Guest Blog by Aaron David

In our first Guest Blog, Aaron David writes about himself and his writing. Links to his excellent work can be found at the bottom of the page.

I hate talking about myself but here goes. I was born at a very early age in 1965. If you look at a map of the UK, there’s a mountain range called The Pennines; often referred to as ‘the backbone of England. On the east side is Yorkshire and on the west is Lancashire. Nestled in the western foothills is Bolton. Bolton is widely thought to be the biggest town (that isn’t a city) in Britain. Someone recently told me it’s the biggest town (that isn’t a city) in Europe. In a few weeks it will probably be the biggest town (that isn’t a city) in the universe. Back then, Bolton was still a mill town, producing and treating cotton and cotton products. Most of the walls were coated in soot and fluffy, filthy cotton waste. I couldn’t and wouldn’t describe my childhood as happy; my parents were not a happy couple and they constantly argued. My Mum was one of the best examples of a human being I’ve ever known, but she had rotten taste in men. The least said about my Dad, the better.

I excelled in school, being alternately known as ‘the brainy one’, and ‘the class clown’. In the seventies, we had grammar schools and the eleven plus exam. The pupils who scored in the top ten percent were offered a place in grammar school. I went to one and have always been and will always be grateful. Aged fifteen, I decided my vocation was photography. I set up a darkroom in the loft and spent as much time and money as I could to become competent. When I left school, I was a professional photographer for nine years. Aged nineteen, I had the tremendous good fortune to meet the prettiest woman I’ve ever seen. Thirty four years later we are still happily married. I became disillusioned and bored with photography and, aged 25 I started a business, installing and repairing burglar alarms. I still own and run the company. In 1993, we had a son, in ‘95 we had a daughter and in ’97 we had another son. My wife worked for social services and did three twenty-four hour shifts per week. Being self employed I would stay home when she was at work and go to work when she came home. It meant we never had to use any kind of childcare. Dear reader, I don’t know if you have children but if you do you’ll know that there’s a lot of time spent waiting; waiting for them to wake up, waiting for feeding time, rocking a cot at 4.00am, etc. In ’97, just before our youngest was born, I decided to use this time to test a theory; I’d always thought maybe I could write but was always busy with other things. I bought an exercise book and pack of ballpoints and set out to write ‘a funny book’. I wasn’t interested in changing anyone’s life, critical acclaim or winning awards, just writing a funny book. The first night I wrote page one. The second night I wrote eight pages. Doing some quick maths, I worked out I’d finish it by Christmas and be able to retire on the royalties by Easter. Sure enough, a mere ten years later, I finished the bloody thing. This was 2007, I didn’t do anything with it until I launched a website in 2009 and published on Amazon in 2010. By 2013, I’d sold six copies and decided I’d better have a go at marketing. I joined social media and made some amazing friends, most notably Ian Hutson, Pat McDonald, Carol E. Wyre, Tony Gilbert, Christoph Fischer and many, many others. Towards the end of 2013 I started writing short stories. I now have a dozen books published (three are compilations) and I’m working on a film script with an American screen writer.

Did I mention I hate talking about myself?

Where do my ideas come from? Ooooh! Sometimes a phrase, a TV program, sometimes something will pop into my head while I’m driving but most often I get ideas late at night; I’m an insomniac and never get to sleep before 3.00 or 4.00am. Something just goes ‘ping’ in the back of my head and the adventure begins. Here’s an example; a couple of years ago I was talking to a friend who owns a small publishing company. He said they were putting together an anthology of horror short stories and did I have anything to contribute. I said it wasn’t my genre but he said if I came up with anything to let him know. That night I was watching the original Jurassic Park films. In the second one (The Lost World) Vince Vaughn is translating for one of the islanders and says they call the island ‘the five deaths’. Ping! My mind wandered off and when it came back I had the nucleus of a story which I called ‘The Six Deaths’ (nothing to do with dinosaurs).

Short stories start with an idea or a few ideas, then it’s just a case of writing them. I choose to be concise; no starter, bread rolls or flower arrangement, just the main course. My short stories are typically five to ten pages long. Just over half of them are sci-fi (I call them ‘skiffies’ in my wacky, northern English way). A novel is a completely different beast; I have an idea of what will happen but once I set about writing, anything can happen. I have to write in solitude; I can’t have anyone in the room with me and normally have the TV or radio on in the background. Thanks to the wonders of technology, my phone has a large screen and has Word and Kindle installed so if I’m waiting in a car park I can carry on with whatever I’m writing. I used it to finish off two short story collections when I was in hospital, following a heart attack in 2016.

Since March of last year I’ve been writing a film script with an American screenwriter. Once that’s finished I have a few short story ideas and I really must crack on with my second novel; I’ve written just under 10,000 words of it.

Writing by Aaron David: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Aaron-David/e/B00CJH738O

An Invitation to Kill

The following is an extract (which may contain some language that could offend) from ‘An Invitation to Kill’ by A. P. Grozdanovic which is available to read on Kindle or Kindle app now!

He slammed the car boot shut, jumped into the driver’s seat, floored the accelerator and left the scene at speed. He retrieved the cigarette he’d jammed into the air duct earlier and took a long pull, inhaling the noxious smoke deeply.

What had he done? What the hell had he done? Shit! This wasn’t the plan!

Nick Mason’s Intermediary, Kosinski, had texted him a couple of days earlier from a burner phone and arranged to meet. They always met at different locations, never the same. Routine was dangerous in their line of work.

Kosinski got out of his car as Mason parked up. Kosinski’s squat, overweight figure looked as if it was going to burst out of the ill-fitting suit as he walked the length of the car park to the restaurant entrance. His bald head seemed to grow straight from his shoulders, with no discernible neck to hold it up. Mason joined him, and with a nod, they went inside.

The Star, a restaurant-cum-bar on the main arterial road, north out of town, was new to them both. On the right of the entrance was a small seated area. The bar was straight ahead, covering most of the back wall. The main dining area lay to the left. Light streamed in from the windows that stretched around three sides of the building. The parquet floor and wooden tables and chairs gave it a rustic, but spotless feel. A waiter welcomed them as they entered and asked if they would be dining.

‘Is the beer garden open?’ Kosinski enquired.

‘Yes, sir. If you’d like to come this way.’ They followed the waiter out of the side door, to the left of the bar, and into the beer garden. Kosinski had picked this location carefully. The garden was walled-in by a high wooden creosoted fence. A pathway split the grassed area in half. Wooden tables lay either side of the path on the grass. All the tables were available, meaning they would be alone. Kosinski chose the furthest table from the building. The waiter dropped two menus in front of them.

‘We’ll both have a Club Sandwich and a double brandy.’ Kosinski ordered without looking at the menu or conferring with Mason.

‘I’ll be back in a moment with your drinks, sir,’ nodded the waiter.

They remained silent until the waiter had disappeared inside the building.

‘So, what’s the urgency?’ Nick asked.

Kosinski looked nervously towards the door to the restaurant. He took a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his brow. ‘We need a hit doing.’

‘What?! When?’

‘Like yesterday.’

‘It can’t be done,’ Nick cautioned. ‘Your people will have to wait until I’m ready.’

Kosinski’s hand slammed down onto the wooden table; his eyes blood-shot. ‘It can’t wait! Not this time. You’re gonna have to, I don’t know,’ he wavered, ‘condense your planning.’

‘No, can do.’

A tiny trickle of sweat ran down Kosinski’s forehead. ‘Do you want the job or not?’

‘Keep your hair on!’ Mason said, with the thinnest of smiles. Leaning in, he confirmed, ‘I’m interested. Look, when you say “yesterday”, what does that mean exactly?’

‘This person needs to disappear permanently.’ The agitation in Kosinski’s voice was palpable. ‘Like now!’

The door to the restaurant banged shut. It was the waiter approaching with their drinks. The conversation died between them while he placed a glass at either side of the table.

‘Your food will be here shortly, gentlemen. Is there anything else I can get for you?’

‘No, that’s fine.’ They paused for the waiter to leave before Kosinski continued. ‘Look! It’s a simple job.’

‘What you’re asking me to do is way out of my comfort zone. I’m a driver. I normally only do surveillance, drop-offs, getaways. That sort of thing.’

‘But, you’re perfect for this job.’ Kosinski took a gulp from his glass. The drink took his breath for a second before he continued. ‘There are hundreds of deaths on the roads every year. What’s better than someone dying in a car accident? Hit and run. Happens every day,’ he said casually.

‘A hit is a completely different ball-game, though.’

Kosinski looked around before adding, ‘Look, Mason, stop playing hard to get! What did you say to me when we first met?’ His question was met with silence. ‘I’d better remind you. “I don’t have a red line”, you said. “Anything goes”, you boasted.’

‘Killing is different,’ Mason admitted. ‘It’s not something I do regularly.’

‘But for the right price?’ Kosinski rested his elbows on the table, his question hanging in the air.

To read more of An Invitation to Kill visit:

Time For Change

Since Harold Wilson voluntarily resigned as Labour Prime Minister in 1976, we have had three, and soon to be four leaders of this country who have been forced to throw in the towel.

Margaret Thatcher was toppled in 1990 by her own party due to problems that included the Poll Tax and Europe. Tony Blair’s Labour party had had their fill of their most effective leader after ten years in 2007, replacing him with the Iron Chancellor, Gordon Brown. David Cameron had to resign in 2016 after his ill-fated sojourn into settling the European question for a generation.

And now we have Cameron’s successor, Theresa May, promising to step down as Prime Minister because she has been unable to satisfy the thirst of Brexiteers within her own toxic party. They are now predictably plotting to replace her.

What these leaders all have in common is that they weren’t replaced at the ballot box, but by their own party, who had become exasperated and disillusioned with them. In todays world, where politicians of every persuasion rabbit on about respecting votes at the ballot box, this archaic form of replacing an unpopular leader has now become unacceptable.

Post Brexit referendum, where sovereignty and accountability were heralded as reasons to leave the EU, the British public must have the final say on who resides in Downing Street. It isn’t good enough anymore to allow a cabal of MPs, and party members, to choose who governs this country in our name. 

If people want effective democracy in this country, then things have to change. The fixed-term parliamentary act has to be amended. Whilst this was a good addition to democracy, it failed to anticipate that leaders could be jettisoned at any time by their own party. Who in turn could retain power by nominating their own leader and thus Prime Minister without recourse to the electorate.

It’s self-evident our system of government needs an overhaul. If Prime Ministers are to be accountable to voters, then they have to be voted in by the electorate. We may need to move to another system of government all together, perhaps a Presidential format, where voters know who they are getting for a fixed period. Or, simply, a tweak to the present format. Say, if a party wants to sack its leader, then a fresh election is triggered within a short period with their new leader in place.

If the electorate continually accepts that a small group of party members and MP’s can decide this country’s leader, then the public will get what it deserves. And quite honestly it has, for in each case listed above, the Prime Minister has been replaced by an increasingly unpopular successor. 

In the modern world, democratic accountability is essential. It’s now time for change.

May Has to Go!

At the time of writing, Theresa May, the Conservative Prime Minister, has lost 1,300 council seats and seen 40 Councils float away into the Brexit wind. She must be up there with the worst Prime Ministers the UK has ever had the misfortune to suffer.

And yet she stills clings on to power. Why? Because her party is riven by division. Take it from me, if there was a credible alternative, the Tory’s would have dumped her long ago. No Boris, please sit down!

During her time in Number 10 Downing Street she has seen 42 government or cabinet ministers resign or be sacked. That must be a record. Just one department, The Department for Exiting the European Union, is on its 3rd Secretary of State. Surely, a poisoned chalice, if ever there was one.

Not only as she failed to live up to the Brexiteers hopes that she’d lead Britain out of the European Union like some modern day Boudica, she has wrought mayhem and suffering along the way.

I can’t recall a Prime Minister calling an election when they have a working majority and then losing it. How calamitous is that? The list of mistakes she’s made along the Brexit route is endless. Among them, triggering Article 50 when she had no need to. That was a clanger of epic proportions. She could have waited to find a consensus first. But no, she had to rush in like some kindergarten kid looking for its next sugar rush.

Take food banks as an example of her governments attitude to the needy. A good snapshot of how people are feeling the pinch in the Cameron/May Austerity Britain. In 2009/10 as the Tory’s came to power the Trussell Trust, the largest distributor of food parcels, handed out 41,000 parcels. In Mays 2016/17, they handed out 1.2m. (Source: Full Fact) Surely a sign things aren’t right?

Homelessness has risen to 320,000 people. (Source: The Big Issue) Put your hands down! I know Europe causes that too. Yeah right! Its policies worked out and rubber stamped in Downing Street, Theresa May’s nice little grace and favour London pad, that determine this disastrous situation. Or is it that picturesque country pile she uses at weekends, Chequers, where she plots another catastrophe? Whichever, I’m sure a few families could squat in there for a while and she wouldn’t notice.

Wages still haven’t reached pre-recession levels despite almost 9 years of Tory rule. (Source: Full Fact) And yet the Conservative Party continually bangs on about putting more money in your pocket and charging you less in taxes. Do me a favour!

What about PIP, the flagship policy to renew the Benefit system. A court ruling found that it was unfair to people with mental health issues. A review of it is estimated to cost £3.7m by 2023. This is under a Tory government that propagates the idea of sound financial management. It beggar’s belief! (Source: BBC)

And zero hours contracts? In 2017 there were 1.8m people estimated to be working contracts that did not guarantee them a minimum number of hours. (Source: Full Fact) In surveys, some say they are happy with the arrangements, but others aren’t. We should be living in a country where people have a choice. Minimum working hours shouldn’t be foisted upon workers.

This government can’t even be trusted with the NHS. With NHS England reporting a shortage of 100,000 staff (Source: The Guardian), how is this government proposing to keep people healthy? I would suggest with Brexit taking all it’s energies up, it hasn’t got a chance.

And let’s not forget about the debacle of the Windrush & Grenfell Tower scandals? All on Mays watch. 

Since her elevation to Prime Minister she has nailed her colours to the Brexit flag pole. She wanted to satisfy the 51.9% who voted for Brexit (on a turnout of 72.2%), attempting to side line the rest. But she has failed on Brexit, big-style! Who could succeed with their expectations? Europe was willing to let Britain walk without a deal. It was parliament that stopped the Lemming-style approach of the hard-liners. She can’t even control her own party and coalition.

This country will be well shot of Theresa May once this Brexit fiasco is sorted out, one way or the other. We just have to hope that the next Prime Minister can bring the country together in a way that she has found beyond her capabilities.

Epilepsy

Having a seizure is a very uncomfortable experience. It’s confusing, upsetting, inconvenient, frustrating, embarrassing, and can result in injury.

There isn’t a lot that can be said that is positive about experiencing a seizure, except that you soon find out who cares for you. Those people soon become accessible and helpful.

I developed epilepsy later in life and, if I’m honest, I am still a little miffed it settled on me. Fortunately, I don’t have seizures regularly. I can go years without experiencing one. But it does make you forgetful, that the epilepsy actually exists within you. There are reminders, of course. Like every evening when you pop your tablets out of their foil. Or when the helpful, and informative, Epilepsy News drops through the letter box. But essentially, it does drift into the background of everyday life becoming less important by the day.

And then, with a rabid snarl, the epilepsy attacks with a vengeance. How dare you forget I exist! How dare you take risks with your life and others by driving! Don’t you know a car is a killing machine in the wrong hands?

But of course these questions come to bear after the seizure. For when the seizure hits, for me, the lights simply go out. That is the only description I have. I’m sorry if you want something more lurid or exciting. But I haven’t got anything more, despite the voyeurism of the modern world. All the excitement is experienced by others. People close by might see me stiffen up, fall down, bite my tongue, thrash about, my lips go blue, or my desperate gasps for breath, or the panic of onlookers who haven’t seen a seizure before. But be assured, I’m seeing none of that awful scene. The lights are definitely out.

And then, like a dimmer switch, some minutes later, the light begins to resume – slowly. The ”dimmer switch” is a good description, because as you would turn a light up slowly, I come to understand what has happened. The text book words I often hear are, ”you’re OK”. When I first hear these words, to be honest, I haven’t got a clue why someone is telling me I’m ”OK” or even where I am.

With a groggy head and a body that really has no control of itself, I am generally manoeuvred into an ambulance. Now there are more people telling me I’m ”OK”. Even I’m beginning to get the message.

I’ve never had the compunction to argue at this stage. I don’t really think I care. If anyone was to tell me I’m ”OK” while lifting my wallet, I sense now that would be something I wouldn’t argue about. So putting me in an ambulance with a cheery smile and a cheesy joke that only ambulance staff can get away with isn’t going to be a problem.

What is a problem, and you can only see this on reflection, is that sometimes you are going to be in some very tricky places when a seizure occurs. My first experience was when I was sat down. Sounds fine doesn’t it? If you’re going to have a seizure at least be relaxing on the sofa. Only don’t have a hot cup of coffee in your hand and don’t be at work. One burns and the others raises questions about whether you can continue to fulfil your role at work.

I’ve also experienced a seizure in the shower, trapping myself behind the bathroom door. It’s embarrassing when you realise you were stark naked when someone you’ve known for years was trying to save your life! And the most dangerous of places, driving a car. Thankfully, someone was able to take control of the situation and subsequently avert the worst of fates. So falling down on the carpet does on the whole seem preferable!

The upshot of these periods in life, generally, is a visit to the local hospital, plus to your GP for a chat about medication and lifestyle. You do tend to visit these establishments more than most other people. Once you come to terms with your condition, these visits become routine.

Of course, there are other implications following a seizure. Giving up your driving licence, for example. Thus, relinquishing your freedom of movement. A bus pass can alleviate this, but it’s no replacement for the sheer joy of being able to jump into the car to visit your grandchildren. To use public transport takes time and planning beyond anything needed when you own a car.

There’s also work. There is a sick period to negotiate. When will you be ready to return, especially if the seizure occurred at work? It takes time for the fuzziness to clear, the last time for me at least two weeks. But what happens if your employer raises concerns about your fitness to complete tasks that before were seen as ordinary? What do you do then? The last thing you need is to be seen as either a burden or as a skiver! You just want to be able to return as normal. But oddly, you find yourself talking, explaining, justifying. 

In reality you know you can’t talk it away. You can’t explain it. And you know there’s not much point trying to justify it. However you came by your condition, you now have it and it isn’t going to go away. It will always be there lurking in the back of your mind, waiting to explode! Regardless of the medication you take, it will ride roughshod over your life. It doesn’t care where you are or who you are with. It is the devil within you!

But, despite it’s readiness to pounce, it is important to fight the temptation to dwell on your epilepsy. You have to queue up for the bus in the rain. You have to reorganise your work and recognise adjustments might have to be made. It’s important to fight for what is essentially a normal life, even if the style you’re accustomed to has to be modified.

But whatever the epilepsy thinks about you, you are still you! You still like the same tv programmes, the same music, the same holiday destination. You still love the same people and more importantly, the same people still love you.

You might not be able to beat epilepsy, but like everyone else, you can lead a satisfying and successful life with it.

This article has been edited from a previous blog.

Prague Visit

With medieval streets, Art Nouveau masterpieces and Baroque squares, Prague is a city to behold. The absolute joy of walking around corner after corner and being faced by yet more architectural beauty is amazing. In no other city that I’ve visited has this happened.

From the Old Town Square to the Gothic Charles Bridge, to Jewish Prague and Prague Castle, to Wenceslas Square to St Vitus’s Cathedral, you just marvel at the history and splendour of a city that is becoming more and more popular.

Prague’s distinct areas include, Staré Mêsto, Josefov and Northern Staré Mêsto and Prague Castle & Hradêany, Malá Strana and Nové Mêsto. There are more, but we just visited those.

In Staré Mêsto (The Old Town), you’ll find such delights as the Astronomical Clock. Dating back to the 15thCentury, the clock not only tells the time, it displays the movement of the sun and moon through the signs of the zodiac and the planets around the earth. Get there on the hour and you’ll be accompanied by many others watching the distinctive way it marks the event.

The Municipal House is a prominent Art Nouveau building decorated with figures on all sides. It is an impressive sight. And close by is the Powder Gate, an entrance to the city that dates back to 1475

In the Josefov and Northern Staré Mêsto area, Jewish history is very prominent with its synagogues and museums. It’s quite a sobering experience to visit the synagogues and to be faced with the brutality inflicted on the population by the Nazis. To see the names of the people written on walls of remembrance and to read of their suffering is a reminder that we cannot and must not forget what has happened to the Jewish community through time. The small cemetery is a place for quiet contemplation with grave stones struggling to stand upright, with the horrors to which the city has witnessed, clearly on their shoulders.

If you wish to visit the synagogues and museums (which include the Jewish Museum, Pinkas Synagogue and Spanish Synagogue, to mention just a few) in the area, you can purchase reasonably priced tickets to get in all of them.

Spanish Synagogue

If you cross the river using the impressive Gothic Charles Bridge, you’ll reach Malá Strana. Here you will find the beautiful Baroque Church of St. Nicholas and the Palace Gardens. For John Lennon/Beatles fans there is the graffiti-covered wall that people regularly paint over. The Kafka Museum is a must for fans of literature. It tells the story of the city and one of its most famous sons.

On the same side of the river is Prague Castle, which dates back to the 9thCentury, and is quite extraordinary. It covers a substantial area. The Gothic St. Vitus’s Cathedral, which can be seen for miles around, is the centre piece. If you’re fit and able, a climb up the tower, which gives breath-taking views, is a must. A castle visit also includes museums and places to eat and drink, so you can have a rest during your visit – which we did, partaking in Hot Mulled Wine and Apple Strudel.

Going back over the river to Nové Mêsto (New Town) you’ll find the National Museum at the top of Wenceslas Square, an impressive area with shops and restaurants. 

The Baroque Cathedral of St. Cyril and St. Methodius is of historical significance because the parachutists who assassinated the Nazi governor, Reinhard Heydrich, hid in the crypt. You’ll find a memorial to them in the crypt itself as well as their story. Their valour in the face of Nazi occupation cannot be underestimated.

Traditional Czech food includes Roasted Pork and Goulash. I can attest to both being excellent. Also, Apple Strudel on the Dessert Menu is popular, and it was with us.

Czech beer never fails. Don’t be put off by the Dark Beer which, despite its appearance, isn’t like British Stout. It’s much lighter. Other traditional lighter Czech beers are excellent too.

In general, English is widely spoken, so ordering food and drink isn’t a problem. But with narrow streets and cobbled, uneven paving, getting around could be difficult for the disabled.

We visited in late March, for four nights. The weather wasn’t great. It was cool with mostly grey skies. We were lucky, no rain fell while we were there.

We stayed at the Mamaison Hotel, Riverside, Prague. Our transport and accommodation were arranged by Heather Reynolds of Travel Counsellors.

I suppose the success of a City Break rests on whether you would visit again. I can say without a doubt, we’d definitely visit Prague again.

Welcome to APGrozdanovic

First of all, can I thank you for visiting my blog. We all have busy schedules and demands on our time. So, your visit is appreciated.
Let me tell you a little about the blog.
Quite simply, I will be writing about the many things that interest me, and hopefully you. But maybe, thankfully, not too often. So, you can dip in and out at your leisure.
There will also be an opportunity for visitors to read short extracts from my Amazon Kindle books. They are all available on Kindle or Kindle app, and links are included for readers who wish to purchase the stories.
A new story, An Invitation to Kill, will be available in the coming months.
Some posts have already been uploaded. A couple from a previous blog (Superwhit) have been added, as some others maybe in the near future.
There is a facility to comment and follow. To follow, just click on the icon and you will receive occasional updates.


Happy reading,
A.P. Grozdanovic

This post was originally written and uploaded: 3 February 2019