Stranger on the shore – a tribute to Acker Bilk

As somebody who fumbles around with a clarinet occasionally I’m posting a little tribute I’ve done to the late Acker Bilk. Among clarinet players Acker’s shall we say ‘unique’ sound is much maligned. My own teacher, Harry Conn, who knew Acker personally and was a pro for sixty years, hated his sound. I don’t like it much myself, I can hear the Bechet influences and I’m not a great fan of Bechet.

Harry was also jealous of Stranger On The Shore, and would tell me how Acker’s ‘stupid little tune’ had set him up for life. Here I disagree. I think – and many people agree – that Stranger is sublimely beautiful. Although my own version may not be quite so.

My own personal memories of Acker are of him sitting drinking scrumpy in the Coronation Tap in Bristol in the 1980s, still wearing his silly hat and waistcoat. He certainly made an impression of sorts.


Probert’s Twitter Dictionary For Aspiring Authors

You know what it’s like: you’ve read somewhere that all writers must build their online presence so you join Twitter. You start frantically following people and pretty soon you realise that Twitter is populated by literally squillions of best-selling, award-winning superstar authors.

Fear not my friend. Here’s a quick guide that will help you break through the jargon and get a handle on what people are really saying in their Twitter profiles.

Me included.

Amazon bestselling author
On Amazon but not bestselling

Paints houses for a living

Aspiring fantasy author
Train driver who fantasises about being a writer

Train driver who uses MS Word’s thesaurus

Author and grandma
Old person who’s never been published

Award winning
Never won an award. May have purchased one online

BA in film with honours
Train driver into Breaking Bad

My friends bought it

Book series
The same idea recycled ad nauseum

Coming out in June
Publishing it myself/announcing my sexuality to the world

Christian author
Train driver who seldom works on Sunday

Conjurer of words

Creator of the xxxx trilogy
Too much time not enough talent

Erotic author
Thinks they can write Fifty Shades/unmarried middle-aged woman

Friend of God
Deluded train driver

I write short stories
Can’t concentrate long enough to write a whole book

Now published book
Couldn’t get an agent or publisher. Did it myself

Passionate about fiction
Can’t write to save my life

Posh train driver

Published author
Self-published train driver who owns a Kindle

Don’t read mine and I won’t read yours then we can trade five-star reviews

Romantic novel
Lots of innie and outie

Romance writer
Sexually frustrated train driver

Up and coming new author
Apprentice train driver

Train driver who has visited SpecSavers

Would-be writer
Honest train driver

Train driver who plays with MS Word

Writer of compelling fiction
Writer of not at all compelling fiction

Writer of humorous fiction
Writer of really unfunny fiction

Writer of epic fantasy
Writer of boring, badly written fantasy

Writer of strange tales
Writer of crap tales

Writer, mom, wife
Mom and wife

YA Novel
Thinks they can write The Hunger Games


Frank Buglioni and Steve Collins

Spent an enjoyable day yesterday with boxer Frank Buglioni and his trainer, former world super-middlewight champion Steve Collins.

Here are a few of the images that I took.


























Excerpt from Johnny Nothing – the funniest kids book since American Psycho

More shameless self-promotion. To celebrate the fact that my little kids book ‘Johnny Nothing’ is finally available in paperback here’s an excerpt in which the MacKenzie family go on a round the world trip and encounter lots of really dreadful puns.

Chapter 10 – Holiday
Now that the MacKenzie family was rich the world was their lobster. ‘I’m going on a trip!’ announced Felicity MacKenzie a couple of days after her latest spending spree. ‘And since it’s school holidays Johnny can come too. Say thank-you, Johnny.’
‘Thank-you,’ said Johnny weakly.
So the family packed up their belongings: Mrs. MacKenzie took four large trunks full of clothing, make-up and baked beans (in case she didn’t like foreign food). Mr. MacKenzie took two medium sized suitcases crammed with copies of the Racing Post, electronic gadgets and cans of lager (in case he didn’t like foreign beer). Johnny took a Sainsbury’s carrier bag stuffed with a few comics, some pencils and a change of underpants.
The trio boarded a plane to Paris in France. The grown-ups sat at the front in first class, sipping champagne and eating posh caviare sandwiches. Johnny sat at the back of the plane in economy class. There he read his comics and tried to ignore the chorus of howling babies that surrounded him. (Most airlines make it compulsory that there is at least one howling baby in the cheaper section of the plane. The idea is to encourage passengers to pay extra to go and sit in the expensive section of the plane. For long haul flights they try to ensure that there is at least three howling babies per passenger.)
When they got to Paris it took Mrs. MacKenzie only a day or so to get bored with the French. She objected to the fact that most of them didn’t speak English. And when her attempts at speaking French failed she grew restless. (In other words, she did what most English tourists do when they are abroad – she spoke English, only slower and louder than usual and expected everyone to understand what she was going on about.)
After copping an eyeful of the big tower in Paris she insisted that the family get on another plane and go somewhere better. Over the next couple of weeks they flew all over the world at tremendous cost. But nowhere was good enough for the MacKenzies:

• They went to Amsterdam but found the Dutch tulippy.
• They took a slow boat to China but they were bored to death by the time they got there.
• They went to Coventry but the locals wouldn’t talk to them.
• They flew to Warsaw but found it an eyesore.
• They found Cuba dull (although everyone else seemed to be Havana good time).
• They went to Egypt but the pyramids were like a prism.
• They went to Sao Paulo but thought the Brazilians were nuts.
• They sailed to Costa Rica but it Costa fortune.
• They got hungry in Hungary.
• So they had turkey in Turkey.
• And then chicken in Kiev.
• And crackers in Caracas.
• And visited a Deli in Delhi.
• They got thirsty in Chertsey.
• So they had high tea in Haiti.
• Then drank iced tea in the Black Sea.
• They went for a wander in Rwanda.
• Something went wrong in Hong Kong.
• They weren’t bowled over by Moldova.
• They found Chile too cold.
• They bought perfume in Cologne.
• Mr. MacKenzie had a very painful accident in Bangkok.
• They found Nuremberg a trial.
• They thought that Guinea was fowl.
• They went to a party in Toga.
• Things got vicious in Mauritius.
• They saw sea shells sitting in the Seychelles.
• They watched the Gaza Strip.
• They heard the Galway Bay.
• They saw the Colorado Springs.
• They got lost on the way to San Jose.
• They bought new pyjamas in the Bahamas.
• They couldn’t settle in Seattle.
• They got catarrh in Qatar.
• It was not so great in Crete.
• In the end they simply flew back to France – they had nothing Toulouse.

Back in France Mrs. MacKenzie declared that the rest of the world was boring. That it was dull. That it was overrated. That the food was funny. That in future she’d be taking her holidays back in England. They boarded one final plane and ended up in Weston-Super-Mare. There Mrs. MacKenzie spent a contented week sitting indoors watching the rain and complaining about the English weather, the English food, the price of alcohol, how ugly the tourists were and about how foreigners were taking over our country and should go back to where they belonged.
She smothered herself in fake tan, not forgetting to brown her eyelids. She fed lit cigarettes to the seagulls. She wore a ‘Kiss Me Quick’ hat that terrified her fellow holidaymakers. She hogged the karaoke machine. She lost hundreds of pounds playing the slot machines on the pier.
She had never been so happy.

If you fancy purchasing Johnny Nothing it’s really cheap and available at:




My book is being pirated — am I bothered? No.… Help yourself.

Yesterday someone pointed out to me that my kids book, Johnny Nothing, is available to download for free on some dodgy website. This has happened to me a few times with other books in the past but it’s a first for Johnny Nothing.

Am I bovvered? Not at all. Let them have it. Let them read it. Let them hopefully tell people about it who will also download it. Who knows whose hands it might fall into?

There are so many reasons why I cannot and will not start bleating on about people downloading my book. Probably the chief one is hypocrisy. And whilst I am not overjoyed that people are stealing my work without paying for it (believe me, I’d much rather get paid) I’m not going to waste my time trying to stop it.

So here’s the dodgy link: http://caupewinnepin1961.wordpress.com/2011/12/24/johnny-nothing-by-ian-probert-download-pdf-book/

It’s a bit of a scam because you have to sign up to download, which I have not done. Maybe you will. Alternatively, Here’s the links if you do want to get the book legitimately and buy me a beer in the process:




Fantastic book review

Just received the first review for my new/old novel ‘How to lose 14lbs in a week’. I hope the lovely Lizzie won’t mind my reblogging from here.




Nice review of Johnny Nothing