Umbridge – episode two

February 15, 2018

An everyday story of extraordinary country folk

Episode Two

The story so far:-

Young John Farmer arrives home from University to find that all is not well at Rookfield Farm.  The prize boar Quinton, is unwell and will not touch its daily ration of Old Bart’s Triple X Special Bitter.  In fact, the pig will not eat or drink anything except lemonade.  Later that day, in the public bar of the ‘Chick Inn’, John is horrified to find that his father, Loon E Farmer, is unable to drink his pint of Old Bart’s beer and instead asks for a glass of lemonade.

Now read on:-

It was three days later and Jack Door, the landlord of ‘The Chick Inn’, was back behind the pumps when John Farmer entered the public bar carrying a large empty rucksack on his shoulder that he set down on the bar.

            “Good morning, Jack,” he said.  “Could I have four pints of Old Bart’s and four bottles of lemonade to take away please?”

            “Certainly, lad.  And ‘ow be things at Rookfield Farm?”

            “Oh, things are a lot better.  We’ve heard from the Lab and they’ve found out what’s wrong with Quinton.  Apparently what he’s got is caused by a very rare virus called Triple X Lemonade Disease.  Mr Marriot says that the only way to cure it is to drink pints of shandy and then to slowly decrease the lemonade content.”

            Jack scratched his head.  “Aye, they be clever people those scientists at that Lab.  And ‘ow’s yer Dad?”

            “Oh, he’s at home in bed.  Mother says that once we’ve cured Quinton we can then start treating Father.”

            Jack nodded in agreement.  “That be very wise.  It would be a shame to loose a fine hog like Quinton.  Is that beer and lemonade for ‘im?”

            “That’s right could you put it in the rucksack for me?”

            John left the pub with the laden rucksack on his back and started along the road towards Rookfield Farm.

            “John!”  The cry came from behind him and he turned.  It was Grace, the fifteen stone daughter of the Reverent Philip Ourchurch, on her new bicycle.  She rode up to him and stopped.  “Hello, John,” she said.  “I heard you were home.  I thought you didn’t recognise me.”  John stood and stared.  She smiled and said, “I was a little girl when you left home.  Now I’ve grown up.”

            John swallowed hard.  “You certainly look amazing, Grace,” he remarked.

            “Do you like my new bicycle?” she asked.

            “It looks very nice.”  He paused and seemed uncertain.  “Actually, Grace, I wonder if I dare ask you something?”

            “Certainly, John.  What is it?”

            “It’s rather embarrassing really.”

            “Go on, John,” said Grace.  “You can tell me.”

What does John want to ask Grace?  Is there romance in the air or does he simply want a go on her new bike?  Will Quinton and Loon survive the dreaded Triple X Lemonade Disease.  Find out in the next exciting installment of UMBRIDGE.


Umbridge – the birth of a literary career

February 8, 2018

In the early 1980s, I and a colleague started a workplace newsletter at the then MAFF Central Veterinary Laboratory where we both worked.  The CVL changed its name in the 1990s, MAFF has become part Defra and the CVL is now a UK Government Agency.  To fill the scant newsletter content and to assure readers that the newsletter would be published each month, I started a quiz and a regular comic serial.  The serial had a veterinary agriculture theme and was inspired by the long running BBC radio soap, The Archers.

The serial developed a cult following among some of its readers and some years later I published it on various writing websites under the penname of Jack Lindsey.  Later it inspired the publication of my first novel, Cogrill’s Mill.  Followers of my blog and those of you who have bought and enjoyed Cogrill’s Mill might like to read the work that inspired my first forays into publishing so I have posted Umbridge’s first episode below.  If it proves popular, I propose to post the remaining six future episodes each week over the next six weeks.

The ebook of Cogrill’s Mill is currently on promotion on the Amazon Kindle Store and is available for £0.99/$1.37 at:

Keith Jahans

Umbridge – episode one

February 8, 2018

An everyday story of extraordinary country folk

It was a bright sunny day and the birds were singing.  Young John Farmer got off the bus at the gate to Rookfield Farm and made his way across the muck-filled yard, a suitecase in either hand.  Little did he know what lay in store for him.

            The farm-house door was opened by Mrs Stitis the daily-help.  “Why, Master John!” she exclaimed joyously.

            “Hello, Ma,” said John.  “I’m home from university.  Is Mother home?”

            “She be out back strangling the chickens.  Come in !”

            Meanwhile, down at the pig-sty, John’s father, Loon E Farmer, was examining his prize boar Quinton, with the local veterinary surgeon.  “It be like this, Mr Marriot,” he was saying, “‘E’s off ‘is food an’ won’t perform wi’ the gilts.  Not only that – ‘E won’t touch ‘is daily ration of Old Bart’s Special Bitter.  ‘E won’t drink nothing but lemonade.”

            “I don’t understand it,” said the vet scratching his head, “but I’ve taken a couple of samples and will send them off to MAFF.  If anyone knows what’s wrong they will!”

            “I s’pose it could be worse.  ‘E could be drinkin’ larger.”

Marriot left in his car, whistling the tune to ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’, and Loon Farmer made his way to the farmhouse.  When he entered he was greeted by his wife and son.   “Look, Loon,” beamed his wife, “our John is home!”

            “Hello, Father.  I’ve got a first-class degree in Agriculture with distinction.  I can be a great help to you on the farm!”

            “Aye lad, tomorrow you can scrap the muck off the yard and then you can feed the pigs.  Come!  Let’s be down to the pub while your mother gets the dinner.”

            A little while later, Jack Door the landlord of the ‘Chick Inn’, was pouring both father and son two pints of Old Bart’s Tripple X Special Bitter.  Loon gripped one of the glasses in his hand, blew the froth off the top of the beer and took a sip.

            Suddenly, his face went white and his hand shook as he put the glass back down on the bar,

            “Are you all right, Father?” asked John with concern.

Loon could scarcely speak and when he did his voice was very faint.  “Jack,” he said, “could I have a glass of lemonade?”

            “My God!”  exclaimed Jack in horror.  “Loon!  What be wrong?”

Yes, what is wrong?  Will MAFF find the answer?  Does anyone realise the full significance of Ma Stitis on Rookfield Farm.  Find out next month in the next exciting episode of Umbridge!


Book Review – Jim Laker: Nineteen for Ninety by Brian Scovell

January 29, 2018

I met the author, Brian Scovell, in November 2015 at the Folkestone Book Festival where I bought a signed copy of this book and, such is the length of my book reading list, it is only now I have managed to read what I found to be a riveting book.

Jim Laker was one of my sporting heroes.  Even though I was born and brought up in Bristol I have lived most of my life in Surrey and have followed the exploits of Surrey County Cricket Club for many years.  Laker plied his trade in a generation of cricketers that preceded those I followed and I only got to know of him from his work as a TV commentator long after he retired as a player.

He seldom appeared on camera but from his manner and through the sound of his voice always appeared to be a gentleman.  It therefore came as a complete surprise that I read that he was banned from Surrey CCC and the prestigious MCC for four and seven years respectively.  This was due to his book, “Over to Me,” which was ghost written shortly after his playing days and criticised a number of prominent men who were instrumental in running national and international cricket at the time.  Laker admitted that he should have been more vigilant in reading the proofs prior to publication but publishers then, as they still do now, relish controversy as this invariably serves to increase book sales.

But it is his expertise as arguably England’s foremost off-spin bowler is how he should be remembered.  His feat of taking 19 test wickets in one game in 1956 was a remarkable achievement and will probably never be surpassed.

This is an adsorbing read for anyone interested in the game.  On first reading the events appear dated but it is the nature of the game of cricket that occurrences similar to those that befell Laker can happen today.

Keith Jahans


Jim Laker: Nineteen for Ninety by Brian Scovell
is published in hardback by The History Press

The lost art of vehicle maintenance

January 15, 2018

A week before Christmas 2017 I found that I was unable to open the boot door of my Nissan Note.  I googled this problem and found out that a number of others had experienced the same difficulty and that this was a well known problem with Nissan’s.  The suggested solution was to lower the back seats, climb into the boot space, prise off the door panel and release the door mechanically.  It then seemed that there was probably something wrong with the wiring to the electronic lock which needed addressing.

Years ago I would have tried to fix it myself, but I feel those days are long gone as I am not as agile or as confident as I once was of working on cars in confined spaces.  So I phoned a local dealer and discovered that they were all booked up and was also told that I needed to pay them £50 to diagnose the problem.  It seemed to me I had already diagnosed the problem.  The door was jammed and it should not take a specialised dealer mechanic long to fix it.

However, modern cars are different animals to the vehicles I drove twenty or even fifteen years ago.  They are electronically controlled moving machines regulated by micro computerised systems.  Car doors used to be opened by simple lock and keys, but now they are mostly unlocked, as is the case of my Nissan, by pressing a button on a key fob which can be done several meters away.  These convenient innovations are useful as usually a noise sounds and the indicator lights flash, which make it easier to locate a vehicle in a busy car park that.  Useful, that is until something goes wrong.

In my motorcycling days in the 1970s and 1980s, I was able to fix most minor mechanical problems myself.  Spares were readily available and there were printed manuals that could guide your way (For those, interested check out my ebook Bike Travelling Man: a life with two motorcycles at  But modern vehicles are governed by computerised engine management systems and on-board communications gadgets link your mobile telephone and satellite navigation devices to controls on the dashboard.  It is small wonder that when something seemingly simple goes wrong the average motorist has not got a clue how to fix it.  Thus, it seems that the vehicle owner who is readily able to repair his own means of transport is now a creature of the past.

Keith Jahans

Book Piracy – Threat or Opportunity?

December 12, 2017

My first thought when I discovered that my books were being pirated was that someone was stealing from me.  One site even claimed that they had over 2000 downloads of one of my ebooks.  That is several times more than I have given away with Amazon Kindle free promotions.  But they could have, and probably were, lying as after all they had been behaving dishonestly.  I emailed them a complaint and they seemed to have desisted as I can no longer find it on their site when searching via Google.

Such sites are dangerous to download from as it is possible that any downloads might contain viruses that could at best disrupt your computer or at worse steal your encrypted data/passwords.  I even found the black and white cover of my novel “Cogrill’s Mill” on a colouring page website.  Now that was something I did not expect and made me think that I was possibly missing out on a promotion possibility.

Everyone expects that their hard format books will be lent or given away to charities at some point.  I have given my own titles away or sold them at vastly reduced prices as part of promotions so I suppose I can look on pirated copies as another means of book promotion.  My only request is that someone who reads a book they have acquired this way, and have enjoyed it, will seek to reward the author for entertaining them by buying a legitimate copy from an approved retailer.  After all that is the way some of us seek to earn a living.

Keith Jahans
Editor, Peatmore Press

Book Review – Forget Me Not: An anthology of short stories by Kitty Campanile

October 13, 2017

Writing short stories is a different art to the novel and difficult to do, but Kitty Campanile is an expert.  There are some real gems here.  Because they are so short these are ideal if you are looking for a distraction between tasks or are a car, train or plane passenger.  Each one is a delight and well worth the read.

Keith Jahans

Forget Me Not is sold by Amazon and is available
as a paperback and as a Kindle ebook