As a consequence of my e-mail address being put on this site, I've received a few messages. One from a chap who thinks we were in the RAF together (he may be right) and another from a lady who believes we used to play table tennis at a north London youth club (she is, alas, wrong).
There was a third message, too, asking if I intend to write a book about my travelling life. As it happens, I am setting down some recollections, but have no plans to publish them.
When it comes to books, you see, I have a chequered history.
Years ago, I was asked to write a guidebook to the Algarve region of Portugal, and did so promptly because I knew it like the back of my hand, and also badly needed the money.
The publisher then asked for a similar guide to Lisbon and its environs. Again, no problem. I knew the Portuguese capital, too – and still needed the money.
He came back a third time with Madeira in his sights. I obliged. So far, so good. (Incidentally, "So Far, So Good" is the working title for my recollections – or memoirs if you want to be posh about it.)
His fourth request was for a guide to North Portugal. This I could not write, as I had not visited the north. He persisted, keen for the same author to provide all his Portuguese titles. Again I refused.
He offered me a lot more money, so I caved in, producing a very comprehensive guide to somewhere I had not visited.
Now you must keep this to yourself, because if my fellow members of the British Guild of Travel Writers get to hear of it, I am likely to be drummed out of their ranks.
("Drumming out" is an emotionally harrowing ceremony, involving the ritual snapping in two of the offender's pencils, the cutting up of his frequent flyer cards, and other humiliations, the mere thought of which almost makes me faint with terror.)
In my defence, however, I must tell you that when I finally got to visit north Portugal on a filming trip, the director relied on my guidebook which was completely accurate in every respect.
Later I wrote a book called "100 Great British Weekends" which did extremely well, as it was tied to a topic covered by the BBC's "Holiday" programme on which I then worked.
I also wrote the life story of Harry Chandler who created the Upminster Travel Club and claimed to have "discovered" the Algarve as a holiday destination. Actually, if anybody did it was his wife Rene.
And that, until a few years ago, was that. Then my twin granddaughters – who live in Brisbane with their mother (my daughter), father and older brother – became convinced that one of our cats could talk. How this happened is a long and complicated story, but on the basis of their belief I wove a shorter and less complicated story for their amusement. However, one thing led to another and I was persuaded to publish it as an e-book.
I had no idea what an e-book was, but as someone who has, to use the cliche, "embraced new technology" throughout his working life – from hot-metal printing presses to the internet, via film, video, disc recording and all manner of technical wizardry – I thought I'd give it a go.
Which is where "Silent Paws" comes into the picture. That's the title of the tale about Rory McTab, a cat who is also a secret agent in an organisation called Feline Force, helping Scotland Yard solve baffling crimes. A very far cry from travel writing, but lots of fun to create. (Normally, a journalist's only opportunity for creative writing comes when he's claiming his expenses.)
Assuming it would only be available in the UK, I was delighted, yet puzzled, to receive a rave review from somebody called Gary in the USA. This led to the revelation that "Silent Paws" is on sale there, as well as in Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Japan, India, Canada, Brazil and Mexico. All of which is a trifle scary.
I have absolutely no idea what will happen next, but if you log on to the Amazon.co.uk, select Books from the menu, then type the title into the little box, you'll see what it's all about. You can even download a free excerpt if you're intrigued by the idea of a crime-fighting cat.
Now I realise this has nothing whatsoever to do with my travel experiences past and present, but people have been asking "What are you doing with yourself these days?" in a tone of voice implying that getting older has led to a total stagnation of limbs and brain.
I am still travelling – though not as much as in my heyday – and still writing about it. I am also enjoying this new experience of "blogging".
I have also been asked to assemble a collection of true "Traveller's Tales", and have embarked on another story about the crime-fighting tabby cat named Rory. Like "Silent Paws" it is intended to be read aloud to children by their parents – or, better still, grandparents.
After more than half a century of travel journalism, it makes a refreshing change.
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