25 July 2011

Good Sport

They are closing the roads near to where I live next weekend. The whole area will be cut off or disrupted most of the time, getting to and from my daughter's house will be nigh on impossible. So I won't be able to look after her chickens while she is on holiday.

The occasion?

There is what they refer to as an Ironman competition. This involves men swimming 2.4 miles in a cold reservoir then riding 112 miles on a bicycle followed immediately by a 26 mile run. I assume that no women are involved on the basis that it's called Ironman and not Ironperson and that women have more sense. I may, however, be wrong about this, in which case I apologise to any female participants who might be reading this and feel slighted.

No wonder the roads will be closed, they'll need access for the ambulances and men in white coats carrying straight jackets.

Last night I watched another sport on TV. This involved a squat, rotund guy with thinning hair. He was up against a bulky guy with glasses wearing a black shirt and a tortured expression. The winner had a very bad tattoo on the inside of his right arm, it looked like something he might have done himself and, if so, confirmed his right handedness. The tattoo said simply enough "The Power".

Both men (again, I saw no evidence of women participants though there were many in the audience) threw darts at a board for an hour or two. Most of the time the darts stuck in the board. At the end, The Power triumphed. He was very happy even though he had been winning everything for the last twenty years. The commentators seemed surprised at just how good he was, even though they had seen it all many times before.

I don't expect that either of these guys will turn up for the Ironman competition next week.

It strikes me that both these activities are classified under the general heading of sport.

I have a feeling that neither is to be recommended as a way towards better health.

The winner of the Ironman should be given a tattoo as his prize.

Suggestions, please.

Offerings will be judged on the basis of wording and placement.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

16 July 2011

Money is Time

Today I have the delightful job of dog sitting. This involves an initial frenzy of riotous jumping and licking followed by a few hours of quiet. Now and then we might take a stroll in each other's company. Walking with a dog beside me feels comfortable and right. Walking without a dog, I might be mistaken for someone up to no good, a prowler even.

Time to write a blog post is included in the dog sitting deal.

This morning there was a nice article in the Daily Telegraph about the Scottish couple who won £168 million on the lottery. Their win makes them the 26th richest people in Scotland. They have roughly the same amount of money as Posh and Becks. So, they were asked, what will change? How will their new riches change their lives?

The questions got me playing the 'what if I won the lottery how would it change my life' game. I'm sure I'm not the only person who has spent at least a little time speculating about that.

It got me thinking that once my basic needs of food, shelter and security have been met, money really only buys me time. I can buy a washing machine to save me time. I can buy a car to save time walking or queuing for a bus. 


In Hannu Rajaniemi's Quantum Thief, the currency of the world he creates is time itself. People have a personal clock that allows time to be traded. When your time runs out, you die (go Quiet).

We all have time, some have more than others. It's how we use it that matters. If I had an extra £165 million it might allow me a bit more flexibility and choice about how I use my time but it wouldn't create any more of it for me.

I don't spend enough of my time consciously. I let it slip away while I perform the routine tasks I'm used to doing. Whole days can be spent pottering about without me noticing.  I while away time, supposedly waiting for some 'better' time to come along.

It's not really about what I am doing, it's whether I am actually alive while I'm doing it. It's a matter of me being aware, feeling how I am, savouring the moment, enjoying breathing in and out.

So I don't need to win the lottery.

I already have plenty of time.

I will begin to spend it more consciously.

7 July 2011

News Update

Remarkably, in direct conflict with the information contained in my previous blog, I have started to write a new novel, a follow up to Due Diligence called Proceeds of Crime.  Obviously this is a device to avoid having to rewrite Technical Difficulties.

Maybe not.

I have come up with a major breakthrough in writing technique.  It's called a synopsis.

Instead of wading through hundreds of thousands of precious words putting a comma here and a new word there, I am writing down the story.  I will then have a good idea of which bits are necessary, which bits are not and where bits need adding.  It might seem obvious to you but I have only just twigged that this is how to start editing.

So, today has been a good writing day.

I am also impressed by the heavy showers we are getting this summer.  The weather forecasters promised a searing hot summer with dreadful water shortages.  I installed water butts and rejoiced as the rains filled them.  Since then, it has not been warm and certainly not dry.  When I looked at my poor dishevelled chickens this morning I wondered if I might have been better getting ducks.

As I was walking in Chorley, a shower forced me into a doorway and into conversation of a fairly elderly man.  OK, he was probably not much older than I am but in my book that makes him elderly.  He opened by wondering whether we might collect more of this rain and export to somewhere it is needed.  Our thoughts turned to Kenya and the Horn of Africa, to those distressing scenes of helpless women and starving children.  My acquaintance expressed his surprise that those unfortunate women had so many children when they couldn't feed them.

This conversation made me realise how easily I find an excuse to feel disconnected from people who aren't pretty much exactly like myself.  It's as if I am endeavouring to convince myself that their plight doesn't matter as much because they're different.

Well, they're not.

If anyone is different, it's me.  90% of the world's population doesn't have the full belly, the comfort and the security that I do.

I may not be able to send the rain but I can send them something.


6 July 2011

The China Syndrome

Well, that's a relief.

I have been getting discouraged about how difficult it will be to get my manuscipt to the degree of perfection that might allow it to be published and read. Now, I am feeling a little more relaxed about the whole thing.

I sat in a car at the weekend and was driven to and from Nuremburg, a 1700 mile round trip if you exclude the ferry.  Apart from a sore bum, I emerged unscathed and having read Kraken by China Mieville on the journey.  I may have become a bit picky with all this editing I am trying to do but Mr. Mieville's lengthy tome seemed riddled with mistakes.  Bear in mind this book has been published by one of the leading imprints and would have received the full editorial treatment.

China Mieville is one of the most original and innovative writers around.  His Perdido St. Station was wonderful and so was The Scar.  Kraken is a bit patchy to say the least.

Plotwise, there was alot going for it.  Too much at times.  Plenty of good solid Mieville wordplay but I felt a touch let down by the way the nasty villian got his comeuppance.  He (or they) went from omnipotent and invulnerable to dead and gone too easily for it to be at all satisfactory.  The criminal mastermind was bested through the judicial use of a bit of sticky tape.  All this in a tale of gods, demons, angels, magic and the end of the world.

Even so, there was enough inventiveness to keep my interest.  There were also plenty of typos and poor grammar.  Worse still, the point of view shifted about alarmingly at times leaving me wondering whose voice I was supposed to be hearing and how they knew what was going on in other people's heads.

Don't let me put you off reading Kraken, if you like Mieville (or even Gaiman) you will almost certainly enjoy it.

What it has taught me is to be a lot more forgiving with myself, get my main characters established and the plot believable and don't get too hung up on the niceties of style and composition.

Due Diligence is out to beta readers, I'm hoping to get some good feedback very soon.  Maybe it won't need alot doing to it.