A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Raymond Pearson, the walking miracle man, who recently received his nuclear test medal after volunteering to take part in incredibly dangerous testing in Australia in 1957. Scientists didn’t believe these men would live past 40, and yet Raymond was luckier than many. But sadly, aged 86, Raymond has just passed away.

His family are understandably upset, especially as he has just got his medal. But better he had it than he missed out, so he could enjoy it even for a little while. Seems I was on the right track when I insinuated Raymond was made out of Teflon. Maybe I meant ‘Titanium’. In his younger days, Raymond survived a horrendous crash in a lorry, thanks to an idiot car cutting in between his lorry and another – causing the death of the other driver. Raymond had to be cut out of the vehicle and lost half a leg and had a fractured skull. He was told he wouldn’t walk again. He absolutely did.

In later life he survived a burst ulcer and a triple A bypass. Lesser men would have given up, but Raymond fought to survive everything that was thrown at him and was back at work as soon as he left his various sick beds, never complaining. He sounds a hell of a man and a great loss.

February brings with it the first Barnsley Book Festival which will stretch nearly to the end of March. I can’t wait to be part of it, luckily my next book launch lands perfectly inbetween those dates and though my event is booked up, there are loads of other things going on you can still take part in.

February also sees the launch of Andrew (son of Ian) McMillan’s debut novel ‘Pity’ and I’ve been lucky enough to read an advance copy and it’s phenomenal. Not sure if Andrew’s event is booked up, but if it isn’t, you should go. He is one of my favourite poets. I have been waiting for some snob to scoff about us having a lit fest, you know, this town which is home to more creatives per square yard than just about any other town you can mention, including the literary giants, Joanne Harris and Barry Hines. So do tell them to stick that in their pipes.

The book festival will be fabulous for us so do support it. You can find out more by visiting barnsleycivic.co.uk.

I was very sad to hear that my father’s old friend Sam Betts had died just after his 91st birthday. Sam was one of the big wrestlers of the ‘golden era’ and fought under the name Dwight J Ingleburgh, because the promoter thought it made him sound as if he’d travelled across the pond to be part of the game.

When I was researching wrestling for a book, Sam told me loads of fascinating information about people he’d worked with – like Sky High Lee, a giant of a man who invited women into the ring to throw darts at his back. I suppose the bottle of whisky he supped before getting into the ring helped. Karl von Kramer, Pedro the Gypsy – Barnsley produced a huge crop of wrestlers who travelled all over the world filling stadiums in Sweden that the Beatles couldn’t fill, and venues in India where people walked for days in order to attend. Sam apparently slipped away very peacefully in his chair, and I hope my dad had a pint waiting for him when he got up there.