A recent blog about the first impressions we make on people
and how people react to our appearance as inspired me to consider
the matter further. The author of the blog, a self described
member of the “younger generation” commented and lamented how her
choices in clothing and footwear brought a reaction from a member
of the “older generation”. I wondered if the old boy’s comments
may have been misunderstood humour, an insult, or just a genuine
I took time to examine my own appearance and I pondered on
how people react to me. I considered my size. I am 6’3” and about
18 stones (with the inevitable holiday padding). This
circumstance often brings reactions but I am probably so used to
them that I filter them out.
I further considered the points of my appearance which I
have direct control over. The things I make a choice about. My
hair style, my clothes, shoes, and watch are all a matter of
choice. I pondered if I was consciously or otherwise making a
statement about who I am. I do not yet have an answer to
After reading further comments from other readers of the
blog, I once again considered the appearance of my social circle.
I found some interesting (to me) things. It seems that there is a
reverse correlation between wealth and nice clothes. The few guys
I know who are very well off seem to shop at the skip behind the
local Oxfam shop. Yet some of our labourers
look like they spend their entire take home pay on labels and
The blogger further challenged us to seek out contact with someone from another peer group. For me, the Cloud performs this perfectly. My social and work circles would never overlap with many on here and I have come to respect and accept (most, …well… maybe just some….) of the views of the Cloudies here.
Among my own social circles, Parks a Forman of a scaffolding company and like me, a former Legionnaire, has over the past year, taken to growing dreadlocks. He is keenly aware that scaffolding careers end before mortgage payments and he has set up a small market stall selling clothing and jewellery from India. His missus noticed that his usual crew-cut was frightening off potential customers so he decided to change his whole appearance as a marketing tool. He still drinks his eight pints of scrumpy and rips arms off people who take the piss out of him for his hair but he sells three times more on his stall… He looks like someone who never found his way back from the first Glasto.
I thought back to my time in uniform and the reactions I
received from civilians. It brought back a few laughs. One of
those was from a pompous university professor a long time
ago….when I was a member of that “younger
As a young sergeant way back in the late ‘70’s I was
selected to attend Auburn University, a large mainstream
institute of higher learning. It seemed the powers that be deemed
I was worthy of higher education and away I went.
While there, I was required to wear my uniform to classes.
It was sort of a recruiting type thing. I was exposed to the
liberal free thinking world of academia and they in turn were
exposed to a very young, very well trained sergeant of airborne
infantry. When Worlds
My entrance examinations (CLEP College Level Examination
Program) were high enough that I did not have to take many of the
fundamental survey courses and I was enrolled in mid level
courses. The maths and sciences were a doddle, nothing teaches
physics, trigonometry and geometry better than the mortar
gunnery, long range rifle marksmanship and combat demolitions
courses taught at Ft Bragg and Ft Benning.
The liberal arts courses on the other hand were brutal for
me. Philosophy discussions about Nietzsche’s view on happiness
and comparative analysis with Plato and Kant….Why would I care
what a collection of drugged out mushroom eaters thought about
But the best was a sociology course, “A Survey of Group
Dynamics”…SC211. Professor Dobbs. Dobbs was a
self styled counter culture hero and had used the acclaim of his
tenured status to push his views on society and politics rather
than attempt to teach the actual syllabus of the course. His eyes
sparked with glee when he noted my uniformed presence in his
classroom on the first day. I was the physical embodiment of the
“establishment” he had made a living out of mocking.
We exchanged veiled insults and as I needed the grade in order to maintain my presence in school, I performed on cue with Attila the Hun style answers to his questions. He asked what my function was in the Army and I replied that I was a recon scout in an Airborne Rifle Regiment. He pressed further and asked what that involved. I dutifully replied that it involved “jumping out of airplanes and killing people”. Debate followed on my ability to ignore the moral implications of that and he made his plans…
The next lesson was changed and we were told we would be performing a group exercise. Dobbs explained that we would be divided into four teams of six. The scenario was that we were all survivors from a plane crash and we were given a list of equipment to salvage from the burning wreckage. We were to prioritise the equipment with the task of getting our team off the mountain alive and we were in competition with the other groups for the equipment in burning wreckage. We could trade and negotiate with the other teams and when all of this was completed we would be graded on our performance. Lord of the Flies
The list included food, a radio, water, medical kit,
a rifle and ammunition and several other bits. We all settled
down in our groups and made out lists. Dobbs asked each team to
have one person present their lists and their rational. He nodded
as each team went through their lists and finally asked our team
to present our findings.
He smiled with unsuppressed glee as I stood to present our
list. He said “Now Sergeant Jefferson will present to us his list
I nodded and said “number 1…. Rifle and ammo… Number 2…”
and he cut me off.
“Why am I not surprised that the representative of the military has selected his comfort blanket of a gun first?....perhaps his personal insecurities…. or perhaps a symbol of his fears….or perhaps something more phallic? ...Sergeant, would you care to explain why you chose the gun as number 1 when no other group has done so? Sergeant?” he smiled as he crossed his arms in front of his chest, leaned against his desk and looked at me to reply…
“Well Sir, “ I said
“Professor” he interrupted
“Yes Sir” I continued…”You explained that our mission..”
“TASK” he interrupted again.
“Yes Sir, Our mission was to get our group off the mountain and that we were in competition with the other groups for the kit salvaged from the burning aircraft…”
“Yes…yes” he nodded impatiently and waved his hand for me to continue….
“Well Sir, if I have the weapon then I have all of the kit that our group has …..plus all of the kit the other groups have when I point the rifle at them….”
He stood up, uncrossed his arms and looked at once horrified and shocked.
“You would use the gun” he started…
“Rifle, Sir, it’s a rifle” I interrupted with a smile….
“You would use it to take the supplies from the other groups?” he stammered…..
“In the parameters of your exercise, yes sir. You
stated the conditions, and the mission was to
get my group off the mountain alive….I would use the rifle to
accomplish the mission…….My people would come off that mountain
alive…” I replied.
“Class dismissed, Sergeant, I would like to see you in my
office after please…” he said while smiling and
“Yes professor Dobbs, straight after class.” I
After a brief chat, I got a distinction pass and never
attended his class again….he even shook my hand as I left his
So sometimes it seems that first impressions are actually pretty accurate. I was exactly what he expected; maybe I played to his expectations a bit. And he was a pretty clever guy underneath his pompous persona.
As the New Year approached young Lawrence sat in the officer’s mess wondering what he must do to gain renown.
“This is no good” he muttered. “Soon another year will have passed and I still haven’t done anything that will get an epic film made of my life, with soaring music and sweeping desert vistas. I must do something!”
Not much later he heard of a fort three days into the desert, that was besieged. He bought a camel and armed to the teeth he set off across the desert to bring support to the defenders. After two days journey his camel suddenly dropped down dead as a hammer, leaving young Lawrence in a right old pickle. But he was made of stern stuff and after four days walking and somewhat gasping for a drink he made it to the fort. The fort wasn’t besieged after all, these stories do get mixed up. But the garrison thanked him for the thought and gave him a drink and a bed for the night.
He stayed for a while but eventually the boredom of daily looking out over the sweeping sands, with no hordes of enemies bearing down on him so he could be heroic got to him. He determined to return to the capital, where he had set out from, and to seek better adventures. Being a bright lad, as well as ambitious and fearless, he realised he had made something of a logistical error in his transport arrangements. Having asked around he was directed to a grizzled old Sergeant Major who, it was confidently predicted, would advise him well.
Lawrence related his tale. The Sergeant Major pondered for a while, stroking his grizzled old cheek:
“It’s a three day journey across the desert by camel,” he said.
Lawrence opined that it had been judged so by those he had asked for directions when he set out.
“I’ll bet you bought your camel from Al Hamadi’s camel mart,” suggested the Sergeant Major.
Lawrence admitted as much.
“You see, he’s a decent old stick is Al Hamadi, but he just can’t brick a camel properly. And you will only get three days desert travelling from a camel that’s been properly bricked.”
Lawrence gave out that he was confused by this statement and was at a loss as to how a camel might be properly bricked. Or even what bricking entailed.
The Sergeant Major explained, “You take you camel, a male camel, mind, just before the journey and you bring it to the water trough. The trough is low and a tall camel has to bend in order to drink. Now this is where the skill comes in. You must wait until it has just about drunk its fill but still has its face in the trough. You come around behind the animal who, as he is bending to the trough has presented his er, wedding tackle, at the rear. Taking a couple of bricks you bring them smartly together on said apparatus and”;
Here the Sergeant Major did a passing fair impersonation of a camel with crushed bollocks and its face in a trough of water sucking up a further six or seven gallons of water.
“That ensures a good load of water and he’s good to go for three days.
Lawrence pondered for a moment on how much he didn’t yet know about desert adventuring, but had just one further question. He asked,
“Isn’t that rather painful?”
To which the Sergeant Major said, “Only if you get your thumbs caught between the bricks”
And the rest, as they say, is history.
- SAVAGE WARRIORS -
by Ursula von Ziegler
- Tale 1 -
:Cold and Slaughter:
In a faraway place, where the winter's iced hills cover the Halls of Frozen City, a new hero was born. Forged into fire of battle, she become one of the most powerful warriors from all time. Member of the Viking Royal kindred, she grown with the blade by her side, fighting in the battlefields arm to arm with her father and brothers.
When a strange entity tries to destroy the balance between Earth and Sky, the Viking kings decided to summon one of their kind, to fight for hope and glory, and to bring peace into their lands.
When the warrior was chosen by their gods, the kings refused to accept that a young maid will carry such a large responsibility by herself, but they also couldn't question the judgement of their divine Gods.
No long after the maid was chosen, the four kings gathered their armies and raised her as general over them. When she received the blessings from her parents she headed to the mountain of the Harden Waterfalls, where she had to meet the son of the second Viking king, Ledan, and join forces against their enemies.
Several days have passed until she has reached the edge of the Aran Mountain, the pass which lead them towards the waterfalls. After recognizing the dark woods of Nefareh she took some precautions and made a plan while she rose a camp near the woods, she was feeling the strong pressure in the air, a feeling of cold and slaughter.
- Tomorrow we will continue our course, the only chance to find the others is to cross these woods, so we will need some rest. muttered the girl watching close into her men's eyes.
- But, Jaana, it is dangerous to follow this path. hissed her brother. These are his woods.
- Shua, please have a little faith in me, I believe in all of you, so that's why I know that we all will survive into this war. We are Vikings, the kings of these lands, and we will fight for them, to rule them and to save our balance.
Her men seemed to have more confidence after hearing Jaana's voice, rising an absolute courage into their hearts.
Jaana remembered the story her father used to tell about the little Nefareh, a child which was always ready to give his life for his woods.
“Born into one of the three Barbarian tribes from north, son of Galean and Amara, he has been send into those woods at his tenth birthday to prove that he's worth of taking his father's place one day.
More days passed and the boy didn't returned from his mission, so Galean took five of his best men and followed Nefareh's tracks by crossing the sharp paths of the cold mountain. In their way, the men saw dead orcs and Vikings, murdered in the most fierce methods. Several wounds opened by the edge of the blade were still bleeding, no long to know that they were close to the boy, and will find him soon.
- This is not the work of a Barbarian. My son has gone too far. spoke Galean looking like out of his mind around and hoping to find a survivor.
- We are close, it is wise to have your people to rest for tonight, I have a feeling that soon we will need all our strength to face him. the young Oracle murmured after she has thrown her runes over the dark flames she rose with her breath.
- What you see Renna?
The woman's eyes closed once she heard the howl of the wolves. Her voice enchanted the man's soul while she was singing a cadence, hypnotic, like the dark elegy falling from a child's innocent blood. The northern winds brought her the infernal rages of the ones who fell victims into the boy's hands. Feeling their agony, she separated the runes from the flames and threw them away.
- Who'll go there, will go forever...once you meet them you will not be able to escape from their necromancy. she murmured breathing so fast as her lungs were ready to explode.
- Escape from whom?
- The Muses! These are their woods. she cried laying her head on Galean's shoulder.
- Nefareh will be fine, we just need to have faith, I will save him. the barbarian muttered trying to calm down the woman.
Galean send three of his men to gain some information about the woods and to find his son. Renna fell asleep after Galean covered her with some blankets near the fire he made. He felt the night's presence spreading its dark mantle over the sky and saw the sun hiding its waves beyond the mountain of stars.”
A strong howl from inside the woods awoke Jaana. The burning desire to know from where came this broken howl, took control over her senses, like she was dragged by an unseen force, a hand which was leading her more and more into the forest's womb.
Not far from the camp, a white dragon flew through the fire's sparkling flames, ascending across the thunders, followed by strong lightning lines, all breaking at the earth through the frozen storm. The dragon's eyes discerned a vague shape, a human, laid over the cold white layer, in the middle of some old-enormous trees, which, by her luck, were protecting her from the storm's deadly rage.
TO BE CONTINUED...
I will not be defeated. I work hard for something, and one day I shall be paid for it as well. January is a cold, grey month when one's head is down and shoulders hunched, and I doubt that many people will be shoping as they count the costs of Christmas.
However, the only way to deal with dark depressing times where nothing is going to happen, is to do something else.
This January I shall try and produce some prototype Lady Kimonii and then show them to some people. Not work people, real people; I shall blog and squidoo and write articles about my progress and slowly slowly spread the word. I do not expect sales, I also don't want any, what I want is to plant a seed.
My initial thoughts are to make one with black pants and a leopard print top - very 1950's glamor I hope, and then hopefully one in a hounds tooth check or similar to have a pants suit feel. My third idea is something floral and pretty, something like a summer dress but with the added advantage of being shorts so when the wind blows, you won't flash your knickers.
If anyone has any other ideas for Kimonii options for ladies, then I'd like to hear them - I have thought about Chinese satin as well and have found a rather nice gold printed batick fabric which has the feel of Chinese satin but is cotton.
On the other work front, I will research my new book idea, so will be reading a large book about the history of the Ukraine and a few novels on the side. I will also get my submission pack together for my now massively revised book and see how that goes.
January - I stare you in the face and do not flinch.
For anyone interested in this genre, I can highly recommend it. Some of the exercises make you answer questions that then trigger off plot ideas. For example, if you're going to write about vampires:
1. How do they become one?
2. How can you kill them?
3. What does the sun do to them?
Garlic? Crosses? Holy water?
There's some of these that almost feel prescribed - as if you have to stick to a certain lore. But where is that lore coming from?
It's a popular "belief" that vampires combust and turn to immediate dust in the sun, but this is a more recent development. The myth stories had them not coping with the light as they'd been buried in a grave for a while. If you're creating a paranormal world, then the rules are whatever you say they are: human torch, slight discomfort, sparkling. (Calm down, calm down).
Once you have these rules, they have to be communicated to the reader. This is hopefully without an info dump. Which brings me to something I've seen which I thought was a great way to go about it.
A recent work avoidance technique I have been employing is to watch back to back episodes of the series "Moonlight". The interview scene at the start of this is a very clever device for setting the rules of this world.
Forty five years ago, or thereabouts, I used to start each Christmas with Midnight Mass at Ilkley Monastery. A small band of us would be selected each year from our school, St Thomas Aquinas in Leeds, to give dramatic readings between the liturgy and carols. We would gather in the upstairs area at the back of the church whilst our families swelled the small congregation below, and as our turns came along we would speak up in the youthful pride of doing something both skilful and meaningful.
It was a resonant way to start the great day, so much so that ever since I have felt a sense of anti-climax to Christmas. Why? After all, the subsequent delight of babies and children and Christmas trees and presents should fill any heart with cheer. But something was missing. What?
Perhaps I found it this morning. I was at York Minster and the hour was the more sedate one of ten o’clock. Browsing through the booklet for the ‘Solemn Eucharist of Christmas Day’ I was struck afresh, as can often happen, by familiar words: ‘Those who live in darkness are seeing a great light.’
Well, there’s no lack of darkness to dispel in our world: collapsing ecology, collapsing financial system, collapsing family system, unemployment, homelessness, riots on the streets, alienated underclass, insane consumerism, blinkered materialism, wilful ignorance, inconsequential greed, and so on.
An intrusion of light into all this would be welcome.
I cannot claim any notable quantities of world-saving light intruded into Ilkley Monastery forty five years ago. But in our readings and liturgy we helped dramatise the idea of such an intrusion. We were at the darkest point of the twelve-month year, the darkest point of the twenty-four hour day. We were in the wilds of the North, perched on a moor, crammed in a small monastery, a tiny outpost of light. And our words were swords of light, and our hearts were spears of light, and our souls were shields of light.
And just at that time, just in that place, we were cosmic warriors even if we did not know it. We were fighting for the light, and that is what I have done – inexpertly and ineffectively – ever since. Not at Christmas, though. My post-Ilkley Christmases have been entirely conformist. And that, perhaps, is where the anti-climax comes from.
But of course I'm not here to talk about Sim I'm talking about Noel Langley who did this particular screen adaptation, and it would be wrong to ignore the contribution that script makes to the film's success (which goes way beyond Sim's dominating central performance).
I just assumed that the writer of Scrooge would have a raft of Ealing comedies and small British films I had never heard of on his CV, but Langley is actually quite intriguing. He was born in South Africa but worked predominantly in the US, though Scrooge is far from his only UK cedit. His best known credit I was shocked to find is for The Wizard of Oz, a job he won on the basis of his successful children's book the Tale of the Land of Green Ginger. Oz famously went through 3 directors but it was also worked on by 18 writers! Including some I have already blogged about (John Lee Mahin is one of the most surpising names), Langley was one of only 3 to get a credit, ironically since he hated what was done to his script and didn't like the finished film to the extent that he tried to make a sequel using the bits of his original which were cut out.
Adaptation seems to have been a something Langley specialised in; he adapted Dickens again for a largely unregarded version of Pickwick Papers, as well as Tom Browne's Schooldays and Svengali. Swashbucklers seem to have been another interest (and I should make it clear that I'm interpreting from his CV here, I know next to nothing about the man!), he scripted Knights of the Round Table, Prisoner of Zenda (The Stewart Granger version) and, most famously, Ivanhoe.
Though the screenplay work seems to have stopped in the fifties I have to say that my main interest in Langley is his abilty to write in different media. As well as film he was a novellist and playwright, he wrote for both television and radio as well as being a short story writer for various magazines. As a jobbing writer myself who has tried his hand at everything and will happily go where the money is, I identify with this and admire it. A writer isn't a writer unless he writes, doesn't matter what, and Noel Langley was clearly a writer through and through.