Tuesday 29 April 2014


This may seem like an unusual topic but I'm a fan of many things and will be telling you about them over the next few months. Today the topic is football.
No-one appears to be exactly sure about Bill Shankly’s oft-quoted words when he was manager of Liverpool from 1959 to 1974, but this version is widely quoted.  ‘Some people believe that football is a matter of life and death ….. I can assure you, that it’s much more important than that.’

When I was writing the blurb to describe myself for the publisher of my first novel, Sporting Chance, I put that I could usually be found crying about my favourite football team – well, this afternoon that was certainly true as Cardiff City went down 4-0 to Sunderland and will now probably be relegated back to the Championship. It is hard for anyone who isn’t a football fan, or sports fan in general, to understand how being a fan can get under your skin but it can and when they lose it hurts, especially if they’ve been unlucky.
The picture shows Cardiff in happier days when they were promoted last year.

I wasn’t always a Cardiff City fan despite having been born only a few miles away, but I‘ve always loved watching the beautiful game. One Saturday, back in 1977, I went to a FA Cup match with my friend Linda and her dad. It was the 4th round and Cardiff were at home to Wrexham. I went vaguely supporting Wrexham – anyone but Cardiff – but by the end of a thrilling game, which Cardiff won 3-2 in the last minute, I was a fan and for the next two years I went to every home game, come rain or shine until I left to go to university. Cardiff, along with Leeds United, became the team I followed. At this stage I should point out that one of the main reasons I went to Leeds University was so I could go and watch them at Elland Road!
This is the day Leeds won the FA Cup in 1972. I started supporting Leeds around 1968/9. Then, and during the early 70s, they were the best team around. The men in the picture are Allan (Sniffer) Clarke who scored the only goal, David Harvey, Billy Bremner (Captain) and Jack Charlton, brother of Bobby.

If you’re a real fan you stay with your team come hell or high water and supporting Cardiff and Leeds means I’ve seen a lot of both. From your seat you play every ball, shout at the referee, point out the man on his own out to the left or right ready to make a run down the wing, put your head in your hands when the ball hits the post or the bar and generally live every moment.  Today isn’t the greatest of days to be a Cardiff fan but deep in my heart I know that someday soon there will be a better time. This is what keeps you hanging on – the hope, no matter how small that things will be better.

Thursday 3 April 2014

Why I started writing

When I was very young – primary school age – I used to make up stories, usually involving me and the team from Scooby-Doo. We were encouraged by one particular teacher – Mrs Hicks – to tell these stories to each other. I also used to go to other classes with younger pupils when the teacher was absent and tell the stories there to keep the children amused. Can you imagine a ten year old being left in charge of a group of seven year olds today? Well, back in the 1960s and early 70s it happened and that experience informed my career choice.

As a teacher I also loved telling stories. It is not surprising that I chose History as my subject. I loved stories of people and events from the past, especially those amazing coincidences that happened that changed the world – Martin Luther putting his 95 complaints on a door and creating a new religion even though that was never his intention. Gavrilo Princip choosing to get a coffee and sandwich at the same time as the driver took Franz Ferdinand the wrong way and the two meeting on that corner changing the world nearly one hundred years ago.

I’d also tell stories about my own family to illustrate various things – especially the effects of poverty in the early twentieth century. The effects of early death, illegitimacy, having no contraception, suicide and infant mortality all affected my family They say that the past is another country but for me the past has always been endlessly fascinating.

Anyway, as usual I digress because that is a habit of mine. So I told lots of stories about things that had happened to myself and my family over the years and to other people I knew. The students said I had a story for every occasion, which was largely true and if I didn’t have one, I could make one up!

That brings me to the writing and what made me start. On 9th July, 2009 at around 9.45 pm someone died. This was not a real person; his name was Ianto Jones and he was one of the leading characters in Torchwood, a BBC science-fiction programme created as a spinoff to Doctor Who. The main character was Captain Jack Harkness who I’d fallen in love with from the moment he uttered the words ‘excellent bottom’. Jack and Ianto were lovers. You’ve got to understand that this was a programme on BBC1 at 9pm, the top slot, and the story wasn’t about them being gay, it was about the Earth being attacked by aliens.
I loved Jack and Ianto and then they killed him, just like that. I wasn’t one of those people who complained to the BBC, I decided to write instead. You see I’d discovered fanfiction for the first time and thought I can do that. So I wrote my first story, what became known as a CoE fix-it story. My story was called Consequences. I put it on fanfiction.net and people read it. I wrote two follow up stories – The Gift and The Returning. I found I couldn’t stop. Now I’ve written somewhere between fifty and sixty Torchwood stories. I started to post on livejournal and began to make online friends amongst the other writers. These people encouraged my writing for which I will be eternally grateful. I also discovered other forums at this time and made more online friends who became very important to me, as they are today. Then I decided to try my hand at writing original stuff. I began writing a story in my spare time that I called Sporting Chance. It took me three years to finish it and now it is going to be published which is very exciting. Writing has now become my full time job – sometimes it’s a joy and sometimes it’s very hard work but it is totally addictive. So thank you Russell T. Davies – I wouldn’t have said that at the time but killing Ianto Jones led me to here. Now, if you ever fancy making a drama about a gay rugby player who falls for a teacher I know a good story you could adapt!