Book Review: “The Evening and the Morning” by Ken Follett

The problem on reading one of Ken Follett’s novels is when you come to the end there seems to be a big hole left in your life….

I’ve always enjoyed Ken’s books, and have been a great fan and admirer of his tales for many years. His works are impressionable and inspirational; well, they are to me! I always find that as soon as I begin to read the first few pages, I am immediately drawn to a story I cannot tear myself away from.

I began reading his most recent novel, “The Evening and the Morning” exactly a week ago today, and by 10am this morning, I had savoured every 817 pages. I was reluctant to leave the book longer than necessary, and found myself picking it up at every opportunity, even foregoing watching my favourite TV shows just so I could transport myself back in time and feel as though a voyeur intruding the lives of the incredible characters – both good and evil – in this wonderful tale.

The story starts in the year 997 and ends at the commencement of 1007. It is a passionate saga that encompasses some of the worst qualities of mankind, such as greed, cruelty, and selfish ambition; but it also leaves room for some of the best, particularly those of love, kindness, loyalty, and honour.

Its principal characters are an Anglo-Saxon boatbuilder’s apprentice, Edgar, and a Norman noblewoman, Ragna. The story follows their life paths in parallel, to when eventually they encounter one another, and the reader is drawn into how this impacts on both their lives. As the story progresses, you can’t help forming a strong attachment to both characters as you follow them through many trials and tribulations, some so horribly cruel and painful, that your heart almost breaks and brings you close to tears. However, in the end, the laws of Karma always find a way to thwart the cruelty of evil-doers, and allows happiness and love to win the day.

“The Evening and the Morning” is a wonderful story, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Thank you, Ken.

A 5 Star rating goes without saying.

RLB – Tomewriter

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Book Review: “A Painted House” by John Grisham

As he is my second most favourite author, I have read practically all of John Grisham’s novels; but when I stumbled upon “A Painted House” I surprised myself that it was a book that had slipped through my net.

On reading the blurb: a story being narrated by a seven-year-old boy, it reminded me of a short children’s story which I wrote many years ago, that was set aboard one of the ships of the First Fleet of 1788. In “Far from Home”, my principal character, a ten-year-old boy, shares his experiences of the journey to the penal colony of New South Wales. I was therefore more than intrigued by this work by John Grisham, and, of course, it had to be read.

I was not to be disappointed. As always, the easy pace of his work and the graphic narrative which helps visualise the scenes in such a way, that you feel as though you are being shown a movie, drew me completely into the tale, making it hard to put the book down.

The story is set in the very early 1950s in a small farming community, where people scratched a living from the soil. For Luke, the principal character, his dreams of a life far away from his grandparents’ farm, the only home he has ever known, seem as distant as reaching for the moon.

Commencing during the cotton harvest of 1952 at Black Oak, Arkansas, amid the drama of the local farmers trying to recruit enough labour at the cheapest possible price to pick their cotton, as well as their incessant worry of adverse weather conditions ruining their crop, Luke’s childhood will be tested beyond his comprehension. By the time the harvest ends prematurely due to severe flooding, Luke will have sadly lost his innocence in ways he could never have imagined.

“A Painted House” is a wonderful story, which, no doubt, sometime in the future, I shall gladly read once more.

It most definitely warrants a 5 Star rating.

RLB – Tomewriter

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Book Reviews

In my opinion, for what it’s worth, there is nothing better than immersing oneself into a good story. Be it fiction, or non-fiction, whatever piques your interest in order to satiate the soul and to permit a sense of calm to ascend within. As an avid reader, I am partial to any story, regardless of genre, that will allow me to attain a state of spiritual tranquillity.

Like most readers, I have a selection of favourite authors, and perhaps like them, my list is endless, although to enable you to gauge my preferences, here is a small sample: Ken Follett, Tim Willocks, Bernard Cornwell, Philippa Gregory, Justin Sheedy, John Grisham, and Michael Connelly.

Of all those books I have read, and there have been hundreds over the years since my early childhood, I can honestly say, there have been very few I disliked so much that I could not get past the first chapter. With every book I pick up, if the blurb sounds interesting, I will give it a chance; but the story needs to grab my attention by the end of the first chapter for me to persevere with it.

Something I have rarely done is to provide a review of the stories I have read; and, in a way, it was wrong of me not to. As an author in my own right, I know how important it is to have a review of one’s work, preferably a favourable one. Although, I dare say, in most cases, an opinion on a book may not hold much sway into whether I wish to read it or not. As individuals, we all hold our own views as to what is pleasurable or not; but, I expect, for some people, a certain ‘star-rating’ on a book may just be the incentive needed to purchase the book and read the story.

That said, as the saying goes: “It is never too late to start”, perhaps, for me that is, the following review will be the first of many.

My personal preference is anything historical, as the majority of my own writings attest, so when I was given a copy of “The Storms of War” by Kate Williams by my sister who told me I would enjoy it, I eagerly began reading it.

At first, I wasn’t too sure if it was going to captivate me enough, but the blurb was certainly interesting, and as my sister is rarely wrong about the books, we both like, I didn’t give up. In the end, I was glad to have persevered with it.

Like all historical authors, Kate Williams’ research was impeccable and extremely comprehensive, so much so that it drew me into the story completely, to the point, where at times, I found myself ‘speaking’ to the characters, and wanting to ‘shake them’ to ‘wake up’ to the reality of the situations they were leading into.

Set at the commencement, and during the course, of the Great War, the naivety and incomprehensible actions they were all spiralling into was compelling. I suppose it is only now, more than a century later, with the knowledge we have gained, can we appreciate some of the hardship and ordeals our ancestors went through both at home and on the battlefields of France and Belgium. Unless we were to experience it first hand, would we ever truly understand it fully.

I found the further I progressed with the story, the harder it was becoming to put the book down, as I slowly let my feelings of love, admiration, and protectiveness come over the story’s principal character, Celia; particularly when she lied about her age by assuming her elder sister’s identity to volunteer to serve the war effort, and being sent to France as an ambulance driver.

It is beyond comprehension why so many young people did such an incredible thing. My own father did the same during World War Two serving in North Africa with the Royal Armoured Corps. Did they honestly believe it was just another adventure, like going on an outing with the Boy Scouts? The pain and suffering, both physical and emotional must have been a rude, and frightening, awakening to them all.

Returning to “The Storms of War” my personal feelings for Celia ‘kicked in’ again when her brother-in-law, using ‘love’ as emotional leverage to carry out illegal activities on his behalf to ‘help-out’ conscientious objectors, which if caught, would have certainly had her arrested and severely punished, at that point I was ready to murder him myself just to protect her!

In all, it was a wonderful story, and I shall look forward to reading the sequels: “The Edge of the Fall” (Book 2) and “Into the Darkness” (Book 3).

If asked to give a star rating then it must be a four.

RLB – Tomewriter

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An old story, with a new beginning

I am pleased to announce that “Beneath Southern Stars” has found a new home.

As I mentioned in my last post, I was most unhappy at the thought of unpublishing this book from Smashwords without first finding it a new publisher to keep the story alive.

It was therefore a happy day, when Luminosity Publishing accepted to take it on for me, and by doing so, keep all my fiction novels in one secure place.

On Australia Day – 26th January, 2021, a newly revised version of my old story is to be released:

RLB – Tomewriter

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On Second Thoughts…

“Biting the Bullet” might be do-able for poetry and children’s stories anthologies to be unpublished, it’s quite another for a non-fiction history book that took me over 10 years to write.

As much as I said that I wanted to take my four self-published books down from the Smashwords site, I’m finding it very hard to apply my will with Smithy’s War. This is because, as I said above, it took me close on eleven years to conduct all the necessary research for it, then to collate all the accumulated data together, including hand-drawn maps (so I didn’t infringe on anyone’s copyrights), and authorised photographs, to place it in chronological order to finalize it. Then, once all that was done, it had to be edited and a cover created. Too much time and effort went into it, to just confine it to a ‘standby’ file.

I have therefore decided to leave it where it is for now.

Total number of words: 91,000

249 Pages

The same applies to Beneath Southern Stars; this book too underwent a fair amount of work before I self-published it, and it would ‘break my heart’ not to see it available for potential readers. So, until I can find a better home for it, this book will also remain where it is.

Total number of words: 89,000

243 Pages

In the meantime, though, I have since re-written a newer, second version, updating it in such a way as to bring it more into line with Louise Roberts’ distinct writing style of today.

I am also planning to write a sequel to it. In all honesty, I wrote up a short plan of the follow up story many years ago, but for some reason or other, I never progressed further than the plan stage.

Lately, however, it has been playing more and more on my mind, and perhaps the time has come to begin working on it in earnest. I don’t expect it will be ready too soon, as an immense amount of research will have to be conducted for the period circa 1821 – 1826. Then, and only when I’m satisfied with what I have acquired, will I commence to pen the story.

RLB – Tomewriter

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Biting the Bullet

There comes a time in everyone’s life when difficult decisions can no longer be put aside for another day. One has to ‘bite the bullet’ and just do it…

Several years ago, my mother decided she no longer wanted the inconvenience of having to declare miniscule royalties received from her fiction novel ‘A Tangled Web’, and therefore had the book unpublished. Her first book, a memoir entitled ‘When the Wind Blows’ came out of print at least twenty years previously; and though she can still pride herself as being an author, she no longer has anything available in print to show for it. However, at the age of 95, and in not such good health, being a published author is the least of her concerns.

As I approach my seventh decade, where my own health leaves a lot to be desired, mum’s most recent illness, which hospitalised her for a week, has made me realise how precarious life really is. It’s not that I didn’t already know this, I’ve only to look back in my own life time to see how many people, even some very close to me, didn’t make it to old age before death took them.

For me though, I’m far from being ‘on the last leg of my journey’, well at least I hope not, but one never knows what’s coming when you wake up each morning. As my second father-in-law used to say: “Every day is a birthday”. He knew that each new day counted, because the uncertainty of life was never too far away.

Toward the end of last year (2019) I completed writing my memoir. I named it ‘In Pursuit of Happiness’, but despite several submissions to various literary agents, the book remains unpublished. I chose that title, because it appeared to me, as the most apt in how my life has panned out. Between the numerous different aspects, such as health, education, friendships, work, and romance, that make up a person’s life, when it came to mine, none ever seemed to strike a cordial note. I can’t say my entire life has been a disaster, but nor can I say it has been a complete success. I suppose one has to admit there are always disappointments in life. For me though, when I look back at my own, there just appears to be too many let downs.

What can I tell you about myself? Half the time I raise that same question when I stare at my reflection in the mirror. ‘Who are you . . . or, more to the point, what are you? The answer is always the same: “I don’t know”. One thing is certain: I am creative. I can draw, paint, cook, even write… The latter, though, might be questionable – yes, I can write, but am I a successful writer? I suppose that is another question, within a question; and as ever, a question that can never be truly, or honestly, answered.

Since adolescence, I have always written things: be they short stories, poems, lyrics for songs, or articles for newsletters or magazines. It seems ironic that I have been able to achieve such, especially as educationally I was always behind my peers in achieving the relevant grades for advancement, and found myself repeating years in order to obtain the necessary scholastic qualifications. What didn’t help, was to have started life not knowing a word of English until after my sixth birthday – but that’s another story. Since then, and not until reaching my thirtieth year did, I discover being in possession of a chromosomal disorder that plays a crucial part in one’s learning abilities, as well as having other, more serious, complications which I shan’t delve into here (these are divulged at length in my memoirs, should they ever be published). So, to be able to write anything at all, let alone two non-fiction books and several fiction novels, is nothing short of a miracle.

In total, including my unpublished memoir, I have written thirteen books. These, apart from ‘In Pursuit of Happiness’, are all shown here on this blog site. You’ll find the book tabs above in the main header.

So, getting back to where I started: ‘Biting the Bullet’. Just recently I have been having problems with Amazon, to the point where I have now been locked out of my account. The issue I have, is that I don’t, as yet, own a smartphone, an inconvenience that will soon be remedied, only because I have no choice. To change my password on Amazon they first send a numerical code to my mobile phone, which is then transposed onto the account using my laptop. Then, and this is where the trouble starts, they text a security code in form of a link to the mobile which needs to be clicked on to finalise; and there lies the problem – I don’t have a smartphone, so the link is rendered utterly useless. Unfortunately, society has deemed, and assumed, everyone owns one of these blasted contraptions, which of course, they don’t. But this is only a tiny speck on an elephant’s back as to why I’m writing this, what is becoming a long-winded, article.

Although I have now been residing in France close on five years, I haven’t fully let go of my old life in Australia, as one never knows what the future has waiting for us; and I suppose a part of me hopes to return one day. Being a practical person however, I also know that the chances of that happening, at least in the near future, as being close to zilch. At this point in time, my principle concern is whether or not I’ll be permitted to remain in France. Being a dual national: British/Australian, I arrived in France using my British nationality, as Britain was at the time a member of the European Union, so having a residency permit was unnecessary. This of course changed. No sooner had I arrived in France and purchased a property, that Britain held a referendum and the majority voted to leave the EU. Now of course, I require a residency permit to remain – I shall need to apply for one in the next few weeks. Should I fail to be granted such, the question will be: “where do I go from here? Back to Australia? Return to England?” Your guess is as good as mine! In truth, it would be easier to take an overdose of pain killers and never wake up the next day, as the thought of relocating again at my age is unthinkable.

The one certain thing that I have decided to do, however, is to follow my mother’s example. I no longer want the hassle of dealing with my self-published books. I have four on Smashwords which were published in 2012. They are:

Smithy’s War’ a non-fiction WWII history book,

‘Poetic Whispers’ a poetry anthology of works written by my mother and me,

‘To Tell Three Tales’ an anthology comprising of three short children’s stories, and

‘Beneath Southern Stars’ a historical romance novel, which was the first book assigned to my pen name Louise Roberts.

I have therefore decided to ‘bite the bullet and unpublish all four, especially as sales of them have come to a standstill. So, if anyone has wanted to buy one of these books and has put it off for another time, then now is that time, because soon it will be too late. I will be unpublishing them by month’s end. The last of the four however, I will offer to Luminosity Publishing so that all of Louise’s books can be held in one place. I hope they’ll accept it, otherwise it will just be filed away in a USB with all the others.

I expect however, that I shall continue to write, for how long though, God only knows; but I still have plenty of stories floating about in my head that don’t want to fade. I just need to sit down and concentrate hard enough to complete them. At present, there are three stories where I have penned about four chapters each and have stalled. Two are for Louise’s ‘Romance in War’ series, and one is a sequel to ‘Out of the Darkness’ – my crime fiction novel. I also have, teasing my brain, a further tale linked to ‘Beneath Southern Stars’ and in all likelihood, it will be this one that will get completed first as it has been dominating my thoughts of late.

So, my friends, this is where life takes us: one decision after another, some are good, most are bad; but in the end, whichever one you make, it will lead you down a path that’s not at all clear to fully appreciate, but have no option other than to follow it to see where it will lead.

I suppose time, however long it should be, will tell whether unpublishing those four books was the right thing to do.

I sincerely pray you all continue to make the correct decisions for yourselves. For me, I know deep down in my heart, that taking away the anxiety of dealing with Smashwords, as a blessing that has been waiting to happen for a very long time.

I will finish in wishing you all to take care and stay safe with the uncertainty of what this horrid Covid-19 crisis has dealt our entire world; and as a writer, hope Louise Roberts’ books will continue to be read and appreciated.

RLB – Tomewriter

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Another novel from Louise Roberts

What if you discover your long-lost soulmate is a lingering spirit; how far would you go to be reunited?

Soon to be released by Luminosity Publishing: a paranormal romance with a difference to keep you enthralled.


What if “love at first sight” was no more than two soul mates recognising each other through eons of time? But what would happen if one of those such souls was a lingering spirit, whilst the other had reincarnated into another human life form? If that were the case, how far would anyone go for the sake of love to be reunited?

For Peter Grant, the moment he steps into a house for sale in a coastal hamlet in Norfolk, England, a feeling of déjà vu descends on him, and the need to purchase the cottage is overwhelming.

Divorced and retired, he has ample time to enjoy the peace and quiet of his surroundings, with just his faithful dog for company. The only distraction is the nightly sound of a woman weeping . . .


READER ADVISORY: Supernatural themes and graphic sex scenes.

PUBLISHER NOTE: Contemporary Supernatural Romance. Ghost Story. 41,800 words.

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Ghosts and other unexplained experiences

I had included this article in my memoir (yet to be published), but after I was advised to reduce its word count as the manuscript was considered too long at 145,000 words, some of my writing had to be culled. Rather than “lose” this piece altogether, I decided to publish it here on my blog.

I know this may sound odd, and I cringe to admit it, especially as not everyone believes in ghosts – yet I do, only because from experiencing certain unexplained sounds, feelings and sightings. I can only conclude that my body acts like a sort of conductor for these manifestations. Perhaps my creativity wills me in believing their existence, but there have been too many of these “unexplained” phenomena for them not to be real.

The first time I “witnessed” such an occurrence was in Hampstead, London, UK, when my family resided in Maresfield Gardens. I was driving dad’s Humber Hawk; my two oldest friends, Simon and Tony were following behind in Tony’s Hillman Imp. It was Sunday morning, we had been in church and were returning to my home for lunch – and no, I wasn’t drunk. The road was narrow, with cars parked on either side. A large, old black car, looking like something out of the 1930s, but could have just as easily been a hearse, was coming down the other way, and its driver wasn’t slowing down. I just managed to pull into someone’s driveway to avoid the on-coming vehicle. Needlesstosay, I let rip with some choice words as he passed. I looked over my shoulder to see Tony pull up next to me and ask why I had swerved? “Didn’t you see that maniac driving the big black car?” I said, to which Tony replied “What car?”

Perhaps I had hallucinated it, but it had left me quite shaken. Had that been the one and only ‘spiritual’ experience then I probably would have dismissed it from my life and this blog, but it was to be the first of several such “experiences”; although it was the only one where I actually saw one of physical form. The others were/are sounds, shadows and feelings.

The next time there was such an occurrence was when we were living at a three-storey house in Kingscroft Road, West Hampstead. As usual, I was in my bedroom on the top floor of the house, (as were those of my two sisters). It was a nice room with a side view, so if I had extra-long arms, I would be able to touch the house next door. Fortunately, the neighbour’s sloping roof meant my window allowed some natural light and fresh air – if you can call London air ‘fresh’. I would spend endless hours either painting, making ‘Airfix’ models, reading, or writing. The latter was limited to poetry and short stories. During daylight hours, there was no need for any artificial lighting, unless I was making some intricate model, then I would turn on my desk light. You can imagine my surprise when, one day, the overhead light came on. I looked up expecting to see one of my family at the door, but there was no one, yet the wall switch had been flipped down. I stood and walked to the landing. I was alone, so I switched the light off and returned to the desk. Even though it was a warm day and the window was open, a chill that wasn’t previously there seemed to have descended in the room. Again, I thought nothing of it, except that it seemed odd, so I mentioned it to dad in case it was a faulty switch. It wasn’t.

My father was a very superstitious and religious person, and when we moved into any new home, the first thing he would do was to invite the local priest to bless the house. I expect his reasoning was to make sure there was no lingering evil from past residents, and to ensure the health and safety of our family. Whatever his reasons, the benediction of the house made no difference to the world of the spiritual; or come to think of it, neither did it spare us from health issues.

The next time something odd happened, I was alone in the house. The only other person who was home was my grandmother, but she was in her ground floor flat, and she would rarely ascend the three flights of steps to visit me in my bedroom. If she ever needed me for something, she would stand in the downstairs foyer and yell out my name – she did have a really shrill voice when she needed to be heard – bless her. Hearing the sound of someone climbing up the stairs, I rose from my chair and stepped out on to the landing expecting to see nonna. There was no one. If it had only been me, then I would have said I had imagined it, but my elder sister, Lesley had had a similar experience, however like me, she thought she had imagined it. And it was only recently, when I was discussing my plans for writing my memoirs, when I raised this ‘haunting’ experience, that she admitted her scary moment.

The thing is, these occurrences don’t happen all the time, so I beg to ask why I am prone to them at all?

During the summer holidays Simon’s parents used to rent a large house, ‘The Garth’ located at Burnham Overy Staithe in Norfolk, close to Burnham Market. From time to time, I, as well as Tony and, another friend, Dominic, would join them for a few days. We were always made welcome. Simon’s parents, Pam and Dennis, were lovely, likeable people, and were looked upon more as family than just friends. Dennis, was convinced the house was indeed haunted, when in one instance he was on the upstairs landing, on espying a well-groomed gentleman approach the house he descended the stairs to greet him. The front door had a window above it so the path could be seen from the upstairs landing. When Dennis opened the door, there was no one there.

Maybe it was his ‘tale’ that got my imagination going, but one night whilst asleep on a camp bed in the sitting room, I heard someone walking around outside the door in the hallway. Thinking it was one of my mates or the family dog, I got up and stepped out in the gloom. Apart from an unexplained chilliness, there was no one about.

Another weird experience I encountered, was a feeling of ‘déjà vu’ when, in the early 1980s I visited for the first, and only time, the island of Anglesey. I was in North Wales on holiday and had gone into Caernarvon to visit the town, when on impulse decided to cross over to the island. As I stood near open fields in a remote area, a strange sensation came over me of having been here before. Even though I knew this was not possible, the familiarity of the place was too strong, and after the visit I kept having re-occurring dreams of the place.

It would be another twenty years or so later, when another, unrelated, event would more-or-less convince me that I had, in fact, been on Anglesey before – but not in this life.

It happened when I was in Australia, sometime in the early 1990s; I had visited a small café at the coastal town of Wamberal on the Central Coast (about 50km north of Sydney) with my 2nd wife (now my 2nd ex-), Sandra. As we sat there enjoying a light meal, I noticed a sign saying they had a Tarot card reader in a private room. As I’m interested in the occult, Sandra paid the fee, as a special treat. Whilst Sandra waited for me outside, I sat opposite the reader. The medium shuffled the cards and made me split them into three piles. Taking the centre one, she began to turn them face up. Up until this point I hadn’t spoken to her. She then told me the following, some facts accurate, some not quite, but one revelation that blew my mind: “you grew up in England, but you weren’t born there (correct). You are/were a soldier or a cleric (not correct, but I still had an interest in both – more of that later). I had visited the island of Anglesey (correct!)”. Perhaps I should have asked her to elaborate on that last fact a bit more, but I was too stunned by her revelation.

On the subject of being either a soldier or a priest, and of being on Anglesey, it seemed to me that my soul had possibly occupied the body of such a person hundreds of years previously. As much as I don’t like getting into discussions of a religious or political nature, because everyone has their own beliefs, and I wouldn’t want to be influenced by them, nor would I dare impose my beliefs on others, but as this article is about me, then it is only fair to share my feelings regarding this matter. I will only say, that as much as I was born to a Roman Catholic family and was brought up into that religion, too many things have happened in my life making me question the sincerity of any religion, let alone my own. I suspect, that my present beliefs, compounded by the Anglesey phenomenon, as I choose to call it, is that our souls are immortal. We inhabit a body during a certain life span, but when that body dies, we are placed in some sort of limbo until a suitable body becomes available, either on Earth or on another planet amongst the billions of star systems in our galaxy.

I have always had a fascination with history and anything historical. I used to drool over a collection of Medieval swords that were on display at my paternal grandmother’s apartment on the island of Malta. And I was drawn to my paternal family history, thanks to my father’s elder brother, Edwin. He was so interested in our roots that he carried out an intensive research into it, tracing the line as far back as the early 16th century, on the island of Malta, and in Spain previous to that. Two of our ancestors were not only brothers in blood, but brothers in arms – they were religious Knights of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. They are buried together in a tomb in St. John’s Cathedral located in Valletta (tomb number 267 Emanuele and Giuseppe Borg).

That said, and returning to the theory that I had lived sometime in the past, I can only conclude, should my uncle be correct about our links to Spain, perhaps I had been a soldier of Christ aboard one of the many ships of the Great Armada that had sailed for England in the year 1588. When the English Navy attacked the Spanish fleet at the Battle of Gravelines, most of the Spanish ships were able to escape by sailing up the North Sea, around Scotland, and then heading south to the Atlantic. Although the majority were sunk due to severe storms off the west coast of Ireland, it might have been possible for a ship or two to have slipped through into the Irish Sea and run aground either by accident or by design, onto the island of Anglesey.

I know it sounds far-fetched, but it’s the only way I can explain this weird event in my life.

Going back to spooks though, the buggers hadn’t left me alone (and they still don’t). Even though I was now living in Sydney, Australia (from 2nd November 1988 – 1st March 2016), in a new house, not previously lived in, I was sure there would be no such visitors. I was wrong. Sandra had bought a house in the leafy northern suburb of Berowra in 2006. The property was one of fourteen town houses on land which was once occupied by stables. We had designated one of the upstairs bedrooms as a study, where I would spend endless hours (when not at work or doing family things) either writing or playing computer games. On one particular occasion I heard someone walking along the landing, and in my peripheral vision, a shadow passed into the other bedroom. Thinking it was Sandra, I rose from the chair and stepped into the bedroom to see what she was up to. The room was empty. I went downstairs, she was out in the garden, pottering.

There had been other sounds in the house, mostly shuffling or scratching sounds, but we explained them away as rats in the attic – which of course, there were, but that’s another story.

Before I leave the subject of ghosts, I will just add that it would only be fair to include my present “unwelcome” house guest. The apartment I currently live in is located in the small coastal town of Golfe-Juan in southern France, located in between Cannes and Antibes on the Côte d’Azur. I have been living in Golfe-Juan since 2nd March 2016, after Sandra and I separated (for the second time) after twenty-eight years of marriage (not my choice). Five days after my arrival I purchased the flat. It was the first property I visited, but fell in love with it and refused to view any others. It’s a nice, small flat – with an emphasis on ‘small’ – the entire apartment is no bigger than the size of the lounge-diner at the house in Berowra which Sandra still owns; but it’s home, and its size means there’s not much to clean. Sorry, I’m getting side-tracked, so I’ll tell you about my ghost. What I cannot comprehend though, the building is only 25 years old. The previous owners were an Italian couple who used it as a holiday let for tourists, and also for themselves. So, unless, someone died whilst at the property, or there was an incident on the field where the apartment building now sits, I don’t understand why I keep getting plagued by this weirdo. He (could be a she) lets me know of his presence by banging the floor-to-ceiling bedroom wardrobe doors – usually in the early hours of the morning, and making me jump out of my skin. The room becomes exceptionally cold, and only returns to normal after I tell him/her to sod off: in English, Italian, and French…. Well you never know, do you? There are times he makes his presence known during the day, but those occasions are rare – he much prefers to wake me up!

I have become used to having these presences in my life, and I don’t fear them. For all I know it might be someone close to me that just doesn’t want to leave, and has stuck by, and will no doubt continue to do so. Or, as I have come to suspect, once our body dies, we are at a loose end until we find a means to begin again in another life-form; and hang around at the last place we had ‘lived’ at.


RLB – Tomewriter


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Will I be remembered 100 years after my death?

Obviously my creativity must have come from somewhere? And I suspect it is hereditary, for as long as I can remember, mum has always been a writer of poetry and novels.

Mum had once told me of her uncle Louis who had been a poet and journalist, but who had died several years before she had been born. It was due to his widely celebrated status that influenced her to try and follow in his footsteps. Unfortunately, the outbreak of World War II was to disrupt her ambitions.

Her uncle, Louis Fleri, was born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1882. Growing up, he had a totally French education, and by 1903, he was already an accomplished writer in that language having had several of his poems published in an anthology entitled “Les Émois Factices”. This was followed in 1904 with a further anthology entitled “Le Livre d’Elvire”.

Other than his poetry, he was employed as a copy editor for a literary newspaper known as the NOUVELLE REVUE D’ÉGYPTE” in which he also participated as a book reviewer.

In 1905 it seems his attention shifted to international political affairs, principally a crisis which was developing in India. Whether he had traveled there to experience the rising troubles first hand is unknown, but his comprehensive report entitled “L’INDE D’AUJOURD’HUI” [India of Today] published in August of that year in “LA REVUE INTERNATIONALE D’ÉGYPTE” is informative and precise.

All of Louis’ poems are in French, but I was able to find one written in English that had been published in August 1905.


I hear the silent hands closing the latest door

and the returning step is so moving before

that our night is darker and our heart is dead.

I feel the sleepy eyes closing my latest dream

and its deceitful fate can never be redeemed

so that the night is darker and our heart is dead.

But Thee! Remove the twisting hands from the dream denied

I’ll stand crying for life and light in force and pride

even if the Night ‘s darker and our Heart be dead.




One can only wonder why he wrote such disturbing words…

It’s not known if Louis served during World War I, but the British Forces War Records for Commonwealth Military personnel shows an L Fleri, service number 1051, who served as a Gunner during 1914 and 1915 in the Royal Malta Artillery.

In 1918 an influenza pandemic swept the globe claiming the lives of some 50 million people worldwide. Louis was among their number. He was just 36 years old.


With his passing and the passing of other relatives after him, Louis’ accomplishments had been forgotten, or at least until early January 2019.

One hundred years after his death his works of poetry have been reawakened.

I was contacted by a professor of French Literature at the University of Malta who had been told by an organisation based in Switzerland; a cultural and recreational society consisting of people who have lived or still live in Alexandria, that my mother was related to Louis Fleri. The professor was searching for copies of Louis’ anthologies and hoped my mother would have them.

Fortunately for him, mum had copied all the poems, free-hand, into an exercise book when she was seventeen years old.

Needless to say, he was more than pleased when I scanned them all to him.

Since then I have received a great deal more information regarding my grand-uncle from a professor of French Literature at the University of Nantes, in France, and also from an official at the Centre of Historical Studies of Alexandria.

I am pleased, if not a little proud, for Louis Fleri, that even after 100 years since his death his writings are still being read and discussed among students of literature and, perhaps through them, Louis’ poetry and other accomplishments will live on.


Louis Fleri

1882 – 1918

Poet, Writer, Journalist


RLB – Tomewriter


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Creativity – Where does it come from?

I don’t think it’s an unreasonable question.

Are we born with it or does it somehow metamorphose into us, changing us from one type of person to another; someone who doesn’t have a clue about art appreciation, to someone who does. A bit like a butterfly being changed from a caterpillar.

In truth, I have never given it much thought, as it has seemed to me that, in some way or another, I always held an appreciation of art in most of its forms. Mostly however in whichever way I could create it with my own hands, whether it was building models, drawing, painting, doing jigsaw puzzles, photography, writing, and cooking – if you can call it art, but it is creative in some way, isn’t it?.

The building of models usually consisted of those plastic things like ships, aircraft, trains, and cars that came in hundreds of bits that needed to be glued together and painted. This was one of my hobbies when I was in my pre-teenage years, but followed me into adulthood. When I was in my late teens I had a mad moment and created what was perhaps one of my best efforts – an entire World War One battlefield complete with trenches, lighting, barbed wire, and soldiers. Using nothing more than a large sheet of hard board, that took up most of the floor space of my bedroom, papier mâché, match sticks, fuse wire [for the barbed wire], and ghastly brown and green paint to cover it all. From memory it took a few months to build and I wish now I had taken a photograph of it. Of course, it wasn’t to remain on the floor for too long after completion as it was becoming near impossible to move freely around the room. Getting to my bed was a challenge in itself. So one day it was there and then, in a blink of an eye, it was utterly destroyed and committed to the rubbish bin.

The last model I ever built was in 2001. It was the German U-boat U47. At the time I was still researching and writing my non-fiction history book Smithy’s War; more of that later.

The model had a cut-away section along the entire port side revealing the interior complete with batteries, engines, torpedoes, and crew. Each component was painstakingly painted using a magnifying glass and powerful desk lamp so I could see what I was doing. The model stayed with me until 2016 when I departed Australia for Europe, I left it behind as I believed it wouldn’t survive the journey.

Drawing and painting seemed to come naturally, although I must admit trying to draw people, unless it’s a matchstick person, was, and still remains far too difficult for me to reproduce. I much prefer to keep it simple by limiting myself to seascapes or landscapes, with an occasional animal slipping into the frame, or like the following one-off of a snow goose:

It’s a shame that I never made a record of when I created my artwork, but most of it was drawn or painted between the 1960s and 1970s. The last of these was in 1977:

By the time the 1980s came along I started to take more photographs and the oil paints were forgotten to dry up in a drawer somewhere. Photography was to become a passion that I still hold dear today, even though my camera has been reduced to a pocket-sized one. I keep promising myself to purchase something of better quality, but as yet I never have. Perhaps Santa will be kind to me one day.

Although I had been writing poetry and short stories during my teenage years, it wasn’t until the early 1990s that I began to dabble in more serious writing. Having left the UK in the latter part of 1988 and immigrating to Australia, the change of environment seemed, in some unseen way, to inspire my muse.

The books were kick-started when I wrote my first fiction crime novel entitled “Out of the Darkness”, however, at the time I didn’t think it very good so it got filed away for another day. But I wasn’t to give up so easily, and I moved on to write my first adventure with romantic elements fiction novel set in England and New South Wales during the early 19th Century. Although initially completed in 1994 it wasn’t self-published until 2012 on Smashwords. The book is entitled “Beneath Southern Stars”. It is also the first time that I used the pen name, Louise Roberts. From that moment she became the writer of all my historical romance stories.

At about the same time, a friend gave me to read the diary of one of his uncles [deceased] who had been a communications officer aboard an oil tanker during World War Two. It was a fabulous read: interesting, informative, frightening at times, but highly amusing. I told my friend he should try and get it published, to which he said ‘as I was an author perhaps I could make it into something publishable’. I took it as a challenge. It would be a project that would take ten years to complete. The research alone was staggering – I’d never read so much in my life, but the experience was without a doubt the best thing I had embarked upon. The immense knowledge I had acquired from it all was priceless. “Smithy’s War” was to be self-published in a paperback version [extremely limited edition] in 2005. It wouldn’t be until 2012 when I self-published it as an e-book on Smashwords.

Since 2012 several more books were to be published, until the very last one, which ironically was my very first, “Out of the Darkness” was released both in paper and digital formats in the early part of 2018.

The following are all my books to date:

I asked at the commencement of this blog, where does all this creativity come from? Is it from the mind, the heart, or the soul?

It is a question which probably cannot be answered. But recently I have begun to believe that possibly it is, in fact, from the heart.

I’m saying this because, since April of this year [2018], I have been unable to write any more stories. The ideas are there – I can see them in my minds’ eye, but trying to put the words down on paper has become an impossible quest. I think the reason for this must be linked to the heart operation that was carried out in March. Perhaps it is just a coincidence, but since after the surgeon zapped my heart’s interior with his laser my story-telling has dried up.

For the past few months I have been occupying my time with reading, completing crosswords, going for walks and taking photographs, watching TV and playing computer games. That is until a couple of weeks ago when I had a sudden urge to start painting again.

I had a look through some of the photos I had taken around my new location, Golfe-Juan in the south of France, and finding one that I took in 2016, tried to replicate it in oils:

I didn’t think it was too bad a creation, especially when the last time I handled a brush and oil paints was over 40 years ago. And, I hasten to add, it won’t be the last… I already have another subject in mind to consign to canvas, but I shall be waiting until after Christmas to make a start on it.

All in all, it looks like I have gone, more or less, full circle. I hope however that there will come a time when I shall find my muse again to enable me to complete the writing projects that are still on my ‘to-do’ list.

RLB – Tomewriter

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