How to Format a Paperback Novel for the UK Market

Using Word to Format a Paperback – UK

I make a part of my income from formatting novels for other writers, so obviously it would be madness to give away the secrets of how I do that, right?

Well, maybe that is actually wrong. Some people have time but no money, others have money but no time. If you are one of the latter, and you want your novel formatted just reach out to me and I will do a professional job for you at a reasonable rate.

If on the other hand, you are time rich money poor, then below is the secret laid out for you in full detail. It’s my first final draft (We all know what a first final draft is, right? It’s the one you think is perfect but it isn’t really) so if you spot any mistakes, or if it raises more questions than answers, please tell me.

And just like how some restaurants will supply the recipes for their signature dishes, safe in the knowledge that many customers would sooner leave it to the professionals, I am happy to let you see how I do what I do. If nothing else, some of you might appreciate why my charges are actually a little on the cheap side.

How To Format a Novel in Word

Okay, here’s the link you need. This is a .DOCX file so it is only going to be useful to people using Word 2013 or later. Also, your computer will warn you not to open it unless you are sure it’s from a safe source. I can only tell you, there is nothing sinister in there and you are just going to have to trust me. I can’t prove a thing. But most people coming here probably already know me, so that’s cool.


This file is set up exactly like a novel with the correct page size and general layout conventions. In addition, instead of consisting of generic lorem ipsum and Insert Title Here, text, the document itself is a step-by-step instruction manual for how to tweak and adjust the settings to suit your own personal aesthetic preferences.

When you open it, I recommend you save a copy with the title of your novel, and then set about dropping your text into place while keeping the original version to check back in case you did anything wrong.



The Bright Orange Swimming Hat – Audio

I have been meaning to get my act together a bit more towards producing audiobooks of some of the Blue Poppy ouvre. As you may or may not already know, The Cream of Devon – an anthology of short stories from the county that rhymes with heaven, is Blue Poppy Publishing’s first official foray into traditional publishing, so it seemed like a good place to start. It comes with the added bonus that it is easier to produce a finished recording of a short story than an entire novel.

This is the first story which has been recorded so far andFront cover of The Cream of Devon book. I offer it to you free in the sincere hope that you will tell me what you think of it and, if you like it, tell others.

The voice work was done by Sarah Kingdon-Ward who, apart from being a talented actor, happens to be my sister so she did it as a favour. I therefore owe her a debt of sorts which I can perhaps repay in the short term by showcasing her talents as a voiceover artist to anyone else who wants an audiobook done. SFX added by me in post production.


The Bright Orange Swimming Hat – By Irene Sugden, from the book The Cream of Devon.

What is an ISBN, and Do I Need an ISBN for My Book?

Does my UK Published Book Need an ISBN?

You might think the answer to this is a resounding yes, and in most cases it will be. In fact, technically the word “published” pretty much presumes you have an ISBN. However in some cases, the answer may surprise you.

Read on for more information.

As always, please note, this article is written in the UK for self-publishers who need a UK perspective on the subject. Readers in the USA or Australia may find the general information useful, but not the specific UK bits.

What is an ISBN?

An ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is like a birth certificate for a book. It means that the book is a recognised entity in the world. But if a human is born and, for whatever reason, does not have a birth certificate, then they are still a human being and every bit as real and legitimate as someone who does have one.

And just as a human needs a birth certificate, or some form of official recognition such as a naturalisation certificate, to participate in all aspects of society, so a book that wishes to be part of the big wide world of Goodreads, Amazon, Waterstones, and other major retailers, needs an ISBN

However, a book is still a valid thing – a product – which can, in certain circumstances, still be sold even without an ISBN.

When is it okay NOT to have an ISBN?

If your book will be sold exclusively by you; within your personal network, via your own website, at events and talks, or through third party selling sites like eBay, then is does not require an ISBN.

In addition, if you have a good friend or relative who owns a shop, and they have promised to stock your book, and they will buy copies direct from you, you do not need an ISBN. Even if the local bookshop wants copies and they are happy to buy them from you, then you probably don’t need an ISBN although the absence of an ISBN could really put them off.

When do I NEED an ISBN?

A barcode and ISBN on the back of the book makes it look more professional, so even if you think your local shop will buy direct from you, it might improve your chances if you have the ISBN.

You DO need an ISBN if you hope to see your book stocked in any book retailer that you can’t directly supply (and usually even if you can), or in any official organisation that sells books, e.g. the National Trust gift shops or any museum gift shop. These organisations will not (except in extremely rare circumstances) buy direct from the author. They also NEED a barcode in order to use their scanner at the point of sale.

N.B. – being ABLE to order your book does not mean that a particular shop will ever hold stock. That’s another big side issue.

You need an ISBN if you hope that your local library will buy a copy. Without an ISBN they simply can’t buy it at all. Also, without an ISBN you cannot claim any public lending rights royalties. (see below).

They may be persuaded to accept a donated copy, but you should check first because libraries do not usually accept unsolicited books to their collection. If your book has a lot of useful local content they are more likely to accept a copy and put it into the system. Even if you give them a copy, some libraries may still require a barcode, which realistically means you need an ISBN.

You also need an ISBN if you want to see your book listed on Goodreads, or to list it normally on Amazon. And, of course, if you are using any print-on-demand and distribution service, like Amazon KDP or IngramSpark then you can’t proceed without allocating an ISBN.

Amazon will, eventually, create a page for any book that has an ISBN. So will Goodreads.

You can add it yourself, or wait until it gets added, but it will be there when, or in case, anyone wants to review it or discuss it on Goodreads, or sell a second-hand copy on Amazon.

The Pros and Cons of an ISBN


  • ISBNs cost money to purchase (quite a lot if you only buy one! See “How do I get an ISBN in the UK” – below)
  • Once your book is published you have to give some to the legal deposit libraries.
  • It’s a bit of extra hassle


  • Your book looks official (because it is)
  • Your book can (in theory) be stocked in bookshops
  • Your book will (eventually) get listed on Goodreads and Amazon

That’s … more or less it, in a nutshell. I feel as though I have missed something here but I have to publish at some point.

How do I get an ISBN in the UK?

First of all, if you are self-publishing or being traditionally published with Blue Poppy Publishing then we handle all of this for you.

If you are self-publishing independently then you will need to purchase one or more ISBNs from Nielsen.

You can ONLY purchase UK IBSNs from Nielsen. 

If anyone else offers to sell you an ISBN then your book will be officially published by them. The main exception of which I am aware is that Amazon KDP will offer you a free ISBN. While that technically means they are the the publisher of your book, it doesn’t mean a lot and you are still in control. However, if you are going to publish your book with a print run, or with IngramSpark either as well as, or instead of KDP then you need your own ISBN and you may as well apply it to KDP as well. (There is still some debate over this but it’s a side issue)

Here’s the link for the Nielsen ISBN store

As soon as you go there you will note (at the time of posting) that the pricing system is just about the most unfair looking scheme ever.

  • 1 x ISBN = £91
  • 10 x ISBNs = £169 (or £16.90 each)
  • 100 x ISBNs = £379 (£3.79 each)
  • 1,000 x ISBNs = £979 (98pence each)

I expect there is a valid reason, but I can’t fathom it. Probably to do with processing fees. Heaven only knows how it works for Amazon, or Harper Collins who must use tens of thousands of ISBNs

Anyway, there’s nothing you can do about it, but do not be tempted to buy an ISBn from a company offering them to you for a tenner, or whatever. As I say, they will then officially be your publisher and you will almost certainly have difficulty listing your book properly on the database.

How do I get the book barcode for my ISBN?

Rule ONE: Don’t pay for this service.

The ISBN you get from Nielsen doesn’t come with a barcode. But you need one on your book. Luckily, there are plenty of websites that will make a barcode for you free of charge. My favourite one to use is BooksFactory who are a printer based in Poland. I love their quotes form, too, because it is instant and doesn’t require my email to get a quote. Also they are usually cheaper than everyone else’s, especially on very short runs.

Anyway, their barcode generator is here;
just copy and paste the number into the form and hit go. It will generate a B&W PDF of your barcode at the correct size – 25mm (1″) high – to insert into an InDesign or Photoshop (etc.) cover file.

Registering your book on the Nielsen database

This will need an article of its own at some point. If you want it and it’s not here then ask and I will try and motivate myself to write it.

In brief. Nielsen’s websites have terrible UI and I spend a lot of my life screaming at the screen. There are two main parts.

  1. for adding new titles to the database
  2. for informing you of any new orders from wholesalers.

Nielsen isn’t a wholesaler, they are a data service. You list your book/s on their Title Editor site with the correct ISBN, title, author name, cover, and all the other pertinent information and they serve it to the wholesaler which seems now to be just one comany, Gardners, who then provide that same data to the retailers, Waterstones and the rest.

If Waterstones want a book they place an order  with Gardners who then send you and order through the Book Orders site. You raise an invoice and post the book to Gardners in Eastbourne, and they then open the package and add it to the order from the branch of Waterstones in your High Street. I know it seems crazy, but not as crazy as Waterstones ordering books from thousands of different athors.

Anyway, it’s a massive minefield and one of a number of good reasons to self-publish through a small independent publisher like Blue Poppy Publishing.

What is Legal Deposit?

As soon as you create a book-baby with its ISBN birth certificate you also have to give, free of charge, a copy of your book to the British Library. This is a legal requirement and you don’t get paid a penny for it. In fact you have to cover P&P as well.

Legal Deposit Office,
The British Library,
Boston Spa,
West Yorkshire,
LS23 7BY

In addition they will probably ask you to send 5 copies to the other Legal Deposit Libraries. Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Cambridge University and the Bodleian at Oxford.

If they ask, you are legally obliged to send them, but you don’t have to volunteer.

Agency for the Legal Deposit Libraries,
Unit 21 Marnin Way,
EH12 9GD

Again you can’t charge and you have to pay for postage. It is, however, worth using a signed for service. From personal experience, they haven’t always been 100% perfect in acknowledging receipt. Sorry to have to say that.

If you are using a Blue Poppy ISBN then this will all be handled at this end, and you don’t need to worry.

What about Public Lending Rights – PLR?

If your book is stocked in an offical UK library, and if even just one person borrows it, then you become entitled to PLR.

It’s not likely to be a fortune, possibly a few pence, perhaps a few pounds, but it’s every year, it’s free to sign up and if you don’t then you don’t get anything.

This is another area that could do with expanding into more detail but if you visit you can find more information. If you already have a book in print with an ISBN of course, then you should register, and claim your title.

We are inviting submissions for Devon short stories

This submission window is now closed although I will be producing another short story collection at some point in 2023

Do feel free to get in touch if you have a story to send in, but be prepared for a long wait.

Submission criteria.

You should live in Devon. I like to work with people I can meet. I don’t want to meet you, but I would like to be able to if it becomes necessary, e.g. to deliver a box of books.

The story must be set in Devon.

It can be any genre except for horror or erotica. I don’t mind romance or suspense, but I don’t want any ick, or gore.

Length is fleixible but in the region of 2,500 words is ideal.

The money is, frankly rubbish. I can only pay  £10 so if you are writing for money … well .. why are you writing at all? You shouldn’t be doing it for the money because it will NEVER be enough.

Blue Poppy will be covering ALL production costs and you will NOT be required to buy any books. You will even get a free author copy.

If you want to buy copies you can at a special discounted price that will make it worth your while selling copies to friends, but you DON’T have to.

That’s more or less everything you need to know right now. If you are still interested, leave a message below and I will contact you with more detailed info. I don’t like putting the email on here as it attracts spam. (it’s info @ the URL though)

Short Story Competition – Results

Announcing the Winner and Runners up of the World’s Least Prestigious Writing Competition.

I do love a bit of false modesty. For a long time I described Blue Poppy Publishing as “The World’s Smallest Publishing Company”.  As time went on, I had to change that to “Devon’s Smallest Publishing Company”, but now I think I am correct in saying that it is not even “Ilfracombe’s Smallest Publishing Company”.  However, a writing competition that I ran attracted just 23 entries. It was limited to entrants from Devon and the stories had to be set in Devon. As such, I think it is not going to threaten any of the global contests that take place.

Nevertheless, lack of quantity does not mean that the quality was not good, because it was. We had some brilliant stories and these will be part of an anthology to be published later in the year. They will be joined by a few more stories that have been submitted since the contest ended to make it a good sized book.

But WHO WON? I hear you ask.

OK – without further ado. The winner was Colin Smith with Stand and Deliver, a comedic story about a temporally misplaced highwayman holding up vehicles along the North Devon link road and around barnstaple. Colin is a stalwart of writing groups in South Molton and Barnstaple, and has been included in several other anthologies including “Mystery Magic and Mayhem

There were then five runners up by four writers which were all so close together that I decided to award the remaining £250 in equal portions.

So that meant a completely new writer Jade Ruby won £100 for two of her entries which got into the top six.

And the remaining three prizes of £50 each went to Jane Bheemah, Lalla Merlin, and Alex Morrison.

Well done to everyone who entered. Now to get to work on producing the anthology.

Three Good Ways of Publishing – Self-Publishing – Assisted (Not Vanity) Publishing – and Traditional Publishing

OK, I think I am ready to write this. As ever, please excuse the odd typo, the books are professionally edited, but the website isn’t.

What’s the Difference Between Traditional Publishing, and Self-Publishing?

What, in terms of what actually happens, is the difference between self-publishing and traditional publishing?

And what is the difference between assisted self-publishing and vanity publishing?

You could be forgiven for thinking that traditional publishing is the Holy Grail. But just getting a publishing deal does not mean you have “arrived” and you are by no means guaranteed to be rich. Far from it. Nor will you be immune to having to do a lot of hard work.

You may have decided that self-publishing is the route for you. You can’t face the rejection process, you’re not a TV celebrity, or you just can’t wait around to see your book in print. I did, and I don’t regret it. But boy did I make a lot of mistakes along the way. I still am making them!

Or you may want to have the creative control of self-publishing, without all the stress of having to learn every stage of the process. Getting experienced professionals to handle the production and distribution, while you focus on the fun stuff like writing the book and selling copies to friends and family.

Each of these routes is a viable way into print and each has its own benefits and drawbacks.

Of these, the one I admit to knowing the least about is traditional publishing. However, here’s what I do know.

Benefits of traditional publishing

The first andmost obvious benefit is, cachet or kudos. You have goen through a fierce selection process, some would call it a rejection process, and come out at the end a winner. You have run the guantlet of agents and comissioning editors, partial requests, full requests, and publishing deal offers, and you made it to the end. Hands clasped and raised in victory, you dance the happy dance of the published author.

Traditionally published authors do not have to find an editor, or a typsetter, or a cover designer. They don’t have to find the best price for printing, or worry about how many books to print. The publisher takes care of all that.

Trad authors don’t have to produce a marketing plan, or an AI sheet, or send out ARCS, or handle distribution, or stand in freezing market halls to sell their books. They get given a few free copies of their book when it is printed. They will even sometimes receive copies of the book in French or German or Japanese, if it does well.

Trad authors GET PAID up front. It’s not always very much. In some cases, especialy with very small presses, the payment is zero. But, unlike musicians signign record deals, they are not asked to pay any of that money back even if the book doesn’t sell. That’s a risk the publisher takes.

Drawbacks of Traditional Publishing

You don’t have much, if any, artistic control once you have signed over the rights. You may well still own the copyright, but the publisher can edit the MS, they have final say on the cover art, and the blurb, and how the book is marketed. Everything. If you write historical fiction, a publisher may not care as much as you do about anachronisms. That Edwardian dress on the cover of your Regency set novel may make you scream, but you can’t do a thing about it.

Although you don’t have to produce a marketing plan, you will still be required to attend events, book signings, etc. as part of the marketing plan that the publisher has made. They may assign you a member of their team to liase, but you are not off the hook completely.

You do get paid up front but, unless you’ve got a fantastic reputation, it won’t be much, and the subsequent royalties can be as low as 1.5% on rrp. One million books at £10 each would still give you £150,000 at that rate, but don’t count on selling that many books. It is staggeringly unlikely. I believe (though I may be wrong) that about 5% is the upper end of royalty rates for trad authors.

Benefits of Self-Publishing

Self-publishers have complete artistic control at all times. They get to chose their editor, they can play around with the layout until they are happy with it, they get to decide on the cover art, either doing it themselves, or engaging a cover designer, and they can write their own blurb.

Self-publishing authors can make a much bigger royalty on their own books. even using PoD (print on demand) like KDP and IngramSpark, you can earn about 10%-50% per book sold, and there are few or no up-front costs involved. (IngramSpark has a set-up cost per book. This can be eliminated with ALLi membership* using a spceial discount code.) *Affiliate link

When it comes to printing, you should be able to print a B&W paperback novel that would retail for £10 for about £2-£4 each on runs as low as 100-300, so you can expect 50%-80% profit – that’s your royalty rate!

You can produce a Kindle edition (and other ebooks formats for other platforms if you want to) and make extra money there for zero outlay.

Drawbacks of Self-Publishing

You won’t get rich; you may even lose money.

Having that artistic control means you have to learn all these skills of layout, design, editing, etc. Or risk producing a very poor quality unprofessional book that will embarrass you for years to come. I speak from experience!

You are paying for everything! So if you engage professionals, e.g. editor, graphic designer, cover atist, etc. it is going to cost you up front. Most self-publishing writers who make money from their work spend several thousand pounds on production. Thos who do not, usually don’t sell many books beyond their immediate circle of friends and family.

You have to decide on the print run. If you print more books they cost less per book to print. But if you print too many you could end up with boxes of unsold books that you paid for.

Low volumes. You are unlikely to sell more than about 300 physical copies of your self-published book. Any more than that puts you firmly into bestseller territory. You will need that exxtra income per book to cover your set-up costs.

Benefits of Assisted Self-Publishing

First, let’s be clear, this does not include “Vanity publishing” which often describes itself as assisted self-publishing.

Here is the difference as I see it, and I do have skin in this game so you don’t HAVE to trust me if you don’t want to.

Vanity publishers; take control of distribution, and they own your rights for a fixed period. They charge an up-front fee to you for production costs and printing costs that is typically several thousand pounds, and the deal allows you a small number, perhaps twelve or twenty, of author copies. You may also buy copies at a special author rate. That is to say, you are being permitted to buy copies of the book that YOU paid to have printed. Some of these companies are worse than others. The worst of these are flagged up in ALLi’s free Self-Publishing Advice website. (We’re too small to even get a rating).

Assisted Self-Publishing; is similar to self-publishing, in that you retain control and you still pay for everything. However, you also still own your books. Blue Poppy Publishing is that type of business. When an author has paid to have 100 or 300 or 1,000 books printed, they OWN those books. Blue Poppy stores them and handles distribution for as long as they want them to. If they decide to take over, they can claim all their remaining stock back.

Assisted self-publishing gives you the cachet of having a publisher. Most people don’t know the differnce between a self-publishing imprint and a traditional publisher. The Blue Poppy Publishing name, and logo combined with the quality production, makes you look like a proper published author.

You don’t have to handle distribution. Blue Poppy provides an ISBN, sends off the legal deposit books, and handles distribution through Nielsen and the wholesaler gardners. Shops can, in theory, order your book.

You are still free to produce a KDP edition, etc. If you want to sell the ebook on Amazon, you can set that up yourself alongside the print run. (though there’s a lot to be said for waiting until the print run is almost sold out before putting the book on Amazon. Local bookshops like the exclusivity.

Drawbacks of Assited Self-Publishing

The biggest drawback is if you mistake a dodgy vanity publisher for something like Blue Poppy. There are loads of small publishers like me springing up. I’m sure that all have come up with a similar idea independently because its time has come. Just be sure to check the terms of the arrangement. I don’t provide a contract, but I do explain the deal clearly to anyone who asks. Also, and I may be unique in this particular thing, I never take any money from anyone until my job is done and we are ready to go to print.

The other drawbacks are similar to those of self-publishing. Low volumes, high up front costs and the need for you to do a lot of hard work on marketing. Expect to sell 100-300 copies of your book, mostly to friends and family. The best will do better because of word of mouth, but nothing isguaranteed. You will probably lose money, but by avoiding some of the more costly errors, hopefully, the risk of losing money will be reduced.

Short Story Competition – Short List

It has been an interesting exercise running this competition. I have learned a lot and will probably do something similar again with a few changes to reflect lessons learned.

We didn’t get an overwhelming number of entries and I posted a, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, long list a little while ago consisting of everyone who entered.

We then had a delay with the judging due to unforseen circumstances, but we do now have all the marks in.

However, I am going to keep everyone in suspenders just a little longer while I have another read through myself, and seek opinions from one last casting judge, because it is pretty tight at the top.

The winner of the £250 first prize will, however, be one of the following people, listed in alphabetical order by surname.

  • Jane Bheemah
  • Lalla Merlin
  • Alex Morrison
  • Jade Ruby
  • Colin Smith


Short Story Competition – Long List

At the start of the year, I decided to run a short story competition. This was a very new experience for me and yet another major learning curve.

I got everything set up and I started letting people know. I did limit the entries to writers in Devon. That’s because when I do the anthology of the best entries, I wanted to be able to deal directly with the authors without driving all over the country.

I also had a specific theme that the stories had to be set in or strongly connected with Devon. This is because with my business firmly rooted here, I find that books with local interest sell best.

Anyway, thanks to those restrictions, and having a zero budget for advertising, we didn’t get very many entries. So therefore, I am going to announce a longlist of entrants right now which will just be the names of all the writers who entered. Some entered multiple entries.

As with many things, a very poor start will not stop me from growing and improving, and the following writers can count themselves in with a very good chance of being the lucky winner of £250

So, in alpahebetical order of surname.

  • Val Allsup
  • Susan Barrett
  • Anne Beer
  • Ralph Bell-Ley
  • Caroline Berry
  • Jane Bheemah
  • Darren Colwill
  • Nathalie Denzey
  • Shiela Golding
  • Ella Hobson
  • Katie Mallett
  • Damien Mansfield
  • Lalla Merlin
  • Alex Morrison
  • Jade Ruby
  • Colin Smith
  • Irene Sugden
  • Pamela Vass

The judging will now commence. I’m sorry but I don’t have a definite date for when I will announce a shortlist or a winner yet as I honestly don’t know what to expect of the judges.

In future years I will probably know a lot more and there will be a lot more entries too. Meanwhile you will just have to trust me that something is going on in the background.


Martha Kingdon Ward – Diary for 1946 – up to 11th Jan

N.B. Any text of which I am uncertain I have denoted with a series of ? or with the words in [square brackets – sometimes with an explanatory note]

I have added a few footnotes here and there.

Martha’s Dairies


Sepia toned photo of Martha Kingdon-Ward aged approx 15 - 20Martha would have turned eighteen in this year. Since she can’t have been far off that age when this photo was taken (single image from polyfoto sheet) I am including it here.


Perhaps years later I shall look back upon this difficult year with compassion – I hope so. Not self-pity, that’s entirely different. I mean an understanding of ones own faults and failings, a comprehension also of pain constantly suffered – that comprehension which is so strange, as though coming from the outside, from a totally different angle. When I was vaguely trying to disclaim the fact that I love him, while I was faintly trying to disbelieve, I don’t know that I was any happier than during the awful months that followed – while Eve died & we went for a happy holiday, and I knew for a certainty that he loved someone else and would marry her. It’s at these times that the world’s real values seem to stand out so clearly: you realise that you cannot make a fuss, cannot cause a public scene – you also realise so strongly that other people’s happiness matters – that girls and the family’s at home. Which is why I have never talked ??? yet to a single soul. Why make them as unhappy as that?

I wish I could explain just how numb, how sick, how hopeless I feel. I am afraid just now I am horribly selfish. Yesterday up in the train, travelling so smartly and comfortably on my darling Great Western that every minute was taking me further away from him, I felt that everything was quite mean indeed. Trees, pylons, houses, and fields raced by, but they seemed unconnected, useless, meaningless. And then, as now, and before, there was one great long pain in my heart because he is going to be married he hopes in September. I don’t — to hate her – I’m sure he wouldn’t marry someone horrid. I just don’t feel anything but sick now and a kind of ?????. Everything passes out of my mind sometimes, but Cardiff[?] ??? and things that remind me of him. And he is very dear.

When Miss Iveston heard I might not play in Iolanthe she exclaimed, “Of dear – but can’t you?”

“Well, he says I probably won’t be good enough, and I think he’s right.”

“Who said that – Bruce?”

“Mr Henderson? Yes”

“I’ll tell him what I think of him! … Anyway, who would they get instead of you?”

“I haven’t the faintest idea. Of course they might get Ann?”

Miss Weston attended hard to her reed. “might they?” she said.

“It would be rather amusing.” I added faintly.

She looked at me and said nothing – but one had no need to say it!

“I’ve rarely seen a more lovable face than that young man” said B.H. seriously of Marius Goring[1], and I knew naturally that she meant it, and wasn’t playing our little comedy. “It’s a fine, sensitive face, well-bred and highly intelligent. And he has beautiful hands. I feel you could trust him.”

“Yes I think you could.” I agreed a little tritely, because I didn’t want to interrupt her flow of thoughts, since really however tender-hearted she might be about Marius Goring her real thoughts were naturally centred on someone else.

“He’s a fine actor, in fact a brilliant actor. He’s always been given extremely difficult roles. You told me he was terrifyingly brilliant as ????[2] at the beginning of the war and remember hearing about it, although alas too young to understand.”

I remember hearing about it too. But it’s a nice face all the same, and a nice lad …”

(B.H. always does go charmingly sentimental)

So I picked up my notes and put my pen into my pad and wrote. But I knew her blue eyes were dancing with a secret pleasure and, out of respect for her own far away secrets, I would not ask her to tell. You cannot paint some pictures even for your best friends.

Tuesday 1st January

I started the New Year most seasonably by feeling extremely ill. In fact, I was a sick little hippo all day, and most depressed about it. Still, I had to put up a good show, as two naval officers P. and Mummy had met last night came upon me. They were asked to lunch but Mummy proved so attractive that they stayed until a quarter to one the next morning!!

We took them out to “I Live in Grosvenor Square”[3] which was a better film than most critics would have you believe. Anna Neagle was sadly miscast, sadly, but Rex Harrison was superb as David Bruce, which required excellent handling. Somehow though, I felt faint and ill. I struggled to entertain Cass [?or Caps?] and Barney – who were really ??? and interesting. Mummy was admirable and though P. [Pleione] seemed a little forced and injudicious in her speech, she made a gallant effort. I at last had to stagger up at about 10:20 and I went shivering to bed feeling just ghastly. Jolly New-Year opening – what? And it was so cold!!

[There follows a list of names and other words which are difficult to decipher – possibly
“Ryan is ??? Red Berkeley, Major Derby, Keith, Ranisas, & Fairfax”]

Wednesday 2nd January

I still felt like a groggy hippo when I was awakened by our pleasant chamber-maid. We had our last meal sadly, packed, and left on the 10:30 GWR. The journey back was as empty as coming. We did the Tel X-word.[4] I didn’t get the clues.

“What’s another word for ill?” urged P.

“Sick hippo” I responded wearily, and they looked most sympathetic.

Though it was sunny, and the Somerset views were again exquisite, the train kept stopping ‘in the middle of nowhere’  and Mummy said “The engine driver seems to have got hold of our crossword.”

Mummy left us for London at Swindon. We had a long wait at Didcot. We went for a walk but the town is so dull and it was so cold we returned and had a nice cup of tea with a charming waitress at the station. [sic – I presume that the waitress was charming but not that they all sat down with said waitress for the tea as the wording implies] At Goring we waited fifty minutes for a cab and came home frozen. Mrs E.[5] was angelic, and E.[6] was glad to see us back. Eve[7] wasn’t bad either. Doggo jumped about! To bed early.

Thursday 3rd January

It was good to wake and be at home. We breakfasted at about 8:30 and listened to badly chosen Mozarts in “This Week’s Composer”[8] It was terribly cold, and I practiced at intervals trying not to stick the keys with my frozen fingers! The scales progressed sufficiently for me not to damn mankind more than usual – good clarinettists in particular, of course! We played [it looks like “Dafters”] quite a bit, and got playfully furious when the other one collected huge rent moneys. At 3 or so, we went out onto the ice, which was v. thin, however, so we slid about it for an inch or so, before plunging into little holes made by our hooves. Altogether we galumphed acres before going in to quite a hearty tea. Hippo wasn’t too well today, but better than yesterday, which is a mercy! Of course Mozart accompanied [Dafters] – [str?is of] Ks.207[9] and darling 453. Wrote in the evening and sat with Mummy. Susan in trouble with C. Wilde etc. “Rex” & Lilli P. came today [looks like – & Jas Mason. Newc: wasn’t Newc: but now is.] Isn’t that plain?

Top of page above the line

??D, Blake??s & Helendon all poisoned – by whom?! Keith – a new man – came. He’s been dumped on them by [Gregory Peck?] Why? They don’t know and they suspect a mystery.

Friday 4th January

Certainly quite a leisurely day, we listened to M’s instrumental music through breakfast. As usual it was a bad selection – parts of “hunt” 407[10] & 581[11]and all of 526[12] not bad – but all things we can hear moderately easily. Then I gave the room a thorough do, after which we seemed to think ourselves so good that we needn’t do any more work for a bit. But actually, of course, it was being so cold, the room being so icy too. We settled down quietly and, Dafters, which, not a bit aided by the interfering puppy, we played quite a lot, and enjoyed somewhat. We went on the ice after lunch and slid about inelegantly. Mummy was awfully cross with us and we had an awful set to because she said I was too selfish or, at any rate, inconsiderate. Well, she’s quite right, but what on Earth am I to do? Because I know she’s right, up to a certain extent, but she certainly overdid it a bit.

Practiced hard at more scales.

Saturday 5th Jan

We had ??? at last this morning, as we all went to Reading on the 11:00, and I had some work to do first. Mummy got cross with me because she thought me unkind to refuse lunch with Cozzie and Eve to help on P. But I knew better – know that it wouldn’t help. If I went with Eve, so at last she understood and was less annoyed. And bless her she stayed with the dogs while we went to “The 7th Veil”[13] with Mrs Ellis. This excellent film is a Sydney Box production, directed by Compton Bennett. Watch him. I’ve seen it before, of course, but I thrilled once more to the compelling melancholy of Ann Todd’s voice and face with the acting ability of James Mason, Hugh McDermott, and especially Albert Lieven are strong supporters, while Yvonne Owen as Susan was brilliant. The cinema soon became crowded out, but we were pleased to see an enclosure queue when we came out – not nastily pleased but pleased for British pictures. E. enjoyed the film very much indeed.

Practiced assiduously when I  got home and wrote. The scales are beginning to look up a little, dare I hope?

(A new young man, Jonathan Hope, played Dafters[?] with M??, ???, ??? & ???

Bla??? Left Newcastle House ??? because he ???)

Top of page above the line

[Five very closely packed lines. These are a continuation of the entry for 6th Jan.]

Sunday 6th January

The days roll by – and do I get any better at clarinetting? Well, when I practiced today it seemed to my sickened ears that I really was a little better. I went through E and Ab major, and their minors, and did C, F, etc. a little faster. Well, there really seemed to be a little more synchronisation. Every now and then, when I forgot about it, I would squeak over either break. I’m still inclined to be imperfect with the sidekeys, and I squeak alright[?] but it is – I’m sure it is – getting better. Otherwise, there was the usual onrush of breakfast and lunch, washing up, etc. and I took the dog out to the p??? as I had to go for Mummy. We played Dafter in the evening after I’d practiced, and I wrote a little. (Hope met his fiancée Clari??? Derby, and learned that C Wilde had phoned her. He vowed revenge so imagine his consternation on finding out that Hamilton was ??? Wilde while C?a?e is Chesterfield. Hope gave Clarissa and his friend Jacqueline Go?den dinner. Chesterfield kissed her, and Hope angrily hit him Wilde and Hope don’t get on at all, though W. doesn’t know that. Hope loves the ??? he ???

Monday 7th January

  1. started work at the RCM[14] so I had the day to myself. Not that I did much good. I did this room and mummy’s v. thoroughly and I tidied a little. Mrs T. [or I?] gave me an early lunch as she was off to the cinema. I washed up, let the dogs out and had a jolly good practice. At last, it was a thorough hard going one. I worked away at Ab, E, and again at the earlier ones, faster. Something seems to be happening to them – I hope it’s all to the good! I also hada severe go at tonguing. Tonguing is the bane of my life. Mr Clarke does it well, and I don’t – isn’t that a pity? I skipped tea and P. came in before Mrs E., so that when dinner came I was really quite hungry. Mrs E. saw “? Frenchman” and loved it. All day I worked at Hunca Munca’s ?. and did so much to it that it was completed by about 10pm.

(Hope, Anita Louise, and C. Wilde didn’t hit it off too well. C.W. hates Hope violently because H. said unguarded things of A.L. before he met her.)

Tuesday 8th January

  1. didn’t have to go [up/in?], so life went on in much the same old way. I made a frantic effort at tidying which didn’t much work, and I fancy she did the same. I practiced for nearly an hour before lunch and again in the evening, so that went quite well. We both ??? did the Telegraph crossword in the afternoon, and I wrote a rather controversial letter to Verity. I just hate Picasso and Bartók and all they stand for, and I am sick of being told I ought to like them. I don’t argue that they are not great (though I don’t think so!). People always say, “You’ll be proved wrong later!” But I won’t because what I say is I don’t like Bartók & co. – and I don’t say that without first having listened, or seen, or whatever it is, and found out that I don’t. Ah well – why worry? Nothing can stop what I feel … (Miss Louise now apparently loves Hope!! Hope and Wilde had a sort of quarrel … H. wrote to Clarissa Derby Martin Bright angry with George Blakeney who insulted him. He left, tearing up the photograph of ??? D. had given him. D. left too.)

Wednesday 9th January

Wild and windy, but a lovely day for me. P. was off at 7, so I got up early and spent a long time doing the room hard, making the beds, and tidying. I got it looking nearly normal and then did the bathroom. That done, I at once practiced for a good hour. I do think my fingers are getting more supple – more used to the holes and keys they automatically have to find. I went to the Cozens’ after a hurried lunch, and walked up reviving old memories. Felix and Cozzie were delightful all the afternoon. We talked much of course, but pleasantly and interestingly. Felicity played to me with delightful ease and charm, and not a bit shy or difficult. Col. Cozens came in time for tea and the party went even better. In spite of Eve being as difficult as possible and saying the Cozens always found me trying, we got on as beautifully as ever – though if Eve had had her way I’d never have been there! Cozzie played me lovely K333[15] after tea, with its adorable cadenza. Home in rain, but very happy. It had been a good day. (?.?. forced to pretend he’s a girl, and ?? ???? is in love with him! He walked home extolling ‘her’girlish features, to ‘her’ annoyance!! ??? proposed (|) and Phil knows ‘she’ll’ [have to close] Wilde forced to read Hope’s letters.

Thursday 10th January

  1. was off early again and I was left to do the beds, the room, and mummy’s room, also tidy up for both. Well, I did all of it exceedingly well, I thought. Then I bethought me of more work and hopefully had a go at the Mozart book. I can’t let all that work go west, I thought, so I settled down and nearly completed January by the end of the day. There was quite a nice concert including K407, which is a landmark of horn history,[16] and Dvořák’s sextet in A which failed to give me much pleasure. I listened to many records, mostly 414 & 449, and played the piano after tea. Then came a serious practice of over an hour, with scales and plenty of tonging; also a bit of DW:229 II for fun. After dinner I wrote to billy and again to Dorothy as P’s been so remiss[17], and to Dr Lofthouse[18]. (??bel and Phillipa “eloped” and Phil is feeling very worried. Hope was very ill and delirious. His C/O Major [Darcy Thanet] is very worried.

Friday 11th January

Life was quite good to me today. Though P. had to go, and went off early at that, mummy stayed here all day! So we both of us did our cleaning work assiduously, and then I brought my work in with [me] by the fire and we had the most enjoyable day. All my things were carefully arranged, and I worked at the Mozart album all day, practically. We made toast for tea and had a really happy time together. I washed up the lunch things with Mrs E. which took rather a long time, but she was very pleased to have me help her. I practiced as hard as ever in the evening and scales like E and A-flat major began to lose some of their terrors. You wait! – I’ll go downhill alright soon. This is just too good to last and I’m sure Mr Clarke will find something very wrong. I wrote to Ann CR and sent her some reeds which I did up marvellously. (Aren’t I dreadful?)!  Read more of M?W’s marvellous Mozart book.

(Phil met his “bridesmaid” – A/! – in leiber’s gloomy and ghost infested house. Phil is worried to death. Hope was deliriously ill, and Hele??? Who’s nursing him is very worried. Wilde to stay with the M???


[1] Marius Goring, Actor, b. 1912 d. 1998 film credits from 1925 – 1990 he played Conductor 71 in Stairway to Heaven and Frederick Jannings in Night Boat to Dublin, both in 1946.

[2] The word looks possibly like Hitler but Goring never played him. It may be that it refers to his role as Lieutenant Felix Schuster, a German U-Boat officer in “The Spy in Black” 1939. The story was set in 1917. The word doesn’t look like Schuster or anything that makes sense, but perhaps, as they had not properly seen the film there was some confusion?

[3] A.K.A. “A Yank in London” 1945. It starred Anna Neagle, Rex Harrison, and Dean Jagger.

[4] Obviously the Telegraph Crossword.

[5] Mrs Ellis

[6] Mr Ellis

[7] Eve Hadfield

[8] Now called “Composer of the Week” it was first broadcast 2nd August 1943 on the BBC Home Service. Source Wikipedia.

[9] Violin Concerto No. 1

[10] Horn quintet in E flat

[11] Clarinet quintet

[12] Violin sonata in A major

[13] The 7th Veil 1945 starring James Mason, Ann Todd, and Hebert Lom

[14] Royal College of Music. Pleione decided fairly soon after this to abandon any thoughts of a career in music after the enormity of what went on in Germany had sunk in. She felt that she was never going to be a truly great musician – unlike Martha – and that her future lay in the field of Speech Therapy.

[15] Piano Sonata No. 13 in B-flat major,

[16] You may recall that on Jan 4th she lists this among what she refers to as a bad selection. I suspect that she felt the selection was insufficiently esoteric for the programme, rather than that any of the music itself was bad.

[17] This rings true!

[18] Charles Thornton Lofthouse (1895-1974) who was the head of music at Reading University until some time after the second world war.

Martha Kingdon-Ward Diaries

As some will know and many will be unaware, I am the grandson of the explorer Frank Kingdon-Ward (also known as Francis Kingdon Ward, and Capt F.K. Ward) author, explorer, and plant collector.

I am also the nephew of a very talented musician, my Aunt Martha, who sadly died last year at the age of 93. She was a clarinettist of considerable renown who formed a number of musical groups best know of which was/is Sweet Harmony.

She was a devoted fan of Mozart and did a huge amount of reaserch into his works.

I just got back from a celebration of her life with many of her muscial friends. I must confess, for complicated reasons that I don’t want to bore you, or embarrass myself, with I only ever met her once. Nevertheless, I have been entrusted with her diaries which, although they do not cover the entirety of her life, are nevertheless extensive consisting of 40+ books, each one filled with fairly close-packed writing. They date from the 1970s until fairly recently. There is also one from 1946 which I am working through now.

I will share bits from these dairies for all, although I anticipate the main interest will be exclusively among her immediate friends and family, it will be worth the effort for them alone.