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Dreamworlds of the Pandemic



I walk into the picture . . .

A Traveller In Time, Alison Uttley: (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alison_Uttley); (https://alisonuttley.co.uk/). I was fascinated by this story when I first met it, long ago, because the frame of this 'pioneering time slip story for children' itself seemed set in a vanished world almost within my reach. I felt I might open a familiar door, maybe in my gran's house down in the valley, and step through into a world of lamps and darkness, and horse-drawn traffic; where country boys could come knocking on the door of an 'old, little' house in Cheyne Walk, selling honey-scented bunches of cowslips from the fields, and a girl my age (or thereabouts) could rummage in old chests for silk embroidered waistcoats, pearl-handled pistols... Penelope Taverner (sent off to the old Derbyshire farm to convalesce, and save her parents from more awful doctor's bills), walks into the world of the tragic stand-off between Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth of England, and hardly even notices she's time-travelling. She just opens a door and there she is, among different people, who dress a little strangely: miraculously accepted as exactly what she is, the daughter of an old family connection, come to stay for a while.

Nothing can be done. Mary of Scots can't be saved, and nor can the courageous Babingtons. It's intense, romantic, and a bit voyeurish, in a way, because the time-traveller is always going to walk away unharmed, if not untouched. But what I noticed this time is the way Alison Uttley's method is clearly visible, and a real innovation. There's no clunky explanation, no rationalisation. It's all about hints and glimpses, disparate haunting fragments; drifting into each other, clinging like spiderweb, to create a sense of a dimension where time doesn't pass, and history is never dead meat, it's always living people and their different but equal versions of the world.

And to think, if Alison Uttley had been born a generation later, she'd have been an academic scientist. What a waste! See also The Country Child, featuring what I'm sure is the self-same old Derbyshire farmhouse, a living, breathing creature and its inhabitants, in a past much closer to Alison's present, but now completely vanished.



If you don't care to escape into long dead real people's complicated and tragic lives, you could try an allegedly more intellectual kind of unreality. Magister Ludi, Herman Hesse (aka The Glass Bead Game Das Glasperlenspiel) was one of the hallowed books, like Zen and the Art of Motorcyle Maintenance, (I remember something about worshiping a spanner), or anything by Carlos Castaneda that everyone cool was supposed to read, when I was a university student . . . I don't remember if I ever read it, in those days. Set in an imaginary twenty-fifth century (but really, and obviously, about Germany between the two World Wars) it's the slow, placid, yet highly charged life story of Joseph Knect (it means servant)------how he's recruited as a schoolboy to the hallowed, scholarly province of Castalia, how he rises through the ranks to become the Master of the famous Glass Bead Game, and the fateful decision he makes, when at the height of his powers. There are no female scholars, and there is no overt homosexuality in this community, only the purest love and affection (along with the inevitable scrapping for precedence and dominance); though I think I spotted the mention of a discreet house where sensible women were kept, to satisfy male needs hygenically. Hogwarts! I thought, for the first two hundred or so pages. And Hogwarts with no girls, which is even better! Either Hogwarts or C.P.Snow; a world of incredibly pure male privilege; incredibly pure in that, as opposed to say, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, there's almost nothing to tell you what these cloistered men actually do. They just are scholarly, and they play this mysterious game, and ... That's it. But Joseph Knect's slow life story grew on me, I don't know how. I just started to feel for his dreams, and for his isolation, as he climbs the ladder (without any vulgar effort or scheming, nb), until there's nothing left to achieve, and its all Maya, after all.

Maya; illusion of the senses, and a "real-world" date, by the last scenes, of around 1933 I suppose. & there's no escape from history any more. The copy you see above was acquired from two Americans we met in Java, in August 1985, while sharing a long, hot wait for some boat or other.




Red Sky In The Morning*



Monday 15th November

Domestic update: the little brown mouse is still in the house. It's living in the oven drawer, where first it built a nest of shards of bark and a blue tit's feather, and some foil chocolate wrapper (do not ask about the blue tit, it's a painful subject, involving Tilly the junior cat). Now it has a proper bird's nest made of some chewed up strips of mop, and possibly grey wadding already borrowed from the big cushion it ruined before we were aware (alerted by Tilly's close attention). It seems satisfied now, and Tilly has lost interest (unless indifference is a sneaky ploy of hers . . .). It's definitely not a house mouse, it belongs outdoors, and we believe it is alone. We have chased it all over and behind everything, and taken the kitchen apart, and left the back door open, etc, to no avail. Currently we are resigned. It is, of course, very cute.

& so, farewell, COP26. So sorry I didn't pay much attention to you, and that I may even have jeered a bit. And the Blah, blah blah thing... which I knew must have been/be hurtful. In ways I feel I've been belabouring a good-willed, abused, disabled child, that was doing its best, and crying and grieving because it couldn't help the world and life on earth and everything --- Purely out of bitterness because there was no way I could get at the actual, impervious bad guys gathered up in Glasgow (among whom I feel I have to include the head of Brighton & Hove Council Green Party, I'm sorry to say), purely to enjoy a shindig, free food, rubbing shoulders with celebrities, and the chance of being on the telly.

CLIMATE JUSTICE, damage and loss


Meanwhile, we were marching, of course. The way you do. With the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom this time (the oldest women's peace organisation still active today, check them out on Wikipedia). Climate Justice was our theme. Climate Justice is the message. The poorest pay, the richest do the damage and cause the loss; the poorest pay, the richest carry on flying their private jets everywhere ... but what can you do? "Everybody" wants to be as much like the richest as possible, even if that only means eating a lot of fast food, and driving a car that has contracted elephantitis, everyone wants to be the richest, not the poorest. Reminds me of that Fred Pohl story about consumerism (in which, in contrast, truly rich people had the privilege of not being forced to consume, consume, consume, and the humiliation of poverty was that you had to be fat as barrage balloon, with a car to match and oceans of fast fashion stuffing your home). But in our world, even the rich are insanely greedy. The message that there just isn't much of "Having it All" left, and that there are no "political" solutions, only painful ones, just doesn't get through.

Anyway, it was very nostalgic. How I wished I was back there in the old days, with the People's Vote people. Dominic Grieve and Anna Soubry and Caroline Lucas somewhere around. Not getting to the big screeen speeches because we were being aides (sounds grovelling, but also because we never really reckon speeches, nb) Ending up, of course, at The GreenCoats Boys for the very good beer they have . . . Knowing that in the end the Persians always get through, but still guarding our Thermoplyae, in a totally non-violent way, of course. It was so homely and local then. So harmless. Not any more.

Go without
Go hungry
Go nowhere


I wasn't kidding when I wrote that, in Grasshopper's Child, years ago. I really wasn't. But where's the utterly ruthless Emperor of China who will force us to save the world, when we need her? We haven't even got a Churchill to tell us it's blood, sweat and tears time.

*red sky photo taken at dawn, from our back door; 26th Oct

Season of Mists, Bottomless Swamps of Doom, and Eerie Fruitfulness (A very gentle entry)

Tuesday 15th October. It's autumn again, disturbingly warm (again) and very moist. Sloppy, almost . . . A walk in woods changing colour, to forage for sweet chestnuts, and through amazingly green fields, liberally sown with giant Parasol & field mushrooms. It's an incredible year for edible funghi, overblown, sodden with rainwater, but fried down in hot butter they're still pretty tasty. And perfectly free of insect infestation . . .Funghi are so fast ripening and fast collapsing in this kind of weather, maybe there's nothing sinister about that. But all this summer I have noticed, idly picking blackberries from hedges and from woodland undergrowth, in Sussex and in Surrey, this eerie absence. Not a single dreaded grub in the ripe fruit. Even the lowliest, most ubiquitous country lane invertebrates are giving up on us.

My Library Books.
A Japanese ghost story, set in an imaginary, contemporary, Japanese town, by a Singaporean first novelist. I picked it out because I liked the cover, but Clarissa Goenawan's Rainbirds has survived the goodreads treatment, so hopefully she is a writer to watch (= there will be more of these). Inevitably, readers have recalled Murakami, (because it's allegedly Japanese, and a bit off kilter) but I got tired of Haruki Murakami a while ago, even before he reached his don't drop it on your foot phase, and to me this dreamlike narrative seemed fresh, and floating, or ungrounded, rather than alienated. I thought of another Japanese writer, Kazuo Ishiguro & The Buried Giant a misty, off kilter take on Arthurian Britain, in which everyone seems either asleep, or making the journey the dead make, to wherever they go, while dreaming the action . . . No, I give up, I can't explain the charm, you'd have to try it and see. & yes, those are goldfish, not any kind of birds on the cover, and no, I don't really understand about the "rainbirds", but they're in there.

Silence, Anthony Quinn. Poetic style, slow motion action, and everything seems to happen in grey pouring rain or darkness, or both. .. A grim, gloomy and bloody "historical case" cop story, thoroughly grounded this time, in the border country of Northern Ireland, years after, but still haunted by The Troubles. Very violent in parts, and with a final revelation that maybe doesn't quite work out, about the mean-minded, respectable bigotry that can lie hidden behind the worst atrocities. Sheep are important characters, guardian spirits, and watch out for the little black hen: comforting, precious and imperilled companion for our tired cop hero; I think she represents Ireland.

Second episode of "Tales of the Condor Heroes" a martial arts epic by Jin Yong (who died last year). I love the "Tales of the Condor Heroes". and I liked this second episode even better than the first. Caveat, possibly you have to have watched "The Water Margin", or at least enjoy Kung Fu movies. This is not High Fantasy, Western style. Don't expect "The Lord Of The Rings". The characters may be fantastical, or performing fantastical feats, but they can be crude and vulgar; they have no compelling sense of mission, beyond being true to the code, and don't feel themselves central to the great story of China that's unfolding around them. My favourite (inevitably) is cheerful and indomitable Jade Huang (I don't mind the mixture of Western & Chinese-style names, it seems natural enough). Not all cosseted gangster princesses turn out like Ivanka. It's very touching to watch her growing up, and learning to accept that sorrow and loss are real . . . Is it because we have become aware that our lives must be fleeting?

These young cattle (top picture) were very friendly, seeing us as interesting compary, and following us across their muddy field to have their polls rubbed, over the gate. I mention this because there've been bad incidents involving cattle and walkers, this year in Sussex. I suspect, I may be wrong, that it's because some people still, despite all pleading, have their dogs, even multiple dogs, off the leash in pasture, where animals are grazing. It's not okay, and your dog is not different. And there's another autumn, almost gone, and still this bottomless Brexit swamp is drowning us. Most of us (a voting majority) now want to stay in the EU, but (as of now) we aren't going to get a vote. But nothing's settled. Who knows, maybe the snake (the one that winds its way around the halls of power tomorrow, doggedly and gently repeating its only trick) will become a dragon!

Joanna Russ Study (University of Illinois Press)

"Joanna Russ" a Study for University of Illinois Press's "Masters Of Science Fiction" list, has been in the making for three or four years (wow . . .) & now it is done. It's been a long trail, an absorbing story with endless diversions, many twisty passages, much intriguing stuff that I never knew before, even intriguing stuff that (with an effort) I decided not to pursue, and much that I remembered, much that I had learned, in the eighties, nineties, about SF's Seventies Feminism/Feminist Seventies.

I wasn't there for the seventies as such. My contribution to Joanna Russ studies in the seventies consisted of walking past the cover of the Star edition of The Female Man in the Straits Times, Singapore's biggest book store, time and again, and thinking . . . a) is that lady on the cover a feminist? Really? ... If you know the edition you won't be surprised at my uncertainty, and b) Nope. I am not a man. I'll be a female human being, if you like . . . But really I'm absolutely convinced I'm a Gwyneth.
Before I bought it.

Anyway, here's my study, out now. Read her books. Read her essays, read her stories. I promise you (safe bet, if you are reading this!) that whatever your preference as to gender identity, you'll have the time of your life. And like me you will learn stuff, lots of mind-expanding, daunting, hard-to-take, thrilling, tragic, funny and clever stuff, that you did not know before.

Here's the announcement: https://www.press.uillinois.edu/books/catalog/74rgb7hm9780252042638.html

Here's another page where you can buy, with couple of early reader-reviews:

https://www.netgalley.com/catalog/book/165639


Can't leave without saying I love the cover they gave me (thank you so much, Tamara Shidlauski!), and many thanks to all the many people who helped me on the way.

Small, Ugly, Utopias



Small, Ugly Utopias: The Grasshopper’s Child, by Gwyneth Jones reviewed by Joel A.Nichols

Gwyneth’s Jones’s strange novel The Grasshopper’s Child is series of against-the-grain juxtapositions: a teenager of color from the city sent to care for two “Elderly Wrecks” whose great house and gardens are rotting around them, a near-future England so grim and violent that only the Chinese Empire’s invasion can stop the genocide and cannibalism, gardens that seem to teem with magic but instead let Jones show how internet-native teenagers can get down and dirty with Victorian plumbing technology. There are many more examples of points where the author has reached for the most disparate comparison in any given case and confidently pulled it into this novel in a realistic, ho-hum way. . . The overall effect is disjointed: is this an updated Nancy Drew, a satire of late technology (complete with holographic social workers and virtual popstar com-petitions), a refreshing teen friendship and love story that avoids romantic clichés in its desire to do the right thing by these teens, or something else altogether? There are many layers of mystery in this book, whether the reader is questioning the tragic murder that left Heidi’s father dead and her mother imprisoned; the shady conspiracies that infuse every part of life in this too-good-to-be-true rural idyll; or the much smaller scale but no less emotional mystery of what, exactly, the evil Crace is doing to Mrs. Scott-Ambrose, an elderly person being cared for by another teen.Indeed, Clancy, this other teen, is a shadowy question himself in the guise of a hooded rebel avoiding authorities and living rough, but possessing a tender heart . . . All you as a reader can trust is that Heidi’s gut will figure out (mostly) who is good and who is bad, what is safe and what isn’t. She isn’t the narrator. But if she were, I’d describe this book as having a reliable narrator and a completely unreliable plot in which fantasy-seeming reality . . . meets speculative social and political fiction of the grittiest order.

This near-future England on the mend from neo-Anglo-Saxon butchery and organized blood rites is fascinating, and so lightly drawn by Jones that details come only thread by thread, and still don’t add up to a very complete picture. The few details do leave the reader with unmistakable and terrible knowledge about how it must have been. Because Grasshopper’s Child is set in the world of Jones’s Bold as Love Cycle, simply sketching its outlines is sufficient for those familiar with that work. It’s effective for the rest of us, too: the light touch of her world-building pays off in massive impacts and is not to be ignored: “No-body had talked about it, it was never on the news, but everyone had known street kids were disappearing; and the homeless; anyone vulnerable, and anyone who tried to defend them.” Jones flicks a pebble down the hill in the first chapter, and by the end of the book, our very earth is shaking with the boulders crashing around us.

For the complete review see The Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ) back issues at: http://www.thecsz.com/past-issues/csz-v5-n2-2015.pdf

He's Not a Very Naughty Boy, He's the Messiah

On Monday I sent a Whatsapp photo of the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain festooned with rebels (this isn't it, this is a better one),to Gabriel, in Leeds. Later I recalled that I knew that winged archer statue as "Eros", but I didn't know why, so I looked it up. The whole fountain is a memorial to Lord Shaftesbury, a Victorian parlimentarian, good guy who "replaced child labour with school education" (see wikipedia). But that's not Eros! It's not the divine bad boy of careless love, having naughty fun, fooling around and making a mess. It's his twin brother Anteros, the Greek god of selfless love.

I could tell you more, but anyway, just another sidelight on Extinction Rebellion. Speed the plough.

A Polite, Good-humoured Message From The Moral Majority . . .



Off We Go!



Stanhope Gate (this one's for Gabriel and Noemie!)



How pretty the trees are!



Mime Artists Against Brexit



Onwards to Pall Mall (quote is from the RevokeA50 petition instigator)



Into the home straight



The message . . .



Delivered.



All Done!



At the Greencoat Boy, (A lot busier than we usually find it at the end of one of these strolls)

____________________________




Joanna Russ (provisionally) put to bed

I've seen the cover (not for sharing, as yet). I've responded to the last few page proof queries . . . There may be more stages that need my input, further down the line, but for now, Joanna Russ (Masters of Science Fiction Series) is off my desk. This seems an appropriate moment to celebrate, anyway. It's been a long haul, and a fascinating, absorbing task, taking in not only the writing life of one iconic female sf writer of the "Feminist Seventies", but also the story of Gernsback and the Female Utopians in the Twenties; the Cold War and domestic revival politics of the Fifties, the Cultural Revolutions of the Sixties; the Feminist Sex Wars of the Eighties . . . You can't separate Joanna Russ's fiction from her life and times. No more than you can separate her from Modernism, Erwin Schrodinger's Cat, or the United States of America (with special reference to NY state, the Great Plains, and the Pacific North West, but most of all New York city).

Never heard of Joanna Russ?
Or you read The Female Man and thought that was it?
Try her story collections, The Zanzibar Cat and The Hidden Side Of The Moon. ("out of print" but easy to find, at any online bookseller of your choice). Or may I recommend How To Suppress Women's Writing; "A provocative survey of the forces that work against women who dare to write". Not so easy to find secondhand, but readily available in the new, 2018 edition, prepared & curated by Louann Atkins. Knowledgeable, very funny, and not at all out of date.

https://utpress.utexas.edu/books/russ-how-to-suppress-womens-writing

Many thanks to all the kind, helpful people at the University of Illinois Press; to my utterly essential Indexer, and to the many others, in and out of genre, who answered my questions, lent me books, and cheered me on my way.

---------------------------------------------------------


ps. The photo of Joanna (above) featured in an issue of "Galileo" magazine in 1978, which is where I found it. I believe it was taken much earlier, maybe as early as 1966. Many have tried, but nobody can trace the photographer.

It's People's Vote Time Again, Again . . .


An Oak Tree

Of course we'll be there on the 23rd, with our sandwiches, and our Green Party placards. Meet up on Park Lane, probably outside the Army and Navy Club, as before. Wend our way to Parliament Square, mill around a bit, take in a bit of the speeches; retire to The Greencoat Boy. I wouldn't dream of missing out. But why the hell are we still doing this? Why can't we just revoke Article 50 and have done with the whole shameless, tragic charade?

The Brexit Circus rumbles on, and on, and on, and on, yet another dreadful pantomime every evening on the Channel 4 News; yet another twist to the plot, which is exactly the same as the last "twist", but nobody seems to care, or even notice the repetition, except for a few swivel-eyed Tory/Labour rebels, who have tried to escape the toils of nightmare and only succeeded in driving themselves right over the edge. We went up to Westminster in February, for a minor #PutItToThe People/#People'sVote photo opportunity ("No To BlindFold Brexit!") and wandered about for a while; despairing among the fans; trapped in one of those long ago Michael Moorcock type, Blitz Spirit, rubble and surreality scenarios (I think I'm thinking of The Bed Sitting Room?). It was the placid cheerfulness that got me down.


lairs of the media folk


The media folk only come out after dark. The niches in hell for commoners are politely undisputed: Brexiteers cluster along the kerb-sides, shouting HOOT! and jerking their very simple placards. Les Autres, those circus fans capable of grasping that 2+2=4, favour the green retreat of Parliament Square, wear blue berets with gold stars; trail the EU flag casually over one shoulder, and their placards are full of puns, wit and wordplay. The groups don't mix (obviously). But "It's all very amicable", one of the berets told me, happily, & for a moment I was consumed with fury, because he wasn't. He really seemed to be enjoying himself.

BREXIT was brought to you by vile Tory "Austerity". By children going hungry, by failing schools, the ransacked NHS, cruelty and spying and routine humiliation; the punitive and vicious Universal Credit. By the famous "hostile environment" for migrants which was and is the special pet of our own, home grown q.fabius maximus cunctator.

It isn't a picnic! How dare you trot along here making a hobby of this atrocious debacle!



It's All Very Amicable


Indoors, of course, it's different. Especially after dark. The Speaker throws a spanner in the works (he's good for a laugh, at least); q.fabius fishes it out again . . .The Brexiteer head boys smirk and preen. Q.fabius and the smug and useless Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition exchange grimaces, across the narrow way; but you don't see a genuine smile from any of these souls in torment, only bared-teeth grimaces as the tv journalists stick those forked barbs in. Except maybe from Arlene, and that's not a thing you'd want to see twice, that smile . . .

Oh well. There's no guns involved, so far. And though the knife crime slaughter (that comes from the same, filthy, greed-is-good politics as Brexit) is piling up in our poverty-poisoned cities, we should still thank all the powers for that.

& I'll see you all on the 23rd March. Happy Days!



my sweet violets are wonderful this year


Used to be, one would say, to hell with politics, what do I care. Oak trees and violets will endure.
Not any more.

_____________________________________



My Movies

Leave No Trace

A present from Gabriel and Noémie for my birthday. About a Vet father with PTSD, managing pretty well by living in total hiding in the green forests of Oregon, with his motherless child. How they get spotted, and how their relationship survives a tender (horrible intrusion to the Vet, but really tender, and respectful) attempt to rehabilitate them. Very touching, sad, and reminding me v. much of camping out in those same Oregon forests, long ago, with the most makeshift kit, on the way home from Singapore; and on a cold beach in Mexico, in an outcast camp, later on. I'll watch out for Thomasin Mackenzie.

Capernaum

Why does Capernaum mean "chaos"? I don't know. Harrowing, beautiful tale of Les Miserables of Beirut. Very French, very legalistic and rigidly decent at the top level, hell down in the gutters: starring a rascally little boy, his eleven year old sister, their hapless but dreadful parents, and a decent citizen of a young refugee woman from Eritrea who loses her (absolutely astounding) tiny boy, and then the two children . . . But I won't spoil it. Gripping stuff. Certainly made the Victor Hugo version (in print or on the telly) look pretty stupid.

My Light Reading

The Order of Time, Carlo Rovelli

A beautiful little object, purple and gold, made to look like it was printed in the Renaissance. "The world is made of events, not things". . . (I liked that chapter, it reminded me a lot of my story "The Flame Is Roses", and the idea (definitely not a new idea!) that on some deep, essential level, time does not pass) . . . Time seems so obvious, and then unravels badly under the cumulative pressure of hard and harder science. But all is not lost because we can call upon Marcel Proust to ravel things up again. What exactly is entropy . . .? (I've always wondered). Is this study a little too poetic? Maybe so.

Timefulness Marcia Bjornerud

All about geology, less abstruse and closer to the bone of the here and now. Only just started it, but so far this one promises less and delivers more.



Truth and the War

Just finished reading Truth and The War, E.D.Morel, the book that inspired my last two posts, a collection of articles published in 1916, about the atrocious lies, damn lies and secret politics that led to the catastrophe of World War I, and fueled the unstoppable surge of public support for the completely pointless, irrational, slaughter in France and Belgium.

E.D.Morel was the journalist who blew the whistle on King Leopold of Belgium's hideous regime in what's now Congo. In this foray, he's a bit too keen to insist that Germany was the innocent, peacable party, forced into conflict by the Triple Entente (or was it the Triple Alliance?) all pinned to a bizarre incident in Sarajevo* . . . But by 1916 it was blatantly Germany vs Britain, and all about global markets . . .

(I knew all this when I was seventeen, it comes back to me vaguely, mostly in the form of satirical cartoons. . .)

But could exposing the truth stop that war ? I don't think so! As Morel and others had spotted, we weren't just stuck with the meaningless slaughter, we were already in for the devastating second round.

I wear a white poppy, and strictly on 11th November. I hated that centenary celebration

Naturally, this week and last, I drew parallels. Couldn't help it.

It's heartbreaking to see what's happening to the far-from United Kingdom right now, but the trouble is, same as in 1916, fraud is a crime without redress. The money's gone. Your house has been sold from under you, old lady, and you signed the papers yourself . . . And anyway, you're too proud, too timid, and too inflexible with age, to admit that you were fooled. The irrefutable fact that the people were lied to in 2016. That murderous fascism was recklessly incited and promoted by the Leave campaign, in 2016, is no use to anyone now. We're here because we're here.

*See also Black Lamb, Grey Falcon, Rebecca West. A massive, wonderful book about "The Balkans", which includes a blow by blow account of that day in Sarajevo. You really, truly, couldn't have made it up.



The Plumb Pudding In Danger



Further to my last . . . Maybe there's always been no future in utopian revolution, before our day. Pol Pot didn't achieve much, beyond those fields of skulls. Mao was a monster. It didn't take long to get from the storming of the Bastille to the Terror (a nightmare in which (check it out if you like) the majority of those guillotined were not aristocrats, fat cats, or even the losers in the swift reverses of revolutionary power. They were far more likely to be hapless, lower middle class citizens, denounced by the citizen next door, for no particular reason except personal gain. But the odds are different now.

The plumb pudding in the cartoon above is clearly, as you can see, planet earth ----in danger of being carved-up by someone called "William Pitt the Younger", (you may remember him in Blackadder) Prime Minister of what was soon to be the greatest super power the world had ever known; representing wealth creation. Who is dining out with someone you should easily recognise as Napoleon Bonaparte, top war-monger of the period. (in our modest, domestic peril, I suppose that would be Theresa May across the table from that go-getting rabble-rouser Nigel Farage).

I've labelled them Economic Growth and War, and these are the existential bad guys in the Bold as Love story. Both of them are monsters; or have become monsters. Both of them have to go. I realise Economic Growth is our society's devoutly unquestioned religion, on every scale from the sublime to the ridiculous, and so do you (you can't have missed the sausage roll in the manger?*), so maybe this is the shocking part, rather than the savage attacks perpetrated on the sinews of war, by oil-field torchers and others, all the way from the Baltic to the Black Sea. But shocking or not, denouncing them is not fiction, it's vital for our future. We don't need more money. Nobody could possibly need more money than "we" have concentrated in a very few hands: we need less. We don't need more War, on any scale. Nobody could possibly need more than we have right now . . . Remember that Third World War? The one fought with sticks and stones?

What we seriously need is more time. We need to scratch up another hundred years from somewhere, or fifty, or even twenty, and then we might just get through this part. But without some kind of rough magic, like a global economic crash and the rise of a Hard Green Countercultural revolution, the future of this living world, the only one we have, never mind the future of so-called global civilisation, does not look good.

Climate change was already a wolf at the door twenty years ago for science fiction writers, Counterculturals and others. The actual threat has been perceived by science for a lot longer (but scientists are so timid! Someone just waved a hockey-stick at them, and they vanished) It's coming on much faster now. It's real as real. But still nobody seems to care. What's wrong with us all?


The Plumb Pudding in danger: from HYPERALLERGIC

Castles Made Of Sand, the print edition with the Anne Sudworth cover, is still readily available.

The EU does not play a glorious role in Bold As Love btw. It's the government, everybody blames it for everything. That's what governments are for. But European identity is vital for the revolutionaries, Europe is where we all live. In times of trouble, the people cling together, I read that in the flood countries, long ago


*Okay, the outrage over equating Jesus, saviour of the world, & btw no fan of dietary restrictions (Matthew 15:11) with a non-kosher pork snack was funny: (now if only it had been a vegan sausage roll!) But what I see in that ad is the mass-market, populist form of "greed is good". Feeding your face is God.

Here, Beside the Rising Tide . . .



In 1999 I set the date for the Dissolution of the United Kingdom. Scotland, Wales and the newly United Ireland went their separate ways calmly, (Wales Inc. happy to be wholely or partly owned by the Japanese*). The fourth nation state went straight to hell, via a bloody coup engineered by a back-stabbing Home Secretary (who got his head blown off the same night); a brutal, populist, rock-star "Head of State", a devastating epidemic of illiterate, starving, homeless wanderers, an army of righteous Rock Festival "staybehinds", and a rampage of Hard Green violence up and down the country. Not to mention Union Jack Loyalists mining the beaches of the North East against desperate migrants, and a small war in Islamic Yorkshire.

It was a fairytale. Not a fantasy, not even in 1999, you may be surprised to learn, but I never imagined things could get so scarily, idiotically awful in the real UK, so fast, with or without Dissolution. I never thought I'd live to see poverty and starvation return here, or illiteracy swiftly rising, or so many homeless, or, or . . . (More on that rising tide in my next post). But given my early-adopter behaviours, my tree-hugging, anti-fracking and so on, why did I make the Bold As Love Hard Greens into feared, ruthless terrorists?

Because that's what happens to utopian revolutions? Because the desperate straits that create these explosions always lead swiftly and dreadfully to a Terror? It's a fair point.** But I wouldn't do that. Not my style at all. I wanted to tell the story of a passionate, no-surrender, love is all there is, total revolution, with guitar, that would find a way to stay sane. I think the music helps . . .

Bold As Love

But please do, make up your own minds.


*better than being governed from Cardiff, see?
**Clement Attlee's government and the Welfare State, the utopian world where I was born, had admittedly paid a steep price in global war and genocide, in advance.








It's People's Vote Time Again!



It can't be the People's Vote March time again, can it? Surely we just had one . . . I distinctly remember. It was sunny, we took a sandwich, we spent ages kettled (not in an aggressive way, all very friendly) outside the Army and Navy club . . . Oh, so it isn't going to be an annual event? It just feels that way? It just feels as if the awful BREXIT ROULETTE wheel can keep on rolling and the ball rattling around and around, up she goes, down they go, up they go, down she goes, and never come to rest on the red or the black, while Labour keeps on hoping for the worst (because the worst coming to the worst will be Jeremy's opportunity, he's convinced of that) while the Greens and the Lib Dems and the Good Tories jump up and down gamely on the sidelines, repeating You're all mad! Completely vicious, selfish, reckless and mad! (true, but is it useful?).

And hardly anyone in parliament seems to even know where the Northern Irish Border actually is, let alone that it was a bloody battlefield, town by town, street by street, house by house, before the GFA . . . . And this staggering, blind-drunk squabble between Tory and Tory will just go on. Forever. Because not even the best of them has the courage to remember the oath (I think it's an oath) they took (which I phone-snapped on somebody's placard): and put country before Party . . .




But anyway . . . We were there, and I can tell you two things about this event. First, there really were A LOT of people. If there were 100,000 the first time, I think 700,000 is a conservative (sorry . . . ) estimate for Saturday 20th. Where's it all going to end? Second is that nobody we talked to (and we were volunteering, so we talked to a lot of people) believed the march, whether seven hundred thousand or seven million strong, would make any difference. Not a hope. Not the slightest bit of difference!, they all said, grimly cheerful. The health service will collapse, the lorries will be backed up in squalid holding pens to the Midlands. Stockpiles of food and essential medicines must be gathered for this disaster, but it's "the will of the people", and though we ARE the people, and we strongly suspect ruthless personal profiteering (and also cowardice), is what's really keeping BREXIT on its rattling track, we're here without any hope. Because we had to be able to say we tried.

The sky was an eerie cobalt blue, the October sunlight was glaring. The march was just as good-humoured but more gruelling, from the sheer press of bodies; the police were wonderful. We shared a tortilla sandwich as before, on a different kerbstone, and we had early satsumas this time, not late Valencias, but still Spanish; not so sweet, but juicy, with a lovely mellow yellow coloured skin . . . (old soldiers march on their stomachs). Parliament Square was impossible, so we abandoned the speeches, cut our losses and had a pint at the Greencoat Boy.

very nice pint, but pricely.

Alastair Campbell's March


Mixed Media

Killing Eve? Blood-soaked bit of fluff. Oh, did I just liken that that cool, kinky "Look! Female Leads!" thriller to a used tampon? Shame on me, because I certainly watched it, and enjoyed it, and was charmed by both the leads, and besides I thought it was (also) totally inane, & tampons (though they may not be the greatest solution to monthly bleeds), are not.

The Wire Just as gripping, & more amazing visually second time round. Better with the English subtitles on, because then you can (if you are English, that is), look around you and stuff. Entirely male viewpoint, w. good female police and legal characters, who don't get the awful, awful Jane Tennison/Helen Mirren treatment (and therefore not true to life, of course!). Getting near the end now, and the darkness deepens. There's no such thing as "special dead". Last time Omar was my favourite (isn't he everyone's?) Like the coolest of the 7 Samurai, Omar don't scare. This time I'm in love with Kima Greggs (Sonja Sohn).

Black Honey/PINS At the Concorde, on Dinah's birthday. Down on Brighton seafront, in spectacular black torrential rain, was a good place to be last Sunday week, for old sake's sake. I was feeling like death, bad cold or flu, but even so. However I liked the support best. I thought PINS http://www.wearepins.co.uk/ were great. Black Honey a bit ordinary, but competent. Pins means legs, I should explain.

Dreams of Maryam Tair: Blue Boots and Orange Blossom. Mhani Alaoui I don't really like magical realism. It's Mystification: it's decorative, but it changes nothing, and in fact ends up reinforcing the status quo (as indeed happens here), despite its "literary radicals" rep. But Dreams of Maryam Tair is pretty hard to resist. All about Morocco, ancient and modern, both at the same time: set mainly in Casablanca, and curated by and ageless but certainly ancient Scherazade herself, the story of a young girl, child of rape (her mother got raped a lot, reading between the stuff about demons, when she and her young husband were picked up for being generally "progressive" in the early eighties), who grows up to be, with her beloved bicycle . . . well, say no more, it's just an enchanting read.

Oh No!, Roland Barthes has been murdered by a laundry van! And he was carrying on his person the dreadful secret of The Seventh Function Of Language. Mon Dieu!, if that awful formula were to get into the wrong hands!!!! Hilarious. Sexy, The name dropping is relentless, everybody and everything involved, however tangentially, in the soi-disant "linguistic turn" gets dragged into the plot, (including the Bologna station bombing, but who cares about good taste). The feminists are there, of course, as Bitch Goddesses; of course (there is no other role a woman can play in the power games of academia). Fear not. You don't have to know a single thing about semiotics, or post-structuralism, or anything. Just relax and enjoy the caper.






9 Million Litres Of Water

The Traveller's Joy (a rescue plant from the pavement cracks outside our front door, two years ago) that tangles all over the holly and the Bonsai Pine, has flowered for the first time, and is already fading. The scaffolding has finally gone . . . just when I was getting used to having a climbing gym outside my high window, and a (fragmentary) sea view from the top of it. We are solar-paneled, we are double-glazed, the garden is restored to its usual level of untidiness, thank god. In theory I love the summer, but this love is based on the romance of childhood, the end of the educational year, when you down-tools, walk away and abandon your desk as if forever, which I never lost, because my mother was a teacher (until Peter retired). Not so keen on the programme of works idea.

The Consultations

To business. There are two UKGov "Consultations" you need to respond to, before 25 October, if you are at all interested in stopping the Tory Party driven, corrupt, fracking industry's assault on democracy; and poisonous industrialization of the countryside. Not to mention the dire reality of climate change. (No point in mentioning that, because Tories just think "I'm rich, I hate foreigners and and I hate my children, so why should i care?)

One consultation asks you to agree that the construction, drilling and operation of a fracking well, (or any number of fracking wells) for exploration and production of oil or gas should be treated as a "permitted development" (like a small garden shed, for instance) that doesn't require planning permission, so that local government and local communities will have no say in the decision, and the plans to frack can come later, with no further inconvenience! Should "stimulation" be necessary!.

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/permitted-development-for-shale-gas-exploration

The other asks you to agree that the construction, drilling and operation of a fracking well, (or any number of fracking wells) should be treated as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project, (like a new railway or motorway network; or a nuclear power station); so that local government and local communities will have no say in the decision.

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/inclusion-of-shale-gas-production-projects-in-the-nationally-significant-infrastructure-project-nsip-regime

You can see why these two very different and on the face of it contradictory approaches have equal appeal to UKgov.

Unfortunately, since the wording of the questions is very confusing, the gov doesn't offer any hand-holding, but Frack Free United has useful walkthroughs here:

https://www.frackfreeunited.co.uk/permitted-development-and-nsip/permitted-development-consultation-guidelines/


Meanwhile, at Balcombe, at Horse Hill, and at Brockham, oil production in the Weald Basin slips by, under the radar. Still industrialising the countryside, still corrupting our local democracy, still blighting clean energy development, but it's not fracking, just a few unauthorised donkeys nodding in the woods; it's not new bad news and though you just keep on saying no, there has to be triage.



----------------------------------------------------


Only 13 pretty little newt infants raised in captivity this year, but more fun, owing to the fact that our wildlife pond had become such a murky puddle, in the weeks of semi-drought, we decided to keep them in a tank until they were almost grown (they leave the water at the end of August or so), and discovered the delights of feeding them. They certainly knew what to do with a cloud of brine shrimp! Only two nights sleeping out in Sussex, and only 10 in Brittany, but we got to Ouessant (Ushant) on the last day trip of the year, which we've never managed before, and the sea voyages there and back; very fine too. Starry nights which I'd been missing badly . . . except for Mars, always managing to be visible even in the thick rainless cloud of this summer in England, baleful red-orange dot, like the Eye of Sauron peering above the horizon at the bottom of our garden.

Mixed Media

The Labour Conference was good value; the Tories promising, but dull so far, after that early amusing data breach. I'm reading the Bible again (which I do, periodically, always the King James, because it's full of quotations), and discovering again how the famous, marvellous, life-changing OT (as we call it) is largely boring bits, lists, unaccountable repetition of huge chunks of sartorial instruction, nit-picking and misplaced attention. Look at Joseph in Egypt, so famous for those clever prophetic dreams. Ha! What about that Pharoah, (whoever he was)? A CEO, PM, Great Dictator, king, chief, president, whatever . . . who actually listened to the commonsense advice, and actually acted on it. Unheard of. This does not happen. That's the real wonder tale. But maybe it gets better. Of course I haven't got to Psalms yet. Did you know that Sarah (Abraham's chief wife, remember) seems to have also been his sister? Did you know women like Rachel had property of their own?

I've also decided to read Virginia Woolf again (=the Joanna Russ connection) & thanks to the modern miracle of epub, I can embark on The Lot, from The Voyage Out to Early Journals (pub1990). The Voyage Out conjures up my own youth (because that's when I last read it), in its lovely, wavering, acutely observed Impressionist style, but then a pall descends on everything, because I know someone's going to die, and there's going to be nothing else to say. Night and Day is where I am now, and it goes on a bit. On and on and on. What strikes me most is the vital, unthinking, ritual shibboleth of meal times; especially tea. The religion that outlasted religion. I suppose it comes of having servants. The servants dictate the household routine, and it's built around meals, so that's the law everybody has to obey. Ah, well. Ever onward.

Farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish ladies
Farewell and adieu to you ladies of Spain
For we're under orders to set sail for old England
And we may never see you fair Spanish Ladies again

We'll rant and we'll roar like true British sailors
We'll rant and we'll roar all across the salt seas
Until we strike soundings in the Channel of Old England
From Ushant to Scilly is thirty-five leagues



9 million litres? That's how much water is used for one frack. The contaminated waste water can then, in the US, be used to irrigate crops. Not over here: not yet. But it's not a good idea to drink it!

A Very British Protest

Not much of a march, really. St James's Square, to Parliament Square. How long's that going to take? Twenty minutes? Half an hour, tops. We assemble under the auspices of the Army and Navy Club. They've put their flag out for us, UNITATE FORTIOR; now that's nice. I admire the fine placard created by one of the scientists-against-Brexit contingent, and am allowed to take a photo (L). We wait. It's another of this summer's sunny but somehow lightless days. Not too warm, but the air is poor; occasionally, throughout this afternoon, actually stinking. We wait. The Lib Dems, similarly imprisoned in the other outlet from the Square, are getting restive (Peter and I are with the Greens). There are many homemade placards. There are also, as far as the eye can see in either direction along Pall Mall, hordes of people waving the blue flag with the yellow stars. Contrary to punditry, a large contingent, it looks maybe as much as 40-50%, seem to be over fifties. But younger people too, and teenagers, and families. What do we have in common? We are all able to figure out that two and two make four, and neither five nor three. We can see where the lady ended up, in the shell game, but we would never be such fools as to bet money on her position. And crucially, it seems from where I stand, we are good-natured.

Relatively privileged, of course, on the raw data. First since we can all afford to travel to the centre of London, and more importantly since we've escaped or resisted the mass-population dehumanising efforts of successive Tory governments. However far we are, individually, from power and influence, we still believe we are human, and citizens. We may be subaltern but we can speak.

I used to work in a jobcentre, many years ago. What goes on in those places these days sickens me.

There's a rumour that we're being held in these pens because the whole route is packed solid, the flood of numbers is so much higher than expected (the plan had been for a few hundreds, max?). Another rumour that we're being bunched together for a more striking effect. We wait, patient and good-tempered.

Peter & I wander about, cross Pall Mall. We eat our excellent tortilla sandwich, from the Spanish grocers at the bottom of Trafalgar Street,, and juicy late-season Valencia oranges, sitting on a kerbstone. We read placards (we have none of our own, or a flag). Sporadic roars rush through the crowd, like waves up a beach.



And we're off, for a short walk down to Trafalgar square, where the lions and Nelson are screened off for a rather late Eid celebration fete, and on into the land of war memorials, and pedestal-mounted "old blokes in 'ats on 'orses". The familiar, wailing cry of "OOOOh Jeremy Corbyn" causes puzzlement to be expressed in the ranks, and quickly morphs into the more appropriate "Where's Jeremy Corbyn?" But unfortunately the leader of the er, Opposition, so to speak, is a Brexiteer, for political reasons, and the lad is not for turning, no matter what the hell damage the break inflicts.

Rude words are bawled out, to anciently popular tunes. Placard messages favour gentleness, and good old British politeness . . . It's a meme, obviously, this rudeness and the good manners. Dogs trot to heel. Time, traditionally, for me to wonder why I'm here. Am I convinced @theresa_may is secretly a good guy, and I want her to know she has support for her cunning plan to sneak out of this daft impasse at the last possible moment, when her tormentors Johnson-Gove-Rees-Mogg et al are looking the other way? (No). Do I believe that the "Protest March", "raising awareness" tactic works? (It's been known to happen, but not around here). Am I here because it's just what I do; an unbreakable habit? Good point. It's true, I'm not one of those people who regards "the government" as something small and far away, that I can't possibly influence (like that innocent little cloudsy-wowdsy called "climate change"). I vote. I do more than vote. I believe I'm responsible for what the government does, and I communicate my concerns. It's called democracy. A pitifully imperfect union, like the EU itself, but, like the EU itself, worth hanging onto, because all the alternatives are much worse.

I remember when I knew this was true (instead of just wanting to hold on to EU welfare and environment regulations, EU workers, global market share, science base, security & all that other trivial stuff the Brexiteers brush away). It was when Jo Cox was murdered. . .

I was told, for days, that I absolutely MUST NOT, shame on me, make the gross error of confusing the action of a poor crazed motiveless lunatic with the ruthless, xenophobic rhetoric of the Leave campaign. The murderer himself upset that apple-cart, when he came to court. But it made no difference. The Leave campaigners, Blue, Red or Purple, really did not care . . . That's when I knew.

Ah, we're here, so I can shut up, and the speeches can begin. Gina Miller kicks off. Sir Vince Cable goes astray, trying to convince us of things we already know (or we wouldn't be here). Tony Robinson delights everybody by announcing that he has a cunning plan . . . Caroline Lucas channels Churchill, in a really stirring speech, laying down of the hard facts that we face and telling us what is to be done. The tower of Big Ben is wrapped like a package; like the Eid fair, and Ella is wondering what Jeremy Corbyn is going to tell the children, when they ask him . . . The trees around St Margaret's are in full leaf, and somewhat obscuring the screen, but we can see well enough, and the sound system is good.

It's over, for today. We tip our hats to the Suffragettes Scroll in Christchurch Gardens, and retire for a pint of local ale at the Greencoat Boy.