Saturday 27 January 2024

Human folly

Follies... odd little buildings without particular usage, playful, harmless. Folly, from the French (folie) meaning foolishness. Nothing wrong with a bit of playfulness in architecture, or your own pimped garden shed, but then there's the bigger and more scary version of the word, folly, which seems to be appearing with rapidity in this world of shrinking natural 'resources' and ever-increasing pollution.

After doing a spot of garden reconstruction yesterday, revelling in the very early signs of spring and feeling how important it is that we embrace all the smaller stuff: birdsong, shapes of trees, simple food made with as-local-as-possible ingredients, examining in detail our local environment, etc etc, I came indoors to start work on the audiobook and happened to see the front page of the online guardian. 

My peaceful thoughts transmogrified into utter incredulity as I stared at the picture of the latest and gargantuanly (if that's a word) huge cruise ship - Icon of the Seas. In a time of human shift towards a probable extinction event - yes it could happen; it's happened before many times - it seems unthinkable that people are still wishing and able to create bigger, grosser, plastic-filled, fuel guzzling atrocities such as this. 

But it's ok... it runs on green energy. Oh . . . yes, right. LNG. Natural gas - natural. It just appears magically without consequences of further climate disruption and vast levels of pollution. 

I personally don't understand the draw of cruises anyway. The few crossings I took on the piddly (in comparison) ferries between Britain and France I found only possible either by lying on the floor - preferably in a cabin - or standing on deck even in horizontal freezing rain. The idea of being trapped on a astronomically huge boat with around eight thousand other people - however manically happy they might be - (or not, if you are a member of the two thousand or so staff) is the stuff of technicolour nightmares, not to mention being swept along within a stream of slightly claustrophobic humans keening for on-land distractions when the mega-boat finally docks somewhere. 

The vessel has an infinity pool, so you can sit and look at a chlorine infested stretch of water hovering above the real ocean infinity, along with seven other pools and spas, a highly naff water park (thrill island), a 55 foot indoor waterfall (?!), and all the usual gyms, cinemas etc, etc. As far as food goes apparently there are forty ways to odd statement - on one leg? smothered in foam, being lectured by a rabid maths teacher, surrounded by hyenas, suspended above a giant vat of custard; sitting alone at a small corner table while Gordon Ramsey picks your meal apart - what the fuck is this!, naked in front of a gospel choir? and that's just seven . . .

Give me a small rowing boat and a tranquil river in early June - waving river weed, dragonflies, weeping willows, and a picnic, maybe with a bottle of Cava thrown in. Or just a flask of tea. That'll do.

Saturday 20 January 2024

Getting stuck in

Anyone reading this blog will know that I did a Kickstarter to raise funds for making my optimistic, post-apocalyptic novel, Londonia, into an audiobook.

I must say honestly that I didn't enjoy the process - at all. It's certainly not for me but we did get there after masses of hard work, and I was touched and amazed by the number of family, friends and acquaintances who pledged along the way to make the project a reality. Thank you so much to all of you. I'll keep you posted on the finished audiobook- we're still looking towards the beginning of April.

There have been some changes which have meant that the narration has shifted to me - an alarming prospect at the outset - and Mark doing the soundtrack; not just a bit of incidental music but a full on textural masterpiece, full of his compositions, collected environmental sounds from his vast back catalogue, and us making up things as complex as a gospel choir... I'm thoroughly into the narration thing now, learning as I go on less familiar accents and listening to the characters' voices that have sat in my mind for so long.

So. we're about a third the way there, and I will be producing a 'trailer' splicing together moments of tension, excitement, eeriness and humour to hopefully entice people to take a listen. 

Watch this space, as they say, whoever they are...

Saturday 13 January 2024

Trade without money

The subject of quite a lot of my novel, and following one. 

We're all so used to supermarkets, calling the plumber to sort something, buying a gadget online, taking the car to the garage for some scarily expensive investigation, etc, a million-fold, but how absolutely wonderful it feels when you get to actually trade something without money changing hands - and with people you really like and appreciate.

Two friends of ours came over yesterday with their chainsaw and we all attacked two, sadly, very dead silver birch trees. Within two hours the trees were felled, sawn up, smaller branches and twigs sorted for kindling, and stocked in our woodshed and their car boot. We then sat down in front of the wood stove - fuelled by our last meeting of tree felling - and enjoyed lunch and much chat. No money exchanged; they provided the chainsaw and petrol, and we made lunch, and we all had a couple of hours of exercise/vitamin D in the winter sun. Lovely.  

Newly topped up woodshed, and Louise wielding a somewhat less worrying saw.


Tuesday 9 January 2024

Recalling heat/cold

It must be the coldest day of the year here so far - about -2 in the day; a day of solid greyness, everything utterly silent as if snow might start falling, but nothing is forecast.

I did walk the dog but, unsually, didn't enjoy it, just very keen to get back inside and get a fire going. I did also barrow some wood in, and attempted to clear one of the overgrown garden beds but it was short-lived... back to making put-off phone calls and sorting in-tray filings. 

While trying to find a photo of my passport, I came across a few garden pictures taken last July. The one below sticks in my mind. It was about 34 degrees in the evening and I was trying to capture the essence of the mid summer to add photos to our website. The river beckoned, shirt stuck to my back with sweat, mozzies homing in for a dusk feeding session . . . all impossible to imagine now as I sit in our 'office' on the landing which I have sealed off with an old sheet to trap the heat from the oil heater under the desk. It's a lot better than the yawning void onto the staircase which we naively thought would heat up if we opened the kitchen door - where the wood stove is. 

The kitchen door stays firmly shut, that room the only really warm sanctuary in the house; but it's okay, we just scurry around the rest of the house dressed in many jumpers, (as the previous resident did, and the ones before her,) occasionally stopping to glance out of a window and remember when it was too hot to venture outside...

Tuesday 2 January 2024


Pointless to predict or assume things about what might happen in this coming year...probably equally pointless to attempt NY resolutions, my usual ones being, swear less - never works, don't put off doing tedious things - getting better... this year more than ever - appreciate the small day to day stuff: trees, the way different birds fly, our dogs wagging end of tail as she looks at us, a perfect cup of tea, laying a fire for later, that fire in the evening; a chat with a friend, wood walk, soup from leftovers... and a thousand other often unappreciated daily pleasures.

               Very best wishes for the coming year to everyone who visits my attic space of musings.