Let me tell you a story. When I was six we were asked to write a story in class at school. I can’t remember my story but I know it involved a bird that was black for I’ve remembered that bird for over fifty years. Now what I didn’t know at the time was if the bird in question was spelt as one word or two. The teacher was far too scary to ask so I got around the problem by writing it like this: Black-bird. I used a hyphen. Pretty clever for a six year old? My teacher didn’t think so. She hauled me up (literally by the shoulders) in front of the class and dangling my writing book up in front of me said ‘This stupid girl has put a full stop in the middle of a sentence. A FULL STOP!’ If she had bothered to look she would have seen it was a dash and not a dot. Perhaps SHE didn’t know what a hyphen was. Who knows! Her name was (and I kid you not) Miss Spells, although with her long wiry hair and grim demeanour ‘Spells’ put me more in mind of witches rather than words. I didn’t speak up of course, I was far too scared, and hurried back to my seat shamefaced and embarrassed. The purpose of this story is that unfair criticism, indeed un-necessary criticism, MAKES MY BLOOD BOIL! Reviews on Amazon have turned into a strange beast. So what makes a good review? Well helpful ones might be: ‘A really great book for a holiday read. An easy read with a few laughs and a great twist at the end. Or: ‘This recipe book was not really suitable for a British audience as the measurements were all in cups and most of the ingredients and packets are not available over here.’ But I have seen thirty reviews for one book all saying the same thing. That there are typos and spelling errors etc etc. They go along the lines of: ‘Algy one Lincs. I found six spelling mistakes, one syntax error and over use of alliteration. I really found these dreadful errors substantially detracted from my reading experience! Blah, blah, blah...’ Well assonance to you then! Who are these people? Are they really so sensitive that their eyes are incapable of skimming over a few mistakes to carry on reading? And why thirty reviews all saying the same thing? Is it a case of kicking a person when they are down? The play ground mentality of a bully perhaps, or were these reviewers the bullied thinking they are at last getting their own back in some way? I’ve also seen over three hundred reviews for the same book. What makes the two hundred and ninety ninth or three hundredth person think their review has anything better, novel, new or interesting to add to the others? Why do it?
I’ve also seen a four page review of a book. I didn’t read it all on principle.
Who has the time to write a four page review? I have read over fifty self
published books over the last six months or so and let me tell you something.
They ALL have mistakes in, my own included. It’s pretty much impossible to
catch all your mistakes without a proof reader, editor etc. Even your own spell
checker can be a hindrance as it can sneakily change words for you so that they are mis spelled or in the wrong context. I have also seen (horror of horrors) books from large publishing houses with errors in too. So there! What do I think of all this? On the whole I don’t give a damn! I think well done to all of us who have self published for all the hard work, effort, time and dedication that has gone into our books. Yes there are a few dreadful books out there, but to all those ‘Algy ones’ do you know what you can do? You can stop reading, delete the book and move on. Shocking I know but true. As for my own reviews I even had a Texan telling me the Shropshire dialect in my book ‘Ramblings’ was inconsistent and incorrect. The story was something that actually happened and the conversation was relayed to me by the actual person who was there, so let me tell you that as someone whose family were born, bred, worked and lived in Shropshire for over one hundred years I think I know who is correct. Why is it these people need to get their two pennies worth in or as in this case two cents worth? If you buy a ‘normal’ printed book the author/publisher/editor has chosen a few well worded quotes and reviews to go in their book. You don’t see readers flocking to the shops with hand written reviews to be pinned to the dust covers. Sometimes you are disappointed with a book, other times delighted and surprised. That’s life. But I feel these sour, knife twisting reviews have got out of hand. Perhaps the star system should stand alone and there shouldn’t be reviews at all or they should expire after a certain time.So what can we do in the meantime? Well there is of course the ‘comment’box where you can comment on a review, and I suggest if you see a really spiteful review you do take the trouble to make a comment or do an opposing review of your own if that’s your view. Then there’s the ‘Was this review helpful?’ button. Tick ‘No!’ if it’s not! If you have had a bad review well don’t worry join the club and I hope this little blog has cheered you up.
And just remember there is of course the view that the ‘Algy ones’ serve a
purpose and it’s this: They put off like minded ‘Algy’s’ reading your book and
that’s a good thing because I certainly don’t want them reading my books. Do you? Have you had a bad review? What do you think of the review system? If you have a comment I’d love to see it on my comment page and if you know someone who would appreciate this blog please pass the link for this page on to them.
I expect most of you who think of Ordnance Survey maps think they are useful, interesting perhaps, good historical documents or colourful enough to stick on a wall! Others of you who are about to read this blog may even think they are boring!
But have you ever thought about the people who made them, the map makers who went out and about risking life and limb in the process? No? Well read on.
I ghost wrote the memoirs of an Ordnance Surveyor (The Ramblings of a Twenty Five Inch Man) over the last couple of years, and in it I describe the amazing encounters, mishaps and adventures the young surveyor had back in the 70's and 80's in Southampton, Wales and Shropshire.. These were the days before the digitisation and technology that nowadays goes into map making. Back then every surveyor had to walk every inch of their map checking, amending and re-drawing features. This was where the danger and the near tragic consequences came in - certainly for this hapless hero! Surveyors always worked on their own. It was not OS policy to send two men out on a job, it was too costly! Health and safety regulations hardly existed and mobiles hadn't been invented. These three things together coupled with the terrain the map makers had to cover were then the perfect conditions for accidents or near accidents to happen.
Even so there are many hilarious tales our surveyor tells - unwittingly being stalked by a panther in a wood on the welsh borders, trailed and 'mugged' by the SAS and encounters with Russian spies. This was just for starters! Then come the tales of being shot at, shelled on an artillery ground, held prisoner by a madman with a machete and nearly dying of hypothermia on the Brecon Beacons. Then there are the tales of the characters and animals that are encountered along the way. Dinner of stew cooked in a cauldron in the welsh hills with the old shepherds and their dogs, milking a goat for a cup of tea in a remote farmhouse and being attacked by hundreds of geese in a farmyard! There was the giant of a man with an axe swirling around his head, many, many shotgun stories and the sixty foot well that beckoned a watery grave.
No, life for an Ordnance Surveyor back in those days was never easy and that was before the strict deadlines that had to be adhered to and the vast areas to be covered regardless of the weather or terrain. An array of old cars that always had some problem or other didn't help matters as did working away from home all week on 'detached duty' as it was called. The Ordnance Survey had a long affiliation to the Royal Engineers and the long haired hapless hero of these surveying tales was somewhat of a fish out of water but none-the-less always took a pride in his job.
Set against a background of 'The Good Life' in a country cottage with his wife these stories just begged to be told.
And what happened to The Twenty Five Inch Man? - I married him!
Country and Border Life has done a wonderful illustrated article this month (May 2012) on The Ramblings of a Twenty Five Inch Man and if you would like to read the stories for yourself you can find them at: