Friday, 29 January 2016

Mike Peters, Eddie Macdonald, Dave Sharp & Nigel Twist From The Alarm Feature In Bowel Cancer Charity Book

To see how you can order the Lives & Times fundraising book for the Beating Bowel Cancer charity click here.

One of my ambitions when I started doing the book was to try and photograph the four members, Mike Peters, Eddie Macdonald, Nigel Twist and Dave Sharp, from The Alarm. This was never going to be an easy challenge especially with Twist living in the United States. I knew it would be virtually impossible to get the band back together in the same room, as they hadn't appeared together on stage since the Bands Reunited concert back in 2003. I set about contacting the guys to see if I could meet and photograph them. Over the course of 12 months I completed this task, and it is one of my proudest achievements in the Lives& Times bowel cancer charity book. I will explain why these meetings account for three chapters and not four.

The first member I approached was Eddie, and I was delighted when he immediately came back with a yes. It took some time for us to arrange a meeting, but fate was on my side as he was seeing Twist in London while Twist was over for a rare visit from the States. I met them close to Oxford Street and it was a fascinating experience. It was also the 11th anniversary of the Bands Reunited performance at The Scala. Eddie has been a terrific supporter of the project and he recently sent me a photo of himself with his copy of the book.

It's currently a busy time for Eddie as his new band, Smalltown Glory, release their debut EP The Tenement Commandments Vol. 1, which is available on Pledge Music. It's a fantastic collection of five brand new songs and a new 2016 recording of, Third Light, the classic Alarm song. It's a welcome return to the music scene for Eddie and you can buy the EP here.

At the end of January I went to Llandudno in North Wales making my annual trip to see Mike at The Gathering. Mike is currently battling cancer for a third time, but his fight with Leukemia wasn't going to stop him hosting and appearing at this annual event which will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2017. My regular trips to see Mike play live gave me plenty of potential for photographing him. His wife Jules said it would be no problem doing a photograph with him, so it was a case of trying to sort out where and when. I ended up doing the photo at Abbey Road, where I took part in The Scriptures recording sessions. It was an amazing day, which was basically taking part in the recording of the world's longest song! It really was a once in a lifetime experience.

As I neared completing the book I still hadn't managed to make contact with Dave. I was going to see him play at Winchester, so I made one final attempt to contact him the week before the gig, and fortune was smiling on me as Dave messaged me saying he would be happy to meet me. This was another great experience as I got to see the sound-check before meeting and photographing him. I got to have a great chat with Dave before taking his photo, and to round off a great evening the gig was stunning.

Like many fans of The Alarm I have followed the band for over 30 years, and I have some wonderful memories. Tracking down the guys for the book probably tops the lot, well maybe except for the very first time I saw the band at The Marquee in 1983.

The book came out on November 27th, and since publication it has made over £800 for the charity. It contains over 50 chapters, 100+ photos, and 40,000 words. My mother was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2012. She underwent surgery to have the tumour removed, which was successful. However over the last four years the cancer has spread to her left lung, this is known as metastasis. She has had three operations to remove cancerous nodules, and in October we found out another nodule had appeared on the lung. Just before Mum was due to have her operation we found out that the cancer had spread. She has recently undergone "Cyberknife" treatment and now attention has turned back to the lung, which will hopefully be operated on in the next few weeks. In spite of all this she continues to be a fighter and is determined to get through this latest round of treatment.

Please support me in this fundraising venture and help beat bowel cancer. Watch the video below of my weekend at The Gathering.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Lives & Times Meets Carrie Grant

This week I received a photo from television presenter and vocal coach, Carrie Grant, with her copy of the Lives & Times fundraising book supporting the Beating Bowel Cancer charity. It was back in November 2014 that I went to Soho to meet Carrie when she was doing some voice-over work for the BBC One Show. This was another first for me and it was a fascinating experience watching how this work was done. Carrie was keen to support the book as she suffers from Crohn's disease, which is a potentially threatening bowel condition. People with Crohn's disease are a higher risk of getting bowel cancer, and the two conditions share many symptoms. Carrie has lived with Crohn's disease for more than 20 years and still suffers from excruciating stomach pains that can stop her eating for weeks. Read more about Carrie's life with Crohn's disease here

Carrie was very interested in the book and my mother's battle with bowel cancer. Once we had finished the photography we went outside and were able to have a quick chat. Carrie gave me some useful tips in my quest for meeting celebrities for which I was grateful. This was especially helpful in me finally getting to meet Gabby Logan for the book. 

Thanks to the amazing support of everyone so far, the book has raised over £750 for the Beating Bowel Cancer charity. My mother has recently completed "CyberKnife" treatment for two cancerous lesions on her brain, and it will be two months before she is scanned to see how the treatment has gone. So attention has now gone back to the cancerous nodule on her left lung, and she will be seeing the lung surgeon in the next couple of weeks to hopefully confirm that the operation to remove it can now go ahead.

To see how to order the book click here.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Lives & Times On BBC Radio 6 Music - Radcliffe and Maconie

I made my debut appearance on national radio at the end of last week. I appeared on BBC Radio 6 Music on the Radcliffe & Maconie afternoon show. They do a feature called The Chain where callers ring in to link songs and I managed to get on to give the 5668th song in The Chain so far. You can watch a video below which features the recording and some information on the Live & Times book. The song I chose was Mornington Crescent by Belle & Sebastian. The link to previous song was underground. The previous track was by The Velvet Underground and Mornington Crescent is an underground station.

I was prepped for my appearance on the show. I was asked what I did for a living, where I was and any interests I have. Naturally I mentioned the Lives & Times book and my mother's bowel cancer. Finally I was told that it was live radio, so no swearing and to turn my radio down.

Stuart Maconie and Mark Radcliffe led me through the feature making it very relaxed, enjoyable and easy for me. They also very kindly brought the book up during the interview, so I was able to give both the book and the Beating Bowel Cancer charity a massive plug. In fact I only made one schoolboy error which was forgetting to put my mobile photo on silent! And of course it rang slap bang in the middle of the interview... Fortunately Stuart & Mark being wise old pros were quick and funny to embrace that into a joke.

The book continues to do well, and it went pass the £750 mark over the last few days. My aim is still to raise £1000 so I am still relying on the continued support of everyone to help me achieve this. Breaking the book out into the mainstream public eye is one way that will help this, and an appearance on Radcliffe & Maconie was one way getting the book some welcome publicity.

So what can you expect in the book...
  • Sir Steve Redgrave CBE
  • Katherine Grainger CBE
  • Phil Parkes
  • Jonathan Agnew
  • Lorraine Kelly
  • Christopher Biggins
  • Matthew Wright
  • Freya North
  • Ben Richards
  • Carrie Grant
  • Gail Porter
  • Alan Davies
  • Shaun Keaveny
  • Mike Read
  • John Shuttleworth
  • Tom Rosenathal
  • Status Quo
  • The Stranglers
  • The Alarm
  • Clare Grogan
  • Mikes Hunt& Erica Nockalls
  • Horace Panter
  • My Mum!
And so very much more.... Over 100 photos and about 45,000 words.

So many fascinating experiences all put together in one book. Available in paperback, hardback and digital eBook. To see all the ways to order the book click here. Please support this book and every penny I make is donated to the charity.

Watch the book video trailer below.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Mum's Cancer Spreads From The Bowel To The Brain

It is not too far short of four years since Mum was diagnosed with bowel cancer. Back then I don't think any of us would have been able to predict where we would be four years on. It was about two years ago that I began work on, Lives & Times, my second fundraising book. At that moment in time Mum had been in remission for a year, and although we always knew there was a chance that the cancer could return, we had pretty much put it behind us. Unfortunately the cancer returned towards the end of 2014 with a nodule on her lung. Mum had already had surgery on her lung just after the original bowel operation. At the beginning of 2015 she had surgery and it was once again successful and Mum was able to pick up her life once again.

During 2015 I pressed on with finishing the book and set a publication date of November 27th. Unfortunately in October at a routine scan another secondary cancerous nodule had appeared on her lung. I think the events of the previous three years had prepared us by this time for such news. It was still a massive shock of course, but Mum knew exactly what would be in store for her in terms of the operation which was set for the beginning of December.

On Friday November 27th, 2015, the Lives & Times fundraising book for the Beating Bowel Cancer charity was published after 18 months of meeting and photographing people. It was an incredibly proud day for me and the response from everyone was amazing ensuring the book has been a great success. However November 27th was also the day when Mum's health took a drastic turn for the worst. Late in the evening she experienced a seizure. At first a stroke was suspected as her speech was affected as well as a weakness in one side of her face, so Mum was kept in hospital for observation. It was then we had the bad news that the cancer had spread to her brain. I have to admit that it had never occurred to me that the cancer would spread there, I thought it had made her lung it's area of attack. Once again this was a secondary cancer from the bowel cancer. She has two lesions on her brain...

A plan of action was put in place very quickly, and at the beginning of January she had three days of "CyberKnife" treatment at Mount Vernon Hospital. This fairly new radiotherapy treatment is very specific in the way it can target the lesions, and the hope is that it will successfully zap the two lesions on her brain. It will be a couple of months before Mum knows the result of the treatment. All this while the nodule on the lung has also been waiting to be treated. This week Mum's oncologist told her that they want to press on with the lung operation. If the lung surgeon agrees this should happen within a few weeks. 

It's been a testing period for sure, and Mum, throughout, has remained positive and very determined to beat the cancer yet again. She will be 80 later this year, though you wouldn't know it the way she continues to keep herself active. She is very frustrated that the brain cancer is preventing her from driving, but she is allowed to ride her beloved horse off road, which is wonderful and provides her with a means of escape and getting away from everything. It's definitely a case of taking things one day at a time at the moment, and for now Mum has turned her attention back towards the lung. She has been through such a lot and is truly inspirational.

So what about the photo? I took this photo on New Years Day at my brother's birthday drinks. From left to right we have Mum, my cousin Sarah, my niece Anna and my sister Ali. Anna had taken charge of the selfie photographs and I managed to capture a lovely moment. Just three days before the "CyberKnife" treatment Mum pressed on as normal and thoroughly enjoying a night out with the family. It's a photo I could easily have used in the book I reckon!

I am even more determined to keep pushing the book forwards and making it as successful as possible. It has raised just under £750 so far. I am hopeful that it will achieve the £1000 goal I set for it back on November 27th. So much support from everyone. From the many celebrities and normal people in the book, to the kindness and generosity of so many people who have bought the book so far. I know when people see a book about bowel cancer it can bring up images of doom and gloom, and not exactly seem like an enticing topic for bedtime reading. All I can say is that the book is anything but that. It's warm, inspiring and uplifting. In fact it is perfect bedtime reading. Most importantly every copy sold, be it the eBook, paperback or hardback edition, raises not just money for the Beating Bowel Cancer charity, but also helps raise awareness about bowel cancer.

To see how you can buy a copy of Lives & Times click here.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Lives & Times Duchess of York

To see how you can buy a copy of Lives & Times click here. ALL proceeds raised are donated to the Beating Bowel Cancer charity. The book has raised over £700 so far.

Over the course of the 18 months that it took to put the book together I had to get used to having my requests turned down. I came round to the idea of thinking that I had absolutely nothing to lose in asking someone to be in the book. The worst that could happen would be a "no".

A year or so ago I approached the Duchess of York to be in Lives & Times. I was helped with this by Dafydd Wyn Farr-Jones, a friend I have made through my fundraising efforts. He was actually a great help with, not only the Duchess of York, but also with Lorraine Kelly, who I did manage to meet and photograph for the book. Dafydd has beaten bowel cancer and does a huge amount of fundraising for Beating Bowel Cancer including regular auctions that feature items donated by celebrities. His next auction at begins on February 4th.

I hadn't received a response from the Duchess of York until today that is. I received a very kind email from her office apologising for the delayed reply, thanking me for my request and sending best wishes to my mother. These kind of messages of support are wonderful and give me a real boost. Not one for missing an opportunity I did ask if the Duchess might appear in a new book if I decide to do another one! Watch this space...

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

John Coghlan of Status Quo Sends Video Message Supporting Bowel Cancer Charity Book

John Coghlan, from Status Quo, very kindly sent me a video message supporting the new book. Back in March 2014 one of the first photo sessions for the Lives & Times book was photographing the classic Status Quo Frantic Four line-up from the press pit at the Hammersmith Apollo. I had contacted the band's management trying to meet the band, and they immediately offered me the once in a lifetime opportunity to photograph the band from the press pit!

The chapter tells the story of the evening and features some great photos up close and personal.  It turned into quite an adventure so please support the new book, which was published on November 27th. The above photo was taken a couple of days earlier when I was just attending the first of the three gigs as a fan, and this photo was probably from about 4 or 5 rows back down at the front with my gig camera. By going to the first concert I got an idea of what it was going to be like and got my bearings for the Monday night gig, and it was a stunning show. Billed as the last time the classic line-up would tour, I like many others are hoping that this is not the case and we get to see them play together again.

The photos from the press pit are pretty special if I say so myself. The support from the band has been terrific, and they have put a post publicising the book on their Facebook page which you can see here.

To see how you can buy a copy of Lives & Times click here. ALL proceeds raised are donated to the Beating Bowel Cancer charity. The book has raised over £700 so far.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Norma de Bidaph Lives & Times

Norma de Bidaph, who runs the Gearlink Kawasaki motorbike team with her husband Michael, features in the Lives & Times book. Norma is in remission from bowel cancer and has undergone two operations in her cancer fight. We first came into contact after Norma bought the first book Beating Bowel Cancer. She is a keen fundraiser for bowel cancer charities and has been especially supportive of my fundraising efforts.

The chapter on Norma in the book moves away from the celebrity angle of many of the chapters and shows how the book contains chapters on the everyday person as well. She invited me to the Thruxton Circuit to a round of the British Superbikes Championship. In the chapter I describe our meeting, Norma's successful battle with bowel cancer and my whole experience including my efforts to photograph the motorbikes that were flying past at speeds in excess of 200mph. It was much easier to photograph, Ben Wilson, one of the Gearlink team in the team's garage! :)

Like many who have battles with cancer Norma doesn't consider herself brave, but just having to face the illness head on. I found her truly inspirational, and the affection she is held in by everyone associated with the sport was shown time and time again during the day. She is absolutely lovely and looked after me very well in spite of being on the go non-stop all day. I am looking forward to returning to a race meeting and seeing Norma again sometime soon.

To see how you can buy a copy of Lives & Times click here. ALL proceeds raised are donated to the Beating Bowel Cancer charity. The book has raised over £700 so far.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Nadine Dorries Lives & Times

When I began writing Lives & Times I tried contacting a few of the local politicians in Berkshire where I live. I was somewhat disappointed when I didn't get one single reply, and I gave up on the idea of including MPs in the book. This was to change when I came into contact with Nadine Dorries, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Mid Bedfordshire. Through an exchange of messages on Twitter I found out that she had bought my first book Beating Bowel Cancer. With nothing to lose I asked Nadine if she would be in the new book and I was delighted when she agreed. Nadine had in fact lost a close friend to bowel cancer, so she was keen to support the book project.

The chapter in the book describes exactly what happened. It was an amazing experience that was very typical of many in the book. I thought that Nadine would meet me at her constituency office, but instead I was invited up to the Houses of Parliament and I met her on outside terrace that overlooks the River Thames. Over the course of an hour I went through tunnels under Parliament Square, had tea with Nadine and ended up being given a grilling by an armed police officer. It's all in the book!

Nadine is of course also a very successful author in her own right. I look on in envy at her wonderfully high rankings on the Amazon best sellers list, and I can only dream for such success. It would be nice to borrow just a few of her avid readers for Lives & Times. Her support throughout has been brilliant and it was fantastic meeting Nadine.

To see how you can buy a copy of Lives & Times click here. ALL proceeds raised are donated to the Beating Bowel Cancer charity.

Monday, 11 January 2016

David Bowie Grows His Angel Wings After Losing Cancer Battle

Today the very sad news broke about the sad passing of music legend David Bowie. Another victim to cancer, which once again sadly shows that is does not discriminate and can take literally anyone. 

Like most people I am deeply saddened to hear the news today. I may not claim to be the world's greatest Bowie fan, but I was always musically challenged by his music, and there is no greater tribute I can pay him that. I remember Ashes to Ashes from 1980 with its surreal video and regardless of whether you liked the track or not you had to sit up and take notice. His musical legacy is timeless and what a fantastic body of music he has left for future generations to enjoy. The world is a worse off for his passing.

Let us also not forget just how many people continue to battle with cancer. My Mum has been battling bowel since 2012 and the purpose of the Lives & Times charity book I recently published is to raise funds for the Beating Bowel Cancer charity and to help raise awareness about the disease. To see how you can buy a copy of Lives & Times click here.

David Bowie has grown his angel wings. R.I.P.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Gabby Logan, Lorraine Kelly, Steve Redgrave, Shaun Keaveny, Freya North & Many Others Feature In New Charity Book

Over a period of 18 months I met Gabby Logan, Lorraine Kelly, Steve Redgrave and many others for the recently published Lives & Times charity book. All proceeds from sales of the book will be donated to the Beating Bowel Cancer charity, which I have been supporting since 2012 when my mother was diagnosed with bowel cancer. To see how you can buy a copy of Lives & Times click here.

The journey gave me so many fascinating experiences. To meet such a diverse range of people including many household names was fantastic. Everyone gave up their time to participate in the book, and the support and encouragement I have received from them has been amazing. To see a more complete list of the celebrities taking part click here.

I have had some great support from best selling author Freya North. She is an ambassador for the charity, and we actually got to meet up to take her photograph for the book before a gig by The Charlatans at The Roundhouse in London. 

Shaun Keaveny, host of the BBC 6 Music breakfast show, was one of the final photographs I took for the book, and the chapter on him also describes how I had to make the trip up to the BBC twice to get his photo. 

I met Sir Steve Redgrave in Marlow by his statue on the banks of the River Thames. We chatted more about local rowing than his Olympic exploits. My late father was a keen local oarsman and it was fascinating to how many names in the local rowing fraternity they had in common. 

To date the book has raised over £700 for the charity. Every purchase makes a difference, and I hope that people will find the book interesting, entertaining and uplifting. Bowel cancer remains the second highest cancer killer in the United Kingdom, and as well as raising funds the purpose of the book is to help raise awareness about bowel cancer.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Charity Cancer Book Trailer On iMovie

This is the first video trailer for the Lives & Times charity book I have made using the iMovie app. It was great fun using this particular template and being able to manipulate static images. At about a minute and a half in length it's not over long, and with the background music as part of the template it all works very well. 

It's quite a challenge trying to come up with promotional material for the book that will make it sound "sexy". Bowel cancer is not a subject that generally conjures up happy images. When people come across the book on search engines it would not surprise me if they click away thinking that a book about bowel cancer is going to be a difficult read and is not for them. However in fact the book is certainly a warm and uplifting read, and the video shows many of the celebrities featured in the book. The common theme you will see is happy faces. This was typical of the photo sessions for the book, with everyone happy to get involved and support the book. This also carried through into the writing, with so many wonderful experiences documented in the book.

The book has raised over £700 so far for the Beating Bowel Cancer charity, and I am convinced that if I can find a way to break it into the mainstream book buying world it could raise a lot more for the charity. I am hoping that this video will be one step towards achieving that.

To see how you can buy a copy of Lives & Times click here.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Some Basic Facts About Bowel Cancer

Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK today. Although more than 7 in 10 of the people diagnosed with bowel cancer are aged 65 and over, bowel cancer can affect anyone at any age. Bowel cancer affects around 1 in 20 women and 1 in 16 men in the UK every year, and is the second biggest cause of cancer deaths. Despite these shocking statistics, at least one in 4 people is completely unaware of the disease, or the symptoms associated with it. The reasons for this are not always clear, but we do know that we often shy away from talking openly about bowels and bottoms, even to our doctor. The aim of the Lives & Times book is to raise awareness about bowel cancer and funds for the Beating Bowel Cancer​ charity.

To see how you can buy a copy of Lives & Times click here.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Mum Has CyberKnife Treatment Bowel Cancer Metastasis

This photo is one of my favourite photos from the Christmas & New Year holidays. My brother Noel has his birthday on January 1st, so we had a get together at The Cricketers pub at Littlewick Green near Maidenhead. My niece Anna (2nd right) was in her element entertaining everyone throughout the evening. I managed to capture a photo of Anna taking a family selfie with, from left to right, Mum, my cousin Sarah, Anna, and my sister Ali. They were completely unaware of me doing this and it's a lovely photo of happy, smiling faces.

Mum is suffering from secondary cancer, otherwise known as cancer metastasis. This is where the cancer spreads to other parts of the body from the primary site. In Mum's case the cancer has spread from the bowel to her lungs, and unfortunately in the last few weeks it has now spread further. She was due to have an operation on her left lung before Christmas to remove a cancerous nodule, but this was put back while she underwent CyberKnife treatment at Mount Vernon Hospital. She had this treatment over three consecutive days this week, and if everything goes to plan attention will then turn back onto the lung. She has a follow up appointment next week. Mum has now been battling bowel cancer for over three and a half years and this latest battle is right up there as being one of the toughest she has faced. Her positive approach and determination to beat the cancer is amazing and she is a true inspiration...

It brings home to me why I spent 18 months putting the Lives & Times book together. Aside from the fundraising, if the book can help raise awareness and help prevent just one person from going through what Mum and too many others like her have had to go through, then it will have more than done its job. I have just donated £100.55 to Beating Bowel Cancer from the latest book royalties, which brings the total amount raised so far to £729.47. I am truly thankful to everyone who has bought the book so far. 

To see all the ways you can order the book click here.