Jul 31st

Accuracy or artistic freedom?

By Daedalus

This blog arose out of a huge Twitter debate recently about accuracy in historical fiction, specifically relating to the forthcoming film about Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I. There will always be debate and disagreement about where to draw the line in works of historical fiction, and each different form - prose, film, play - will have different pressures. There is, of course, an inherent contradiction. History is history, and you can't adjust the facts of it to suit your narrative. Fiction is fiction, and ultimately all aspects of it must serve the story. Some people seem to genuinely hate historical fiction, considering it a form of lying. Others, me included, think it's an important part of exploring our past, and can uncover truths about it that facts cannot. Some historical fiction does indeed take huge liberties with the historical record - think about the film Braveheart, where the lives of historical figures were warped beyond recognition (most egregiously, showing William Wallace impregnating a princess in Scotland who was in real life three years of age and living in France at the time of the supposed liaison).

The main issue about the Mary Queen of Scots film centred around the meetings depicted between the two queens when in fact they never met face to face. How important is this?

The full blog is here https://airandseastories.com/2018/07/26/historical-fiction-where-to-draw-the-line/

Jul 30th

Flash Gordon Conquers The Universe. 1934

By Dolly

I love little coincidences that crop up. A few weeks ago, after watching one or two games of the world cup, I posted a blog about national anthems. This led on to discussion about our own, and the different places in was played in or on. The two main places I remember were the telly and the cinema. Athelstone commented on this and brought to mind Saturday morning pictures, which I remember fondly.

Now, I have a habit of popping into charity shops and scanning through the DVDs in the hope of picking a gem. This is usually fruitless and time wasting, but every now and again I find something interesting and worth watching. For some reason I was thinking about what Athelstone said about Saturday morning pictures, when lo and behold! What did I see? There it was, a blast from the past, Flash Gordon Conquers The Universe, chapters 1-6! I took the case to the counter, handed over my 50 pence, considered that I had got a bargain, and headed home.

People were dying from the Purple Death Dust dropped on the Earth by the soldiers of Ming The Merciless who wore helmets with one of Ken Dodd's tickling sticks stuck in the top. Fortunately, Flash Gordon, wearing what looks like an early Victorian Hussars uniform, was in space with Professor Zarkov and Dale Arden, who, for reasons known only to herself, the production company and students of strange things, was wearing jodhpurs and riding boots. They headed towards the planet Mong in their spaceship, whose propulsion unit seems to be a bunch of sparklers pushed into the back end.

They land and enlist the help of Prince Barin and his men who look like refugees from men in tights, as they all look like Robin Hood, complete with hat and a feather! Now, since this was made in 1934, I began to wonder if this was the prototype for future Robin Hood movies, as Errol Flynn wore the exact outfit in The Adventures Of Robin Hood when he asked Maid Marion to go and live in the woods with him. Yeah, right, as if...

Anyway, Prince Barin and Flash hatch a plan to invade Ming's castle to stop the manufacture of the purple death dust and rescue Prince Barin's chum, General Loopy. (I know, I know. What else would he be called?) A quick change of costume and they all end up in the Professor's spaceship dressed as Cossacks, apart from Dale Arden, who stays behind, and is now wearing a ball gown.

Someone lights the sparklers and the spaceship takes off, with the smoke from the sparklers, or the exhaust if you want to call it that, going up faster than the ship. Now, back then, it was probably imagined that if a spaceship was ever invented it might look something like the one they were in. The only criticism really is it only had one seat, and that's where the 'driver' sat. Everyone else stood up and swayed about as though the ship were being buffeted by powerful forces.

They land and enter Ming's castle by way of a secret entrance. (How did they know it was there?) A bit of a rough and tumble then ensues in which Flash and one of Ming's henchmen fall down a big hole that mysteriously appears. Is this the end of our intrepid hero? I wouldn't bet on it.

Anyway, I'm exhausted with all this excitement and need to lie down and gather my senses in a dark room with a cup of tea.






Jul 24th

Caption Comp

By Barny

Sadly Barb seems to have abandoned us :-( ... there probably won't be as many strange cat photos.

Jul 19th

Plotting panic

By Squidge

I've got to a point in my current WIP that needs a bit of thought about how the next bit's plotted. Many of you know I'm more of a pantser than a plotter, so this is pretty routine for me. Plotting doesn't come easily, but I usually manage to fill in a plot hole and make it work. Eventually.

Not this time.

I know exactly what happens in my story. I know which character is going to (unwittingly) betray the others. I know which character is masquerading as someone else and I know which character is going to realise that and go the rescue. 

But can I make it WORK? Can I heck as like.

I have drawn a flow chart of action, trying to sort it out. I've tried post it notes too, but the different strands refuse to link into a coherent whole, and it is, quite frankly, getting to me. I took myself off for a walk. Did the washing and the ironing. Even had a snooze this afternoon, but I simply cannot make this plotline come together.

Am I making it too difficult for myself? Do I need to simplify it? How? What will I lose from the overall story arc if I make it too easy for the MC? 

I can feel The Fear that I'm going to fail sitting on my shoulder and whispering 'what's the point in trying to write any more til you've sorted this out?' and I want to tell it to BOG OFF! But then I look at my scribblings and crossings out and feel like giving up.


Maybe I just need to ignore this bit for now. Move on, write the bits that are coming easily and then try to stitch them all together afterwards. You never know, I might have thought of a way through while I'm writing them.

Either that, or I'll have pulled all my hair out in frustration. 

Actually, just reading this through before pressing 'post' and I realised - I've been here before. 'I know exactly what happens in my story.' I'm too much in the driving seat and not in my character's head enough to make it HER story. Maybe it's not me that needs to work things through, but my MC? Hmmmm....

Jul 5th

Beach Crap

By Mat

Beach Crap

by brightonsauce

Give it a polish later on x/ end fix is ‘winding me up.’

I pursued simple duties at the shoreline –

–  and collected a condom from the sand, and a soft turd laid anonymously on the beach steps.  How we never catch them at it, is our mantra..in the business.  I curled  these evacuees, these victims – together in my fist like in some very progressive partnership, in hand – and I returned to the office –  after visiting our dustbins.  I think I did, I’ll have to check our CCTV… [no GOOD, no, edit]

When two lads bundled into that office.

‘There he is,’ they said, ‘that’s the bastard.’

They wanted to fight me, or to stab me – due to some slur I never even made…or considered – ever.

Our scene unfolded with shouting, jabbering, jabbing, and accusation.  I stood from the wheelie-chair, I talked them down from their rage,

‘Gentlemen…’ I said..

to the two men bouncing in their tracksuits.

So, a respect was shared. And over.

But for a moment in that stand-off it nearly did ‘kick-off,’ mightily. There mightily have been blood on our walls.

To my shame, for one brief instant, the thought–

‘I’ll kill you both before you kill me,’

did pass through my mind – but not for long, your honours.

And I did not mention that passing thought/that spike of hell – in my mind – in my official report on the hotmail.

Conclusion – they did not kill me, I did not kill them, neither.

Still, I, for one, remain an arsehole forever.  As I said to the 20 stone deckchair attendant, our Roly Polaroid

‘Always run…in these situations.’

He said nothing to my advice.  He only stared, and he swallowed.

But,  back in the previous scene.  Was the ruffian carrying a knife?  Why keep your hand in the pocket?  Why, walk out and swiftly return to my office?  Were you unfolding your blade?  [my, how this imagination spins..]

Meanwhile, I shook hands with the other fellow, his compatriot.  Eye to eye, I did it, chaps, and defused the apocalypse, obviously.

After the ‘yobbos’ – somebody’s word, no – criminals, no – they were young guys – after they left I harboured horrible adrenaline, and sadness.    I’ll have to watch out for the tracksuit man – catching my bus home – my god, like adolescence, like my 1983 revisited.

The next day I drank coffee early in the morning with the sunlight on my cheek,


a bright, happy morning, as an old gentleman strolled into the office without his spectacles.  I, of course as a public servant read the tide times for him.  And he was, I sensed,  lonely, and he hadn’t expressed a while, and people do need to share, and they should, and he said:

‘You know, mate…

…on July 17th, 2006, I was walking down this very beach down there.

…That’s the moment when my dog foamed at the mouth, and we both looked skyward, and literally fifty feet over our heads an enormous flying saucer hovvered, all silent and powerful.

…I told Julie at the book-makers, she said that was probably the third space ship she’d heard about in the last five years.  So, what do you think, pal?’ he said.

There has, you see, been plenty of action – going on-down – in my lifestyle.

Self-consciousness about being a ‘cockney’ in the North of England has now mainly disappeared.  I am step by step stealing father’s Yorkshire dialect, the one that  emerged on the motorway rides toward Bridlington.  It is a lovely job, keeping a beautiful place beautiful –  and I make a grand display with the turds – like theatre – [not Brid, apols], and talking to the oldies on their strolls, I love them also, very much.

And also the problem with a horrible story, that one back there – is that you share it, and repeat your boreface to colleagues – and really one should bite one’s tongue off, and spit it out.  Now, you understand my confusion?  But I do have a good friend on the bouncy castles [pertinent].  And, as is never the way with these things, he’s some kind of professor-intellectual, a cricket man.  We trade stories.

His story

The fairground inspector was on his way – any moment now, and the horses were polished, and spinning, the castle inflated, the teacups empty.  And the gate closed.  So, when a middle-aged civilian-man arrived at this gate with his infant in tow, and said –

‘Can we have a ride, please?’

He said, ‘You’ll have to wait for one hour, I have the inspector on his way…’

The chap replied – ‘What kind of jobsworth fucker are you? I am going to smash your face in…and what about my little kiddy riding teacups?  You prick, and molester and I hope you die screaming in flames,’ and so on…

Our chap was most taken aback.  Even so, a year later on, this fairground man felt emboldened enough to visit a distant pub, and he ordered a round of drinks.

The barman placed the five pints on the counter.

‘You can have these ones on me, sir,’ he said.


‘You don’t recognise me, do you? .. I was the fool with his child.

… I want to say to you, now – how dreadfully sorry I shall always remain for my behaviour of a year ago – and how I worry about that day – on every other single day, on every other morning.  Can I do for you, one thing, anything at all ever, please? Tell me now, sir…yours, in  my apology, and with my most sincerest of respects…’

‘Thank you,’ said the fairground man.  He chewed his cheek in a  great rumination, and said….’five packets of your salt and vinegar crisps,’ he said, ‘and two pickled eggs.’

(and) All the best


Jul 3rd

National Anthem

By Dolly

I wouldn't say I've been glued to the telly recently, but I have been watching some of the games taking place, and been caught up in the oddity of national anthems. I'm not all that familiar with languages, I have enough problems with English. All the same, some of them do sound weird, even though I know which country its from. The most familiar are the French and German, but I've never heard the Croatian and Japanese anthems before and was completely thrown by them, probably by the language and their understanding of music, although everyone seem to join in the fun.

The English for their part seemed belt it out with gusto, well some of them did, and I wondered if people at home hummed tum-te-tummed along with it, or sang it out loud. There might be of course, others, with patriotic fervour coursing through their veins, who would leap to their feet in front of the telly and sing it louder than anyone else while saluting.

There was a time, back in the good old days of one telly channel when the presenters wore dinner jackets and dickey bows, or if you were female, an evening gown, when they played the national anthem and the end of the day's viewing, which usually occurred around nine thirty or ten at the weekend. Honest!

This also occurred in cinemas at the end of the last showing, and you were supposed stand as a mark of respect and not move until the anthem had finished. Some people though, would stand up near the end of the film, walk backwards up the aisle, and time it so they reached the exit just as the film finished and the anthem began and could make a quick getaway! Honest!

I did wonder if the queen ever sang silently along with while it was being sung to her, and whether she altered the words slightly, along the lines of: 'God save our gracious me, long live our noble me, God save our me, send me victorious happy and glorious

god save our me!'

Jun 25th

Renaming, Removing, Rewriting History

By Squidge

I'll apologise up front - I'm not usually controversial, but this one has got me thinking and wondering; 


Wondering what other cloudies think? 

I'm in a bit of a quandary about it; I loved the books as a child. I always accepted that they were historic and of their time, and that how they were written was how the people who lived back then viewed the world and the people in it. Especially people who weren't like them. I knew - even as a child - that it shouldn't be like that. 

By doing things like taking an author's name off an award simply because their writing doesn't fit what we know is right and acceptable in this moment in time, are we in danger of removing too much of 'what life was like back then'? I can totally understand that for eg, the way Native Americans are portrayed is not complimentary. And there are probably hundreds - thousands - of books in which the author expresses a view about 'other' people that would have been considered acceptable at the time of writing, but is considered inappropriate now. There's been something recently about Einstein (I think it was him) writing a travel journal and he is most uncomplimentary about people of other races. Do we now ignore the theory of relativity because of that?

Do we retain these books, these writings, these author's names to remind us never to go back to that place? Or remove them - like we're removing statues and portraits of those judged wanting by today's society's 'norms' - and try to forget these awful things ever happened? 


Which way is better? And where do we draw the line about what we keep and what we hide from sight? 

Not sure I know...but I think I would lean more towards having examples that we can point to and say 'that was wrong' than wiping stuff away and kidding ourselves we've always done the right thing. 

Jun 24th

a cultural hub

By mike

      Mat mentioned that Wren building!


      If you come to north London and wish to visit ‘The Tate Modern’ on the southbank of the Thames, it is best to head for St Paul’s Cathedral.   The cathedral and the southbank are linked by a footbridge.  This footbridge is called the Millennium Bridge but it is still known as the Wobbly Bridge.

       If a Londoner proposes ‘Let’s meet at the Southbank,” he might mean ‘The Southbank Centre’ rather than the southbank of the river. This centre originated in the ‘Festival of Britain of 1951 and ‘The Festival Hall’ is still there. 

     The southbank, as a cultural hub, now stretches from Westminster Bridge to Tower Bridge and slightly further.  You can walk to Rotherhithe along the ‘Thames Path’ but the buildings soon become residential.

    The stretch of the southbank from London Bridge to the Tate Modern is known as Bankside and this is where the reconstructed Globe is situated.  I can remember a time when the site of the Globe was a carpark for the local council; Sam Wanamaker was denied permission to build there.   The Globe was reconstructed about twenty years ago.

    My interest arose when I photographed what was called ‘The Pool of London’ and is now called ‘London Bridge City.’ I had been standing midpoint on London Bridge and, using a wide angle lens, recorded the scene with Tower Bridge at the midpoint of the photograph.

   It had been a foggy, misty morning and I showed the photograph to some work colleagues. The comments were one the lines of ‘How Dickensian!   i could see the point, but in the foreground was a jetty built recently for the ferry service.  I did some research and,if Dickens now stood on London Bridge and looked downriver, there are only two or three buildings he would recognise but the view is still Dickensian.


   I am reading a biography of E.S.Nesbit.  This was written in the 1930’s and revised in 1960.  I notice a new biography will be published this year.  Episodes of Nesbit’s life are often included in biographies and histories of the period as she was one of the first members of ‘The Fabian Society’ 

    Nesbit returned to Halstead all her life to revisit the countryside of  her childhood.  

    Yesterday,  I met a walker on a local footpath and she told me some sad news.  Land around Knockholt  Station  -band Halstead - has been designated for housing projects.

    The biographer also notes of Nesbit: ‘ ...she must, I suppose, be regarded as one of the pioneers of public smoking for women..’  I wonder if the new biography will mention this.


      A breath of fresh air.


      i have often walked along the footpaths in Kent and the views are quite different from those seen from a car or train window.

      ‘Leaves Green’ is little more than a village sign.  It is also a bus stop on the A233 out of London.  A few days ago I alighted at this bus stop and crossed the village green where I parted the leaves in search of a footpath.  My brain froze.

        In the distance, a small white aeroplane lay half submerged in what seemed to be a field of rape.  The small portholes were at an angle and it seemed as though the plane was sinking in a sea of green. Such are the effects of perspective!   

    Sanity returned.  A few bus stops along the A233 is Biggin Hill which is now a civilian airport.  


Jun 19th

A green and pleasant land

By mike

  Knockholt and Chelsfield are two stations on the commuter line linking London to Sevenoaks in Kent.  Knockholt Station should have been called Halstead but the name Knockholt was chosen to avoid confusion with another Halstead in Essex.

     Knockholt parish is centered on Knockholt Pound.  Knockholt Pound is few miles from Knockholt Station and both are a few miles from Knockholt village.   This is confusing!

     Is there any reason for anyone - apart from weary commuters - to alight at these stations?   Is there any reason to walk across the railway bridge at Chelsfield? Is there any reason to look down the railway cut towards Knockholt?   Is there any reason to wave at passing trains? 

   This is the railway cut that inspired ‘The Railway Children‘ 

    E.S.Nesbit spent the happiest years of her childhood in Halstead and it is recalled that she walked across the fields or paths to Knockholt or Chelmsfield and the newly built railway line.   The area had its own painter, Samuel Palmer, who lived at Shoreham. He might well have walked the few miles to Chelsfield.

    I have been exploring this area by foot and the local buses.  I live near a station on the same commuter line - though further towards London.   

    Chelsfield Village is separated from Chelsfield Station by the Orpington bypass and they seem separate entities.   The village is surrounded by farmland. 

   Chelsfield Village had been a childhood home of  the author, Miss Read.  Does anybody remember Miss Read?

   In the 1970 film of ‘The Railway Children’, the location had been the Yorkshire moors of the Brontes.  The  Keighley and Worth Valley Railway was chosen for its vintage stations and railway stock.

    Sadly, there might have been a suitable Kent line which could have been used as a  location for the film. This line was axed by Beeching  

    Most of the ‘Westerham Flyer’ was demolished by 1967.  This line ran from Westerham to Dunton Green where it joined the main line to London.  The two intermediate stations were Chevening and Brasted.  There were five miles of track.

      Brasted is one of the villages on the A25 from Westerham to Sevenoaks..  A path at the rear of the church leads to a noisy road where the path ceases to be.     

   Brasted Station is under the concrete of the M2 motorway!



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