Monthly Archives: January 2016

This Much I Know

Lynne Barrett-Lee


There’s a reason people post pictures of kittens on social media. And that’s because, when the kitten-pix get knocked off the top spot, it can so easily all become a bit ‘pfffft’.

It’s only Wednesday as I write and already I’m knackered. People mourning Bowie. People not mourning Bowie. People being chippy about people who are ‘over-mourning’ Bowie, particularly when they’ve provided insufficient evidence of their right to be mourning Bowie in the first place. People posting pictures of their prehistoric Bowie album collection and/or ticket stubs to concerts that they, like, ACTUALLY WENT TO.

People flagging up (or, in social meeja speak, ‘just saying’) that the airtime that’s been allocated to showing people publicly mourning Bowie has officially gone beyond the realms of what’s morally acceptable, given that there’s, like, SYRIA going on? Like, hello?

People berating people who seek to cast aspersions on people over-mourning Bowie, on the grounds that, like, actually, there’s, like, FLOODS, like, OVER HERE. Then there’s journalists, specially those known for contrary opinions, hurrying to press, possibly hitting each other with limited edition Bowie singles, to deliver said opinions to the ‘still-on-the-fence-re-the-Bowie-positioning’ masses, so that their status as being contrary in all things remains intact.

There’s David Bowie’s milkman. And a posh lady who once shared a flat with him. And Paul McCartney, who is kept on a retainer for the purpose and can always be relied upon to say something sweet in the event of a fellow icon passing on. And the plethora of pugilists, whose weapon of choice is to quote increasingly obscure fragments of ancient Bowie lyrics in order that their ‘no greater Bowie love hath any man’ credentials remain secure, and also smug, in perpetuity.

And don’t get me started on the junior doctors’ strike. No, wait. I’ll just say this…

No, no. DON’T get me started. If you know me well, you’ll already realise that I might never, ever stop.

Anyway, there’s that, too. Around which we’ll quickly draw a veil. Because, grr. Because, arrgh. Because, pffft.

So back to kittens. And specifically to the subject of this unashamedly kitten-hi-jacked column, which is a kitten turned cat, of a naval persuasion. Name of Simon. And, no, you couldn’t make it up.

And as it happens, I didn’t need to, because Simon is/was a real cat. The only cat, (do keep up) to have been awarded a PDSA Dickin medal, which was named after their founder, the social reformer, Maria Dickin, and which, since 1943, has been awarded to a variety of animals, for gallantry and devotion to duty.

And what of it, I hear you say (particularly if you are still busy trying to identify obscure fragments of Bowie lyrics). Well, I mention Simon because for the past year, he and I have been in cahoots. Though it’s less a case of ‘Lynne the ghostwriter, ghosting the story of an inspirational contemporary human’, as the ghost of Simon, inspirational naval kitten, inhabiting me, following the joyous occasion of my being asked, and in all seriousness, ‘would you like to write a grown-up novel, based on a remarkable piece of dramatic naval history, and – this the clincher – from the viewpoint of a ship’s cat?’ (The ship in question being HMS Amethyst. The event, the 1949 Yangtse Incident. The cat, a stray plucked from a small Hong Kong harbour.)

You might suggest (specially if you are still down a blind Bowie-lyric-themed alley) that such an offer was one to be, if not outright refused, at least considered with a modicum of caution. After all, who in their right mind, over the age of about seven, would want to read a book from a cat’s point of view, with all-the-twee flibberty-jibbertiness that must imply?

So I thought for a second (with special emphasis on George Orwell). And I looked at all the animals on social media today. And I said ‘yes, indeedy’, and began my cat-life right away.ableseacatsi_hardback_1471151832_72

And this week, with the novel published – of all the weeks it could be published – I am feeling content. Think about it. Androgynous. Long-haired. Slightly scary. Bonkers lyrics. Wrote a song about a laughing gnome AND EXPECTED IT TO CHART? Who in their right mind would like David Bowie?

So there you have it. I hope I’ve contributed to the sum of human kitten-joy, and that my old Brixon mucker, David, would approve.


Able Seacat Simon, The Wartime Hero of The High Seas, by Lynne
Barrett-Lee, is published by Simon and Schuster.


First published in The Western Mail Saturday Magazine 16.2.2016




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They say there is nothing like a dame, but, in cat land, there is nothing like a nice warm book to sit on, particularly when the book in question is a high quality hardback edition with a picture of another cat on the jacket. Which is why the publication of Lynne Barrett-Lee’s new novel, Able Seacat Simon, has proved to be such a landmark day for felines.

‘It’s changed my life,’ commented Kia, a bengal-cross and part-time model from Oxford. ‘Previously, I was expected to make do with day-old copies of the Nursing Times or, if I was lucky, the odd left-out kitchen table place mat. To have my own, thoughtfully-themed, sitting place has been a complete joy.’

Mr Thompkinson, a Maine Coon who lives with his partner Magic Paws in sunny Pevensey Bay, East Sussex, agrees, adding that ‘having a naval hero on which to park my ample backside has added a real filip to my day. Though, being a Maine Coon, I’d have preferred it if they’d purchased a couple.’

Another famous cat, Lola Rose, formerly of Merthyr Tydfil, disagrees. ‘This is typical of the sort of sheep-like behaviour you tend to see when a cat-book goes viral. Everyone wants a piece of it, so they feel in with the in-crowd. Which is something no self-respecting cat should ever want to be. For my money (not that I have any, being a cat) you’re always better off with a discarded cardboard box. Can get on it, get in it, and, if you feel so inclined, chew the corners.I won’t be buying into this, I’m afraid.’

It seems Lola Rose is in a minority of one, however, as felines everywhere mewl, squawk and generally harass their confounded owners to grab a copy, not least, as remarked upon by Stan, an RSCPA rescue tom from North Cardiff, because ‘it’s, like, got this cool embossed patch you can polish your whiskers on, too. Just sick, man. Total blissville.’ And so on.

Happily, you’ll find it in Sainsbury’s, ASDA, and branches of W H Smith everywhere. And of course Amazon. Which is a markedly less dangerous river than the 1949 Yangtse, on which HMS Amethyst – and, of course, brave young Simon –  were both stranded. Which is kind of …

Okay. I’ll stop now.

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Family is not always a place of safety.

Blood_ties_full_coverKathleen was just eight years old when her mother was tragically killed in a car accident. And when her father remarries it is to the bitter and resentful Irene who has two children of her own and no space in her heart for another. Irene goes out of her way to make Kathleen’s life as miserable as possible and will stop at nothing to get her out of their lives…

When Kathleen is sixteen, a shocking incident rocks the family, and life takes a darker turn.

Among this darkness, Kathleen finds a glimmer of hope in an older man, but Irene is ruthless in her mission to destroy her stepdaughter’s life. Can Kathleen find happiness or will her family prove to be her worst enemy?

Available in paperback and ebook 11.2.16

Also available as a three part ebook:

Part 1 – 28.1.16

Part 2 –  4.2.16

Part 3 – 10.2.16

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