Hello Readers, everywhere. Friday, Jan 13 2012 

I keep track of hits by using the WordPress stats page.  It also alerts me when I have new followers etc.  I can’t help but think most of you are disappointed most of the time.

This blog is so eclectic that what ever you subscribed to is probably only a fraction of my output, and the rest of it is of very little interest!

My characters surprise me again. Friday, Jan 13 2012 

There is a phrase I’ve come across in the online writing community ‘Pantsing’.  This means ‘Writing by the Seat of your pants’ – ie making it up as you go along, with minimal plotting ahead.  It seems that most writers sharing their experiences online are a mixture of Pantsers and Plotters (ie have it all laid out before start), myself included.  The previous post on this blog revealed the surprise this can lead too.

And now it’s happened again.  I am happily writing a scene, I know exactly what the next bit is (not the precise words- imagine having to write a presentation: you know the topic, you just need to find how to vocalise it).

THEN the lead character reveals with NO WARNING WHAT SO EVER that he almost had one of his closest friends committed to hospital under the Mental Health Act.

I literally had no idea!  I finished one paragraph, went to write the next and he said something completely different.  I had just enough time to stop myself writing and add a set up for the next 250 words correctly.

Mind you, this whole chapter has been hiding surprises from me.  I knew it existed- its a party, but I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about.  I just knew it needed to exist as a bridge between two major plot points.  A little later I realised I needed to introduce a new character to tie up the loose ends in what I suppose is the ‘C’ arc of the book, and I look at this as yet unwritten chapter, and find this guy fully formed with a appropriate back story, as if just waiting for me to find him.

Ok.  I may be getting a little wierd as I get older…

The trials of writing Monday, Jan 2 2012 

I’ve started writing again.  The current story is the longest I’ve ever written – it’s approaching the point where it may become a full size book, it’s far longer than the than short stories I’ve written before.  It thrown up a few interesting problems I’ve not encountered before.

I don’t write from the beginning all the way through.  I know what ‘set pieces’ through out I want to write, as I know the general progress of the story.  If I have a good idea I will often start that bit before I forget it, especially if I’m stuck with the earlier story – often one part will inspire another part, and allows me to use tricks such as foreshadowing.

However, because it is so much longer the characters are obviously having to be more rounded.  It turns out that they seem to have a life of their own, no matter what I think.

My female lead has talked the male lead into asking her out to dinner.  I was as surprised as he was.

THAT WASN’T THE NEXT BIT. Now I have to write a whole restaurant scene because she thought he was going a bit too fast.

Thanks dear. I sometimes wonder whose narrative it is!

The problem appeared to be the way I was writing her speech – it’s the classic joke about how a man can say three words on the phone, because he saw his mate last week, but a woman will speak for an hour because she isn’t seeing her friend until this evening.  I felt she was speaking too much like a man.

Once I gave her a less clipped way of speaking; fuller sentences etc, what she said changed, and it became obvious the way she thought was different.

Later the male lead was got drunk by his best mate. I thought it was so he could work through the issues around the woman he loves. Turns out he told me something completely different- why he feels guilty about their other best mate’s death. I didn’t know!

Also I didn’t know how he had died – the official story (which I knew) isn’t the same as what actually happened.

I’m beginning to wonder if I’m sane…

How Men learn Tuesday, Nov 15 2011 

When Men are inexperienced with the female mind, Woman will ask “Should I wear this dress or that dress”, and the young Man will answer “That one.” Because she looks beautiful no matter what She wears. This is wrong, because Woman will then say “What’s wrong with this one. Don’t you like me in this one, are you saying it makes me look fat?”

As he ages He will learn the ways of a woman’s mind, and will confidently say “Which do you like?” This is wrong, because Woman will say “Why can’t you ever make a decision. Why don’t you take an interest in what I look like?”

Then as he grows older, Man becomes wily, and He answers “What shoes/jacket/bag are you going to be wearing/taking.” And this is the right answer, because She thinks He is showing interest.

After some years Woman begins to suspect. And then the Man becomes wise, and when She asks “Should I wear this dress or that dress” Man knows to say “You’ve worn both of those so many times. I will buy you a new dress. And shoes. And jacket.” And he may be poorer, but at least he gets a few months peace and quiet this way.

At the 11th Hour, of the 11th day of the 11th month Friday, Nov 11 2011 

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.


When you go home tell them of us and say –
For your tomorrow we gave our today.

My Life – a Venn diagram Wednesday, Oct 5 2011 


This bloody hurts (and it is icky) Saturday, Oct 1 2011 

At some point on Wednesday or Thursday I managed to get something in my eye.  It irritated through Thursday, and resisted all efforts to wash it out.  It then kept me awake all Thursday night  (literally – I finally passed out at 6:30 am)

I phoned my GP and they said go to A&E at the hospital , being better equiped.  The nurse there attempted to swab it off with a cotton bud, but it is properly stuck to my eyeball.  So he then put anasthetic in my eye (it stung),  and tried to get it with a surgical needle (yes pointy metal in my eye!)  This didn’t work.  Because it was just off the cornea (it’s where the iris meets the white) he couldn’t be too adventurous, as it was near lots of blood vessels.  It had already bled a tiny bit, but to remove it could cause a lot of bleeding (yes, from the eyeball), and the emergency dept isn’t set up for that.

So I have a prescription for some gel which will soften the ‘skin’, and an appointment for 11am tomorrow (Saturday) at the eye clinic.  I hope that it works!

My Dad – the worlds best Alternative Medicine therapist? Wednesday, Aug 24 2011 

When I was young, in the 70’s, I used to get pains in my legs.  My dad would cure this with his special ointment.

He successfully treated growing pains with Old Spice aftershave…

War of Spanish Succession – Open Thread. Monday, Aug 15 2011 

A poster going by the name of ‘Little Keithy’ expressed surprise at hitting the thread on the riots, when he came here looking for stuff about the War of Spanish Succession.  He was obviously not expecting the somewhat eclectic nature of my blog (read ‘any old rubbish that comes to mind’, refered to by my wife as spending half the night on the internet ranting at people).  Unlike many wargamers this isn’t a wargame only thing. (It originally started as I wanted to share some fiction I had written with bloggers from other sites I frequent, for their opinion).

He wrote

Anyway what I was going to ask: what’s the allure of the WSS? I like the SYW as there is a variety of troop types plus nice uniforms to paint (not that I ever get round to painting them).

The WSS appears to the uninitiated limited in troop types (in western europe), tactics and pretty uniforms (nice whigs though). Is it more a test of skill having limited opportunities for a coup de grace or clever manoeuvre?

Well, to tell the truth, I chose the period based on hats… (more after the break)


The Cause of the rioting isn’t why they are rioting. Wednesday, Aug 10 2011 

Currently in Britain there is attempted ‘Crash’ revisionism. You’ll see and hear people state ‘Its the profligate Labour government’s fault, not the banks. The Tories are just trying to fix it.”


We’ve had 30 years of Thatcherite politics: Blair gave up the left to get elected, continued privatisation of public services, and tried to continue a ‘thin air’ economy – who does manufacturing anymore? (Er.. Germany)

Like the US we lost large lumps of production overseas. It turns out that 50% of the population will always be below average academically (who’d have guessed eh?) There are no longer the non-academic industry jobs for people to go into, and they can’t all stack shelves. Both Tory and Labour governments for the last 30 years have allowed foreign businesses to buy up our companies, then are surprised when production is take out of the UK.

It turns out that thin air economy was stuffed full of gamblers and people trying to make as much money as quickly as possible, and hang the risks.

The claim that Brown was profligate is twisting the truth, as Richard Murphy shows here:



Note that Major spent more in 1990-97 than Labour 1997-2007. Look where the Labour spending falls off the cliff – at the point the banks needed to be propped up. £500 bn of money and guarentees has been pumped into the banks. For comparison the amount collected by HM Revenue and Customs in 2006-07 was £426bn

So now the Tories are making deep cuts against normal economic logic. Debt is 55% of GDP (it was 46% before the bail out), less than under Major. There were no howls back then. The way recessions have been beaten in the past is to spend on infrastructure – making sure businesses want to locate, and ensuring those here can compete. Why isn’t Cameron making the UK a world leader in sustainable energy production, rather than rely on the foreign companies that Thatcher sold our infrastructure too?

The Right are quick to scream about Benefit cheats. Tax evasion, avoidance and fraud costs the treasury SEVENTEEN times what benefit fraud does. Literally tens of millions of pounds go uncollected and uninvestigated every year. Why? Between 2004 and 2010 Labour cut 25,000 jobs at HM Revenue and Customs, down to 75,000. Cameron is committed to further ‘Efficiency savings’ taking it down to 60,000.

In Tottenham there are 50 unemployed for every job vacancy. We have a generation that has no investment in society. House prices are pushed out of sight of first time buyers, inflation is at 5%, while wages are flat, the government gives money to the rich, while making cuts to services for the general population. The rioters have no social contract with the wider populance.

Now I don’t believe that the kids have turned around and said “We must show our displeasure at the failure to tackle tax havens”. But when they see people looting, they do not see a reason not to join in – its ‘a bit of a laugh’, and they might get a £100 pair of trainers out of it. They don’t see a down side- why does a 17 year old care if florist loses her business when he has no future himself: teenagers are incredibly short sighted at times.

The failure to provide a future has broken the link between individual and society.

Alam Bay chairlift – July 2011 Monday, Aug 8 2011 

Me and the youngest on the Alum Bay chairlift.  Note the lack of safety features.

How to solve “Missing Flash.ocx” the simple way Monday, Jul 11 2011 

If you get this error message it can be a bit of a puzzler – You return to your computer after half an hour and you get this as a warning box, even though everything was fine when you left it.  What’s happened?

Well firstly you have probably just installed the latest Adobe Flash update, yes?  Then your screensaver tried to kick in.  The problem is your screensaver needs Flash.  Of course it could happen if you have tried to use a Flash reliant programme.  The reason is the Adobe update renames the Flash programme.  Now if you Google this problem you’ve probably been taken to any number of sites telling you to uninstall stuff, down load special fixer programmes etc.  These are all over complicated.  Below is the easy method:


Another sign of getting old Thursday, Jun 16 2011 

I had to fight the urge to call a 21 year old ‘son’ – as in “Could you do that for me, son?”

Improving phone speaker sound Tuesday, Jun 14 2011 

Some of you may have already seen this on the O2 adverts: I am passing it on with recommendations as to the best way todo it, having experimented.

If, like me, you play music through your phone speaker (as opposed to earphones) you will note that the sound is rather tinny, especially as it lack bass.  To improve this O2 say put your phone in a glass.

I have tried this and it does work.  After a bit of experimenting I can say the following seems to work best

  • Use a glass that tapers – wider at the top than at the bottom.  This seemed to work better than a straight sided glass.
  • Put the phone in speaker first, so the sound comes from the bottom of the glass – you may have to put the phone in upside-down.
  • The phone will probably lean at an angle – this is fine.  In fact put it in so the speaker is facing downwards, so the sound comes off the bottom of the glass.

It not the greatest – you have a tiny speaker on the phone without the physical depth to propagate sound properly- ideally you want a decent pair of headphones or a connection to a decent stereo (via the Aux in).  However the glass definately makes it far more listenable, and increases the volume, which is what I want when washing up, as I have no stereo in the kitchen, and headphone wires get in the way.

Running out of superlatives Sunday, May 22 2011 

Having listened to my son speaking to a freind this morning, I wonder what the youth of today will do when the do encounter something that is, actually, ‘awesome’.

Or come to that, how will they convey when something is ‘literally’ true (as opposed to “I literally died”. Really – you are a zombie then?)

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