Sunday, 5 February 2017

A bleak midwinter + the joy of surprises

I've just had a phone call from Martin Middlebrook. His book 'The First Day on the Somme' was a key inspiration in my wanting to find out more about my family's involvement in the First World War and so last year I had sent him a copy of my book. Unfortunately he was in the middle of a house move and as well as complications with getting the book released by the Post Office, a helping hand had packed it into one of many boxes and it was only now that he had discovered it during the unpacking. It was a light on a grey day to hear him say, "I give you my highest level of congratulation. It's a beautiful piece of work" - and it prompted me to think I might do some writing today, given that I haven't done an update since early December.

I'm currently working away at the animated photomontage as described in previous posts. It has been very laborious and fiddly, and as per usual I have been testing the limits of what my computer can do. Sometimes this leads to incredible frustration as my video editor decides not to play ball and either falls over or produces output different from that which it shows in its preview window - but I seem to manage to find get-rounds to the problems and it is gradually coming together. I've got the backbone of the thing done, and now I am tinkering to get the look and the feel right. Not long to go now until the exhibition in Norwich (see p.10 of I've got an idea to include film of the empty field in which the group photograph was taken, and plan to head down to Wiltshire at some point - and am currently on the hunt for a camera capable of shooting 4K video if anyone's got one they can lend me?

I've been spending long winter hours at my computer with varying degrees of belief that it will work out, whilst trying not to think too much about the fact that I'm not really selling any books at the moment. I sold 357 books in the month up to Christmas but in the 6 weeks since then total sales have been 39 (which includes 10 sold at the presentation I gave in Fakenham in January). I have a long term plan that I think will work out and I'm trying to hold onto that idea as I wrestle with my recalcitrant video editor. That said, I've had ideas for variations to my current plan. Firstly, I'm coming round to the idea that I should put some effort into finding an agent and then a publisher for my next book rather than continuing to try doing everything myself. And secondly I'm wondering if there might be mileage in approaching the Arts Council or other funding body to see about organising getting copies of my book into the hands of history & art teachers & into school libraries.

Another more left field strategem I've been putting into action is an attempt to get onto a TV quiz show. I can't give more details at the moment, but I had the audition yesterday and it went really well. My previous attempt at similarly raising my profile was certainly an adventure if nothing else (see and there are some people for whom that still has more significance than anything-else I've done (!). Whatever, it's good to have other things on the horizon to dream about.

Back to Martin Middlebrook and it really was a joyful surprise to find him on the other end of the phone today. It's brilliant that things can just come out of the blue to brighten one's world view, particularly given the power of the internet to share and make connections. Here are a few other recent joyful surprises:

And finally, I must share what someone said about animated film after the presentation I gave in Fakenham. He said it made him feel "both mortal and immortal at the same time" which has got to be one of the best things that anyone has said about it. Being a human being is full of paradoxes and the idea he expressed is central to so much of what I do. I've got to say it was also priceless to see the open-mouthed astonishment on his wife's face, as if he had never before said anything so profound and she was wondering if he was indeed the man she had married.


  1. Congratulations! A well-deserved accolade from the great man himself is indeed an honour... one I've been unable to claim for myself (in spite of living in Boston - Martin's home-town and the town he's recently returned to - and having his niece as our postie. I'm rather envious!

  2. Thanks, Tim - how funny about his niece! I see you are not unaccustomed to the publishing industry...

  3. Great to see that I provided your 25th 5* review on Amazon Andrew. The Norwich exhibition will be from 13th March to 1st April - is that right?
    Maggie Stableford

    1. Yes, that's right - I'll be doing a further update in a blog post some time this week.

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