Book Birds – Friday Night Book Quiz #1

Collage 2020-03-20 16_08_10For everyone who, like me, is missing their pub quiz, for everyone who loves book quizzes … actually, for everyone who’s stuck at home in these strange sad times, here is some entertainment for your Friday night.
Twenty quiz questions about books – with a bird in the answer (Answers after the final question):

1) Who wrote Gulliver’s Travels?

2) What species of bird is Hedwig in the Harry Potter books?

3) Which publishing house published its first book in 1935?

4) Which John Grisham novel was made into a 1993 film starring Julia Roberts?

5) Who wrote Beau Geste?

6) Which best-selling children’s novel was written by Arthur Ransome?

7) Which Jack Higgins novel had a bird in the title?

8) A famous Dashiell Hammett novel featuring detective Sam Spade?

9) Ken Kesey and Robert Gilbraith both wrote books featuring this bird in the title?

10 ) Jung Chang’s book about three daughters of China?

11) Lorry McMurty’s gentle, episodic Western novel made into a TV series?

12) Title of a Henrik Ibsen play?

13) The only bird featured in an Adam Dalgliesh book by P D James?

14) Julian Barnes witty novel investigating the life of Flaubert?

15) Rosemary Sutcliff’s children’s novel featuring Marcus Aquila?

16) Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize willing novel? Made into a film starring Gregory Peck.

17) The bird in the title of an Ian Banks novel – also made into a TV series?

18) The bird in the title of Flora Thompson’s heart-warming portrayal of country-life?

19) An Alastair Maclean thriller made into a film starring Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood?

20) The fourth novel in George R R Martin’s Game of Thrones series?


1) Who wrote Gulliver’s Travels?
Jonathan SWIFT
2) What species of bird is Hedwig in the Harry Potter books?
3) Which publishing house published its first book in 1935?                                                            PENGUIN                                                                                                                                             4) Which John Grisham novel was made into a 1993 film starring Julia Roberts?
5) Who wrote Beau Geste?
6) Which best-selling children’s novel was written by Arthur Ransome?
SWALLOWS and Amazons
7) Which Jack Higgins novel had a bird in the title?
The EAGLE has landed
8) A famous Dashiell Hammett novel featuring detective Sam Spade?
The Maltese FALCON
9) Ken Kesey and Robert Gilbraith both wrote books featuring this bird in the title?
CUKOO (One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest and The Cukoo’s Calling)
10 ) Jung Chang’s book about three daughters of China?
11) Lorry McMurty’s gentle, episodic Western novel made into a TV series?
Lonesome DOVE
12) Title of a Henrik Ibsen play?
The Wild DUCK
13) The only bird featured in the title of an Adam Dalgliesh book by P D James?                          Shroud for a NIGHTINGALE
14) Julian Barnes witty novel investigating the life of Flaubert?
Flaubert’s PARROT
15) Rosemary Sutcliff’s children’s novel featuring Marcus Aquila?
The EAGLE of the Ninth
16) Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize willing novel? Made into a film starring Gregory Peck.
17) The bird in the title of an Ian Banks novel – also made into a TV series?
CROW (The Crow Road)
18) The bird in the title of Flora Thompson’s heart-warming portrayal of country-life?
LARK Rise to Candleford)
19) An Alastair Maclean thriller made into a film starring Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood
Where EAGLES Dare
20) The fourth novel in George R R Martin’s Game of Thrones series?
A Feast for CROWS

OWL (2)

#mencanwriteromance – R J Gould – This Writing Life #18

It is a truth universally acknowledged that most writers of romantic fiction are female. Today, I’m delighted to host a guest blog from R J Gould, talking about his writing life as a male writing in the romance genre.
Over to you, Richard …


R J Gould

Why the twitter hashtag #mencanwriteromance? I use it to wave a flag for the small number of males writing, and for that matter reading, Romance fiction. I’m one of only 1% of the members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association who are men.

Mid-life Follies_3D paperback (1)Actually, I didn’t set out to be a romantic fiction author, I just got placed there because I write about relationships, with my novels character-driven, although of course plot is important, too. I use humour to describe my protagonists’ bitter-sweet journeys in pursuit of frequently second-chance romance, carrying cartloads of baggage as they struggle to balance the pressures of work, friends and families on their tragi-comic search for love.

Here’s a confession. My name is Richard and I’m a coward. An agent suggested I use a female pseudonym to increase my largely female readership. “No way!” I declared with bold pride. “People are going to have to accept me for who I am.” That evening I considered Rebecca, Rosemary, Rachel and Rita before opting for the cowardly compromise of using R J instead of Richard. In retrospect, I should have resisted the change because being a man writing Romance is worth shouting about in that it provides my predominantly female readers with interesting new insights into relationships.

Here’s another confession. I gave in to a suggestion for style of cover, a ChickLitty cartoony type which doesn’t really fit in with what I write – I don’t do lovey-dovey. Two novels later, I was pleased to work with my publisher’s design team to come up with the clean lines for Jack & Jill went Downhill. I’ve kept with the same style for Mid-life follies, the first novel I’ve self-published.

four covers_rjgould (1)I believe that attraction to a cover is the vital first step the reader takes in deciding whether to investigate a novel further, so ultimately the test of whether my preference for untypical Romance designs is wise will be number of sales.

Mid-life follies

Mid-life Follies_3D paperback (1)‘When you look in the mirror, do you see someone young and vibrant like you used to be,’ Liz asks her husband, ‘or old and decrepit like you’re going to be?’

This question is the trigger for Liz’s decision to leave the comfortable family home in Cambridge after twenty-three years of contented marriage. A brisk walk to clear her head of the feeling of being trapped doesn’t work. On a brief escape to the seaside, a wholly out of character one-night fling makes things worse.
A baffled Hugh is left to figure out why his wife has abandoned him. Is she suffering a mid-life crisis? Is he experiencing the same affliction?
A succession of twists and turns prevents a restoration to the normality that the couple increasingly crave as their children, parents and friends discover that immaturity is not solely the preserve of the young.

“This tale of self-doubt, adultery and forgiveness is shot through with humour and compassion. A most enjoyable read.”
David Lister, The Independent

Available from:


(Please click on link or copy and paste into your browser)

richard gould (1)R J Gould is the author of four novels: A Street Café Named Desire, The Engagement Party, Jack & Jill Went Downhill and Mid-life follies. He is a (rare male) member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. Having been selected for the organisation’s New Writers Programme, his first novel was short-listed for the Joan Hessayon Award. Ahead of writing full time, R J Gould led a national educational charity. He has published in a wide range of educational journals, national newspapers and magazines and is the co-author of a major work on educating able young people, all rewarding, but his passion is writing fiction. He lives in Cambridge, England.

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Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue

single red rose

Today, 14th February, will see more than 25 million lovers – or would-be lovers – send Valentine’s Day cards to the object of their affections.
But who was St Valentine? And why is he associated with hearts, roses and chocolate?



According to legend, the man we now know as St Valentine was a priest who clandestinely performed marriages for soldiers of the Roman Empire (who at the time were forbidden by the Emperor to wed), handing them parchment hearts to remind them of their marital vows. Like so many of the early saints and martyrs, Valentine came to a grisly end, but while he was in prison, he fell in love with his jailor’s daughter, and on the night before his execution wrote her a letter signed ‘from your Valentine’ – the first ever Valentine card.


Whether or not the story is true, St Valentine of Rome became a popular saint, and by the Middle Ages, Chaucer was writing of St Valentine’s Day as the occasion when the birds chose their mate – the first written record of the date of 14th February being linked with romantic love.





The oldest known Valentine missive to a loved one is a poem in a letter written in the 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife, in which he declares: ‘I am already sick of love, my very gentle Valentine.’ He was imprisoned in the Tower of London when he wrote it, which probably explains why his expressions of affection are somewhat lacking in romantic ardour.

18th centuryFast forward several hundred years, and St Valentine’s Day was firmly entrenched as an annual celebration of romance, with 18th Century lovers exchanging small gifts, as well as hand-written love-notes. Young women might awake on the morning of the 14th Feb to find an anonymous hand-made card decorated with flowers and cupids had been pushed beneath their door in the night, while in 1797 an enterprising publisher brought out ‘The Young Man’s Valentine Writer’ – a vital tool for the lovestruck suitor lacking the requisite poetical talent to declare his everlasting love in his own words.

The 18th Century also saw the publication in a book of nursery rhymes of what must surely be the most iconic Valentine’s Day sentiment ever: The rose is red, the violet’s blue/The honey is sweet, and so are you.

Victorian 2The tradition of Valentine cards being unsigned, may explain why they were so popular with loved-up Victorians, propriety being less restrictive when romantic sentiments were expressed by a secret admirer. With advances in printing, elaborately-decorated Valentine cards became mass-produced in factories, while the invention of cheap Penny Black postage stamps meant that by the middle of the 19th Century, Victorian postmen were staggering under the weight of half a million Valentine’s Day love-letters in London alone! For those who wished to discourage a persistent unwanted suitor there were Vinegar Valentines – postcards with insulting messages – although as they were sent anonymously, it’s hard to tell how effective they were!


heart shaped chocolate box[1]

It was also the Victorians who helped spread the craze for presenting a loved one with confectionary on the 14th February, when Richard Cadbury produced the first heart-shaped boxes of chocolates. It could be worth searching the attic for that heart-shaped box that once belonged to your great-great-grandmother, as these boxes are now extremely valuable and highly prized by collectors!


Victorian roses


As for the red rose’s association with Valentine’s Day. That was also down to the Victorians and their habit of sending secret messages in the ‘language of flowers.’ Should a young man see his beloved carrying a bouquet of red roses, he could be confident that she’d be his Valentine, if he asked her!

Skip forward to 2020, and St Valentine’s Day is still a day for romance when lovers who every other day of the year message each other by text or on social media, still send cards, chocolate and flowers.

Making Sense of Chaos – Giulia Skye – This Writing Life #17

Today, it’s my pleasure to welcome Giulia Skye, whose debut novel, When Adam Met Evie, was published on 7th February, with a guest post about her writing process.
Over to Guilia …

Making Sense of Chaos
Giulia Skye

New FINAL Book Cover - When Adam Met Evie (Dec 2019) (1)Have you ever disturbed a trail of ants and watched the ensuing chaos? The once uniform line turns into a mass of scattered dots, patches here and there that have no shape or pattern, then after a few minutes of reordering, the ants fall into line again, the trail restored into a seamless flowing line. Every ant slotting into place.

This pretty much sums up my writing process! That uniform line of ants is the germ of my story idea. It’s neat, tidy and making oh-so-much sense in my head – until I disturb it by writing it down. It then turns into a mass of scattered sentences and frantic scenes that make absolutely no sense. It’s a mess! The once uniform line is such a distant memory that I lose sight of it. There are so many lose threads and options. Which way do I turn? I scrabble around trying to find direction until, somehow, I begin to detect a flow. The scattered sentences and frantic scenes eventually fall in to line. And, slowly, so does everything else.

Very slowly indeed!

Ants reform their orderly trail within seconds and wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all write novels that quickly?

When Adam Met Evie is my first completed novel and I learnt so much about myself as a writer during the countless hours I spent sitting at my desk writing it.

Firstly, I’m not a detailed plotter. I play about with scene ideas in my head, mulling them over until they stick. Secondly, I can’t move on to the next scene or chapter without getting the previous scene to a level I’m happy with. There’s a lot of going back and forth. And thirdly, because I write character driven romances, I discovered that I’ve got to know my characters really well before the story can properly take shape. So much of the plot and action depends on how they react to whatever I throw at them.

When Adam Met Evie_BTS (1)One thing that I really noticed while writing When Adam Met Evie was how much all the writing tips and advice I’d absorbed over the years was actually true. Phrases like “writing is re-writing”, “write the book you’d like to read”, and “things are so because characters are so” really made sense. I was so encouraged by such advice that I put together a Behind the Scenes look at the making of the novel, in which I highlight my favourite writing tips and how they helped me. It’s geared towards giving new writers like me an example of someone’s writing process and is available via my website when readers subscribe to my newsletter. It also contains my terrible first drafts! It was quite nerve wracking exposing these but I honestly believe that if I had seen examples of other writers’ first drafts when I first started writing myself, it would have helped me gain a better understanding of the writing process – in particular, that words don’t magically spill out of a writer’s brain and on to the page in a uniform line of perfect prose!

Thanks so much, Giulia, for giving us an insight into your writing process and your writing life.

New FINAL Book Cover - When Adam Met Evie (Dec 2019) (1)

When former Olympic Swimmer, Michael Adams—now reluctantly Canada’s hottest reality TV star— insults his fake showbiz wife on social media, he escapes the ensuing scandal and jumps on the first flight to Australia. Desperate to experience ordinary life again—if only for a few weeks—he becomes “Adam”, just another tourist traveling through the Outback. But with a reward out for his safe return and his fame’s nasty habit of catching up with him when he least expects, he needs a disguise… and he’s just found it.
Sweet and scruffy British backpacker, Evie Blake, is taking a year out of her busy London life. Tired of lies and liars, she’s looking for adventure to heal her broken heart. So when the hot Canadian she meets at the campground offers to be her travel partner through Western Australia’s wild Kimberley region, she grabs the chance, unaware he’s got the world out looking for him.
He’s just a down-on-his-luck traveler, right?
To read When Adam Met Evie, please go to:

Please click on links or copy and paste into your browser

Website –

Connect with Giulia:
On Bookbub –
On Twitter – @GiuliaSkye
On Instagram –

Giulia Skye - Profile Photo (1)Italian-born Giulia Skye spent her childhood watching classic Hollywood films and thinking up her own romantic stories. After two decades working in TV production, she knew turning those stories into novels would be much more enjoyable – and far cheaper – than turning them into films. She still keeps her hand in TV production but is at her happiest being a stay-at-home mum, spending time with her family, growing her own vegetables, and conjuring up sizzling stories about sexy heroes meeting feisty heroines who aren’t always as they at first appear. When Adam Met Evie is her first novel, Book 1 of her “Take a Holiday” series.

How Family Feeds My Fiction – Vivien Brown – ThisWriting Life #16

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Vivien Brown to my blog, with a fab guest post.                  Over to Vivien …

How Family Feeds My Fiction

Vivien Brown


Since giving up the day job and becoming a full-time writer, it’s been hard to separate the two halves of my life – family and work. After all, they exist side by side under the same roof. My ‘office’ is a bedroom upstairs, my ‘works canteen’ is my home kitchen, and a call arriving on the phone on my desk is just as likely to be from a friend or relative as it is a writing contact.

It’s a fuzzy line (and I don’t mean the phone connection!) which is only too easy to cross when I move away from my laptop and within a few yards find myself in front of the TV, getting distracted by a crossword or newspaper, or popping the laundry into the machine. But, on the plus side, I don’t have to ask a boss for time off or have a daily commute to worry about. I can even work in my pyjamas if I choose to!

They say you can only really write well about what you know. I don’t fully support that theory, as research and imagination can always fill in the blanks. Still, even before I was surrounded by it 24 hours a day, what I know best is family life, and that’s why I write about domestic themes and the drama that goes on, often unseen, within the walls of ordinary homes.

In my first novel, ‘Lily Alone’, I explored the mother/child relationship in its many incarnations – a lonely elderly woman estranged from her son; a young single mum who grew up in care because her mother was an alcoholic and is now struggling to cope with a toddler of her own; a middle-aged widow still wondering about the child she gave up for adoption forty years earlier; and a career girl about to get married but not sure she is ready to take on a step-child.

In ‘Five Unforgivable Things’, I looked at what it felt like not to be able to hold that precious longed-for baby. I wrote about infertility and IVF, miscarriage and still birth, and their lasting effects, not only on the would-be parents but the wider family network. It’s the story of a long marriage too, from young love through heartbreak and betrayal to the brink of divorce. I have experienced many of those things myself, and although it is not my story, a lot of the background, and the emotion, came from real life.

And now there’s ‘No Sister of Mine’, a novel about two sisters, very close as children, yet very different in temperament and ambitions, and of the man who tears them apart. My family is packed with sisters. My mum, myself, my daughters, and my granddaughters, all grew up in two-girl households. No brothers at all. So, of course I know about sisters – the closeness, the rivalries, the fallings-out, maybe even the revenge – and that’s why I just had to bring their story to the page!

Thank you, Vivien, for such an interesting post about your writing life.


NO SISTER OF MINE cover (1)The gripping and emotional page-turner from the author of Lily Alone.

Two sisters, both emerging into womanhood, but they couldn’t be more different; Eve, the mature and sensible one. Sarah, headstrong and eager for a taste of life.

Eve is struggling to recover from a bad experience with a boy at a party and embarks on university life determined that nothing like that will happen to her again.

Sarah can’t wait to grow up, she’s sick of Eve’s lectures and is determined to make a grab at life despite being barely out of school.

When Eve brings a new face home for the holidays, Sarah does something that will change both of their lives forever. Something that Eve can never forget – or forgive. But life won’t keep them apart forever and decades later, one of them will have to choose whether to put the past behind her, or to hold on to hate forever…

If you would like to purchase No Sister of Mine, please click on the following link or copy and past into your browser:
Amazon link:

author Vivien Brown 2 (1)VIVIEN BROWN

Originally trained in finance and banking, but more recently working with young children and their families in libraries and children’s centres, Vivien started her writing career, using her then name of Vivien Hampshire, with a 150-word paragraph that won the Mail on Sunday ‘Best Opening to a Novel’ competition in 1993. Since then she has sold more than 140 short stories to UK women’s magazines and 250 articles about working with children to professional nursery and childcare magazines, and has had two novels and a pocket novel published as Vivien Hampshire, along with a book about how to ‘crack’ cryptic crosswords.


As Vivien Brown, she has two women’s contemporary novels, ‘Lily Alone’ and ‘Five Unforgivable Things’ published by Harper Impulse in e-book and paperback, while her third, ‘No Sister of Mine’ is being published by One More Chapter on 17 January 2020. Vivien lives in Middlesex with her husband and two cats. She has IVF twin daughters, now grown-up, and two young granddaughters who keep her busy and entertained. When not writing she loves reading, watching TV quizzes, hospital and period dramas (Holby City, Call the Midwife and Poldark are her favourites) and tackling and compiling tricky crosswords. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and a fellow of the Society of Women Writers and Journalists (SWWJ).

To follow Vivien on social media please click on the following links or copy and paste into your browser:

The Killer Touch – This Writing Life #15 – Lorraine Mace

Today, I’m delighted to host a guest post from Lorraine Mace about her writing life as an author of hard-boiled crime fiction.

Over to Lorraine…

The Killer Touch – Lorraine Mace

1. Retriever of Souls (1)I write what is termed hard-boiled crime and I’m often asked how I come up with story ideas. I always give the same response: I have an evil mind. The knowledge that I know more ways to kill people and cover up the crime than the average woman doesn’t help my partner to a restful night. I think he’s worried I might one day help him to a permanent rest.

This fear was reinforced when I tried to record dialogue in the middle of the night. I often wake with the words of characters ringing in my head, but find I’ve lost the vibrancy of the voices by the time morning comes. Rather than switch the light on and wake him, I thought I’d be considerate and whisper the conversation between my killer and his victim into my phone.

I was well into my stride when the room lit up.

“What on earth are you doing?” Chris demanded. “Have you any idea how creepy it is to wake up hearing you threaten to cut off body parts and fry them?”

“But I was whispering,” I said, annoyed that he hadn’t appreciated my consideration. “And that was supposed to make it better?” he asked, switching the light off again with more force than I thought necessary.

2. Children in Chains (1)Chris is one of the few people I know who has no ambition to appear in one of my D.I. Sterling books. My local butcher wants to feature as a drug lord, while his apprentice says I should use his name for a rent boy. When I told the young lad I thought he had the perfect name for my next murderer he was overjoyed.

George, who lives next door, says he’d like to be a con artist. Josie, his wife, would rather be a modern-day Bonnie, but doesn’t want George to feature as Clyde.

“If I’m going to have a fantasy come true, I don’t want him in it,” she whispered while the poor man was in the kitchen making tea.

3. Injections of Insanity (1)


I check the internet to make sure my criminals’ actions are credible. The best advice, though, comes from experts. I was in a hospital waiting room one day, having walked past the sign for the morgue, when I wondered if it was possible to kill by injecting someone with embalming fluid. Fortunately, I knew a doctor to ask – sadly, the answer was no because it would have to go in the femoral artery and that wasn’t feasible if the person was still alive.

“What about warfarin?” I asked, but that has to be taken orally and I needed something to inject for the killer in book three of my D.I. Sterling series, Injections of Insanity. The doctor came to my rescue.

“The easiest injectable drug for a murderer would be insulin. It’s difficult to spot unless the forensic pathologist is specifically looking for it in overdose and you can buy it on the internet.”

I told Chris about it and he looked terrified.

“Stop being such a wimp,” I said. “If I was going to murder you, I wouldn’t tell you in advance about the method I’d use.”

He shook his head and said I needed professional help. I can’t imagine what he means!

Thank you, Lorraine, for giving us such a wonderful insight into your writing life.

Here is the blurb for Retriever of Souls – the first in the D.I. Sterling series

Brought up believing that sex is the devil’s work, a killer only finds release once he has saved his victim’s souls. Abiding by his vision, he marks them as his. A gift to guide his chosen ones on the rightful path to redemption. Detective Inspector Paolo Sterling is out to stop him, but Paolo has problems of his own. Hunting down the killer as the death toll rises, the lines soon blur between Paolo’s personal and professional lives.

Rage_&_Retribution_FC (1)Series links (please click on the link below)

Retriever of Souls:

Children in Chains:

Injections of Insanity:

Rage and Retribution:

Lorraine Mace (1)


Born and raised in South East London, Lorraine lived and worked in South Africa, on the Island of Gozo and in France before settling on the Costa del Sol in Spain. She lives with her partner in a traditional Spanish village inland from the coast and enjoys sampling the regional dishes and ever-changing tapas in the local bars. Her knowledge of Spanish is expanding. To stop her waistline from doing the same, she runs five times a week.

Find Lorraine at:





This Writing Life #14 – Tom Williams – From Historical to Magical

Today, I’m delighted to welcome author Tom Williams to my blog, with a guest post about his writing life and his new novel, Dark Magic. 

Over to Tom …

NPG 1559; Sir James Brooke by Sir Francis GrantEven when I was young, so long ago that the history I write about these days was practically current affairs, I wanted to be a writer. What eventually inspired me to put words on paper was a visit to Borneo where I discovered James Brooke, the first White Rajah. His story was crying out to be made into a novel. In fact it was crying out to be made into a novel so much that it had already been done several times. Conrad’s Lucky Jim is loosely based on him and he appears in MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman’s Lady. There’s even a pornographic version. But I reckoned that there was room for one more and it’s fair to say my take on the story is different from everybody else’s.

Some people (including some mainstream publishers) have even said very nice things about it, but the consensus of mainstream publishers was that it was “too difficult” for a first book from an unknown author. My agent (I had an agent back in those days) told me to write something easier but to keep it historical.

This started me down the path of historical novel writing. So far six of my historical novels have been published – still none of them by mainstream publishers. Even so, they’ve got out into the world and people read them and some people have even been awfully nice about them. I don’t have any regrets about the efforts that I put into them. That said, writing historical novels is hard work. Mine are closely based in historical fact. I wouldn’t like to say how many hours are spent researching for every hour that is actually spent writing, but it’s quite a lot.

I kept envying people who write contemporary stories. And eventually, inevitably, I decided to try to do that too.

DarkMagicCoverDark Magic grew out of an evening with a bunch of magicians and a reasonable amount of alcohol and once the idea had taken root, it wouldn’t go away. It’s a simple idea (a troupe of regular stage magicians are trying to take down a group who are using Black Magic in their act) and it’s a short book. (That’s another nice thing about contemporary fiction: most historical novels are just very long.) In the end, I told the story in 33,000 words. That counts as a novella. I don’t know why novellas are unpopular with publishers, but they are. It’s strange because in this world of short attention spans and instant gratification the idea of a book that doesn’t demand a significant chunk of your life to read it should be popular.


Dark Magic let me have fun writing. I hope you have fun reading. There are more serious historical novels on the way, but if you like this I may try another book set in the 21st century.

Thanks, Tom, for telling about your writing life. – L

If you would like to purchase, Dark Magic, please click on the link below:


TOM WILLIAMS has published six books of historical fiction but DARK MAGIC is his first contemporary story and his first novella (33,000 words). He has spent far too much time hanging round with magicians.



Twitter: @TomCW99