Jun 30th

The Gatecrasher

By Noodledoodle

Today, I gatecrashed someone else’s party. I got wind that there was to be a gathering of cloudies and invited myself to join in the fun. The venue? One I missed out on last time.

The Rainbow’s End café is where we were to meet. Could I find it? No I could not. A hasty text : Where the fuck is it? Only to be told by the woman in the Burns the Bread bakery that it was adjacent, across the street. It didn’t look like a rainbow’s end, not a leprechaun or pot of gold in sight. It didn’t look like a café either, but then again, I was in Glastonbury.

Whilst queuing for a drink, I managed to throw the contents of my purse (1p) at an American couple who had just flown in.

‘What coin was that you just assaulted me with?’

I showed her. ‘Oh. That’s a penny. You can’t buy anything with it though.’

I ordered an elderflower cordial. It looked like water. Shit. They’d think I’m a tight wad ordering a glass of water — not exactly supporting local business there. ‘It’s elderflower cordial.’ Phew.

The conversation switched quickly from Brexit (phew again) to crystals, radios and electromagnetic –energy ‘n’ stuff — none of which I felt particularly qualified to comment on, on account of being a bit thick. I’m quite good at nodding and smiling sweetly… in fact, I have mastered the thoughtful and boffin-like stroking of the chin, so I think I may have got away with it.

Next was a whistle stop tour! Bums and nips galore… our host commented that the bum was an excellent likeness of the real thing. I think it was at that point, I popped on my over-sized sunglasses.

We stopped in a garlanded courtyard outside The Goddess shop – the most wonderful shade of lilac – apparently, women used to wear the trousers in Glasto and the Goddess was weaving her magic ( and her hands into pockets when no-one was looking) amongst the women folk to reinstate their inner goddesses and take over the world…  Low and behold in a less flowing, more butt-crack clingy robe of magisterial purple appeared The Goddess. I mean the real bloody GODDESS! My inner goddess opened my eyes just a little bit wider. I’m not sure if it was awe, or just to take in the cheddar gorge of her cleavage.

Next. The apothecary. I came over all euphoric… I don’t think it was incense they were burning in there… but, man, it smelled sooooooo good. Smudgestick. Smudgestick. Smudgestick. I think the Crystal King with the personalised number plate and the bleach blond hair is married to the Goddess. Is she the boss of him? She wasn’t wearing his trousers. He has some really nice crystals and pyramids. Opalite is synthetic. Fuck me.

The incense wore off just as we approached a beautiful little church, abutted by converted almshouses. The little church smelt delish too but it was shifting and cracks had appeared in the walls. I shoved an old receipt from my purse into the collection box (sounded just like a crisp note) and lit a candle, singeing the tip of my finger. Where’s a font when you need one? Um. What do I pray for? OK, I hope it doesn’t cost too much to fix the boat and can my dad please not have cancer? That’ll do it.

We had a wonderful tour of the almshouses once inhabited by men in need of a roof over their heads. For the third time (the first was the candle, the second was the cancer) I tried not to cry. A young man approached us; a destitute young man in need of a roof over his head. He’d nowhere to go.  He was compassionately offered some quiet time in the church.

‘I’m sorry’ was the theme of little exhibition in the next house. Like wring me out. Sniff. Some very thought-provoking, tear-inducing pieces — I will not cry in public.

At the bottom of the garden was a very sad thing. Modern day almshouses or halfway houses which once helped young men adjust to society after prison. Shut. No funding. Empty. Gutting.

Time was fast approaching for us to leave. A heavy cloud lurked over the tor, but held off as we were guided to a cluster of eco-homes that actually made money from their energy. How ingenious and inspirational of the designer?

A quick cuppa in the Gecko… the Faerie Queen danced by, pink dreads like ropes… witches, angels, faeries and goddesses, they had it all here; a town where it’s normal to ask a woman wearing pentangle earrings if she’s a witch. She could well be either or even 50/50.

I was expecting hippies smoking pot and pissing in the alleys.

What I got was a little corner of heaven.


I WILL be back.

Jun 30th

a case of mistaken identity

By mike

Owing to the necessity of replacing household items, I have been visiting my local shopping centre. While waiting for my bus home,  carrying a pot of Wilco’s matt white emulsion paint, I was approached by an elderly lady who asked me if I was Jeremy Corbyn.  I glanced at the bus queue with some  alarm but no distress occurred.  It is unlikely the queue would have payed much attention. Locally, thoughts to do  not go much deeper than who won “Come Dancing’

 i think she realized she made a mistake, as Corbyn would have cycled and gone for the Dulux Brand.

 She said something along  the lines of, “well you look like him. “ 

The whole event was quite distressing as I tactlessly asked her what she felt about Corbyn.  She replied on the lines that he really should learn to toe the party line. But then my bus approached and I escaped,

 I have gone into hiding and would rather  blog that it is quite possible to construct a novel around a teapot found in an emporium, or about ‘racism’ but this might cause offense but in my now role as Corbin double....?   The word has been musued on Word Cloud and certainly in Radio 4  Well, I think so...



Jun 30th

Grammar - it's not easy...is it?

By stephenterry

Family Capitalisation.

  An interesting short debate occurred on the Critiques forum. Rather than clog up the OP’s post, I’ve transferred it to this blog. Contributors:- Seagreen, Richard, Whisks and me.

It centres on the family. Mother and Father – and Son & Daughter. Can we ignore Daughter, because its occurrence is less common?

When is it grammatically correct to use capitals? And when can the ‘rule’ be ignored/altered?

Here are a few examples:

1. Go and talk to Mother (Father), she (he) doesn’t understand.

2. “Don’t worry, Son, it’ll be fine," said his father.

3. "Not yet, Son.”

4. "Well done, Son.”

5. “Now, let's go tell Mum.”

Note – all capitals. Correct?

  But what about this?

6. Go and talk to Son, he doesn’t understand.

Is this really correct? Grammatically, maybe, but we would normally prefix the son with a personal pronoun like ‘my’ or ‘your’, wouldn’t we?

7. Go and talk to my (your) son, he doesn’t understand.

  It gets even more complicated if we treat the ‘son’ as a ‘term of endearment’, like ‘honey’. Is this feasible? Used as such, ‘son’ is always in lower case, e.g.

8. “Don’t worry, son, it’ll be fine," said his father. (See 2. above).

9. "Well done, son.” (See 4. above.)

 Hopefully this gives food for thought, and it’s not as simple as it looks, is it?

Jun 29th

Forgotten Places: Eden Valley and the North Pennines


As I write, I am marooned.


A friend and I, both keen cyclists, attempted the popular C2C route, biking from Whitehaven to - theoretically - Newcastle, but we seem to have come a little unglued; his knee has popped and he's hired a car and gone off home while I had a crack at the rest of the route by myself.


I can still hear the warnings of local people we talked to: there's rain coming; you'll get wet; the weather will not be your friend, but only when I was climbing out of Penrith did I get a sense of what they meant. The jokes about rain coming in at forty-five degrees seemed now a pretty conservative description of what was happening. Coming over Hartside Summit I thought: fuck this shit. Next town I'm stopping.


That town is Alston, where I am now. I'll be honest: I've never heard of it, but talking to the proprietress, I understand I'm in, or certainly near to, the Eden Valley, otherwise known as the bit of Cumbria that's not the lakes, and it is one of the most perfectly remote spots I can think of in the UK. The Pennines - with whom I now have quite a complex relationship - keep the rest of the world at bay, although now that I think about it, and check the maps, I'm East of Eden. The proprietor and her husband are involved with local businesses, trying to rebrand the place.


I know Appleby-in-Westmoreland solely from the horse fairs that gypsies and their fellows attend. That's a little way away though; here there is mining history, farming - it's pretty quiet in a very appealing way.


Tomorrow I'll orient my cycle towards Barnard Castle and start thinking about home. It's not the route we planned but that's done for the moment. The proprietor says the way there is stunning, and for the sake of my sodden wet clothes, I hope she's right. I'm sure she is, if the landscape uncovered thus far is anything to go by. 




Jun 28th

Has Anyone used or heard of FeedARead.com Publishing?

By Newbie

Nervously I ask this question as I am in the process of KDP- ing the first book of a trilogy.

Apart from losing weight through worrying, perspiring and forgetting to eat, I've combined all that with the possibility of using Createaspace or Ingram Spark to print and distribute print on demand copies as well as looking at other Self Publishing sites and am now in meltdown.

Then I came across FeedARead.com which was established with Arts Council funding to enable writers to publish with higher royalties, and give new authors a chance.

Publishers such as Random House and Orion also give feedback on the opening chapters of the top ten books every four months.

They'll publish your manuscript for free, including an ISBN and you can sell it either inhouse or for a distribution fee of £88 they'll make it available to leading booksellers worldwide, inlcuding Amazon and Barnes and Noble. They have  a wide range of distributors in the UK, USA, Australia and other countries, and have the largest global network of its kind.

Any thoughts? Anyone?

Jun 27th

To sleep, perchance to waste my time

By Thomas H. Brand

(This post was originally published at www.thomashbrand.com)

The whole “sleeping” nonsense is nothing but a pain.

Life is unavoidably divided between the things that we want to do and the things that we need to do. And as much as – if I were granted total freedom of definition – I would count writing as a need, I have to accept that it cannot as yet be categorised with such things as buying and preparing food, ensuring money is earned and bills are paid, keeping my home clean and maintained, attending to my physical and mental wellbeing, etc., etc. Only once these responsibilities are acquitted – or at least once I’ve planned for them to be acquitted at a later date – can I dedicate my time to what I want to do.

But I only have a certain amount of energy per day. I can’t write if I’m exhausted. On a normal day, I get very little time to get writing done. I can basically count on about 45 minutes on a weekday and maybe 30 or so each evening, but that is only as long as the day-job isn’t particularly stressful and I’m left with no spare energy and I don’t have some other tasks that need priority. Weekends can vary, but again they will often be taken up with other tasks that need doing.

So until I reach that point where I earn enough from my writing that it takes over from my day-job and so moves from a want to a need, I have to accept that I exist in a world where I have stuff to get done, and not enough time in the day to do it because I am burdened with the frustrating need to sleep.

But I would have time if I wasn’t burdened with this frustrating need to sleep.

Did you know that no one knows so certain even why we need sleep? There are various theories, but no one can give a definitive answer. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes sleep – or at least curling up in bed – can be amazing. But I would like the choice!

Wouldn’t it be great if we had that choice? To simply decide that tonight I won’t sleep, as I have stuff to get done. If sleep was simply a way to pass the time when there was nothing else to get done? To live in a world where the day could be given over to responsibilities, and the night left free for us to get on with enjoying ourselves or working on personal projects?

Can science get on this, please? I’d be really grateful.

Jun 25th

Brexit Humour....

By /

1. Sir Bob Geldof had returned his Knighthood and tweeted that he has never bee so ashamed to be British... Not a real problem as he's Irish...


2. Parks was inTesco this morning when the cashier asked the foreign couple in front of him if they wanted any help packing... 'Fuck me, that's a bit quick...' he said....





4.  Laugh or cry... It's time to accept and move on.... possibly to Spain....


5. Next year's referendum is to leave NATO and then possibly the solar system...

Jun 22nd


By RichardB

Inspired by Alan's recent blog about truth and lies, and by passing near the place concerned a few days ago, I thought I'd share this piece with you. At least it'll give you a break from the referendum.


Just north of Gretna Green the M74 passes through a flat, quiet countryside of green fields and scattered trees. It is an entirely unremarkable landscape, and as you drive through it there is no clue that, less than a mile from the motorway across those empty, peaceful fields, lies the site of the worst railway disaster in British history.

It happened at 6.49 on a sunny Saturday morning in May 1915, on the then Caledonian Railway, part of what is now known as the West Coast Main Line, at an isolated signal box called Quintinshill. A southbound troop train, carrying two companies of the Royal Scots on their way to Gallipoli, collided head-on with a northbound early morning local passenger train that was standing on the southbound line, having been shunted to let a sleeper express from Euston pass. A minute later the express arrived and ploughed into the wreckage. The gas used to light the antiquated wooden carriages of the troop train caught fire from the spilled coals of the wrecked locomotives, and an inferno ensued. The details are harrowing, and I am not going to repeat them here.

There is some imprecision about the death toll, as the regimental roll was lost in the fire, but it is usually given as 227.

This terrible catastrophe was attributed to a tragically simple cause: the slapdash working practices and gross negligence of the two signalmen who were in the box at the time (the accident happened just after a change of shift). They were both found guilty of culpable homicide, the Scottish equivalent of manslaughter, and imprisoned. Other British railwaymen have faced charges of manslaughter after accidents, but usually mitigating circumstances have been put forward, and as far as I know the only other time a prison sentence has resulted was following what amounted to a deliberate act of sabotage by a signalman.

Malpractice there certainly was. For a start, the incoming signalman, James Tinsley, should have taken over at 6.00, but an informal (and strictly illicit) arrangement had grown up between him and his colleague, George Meakin, whereby the signal box train register would be falsified to cover up the unauthorised changeover time. Then Tinsley had hitched a lift, also illicit, to the signal box from his home in a railway cottage at Gretna Station, on the engine of the local passenger train. The shunting of that train onto the southbound line was a perfectly safe and legitimate procedure (it had already been done several times in the preceding months), providing Meakin, who’d taken the decision to shunt the train, took certain precautions to protect it, but he didn’t.

I’ll spare you the technical details, but one result was that the signalman in the next box to the north wasn’t told that the southbound line was blocked, and so saw no reason why he shouldn’t offer (as they say in signalling parlance) the troop train forward to Quintinshill. He went ahead and offered it.

Even then everything would still have been okay if Tinsley had declined to accept it. Nothing worse would have happened than the troop train being delayed for a few minutes at a danger signal until the express had passed Quintinshill and the local passenger train had crossed back to the northbound line to continue its journey.

But he did accept it. With the train he had alighted from only a few minutes earlier standing right outside his signal box, blocking the line, he gave permission for the troop train to proceed and cleared all his signals for it. Meakin, who was still in the box at the time reading a newspaper, didn’t realise what was happening.

The troop train, trying to make up for earlier delays and running under clear signals on a falling gradient, hurtled towards disaster at an estimated 70-plus mph. A heavy train travelling at that sort of speed takes at least a mile to stop, which is why we have signals. With his sightline obstructed by a curve and an overbridge until he was only 200 yards away, its unfortunate driver hadn’t a chance of averting the collision. He slammed his brakes on, but was only able to reduce speed to about 40 mph before his engine struck the stationary engine of the local. The impact reduced the troop train from a length of over 200 yards to a pile of wreckage just 67 yards long.

You may well ask how Tinsley could have had such an astonishing lapse of memory, even though he was distracted by being in the middle of his falsification of the train register, even though the signal levers were at the back of the box, so that the men worked with their backs to the line, looking out of the side windows. His own words in court, ‘I forgot about it [the local passenger train] the minute I jumped off the engine and it never entered my mind again until after the accident had happened,’ seem, if anything, even more beyond belief than the bare facts. How was it possible for him to forget so completely the train he’d just arrived on? One of Britain’s best known railway authors has called it ‘starkly incredible,’ but he didn’t challenge the verdict that was enshrined in the official report on the accident, and neither has anyone else, as far as I know, until recently.

A couple of years ago a book was published, bearing the ominous (or exciting, according to your inclination) title The Quintinshill Conspiracy. Its authors allege that the explanation for Tinsley’s behaviour was that he was epileptic, and was suffering from mental confusion in the aftermath of a fit when he came on duty. They further allege that the Caledonian Railway Company went to some lengths to cover this up, and that the enquiry was a whitewash.

Well, it would hardly be to the credit of a railway company to admit that its medical screening was so lax as to allow a man to take up, and continue doing, a vital job where his medical condition was a danger to people’s lives, would it? But the authors go further, alleging that Tinsley and Meakin were coerced into taking the entire blame, and that evidence was manipulated by the Caledonian with the tacit co-operation of the government (Asquith’s shaky coalition), to let those higher in the company hierarchy off the hook.

This may be all very intriguing, in the best conspiracy theory tradition, but how true is it? While the book seems to have been quite well received by lay critics, it’s interesting that it got quite a mauling on a forum I visited where many of the participants in the discussion were working or retired signalmen, with accusations flying about of technical errors, superficiality and flimsy evidence. And it does read rather like a typical conspiracy theory work: as if, rather than evidence being assessed and a conclusion drawn, a verdict has been decided on in advance and the evidence selected and slanted to support it. Conclusions are jumped to, and its language is at times sensational and immoderate.

Conspiracy theories can be very beguiling, being often so much more interesting than the accepted versions of events, but you need to be careful when reading such stuff. You have to keep an eye open for phrases like ‘there is little doubt that…’ or ‘surely it must have been…’ introducing assertions that are subsequently treated as established fact, and for conclusions being drawn from slender evidence. This book is not innocent of such fudging, so how credible is its thesis?

There is actually no hard evidence that James Tinsley was epileptic. The authors’ confident assertion is based on a second-hand source: the statement of one of the policemen sent to arrest Tinsley, saying that his doctor had forbidden him to be moved as he had been suffering from epileptic fits. It’s equally possible that the ‘fits’ were symptoms of post-traumatic stress, a condition unrecognised in 1915 (and even epilepsy was poorly understood then). Nothing at all is said about whether he was known to have had fits in earlier or later life, but at the time of the disaster he had been a signalman for eight years, and one must ask how he had got away with it for so long if he were indeed epileptic. The case must be regarded as not proven, despite the authors’ insistence and reliance on it. That said, I do still find Tinsley’s lapse ‘starkly incredible’ if something were not wrong with him that morning.

If the case for epilepsy is dodgy, what about the authors’ larger conclusions, of conspiracy? Tinsley’s statement about forgetting the local passenger train, quoted above, does sound entirely unconvincing to me. It sounds as if he were reciting a script that had been given to him. And maybe he was.

Modern accident investigators are well aware that blame seldom rests entirely with the people at the sharp end who make the mistakes that are the immediate cause of disaster. All too often, expediency, laziness and complacency (not to mention economics) lead to corners being cut and safety regulations being paid lip service all along the chain of command. Things are allowed to slide and blind eyes are turned, until disaster brings everyone up with a jerk. Then those in authority plead ignorance and make the appropriate noises of shock and horror.

Thus, although the immediate cause of the Herald of Free Enterprise disaster was the failure of the assistant boatswain to close the bow doors, the enquiry found that the root cause was a culture of sloppiness, negligence and poor communications throughout Townsend Thoresen, and the company was prosecuted accordingly.

And the authors of The Quintinshill Conspiracy present evidence pointing to a culture of unenforced regulations and lax supervision on the Caledonian, at least in the local area around Quintinshill. Even if that were nothing very exceptional (and I strongly suspect it wasn’t), it would never have been publicly admitted if the Caledonian Railway Company could possibly help it.

A modern enquiry would dig deeper than this, and would probably attribute the root cause of the disaster to resources and staff being stretched to breaking point by the railway’s insistence on operating a full passenger service alongside all the extra traffic generated by the war, and by its insistence on nothing being allowed to delay prestigious trains such as the sleeper express from Euston. The Caledonian would hardly have wanted this aired either.

It wasn’t, because the actual enquiry didn’t dig deep at all. It was conducted with indecent haste and its report, far more superficial than many other reports on accidents of considerably less significance, laid the blame fair and square on Tinsley and Meakin. How convenient for the Caledonian. No opening of a can of worms that could have damaged the reputation of one of Britain’s proudest and most prestigious railway companies. Nothing but two bad apples in the barrel letting the side down by their dereliction of duty.

Well, truth is an elusive beast, all these years later it is almost impossible to prove anything, and I am not convinced that The Quintishill Conspiracy does. But it doesn’t need to prove the most persuasive argument for Tinsley and Meakin having been hung out to dry by their employers, because it is something that has always been out in the open for all to see, and I am amazed that nobody seems to have drawn attention to it earlier.

Early twentieth century employers were not known for their benevolence or for their readiness to forgive wrong-doing. When, only six years later, slapdash working at Abermule Station in Mid-Wales enabled a series of blunders that sent a train down a single track to collide with another coming the opposite way, all four of the staff on duty at the station at the time got the sack. Yet when Tinsley and Meakin, whose failures were more blatant and caused far greater loss of life, were released from prison (their sentences commuted after pressure from the NUR), the Caledonian Railway took them both back into its employment, though not as signalmen. Tinsley’s wife and children were even allowed to continue living in their railway cottage while he was in jail. Even today this would be surprising. In the context of those times, it is well-nigh incredible.

Unless some sort of ultimatum were presented and a deal struck: you two fall into line and take all the blame, and we’ll see you right.

But for me the question remains. What was going on in James Tinsley’s head on that sunny Saturday morning?    


Jun 22nd

Word Count/Novel Count/Novella Count and more

By Lady Lorraine

In fiction


Word count


over 40,000 words


17,500 to 40,000 words


7,500 to 17,500 words

Short story

under 7,500 words



In the days of the typewriter, a double-spaced page with 1-inch margins would hold an average of 250 words. So you could assume that since 4 pages = 1000 words, 240 pages = 60,000 words, which was the typical length for most mainstream and mystery novels.12 Dec 2004


How many words are on a page in a book?

It depends on the font you are using, of course, but in general, 250-300 words per page. Therefore, a 55,000 word book should be about 200 manuscript pages. A 100,000 word book would be about 400. Editors like 12 point font.


How many pages does it take to make a novel?

In the days of the typewriter, a double-spaced page with 1-inch margins would hold an average of 250 words. So you could assume that since 4 pages = 1000 words, 240 pages = 60,000 words, which was the typical length for most mainstream and mystery novels.


icro-Fiction (up to 100 words): This very abbreviated story is often difficult to write, and even harder to write well, but the markets for micro fiction are becoming increasingly popular in recent times. Publishers love them, as they take up almost no room and don't cost them their budgets. Pay rates are often low, but for so few words, the rate per word averages quite high. Here's an example:

6 word micro-story: "For Sale: Baby shoes. Never Worn." - Attributed to Ernest Hemingway

Flash Fiction (100 - 1,000 words): This is the type of short-short story you would expect to find in a glossy magazine, often used to fill one page of quick romance (or quick humor, in men's mags) Very popular, quick and easy to write, and easier to sell!

Short Story (1,000 - 7,500 words): The 'regular' short story, usually found in periodicals or anthology collections. Most 'genre' zines will features works at this length.

Novellette (7,500 - 20,000 words): Often a novellette-length work is difficult to sell to a publisher. It is considered too long for most publishers to insert comfortably into a magazine, yet too short for a novel. Generally, authors will piece together three or four novellette-length works into a compilation novel.

Novella (20,000 - 50,000 words): Although most print publishers will balk at printing a novel this short, this is almost perfect for the electronic publishing market length. The online audience doesn't always have the time or the patience to sit through a 100,000 word novel. Alternatively, this is an acceptable length for a short work of non-fiction.

Novel (50,000 -110,000 words): Most print publishers prefer a minimum word count of around 70,000 words for a first novel, and some even hesitate for any work shorter than 80,000. Yet any piece of fiction climbing over the 110,000 word mark also tends to give editors some pause. They need to be sure they can produce a product that won't over-extend their budget, but still be enticing enough to readers to be saleable. Imagine paying good money for a book less than a quarter-inch thick?

Epics and Sequels (Over 110,000 words): If your story extends too far over the 110,000 mark, perhaps consider where you could either condense the story to only include relevant details, or lengthen it to span out into a sequel, or perhaps even a trilogy. (Unless, of course, you're Stephen King - then it doesn't matter what length your manuscript is - a publisher is a little more lenient with an established author who has a well-established readership)

Page Counts: In most cases, industry standard preferred length is 250 words per page... so a 400 page novel would be at about 100,000 words. If you want to see what size book is selling in your genre, take a look on the shelves. If the average length is 300 pages, you're looking at a 75,000 word manuscript (approximately)

One reason it's harder for a new author to sell a 140,000 word manuscript is the size of the book. A 500+ page book is going to take up the space of almost two, 300 page books on the shelves. It's also going to cost more for the publishers to produce, so unless the author is well known, the book stores aren't going to stock that many copies of the 'door-stopper' novel as compared to the thinner novel.

Remember, these word- and page-counts are only estimated guides. Use your own common sense, and, where possible, check the guidelines of the publication you intend to submit your work to. Most publishers accepting shorter works will post their maximum preferred lengths, and novels are generally considered on the strength of the story itself, not on how many words you have squeezed into each chapter.


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