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|Nov 2015||Jan 2016||May 2016||June 16||Due August 16|
|Two man double act|
|Genre||Play for reading|
|Formats|| Paper: A5 160 pages Shop (Lulu)
Electronic: Pdf Epub Mobi
|Summary|| A few weeks in the lives of two well educated but 'drifting' men in their
early twenties reveals hidden pasts and troublesome relationships with women
that they attempt to sort out with the good humour of good friendship. We
see them discover things about themselves and mature in response to the
The other character has intellectual dreams but bohemian attitudes at the Co-op where he works lead to tangles of trouble. Bit by bit they help each other, ask obvious questions, volunteer to do tricky tasks for each other, and there's light at the end of the tunnel.
B: Hello A
A: Hello B
[A opens a sketchpad and starts sketching B. B is surprised. A continues sketching through the dialogue.]
B: What are you doing?
B: Sketching me?
B: I didn't know you were an artist
A: Its my new thing
A: Yes -- Keep still!
B: How do you mean thing?
A: Portraits -- That sort of thing
B: And you're going to do a picture of me?
A: [pause] Yes.
[B straighten's up and strikes a pose. A continues sketching]
B: Who'd want my picture?
A: You'd be surprised
B: Surprise me
A: Oh, once people know you they want to buy it
B: [Slow realisation that 'you' is ambiguous. Cautiously...] But not many people know me.
A: No not [emphasis] you. [More emphasis] Me! Us [Emphasis] Bohemians soon build up a devoted following. Now please keep still.
B: But you're a furniture shifter for the Co-op. Do you hold seances in the lower basement during your tea breaks?
A: 'Soirees' actually. A seance is where you try to contact the dead. And yes, there are some very cultured people in the Co-op. Driver Jim writes gritty poetry -- a bit proletarian for me obviously -- but you have to have to encourage that sort of thing. Then 'Amazing auntie Ada' from accounts
has dyed her hair even more red and taken up guerilla drumming.
B: What's guerilla drumming?
A: Drumming with anything anywhere - Shopping trolleys are her latest thing.
B: In Tesco?
A: I'm afraid so. [Looks hard at B.] Do you think you could you be a bit more iconic?
A: Oh sorry -- shorthand you know -- powerful, noble.
B: [B wriggles and grimaces etc.] How about that
A: Oh yes! Hold it. That's perfect.
B: So that's all there is to being a Bohemian -- a few loonies at the Co-op?
A: No of course not.
B: Can anyone join?
A: Errm. You have to be overflowing with natural talent and be inspired by the inner beauty of things.
B: Now we're getting to it. You fancy that Cynthia in the sandwich shop. I've seen you in there using long words and pretending to read "Das capital".
A: [Long pause] Very good at quilting.
B: Quilting? Who Cynthia?
A: Oh yes. Shows what you know about the tectonic power of art. Don't underestimate the strength of passive resistance against the grey and the gutless. The vivid stitch-work of the 'Mothers of the 30th May revolution' is amazing.
[A demonstrates to B a certain stiffening of sinews and stony straight-ahead face. Particularly forearms horizontal, fists un-clenched, one forward one back.]
B: So did you get the lovely Cynthia in the sack then [sarcastic] 'Lenin'?
A: Yes actually! A very beautifully embroidered sack if I may say so. Could you look like you're whistling
B: Oh OK [Experiments with faces]
[A resumes sketching]
B: So this Bohemian business is all about getting the girls' knickers off then?
A: Umm. How to say this? ... And the boys'
B: BOYS! [Faces A straight ... remembers to un-pose]
A: You work for an Estate Agent. -- You know what goes on?
B: Do I?
A: You know... "Saisir maset"
A: "Tu ne comprend?" : "Must have. -- Separate cottage" I thought you knew these things.
B: Speak English!
A: You are an intellectual pigmy. "Tout confort" -- "well equipped" Are you?
B: Just because you speak in French doesn't mean you have to shag boys.
B: You've started painting and now you're shagging everything except Driver Jim
A: [Nothing - possibly a 'look']
B: Err. Really? Anyway how's your portrait getting on?
A: [Emphasis]Your portrait you mean. I think that's enough.
[B drops pose. A starts folding over sketch pad as if it's private.]
B: Let me see.
A: It's not very good
B: I know that but I'd still like to see.
[Slight struggle. B unfolds or grabs the sketch block. Flips forwards and backwards in a bit of confusion.]
A: What do you think?
B These are all steam engines.
A: Yes that's what I do - Steam engines.
B: You were supposed to be painting me!
A: Yes I did. Here it is. Very 'you'.
B: It's a steam engine!
[All the drawings in the sketch pad are steam engines.]
B: 2-6-0 be blowed!
A: Now don't get cross. That is my oeuvre.
B: I can't believe that I've just stood there for 10 minutes so you could draw a steam engine.
A: Artists need models.
B: Well get a model steam engine then!
A: You don't understand.
B: No I don't. And that's shorthand for "Who do you think I am? Thomas the tank engine?"
A: Have I drawn you as an intellectual pigmy? [Shows the picture to the audience] Have I drawn you as broken down and short of steam? No. Proud. Powerful. Perfected for purpose.
B: [B looks closely] What you have drawn, and may your Fairy Godmother give you some decent crayons, is a dirty, unreliable machine that spewed sulfurous filth from every orifice. Is that meant to represent me?
A: Can't you see it's whistling?
B: Whistling Colonel Bogey I suppose?
A: Sorry, that's all I do. Steam engines. Very iconic.
B: Well I have to admit it beats making chains of paper clips at the estate agents. But I am writing a comedy double-act to keep the brain alive.
A: Good for you.
B: It's early days and I haven't really got any good material yet.
A: Keep at it. Must go now. Cheerio 'Tolstoy'.
B: Cheerio 'Picasso'.
B: So that's sorted out then. There's light at the end of the tunnel. You're closing down the fortune telling, Maria's possessiveness will be reduced thanks to me and a bit of the old Foxtrot, and you can get back to inspiring the bargain basement intellectuals to explore their creative muses.
A: I'm not sure it is all plain sailing on that last point B. The horoscopers have picked up the artistic ambiance and are now writing poetry.
B: What's wrong with that?
A: [Takes out a piece of paper.] Ignoring the spelling mistakes, this masterpiece comes from the biro of Jayne in carpets. [pause] Are you ready. There's a potted plant within easy reach over there if you need to throw up. [pause to get resolve]
Oh pretty flowers
I could watch for hours
With lovely scent perfume
But then you die too soon.
B: [Amused] Lyrical. An overpowering aroma of pathos finished with glorious bathos to/
A: /Shut up! I'm supposed to be the arbiter of good style. I'm supposed to set the standard. It's my responsibility to see this sort of thing incinerated. Now put yourself in my position. What would you do when Jayne presents this, ode, that she's sweated over? You don't hack a puppy to death because it's been sick on the carpet.
B: Oh I see what you mean. Criticism might come over as being a bit harsh. You can hope for improvement. It could hardly get worse. Look on the bright side.
A: Tell me B do I look a fraction despondent to you?
A: That's because now they're all at it and Jayne has brought forth a dozen. Anything you want to know about Roses, or Tulips, or Bluebells (-- with 'smells'), or trees or butterflies? I expect by next week to have the complete flora of Equatorial Guinea encapsulated in exquisitely compostable verse.
B: You can talk. All you can draw is railway engines.
A: That's different. It's an interpretation, a little eccentric I admit, but I don't put on a blindfold and throw crayons at the page. And you can talk! A one-man double-act with an imaginary friend
B: [Turns to Carl His manufactured invisible friend] Carl is a very useful asset.
A: You seem to have all the answers at the moment. Any suggestion?
B: Since you ask, yes. Don't say good or bad but complain it is very 'samey'.
That gives you the opportunity to introduce some other poets with a gentle 'come back when you can do that'.
A: Look B, I've had an idea. You don't want to stand-in for me at this seance as well do you? That would get me out of a lot of trouble. You can get to know these young ladies -- have them feeding out of your hand and I don't have to risk the incandescent rage of Maria.
B: Blimey! How much do you want. I'm already rescuing you from Maria by
a cunning plan [emphasis] at my expense! You're the guru you'll just have to learn quickly.
A: Oh well. Just a thought.
|Genre||Medieval young-woman adventure|
|Published||Jan 12 - May 13|
|Formats|| Paper: A5 each 310 pages approx
Electronic: Pdf Epub Mobi
|Summary||Over five books, feisty teenage girl, strong but disabled, fights outlaws, kills her brother, inherits a rotten dukedom, starts reparing it, wins the King's admiration by charm and cleverness, starts a cadet school for teenage nobles, defeats rebellion, takes over national defence, national unity and diplomacy from the weak king. One book follows the experiences of six of her cadets using her training in self-discipline, diplomacy and swift violence.|
|Notes||Vol 1! 16+(violence)|
|EXTRA||The complete Minda series|
It is interesting from an author's point of view to try to paint a picture of Medieval life (Whatever that is. It's a long period and Europe is a varied place) while not allowing discontinuities with our current lives jar too much. For example I've described inns as relatively civilised places with public and private parlours. If I'm describing eating I can't actually refer to knives and forks as we know them.
Although the heroine is a teenage girl there's nothing 'girly' about the books. Everyone should enjoy reading the series. However in the first volume there is a very important scene of great brutality which, although in the book it is flagged for those with a squeamish disposition, is probably not suitable for anyone under 16. (I wanted to show she could do whatever necessary if she had to. That's what girl heroines do!)
In the third volume I wanted to explore how strong people break and how loyal people support them. It works out alright in the end but it's a close thing and they've lost the suppleness of youth.
Minda is a privileged but rejected high-status girl growing up alone in a farming village. She's strong, bright and cheerful but ugly and has a bad foot and hand. She's unable to do the pastimes of high-class mediaeval ladies but makes friends, and soon knives, in the village forge. Unlike a boy she keeps on practising archery until she can beat the whole village. Everyone recognises the girl with the eyepatch.
According to some her aggressive outlook and status make her ideal as a candidate for standing-up against rebels and outlaws. She moves to another village to be coached on 'country-fighting' and team work and has more (contrasting) female company. From the start we see her guts, determination, cleverness and humility.
Actually there are no signs of breakdown of law and order except for smuggling that everyone knows about. She is trained to observe and collect information surreptitiously using her social status to visit surrounding lords and hear gossip. In parallel she is the darling of the lonely smiths, taking messages and helping their relationships. Her extrovert antics and instantly recognisable eye patch are deliberately used to create stories about her. Later many wonder how much witchcraft is involved. (This gets her into trouble later -- Any weapon against a powerful woman.)
An unexpected pre-dawn encounter with smugglers where Minda shows courage and discipline signals the end of 'learning in the woods' and she is sent to a busy town(!) as assistant to the tax collector. She soon discovers fraud in the tax office and lets the criminal classes know she means business even if the collector himself is a bit feeble. Town life is strange but they adapt, and she quickly becomes recognised and talked about. Her 'family' of three smiths is mended beautifully during the course of which the Coroner and his adulterous mistress try to frame her for murder. She shows again how opponents can be defeated or won-over without violence. There are unexpected consequences during an anti-smuggling raid on her home village. We see she can give and take orders and quickly build complete trust among her servants.
After a horrible episode where she is involved with catching and executing a rapist/ child murderer, Minda volunteers to take the body back to its mother. (There is a beautiful and significant twist here.) Back in town she finds the Duke's son, her only brother, is holding a ball; but he is dissolute and debt-dodging so she decides he must die so she can inherit. (Which she does, against deadly opposition, in the next book.) The whole town knows she did it but there's no evidence.
In total there is about one page of brutal violence in three short episodes. Minda isn't a tom-boy fighter with flashing swords but a determined woman who will use weapons if she has to. By developing loyal relationships she does what no man could do.
"I am tired, in pain, dirty and hungry."
"Oh I'm sorry to hear that. Let me cheer you up with a riddle. Raysell always —"
"Which makes me a little irritable at the moment."
"Oh I'm sorry to hear that."
"And when I'm irritable I might do something you'd regret."
"Oh I'm sorry to hear that."
"For the short time between me picking you up and throwing you head down into the midden".
"Awesome. Are you really that strong? Go on pick me up!" Minda slid out her polished dagger and held it pointing at Delphia's chin. "I made this with my own hands."
"Awesome. Can you make horseshoes too?"
"Where's the midden?"
"Over past the kitchen."
"Well go and make yourself useful. Tell the cook I want a double helping on your way to jumping in the midden."
"Oh all right. Your dress is laid out on the bed."
When she'd gone Minda removed her boots and placed her bad foot still wrapped in binding into a pail of cold water. Sitting alone with the deadening chill spreading up her leg she tried to ignore the sparkling daggers of irritation. She had never screamed with frustration before but wanted to now. There was a commotion as mistress Marline dragged a silent Delphia into the wash house. Minda didn't look up.
"Minda. We don't usually threaten people with knives."
"I'm sorry mistress. I'm not used to being plagued by gabble-mouths -- 'Specially when I need silence to draw out the pain. Every day I have to make an effort to live my life and today I've made more effort than ever before. You like riddles Delphia. 'If you have nothing to say say it'. Mistress can I ask a favour? Would Delphia please undo the bindings on my foot. It is very tender and needs two soft hands."
Mistress Marline was silent for a moment. "Yes of course. No I'll do it. Delphia go and get my balm."
"Goose fat will be fine."
"Come on Minda, let's patch you up and feed you up." Unwrapping the blood-soaked linen from Minda's foot was a trial. Delphia was horrified as the bleeding pink deformity was revealed. "Are you watching daughter? See how gentle you have to be." Mistress Marline rebound it according to instructions from Minda with new linen and balm that smelled of sharp herbs. "Your other boots came from Selenden today. Shall we fetch those and give these ones a good clean?"
"Yes please mistress."
"I don't think you'll be out riding with this tomorrow Minda."
"It looks like drenching wet anyway. Brand says they had only meant to go as far as the river-meet but you lead them as far the other side again. Normally a nod is all the praise anyone gets from Brand but with my own ears I heard him say you reminded him of the best general in the army. 'Took him back to his young days'. You've won an old soldier's heart there Minda. That's something to ask him about-- "
But Minda was asleep.
A low-high whistle from Minda! [They use whistle codes. In this case danger.] Brand disappeared back into the wood and crashed off away into the deep darkness. Minda was about to follow but remembered her 'stay put' order. A trotting horse could be heard coming along the track in the same direction as the pack train had come from. Nat called as the horse came clear. "Mr. Yorrel! I've been ambushed." The horse stopped, the rider dismounted and walked his horse away from the place where Minda was hidden. Even though the sky was getting lighter she couldn't see his features under his hood, but he unsheathed his sword and was carefully searching the track and the wood edge. "It's alright he's gone."
"There were a whole gang to start with Mr. Yorrel."
"A whole gang of one man! -- Do you think I'm a fool Nat?"
"No sir. The string stopped and as John started again I was knocked off my horse and bound."
"Shut up! I pay you to protect my valuables not sit like a sack waiting to be carefully tied up. Thanks to your lazy stupidity I've lost a small fortune. I don't like the smell of this. And I don't like the look on your face. Innocent."
"Sam betrayed us. He just told me."
"Who told you?"
"The man who just untied me."
"Very convenient. Some nice men gently tie you up and an even nicer man unties you and shows you the way home I expect." Yorrel punched Nat in the stomach. Nat folded up, then Yorrel kicked him in the face. Minda was horrified and reached for her knife in case it became murder -- Six paces -- Nat groaned on the floor. "I've lost hundreds. Were you asleep?" Nat groaned. "No sir. Sam betrayed us."
"You betrayed me. I don't like that Nat. Getting your cut were you from the nice man? Or are you going to tell me it was that foxy Minda that bewitched you."
"Sir! John said it was a girl."
"So John is in this plot too." Another kick at Nat kneeling on the track.
"No sir. Please sir. It was Sam."
"So there is a plot. You -- kick -- and Sam and John. You won't betray me again will you Nat?"
"No sir. Never. Nooo..." The sword smashed into Nat's head with a horrible crunch. Minda had never been this angry before. It took her a moment to force herself to focus on the shadowy face of Yorrel and calculate the best throwing position. He kicked the body of Nat with all the force he could find then wiped the blood from his sword on a tussock just four and a half paces from her. She had a perfect shot. Straight to the top of the head. She reached back half expecting Brand to grasp her wrist again. The surge of anger was over and now this was target practice. She hesitated, there were some moments to spare and this was death. Orders! Brand had stopped her killing earlier. Yorrel remounted his horse, still only eight paces. Before she could decide a bow shot twanged from her right and Yorrel clutched his throat. A second later Minda's knife sliced into his hood where she judged the ear would be. Slowly, with a sighing groan he toppled off the horse with a grunt onto the ground. Minda didn't know what to do.
"Come on miss. Let's clear up this mess and go. Get your weapon and then jump on his horse ready." She was energised with relief at having orders to obey. Shaking her knife to unwedge it from a dead man's head is unpleasant, seeing gobbits of brain in the red light of dawn is worse, but being ordered to do it makes it bearable. Brand searched him by ripping his cape for purse and anything else then jumped up behind. "Straight to the high road. Go!"
"Don't look at me for wisdom! My duty is to fight. Your duty is to give me horses and money and men so I may defend you." Her strange, still, posture with darting eyes was disturbing for unknown reasons. The King continued "My Black Belt Earl has done better. She has welded some of the Western lords to knock sense into the others. While she was sleeping the sleep of great warriors I was awake and realised the simplest thing. We must work together." Rachel muttered "Show them how."
For the next two hour of situation reports and rumours Rachel never changed her chin-on-hands pose. This was aggravating to the men. Her eyes and sometimes smile followed them but this was unnatural. Minda was thrilled by this innocent taunting. 'I am the winter you won't live through and I have put you on my special list to play with whips of hot ice!' Further thought led Minda to the conclusion that Rachel didn't have a particular objective and was just doing her best to be a lioness looking over the deer ready to catch any weakling.
Minda gave her speech to the effect that there were still so many threats to peace. Even the King's son and daughter-in-law were still being held for ransom by pirates. She had cried these threats aloud but few seemed able to render real assistance. The few that had, she named Lord Weston, and Lord Callabarne as examples had spent say a couple of months hard at work and didn't seem to have suffered. She knew many were at court doing useful things but a really efficient Melbun was no use if bad things she wouldn't name but others at the council knew, should happen. "We must have men out where it matters. Business can't thrive if there is piracy, outlawry, invasion and smuggling. War costs a fortune. We must spend a much smaller fortune on seeing that war doesn't happen. Is the church willing to support the kingdom? I don't like the idea of murderous leeches -- Especially when we need to be defending our borders."
The Archbishop rose straight to bait. "The church is not poisonous and we don't go murdering! That's a grave insult."
Rachel said "Xavier has the true account of the Bishop of Fischester's murdering."
Xavier realised he was supposed to fill in. "A great deal of roguery, unlawfulness and in a particular case a good agent of mine found he was directly complicit in murder. He was swiftly executed by the King's servants."
Rachel said "Have you any reason to defend rogue Bishops like him?" The Archbishop hesitated. "Think carefully for Xavier's agent who risked his life to do the King's justice was a good friend of mine."
"I have heard a different story." The Archbishop foolishly paused.
"Oh that's alright then. For a minute I thought you might be trying to shelter criminals. Please carry on." By the look on her face Rachel had lost interest in the matter. The spectators were thrilled at this war of blatant untruths. The King grinned down at the Archbishop.
"I object! It's not fair. The church is against murder but there are proper procedures and limits. You can't walk into any church and murder a bishop without a legal trial."
"Do you recall what happened to your predecessor Thomas?"
"You ordered his son to murder him at your table."
"What lesson might you learn from that?"
"Um. You're threatening me."
"Yes I am. You will give a public reward of fifty pounds to my servants who saved you from a great deal of embarrassment. And there will be no more nonsense of Minda being anathema. Show me the letter you'll be sending to the Pope confirming that he is no longer your lord by dusk tonight. If you don't it will be written tomorrow -- by the next archbishop of Melbun. What do you think of Abbot Andrew?"
"I will have to have a council. I am a spokesman of brother bishops not a ruler of them."
"And what do you think of Abbot Andrew? Bare feet -- That's a good touch don't you think." The whole council knew the archbishop was being harried for sport. It was good sport. Rachel sounded bored. "Your Highness I need money for troops and forts. I think he can find money easily and if it pleases you Sir I will undertake to burn any Abbey or cathedral that won't acknowledge you as lord before the Pope. I haven't got time for politics and excuses. I need money. The Kingdom needs that money." This was more sport. "I have rested two days of idleness. Two more days the Kingdom is left undefended. Tomorrow I will be heading east and north but I won't be ready. What can one girl do Archbishop?" Another impossible to answer question to delight the onlookers! "How much can you give Archbishop?"
In the thrilling moment of shared victory only Minda, James and Brand knew the pattern of bullying a victim to trap the crowd. Rachel sat up as if waking from sleep and let her hands lay flat on the table. "And how much can each one of you give?" Waves of disbelief flooded the room. The chill of suddenly being the quarry. The warm wave of admiration for luring everyone into her trap. The chill of being caught. The chill crashing wave of wondering what the cost would be. The warmth of being in the same net as all the others. The foam of confusion of being asked one of her questions with no right answer. Minda and Brand held hands. James smiled across at Rachel but she was intent on smiling at, and making eye-contact with, the gaps between the councillors. John had taught them that. Everyone assumes you're smiling at them specially without having to accept their gaze.
|Who killed John Crowe?|
|Formats|| Paper: A5 332 pages|
Electronic: Pdf Epub Mobi
|Summary||Personal memories from 27 years ago are the catalyst for national crime journalist Matt Anson to get involved with events too close to home. He's treated as a hero when he's really a coward. Set on the Essex marshes in 2009 there's a real sense of community as they root out corruption.|
One of the themes is one man's influence in a local community and how the media can be manipulated if you know how, or how it can bite back in unexpected ways. We see a variety of social settings where a local working-class boy who makes good mixes well with everyone. There's great stress leading to a breakdown and also success in more important matters than solving a crime from so long ago.
This was a difficult book to write because I'd written the first half-page without any thought of what the plot was. I thought I knew whodunit and why and how but that changed. The ending was quite a revelation and I think a nice mixture of personal involvement and worrisome homing-in on the guilty and the consequences. As soon as I'd got the notion of the power of the media as a double-edged sword I was away. With local knowledge of things like sailing clubs and villages where people knew to stay away from certain places at certain times I could build the sense of community that is what comes through as Matt sometimes leads and is sometimes helped.
I found my way down a lane which became a track lined by tipsy telegraph poles. The hedges petered out to leave ditches full of wind-tousled rushes and straw grass separating track from rough marshland pasture. Being June it was pelting with rain. I might have only been in the job three days but I knew everywhere on the Dengie oozed mud. My ancient Citroen 2CV lurched and squeaked its way through the puddles. I was going to interview John Crowe as he was publishing a book about his life and living on the marshes. A photographer would come another day to get an atmospheric marshland shot.
'Shot' was what somebody else had in mind. Now I wanted to find out who I spoke to that day. And who had sent me this photograph? And why? (Continues)
"I was just thinking of the day I got married Ken."
"You married Jill Westcott from Cuppers Close. She would babysit me and my brother. Strict but fun."
"Just three words! I'm supposed to be the wizard with pen but in thirty years I've never heard her summed up so accurately. She baby-sits me very nicely."
"Just part of the Job. It's nice to have blokes like you always being happy. You wouldn't believe the gossip that I'm supposed to do something about. Either their lives are capsizing or 'something must be done'. I remember you at school Matt -- Or should I call you Keeble -- You got me to play the part of a cherub in a play about heaven -- Some foreign one act play."
"I wanted you because you and Buffer were good at dealing with customers so I thought who better to welcome customers to Heaven."
"Do you remember Porker Harris the chap who wrote risqué jokes for me to use? He vanished but two years ago he walked into the shop, demanded a shave and introduced himself. He was having a shave because his dad had died two days before and he'd just got off the plane at Stansted from LA. He's a professional fund-raiser flying round the States and the world raising millions of dollars. He gave me a hundred pounds for me and five hundred pounds for something useful in the town."
"What did he look like? I can't picture him."
"Telly Savalas. Sunglasses. Bald with slab jowls. When he wanted shaving"/
/"No I meant what did he look like back then?"
"Curly dark brown hair. Tall. Glasses. Flat nose. Deliberately scruffy when he came from a good family. Started a craze for drawing chalk outlines round everything."
"Hey! I remember now. Yes! I was part of that. It started with drawing a line round buttonholes in blazers."
"Having a stick of chalk soon became a hanging offence."
"Jill leaves that to the others. If she gets a troublemaker she simply drags them out to the front and asks 'what's their trouble' and they say 'none miss' and she says to the rest of the class 'we all know that's not quite the truth don't we adults' and that's the end of that."
"I don't remember Jill at school really."
"She was two years above me so three above you. Um. There's nobody waiting. I'm fit for her majesty when she comes back from school. I don't have the same money as Porker -- Rich bastard -- how about a shave?"
"What all over?"
"Eh? I've had a shave today but do your magic with your cut-throat Ken."
"Oh. Face-shave. I thought you meant -- er -- skinhead!" When you're covered in a sheet you can't shake hands. "You daft cherub!"
"That was the bit I remember most fondly from school Matt."
"You should have put that five hundred pounds/ /No sorry Ken. Sorry about that."
"It's alright Matt. I asked Pauline and she said I should give a hundred to five charities and get them to write to Porker to thank him."
"Thank God we have wives to help us."
"Anyway as I have this very sharp razor in my hand -- what were you going to suggest Matt?"
"The amdrams at Pelingdon and you should join." The careful concentration of avoiding ears hidden in soapy froth continued.
"I often wonder that Matt. Hmm. Pauline and me could join together. At least come with me. You know about these things. I'm common."
"We're members so of course I'll drag the two of you along to the next production and introduce you."
"I can't act."
"You could act at school just nicely and if they won't have you I'll write a play specially for you! The Barber of Northminster who casts spells on his customers so they marry well and flash-off to far places but never let the town out of their hearts. Hey! I'll make sure there's a cherub in there."
"Do you write plays as well as unsolved crimes Matt?"
"No. But why not? I'd be useless on a stage but you can whisper. Maybe a radio play. Let me think about it." By now the hair cutting and shaving was over. I was about to give Ken another tenner when he said.
"Any news of Dick Darcy?"
"I saw him an hour ago. Bad news. The hospital messed him about with operations and buggerations. One buggeration after another. It's difficult to find out what caused what but in general nobody wants to know about anything."
"Would that make a good play?" (Continues)
|Formats||Electronic: Pdf Epub Mobi|
|Summary||By 2359AD only one colony has survived the Earth's Great Wipeout. Leaders and hence factions and hence in-fighting are BAD but now they have to repopulate a wild surface they need strong, bad, leaders. The system selects a nerd who has to learn quickly.|
|Notes|| Age 16+(sex)|
More feedback wanted
This book is all about personal development, team-building and leadership. Strangely, the most critical manager in the colony is effective but the anthesis of what we'd expect. When the time comes for Matt to inherit the symbol of spiritual power he starts to become a symbolic rather than actual leader.
One of the experiments was to have everybody in the colony finish their speech with the name of the person it was directed to. So instead of Fred said "Hello" then Bill replied "Not you again!" it goes "Hello Fred" "Not you again Bill." You get used to it after a while reader.
"Nearly dear." My look of challenge was wasted as she concentrated on squeezing another whole fish roll into her mouth. There was more to this itemising than I'd expected.
"I like your mum. Father not so much dear."
"Why's that dear" she said, pointing a bread trumpet at me for fun.
"She showed me sexing. I wanted to learn and she was a good teacher. Your father is a bit consumed by his work. Does he have much time for others dear?"
"Of course yes." she said jamming the bread trumpet in her mouth. "He plays hard and works hard. That's a human relations term. I'll have to teach you how people work. You'll never believe how complicated hewrel is dear." She stuck a finger in her mouth to stir up some crispier bits of bread. I controlled my disgust. To punish her I'd have a word with her mum about her manners all on my own. Even if Tallya couldn't make her daughter behave in public I could find out about Tuesdays. "Dad said he'd like to talk to you. He said 'Father to son'. I don't quite know what he means by that. It sounded a bit threatening. You don't have to dear."
"I do." Bless her. As she pummelled the last of the trumpet into her bulging mouth with her fingers I saw how to gain an advantage. I'd never thought like this before! I was maturing quickly! One day a boy, then a young man, then a real man and married all together. "I tell you what dear. I'll go and have a what did he call it? -- Father to son -- talk with your dad if you'll let me go to the museum again." I could see she heard a cave-in! Ha ha! Well at least she'd had a slap! Before she could close her bread-spattered mouth I said "I'll go and see him anyway as soon as I've finished my coftee. Don't you have to go shopping?" I could see by her eyes that inside she knew I was playing a game. Now she chose to sulk in silent frustration.
I'd never abandoned anybody before. I cast-off Marline with words of encouragement camouflaging my excitement of a day of freedom. I'd go and see her father at his office and take it from there. She wasn't to worry. It was the sort of thing that 'men' did. Nothing to worry about and I'd be back at our new cell by six.
"But what am I supposed to do Matt?"
"What do you want to do?"
"You can't just leave me. We're an Item."
"What do you want to do?"
"I don't know."
"You've got a whole day to yourself. Go shopping. Learn the ukelele. Read a book. Study. You're always studying."
"But I don't want to study!"
"So? Learn the ukelele then?"
"Can't I come with you?"
"No. You'd be in the way. Men have some things they have to do as men."
"I can't tell you."
"Go on beast."
"No. Now we must make way for the others that are waiting. There's a chap over there I must talk to about Carnaby Street which was in London England Europe. Why don't you go shopping or gossiping with your girlfriends from Kick-skittles." She gave me such a sour look it made my mind up to find out about Tuesdays straight away. She got up from the table and turned to the exit. "Hey!" I grabbed her by the arm. "A peck on the cheek! Remember?"
I waited until she'd gone. Gone on some unknown sulk. Sulk wasn't in the sexing manual but one morning years ago in school I must have been prepared to recognise this moment. Before I could leave our table a tall cheerful brunette brought her tray of broccoli-cheese, bacon bits in rice and honey-biscuits, inched-in opposite me. She smiled. Her smart blouse and skirt showed she was a woman of business. "Can we talk Matt now you're a man." She was like Tallya with painted lips and tight clothes. Same sort of age and her eyes knew my weakness.
"I'm sorry." I said. "I'm just leaving."
"Don't go. I like you. You've no idea of the old gropers who can't wait to take your seat. You wouldn't leave my legs at their mercy Matt." I hadn't worried about her legs but now the thought of four knees, two covered by those translucent sock's I'd never worried about before, almost touching close under the table stopped my boring. She started her breakfast. I tried to think of something to say. Her hair was piled in a knotted heap like Tallya's. Obviously a Monitor. One that knew my name. A System-spy? I said "I've just become an item. I'm sorry dear."
"Dear! That's familiar Matt!" My mouth was taking orders from a strange source today. "I'm so sorry miss. I must apologise." My ears burned. "This is only my second day of itemising." She smiled back. "So it's not too late then."
"Just because you're married doesn't mean you've sexed." The way her lips fondled a honey-biscuit with delicacy while her eyes smiled into my sweaty face made Marline look like Toad-stone.
"It does to me. I was brought up properly." She said "Man. You can't keep all those people waiting man. Have another soup and a cup of coftee man."
"I can't. My card is used-up for this morning."
"Take mine." She handed over a pale mauve card with a blob instead of a photo on it. "Go on! You look like you've never seen an X-calory card before."
"I haven't. Will it work?"
"Of course!" The next two minutes were nervous torture. I pretended to take my time selecting a breakfast then snatching a soup and a coftee and jamming the counterfeit card into the till. It worked! It even flashed a receipt on the screen. I tried to act normally as I returned to my table. Our table. The brunette Monitor lady was enjoying her breakfast then looked up at me with a smile moulded from honey and beeswax. I passed the card back across the table hidden under my palm. She covered my hand with a grip and conspiratorial smile.
"Eat your soup dear."
"Oh er I can't! I forgot to get a spoon!"
"Well go back and get one Matt." Half way through my bowl of soup, wondering about calories, exercise and fraud What did knowing my name mean? Oh shit! What had I done? Only the seccas knew stranger's names. I was... Oh shit! She'd trapped me using an X-calory card. "I've been a fool. Sorry. You've trapped me. I'll come quietly."
"I'm Julia. I'm not in the judiciary. Enjoy your calories. Please come quietly Matt."
"I'm tangled in worse things than I know. Please explain. Julia."
"Enjoy your second breakfast. I'm your fresh-air godmother Matt."
"Godmothers are supposed to be old Julia."
"How old do you think I am Matt?" This was one of the few things my dad had warned me about. One of the categories he'd taught me was 'you're my age'. I didn't understand it at the time but I did now. Then I understood his wisdom. And again! How clever to drive it into me then let me discover the value for myself. I did some desperate calculations. "You look twenty five. But you sound thirty five. What does age matter. Are you single Julia?" Oh shit! She'd caught me in a trap of my own making.
"Yes I'm single. I'm forty five. More than twice as old as you Matt." She dabbed her lips with a napkin like lamp light reflecting off a puddle's ripples. I couldn't resist "You're my age Julia." I didn't know if it was Monday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. We left the eatin together. She led the way with precise movements. Her bottom had the nice roundness of Tallya's and her legs had the same covering!
"Come on. Let's do useful things today Matt."
|Time and again|
|Formats||Electronic: Epub Mobi|
|Summary||On his sixteenth birthday, orphan Tristram finds he has a legacy of millions if he will undertake to research time travel. This book tells how he copes with the pressures, slowly learns about love and families, accepts having to make a horrible sacrifice as the nature of time becomes clearer.|
|Notes||First release - comments welcome|
In this book I'm looking at a number of time-related issues. For example if the future is determined then free-will is an illusion, premonitions might be real but humans have to be ghosts before they could travel. Here are two extracts that give different perspectives on our attitudes to time.
"Look at it this way Tam. You know all about time. Suppose it saves you one minute. If you have a bath every day that's half an hour every month, six hours a year, sixty hours a decade. In fifty years that's three hundred hours or twelve whole days." There was no doubt that the thing was logical and it did save time, but today I wasn't in a hurry.
"They made this hill for me to sit on."
"In your dreams Tam!"
"In my dreams yes. What's your theory?"
"I don't have one. I'm still at the awesome stage."
"I'll always be at the awesome stage Jane. Everything's awesome." I put my arm around her waist to make her happy.
"But you tunnel into everything awesome. I don't know where to start."
"Yes you do. Alright. Think what matters to you now and add a small amount of time. Go on Jane." I held her hand to show I wasn't a dead-eyed statue talking. "I'll tell you my question when you've asked yours." With my eyes closed I could take a helicopter trip away from the figures of two young lovers and watch them from a distance. Fifty feet then five hundred, silhouetted against the conical skyline in silence. Then I swirled in aerobatics to perch behind their naked bodies. Then I gave the woman a child in a buggy and the man a wedding ring and a spark of love for his wife. I was about to clock-forward a couple of decades and then more when she, I mean Jane, said.
"We're just two of millions. Perhaps spacemen of the future will find us like preserved pollen grains and ant-wings and read something about us."
"You see. You're looking at now from the future. Most people can't." She could catch the thoughts that whirled through her brain like the gliders rising on invisible power we'd seen earlier. "To the people who built this we are as advanced as spacemen. To the spacemen we'll be just as primitive."
"But will they understand why we're here Tam?"
"I don't know. I mean I don't know why we're here. It would be nice for them to come back and tell us."
"You don't believe in the great scheme of things do you Tam?"
"No but the prehistoric people must have. Perhaps they knew they were insignificant insects but they must have made up reasons for building Stonehenge, making circles and lines. They must have understood they were a small part of a bigger world." I opened my eyes and stretched my neck. Why had she painted her eyebrows? In these moments of returning from 'deep thought' I could intrude for a second into the forbidden underworld of women. I stole a macro-lens view of her lips. What logic was it that painted eyebrows but not lips? Her hands held me close as her hair flicked onto my cheek. I hadn't fully returned from my imagination. It was her skeleton holding me with muscles attached to a question-mark.
"So what's your question then Tam?"
"Take something that matters and add time. Will we be together in five years?" There was a swirl of uncertainty then I watched her copy my 'deep thought' pose. That's what I like about time. It's so unpredictable. Now I didn't have to close my eyes to see the landscape full of unknowns.
|600 words per gallon|
|Formats|| Paper:A5 38 pages
|Summary||Poems of all sorts. Essay introducing Trikus|
The animated carousel makes me watch it going round
With tots and mums who are not sure won over by the waltzer sound
Teens show off their raw bravado. Serious children hold on tight
Adults have seen it all before though they too are thrilled tonight
Wild and friendly are the horses so they hug their surging charger
Polished paint and rounded carving make the riders grip much harder
Mirrors flash with blurry snapshots in this oasis of warm light
As bright bare bulbs draw shooting stars against the darkness of the night
Galloping forwards all the time thinks each rider on their journey
Something to die forI need young men the window said
I need a man who's tough and strong
Who'll fire me up and drive me wrong
A motorcycle chromed to shine
A faerie temptress by design
Let's leave this world and find some joy
Naked wind for the biker boy
A flying sack with limbs of black cartwheels into a pole
The body found upon the ground has lost its living soul
I need young men the prophet said
I need young men the skipper said
I need young men the sergeant said
|Not all fun|
|Formats||Paper:A5 104 pages
|Summary||Stories 2009 to 2012. Includes Ken and Jen series, five tableaux, essays on Tableaux and how girls do their heroics.|
As well as the traditional short-story form there are a number of tableaux (where the emphasis is on interpreting symbols) and cognostories (episodes where the reader takes the story forward for themselves).
There are two essays on tableaux and how the girl's heroic story differs from the boy-goes-on-adventure monomyth. The first is important because the art of using symbols in writing has been obliterated by narrative. The second is important because Hollywood (etc.) demand 'going on an adventure' type of story-arc but girls do their heroics completely differently. A male hero can do it the girl's way (eg. Captain Mainwaring) but assumptions about heroics need questioning.
Today the Suffolk plateau, once planed flat by white cliffs of ice, now ploughed brown by men, is abandoned. There are no livestock grazing, no birds exploring. Even the shadows have gone. It is February. The burnt bones of trees can't keep back the chill fog. It sneaks past, smothering the unnoticed countryside sounds of tractors and churches and extinguishes the wind.
Clicky-clack eyes rock shut and open until I push them through.
The fog drowns the black trees and grey hedges. Its anodyne smell overpowers the damp tilth. Furrows are submerged by the tide of returning white cold. A harrow for scratching the earth is being eaten by brambles. The broken gutter of the unloved farmhouse drips apologetic tears onto the naked farmyard concrete.
Arms and legs snap out with surprising reluctance. I leave separating head and torso for later.
My visit is no surprise to him. He has feared this day and now it has come. A dozen eyeless doll heads accuse him from the churchyard railings. Plastic children are wedged into a tractor's engine. A hundred dismembered arms lie twisted in the gravel of his local pub's carpark; all their tiny hands waving silent farewell.
Is that a crow call or wire biting into a neck? Is that a soul escaping torment or a cat racing for a warm nest? What has that seagull, black against the sky, come to scavenge? The sound of fire! Listen to its pent anger. Listen to its heartless greed. See the wicked start. Stand back at its haste. Be bedazzled by dancing red fingers and acrobatic sparks. Bloody gouts of flame. Crackling of a thousand small bones. Grey bruises of smoke punch their way out of the barn then hurry away to be forgotten in the white, edgeless, distance.
We don't know why the Crying Man is here. Nobody saw him arrive.
He does not speak except silently.
The space in front of him is empty. Rabbit-shorn grass, an adder's summer sunbath, with the odd tuft of rushes and stony outcrop. What do the rabbits and snakes care about the crying man? Stone-still he looks out over farms and woods and roads and homes and the village in the crook of the river bend below.
Are we afraid of the crying man? Of course not... ...but we might hesitate a while before continuing our hike. There are few sanctuaries or excuses for avoiding the obvious out here on the open hillside. Why is he crying? Local gossip has it that his daughters were taken away: Some say by the Romans, some say by the fairies as payment for a crooked promise, some will tell you patchwork legends where he banished his daughters only to be tormented later by a guilty conscience.
The crying man is a solitary standing stone with a bit of boggy ground at his base. At first it is a bit difficult to see a lump of stone as a man, but there is no doubting that this is a good place to come for a blink, a cry, a sob and a deep breath of 'no more just now'. There is no particular sense of sorrow about the place, after all it is just another scrape on another moorland hillside, but there's a sighing solitude sprinkled with unobtrusive pleasantries suited to melancholy and empty reflection. This is where the quicksand of the past traps future hopes.
Along the track from around the shoulder of the hill comes a solitary silhouette which develops into a man in middle age making his steady way towards the stone. The open spaces of valleys, hills and heaths are bigger than you think, but shortly he arrives at the Crying Man. A cloud shadow shoots across the grass as a reminder of the pressure of time. Our man makes a tiny nest between the gorse clumps close the ancient stone - a pagan symbol ... and private landmark. Our man doesn't cry, he has been trained not to. Our man is not overwhelmed by sadness, he has seen enough to accept it. Our man knows that all the answers to his questions are guesswork and illusions. Our man is praying. The odd spot of rain appears on the crying man. April's stony wind denies any promise of spring.
Our man also feels a spot of rain and takes the hint. After some struggling with a knife and some sharp reminders of the glove-piercing thornyness of gorse he cuts half a dozen spiky branches in bright yellow bloom. After a few minutes and lots of painful learning and checking with the Crying Man he has a ring about two foot in diameter. By a miracle the wreath lands as a crown on the monolith's head at the first throw. The April clouds do what April clouds do. Our man with bloody scratched hands sets off home, wrapped-up against the elements and warmed inside with emotion. The Crying man will be here tomorrow.
|Formats||Paper: A5 184 pages Shop|
|Summary||How to implement remote electronic working. It involves new management structures and roles that minimise the effects of lack of face-to-face communication. Simple and comprehensive. Relevant to distributed projects such as collective open-source projects.|
|Notes||Complete web page|
Remote Electronic Working requires a new approach to the organisation and methods of enterprises. We already have a lot of the communications technology and now the task is to apply it based on social and group psychology.
Treems are teams of three which are interlinked in a tree structure. This scheme is used to minimise the number of people each person has to deal with in order that really close working relationships can be formed given the limitations of remote working. The top-level three-way split is between production, internal support and outward-facing branches.
|Meanwhile back on the planet|
|Formats|| Paper 144 pages|
PDF on request
|Contents||Lightweight short stories, longer short stories, poems and 'heading towards poetry'. These were written during 2012 through to 2014. There's a wide range of formats, genres and subjects including a 320 line 'medieval poem', a spaceship that plays All Things Bright And Beautiful, an imagined two days in the fragile life of Dorothy Parker, and the usual collection of proper poems.|
WaitingThe soldiers used to say there's nothing you can do
if a bullet with your number on flys its way to you.
I've been here a hundred years and no one's fired me.
I'm still waiting for lance-corporal 282893
His mother got no letters after young Billy went.
He hated all his family, so no word was sent.
She checked the names in papers of men killed in the war.
Still she laid the table and listened for the door.
Without a scrap of paper, she had no word he'd died.
She'd no telegram of sorrow to bolster-up her pride.
Mystery breeds suspicion of neighbours in the street.
Who gossip things about her and don't care to be discreet.
The priest wrote a letter for her to ask the powers that be
about her darling Billy, but they had no answer to her plea.
He'd changed his name and town and forged his next of kin
so that the army offices had no trace of him.
A shocking email came about three months ago.
About great uncle Billy and something I should know.
How his father battered him with his belt and fist,
and so when he had the chance he scarpered to enlist
Now I'm waiting at Heathrow. There's still so much unknown.
Although we've corresponded and chatted on the phone.
And why's the plane so bloody late! It's come from West Australia.
Can't Qantas run a plane without an engine failure!
Announcements, generations come and gone while I'm waiting here,
alone to meet a past that no one else could bear.
At last the plane's marked landed. What a stressful flight.
I'm glad I had my hair done. I hope it'll be all right.
I'm waiting for a date again. A date that didn't show.
Now waiting to escape, to where I do not know.
I understand how Billy felt. He had to get away.
I've told myself that very thing since my wedding day.
A call from immigration tells me he's stuck in a queue.
There's half an hour or so before they'll let him through.
Like the lover's telephone I can't leave the door alone.
At last it slides apart and Billy's great grandson is home!
I wave and smile, he smiles back. Then he comes to kiss me.
A hundred years, ten thousand miles, returns the absentee.
So confident and strong his face, earthy voice and sparkling eyes
I've waited more than long enough — now I realise.
OperationOperation — Deadly import
Concentrating — on instruments
Flying bomber — Engines throbbing
Flack bursting close — Red shock and flame
Return at dawn — we're overdue
Alright, I admit itI can't keep it quiet any longer
You're bound to find out some time soon
All of these years you have known me
As a quiet and gentle buffoon
Chainsaw attacks don't just happen
There's blood in my veins I can feel it
I know my admission will be shocking
There are at least six uses for a waste paper basket. Let me list them:
Firstly it is an efficient receptacle for depositing office detritus; of which the most important element by far, as my research proves, is waste paper. There are those who consider it a place to put banana skin and apple cores but then the development of civilisation has always been patchy.
Secondly, if inverted and propped semi-open on one edge it can be used to catch kittens and babies. The technique is slightly different in each case of course but luring the prey under the trap is a harmless bit of fun on a dull afternoon. I don't actually have a kitten or a baby but people have told me.
Thirdly, it can be used as a prop in a learning exercise. Don't you all want the ability to command and be leaders? I'll show you how: First put some light rubbish in a waste paper basket. A couple of empty drinks cans, some polystyrene packing chips and expired Christmas cards would be ideal. Now you need a small step ladder and a broom or something broomsticky. Confidently climb the ladder with the basket and ask someone to stand by with the broom. Place the basket against the ceiling and get your assistant to hold it up there a moment while you climb down the ladder. Fold up the ladder and walk away. Life is full of learning experiences.
Fourthly it can be used as a piece on the chessboard of office turf-wars. Feuds of enormous bitterness can be caused by using somebody's hallowed property as a target for nail clippings, cherry stones or three obsolete phone books. Outrage and revenge is plotted in the toilets. Memos, some possibly genuine, demand better standards of behaviour after unspecified misdemeanours. I have escalated one such conflict to staying late and surrounding one ultra-possessive woman's desk with nineteen taken from around the building. She left to have a baby, or perhaps to sit at her front window like a Harpie defending 'her' stretch of pavement in the street outside.
Fifthly, and this is the one nobody thinks about; when everyone else is out of the office you can look in their waste paper baskets for discarded memos, reports and so on. Bit by bit you can collate these snippets of information to expose conspiracies. Obviously some baskets tend to have more juicy contents than others, but I find it's best to take it all home to sort out later. It's a pleasant chore for me on Saturday mornings indexing and cross referencing my collection. Just in the last few weeks I've discovered correspondence connected with a firm called Anti-Bug. The first was a polite thank-you for enquiring about the range of disguised detectors and please look at the enclosed literature. The next, dated a week later, was a carbon from Karen, who only sits two desks away, who signed herself SECURITY OFFICER, I'd never guessed, I thought she dealt with transport. She wanted to know if the microwaves from the detector were guaranteed safe and how long it would take to deliver the model in pale wood. Then a letter from Anti-Bug confirming that it would be delivered for a three month trial and if it wasn't used on high-power setting it would be safe so long as people didn't stay within six feet for more than a few minutes each day. That was suspicious.
Our office has just got a new hat and coat stand and is conveniently near my desk. I rescued the scrunched-up delivery note from Karen's basket. It's from Anti-bug. The sixth use for a wastepaper basket is to line it with aluminium foil and put it over your head.
|Published||3 vols finished|
|Formats||PDF only at the moment|
|EXTRA||Book 1 Book 2 Book 3|
As Tom's team has money from blackmail he uses it to encourage the younger ones to think about spying abroad as well as helping him. Tom's own attempt at seeing what it's like, using his Honeymoon in Holland as a cover, is a shocking lesson in (a) he's not suited (b) Cis is clever and adaptable and (c) somebody in British Intelligence or Scotland Yard knew to look out for certain false passports. (This is against the two sons of the Chief Constable being killed wile unprepared on intelligence duties. They're all agreed there will never repeat that but see their men are trained and have good cover. They work towards this end.)
Tom sets his mind and team to catching an arsonist who starts heath fires. By luck and judgement he's found and killed in a struggle. Tom is hurt and his broken shoulder and cleverness make an excellent newsreel. Now he's a celebrity and one of the generous and civic-minded people encouraging the Police to try Aeroplanes, and their prosecutions are surging ahead (even if they can't use Tom's clandestine evidence) so Dorset is getting a name for being a progressive police force.
A worrying case, first noticed in all of the other reports by Cis, was a fake burglary, insurance claim and suspicion of wife-murder. Tom and the police's plan to get a confession fail disasterously with the suspect being shot by a panicking policeman. While Tom is a local hero those in the know are getting worried he shoots first and asks questions afterwards. Scotland Yard try to catch him but (because Dorset police stand up to pressure, and the Home Secretary has private secrets he knows will ruin him if Dorset should tell) he gets away with it and the Home office (aided by Scotland Yard) are sent away with another flea in their ear.
Tom, in plaster and pain, has two Inquests to attend. He's on honest terms with the Coroner and they understand each other but it's still a strain. At last the whole team of three families and others can spend two weeks of August in the South of France. It's a nice change but Tom soon spots an ex-pat blackmailer and tips-off the Paris police. The children meet three closely controlled American children and from that they meet an heir to millions. Earlier (Bk1) Tom had found his best mate a wife who turns out to be fierce with money and just what the wimp needs. Pauline having just salvaged what could be salvaged from the family business is now looking for investment and control opportunities. Finding somebody with lots of spare money is her dream.
Back home Tom tries his very best to deal with the personal problems of the County Council Solicitor. But the man shoots himself... Using Tom's gun. Shit! Again. (We find out why he was fine when he left Tom but dead next day in Bk3.) Another private confession to the Coroner and lots of self criticism.
At the end there is a weekend house party at which most of the characters appear including the Americans, the Itallian Military Attache and 'somebody' Tom knows from National intelligence. Tom charms the American children and frees them from the straight-jacket imposed by their weird mother and vapid father. There is romance in the air as well for the youngsters in Tom's team but in different ways.
John Summer has pulled a massive coup against the detectives from Scotland Yard sent to find out about the strange visitors to the houseparty. They've been exposed as determined to deal with Tom and his nosyness and, with a little more wrong-footing and team play by Dorset they make a greater hash. Tom is now used to using the media and feeding newspapers with photos and statements so the Home Secretary has no option but to announce the suspension of ten met. police and an enquiry. Tom takes care of his Scotland Yard friends who fear vindictiveness.
Rather than skulk Tom goes to London, and while on the train, using his skill for liar-spotting fishes for what he suspects is a naval officer who has dark secrets. At Waterloo he's met by a Military Policeman and one of our 'good' Met Police. (It turns out Tom was right to be suspicious and deal with it discretely as the officer can be used as bait for bigger fish (Bk4?)) Tom is now well known to National Security and they have him to thank for introducing them to a financial expert who can engineer various business setups. Tom is asked to keep an eye on strange goings on in a village which appear to be foreign Monks.
Tom finds there are local youth gangs in Weymouth. He wonders how to deal with it? Force will only lead to an arms-race. This sort of thing begins to worry Tom more and more.
At the other end of the social scale he has members of the 'Purbeck Hunt' to deal with who are all protected against their excesses by tame, related, magistrates and frightened police constables. Tom has reason to believe that the Chairman has raided his daughter's trust fund and now this is personal as she's the love of Paul (One of the boys). In a calculated way Tom makes him enraged enough to throw a marble ashtray at a Policeman (which he dodges) but is then attempted murder in the cells for him. Tom and the police try to get evidence of financial mis-deeds from local and London sources.
As investigating the strange Monks is a paying job the police and Tom start surveillance. The monks won't communicate. An alert policeman suspects one Monk's luggage by it's weight. This leads to opening it a week later on a train completely unofficially but finding forgery equipment. Now to plan... But someone who shouldn't know in the London police has wind of their escapade so SHIT! Tom mobilises all his forces and gets the Police to be on standby to try to trap or stop any attempt at clearing-out. Will they get there on time? Everything in the village is quiet so Tom (local hero, always found in tight spots) gets some of the locals in the pub to fetch their guns as a last resort. There is a dramatic ambush where Toms young squad prove themselves as focussed and well trained. Tom, thinking his boys have been crushed by the lorry 'runs away' with a group of soldiers to secure the rest of their building. The army have heavy transporters they can use to recover the vehicles to their depot.
Strangely the next day, even though the army and police worked well together, orders not to let the police access the vehicles and the printing press inside are given. Tom arranges a way in through the front gate by appointment then after being given the OK shows him two men being smuggled in: The Chief Constable and the youngest marksman from last night. While the CC gives a talk in the hall to the troops about dos and dont when in public, and Tom is rescuing an injured crook from the sick-bay, another (secret) smuggled-in member of Tom's team steals the Major's gun from his office. While that was happening the Colonel was being ambushed over dinner at a hotel on his way back from a shooting weekend on the pretext of smoothing any ruffled feathers. Dorset police are now so confident they arrest the Colonel for obstructing a policeman in the course of his duty!
The Chief Constable holds a supper where there are many congratulations and the sense of a large family sharing everything.
There's a lot of interesting characters, a lot of loose ends in the plotting and lots of real events and growing-up to go yet, so one day there will be another set carrying on from about here taking us to perhaps WW2.
| Interesting words for|
|Genre||Life guide for youngsters|
|Published||In need of publisher|
|Formats||HTML working version|
|EXTRA||Complete book on-line|
Being a boffin can be hard for a 'different' child at school. Not only does this book deal with that in the playground, but soon makes it irrelevant as achievement takes-over from attitude. Young boffins will not just know 'long words' but be able to talk about them in a wide context.
There's some science, fun with words, social history, mathematics, history of ideas and ways of looking at the world. The subjects are typically presented with an 'edge' of 'what does this mean to you?'. 'Zeitgeist' is an opportunity to research without using the Internet, write an essay then see who is in a position to sensibly comment on it. 'If the spirit of the age' isn't important then what is? 'Gestalt' is a scary word but an extremely useful tool for boffins explaining things.
Exactly how do you dissect the salivary gland of a mosquito? Of course this book is so full of subjects we can't explain them in-situ. Why would we when the Internet has instantly available background, details and further links? Our job is to provide instructions for how to build a boffin from a kit of bits from a very large and interesting world.
|Freddy the teacher|
|Published||1st Draft nearing completion|
He takes his class to see Julius Ceasar at the National Theatre with a day mixing with the professionals before the evening's performance. Julia the 'caretaker' (Big brother) will be there too! Eustace, the class runt, turns out to be a supurb droll fool and becomes a celebrity overnight. Julia invites Freddy to be 'her man' (At this stage we (and he) don't know she's perverted and he's just another plaything.) [That was chapter one!]
It's stressful and deadly but horrible setbacks are turned into solidarity. It turns out that there are various active cells variously squeezing the populace and delivering retribution. Sue has a loyal army but disloyal local police. Sadness and outrage are dealt with by our heroes in public.
Freddy and Eustace need women companions. (Sue was married, Freddy gets her husband back from a stalemate, pointless war in the Balkans.) This makes Eustace more real on TV screens but Freddy can't settle even though he has the toughest job of all, trying to get the Country working again with all the work going on out of view of the media.
Towards the end we get to see more of the barbaric legacy of guerilla civil-war and how it can't be switched-off overnight. Finally Freddy finds a surprise love, and even if it's a rocky road ahead for the nation we're confident our heroes will manage.
On his return to comfortable Surrey he's matured and starts to catch up with mother, wife and children but the 'treasure' controls them and tries the same on him. He tells himself it is another test but things get worse as he's quarantined and the 'treasure' sent to a Government laboratory. Now he believes he can warn the nation of the real danger that the Government is trying to hush-up.
|Status||First edit printed|
Set in a small town in South East Devon, a 'mad inventor' comes up with the idea of a giant saxophone sculpture to be a tourist attraction. Actually, secretly, it's a roller-coaster suicide machine! The plan is horrible and impractical... If you invent a better guillotine, it's still a guillotine. However once the idea has been suggested, the issues surrounding it can be explored. What do you say to someone who turns up wanting to use your suicide machine? Not "step this way" obviously... A giant saxaphone is ugly and won't remain shiny, and it'll ruin the fragile cliffs. These and many other technical issues are solved. Then the human issues, how punnishing must it be for the staff, need a lot of work. Who has the energy, leadership, staying-power to deal with the administration? How do they cope and how are they inspired?
Jo points this out to her potential suicides. Her only job is to appear as the anonymous angel of death. She guards infinite blackness with an intense gateway of personal sensory effects pressing on fingers, feet, scalp and eyes. Jo may have up to three 'jumpers' in each group. Her voice is nicely different with an Australian twang, though the brusqueness to go with it is an act. There's no hurry. There's always tomorrow. As death's gatekeeper she has no role other than take a packet of their personal possessions and open the gate if asked. Others have discussed alternatives with the suicides. Her reason for being is to see those who are beyond help have her help. Jo and her identical twin came half way round the World to the Saxophone after her mother and father split-up then both committed suicide while she was studying Art at Sydney. Now they live above her small gallery in Seamouth. Jean teaches in Honiton while Jo, Joan or Joanne paints scenes of arid and angry despair.
"Yes. Raining. Raining mats and rugs."
"You know what an umbrella is Gavin. It keeps the rain off?"
"Yes. It keeps the rain off. You hold it up!"
"Do you know anyone here who might have two umbrellas?"
"No. Why would anyone need two umbrellas? It keeps the rain off." The staff had reacted a minute ago. "Hey look Gavin. This nice lady has got an umbrella. Do you know how to open it?" Gavin's sadness when he said 'no' was heart-rending. "Shall I show you?"
"Come on then. Let's go out." Peter physically dragged the little carer to be beside a focussed Gavin and asked her to teach him. For a first attempt it wasn't bad but Peter could see Gavin was totally confused by being shown how to open an umbrella then use it. "Good start. Now let's have a go together with the other one." Peter gave the umbrella's handle to Gavin's palm then closed his hand around the handle. "Shall we hold it up like we're keeping the rain off Gavin?"
"Yes Prof." When somebody with such a command of patient practical optimism is at work, some watch to see the magic, while others shiver at their inadequacies. Peter and Gavin marched out, arm in arm, into the gentle rain with "left-right-left-right..." Peter said "I've brought some of those jam tarts you like." When this delight had been remembered then celebrated, Peter came to the point. "I've got some bad news Gavin. Do you like bad news?"
"No. Don't like bad news."
"You know your dad? He's my best friend."
"Yes. He's like you Prof. He's nice."
"He's dead. He asked me to be nice to you as he can't be anymore. He won't be coming any more to see you."
"He's dead so he can't."
"I can come though."
"Not dad but you Prof."
"Yes. He's dead and can't come anymore. I'll come instead."
"Can we still have jam tarts?"
Later when Peter gathered his shadowy entourage to leave, Gavin was happy. Peter had led him to mimic wiping around his jammy mouth with a paper napkin. Peter wasn't called Prof for nothing. After the mimicking of the jammy mouth came the satisfied smile and relaxed inching of the chair back to relax in a perfect world. Gavin followed Peter so they shared a satisfaction. Gavin's brother and sister-in-law had seen the performance from the next table. On the other side Brian and Christine had seen the same thing. None of them had jam tarts or bothered with paper napkins. None of them had perfect control over the weird ways of the world. They were lesser beings. Everyone in the room could admire, even if through a gauze of jealousy, or bars of inadequacy, Peter's command of the fragile moment.
|Status||Being edited May '16|
|Action for teenage boys. It's about time we had something better than Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. It's easy to follow but gradually the value of investigating, preparation and knowledge becomes clear.|
When going into the next town together, it is 1864. Our peripetitic bookseller knows the Russians took over towns/provinces/small kingdoms about then. What he finds is a youthful and cruel king who has outlawed ant talk of the Russians, but is otherwise impotent. After palace politics led by the concubines persuaded 'something must be done', there's a new policy of smartening up the woefully under-resourced army, in order to convince the Russians that they're better off using the existing power rather than attempting a military campaign.
As yet there are no actual signs of the Russians so our hero heads West to meet the first telegraph line being constructed. He knows this will change everything. He knows what electricity and steam is while most people have only the vaguest idea what a railway is.
Our hero actually has designs on portable wealth at the palace, then disappear the way he came. However, now he has a deeper mission as he's showing his local companion and his servant boy how to face the world, grow up as men. He wants them to see the autumn colours of Canadian maple leaves. He is a citizen of the world and a teacher because of his travel and knowledge.
This is a book that's absolutely ideal for school boys, preferably to read at school. The cover shows a blackboard and that is the heart of the book, hidden beneath the action.
In re-remembering the events it dawns on him and listner Rachel that there was some sort of charade going on and he was lured to witness some alibi. The case starts to unravel. Rachel, 75, takes a fancy to Terry and through Terry's many introductions and Rachel's painting, they become a couple; exploring East Anglia and trying to get to the bottom of what went on back in 1944.
It turns out Rachels parents were probably working for the Russians, or possibly the Israel during the 1950s and 60s. Now the British Secret Service wants to find out more so they can tie up loose-ends. There was a war-time training school for agents being prepared to be dropped into occupied Europe in the next village so there could well be connections there to fascinate a historian. Rachel's mother is still alive, in a nursing home, but can't or won't remember.
|Poetry for people who don't like poetry|
|Genre||Anthology and tutorial|
|Status||On-line fizzzrst version|
|EXTRA||Completed on-line version|
It's like football or knitting, not to everyone's taste. As I've often been asked in pubs (and elsewhere) what it is that's good about poetry I thought I'd explain. The working title for this is Bonkers, but it makes sense
The average person is perfectly capable of understanding, enjoying and being moved by poetry. The elitists and awful poncey-prose merchants have no clothes.
People are interested in people. I tend to write about strong leaders to love. They have weaknesses, setbacks, doubts and other inner emotions which provides built-in conflict with the image they present to other characters. All my heroes stay-put to deal with issues rather than going on quests.1 They succeed by building loyal teams and families rather than swashbuckling, magic, super-powers or 1-in-a-million coincidence. These heroes have strengths of determination, vision, courage, accessibility and humanity and when, very occasionally if ever, they use violence it tends to cause problems. I sometimes use violent episodes to change pace, or break up a smug existence, but I prefer to use the threat of violence whether personal, general turmoil or creeping inevitability, as quicksand the characters have to cope with so the reader can experience the issues for themselves. Building family love is a key element to most of my novels. (Romance and occasionally sex are there as well.) There's also the romance of story-telling and building hero legends for 'living' people. Manipulating public images (perhaps contrasting with what the reader knows or assumes) is often an important part of the story... Then comes having to live up to that larger than life image.
Poetry for people who don't like poetry is an attempt to (a) share the joy of good poetry (b) explain how it works (c) illustrate how it is practically always deliberately liminal.
The Early Reader is unconventional. Ok, it's a very simple story about Jake having a bath, but it has two important features: It tramples over Phonics and if it had pictures they wouldn't be direct illustrations. The reason should be obvious: Reading words is the greatest guessing game on the planet. Associating pictures with words (watch a child and see) is playing the wrong game. We pattern-match by experience not deduce by rules. That's the game and your brain is scanning ahead at this moment. If Jake is dirty then show a muddy playground but not Jake himself.
Interesting words for interesting children is another bold book. Roughly 100 short articles initially purporting to be a dictionary starting with Accoutrements then Boffin. It's really about the 10 year old Gifted and Talented reader themselves. Of course words are fun and you can use them as weapons in a unfriendly playground. Of course there are lots of interesting things in the world. By the third alphabet they're well on the way to being a grown-up, confident, disciplined, very curious, highly organised and knowledgeable young boffin. This is a gateway to getting past the facade of school learning then understanding how to get your point across in a sometimes devious world. As the title says, it's not boring. For example there is a single, separate, page of essential maths but a horribly non-intuitive probability experiment where Horrible Harry has horse-napped Fabulous. The lesson is not 'do the sums' but 'try for yourself then try it on others'.
I write at about the rate of a thousand words per calendar day. Some suggest this is quantity at the expense of quality, but the sort of comments I get back, and the amount of revision required, indicates I'm an efficient and focussed writer who stays in-touch with the reader and what they need. Obviously not everybody likes everything, but most people like most bits and I haven't had complaints about passages where the style balloons, plot vanishes or is lumpy. One strange piece of feedback goes along the lines of 'can't you make Fred less of a wimp / like his wife / more etc.' Well I suppose I could, but it shows the readers care about the characters.