The Hypercube Journey

I am really thrilled and excited to share a story from a favourite writer, writing group friend, and fellow Dragon on our Moving Dragon Writes blog, Richard Kefford. Richard is a tremendous writer in many genres, but there is a quirkiness and originality in his stories and poems (and euphonic writing) which I really enjoy and admire.

So here is…

The Hypercube Journey

He noticed the advert while flicking through the Birmingham Mail. There was to be an architectural  and building exhibition at the National Exhibition Centre in six months time. He sent off for full details thinking this might be just what he needed to get his architectural practice out of the doldrums of designing self build homes, designing and specifying sun rooms for already oversized family homes, doing sub contract work at cost and drawings for the little box house builders, squeezing more and more people into less and less space.

The exhibition was to be in two sections – one for architects and one for builders. These were called, respectively and somewhat predictably, ‘Architex’ and ‘Buildex’. He saw himself as a creative designer, specialising in living spacesas it said on his promotional literature so he sent off for the relevant exhibitor forms. He didn’t somehow think of himself as a brick on brick builder.

When he got the forms back, he got to work on what he did best. Thinking of and designing a stand that would showcase his abilities. The only problem was the cost. The size of stand that he wanted / needed would more likely put him out of business before he could start designing for the many new clients that he hoped to attract.

He had to think of another way, one that could be achieved at a much lower cost. So it was back to the figurative drawing board – AutoCAD – Revit 2D and 3D, in this case. He had been using AutoCAD since his time at Sussex Uni so it made sense to carry on with it. It was familiar, he knew its capabilities and shortcuts and, more important, he knew its limitations.

He did what he usually did at the start of a project – doodling while he waited for inspiration to strike.

He drew a front door – always useful to have some sort of portal to your world. Then he started thinking and playing with the 2D/3D possibilities of the software. Why were there only two dimension schemes in use. We now know the others are all around us – some scientists say that there are at least eleven. Where are they? They are here, we just cannot see them. Try this exercise. You can draw in two dimensions and represent three. One is a dot, two is a line, three is an object but what is four? OK so think of a cube. That’s an object so it must be 3D. Go down one and you have a square. It’s made of lines so it must be 2D. Go back up to the cube and add one dimension – you get a tesseract. This is made from eight cubes but the magic of it is that it only takes up the 3D volume of one cube. It can also be drawn on the AutoCAD in 2D. A tesseract has eight times as much internal space as external volume as the 4th dimension does not exist in our physical universe even though the CAD software could draw a 2D/3D wireframe representation of one. He was then conceited enough to think that, if the CAD system could draw it, he could design and build it.

He invited his mate Phil down to the pub for a drink that evening and put the problem to him. He is not one of those people who designs things on the back of an envelope, he just sat there with a dreamy look on his face for about half an hour while he kept him supplied with pints of the local real ale. After a long period of silence he said, ‘to achieve the best volume in 3D it would have to be an unfolded tesseract.’

‘How do you mean,’ he asked.

‘Well, if you drop a dimension and then ask the same question, you can cover the greatest surface are by unfolding a cube. If you do that, you get six squares. If you unfold a tesseract you get eight cubes.’


They batted it to and fro for another hour and then came to a decision. He would order a square space in the exhibition hall. This would only be the standard size of one unit, which is 4 metres square. He would then design and build a cube on it which would have sides each of 4 metres. This cube would be built from wood with one door so that no passer-by could see what was in it. Inside the cube he would build an unfolded tesseract to give him an extra seven cubes that could only be seen from the inside of the base cube. This would give him plenty of space to showcase his designs and still leave space for a conference room and a kitchen.


The first day of the exhibition setting up week came and all the materials necessary to build the stand started arriving at the exhibition hall. There were a few startled faces when people saw how many materials were taken into through the front door of the cube. ‘It must be getting very crowded in there,’ was the general reaction. He ignored them and urged his building contractor to continue with the work as quickly as possible – there was a lot of work involved in fitting out the eight cubes.


It was time for the exhibition to open. He stood just outside his cube inviting people in through the door to see his showcased work. It was difficult at first because potential customers assumed that he couldn’t show them much in the space available but the ones that he persuaded       in were very impressed by the scope of the work and how much space ‘appeared to have created from nowhere.’ By the second day, the news had spread by word of mouth so the number of visitors to the stand increased rapidly and he was rushed off his feet explaining what could be achieved and then taking and scheduling orders. His stand became the place to be.

The exhibition was to last for five days then the weekend would be taken up by taking down the stands, ready for the packaging exhibition, Packex, the following week.

Each day was busier than the day before so, by Friday midday it was getting manic with even the eight cubes in the hypercube getting crowded. The climax came at 1337. The entry counter showed that there were more people in the stand than ever before.

There was suddenly a very loud ‘Snap’. Nearby exhibitors were worried that something dangerous had happened to his stand but no, it was still there and looked entirely undamaged.

It was very different inside. The severe weight loading caused by so many people had caused the tesseract to fold back into itself. Of all the forms it could have ‘chosen’ it had formed itself into the most material and energy-efficient form so people were in some very strange shaped spaces.

Luckily, he was quite close to the front door when it happened. The exhibition hall fire and rescue team arrived very quickly and stood there, amazed, while many more people than seemed possible slowly walked, unharmed apart from minor shock, out of the front door.

No news of this reached the papers as the exhibition hall owners didn’t want any negative publicity. He was too busy designing buildings for his new customers and none of them were willing to talk about it – who would believe them? It will take nearly four years to do all the work that flowed from that exhibition and he is now making plans to exhibit at the next one – luckily they are only held every four years – just like the world cup and the Olympics.

He is now busy getting the design ready for his new exhibition stand. He has been talking to Phil about the possibility of designing and building a dimensional hypercube in five dimensions…

© Richard Kefford 2017

You can find Richard’s writing here:

… and more from him, and me, here:

Lois 1952-3 jpeg

So near the end!

It seems a long time since I began writing my latest Radwinter story, which I’m pretty sure is going to be called ‘Earthquake’. I started writing it last year while I was working on editing the last book I published which was ‘Lucky Portbraddon’. I had finished LP as I called it, about ten years ago, but had never got around to properly editing it – I was still working, my children were still at school, and life was very busy. Once I stopped working and could concentrate on writing full-time, I began to work through what you might call my back catalogue – completed novels which needed re-editing and tidying up so I could publish them as e-books on Kindle.

All was going very well until one autumn, I decided to accept the write-a-novel-in-a-month challenge – the National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo; the idea is to start a new novel and write 50,000 words of it in the month of November. I started and wrote the first 70,000 words of a completely new book, Radwinter. I completed and published it, and my first ever sequel began to formulate in my mind, and that is what I moved onto next… to my utter surprise, four books have now been written in the series!

Although I had more Radwinter ideas, I decided I really ought to get ‘Lucky Portbraddon’ off my virtual bookshelf, so I began work on it; it was a monster book, nearly 300,000 words – far, far to long even though it was a complex story. Editing is actually quite tedious, so I began the fifth Radwinter book as a little light relief. LP, much much abreviated and much better for it I hope, was published last autumn and now I am so nearly finishing Earthquake… the first draft… then will come a period of editing, checking, rewriting.

Earthquake is a genealogical mystery, but as well as investigating the past, Thomas Radwinter, my main character also accepts present day mysteries to unravel. This time he is trying to find out who killed a little girl in 1931 – he has twelve suspects, the child’s classmates! he is also trying to explain who or what is responsible for the supposed haunting of his ex-wife’s hotel, as well as having to deal with an unexpected addition to his family. I just have one plot line to finish unravelling, and a few unexpected twists, and then it will be to work getting it ready to publish!

Here is a link to the first Radwinter book:

Thomas Radwinter goes in search of his family roots; using the internet he traces his family back to war-torn eastern Europe, and follows their journey from arriving in England in the 1830’s, across southern England. However, the more he finds out about his family’s past, the more he sees his own family, his brothers and his wife differently. His relationship with them changes… and he begins to understand his own character, and to find out as much about his present life as his family’s history.

… and its sequel:

Encouraged by his success in discovering his Radwinter ancestors, Thomas Radwinter sets out to investigate his maternal line, starting with the mysterious and alcoholic Sylvia. His life has been somewhat dysfunctional, but now, gaining confidence through his new loving relationship with a beautiful young woman and her son, he is able to confront his own past.
His genealogical searches take him into the tragic histories of his family and other ordinary people who lived and worked under the appalling conditions of the Victorian age. His skills in finding people from the past encourage a friend to beg him to try and trace her long-lost daughter, a woman, who, it seems does not want to be found. He accepts her request, little realising this will lead him into danger.  Then the father of his partner’s son arrives; he’s come for his boy…

… book 3:

Thomas Radwinter continues his journey into his ancestor’s history; he has followed his paternal line of the Radwinters, “and what an interesting journey that was. I mean journey for me in a non-literal way, but it was an interesting journey for the Radwinters, literally”.
He traced his maternal ancestry, the Magicks, “I followed that side of our family… and it led me to some very dark places I can tell you”. Now he has to find the history of those closest to him, “in my Radwinter story I found some amazing truths about myself. My childhood was difficult to say the least, and when I started to follow the Magick story, I had to begin to face my past, and confront some of my fears and nightmares. To finish my story I have to look at Sylvia Magick and her husband Edward Radwinter, the people who brought me up… sort of… I think of them now as Syl and Raddy, because it’s easier and less painful.” During his search Thomas also seeks a woman who vanished seemingly into thin air from a car stopped at a road junction, and he tries to solve the mystery of Badruddin, the Moroccan an elderly female client brought back from a cruise…  Thomas little thinks that he may be risking his life to find these different truths.

… and book 4:

Beyond Hope is the fourth in the series of books following the life and genealogical investigations of Thomas Radwinter; in previous stories he has followed family’s history back several centuries and also found some uncomfortable and very painful truths in more recent times. In ‘Beyond Hope’, Thomas decides to share with his three brothers what he has learned about their mother and father… but telling the truth can be damaging, the truth can hurt, and as Thomas later reflects, “I know at first hand, a very, very painful first hand, how old secrets have the power to wound and how sometimes those dogs snoozing away should be left doing exactly that, sleeping dogs should sometimes just be let lie.” His revelations cause the close family ties to be tested which doesn’t help Thomas as he struggles with the other commissions he is being paid to undertake; he has been asked by a very elderly lady to find out who leaves lilies on a grave she visits, he has undertaken to investigate a mysterious lama who has a dangerous power over a hard-working teacher and devoted father, and he continues his search for the daughter of a friend who has become involved with a very dangerous man… And all the while his own little family has to face difficult decisions. The fall-out between Thomas and his brothers may only be healed if he can find out what happened to their father who disappeared thirty years ago.

… and Lucky Portbraddon:

“Lucky Portbraddon… a rather rascally ancestor of my late husband, or so family legend has it, was a favourite friend of the Prince Regent, apparently, but Lucky made, not lost, his fortune…”
A few days before Christmas, as the Portbraddon family gathers at their grandmother’s big house up on the moors, the last of the cousins drives through a blizzard to join them:
…There was a severed dog’s head stuck on the gatepost. There’d been a few seconds pause in the driving snow and in those few seconds, lit by their headlights, she glimpsed the wolf-like creature, maw gaping, tongue lolling, teeth bared in one final gory snarl. Then the blizzard obliterated the stone beast and everything else in a seething maelstrom…  A near-death experience does not seem an auspicious start to their family get together, but the cousins determine to celebrate as they always do.  However as the old year ends and the new begins it seems their good fortune is about to run out. An unexpected death, a descent into madness, betrayal… and as the year progresses other things befall them, a stalker, attempted murder, a patently dodgy scheme for selling holiday homes in a dangerous part of the Caucasus… Maybe the Portbraddons are not so lucky… except there is also love, a new home, reconciliation, a spiritual journey, music… One thing remains true, whatever difficulties arise between them, whatever happens, family is family, family first… “They’re like a big bunch of musketeers, all for one and one for all!”

louis 001

My family story… maybe it could be like this…

In our excellent writers meeting this afternoon a new phrase was brought up, ‘creative nonfiction’ which most of us had never heard of before but were immediately intrigued by. Creative nonfiction is apparently also known as literary nonfiction or narrative nonfiction, and as you can guess is a genre of writing. It employs literary styles and techniques to produce stories or narratives which are factually accurate . It’s different from most other ways of writing factual pieces which although maybe beautifully and even poetically written, are presented for their factual and accurate content. recently for my book club I had to read ‘Seven Brief Lessons on Physics‘  by Carlo Rovelli; I hardly understood any of it, but I read all of it because it was so elegantly and well-written. There are also literally millions of novels written about factual things and actual events which are, nevertheless, fiction.

I looked to Wikipedia for a definition, because I grasped the idea but needed to see it explained. According to Wikipedia, the literary critic Barbara Lounsberry suggests several characteristics of the genre in her book ‘The Art of Fact’

  • document able subject matter chosen from the real world as opposed to ‘invented’ from the writer’s mind… topics and events discussed in the text verifiably exist in the natural world
  • exhaustive research which allows writers “novel perspectives on their subjects” and “permits them to establish the credibility of their narratives through verifiable references
  • the scene –  vividly describing  the context of events in contrast to objective reportage
  • fine writing with a literary prose style
  • verifiable subject matter and exhaustive research ensure the nonfiction aspect of literary nonfiction
  • narrative form and structure display the writer’s artistry
  • polished language reveals that the objective of what has been written is literary

A book I read some time ago which I think may partly fall into this genre is ‘The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, or, The Murder at Road Hill House’ by Kate Summerscale, which was an examination of the facts surrounding the murder of a little boy in 1860, and the investigation into the crime by Mr Whicher of Scotland Yard. When I read it I recognised that some of it was written in a way different from the usual historical accounts of events. Ms Summerscale had done research to be able to describe the weather, the state of the harvest, the vegetation in the countryside through which the train travelled from London to Somerset. I found it a little irritating as it seemed to fall between a factual account and something more elaborate. I think why it didn’t work for me was that it wasn’t consistent, and also occasionally, the author subliminally appeared in the text. Maybe I should read it again, and think of it from the outset in a different way.

So creative nonfiction, and a story I want to tell… the story of my great grandparents Louis Walford from Tasmania, and Lois Penny from Northamptonshire… I am never going to be able to know all of their story, but maybe by using aspects of creative nonfiction, I could tell part of it in an imaginative and yet truthful way.

Here is a link to the Wikipedia page I mentioned:


A sort of lamington

We had never eaten lamingtons, a lovely sponge type cake covered in jam or chocolate and desiccated coconut, until we visited Australia. To be honest, I had seen lots of recipes and never bothered making any… but having tried some, and then tried some more, and a few more, then getting free ones on Australia Day, and then having some more just to make sure we really did adore them, we decided that lamingtons, named after Lord Lamington (probably) are just the best thing!

It was my writers’ group today, and as one of our number is gluten intolerant I looked for recipes which she could eat, and to my surprise up popped a cake very like a lamington but gluten-free… it was rather an improbable recipe but all the comments praised it, and so I decided to have a go. I baked it yesterday so if it was a disaster I could make a tried and trusted gluten-free cake today… I should have trusted the recipe and the comments – delicious!!

This is not a lamington, but it eats very like one! I confess, I did adjust the recipe slightly, but here is my version:

  • 8oz mashed potato (with 1 tbsp milk added while mashing – I guess you could use any leftover mash if you have it which might have butter and more milk in – as long as it also didn’t have pepper, although thinking about it, pepper might be an interesting addition)
  • 8 oz gluten-free self-raising flour (I use Dove’s)
  • 8 oz butter or margarine (I used Stork margarine, it’s what my mum used, it’s what mary Berry uses, and also it’s softer than the butter I had in the fridge
  • 8 oz caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • vanilla essence to taste
  • jam (or chocolate icing – 1.5 lb icing sugar, 2 oz cocoa powder, 1 oz soft butter, 6.5 fl oz milk – I didn’t make this recipe I used just jam)
  • desiccated coconut
  1. beat the butter/margarine and sugar together until very light and pale and creamy and fluffy
  2. add the eggs one by one (since I had a nasty experience with a bad egg which against all my usual practices I hadn’t cracked into a cup first, crack into a cup first!)
  3. use a few tablespoons of the mix to slacken the potato (mine had set into a big lump, but maybe yours won’t, in which case maybe you don’t need to slacken it)
  4. beat in the flour and potato alternatively
  5. pour into a 7×11 greased and lined tin (I think mine was a little larger so mine were thinner, but maybe that’s better if you’re watching calories!)
  6. bake for 40-45 mins at 180°C, 350°F, gas mark 4
  7. this is where the recipe deviates from real Australian lamingtons completely: if you are using jam, spread on the top while still warm, then sprinkle with coconut

However, to make it authentically, the cake should be covered in chocolate icing:

  1. put sifted icing sugar, cocoa, butter and milk in a bowl over hot water and stir  until the icing is smooth and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  2. cut cake into squares and dip (using a fork) into the icing until it is coated (if the icing goes a bit stiff, put it back over the hot water and maybe add a little milk
  3. toss  in the coconut and leave on cake rack to set

I just made the jammy cakes, and they were yummy, and I guess less fattening!

PS my featured image is nothing to do with cake, it’s just pretty and the leaves are sort of jammy coloured


I wasn’t that keen on the book… maybe I’ll like the film… or maybe not…

It often seems in my reading group, that I’m the one who doesn’t like the book which every else does… maybe I’m just an awkward reader, or maybe I don’t try hard enough, or maybe some of the books are just beyond me.

A couple of years ago we read ‘Cloud Atlas’ by David Mitchell, and everyone else had various shades of liking from ‘OK’ to ‘Amazing!’… I have to confess I couldn’t even finish it, I just didn’t engage with the characters, I got muddled with the story, and I got to a point where I just didn’t care what happened to any of them… and I further confess, that I didn’t finish it… I think Wikipedia sums it up: “It consists of six nested stories that take the reader from the remote South Pacific in the nineteenth century to a distant, post-apocalyptic future.” It is fantastically complicated with the different story-lines and characters overlapping even though they are separated by centuries and  by millennia. David Mitchell the author has an incredible imagination, and I can’t begin to understand how he was able to weave these different plots and characters together and keep track of them all. I’m just an amateur writer in comparison, and I struggle over my plots which are far less complex.

I have to admit I felt a bit disheartened to be defeated by such a well-thought of book, and actually I didn’t really like it very much either. Apparently it was partly inspired by Italo Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveller, which I read when I was a student and found really interesting and influenced me and my writing. So… when our Australian friend said how much he loved the film of Cloud Atlas, having also loved the book, and suggested we watch it, I readily agreed! Maybe I would understand it! Maybe it would make sense! Maybe I would be able to go back and reread the book!

I must admit that I did understand more of the film than the book, although I did get confused at points; it is very clever in the way it tells these complicated but linked stories because the same actors are involved in the different plots:

  • Halle Berry
  • Jim Broadbent
  • Doona Bae
  • Tom Hanks
  • Hugh Grant
  • Hugo Weaving
  • Susan Sarandon
  • Keith David
  • James D’Arcy
  • Zhou Xun
  • David Gyasi

They not only play different characters they change gender and race which is interesting… I guess, and does make a point, I suppose, but I did wonder whether it was actually a distraction – ‘ooh, there’s Ben Wishaw as a woman! Oh look, Jim Broadbent is Korean! Oh goodness, that white woman is Halle Berry!” The effects were extraordinary, the battles, the vistas, futuristic worlds, it was amazingly clever… but was it too clever? Maybe it was just too clever for me. Apparently when it was released there were very mixed reviews, but the music and the score received universal acclaim.

I hope my friends from the reading group watch it, I’ll be very interested in their opinions! meanwhile, for the next meeting we are reading David Copperfield (hurrah!) and The Warden (groan)…


Dear diary…

To be honest I am not very good at keeping a diary, apart from here where I do tend to share some of the things I’ve been up to and some of the thoughts I’ve had. I have an old friend who has written a diary every day since she was about ten, and writes at least a page… she is now well into her seventies… what a treasure, what history! I do have a diary, and for the last ten years or so I have had diaries and made notes and jottings each day, if I remember, but notes and jottings is all they are.

However, when we went away on our six week big adventure, I resolved to keep a diary, and keep it as fully as possible and keep it every day. We would have plenty of time, we thought, and indeed we did. I thought I might write on the flight to Tasmania, but it was too cramped, too hot, too uncomfortable, and maybe I was too excited.

We arrived and got settled in our hotel and a pattern to our days emerged – even when we went on our car tour round the island, we kept pretty much to the same routine. We got up early, breakfasted and then went out exploring, usually having a snack or light lunch, or sometimes just a cake with coffee. We would return to the hotel, maybe at four or five, maybe earlier, and after a few hours relaxing and unwinding, we would go out for a meal and to find some beer – while we were in Hobart it was usually at our ‘local’, the Shamrock.

So really I had plenty of time for a diary, but somehow other stuff got in the way, doing other writing, watching the Tasmanian and Australian news, reading, looking at the leaflets, magazines and books we had picked during the day, chatting…

I had a thick writing book, and I did half fill it, and I wrote in other books too – when we were out and stopped to sit in a park, by the shore, on the beach, he would draw and I would write.  I wrote fairly consistently, but not always in sequence, reflecting on things we had done a few days ago, as well as what we had done that day.

Part of the problem for me writing my diary, and this may sound silly, I just couldn’t decide what ‘voice’ to use… I didn’t want a list of ‘we did this, and then we did that, and then we went so and so and saw such and such…‘ – and because I am so used to using a keyboard because my handwriting is so illegible, it did slow me down trying to write so anyone including myself could read it. We left Tasmania, so sad to depart, but looking forward to seeing our friends in Brisbane, a new place for me! I didn’t write a single word in my diary while I was with our friends!

So my diary; it was a partial success in that I did write something, but it is not complete… I’ll try and catch up with the missing bits here, which I daresay won’t be as vivid, but at least I might complete the story of our adventure!