Archive | February, 2013

The husband’s dilemma on Valentine’s Day

14 Feb

Nineteen years of marriage and there is still the need to express some affection and desire when it comes to Valentine’s Day. I don’t expect a positive response, but not to make an effort would definitely cause a negative reaction. Flowers, certainly, even if they are four times the price they were at the weekend. Chocolates are a more difficult choice. They are at the same time desirable and things to be avoided, especially for a woman trying to stick to a diet who has no will power at all when it comes to shunning milk chocolates. A card, naturally, but it has to be neither too dreamily pink nor too sordidly suggestive. That cuts down the choice by about eighty percent. A gift of lacy lingerie, perhaps?  My experience there is that you should get it at Marks and Spenser, so she can change it for something  more sensible. Cook her a meal? Well, a.) I do that almost every evening, and b.) see note above about the diet. Wine is also a no-no as it is very calorific. Cuddle together on the couch? Last time we tried that I ended up with cramp. Also, the cat will try to insert herself between us. If you have heard of a contraceptive cap, don’t get confused by the idea of a contraceptive cat. Both methods are quite effective. Besides, we’re British, and we don’t admit to those kind of feelings, by Jove!

So it will be a card, some cheerful spring flowers, much preferred to red roses, a very few chocolates and a lovingly cooked but strictly calorie-controlled meal. Perhaps I will serenade her on the guitar while she tries to advance on the Wii Lego Harry Potter game and tells me to go and practice in another room.  I am a romantic, but am likely to get precious little response to my fervent wooing. She had an early start this morning, so it will be early to bed. Ho-hum, maybe next year! At least there’s some football on the tele this evening.

A Great Country

11 Feb

I am proud of my country and the way it managed to dismantle an empire whist still remaining on good terms with nearly all the ex-colonies. There are a few things to be ashamed of, but overall it was a pretty good job. The British Empire was always a trick with smoke and mirrors. There were never enough Britons to go round, and, unlike the Romans, we didn’t make colonials into citizens. The reality of the situation became apparent during WWII. Lines of communication were stretched to breaking point and the colonials knew this. We accepted the loss of Empire with good grace.

Even when the Empire was at its zenith there was never a problem in accommodating foreign radicals. It is no coincidence that Engels and Marx lived and worked in a country that was safe and relatively liberal. Vladymir Illyich Ulyanov, better known as Lenin, stayed in London during his exile and even wrote a polite thank you letter to his landlady. At one conference the Russian revolutionaries had to be protected by the police from local toughs, after the Daily Mirror ran a campaign against these dangerous foreigners. The Latvian anarchists who provoked the siege of Sidney Street were the exception and not the rule. The police kept an eye on what the radicals were doing but generally left them to their own devices and were rewarded because the radicals realised in was in their own interests not to make trouble for their hosts.

The world has changed since then. We invited immigrants from the colonies to do the jobs we were not prepared to do. People came from the Caribbean and the Indian sub-continent and soon became familiar sights in our cities. There was a lot of racial prejudice from the British. Houses with rooms for rent sported signs that said things like, ‘No Blacks, Irish or dogs’. It has taken two generations for these immigrants to be widely accepted and there are still racists, led by parties whose agenda is Fascist. It is a sad irony that some working class white Londoners are willing to vote for a party which is almost identical to the regime that caused East London to be bombed almost out of existence.

The latest wave of immigration came from Eastern Europe after the Soviet regime came to an end and the countries joined the EU. Polish food shops are common in most towns and most plumbers seem to be Polish. Where I live is dependent on agriculture, especially soft fruit and the economy is dependent on cheap labour from the Baltic states, Belarus, Ukraine and others. The racial prejudice previously directed to blacks and Asians is now directed to these groups. The EU is blamed for this new wave because being a citizen of an EU country gives you the right to live and work in any country in the union.

Currently we are going through a triple-dip recession and jobs are hard to find. In these conditions xenophobia and racism is increasing at a worrying rate. It is always easy to blame your troubles on the damn foreigners, however unfair that is. Stories circulate that foreigners receive preferential treatment in health care and social housing, both demonstrably untrue. The supposedly decent newspaper, The Daily Mail, runs campaigns if misinformation directed against the EU and the new wave of immigrants. The chief political beneficiary of this campaign is the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). This is currently taking votes by the sack-load from the Conservative Party, which is the senior partner in the coalition government. To counter this, many right wing Conservatives are trying to take the party even further to the right and take up UKIP policies.

Surely a better policy would be to counter the misinformation and work for truth and justice rather than fear and prejudice. We have to admit that we are a part of Europe. Winston Churchill one said, ‘Jaw-jaw is better than war-war’. Countries that trade openly do not go to war. My father fought in WWII, his father in WWI. I have been lucky in that I never had to serve in the armed forces. We have to accept that we are a small country with limited powers. We need allies, local allies. Economically we are vulnerable to events on other continents. When the USA sneezes we get a cold. In this situation we should be getting closer to our neighbours, not threatening to withdraw from the EU. We used to be a great country. We still can be provided we reject the views of the xenophobes and little-Englanders. As Kipling, the great poet of Empire said, ‘What do they know of England that only England know?’

Back to work

1 Feb

The pantomime finished almost a week ago, leaving me feeling a bit drained. In fact I was in no position to do any writing until Wednesday. Currently I am concerned to get an agent and a publishing deal. This may sound like a cop-out, but I am finding that I am not good at generating publicity and my income needs a boost. Mt experience of sending out drafts of my second Gentleman Spy novel has not been good. After receiving feedback I decided that it was probably wrong to start with a novel series, so I have sent out instead the first chapters of a very different book, ‘Sunbeam’, which is a rural noir novel set in 1953 and the near present. As far as I can tell there is nothing even nearly similar out there, so I hope it might find a market. I have written about 65k words so far and it should end up at about 110k.

In the meantime I am putting off publishing ‘Down in the Flood’ until I have sold ‘Sunbeam’ or have given up trying to do so due to lack of interest. My opinion, and those of early editors, is that this is easily the best thing I have done. For several years I have been planning to write a partially fictionalised book about a certain incident which happened near to where I live, but local sensitivity on the subject is still strong. It was my wife who suggested that I put the story in another location. This I did, placing it in the area where I mostly grew up, and adding some of my own memories as well as those of some friends and relatives.

[Slight break there as I had to chase a squirrel away from the bird feeders]

Anyhow, to return to the theme, I have sent off some initial chapters to an agent selected after some research about their current clients. And I shall only send it to one agent at a time and carefully target each one. This is a business deal and it should benefit both parties. Research seems to be the key here.Sunbeam