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Happy Birthday Ginger

Wednesday 26th June. Blue sky fading to white, one swift hurrying for the horizon at 9.15, obviously late for work. Getting cooler again. It's past midsummer and did you know there is still snow enough to ski on Ben Nevis? Wow. Anyway, it's my cat Ginger's birthday, she is twelve, so I thought I'd celebrate with a bouncing totoro.

My friend Maude is always sending me Youtube links & not always puppies. Usually I find the Obamas just repellent, and not least when hugging the Irish, but this is one Prresidential Visit highlight I had to share. It's just wonderful:

Sumatra's Burning

Friday 21st June. Sumatra's burning again. The blaze must be quite a size, given the effects in Singapore and Malaysia, and cynic that I am, I'm thinking, that's not the small landowners, it's the Palm Oil firms, kind of accidentally getting rid of the annoying scraps of stuff still been getting in their way... I am heartsick, and I'm muttering, I didn't know there was that much rainforest left. But what do I know? & Jakarta makes no apology, there's a surprise. Photo courtesy of the Wall Street Journal account

On Wednesday it was summer, did you notice? We sat out late and watched the swifts, swarming in a pure blue evening sky. Now there's a cold persistent mist outside my window, and the full moon of the solstice has been cancelled, I'm afraid.


Alif The Unseen: Easy-reading updated version of Aladdin by a New Jersey girl, currently a convert to Islam and married to an Eygptian: set in a fictional modern Muslim city somewhere near the Persian Gulf, but with magic: in which Aladdin is a white, no, sorry, grey hat hacker (with a sideline in obsessive stalking of old flames); the Djinn is pretty cool, and the princess is a bold, shallow, unveiled no-good who gives up her virginity FAR too easily, and is thoroughly trounced by the full-veiled, FGM certified (at least, the Djinn reckons she's been "cut", and I think he'd know), "Wahhabi"-fan Girl Next Door. Comes unravelled at the end. I'm not kidding, this book is easy to read and enjoyable, even if the fun is punctuated by the occasional sharp intake of breath. And I'm not taking G. Willow Wilson to task for Disneyfying serious issues in her adopted culture, or even for popping up in her own fantasy: not my business. I'm just rather startled at the number of people who should know better, including plenty female respondents on, who apparently loved this without reservation, rating Dina the girl next door a simply great role model, a feisty, independent heroine. Do they even know what female genital mutilation entails? How would they like it, if an old boyfriend (in a place where an unmarried young woman's "virtue" is her right to stay alive) sent the sheet stained with their virgin blood round to their Dad's house, with an extremely tactless message to the effect, I think this is something of yours, babe... Enough.

Boneland The third episode in Alan Garner's Weirdstone trilogy. I'm mildly addicted to amazon reviews: I often find them more illuminating than the professional kind. & I find I agree with many of the uk respondents on Boneland. It's sparse and beautiful, and it has all the ingredients you'd expect, the cosmology, the Stone Age, the majestic symmetry of time, etc; it's a pretty-good effort at imagining what happens to the adult, who was once a child character in a classic children's fantasy. And sometimes this slender volume buckles under the weight of its content.

Distractingly, I kept thinking of William Mayne's Earthfasts, also featuring Sleepers Under The Hill, and lightning strikes, & also I was disappointed in the ending. I thought Colin deserved a proper story not just the same old, same old boy-loses-goddess, boy-finds-goddess thing. And then I just wished there was more. I don't remember what happens at the end of The Moon Of Gomrath. I'll have to read it, and the Weirdstone, again.

Forgot to mention: the Forever War (I mean, my private, family affair) ended today.

GITMO detention permanent

Sunday 16th June, blue skies after morning drizzle. Just back from the Sewing Guernica Project for half an hour in the Jubilee Library, a kind of ritual act of art as protest, as i understand it, the banner gets created in public, by women and men who haven't, most of them, done much sewing before (plus a core team of experts), and this will be going on all summer, in various venues. Me, I can sew, not so great at small talk, which is a handicap... The swifts haven't been around for a few days. I hope they come back.

So, the House of Representatives has voted to keep GITMO open and for the detention of prisoners never charged, and cleared of any wrong-doing, to continue forever.

Hard to get your head around the world we live in, is it not? Cannibal pie.

Sewing Guernica is at the Jubilee library next Sunday too, and at the Friends' Meeting House in Middle Street the week after, if you feel like dropping in. Materials provided! Mind you sign your needle in and out. Dangerous things, sewing needles...

Common Dreams urgently needs more donations, btw, and it provides a vital service. If you feel you could give them some money (whether or not you're in the US), please do.

The Landscape Of Fear

Friday 14th June, grey and perishing cold.

Loved Caroline Lucas's teeshirt stunt in the Commons, and her quick-witted connection between this modest white teeshirt, deemed offensive, inappropriate dress, and the half-naked "glamour models" relentlessly assaulting us, from the pages of a national newspaper. . . and then I remembered an article I read in last week's New Scientist, called "Landscape of Fear". It was based on an animal behaviour survey in Yellowstone Park, meant to see how the elk population was responding now wolves have been reintroduced. The received theory is that predators keep prey species in check by eating them. The discovery was that the process works by intimidation alone. Where the elks can smell wolves, where they can see signs of wolves, they can't thrive. Physical condition suffers, reproduction rate suffers, population goes down. Young elk don't play, stressed adults leave the meadows, and retreat into the forest, where food is harder to find. "it was like looking at two different countries" says the scientist. "One at peace and one at war." Conclusion: top predators don't have to kill, their kills are relatively infrequent and isolated events, compared to their mere presence. They just have to be around, being scary. . .

This is what men do to women, I thought. They don't have to rape and kill (and if actual violence against women were aberrant behaviour, it would hardly have the same impact). It's the relentless, "harmless" low-level intimidation that keeps women "in their place", that's what does the trick.

I remember how I felt in the Seventies, and even the Eighties. How close change seemed, how I could walk with my head up; how sure I was that the men I counted as friends in sf genre understood what equality meant, and could be trusted. But after a while, I knew had to change my mind. I knew it would be much harder than I'd thought, because nobody, ever gives up entrenched privilege and unjust powers without a long, dogged struggle. And it had to be a non-violent struggle, this dogged one step forward two steps back mission to make the world a better place, whatever form it takes, and no matter how long it might take, because once the weapons are out, everybody loses. And then it was September 2001, and I knew that women the world over, not only in the overt warzones, would be living in a landscape of fear again.

I am so proud of the young women of today, the ones who stand up, who speak out, even in this landscape of fear; even despite the endless intimidation.
I have such respect for them.

Fields Of Gold

Tuesday 11th June, cold and grey, with a light persistent drizzle. Yesterday was well omened and productive, good work on the latest project, studied my greek, saw the swifts racing about over my head at 7.30am (I'm beginning to believe our tiny colony here is secure, for a while) and spotted a stickleback! The first sighting since they were decanted into the "wildlife" pool back in mid May. (But we knew they were okay, as the mosquito larvae horde vanished). Today I have achieved absolutely nowt except lose my latest phone photos in the depths of Picasa and spend about 3 hours trying to locate them; fail to spot an Afghan Women's Rights petition that was staring me in the face, fail to buy any "organic" apples because they were all generic monsters from Argentina, and go for a swim. Oh wait, I got my my hair cut. And bought some tomatoes.

There, that's my contribution to the NSA's scrapbook for the day. I feel I may have been cheating on them, since I use Facebook to advertise for Avaaz and Compassion In World Farming and the like, whereas this blog is usually short on idle life-logging.

I Kid You Not

So cultural since Stimmung, I don't know where to start. King Lear in St Nicolas Gardens (bit of a wash-out, sadly. No magic, no tragic grandeur and even the weather more dismal than spectacular), Hamlet at Stratford on Avon, Gabriel Jones and Marianne Wright at Charlton House, standing in for an absent friend (lovely, of course, especially the Debussy set). David Farr's/Jonathan Slinger's Hamlet didn't please everyone and I agree with most of the criticisms in the Spectator review (although I loved the jumpers-touch, personally). Ophelia was a bland schoolgirl, Hamlet was Prufrock, and the rest of 'em hardly differentiated. Yet somehow it was gripping, from start to finish, & when I say Slinger's look of dazzled, radiant relief, when he has finally achieved his task, will stay with me, I am not being funny.

We ate in the rooftop restaurant, and how beautiful the Avon and its trees looked, under a blue-washed evening sky, katoprasino, as the greeks say, greener than green. But were not tempted by the playful idea of a mock-child pie.

Pleased by the month's early sales figures on my Bold as Love ebooks (nb, it does not take much to please me!), may I reccommend the Bold As Love website: really not bad, considering the tools I had, and the complete absence of any training (I just made it up). Except it's a little alarming to note how much of what I saw and imagined ahead, but thought was either wildly exaggerated, pure fantasy or "really" a hundred years away, is with us now. Even Devolution for Wales, my goodness. The Band of Gypsys page is the best effort, I think.

May I also draw your attention to the original gwynethann site, where you'll find a wealth of stories and essays, not all of them annoyingly formatted in strange designs, and there's usually a download button. (I've been locked out of gwynethann for a while, as my ancient form of Dreamweaver can't talk to Windows 8, but I have plans)

Calling All. . . Clarion Alumni and Friends

If you are working on a writing project this summer, please consider signing up yourself for the annual Clarion write-a-thon:

What is a write-a-thon, anyway? It's just like a walk-a-thon. But instead of walking, we're writing, and instead of making pledges per mile, we're making pledges per word, chapter, or story. Writers get support, encouragement and motivation, and the option of joining or creating a team of other writers. Those who care about the writers in their life get a way to show their support. And money is raised for a literally fantastic cause -- the Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers' Workshop. For further details, go to

The keynote image today is the buttercup meadows at Balcombe, East Sussex, an Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty, I never saw them so beautiful as this year, and look your last, because Cuadrilla is about to start tearing them apart. I kid you not. And for what? Why destroy this beauty, in the face of the passionate resistance of the locals? Why add more and worse poison to the poisonous cocktail already being forced down our throats? Even if it's successful, even if it wasn't another giant leap towards setting our feet on Cormac McCarthy's Road, SHALE GAS MINING WILL NOT REDUCE THE PRICE OF GAS. I think you can believe it, when the firms involved tell us so themselves. So why? Kid pie... There's no end to it, is there.