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The Turkish Apple Cake

Wednesday 4th May, with brilliant sunshine, the black maple wonderfully in flower, mass murder in the fish pool (a seagull raid, our pet-shop man says, and recommends tripwire), and out there in the wide world, the signs and wonders continue. But first, by popular request, here is the recipe for the Turkish Apple Cake (pictured)

Ingredients: Cooking apples; about 675g weight, peeled cored and chopped. Juice of one lemon (two tablespoons or so); 50g chopped mixed nuts (as sold ready-packed in the Co-op); 50g sultanas; 100g sugar; 100g plain white flour; pinch of salt; teaspoon of baking powder; 1/2 teaspoon good vanilla essence; I large egg, beaten

Method: Lightly oil a cake tin (spring-formed, about 20cm eg) Preheat your oven to medium/warm (about 175C/350F). Put chopped apples into a large bowl, sprinkle with the lemon juice. In a smaller bowl, mix the nuts, sultanas, sugar, flour, salt and baking powder. Stir this mixture into the apples until all the elements are well combined. Add the beaten egg and vanilla essence & repeat the mixing. Be thorough. Dump the mixture into the cake tin, flatten it out with the back of a wooden spoon or similar, and bake in oven until lightly browned (this will take a minimum of 20 mins). Serve warm with cream or yoghurt, or plain and cool.Eat. This recipe is from David Scott's Middle Eastern Vegetarian Cookery, sadly long out of print but still available.

Signs and Wonders: Women in Politics
What you have to remember about Liz Truss is that from her point of view, "Environment" (in the job title) is no more descriptive than the word "Secretary" (although she does, of course, take dictation). She plans to be the new Margaret Thatcher, she doesn't see why not (neither do I, really) and her current post is Secretary of State For Whatever-It-Takes. So when Liz insists we need to protect our pollinators, and then lifts the ban on bee-destroying neonicotinoid pesticides, when she defends the beauty of the English landscape but slashes subsidies for clean energy, (and is trying very hard to get fracking); when she starts bigging-up our EU Environmental Directives on the tv News (the same directives that conclusively blocked fracking development, in the Weald and elsewhere: until that route was closed by Liz Truss's own sterling work on deregulation!) after having protested for years that the EU is killing our farmers. . .You're wasting your time trying to keep track, whether you're a horrified constituent or a horrified environmentalist . . . Damn the contradictions, this is the politics of the way up. They aren't contradictions, to the enlightened insider's eye.

If you live in South West Norfolk,you're devout climate change denier, fox-hunting, gentleman-industrial farmer, and you still dearly want to ride on her coat-tails*, I don't know. Good luck to you, I suppose. The course of true love can be cruel.

My Fracking Round-Up And Why

& why did I waste my rant power on the Iron Lady In Waiting, when I could have been joining up dots on the latest Mysterious Extreme Energyland Horror Story ("wildfires in tarsands country" is not news, but this one is getting headlines!). Or reporting on the funny business at Horse Hill; the Lancashire anti-fracker whose Council decided to sue him, and then somehow changed its collective mind . . . Or on the other side, tales of global fossil fuel divestment, massive growth in public protests?

It's because I've been feeling the need to get back ad fontes ; to ask myself why fracking in the UK?. Why not Jeremy Hunt vs the Junior Doctors? Why not detention centre conditions? Why not the whole tragedy of the so-called migrant crisis? Why not the tragedy of the UK "housing crisis", the privatisation of London, or any other horrible symptoms of the savage behaviour of the super rich?** Why not the scary and really insane global antibiotics crisis and its causes? Even if I only want to get serious about climate change issues, why not we have to change our diets! Why not BAN FEED LOT BEEF? Why not campaign to get the mammon of iniquity (I mean McDonalds) to switch to selling only veggie-burgers (I bet it can be done, and by the way, soy is not allowed . . .).

It's because the topic fell into my lap, here in Sussex in the Weald Basin (Balcombe; Wisborough Green), and I trust localism. It's because my MP is Caroline Lucas. And it's because I'm sure of my ground: I do not feel helpless. I know the fracking industry would be a disaster for the UK, and I know there's an alternative to this "bonanza" (shareholders version) or this "energy crisis" (what they tell the public) already in place, fit for purpose and that could be implemented at once.

I'm sure about the health issues (the public health risks are a big issue, one of the main reasons why "the more people know, the less they are likely to want fracking near them"). I'm sure about the climate change issue. I'm sure that fossil fuel divestment is not only desirable, it's happening; it's the future. And I'm sure (this is where Liz Truss comes in) about the mindless political "will" that keeps on pushing to make fracking in the UK a reality despite all these crushing arguments (I'm being polite, I know that "will" is made up of cronyism, corruption, and the sheer, undiscriminate lust for power that lies (it's a fact of life), at the heart of every truly ambitious politician.

Carbon Capture and Storage isn't happening. Hinkley Point is a lunatic money pit, and even Liz Truss must be aware that the drill or drop oilmen are lying. That HVHF UK shale gas bonanza is a monstrous threat to our future that doesn't even exist, but like a false and evil idea, it can still destroy us, on its way to the dustbin. Fracking or not, the lights really might be going out, one of these chaotic winters. . . And yet, still this government refuses to back clean energy. Refuses to invest in post-fossil fuel research and development; in distributed energy development, in recyling; in energy efficiency. Turns down all the major new employment opportunities on offer, in favour of a few temporary posts for cleaners and (very unhappy!) security guards at the oilmens' armed encampments. Why? Out of pure spite? No. Lust for power, lust for status, lust for plain old corrupt backhanders.

The tide really is turning against fossil fuels, all over the world. The HVHF extreme-energy extraction line, here in the UK, has yet to be broken. Five years on, there's no High Volume Hydraulic Fracking in the UK. Technically; not yet. One year at a time. One week at a time, all you can do is keep on, keeping on saying no.

And when or if this "battle" is won, go on to the next.

Enough for now.


Dheepan; Jacques Audiard

Tamil Tiger officer masquerades as an innocent press-ganged survivor of the Civil War, and gets shipped to France with a "wife and child" who never met him before. They are dumped, more or less, on a grim tower block estate, infested with ratlike hordes of rival drug gangs, where Dheepan is to be "caretaker". And amazingly, they make it work. Yulini, the supposed wife, finds an unlikely job as cook and carer for the ? brain-damaged, silent father of a charming, but clearly insanely dangerous young drug lord. Claudine, the little girl, goes to school; people are nice to her; there are bad tantrums, but she starts opening up to life. Dheepan and Yulini start to have a relationship. . . It's gritty, it's engaging. But then, I don't know what happens. A former colonel tries to recruit Dheepan as a terrorist in the cause of the lost war, he refuses but goes crazy and decides to start his own private war anyway. Everything blows up! There's blood and bodies everywhere and lots and lots of guns! Is this a tragic outburst of PTSD? Nope, nothing like. But I won't spoil the outcome for you. Kalieaswari Srinivasan is brilliant as Yulini, the angry young woman who's lost everything; she does all the changing, the mourning, the struggle to survive versus the need to revolt against horrible circumstance. Dheepan just glowers, broods and blows up. A movie I was gripped by, until about three quarters of the way through, and then (to me) it looked as if somebody just got bored, or somebody just loves guns.

Eye In The Sky

I can't prove it and the time frame is tight! but this is like a direct reaction to Harriet Harman's needling Dave Cameron rather meanly about Drone Strikes (just after that UK commissioned Drone Strike, you know). I even seem to remember, because I happened to be watching, that Harman asked the PM exactly this question. "What would you do if a child was involved? Would you consult anyone? What's your legal framework in that case?" So here we are, pothering about the relative risk of killing one little girl in the blast, or letting 130 odd Kenyan shoppers die in the suicide bomb attack we can see being set up, right now, right before our eyes . . . And the drone hovers way up high above the house, and the drone pilot weeps in his bunker, thousands of miles away, and the general, of course, is back at the chateau where he always was. Agonising in comfort. No, let's be fair, not a lot of comfort, with the legals and the ministers (especially the irritating female one) nagging on about legal frameworks.

DCI Tennison (Helen Mirren), or I suppose it must be Assistant Commissioner Tennison, rtd by now) was sleepwalking. Aaron Paul's character should have spotted he'd agreed to be paid for killing people when he joined up. The worst line in the movie (up against some crackers) went to the late Alan Rickman. I felt for the IMDB user wailing that military drones can't do that! They can't hover in place for two hours, while the line of command sits around nattering! I suppose he didn't notice the beetle? I loved the beetle, of course. But aside from the sci-fi flourishes, and the completely meretricious "moral dilemma", somehow I didn't feel my time had been wasted. The supporting cast, esp in the Kenya location, played it as if it was real.

& Before I forget. . .

Here's a link to my Hannah's Bookshelf interview. Mainly about being North Manchester, but Bold As Love sneaks in, along with Joanna Russ, Jane Austen, Zombies, and Charlotte Bronte


**Maybe what I would say about these topical horrors can be said, legally, only in fiction.

Emergence: The Yelping Of Wild Dogs At The End Of Winter

One morning at the end of last week I woke in full daylight to the mad yelping of wild dogs, a pack of them, out in the street . . . Wild dogs roaming the Placa Espanya, is it the Apocalypse already . . .? It was the seagulls, our seagulls of course. No concerns that the colony is failing this year; but the light was real, and definitely a new experience. Oh no, it's the end of winter again, and after such a grim-skied, dull and endless winter (I'm talking about Brighton weather nb), this comes as a bit of a shock. Anyway, clearly I have been in Barcelona. I even tried to speak Catalan once; with moderate success. I have learned that in Barcelona, the inevitable signs of ruin and burning in the interior of ancient churches are not due to The Nazis, or to Cromwell or to Henry VIII. No, it was the local populace. This fine, rambunctious ancient workers' town seems still pretty Catholic to me, but that's what you get for insisting on being the supreme authority for everything. You get rightly beaten up, every so often; and fair enough . . . I have also learned, I mean I actually saw this, that there are little bats (bats!) that flitter around the bright lights of the Nou Camp, of a Spring evening. Fantastic. You don't see that at . . . oops, nearly gave my own allegiance away. Which I never will do. A bat is called a rat-penat. And I have learnt that the invasive green parrots that haunt the palms of Barcelona are called Monk Parrots, totally different from our Ringnecked Parakeets. Not least in that our sneaky parakeets now have right to remain status in the UK, purely on the grounds that eradicating them would be too much trouble. Whereas the poor little Monks (true parrots by the way, from South America) still have invasive species stamped on their papers, and you know what that means.

I also heard in the Maritime Museum (which was my favourite, especially the yellow wooden submarine) that 80% or 90% (ie, nearly all, as we scientists might put it) of the world's products travel around the globe by marine container freight. Obvious, really, but that's a crude pop statistic to give you pause, when you think about divesting from fossil fuels. Isn't it?

Department of Signs and Wonders

(the photo of the Light Pillars is by Alan Trow of Dark Skies Wales)

What happens when Climate Change drastically affects the polar shift? Nothing at all, really. Move along, nothing happening here. Well, okay, I believe you, since "drastically" isn't by a lot, and this news item is not news; or much more than a reminder of how little there is that's actually constant, in this ever-changing system we inhabit the way you wear an old sock . . . Still, you know. The sudden onset of the ice age "we" have been delaying with our global outbreak of satanic mills? That's a fine cinematic image. The helpful seasons we enjoy, in the temperate regions? That's pretty basic. And why did this item disappear from the BBC so swiftly?

Just kidding.

My Fracking Round Up

(short form, rant coming later) The soi-disant "Environment Agency" has granted permission for Third Energy to get fracking 200metres from nearest residents at Kirby Misperton in North Yorkshire. "Planning Consultation" to follow. At Horse Hill in Surrey, near Horley (Gatwick) the nasty kind of energy extraction techniques seem to be under way, despite earlier reports of glorious conventionally-accessible oil find, and earnest protests against the fracking word from UKOG. Check out the Horse Hill Protection page on Facebook; note the ingenuous UKOG financial revelations. And the "Infrastructure Bill" has come into force, but the position on surface fracking in National Parks remains "equivocal". All quote marks in this para are sarcastic. Details of these developments (and others, not all of them bad) can be found on Ruth Hayhurst's Drill Or Drop


I'm very pleased that my story "Emergence", published in Jonathan Strahan's fourth Infinity venture (Meeting Infinity) last year, has been chosen as a finalist by the Theodore Sturgeon Award judges. I can't post "Emergence" online, for copyright reasons, so instead I've posted "Bricks, Sticks, Straw", from volume 2. Which happens, coincidentally, to serve as an origin-story for the bods and bots strand in Emergence. Ironic, huh? All those silly "humanlike" robots, they're coming, we're making them, we can't help it. R2d2, pleased to meet you.
You can read it here if you like:

& here's sfsignal's links to the other finalists

Bold As Love In The Cloud Chamber

Further to my previous round-up of Bold As Love half life traces, how could I have omitted a link to Tanya Brown's excellent Arthur C Clarke Award Anthology essay? (I don't agree with all of it, but amazingly I do agree with most of it: and the book belongs to the reader)

Here it is: The New Dark Ages

(there are later reprises, nb: here's the most recent:

Hannah Kate and the Library At The End Of Days

And finally, I'm going to be in Manchester on Saturday 16th & if you tune into North Manchester FM (106.6fm) in the afternoon, you could hear me talking about books. Also, hopefully, making my virtual contribution to the library at the end of days. Which books will I choose? I'm still thinking about it.

Here's a podcast sample of the show, from 9th April with horror/gothic genre writer & expert witness Xavier Aldana Reyes

Futures Implicit In Our Present (Chickens Coming Home To Roost)

Wednesday 2nd March, sunshine giving way to a darker sky and a tossing breeze. A blackcap singing on the cypress peak, blue tits and great tits, marauding starlings (I don't mind). The morning news is that Trump appears to have won the nomination, hands down, and Humanitarian Crisis (humanitarian crisis in this case means armed humans attacking other, helpless humans, on a major scale), previously something that happened elsewhere and faraway, has officially become a European crime again (Medecins Sans Frontiers). This darkening world gets darker and darker. How did it suddenly start happening so fast?

These days, I'm remembering that when I planned the Aleutian Trilogy, I wasn't entirely motivated by a desire to get to the bottom of what's wrong between men and women; or what's wrong between subaltern society and the bosses. I wanted to try the taste (in my head) of interesting times. To be like my parents (as a thought experiment); for whom World War II was the very heart of their lives, horrible and thrilling. I wanted a ferocious fairground ride to engulf my imagined world, pillar of cloud by day, pillar of fire by night. Signs and wonders. Unbelievable things, impossible events . . . But maybe you just have to wait until you grow older, and the clamour of your own personal life fades out, to get the special effects.

Maybe it's globalisation, maybe it's the internet. Maybe people will look back, a hundred years from now, and see nothing special going on, quite a benign time, really. I wonder what kind of people they will be?


Still following the Cuadrilla appeal in Lancashire, and still very short of flowers in the garden, so the Roger Hall camellia stays up.

Standard Rules vs Bespoke Permits

The Environment Agency's Fracking Consultation Response dropped into my inbox last week. Did the consultation end early (it was supposed to run until today), or is this a special announcement? I'm not sure. Anyway, here it is:

Standard Rules and Bespoke Permits

To summarise, at the outset of this consultation the EA was planning to wave HVHF applications through on the nod. Due to popular demand, any and every onshore Oil or Gas application that involves High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing will now require what is called a "Bespoke Permit", (who dreamed that one up???) ie a full-on environmental assessment , a public inquiry; the works.

Congratulations to us!

However, the business part of that term is still permit. No ban. Arguably, just a lot of money and time thrown at making sure the people believe the activists have nothing to whinge about, and that the fracking industry still gets in wherever it wants to get in. Don't put out any flags.

(in the heading of the email, the "fracking" word was used; in the document the EA is on its dignity, and insists on HVHF "fracturing". Maybe it's thought to sound better).

Fracking Headlines

& here is the link to Ruth Hayhurst's February Fracking summary, which in fact is most notable for an entry from The Ends Report, giving the actual wording of that new anti-lobbying clause. You know, the one where our government, having grasped that their anti-environment, anti-humanitarian policies were the main problem facing UK charities today, decided to go on giving the charities money (because it looks good) but ban them from using it to combat government abuses . . . Joined-up thinking's evil twin, but it works for the Tories! The full weasely wording deserves an airing here. Grant money can no longer be used for:

“activity intended to influence or attempt to influence parliament, government or political parties, or attempting to influence the awarding or renewal of contracts and grants, or attempting to influence legislative or regulatory action”


I did see Room, all by myself in the shabby old Odeon down by the sea; haunted by ghosts of Gabriel's childhood because we never come here anymore. We go to the movies at the Duke's or Komedia. I thought it was good, touching and engrossing (except the little boy clearly was not five!). Not as exceptional as people had been making out, but conversely more like an Oscar hopeful. The other main thing I thought was that Joy's fate wouldn't even have been a crime, in many of today's societies. A young girl, married by force? To a suitor of drastically limited empathy? He won't let her outdoors? Not even to go to the dentist? What's weird about that? "Old Nick" (the captor in Room) isn't a monster. He's not going to shackle her to the bed, cut off her hands and feet and rape her babies. He's just a regular guy, of limited intelligence and clueless determination, who has taken an unorthodox route to what many like him would consider marital bliss. (Including, possibly Joy's own father, whose horror that she's been sullied by rape and brought the dreadful proof home with her,seems to be his main concern). For many, many young women, some of them very young women, what happened to Joy Newsome happened to them with the full consent of their families and their societies; their plight is not called rape or wrongful imprisonment, their mental health is not thought to be imperilled, and they are not going to be rescued.

So, a disturbing, issues, movie for me, only not quite the issues it planned to be about, maybe.

Also watched, on the telly last week (I wasn't keen, when this came out. Been there.) Ex Machina

Good movie, as it turns out, but definitely not a movie about Artificial Intelligence. Or emergent machine consciousness, or anything of the sort. You are kidding me. It's a movie about gynoids. The Richard Calder kind, not the Gwyneth Jones kind, NB. If you thought Ex Machina was about Artificial Intelligence you are. . . You are, well, I just don't know how you managed it.

As Low As Reasonably Achievable

Tuesday 23rd February, bright sun and frost. A green december has made a fat churchyard of my garden, and it's the slugs that are fat. The red camellia returns? Solidarity for Don't Frack Lancs, while the Cuadrilla appeal is going on. I don't have a red rose so it has to stand in. I don't have any other flowers, except for a few blue specks on the rosemary bush. My native daffodils are sluggish and half blind, likewise all the other bulbs; I blame the dark skies, I've been feeling the same myself. Don't want to get out of bed.

Ah, the heady days when fracking was news to me. When, at buttercup time, I mourned the coming demise of the fields of gold, in the pastureland of Balcombe's AONB (Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty) but it was a local, minor loss; possibly even justified, probably unstoppable. It's almost nostalgic, responding to yet another Government Consultation (that familiar little black & white crown!), and finding exactly the same specious language, exactly the same total misrepresentation of what the perpetrators know to be the truth (except in those days, the Environment Agency actually had agency; it hadn't been taken down to the basement and shot in the back of the neck, to be replaced by a yes-Dave imposter). So, anyway, here's my response to the ongoing Onshore Oil and Gas Consultation (open until 3rd March). NB, the consultation is not addressed to you. It's addressed to the industry, for the industry's approval. You, as a member of the public are allowed to express your opinion, as a matter of form. I wrote it long because I didn't have time to write it short. I responded because I try never to miss a chance. It's about quantity, not quality, so don't worry if you can't come up with any whizzy technical objections, or new evidence. I just doused them with sarcasm. I believe my approach is equally valid.

here's the link:

& here's the live feed to the Lancashire Cuadrilla Appeal, via Drill Or Drop, as always thanks to Ruth Hayhurst

If you have the expertise and the patience to pick holes in the Emperor's New Clothes, please do! But once you know the "Environment Agency" is prepared to rip up our National Parks (approval for surface fracking installations in the National Parks is coming soon, NB), and is happy right now to approve 4,000 fracking wells on the Fylde without seeing any "significant impact" on public health, quality of life, the roads, the landscape; the environment in short, I think you know all you need to know. All you can do, as in all these cases, is let them know about a growing, disaffected public.

Watching, Reading, Walking

As my french reader, I'm still enjoying Delphine de Vigan's Nothing Holds Back The Night The tainted paradise of childhood, a place none of us ever really leaves. But seven children! Seven! It's like a fairytale.

I'm going out to see Room this evening, a late single showing, I missed it first time round. Very much looking forward to it.

And we went walking from Exceat down to the sea & over the Seven Sisters to East Dean last Tuesday, with Gabriel and Noemie, on another brilliant chill and sunny day like this one. A familiar route, but it never stales.

The twitchers were out in force at Cuckmere Haven. Hordes of them, all lined up taking turns with their binocs, rubbernecking a greenshank. Can't understand it. I would have thought it would have to be at least two.

Oxted: And Just One, Two more Things

The storm never got really strong here. It was sort of difficult to stay upright on the seafront, but the sea on a falling tide wasn't doing anything special yesterday, just churning. Today, drenching rain, and our outside drain is blocked again.

Oh, yes. One more, rather disconcerting, point from John Ashton:

• Hinkley Point delayed again, and the captain has jumped ship. It is vanishingly unlikely that any new Nuclear Power stations will be built in the foreseeable future.

• Biomass as our government interprets the term (ie massive power stations fed by imported wood-pellets) is unsustainable and impossible to scale-up.

• Carbon Capture Storage is a bust: not happening and not going to happen

The three pillars of David Cameron's COP21 deal (having ditched conventional renewables as politically insufferable) have fallen. It's now very probable that when the coal is dumped, the lights are going to go out. And a dead certainty (but this is my gloss btw) that the Green Party, the fracking movement and anyone else favouring the obvious and only workable solution (renewables) will be publicly shamed and blamed. See Jeremy Hunt's deft media campaign to wreck and then smear the NHS

And there's a video for you to watch, just to remind you, in all fairness, that David Cameron is not alone.

The COP21 You Didn't See


I just finished re-reading Flaubert's Trois Contes, in a French Paperback Classics edition with masses of academic notes. Fascinating. Did you know that Oscar Wilde wrote the play Salomé (that became the libretto for Rickard Strauss's opera Salomé), directly in french, specifically for Sarah Bernhardt in the role? I never knew that!

Now reading Delphine de Vigan's Rien ne s'Oppose a la Nuit, a Christmas present from Gabriel's Swiss girlfriend. Harrowing tale of a volatile, broken family past . . . Right up my street, and a whole lot easier reading than Flaubert's C19 fantastically exacting "simplicity" in those contes

And from my library books:

Sara Gran City of the Dead and The Bohemian Highway

I read the second of these two unusual whodunits first. The first one (City Of The Dead) is better, with a devastatingly effective venue in post-Katrina New Orleans I recommend them for the unusual post-punk setting, and the highly charged style but not to people sensitive to habitual drug use, notably cocaine. By the end of The Bohemian Highway I was saying to myself, if there's a third of these, which is strongly signalled, our "unique" raggedy hipster detective isn't going to have a nose left on her face.

Frack Free Red Fire Monkey

Monday morning, awaiting the gale that's causing havoc along South West Coasts and in the islands,, but the storm's getting downgraded as it move east. Yesterday we moved the plasterer's tub to its traditional springtime roost, having cleared the area beside the house of the debris of a long winter and a couple of drain blockages. We had to empty it of rainwater to carry it up the steps, but its already half full again. Also culled the pondweed in both pools, and saw a beautiful healthy common newt in the "wildlife" one. Tipped my cyclamen corm pots out to dry off in the greenhouse, and watered my over-wintering seedlings. Plenty of frog action in the ponds, but they are canny, we rarely see them, just their disturbance of the water.

Saturday 6th I took the train to Oxted, for the public meeting organised by Frack Free Surrey. I walked from the station with Miranda, a US student at Goldsmiths, who was attending in pursuance of her dissertation on the fracking movement. I corrected her, mildly, anti-fracking movement, but I think Miranda had it right. Two words good, one word better. It's the fracking movement, vs the fracking industry (or is it? See below). I didn't ask her why she'd picked on fracking; I explained to her what "meat in the room" means, & that was the extent of my contribution to her thesis.

An impressive line up of speakers: Tina-Louise Rothery for Frack free Lancashire, of the original Knitting Nanas from Blackpool, veteran of the Preese Hall protest in 2011; Charles Metcalfe and Helen Savage from Balcombe. Damien Short, Reader in Human Rights at London University, and John Ashton, former diplomat, former representative on Climate Change to the British Government. What I mostly got out of this afternoon? A scary picture of our government at work, and their determination to destroy democracy in pursuit of extreme energy extraction; despite all the rational and potent arguments against this course. And not just the Tory government. The extraordinary "Three Two Secretaries And a Minister Letter", leaked by the Daily Telegraph last week, and written by Liz Truss, Greg Clerk, and Amber Rudd (having first asked George Osborne what he would like them to write) dates back, as John Ashton reminded us, to July 2015; ie, under the Coalition.

The horror of their plans, their Orwellian beliefs: The Environment Agency does not, as you thought, have the job of protecting our Environment and protecting us from abuses to our clean water, our clean air, our green spaces, our health and the health of our livestock. Nope. The job of the Environment Agency is to Promote Growth (and we're not talking crowds of golden daffodils). "Gold-plated protection" of the National Parks "must not get in the way" of the frackers. Surface installations in the National Parks can't be ruled out.The fact that anyone might object to seeing our National Parks devastated by ranks upon ranks of extreme energy gas rigs, bulldozed by ceaseless massive HGV traffic, littered forever more with humongous lakes of poisonous waste water, seems to be flat-out incomprehensible. Something to be swatted, like a fly in the room. To be exterminated, like squirrels in the roof. . .

The suspicion that we might be right to protest against the process, and to deride this fracking government's inflated estimates, and spurious claims, for the product, is never going to enter their heads, ever. The fact that we might know what we are talking about is completely opaque to Liz Truss, Greg Clark, Amber Rudd (unless you count that touching, ingenuous confession that the people who know about fracking are opposed to it, and only those who don't know anything about it can be fooled into thinking it's harmless); as they have no experience of this odd state of affairs.

Extreme Energy Hydraulic Fracking has a terrible EROEI (Energy Return on Energy Invested) number ? The wells are short lived, individually expensive to erect and service (even if you don't have to worry about environmental controls); you would need thousands of them, in the Weald alone, to begin to squeeze out a commercially successful return? Conventionally obtained oil and gas prices are not favourable, and never likely to be favourable in the forseeable future?
Not to mention the climate change issue. There's just no point in mentioning the climate change issue.

Nah, why would Rudd Clark and Truss have anything to do with that sort of information? "Knowing the facts" is something minions do. You know what your boss wants, that's what. You don't get to be a Big Bucks by knowing the facts

And then, to offset the nasty taste of all that stuff, the curious fact that the fracking industry could, possibly, become the UK fracking movement's best ally.

It's over, and the industry knows it. The sensible money is divesting from fossil fuels, sooner rather than later.

The exploration men we are dealing with (Cuadrilla, Celtique Energie) hand on heart, swear to God, truly never intended to "frack" in earnest. They intended to test drill, announce some exciting estimates, and run away very quickly! They don't like having to deal with protest. Protest scares investors, and sullies the fiscal reputation of those protested against.

Cuadrilla seem to have abandoned their well pad at Lower Stumble. IGas have pulled out of Cheshire. There are already over 400 fracking movement groups in the UK, and there will be more. Wherever, whenever the frackers start up, there will be protest, legal or illegal because (see above) the locals will not be ignorant. They'll know the ruin they're facing. You do the math.

So far, says Tina-Louise, the Preese Hall well (that caused the seismic activity, back in 2011) is the only HVHF well ever drilled in the UK #Frackfree2016, coming up

See link below for the text of the leaked letter:

Move Towards The Darkness

Thursday 28th January, and it's our sunshine allowance! The tail of the last almost unprecedented US NE blizzard passed over us yesterday, in rain and wind, we don't get the next wave until the weekend.

Unhappy, Darling?

I used to think the Addams family was invented, by the US popular classes, to express their bemusement at the customs and behaviour of their Old Rich. Living in crumbling mansions; dressing strangely, keeping odd hours; some oozy and monstrous bad case of their hereditary disease probably squelching around in a locked room . . . But maybe (esp given the actual dates: this iconic cartoon is from the New Yorker, 1942) it's just Culture, generally. The weird habit of caring about global issues, and having ideas, making connections and thinking that they matter (doesn't sound like my country's moneyed classes). . . Anyway, I always loved the joke (although I admit I prefer the stylish movie image, featuring Angelica Houston and Raul Julia on the sofa; in the middle of a midnight graveyard. I'm not immune to our society's mad craving for more, more more of whatever it is I like). Because yes, oh yes, completely: I know I'm generally very unhappy, darlings (and not a drop of wealth-DNA!).

Not many sunlit hours in my counting of the world. Always the doom and gloom. I apologise, but I can't change my nature, and in my defense, people like me have their own odd sort of fun. For instance, look at this little catalogue:

You want to know where schizophrenia probably comes from? You should read Band of Gypsys, written in 2003/4; in which a hallucinating Fiorinda (at a conference with the Evil Greenest Government Ever) gives a surprisingly cogent description about how her disease develops. You can read it there, or you can read it here, on al-jazeera today:

You want to know how viruses have suddenly emerged as possibly the vital mediator in "evolutionary" change, for all of life on earth? You can read it in Life (written from 1998-2000), when Clare Gresely expounds her theory of Continuous Creation, and the living troposphere. Or you can read it here, in last week's New Scientist

Information space? Look it up. Why do I "anthropomorphize" self-aware artificial intelligence? Let's say: this is no longer Asimov. Consciousness is consciousness. We have nothing to make it with; except our own selves. Of course we'll read them as human, if they're self-aware; if we ever admit it's happened.The question of what happens, when you reach the point where there's "somebody home" is a very disquieting issue, on the frontline.

Astonishing! Black Holes can turn into White Holes! Spewing out information, instead of devouring it! New Scientist the week before last, and also The Memory of Whiteness, Kim Stanley Robinson's neglected masterpiece (written circa 1983). Astonishing! A Black Hole could have a whole other universe trapped inside it! Escape Plans, 1986. (I think maybe Stan Robinson and I read the same series of Stephen Hawking articles)

I have also noticed that the multiverse is sneakily repositioning itself. We now have a situation where the "whole multiverse" is a thing, rather than the bizarre, endless multiplicity envisaged by Hugh Everett in his "many worlds" interpretation. Interesting! And its building blocks are units of information.

I could go on.

What does all this prove? That I'm one of the undiscovered brilliant polymaths? Luminary of a secret band of mind-gods? Well, of course I wouldn't tell you, but that's irrelevant anyway. What it tells you is that I pay attention. All the time, and whether I like what I see or not. It means you should probably listen to me when I tell you that Carbon Capture Storage is a bust. That there is no way shale gas can be a bridging fuel. That the troubles of our overcrowded planet are too staggeringly complex for any technological fix, and the hard way, from the bottom up, is the only way. That the Paris deal is just a big lie & you should quite probably listen* to the big men from BP and Shell, if you want to know the seriously scary degrees of warming that are now inevitable. That are now, like there is no way back

The only way you can save the world, should you accept that mission, & this is the truth I'm telling you, is to use less energy. Start now. Pretend there's a global war on. Because there is, & I'm not talking about the Caliphate, or even the refugee crisis (see above, "staggeringly complex"). Pretend you have to give things up. Because you do.

Don't be afraid to be scared. Move towards the darkness.
You'll like it here, I know you will.


The World At War (How did you guess?)

We watched episode 24 last night. The one about the Bomb, & how the decision was made. Hard watching, but then so was episode 23, featuring Okinawa and Iwo Jima. There are no happy endings to this story; which is as it should be.

But the one you should be watching this week is Episode 20:

Dear Elizabeth de Boer . . .

Who killed Robin Cleve Dufresnes?

You wrote to me on a post from last summer (A Rock And A Hard Place) asking me to divulge my proposed solution to the murder mystery in Donna Tartt's The Little Friend. Sorry! Email coming up, I forgot that you'd have to have provided an address, to post the comment. I have found it now. To anyone else who wants to know, just ask me. My answer has to be private, or otherwise it would be spoilers, even though this deduction of mine is pure speculation, of course.

& that's all I have time for. I have to get a haircut.

* I just noticed all the "probably" and "could be's" in this pep-talk. Oh no. I hate it when scientists do that. I try to blame it on their timidity, and those trolling "hockeystick" scammers putting such a scare on them. But I'm afraid it's (probably) endemic.

Expedition to Pirbright

Saturday 16th January, a clear bright winter's day for the delayed Jones, Gwilliam and Sinclair-Jones Seasonal Outing: an expedition to the wilds of Surrey; daring Ministry of Defence scary yellow notices, and the proximity of the scary Pirbright Institute, on tracks potentially littered with things that would blow up in our faces, in search of that "well-travelled Victorian journalist" Henry Morton Stanley. Especially thrilling to me when we found him (or his memorial, in Pirbright churchyard) since I hadn't spotted the dry wit of our guide to byways of the Kent and Surrey borders, and had no idea we were looking for the Dr Livingstone I presume Stanley. So here he is, presented in triumph by the successful explorers, except by the way Mr Guidebook, that's not an obelisk, that's a menhir. What a harsh and eventful life! How fitting he's buried with the UK's National Rifle Association alumni lying all around him! Shame about the vicious brutality; well attested, and judged out of order even by the "African Explorer Hardnut Hero" standards of the day. Bula Matari, the Congolese called him, breaker of rocks, and they were the rocks that got broken.

My Fracking Round-up

. . . There's so much to say; and so little. What's the use in asking you to write letters, when the planning officers no longer have their power to say no? What's the point in going over the arguments? Well, no point at all, but I believe I will mention how disgusted I was at Amber Rudd's performance on South East Today last week. She says fracked shale gas start-ups will give us control over the price of our fuel; will create new jobs; will give us fuel security. She knows (good grief, she's the Energy Secretary) that these are outright untruths. But there it is. Just lie, that's our rulers' motto* Fool most of the people, most of the time, and you're home clear, so why worry? The blithe and rugged determination of this government: still dead set on its lets get fracking drive, what can I call that but obvious, blatant corruption and cronyism? No other explanation stands up. Given the state of the industry (BHP Hilton writes down $6billion of shale assets)
Given the climate-change floods . . . "We live in a warmed world. All our weather is affected by climate change" (New Scientist)
Given inconveniences like the defection of even the frackers themselves.
Not to mention the promises in Paris. No, we won't mention the Paris deal*.
Many thanks to Caroline Lucas, and Chris Matheson, for questions asked in Parliament this week
&Many thanks (I suppose) to Kevin Hollinrake MP, Ryedale, for his tasteful resignation.

More details on drill or drop. Me, I'm taking myself to the public meeting about the Horse Hill well tests, in Oxted on February 6th. See you there, if you come from round here.


Prime Minister's Question Time,

On the tv in my gym last week. Harriet Harman maliciously needling Our Dave, over that targeted drone strike. Could the Prime Minister possibly provide us with his protocols, something in writing; before next time? With the proper security clearances, of course. So parliament knows when this long distance, without trial or charge, execution thing is legal, and when it isn't? Nope, he couldn't. Okay, next: could he at least clarify just a little. What would be crossing a line? If there was, say, a small child involved, out there in Syria? Would the Prime Minister then order the small child's head to be blown off? No use, he just can't get his head around it at all. The question is too complicated, too long and bewildering, sorry (mops brow, mugs helpless overload): he's getting hopelessly confused. But he's clear on one point. I reserve the right, says Our Dave, to act without consulting parliament.

Hm. There's a word for people like that, and it isn't Prime Minister.

Anyway, how very Churchillian. But all I'm thinking is, how dearly all leaders love a war. & why wouldn't they, because that's all they're really good for, isn't it? Dux bellorum. Everything else is too complicated, conflicting, confusing: impossible for one man to handle. For running a country, decently, in peacetime, you need a government. That's why we haven't got one.

Those Romans, they knew what they were doing; for a while.

The World At War

We're getting there. We're through D-day (What the hell went wrong on Omaha? Just awful. I know a story about that, but the uneven distribution of Hobart's Funnies didn't get a mention from Olivier. Episode 18, Holland in the Occupation last night. Possibly the grimmest yet. The Greater Germany; a collaboration path that really did not work out well. The moment when you realise what's been done to you, what they've turned you into, and already there's no way back . . . One man, telling the story of how he encountered a chained-up consignment of Jews, on a railway platform in Amsterdam. This was 1944, he knew they were on their way to be gassed. It was early morning, he was alone with the prisoners and their guards. He's crying, on the tv screen. "If I'd had my pistol, I could have shot three of the guards," he says. "But what about the fourth? And if I got all four, then what? They are chained, I'm alone, what can I do next?" He went away . . . & joined the resistance, and blew up stuff with plastic explosive provided by US air drops, which made him feel better. But the gas chambers were already lit, and they kept on burning, and the tears of shame and pity are still ready to fall. You can't undo what you've let happen. You can never make it better.
Salutory. Horribly up to date. Right on the money


When The Floods Came
, Clare Morrall. Haven't liked her last two books much. But I think she's back on form

War and Peace
Leo Tolstoy. (Just become my new classic read, bumping the King James Bible on the grounds that getting the Ring to the Fire took me no time at all) Hey, this is a soap opera. This is very nice, but it's purely a soap opera. No, really.

Oh, it is a soap opera! Well, I'm not watching it. That would be unpatriotic, when I don't watch Eastenders. The print version will do me fine.

Approaching With Caution

Microsoft 10. The screams of rage and groans of agony from downstairs have ceased, Peter is now convinced he was one of the unlucky few, or no, in fact it was all his own fault that M10 destroyed his profile those times, & wiped his machine once, & all that. But he has a funny glazed look in his eye now, when he tells me everything is fine, and there's no need to worry, you can turn off all the spyware . . . No, actually. I have an update. Not approaching at all.

Farewell To A Year Without Flowers

I think i've never known such a dark festive season, but one early morning, I think it was the 6th January, the sun came out, sending sickles of coloured light-shadow from the Chinese Lantern across the ceiling (the lantern which traditionally hangs across the way from the mistletoe bough; glimpsed to the left of the picture); and I made them dance to Ginger's delight, by giving the lantern a poke.

But did not make a video.

And so farewell to a year without flowers . . . I don't know why, but I didn't bring in any flowers this last year, not after the pine sprigs on New Year's Day. It wasn't planned, but it began to seem like a statement and then I thought: might as well make it one. This year I plan to fight the gloom; if the flowers will let me. No sign of an accelerated Spring here as yet. Snowdrops lagging, native daffodils and pussy willow about where I'd expect them to be, in a normally mild winter & Roger Hall, my only surviving camellia, has just one bud showing colour.

New moon tonight, and the next new moon we'll be moving on to a Year of the Monkey.


Festive Reading

Forlorn Sunset Michael Sadleir

I read Fanny By Gaslight years ago, picked it up at a Jumble Sale: Victoriana docu-fiction about (f) prostitution, written in the forties, when Central London was still as Dickens left it; in parts. The far less famous Forlorn Sunset was a charity shop find (I'm a great fan of the British Heart Foundation's bookshelves) it's a darker and more forthright version of the same story, a sensual, spirited little girl, "ruined" as the saying goes, and ruined is absolutely right, by skilled child-prostitute groomers; and what becomes of her. Nothing much good, you can bet. Once a forlorn curiosity tale, I suppose. Very contemporary feel, nowadays, P.S Michel Faber (The Crimson Petal and the White) may also be a "Sadlier" fan.

The Sculptor's Daughter. Tove Jansson, tr Kinglsey Hart, intro by Ali Smith.

Christmas present. Brilliant. I absolutely loved it.

The Shepherd's Life James Rebanks

A memoir. By the dirt beneath our nails, we horny-handed Herdwick Sheep farmers are better men! In fact we're the only REAL men! The rest of you, especially if you visit Cumbria with a volume of Wainright in your turquoise cagoule pocket, are not fit to wipe our proud bottoms! Okay, well, Rebanks does comes over as a callow, arrogant s*d & his righteous contempt for, well, everyone, really, wears a bit thin, esp when you take in his actual career arc (failed at secondary school; belatedly realised he'd like some qualifications, stormed Oxford, currently combines small traditional farm with a globe-trotting career in the international heritage site business). But, on the other hand, in his favour he's a W H Hudson fan (the title is a tip of the hat to A Shepherd's Life); & it's a delightful book about sheep, & hill-farming & he's a fine nature writer.

On the other other hand, I bet his wife sometimes wakes up in the night and finds herself staring at the ceiling, musing on her choices. MY GOD, why did I go and marry Ted Hughes? What was I thinking!

Festive Watching

The Tale Of Princess Kaguya Isao Takahata (Christmas present, of course) Very, very pretty; a bit insubstantial.

The World At War Jeremy Isaacs et al

Before Christmas, the broad top shelves of the Dead Media Wall held stacks of video tapes, some of them dating back to the Seventies. They suffered their last winnowing in December, and two bin-liners-full made their melancholy journey to Sheepcote (tip) just yesterday. The favoured, remnant tapes, including Vanya on 42nd Street, and Peter Brook's Mahabharata, are now taking their last slipping and sliding trip through the way back machine. (Tampopo, for some reason, has survived in mint condition). We started watching The World At War again on tape, the very same set I used when I was researching White Queen. Had to give up before we even got to Stalingrad, it was too stop and start. We're watching on Youtube now. Harrowing. Unsurpassed, Unsurpassable; like (as I said in those White Queen days) knowing exactly what Achilles really said to Agamemnon about the sacrifice at Aulis. We watched the Chindits, last night.

Good grief. I see (on Amazon) people are paying actual money for the original tapes. Well, get in touch if you're interested. But hurry . . . Sheepcote is waiting.

Fortitude (Sky Atlantic!)

Aka "Twin Tusks" Preposterous. Watchable. No zombies yet, but I can't help noticing that Christopher Eccleston's* corpse remains curiously intact, in the cold storage drawer, as for some reason it's impossible to chopper-in (no pun intended!) a pathologist, or ship him over to a lab on the mainland. Although, deep in the depths of this Arctic winter, the sea all around is very modishly unfrozen. And the only doctor on this tiny island with the massive police force has, of course, been eviscerated with a table fork by her daughter, the rather tactless fat girl weird Marcus with the food fetish was trying to kill with chicken soup.

*Yes, I can remember the name of the fictional character. But I don't see why I should.

Next time, Christmas Truce over: the bad news . . .

Traces in the Cloud Chamber of Time (the half-life of Bold As Love)

Thursday 10th December. Grey skies (of course), cool and still; 10 degrees outside. Sitting at my windowside desk, I'm watching a thrush, who is watching a young male blackbird pick bright red holly berries from our bush, now there's a photo opportunity. If my eyes had cameras in them. Oops, gone . . . Every now and then, having spotted that Bold As Love the novel is still leaving traces in the cloud chamber of the internet, I have a look to see what I can find. Here's my latest discoveries

Reviews, esp. in retail venues, don't usually count in this game, but Bob Sherunkle is a star, just for this observation:

. . .The book’s appendix has long lists of rock albums and of books (mostly about rock music) supposed to have inspired the story. I recognised many of the song quotes, e.g. “just a singer in a rock and roll band”, but if the book contains explicit motifs based on these sources I had trouble finding them, and I own half of these albums! I fear the list is no more than Gwyneth's fave raves..
Bob Sherunkle (amazon) June 2015

Fantastic. Bob, you are the first person ever to comment on my discography, and you are absolutely right! The dilemma, way back then: Bold As Love obviously should have a discography, but how to construct this fictional artefact? The solution was to go down to our basement and survey the Dead Media Wall, with special emphasis on the vinyl. My criteria were simple. An album has to be first, a beloved favourite of mine*, plus either be contemporary with the Hendrix album, or have some direct relationship (even if known only to me) with the action in the novels; or, preferably, both. Eg, "Cigarettes and Alcohol" as a chapter heading, that gets Definitely Maybe in.

PS, Wow. You review a whole lot of stuff!

Here's a nice one. A Fiorinda inspired Bold As Love Playlists, from July 2015

& here's an unexpected honour, Barefoot and Pregnant The things those Wikipedia people come up with!

And, although I probably posted this before, a podcast of the original story (via Dark Fiction magazine)

The two beautiful Anne Sudworth pictures (Lost Thoughts and Footprints) featured as cover images for Castles Made Of Sand and Midnight Lamp. The "Ax Preston" portrait is by Bryan Talbot.

Bold As Love (1) ebook, is available on Smashwords. The whole series (ebooks) is on Kindle. Print copies are readily available from many dealers. You can even buy them from me.

That's all for now!


There's no DVD and none planned says the BBC; you can't buy it, but someone has posted Shoulder to Shoulder, the BBC 1974 series on the Suffragette Movement, on Youtube. I think the whole thing is up, I've watched two episodes so far. The video quality is not exactly HD and the sound is a bit blurry, but it's worth the effort. NB, the first episode, pocket bio-pic devoted to the Manchester middle classes radical-leaning Pankhurst family, is slow going, but this is history, so I don't begrudge them their backstory. Besides, there's a line referring to the place where I was born (Blackley village). Anyway, don't give up. Episode 2 is gripping. I find I remember it all surprisingly well, especially the character of Sylvia, the most complicated Pankhurst. More engaging, and more challenging than the recent movie, which I ended up feeling was rather tepid. This is the real people (flaws and all), who had the ideas and did the deeds, not some luvvy imaginary characters.


I've just finished A River Runs Again. I read the last chapter, on gender inequality, this morning. Brilliant.

The first time I went to India, I was genuinely shocked by billboards in Delhi, advertising new tvs with the image of a dark scrawny fist flinging a stone at a middle-class plate glass window, with the tagline "DON'T ENVY! BUY IT!" (On the never-never, I suppose). Envy was something I had never been taught, and never ever seen openly encouraged like that. It's a mean-spirited, demeaning emotion, what do I care if you've got a fancier car? Nice car, congrats, but we're all as good as each other . . . I suppose I was brought up in a more equal society than India's masses have ever known. Everything's changed now. I've learned how to feel resentment, irysha. I do indeed resent post-capitalism's super-rich. I bitterly resent all those bloated, domineering corporations and smirking tax-dodging billionaires. And I've learned not to be decently reticent and measured in my demands; in my protests. Reticence is not the way to change this world.

"To negotiate such changes is to ask for everything you want, knowing you might only get a fraction. It is to remain unflinching as you look forward into the future of (India's) women and girls, and the generations they will bear . .."

Just started Johanna Sinisalo's The Blood of Angels

Special mention (Carol made me think of this) Wylder's Hand, Sheridan LeFanu. Which I read as part of my Gothic spree this summer, having remembered liking it very much, years ago. Not only a great Victorian Gothic thriller, but also a perilous love story, and . . . I can't tell you, must avoid spoilers. If original period Gothic, unexpectedly and subtly Sapphic, appeals to you, seek it out.

*including Definitely Maybe, beloved favourite Gwyneth? You were a bit long in the tooth, weren't you?
I am never going to be long in the tooth.
Plus, beloved favourites of Gabriel, my niece Catherine and Gabriel's best friend Pat Mays also qualify (except Fat Boy Slim), esp. owing to my cunning ploy (which I have mentioned before) of making my 2 heroes the exact same age as Gabriel and Pat, so I wouldn't have to wonder what their musical tastes had been, growing up; I would know

My Fracking Round-Up (COP21 edition)

Wednesday 9th December, around 14 degrees outdoors. A clear morning, clouding over now. The big news in fracking UK is of course, that Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, will be, pursuant to a change in the rules quietly implemented, with special reference to shale gas, last September, "making the final decision" on Cuadrilla's plans to frack at Roseacre and Preston New Rd, near Blackpool in Lancashire. I put "making the final decision" in quotes there because if Clark doesn't intend to overturn the planning committee's ruling, I don't know what else could be going on. Why do they even bother to pretend, eh? I'll tell you why. Because to most of the population, what's seen to be done is what's done. That's why. So Greg Clark, out of the kindness of his heart is having to go out of his way to puzzle over the evidence and think of the right answer, just to satisfy everyone, see? For more fracking&related UK news, turn to Ruth Hayhurst at drill or drop . Also the news desk at Frack Off

New legislation allows fracking in National Parks. Our government calls this "making National Parks do more, and do it better" I kid you not, that's what they're saying.

A first taste of the real extent of the damage to come, when those National Parks are doing their job so much better: evidence that Third Energy is planning (for starters)at least 10 horizontal boreholes from its first well pad in Kirby Misperton, North Yorks.

Find out more; prepare to take action:

But the real story this week, of course, is Paris! COP21. It started off so well, as reports, with "many world governments aligned around a very ambitious target of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, thanks to the bold demands of leaders on the front lines of the crisis."

But then, alas, inevitably things start to go downhill . . .

"now that optimism is starting to fade, as ministers back off from making the hard committments that would get us there." (

Ah, well.

I haven't been following the show, I'm afraid. I'm sure it's very exciting to be there, but tell the truth, about 30 seconds of Dave Cameron's three minutes of fame turned my stomach so badly, I've had to refrain to protect my health. Did I hear him claim excitedly "Climate change is doable!" I think I did.

Yes indeedy, Dave. Very doable. And you, we know, are eager and determined to do your bit.

I saw the unfortunate Rory Stewart on C4 News last night (what an odd turn his career has taken!) dripping in Cumbria. Newperson Jon Snow asked him mildy was climage change implicated? With a look of sheer despair, like a damned soul writhing on the coals. Stewart answered obliquely, this is utterly unprecedented. We're going to need much, much higher flood defences. On the coast of Lincolnshire, on the Fylde coast . . . To protect the fracking wells, indeed they will. Poor man.

Keeping the fossil fuels in the ground is no longer just the big Green idea, by the way. Nor is fracking for shale gas the movie star it used to be. We have coal gasification now. There are staggeringly huge deposits of coal, the world over, to deep to be mined, but not too deep to be burned: talk about having your cake and eating it. And nobody can see the emissions, no need to take them into account. Until the whole thing goes a bit pearshaped, which sometimes it does . . .

I bet Paris, unlike Copenhagen, is somehow going to come up smelling of roses (I think that's the top priority), all inspiring and happy: further bets are off. For one thing, a world conference expects a world solution, one size fits all, and that's no good. Over in India, the immediate need is to quench the cooking fires, whose thick yellow smog cloud sits over the Subcontinent like that Garbage Blob in the Pacific;coal-fired electricity probably still needs to be part of their mix. Here in the UK we're past that. We need to go all out for wind and wave and solar, and we need to go all out for energy efficiency. It's not rocket science it would work, and we should just get going.

Protest, okay, but it starts with people, individual people: not flying, turning down the heating, recycling, all that boring stuff. Me, I'm trying, failing; trying to change my lifestyle. Are you?

Beyond Paris . . .


A London Spy

Piffle, utter histrionic piffle from start to finish, featuring Ben Wishaw as a bruised, courageous little flower, Jim Broadbent as a bruised, courageous favourite uncle, and Charlotte Rampling reprising her "abject, whip me harder, snotty toff-lady" act; same as she has been doing since the Sixties. Interesting drag act in the drinking club they all frequent. The reveal was idiotic, none of it made much sense. But we watched.


Lovely to look at, sumptuous ultra-feminine Fifties fashions (esp Carol's cut to the bone ensembles, which I bet even Cate Blanchett didn't try gracing without a corset); a bit underwhelming emotionally. It bothered me that rich suburban lady Carol, the mother already threatened with the loss of her child, and doe-eyed poor girl Therese, the talented young woman on the brink of life, don't talk to each other about what they are getting into, circa 1950! I haven't read the book, which sounds a lot more interesting. I intend to seek it out.


A River Runs Again, Meera Subramanian

Mixed race US/Asian Indian Meera Subramanian explores the global near future (ie, present day India). Crowded, hot, subject to violent swings in climate, with a government unable or unwilling to face the most vital challenges, the rich and poor living in worlds apart . . . Is there any hope? Well, yes there is.

Absorbing, lyrical, down to earth and visionary. This is an beautiful and important book. You should read it.


Right now at with Jim Doty, Stephen Palmer, Chris Reher and the boss Dag Rambaut, discussing standalones, series, working habits and other writerly matters.

There were other things I wanted to say, but this is too long already. Maybe I'll post again to say happy Christmas.

The Cuts, The Bombs, The Blue Dot

Capitalist Realism

Winter Journey, Sunday 29th November. Lines out of Brighton are in disarray, as usual. We take the slow Victoria train to Hove, where nearly everybody scuffles off and scampers onto the fast train, waiting impatiently and stuffed, across the platform. The mood is bleakly resigned and exasperated, bleak because we've been waiting for the storm to hit us since May, and now it breaks. Osborne's Choicest Cuts (round one); Osborne's Energy Policy Dictatorship. The planning inspector who turned down Cuadrilla's fracking plans in Lancashire is overruled, a government minister will "decide" what happens to Cuadrilla's appeal in January/February.

Exasperated because . . . Will the people who keep telling us "we" won a victory over tax credits please shut up and do your sums? Will the people who ask us to Rejoice! because Amber Rudd says the UK will be the first major power to divest from coal please recall that politicians (see above) tell blatant lies and hope you never check. Oh, but I'm sorry, I'll read that again. Amber isn't lying, she simply has no "Energy Policy". Her policy is profit, she says whatever serves that end, and would not understand you if you accuse her of untruths.

Forget her lips, watch "her" actions. This government is going all out for shale, while ripping up subsidies for renewables. Green policies have been ditched, Climate Change denied, & if this counts as a war crime in some lights, given the already devastating effects of climate change for the world's poor, Amber and her masters don't appear to care a bit.

Don't Bomb Syria

Wind and spiteful gusts of rain at the gathering point, where we share an (organic) ham sandwich in the shelter of the Wellington Arch. An odd couple lurking in the crowd, with a bottle of champagne and a bicycle, display a homemade placard that reads WHAT IF IT'S ALL A HOAX? (the media folk seem to like this pair: I wonder who they are). A penny band plays O Tannenbaum; how Christmassy . . . But no, of course it's not Tannenbaum it's the song that shares this tune. The People's Flag is deepest red, stained with the blood of martyrs shed. Jeremy Corbyn is around here somewhere. Good for him: I hope he survives the current impasse. Of course he's right! What the hell gets into people, I don't know. Airstrikes did bxxxer all good in Libya, did they now? Airstrikes are blxxdy useless (except for killing civilians, which I suppose might reduce the number of the dreaded refugees); without boots on the ground. And we know what happened in Iraq, don't we. Hello? Forgotten what happened (is happening) in Libya; in Iraq? Forgot how we got to this pretty pass?

Osborne, Cameron, I can understand. Simples. War means profit! But the Parliamentary Labour Party are just total idiots.

I'm marching, notionally, for a Parisian who can't march, (Bonjour, Gatien!) because the Paris March has been cancelled. I'm reflecting, as we file slowly through the underpass, reading the Iron Duke's timeline on the walls, that the Paris masscare was really not a lot to do with attacking the "city of light", "city of love": nothing so romantic. Probably a lot more to do with French intervention in Africa; in Mali for instance. And I'm thinking about Phiippe-Joseph Salazar's historical comparison with those long ago days when it was the French turning the world upside down; in his Weaponised Words essay (Paroles Armées).

Armed Words is the received translation but I prefer mine.

If he's right, in some sense, and this is another French Revolution, then . . .

1 THE CALIPHATE wins the battle; under the leadership of a despot who has already betrayed all their ideals.
(Napoleon crowns himself Emperor 1804)

2 BUT the Empire of Global Capitalism regroups. Practically within a decade, the Caliphate has comprehensively lost the war.
(1815: Waterloo)

3 THEREAFTER, those who destroyed, conspired; betrayed their ideals; committed the most appalling crimes, in the name of a dream, will have to be contented (so to speak, they've mainly killed each other) with a sort of Caliphate-flavoured version of Global Capitalism (called ooh, I don't know? Western Civilisation?) that lasts for just about 200 years.

3 NONE of which bodes any good at all for my people, I mean women, because the flavour of the Caliphate (new flavour, liberty and equality are so over) is about nothing if not subjugating women. Trampling them underfoot indeed (coincidentally, one of the arabic "words" you can make out of the Daesh acronym, I believe)

Climate Justice

Off we go; from the foot of the London Hilton Tower (HQ of Pigsty's dreadful regime, in Bold As Love, as some of you may remember. The Rock and Roll Reich was founded at a meeting in the Garden Café, Sub-ground level, at the back) We're marching with the Polar Bears, ie Greenpeace. The white bears' case is so hopeless, maybe they're not the best Poster Furries but I like Greenpeace. They do stuff. They're the NVDA daredevils (like my MP), and I think daredevilry is called for. We try to keep up near the front so we can see the beautiful animals, the giraffes, the zebra, the impala, I never got a chance last climate march, having got myself kettled behind Greenpeace's Polar Bear; I wonder if they're moonlighting from The Lion King. How nice it is to see London, all these splendid nineteenth and twentieth century buildings, glory-days architecture, at the old posh end of town. The canyon of Pall Mall rings with our wild, formless cries (nobody seems to know any songs, alas). Bullion brokers and wine merchants peep through their plate glass, a position that makes them look scared, though of course they are not. Police presence throughout is minimal. The only guns I saw were safely tucked away behind the fortified gates of Downing Street. Looks like nobody thinks we need protection from a jihadist massacre today. Or maybe they don't mind? Lose a few annoying activists, put a scare in the rest, and gain a huge endorsement for Bombing Syria! Could be a win-win situation!

Do I believe climate change could be turned around?
No. We're stuck with the damage that's been done. Could climate change be halted, and mediated? Of course. Renewables could be powering the world in a decade. Energy Efficiency is a goldmine. Masses of room for change.

Do I believe any of the planet's beautiful megafauna will survive this century (outside zoos)?
Don't ask me. Ask Africa. They hold the keys. Ask China. They have to stop fuelling the slaughter.

The close of play, as usual, is at Horseferry Park. Someone announces we are sixty thousand strong (it's gone up to 70,000 today). But what's 60,000? Two million of us, read that again, TWO MILLION UK citizens came to London in 2003, in bitter weather, to protest against the Iraq war. For all the good it did. Tony Blair was just determined to go to hell and take us with him.

But qui tacet consentit videtur (look it up, if you don't know). That's the law. So I will always be here. Standing up for this blue dot. This living world. It's the only one.

The river is full now (tide was low when we arrived), a creamy toffee coloured turmoil. We dance on the ringing pavement in the Horseferry Park children's playground, and repair to Tate Britain, (not all 60,000 nb) for cake and coffee and pictures & walk through the main hall to a disembodied, deconstructed Last Post; played on the Balaclava Bugle*.

*That's the bugle that sounded for the Charge of the Light Brigade, by the way.

Four Posts About Life

And now the end is near . . . It's very sad, but never mind, it's been great, I'm delighted to have been in such good company (not to say humbled by some of your levels of committment to the project!). So long, Elizabeth Hand (Aestival Tide), Kathe Koja (Cypher), Pat Murphy (Points Of Departure), K.W.Jeter (Dark Seeker), Lewis Shiner (Frontera), William Barton (Acts of Conscience), Kay Kenyon (Maximum Ice), Walter Jon Williams (Knight Moves) & Sarah Zettel (Reclamation), I salute you all.

A big thank you to Timmi Duchamp and her crew at The Aqueduct Press, publishers of Life, for supporting me and letting me join this project.

And a special salute and thank you to Jason Chen, and to Lisa S Mason (Summer of Love), our tireless and amazingly organised curator.

& Congratulations to everyone who invested a few dollars (or a few dollars more!) in this wonderful story bundle.

I'm saying goodbye now, because I don't quite know when the lights go out on the PKDick award storybundle event; as I am English, I live in Brighton, and I am rubbish at timezones. Maybe I'll say goodbye again tomorrow, UK time. If so, see you then. If not, here's a reprise of the four posts I've posted about "Life" these last three weeks:

Margaret Atwood and the Third Wave

Women In Science

Life Is A Road Movie

Life Has A Cover Story

Enjoy your storybundles!

Suffragette Review on Ada Lovelace Day

No red carpet protestors at the Brighton opening of Suffragette last night, (no red carpet, of course) just the Brighton branch of the brand new (March 2015) Women's Equality Party, with green and purples rosettes and sashes: (and the best of good luck to them) The movie? For me, it was good, but not terrific. I thought it was great the way they focused on the use of early movie technology and covert cameras. I wasn't sure about the way the Pankhursts were reduced to Meryl Streep beaming fatuously out of an upstairs window. And In the end I felt a bit let down. Firstly on a purely visceral level, because the movie chooses to ends on a bum note: fade to sad and the rest is silence; instead of a chorus of Mary Ethyl Smyth's March Of The Women. Secondly by the whole decision to present Emily Davison's Derby Day stunt as the climax of the Suffrage campaign (definitely not true!), and worse, the fudged suggestion that Davison's act amounted to suicide (I don't think so), but this suicide bomb created a hugely trending social media event, so the tactic was justified. (Ouch. On reflection, you can see why the movie, having struck this note, fades out uneasily).

"It felt very 21st century in a way" says Abi Morgan, screenwriter. (Interview with Caroline Criado Perez). Indeed.

Like any dissatisfied critic, I sat there as the credits rolled, writing my own version of the scenario, which I have now figured out pretty nicely. Carey Mulligan, great in her role as the "inarticulate but eloquent footsoldier" is seen hero-worshipping Emmeline Pankhurst from a distance, as in the crowd scene as in the movie, BUT, she actually connects with Sylvia (that's Sylvia in the photo, by far my favourite Pankhurst). "Maud" and Emily both volunteer for the stunt of trying to attach a WSPU scarf to the bridle of the King's Horse on Derby day. They are seen practicing this stunt (with Sylvia, who disapproves, it's too dangerous). They study the course, agreeing on the Tattersham corner; with expert, female advice (I'm sure you could find or create a female, WSPU sympathising racegoer and gee-gee fancier if you tried). In a word, they are organised. On Derby day, by chance Emily gets in, "Maud Watts" doesn't. Emily dies, & the media event follows. The suffragettes, however, are not last seen wallowing in an orgy of white lilies; they are seen in a montage of the very interesting subsequent events.1914: Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst "patriotically" ditch the struggle and join the War Effort. Maud Watts is disgusted and goes on working for peace and justice, and the welfare of working women, alongside Sylvia & her comrades. She is seen (rather tight-lipped, yet still determined) welcoming the1918 victory for well-heeled women over 30 . . . Now you can fade out to the roll call of the votes for women international roster, but over a rousing chorus of the March of the Women

Okay, more than you wanted to know. The movie made her think, you are saying to yourselves. So she dissed it. I hate it when reviewers do that . . .


The Third Wave

"Feminism is having a new wave. The first was about the vote; the second was about identity and . . . the pressure cooker of women being in the home; this third wave is about violence. It’s about women being murdered and raped. It’s more self defence than self assertion."


If you have a strong aversion to extreme examples of sexism and discrimination, this is probably not the book for you. Rena McGee, reviewing Life

"Daz stared at the muddy river. “If you don't understand, I don't think I can tell you. Anna, where you and I live, women's rights is old news. Intelligent women want to be judged on their own merits and find the whole feminist thing embarrassing and whiney. But here, where I come from... it's a can of worms. If you start applying the concept of ‘human rights” to women, in Asia and Africa, you uncover a holocaust . . . (and) It's getting worse, not better."

I never took to Third Wave Feminism. By the time it reached me, TWF was Feminism Lite. Not so much a compromise between feminism, and women who identified primarily as African Americans; and who didn't want to condemn misogynist male behaviour, because that involved stigmatising the African American male. Not so much Grrls Can Be Punks Too . . ! More a kind of fancy diet food, whereby "we" can be just as righteous as Second Wave Feminists, without giving up any of our sexy, feminine treats! Lapdancing, power-heels, the pretty dresses, the boob-jobs, the whole armoury, yum! It just wasn't for me.

But I can definitely get on board Margaret Atwood's Third Wave. Rape, murder, mutilation . . . Film-maker Leslee Udin's movie India's Daughter, examining the horrific attitudes of India's men, revealed in the wake of the 2012 Delhi gang-rape case. The women of Forward (Tackling Female Genital Mutilation) whom I first met at an Amnesty International UK conference, in 1994. They were Africans, but not in the least sentimental about African traditional culture, male or female. No more than I feel sentimental about the misogynist traditions of the UK; why should they? People like these are my Third Wave Feminists. You can probably all think of your own examples, at home or abroad; wherever you are.

The FGM situation in the UK has not improved. Far from it. All sorts of brutal pressures on women and girls, the world over are getting worse, not better, in this twentyfirst century. The indignant, feisty, so-called Second Wave Feminism of the Sixties and Seventies starts to look pitifully naive.


“I think,” said Anna slowly, “that human sexuality will be changed. This thing is not a fashionable fad: it’s bound to change everything, some way or other. And I think it doesn't matter. In the liberal world we already live as if people can choose at whim whether to take on a “male” or “female” lifestyle . . . In time, TY may create a situation where there are no genetic traits exclusive to “men” or “women”: when sexual difference is in the individual, not a case of belonging to one half of the species or the other. Will that be a lot different from the way we are now?"

My lack of interest in transgender issues has upset some readers of Life. "I wish Anna didn't have to be so cis and heterosexual", said one Goodreads reviewer. But as I couldn't help knowing, after the research I did, the "third sex" phenomenon is nothing new. People who don't feel themselves to be either one sex nor the other; people who are sexual mosaics (often a benign condition; sometimes, before successful treatments, a life of misery). Women who choose to live as men, men who choose to live as women; "inters" and all shades between, have been around forever, in every culture. It's a perfectly normal situation. What's new, what would be new, would be a world where sexual difference does not define a person's chances in life. This is the hope, and the ever-receding goal, that I call feminism.

Why aren't we there yet? Why aren't we even nearly there?

Because feminism is hard. Feminism is hard, and the world is huge. Changing this huge world of seven billions and counting is far, far more of a proposition than "we" imagined, back in the naive Seventies. We have a long way to go, that's all.


Space is hard, as they say at NASA, when we demand to know what happened to that dream about colonising the galaxy. Feminism is hard too. We'll get there.

This entry is the fourth in a series inspired by the PKDick award storybundle. Available only for a few more days. Offer ends on the 15th October!