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Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Interview

I was recently interviewed by Kura Carpenter, a cover designer based in New Zealand. Some readers will know that she has designed other covers for my books, so it was a pleasure to discuss my latest book with her. The interview can be read on her blog Kura Carpenter Design.


Discussions are underway on the design of the cover for my next book, set around 1836 and life in and around London and the Tahmes estuary. 

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Newly Released

Some time ago I set out to republish one of my early titles. It has been a long and sometimes challenging exercise, but the 'new' book required around fifty percent new material, a lot of rewriting of the remainder and the complete excision of around forty percent of the original. I wish I'd had the professional editing and advice when I first published it ...

The result is a 'new' title and a largely 'new' story published by IndieGo Publishing as an eBook available through Kindle, Nook, iBooks and Google. Retitled Harry Heron; Midshipman's Journey, it remains within the 'canon' of my Harry Heron adventure series, and the reorganised, rewritten and reformatted book is, in my humble opinion, one hundred percent what I wanted it to be. Working with and through a professional editor has been more than an education, and it has seen my work transformed. That has, in itself, flowed through into everything else.

So, here it is, Harry Heron; Midshipman's Journey.


Cover design and art is by Kura Carpenter of Kura Carpenter Design, and the text is edited by Janet Angelo of IndieGo Publishing LLC whoc also did the internal design and formatting.



Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Just for fun - something inspired by the late Sir Terry Pratchett

Schloss Überwaldburg
Überwaldburg
Bad Grabstein

Dr Frankenfeller
Director-General
Equal Rights Division
Nomercy Hospital
Bad Schmel
Multicultiland


Sehr geehrte Herr Direktor,

I write to protest concerning the treatment of my young servant laboratory assistant, Igor Igor. I think it is disgraceful that your hospital, which advertises an ‘equal opportunities’ policy, has refused to consider his application for a position. As for the contention that he is ‘not young enough’ to take on the work; nonsense! Why, at least two thirds of him is less than one hundred and fifty years old and he is skilled at renewing those parts of himself that wear out.

The fact that he resembles a cross between the hunchback of Notre Dame and someone called ‘Freddy Krueger’ is no grounds whatever to have him escorted from the premises and barred from approaching. To have taken out a court order to restrict him is, sir, beyond reasonable. Like all his relatives, he is an extremely skilled surgeon and practices self-improvement in a practical manner. They do not believe in wasting organs, limbs or other pieces of any fresh corpse body - indeed they make excellent use of the ice caves beneath my Schloss in storing their spare donor parts.

His simple desire to make his skills available to your hospital is, in my view, a laudable humanitarian ambition. One which could only benefit your species. All the Igors are, after all, constructed of entirely human parts. Their skills in reconstruction, reassembly and revivification have been developed and honed over centuries. The behaviour of your ‘Human Resources’ manager is nothing less than despicable. Her screams when he showed her the example of his reconstructed and repaired heart were not just ear shattering. They penetrated my sarcophagus and disturbed my day’s rest! Indeed, the shrill pitch has left three of the older members of the family with difficulties in utilising their extremely sensitive hearing for locating meals living creatures. Really, what could possibly be so frightening about a heart in a jar beating normally? Anyone would think such things are unknown in your hospital.

As if this were not enough, to have the senior medical officer tell the court that he should be excluded and barred from approaching the hospital because he might remind patients of a character from some moving picture, is insulting. I have researched this and find that Igor does not resemble a burned serial killer! I can assure you none of the Igors would kill anything, and as for the popular belief they steal bodies - well, really! They believe that when someone has no further use of a body part of themselves it should be recycled. A thoroughly laudable intention if you ask me. After all, why waste perfectly good hearts, livers, lungs etc., simply because the rest of the body is worn out?

As to the demand he produce a qualification, surely the fact he was able to produce a living functioning heart for inspection should amply demonstrate his knowledge and capability. Qualification indeed! I am given to understand that the interviewing ‘doctor’ had never seen a beating heart detached from a body before. Of what worth are his qualifications then? Is he capable of reassembling a man who has fallen into the saw bed of a timber mill? Igor Igor has done so - and successfully restarted the man. Admittedly the man does still have a tendency to walk sideways and to blow the circuits of any electrical appliance he touches - but he is otherwise fully functional.

Indeed, there are several citizens who have good reason to be grateful for the ministrations of one of the Igors. Several carpenters would be out of work but for their skill at reattaching fingers, and at least one hunter would now be in a disassembled state in the ice store had there not been an Igor with a spare heart at hand to replace the one some careless individual had destroyed through a badly aimed long bow on a hunt. Can your ‘qualified’ doctor-surgeon do this? 

Igor Igor would have been an asset to your surgical team but since your staff choose to exercise their prejudice on the one hand, and the medical director chooses to insist on some ‘qualification’ obtained from a university on the other, you will now be hearing from my solicitor! This is a clear case of discrimination and prejudice.

I look forward to your apology to Igor Igor, and your speedy response to my demands request that you reconsider the decision of the interviewers and the withdrawal of the court order.

Pleasant screams dreams  

Wolfgang von Überwaldburg

Count von Überwaldburg, Vicomte Grabstein, Graf von Wolfwald.


PS: My lovely daughter, Letitia, asks that you inform the young surgeon in the Orthopaedic Ward, that his garland of garlic is now stale, and quite appealing to her. She is also curious to know why he, a self-declared atheist, keeps so many religious symbols and a large container of Holy Water to hand.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Milestones

Last year was one of those 'milestones' in life in a number of ways. It was the fiftieth anniversary of my finishing my 'formal' schooling. It marked the point at which I found myself launched, unprepared and without a map or a compass into the world of 'work'. I don't think I was the only one to have that feeling as we walked out of the school gates for the last time as pupils. For myself, beyond some vague ideas about becoming a priest (I'd passed the selection process, but been told I had to first work for three years), doing - perhaps - military service (it was on a ballot system) or 'going to sea' somehow, I'd not the faintest idea of what sort of 'work' I could do, let alone look for. University was not an option, my parents couldn't afford it, and even had they been able to, I managed to NOT pass the key subject, Mathematics.

As I quickly discovered, that limited my options quite considerably. I got lucky, my father's boss arranged for me to be interviewed by Barclays Bank, and much to my surprise, they hired me. So last month saw me report for my first day at work in the Main Street Branch - which was a Regional Head Office - of Barclays Bank DCO. I worked for them for three years, and I think it is true to say that was long enough to know I didn't suit banking. A spell trying to explore my vocation at Theological College ended in my taking a post as a travel agent as I simply did not have the support necessary to survive three years with no income. I tried sales (my grandfather ran his own 'agency' business, but I wasn't working for him), I tried clerical, the civil service (Customs and Excise) and I tried the fire service.

Fifty years, three marriages and three children (all from the first) later I look back on a career that now spans two continents and covers a little over 36 years between South Africa and the UK. It has taken me to the Romania, Poland, Kazahkstan, the US, the Caribbean, West Africa, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines. It also led to my eventually meeting and marrying my wife.

As I sat on the benches at the Founder's Day Ceremony at Selborne College last October I could not help but marvel at how much I've experienced, and how much I've seen and done since that day in 1964 that I walked out of the Lukin Road gate for the last time. I was saddened to learn how many of my former school mates were no longer with us, astonished at the journey many more have made, and delighted to see around thirty of them at the reunion. Here are some photos ...

The School's War Memorial, installed in 1920 to commemorate the former Old Boys who died in 1914 - 18. They fell in France, Belgium, Turkey, East Africa and in various oceans as well. The list enlarged to include 1939 - 45 and the subsequent 'Bush Wars'.

The Ceremony of the Key. Each year a representative of the incoming Matriculation Class is selected by his fellow pupils as the next 'Custodian of the Key' and the Changing of the Guard on the Memorial is marked by the handing over of the Key. The Ceremony has been performed since 1921 and the boys parading for this are now entirely volunteers.

Probably the only mark of my passage through the school. I subscribed to a campaign to raise money for the future of the school, so my name appears beneath my father's and above that of a friend I made in 1957. My 'Old Friend', as he likes to remind me ... OK, OK, so he's six months my senior ...

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Apologists for Terror ...

In recent weeks I have noted that a number of organisations concerned with 'human rights' and others that seek to promote 'inclusion' or 'multiculturalism' have been joining up with organisations like CAGE - an advocacy group registered as a limited company in the UK. An article in today's Daily Telegraph is well worth reading. The latest group to throw their lot in with Cage is Amnesty International, thereby destroying the last vestiges of sympathy I once had for their cause. They join Liberty, Justice and five other 'human rights' and advocacy groups in supporting the outright lies peddled by CAGE. A visit to the Cage website quickly tells you everything you probably didn't want to know about them. Think of someone accused or convicted of terrorist activities in the name of Islam, and they have him on their page - with an article about why he or she was 'radicalised' by the British way of life, or our 'security' services.

The bit that really gets me going though, is the latest 'campaign' in which they defend - that's right, DEFEND - Jihadi John, or to give him his real name, Mohammad Emwazi. A Kuwaiti, naturalised as British, he is now the 'front man' executioner for the ISIS, his image appearing on their propaganda videos as he happily beheads 'Kufars', Christians, hostages and presumably anyone else this unspeakable group wish to exterminate. But, according to CAGE, and now Amnesty et al, poor Mohammad Emwazi is a deeply misunderstood victim of MI5. According to them, he was 'radicalised' by their having targeted him when he attempted to join al-Shabab in Somalia. The Kenyan authorities intercepted him, shipped him back to Amsterdam (his start point on the journey) and the Dutch handed him over to MI5.

MI5 didn't arrest him, they did interview him and told him they'd be keeping an eye on him in future. Of course, according to Emwazi he'd gone to Kenya to join a safari. Except there is NO trace of his name on any bookings for such a tour. He wasn't booked into a hotel either. Funny that. Or maybe he thought, 'what the heck - Africa. You just go there and do these things when you get there'. Of course Amnesty et al fail to mention that when he arrived in Kenya, he was met by a known al-Shabab operative - and in case anyone is still unaware, al-Shabab is one of the major supporters of ISIS, providing people and training for them. Who knows - possibly MI5 does - but they may also be providing funding as they are involved in piracy operations off the Somali coast ...

So poor innocent Jihadi John and all the other misguided morons and psychopaths fighting for ISIS are all our fault. It is we, the British hosts of these murderers and ungrateful oils, that have 'radicalised' them - presumably by our refusal to adopt their 'Sharia' laws, execute prisoners by beheading them, and failing to instantly adopt their twisted religion.

CAGE argues that to accuse these men, women and girls flocking to the ISIS of being 'Islamic Extremists' is 'Islamophobia' and racism. Yes, right. Genocide committed by Islamic extremists is, of course, all the fault of the victims, for not being Salafist/Wahabist Sunni Muslims.

One can but hope that Mr Blair and those of his coterie who rammed 'Multi-Culty' down our throats, and who still insist that in criticising the likes of CAGE, or the actions of the likes of Jihadi John is 'Islamophobic' and 'racist'. The fact that CAGE is linked to a body known as Islamic Education and Research Academy - known to be linked to Syrian terror groups. It is also headed by a man who describes Jewish people as the 'brethren of swine and pigs'. Funny that, if I or anyone else made such a public statement about Muslims or anyone else - we'd be in court and rightly so - but not, apparently if you're  Muslim hate preacher.

It is seriously time our politicians stopped pandering to these groups. It is time to cut them off at the rot. If they don't like our way of life, our society, or the opportunities it offers, there are plenty of 'paradise' countries run by those who think as they do. Just one thing - take the local morons who can't get over their guilt trips with you.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

The New Bigotry

A guest post by a teacher based in Texas. Judi posts elsewhere under the pen name judiverse, and this article she wrote recently touched a cord with many of her regular readers.

"Jews, Kikes, Polocks, Chinks"--my father-in-law could go through a long list of derogatory terms in the course of one mealtime.  An ardent basketball fan, he loved the men's games but derided the women's teams.  He graduated from the Indiana University School of Law after serving in World War II, but his attitudes were typical of that era.

Since those Post World War II days, the nation has seen sit-in's, desegregation, affirmative action, hate crime laws, gay marriages, and numerous other societal changes.  Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. made civil rights history; Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball.  Illegal immigrants may be on their way to receiving the full benefits of citizenship.  Women have come a long way, and are now welcomed as CEO's, members of Congress, and presidental candidates.  Gay marriage has become the law in several states.

All that progress sounds like reason to celebrate, and in many ways, it is.  However, we are seeing a new form of bigotry, one that persecutes people for not being one of the now-favored groups.  For instance, Caucasian students are told to check their "white privilege" at the college classroom doors.  They have professors who tell them about the evils white men have perpetrated against people of color throughout the nation's history and lay a guilt trip on them for what happened centuries ago.  They learn to hate themselves.  Burdened with sins of the past, they will  overlook the root causes of black crime and unemployment and approve more and more taxpayer expenditures to assuage their white guilt. 

Gay marriage may well be on the way to becoming the law of the land.  Most people accept that fact and harbor no ill feelings towards gays.  But if a Miss California contestant expresses her personal opinion that marriage should be between a man and a woman, her words may disqualify her.  If a company CEO says he doesn't approve of same-sex marriages,  protestors hold demonstrations and encourage others to boycott his restaurants.  It makes no difference that his establishments treat their customers and employees fairly, regardless of sexual orientation.  Political correctness demands that they must totally support gay marriages.

When the United States saw the influx of children pouring into the country from Central America, hearts went out to them and the cry arose to take them in.  To many, it is the country's duty to welcome illegal immigrants by giving them the whole package--tax credits, driver's licenses, welfare benefits.  Granting the perks of citizenship to those who entered illegally is a form of discrimination against those who worked hard, went through the proper channels, and waited for years to attain legal citizenship.  It also tips the scales against poor U.S. citizens who are looking for a job or a chance to obtain a college education.

Although we now see females as CEO's of large corporations and in the highest government positions, we have yet to elect a woman president.  When the 2016 elections come around, will voters choose a female candidate because she is the best qualified, or will they cast their ballot because it's time for a female president?  It will provide another feel-good moment, a time to celebrate yet another barrier being broken.

The new form of bigotry shows itself in attacks on the Christian faith.   Sales associates in some department stores dare not wish customers a "Merry Christmas."  Displays of crosses or the Ten Commandments are unwelcome in many communities.  At a recent prayer breakfast, President Obama attempted to put Christians in their proper place by making this comparison to the violence of Islamic extremism:  "And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ."  He neglected to mention that Christians aren't the ones who've been beheading people or telling people of another faith to convert or die.  His words were designed to make people feel guilty over events of several centuries ago.

People feel persecuted and diminished under the new bigotry if they express opinions different from the politically correct, "settled" ones.  Those who raise questions about climate change will be singled out for their unenlightened views.  People who drive the wrong kind of car will be judged for polluting the environment.  Vegetarians will condemn people who enjoy a steak dinner at a restaurant.  Hunters, obese people, families with more than the accepted number of children--the list of targets for the new bigots continues to grow.

Although the United States no longer sees lynch mobs or crosses burned in yards, the new bigots have their own ways of exacting retribution.   A student who disagrees with his or her professor's ideology could receive lower grades.  Employees who make politically incorrect remarks in private e-mails have suddenly found themselves out of a job.  Companies that fall into disfavor with a particular group have been the targets of demonstrations and boycotts.  If the dissenting voices become too big a threat, the federal government sometimes attempts to stifle them with measures such as tax audits. 

Those who practice the new bigotry must lie awake nights,  consumed with their hatred.  A man who writes frequent angry letters to our local newspaper is obsessed with the Koch brothers and how much they contribute to Republican campaigns.  He never acknowledges that the other side also has its billionaire donors.  I've seen TV guests virtually turn purple when questioned about the merits of green energy.  These individuals have their minds closed to any other opinions.

The words of the poet, George Gordon, Lord Byron,  speak across the centuries to these new bigots:  "Those who will not reason, are bigots, those who cannot, are fools, and those who dare not, are slaves."

Friday, 9 January 2015

Je Suis Charlie

An article online in Slate, Europe's confused debate about Islam and Terrorism, flags up several matters which neither the liberal left, nor the extreme right are addressing, or, if they are, it is only to obfuscate. It is not as if the problem of extremism is unforeseen, there have been warnings of the rise in it for at least the last forty years. But the political classes have refused to address many of the issues, and even encouraged some. When they pushed 'multi-culturalism' down our throats we were told it was to combat 'intolerance' and 'religious prejudice'. In the face of evidence that the 'intolerance' was daily being promoted by certain 'radical' preachers, no action was taken, on the grounds that to do so would infringe their 'right' to express an opinion.

Anyone else expressing similarly abhorrent 'opinions' about the ideology these preachers pushed could expect to receive a visit from the Police and to be vilified in the pages of the Guardian, the Mirror and several other left or liberal newspapers, went unremarked. Now faced with the reality of having created, or helped create, the monster, the Right seek to label all Muslims as extremists, and the Left, to deny that Islam has anything to do with it.

The massive drive in the western democracies to embrace 'multi-culty' and 'secularise' the 'state', has created something of a vacuum morally, culturally and spiritually. It is NOT matched by any similar willingness to embrace anyone else's views, customs, religion or any other 'cultural' matter from any other group in any of the countries outside of the 'liberal' West. The aggressive secularising campaigners add to the problem. I regularly read aggressive statements from atheists trumpetting the belief that 'Christianity is dying' or that 'unbelievers will soon outnumber believers'. Most of them fail to even consider the impact of demographics, with Europe and North America - 100 years ago representing 20% of the world population - now only 8% of the world population, and falling to 6% by 2020, we, and the 'atheist' movers, are a very small group within the worlds major religions.

Nor do they appreciate that the present 'Islamic extremism' actually has its roots in the aggressive 'secularisation' policies of Kemal Ataturk in the 1920s, and in the Egyptian and other governments of the 1950s and 60s. Those policies effectively placed the Islamic 'Scholars' or leaders of Islam under the control, and in the pay, of the governments concerned. Once the trust of the people in the government was lost, as it was fairly rapidly, so the influence of the 'scholars' diminished.

Step forward the back street Mullah. Let him set up his 'religious school' and start brainwashing children. Let him become the administrator of Sharia Law and the 'interpreter' of the Quran and the Hadiths, and the journey into fundamentalism is well under way. Both Turkey and Egypt attempted to control or suppress these 'unofficial' schools and teachers, without success. Throw in the Cold war with both sides supporting various extremist factions - and the mess we see before us isn't going to go away anytime soon. Compound that with the much welcomed (by the liberal western intellectuals) 'Arab Spring' - and turn loose the dogs of war in every society as rival fundamentalist 'Islamic' groups fight for control of the religion and the world.

Two days ago two young Muslim men stormed into the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and murdered twelve people. Their motive was, they said, to stop the defamation of 'The Prophet'. The problem is, they have now provoked a backlash against Muslims, the vast majority of whom, though they may not like people poking fun at their Prophet or their faith, understand that in western countries this is permitted. I would suggest that the vast majority of Christians don't like some of the smeers and obscene portrayals of Christ, but I am not aware of any Christian taking 'direct action' over such so-called 'art'.

There are, no doubt, many reasons young Muslim men, in particular, feel alienated in Europe. Not least, I would suspect, because they often don't want to 'fit in'. They are told, usually by contacts from their 'old' countries (though many are born, educated and raised in a European country, often being third generation) that things are so much better when a man can beat his wife, or exercise control over his sisters, that they genuinely believe they are being 'held back' by our liberal values. As the infamous Mullah, Choudary has told the USA Today news, Muslims 'reject' our freedom of choice.

While I suspect he is speaking for himself and his radical followers in that statement it serves very well to highlight why men and boys like him do embrace extremism. It would be well to remember that 'Islam' actually means 'Submission'. Submission means giving up choices and rights ...

Our political classes are doing us and the Muslims among us, no favours by continuing to ignore and tolerate 'hate speech' being propagated by the likes of Choudary. They do us no favours by continuing to promote division instead of integration, and they certainly do no one any favours by encouraging the promotion of Islam by the suppression of Christianity on the grounds that it 'offends' a small and obnoxious minority.

We are all Charlie. We are all threatened by this growing cancer in Islam, but it cannot be dealt with by force or violence. It is a battle that must be won by winning hearts and minds, and that means a lot less rhetoric, much more engagement, and less encouraging the fostering of alien 'cultures'. Continuing down this road will lead only to ever increasing threats, less tolerance and many, many more 'Charlies'.