Dear Diary

Dear Diary

Dear Diary…

… or a writer’s life less ordinary…

Dear diary. Wow! It’s hard to believe that I haven’t written a blog since 24 July, more than two weeks ago now.

Well, an awful lot has happened since then, not the least of which was a very successful ‘Writer of the Day’ spot on Reddit, back on 25 July, which gave me the chance to connect with a great bunch of fantasy fans from across the world and answer questions about my books, my writing, Mister Spock and of course, fish allergies among other things. I have to say a particular thank you to Brobie De Dalston for that last one. What a character he was! I really do hope that our paths cross again in the future.

Mr Spock - Dear Diary. Rob Gregory Author

How many fish do you want?

Then we had our dog, Ben, who has settled into the family rather well, spayed. This meant spending the ensuing week dealing initially with her post-operative depression and then her frustration at being restrained to the confines of the bar, during which time she chewed through two leads and did her very best to get her wound infected, despite our best efforts to the contrary. Thankfully, she has made a full recovery and is now sleeping soundly in the study behind my chair as if nothing ever happened.

Following that escapade, I had a visit from my dear friend Robbie, who has been travelling around Asia for the last year. That was something of a high point for me, although it did take a couple of days for my head to get straight again after hitting the beers a little too hard on the first night he was here.

Dear Diary - Glass of brown beer. Rob Gregory Author

Beer. How many times have I said: ‘Never again!’

Prior to Robbie’s arrival, sadly I had to take a friend of mine to the hospital, as he was suffering from a serious and very debilitating illness. He spent almost two weeks being treated before being discharged earlier this week to convalesce at home. I’ll tell you more about the medical system in this country in another blog, but let’s just say that dealing with the hospital administrators was not a pleasant experience at all. Anyway, my fingers are crossed that he will make a full recovery now that he’s out of that awful place and I’m hoping that won’t need to go back there, or anywhere else, any time soon.

Just when you thought that it couldn’t get any worse, I subsequently found out that another dear friend of mine, who I went to university with, had just been pulled out of an induced coma, following a mystery viral infection which had brought him to the brink of death. Thankfully he’s past the worst of it now and I’m sure that you’ll join me in wishing him and his family all the best for a full and speedy recovery.

What else? Oh, yes. We had a minor outbreak of dog fleas and ticks due to a misunderstanding about treatment options, during which time poor Ben almost scratched herself raw. It turns out that, despite what my mother in law claimed, Ivermectin doesn’t control fleas, so another quick trip to the vets was required, in order to get the dog properly treated. Fingers crossed, the tablet she was given has done the trick and we are now flea-less and ticked-off at the same time.

Dear Diary - Sawn-off bread knife. Rob Gregory Author

A sawn-off bread knife. Not a nice weapon.

Then, late last week, on Friday, in fact, I received a phone call from another friend of mine, asking for my assistance. When I arrived at his house, I found him shaking like a leaf and understandably so, given that he’d been attacked the night before by his now ex-girlfriend, who had gone for him with what can only be described as a ‘sawn-off’ bread knife. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen one of these before, but it is a scary thing indeed and he was lucky to have been able to wrestle it from her without sustaining serious injury. I’m not sure if he’s been to the Police yet, to report the incident, but I do know for a fact that the experience has quite badly shaken him up and has given me a couple of sleepless nights worrying that my wife might start getting similar ideas!

On a more positive note, I did receive a set of cartoons from a good friend of mine, for inclusion in my forthcoming compilation of the DATS Trilogy, entitled ‘The Lucius Chronicles’, which I’m hoping to release before Christmas… and at a very reasonable price too, just in case you were wondering about presents for friends and family! I think that they are wonderful and while I’m not going to share any of them here just now, I might do so in future, but only if you’re good. What I am going to share with you is the initial concept sketch for the cover of ‘The Lucius Chronicles’, which has been done by American author and illustrator, James Stevens. He’s on Twitter @FernMajestic and has a book of the same name coming out soon. In the meantime, I can’t wait to see what the final version of the illustration looks like!

Dear Diary - Cover sketch for The Lucius Chronicles. Rob Gregory Author

Cover sketch for ‘The Lucius Chronicles’, drawn by James Stevens.

And somewhere, buried deep in amongst all of that madness, I finally managed to finish the first draft of my latest novel, Yogol’s Gold, a revenge thriller spanning seventy years during the last century. It came in at just under 97,000 words, so is a reasonable length and only marginally shorter that Drynwideon. I’m planning to release it sometime in early 2019, but first, it needs to go through the editing and revision process, so you’ll have to be patient.

In fact, looking back on recent events, it’s not surprising that I haven’t published a blog since 24 July. In fact, it’s amazing that I’ve managed to do anything bookwise at all!

A summer’s day in Oxford

A summer’s day in Oxford

A summer’s day in Oxford

… or a punt around the harbour…

For those of you who have been loyally following my blog, you could well be forgiven for coming to the conclusion that I am something of a booze-hound. After all, quite a few of my posts have either directly involved alcohol in one form or another, or been set within the confines of a bar or a pub. So, just to reassure you that there is more to yours truly than a half-empty beer glass and borderline writer’s block, I give you this heart-warming recollection of a good deed done during my time at Oxford University, a tale involving myself, a punt and two elderly Americans.

Summer in Oxford is a glorious thing, spoiled only by the amount of traffic and the huge influx of tourists, all gawking and snapping away at the ancient, stone-built colleges that line the city’s main thoroughfares. Fortunately, I was at one of the newer colleges on the outskirts of the city, so largely avoided the predations of the coachloads of new travellers arriving each day. Consequently, in my mind, it is a place full of sunshine, endless blue skies, fluffy white clouds and of course, punts.

Punts, for those that do not know, are a special type of long, flat-bottomed boat, with square ends, designed to be extremely unstable and difficult to control. Rather than the usual rudder and wheel approach, punts use a long stick, called a ‘punt pole’ to both propel and steer the vessel. It takes a bit of time to master, especially if you come from the ‘other’ place (Cambridge) and persist in standing at the wrong end, but once you have done so, there is no feeling like it.

Getting back to the story at hand, for one reason or another, I found myself with the afternoon off one summer’s day and decided to spend it relaxing by the college harbour, soaking up as much sunlight as my pale skin would take. Just as I was making myself comfortable, I was approached by Barry, one of the college porters, who asked me if I would do him a favour. Not wanting to disappoint him, because he was always very good to me, I agreed without hesitation and followed him to the porter’s lodge, where I met the aforementioned elderly Americans.

It turned out that one of them, the husband if I remember correctly, had been a member of the college many years before and was visiting for the first time since he had graduated, with his wife in tow. Apparently, one of their greatest wishes during their visit to dear old ‘Blighty’ was to go punting, however, neither of them was able to manage a punt anymore and no one else, apart from myself, was around at that time.

Of course, I agreed. I mean, who wouldn’t want to go punting down the Cherwell river on a beautiful summer’s day? Slowly, we made our way to the harbour to find only a single punt remaining. Unfortunately, it was the one that no one ever wanted to use, because it had a split running down the side of it (thankfully above the waterline), which made it even more difficult to control than usual. Undeterred, I gently ushered the American couple into the punt and let them get comfortable on their cushioned seats. Then I unmoored the vessel and pushed off into the harbour, doing my best to cancel out the alarmingly wobbling punt, using my body as a counterweight. It took a little while, but eventually, we made it safely out of the harbour and into the river proper, all ready to take a leisurely cruise along the waterway. However, no sooner had we left, than the lovely American couple, who were, I stress, thoroughly enjoying themselves, announced that they wanted to return to the college because they had another appointment to go to!

I was dumbfounded. We had hardly set off and already they wanted to go back. Was it me? Was it the punt? Were they getting seasick or feared that I would capsize them? I really didn’t know. I tried several times to talk them into going further, but they insisted that all they had really wanted to do was to sit in a punt and be taken around the harbour, and that they were on a very tight schedule and had shortly to leave.

Well, there was nothing that I could do short of abducting them, so I made my way back into the harbour and moored up once again, helping the aged couple out of the punt and back onto dry land. The whole trip had taken less than twenty minutes when I was more than happy for it to have taken two or three hours. Still, as I mentioned before, the Americans were extremely pleased with their experience and thanked me profusely for giving up my time to help them. It was no problem for me. I loved punting and still do, so you can imagine my surprise when they insisted on paying me for my trouble (and I mean insisted, as only Americans can). The ex-college member practically forced a ten-pound note into my reluctant hand before patting me on the back and thanking both myself and Barry once more for our help, as he and his wife left the college.

I never saw them again and I do sincerely hope that they enjoyed their brief punt ride. As for the ten pounds, well, that just happened to be the exact price of a college ‘bar-book’ (tokens for the student pub), so you can guess where that money went!

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A walk in the dark at Reading Uni

A walk in the dark at Reading Uni

A walk in the dark

… tales from Reading Uni, part one…

As those of you who have spent any time on my website ( will doubtless already know, I spent some time back in the early nineties at Reading University, where I studied Biological Sciences. Such was my level of devotion to the subject that I was often to be found in the Student Union bar, conducting elaborate experiments on the effects of alcohol on the major bodily organs, using myself as a guinea pig (no animal testing here, I can assure you)! And because I was trying my hardest to be a respectable and professional biologist, these experiments had to be performed both concurrently and consecutively, in other words at the same time and one after another. This might sound impossible on the face of it, but can, in fact, be achieved by cleverly mixing your drinks and lining up several rounds in one go.

Anyway, one evening in the bar, myself and a small group of friends were sharing the heavy workload of diligent scientific enquiry, by each quaffing as many pints of larger, bitter and anything else vaguely liquid that came our way as we could. At the end of the evening, the bell for last orders rang out and the bouncers dutifully waded in, helping everyone present make their way into the night, predominantly by means of snatching away any half-empty glasses and shoving us out into the cold. Needless to say, with more than a few halves of ale inside us, we were in good spirits and began to head back towards our Hall of Residence, laughing, singing and joking as we went.

I don’t know who suggested it, but at some point on the journey back, a wager was proposed that I couldn’t walk home with my eyes closed. Always one to rise to a friendly challenge, I accepted the bet, confident that I could indeed navigate successfully without the aid of vision. How wrong I was!

Not many people walk around with their eyes closed, no matter what we might think about our politicians and others in positions of power. Even fewer try to do it at night, when visual acuity is even more heavily limited. So, I may have actually found myself in a rare minority of one, had I realised it at the time when I tried to walk home both sightless and ‘half-cut’ as we say in the UK.

Needless to say, my friends found it highly amusing to watch me wobble off down the path from the Student Union, narrowly avoiding the myriad of trees and bicycles that now seemed to litter my route. It was only when I stumbled and bounced off a thorn bush that they came to my aid, still giggling in the way that only drunken students can. Still, undeterred and with the promise of several more beers as my reward, I set off again, only this time I ended up wandering unsteadily down the main driveway of the University campus, eyes still firmly clamped shut. No problem, I thought, I’ve walked down this road a dozen or more times and nothing ever comes down here at this time of night.

Suddenly, there was a frightened scream from one of my friends, the sound of a car horn, an angry shout and an unexpected gust of air, as a car sped past. Thankfully, in my unsteady and somewhat inebriated state, I fell into the gutter, rather than the road and picked myself up to see two red tail-lights disappearing into the night.

You might be pleased to know that I walked the rest of the way back to the Hall of Residence that night with my eyes wide open and heart thumping with fright, all thoughts of my alcoholic reward completely forgotten. Since then I have grown older and I hope, a little wiser, and have never repeated that particular feat again. Periodically, however, I do find myself reflecting on the incident and how, but for the fact that everyone leans to one side or the other when they walk with their eyes closed (try it if you don’t believe me), I could so very easily have ended up under the wheels of that car, rather than being here today to tell you about it.

A sobering thought indeed…

A new word for you…

A new word for you…

The story of how ‘Halfaholic’ came into the world…

How new words are made

Somewhere, high in one of the ancient, ivory towers of Oxford University, hidden far from prying eyes, sits a group of wizened academics, whose job it is to create new words for the English language. As they slavishly pore over their little wicker baskets of consonants and vowels, carefully weighing up the precise value of each letter that they may or may not use, there is another group of individuals, usually found lounging around in pubs or bars, that also comes up with new words. And while those of the academics are arguably far more precise and beautifully crafted, the latter group beats them hands down when it comes to sheer output. ‘Halfaholic’ was one such word and this is its story…


The story of halfaholic

It was a few months ago now and several of my bookish friends, not to mention a couple of others who have long since learned to tune out when the conversation turns literary, were enjoying an evening in the bar. The conversation was good and an undisclosed number of alcoholic beverages had been consumed. As a result, the group was rapidly approaching the point in the evening where time takes on an altogether elastic quality and before you know it, the sun is coming up and the table in front of you looks like a glass recycling factory.

Anyway, one of our group, a noted writer and editor, having had ‘one for the road’ several times in a row, decided to make a run for the doors before the witching hour befell us and complete chaos descended. As he wobbled towards the exit, he commented that he should probably stop drinking for the night because the way that he was going he was at risk of becoming an alcoholic.

No sooner were the words out of his mouth than I said something like, “Well, I’m going to carry on because I’m only a halfaholic after all.” I have no idea where it came from, the word just leapt into my beer-addled brain from a place beyond normal time and space. But, like all words, once it was spoken, it couldn’t be taken back and now existed here in our world. The look on my friend’s face said it all, as he tried the new word out for size, smiling as he did so, enjoying its texture and the image that it created in his mind. Then without so much as a ‘by your leave’, he took the word with him and left the bar.

Since then, the word has been happily propagating itself all over the city and you know what, I don’t really mind at all, because it isn’t a bad word, it’s just new and wants to get some recognition. And every now and then, it even comes back to the bar to be spoken by someone completely new, or by my friend, who still loves it dearly.

So, whether you’re an Oxford academic who has had a couple of heavy nights in a row, or just a regular Joe who’s worried about having yet another ‘one for the road’, never fear, there’s a word for you and it’s a good word. You can tell the world with pride that you’re not an alcoholic, you’re a halfaholic instead!




  • I’ve since found out that Halfaholic is also the name of a clothing company, as well as a Hip-Hop band, which just goes to show that some words will find any which way they can to get out of the ether and into the real world!
  • Glass photo – Edan Cohen,
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