When the writing is over, the hard work begins

I HAVE BEEN working on the manuscript for a new book, which I plan to publish. I will not reveal what I am writing about … at least, not yet!

As I have been doing for the last few years, I write my text on Microsoft Word, and then re-read it several times, revising and correcting errors of fact, spelling, and grammar. At this stage, I am not too fussed about formatting because this has to be done using other software.

To upload a manuscript to publishers like lulu.com and Amazon KDP, it is best – if not essential – to prepare the final manuscript as a formatted .pdf file. The characteristics of the file need to match what will eventually appear on the printed page. Currently, I am using Serif’s Affinity Publisher software, which is a bit fiddly at first, but it does not take long to get used to it (there are many useful tutorial videos on-line) Using a preformatted template appropriate to the size of book to be produced, I flow my Word text into the Affinity software.

Screenshot from my Affinity Publisher

Once it is in the software, each page shows what will eventually appear on each page of the finished book. Using Affinity, I can add illustrations, add page numbers (which change if additional pages are added), an index, and more. I can also edit my text further and shift the formatting of the pages and the spaces between paragraphs to suit me. This stage of the book production is time-consuming but important.

When, eventually, I am happy with what I have produced, I can export the entire book as a .pdf file. This can then be uploaded to the printer’s website, be it lulu.com, Amazon, or another.

Although the writing can be difficult at times, the final formatting of the book to produce a suitable .pdf, which will ensure that everything is in the right place in the printed book is quite demanding but worthwhile at the ‘end of the day’.

Hampstead: a town on a hill

Hampstead High Street

A town on high

Home of famous artists and authors

Hampstead by name

ENJOY my new book which takes a fresh look at north London’s Hampstead: its sites, its personalities, its character, and history. “Beneath a Wide Sky: Hampstead and its Environs” is available from Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09R2WRK92

A NEW book about Hampstead in north London

AVAILABLE FROM AMAZON WEBSITES:

e.g.: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09R2WRK92

Hampstead is one of the highest places in London. There, the heavens are vast
and wide. Beneath this expanse of sky is an area with an eventful past and a
vibrant present. This book takes a fresh look at the locality and shows that
Hampstead is richly imbued with historical memories and has been home to a
multitude of fascinating and noteworthy people. Many books have been written
about Hampstead. Doubtless, there will be more. This one is different. It looks
at Hampstead from unusual as well as familiar viewpoints and gives the reader
a richer appreciation of what makes the place both delightful and intriguing.
This volume explores a wide variety of subjects, familiar and obscure, as well as
some which have never been described in other books about the locality. Here
is a fresh and at times quirky look at this place on a hill, one of London’s
treasures: a district, which is familiar to many people, yet full of surprises.
Although the bulk of this book is about Hampstead, there are also sections
describing some of its environs.

By reading this book, you can find out why John Constable, Samuel Johnson, Boy George, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Mahatma Gandhi, Peter Sellers, Henry Moore, Maxim Litvinov, General de Gaulle, Stanley Spencer, Thomas Masaryk, Lee Miller, Agatha Christie, Jim Henson, Ian Flemming, Ernő Goldfinger, and many others, both famous and familiar, were all connected with Hampstead.

The book has several sections:
1. a brief survey of Hampstead’s general history and geography.
2. an introduction to Hampstead’s main thoroughfares with some
reminiscences of the area as it was during my youth.
3. the largest section of the book is a collection of chapters about
various aspects of Hampstead’s past and present. Recently, a friend of mine
bemoaned the fact that Hampstead High Street and Heath Street are lined with
branches of shops and cafés that can be found all over London. He is right. So,
if you wish to capture the true character of Hampstead, you need to stray into
the side streets and explore, which is what I hope this book will stimulate you to
do.
4. The last few sections of the book deal with some places of interest near to
Hampstead: Primrose Hill, North End, Go
lders Green, and Highgate.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

PREFACE … 7
INTRODUCTION: OH NO, NOT IN HAMPSTEAD … 7
SOME GEOGRAPHY AND HISTORY … 13
HEATH AND HIGH STREETS WITH SOME MEMORIES … 25
SATURDAY STROLLS … 25
PERRINS LANE, THE EVERYMAN, AND LOUIS … 34
DISCOVERING HAMPSTEAD … 41
A HOUSE ON HEATH STREET AND THE KIT CAT CLUB … 41
A CHURCH ON HEATH STREET … 45
FLASK WALK AND THE HAMPSTEAD SPA … 46
MORE ABOUT THE SPA … 56
THE VALE OF HEALTH … 60
POETS AND THE VALE OF HEALTH … 70
FRENCH CONNECTIONS AND ST MARYS ON HOLLY WALK … 76
ARTISTS IN HAMPSTEAD: ROMNEY, CONSTABLE, AND OTHERS 84
MODERN ARTISTS AND THE ISOKON … 95
BOLSHEVISM AND HEATH STREET … 109
A SINGER AND A PHILOSOPHER ON BRANCH HILL … 114
JUDGES WALK … 118
WHITESTONE POND … 122
EAST HEATH ROAD AND SOUTH END GREEN … 126
SIR HARRY AND ROSSLYN HILL … 137
PILGRIMS LANE AND MORE ON ROSSLYN HILL … 143
NEW END, CHOLERA, AND GROVE PLACE … 150
FITZJOHNS AVENUE AND SWISS COTTAGE … 155
SHEPHERDS WELL … 171
CHURCH ROW … 174
GRACIE FIELDS, FROGNAL WAY, AND FROGNAL … 179
WEST HEATH ROAD AND PLATTS LANE … 187
WEST HAMPSTEAD … 193
SHOOT UP HILL … 198
PRIMROSE HILL … 201
NORTH END AND GOLDERS GREEN … 211
NORTH END AND GOLDERS HILL PARK … 211
POETS AND GOLDERS GREEN … 228
LIFE AND DEATH ON HOOP LANE … 232
HIGHGATE … 241
CODA … 273
SOME BOOKS CONSULTED … 275
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS … 278
INDEX … 279

Putting Hampstead on paper

I HAVE TOLD SEVERAL friends that I am busy writing a book about Hampstead in North London. Hearing this, each one of them has said something like “Aren’t there already so many books about the place?” Well, those words are hardly encouraging. Had I been writing a love story or a book about WW2, they would not have expressed any sentiments about the untold number of already published love stories and books about WW2.

I wondered how many books there are about Hampstead, non-fiction rather than fiction. I searched for “Hampstead” in the book section on Amazon’s UK website and found that there are not more than about 40 different non-fiction titles relating to Hampstead rather than only Hampstead Heath or Hampstead Garden Suburb. Of these titles, 11 were published since 2000, and most of these before 2015. The rest were published before 2000, and of these at least 16 were published before 1980. Since 2015, only 3 books, which deal mostly with Hampstead, have been published. Therefore, although there are many books about Hampstead, few of them have been published in the last six years. So, maybe it is time that another one should appear in print.

While researching the book I am writing, I have consulted many of the books still available on Amazon and many others which have chapters about Hampstead, as well as a wealth of information that can be found on the Internet. I am making much use of what I have discovered from these sources and from my own observations, and I believe that when it is completed my book will contain a distinctive combination of facts and observations, which differs from presentations in other books about the locality.  

The greater part of the book’s subject matter will be about Hampstead and its ‘satellites’, North End, Swiss Cottage, Belsize Park, and West Hampstead. I am also including shorter, detailed sections on Highgate and Golders Green. I am still at an early stage in the book’s production, but I do not feel deterred by observations that my friends have made that imply that I am simply ‘sending coals to Newcastle’, by writing yet another book about Hampstead. Time will tell.

Amazing Grace was written here in this small hut

MANY PEOPLE KNOW, but I did not, that the words of the hymn “”Faith’s Review and Expectation”, now better known as “Amazing Grace”, were written by John Newton (1725-1807), an Anglican clergyman. What fewer people know is that John Newton had once been the captain of ships that transported slaves across the Atlantic, but also a slave himself. In 1745, having fallen out with the crew on the ship he was sailing, he left his ship in what is now Sierra Leone. He was captured and enslaved and became the property of a princess of the Sherbro People, who lived in that part of Africa. He remained enslaved until 1748, when he was rescued by a sea captain, whom his father had sent to rescue him. On the voyage back to England, he received his spiritual calling.

Cutting a long story short, Newton was ordained as a priest in 1764. Soon after, he became the curate of a church in the small town of Olney in the north of Buckinghamshire. He remained in Olney until about 1779. While living in Olney, Newton struck up a friendship with the poet William Cowper (1731-1800; pronounced ‘koo-per’), who moved to the town in 1767. They collaborated on several literary projects.

From 1779 until his death, Newton was Rector of St Mary Woolnoth in the City of London. In 1788, Newton published his “Thoughts upon the Slave Trade”, a pamphlet that described to horrors on board the slave ships crossing the Atlantic. It was also a confession of his error of having been involved in such an inhumane business. He became an ally of William Wilberforce in the campaign to abolish the slave trade.

Olney is a charming little town, which we visited recently. Close to the market square, there is a large building in which William Cowper lived between 1768 and 1786. It now houses a museum dedicated to commemorating both Cowper and Newton. Behind the house, there is an attractive garden, which leads to another equally lovely garden. In the further garden, there is a small hut with white plastered walls and a tiled roof. It is just large enough for one person to sit inside it. It was here that Cowper’s friend John Newton used to sit and write. It is said that one of the hymns he wrote here in this tiny edifice was the hymn, now known by the words of its first line, “Amazing Grace”. This hymn was probably written in 1773.

An author’s angst

UNTIL NOW I HAVE been self-publishing my books satisfactorily using a print on demand company called ‘X’. I typed the manuscript on Microsoft Word using one of X’s many templates and then uploaded it to the site. In the past, X convert the uploaded document to a .pdf file. As conversion from Word to ‘pdf always results in changes in formatting, I have always had to make modifications of my Word manuscript, often several times, before I am happy with the proofs provided by X. It was always a little time-consuming but, in the end, I produced a printed book that was, if not perfect, always satisfactory.

Now, all has changed. X will no longer accept manuscripts uploaded in Word. Instead, authors are required to submit their manuscripts in the .pdf format after fulfilling extremely detailed formatting specifications, which I must admit are beyond my technical abilities at present. I discovered that a well-known on-line trading company offers a self-publishing process, which permits authors to upload their manuscripts in the Word document format on their downloadable Word templates. I tried this, but the proofs generated by the company’s publishing system looked disastrous, to say the least. Maybe, I could have tried modifying my manuscript’s layout, but there did not appear to be a facility for doing so and, I could foresee hours if not days of frustrating work ahead.

I have spent several months writing my latest book, and even longer researching it, and now I would like people to be able to enjoy it and, I hope, comment on it. So, as many people often say in India: “What to do?”

Well, here is my current solution. I am going to upload my manuscript to one of my personal websites and make it downloadable for anyone who cares to read it. It will be downloadable free of charge because I write for pleasure rather than for profit and I value the thought that people might find what I write of interest. It is more important for me that my writing gets read rather than gets sold. Eventually, I hope to be able to produce a satisfactory paperback version of my latest work, but in the meantime, watch this space!

If anyone can offer me a simple solution to my problem, I would be grateful to see your suggestion!

Author at work

Walled garden at Fulham Palace, London

I have been creating daily posts on this blogging website and have been flattered by the number of people who have taken time to read and, sometimes, to comment on, my writing.

I am putting the finishing touches to my latest book. This is a time-consuming process. So, I might not be posting items every day for the next few weeks. I hope that you will be patient with me if, for a short while, a new posting does not appear every day.

I will let you know more about my new book soon.

In the meanwhile, I thank you for your support and patience and keep well.