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Ban Neonicotinoid Pesticides Now

I blame my Catholic Socialist, Socialist Catholic upbringing. Sometimes it happens, it even often happens that I set aside the causes that are really dear to my heart, I make them wait: No, it isn't about people. No, it isn't about saving the future, no, you can't place the living world above the people who live in it, and need to eat, and have places to live . . . But then finally I let myself get round to it, so here is my winter of 2014 BAN NEONICOTINOIDS NOW item at last. 'Five neonicotinoid dressed maize seeds, or 32 dressed oilseed rape seeds, are enough to kill a partridge', says the expert. The Soil Association is worried about bees, everyone's worried about the pollinators, but (see the reports linked below), the bees are only part of the problem.I bet you the same neonicotinoids are implicated, silently in the catastrophic decline of many, many native animals, including insectivorous mammals like this Norfolk hedgehog here. I used to see hedgehogs, they're not very elusive if they're around, often enough to know their numbers, in Cumbria, in Sussex, in Norfolk, and even in the centre of Brighton, were good enough, despite our modern world's dangers. No longer. Their disappearence (I nearly typed demise, which is not far off), no doubt has multiple causes, but I bet I'm right about the neonics. Skylarks are insectivorous too . . . The evidence of the pervasive toxicity of these pesticides is damning, at least as strong as the evidence that pesticides in the food chain were killing off our birds of prey, back in the nineteen sixties. And we turned that around, amazingly: so we could do it again. Why aren't we doing it? Because the corporations have grown so mighty that we can't say no?

Watching . . .

Not very impressed by the final, sloppy, loose-ends littered episode of House Of Cards,, hardly more entertaining than Ian Richardson smirking off to the Palace . . . until Gabriel kindly pointed out that weasel word Trilogy, on the front page at Netflix. Okay, we're old, we miss things, so now we're waiting in hopes of being enthralled again, and in hopes this isn't another of those cases where a good thing gets squeezed too dry.

Not all that madly impressed by Mr Turner, either. Mallard by name, mallard by nature, eh? Clearly this is the way things were, but the great man's habit of routinely grabbing female flesh of suitably inferior status & rogering her as complacently as he would take a bite from a veal and ham pie was not endearing.
Interesting to compare with Effie Grey: although you have to sympathise with poor Turner being faces with the lurid colours and hopeless drawing of the Pre-Raphaelites, I kind of began to see how his modernism (the modernism of the age of revolution) could pall, which of course it did. Palled and palled away to mist. Comparing the two John Ruskins, I'm not sure, but I felt Mike Leigh had it wrong with his infantile fop. Although it's a long time since I read anything by Ruskin, I know he had power & I think the twisted bully in Effie Grey was nearer the mark.

Very much impressed by Ida. This is SUCH a beautiful film, such clarity, such economy of storytelling images: & absolutely amazing, as many people have said, to know that this is entirely digital. And a story from the past, but timeless as the light on wintery Poland (unfortunately). What do you do, after the genocide? Years after, however long after, it's never going to go away.

Good article from the director about the making of the movie here (if a little bit cocky):

I have no idea what anyone sees/saw in Interstellar; possibly because although I never demand that the science in science fiction has to make sense, it's sadly impossible for me to get excited about concepts like "time dilation" or "the fifth dimension", whether sense is made of them or (as in this case) not, on their own merits as cool-sounding bizarre science words . . . Or possibly because it was boring, very much too long, & hogwash. But we finally watched Guardians of the Galaxy the other night, and thought it was pretty good.

A kind reader of this blog provides a link to the comments of someone more annoyed than I was (or with more time on their hands?)

You can tell this is a real photo of my garden in December, as I have not had the wit or the imagination to make our holly berry display look more impressive. Yes, it's true, I am a pleb, I never had any doubt. On the other hand, a judge who believes police officers lack the ability to lie with flair and conviction really should not be in post. It's Tuesday 2nd of December, by the way, and for a wonder it's almost cold. I've just uploaded what I sincerely hope is the final version of The Grasshopper's Child, and the ebook should be back next week; I'll let you know. Ann Halam giveaway this month, 19th-20th December (dates to be confirmed!) will be The Powerhouse; the proto-techno-music and rock scene one, set in Manchester (ish) and featuring an early version of Immersion art. Enjoy, and that's the lot.

Dismal Weather Anselm Kiefer's Lead Cathedral; My Fracking Round Up

Rain all day, heavy rain, drizzly rain, a dismal mild climate change Sunday as the year draws to an end. We do not yet need the heating, but our new dehumidifier hums all night in the basement. I feel penned up, this was the first weekend in a long time we could have gone walking, but not a chance. Went up to London on Friday to see the Anselm Kiefer Retrospective at the RA; having done our prep by watching the Imagine feature on the artist the night before (the staggering humungous scale of his operations had a somewhat chilling effect on me). Very impressive exhibition however, and not too crowded at all, but I still ended up feeling most moved by the "Attic" pictures, that I first saw in the Liverpool Tate many, many years ago, and immediately co-opted into White Queen, my London-based, Wagnerian alien invasion story.

(Interestingly, the "Attic" picture I quoted, a copy of which hangs in Braemar's house, and gives Johnny a premonition of Liebestod, Parsifal I was the only print available on sale when we exited through gift shop. Maybe she bought it here! I didn't: just felt a little spooked, by a ghost of the fictional future.)

But also, okay, I admit, the mesmerising Aschenblume, and the Shulamith and Margarethe, and the Black Sunflower ones; and watching people make the alarm go bleep by peering too closely at the embedded diamonds in the leaden dirt (I forget the titles of that series, oddly enough). And Eis und Blut (pictured), which got me wondering, is that deliberately meant to be a leafless Linden tree, directly behind Kiefer in his father's uniform>. Or am I overdoing the references to the masters thing? (Lindenbaum, the Schubert song "that became a folksong" is Thomas Mann's leitmotif for the 1914-8 War, in The Magic Mountain)

But move over, I kept thinking. Move over, Holocaust, we are entering uncharted territory now, you are no longer the terrible, absolute, unrepeatable, high water mark you were. Our damnation is not in the past, it's engulfing this new century, and the huge mass of Keifer's evidence weighs against his ethereal promise of hope like a lead catherdral against a feather . . .

Installations of piled up paving stones, with a coulis of red grit, did nothing for me, however.

My Fracking Round Up

Still awaiting the verdict on Balcombe residents' High Court judicial review (held on 6th/7th November)

On the other hand, Celtique Energie's appeal against West Sussex County Council (who turned down their application to drill at Wisborough Green, back in July) has now been lodged, and you are cordially invited to send in renewed objections (or to withdraw previous objections) before December 19th by email:
or by post (3 copies) to:

Alan Ridley
The Planning Inspectorate
3/26 Hawk Wing
Temple Quay House
2 The Square

Given the government's current leaked plans to drill everywhere! In the whole world!; their support for Ineos's monster raid on Central Scotland (devolved Scotland got anything to say about this??), and determination to remove all forms of regulation or local authority, there is hardly a cat in hell's chance that Greg Davies won't get his way, but weight of numbers is always worth something. You'll probably want to refer to the original application and objections, which you can find here:

Why do I keep banging on about fracking, when there is so much else to complain about? I don't know, maybe because I started? Because I want to save the future? Because the need to halt climate change is real to me, and a passion for extreme energy extraction on the same page as "Climate Change Fund recieves $9.3bn pledge" just sets my teeth on edge? (not as irrational as it sounds, however.The trick is in that word "pledge"). Or possibly even the snake-oil lies being sold to believers, in contrast with the miserable, short-term yield that's even possible from UK shale gas and tight oil reserves?

"The government is increasingly indistinguishable from the fracking industry it's supposed to be regulating."

Caroline Lucas is dead right.

If 75% of fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground, there is no question the UK's shale gas and tight oil, derisory in quantity, corruptly financed, brutally destructive of the countryside, of the economics of renewable energy, and of the development of clean alternatives to petroleum based products, belongs near the top of the list.

Meanwhile, the skylark and the lapwing are on the Red List, can you imagine that, no more skylarks? And the hedgehogs too, so many humble, familiar commensals of ours, in this land, on this earth, just vanishing, and what is to be done? (there's something to done: on which more later...)

But it's dark outside my window, and the cats seem to think I should be heading downstairs. Glad to see another healthy response to my November Ann Halam giveaway, there's one more to come, dates to be announced. And finally, Amazon Anonymous has an action for you, boycott Amazon for your present-buying, this Christmas, and tell them you're doing it, to help them to become a better employer. I felt I could make the pledge without being too much of a hypocrite, as I personally only sell, I don't buy, and it does say Kindle usage at your discretion . But if you join me, spare a thought for those many obligate Amazon partners, the writers (including me) of ebooks and print books, and make sure you do keep buying books and ebooks elsewhere!

Happy New Year

Marking the change of the year a little late, we were in Durham last week for a squeezed down autumn holiday: a wet, mild couple of days in an apartment right down on the riverside. Mainly to see the cathedral, which Peter had never seen, and I remembered as amazing; glimpsed on a dark and rainy night in November 2000 when I was up here (by train) for a North East Books Festival as Ann Halam, in the middle of the worst floods. My, I had problems getting home, but it was pretty interesting, although very cold and wet, so I didn't really mind. Nothing had changed, the great sacred cavern with its amazing massive thousand year old pillars very thrilling and mysterious to enter on All Souls' Night. Faure's Requiem at Evensong, and then we walked about, recalling our dead; bringing them to mind, (& avoiding a student Pub Run). Durham town centre is relentlessly generic now, and we didn't find much else to do (very poorly researched trip, we hadn't noticed it would be the closed season), except to visit the Durham University Oriental Museum, a perfect gem of a place. I loved the Korean section, ancient and modern; also home of the famous boxwood Servant Girl, maybe the most beautiful single Ancient Eygptian work of art I have ever seen, 18th Dynasty of course; highly unconventional. What a nice face she has.

The Botanic Garden is where I found out about crinoid marble.

Durham cathedral is about to cash in its World Heritage Site First Class tokens btw, and explode into huge new shiny visitor's centres and beautifully restored monastic halls and I don't know what, so we got there just in time. Look out for the beautiful crinoid marble, esp in the North aisle, slender black glossy stems, blossoming in white frost flowers of fossilised Northumbrian sea-lilies.

Tired out after finishing my talk for Kent Anthropology department last night, I'll leave my latest fracking round up comments etc for next time.

Looking Forward to . . .

Reading The Goshawk again: in preparation for Helen Macdonald's H is for Hawk. The first time I saw H is for Hawk advertised, and learned that goshawks like to play, I thought I'd go straight out and buy it, same as I did when I saw Otter Country. But after a few more double page spreads, all going on about how it's really about someone losing her father, and being devastated, and the mourning process . . . I decided to reserve it from the library instead. I'm 8 of 69 at the moment. I first read The Goshawk (which is interrogated by the modern austringer in H is for Hawk) when I was fifteen; thrilled because I'd loved The Sword In The Stone and Mistress Masham's Repose (not mad about the rest of his Arthur epic, however), and it was rare, and my mother had found it for me: and accepted T H White's foray into austringery (sp?) on his own terms, because what did I know? I now accept, with relief, that it is a bizarre and cruel book, but still I think worth a revisit, for old time's sake

Seeing and not-seeing . . .

Yesterday I followed the BBC live coverage of the Rosetta mission, what an absolutely amazing fear, that little bug, leaping onto the back of a flying comet; beyond the orbit of Mars . . .Fantastic. & from the sublime to the ridiculous, I have booked tickets to see Interstellar tomorrow night. I didn't plan to go near it (stick to Supercomics, mate), but then I got tempted to read the reviews on IMDb & they were so hilarious, and the negative ones so laugh out loud exasperated funny, I had to give it a whirl, in their honour.

Probably won't go to see The Imitation Game though; it's just too familiar, that story. I'll catch it on tv or Netflix later.

But tonight, the last episode of Kevin Spacey's House Of Cards. Which is brilliant, despite some slackening of tension in the mid-term. Loved the penultimate two episodes. Loved Robin Wright's implacable Lady Macbeth turn. And how will it end? I am happy to say I do not know. (know how the rather silly Ian Richardson one ended, obviously, but not this, and nobody is allowed to tell me).

Grey Skies, Goodbye Summertime

Sunday 26th October, grey skies, goodbye Summertime, the garden put to bed, foxgloves and meadow flowers sown for the spring, the holly tree has fifteen or so redding berries (why so few survivors, must try to find out what I'm doing wrong). Sad beautiful discovery, a silvery, prickly dead stickleback floating in the cup of a red maple leaf. I hope the others are okay. We rarely see them esp not at this season. Autumn has just begun, and should be nearly over . . . Must try to make it out onto the downs or to the woods again soon. Went up to see Electra at the Old Vic last night, excited by passionate reviews, and found the show disappointing. Kristin Scott-Thomas does a good shrieking, stubborn, ageing adolescent, "absolute in grief", but she seemed stripped of gravitas, and the play stripped of tension. Maybe I prefer my Ancient Drama either rewritten, or left as is, not just vaguely tweaked about. Or maybe it was just an off night. Ah, well, caveat emptor. Diana Quick as Clytemnestra took the best part, in my opinion.The best of the evening was walking along the Southbank, watching the crowds mill and drift, taking the uncannily lukewarm October night air. I don't have any use for the London Eye myself, but it does look eerily pretty, inching around up there in the dark.

My Fracking Round Up

Predictably, the West Sussex County Council debate on whether to declare themselves a frack free zone, which I did not attend, was a damp squib. How could they take on Cuadrilla? Already ensconced at Balcombe? Just not going to happen. Apparently they have resolved, almost as if this wasn't supposed to be their statutory position, to consider each application on its merits . . .

Predictably, Celtique Energie are contesting the WSCC planning committee's July 22nd decision to refuse their application to drill at Wisborough Green, and we'll have to wait and see on that one.

Predictably, not only is the change in the trespass law going through, but with enthusiastic additons from Baroness Kramer the Lib-Dem peer with the good fracking connections.

Predictably, Nature magazine has discovered that fracking won't help the climate change problem . . .

I'm tired of that word. Can't remember when I last saw the qualification used in a positive sense. Yet I still have a feeling we could win this battle, one NO THANKS AND HERE'S WHY at a time, and maybe even more than locally. But the war? No, nothing like. We lose the war, and the next generations live with the consequences.

Reading (My library books)

The Abomination, Jonathan Holt. Venice, police procedural with two strong female leads; the political dimension of a stunningly corrupt state, and the evil machinations of the US military. Thriller addict that I am, I thought for a while I was going to like this a lot better than the "Millenium Trilogy" it is supposed to rival, even if the online world element is very irritatingly handled, and the eponymous "abomination" is neither shocking or particularly relevant. Not quite: the last third or so of the book loses all chiaroscuro, and with it all illusion of depth, but still, a good fast read. I'll look out for the next episode.

The Girl In The Road Monica Byrne. A travelogue road trip around India and Africa, in a day after tomorrow world where no we didn't get around to doing anything about global warming, but yes the technology did go on getting more and more marvellous. Don't be fooled by the cute Rough Guide details, and pay attention when our free and easy heroine casually tells you, around page two, that she is psychotic. Of course she's psychotic, we're all psychotic, we are brutally murdering our own, literally our own, flesh and blood. NB if you don't like magical realism, walk away now. An impressive debut, full of wonderful invention but perhaps not meeting the criteria for positive, corporate-compliant sf, in territory where older "Western" writers might fear to tread these days. Recommended

Nice that quite a few people took me up on the free Ann Halams offer this month. November's giveaway will be Crying In The Dark and The Fear Man, dates to be announced. Did I say that bringing out a POD book all on my own was a breeze? I was wrong about that, but luckily I have had friends to help me along. The Grasshopper's Child print edition is now making real progress, and I should soon have proof copies to send out. NB this means the current ebook will be going off line, but it will be back, same price, with the print version revisions.

And Finally

Usually I just delete spambot comments before they see the light of day. Poor things, that is their fate, unless and until their humans teach them how to read. But this one was too cute, so here it is, (somewhat redacted):

Author: underwear size chart calvin klein: In reply to Home By Christmas

It is a clever thought to be cautions with your money when you'll strive a new style of underwear.

HSBC The Frackers' Bank

Tuesday 14th October, grey skies, feeling chilly. Up to London again on Saturday (sigh, this anti-fracking is a demanding hobby!) for the Global Frackdown action, an early morning trip that involved sitting in Golden Square, staring at the two fine hornbeams I know so well, and the blurred nondescript Georgian monarch (I think) in Roman fancy dress: watching various bods assemble, and guessing before we saw them morph which of them were here to carry a mock-up drilling rig around Central London, and which were just passing by. Time for a coffee at the best place in Soho Soho Grind, along with several officers of the law: confirming we were in the right area. &off we went, working well & feeling welcome, to preach on HSBC occupied street corners. Charles Metcalfe from Balcombe, an impassioned speaker from Romania; a highly articulate Algerian, citing the neo-colonial aspect of Total (French oil company) and Chevron (French oil company), exporting to a previous French colony a dirty, doomladen and destructive activity banned in La Belle France. But who are we after today It's HBSC, the frackers' global goto bank of choice. There was someone recording footage for an Asian station said we were 20,000 strong, Well, I wouldn't go quite that far but we were visible, we snagged a lot of support from the passing populace, and the police were wonderful.

And thence to Parliament Square, where the STOP TTIP rally seemed to hover on the outskirts of a massive and totally peaceful, turn out of London-based Kurdish communities, gathered in grief and fear, and in solidarity with Kobani . . Anti-fracking protest has traction now (not the same as power, good lord no!) Stop TTIP Stop CETA not so much. It'll be a while, another year or so, I'd say, before the protestors manage to wake up the people on the street. Never mind the featherbrained politicians (Vince Cable???) allegedly overseeing these secret treaties. Is there that long? Or will we look around, and find all the horrible implications of those Investor State Dispute Settlement Clauses actual and irreversible?

The "Emma Thompson" Effie Gray last night. Came over as a little bit slight in the end because so long, and because John Ruskin (Greg Wise) such a blank that even his (genuine) staggeringly spiteful lines couldn't make him interesting. But very beautiful to look at, and sumptuously coloured. Just wondered slightly, did Effie really have an English accent? Very good news about the Parliament vote on Palestinian Statehood by the way.

Not A Rocketship In Sight: An Evening With English PEN

Wednesday 8th October, torrential rain in the morning, rolls of thunder, clearing now, I've been staring out of my window watching the trees tossing their branches about, just happy that autumn seems to have arrived at last, though all the leaves I can see are still green (or dark red, in the case of the Maple). Did I mention that the squirrels are back? They vanished, after two-doors-up had a family of the little darlings evicted from their loft. (We have never had the courage to ask by what means). Our crocus corms were unmolested, bird tables were for the birds. Then, at last, a brave outlier or two appeared. The other day our neighbours down the hill came home to find Summer and Buddha (terrier and cat) leaping around the house, beside themselves with pride and joy. Why? Turns out they'd left a liittle furry corpse displayed on the patio. Cue adult consternation, weeping children, shocked, silent teens, a solemn burial. But I bet that'll be the only lesson necessary. Squirrels will now be back to normal levels of insolence and impunity.

Not A Rocketship In Sight

Science Fiction the natural home of literary activists? Huh? The only activism I've ever seen at work in sf, unless you count active involvement in nefarious US government warfare and weapon projects, is feminism, and that revolution wasn't a resounding success: more a case of the wiser rebels heading off to found a new colony, and those who stayed behind going underground. Dear PEN, are you perhaps, and understandably, confusing "activism" with "writers expressing common sense opinions"?

But my mistake, the discussion wasn't about taking action, it was about ideas; and about generally, helplessly, sharing the problems of Cassandra. You tell people, in the course of your story, something bxxxding obvious (eg, global warming is a real threat to our civilisation, and maybe it's already too late), and they react as if you invented the danger on purpose to annoy them; or even created it, you pinko tree-hugging scare-monger . . . But how refreshing to see what a good, varied crowd had turned up. Almost as if the barrier between science fiction and proper literary activities had become porous at last: as melty as the barriers between all the other genres. Maybe it was the Loncon effect, maybe I've just not been paying attention (except I have) but I felt I was sitting between two boddisattvas (Nick Harkaway and James Smythe), neither of them women, but you can't have everything: who had achieved the impossible quest, succeeding where the New Wave, Feminism, the Cyberpunks, and who knows how many other heroic expeditions, had struggled, left a few footprints and fallen back, defeated.

It's not that I don't like rocketship fantasies. I like some of them very much. It's not that I don't take fairytales seriously: I do. It's the exclusiveness/exclusion thing. I don't like it, I never did.

Time will tell, but I went away strengthened in my determination not to have SF on the spine of my books ever again (okay, an easy enough rash vow when you're a sixty plus female feminist, and you don't live in the US, but it means something to me). Since Spirit came out, I haven't tried to get another sf contract, and I'm not going to. One day, when I've tied up all my loose ends, and Ifinally have a new book to offer, something that doesn't have to have SF on the spine, I'll take it to market and we'll see. Meanwhile, the DIY route. Publication date for The Grasshopper's Child POD coming soon: there have been a few issues. Ironically, one of them was identifying a publisher, as Create Space doesn't accept that responsibility. Luckily it wasn't hard.


House of Cards, the US, Kevin Spacey version. I'm finding it addictive, but gradually getting interference from memories of the 1980s version, which I did not like. Is there more gravitas to the story when the prize is getting to be the ci-devant Leader of the Free World, rather than the PM of the UK? Or do I just like the US actors better? Especially Robin Wright, very cool turn as the Lady Macbeth character. Black farce.

Looking Forward To

Activism of the active kind:

Global Frackdown, 11am Saturday 11th October

and Parliament Square 2.00pm Saturday afternoon, opposing the TTIP.

Gabriel Jones and Marianne Wright, premiering a new song cycle at St Nicolas Church Dyke Road Brighton, Wednesday 22nd October, lunchtime 12.30pm

&Marianne's opera debut is the week after, in Britten's Turn Of The Screw; more on that later

And Kristin Scott-Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic, which apparently is the original script, so for my homework I will have to look up Sophocles on line

Karlheinz Stockhausen, PEN and the Solar System

October 2nd, a pleasantly cool morning after a horribly warm, clammy night. Orion and Sirius in the landing window on nights that seem clear, but are hazy. A white anemone tangling in the branches of our giant bonsai pine seems the right keynote for autumn, but really the garden still full of vivid colour: cosmos and verbena, gauzy showers of gaura and the little pearly yellow lotus buds still rising and opening in the goldfish pool. What amazing luck! says the BBC news. The driest September since records began! And almost the warmest. I'm such a curmudgeon, all I can think of is tree disease, the mass-death of the world's non-human animals announced this week, and the floods. I mean, right now, the floods of people, at our gates. (A prison fence around Calais, to keep them out. Just like the Mexican border! How Breaking Bad cool of us).


Saturday, we finally got round to visiting Shrinking Space's Digital Brighton show : a rare example of Peter and Gwyneth thinking must go and doing nothing, and yet actually getting round to it in time. In a huge dank hangar, graffitied like an underground car park, but which I think used to be a covered market, pairs of stools set by roof pillars dotted the endless grey concrete floor, some far in the distance, some close at hand. We get given headsets and MP4 players, and a quick induction by way of a very sketchy map. We wander. Disappointed at first: I never read the advertising properly, I'd been expecting an update on NASA's "music of the spheres" (sound transcription of the radio emissions of the different planets), and instead I was getting human voices, telling me solar system exploration things, I slowly became hooked. Interestingly, I didn't like Earth, it was too mundane (the Moon was a bit mundane too), and I didn't like the Sun, it was too big. I liked Venus and Mercury best of the planets, and Enceladus best of the moons, because it was most active, but it was difficult to hear Mercury: the Sun kept eating it. I liked Voyager a lot, because it was so thrillingly quiet, so mysterious; and I got confused by Rosetta.

Remote embodiment note: All the voices (apart from Earth and Moon) use the second person plural, uniformly, without a second thought. It's not a device out there, it is we. It is the people who are running the experiment, themselves. They have made a transition.

How fitting that the vast exhibition space was cold, drab and had no kind of atmosphere.

Ash Dieback

It's time I updated on this. So, the phony war is over. The real size of the invasion is emerging. There are currently 849 confirmed cases in the mainland UK and Northern Ireland. Do not be afraid, says the forestry commission site, like a doctor telling you what stage your cancer is at (not really, but it's rather the tone). These new figures represent better surveying, not new cases. I'm not afraid, I'm past that, but oh, I hate that horrible big outbreak in Lancashire, where I come from. I knew only God (ie, some level of genetic variant immunity) could save Sussex, the geography says so. But I was hoping . . . Anyway, it's not new bad news, right? Nor is it new bad news that we have more elms succumbing to Dutch Elm Disease this year, here in Fortress Brighton and Hove. It's expected that losses will continue: just the normal noises of the 21st century. A hiss and a sigh, a crackle of disembodied humanity.


Fred Vargas
and William Ryan, I only just discovered "Fred Vargas", lucky me. I think she's great. William Ryan isn't such a star, but I've just read both his books, police procedurals set in Stalin's Terror, and liked them both. Sounds bizarre, but it works. I also like his website, and the way he lists his sources, like a proper historian indeed; and as if people would like to know, like to find out for themselves. That's always been my attitude too.

Plus, and by no means least, James Smythe's The Machine, and Nick Harkaway's Angelmaker; in preparation for my date with them at the Southbank Centre on Monday 6th. I've cast myself as the critic on this panel, but if you are reading this, dear co-panellist writers, don't worry! I'm reaching into my activist-writer and critic past, with a piece from Imagination/Space.


And finally. . . belated congratulations to Gabriel Jimi Jones, who has handed in his Masters dissertation "Irrational Nuances: Stockhausen and the Performer in Klavierstucke I-XI". Fascinating stuff, almost spooky in a way, but maybe I better just hope he never reads the story I've handed in for Lynne Jamneck and T.S. Joshi's Gothic Lovecraft anthology...

I've spent the week wearily fixing the mistakes in my first proof of The Grasshopper's Child in solid form. It's coming along, this project, but now I also have to get Barry back, to fix the cover. Don't hold your breath.

For Your Diaries: October 11th . . . Is coming up fast. To TTIP or not TTIP? Me, I think I'll go to London and make it a combo: catch the GLOBAL FRACKDOWN event first. More on this later.

The Art of Protest

. . . deserves an entry of its own.

Thursday 25th September, another relentlessly sunny day. Sometimes artists scandalise their public without meaning to. You're just doing your best, trying to get to the heart of things, and suddenly the Salon critics, the very people whose approval is essential for your survival, are absolutely furious! Often, often, at least for the last hundred and fifty years, they've been doing it on purpose: pour ├ępater le bourgeois, a game that went off and began to stink a long time ago, to my mind. I am so tired of hearing that some Turner Prize nominee, artist, or work of art's whole fabulolus claim on my attention is that he, she or it is disturbing, challenging, and so on. To disturb, to challenge is the collateral damage of great art. If it's all you've got, dear, why don't you just put a slug in my sandwich? Sometimes angry, grotesque and rebarbative art is scandalised instead of scandalising; shocked instead of shocking. Picasso's Guernica: the artist's angry, immediate reaction to a Fascist bombing raid on a Basque town was instantly, and remains, a potent anti-war icon, and focus for art-activism.

And then there's Protest Art; something different again. Art being put to use by activists (who happen to be artists), as a means of changing the world. There's a lot of it about, more than you'd think. At the Climate March on Sunday, besides admiring the banners and placards, I talked to people who'd been witnesses at bp or not bp's Deepwater Horzion performance (first staged July 2010) in the Great Court at the British Museum. I looked at the photos, and wondered if bp or not bp were in danger of getting themselves shortlisted for the Turner Prize. Why not? A choice that could defintely enhance the Turner's reputation. I've seen plenty of protest material in art museums. And notoriously, candidates for the notorious prize are nominated by the jury members*. They can choose whoever they like, and protest has been judged to be Turner prizeworthy before now (Mark Wallinger, 2007)

As I was leaving Westminster, a kind woman carrying a box of fortune cookies, obviously seeing how tired and hungry I looked, stopped and gave me a cookie. I can't show you the cookie, because I ate it, but when I checked the small print, I realised I'd been Protest Art bombed by the Belarus Free Theatre.

And that's all about the Climate March. It was an enriching experience, as you can tell. Much to think about, much to follow up, lots of art to seek out. You missed this event? Well, that's a shame but you have nothing to worry about. The one day Climate Summit in NYC** achieved absolutely zilch (I'm sorry, did I say zilch? I meant, non-binding pledges, of course). There'll be plenty more marches.

*the public are supposed to be able to nominate, but I wouldn't take that seriously if I was you; the Director of the Tate is rumoured to have a casting vote: wouldn't know about that.

**Okay, the Chinese. I grant you the Chinese. I put my faith in them (in Bold As Love) not because I admire their methods, but because they have a history (so to speak) of taking the long view. It's what we need right now. Maybe they'll come through. Eventually.

Climate March

Monday 22nd September, yet another relentlessly sunny day. Remarkable turn out on the Climate March in London yesterday, estimated 40,000; (who's estimate, I don't know. If it was the police that means 80k in real numbers, good grief what must the streets of NYC (est 400,000) have been like? Maybe they do the estimating protesters thing differently over there. Much more about the event I can't really tell you: having obediently gathered in Victoria Embankment Gardens for the pre-show, said a prayer written by Desmond Tutu and tied a label on a tulip tree. We all then spent about an hour and a half kettled by Greenpeace and their polar bear, and the sheer unexpected weight of numbers. By the time my contingent reached Westminster, the rally done and gone, no Vivienne Westwood, no giraffes, no zebras, nothing. Ah, well. Splendid array of placards and banners, anyway. Confess a weakness for the avaaz one with David Cameron awful fetching in a sort of Game of Thrones* fur cloak and broadsword ensemble; also loved the brave philodendron accompanying the There Is No Planet B team, and the very cute baby from Lancashire, who was Fracktose Intolerant. Clean Energy for London now! Why the hell not? It was an outing. It was fun. Effective? Don't ask me. But if the battle to save the future is lost, rather than being another of those damned near run things we specialise in, it won't be because I was too selfish, cynical, or stupid to stand up and be counted.

Progress Report on The Grasshopper's Child POD

I finished the cover with Barry over the weekend, and now the grasshopper is green, an important point, for which thank you Gabriel (actually there are five of them all told, but you can only see one here). First proof copy has shipped. The only bad news is that this trade paperback type book will be as expensive for the buyer as mainstream tpbk, whereas I can make my ebooks very cheap. POD has no economy of scale. I wonder what it's going to look like in real life? They warn you it can take several tries to get it just right. I must say, this is far more fun than getting published old style. If you like playing games, that is.

*smart dress and repulsive ultra violence (white collar kind) a speciality!


Monday 15th September, a clearing overcast, and yet another day when it isn't going to rain around here. Went to see the last night of Ben Power's Medea at the Duke of York's yesterday (not live: 'encored' from the National Theatre). A great amenity, and you only have to sit through ten minutes of NT fundraising, which is your own fault for turning up early. NB it's a version, not all that close to Euripides!; but I'm fine with that sort of thing. Helen McCrory excellent in the name part, and Jason impressive as the imposing, successful man who's so good at compartmentalising, putting the brutal piracy and all that business in Colchis out of his mind; astonished that the foreign wife he needs to discard is cutting up rough. The type of man I would say, if I was a savage or an Ancient Greek, which I am not, who positively calls down on himself (and others) the unstoppable, black, implacable force of a Medea. Great music too. Not so totally keen on the obligatory 'modern psychoanalytical terms' rationalisation provided in the intro.

A bit of a surprise to walk out of that into the Sunday afternoon sunshine.


And so we're here at last, the Referendum. Let me make this clear: I hope the answer is NO & I still think it probably will be NO; as in the end the voters will do a 'Neil Kinnock', or a 'Bush Second term' on us. On the other hand, why shouldn't Scotland say YES? England is a rotten borough, and I'm not all that convinced by the 'hard economic arguments'. The welfare state is punishingly expensive? So is having an unhealthy number of disgustingly rich people on board, and a 'government' indifferent to anything but their own personal financial advantage. Free University tuition is expensive? Student loans have proved a ridiculous waste of money. I could go on, but I digress. I DO NOT think the Dissolution of the United Kingdom is a good idea. I didn't think it was a good idea back in 1999, when I wrote Bold As Love: I just saw that it was, eventually a likely future outcome. Little did I know how near future it might be; and how bizzare, (you couldn't make it up!), to think that if what I don't want to happen, happens, this week 2015 really might be the Year Of Dissolution. My best wishes, neighbours, and forgive my English cheek (esp in Band of Gypsys). Do what you think best, as your conscience dictates, and good luck for whatever future you choose.


Karen Joy Fowler, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
Excellent. I was completely wrapped up in this book, and devoured it in a sitting. Only thing, I thought the storytelling ended too soon. I wanted the reunion, when the sisters meet again, for the first time, to be part of the story. Just that moment, no need to go further, let the rest be (as it is) righteous and necessary footnotes. (And see, no spoilers! You'd better not follow the link, though).

and looking forward to Haruki Murakami Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, but I can't read it until after Gabriel has read it, I can only admire the very beautiful cover.


Two Days, One Night
Another movie from the Dardennes brothers, author of 'Kid With A Bike', which I also loved, but I liked this one more. So good at passionate drama about ordinary things happening to ordinary people. What I liked best about this movie was the way I spent most of it thinking, oh no, this isn't going to work. It's no use, Sandra isn't coping. If she wins this cruel little game and gets her job back, she won't get her life back, which is what she's really lost. It'll be awful, terrible, she won't last a day . . . But the Dardennes were ahead of me. I can't tell you how or why (even though, after visiting with the Ancient Greeks, i'm cfeeling more annoyed than usual with that 'spoiler' concept). But it totally does work.

And the new Scott and Bailey, which has returned with the female trio, via a bit of handwaving, safely unchanged. Still entertaining, but dear me, what a lot of goody goodies they are at GMP these days, it's like a girls' boarding school. And completely blase about their disintegrating role in society. Like, it's perfectly natural and right that just encountering the police, just in passing, (never mind, god forbid, while exercising your legal right to peaceful protest) instantly strips you of all your purely conditional civil rights.

Speaking of which . . .

The Climate Change March in London next Sunday. Tired of hearing about tipping points? Spotted that Climate Change is the greatest threat around to human rights, including yours? Horrified by the price paid by the most vulnerable, while the rich and heedless carry on regardless? Or just frightened of that fragmented World War Three thing? I know I won't be alone, but hope that this time there will be a lot of people. Come and join me.

Something Special About This Place . . .

Sunday 14th September, yet another sunny day emerging from another misty morning, and the garden having a late warm flourish (or maybe the first of the late flourishes, who knows with the weather these days). Bounteous garden foraging this year, plums in jars, a kilo of plums soaking in whisky, stewed plums with everything, and with the dregs Peter made several pots of slightly sticky jam. Masses of pears, still on the tree, and masses of August tomatoes, regrettably enjoyed mostly by the slugs. Another refulgent Super Full Moon last week, rather denting the excitement, but a few nights after TTIP, in a clear sky in the early hours, I saw Orion sneaking into the landing window. The last of summer can't last forever now.

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

Well, it was indeed a hard sell on the London Road. Just try saying all that, before your target has vanished beyond the 99p store. But I think I've got a handle on the problem now (NB there's another of these agreements sneaking around in secret, called CETA, with the same toxic issues), and the problem is something called the Investor/State Dispute Settlement clause. Devised to protect companies whose assets have been appropriated or destroyed by some rogue state's latest revolutionary government, the ISDS clause allows an injured company to bypass the laws of the State where the injury has occurred, and take their case to a 'neutral' arbitration panel. The panel is neutral in the sense that when assessing liability, it has no interest in right,wrong, legality or the public good: the only question this panel asks is whether the Investor has suffered financially through the actions of the State.

Oh my! cry all the financial and business pages! Why is anybody making a fuss??? How harmless can you get! What could possibly go wrong? What sillies the general public are!

If the EU decides that the evidence is overwhelming (which is d**n well is), and ban the pesticides that are destroying the pollinators, the birds, and (I bet!) the insectivorous wildlife of all kinds, the SIDS clause enshrines the right of Syngenta and Bayer to sue the respective governments for reducing their profits.

If a Labour government decides to roll back the privatisation of the NHS, and tighten up drug procurement, the pharmaceutical giants have and extra-legal right sue the UK government for reducing their profits.

This would never happen? What, you mean the lawyers won't leap on this feast with cries of joy, billions of dollars sparkling in their eyes? You mean the corporations won't just have to mention SIDS, to have a government cave in at once? It's happening already. Read all about it here.

The next EU day of action is on 11th October.

The irony is an actual rogue state would be totally unimpressed.

My Fracking News

. . . The Fernhurst decision: is not exactly making the front pages. I got my ticket for the Planning Meeting, and went to Midhurst last Thursday (took a photo of H.G.Well's blue plaque, as Midhurst Grammar is right next door). The planning officer had advised that Celtique Energie's application, to do a little bit of exploratory drilling in the South Downs National Park, should be refused. A succession of eloquent locals spoke in favour of the refusal. Celtique Energie's spokeswoman made a statement, (featuring the rather cheeky suggestion that since 83% of visitors are car users, the SDNP should be all in favour of having the park fracked-out), A Celtique Eenergie consultant also spoke in support. The committee 'debated' their decision: or rather, a succession of committee members spoke passionately about their love for this tranquil, untouched, beautiful and secret place, hidden in the depths of the Milland Basin. The decision to refuse was unanimous.

Mr Geoff Davies is struck all of a heap! He can't understand why he's been turned down, what's going on with all this emotional, subjective rubbish about beauty and tranquillity, precious treasures of landscape character and food for the soul? I wonder about Mr Davies. Is he quite on the ball? Who did he think was running the South Downs National Park? He gets passionate and emotional enough about money-making. You'd think he'd understand. Read his response here.

How did I get to the meeting? Public transport, of course. How could I do anything else (hm, learn to ride a bike properly, I suppose). Obviously, If the SDNP is serious (and I think they are) about reducing car use, they need a lot more buses, a least in summer and at weekends. But I did wonder, as I crossed the road to my bus stop, how many of the other passionate opposers of the fracking industry, who had packed the hall, had made the connection, and left their cars at home?

The Fernhurst decision is a huge precedent. The first National Park application, and the people said no. The people said, if we're going to frack at all, obviously we Frack the National Parks Last. Not first. No wonder this story didn't last long on the BBC. And that makes two. But the fracking industry will be back.

And Finally . . .

The Grasshopper's Child: Just a brief note to say the eversion of my new book is now available. Print copies to follow soon, more on this later & if anybody would like a pdf for review purposes, just let me know.

Hurricane Weather

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

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

My Fracking Round-Up

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

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

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

Looking Forward To:

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

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

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

Listening To

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

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

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

The Wacky World of Celtique Energie

Monday 21st July. In Brighton the heatwave continues, blue skies with a sultry overcast, heavy warm air, 29 degrees in our garden this afternoon. The most terrific thunderstorm I've witnessed for many years on the night of Thursday 17th, nothing similar since.

My Fracking Round Up

What a palavar! First we learn that senior planning officers have advised that Celtique Energie's exploratory drilling at Wisborough Green should be refused, owing to the huge HGV traffic/tiny country lanes issue. (and possibly also to the Celtique Energie persistently, and insultingly, lying about everything issue) Hurrah! Then we learn that Geoff Davies isn't going to let this happen. The planning decision must be deferred again, pending new information he needs the committee to consider. Otherwise, he threatens to withdraw his application and re-apply, thus plunging the people of Wisborough Green and Kirdford into further uncertainty. Hm. "Further uncertainty" for another year or so; or horrible devastation of the villages, the roads, the countryside etc, right now? Tough one! So the planning meeting is on, the planning meeting is off, and then, just now, the planning meeting is on again!

I'd like to think that WSCC planning officers viewed Mr Davies' new information, and found that it was rubbish, in about 30 seconds. The downright insulting language employed by Mr Davies helped to confirm their opinion, and the refusal will be delivered as planned. But who can tell, in this strange world we live in? Maybe the committee were told by Big Dave that local opinion and common sense and all that can go to hell. They either approved the fracking bonanza, or it's a short trip to the basement and a bullet in the back of the neck . . .

In short, Celtique Energie are fighting tooth and nail the precedent of a single successful NO! From their bewilderment, and their extremely coarse and heavy-handed tactics, they had no plan for how to deal with resistance. They thought they'd greased the right palms, and it was a done deal! (And they could still be right. There are palms, there has been liberal application of grease: this nobody can deny.

Meanwhile, bitter revolt against extreme energy extraction gathers strength in the USA. Claims of injury and damage are mounting up, and getting costly, and rumours that Climate Change is a real and present danger seem to be spreading, in the most unlikely quarters. But who can tell? Not me! I just know to keep on saying two and two make four, no matter how often I'm told the answer is five or three.


My Real Children
Jo Walton, of which more later. And Farthing; same. Which seems like a nice read, except it's a wren, not a robin. I expect Jo Walton has heard that from a lot of people, and I apologise, but there you go, one really can't help noticing! There's a character called Angela Thirkell. Woah, I hope she's dead! Also Waverley, Walter Scott. I don't know where, but I picked up a reference to Waverley from some site recently (maybe something to do with Bonnie Prince Alex's chances), and immediately wanted to read it again. I still love it. I still owe Sir Walter Scott so much. Along with Stevenson, my formative influence, and the reason why (along with the Brontes) many years ago I could not understand why my teachers savaged my use of the colon and semi-colon; and why I am since, enduringly, helpless on the subject. Like a generation brought up on Imperial and forced (without success) to change to Metric, the result is I just can't measure anything.

I read the end of Waverley this morning, before dawn. A weary wakening from a wild dream (that's from Redgauntlet, actually) that I've so often tried to capture and cherish; like the Old Master's technique of using real, obscure, minutia of historical incident, reportage and dialogue, to colour my fictional (future) history. But the savagery of what happened to the examplars, tried for High Treason after Culloden. That gives me pause, in a way I never dreamt of long ago. Walter Scott wrote as if he was a world, and an eternity, away from the hideous executions in Carlisle, 1746. To be hung, drawn, and quartered, in a world that had daily newspapers and (approaching) democratic government . . . Awful, unthinkable, but it happened. How far away are we now? Just a click away. Not even that. No, not even that.

Summer, summer. Always some kind of hell. There's only one thing to do with summer: run away until September, and after tomorrow's trip over the border, I'm about to do so. So long.

In Search Of The Mezentian Fiorinda (rainy day activities)

Friday 12th July, rain rain rain. Stuck indoors, for my errands are not the amphibious kind, I have spent half the day messing about, creating a glyph for a new ebook, my first actual new book in this medium (it is a Bold As Love world story, and couldn't possibly interest any mainstream publisher except myself*); by my own string-and-glue roundabout methods. I'm quite pleased with the result. The other half of the day so far has been wasted in trying to find an online and therefore shareable image of the original Fiorinda; Eddison's Fiorinda, the lady in the frontispiece of The Mezentian Gate 1958 edition (I don't own a copy, and it is now rare; apparently and some may say understandably!). Drawn by Keith Henderson, on Eddison's instructions, from a painting of a lady (unnamed) 1596, which currently belongs to the Hispanic Society of America.

It's an odd choice, if you ask me. El Greco, fine, dead right as to period: but if the Lady Fiorinda is an El Greco you might want her to look like this (the lady in a fur wrap, who may or may not be a portrait of El Greco's long time love Jeronima De Las Cuevas) But no, Eddison seems to have taken great pains to make sure we know she looks like this tough looking bird:who is very difficult to find online, although
I'm sure I saw her there just the other day. This detail from the Keith Henderson drawing I stole from the fan-ficcer "fiorinda_chancellor"'s archive of our own site. The Chancellor, btw, is Fiorinda's brother in the story. Make what you will.

Eddison. What a problem child! Hard to believe he went to the same school as the so sensible and normal Arthur Ransome. Never mind the undeniably fascist imagery (whatever he called his world view, I'm afraid the truth is obvious): those sentences! Sumptuous prose is one thing, but Lessingham, love, she's gone to sleep two paragraphs ago. I remember thinking, even when delighted with Mistress of Mistresses, many, many years ago, people don't talk like that. Not to each other. They don't even talk like that in Jacbean tragedy, except in soliloque; theatre's internal monologue feature. But I can't claim I'm not attracted, obviously. Eddison's Fiorinda is a case in point, she says everything about the dubious allure of it all for me. She's a goddess, the Demiurge of Eddison-world, the uber-avatar of Aphrodite, but all her powers are bestowed on her by her father (well, of course: name of Eric Eddison, but you know what I mean). She's the top sex-doll in the range, the ultimate uber sex-doll, but that's all she is, for all her smouldering Jacobean periods. And collusive too, as she doesn't even say anything sarcastic about being a puppet, not once, just sits there smugly saying ca, m'amuse; which for years I misremembered as Je m'amuse, subtly much more acceptable. . . Yet I wanted to ask Eddison, was he also thinking, surely, as I was when I borrowed her name, of Blodeuwedd (=Fiorinda, in Italian), the woman made of flowers by her "father" Gwydion the magician, in Welsh mythology. Who broke free, and became a person, kind of like Pinocchio; and got into terrible bother with her dad, over her cunning plan to escape from a forced marriage. All these stories about what men think women are (we can start with owned); images of sensuous fragility, fearful enchantment . . . Which can equally be read (re-visioned) as stories about how women get trapped by looking at themselves in that mirror . . .

Why am I looking up Fiorinda? Because I'm planning to ask Bryan Talbot if I can use the "Fiorinda" portrait he did for me, way back then, in my cover design. Interestingly, this portrait was another magic mirror. I was taken aback when I saw it for the first time, far more so than with eg "Aoxomoxoa"). Huh? Is that what she looks like? Admittedly I don't think I ever have a clear idea of what my characters look like, but I'm sure she was much younger, a lot less like a haughty super-model, and far more vulnerable. But you write them, and then somebody else sees them: I'm lucky to have had a glimpse, and I have long accepted that this is the face my character lives behind.

It's stopped raining, I'm going out. The keynote picture is a cheat, the most forward of my Lilium Regale (outside the front door in a tall pot, as they are poisonous to cats) looks like this.

*Still coming to terms with the idea that if there's a print edition (I mean, a print on demand edition and a few samples), it will have to be with Create Space An Amazon Company. But I've looked into it, and realistically there is no alternative. None that I can see.


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

My Fracking Round Up (and related topics)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Infrastructure Bill Protest

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

My Flat On Back Storybooks

Natsuo Kirino, The Goddess Chronicle

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

Tobias Hill. The Love Of Stones

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

Rubbernecker, Belinda Bauer

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

Erin Hart, Lake Of Sorrows; False Mermaid

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

And Finally:

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

Here's the direct link:

Got to get back on my back now.