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Getting Out More

Saturday 17th May, a cool blue morning.

Getting Out More

& now here I am back at my desk after a packed few days in Manchester.The old home town never changes, although it changes all the time. In normal life I struggle to recognise a single glimpse of the streets where I grew up, in endless cop shows, (it is the bedraggled and threatening bits, often shot at night): but as I step down from the train, the spirit of Manc comes shining through, somehow. Outings included Albert Square for MCFC's victory parade, The Last Days of Troy at The Royal Exchange. A tramp around the ridge walk above the Edale Valley, which was really, really wonderful except for the torrential rain part, and that only lasted an hour and a half. A morning alone among flowers and birds and butterflies, reading in the sunshine in a vine arbour, on the roof terrace in Hulme Community Garden, where I also bought some seeds, wildflowers for dry shade, yellow rattle and bugle. Mary-Elly, the friend I was visiting, who is a volunteer, thought I might join her in some weeding, but I felt my job was to enjoy this brilliant place, and had to be prised out of the arbour to come down and eat my butties and talk about Barton Moss; a visit to the Mickle Ditch at Platt Fields (it's a black water ditch here, it's Anglo Saxon, it looks rather spooky, definitely less boring than the lump of Roman Wall at Castlefield. They're very science fictional, these lost fragments of the distant past in a city like Manc, and very Alan Garner too of course. And La Boheme at the Lowry; including admiring the Open Swimmers in a specially aerated bit of the Ship Canal (for the benefit of those mediafolk, you know. You just can't expect them to do without their civilised comforts). Good grief. There they were, in the Manchester Ship Canal in May, happily ploughing the shining stream, whatever next?


Cheek by Jowl's 'Tis Pity She's a Whore was rubbish. They cut out the sub-plot, leaving some odd holes in the main plot, if anyone had been paying attention. Excised Ford's serious accusation of a morally bankrupt State and Church, and replaced with much frenzied synchronised dancing by young fat cats in suits. And all of that fair enough, except that nobody on stage, not for one moment, acted as if they believed what they were saying, ever. Unforgivable. If all you want is a young lady pretending to have sex in her underwear, there's plenty of Miley Cyrus on Youtube. Don't bother.

Simon Armitage's The Last Days Of Troy. Looks really good. The framing story (Zeus as a worn-out souvenir seller at the modern site of Troy) seemed hackneyed to me: the action thrilling, as long as Armitage is sticking dead close to Homer, for language, plot and narrative. Loses focus after the interval, when relying more or less on Book II of the Aeneid. Very shabby treatment of Helen. I know Lily Cole is a supermodel, not an actress, but she's got a brain in her head, and I am sure she has stage presence. No excuse whatsoever for mutilating the only, and really remarkable, good female part in the Iliad. Wouldn't you think, in this day and age, a dramatist would know better? But definitely do bother.

Opera North’s La Bohème at the Lowry revival was lovely. Young cast, believing every word of their story, looking like real young examples of the bohemian life, and very sweet. Hurry along there. Recommended.

Even If We Lose Our Lives & Fracking Shifts Its Ground

Friday 16th May, sunny day with a clear blue sky and cool air. The swifts, all two of them, shrieking and shooting to and fro over my head as I'm hanging out the washing. It seems to be the same all over. The swifts, and their unrelated migratory nichemates, the swallows, the house martins, are here but in smaller numbers than ever. Maybe they'll have a late surge . . . Picked myself a 6th bouquet of the year, a random collection, bearded iris, wall-growing campanula, columbines and snapdragon; nothing of the summer ensemble coming through yet, really. Tadpoles doing well, and there has been a stickleback sighting, a rare treat, usually we only know they're there because there aren't any mosquito larvae

Early last Sunday morning, up and out to Under The Bridge studios, with a tray of Turkish cakes, to rendezvous for a reading of Even If We Lose Our Lives, the narratives of four Afghan Women Human Rights Defenders, scripted by Christine Bacon, recorded here in Brighton courtesy of the estimable Jackie Chase and her team at Radio Free Brighton. You can hear the reading online any time you like: It's also scheduled on Radio Free Brighton, Tues 20th May 9pm, and Weds 21st May 9am.

Or if you live around here, you can pay (£1 entry) to see the play performed at The Hawth theatre, Crawley: 7.30 19th May., by Pitchy Theatre.


Fracking shifts its ground: but don't get your hopes up, this is only reculer pour mieux sauter*. Interesting developments (check them out on Frack Free Sussex) include a leaked document (May 9th) confirming Cuadrilla intends to frack at Balcombe. Without fracking, Wealden shale gas extraction cannot be commercially viable. But we knew that. Celtique Energie has made changes to its drilling application at Fernhurst, the one in the South Downs National Park. They now say they will create a new access to the site, and they have withdrawn the horizontal bore from their plans. Greenpeace hails these changes as a "scaling back": Greenpeace is wrong. The site access alteration is an attempt to circumvent obstacles put in their way (eg, new tree preservation orders). The horizontal drill, (transparently!) will be restored at a later date, when Mr Cameron has changed the trespass laws. Seems to me Celtique is simply taking a leaf out of Cuadrilla's book, having realised it isn't necessary to show all your hand. Just apply for an inch and take a mile! That will be fine! The other interesting development at Fernhurst is that WSCC will no longer be determining this application, it has been transferred entirely into the hands of the Park Authority. What does this mean? I'm not sure. After WSCC's insulting, meretricious* pretence of a planning meeting to "determine" the Cuadrilla application at Balcombe, ast month I don't see how the SDNPA could be worse, but I wouldn't put it past them. Please object to the proposal again, explaining why an extreme energy drill site STILL doesn't work for you as an attraction in the South Downs National Park, no matter how it is packaged; and nb you do not have to be a local.

Frackfree Fernhurst site provides a portal and some notes
You can also object in writing, to:

Director of Planning
South Downs National Park Authority
South Downs Centre
GU29 9DH

Celtique have also submitted new information on their Wisborough Green proposal, to be determined (ha!) at a WSCC planning meeting on 25th June. Poor Wisborough Green, so tiny, so fragile, is going to be dragged down the basement and shot, no question. But find out more, with details of how to submit an objection, here:

Just don't give up. To avoid quoting Churchill, you never know. The next thing we try might work. And many thanks, by the way, to Bob Buhr for this useful roundup from Scholars and Rogues

Fracking in the UK? Don't hold your breath

*having the nature of prostitution, dear readers. I believe that's what I saw and heard.

Official May Day

Wednesday 7th May, a cool grey evening after a chilly, blustery day, outbreaks of blue and sunshine, threatening clouds. Official May Day, Government Mayday, was the fifth this year. We sowed our sunflowers and went walking in King Death's Garden, it was very green and pretty in there, wild excesses of birdsong, evidence of a mass outbreak of primroses just past, floods of Spanish Bluebells (ie, the paler blue, crinkly, more robust model, not the native kind) on the turn, and the trees in beautiful young foliage, particularly the great Field Maple in the valley, extraordinary tall cloud of peachy gold feathery leaves. A short circuit, as we had our cat Ginger with us, and the long circuit would have taken hours. She only really likes jumping on gravestones, or better still leaping from the top of one gravestone to the next, to our gasps of admiration.

And, as we can tell by the dour weather, it's Festival time again in Brighton. So far I have entirely missed the Children's Parade, attended the Gala Concert at Roedean College (where a work by a composer friend of mine was premiered). We had Land of Hope and Glory AND Rule, Brittannia! which seemed a little excessive. The massed parents sang along with great gusto. I sort of envied them, that they still could, while fearing for their sanity; & omitted to support a Slam Poet at Varndean college. Then there's Tis Pity She's A Whore at the Theatre Royal on Saturday, "classic theatre with a startlingly modern outlook", it says here. Hm. Very true. Not sure that's anything to be proud of . . . Emmy Lou Harris, Much Ado About Nothing in St Nicholas Gardens (despite King Lear being so dreadful and so freezing cold last year), I'm a sucker for shakespeare al fresco; and finally Marianne Wright and Gabriel Jones at St Michael and All Angels on 31st.

Justice Is Fled To Heaven And Comes No Nearer

I duly rode the bus to Horsham last week for the WSCC planning committee meeting (very nice park in Horsham, where I got caught in a fine cloudburst), and the success of Cuadrilla's application to resume acid-fracture drilling at Balcombe was duly announced. Approval predetermined, and without much pretence of pretending otherwise. It was a sorry show, the petulant arrogance of the chairwoman (I'll accept chairperson, if you insist, but chairman, when the chair is blatantly female, is ideology gone mad, in my opinion); the insulting little amendments to HGV traffic flow (traffic flow is the only issue the committee are allowed to touch, that and the angle of certain floodlights when the site is in action 24 hours); the bitter and shocked cries of "Shame" and "Unbelievable" from the public . . . Some heartbroken, deeply disillusioned and angry people are rather gaining ground in West Sussex, everywhere but with the oblivious County Council and their Party, and have of course vowed to fight on. And they will. Non Violent Direct Action, Lawyers! Elections! Whatever else comes to hand. My next date is the 24th June, when (at a so far undisclosed venue) WSCC will be "debating" the application for exploratory drilling at Wisborough Green, fiercely and unanimously opposed by all the locals, opposition supported by a mass of conclusive evidence, but I don't expect anything different there. Or at Fernhurst.There is no "planning", there are no regulations, those days are gone. It's a knife fight.

When cardinals think murder’s not amiss:
Great men may do their wills, we must obey,
But Heaven will judge them for’t, another day.

. . . Maybe

Could it be time to lose the word fracking? I'm in two minds. Cuadrilla and Celtique Energie seem to feel there's a lot of mileage in repudiating this dirty word, "Cuadrilla vows never to frack" etc. Maybe the opposition should move on to Opposing Brutally Destructive, Planet-Destroying, Poisonous, Dangerous, Water Gobbling, Corruptly Financed, Extreme Energy Extraction. But it doesn't have the same ring.

Keynote picture is my garden in Maytime, very green, except there's more flowers than it looks like here. And the swifts are back in Sussex, first sighted on the 5th I think, so few so far, I've seen one pair and a singleton, tossing in the wind, over our valley; I have not heard them yet. Their numbers keep going down, of course, and they suffered dreadfully last year, but I'm hoping for at least two or three pairs more. And for fine weather.

Let Mr Cameron Know: Overnight the season changed

Back from Cumbria last weekend to an Easter Sunday of splendid pelting rain and wind & over night it seemed, the "black" maple at the bottom of our garden lost its gold floral topnotes, and turned deep red & the whole garden sprouted lush greenery, drowning the last of the spring flowers. The fish and juvenile goldfish are fine, the "wildlife" pond is functioning for the first time in its life, fat tadpoles, one newt, frogs, clear water in both: I praise my Swan Mussels, Peter gives credit to barley straw. Have spent a whole week debriefing, unpacking, transplanting (rather recklessly, excited by the drenched soil and mild air; hope my victims survive), and turning in a review (Laline Paull's The Bees, of which more later) & by now I'm sure you're sick of looking at my King Death's Garden cover, so onward.

Tree diseases
The good news: as of now, Ash dieback sinks to join the rest of a list of threats, no swift devastation throughout the UK. 644 confirmed sites on the forestry commission page, the number keeps going up, but slowly, & still, for what it's worth, the overwhelming majority of identified sites in England are east of the Wash (the Wash, dear non-English readers, is that sort of squared-off chunk of sea between the bulge of East Anglia and the flank of Lincolnshire. King John allegedly lost his Royal Jewels in there once). Tree diseases are scary, but anthropogenic habitat loss, and destruction in Global Warming extreme weather events, are probably worse enemies. For the record, ash is way behind oak, throughout the uk, so I predict it will rain all summer. You heard it here first. Along with the Dissolution of the Union, and Cornish minority rule.

My Fracking Roundup

No internet or mobile phone signal where I was, but I read about the acquittal of Caroline Lucas and the rest of the Balcombe Five in a newspaper last Friday week. Since when, another 14 protestors have been acquitted. I'm very glad the judges in both trials resisted the criminalisation of protest creep. One more time.

Also very glad Caroline Lucas made such measured comments. This is not a victory. West Sussex County Council, in their planning meeting tomorrow, are minded to determine in favour of Cuadrilla's renewed "flow test" drilling (not gas nb, it's "tight oil" now) at the Lower Stumble site, outside Balcombe, despite the huge weight of evidence (where's the water coming from, how is the effluent going to be handled etc etc); the justified objections, impassioned protests from local residents. Since this particular council has invested public money, and their own too, for all I know, in the energy companies concerned, they would, wouldn't they. But they shouldn't.

Not getting thrown into jail for peaceful protest is not supposed to be a victory, it's supposed to be normal service. The victory is when the protests become successful. Non Violent Direct Action, history has often proved, is the way to do it. Dignified outrage, courageously expressed, could still swing this issue. In pursuit of which, I'll be taking a trip to Horsham tomorrow, to attend WSCC's planning meeting. You are all hereby invited to join me. (NB, apologies if you're non-facebook, you have to log in to facebook to tick the boxes). It's worth a try.

And if you're uk, and whether or not you think my obsession with fracking uk is just weird, consider going to wrong move to register your property as a frack free zone. You might as well. As a gesture. Before this government changes the trespass law, and your property rights get stolen from under you. Give Mr Cameron something to think about.


Aside from Laline Paull, Dark Orbit, Carolyn Ives Gilman (of which more later) and Peter Pan In Scarlet Geraldine McCaughrean. Can't remember why I picked this up, I've never been a big Peter Pan fan, but there you go. Not enough fairy dust to keep the whole thing sparkling, but definitely good in parts, and the playful language is a delight. Also On The Organic Law Of Change: facsmile edition of Alfred Russel Wallace's species notebooks from the Malay Archipelago. I read the Malay Archipelago many years ago, so I was a sucker for this massive volume; somebody's doctrate project. A bit disappointing, more entries saying variations on found a really interesting beetle and guess what it was just by my hammock than you could shake a stick at, but it got quite addictive. Conclusion: Wallace did have the same idea as Darwin, for making a science out of the transmutationism movement, & endemic island species were the big clue for both men. But he was a maverick, he would have messed up anyway, so arguably didn't lose much (not that he'd ever say how he really felt) by Darwin sneaking into publication first. Footnote, apparently Wallace favoured and helped to promote the distorting lens of "survival of the fittest" (which ranks with The Selfish Gene in my opinion), above Darwin's accurate, neutral, "natural selection". I never knew that. And he became a Spiritualist in his declining years. I never knew that, either. Now I want to read a proper biography.

Going to the movies

Calvary John Michael McDonagh. Stunning. Quirky "black" humour fans better take note, this is not for babies, this iis a full-on, uncompromising morality play, harsh and pure as they come. I thought In Bruges had hidden depths, I thought The Guard was slight: this is a masterpiece. I don't know what to compare it with, except maybe Pasolini's Gospel, or Park Chan-wook's Sympathy For Mr Vengeance. And all played out beside the bleak and beautiful strand under bare Ben Bulben's head. The entire audience at The Dukes sat in dazed silence as the credits rolled, and I have never seen that before.

Return To King Death's Garden

How long ago it was. We moved into the house where nothing had changed for forty years the year after we came back from Singapore, drawn back to Brighton and the old gang after an abortive attempt to install ourselves up north. We painted (notably the big yellow flash on lilac in the front room, that left a radioactive yellow film on everything, because we were rank amateurs with a stencil and a spray can). We had the roof done, we decorated, we put up shelves, and I took possession of King Death's Garden, the Brighton and Preston Cemetery & Extra-Mural Cemetery next door; with only a small brown cat for my companion. My dear Siang, who walked along with me, lost in her own thoughts, only yelling at me when she'd found something interesting and I wasn't paying attention. I was working as an accounts clerk at Amex, I was writing Telebug scripts, I was teaching myself computing, and in the midst of all this I wrote King Death's Garden, the first of my "Ann Halam" ghost stories. It was amazingly successful, it sold buckets, I got invited to a posh party on the grounds of my sales figures . Wow. An experience never to be repeated. But I still liked it, and I still like it now. I found my memories of those years enshrined within the pages, as I was converting it for epub, and I was very glad to meet them. So much has changed. You can't get into the Extra-Mural valley from the Brighton and Preston part anymore, not without climbing the wall. The gate is bricked up and the steps where Maurice met Moth for the first time are mouldering into the earth. The two great copper beeches have gone from in front of the funeral chapel (deliberate; I suppose meant to make the place look more cheerful); Siang's cypress is gone, and most of the great elms on the drive, which have not been replaced. But the limes on the lime walk have been, and are now grown trees. I cried in King Death's Garden when I saw the devastation, the morning after the hurricane in 1987, and a gardener came up to me and said don't cry love, we'll make it beautiful again. I sat in a shower of petals under the cherry trees on the slope where the slave boy is buried, and told Gabriel (10mths) about Bushido and the Cherry Blossom Way. (someone had given him a book of Japanese folk tales). We walk there often, though we no longer live next door. And I visit the weeping ash on Clementina Brown's tomb: going strong, and looking exactly as described by Maurice right now, the tentacle branches still almost bare, and trailing to the ground.

Jessica Raven was next (camping in France), then The Fear Man (my brother's Battersea and Clapham London stamping grounds; the desolate, dreamy feeling of a long, dirty London street, on a silent Saturday afternoon, long ago), then The Powerhouse* (nameless setting but really it's Manchester); then Crying In The Dark (a cottage with ghosts in Devon); then Nimrod (Brighton again; called "Beachcombe" this time; I have no idea why); the one that surprised me, this time round. Clearly I'd decided to have a ghost story of every popular shade, but I'd forgotten there was a noir in the pack. And finally Don't Open Your Eyes, the only real horror story & not at all coincidentally the only one with even a whisper of sex in it, as Charles Brown, god rest him, pointed out. Anyway, after a labour of love that nearly fried my eyes out (350,000 plus words, reviewed, edited, proof-read, in 2 months) the Ann Halam ghost stories are now available in epub, at several of the usual retailers, including Kindle, Smashwords, Barnes&Noble, Apple etc. Very reasonably priced, fine covers, and you can buy them!

*See The Powerhouse for some pre Bold as Love: the first version of immersions; an experimental techno band, black magic and Seventies hippies in a rather poor light

Ann Halam On Smashwords

More Balcombe trials this week. That's where I'll be tomorrow. This afternoon I'm taking off, to go and see The Past

Section 14

March 28th Friday, grey skies, but it's not raining yet and not so chilly as yesterday. What a busy week! Zooming down to the Law Courts and back, coaxing the Ann Halam ghost stories series through the Smashwords process (more haste less speed, most of them go straight through but then always that little niggle in the formatting to be tracked down, in the oldest text and the one I processed at the end of a long day).

Cold weather, frost on the grass, planting celandines in the green under the newly pruned elm, taking delivery of the swan mussels that are going to solve the algae problems without chemical aid; and of three more very charming little sticklebacks, blue-silver lances, miniscule barracuda (disappeared instantly, moment they were transfered from their holding tank).

A great leap forward on Tuesday evening, the first consolidated anti-fracking meeting in Brighton; lots of interesting stuff, and a relief to the nagging irritation of seeing all those disparate petitions, collecting tens of thousands of signatories each. Doomed we may be, and I fear we are, but that's no excuse for untidiness. And the DECC consultation on the next round of fracking licences (you missed that, dear readers. You were meant to, even if you did have something to say about the prospect of 33,000 dirty energy fracking wells in Lancashire, 2,800 in the Low Weald . . . (the coming round puts 60% of the land area of the UK up for tender. Wherever you are, you'll have your own little piece of Pensylvania's misery, don't worry). The environmental assessment consultation document, prepared by some engineering suppliers outfit called Amec, bore an amazingly close resemblance to the "EA" documents presented by the fracking companies themselves (trust me, I know), and found no adverse effects at all, none to speak of. Now there's a surprise.

And back to court, where yesterday we considered that debatable Section 14 order, signed off by the Deputy Chief Constable on 16th August, suddenly served by the police on sundry Balcombe protectors, 19th August 2013. Is a Section 14 (Public Order Act, 1986) a kind of lettre de cachet of public assembly, where the name of any assembly or other can be entered on the dotted line, that a senior officer can sign off at his leisure and the police can apply whenever they choose, arbitrarily? Or is the order required to be case specific, issued at the scene by a senior officer actually present, who has assessed a specific public assembly as violent and dangerous . . ? I tend to take the former view, but then I would, wouldn't I? One of the violent, dangerous defendants (accused of sitting down outside the gates of a drilling site vacant except for two persons that day, and having a back entrance if emergency exit was needed) is my MP. The other four don't look very threatening either, although I can't speak for their having hairy armpits or not. The Public Proescutor favours the latter, but then he would, wouldn't he. Our judge appeared to feel it was a pretty point of law, and though he's looking really tired of all this, he allowed our learned friends to mull it over with him for two mortal hours yesterday afternoon.

It's fascinating, it's totally Dickensian, I'm gripped, as if by quicksand. Must get back there now.

Frack Free Brighton

Monday 24th March, a cold night, Mars very bright, more a livid pimple than a pinprick now the moon is down; frost on the decking, & down to the Magistrates' Court, Edward Street for 9am, to join the throng for the media (another meat in the room call), as today's the day Caroline Lucas goes on trial for obstructing the highway. Talked to the Lush contingent, starting their working day like this with the campaigning firm's full approval, and to a sussex university Climate Change student, who tells me her lecturers are clearly against fracking, but maybe "they can't say so". (Oh? Why not?) & another young man whose party had all come down from london and were staying in Brighton B&B (who says fracking isn't good for the economy?). We discussed the BBC's piecharts (provided by the energy industry) on the tv last night, demonstrating totally fictitious UK dependency on Gazprom, But the news coverage, he said, is shifting a bit, and I agree: you hear far more now about how difficult it's going to be to get communities to accept the devastation they face, how over-the-top violent the police have become, ( I mean, it's not just ordinary police violence anymore) and less about the puzzling antics of a few bad apples. And that's a good thing. Ate a chocolate biscuit, waved a yellow triangle for Greater Manchester, and cheered as my MP arrived. That's all so far.

I'm off there again at noon, it's going to be a disrupted few days, and more on this later.

Later: It seems the trial of the Balcombe Five may need longer than five days. Not much achieved today before the lunch break & now I'm back at my desk for the afternoon.

See Radio Free Brighton for details of tomorrow's public meeting in Brighton. Brighthelm Centre, North Road 7pm 9.30pm, and please check the Frack Free Sussex page.

Courage, Constancy, Success

Wednesday 19th March, cold and luminous grey sky, chill breeze. There's very little bird action in my garden this season, owing to loss of neigbour trees, safe places to nest, congregate and watch out for cats (the big cypress from 3 doors down, the acacia from two doors up & the sycamore, all gone since this time last year). But the wren sings valiantly every morning, still. Tadpoles are doing fine.

Small Beginnings on My Day Out

Up to London, to assist at handing in a petition to Amazon, about the dreadful working conditions in their warehouses. As I had surmised, it wasn't much, and "meat in the room" badly needed. A few organisers in hi-vis vests with logos, a banner, a photo opportuinity of thirty or so interested citizens; a symbolic box of signatures. Interested citizens attempted to hand out info to passers-by and to exiters from the huge splendid blockhouse of wobbly glass spaghetti, on Holborn Viaduct. The exiters dodged, hands in their pockets and heads down: understandably. Amazon employees are told at interview that they will be fired if they join a union. They can be and will be fired without notice, for any reason, and they are always under surveillance. I'm an Amazon associate myself. I've given up buying the physical products, until they get the living wage thing sorted out: but they sell my ebooks, and I take the money. They sell my physical publishers books, and I take a cut; and I can't quit this association. Best I can do is come along to this here, and encourage people to register their disgust. Photos were taken, the box was delivered, but did not get further than about 2 metres inside the revolving doors. Oh well, you've got to start somewhere.

Then I walked up the river to Tate Britain, a place I really like. It's so far away from anywhere, it's so quiet. On my first visit, long ago, a little girl in a huge black jumble sale coat, I saw the Rothkos here, and sat looking at them, bowled over, thinking, this is where I'll stop & despite the huge refit, it feels the same. I visited the original of Misha Connelly in Phoenix Cafe, and the inspiration for the Inundation Festival in Spirit, among many. Nothing calms me like looking at pictures in a gallery. A quiet gallery.

The Sylvia Pankhurst exhibition was very touching, the Angel of Freedom on her tiptoes, apparently smoking a long churchwarden pipe, the fine pastel sketches of girls and women at the pit head, in the potteries; factory and craft work. Sylvia's account of Holloway, published in the Pall Mall Magazine, a different kind of grim from her later account of force-feeding, a far cry from women's prisons in the UK of today: these helpless, humble souls, obediently scrubbing their bedboards, shedding tears at prayers.

This is a major, global industrial revolution, I was thinking (amazon's de facto slave labour; the absolutely staggering degree of surveillance, and data mining, and government corruption, that we now accept, the world over; and the rape of the commons; the death of policing by consent, the gagging of civil society). It's happened before, it'll happen again. Like every industrial revolution back to agriculture, globalisation enslaves: turns people into cattle, monetises and destroys the living world, and creates wealth. Can't live with it, can't live without it.

Can resist. Can tame it, if we put in the effort. Possibly.

But never say die. If you give up, you get nothing. If you go on insisting on making your point, you get somewhere. Or someone does, further down the line. I do actually have the vote.

My Fracking Round Up

Dear Mr Cameron, are you sure the voters are ready for the degree of police brutality we're getting now? Are you sure this is going to work out for you? Won't the kind of people who dismiss brutality against law abiding legitimate protectors as no more than they deserve going to vote for that cheery chappie anyhow?

"Shocking GMP brutality on the walk in today! Numerous people assaulted, grabbed, pushed, kicked, punched in the face and ribs, slammed against trees, thrown to the ground in the worst police violence we have seen so far. Sit down protests were attempted to stop the TAU brutality but we were moved on. Officers were even told to walk into people lying on the ground! One disabled man was pounced on by 8 officers who dragged him around on the ground and then arrested him. Several protectors and locals are injured. 4 confirmed arrests not counting the two in the lock on but there is more awaiting confirmation."

"The policing at Barton Moss this morning was the worst, most brutal assault on the protectors yet. One man, after being pushed so hard fell over, the police just went straight over the top of him, trampling him.

There were at least 2 arrests, both good, peaceful and caring people. One was arrested with an arm around his neck. We were treated like animals.

When the police look at us, what do they see. Do they look at us and see criminals? Animals? Scum? Because this is how we are being treated, this morning, more so than ever before. How do they look at us and see these things. Don't they have a shred of respect? A remote care about the future of their drinking water, their environment? What happened to make them act in this way. Because for the life of me, I wouldn't and couldn't treat other human beings with such little respect and dignity as we have been shown this morning."

Mancs don't want fracking (73% said no, in a Manchester Evening News poll). The Fracking Conference scheduled in Manchester for April has decided not to risk it, and gone to Birmingham instead. Meanwhile, down here, Celtique Energie has been given another extension to fix its planning application for Wisborough Green; decision now delayed until June. Nobody is optimistic about these delays, but why should that make us change our minds? It won't.

So, any way

At least I understand what's happening in the Crimea now, having checked out the Ukraine to integrate with NATO strand. . . For heaven's sake, you USians and your nutcase foreign policy bright ideas. Were the Russians going to stand for that? The Black Sea fleet! That's just mental. Still, however, do not understand why Putin gets called Hitler, instead of the obvious historical monicker, on the grounds that "Hitler annexed stuff". Huh? Wasn't there a sovereign nation called Poland (1945) And a few others, if I recall.

Foregoing the Tuesday riches of The Mentalist, Shetland and Silent Witness, we went to see Under The Skin at the Duke's last night. It was nice, arthouse scifi, somebody had a lovely time with those soundscapes, and Scarlett Johannson, doing a good line in blurred confusion throughout, possibly wondering what season it was, and how to fill up with petrol. She so has that bruised, slightly fleshy Monroe look down. You feel like your fingers would sink into her. A bit slight, though, in the end. More I cannot say, although given the advertising I would hardly be guilty of spoilers. I think I'll read The Crimson Petal And The White now.

And the clear night sky was brilliant. As starry as is humanly possible, given our location, and that livid red-orange pinprick to the left of the moon, that's Mars all right, I checked.

Reading: Andre Gide, Les Faux Monnayeurs, a book about writing a book. Loving it. Everything a French novel ought to be. & my father's marginal notes, like the sound of his voice.

This is called Repose on the Flight to Eygpt, Glyn Warren Philpot. I want to have it for a Christmas card, wonder if the Tate would agree. I love that cheerful black sphinx.

The Welcoming Committee

Saturday 8th May, another beautiful clear and bright spring day; not only International Woman's Day (whatever that means) but highly significant as this year's inauguration of the frog conservation nursery. The spawn in the ponds and in my holding pens (so to speak) is fertile, and today I moved one mass into the plasterer's tub, reserving a small clump of inhabited jelly to bring indoors; and rear as pets, if all goes well. How amazing it is to see the tiny round black balls first becoming oblong, and then developing that little fat bellied curly tailed embryo shape, so universal; so ancient. There's also a smooth newt in the smaller pool, lovely to see. Hope it's not alone. We have never, to our knowledge, had any live efts in our water features. What a first that would be!

But since it is International Women's Day (whatever that means), and since, on the strength of my Aleutian Trilogy work, I've spent most of this afternoon talking about how to greet the unknown I thought I'd share with you my answer to one of the questions, comprising my wishlist for the welcoming committee, should they ever arrive. (After having pointed out that if the visitors arrive the way I think they would, first contact will be made with whoever they choose; maybe just through happenstance.

Anyway, assuming we're going to do this : the welcoming committee.

The Political Leaders
Angela Merkel. Obviously
Christine Lagarde. Because there are bound to be global financial angles to sort out
Joyce Banda, President of Malawi, educator and human rights activist. A steadying influence.
Caroline Lucas, My MP, but that's not why. I felt I really ought to include a representative of the UK parliament, and she's the pick of the bunch. Honestly. Ask anyone.
And then for the arts
Angelina Jolie. I think we have to have a famous face, and I like her. She's a good communicator.
Arundhati Roy. A terrific novelist, and staunch outspoken defender of civil society.
for science
Fabiola Gianotti. She leads (led) the ATLAS Large Hadron Collider experiment team at CERN. If you've read White Queen, you'll know why someone from the great Collider had to be involved.
And then, since we must face facts and there might be trouble, my security council:

Noorzia Afridi (SAWERA)
Lydia Mukami (Mwea)
Berta Cáceres (COPINH)
Three women I know for sure to be very, very brave. As women's human rights defenders on the front line, they know how to stand and fight, how to face death daily; and keep a cool head under fire. Whatever other qualities our chiefs of staff might need, that's got to be a good start.

I did consider Susan Rice, but she makes mistakes and gets found out (not good), and I don't know if she's personally brave at all, so I crossed her out.

And finally, but equally important, the "wives", so to speak. I'm choosing:

Pope Francis
Desmond Tutu
The Dalai Lama
And Bill and Melinda Gates

I think that "covers all the bases".
(Not sure what that means, but probably to do with Baseball)

The keynote image says We Are The Spring, in Arabic; I hope I got it right. An image from the video Husam Helmi (editor of Enab Baladi) showed us, when he came to Brighton last year, about the Syrian Non-Violent Opposition Movement. In the video nb, it was written on a shard of white concrete, in a destroyed city; destroyed, and still insisting things could be different. It seems appropriate for IWD, somehow. We are the spring. The primroses, however, are from King Death's Garden, and will be my March calendar picture.
Many thanks to Mr Olsen Wolf and his team, who asked the questions.

Oh No!

Thursday 27th February, a brilliant early spring day yesterday: woke up this morning to find the rain had returned on a stiff southerly breeze, heavy showers gusting white across our windows; clearing skies and calm air now. Oh no! Those delicious looking big fat grubs I found curled up in the peat-free seed and cutting compost bag, I callously transfered them to the feeder in the little elm, thinking what a treat!, but I was curious and looked them up. I have fed the starlings on the larvae of the beautiful rose chafer beetle, a harmless ornament to any garden, and need I tell you it is "getting scarce"? Better news, Peter found some more. I've transferred a few to our home-grown compost bin, as they are supposed (it says here) to migrate from your compost to ordinary soil to pupate. I hope they survive, and that Brighton proves as hospitable as Colchester (where they come from).

Oh no! My Fracking Update Reloaded

Probably you didn't read my open letter to Louise Goldsmith (and nor did she: that kind of letter, like an amnesty appeal to the Prime Minister of Bahrain, President of the USA or other influential person is expected to be counted, not read!) Even if you had, I bet you won't believe this. I looked at that Commons Library Standard Note again today, and there's been a silent amendment. After the bit I quoted:

DECC advises that there is no firm distinction between exploration for shale gas and exploration for other targets. Some companies who are drilling mainly for conventional oil and gas have decided to drill deeper than they otherwise might have, in order to see whether there is prospective shale in their licensed areas

quite possibly itself a post facto acknowledgement of newly outed slightly disingenuous activities (cf Rathlin), a caveat has now appeared, with a footnote attached, noting that these fracking exploratory drills do not, themselves, involve fracking. So that's all right then. No infringement of a very specific planning permission.

Dear me. I surely must be mistaken. And the moral is: if you don't trust the source, print it out.

Still, I have an acknowledgement now, my letter has been "passed on to the planning department"

More fracking news sources:

& all this is folly to the world . . .

Really, is there anything more useless than pointing out that this goverment is making a complete mess of: shutting down hospitals, reforming disability benefits, housing the homeless in private rentals, maintaining flood defences, protecting the environment, authorising the fracking-up of the countryside (& so on)? Water off a duck's back. When all you are bent on is annihilation, why would you worry about the neatness of the job?


H.P Lovecraft, collected works. How deep the roots of those iconic stories are; fascinating to see the whole framework, the dreadful depths beneath our ordinary lives, in a story written when he was about nine. Mine is a free epub edition, and very minimally organised: I'm just wandering into trackless swamp, lost in labyrinthine undercrofts. Came across the rats in the walls late last night, and welcomed it like a sister. What, you here too? Have also returned to Proust, for I think the eighth time, which I find both soothing and energising. That musical evening, the thrill of Swann's final pas de deux with the "little phrase", already gone by; Madame Swann is at home right now, and between the pages, in the insanely luxurious recesses of her family life, I meet memories of my own times past.

Looking Forward To

A day out in London tomorrow, handing in a petition about the plight of workers for (Sigh, what a silly hobby I have, cf criticising the Tories), going to a new play reading in the evening, and I plan to visit Tate Britain between, because I haven't been for ages, and because they have a Sylvia Pankhurst exhibition. which I have almost missed.

Keynote picture is the rose chafers of course. Further garden news, three masses of spawn so far, two moved to the nursery pool, and one transferred to a bowl so I can watch to see if it's fertile. Three pair of frogs still frolicking, oh no, it's a population explosion, caused by me!

Open Letter to the Leader of West Sussex County Council

Thursday 20th February, in a grey chill rain. Another public service announcement. This is a copy of a letter sent to the leader of West Sussex County Council, registering my objection to unconventional shale oil and gas extraction in Sussex. Not that I don't I object to unconventional shale oil and gas extraction anywhere in the UK, but this is my own back yard, where I feel I have a right to join the local residents and their protectors in protest.

This is a stand up and be counted letter. I can't tell Ms Goldsmith anything she doesn't know, I have nothing really intelligent or expert to say, and I can't hope to persuade Ms Goldsmith or WSCC to take any specific steps. All I can do is demonstrate that I'm another interested citizen who strongly objects to this "fracked shale bonanza" development, and who is trying to keep herself informed. NB, the every one of those licences comes with a requirement that the licensee drills at least six wells, just in the first phase of the licence. Check out your own county!

For the latest news from the real people check here:

Keep Kirdford And Wisborough Green

Ms Louise Goldsmith
County Hall,
West Street,
PO19 1RH

Dear Ms Goldsmith,

I write to register my objection to proposed or covert unconventional oil and gas extraction in Sussex, and specifically to Celtique Energie Weald Ltd’s proposal for vertical and horizontal drilling on arable land south of Boxall Bridge, Wisborough Green (WSCC/083/13/KD); to Celtique Energie’s proposal for vertical and horizontal drilling within the South Downs National Park at Nine Acres Copse, Linchmere (SDNP/13/05896/CM); and to Cuadrilla’s alleged plans for oil extraction at its current drill site at Lower Stumble, Balcombe. The grounds for objection to the proposals at Wisborough Green, at Nine Acres Copse, and at Lower Stumble have been comprehensively itemised and presented by many expert voices, as I am sure you are aware, but I ought to summarise a few of them again:

• Planned destruction of the quality of life of local residents in quiet rural communities
• Planned, lasting damage to fragile built and natural environments
• Planned destruction of landscape character, ecosystems, wildlife; and habitat of protected species
• Planned severe noise and light pollution, invasion of heavy traffic; loss of rare “dark skies”
• Planned destruction or lasting damage to internationally and regionally important natural assets.

In addition, there are the known and unknown risks of unplanned disaster:

• The risks of handling large volumes of dangerously polluted “produced water”
• The risks of escapes of toxic chemicals, endangering livestock, wildlife, and human health
• Toxic ground water pollution associated with the increasing risk of flooding in the Low Weald

We are told that a fracking bonanza is in the national interest, as a “bridge” to a low carbon future: but a shale gas bonanza has to be extremely costly in terms of pollution, and cannot mitigate the threat of global climate change. The gas boom in the US has done no such thing. A shale gas bonanza can’t address the UK’s cost of living crisis, or the social challenges of a divided society. Licensing fees may provide the current government with a short-term injection of cash, but if a boom materialises —by no means certain, even if the gas is there, given the high production costs, and the equally high clean-up costs of this form of extraction— shale gas isn’t a solution to the energy crisis of the future. Exploration companies, their shareholders and their lobbyists will benefit financially. National interests, like the local residents, will only pay the price.

The scale of destruction is evident in the several hundreds of PEDL licences so far granted (34 in Sussex alone; list attached; source, Shale gas and fracking - Commons Library Standard Note; Jan 2014; Appendix 1). At least 2,800 wells are in prospect in the next few years. Inevitably, in the densely populated UK, these will mainly be drilled in rural but populated areas of agricultural land and natural beauty. Cuadrilla alone has rights covering 270 square miles of Sussex, and, despite promises and “vows” made to local residents, both Cuadrilla and Celtique Energie have assured their shareholders that there is exciting fracking potential at their exploration sites. This publicly available information makes nonsense (except for the purpose of extracting fees from licensees) of the DECC insistence that the artificial PEDL phases of “exploration”, “development” and “exploitation” must be appraised separately, and the word “fracking” must not be mentioned in an objection to a planning application for “exploration”. On the contrary, as DECC has now admitted, “there is no firm distinction between exploration for shale gas and exploration for other targets. Some companies who are drilling mainly for conventional oil and gas have decided to drill deeper than they otherwise might have, in order to see whether there is prospective shale in their licensed areas” (Shale gas and fracking - Commons Library Standard Note; as above).

After the frightening, unprecedented storms and floods of this winter, climate change is no longer a threat, or a debatable issue. The consequences of global warming are already upon us, here in the UK. This is a reality that we have to learn to live with. In November last year West Sussex completed a £28m plan to surrender land to the sea. Other coastal regions are being forced to do the same: we have no choice. WSCC will soon have to get tough with developers, obliging them to build on brownfield sites; away from flood plains and within existing urban/rural infrastructures. These are difficult times. We cannot afford a lawless land grab for more fossil fuel, it just doesn’t make sense. It’s time to wake up, to face the real challenges of the future; and get serious about addressing the problem of energy needs in sustainable ways such as:

• Carbon capture and storage
• Energy-saving, and development of novel energy-efficient technologies
• Investment, research and development in current renewables, (a better design for onshore wind turbines wouldn’t be a bad start)

Determination of the Celtique Energie application at Wisborough Green has been put back to 30th April 2014. Their application at Nine Acres Copse, Linchmere, in the South Downs National Park, is currently “on hold” until the summer. I am not reassured by these delays. I suspect, and I believe I’m not alone, that the intention is to draw out the application process until new legislation, removing the rights of local residents, can be hurried through Parliament (e.g. removing the right of landowners to be informed, and to object, to drilling operations that pass under their property). If WSCC approves these and similar applications, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, I believe the political repercussions, never mind more significant consequences, will be serious and long-lasting. I appreciate that your powers may be limited, but please make a stand.


Gwyneth Jones

List of PEDL licences apparently granted in Sussex constituencies, in award rounds to date

Arundel and South DownsIGAS0PL240
Arundel and South DownsKEY0PL241
Arundel and South DownsIGAS0PL205
Arundel and South DownsCELTIQUE13PEDL243
Arundel and South DownsCUADRILLA13PEDL244
Arundel and South DownsCELTIQUE13PEDL232
Arundel and South DownsIGAS13PEDL233
Arundel and South Downs CELTIQUE13PEDL234
Bexhill and BattleCUADRILLA13PEDL247
Bognor Regis and LittlehamptonKEY0PL241
Bognor Regis and LittlehamptonCELTIQUE13PEDL232
Chichester NORTHERN12PEDL155
Wealden MIDMAR13PEDL248

Be My Valentine

Friday 14th February, heavy rain, set to persist all day; to be followed/accompanied by gale force winds later. 14th February is not the ideal date for a birthday (close second for tough luck to Christmas or Jan 1st, in my culture). Try booking a restaurant table, and yet it has its charm. I like to see unremarkable, unromantic-looking people, men and women, young, adult, middle-aged, walking the streets (in the rain, of course); carefully carrying flowers. Usually simply wrapped in florist's paper, no show-off prefabricated bouquets. Lost in thought, earnestly studying the greeting card stacks, weighing up the options, intent on striking exactly the right note. Something pink? Hearts entwined? Roses, champagne corks popping? Nah, definitely not. Rabbit, owl, seagull, penguin fox or love-bird couples, gazing at each other tenderly, one of them looking up, the other looking down? Nothing that implies a male/female or dominant/submissive hierarchy, thanks. And these two hares, equitably arranged, head to tail on a field of grass, I'm sorry but they seem to be dead. Not what I was planning. . . It's more personal, more heartfelt than Christmas, and (oddly enough) nothing like such a marketing-driven obligation. If I wasn't shackled to this modern-world fest I'd probably ignore it, but since I am it's touching; I'm touched.

Inexhaustible Pleasures

Saturday last I went down to the corner shop while the coffee was brewing, in a rainstorm of course, to buy a morning paper. Massimo was in the back room playing Bach. On a normal-looking violin, not a strange baroque antique for a change. He's currently obsessed by Bach violin sonatas. Six hours a day, he says, eyes like stars. It's an obsession. It's because every note is necessary, every detail in the whole pattern could be no other way. Take Liszt, for instance (he knows I love Liszt), it's wonderful, it's very showy, but there are phrases, passages, of the music that could be different, and just as wonderful. Not Bach. It's not some flight of fancy, it's what must be. . .

I was only gone about half an hour; not bad.
Massimo'd? says Peter.
Yeah. From Bach to Epicurus. Not that Epicurus despised physical pleasures, he just couldn't stop there, how can anyone who really loves pleasure stop there?
The inexorable attraction of inexhaustible pleasure?
Pretty much. It was cool.

Wouldn't have my newspaper shop any other way.

The Floods

Sunday the rain stopped, the sky was blue, catkins and pussy willows blowing, we went to visit Ardingly reservoir, which was brimful but not birdfull (unless you count mallards and gulls). I thought it wouldn't be. Wind had not stopped. I really don't like the wind.

1 great spotted woodpecker
1 heron
2 coots
5 cormorants (two of them in first plumage)
1 great crested grebe
2 possible godwits flying
1 buzzard
2 green woodpeckers

Getting back was a bit of a goose-chase. A lesser known fact about these UK floods is that they are everywhere. Eg we're hardly suffering at all, no home-wrecker flooding to speak of in East Sussex (yet, and apart from Shoreham, of course), owing to work done some years ago, but the main route from Brighton to London has been in problems for weeks on the edge of town, and just about anywhere you go out of town there'll be secondary roads impassible, usually without warning.

& now I see Nigella Lawson's dad has waded in to the "debate": "denies floods are linked to climate change and says government should use them as a wake-up call to stop littering the countryside with wind turbines and solar panels" (The Sunday Telegraph). Britain needs to decrease the amount of renewable energy projects and have cheap reliable energy sources instead (unspecified). That wouldn't be our old pocket-liner friend fracked shale gas, your Nigellaship, by any chance?

I don't really care where Lord Lawson is coming from. I don't agree with him, no sane person would, but I don't care if he's insisting our global plague of extreme weather is God's judgement on celebrity tv show cooks with splendid alabaster bosoms, and a weakness for Class A stimulants. I don't care if he's claiming the Spiders From Mars did it. I'm just outraged at the way high-ranking Tories, some of them in the most inappropriate posts, have been allowed to let their deeply held financial inducements I'm sorry, I mean ideological beliefs, completely wreck all rational attempts to do something about it.

& for your entertainment (really):

& in case you didn't know:

Applications for Clarion 2014 are now open. It's a great immersive experience for new writers, with an impressive track record of successful graduates

And Lynne Jamneck/S T Joshi's Lovecraft Anthology project is go! I'm definitely going to get my tentacles out.


I'm proud to announce the new, improved epub Bold As Love has made it through the Smashwords meatgrinder and obtained Premium Catalogue status. At present in isolated splendour, it will have company if all goes well. NB If you'd like to own an epub Bold As Love you might be advised to acquire this one, even if you have the Kindle version. It's a much better deal, and prettier too. No freebies, I'm afraid, but on the other hand guaranteed free of DRM. The style guide was okay in the end. Once I'd got used to the dialect I found the process nit-picking, but satisfying.

The keynote image is the card I bought for my own valentine. it's called The Betrothal, linocut by Liz Toole.

Many thanks to my facebook friends for all their birthday greetings.

It's been a long day, people have brought cake, and (English) champagne-oid liquids. I'm going down the pub to relax now.

Opt Out of NHS Care-data. Do it now!

Thursday 6th February, chill and heavy rain all day. It's strange how little sign of early spring there is in our garden, considering the so far wet and wild but very mild winter. Last year we had plenty crocuses and daffodils by now. Spectacular scenes in Cornwall and Devon yesterday, (Peter came home telling me that Cornwall was cut off from England (surely that's the wrong way round?) but he only meant the railway at Dawlish, I'm sure the Guinevere bridge is still open); and the Somerset Levels just dismally filling up like a huge grey bathtub.

Climate change suiting you so far? Wait.

Data sharing is data mining. Data mining is data selling

Anyway, this is a public sevice announcement. You may not have noticed a nondescript item of junk mail, a week or so ago. You may have dumped in the recycle along with the other takeaway menus. That's what you were meant to do. It was informing you that all your medical and personal details are o be "shared" in future, with unspecified nhs "partners".You don't have to do anything. The box has been checked for you! You must actively opt out, if you really want to . . .

You won't know who gets the data, or why. The junk mail item will tell you that your data will be "anonymised". This is not true, as I hope you are digiliterate enough to know. It can't be done. It won't tell you that the data will be sold to private companies, but that's in the pipeline.

The nhs is being privatised, it will soon be a network of private health service providers, and without intervention the data protection act would prevent them from sharing information. But I have opted out of the partner sharing anyway, and I strongly advise you to do the same. You will need to visit your GP practice, and sign a form (another sure sign of data mining: make it an effort to opt out). Btw, if your GP practice doesn't approve and encourage your decision (mine did), you may wish to consider a change.

Sign the clictivist petition if you wish:

But the best action you can take and the strongest message is to opt out.

Welcome To The Green Wood Horse

Wednesday 5th February, chilly and blustery, a bright and broken sky all morning, beginning to get gloomier now. Welcome to the Year of the Green Yang Wood Yin Fire Horse, a combustible mix, apparently. The Horse is the most yang (male) of the animal signs. This is likely to be a year of confidence, volcanic eruptions, aggression, opportunities seized and civil unrest (you don't say); unstable markets (never!). Metals will be affected. People will be sticking to their principles, and best to avoid banging in nails; or disturbing activities in the north. The guy at cryominute (where I got that splendid green horse), isn't confused, he knows exactly what's going on, but is it me, and not that I'm complaining btw; or are Chinese, Chinese Horoscopes getting more intriguingly weird? Used to be "dragons will be lucky in love, rabbits should avoid moving house", now it's like I Ching hexagram commentaries. Presumably no longer dumbed down so much for Westerners. Anyway, sit with your back to the south, and avoid flying stars in your home life. Flying stars are bad.

The Scientist and the water cannons

After I put that no water cannons for UK police petition in my last blog entry, I found an article on the very subject in NS, telling us not to worry, as water cannon are cumbersome, difficult to deploy effectively against a flash mob, and definitely not lethal.The writer does not get it. Water cannon are not for killing people (really don't think that's a plan, no matter how far from wonderful our police have become). Water cannon are for chilling people; and not just literally. They're massive things, like tanks, they are big and menacing, they're meant to intimidate not to create martyrs, Sold to us as the answer to an anticipated steep rise in trouble on the streets, they should also, and not at all coincidentally, help to put people off the idea of any form of legitimate protest.

Going to the Pictures

American Hustle. Nah, this is a luvvies movie. Megastars, ingenuously dressed up to look "tawdry", and loving themselves in the mirror. The best bit, the very best bit, was Jennifer Lawrence and the science oven. I'll stick with The Sting. Which I assure you is more authentically "Seventies".

Inside Llewyn Davis Really nice, well-judged central performance, very well-crafted movie, very limited folksong repertoire (the scraps left over from O Brother?); very mean-spirited. I spent this movie thinking those Coens have seriously got it in for this Llewyn Davis character, whoever he's meant to represent. . . And the moral of the story, Hollywood Scruffs, is do not abuse the Coens' couch. You may pay a terrible price!

Looking forward to seeing Only Lovers Left Alive next Friday week.

The latest storm moved in, while I was writing that post, it's wild outside my window, even here in sheltered Brighton, but the goldfinches keep on feeding, it's amazing the way they keep on, there are two of them out there now, clinging to the feeder as the wind flings it about, pecking away. They have such a will to live, those vivid little birds, such insouciant persistence, they put me to shame.

Bold As Love revisited: What Didn't Happen

Friday 31st January, midday, grey and blustery; feeling slightly colder. Incessant rain continues, it's like Noe's Flood, are we up to forty days yet? Although it isn't actually raining outside my window at the moment. I seem to have spent most of this week preparing Bold As Love (Episode One) for Smashwords. Coming back to this story, I remember being told (thirteen years ago now,) how silly, how utterly unbelievable, it was to have rockstars getting involved in politics. Why not? I remember thinking; and saying. Artists get political, they take posts in government, ever heard of Vaclav Havel? But in hindsight, looking back, here on the eve of Bold As Love's Year of Dissolution (2015), with the army getting drafted into flooded Somerset (to the derision of the natives), and Michael Eavis, the patriarch of Glastonbury Festival, spearheading demands for drastic action** . . . I recollect that I really didn't make it up about rockstars gettng enlisted by the politicians, not at all. I'd seen the exact thing happen, in the Eighties (Red Wedge) and in the nineties (the even more hapless Cool Brittania). That wasn't my "what if?" It was the the other thing, the other half of the equation. I'd seen successive waves of street-fighting civil unrest sweep the UK through the eighties and the nineties. Thatcher vs The Miners, the Poll Tax riots; pitched battles between hippy Travellers and police; between anti-road protestors and police* I'd seen the Green Party pop up, like a political vehicle for all this dissent, and I imagined, what if this was the new politics? The suits vs the protectors, and the protectors getting frightening, looking dangerous, with this mayhem-causing barmy army at their back?

That's what didn't happen. The barmy army did not get organised, the gentle people remained gentle, and still are, by and large, to this day. It was the UK State that got organised, and weaponised, and (arguably) turned into a bit of a scary monster. Please consider signing the petitions below.

My Fracking Roundup

Mixed messages from Cuadrilla, who are now applying to test for oil flow at Balcombe. Mr Egan vows "we do not intend to hydraulically fracture the exploration well at Lower Stumble now or in the future". Good of him. Nobody fracks an exploration well. It wouldn't work. You drill a new hole. This is the kind of announcement that the informed greet with derision, but it matters little, as the intention is to fool uninformed public opinion.

If you feel you can make an informed case against the "flow test" proposal only, object to the new application here:

Meanwhile there seems to be a genuine delay in Lancashire See also The Daily Express

On the other hand, among the "red tape" issues Cameron plans to tackle, to protect strugging small businesses (like fracking exploration companies!), from over-the-top EU regulation, is the matter of special oversight for fracking, owing to exactly such issues as large volumes of Produced Radioactive Water. (I happen to know this, because I signed up for the 10 Downing St bulletin, and read the pamphlet).

Also (you'll recall) preparing the ground for removing that pesky thing where you have to apply for a property or landowner's permission, before drilling underneath them.

Meanwhile, BP is withdrawing from the Arctic. Pour mieux sauter? Or have they decided to go all renewable? Congratulate them here:

Trials of Balcombe protectors continue in Brighton (Caroline Lucas MP will be up before the beak in March). Read all about it here

And Greenpeace's no fracking petition has suddenly taken off. Definitely worth signing now.

Department of I Wish I'd Said That

I don't think I say often enough how much I appreciate New Scientist, even though I keep grinding my teeth over lifestyle, health and medicine articles artlessly citing "Americans" or "the American public" as their go-to basis. NS was never so shockingly insular in tone when it was a British global overview magazine for the sciences. Many thanks to Rick Bradford of Gloucestershire (I wonder how the go-to readership pronounces that word), for his Haunting Thought (4th Jan 2014).

"Physicists know that matter isn't the lumpen stuff we usually take it for. The closer you look at matter the more it dissolves before your eyes . . . So people shouldn't worry that there is no ghost in the machine. The truth is quite the opposite. There is no machine. It's ghost all the way down."

You can maybe find the whole letter online, but I've forgotten my password.

Ha! Information space! The Zen Self project lives! One of these days, somebody's going to get interested in cracking that mind/matter barrier, and then I'll be well pleased. If also spooked.

Last Sunday, in an interval of sunshine, we went walking in King Death's Garden, full of new birdsong (and a sizeable flock of goldfinches, a few long-tailed tits; not exactly singing, more cheeping) which is where this snowdrops picture comes from. Visiting the past, finding it hadn't waited for us, in a Proustian mood of learning that the places we love, the trees, bushes, significant gravestones, are alas as fugitive as the years, and promising ourselves we'd come back more often, Keynote image of the White Cliffs (why mess about, when you have the obvious on your doorstep?) is of course the proposed new Bold As Love cover. Coming soon, should I ever beat the Smashwords pointless challenge.

And normal service has been resumed. It's raining horribly now. I'll be back next year.

*hence the heaps of references to car-use as a flashpoint, in Bold As Love I; that's how it was, back in the day.

**mechanical river dredging, btw, which Eavis has been calling for, has its drawbacks. Definitely not the barmy option.