Aug 13th

My happy life

By Mezz

Do you know someone with a drill and a week off?
Mary does.

Do you have a bathroom cabinet ready to be put up?
Mary does.

Do you hear the sound of a black and decker and smile?
Mary does.

Do you wonder why it isn't coming from the bathroom?
Mary does.

Do you laugh your socks off when someone says;
"This doesn't half take the strain out of stirring this wine!"?
Mary does.

Aug 11th

Crewe - Walter De la Mare.

By mike

t is almost certain that ghosts do not  exist..


      This essay was in written in response to Gerry’s blog  on doubts and certainties.  Incidentally, Jenny Iglow and Richard Holmes have written extensively on the romantic period and the emerging science genres.   I can certainly recommend both writers and have read most of their books.  The religious doubts of the Regency period  seem somewhat similar to ours.  

     I would have liked to write about this subject from the point of view of a biographer.  This biographer is of the old school and tries to place his research in some sort of historical narrative which is somewhat opposed to the modern approach. He finds that facts and records can be wrong and lead to alternative histories.  This does happen.  Also, many years ago, I would have liked to research the histories of Shelley biographers, as each succeeding biographer wrote of an alternative life Shelley for his  own epoch.  

     But what about imagination?  Why consider ‘does God exist?’  Why not consider ‘why   does God exist?’   

      I am  reading  “The Best Stories of Walter De La Mare.”   The story ‘Crewe’ can be read on ‘Google‘   I think it is a successful  ghost story but an element of doubt is included.   

     I tend to read ghost stories in collections and they are not a particular interest of mine. 

     I notice that ‘Crewe’ had been read out on Radio 4 some years back.

      It was raining on Wednesday and I wrote this in  the afternoon.  In the morning, I saw the local silver screen presentation  which was ‘The Monster Calls.’  I would call this  film an adult fairy tale.  It deals with the supernatural too.  If you have not seen the film or read the book on which it is based, the story concerns a young boy coming to terms with the death of his mother who suffers from cancer.  The major role is an Elm tree

      I found the essay rather difficult to write  in that I had to contrast my prose style with  lines from Walter De La Mare.   I have tried to bring out the black humour in the story.  But the blog is rather long - 1000 words.  Your time might be better spent with the original story,  Does this essay make you interested in reading the tale?   I have done a spoiler at the end and, to make my point, I have had to precis  the plot.  I tried to imagine this story told in  Starbuck’s Cafe on the platform of Waterloo Station. it still might work but only because of the ambiguity of the resolution. Otherwise scarecrows, rambling rectories  - all the value added nature -  of a ghost story belongs to different era.   The prose style seems somewhat Edwardian too.



      Is there  a first class rest-room at Crewe railway station? Does it resemble a dusky lounge lit by a flickering gas mantle, with the  glowing embers of a coal fire slumbering in the hearth?   Is this lounge  inspected by the curious? Is it on the agenda of those  who wish to explore further than the buffet and tea room of Camforth Station, where a brief encounter occurred?

       The rest-room of Crewe Station is the setting of a ghost a story by Walter De La Mere,  the first line of which is redolent an earlier epoch: “When murky winter dusk begins to settle over the railway station at Crewe its first-class waiting-room grows steadily more stagnant.‘  The sentence is of a solid, reliable and sensible construction. 

     But, even to the narrator, the waiting room is old and oppressive.   Can you seat yourself - as the narrator does -   on grained, massive black-leathered furniture? Par for the course, you will be accosted by a stranger who does as the ancient mariner does.  He “stoppeth one of three’

        An overheard event,  told by some awaiting commuters in a far corner of the restroom - a  mystery at sea  -  imperils this stranger to accost the narrator and relate his own misgivings about the  waiting room: ‘Its  solid though ----,” he informs his unwilling audience.

        “Yes,” the narrator agrees, ‘It certainly looks solid?”

        “Ah, looks -- --, “ replies the stranger, ‘I thought so too.”  Then he pauses for second, “but now,” he adds, “I knows different.”


        It is almost certain that ghosts do not exist - something to which the stranger concurs, for he later  describes death:  “Yes, I’ve been told, sir that after this cremation, and all the moisture in us gone up in steam, what’s left would scarcely turn the scales by a singe bounce.”

      Naturally, our narrator comments on the ‘displaced aspirate’ and the strangers interminable monologue as he continues: “We amount no more than what you could put in a walnut.”

        They both consider the numinous - the supernatural. “My point is this,” says the stranger, ‘we would need much more than the substantial - just enough to be obnoxious, as the Reverend used to say, to the naked eye.”

        He then recounts his tale, to which our narrator listens with growing unease - a tale that he consequently relates to us.  But there seems to be an element of self justification, if not self-denial in the stranger’s voice.


        The stranger has a nice occupation.  He lives in a Rectory with sufficient timber to satisfy the most critical connoisseur of the supernatural.  “Old houses,”  he explains  - I’m used to them; the timblers crinkle like a beehive.”   Walter De La Mere is a poet of considerable respect and uses his abilities with discretion.

     The stranger sets the scene. There is a somewhat dimwitted household help called  George;  outside help is given by a girl from the village, and  there is a gardener who lives with his widowed daughter and grandson.  This family lives in an outbuilding on the rectory estate.

       Mr Blake, for we old told the stranger’s  name, is a general factotum and manservant to the kindly Reverend, who is so satisfied with his household help that all have been remembered in his will.

      Mr Blake and George have rooms in the rectory,.

          The gardener drinks to excess  and begins to steal his liqueur from the pantry. Mr Blake is, at first, rather unconcerned  - unwilling to disturb what is a happy situation for them all.   But  the smashing of a  favourite decanter, and the clear theft of beverages, alters his frame of  mind.  He encourages the dim-witted George to inform on the gardener.  George does this and grasses to the Reverend.   The gardener becomes aware of this breach of faith, and beats  George up severely. His bruises are seen by the kindly priest the next morning.  The gardener is promptly sacked.

   The gardener is outraged and confronts our innocent George and  says, “Come what may, here or hereafter, I’d be even with you.”

    The next day the gardener is found hanged from the rafters of a barn.   

    ‘The midmost rafter, sir, and the drop that would have sufficed a giant Golioth,”  Mr Blake explains,

    Walter De la Mare recounts it all with consummate skill: the appearance of a phantom scarecrow, the disturbances in  the house, the creakings and the voices. All  these supernatural events occur while the poor Reverend, who received a stroke at  the news of the suicide, lies on his deathbed.  

     ‘Now,’ Mr Blake informs us: “who, think I to myself, is responsible for this jiggery-pokery.’ 

       One feels instinctively that Walter De La Mare must share  the blame. 

       The strain of it all effects George, as Mr Blake points out: “ He had noticed it and he’d hardly notice a black beetle on a pancake.”

      One fateful evening, the phantom scarecrow, the noises and creakings etc, are such that Mr Blake urges George to bravely search the outside premises, while he stays indoors. The care of the Reverend  is, naturally,  upmost on his mind.

    The next day, George is found dead in the outbuildings.  “And, I took it, of course that George had got back safe to his room, ” explains Mr Blake.

     The Reverend soon dies

      In the rest room at Crewe station,  the stranger,  whom we  now know to be Mr Blake,  informs the narrator that he no longer works.

   “Your share, I suppose, was quite a substantial one,” enquires our narrator  - meaning share of the Reverend’s bequest.

    “Share, he replies.

     “In the will...,’ qualifies our witness.   This is all that is said and ghosts almost certainly exist.   It is all so carefully done and so carefully orchestrated by Walter De La Mare. 

      But we are left in some doubt as to the nature of the stranger, for the narrator informs us, as he leaves the comfort of the first-class saloon, “He seemed to be deploring the withdrawal even of my tepid companionship,  But in that gaseous luminosity there was nothing, so far, as I could see, that any man could be afraid of, alive or or dead.”

Aug 9th

August 16th 1977

By AlanP

There are some events that stick in the mind so that we all know where we were when we heard the news about them. For me one such occurred on 16th August 1977 I was in my Volkwagen Beetle heading towards Boreham in Essex to collect Julie and see if I could move myself out of the friend zone. I had reason to be hopeful.

On the radio came the news that Elvis Presley had died. I had to pull over for a while and was late. I was forgiven.

There have been others who might have been more significant and his later career wasn't quite so rebellious as his youth. People will no doubt argue who had the most influence. Feel free to debate that issue, that's why there is a comments section. But he was one of the first movers and shakers (fully intended pun) along with Chuck Berry, Bill Haley, etc. I was born too late to appreciate what was going on except in retrospect, but he is one of the greats. I suspect there will still be an Elvis impersonation industry a hundred years from now.

His music and his moves shook up a whole generation. The first time I saw Joseph, when Pharaoh leapt out in white leather and spangles the joke was immediately obvious - he was one of those people that never needed introduction.

Did you know that Elvis was Suzi Quatro's hero? He is why she became what she became. And for Leather Tuscadero, if for no other reason, he will always be the King to me.

If you are on a PC that will play music follow this link and hear what Suzi thinks about it all:

Aug 8th


By John Alty

When I was sixteen I travelled from Hong Kong to Marseille on a French ship, the S.S. Vietnam. I was in economy class, up front in the anchor lockers – not luxurious by any means but full of fascinating people – including back-packers of all nationalities. Here’s a bit about Egypt:

“Hey John, listen up. We’re planning on taking a taxi from Port Suez to Cairo and then Giza, where the pyramids are, and then catching up with the ship again at Port Said. The French guy and the English school teacher, Elizabeth, are in. You want the fourth spot?”

“Sure, Peter. How much do you think it’ll cost?” I smelled adventure.

“There’s a guy on here who did it a couple of years ago and he said it cost about £20 for the taxi, so £5 each, we think. Apparently, it’s about 200 miles, so that’s a helluva deal. It means you don’t get to go through the Suez Canal, but I think that’s pretty boring unless you like sand. I think the Cairo Museum, the Pyramids and the Sphinx will be a lot more interesting”

“I’m in” I said, “thanks for asking me.” 

 The ship stayed overnight at Port Suez and we disembarked early in the morning to begin our journey. We’d been warned by the Purser that the ship would not wait for us if we failed to get to Port Said before the scheduled sailing time so we absolutely had to be there that evening by ten o’clock when the gangplanks would be rolled away. The taxi, the first in a line of several waiting at the port gate, looked as though it had seen better days and so did the driver but the price was right and off we went. 

At the Cairo Museum, we tagged onto the end of a guided tour led by a small Egyptian wearing a shabby three-piece suit and a red fez. I was spellbound as he talked about the discovery in 1922 of the tomb of Tutankhamen, sealed since the time of the pharaohs three thousand years ago. 

“Imagine the thrill” said Elizabeth, “of being the first person to step into the tomb and discover all these amazing artefacts and then the burial chamber with the mummy itself. That was Howard Carter, a British Egyptologist. Lucky chap.”

We spent an hour or so following the tour guide, browsing the ancient antiquities and listening to his commentary. As we were leaving the museum the little professor hurried up to us, wringing his hands, asking if we’d enjoyed the tour. It was clear he was looking for payment so I gave him a quid and he seemed delighted.  

We had lunch in a small restaurant suggested by the taxi driver who drank several bottles of local beer with the shared koshari, a mixture of pasta, lentils and rice. On the way to Giza it was clear the driver was in a less than fit state to drive. He snoozed in his taxi whilst, in the sweltering afternoon heat, we took in the sights and smells of the desert. There was an aura of commercialism surrounding the site of the Pyramids and the Sphinx. We were offered sand-baths, camel rides, donkey rides and all manner of clap trap as souvenirs. But this didn’t detract from the historical wonder and I’ll never regret making the trip. Standing in front of the Sphinx, so much more impressive, I thought, than the Pyramids, Elizabeth recited:

The sexual urge of the camel is greater than anyone thinks,

He gallops across the desert and tries to fuck the Sphinx.

But the Sphinx’s posterior orifice is blocked by the sands of the Nile,

This accounts for the hump on the camel and the Sphinx’s inscrutable smile.”

“One of my favourite little poems” she said, “rumoured to have been written by Somerset Maugham.”  

We lingered a little too long and the final leg of our journey to meet the ship at Port Said had an element of desperate hurry about it. The driver had slept in his taxi while we enjoyed the sights but, even so, we weren’t convinced he’d sobered up enough to tackle the long road through the desert and we proposed that Peter should drive, an arrangement the driver accepted without complaint. Crossing the desert to Port Said as night fell was a tedious and dangerous part of the journey even with the excellent driving skills of the Canadian. The Egyptian snored away unconcerned in the back seat, wedged between me and the Frenchman, Gregory, as we dodged trucks and donkey carts and camels, careful not to plunge into the soft sand on the side of the main road. 

At the port entrance the driver, fully awake now, got permission to drive us right to the ship because it was getting ready for departure. We paid the agreed fee and set off towards the gangplank but I could tell he wasn’t happy. He was complaining loudly to the Egyptian officials who were checking our passports before allowing us to board. I was the last one to hand over my passport and the official then refused to give it back, saying I had to pay the driver an additional ten pounds. I refused to do so and we had a stand-off; I was demanding my passport be handed over immediately and the official was holding it behind his back out of my reach, standing between me and the gangplank. It was a tense moment. Gregory had stopped and turned around when he’d heard the commotion and was now making his way back down. I could see what he was going to do and as he snatched the passport from the hand of the official and hared back up to the ship I darted past the astonished man and went up the gangplank like a rat up a drainpipe. 

The Egyptian officials could see they were defeated, the gangplank was rolled away, the lines were cast off and we set sail across the Mediterranean Sea.


Aug 7th

Wanted: Book Title

By Barb

"Help me. Help me," she whimpered.

I've been trying to name my latest WIP for months now. But I've come up with nothing. So before I start gnawing on the corner of the carpet, I thought I would ask for your input, dear Cloudies.

Here's the blurb:

In 1982, Blair Ellis is deep in research at the University of Virginia's paranormal program and providing expertise to the government's remote viewing project. Her own psychic abilities are noticed and she is asked to monitor the life of a CIA agent. Thrust into the brutal reality of the life of covert operations in Beirut, she finds that not only can she see the environment, but she can also hear and project thoughts. This ability forms a mental bond between her and Agent Kane St Clair. A man she knows intimately without having ever met.

As Blair's abilities expand she begins to hear the thoughts of others but only if they are in the same room as Kane. To take advantage of this she is sent into the field to add to the reconnaissance of Hezbollah by building relationships with wives of its leaders. To develop a complete cover Blair is deployed as a married woman with Kane as her husband. Played out against the terror and destruction of the Lebanese Civil War, Blair is torn between what are real feelings, and what are part of the job. But a greater danger than misreading Kane's passions and affections is the closing in of the Islamic Jihad and the unravelling of their story.
Aug 7th

An Aversion to Certainty

By Gerry

A recent blog by Whisks, ‘An Aversion to Italy’, occasioned much discussion, including a rather approximate quotation from me on scientific open mindedness. The original, I find, on consulting the ever-knowledgeable Wiki, comes from Max Planck: ‘A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.

Or, in a paraphrased variant, ‘Science advances one funeral at a time.’


There was some speculation whether scientists are always so blinkered (obviously not always, but sometimes yes) in which context I call to mind an exchange on Desert Island Discs. On Friday 7th July this year, Kirsty Young’s 9 a.m. guest was the theoretical physicist Professor Carlo Rovelli, one of the founders of Loop Quantum Gravity theory and international best-selling author of ‘Seven Brief Lessons on Physics.’ (Click on if you want to hear the programme yourself.)


At various times Kirsty Young emphasised Rovelli’s open-mindedness. For instance, after just one minute she told us that, “According to my guest the foundation of science is an acute awareness of the extent of our ignorance.” Then, seven minutes in, she quoted him as saying, ‘The search for knowledge is not nourished by certainty. It is nourished by a radical distrust in certainty.’


So far so good, but at 34 minutes the following exchange took place:

Carlo Ravelli: I think that life is short, is finite, there is nothing after it.

Kirsty Young: There is nothing after it?

Carlo Ravelli: Yeh, it seems totally obvious to me that there is nothing after it, and er that’s why it’s precious, that’s why it’s beautiful, that’s why it’s fantastic.

Kirsty Young: It’s inter – you seem very definite on that, and yet throughout the morning as we’ve been talking, you’ve said, well you know, well this is what I think, and this is what it looks like, and it may be there’s – and yet you’ve just said no, there’s no, there’s no afterlife. You seem very definite on that.

Carlo Ravelli: Well, we do have things we consider pretty obvious and reasonable, even if we are not sure about anything. So I will be very, very surprised if after dying I would wake up and find I don’t know what, big old man saying Hey you been good, go that way; you been bad go that way. No, I don’t believe that.


This, to my mind, shows an astonishing lack of logic on the part of an otherwise admirable scientist. He has confused two questions and addressed only the second. Here is the first question: is there an afterlife? Here is the second: what is it like?


What he does is consider the standard heaven-hell dichotomy, presided over by a divine judge, and he rejects this as obviously wrong. He doesn’t consider whether the ideas, presumably widespread in his native Italy, are meant to be literal or metaphorical. He doesn’t consider different views across different cultures, and doesn’t therefore speculate whether post-mortem perceptions depend on what the observer has been taught to expect.


Nope, he says, in effect, the Catholic picture is silly, therefore human consciousness does not survive death.




Let’s take a parallel case, UFOs. I don’t know whether they exist or not, but if I came across a particularly silly case of alleged UFO activity, could I say, “Aha, one silly case; therefore all cases are silly”?


Let’s get back to Max Planck. There’s a nice page full of his quotations on

Here’s a goodie to finish with: ‘I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness.’


 Oh okay, one more: ‘In the last analysis, we ourselves are part of nature and therefore part of the mystery that we are trying to solve.’ That’s the spirit: there can’t be any ‘Theory of Everything’ unless we include the observer. And the observer’s consciousness.


As for whether that consciousness survives bodily death, I wouldn't ask Professor Rovelli...

Aug 6th

Wigan Pies And The Budgerytoise

By Dolly

 A couple of days ago, I had a visit from my friend George. Some of you might remember him from his input into the Down The Back Of The Sofa episode. The town of Wigan is synonymous with pies, and their bakeries are reputed to produce the best pies in the land. George it seems, is concerned about the decline of Wigan pies, thinks they are becoming an endangered species, and wants to mount a fully equipped, two man expedition to discover the truth. In other words, he wants me to go with him. (Fully equipped means a packed lunch, a flask of coffee and a Blue Riband chocolate wafer bar, just in case his suspicions are true, and there aren't any pie shops.)

However, on this occasion, I had beaten George to it. About eighteen months ago my wife brought up the subject, and thought it would be a good idea to go to Wigan, find a pie shop, sit on a bench, and eat them. Alas, George's fears were well founded, there wasn't one local, independent baker making pies, or anything else for that matter. It seems the great tide of capitalism has swept them all away, and deposited the franchise in its place. You can now sample fifteen or more different ways of drinking coffee, eat the ubiquitous pannini, a variety of cakes and cookies and pay exorbitant prices for the privilege. This is true anywhere you go. Diversity is non-existent. However, Poole's bakery in Wigan are the only surviving maker of pies left, and they can be bought in supermarkets. It's not much, and a small cry from the glory days of King Pie.

George looked a bit crestfallen at this, and thought that Wigan might have held out against the sweeping tide of capitalism by putting up some sort of barricade or other. However, he vowed to carry out a one man expedition. (This is the same as a two man expedition, the only difference being, besides the one Blue Riband bar there is also a Jacobs Orange Club bar.) He is thinking of approaching the problem from a different direction, namely walking from Chorley to Wigan along the Leeds/ Liverpool canal. He thinks he might find some bakers on the outskirts, holding out against the creeping tide of the franchise.

Over tea and biscuits, George then brought up the subject of the Budgerytoise again. I say again, because we've discussed this before. Now the Budgerytoise is a cross between a budgerigar and a tortoise, a mythical creature, long since extinct, if it ever existed at all. Nevertheless, George believes there might be some truth in the tale, despite there being no evidence to support it. He sometimes exaggerates, makes things up or fantasises, and uses traditional, clichéd characters in his tales or explanations. The tale of the Budgerytoise is no exception. According to George, the Budgerytoise was created by a deranged scientist, (what else?) called Mad Rat Charley Plummer, who lived on an uninhabited island, where he had his laboratory. I pointed out to George, that uninhabited, meant no one lived there, but he waved it away, explaining that the population in general thought it was uninhabited, because they didn't know Mad Rat Charley lived there.

Like all proper, weird scientists, Mad Rat Charley had an assistant called Clarence, who wasn't physically deformed with a hump or gammy leg, but was unbelievably ugly, and keeping true to the tale, looked like a chimpanzee eating bonfire toffee. To make the tale complete, Clarence had a glum, thin, almost skeletal wife called Maud, who acted as a housekeeper.

Anyway, as mentioned before, Mad Rat Charley crossed a budgerigar with a tortoise, and created the Budgerytoise. Further experimentation created male and female who mated, and produced little Budgerytoises. The problem was, that although they had wings, they couldn't fly. Two years later, after many setbacks, he managed to produce male and female who could fly. They also managed to breed, and he soon had a number of them. Unfortunately, one day they managed to escape, but due to the climate, they couldn't venture any further north than Luton, so were confined to Southern England. Nevertheless, if you were lucky at that time, you might have seen one perched on your garden fence.

Due to the tortoise part in their creation, they were slow, cumbersome creatures, and outside of captivity their demise was swift, as they were easy prey for cats, foxes, stoats, weasels and birds of prey. Their last known sighting was outside a newsagents in Guildford in 1934, although someone called Sam, claimed to have seen a giant one devouring a cabbage on his allotment in Southampton in 1967. This was proven to be false, as Sam had accidentally overdosed on his medication, and what he saw, according to his wife, was a rabbit from a couple of allotments away.

George then became excited, as he had heard there was a photograph of one in The Natural History Museum. True to the spirit of conspiracy theories, this knowledge is a secret, and even people working there don't know of its existence. George has heard, that if you go round to the back door, (where else?) ask for Flathead Jim, tell him Harry sent you, give the password, 'there was snow on my roof in July,' he will, for a nominal fee of a couple of quid, show you the photograph.


I thought it was a load of old tut, but then again..... Anyway, I'm planning a trip to London in the Autumn, and I thought, well, if I just happened to be passing I might, you know, just pop in......I mean, it wouldn't do any harm, would it? And you never know, do you?.....I mean, stranger things have happened, haven't they?

Aug 6th

Same Same but Different - ideas needed

By stephenterry

Mitch and Ying are sitting in an outside restaurant in Bangkok. Mitch's quest to find Mint is being aided by Ying, and they will be going to the club which the police raided, to see if any of the girls (who were released) can recognise photos of Mint. They are to be accompanied by Ying's police 'friend' who has his own reason for visiting. Mitch thinks Ying is involved somehow, but he hasn't yet raised the subject.

As is the norm, my M/C has to suffer setbacks along the way and the chapter ends with Ying receiving a phone call. Help me come up with ideas of what happens next?


Chapter 14

I gathered we still had plenty of time, the club stayed open all night, and Ying’s beau was off duty around midnight. I sensed his motive for returning was a sweetener in a brown envelope, plus fun time with a girl of his choice. Underage? — I cringed at the thought.

As if Ying wasn’t enough.

Which led me to another thought as I sipped yet another Heineken and a small plate of cashew nuts while Ying downed her purple cocktail, pushed the curry to one-side and picked at her third dish, baby squid pieces in fish sauce.

Apart from me being irresistible and available, why was Ying helping me? Why had she gone to all the trouble of screwing her “police friend” twice for information on my search for Mint?

Or had she?

I couldn’t put a finger on it right then, but her involvement, from the time she pulled out the news clipping on the club bust and trafficking of young girls, told me she was involved somehow.

Coincidence? Hmm.

Maybe I’d find out more at the club. And maybe I could come up with a better plan to encourage Jerk-off to spill the beans.

The beer was affecting me, and I needed a clear head. Coffee. Black. Which I ordered for both of us, despite Ying twiddling her empty cocktail glass at me.

She screwed her eyes up when the coffee arrived and pushed her cup to one side. I feigned indifference. We sat silent for a while as the night wore on, neon signs intensified when a few nearby clubs and bars opened, and live music filled the air.

Elvis back in town.

When Ying resurfaced from her sulk, she asked about Choclit and I gave her a brief rundown of my time with Jerk-off and my scam to gain information from him.

‘Good,’ she said. ‘Check tonight. My friend…’ she gave me a sideways glance…‘can help.’

Her glance had unsettled me. She seemed to be seeking my reaction. Jealousy or what? Jealousy, no, intrigued, yes. But sitting at an outside restaurant teeming with people was not the time or place to raise the subject — what’s in it for you?

Instead, I looked at my watch. Gone eleven. The coffee had cleared my head. ‘Time to make a move,’ I said, waving at a waitress.

Just then, Ying’s phone warbled. She looked at the display and frowned. Started to get up from her seat.


‘This is important,’ she said.

Aug 4th

A horror competition

By mike

I crossed the Thames yesterday to book a seat for a play about Sonia and George Orwell.

This is performed at a pub near the Angel tube station called ‘The Old Red Lion’.  If you go ‘Jobs and Opportunities’ - on their website - a  competition for horror plays is promoted.  (Short plays are required.)  There are some horror writers on ‘Word Cloud’ Perhaps you might be interested?  

    But the closing date is near the end of August, so  there is little time.  A   cobbler’s shop, local to the  theatre,  is called ‘Achilles Heels’ but I cannot think if a plot -  horror is not my thing.   I don’t know about the Orwell play,but it might be interesting to see how Orwell is portrayed on the stage.  There is a Saturday matinee if you are in the South East of England.


    I seem to write very different material to other word clouders, so there is little point in my writing to agents,publishers  or going to World Cloud occasions,  My face just does not fit. 

    I had been trying to edit a novel that had been published by a grandfather.  It is published so ‘Word Cloud’ would be of no use.  In this case, I would probably do the compete opposite of what anybody might suggest.  My grand father cannot write.  It is a paradox that one of his novels is a minor classic of gothic fiction - yes it is!   But, even is this is established, the novel is unlikely to generate income.  Who now reads Maturin?

   Establishing the novel as a minor classic would  execute a grandfather’s will which is my intention.

     Agents or publishers are out of my loop, as are academics.  There seems to be no place to go?   Self publishing is not an option, because this would be history repeating itself. 

    I am the executor of the estate of a grandfather who cannot write and I am also the executor of the estate of an aunt who can write very well.  I think I might be the weak link here.   But I saw the preview of a play a few weeks ago and wrote out my opinions.  The press night was a few weeks later and my opinions were close to 100% to those of the critics.  This is the play with the songs of Bob Dylan.

     The play got one bad review from an American stage magazine.  The critic accuses the playwright of using stock characters from American fiction. 

    There are only three things you have to know about my grandfather.    He met Robert Louis Stevenson in Samoa; his father wrote the first life of Shelley; he wrote a famous march and he was mad.  What would a literary agent make of this paragraph?






Aug 3rd

Rurik revisited

By Squidge

Cloudies that have been around for a while may remember that years ago, I wrote a novel about a character called Rurik. Several extracts appeared in critiques and certain cloudies were good enough to beta read him in his entirety. He also had several critiques by the editrix supreme, Debi, which knocked him into decent shape.

He was also the second novel I worked on with an agent, but became the focus of my learning on the self-edit course (fabulous course - do it if you can afford it, because it changes the way you write for ever!) because said agent parted company with me because a) she didn't like his name, b) she didn't like the journey he took in the novel and c) she hadn't been able to market my previous novel either. Two strikes, and you're out, it seemed. However, that parting of the ways was a blessing in disguise, because it forced me to write for myself, and as a result I've had two novels published as well as several short stories.

But I digress.

The reason that my first novel was accepted for publication was thanks entirely to York. I was asked by an agent whether I believed in that story enough to rewrite it - for the umpteenth time. I did; I set to and the resulting MS of the first novel became my debut. Lovely. I went away, wrote another, published that. Again, thanks to York, when I was told 'make shit happen'! Even lovelier.

All through that time, Rurik has waited. Ocassionally I pull him out of the drawer, give him a little bit of a polish, shove him back. Recently, I asked myself whether, like StarMark, I believed in his story enough to tackle it for what seems like the eleventy-hundredth time. Except this time, it wasn't going to be a case of 'finding my voice' - or rather, Rurik's voice - to make the story come alive.

My publisher only accepts writing by women, for women and girls, with female protagonists. It's something they are passionate about, and means that they're pretty niche in a lot of ways. I'm lucky that what I'd presented to them so far met those criteria. 

Rurik doesn't. He has balls...literally!

So. 'His' story has got to become 'hers' if I want a chance of publishing it with the same publisher.

I took the MS on holiday recently to read. Blimey, but it felt pretty amateur compared to my much later work. I found plot holes and shallow characters and various other things that I cringed over, telling myself all the while I hadn't learned as much about writing as I know now when I last edited it. I was almost overwhelmed by the amount of work I'd have to do to bring it up to what I now view as scratch.

Since I've been home, I've begun the work to give Rurik a female protagonist, in the hope that if my belief in the story is still so strong and this new female character 'works' within it, I can then continue writing the other four books I had planned for Rurik. 

Should I have stuck with Rurik, kept him male and offered the story to another small press? Am I right to write to the publisher's requirements - or do I lose something in meeting other people's needs and writing to order? I'm not sure. I don't think I'll be sure until I've edited the whole story with a female lead. And of course, there's no guarantee that my current publisher will even like the story when it's done - I could be doing all of this for nothing!

If I'm honest, I feel guilty that Rurik is not going to be in the story any more. He's been part of my writing journey for so long, it's almost like I've dumped him at the side of the road and sped away from him, tyres screaming on the tarmac. But then I realised he's already undergone one change of world and name, because he started life as Benjamin the book lover, who fell from our world into another to start his journey. 

So perhaps it is OK to keep morphing the story until everything clicks and it all feels right? Even if ultimately it takes a sex change, too.

I'll let you know when I've finished!


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