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Hurricane Weather

Thursday 28th August, cool and bright. Heavy rain last night, and a damp, clammy, gloomy morning, but apparently we're going to have a pause before we get caught by the lashing tail of another storm. Last Friday we went out walking, right over in the west, a classic route we haven't walked for five years: from Harting Down to Hooksway, from East Marden to Up Marden's quiet little church, around to Compton and back up to Harting Down again in twilight; deer barking in the eaves of the wood, and one unearthly owl. Excellent walking weather, splendid foraging of chicken mushroom from the trunk of a dead oak tree (US readers caution: our species is "edible, delicious, and quite unmistakeable". I don't know about yours). Hordes of free range pheasant poults scampering underfoot, in the shadows of the golden rolls of wheatstraw and once a hare, leaping across a vast shorn cornfield, stopped and sat up, looking back at us, very coolly. Handfuls of small sweet blackberries to keep us going and good food at possibly the most picturesque pub in Sussex, the Royal Oak at Hooksway. The harvest is already home down here, and that's probably last of our summer outings.

Was it a good one? It seemed very long, very confused, and full of bad news for the world. It had heatwaves, it had thunder and lightning. It had its great moments, good outings, good trips away (although unfortunately we didn't get to the Green Man festival: that'll have to be next year). Great camping under Dark Skies at Compton Bay, a wonderful walk back from Lewes over the downs, under the Hungry Ghosts "Super" full moon, in the teeth of a warm southwesterly gale. (This year, I noticed, HK and Malaysia decided to spread the festival over a whole month. Was this because the ghosts were thought to be especially lively? Or recognition of an under-exploited commercial attraction?) But all our fun was overshadowed. We have lost our big cat, Milo. He went missing in July, on the night of one of the terrific thunderstorms, and has not come home. It's been six weeks. Maybe he's okay somewhere, I hope so. I expect we'll never know what happened. Many thanks to lostcatsbrighton, for their support

My Fracking Round-Up

Interesting times for the nascent fracking industry uk . Could go either way, couldn't it? On the one hand, the current government has stuck to its plans, and put vast swathes of the country up for grabs. They're apparently still set on changing that pesky law about having to ask every landowner in your way, for permission before you drill, and their Consultation on the issue provoked a gratifyingly subdued response from the public (but Greenpeace are challenging that) . . . On the other hand, here in Sussex, Celtique Energie's Wisborough Green application got turned down, Balcombe residents really are taking West Sussex County Council to the High Court, for permitting Cuadrilla to renew their operations at Balcombe (if they feel like it; currently they don't), and meanwhile the Labour Party is trying to square the circle, in the run up to a General Election, by promising to "significantly tighten regulations". Not that it matters, election promises are not worth used toilet paper, but this is NOT going to work. As Mr Francis Egan and Mr Geoff Davies have explained to us, ingenuously and often, "environmental and regulatory conditions" and fracking just do not go together. Fracking's going to make a heap big mess, for derisory returns (unless you are a cowboy driller, and you have grabbed the money and run away very quickly). Everybody knows that now. And if people can say no, they will say no.

But who can say no? That may be the question. The Keep Kirdford and Wisborough Green people were amazingly well organised, well-heeled and very, very savvy. I was at the meeting, in Horsham on the 22nd July. As a fly on the wall, a head to be counted, I shared the joy. I also couldn't help noticing that the public in the hall, and the members of the planning committee, were absolutely indistinguishable. And I thought, good for you KWG (including me, nb. I don't really look like a dangerous radical at the best of times, and I had left my frack free sussex badge at home). Not a whiff of the culture of protest. So where does that leave us? If the way to fight this blight is to shut up about Climate Change, Rare Bats, and the like, and make a fuss about HGV traffic, cricket games being interrupted, house prices falling, instead; then whatever works, but it's not enough. Nowhere like enough.

Anyway, I'll be at the South Downs National Park meeting on 11th September (if I can get a ticket: apply here), to find out what happens about Celtique Energie's application to drill at the so-called "Nine Acres Copse" site: also nestling among tiny, fragile country lanes; also next door to a village; also in the teeth of overwhelming public opposition, and the first attempt to frack in a National Park. So, we'll see.

Looking Forward To:

TTIP national action day on Saturday 30th August: Pavilion Constiuency, Brighton

Er, in a sense. . . I'll be one of the hardy souls, out in the rain, on a stall on the London Road, (bottom of St Ann's Street site, next to Costa, 12.00 to 2.00pm) attempting to explain to passers-by why they should be very afraid of the Transatlantic Trade And Investment Partnership. Luckily I'm going to be prepared & the hard-copy briefing is in the post, but I've a feeling this will be a tough sell. Wish me luck.

With more enthusiasm . . . Peter's So Long And Thanks For All The Fish dinner, marking the final day of his teaching contract, tomorrow night.

Listening To

Arctic Monkeys at Reading. I wasn't there, I'm never going back, but weren't they great.

Massimo's New You Tube release. I'm proud to know this guy. Hope he runs another Baroque concert soon.

Meanwhile, I'm very pleased that Lightspeed is hosting The Grass Princess, I've just turned in my Lovecraft anthology submission and I'm hoping to get my new book out soon, finally. Last minute issues (got to get together with my cover man next week) More later.