Thursday, December 15, 2011

Triple Hares Painting Auction Closing Soon #Magick4Terri

The Charity Fundraiser for Terri Windling finishes today. Well actually the auction closes at 5pm PST, which by my reckoning is 1 o'clock tomorrow morning here in good old Blighty.

Bidding is up to $220, at the moment it appears to be going to someone in New Zealand, doesn't anyone in Britain want it?

EDIT: Terri says
"Charlie, your work is absolutely beautiful. I'm honored by this lovely painting...and whoever buys it will surely be blessed. It's *gorgeous*."
EDIT: Painting sold for $300.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Sammy in the Sky

This is a book published this year in America by an American publisher, Candlewick Press; written by American writer, Barbara Walsh; and illustrated by an American artist, Jamie Wyeth - none of whom I know!

I found it on t'internet via a long and circuitous route looking at publishers of the kind of books with illustrations that I love. The author of Sammy in the Sky may well be a Pullizer prize winning journalist but since I haven't read it, it's the illustrations that sell it for me.

Wow! I mean wow!

So I looked up this Jamie Wyeth and found among many, a painting of his Labrador that had sold for $218,000, so perhaps I'm not such a bad judge!

There are many books that deal with loss and bereavement but very few that do it beautifully. So if it's as good as the illustrations, (and it's had some great reviews in the States), it will be an absolutely classic collectors item.

I LOVE this artist!

The book is on Amazon here, Sammy in the Sky.

Monday, December 05, 2011


Magick 4 Terri is a heart warming and magical fundraising initiative organised by the friends and colleagues of editor, artist, and writer Terri Windling in her time of need. Her Journal of the Mythic Arts is the best reference on the net for all things mythical. She is recognised by many as the faery godmother of fantasy literature and mythic arts, and as such many amazing people in the field have donated work that can be bid for. There is signed artwork, signed books and all sorts of other things by people like Brian and Wendy Froud, Neil Gaiman, Alan Lee and err ... me.

I adore Terri's work and when I heard about this appeal I wanted to do something unique for her, that captured her spirit.

Terri wrote a fantastic article on the Symbolism of Rabbits and Hares and in her honour I have created this piece especially for this auction. It is an original painting 360mm x 365mm in gouache on Ingres paper.

The Triple Hares (sometimes called Tinner's Hares) is an ancient symbol of three hares or rabbits running in a circle and joined by their ears which form a triangle at the centre of the design. The symbol is a puzzle for each creature appears to have two ears yet, between them, they share only three ears.

The motif is an extraordinary and ancient archetype, stretching across diverse religions and cultures, many centuries and many thousands of miles. It is part of the shared medieval heritage of Europe and Asia (Buddhism, Islam, Christianity and Judaism) yet still inspires creative work among contemporary artists.

Like the Green Man it appears often on medieval church bosses and that kind of thing. But no-one knows quite what it means...

You can bid for my red, white and 'blue' hares here until 15th December, but if you're not in the market to buy, I'd be grateful for any re-tweets and re-bloggings of this post.

The campaign can be followed on Twitter and Facebook. I'm to be found @charliefarrow1 on Twitter please do add me.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Triple Hares Symbol

I've embarked on a painting of the Triple Hares - well it will be a painting - it's obviously a sketch at the moment. I'll explain what the painting is for when I've finished it.

The Triple Hares (sometimes called Tinner's Hares) is an ancient symbol of three hares or rabbits running in a circle and joined by their ears which form a triangle at the centre of the design. The symbol is a puzzle for each creature appears to have two ears yet, between them, they share only three ears.

The motif is an extraordinary and ancient archetype, stretching across diverse religions and cultures, many centuries and many thousands of miles. It is part of the shared medieval heritage of Europe and Asia (Buddhism, Islam, Christianity and Judaism) yet still inspires creative work among contemporary artists.
Like the Green Man appers often on medieval church bosses and the that kind of thing. But no-one knows quite what it means...

There's a fantastic article about the subject covering the symbolism of rabbits and hares by Terri Windling at Endicott Studio.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


I'm not sure that I added this sketch when I posted the ones of the developmental sketches of the magician, Plaucus, that I put up back in the summer. The illustrations are for 'Octave Finds a Voice' by Walter Harris.

Oh! Probably ought to say, I did the pictures.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Walter Harris

I've had a business meeting today with cult author and very darling friend, Walter Harris. He's the author of the novelization of the Creature from the Black Lagoon, as well as a whole raft of other works.

I have had the privilege today to draw his likeness... across a shared charcuterie platter and a very nice temperanillo... (thank you very much)... with a good seasoning of a lot of laughter.

We are relaunching Walter's books in the New Year on his website, but I couldn't resist showing you his portrait now.

He's recently turned 86 and jolly handsome he is too!

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Story of Newbury

The Story of Newbury

Long time friend and local historian David Peacock, is signing his new book The Story of Newbury in WH Smith, Newbury tomorrow, Saturday 19th November from 11am - 2pm and I urge you to get down there or buy a copy via any of the links on this page.

If you can't make it tomorrow, David will be doing another signing at Waterstone's, Newbury on Saturday 10th December 11am - 1pm.

The Story of Newbury will be a fabulous Christmas gift for anyone with an interest in our unique local history - which is everyone I know really! Here's the blurb:
In the 21st century, the bustling market town of Newbury is now home to a famous racecourse, a global telecommunications company, a leading pharmaceutical business, and a myriad of thriving enterprises. It has come a long way, then, from its pre-Roman beginnings, when it was little more than a group of huts beside the River Kennet. 
This excellent book sets out to tell the story of its journey through time and the colourful events which have helped shape the town. They range from the heyday of the cloth trade when much of Newbury's wealth was established; the turbulence of the English Civil War when two major battles were fought within its boundaries; to the recent anti-nuclear peace camps set up around the perimeter of Greenham Common airfield and the treetop protests against the building of a much-needed bypass to help keep motorists moving north and south of the town. 
Written by local historian, David Peacock, this brand new account of Newbury's past will inform and fascinate residents and visitors alike.
The Story of Newbury - David Peacock
Published by Countryside Books - Price £9.95
Available From:
Tourist Information Centre
1, The Wharf,
Newbury, Berkshire. RG14 5AS
01635 30267
Waterstones64 Northbrook Street,
Newbury Berkshire. RG14 1AE
0843 2908501
W H Smiths87/89, Northbrook Street,
Newbury Berkshire. RG14 1AE
01635 40013
The Family Bookshop
58, The Broadway,
Thatcham, Berkshire. RG19 3HP
01635 871777
The Hungerford Bookshop24, High Street,
Hungerford, Berkshire. RG17 0NF
01488 683480

Alternatively you can order online direct from the publishers:
Countryside Books, Highfield House, 2, Highfield Avenue, Newbury, Berkshire. RG14 5DS

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Lady Astronomer - a promising beginning

I am always interested to see work from new writers before it comes to market and have just had the opportunity to look at a sample chapter for a new book by emerging writer, Katy O'Dowd. This is her first fiction and looks to be an early foray into book publishing for Doctor Fantastique, publisher of a magazine of the same name dedicated to the 'steampunk' genre.

'Steampunk', as a term was coined as recently as 1987, but the characteristics of the genre are immediately recognisable in the works of Jules Verne, HG Wells and Mervyn Peake. Once coined it now seems bizarre that there is no antecedent for the label.
OED steampunk n.

Science fiction which has a historical setting (esp. based on industrialized, nineteenth-century society) and characteristically features steam-powered, mechanized machinery rather than electronic technology; (also) such writing as a subgenre of science fiction.

Unusually, O'Dowd's sample chapter is currently for sale on Amazon rather than available as a free download - but this is surely a mistake by a new publisher that will be rectified very soon.

The Lady Astronomer Chapter One, Katy O'Dowd gives us a tantalizing squint through the glass of her 'monoscope', letting us take a sneaky peek into her steampunk world. And the view from where I'm sitting looks pretty darn good.

The writer's narrative voice is particularly fine and if the dialogue comes across as weaker, it is worth considering whether this is apparent because of its proximity to such superb narration. The descriptive passages reverberate with the beautifully observed details of an imagined world, and these sections are bathed in a lyrical vocabulary that is evocative and innovative, yet accessible to a Young Adult audience. The characterizations of the human and animal protagonists are promising and look like providing sustained interest as the story unfolds; while the secondary characters appear to be stylishly sketched in order to offer comedic cameos.

If Katy O'Dowd's sustained storytelling throughout the full length novel is as good as her description in this sample chapter, then 'The Lady Astronomer' looks set to be a classic of YA culture in the making. My 'young adult' daughter and I are very much looking forward to the publication of the full text in 2012.


Siphonaptera jumped on to the flat roof, hidden by his tiny size and darkness of the still night. Though the stars peppered the skies with diamond dust, their light would no more have illuminated the predator than using a candle to see from one end of a particularly dank, gloomy tunnel.

He paused on his long hind legs, lifted his head and fixed a beady eye on his prey. Three warm bodies for him to gorge on. If his front legs had been longer he would have rubbed them together in glee at the thought of the crimson blood that lay in wait for him within his unknowing quarry.

Blood. His tube-like mouth parts fairly quivered in anticipation. He jumped again and came ever closer. His tiny belly rumbled and he stopped, before realising that the noise was so minute nobody could possibly have heard it.

Victory would be his! Just one more jump, two, three, the excitement of wanting and knowing that it was within reach filled him in a great rush.

And then he knew no more.

Lucretia turned her head towards Leibniz, who had startled her. Her left eye, hugely magnified behind her monoscope fixed on the ring-tailed lemur.

“Leibniz, how many times have I asked you not to make noise when I’m at a critical juncture?” she sighed. “What do you have there, boy?”

The lemur sauntered over to her, arms behind his back.

“Show, Leibniz, show,” she demanded, raising herself from the roof and brushing down her dress.

Leibniz reluctantly held his arm forward and opened his paw to reveal the smudged smear that had once been Siphonaptera. Lucretia peered intently until she could make out what it was. She stepped back and grimaced.

“Well, feel free to eat it, I hate fleas.”

Friday, October 21, 2011

Happy Trafalgar Day

How would Nelson have fared if he had been subject to modern health and safety regulations?

"Order the signal to be sent, Hardy."

"Aye, aye sir."

"Hold on, that's not what I dictated to the signal officer. What's the meaning of this?"

"Sorry sir?"

"England expects every person to do his duty, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religious persuasion or disability. What gobbledegook is this?"

"Admiralty policy, I'm afraid, sir. We're an equal opportunities employer now. We had the devil's own job getting 'England' past the censors, lest it be considered racist."

"Gadzooks, Hardy. Hand me my pipe and tobacco."

"Sorry sir. All naval vessels have been designated smoke-free working environments."

"In that case, break open the rum ration. Let us splice the main brace to steel the men before battle."

"The rum ration has been abolished, Admiral. It's part of the Government's policy on binge drinking."

"Good heavens, Hardy. I suppose we'd better get on with it. Full speed ahead."

"I think you'll find that there's a 4 knot speed limit in this stretch of water."

"Damn it man! We are on the eve of the greatest sea battle in history. We must advance with all dispatch. Report from the crow's nest, please."

"That won't be possible, sir."


"Health and Safety have closed the crow's nest, sir. No harness. And they said that rope ladder doesn't meet regulations. They won't let anyone up there until a proper scaffolding can be erected."

"Then get me the ship's carpenter without delay, Hardy."

"He's busy knocking up a wheelchair access to the fo'c'sle Admiral."

"Wheelchair access? I've never heard anything so absurd."

"Health and Safety again, sir. We have to provide a barrier-free environment for the differently abled."

"Differently abled? I've only one arm and one eye and I refuse even to hear mention of the word. I didn't rise to the rank of admiral by playing the disability card."

"Actually, sir, you did. The Royal Navy is under-represented in the areas of visual impairment and limb deficiency."

"Whatever next? Give me full sail. The salt spray beckons."

"A couple of problems there too, sir. Health and Safety won't let the crew up the rigging without crash helmets. And they don't want anyone breathing in too much salt - haven't you seen the adverts?"

"I've never heard such infamy. Break out the cannon and tell the men to stand by to engage the enemy."

"The men are a bit worried about shooting at anyone, Admiral."

"What? This is mutiny."

"It's not that, sir. It's just that they're afraid of being charged with murder if they actually kill anyone. There's a couple of human rights lawyers on board, watching everyone like hawks."

"Then how are we to sink the Frenchies and the Spanish?"

"Actually, sir, we're not."

"We're not?"

"No, sir. The Frenchies and the Spanish are our European partners now. According to the Common Fisheries Policy, we shouldn't even be in this stretch of water. We could get hit with a claim for compensation."

"But you must hate a Frenchman as you hate the devil."

"I wouldn't let the ship's diversity co-ordinator hear you saying that sir. You'll be up on a disciplinary charge."

"You must consider every man an enemy who speaks ill of your King."

"Not any more, sir. We must be inclusive in this multicultural age. Now put on your Kevlar vest; it's the rules."

"Don't tell me - Health and Safety. Whatever happened to rum, sodomy and the lash?"

"As I explained, sir, rum is off the menu. And now there's a ban on corporal punishment."

"What about sodomy?"

"I believe it's to be encouraged, sir."

"In that case... kiss me, Hardy."

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Johnny's Music Tech recording task

Save Tonight - Eagle Eye Cherry (AS Music Tech Recording Task) by Johnny Yates

Just thought I'd capture this on my blog as I'd forgotten where it was in cyberspace, even having posted the link on Facebook months ago. Sorry FB friends for the cross posting. Why Facebook can't allow one to search one's own stuff is beyond me.

This piece sounds curiously cautious compared with the material he's doing now, but it's an interesting record of the time - all recorded and performed by my son, Johnny Yates, apart from Arlen Greensmith on drums.

There are of course startling antecedents for a partnership of Johnny and Arlen...

Monday, October 17, 2011

They don't write 'em like that any more

At the height of World War II on April 6th, 1943, British Ambassador to Moscow, Sir Archibald Clark Kerr, wrote the above letter to Foreign Office minister Lord Reginald Pembroke in an effort to brighten up his day. The letter was released by the Foreign Office under the 30-year rule and published in the Spectator, and on December 15th 1978, in the Far Eastern Economic Review.

I do wonder in this age of emails, texts and BBMs whether any such records will be left for the uncovering at a later date.



Lord Pembroke
The Foreign Office

6th April 1943

My Dear Reggie,

In these dark days man tends to look for little shafts of light that spill from Heaven. My days are probably darker than yours, and I need, my God I do, all the light I can get. But I am a decent fellow, and I do not want to be mean and selfish about what little brightness is shed upon me from time to time. So I propose to share with you a tiny flash that has illuminated my sombre life and tell you that God has given me a new Turkish colleague whose card tells me that he is called Mustapha Kunt.

We all feel like that, Reggie, now and then, especially when Spring is upon us, but few of us would care to put it on our cards. It takes a Turk to do that.


Sir Archibald Clerk Kerr,
H.M. Ambassador.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

How to Write Good (Like)

1. Avoid alliteration. Always.

2. Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.

3. Employ the vernacular.

4. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.

5. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.

6. Remember to never split an infinitive.

7. Contractions aren't necessary.

8. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.

9. One should never generalize.

10. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."

11. Comparisons are as bad as clichés.

12. Don't be redundant; don't use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.

13. Be more or less specific.

14. Understatement is always best.

15. One-word sentences? Eliminate.

16. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.

17. The passive voice is to be avoided.

18. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.

19. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.

20. Who needs rhetorical questions?

21. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

22. Don't never use a double negation.

23. capitalize every sentence and remember always end it with point

24. Do not put statements in the negative form.

25. Verbs have to agree with their subjects.

26. Proofread carefully to see if you words out.

27. If you reread your work, you can find on rereading a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.

28. A writer must not shift your point of view.

29. And don't start a sentence with a conjunction. (Remember, too, a preposition is a terrible word to end a sentence with.)

30. Don't overuse exclamation marks!!

31. Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences, as of 10 or more words, to their antecedents.

32. Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.

33. If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.

34. Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors.

35. Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.

36. Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing.

37. Always pick on the correct idiom.

38. The adverb always follows the verb.

39. Last but not least, avoid clichés like the plague; they're old hat; seek viable alternatives.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

New book-blogger resource: HNS Competitions

I've not been blogging much and I have been shamefully neglectful of my clients (who I do hope will forgive me!) because I have been a-making stuff, not least a promotion platform for the Historical Novel Society.

I hope it's going to be a winner, allowing the Society to partner with buffs and bloggers to run social media campaigns with dedicated landing pages, sticky content and shedloads of resources.

So I've made a little HNS Competitions mini site as a resource for history and historical fiction enthusiasts of all shapes and sizes to work with the Historical Novel Society to promote the best books, authors, multi-media and events – and by doing so, to help promote their own sites to a wider readership and community.

The aim is to make available targeted, attractive content and real-value offers from publishers, authors and booksellers that bloggers can offer to their readers. And in return the bloggers get yummy backlinks from the Society's sites, tweeted up big time, and the chance of review copies and exclusive interviews with top authors - the launch offer is Bernard Cornwell.

Well to be fair, they don't get to keep him, but they get to offer tickets to his book tour, copies of his new book DEATH OF KINGS and the chance of an exclusive interview on their site.

So any bloggers wanting participate should get in touch via the HNS Competitions site or email hnscompetitions at gmail dot com

Comments here work too!

Friday, August 19, 2011


This is Plaucus, the Magician.

I've been working on developing characters for Walter Harris's 'Octave finds a voice'. Strange to be drawing again, but really nice.

We find him:

"....standing on one leg in a clearing, scratching himself, tall and thin as a moonbeam, and wearing a long blue and silver cloak, yellow pointed shoes and a tall silver blue hat with a dark blue feather at its tip. He has a long silver beard with a blue point, and a silver wand in his hand.

Plaucus hops and down as though he were a bird himself. The feather in his hat and his beard seem to nod at each other, as if they were both parts of him"

"Plaucus stood on tiptoe and bellowed the last word, his beard sticking out parallel to the ground. “There, what did you think of that? That was a tenor sort of voice. " "

Friday, August 05, 2011


Figs ripen in August and gorgeous they are too, eaten raw or cooked, but no more so than with prosciutto ham and ricotta cheese. They're not juicy fruits but they are luscious with a delicate aroma and sweet flavour.

It's impossible not to describe them sensuously. I love the way the BBC Food website talks about them:

Thin skin encloses hundreds of seeds (actually miniature fruits themselves) held in a succulent, softly fibrous red or purple flesh. Figs are very delicate and need gentle handling. Go for plump examples that feel soft (but not too liquid) with no bruising or splits. At the peak of their ripeness they will have a faint bloom.

Gently wipe the skins with a damp cloth, trim off the stem if it's hard, then either keep whole or cut in half from top to bottom. Alternatively, you can make a fig 'flower'. Make a deep cross at the top end of the fig, cutting almost but not all of the way through. Then squeeze at the base with your fingers - the four quarters should open out like petals.

Figs are best at room temperature, so take them out of the fridge an hour before you eat them.

Makes one reach for one's DH Lawrence doesn't it?
The proper way to eat a fig, in society,
Is to split it in four, holding it by the stump,
And open it, so that it is a glittering, rosy, moist, honied, heavy-petalled four-petalled flower.
Then you throw away the skin
Which is just like a four-sepalled calyx,
After you have taken off the blossom with your lips.

But the vulgar way
Is just to put your mouth to the crack, and take out the flesh in one bite.

Every fruit has its secret.

The fig is a very secretive fruit.
As you see it standing growing, you feel at once it is symbolic:
And it seems male.
But when you come to know it better, you agree with the Romans, it is female.

The Italians vulgarly say, it stands for the female part; the fig-fruit:
The fissure, the yoni,
The wonderful moist conductivity towards the centre.

The flowering all inward and womb-fibrilled;
And but one orifice.

The fig, the horse-shoe, the squash-blossom.

There was a flower that flowered inward, womb-ward;
Now there is a fruit like a ripe womb.

It was always a secret.
That's how it should be, the female should always be secret.

There never was any standing aloft and unfolded on a bough
Like other flowers, in a revelation of petals;
Silver-pink peach, venetian green glass of medlars and sorb-apples,
Shallow wine-cups on short, bulging stems
Opening pledging heaven:
Here's to the thorn in flower! Here is to Utterance!
The brave, adventurous rosaceae.
Folded upon itself, and secret unutterable,
The milky-sapped, sap that curdles milk and makes ricotta,
Sap that smells strange on your fingers, that even goats won't taste it;
Folded upon itself, enclosed like any Mohammedan woman,
Its nakedness all within-walls, its flowering forever unseen,
One small way of access only, and this close-curtained from the light;
Fig, fruit of the female mystery, covert and inward,
Mediterranean fruit, with your covert nakedness,
Where everything happens invisible, flowering and fertilization, and fruiting
In the inwardness of your you, that eye will never see
Till it's finished, and you're over-ripe, and you burst to give up your ghost.

Till the drop of ripeness exudes,
And the year is over.

And then the fig has kept her secret long enough.
So it explodes, and you see through the fissure the scarlet.
And the fig is finished, the year is over.

That's how the fig dies, showing her crimson through purple slit
Like a wound, the exposure of her secret, on the open day.
Like a prostitute, the bursten fig, making a show of her secret.

That's how women die too.

The year is fallen over-ripe,
The year of our women.
The year of our women is fallen over-ripe.
The secret is laid bare.
The rottenness soon sets in.
The year of our women is fallen over-ripe.

When Eve once knew in her mind that she was naked
She quickly sewed fig-leaves, and sewed the same for the man.
She'd been naked all her days before,
But till then, till that apple of knowledge, she hadn't had the fact on her mind.

She got the fact on her mind, and quickly sewed fig leaves.
And women have been sewing ever since.
But now they stitch to adorn the bursten fig, not to cover it.
They have their nakedness more than ever on their mind,
And they won't let us forget it.

Now, the secret
Becomes an affirmation through moist, scarlet lips
That laugh at the Lord's indignation.

What then, good Lord! cry the women.
We have kept our secret long enough.
We are a ripe fig.
Let us burst into affirmation.

They forget, ripe figs won't keep.
Ripe figs won't keep.
Honey-white figs of the north, black figs with scarlet inside, of the south.
Ripe figs won't keep, won't keep in any clime.
What then, when women the world over have all bursten into self-assurance?
And bursten figs won't keep?
D. H. Lawrence, Birds, Beasts and Flowers: Poems (London: Martin Secker, 1923)

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Barclays Bank Jumps Ship in Ghost Town Newbury (to mix my metaphors)

My family received a sheaf of letters this morning from Barclays Bank, each one informing us that the two branches of Barclays Bank that are situated conveniently in N ewbury, one in the Market Square and one on Northbrook Street (our 'High Street'), are both to be closed pending a move to the white elephant that is the Park Way development.

At a stroke Barclays has just contributed to the death of this Town - TOP work chaps!

Now if Lloyds TSB (which is conveniently situated on Bridge Street at the pivotal spot where Market Place joins High Street) can assure me that they are staying put on the site of the old Globe Inn, they may have all my business.

Which is not inconsiderable since I have to pay shed loads of charges all the time!

Enjoy the music. Ghost Town by the Specials.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Missing Member?

A rather glossy 6 page colour leaflet plopped on the mat this afternoon from Newbury Town Council. I find it rather distressing and depressing to be honest. I suspect the reason will become obvious when you pick THE ODD ONE OUT.

One of the ELECTED members for the ward that I stood for has not been sufficiently interested in the role in the two months since the election to be bothered to supply a telephone number or an email address or even a physical address where residents can communicate with her.

The address given for this woman in the leaflet is obviously false. We have no Saffron Road in this area and Saffron Close where this woman I believe does live, does not rejoice in the given post code.

The horror of it is that it's not just a deadline issue on the print - the Newbury Town website today had no contact details for her WHATSOEVER. Interesting that after our complaint the site has ALREADY been changed. (Just as well we have a screen shot..!)

David went round to challenge her at the address that is registered for her nomination with West Berks Electoral Services as a candidate tonight and she seemed keen to assure him that she was entirely on board and doing her duty. Yeah right! She would say that wouldn't she?

Now if she didn't really want to be a Town Councillor why didn't she just say so when the daft Lib Dem machine pressured her into it on the eve of the closing date for candidate nominations?

This is absolute corroborration of David's point that the parties just trump up some donkey in the right colour rosette to be voted at, but these people are the worst possible representatives because they don't want to be doing it.

So. Should we be calling for Catherine Kent to be (not impeached perhaps but) shall we say gently 'retired' and for another election to be held? And that costs money.

Or should the council co-opt a replacement member in the way that Ben Weatherill was co-opted without reference to the electorate after Gina Houghton passed away unexpectedley last year?

Or do we say 'well early days yet, I dare say Catherine Kent will buck up a bit once she gets her feet under the table'?

Answers on a postcard or almost any other communication channel please.

(To a real candidate in the Northcroft ward of Newbury who did not win but who did publish their real address, telephone number, email address, Twitter feed, Facebook Group and who did canvass streets with leaflets and was available to be spoken to on the doorstep in the ward).

And you can actually post a comment here.

Note to self - - look up how many r's and b's in corrobbborrratte?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Grommit's "Grafting" Gaffe

Some half-wit in the Labour party has today fondly imagined that it might be A Good Move to get poor old Gromit to declare that the party shall henceforth be the party of "grafters".

Clearly the posh intern who came up with this gem, imagined that he/she was employing a solid working class expression, which was same in sentiment, but groovily different from the hackneyed "hardworking families" phrase, tarnished by overuse in the Brown years.

While we all know that graft can mean hard work, with an etymology derived from the work involved in creating defensive earthworks, moats etc; hence the grafting tool which is a form of spade used by groundworkers to this day - and damned hard work wielding one of those is too by all accounts! But it is a shame these fools didn't have a little residual knowledge or failing that - check the dictionary:

graft, n.5
colloq. (orig. U.S.).

The obtaining of profit or advantage by dishonest or shady means; the means by which such gains are made, esp. bribery, blackmail, or the abuse of a position of power or influence; the profits so obtained.

While it would be bad enough if it were only mere foreigners who understood the word to have negative connotations, unfortunately, it's not as though this usage is so American that it's unknown in this country.

A documentary about crack houses a couple of years ago, incensed my husband on many levels but no more so than when, the female announced she was off out "grafting".

Ironically her use of English was astonishingly precise and while immoral, it was not hypocritical. Better than Gromit! She was using the word quite correctly to mean that she was going out to rob, steal, con or otherwise obtain money by dishonest means, for her next hit.

Is there really no communications professional, speech-writer, or political advisor currently employed by the Labour Party, who has access to a dictionary? Or someone with more than a rudimentary grasp of the speech patterns of the lumpenproletariat?

Cross posted to Apolitical Blog.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Labour Leader Proposes Apolitical Approach to Social Care

The FT this morning flagged up the Labour leader's call for all the main parties to hold talks on how to resolve the thorny issue of social care, which has come to a head in the last week over the crisis at Southern Cross.
"Mr Miliband will now ask the Tories and Lib Dems to come to the table for apolitical discussions; the time has come for the parties to stop “playing party politics” with the issue."
The BBC confirms that the PM is all for it:
David Cameron welcomed Mr Miliband's call for cooperation on the issue.

He said: "This is a very difficult issue to get right as a country - the long-term costs of social care, how we share those costs, how we pay for them.

"If there is an opportunity for cross-party work on that, I thoroughly welcome it.

This is gratifying news indeed for those of us who have been banging this apolitical drum; and it is a rebuke to a certain Conservative local government leader who at the election count a month ago derided apolitical democracy as a foolish contradiction in terms.

The time for this movement is a-coming in.

Cross-posted to Apolitical Blog.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

What is it with the cult of the SWAGS?

SWAG seems to be a Daily Express coined term for Sophisticated Wives And Girlfriends - as opposed presumably to the common orange variety of WAG.

Michelle Obama?

We seem to be in the throes of a movement that is leading otherwise thoughtful and feminist women into lauding Michelle and others of her ilk as role models for girls.

Surely I can’t be the only mother of girls who thinks this trend is a claustrophobic, insidious revisionism of the aspirations we have had for our daughters and for all women in our society?

We see again this week nauseating news stories lauding “The First Lady” for speaking to girls about raising their aspirations. But the question is not being asked, aspire to what? Isn't this the grooming exemplified in the film GIGI all over again – but a century on?

But with a new twist.

Work hard at school, get into a good university and you too can what?

Get a good career and become successful in your own right?

Or qualify yourself for marriage to or concubinage with a man whose potential is greater than yours?

And then if you channel all of your energy into his career rather than yours you might hang on to his coat tails long enough for some deluded Headmistress to think that you might be a decent speaker at her inner city girls school to get her pupils to raise their game.

Surely the sights of girls should be diverted from WAG as a career not encouraged?

Catherine Middleton?

Bless her, same same. I’m fond of the family as our kids went to school together but we are talking same deal as Michelle but with less cred.

Carla Bruni?

Carla seems to acknowledge and embrace the role rather better, presumably because French mores allow the whiff of La Pompadour to surround her. And she understands that’s what she is.

Basically these women are not good (let alone appropriate) role models for girls.

Let’s call a spade a spade, they are consorts and concubines, living in a gilded cage and of no value other than as appendages to their men. WAGS in our parlance. They are high maintenance arm candy to people who (rightly or wrongly) hold power, influence and celebrity.

For a generation of women, like me, who hoped for more for our daughters this is a deeply retrograde step.

All the same, I have some hope from the words of humourists like the rather witty Hugo Rifkind in today’s Times in his My week: Michelle Obama:

““Did you meet Princess Kate Middleton?” asks Sasha. “Honey,” I say, firmly. “She was a lovely girl, but she should not be your role model. She’s only famous because of her husband.”

“Like you,” says Malia.

“Oh,” I say. “Wow.”

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Royal Wedding

Photoshopped or not - shamelessly stolen from internet - credit unknown.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Bank Holiday Parking Scam!

I've just passed words (not very polite ones in my case) with a Parking Warden who is ticketing cars in the residents parking bay in Berkeley Road. I did the same with the Wardeness on Good Friday too!

Quite apart from the iniquity of paying this bloke £30 an hour (yes that's right!) to do this task on a Bank Holiday, who for heavens' sake do his council masters think they are serving by ticketing today in this quiet residential street?

Certainly not us residents. The only possible benefit to us from this unwanted scheme is to deter shopppers and office workers from hogging the spaces so that we can park near our homes.

But it's Easter Sunday! All offices are shut. Even that temple to capitalism, Tesco, is shut today! The only cars in Berkeley Road belong to the people who live here and to our friends and loved ones who have come to share a festival / holy day with us.

The scheme was introduced against the wishes of Berkeley Roaders who held a public meeting at the Library attended by Council Officers. We agreed unanimously to reject the project. But it was imposed on us anyway!

It's not hard to see why. From the Council's point of view it's a top idea. It is not about easing congestion or making life better for the residents. It is a straight forward revenue earner. It forces the office workers and shoppers into paying in the Town Centre Car Parks, thereby paying for itself. On top of this the penalty tickets are extra earners and the punitive late payement levies and collection charges are obscene.

So today we're paying extortionate overtime to a man to do something we didn't want in the first place, and that is totally inappropriate today, in particular, since there is no congestion to be eased!

Craven Road

It is a fallacy to call it a Residents Parking Scheme, since permits are being sold to people who are not even resident in the ward, as evidenced by the painting out of the word RESIDENT. So clearly even the Council sees that the scheme is not for the residents' benefit.

As the permit scheme is not applied to all roads in the ward, it can be therefore nothing other a local tax selectively and unfairly applied to some resident car users but not to all.

As Apolitical candidates we are pledging:

* to issue all qualifying residents with two free car permits, as the scheme is self-liquifying from car park revenues;

* to put a stop to the blatant revenue grabbing persecution of our guests on Sundays and Bank Holidays;

* and to end this shameful squandering of over-time money on an inappropriate task.

And if Berkeley Roaders decide again to scrap the scheme we promise to abide by their wishes.

Any way, back to my Easter turkey-lurkey, I need to get the veg on!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Apolitical Candidates for Northcroft Ward

Cross posted from Apolitical Blog.

You have 2 votes in Northcroft ward
for West Berks District Council
Vote APOLITICAL ~ Vote Yates and Farrow

David Yates stood as Apolitical candidate in the General Election 2010.

He joined the army as an apprentice at age 16, and has lived locally since he first came to Newbury with the army in 1981. Army-trained as a land surveyor, he currently works as a builder.

David is turning 49 the day before polling day. He is married with 4 children, 2 of whom still go to school locally. David is an active parent governor at their school.

He is keen to get away from the kind of knee jerk tribal politics that can see a donkey elected simply for sporting a particular colour of rosette. He believes that a councillor should represent the wishes of the voters, rather than their own or their party's interests.

David's aim is to provide a counter balance to discredited, big-party tribal politics and a credible alternative to the usual out-of-touch politicians.

Charlie Farrow has a background as a marketing professional specialising in the Education sector and has worked in local government.

She has lived in Northcroft ward for twenty years. She is married to David Yates and they have four children, two of whom are still at St Barts School. She is a former Governor of Park House School, and is an active member of the Sustainable Newbury group on Newbury Town Council, for whom she is currently overhauling the website.

She has a love of the history of Newbury and is concerned that its heritage is being squandered with the ever greater needs of 'vanity projects'. She wishes to stop daft capital projects, while maintaining a sound level of service in the face of imposed cuts.

...and 4 votes for Newbury Town Council
Vote APOLITICAL ~ Vote Yates, Farrow, Dennis & Page

John Dennis (40) has lived and worked in the area for 15 years, where his daughter is currently at secondary school. He is a professional Chef currently working as Catering Manager for BUPA.

He is a keen allotment gardener and is passionate about locally sourced, grown and produced food. He cares deeply about the impact of 'food miles' on the economy and the environment, and is keen to see more edible crops planted on and harvested from municipal land. He would like to help promote the education of young people, regarding healthy eating, growing their own food, and to encourage the foraging and wildcrafting of food and herbs.

He has always had a lively interest in political issues but has before now found nothing that appealed to him in the existing parties. He is keen to bring a fresh, new view to the Town Council.

James Page (21) is from Newbury and lives in the town centre.

He achieved good grades from Park House in his GCSEs but chose to enter the world of work at the age of 16 rather than go on to further education.
He completed an
apprenticeship with Malone Roofing and now works full time as a roofing

He is concerned about there being enough opportunities for young people to learn a trade as he has been fortunate enough to do and then for them to be able to find worthwhile employment opportunities locally.

YOUTHLOT Youth Art Café

A new youth arts project has set up in an empty shop King’s Road West (round the corner from the King Charles Tavern). It's a voluntary project providing a space for young people to drop in and use as they wish. It will provide young people with a space to hang out, meet others, plan and run community art projects and exhibit their work.

It has a blog website which is a bit jumbled and needs a good tidy up, but from what I can gather Youthlot is open Monday to Saturday 10am - 6pm and offers occasional 'Late Lounges' on Friday and Saturday nights until 11pm. It also runs various sceduled events.

  • Music Circle Every Sunday from 2.30pm
    Music Circle is a chance for musicians, singers, songwriters or producers, either in bands or on their own to come in and mingle with like-minded people. You can bring your instruments to jam with others, teach or learn to play, write music and even find band mates.

    25th June 2011 the gallery is being turned into a recording studio, to perform and record a live album. The day is being recorded by sound, film and professional photography as well as being broadcast live on Youthlot’s internet radio station.

  • Drama Club Mondays 4.30-5.30pm
    Weekly get together for drama enthusiasts.
    The first term starts 8th May and will be working towards creating a mockumentary DVD and a live performance in Victoria Park.

  • Film Club Wednesdays from 6pmFilms are available to watch with popcorn in the Youthlot lounge. Each week two people will be given cinema tickets to watch and review a film at the cinema.

  • Film Discussion Sundays 2.30 – 3.30pm
    Group discussion the films seen and to write reviews for Youthlot’s monthly newspaper.

It's funded by corporate and public donations and sponsorship and has been allowed use the empty shop without rent. Young people can achieve volunteering and arts awards through participation.

All in all it seems a very exciting initiative that needs to be publicised much more widely.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Are Your Children Playing With Lucifer's Testicles?

Anyone for a little seasonal light reading?

"This book teaches parents how to easily explain to their children that Easter (as it is celebrated by the Unsaved) has absolutely nothing to do with Jesus Christ but is actually a holiday celebrating lewd and sexually explicit pagan rituals of fertility.

"It's not that difficult to understand," says Author/Creation Scientist, Dr. Daniel Cameroon. "In the old days, deluded pagans would gather round and hump like bunnies on Easter Sunday because they thought it would make their tomatoes grow faster."

Dr. Cameroon explains that it doesn't matter what god or idol the Pagans were humping under on Easter Sunday, because any god other than "Jesus" is "Satan."

Dr. Cameroon dedicates four chapters in the book to Easter Eggs. "Easter Eggs are one of the wiliest tools of the Devil," he says.

"Pagan kids didn't have anything to do on Easter Sunday because their mommies and daddies were stuck in a false temple all day, naked and writhing around with their neighbors in Satanic orgies of the flesh. You see, parents had to come up with a way to occupy their children while they were away from home, praying and fornicating under the altar of Satan. And since they didn't have babysitters back then, they gave their kids eggs to play with and sometimes paint," he says.

"But the reason they chose eggs had nothing to do with any sort of fertility or fertilizers (as some misguided Christian historians would have you believe).

Nope, it was because of Lucifer's testicles! Glory to God!"
Hilarious! I'm loving his You Tube Channel too!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

West Berks Library Fine Amnesty

West Berks Libraries have announced a cap on overdue fines in order to encourage people who can't afford their fines back to the library to become active users again. During April and May anyone with charges outstanding will pay no more than £8 for adults and £4 for children's existing fines.

Better still from now on there will be no more fines on children's books that are kept beyond the due date, making it easier for families to be keen library users.

This is great news! Woop woop!

Not everyone realises that the Libraries also have a raft of really useful on-line services that are absolutely free to access from home using your library card barcode. This service is brilliant for homework or research giving free access to the full OED and all the Oxford Reference resources, news and other sources.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Victoria Park playground shut for Easter hols

Today's Newbury Weekly News reports that the children's play area in Victoria Park will be closed from Monday for six weeks to install new equipment. Newbury Town Council services manager apologised for the inconvenience.

It would be a darn sight less inconvenient if he'd realised that the schools break up for the Easter holidays tomorrow.

Why on earth isn't this being scheduled for term time? It's not rocket science.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Jacqueline Howett butters up reviewer - not!

A fairly anodyne 2 star book review of The Greek Seaman on BigAl's Books and Pals has sent the author, Jacqueline Howett apoplectic. It is a really quite astonishing display of how not to treat one's reviewer. And it's absolutely delusionally hilarious!

She blames the reviewer for not downloading another clean one, accuses him of finding spelling and grammatical errors which are merely part of her English style, calls him a liar, a rat, a snake and repeatedly tells him to fuck off! Most of which is deliciously misspelt!

She invites him to hear her reading from it, so it must be alright:
"I see nothing wrong with it AL!

Take a look at the video of my voice reading it from the video link on smashwords."

What can I say? Priceless!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Local Shop for Local People

I don't know why this has got up my nose to the extent of blogging it, but really!

My MP, Richard Benyon's website bears the credit "Designed and Hosted by Ravensloft". OK so I can live with not getting a chance to pitch for the business, but this Ravensloft proudly trumpets its credentials as offering:
Web design, web hosting and technical solutions in Cefn-coed-y-cymmer, South Wales. Specialising in web engineering, technical support and graphic design for small to medium sized business, organisations and charities.

Covering the areas of Merthy Tdfil, Abercanaid, Aberdare, Aberfan, Trodyrhiw, Pontypridd, Blaenau Gwent, Mid Glamorgan and all other surrounding areas.

In the light of the Conservatives' much vaunted localisation agenda, could Richard Benyon really not have found a local outfit to do the work? Local to us, not local somewhere else. Or at least a company outside the constituency that didn't actively brag about being local in another country?

But when one's estates are so very extensive, what meaning localisation ? Pip pip!

Monday, March 07, 2011


Not the flowers men give women –
delicately-scented freesias,
stiff red roses, carnations
the shades of bridesmaids’ dresses,
almost sapless flowers,
drying and fading – but flowers
that wilt as soon as their stems
are cut, leaves blackening
as if blighted by the enzymes
in our breath, rotting to a slime
we have to scour from the rims
of vases; flowers that burst
from tight, explosive buds, rayed
like the sun, that lit the path
up the Thracian mountain, that we wound
into our hair, stamped on
in ecstatic dance, that remind us
we are killers, can tear the heads
off men’s shoulders;
flowers we still bring
secretly and shamefully
into the house, stroking
our arms and breasts and legs
with their hot orange fringes,
the smell of arousal.

copyright © Vicki Feaver 1994
Published in The Handless Maiden (Jonathan Cape, 1994).
Poetry archive

I posted a little calendula salve (& a couple of other potions) to my daughter today that I had made from an oil infused from last summer's marigold flowers. To make her well.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Prescription Charges

On Wednesday MSP voted to scrap NHS prescription charges in Scotland. Wales and Northern Ireland have already removed the charges.

Today "The Government" announced that the cost of prescriptions in England will rise by 20p to £7.40 per item from 1 April.

Scottish government health minister Shona Robison said lifting the charge would reduce the long-term cost to the health service and would no longer put people off going to see their doctor. However, this argument appears not to apply to English people who are expected to pay up or die young to reduce costs!

If the Scottish government is discussing the risk of people in England travelling across the border to claim free prescriptions, then we have got to stop pretending that there is not a problem.

The news today is that Wales has had another devolution referendum and they've now voted to be able to pass laws on devolved areas without involving the British government. That's great for the Welsh, even if the turnout was pitifully low.

So why does the "British Government" refuse to give us equal rights in this so-called “United” Kingdom? It's time for England to have a referendum on devolution. May is looking good...