7 December 2012

Economic Realities

Our economy is knackered. It's official, even the Government is beginning to admit it.

It may not be such a bad thing. The sooner we all wake up to the fact that our economic model is fundamentally flawed, the better.

When they say that the economy is bad what they're pointing to is a lack of growth. If the economy's growing it means that we're consuming more and more. We're constantly told this is a good thing. But is it? How can using more and more of the earth's resources on a tiny fraction of its population be a good thing? There's only so much to go round. The more I consume the less is left for you. If I only take what I need, there's a chance you can have some too. We're all in this together, we've only got one planet.

Why is our economic system predicated on growth?

It's an intrinsic part of the human condition to feel what we are isn't enough. All human beings suffer from this, don't ask me why. We all struggle with a sense of lack, that something is missing.

Buddhism recognises this state and how necessary it is for us to look inwards at ourselves, become aware of the causes of our suffering.

Our western culture encourages the opposite approach, urges us to look for an external solution. The delusion, propagated by the media, is that our happiness depends on acquiring things. New cars, more money, the latest gadgets. When we feel that lack inside us, we seek to fill the emptiness with consumer goods.

This is the basis of our economic model, never having enough. Even when we've gobbled up every ounce of our planetary resources, it won't be enough to make us happy, we'll still want more. It's human nature.

We can change this by becoming aware of what we're doing, by finding out what it is that makes us suffer, what we really need to be happy.

As Ghandi said, "Live simply so that others may simply live"

Like the guy with the elephant. Maybe I'd be as happy as him if I had an elephant.

For a fascinating insight into this subject, I invite you to watch David Loy's talk on You Tube


14 September 2012

Proceeds of Crime

It's September 2012
I started writing in July 2007, since then I've managed to finish five novels. The latest one, Proceeds of Crime, was completed today.

Five novels, five years and one month. I'm running behind my schedule of a novel a year.
That's what writers do, we always find ways to beat ourselves up for not performing.

Proceeds of Crime is pretty damn good. It's the best novel I've ever written but it won't hold a candle to the next one. I think it's a general rule, the more I write, the better I write. It's the advice I give to anyone: Write

When I finish this blog post, I'll have a sleep then start on my next project; version 2 of Technical Difficulties with fresh, improved characters and a hero that you don't want to die quickly and painfully.

The first draft is four years old now, if it were a child it would be off to school. Time then to let it grow up.

Meanwhile, I have an interesting chicken problem. One of my new ones, Sigourney, won't go in the coop at night. Instead, she goes into the bushes and hides. When I go out to close the door, I have to coax her out, pick her up, give her a cuddle and pop her to bed. She has no problem with this arrangement but I need something a little more sensible in place before I leave the boy next door in charge while I'm away at FantasyCon.

I've bought a tiny little hen house just for her, but she won't go in there either. I've tried installing a light hoping this will entice her in but to no avail.

Last night I turned the coop around so that it faces the bushes she hides in, again she insisted on me picking her up and putting her to bed. She walked right past the light to get to me.

Any ideas?

Suggestions not involving neck wringing are welcome.

27 August 2012


The events of the past few days haven't really told me anything I didn't already know but they've certainly reminded me of a few things.

I'll begin at Manchester Airport, backing very slowly out of a parking space at Terminal 1. The guy opposite backs out at the same time, we meet in the middle, bumper to bumper, with a small thud. We both get out, examine our cars. Mine is undamaged, I've been slapped harder on my backside and laughed. My car is made of strong plastic, at least that bit is. Americans use bumpers to check when they're parked, the British consider it bad etiquette to touch someone else's car with their own but, hey, the manufacturers don't differentiate.

I say 'My car is fine, how about yours?'

Unsurprisingly, he searches in vain for some dint, dent, depression, scratch, blemish on the arse of his BMW 1 series and replies 'No damage on mine.'

I say 'We've been lucky, then' wave goodbye and narrowly avoid him doing the same thing again.

A woman from my insurance company rings and tells me I've damaged someone's car, they've made a claim and they intend to settle it. My premium will be affected, but not until renewal.

I ask how can this be possible and relate the events above to her. She says that its normal procedure, they pay up if there's no independant witnesses. I am appalled and say so.

The insurance company call me again a few days later. The claim has escalated. The guy is claiming whiplash injury. When I pick myself up from the floor I enquire how can this possibly be?

The whole thing is explained to me by a man who deals with hundreds of claims at a time. My friend tells me that the dealership would have advised the claimant to have a new bumper, at least. They would have given him a car while his was being 'fixed' on condition that he contacts the no win no fee lawyers they recommend. The lawyers advise him to claim for whiplash. This way he gets a new bumper, a free hire car and a few thousand pounds. The car dealer gets the money for fitting a new bit and they also get a fat referral fee from the lawyers. The lawyers get a nice big earner out of the case.

I begged the insurance man to fight the case. The words lying toerag and scumbag lawyers were used but not, I hasten to add, by me. He told me it cost £30,000 to bring a case like this to court and with little prospect of success. These days, the courts rely on court fees from local solicitors like these and if a judge decides to dismiss cases he can be quickly moved on. As it's a big bad insurance company against a poor injured victim, very few do.

The lying toerag, and please remember it wasn't me that called him that, had not sought medical attention, nor had he taken time off work. I asked how then could he possibly stand up in court and expect to be believed. Medical evidence is the answer. The lawyers have a medical specialist who issues a certificate saying the man is injured. This doctor earns huge sums issuing certificates for these lawyers and can be relied on to deliver.

So, in a nutshell, everyone's a winner. Apart from the insurance industry of course. But aren't they big fat cats, awash with money? Yes they are. And it doesn't bother them all that much, they pay up and move on, adding the cost to the premiums they charge.

In other words, the lying toerag and his posse of corrupt professionals are robbing you and I. That's where the money comes from. We have to pay.

The car dealers get richer, the lawyers get even richer, the courts get paid for, the doctor gets very wealthy indeed. I almost forgive lying toerag in the face of all that competition.

The next time you pay your insurance, they are all robbing you.

What am I going to do about it?

First, I'll never buy a BMW but that's not hard.

Second, I'll never use those ambulance chasing scumbag lawyers, neither will I support them in any way. If, for example, they want to rent my empty office space, I'll politely decline.

Thirdly, I'll remain true to myself and not be influenced to lie and cheat even if someone makes it worth my while. I know it will be hard but if I'm going to change the world I have to start with myself.

6 July 2012

If Robin van Persie were a writer

As Due Diligence becomes revised and settles down into a final product, it needs to be published and out to all those seething masses who have finished Shades of Grey and need something else to read.
The procedure for getting a first novel published is a bit strange, to say the least.
Imagine what it would be like if the same thing applied to footballers.
"Hello, Sir Alex, my name is Robin van Persie, I'm a really, really good footballer. I can score goals with my left foot and use my elbows in an effective manner."
"Sorry son, can't help you unless you have an agent. I'm not prepared to talk to you directly."
Robin gets the Footballers and Hockey Players Yearbook and writes off to some agents. "Come and see me play next Sunday on Hackney Marshes" he says "I'll be the one in the red shirt with white sleeves."
Robin plays his heart out, runs around like a madman, scores seventeen spectacular goals and waits for the agents to get back to him.
He leaves it three weeks then telephones them to see what's happening.
The first agent says they aren't taking on new players at the moment, but thanks anyway.
The second agent says they only deal with left-handed hockey players, does he know any?
The third agent say the way he kicked off was not stylish enough and he had not stayed to watch the rest of the game.
The fourth agent says that his twitter profile isn't good enough.
The fifth agent asks if he can play in goal.
Three years later after numerous attempts, an agent finally agrees to represent him.
"Quick" says Robin "ring Alex Ferguson, get me signed by Manchester United."
Two more years pass.
"Good news" the agent says "I have signed you up with a team."
"At last! Is it Manchester United? Will I get £200,000 a week?"
"Not quite. United said you are too old, they would have had you five years ago when they were desperate for a striker, but not now."
"Then who?"
"It's a really good deal, I had to pull alot of personal favours to get it for you. You're going to play for Gillingham! They'll pay you £200 a week but you have to wash your own kit. I get £30 of that, of course."

So that's roughly the procedure I'll be going through.

Robin van Persie should consider himself lucky he isn't a writer.

4 July 2012

Higgs Boson

After the momentous news from CERN, Northern Writer is proud to release an exclusive interview with Peter Higgs.

NW: Congratulations on CERN finding your boson
PH: Thank you
NW: When did you actually report it missing?
PH: I beg your pardon
NW: How long has everyone been looking for it?
PH: Oh, I see.  It's about 48 years.
NW: Wow, that's a long time to be doing without your boson. Did you have anything to replace it with?
PH: I'm sorry, I don't understand
NW: Could you, for example, borrow someone else's boson?
PH: No, it's not like that at all. I wasn't that sure my boson actually existed. It was a bit of a guess, really.
NW: So how much money and time has been spent running around looking for something that you just dreamt up?
PH: Lots. But it's all been worthwhile now they found it.
NW: But a pointless waste if they didn't. Didn't you ever consider the trouble and expense you were putting people to?
PH: It was up to them, I didn't insist they went looking for it.  They did it off they're own bat.
NW: Fair enough. Now they've found it, are they going to give it back to you?
PH: A boson?
NW: Sure, it must be worth millions. I bet Bob Diamond already has one.
PH: Who?
NW: Will they put it in a nice box?
PH: A boson in a box? Do you understand anything at all about fundamental particles?
NW: Enough to get by.
PH: Then you'll realise that what you're proposing is ludicrous. The boson only existed for a million millionth of a second.  It's gone.
NW: Gone?
PH: Yes, gone. It no longer exists, only the aftermath of its destruction.
NW: So they found it then destroyed it and now it's gone?
PH: Yes, but that's not the point. The fact that it exists at all is what matters.
NW: Or existed
PH: No, you don't understand. They're everywhere. All over the place. They're the glue that sticks everything together.
NW: Everywhere?
PH: Afraid so
NW: Well, thank you for your time, our readers will be glad to hear that everyone, not just Bob Diamond, can have their own inexpensive Higgs boson this Christmas. It will probably outsell the Kindle.

23 June 2012

Cheesy Pies and Tom Petty

These are my home made cheesy pies.

They took me most of Saturday to make. I can't begin to describe the complexity of the operation. No wonder pies, like cars, are made in factories. You wouldn't suddenly decide to make a couple of Audis in the kitchen, nor should you attempt the infinitely complex procedures that pie makers have to perform. I'll be leaving it to Greggs in future.

My pies were going fine. I had blind baked the pastry, cooked the filling, rolled out the tops, poked holes in them, brushed them with milk, etc. etc.  It took me hours.
I put them in the oven and fell in front of the TV, mug of Darjeeling in hand. Exhausted, and with the knowledge I had a kitchen that would need several days to bring back into service.

I set the oven timer for twenty minutes but failed to hear it go off.

It was Tom Petty's fault.

I went to see him last week, you see.

It was hot in the Albert Hall. The support band had finished an enthusiastic impression of everything an all-American rock band should be, loud but soft and sentimental. Good enough, but nothing to worry the headline act.

Two large Irishmen shovelled themselves past me, beer in each hand held aloft for presentation. The bigger of the two sat down next to me, I made a quick appraisal and decided that he was exactly twice as big as I was. His chair was the same size as mine causing an inevitable overflow. Fortunately, he wasn't the sort of guy who minded bodily contact, seemingly content to export some of his warmth to me. When I leaned away, he followed, expanding into my space. He stank of beer and fags and cheese and onion.  Maybe he's the inspiration behind the pies.

The situation was beginning to get to me when Tom Petty arrived.
He walked on stage and started to sing "Listen to Her Heart" and I became very happy. It's one of my most favourite songs in the whole world.  My Irish friend was suddenly forgotten.

I have been to many great concerts but this was the very best.

As I slumped, pied out, in front of the telly, Sky Arts was showing a Tom Petty concert.  So I forgot my pies listening to music.

When I remembered, they were a little overcooked. They had also exploded.

The good news is that the oven got a good clean.

The other good news is that it's stopped raining and the chickens haven't escaped today.

Oh, and I rewrote the first 6000 words of Due Diligence for a competition. And a biography of Jenny Parker.
And this blog.
And what's left of the pies tastes very good.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

3 June 2012

The Queen's Jubilee

I was never interested in history at school, maybe it was the teachers, maybe the subject but I have a feeling it was me always preferring to look ahead. Always trying to second guess what was coming next, living for tomorrow.

I do remember one thing a history teacher told me, though. His name was Mr. Conroy. I remember him particularly because he was responsible for my brief acting career. He cast me to play King Henry VIII in the school play, A Man for All Seasons. Although this brief taste of monarchy itself might not qualify me as an expert, at least it gives me some form of perspective.

Anyway, it's not Henry VIII, or even my fourteen year old representation of him, that has coloured my attitude towards the Queen all these years. Mr. Conroy explained how the monarchy works, how having an unelected head of state protects us all against the worst excesses of government.

Imagine, he invited, a government intent on radical change. One that set out to infringe our basic human rights. They would have to get those draconian measures past the Queen and she would stop them. She is our ultimate protection against tyranny, or at least according to Mr. Conroy.

So, as long as we have our Queen, nothing really bad can happen to us.

There are critics of the monarchy who feel aggrieved that the opportunity to reign isn't open to all. To those people I would point out that being the Queen can only be properly carried off by someone who is actually, well, royalty.

Another important quality of a successful Queen it's that she doesn't have a choice. Whether she wants to be or not, she's got the job and got it for life. Surely a big advantage over someone like Tony Blair or David Cameron who would do anything to be in her position. Being Queen is a bit like being God, I suppose. It's not a job you can train for. You have to assume the position, you can't be appointed by someone else.

I've heard criticisms that the Queen is too posh, that she doesn't lead a normal life and that she's out of touch with common people. I don't think a monarch can be anything other than posh and out of touch. If the Queen had to work in Tesco, or was a dinner lady, she wouldn't have time to be the Queen. If she wasn't posh, then who else could be?

On the whole, I tend to agree with Mr. Conroy that the Queen is a good thing. I think she does protect us from despots and that she has a valuable role in holding the country together and promoting good.

Long live the Queen!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

30 May 2012

Landfill Tax destroys construction jobs by mistake!

Most of my posts are about writing. Every now and then, I get personally involved in something hidden from public view that demonstrates that even a well-meaning piece of legislation can be so badly botched as to destroy whole industries.

Take this week's landfill tax fiasco.

Her Majesties Revenue and Customs have almost unlimited power to write their own legislation and guidance. Last year, they produced a Statutory Instrument that amended the rules about what types of waste paid standard rate landfill tax (64 pounds per tonne) and what paid lower rate (2.50 pounds per tonne)

Obviously, there's quite a difference.

When they introduced the new rules HMRC told Parliament that there would be no economic effect to them.

One year later, HMRC have informed industry that construction industry soils have to pay standard rate tax.

They also say that they will be looking to collect the difference retrospectively.

About 1.4 billion pounds, if they go back one year.

1.4 billion pounds that the house builders and other parts of the construction industry will have to find every year from now on.

The claw back, if allowed to happen, will put most companies out of business. The forward tax will price homes further from the reach of first time buyers.

I spoke to HMRC, asked them to clarify their policy then told them of the consequences. They said they didn't realise. They said that someone from the industry should have told them last year.

They almost said oops! but not quite.

So change it back, I said.

Can't they said.

Who is responsible for ruining all these lives? I asked.

We all are. They replied. But it's mostly a man called Darren Greedy who works in the policy department in Salford.

Naturally, I have started to inform interested parties, including MP's who should take the blame for letting HMRC do what they like.

There's going to be a few stormy meetings in Westminster before I've seen the back of this one.

We live in interesting times.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

7 May 2012

Desireable Traits

I received an email informing me that I now have a follower.  For my Wordpress blog.  I had forgotten I had a Wordpress blog and so this served as a timely reminder to submit another post.

For those of you reading the google blog, don't worry, the two are exactly the same.  You might ask the point of this but I would rather you didn't.

Where have I been? I hear you wondering.  What have I been doing? Why have I been so lackadaisical blogwise? 

Actually none of you would use the expression blogwise, so please count the above as an internal monologue rather than a series of rhetorical questions.

The answer is: Writing

The best excuse in the world.  Normally I write this blog as a sort of distraction from the real job of getting on with my novel.  Recently, the novel has sprung into life and demands to be written.

Writing a novel is a lot like reading one.  The first twenty thousand words or so are relatively hard going.  New characters have to be learned about, new situations have to be adjusted to.  Then, when enough time and effort has been invested, the whole process becomes much less effort.  There is a point where the story takes over, we care what happens to the characters and we have to keep turning the page.

I'm 30,000 words into Proceeds of Crime, about a third of the way through if I measure it with Due Diligence.  Believe it or not, the end is now in sight and I am accelerating towards it.  Great fun.

The debate still rages about what to do with Due Diligence.  One major publisher is reading it, one small publisher has asked to see it and I have sent it to an agent.
Even if one of the publishers wants it, that will probably mean 18 months before I get published.  Time, as I keep on remarking, is not on my side.

There is also money to be considered.

Take a conventional publisher.  They would pay me about 10% royalties.  On a £5 book, that would be 50 pence.  If I sell 10,000 books I get £5000.

If I self publish, I would typically get £1 per book based on the profit on a paperback print-on-demand cost.  Electronic sales would earn about £2 for every £2.99 copy sold on Amazon.  To earn £5000 with an e-book I would have to sell 2,500 copies.

You will appreciate that the big number in all this is the copies sold estimate.  Will a conventional publisher sell four time the copies that I could myself?

The answer is yes, probably, and more besides.  As my primary aim is to be read, rather than maximise income, the conventional route seems best.
So, this is my plan.  I'm going to finish Proceeds of Crime then publish Due Diligence myself if no credible publisher grabs it first.  This way, if I manage to create a readership I have another book for them while they're still receptive.  So DD will be out one way or another before the end of 2012.  Just in time for Christmas!
Let me know what you think about this.

 Another thing:

 Theres a website called I Write Like where you paste in some text and it analyses who you write like.  I suppose the name of the site gave that one away.

 I put in the first chapter of Due Diligence and it came up with: David Foster Wallace. 

I put in the second chapter and : Margaret Atwood
Third chapter: James Joyce

I rest my case.

3 April 2012

Panic Now!

It's interesting how fragile my comfortable little part of the world is.

Last week, the fuel tanker drivers voted to strike if their demands (unspecified) weren't met. People decided to panic buy fuel. All the petrol stations had long queues, all soon ran dry. This went on for several days.

There was no strike, no shortage of fuel, only abnormal buying patterns.

I think we are practising for the real thing. Soon there will be real shortages, not caused by lack of distributive capability but by lack itself. The world is rapidly getting to the point where its demand for oil will outstrip its production. Countries will have to go short.

As soon as this happens, our cosy lifestyle will take a big jolt. It will no longer be possible to rely totally on our cars to get places. Food distribution will have to be re-thought. All sorts of items previously readily available will not be there anymore. I don't want to start predicting which ones will disappear in case you all go out and panic buy Kenyan beans or Peruvian avocados, but you get what I mean.

As a sort of minor practice, a dress rehearsal as it were, I went to a business meeting in Manchester by train. Public transport has been promoted as the answer to any impending fuel crisis. I decided to give it a try. So, apparently, had everyone else in the whole of the North West. The train I got to Manchester was heaving. The one I caught back was even fuller. I had to push and squeeze to get on and stand up all the way.

At first I imagined this to be the product of the above mentioned potential tanker driver's strike. Having queued up for hours to panic buy, people were, sensibly, parking up and using the train. I expressed this theory to those packed closely around me. It wasn't true, this was normal, everyday under-capacity. Regular commuters paid thousands of pounds for season tickets that bought them the right to stand in cramped confinement for hours on end. They weren't at all happy.

It was hot and stuffy on the train. People were hot and sweaty, not all of them seemed to be regular users of soap and water. Unpleasant is a word that fits nicely when remembering the journey.

But what of the fuel crisis? What happens when we all take to the trains and buses, when we have no other option?

I only hope that the soap factories get priority when the rationing starts.

14 March 2012

Publish and be Damned?

So, it's written, revised, edited, rewritten and ready to go.

But where should it go?

Before the 22nd of February I was gung-ho for self-publishing.  Then I was fortunate enough to spend some time at Orion House as the guest of Gollancz. Now I want to be published by them, or another mainstream publisher.

Unfortunately this takes time, not to mention luck and perseverance.  I will own up to only one of these attributes, I wish I had more of them, but I don't.  

Getting Due Diligence in front of the right editor at the right time is the first problem.  Somehow I have to find someone longing for a gritty crime thriller about a Manchester accountant.  

If I had an agent, things might be easier but getting an agent seems to involve exactly the same process as getting a publisher.  Get my manuscript to the right agent at the right time, then let the agent find the right publisher.  All takes even more time.

I need a plan. Something that doesn't need years and years to come to fruition.  Something that involves a wide and numerous readership but allows me to get on with writing more good stuff.

Any ideas?

13 February 2012

Top tips for tip top writing

I have finally finished Due Diligence!

Followers of this blog might wonder what I am talking about, that I claimed to have written my crime novel a year ago. True, I finished writing it then but I have discovered that it takes about the same time to finish a novel as it does to write it.

I am referring to the editing process, of course. I imagined this would involve a quick read through to correct a few typos then off to the publishers.


I find I can't sensibly read my own writing. No, it's not illegible, that's not what I mean. The problem seems to be that I know what I meant to write and that's what I read. Also, I have the entire back story of all the characters in my head and tend to forget which bits I've bothered to share with the reader.

Editing myself turns into picking and scratching at the prose, substituting a less suitable word here and changing a few lines for the worse there.

I can't see the big picture. I have difficulty in seeing any picture other than the one already in my head. Whether I have managed to communicate it is a different matter entirely.

I do, of course, give my precious script to my friends and family to read. Their feedback is always positive and unhelpful in the main. Kindness and understanding are wonderful attributes unless applied to literary criticism.

My advice, based on lots of mistakes, is as follows:

Don't ever use colons, or even semi-colons

Gotten is not a word, at least not an English one

Write until you have finished, don't look back, don't edit, don't revise, don't make corrections. Finish it.

When you have finished it, whether it is half a page or 250,000 words, put it away somewhere safe. Somewhere you can retrieve it from but not too easily.

Then write something else.

And something else, maybe.

One day you will decide to look at what you have written and when you do remember to be kind and gentle. If you are feeling picky, or your football team is having a hard time, or the dog has been sick on the kitchen floor, put your writing away and deal with the crap first.

Read it, make it legible and correct any really obvious things, like repeated words and repeated words.

Now send it to someone who doesn't care a toss for your sensibilities. This unfeeling person is known in the trade as an editor. Ask for a critique, send them some money and only then will you know if you are on the right track. If you are, a full edit by a good editor will create something that really works. It will take time, money and effort, though.

'Due Diligence' has been massively improved by the editing process. I rather like being told what works and what doesn't, what to rewrite and what to leave as it is. You will all be able to buy it and see for yourselves very soon.

By the way, if you want an honest opinion at a very reasonable price, I recommend Fiction Feedback http://www.fictionfeedback.co.uk/

6 February 2012

Proceeds of Crime

OK, that's the title of my current work in progress, a follow up to Due Diligence.

For once, I'm not blogging about writing. This one's about injustice.

When I was young, the prospect of living in a totalitarian state was the stuff of nightmares and the foundation of nuclear resistance. Since the collapse of the communist bloc, we have put our minds at rest and taken our collective eye off the ball.

The terrifying part of totalitarianism was the lack of protection for the individual against arbitrary decisions of the state apparatchik. If an official took a dim view of you they could strip you of your possessions and throw you into jail without any checks or balances being applied.

There would be nobody to turn to for help, no recourse to the proper application of fair and equitable laws.

There is a body called the Crown Prosecution Service that decides whether or not it is in the public interest to prosecute a case. This is the part of the system that provides us with protection against arbitrary prosecution. In this way, we prevent the use of huge amounts of public money in pursuing a case that is either flimsy and not likely to succeed or so trivial that even a sucessful outcome would gain little or nothing.

There is one organisation that can prosecute people outside the system that protects us.
The same organisation can obtain a restraint order under the Proceeds of Crime Act merely by appearing before a judge and presenting one side of the case. Restraint Orders were designed to prevent drug dealers and terrorists from moving money overseas as soon as they realise they might be prosecuted.

The organisation that can act without any supervision is the Environment Agency. If it prosecutes someone without just cause there is no manner of redress. If the EA obtains a restraint order, freezes bank accounts, ruins businesses, causes distress and hardship without adequate justification it cannot be held to account. Why? Because the law never contemplated its use by the Environment Agency.

Why does the EA use the Proceeds of Crime Act? Because it keeps a third of any money confiscated. Fines from sucessful prosecutions go to the Treasury, to the taxpayer. Proceeds of crime can be kept in part by the EA for their own use.

Clients of mine had their house and office raided, all their accounts frozen, all their documents and computer discs taken by the EA. Their lives were put on hold, their business practically ruined. Over three years later, the EA has failed to gain a sucessful prosecution despite spending vast sums of public money. The family have no recourse at all against the agency officer who made the case her own personal vendetta.

You might think that the EA was protecting us and our environment against some atrocity. You would be wrong. Their case only ever included clean excavation soils which had been used to improve land which not only had valid planning permission but had also been granted authorisation to do this by the Environment Agency itself.

Not the stuff of a believable plot, I think you will agree. As someone once said, fiction has to make sense, reality rarely does.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

11 January 2012


In case you were wondering, I've been busy.

Too busy to post a tiny blog?

OK, you got me there. Nobody is too busy to post a blog. It takes no time at all.

Let me explain, so you understand what this sort of busy involves.

It all has to do with the Planning Inspectorate. Who? Ah, yes. These are the people who advise the government about planning applications that have been refused by a planning authority. Your local council is probably your planning authority if you live in England. If you don't live in England, you might not have one at all. In which case, life must be simpler.

Anyway, times are hard for the Planning Inspectorate. Planning applications are fewer and further between than when banks would lend money so that things could be built. Planning authorities are happier to receive applications and more likely to approve them than ever before.

So, the Planning Inspectorate are not busy.

It used to be that they were so busy it could take years to process a planning appeal. Now it's a matter of weeks.

The public enquiry I'm involved with started on the 10th of January. That might seem reasonably civilised but it has meant researching information, producing my proof of evidence complete with thick appendices, reading the other side's proofs, writing a rebuttal proof, dealing with their rebuttal proofs and preparing a detailed document for cross examination of witnesses. Everything had to be finished for the 3rd of January.

We tried complaining but they were more than happy to have some work to do at last and couldn't face putting it off a week so that I could have Christmas.

Now that I'm at the enquiry, I am living in a pub/hotel and working from before dawn to long after dusk. There would be three weeks of this to look forward to if it wasn't for next week in the Crown Court by way of light relief. Please note that the term 'light relief' is irony.

When I stop being busy doing enquiry and court work, I'll get back to editing Due Diligence and writing Proceeds of Crime.

I bet you are wondering where I get my inspiration from.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

1 January 2012


A year ago, I predicted that 2011 would probably be dismal.  Shows what I know.

Apart from the collapse of the euro and the Arab Spring uprisings and the Japanese tsunami, nothing much happened.  I suspect 2012 will be similarly spectacular but I'm not making any predictions.

Not making predictions is my first New Year resolution.

I have recently noticed my habit of predicting everything in advance then comparing what happens with the way I thought it would be.  It's never the same.  The differences somehow cause me sorrow, even if they turn out to be inconsequential.  It's as if I lose control of my world when I can't have everything turn out how I expect it to be.

No more.  Forget the past, let the future take care of itself.  I'm going to stop second-guessing my life and accept the way it actually is.

This sounds easy.  The concept is simple and it makes complete intellectual sense.  Problem is, I'm not engaging in an intellectual exercise.  This has to be real.  And to be real it has to be felt and not just thought.
That's the hard part, I have deep grooves of behaviour that I fall into at the first opportunity.

The second resolution is to publish Due Diligence.

For those of you who might need reminding, here is the story so far.

In 2008, I wrote a science fiction novel called Technical Difficulties.  In 2009, I wrote the sequel, Acceptable Behaviour and in 2010 concluded the trilogy with Divine Intervention.  John Jarrold, who edited the scripts, was happy with most of what I wrote.  The plot, the invention and most of the characters were OK.  The one big problem was the central character, the protagonist, the person the reader has to be able to root for.  John described him as a prat.  He also sprinkled his edit with less complementary comments about him.  The fact that my main character was largely autobiographical caused me a fundamental problem.  If I was going to do something about him, I had to do something about me.

So I worked on me with the help of some really awesome people, notably Richard Farmer and Barbara Turner-Vessalago.  Some of my journey has been chronicled in this blog.

I also embarked on an ambitious writing exercise.  To get out of the casual, laddish, cheap humour, arms length, third party past tense style that was my comfort zone, I decided to write in first person.  Present tense.  Female character.

The exercise turned into Due Diligence.  It has been professionally edited, rewritten in parts, and is nearing its final form.  I promise myself it will be published in the first half of this year.  It is very different to anything else I have read or written.  I couldn't have predicted how it turned out, I wrote without any expectations or plan.

So that's how I'll write in the future, let it flow and enjoy the results.

And treat life the same.