Sunday, 31 March 2013

I have become Death...

To misquote Oppenheimer:
'I have become Death, the destroyer of birds'.
Well, a bird, to be precise - a female pheasant that met its demise in a most spectacular fashion as it ran headlong under the driver's side front wheel (there was a classic 'muffled thump' and 'momentary judder') of my car before it erupted from beneath in an explosion of brown feathers and mangled body parts that spread across the whole carriageway and no doubt left the black Vauxhall Astra directly behind us covered in the aforementioned feathers, bits of blood, pheasant brains and entrails, with maybe even a severed wing humorously sticking out of its front grille and flapping furiously in the wind.

As I watched in my rear-view mirror the spreading cloud of plumage receding into the distance, I wondered for a moment why the pheasant had done what it did. I came up with the following options:
  1. it had a death-wish;
  2. it had, having been egged on by its peers, tried to play 'chicken' with a Ford Mondeo...and lost;
  3. it had a personality disorder and thought it was a cheetah, capable of out-running a car travelling at 70 mph;
  4. it had been so excited about negotiating the westbound carriageway of the M65 that it just kept on running in celebration and...bang;
  5. it was the victim of a bored deity's idle doodling with life in all its varied forms.
Whatever the reason, and however horrifying the actual details are of the pheasant's death, there was, I eventually decided, a silver lining to this whole episode and, in a way, a real justification for my decision not to swerve manically onto the hard shoulder or stamp furiously on the brakes (and before anyone asks, I did brake a bit and I did think about swerving).
And that justification is...?
Well, put simply, it's in the interests of the survival of any species of bird (with a few, notable exceptions in Africa and Australia) that those of its own kind that have clearly forgotten what their fucking wings are for, be eliminated before they have an opportunity to add their stupidity to the gene pool.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Is honesty the best policy?

quan·da·ry (kwon'da-re, -dre)
n. pl. quan·da·ries
A state of uncertainty or perplexity.

Yes, my friends, I do indeed find myself in a quandary.
Well, it has to do with a book that I downloaded for my Kindle yesterday...I'll keep the name of the author and the title of the book secret because...because...well, that's the basis of the quandary really.

Let me ask you this:
If a book is really, really bad, is it better to come straight out and tell the author (and the publisher) that what they've unleashed on the unsuspecting public is actually a real piece of literary shite, or should one just keep quiet about it, hit the delete button on the Kindle and move on to something else?
And, as an added complication, would criticism of another's work by someone who has themselves just laid before the world the fruits of their own labours be regarded as 'bad form', the crossing of some invisible line of solidarity amongst the ranks of up-and-coming, wannabe authors ?
I guess if my role in all of this was simply one of 'reader',then I could be as harsh as I wished - after all, I have shelled out some of my hard-earned shekels on this download and, as such, I would feel justified to comment on the poor spelling, the slipshod punctuation, the use of poor similes and the over/incorrect use of adjectives in an opening chapter that was so dire that I could not bring myself to read to the end of it, let alone endure the remainder of the book.
But much as I might try to convince myself that my harsh and judgemental literary id is an entity in its own right and free to express itself as it sees fit, I still find myself restraining it on the grounds that it is inseparably connected to that other part of me, the part that cares both about another writer's feelings (after all, they have taken the time and the effort...and had the place their work 'out there' for the scrutiny (and possibly scorn) of others) and about how the outspoken criticism of a fellow writer may be viewed by my peers.
To paraphrase Billy Shakey's Hamlet:
'To be (truthful), or not to be, that is the question.'

There are also two other complicating emotions to add to this already complex equation, and they are anger and (I admit somewhat ashamedly) hubris.
The anger comes from the fact that, in my (undoubtedly bias) eyes, here is another piece of pretty crappy writing parading as a piece of worthwhile literature that will damage the reputation of the Indie publishing scene and re-inforce the belief of many readers that spending money on unknown authors (particularly ebook authors) is simply not worth the hassle and that, instead, it is safer to download the works of 'established' authors or only plump for a new author that has come from one of the established publishing houses and whose ebook is also available in hard-copy on the shelves of Waterstones to sample whilst sitting in the in-store Costa Coffee outlet drinking a large latte with an extra shot and eating a scrumptious piece of tiffin.
You see, in my opinion, by actually publishing something where even the title of the first chapter has an obvious spelling mistake in it does immense damage not only to the reputation of the author in question, and not only to the reputation of the publisher who produced it, but also to all the other authors who are trying to get their piece of wheat noticed amidst the swirling maelstrom of literary chaff...which brings me nicely onto hubris (you see, I did say that this blog was about expressing my emotions, even if those emotions are not something to be particularly proud of!)
If I'm truly honest with myself, the hubris comes from the belief that my writing, far from being a malformed and stinking turd made up of poorly chosen words, pointless metaphors, spelling mistakes and poor plot, is instead a shining jewel of a book, created in humble beginnings, yes, but destined to rise from the mass of uninspiring and lack-lustre novels that are now being churned out across the world-wide-interweb and to take its rightful place as a work of profound importance, a 'cult classic' to rival any that have gone before.
Of course, my book may also be just another one of these many piles of literary crap...after all, as observant readers have already spotted, there are at least half a dozen spelling mistakes/syntax errors in Part 1 (though I do think that's better than six in the first few pages!)

And so, back to the quandary.
What should I do?
Stay silent, or give voice to my emotions...?

I think you will probably already have guessed what the outcome will be, especially if you really know me.
Of course I'll stay silent, biting my tongue (not literally of course - that would be stupid and vaguely masochistic) and keeping quiet about not only this particular book, but also the two or three other books I've recently downloaded which, though much lauded by my contemporaries, have sorely failed to live up to their five-star hype (which begs the question about how genuine such hype is...but that's another story) and left what one author peculiarly described as a 'repugnant stone' sat in the stomach of my reader id.
Instead, I shall save my voice for those few novels (witty, inspired, full of carefully crafted prose) that really are special, that are worth shouting about because they are more than just a story told by words on a page (or a screen), they are an alternative world of adventure and intrigue and wonder and excitement and terror, carefully and painstakingly crafted for us by those with a gift and with a belief...and a determination to produce something more than ordinary.
That's why, in spite of recent disappointments when delving into the murky depths of the 'new', and in spite of the fact that I have a bookcase (both physical and Kindle) full of all that is great and proven in the literary world, I will still continue to download the work of those of whom I have never heard in the hope that I will find not only a novel and and an author worth shouting about, but also proof that what the recent explosion in ebook publishing has achieved is the emancipation of talented writers and tremendous works of fiction for too long gagged and bound by the conservativeness and celebrity-obsession of traditional publishers...and that ebook publishing has not simply unleashed on us all an overwhelming tsunami of shit writing under which any and all work of literary merit will be drowned and left to rot.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Need to be rescued? We take Visa or Mastercard

I did something today that I've done very infrequently...but I don't want to talk about that!
Instead, I want to talk about the fact that I've gone and sent an e-mail to my MP.
'Why', I hear you cry, 'would you bother doing that? You know that all you'll get back is a pointless, non-committal response full of worthless re-assurances and false platitudes, written by your MP's secretary's secretary's daughter.'
True, I'm not expecting anything ground-breaking by way of a response...but I am expecting a response nonetheless.
But a response to what?
Well, it's all to do with big yellow helicopters, just like the one I was lucky enough to get a ride in on 28th December 2008 when I happened to fall over on some ice on Glaramara can see the result in the x-ray!

The dark line across the bone just above the ankle joint - that's where it went snap!

Anyway, thanks to those fine chaps in the big yellow helicopter, I was lifted off a very, very cold mountain to nice warm A&E department in less than the time it takes an x-ray operative to look at an x-ray, pop her head round from behind her protective screen and just say 'Ouch!'
The A&E department was at Furness General in Barrow (a bitch of a place to get to from Seathwaite where the car was parked, as Wendy, Ged and Lucy found out!) - I guess, with hindsight, I should be thankful that I was only at Furness General for a broken leg and not to give birth, but that's another story and I am digressing.

The worry I have about the big yellow helicopters is that should I ever need to be rescued off a chilly mountain in a few years time (heaven forbid), rather than the winchman coming to me with a bottle of oxygen and a vacuum splint, he'll come instead with a card machine and confirmation that, in order to pay for my rescue, I will either need to produce evidence of current 'Mountain Rescue Insurance' (courtesy of Churchill (oh yes), Direct Line or the like) or I'll have to be able to provide them with a Visa or Mastercard (they'll no doubt take either!).
Of course, no-one in government is mentioning anything like this as part of the announcement about Bristow winning the £1.6billion contract to operate the UK's Search and Rescue service for 10 years from 2017, oh no; Ministers are instead focusing on the fact that all the ageing Royal Navy and RAF Sea-King helicopters are going to be replaced by shiny new Sikorsky ones which will get to us quicker when we get into difficulties.
But how long, I ask myself, before Bristow's come back saying that they just can't make any money out of trying to keep people alive and that, if someone doesn't find more money from somewhere, well, they might start finding that people can't be rescued as quickly as they need to be...
And what happens when someone needs rescuing from the summit of Snowdon in a snowstorm (as happened last week, though I do believe those particular 'hillwalkers' should be publicly flogged for being fucking idiots!) and Bristow refuse to send their helicopter up because their health and safety risk assessment has deemed the risks to their pilots to be too great?

Such questions I have posed to Mr Jake Berry (yes, I do know who my MP is because he writes to me every now and again and recently invited me for tea and biscuits at the Methodist Church!).
Let's see what he says, shall we...and then let's see whether I'm saying 'I told you so' in a few years time.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Not another f***ing blog!!

Why, in the name of all that is holy, do we need another blog?
Who, in this universe or any other, gives a flying toss about what Andy Ritchie thinks about this and that and the other?
In fact, is Andy Ritchie's ego now so bloated that he thinks people will actually be interested in what he has to say?

Valid questions, to be sure.
My answers?
1. We don't.
2. Probably no-one.
3. I hope not, but it may be.

The truth is, I'm not really writing this blog for you.
I'm writing it for me.
Well, a couple of reasons really.
Firstly, it's an exercise in writing and expression. I enjoy writing and I enjoy using writing to express myself. When I'm writing a book, I'm constrained a bit by the storyline, by the situation or the characters; in a blog, I'm not really constrained at all, so I can say what the fucking hell I fucking well like and not give a pus-filled bollock about the consequences...may all your blue bananas produce glow-in-the-dark ducklings armed with rocket-launchers and a bad attitude...see what I mean. I can say what I want and it doesn't even have to make sense (though I hope it always will!)
There's a freedom in the blog.
Secondly, I want to create a record, not only of what I have been doing (because mymemories going), but also about what I thought and felt about the things that have been going forget, you see, not only about certain events and situations, but also about how they really made you feel at the time you heard about them...and I don't want to forget that, not if I can help it.

So, to the blog - how often, what format, subject matter?
Truth is, I have no idea.
I think I'll blog when I feel like it, but I aim to do so as often as possible, definitely at least once a week.
Format? Well, it's just going to flow, so format is a bit of an irrelevence. Could be single words, could be whole paragraphs. Who knows?
Subject matter? What I've been up to, what I've seen in the news, what I've got planned...really, anything.

Take today, for example.
Two seriously conflicting emotions.
First, I see that one of my photos (Darwen Tower at sunrise) has been published in the Reader's Gallery of Lancashire Walks and Wildlife magazine. Fantastic!
Second, I see on Facebook a post from Alison saying that Joan has passed away. Gutted!
High, then low...followed by...what?
There's so many emotions, so much to describe...and that's exactly what I want to do, use this blog as a means of getting what I'm feeling down on paper (or on screen) and doing so in a way that challenges me, that makes me find exactly the right words, express myself in exactly the right way.
Deep, or what!