The Monocled Mutineer

It might be Bank Holiday Monday, but 29 years ago today, the first episode of the BBC’s acclaimed, but controversial series, The Monocled Mutineer was broadcast.

Written by Alan Bleasdale (who initially turned it down), and starring Paul McGann, The Monocled Mutineer was undoubtedly the best WW1 drama ever produced by the BBC. It told the story of Percy Toplis, the leader of an army mutiny during WW1 – a story that has remained one of the best-kept secrets of the First World War.

In 1917, British, New Zealand and Australian troops stationed at the Étaples Training Camp in northern France protested against the inhuman conditions. The mutineers commandeered the camp’s weapons and marched into Étaples, holding the town for three days, attacking military police and the commander of the training camp, General Thompson.

Several of the mutineers were executed, but Topils remained at large for three years. The Army immediately covered up the mutiny; thousands of the participants would die shortly afterwards in the Passchendaele offensive.

The survivors remained silent for over fifty years while all records of the Étaples Board of Enquiry were destroyed.

Now, as we commemorate 100 years since the Great War, and the official files on the mutiny are released (they’re closed until 2017), Souvenir Press are publishing a brand new version of The Monocled Mutineer by John Fairley and William Allison.  

Monocled Mutineer cover

With a new introduction by Fairley that explains ‘getting the story’, from placing advertisements in newspapers for survivors to come forward, to talking to Toplis’ family, The Monocled Mutineer unveils the events of the Étaples Mutiny and asks a host of unanswered questions about Toplis and his role, if any, in it.

With Toplis’s story once again making headlines, perhaps it’s time for the BBC to air The Monocled Mutineer once again?

The Monocled Mutineer will be published in paperback and eBook on Thursday 24th September, and is available to pre-order now.


Jess Thom on the Future of Disability Arts at the Fringe

Author of the bestselling Welcome to Biscuit Land, Jess Thom, was featured in The Guardian this week, sharing her thoughts on access and representation at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Jess, who’s currently performing at the Festival in her award-winning show Backstage in Biscuitland, has Tourette’s Syndrome. This means she makes sounds and movements over which she has no control. Jess swears – she’s one of about ten percent of people with Tourettes who do. She also says ‘biscuit’ a lot, up to 16,000 times per day, in fact.

On disability arts at the Fringe, Jess told The Guardian:

Last year was my first Edinburgh festival fringe and I saw more theatre in three weeks than in my whole life. I have Tourettes syndrome, a neurological condition that means I make movements and noises that I can’t control, called tics. In addition to saying “biscuit” thousands of times a day, having Tourettes affects my mobility, so I use a wheelchair to get around.

In the past I’ve found it difficult to access live performances because of my tics. Three years ago I vowed never to go to the theatre again after being asked to move from the auditorium to a sound booth halfway through a show.

Thankfully, this was a promise I wouldn’t keep. Instead it sparked the start of my journey to the stage (the only seat in the house I knew I wouldn’t be asked to leave) and led to my show, Backstage In Biscuit Land.

I was warned that Edinburgh’s steep hills, cobbled streets and old buildings made wheelchair access tricky. More frustrating was the lack of cohesive access information and some thoughtless planning. When collecting tickets at one accessible venue, for example, I discovered the temporary ticket hut had been built with steps!

Encouragingly, improving access is something the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society is taking seriously, highlighted by chief executive Kath Mainland’s comments earlier this year. But this is about more than physical access. Last year I was disappointed that disabled artists weren’t better represented. Audiences were missing out on the vibrant, high quality and gloriously diverse work the disability arts scene offers.

This year, with an increasing number of disabled performers, talks and events supported by Unlimited and initiatives such as the iF Platform, things are improving.

But there’s no time to be complacent. Disability isn’t a niche issue, with almost one-fifth of the UK population identifying as disabled, and the fringe sets an international arts agenda, so it’s vital that it become a world leader in showcasing disability arts and inclusivity.

Difference is brilliant, and I can’t wait to be part of a fringe where it’s visible, audible and celebrated in all its forms. It’s time for disability arts to take centre stage at the fringe.

You can read the full article, also featuring Jack Thorne and Cian Binchy, here.

In 2010, Jess set up Touretteshero, an organisation that celebrates the humour and creativity of Tourette’s without mocking or self-pity – it’s about reclaiming the most frequently misunderstood syndrome on the planet and changing the world one tic at a time.

Welcome to Biscuit Land follows a year in Jess’s life with all the ups and downs that go with having Tourette’s Syndrome. Educational and hugely entertaining, these excerpts from Jess’s personal blog show the whole spectrum of her experiences.

Moving, funny, shocking, tender, and inspiring, Jess’s words are courageous and optimistic in the face of the major challenges she faces.

“A role model for people across the country struggling to come to terms with the condition… Welcome to Biscuit Land has become an invaluable resource for families coping with Tourette’s.”
‘Evening Standard’

Welcome to Biscuit Land

Backstage in Biscuit Land is at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe between 24th-30th August. Tickets are available here.

Welcome to Biscuit Land by Jess Thom (ISBN: 9780285641273, £12, available in eBook and paperback)

HypnoBirthing “standard antenatal practice within a decade”

This week, The Guardian reported that hypnobirthing will be “standard antenatal practice within a decade”.

An increasingly popular pain-relief method for women during labour, the news comes as more hospitals around the country report a steep rise in the demand for classes.

But what is hypnobirthing?

Hypnobirthing is a complete birth education programme, that teaches simple but specific self hypnosis, relaxation and breathing techniques for a better birth. It reduces the need for any medication, and helps women to achieve a calmer, more controlled birth.

Teri Gavin-Jones, a midwife and hypnobirthing trainer told The Guardian, “Hypnobirthing is where water-birthing was 20 years ago. Back then it was considered a bit weird and there was a lot of scepticism from the medical community. But now every trust in the country does water births. Give it 10 years and hypnobirthing will be standard antenatal practice. It’ll be mainstream.”

Marie Mongan is the founder of the HypnoBirthing® The Marie Mongan Method and has helped over 10,000 couples to change their lives through its practice. (Yes, it helps fathers too!)

Souvenir Press publishes Marie’s bestselling book, HypnoBirthing®, which is the first book to fully describe what the method entails. It acts as a practical guide to having a birth that is natural, and entirely suitable for virtually all births (except for those where special circumstances would call for more specialised medical attention).

HypnoBirthing cover

Praise for HypnoBirthing® by Marie Mongan, reprinted 15 times since 2007:

“HypnoBirthing… is sweeping through fashionable society moms in the United States faster than a Californian wildfire… The more I read, the more I began to appreciate her alternative approach to birthing… HypnoBirthing says that instead of thinking about all the stuff that might go wrong, why not see it all going right.” – ‘Daily Mail’

“Simple but specific hypnosis, relaxation and breathing techniques for an easier birth… proves that labour doesn’t have to be accompanied by severe pain, allowing you to overcome anxieties and enjoy the experience of birth.” – ‘Junior Pregnancy & Baby’

“Any normal, low-risk pregnancies can use the exercises outlined in this book – positive thinking, relaxation, visualisation, breathing, nutrition and physical exercises – to follow a happy and comfortable pregnancy leading to a peaceful birth.” – ‘I’m Pregnant’

“The more I found out about hypnobirthing, the more it made sense. If breathing and focusing techniques could help keep me so calm that I could reduce the length of labour and avoid pain relief, I couldn’t see a downside.” – ‘Now Mother & Baby’

“Contains some good ideas, analogies and suggestions that will be of use to women and midwives… A useful tool.” – ‘The Practising Midwife’

“I love HypnoBirthing… It’s full of brilliant breathing tips and relaxation techniques.” – ‘Mother & Baby’

“I read this book and attended a course when I was pregnant, and had the most incredible birth. Imagine getting to 8cm without knowing it and to the amazement of midwives. My birth was comfortable, exhilerating and wonderful. I’d recommend this book to everyone.” – ‘Amazon Customer’

Of course, we also publish one of the original books to cover water birthing, another practice now extremely popular with mothers. Birth Reborn is written by Dr Michel Odent, the world’s leading ‘birth guru’.

Birth Reborn cover

Many of the birthing practices that Dr Michel Odent had advocated are now common usage, including the creation of more homely birthing rooms, birthing pools and water births, labour without drugs and ensuring that the mother plays the key role in the experience of the birth.

In conclusion, the increasing popularity of such programmes proves that women are embracing newer, more natural birthing methods to ensure they have the safest, most comfortable birthing experience.

HypnoBirthing® by Marie Mongan (ISBN: 9780285637710, £14.99, available in paperback and eBook)

Birth Reborn by Dr Michel Odent (ISBN: 9780285631946, £12.99, available in paperback)

2014’s Top Baby Names

The name ‘Daenerys’ sound familiar? Well, according to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics, there were nine babies named after the popular Game of Thrones character in 2014.

Still, ‘Oliver’ has once again topped the boy’s chart, whilst ‘Amelia’ has taken the no. one spot for girls (via Guardian).

Trends include names ending in an ‘a’, and more experimental girls’ names.

In the current top 100, ‘Harper’ is the girl’s name that has gained most popularity over the decade, shooting up 3,636 places to No 89. Perhaps something to do with the Beckhams?

Not for the first time, parents are also registering the abbreviated form of a name, for example, Teddy, Freddie, and Joey.

Naming and Blessing by Reverend Andrew Tawn is a collection of personalised name prayers for more than 500 baby names, perfect for christening readings or for parents wanting to pray for their child at any stage in their life.

Naming And Blessing cover

Below are the top two names in each category, taken from Andrew Tawn’s Naming and Blessing: A Book of Name Prayers.

Amelia derives from the German for ‘labour’.

All the days of your life,

May God bless you,

Encourage and equip you,

Lead and enlighten you,

Instruct and inspire you,

And accompany you always.

Oliver is from the Scandinavian Olaf meaning ‘ancestor’

On all that Oliver is and does,

Lord, grant your love and blessing.

In all the challenges he undertakes

Various gifts bestow upon him.

Everyone he loves and all who love him,

Reach out, Lord, to bless them through him.

Praise for Naming and Blessing:

“A collection of prayers which can be used so very easily and readily by a much wider range of people than simply the committed Christian.”
Bishop David Hope, former Archbishop of York

“Throughout life we receive many gifts but our name is one of the first and most precious gifts we receive… The author uses the ancient device of the acrostic to create unique and thoughtful meditations on the names of the children he has baptised.”
Anthony Russell, former Bishop of Ely

“This is a gift with many layers, unpacking the meaning of individual names and weaving into each prayer a gentle yet profound affirmation of the connection of each unique individual to God.”
Angela Ashwin, author of ‘The Book of a Thousand Prayers’

Naming and Blessing: A Book of Name Prayers by Reverend Andrew Tawn (ISBN: 9780285638921, £15) available to buy here.

Understanding Samuel Beckett

Her husband might be the Barbican’s new Hamlet, but Mrs Cumberbatch, a.k.a Sophie Hunter, has also been making waves in the theatre world – and not for the first time. A past recipient of the Samuel Beckett Award for her imaginative work, Sophie’s Phaedra has just finished its stint at the Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival in Northern Ireland, where it received critically acclaimed reviews.

The Festival, which began in 2012, is the world’s first annual festival to celebrate the work of Nobel Prize-winning writer Samuel Beckett. It takes place in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, where Beckett attended the Portora Royal School and spent much of his formative years.

Beckett/Beckett by Vivian Mercier

Vivian Mercier also attended the same school and university as Beckett. He would go on to publish the most authoritative study of Beckett, Beckett/Beckett, which, even today, has not been surpassed in its understanding of one of the world’s greatest modern writers.


Originally published in 1977, Beckett/Beckett is still praised today for its refreshingly personal approach to a writer who has too often been put on a pedestal beyond criticism.

“Beckett is unique, as we all are, but he has not descended from another planet” – Vivian Mercier

Mercier understood Beckett from the shared knowledge of a similar background, and used this to analyse the many contrasts and contradictions in his work – gentleman/tramp, intellect/emotion, Ireland/the World/, eye/ear, man/woman.

Beckett/Beckett, with its wealth of knowledge lightly dispensed, not only gives us a fresh appreciation of the man and his work, but also entices us to read and re-read with enlightened eyes.

“This highly personal book remains one of the key books on Beckett – and one of the most readable… The book has been written in such a lively fashion that it is difficult to put down.”
‘Camden New Journal’

Beckett/Beckett by Vivian Mercier (ISBN: 9780285630109, £12)

Beckett before Beckett by Brigitte Le Juez

In one of the least well known periods of his life, Beckett lectured and taught modern French Literature at Trinity College, Dublin from 1930-1931. He had just returned from Paris, where he had met James Joyce, but had not yet written his first novel.

beckett before beckett cover

In 1930, nineteen-year-old Rachel Burrows studied French at Trinity College, and her notes of Beckett’s lectures have recently been found in the archives of Trinity College. Brigitte Le Juez is the first writer to fully study and translate these lectures, the most complete record of Beckett the young intellectual, and a valuable guide to the inspirations behind his work and concept of literature.

“As I conducted my research in the Old Library of Trinity College, Dublin, I happened upon a notebook that had belonged to one of Beckett’s students when he taught French Literature there from 1930-1931. Like a hidden treasure, this document could only be reached at the end of a maze of corridors and staircases crossing the Long Room. […] This manuscript gave me a new insight into Beckett. It revealed not only Beckett the admirer of Flaubert whom I had desperately been seeking, but also a Beckett with very definite opinions on French Literature, a Beckett who would never reveal himself in this manner again during his lifetime.” – Brigitte Le Juez

So, how did he define the modern novel of his day? What should literature strive to achieve, or more properly, what should it not be?

Beckett before Beckett reveals Beckett’s own history of French literature and his understanding of the origins of the modern literature of his time.

“We owe a debt of gratitude to Brigitte Le Juez for revealing this previously unknown dimension to one of the giants of 20th-century literature.”
‘Irish Times’

“The young Samuel Beckett’s lectures on literature offer a perspective on 19th century writing that remains fresh – and shows the roots of his own art… At last we can see the genesis of what would turn out to be one of the most extraordinary literary expressions of the 20th century.”

Beckett before Beckett by Brigitte Le Juez (ISBN: 9780285638624, £10)

Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War

On Thursday, the world commemorated the 70th anniversary of the first atomic bomb attack, dropped by US aircraft on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.

It instantly killed 70,000 people, and affected thousands of others with life-inhibiting radiation-poisoning. Literally flattening the city, the only building to survive the explosion – the skeletal Atomic Bomb Dome – now stands as a memorial to the victims.

The last thing anyone expected was for it to happen again, and yet, three days later, on 9th August 1945, another atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Nagasaki.

It killed a third of the population instantly, and as with the survivors of the Hiroshima bombing, or hibakusha, many would spend their lives suffering with radiation poisoning or marked by the stigma of their exposure to it.

Published now for the first time, with detailed maps and photographs, Susan Southard’s Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War is the first study to be based on eye-witness accounts of Nagasaki, in the style of John Hershey’s Hiroshima. 

One thing highlighted by the 70th anniversary is the age of the survivors, and the urgent need to pass on their stories – according to The Times, 5,359 have died in the last year.

Over many years, Susan Southard has interviewed the hibakusha and her intimate portraits of their lives show the devastating consequences of nuclear war. Following the previously unknown stories of five survivors and their families from 1945 to the present day, it captures the full range of pain, fear, bravery and compassion unleashed by the destruction of the nuclear attack.

“Politicians debating the nuclear deal with Iran would do well to spend some time with Southard’s ‘Nagasaki’. It does not tell us what to do. It only reminds us of the stakes.”
‘Washington Post’

Nagasaki cover

 “Does for Nagasaki what John Hersey did for Hiroshima… Takes us beneath the mushroom cloud with harrowing, damning, eloquent intimacy.”
John W. Dower, Pulitzer-winning author of Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of WWII

Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War (ISBN: 978-0285643277, £20), will be published on 19th November. It is available to pre-order in HB and eBook now.

How to Improve Your Brain During a #TubeStrike

Here we are, another week, another tube strike!

If, like me, your ‘alternative route’ last time was a disaster, and you found yourself on a packed-out bus, squashed against the window, thinking ‘whyyyy?’, then we have something that might make your journey a little better.

Whether your commute is no different, or your average travel time has increased ten-fold, why not use the time to improve your brain?

It’s known that brain performance is enhanced by regular mental exercises, including crosswords and sudoku. Packed with illuminating insights and dozens of witty, and often, perplexing puzzles, How Puzzles Improve Your Brain both helps to create a healthier brain, whilst explaining how the puzzles are changing it.

“These mind-training exercises will make you brighter than you’ve ever been.” – Mail on Sunday
How Puzzles Improve Your Brain


“Thoroughly well-researched…Very entertaining… It made me think and play in ways I had not done before and actually explained what my brain was doing whilst attempting these puzzles.” – Puzzlemad

Kim Scott, (puzzle master for Scientific America) has designed puzzles that can target, and improve, specific areas of the brain while Richard Restak, a leading neuroscientist, describes the science behind how they reshape and strengthen the brain.

So make the most of your journey and attempt to improve your brain with some of Kim Scott’s puzzles below….(answers will be at the end of the post – no cheating!)

  1. First things first, a test for your ‘Visual Thinking‘. How many squares of any size are in the figure below?


2. Next, something to test your ‘Mathematical Thinking‘….

3. For something a little more wordy, simply complete each analogram by choosing two words from the list below. For instance, ARM is to HAND as LEG is to FOOT, because the FOOT is attached to the end of the LEG in the same way that the HAND is attached to the end of the ARM. Each word is used only once.

ARCHERY                                  HEART                                 RUNNING
BOW                                            HOUSE                                 SHEET
BREAD                                        ICE                                        SWEATER
CHEDDAR                                  LEG                                       TARGET
CHEESE                                      PAPER                                 TIMES
CRUST                                        PEANUT                               VIOLIN
ELEPHANT                                PLUS                                     WATER
FOOT                                           ROOF                                    YARN

4. And finally, something to test your memory…(I think this is what I need to work on sometimes)
puzzles-4Puzzled out? We hope not! There are plenty more puzzles (282 pages of them to be exact) to be found in How Puzzles Improve Your BrainWhat’s more, the puzzles are divided into three sections devoted to different skills – memory, perception and cognition – so it’s easier for you to be able to target a particular area of the brain that you might want to improve.

“One of the world’s leading neurologists… A fascinating study of how to ‘stop the rot’ and have a lot of fun doing it.” – Avanti

So, if you find that you’re bored of the Evening Standard’s Quick Crossword, or asking yourself ‘what can I do to keep my brain working at its best?’, get yourself a copy of How Puzzles Improve Your Brain, and by the next #tubestrike, your brain will be on top form!



  1. There are 30 squares.
  2. The number of combinations is too big to imagine in your head. So ask a simpler question: How many nights can three people sit in a different combination of three chairs each night? It’s not hard to list all six combinations:
    – and this fact helps you to solve the larger puzzle. Consider the starred chair. If person A sits in the starred chair, there are six ways to seat the remaining three people in the remaining three chairs. Similarly, if B sits in the starred chair, there are six ways to seat the remaining three people. The 4 possible people in the starred chair times 6 ways to seat the remaining three people = 24 combinations.
  3. puzzles-3ARM is to HAND as LEG is to FOOT
    MOUNTAIN is to PEAK as HOUSE is to ROOF
    LOAF is to BREAD as SHEET is to PAPER
    EGG is to SHELL as BREAD is to CRUST
    SQUARE is to DIAMOND as PLUS is to TIMES
  4. puzzles-5