JPC’s Sound of 2018

What a surprise this year has turned out to be… What a change… For a moment there it looked like it was going to be a really bad year but by the end it turned itself around. I’m already looking forwards to next year, but for now it’s time for that annual run down of the songs I’ve been listening to over the last twelve months- Better known as your yearly reminder of how terrible my taste in music is. The full playlist is at the bottom. Enjoy. Continue reading “JPC’s Sound of 2018”

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Oscar Wilde’s Filthy Burger | The Morfasson Family Cookbook

Following the ‘accidental’ death of her husband, the fifth Lady Beddgelert took to cookery. According to those she foisted her attempts upon, the results were often circumspect. One that was lauded, however, was her burger recipe. The story goes that when she first introduced it to her guests in 1895 one of the footman accidentally dropped one on the floor. Thinking nobody had noticed, he picked it up and returned it to the plate, at which point he was chastised by Lady Beddgelert.
‘Don’t put it back on the plate,’ she scolded. ‘It will be filthy.’
‘In that case,’ my twice great grandmother Anna interrupted, ‘we should name it after Oscar Wilde!’ Cue much laughter around the dinner table, except for from my twice great grandfather who was of the opinion that Wilde was being unfairly persecuted.

It was my great grandfather, himself an admirer of Wilde, who nabbed the recipe from the Beddgelert househould. It should be added that in his diaries my great grandfather wished to name his first born daughter after one of Wilde’s characters. Upon reaching a seventh son, however, he gave up on the idea of Lady Windermere Morfasson and settled for Earnest instead.

The recipe is a bit vague, but it is really simple and should come out alright if you don’t overdo it with the amount of pork. Remember as well, you don’t want the burgers too thick or they won’t cook in the middle.
-Marco


-Half a Bowl of Fine Pork Mince

-1 medium Egg, beaten

-Around 50 grams of Plain Flour

-A squeeze of tomato puree

– A little sprinkle of Thyme

– A dash of olive oil

-Burger Buns (or any kind of bread roll) to serve

 

. In a bowl place the pork mince, flour, egg, puree and thyme and mix well.

. When mixed shape into rough, round patties, not too thick. You might get three or four depending on how big you want them. They may still be a bit sloppy thanks to the egg but this shouldn’t matter.

. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and fry the patties on each side until browned and cooked through. If your burger has come a bit misshapen in the transfer to the pan you can still, quickly, round it off again with the edge of the spatula.

. Make sure NOT to move the patty around or jiggle the pan for several minutes, until the heat has knitted it together, or else it may become misshapen or fall apart and your hard work will have been for nothing. Just let it sit, let it cook, until you need to turn it over.

. Once cooked on each side transfer to the burger buns and serve, preferably with chips.

 

*We hold no responsibility for this recipe going wrong, your bad cooking skills or any illness incurred by an attempt to recreate this recipe.

Picture courtesy of Harringtonbooks.co.uk

A Word on Respect

Right now there are a bunch of people with a megaphone blasting loud music, somewhere about half a mile away. It began at nine yesterday morning, stopped in the evening, and then started again at eight this morning. It’s supposed to be some sort of concert thing I think but they have no live bands, are only playing the likes of Nicki Minaj and instead of being somewhere it will cause minimal disruption, it’s in a bloody playing field in the middle of a densely packed suburban area. Calculating how many houses can hear that crud is impossible, but it will be at least two thousand. Firstly, who wants to sit in a playing field listening to someone playing Nicki Minaj at full blast, FOR TWO DAYS, and secondly, how the hell did they get a licence for that? If they don’t have a licence, which is a likely scenario, why the hell hasn’t anybody gone in there and arrested the feckers? Because of my noise sensitivity it is driving me insane.

It takes a particular crassness to think that something like this is a good idea, and you can guarantee that if somebody tried to stop them they’d protest, but this is just one example of a myriad I could give concerning the overwhelming lack of respect that now pervades not just British society but every society. We now live in a world that is so filled with selfishness and disrespect and blatant egotism that it is impossible, even on a quick trip down to the shops, to avoid it. Somewhere along the way people, in general, have turned from respectful and considerate adults to self-entitled children who think they can do whatever they want without regards to other people. There is no longer any succour given to other opinions or beliefs or even to the wellbeing of others. Respect is a dying art.

We need look no further than the multitude of so called ‘populist’ right wing movements that have sprung up in the last few years to see what is happening. Though this is the extreme end of the spectrum, the belief of these people that their opinion is the only one that matters and that people outside of their bubble need to be ‘locked up’ or ‘exterminated’ or to ‘shut up’ has seemingly become the prevailing one. We see it everywhere now, from every walk of society, every time somebody expresses an opinion. Such comments and criticisms have become like an infectious disease, becoming the go-to not just for the narrow minded but for a whole slew of people who, once upon a time, would have thought twice about making such crass and inconsiderate statements. Almost every time somebody now expresses an opinion someone will tell them to shut up, that they have no right to speak.

It is a situation not helped by the media, by the newspapers and tabloids, the sleazier ones like the Daily Mail especially. Every day these papers are filled with articles damning anybody who thinks anything a bit left wing or anything that their editor doesn’t agree with. They are filled with disrespect. The other day there was a story about how a group of Manchester Students had painted over the Rudyard Kipling Poem ‘If’ as a reaction to what they saw as his racist and imperialist beliefs. They’re not wrong to say that Kipling held those beliefs, for he did, nor were they outside their rights to paint over the poem (it was SU officers who did it, after they had been given no say in the choice of poem), though what they failed to address was that Kipling was a much more complex individual than simply ‘racist’ and ‘imperialist’ and what they didn’t appear to consider was that we do need to look at him in the context of his own times rather than our own enlightened ones. The tabloid media, however, were vitriolic. Many of the articles, even a few headlines like that of the Daily Express, called them ‘snowflakes.’ Instead of unbiased journalism presenting a balanced version of the story, instead of respecting the reasons why the students did it, they turned it into an attack on those involved.

Articles such as these occur every day, in numerous publications, without fail, and these disrespectful pieces of vitriol are read by thousands of people. The Daily Mail, well known as the worst offender for such articles, has a circulation of one and a half million. By the fact that it is repeatedly practiced by national newspapers this disrespect is legitimised and spreads into the general population, allows them to think that expressing such opinions is permissible. It allows them to think that the people being attacked don’t matter, that their opinions and thoughts and feelings don’t matter. It perpetuates the disease, lets it thrive.

The internet is no help either. Social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook perpetuate the disrespect, again legitimising it. It has also allowed people to use the screen as a shield, saying what they would never say to someone in real life. All the time we’re seeing celebrities and well-known figures quitting a fantastic tool for connecting with fans and supporters simply because whatever they tweet is met by barrages of ‘go kill yourself, bitch.’ We all know that most of these people would not dare say such things in real life but social media has let them thing they can do it through a keyboard. The more people do this, the more they get away with it, the more they and others think such disrespect is acceptable.

The internet, the media, the so called ‘populists’… Their disrespect, which should never have been tolerated in the first place, is leaking out into the rest of the world. Perhaps they are not solely to blame and there are other factors, I think this is a process that has been going on for much longer than the internet has been around, but between them they hold the blame for legitimising such disrespect. Thanks to them we have now come to a situation where people can get away with playing Nicki Minaj through a megaphone for two days without any deference to those living nearby- I can’t be the only one affected, there must be more than a few babies and night shift workers being disturbed by the noise as well- We have situations where people think they can shout as loud as they can on crowded trains. It has become a social norm to be inconsiderate towards other people, to only be interested in the self. There are millions of instances of minor and major disrespectful indiscretions happening across the world every day and they are being allowed to continue because there are, unfortunately, no longer consequences them. People get away with it and the cycle perpetuates and worsens. It makes the world we live in an intolerable one.

So how do we counter it? How do we stop this growing disrespect in its tracks? The only way I can see, and even then it might not be enough, is to make a conscious effort to be more respectful. We need to go out of our way to be nice to people, to keep our voices down in public, to let others have their say and respect their opinions. Sure, we can debate if we disagree, but there is a difference between debate and abusive vitriol. The more confident may be able to directly challenge the disrespect where they see it, but for some of us that isn’t possible. We don’t have the mental strength to tell the man shouting about head-lice on a crowded train (yes, this really happened) to be quiet. We don’t have the confidence to go down to that field and pull the plug, telling everyone that if they want to listen to Nicki Minaj then they should go and do it where nobody else can hear them. What we need, most of all, is to start moving back to a place where our society no longer tolerates such things.

It isn’t a challenge to be respectful, to consider other people and their thoughts and feelings. A little bit of respect and politeness can brighten somebody’s day, but the opposite is true as well. Disrespect and inconsideration can blight a day and it has a far more lingering and damaging effect. Respect, everywhere and every day, is the key to a better life for all of us.

And for anybody who needs their day brightening due to disrespect, here’s a puppy giving a high ten.

(Picture courtesy of www.dogtrainingsandiegollc.com)

Looking For Nanhysglain

In June of 1283 Dafydd ap Gruffydd was captured by the invading army of Edward I. Thanks to a betrayal by Einion. Bishop of Bangor, he and his family had been discovered at a place called Nanhysglain, allegedly somewhere close to the rocky mountain of Bera Mawr, in the Carneddau region of Snowdonia.

This scant patch of detail is pretty much all that the internet can tell us about the capture of Dafydd, the last true Prince of Wales. One or two places mention that Dafydd was injured in the capture or that the area he was hiding in was boggy, but little else. For myself, what irritates the most is that there is no mention of where precisely Nanhysglain was, or even what it was. There are almost no details about Nanhysglain whatsoever. Continue reading “Looking For Nanhysglain”

Writing Troubles | No Angel Born In Hell

Writing fiction is hard. Don’t let anybody tell you any different. You have to first come up with a decent plot and then you have to fill the story with characters and then those characters have to be affected by the plot, affect the plot themselves, interact and counteract with and be influenced by other characters… All the while you have to make everything naturalistic and believable, even if it is a fantasy story. Even if you do all that there’s no saying your fiction will be any good. It could still be the worst thing ever put to paper. Writing a good book takes skill, patience and a lot of time to get right. It isn’t just about sitting in front of a keyboard and hacking out a few words. You need thought, planning and a fair few internal tantrums before you’re done.

As of right now I’m in the middle of attempting to write No Angel Born In Hell, the fifth and penultimate instalment of the epic Dark Legend saga, and it’s proving problematic. It’s proving a fine example of why writing fiction is difficult. I’ve restarted it twice already and this is having written it all once before, in the form of a TV series. Getting everything right, getting it down right on paper, just hasn’t been working.

To sum up where we are in the story, and I warn you there will be spoilers ahead, will only take a moment. At the end of the previous book, Sting, Manchester and most of the North of England had been obliterated, leaving Worton as an island, barely holding out against the apocalypse. Jonathon Harris had escaped from prison and Randy Barnes, thanks to manipulating the late Cornelius Barabbas, had taken control of NIRA and had teamed up with the aforementioned Harris. Doug had also gone away to find his parents.

We’re up to the start of episode nine of the original twelve episodes here, and apart from Harris escaping prison, the above had either not yet happened or not been revealed. NIRA were still a mystery and one that wouldn’t be revealed until episode ten. When I wrote Stop The Cavalry (book 3, which was all new material) I pulled the whole plot forward, giving it room to breathe and allowing it more natural development. The NIRA arc was the main thing that got pulled up, and this was absolutely necessary in order for it to work. Meanwhile, Randy teaming up with Harris came a bit out of nowhere in the tv version and wasn’t revealed until episode ten. Randy wasn’t even known to still be alive until ten, though now it’s been common knowledge since the end of Swarm. All of that is now dealt with. I can move on to the climax of the arc, which forms the basis of No Angel- Randy, as I established in Sting, is out for revenge against Will and Joe, and this is where he takes to the stage to get it. As for Harris… I intend on saving Harris’s scheme for the last book, but it ties in with Randy’s plan for revenge and I can build up to it here.

As far as the Doug thing is concerned, I needed to get him out of the way for the moment. At the start of the original episode nine he stormed off in a huff but having thought about it, that doesn’t fit with his character. So, for now, I’ve invalided him out of the army and sent him off to find his parents. I did that at the end of Sting, so as not to convolute this book. Originally he was gone for only episode nine, turning up again in ten, but this time he won’t be back until the finale. Having him turn up mid-way through this book just won’t work. So he’s playing no part in this particular part of the story.

There was also another event that got pulled forward, this time from episode ten. That was the death of Peter Fisher, which happened at the end of Sting. Originally I had Randy slit his throat on an isolated country lane but I felt that was an injustice to the character. He needed a more appropriate, significant send off. He’s been an important authority figure since the start, so to just have him bumped off didn’t fit with his development Before, his death was inconsequential to the plot (and a bit pointless) but now, in sacrificing himself to save the man he’s come to see as a surrogate son (even if the man only ever saw him as a friend) his death is more impactful. His overall role in nine and ten was limited anyway, so by writing him out earlier I’m tying up another loose end. It clears things up and streamlines what I need to happen.

With most of the plot tidied up and all the superfluous characters gone I should have an easier time telling the story I need to tell in this book, the story of Randy’s revenge for wrongs committed in the first two books. I should be clear for finally demonstrating Will’s ultimate character development from arrogant, destructive teenager to a hero who actually lives up to the legendary mantle that has built up around him. He’s got to go through a bit of a car wash in this book, facing his past and putting right what he once did wrong. It ought to be simple to write, but it isn’t. Writing fiction never is, not even when you’ve written it down before.

It’s been the the build up to Randy’s reveal that has been my major stumbling block. It’s been too slow and too talky, trying to incorporate too many sub-elements, instead of focusing on what I need to focus on. In my first couple of attempts the whole revenge/reveal was a long way in. In my first book version it wasn’t until the end of the second chapter of the first half, twenty thousand words in. That wasn’t right. In the latest version it’s now kicked in gradually over the first eight thousand words or so, culminating in Randy playing his first hand. That Randy is going to be the main antagonist I now reveal at the end of the introductory chapter and from there Randy’s revenge kicks in almost straight away. There’s a bit of set up for some later character conflict and for the eventual resolution, but once I’ve done it we’re into the revenge. As for the other sub-elements, I intend to introduce them as and when they are necessary, those bits that I’m keeping anyway.

The thing I realised was that I was going in a direction that was too convoluted. I was also telling, not showing. A lot has to happen in this book, especially in terms of character, including an important revelation that was thrown in at the end of the last episode during the original version. I’m actually planning for it to be an important part of the climax of the book and the resolution of the central, revenge conflict. It feels more satisfactory that way. It feels like an actual pay off.

A major sub-plot involving a romance has been trimmed right down to a couple of scenes. It was conflicting too much with the main plot and they couldn’t be brought together. It was getting in the way. I can’t get rid of it entirely, because it contributes to a major piece of plot development for the whole saga. It also creates character conflict, which is always important. My first version concentrated too much on this sub-plot and, even though it was the main thrust of the original episode nine, removing it actually makes the whole thing go a lot smoother.

The thing with fiction is that everything needs to matter, somewhere. It needs to matter for either character or plot. This, for Dark Legend, is proving to be the trickiest part. There is so much story that it is almost an impossibility for absolutely everything to matter, but it is an impossibility I have to tackle head on. Some things are best left unexplained, like what happened to Harper after Swarm. It’s quite clear why she disappeared but I think the explanation as to where she went should be left to the reader. Other things, however, need to be resolved. Murdoch and Alison? They ran off way back in Spawn and that is an issue that needs resolving. So far they’ve both been inconsequential and that needs to change. There’s a weirdo in a cloak who’s not been seen since Swarm as well. We need to find out what’s under that hood. And then there’s Dan to sort out… Or more specifically Dan’s body-snatched corpse. Put together those three are going to take up a fair bit of space and though I know how to tie up each strand, getting those strands into the narrative in a good way is unfeasibly hard.

The only way to get them in, I’ve found, is to chop the book up into smaller chunks. Usually each book is split up into several three act segments, with a one act segment somewhere in there as well.* Each three act segment represents the equivalent of one TV episode. That isn’t going to work for this book. So much needs to happen and be dealt with that, under that format, the plot quickly becomes convoluted and messy. So smaller segments is the key. It also makes this book stand out from the others. It freshens the series, which this far in is a necessity.

I obviously can’t talk a lot about the actual plot and story arcs of this book, especially as it is a long way from being released. Every little thing has to be right, and so far No Angel hasn’t been. It’s taken me over a year of hacking and reworking to get it as far as I have, to work out how it needs to be told. Out of all the six Dark Legend books, the last two are the most important. They are the ones that have to be right in order to leave the reader with a sense of satisfaction and closure. If the ending isn’t done right then the whole thing falls apart, and we can’t be having that.


Dark Legend- Spawn, Swarm, Stop The Cavalry and Sting, are available now in eBook and paperback from Amazon.

 

*The actual numbers are as follows- Spawn has 3 three act segments + 1 one act. This corresponds to episodes 1-3 of the original TV series with the one act segment being new to this version.

Swarm has 4 three act segments, 1 one act segment and an epilogue chapter. The one act was new, the first three act corresponded to episode 4, the second to the first three quarters off episode 5, the third was an extension of the last quarter of five, and the fourth was episode six.

Stop The Cavalry, as I say above, was all new material but it does still contain a single act intro chapter and a single, massive three act segment.

The two three act segments of Sting cover episode 7 and 8, which was a two parter. The last chapter serves as an epilogue to all that.

The intention for No Angel is to cover episode 9 and 10 whilst Extinction, the last book, will cover episode 11 and 12.

Climate Change and The Historic Environment of North Wales

Climate change has, sadly, become an irrefutable fact. This world, our world, the only world we have, is threatened with a situation that we must do all in our power, both individually and as a society, to prevent. Climate change shall bring about calamity on a scale never before witnessed in human history. Life as we know it will not continue if present patterns persist.

It is not only our current, modern human civilisation that is threatened by global warming, however, but our past as well. Climate change will have a dramatic impact upon the archaeological, cultural and historical record, the historic environment. Many important and significant sites will either be destroyed outright or placed in serious jeopardy by the consequences of global warming. This may sound extreme, even laughable, but this is something we shall have to face should we fail to stop the rise in temperatures. Continue reading “Climate Change and The Historic Environment of North Wales”

A History of My Lifetime | 1994: Smokescreen

Britain had been an island for eight thousand years, cut off from its continental neighbours by the English Channel. Suddenly it was no longer a barrier. An idea that had been floating around since eighteen hundred and two finally came to fruition and by the end of nineteen ninety four a person could finally travel between England and France without ever once having to see water. The Channel Tunnel was open for business and Britain was now well and truly connected to the continent, a part of Europe, seemingly forever. The actual breakthrough during construction, way back in December 1990, had been one of those significant moments in history, a moment where it looked as though the world was entering a new era of peace and brotherhood. It was a moment to celebrate.

Continue reading “A History of My Lifetime | 1994: Smokescreen”

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