What a lovely pile of books

printed booksIt’s a splendid the feeling, as an author, of seeing a pile of your books in print. Even more so when you know all those printed books are going to (hopefully…) good homes. Even when you plan on giving them all away.

This is a bundle of printed copies of my new book, The English Tenses Practical Grammar Guide – a short reference that covers the aspects of English, for English learners. With colourful pictures and examples. It’s a specialised book, for foreign students reaching towards fluency (and for the eminently curious) – but I think its nice matt cover and fantastic artwork would make it desirable on any bookshelf. Maybe I’m biased, though.

I did a print run of these books specifically to be given away – each of these copies will be offered as part of upcoming promotions over the next few months. If you’re interested in being in with a chance of winning yourself a copy, be sure to follow me on Goodreads for updates, or (important if you’re really interested in the world of learning English language!) join my English Lessons Brighton mailing list. Fun times ahead!

The language of cons – an etymology

con man etymologyCon artists and their elaborate cons are rife in fiction and film for obvious reasons. Tales of trickery and the sort of guile it takes to pull off a good con are clear fodder for suave characters, a bit of danger and a good old-fashioned twist in a story. And they’re rich in interesting vocabulary that is, of course, always exciting to pick apart. If you’re into that sort of thing. Part of what makes the language of cons so interesting is that a lot of it has filtered out of criminal, underground and travelling circus slang. Which are areas whose origins aren’t normally well documented. Continue reading

20 of the worst things when making tea

worst tea thingsThere are a lot of things that can go wrong when you’re making a couple of tea. These are some of the worst things that I’ve encountered in my years of tea drinking. This list should go some way to teaching others to avoid making some of the same mistakes I have.  Some of these merely waste your time, others waste valuable resources, such as teabags or milk. All of them, however, have the potential to inspire that most soul crushing feeling: dashing your hopes of having a cup of tea.

Please note these points mostly assume a traditional mug of tea making process, involving a teabag and water in a mug and a splash of milk. There would be additional points typical to those who use a teapot or sugar.

The worst things when making tea

  1. Leaving the tea brewing, going away to do other tasks and returning only when the water is at its stagnant cold worst.
  2. Waiting for the tea to brew, performing other tasks, only to come back and find that you never put the water in the cup.
  3. Attempting to tear two joined teabags apart, only to rip one or both bags and spill the leaves.
  4. Preparing your cup, kettle and milk and discovering there are no teabags left.
  5. Brewing your tea and then discovering there is no milk left.
  6. Pouring water into the cup only to realise you forgot to boil the kettle.
  7. Pouring water into the cup only to discover the teabag has split.
  8. Pouring the kettle too soon, and having the steam rise back over your hand.
  9. Looking away for a moment and turning back to see you’ve added too much milk.
  10. Looking away for a moment and turning back to see you weren’t pouring the water, or milk, into the cup at all. But onto the work surface.
  11. Realising too late that the milk is off. Either as you see the freshly brewed tea populated by unnatural solid white lumps, or, worse, as you take your first sip with the one-two punch of the stench of rot and the taste of festering wounds.
  12. Leaving a spoon in the cup while the tea brews, and attempting to take it out only to discover it has become extremely hot.
  13. Stirring the tea too quickly and causing it to spill.
  14. Picking up your tea but catching your arm or finger on an unseen obstacle, spilling everything.
  15. Removing your hand from the cup handle, but not realising one finger is still partially hooked around the handle, pulling it sideways and creating a spill.
  16. Pouring milk into a herbal tea.
  17. Having the cup or mug split at any point in the process. Worst of all if it comes at the very end, as you pick up the complete tea and empty its contents in a rain of shattered porcelain. Bonus misery points if the tea lands on an electrical appliance.
  18. Stirring the tea and discovering too late that the spoon was dirty.
  19. Drinking the tea and discovering too late, on seeing the bottom of the cup, that the cup was dirty.

Perhaps the worst of all, though, for me, has to be this problem – in part because it happens so terribly often:

Making a complete cup of tea perfectly, then turning your attention to a task and forgetting to drink the tea until it is too late.


Disclaimer: this list was made in the interests of providing a realistic and representative sample of the worst things when making tea. There could, in theory be far worse things, like spilling the scolding tea on a newborn child, or somehow using the tea making process to cause a situation whereby all life in the universe becomes eternally damned to perpetual pain and suffering.

Apocalyptic prophesies in history: the madness of the crowd

apocalyptic prophesies

Every wonder what it was like when people started raving about the end of the world before the age of the internet? Well you’re in luck. On behalf of my post-apocalyptic books website, I’ve been doing some research into apocalypse fears through history, and happened upon a rather interesting book called Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions: The Madness of the Crowd. This tome was written by in 1841, by a Scottish journalist named Charles Mackay, and chronicles a massive number of events driven by the popular delusions of the crowd. Haunted houses, witch-hunts and economic bubbles especially feature – but the prophesies are especially interesting. Here’s a summary of a few from the chapter:

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Brighton’s Victorian sewers: what lies beneath the city

brighton victorian sewers

It’s a commonly known fact that the most interesting places in the world are underground. In some cases, this is because nature sneakily creates vast, weird and wonderful formations of rock and water and whatnot beneath us, unseen. In other cases it’s because man has built impressively intricate subterranean structures that most people don’t even know are there. The latter is the case for Brighton’s Victorian sewers, spanning some 44 miles of tunnels, leaving the hapless souls above clueless as to their existence. Southern Water are noble enough to trudge through with members of the public from time to time, however – so I got a look at what’s down there. Continue reading

An exercise in turning off lights and closing curtains
(thanks Jury’s Inn)

jurys in letter of complaintFortunate as I am to live across from the road from Brighton train station, I am alarmingly close to a large Jury’s Inn hotel. In recent times, a new mattress purchase and an inability to remove my old bed have left me lying in front of my window at night, which drew my attention to how many lights the Jury’s Inn leaves on overnight, for seemingly no reason. Determined to get to the bottom of this, I drafted a few letters to them. I am happy to say the lights are now generally switched off at night, or the curtains are, at least, drawn. Here’s how it went down: Continue reading

Let’s go to the beach: why sunny Brighton is so ideal

brighton crowdAnother proscribed day for sun, and the streets of Brighton swell with the influx of strangers from near and far. They flock to enjoy the fair weather in this idyllic location, this haven of sea and fair-ground novelties, committing to a brave and arduous adventure with high rewards. For those who couldn’t make it to Brighton, I’d like to put you in the traveller’s place, so you, too, can appreciate what a lovely way to enjoy the sun it is:
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The Digital Filmmaking Handbook by Mark Brindle – review

digital filmmaking handbook mark brindle, book review

If you’ve ever wanted a brief introduction to everything you could conceive of relating to digital filmmaking, this is the book for you. It doesn’t look big, but in the space of some 220 pages Mark Brindle has covered the full gamut of modern filmmaking, including what camera to choose, what software to edit in, how to write a convincing a story arch, tips for funding and how to distribute your film. Read it cover to cover and you’ll be able to convince any stranger you meet that you know how to make a film. Continue reading

Andrew and the Pony: comedy review

andrew and the pony, comedy review

Andrew and the Pony is not your comedy act. I wasn’t sure what it was going in myself, having attended on a stranger’s Twitter invite (such is the power of Twitter), though the strangely deformed poster (left) should probably be given a few clues to its surreal nature.

It is, in short, a pony-obsessed narrative. A recounting of a man’s life through the many references in it to his love for small horses. It’s a multimedia escapade, in case an hour of pony-talk sounds too intense, with some emotively absurd music and chilling video scenes thrown in for good measure (though to go into much more detail might spoil it). Continue reading

How my favourite authors have influenced my writing

Favourite author Joseph Heller, inspired my writing.It struck me, as I was tossing from side to side struggling to sleep after eating an ill-advised spicy burrito, that my favourite authors have a lot to answer for in the way I’ve developed my writing style. Feverishly confused about why I wasn’t sleeping, I startled to rattle off single sentences that summarised exactly what I felt I’d got from reading the works of those marvellous writers. Not the specific points of English you could learn in style guides, but the special inspiration that only a successful demonstration can drive home. And, lo, here’s the result of that sleep-deprived thought process: Continue reading