Live interview incoming

I’m being interviewed by Captain Ashley Sanders for the Who’s This? podcast in a few hours. You can tune in live and compliment Ashley on her skill handling me, have an eased ole time, and ask a few questions if you like. We’re up around 8:30pm GMT, 3:30pm ET at

I aim to be talking Watch Thief, but Absence, Axel America and conspiracy theories have also come up. So who knows? Ashley seems like a vibrant person so fingers crossed for me.


The Watch Thief. Chapter Nine.

he British embassy in Budapest was on Harminad, where Ignacz Trebitsch was booked to meet the ambassador. The street had little else to it. Across the way, Erzsébet Square boasted a hotels and outdoor cafe, where the brothers Trebitsch sat.  Lajos balked at the prices. Ignacz assured him he could cover the bill on business expenses. They were joined by Simon, now seventeen, and Alexander Krausz, their cousin. There was much excitement over Lajos’s role as secretary of Hungary’s Socialist Democratic Party.
Krausz said, “I have been helping too. They are Budapest’s true opposition.”
“Yes, I read of this. It is part of my work to stay abreast of political developments while helping to inform the policy of the British Empire. Alexander, have you ever considered working abroad?” 
“I can’t be in Budapest forever. Jozsef told me some good stories.”
“You’ll find rich and expanding cities all over Europe. There are wonders in Denmark and the ports along the Danube in Berlin and Vienna,” said Ignacz.
“That sounds wonderful,” said Simon.
“Ignacz, you should call and see Jean, your niece?” said Lajos. “You know, Mary’s expecting again.”
He was roundly congratulated. However, Ignacz had hoped the eldest, Vilmos, would be there for he’d advice on banking matters to pursue. The eldest brother was looking after their ill father, and Lajos added, would make himself just as ill. Jozsef, well, no one was sure if Jozsef was in the country. 
“And Sandor? He never leaves the house!” said Simon. 
Behind Simon two figures walked towards them. Ignacz studied them intently until he made out they were police officers.
“You are too young,” said Lajos. 
“I’ll think about it,” said Krausz.
“Excuse me; rest room,” said Ignacz.
He got up, went into the hall. In the dark, he pressed his head against the door frame. The police were asking Lajos if he was who they thought he was. Lajos was protesting that his political rights were being infringed upon. 
“We have no wish to do that. The man inside: is he your brother, Ignacz?”
Ignacz flung himself softly on to the street and began walking away.
“Excuse me, sir. A word? Sir, please stop, sir. I order you to stop.”
Jogging in sunlight, he looked back with glee; then turned onto British soil. 
“Ambassador, delighted to meet you. I hope you can spare some time…”
John was three and oblivious to Cambridge and Calais, only caring for the vast sea. High-velocity Belgium mesmerised him outside choo-choo windows.  Maragarethe was thirty, years which fell away when her love met them at the station. They rode out by taxi, a Model T Ford automobile, to the Hotel de la Poste on Port Avenue.
They lay on the bed, father bouncing John above his head, until room service arrived. In the afternoon he took them to the Saint Hubert Royal Galleries, long prestigious covered markets and department stores where they bought clothes and toys. Later, the hotel staff brought a bed for the child. Margarethe studied her husband reading John the stories of Hans Christian Andersen. 
The second morning a letter arrived from England. Rowntree felt the study was too broad and was confining it to Belgium for the foreseeable future. Trebitsch told Margaret that he was relieved. They ate sea bass at the Cafe Metropole and the father carried his son around Brouckere square on his shoulder, the boy reaching out to catch the spray from the stairway fountain. 
On Wednesday a private cab was to show the city. The driver asked if they’d come from Luxembourg or Gay Paree, and how did they know Mr. Lincoln, who in turn decided the man was too nosey and cut the journey short. They explored the paths and trees of Brussels Park were the sun lit up the leaves. At benches they met Nicolas Hotermans from the Belgian embassy. He shook their hands and made small talk about embassy matters and they wished one another a good afternoon. 
On the fourth day, Trebitsch bought Margarethe beautiful clothes as well as gifts for Julius, Ignatius and Mrs. Kahlor. They stopped at kerbs for passing traffic and in the afternoon a tram carriage bearing a blond haired lady in Summer dress looked out at them. She had crème skin and full pert tits when she was sure no one was watching rapped the window and blew Trebitsch a kiss. He didn’t react and Margarethe pretended not to notice. 
On the fifth morning he told her it was perhaps not good to leave her mother alone with the children so long. He booked passage that afternoon for wife and youngest son to return to York. 
The train carried him between Habsburg and France. To Luxemburg’s last little castles of Rome, of Siegfried the First. He called on Saarbrücken Ironworks and the high furnace and forging mills of Dudelange, then rode out over Alzette and Pétrusse rivers which cut the deep gorge. 
Passing through Namur, green country and rock houses; evergreens lined the Sambre. A grand sweeping path ran through the wall by Château des comtes. He went to Hainaut, were wet grass and green spawn gravitated to moored boats. He watched the brick buildings sail, reflected in dark water, and sometimes conquered by the sun. 
He saw where Walloonia, Flanders and the Netherlands met. On Limburg’s promenade, the weekend watchers, the idlers and chatting cliques. In bonnet and cap they glided over tram-lines and push-bikes. He walked above the spires, above the lake, were young boys scrambled on top grassy hills. Away from the town-houses they were in small brick-houses with thatch roofs; farmers in dungarees steadied horses, their wives taught children of cows and chickens. 
In Brussels he resided in the Northern Quarter and idled by the galleries and Fontainasplein, a wide open shopping place of five storey buildings, automobiles and a rare horse bus turning the roundabout. Towards the embassy, barrow pushers bumped across cobblestones and a boy rescued a tree-stranded cat. There were pubs aplenty. Englebirt advertised on the railway bridge with the birds and the magnificent brush of trees rising above it.
Antwerp was old farms, cheap labour, new roads of an agricultural economu. He sat at Cafe Neptune and watched a woman selling milk from a dog cart, two hounds pulling her in wheel wagon. Then he walked to Antwerp Central Station fronted by a semi-circle divinity of windows, celestial angels of glass around an ascending portcullis.
Back in the capital he walked by the Palace of Justice and the Stock Exchange or took in a show at La Monnaie. He had transformed these views into data and back at his city study he looked over his work, his grand re-design.
In England, he’d built an impressive library, moved to his office at the Cocoa Works next to Rowntree’s study. Newspapers, journals and books on politics joined those from his European studies, including Funch’s treasured Denmark volumes, two and a half years overdue. He weakened the chair screws sifting between volumes, fetching numbers between page dividers and collating statistics. 
Rowntree joined him frequently to discuss the work. Asquith had replaced the previous Prime Minister and their supporters, Lloyd-George and Churchill, had found themselves promoted. Rowntree and Lincoln sifted through data on plots mortgaged or not and found themselves explaining to one another conditions of leases and tariffs. It was November 1908 and with a complete work in their hands, Rowntree expected the re-drafting to be done by the following summer. “What do you foresee yourself doing then?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” said Trebitsch. “The relationships I struck up in Europe should be good for some Anglo-European business venture. Do you think so?”
Rowntree nodded. “We have both learned a lot here. It should be put to use. It will be several years before publication. If any policy is to be taken from this…we could do with support at home and abroad.”
“What if I could represent our cause in some official capacity?” asked Trebitsch. “There is no one answer, but many, as you said yourself.”
“That’s intriguing. Go on?”
“If I was representing the British people through the progressive Liberal political party…”
“Such a thing would be possible.”
“What are the mechanisms for this?”
“You would first apply for naturalisation. Once you were a British citizen, a a seat would have to be found to contest, then the association would have to approve your candidacy.”
“I very much like the idea of this.”
Rowntree liked how it sounded as well. They talked it over another hour, with Rowntree double-checking various registries, pamphlets and addresses.
Herbert Pike Pease jogged below Darlington’s town centre clock, iconic, donated by his father. Morning workers walked to the steelworks and the station. He waved in a smile at the employees he knew. 
His head beat as if he wore his heart on it. He jogged onto Grange Road, over cracked pavement, by the Baptist Church were Rowntree’s man had been sighted. Then, Park View, the large house which was his challenger’s abode. He rushed past there too. The sweat lodging on his right eyebrow for the last quarter of a mile fell onto his cheek with a peculiar stinging. He took a left along South Park, another of his family’s gifts to the residents, and the site were Timothy Lincoln had spoken a month ago. Herbert had listened to him talk of charitable work in Montreal and investigations into free trade on the continent. He hadn’t been worried, neither then or six months back when the Liberals announced the candidate. Darlington’s M.P. had been a Pease for fifteen years. 
He came to slow by the newsagent boards: Peary Reaches North Pole and French Pilot Dies In Crash. He stepped into the darkness and picked up the locals, the Northern Echo and Star.
“Out of breath, Mr. Pease? At least you’re running; other fella might not be out of bed yet! That’ll be tupenny.”
“Thank you, Richard.”
He reached home ready for a shower, and slapped the papers down on his desk; picked them up again on his way to the station. When the clock hit one, Herbert Pease opened the Echo. The lead article told of a packed-out public meeting were Liberal candidate Timothy Lincoln announced his departure to the Balkan states. He was leaving on an investigative mission for British manufacturing and free trade. Sir Edward Grey himself had issued a letter of commendation to accompany him. The clock ticked a mark and caught Herbert’s eye. He looked out to the sunlight and thought of Lincoln’s summer of publicity talks now at an end. 

8.5 Paris – Round Three

Christmas was coming, and as Trebitsch walked towards the Paris embassy he recalled the scene a few months earlier. Lister had his head in the diary when he’d slapped the two letters on the counter in front of him.

“Inform Sir Bertie he has a visitor,” said Trebitsch.

Sir Bertie had arrived full of himself. “Oh, he’s come back for more!” he bellowed. He tore them open coolly with an ominous smile.

Inglis was with him. “After your last visit, Mr. Lister wrote to Mr. Ponsonby about your preposterous demands and your unsuitable behaviour. You will find you have wasted your trip.”

Old Bertie the Bull had fiercely ripped apart the second envelope, paper falling to the floor. Trebitsch remembered the tension in his face, it caving in on itself. He took great joy in rising to Inglis.

“The first letter is a personal introduction from Sir Edward Grey, Foreign Secretary, as you seem to feel the need to bother him. The second is also official, on behalf of the Prime Minister of the British Empire, by Mr. Ponsonby. He rebukes Sir Bertie and your own behaviour and requires you to provide me each book on my list.”

Bertie’s breath became a heave. “We’ll see to it.”

Trebitsch had said he would call back in December for the works and asked Lister to make him an appointment.

“Minister!” said Lister.

Inglis said, “No! Sir Bertie, surely—“

And Bertie had bowed his head and said, “Get him…his FUCKING books.”

Now, returning, he was shown through without any fuss. Inglis’s office table bore ten thick volumes on Commerce and thirteen on Labour. Trebitsch looked them up and down and tapped and flicked a view.

“As it took so much trouble to acquire these I am very sure standard mail is insufficient. Mr. Inglis, please be so good as to have them wrapped and sent special delivery to Mr. Rowntree’s home in York.”

Inglis nodded silently. Trebitsch saw Sir Bertie on the way out. His rage appeared not to have subsided in the intervening months.


Ignacz The Watch Thief is serialised five days a week. To donate go to and access four advance chapters, commentaries or bonus art.

8.4 The Vienna Cafe

The Danube waters stroked the tender senses of the street-side passers-by and cafe patrons. Sigmund said the study on the fear of horses and their penises would be called ‘Little Hans’.  Max told him and Alfred he was grateful for the diagnosis of his son’s neurosis. It would help others, though he had misgivings.

“Thank you for introducing me to Vienna, Mr. Goschen. I have been to Berlin, you know. Munich too.  You will enjoy your new post in Berlin though we’ll be sad to lose you!”

Sigmund rolled his eyes towards the next table. “Analyse,” he whispered.

“I’m too hung over to do a spot reading,” said Alfred.

Max laughed.

“Alright, alright. The Hungarian is self-explaining: an extrovert, dominant ego, he’s unrestrained.”

Sigmund agreed. “Too keen to assert himself; definite infantile inadequacy.”

“What can we tell of the older man?” whispered Max.

Goschen told Trebitsch he’d written to the Crown Prince, and in course mentioned his love of the violin.

“Zeitung! Paper!”

Alfred waved the street seller off.

Trebitsch slapped his table twice. “Wonderful news, you can practice together!”

Adolf was sat behind Alfred, alone. He took a paper and set it on top of Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals. Heavy drinking and waltzing the night before had not shifted his gloom. It was less a storm cloud than a sensation of intense burning: his mother was dying.

“A diplomat and a musician,” said Alfred. “Not the man’s father, but a potential substitute?”


Adolf raised his head: same name, not him. It was one small black bearded foreigner welcoming another, clattering behind table.  Something turned in Adolf’s stomach and he fought the sweat breaking out. He flapped through Deutsche Zeitung to the news of Mahler’s departure from the Viennese opera. Good riddance to the Jew.

“I would like to meet the Crown Prince, if you would mention me to him,” said Trebitsch. “Yes, I am a hundred per cent certain you will miss Vienna’s theatres and waltzes as shall I!”

Adolf wondered how the old man could be putting up with the noisy one? Did he have some hold over him? And the other Jews beside them! Where the new arrivals Jews too? Deutsche Zeitung is full of tales of those oligarch’s plots.

The newcomers were speaking in Russian. “So yes, Adolph, my trip to London was reasonable enough.”

“You mentioned wishing to set up a magazine, Leon. I would like to be involved.”

“You know Mr. Goschen, I have trodden the boards myself, at the Budapest School of Drama…”

Adolf seethed. It was only months since he was rejected by the Academy of Fine Arts.

“…and the Academy of Fine Arts!” said Trebitsch.

Adolf glared at the grinning buffoon. “SETTLE DOWN,” he said, the smell of beer and carrots thick on his breath.

Trebitsch grunted and returned his attention to Goschen. “Of course there are a lot of anti-semites here in Vienna, but they will learn.”

The Russians heard this and cast scornful eyes on the sick-looking loner. Leon said, “I do not want to interfere with your studies…medicine?” asked Leon.

“I hope to add psycho-analysis next term. However, I can find the time,” said Adolph.

“I thank you Mr. Goschen, and the British embassy staff, for the kindness you have shown me in my most important mission!”

“Very well,” said Leon. “I am thinking of a paper aimed at the Russian worker, considering social democracy: Truth.”

Adolph repeated the title. “Pravda.

“You never know who you might meet here!” boasted Trebitsch.

The smell of a sickly fart drifted across the tables and they looked at the sour loner, noses turned up.

“Say Leon,” whispered Adolph. “I think that’s Alfred Adler over there!”


“He lectures at the university. Yes, it is, and Sigmund Freud and Max Graf with him.”

“I am in love with Vienna, I think I might stay a while, and in Berlin,” said Trebitsch.

“Shush a moment Leon, so we can hear what they’re saying,” said Adolph.

The other Adolf got to his feet, nearly tipping his table. He barked at the three groups around him. “NOISE, EVERYWHERE! JEW NOISE! WHY CAN’T YOU JUST BE QUIET? I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF…”

His stomach shunted and churned. Then, his bowels exploded. Faeces rained down his camel trouser legs. Goschen, Freud and Adler instinctively scraped their chairs back. In shock and silence, the stench permeated the cafe front. It burned Adolf’s nose hair and tonsils, pulling on the fever of too much drink the night before. Then the man’s mouth widened and spewed soured carrot and potato soup upon the pavement. He sank to the ground until he was done. Then his lips widened too much and another vomit fall crashed. He scowled  at them, chin dripping.

Trebitsch led Goschen away. As he passed by the far table, he looked at Leon whose dropped jaw mirrored his own. Then, slowly, each mouth curled into a smile, and Trebitsch, began a giggling fit. The psychoanalysts had joined them and they were laughing too. Adolf swore and waved his arm about, then disappeared quickly inside.

“Yes, there is much work ahead of us,” said Sigmund.

The various parties settled up and scattered.


Ignacz The Watch Thief is serialised five days a week. To donate go to and access four advance chapters, commentaries or bonus art.

8.3 Banking in Bucharest

On that August morning, Trebtisch was in no great hurry to reach the embassy on Bucharest’s Jules Michet. The British ambassadors were a tight group despite their geographical dispersal. Gripped by paranoia that Sir Bertie had somehow tainted their attitudes of British ambassadors, he thought long on bailing out of his appointment with Conyngham Greene. He wandered the halls of the Drama in the University of Bucharest, and in and out of the Religious Studies department. He found the library, closed, and let out a loud snort.

“You could try the Romanian Academy Library. I am going there myself if you need a guide.”

Trebitsch understood the Romanian tongue well enough. He thanked the student, Dumitri , and explained he was a visiting professor. Investment banking, he said; good enough for his brother, Vilmos. As they walked along Bulevardul Nicolae Bălcescu, Dumitri talked about his Geology degree. Dumitri’s interest lay in breakthroughs in drilling technology, particularly the new Parker-Rotary machines. After graduation, his expertise might be called to the un-tapped Balkan oil fields. At Calea Victoriei, they parted ways with fond farewells.

The Academy Library was busier than expected. Trebitsch was quickly bored and confused. Talking about books, he thought, was more inspiring than reading them. As he walked back along the boulevard, he thought of all the data he’d shored up. How it was set against his future so even time’s erosion could not devalue it. He walked by a street performer, five balls in the air, catalysed into one remarkable flowing performance. A sturdy temperance preacher converted words, from hundreds of thousands of years before Romanian language existed, with relevancy. Two men on a bench stared at the preacher a moment and returned to their clutch of documents. The researcher saw something in the type which the secretary brought his weight upon. By the time Trebitsch reached Jules Michet he was unafraid.

Conyngham Greene had a receding hairline, skull face and a walrus moustache covering swollen cheeks. Trebitsch went to work immediately on him. Greene was, he said, still bright enough to understand the progressive nature of Rowntree’s enterprise: his contribution would be among the great and good. The diplomat’s eye moved as if peep-holing from some painting and he got up and went to exactly where the requested books sat.

Ignacz The Watch Thief is serialised five days a week. To donate go to and access four advance chapters, commentaries or bonus art.

8.2 Sir Bertie

Pleasure cruisers in the rippling Seine float under the Eiffel Tower. The people walk under her, and the hansom cabs drive out to Rue du Faubourg and Le-Saint Honore with cremerie moderne and beurre fromages in the cool afternoon air. Inside the embassy at number 35, the air was hot. Sir Francis Bertie seethed from his office to the foyer. Strutting like a peacock, his shoes gripped the carpet as the bull he’d been nicknamed after. Ahead, Trebitsch Lincoln was shouting down Berite’s aides; Trebitsch Lincoln!

“I need all the official publications dealing with land law, listed holdings and…”

“Our position has not changed,” said Inglis.

“What is going on here?” howled Bertie. “You again?”

“… inheritance, employment, topography and transport,” said Trebitsch

“These books are worth two thousand francs,” said Lister.

“He seems to think Christmas has come,” said Sir Bertie.

“That is their sale value. The books will be redundant to us when it is done!”

“The turkey is early,” Bertie told Inglis, and the two of them laughed.

“We have done what we can. Try the library,” said Lister.

“The books must be at our side for constant referral. All you have to do is ask the French government for them.”

“Oh, now he tells me how to do my job!” said Bertie. “Are you quite serious?”

“Brussels gifted us twice as many,” said Trebitsch.

Bertie roared. “If the Belgians put their heads in the fire would you expect us to shoot ourselves in the head?”

“You were instructed to help me by The Foreign Office, and the Prime Minister’s own private secretary. “

“Mr. Ponsonby would not condone this impertinence,” said Inglis.

“Get out,” said Bertie, waving his arms madly.. “Get him out before I knock him out and throw him onto the streets myself.”

“We must obtain these books,” said Trebitsch. He spun towards the door, but looked back to the diplomats.  “I will invoke help from the highest quarters. You have been warned!”


Ignacz The Watch Thief is serialised five days a week. To donate go to and access four advance chapters, commentaries or bonus art.

8.1 Land and Labour

  1. Geographical and Physical Description

In Rowntree’s office, the June 10th 1906 copy of The Times reports the dancing Folies Bergere, of Paris, moving to Broadway, and the advent of colour photography.

“Your family are settled in York?” asks Rowntree.

“Ah yes, good access by train! The boys prefer your confectionery over Terry’s too!”

“Do call on your M.P. or myself if you have any problems.”

Trebitsch cocked his head forward. “That is the outline?”

“Of Land and Labour, our six point map. Belgium‘s constitution, here, to establish context. “

  1. Industrial

“Then we can talk about it as a country of small holdings, “said Rowntree.

“How do you go about writing your books?”

“With one like this we read vivaciously. We record our facts, as you are doing for me. As in processing cocoa, some are key ingredients. We are making use of experienced, relevant educators, and from there, find routes of our own.  Each writer types around a different finger-print. “

  1. Agricultural

“There is never one right answer to anything, however we write each working day until we are done. No editing,” said Rowntree. “Our crop will survive if we tend to it with notes. Hard facts and textual breadth: then we harvest, clean and arrange it.”

Rowntree took a sip of his tea. Trebitsch lifted and raised his.

“Yes,” said Trebitsch. “This will be appreciated after the book is marketed through various sellers and societies,”

  1. Factors influencing Agricultural and Industrial Prosperity

“That reminds me,” said Rowntree. “The Foreign Office were contacted by Mr. Funch in Copenhagen. Apparently you are to return some texts?”

“I’m afraid they are in Brussels. I shall make that first order upon my return. ”

“It was good of Funch to share his resources. Not like Sir Bertie, eh? Ho, ho. Say, is something the matter? Have you been over-working?”

  1. The Standard of Life

“I am enjoying my work. I had quite a time in Bern seeing the bridges that expand the city. Sir Bonham has offered me a tour of her medieval structures.”

“If you want to be an author yourself, you should also spend time in prayer and meditation. See your family and friends are healthy. You surely miss them. Spend time with Margaret and the boys.”

“On that matter, beg my pardon; please could you I ask a small loan of you? Certain expenses are being processed… “

Rowntree nodded and took out his pocket-book. “I won’t see you penniless. £100 will get you clear?”

“Thank you for your generosity. It will be repaid from the heart, sir.”

Rowntree drank some tea.

  1. Conclusions

“I may write well,” said Trebitsch, “but will I find readers?”

“We hope the audience will read, and buy: but hold the book in conversation; perhaps they’ll write their own books from it. First, from our stationary position with simple tools, we must give them one key conversation from a hundred. “

“Yes, yes ,” said Trebitsch. “They must read.”

“The distillation of days spent at a library, or a lucky ten minutes. We must make our travel alive for them. Chaucer and Shakespeare’s words outlived them. Can we aspire to God’s greatness also?”

Trebitsch thought.


Ignacz The Watch Thief is serialised five days a week. To donate go to and access four advance chapters, commentaries or bonus art.