January musings

Well its over half way through january so best try and do some blogging!

Didn’t do much writing on blog last year as busy with lots of nice things, though it was an up and down time. I worked on some new books for various people and lots of talks too. A walk I did for International Womens’ Day in March was enjoyable, talked about suffrgattes etc and met some great women on the walk itself. Weather was rainy but most people stayed the course. we had a glass of bubbly at the end too.

town hall here we are outside Sheffield town hall at the end of the International  Womens Day walk

One project was a book about the Snake turnpike road. Took part in the Off The Shelf Festival again too which was fun. Two tours I worked on went well and people seemed to enjoy them. One was full of lovely National Trust properties (pictured is Calke Abbey)  and one was visiting lots of beautiful churches, including seeing the fabulous carvings at Melbourne. (below are the wonderful saxon capital carvings there)


Fitted in a few breaks too. Really enjoyed Budapest- stayed near to where Houdini was born.  The architecture and art is exquisite- art nouveau bars, fairytale castle turrets, amazing .


Had a magical time in the Outer Hebrides too. I always feel I could live there but probably would find the reality a bit too harsh in winter.

I sold some more books, including some Randini ones to magicians in USA, so pleased with that. Lately the projects I have been working on have been for Dronfield Hall Barn, a lovely medieval building in Derbyshire.These included three books, one of which was about a quilt making group- it was a joy to do as it gave lots of design scope, with fab pictures. Another lovely old building is Bishops’ House, Sheffield and I have just finished a guide book for them.

also did a few outings with the uke band, one was in winter gardens and one was kelham island museum xmas market.


I am working on some food labels for a company in Finland at the moment which is an interesting new venture. So it was a good year workwise, 2015 and this year is too so far, hopefully lots more to come!

Magical connections

It is great hearing from people about the Randini book I did and even more exciting when it is a magician that buys one, and likes it. That makes me proud for Randolph and I am sure he would be delighted to know he is talked about in the USA.

Joe Fox, a magician over in California, USA, has kindly sent me a photo of himself with the Randini book he bought. The photo shows Joe in the William W.Larsen library in the Academy of Magical Arts, Hollywood. Exciting to know I got to Hollywood in some form at least!

As well as being a magician/escapologist, Joe is an avid collector of locks and restraints, so I am sure he and Randolph would have had plenty to talk about.

The whole experience of the Randini book has meant I have made contact with lots of lovely and exciting people. I even got an invite to a straitjacket convention in California once- didn’t get there sadly!

Above: Joe Fox in the William W.Larsen library in the Academy of Magical Arts, Hollywood

You can see Joe Fox doing a straitjacket escape on youtube. I bet Randolph would have enjoyed being in the audience too!

Flying by, by George!

April already. St George’s day too. Can’t believe we are that far into the year so soon. Been busy with book covers and now starting again with this year’s talks. Did a new one about the Peak and literary links for the Multi Story Library Festival yesterday. Also researching a few more. Exciting to sell a few Randini books to magicians in the USA too recently.

Been on some recce days out- most recent were Ilam, Chatsworth and Renishaw Hall, to take pix and research, so some nice jaunts in this mixed spring weather.

Also seen some great musicians to inspire me…Curtis Eller and Dan Walsh- both superb banjo layers and Alistair Anderson – fab concertina player.



Hello 2014

Well another year is here. Good workwise so far. Got plenty of talks booked to keep me busy and some new book design projects in the pipeline. E mail is amazing.. I spent the day doing one job a mile from home and another one in Cleveland Ohio…and all from the same room. Bless those pdfs!
I have done some nice walks in between the rain, for pleasure and for research for talks and tours. Derbyshire is so beautiful and so varied – and what a heritage.  Finding some fab churches and stained glass I had overlooked so far and looking forward to going off to see those.
Having fun playing the ukulele and also seeing some wonderful music…one evening was with City Musique and involving the local carols from villages around here. Another was Gentle Men- a folk music suite about WW1.
I also saw The Illusionists last year. It is a slick magic show. The escapologist Basso from the show has a copy of my Randini book which is great. Basso did the Houdini water torture escape and the upside down straitjacket one too, so nice to know he now knows about his forerunner Randini!

Basso pictured with my book.

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December already

Well have not done too many posts have I? intended to do more….but it has been an interesting few months.

After the magic talk in Buxton did more talks on Randolph and some on my other books. It is always good to do talks and meet people as something new often turns up or you find some new information. I met a lady who had the handcuffs Houdini is said to have worn when he did a show at the Sheffield Empire and also some more people who remember Randolph and Hettie with fondness as they used to live in Castleton near the Douglas museum.

Another nice event of the year was taking part in The Off The Shelf Literature Festival again- this time with Dr Dave Clarke- on our book about Sheffield Ghosts – ‘Scared to Death.’ It was a full house and some people came in fancy dress which was fab. We had a nice chat with the White Lady and Spring-Heeled Jack!

I did a lino print day workshop with James Green which was good fun, and the other hobby taking off well is playing my ukulele- we did a few folk club gigs and also a ‘ukulele carol strum’ which 80 people came to, so it was very enjoyable.

I did a lead on a stained glass course again and am busy writing some other tours for Derbyshire. There are such wonderful things around it is hard to narrow them down to fit in a tour. It is an enjoyable pastime on a wet and windy dark December afternoon sending your mind’s eye over all the Derbyshire Delights, whist indulging in a glass of mulled wine! Talk about armchair tourist…but will be out wandering soon doing a few fact finding trips.


A magical time in Buxton

It was great to be asked to speak at the conference of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, British Ring. in Buxton on Sept 7. I talked about Randini. The afternoon, part of a week long conference, was entitled The History of Mystery, and hosted by esteemed magician and history of magic expert Eddie Dawes, whom it was an honour to meet at last . He was very supportive and helpful when I was writing my book. It was fun being surrounded by magicians in the hotel and hearing snatches of conversation about their lives and where they had performed etc. I met some lovely people, including a Dutch magician called Paul, who has a soft spot for Randolph as he makes models too.
There was a magic gala in the evening at Buxton Opera House. Some interesting acts and it’s always a pleasure to be baffled by illusionists! I think my favourite act was a man called Scott who did traditional type magic and looked the part in full evening suit and white tie. Another man called Eduardo had a great stage charisma and slick card tricks.


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Rosie days and Randolph’s relatives

Back from the Cotswolds after a literary tour around some lovely places- my favourite was Broughton Castle- home to William Fiennes who wrote the book The Music Room- a sensitive story of an unusual childhood in such a fantastic place to call home. It was good to return to Slad too- and see the valley which inspired Cider witth Rosie. I met some lovely people. There was even a melodian player and a few singers at The Woolpack- so all in all a perfect day and a perfect spot.

The day after I met the Canadian relatives of Randolph Douglas, aka Randini- and showed them the places in  Castleton and Sheffield related to this talented and almost forgotten friend and helper of the famous Houdini. Another relative if Randolph’s joined us and then we visited yet another relative who produced cakes and buns as if by magic! it was a lovely day bringing people together.

Sun and poetry

At last we have summer and that lovely smell of heat and greenery. I have been reading books for a literary tour and it was a prefect time to engulf myself in the works of Edward Thomas and Laurie Lee, with their wonderful descriptions of countryside and nature. In Puruit of Spring by Edward Thomas conjures up hedgerows, blackbirds, celandines and a renewed wonder in all the beauty of our wild places. Lee has a gentle and reflective way of making us see the world through a childs eyes in Cider with Rosie. Its good to try and hold onto this sense of wonder as we get older.

Wadsley and Punch and Judy

Interesting walk around Wadsley and the common researching for next book this week. Ghost stories abound around there. Was easy to imagine it was haunted in parts, it was so still. Saw a few nuthatches. Fabulous views. So many lovely places I must explore more. I tend to go to the Peak when there are so many other amazing places. Saw some fine old villages on the way to Macclesfield too the other evening. Chapel on le Frith is much nicer than I had imagined. Cheshire plane hazy blue and Jodrell Bank set like a big white gyroscope.

I visited Portland works again this month, where Brearley (of stainess steel fame) worked. It is such a fascinating and photogenic place. Good artists studios.

I am trying to find out more about a Punch and Judy man who lived on Gleadless Road Sheffield, and marrid the girl next door, for a possible book. Funny they were always called Professor.