Saturday, 24 June 2017


The Prophets of Baal
In the Smashwords Summer Sale you can buy 'The Prophets of Baal' ebook version at HALF PRICE!

All you have to do is follow this link to the book's Smashwords page:

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This offer Expires: July 24, 2017.

So here's your chance to help me reach the best seller charts.

I mean you would like me to make the best seller charts, wouldn't you?

Plot summary:

Young PI Toby cannot believe his luck. Two beautiful women compete for his affections. But when he falls for the younger one, he is enmeshed in an ancient struggle between occult powers. If the girl is to be saved from death, he faces not just a steep learning curve in witchcraft but a battle for supremacy. And unknown to Toby, both sides have picked him to play a leading role in the fight!

Friday, 16 June 2017

The Devil You Don't Know

I’ve been trying to think back to the old days. Were those of us who were enthused by Gene McCarthy’s ‘Children’s Crusade’ as ill-informed as the youth of today? Did we really think, back in 1968, that you could have everything for free?

Do you know, I don’t think we did. We did tend to remark that we’d rather be red than dead, which still chimes with Jeremy Corbyn’s attitude today, but in those days the Keynesian idea was that you really could restart economic growth by deficit financing.

Around 1976, as I recall, Jim Callaghan announced to the Labour Party Conference that spending your way out of recession only led in the long run to inflation. There are limits. You cannot indefinitely borrow money from your children to finance the living standards of today.

In the last twelve months we’ve seen Bernie Sanders in the USA, Jean-Luc Melenchon in France and Jeremy Corbyn in the UK each enunciate their conviction that these issues have not really been resolved conclusively, and we’ve seen a new generation of enthusiastic youth convinced they have found a new answer rather than a recycled intellectual blind alley.

I do hope I’m wrong, but I have a nasty feeling the dragon of inflation is not slain but only sleeping.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Minority Government Options

I understand the distaste in some quarters for a government to be supported by the DUP. But consider please what Scots would have to endure if Labour were to do a deal with the SNP. 63% of us have just voted against the SNP, sending a very clear message that we don't want another referendum. Would Labour give them one anyway in order to get into government?

So far as I understand it there is no threat of a CON + DUP coalition, the proposal is for a 'confidence & supply' arrangement. This does not involve importing DUP social policy into mainland Britain. Almost certainly, I should have thought, the price they will exact is a soft border with Eire after Brexit.

When eating with the devil, use a long spoon. Of the two deals with two devils likely to be on offer in the short term, I'm inclined to feel one of the alternative spoons needs to be substantially longer.

Fortunately the Northern Irish peace process has two referees not one. The role of the second referee is automatically strengthened when the NI Assembly is suspended and I suspect that any error by referee one would very speedily result in an appeal to referee two.

Secondly the price likely to be demanded by the DUP (see above) is not politically controversial in NI as far as I know. No-one is likely to complain if they extract this concession. Note that it is a big concession. If you must have agreement on the NI border then you cannot carry out any threat to walk away without a deal.

Thirdly, should anyone ask why Unionist Scots are afraid of another referendum given they should win it easily, I reply that no-one who did not experience the gut-wrenching unpleasantness of our last referendum can possibly understand. We are trying vainly to rebuild our community with the threat of another vitriolic campaign constantly hanging over our heads like the sword of Damocles.

Fourthly, as I've said before, referenda settle nothing. The losers never accept the democratic verdict and go on campaigning as though nothing had happened in the hope of wearing down the majority will by sheer importunity. Frankly I'm with Brenda from Bristol. We've had enough!

What we actually need is a grand coalition in which the two large parties come together for the duration of the Brexit talks and sort out a common British negotiating position. 

Sunday, 28 May 2017

People who made things to last: An Appreciation

  1. Chain Harrows. Probably the earliest form of grassland maintenance implement of the modern era. Still as good as the day they were made back in who knows when. To you, gentlemen, thank you for your skill and work.
  2. My Ford 3000 Super-Dexta tractor. Probably produced at the Ford Tractor plant in Basildon Essex in 1967. Gentlemen, your machine has today put in a seriously good shift in the fields fifty years after rolling off the production line. She still runs beautifully and pulls beautifully. My salutations, sirs, you knew how to build tractors.

We hear a lot of complaints when things are done wrong but I don't think we hear enough congratulations when things go right. So my grateful thanks to you both.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

A dry spell

My writing output in April was similar to the weather - a long dry spell. However a downpour in mid-May coincided with another burst of writing productivity. I've recently finished my first new story in two months and I received an acceptance from the respected Third and Starlight anthology for a reprint of 'The Waiting Room.'

In the meantime I as usual turned to writing poetry. By this, of course, I mean formal poetry as opposed to free verse. For some reason I find the discipline of metre and rhyme helpful, even though the output is not saleable in today's free-verse dominated poetry market. I suppose the modern fashion really is poetry because the market tells me so, but personally I prefer prose properly punctuated. If you'd like to see some of my recent work, there are some new pieces on this blog's poetry page.

One strange result of the freak weather has been the may blossom blooming in May high up on top of Sliabh Mannan rather than as it more commonly does in June.

camellia (unknown variety)
To my surprise and pleasure a camellia bought cheaply in a car boot sale years ago has produced its first flower (left.) I had suspected it would turn out to be Japonica rather than Williamsii. The former, it seems, just don't flower at this altitude. However it has just about the most sheltered spot on the place, so it does have its best chance. It was anybody's guess as to the variety, so if anybody happens to know, I'd be pleased to hear from you.

The early season butterflies have been out in good numbers, particularly orange tips and green-veined whites. A red admiral turned up in the garden this week.

At least one pair of greenfinches seem to have taken up residence in the garden this year too. We have chaffinch every year and bullfinch occasionally but greenfinch are a novelty. Siskin have also turned up this year and there are grey wagtail down by the burn. Wrens also seem to be on the increase and the local greater spotted woodpecker has also been visiting the garden.

For the amateur photographer a woodland summer is so frustrating. The summer visiting birds are all displaying their brightest colours, but the shade and the leaf cover make it so hard to get a good picture!

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

I tolerate, you overlook, he neglects ...

I'm the most tolerant person on Earth.

Except that I can't tolerate intolerance. Lots of social media comments are intolerance disguised as tolerance. And I can't tolerate that either. 

And while we're on the subject I can't tolerate people who can't tolerate people who can't tolerate intolerance. 

And I can't tolerate anyone who can't tolerate my tolerance. 

In fact, when you get right down to it, I'm not only the most tolerant person on Earth, I'm the only tolerant person on Earth. 

The rest of you are just so intolerant I absolutely cannot tolerate you.  

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Spring Forward

I'm told that the depreciation of sterling following the Brexit vote has compelled consumables
manufacturers to make their products smaller in order to avoid putting their prices up. Well, they would say that, wouldn't they? But what, I wonder, is the explanation for years getting shorter? Almost before I'm certain that winter is over the seasonal migrations are under way.

Last week the over-wintering geese of Sliabh Mannan were packing their breeding plumage and heading for their summer nesting grounds in Sweden. Like normal families they set off on the journey arguing with each other about who should lead the way and what direction they should be flying. Down on the ground we humans just look up and wish them bon voyage.

Meanwhile the grey wagtails (above) have been arriving for a couple of weeks along the course of the Culloch Burn and today I saw the first house martin (left) of the season. He's timed it nicely again, because a cloud of midges were out in the sunshine yesterday evening.

However it's early yet for most of the swallow family and I've noted before that a single martin has arrived a week or so in advance. I'm not sure whether he communicates telepathically with the main flock about the climate or whether he's just determined to grab the best nesting site.