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Slow Down!

Wednesday 20th November, thick grey skies, the sycamore is bare, the red maple and the birch almost naked, our young elm still hanging onto most of its leaves, but it's winter at last, and I might start feeding the birds soon. Cold rain outside my window now, but the night was clear and Orion stands in our landing window again. Time starts to fly as you get older, but as the future contracts, the past expands. How many times, really have I climbed the stairs on a clear winter night, and seen, and stopped to notice that pattern of jewels in the darkness, and looked for the Pleiades, high up above the hunter's left shoulder (hope I've got that right, my sense of right vs left is hopeless)? Probably not many, and only amounting to twenty minutes or so, in twenty years or so, but in memory it seems like an endless sequence of chilly peaceful winter nights, up the stairs, there's Orion. . .

Mixed news on the plans to frack in Sussex. Cuadrilla bedded in at Balcombe, with the support of a willing landowner and despite the dogged efforts of the Environment Agency guys to do their job. Protesters evicted from the roadside, however, went off and set up camp outside West Sussex County Council's front door in Chichester, with the surprising result that WSCC's Louise Goldsmith has entered into dialogue with them, and plans to write to Dave Cameron. Ms Goldsmith has made the same promise to Frack Free Fernhurst
Meanwhile, Kirdford and Wisborough Green Parish Council voted unanimously to reject the proposed Celtique Energie/Magellan Petroleum drilling near Boxal Bridge.

So what now? What happens when the people, the voters that is, say no, with an assist from mounting tally of Biblical-proportions extreme weather?

The fracking goes ahead, no doubt*. Possibly after a show-debate. Nescis, mi fili, quantilla sapientia mundus regatur** (No idea who said that, I picked it up from T.H.White; quoted in The Master)

*cf mysterious silence on the UK fracking bonanza issue, in UK tv coverage (starring Ed Davey as the knight in shining armour of Climate Change Control) of the fracas in Warsaw.

New Bad News...?

Nah, not really. Just surfaced now, for some reason. Unbelievable, inevitable. They've got to be kidding, haven't they?

I tried to worry my son about this, but he's tired of worrying about the mounting tally of terrible news. Yes, yes, he said. But I'm planning a recital right now. Philip (his friend and teacher), likes the Haydn sonata as an opener, what do you think?
And I repented. Let the young be young.

Date For Your Diaries (if you live in reach of London)

I'm going. I think I probably have strong differences of opinion with Shaker Aamer. I certainly do not like his old mucker Moazzam Begg. But the horror of Guantanamo is beyond belief. If you haven't seen the animation, it can be watched here:


<Les Dieux Ont Soif, Anatole France. Latest from my father's french library. A novel about the Terror: humane and pitiless. Reminding me so much of the catastrophic consequences of the so-called Arab Spring, still unfolding.

And The Hours, Michael Cunningham. I hadn't watched the movie until last week, for the petty reason that I saw the trailer, and the Ouse by Rodmell does not look a bit like that and didn't in 1941. But then my friend Elly convinced me, so now I've seen it and liked it, with reservations; and had to get the book.

Later: I liked the movie better. Ironically, the movie featuring three of the BIGGEST FEMALE NAMES in Hollywood managed to seem a lot less "Hollywood" than the novel: & certainly a lot less obsessed with fame and celebrity.


The News, of course. Gripping stuff. Don't you just love End of Days disaster movies?

Keynote picture is your link to Naam, the song voiced by Christy Azumah for Aissa Maiga's role in Bamako. I spent ages looking for the singer, owing to the fact that I was convinced she must be Malian and young, like Aissa Maiga. No, Ghanian and dating from the Seventies. She's dead now, died in Los Angeles, of cancer in 1999 they say.
The Christy Azumah and the Uppers vinyl is going on my Christmas list.

** You have no idea, my son, with what little wisdom the world is governed...

My Fracking Round Up Update

Monday 11th November, just past the eleventh hour of the eleventh day. It's a rainy, windy, rather chilly morning, and time for a review of the fracking situation. I wish I had better news, but I don't.

The Lords' committee questioning the extreme energy bosses were so tender with the pirates, it almost brought tears to my eyes. If you have the patience, meet Mr Andrew Austin CEO of IgAs, favourite movie, Local Hero, when gently teased over this preference by Lord McGregor, turns out Andrew only liked the soundtrack (he didn't inhale). Hear him explaining that some of these communities, some of these planning authorities, haven't got the message, my Lords. . . What do we need? What we need from you is a Big Stick. (cf Mr Eagan, hurt and distressed we're not fracking. Really we're not). Our interest is in exploratory drilling, see. We're promising you riches, but that's later, we'll be gone, you'll have to deal with the mess.

Climate change didn't get much of a look-in, except as one of those pesky minor issues that has to be dismissed with a serious expression. Meanwhile, the Mirror has an article of Typhoon Haiyan, that joins up the dots we're not supposed to join up. And in Fernhurst, Surrey, the prospective drilling site in the South Downs National Park, the "willing landowners" in the case are feeling some ire from their neighbours, while the National Park authority (SDNP) has no objection to the prospective Celtique drilling, but has objected to a solar farm on the grounds of visual impact.

And here's a mystery. I know there's strong opposition to fracking in the UK, and not only from culture of protest types. From the Low Weald to the Forest of Bowland, and not even counting those who just disinterestedly feel that climate change is a clear and present danger, I bet there's more than several 100,000 of you out there. It's not so crazy. We can say no. Other countries have said no. What happened to clictivism?

Take your pick, try signing one or two of these. I'm not saying which, just see what happens.

Avaaz is doing terrible.

The Green Party was doing slightly better than the rest:

but it seems to have given up and gone home.

You could try the specialists, if the expression climate change chaos is okay with you:

And then there's the peleton (this is just a sample)

Sad, isn't it.

Ann Leckie, Ancillary Justice

I'm out of the loop, and happy to be out here, but therefore I have to be more cautious about attributing sf political engagement. When I read Ancillary Justice it seemed to me that Ann Leckie's default pronoun could purely be plausible extrapolation. The future will be ambiguous, there's signs things are going that way, and why not? Why use "she"? Well, just ask yourself, how's "he" going to sound. . . I went looking, and found this splendid rant. Wonderful, couldn't have put it better myself. So then I knew.

If you're a BSFA member you should be getting this review, in a slightly different edition, in your next mailing.


In Brighton this Friday? Gabriel Jones and Marianne Wright are in concert at the Unitarian Church, New Road. lunchtime, see link for details, singing mainly Debussy and Poulenc. Also at the Chapel Royal 1pm 1Oth December.

The keynote picture is the remains of our impromptu, minimalist garden firework display on Tuesday night. Reviving an old tradition, except we used to tramp up to the top of Racehill (cf Kairos) and except that the skies are a lot quieter on this night than they used to be.

Green November

Tuesday 5th November, rainy morning, raw grey afternoon. Today I've felt cold in the house first time this season, despite warm jumper and a shawl. But it's not time to start using the central heating. Not while outdoor temperatures are still struggling to get below 15 degrees. Not green, however, but gold november and gold hallow'een in York, from the showers of orange gold and yellow gold leaves that rushed around, covering the walk by the Ouse as we strode up and down. Which looks likely to be drowned deep a couple of times at least: this is going to be one of those mild and wet, wet, wet global warming winters, on the signs so far. It rained on us a lot; not a problem, as it led to spending a v pleasant session on Friday afternoon in the Guido Fawkes, pub where Guy Fawkes was born, 1570 (perhaps building was not a pub at the time), watching the wet world go by

York, ah, one of the Lonely Planet three top global destinations! I don't know how that came about, it seems bizarre to me, even though of course this country is a first class treasure, but it's certainly a fine place to visit for the feast of the dead and the death of the old year, the old town all en dark and scary (if you're afraid of chocolate pumpkins) fete, the costumed ghost walk touts prowling, and then for All Saints, a magical Open Night in the Minster, where we joined the throng lining up to add candles to the spiral of lights in the Chapter House. We stayed there for a long time, in one of the stone mediaeval bays under the weird carvings, and I suppose I should have been thinking of my dead, of whom there are getting to be quite a few, but I didn't, just sat and gazed at the lights in the darkness, the faces, wishing it would never end.

Anyway, go to York next Hallow'een, and you won't be disappointed. Not if you book early, that is.


Last week I sentenced myself to an Alice week, meaning I had to watch all the movies I believed I was dying to see, and had recorded off the tv guide, or else chuck them:


I watched this one, but I didn't really like it. Fiction filmed in documentary style, in this case turned out to mean the drama is as opaque as if you were watching strangers & never finding out what's really going on. Set on the world heritage Banco Chinchorro coral reef, but the reef is only an extra, all anyone did about it was catch fish to eat and lobsters to chop the tails off and sell. The little boy was okay, and so was Blanquita the cattle egret, but I got to quite dislike the pretty-looking free spirit daddy.

Bamako is the capital of Mali. This is a brilliant movie, about Africa putting the post-colonial exploiters on trial. Seek it out. The music is excellent too. The bad thing about watching it was knowing what has happened to this city and to Mali, since 2006.

Mahanagar The Big City. Set in Calcutta, in the fifties. Not the best Satyajit Ray movie I've seen, but pretty good, beautiful to look at and Madhabi Mukherjee is just amazing. The hopes and dreams of India, of a man and a woman, walking off into the utterly daunting future, proud to be paying the price of their decent ideals: heads high and side by side. Heartbreaking final shot.

A Separation One of the best movies I've seen in a long time. Compelling naturalistic direction, compelling, low-key devastating story. The husbands don't come out of it too well, unfortunately, but there are no villains. If you are like me and kept meaning to go and see this and lazily never made it, seek it out now.

Basketcase Deleted unseen. It's no fun watching horror movies on my own, and Peter does not like them. Also, it's Hallow'een and I have captured a new collection.

Night Of The Living Dead recorded for old times sake. Deleted unseen; see above.

The keynote photo is of course the spiral of lights for the dead, in the Chapter House. The thumbnail next to this is Piano In The Rain, my favourite Dana Schulz, who's having an exhibition at the Hepworth Gallery, Wakefield at the moment. Nothing like the Turner at Margate, this is not wishful thinking it's a really great gallery, with of course plenty of Barbara Hepworth. I loved her sculpture galleries; and Henry Moore, but also (currently) Dana Schultz and Tissot, my top jigsaw man. In the Calder (a big cavernous brick shed they use for installations), we watched, or witnessed, a new Roger Hiorns installation (no name, far as I can tell) about a naked youth, and fire, and various oddly assorted objects. Many people didn't stick it out (awful cold in that shed) but I thought it was good, beautiful and engrossing, if not quite as stunning as the spiral, and then enlivened by Peter's having spotted a baby squirrel that had got itself stranded on a windowledge, far above the raging Calder river... The rescue operation intensified the experience no end.

We left while this impromptu work was still in progress, but to all who took part, it was great, and I hope the squirrel came out of it okay.

Rhubarb? I think it isn't the season.

Happy New Year!