I’ve decided to take a break from all social media for a little while. Stay safe and well and I’ll see you all in a little while.
Today, I don’t want to write. I don’t want to look at anything on the internet. If I could spend all my free time reading or walking through woods and fields, or over hills, that would suit me fine. I was out walking this morning when all this began running through my head. I felt completely fed up with the novels I’m working on, fed up with all my writing. I felt I’d like to delete all of them and tear up my notebooks. I felt I’d like to delete my published books.
Today, I hate all the characters I’ve created.
Am I the only one who does this? It was clearly my mood, but I felt a strong temptation to delete both my Facebook and Twitter accounts when I returned home, and even my blog. I won’t, of course, but I can’t rid myself of the feeling I would feel a lot freer if I did. And what if I had the courage to delete all of my online self? My email address? I had just a glimpse of the freedom I’d have if I never had to go onto the internet again, and it looked good.
Rant Inspired by The Compleat Trespasser by John Bainbridge
Ooh, I liked this book.
My intention was to review it today, but as I was writing the review it gradually turned into a polemic against grouse moors and the people who own them. So I’m going to run with that and write the review (properly) next week instead.
So, why is this about grouse moors? Well, in The Compleat Trespasser, grouse moors are one of the habitats John mentions in relation to trespassing.
There’s so much to detest about grouse moors.
Firstly, the fact that they tend to be very large areas of land owned by one rich person who wants to keep everyone else off that land; land that is, to use the hackneyed but nonetheless accurate phrase, the birthright of everyone in this country. Land that has, like much other land, been stolen from us originally by force and then passed around from one rich and powerful person to another. Land that, at one time, people would have depended upon for their livelihoods in a multitude of forms, whether it was growing food, gathering wood for shelter or for fire, fodder for their livestock, or somewhere to live.
Secondly, that same owner does everything in their power to destroy all wildlife other than the grouse they protect, so those grouse can then be killed either by their rich chums, or by others who can afford to pay for the pleasure of killing other creatures. Foxes, rats, rabbits, badgers, crows, hawks…the list is pretty well endless. Trapped, poisoned, shot…the result being a landscape as devoid of life as any desert. And I hate that arrogance that says ‘all these wild animals are my property.’
Thirdly, the drab uniformity of the landscape. Nothing but heather growing, and that burned in ten year cycles to maintain that barren uniformity. And this in turn contributes to accelerated run off and flooding in periods of heavy rainfall, affecting land lower down – often villages or small towns.
And, I daresay, the lack of cover makes it easier for the gamekeepers to watch for intruders.
But, at last opinions are beginning to slowly, but surely, turn against these dreadful habitats and their dreadful owners. I’m sure it will take a while yet, but I’m hopeful that in my lifetime we will see a ban on commercial grouse moors and the beginning of their re-wilding.
#Bookreview – The Night Bus by Mick Canning
A very kind and generous review of my short story and poem collection from Robbie Cheadle
Brexit, or Not – And Then What?
Over the last months comment has frequently been made that we need to be having a conversation on how to bring people back together after the divisiveness of Brexit.
Yet, I see no evidence of this conversation being had.
The whole atmosphere surrounding the issue is unpleasant and divisive, and frequently vitriolic, and however it is eventually concluded (if, indeed, it ever is), there is the prospect of a large number of bitterly disappointed and angry people making their feelings known and even the possibility of some turning to violence.
We urgently need to be having this conversation, and we need to be having it before whatever the conclusion is, happens. Otherwise those putting ideas forward will be constantly accused of smugness or bitterness or some other motives.
Not sure why I chose this image – something to do with the whole sorry process, I suspect.
So how is it proposed that we bring people together who have held often bitterly opposing views and who have been, perhaps, shocked by the hostility with which they have been voiced? People who may feel that one-time friends have become unexpected enemies? A familiar observation on the American Civil War (the first one, that is, just in case another has broken out by the time this is published) is that it divided families and turned brother against brother, father against son, and friend against friend. This left a bitter legacy for years afterwards, a legacy that persists yet in some places over a hundred and fifty years after hostilities supposedly ceased.
It is this sort of legacy we must avoid at all costs.
Whether we leave or remain, I think it important to focus on this being a healing process, so the focus might perhaps be on the community and the environment, where there is the potential for all of us to contribute to the healing.
There should be purely enjoyable things, such as festivals and concerts, but also important issues should be tackled such as re-wilding and planting trees, or projects to help those disadvantaged in society. People might be encouraged to take part in this as a way to enable those of differing views to work with a common purpose. Whether we are in or out of Europe, community at a local level is important and is part of who we all are.
It is vitally important that we agree not to replay the arguments over and over again once it is over. The emphasis must be on how we move forward in whatever situation we find ourselves in, not point fingers and discuss whose fault it was in the first place.
There has been a certain amount of talk of the traditional political parties being no longer fit for purpose, and the possibility of them fragmenting. If this does happen, it seems likely to contribute to uncertainty and instability in the political process, perhaps with no party able to gain power outright in future elections. Like it or not, we would then enter an era of coalition government, much as is seen in much of Europe. If we have left Europe, of course, this would be rather ironic.
Strangely, this could be part of the conversation, as we will need to find a way to move on from purely adversarial politics, towards a point where parties look more for common ground. This was supposedly attempted with the Conservative / Labour talks on the Brexit plan, but neither side appeared to negotiate in complete good faith and I suppose I can think of several reasons why that was.
As an aside, it would be fantastic if every politician connected with the whole sorry process could be ditched and fresh untainted ones brought in, but I know that really is wishing for the impossible.
Yet I find it difficult to think of other ways a nation-wide healing process could take place, and so this is why the conversation needs urgent input from everyone.
Grrr? Well, the reason I’ve been absent this last week or so is a trapped nerve in my neck that has been stupidly painful and stopped me doing most things I want to do. It’s on the mend now, but the last thing I’ve wanted to do up until now is work at a keyboard.
And Grrr! it’s a tiger.
Not a very good photograph, admittedly. It was taken over thirty years ago when I worked in Oman, and is of the butterfly known there as the Plain Tiger. What I remember in particular about it is the way it flies, or glides to be more exact. Unlike many butterflies that fly with continual, rapid wingbeats, the Tiger flaps a couple of times and then glides gracefully, as in the photograph. It is most impressive, and very lovely – especially where there is very little else in the way of insect life.
It’s one of those butterflies that is very widespread, although it does not migrate. I’ve seen it in India, and apparently it is met with in South East Asia and Australasia, too.
I’ve got butterflies on my brain at the moment, as the weather has turned really lovely here and I’m suddenly seeing lots of them, even in the garden.
So on that note, I’m off to sit in the garden in the sun again for a while with a cup of tea and a book, resting my poorly neck and whimpering pathetically to myself.
Sad, isn’t it?
Yes, I know it’s Springtime. Indulge me.
It’s only a painting, anyway.
Autumn leavesWatercolour on watercolour paper, size 11ins x 8ins.
Available in my Etsy store: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/MickCanningArtworks
Who Shot Tony Blair? The Novel
As Minister for Culture, Media & Sport I have to tell you to buy this book!
Now available on Kindle and coming soon on paperback!
Not the political thriller we wanted, but the political thriller we deserve
In a post-Brexit, pre-dystopian Britain, the traditional political system has collapsed and Tony Blair is back in Number 10. Only this time, he is tied to a chair in the kitchen under the watchful eye of the accidental Prime Minister’s mother.
Following several years of instability, Britain is more divided than ever. The country has devolved into a ragtag assembly of self-governing provinces, each with their own unique and particular arrangements.
Elected to the position of Prime Minister of East Anglia by lottery (considered the only true method of democracy by some drunk Cambridge scholars), Lucy Wastell comes to power with the intention of reuniting her beloved country, establishing Cambridge as the new capital city and giving her chums all the top jobs. Which…
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Bye For Now
So little time, so much to do.
I’ll be absent from Social (and anti-social) Media for a while, but I’ll see you all sometime in the New Year.
In the meantime, I hope you all have a Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Remembrance Day 2017
This is the post I put up for Remembrance day two years ago. It seems as pertinent now as it did then.
Remembrance Day, and the wearing of poppies, seems to be something that divides opinions and causes a certain amount of friction, especially in Britain.
On one side, there are those who say that simply wearing a red poppy is a glorification of militarism, whilst on the other are those who argue that it is all about respect; about honouring the dead.
Are we remembering the First World War, one hundred years ago, or are we celebrating it? There would seem to be quite a few people, judging from conversations that I have heard and threads that I have seen, who are happy to confuse the two and seem unwilling to listen to what is really being said.
A lot of nonsense, of course, is spoken by both sides:
‘Every soldier is/was a hero’
‘Anyone who objects to them is a traitor’
‘It is all about glorifying war and militarism’
Unfortunately, as soon as a debate becomes in any way emotional, then there is a tendency both for people’s opinions to become polarised, and for their perceptions of the opinions of others to also become polarised.
And then anything that your ‘opponent’ says is jumped upon as furiously as if they had just advocated the torture and murder of all children and little furry animals.
But they haven’t, so calm down.
Now then, the facts.
It may come as a surprise to some people, but the poppy was not chosen because the red colour of its petals symbolised bloodshed, but because of its ability to bloom where the ground has been smashed and churned up, such as at the Somme, where it was noticed by a Canadian soldier, Col. John McCrae, a physician, who wrote a poem about it, and through this it was adopted later by the Royal British Legion as a symbol for their poppy appeal. It is intended to symbolise how someone whose life has been in dreadful turmoil may come later to peace and normality.
The white poppy was first used in 1933, to remember those who had died, but also as a determination to work for peace. It was mildly controversial at the time, and some women lost their jobs for wearing it, but in more recent times Margaret Thatcher expressed her distaste for it and there are many now who follow her lead.
The Royal British Legion point out that they have no objection to the white poppy or, as some people like to do, it being worn alongside the red poppy.
To return to the controversy, then.
Why does it only commemorate the military? What about the civilians who died? What about the conscientious objectors who died for their beliefs? When it was first used by the Royal British Legion, it was to raise funds for disabled servicemen and the families of those who had been killed, so this wasn’t an issue then. When the white poppy was introduced, in many people’s minds it came to represent those others.
Does it glorify war? In some people’s minds, no doubt, it does, but this is not its purpose. Even the military will say that part of the purpose of Remembrance Day is to help to ensure that a war like WW1 never happens again. It is important to remember the horrors to avoid sleepwalking into them again.
There are also many people who feel it terribly important that it should be worn the ‘right way’, but there is no agreement over what this ‘right way’ is. Some say it should be worn on the left side, some that men should wear it on the left and women the right. Many argue over when it should be first worn – from October 31st? The eleven days leading up to Remembrance Day? After Guy Fawkes Night? Some argue that it should be worn with the leaf pointing to eleven o’clock. There are no ‘official’ guidelines on this.
The poppy, and Remembrance Day, are used also as propaganda by hate groups like ‘Britain First’ (if you have never heard of them, they describe themselves as ‘a patriotic political party and street defence organisation’ – I think that tells you everything that you need to know), who choose to ignore facts such as that 400,000 Muslim and 1.2 million Indian troops fought alongside the allies in World War 1, many giving their lives, and like to think of it as a symbol of white Britishness. This, of course, is not a reason to object to the poppy, but only to the hate groups, especially as this only helps to further polarise opinions.
I do not see, then, any reason why pacifists should object to the red poppy and the Remembrance Day tradition, or why servicemen should object to the white poppy. If they all take the time to understand what each one represents, then they should understand that there is no real conflict in their views, and that both represent remembrance and respect.