Crime author Peter James evening Brighton

A packed audience of fans of bestselling Brighton based crime author, Peter James gathered this evening in Exeter Street Community Hall Brighton to hear a superb interview with BBC Sussex Radio’s Danny Pike.

Born to a Jewish mother, educated at Charterhouse  Peter speaks as eloquently as he writes and his knowledge of Brighton, his birthplace is second to none.

With a sharp mind, a quick wit and candid in his thoughts Peter had some gritty stories to tell; stories which inspired his novels and the shaping of his characters.

There was no beating about the bush. With his extensive knowledge of policing in Brighton gained through observation and extensive interviews with officers and criminals he told us exactly what he thought. “The Tories” he said “are traditionally the party of law and order but this Government is anti Police and dangerous and Theresa May is a fucking lunatic.” “The Police are good people who hold civilised life together but the budget here in Sussex has been slashed by £50 million in the past 5 years.” “Sussex Police are desperately under resourced.”

There are 12 homicides a year in Sussex, compared to 25 gun shot deaths in a quiet weekend in Los Angeles.

Asked about what he thought of Brighton when he was growing up he said he never admitted to living there. In the 1950s it was a “sinister, seedy and tacky town” but today it is “the coolest place in the UK.” and he’s proud to live there. And its’ dark undertone of violence, he said makes it an ideal place for him, as a crime writer!

The definitive book on Brighton ‘Brighton Rock’ changed his life. He read it at 14. “It broke all the rules on crime writing.” He thought that to write crime you had to set  Agatha Christie style scenes in country manor houses.

Peter attributes his success to the fact that there was a shortage of crime writers at the time. His first novels made very little money and then Roy Grace came on the scene.

‘Dead Simple’ featuring a guy who is buried alive on his stag night was inspired by his own stag night experience in 1979 of being left naked on top of a pillar box, getting arrested and spending a night in jail.

‘Perfect People’ was inspired by a meeting with the head of brain genetics in the USA. He visited a clinic offering parents the chance to choose their baby’s level of empathy, hair colour, elimination of disease genes and he realised unless he wrote about it quick science would overtake him. “We struggle to keep up with science. It moves forward very quickly.”

Peter has interviewed criminals in Lewes Prison. One a burglar with 177 convictions told him that after the first stint in prison he realised it wasn’t worth burgling council flats in Mousecoombe; he’d get the same time if he burgled houses on Dyke Avenue. ‘What’s your dream?’ Peter asked. His answer was to stay in prison where it was warm and the food nice.

Patricia Cornwell bores him rigid and he loved ‘Rosemary’s Baby.’

Disclaimer: I was at the meeting and hopefully recorded his words accurately!

D is for Doctor. Worries over training review

Plans to reduce the length of time that doctors train for are worrying those in the profession who argue that there will be a serious compromise to patient care and safety.

For most people their only contact within the NHS will be through their local GP. The pressures GPs are facing in their roles are great and growing. Many have had enough. Some have reached burn out after just several years in the profession, others are buckling under the immense strains.  Some say they are fed up with the constant change within the NHS; new rules, practices, procedures, the ever growing bureaucracy, the constant need to save money. Some say their work load has doubled in the last 20 years.

I know several doctor’s wives who all complain that they never see their husbands and don’t have much of a family life. I used to think they were just grumbling and secretly I would think to myself well at least you’ve got a husband. But last week when I visited my own GP practice I saw that they weren’t exaggerating. I was booked in for a 5pm appointment and found a seat in the crowded waiting room where 30 downcast faces waited to see I believe, 3 doctors. I waited for 1 3/4 hours! Finally I left the surgery at 7pm. But I didn’t complain – I just felt so sorry for those doctors and the receptionists who work such long hours. My own doctor arrives at 7am each morning the receptionist told me and when he saw me he was still smiling, fresh, calm and professional as ever. After my appointment ended at 6.50pm he then had to do a couple of hours of paper work, getting home at around 9.30 -10pm.

This is no life yet these professionals remain exactly that – completely professional under the strain. My doctor always has time for me. The receptionists do their very best to fit me in. Not only does my doctor give sound medical advice but he will impart such wise words about general life issues. His words are full of realism and years of insight. The best words I heard from one doctor, years ago on hearing that I was carrying a baby with multiple medical issues was “life is a shit.” Those words were great, to the point. They helped me to step back and to see that yes life is a bum and to take a philosophical approach. He couldn’t make my baby better but he had the right words at the right time and he made me smile. Another doctor said “you’ve done you’re very best for those kids; you couldn’t have done anymore.” We need this sort of support, especially when we’re alone and there is no one else in our life to offer kindness.

Appointments with such doctors are gold dust. My doctor’s words really do help me to make good decisions. If this type of dedicated doctor leaves the profession it will be a great loss indeed.

Disclaimer: I am not a health professional. The above is in part my own experience and comments about the national situation are from simply from listening to the news this morning, 30/1/15.

Democracy Day 20 is today; join the debate

The 20th January 2015 is Democracy Day and marks the 750th anniversary of the first parliament of elected representatives at Westminster. The BBC is broadcasting a day of live events, discussions and debates about democracy.

It is a shocking fact that 9000 women in the UK do not vote. I have been surprised when some of my female friends say they don’t bother to vote. Emily Pankhurst leader of the British Suffragette  Movement led a sustained and determined campaign to win the vote for women and so it is with great dismay to learn of this high number of women not choosing to exercise their democratic right to vote. I expect Pankhurst would be turning in her grave if she knew her efforts had been partly in vain. And 100 years ago Emily Davison jumped in front of King George v’s horse at Epsom Derby because she believed so strongly in the cause.

And so on this basis it makes me feel quite angry when I hear that some women can’t be bothered to vote. Of course it is their choice. Voting is not compulsory but they are doing the campaigners of the past a massive disservice by not voting. Many tell me ‘what’s the point? Every party is the same. They all a load of rubbish.’ If some women feel like this then it is time to change things. Stand as a local councillor. Start a campaign on an issue you want to change. Our institutions need to be represented by both sexes. The voice of both sexes needs to be heard.


D is for Deirdre a legend lost

One of British’s TV iconic figures has sadly died. Actor Anne Kirkbride just 60 passed away following a short illness and after battling with cancer.

I stopped watching Coronation Street in the year that Eastenders celebrated its’ 20th anniversary because I couldn’t believe that I had wasted so much of my life hooked on soaps. Over time Facebook and domestic chores took the place of soaps in the evening. I don’t know which is worse!

Soap operas served a good purpose for many years in my family. Everyone would watch them and chat about the issues raised and sagas that went on. But now my family are all glued to gadgets and tablets, confined to their bedrooms only emerging to eat. There is no longer a feeling of being part of a family.

As a child my grandparents, both struggling factory workers, living in a 2 up 2 down terraced house near Derby were avid fans of ‘Cora’ or ‘Corrie’ as it was fondly called. My Grandma would fill the room with the smoke of Park Drive, sip a Camp coffee as she watched and the only comments she made were ‘ow arrr me duck’ and she would mouth everything said. My first memory of Deirdre was in the early to mid 1970s. I can remember as clear as day her reaction to her daughter, baby Tracy getting kidnapped from her pram parked outside the Rovers. As a child I hated her huge glasses and wondered why she couldn’t wear small discreet ones! I can recall her husky laugh; a typical smokers laugh.

Corrie will not be the same and will be missed by thousands of fans. Long live this legend in our memories.

D for Death and Detroit: suicide zero plan comes to the UK

The Henry Ford Clinic in Detroit embarked on a programme in 2001 to reduce the incidence of suicide to zero. Rates started to decline and the clinic reports zero rates for the past two years.

The Mersey Care NHS Trust are to pilot this project. In England one death every two hours is due to suicide and ten times that attempt suicide. 75% are men. Rates rise with age. 4700 suicides occur each year in England and figures are rising. Mental health clinicians are clambering for change but in the face of financial difficulties in the NHS the challenges are enormous.

Dr David Fearnley of the Mersey Care Trust head of the project reported on Radio 4 this morning that ‘if the pilot project is successful 2 years we can start to make inroads. It is about redesigning the services, changing the way we approach systems, evaluating evidence. The programme will retrain professionals to spot the signs, educate families to look out for signs, helping GPs to feel confident to ask questions.’

Suicide is often a temporary state of mind.

I have personal experience within my family and network of suicide attempts and first hand experience of our care services has left me with the feeling that inadequate support and help is available. The people who have suffered in my personal world have been plied with prescriptions for prozac and been left on waiting lists for ‘talk therapy’ for months on end; never once receiving a friendly call from their GP to ask how they are feeling; left in the cold to battle their suicidal thoughts. Its a disgrace. There should be a common sense approach and maybe this new project will begin to change attitudes.

In 2012 ‘U Can Cope’ was a film which helped people to overcome suicidal thoughts. Take a look.

Disclaimer: I am not a mental health expert but do have personal knowledge.

D is for Democracy

The attack on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo reveals the range of different views held in the West and within the Islamic world about the right to free expression.

Freedom of expression is a right embedded in our western culture; a right that we have fought for over many years; in wars, in political movements and in campaigns. The foundation of our democracy is that we are deeply committed to defending the right to free speech. Free speech has allowed the press to watch over government and challenge corruption and many politicians have been forced to resign in the wake of extensive media reporting about various wrong doings. The right to free speech is also enshrined in the European Court of Human Rights ruling, 1976.

As a member of Toastmasters International I value my right to free speech and twice a month it is with passion that I stand and voice my opinions in the room in a Lewes pub where the great defender of free speech, Thomas Paine spoke.

However… there is a proviso to all this. A note of caution. It’s great to exercise our right to free speech but to do so we must firstly consider who we might be offending by exercising this right. We have a responsibility as members of a wider society not to upset, provoke and inflame the feelings of others. Humour is one thing but humour is no longer humour if it upsets or offends. I don’t agree with Charlie Hebdo’s further provocation of extreme Muslim groups by publishing a picture of Mohammed (peace be upon him) knowing that it is fundamental to Muslim belief not to show his image and not to show any idols. Go into any mosque in the world and you will not see the image of Muhammed (peace be upon him.)

We may live in a secular world but we must respect the beliefs of different religious communities and consider who we might be upsetting before we publish our thoughts. In the west we have free speech…but only up to a point.

Disclaimer: the above article is based on my personal opinions.

Link to Toastmasters International and to find a local group:

The ABC of Aging; and D is for decline and

ABC’s of Aging

A is for arthritis,

B is for bad back,

C is for the chest pains. Corned Beef? Cardiac?

D is for dental decay and decline,

E is for eyesight–can’t read that top line.

F is for fissures and fluid retention

G is for gas (which I’d rather not mention–

and not to forget other gastrointestinal glitches)

H is high blood pressure

I is for itches, and lots of incisions

J is for joints, that now fail to flex

L is for libido–what happened to sex?

Wait! I forgot about K!

K is for my knees that crack all the time

(But forgive me, I get a few lapses in my

Memory from time to time)

N is for nerve (pinched) and neck (stiff) and neurosis

O is for osteo-for all the bones that crack

P is for prescriptions, that cost a small fortune

Q is for queasiness. Fatal or just the flu?

Give me another pill and I’ll be good as new!

R is for reflux–one meal turns into two

S is for sleepless nights,

counting fears on how to pay my medical bills!

T is for tinnitus–I hear bells in my ears

and the word ‘terminal’ also rings too near

U is for urinary and the difficulties that flow (or not)

V is for vertigo, as life spins by

W is worry, for pains yet unfound

X is for X ray–and what one might find

Y is for year (another one, I’m still alive).

Z is for zest

For surviving the symptoms my body’s deployed,

And keeping twenty-six doctors gainfully employed.



 This poem is not written by me. I came across it somewhere but not sure where!

D is for Diet. Don’t diet in January leave it till June.

The bang of party poppers, the pop of champagne, you swing your arms in a circle to old lang syne. The clock chimes midnight. You should be celebrating. Your head is thumping. Your belly is full of food which has been sitting stagnant in the pit of your belly since Christmas. But you are secretly dreading waking up the next morning knowing that you have committed yourself to the New Years’ diet.

Adverts on TV are a constant reminder for you to honour that commitment. And in the supermarket diet food crowds the end aisles and prices are slashed on diet meals for one 100 calories a meal.

But outside there’s a hard frost. Temperatures are plummeting. You need a thermal vest from Marks and Sparks. And all you really want to do is curl up in front of a log fire with a bowl of treacle pudding and custard.

So do it! In the winter months we need comfort. We need extra calories to help us fight the cold. Leave the diet till the warm summer months when you don’t actually feel like eating so much. It makes much more sense.

Disclaimer: The above blog is based on my own opinions. I am not a health expert.

Some useful links:

What’s inside those trousers these days? The Return of Y Fronts

‘D’ is for down under – down inside those trousers!

Radio 4 reported on the great return of men’s Y Fronts. 2015 is the 80th anniversary of this undergarment for men and apparently there has been a massive surge in sales in the last year. Debenhams are reporting a 35% increase alone and men in Norwich and Ipswich are really embracing Y Fronts as the new preference of undergarments.

For a long time now boxer shorts were the trendy option – and comfortable cool and light to wear, made of cotton and there were a huge range of designs in every shop from practical Marks and Spencer to gift shops along London’s Oxford Street.

Possibly Jack Duckworth of Coronation Street gave the Y Fronts a frumpy bad image with his matching string vests and broken specs and they were seen as the undergarment of old men.

Where can you buy a trendy pair of Y Fronts?

Paying for sex these days is outdated. D is for dogging and it’s growing

Prostitution is the oldest profession; so they say and according to Radio 4 yesterday 1/2 million men a week pay for sex often up to three times a week.

But do they really need to? And surely women have sexual needs too? Those who are against prostitution see it as exploitation against women and many women who are trafficked into this country will end up in the sex trade.

But surely it is time we shed the high moral ground and begin to realise that actually as human beings we do have sexual needs and if we are not in a relationship where do we go to fulfil our sexual urges?

Like it or not there are a growing number of men and women who look for unpaid sex online. Ever heard of dogging? Here is the dictionary definition:

Unlike prostitution dogging is between two or more consenting adults who meet, maybe at a hotel, maybe in a carpark, purely for sexual pleasure. Look on line and you will see plenty of sites where adults meet for this sole purpose. It is a hidden underworld and those who engage in it won’t admit to having done it and we don’t have any statistics regarding its’ prevalence but the fact is it is an alternative to paid sex and means that women as well as men can have their fantasies fulfilled without the pressures of time, money and feeling ashamed either.

These are some links to just a few of the sites you will find on line:

It isn’t for me to say dogging/or swinging is right or wrong and I will not take the moral high ground and neither will I deny that there can be huge safety and health risks involved but the fact remains it will continue to exist and grow and for many adults it works for them and does offer a cheaper, more relaxed way of having sex than prostitution.