Monday, July 30, 2012

If You Prefer To Read A Tree Book

The paperback version of my book is now available on the shelves of Amazon. Of course it has been in e-book form for almost exactly a year and can be found at Amazon Kindle, iBookstore, Sony, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Copia, Baker&Taylor, Gardners, and eBookPie.

I am already hard at work on the next book - Living On An Island - about the 8 years Gay and I spent living in the divided island of Cyprus. I am so busy with that, I hardly have time to take a bath :-)

I also have two more books in chain, and ideas for some others. All proceeds from all versions of all books go direct to pancreatic cancer research.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Gather Round Lads, For An Excellent Tale Of The Sea


I suppose not too many people these days are well informed about the evil slave trade. I had an advantage in that respect because one of my mother's heroes was William Wilberforce, the English politician who toiled so long and hard to have it, or England's massive involvement in it, outlawed.

So, once I had heard about Ice King, Geoff Woodland's book in which the trade is ever-present, even if sometimes only in the background, it was natural that I should select it to read. Added influences in that decision were that Mr Woodland, who I do not know, hails from Liverpool (a city built on the slave trade and now sporting a museum to inform you of that), not too far from my own origins in Blackpool, he is of the same generation as myself, and we share a common background as seafarers.

So what did I find? A story of a young seaman, a lieutentant in the Royal Navy, who is put on half-pay - ie put out to grass - as part of the "peace dividend" after the French navy is largely destroyed at the Battle of Trafalgar - a peace dividend which applied only to the Navy because Napoleon's army was still in its prime (a fact which enabled one of his drum majors to build the house in which I now reside).

So he becomes a captain in what we would now call the Merchant Navy at about the same time that he returns home to Liverpool to find that his father has immersed the family shipping company in the disgusting slave trade.

He is advised that it is impossible to run a shipping company these days without "The Trade" but, having met and been enlightened by some of Wilberforce's followers, he sets about, with his own ship, proving that an honest living and a bright future can be enjoyed without destroying the lives of innocent Africans.

The title of the book puzzled me but the reasons for it become very clear along the way.

Mr Woodland writes well and has succeeded in writing a book which is informative about this important part of history, in addition to showing how life was at sea in those days and how the world, and trade around the world, was opening up.

He weaves in a story or two about romance, throws in some very believable characters, and generally gives us a very entertaining read.

I found an added bonus in the information given about the development of Boston and its hinterland - an area where one of my daughters has now been living for almost 3 years.

The book comes to a satisfying and logical end but I have a feeling it is the beginning of a series about William King. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Literary Giants

This is the famous cafe Les Deux Magots on the Paris left bank - just round the corner from our apartment. It was known as the regular haunt of writers like Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre and of course Ernest Hemingway.

It is where we met our guide on Monday morning for an informative stroll "au flaneur" around Paris.

It is also, appropriately enough, where I was asked, by another writer, for a signed copy of my book. Of course I was more than happy to oblige.

On my birthday, which it was, I was in danger for a moment of imagining that I had joined those literary giants.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Our Tour de France

Our own Tour de France continues.

2 years today, my 70th birthday, I finished Vic's Big Walk, which had of course involved "touring" (or was it toiling?) through much of France.

Yesterday we arrived in Paris (a first time for Gay and me, despite having lived in France for 15 years) just in time to catch a glimpse of the closing minutes of the Tour de France on the Champs Elysee.

A week earlier we had witnessed these same riders whizzing through the streets of our own village in the Pyrenees. Yesterday we made a very long train journey on the famed TGV, which has been proven to be capable of a speed of 576 kilometres per hour (fortunately not while we were aboard). It was humbling to realise that these riders were now here in Paris and were still capable of racing to the line - although clearly Bradley Wiggins had no need by that stage to prove anything.

Off now to meet our guide for the day, at the famous Deux Magots cafe, which is just around the corner.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Tour de France comes to Puivert

Today the Tour de France, the biggest sporting event in France and one of the biggest spectacles in the world, comes through Puivert again. The riders will start from Limoux and, after climbing the Col du Portel - a hill which I frequently climb while walking - a mere 290 metres to 601 metres by road - they will come through our village and make a sharp right turn to Chalabre on their way to some really steep climbs and today's finish in Foix.

The riders will pass by, in a flash, at about 1320 our time, but for spectators, the excitement starts a couple of hours before, when the "caravan" comes through. This consists of numerous decorated vehicles, like those above, of the sponsors, usually tossing out to the crowd samples of whatever the advertised product is. One of those above is representing le Coq Sportif, so I am hoping for a new pair of running shoes (:-i ) and the others are for PMU, a chain of cafes-cum-betting shops.

With the riders are their countless support vehicles, press and media vehicles and about half the gendarmerie nationale. There will be 6 or 7 helicopters wheeling overhead.

There must be thousands of people involved and we always wonder where on earth they are accommodated, especially in a thinly-populated area such as this where there is not very much tourist accommodation which is probably already under strain because this is the major French holiday period. One answer is that we are in the mountains, ski stations are not far away, and the accommodation usually used for skiiers in the winter is probably pressed into service for the Tour de France.

But we got up this morning to find that the vehicles pictured here had overnighted in Puivert (40 kms by road from where they will need to start work this morning), and that our local gite d'etape - accommodation usually used for hikers, cyclists and horse people doing long distance treks - had been full of persons belonging to these vehicles.

Sammy 2 is obviously an animated movie due to come out on August 6. We have not even heard of Sammy 1!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Discount On My Book - Act Quickly

For the next 3 days, until July 13th, you can get an 18% discount on the normal price of £6.50 for the paperback version of my book, direct from the publisher.

Here is what you need to do. Go to by clicking here

Under the details of my book, click "Add to basket".

This takes you to the shopping basket. Where it asks for Coupon Code, enter "CAUGHTUK" then click "Apply". Then click "Continue to Checkout" where you will be asked for your address details and your credit card details.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

On-line Interview

I have been interviewed about my writing activities by Morgen Bailey on her writing blog. To see the interview click here.

It also appeared in The Morgen Bailey Daily e-newspaper of Saturday July 7th. That gets replaced every day by a new edition but to see today's edition of the Daily, click here.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Mike's Testimonial

I had a nice unsolicited testimonial. This post appeared in The Riviera Reporter:

Vic Heaney walked almost 2,000 kms from the French Pyrenees to Northern England. Walking for 70 days, he arrived on his 70th birthday. The book about the walk - and much else besides - is now available (all proceeds to pancreatic cancer research) in e-book form - and is now in paperback. The walk, like the book, was to raise funds for Pancreatic Cancer research. The fund is still open for donations. Just click the blue donate button. And/or don't forget to buy the book!

Some of you may have met Vic and Gay at one of the quizzes I ran last year at Brittains where we raised money for this cause. The book is beautifully written and is not just a travelogue, it talks about the concept of the walk and Vic's interesting life. It's inspirational and deserves wide coverage.

I'm trying to see if we can get Vic over to Valbonne again in the autumn (or fall, as Lyn from the English Book Centre in Valbonne prefers to call it!) for a literary lunch and book signing, so watch this space!

Buy the book here :

Merging Of Blogs

I have decided to merge my two blogs. It seems superfluous to have two, one which was originally about my big walk (but which is now just various ramblings),  and another about my writing activities, including my first book about the walk and three other books "on the stocks". So I repeat below the most recent post from my writing blog, which will now cease. Future posts on this blog will include news on my writing activities. I will leave the link to "Vic Heaney, Author" on this page for access to previous posts on that blog.

I had this very droll email recently from a friend who has read "Vic's Big Walk" on his Kindle and has now ordered the print version (not yet on Amazon but can be acquired direct from the publisher):

"Yes I managed to download the e version when we got home, and what a pleasant read it was. It was just as if you were telling the story to us in a Polis cafe, that is a straightforward style without the usual Francophile rubbish about cuisine etc.

Seems like you had some tough days out there, so, bloody good effort!

The book has left a lasting impression on me; I keep seeing "Costas Cafes" everywhere we go that I swear wern't there before.

And another thing, this Olympic torch business is scheduled to take exactly 70 days; coincidence? I don't think so. We should be told"

And that bit about getting my book direct from the publisher. This is where you will find it:

or just click right here to go straight to the page.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Peddlers' Pyrenean Paradise

We have just been away for the weekend to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Chez Passet is situated in the quaint village of Lézignan, 3 km east of Lourdes in the rolling foothills of the scenic Hautes Pyrénées mountains of Southwest France. This is more than 200 kms due west of us, driving along parallel to the Pyrenees.

We were instantly welcomed by Di and Tim and, after 2 days of relaxed and well-fed visitation, we are well pleased and feel we have made new friends for life. We chose to spend the daytime doing the touristy thing, visiting local towns we have long wanted to see, but most visitors go to Chez Passet for the sporting benefits, especially to cyclists, but also for walkers and runners.  I have borrowed most of the text of this post (the italic bits) from the home page of their website:

The Passet is located minutes away from the world famous and classic Tour de France cycle routes. In winter the slopes become a playground for skiers, boarders and winter enthusiasts who enjoy plentiful snow and multiple activities all available at the nearby ski resorts

Chez Passet is the place to stay if you are searching for; among other things, exceptional cuisine, spacious and well appointed accommodation, world class cycling, winter fun or just peaceful relaxation

Chez Passet is a historic Maison de Maître and Grange that have both been sympathetically restored to form a tranquil and luxurious bed and breakfast that caters to those who embrace lifestyle and quality

We have 5 guest rooms available, all with private and modern en-suite bathroom facilities
The price of the room includes a fresh buffet breakfast which is served in our spacious dining room or outside, weather permitting. If you are looking for great food - dinner is available on request as an additional option, prepared by Di a professional Chef and Sommelier

Outside, there is plenty of private parking, secure bike/ski storage and for those looking to take a dip at the end of a long summers day we have a heated pool and sun terrace to enjoy

We offer airport pick up and drop off service from our local airports Lourdes/Tarbes
Shuttles to and from Pau, Toulouse and Biarritz can also be arranged (€)

We are also pleased to be able to offer our guests the use of town bicycles available for exploring nearby Lourdes

What it doesn't mention on the home page is that Tim is a very keen and experienced cyclist whose brains you can pick in order to get the best out of your visit if cycling is your bag. All the rooms at Chez Passet are named after famous climbs in the Tour de France. Our room was called Tourmalet. The Col du Tourmalet - the granddaddy of them all - is very nearby and beckons you to come and try your luck.

The food really is excellent, the company is delightful and we can not recommend this place highly enough.