nicholas Church in North Cotes, Lincolnshire, where his squadron was based in World War II. Yesterday I drove across the country to visit him.

*although there’s absolutely no reason why you should have been, let’s face it.

Lincoln Pubs

The Lion & SnakeI spotted these two pubs while visiting Lincoln yesterday. More about that later, but I did wonder whether there was a connection between these two. Or maybe I missed a pub called simply ‘The Lion’?The Witch & Wardrobe

Jingly balls! Time for Twanta2015

Doodle and Wombat enjoy last year's Twanta Fancy Dress PartyJingly balls, jingly balls, jingly all the way. It’s time for #TWANTA2015 to shove a tree up a fairy’s frock and display his shiny balls for the sixth time. For the uninitiated, it was all @captain_doodle’s idea. Those taking part in Twanta send a cheap but fun gift to someone that I nominate, possibly a complete stranger, and in return they receive a similar pressie from someone else. TWitter secret sANTA, see? As usual I’ll link you to the blog post from @davidtims from a few years ago which beautifully sums up the spirit of Twanta.

FOR NOW, TELL ME IF YOU WANT TO TAKE PART so that I can add you to the Master Wallchart here at Twanta Central. I’ll give people a couple of weeks to join. You’ll receive the name of your Twantee shortly after that. While I’m in the States over November the redoubtable @captain_doodle will ensure the smooth running of the whole operation.

Those of you who are old hands will know all this already, but for the sake of completeness here’s a reminder of how the whole thing works.

One of last year's impressive gifts.Star You must have specifically asked me, and I must have confirmed that you’re taking part before you can join in. I reserve the right to reject anyone that I suspect of being dodgy. This is an attempt to avoid the slight wobble that happened several years back for two of our lovely twantadors (see below for a glossary of terms).

Star Make sure you follow @twanta2015. He (it’s me really, but don’t tell the little tweeters. Let’s not spoil the magic, eh?) will follow you back. DM your address to him so that he can pass it on to your own Secret Twanta. We do remember some of your addresses from last year, but did delete all the addresses of those who asked. If the Twitter Unfollow Bug has caused @twanta2015 to unfollow you, let us know so that we can correct that.

One of last year's impressive gifts.Star Tell us if there are any mortal enemies that you don’t want to be paired with. We don’t want to be responsible for any “INCIDENTS”. You can also let us know any special requests (e.g. if you’re allergic to chocolate, or perhaps you don’t want to post anything to a different country). We are a benign Santa, and will accept all reasonable requests.

Star Very occasionally things go awry, and when that happens Twanta Fairies step in to send a gift at short notice. Please also let us know if you would be happy to be a volunteer Fairy, should any be required (though that’s not very likely).

One of last year's impressive gifts.Star Once @twanta2015 has everyone’s address, he’ll DM you to let you know for whom you are buying a gift (grammar), together with their address. You might want to spend a little while researching their timeline to find out a little bit about them. Yes, that’s a bit stalkery, but you’ll be able to make your gift a bit more personalised that way.

Star Buy a pressie for your twantee (as the recipients have somehow come to be known) and send it to them. Mark the envelope #TWANTA so they know what it is. Let @twanta2015 know that you’ve posted it (so we can keep track in case anything goes missing). It’s entirely up to you whether to remain anonymous or to expose yourself.

One of last year's impressive gifts.Star Do NOT buy hugely expensive pressies (unless you’re buying for me, obv). Small, fun and imaginative is the rule of thumb, but don’t send an actual thumb. That would be hideous. I recommend spending no more than a tenner, though that of course is up to you. The photographs accompanying this post are of some previous gifts, should you need inspiration.

Star When you receive your #TWANTA pressie, again let @twanta2015 know. Challenge yourself to wait until Christmas Eve or Day to open the thing. Harness your willpower, grasshopper.

Star When your willpower fails, take a photo of your gift ready to post on Christmas Day or Boxing Day (that’s the day after, US peeps). Include the hashtag #TWANTA2015 so that we can collect all the pics posted and put them on a special Pinterest board.

Have fun, and if it all goes tits up, remember that it was originally all the idea of that @captain_doodle, and castigate him mercilessly, not me oh no leave me alone.

An epistletoeTwantionary

Having trouble separating your twanta from your twantee? Completed your trifecta yet? Got no bloody idea what I’m talking about? Then this section will save you from social embarrassment akin to leaving the Ladies with your skirt tucked into the back of your knickers.

Gift with a bow TWANTA – this word has two meanings. Firstly it is the all-encompassing name for the whole cosy event itself, although usually with the relevant year attached to its tail. Secondly, the Twanta is the person sending a gift. It is the Twanta’s own choice whether or not to remain secret.

Gift with a bow TWANTEE – the person receiving said gift, with a smile and a song.

Gift with a bow TWANTADOR – general term for anyone taking part.

Gift with a bow TRIFECTA – the magic three milestones achieved by a Twantador who has (1) sent a gift, (2) learned that it has arrived, and (3) received their own.

Gift with a bow TWUMBUG – a dirty rapscallion who fails to send a gift as promised.

Gift with a bow FAIRY – a good-hearted TWANTADOR who volunteers to step in and provide a gift at short notice for anyone who falls victim to a TWUMBUG.

Gift with a bow TWANTAVERSE – every bloody thing to do with Twanta. Constantly expanding.

Gift with a bow EPISTLETOE – a hand-written letter included with the gift to add a virtual Christmas kiss and a personal touch. Not to be confused with Camel Toe, which is something entirely different.

Fancy a quickie?

Click to buyClick to buyI’ve recently put up a couple of quick reads on Kindle for just 99p each. One of the good things* about Kindle is the ability to publish single short stories. This is handy for tales that are too long for the blog, yet too short to be called a novella. I’m thinking about the 5k to 10k words range here.

Tooth and Claw tells of genderless dragons and how a dentist challenges their dominion over a subjugated humankind. Descent is a story of what happens to a pilot thrown out of his Lancaster bomber at twenty thousand feet without a parachute (eek!). Descent also includes my brief WW2 tale, Rescue.

Oh, and I suppose I did collect my short Christmassy stories into a Kindle-only format too, in Red Christmas. Actually, maybe I should start pimping that again soon. Thanks for the reminder.

Eventually I suppose that these worthy tales will make their way into a new anthology, a successor to my collection Blood on the Ground, but until then, why not treat yourself to a good read for way less than the price of a tepid coffee?

*One of the bad things is that I can’t make the stories free. I’ll be investigating Smashwords soon.


38b60a1dd10d7c61276699fb46969845Oooh, research into medieval pies (shut up) has led me to this recipe for veal & cherry pie. I may be forced to bake one purely for research purposes. Think I’ll serve it with hot peascods.

“Chawettys.—Take buttys of Vele, & mynce hem smal, or Porke, & put on a potte; take Wyne, & caste þer-to pouder of Gyngere, Pepir, & Safroun, & Salt, & a lytel verþous, & do hem in a cofyn with ȝolkys of Eyroun, & kutte Datys & Roysonys of Coraunce, Clowys, Maceȝ, & þen ceuere þin cofyn, & lat it bake tyl it be y-now.”

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