Signs of Change

The world as we know it is about to change. Already it is changing, particularly on a societal level. Look at the facts: In the west we face the return of extreme right wing politics. Coming out of the east is the monster of the so called Islamic state. People are fleeing this in record numbers, escaping any way they can. There are signs that something is coming, something big. It is going to affect all of us.

There is a tendency amongst human beings to think that nothing will change. We see everything around us as permanent, fixed and immutable. We think that the buildings and the institutions around us will always be there; the schools, the railway stations, the shops, the museums… We take shelter in the idea that when we want them all these things will be there for us. We think we’ll always be able to get on a train or a bus to the shops, visit a museum or give children an education. But that isn’t true. Those things we take shelter in, the schools, the trains, the shops… Tomorrow something could happen that means by next week all of them could be gone forever. These things which are the trappings of our civilization and our civilization, like every civilization there has ever been or ever will be, could collapse entirely. It has happened before, look what happened to Rome, to the Aztecs, to the Egyptians. All were once mighty civilizations and now they are gone, ruins that in our own times we wander around as tourists.

That is an extreme example. Although it may happen civilization isn’t definitely going to crumble overnight (barring some massive catastrophe) but we are facing a major change to the world before us, one that may alter all those things we take shelter in. Ten, twenty, thirty years from now we will look back on twenty sixteen and it shall hardly be recognizable to any of us. It won’t be all flying cars and Star Trek style space travel, that would be silly, but in our day to day lives things will be different. The way we carry ourselves will be different, the way we all act and behave. The way in which those things will be different I could not say. None of us can say that for certain because predicting the future is impossible.

We lie, at the present, in the gaps between historical eras, the last age having ended a few years ago and the next as yet unknown. History is by it’s nature all about change. Men are born, they live, they die. In the process some do great things and their deeds are recorded. And in the process the tides of change sweep in and out, altering things in tiny ways that are imperceptible until we look back. Sometimes however, as with the tides, you get a really big wave that sweeps away everything and changes the entire landscape. Call it what you will, supposition or instinct or whatever, but I think that I can see one of those big waves on the horizon.

Already I can see the first ripples of the coming wave. People are fleeing the east in numbers that make Moses’ Exodus out of Egypt look like a Sunday school outing. Whatever happens to them, however all of us deal with this, that alone is going to change us. And as far as politics is concerned people of all ages are turning away from the more ‘traditional’ options (Republicans, Conservatives, Labour etc.) and opting for less savoury characters like Donald Trump. The fact that people are listening to these types of would be politicians, that they are convincing people is a sign that things are afoot, that they’re changing. Where once a candidate like Trump would have been treated by everyone as a joke, laughed from the building, now he’s actually got as far as being the Republican nominee. This lunatic has a shot at becoming the most powerful man in the world. That’s how much things have changed already. TRUMP is a serious contender for the White House. These are only two of the biggest ripples that signify a wave is coming but there are plenty more if you look for them. Putin flexing Russia’s muscles for example. He’s only going to do it more and more in the future, setting up the stage for what could, potentially, become a new cold war if we aren’t careful.

From a historical perspective all that is happening right now looks uncannily like the collapse of that aforementioned Roman empire. The economy of most of the world is in what I’m only going to euphemistically call a perilous state. There’s a barbaric threat pushing millions of people to the west. The politicians, the people who are supposed to be in charge, are either corrupt or tearing each other apart with infighting and self interestedness. Just look at the EU referendum arguments. Not one argument from either side has been anything less than ‘WE’RE ALL DOOMED!!!!’ Backstabbing and self interestedness have always been a part of politics but in the past it was always balanced out with some degree of sanity and statesmanship. Looking at the landscape it seems that statesmanship is now playing second fiddle to all this self interestedness and it is contributing to a fracturing of society. The Roman Empire (in the west) was destroyed by these very same things and that destruction caused such a dramatic alteration within European society that historians still have trouble working out actually what happened and why and when. It was, effectively, a line in the sand of history.

Again, I’m not saying that this change that is coming will be as dramatic as all that. We will all feel it though and we should be prepared for it. Nobody can have a hope of knowing if it will strike hard or come upon us bit by bit or even what it may be that is the eventual spark which triggers it all off. There is nothing we can do to stop it. It will come. We’ve just got to hold on and hope that we make it through.

On Finnegans Wake

A couple of weeks ago I gave myself the pointless challenge of reading every book on my eReader before the end of the year. At the time that was 55 books and that number included the unenviable task of finishing the grandpappy of all difficult literature: Finnegans Wake. Seeing as it had taken me a good solid eighteen months to get to about thirty percent of the way through it looked right away as if I was going to fail. So what to do? I had to either give up the challenge or make a good stab at this notoriously unreadable tome. Having already been through thirty percent (which, considering what this book is, is quite an achievement in itself) I was not looking forwards to the latter. And here we are almost two weeks later and somehow, SOMEHOW, I’m nearly through. I’ve jumped through a good fifty five percent of the book and at my present rate I’ll be done by Thursday or Friday. I really don’t know how I have done this but I have.

Finnegans Wake, James Joyce’s fourth and final book, is not a novel per se. It is written as a mix of all kinds of different languages, portmanteau words, obscure references and absolute nonsense. Sometimes the sentences are coherent, sometimes they aren’t. Standard grammatical structure is an alien concept as are usual narrative conventions. As to what it is about… People have argued this for years and they’ll go on arguing for many more probably. Supposedly it is about a family called the Earwickers; the father Humphrey (HCE), his wife Anna Livia Plurabelle (ALP) and their children, Shem, Shaun and Issy… Some people say it is supposed to represent a dream, others a kind of metaphor for the Adam and Eve story, more still that is all nothing more than absolute nonsense and one huge joke on the part of the author. It could also tie in with the old Irish ballad of Tim Finnegan’s Wake (which would make sense) which is about a man called Tim Finnegan who falls off a ladder and supposedly dies. At his wake somebody throws Whisky over him and he wakes up. Joyce spent seventeen years on this book, going blind, and becoming increasingly frustrated at the negative reception it was receiving.

I honestly could not give you an answer as to what is about. As I’ve been ploughing my way through I’ve had a lot of different thoughts. There is definitely some kind of loose thread in there and bits of it make sense to me but an awful lot more doesn’t. There’s definitely an Earwicker in there and Anna Livia too, as well as Shem, but Issy and Shaun? Maybe I missed them. Falling seems to be a common theme. I’ve picked up on that, and maybe that ties in with the Adam and Eve idea and the ‘fall’ of Tim Finnegan. I’ve also caught a lot about Oliver Cromwell in there. It isn’t complete nonsense by any means, but a lot of it is practically incomprehensible. I’m not exactly an idiot and even I couldn’t understand it so what does that say about it?

There would have been no point in trawling through a book like this if I hadn’t learned anything from it and what I have learned is this- Life is too short to waste any more time than necessary on this. It exists. People can’t agree on what it means, what it is supposed to be about. More importantly, don’t bother trying to understand it because you NEVER will, even if you’re the smartest person there has ever been. If you really must waste time reading it do it for the glory of saying you’ve done it… And then forget about it.


For less forgettable literature, and if you would like to read a piece that is just as good as the one above, may I suggest Graham Greene… Or if Graham Greene isn’t your think then how about Agatha Christie’s Lonely God?

‘By Hook Or By Crook…’

Charlie Fuller is a book that is overdue by a long way. My original intention was to have it finished by October 2013 and when I started writing it I had only published one book. So many words and characters had yet to be written and created and since then ideas have come up out of the ground, flowered and are now roaming the world. Charlie wasn’t out by October 2013. He wasn’t even finished. So many other things got in the way. It got pushed aside, neglected for weeks at a time and forced to make room for more urgent matters. It is still far from being finished, even though it has already surpassed the average novel length.

For those of you who don’t know, Charlie started out as an attempt to rewrite my earliest attempt at a proper novel, Under The Fuhrer’s Control. That book, written in my early teens, was no literary masterpiece. The plot was paper thin and ridiculous, all the main characters were dead by half way through and the less said about that Wales sized island off the coast of France (unnoticed by the entire world) the better. BUT… The book was the starting point for almost everything (fictional) that I write today. A huge chunk of my major characters and central structures stem from somewhere or something in that book. The book started an avalanche. It became one of the zygotes for my literary world, the Morfaverse, forming the principal core from which all else now feeds off, even the stuff that came from elsewhere in my head.

Older and wiser and a far more competent writer than I had been, I decided that the book needed to be rewritten. It needed plot and structure and most of all a central character. My mind turned to one man who, in the middle of that first book, is discovered as a prisoner of the bad guys (A bunch of British Communists pretending to be German Nazi’s… Don’t ask!) His name, as you can properly guess, was Charlie Fuller. He had featured in my second novel attempt (more competent, but still awful) of which the first half was a prequel to Fuhrers, and I would use some of the stuff from that book as well. I would centre my rewrite around Charlie and it would be both the story of how he came to be imprisoned and of his escape.

That was the plan and I started by introducing Charlie and expanding on his childhood. Unbeknownst to myself at the time by doing this I would create something entirely different. The story of his childhood in the Northamptonshire market town of Towcester became too good an opportunity to merely skim over. In going into detail I could work on important themes and elements and characters that would show up later on after his escape. I could use it to add a structure to the original narrative. I added in new characters; the mother who rejected him, his beloved grandfather and the cruel headmaster, Mr Carrion. Characters from the early books were going to turn up too- Monty Morfasson, who would become Charlie’s mentor, whilst his future lover, Violet (with her surname changed from Benson to Brushwood) became his childhood sweetheart.

But it was one new character who would change everything, Charlie’s best friend Jeremy Compton. As I wrote the book started to become the story of their friendship, how it formed and how it was torn up by Jeremy’s involvement with a fascistic cult, SHEMBLE. And it would be Charlie’s attempts to save Jeremy that would lead to his imprisonment. He would go to Civil War era Spain, to Santiago de Compostela, and there the two would have it out with each other. In the process Charlie would be captured by SHEMBLE. Only this time there had to be no escape. This was where the book would now end, with Charlie imprisoned for the rest of his days. In short, it became a Dickens style biographical novel, one in the same vein as David Copperfield or Nicholas Nickleby and one which (at least in the first part of the book) has overtones of the English pastoral, the likes of Uncle Silas or H.E Bates’ other famous work, The Darling Buds of May or perhaps Cider with Rosie. ‘Acid with Rosie’ would be a good alternative title for the book, I think.

So what is going on with it? Well… It is going to be finished this year. I want to make sure of that. As to when it will be out and in what form, I don’t know. This is all to do with another book of mine, Max & Anna. I was really hoping that I could get that book published properly but it is looking like absolutely nobody is willing to publish it. The words that keep coming back are ‘we aren’t confident enough about it’ and one person said they ‘weren’t sure how (they) could sell it.’ This suggests that it’s all to do with money. Nobody will publish it because it they think it isn’t going to be profitable enough for them. There could also be it’s ‘uniqueness’ factor counting against it. Normally I can compare my work to something else in some way but not this time. Max & Anna is like no other book that I can think of. It’s difference to everything else could be putting people off. So it looks (unless anybody decides they want it in the next month or so) that Max & Anna will be another eBook only title for the foreseeable future. This is a shame because I think this might just be my best book yet. It could be the one that people still read in two, three hundred years time- My Tess of The D’ubervilles or my Middlemarch or any other piece of ‘classic’ literature you care to name. And this is also where the trouble lies because if I’m going to get my name in print I will need another book to run the gauntlet of the publishing industry.

What other book do I have? Of my already released books no publisher or agent will touch Dark Legend with a barge pole… Not least because it is gratuitously sci-fi. D.S Proctor is too short for them. The Rebels has ran before with no success. With my future books, Liverinth could present any number of reasons for rejection ranging from the too fantastical to the too artsy or too unusual. All I need to do is give them the basic plot (the streets of Liverpool suddenly all move around, turning the city into one giant maze) and every agent would run a mile. Eboracvm is a possibility, though that is a long way from being finished and not something I’m expressly keen to publish before finishing Dark Legend. That leaves… Charlie. Of the three possible books I could next have run the guantlet Charlie has the best chance of making it, closely followed by Eboracvm. My main worry with it is that it is too long and perhaps written in too old a fashion for most publishers or agents but that is worth a risk.

But to run it needs finishing, and finishing by the end of the year. There’s still a way to go of course, I can’t just rush it. Rush it and it will be bad. But I know how much work I need to do and it is possible to finish by the end of the year. And just because Max & Anna hasn’t made it through the gauntlet doesn’t mean I’m giving up. By hook or by crook, I’ll get you a proper book!

Denise Du Champs | Short Story

DENISE DU CHAMPS

A ‘Pobol Y Bangor’ Story

The issue wasn’t the Mediterranean heat wave that caused the water in the water cooler to boil in its plastic bottle and which made the fresh coat of white paint on the walls bubble up and begin to flake away. Nor was the issue the lack of an electric fan, the chief inspector having earlier absconded with the main reception’s own to replace his broken one. The issue was that there was no way on earth to ventilate this drab room. The one narrow window across the reception didn’t open and the main door, being automatic, couldn’t be jammed open either. The electric fan had helped to bring the heat down a little but it had still been next to useless. It just blew the air around a bit. All in all the staff working reception were required to boil like the water in the cooler, to roast like that Sunday‘s joint.

Watching the clock across from the desk tick by, minute after minute, crawling towards midnight and the end of her shift, Denise couldn’t wait to be out of there. She rested, one hand against her cheek, trying to think of ice and snow and all things cold. There was a Batman film her son liked, one with a villain called Mr Freeze, though the lord himself only knew why. She thought of that film now and wished for a moment that Bangor was filled with the same calibre of lunatic psychopaths that inhabited Gotham. The heat was making the parade of petty crooks that always came through the front door seem duller than usual and someone like Mr Freeze would be a most welcome addition to their lineup. Even if he didn’t add a welcome bit of chill to the police reception he would bring some excitement into the place.

The smell wasn’t good either. The faint odour of flowery disinfectant mixed in with old vomit that is ubiquitous to all police stations everywhere had, by virtue of the heat, become a strong one and when it mingled with the fresh, bubbling up paint it was almost positively nauseous. It was almost toxic and there were innumerate other nasty smells that would be preferable to it. The smell of a stink bomb, for example, would be most welcome when compared with the cocktail that drifted about the place.
The smell, the heat, the boredom… The displeasures caused by the former could be alleviated by adequate ventilation, something as simple as a window that could be opened or a door that didn’t insist on staying closed all the time. Failing that a psychopath with a freeze ray was wanted, if there ever was such a thing in the real world. He would make Denise’s Friday night shift less dull, more bearable. The remaining twenty minutes to midnight would pass by in the blink of an eye with him around.

The automatic doors opened. She looked up and rubbed her eyes in disbelief at the person frog marched through them by two very angry constables. She thought she might be suffering from heat stroke for no little old lady, no little old lady somewhere beyond the pale of ninety as this one was, would dress the way this one was dressed. The words that immediately sprang to Denise’s mind were ‘binge drinking slapper.’ All the necessary ingredients were there; the skirt that was more like a piece of underwear with the frilly bottoms of some pink bloomers passing beyond the hem, the high heels that just weren’t practical, earrings that could be used as hula hoops and a face trowelled the colour of the finest shredded marmalade. Denise almost thought shredless marmalade but not in this case. The wrinkles of the old lady definitely made it the colour of shredded marmalade. The effect was one to immediately cause notice, alarm and severe disgust at the idea that someone so old would do that to themselves, would make themselves look so hideous.

Getting over the initial shock of seeing such a specimen Denise pulled the prisoner log-book from under the desk.
‘Name?’ she asked in a weary voice as she opened to where it was bookmarked.
‘Knickers Ding-Dong,’ the old lady smiled with the scouse tang of north east Wales to her voice. Denise almost wrote down what she said, blinked and then looked up at the lady, pen poised on the page.
‘Your real name if you don’t mind.’
‘Knickers Ding-Dong,’ the old lady said again. Denise clenched her free hand underneath the desk, irritated and annoyed.
‘That’s the only thing we can get out of her,’ one of the constables said. ‘We can’t get her to give us a proper name. She was caught forcing money from clubbers in Joop.’ The thought of this old lady in a nightclub like Joop boggled the mind. Old ladies didn’t go into nightclubs full stop, let alone pissing dens like Joop.
‘It’s what I do,’ the old lady answered without Denise even having to ask why she was in there. ‘I go into nightclubs and I take money from people.’
‘And why do you do that?’
‘Because I’m a leprechaun.’

Denise did not find the answer amusing and neither did the two constables.
‘I’m sorry… What did you just say?’
‘Because I’m a leprechaun.’ Denise laid the pen down on the book, trying her best to be as calm as possible. Clearly the heat had gotten to this old lady and sent her a bit potty. Not only did she think she was a leprechaun but she had all the details wrong.
‘Madam…’
‘Mrs Ding-Dong if you don’t mind…’ Denise closed her eyes and tried not to scream.
‘Madam… I don’t wish to sound rude but you are not a leprechaun.’
‘Yes I am.’
‘Leprechauns don’t take gold from night clubbers. They have their own gold and they hide it at the end of a rainbow.’
‘Where do you think we get the gold from?’ The old lady smiled and behind her eyes Denise thought she saw a glimmer of laughter; a knowledge that she knew exactly what she was doing?
‘Leprechaun’s are also mythological, all male, AND IRISH!’
‘Ah well. Yes. But I’m a Welsh leprechaun.’ Denise glowered at the lady. ‘Irish leprechauns hide the gold at the end of the rainbows and are all male. Welsh leprechauns take the gold and are all female. We send the gold over to Ireland on the Caergybi ferry.’

Denise dug her nails into the hand beneath the desk as a means of keeping herself calm. If Irish leprechauns didn’t exist then Welsh leprechauns were a complete absurdity. Only someone who was not in their right frame of mind would come up with such a thing, let alone actually claim to be one. This old lady must have been driven mad by the heat. Why else was she dressed like a binge drinking slapper and proclaiming herself to be a mythical creature?

‘Technically it should be spelled with two L’s,’ the lady announced.
‘What should?’
‘Leprechaun… Or at least it should be when you’re talking about us Welshies.’
‘That would make you a Lleprechaun!’ Denise snatched, stressing the dipthong of the double L. She was becoming very angry now and there was little she could do to prevent herself from breaking out into a loud scream. If it was the heat that was causing this lunacy then it was not this lady’s fault but dealing with it was still maddening. It looked to be the same for the two constables who still held her by the arms.
‘That’s right… I’m a Lleprechaun!’ the lady said in a pleased voice.

Denise, fighting the desire to reach out to throttle the lady, turned to the constables.
‘I suggest you take this lady to the hospital at once. This is either heatstroke or something more serious.’ She turned away and waved them all out of her sight, at which the old lady was frog marched back outside.

Thinking about it five minutes later Denise reckoned that Lleprechauns weren’t the most ludicrous idea she’d heard whilst manning the reception desk. She’d had all kinds of wild tales given to her here, everything from people seeing Yeti on Bangor Mountain and dead dragons on Hirael beach to kidnappings by a mysterious and in reality non-existent tribe of sewer people. All of these, she considered, were more ludicrous claims than the existence of Lleprechauns. She went back to Batman. Bangor may not have had the same calibre of lunatic psychopaths as Gotham but it had the lunatic part down at least. Now if only they were a little more violent then these late night shifts in boiling conditions would be something to look forwards too rather than sit through in boredom.

The doors opened again. Denise looked up and her eyes bulged out of her sockets. They were two more old ladies and both were dressed in the same way as the first, the style Denise referred to as ‘binge drinking slapper.’ They waddled up to the counter, barely tall enough to see over, and they smiled.
‘Hello,’ one of them said politely. ‘Our friend was arrested… Mrs Ding-Dong?’


 

Chester Day Out

 For the last two mornings I’ve opened the blind to find the sky looks black and threatening. This has not been an ideal situation for going outside because as we all know a black sky usually means a horrific deluge is imminent. Now we reach the third morning and I also don’t like the sky. It’s grey, not quite black, but it could still chunder it down any second.. Dare I go outside today? I decide not to go out and crawl back down into bed and pick up Inspector Morse for a bit of light reading before I get up and start working for the day. Some time later I look up from my book and see the colour of the sky has altered from grey and potentially about to chunder to blue with a few clouds. Its still early but that doesn’t stop me from leaping out of bed, putting some clothes on, packing a bag and checking the train times. It is time for a long awaited return to Chester!

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