Category Archives: This ‘n That

William Hackett VC

William Hackett VC

vcwilliamhackettThe battlefields of France saw many an heroic act as the British and German armies bombarded each other from their trenches during the insane slaughter of World War One. Above the ground, wave after wave of senseless attacks saw men die by the thousand as they attempted to gain a few yards of muddy ground.

Deep beneath the mayhem and slaughter on the surface, a second, secret war was being fought; a war that the vast majority of people know nothing about, even today. Deep beneath the killing fields of France, miners from Britain, New Zealand and Australia, dug their silent way towards the enemy lines in an attempt to blow up their trenches from below.

Up to 20,000 men, on both sides were engaged in this activity. The men toiled away in conditions that would have made the cramped galleries of the coal mines at the time, seem almost luxurious. One such man was William Hackett.

William was born in the 11th June 1873 in the aptly named, Patriot Street in Sneinton, an inner-city area of Nottingham. William never learned to read and write and scraped a living as a miner, working the dangerous seams of the Nottinghamshire-South Yorkshire coalfields.

In his early 20’s William moved to Mexborough in South Yorkshire where he met his bride to be, Alice. They were married in Coningsborough in 1900 and had two children, a boy called Arthur and a girl, Mary. Continue reading

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A Ghost Story. The Vicarage

The Vicarage

Part One

victorian-vicarage‘Will you at least have a look? It might be interesting and you did say you need ideas for the new book.’ Maggie tipped her head to one side and gave me her best smile. ‘This is really freaking her out.’

I grimaced. ‘I don’t know, Maggie, ghosts aren’t my thing. Isn’t there a paranormal society in the area? She could ask them. Maybe the church could help… anyway, I write about Zombies, not spooks.’

Maggie picked up her steaming coffee mug, wrapped both hands around it and took a sip. ‘It’s high time you took a break from bloody Zombies, Sam, they’re boring, and here you have absolutely everything you need for a story under one roof. Creaking floorboards, drawers opening on their own, lights dimming and flaring, voices in the attic, you have to admit, it’s intriguing.’

‘I like Zombies and so do my readers. You may find them boring but they pay my rent.’ I looked around my cramped, one bedroomed flat. ‘Dead Dawn gives me all this.’

If Maggie was impressed she didn’t show it. ‘Doesn’t it pique your interest, even slightly? I thought you writers were open to all sorts of influences. She’s not asking you to perform an exorcism, Sam, she just wants someone with an open mind to talk to. Anyway, she won’t go to the church, you know what she’s like with any form of religion. She crosses the road if she spots a nun on the pavement.’

I nodded. ‘I know, that’s why I could never understand why she bought an old vicarage.’

‘She didn’t buy it. The house belonged to her grandmother, she left it to her in her will.’

I thought about it for all of three seconds. ‘I don’t have time, Maggie, I have a deadline on a short story for Gothic Tales magazine and I haven’t written a word yet.’

‘Don’t they publish ghost stories too?’ Maggie wasn’t going to give up easily.

I nodded slowly. ‘They do, yes, but I don’t write them; I have my own audience.’

‘Oh, come on, Sam, it could be fun.’ Maggie bit her bottom lip and leaned forward. ‘You’re not scared, are you?’

I snorted. ‘Maggie, I make my living out of blood and gore, remember? I’m not scared, I just think there’s about as much chance of finding a brain-munching Zombie hiding in her attic as a ghost.’

Maggie sipped more coffee. ‘Just talk to her, Sam. Please. She’s my best friend, she just wants some reassurance. I can’t help, you know me, I totally believe in that stuff and she needs an alternative viewpoint. Look, I’m going to see her on Saturday, why don’t you come with me?’

I scratched the three-day stubble on my cheek and reached for my own drink. ‘Saturday?’ Sorry, I’m going to the match. We’re playing City, it’s the biggest game of the season.’

‘Then come after the bloody game. I’ll meet you in the Red Lion, she only lives around the corner.’

‘Oh, I don’t know, Mags, I…’

‘We can go back to mine after.’ Maggie tipped her head again and winked.

I groaned and rolled my eyes heavenward. She had me, and she knew it.


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Misty with books


Misty, Trevor Forest’s number one fan with part of her stash.


Anyone who buys a T A Belshaw or Trevor Forest book in November, or anyone who leaves a review for one of my books in November (preferably both, will go into a draw to win a signed paperback book of your choice. (kids or adult,) postage free, in time for Christmas. Just contact me any way you like when you’ve done the deed.

You’ll find me on Facebook, Twitter,  at,  or simply reply via the contact button on this website. Thank you and GOOD LUCK.

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The Evening Walk

I just came across this 2009 reflection while I was sorting out an old writing folder. I had only been writing semi-seriously for a couple of months when I wrote this. Reading it bought back a lot of memories. We lost Molly last Autumn and we still miss her terribly, but Maisie is still with is and still as energetic, (putting it mildly,) as ever she was.


Molly (Left) Maisie (Right)



Walking around the Rushcliffe Country Park with my dogs is a treat we all enjoy. Molly and Maisie, (my Springer Spaniels,) always manage to make an adventure out of it even on the dullest of days.

My dogs are definitely mind readers. We don’t need to announce that we are ‘going walkies,’ or ‘off to the park,’ they already know, their built in atomic clocks tell them. There is always a mad five minutes as we attempt to fill the water bottle, check for poo bags and get their leads on.  Maisie pulls somersaults and Molly scratches the door, while looking over her shoulder at us. Excited yaps fill the air. It’s like Christmas and Birthdays rolled into one, but it happens every day.

I have a small 4×4 car, the backs seats are always folded down and they have their own plastic sheeting to protect the upholstery. Molly likes to look between the two front seats and out through the windscreen to see where we are heading, Maisie prefers the side window. Both are a bundle of pent up energy as they whimper and call for us to hurry up. Molly barks at any other dog or cat we pass on the way, boasting that she is off to the park and they aren’t.

A casual observer would most likely think that we walk Molly on her own, as Maisie is seldom in sight. If you look hard enough you’ll spot  her zigzagging through the tall grass, flushing out birds and rabbits while Molly trots happily with us, sniffing the track and its borders to see who’s passed by recently.

It’s a bit like the Wild West with Molly looking after the wagon train, (us,) while Maisie is out on the trails scouting for Indians and bands of robbers. Molly used to do both tasks before we got Maisie, but now she feels her job is to protect us from raiding parties or any ambush that may lie in our path. Continue reading

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Deep Thought Thinks


I’ve been thinking a lot about books just lately. AHA! I hear you cry, that explains the strange noise that has echoed around the place for the last few days. The clanging sound was my steampunk designed brain turning over.

The Facts

I used to be an avid reader. I devoured books like a chocoholic demolishes a tin of Roses at Christmas. I’d find something to read wherever I was; a book or a magazine in my tea breaks at work, the rules and regulations on the guesthouse reception wall; sometimes, even the fire drill instructions. At breakfast, in the digs, I’d even read the back of the cornflakes packet if there wasn’t a newspaper around. It didn’t matter which paper either. Although I lean to the left and have been an avid Guardian reader for decades, I’d still happily pick up the Times, or, dare I say it, the Telegraph. I even admit to reading the lofty ambitions of the page three girl as she smiled at me from just inside the cover of the Sun. Continue reading

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An Ode to the (Recent) Literary Past

Written following yet another conversation with a lady who thinks writing a book is as easy as making a coffee on the Tassimo

ErnestHemingwayAn Ode to the Literary Past

It used to be that writers, were looked upon with awe
and bookworms read with bated breath whilst clamouring for more
Books were treasured items, treated with respect, and,
scribes had readers at their fingertips, or words to that effect.

But now once mighty wordsmiths are, cast from the ivory tower
The storyteller’s silent, her words have lost their power
The writer’s art’s diminished, the alchemy all gone,
and anyone can publish, thanks to Amazon.

Books are ten-a-penny in the throwaway digital age
with publishing on Kindle, currently all the rage
And you hear the new-age Hemmingways, scream with great delight
‘This really is piss easy, anyone can write.’

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The Weekly Digest

daffs The Weekly Digest.

On Monday, a smug David Cameron tried to pull a fast one as he launched his government’s new education policy. Trust the Tories with your vote and parents will be rewarded with some, ‘flat cash,’ for their schools, he promised. (He was obviously hinting at the fact that those dodgy gits in the Labour party would only be offering, ‘lumpy cash).  There will be no cuts for schools under our government, he boasted. As con men go, and he is a Conservative with a capital CON, Dave is right up there with the best. When questioned by Nick Robinson about whether the lack of inflation rises amounted to an actual cut in the education budget, the Prime Minister snorted with derision. The absence of inflation proofed rises didn’t equate to actual cuts, if anyone needed proof they could go and ask the nurses. Continue reading

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The Meditating Monk

The Siberian Times/Morning Newspaper Mongolia

The Siberian Times/Morning Newspaper Mongolia

Today, the Independent newspaper is carrying a story about the perfectly preserved body of a Buddhist monk that has been found in Mongolia. One Buddhist academic maintains that the monk, still sitting in the lotus position, may not be dead but might be in a state of deep mediation.

Now, as some of you know, I’m not one to be taken in by religious relics. I wasn’t fooled when a ‘genuine,’ nail, from the crucifixion of Jesus was put up for sale on Ebay, nor was I convinced by the splinter from the cross that was being offered by the same seller. (Not least because I had already bought one from a street market seller when I was in Turkey, and the one I’d haggled for was made of a much darker wood.) I was sorely tempted to purchase one of the thirty six, Messiah’s foreskins that were offered to me on the same holiday, but in the end I didn’t succumb, I mean, Jesus only had one foreskin removed, how could I be sure which one of them was the genuine article? I could have ended up with Judas’ prepuce and that wouldn’t have been half as valuable. I suppose, in a way they may all have been genuine, he was a supreme healer after all. I just don’t think he’d have put up with a rabbi following him around with a sharp knife waiting to snip the latest growth. Continue reading

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Sexism on a Grand Scale

obits This week, the Australian newspaper published an obituary for the bestselling author, Colleen McCullough. McCullough wrote more than 20 books, The Thorn Birds alone sold in excess of 30 million copies but for the Australian, that fact was mere trivia. They opened the article with a disparaging comment about her looks-

“Plain of feature and certainly overweight, she was, nevertheless, a woman of wit and warmth.”

To say I was enraged doesn’t come close. I was at the livid end of fury. Bitterness was left at the post as I moved rapidly through resentment and indignation to full on apoplexy. How, I raged, in this day and age, was this allowed to happen? Surely we’ve moved on, surely we’ve closer to equality than that? How come men aren’t allowed bile -fuelled obituaries anymore? It’s unfair in the extreme, in fact I’d go as far as to say it’s downright sexist.

Continue reading

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The Barbershop Quartet

The Barbershop Quartet

Back in the days of a long time ago
when you needed a trim you would get,
a shave with your haircut and thrown in for free,
was the barbershop quartet.

Big John Head was the bassman,
his voice was as deep as the sea.
He was manly and muscled as broad as an ox
and he fancied a milkman called Lee.

Baritone Barry was bald as a coot
his voice was a smooth as new glass.
He was madly in love with Small Ernie’s wife,
who ran the town’s cookery class.

Small Ernie McGee was the tenor,
he didn’t approve of John Head.
They didn’t quite do homophobic back then,
so he did homophonic instead.

The lead parts were sung by Wee Willy Wilde,
he liked to embellish his role.
Willy took knickers from Ernie’s wife’s line,
Barry bought all that he stole.

Alfonso was the chief barber.
He had a brother called Del.
Del was involved with a barmaid,
who was married to One Eyed Mattel.

One Eyed Mattel was a gangster,
with scars all over his face.
He picked up his gun and went looking for Del,
he found him at Alfonso’s place.

Alfonso was shaving the sheriff,
while the singers were giving their best.
Del was sat reading the paper,
as a bullet flew right past his chest.

The quartet carried on singing,
as One Eyed Mattel took fresh aim.
The sheriff hid under the counter,
this wasn’t his sort of game.

The barber’s quartet sang a sad song.
Alfonso started to cry.
Wee Willie picked up a steel handled comb
and stuck it in One Eye’s good eye.

No Eyed Mattel staggered out to the street,
the quartet were singing the blues,
The sheriff came out from hiding
now he had nothing to lose.

They all made their way out into the street.
where the Pastor started to pray.
The barbershop singers sang ‘Abide With Me’
as No Eyes was carried away.

The barbershop singers aren’t there anymore.
Alfonso and Del are long gone.
Barry and Ernie’s wife ran off to Rome
and Ernie moved in with Big John.

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