Monday, 28 December 2009

A New Book and the Old Year

In the last two weeks leading up to the Christmas period, my latest offering on place names hit the shelves - Gloucestershire Place Names. As in the past the so-called 'blurb' is reproduced here - (Blurb is the technical term for the introduction on the back of the book).

Ever wondered why our towns and villages are so named? Were they a deliberate creation
by our ancestors or did they evolve naturally over time? Which town is named for its early
production of soap? Why would a field be known as Four Days Math? How long have
Barcelona and Montserratt been found in Gloucestershire? And where is there a street
recalling a fat, boisterous and loose woman?
In these pages we examine the origins of the names with which we are otherwise so familiar.
Towns, villages, districts, hills, streams, woods, farms, fi elds, streets and even pubs are examined and explained. The definitions are supported by anecdotal evidence, bringing to life the individuals and events which have influenced the places and the way these names have developed.
This is not just a dictionary but a history and will prove invaluable, not only for those who
live and work in the county, but also visitors and tourists, historians and former inhabitants,
indeed anyone with an interest in Gloucestershire.

Should anyone like to get hold of a copy (signed if you desire), drop me a line and I will provide you with same - remember it's never too early to start buying Christmas presents!

On the subject of the 'season', as this will be my final planned post of 2009, allow me to wish you and yours a Happy 2010 - and let's hope the financial problems which were the major talking point of 2009 are well behind us all very soon.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

An Odd Word

An overheard conversation the other day got me thinking about old words which have fallen out of general use, even within my lifetime. Writing on the subject of place names, I do come across some old terms for creatures with which wa are so familiar.

Many will already be aware of the halcyon being an alternative name for the kingfisher, it is still used by poets and, of course, gave us the phrase of 'halcyon days'. Often seen alongside motorways hunting its prey, the kestrel certainly merits its earlier name of windhover. The badger is invariably named 'brock' and yet to the Saxons broc was the word for a badger. However the fox, invariably named Reynard today, was tradtionally known as Tod. The Old English for a toad also meant a frog, while the eft is still used in crosswords as the alternative name for a newt. Regional words are manyfold. Around the borders between Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, and Lincolnshire I came across several references to a 'nicker' in place names. Although no longer in general use, until quite recently this was the regional name for a woodpecker. I did consider including the names of fish and insects, but discovered these are more numerous than anything.

As this will be my last post before the festive season, may I take this opportunity to wish you and yours everything you would wish for yourselves.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

All Done and Dusted

With every word edited and checked and every image captioned, the final two manuscripts will arrive on the editor's desk this week. An oddly mixed feeling of satisfaction and disappointment at completion, however I hope to have more targets to aim for before my next post. These odd feelings do remind me that I always require a challenge, a deadline, a target. As a child I recall being given a stopwatch for Christmas. The new year saw the start of term and every day I attempted to beat my own best time walking to school. When that became an impossible barrier to break I counted my steps, less each day was the target (as my legs grew longer should have been easy, or that was the theory). Since then I've tried to beat my best score at all kinds of quiz shows and competitions. Hopefully I shall have some more targets to meet before next week.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

As Deadlines Approach

As the season of goodwill approaches, the weight of schedules and deadlines are starting to tip dangerously against me. In the UK the business year fundamentally ends on 23rd December this year, except for retail which will re-open the day after the event.

As far as books go the two final contracts for 2009 are almost complete, indeed will be by this time next week. Of course this will mean no more book contracts to fulfill, however it does not mean no more irons in the fire on the book front, indeed with three different publishers I have eleven proposals currently waiting a response. This may sound a lot but is not something I can't cope with, for I always make sure my deadlines are not something I can't meet - almost without exception my deadlines are not only met but beaten.

Of course not everyone can write as many, most just don't have the time or the desire, although I am sure there are just as many who could produce more. If it were not that I have already done much of the groundwork for most of these proposals I could not hope to submit eleven manuscripts next year.

Note I said three different publishers. I would always advise keeping as many feet in as many doors as is humanly possible. Whislt there is a lot to be said for loyalty, it does not offer as many guarantees or chances as versatility. While it also provides a wealth of experience and helps in the ongoing education of any writer.

Talking of having many strings and a wealth of experience, one man who has shared his knowledge lives not too many miles from away. Nick Dawes has many tips and offers guidance in the form of his blog which can be found at and for those with the desire there are links to a newsletter, Twitter, and Facebook. I would recommend all with an interest in writing to sign up to this most excellent blog.