squintarium

Sorry, not sorry

The BBC have managed to splutter an apology, like a mouthful of burnt toast crumbs, for the coverage of the peaceful vigil against the bombing of Syria on the Today programme in December 2015. It reminds me of that time I ate a whole multi-packet of someone else’s Wagon Wheels while watching Murder She Wrote dubbed in Hindi. I wasn’t very sorry then and I don’t think they are now.

Still, it is a big milestone and a massive achievement all thanks to the efforts of local heroes Sue Wheat and Dominic Mandrell who have spent seven months trying to set the record straight.

Think back, back to happier times when we had a Prime Minister almost a quarter of people living in the country had voted for, back to when the pound was worth more than a handful of half melted malteasers and some pocket fluff, and you might remember the Little Hard Left Hate Mob That Wasn’t.

Think back to that evening on the 1st of December when a group of local people walked from Queens Town Road Mosque to the constituency office of our MP and lit some candles while small children wrote messages of support for Syria on post it notes and stuck them on the dark windows of that empty office.

Think back to the morning of the 2nd of December and the few days after when the Guardian, New Statesman, The Sun, The Independent, The Evening Standard, The Mirror, The Daily Mail (‘Hard Left Hate Mob’) The Northern Echo (‘War-like and cruel’) BBC Radio 4 Today programme and World At One, LBC, Channel 4, Channel 5, BBC Breakfast News and Newsnight all covered a story that never happened. Tom Watson even went so far as to claim ‘I have seen those TV images of what went on’. He’d been at the Wagon Wheels I suspect.

Then think back to our MP leaping immediately to our defence and demanding that the story be set straight.

Ha! I got you there, didn’t I?

That was never happened either. In the real world, she left an important debate she would have clearly benefitted from listening to and claimed on Twitter her staff were being harassed, and then unleashed La Mensch who went on to spend the weekend verbally abusing a local artist on Twitter who she’d assumed was a man. She was a woman.

Life can be hard when your MP is one Hello Kitty pencil case short of a pre-teen girl gang but let’s save that peculiar hilarity for another time. I’m thinking of calling that piece When Champagne Socialists become Molotov Moderates.

Yesterday, in one of those coincidences the universe likes to throw up to compensate for the burnt toast always landing rancid butter side down, Katharine Viner – the editor-in-chief of the Guardian – wrote a piece on how social media has made life terribly difficult for journalists to work out what’s true and what isn’t. “In the digital age, it is easier than ever to publish false information, which is quickly shared and taken to be true”.

I did double check to see if Alan Rusbridger was editor-in-chief when they ran with the vigil story but unfortunately Katharine Viner became editor in June 2015. So she was at the helm of a paper that ran with a story that the BBC has admitted “originated from a single Facebook posting which later proved to be misleading (the demonstration’s destination was Ms Creasy’s constituency office, which was unoccupied at the time, not her home, and it was peaceful)”. I think “misleading” might be the new word for “a lie”.  Much in the same way literally now means figuratively because that’s how people use the word.

Viner goes on to say “sometimes rumours like these spread out of panic, sometimes out of malice, and sometimes deliberate manipulation” but doesn’t elaborate on what happened in our case. If you want to hazard a guess you can still read articles about the vigil on the Guardian website.

It’s not true, but it’s still online. There’s something odd about that. Perhaps it is still there because Viner is correct in her suggestion that “publications curated by editors have in many cases been replaced by a stream of information chosen by friends, contacts and family, processed by secret algorithms.”

Is she a robot? Is the article really a cry for help? Skynet, is that you?

Or perhaps it’s still there because no one in the media actually cares. The truth is perhaps like a private life, only available to people who have enough money to win court cases where they’re refered to by three initials and only Scottish or American papers can use their full names. Oh, if only we coud all marry a pop singer or get paid millions to kick a ball round a field at the weekend.

Still, we’ve got an apology. I should be happy, right?

Nope.

Big lie, tiny apology. For example, Glastonbury festival’s very own Tom Watson MP bombasts that he’s seen TV images of a Hard Left Hate Mob on a BBC programme and is heard by millions worldwide, then mutters his apology on Facebook where this is the coverage he got:

TW stats

Of the Guardian, New Statesman, The Sun, The Independent, The Evening Standard, The Mirror, The Daily Mail, The Northern Echo, BBC Radio 4 Today programme and World At One, LBC, Channel 4, Channel 5, BBC Breakfast News and Newsnight only the BBC have admitted they were reporting something that never happened and only on the Today programme. Good luck finding that apology without the link. If it’s less than four clicks from the home page, do let me know – I’ll buy you a Wagon Wheel. All this when one of the Leveson Inquiry recommendations was that the apologies and corrections should match the profile the story was given.

Ah, Leveson. Again, let’s think back. There were so many recommendations, they went up like emergency flares then disappeared before anyone could launch a single life boat to rescue the truth, and democracy.

Poor democracy, what of her?

As I’ve said before, quoting the mighty and much-missed Terry Pratchett, ‘a lie can run round the world before the truth has got its boots on’. It turns out that the lie, unlike doping Russian athletes, can win that race, keep the medals and the world records. Still, that’s no reason for us, or the good folk at The Canary, to stop polishing the boots of truth to make sure that they aren’t quite as shit-speckled as everything else is becoming.

How to write a synopsis without throwing a tantrum

Yes, regular reader, I am back, having taken the bold step of just skipping last month’s official posting (and I think maybe the post before that) without even bothering to put one of those sneaky non-posts up. You are wise to that trick, I assume. Besides I have been on a great adventure.

I have been to Synopsis Land. On reading the brochure you might be forgiven for thinking it was Synop-utopia, but no. It turns out that Synopsis Land is like North Korea without the Great Leader themed amusement parks. Or the incessant marching.  But it’s not all fun and games in Synopsis Land, in fact it is no fun at all. Zero fun. Nada funola. Neit funovski.

Let me give you a tour. We’ll call it how to write a synposis for your novel.

In order to submit your book to an agent it is a universally accepted truth that you need:

  • three chapters or the first 10,000 words (of a book you have actually finished, please)
  • a submission letter
  • a synopsis

Another universally accepted truth is that if you google something there will appear such an overwhelming wealth of information that you will be saved from any further thought or inquiry. Your synopsis will write itself. This is a lie. The information at your google-tips when you are grasping for any help on how to write a synopsis can only be described as unhelpful. Unless of course you want to pay someone to write it for you, in which case you have the whole world in your lap. Also, the information that is out there is contradictory. But let us not moan and whinge about this. Let us instead bring down from the snowy mountain peaks of Synopsis Land the stone tablet of synopsis writing commandments. I will try my best to decipher it, it is covered in gouge marks and tears though so you’ll have to bear with me.

  • Your synposis should fit on one side of A4 and be in a sensible font. Not 6pt so you can get it all in. 500 – 600 words has been floated as a likely word count.
  • It should be written in the third person, even if your book is written in the first person.
  • Write it in the present tense, even if your book is written in the past tense.
  • Don’t panic and take some deep breaths.
  • The first time you mention a character write their name in capitals. It’s quite amusing to read it back out loud and shout these names – that is the modern convention after all.
  • Don’t include any subplots, even if they are the greatest subplots ever to grace Literature.
  • Include the end, even if it is the greatest twist ever to grace Literature and will totally ruin the book.
  • Don’t spend hours musing about how this is all very similar to writing essays at school and trying to quantify just how much you hated that experience as well.
  • Apparently if you can’t write a synposis it’s because you haven’t got enough plot in your book, but I can’t think about how awful that realisation must be so let’s skate over it.
  • Don’t get all flowery, just tell it straight. The sample chapters are supposed to demonstrate what a wonderful contribution you are about to make to Literature, the synopsis is supposed to show that you are prepare to torture yourself and endure unimaginable pain for the sake of your art. Also that you can tell a story, or something like that.
  • Maybe think of it like this: This is who we are talking about, and this happens to them and then because of that happening this happens and then this happens but then this happens and then because that happens they realise this and then this happens and that’s the end.

There. That is what I learnt. That, and it’s not worth getting in a state about. Honestly. Practise on your dog. My dog was very helpful. He walked off one time so I started again. If you don’t have a dog you could practise on a friend but they aren’t as useful. I suppose you don’t have to pick their poo up which is one way they’re better. Or maybe you do have to, I don’t know what kind of friends you have.

We’ve digressed. That must mean we are done.

I don’t know if it will work but I do know that it’s only one side of A4 and it gives away the ending so it can’t possibly be an epic failure. I’ll update as I learnt more, comrade.

Synposis Land is a horrible place to visit and I don’t want to live there no matter how much you want to pay me. Still, I am back now. That’s the main thing. Although at some point we will be visiting the United States of Submission Letters. I can only imagine the vaccinations I will need for that one.

Walthamstow’s property boom is a housing bust.

Estate agents love Walthamstow. You can’t even get out of the Blackhorse Road tube station into Walthamstow, or Blackhorse Village as the estate agents call that bit of it, without being confronted with a barrage of baffling posters from one estate agent (I’ve forgotten which one – they all look the same to me) celebrating their startling observation that pies plus mash is a Walthamstow thing, as is jellies plus eels.

Oddly, they didn’t have a poster that said houses plus corruption is a Walthamstow thing even though that would be more accurate, given we only have the one jellied eel and pie and mash shop.

And why wouldn’t estate agents love Walthamstow? Most of the time they can get away with selling poorly converted sheds here with no documentation for £70,000. No planning permission? No problem. Just think of the profit margin.

House price rises in E17 have been astronomical – last year the number of properties worth over a million rose by 56% despite the economic climate. So, here come Foxtons. They believe that the housing market in Walthamstow is more profitable to them than the market in affluent Pimlico. Here they think they’ll be able to make £17m in fees because the property is cheap and shifts quickly. And as we all know estate agents do a great deal to earn those fees.

And here come the property developers too.

In a story you might have seen in news, Glasspool Charitable Trust have sold the Butterfields Estate and now all the tenants are being evicted by the new landlords. Because they are property developers and really, really need the money and nothing shifts quicker than an empty property with no chain. The Trust said that they really, really needed the money so that they could provide more grants for fridges. I know people will always need fridges but I wondered for a moment if perhaps the idea was that the 63 households that are currently being evicted could buy a fridge each and live in that.

The company that bought the properties is called Butterfields E17. Oh, the imagination! They are now auctioning or selling them for over £300,000 and making a huge profit. Once these properties have all been snapped up, with the help of estate agents of course, the company will be dissolved and the two brothers who own it will set up again and do the same elsewhere. This is what they have done twice before and if they ain’t broke… They keep a very low profile, these brothers grim, the number listed for them doesn’t connect and they have yet to comment in the press on their mouldy swizz, but here they are pictured larking about on some kind of luxurious holiday:

MSDDUAN EC001

Not sure which is which unfortunately. These property developers all look the same to me.

You would think all this buying up cheap, evicting people and selling for a profit would be illegal. It isn’t. Not anymore. So quite what “assurances in law” Glasspool claim they sought I’m not sure.

It’s not only the Butterfield Estate residents suffering from our highly porfitable property market. The same thing is happening on the Marlowe Road Estate where someone is going to make a lot of money from building a lot more houses on the same amount of land while forcing people to move so they can knock down the stock that’s there. And with compulsory purchase orders people have to move, even if those people had previously bought their council houses, worked to pay off the mortgage and didn’t really want to sell it back to the property developers at less than it was worth.

This isn’t illegal either. And apparently not only is it legal, it’s desirable. Waltham Forest Council have been praised for this approach to the housing crisis. Even though they’ve decreased the number of council houses available on the estate, far below the 50% mark that their own guidelines recommend.

You can find out more about the Marlowe Road Estate story via Melanie Briggs on Twitter, where you can also find the links to the Huffington Post pieces she’s written about their plight. And you can find this peculiar exchange that I feel I must mention:

stella weird facebook post

I suppose it’s one way of engaging with your constituents. Although it is a bit like the bedside manner of a doctor who screams at her ailing patient: ‘Why don’t you just hurry and die, you evil bed-hogging sack of germs!’ Weirdly inappropriate given the context. Just sayin’.

Anyway, it’s at times like these I like to remind myself of Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That’s where it recognises the right to housing as part of the right to an adequate standard of living. It says this:

“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”

So what is Walthamstow’s very own Veruca Salt, Stella Creasy MP of the twitter charm offensive, doing about this? After what she said to the Guardian about the Butterfields Estate you’d figure a lot, right? She said:

“It also shows the effects of people speculating on property prices. We now have people who will either end up on the social housing list, forced out of the borough, or into more expensive poor-quality housing. The council will have to pick up the pieces, one way or another.”

Well, for one thing she’s rolling out the red carpet with her very own awards ceremony for local estate and letting agents. Now in its second glorious year, the awards recognise the ‘best letting agent’, ‘best estate agent’ and ‘kindest gesture from an estate agent’ to name but three accolades.

I fear my incredulous eyebrows may never return to their normal position and I will be forced to look like I’ve had a facelift go horribly wrong for the rest of my life.

There are about 96,000 people in Walthamstow, give or take those who have been forced to move to Luton (more of this shortly), and 400 people filled in Stella’s estate agents survey. This is a 0.42% response rate which, coincidentally, will be the size of her majority in the next election if she carries on the way she is. Again, just saying.

I think we got a leaflet through the letterbox about the estate agent survey. Usually I do make an effort to rescue the post from the dog but not on this occasion. Sadly, little remained:

IMG_1864

Did it all come out of the other end OK? To be honest I couldn’t tell.

What else is Stella doing? Is she perhaps encouraging the council to “pick up the pieces” as she said they would have to? After all, she reportedly attends many more council meetings than is usual for an MP so would have ample time to keep an eye on them. I think the answer to that question is going to have to be another no. If I could regain control of my eyebrows I would do my sad face. This is from last week’s Private Eye:

private eye snip

Oh dear. I’m not sure if this is the £70,000 shed. We have so many compact and bijou sheds in Walthamstow, it’s hard to tell that too.

Councillor Notorius Slum Landlord was at Stella’s now legendary Housing Vampire Oscars but didn’t get an award. I’m not sure if he was nominated but it is possible that a lifetime’s achievement award is on the cards for next year’s extravaganza. Here he is with Stella at the luxurious 2016 after-party:

MSDDUAN EC001

Obviously, she’s the one at the back.

Meanwhile, ordinary people are being shipped out to Luton by Waltham Forest Council because they don’t have the money or the property to house people here. Odd that, isn’t it? They sell off the houses to make money, make people homeless and then can’t rehouse them because they’ve sold off the houses. I for one am relieved that these geniuses didn’t decide on careers in open-heart surgery. Or teaching. Luton Council are not happy about all this either, what with all the families of six crammed in one bedroom flats and people sleeping on kitchen floors. Perhaps these people should count themselves lucky that they aren’t forced to live in a fridge. Or a £70,000 shed.

Perhaps we should all just consider ourselves damn lucky that we’ve received a kind gesture from a benevolent estate agent this year. And thank goodness someone thought to honour them for it or we really would all be going to hell in a handbasket.

Since the work on the Victoria Line to ready it for the night tube last year, some residents can hear the trains roaring under their houses at unlawful decible levels. Well, it’s either the tube or the sound of William Morris, Walthamstow’s revolutionary son and socialist, turning in his grave. Well, do not fear Mr Morris, your work with the Warners to create lovely social housing for your workers will not be undone. Walthamstow will still remember and honour your spirit.

After all, if there’s one thing we learnt from the Angry Mob That Never Was Episode it’s that Stella Creasy MP leaps into action to defend her constituents’ rights with all the speed and enthusiasm of an arthritic sloth on Tramadol and it looks like she’s bang on form this time too.

I have finished my book.

There. I could just leave you with that title, as it is the main point of this post but as this is my first post of 2016 let’s struggle on together. Yes?

So, I have finished my book. It’s always a lovely feeling for about 6.45 seconds and then I feel bereft. I also feel like a Not-Writer which is the worst feeling ever – and I say that as someone that has broken their knee cap. Anyway, I have managed to muddle through that awkward phase and now find myself about to do one of two things:

  1. Embark on a marvellous adventure, or
  2. Repeatedly bang my head against not only a brick wall but a brick wall covered in spikes. And lava. While listening to the last three Bond themes on repeat.

They are one thing really. This: I must find an agent. I say must because I have convinced myself that this is only true course of action for our reasonably young hero (that’s me, by the way) and one which must be pursued until either I or every single literary agent in the world is dead.

This is not me turning my back on the independent/ self publishing community, no. This is not me waving a big banner saying that traditional publishing is much better and that’s what we should all do, no no. I just feel that I would benefit from working with some people who know better than me about things like the publishing industry, and also grammar*. So, this is me admitting that I don’t know everything and perhaps a little support and advice would be a good thing. I have much to learn.

I’m imagining that this is going to be a very long, painful process. I expect there will be much rejection. I bet I throw a few tantrums and lose my temper. But aong the way I hope that I meet some decent people who are genuinely interested in writing and writers.

And I really, really hope – mostly for your sake, gentle reader – that it provides some good blogging material and I can write some useful posts here that are not only wondrously entertaining (ha!) but informative and supportive reads for anyone else who also wants to have their dreams crushed into a grey mush of disappointment.

At least I have a postive attitude.

Onward comrades!

 

*I spelt this wrong the first time. You see my problem.

The Mysterious Case of “Lucy Allan MP”

In the last week or so the world of politics, and wider society, seems to have slipped the noose of reality and entered a world not dissimilar to the one Alice encountered through the looking glass where everything is the opposite way round. The truth and lies being, as usual, the first in the firing line. But they are not the only casualty. Another tragic victim of this frightening flip fantasia is tragic Telford MP Lucy Allan.

You may remember Lucy Allan as the MP who, in fit of jealousy after seeing the attention that other MPS, such as Stella ‘Noble Defender of Her Constituents’ Creasy, were getting from the media, decided to fabricate a death threat.

Lucy-Allan

 

This seems like quite a big thing, no? Then join me for a moment as I wonder why Channel Four, to pick just one mainstream media channel, described this as a ‘non-story’. The BBC, bless them, tried to cover it. If giving her a platform to excuse herself is covering it. But they gave it a go and that’s the main thing. They tried.

Rest assured that we will shine a light on it here.

I think to truly rummage around in the bloody guts of this non-story we need to look at it in the context of the society we now live in. A world where an unsubstantiated post on Facebook is an impeccable journalistic source and post-it notes are weapons of mass destruction. A world where everything is uncertain and confusing.

One thing we can be sure of in these difficult times is that Twitter knows who is real and who isn’t. They communicate this by adding a pleasing blue tick next to the usernames of Real People. Like Ryan Reynolds. He’s real. Andy Murray? Real. David Cameron, sadly, also seems to be real. Lucy Allan? Not real. No blue tick.

I did want to get an image of this for you, as I believe in evidence, but Lucy Allan seems to have deleted her Twitter account:

Lucy-Allan-account

And her Facebook account

Lucy-Allan_Facebook

Let’s not be deterred though, that’s what she wants. She wants us to forget all about this because she’s sitting on a majority of 1.8%. Sitting on a tiny majority is a leading cause of piles you know.

In my yard, Walthamstow, we have experience of sock puppets causing problems on social media. I’m looking at you Paul S Jakubovic, or should I call you Paul Jakubovic or should I call you….? Oh, never mind. And it’s not without the realms of possibility that Lucy Allan MP is another sock puppet. A very convincing one. I think she’s some kind of sophisticated android. I put in a pretend-call to PricewaterhouseCoopers, where she worked from 1987 to 1994, and they confirmed that she did work there, but she was actually a calculator. One of those scientific ones that can do trigonometry, but still.

I suspect that now her social media accounts have been suspended her power is weak. She probably only has enough strength to manifest as one of those little robot hoovers and is currently going back and forth, back and forth as she tries to get out from the back of the bin in the kitchen. At this point she is only able to enslave dogs but we must not be complacent.  Her Wikipedia page is still live and she will be drawing strength from it every day.

Just as an aside that page features this strange paragraph:

Lucy-Allan-wikipedia

Um, OK. Glad you cleared that up.

Not long after this story – sorry, I mean non-story – broke Lucy Allan tweeted that it wasn’t her fault, it was Labour supporters that were targeting Tory MPs in former Labour seats with death threats and yet more vile abuse. I wish I could show you this tweet, it was very funny. She is, of course, almost right. As an MP, or “MP” as we should actually call her, Lucy Allan – sorry, I mean “Lucy Allan” – doesn’t get sent emails, people don’t post on her Facebook page or tweet her. They target her. And I suspect this is a co-ordinated effort as she suggested. But not by Labour supporters. My pretend-investigations are starting to uncover a team working within the Labour Party and, having irredeemably damaged their political careers in one way or another, they have accepted a secret mission. Their mission is to distract the electorate so that the government can get away with whatever they want. They are not Labour supporters. They are the Suicide Squad, soon to feature in their very own documentary:

Labour-Party-Suicide-Squad

The Suicide Squad (l-r): Tristram Hunt, Chuka Umunna, Mike Gapes, Simon Danczuk, Tom Watson

We should also consider another serious issue. Once upon a time I suffered a three month freelance contract in a digital team in the Department of Work and Pensions. You could write everything that civil servants understand about anything related to computers on the back of a stamp and still have room to write a detailed essay entitled ‘This isn’t a democracy, it’s a travesty’. On the postive side, it was always hilarious sitting in meetings with them:

If “Lucy Allan” has started to develop IT skills we should all be concerned. Now one of them can cut and paste it’s only a matter of decades before the rest of them become capable enough to actually introduce such madcap IT-reliant projects as ID cards and then it’s National Databases as far as the eye can see. Then they really will be able to get into your computer and see what you’re doing. Then they’ll be able to pretend you’ve done things you haven’t without anyone being able to prove otherwise. And once they work out how to that, we’ll need more than a disreputable band of Labour MPs with a grudge.

Fear and loathing in Walthamstow

[Update for mobile readers: This post is written by SJ Griffin, a woman who lives in Walthamstow, which ironically means Warm Welcome. She doesn’t usually talk about herself in the third person, although she is kind of enjoying it. That’s our secret, yes?]

I think of myself as a political writer in only a vague sense. On scale of nought to ten, ten being George Orwell and nought being EL James, I would say I’m a five and a half. That would put me someone where between Terry Pratchett and Richard Scarry, who asked the very pertinent question What Do People Do All Day?

If you’ve never been to Walthamstow or have access to the internet, the television or a newspaper you could be forgiven for thinking that what we do all day is sit around in our underpants posting vile abuse to our elected representatives and planning violent assaults on their homes. The truth is very different.

Let me tell you the truth. A truth that can be verified by witness accounts, facebook posts, photographs and the police. One of those truths.

Let me tell you about something we did, something that’s got a lot of people very frightened.

On the evening of the 1st of December over 250 local people assembled at Queen’s Town Road Mosque. They were a mixture of middle aged women, elderly Muslims, young parents, working folk on the way back from work and children – all people from a range of backgrounds, both socially and politically. And because this is Walthamstow, there might have been a hipster or two twirling their moustache or attractive fifties flare skirt, depending on gender. Or maybe both, all were welcome. They had gathered to walk to Stella Creasy’s constituency office, which was empty at the time. They were armed with a few placards, some featuring terrible Star Wars jokes – I apologise, candles and, heaven preserve us, post-it notes. Assembly complete, health and safety instructions imparted they ambled very amiably to the office with the police stopping the traffic for them where necessary so there wasn’t any unseemly running across the road in fear of life and limb. Then they congregated outside the office. They lit candles and listened to some people talking about why we shouldn’t bomb Syria and how lovely it was that everyone had gathered. Then came some milling around. There would have been some talk about how lucky they had been with the weather. Perhaps some compliments regarding the excellent cupcakes offered at the recent open day at Lea Bridge Road Mosque. Then a child had the idea of writing on post-it notes and putting them on the windows, which people did. Then everyone went home because the event was over. The whole thing was hastily organised in less than 24 hours, a dash to get a final chance for constituents to let Stella Creasy know how they would like her to vote, partly because she had been very open about not being able to make her mind up.

There we have it. A peaceful vigil.

We are all going to hell in a handcart! What a terrible, frightening occurrence! What kind of place is this Walthamstow where women in matching hat and scarf sets they crocheted themselves stand outside an empty office and write their reasonable opinions about killing people on brightly colour bits of paper that stick to things. How has this evil come among us? Who allowed all these people with their Scandinavian rye bread and craft beer to stand around with probably scented candles contemplating collateral damage and surgical strikes? Who on earth thought it right and proper that in these times of Islamaphobia and hate crime a large number of people from different ethnic backgrounds and faiths should come together and have a jolly nice time exercising their democratic rights and making new friends. Hateful. Vile. And what about this maniac rampant left wing vicar we hear about, stirring up hate so he can take control of the CLP, the council and probably the Hornbeam Cafe as well?  Well, I’ve met him. He’s like one of those vicars from those cuddly Sunday evening dramas that used to be on the telly when I was a kid. There the jolly Reverends that want the lonely old people to have someone to talk to, single mothers to have a plentiful supply of nappies, a supply purchased after a whip round in the local pub and that new family at number six to be invited to the jumble sale. Even I liked him and I am highly suspicious of humans wearing dog collars in any context. In. Any. Context.

Most of that last paragraph didn’t make a lot of sense, did it? Apart from the dog collar bit. I suspect that’s because there’s too much truth in it. Terry Pratchett wrote that ‘a lie can run round the world before the truth has got its boots on’ and in the last three days a lie has gone round so fast Justin Gatlin wants his drugs back. I’m not going to bother to repeat it here. Many people far more powerful than me have already done that. Some of them, like Bonnie Greer, were quick to retweet the right story, others just did the first retweet and ignored the request to retweet the truth. And others still, like Tom Watson, are repeating the lie and conflating the issues today. I can’t tell you how sad and disappointed Tom Watson’s words made me as a new Labour Party member. I voted for him in the leadership elections, evil three pound entryist that I was. And yes, I did vote for Jeremy Corbyn. And my continuing support for him is the only reason I’m still a member of the party at this point. If you think that makes makes me a dangerous lunatic you can stop reading if you like. I don’t mind. I’m not, if it helps.

The real issue here is not my hurt feelings. It’s not even the hurt feelings of people on that vigil who have been reduced to tears because of how they’ve been misrepresented and hounded, exhausted from trying to get the real story out there. No. The real issue is the assault on the right of ordinary people to express their political views, the attack on democracy in local politics and the undermining of free speech. Are those things really so frightening? Of course they are.

So, let’s add the overcoat of reasonably-informed opinions to those boots of truth we popped on earlier.

I think that the real abuse that MPs are receiving while utterly disgusting is being used to discredit the imaginary threat posed by more left-leaning elements of the Labour Party. A fake Facebook account was used to start the furore about the vigil on Tuesday, originating from an IT worker in Leeds or a maths teacher in Orpington depending on how Sherlock Holmes you want to be about it. Neither of those men are anything to do with the vigil or the local Labour party.

I’ve had to block people on Twitter, mercifully I’m not on Facebook, and I think this is a reasonable response to trolls. If it is something more serious I think you should report the matter to the police, or the Labour party if they are a member. And please, let’s discipline any Party members who are engaging in this abuse. Stella Creasy has already done great work fighting online misogyny, even getting jail time for one man which was miraculous given the circumstances. Let’s follow that lead.

I think that the number of Labour Party or Momentum members threatening MPs is probably the same as the amount of people who think that Peter Andre is odds on to win next year’s Booker Prize. Lower actually because, somehow, I can see that happening.

I am certain that no one on the vigil made any of the alleged abusive calls that frightened staff in the constituency office on the morning of the debate. I hope that the minute that tweet went out they stopped and everyone felt much safer. I do hope it didn’t make things worse. I do hope it wasn’t used as evidence that the peaceful vigil was a horrifying rampage that was continuing on into the bright morning of our brave fight against the new fascism. Oh.

I think that rather than the Labour Party helping to fuel the desperate chip paper shortage we’re all suffering as a result of this bullying story rolling on endlessly, they should focus instead on, oh I don’t know, who’s funding ISIS? They should try and have a bit of a look at the tax credits U-turn and it not being a U-turn, just a bit of a break in a lay-by for a wee and ham sandwich on the way to Britain becoming the smallest state since Caractacus Potts discovered Vulgaira. They should see if they can peer at the ongoing refugee crisis, on the 300% increase in hate crime, on cuts to the police force, on the crisis in secondary schools, on the increase in borrowing. Please, someone, just pick one. Or is the choice so overwhelming that like a kid in a sweet job you just can’t make your mind up whether it’ll be the drowning child or the woman with MS trapped in her own home who hasn’t seen another live human being for six days or the woman in a man’s prison you’ll stand up for first? You remember how to stand up, don’t you?

I’m not linking to any stories about those issues. You can go out there and find them if you want. They’ll be buried somewhere, in the hope that you’ll be distracted by the terrorist sympathising, communist, militant Death Force stealing the labour party, hell bent on destroying anyone to the slightly to the right of Dennis Skinner.

Is any of this vile abuse? It’s so hard to tell nowadays. You might think I’ve been a bit mean about Tom Watson and Stella Creasy. I’m pretty sure when gangs of white men were ripping the hijiabs from Muslim women on Boundary Road and pushing the women into paths of passing cars the vile abuse bar was set much lower than it is now. Now the bar is set around ‘you look like an egg’. No one with features looks like an egg. Even Humpty Dumpty didn’t look like an egg.

I can understand that MPs might feel intimidated in the current climate on social media. It’s hard putting yourself out there and saying what you think about things. Particularly serious issues like war and terrorism. There is no place for nuance or dialogue. I feel intimidated writing this. I’m contemplating taking bits out in case I get humiliated on social media by real players with hundreds of thousands of followers and contacts in the press.In fact, I have. There was a genuienly amusing joke in here. It’s certainly not a good frame of mind to be proofreading in. Why do I feel like that? I’ve just witnessed my friends and neighbours get smeared by almost every major news outlet and suffer that smear being repeated by MPs, journalists and commentators even though the story has been refuted time and time again. And again.

Oddly, the BBC are pedalling the lie, while bizarrely broadcasting the truth at the different times. It’s as though two parallel universes have collided and the Earth-456 BBC that isn’t terrified of losing its funding and understands what the actual definition of impartial is, is operating at the same time as our Earth BBC, the organisational equivalent of Dobby with a sock allergy.

It’s unfair to single them out though, the big lovable barrel of fish that they are. Vigil organisers are being door stepped by the Daily Mail, local people being chased by ITV, the Times, the Telegraph, Huffington Post and too many others to give free publicity to.

There are differences between us and those intimidated MPs. For one, this is not our job. These are our homes, our families, our lives, you’re poking around in. Although to be fair you are also targeting us at work. Two, we don’t have the support of a party behind us – Tom Watson made that clear this morning. Three, we don’t have press officers to fend of rabid Mail writers. Four, we don’t have contacts in the press that we’ve been cultivating for years and years for just such occasions as this. Five, there is no Momentum group in Walthamstow and if even there was, most people at the vigil wouldn’t be in it anyway and so wouldn’t benefit from any support or solidarity it might dare to offer. We are just ordinary, hard-working people trying to participate in a democracy. If the MPs feel intimidated, imagine how we feel.

And then imagine, if you dare, the very real horror when Louise Mensch was deployed yesterday, appearing on a Facebook thread like a next generation Brimestome missile sent by SkyNet to blow up the William Morris Gallery as retribution. She’s “archiving” our tweets apparently, appearing to all intents and purposes like she thinks she’s helping Stella Creasy to build a case against us. I can’t imagine why having found herself deluged with mainly reasonable tweets expressing disappointment in her political performance, when people are telling her that they can’t vote for her any more and when she’s one half of a Margaret Thatcher meme Stella Creasy MP would think it sensible to chum up with a woman who makes Donald Trump look like the love child of Mother Theresa and Friedrich Engels. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t think its helpful, actually. Never have the words “for a column I’m writing on Sunday” held such menace. I get a slightly hot, sick feeling in my stomach when I think about it, like I’ve eaten the dietary equivalent of Justin Bieber album. If only we had our own pocket version of Alistair Campbell on hand to distract everyone by inserting his tiny genitals into the rotting mouth of a dead cat. I believe that’s the latest fashion in political spin.

Clearly, this is all some kind of madness. Remember that time people in Walthamstow made the international news because they lifted a whole double decker bus off a cyclist? It’s only a matter of time before someone fixes the video of that herioc act to play backwards, so it looks like we’re putting the bus on the cyclist on Hoe Street rather than lifting it off in spontaneous outpouring of community spirit and human decency:

 

 

What to do now? Let’s carry on, even though it’s hard. Carry on sticking up for each other. Speaking up for what we believe in. Those fish and chips will need wrapping eventually. When this has all moved on, when they’ve forgotten about whether it was outside a house or an office, when they can’t remember whether Paul S Jakubovic is a sock puppet or a real man, we’ll still remember. We’ll remember what happened when less than 300 people in Walthamstow held a peaceful vigil. We’ll remember the truth.

I’d like you to remember it too.

Bad news good news good news bad news

Gentle reader, there’s no proper blog post this month.

That was the bad news. I think bad news then good news is better than good news bad news, no?

Here’s the good news:

I have finished the fifth draft of my new and still untitled book. I think the next draft will finish it!

If you are a good news bad news person, this is for you:

I have finished the fifth draft of my book but this terrible effort is your blog post for the month.

I can only apologise. Neither good nor bad news there. One for the neutrals.

Happy Halloween

I am minded to believe that Halloween is the Justin Bieber to the Day of the Dead‘s Jimi Hendrix, but let’s persevere with the theme of this post. We can always pretend I am Mexican. I have a regular Mexican reader so I practically am.

Onwards.

Here are some scary links to follow and poop your pants at.

View from Overlook (vimeo)

This is a realy good documentary about one of my favourite films ‘The Shining’. I don’t like horror films. At all. The poster for Hellraiser traumatised me as a child and since then I have stayed well away from the horror genre. I briefly did a film course, however, and we studied The Shining. In fact I wrote an essay on it and Todorov’s Theory of the Fantastic. That’s a great theory. It’s a great film. The essay? Nevermind that. The Shining also pops up in The Replacement, the second part of the Vanguard trilogy, which if you haven’t read…well, I guess you haven’t read.

Todd Haynes’ Karen Carpenter biopic (youtube)

Karen Carpenter was scary. I can’t watch her. Why make Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft the song for World Contact Day? No wonder nobody contacted us. Also, that whole siblings thing is terrifying to me. I’m sure it’s all weird. This film, which was made in 1987, also features Barbie (she’s horrifying) and Ken. Ken? I can’t even. This film is the Jimi to the Excorcist’s Justin.

This man is in charge of all our money (youtube)

This is for UK readers only. Otherwise, I say this to you: you have had a lucky escape and please can you lend me your local equivalent of twenty quid?

I am now off to paint my face and frightened trick or treaters. I’m also tempted to dye the dog green. Abientot.

Time is on my side or many drafts make right work

I have now started the fifth draft of my novel. Whoever said writing is mostly editing was mostly right. I find writing is mostly playing Minecraft or moaning about not writing or doing something that isn’t writing, like walking the dog or watching Knights of Sidonia, but that could just be me.

I’ve got a list of things to do to achieve a finished fifth draft. One of these things was to make sure that I know what day things happen on. Basic, no?

Nope.

The thing was all over the place. There was a massive three month gap just after the middle. I’ve no idea why. I must have changed my mind about something or needed the weather to be different or have some event to happen in the wider world (the story is set in the past). There is also one part when, despite this book not being science fiction, we go back in time and then leap forward again all in the blink of an eye. In some books that might work magnificently. It might elevate said book from tawdry paperback to literary masterpiece. Sadly, that is not the case here. What it does here is shift the author a little along the stupid scale from idiot to imbecile.

How could I let this happen?

Easily. Very easily.

Luckily, I was aware that for some people writing is mostly editing and embarked on a fifth draft armed with a focused to do list.

And now to Minecraft! Don’t those Endermen make a terrible noise when you kill them?

The Shepherd’s Crown Fits

This post contains spoilers – leave now if you haven’t read the book. Off you go. To be fair to me, it contains the massive spoiler that has been included in most of the reviews and has induced much precious hand-wringing from the Guardian. Mind you, with them they probably only included it so they could write about including it later. At some point they will write about writing about writing it. Then they’ll be able to write about writing about writing about writing about it. And then someone below the line with say ‘I remember when this used to be a really good newspaper’ and I will nod sagely and then remember that it’s the internet. [Edit – later, they will post something about how he wasn’t any good after all. Appalling. I refuse to link to them.]

I think the spoiler-avoiders have go now, don’t you?

Let us begin.

As you will know, regular reader, I am a huge Terry Pratchett fan. Not very long ago I re-read all the Discworld books in order from The Colour of Magic to Raising Steam. Then I waited, sort of patiently, for The Shepherd’s Crown. In between those two things Terry Pratchett died. In the sense that his physical form ceased to be present on this planet. How anyone can suggest that the man who left forty-plus wonderful stories with us, and is remembered every time someone picks one up, or laughs at a joke, or recalls a character, is dead is beyond me. Still, I know what they mean.

The next paragraph contains a clue to the spoiler. If you are still here, well, that’s your fault. Not mine.

The Shepherd’s Crown was released on the 27th September at midnight. I waited until 7am to download it onto my kindle. What? I need my sleep. I get very moody otherwise. I didn’t dare read it until later though. I got The Fear. There are many types of The Fear but mostly I get The Fear of Disappointment. Then I read ‘For Esmerelda Weatherwax – mind how you go’ and The Fear was all gone.

There’s no point my telling you, gentle reader, whether the time you spend reading The Shepherd’s Crown will be time well spend (of course it will!), no point my extolling to virtues of Terry Pratchett’s writing to you (anyone who wants to write should read the whole Discworld series!) and no point me regurgitating the story to help you make up your mind about non-points one and two (Tiffany saves the Discworld! And learns carpentry!). The point of this is to clear up one thing and one thing only:

Is The Shepherd’s Crown a fitting end to the series?

Yes.

What? More? OK. I’m not sure if Terry Pratchett knew this would be his last book, I imagine that if I had a similar disease to Alzheimer’s I would worry every book was my last, it can read like that – if you want it to.

There is no way of avoiding the spoiler below. Abort! Abort!

It was impossible, for me, to not see Granny Weatherwax as a stand in for the author in this book. I suppose because, for me, she’s his best character, his proper hero. Closely followed by Sam Vies and Death. And all the other little heroes, like Nutt and Nobby and Rincewind (of course Rincewind). But she’s my favourite. I would like to be like Granny Weatherwax when I grow up (yes, I know I am already grown up) and while I’m waiting I would like to have a Granny Weatherwax to help me grow up (yes, I know still). The huge monument of her dying in this book is for me the best send off for the author, the series, the Discworld. It’s full of poignancy and potency and, most importantly, possibility. A future that doesn’t need anyone’s intervention.

When Tiffany ‘sees’ Granny Aching and Granny Weatherwax walking in the shadows at the edge of the wood on The Chalk I fancied Terry and that hat were walking along behind them.

I suppose that’s the wonder of a really good book – it’s that it seems to make no difference that we never met the author, that they don’t know the first thing about us, they still manage to come up with something that can show us, bright and clear, what we want to see. What fits.