Archive | January, 2016

Current project

21 Jan

Since the new year I have been making the early sketches, outline and key chapters of a new novel. Provisionally called “Hark, hark!”, it is set in 1381, just after the Peasant’s Revolt. in the Welsh Marches. History is my great enthusiasm, as is medieval and Renaissance literature.

This is a considerable departure for me from my other novels, “Most Secret”, “Down in the Flood” and “Eating the Owl”. The first two are about an Edwardian spy, the last is a contemporary thriller.

The new book has elements of horror, in a medieval rural noir mode. I have lifted a character from Langland’s Piers Plowman and scenes from Chaucer’s Reeve’s Tale and the anonymous poem Gawain and the Green Knight.

The plot is set out and I am writing the chapters in a non-linear fashion, using Y-Writer as a means of keeping track of characters and plot details.

There is religious tension of the time between the Lollards and the established Church, political tension between supporters of the young King Richard II and those who want power for themselves. There is also military tension between England and Wales.

The three “Beggars” are a hedge priest, an entertainer (jongleur), who is more than he seems and a seemingly high-born lady who is the most notorious woman in England. They turn up in a small town in the Welsh borders shortly after the revolt has been put down.

The next thing I need to do is to get some idea of a graphic for the cover that I can latch on to, to give me an idea of what the final product will be. Until then I will follow some advice about writing, Don’t try to get it right, just try to get it down.


Minds and Parachutes

13 Jan

What is truly depressing about the troll-like creatures who comment on news stories is not that they are ignorant, nor that they are illiterate, it is that they have closed minds.

Now everyone has their own prejudices, as much as they have their own preferences. Just because I don’t like Coca Cola doesn’t mean that it is complete rubbish, (Oh, hang on, that analogy really doesn’t work, it really is a pile of crap).

What is important is a bit of self-knowledge. I know I can be be a bit too left-wing for many people, and can wander from the topic and am a little bit lazy. I can also be pedantic and a little intolerant, a bit of a dick in fact. What I am most intolerant of is intolerance itself.

Genuine ignorance can be forgiven if the person is willing to listen and learn. When someone uses ignorant pronouncements from, say, Donald Trump or Nigel Farrage or Katie Hopkins to bolster and justify their own prejudice on the grounds that a prejudice shared must be the truth, then I find myself forced to challenge them.

The problem I have here is when it is wilful ignorance, when the balance of facts shows the truth to be 180 degrees away from what they are saying, and they won’t listen to any evidence put before them. My blood pressure would be lower if I took some advice my old dad gave me: “It’s no use arguing with stupid, ignorant people, they don’t listen, so they can’t learn.”

Frank Zappa said: “Minds are like parachutes, if they are not open they don’t work.”

I find this fascinating

11 Jan

This is from Quora, about the US system, but very applicable to the UK:

Mark Ward

Mark Ward, I have taught Political Science courses for the last 8 years

There have been a number of studies that have addressed this issue.

A 2010 study using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, for example, found that the IQs of young adults who described themselves as “very liberal” averaged 106.42, whereas the mean of those who identified as “very conservative” was 94.82.

Similarly, when a 2009 study correlated cognitive capacity with political beliefs among 1,254 community college students and 1,600 foreign students seeking entry to U.S. universities, it found that conservatism is “related to low performance on cognitive ability tests.”

In 2012, a paper reported that people endorse more conservative views when drunk or under cognitive pressure; it concluded that “political conservatism may be a process consequence of low-effort thought.”

Of course, all of this depends on how you define “conservative” and “liberal.”

Based on these studies, such a policy would benefit the Democrats.


2 Jan

We have bird feeders on the patio. The sparrows in particular sift through these, tossing aside the seeds they do not care for. These unwanted seeds end up on the patio and provide food for the ground feeding birds, like robins, and also this fine pair of visitors we had this morning, a cock pheasant and a grey squirrel. Neither are native species, and I would rather like to discourage the squirrels in particular. This one was fearless, staring me out as I tried to shoo it away. The pheasants are decorative, if brainless, and are refugees from the local shoot.