Monday, 19 February 2018

Why are you still here?

After years of coping with the idiosyncrasies of Blogger and having to explain why I don't have a "proper" website, I have given in and my blog now appears on my shiny new site tomwilliamsauthor.co.uk. Old posts are still archived here and, for now, I copy blogs from the new site to this one – although they may turn up here a little late.

I'd really appreciate it if you would start looking at the new website. It's much easier to contact me or comment on posts using tomwilliamsauthor.co.uk and it's a good place to find news about my latest books – or latest anything else that might be of interest. More importantly, spreading readership across two sites means the both of them become relatively difficult for search engines to pick up. So if everybody uses the new site, it will be easier for people to find in the future and you'll be part of a growing community (as all these social media gurus say). And it really will make my life easier.

As far as I can see, there is absolutely no downside to visiting the new site. When I refer back to old blogs, links on the new site just come through here the same way as they do at the moment. And any improvements that I make in the way stuff is laid out or bonus bits and pieces (like the newsletter I'm trying to start) will only be working on the new site. Why not click through and have a look at it today?

Thank you.

Friday, 16 February 2018

A Palace of Peace

If you regularly read my Friday posts on this blog, you will have noticed that last week I was a day late. This is because on Friday I was away visiting Den Haag (The Hague).


It’s a nice little town, quiet and pretty, but unless you are a fan of art galleries, there isn’t a great deal to interest the average tourist, so many visitors will end up visiting the famous model village at Madurodam. Personally, I wasn’t impressed (you can see my Trip Advisor review here) but it did feature quite a nice model of the Peace Palace. I recommend that model, because it’s the closest you are going to get to the real thing.


The Peace Palace is another of the attractions that the guide books recommend to visitors. It was designed as a temple to peace. It is a place of stunning beauty with artworks from all over the world so that countries could provide a concrete gesture of their support for the idea that disputes could be resolved by arbitration rather than through warfare. The walls are covered with decorative tiling and the ceilings are elaborately painted.
For anyone interested in the history of the place, the first suggestion that there might be a mismatch between its ideals and the practical realities of the world comes with the fact that it was opened in 1913. The next year, of course, the First World War started.
Nowadays the Peace Palace is home to the International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Outside the gates is a little monument with stones from all the countries of the world that acknowledge the jurisdiction of these courts. There is an eternal flame – the flame of peace – that burns beside the road. It’s quite touching to see the way that people come to acknowledge the importance of peace at such a building.
I looked forward to seeing inside this beautiful place, which stood for something so important, or maybe exploring the gardens.
I was in Den Haag because my wife was attending a conference at the Peace Palace. I turned up with her that morning to see it. ‘Make sure you get there early,’ she’d been told. ‘The security can take a while.’ Guards looked at the underside of vehicles with mirrors; everything went through an x-ray machine. Her credentials and passport were checked – there was no question at all of my going in, even to get a glimpse of the entrance hall, but, still, there was always the visitor centre. ‘It opens at 11.00,’ a friendly guard told me.
So at 11.00 I was back and I went into the visitor centre, just outside the gates. There I saw photographs of the wonderful architecture and old film of Kaisers and Czars attending conferences there, negotiating peace for the world.
The route through the visitor centre leads to another entrance to the security gate I had been at earlier, but the door through was firmly locked. ‘There is no entrance to the Peace Palace or grounds,’ the notice said.
I trudged away through the snow (it had started snowing), past those optimistic shrines to peace. There was a peace tree, where people, ordinary people who had come, like me, to see the palace, had written their wishes for peace and attached them to the branches of a bare little tree just outside the gates.
The whole place is built for its symbolic impact, but the impact it had on me was not what the builders had intended. To me, it looked like a beautiful palace in which important men in big cars could meet in fantastic surroundings to talk about peace, though the world seems to be filled with war and rumours of war. Outside, ordinary people look through the gates, imagining the wonders of a place dedicated to peace and fastening their wishes to the peace tree – but they will never be allowed in. The wonders of the palace aren’t for them. They’re just the little people and the Palace of Peace can only be protected if walls and gates and security guards keep them safely outside. Peace, after all, is far too precious for everybody to have access to it.
I’ve heard that people can get in. My wife, for example, had presumably appreciated it. ‘Oh no,’ she said. ‘Our conference was held in a little annex round the back.’ Obviously she wasn’t important enough to share the rulers’ dreams of peace either.
The real Peace Palace: outside looking in

NOTE: I’ve checked and it seems that the Palace is sometimes open for guided tours, this weekend being one of those special dates. Tours are limited to 20 people at a time. I don’t think this really changes the point I’m making.

Ed Reardon's Week

Ed Reardon is the star of ‘Ed Reardon’s Week’ which, from time to time, gets the odd half hour on Radio 4. Back in 2005 his adventures were transformed into a book (also Ed Reardon’s Week) which I have somehow only now got round to reading.

Reardon is a brilliant comic character, though sadly unaware of how funny he is. His first novel, Who Would Fardels Bear?was a great literary success. As a fan of the radio series, I know that Reardon was tipped as a young man to watch in a Sunday magazine feature back in the 1960s. Sadly, despite penning one episode of Tenko, his career has since then failed to flourish and he has been reduced to ghost-writing for celebrity cooks, sportsmen, and, for all I know, Victoria Beckham (although he is far too professional to admit the last one).
His divorce exhausted whatever funds he may have acquired from his early success and he is now reduced to living in a flat over a hairdressing salon where he is becoming increasingly bitter about a world that has rejected his genius in favour of (in his view) the inane wittering of 12-year-old television executives.
Reardon’s persona allows the authors to express their trenchant views on everything from the state of modern publishing through the inadequacies of the railway system to the doubtful joys of living in Berkhamsted (“the fastest-growing property market in Europe”). The writers are thus able to enjoy the privilege offered to court jesters, through the ages: saying politically incorrect things to poke fun at the modern world, whilst simultaneously insisting that these aren’t their views, just those of the appalling old dinosaur, Reardon. It’s great fun, though, like most satire, increasingly difficult to keep up as the idiocies of the life today overtake anything that the writers’ imagination can produce.
Back in 2005 when the world was young and London buses had yet to tell you to hold on because they were “about to move” thirty seconds after they had already done so, Reardon’s acerbic comments were still simultaneously wildly exaggerated and bang on point. If you have ever enjoyed anything with “Grumpy Old” in the title, you’ll love Ed Reardon, the archetypal grumpy late middle-aged man.
For writers (and I believe that some of the people who read this blog may be writers) it is Reardon’s continual struggles to produce anything remotely worthwhile and to persuade his publishers to give him an advance on his latest idea that particularly resonates. Reardon’s orgies of self-pity are in part justified by the success of his friend Jaz Milvane who, having adapted Who Would Fardels Bear Into an appallingly saccharine Hollywood movie, has gone on to massive commercial success.
The characters of Ed and Jaz are stolen from George Gissing’s 1891 classic New Grub Street, which pokes less fun at the institutions of the day but concentrates its withering fire on publishing. Edmund is a genuine literary genius, but his books are not commercially successful. Jasper, on the other hand, is an appalling hack who turns out rubbish that he knows to be rubbish but which is carefully crafted to meet the market. Ed, inevitably, faces increasingly desperate hardship and literary obscurity, while Jasper grows rich and successful.
The modern Reardon is not averse to writing for the market either – he’s just not very good at it. He resents readers, publishers and, most of all, his terrible agent who long ago lost interest in him and who has now fobbed him off on Ping, a young woman whose Oxford education has left her, in Reardon’s view, unfitted for literary life, but who somehow seems richer, more assured and more successful than him.
The book could be a miserable wallow in grumpiness and self-pity (the original New Grub Street definitely veers in that direction), but, unlike Gissing’s novel, this is unremittingly funny, whether detailing Ed’s efforts to earn ten pounds by taking part in identity parades (“ the experience might furnish me with useful research material”) or his disastrous attempts at speed dating. But for writing friends, there is a particularly poignant humour in his increasingly desperate attempts to produce what his publishers demand.
“Basically the brief is: celeb cats and dogs grumbling about their owners. What does the Downing Street moggy really think about Cheri Blair?”
“Just cats and dogs?” I asked, out of politeness.
“No – rabbits, hamsters, whatever. You’re the author. Could even be a fun chapter by an Aussie insect about what it’s like to be eaten by Janet Street-Porter. It’s so you.”
Ed Reardon’s Week also avoids the tragic ending of New Grub Street. Ed [spoiler alert] does not die in a garret. Strictly speaking, if the authors were models of artistic integrity, he would. But his survival ensures that Radio 4 listeners will be able to laugh at him another day. And, until the next series, there’s always this book to keep us amused.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

James Burke: the first three books

Since the beginning of the year Endeavour Press have republished all three of the existing books about James Burke. There are two more already planned in the series which will take us back to Burke's first experience as a British spy and will see him fighting with Wellington's army in Spain. 

Just in case you haven't met James Burke yet (though I can hardly believe any of my blog readers won't have bought at least one of the books by now), here's a summary of what you're missing. Last week saw the publication of 'Burke at Waterloo'. 

James Burke, was a real person and his first adventure ('Burke in the Land of Silver') was based on a true story. The other two are written around actual events, but Burke's role in them is entirely fictional. It's given me more of a free hand in developing James Burke as a sort of cross between Bernard Cornwell's Richard Sharpe and Ian Fleming's James Bond. The stories aren't really written in order (there's quite a long time gap in the middle of the first book and the adventures in the second one fill that gap) and you don't have to read them in order. But I did realise the other day that if you buy all three on Kindle, you can get them for a whisker under £7.($10.97 in the US.) That's a quarter of a million words of Napoleonic adventure for £6.97. You'd be mad not to, really.

Anyway, her's what you get for your money.

Burke in the Land of Silver 

James Burke is sent to South America to prepare for a British invasion. (We're not that keen on the Spanish at the time.) All goes well until the British occupy Buenos Aires and, instead of allying with the locals, start treating them slightly worse than the Spaniards had. Burke's attempts to negotiate a British withdrawal end with him in front of a firing squad.

There's more double-dealing, wild women and political intrigue than you could ever make up. A thrilling tale from a time when the world was in turmoil and a few good men (or, I'm afraid, quite often bad men) could change the course of history.

Burke and the Bedouin 

In 1798, there were rumours that the French might be planning an expedition to Egypt. James Burke is despatched by the British Secret Service to see if there is any evidence of French activity in the country. Irritated by what he thinks will turn out a wild goose chase, Burke is far more interested in the fate of Bernadita, the Spanish girl he finds imprisoned as a slave in Cairo, than he is in improbable French agents. Then, fleeing with Bernadita, he stumbles across the French plot.

The race is on to stop Napoleon and Burke sets in motion a train of events that ends in one of the great naval battles of the Napoleonic Wars.

The Review described 'Burke and the Bedouin' as "an entertaining light read", which is good, because that's what I set out to write. The history is solid, though, (and the Historical Novel Society likes the battle scenes).

Burke at Waterloo

If you write stories set in the Napoleonic Wars, it's the law that you have to do Waterloo. 18 June is the 200th anniversary of the battle, so now seemed a good time to have Burke there at Napoleon's downfall.

Burke is sent to Paris where Bonapartists are plotting the assassination of the Duke of Wellington. (For some reason, the history books tend to neglect this, but they really were.) Having foiled their dastardly plans (spoiler: the Duke of Wellington survives), Burke pursues their leader to Brussels where people are far too busy celebrating the peace to think that Napoleon is still a threat to Europe.

Then the Corsican Tyrant flees Elba and everything changes.

As Wellington arrives in Brussels and Europe prepares once again for war, Burke is at the centre of affairs. And his own mission and the fight against Napoleon both come to a bloody climax on the field of Waterloo.

Paul Collard (author of the Jack Lark series) said of this book,"This really is historical fiction as it should be written."


What reviewers have said about James Burke

"James Bond in breeches, this novel (and others in the series) should satisfy fans of the era and the Sharpe novels." Laura Wilkinson on Amazon

"... exciting, clear, fast moving and so interesting about the history and geography of the time" on Amazon

"Tom Williams brings Burke and his adventures in South America to vivid life through telling but never intrusive detail" on Amazon

"Great swashbuckling fun!" on Amazon

Friday, 2 February 2018

The escape from Elba

Burke at Waterloo should be published this weekend.
At the start of the book Napoleon is safely in exile on Elba, Louis XVIII has been installed on the throne in Paris and the victorious Allies are planning the future of 19th-century Europe. Then, suddenly, Napoleon is back. Louis has fled and French armies are marching on Brussels.
How did it happen? How did Napoleon escape from Elba?
In my last post about Napoleon on Elba we saw that he was becoming increasingly dissatisfied with life there. He could probably have coped with the boredom – he had always been fascinated by detail and immersed himself in the various projects he had set up on the island – but he was not prepared to tolerate the French reneging on their promise to pay him a pension or the attempts to keep him from his son. He knew that he still had supporters in the army and in Paris and he decided it was time to leave Elba and join them.
Although the British kept a representative, Sir Neil Campbell, on the island to keep a discreet eye on Napoleon’s activities, the Emperor was quietly able to buy military supplies. He had these put aboard the ships of his little navy (generally used to bring supplies to the island or to move him to the adjacent islands of the archipelago of which Elba is a part). The horses of his Polish Lancers were prepared for immediate movement and the saddlers were kept busy ensuring that all their harness was in good order. The troops were inspected and new NCOs were appointed.
It’s remarkable that, given all these clear military preparations, the secret of Napoleon’s planned escape seems to have been well kept. The only person who knew for sure was Princess Pauline, who wormed the secret out of General Bertrand, one of the two men Napoleon had entrusted with his plans. She had her silver shipped to Livorno in Italy for safe-keeping a few days before the escape, but even then no one seems to have appreciated the significance of this.
Neil Campbell was so blissfully unaware that there might be anything amiss that on 16 February he left Elba to visit the Italian mainland. Such visits were a frequent occurrence, ostensibly to liaise with officers in Italy, but in fact to visit his mistress, Countess Miniacci, in Florence. (There are even suggestions that she was a Napoleonic agent.)
Campbell’s own account of his unfortunate decision to leave the island appears in his published journal:
On February 16, I quitted Elba in HMS “Partridge”… upon a short excursion to the Continent for my health… I was anxious also to consult some medical man at Florence on account of the increasing deafness, supposed to arise from my wounds with which I have been lately affected.
Campbell’s position was made worse when his captain let fall to the French that the Partridge was to return to the mainland to pick him up ten days later. Napoleon thus knew he had ten clear days to make his preparations and escape before Campbell or the Partridge were in a position to stop him.
With Campbell away, Napoleon was able to order that no ships were to sail from Elba, so that, even if there were suspicions about his plans on the island, there was no way to get news to possible enemies.
As part of the pretence that all was normal, on 25th of February Napoleon and his officers all attended a ball given by Princess Pauline, but the next day at about one o’clock in the afternoon the gates of the town were closed and Napoleon’s army received its orders for departure. Even at this stage nobody was told where they were going. If the British had had an inkling of Napoleon’s plans to escape, they would almost certainly have assumed that he was heading for Italy. There were even suggestions that Elba had been chosen for his exile in part because it suited the Russians to have the Austrians permanently needing to keep up their guard up against potential Napoleonic interference with their Italian possessions.
Napoleon leaves Elba – Joseph Beaume 1885

By mid-afternoon, Napoleon’s fleet was ready to sail. At eight o’clock Napoleon himself boarded his brig, the Inconstant. Extra cannon had been mounted aboard and her hull had been painted in the colours usually used by British ships, to improve her chances of escaping any blockade. She was accompanied by the Stella, the other ship of Napoleon’s navy, the Caroline, a French merchant brig, the St Esprit, which had been chartered for the occasion and three other small vessels. He probably had around a thousand men with him.

When the fleet left Elba, it was carried by a good southerly wind, but the next day the wind dropped. It must have been a nerve wracking time for Napoleon. The Mediterranean was patrolled by French and English fleets and every British ship had a portrait of Napoleon in the captain’s cabin, so that he could be easily identified if intercepted on the high seas. The calm did affect the enemy as well as him, though. Because of the lack of wind Campbell did not arrive back on Elba until the 28th, so the alarm was not raised until two days after Napoleon’s escape.
The winds picked up again on the 27th, but the Inconstant was hailed by a French naval ship, the Zephyr. Its master, realising that the Inconstant had sailed from Elba, asked how Napoleon was. “Marvellously well,” came the reply – supposedly dictated by the Emperor himself. With no reason for suspicion, the Zephyr allowed Napoleon’s vessel to pass.
Napoleon landed in France near Antibes on March 1, 1815. He had, as the Bonapartists had always believed, returned as the violets bloomed in the spring. The events that led to Waterloo were under way.

FURTHER READING
Peter Hicks (2014). Napoleon On Elba – An Exile Of Consent. Napoleonica. La Revue, 19,(1), 53-67. doi:10.3917/napo.141.0053.
Katherine Macdonogh (1994) ‘A sympathetic ear: Napoleon, Elba and the British’ History Today, vol. 44
Campbell’s journal was published by his nephew under the title Napoleon at Fontainebleau and Elba (John Murray 1869)
For a detailed account of Napoleon’s time on Elba and his escape, see The Island Empire by the anonymous ‘author of Blondelle’, published by T Bosworth in 1855 and available in Google Books.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Book review: The Custom of the Trade - Shaun Lewis

Shaun Lewis’s book takes us into the world of submarines in World War I. We are all familiar with stories of the horror of the infantry and artillery battles of that conflict and the world of battleships and destroyers is also something we are dimly aware of. People my age, brought up on Biggles, have some notion of what it must have been like to fly in those flimsy biplanes. But this is the first time I have read a book about submarine warfare back then. I didn’t even realise that there had been extensive use of submarines during World War I.


Lewis has served as a submariner and writes authoritatively about life below the sea. Much of the action of the book is based on real engagements and you get a definite sense of what it must have been like in the claustrophobic atmosphere of a submarine submerged on active service. A visit to the Submarine Museum at Portsmouth (I do recommend it) gives you the chance to see inside a late 20th century submarine. Life there must have been crowded and not particularly pleasant, but conditions were luxurious compared with those faced by the sailors at the beginning of the century. The story takes us through different classes of submarines, starting with those used for patrolling Britain’s home waters which, as they were at sea for only three days at a time, had no crew accommodation at all. The men slept on the floor and if, as often happened, the floor was covered in vomit, then they slept in that.
By the end of the story, our hero is commanding an E class submarine which offers more space, although the men often seem to sleep at their posts. This particular submarine is operating in support of the Gallipoli campaign and spends days submerged in the sea of Murmansk. Fortunately for the crew, it has to surface regularly to replenish its batteries by running its diesel motors and these breaks provide the men with their only opportunities to breathe fresh air and bathe. Conditions would seem grim even without the constant danger from enemy mines and naval artillery.


I mentioned “our hero”, and that is what he is. Richard Miller, despite his idiosyncrasies (his Christianity verges on the fanatical and he is a teetotaller, in a service where alcohol is almost a required social lubricant) is not a fully realised character. This doesn’t worry me as I am more interested in the detail of submarine warfare than the personality of the captain, but it may worry others. My feeling is that books like this, plot driven and quite concerned with historical detail, are not the best place to be overly concerned about character, but I have had many comments that my hero, James Burke, would benefit from more fleshing out and I suspect Lewis will face the same sort of criticism.
Miller’s romance with his “kissing cousin” is, similarly, not explored in any great depth. She is defined in terms of her support for the suffragist movement, which gives Lewis the opportunity to provide a fair amount of analysis of the political background to the fight for the vote. He approaches this rather as he approaches the details of the submarines, with a workmanlike methodical take which is much more interested in the politics than Elizabeth Miller’s personality. Again, I am sure that there are people who will criticise this, but I welcomed the chance to learn more about a movement which is more often praised in generalities than analysed in terms of the various factions and their interplay with the established political parties.
The sense of distance that I sometimes felt from the characters was reinforced by a slightly stilted dialogue. This may, though, reflect the way that people spoke during the First World War. Not being quite that old, I can’t say. At the beginning of the book I found it quite irritating, but by the end it seemed completely natural. I think it is a deliberate effect, if only because when Lewis is reporting the conversation of sailors rather than “officers and gentlemen” the language flows much more naturally. This does mean that Miller’s drunken, abusive commander, Thomas Mullan, comes over as one of the most believable characters in the book. He is also the most psychologically complex and I only wish we could have seen more of him.
The Custom of the Trade is an easy book to read. The prose is unpretentious and there is enough action to hold your attention through the technical detail. I enjoyed it, both as a novel and as a way to learn more about an area of conflict I was previously almost completely ignorant of. I would recommend it to anybody who enjoys stories of military history.

Friday, 26 January 2018

Older women and sport: yet another gender gap

If you follow me on Twitter, You will know that I am an enthusiastic skater: not ice skates, but rollerblades which let you skate on the street. I’m getting a bit long in the tooth for it now, but I still loved skating round London Lumiere last week and I expect to carry on with the London group skates for a few years yet. But are older women able to enjoy skating too, or are there social pressures for them to stop? At a time when equality issues seem to be dominating the news, Tamara Goriely writes on risk sport from an older woman’s perspective.

Still skating at 60?

In the run up to Christmas I went on a “suicide skate”.  For readers who are not rollerbladers, a “suicide” is simply an unmarshalled street skate, skating around London’s roads with the traffic.  On this occasion I joined around a dozen like-minded people at South Ken tube; put on rollerblades, helmet and wrist guards; and skated over the smooth tarmac of Kensington. We got to enjoy the Tate, the Millennium Bridge (which sings when you skate over it) and the Christmas lights in Regents Street, before getting back to South Ken some 11 miles and 2 hours later.

Enjoying the Christmas lights on skates

I first started doing this in my late 40s – and at the time, I felt very old to be playing around on the road in this way. Now that I’m over 60, I started to reflect on the age and sex-related stereotypes we carry around in our heads.
So is there a feeling that old women shouldn’t skate? You bet. This is most obvious in the shouts from passers-by: “My God, she’s old,” “Didn’t you have a childhood?” and (my personal favourite) “They must be a teenage gang.”  Once, we went through a rather chi-chi Knightsbridge mews. A local resident came out to berate us: “I thought you were adolescents, but now I see you are old enough to know better”. “Madam”, my companion replied, “I’m 58 and having the time of my life”.  Stunned silence.
The shouts are easy enough to shrug off. The comments from my boss more intrusive, especially when she started tutting over each small patch of scrapped skin on my elbow. “You should look after yourself” she would say with false concern, before reminding me that I’d once torn a tendon (which had been done skiing).  This was particularly galling as a 30 year old male colleague with a very similar injury rate was widely praised for his athletic, mountaineering lifestyle.

Skater’s Elbow: hardly a big deal for a man
I became particularly aware of social expectations when I decided to enter the European Masters Marathon at the age of 51.  This was a 26 miles race, to find the fastest inline skater in Europe in each age group: 30, 40, 50 and 60. That year, I was the only British person over 50 to enter.  As I would therefore be “representing my country” the sporting body awarded me the honour of being allowed to wear a GB skin suit. When I told my friends about this, it was greeted with mix of blank looks and outright ribaldry. “A swim suit” my mother said, “why would you wear a swim suit?”.
I went to the web to find out if it was so unusual for older women to compete in masters’ events in minority sports – and was not altogether reassured. A long report from the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation told me that most women over 50 took no exercise at all – and those who did, mainly walked, swam or attended yoga, aerobics or fitness classes. Around 6% cycled, 4% ran and 1% rode horses. Otherwise, nothing. If I was looking for evidence that older women skateboarded, pole vaulted or ski jumped, I didn’t find it.
When I stood on the start line of the race, in Gera, I found only 9 other women in the 50+ group – (compared with 40 who had entered the men’s race).  Germany had entered a full team of 4 women, while the others were Danish and Austrian.  In German culture, it is normal for older women to do competitive sports – but where were the French, Italians, Spanish – or anyone from Eastern Europe? (And as you ask I came 7th, one of the hardest things I have done in my life).
So are things changing? Are the next generation beating down old stereotypes for expected behaviour for women over 50?  Yes, but slowly. In 2017, 12 women entered the 50+ masters marathon from a wider range of countries (including France, Switzerland and Slovakia). And they have an over 70 category now (with 2 entries) so there is hope.  The street skates in London remain popular, with a broad range of ages.

So am I going to end on a motivational slogan – age is just a number, it’s never too late, etc etc? Not really.  Things change as you get older.  I’m more cautious than I used to be. Partly, as time goes on I’ve accumulated more injuries – not just the tendon, but a dislocated shoulder and smashed front teeth (leading to expensive dental bills).  I don’t heal as quickly as I did, and it is normal for older people to take a little less risk. And I’m not as fast – probably because I no longer train for races.
On the other hand, now that I’m semi-retired, and no longer interested in promotion, I can afford to ignore bosses’ comments. I’m more aware of the stuff we carry around in our heads about age appropriate behaviour – and care less. I still remember the sense of joy in taking my roller skates out to play when I was 10. And I’m still not (quite) too old to stop playing yet.