Coming out within the next twenty-four hours.

Within the next twenty four hours an old book of mine, which was originally published in 2007, when I was 76, and was my 21st published novel, is going to have life breathed into it again by my current publisher Agora. They are bringing out an e-book edition and a paperback. It’s probably conceited to say this but it pleases me no end because the central character is an admirable honest woman drawn from the life, strengths and faults and all, and the perfect antidote to the political dishonesty and corruption that is going on all round us at the moment. Let me tell you more if I may.

I had a rather chequered educational childhood because of the war and went to ten different schools in all so I saw a lot of different teachers in action, some kind and understanding, some trying to be helpful, some lost, and some absolutely dire. But it wasn’t until I reached was what to be my final school that I found a teacher I could – and did – thoroughly admire. Her name was Miss Davies and she was the Headmistress, wonderfully herself and admirably eccentric. Over the years she had gathered a team of like-minded and equally talented and eccentric teachers around her. It was the perfect place in which to learn. She taught according to a new technique called the Dalton System, which allowed pupils to progress at their own rate and in their own way. It suited me to a T. I loved her to bits.

So naturally when I came to write a story about a teacher, she was my template and I put her words into my heroine’s mouth and sent her to New York to find about the Dalton System, naturally, and made her a suffragette. Here she is explaining her philosophy in a letter of application for a headship.

”I believe that learning should be pleasurable and should bring its own reward. I believe that lack of pleasure in what we ask our pupils to do. A baby learning to feed himself or to stand and walk is utterly absorbed in what he is doing. He doesn’t fear mistakes, since mistake are one way of learning, he doesn’t tire, he is never bored and when he finally succeeds he is quite rapturously happy. If we could find some way to translate that experience into the teaching situation we should revolutionise the lives of our pupils.”

And here she is again at her interview, explaining in answer to a question, how she would deal with her pupils if they misbehaved. “It would depend on the offence. If someone has been hurt, then there must be an apology and an attempt to make amends, if it is caused by bad temper, the reasons for the temper must be discovered and dealt with, if it is laziness, the child must be helped towards greater effort, if it is misery, she will need cheering. There are always reasons for bad behaviour and that’s what I try to tackle.”

And is she relevant now? I think she could be and would certainly be a comfort to those of us who are near desperation at the appalling behaviour of our present government. I’ll let Polly Toynbee put that into words for me – and us – as she does in today’s Guardian.

‘Cronyism is rampant,’ she says, ‘and worse it goes unpunished. The sums are so vast, the secrecy so shocking, that ‘chumocracy’ doesn’t begin to capture what Britain has become…. Nepotism stinks as badly as awarding contracts to VIP pals; glorying in both, the government, rotting from the head, spreads the stench of corruption through everything it touches.’

Spot on Polly And thank you speaking out so clearly. We need voices like yours.

Have fun with my Octavia, friends and followers, if you haven’t met her before. I liked her so much I wrote a trilogy about her and her influence. The second book will be published on May 13th. I should live that long! Available on Amazon here.

This entry was posted on February 23, 2021. 4 Comments

Dying on its feet.

I have topped this blog with a familiar image of NHS staff in a crowded ICU tending to very sick coronavirus patients. It’s a sight we are all familiar with because it appears on the news so often. What doesn’t appear on the news and isn’t mentioned is that these hardworking men and women have been poorly equipped and very badly paid throughout this epidemic and have struggled on despite everything, to do the very best they can for their patients, which is and always has been the ethos of our National Health Service.

But yesterday I saw and felt something I never thought I would see and feel again after 1948. I went for an appointment at an eye clinic in my local hospital, where the patients sat at the prescribed distance from one another and everybody in the unit wore masks and the staff were under impossible pressure. And the longer I sat and watched, the more strongly I felt that what I was seeing and experiencing was the collapse of the system. The specialist I should have seen was plainly overworked and running well behind time – I had to leave before I could see her – but it wasn’t just that that sent my senses into alert and sitting in my study now away from it all it shocks me to remember it, but it was there just the same. It was the feeling you got in the old clinics that were run for people who couldn’t afford expensive doctors, before the NHS. And it wasn’t just me, the lady who sat on my right hand side at the prescribed distance felt it too. And said so. ‘He’s going to privatise it, isn’t he?’ she said.

And god help us, I’m afraid she was right.

The Prime Mendacitor can tell us whatever lie he likes, confident in the knowledge that nobody in Parliament or the media will ever call him out for it. So corrupt and venal is our system. I can’t bear to see him or listen to him now, but I’ll leave you with this image of him, clapping the NHS on the steps of Number 10. The Great British Trump.

I’m sorry to be so glum and I’ll find a cheerful topic for you next time. But this has to be said.

This entry was posted on February 19, 2021. 4 Comments

90th birthday!

This has been a stunning birthday and I never thought I would be sitting here at this machine this morning saying such a thing.

In the weeks leading up to to the birthday, I got quite depressed if I thought about it because if we hadn’t been in the middle of a pandemic we would have had a family party and at that point I couldn’t see how we could get together at all. I was WRONG, thanks to my resourceful daughters. On the birthday itself they arrived with balloons and cake and presents which was lovely, and in the afternoon my first granddaughter arrived with her two sweeties and we talked and played with them in the garden and me and Mary at the door of the conservatory.

And now this morning the two girls came back with a very big present from the entire family and set up an I-pad to that we could all see one another as I opened it. Here we all are talking to one another via Zoom and how lovely is that. And here I am holding the present, which turned out to be an absolutely stunning photo-mosaic, which is new to me and fascinating because it’s a picture of me and the old darling composed of 455 family pictures of us from youth to old age and our children and grandchildren and great grand children. A real family photograph. I shall spend the rest of the year looking at it, picture by picture with my magnifying glass.

I just had to share it with you because it’s so delightful and t’s taken so much thought and planning to bring about and they kept it all a secret until this morning. Is that superb or is that superb? Best birthday ever.

This entry was posted on January 30, 2021. 19 Comments

I seem to have become part of a social experiment.

and I don’t like it one bit. Let me explain.

On Thursday January 7th I had my first jab of the Covid vaccine, which was a) the Pfizer vaccine and b) rather a relief, because although I have faced the fact that at my age I’ve got to die and that it will be sooner rather than later, I would rather not choke to death. According to the reports from the manufacturers, which were explained very succinctly by a Twitter friend only yesterday ”If the vaccine given is the Oxford/Astra Zeneca, it has been tested and approved with a 12 week gap between doses 1 and 2. If, they give the Pfizer vaccine, the tests were only one with a gap of up to 21 days between doses.” So I should be receiving my second jab this Thursday, which is my ninetieth birthday. BUT if that were really going to be the case I should have been given the date of my appointment yesterday and the phone didn’t ring. Now I’m waiting to see whether or not it will ring today.

There was an interesting conversation on Twitter about it yesterday which I followed avidly. One man said:

”It does feel like they’re rolling the dice on people’s lives in the name of trying to ‘win’ the game of having the most vaccinations” and they’re certainly making a very well publicised fuss of the number of people they’ve ‘vaccinated’ without telling us that the job has only been half done

And another writer – a lovely sensible lady whom I much admire – wrote

”I do think they might try to stick to the manufacturers recommendations. Unless they want shot of us, of course, which wouldn’t surprise me.”

It wouldn’t surprise me either given Dominic Cummings infamous remarks on culling the elderly.

Watch this space.

This entry was posted on January 26, 2021. 5 Comments

Tweedledum and Tweedledee

I found this telling pair of photographs on Twitter and retweeted them at once because I was so struck by the similarities between these two men. Now, thanks to the skill of my amanuensis, they are up here for you to see too, the POTUS and El Duce. Two self obsessed, power hungry Fascists, striking a pose which they think will show their followers how invincibly powerful and superior they are and which actually reveals them as petty, arrogant, narcissistic and cruel. Fascist leaders have a lot in common and none of it is admirable. And one of the worse things is that they all need and use a mob of angry, bellowing men – and women- who can be worked up by lies and propaganda until they will act in any way their dictator/leader wants them to. In Mussolini’s case it was dropping poison gas on totally unarmed Ethiopians, so that their beloved leader could start building an Empire, in Hitler’s it was hating Jews so much that they would beat them up on the streets and agree to sending them to concentration camps and gassing them, in Trump’s it was working his followers into such a lather that they would take to the streets with their flags and guns and trash the Capitol. As a result, five people died, many were injured and there were 60 arrests.

It will be interesting to see what steps Joe Biden and his newly elected Government will be able to take to control the uprising and punish Trump as he richly deserves. I hope they will be decisive and taken as soon as possible. Fascist dictators need to be dealt with as early on in their careers as possible. They are very dangerous men and if they’re not put under strict control they do a lot of damage.

We can’t help our allies across the Atlantic very much, except by cheering them on and sympathising. We have a Fascist government here, lead by the man Trump calls ‘the British Trump’ and that’s going to take all our energy in the next few years. It’s not called Fascist yet – except by those of us who have recognised it for what it is. There are still far too many people who swallow his lies and the media propaganda in his favour and say he’s doing his best, given what a terrible situation we’re in. But those of us who know what we’re up against also know that we’re going to have a Herculean job to cleanse his particular Augean stables and it won’t be done in a day.

George Orwell knew it was coming and gave us fair warning of it many years ago. Take a look at this

‘When I speak of Fascism in England,” he wrote, ”I am not necessarily thinking of Moseley and his pimpled followers. English Fascism, when it arrives, is likely to be of a sedate and subtle kind (presumably, at any rate at first it won’t be called Fascism.)”

I reckon he was spot on.

But it isn’t just Johnson we are up against. It’s an evil ideology and there are a whole pack of them all eager for power for themselves, and equally eager to keep us out of the EU otherwise they would be forced to pay their taxes (which is what Brexit was all about ) who will take over if and when their current leader is removed. To cut that cancer from our body politic could take years. God help us. But to cheer you up at least we’ve got one mouth out of the way – even though he had Trump’s blessing. And we do have a very different ideology to work towards. As this very different man explained.

”Patriotism,” he said, ”is about supporting each other, not attacking somebody else. It’s about loving your country enough to make it a place where nobody is homeless or hungry, held back or left behind.”

This entry was posted on January 9, 2021. 3 Comments

Blake’s Cottage Yet Again

During the last few weeks people have been asking me what has happened to Blake’s Cottage and my answer has had to be ‘Nothing as far as I know.’ And then this week a visitor to my blog took at look at this now very dated piece. I wrote it on October 12th 2016, which is more than four years ago, when I was gathering signatures for a petition to ask the three men who ‘hold the cottage in trust for the nation‘ to get on with the repairs it needed. And I’m repeating it now because it shows that in all this time NOTHING HAS BEEN DONE.

”Sorry to come back at you on Blake’s Cottage for the 2nd time in two days – I’ll put a fun blog up later I promise! – but this needs to be said and said quickly.

Several people have contacted me about my last blog feeling despondent and saying ‘if they haven’t any money, there’s no point in signing the petition.’ This is to try to convince them and others who might be thinking in the same way that the petition is in fact even more necessary and pressing now then it ever was. If we just sit back and do nothing, the triumvirate will go on dreaming about the money that they truly believe they will eventually be given and nothing will be done at all for years. That’s sad to say, but it’s true and the eventual outcome of this shilly-shallying will be that the cottage will degenerate so far that it will either be pulled down or collapse.

What we need now is massive pressure from as many people as we can persuade to sign the petition and make it grow. The more signatures we get, the nearer the time will come when a) the press and television take notice of what we’re asking, b) the matter becomes public and c) the triumvirate will be under such heavy pressure that they will finally have to admit that they don’t have the money to do anything to the cottage beyond prop it up with steel supports and that they will, however reluctantly, have to hand it over to the National Trust or English Heritage. That is the obvious and inevitable result of the situation they are in and the sooner we achieve it, the better.”

But the petition was ignored and NOTHING WAS DONE. And now the cottage is in an even worse state than it was then and even nearer to the time when it will be condemned and pulled down. And even worse, no one seems to know how to contact any of the three men who are supposed to ‘hold it in trust for the nation.’ As one man who’s been trying, put it. ‘They seem to have vanished into thin air.’

Well I’ve done my best to contact all three of them but with precious little success and this is what I’ve managed to come up with. I hope it helps.

1) It is impossible to find any address or contact number for Dr Michael Phillips ( I’ve tried on several occasions).

2) Peter Johns has left the house he owned in Lavant and although I have his mobile phone number, he is friendly but quite unable to help. He says funds are coming in but very slowly and that they are all honourable men who are doing their best. Which is soothing but useless. He tried to reassure me by telling me they are all contactable via the BCT website.

So I went into the site and discovered that the only contact number is Tim Heath’s mobile which he doesn’t answer.

3) And what of Tim Heath? Well he is doing a Trump, squatting in his late mother’s house and refusing to budge, to the considerable annoyance of his brother who has been trying to sell it ever since their mother’s will was proven. This is the house that was featured in the Daily Mail article (which I wrote a blog about) so I know the address as well as his mobile number.

As far as I can see, the only possible solution now is for one or other of the three trustees to apply to the National Trust to see if they would take the cottage over. It is now totally unsaleable. You only have to walk past it to see that. And how would we ordinary Blake lovers be able to persuade any of them to do that? That’s the question we face now. Oh for the backing of a reputable national newspaper.

This entry was posted on December 10, 2020. 2 Comments

Christmas sweeties for the idiots.

Batten down the hatches, my fellow writers, readers and friends. This one is political and I’m writing it for two reasons.

The first is because of the Prime Mendaciter’s asinine announcement that we can all get together with our friends and families over Christmas and have a jolly old time. This is Johnson handing out sweeties to the idiots, so that we all think what a jolly, cuddly old buffoon he is and fail to notice that this decision is foolhardy and extremely dangerous. Pandemics don’t shut down for Christmas. But after all, as Cummings said, it doesn’t matter if a few thousands of us die. We’re just plebs and we need culling.

But there is a second reason too and this one is equally dangerous and even more alarming. Yesterday I read an article in the Guardian written by George Monbiot, a journalist for whom I have great respect. It was headed ”There is a civil war in Capitalism, and we’re the collateral damage” and what it examined was the profound and largely unnoticed change that has taken place in our society. He describes it succinctly.

Broadly speaking,’ he writes, ‘there are two dominant forms of capitalist enterprise. The first could be described as housetrained capitalism. It seeks an accommodation with the administrative state … and can coexist with a tame and feeble form of democracy.”

But the second form is another matter altogether. He calls it warlord capitalism and it’s an accurate description, for it is run by rapacious billionaires who have money and bases all over the world. Their greed for money and the power it brings is absolutely boundless. The more they have, the more they want and they will use any means, however damaging they are to the rest of us, in order to get their own way. They are dangerous and ruthless people. To his lasting credit, George Monbiot names a lot of them.

He starts off by writing about two books that described the process, one written by Friedrich Hayek and the other by Ayn Rand (and no I hadn’t heard of her either so I looked her up. She was a Russian American born in 1905 so she was seeing capitalism in its infancy and was very impressed by it. Many of us have a different view.) But then the article continues and he names the men who are influencing events now and how they are doing it, starting with Trump’s friend and ally, Steve Bannon, who has recently been banned from Twitter for calling for the beheading of Dr Antony Fauci, and was one of the massive backers of the Leave Campaign. Then he goes on to name the other massive supporters of the campaign, all of them billionaires and all of them warlords, Peter Hargreaves, another billionaire who backed the Leave campaign with another massive donation, Robert Mercer from the USA, Christopher Harborne who is based in Thailand, Jeremy Hosking who has business interests in Dublin and Delaware. The gang is worldwide, obscenely rich and hideously powerful. And they don’t care what happens to the rest of us as a result of their machinations.

And let there be no doubt about this either. The Brexit campaign was not run to give ordinary men and women ‘freedom’, whatever that means now, and a better chance in life, or to keep immigrants out of the country, as the gullible were told, it was run solely to ensure that the warlord billionaires didn’t get forced to pay the taxes they owed.

As George Monbiot puts it. ‘We are just caught in the crossfire of capitalism’s civil war.

Happy Christmas everyone!

Much loved toys

I’m giving you a gentle blog today, because it makes a nice change and because I’m too much of a coward at the moment to offer a tough one. I’ll adjust my protective shell and get back to work on those later.

This one is about much loved toys and it was my younger daughter Caroline who set me thinking about it.

She has had a toy seal since she was a baby. She called him Dodo and loved him dearly and he went everywhere with her, as is the way with much loved toys. But at 61 years old he was rather the worse for wear, no longer his original snow-white, cuddly self, but grey and grubby, totally eyeless and decidedly flat. So, as she is temporarily off work and has some time to spare, she decided to resuscitate the poor thing He’s been washed and dried and all his elderly stuffing has been taken out of him and replaced by new, (Oh how I wish someone would do me that service!) he’s got one new eye (she stitched one in with brown wool but didn’t have enough left for the other, which will have to wait until she can get out and buy some) and he’s now quite his old cuddly self. She brought him round to see me today, trailing lovely memories with him. It was like meeting an old friend.

The second loved toy is the bear in the red bow. He is called Jingles because he had bells in his paws. and he belonged to my first daughter Mary and was another much loved animal and omnipresent animal who went everywhere with her. Now like Dodo he is very old – 64 to be exact – and the bells have long since fallen silent, but like Dodo, he has been brushed clean and lovingly repaired with a new muzzle and new paws and a brand new red ribbon, as a final admiring touch.

The third is the very elderly and hairless bear sitting in the middle between the other two. He needs very tender care these days, because he belonged to Larry and was the first special toy in the family doing service as a bed-mate and pillow when they were both very young, and continuing in office from then on, presiding over his workroom from the top shelf, above all the books, when his master was a six-foot much loved teacher. He can’t be repaired now because his fur is so worn and he’s been flattened by so much wear but he is still an object of great affection. because of the man he belonged too. Ah my dear Larry, we do miss you.

And here’s the final much loved ‘toy’ (if books count as toys). I found it in the library in our house in Longley Road And took it with me when I left. It’s on my library shelves still and it’s so old it’s an antique. Printed in 1915. I wrote the poem about it when I was in my thirties when I’d begun to understand how poetry worked.

‘Jack Bruin or love-lies-bleeding.’
My favourite fairy story as a child
Was cruel and frightening and little known
And so absorbed with triplefold delight.
The hero was a hairy commoner
Called Bruin for he looked so like a bear.

Newly arrived at manhood, off he set
To seek his fortune. And he found a well
Both Freudian and deep, which he descended
(Such the intrepid folly of our youth) and once below
Fought dogs and dragons wading in their blood,
And won a bride, willing and beautiful
(Such the simplicity and ease of dreams).
There seemed one problem only in his way
How to ascend the tunnel with his love
And find again the common world of day.

New friends and knowledgeable offered aid.
There was an eagle made a daily flight
Straight up the tunnel, and if he were paid
With hourly slices of some tender meat –
Two sheep were quite sufficient in this case –
Would carry passengers. The deal waas made
His shoulders firmly in the eagle’s claws
Bruin departed carrying his mate.

His friends were helpful, but Arithmetic
Was quite beyond their fairy story minds.
Bering the weight of two instead of one
The trip took longer and the meat ran out.
The carcases were clean. The eagle shrieked.
Without his pay, he’d cast them down to die.
Jack Bruin hesitated, kissed his girl
And carved the next slice from his quivering thigh.
And so throughout the rest of the ascent
He fed the heedless eagle with himself
Emerging to the world a bloody wreck
Unconscious, with his bride about his neck.

But wait, read on, the story isn’t done.
There’s more to come and it’s miraculous.

Out of the Forest, bearing magic salves
A goblin came to heal our hero’s wounds
And grow a covering of new young flesh
Without a hair in sight, a perfect mend.
So love and ointment conquered in the end.

This entry was posted on November 24, 2020. 4 Comments

One for amusement!

This map strikes me as rather amusing, because it shows where my blog followers and readers have come from, and it tickles me to think that it’s travelled so widely. I’d love to know who all these people are, they feel like friends although of course some of them could read me and be very disapproving.

The table below analyses the number of people from each place and that’s interesting too – or at least it is to me. Who on earth knows me enough to follow me in Kyrgyzstan, Gambia, Haiti? Can you see my mind boggling? Perhaps it’s a travelling salesman who follows me from all the places he/she visits.

Greetings to you all though, whoever and wherever you are!!

United Kingdom22703
United States3107
New Zealand170
Hong Kong SAR China74
South Africa34
Isle of Man12
European Union12
United Arab Emirates5
South Korea5
Czech Republic4
Saudi Arabia4
Dominican Republic2
Côte d’Ivoire2
Cape Verde1
Sri Lanka1
Trinidad & Tobago1
St. Lucia1
Myanmar (Burma)1
Faroe Islands1
Costa Rica1
This entry was posted on November 18, 2020. 2 Comments

Welcome back Jeremy!

The Labour party has reinstated Jeremy Corbyn after suspending him 19 days ago. At the time of writing they haven’t made up their minds whether to restore the Labour whip, which is interesting because that is a decision that needs to be made by the leader (Keir Starmer) and the Chief Whip (Nick Brown), which would put them right in the spotlight.

All sorts of reasons are being offered by the media for this sudden change of heart, but interestingly the one that seems most obvious to me nobody has mentioned at all. And that is the fact that the party is now haemorrhaging members. And that bit of information is being kept secret too, but in my cynical way I suspect that it is because there are rather a lot of them. I don’t think we ought to forget – although the press would prefer if we did – that Mr Corbyn attracted around 400,000 new members. And again interestingly, it’s not possible to find out from the press how many there actually were, but you’ve only got to look at the crowds who gathered to hear what he had to say.

Margaret Hodge must be spitting feathers today, poor baby. She was so sure that she and her friends had dealt the death blow to Corbyn’s political career. Do you remember how triumphalist she was? ‘He’s yesterday’s man…’ she said. ‘He is absolutely irrelevant… as we’re looking to the future.’ 

In fact a lot of us would say, he’s the most ‘relevant’ man in the whole of the Labour party, although thankfully there are one or two like Andy Burnham and Ed Miliband who come very close second. We are not all Corbyn-baiters thank god and most of us are ardently in favour of government for the many and not government for the obscenely wealthy few.

Watch this space.

This entry was posted on November 18, 2020. 4 Comments