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Wednesday 25th June, another fine day, blue sky and white clouds; cooler, and an easterly breeze. Looks like our dark skies camp-out #1 this weekend is cancelled, and serious rain for Glastonbury. Last week I was poorly, flat on my back. This week I'm moonlighting, taking a couple of hours off here and there from my proper occupation (being flat on back). Next week I'll be well, I hope: but meanwhile, I've been reading storybooks, it's amazing how much print I can get through. See below. Before I admitted defeat we went to Woods Mill again. No white moon this time, no nightingales, no cuckoo. What a difference a week makes, at the cusp of Midsummer. The flood of evening birdsong stilled, wild roses and honeysuckle just a delicate motif, no longer dominanting the tapestry of lush greenery. We didn't see the Barn Owls, maybe their owlets had fledged, but watched one of the kestrel parents sitting in the kestrels' oak, tearing away lustily at some prey or other, while one kestrel chick made its first flight: thrills I can't share, as we do not have either one of those giant cameras or the skills required. So here are the Woods Mill cygnets instead, seven of them, the magic number, just like a fairytale. The other adult swan is just out of the picture. The female (I bet) was spitting at me, which was a bit of a cheek, as she had deliberately brought her brood over to the bank, evidently to teach them you can intimidate humans into giving you picnic . . .

My Fracking Round Up (and related topics)

Good news (for now): SOCO have retreated from their plans to drill in Virunga National Park, and "will do nothing to threaten the Park's World Heritage status" (presumably, this weasely promise means they'll be looking in to suborning UNESCO). Charles Metcalfe and the Balcombe anti-frackers really are going to take West Sussex County Council to the Crown Court. And quite right too. More details here:

Bad news, a Minister getting up on hind feet and explaining that there is no methane leak risk to aquifers or groundwater from hydraulic fracking as the fracking happens much deeper down . . . God give me strength, even Scientific American knows that the methane has to come up to the surface. Or there would not be much point, would there? Just another proof that our masters "know" (using that term advisedly, in individual cases) that they don't have to make sense. No more than William the Conqueror had to "make sense", when he raped Saxon England. They have force majeure, and no boundaries.

Not to mention Armageddon coming charging to their aid, over the hill. Remember that Green Horse I was telling you about?

Not new bad news, the Wisborough Green and Kirdford (ie second Weald Basin fracking site after Balcombe) drilling application is to be "determined", finally! on 21st July, at an unknown location. This delay does not mean WSCC has been reconsidering their predetermined approval.

I don't yet know what happened to the West Sussex County Councill Oil And Gas Exploration Open Day advertised for the 21st. I couldn't make it, myself. And I was so interested, especially in that item "how to influence planning". That must have been a short session:

"You can't. We're just following orders, and our orders are to ignore you. Soon there isn't going to be any "planning", anyhow.")

Still can't track down WSCC's oil and gas expert, "John Pucknall". I suppose he's on a staff list at Portsmouth Uni, which the Uni isn't sharing, but not a trace of any other internet presence; not a name-check, which is unusual for a reputable scientist.

The Infrastructure Bill Protest

the thirtyeight degrees petition is now closed, but I have a report on the story so far from Jacky Smith, who organised it, that makes interesting reading. Further action in July, meanwhile here's Owen Adams on the topic Another of the bright ideas in that bill, besides the notorious change to the trespass laws, is selling off the Land Registry. Bizarre, isn't it. How this fracking thing unfolds, endlessly, opening up great seams of ruthlessness and corruption, far and wide, uncovering the wild extent of our masters' will to destroy civil liberties; civil society: an anatomy of this government that I find far more compelling than the Coulson Case. I will admit, less immediately scary than the destruction of the NHS, but it depends what you think about Climate Change, and how far its right now scary ramifications extend into every aspect of our civilisation.

My Flat On Back Storybooks

Natsuo Kirino, The Goddess Chronicle

A Japanese Creation Myth tale, lovely reading for Zelda, Ghibli and Okami fans. (I was thrilled to get a name check, I mean "I" in my avatar sense, as the Sun Goddess Amaterasu, in Okami). A poignant, strange reminder of what "Okinawa" and "Iwo Jima" might have meant, if they didn't mean The War In The Pacific. Have to admit it's all about Death, and mainly about women (or Yin) getting the short end of that stick. Still recommended. Will now seek out Natsuo's "hardboiled detective" novels.

Tobias Hill. The Love Of Stones

By a poet, about the adventures of a real, amazing mediaeval jewel (actually several jewels), through hundreds of years, and finally a fictional thriller set in C19 Bhagdad/London;1990-something/various global locations. Mesmerising. A book to get lost in. And incidentally you get a startling reminder of how far away the Nineties are now. Like Life On Mars.

Rubbernecker, Belinda Bauer

I like Belinda Bauer, but at first I thought this one was a bit of a conjuring trick. You say Our Hero has Asperger's, then you can do anything you like with him, plus being able to make any quirky internal musing, such as we neurotypics might easily indulge in, sound like you Know Everything about the Autistic Spectrum*. I changed my mind. Really liked it by the end. Gruesome, and fun, with compassion and a good heart. What more can you ask?
(*btw, this is how I felt about Mark Haddon's Curious Incident the whole way through).

Erin Hart, Lake Of Sorrows; False Mermaid

These are the second and third episodes of a murder story set in Minnesota and in different counties of Ireland (the Republic, that is). Long, comfortable, triple-decker kind of detective stories, with a female Minnesota-Irish pathologist main character, fair amount of gore, lots and lots of Irish colour, and one or two, okay, several, very lucky coincidences and very helpful murderers, longing to explain themselves . . . These books come with a publisher's Suggestions For Reading Circles in the back, rather giving the impression you have in your hand not so much a novel as grist for a female-oriented nattering-mill. I've never been nearer to a Reading Circle than Karen Joy Fowler's The Jane Austen Book Club (which I liked a lot, but that was close enough). But I liked them, they kept me quiet for hours, and I'd read the first if it was in my library.

And Finally:

Inspired by having visited St Peter's Ad Vincula again, I revised the story The Flame Is Roses I wrote for MIT Technology Review's SF anthology. Now posted on my Gwynethann site, page Seven (see sidebar). Featuring the Many Worlds Superposition theory, and Tom Eliot and Emily Hale timeshifted and somewhat rearranged by the experience plus I didn't count how many other Four Quartets references, and of course a rose garden.

Here's the direct link:

Got to get back on my back now.

Free Meriam Yeyha Ibrahim

Tuesday 17th June, cool air, sun and blue sky; silver-rimmed clouds . . . I don't think I've ever seen a cloud with a silver lining, but the effect today is pretty, without being platitudinous. This entry dedicated to Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, the Sudanese woman at present imprisoned with her 20 month old son and new baby daughter, sentenced to death by hanging for "apostasy" (she was brought up a Christian and married a Christian; her Muslim father left her mother when she was six), and "adultery" on the grounds of her marriage outside Islam. Her husband, a wheelchair user, supports her in her refusal to recant, and says he doesn't believe she'll back down. I think he may be right: she looks like a proud woman. She was denounced for her marriage by "Muslim relatives": the police tried to dismiss the case, the relatives came back with the charge of adultery, and somehow made it stick (CNN). Global outcry might save her, so continue to spread the word. There's a facebook page, needless to say, and Amnesty International is involved. As are we Europeans, Hooray!

Years ago, when I wrote "Life" (working title, The Differences Between The Sexes) I had one of my characters, a Malaysian human rights lawyer, tell another, "Anna, where you and I lived at University, Women's Rights is old news. Intelligent women want to be judged on their own merits and find the whole feminist thing embarassing and whiney. But here, where I live it's a can of worms. If you start applying the concept of human rights to women's lives in Africa, in Asia, you uncover a holocaust. And it's getting worse, not better. "

Two things have changed since around the year 2000*, approximately when I wrote that. One is globalisation. The holocaust is no longer far away, no longer out of our sight, it's in our midst. Honour killings and forced marriage are inescapably a global issue now. Female Genital Mutilation is practised with impunity, performed by qualified doctors, in the UK . . . The other is that the billions of women suffering that silent, immemorial holocaust, women still oppressed by staggering cruelty, are speaking up: with their own voices, insisting on opening the can of worms, and even making men listen, sometimes. It's horrible to see what happens to the martyrs in this cause, but I can only support them, and speak out in solidarity.

For what it's worth.

(I expect you've signed that petition. If not, please do. But then try typing Petition against rape into a search engine of your choice. See what you get: it's a corrective.

*No, wait, there's a third thing. Young women seem less likely to regard feminism as whiney and redundant, right now . . . But I'm not sure that's a positive sign.

Looking forward to another trip to Woods Mill (Sussex Wildlife Trust Reserve) this evening. Last week, with the moon nearly full in a clear blue evening sky, we sat and watched a pair of kestrels and a barn owl hunting in the meadow. One cuckoo calling in the distance, a tapestry of birdsong filling the air.

Public Event about Oil and Gas Exploration and Extraction

Wednesday 11th of June, warm and overcast. WSCC are holding an open day all about oil and gas exploration and extraction, at Pulborough Village Hall on 21st June, where they'll answer all our questions and explain about how to influence planning policy. What an interesting idea! It's a drop-in, but you have to register by email:

Here's the full details:

Public Event about Oil and Gas Exploration and Extraction

In response to demand for more information about oil and gas exploration and extraction, West Sussex County Council have organised a free drop-in session on Saturday 21 June at Pulborough Village Hall. The event runs from 9.30am to 4.00pm.

You will be able to find out about the processes involved and our role as the local planning authority in determining applications. However, WSCC will not be able to have site-specific discussions on current planning applications.

Officers from the Environment Agency, Health and Safety Executive, Department for Energy and Climate Change, and the County Council will attend the event. Representatives from local resident groups affected by oil and gas extraction will also be in attendance.

John Pucknall from Portsmouth University will be deliverying the Science and Techonology information session. As a Petroleum engineer for 30 years with BP, he has a unique insight to the methods used by companies to extract oil and gas.

More information about the venue, including travel directions, can be found on the website:

There is a small public car park next to the hall (please note there is no parking available at the hall) and a train station within walking distance.

You can drop in at any time to get information or ask questions. However, due to limited capacity at the village hall, please confirm your attendance in advance by email to

Footnote To Roumeli: Wisborough Green In Flagrante

Monday 9th June, quiet, cool and overcast. Have torn down the rocket that had shot into flower, and am hoping to get away with having stirred some of the admittedly slightly embittered leaves into tonight's salad. Have not transferred my third indoor froglet to the outdoors, but I must. Yesterday, back to Wisborough on a perfect English summer day, to repeat a walk we remember with fondness from before fracking reared its head. The sky so blue and white it glowed, the sun as warm as it ought to be, and no more; the hollow thwack of leather on willow pursued us as we left the Green. Open Gardens. Teas. Birdsong everywhere, there must be a blackbird pair for every square metre of this landscape, this summer (but never a cuckoo, and very few swallows, martins or swifts). Dragonflies, damselflies (damselflies are hammerheaded, that's the essential difference); yellow water lilies, pink and white dog roses, creamy lace elderflower platters, herons starting up from the Adur canal, or from the reeds by the Adur river next door. We lost our way, when avoiding a field where a bull had been put with the cows; also there were fields and fields where vast thickets of nettles pressed on either side: so it was okay, authentic, all the trimmings, but I was glad to reach The Mens. Very glad to have seen those great beeches, one more time, in all their shadowy glory. And always, except in the beech woods, the slim grey spire of St Peter ad Vincula on its headland (thirteenth century wall paintings, a mysterious void under the sanctuary) inexplicably shifting round our horizon: very Proustian.

And I'm thinking, as we walk through the beanfields in flower on our way back, about the people, the comment-column mavs, even anti-fracking activists, vengefully delighted to think of the Low Weald getting trashed, just because places like Wisborough are so picturebook. Huh? I can't get along with that sort of attitude. Really can't. Neither class war, or a few trollish comments, are going to make it any easier for me to accept the trashing of the Forest of Bowland.

St Peter's ad Vincula is the church featured in the T.S Eliot-inspired story, The Flame Is Roses The Smoke Is Briars I wrote for an MIT venture into sf, a couple of years ago. Although nowhere near the sea.

Footnote To Roumeli

My library books #n: Of course not starring Philip the object of our quest last year, but still unable to resist an archaeological thriller called The Tomb of Alexander, the star of Macedon on the cover, and written by Ernest Hemingway's grandson, who happens to be a curator at The Metropolitan Museum Of Art. It's nice. Not going to set the Thames on fire, and you have to really like archaeology, but that's beside the point. Turns out the plot is full of The Mummy Returns stuff about a secret book; a lost tomb full of untold treasures, amazing mediaeval prophecies and a battle at the End of the World. Couldn't resist looking it up, and what d'you know, it's all true as the internet. So now I must at all costs seek out a copy of The Alexander Romance. , but obviously digital won't do. Maybe I'll have to put it on my Christmas List But the strangest part is that I remember this story. I remember, when I was a very small child, five or six, that I was convinced someone, one of the holy nuns at my school, had told me about a last battle, in which a human hero, a champion of God, would fight with the devil and all his demons, at a pass at the end of the world, and it would be the end of time . . . I repeated this story at home, got soundly told off for making up disrespectful nonsense & have spent all my years between puzzling over the mystery, because I know I didn't make it up.

Well, well, I'll keep you updated.

Still have not caught my froglet, although with the best intentions. It's hard to reason with a tadpole, even at the four-legged stage.

So much to be devastated and furious and ashamed about . . .

Thursday 5th June, very sunny, not all that warm, no sign of the eight or ten local swifts (I've seen very little of them, no screaming parties, I think only a single pair may be nesting at the Brighton General site). And that was brilliant, Greenpeace. Immaculately put together and timed! "The police are absolutely right", says Greenpeace spokesperson, as they were led away from their pretend fracking installation at Dave Cameron's house yesterday morning. "Nobody should frack under somebody's home without permission."

Interestingly (well, okay, predictably) the plan to change the trespass law did not turn up on the list of bills destined to become law before the end of this Parliament. It's going to consultation! You can make your views known, and I encourage you to do so. Here's the link: Underground Drilling Access. Just for fun, nb, and to be annoying. This isn't Passport to Pimlico, I'm afraid. No happy ending is planned. These are the Bad Barons, they mean to have their way and they will have it. But in terms of the future of fracking in the UK, Mr Francis Egan's response says it all. If the trespass law isn't changed, that's the end of fracking in the UK. Why? Because if you have to ask, and nobody who can say no to a fracking operation next door will say yes, that's just about it. Nobody. Not even for £20,000. Quite an admission, you'd think.

Not entirely unconnected: about that British Geological Survey, did you know both Cuadrilla (the major player in Extreme Energy extraction/exploration plans) and Celtique Energie (the exploration operator in the Weald) are cited as advisers in the report? (See ppiii) Confirming publicly that they knew all along, despite the passionate vows they have made to the contrary, with tears in their eyes: a) that nothing could be extracted without thousands of wells employing the controversial technique known as fracking. b) that in the South East there's no nice-sounding "natural gas" at all: only a tiny fraction of "tight oil".

That isn't my tweet (above), by the way: I borrowed it from the Australian research into twitter response, in this case to Australia's Rightist, Climate Change Denier Tendency regime's 2014 budget cuts. Twitter is an interactive graph of public mood (it says here). Twitter's emotional storms are fleeting, lasting only hours. They can be read, obviously, and can influence the equally fleeting moods of our politicians. But can they be manipulated with longer term effect? I wonder. "Demosthenes" did it, with great success, back in 1984 in Ender's Game, as I'm sure you remember, dear reader. Admittedly, that was science fiction

I was hardly likely to expect anything that even sounded good to me, on MP recall, on zero hours contracts, or even on plastic bags, from the Coalition's last "Queen's Speech"; and I was not disappointed. Not at all, just devastated, furious and ashamed, same as usual. Greenpeace's stunt had to put a smile on my face (reference to the row between Mr Gove and Ms May has been deleted here as I've realised I have no idea who did what to whom or why). And now, back to my flowers; and a talk about HG's Time Machine that needs to be written.

To Tashkent, with snow on our boots . . .

Monday 2nd June, official summer weather for official Summer: blue sky and cloud, sunny actually warm outdoors (still don't know how that was the third warmest Spring on record, however). Congratulations to Gabriel and Marianne, who made their comeback in fine style at St Michael & All Angels in the Brighton Festival Fringe programme on Saturday. After the misery of months of serious illness (cancerous bowel polyps, thankfully successfully treated by surgery in the end); horribly compounded by the failings of the NHS hospital most concerned, so glad and happy to see Marianne on form again, and singing beautifully. They now embark on a big season of engagements, with confidence.

"What do you think of creative writing groups?' was the question.

"Playground for bullies," was my instant response. "If there's a dominant unscrupulous person in the room, and there probably is, given the territory, she or he will take over, cow those who can be cowed, crush opposition and what's worse, make it a crime to have an original voice. You need an organisation you can trust, like Arvon in the UK, an experienced, practitioner, non-bully workshop leader, and the leader needs to be properly in charge, which definitely isn't always the case. Otherwise, avoid like the plague! If you can't give up the habit don't ever pay, and if you don't like what happens quit immediately!"

Turned out we were at cross-purposes, Mary-Elly was talking about Creative Writing as a degree course prospect, for the daughter of a friend. Oh, well that's different. A good Creative Writing course, the way it's taught today, just as good as say, English Literature in the old days, as an all-purpose undergraduate choice. You don't have to be a prospective academic to benefit from Eng.Litt; don't have to be a prospective novelist to benefit from studying Creative Writing. All kinds of useful mind-nurturing stuff and practical skills in there, applicable in all kinds of contexts.

Not so sure about the post-grad phenomenon. I might go "university of life is better for you" on that one.

But then a mailing from Clarion turned up (I wish I could stop them wasting the postage, I have email!) & that night I dreamt, a long and rich and complicated dream, about a band of sisters and brothers, setting out for . . . and having . . . many dangerous adventures, but all that remained for me, a couple of moments after waking, was Tashkent. Going to Tashkent, with snow on our boots.

My response to what I thought was Mary-Elly's original question was based on my response to the fairly recent (I'm a slow burner) airing of views on "Creative Writing" as a social activity in the press, and on anecdotal reports from writer friends who'd fallen for a paid "course" that turned out both rubbish and distressing. But as so often, you bounce out a crowd-sourced response, and then memory kicks in . . . I now admit tried the UK "Milford", ie a residential group for and by sf practitioners; I went back for a second bite so it can't have been that bad, though I wasn't tempted to carry on. I'm not group material, me. Too much of an outlier, plus privately & recalcitrantly convinced proper writers ought to be "outliers". But I once co-led an Arvon week in Devon, and that was okay, except Colin Greenland had much more exciting accommodation than me, ah well. I did a week's stint as a Clarion workshop leader, twice, hopefully in charge at least part of the time; hopefully not too much of a bully. 1999 Clarion West in Seattle, the year they had Octavia Butler as a tutor was my first. Accepting the job on grounds of "Free views of Mount Rainier included" (absolutely true), I met a classic, a legendary group, the one including Andrea Hairston, Sheree Thomas, Margo Lanagan, Trent Walters, Joe Sutliff Sanders etc. It was intense. There was trouble! I would never sign up for the 6 weeks marathon as a student, never. Vicariously it was thrilling, I shared a small part of the excitement, the gruelling, addictive writers'-bunker mentality, the wild-eyed gallows humour; all of it.

Do it once, that's my non-crowd-sourced advice. Dive into the concentrated company of fellow writers, and discover that your weirdest, most secret behaviours are shared with them. Don't become an addict. You'll lose all power to judge your own writing, you'll fall victim to groupspeak. And remember the old adage, writing workshops are good for novelists, bad for short story writers. (Reason being, novels don't get the full treatment, they are too big to fit in the room. The short story that gets taken to pieces in its entirety is much less likely to survive the process with its outlier credentials intact. You will revise it to make it more like what everybody else did . . .) But have a go. Adventure, bizarre comradeship, peril, cold feet. What more could you ask?

Meanwhile, why not sign up for the Clarion Writathon?

Objection! Objection!

For UK readers only: there's still time to object to Celtique Energie's application to drill beside Wisborough Green, in the Weald, an area now certified to harbour reserves of around 2mths UK supply of "tight oil" that can only be extracted by the controversial method known as "fracking". If you don't like the idea of fracking in sussex, or anywhere in the UK, why not object? And while you're at it, why not copy your letter to David Cameron, your own MP, and Nick Herbert, MP for Arundel and the South Downs. Just to be annoying nb. I was at the last planning committee meeting. They bin all objections to extreme energy extraction. But they get cross first. You have until 20th June. The planning meeting is currently scheduled for 24th.

You probably can't make them out, either that or they all flew away, but this is supposed to be our wall campanula, my June flower of choice, full of honeybees.