Month: October 2014

Do you believe in ghosts?


Strange, but mention of the paranormal evokes strong feelings in lots of people. Some get unaccountably angry and vociferous, declaiming that ‘it’s all nonsense’ and anyone who believes in such phenomena are deluded dimwits or liars. The same people who have strong religious beliefs, which exist on the basis of faith alone, can still be furious at the prospect of any kind of psychic phenomena, and I wonder just where this anger comes from. Are they secretly afraid of something?

The question itself ‘Do you believe in ghosts?’ always seems a bit simplistic and banal to me. No one but a fool would believe that every person’s alleged supernatural experience is genuine, but again, no one but a fool would condemn all of those who claims such things as dishonest or deluded. The question should really be: ‘Do you believe in the possibility of there being ghosts?’ I do. Very much so.

I have never seen a ‘ghost’ or had any paranormal experience, but I must admit the prospect of other dimensions to life beyond death I find absolutely fascinating. Because a great many rational, honest, intelligent people claim to have had genuine paranormal experiences so even if 99 per cent of them can be discounted as mistaken, or rational explanations can be found for them, what about the one per cent that cannot be explained away?

Obviously many ghostly tales are invented or are the product of an overactive imagination. In a house I once stayed one door kept opening on its own, and someone said this was a ‘mischievous spirit’, until I set a spirit (unintentional pun) level against it, finding that, as it was slightly askew, gravity would cause it to close on its own. There are scores of other reasons for unexplained phenomena in a house: shrinking woodwork, underground water, noisy rats and mice, ordinary sounds magnified by particular acoustics, and I daresay many other things. But what about the cases that are reported where all these possibilities are examined and excluded, so that there is no realistic explanation at all?

An old lady I knew was absolutely certain that at her husband’s funeral, when she was at her lowest ebb, she felt his hand on her shoulder, and she ‘knew’ he was there beside her. A friend reported that her mother appeared to her in a dream very shortly after she died, and she was aware of her presence somehow. After my mother’s funeral, at the gathering at the house, a photograph came off the mantelpiece, and fell to the floor – it was a photo of the granddaughter of one of the guests in the room. He said ‘That’s Margot’s spirit did that!’ Afterwards I was certain it must have been a draught or a gust of wind, yet when I put it back and blew from all directions, nothing moved the photograph. The next morning the record player stopped working for no apparent reason. Then started. The radio in my car did the same thing: stopped for a few moments then started again.

The talented painter, Tom Keating, in a radio interview, calmly referred to a castle in Scotland where held been employed to restore paintings, was haunted. He made no big deal about it, just referred to it in passing, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. This is the point. If phantoms or the spirits of dead people do exist they’re not something separate and phenomenal, they must be in the real world, unexciting, there all the time, part of normality. There are also a great many groups of individuals, teams who professionally investigate unexplained happenings. These aren’t fools, they are predominantly scientific people with scientific instruments, who want to record facts, and they presumably do so and publish their findings.

Most alleged sighting are non-provable things that scientists would scoff at. But there are other unexplained things I can think of. The dream I once had of a man telling me about a German pilot shooting a British pilot who had bailed out of his plane, and his anger at such a despicable act. And the very next day a man said exactly that same thing to me in those same words. When I was 19, and about to go out one evening, the fact that my mother (who I lived with at the time) had a horrible premonition that something would go wrong. The car chassis cracked and I barely made it out of the drive, and when I told her she was delighted and relieved as she ‘knew’ something unpleasant was going to happen and was just pleased it wasn’t a crash.

There was once a marvellous TV series on Channel 4 (in Britain) called ‘After Dark’, where experts in a particular field would gather together and have a live discussion. Once there was a gathering of spiritualists. And they were casually talking of people they could ‘see’ who had recently ‘passed over’ and describing what they looked to the others. This wasn’t rehearsed or scripted, you could tell, and they were unremarkable casual very ordinary people, not what you call imaginative in any way.

Again, recently on television, the likeable and eminently honest actor Joe Swash did a programme I believe in ghosts, where he travelled around Britain investigating reported phantoms. Predictably most of it was pretty unimpressive, despite his best efforts, with eccentric people waffling on about paranormal happenings, but Joe saw nothing untoward. However right at the end he spent the night in the underground passageways somewhere in Edinburgh, which were reputed to be haunted. He felt uncomfortable, and towards the end of the night he could stand it no more and left. Apparently nothing more than his inherent fear had overcome him. However, he had recording equipment with him, and a sound engineer magnified what had been recorded on it. There was conversation, in a language that couldn’t be deciphered, but it was beyond doubt human voices, even occasional words could be delineated. And the sound engineers carefully considered the possibility of sounds being bounced from some other location and this was completely discounted. So, again, it comes down to trust. Do you accept that Joe Swash, as a man of integrity, and his sound engineers, who have a professional reputation to think of, might have falsified this evidence? I don’t. It’s down to trust, and I trusted Joe Swash and his team to be honest and truthful. They could have falsified other evidence in the programme and they didn’t.

So I’d very much like to know about your experiences. Do you believe in ghosts?

Please tell me, and share your experiences. I would love to hear from you.



Gremlins in the wires and Talk Talk cannot Talk


We all need technology and when it goes wrong it’s a nightmare because it seems that hardly any single person knows what to do. My internet service with AOL has been disrupted for a fortnight now, and here is a section of the letter I wrote to my provider, Talk Talk (who took over AOL recently):

To: Head of Customer Relations, TalkTalk

Dear Sir or Madam

I am writing to let you know how truly appalling your technical repair service is.

On 14 October, I phoned to report a fault in my internet service – it was impossible to connect. Your operator gave me various tests to perform, at the conclusion of which she said it was necessary for your engineer to call to inspect my equipment.

Nobody could come until a week later, the 21st. Your engineer duly arrived and he was excellent. After checking the router, filter and socket on the wall he surmised that the fault was beyond the premises, a problem for Openreach to deal with. Accordingly, he phoned to escalate the investigation, specially telling your operator that he had checked the equipment and the fault was definitely a problem to be solved by an Openreach engineer. Although he was a perfectly articulate and lucid speaker, he had great difficulty making the operator understand what he was saying and had to stand for a long long time repeating what he wanted. Eventually the operator caught on, I presume, stating she had escalated the enquiry.

Since then I have heard nothing. Two days ago, the 23rd, I phoned to find out what was happening. After about half an hour waiting and being apologised to, I was assured that someone would contact me within 24 hours. She then said someone would contact me between 24 – 48 hours. It is now 48 hours and I have heard nothing.

Fortunately my contract with your inept, incompetent company ends in December, and I plan to change providers. I am a journalist and rely on having a broadband connection for my livelihood, and due to your lack of communication and bigoted, ridiculous rules, I will, after 20 years with AOL, leave you, since you clearly cannot function.

The key problem, if you are interested in knowing, which I doubt, is communication. When you phone, the operators barely speaks English or understands what you say. They are mostly very keen to shut you up so that you get off the line. When you are promised something will be done nothing is done. And I am completely powerless to make anything happen, since BT, which I presume has equal access to Openreach, cannot help me, the request for engineering help on the public wiring in the road has to come from Talk Talk.

I tried to email you, but there isn’t even an email address for someone in overall control of your inept organisation, just some kind of absurd pull-down menu.

The reality is, TALK TALK CANNOT TALK. They cannot communicate properly and are clueless at solving problems.

I shall make this complaint as public as I can, probably via twitter. And I very much hope this loses you many more customers, since because of your inability to communicate with customers you are incapable of providing a reasonable service of any kind.

Frankly, I consider that you have treated me with utter contempt.

Yours sincerely


Next, a friend sent me a document as an attachment. There were various errors in this, but she explained that at her end the document she sent did not have these errors. She sent it to others, all of whom did not find the errors I had found.

My old computer uses the Vista operating system, and I’ve been told that this must be what is at fault. So getting a new or replacement computer appears to be the only answer. Why would this happen? Why would an old operating system alter an incoming document?

Everything is going wrong at once, but at least the knowledgeable and helpful engineer who called told me about dongles, and the possibility of getting temporary internet access, which I now have via 3G phones.

Does anyone else have glitches like this, where everything but everything goes wrong all at once? Grrrrrrrrrrr!

Sheer Fear

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My new book Sheer Fear is coming soon, and I am delighted with Karen Waters and Jody Smyers, who have done a fine cover. If you’re looking for a cover designer I can wholeheartedly recommend them, as are artistic, creative, quick to catch on to your requirements and to do the work, and charge very fair rates. Currently my friend @juliaproofreader is checking the text, because, even though I am a professional proofreader for publishers and indie writers, you cannot see your own mistakes, as any editor will tell you.

Sheer Fear is the third in the Jack Lockwood mystery series and starts when Jack’s half brother falls from a crane, having just told Jack about the conspiracy to frame him for three rape murders. Just before he dies he tells Jack that a very important person has been accused of historic child abuse, and his incrimination is part of the cover-up to protect the man, who is an influential ex-politician and Lord of the realm. At the same time, Jack has an unknown enemy who is playing vicious tricks on him, and he knows he must find out who it is before the tricks turn deadly. Travelling to Copenhagen, Rome, Paris and London, Jack tries to unravel the truth, which involves bullion theft, murder and top level conspiracies. As always he is ultimately alone in his struggle to save his own life and right the wrongs of the past. . .


David Hart had about a minute left to live.

I foolishly thought I could save his life, otherwise I’d never have been standing on the rain slippery metal pole of a crane, 400 feet above the ground. Vertigo had kicked in. Everything was starting to spin, my vision was blurring and sounds whacked me like fat wet sponges.

My senses were closing down one by one.

“David?” I yelled. “Listen! There’s a way out of this.”

“You reckon?” he spluttered.

I was still a few yards away from him. I held out my right hand: a peace offering. The other was gripping the steel pole beside me. Random smells hit me. My own sweat. Diesel fumes. An incongruous lavender perfume aroma. The sweet-sour tang of hard hot metal.

Nobody tells you that the structure of a metal crane bucks and quivers with the wind, it’s like you’re on board ship on a choppy sea. I’d just climbed up eight long ladders within the quivering metal structure, and my leg muscles were screaming. When I was halfway to heaven the endless silver struts gave way at last to the steel bars that pointed out into the sky, directly below the door to the operator’s cab. That big chunk of solid metal, with SHEFFIELD CRANES shouting out in coloured lettering, almost pulled me back to mundane reality. Those letters, and a smear of brown bubbling rust, were tantalisingly close above my head.

David Hart, the man with whom I shared a very special, secret bond, was just a few yards away from me. His eyes were red-raw from the hysterical weeping I’d just witnessed. All I remember from that day is random images: beads of rainwater on his pink bloody forehead. Single unshaven whisker on a dirty throat. A lonely unfastened trainer lace caught up in the breeze.

Drizzle hacked my face. The spinning sensation diminished. Gradually I could see and hear properly, aware mainly of a thumping heartbeat in my ears. Legs still trembling, I somehow managed to stand on the jib, the horizontal arm that was shaped into a knee-level cage, towards where David was balanced halfway along the finger in the sky.

The jib was made up of a triangle of three metal struts joined by latticework metal, the topmost one of the triangle the only surface to walk on. David was sitting astride this topmost strut, legs hugging the sides, outlined against the black angry clouds. Directly below him were the steel lines fixed to the giant jib-line hook on a pulley. It was attached to the straining wires around a rectangle of pure white concrete that was bigger than a car. I’d seen it weaving to and fro mesmerizingly close to my head above the streets of Canterbury as I was climbing up.

I thought about Mary Doyle. And of how it felt to hold her in my arms, and to feel the thump of her heartbeat against my own. And I thought about the tiny mole on her shoulder that I’d never see again if I died.

David was facing me, hysterical eyes alive with a burning desperation. His grip on the metal bar in front of him slackened as his hands began to tremble uncontrollably.
I dropped myself down, so that I too, was sitting astride the jib. And I pushed myself along so that I was closer to him.

I reached out.

“G-G-G-Get away from me J-J-Jack!”
His stutter had made him the butt of jokes when we were in the same class at school, when we were both aged eight. I’d done my best to defend him then.

Some things never seem to change.

“Just come down, David. Please!”

A long way below I could see people were looking up, their bodies as tiny as dolls, their faces craned skywards. I could just about hear the cacophonous sound of a car’s blaring horn, deafening as I was climbing, but steadily decreasing the higher I got.

“Look, David, you locked Sian in the car. She doesn’t know what’s going on, and she’s terrified. What if she takes the handbrake off?”

“She’ll be all right.”

“You need to get down to your daughter. Think of her.”

“W-Why else do you think I grabbed her and made a r-run for it? It should have been okay. I just wanted to take her away somewhere, anywhere. Why the hell did you have to follow me, Jack? Why couldn’t you just mind your own business for once?”

“You wouldn’t have got far.”

“But it was my only chance! Janet wouldn’t let me take Sian – that’s why I hit her – I didn’t mean to hurt her, but she fell onto the fireplace . I –t-t-t-think I killed her. So I’ll go down for sure now. Sian will get taken into care.”

And all at once I was transported back to the school changing rooms, when David’s football boots had been snatched and were being tossed from one to another above his head, all the boys taunting him, laughing at him, as he was crying and pleading, reaching out in vain to get them back. The more he cried and screamed out, the more they laughed. Until I grabbed his boots from the biggest boy and smashed my fist into his face.

There was the faint honking noise of someone yelling on a tannoy, muffled irrelevant words scattered into the breeze. From up here the grand spires of Canterbury’s St Augustine’s Cathedral looked almost close enough to touch. The rest of the city of Canterbury was like a fine colourful tablecloth spread out far below us, though I was too absorbed in the hell of the moment to look. My Land Rover Discovery was slewed in front of David’s mangled Vauxhall, its front wing crumpled against my passenger door. What seemed like a lifetime ago I’d deliberately forced him to ram me. He’d leapt out of his car and climbed.

And I, like a fool, had followed him.

My legs were beginning to tremble even more, agonised muscles locking down tight. I felt myself losing my grip against the metal. Things were once again beginning to spin.
I was going to die.

But I had to move closer to him. Had to get within reach.

“Come on David.” I shouted.

“Leave me alone Jack! I’ve got no choice now. You know I’d never survive jail.”
The wind was whipping up, the gust smacking a blast of rain into my eyes. The slippery metal beneath my thighs was shivering again. Water ran down my face. I tried to keep my voice steady.

“You can’t do this.”

“Got no alternative. Not now.”

The wind picked up again, blowing away the words.

“There’s a way out of this—”

“—Just leave me alone Jack! You ruined my chance of getting away.” I saw his grip loosen slightly on the metal bar. “Now—”

“—Come on David. Come down now and let’s get it sorted.”

“I think I killed Janet. Didn’t mean to. But I had to get Sian away from her. Do you understand Jack? Everything kind of went out of control.”

“Listen to me! I know you didn’t kill those women.”

“Then why are they going to arrest me for the murders?”

“Because they’re wrong! We have to fight them.”

“Fuck it, Jack, you’ve got no idea. This whole thing is bigger than anyone realises.”

“Tell me then.”

Things were spinning again now. The sky was falling down to meet me, the earth rising up. I felt myself slipping sideways.

“Does anyone know about us, Jack?” he glared at me earnestly.

“No. It’s our secret.”

“I never even told Janet,” David said.

“Our secret.”

I was moving closer and closer. Soon. Very soon.

“See Jack there’s so much you don’t know – things that no one’s gonna believe.”

“So tell me.”

“Guys like you and me, Jack, we don’t matter. These kind of people are way out of our league. You get in their way and they just tell someone to snuff you out.”

“What kind of people? Who are you talking about?”

“You’d never believe how high it goes. Had no idea there were men like that who’d want to…” He began to cry again, continuing between sobs: “Shit. The copper told me. They take what they want and just use people. They had to cover it up, see? If they hadn’t fitted me up it would’ve been someone else.” He broke down again, his voice barely a croak.

“Listen David. If someone framed you, then tell me and I’ll help.”
I was about three feet away from him now, clinging onto the strut in front of me.
David Hart frowned through his tears. “Will you really help me Jack? Will you really try to find someone who’ll listen to me?”

“Yes. I swear it. Okay?”

“You mean it?”

“I won’t lie. They are going to charge you with the murders. But we fight it. You tell me all you know. And I’ll fight for you. God knows, I always have, haven’t I?”

“But what if—”

The book is coming out very soon.

Here is my amazon page for the other books:

and my website