Apr 29th


By AlanP

Because I spend a lot of time at home, even when I'm working at my day job I feel I am something of a weather vane for telephone scam calls. If I'm getting them, then others must be too. The large number of writers on here must include a higher than average proportion of people at home in the daytime and so others here may be getting these calls too. I sometimes keep them on the line for a while as a form of retaliation. The safest thing is to hang up, but be wary if you want to do the same as I do.

This little cautionary note will, I hope, not be wasted. Please read on.

In the last couple of weeks I have noticed an upsurge in calles from "Windows Technical Support". The accent is invariably from the Indian Subcontinent although they may claim to be in the USA if you ask.

The essence of this scam is that they will claim to be from "Windows". This is a lie. What they will do is ask you to start up a little dialogue box on your pc and enter the phrase eventvwr. Remember that, it's your first alarm.

This will lead you to a list of Windows events, which will include a number of error statements, some may even be labelled critical. This is perfectly normal and a consequence of the fact that MS Windows has little microcrashes all the time. It is not, as these people will claim, an indication that your computer is riddled with viruses.

Their intention is to get you to load some software that enables them to take command of your PC. This is something that legitimate companies do for a number of proper reasons. About now they will ask you for something like £200 - £300 to fix your computer.

These chaps will then do a variety of things. They may:

1. Grab personal data such as bank login and password records.

2. Install malware or spyware

3. Just mess about a bit to make you think they are fixing stuff.

4. Something else entirely

These people are simply common criminals. You should have no conscience about wasting their time. Chat along with them. I kept one on for twenty minutes this morning before writing this. They are remakably thick skinned. I even had to tell the "technician" when he had made a mistake and laughed at him. He continued for another five minutes until I said plainly I was bored and that he should go grow a conscience. I may have insulted him personally a bit too, but that's deniable.

Under no circumstances whatsoever must you allow these people to connect with your computer, even if you know it's a scam and have no intention of handing over any money. If they are connected and realise you have been deliberately wasting their time they will delete your data, they will destroy as much of your machine as they can to render it useless. This is simply malicious and they will do it.

I am in favour of wasting their time, it means that they aren't off conning others, perhaps with success. But do not let them connect. Do not load "TeamView" or any other product. TeamView is a legitimate product btw. It's no more involved than Ford Motors are if someone steals a car to commit a crime. Don't go that far. Keep them on saying you don't understand, you didn't realise you had to be on the internet, anything. But don't let them connect.

Some people who know what they are doing have gone the whole way with them. A Google search "Event Viewer Scam" will lead you some amusing and interesting histories on video. But these guys have created a "Virtual PC" to do this retaliation. It isn't a real machine and no harm can be done. It's just software that looks like a computer online. They are smart and were retaliating skillfully.

I know most of you recognise a scam when you hear one. I know you might want to retaliate. But don't go so far as to let them on your machine. You are not safe simply by stopping at the point they ask for money. Chat, laugh, cuss, mock, but never let them connect.

Apr 27th

Unexpected Consequences

By AlanP

My entry in Squidge’s monthly comp brought this out of some dusty corner of my memory. It’s not like I was making fun of the guy, or even trying to play a prank on my girlfriend, but this went somewhat wrong; as things sometimes do. As a student you have a license to a diminished sense of responsibility. In fact you don’t of course, but being young and stupid you develop one anyway.

Someone I didn’t even know, just saw at a distance from time to time had an angular face, wore big framed spectacles and a big smile. In other words he looked a bit like the famous guitarist Hank Marvin. In passing with my mates we began to refer to him as Hank. Not in any derogatory sense you understand, it was just something we said, you know “Hank’s in early today” if he was, or Hank looks a bit hung over this morning. It was equivalent to saying, “It looks like it might rain this afternoon”, just a non sequiter.

Misjudgements happen. In order for this to not backfire it is necessary for everyone to understand the essential mistruth behind it. So when I was walking along with my girlfriend, someone who was both blissfully ignorant of the joke and also, as I later discovered, of The Shads, and saw him walking on the other side, I remarked “There’s Hank”.

She absorbed this as we went on our way. It turned out sometime later that she encountered Hank without me being around and greeted him by name. It seems he took it fairly well and apparently introduced himself properly. In fact he took it so well that he started dating her and she dumped me.

Oh well. You know what they say about men with big guitars.

Anyone else got any stories of unexpected consequences?

Apr 26th

Here's A Story You Wouldn't Dare Make Up!

By Gerry

Just thought I’d look at the dates, starting with March 2015. 

March 21st

Leicester City play Tottenham Hotspur away; result 4:3 defeat; position in Premiership bottom, with 19 points; hope nil.

March 26th

Reinterment of Richard III in Leicester Cathedral

March 27th

‘Service of Reveal of the Tomb and Celebration for Richard III’, followed by Leicester Glows events: Fire Garden, Cathedral Illuminations, fireworks display

April 4th

Leicester City’s next football match, at home to West Ham; result 2:1 victory to Leicester.

After April 4th

Leicester lose just four more Premiership matches in a whole year (v. Chelsea 29.4.15; v. Arsenal 26.9.15; v. Liverpool 26.12.15; v. Arsenal 14.2.16)

April 25th 2016

Tottenham’s home draw with West Brom virtually ensures Leicester will become Premiership champions.



1. Leicester will most likely win the European Champions League in 2017

2. It’s all thanks to a grateful Richard III



What is the Leicester City stadium called? The King Power Stadium... Q.E.D.

Apr 25th

Going Full Circle for #FoW16

By Flickimp

I’m coming full circle.

I set a plan to write a novel in 1999, but never put sufficient time into doing it until certain ‘other’ things fell into place around my life. All excuses ran their course in 2007, and I began writing.

Or so I thought…

From July 2007 to June 2010 – I went through a period of Stop-Start (and sometimes the Stops lasted for months … and months … and months …) It wasn’t that I didn’t have ideas (because I sure damn did), but the execution. I kept deviating into a complicated mess that was tragic. Sheer tragic.

And then – in June 2010 – I slapped myself – and made a promise to sort my act out. Lo behold, I had completed my first full novel after 6 months. And I was proud of it. And I felt creativity in my fingers. And I wanted to share it with the world. And I wanted the major big publishing deal.

Then reality kicked in. Mainly my first Festival of Writing 2011  (York – UK – that I loved by the way).

  • I’d written a novel where the main protagonist was a talking cat.
  • The length was 148k words
  • POV/Headhopping was all over the place – I had 8 POV in Chapter 1 alone!!
  • There was enough backstory to turn a Trailer into a movie itself.

Strider Energy-FormStriderStormStorm Fire-FormRodriPhytalOliviashCaretakerInmasEdominusChance

I shelved it.

Since then, I’ve written 10 more novels – where I’ve learnt from the FoW and from fellow writers to hone my craft. I get it much better now than I did then.

And that brings me to why we’re here. I’m going full circle.

Novel 2 to 9 were all YA. N10 (done) and 11 (to be redrafted) are MG.

I’ve developed a respect for writing to fit the target market … and so Novel 1 – will be redone as a MG Trilogy – with a very different plot/twists/characters than what I did 6 years ago.

I’ll do what I can, and I hope I’ll have it ready for FoW16 – Sept 2016. I hope.

Well… I can try.


Apr 24th

Silliness just got sillier.

By Stephen Mark

Mrs SM and I were recently in Blighty. I bought her a small framed print in a chain store in Bournemouth. The weight of the picture I would estimate at eight ounces. There is a label on the back - this is what it says:


Ensure your mounting surface and method of fixing is strong enough to support this item. Your safety is dependent on the construction and strength of the wall to which it is fitted.

As mounting surfaces vary ensure adequate fixings are used. An incorrectly fixed item may cause damage to the product or your property.

We strongly recommend a professional experienced in fixing this type of hanging is consulted.

Prior to drilling check there are no hidden pipes or electrical cables! (X-Ray vision useful here). Only hang by means of a suitable permanent fixing.

Caution: this item may be heavy. Seek assistance if necessary.

Do not strike with hard or pointed items. Do not use wire between the two fixing brackets on the frame. 

Please retain this information for future use. (It is glued to the back)

I'm not sure which is dafter: this one, or the infamous, 'Warning: May contain nuts' - on a packet of nuts.

If anyone has any similar instances of this kind of madness, I should be pleased to read them :-)


Apr 24th

'Why do I care?' First person narrators.

By John Taylor

Feel free to challenge any statement I make here: I'm musing aloud, and applying thoughts from my own novel to general questions. Others of you probably have quite different experience, and I would love to hear about it.

Why write THIS story?

In a third person narrative, the initial 'why?' question can often be answered very simply. 'Because it makes a good story.'

The author still has to deliver on that promise, and do it swiftly, but initially, might not need to look much deeper. There could be a burning reason behind writing that particular story, or not. A reason might even come along later, as the story progresses.

In the first person, you might still get away with the 'good tale' premise in a short story, but I would suggest that the reader needs a bit more from the outset if the character is going to narrate and carry a whole novel. The character's motivation in telling her/his story is going to affect the reader's motivation in sticking with the tale.

Why do I care about your novel, anyway? It's a cruel question, but it's a question you need to be able to answer clearly and honestly.

'Why do I care?' is a question the reader needs answering pretty swiftly, and it looks rather different in a first person narrative.

The narrator is usually (but not always) the main character. However good your writing and scene setting, your reader needs to REALLY care if they are to stick with your narrator beyond the first few pages. It doesn't mean your narrator has to be likeable, but her/his personality and viewpoint is what carries the reader along. To be at all authentic, the narrator must have a strong personal motivation for sharing this particular stream of experiences. The story loses authenticity if 'I' am just talking into thin air for no particular reason.

Why am I taking up your time with a long, rambling blog anyway?

Because, three chapters from the end of my current second draft, I've realised something that is missing. In my case, it isn't so much missing as hidden away amongst other stuff. And it can be fixed remarkably easily, with a few words changed here and there in each chapter.

My character has always had a very strong internal reason for telling her story. She needs to tell it in order to understand it herself, because she has gaps in her memory. Now, at long last, I have uncovered a much stronger EXTERNAL reason for telling her story. A reason that involves other characters who the reader hopefully will grow to care about. For me, it has completely opened up the story.

You don't even need to know that reason (and I'm not going to tell you) but all I can say is that I've always worried that my character appears introverted and self-indulgent. She remains an introvert, but now, the act of telling her story is a long way from self-indulgence. And the story has gained a whole load more passion and urgency because of it.

'Why do I care?' asks the reader.

Because your narrator and her/his motivation and unfolding situation will matter to me and grow to matter more over the hours I give to your novel.


Apr 21st

UK asking prices reach new high of £307,033

By Teresa

UK asking prices reach new high of £307,033

Image Average UK asking prices increased by 1.3% or £3,843 in April compared to the previous month and are up 7.3% year on year, according to the latest index figures.

This takes the price of an average home to a record high of £307,033 with market activity having been pushed up due to a rush by buy to let investors to beat the April stamp duty change, says the index report from Rightmove.

Indeed, the stamp duty deadline gave an early impetus to the bottom of the market and this had the knock-on effect of energising the higher sectors of the market as growth was driven by second-stepper and top of the ladder sectors.

The report also says that smaller properties in the first time buyer and buy to let sector actually saw a month on month price drop of 1.4%. But overall while buy to let demand will not have gone it remains high overall with record visits on Rightmove in March.

‘The further demand boost from those looking to complete before 01 April has now dissipated, resulting in a 1.4% drop this month in the average price of a property coming to market in the first time buyer and investor sector,’ said Miles Shipside, Rightmove director and housing market analyst.

‘However, the momentum it created looks to have enabled owner occupiers of these properties to trade up. This has built an onward chain reaction of higher demand in higher price brackets as more people can move,’ he explained.

He also pointed out that upwards price pressure has moved into the typical second stepper sector of three or four bedrooms excluding four bedroom detached properties. Prices are up by 0.6% or £1,512 this month, and this sector compared to the others has seen the largest year on year rise of 8.6% or £20,519.

Meanwhile top of the ladder sector of four bedroom detached and five bedrooms or more has seen the biggest rise this month, up by 1.9% or £9,970. Their annual rate of increase remains the lowest however, at 5.1%.

‘While some felt that there would be a stampede of existing landlords selling to other landlords, these figures indicate that many of those who sold during the buy to let rush were actually first time sellers looking to trade up,’ said Shipside.

‘They used the heightened demand from investors competing fiercely with first time buyers to springboard themselves onto the next rung of the housing ladder. After several years of being held back from moving by post credit crunch price doldrums, they have now benefitted from a heady combination of price growth, historically cheap interest rates, and confidence of a quick sale with purchasers working to a tight deadline,’ he pointed out.

‘Trader uppers have now been unleashed and this has spread demand upwards and helped to form longer chains. Interestingly there has been a stamp duty double whammy effect pushing up prices in these higher sectors too. Earlier reforms in December 2014 reduced stamp duty for all properties priced below £937,000, especially around the previous punitive thresholds, also boosting demand and prices,’ he added.

While demand from some buy to let landlords has dropped away, Rightmove recorded its busiest ever month for visits to the website in March. ‘It is likely that appetite from investors will return for the right property at the right price and yield, but in the meantime it gives first time buyers an opportunity to fill the void with less competition from typically faster moving cash rich landlords,’ Shipside explained.

add by Teresa





Apr 20th

A tribute to the genius of rhyme, taken so sadly before her time

By Tony

So funny, so sunny;

Making up the jokes just like a bee makes honey –

Victoria, we salute you tonight!


Great singer, hum-dinger;

Even took the mickey out of Jerry Springer –

Victoria, we salute you tonight!


Don’t leave us, bereave us;

From your adoring public, won’t you please receive us –

Victoria, we salute you tonight!


A jewel. So cruel

To have you taken from us as you fought that duel

With cancer. We salute you tonight!


For laughter, a BAFTA;

You kept us all in stitches till we raised the rafter –

Victoria, we salute you tonight!



RIP Victoria Wood

Apr 20th

Beat me on the bottom with my Woman’s Weekly

By AlanP

This may be a bit maudlin. I make no apology for sentimentality. The untimely death of Victoria Wood has affected me personally more than I can possibly express. She was the finest writer and performer of purely British comedy there has been. Bar none. We have a character, we Brits, and she captured it perfectly. Yes, she was a fine performer: Yes she was a fine musician: But above all she was a writer. She could express the character of her country of birth like no-one else. And I very much doubt that she had emptied the tank of her ideas, But fate has stolen that from her, and us. Her because she clearly loved what she did and us, because so many of us loved what she did.

As I implied, this is self indulgence. I am affected by this news in a way that has surprised me. Celebrities are human after all. But such genius is so rare. She wrote such wonderful lines and she generously gave them to her friends on her shows. One I will always remember was spoken by Thora Hird in Victoria’s perfect play "Pat and Margaret", from 1994. Jim (Duncan Preston) a hopeless romantic needs to get going. His aging mother, Thora Hird, is busy with her cottage industry, cuddly toys. Jim says something about can she get a move on, I can’t remember why, something to do with getting married, or his fiancee, I think. His mother replies:

“Not until I have stuffed this penguin to my satisfaction”.

OK, I’m a fan, OK I’m English and even a bit northern. But that just captures so much about us Brits in so few words. People are going to quote Victoria Wood from her songs, her monologues and her stand up over the next week or two. The telly will be awash. And those quotes will all be terrific. In particular they will quote from the ballad of Barry and Freda as I have in the title of this self indulgent blog.  But for my little world of admiration, that was the best bit of writing for British consumption I ever encountered.

Excuse me now. I may get drunk


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