Posted by: gillarbuthnott | April 24, 2019

I’ll just have to interview myself…

Image result for 1920s lady writerSometimes when I can’t sleep, I imagine I’m on Desert Island Discs and choose my  tracks, book and luxury, as I’m sure many other people do. Lately I’ve also taken to interviewing myself along the lines of those quick-fire questions you see as part of interviews in the weekend papers. So, since no one is likely to ask me for real, here is my quick-fire interview with myself.

Champage, gin or beer? Why is there an ‘or’ in that sentence?

High street or designer? Don’t be silly, I’m an author. You mean High street or charity shop.

Coffee or green juice? Coffee. Green juice sounds like what oozes out of the bottom of my compost bin. And why doesn’t anyone make ‘Supercaff ‘, with all the extra caffeine they take out of decaf? I’d buy that.

Favourite football team? Hahahahahahaha

Cats or dogs? Cats, obviously. A cat considers itself your intellectual superior and will happily keep you in your place.

I couldn’t get through the weekend without… Now, this is a very stupid question. In my experience the weekends get through themselves just fine, and very quickly. It’s how to get through the week that ‘s the tricky bit. I couldn’t get through the week without writing.

Now it’s your turn. Quickfire answers from you, please!

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | April 21, 2019

Mystery Mouse – the Conclusion

Image result for worried mouseWell, Dr Doug aimed the wildlife camera at Mrs Doug’s shoes overnight and the peanut hoarder was indeed a mouse. Dr Doug was in favour of a capital sentence, but Mrs Doug decreed that this should be commuted to permanent banishment. M. Mouse was duly live-trapped and freed on Blackford Hill to frolic with the rabbits. And owls. And stoats. Possibly not for very long…

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | April 18, 2019

Stranger than fiction…

Image result for very startled catThis is my final post about research, for a while anyway. Sometimes you find things that you think are true but turn out to be false, but occasionally you find something so weird it must be made up, but it’s true anyway…

And so it was that one day, doing some research for a book I have yet to write, all about historically significant cats, I came across project Acoustic Kitty.

We are going back in time, to the 1960s, the height of the Cold War. If only we had a way to eavesdrop on Soviet diplomats when they’re outdoors, thought the CIA. I know – we’ll use cats. They’d make the perfect secret agents. 

Image result for project acoustic kittyAnd lo! a cat was duly wired for sound. This involved implanting a microphone in its ear, a transmitter at the base of its skull and an aerial woven into its fur all the way to the tip of its tail. The tech worked. The only problem was, well…. have you ever tried to train a cat?

Undaunted, the CIA deployed Acoustic Kitty in Washington, where it promptly ran into the road and was run over by a taxi. The project was cancelled in 1967.

If only they’d spoken to a cat owner first, they could have saved a lot of time and money and tried to train a goldfish instead.

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | April 16, 2019

Mystery Mouse…Maybe.

untitledSo, my friend Dr Doug asked to borrow my trail camera (bought for photographing wildlife) to solve A Mystery. Mrs Doug went to put her shoes on the other morning and found 15 peanuts in the left one. She was slightly mystified as they don’t even have peanuts in the house. A mouse! thought Dr Doug, so they left the peanuts in the shoe that night and sprinkled flour on the floor so the mystery marauder would leave tracks.

Next morning: No tracks. 13 peanuts in left shoe. Perhaps they’d miscounted? Ah… No… Also 9 peanuts in right shoe. Levitating mouse? Elves? Benign poltergeist? Bring on the trail camera.

to be continued…

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | April 13, 2019

Only in Paris…

I was in Paris for a few days holiday recently – first time I’ve been for several years. If only all station restaurants looked like Le Train Bleu in the Gare de Lyon, where we ate one night…

Image result for le train bleu

Someone clearly said, ‘I don’t want an inch of this left undecorated. Give me mirrors, gilding, murals – then double it.’ Truly fantastic and not a bit like Waverley…

But it’s not only station restaurants that ooze French chic. We stumbled on the window display of the local pest control company… And now I can’t find a way to get it off my stupid phone and into this post!!! Grr… Will have to put it on Instagram instead; yes, I have joined the 21st century. I can promise there will be no downward dogs or avocados – unless avocado is the garnish for a cocktail I haven’t met yet…


Posted by: gillarbuthnott | April 10, 2019

The Frustrations of Research…

220px-john_b__moisant_and_mademoiselle_fifiThe thing about research is that you have to find out much, much more than eventually makes it into your book, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction. And sometimes you have to leave out some of your favourite discoveries.

This is a picture of a favourite I had to regretfully accept wouldn’t make it into print in the book I’ve just finished. Meet Captain John ‘Kitty’ Moisant and his pet – and co-pilot – Mademoiselle Fifi. Captain Kitty was an early aviator so devoted to his cat that she accompanied him on many of his flights (she may well have been the first cat to fly across the English Channel). He sometimes carried paying passengers, who had to cope not only with Fifi sitting next to them, but with the litter tray that Captain Kitty had installed in the cockpit for her convenience. (And you thought Ryanair was bad…).

Sadly, Captain Kitty died in a flying accident in 1910, but, looking on the bright side, Fifi wasn’t in the plane at the time, so was able to attend his funeral in this rather fetching mourning outfit…

GqudQKfActually, I feel Fifi deserves her own picture book… What’s not to like about a cat aviatrix?

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | April 6, 2019

The Joy of Research

image-of-space-turtleI love researching for non-fiction books. Of course, there are things that don’t pique your interest as much as you would like (for me it was developments in aircraft design), but, equally, you stumble across some fantastically strange facts.

The book I’ve just been working on (more on that soon) led me to the fact that the first spacecraft (The Soviet Zond 5 mission) to go round the back of the moon and return safely carried two tortoises (sadly not wearing tiny helmets like the one in the photo). Who would ever have thought that tortoises were the first creatures to see the far side of the moon? And what really fascinates me about it is that, given how long tortoises can live, they might still be alive out there somewhere… I haven’t been able to find out what happened to them, so if anyone knows…

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | April 3, 2019

Why You Need A Guilt Buddy

Image result for cat looking guilty

Finding it difficult to sit down at the desk? Turned procrastination into an artform? Trying to ignore a deadline? Maybe, like me, you need a Guilt Buddy.

The Guilt Buddy is that person who will send you the email that triggers your conscience, or your ambition, or your determination to just get on with it and write! You need someone you can trust to know how hard to poke you, and when. I know some people swear by computer programs that set you deadlines, but I’m not about to surrender to an algorithm any time soon. Instead, I have Rosemary, and she has me, and she is the reason why I have given myself a slap and begun to blog again. And it’s NOT a way of procrastinating to avoid the real writing; it’s in addition to it, so there.

Thankyou Rosemary!

Now, why don’t you lot find your own Guilt Buddies and let me know how it works out for you?

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | March 30, 2019

The Boy Who Went to War

James Marchbank

This is 14 year old James Marchbank, whose story I told in my most recent book A Secret Diary of the First World War. Along with thousands of other teenage soldiers, he fought on the Western Front from 1914-18. The book has been out for several months now, and I’ve moved on to other projects, but I can’t get James out of my head. The difference between him and those other thousands is that he was – aged just 14 – fighting legally, with everyone aware of just how young he was. This was because he had already enlisted in the Territorial Forces (1/8th Battalion Royal Scots) as a boy drummer and bugler. In all my research, I didn’t come across anyone else in this situation, and I now wonder if he may have been the youngest legal serving soldier on the Western Front. I’m not quite sure where to head or who to ask to find out more about this, so if anyone out there has any ideas…

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | March 28, 2019

Beginning again

Image result for keep on trying

I may be the world’s worst user of social media… People look aghast when I say I don’t have an Instagram account, hardly post on Facebook and have given up blogging on my own site. I’d like to say all this is about to change, but we all know I’ve been here before, don’t we? However, I’m nothing if not optimistic (or do I mean unrealistic?) so here goes…

Actually, it’s a good metaphor for the whole messy business of writing. If I’d been put off by the years of stories that didn’t work out, and books that kept getting rejected, I’d still be dreaming of being an author, instead of being at work on my 20th book. So… I will try to channel that persistence. And come up with posts people want to read!

Watch this space – I’m just off to find out how to open and Instagram account. Once I find out what Instagram actually is…

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