Halloween and other stuff

Happy Halloween to you!

Here follows the sea as I saw it a few days ago, phone camera in hand. It’s been tweaked using the wonderful open source program ‘Paint.NET‘ – oddly, not its URL.

The beach at St. Leonards - manipulation #1
The beach at St. Leonards – manipulation #1
St. Leonards Beach #2 - manipulation
The beach at St. Leonards – manipulation #2

Then there’s this. The latest piece of sculpture in the local sculpture park.

A Memorial for an Unseen Presence. By Jaye Ho

I think it’s a pill box (gun emplacement). Art designed to remind us of the 1st World War is a good thing. We, and by we I mean the human race, should never forget the horror of war, nor the millions of young lives that were needlessly lost. I only wish the sheet covering the frame looked more like concrete and less like tie-dye.

NaNoWriMo begins tomorrow (1st November). If you don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, or why I often waffle on about it in October, then it’s well worth checking out: especially if you’ve ever felt you have a wonderful novel inside you just waiting to be written. I’ve taken part most years since 2006, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s almost as good as sex drugs rock & roll visiting a local sculpture park . 😉

You can find me at NaNoWriMo HERE.

Have a great Halloween! Ave. Oh, if you fancy reading a short horror story I wrote for Halloween then click here. It’s called ‘Pleiades.’

Reality vs Imagination and the Pale Blue Dot

I often sit here at my desk and write fiction. Writing is a hobby – though, like many others writers, I’d like to make a living at it. Fantasy is my genre of choice rather than gritty realism, mystery, horror, or any other. Earlier today I was wondering why. Why fantasy in particular? It’s not easier than any other genre–although it might appear to be–in fact done well fantasy is a good deal harder: what with world building and language creation.

When the writing fit is upon me I use the internet a lot: to read, research, check facts, odd spellings and so forth. Out of all the sites I use Wikipedia is right up there with the best. I use it a lot as it’s by far the best resource for general research. Recently, I signed up to edit (I’d found a few typos). Today, while trying to work out how you begin to get properly involved, I stumbled upon a quote from Carl Sagan about the ‘Pale Blue Dot.’ It rang a bell in my memory vault so I explored some more.

On September 5th 1977 NASA launched Voyager 1. The mission was designed primarily to study the outer solar system and then, for as long as the craft lasted, to travel on and study interstellar space (as of right now it has been traveling for over thirty five years). Voyager 1 is the farthest away from Earth that mankind has ever been, which is a pretty sobering fact if you think about the vastness of space and the billions of other galaxies there are out there.

After it had finished its primary mission NASA got Voyager 1 to turn around and take photographs. And here is one of them. A photograph that will, if you have any imagination at all, blow your mind.

It was taken on the 14th february 1990, when, after traveling at 40,000 miles an hour for some twelve years, Voyager 1 was 3.7 billion miles away.

At first glance it’s not a terribly impressive picture … but look halfway down the light reddy/brown stripe on the right of the picture and you’ll see a tiny blue/white dot. See it? That’s Earth. It’s not imagination, not fantasy, it’s as real as it gets. And yet it’s so science fiction as to be almost unbelievable. That speck is where I am and except for vivid dreams and wild flights of fictional fancy I really ain’t going anywhere else.

It answers why I like writing escapist fantasy and why reading it appeals so much. It also gives us all the best possible reason for getting our collective acts together and sorting out the planet before it gives up on us…. Because we haven’t got anywhere else to go.

Carl Sagan says it best in his book ‘Pale Blue Dot‘:

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

Rain, rain, rain and floods.

Rainy June.

This country is weird. Half the place is under a hosepipe ban whilst the other half is busily preparing arks – or should be if they know what’s good for them.

Meanwhile we have a seagull (called Napoleon), who has taken to wandering in through the back door. He’s been in the kitchen twice, and on Sunday  B was busy getting him out of the front room, when some woman stopped outside.

“Why’s there a seagull in your living room?” she asked, blue rinse quivering.

“Sunday Roast,” B replied, and then had to tell the woman it was a joke before she called the RSPB.

The cats don’t seem to care, either. Mind you, Napoleon is as big as they are, and his beak has to be shaper than their claws. Hopefully, one day soon, I’ll catch him on camera.

Aww….

Bless my cotton socks!

I stumbled upon this picture while hoovering – literally as I fell over an old box which looked worthy of exploration. I almost remember my dad taking it (definitely with a Rollei): it was in the garden of our first house in Kensington, London.

It looks like I’d been crying, which I used to do a lot, though I can’t remember the reasons. Off the top of my adult head it was probably because I was spoilt rotten and wanted to do – or have – something, and hadn’t been given permission. 🙂

In the same box I also found a bundle of short stories I wrote yonks ago, which should make entertaining reading for the long, windy, rain-sodden June evenings we’re having.

 

Max and Me

When I was very small, way back when, I remember being ill. I think it was flu, but it might have been measles… anyway, I wasn’t well. And I wasn’t a good patient, either.

So there I was—I can picture the room, the single bed, the smell of the pillows and the blankets, and the smell of Vick’s vapour rub—and in comes my Dad with a book. I have a feeling he’d just got back from a business trip to America, but I could be jumbled up.

Anyway, after feeling my forehead—as parents are wont to do—he sat down and read me the tale of Max and the Wild Things. And then he read it again, as did most of the decent adults who ministered to poor old me. Once was good, but twice was better! Once I was well again it became a bedtime ritual… for a bit. I haven’t read it in an age, and the last time was to my nephews.

I was very sad when I heard Maurice Sendak had died, but thinking of Max and the Wild Things, and his fantastic illustrations have stirred up some wonderful memories.

…later the same day.

Back garden

 

There are squirrels and birds of all wild varieties, and cats and wee snow beasties, too. Of course you can’t see them as it’s a still photograph, but they’re there.

And now. Now I have to go to the shops for to purchase comestibles of all sorts (which doesn’t mean liquorice all sorts, though it could if I happen to stumble across a packet). Pity me, for it’s cold and wet and bleak, and did I mention cold?

Brrrrrrrr.

Snowing!

It's Snowing!

 

It’s just past 2:30am on the 5th February and it’s snowing!

I love snow. For the first few minutes it takes me back to my childhood and snowdays when school was cancelled and I could get wrapped up warm, go outside, thunder about building snow-men, get soaking wet and come back in to sit infront of a fire and have a hot bath. It’s good to get all snowed up and then, wuzzly warm, go to bed. And it’s especially good, nay, it’s the best, if it snows on Christmas eve: Christmas morning with fresh deep snow is wonderful! There’s nothiing like it. It’s special, magical, and produces wonderful memories.

So, I love snow … for the first few minutes. Then it becomes a pain in the arse. Plans change. Life changes, and quite possibly Swiss Buns double in price.

Wrap up warm, take care, and have fun! 🙂

Percy the actor

Percy in a scene from his new film

Percy has decided to get into film. Coming out of the cinema after seeing Speilberg’s ‘War Horse’ I found him commenting on the beast’s ineptitude. He was shocked to find out that the horse was CGI and decided to show how it should be done.

The photogravure above is a still from quite a moving scene in which, during a robust soliloquy, he pledges his love for all things cat including—but not exclusively—sleeping in front of anything warm, food, more sleep and then more food.

After osculating the heroin (I think he meant heroine – it’s hard to read his paw written script) he then gets shelled. It’s a sad ending, especially as I think he was really contemplating a bowl of shelled prawns. C’est la vie.

Rear windows

Watching them watching me watching them

 

When you Live in town your personal space and allowed privacy is very, very different from when you live in the country. We’ve been living here, now, for nearly six months, and lack of privacy is axiomatic. Not that I gave it a second thought before we moved. Moving seemed sensible: rent was cheaper and, for me, the main draw was doing without the expense of a car – stupid me. Have you ever tried shopping in a supermarket and then walking home? No? I didn’t think so. It seems to me that cars have become a requisite wherever you live. Feeble, I know. But fact.

This post, from the 13th describes the surveillance camera that ‘appeared’ in the street to the front. The picture above is the view from the back garden door. Windows. Lots of windows, and more curtain twitching surveillance.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind – and if I did there’s bugger all I could do about it – but inside each and every window  is a person. A stranger. A complete and utter total stranger who might be my next best friend … or might be an axe murderer. How do I know? And the truth is I can’t know, unless I traipse around and introduce myself and then I become the local loony. Or, my luck runs out and I vanish in a newly turned flower bed in said axe murderer’s garden.

Oh, I wish I hadn’t recently seen Alfred Hitchcock‘s ‘Rear Window‘.

I suppose this mild, bubbling, ever present sense of being perpetually observed, is paranoia. So I’m paranoid. Paranoid and proud! I wonder if there is some sort of multi coloured plastic wrist band I should be wearing that proclaims me?

So, the upshot is – and yes, this might possibly be paranoia speaking (or writing, as you do in blogs) – we are being watched from the street at the front by some bloke in a council office with a vast bank of monitors, and by those in the houses opposite. And then we’re being watched from the back by pretty much the same demographic, except the poor bloke from the council is missing out.

Moving back to the country seems eminently sensible, now. Far far out in the country where you need a serious 4 x 4 and the nearest possible ‘surveillance’ is a couple of miles away.

Hmm, maybe an idea worth pondering. 😉

 

Too intrusive by far

Too intrusive by far. This street camera can see into my living room.

This country I live in, this England I call home has changed beyond all belief. We use to pride ourselves on standing up for the weak; for being in the right. The saying suborned by comics ‘Truth, honour and the American way’ use to refer to us, but sadly no longer. We use to be the home of the free and now we’re the home of the surveilled. The U.K. now has more surveillance cameras per head of population than anywhere else on the planet. And, stupid git that I am, it didn’t bother me until very recently … when this camera appeared on the lampost opposite my house.

Supposedly it’s only there to put traffic wardens out of a job. Supposedly. Maybe you loath traffic wardens and maybe you don’t, but putting them out of work by increasing CCTV coverage is out of order. It is an excuse: this is not a big road I live on: it’s a little side street.

Worse: the camera is exactly opposite my living room windows. Underneath, a facetious little yellow on black sign – complete with smiley face – says: “Smile you’re on CCTV.”

No wonder we’re all slowly going downhill and becoming paranoid – in my case not quite so slowly.