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Oh No!

Thursday 27th February, a brilliant early spring day yesterday: woke up this morning to find the rain had returned on a stiff southerly breeze, heavy showers gusting white across our windows; clearing skies and calm air now. Oh no! Those delicious looking big fat grubs I found curled up in the peat-free seed and cutting compost bag, I callously transfered them to the feeder in the little elm, thinking what a treat!, but I was curious and looked them up. I have fed the starlings on the larvae of the beautiful rose chafer beetle, a harmless ornament to any garden, and need I tell you it is "getting scarce"? Better news, Peter found some more. I've transferred a few to our home-grown compost bin, as they are supposed (it says here) to migrate from your compost to ordinary soil to pupate. I hope they survive, and that Brighton proves as hospitable as Colchester (where they come from).

Oh no! My Fracking Update Reloaded

Probably you didn't read my open letter to Louise Goldsmith (and nor did she: that kind of letter, like an amnesty appeal to the Prime Minister of Bahrain, President of the USA or other influential person is expected to be counted, not read!) Even if you had, I bet you won't believe this. I looked at that Commons Library Standard Note again today, and there's been a silent amendment. After the bit I quoted:

DECC advises that there is no firm distinction between exploration for shale gas and exploration for other targets. Some companies who are drilling mainly for conventional oil and gas have decided to drill deeper than they otherwise might have, in order to see whether there is prospective shale in their licensed areas

quite possibly itself a post facto acknowledgement of newly outed slightly disingenuous activities (cf Rathlin), a caveat has now appeared, with a footnote attached, noting that these fracking exploratory drills do not, themselves, involve fracking. So that's all right then. No infringement of a very specific planning permission.

Dear me. I surely must be mistaken. And the moral is: if you don't trust the source, print it out.

Still, I have an acknowledgement now, my letter has been "passed on to the planning department"

More fracking news sources:

& all this is folly to the world . . .

Really, is there anything more useless than pointing out that this goverment is making a complete mess of: shutting down hospitals, reforming disability benefits, housing the homeless in private rentals, maintaining flood defences, protecting the environment, authorising the fracking-up of the countryside (& so on)? Water off a duck's back. When all you are bent on is annihilation, why would you worry about the neatness of the job?


H.P Lovecraft, collected works. How deep the roots of those iconic stories are; fascinating to see the whole framework, the dreadful depths beneath our ordinary lives, in a story written when he was about nine. Mine is a free epub edition, and very minimally organised: I'm just wandering into trackless swamp, lost in labyrinthine undercrofts. Came across the rats in the walls late last night, and welcomed it like a sister. What, you here too? Have also returned to Proust, for I think the eighth time, which I find both soothing and energising. That musical evening, the thrill of Swann's final pas de deux with the "little phrase", already gone by; Madame Swann is at home right now, and between the pages, in the insanely luxurious recesses of her family life, I meet memories of my own times past.

Looking Forward To

A day out in London tomorrow, handing in a petition about the plight of workers for (Sigh, what a silly hobby I have, cf criticising the Tories), going to a new play reading in the evening, and I plan to visit Tate Britain between, because I haven't been for ages, and because they have a Sylvia Pankhurst exhibition. which I have almost missed.

Keynote picture is the rose chafers of course. Further garden news, three masses of spawn so far, two moved to the nursery pool, and one transferred to a bowl so I can watch to see if it's fertile. Three pair of frogs still frolicking, oh no, it's a population explosion, caused by me!

Open Letter to the Leader of West Sussex County Council

Thursday 20th February, in a grey chill rain. Another public service announcement. This is a copy of a letter sent to the leader of West Sussex County Council, registering my objection to unconventional shale oil and gas extraction in Sussex. Not that I don't I object to unconventional shale oil and gas extraction anywhere in the UK, but this is my own back yard, where I feel I have a right to join the local residents and their protectors in protest.

This is a stand up and be counted letter. I can't tell Ms Goldsmith anything she doesn't know, I have nothing really intelligent or expert to say, and I can't hope to persuade Ms Goldsmith or WSCC to take any specific steps. All I can do is demonstrate that I'm another interested citizen who strongly objects to this "fracked shale bonanza" development, and who is trying to keep herself informed. NB, the every one of those licences comes with a requirement that the licensee drills at least six wells, just in the first phase of the licence. Check out your own county!

For the latest news from the real people check here:

Keep Kirdford And Wisborough Green

Ms Louise Goldsmith
County Hall,
West Street,
PO19 1RH

Dear Ms Goldsmith,

I write to register my objection to proposed or covert unconventional oil and gas extraction in Sussex, and specifically to Celtique Energie Weald Ltd’s proposal for vertical and horizontal drilling on arable land south of Boxall Bridge, Wisborough Green (WSCC/083/13/KD); to Celtique Energie’s proposal for vertical and horizontal drilling within the South Downs National Park at Nine Acres Copse, Linchmere (SDNP/13/05896/CM); and to Cuadrilla’s alleged plans for oil extraction at its current drill site at Lower Stumble, Balcombe. The grounds for objection to the proposals at Wisborough Green, at Nine Acres Copse, and at Lower Stumble have been comprehensively itemised and presented by many expert voices, as I am sure you are aware, but I ought to summarise a few of them again:

• Planned destruction of the quality of life of local residents in quiet rural communities
• Planned, lasting damage to fragile built and natural environments
• Planned destruction of landscape character, ecosystems, wildlife; and habitat of protected species
• Planned severe noise and light pollution, invasion of heavy traffic; loss of rare “dark skies”
• Planned destruction or lasting damage to internationally and regionally important natural assets.

In addition, there are the known and unknown risks of unplanned disaster:

• The risks of handling large volumes of dangerously polluted “produced water”
• The risks of escapes of toxic chemicals, endangering livestock, wildlife, and human health
• Toxic ground water pollution associated with the increasing risk of flooding in the Low Weald

We are told that a fracking bonanza is in the national interest, as a “bridge” to a low carbon future: but a shale gas bonanza has to be extremely costly in terms of pollution, and cannot mitigate the threat of global climate change. The gas boom in the US has done no such thing. A shale gas bonanza can’t address the UK’s cost of living crisis, or the social challenges of a divided society. Licensing fees may provide the current government with a short-term injection of cash, but if a boom materialises —by no means certain, even if the gas is there, given the high production costs, and the equally high clean-up costs of this form of extraction— shale gas isn’t a solution to the energy crisis of the future. Exploration companies, their shareholders and their lobbyists will benefit financially. National interests, like the local residents, will only pay the price.

The scale of destruction is evident in the several hundreds of PEDL licences so far granted (34 in Sussex alone; list attached; source, Shale gas and fracking - Commons Library Standard Note; Jan 2014; Appendix 1). At least 2,800 wells are in prospect in the next few years. Inevitably, in the densely populated UK, these will mainly be drilled in rural but populated areas of agricultural land and natural beauty. Cuadrilla alone has rights covering 270 square miles of Sussex, and, despite promises and “vows” made to local residents, both Cuadrilla and Celtique Energie have assured their shareholders that there is exciting fracking potential at their exploration sites. This publicly available information makes nonsense (except for the purpose of extracting fees from licensees) of the DECC insistence that the artificial PEDL phases of “exploration”, “development” and “exploitation” must be appraised separately, and the word “fracking” must not be mentioned in an objection to a planning application for “exploration”. On the contrary, as DECC has now admitted, “there is no firm distinction between exploration for shale gas and exploration for other targets. Some companies who are drilling mainly for conventional oil and gas have decided to drill deeper than they otherwise might have, in order to see whether there is prospective shale in their licensed areas” (Shale gas and fracking - Commons Library Standard Note; as above).

After the frightening, unprecedented storms and floods of this winter, climate change is no longer a threat, or a debatable issue. The consequences of global warming are already upon us, here in the UK. This is a reality that we have to learn to live with. In November last year West Sussex completed a £28m plan to surrender land to the sea. Other coastal regions are being forced to do the same: we have no choice. WSCC will soon have to get tough with developers, obliging them to build on brownfield sites; away from flood plains and within existing urban/rural infrastructures. These are difficult times. We cannot afford a lawless land grab for more fossil fuel, it just doesn’t make sense. It’s time to wake up, to face the real challenges of the future; and get serious about addressing the problem of energy needs in sustainable ways such as:

• Carbon capture and storage
• Energy-saving, and development of novel energy-efficient technologies
• Investment, research and development in current renewables, (a better design for onshore wind turbines wouldn’t be a bad start)

Determination of the Celtique Energie application at Wisborough Green has been put back to 30th April 2014. Their application at Nine Acres Copse, Linchmere, in the South Downs National Park, is currently “on hold” until the summer. I am not reassured by these delays. I suspect, and I believe I’m not alone, that the intention is to draw out the application process until new legislation, removing the rights of local residents, can be hurried through Parliament (e.g. removing the right of landowners to be informed, and to object, to drilling operations that pass under their property). If WSCC approves these and similar applications, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, I believe the political repercussions, never mind more significant consequences, will be serious and long-lasting. I appreciate that your powers may be limited, but please make a stand.


Gwyneth Jones

List of PEDL licences apparently granted in Sussex constituencies, in award rounds to date

Arundel and South DownsIGAS0PL240
Arundel and South DownsKEY0PL241
Arundel and South DownsIGAS0PL205
Arundel and South DownsCELTIQUE13PEDL243
Arundel and South DownsCUADRILLA13PEDL244
Arundel and South DownsCELTIQUE13PEDL232
Arundel and South DownsIGAS13PEDL233
Arundel and South Downs CELTIQUE13PEDL234
Bexhill and BattleCUADRILLA13PEDL247
Bognor Regis and LittlehamptonKEY0PL241
Bognor Regis and LittlehamptonCELTIQUE13PEDL232
Chichester NORTHERN12PEDL155
Wealden MIDMAR13PEDL248

Be My Valentine

Friday 14th February, heavy rain, set to persist all day; to be followed/accompanied by gale force winds later. 14th February is not the ideal date for a birthday (close second for tough luck to Christmas or Jan 1st, in my culture). Try booking a restaurant table, and yet it has its charm. I like to see unremarkable, unromantic-looking people, men and women, young, adult, middle-aged, walking the streets (in the rain, of course); carefully carrying flowers. Usually simply wrapped in florist's paper, no show-off prefabricated bouquets. Lost in thought, earnestly studying the greeting card stacks, weighing up the options, intent on striking exactly the right note. Something pink? Hearts entwined? Roses, champagne corks popping? Nah, definitely not. Rabbit, owl, seagull, penguin fox or love-bird couples, gazing at each other tenderly, one of them looking up, the other looking down? Nothing that implies a male/female or dominant/submissive hierarchy, thanks. And these two hares, equitably arranged, head to tail on a field of grass, I'm sorry but they seem to be dead. Not what I was planning. . . It's more personal, more heartfelt than Christmas, and (oddly enough) nothing like such a marketing-driven obligation. If I wasn't shackled to this modern-world fest I'd probably ignore it, but since I am it's touching; I'm touched.

Inexhaustible Pleasures

Saturday last I went down to the corner shop while the coffee was brewing, in a rainstorm of course, to buy a morning paper. Massimo was in the back room playing Bach. On a normal-looking violin, not a strange baroque antique for a change. He's currently obsessed by Bach violin sonatas. Six hours a day, he says, eyes like stars. It's an obsession. It's because every note is necessary, every detail in the whole pattern could be no other way. Take Liszt, for instance (he knows I love Liszt), it's wonderful, it's very showy, but there are phrases, passages, of the music that could be different, and just as wonderful. Not Bach. It's not some flight of fancy, it's what must be. . .

I was only gone about half an hour; not bad.
Massimo'd? says Peter.
Yeah. From Bach to Epicurus. Not that Epicurus despised physical pleasures, he just couldn't stop there, how can anyone who really loves pleasure stop there?
The inexorable attraction of inexhaustible pleasure?
Pretty much. It was cool.

Wouldn't have my newspaper shop any other way.

The Floods

Sunday the rain stopped, the sky was blue, catkins and pussy willows blowing, we went to visit Ardingly reservoir, which was brimful but not birdfull (unless you count mallards and gulls). I thought it wouldn't be. Wind had not stopped. I really don't like the wind.

1 great spotted woodpecker
1 heron
2 coots
5 cormorants (two of them in first plumage)
1 great crested grebe
2 possible godwits flying
1 buzzard
2 green woodpeckers

Getting back was a bit of a goose-chase. A lesser known fact about these UK floods is that they are everywhere. Eg we're hardly suffering at all, no home-wrecker flooding to speak of in East Sussex (yet, and apart from Shoreham, of course), owing to work done some years ago, but the main route from Brighton to London has been in problems for weeks on the edge of town, and just about anywhere you go out of town there'll be secondary roads impassible, usually without warning.

& now I see Nigella Lawson's dad has waded in to the "debate": "denies floods are linked to climate change and says government should use them as a wake-up call to stop littering the countryside with wind turbines and solar panels" (The Sunday Telegraph). Britain needs to decrease the amount of renewable energy projects and have cheap reliable energy sources instead (unspecified). That wouldn't be our old pocket-liner friend fracked shale gas, your Nigellaship, by any chance?

I don't really care where Lord Lawson is coming from. I don't agree with him, no sane person would, but I don't care if he's insisting our global plague of extreme weather is God's judgement on celebrity tv show cooks with splendid alabaster bosoms, and a weakness for Class A stimulants. I don't care if he's claiming the Spiders From Mars did it. I'm just outraged at the way high-ranking Tories, some of them in the most inappropriate posts, have been allowed to let their deeply held financial inducements I'm sorry, I mean ideological beliefs, completely wreck all rational attempts to do something about it.

& for your entertainment (really):

& in case you didn't know:

Applications for Clarion 2014 are now open. It's a great immersive experience for new writers, with an impressive track record of successful graduates

And Lynne Jamneck/S T Joshi's Lovecraft Anthology project is go! I'm definitely going to get my tentacles out.


I'm proud to announce the new, improved epub Bold As Love has made it through the Smashwords meatgrinder and obtained Premium Catalogue status. At present in isolated splendour, it will have company if all goes well. NB If you'd like to own an epub Bold As Love you might be advised to acquire this one, even if you have the Kindle version. It's a much better deal, and prettier too. No freebies, I'm afraid, but on the other hand guaranteed free of DRM. The style guide was okay in the end. Once I'd got used to the dialect I found the process nit-picking, but satisfying.

The keynote image is the card I bought for my own valentine. it's called The Betrothal, linocut by Liz Toole.

Many thanks to my facebook friends for all their birthday greetings.

It's been a long day, people have brought cake, and (English) champagne-oid liquids. I'm going down the pub to relax now.

Opt Out of NHS Care-data. Do it now!

Thursday 6th February, chill and heavy rain all day. It's strange how little sign of early spring there is in our garden, considering the so far wet and wild but very mild winter. Last year we had plenty crocuses and daffodils by now. Spectacular scenes in Cornwall and Devon yesterday, (Peter came home telling me that Cornwall was cut off from England (surely that's the wrong way round?) but he only meant the railway at Dawlish, I'm sure the Guinevere bridge is still open); and the Somerset Levels just dismally filling up like a huge grey bathtub.

Climate change suiting you so far? Wait.

Data sharing is data mining. Data mining is data selling

Anyway, this is a public sevice announcement. You may not have noticed a nondescript item of junk mail, a week or so ago. You may have dumped in the recycle along with the other takeaway menus. That's what you were meant to do. It was informing you that all your medical and personal details are o be "shared" in future, with unspecified nhs "partners".You don't have to do anything. The box has been checked for you! You must actively opt out, if you really want to . . .

You won't know who gets the data, or why. The junk mail item will tell you that your data will be "anonymised". This is not true, as I hope you are digiliterate enough to know. It can't be done. It won't tell you that the data will be sold to private companies, but that's in the pipeline.

The nhs is being privatised, it will soon be a network of private health service providers, and without intervention the data protection act would prevent them from sharing information. But I have opted out of the partner sharing anyway, and I strongly advise you to do the same. You will need to visit your GP practice, and sign a form (another sure sign of data mining: make it an effort to opt out). Btw, if your GP practice doesn't approve and encourage your decision (mine did), you may wish to consider a change.

Sign the clictivist petition if you wish:

But the best action you can take and the strongest message is to opt out.

Welcome To The Green Wood Horse

Wednesday 5th February, chilly and blustery, a bright and broken sky all morning, beginning to get gloomier now. Welcome to the Year of the Green Yang Wood Yin Fire Horse, a combustible mix, apparently. The Horse is the most yang (male) of the animal signs. This is likely to be a year of confidence, volcanic eruptions, aggression, opportunities seized and civil unrest (you don't say); unstable markets (never!). Metals will be affected. People will be sticking to their principles, and best to avoid banging in nails; or disturbing activities in the north. The guy at cryominute (where I got that splendid green horse), isn't confused, he knows exactly what's going on, but is it me, and not that I'm complaining btw; or are Chinese, Chinese Horoscopes getting more intriguingly weird? Used to be "dragons will be lucky in love, rabbits should avoid moving house", now it's like I Ching hexagram commentaries. Presumably no longer dumbed down so much for Westerners. Anyway, sit with your back to the south, and avoid flying stars in your home life. Flying stars are bad.

The Scientist and the water cannons

After I put that no water cannons for UK police petition in my last blog entry, I found an article on the very subject in NS, telling us not to worry, as water cannon are cumbersome, difficult to deploy effectively against a flash mob, and definitely not lethal.The writer does not get it. Water cannon are not for killing people (really don't think that's a plan, no matter how far from wonderful our police have become). Water cannon are for chilling people; and not just literally. They're massive things, like tanks, they are big and menacing, they're meant to intimidate not to create martyrs, Sold to us as the answer to an anticipated steep rise in trouble on the streets, they should also, and not at all coincidentally, help to put people off the idea of any form of legitimate protest.

Going to the Pictures

American Hustle. Nah, this is a luvvies movie. Megastars, ingenuously dressed up to look "tawdry", and loving themselves in the mirror. The best bit, the very best bit, was Jennifer Lawrence and the science oven. I'll stick with The Sting. Which I assure you is more authentically "Seventies".

Inside Llewyn Davis Really nice, well-judged central performance, very well-crafted movie, very limited folksong repertoire (the scraps left over from O Brother?); very mean-spirited. I spent this movie thinking those Coens have seriously got it in for this Llewyn Davis character, whoever he's meant to represent. . . And the moral of the story, Hollywood Scruffs, is do not abuse the Coens' couch. You may pay a terrible price!

Looking forward to seeing Only Lovers Left Alive next Friday week.

The latest storm moved in, while I was writing that post, it's wild outside my window, even here in sheltered Brighton, but the goldfinches keep on feeding, it's amazing the way they keep on, there are two of them out there now, clinging to the feeder as the wind flings it about, pecking away. They have such a will to live, those vivid little birds, such insouciant persistence, they put me to shame.