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Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Henderson's relish

My forays into twitter land can be somewhat erratic, hit one day and skip the next two or three. Tonight, after the day job had finished and I found myself at my desk - the one that looks over the park - I was flicking through the trends and stumbled on #Londonisopen. First reaction, I didn't know it had been shut, but then it is Monday and I suppose some of the businesses might close over the weekend, so I dug a little further and saw it was a post-Brexit trend (Are we already post Brexit, or did I miss something, I thought we'd only had the vote that was going to start the process?)

Turns out that it's an idea from the Mayor of London telling the world that London is still open for business. I don't want to spoil anybody's fun, but I think the rest of the world knows. It's sort of how things work. The morning after the vote nothing had changed, we are still, for the time being, part of the European Union and will remain so until someone pulls their finger out and starts the ball rolling.

Nothing has changed or maybe something has; the perspective. Personally I sense a shift over the past three weeks, sifting through the news feeds covering the reaction to the vote and the prospect of dealing directly with the UK as a trading partner I have become more aware of the wider world. The European blinkers have been peeled back.

The talk is Europe, Europe, but it's really the European Union. Europe is a hell of lot bigger than the European Union (it includes a considerable part of Russia, the  European bit of Russia is almost the size of the European Union- the border lies along the Ural mountains on the other side of Moscow and a little bit of Azerbaijan, a piece of Georgia, the Ukraine, Belarus. a section of Kazakhstan, and smaller section of Turkey.) There is almost as much of Europe outside the EU as there is in it.)

Is it the big fish little pond situation, close down the boundaries of the pool and the little fish look bigger, transfer them to the ocean and the perspective changes relative to the circumstance. Have we been so inward looking and Euro-centric we have forgotten the bigger perspective. Convinced ourselves that being one twenty-eighth part of something was better than standing on our own two feet. A couple of days ago, Love Actually trended on Twitter and one tweet suggested a petition for Hugh Grant as PM - for his response to the President's statement.

It is a good response, but should we be really looking towards a romantic comedy for our political inspiration, to find the balls to stand up for ourselves?

#Londonisopen, I'm not knocking the idea, by all means tell the world that London is still a brilliant vibrant capital, a melting pot of people and ideas.

In the post referendum moment where we are now there is quixotic feeling, of tilting at imaginary windmills, and a better slogan may have been provided by Mrs Laura Henderson, not the spouse of the Yorkshire Relish manufacturer but the proprietress of London's Windmill Theatre who's doors remained open throughout the Second World War, except for the fourteen days compulsory closure at the outbreak of war in September 1939; We Never Closed!

The Windmill added something to the image of London, a little bit of spice, a piquant tang, but whatever happened the show goes on. something to relish on an evening in town.

The Windmill eventually closed its doors in 1964, succumbing to the draw of the private members clubs in Soho.

#Londonisopen; so is the rest of the country,

Don't fool yourself that the leave vote was quixotic, It's not going to be an easy road ahead.

Patch the pieces together, where the traditional industries once drove the economy and noisy factories clattered to the sound of machinery now bear the silent hush of the Art Gallery. the fashionable pied-a-terre or bronze statues stand where metal was once poured, and plot the vote to leave on your map.

James Ashton's column in the Evening Standard today argues that London should not be pulled down to close the North-South gap. He is right, no argument with that. Kicking aside the restrictive traces of the European project was not about bringing London down to where the other regions are. that's a bad idea. Pulling everyone down to the same level helps no-one, we all want to enjoy the sunlit uplands of a strong economy. Who doesn't? Josh Burge posted a tweet to his blog reminding people why he thinks London is a great place, irrespective of the result of the vote.

It's grim up North! A stereotype attributed to J.B. Priestley in his 1934 book, English Journey and his depiction of the Northern landscape was widely publicised but not well received in the North. Priestley himself was a native of West Yorkshire.

He travelled across a landscape of heavy industry and saw a North-South gap. I wonder what he would make of it now.



Saturday, 9 July 2016

Once upon a time...

A week is a long time in politics, and a fortnight must seem like an eternity. A couple of weeks ago, in the immediate aftermath of the EU Referendum and the knee jerk reactions from both sides, the yah boo sucks and teddy slinging I realised that this moment in history may have  significance far beyond any horizon we can see.
As a writer I cannot ignore it, and as someone fascinated by history, I definitely cannot put on the blinkers.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Looking for that something, holdiay reading?

Spot of shameless plugging of the books coming up.
Smashwords summer promotion is in full flow, a shed load of books by authors from all over the globe available at a discount,
The whole of The Grange series is enrolled this summer, get them while you can at half price; click on the link below to grab a piece of the action!

Iceline -free as usual.
Control Escape
What You Ask For 
The Obedience of Fools

There's a lot to choose from this summer, great reads by great authors, once you've grabbed your piece of The Grange, check out the rest of the site. There is a link from each of the discounted Grange stories, or click from Smashwords home page.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Upsetting the gravy boat!

Brexit - what happens when the big guy sits the wooden bench; he brexit? A slightly modified version of Yorkshire humour that dropped into my inbox from a friend across the border in Barnsley. I'm in Rotherham; Barnsley's another town and yes, it has its own dialectic variations and there is a border. Well, a boundary sign that says welcome to Welcome to Barnsley, going the other way it says Welcome to Rotherham.

Not quite another country, but that moment is a treasured one in the reams of opinion, comment, vitriol and abuse I've waded through since the 24th June. Now, before I go any further, I have no crystal ball to tell me the reaction of those who voted to leave had the vote gone to Remain, it may have been exactly the same, but one thing does come across abundantly clear from my lofty vantage point "Oop North." London woke up to find itself out of touch with a large proportion of the country to a greater or lesser degree. Leaving Scotland and Northern Ireland aside for a moment and you can check the figures here; London voted Remain. Voila, hey presto, the mainstream media have most of country tagged as racist, xenophobic ignorant knuckle-draggers.

The Publishing Industry has had its reviews and articles, International Publishing unpacks some perspectives on nationalism in its articles, according to one contributor Scottish independence was OK, but when the English do it, it's the dark side and the inevitable fascist reference pops up somewhere? One commentator in the article did make the valid point that both sides involved in the campaign could have done it better and the poster boys and girls on both sides left a lot to be desired, To solely blame the campaigners for the media output is disingenuous. Editors and Publishers reveal their own bias in what they print, so put the responsibility where it belongs. Not unexpectedly the establishment favoured a continuation of the status quo, but they failed to prepare for not getting their way. The agent Diane Banks has her own take on the situation and is worth looking at in the Bookseller, Her comments on the intellectual property of this country and its economic growth rate raised a smile.

Whatever the argument you have for casting your vote they way you did, for the former prime minister, Tony Blair to suggest we saw it as a protest vote reveals the distance between the political elite and the populace. I know it wasn't a protest vote, nor a rehearsal; as I said in a previous blog it was a vote I'd waited a long time to cast. For myself, and no doubt many others, the campaigns didn't always help. The information required for a decision had been gathered, dissected, analysed and weighed in the balance over a long period of time. I gave the European Project a chance, and it was found wanting. The Slovakian Prime Minster, Robert Fico remarked on the 1st of July as his country stepped into the presidency of the European Council there is "too much Brussels in the EU."

Already, the Brexit blame train is under way, market fluctuations, trillions lost off the share value in the stock exchange, all the fault of the Brexit, and amongst the milling throng the ones who hold their cool, wait and mop up after the panic buying and selling calms down. The whole thing was a chance, an opportunity to shift money around and they knew it was coming, and they took it. Give it six months and the market value will be back where it was before, wait and see.

The Leave campaign is being slagged off because they haven't got a plan, no more than it was Remains charge to have a plan for after the vote. Parliament asked the question, Parliament should have a plan, Plan A (Remain) and Plan B (Exit), although the way the screaming hissy fit emanated from London in the wake of the vote you could be excused for thinking they had gone straight to Plan F - ($#!? they voted to go we've got to do it; Plan F; go on, work it out).

Judging by the reaction Plan A went something like, Relax, put the kettle on, have a cup of tea and a digestive.
Plan B was equally simple, standard government buff file with a single piece of paper - Exit; really, you're joking?

You could be fooled into thinking someone had actually started a war, an actual blood and thunder war by some of the media coverage; that we were on the brink of the end of the world as we know it. Strangely that may be so, the world as we know it changed, the relentless march to ever closer political union hit a wall. The establishment walked straight into it and came away with a bloody nose, and the world experienced a WTF! moment.

Commentators have discussed at length the pitfalls and travails that await us as we move forward from the vote, Toxic negotiations with the EU about how we trade with the single market, demands that we go now, or from the Lithuanian angle, clarify the situation regarding the vote, is it binding?
The majority paint a picture of gloom and despondency, dare I say, blood, sweat and tears?

In life there are many things that come down to timing, on the morning of the vote a BBC reporter, Katya Adler asked the European Commission President if this was the end of the European Union?. She got a curt one word answer before he left the podium.

A question considered unthinkable a few years ago, but explored in a recent BBC The Inquiry podcast, but maybe now is the time, the euro-sceptic is as widespread across the continent as the Euro-phile.

Historians will pick over the bones of the 23rd June and the months and years ahead, aided by the forensic glare of hindsight, weighing up the odds, balancing the pros and cons seeing the whole story laid out in the tapestry of history, weighing up what Churchill actually meant when he discussed a United Europe, whether he saw us part of it or allied but not bound by it, as a sponsor not a member.

Perhaps it is a question of timing, June 23rd now has another entry for this day in history, then look at the month around it, from the British point of view and its historical relationship with Europe. Topped and tailed by iconic events, It begins with a miraculous escape and ends, as beautifully commemorated by the Ghost Soldiers who drifted through Britain's railway stations one hundred years to the minute after their countrymen had gone over the top, with a name synonymous with death and destruction.

Tinkering with the psyche of a nation can have strange consequences, book-ended by such iconic events with memories that touch deep personal emotions maybe June was the wrong month, perhaps there isn't a right month to ask the question, especially where the English are concerned.

Immigration may have been the top media topic, but accountability and the democratic remit was also there, Emily Hill writing in The Spectator explores a social media angle and honesty about revealing voting patterns.

I had chat with a friend the morning of the vote, he'd nipped out for a few minutes to ponder on the result and admitted to feeling like the only one who voted Leave. I told him he wasn't, the Leave vote had been definite in Rotherham, but I know how he felt. It didn't take long to be left feeling the whole of Europe was against us, that we had few friends left in the world, and then the remarks from Commonwealth countries appeared, who didn't seem too upset by the vote.

Familiar tale, stuck on the beach with your back to the tide, all the world against you and nowhere to turn? Does a nation possess a collective psyche, a shared history, a memory that becomes embedded?

The eyes of the world were upon us, we made made the choice and the consensus was that we we're doomed, Captain Mainwaring, Doomed! The pollsters and experts, who got it wrong over the General election and the Referendum were queuing to cast their entrails and bones.

I don't know where it came from, we shook hands and I said to him, "We've stood on this beach before." #littleships

Maybe Churchill can have the last word, whatever the experts may say, "this is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."






Sunday, 3 July 2016

This one gets my vote!

Bit of light relief, Fed up with the endless stream of news and comment, looking for the way out? Smashwords Summer and Winter promotion is now on, All the Grange Series are listed, Iceline is free, and the others, Control Escape, What You Ask For and The Obedience of Fools are discounted to 50% of their normal retail price, but only at Smashwords and with the code SSW50. Get yours, grab a slice of the action, and trust me nobody will mention Brexit?

You only have until the end of July, then everything goes back to normal, whatever that is!

Saturday, 25 June 2016

The morning after...

Not an opportunity I could miss really, to post a comment on the EU referendum. Yesterday's vote has been discussed,  argued over and specffulated about for months. For some of us the opportunity to make our mark regarding the relationship with the rest of Europe has been a long time coming. Forty one years have past since the people of Britain went to the polls over Europe. Back then it was a 67% yes vote from 65% turnout.

Back then it was the European Economic Community, no-one was openly talking about fiscal and political union. I wasn't old enough to vote, a couple of years short of voting age. Now you're trying to do the maths and work out how old I might be, well, good luck.

The important factor is that I, along with the biggest turnout (72;2%) for any vote since the 1992 General Election, made our way to the Polling Stations and put our cross in the relevant box.

In the first past the post system in British politics, a vote over fifty percent of the votes cast is a majority. 51.9 voted to leave, 48.9 voted to stay across the country. A close call nationally but looking at the country region by region the vote was clearer. Across the Yorkshire region the split between the votes was 61,56% to leave, 38.44% to stay. A clear majority. The BBC website has an intriguing scale of how the regions voted

London, Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain, and had the lowest turnout. Flooding in parts of London may have had some effect. The south east mirrored the national vote almost exactly and in every other region the vote was to leave, only the margin varied.

I'm sure that will be investigated by future historians who look back on the events of the past few days.

The result throws up as many questions as it answered and the ripples of the vote were felt in the financial markets across the world almost immediately. The reaction from some of the figures at the heart of Europe was emotionally charged and maybe had the power to launch teddy bears out of prams. Behind all the flimflam, bluster and bull I think the establishment thought they had it in the bag.

It takes nerve to be the first to get up and leave the party, you just know everyone will be talking about you when you've left.

So how did I vote, well, it's a secret ballot, so I can't say.

Through the window from my desk I look out on trees, and the greatest tree in the English wood is the Oak. Roots planted firmly in the soil and its trunk, with a good solid heart pushes up to the heavens, gnarled time worn and weather beaten boughs reach for the sky, branches lift a crown fit for a king: a crown of... leaves.

I'm going for a beer now; a Spitfire, a good Kentish ale,  Seems appropriate to the day.
I waited a long time for this one!



Friday, 24 June 2016

Sliding back into the groove

I've had a slack couple of weeks from a writing point of view; the day job and life generally disrupting the yet to be achieved ideal habits of creativity. After I had spent April punching Gone to Earth further towards a conclusion and suffered an impromptu plot twist that threw me off course for a while.

Set the clock to do a bit of digging around on twitter yesterday, 23rd June, inevitably the referendum generated some amusing traffic and hashtags including #dogsatpolingstations and after the Internet poll to select the name for the new survey vessel,  eventually named the RRS David Attenborough, in honour of the Naturalist and broadcaster who recently celebrated his 90th birthday. The public vote wanted BoatyMcBoatface; the name was given to the small remotely operated vessel on the "Attenborough." Inevitably the referendum threw #voteymcvoteface into the mixture. 

Skipping past all that I tracked down some of the people I follow, and have done since I started out as an author. David Gaughran always come close to the top of the list here. I began reading his blog before Iceline hit the digital shelves and have found his book Lets Get Digital a valuable reference. It's currently on the updated second edition, and now free, maybe forever!

David has been grinding an axe against the machinations of Author Solutions for as long as I can remember and his twitter feed has been busy with traffic regarding the attitude of the big publishing houses and their relationship with authors. Go for the fifteenth of June and work your way back.

The sub-title of David's book, Let's Get Digital, is How to self-publish, and why you should, goes a long way to explaining the choices I made in my personal journey to authorship. 

I was tempted, honestly, before I took the plunge with smashwords, the adverts were very tempting especially to an Internet newbie. What saved me, what held me back from the promised honeypot? Cash was tight, there was no spare to throw away, and so I kept my wallet in my pocket and looked deeper. The shadows behind the glittering facade were deep and dark like the spooky cellar in the haunted house that you just know  the dumb ass hero is going down to their fate.

I had to find another way, and David's blog is worth following, for his dogged persistence, he is not alone, Victoria Strauss at WriterBeware weighs in with her own research, valuable stuff for the newbie and the more experienced. 

Finding David Gaughran still working the case for the self-published author against the vanity presses and their relationships with the big publishers rekindled a spark somewhere, breathed life on to an ember that seemed to be cooling. 

The past few weeks have been a reflective time, ideas percolating at the back of my mind have found their way forward and hopefully a resolution. Realistically, the end product may be a classic English compromise. Cheekyseagull, the name again, and I have been over this before, weighing up the pros and cons of sticking with it, well, the solution may be found in the header of the website. Reconfigured over the past couple of weeks, the tag is now cheekyseagullbooks.co.uk. The familiar cheekyseagull.co.uk is tucked underneath, just below "home of the Grange Thrillers by Martyn Taylor." 

The next question, where to go from here, and in the spirit of the re-ordered website, the new About Me page I have to make the journey myself, independently. I may have to rejig one or two other things before I'm happy with the result.

Thanks for stopping by to share this post.

Martyn.