Aug 18th

Anyone got any experience of Virgin Media Wayleave Agreements?

By BellaM

I've had a rather peremptory letter from Virgin Media telling me they want my agreement for them to lay fibre optic cables on my property. They are inviting me to log into their website with a unique ID to find out more information and to give my consent. The wording is very cute and does not discount the possibility that if I log in my consent is automatically given. So I am not logging in.

The letter has annoyed me by telling me that if I don't agree I will be a bad neighbour.

I've emailed the company to ask for more information but I just wondered if anyone here has had any experience of Virgin Media network expansion.

Aug 18th

Pens That Can't Spell

By Dolly

I've just discovered that WH Smith, sell pens that can't spell. It's true! The other day I bought a pen from them, took it home and started to write. It couldn't spell, it was useless! I took it back, and to give them their due, they exchanged it without any fuss or quibble. I took the new one home, and started to write. It was brilliant! Not one mistake! Not only that, it automatically did the punctuation as well! How cool it that? The only complaint I have is they don't tell you these things. Now I only know of these two, and that by mistake, but what if there are others? They might  sell a pen that can't write at all, or only write in italics. I think they should come clean about this, and display all different types of pens separately so there can't be any mistake. 

Aug 17th

A little extra carry on.

By mike

     Secretspi is very perceptive.  She mentioned that an extract from a travel journal reminded her of ‘’Flashman.’   Fraser had used the travel book as a source for one of his novels.  ‘Flashman on the March‘  It was something  I came across  some years ago.  At the time, it was one of the few mentions of the travel writer that I came across.  I wrote an essay at the time and included Fraser’s footnote.   Fraser’s intention had been comic but others might not find it so. ‘Flashman on the March’ was published in 2005 .  Is his footnote comic?      

(The opening of the essay)

    GEORGE MACDONALD FRASER wrote a series of novels based on the ‘Flashman  papers’.  These  journals  were allegedly written by Flashman, the bully from ‘Tom Brown’s Schooldays,’ and concern his adventures as a soldier in the British Amy during the nineteenth century.

     The novels achieved considerable popularity and such was their authenticity,  that a few critics believed the papers to be genuine.  This authenticity was, in large part, due to Fraser’s  research.   One source that he used for his last novel  ‘Flashman on the March’ - whose theme is a military engagement in Abyssinia - had been the travel books of James Augustus St John. 

     Fraser included notes at the end of his novels and comments:

      J.A St John who travelled to Abyssinia in the 1840’s and seems to have spent most of his time goggling at boobies, on which he was obviously an authority.   He has drooling  descriptions of slave girls, and a most scholarly passage in which he compares Ethiopian juggs to Egyptian ones, and finds the former “more finely shaped and better placed.’    (1)

I don’t agree with Fraser’s comment as it seems to suggest J.A St John is a voyeur and that his intention was pornography.  But this is a different issue and can be disproved.  I am certainly not an Arab scholar but it is possible Arab women were not described at the time.  And the Arab writing tradition had been an oral one.      

Aug 16th

A Very Belated Update on Getting Published

By Skylark

On 12th January this year, I sat with my agent Jo Unwin in two different publisher’s offices trying to act calm and cool and professional while underneath it all I was concentrating very hard on not laughing hysterically or bursting into tears. Both publishers loved my book, both wanted to publish it, and the choice was up to me. I didn't have to make my mind up straight away. I went home to sleep on it. Except I didn't make it home. I got off the train in Macclesfield and ended up stranded in a Travelodge on the outskirts of Stockport because there was too much snow to drive safely over the hills. My husband talked the decision through with me on the phone until the early hours and I went to bed with my head spinning, no clear idea of what I wanted to do just lots of muddled thoughts. But I remember very clearly waking the next morning, in the quiet that you only get when there is a world of snow outside your window, knowing exactly which publisher I wanted to choose, and why. And that was that.

Except it's been so much more than that since then. It was February before I could say anything about the London trip and March before I signed the contract with Transworld and made it official. I then worked with my editor, Susanna, and her assistant editor, Lizzy, on editing the novel. It was daunting at times (removing the voice of one character and rewriting it in the voice of another) but hugely enjoyable because I could see it all working and improving and becoming an even better book than it had started out as. I had a few weeks to breathe while Kate, the copyeditor, went through it and then mid-June, when I was immersed in end of year school reports, I had the novel back to check Kate's corrections and queries. That was my first experience of school work and writing work clashing in a big way - both with deadlines - and it took a bit of shuffling things around and three weeks of doing nothing else but work of one kind or the other to meet the deadlines. However, I really enjoyed working with Kate on the fine detail, ironing out all the inconsistencies and learning a fair amount along the way about how to use commas (or not, most of the time!) and by the beginning of July, this stage was complete and Kate asked me to think about my dedication and acknowledgements.

At the end of that week at the beginning of July, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with very advanced cancer and she died four days later. It was sudden and devastating and doubly hard to accept because we were still coming to terms with losing my father-in-law suddenly last year. It put the brakes on everything else that was happening. We somehow stumbled through to the end of term, and at some point in those couple of weeks I wrote my acknowledgements because it helped to focus on all the good people that I've been so privileged to meet and work with and learn from over the years. There have been many, and Cloudies will recognise quite a few of the names. This place itself, the Cloud, is the best thing that ever happened to me and my writing because it led me to so many different people and opportunities. (And on a side-note, I was looking through some of my old blogs earlier, where I talk about rejection and writing troubles and strategies and perseverance, and I had forgotten in all the excitement of the last few months just how far I've come since I joined the Cloud back in 2009.)

At the end of July, I was sent the page proofs to check through. I didn't really know what this was until I opened it - it turned out to be my book with typesetting and layout complete, but printed on paper rather than bound in a book. There's something very different about reading your book with the typesetting and layout compared to reading it as a Word document. It was starting to feel very real! However, it arrived mid-funeral planning, and finding time to sit down with it was impossible to begin with, but everyone at Transworld were incredibly supportive and lovely and the initial deadline was extended.

I finished reading the proof pages on Sunday, tweaked a bit more on Monday, and yesterday I caught a train to London, proofs in my bag, for a meeting at Transworld where I met the team (I know! My book has a team!): editor, publicist, marketing, sales, design... It's hard to take on board just how many people are involved in the production of a book, and even harder to understand that they are all working for *my* book! It was a brilliant meeting, and a brilliant bunch of people who all understand and love Jesika as much as I do. And.... *drumroll*.... Rich Shailer showed me his artwork for the cover.

Home Book Cover

I'm completely blown away by how perfect it is for the book I have written. Every time I look at it, I see another layer of meaning. It's just brilliant. And the cherry on top was seeing Kit de Waal's quote and realising that an author I admire (My Name is Leon – excellent book - go read it!) not only read my book but provided a quote for its cover.

What next? The book is due to be published in February next year, but the rest is a bit hazy. I was listening, but it was a lot to take in, plus I was concentrating a lot on not laughing hysterically or bursting into tears.

Aug 16th

A Carry On?

By mike


         I wrote this hopefully to amuse, but it is a bit long winded as it was necessary to put an extract from a book into some sort of context - both historical and personal.  The past can be both very immediate and very distant.  I had taken a redundancy package from work - over a year ago - to write full time.  My intention had been to research this sort of material but I think my face will not fit.


 I was entertained by John Alty’s memories of Egypt and the responses to it.  I looked though a journal recording a trip down the Nile Delta in 1832.  This was  to see if I could find a similar experience at roughly the same place - something similar that occurred nearly 200 years ago.   I am not sure if this is possible as the route might not be the same.  The villages mentioned are given their Egyptian/Arabic names - the names of 1832.  These villages might have been subsumed into urban centers.  Tookh El Naserra is a modern city.   In 1832 you arrived at  Alexandria by boat and had a series of options.  Crossing the desert to Cairo was the option the journalist took.  At that time the trail was a camel, well, horse and donkey track. I do not know if a modern road takes the same path?  I spent yesterday googling and had little success.  I think any modern route would take a different path.  The journalist comments; ”In moving along the wretched pathways leading from Kafr Diami to Tookh el Nassera, one of the baggage animals, which carried the bed of a gentleman of our party, rolled down the steep side of the embankment, not a foot wide in that part, and fell into a miry ditch, where both the animal and his load were soaked in mud.” 

     Each day of the journey  is recorded.   I have taken the day Monday nov 26, 1832 when the writer headed for Tookh, el Naserra.  The previous night had been spent at El Kodabe:  “where we were furnished by the Sheik el Belad, or ‘village chief,”  with a room for  ourselves, and a court provided for our beasts.  The Arabs always slept in the open air besides their asses.”

     An incident occurred the following evening.  I wonder if the descendants of Sheik el Balad and myself  could laugh at this incident over a shared bottle of wine?  It seems unlikely in today’s political climate.   The journalist is a great-great grandfather and his journal might best considered as having been found in the attic!

    “.......Upon our arrival at Tookh el Nassera, the Sheikh el Beled, in whose house we were lodged,  and several of his friends, came to visit us, and, sitting down on the mat, asked permission to read some papers which they carried in their hands, by the light of one of our candles. When they had looked over their papers, which we knew was merely done as an excuse for introducing themselves, they began, in a roundabout way, to enquire whether we could not spare them a little wine. We replied that we had none, but contented ourselves with drinking the water of the Nile. This they would not believe: no Europeans, they said, ever travelled without wine; they entreated us to let them share our stock.
      It was in vain that we assured them of the contrary; they remained incredulous; smoked their pipes; smiled, and looked quite persuaded that they should get some at last. At length they whispered some- thing about brandy; and one of our party proposed that we should give them a good dose of eau de Cologne: but this was over-ruled; and, after much useless entreaty and abundance of grimaces, they left
us in a passion..’

Well!!    I sincerely hope I have not caused an international incident.      

   The journals did have an afterlife and have not been forgotten.  I think they are remembered because the author wrote about ordinary Arab life. Other writers concentrated on Ancient Egypt.  Nevertheless, they might be little read today because the travel writer recorded detailed descriptions of these monuments which slows down the narrative.  

     Books were expensive items at the time.  The journals were published in two volumes of well over 1000 pages.  An early Victorian might have read extracts in the periodicals of the time, as extracts from books were used as fillers.   The journalist records an interview with Mohammed Ali.  The complete interview was published in the ‘Westminster Gazette.  I don’t think the word ‘journalist’ had the same meaning that it has today.  A journalist was someone who wrote journals.  But the interview might be a very early example of investigative journalism and the journals are ‘reportage’




Aug 16th

A blast from the past - and it's still happening today.

By stephenterry

PETCHABOON: -- A woman in the northern province Phetchaboon was arrested last month for cutting off her husband’s penis and throwing it into a trash can at the local bus station.

Buariow Wannarat, 54, was caught at a police checkpoint while on a bus to Bangkok. Police escorted her back to Phetchaboon Town to point out the trash receptacle where she discarded her man’s member.

Meanwhile, her husband, 40-year-old Sawang Wannarat, was taken to Lom Sak Hospital, where he was last reported as being in a stable condition.

Mrs Buariow told police that she had been married for 21 years: when she was 33 and Mr Sawang was a sprightly 19.

Recently, however, Mr Sawang started to treat her very badly, drinking heavily and shouting at her in public, she said. There was also gossip going around town that he was seeing other women.

On September 14, Mrs Buariow was drinking beer with friends near her house when Mr Sawang walked up and began shouting at her that she was cheating on him.

He said he was going to leave her and made her prostrate herself at his feet.

Around 10am the next day, Mrs Buariow was still enraged by the loss of face. While out buying her husband’s breakfast, she stopped off at the pharmacy to get some sleeping pills.

She mixed some of the pills in Mr Sawang’s morning drink, gave it to him and waited for them to take effect.

While Mr Sawang was sound asleep, Mrs Buariow sliced off his penis and put it in a plastic bag. She then took a bus from their house in Lom Sak to Phetchaboon Town Bus Station, where she threw the organ in a trash can before boarding a bus to Bangkok.

She was stopped by police in Nong Phai District, which borders Muang District to the south.

After making Mrs Buariow tell them where she threw the penis, police sent the organ to Lom Sak Hospital so doctors could try and reattach it.

At the time of writing it was still unclear whether Mr Sawang would regain any use of his severed manhood.

Thai doctors are world-renowned for the expertise in reattaching severed penises.

Knowing this, some of those responsible for the cutting have taken extra precautions to make such surgery impossible. Severed members have been boiled, fed to ducks or even attached to hot air balloons in the past

Aug 15th

The Now and Then of it

By Cissy
Prop's remark on the Wall prompted something in me; his wonder if more are putting the Cloud in the back drawer of their mind because of the sometimes heated discussions that tend to take center stage. 
I sat back and tried to arrange that muddled brain. Is that my case? 
And No. 
To the Yes first, and there I've to go back a bit in time. It's little over two years I put one of my stories on the Cloud. Taking a deep breath, I chucked it on the forum of General Critiques, waiting to be judged. I was, in the most positive and kind way which made me happy to learn more. What struck me when I just went back to find it, I only had to go back to page 14. As groups dont tend to thrive here, the General Critiques forum is the one to post your writing but little over two years and page 14. What did that tell me? 
I'm rusty - life took over for a while - but I recently wrote a piece for one of Barbs writing challenges. Nobody was interested so she deleted the group. She's quite right to do so. It apparently didnt attract other takers but it made me wonder: this is a writers forum. 
Don't whine, you'd say, plenty of other challenges here and that's true but I must admit: I'm still struggling with the August comp but that's me. I'm just not a sea person and although the quote rooted itself stubbornly in my small brain, "in the sea there are no signposts" (Vita Sackville-West), nothing comes. I'm a mountain person!  Right. Get a grip out of your comfort zone. Maybe its still hatching but I'm expecting a difficult birth if any.
To the No then. The discussions on a ray of subjects are interesting and the way people write about it passionately, makes me read. They use their writing muscles, sometimes beautifully; they try to make their point and writers always have a point to make. I soak it up.
Do people stay away on that account? I'm not sure. Sometimes your focus is elsewhere and it might indeed even be on writing but the world has place for all; some come and go, some come back, some don't. The funny thing is I wrote that two years ago too so that definitely tells me something: I'll stick around but I guess its in my own time, my own pace and on my own merits. I still believe that the Cloud has plenty to offer for everybody. For me, I learn from you; not only to educate myself or to learn skills but also to laugh, wonder and transport myself to another world you create for me, if only for a little while.
We have a choice here and its yours what you pick. Gosh, it almost sounds like a virtual democracy :) Prop, you can shiver....:)
Now is this a blog or an article, I never understood the difference and find a title....! I'll borrow Alan's mixed with OFP, sorry guys. It rolled of the keyboard in no time so you just made me use those rusty writing muscles. Isn't that what the Cloud is about too? I think it is. Nice night all! C
Aug 14th

Do we need Aspic

By AlanP

These days if you visit an old house, property, gardens etc, partcularly ones run under the auspices of the National Trust or English Heritage, the idea that a visitor might come close to, or even touch the fabric or an exhibit will cause some curator to shake their heads and intone a lecture about cumulative wear and tear and the importance of preservation. Grease and other unpleasant stuff oozing from the body of that inconvenient human creature will destroy the exhibit and then it will be lost forever.

Yet, until relatively recently this stuff was just stuff. Stuff people sat on, walked over, leaned on, ate off or turned the pages of. I have come across such stuff in my recent loft clear out as I am being cold turkyed out of my addiction to keeping stuff. It isn't really that fragile and in any event shouldn't the people paying for the operation of the National Trust or English Heritage be treated a little better than Jabba the Hut squirting bodily waste products over anything they get close to.

Upton House, near Banbury is a lovely NT visit. They don't do, Do Not Touch. In fact they encourage people to experience the house. It's a much better visit for it and I don't see the house or the exhibits crumbling to dust or dissolving in slightly acidic bodily waste.

And Stonehenge. You are kept so far back you almost need binoculars to see it. Yet it has stood for nearly 5,000 years, survived wars, Druids, tomb raiders and amateur archeologists. It even survived me, I'm the one in shorts. 1965 I think was when I tried to topple it with my Dad - he's the other one.

Have they taken this preservation thing too far now. I can't see how kids can engage with a few storyboards when the real thing is just over there.