Bats? Yes, thank you for asking.

You know how life sometimes just gets so complicated? How the easiest task seems to multiply in complexity until it resembles a scene from a screwball comedy? We’re undergoing that at the moment and it’s all due to Pipistrellus pipistrellus or possibly Rhinolophus hipposideros.  - I’m waiting for Batman and Batwoman to come and tell me whichAre you sitting comfortably? This is a long story.

It begins about six years ago when we had our boiler replaced and they had to do some pipework in our loft.

“Ere. Missus, you want to come and look at this,” said one of the gasmen (oh, don’t be smutty you lot!)

I leg it up to the loft and find a pile of droppings (oh, the glamorous life of the novelist!). My mind races – rats, mice, squirrels? – so I get on the phone to the local council who send round a nice man. He goes up to the loft and says, “You’ve got bats”.

In the greater scheme of things, this was good news. No nasty rodents, just adorable little bats, probably the same ones who flit through our garden on a summer evening. So, all I had to worry about was the shower of bat droppings which lands on your head when you open the trap to the loft, because you can’t get rid of the things. They’re, quite rightly, protected species.

Now, this is all fine and dandy, until you think you might have death watch beetle and have to get another nice man (from Rentokil) to come and give your joists the once over. He finds no death watch beetle, just common or garden wood-boring beetle (this is starting to resemble one of those David Attenborough wildlife programmes), which will need treating at some point. There’s one complication – yes, the bats. We need to have permission from English Nature to have anything done in the loft (like spray the wood-boring beetle or replace our insulation, which needs renewal).

So, weeks later (allowing time for somebody to ring me to say that somebody’s going to ring me and then them not managing to catch me) I have an appointment for two nice batpeople to come around and (I hope!) give me a certificate from their utility belts to say I can have work done. Presumably there’ll be some time restrictions, like having to have any work done when the bats are off somewhere for the winter (on a cruise to Tenerife?)

As I said, this is all becoming quite surreal; if the man and lady from English Nature resemble Adam West and Julie Newmar, I shan’t be able to control myself.

Home Fires Burning
Available from Cheyenne Publishing
Blurb: Two stories, two couples, two eras, timeless emotions.

This Ground Which Was Secured At Great Expense:

It is 1914 and The Great War is underway. When the call to arms comes, Nicholas Southwell won’t be found hanging back. It’s a pity he can’t be so decisive when it comes to letting his estate manager Paul Haskell know what he feels before he has to leave for the front line. In the trenches Nicholas meets a fellow officer, Phillip Taylor, who takes him into the unclaimed territory of physical love. Which one will he choose, if he’s allowed the choice?

The Case of the Overprotective Ass:

Stars of the silver screen Alasdair Hamilton and Toby Bowe are wowing the post WWII audiences with their depictions of Holmes and Watson. When they are asked by a friend to investigate a mysterious disappearance, they jump at the chance — surely detection can’t be that hard? But a series of threatening letters — and an unwanted suitor — make real life very different from the movies.

Excerpt from 'This Ground Which was Secured at Great Expense', a bittersweet story set against the backdrop of WWI:

“You have to go home. You must be mad to want to stay here.” Phillip smoothed his chin, easing fingers over the parts the razor had left raw.

“There’s no one at home to go to. You know I’ve no close family.” Nicholas stared at the letter from Colonel Johnstone, the one which virtually ordered him to get home and take a rest. There was little point in staying if Phillip had gone, anyway; better to go back to Hampshire and try to keep his hands to himself when he met Paul.

Phillip had been given leave, too and he seemed alight with some private, inner glow. “How about you? What have you planned?” Nicholas asked the question for formality’s sake; the thought of Phillip enjoying a passionate reunion with some chit of a thing burned into his dreams, torturing his sleeping self.

“I’ll be seeing family, of course, and…” Phillip considered his face in the mirror once more. Nicholas suddenly realised he was playing for time, weighing up his options. He’d seen that expression before—it spoke of utter candour. “And I have someone waiting for me, someone I’m very close to.”

Nicholas had to fill the silence that clung to the coattails of that bald statement. “Not like you not to have mentioned her before.” The strain in his voice seemed amplified by the tension which had descended between them.

“I didn’t feel entirely sure I could, not up until now.” Phillip finished his toilet and rolled down his sleeves. He turned, fixing the full piercing glare of his green eyes on his fellow officer. “You’re a good man in a tight corner. Reliable. Can I rely on you now?”

“Of course.” Nicholas awaited the revelation, the great secret he was to be entrusted with. Was Phillip laying siege to some other officer’s wife, sapping her resolve and providing comfort while her man was miles away? If so, it was little wonder he wanted to get home.

“It’s not a girl, at home. It’s a man. Yes, I know I’m a bloody idiot telling you, but I trust you with my life, Nicholas. Have done every day since I got posted here. You’re not going to shop me, are you?” Phillip ran his hands through his dark hair. “Not sure it wouldn’t be worse if you told my parents than if you told the Colonel. He’d probably be more sympathetic so long as I’m not buggering Miller.”

The unaccustomed coarseness made Nicholas wince, although he was sure its origin was nothing but Phillip’s nerves masquerading as bravado. “I had no idea.” Weak words, stupid sounding once they hit the air, yet it was all he could manage. If only he’d known, he might have said something. Sooner.

“I’m hardly likely to advertise it, am I? Fergal’s a good sort—he’s an engineer, working on ships’ engines for Vospers. Wants to get to sea himself, the idiot.” The deep affection apparent in Phillip’s voice cut into Nicholas’s heart. He’d never heard him speak this way, even about his family.

I’m doing weekly giveaways through November, so if you mail me at  with the answer to “What’s the fifth book in the Cambridge fellows series?” you’ll be entered.


  1. Having problems commenting - if this gets through twice I apologise!

    Thanks for hosting me, Brenda. I had such fun doing this.

  2. *chuckling*
    I really enjoyed this post. My wife and I live in the country. The bats that live in an old tree trunk support beam in my workshop help keep the insect population at bay.
    Unfortunately, one occassionally finds its way into the house.
    Between the dog and cat believing the flying beast is the ultimate toy, and my wife running around with a blanket over her head screaming for me to get rid of the bat, just not near the china, the scene is actually better than any "reality" TV show.

  3. DA That's the sort of imagery that cheers up a cold, foggy November evening. We actually have two species of bat, according to Batman (who was delightful), one of which is a Serotine, which lives off beetles found in cowpats.