The Annotated

Grasshopper's Child

"I absolutely loved it . . . politically engaged fantasy for adults, young, old or otherwise . . ." more

"Heidi is a wonderful heroine, tough and sensitive, a poet who puts her fears and joys into genuinely good verse. .. . more



Dirt-encrusted National Trust signs beckoned as she sped along, promising a Himalayan Valley, a Tea Room, an Azalea Slope, a Rose Arbour, bur she didn't stop until she reached Swan Lake by accident. No ballerinas, just dark water scribbled over with strokes of light . . . "Mehilhoc Gardens" sources: Wakehurst Place, (the Kew in Sussex) & Sheffield Park and Nyman's Gardens, both owned by those very nice NT people


Giant sequoia sempivirens (sequoia giganteum) at Sheffield Park

Fountain Engineering?

read about Joesph Paxton's Emperor Fountain and the magic of natural hydrology

Want some modern help?

these people can sort you out

Friggy Froggy

The frogs in the Jurrasic Swimming Pool look like this one.


Old Wreck pushed back nests of mad grey hair and stared at Heidi with a strange, wondering expression, almost like a smile.
'Might I have a bit of earth?'
'Yeah,' said Heidi: thinking of the door in the wall, except in her case the door led out of the Garden. 'Like in The Secret Garden, if you like. I honestly won't do any harm.'
'Except that Mary Lennox, we are told, was an ugly, sullen child. Stubborn, seems a shared trait. What do you know about gardening?'

The Grasshopper's Child is haunted, best way to describe it, by children's classics: mainly The Secret Garden, (Frances Hodgson Burnett), but also Heidi, Johanna Spryi (two old-fashioned stories about stoical young girls, making the best of life despite deprivation, grief and isolation) and Black Beauty, Anna Sewell.(disabled girl identifies with suffering animal workforce of the Victorian age; grows up to write a "novel" exposing their abuse). One more to mention is Tom's Midnight Garden. Heidi's story really is to some extent a ghost story, though not a bittersweet happy one, as in Tom's experience. The terrible ghosts that haunt an old woman's dreams haunt Heidi too.


We could all be walking around in virtual worlds, looking like Keanu Reeves and Carrie Anne Moss in black leather: right now, if you believed the hype. The reality, if you'll pardon the expression, is still all about using a screen and a keyboard to "visit" a glorified chat room, or else it's the hot new industrial virtual avatar worlds. At best you're scampering around with a box on your head, "in" a fantastically 3d mapped and controlled game space. But if you have the patience, you can make yourself very convincing.

Build your own:

It won't be long. When Heidi walks into the Public Access Booth, dials the police station and a virtual interview room appears around her, complete with The Inspector's avatar apparently facing her across a desk, she's only about half an hour into our future.

Free-roaming virtual avatars are a little more mind-boggling, but not beyond the bounds of near future possibility. What "Verucca" is doing, when she accompanies Heidi to her new placement as a virtual ghost, is, essentially, making a phone call. We already have devices that can project apps onto any handy surface: Virtual Verruca can sit at her desk in London, while projecting her 3D image via a series of remote pick-ups (as she might her voice, or face on a screen, today), wirelessly, and seamlessly, so it looks as though she's continuously present. But it only works where there's a vhd data stream (probably the medium is polarised light), to ride on, so she isn't actually "free". That's why Heidi is so puzzled when she can't find the hotspot.

The cop in the woods, however, is doing something far more bizarre: an information-space application in development since the first episode of Bold As Love; up and running in Band Of Gypsys & too complicated to explain here.


The Sacrifice Of The Unfit is not a fantasy, it's an extended metaphor*. Some statistics, just to remind you: the top 0.01% of the US population has taken possession of 90% of the wealth. Globally, (2019) the top 1% own 45% of all global personal wealth; 10% own 82%; the bottom 50% own less than 1%. If you don't think this amounts to a willingness to murder the poor, you should think again.

locust swarms aren't alien monsters, they're just grasshoppers behaving badly.

But that's only half the story. The other problem is you, the fans of this arrangement. You've learned to think that the rich are just, like, you, on a really good day and that makes you complicit. The bad guys are called "the enemy without a face" in Grasshopper's Child because we're all on the payroll, our choices are helping the super-rich to get richer and more destructive: like a monstrous swarm of grasshoppers gone locust, devastating the Earth. . .

*A figure of speech or an image in which a word or a situation that ordinarily designates one thing is used to designate another, thus making an implicit comparison, as in “a sea of troubles”


In Bold As Love world it was sudden death. After a decade of runaway social and economic collapse, a single terrifying event put all forms of fossil fuel out of reach. This is the drastic change that has created Heidi's England, with all its harsh austerities.

Without the intervention of well-meaning, dreadful magical tech (see Midnight Lamp, it could be different. We could start a managed withdrawal from dirty energy tomorrow. Just stop subsidising the Nuclear Industry; and watch it die.
Stop propping up the "shale gas revolution".. Stop subsidising coal and gas: invest the money in genuine green energy (this does not include shipping timber from Carolina to turn Drax into a woodburning stove).In energy conservation, and energy from waste. We live (rather precariously, but still, so far...) on a a fertile planet rich in waves, wind and water, and the sun isn't going to stop shining. We'll get by! But there'll still be a shortfall, and lifestyle changes to accept.

Mass air travel is a casualty. Likewise non-essential shipping. No more cruises. No more new road building. Public transport takes the place of most private cars.
Superhighways are data highways. Luxury is the virtual world.
Nobody wastes food! (end of the obesity epidemic)
Fuel rationing brings the grim return of mass agricultural labour (until we get the Russ revolution going).
The recycling industry really takes off.
Synthetic meat replaces mass-market meat production,
freeing land for global rewilding; the water crisis starts to heal. Powerful new technologies fill the gaps, like new growth in a garden. Mycelium (spun to transparency to make polytunnels eg) becomes the all-purpose stuff that petrochemical derivatives used to be.

It could happen tomorrow, but . . . To good advice and wisdom we make promises: pain we obey (Marcel Proust). The house is on fire, we know it is, but we won't get out of bed until the flames are lapping at our pillows & that's the meaning of the "fable" of The Grasshopper's Child. She lives in the future we're creating. We could make things better, but we won't.

I'm not hoping for a miracle. I'm hoping for something messy, compromised and implemented. And just praying Mrs Bedonebyasyoudid gets to us in time to save the future.



Slave raiding pirate ships used to look like this (above). They were the terror of South and West coasts of the British Isles, kidnapping whole villages on occasion; until the French went in, about 1830, and cleaned the Barbary pirates out of what is now the coast of Algeria. & admittedly slavery in the Ottoman empire could be an opportunity for the strongminded, but we were pretty pleased.

They now tend to look more like this:

This is the Ezadeen, registered in Sierra Leone, the "ghost ship" set on a collision course with the coast of Italy, in rough seas, with 359 trafficked migrants on board; January 2015. Today's pirate slavers have a much-improved business model. They get the slaves to pay astronomical fares for their passage, use hulks that aren't even seaworthy, and they don't even have to deliver the goods. Magic!

The ghost ship trend looks set to continue:


"Portia Knowells," said DS Earley, "was dancing sky-clad at a respectable Solstice celebration, in the all-weather Pagan Grove near Crawley, at the time of the raid... "

Dear friends, I know, because you've told me, that some people take a poor view of the way I've treated Paganism in the Bold As Love books. I wish I could help but I'm afraid it's just too bad. No religion, or belief system, is immune to the corruptions of power.


La Grande Illusion . . . .Renoir IMDb

Une Partie De Campagne . . . .Renoir Vimeo

Ode To A Nightingale
John Keats


I have no family of my own.The young man who made that phone call cited information: about my lost sister, my brother-in-law, the children, to support his right to call on me. They have never been out of my mind. Not for an hour, and the hideous truth is that records of atrocity were kept ...

Back at the turn of the century I bought a secondhand book from a convention stall, vaguely thinking it would be useful for something. I started reading about Clyde Snow's work for the Disparacios of Argentina, and knew I had to acknowledge this: I had to weave the savagery of modern Fascism into my Bold As Love project. Which I did. Later on I read Clea Koff's Bone Woman, and Elsa Osorio's My Name Is Light. . .

Mass murder, with the power of the state behind the murderers. Genocide, the most appalling of crimes, fueled by self-interest and justified by lies. The bodies that cannot be allowed to remain buried. The children, witnesses of intolerable things, taken and lost . . . But sometimes found.

Changing the World Flamenco

You can scream
Or you can dance
It feels bad to crouch in a corner
It hurts my throat to scream
And nothing changes

I choose to dance

My cries become my colours

Red and Black

My bruised and battered life

Is the ruffles skirt I trails and sway The hammer blows upon me

Are the snap Of my flashing heels

Heidi Ryan


Cuckmere Haven at sunset
by Lucy Melford
North Norfolk, East Sussex, West Sussex, Licolnshire: the UK is getting nibbled at the edges, and there are tears and protests, but the sea always wins. Also soggier in the middle, but that's arguably purely due to an ideology-based refusal to protect reclaimed waterlands. But if you think, and rightly, that our troubles so far are storms in a teacup, try telling a Pacific Islander a Bangladeshi or even a New Yorker, that anthropogenic climate change isn't a problem.

Sadly the cold equations say that none of this stops, even if we all change our ways right now. The tides will keep rising. Chaotic weather extremes will persist. Food security will still be in crisis, fuelling wars. You can't turn and aircraft carrier on a sixpence. Even in a tough-love and (mostly, and in the publicity) decent world state, like the fantasy Chinese Empire in The Grasshopper's Child, everyone's going to be a little bit hungry, and the lifestyle changes will take some getting used to. We could try them, preserve a humane culture, and save the future. Or we could carry on regardless, just the way we are, and see how much worse it gets. I prefer the first option. What about you?

Drawing by Dodie Masterman,
for the Folio Sociey edition of The Secret Garden

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