Look on my coffee bar ye mighty and despair

I have just been down to Duvale Priory in Devon for a couple of days where I stumbled across this weird monument – the Devonian Sphinx.

The Devonian Sphinx

We are so used to seeing the ol’ Sphinx in a state of ancient ruin, that it comes as a shock to see this new one, lying there with no word of explanation or attribution. From the side it appears to have a horn on its head, but this becomes a crown as you move to view it from the front. The Devonian sphinx appears like a Queen, or an Empress, in ornamental gear. Is this how the Egyptian sphinx originally looked?

Half cat, half woman, the sphinx has always been the ultimate evocation of  mysterious ancient gods, and also a symbol of their decline and defeat at the hands of time. How weird to be reminded that the sphinx was once a sign of all that is powerful, beautiful and dangerous.

Another startling cat-related image also exists nearby (see below).

Missing Cat stalks abroad










No doubt this beast is still terrorising the countryside.

Ah,  the fall of great things to the march of time! The implacable forces of change! I was shocked to see my second favourite coffee bar in Cambridge has closed. The Cambridge Coffee Company – I always love the cheek of these small businesses that assume large names – has shut up shop. I had my camera on me, and took a few shots…

Cambridge Coffee Company Closes

Particlarly poignant is the broom. I can imagine the owner, his once smiling face now offstage and thoughtul, as he leant his broom for the final time against the counter, not even bothering to put it away or take it with him after his final, diligent sweep-round.

Also eloquent are the envelopes piled up at the door – sad to think that each and every one of those pieces of junk mail lying there was probably intended to try and squeeze some money out of the Cambridge Coffee Company.

Letters at low tide










“My name is Ozymandias, king of kIngs:

Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!”

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Unnecessarily spooky painting at hotel

While away with my family at Old Hunstanton, we spotted this unnecessarily spooky painting at the delightful Caley Hall hotel.

Spooky picture

How scary is that?

A ghostly figure, motionless, stares out at you from a dark wasteland. Sara noticed the appearance of an apparently headless dog by its side. Fortunately,a full moon rides in the sky, so perhaps this apparation is limited to only 12 appearances a year…

Exploring the environs, it turned out (spookily) that much of the area was once owned by the Le Strange family (all a bit Scooby-Doo-ish), which led us to us discovering this local inn…!

Strange or what?

On a whimsical note I also noticed evidence of a society of tiny beings having once lived on the beach. One evening I found the remains of what appears to be one of their ceremonial sites, possibly a fort, or magical meeting place, now sadly eroded by wind and weather…

Yours weirdly!

Evidence of Tiny Beach Civilization

Here Be Dragons (and rain)

Site of the Ludham Dragon Legend

Have you ever wanted to wander off of the map into that bit at the edge that says ‘Here Be Dragons’?  Well I did that by mistake on my holiday. Setting off into Norfolk with the idea of forgetting about Candle Man, monsters and stories for a while, I immediately stumbled across a rain-spattered information board in the hitherto unheard of (by me) village of Ludham.

What surprised me was that Ludham had a real bona fide DRAGON LEGEND. You might think this unsurprising, but there aren’t that many actual dragon legends around that tie a sighting to a real place. I mean WHERE did St George actually kill HIS dragon? I don’t remember ever being told.

The Ludham legend says that a dragon used to come out of his hole – between the church yard and the high street –  and annoy the locals with his monstrous antics. They attempted to prevent this by blocking up his hole with any old rubbish while he was asleep. It never worked! After a while they gave up – possibly the dragon put up a sign saying: ‘Entrance in constant use – do  not obstruct.’

But then one day, while the dragon was out flying around, one brave, powerful man found a big stone and rolled it over the dragon’s hole. Old fiery-breath came back, and was unable to remove the stone. He left in a flap, smashing his mighty tail into the local abbey on the way – leaving it in ruin!

The evidence for this myth is very convincing.

1. There IS a ruined abbey nearby.

2. The dragon has definitely left Ludham.

The thing I like about this legend is its (dare I say it) typical East Anglian humility, no great hero here who slew a dragon with a sword and married a princess. Rather the more modest, almost comical aim of blocking up the dragon’s doorway while he’s out, in the hope that this will annoy the fire-breathing, supernatural menace enough to make him go away.

And it worked!

Even at the start of the story, the idea of killing the dragon is never suggested, as if such a thing was unthinkable to the villagers. I like that. Man knowing his place in the great scheme. No courtly glitter has been added to this piece of folklore, which makes it all the more enjoyable.

I think I was about a thousand years late to spot the dragon, so instead I took this picture of the ruins he created (with some bloke standing right in front of them).

In Search of the Ludham Dragon

Where Time Has No Meaning

This is a sight I see every time I pass through Earl’s Court station, a vision that haunts me – of a clock without any hands. Lifeless, it seems to flatten out and become part of the wall, a mysterious motif instead of a machine.

Devoid of meaning it seems a relic of a bygone age already. What would Future People think, unearthing this artifact? Is it a decoration? A picture of the sun?A warning about some kind of explosion?

I wonder if their imaginations would even connect it with time at all. Why is it circular? Isn’t time a straight line?

What could the twelve points on it possibly mean? The number seems so artificial since the number twelve is a human invention – unless they connected it with the twelve full moons of the year and deduced some kind of loosely connected order in it.

Seeing this empty face without the domineering decree of its hands and the august authority of its timekeeping, takes my mind out into a place that is both unnerving and refreshing to visit. We humans have invented time, given little bits of it names, like the second (if it is second, then what came first?) And yet, in a sense, there is no such thing as an hour, or a minute – we invented them and now they pull our consciousness to bits, make us late or early – we are progress-addicts, desperate to look up at that clock on the wall and realise with joy that we have nearly made it into another hour – an achievement that has no real existence. We can only really claim such graceful behemoths as years and their twelve moon-children the months.

Insects don’t have seconds, even though some of them only live for a day. No tortoise ever stopped to look at a watch or boasted about his age. Yew trees can live for thousands of years yet have no idea what a thousand is, or means, and are probably better off for it.

Are there clocks in heaven?





Candle Man audio – Christian Rodska interview

I was delighted when I heard that AudioGo, the BBC audio dept had picked up the rights to record Candle Man, and even more thrilled when it turned out they had made their version available so swiftly. 


Christian Rodska

The actor chosen to read my story is Christian Rodska, known for his early role as Ron Stryker in Follyfoot. He has appeared in countless BBC TV dramas, and has recently worked on Dr Who audios such as Hornet’s Nest with Tom Baker. I was familiar with his atmospheric tones as he narrated Ice Road Truckers on Discovery Channel, one of my personal favourites.

I have had great fun listening to Candle Man being read aloud, and especially enjoy Rodka’s savouring of the villainous and semi-villainous types that fill my book. He does an endearing Mr Nicely, a wonderfully ratty old Foley and a smoothly sinister Dr Saint.

Here’s a part of our rambling conversation.

GD: I recognize your voice instantly from Ice Road Truckers. I like the minimal nature of that. Just the every day lives of these men set against this amazing snowy waste.

CR: Yes, well the thing about Ice Road Truckers is: (confidentially) nothing happens really!

GD: I think that’s what I like about it.

CR:  (Laughs) Well yes, exactly.

GD: How long did it take to record Candle Man?

CR: You obviously don’t just take the book in and read it. It takes a long time to prepare. The more characters there are – the more off-the-wall it is – which your book is, obviously – the longer it takes. There was a lot of work to do on it. Generally with a book the preparation time is at least twice the length of the recording time, so you can reckon on at least 6 days for Candle Man. We did it at the end of last year.

GD: Do you read it straight in your own voice or do you interpret some of the characters and give them voices?

CR: I give all the characters voices. There are two approaches to recording audio books, some people do a very slight voice, but I think – just for the hell of it – for the fun of it, and I‘ve spoken to listeners – the ones I’ve spoken to have liked it when every character is different. That can be a rod for your back sometimes, because if you’ve got a thriller with six Russians in a room, (does heavy Russian accent) six different kinds of Russians – some talk much more lightly like that, (changes into quirkier musing Russian) or maybe more slowly… like this, some like that… (goes up and down in a variety of spy-movie accents). But I do try to make them all different.

GD: In my book there are creepy creatures, garghouls and little imps called smoglodytes.

CR: Yes indeed, they were quite smoky sort of wispy characters, I did them like that (puts on smoky wispy voice). I think they were something like that. I did it all the end of last year. It seems to me you’ve written another one at least since then, haven’t you?

GD: Yes book two is out already and I’m half way through book three so you never know you might get called back.

CR: Look while we’ve been talking I’ve dug out my notes for your book. I keep a list of all the characters I’ve done and make notes. I’ve got in front of me ‘Candle Man.’ For example, Mr Nicely: false cheery, ex-army, obsequious, I think he’s probably a bit like that, Sir, he’s probably a bit like that. (Rodska makes him sound a bit like Parker out of Thunderbirds) Foley he was an old bloke wasn’t ‘e I fink?

GD: Yes he was the wizened old robber he knew tales about the Candle Man.

CR: Well I hope you like what I’ve done.

GD:  I can tell from what you’ve done just then it’s going to be terrific. I was hoping to get a little glimpse. Is there a director there in the studio, or an editor?

CR: There’s one person recording – they trust the actors to come up with it. One thing they can do – I’m finishing Hornblower this afternoon – I was last in the studio 3 weeks ago. I may have slightly lost one or two of the characters. But every time the character comes on the producer punches a button and plays back the voice to you.

GD: I was going to ask you about your Dr Who audios. When you record these things are you not in the same room at the same time?

CR: No you ARE in the same room, because that’s a drama. Your book – and all the books that any of us do – 98% like that – are just one reader. If it’s letters between a couple of people they’ll get two actors in. but the Dr Whos were dramas, so it’s just like doing a radio drama actually.

GD: Was it fun working with Tom Baker? Is he a bit of a character?

CR: Oh yes, – completely. Two or three! But he was very pleasant to me actually. Laughs. The Dr Who I did was called Hornet’s Nest .

GD: I’ve heard he can give people a hard time.

CR: Oh well he does do that, he does complain quite a bit (laughs). Yes I mean that’s his personality, but he was very good as the Man.

GD: Do you remember being in The Tomorrow People?

CR: I remember doing it but I don’t remember what it was about.  In those days special effects – ha ha – were in their infancy. Now everything is so much more credible. I remember it being  bit of pain because one was acting against a blue screen and one’s movements had to be very precise and you didn’t get a chance to really inhabit the character too well.

GD: If I google you I see a character grinning out at me from Follyfoot Farm. You must be a very good actor, it’s like you’re regenerated into a different person from those days.

Ron Stryker from Follyfoot

CR: Well I have less hair!

GD: Your whole demeanor– if that’s the word – has changed entirely.

CR: Oh well thank you, I think the fun of being an actor is doing a lot of very different things.

GD: How old were you?

CR: Its 40 years ago, so I was 25-26.

GD: It was a bit like a soap opera – dramatic and sentimental. It wasn’t like other children’s shows.

CR: It wasn’t, but it was incredibly popular.

GD: It still is – if you go on Youtube people have put up montages. There’s a Youtube film of you as Ron, to the soundtrack of David Cassidy singing ‘I am a clown’.

CR: (Laughs) I must check it out. Actually there’s a sort of reunion, at the beginning of next month. A Follyfoot reunion. Of course two of the cast – Arthur English is dead and so is Desmond Llewelyn, so they won’t be making an appearance but the younger characters will be there.

GD:  Maybe some of the horses will make an appearance. I have a friend who summed up Follyfoot in one line: “But Steve, the horse will die!”

CR: (Laughs at length!) Hah – very clever!

GD:  In terms of your drama career now, what character do you think you get called in to play the most? Is there a typical persona?

CR: Well I don’t think there is. The thing about being versatile, which is great fun, is it’s not the way to become very famous – not today. I mean people become pigeon-holed. On radio drama the great thing is I play loads of different things. I played an absolute bastard in a sailing epic – a Patrick O’Brian thing, that went out three or four weeks ago. Last week I was playing a rather old-fashioned Geordie stand up comic. It can be anything really.

GD: Thanks for your time… I can’t wait to hear the audio.

CR: Well I hope you like it, and I hope you make a lot of money from the sales!

Spirit of Hope – for Japan

If you were thinking it’d be good to do something to help after the Japan Tsunami, but didn’t know how to get started, here is a cool way, which will also expand your mind and enrich your cultural life! No kidding 🙂

The Spirit of Hope, a book put together by the Comic Book Alliance and masterminded by Tim Pilcher and Alan Cowsill, contains specially produced comic strips, from an amazing variety of creative people.

Spirit of Hope cover 1

Spirit of Hope/Comic Book Alliance

We all recall the day we heard about the Tsunami. I had to sit my son down with a globe of the world and try to show him how the big wave could not make it across to Cambridge. Of course, you feel helpless in the face of such a catastrophe, but in a small way the proceeds of this book will help. ORDER HERE:


Mike Alredd cover


I have been immersed in writing Candle Man recently – in fact I even swore off comics for a bit. But being asked to join the Spirit of Hope was a great excuse to bring a couple of my favourite characters back to life in my Temptation strip. I had not drawn with my scratchy old pen for so long, my ink had reverted into two component parts, and inside the glass pot was a black rubber ball and a thin grey watery mist. When I went down to the art shop to get some more, the store had changed its name! And a famous name it wuz too. Such things happen when you abandon comics for a time…

Please don’t expect this collection to be a ‘downer’ there is so much beautiful and uplifting work here. I especially love  ‘A Light’ by Akiko Shimojima, and it’s cool to be in print alongside friends like Liam Sharp, John Ross and Nick Abadzis. 

Akiki Shimojima

It was great fun drawing Temptation, and I want to mention a certain Wookie artist who helped me out: Dan Rachael. In the mysterious circles of publishing that I haunt, and in the dread coffee bar known as ‘Rep Blic’, Dan is famed for his talent with computer colouring: recreating, updating and generally face-lifting classic comic art. When I drew my strip I immediately thought of Dan to colour it, as we nearly speak the same language sometimes. Dan has done a great job here – for once on an artwork which isn’t over 30 years old! (Yet).

I can’t believe what a great job editor Alan Cowsill has done on pulling this together, and he’s scripted an intruiging piece of work here too. No mug, he got Rossy (mentioned above) to draw it.

Wow I am selling this thing so hard I almost signed off with Make Mine Marvel.

I hope you’ll all be getting the spirit of hope, dudes!

Win Candle Man 2: Society of Dread!

With Candle Man 2 just out in the UK here’s a chance to win a copy! The series has been described as ‘creepy and enthralling’ (Book Monthly), and ‘witty, smart, entertaining’ (Bibliophile Support Group). Plus: ‘A bright light in the fantasy genre,’ (Kirkus Reviews).

The Society of Dread is a darkly funny fantasy story for anyone from 9-99 and older! Theo Wickland, a modern-day teenager, has inherited the terrifying powers of a Victorian crime fighter. In fact, keep it to yourself, but Theo can MELT people – and he will need all his power to face the menace of Dr Pyre, and his slithering servants the vile crelp.

To win, here’s what you have to do. I want you to invent a book title, something weird, wacky, scary or intriguing. It can be funny, or just the coolest thing you can come up with. Don’t worry, your title will remain yours, and you can do what you like with it after – even write a book! My five favourite ones will receive Candle Man 2, with enough crazy creatures and fiendish figures to keep you checking under the bed for years.

Just visit here to enter!


Good luck, and watch out for the crelp!