You Don’t Have To know How The Story Ends

Monday 21st August

When you start reading a book you don’t need to know how the story ends.  And so it is true of writing; a book, a story or a daily blog.  All you really need is the Title, or the first few words – an idea of a suggestion of a subject is often enough.  The hardest thing to do is to disturb the pure white page with your inky daubs, but once you get going it is never so hard.  I was going to give this advice to my writing group here in Eymet (it is just a bunch of friends who like writing and read out stuff once a month – nothing pretentious) at the next meeting.  I meet them now and then between readings, and they often say how they are struggling to write on the subject.  I think they may be trying too hard.  It is best, I find, to just write the title and a first line or two, and it will usually flow.  And if it doesn’t it really doesn’t matter.  Tear the scrap of paper up, or press the delete button a few times – have a rest, a cup of tea maybe and later, try again.  I rarely know exactly how my writing is going to progress.  In fact my books start off quite randomly and once I find my voice (often the voice of the narrator) the story grows out of the characters.  Sometimes you have to end up manipulating them to get to the end – but more often than not, they, the characters write the story for you.  It was certainly true of Catherine, I jokingly say that she wrote the book – and in a way she did, once I had created her she took over, or I became Catherine, not sure which, and the book got written.  And the same with 2066 – it just grew once I found Janek’s voice, and even the Philanthropist, although I knew what I wanted him to do with his money – how he got it, and how he got to that point where giving it all away was the whole point of his existence were all I had to work out – and so I just started writing.

You do often use bits of autobiography, the experiences you may have suffered, but most of it is imagination.  I often say that all you need is a coat-hanger to hang the story on.  Just like those cut-out Bunty dolls my sister used to get – all you had to do was cut out the clothes and fold tabs A and B, and there she was in all her splendour.  So writing is just like that, get your coat-hanger, which can be as slender as a first line, and hang the clothes on, then your characters come to life and become Bunty’s of their own making.

Just like this blog, I never know how they will end – who would have thought I would end with Bunty in her little skating outfit, pom-pom hat and all…you really never know how the story will end.

W – is for Clifford T. Ward

Sunday 20th August


Quintessentially English, twee sometimes, sentimental occasionally, a bit too Christian at times – but with the voice of an angel.  Clifford had  a huge hit with ‘Gaye’ in the early Seventies – and I have been a fan ever since.  He hearkened back to an earlier time, more gentle, almost pastoral.  But he wrote beautiful songs with clever melodies and words which seemed just perfect.  He never had any real hits after ‘Gaye’, but he carried on making lovely albums – and I bought them all.  They are now mostly unavailable, especially on CD, but I still occasionally scour ebay, with scant success.

In one song ‘Home thoughts from Abroad’ he ties in the Nineteenth Century poets with how he is feeling on tour in Europe. “How is Worcestershire? Do you still use television to send you fast asleep?  Does the cistern still leak – or have you found someone to mend it? Oh, and by the way, how’s your broken heart? Is that mended too – I miss you.”

He was diagnosed with MS in the late Seventies and as the disease progressed it took its toil.  But he still managed to crawl to his home studio and recorded songs, many released posthumously.  A sad death in 2001 for one so full of the joys of living.

Many will have forgotten him.  But I still play his songs.

Image result for images of clifford t ward

Seven Modern Deadly Sins – 7) Calling Anything a Sin

Saturday 19th August

We are in the Twenty-first Century for Christ’s sake (no joke intended).  The whole idea of ‘sin’ should be consigned to the dustbin of History.  Yes, there are criminals out there – many, incidentally, in the City of London, happily laundering money, taking the profit and asking no questions.  But what exactly was a ‘Sin’?  It was inextricably linked with Religion and Obediance to some Almighty God, who frowned on the wayward ways of mankind (mind you – he was supposed to have made us in his image, some image…).   And still Christians often begin their prayers with the words “Forgive me Father, for I have sinned.”  – and this is the daft bit, even if they haven’t.  The whole concept is that we are so imperfect that we have already ‘sinned’, even though we didn’t do it consciously, can’t remember specifically what we did wrong, but he is a wrathful God who must be appeased (human sacrifices disallowed– so we bow our heads and ask forgiveness for our sins.  Or does it all go back to the Garden of Eden?  The Original Sin of Eve?  Sexual guilt.  A woman actually wanting and instigating sex?  My, that apple tasted good, pips, core and all.  But ever since we have had to say sorry and that we have sinned.

Well.  I believe in laws passed by men – imperfect as they may be.  And when a crime is committed it is dealt with.  It is called a crime, not a sin.

So, let’s throw the whole concept of sins in the ‘sinbin’ – all seven, ancient and modern.  Let us grow up and be humans, imperfect – yes, sometimes breaking the law, yes – but sinners?  Sorry, but I don’t buy that one anymore.

Seven Modern Deadly Sins – 6) Fake News

Friday 18th August

Once upon a time there was the BBC.  And the news was trusted by everyone.  We had nothing else.  Okay, there were Newspapers, The Sketch, The Herald and the ones we still have.  But newspapers have always slanted the news to their own Political Agenda.  Then we had ITV, which had its own news, ITN.  Sometimes I would watch both, and by and large they were both carrying the same stories.  Now we have multiple channels and 24-hour news on tap.  I am still amazed that both Sky and BBC still have slots where they review what ‘the papers say’, as if their own reporters weren’t out there anyway.  But by and large most of the news on the TV is ‘real’ news, however slanted.  But, the most important person is the News Editor, the person who decides, not only what is actually news, what we should hear about, but what the main stories should be, what in their opinion is the most important stuff we should be seeing.  And more and more this is becoming ‘politicised’.  At the beginning of the last election campaign Labour were being written off by all the news channels, almost ridiculed – but they had a legal responsibility to report, so they grudgingly showed Jeremy.  Only as the polls seemed to tighten did they even suggest the possibility that Labour might do quite well.

But now we have the internet, and a multiplicity of news available.  Friends, me included, post stories we think might be of interest or which represent our own ideas.  And there are links to all sorts of ‘news’, some of it reliable, some not.

But more and more we are hearing accusations of ‘fake news’.  Completely made-up stories, fabrication, reporting of events which have never happened.  We even now have the President of America accusing respectable news organisations of running fake news stories about him, when we can all see him, the Emperor in his naked new clothes.  Tweeting – the use of just 140 characters is now the ultimate news channel.  No detail, no explanation, no way of checking facts (indeed, how are we to ever check the facts – that is what we have reporters for), just an opinionated headline.  Fake news is now competing for our attention alongside more established media.  It seems that in this modern world you have to decide just who you trust, and who is running fake news– you pays your penny, you take your choice.

Seven Modern Deadly Sins – 5) Prejudice

Thursday 17th August

When I first came to London I was shocked to see a sign in a window “Room to let – No Blacks, No Irish”.  Not that I knew any blacks or Irish either.  I had once seen a black girl in Ipswich, and I suppose I regarded her much like I would an exotic animal in a zoo.  But this was London, and it was a swirling mass of people of all colours, black brown and yellow.  As for the Irish – I knew no Irish people either.  But Prejudice than was accepted.  We laughed at Alf Garnett, but how many openly agreed with him.  It has been a long hard struggle to rid ourselves of Prejudice, and we thought the battle was almost won.  Okay, we knew some employers still wouldn’t employ black people, we knew that black kids tended to grow up in poorer neighbourhoods 0 but surely things were getting better, weren’t they?

But slowly the pendulum has been swinging back.  Ever so politely you understand.  They now talk about ‘Immigration’ as an issue.  They preface their remarks by saying “I am not in the least prejudiced, but…” And yet they still are.  What is it about us that we instinctively don’t like those we don’t understand?  I know quite a few men who really don’t like gays.  What are they worried about – contagion?  But mostly now prejudice is against Muslims.  It is almost open season to be worried about these ‘Islamists’, to blame all our woes on this still pretty small minority.  Yes, they have a different religion, they come from a different culture, they are mostly, but not all, a bit darker skinned than ‘white’ people.  But they are just the same as you and me.  They love their kids and want the best for them.  They mostly work and study hard.  They want to contribute to our society.  And anyway, most of them were born here and are just as British as us.

And yet, since the Referendum it seems that it is now okay to talk about the ‘Muslim’ problem.  Nigel Farage posed in front of a poster showing mostly Syrian refugees (actually at a border crossing in Eastern Europe) declaring that there was no more room for them here.  Blatant Racism, and a nod and a wink to our Prejudices.

Two hundred years ago we went to their countries and plundered them, taking raw materials and appropriating vast swathes of their countries as ours.  We made slaves of many of them, we made fortunes out of their labour.  If anyone should be Prejudiced, it should be black and brown people for what we did to them.  But if you think that the battle is won, just look around.  The press is full of stories of Muslim men grooming white girls, of terrorists, jihadists, Islamic fanatics and so on.

Yes, a few Muslims commit crimes, as do blacks and white people, but turning against people because of their Religion or their Colour is still wrong – even if it is under the polite term of ‘Concerns about Immigration’.  We still have a long way to go to get rid of this Modern sin of Prejudice.

Seven Modern Deadly Sins – 4) Ignorance

Wednesday 16th August

For years most people were ignorant, they lived in the countryside, there was no radio, no television, newspapers were for the fashionable Londoners.  Actually, as far as their own lives were concerned they may not have been ignorant at all – but the machinations of Kings and Parliaments passed them by.  But for many years now we have been awash with information, and increasingly so.  There is now no excuse for ignorance.

As a child when we had the telly, I was sometimes allowed to watch the News.  I can remember the assassination of President Kennedy and Aberfan particularly.  Everyone watched the news.  It was on at the same time on both channels – you really couldn’t miss it.  And almost everyone wanted to see the News, it was part of their lives. Now we have 24 hour news channels keeping us updated with News, important and trivial – and yet it seems that there is more ignorance than ever.

How often do we hear the plea – “Oh, I don’t understand Politics, it is all the same to me.”  Or that all politicians are the same, or that “I don’t vote, I can’t be bothered.”

Many of the broadsheet newspapers should be prosecuted for even calling themselves newspapers, they are full of tits and celebrity gossip and sport.  The only ‘Politics’ is a diatribe from one side masquerading as news – but which is really propaganda.  But even newspapers are struggling to sell their opinions these days.  With the multiplicity of channels many people never watch the news at all.  I once worked with a woman who couldn’t even tell me who the Prime Minister was – she had no interest in the World around her or the country she lived in.  And yet, she knew the storylines of all the soaps, who was sleeping with who, which Celebrity had had plastic, which was the best mascara and so on.  I once sat on a fairly empty tube train and overheard two youngish women opposite talking about shoes for at least ten tube stops.  And men are just as stupid, football will keep most of them talking for hours.

And just where does this level of ignorance (and this must be deliberate, because you really have to make a decision to avoid knowing what is going on) lead us?  Well, it seems no co-incidence that Trump and Brexit have coincided with such an unprecedented level of ignorance.

And the worst thing is that many of the ignorant wear their stupidity like a badge of honour “Oh, I am too stupid to understand all that stuff” or “I don’t want to know all about Politics, it is so boring.”.  No, you are simply too lazy, too complacent, too self-absorbed to wake up and smell the ersatz coffee in front of you.  Another modern deadly sin I am afraid.

Seven Modern Deadly Sins – 3) Mean-ness

Tuesday 15th August

We live here in Eymet, France amongst a largely retired population.  Many have sold their houses in England for huge sums and have bought cheap out here.  They are on generous pensions, both state and workplace, which incidentally will never be so generous for future generations.  And yet many of them are mean.  Their talk is dominated by where the cheapest supermarkets are.  They tell you that you can buy a 10 litre box of some cheap red wine for 11 euro’s, only to be interrupted by someone else piping up that it is only 10.50 at Lidl or somewhere else.  And they will drive far afield to save that 50 cents.  The wine here is good and pretty cheap too.  You can buy really nice wine which has won medals for four or five euros.  Why be so stingy?  And who are you hurting by this meanness – only yourselves.  But many seem to wear this meanness like a badge of honour.  They scour the supermarkets for special offers, and fill their freezers with cheap cuts, their cupboards groan with ‘buy one get another half price’ offers of tins they may never open.

There is nothing wrong with being careful with your money.  When I was growing up we were working class and lived in a council house and thrift was a way of life.  But most of the people out here would be considered wealthy by any standards – and yet some of them are still so mean.  They choose the cheapest thing on the menu, they scoff at bars charging two euros fifty for a glass of wine, they go without what they really want for no good reason – except to be mean.  Maybe they lay awake at night cheering themselves up with how many cents they have saved.

But meanness of pocket means meanness of spirit too.  Be generous for goodness sake, enjoy yourself.  If you have money, spend it.  That is what we are here for.

Our only role now in Society is to be consumers – keeping the wheels of industry turning….hahaha.  But I am afraid that meanness is here to stay, another of the Modern Deadly Sins I am afraid.

Seven Modern Deadly Sins – 2) Artifice

Monday 14th August


We live in a world of Artifice, where the look of things is far more important than the substance.  When I was a teenager, we all wanted to wear the latest ‘Mod’ clothes, to be part of the ‘gang’, to be accepted as part of the group.  But we always knew we all looked a bit different, it didn’t seem so important to gain perfection – as long as you were acceptable.  But a modern disease has crept in of ‘Body Image’ and a striving for ‘Perfect looks’.  And so now we have the total achievement of Style over Content.

Now, I have always known (or suspected) that I was an ugly sod, and had to rely on my “sparkling” personality to win over the opposite sex…hahaha.  But now it seems that both sexes are resorting to Artifice in order to appear ‘attractive’.  Make-up, which was once so simple is a whole regime.  Many girls (and some boys) don’t even nip to the paper shop without slathering on layer after layer of skin treatments, lotions and potions, foundation, powder, lippy, lip-gloss, mascara and layers of eye shadow.  But it doesn’t stop there – false eyelashes are almost de rigeur, and even the exfoliating of real eyebrows and painting on ‘false’ ones. To me they all look like mannequins, perfectly moulded – yet lifeless.  Almost every girl and many of the boys are unhappy about their body – their hair is too curly or too straight or too dry or too greasy – their breasts are too small or too large, they have cellulite, their teeth aren’t perfectly white…and so the list of imperfections continues.  All body hair must be removed, as if it is ugliness (it is there for a reason, girls) and must be waxed and expunged or the sky will fall in.  And now young men too are being infected by the same disease.

Leonard Cohen sang “There is a crack in everything – that’s how the light gets in.”  I think he meant that we should accept imperfection, it is what makes us different and interesting.

But this Artifice, this seeking for perfection – and ultimately deception – has now moved on.  We have Botox injections, puffed up trout lips, and breast enlargement and reductions, trimming of one’s sex itself.  Plastic surgery, once the preserve of the very rich and vain is now on the high street.  Why can people not simply accept themselves as they are?  Does all this seeking after some (probably photo-shopped) perfection, this resorting to Artifice, simply mask some deeper unhappiness.

But the herd mentality seems to sweep over all common-sense and Artifice is now a very common but still a modern deadly sin.

Seven Modern Deadly Sins – 1) Selfness

Sunday 13th August

I have deliberately written Selfness, which is different from selfishness (which we may visit later).  Selfness is the putting oneself and one’s own interests above everything else.  It is the opposite of being a part of a society.  Almost since humans first walked on this planet we have been sociable animals, operating in small groups where everyone knew everyone, and each individual worked collectively for the group.  But the development of Capitalism has brushed this aside.  Now, most of us live in cities.  In cities it is impossible to know everyone, and even the few you do know may be scattered, coming together only for work or clubs.  And with the internet, we do not even have to meet or to know what our friends look like at all – they are simply names and memes we recognise as part of our ‘circle’.

And this very isolation brings with it Selfness.  We are taught from an early age to strive for good marks, excellent exam results, personal ambition to the fore – it is a tough world out there and to succeed you must excel.  And push hard.  Put yourself and your interests, your career, your ambitions – First.  We are taught that everyone can achieve their dreams – but of course that is not possible.  We also equate success with money and fortune.  The highest paid must be the best.  But all of this Selfness deprives us of real happiness.  Working together, with others is far more rewarding than anything you can achieve on your own.  Being part of a caring group of friends is far better than simply achieving, gaining wealth and status are pointless unless they can be shared.  Selfness is the essence of Modern Conservatism; each individual looking out for themselves – and the devil take the hindmost.  It is now one of the modern deadly sins and on the increase.

And as you get older and look back, what have you really ‘achieved’.  All materialism is illusion, a false god, a pointless exercise.  Sharing and helping others is what being a person is all about – not Selfness at all.

Two Lunatics

Saturday12th August

If I, or anyone else, had written just two years ago a satire about some time in the near future when we had two lunatics running around and threatening each other – and, of course, this is the unbelievable bit – they are both leaders of their respective countries, with an almost fanatical following.

Kim-Il-Jong – we all knew was a lunatic.  The son of the son of the original leader of North Korea.  And who would have thought that a whole nation could be brainwashed into the ancient belief of the Divine Right of Kings in the Twenty-first Century.  But it appears so.  Unless of course, they are all totally aware of the situation and are simply terrified of not obeying the crowd, and so they worship the Emperor’s New Clothes – even if these happen to be Nuclear weapons.  Or maybe they just believe that America is the great evil and is bent on destroying this plucky little nation, and their only defence is to fight fire with fire.

And talking of fire….We have the Great Leader of America, who now has almost dispensed with Congress and Senate, and rules by Tweet.  Not that he is getting very far, but like all lunatics he seems able to run around the asylum unchecked, issuing dire threats to all and sundry.  But in particular to North Korea, which alone now seems able to stand up and tweak a nose, as Kim drops his trousers and moons at America the Great.

You really couldn’t make this stuff up.  The trouble is that as the language gets more and more intemperate, and as none of this, or sanctions or quiet words of wisdom from China, seems to have any effect – one just hopes that one or the other of these lunatics doesn’t actually press a certain button.  Or, that the powers that be, the sensible ones running the asylums have not forgotten to disconnect them beforehand….