Category Archives: General musings

General musings on life, the Universe and how stuff works

Last chance to see..


Well, me for a while. I’ve recorded a video reading for the story “Just another day at the office” from the forthcoming “The Cat Tree and other stories”. The recording is now live here on Bitchute. This will be the last video reading from this particular collection. Commentaries will be available on Subscribestar when my profile is ready.

Apologies in advance for all the fluffs and mispronunciations. I know I messed up ‘Dafydd’ several times, but every time I tried to say it I hardened the last two letters. Fortunately, no Welsh people were harmed in the creation of the story that I know of and the few instances of mild profanity are necessary for dramatic impact and tone of the narrative.

So if you don’t like mild swearing, don’t bloody watch. Okay? There is a PG 13+ warning on the title page.

Scheduled publication of the collection is for late November / early December 2019 when I return from London to approve the final design and editing.

Next platform over


Like most sensible people, I’m moving from the old school social media to Minds and Gab. Minds profile is up and toddling with a Gab profile barely out of nappies. Twitter and Facebook have lost all utility and are rapidly becoming political echo chambers. People are getting banned and their content interfered with, which are not the platforms I joined way back when. The silicon Valley companies now want to dictate what others can say and think. So I’ve joined the exodus. I’ve also opened a DriveTribe account, simply because I love cars and motorcycles. May even post a few things, like a riding video from Vancouver Island next time I take the big dog out to hunt.

YouTube is going the same way, so what the hell, I’m electing to move away from it to a video sharing service which isn’t subject to such strictures. I’ll be deleting all my old stuff, which I never really liked, off YouTube and posting much better content on Bitchute. The one downside is that video embedding bitchute hosted content for wordpress is tricky. However, what will happen is I’m already posting partial short story readings and other short video content on YouTube with the full versions on Bitchute.

Next video reading will be “Another day at the office” a 1650 word story from my forthcoming fantasy and supernatural collection, ‘The Cat Tree and other stories’. One minor caveat; in these times of hyper sensitivity I find myself having to post a 13+ profane language advisory on this particular offering, even though by my native working class British standards the language contained therein is very mild indeed, which I consider necessary for both dramatic impact and characterisation. If anyone feels they might be offended by such language, then a caution will be given for them to either stop reading or continue under their own recognisance. Therefore no legal or moral responsibility will be taken by me as author for any offence taken by any reader, ridiculous though this seems.

Here is a short video of me explaining who I am and what I do. Also why I’m doing it. This is going on my Subscribestar profile, when I finally get that up and running.

‘The Cat Tree and other stories’ is on schedule for completion for the end of August / start of September, as I only have one story to finish and another to re-edit. Estimated length 42,000 words.

Update: Video also now uploaded to Bitchute.

The stories so far


Regarding the short story collection ‘The Cat tree and other stories’. Hardback scheduled for October 2019 release. eBook scheduled for mid / late November / early December 2019. I’m taking a break in London UK from 2nd week October 2019 to 2nd week November, so will check the final edit and proof of the Hardback edition before then and the eBook version after I return home.

I will be taking two free copies of the hardback edition as gifts for friends who have expressed an interest.

The stories so far;
From ‘The Cat Tree’ series
The Cat Tree Completed. Supernatural
White Noise Transcribing from old paper MSS artwork in progress. Supernatural
The Unwelcoming Transcribing from old paper MSS artwork in progress. Supernatural
Josephine Transcribing from old paper MSS artwork in progress. Supernatural None of these will make the cut. Too much rewriting needed. Too many negative memories. Too personal.

From the 1990’s
Polish Ted Completed. Ghost story

Post 2004 tales
Moonlit Shadow Completed (Minor changes from Underdog anthology 7.) Horror
Just another day at the office Completed. Horror / Comedy
Good here, innit? Completed (Minor changes from copy submitted for Underdog anthology 9.) Horror / Comedy
A Coelacanth in the bathroom Completed (Minor edits from Underdog anthology 8.) Horror / Comedy
The hunting of the Squonk Work in progress 50%. Supernatural Horror
Restoration Completed. Ghost story
Honey tells Completed. General / Social commentary
Three park benches and a bicycle rack Completed. Horror / Comedy
Coffee House Completed. Supernatural
Bats! Completed. Horror / Comedy

I’ve a couple of older tales which need a lot of work, so they may not make the cut by the September 2019 deadline.

Current word count circa 37,000. On schedule for estimated completion word count 55,000-60,000 50,000. Total estimated length around 170 pages in current updated format.

Artwork is about 75% complete. Nothing fancy. All black and white in similar style to the cover at 300 DPi. I’ll triple check the proof copy before allowing distribution.

May collate a couple of sci-fi novellas with a few other sci-fi short stories for the New Year 2020. Work on ‘Darkness between the stars’ continues. Will re-issue heavily edited trilogy as three volumes when complete, day job permitting.

Note; this post is subject to periodic update.

New story


Well, there’s another 4300 word submission accepted by Leg Iron books. This time for their Halloween compilation. That will make three stories I’ve placed with them in under twelve months, which isn’t bad. The money isn’t an issue and I’m never going to make a fortune writing, but it’s fun.

I seem to have struck a chord with my semi-comical little narratives although if they have a major fault it is this; when I start a story I often have no idea where it is going to end up. My narratives often go wandering into the weeds and get lost somewhere in the long grass. I’ve tried planning, laying out careful plot lines but the thing I really enjoy is romping off to play where my wild ideas are. My inner child likes to prod at things with a stick, lift the rocks to see what’s underneath. I also like to take the odd sideswipe at PC ‘culture’. Which amuses me. Although I often don’t know where to stop.

For example, my latest submission began life under the working title ‘The Coat’ but after the plot got lost in the woods at around the four thousand word mark, I had to send out a search party to bring the narrative back to a timely conclusion or it would still be wandering in circles. When I was done, the tale had been tidied up and shortened with a new title; “Good here, innit?” which makes sly fun of extreme ‘hate speech’ laws in a highly repressive society. And that revelation is as much as I am going to give away. Kevin Hillman at Leg Iron books liked it right away, which shows that we share a certain macabre sense of humour. There is another similar work in progress comic short story with the working title; “Three benches and a bicycle rack” which is as much as I’m giving away here. Let’s just say it will be funnier than “A Coelacanth in the bathroom”, I think.

Regarding promised videos; I’m having a few issues with glitchy sound. When I record a video, I like to do my readings in one take, often over twenty minutes at a time. What I’m experiencing is the recording randomly dropping whole words and occasionally even two or three, so a sentence ends up making no sense at all. Which is frustrating. However, when my recording issues are resolved I shall be adopting a policy of posting only partial readings to YouTube, Vimeo and Dailymotion with the full versions exclusively on Bitchute. Suffice it to say I have good reasons for doing so. YouTube’s policy of erasing whole channels for being even mildly politically incorrect for one.

Then there’s the issue of my planned compilation. This is still a work in progress, but I have a few new ideas for satirical supernatural stories which I want to include. This will delay the final project completion by a month or two but I hope any potential readers will find it worth the wait.

On the ‘Stars trilogy’ front, the current draft of ‘Darkness between the stars’ has clambered arthritically over the 90,000 word mark after the last edit with about another 60,000 to go. That is how much further I have to travel down that path. What I have written so far is good and I have the last four thousand words already written. Unfortunately marrying the two parts together in a meaningful way is proving more difficult than I had first anticipated. There’s almost too much to keep in my head at any one time.

In the meantime, just to keep the story machine in my head working, I will continue with the short stories and see what strikes.

Word up


There are times I am thoroughly glad I no longer use Microsoft Word products for writing projects. I also tend to switch off certain functions in the thesaurus and grammar writing functions, why? Because a) I don’t need the help and b) if an infinitive needs splitting, then I want to take the biggest bloody word-axe I have to it, not have my creative licence suspended by someone else’s idea of what I should be saying. When language is narrowed, the ideas it can express become restricted and of lesser value.

I’ve recently heard that Microsoft, acting as some kind of self-styled Word Police are apparently introducing a tool in the latest version of word that will correct the users use of English to make it more politically correct which will;

“provide estimated reading times, extract and highlight key points in paragraphs, underline potentially sensitive geopolitical references”

Wait a moment. Extract key points in paragraphs? Well excuse me. If I write something, I want it that way because it expresses the ideas I want to examine. And so it should stay until the flow of the narrative demands otherwise. As for underlining potentially sensitive geopolitical references who decides what is ‘sensitive’? Does this value change with whatever political wind is blowing?

As a thoroughly disgruntled Windows 10 user, I find this function even more intrusive than the function-degrading ‘upgrades’ of Windows 10 that cannot be switched off.

Fortunately, I do not use Office 365 or any other Microsoft office product. Primarily because I’ve never liked how Microsoft Word can hide formatting code within a document. OpenOffice and LibreOffice are just as good, possibly better office suites, firstly because they can handle documents from a wider range of formats and secondly I think Bill Gates is quite rich enough, don’t you?

As for keeping copyrighted data out in the cloud, that to me is an invitation to copyright theft by a disgruntled Microsoft employee / teenage hacker / plagiarist. Therefore I would caution any would-be creative writer to avoid Microsoft 365 and derivatives like the plague. At least if they want their output to remain their own.

Nor does this make me some form of Luddite. I have no wish to return to the bad old days of strenuously bashing away at the mechanical keys of an old Imperial Safari as I once did. I like computers. They make it easier to create, organise and adapt ideas. From a creative perspective the advantages of word processing software speed up the transfer of imagination to page without repeated messy applications of semi-toxic correction fluid or wasting the growth of a small deciduous forest for each major writing project. As for the Internet, I was in at the birth of the World Wide Web and I still love it for the cornucopia of knowledge that it makes available, although I’ve fallen heavily out of love with social media of late and having deleted my Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, will shortly be casting my little used Twitter and Instagram feeds into the nether voids between the datastreams if I can remember to do so. They contain nothing that is either real or of value.

Up on bitchute


Have uploaded my reading of ‘Moonlit shadow’ to Bitchute as it was too long for the free version of Vimeo. Same format as the Youtube version. Like, don’t like, let me know why, although I’ve often drawn criticism for putting the whole narrative of this particular story in the present tense, which some people don’t care for. What can I say, it’s a stylistic choice on my part. Channel link here.

Most of these short stories are simply experiments while I keep trying to restructure the ‘Stars’ series of science fiction stories, which started off in 2004 as a planned trilogy, but seems to be spinning off the original narrative into multiple projects like ‘Miners’. Still very much in the same universe, but too far off the main thread to be part of ‘Darkness between the Stars’.

Current word count for ‘Darkness’ is just over 69,000 words and the separate parallel and convergent narratives make sense. The bad guys are clearly defined as corrupt politicians and the ‘good’ guys as a loose grab bag of deserters, reformed drug lords and other rebels. I’ve even got to the point where I can clearly visualise them all as visual novel style drawings. When I say visual novel, the artwork I can visualise is not so much Anime, more Marvel or DC style. This is good. I may even finish the first draft this year.

As far as the recordings and video’s are concerned, have invested in a lapel microphone which should improve the sound quality of future recordings. I’ve always hated that flat, echoing and nasal quality that a webcam or PC mike gives to my voice.

‘Blink’ will be the next offering, probably by the end of February. Or as soon as I have some visuals I’m happy with. I’ve given this particular 2500 word offering a significant editing so that the new version is better than the original. ‘Blink’ is also part of a much larger project. Another work in progress. However, the chief focus will be on ‘Stars’ from now on.

Cogitus interruptus…


As someone who both writes and holds down a fairly mundane day job, I tend not to have very many adventures here in Victoria BC. Life is mostly routine with little real drama worth recounting. However, a few weeks ago I had a little medical discumbuggerance which threatened to upset a number of apple carts. My own especially. Let me expound.

My wife frequently complains about my snoring. It’s been costing both of us sleep. So, after considerable trial and error I worked out that the problem was catarrh based. During the hours of sleep, mucus was collecting at the back of my throat thus causing a partial blockage resulting in a sound like someone sawing a depressed camel in half. So just before Christmas I elected to try an extra strength sinus medicine to dry up the offending excess secretions and hopefully let the household get a good nights repose. The first night went reasonably well, I took the maximum dose and the morning consensus was that we’d all slept the better for it, so around eleven on the Wednesday evening before Christmas I popped another two of these over-the-counter nostrums and decided to stay up writing until two to let Angie take a run up at a decent nights repose.

At around two in the morning my heart began to pound uncontrollably. Just like a regular heartbeat but impossibly fast. Boom-boom-boom-boom. My body’s heretofore reliable muscle pump felt like it was trying to jackhammer out of my chest. Even at rest I couldn’t find a steady pulse, just my heartbeat thundering in my ears, my chest and fingers reverberating.

I went into the main bedroom. The light was on. Angie was awake and reading. So much for letting her get some sleep without me. “Hon. I’m not feeling so good.” I said. Truth be told I felt bloody awful. Light headed, unsteady and with an urgent need to call an ambulance. However, a quick run down a mental check list came up with no symptoms that might indicate a full-fledged heart attack. No pain, no clamminess or tightness in the chest. Just a super fast hammering inside my rib cage and the weird feeling that my head was going to float away.

Angie got up and joined me in the front room, checking my temperature and pulse as we sat on the couch. By now it was two thirty in the morning. “Emergency?” She queried.
“Please.” I said.
“Get dressed.”

I managed to pull on some clothes and stagger into the garage and thus the car. Angie hopped into the drivers seat and we took off into the early hours of a damp December night, me failing to bite my tongue as she put her foot down, pushing hard through suburban bends, nipping artfully through several tail end amber lights. As if my heart wasn’t hammering hard enough beforehand it was pounding even harder when we reached Victoria Hospital emergency. Angie decanted me at the door and I wobbled through the doors to the front desk. I managed to hand over my BC care card and burble something about having a fast heartbeat before slumping into a chair at front desk. A ponytailed girl in dark blue scrubs checked my heart rate and blood pressure. “Can we get a wheelchair for this gentleman?” She asked a colleague. By this time my vision was greying around the edges and I was too tired to walk down to the treatment area. Fortunately I was the only sick person in the emergency waiting room that night, so the road to treatment was short and timely.
“Thanks. I’m not sure I can walk. I’m a bit lightheaded.”
“With a heart rate of over two hundred I’d be light headed.” Someone, I’m not sure who, commented as I was wheeled into the very beige treatment area. I recall my head wobbling a little on my shoulders and commenting that my spatial sense was very disturbed. The simple act of being pushed around a corner in a wheelchair made me feel very uncomfortable bordering on nauseous.

A male nurse named Fraser, or was it Frasier? My normally accurate memory skips a groove every time I try and recall certain details. All I remember of him is an image of a jocund, portly young man with black frame glasses, short dark hair and jawline beard. He handed me one of those draughty hospital gowns and allowed me the dignity of changing behind curtains. Jeans and jacket draped over a cabinet I slumped onto one of those all singing, all dancing hospital beds that act as support, occasional operating table and sometime hearse.

One thing I noticed was a distinct distortion of my colour perception. Everything but the nurses and doctors scrubs seemed beige. Curtains, walls everything. Even if they were pastel shades of light blue or green. Which left me with an overwhelming impression of Victoria General Hospital’s curtain draped ER as an overall beigeness. I might have been mistaken but even the defibrillator-laden bright red crash cart parked at my beds foot appeared somehow pastel and muted. All I could do was lie back and let the medical staff get on with their jobs. Plugging leads into a heart monitor, taking various samples for testing. Ripping off bits of my chest hair when they had to move the electrodes for a better signal.

When properly wired up to a monitor I recall someone trying to find a vein in my left arm to stick in a needle and failing. Which in my semi-stupor struck me as odd as I used to be a blood donor and never had a problem with hidden veins before. A week later there was still a three inch long oval bruise on my left forearm punctuated with at least half a dozen bright red needle marks.

Then there was the annoying bleeping of the heart monitor alarm. My natural breathing rate is about five or six breaths a minute when the monitor alarm default was nine. Sometimes if I’m concentrating hard I’ll stop breathing for at least half a minute at a time. Some people stick their tongues out, others frown, I hold my breath. It’s an old habit from when I used to meditate a lot. Which of course set off the alarm every time I tried to focus on what people were saying.

Angie arrived, I’m not sure exactly when, after parking the car and chatted to the male nurse, filling in medical history details I’d omitted in my foggy mental state. She was briefly quizzed on why we hadn’t called 911, but that’s one of those questions you never have a decent answer for because you’re too caught up in the moment. Our attitude was, why call an ambulance when you can still walk?

At some stage the collector of blood samples switched to my right arm where they actually struck oil. I was also told to try various things like holding my breath and clenching my belly, which seemed to help. I believe it’s called the Varsalva manoeuvre or some such. After five minutes of this the pounding eased and I felt my booming heart gradually slow to a more leisurely eighty beats per minute and my hands stopped vibrating. To the point where I could actually use one of those cardboard urine collection bottles without spilling any. For some reason I really needed to relieve myself and couldn’t have hung on to it much longer.

What I do remember precisely is offhandedly wondering whether I was going to die that night. For some reason the thought did not worry me overmuch. At least I don’t remember feeling frightened. My heart hadn’t failed at the peak of the attack when I’d almost gone into full defibrillation, so now things were calming down I felt able to relax. I reasoned that the worst hadn’t happened by now, so it probably wasn’t going to. Panic over.

After my heartbeat steadied I dozed until four thirty despite the comings and goings of staff and one loudly complaining woman with a sand-rasp voice. At which point a slight bespectacled man with short sandy hair appeared at my bedside and introduced himself as a heart surgeon. He told me my bloods were all within normal range and we could go home. I was also quizzed about medication and confessed to maxing two doses of extra strength sinus medicine. With this revelation it was generally agreed a lack of decent regular sleep plus the medication had unbalanced my electrolytes, to the point where my cardiac electrical system literally shorted out, which was the cause of my ultra fast heartbeat. The medical name for my condition was Paroxysmal Supraventricular Tachycardia. Which is usually first noticed in much younger people. Highly unpleasant and not to be recommended, but watch the meds and get more sleep in future. At least that was what I remember being told.

After that advice I dressed, still a little unsteadily, and we walked out into the damp darkness of the early morning, arriving home just after five. Angie and I went to bed but all we could do was doze fitfully for another three hours, our little bit of hospital drama at an end.

As anyone with the slightest imagination might attest, the whole experience made for a rather thoughtful, sober and reflective festive season.

It’s a curious thing, this not-dying. Very curious indeed.

Axioms


There is a rather cold-blooded axiom my parents would repeat from time to time when I was in my teens and early twenties. One that rings ever more true with the passing years. It is this; “There’s no business in sentiment and no sentiment in business.” Trying to make major financial and life decisions with the heart and not the head will, in most circumstances, fail. The current furore over Patreon and Subscribestar is a case in point. Emotionally driven activists are pressuring companies to make ill-considered decisions because the activists want to tell everyone else what to think and do. Their standards are the only standards and anyone who disagrees must be shut down. No matter the collateral damage. Everyone else must suffer because someone makes the ludicrous claim that their ‘feelings were hurt’.

Now I come from the school of thought which bluntly states; “I do not care what you say – only what you do.” People define themselves by their actions, not their words. So it is with Patreon. Who have already cost me money. All of my Patreon donations. Fortunately these losses have been slight. God alone knows what they are for the higher profile creators.

Which interferes with the creative process. It detracts from the focus.

Now Paypal has been pressured to withdraw from Subscribestar. Again after activist pressure. Payments processor Stripe has followed. This leaves me as a creator without reliable means of online payment processing. On the bright side there is a blockchain solution which can process any online donation from any source. All I have to do is get my head around it. Which again interferes with the creative process.

Thanks a lot, activists. You do not speak for me. Nor for all the other artists and writers you have hurt with your politics.

Back to the drawing board.

Having second thoughts


About Patreon. I’m seriously concerned that my tiny account will be terminated if they find some of the very non-PC stuff I’ve written under various pseudonyms over the years. My first ever article is a case in point. It was meant to be an amusing tale written for a motorcycle magazine, nothing more. Bends, Sun and Hedges was written in the late 1970’s and shared some of that era’s social mores, which were far more loose and easy going than nowadays. Writers now are under ever more pressure not only to debase the language we use as part of our communications toolkit, but some commentators are being actively muzzled for having the ‘wrong’ opinions by some very sinister people. Yes. By all those so-called ‘Trust and Safety teams’ who no-one should trust and whose scrutiny is to be avoided. Stalin would have loved them.

Now this is something that might ultimately hurt me, as I am not very happy with the censorious nature of a number of silicon valley platforms. Ergo I am creating a Subscribestar account and will not be posting any further links or content to Patreon because they demonstrably can’t be trusted. Besides, I like the look of Subscribestar’s interface. It’s a lot less user-fiendish and transparent, surprise Windows 10 updates (Don’t ask) notwithstanding.

So if anyone wants to show this mendicant scribbler some financial love, that is where my online begging bowl will be.

We have lift off


Well, that’s my Patreon page launched, as is the latest story with Leg Iron books. Now available in the Christmas Anthology Christmas lights and Darks via Amazon (Print version), also the eBppk version via Smashwords My slightly warped offering ‘Moonlit shadow’ appears alongside the work of Mark Ellott, Cade F.O.N Apollyon, Daniel Royer, Marsha Webb, Roo B Doo (Lovely pen name) and Kevin Hillman. None of us are household names but we write to entertain. Ourselves mostly.

However, if what I do tickles a funny bone or tweaks a nerve ending and you want to help finance a little more, please go to my Patreon page and throw me a few dollars. I may not be a charity, but all contributions will be deeply appreciated.

Next story on the video read list will be ‘Moonlit shadow’ from ‘Christmas lights and darks’. Hopefully via Patreon before the 20th December. Then here just in time for Christmas.

The Cat Tree and other stories


Writer’s block takes you on some strange journeys. While I’m still struggling with reconstructing the Stars series of science fiction novels I found a stray short story on my hard drive, untouched since 2005.

Let me explain a little of the tales history. While I was living in Claverdon, Warwickshire, back in the 1980’s I roughed out a series of supernatural fantasy stories based around the theme of a haunted garden which I entitled ‘The Cat Tree and other stories’. These tales were never submitted anywhere and have lurked in various of my archives, both paper and digital, for over thirty years. Until last week.

I also found a manuscript copy of the title story ‘The Cat Tree’ which is a spooky little tale, sitting in my archive box too, along with several of the original planned series, like ‘White Noise’ and ‘Josephine’.  On Amstrad tractor dot matrix printer paper no less.  How they survived there since 1987 I have no idea. Since I first wrote them a lot of life has happened. Wife, stepdaughters, four changes of career and a move to Canada. Not to mention the upheavals of four house moves we’ve undergone since we’ve been here.

The original drafts were written between 1985 and 1987, firstly on an Imperial Safari typewriter, then transferred onto on a primitive Amstrad 8512 word processor. The narratives dealt with issues like drug induced mental illness and the long process of healing and recovery. A few years before, I’d dropped out of Nursing college, so I felt comfortable dealing with the themes of healing and recovery, which at that stage were still fairly fresh in my mind.

Still, after a read through I thought that the original draft was fairly shaky but the theme was too good not to have a go at revisiting the project. So in my off duty time last week I gave it a re-write, then handed it to my wife for a second opinion. She said she liked it, asked me various questions and I answered by editing the offending passages until it made sense to both of us. I was quite pleased with the ensuing 3300 words, which has led me to a further decision. I’ve decided to resurrect this project and breathe some life into all six of the stories I wrote for the original collection, then post some readings on a dedicated YouTube / Vimeo / Dailymotion / Bitchute video sharing channel. Furthermore, I’ve elected to open a Patreon account, so whomsoever likes my work can throw me an occasional dollar or two, if it pleases them. If not, at least I haven’t given up my day job.

The artwork is of my own creation and gives a strong hint as to the theme and content of the first story in the series. If anyone out there wants to comment / voice an opinion, I’m happy to listen.

Update:  I’ve edited the repeat text out of this post and am busy trying to record some versions worthy of broadcast.  ‘White Noise’, the follow on from ‘The Cat Tree’ is in need of a thorough overhaul and I haven’t even re-read ‘Josephine’ or my notes for ‘Unwelcoming’ for transcription just yet.  Watch this space.

A dark night for Paris


Just been watching the online France 24 coverage from Paris.  Which is all the more chilling because I know the affected area quite well.  Angie and I spent a very happy month renting a little apartment off Rue De Charonne during May and June this year.  We had the pleasure of breakfasting at La Belle Equipe, one terrorist target, one sunny Sunday in June.  Often walking Boulevard Voltaire, passing through Place de la Bastille, Ile de France almost daily. Despite the Gendarmerie armed with automatic rifles guarding every major intersection, we never once felt threatened or nervous, no matter the time of day or night.

So why did the gunmen pick the 10th and 11th Arondissements to paint with murder? I can only guess. What I do know is that those particular streets have a reputation of being ‘Hipster’ areas. Graffiti lined streets thronged with young urban professionals in their 20’s and early 30’s, gossiping, arguing and flirting amongst themselves until the early hours. All contributing to the recent gentrification, stylishly contrasting with traditionally garbed African Immigrants from the old French colonies.

Are the terrorists so unsophisticated that they think murdering people wholesale on the streets will cause a backlash against the newer immigrants and so send their co-religionists flocking to the terrorists cause en masse? No. Didn’t happen over the Charlie Hebdo massacre and won’t happen now.

I can only hope that none of the people who were so helpful and hospitable to us during our month long stay were hit in these atrocities and would like to offer the following message of solidarity and sympathy;

Courage mes braves. Ajourd’hui, nous sommes tout Parisien.

The deep range


At a talk at Laurel Point Hotel by Dr Robert Ballard (of Titanic fame) and Dr Kate Moran of Ocean Networks, Canada on a new Oceanographic research resource on Sunday, I was reminded of a novel by that giant of Sci-fi, Arthur C Clarke, called The Deep Range. I remember it first as a short story, then owning a copy as part of a compilation. One of my all time favourite reads.

Enjoyed the talk tremendously. It was quite a boost sitting less than six feet from the man who discovered the wrecks of the Titanic and Bismarck. Although Dr Ballard modestly compares diving a mini sub from the surface to twelve thousand feet underwater and back as just “Another day at the office.” with a ‘three and a half hour’ commute. Which made me smile. He also wisecracks about the risks. Pointing out picture of two 1970’s vintage bathyscaphes with a mock-rueful “That one almost killed me. So did that.” His anecdote about finding the Titanic whilst looking for the wrecks of USS Thresher and USS Scorpion Nuclear submarines for the US Military came as quite a revelation. As did a number of other entertaining epiphanies like the flipping crab, and everyone on board a research vessel geeking out over a visiting Sperm Whale. I just sat there, totally engaged, scribbling the odd note and hardly noticing as two hours just sped by.

During the Q&A session towards the end I asked a question about the definition of sidescan sonar, the answer to which came as quite a surprise, although it shouldn’t have. Apparently at depths over three thousand metres or ten thousand feet, the contours that can be mapped are between five and ten metres, depending upon salinity and water temperature. As depth increases, so the contours that can be mapped decrease. At twelve thousand feet the definition degrades, so I am informed, to over ten metres between mappable contours. So anything smaller than ten metres or sixty feet doesn’t show up very well, if at all. No wonder they’re having such a problem locating the wreck of flight MH370 in the Indian Ocean’s vast abyssal plains. Meaning that if the wreckage is broken into pieces less than sixty feet across the wreckage may not show up on the plot, even if a survey vessel goes directly overhead. And this is with some of the best scanning devices available.

The Ocean Networks new ship, the EV Nautilus, is in downtown Victoria this morning, at Ogden Point I think. I’m sorely tempted to go and see, but my keyboard is singing a siren song, telling me I’ve neglected it for far, far too long. There’s a whole new story forming in my head right now about piracy, sabotage, black smokers and electrolytic mining in the ocean depths, knocking at the door, demanding to be let out.

Writing is a mugs game


A while ago, I was introduced at an event to a local dignitary as ‘A novelist’. His response was an honest; “Well that’s no way for a grown man to earn a living.” Having read my latest sales figures I’m inclined to agree. I spent a good while on marketing based activities, going to seminars, engaging on social media, completing profiles etc, to no avail. Writing, particularly fiction, is a mugs game.

It doesn’t help that I’ve got a bad case of writers block, and outside influences are interfering with putting down half decent content. I was toying with a bizarre tale of ritualised dismemberment; the protagonist apparently keeping his victim alive whilst amputating each part, joint by joint, without anaesthetic. I’ve organised the story so it does a one hundred and eighty degree flip with a twist at the end, maintaining a good degree of suspense and high revulsion factor all the way through. The trouble is, every time I get things straight in my head and begin to work there’s an interruption or other weighty matter demanding my attention – right this moment. Now.

The thing that most annoys is that it’s the incompetence and intransigence of others creating these distractions. By contrast, stuff hits my desk, it gets dealt with. Once done it’s out of my head and I can get on with writing. Waiting for others to simply do the job they took on is highly frustrating and very distracting. Especially when I can see my own, self imposed, deadlines looming while they are fiddling around.

Nonetheless, I’m taking a well earned break this Summer. Taking a good long step away from the keyboard to have a few real life adventures. Get grounded. Walk, talk, and rediscover the inspired part of myself, wherever he’s got to.

Maybe when I next put fingers to keyboard it won’t seem so bad.