Thursday 25 January 2018


A week ago today - on Wednesday 18 January - between 8.30 am and 11 am, I was graced with my 'fifteen minutes of fame', Andy Warhol-style. Admittedly, it was not national celebrity. At least not yet - that twist of fate lies in the hands of the Gods in the marketing world of Triodos Bank. But it was high exposure on the waterfront of our photogenic town of St Ives. And I did have the man that Triodos chose to take the pictures - Geoff Hichens - on hand to record these 150 minutes of local celebrity.

First an explanation for the Triodos connection. Triodos is an online ethical bank that believes in using money to ensure a sustainable future. It has offered savings accounts in the past and then in 2017 Triodos launched a current account. Louise and I had been waiting for this event for a couple of years and we were among the first to switch our banking accounts to Triodos.

We live in a time of surveys and I generally steer clear of such encroachments on my time. But Triodos was different - I agreed to become a customer case study and completed a questionnaire in

Sunday 21 January 2018


As some of you will know, I send out a Mailchimp newsletter about the book I am writing - the biography of Jago Stone - at the beginning of the month. There are fifty or so subscribers to this Newsletter and the idea is that they get to read my up-dates first - and then I can repeat some of the Newsletter content in a blog later. What follows in this blog is taken from the January Mailchimp newsletter - but also has some additional material. If you would like to join the list of subscribers - it's free - all you have to do is complete a short form on the 'Jago' page of my website. Press the link here. 

'I love the connections between America and England that feature Jago - and  I'm sure he would too. He wrote in 'The Burglar's Bedside Companion': "A large number of the personnel (at USAF Upper Heyford) take home my paintings of the Cotswolds when their tour of duty ends. There are innumerable Jago Stone works of art in Texas, Alabama, California, New Mexico, Washington - and there are even a couple of pictures of Banbury Cross on Sunset Boulevard. It seems like a joke, but I can lay claim to being an international artist." (P.118)

This water-colour of Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon, was painted in 1976 for Marie-Elena (Laina) and Rick Baker when they were stationed at RAF Croughton. Laina made Facebook contact with me in February 2017 and sent this image across the Pond.
Now in January 2018, thanks to Facebook once more, I can regale you with further tales and images from an amazing period between mid-November and mid-December 2017 in the cyberspace story of Jago's American Connections. 

Three Facebook groups - for USAF Upper Heyford veterans and friends - accepted my membership and posts. On one day alone, American Connection 1 - the blog that I first posted in early December 2016 - had 511 viewings, most of them from across the Pond. Over the next four weeks, I received Facebook messages from the United States gifting me more stories and images of yet more paintings that hang on walls in homes in American states. Special thanks, then, to the 'RAF Upper Heyford' and 'RAF Upper Heyford Brats and Friends' and 'Remembering RAF Upper Heyford 1950/1994' websites for letting me join and re-post my American Connection blogs.

Below is an image of a Jago Stone poster that he produced and published in 1976. Duane Park - 20th SPS, Nov.1976-Nov.1978 - used his own photo of this poster as an illustration on the Upper Heyford Memorial Web Site "Gone but Not Forgotten". He wrote: 'I wasn't able to buy one of these at the time as they were always sold out, but before I left I took this picture of it.' My thanks to Marie Mazy Cooper in Florida for sending me this image of the original poster that she did buy and take back to the United States. .

Here is some text from the first draft of Chapter 7 The American Connection in 'Jago' that tells the story of these four weeks of contacts: 
In mid-November 2017, one Saturday tea-time, I contacted on Facebook the three websites created and used by those – mostly American veterans - who had served on or had some contact with the Upper Heyford air base. I explained that I was writing the biography of Jago Stone and re-posted my first American Connection blog with its picture of Becky Bender’s English home, painted by Jago in 1983.  By midnight, that re-posted blog had had 168 views. The views for Sunday, the next day, were 511. Truly a gold-rush in cyber-space!

 I had asked for memories of Jago - stories - and images of paintings. They came in abundance.

From C L Kolodny, now living in Premont, Texas, there was this story:

“Lived in Merton, near Bicester in an old stone cottage near to the Plough, a free house owned and operated by Lou Bevan. One day I was there drinking pints of Hooky when a phantom with a small entourage flew in. I thought I had gone back in time and encountered Oscar Wilde. This guy was a real character. We drank and talked for a couple of hours and he departed never to be seen again. This chance encounter was so electric and mystical that I have thought about it many times over the years. It was a Sunday afternoon in 1980 or 1981.”

I asked if there were any other specifics that he remembered.

“(Just) the flamboyant dress, intense facial expressions, rapid intellectual mainly one-way conversation.”

All this, from “a brief encounter leaving a real memory”.

This image came from Marie Mazy Cooper - a Jago water-colour of the village of Wardington and its vicarage where she and her husband resided during their UK tour at Upper Heyford.


Marie Mazy Cooper, now resident in Sarasota in Florida, also left this comment:

“My husband and I were stationed at our RAF Heyford and lived in Wardington. Jago knocked on our door one night in 1975 to ask to paint the Vicarage we lived in. We were told he was a thief and not to allow him in and that had stolen from churches and spent time in prison …  But we did and became friends … he had such great stories and we have 2 beautiful paintings of our beautiful Vicarage. Afterwards, we introduced him to a number of friends stationed with us to have their homes painted … he was a character you could never forget.”

A few days later, in response to my question: “What stories did he tell?”, Marie added:

“Jago had so many wonderful stories about his life as a thief stealing from the churches … he met many Air Force members and painted all their homes.”

Andrea Pyne sent me this surprise - a Jago snowscape.   

Andrea, from Luray in Virginia, in fact sent me two pictures, explaining that “These are the ones I have from my parents. We were there from ‘77 to ’81“. One is the only winter snow scene I have seen of Jago’s – ‘First Snow – The Cotswolds’; and the other the only Yorkshire landscape of Jago’s I have encountered – ‘High Withens – Haworth Moor – The original of Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights” -  Yorkshire: West Riding – Inspired by the Artist’s dedication to the Life of Emily Bronte’.  


 Robin Kroyer-Kubicek, now living in Oregon, Wisconsin, gifted me two paintings his mum had contracted Jago to paint: ‘Rose Cottage’ in the village of Turweston, Oxfordshire, dated 1979, and its parish church, dated 1980.  


The number of fruitful contacts made through the Upper Heyford websites has been extraordinary. Jago had in his lifetime recorded his pleasure at being an international artist thanks to the USAF American connection. I imagine him being delighted at the thought of his posthumous name resounding across the American states at the click of Internet buttons.'   

I promised readers of this blog some additional material. To start with, here's an update  on where i am in relation to the search for an agent/publisher. I acquired the indispensable volume - 'Writers' & Artists' Yearbook - 2018' - early in January, and then recycled my copy for 2014 which I used when i was at a similar stage with 'The Road to Corbyn', aka TRC. Copies of TRC, my first published work, are available by ordering from any bookseller - and also from this website by pressing here.   
So much for the plug. I do hope some of you will buy TRC - it's a good read and full of hope and helps make politics easy to understand. When I read the relevant sections of the Yearbook, I realised that my plan to seek an agent this month was premature. I had to complete all the book first - and I still have two chapters to write.
The Prologue and Chapters One to Eight are all finished in first draft form and some of these have been worked on again in the light of comments from my circle of readers, here and in the United States.  Chapters Nine and Ten should be put to bed by the end of February. So, March and the advent of Spring should see the search for a wider audience begin in earnest. And if I haven't said this before, now's a good time: one of the judges for a national biography prize wrote an email to me in September 2017 to say that she was sorry my proposal had not made the shortlist but:
"You have a fantastic story to tell, so I do wish you luck in finding a publisher and reaching the audience it deserves ... the story of 'Jago' needs to be more widely known." 
The omens for 'Jago' are looking good.

Wednesday 3 January 2018


Last week, in Part One of this post, I focused on the ideas of Professor Richard Bentall - for more press this link here. This week, in Part Two, I begin with the thoughts of his colleague, Peter Kinderman.

In February 2016, following Bentall's Open Letter to Stephen Fry with its telling presentation of the critical importance of social determinants in our psychological wellbeing, Kindermann and a group of colleagues, including Bentall, wrote a parallel Open Letter to the BBC and other media organisations about their inadequate coverage of mental health issues. Over a thousand mental health professionals and people who had experienced mental health problems soon signed their letter in which a critique was set out concerning the coverage of mental health in the recent BBC 'In the Mind' series.

Their primary complaint was that the BBC programmes seemed to suggest that psychiatric medication - drug treatment - should be the main, if not the only, treatment for mental health problems. They pointed out that such a message is harmful because it potentially leads to hopelessness, despair and prejudice and discrimination. And they also expressed concern about the long-term efficacy and safety of those drugs. To simply promote medication without also presenting other approaches such as psychological therapy is biased and irresponsible.

The letter concluded with the plea that as a matter of urgency the BBC commission a similarly high-profile programme featuring professionals and service users who adopt the alternative approach that the letter has outlined. The Director of the BBC, Tony Hall, responded with a brief note signifying little or nothing in March 2016; my Google searches have shown no further action by the BBC. What