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Crisis In Charlton: Losing My Grip

Tuesday 29th June, unexpectedly much cooler, grey skies.

Making heroic efforts to organise myself, remember to charge phone before setting out for the South Bank this afternoon; still working on my H.G Wells talk for "From Kent To Cosmopolis", which has sucked me in, as essays tend to do; thinking about writing, horrified by how little time I've had for the core activity (ie writing fiction) any time in the last 18months. Or more. Failing to work out how to use Facebook for the benefit of the Oxfam event on 8th July. (This is the downside of having as little as possible to do with social networking. I don't mind if I cease to exist in the C21 sense of extended-personhood, but when I need to use the network for a good cause, it'd be an idea if I knew how. . .) And then a phone call from Charlton, Gabriel's, on the point of leaving for an extensive (well, Switzerland and Germany, I think) Brighton Youth Orchestra tour as piano soloist suddenly engulfed in a housing crisis, changing the plans for this evening: oh, and his clothes are all wet, as he left them out to dry last night and it rained, what to do?

Do not stuff them in a bin bag, says I. Drape them around your room.

My copies of The Time Machine and Dhalgren (Gollancz Masterworks) have arrived. The Time Machine's a solid little hardback volume, and the shades of gold livery suits it. Something a bit odd about Dhalgren, all the italics have come up in Bold, it looks stranger because the normal font is quite thin and spidery.

Last night, in the clear twilight about 9.30: swifts swarming up high, must have been fifteen or twenty of them, and later, what an amazing moon rising above Race Hill, just barely past the full, glowing pale apricot, the mares and brightest craters wonderfully clear through binoculars.

Think I'll go and check on Fred, my latest froglet, again. Called Fred because it is so tiny, arms and legs like thread. Timid too, how can I dump it in the big bad pool.

Sussex University Alumni News: someone wants respondents for a psychology survey. "In most ways my life is close to my ideal" Agree strongly. . . Disagree strongly.

My life is bounded by a walnut shell, and I am queen of infinite space. Except that I have bad dreams, and they are really bad.

Deep Horizon,
Blood for Oil in Afghanistan,
Starvation and desperation mounting in the wake of climate change;
already, and we've barely started,
The death of the living world, the casualty list growing longer and more grievous
Fresh Faced Public schoolboys governing to keep The Markets happy. . .
My family's gothic novel; but that's minor except it eats my time.

(just a random sample)

So how should I answer?

St John's Eve

Wednesday 23rd June, light breeze, clear and very warm. In the evening, having set aside my various struggles, I sit out on the patio re-reading "Life" so I'll know what I said about the "disappearence of the Y chromosome", should anyone ask me at the Seeing Further Cafe Scientifique next week. Balmy air. Swifts hawking and shrieking in the clear sky, those Nordic tiger moths, who seem to have settled down and colonised the gardens, batting about up in the treetops, a big white three quarter moon on the rise. It's midsummer, soon be July and time to pack up and go away. The squirrels have taken all our strawberries, it's nearly the end of another working year.

Black Ops

Friday 18th June, grey skies clearing to blue, it's going to be a warm calm day, a break from that chill breeze. Good swift-watching over the Crescent Gardens, am.

I'm trying to see both sides of the US Government's scrap with BP, and I'm failing. I keep seeing only one side, a falling-out among thieves. I keep seeing Hayward as the latest Saddam Hussein, Congress have their disgraced tool in the dock, they're pounding on him, all self-righteous. The Black Gold Saddam's stonewalling because he just doesn't get it, he's saying to himself, but they told me it would be okay, they ALLOWED me to break the rules, they told me all the crimes against humanity would be over-looked, as long as I made myself useful. They may not like me but they NEED me. . But now they're playing the old We never met you, game, and Hayward is thinking it's just a show trial, I just have to sit tight and say as little as possible, it'll be over and business as usual again

Sucker. I have no sympathy, and none with your Secret Masters, either.

Frog Nursery catastrophe. I moved the bowl to clean the tabletop, and the froglets' rock fell on Red Snail. I heard an awful little gasp, rescued the trapped casualty and put it in a water glass, where it slowly seemed to recover. I'm hoping it's okay, it is walking around again. But the rock crushed half the rim of the ramshorn, and I don't know what all else. Poor red snail, so sorry.

Frog Nursery Eschatology

Tuesday 14th June, blustery breeze, cloudy skies, cool. None of the promised thunderstorms for us as yet.

When you get your four legs, you are taken away. Nobody knows where, nobody knows why, nobody comes back. It's a kind of death.

Hello, a result. Incredibly, there may be five varieties of the Higgs Boson.
I never doubted it!

Red Dawn. . .

Sunday 13th June, cool and cloudy. The frog nursery is emptying fast, and the tads in the plasterer's tub are getting legs. I'm hoping I'll have them all safely transferred to the wild by the end of the month.

Safely, mm, lot of cats out there, and little frogs like to get out of the water and roam. . . Well, my part will be done.

How do you feel about racist 80s invasion film Red Dawn being remade with America being occupied by China instead of the USSR? Perhaps they'll take a leaf out of Rainbow Bridge and accept it… or perhaps not.

In answer to your query, dear plashing, I haven't really thought about it. I don't suppose I'll be tempted to go and see Red Dawn II if I even get the chance* However, now that you've poked me into looking up Red Dawn I, I may have to add it to my Love Film list.

I don't remember paying any attention to Red Dawn I in 1984, but I do remember watching the first V that summer, and finding it great fun. Despite the slightly disquieting notion of a great big country like the USA indulging in a not-fair-we-never-got-occupied-by-the-Nazis wish-fulfillment fest.

A nice little piece of news for me this morning. A couple of months ago I was searching "Universe" images, to get ideas for the cover of my next US short story collection, and fell in love with a quirky poster that turned out to belong to CERN (it's from Microcosm, their educational wing). Kath Wilham of Aqueduct Press wrote to them, nothing daunted, and asked what their terms for use might be. Our terms would be that we'd need to read some of the stories first, came the reply.

Ah, well, I thought. That's torn it.
But no, we have permission!
Excellent, and thank you Microcosm

*(Oh dear, it's just occured to me, maybe the mysterious delays dogging the release of this highly undiplomatic Homeland war movie are caused by a cunning decision to change the alliance. Now it's going to be the despicable Brits helping the Chinese out!).


Friday 11th June, at noon a lightening and clearing sky.

Rain. Real rain at last, drenching rain all night, brimming the pools. This morning everything in the garden beaten down, and looking fresher for it tho' in places precarious. The yellow flags in the fishpool, threatening to go splat, may need some remedial help to get back on their feet.

And at last I have the official letter, confirming that the long, troubled marriage between Gollancz and Gwyneth Jones is over. I'd been planning to leave since the firm treated Rainbow Bridge rather shabbily, and then they did the same with Spirit (a publication date of "29th December", plus "muddled" failure to submit her current novel for the Clarke award, sends a pretty clear message to an author). Fair enough, best for both sides. This situation made the Clarke award shortlist & event a little embarrassing, but never mind, it passed.

It's taken me ages to disentangle because I wanted to secure custody of the kids. Arguably I should have quit them long ago, for there was never, ever a good time, I'm a feminist, for heaven's sake: but I am so lazy, plus, fatally, I don't write for money. Anyway, no recriminations, so long, thanks for a modicum of fish, I'm glad it's over.

It's been such a long association, I decided I felt like making an announcement, quietly: but I didn't and don't mean to start a discussion on this, I'm just moving on.

Cave Of Ordeals

Wednesday 9th June, warm and overcast.

I beat the Cave of Ordeals! Last night, about ten minutes past midnight, I finished off the last Darknut, Level 49. I am so proud. It only took me about ten tries.

(This is my only tip. Don't save until you've beat it, there's no point.)

You may laugh, but how many other 58yrold female klutzes, whose FIRST KINETIC COMPUTER GAME was Pong, who remembers being in a cave full of twisty passages all the same...who have tackled Zelda TP's most absurdly extended and plot-token-free slaughterfest sidequest, and come out the other end triumphant do you know?

Tell me that!


Tuesday 8th June, soft grey sky, a dropping rain.

Saturday, warm and clear, a great day for swift-watching. To And's for a bbq in the afternoon, where I got into an argument with Lulu, and I think Suzy also, about the seal of the confessional of all things. When you come up against these long-ex Catholics, totally unbelieving Catholics, who once kept the rules by rote when they were children, and find them still defending the wicked ways of the organisation, while not meaning anything by it at all: well, it's an eye-opener. . . They really knew what they were doing, the great minds of the Mediterranean World, when they put that mighty machine together, circa 17 hundred years ago (when the Mediterranean World stretched from Britain to the Sahel).

I shouldn't be allowed out in public. I have opinions. Returned home in the June twilight, chastened by my inability to mingle, and we sat out on the patio for a long time, watching the swifts. Perfection in the evening garden, the young green plums, the clustered spires of aquilegia, foxglove towers, rising from drifts of forgetmenots, all the pale colours, instead of fading, coming out clearer as the twilight deepened.

Sunday I destroyed the moment, by ripping out the forgetmenot tangles, shaking them for seeds & planting in the Mediterranean Mix I've been nuturing in home grown plugs in the greenhouse, a haven of safety. Then it rained, at last, & the slugs came out. This morning I've lost the lot, except for a few refugees I dug up again and carried off to the concrete corridor. It's awful what slugs can do, to gardens where pesticides are forbidden. & if you tell me, like those coy Organic Gardening Articles, about garlic, sharp sand, beer traps, I will BITE you. Just because I believe in the impossible doesn't mean I'm stupid, or naturally subservient, or that I never think about it.

We go on trying, and find the plants that will survive.

Israel Raids the Aid: Check this out

Friday 4th June, cloudless blue a clear warm day, how quickly roses open, from buds to fullblown, the moment there is actually heat in the air.

This is from the comments box on a Common Dream link to the Guardian story of eyewitness activist accounts. I've heard of Israeli dual citizenship high ups in the US government, eg that Home Security fellow, before now, but I never knew it was like this!

From Common Dream:


"AMERICAN / ISREALI >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Dual Citizens
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> in the American Government

Attorney General - Michael Mukasey
Head of Homeland Security - Michael Chertoff
Chairman Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board - Richard Perle
Deputy Defense Secretary (Former) - Paul Wolfowitz
Under Secretary of Defense - Douglas Feith
National Security Council Advisor - Elliott Abrams
Vice President Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff (Former) - “Scooter” Libby
White House Deputy Chief of Staff - Joshua Bolten
Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs - Marc Grossman
Director of Policy Planning at the State Department - Richard Haass
Trade Representative (Cabinet-level Position) - Robert Zoellick
Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board - James Schlesinger
UN Representative (Former) - John Bolton
Under Secretary for Arms Control - David Wurmser
Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board - Eliot Cohen
Senior Advisor to the President - Steve Goldsmith
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary - Christopher Gersten
Assistant Secretary of State - Lincoln Bloomfield
Deputy Assistant to the President - Jay Lefkowitz
White House Political Director - Ken Melman
National Security Study Group - Edward Luttwak
Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board - Kenneth Adelman
Defense Intelligence Agency Analyst (Former) - Lawrence (Larry) Franklin
National Security Council Advisor - Robert Satloff
President Export-Import Bank U.S.
- Mel Sembler
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Administration for Children and Families - Christopher Gersten
Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development for Public Affairs
- Mark Weinberger
White House Speechwriter - David Frum
White House Spokesman (Former) - Ari Fleischer
Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board - Henry Kissinger
Deputy Secretary of Commerce - Samuel Bodman
Under Secretary of State for Management - Bonnie Cohen
Director of Foreign Service Institute - Ruth Davis "

Anyone reads Swedish?

Tuesday 1st June, cool and overcast, three swifts shrilling over my head at 7.30, haven't seen the newts for days as toads have muddied up the pool.

News from the frog nursery: my second little frog also died, and when I changed the water I found a tattered corpse in the silt, so the cats were innocent. Some frogs must disintegrate, or maybe I wasn't feeding them right. Now I have a new four legged froglet and two more coming up fast. Feeding them on pond larvae (for when they can eat live food) and tropical fish flakes. Heartening sight at the end of our walk on the High Weald on Sunday, through woodland drenched in birdsong and buttercup and sorrel dry pasture. . . the mill lodge at Bateman's Mill (where Rudyard Kipling got his electricity from) teeming with big fat black tadpoles. Putting my puny pets to shame.

Anyone reading this who reads Swedish and wd like an Ann Halam book? It's riktigt spännande, and I know that's good (the rest of the review nb may not be so rosy). I have a spare, and I will send it to you if you contact me.