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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.

Patriotism Is Not Enough

Friday 24th January. Quiet weather, cool and dull. No rain! No wind! It's a miracle, I might be able to oil wash the fruit trees today if I get round to it. Remember Edith Cavell? Patriotism is not enough, I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone... (or something like that) That's an artist's impression of her in the picture, softer but not too far off the existing photos and it's there so I can encourage you to sign a petition calling for her image to get onto a £2 coin, as a counterweight to that glorious warrior, Lord Kitchener. Don't know about you, but I am finding this World War One love-fest hard to stomach. At least, thinks I, they could have had the grace to celebrate the end of the hostilities, not the beginning. But it doesn't work like that, does it? There wouldn't be much point in this big soppy love-letter from one World of Warcraft to another, if it was about the guns falling silent. Edith Cavell was an Aleutian Trilogy icon; her monument in St Martin's place attracts the attention of Bella, in North Wind, ; I took that "patriotism is not enough" message to heart in my nineties feminism. Being a gender warrior is not enough, lay down your weapons, make peace in the battle of the sexes... Seemed like a good idea at the time.

The BBC ran a kind of "where are they now" feature on nearly-made-it people from WWI, including one of my personal icons (can't really count Cavell in that category), Franz Marc . The judgement on Edith Cavell said, "she wouldn't have been famous if she hadn't got shot". Hm. She wouldn't have been such a gift as propaganda material but if you check out her career, I think it's a crass comment.

Anyway, you'll want the bad news about the Gagging Law. The House threw out the Lords' revisions: secret lobbying by big business will now continue unabated, whereas charities and ngos will face the restrictions and have to bear the burden of increased bureaucracy undiluted. Also in the news on this issue, some mildly interesting candid MP responses to clictivism. What I was saying about being able to express my opinion? In some small way? They really do not like it. Voters should not have opinions. I should just shut up and vote.

While I still can.

Smashwords: a pointless challenge?

I've been meaning to try Smashwords for years: have just embarked on preparing the text of Bold As Love for the dreaded "meatgrinder". Wow, this is complicated, and it doesn't help that the Style Guide is written in an almost impenetrable US dialect (which probably tells me something). On the plus side, if I can create a completely clean virgin text, it will not only be eligible for conversion into every different kind of epub imaginable, it will also be a thing of beauty. I can use it to refresh my primitive Amazon Kindle version of the book (which would probably improve reader satisfaction) and I will get that daft feeling of elation utterly pointless challenges give you: like collecting all fifty gold skultulas, figuring out the Angular Isles puzzle, or beating the Savage Labyrinth with no potions. On the minus side, when I looked at the smashwords site (at last) I was surprised that the library seemed so thin (isn't smashwords supposed to be huge?), and a little disconcerted by all the very, very stern warnings about making sure my content is fit for the innocent eyes of under eighteens. . .

Ah, it turns out I had the Adult Content filter on. Different animal without that. And I really don't think I need worry about my content.

Anyway, I've started so I'll finish. If I get accepted for the Premium class, fantastic! It might make up for never having snagged that pesky last Big Octo.

Looking forward to going out to Peter's birthday dinner tonight (not his actual birthday, date of his actual birthday is a closely guarded secret, I have no idea why). And next week, what excitement, I get to talk to the Arboriculture Department (Somewhat under a cloud, since the Save Our Tree affair, but I think they're okay really) about my young windsown elm tree. Which is not sick, thank god, but has got big enough to be pruned, and I need to ask an expert.

Silver Linings, Princess of the Spirits

Friday 17th January, dark skies and violent showers. The flooding finally reached "us" today, the Balcombe Tunnel closed this morning, misery for rail travellers, and the A23 closed at Bolney. How long has this been going on? I've lost track. Besides causing them to sleep twenty hours out of twenty four and suddenly get active at three am, it's playing merry hell with my cats' sanitary arrangements. Despite litter trays, even the good cat (that's Ginger) has been known, over the last six weeks or so, to look at the weather, first thing in the morning, and decide an al fresco wee isn't really necessary: hey, I'll just do it on the doormat, nearly outdoors; they'll never notice! The spray we bought to dissuade this activity has a list of DON'TS on the back label, including DO NOT SPRAY THE ANIMAL.

Huh? Insane. Whyever would anyone think of doing that? I wondered.

However, I've now been very close. Many thanks, thoughtful label writers. You saved me.

I finished Windwaker last night, after a long, fragmented time of voyaging on those oceans, klling Big Octos, madly sorting letters and clearing pirate infested reefs. Good game, I enjoyed it, but would not rate it with Twilight Princess or Ocarina of Time. Way ahead of Skyward Sword however. Next, I am planning to revisit Okami. Then decided to watch Princess Mononoke (Mononoke Hime), first time in a while: what a beautiful movie, unflinching, painful, pitch-perfect: the most serious and the best of all Studio Ghibli's productions, in my humble opinion. Now I'm pining to watch Spirited Away again, soon as possible.

Some good news (qualified) on the Gagging Law:

Long live clictivism. Used to be, my individual opinion meant nothing to nobody. All anyone wanted me to do was trot down to the Polling Station every now and then, and put my X next to the candidate from one of two or three (I mean, being serious) political parties. None of them (yes, I said none) gave a flying xxxx what I really thought or felt,on any specific policy or development, and none of them (yes, I said none) felt any obligation to keep any promises they made in the excitement of the chase: as long as I would check that box and keep them in power. Or get them into power, or at least keep their enemies out. But now, thanks to 38 degrees and all, I can say yes, I can say no! It's brilliant. I'm a bit in the world's machine!

Some ironic news (qualfied) from Greenpeace on the Celtique Energie proposal to raise an exploratory drill rig, with a view to hydraulic fracking, in the South Downs National Park. (WHAT???) The Park Authority was so unprepared for protest, a mere 1200 or so objections "broke" their website. But it's mended now. Comments on the proposal are still being accepted, until 22nd Jan.

Some interesting stuff on frack free Fernhurst's facebook page also, especially a discussion on what I've long suspected about this "exploratory drilling" bonanza:


Robert Hichens: Thanks to greywyvern for his comment. I'd forgotten all about The Green Carnation, until I saw it mentioned in the Wikipedia entry. I read it a long, long, time ago, liked it a lot and didn't realise it was defaming anybody's character at all. Now I want to read it again! My parents had a copy, with a green carnation on the spine, I remember: I think it must have been the 1948 edition. Gone with the wind, of course. My longtime favourite Hichens however is Bella Donna. I just discovered there's two movie versions, wonder if I'll seek them out.

The Malice Of Fortune Excellent antidote to the asinine Machiavelli feature in the BBC's current Imagine series (which I've found very hit and miss). Starring one of my favourite historical characters, plus Leonardo da Vinci (not such a sweetie), a historically verified incredibly beautiful courtesan, a serial killer and (Yes! You guessed it!) a whole slew, absolutely mountains, of viciously tortured and dismembered young women... Gets a bit repetitive going round and round in the middle, a few too many with one bound he was free moments, but I really like the way Ennis hides his "monster" in plain sight, by the simplest of sleight of hand, or rather pen. And the way he withholds his seriousness of purpose, to confound you with it in the end.

I find myself thinking, but stop jeering at this mad popular taste for the inventive slaughter of young women, Gwyneth. What if it's inescapable, the truth about the world? As true as what Freud found out, and then buried. What if it's one of the pillars of our universe?

Going out to see American Hustle tonight. Not my kind of movie really & I prefer the young or "Katniss" Jennifer Laurence (Winter's Bone), to the probably more true to life Hollywood luvvie (Silver Linings Playbook). But perhaps I'll enjoy it.

New Herbs #2

Tuesday 14th January, bright and clear blue sky, a touch of ground frost in the early morning. Exhilarated at having finally extracted my Old Venus payment from PayPal (what sticky fingers!) I have otherwise achieved absolutely nowt so far today, except stare out of the window at goldfinches, bluetits, starlings and the Lonesome Squirrel, single returnee from the mysterious Squirrel Purge of 2013. Not very varied bird action in the garden this year, so far. Maybe they'll appear if it gets cold.

Have I mentioned what a fantastic winter we're having? England's afloat, and in all the fuss about flood precautions, David Cameron let slip he thought the extreme weather probably WAS, on balance down to climate change?*and did you see those space pictures of the ice storm (not really a Polar Vortex, as we all now know) over the USA, looking exactly like stills from that silly Day After Tomorrow scare movie? Bizarre! *He quickly realised he'd misspoke himself, and got the Met Office to issue the old "no single extreme event can be attributed to global warming aka climate change" line. Absolutely right, of course!

But they all can.

Ah well, no point at all in yelling DO YOU GET IT NOW! No use suggesting people put a pan of water on the hob, add heat and see what happens to the fluid... Of course everyone gets it.


Department of Never Say Die Continued
(My Fracking Round-Up Jan 2014)

The first trial of protestors, arrested at Balcombe last summer, began at Brighton Magistrate's, Jan 6th. I couldn't make it, but here's the account (entertaining):
All defendants were acquitted. The Judge remarked that the police seemed to have poor memories, and concluded that the protestors' actions "were reasonable in the circumstances and that they acted with dignity" Our judges are still like that, here in the UK. They tend to uphold the law. They haven't had any death threats yet; haven't had their children snatched and terrorised on the way to school, or any stuff like that. Give it time. I'll definitely be at the trials in March.

Meanwhile, Total has become a player in UK fracking, with a massive public boost from David Cameron. Bad news, and yet the story made it big on the BBC newsite, close on 2000 readers thought it worthwhile posting a comment (at close of play, the Editors' Picks rather favoured the objectors than otherwise), and there followed an actual forum on the to frack or not to frack issue at">Barton Moss. Which is a first. A crack in the wall of silence.

Please, if you're a UK resident, consider submitting an objection to the Celtique Energie application to frack for shale gas in the South Downs National Park.The current deadline is 22nd January. Frack free Fernhurst has more information.

submit an objection

You can also still">submit an objection to Celtique Energie's application to drill at Wisborough Green, as WSCC has asked Celtique to supply more information (their planning application really was a disgrace) & the deadline has been extended until March.

for more information see: WSCC councillor ransley's blog
the sad story of West Chiltington

Keep chipping away. Never say die.


Went to see the Katniss Everdeen show #2 (I mean The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) for our Christmas outing, in the basement of the Odeon on the seafront (luckily it was a calm night). Much better than the book, good idea to ditch all the "Peeta has talents!" business, not needed when you have real actors, and boost the revolution. I was never really planning to, but I don't know if you'd get me inside a Center Parcs now. I'd never be able to enjoy the fencing or the tree climbing, I'd be waiting for the poisonous fog and the mad mandrills the whole time.
Desolation of Smaug (the B choice) will have to wait for the small screen.

Also The Bridge on the tv. (Saga show ~2) Same monochrome, same nightscapes. The thriller plot seems a bit pointless, this is no Edge Of Darkness, but it's fun trying to follow the ramifications of the soap opera


Joanne Harris's Gospel According to Loki, of which more later, and Robert Hitchen's The Garden Of Allah. A suspect character, he definitely had issues, but I got fascinated by his sultry stories & intrigued by his fascination with Islam. I used to collect Edwardian bestsellers long ago: I'm rediscovering them since we cleared the loft. I thought the Garden Of Allah, his really big one, was slow, florid and talky, forty years ago, but I'm loving the languid pace and the over-the-top colours now. The movie (I've only seen the Marlene Dietrich one) is a long way off the book.

New Herbs

Sunday 12th January, unbroken cloud and still air all day; darkening early, feeling cooler. The starlings came out immediately they saw me this morning, they've been denied service for a few days as I was poorly, but the dried mealworms have resumed today. Not too poorly, however, to attend the Anti-Gagging Law meeting in Brighton on Thursday 10th (see below). Or to get my hair cut yesterday (long overdue), with the special treat of being driven there in the car. This blog has been silent for a while due to Christmas and New Year festivities, and my drive to finish my new book; of which more later. The decorations are down, the Christmas cake is nearly finished, the tree has been lingering in the area basement due to evil weather but will be delivered to the Dead Xmas Trees corral on the refurbished Level this evening. The Cheese Mountain, created by certain massive cheese fanciers failing to turn up to Xmas dinner parties due to evil weather, had been reduced to about 100g of smoked Ashdown Foresters. And Mrs Woozle, my friend Jacq's cat, has returned, after 5 weeks missing. Definitely the best news I've had all year.

Department Of Never Say Die

Went along with a friend to St Mary's Church Kemptown on Thursday 10th, to attend a meeting, sponsored by 38 degrees, panel and discussion, about the Gagging Law, aka Transparency of Lobbying Bill (LHII*). I'd turned up to deliver a petition about the deficiencies of said Bill to my MP before Christmas, and found myself in a crowd of 10, so I wasn't expecting much. On the contrary the venue was packed (and St Mary's is a big old church, which I had never been inside before, handsome Victorian gothic). It got loud at times. Our chairman at first attempted to convince the assembly they should be quiet and dignified, and never, never jeer at a speaker with whose honorable opinions they happened to disagree. Or make groaning noises, or hoot. He must never have tuned in to the Parliament Live channel. In the end he gave up, possibly conceding the point about how the honorable persons comport themselves in that little green chamber. Me, I'd have felt sorry for Councillor Graham Cox,, in the Coalition's corner, the MPs for Hove and Portslade and for Brighton Kempton having found that they were unavailable. Except he was so happy in his work, just sat there grinning like a coal scuttle, secure in his conviction that we were all loopy outsiders, losers. Telling us silly nanas that no proper charities would be affected by Part II of the Bill. All they have to do is conform to the new regulations, operate exactly the way the Coalition wants them to operate, and everything will be fine.

The mood of meetings of this kind really isn't the fault of the participants Like those naughty badgers, this government has moved the goalposts! Only like, last week, it was okay to be charitable. Even caring about the rule of law or the fate of the planet was still respectable. Voters might well be divided on these issues, but it wasn't a political division. Now suddenly it is. Charities; advocates for justice and human rights, for the poor, the marginalised, the suffering, are a clear and present danger to the Coalition. A Shelter campaign or a Foodbanks petition could swing the next election. These rogue organisations must be stifled, their work must be made so difficult and costly they'll be forced to quit. . . Honestly, look at the evidence is it our fault?

Oh, and by the way, if you belong to a Union, the government has a right to know it and to do what they like with that knowledge. And no strike ballots, if the membership record of any Union, however many members, hasn't been scrutinised and found to be perfectly current and perfectly in order.

One day soon, dear uk readers, if this Bill gets passed, you'll find out where this "chilling" business is heading.

Sorry, mate. It says here you've donated to CAFOD; you once signed a Friends Of The Earth Petition; you've written a letter for Amnesty International. To be on the safe side we find it's better not to employ political activists. (most of the above redacted, of course)

So you aren't getting the job.

You think I'm joking? I'm not. Check out the construction industry blacklist story.

Anyway, special thanks to the person who had taken the trouble to look into the backers of the Transatlantic Trade Agreement, and who gave us chapter and verse on the kind of access lobbyers on behalf of this ruinous plan, such as the City of London has to the Coalition government. Could their mother tell them apart?

(didn't catch his name. You'll find this entry short on names. Links to stories, as opposed to vulnerable organisations already too deep in doo for it to matter, are taken from the BBC)

Mr Graham Cox only showed a hint of temper once: it was something about "computer generated politics"

Me, I say thank God for Clictivism. The dirty old internet has to be good for something.


Although its opponents are losers, muddled, and out of step with the vast majority of feeling in the UK, The Transparency of Lobbying Bill is now getting tinkered with, and there's been some movement. If you haven't signed the petition, please consider signing it now

This photo is of Ginger sitting in the sawdust (blocks we use for kindling & they tend to disintegrate) with the last remains of festive season in the bgd. The keynote is my new year's posy. On new year's day I went out, as is traditional, cut sprigs of pine, rosemary and ivy for my bedside table, and put the dried lavender that's been holding the space there into the tinder box. So here we are in 2014,& by Chinese reckoning heading for the Green Wood Horse (not as nice as it sounds). I wonder how things will turn out.

*LHII is an acronym I may have made up, it expands to Like H*ll It Is. Transparency of Lobbying, in this Bill, means that persons in the employ, or on the board of say, Total, BP, or City of London eg, who happen to have a quiet chat, and discuss something of interest and profit to all parties, are NOT lobbyists, because it isn't their job description, they do not have to be registered and their activities shall remain off the books and invisible. Only professional lobbyists, who are already obliged to be registered with the APPC so everyone they work for and why is already on the books, will be affected.

Fear To Tread. . .

Tuesday 10th December, cool and grey. We haven't seen frost on the grass yet this year. Bird action in the garden however, is picking up despite the warm weather. I like seeing them. Gabriel playing Haydn downstairs, a flying visit, he has a recital in Brighton this lunchtime at the Chapel Royal.

Fear To Tread. . .

Supersized Celebrity Charities getting asked some awkward questions, BBC Panorama tonight, it's a date. They invested the donated millions in what. They had to! It's all about money, isn't it? I'm getting really sick of the capitalism-isation of charities, and really sick of this whole concept of paying obscenely high salaries for celebrity or high-flying candidates in public or compassionate leadership roles "because you have to attract the right people."

For God's sake!

On the other hand, I feel I'd happily endorse an MP pay rise to £74,000 p.a. (a topic currently clocking a fantastic number of comments on the BBC news site.) On condition that anyone in government office, local or national, "earning", or found to be otherwise aquiring, an annual income above £74,000 p.a. should be liable to instant dismissal and a mandatory custodial sentence. Just joking.

Swings and Roundabouts

But what can you do? Either you grovellingly award rule to the Good and the Beautiful, on the grounds that probity comes naturally to the wealthy and the successful (eg George Osborne, Dave Cameron, Margaret Thatcher & the CEOs of several charities and ngos I had better not name). Or you righteously award rule to the Opposition to this natural state of things. And you end up with er, Tony Blair?

Have a great big proper old clear out occasionally; seems to be the default solution, in modern history. Maybe not the best one.

Solidarity With

The students of Sussex university, and elsewhere. The police brutality in London, as shown on tv, is looking scary.

What's wrong with this sentence?

Wednesday 4th December, colder, lighter overcast. No sign of the threatened 80mph storm Arctic Plunge, don't think we get it here on the south coast. 4-5 goldfinches on the nijer feeder this morning while I was making harira, and the starlings gang of course. We have no squirrels any more in the Crescent back gardens, which may or may not be entirely because someone got rid of the nest in their loft (not us).Squirrels with wings fill the niche.

What's wrong with this sentence? "Many individuals and groups use and cherish the night for what it is. (okay, two sentences) They do not want to put up lights but rather need darkness for their actions and doings: thieves, demons, hunters, warriors, healers, or just people wanting to celebrate. . ." I find I often know more on many article topics than the New Scientist writers these days; natural consequence of having followed (popular) science and tech stories in their helical paths for longer than writers have been alive, but this is a new one. & it's not even true. Demons are fine about doing business in the noonday sun. I read that in the Bible.

My Fracking Update

Blow from the US for the greenwash selling point about shale gas "reducing emissions"


The Ruth Galloway mysteries. I like these. Forensic anthropologist stories, based in North Norfolk. Elly Griffiths lives in Brighton, apparently, haven't read the bio but I bet she was born in Manchester.


Arctic Monkeys AM Bought the cd a few weeks ago. On my "cloud player", at my desk, this morning. Yes, I know, I know. I'm shocked at myself too.

They use what?

When we were hanging around demonstrating for the Arctic 30 a week or two ago, some woman came up and bent our ears, scaremongering about the DU-lined (depleted uranium) shaped charges routinely used in horizontal frack drilling. Smile and nod, we thought . . Apologies, lady in the chocolate flounced skirt, I feel we may have been wrong.

True or false? Mr Cameron, Mr Davey, Mr Osborne, could you please explain?

Keynote Picture: I've decided I'll use this photo, December Oak taken, near Clayton I think, this time last year; notionally representing Bob Peck as a tree, until the end of the month


Sunday 1st December, a chilly grey day. No frost yet. Starlings descend on the birdfeeders & hoover up the dried mealworms, blue tits doing damage to the suet block. Yesterday we walked around Wadhurst, through the Wealden fields and woods, over dark streams under bright leaves, looking our last and getting hungrier and hungrier as all the pubs within reach, and the Linney tea rooms, fondly remembered, were out of action. You cannot assume any given country pub will still be functioning now. . .the leaves in beautiful colour at last after a cooler spell, fabulous beeches on Argos Hill, and foraged some fine fat late season chestnuts. Today I have skinned the chestnuts, Peter has raked leaves, and we have baked our Christmas cake. No sign of Ison, sadly, but maybe it's just as well. Do we really want to see the sky full of great big comets, given all the other portents.

Q&A session

G: What do you think about Scottish Independence?

P: Not going to happen. Spain will refuse to have them in the EU. Catalonia issue

G: Ooh, yes. I never thought of that. No Dissolution for UK because everybody will want one. . .There'll be quite a few EU states with that reaction. What do you think about the UK quitting the EU?

P: xxxxxxg stupid.

G: I completely agree about the xxxxxxg stupid, but I think it's possible. I also think that in a few years, say ten years, only taxpayers in the UK will have the vote. And you should listen to me, I've been right about a few things. . .

Searching for I don't remember what I came across Troy Kennedy Martin's Northmoor manifesto, and thought again how true that bizarre unravelling ending felt (1985-style true about the future, though Kennedy Martin may have come to feel it was wrong in every detail). & I remembered crediting Edge of Darkness, in my Bold as Love Band Of Gypsys page, on just this issu. You just have to say to yourself, when you are fated to live on such a cusp, born in a hopeful world, growing up or growing older in a disaster zone, well, okaythe black flowers will bloom. Private debt collectors racking up the interest, on student loans that will keep the kids indebted for a lifetime? Not worth worrying about, it had to happen, that "government" scheme was always doomed, my son has the right attitude. Shale gas UK? It makes no sense, it will be devastating, but the signs are clear, any legal barrier will be removed, all rational protest buried deep in inside pages. Global Climate change campaigners becoming indistinguishable from battlefield emergency workers, pleading for aid from the ruthless combatants themselves? Both our leaders, Miliband and Cameron coming on strong against the mounting tides of immigration, making speeches in Parliament like an invitation to Kristallnicht? So it goes. (No doubt the Bulgarian govt would talk tough about its own "immigration" problem, if it wasn't too busy falling apart). It's history, it's the cold equations. Can't go round this thing, got to go through it.

Just haul as hard as you can, as long as you can, in the opposite direction, any chance you get. The mission is still the mission: save the future.


Saw Gravity in 3D. Excellent. Gripping, unremitting thrillride from start to finish. Fabulous special effects. A Ripley for the 21st century, who doesn't even rescue a cat, facing the real, utterly terrifiying and pitiless monster of whom that metal lobstery thing with the acid blood was a mere shadow: Outer Space itself. I have suddenly lost all desire to train as an astronaut.

Also saw Blue Is The Warmest Colour; didn't like it much. It's about two hours too long, the sex scenes are definitely exploitative (& not helped by the fact that we'd viewed Berberian Sound Studio the night before. Those who have seen both movies will know what I mean). The two main characters are cliched and boring, though to be fair, the inordinate length of the thing was hard on such a slight story, and the manipulative queen bee dyke's "art" is truly dreadful. A director to be avoided. Arthouse porn at its pompous tackiest.

Surprised By

An email from Mike Ashley (currently writing the fourth and final volume of his history of the SF magazines for Liverpool Univ Press) who has dug up part ofThe Star. Rachel Pollack's meditation on the Tarot card, an interview with Storm Constantine, reports from an Amnesty UK conference on Female Genital Mutilation, my (fondly recalled) "Big Board" gaming story, and all those crazy colours. . . I found a less tattered remnant once, but that was many years ago & I'm amazed at this survival. The things this unpredictable swamp called the internet preserves. . . Try your luck, if you have time:

Many thanks to greywyvern for identifying my Axel Oxenisterna Latin quote for me. (Do you not know, my son, with what little wisdom the world is governed?)

Slow Down!

Wednesday 20th November, thick grey skies, the sycamore is bare, the red maple and the birch almost naked, our young elm still hanging onto most of its leaves, but it's winter at last, and I might start feeding the birds soon. Cold rain outside my window now, but the night was clear and Orion stands in our landing window again. Time starts to fly as you get older, but as the future contracts, the past expands. How many times, really have I climbed the stairs on a clear winter night, and seen, and stopped to notice that pattern of jewels in the darkness, and looked for the Pleiades, high up above the hunter's left shoulder (hope I've got that right, my sense of right vs left is hopeless)? Probably not many, and only amounting to twenty minutes or so, in twenty years or so, but in memory it seems like an endless sequence of chilly peaceful winter nights, up the stairs, there's Orion. . .

Mixed news on the plans to frack in Sussex. Cuadrilla bedded in at Balcombe, with the support of a willing landowner and despite the dogged efforts of the Environment Agency guys to do their job. Protesters evicted from the roadside, however, went off and set up camp outside West Sussex County Council's front door in Chichester, with the surprising result that WSCC's Louise Goldsmith has entered into dialogue with them, and plans to write to Dave Cameron. Ms Goldsmith has made the same promise to Frack Free Fernhurst
Meanwhile, Kirdford and Wisborough Green Parish Council voted unanimously to reject the proposed Celtique Energie/Magellan Petroleum drilling near Boxal Bridge.

So what now? What happens when the people, the voters that is, say no, with an assist from mounting tally of Biblical-proportions extreme weather?

The fracking goes ahead, no doubt*. Possibly after a show-debate. Nescis, mi fili, quantilla sapientia mundus regatur** (No idea who said that, I picked it up from T.H.White; quoted in The Master)

*cf mysterious silence on the UK fracking bonanza issue, in UK tv coverage (starring Ed Davey as the knight in shining armour of Climate Change Control) of the fracas in Warsaw.

New Bad News...?

Nah, not really. Just surfaced now, for some reason. Unbelievable, inevitable. They've got to be kidding, haven't they?

I tried to worry my son about this, but he's tired of worrying about the mounting tally of terrible news. Yes, yes, he said. But I'm planning a recital right now. Philip (his friend and teacher), likes the Haydn sonata as an opener, what do you think?
And I repented. Let the young be young.

Date For Your Diaries (if you live in reach of London)

I'm going. I think I probably have strong differences of opinion with Shaker Aamer. I certainly do not like his old mucker Moazzam Begg. But the horror of Guantanamo is beyond belief. If you haven't seen the animation, it can be watched here:


<Les Dieux Ont Soif, Anatole France. Latest from my father's french library. A novel about the Terror: humane and pitiless. Reminding me so much of the catastrophic consequences of the so-called Arab Spring, still unfolding.

And The Hours, Michael Cunningham. I hadn't watched the movie until last week, for the petty reason that I saw the trailer, and the Ouse by Rodmell does not look a bit like that and didn't in 1941. But then my friend Elly convinced me, so now I've seen it and liked it, with reservations; and had to get the book.

Later: I liked the movie better. Ironically, the movie featuring three of the BIGGEST FEMALE NAMES in Hollywood managed to seem a lot less "Hollywood" than the novel: & certainly a lot less obsessed with fame and celebrity.


The News, of course. Gripping stuff. Don't you just love End of Days disaster movies?

Keynote picture is your link to Naam, the song voiced by Christy Azumah for Aissa Maiga's role in Bamako. I spent ages looking for the singer, owing to the fact that I was convinced she must be Malian and young, like Aissa Maiga. No, Ghanian and dating from the Seventies. She's dead now, died in Los Angeles, of cancer in 1999 they say.
The Christy Azumah and the Uppers vinyl is going on my Christmas list.

** You have no idea, my son, with what little wisdom the world is governed...