It’s guano get ugly

The return of the Scarlet Pipistrelle

First night of our Summer hols. Couple of glasses of wine, nicely settled into the Old Rectory that we rented for a week. Blissful sleep.

Then it came.

Claws. Fangs. Leathery.

And that was just Offspring One, crashing into our bedroom at 2:00 am.

“There’s a bat in my bathroom! A bat!”

Still waking up, “How big?”

“What’s that got to do with it? There’s a bat in my bathroom!!”

Awkward. There’s a strict No Pets requirement for staying in the house. And it had been advertised as a B&B, not standing for Bed & Bat.

“I closed the door, maybe it’ll fly back out of the open window?’


Visions of a hulking leather-winged beast lurking in theshadows.

“Let’s keep your door shut,” I said, not wanting to turn this into a wildlife safari in the middle of the night.

I called Reception, “I know this is a bit odd but we have found a bath in my son’s batroom at the Rectory.. Sorry, it’s late. A bat in his bathroom.”

The man on Reception was unruffled, “There are six types of bat on the estate. They’re endangered species, you know.”

“My son’s feeling pretty endangered.”

“Do you know what type of bat?”

“An unwanted bat. Can you send someone over to catch it and let it out?”

I’m afraid not. No-one on the staff has a bat-catching licence.”

“A bat-catching licence?”

“Otherwise it’s illegal. They’re endangered , remember?”

“Ah yes. So what do we do?”

“If it doesn’t leave, we’ll have to call in the bat people.”

“Bat people?”

International Bat of Mystery

Uncontrolled, spitting, gasping mirth. Heroic effort to maintain the conversation. Dinnah-dinnah-dinnah-dinnah-dinnah-dinnah-dinnah-dinnah Bat-people. Does Robin come with them, too?

“We probably won’t need them. Don’t worry, sir, it will probably be gone by morning.” I could hear him smiling, “There’s no charge for an extra guest. This happens a fair bit. The poor thing probably got lost on the way to the belfry next door.’

I supposed it was like the bat looking for a new home. Maybe a TV series would be made about that.

They could call it Echo-Location, Echo-Location, Echo-Location.

The bat was nowhere to be seen in Offspring One’s room, even though we sought him here and sought him there, we damn well sought him everywhere. He had dutifully flitted off by the morning. No need for the Bat-phone., but since then I have noticed one thing:

The windows in the Rectory have never been so tightly shut.



Alan Camrose

With thanks to Johannes Giez and Igam Ogam for the bat pics.

A bunch of Camroses

You are seeing this before anyone else.

Coming Soon!

My third and fourth books, one a darkly humorous fantasy novel, one a non-fiction book, will soon be available.

What are they about?


My fantasy novel is called Building Memories.

It’s the first in a series about the coming of age of a young woman PI in South London where she needs to cope with her dangerous heritage and survive in two worlds at the same time.


My non-fiction book is a series devoted to looking through the bedroom keyhole at different aspects of our lives.

Part One is Counting Sheep.

Part Two is beds and sleeping as featured in the movies: The Good, the Bed and the Snuggly.

I am excited to publish these books and hope you’ll join me on their journey.


I’d love everyone reading this to be part of the launch process. I’m hoping that, if you’re reading this, you enjoy my writing style in my blog, or in my earlier books.

If so, and you’d like to read more in the same vein, then please become part of my launch team and make a Verified Purchase of a pre-launch copy (in form) of whichever book (preferably both!) you’d like to read. I will make sure you have time to read it before the official launch.

I will make the price the lowest price I can post it – 0.99.

A Verified Purchase review of the book on Amazon on the Launch Date would be amazing and very much appreciated.

Further details will follow about how you can participate.

Just leave a Comment below confirming you’d like to be part of my team.

Thanks very much, and I hope you will be part of the team.

More details next week.



Alan Camrose

Down the Kindle Hole

Welcome to my Blog

You are very welcome to my Random Place, and thanks for stopping by.

This time, unravelling one of the mysteries of the Amazon self-publishing algorithm…

I am embarking on publishing my third book and it has made me re-evaluate some of the processes and activities involved.

Selling books on Amazon is a conundrum. On the face of it, practically, it seems so easy.

And yet…

Once you’re happy with the text of your new book and worked through the mysteries of trim size and blurb composition, there’s the sacred task of trying to ensure that your epic can actually be seen by people. Yes, I’m talking about the Dreaded Amazon Algorithm. Not right now the dark arts of “independent” reviews and how they affect sales. More about where you pigeon-hole your work in the labyrinth of department categories and sub-categories to be sniffed out by eager and thirsty readers.

Yes, those links that can put the catastrophe into categories.

On the face of it there are two categories for a book to fall into, chosen from a limited list of single words. My first novel was a mix of fantasy, humour, crime, and adventure, so was impossible to pin down in two categories for a “better consumer experience”.

I’m all for a better consumer experience, it’s what we harried authors strive for. Short-cuts don’t cut it.

Then I discovered that Amazon has a rabbit up its sleeve. A big rabbit.

Extra categories and sub-categories.

If you ask them nicely.

I asked them nicely and they confirmed that an author can place a book in a total of up to ten categories and sub-categories combined. That means that you can be a bit more granular about who might be interested in seeing your work and more likely to see it in the blizzard of zillions of offerings in the massive bucket catch-all categories. Why that is not publicised at the start and baked into the initial set-up process is beyond me, but if you’re not aware of it at the moment, then it’s worth spending time delving into the area while you get ready to publish.

Am I shooting myself in the rabbit’s foot by divulging what is to be fair a not-secret, just not universally known?

Absolutely not. What helps you helps me, as far as I can see…Greater precision gives greater confidence to all authors and readers alike.

More granular means less cross consumers who don’t want to dive into the giant Fantasy Bucket when they are after a Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > LITERATURE & FICTION > HUMOUR & SATIRE >

Check it out for your next project. In all honesty, I’m not sure what difference it really makes, but for your British Humour and Satire book, it’s better it’s visible there among the smaller thimble of titles than the giant LITERATURE & FICTION swimming pool, right?

For an e-book (the principle is similar for paperbacks):

  • At, there’s a Search bar.
  • Click on that.
  • Change “All” to show the “Kindle Store” Department.
  • Click on the changed Search icon.
  • Click on “Kindle eBooks” under “Kindle Store.” That is on the left side of the webpage.
  • Now you should be able to see a list of categories under “Kindle eBooks”
  • Click on a category. It will reveal the subcategories. Figure out where your book sits and follow the categories path down the rabbit hole until you can’t choose any more sub-categories on that path – the BRITISH in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > LITERATURE & FICTION > HUMOUR & SATIRE > BRITISH If your book’s set in Minnesota and isn’t funny, now’s the time to go back up the chain…
  • Make sure you pick up ten paths. (Amazon counts the two you choose in your initial set-up.)
  • The format is important when you ask Amazon to update your paths. It took me a few emails of jolly back and forth to alight upon an agreed place for that better consumer experience…
    • Use the following format: “Kindle Store > Kindle > eBooks > CATEGORY > SUBCATEGORY.”
  • Slightly bizarrely, but presumably due to any spelling or cultural differences, the categories need to be set for each individual jurisdiction where you are selling on the Kindle Marketplace or market for paperbacks.
  • Be patient, Amazon allows itself up to 72 hours to reflect your choices, but experience shows that they are thankfully much quicker.

Hope that’s helpful.

Happy categorising!



Alan Camrose

Gallery view

Welcome to my Blog

You are very welcome to my Random Place, and thanks for stopping by.

This time, I take a trip around my Art Gallery to share with you…

Last time, I wrote about painting. Painting the fence in my back garden. I thought I would share with you a few items from when I used to play with thinner paint brushes. And pencils. They were done a while ago, but I guarantee that I had more fun with them than with the fence.

I enjoy the discipline of drawing and painting, and the danger of making the next mark on the canvas or drawing pad where it hangs in the balance whether that will spoil or enhance the offering.

I write books and this blog with a view to exercising my creative muscles, but I have over the years dallied with an easel rather than a keyboard.

I hope you enjoy my sojourn through my sketchbooks and folders.

First up is a self-portrait of me at the Hong Kong Sevens in the 1990s, concentrating on supping my beer with the pitch in the background. That would have been after the Bloody Marys for breakfast to wash down legions of sausage sandwiches, staving off the pain of watching Fiji and the All-Blacks yet again contesting the Final. That pain is reflected in the glowing colours of my pint.

More Asian influence comes from the Balinese puppet that I have included, a still life of the jointed figure bought in a street market. The crumpled form not only reflects the marionette’s posed form, but also chimes with how the day ended after those beers above…

Finally for now, I have included a picture of my junk in Hong Kong Harbour (Hong Kong means ‘Fragrant Harbour’ in Chinese – a tragic example of wishful thinking), on which I would have slept on the top deck as it meandered home:

That’s all for now…



Alan Camrose

Gold Medal Fencing

Welcome to my Blog

You are very welcome to my Random Place, and thanks for stopping by.

This time, I hope this post will make you Epée …

We decided to do some Olympic fencing. My bad. I mis-understood. We did fence painting instead.

Regardless, if there were an Olympic Gold awarded for that discipline, then I reckon I’d be in with a shot. There’s skateboarding and surfing, so why not fence painting?

Anyway, last week, we only found time to work on fence posts in my garden, not blog posts. The only worry is that the medal would be only a Silver – Silver Birch Grey, rather than Gold. That was a clear possibility given the artistic spray of paint around the arena. Think of it as a similar artistic exercise to Rhythmic Gymnastics with a ribbon. But with paint.

All for the glory with the Olympic Rings…

The majesty of the Olympic Rings

And then, of course, there’s the mechandising:

Official kit merchandising – available now

It all felt like more of a Marathon, or perhaps more accurately the Pentathlon:

Pressure wash


First Coat

Second Coat



I thought of it as a triumphant debut, never having painted anything before except maybe an Airfix aircraft or two when I was a kid, and they always came out Smudge Brown. This time it was a team event. A relay. Three of us in the team, handing over the baton (more to the point, brushes) as we worked our way round.

But we reached the Finish Line, well the bit of the finish Line not covered over by paint splashes.

It has taught me that I can do this sort of thing, but unlike the Olympics I want to leave it to the professionals in the future…I think I will quit while I’m ahead – the pressure will give me (more) grey hairs.

Silver Birch Grey.

Someone else can carry the torch from now on…

The Olympic Flame



Alan Camrose

En garden

Whoop! This is my 50th Post at my Random Place

I thought it would be a good moment to cast an eye back over my earlier posts to see just how random they are.

It got me to thinking about the purpose of my blog. It is like a diary, a snapshot of where I am in the particular week, an articulation of something that I feel it worthwhile articulating.

I’m not trying to sell anything with my blog, except my words. If you want to buy my books, then that’s great; if you want to buy me a cup of coffee then that’s great too, but I suppose I’m acting like an unstable lighthouse swirling words out into the void to try to connect with other – broadly like-minded – human beings. Not with bots or algorithms, phishers or exotic princes with a sad story to tell involving my bank account details. Just other human beings who may want to tarry for a moment in my lair to see what I have to say about things of hopefully mutual interest.

I’ve taken a look back over the past year’s posts to see any patterns in the randomness.

My posts include various broad categories:

Books and reviews – my posts on audio books, genre mashing, and Hemingway – topical with the new series from the BBC.

Food and drink, including posts on cheese, tomato sauce and – strangely fittingly – pizza and the wonders of a pizza oven. A special mention to the Claw of the Beast.

roast chicken at Hixters restaurant London

Sport, like the Euros, but I want to put that to one side for the moment. Too sad for the glorious defeat and angry at the minority of idiots who have over-shadowed what was a joyful ride for England supporters.

Charlie George Arsenal goal celebration 1971 FA Cup final vs Liverpool

Music is one of my great loves, ranging from the blues to my favourite country crossover song ever to our open air concert in Glyndebourne last year. My piece on Spooky Bob and his Crossroads date with the Devil is the first in my intended series of stuff about my favourite blues artists.

Posts on travel have kept me embracing the wider world at a time when we have been forced to look closer to home, leading mne back to trekking in Nepal and forward to British staycations in Cheshire and, er, Aylesbury. Don’t smirk, we’re going back to Aylesbury this Summer, too. Lily the unforgettable campervan, too.

Trekking in Nepal

And everyday stuff, like uni, diets and the fierce selection of board games to play during Lockdown.

Croquet, anyone? Games and outdoor activity.

And Jasper and Pagoda, our retriever and Burmese – absolutely not everyday stuff.

That’s all for now. I look forward to the next 50, I hope you do too…



Alan Camrose

Spooky Bob walking in the shadow of the Blues

Welcome to my Blog

You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by.

This time, the Devil has the best tunes, and strikes a hard bargain…

Whitesnake, and for that matter Led Zep, Cream, Elvis, everyone who has made “popular” music that matters, owes the giants of the Blues. Owes them big time. 4/4 time.

I love the blues

They tell my story,

If you don’t feel it you can never understand

Whitesnake – Walking in the shadow of the Blues

Robert Johnson (1911-1938) was not merely one of those giants, he was an unlikely Titan. He was from the home of the Blues, the Mississippi Delta. With his dapper black suit and hat in the pictures, cradling his guitar like it was part of him, he was a Blues player way before electric guitars and synthesisers. By all accounts, he wasn’t a very good guitarist at the beginning. Then, one day, he changed. A flash of light, a moment of revelation. Legend has it that he didn’t rely on technology or practising to improve. He went old school.

Very old school.

Did he go to that crossroads near the Dockery Plantation, Mississippi, just before Midnight, in dusty silence and start to twang at his guitar? Did he meet a man there who appeared out of the shadows with horns hidden under his fedora and a spiky tail draped under his long black coat? Did that mysterious man croon to the guitarist as Robert stared upwards into the black night sky aching for the priceless gift of talent? Did the song tempt him with the promise of fame and fortune if he would only commit to a devilish pact?

Whether or not Bob succumbed to any such temptation at the expense of his soul, he became the legendary guitar player captured in precious recordings from 1936 and 1937, which have held their value ever since and influenced generations of guitarists and singers.

One of his songs, echoing this story, was ‘Crossroads‘ (or ‘Crossroad Blues‘):

I went to the crossroad, fell down on my knees
I went to the crossroad, fell down on my knees
Asked the Lord above, "Have mercy, now, save poor Bob if you please"
Yeah, standin' at the crossroad, tried to flag a ride
Ooh-ee, I tried to flag a ride
Didn't nobody seem to know me, babe, everybody pass me by
Standin' at the crossroad, baby, risin' sun goin' down
Standin' at the crossroad, baby, risin' sun goin' down
I believe to my soul, now, poor Bob is sinkin' down
You can run, you can run, tell my friend Willie Brown
You can run, you can run, tell my friend Willie Brown
That I got the crossroad blues this mornin', Lord, baby, I'm sinkin' down
And I went to the crossroad, mama, I looked East and West
I went to the crossroad, baby, I looked East and West
Lord, I didn't have no sweet woman, ooh well, babe, in my distress

Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Robert Johnson
Crossroads lyrics © Concord Music Publishing LLC

He fell on his knees and prayed to the Lord because he knew what he was about to do. A last chance for him to back down from the awful, delicious prospect of a trade with the Devil. He flagged a ride at the crossroads all day long but no-one noticed him, no-one saved him. Then, the sun went down and he was left there alone, to sink down with his insecurity and frustration and pain.

And then he received the poisoned chalice of the Crossroad Blues.

He was able to play the guitar like an…angel?

For a while.

Afetr two years, he died. Suddenly and painfully. Some said he had been poisoned.

Others thought he had simply paid the price for the shooting star of Godlike talent that he had been temporarily granted, and the Devil had come for his due, taking everything with him that remained of Robert Johnson.

To this day no-one knows where his body lies. If anywhere.

Waiting for the Devil

But he has left an imprint on the world that extends far beyond that mysterious crossroads.

What are you prepared to buy and sell to the Man in Black at the crossroads near you?



Alan Camrose

PS Treat yourself to a different take on that song, by eric Clapton

Add genius to genius and you get extra genius

I beg your pardon, punk, I never promised you a rose garden

I am peculiarly distraught today. Here’s my train of thought:

The Sun’s out, the roses are out. Capture them before they fade and die. So I did.

That got me to thinking about rose gardens and that tune announced itself in my head and has done a series of encores.

Bits of song lyrics came flooding back from Lyn Anderson’s 1970 single. God help me, I loved that song when it came out, and I‘m the world’s worst country music listener. I think it was the simple, gentle lyrics and her pristine voice that did it for me.

Along with the sunshine
There's gotta be a little rain sometime

Not many songs have done that to me, and I don’t really understand why this one did, but there it is (others include B.B. King’s The thrill is gone, Two Minutes to Midnight by Iron Maiden, Hoosier’s Take me to Church, John Lee Hooker’s Boogie Chillun, Texas and their Summer Son, the first time I heard Thunder Road and, while we’re on roads, Telegraph Road – there are many more, come to think of it). Rose Garden was the first.

I understand that Lynn Anderson had other hits, but I have never heard of any of them. for a while and let's be jolly
Love shouldn't be so melancholy
Come along and share the good times while we can

A mantra for not just love but everything else. And the best use of the word ‘jolly’ that I can think of in a song.

So why distraught?

My aunt had one of those record players that used to sit in the corner with a long central spike that ate singles and automatically played them one by one, the stylus following the grooves to the end of the record, flipping back to the side, another single was dropped down and off we went again. I used to play with that record player for hours. I kept coming back to Rose Garden. My aunt gave me the record as a present and I was delighted with it, kept it in my record collection for probably 45 years.

I wanted to post a picture of it, but it has vanished. I cannot find it. It must have been thrown out or lost when we moved house a couple of years ago. I’m hoping it will turn up after I’ve posted this, just to spite me.

I played the single very little over the tears, but I knew it was there and I could play it whenever I wanted. And now it’s gone. Hence my distraught mood. I don’t need to play it right now, but if and when I ever felt a sudden urge to do so instead of some Nina Simone, then I’ll have to rely on Apple Music. That will do the job, but not with that personal, deep touch of a classic 45.

I happened upon the Suicide Machines punk version of the song, which reminded me that there’s always something that will come along and sweep any blues away:

A punk country song. What’s not to like?

There, that cheered me up no end…



Alan Camrose

Can you hear the words?

Welcome to my Blog

You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, a few thoughts on the voices in your head…

Audio books are a conundrum for me.

They are an attractively packaged way to absorb a book. The words are broadly the same as in a printed or downloaded version, often abridged.

Why cut down? They reduce listening time for a not-huge novel to 10-20 hours rather than 30 or 40. A working week for some. Therein lies the nub of the problem, it doesn’t matter if it’s Charles Dance or Benedict Cumberbatch reading the book out and providing a nuanced voice to differentiate between characters’ voices. The problem for me is that it is too slowly delivered. I process a word and race for the next one which I need to carry on the flow. So why not speed it up? Making it 1.5x speed or more just makes it sound like Mickey Mouse is providing the reading voice.

So it’s too slow or too fast.

Either way, it’s relentless.

I sometimes dwell over a paragraph or re-read it in a book. That’s not possible with an audiobook without a great deal of haphazard fiddling with the buttons.

Relentless, like the tapping of the Master’s fingers…

It will keep coming until the charge runs out, and you wake up at 3 am five chapters on. The Voice is still going and you’ve no idea where in the book you lost consciousness.

I don’t know whether it’s a scientific Thing, but the words don’t seem to stick with me as much when I’m listening to them being read. It’s much easier to be distracted because there’s nothing right in front of you drawing you in. I am more absorbed in the pages of a book, paper or otherwise. (Some people can learn how to speak Swahili while listening to a tutorial tape as they sleep, so perhaps it’s the way my brain is wired.)

Why have audiobooks? Why are they so popular?

They give the gift of time.

When driving a car or gardening or doing something else active, an audiobook nearly allows the luxury of multi-tasking which, from my perspective as a male, is an alluring and usually unattainable prospect. But it comes at a cost. Keeping up with the story. Driving a car and listening to an audiobook, especially at a gripping bit, has to be one of the most dangerous ways of getting from A to B, when you want the gripping bit to be the tyres on the road. That Voice requires concentration and focus, not things one typically wants to divert from pointing a couple of tons of metal and plastic along some tarmac.

It’s a compromise, then. But sitting in a hammock on a lazy afternoon in the blazing sunshine and floating away to the past or the future or simply somewhere else without squinting at dappled pages and battling a wasp for a good view of the next paragraph is a wonderful thing, while swaying in the breeze.

It’s like having a radio station follow you around dedicated to telling you stories. A kindly nanny reading you bedtime stories. Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime on tap. It shouldn’t replace a book but, like most things, at the right time and in the right place, it can be perfect.

I am currently listening to The Massacre of Mankind by Stephen Baxter (main picture above). It’s War of the Worlds 2 with more tooled-up ETs. Like Independence Day 2 but set in Surrey. Bertie Wooster fighting off Martians. More likely, Jeeves fighting them off, having invented a fiendish secret weapon while spit-and-polishing some brogues. Unlike Wodehouse, there is strictly no humour in MoM, which is a shame, and there’s precious little soul. A little too much stiff upper lip for me. The pace is – like the audiobook – relentless, but at the same time also rather sedate. Only five hours to go, and I’m sticking with it.

What ho!


Alan Camrose

Martians, pah! Meet Dogzilla…

How much is that in EUROs?

Welcome to my Blog

You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, the trials of supporting England at international tournaments…

The first Euro tournament was held before I was born: 1960 in France. Only four teams; the Soviet Union won it. No England, so no problem with penalties.

Spain 1964. England participated. Didn’t get very far, even with still only four teams…

I was 2 years old, so I didn’t care.

All the heart-ache was to come, the main (so far) being Italia 90, and Euro 96 in England. So, Euro 96: All to play for. That epic, mesmerising goal by Gascoigne against the Scots, that sensational win 4-1 against the Dutch, that gut-wrenching miss from the squared ball against Germany.

And of course the penalties, by which time England had got into the groove to be world-ranked 1 in losing penalty shoot-outs, having limbered up with that loss against the Germans in the 1990 World Cup. Football so nearly came home in Euro 96. I remember hearing the Germans singing that it had – annoyingly funny…Time for payback, Mr Southgate.

As a means of recovering from that trauma which EVEN NOW HURTS, this should reset your equilibrium if you are suffering too:


The couple of blips to our record on crashing out in spot kick deciders has had a couple of blips but I still head for the back of the sofa with a bottle of Scotch when it slithers around once more

Still, did I mention Gazza’s awaesome moment when the world slowed on it axis to make sure he didn’t stumble?

Phil Foden needs to earn his hair-style tomorrow!

Bringing things up to date, I have just finished watching North Macedonia (I must confess that I wouldn’t be able to point to it on a map) against Ukraine. Loads of fun. How the tournament has expanded and how helpful that it is being played during a hot spell when there’s nothing else but to stay indoors with a cold beer. I’m happy to pitch in…

Scotland tomorrow, then. Let’s not mess it up after beating Croatia. Let’s play direct, fast-paced, one-touch attacking football with the most promising team that we have had since 96.

Thank God we won in 1966. No penalties.

So much better with the crowds partially back.

Their noise can hide the groans and whimpers.

Maybe not the screams.

But I live in hope.



Alan Camrose