Archive | November, 2013

Back Again

28 Nov

It has been over a week since my last post. I performed a Windows update on my computer and it screwed up and stopped the machine entirely. It has taken me until today to get it sorted out. An update to Windows was required. I lost all my programs, links and shortcuts. Most of the programs, at least the ones I use most have been reinstalled and are working, but it has been a lot of work and stress. Oh, and I had to pay Microsoft for the service the failure of their software required. The only good thing is that stripped of its rubbish, the machine is working much faster. The one thing I have yet to do is to re-link Word to WordPress, so this is being done on my Chromebook.
In the meantime I have received my first delivery of the first book, Most Secret, and have ordered a load of the second book, Down in the Flood. Also, I have been practising my signature for the signing.

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On the move

21 Nov

My main computer is five years old and has all sorts of rubbish slowing it down. I have bought a package which allows me to control what has been shoved on the Start menu and get rid of the sort of annoying software which does not want to be deleted. Yesterday I gave in to an annoying nag screen and agreed to download a Windows Vista update. The process started at shortly after 8 am and was still going on close to midday. The machine then refused to reboot properly. In effect I was unable to sign on properly until the afternoon. When I switched the machine on just now it started looping round saying “Installing Update three of three – do not switch off”. It then restarts, and has been doing that for an hour. (Deep sigh).
Just over a week ago I took delivery of a Samsung Chromebook, which is what I am using now. Most of what I do can be done on the Net. The Chromebook boots up and is on a homepage on the Net within ten seconds. To say that I have become a convert is to perfect the English art of understatement. Of course, there are some things that I cannot do on-line, mostly heavy duty DTP in my case, and some Photoshop stuff, but most tasks I can do. I already use Google Docs, so most of my text files are already up in the ether. The Samsung connected first time, and very quickly, with the WiFi at the nearest Starbucks, and this will become my office when I’m in town. I have seen the future, and it works.

What’s in a name?

19 Nov

Both of the first two books are now published and I am making some sales, though not enough to make a good living at the moment. There is a book signing mid December, and it is in the newspapers and newsletters. I suppose I shall have to sign in my writer’s name. Several times I have been asked why I chose to use a nom de plume. Well, partly because I had quite a few technical documents out there under my real name and I wanted to avoid confusion. But, more than that, I thought my real surname was too long to make a snappy statement on the cover of a book of commercial fiction. The name is a large part of the brand. If you buy a Dan Brown book you have some idea of what you are going to get. Then, what name to choose? Wakeham was my mother’s maiden name, so I selected that. My middle name is James, so I chose that. James Wakeham it would be. Then the posters went out for a little play I wrote, and the name came out as John Wakeham. Unfortunately, that is the name of a Tory politician from Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet. Wanting to avoid confusion I corrected the name to Jon Wakeham in all the programmes, and Jon Wakeham I have been since.

As part of a marketing campaign I have decided to a bit of reverse Psychology, and try to sell the books on resistance to the instruction NOT to buy the books. I’m reasonably sure that this will work on a significant proportion of British readers. If you tell us not to do something we will automatically do the opposite. I will have to see how this goes and review the strategy as I go along. After all, I am still learning this game. Until I can get some suitably obscure photos I shall have to use this one.

Wish me luck with the approaching round of publicity.

Who minds the minders?

12 Nov

I am a great believer in the cock-up theory of history. In my experience and reading this is infinitely more convincing than devious and sinister plots created by criminal masterminds and traitors. In terms of fiction, it is a bit boring. When researching my stories of MI5 and MI6 I cannot help but find that they have been incredibly inept in almost all of their dealings. If only because their opponents were as bad or worse at the great game, they occasionally achieved some minor successes. However, in terms of MI5, their greatest coups were started by a simple policeman making a routine enquiry, and many of the operatives of MI5 seem to have been of the conspiracy nut variety, and very probably still are.

The worrying thing about what Edward Snowden has shown is that many of us are getting our emails read and our phone calls intercepted. I would like to believe that the operatives of MI5 and GCHQ are wonderful people, but the record shows otherwise. There are certain types of behaviour which are completely legal but could still result in blackmail. What if someone in public office is having an affair and the intercepts can prove this? It is really none of our business, in almost all circumstances. Would I be considered a dangerous radical if they found I read the Guardian or kept this type of blog?

This is from Adam Curtis’ blog, http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/adamcurtis/posts/BUGGER He says of MI5:

‘For most of the twentieth century the combination of ineptitude and secrecy created an organisation that retreated more and more into a world of fictional conspiracies in order to disguise it’s repeated failures. The question is whether the same is true today?

Disasters like the total intelligence failure over the WMD in Iraq would suggest that nothing much had changed. But the trouble is there is no way we can ever find out. The spies live behind a wall of secrecy and when anyone tries to criticise them, the spies respond by saying that they have prevented attacks and saved us from terrible danger. But they can’t show us the evidence because that is secret.’

There was a parliamentary committee last week where the heads of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ were questioned. No doubt the committee found nothing useful.

In the very short Chapter nine of Harold Wilson’ book, ‘The governance of Britain’, there are two paragraphs explaining that the prime minister has ultimate responsibility for the security agencies. And it ends with two more that simply say this:

“The prime minister is occasionally questioned on matters arising out of his responsibility. His answers may be regarded as uniformly uninformative.

There is no further information that can usefully or properly be added before bringing this Chapter to an end.”

The veil of secrecy is always kept and we can never fully examine what they are doing. Since 9/11 the security agencies have greatly expanded, but seem to have produced very little of obvious use.

 

Jon Wakeham is the author of two books concerning the creation of the British security agencies, ‘Most Secret’ and ‘Down in the Flood’.

Where money goes

12 Nov

The way it works is like this: Money goes where money is.

A container port recently opened in Essex, on the site of an old oil terminal. This cost in excess of 1 Billion pounds and will be used primarily to speed the import of goods into Britain. Last year we had the Olympic games in London and a whole lot of new infrastructure was put in place in the East London area. The only major rail improvement in living memory was a decade ago when High Speed 1, (AKA HS1) brought high speed trains from the Channel Tunnel into London. Around London’s Heathrow airport the orbital road, the M25, is five lanes wide in either direction. The biggest development of any area since WWII was when London’s Docklands was developed about twenty years ago. Are you starting to get the picture?

No-one is arguing that London isn’t the biggest city in the country, except for those who believe that the M62 corridor, between the Mersey and Humber estuaries, in a band across northern England is in effect one long city, with a population greater than London. The West Midlands conurbation of Birmingham, Coventry, Wolverhampton, etc. is not far behind on that score. Yet these areas have been starved of infrastructure development for a generation. All the major developments have benefitted London and its hinterland. Manchester airport is near the junction between the M6 and the M62 and is three lanes each way. The traffic queues at rush hour around there are quite horrific. A relief road was built to relieve the traffic around the north of Birmingham on the M6, but this was a toll road that is so expensive that in is seriously underused. If you attempted to charge for the M25 the outcry would be enormous, but outside of London we have to put up with it. The mantra that everything must make a profit gives us the highest rail fares in Europe and some of the worst services.

When Margaret Thatcher came to power she determined to break the power of the Trades Union, and did so by deflating during a recession. In effect, she destroyed what was left of Britain’s industrial heritage. But it didn’t matter because jobs would be created in banking and the service industries . At a time when Britain’s oil revenues were at their height much of the money went on paying dole to workers made redundant by her policies rather than modernising for a new world. She did, however succeed in destroying the power of the unions. The other result was to concentrate all the money into London, especially in the City of London and the Docklands developments. And that was alright as far as London was concerned, but a bit of a bummer for everyone else. Then came the Great Banking Crash and a few bankers and Insurance company people lost their jobs, mostly very low grade people. Their bosses caused the crisis yet remained oblivious to its effects. Bonuses were still paid out and salaries remained sky high. By now we had to support these areas of the economy, as there was little in the way of alternative ways of making a living in the world, what with other industries having been destroyed.

So money goes where money is. The South East of England is now crowded, the property is ridiculously expensive and it is difficult to afford anywhere to live, even with London rates of pay being higher than elsewhere in the country. Londoners have a way of expressing contempt for those who live outside the metropolis, saying they are uncouth and work-shy and always moaning. Perhaps if they realised that they have everything, the high paid jobs, the infrastructure development and all the money they might be a little more sympathetic. And it is not just in infrastructure. Subsidies for the arts in London are at 15 times (yes, fifteen times) per head greater than the average in the rest of the country. So, if a family from Leeds want to go to see a major show in London they will have to travel down, probably on a very expensive train, pay exorbitant prices for the show, stay in a poor but very expensive hotel. All in all probably costing near a thousand pounds for the treat.

Not far from where I live is Coalbrookdale. You may not have heard of this place. It is better known as Ironbridge. In 1780 Abraham Darby built a cast iron bridge over the river Severn in a gorge. It is a potent symbol of the start of the Industrial Revolution. Not far from there is Dudley which probably has an equal claim to being the birthplace of the Industrial revolution. There was a seam of coal there, good coking coal, twenty feet thick. Nearby were good supplies of iron ore and limestone. These were all the ingredients needed to produce iron in industrial quantities. But it still required investment to build the foundries and canals, and fund the exploration for coal and minerals. Whether it was Abraham Darby and his fellow Ironmasters or the Earl of Dudley putting up the cash, investment was still needed to spark these developments. All industrial developments that occurred globally since then came about because of these pioneers. They truly changed the entire world.

These days Ironbridge is a living museum, and there is another in Dudley. It may well be that Britain is the first post-industrial country. The canals are too small, the roads too narrow. If the rest of the country outside of London is to be re-invigorated it desperately needs some pump priming. I am not suggesting a return to mass iron smelting, but we do have considerable reserves of coal and could surely develop technology to burn it cleanly and efficiently. There are other more high-tech industries which could be developed if the infrastructure and the money were in place. After all we did invent the programmable electronic computer. We have a wonderful track record for inventing things but a woeful one for developing them commercially. A plan to develop a high speed rail link between London, the Midlands and Scotland (HS2) has become controversial, because of the expense, and has been described as a vanity project by some, mostly in London but also on the path of the track by NIMBYs. If I want to travel long haul I have to fly from London. There are plans to expand Heathrow every few years, the justification of which is that more people fly from London because a greater percentage of the people there fly. Duh! Talk about a circular argument! In effect, the rest of the country has to schlepp over to London in order to fly anywhere beyond the Mediterranean.

Meanwhile, Parliament sits in London and all the money goes to London. There was a joke, which is too near the truth to be really funny. If you want to know why the M40 from London to Oxford was built twenty years before the M11 to Cambridge it was because all the top civil servants in the Ministry of Transport went to Oxford, (and many of the MPs and ministers). Cambridge has more to do with invention than administration and suffers accordingly. And this is why London has piecrust and gravy and meat, and the rest of us are left with an empty dish.

Book covers

7 Nov

My own attempts at creating covers for the books have been a bit of a mixed bag, not exactly terrible, but not what I wanted either. I just don’t have the talent for producing visual art. So I am very happy to have had an opportunity to work with a talented designer, Alex Terry. Here are his covers for the books: Most Secret and Down in the Flood.

These will be uploaded soon – within a day or two. That means changing the cover for Most Secret, which is not free. Overall, to have a consistent image useful for marketing is something that I feel is well worth the cost. I hope to work with Alex again for the cover of the next book. I have several in the pipeline.

Controversy, what controversy?

4 Nov

I became very annoyed when, about six months ago the BBC pulled a documentary with less than half an hour’s notice. This was about the Jewish diaspora, and to what extent the story told is myth rather than reality. The programme, under the title ‘Searching for Exile: Truth or Myth?’ aired last night was prefaced as a personal view by the film maker, and was followed by a discussion chaired by Ed Stourton that included the film maker, Ilan Ziv, a conservative Jewish rabbi / historian and two academics, one from Jewish and the other early Christian perspectives. In truth the programme was far from being provocative and the debate which followed was polite and in agreement in almost all points. So why should the program have caused so much disquiet earlier, and why was the debate afterwards required? This is because of politics and the way history and archaeology have been used to justify military and political policies. But history is always more complicated and interesting than the stories told in myths.

Here is the link to the Jewish Chronicle preview story about the programme: http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/112821/film-alleges-jewish-exile-was-a-myth.

As a bit of balance, here is the Palestinian version of the story. Make up your own mind. http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/amena-saleem/bbc-screens-emotive-program-jerusalem-seven-months-after-pulling-it

The programme was pulled because of pressure from Zionist groups bombarding the BBC with complaints. The Jewish Chronicle story confirms that. Here is the separation between the academic and religious views on one hand and the political system making use of a myth on the other. To protect some myths pressure groups will try to prevent any questions being asked about the truth of the story. This is understandable as part of the justification of returning to a Jewish homeland is that the Jews were ejected. If they were not ejected, then that prop of justification is removed.

There was an exile from Jerusalem, which was of great spiritual significance, but not from the Jewish homelands. The Diaspora had already occurred. There were large Jewish populations in Egypt, Asia Minor, Rome and North Africa. After the defeat of the rebellion many people moved up to Galilee. The towns, such as the site of ancient Sepporis expanded and grew prosperous. If there was an exile, it was within what is the modern state of Israel. It is very possible that the modern Palestinians are descendants of the inhabitants of these towns and villages. The inhabitants of modern Saffuriya, on the site of Sepporis, were forcibly ejected in 1948.

All this is without any reference to the debate about the relationship between the Ashkenasim Jews who make up the majority of the inhabitants of modern Israel and the Khazars. (See Arthur Koestler’s book, The Thirteenth Tribe). The articles about the Khazars on Wikipedia have been mutilated by pressure groups and it is difficult to get good information anywhere on this debate.

When reading history, always ask, ‘What axe does this person have to grind?’

‘When the legend becomes fact, print the legend. ‘ (From the film, The Man Who shot Liberty Vallance)

History and archaeology are always political. In some areas they cannot be separated from political view points. We must always be free to ask the awkward questions and to challenge received wisdom. If politics tries to use history to justify actions, the interpretation of that history needs to be constantly reviewed.