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Thursday, December 22, 2005

More pictures from Wytch Heath

At the risk of becoming a camera bore, here are some more snaps taken in the chill of a Sunday morning in winter.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Winter Sunrise

For reasons which I shan't go into here, last Sunday the 18th December at five o'clock on a very chilly morning, I found myself wandering about Wytch Heath on the edge of Poole Harbour. I'd been lent a digital camera which I had no idea how to work but I took a few snaps of the sunrise. See what you think.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Sound of Summer

Those who have been waiting for the first day’s play in the Ashes Test Series against Australia were not disappointed. It was so dramatic I had to keep switching the radio off. For some of us, however, the summer game will never have quite the same resonance since John Arlott handed over his microphone for the last time. For thirty years Arlott’s warm Hampshire burr was the very sound of summer. His commentaries were more than about cricket. They were about the very essence of what it is to be human. One of his favourite quotations: “Who knows of cricket who only cricket know?” But many listeners who remember his sharp, rich and humane words may not have been aware of his other contributions to the worlds of poetry and the anti-apartheid movement. Arlott was an accomplished poet whose work reflected the man. But his lasting legacy was that of the radio producer who discovered, developed and provided work for the young Dylan Thomas. John Arlott and Dylan Thomas were great friends and John realised that he had to do everything in his power to keep the poet functioning even to the extent of loaning him money from his own pocket (and which, he later confirmed, was all paid back).
He was brought up in Basingstoke. The family lived in the gatehouse of the Holy Ghost Chapel (in the graveyard of which the unfortunate May Blunden was buried alive - twice). He attended Fairfields School (since the Basingstoke Drama Centre) and worked as a special constable in the town. He was a great connoisseur of fine wine. He later moved to Alresford and, finally, to Alderney where he died. He was a true liberal (with a small “l”) although he did once stand as a Liberal candidate.
John worked for the sporting boycott of South Africa and was instrumental in bringing the Cape Coloured Cricketer Basil d’Oliveira to England.
John Arlott was the greatest sports broadcaster ever, he was a fine poet and an important contributor to the world as a whole. And although he died in 1991 and his last broadcast was as long ago as 1980 we still miss him .
If you want to hear his voice click here and download the brief audio cliphttp://www.radioacademy.org/halloffame/arlott_j/index.shtml

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

More Summer Lightning

Whilst I recognised the actual line about Byron in the previous post, I couldn't recall the whole poem. This one is much more the image I was after. Although, who Edward Carpenter was, I quite forgot (I have printed a wickipaedia biography at the end of the poem)

The World-Spirit
By Edward Carpenter (b. 1844)

LIKE soundless summer lightning seen afar,
A halo o’er the grave of all mankind,
O undefinèd dream-embosomed star,
O charm of human love and sorrow twined:

Far, far away beyond the world’s bright streams,
Over the ruined spaces of the lands,
Thy beauty, floating slowly, ever seems
To shine most glorious; then from out our hands

To fade and vanish, evermore to be
Our sorrow, our sweet longing sadly borne,
Our incommunicable mystery
Shrined in the soul’s long night before the morn.

Ah! in the far fled days, how fair the sun
Fell sloping o’er the green flax by the Nile,
Kissed the slow water’s breast, and glancing shone
Where laboured men and maidens, with a smile

Cheating the laggard hours; o’er them the doves
Sailed high in evening blue; the river-wheel
Sang, and was still; and lamps of many loves
Were lit in hearts, long dead to woe or weal.

And, where a shady headland cleaves the light
That like a silver swan floats o’er the deep
Dark purple-stained Aegean, oft the height
Felt from of old some poet-soul upleap,

As in the womb a child before its birth,
Foreboding higher life. Of old, as now,
Smiling the calm sea slept, and woke with mirth
To kiss the strand, and slept again below.

So, from of old, o’er Athens’ god-crowned steep
Or round the shattered bases of great Rome,
Fleeting and passing, as in dreamful sleep,
The shadow-peopled ages go and come:

Sounds of a far-awakened multitude,
With cry of countless voices intertwined,
Harsh strife and stormy roar of battle rude,
Labour and peaceful arts and growth of mind.

And yet, o’er all, the One through many seen,
The phantom Presence moving without fail,
Sweet sense of closelinked life and passion keen
As of the grass waving before the gale.

What art Thou, O that wast and art to be?
Ye forms that once through shady forest-glade
Or golden light-flood wandered lovingly,
What are ye? Nay, though all the past do fade

Ye are not therefore perished, ye whom erst
The eternal Spirit struck with quick desire,
And led and beckoned onward till the first
Slow spark of life became a flaming fire.

Ye are not therefore perished: for behold
To-day ye move about us, and the same
Dark murmur of the past is forward rolled
Another age, and grows with louder fame

Unto the morrow: newer ways are ours,
New thoughts, new fancies, and we deem our lives
New-fashioned in a mould of vaster powers;
But as of old with flesh the spirit strives,

And we but head the strife. Soon shall the song
That rolls all down the ages blend its voice
With our weak utterance and make us strong;
That we, borne forward still, may still rejoice,

Fronting the wave of change. Thou who alone
Changeless remainest, O most mighty Soul,
Hear us before we vanish! O make known
Thyself in us, us in Thy living whole.

Edward Carpenter (29 August 184428 June 1929) was a socialist poet, anthologist, and an early homosexual activist.
Born in Brighton, Carpenter attended Trinity College, Cambridge before joining the church as a curate. He was heavily influenced by the minister at his church, the leader of the Christian Socialist movement. Carpenter left the church in 1874 and became a lecturer in astronomy. During this period, he moved to Sheffield to live fairly openly in a same sex relationship with George Merrill. A visit by E.M. Forster to the couple inspired Forster's novel Maurice. Carpenter was also a significant influence on the author D.H. Lawrence.
In 1883, Carpenter joined the Social Democratic Federation, and in 1885 he left to join the Socialist League. After dabbling in the Labour Church movement, and achieving growing acclaim for his Whitman-esque poetry, he became a founder member of the Independent Labour Party in 1893. His pacifism led him to become a vocal opponent of first the Boer War and then the First World War.
In the 1890s, Carpenter began to campaign against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. He strongly believed that sexuality was innate. In 1908, he wrote Intermediate Sex, an important though at the time highly controversial book on the subject.
His groundbreaking 1908 anthology of poems, Iolaus - anthology of friendship was a huge underground success, leading to a more advanced knowledge of homoerotic culture. It went to a second British edition in 1906 and a third edition in 1927. The New York 1917 edition is now available as a free online e-book.
Carpenter was an infuence on photographer Ansel Adams. In his early manhood Adams was... "devoted to the comparative-religious poetry of Edward Carpenter, who had close links with the Theosophical community of Halcyon, in Southern California" (Anne Hammond, Ansel Adams: Equivalent as Expression.).

Summer Lightning (An answer)

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.V. University Journalism.§ 1. Calverley.
THE man in the train has settled habits and views, definite experience of life, its problems and difficulties. The undergraduate changes yearly, and is in the tentative period of youth, though the influence of his school and his restricted atmosphere (in England, at any rate) keep him fairly constant in type. He has much of the freedom of manhood without its responsibilities. For him, life is a comedy, or, at most, a tragi-comedy; he has not begun to understand. He writes, if he writes at all, at leisure, and the product of idle hours beneath the shade, as Horace hints, is not often destined to be remembered beyond the year. Horace, who owed his success largely to a good schoolmaster and the university of Athens, is in tone and form, the ideal poet of university life. He is halfserious, half-sportive, with an exquisite sense of form and metre, and he has more university imitators than a dozen good prose writers can boast. These imitators have a zeal for form due to their reading. The study of the ancient classics gives a sense of conciseness, and a detestation for the mere verbiage which is frequent in ordinary journalism. University journalism thus follows a great tradition, but it does not start a new one.
An anarchic age like the present is inclined to underrate the sense of tradition, which does not, perhaps, foster the most seminal minds; but modern masters of prose and verse have mostly been trained in it, and the maxim, “the form, the form alone is eloquent,” is worth remembering. In particular, the sense of comedy which comes from playing at life has found expression in classical parody and light verse. Here, Cambridge can show a long line of masters whom she has trained, from Prior and Praed to Thackeray, Calverley and J. K. Stephen. Oxford, more in touch with the world, has been more serious and more prolific in prophets, but can claim a first-rate professor of the sportive mood in Andrew Lang. Calverley, however, is the leading master and his inimitable short line has had many disciples:

The wit of smooth delicious Matthew Prior,
The rhythmic grace which Hookham Frere displayed,
The summer lightning wreathing Byron’s lyre,
The neat inevitable turns of Praed,
Rhymes to which Hudibras could scarce aspire,
Such metric pranks as Gilbert oft has played,
All these good gifts and others far sublimer
Are found in thee, beloved Cambridge rhymer. 1

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Garble from Google

I thought I would make lots of money from this site by having a Google Adsense link on my page. At the beginning of the process I was invited to choose an appropriate language for the wording and I selected "English (UK)". The paragraph that followed contained this sentence: "...you'll finally have a way to both monetise and enhance your content pages."
The split infinitive made me shudder enough but it was the "M" word that had me racing for the Escape Button. I thought the whole point of language was to communicate not to cause choking and nausea. I might try again and select Mandarin Chinese to see if that's any more comprehensible.


Hacking about in the undergrowth looking for "Summer Lightning" clues, I happened upon this site. No help in my quest but quite a good appreciation of the man and his works.

Summer Lightning

Summer Lightning
Over the summer I have been re-reading some of the great books by P.G. Wodehouse. It is a great pleasure to renew acquaintances with Psmith, Ukridge Wooster and the rest of them. I hadn’t realised that, in the early days, Wodehouse collaborated with George Grossmith; himself the co-author of one of the great comic books of the English language - “The Diary of a Nobody”.
However, one of the titles in the Blandings series has stuck in my mind and has been nagging away like an old tooth. It is “Summer Lightning” and it’s a quotation but I can’t remember from where. It could be A.E. Housman or Rupert Brooke or even Wordsworth but it just won’t come to mind. I’ve scoured all the reference books I can find and I’ve searched the web but drawn a complete blank. There are one or two modern uses of the phrase but they’re obviously long after Wodehouse. So, anyone got any suggestions?


The TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) 2005 conference in Oxford has just drawn to a close. Did anyone reading this attend? Anything to share?http://www.ted.com/conference/flashpage.cfm?conferenceKey=TG2005

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Stay out of the sun

During these long, hot sunny days we don't want to be out in the garden getting burnt and watching the roses wilting under the heat. We want to be inside with the blinds drawn scouring the intenet for excitement. But the heat does turn your thinking processes to "Dead Slow". So for those of you who can’t be bothered trawling the net for anything more titillating, I can recommend the slightly interesting http://www.dullmen.com/home.html. For those of you with a more restless intellectual nature there is http://www.globalideasbank.org/site/home/ Most of the ideas seem to be a bit old hat but none the less worth exploring. Incidentally, there is meant to be a prize of £1,000 for best new idea here somewhere but I can’t find it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

More Sex , please : we're English speakers

The English language is infinitely variable and adaptable. That’s what makes it so useful for speakers and writers in the twenty-first century when language has to work hard to keep up with an ever changing world. However, there have to be some agreed principles and definitions otherwise there would be an almost instant meltdown of understanding. Communication would no longer be possible as the language became balkanised, just as in the aftermath of the Tower of Babel incident. That’s why old gits like me try to keep some of the old rules alive. Not out of some outmoded colonial or imperial yearning but in the spirit of true universal communication. Let me illustrate: The word “gender” has a particular meaning to us oldies. It is a grammatical term to do with the grouping of nouns and for many languages it prescribes the endings that follow on adjectives. Languages may have two or more genders (French has two, German has three). These genders have little to do with sex. Thus Table in French is feminine, Madchen in German (a little girl) is neuter. Recently, however, the word “gender” has been appropriated for use in place of “sex”. Sex is a good old word and it certainly hasn’t gone out of fashion. Sex is what distinguishes men from women not gender. And yet gender is everywhere. Gender studies, gender awareness, the gender gap. I remember gender studies - hot afternoons in ancient stuffy classrooms wrestling with Latin nouns and adjectives. Lack of gender awareness meant a clip round the ear in Latin translation. It seems to be another example of using a longer, pseudo scientific word when a plain simple one will do perfectly well. So please, for my sake, use the word sex when you mean sex and release me from memories of the gender gap in the Lower Fifth.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Jasper Fforde

I’ve been enjoying reading Jasper Fforde’s novels - The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book, and The Well of the Lost Plots. He starts out somewhere East of Michael Moorcock and west of Terry Pratchett but heads south through Lewis Caroll’s tulgey wood with distant views of sixties cult writers like Richard Brautigan. He emerges on the Marlborough Downs somewhere above Swindon from whence the reader can see the plot unfolding through a fog of allusion and obscure references . Probably best appreciated by those who like words and writing but terrific fun. I expect Jasper Fforde is a cult already but I’m always last to catch up with these things. Let me know what you think.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Revenge of the Squish

My family were surprised and horrified when I elected not to go to the first night showing of Star Wars episode XXVllCl. The tickets had been booked months ago and were for the very best Pullman seats with waiter service. (They had no problem finding someone more interesting to accompany them) The fact is: I’m bored with Star Wars. I loved it when it first came out because the whole concept was completely daft. And we love silly stuff. The idea of remaking a Saturday Morning serial for the 1970s when the rest of the world seemed so grim was inspired. We fought enormous duels with our lightsabres during coffee breaks. We were kids again. (Actually those of my generation never grew up in the first place but that’s another story.) The first Star Wars was an adventure yarn, a space western but as the series progressed (or regressed, rather) the idea grew thinner and the scripts clunkier. By episode l there was a distinct sense that George Lucas was beginning to take himself seriously. (There also seems to be a rule that the fatter the CGl budget the thinner the film. cf Troy, Titanic).
Anyway, the Family were happy enough when they got back. I waited up and made them hot drinks after their gruelling night out and they were full of it. So I’m not going to share my thoughts with them at this time. I pass them on to you for your comments. Are my advancing years telling? Have I finally become a curmudgeonly old git? Should I have attended the screening just to be able to discuss the matter fully and in depth from a position of knowledge and authority?

Monday, May 16, 2005

GQT Again

That damn programme keeps nagging away at me like a broken tooth. Can anybody explain this entry I found on Google at the University of Bolton (?) philosophy Research Seminar (??) list for 2001:
December 1st : Dr Nicholas McAdoo: (Open University) “'Gardeners' Question Time' Comes to K√∂nigsberg: Kant on Dependent Beauty”

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Guardian Short Stories

An old and dear friend of mine has pointed out the work of Dave Egger and the Guardian short story writing competition. Read and enjoy.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Italian Rhyme Schemes

I must be stupid or something. I've been writing libretti and poetry for years and I've never been able to fathom how the great opera librettists of the eighteenth century working with composers like Handel and Mozart could churn out yards of the stuff at the drop of a tricorn hat. It didn't occur to me that there was something specific about the Italian language that made this possible. I found this on several sites (original on Wikipaedia, I think):
"In English, highly repetitive rhyme schemes are unusual. English has more vowel sounds than Italian, for example, meaning that such a scheme would be far more restrictive for an English writer than an Italian one - there are fewer suitable words to match a given pattern. Even such schemes as the terza rima verse form with a rhyme scheme: ("aba bcb cdc ded..."), used by Dante Alighieri to write The Divine Comedy, have been considered too difficult for English."
There you go, the Italian librettists had it easy.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Numbers Stations

There’s been quite a bit of interest lately in the so-called Numbers Stations. These are bizarre transmissions on shortwave radio frequencies mostly consisting of mechanical voices repeating groups of numbers interspersed with odd snatches of tunes and electronic noises. They were noticed during the 1970s and were generally thought to be non-secure transmissions by intelligence agencies to their operatives in the field. Since then the number of Number Stations has increased enormously. Are they hoaxes, radio pirates or, indeed, intelligence traffic? there’s plenty of speculation but the plain fact is that no-one knows but they’re a fertile ground by the paranoiacs and conspiracy theorists. If you want to hear the sort of weirdness that had most of us terrified through the days of the Cold War then listen to some of these sites:
Or try Google

Saturday, April 16, 2005


I don't want to appear to be giving too many plugs to BBC Radio but as I have more than a passing interest in words and music it's always part of my soundscape. Here's a link to a discussion on the art of the pun:
The presenter is the excellent poet Michael Rosen.

Thursday, April 14, 2005


IS THERE a place in the brain where metaphors are understood? A study of patients with localised brain damage suggests there is.

Vilayanur Ramachandran and his colleagues at the University of California at San Diego were intrigued by four patients who were mentally lucid, fluent in English and highly intelligent, but could not understand proverbs.

When one of the patients was asked to explain the adage "all that glitters is not gold", for instance, he completely missed the metaphorical angle, replying that people should be careful when buying jewellery.

All the patients had damage to part of the brain called the left angular gyrus. This lies at the intersection of the brain's temporal, parietal and occipital lobes, which process tactile, auditory and visual information respectively. The findings were presented at a meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society this week in New York.

From issue 2495 of New Scientist magazine, 16 April 2005, page 18

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Gardeners' Question Time

I know most people use their Blogs to moan about something or other but I resolved to keep positive and cut out the whingeing. There is something which I feel I have to get off my chest, however: The BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/) is an excellent organisation that produces some very fine and thought-provoking radio programmes including “Thinking Allowed” with Laurie Taylor , “The Material World” ( excruciating puns and quips amid the science and technology) with Quentin Cooper and most of its comedy shows on Radio 4, not to mention Lucie Skeaping on Radio 3. Nevertheless, the charge of dumbing down is proved with such backbone programmes as “Gardeners’ Question Time”. GQT used to be inspirational and aspirational. It dealt with double digging the allotment, top pruning an orchard, clipping the yew hedging. It made use of strong chemicals and back-breaking toil. It wasn’t anything we would engage in but it set a bench mark for all gardeners. It was heroic. “This is what proper gardening is about.” it said. Now what do we get but vine weevils on house plants or pot plants for the patio? It’s all so damned trivial we don’t care any more. And Fred Loads and Bill Sowerbutts and Professor Alan Gemmell are no doubt turning in their double-dug graves.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Welcome To The Future The first story of the Boy from the Year 2000

Jimmy woke up with a start. He lay there with his eyes closed and tried to recall why today was meant to be so special. And then he remembered. It was New Years Day! January the First . It was a New Year, A New Century and a New Millennium. It was the Year Two Thousand. As his eyes flicked open he was already scrambling out of bed. He stopped. And then whooped with delight. Folded neatly over the end of his bed was his new suit. He’d never worn anything like that before but it slipped on easily. It was the most comfortable thing he had ever had to wear. It seemed to be warm yet cool, delightfully soft and of the brightest silver colour he had ever seen.
He rushed to the window and flung back the curtains and gave a little gasp. The cars were all gone and in their places a row of gleaming metallic hovercraft were lined up neatly next to the pavement. Somebody had been busy over night! And as he looked around his jaw dropped even lower. Arching up above the whole town was a great plexiglass dome through which the sun shone brightly and the blue sky and fluffy white clouds rolled by. Through the plexiglass in the far distance where the aerodrome used to be he could see a red plume of fire as a silver cigar shape hurtled upwards. it was followed every few minutes by others until the blue sky was crisscrossed with their white smoke trails. They had started work on the space station already.
Jimmy ran downstairs. His mother and father were already there, both wearing their silver suits. “Morning Jimmy!” boomed his father “Welcome to The Future.” His mother kissed him on the top of his head. “Why, Jimmy, I do believe you’ve grown over night. And if you want to keep on growing you must eat your breakfast.” They laughed and then she motioned him towards the table. Jimmy was a little taken aback to see that all there was on his plate were two pills, one green and one purple. “Is that breakfast?” quavered Jimmy. “If I’ve read the packet correctly, yes. But I suppose it could be supper or Sunday Lunch” They laughed again. Jimmy swallowed the tablets and was astonished to find that they did indeed taste like breakfast. And a very delicious one at that. He closed his eyes and savoured porage with honey, bacon and eggs and waffles all washed down with what seemed to be tropical fruit juice.
Suddenly Jimmy noticed the new computing terminal in the corner of the room. It was a large silver box with red blue and green lights winking on and off. “It will allow us to find out any piece of information that we need including bus time tables and what’s on at the cinema.” Said his Father proudly. “Crumbs” said Jimmy, “That must have cost a pretty penny.” “Not a penny!” Laughed his mother. “Twenty Credits.” You’ll have to get used to the new money but it’s quite simple. A hundred Units to One Credit. All the money in you savings account will have been changed over automatically.”
“Look,” said his father pointing to a large glass plate on the wall, “We’ve even been supplied with a new televisor screen. “Crikey,” said Jimmy, “Can we turn it on?” “We shouldn’t really watch until this evening but I’m sure no-one will mind as today is so special.”
The televisor screen glowed and hummed for a few minutes and then an enormous colour picture nearly three feet across came into focus. It was someone talking. The Prime Minister! And he was talking to them.
“Welcome citizens! Welcome to The Future. As you can see, our operatives have been busy over night. I expect you can understand now why we asked you all to go to bed early last night. There was a lot to do. It’s not quite finished but we’re a good way there.” Jimmy’s parents smiled at each other and nodded.“You’ll be glad to know, however,” the Prime Minister went on “ That as from today, all disease has been eradicated from the world, peace treaties have been signed in all wars and airships and hover trucks are delivering much needed supplies to poor people all over the world. Naturally, today is a holiday for everyone.” Jimmy whooped with joy and his parents smiled and nodded “And all the operatives will be having the rest of the week off for working so hard. As this is The Future there won’t be a great deal of work to do but you will find plenty of money in your bank account even if you are at a bit of a loose end. We have made sure there are a lot of libraries, museums, bathing pools and other leisure activities. I suppose, that there won’t be very much for me to do either as there are no more problems to solve, so join all us politicians by the bandstand in the park and I’ll buy you all an ice cream. Toodle oo.” And the screen went blank. Jimmy smiled. The Twenty first Century was indeed a marvellous place.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Sika Deer Thugs

Once the rutting season is over the stags in the forest have nothing to do but loiter about in groups like gangs of young males on street corners the world over. Last week somebody dumped a Ford Escort in one of the clearings and, although its 4 miles from the nearest road it has gradually been stripped down and broken up. This morning I surprised a group of half-a-dozen stags hanging round the wreck. They were a miserable looking bunch with broken and missing antlers and scruffy coats giving off an altogether shifty and disreputable air. After they had sloped off I wondered what they might have done with the rather nice alloy wheels

Entangled Electrons

For some time I’ve been writing a piece that includes references to developments in particle physics. The trouble is that things move so quickly in the sub-atomic world (Ha ha) that as soon as you begin to get a fuzzy outline of one concept, another one rises up even more bizarre and mind-boggling. This week it’s entangled electrons - an apparent gift for sci-fi writers. Look them up in New Scientist if you don't believe me.


Last night the BBC took the brave step of showing a two hour live remake of the iconic 1950s drama “The Quatermass Experiment”. Apparently, it’s 20 years since the BBC last broadcast a live drama and over that time, television has lost the art of live drama broadcasting and modern audiences miss the immediacy and excitement of this form.
On this occasion the programme makers were able to use 21st century technology with lightweight cameras and lighting while still keeping the majority of the 1950s script with only the minimum of updates. We did indeed get a sense of the tension and excitement with one or two fluffed lines and someone falling over the set. Crucially, this added to the enjoyment rather than detracting from it. If anything, the weak link was the script which, at times, seemed laboured and wooden although it did allow for more expansive and unusual character development than would be accepted by todays writers used to snappy one-liners and stereotype characters. Altogether, a courageous and worthwhile experiment which ought to be developed with new writing.

Thursday, March 31, 2005


This afternoon I was watching a pair of buzzards wheeling over the forest. The male was displaying his aerial prowess by soaring up to a great height and then plunging down with wings closed only pulling out of the dive at the last moment. He continued this for some time soaring and plummeting. The female circled around a few times and then made off lazily into the distance quite unimpressed by the aerobatics.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Don't try to Come here on Holiday

Somewhere between the North Sea and the Bristol Channel lies an island. Not over large but big enough to contain a couple of towns, a number of villages, hamlets and farms and all the other bits and pieces that go to make a place like that: crumbling cliffs, litter strewn beaches, deserted churches, closed down quarries used as landfill sites and a preserved railway run by solicitors in boiler suits. Along with the usual complement of dingy tea-shops, paint-peeled hotels and rain-sodden caravan sites. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking the place. I love it. For a writer it provides enough material to last many lucrative volumes . And the views are spectacular. But I wouldn’t want publicity to spoil it. I don’t want you, dear readers, getting up charabanc trips to clog up our already sclerotic lanes trying to discover the true identitiy of Mrs. Vest’s Tea Rooms or whatever.
People I meet at receptions and literary luncheons have tried to ferret out just where this place is and have resorted to goading me with clumsy prompts over dinner to see if I could be made to let slip some clue. There have been those who have stated categorically that this island must be Romney Marsh or Chichester and Selsey Bill. Some have argued for the tip of Cornwall or Salcombe and Start Point or, even, The Isle of Wight. There’s even a University department in Wisconsin or Kyoto or somewhere which keeps e.mailing me with suggestions that the island might be a metaphor for post-colonial Britain, wherever that is, but I never rise to the bait - it might be none of the above. Or bits of all of them.
One thing I will admit, though, the people are all real. The characters in the stories are all people whose names I know and you’d find them all on The Island. These are folk I might bump into in Safeways or The Post Office. Of course, I’m not so stupid as to make them identifiable in any detail; I’ve taken the precaution of adapting occupations, circumstances and hair colour. So there’s not a chance you would be able to identify them and I hope to God there’s no chance of them recognising themselves. And there’s no point in trying to link characters with the place I live because that’s Dorset (England, Europe) and there are no islands here.

Fire my Imagination

I'm interested in Ideas about the Arts, Science and Human Nature. Send me anything you think may amuse me or stimulate but be aware that I will moderate for spelling, slack thinking and lack of wit.