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Credible and Reliable Evidence

What to look for in spring:

A pair of collared doves sit, absorbed in grooming themselves, on the falling-apart fence atop the wall at the bottom of the garden: ruffling neck feathers, combing wing feathers with those wicked-looking hooked black beaks. One leans over, and worries ferociously at the other's neck plumage; it's mate (male and female are pretty much identical nb) returns the favour: tugging out and then smoothing down the other's tail fan. A robin picks at dried mealworms, darting to and fro from the bay laurel: keeping the doves under observation. In the garden pool, six frogs, or maybe seven, enjoy a mating party in a tangle of weeds, bellies, kicking feet and golden eyes, while three red goldfish drift around them, basking in the sunlight.

I've done good work on my story for the estimable Athena Andreadis this week, but today I'm slowed down, head thick with a cold, and its Friday. The sunshine is a little wasted on me.

Credible And Reliable Evidence

Announced on Common Dream this week, "credible and reliable evidence of US Military torture in Afghanistan"


Well, fancy that! I also hear there's credible and reliable evidence that, despite pleasant rumours to the contrary, Shaker Aamer, along with one or two others, is still incarcerated, and likely to remain so, in the most brutal conditions, in Guantanamo Bay.

And if by chance you have not yet watched this movie, you really, really should. Watch it now.

Doctors of the Darkside

Nobody's stopping you. When you've watched the movie, you might wonder why not.
They know they don't need to stop you. You'll shudder, but you won't do a thing.

Everybody should "know" about these things (easy problem). Everybody should think about what these things mean, in the context of the "radicalisation" of young Muslims, and equally, in the rising level of acceptance, globally, of the legitimacy of torture, and the evil power this acceptance has over all our lives. Hard problem. Everybody should think, think think about where the heart of darkness in this 21st century world of "terrorism" lies; exactly where it all springs from. And fight this plague with all their power. Harder still. We do nothing, or nearly nothing. We just go on, dimly feeling that the world is getting to be a worse and worse place, an evil place, even. Never joining the dots, and mostly never considering taking any remedial action.

"It's pointless. You'll never get anywhere."

I'm not Amnesty International's biggest fan, and I definitely did shudder when I came to the line in their "recommendations" that says "a qualified medical practitioner should be present" at every interrogation. Aaargh! But follow this link, if you want to do something, not nothing. Stop Torture.

My Fracking Round Up

When I saw the last minute amendment, effectively clawing back the concession that fracking was to be banned from Natural Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, I thought to myself, immediately, Balcombe is in an Area Of Outstanding Beauty. The Wisborough Green proposed drilling site is embarrassingly close to two extremely beautiful, valuable and highly protected nature reserves, Ebernoe and The Mens; not to mention a Sussex Wildlife Trust reserve immediately adjacent, and the South Downs National Park boundary 500m away.

Both these sites are showcases, flashpoints; centres of resistance in the Weald. Both of them were protected . . . for about ten minutes.


Infrastructure Bill amendment


Kaching!

September 2014, WSCC finds that the Celtique Energie proposal is fatally flawed. Road access to their proposed site is impossibly constricted, and they really should have picked a more suitable spot, in their huge licence area. Maybe further from nationally and internationally protected nature & wildlife preserves? For the first time, a community and a consortium of Natural Beauty & Wildlife Defenders have managed to get a fracking proposal turned down!

February 2015, WSCC suddenly decides to demolish a little bridge on a narrow lane, and replace the whole stretch of road involved with a 2 lane highway. Thus removing two major obstacles to the drilling plan: a weak little bridge, and a tree-canopied lane; both of them features that the villagers treasure. WSCC's spokespersons deny that this "improvement" nobody wants has anything to do with the drilling proposal, which Celtique Energie is still pursuing, through a public inquiry .

Do you believe these people? I hate to hurt anybody's feelings, but I'm afraid I don't.

There's nothing I can do. Road improvements in West Sussex aren't my business. But for the record, there's a petition. If you have a WS postcode, please consider signing

Sign here


And by the way, if you were clinging to the belief that "of course, fracking will be safer here" just have a look at this other adjustment in the small print:

Fracking redefinition


I started off objecting to the proposed fracking operations in the Weald because I live here*, I know what fracking looks like, and when I checked the facts, I soon found out that, even if you believe that cr*p about methane being a safer alternative to other fossil fuels, there were no commercial reserves, so it was just pure nonsense. But what I've learned since is all about corruption. The dirty rotten private personal deals that those who govern us make, with the corporations and their lackeys, to steal our land, our water, our natural resources, even the air we breathe. The world over.

Oh, and another by the way. Remember how we were promised that the NHS would be protected from TTIP? So the corporations would not be able to take the NHS to court, at ruinous cost, for trying to be affordable or for reversing privatisation? It isn't happening

Nowhere is safe. There is no protection.

(no, I don't. I live in Brighton. Why don't I live in the countryside if I love it so much? Because I believe in cities, and in urban development, as the real solution to the housing crisis. And because am just about bright enough to realise that the UK is a small place and if we all go and live in the country, there won't be any countryside left.)



http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/9452952/the-myth-of-the-housing-crisis/




Reading

I don't like the new set up in New Scientist, relegating the letters to the back pages. This might not sound serious, but it is. New Scientist is read by scientists but written (bless) mainly by journalists. Practically every week, there'll be letters, from well-qualified persons, refuting, questioning, clarifing; and arguing with the content of the main articles. New Scientis letters aren't a cutesy extra, like Feedback (excuse me Feedback, but you are cute). They're integral. So, New Scientist people, please change it back! Now!
I may start a petition.

& looking forward to the third episode of the "Jonathan Holt" (it's a pseudonym) Carnivia trilogy. The second episode The Abduction featured such a visceral and phenomenally accurate account of those practices the US government has defined as "not being torture" (start with walling, proceed to waterboarding. Don't forget the diapers the naked victims must wear, to save the torturers a messy job) I wonder where on earth Mr Holt is going next. Warning, some amazon respondents (.com) have found Mr Holt's treatment of this sensitive subject "anti-US". And some have not.








New Herbs #n

Cold wind, grey cloud growing luminous and showing blue as the morning progresses. I went out early, to cut "new herbs" for the new year for my bedside, pine twigs and rosemary. Nothing in flower, not even a first daffodil, but two starved looking little white dianthus in a pot, but in the fish pool a first clump of spawn had sprung into being overnight. I scooped it out (goldfish eat spawn).It's now in the plastic tadpole bowl, pending proof of fertility, and so another year begins.

Reading

I've finished The Autobiography Of Alice B. Toklas. It was very interesting, full of famous people, and occasionally arresting insights: cubism, the link between "Cubism" and its compartments, its rigid print inclusions, with the usual display of items for sale in a Spanish shop window of the time: a pipe, set in a frame of its own, and so on. And Picasso one day seeing a camouflage-painted cannon rolling down the Boulevard Raspail, and being transfixed; saying look, "C'est nous qui avons fait ├ža", because that was what cubism had done to buildings in a landscape: it was "the way of building in spanish villages, the line of the houses not following the landscape, becoming indistinguishable in the landscape by cutting across the landscape. It was the principle of camouflage." (1907-1914)

Still don't know what to make of Gertrude Stein though. Neglected genius, who wasted her talent through arrogance, and on providing a wonderful salon and support system for male geniuses? Or a crank with inherited income and a knack for spotting celebrities early, and hanging on to them; like Mme Verdurin in Proust? She certainly could pick them, and she certainly did like them male; with all their tinder-fragile maleness about them (picasso, hemingway).

Still can't help feeling there's something slightly naff about writing a pretend autobiography for your spouse, all about yourself. As if she's a pet animal or something.

Looking forward to

An embarrassment of riches, all forced on me more or less.

I've been reading W.H.R Rivers on Medicine, Magic and Religion, for my anthropology story, so now I really have to get hold of Pat Barker's Regeneration trilogy, which I've never read.

I've snagged about the last two tickets for Antigone at the Barbican, and damn the expense, because I couldn't miss Juliette Binoche in that role.

And The Hard Problem live from the NT, at the Duke's in April. We went to see Arcadia at The Theatre Royal a week or two ago, and it was a delight. So nostalgic for those heady days in the eighties and nineties, when Science was outing itself as a pathetically limited enterprise, just beginning to dare to open up to the real world, with kindly computers holding it by the hand; and Chaos Theory, and Fractals, and that particular brand of sparkling, witty, "classless" male academic, University of Sussex all over him. . . Besides breaking a jinx for me. Everything I've paid to see at The Theatre Royal for years has turned to mud, but not this time.

I don't think The Hard Problem will be as good. It's a daft hard problem, it will vanish, when all the "easy" problems of consciousness are solved. Like the hard problem of the mysterious irreducible binary differences between men and women. Fix the non-gendered human rights issues involved, and I promise you, the mystery will melt away, because it doesn't exist.

Plus Behind The Beautiful Forevers, also live at the Duke's, and two Shaffer plays at the New Venture Theatre, one of our local non-profit theatre companies. And now my pockets are empty. Have to wait for them to fill up again.

Okami footnote.

Catwalk wall, cakewalk. I hate that marlin. I hate that fish so much I might even be defeated.


A very frivolous post. Makes a sheepish change.

My Darkening World Round Up

Cold rain outside my window, just the same as Friday Yesterday it was as warm as sunshine, and we sat in the garden, watching the cats; it's a stop-start pre-spring season, even my hard as nails Roger Hall camellia is nowhere near in bloom.

So, darkening worlds. I found out something I really didn't want to know, when I was following my "H is for Hawk" trail over Christmas and New Year. H is for Hawk itself was harmless, if a bit disappointing (like the original Goshawk, slightly the utilitarian approach to nature writing: in a wet field, in a tangled wood; by expropriating the "freedom" of a wild hawk, you too can escape from being human!) . . . but The Goshawk itself was ouch. The Midnight Folk (1935) was pure, unadulterated magic, incredibly graceful and insouciant blend of fantasy, glorious adventures for a lonely child who gets to turn into wildlife, and adults are up to no good comedy. The Box Of Delights, the "sequel" is not so wonderful, the fantasy a bit clumsy, but I read it in tandem with Jessica Cornwell's The Serpent Papers, which made me very conscious of the mediaeval illuminations strand. The Box of Delights, you see, (the treasure guarded by Ramon Llul, aka "Cole Hawlings", travelling Punch and Judy man) is a portal to the magical nature of the living world, cue the most beautiful descriptions of flowers, trees, birds, beasts, that make you feel as if you are indeed falling into one of those exquisitely crowded, brilliantly coloured mediaeval pages . . . But The Sword In The Stone was the worst.

" . . . glades in which the wild thyme was droning with bees. The insect season was past its peak, for it was really the time for wasps on fruit, but there were many fritillaries still, with tortoiseshells and red admirals on the flowering mint . .

That hurts, because I know it isn't fantasy, I have seen this, I was there. I was there thirty years ago, when the downs were shouting with larks, and storms of blue butterflies rising from the wild marjoram in june, and nobody thought twice about crowds of wasps around fallen fruit (or fallen sticky ice lolly papers); flocks of lapwings, marvellously tumbling over the flatlands of Northhamptonshire, which I could always reckon on seeing, on the train up to Manchester, no more than a decade ago. I know it was real, and I know its gone. The most ordinary things, that you never thought you'd outlive: trees, rivers, mountains . . . So, I say darkening world, a shadow rushing over everything around me, and I count the losses in my own small patch; and look for chinks of hope:


Hope Farm @RSPB


"Nightingale threat" goes to public inquiry
(this is not a chink of hope!)

Barn owls back from the brink; Early results from farm bird survey


The But Its Not Amazon Dilemma

Well, I do my best. I swore off amazon for Christmas shopping, but was a bit disappointed at the BINA choices offered by the @AmazonAnonymous squad: it seemed not too many alternative online retailers were able to swear all their staff had a living wage, either. Anyway, I found these two gave good service:

http://www.betterworldbooks.com/


http://www.hive.co.uk/

& on the other side of the counter, you can buy The Grasshopper's Child BINA now, (but not the other Bold As Love ebooks yet, apart from Bold As Love. It's a work in progress.

And finally

The white and red cat? That's Kabegami, god of walls from @OkamiOfficial (the deviantart link didn't work last time, maybe it will today: I promise you this avatar of the divinity is in there somewhere). She's there to celebrate that I climbed the Catwalk Tower late last Thursday night, with the support and inspiration of GadgetGirlKylie. I can't really explain the attraction of this pointless challenge. There's no trick, and no great skill or feat of endurance required (beyond the usual, remember there is no spoon). It's just the way it goes up, and up, and up, and up. And then, if you like, you can take a running jump, and glide all the way down.

I did it again, yesterday, just to collect a stray bead. Dreamy.


Off To See The Witches

Friday, just after one. Wind and rain outside my window. Good! I was getting sick of that dry barren cold weather, it had such a mean-spirited feel. Off to see the witches tonight, for my birthday treat, only about nine years after Amy Rowan (Rowan-Buckley now) recommended Wicked so highly. My first Modern Musical! I don't usually move so fast in embracing new trends, it's the effect of having walked past the Apollo at Victoria so often, going up and down to London. (Gabriel thought I should prefer Woman on the Verge, but that was too much of a leap into the unknown).

My Fracking Round Up

A lot's been stirring the pot since I last wrote about fracking. The New York State ban. The bumpy progress of the Infrastructure Bill. which became law yesterday. The oil price collapse, the troubles in the North Sea. Wales and Scotland both voting for a moratorium on the dirty business. But what exactly did we end up with, after all the excitement about a proposed entire UK moratorium (never going to happen!); the infamous change in the trespass laws, with Kramer's nasty addition; the pressure put on Labour by the major unions, not to support the moratorium; the apparent "reprieve at the foot of the gallows" for our National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Sites of Special Scientific Interest?

Not a lot of joy I'm afraid. The protection for Protected Sites clawed back, in a horrible amendment that says fracking wells can crowd around the gates of any National Park, AONB, SSSI (imagine that effect on the beauty and tranquillity, eh?) and horizontal drilling can just ignore the whole idea of protection . . .

Why is this still happening? The extractable reserves in the UK, where they exist, are, at the most optimistic estimate, piddling in terms of our future energy needs, and everybody in the business knows it. You really want to understand why Mr Francis Egan, Mr Greg Davies and their cronies are still going to be allowed to make a vile mess of our countryside, when everything in the world says no, and the current price of oil makes their alleged, potential, distant product look absolutely lunatic? Wilful ignorance accounts for a lot, of course. The house is on fire and we know it, but we won't get out of bed until the flames are licking our pillows. But there are other factors. Study this diagram, which puts together some facts that should be better known:

http://www.frackfreesussex.co.uk/corruption-vested-interest

But there's the cheap oil factor, which may not last, but it might last long enough. And there's the tide of climate change action, creeping up. Wait and see.

Watching and not-watching

I like Wolf Hall. I tried the book and gave it up, it was just too much like reading A Place Of Greater Safety (about Danton, and I liked it), all over again. Same type historical man-mountain main character, same tone, same prose, same everything. But it's like Harry Potter, much better on screen. Thomas More's very good, waspish, cranky, monster of integrity. Cardinal Wolsley and Cromwell maybe a wee bit too cuddly? Haven't seen any heads roll yet, but it's got to start soon.

Broadchurch is just ridiculous tat.

Birdman I liked better than any other Inarritu movie I've seen, but that is not saying much (as I walked into the cinema I suddenly remembered having vowed never again, after finding Babel very irritating, but it wasn't that bad). Another of those luvvie movies. Give the guy an Oscar, he really gets us! Give him five Oscars!

Ex Machina I think I won't pay good money for.

Reading

Just come to the end of a trail I started following at Christmas; instigated by H is for Hawk (which turned out, oddly, to be mainly an extended, in depth review of T.H White's The Goshawk. It went from The Goshawk, to The Midnight Folk and The Box Of Delights (John Masefield, very old favourites of mine, clear precursors of T.H.White's The Sword In The Stone, and also, in the case of The Box of Delights, starring the great Ramon Llul (aka Cole Hawlings;then doubled back to The Heart Of Midlothian; where you will find the precursors of the witches and that excellent character the Rat, in the first and best of the Masefield stories (The Midnight Folk). The Sword In The Stone, to my surprise, stood up well in this august company. A fine lineage!

More on these later.

I'm now going to read The Autobiography of Alice B Toklas, which Gabriel bought for me yesterday. Always meant to, never got further than the cookbook, which I have never yet used in anger, but it's interesting; esp. the Picasso Fish Dish, and other insights.

The Annotated Grasshopper's Child

Monday 9th February, a cold dry month so far, here in Brighton; a couple of mornings just a feathering of snow on the roofs, ice on the garden pools and frost on the grass. One pair of mating frogs under the ice on the fish pool, on the 1st February. One panicking stickleback accidentally hauled out with a bundle of excess weed from the "wildlife" pool, so it can't be as unhealthy as it looks (always does, this time of year nb). Noticeably fewer winter birds, even in a back garden context, than I used to see ten years ago (& I know this because I've been wandering down memory lane).This is partly because some of my neighbours have cut down garden trees, but where are the blackcaps? The hedgesparrow that used to sing so fervently, from the topmost branch of the cypress? Where are the greenfinches that used to gather, ten or twenty at a time? I'm just glad the goldfinches are still around, and the robins I had a very Secret Garden whistling exchange with one of them this morning. (Robins will whistle back to you at the drop of a hat, if you sound even vaguely birdlike), and the wren that creeps on the wall. Yesterday was springlike, today low grey cloud.

But to business. In honour of the more-or-less publication of The Grasshopper's Child print edition, here's the book's all-new entry on the Bold As Love site:
The Annotated Grasshopper's Child



Also very pleased to note that The Grasshopper's Child has made the Locus Recommended Reading List (young adult section). Thank you, dear Locus people.



Down Memory Lane


My smart new blog (a work in progress to some extent, as my nephew and webmeister is currently recovering from laser surgery) now includes access to all the material on my smart new gwynethjones site: a restoration project that has kept me happily occupied, turning up many forgotten curiosities, for the last few days. I will display my finds here, from time to time. Today, a dusty gem from March 2003 (much syndicated, I seem to remember: by which I mean, it got onto infinityplus). Shuffle, shuffle, grumble, grumble. . . I didn't know I was born, did I?

Peace Demo report


Ah!, the sun has come mistily out. I have to take my aimless walk now; I do it for my health, until I'm fit to get back to the gym. Also, it's my new year's resolution: no more long blog entries.
More soon.