Thursday, 31 December 2015

1st reprint is here!

I am very much relieved to be able to report that the 1st reprint has arrived. I went over to Peterborough yesterday to pick up a few books and everything's looking good for the mail-out next week. There are still quite a few people whose email addresses aren't working for me, so here is the information about the delivery from the email I've just been sending out to everyone:
  • The fulfilment company is packaging and posting the books out next week (unless anyone has asked for it to be delayed going out). They are starting on 4th January and are aiming to get all orders out by 7th January, so your order will be with you very soon.
  • Each book is going as a 2nd Class small parcel, so a bit of time needs to be allow for it to get through in the post (though usually in my experience it doesn’t take much more time if any than 1st Class).
  • If anyone have ordered more than one book, each one will be coming in a separate package (don’t ask me how the Royal Mail works out that it is vastly more expensive to send one parcel than two parcels when the weight is exactly the same!).
If anyone has any problems with their order, please email me on (So far the major issue seems to have been a few orders going to Blackburn postcodes not turning up, and I’m wondering if that has anything to do with the floods).
And a bit of other news:
  • I’m currently waiting to hear when the 2nd reprint is going to be delivered – and am hoping I don’t run out of the 1st reprint before it arrives. 
  • I’ve been contacted by someone from Waterstones and hope to organise getting a load of the 2nd reprint into their shops, and maybe a book tour to talk about my project. Apparently my book caused quite a scene & was the talk of Christmas.
  • I will be looking to get out on the road to give presentations on my project from February 2016 onwards. If you can get me an audience, whether it be in a school or a village hall or a lecture theatre, please do get in touch. See for more information.
  • Sadly the last day of my exhibition in Ypres is this Sunday, 3rd January. I am looking for a venue to host it in the UK – see for more details of what the exhibition involves, including the floor plan. It is not a small exhibition, and requires proper infrastructure in terms of security/insurance/technical support/etc in order to put it on. If you know of a venue that you think might be suitable and might be interested, I’d be grateful if you could write to them and let them know about what I’ve done. It seems to be rule of life that people pay more attention when other people blow your trumpet than if you blow your own.
Thank you to everyone for their interest & for their patience, and I hope the book lives up to expectations.

All the best for 2016,


Friday, 18 December 2015

Delivery news and more

Most important news up front:

  • I’ve paid a fulfilment company to package and post all the 500 books that arrived on pallets from Belgium yesterday (it was just too much to handle for me and my elves - it was OK to ask for emergency help for the first big load but I wouldn't have any friends if I asked them to continue into the thousands that have got to go out). I've just heard that all 500 are in the post and have just emailed the recipients to let them know they're on the way.
  • The reprint is arriving on 30th December and again I'm paying the fulfilment company to get them in the post as early as possible - they're starting work on that on 4th January.
  • In case people are not checking my blog, I'll be doing another email out to everyone waiting for orders and I'm just working on an exclusive item that you can print out so that your loved ones have something to distract them from the fact that they haven't got their present.
  • With all the efforts to get the parcels in the post this week, I've got very behind in responding to emails - I will do my best to catch up over the next few days.
  • I've had quite a number of requests to sign books and I'm afraid that hasn't proved possible in most cases - other people are getting the books out of the boxes and packing them for posting, and so I'm not anywhere near them with a pen when they're being packed - and that's even more the case when they're going out via the fulfilment company.
  • I've been discovering the hoops I need to go through in order to get the book into major bookshops - and it sounds like it's going to be some weeks before that gets sorted out.
  • This has all been a very steep learning curve, going from a small cottage industry (literally) to a mass-dispatch operation. I've been making mistakes but getting better at doing certain things. And it's been interesting (!) having to deal with both Amazon & Paypal wondering what on Earth's been going on and wanting me to prove that I'm legit and have got everything in hand.
  • One of the biggest barriers to getting this many parcels out quickly has been sorting out the postage for each one. No longer can you just order a vast number of stamps and then just stick them on each parcel as you do them. And without access to a franking machine, you have to either go up to a Post Office counter and get them to print out postage stickers for each parcel (not practical with 600 parcels, particularly at Christmas time), or you have to print out your own labels via the Royal Mail website - and even at full steam I was struggling to do more than 50 an hour. And then when you've printed out the label it's got to go in the post on the next working day, and with this volume you've got to get them to the sorting office before 3 pm. And it's been difficult to farm this out because everything's coming through my email and only I know what's what. So I've done the lot and not much sleeping has occurred this week (how on Earth does Santa manage to do it and still maintain his Ho Ho Ho rosy cheeks?).
Looking back on this last 10 days I've been thinking of what I could have done differently to be better prepared. There are certainly some things that could have been in place, but others would have required the spending of a lot of money on things like packaging which may have ended up unused. I really had no realisation that the response was going to be anything like this. Just because you go on the radio doesn't guarantee that anything's going to happen more than people listening to what you're saying if you're lucky. I had no idea how much Jeremy Vine had bought into my book until we were talking on air, and there was no way I could have predicted that he would make a statement like “Honestly I can't recommend it enough – the whole year we've done different books on this show but this is the one that is just so powerful”. In the end, life throws all sorts of things at you - you can't prepare for it all and you just have to do your best in dealing with everything that comes your way. And that is easier when I've had the support of some very special people and the kind understanding of so many of Jeremy Vine's lovely listeners. Thank you.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Reprint date & other news

I've been given a date for delivery of the reprint. It'll be arriving here in Norfolk on 30th December. I am going to looking to find a fulfilment company to send it out because at the rate things are going the whole 3000 run is going to sell out by then and I want to make sure it gets out promptly for everyone to receive their books at the beginning of the New Year. I couldn't order a bigger run because there wasn't enough of the right quality paper available. So I have already ordered another reprint for the New Year - it's just a question of how big to go. I'd like to get ahead of the game so that I can get Amazon and booksellers to handle all this and enable me to get my life back! As soon as I know the plan, I'll put it in another post.

And now a big Thank You. Over the last couple of days I've sent out emails to thousands of people who have ordered the book in order to let them know what is happening with their order. This task has been made easier by the hundreds of supportive replies - really a wave of warmth and enthusiasm and encouragement that has carried me along. Thank you all so much - I'd love to be able write and thank you all individually (and maybe I will once this tsunami has flattened out) but for now I would just like to let you know how enormously grateful I am.  I am getting regularly overcome with emotion at the kindness and the lovely things that people are writing to me - it is what is getting me through what is an incredibly exhausting time. Something that particularly moved me was a man wrote that he was happy to wait - and that it is the first book that he has bought for himself - at the age of 65! Now that is quite an honour for me as a first time author.

If you have made an order and haven't heard from me with a note of when you can expect your delivery, please email me at - there have been several email addresses that have been incorrectly typed into Paypal which has rather slowed things down with emails not going out or bouncing back.

I'm behind with dealing with enquiries and modifications to orders and refunds for a small number of people who needed the book as a Christmas present. I've got to spend the next couple of days getting out the books that I have now. Things have been hampered by problems with getting supplies of cardboard book envelopes - our supplier sent 1500 which were too small and then the replacements were also too small - we'd sent the right measurements but their database had inaccurate measurements from the manufacturers of the products. Anyway, we're on it now and a load of books are going out on Monday 14th & Tuesday 15th. The pallet of 500 books from the Museum is being delivered on Thursday morning and I'm aiming to get them out for the last posting date before Christmas which is Saturday 19th.

Finally, some more Thanks:

  • Jeremy Vine, of course, for his genuine and wholehearted support for what I'm doing.
  • Manu & Petra at for seemingly doing the impossible and arranging the reprint for 30th December.
  • Mark at for organising getting the pallet of books over from the Museum.
  • Piet & Annick at for their generosity and arrangements at the Museum.
  • Jane & Martin at for their decision-making & problem-solving & inspiration & facilities & contacts to get everything worked out.
Better get back to sorting out some issues that have come in via email...

Friday, 11 December 2015

Overwhelming response

OK, it's early on Day 3 after the Jeremy Vine Show, and here is the current situation. I have had so many book orders that I have had to order a reprint and I'm depending on friends to help me fulfil the orders that I have. It seems amazing when I look back at the first post I made on this blog just over a month ago: - at that time I had just added this blog to my website and I was finding it difficult to get anyone to engage with what I'd done. That is something I have become used to throughout my project: it has mostly been me working away on my own & struggling to get any response from anyone. The book was only on sale through the Museum shop alongside the exhibition in Belgium and from me via Amazon and via my website at It was a good day if I managed to sell 2 books. I had a set-up that could deal with that - a small stock of packaging and me on my computer corresponding with people.

I was hoping for some interest as a result of going on the Jeremy Vine Show, but I was not prepared for the overwhelming response, both in terms of numbers but also in the heartfelt nature of what I have been reading in emails to me. It has been quite a revelation to find that what I have done means so much to all the thousands of people who have been in touch with me. And I am having to work out how to deal with this on an hour-by-hour basis.

So here's what's happening: 
  • I have now received enough packaging to send out all the books I've got, and I'm producing labels ready for a packing session with friends
  • I'm trying to organise getting 500 copies of the book over from the Museum in Belgium up to Norfolk so that I can post them out.
  • I am trying to think a way of handling all the correspondence and let everyone know what is going on - any suggestions welcome!
  • I have ordered the reprint. The first print run took 3 weeks to do and being new to this I expected the reprint to be less because a lot of the origination work had been done. I have just found out from the book designer that the minimum print deadlines for such a big and quality book (to get it as good as it should be) is 14 days (paper in, printing, drying, assembling, cutting, finishing, transport, etc, etc). And there is the added problem that we are heading into Christmas, with printers having other jobs and holidays to be taken. I am hoping to hear today of a delivery date, but it is going to be after Christmas, and possibly at the beginning of the New Year.
I am extremely aware that people are hoping to receive their book orders as soon as possible.If anyone has ordered & can't wait, please let me know & I will sort out a refund. That said, I absolutely promise you that all orders will be fulfilled & I will do my very best to get them out to everyone as soon as possible.

This year I have been working all hours to get the exhibition and book ready. I took unpaid leave from my job to do so and have had no income all year. It is only through the generosity of my parents and the support of family and friends that I've been able to keep going. It has been incredibly moving to see how these family and friends are supporting me now to sort all of this out. And sort it out we will. I am very grateful for the supportive emails I've been getting from people who've ordered the book saying that they are prepared to wait.

The most important thing for me is to communicate what I have learned through doing this project. Every human being is unique and deserves a chance for a peaceful and fulfilled life. We live in troubled times and new approaches are needed to make a future in which the horrible things that happened to the men in the Group Photograph do not happen to all of us. A book isn't going to sort that out but I hope that enough people read it and act on what they read to make their own bit of difference to the World.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Jeremy Vine Show!

Well, it has been an extraordinary day. If you haven’t heard today’s Jeremy Vine Show, you can listen at – I’m on from 01:39:56 – and I am so grateful to Jeremy Vine for giving such a ringing endorsement of my book – to such an extent that by the time I checked my email an hour after leaving the BBC studio in Norwich (more like a broom cupboard with a microphone in it) I had 600 emails, most of which were orders for the book. And it’s kept going, I’ve now had over 1600 emails, most of which are orders for the book and I’ve had to order a reprint and some very kind friends up here are mobilising to help me send out what I’ve got at the moment. And of course, as always I’ve had loads of people saying my exhibition should be at the Imperial War Museum – but as I've been told that’s not going to happen I’m still on the look-out for a venue in the UK.

I just came back from my latest visit to Ypres yesterday, having had a very good meeting with the folk at the Museum in Ypres. They are very happy with the exhibition (in fact on Sunday they showed a visiting party connected with the Museum at Loos, who insisted on having their photo taken with me amongst many exclamations of “Bravo!” and “Formidable!”), but have gone rather a lot over budget – in the end the bill is over 130,000 euros, even before the take-down and the return of the artefacts to the families. So I am not getting a fee – my aim was to get the exhibition to be the best it could be and I preferred the money to go to the exhibition rather than to me, and I will get some recompense from sales of the book and from putting on the exhibition elsewhere. As well as the book, I’m getting whatever can be salvaged from the exhibition (which is most things except the stickers of the photomontages etc that are stuck to the re-usable panels), including the 7 intro films and the new group photo video and of course the big banner of the group photograph at the beginning of the exhibition. They are paying for the van to bring that all back to the UK in January along with the artefacts for return to the families.

It’s now pretty quiet at the Museum – things are winding down for Christmas, but also the terrorist attacks have led to a big decrease in visitors, not least because a lot of coach parties from the UK have cancelled. Hopefully they’ll get a mini-surge of people who’ve heard about it on the Jeremy Vine Show. They deserve it – they took a risk on me when others wouldn’t and it’s been fantastic for all of us when we see the response of those people who have seen it for themselves. I’ve lived with it for so long that it takes seeing it through a new visitor’s eyes for me to remember how extraordinary the whole thing is.

It’s past half-past midnight, and people are still ordering the book! And I need some sleep to deal with the days ahead...

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Article in the EDP

Thank you to Kathryn Cross for interviewing me and putting together a double-page spread in the Eastern Daily Press. If you'd like a look, the digital version is at and the print version is at

Monday, 16 November 2015

Cambridge TV interview

On Armistice Day I went into the studios of Cambridge TV for an interview. Thank you to Karen Thomas and the team who made me feel very welcome and did a great job of editing to include some pictures of the exhibition and illustrate the stories that I was talking about. You can see the interview at

Monday, 9 November 2015

A day is a long time in book publicity

Last week I went to visit a book shop in Holt to see if they would like to stock my book. The first question I received was "Is it connected to Norfolk?" and when I answered "No", I soon realised that I wasn't going to get much further. No attempt at persuasion led to an iota of budge and in the end I accepted I was in the presence of a closed mind encircled by a brick wall, so picked up the box of my beautiful books and left.

This in microcosm is what I have faced throughout this project. There are a lot of people who think that because the men in the group photograph aren't famous then they won't be of interest to anyone but those with some kind of material connection to them. "Well, I suppose their families must be pleased with what you've done" or "Have you shown this to people in Berkshire?" or "The Regimental Museum must be interested". It's as if people see that what I'm doing is family history and military history and immediately decide that it is therefore like all the other family history and military history they know. The fact is, though, that when people actually do see what I'm doing (rather than what they think I'm doing), they are surprised. OK, the stories are of specific men and specific families from specific places doing specific things, but some of those stories are good stories whoever they're told about, and I have used all of the stories to make things that are aimed at connecting with all of us who step upon this strange planet with its mysteries and compulsions and horrors and opportunities. In amongst traditional means of showing history, I make use of technology to tell old stories in new ways, allowing connections to be made that are not generally seen. I have very few answers but I hope that what I do stimulates interesting questions. And it is gratifying when I get the sort of effusive reaction that so many people have given me when they have been to one of my presentations or seen the exhibition or the book.

Being human, it is somehow easier to hold on to the knockbacks - particularly when I've been hearing the same things for over 21 years (repetition makes the heart growl longer). So I would be dishonest to say that when I left the bookshop in Holt I did not feel a mite despondent. By this advanced age, I should have learned that life can go up as well as down, but still it was a welcome surprise to open my post the next morning and find a letter from Melvyn Bragg containing the phrase "It's a magnificent book". I know one is supposed to treat triumph and disaster just the same, but it would seem churlish not to allow me just a hint of basking glee.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

The First Post

Have you any idea of how difficult it is to get people to get publicity for an exhibition? At the moment I have an exhibition out in Ypres in Belgium. It fills a hall two full tennis courts in size. The response to the exhibition from visitors has been fantastic. And there are quite a lot of visitors - even before the Centenary of the First World War, In Flanders Fields Museum was getting 400,000 visitors a year. Pretty well every pilgrim to the battlefields, whether on an organised tour or with their school or on their own, visits the Museum. But visitors to the Museum don't necessarily have the time or the energy to go to the temporary exhibition as well as the permanent exhibition, and there are people who would get something out of my exhibition who are not First World War pilgrims or there are people who have done their tour to the battlefields and won't necessarily be going again - and how do I reach them?

Unfortunately I wasn't in the position to do much in the way of publicity before the opening - it has been full-on all year with preparations - creating the artwork and putting together the book and making arrangements for the Gathering of the families for the New Group Photograph and the opening of the exhibition. I didn't have any pictures of the exhibition to use in publicity because the exhibits didn't get built until the week before the opening - and there was no point sending out some of the components of the exhibits because it is the scale of the big installations that is original and has the particular impact.

What has happened since the opening? Well, the press in Belgium didn't provide much coverage. There was an article in the local press where the journalist didn't contact me at all but just cobbled something together from the previous version of my Group Photo website (with added inaccuracies) and used my photo from Facebook to illustrate the article. An article in the national press, Het Nieuwsblad, focussed on the taking of the new Group Photograph but made no mention of the exhibition or even of the Museum. And other than listings in What's On guides, that appears to be it. 

Now I am trying to get something happening over on this side of the Channel. As an outsider to the media, it's difficult to get any response at all. I had nibbles from someone at The Guardian and from someone at the BBC but I was obviously using the wrong bait and they weren't hooked. I've had more success with local media. Last night I was interviewed on BBC Radio Norfolk's drivetime show - it's up on iPlayer until 3rd December 2015 - see - my bit is from 01:44:59 for about 10 minutes. I was speaking on Skype so I sound like I'm speaking from inside a metallic box but otherwise I thought Matthew Gudgin introduced me really well and asked just the right sort of questions to enable me to get across the essence of my project.

Today I've had more encouragement, with a contact from a journalist on the Eastern Daily Press who would like to do a feature.

Friends have suggested The One Show and Saturday Live. I've so far had no response, but in my experience it's better to have other people blow your trumpet than to blow your own, so if you'd like to have a go via their contact forms on then that would be fantastic.

Again I learn the lessons of my project: be persistent & never give up, and go with what is working and see where it leads.