Some reflections on the Gordian Fetish

Some reflections on the Gordian Fetish

I wrote the Gordian Fetish as a humorous Sci-fi novel. The theme of the novel was an alien institution that specialised in exotic specimens from other planets. The institute had been set up to preserve endangered intelligent life. It was run by a boss who was never there and a manager who was completely incompetent. One of their exhibits were a pair of humans purloined from Earth.

The Manager likes furry creatures and illegally purchases humans off a dodgy character. Humans are furry and, incredibly, they have sex. Although they aren’t technically endangered he can’t resist. The idea of this strange sex, coupled with their furriness, is too irresistible.

The novel is set in the future which enabled me to present my view of how our civilisation might pan out.

The Institution is due for a major inspection which it is going to fail. Here I applied my knowledge of how a school reacts to an imminent inspection; the panic and mad dash to get everything done. It was ripe for humour.

I drew on my extensive knowledge of educational institutions, governors, incompetent managers, absent bosses, unions and all those impossible meetings where nothing can be agreed.

Although it was a send-up there were enough serious issues to take it on many levels.

I had great fun writing this novel.

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Neanderthal – the development of a character

Neanderthal – the development of a character

One of my main characters, Roger Comstock, who came to play a large part in the novel, started life as a minor character. I had originally imagined him in a walk on part, never to be heard of again.

I wanted an expert on Neanderthals and created a university lecturer. I put in some humour and controversy. He was a man who was inspirational for his students, could connect and formed good relationships. I wanted him to be charismatic, knowledgeable, warm, compassionate and human.

At first I was merely using him as a vehicle to explain some theories about Neanderthals and to start the ball rolling on their mysterious disappearance.

As soon as I had written that first scene I knew I had created a character who could have a bigger role in the story so I began developing Roger’s part. Before I knew it he had moved into a central position and became instrumental in how the book developed. The character had taken over the story.

Writing a novel is a fluid experience. A character, or idea, or plot line, can deflect you from your original concept. It grows and takes on a life of its own. You have to write fast to keep up with it.

Roger Comstock did that for Neanderthal. He changed the story.

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Lawrence Durrell – Justine – some thoughts

Lawrence Durrell – Justine – some thoughts

My second literary event in the space of a few hours was to finish my reading of Lawrence Durrell’s book Justine – the first book of his Alexandria Quartet.

I bought the book back in 1969 and it has been sitting on my shelf ever since. It was one of those books that I was attracted to and yet thought it might be stodgy and old-fashioned.

I am a great fan of Gerald Durrell and loved all his books – particularly the Corfu trilogy. I adored his light humorous style. In that book he gives a pen-picture of his two brothers, mother and sister. Lawrence comes out as a bit of an arrogant prig, a bit up his own backside with lots of pretentions to literary genius.

I found that I was automatically thinking of the name Durrell differently in pronunciation for the two men. With Lawrence it came out as a more affected French sounding, refined Du Rell rather that the more common Durrell of Gerald. But that was just me.

I enjoyed the book and its picture of Alexandria. It was rather old-fashioned and it did take me a while to read. I found I could only do it in small chunks. But it was colourful. It left me with three abiding impressions:

  • One the vacuousness of life with its preoccupation with love affairs and sex
  • The casual elitism and racism that the white elite should exist at a totally different, rarified, level to the native Alexandrians
  • The casual attitude to the suffering and cruelty meted out to wild-life – the mass slaughter of the ducks and geese on the lake and the description of how boats used live tortoises for ballast. They were easier to collect that rocks. They put thousands of them in barrels in the bilge alive – and dumped the putrefying bodies into the sea when they the arrived in port – there were plenty more where they came from.

I think future generations (if there are any) will look back in horror at the cavalier way in which we have cruelly treated living creatures. We will be viewed as barbarians.

This is a book that I will go back to read again. I think I need to absorb more that one can glean from one reading.

Margaret Atwood in York! New book Hagseed! One of the world’s greatest writers!

Margaret Atwood in York! New book Hagseed! One of the world’s greatest writers!

Well I had quite a literary day yesterday and this morning. I went to see Margaret Atwood talk about her new book Hagseed (a reworking of the Tempest – she calls it a reimagining.).

I don’t write this as a review so much as an homage.

I rate Margaret as one of the greatest living writers (along with the likes of Iain McEwan, Haruki Murakami, Salman Rushdie and Kasuo Ishiguro) so it was a rare opportunity to see and hear a living legend.

She talked about the new book and the themes that were in it and urged us to watch the Helen Mirren film of the Tempest before reading the book – which I shall do.

She talked briefly about The Handmaid’s Tale and the way fundamentalists only want to ban the things people want to do. In this age of religious madness (hopefully its death-throes) I think it should be compulsory reading – if only to see the misogyny in religion.

She also talked about the death of the oceans, from which between 60% and 80% of all the world’s oxygen is made, and that the rich were probably at this minute constructing their underground homes with oxygen making facilities and looking forward to being rid of us all. (There’s a book in that!).

I shall watch the film and then read the book. It was a pleasure seeing a living legend.


The graphics before the show were great. The words from Hagseed were used as figures walked through them or they squiggled about. p1140538 p1140540 p1140541 p1140542

Margaret was lucid and delightful.

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John Fowles – Quote from The Tree – the real tragedy of the destruction of nature.

John Fowles – Quote from The Tree – the real tragedy of the destruction of nature.

I have just finished reading The Tree by John Fowles (writer of the Magus and French Lieutenants Daughter and one of my favourite writers). It was a splendid little book. It encapsulated his feeling of oneness with nature and trees – the wild – something that cannot be captured by science or art but that is a state of being.

While reading it I was particularly struck by one paragraph that resonated with me and would like to share it with you.

‘There is a spiritual corollary to the way we are currently deforesting and denaturing our planet. In the end what we must most defoliate and deprive is ourselves. We might as soon start collecting up the world’s poetry, ever line and every copy, to burn it in a final pyre; and think we should lead richer and happier lives thereafter.’

That sums up the grief and anguish I feel inside at the constant cruelty and destruction we are wreaking around the world. Each tree and creature is a poem in my world – a poem lost forever – and one that makes me all the poorer.

Kurt Vonnegutt Jnr – Armageddon n Retrospect – a quote of brilliance.

Kurt Vonnegutt Jnr – Armageddon n Retrospect – a quote of brilliance.

I do love Kurt Vonnegutt Jnr – I adore his perceptiveness, light touch and humour.

I am reading Armageddon in Retrospect for the third time. I thought I’d share an extract from the intro by his son Mark on his father:

‘He couldn’t help thinking that all the money we were spending blowing up things and killing people so far away, making people the world over hate and fear us, would have been better spent on public education and libraries. It’s hard to imagine that history won’t prove him right, if it hasn’t already.’

Visiting Jack Kerouac and Henry Miller at Big Sur.

This is Big Sur. It’s a holy place in my mind – Sacred Ground.

This is the place where two of my biggest heroes came, lived and wrote – Jack Kerouac and Henry Miller.

This is the country, high mountains and rocky shores, where mountain lions call and the bush is tinder dry.

This is where we hitch-hiked back in the Summer of 1971. A place where the Milky Way was a mystical dust spread across the heavens and Pfeiffer State beach was a magic sanctuary of warm, friendly strangers, where we shared stories, music, food, drink and spliff and watched the sun go down over that warm, inviting ocean.

Back in 1971 Henry Miller was still alive and we discussed trying to find out where he lived and going to visit. But we were crazy kids. What would he want with us? So we didn’t.

I wish we had.

We went in search of his ghost in 2011. We’d seen the ghost of the Grateful Dead in SF at the Fillmore. We’d seen the ghost of Kerouac in another Beat Museum in SF.

Now it was Henry’s turn.

This was his house, where he’d written, got drunk and entertained friends. We’d found it much too late.

He was not there.

Like Kerouac he only existed in the dust and words that blew around my feet and in my head.

We had the sunset, the stars, the rocks and waves; and we had the books.

The Mountain Lions still roared.

It didn’t matter.

The Hall of Infamy – a short story

Here’s a little short story:

The Hall of Infamy

Wednesday morning at five o clock as the day begins. That’s when we started putting the final touches for the show together. It takes a lot of work to put together a Media Show. I don’t think anybody knows how much effort goes in. The team spends all week gathering all the little clips on our candidates – clips that will get the crowd going, and that final day is madness as we rehearse, write the links and decide the final format.

That’s where I come in – Bang Max – the man who gets the crowd roaring. It’s my job to pull it altogether and make a show out of it. I’m Bang Max the showman. I have, even if I say so myself, made the Hall Of Infamy the biggest show on Earth. Our ratings are through the roof.

Last week we focused on the mucilaginous gunrunners. This week it’s the politicians turn.

Time to hit the boards. Cue flies, hair and smile.

‘OK you Crazy Crew!!!’ I started with my trademark greeting to get the show off the ground, looking right into the camera and gesticulating, wide-eyed and looking suitable manic.

A great roar went up from the audience that I milked for all it was worth.

‘Last week you chose that slimy scumbag Leonid Minin, the Ukranian gunrunning thug, as the latest entry to our Hall of Infamy.’

Another great roar of approval went up.

‘A good choice,’ I agreed, nodding my head and grinning round at them all.

I quietened them with a motion of my hands, changing my expression to one of seriousness.

‘This week we turn our attention to politicians,’ I told them what they already knew.

A big oooooh went round the studio. They understood their role and were playing it to perfection – an integral part of the show.

‘So which one of these scurvy shysters is going to join Minin in the Hall of Infamy?’ I asked, mouth open, hands upturned.

Shouts and hollers echoed round as they bellowed their choices. I let it run a few seconds before cutting back in. The show depended on their energy but it had to be controlled. There was only one maestro here, and that was me – Big Bang Max. I called the shots.

‘Well you’ve already expressed your views,’ I told them in conspiratorial tones. ‘The votes are in.’ I paused dramatically. ‘You’ve told us who you want.’ A great murmur went round the studio. ‘It seems that dithering May, Blithering Boris and moldy Mogg didn’t make the cut.’

There were cries of dismay but the excitement still built. They wanted to know who was in.

‘No!’ I told them, pausing again, raising the level of tension a notch and dragging it out just long enough. ‘We’ve got it down to two. You’ve instructed us that it’s between these two behemoths of populist ugliness. That it is down to these two purveyors of hate and division.’

I allowed the bated breaths to hang as they waited on my words.

‘Which of these two lying, disgusting perverters of democracy are you going to vote in to join the savage Minin and the other sleazy paedophiles, murderers, rapists, serial killers and warmongers in the Hall of Infamy?’

They roared. They wanted to know who it was that they had to choose between. They were chanting names, on their feet, stamping and waving their arms.

‘You’ve chosen……………..’ having to raise my voice above the din, I waited for exactly the right moment, ‘a run-off between the gun-mad, scourge of the Amazon – Bolsonaro!’ A great bellow of approval nearly took the roof off. ‘And the hate rallying, Muslim bashing, epitome of arrogance – Trump!’

A bigger roar shook the walls.

Over the next half hour we ran through the video clips, juxtaposing the carefully chosen cameos, as I gave each one a nice little intro and biting comment, as I played the audience, working them up into a frenzy and maintained the balance of humour, disbelief and anger that made the show the success it was.

We had Bolsonaro threatening to build a motorway through the Amazon, Trump working up his base with evocations of ‘Drain the Swamp’, ‘Crooked Hilary’, and ‘Lock Her Up’, Bolsonaro taking away all environmental restrictions and opening up the jungle for logging and farming. There was Trump urging his mob to beat up hecklers, Bolsanaro looking to arm everyone to beat crime. Then Trump, looking surly as he pulled out of the Paris Treaty, while Bolsonaro stated how he was going to hunt out and shoot all the leftists. Trump building walls, supporting the NRA and exaggerating the threat of the refugees, portraying them as an invasion of rapists, murderers and Muslim terrorists and Bolsonaro saying the Blacks were not even good enough for procreation and should go back to the zoo and that an opposition politician was too ugly to rape – that the Juntas mistake was to torture but not kill.

I brought it all to a head.

‘Which one of these clowns is the most repugnant? Who’s the most despicable?’ I asked them as they bayed and chanted their choices. ‘Which one deserves to be included in the Hall of Infamy?’

‘Who’s your choice? Grab your buzzers.’

‘Time to vote!’

Space travel in words.

Space travel in words.

Every word is alone. An idea captured within letters; a concept invented in sound and shared, agreed and accepted.
Every word, with all its vowels and consonants, has an exact meaning and communicates a thought.
It stands on its own.
But when these words are arranged in sentences they link together to form more complex ideas and even explosions of thought.
Those ideas trapped in the words join and mix to create more intricate concepts, paint vivid pictures and transmit emotion that others can share. They can extract the idea contained in one idea and connect it to the next so that together they have added synergy and can interact to intensify and interact to string together into whole universes of stories.
All imagination can be expressed by joining words. All one requires is space travel.

Sod It!! A short story.

Sod it!!


She woke and wondered if there was any way she could avoid the goodbye, short of running away.

Nothing came to mind.

A huge sinking feeling gnawed at her stomach, her heart was thumping and sweat stood out on her brow. She glanced at the clock. It was 5.00 o clock. In an hour’s time she would have to get up to face it all over again, except this was the end of it. She’d been listening to the church bells ringing. She’d only managed two hours at most. It wasn’t enough. She was too strung out. She needed more but there was no chance of that. Her mind was already churning with questions and answers. They were chasing their tails in an endless cyclone of fears. There was nothing she could do.

Slowly, so as not to disturb her partner who was sleeping so peacefully, she rolled over on to her back and stared at the ceiling, desperately trying to slow everything down. She was jealous of his lack of worries.

She had not wanted the goodbye in the first place. But she’d gone along with it. She’d thought that she could control it, be in charge. But instead of her riding it, it was now riding her. Things were out of control. It was no longer in her hands. She felt like a puppet being blown here and there by circumstances beyond her control. There were no good outcomes for any of them.

She stared up at the ceiling as the patches of darkness swirled in front of her eyes dissolving into phosphine patterns.

All the doubts and fears bubbled away in her head. Whichever way she looked, all she could see was catastrophe.

It had all come to this. Today she was saying goodbye, finito, over. Today was the culmination of it all. Today was when it all came to a head.

Today was the day when she would tell them how it was, defy them to do their worst and walk away with a final wave, a brave face and the acid of defeat.

Today was the end of all her dreams. She knew that. Try as she could there was no good outcome to be found for any of them. She was skewered and she knew it. But it wasn’t all her fault.

She reached over, pressed out a beta-blocker and swigged it down with a gulp of water.

She lay there searching for an alternative. There was none to be found. All her instincts told her to simply stay in bed, plead illness and avoid the confrontation. She could just walk away without having to face her protagonists. But she knew that wouldn’t wash.

She lay in the darkness waiting for the drug to kick in and control her heart-rate. It would take a few minutes. Meanwhile she tried to control her breathing.

She played what was going to happen in her mind, allowing her thoughts to run through every instant of the events that were shortly going to take place.

She felt the drug begin to work and started to regain control over her chaotic thoughts. It was like trying to close the lid on a hopelessly overfilled suitcase. She managed to get it closed but knew that the pressure was threatening to bust the catches and send the contents exploding out.

Dignity. That’s what she told herself, taking a deep breath. Dignity. She would say goodbye and walk away with her head held high. That’s all that mattered. She would not break down. She refused to allow her emotions to better her. Dignity and control.

She allowed her mind to go through every detail, to explore the inevitable. She knew exactly what she was going to do, what she was going to say, and how she was going to hold herself. She rehearsed it in her head.

The alarm went. Her partner stirred. She slipped out of bed to prepare herself for the grand farewell. Some things you cannot run away from. This was one of them.

She showered, dressed and donned the persona she had chosen to fit the occasion. Everything was done with precision. She followed the routine. The routine gave her strength.

She made the tea, boiled an egg and put the toast in the toaster. She took a cup of tea in and placed it on the bedside cabinet for when he came round. He groaned a thank you. It was just another day for him.

Mechanically she drank her tea, ate her egg and crunched her toast, chewing and swallowing like an automaton.

It all went exactly as she had known it would. She faced hostility from all sides. Defiantly she fought. She lost. She walked out exactly as she had visualised in her head.

Stepping into the light she faced the tigerish mob.

‘How does it feel to have betrayed your country?’

‘The people want to know why you have thrown us all into chaos and let us all down so badly?’

‘Haven’t you pitched us into a disastrous Brexit?’

‘Mrs May why are you running away?’