Audiobook Review: ‘Can You See Her?’ by S.E. Lynes

Can You See Her?: An Absolutely Compelling Psychological Thriller

Not only could I see her, it could so easily have been me.

Narrated by the very talented Tamsin Kennard, ‘Can You See Her?’ by S E Lynes (Susie Lynes) had me totally absorbed. For readers/listeners of up-close-and-personal psychological suspense, this is a ‘must read’. Not very often do I find myself catching a breath, aware of a crushing sensation in my chest because of the raw emotion in a story I’m listening to but the truth is, as I journeyed with the main character Rachel Edwards, I could see her.

Perhaps I should explain, after all this is a dark tale where people die. The blurb gives some clues:

Rachel is afraid she may have done something terrible. She’s sitting in a room, being asked whether she killed someone. 

She doesn’t understand how her life has changed so completely. When she was younger, heads would turn when she walked into a room. Her children needed her; her husband adored her. 

But somehow the years wore that all away. She was so busy raising her children, looking after her parents…. She can barely remember the woman she used to be, the one whose husband told her she was out of his league. The woman she is now just does the laundry and makes the dinner, and can walk into a room without anyone knowing she’s there. 

She knows that she hated feeling invisible. She knows that she thought: what would it take for you to see me again? What if I did something no one thought I was capable of?

As you would expect with any decent psychological suspense, the storyline isn’t necessarily what we anticipate. Susie Lynes does a magnificent job with the characters she draws and, as the book is written for the most part in the first person, we hear Rachel’s thoughts, feel her feelings, explore her interpretation of events as they unfold. Through the use of great dialogue, there’s humour, wit, honesty, secrets, and painful emotions in this book that makes it magnetic to a listener, and the job done by Tamsin Kennard should be applauded; accents, diction, inflections, pace – all of it spot on. Bravo!

If you know nothing about the menopause, are heading for it, right in the middle of it or out the other side you will immediately relate to Rachel. I did. (That’s not to say younger women or men won’t enjoy this book, but by crikey this was so close to home…). Taking the twisting turns of Rachel’s story alongside her, the reader/listener is caught up in the emotion, the fear, the frankness of her life because this is a superbly well written book. An absolute mind-spinner and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Susie Lynes, take a bow.

5 top tips for improving characterisation in fiction

The brilliant thing about reading a good book is that the characters will appear in your head as if they were real people, and if you gave the same book to another person they would visualise those characters in a completely different way.

However, as a writer there is a knack to developing a well-rounded character, something which doesn’t necessarily come easily. Having said that, very occasionally a character will arrive fully formed and refuse to leave. ‘Yes, you, Konrad Neale! (The Camera Lies, Stench, Death by Indulgence, and The Bloodline Will) You are getting on my nerves right now.’ Always a selfish bugger that one. He’s a Marmite character. I love him and hate him – the arrogant tosser. One day soon he’s going to push me too far. ‘Do you hear me, Kon? Your days are numbered, pal.’

Tip one: Imagine the ‘whole’ person. Your character will have a personality type, a background story, relationships, likes and dislikes, a way of dressing, and you need to ‘see’ them for who they are, not just what they are. If they are a heroic figure, then a writer must understand what has made them the sort of person to court danger. If the character you require in your story is vindictive and underhand, then why do they behave that way? The reader doesn’t always need to know this in great detail but, in order to make realistic characters, the writer does.

Tip Two: Avoid in-depth descriptions. Unless it is vital information, leave plenty to the imagination of the reader. I don’t necessarily want to know the type of wallpaper in the lounge, what clothes a character is wearing each day, how tall they are, and whether they buy their underwear from Marks and Spencer – I want to know what type of person they are, why they did it, how they managed to bury their husband under the patio and whether or not they will get caught. (My husband is fine, by the way)

Tip Three: Build the character through action. A reader can be ‘drip fed’ information about a character which builds throughout the story, in the way they act, how they speak, and interact with others. Body language is a good tool. For Example: A person who reacts to a personal threat with physical violence, is very different to one who remains calm, maintains eye contact, opens their palms and enters into considered negotiation. A child who scowls, folds their arms, narrows their eyes and slumps back into a chair has given a big hint as to their state of mind and level of intransigence. The reader sees the action in their head and has an emotional response as a result.

Tip Four: Give them a good name. Charles Dickens was excellent at choosing names for characters that reflected their nature: ‘Wackford Squeers’ appears as a headmaster in Nicholas Nickleby and his name is perfect for a man so free with corporal punishment and cruelty. And then there’s the malevolent ‘Uriah Heep’ from David Copperfield; the word obsequious has been used to sum him up. Not to forget the delightful ‘Volumina Dedlock’, ‘Anne Chickenstalker’ or ‘Jeremiah Flintwich’. But be mindful of the type of book you are writing, the era, and the age of the person you are naming. How does the name sound? ‘James Bond’ sounds solid and rounded, whereas ‘Timmy Pittle’ (made that one up) sounds weedy and ineffectual to me – I wouldn’t give him a license to kill.

Tip Five: Dialogue. How someone speaks, the rate, the intonation, the volume, and the vocabulary employed can inform much more than describing a person’s hairstyle. ‘Oi mate!’ will draw a picture, as will… ‘I say, would you mind awfully?’ We human beings have speech mannerisms, these may be phrases, sayings, favourite swear words, use of pauses or inflections – so give some to your characters, and remember there are many ways to say something: whisper, shout, sneer, bellow, blurt, gabble, or mumble. If you are struggling with how to write dialogue, stop for a while and listen to a conversation, in real life, on the radio or on TV. Analyse it.

I hope these little tips have been helpful to any budding fiction writers out there and that you invent some great characters in your heads. Be warned though, if you do, you are never alone.

Must go, Konrad bloody Neale is about to drop himself in the hot and smelly stuff again. ‘What is it now, Kon? Who have you pissed off this time…?’

Ali

How to approach ‘characterisation’ – Here’s one suggestion.

A friend of mine, who has the brain the size of Kilmanjaro, has spent some years extolling the benefits of Myers-Briggs as a way of understanding ourselves and others. He insists this is of great use in the workplace and in relationships with others.

I was not convinced, and indeed some argue that use of Myers-Briggs by HR departments is totally meaningless. But when I explored a little deeper into Myers-Briggs, I began to see an alternative use for this ‘structured personality-type indicator’.

Traits are divided into blocks, as shown below. What best describes you?

By Jake Beech – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30859659

Download a larger version here

Now, this is not an exact science, but it could be a useful baseline framework from which a writer can mould a character. For example, I can be difficult to live with because I’m pretty much an ESTJ and like to ‘run the show’, so I’m bossy because I like things done properly (in other words ‘my way’ – and therefore I’m a control freak). However, in general, I am organised and dependable. If you take those traits to the extreme you could have an interesting fictional character in the making; an SIO in a murder investigation perhaps.

If you want to irritate a character with those personality traits: turn up late, be unprepared, and waffle on… Or be, a careless rule-breaker, and rude.

The question to ask yourself as a writer is, what do I want this person to do? What is their role in the story I wish to tell?

Let’s take someone we know in the world of fiction and see if we can view them in terms of Myers-Briggs: Would Sherlock Holmes be an INTP?

Fair enough, we can’t fit everyone, real or imagined, into these boxes and that’s not the intention with such tools, but if you need to get into the head of a character it is somewhere to start. Then think body language, speech and language, principles and beliefs, and eventually your character becomes more rounded. Provide a backstory and you build further to develop behavioural patterns both good and bad. Before you know it, you’ve created a person in your head that won’t go away…

Time to take up writing perhaps?

I’ve always wanted to write a…

Since becoming an author this is a comment I often hear; lovely people desperate to tell me that they’ve always longed to be a writer. Well, guess what ?… now is the time folks.

But what shall I write?

The answers are endless. So perhaps it’s easier to ask yourself a few questions

  • Do I like telling stories?
  • Do I keep a diary?
  • How observant am I, of the world around me?
  • Do I ‘play’ with words?
  • Am I good at rhymes and alliteration ?
  • What sort of things do I enjoy reading?
  • Do I like reporting news and current events?
  • Does my imagination run completely wild at times?

Once you’ve worked out what interests you, as far as writing goes, then you can aim towards something. Writing reviews, journalling, short stories, flash fiction, poetry, that ‘book’, a screenplay…

But what shall I write about?

Again, ask yourself some questions.

  • What inspires me?
  • What makes me laugh?
  • What sort of programmes do I enjoy on TV?
  • What do I read?

Or

Pick a subject or a word and go for it… Like creating a meal from a few ingredients to see what you can come up with. Ready Steady Cook for writers.

There are plenty of websites and FaceBook groups that can help get you started, but here’s one I’m happy to recommend.

Morgen Bailey has edited a couple of my books, she’s so enthusiastic and helpful and especially inspiring to fledgling writers. Her website is full of great tips and support for all kinds of writing.

https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/

Morgen and Morgan at last year’s Beacon Lit Fest.

Happy writing everyone!

Intrigue and Suspense

De Clerambault Syndrome… what is it?

Finally, ‘The Bloodline Will’ is on its way.

Publication day is officially April 14th , but to cheer you all up in these peculiar times of viruses and negative news, I thought I’d let you know you can pre-order on kindle at https://mybook.to/TheBloodlineWill

What’s it about then?

There is a clue in the title. ‘The Bloodline Will‘ is a follow-up to ‘Death by Indulgence’ (previously published as ‘Fat Chance’) but can be read as a standalone story. It sees the return of Konrad Neale – (The Camera Lies, Stench and Death by Indulgence)… here’s the blurb:

He made a mistake, and for the sake of his future career, investigative reporter Konrad Neale must apologise in person to Ella Fitzwilliam.

Detained under section in a secure forensic unit, she doesn’t foresee a bright future. And she despises Konrad for exploiting her and exaggerating the truth about what she really did.

All in the name of journalism

However, when he spots famous recluse Abigail Nithercott in the same facility, he cannot resist the chance to scoop the next big story.

But must use Ella to uncover the dark Nithercott family secret.

Blood. Thicker than water, it spills…

Some family trees have to die.

What are the central themes?

Oh, juicy ones as usual: Manipulative control, erotomania, recovery from mental illness, deep dark family secrets and knitting…

What the heck is erotomania?

Allow me to enlighten you. Erotomania or De Clerambault Syndrome is a subtype of a Delusional Disorder in which an individual holds a persistent and fixed belief that another person is infatuated with them. It is a rare delusional disorder, usually experienced by women, and can result in stalking behaviours. The male subject of the delusion is usually unattainable because of high status, celebrity, marriage and/or disinterest. And may never have met the person holding these delusions.

It’s fascinating stuff!

And can have tragic consequences.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erotomania

Writing and the fine art of people watching: part 2

The human hand – a tool of communication

At the sight of him, Ali pressed her hands to her cheeks. ‘Good grief. You can’t go out wearing that.’

The above is exactly what happened a few months ago when my husband ‘The Bearded Wonder’, dressed himself in a pair of floral patterned shorts and a clashing floral shirt. By writing the body language there’s no need to qualify my words because the emotion is clear. The gesture does all the hard work. (And yes, he changed his shirt!) Including body language is the ‘show-not-tell’ approach to writing which gives physical depth to any character and interaction.

For example, without speaking, humans have a number of ways to say yes or no: A nod of the head or a shake, a thumbs up or down, a waggle of the forefinger.

The face is where we often look first for non-verbal clues, but our hands and arms also convey an enormous amount of information: pointing the way, beckoning, indicating numbers, insulting others, calming a situation, emphasising emotions and enhancing our spoken word.

But writing those gestures can be difficult. The picture above is an ‘air precision grip’ but when writing fiction, use of that official classification would be clumsy and uninformative. The gesture usually indicates that the person making it is seeking accuracy or precision and they would wave the arm back and forth in time with their words. Would we need to know that in a story? Possibly not.

Most readers understand ‘flicking the V sign’ or ‘giving a thumbs up,’ and we would write something along the lines of ‘jabbing a forefinger skyward’ rather than stating that a character ‘raised a vertical forefinger baton gesture’, so it’s not necessary to know the official names for gestures, but it is important to understand when, why and how they are used.

How we place our hands and arms is a vital part of body language, so writers need to find ways of conveying body language to inform readers, make characters realistic and emphasise the meaning of dialogue – a tricky thing to get right.

When speaking, women tend to use more hand gestures than men and I’m one for waving my arms and hands around like a maniac when I talk. But it would be confusing for the reader and a barrier to the flow of a story if all gestures were described in endless detail. Very off-putting – so be choosy about what to convey as far as non-verbal clues.

Here are a few classic hand gestures which can easily be described and used when writing;

  • The nose tap – to indicate conspiracy or secrecy
  • The temple tap/circle – stupidity, difficulty thinking, or ‘it’s all in here’
  • The forehead swipe – ‘phew’ (followed by a hand flick)
  • The brow scratch – puzzlement
  • The earlobe tug – a thinking gesture, uncertainty, or ‘listen up’
  • The ear cup – ‘I can’t hear what you’re saying’
  • The fingertip kiss – to blow a kiss, pleasure, tasty
  • The hand chop – used rhythmically to emphasise speech, assertive
  • The fist – arrives with rising anger, used in anger
  • The palms together praying gesture – can mean ‘God willing’, relief, – or, when touched to lips, a thinking gesture.
  • The palm-down-calm-down – to de-escalate tension.
  • The arms wide palms up – to demonstrate peaceful intent or as a goading action
  • The upturned claw – frustration
  • Rubbing palms together back and forth – anticipation of success
  • Dusting the palms – ‘done and dusted’, finished, done
  • Jerking a thumb – ‘get lost’ or indicating a direction

And the list goes on and on:

Arms give away obvious clues such as the defensive crossing of them, rubbing a forearm to self-sooth when nervous, or their wide open use to give or accept an embrace.

I hope these have been helpful reminders as to the vital use of hand (and arm) body-language in creative writing, but try not to over-do it. So, I’ll take my own advice and wave goodbye. Writing to do…

http://mybook.to/DeathByIndulgence

The Bloodline Will by A B Morgan coming soon…

Writing and The Fine Art of People-Watching

Sitting in a public place watching the world go by, many of us take a casual interest in our fellow human beings as a pastime. Glancing at a man in a suit, taking in his demeanour and facial expression, we may hazard a guess at his ‘type’ or perhaps what he may do for a living, but in general we take no further interest unless we perceive a threat of some sort, or discern distress, then we pay more attention.

This is an example watching people, but not of people-watching.

As opposed to the watcher of people, the people-watcher is a different breed. Train-spotters, birdwatchers, storm-chasers, and people-watchers take an in-depth interest in their subjects. Desmond Morris in his book ‘Peoplewatching’, describes people-watchers as ‘students of human behaviour’ and as ‘field observers’ who want to learn the intricacies of behaviour. They study body language, gestures, speech patterns, and in the same way birdwatchers do, they may categorise the person being watched, perhaps by their plumage, by patterns of behaviour and use of certain gestures.

Spending a weekend at a Classic Motorcycle show twice a year, (my husband, ‘The Bearded Wonder’ has a lot to answer for), I have a splendid time dividing the huge crowds of bikers into several distinct groups, based on external factors such as style of dress, attitude, bearing, and cleanliness. Very arbitrary, I know. 

Here’s what I have come up with over the past few years: There are ‘The Gnomers’: so-called because they looked like my mother’s least favourite garden ornament. Woolly hat with point, scruffy beard, baggy clothing. More often than not, they mooch around in male pairs.

‘The TT-ers’: altogether smarter, dressed in Gortex-type jackets bearing the fluorescent name of their chosen bike manufacturer, baseball caps, and sensible footwear. On the whole they are clean -shaven and often have wife and family in tow.

‘The Shiners’: simply ooze money. Expensive all-in-one leathers, squeaking and creaking as they stride past, rucksacks on, boots clean, chins and heads shaved, confident as they forge through the crowds in the direction of Bonham’s auctions with their monied counterparts, ‘The Tweedy-Belstaff Brigade’. They too wear their wealth in obvious ways. Moleskin trousers or expensive jeans, tweed or Belstaff jackets that cost a small fortune. Most of them arrive by car and go home with ‘investments’ to add to their motorcycle collections. Often accompanied by wife or floozy in matching tweed and expensive leather boots.

Into the mix go ‘The Rockabilly Throwbacks’ and the boiler-suited ‘Oil Rag Old Timers’ and the weekends can make for a most interesting way to spend my time. 

People-watching is a fascinating subject and key for fiction writers seeking to develop well-rounded and believable characters. Writers are told to make sure we read widely and study human nature. We can’t all be psychologists, but we can make the everyday world a classroom in which to study human behaviour.

 As human beings, we are designed to take an interest in our fellow man and many of our actions and behaviours are learnt. Therefore they can change over time – consider the toddler tantrums, the teenage sulks, the happy couple, the grumpy old curmudgeon … I rest my case. But how do people-watchers begin their studies?

Usually the face is where we start our analysis, more specifically the eyes.

What do eyes tell us and are they really the window to the soul as we have been led to believe? 

Looking at someone’s eyes, sadness and happiness are relatively easy to perceive; tears can indicate both extremes. In my experience, ‘crocodile tears’ are relatively easy to spot because of the lack of other facial and postural clues. They give the pretender away as being untrustworthy. 

Arched eyebrows and a wide smile are sure signs of happiness and the eyes themselves may have enlarged pupils, showing interest or love.

But watch out for those pupils decreasing in size, you may be boring the person you are talking to…

Our eyes can also reveal if we are lying.  When asked a question we often move our eyes, processing information, thinking. If a person moves their eyes up and to the left as they answer, they are more than likely telling the truth. If the eyes move up and right… a lie could be the reason why.

It’s natural to give intermittent eye contact, and an unwavering stare is seen as either intimidating or intimate, depending on who you happen to be with at the time. An unblinking stare is downright disconcerting.

Conversely, a rapid blink rate can indicate stress (aside from eye health problems). And a wink is seen as a cheeky form of flirting or a conspiratorial gesture – although not in all cultures.

Wide eyes and an ‘O’ shaped mouth indicates fear, whereas a narrowing of the eyes is a negative response such as disbelief, disgust or distaste often accompanied by the narrowing of the lips as anger rises.

Actions to disguise our true feelings often involve ‘blocking’ the eyes by lowering the gaze, covering the eyes with a hand, or turning away. This could be through shame and embarrassment or telling a ‘white’ lie, or when trying not to laugh.

Suspicion can be seen in a frown, a shift in focus, a narrowing of the eyes.

And so on…

It has to be acknowledged that these subconscious ways in which our eyes express our feelings don’t occur in isolation. Indeed, with an arch of an eyebrow, a tilt of the head, a thrust of the chin, we convey many more emotions and they in turn form part of the wider language we use, both verbal and behavioural. 

When I look at the faces of the bikers as they shuffle past the stalls and displays at the Motorcycle Show, I’m not simply categorising people, in fact I’m carrying out more in-depth studies. And don’t get me started on speech and language … goodness me.

It’s a good job nobody can read my mind… or can they? Perhaps my body language gives me away.

Next time: Hands and Arms; common gestures and interesting stories behind some of them.

I’ve been up to something…

The desk is clear, how odd.

This is a picture of my #writing shack. When I’m in full-on writing mode it is littered with scraps of paper, water bottles, half-eaten packets of biscuits and other detritus. This tidy(ish) scene, therefore, can mean one of two things.

This picture is of Dead Fred. One of my writing companions.

Either the germs I’ve had since before Christmas have finally finished me off, or I’ve completed the next book. But as I’m still here…

This is Sadie. She’s giving me one of her ‘looks’ for being obscure.

So, I should explain and apologise. I’ve been quiet on the communication front lately because I made a promise to myself last year. Not a New Year’s resolution as such, just a decision to think about my writing in a different way. To be better. In the last year I completed another book but haven’t sought to publish it. I didn’t think it was good enough. I parked it.

‘Oh no! Then what did you do?’

Wrote a better one, that’s what I did. A great idea fell into my lap, courtesy of my lovely daughter who happens to work as a funeral arranger. It took some doing to make the plot work but I did it. Dead Fred (pictured above) was most encouraging.

‘Where is the manuscript now?’

The exact location is a secret, but I can tell you I was asked to send the full manuscript to an agent a few days ago. Hopefully, as I type this, she’s reading it. Hence the tidy desk. And if she rejects it, I’ll try again, and again, and again.

Why an agent? Well, without one authors can’t submit to the larger publishers.

It’s worth a shot.

‘And in the meantime?’

I’ll be busy in 2020: Next week I’m back on the public speaking rounds. ‘How to Plot a Murder’ is the subject and very apt for some who may have struggled over the festive season with tiresome relatives – Not me, I hasten to add. I have bookings for talks and workshops throughout 2020. I’ll keep you posted.

And I thought I’d run a series of articles on ‘Characterisation’ blending it with my knowledge from years spent as a mental health nurse. ‘The Fine Art of People Watching’ will begin later this month. Sign up to this blog if you want to dive in.

Untidy desk, here we go again.

I was going to take break from writing and ease up on myself for a week or so, but I had a brilliant idea last night. Before I get cracking on the plot, it remains for me to wish you all a happy and healthy 2020 and thank you for your continued patience.

Because laughter really is the best medicine.

Panto review! Aladdin at Milton Keynes Theatre

I confess, my festive season is already complete. Done.

I occasionally review books or audiobooks, but today here is my Christmas review:

Grown-up child number two, treated me and my dear old mum to tickets for this year’s pantomime at Milton Keynes. We trotted along to the matinee performance of Aladdin in the company of hundreds and hundreds of little school children on their annual pilgrimage to ‘pantoland’.

Production shot

Why am I telling you this? Because to witness so many joyful children, howling with delight for well over two hours, was tough on the ears but a complete tonic for the soul. It was magical. I wish we could bottle it and give it away; it would save thousands on antidepressants every year.

As live entertainment goes, the British panto has everything: A story with a happy ending, drama and danger, hugely energetic comedy, cheesy jokes, and ribald adult humour. Each year, millions of us fill theatre seats to chuckle and guffaw, boo and hiss with gusto. And because of the timeless nature of the performance and outrageous slapstick, we always go back for more. This run of Aladdin was no exception. I would gladly go again tomorrow. For a large part of the show I was crying with laughter, and by the end my ribs were aching.

The children in the audience were in the same state, as were their parents and teachers. The kids hooted with giggles at any mention of bums, willies, bananas or bodily functions. They almost hovered above their seats with the hilariousness of the physical comedy in the show. And my daughter honestly thought Joe Pasquale (Wishy Washy) had drilled a new orifice in his down-belows … her face was a picture!

The baddie was brilliantly bad – ‘boo’. The princess was sickly sweet – ‘aaaah’. Aladdin was heroic – ‘hurrah’, and the pantomime dame, Widow Twanky, was a drag delight – ‘Oooo!’ But a special mention has to be made of Joe Pasquale as Wishy Washy. He was astounding, and the children loved him. With double entendre running into triple ones and some unscheduled moments of ad-lib, wig disasters and unscripted tomfoolery, I was in danger of needing incontinence pads. To the whole cast and crew – I salute you. Absolutely bloody marvellous.

Fed up with an overly commercialised festive slog? – Forget expensive presents, get tickets for a pantomine, treat someone, go as a family. You’ll never forget it.

Merry Christmas.

Review: Red Herrings and White Elephants by Albert Jack

English is full of idioms, but where do they all come from?

I’m British, I write crime fiction, and when creating dialogue I’m always struck by how many peculiar sayings we have in the English language – by that I mean British English.

‘What’s his beef?’

At times we Brits must be incomprehensible to anyone for whom English is not a first language. Thinking about it, our daft idioms must be a mystery to almost anyone from the US, from Canada, and even our cousins ‘down under’.

‘It’s brass monkeys out there’

Let’s not ‘beat about the bush’, ‘by and large’ most of what we Brits say sounds like a ‘load of old codswallop’. But if, like me you spend a lot of time searching out the origins of such sayings, then this book is for you.

Albert Jack is a writer and researcher, he’s done all the hard work. I found this gem of a book in a charity shop. It now has a permanent home in my writing shack. Packed with wonderful stories from all over the world which explain how these bonkers phrases came into everyday use, it is captivating. For example to ‘pay through the nose’ means we’ve been charged an exorbitant price for an item or a service. ‘Strike a bloody light, you paid through the nose for that, Billy’…

Pay through the nose – what an odd phrase to use. These days you’d be forgiven for thinking it had something to do with notes and cocaine sniffing.

But its origin is Viking and it’s a bloody one. After they invaded the British Isles, any citizen failing to pay the required tax imposed by the Danes had their nose slit or cut off. Luckily order was restored when Viking leader Eric Bloodaxe (what a great name) was killed by King Edred at the Battle of Stainmore in 954. Now I bet you did know that…

And my favourite: ‘Not a sausage,’ meaning either free of charge, or being penniless is derived from Cockney rhyming slang.

Sausage and mash = Cash.

Wonderful stuff, I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It was first published in hardback in 2004, but you can get it in kindle and paperback versions too. Stand by family members this may be what you get for Christmas this year!

Ali Morgan