Friday, 26 February 2016

Standing on the edge...

On Monday night I heard that the Daily Mail had decided to run a feature on me and my project, and I have discovered that when they make a decision they don't hang about. So this Saturday 27th February, look out for the Group Photograph and at least 2 pages of story. The feature writer heard me on my second appearance on the Jeremy Vine Show and it's been fabulous how she has so completely connected with my project, and wants to tell the world about it (thank you, Amanda!).

On Wednesday a photographer came up from Slough to take my picture. In the time that I've been working on this project, any DIY on my house has taken a back seat (!) so in order to have a chance of a nice background we met up at my old workplace, Fakenham Library. There was a slight look of bemusement on his face as he had been briefed to tread carefully and do the best he could because I was "old & frail & shy" - hilarious! - I think some wires got seriously crossed on the picture desk and they thought I was one of the men from the group photograph! Luckily for him, I am reasonably able-bodied and we also managed to get outside on a beautiful day and take some other shots in other locations around Fakenham.

There are final checks currently being made for the article, and I am making sure everything is in place to deal with any surge in demand for my book. It is taking a while to get things sorted out with the book trade (in terms of getting it into bookshops), so I am still mainly selling through my website at I am much better prepared than before I went on the Jeremy Vine Show - I have a decent stock of books and a company that is ready and waiting to fulfill all my orders. They have already filled a load of book wraps in preparation for posting, and there is a system in place to enable them to print the labels to send them out to everybody. They are also ready to take on the next reprint, should it be required, which will save time compared to when the printing was being done in Belgium.

It's so difficult to know what's going to happen. Over 1.5 million copies of the Daily Mail are sold every day, and over 15 million read it online. That said, people are not going to be buying Christmas presents (unless they're exceptionally well-organised) and I've discovered that a lot of people think of books as luxuries these days. Whatever happens, I don't think I'm in for a quiet time. I feel as if I'm standing on the edge of a cliff, but I draw strength from some wonderful things that have been said or written about my project recently:
  • I gave a presentation about my project in Fakenham Library last Thursday. Not having stood up in front of people to talk about my project since the beginning of October, I was a bit rusty starting off but I soon got into my stride when I saw the interest on the faces of my audience, and it was lovely to hear their responses when so many came up to talk to me afterwards.
    (And whilst I'm on the subject of presentations, I'm still having difficulty working out how to organise a programme of future events. I've been asked to take part in Who Do You Think You Are? Live in April and the Chalke Valley History Festival in June, and there are still details to be worked out of what I might be exhibiting (and therefore of how much work I'm going to need to do to prepare for them). As soon as I have a clearer idea of that I will be getting in touch to make plans with everyone who's asked. I've got 3 presentations in the next week that were set up before the Jeremy Vine Show, in Mickleham (Surrey), Norwich (Norfolk) & Firle (Sussex) - see for more details.)
  • Patrick Miles has given me a great deal of encouragement ever since he saw my animated film in my shed cinema during Norfolk Open Studios 2006. An article in the Times prompted him to write this post on his blog:  - scroll down to the heading: "Watch this Space 10 February 2016" - not only showing his typically enthusiastic response to my project but also some thoughts about the First World War Centenary commemorations. 
  • Helen Tovey, the editor of Family Tree Magazine, has written the most fantastic review of my book - see It was an absolute joy to see how she so completely got what I've been doing with this project.
  • A friend who read the book last weekend, as well as awarding me the honour of an invitation over for cauliflower cheese, wrote to me saying, "I notice it has the effect of making me want to be a better person.  Not in a good/bad kind of way but in a more honest and relational way to self and others." It’s extraordinary to me to think my book has had that effect, but beautiful. 
And that brings me on to some sad news of someone who showed great kindness and support to me. I first met Donald Stileman's daughter Elizabeth 17 years ago when I visited her to hear her memories of her father. I can picture her with a twinkle in her eye at the welcoming reception for the Gathering of the families in Ypres just before my exhibition opened in September last year. She was so excited to be there and thrilled for me having seen how things had developed over the years. She was the only one of the children of the men in the group photograph who was able to be there, but the fact that she looked fitter than me belied her nearly 85 years. It was terrible news to hear the next morning that she'd fallen on her way back to the hotel and broken her hip, and absolutely typical that she and her husband Tony should think of others when telling me they didn't want everyone-else in the Gathering to know lest it cast a pall over events. I visited her in hospital in Ypres and again typically she was more concerned with how I was bearing up under the stresses of the occasion than about her own situation. I next saw her in November when I met up with her & Tony for lunch in Fakenham and it looked like she was well on the mend, but only a week later she was taken ill with something even more serious and last Wednesday she died. She lived life to the full and was absolutely dedicated to her family who I am sure will miss her terribly. It is shocking how quickly such a vibrant life can be taken away and a reminder to get on with things whilst the going is good. My very best wishes to Tony and her family.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent news about the big newspaper article! I'm wondering if putting out and epub eBook copy would also be a possibility???
    I'm also sorry to hear about Elizabeth. She was a vibrant woman with a perpetual smile on her lovely face and ever so sweet. All my best to Tony and extended family.