Tag Archives: Wall Street Journal

A New Day Yesterday – Part Twenty


The proofed copy of my new book, Fifty Clever Bastards, came through one evening at midnight and I couldn’t resist the temptation to print the thing off there and then. Printers are wonderful things but at that time of the night you can well do without paper running out and ink cartridges needed replacing. Still, after about 45 minutes of fulminating, cursing modern technology and feeding the voracious jaws of my printer with paper and ink, I had my baby in my arms.

I decided not to read it at that late hour – a wise decision if there ever was one – and waited until the morning. What became apparent as I worked my way through the script was that whilst there were very few typos, grammatical errors or infelicities of language, it didn’t have a cohesive feel about it. So I set about, no doubt to the annoyance of my editor, standardising date formats, headers and layout.

I noted each change on a separate Word document, hoping that my intentions with each change were crystal clear and that the editor would have no difficulty in interpreting my intentions. A second proof came through and so the process was repeated. It is amazing that however carefully you think you have read something and no matter how many times you go through the document, errors pop up in place where you had not observed them before. It is as though the document had a life of its own. Anyway, I nailed most, if not all, of the latest batch of errors and signed the proof off.

The book was put into production in record time and I was filled with a sense of achievement when I got the email saying it was now on sale on Amazon. The receipt of the physical copies made it all seem real and, I’m pleased to say, early sales are promising. J K Rowling has nothing to worry about – at least at the moment. If you are interested, check the link in the Publications section of this blog.


Rather like Lord Emsworth I derived a lot of pleasure contemplating the progress of my other pet hobby, my pumpkins. I shared the dismay he felt when the Empress started to lose weight when I noticed that my fruits had stopped growing. Worse still, they started to wrinkle and shrivel. Despite lots of water and supplements there were no sign of any improvement.

Readers may recall my attempts to control our garden snail population attracted the interest of no less an organ than the Wall Street Journal. Well, sad to relate, the snails have picked themselves up, dusted themselves down and wrought their revenge. Spotting a free meal they munched with gusto on my ailing pumpkins leaving me with no alternative but to cut them off and throw the fruits on the compost heap. When the don of British gardening, Monty of that ilk, announces on Gardeners’ World that it is a poor year for pumpkins I knew I was on a hiding to nothing.

But nature is if nothing resilient. More fruits have started to appear and the whole process of pollination is in train. I suspect they will be too late to be whoppers but after the setbacks and disappointments of this year, just to have one modest sized one to give BoJ1 would be a triumph. Surely, that is not too much to ask, is it?

What A Way To Go – Part Thirteen


Continuing our series of unusual (and amusing) deaths.

The beauty aid business is a multi-billion pound global industry as many of us seek to find the elixir of life and enhance our physical appearance, if only temporarily. Some people are martyrs to the cause of enhancing our looks. Just consider the case of Eben Byers who was a wealthy American socialite, industrialist and amateur golf champion, winning the US Amateur golf championship in 1906.

His demise centres around the early twentieth century mania for radium and radiation.

Scientists noticed that the waters of natural hot springs, which adherents claimed after immersing themselves in the waters to feel invigorated and renewed, were full of naturally occurring radon. This discovery led to companies seeking to make a profit from gullible narcissists by, first of all, bottling the spring water and selling it and then by developing radon-coated discs which could be put into containers to irradiate the waters. One such company was the Bailey Radium Laboratories Ltd, based in New Jersey, who between 1918 and 1928 manufactured Radithor, which was advertised as a cure for the living dead and as perpetual sunshine. Radithor contained high concentrations of radium in its soothing water and was supposed to stimulate the endocrine system. The head honcho of the company was one William Bailey, a Harvard drop-out without any formal medical qualifications.

Our hero, whilst travelling by train from the annual Harvard-Yale football (American) match in 1927, fell out of his berth and injured his arm. Complaining of a continual pain, he was recommended by his quack to take Radithor – I am sure that the 17% discount offered by Bailey to docs who prescribed the medicine had no influence on the choice of prescription.

Byers soon consumed copious quantities of the elixir (as many as three bottles a day and, it is calculated, some 1,400 bottles all told), believing that it was contributing to his growing sense of well-being. Unfortunately, he started to lose his teeth and because he had accumulated a high concentration of radium in his bones, holes started appearing in his skull, particularly the jaw, and his brain became abscessed. His eventual demise, coming on 31st March 1932 after a period of prolonged pain caused by the crumbling of his bones and resulting in the surgical removal of his jaw, was put down to radiation poisoning but was actually as a result of aggressive cancers brought on by the radon. Famously, it spawned the wonderful Wall Street Journal headline, “The Radium Water Worked Fine until His Jaw Came Off”.

Byers was buried in a lead-lined coffin. Bailey was never prosecuted but an order was issued against his business and Byer’s fate generated a heightened awareness of the dangers of taking radioactive materials. The irrepressible Bailey set up another company – the Radium Institute of New York – and marketed a radioactive belt clip, a radioactive paperweight and a mechanism to make water radioactive. Some people never seem to learn!