Sunday, 24 August 2014

As Rafiki once said: It is time!

Well, first of all, before I got on to the meat of today's blogpost, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all the fabulous people all over the world who have been kind enough to spare a few minutes of their valuable time reading my inane ramblings - I hope that you found my observations and social comment interesting, and that my attempts at comedy and satire made you chuckle a little.
You are the best!

Right, now that that's out of the way, let's get to the subject of today's blogpost…and it's really a heads up about the fact that I'm going to blogging a lot less in the weeks and months to come.
'Oh my God, Andy, NOOOOO!' I hear you cry. 'Why are you doing this to us?'
Well, that's a good question, my friend.
It's all about time.
You see, since I finished writing Fractured Time back in May, I've had quite a bit of time available to write a post almost every day, which has been great. However, now that we're reaching the end of August, I'm starting to gear up for my new novel…or should I say novels. Yes, folks, because I'm always looking for a literary challenge, I've decided to work on two books at the same time (because I think they've both got tremendous potential) - so the next few months will see almost all of my writing time being devoted to 'The Curious Case of God vs Pratt' and 'Deus Magnus'.
This means very little time for blogging…unfortunately.
Not that I'm going to stop completely of course - oh no. I'm certainly going to keep people up to speed on my efforts to find an agent who falls in love with 'Fractured Time'; I'm also going to be sharing progress on efforts to get 'Callum's Quest' illustrated and then published. And I'll be providing an update on progress on both of my new pieces of work. And maybe some photos.
And I've no doubt there'll be a comment or two on the impending vote for independence in Scotland, and (unfortunately) I'd be more than a little surprised if we get to the end of the year without some barbaric act of terrorism taking place which warrants a rant of outrage!
So please be patient and keep checking in from time to time!

Saturday, 23 August 2014

What the Belle & Sebastien is this?

Following my nostalgic post of Tuesday 12th August, I've come across this.
What the f**k?
Did any of you know about this?

Has anyone seen it?
Is it any good?
Personally, I think the word we're looking for is sacrilege!

They'll be remaking The Flashing Blade next (though if it's true to form, you'll need to buy an extra DVD to find out how it actually ends!!)

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Now this a real crisis!!

We haven't had to look far for our share of international crises this year, have we?
The chaos in Syria continues.
Russia's annexation of Crimea.
Israel and Hamas fighting in Gaza (again!!)
Pro-Russian murderers shooting down a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine.
The list goes on and on.

But there's one crisis that has been conspicuous by its absence on the news channels of the world, and that's the loss of about 70% of the hazelnut crop harvest in Turkey due to the frosts in March.
So why is this a crisis?
Well, hazelnut prices have gone through the roof and hit a 10-year high and this will undoubtedly have an effect on the price of that most delicious of spreads…NUTELLA.

Each jar contains 50 hazelnuts!!
The obvious thing to do is to stock up on as many jars of Nutella as you can get your hands on.
Just one problem though - the Best Before date.
Let's face it, people, there's only so much Nutella spread on toast that a man can eat before they either get tired of the stuff (heaven forbid) or their arteries finally clog up for good…but wait, there is salvation!!!
Click on the link below and feast your eyes on fifteen examples of utter fabulousness!


Okay, it won't stop your arteries from clogging up because it'll mean you do actually consume the contents of those hundred and fifty jars you've just bought, but at least it will add that much needed variety to the consumption of that fantastic hazelnut chocolate spread.

I'm going to have a go at this - Banana and Nutella-Stuffed French Toast!

Nom, nom, nom!!!

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

An act of unconscionable brutality

I don't normally like to bring the usually upbeat tone of my blog down by commenting on news items (which are almost without exception hugely depressing), but every now and again something comes along which I feel compelled to comment upon.

It's just impossible to comprehend what must have been going on inside the minds of both kidnapped American James Foley and his masked executioner (apparently from Britain, though certainly not 'British') in the moments leading up to the journalist's brutal, barbaric beheading.
For James Foley, I can't even begin to imagine the terror he must have felt. Poor man.
And his murderer? Well, it's hard to think of a more graphic, more damning demonstration of all that is wrong with the Islamic fundamentalism which these 'jihadists' are peddling. There is something hideously broken inside the mind of any human being who believes that any deity would ever condone the cutting off the head of a helpless, kneeling man. And no amount of twisted words hand-picked from religious teachings could ever justify this kind of morally abhorrent behaviour.
Let's face it, the man who did this, and his cohorts, are just truly sick fuckers who have no place in this world of ours. At all. End of debate!
And if anyone, irrespective of their religious beliefs, or their political bias, or anything else for that matter, does not believe that this kind of evil (for only truly 'evil' men would commit such an atrocity) must be fought and must be eradicated, well I'm afraid there's something wrong in your head as well!

Though it is of little comfort to James Foley's family, I'm sure, I can only hope that the man who so violently took his life, along with all the other monstrous individuals who are currently roaming the deserts of Iraq and Syria and butchering countless innocent men, women and children in the name of their 'faith', do indeed find their way to the after-life when they die…only to discover a very, very pissed off deity who just looks at them with profound disdain and then points downwards, saying:
'Hell is that way, you sick bastards. Enjoy your eternity of torment!'

Monday, 18 August 2014

#MakeMeSmileMonday - Say what you see!

This week's offering for #MakeMeSmileMonday is a picture.

Not really sure there's much to add…just say what you see!

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Notice of Sale

I just thought I'd share with you one of the seven fabulous short stories contained in my incredibly unsuccessful book 'God, Aliens, Death & Teapots'.
I know, I'm just too good to you people!!

Notice of Sale

We at Moff, Cavil, Cotto and Associates are delighted to announce a rare opportunity to acquire a traditional, well-maintained planet in the much sought-after Orion Arm region of the Milky Way, with spectacular night-time views across the Equatorial Symmetry Plane.
The planet, current designation ‘Earth’, is ideally situated on the inner edge of the Orion Arm, in a largely unspoilt and undeveloped part of the galaxy, yet still within easy commuting distance of the Galactic Centre.
Formed approximately 4.54 billion years ago from entirely local gaseous matter and dust, Earth is a classical spherical shape (with negligible elliptical distortion) and has an equatorial circumference of 40,000 kilometres. It sits in its own extensive region of space, sufficiently distant from its two nearest neighbours (designations ‘Venus’ and ‘Mars’) to provide total privacy (note – both neighbouring planets are currently uninhabited and not expected to come onto the market within the next century).
Boasting a local G-type ‘yellow dwarf’ main-sequence star with confirmed hydrogen reserves guaranteeing steady and continuous operation for approximately 5.4 billion years, the planet has an average annual temperature of 14.5 oC with extremes of between +57 oC and -90 oC (note – due to recent unregulated carbon dioxide emissions, the planet is likely to experience a minimum rise in average global temperatures of 2 oC within the next 100 years; this may lead to instances of water ingress into some low-lying land-masses).
The planet’s atmosphere, which extends to a height of 100 kilometres, is a mixture of 78.09% nitrogen, 20.95% oxygen, 0.93% argon and 0.039% carbon dioxide, with a further number of trace elements and up to 1% water vapour (note – this gaseous configuration can be altered to suit any perspective buyer’s particular atmospheric requirements, though it is recommended that a full Potential Impact Survey is conducted before any major atmospheric changes are undertaken). The planet is also fitted with a reliable magnetic field to prevent damage from solar winds (full maintenance history available on request), an ozone layer (recently repaired) to minimise solar UV radiation levels, and the planet’s Galactic Collision Risk Factor is rated as ‘very low’ (note – a rating of ‘very low’ does not preclude the potential for a catastrophic impact from a rogue comet or asteroid – potential buyers are advised to confirm the planet’s GCRF as part of their own, independent survey).
Structurally, the planet is built around a solid iron-nickel alloy core of approximately 1,200 kilometres diameter, surrounded by a liquid iron-nickel outer core. A large magma layer of molten rock and dissolved crystals and gases is encased in a standard outer crust of between 5 and 50 kilometres thick (note – outer crust thickness may vary and some areas remain prone to subsidence due to unsecured tectonic plates).
The planet’s surface is decorated to a high standard with a number of different land-masses of varying sizes set within a large and extensive planetary water-feature. On these different land-masses, the present owner has integrated different landforms and terrains with both global and micro-climates to create an extraordinary array of habitats for the wide variety of life-forms with which the present owner has populated the planet. (note – whilst the sale includes all indigenous life-forms, some species identified in previous surveys may no longer be present).
The planet is offered on either a residential or commercial basis.

Residential options include:

  • the creation of an exclusive private retreat for class J (super-massive) life-forms making use, for recreational purposes, of the presence of vast expanses of water, large polar regions of guaranteed snow and ice and extensive beaches with year-round sun (note – atmospheric density is not uniform and decreases with altitude, so a life- form height limit will apply);
  • the colonisation of Earth as a second-home planet for an expanding civilisation;
  • the re-location of a life-form from a current home planet that is facing destruction from a local supernova, black-hole or local galactic infrastructure development.
Commercial options include:

  • leisure - the exploitation for leisure purposes of the planet’s relatively benign climate, spectacular scenery, wide variety of interesting indigenous species and significant potential for activity-based recreation;
  • resource extraction – previous surveys have confirmed that the crust of the planet contains large deposits of silicon, aluminium, iron, sodium, potassium, chlorine, sulphur and titanium, as well as smaller quantities of boron, uranium, gold, silver, mercury, selenium and palladium (please note – previously estimated quantities of fossil fuels may have been recently depleted);
  • farming (arable or livestock) – whilst, at present, only 40% of the planet’s land-mass is used for the production of foodstuffs, it is estimated that, with some investment in land-mass re-structuring and improved irrigation of water-stressed areas, this could be increased to 85%. The installation of a global weather management system could further increase yields, and planning permission has been granted for the installation of a Rotational Axis Variation System, thus eliminating seasonal sunlight variation and associated weather extremes, and further enhancing potentials yields.
Also included in the offer is the planet’s single orbiting satellite (current designation ‘Moon’). Currently undeveloped and without atmosphere, this satellite, with an equatorial circumference of 10,920 kilometres, is in synchronous rotation with the Earth at a distance of between 356,400 and 406,700 kilometres (note - there are no planning restrictions in relation to this body and potential removal is an option; however, it is recommended that a full Potential Impact Survey is conducted before any major structural changes are undertaken). This satellite may provide useful additional storage, parking for several inter-galactic cruisers, or has the potential for conversion into a ‘Granny Flat’ or sublet.

To express your interest in the possible purchase of this planet, or to arrange a viewing, please contact one of our sales officers by the usual channels, quoting ‘Earth1’. We will be only too pleased to help you.


  1. This is the Earth ‘English language’ version of the Notice of Sale – other languages available on request;
  2. All values expressed in local units – conversion factors available on request;
  3. All data correct at time of publication;
  4. All data based on the most recent independent planetary survey conducted by the Office for Intergalactic Affairs - copy available on request;
  5. Moff, Cavil, Cotto and Associates are regulated by the Universal Property Purveyors Authority. Registration No. 045-012-345089
  6. Due to the present owner’s prolonged absence from the property over the last few millennia, the planet has developed an infestation of humanoid life-forms with a primitive industrial culture; however, the owner is willing to cover the costs of the removal of this infestation if the purchaser so desires. 

Remember, if you enjoyed this, there are six other utterly fantastic stories available for your delectation, all available for FREE from Autharium (just follow the link).

Saturday, 16 August 2014

An unwelcome achievement

To be honest, in spite of the fact that I haven't sold a shed-load of books (so far), I am still quite proud of the sales that I've achieved and the very positive feedback I've received from people who have kindly taken the time to read 'The Book That THEY…' (Sadly, no-one seems to have either bought or read 'God, Aliens, Death & Teapots, so we'll not speak about that book, shall we).
Unfortunately, in spite of the fact that, here in the UK, there's a steady stream of people dipping their toes into the madness that is my literary world and shelling out a few of their hard-earned shekels to download copies of 'The Book That THEY…', the same cannot be said for Across-the-Pond.
As a result, my current rating on's Author Rank measure (as opposed to is moving inexorably towards a somewhat unwelcome milestone:

So what does this mean?
Well, it means that Stateside, almost one million other authors have sold at least one of their books since I last sold one of mine (which was the 12th May, 2014).

Not that it's a competition or anything…

A million though…crikey…

And not that I'm trying to make anyone in the good old US-of-A feel guilty - after all, I want people to buy my books because they know they're in for a ripping yarn, not because they feel sorry for me…



Friday, 15 August 2014

Oh dear, my arm has just become detached!

Now, before anyone gets in a fluster and starts having a rant because they think this post is having a go at people with disabilities, let's just get one thing clear.
It's not.
I'm all for people with disabilities following their dreams and achieving whatever it is they want to achieve - good on 'em, I say. They've got a hell of a lot more guts and determination than a lot of people I know!

I thought I'd put up this image of a cool prosthetic arm, rather than a photo of a Flybe plane landing or taking off or taxi-ing. It was done on a 3D printer, by the way!

However, I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't have been the only person who was more than a little perturbed to hear about a man with a prosthetic arm flying a commercial aircraft, and in particular, the incident in February of this year when, as a Flybe flight with 47 passengers on board approached Belfast City Airport, the pilot's prosthetic arm fell off (okay, so it didn't quite 'fall off', but I've used 'became detached' in the next paragraph and I loathe repetition…, and the use of the words 'fell off' enables me to try and get a cheap chuckle - I know, I'm pathetic!).
Anyway, can you imagine it?
The pilot has one hand on the yoke and one hand on the power levers, battling against gusty winds - then he turns to his co-pilot and says 'Oh dear, my arm has just become detached.'
Firstly, I just hope the co-pilot was aware that the pilot had a prosthetic arm!
Secondly, how do you respond to a statement like that?
Mouth wide open, eyes staring in disbelief, I'd imagine.
Apparently, the pilot had to let go of the power levers and land the plane with his good arm, and then power down once he as on the ground. It was, so the reports suggest, a heavy landing and the plane was, for a moment, 'not under control'.

For me,  this incident and the accompanying revelation that there are four pilots with prosthetic arms currently employed by UK airlines, raises a couple of interesting questions:
1. What other disabilities do some current pilots have, apart from a missing arm? Dyslexia, partial blindness/tunnel vision, hearing loss, narcolepsy?
2. How are decisions made (and by whom) on whether a disability (or a piece of equipment designed to help with a disability, such as a prosthetic arm) makes no significant additional contribution to the risks associated with flying?
If anyone out there knows the answers to either of these questions, I'd be very interested to hear them.

BBC News Article

Oh, one other thing - the eagle-eyed amongst you who read the BBC's article (link above) will no doubt spot the following 'Ooh Matron' double entendre caption:

An innocent coincidence, or something deliberate? You decide.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

You just have to keep plugging away!

I just thought I'd give you all an update on how things are going in my efforts to find a literary agent who will represent me on the basis of how fabulous (and more importantly, commercially viable) my latest novel, Fractured Time, is.

Now, for those who don't know how these things tend to work, most agents request a synopsis, some sample chapters and a few words about an author's previous scribings as part of the submission. To date, I've only sent Fractured Time out to 8 agents (I don't subscribe to the idea of sending submissions to dozens and dozens of agents all at once - that could get messy), and their responses have so far fallen into the following categories of my highly technical, recently patented 'Submissions Response Evaluation System':

Level 1 - 0
Level 2 - 1
Level 3 - 2
Level 4 - 5
Level 5 - 0

I know - I should have included a bar chart or something, but that would be very, very anal.

So, a quick explanation of the Levels:

  • Level 1 - the agent loves it so much they want to represent me (this is like finding the Holy Grail, reaching Shangri-la, going into Cadbury's World when not on a diet - its occurrence would result in me dancing wildly (maybe naked…) around whatever room I'm in, kissing and hugging whoever happened to be present - friends, you have been warned!).
  • Level 2 - the agent is sufficiently intrigue by both premise and style to request to see the whole manuscript (this is fingers crossed, prayers whispered every night, cats and pigeons sacrificed on the altar of the writing gods sort-of-territory).
  • Level 3 - there are positive words in what is, sadly, a negative response (these are the difficult ones, I guess - it's a bit like getting to the final round of Pointless, choosing UK Actors and getting the Films of Norman Wisdom - you feel you've achieved something in getting to that point, but in the end, it's a hollow victory and just another disappointment).
  • Level 4 - just a 'No' or a 'Not Suitable for our Lists' (not much to say about these sorts of responses, I guess - pretty self-explanatory and there's really no other option than to roll with the punches (though I'd be lying if there wasn't the odd whispered curse or two).
  • Level 5 - any response with words to the effect: 'Andy, your writing is shite - give up!' or 'Utter bollocks - snap your pencil, for fuck's sake!' (not sure how I'd react if I ever got one of these).
Putting things in perspective, the fact that I have already received a Level 2 response from an agent is a 100% improvement on the performance of 'The Book That THEY…', (where the interest of literary agents was conspicuous by its absence…sadly) so I guess I should interpret that statistic as a significant step forward.
And, let's remember, there's still over fifty literary agents yet to be contacted should my current Level 2 fail to progress to the Nirvana that is Level 1, so I'm still pretty optimistic…and as one of the agents from whom I received a response yesterday remarked:
You just have to keep plugging away

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

No good deed goes unpunished

I've said it before, and I'll say it again.

As followers on Facebook may recall, a few weeks ago whilst partaking of my usual custom of a walk to Dominos in Kenilworth for Two for Tuesday when working down at the office (both pizzas are not for me, I hasten to add), I was asked by some boys to help them use a broom to get their football out of a tree - this I did, only to damage my left knee in the process.

Well, yesterday, the curse of 'no-good-deed-goes-unpunished' struck again, this time in the form of a piece of broken mirror piercing the soft, tender flesh of my right foot!

It was far more dramatic when there was blood pouring out of it!

Picture the scene - a small back-street, cars parked on one side and on the other, the backs of houses and shops that front onto the main road through the not-so-fair town of Darwen. Against the wall at the back of these houses/shops, adjacent to the road, some fucking moron whose eyes I have since cursed had decided it was a good idea to lean two large glass mirrors on the night when the remnants of Hurricane Bertha happened to be passing by - needless to say, a lusty gust of wind or two later, and one of said glass mirrors had keeled over and smashed on the road, presenting a significant risk to the tyres of vehicles making their way towards Dove Lane.
Along comes my good self, fresh from visiting my parents and, seeing this hazard, I decide it would be my good deed of the day to get the glass out of the road - so I start to push the shards towards the wall with my shoe….then Aaaaaarrrrrgggghhhhh!!!
A particularly long (two and half inches, at least), nastily pointed piece of glass decides it doesn't like being pushed around and instead slices through the side of the trainers and embeds itself right into my foot.
Yes, it fucking hurt.
No, I didn't cry (though I did wince a little!)
When I got home, it was a case of cotton wool, TCP, plasters and putting a blood-soaked sock to soak. And not to mention the fact that my rather expensive pair of Merrills now has a gash in it that I'm pretty sure means they're not as waterproof as they were last weekend!

Well, it still hurts like hell and it means I'm walking like an eighty year old man with a bad case of hemorrhoids. It's also exposed me to the usual unsympathetic ridicule of close family members.

So, the moral of both this and of my efforts to help get footballs out of trees?
Well, I guess the title of the blog answers that question…and from now on, I'm certainly going to think twice before I do any more good bloody deeds!

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

A jaunt down memory lane

Now, following yesterday's #MakeMeSmileMonday in which I featured a sedge warbler called Sebastian, I've been inundated with literally one comment that the use of the name Sebastian (though spelt ever so slightly differently) has rekindled some nostalgic childhood memories of badly dubbed European television programmes watched during those ridiculously long summer holidays we used to have (holidays which, sadly, were never ridiculously long enough to find out how any of these series actually ended!!)

So, in recognition of how much of a part of our childhood these programmes were, here's some video clips that will have those from my era yearning for more innocent times (and yes, I bet you can all still remember the words to The Flashing Blade and Banana Splits!!):

Just great, aren't they?

Monday, 11 August 2014

#MakeMeSmileMonday - Sebastian

Did you miss #MakeMeSmileMonday last week?
I bet you did, and I bet the start of last week was just a little darker because of its absence.
Well, apologies my friends, but I was just too busy having a damn good time on holiday last week.
Sadly, I'm back at work this week, so another dose of #MakeMeSmileMonday is called for, and this week, the thing that has made me smile is this little fella.
Let's call him Sebastian.
Sebastian is a sedge warbler…a rather posy sedge warbler judging by how happy he was to hop amidst the reed-beds at RSPB Titchwell in Norfolk, posing for photos.
This is the best one (in my humble opinion).
To see a bigger version of this photo (and see just how spectacularly good it really is), follow the link below:
Photo on Flickr
You can also see my rather nice photo of a small tortoiseshell butterfly taken at Great Dixter.
Of course, there are still a lot more photos to add from our extended weekend away, but this one really made me smile - hence the sharing.
Hope you like it too!

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Tumble…? Oh, for f**k's sake!

There is, I hope, a dark and stinking, cockroach-infested pit in the deepest part of Hades for those people at the BBC (and at all the other channels) who seem hell-bent on subjecting us to an endless stream of utterly shite 'celebrity entertainment' programmes on Saturday evenings.
Personally, I'm sick to the back teeth and beyond with the never-ending procession of so-called celebrities on which these imagination-less TV executives spend the license-fee-payers hard earned cash…and whilst were on the subject, I reiterate my hatred at the way the word 'celebrity' has been bastardised so that where it once related to people or things that were genuinely worth celebrating, it is now a catch-all for that despicable breed of utterly vacuous, talentless, publicity-seeking parasites that seem to now exist solely as 'contestants' on such total bollocks as Celebrity Big Brother and I'm a Pointless Twat, Get Me out of Here!
If Strictly Come Dancing wasn't bad enough (and how I loathe to my core the way all the luvvies at the Beeb now refer to it as 'Strictly'), we also had all that fucking nonsense with ice skating (where Torvill & Dean sold their souls to Beelzebub).
And then, just when you thought it couldn't get any worse…?
Oh, for fuck's sake, spare me!
A bunch of has-beens, ex-whatevers and should-know-better sportspeople trying to master…what is it this time…?

It's no doubt the same formula as all the other crap we've been subjected to for the last God-knows-how-long. Tedious footage of the contestants and their trainers (whom several will no doubt be allegedly shagging by the end of the series, because gossip creates interest creates viewers) - then the 'prance off', followed by the mindless ramblings of pompous, preening, self-important judges before some supposedly momentous final decision (about which no-one really gives a shit)…but, of course, not before there's that utterly infuriating ten-seconds-too-long pause that is supposed to build tension but only results in people eventually shouting 'Oh, for fuck's sake, get on with it!' at the TV. On Celebrity Masterchef, a 'pause for effect' in the last series actually lasted two minutes and twenty seconds, I swear to God!!
Oh, and don't forget the voting...

So what's next, you begin to wonder? What else can those tits at the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 come up with for 'celebrities' to have a go at for our supposed delectation and entertainment?
Well, at the risk of someone actually taking one of these seriously, here are my suggestions:
Bleed - a group of celebrities are invited to work in A&E and are judged on their abilities to stitch up wounds, take blood, mop up vomit and do mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
Coffin - oh, how we'll laugh as we watch our celebrities have a go at undertaking.
Plod - after three weeks 'intensive' training, a group of ten celebrities are kitted out with a nightstick and a  whistle and asked to deal with drunken louts and tarts on Saturday nights in a selection of Britain's inner cities. Guest judge will be John Stalker.
Boom - 13 celebrities have a go at mastering the art of bomb disposal. At the end of each show there's a  live IED for the celebrities to defuse…possibly no need for judges, as it'll be pretty obvious as to who hasn't got it right!
Air - a dozen celebs learn how to keep the planes from crashing into each other in the skies over Heathrow.
Feel free to suggest your own!

Saturday, 9 August 2014

There's nothing quite like a good review

It's difficult to describe how much of a buzz you get from getting a really positive review of something that you've written - and because I got such a buzz, I'm going to take the opportunity to share it with all you fabulous people (in the hope, admittedly, that it may inspire you to a quick download!)

John's Review on Amazon

Below is John's review (and yes, I do forgive him for missing the T out of my surname!!)

Yes, I agree with the first reviewer of (concise version) THEY: it does remind you somewhat of the anarchic, wry wit of Douglas Adams. And that’s quite a recommendation. Although the author certainly doesn’t lazily ape another hugely successful writer’s style. This is Andy Richie writing and no one else. He has a highly individual voice that’s entirely his own.

I also agree that his characterisation is excellent – even Tukaal (is that a slightly rude play on words, like Dylan Thomas’s Llareggub, one wonders?) the alien. That’s because, rather than rush breathlessly along in frenetic mile-a-minute plot (it’s actually fairly sedate), the author allows plenty of dialogue, not to mention philosophical musings from protagonist Jethro, for the characters to develop.

And this certainly isn’t your average sci-fi fare, wherein you’re asked to totally suspend disbelief; it’s much smarter than that. In fact, it’s grounded very much on Planet Earth, in prosaic locations in the north of England, a little after the style of Wallace and Gromit, with many insights into the shortcomings of Homo Sapiens.

Introducing himself, named as Andy Richie, into the proceedings as a sort of ‘editor,’ was clever too, I thought, giving two layers of first-person narration.

But most importantly, the author met the first requirement of any storytelling; he piqued my interest. I always craved to know what happened next. So yes; I too will just have to read parts 2 and 3 now.

Congratulations Mr Richie; you done exceedingly good. And I’ll forgive you the typos, intentional or otherwise!

Part 1 of 'The Book That THEY...' is currently available at the incredible knock-down price of just £0.98 (or $1.66 in the US, €3.99 in Europe, 599 Yen in Japan, CDN$5.99 in Canada, etc.)
A bargain, wherever you are in the world!!

ps - Thanks, John!!
(here's John's Amazon site)

Friday, 8 August 2014

A Great British Export…Not!

Though there were certainly many dark chapters in the history of British colonialism and the creation of  the British Empire, there are a number of positives that should not be forgotten. It's role in the spreading of democracy for example (though I guess that doesn't count for all those former African colonies that within years of becoming independent found themselves being run by maniacs and despots); the legal system; railways; cricket.
But in the second of my posts in the aftermath of the Commonwealth Games, I'd like to focus on what is, I feel, one of the less successful legacies of British colonialism - the shitty national anthem.

Come on, admit it. Nearly every national anthem that you heard being played in Glasgow (perhaps with the exception of the Home Nations, who interestingly didn't actually use 'God Save The Queen') was little more than a depressing, soul-crushing dirge that seemed more to mourn victory than celebrate it.

Take this one - now I'm not going to tell you which Commonwealth country it's from - that's for you to find out. But have a listen:

And here's another…

Oh yes, they're both very deep and meaningful, very serious and upstanding, but come on, they're not exactly uplifting (no offence to the nations involved). And I think that's because these anthems have been modelled on the British national anthem, which I'm afraid to say has to be one of the most depressing anthems ever written (no offence, your Majesty).

The solution?
I'm not really sure there is one, I'm afraid. The opportunity to bestow upon the world a legacy of bouncy, catchy, sing-along to, dance-along to national tunes was lost the moment the present UK national anthem was published in Thesaurus Musicus way back in 1744.
Of course, it may be possible that one day someone invents a time machine and travels back to that fateful day to undo the damage that was done (after dealing with a lot of more important 'bad-days' in history, such as the birth of Hitler); if they do, it would be nice to think that they'd go for something a little more upbeat, such as:

Feel free to make your own recommendations…and a bonus mark to anyone who can identify the two nations featured above!!

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Who should take a lap of honour?

In the first of what may (or may not) be a couple of posts about the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, I feel compelled to comment on what, to me at least, appears to be a very annoying development in the sport of athletics - the lap of honour.
The Macmillan Dictionary defines a lap of honour as:
a slow run or drive around a sports field or racetrack that the winner makes after arace or gameThe American word is victory lap.
The operative word here, I think, is winner.  A lap of honour was, as far as I have always been concerned, an opportunity for the victor to soak up the appreciative plaudits of the spectating public.
But recently, things seem to have changed.

Take Jodie and Bianca Williams (pictured above). They finished second and third in the 200 metres at the Commonwealth Games, quite a long way (it has to be said) behind gold medallist Blessing Okagbare, and yet no sooner had they crossed the line than they were over to the stands to grab a flag and start their 'lap of honour'. And it wasn't just these athletes! Every athlete who finished in the first three could be seen jogging around the track with a flag on their back, signing autographs and posing for selfies.
Is this right?
When did the criteria for being deserving of a lap of honour change from winning the race to winning a medal? I'm pretty sure it's a recent phenomenon.

But then it gets worse!!
Take this picture - on the right is Caleb Mwangangi Ndiku, the gold medalist in the 5000 metres; in the middle is Isiah Kiplangat Koech, the silver medallist. But the guy on the left, Joseph Kiplomo Kitur, well, he finished fourth (missing out on the bronze medal which went to Zane Robertson of New Zealand) and yet here he is, draped in the Kenyan flag, posing for photos as he ambles around the track with his chums on a lap of honour.
So does this mean that an athlete who finishes outside the first three has still 'earned' a lap of honour if the race is won by a compatriot?

I think we need to get some semblance of sense back into all this.
The lap of honour should be for the victor and the victor alone. They've won, they've overcome all their opponents and so they've earned that moment and they should be able to savour the adulation of the crowd without having to share it with others.
Those who finish second and third, they get their moment in the sun at the medal ceremony when they hear their names being announced and they have a medal hung around their necks - but rightly, the spotlight remains on the victor and it is their national anthem that is played (the subject of a future blog).
As for everyone else - well, they didn't win, did they? And they didn't finish in a medal position, did they? So that means, I'm sorry to say, that they just weren't good enough and have not earned the right to soak up the applause that those who were better than them will receive on the lap of honour or at the medal ceremony - and they need to accept that fact because, if athletes who finish fourth decide they should are entitled to a lap of honour, then what's to stop the one who finished sixth, or ninth, or didn't even make the final!?!
In fact, why not hang it all and do what the decathletes do after they've finished their final event and have everyone who competed jogging around the track!

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

The right to die - is it right?

I know - it's a strange image to start a post with, isn't it. Normally, I don't really have much of a problem choosing the image to accompany a post on this 'ere blog. Today, though, was different.
Well, today I want to touch on the sensitive and difficult subject of 'the right to die' or to give it another name, 'assisted dying'.
I decided to do a post about this because I read the other day an excellent post on one of the blogs I follow (well worth taking three or four minutes out of your day to read through it):
whothehelldoeshethinkheis - assisted-dying
It's a thoughtful and well-written argument by Dr Ros Taylor.

But let me give you my take on the issue.
On the face of it, this looks like a simple argument between two diametrically opposed groups:
Group 1 - those with severe disabilities or terminal illnesses who have made it abundantly clear that they do not want to die and want to do whatever is necessary to stay alive, irrespective of how much pain they may be enduring (e.g. Baroness Campbell).
Group 2 - those with severe disabilities or a terminal illness who have made it abundantly clear that they've had enough of the pain and suffering they're having to endure every day and will do so for the rest of their lives (e.g. Tony Nicklinson RIP) and because of that, wish to be allowed to end that suffering.

For those in Group 1, the answer to the issue is easy - we must do whatever we can to support them for as long as we can.
For those in Group 2, the answer (in my humble opinion) should also be easy - these people have made a conscious choice, their conscious choice, and we should respect that choice and, if necessary assist them in whatever way possible to exercise that choice. It is for these people (and the people who help them to end their life) that the assisted dying bill is really intended, to ensure that those who assist an individual in taking their own life are not subsequently prosecuted for murder…isn't it?
And if that was all we had to worry about, then we wouldn't really be having this debate because most rational people would, I suggest, accept that a person has a right to make a choice and that it's wrong for someone who helps that person exercise that choice to face the risk of prosecution.

But, alas, that isn't all we have to worry about. Unfortunately, there's something else, and it is that something else which really sits at the heart of the debate.
That something else is a fear, a very specific fear, based (sadly) on a clear though somewhat cynical understanding of the true nature of too many people in this modern, uncaringly materialistic world of ours.
That fear (and in my opinion it is a very valid one) is that if assisted dying was made legal, some people (possibly a lot of people) who are currently in Group 1 would, either by their partners or their children, or more worryingly perhaps, by the state itself through its medical practitioners, be slowly and insidiously coerced from Group 1 into Group 2.
I can just imagine it, and I'm sure you can too. An elderly relative, possibly bed-ridden, being told day after day by their relatives or their carers how much of a burden they are, how better it would be for everyone if they just 'gave up'. How long would it take for even the most positive of people to begin to believe what they were being told, that their own lives were pointless, that all they had left to look forward to was more pain and misery and suffering?
Such coercion (and we would be monumentally naive to believe it wouldn't happen) could be driven by  many things, but mostly, I suspect, by greed. After all, how many look at their elderly relatives and see not the person but the inheritance?
It could also be driven by frustration at being obligated to care. It could even be driven by the state wishing to reduce the burden of the sick and elderly on its own finances and resources.

Whatever the motivation for coercion, it is the very real fear that this would take place that is, I suspect, behind most of opposition to the assisted dying bill.
So could we guard against it? If so, how?
How can we satisfy the legitimate rights of those in Group 2, yet still protect those in Group 1 from the nefarious forces of our world?
I'm afraid I simply don't know the answer to that, and I suspect that the millions and millions of us who have never either suffered as these individuals have suffered or witnessed the interminable suffering of a loved one, don't know the answer either.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Does Midsomer have a serial killer?

For those who have never seen Midsomer Murders, then this blog is really going to mean very little - as such, can I suggest you have a read of this one:
Bring Back The Stocks - it may be you missed this earlier rant!
For those who are acquainted with the gruesome goings on in Midsomer, then read on, dear friends, read on...

There have been a number of people who have identified the disturbing link between the decision by Joyce Barnaby (wife of DCI Barnaby) to join a new club, group or similar gathering of souls in one of the countless 'sleepy villages' that seem to be the only type of conurbation in Midsomer (there's never a Tesco, is there…) and a sudden and bewildering spate of deaths that subsequently ensues.
Pause Live Action for example, commented on this back in 2010.

However, whilst the presence of Joyce is depicted as nothing more than a simple coincidence, I'd like to offer a dark and chilling alternative.
Joyce Barnaby is a serial killer!
Like some ancient Valkyrie she scans the wide expanse of Midsomer, deciding who must die and who will live...
And as for DCI Barnaby, whilst appearing diligent and honest as he investigates the ever growing pile of brutally and imaginatively murdered victims, well he's actually so besotted with the love of his life that he is, in fact, cynically manipulating countless witnesses (off camera of course) and carefully tampering with evidence in order to ensure that Joyce is rarely, if ever, even a suspect, let alone implicated in one of her many crimes.
'But the killers always confess!' I hear the shocked and horrified Midsomer Murder devotees screaming into their Horlicks.
Of course they do, I reply, because DCI Barnaby is so awesomely and fantastically good at what he does that the 'killers' actually end up believing themselves that they committed the crime! There's always, after all, means, motive and opportunity!!

But what about all those instances (and there are quite a few, admittedly) where Joyce Barnaby isn't actually part of the Midsomer Crumbly Reading Club where the victim is found impaled on a copy of Canterbury Tales, or the Midsomer Boner Women's MahJong Fellowship where the victim was found crushed flat under two tonnes of MahJong tiles?
Well, can I just suggest that you listen out for DCI Barnaby saying:
'Hello, Cully, what are you doing here?'

Like mother, like daughter…?