Book Review – The Kids of God by Dave Appleby

The Kids of God [Dave Appleby] तक
The Kids of God by Dave Appleby
book cover

Genre: Fiction/Psychological Thriller
Pub Date: 2021
Length: 343 pages
Kindle Edition: £1.99/Paperback Edition: £8.99

Synopsis

What would you do if a man you hated appeared on your doorstep, fleeing from his would-be murderers, and tricked his way into your house? If you could be killed for sheltering him? This is Ed’s dilemma. Ed is not a hero. He is easily bullied and blackmailed. Living under a totalitarian regime, he has learned to survive using trickery and deceit. But how low will he stoop when the going gets really tough? This psychological thriller is about power and its abuses.

In a not to distant future, a self-made group calling themselves The Peacemakers, have control over the town. The town in question is never named. It doesn’t need to be. The citizens live in quiet fear. The enemy is the Drudjers – immigrants, refugees, ‘foreigners’ – others. Or are they?

This is a microcosm of our world, where people do whatever they can to survive in trying circumstances. There are decent people, there are bad people, and there are the morally ambiguous.

We follow Ed, a regular computer tech guy, as he is pushed to make a decision many have during wartime throughout history – do I save the stranger on the doorstep or leave him to the militia? Although, in Ed’s case, the decision is made for him – as it is in many situations that follow. Ed is a man whose wife has just recently left him, taking their two children with her. Ed has recently lost his job, after devoting himself to the company, whose system he helped develop. Ed is frightened, easily manipulated, used and cowed. The story is told in first person narrative, so we rely on Ed to be honest – and he is. His honesty – and his actions – will have you pitying him, initially. But for how long?

The Kids of God has a Kafkaesque quality, especially at the beginning. The staccato sentences that denote Ed’s thought pattern, fractured, frightened, work very well to convey a sense of fear and confusion. It isn’t utterly bizarre in the traditional Kafka sense, although we do take time to realise the world that is being portrayed. It isn’t totally illogical, except when a character makes decisions that are the sort of conclusions one might make under duress. But it is a nightmare world that Appleby has created, with the powerlessness of the protagonist and the crushing authority of The Peacemakers.

There are sections in Kids of God that are uncomfortable to read – be prepared – but read them you must. The events become pretty horrific. The treatment of secondary characters unforgivable. One’s initial opinions of Ed are challenged. We don’t have a lot of background about this protagonist, he doesn’t tell us why his wife left. We are in the here and now, and war makes cowards or heroes of us all.

I like that the story takes place in one town. The author has kept the lens focused close on the protagonist’s actions. There’s no grand landscape, or expansion elsewhere. We only know what is happening in Ed’s world, Ed’s town, right now. It successfully keeps us adhered to the moment, keeps us learning as Ed learns, experiencing as Ed experiences. This also makes for a slightly claustrophobic atmosphere, combining the domestic intimacy with the real and ever-present danger of being caught. The secondary character is a Peacemaker named Nikov, who initially comes across as a two-dimensional Nazi style Brown Shirt. We are meant to despise him because of what he represents, vigilante militia, and because Ed is frightened of them and Ed’s our hero. But the two dimensionality is a deliberate foil by the author, Nikov is an extremely complicated character who presents as a simple man following what he believes in. Ed and Nikov are neighbours in a street that has lost many of its residents and one comes increasingly to rely on the other, or does he?

This is a novel about how we treat people who are ‘not one of us’. How we view those from another country, or state or class. We presume, about ourselves, that we are decent individuals, but when things get hard, who are we looking out for, who do we care about – and who is to blame for the situations we find ourselves in?

This novel tackles, not only human behaviour towards foreigners, but through Ed, we can question what is going on inside our heads compared to what we present to the world, and reveals – horrifically, starkly – what actions erupt from people worn down by life and crushed by authority. This is, in places, a raw and uncompromising delve into impulses, and it comes with a Warning: it contains scenes of sex and violence.

Simultaneously engrossing and repulsive.

I did enjoy The Kids of God and give it

I Did a Thing!

36,896 Vintage kids Stock Photos | Free & Royalty-free Vintage kids Images  | Depositphotos
Vintage photo curtesy of https://depositphotos.com/

Hello again, yes, it’s been a while, but hey, pandemic, etc.

Double exciting news! I did a thing – well, two things.

First, I was interviewed by Vince Stephenson about my book, Beneath the Skin. Vince runs a YouTube channel called Boomers on Books, in which he interviews authors from around the world. Vince is primarily interested in first-time and up-and-coming authors. I was put in contact with Vince via a member of the #WritingCommunity on Twitter.

Beneath the Skin: Where Sleeps the Serpent?
and The Song of the Nightingale

It was went live this morning, Tuesday 27th July, and remains there for all to see and pick apart my daft answers.

So, how did it go? Okay – I think. I was rather nervous, and the 9:00 start saw me a bit bleary eyed and fuzzy. When I watched it back I realised that I hadn’t really said much about my book – I did not mention that the protagonist has an inborn ability. She is a Nagi. I did not mention that she has excellent fighting skills based on the Kerala martial art, Kalaripayattu. I did not mention that her friend and first mate is a Princess!

Why not? I don’t know, nerves? I tend to blether a lot when I am nervous, and later realise that I didn’t get to the point. I could have said so much more, but I am, unfortunately, not eloquent when it comes to the spoken word.

My second big news is that I have published my latest book. Hurrah!

The Floating Church is a novella set in the early 17th century. It follows thirteen-year-old Susanna Assheby in the time leading up to and just after the May Day celebrations. Thirty days on the cusp of womanhood. The isolated village of Hope Ghyll sits on the border of England and Scotland, hovering between Pagan beliefs and Christianity. A new minister brings news of the death of Queen Elizabeth, and staunch ideas on how his flock should behave.

The book is historical fiction, with hints of magical realism.

If the rest of the summer continues in the same vein, then I should have completed another short story or two, and maybe another novella!

Many thanks for reading, I hope you and yours are safe and well, and, if you’re a writer, artist, musician, then I wish you a productive summer.

And finally, many thanks to Vince for having me on his channel. He was a lovely interviewer and kind to let me rant and ramble.

Book Review – Motherdarling by Dave Appleby

Motherdarling by [Dave Appleby]
Motherdarling by Dave Appleby

Genre: Fiction
Pub Date: 2020
Length: 369 pages
Kindle Edition: £0.99/Paperback Edition: £8.99

Motherdarling was a monster. Jack, her son, walked out the day he turned eighteen. He’s not been back. Now Motherdarling’s dead. Anne has to find the missing Will or Jack inherits half of the Estate. But when Anne starts to search, she finds a secret that endangers all her hopes.

Motherdarling is a slow burn. This isn’t a negative. I enjoy these kinds of narratives, as they allow one to become slowly absorbed into the author’s world. It is akin to settling into a hot bath, except in this story, someone has lit a fire under the tub, and one hardly notices as the water begins to heat up and boil!

There are a couple of grammatical errors which can be forgiven, such as missing quotation marks, and using first then third person in a single sentence – when Anne is speaking in one chapter, she says, “I look down at her hands” and “At last I shake the water from her hands”. This might be a very subtle way of mentioning her hands remind her of her mother’s, but I don’t believe so.

The story takes place over a week, beginning with the funeral of the titular Motherdarling. Each chapter is written from the point of view of the family members, Anne, Jack, Peter and Chris. Beginning with Anne, we discover a somewhat sad, and dowdy, middle-aged woman who is both grieving, and relieved at the loss of her mother. She is aghast to discover that her brother, Jack, who has been out of the country for 30 years, has turned up and fears he is after part of the potential inheritance.

Then the family is informed that there is no Will. They must find it. And so, the hunt begins. And as they search, they uncover more than they bargained for. The reader accompanies each of the players on this journey, and as we are party to their inner thoughts, we begin to learn more about their motives, their appetites, their desires. The author writes deftly, unfolding the character’s responses to the situation as it twists one way then the other. It sounds such a cliché, but like an onion, it has layers. And as these layers are drawn back, each reveals the flaws in their makeup, the same way all humans veer on our moral track depending on circumstance.

Appleby has written a family drama wrapped around a mystery. And though the pace is similar throughout, we do get a feel for each individual character via a varied style of writing – Chris, for example, Anne’s teenage son, thinks in a staccato way, his thoughts are sometimes scattered, he bounces from one topic to the next when not directly speaking to someone. Whereas his father, Peter, has longer, drawn-out sentences that reflect his slower thinking pattern.

Motherdarling is engrossing. It is horribly fascinating. Like watching (another cliché, I’m afraid) a car crash in slow motion. The question of nature versus nurture is at the core of the story, as well as what is family? There are two, apparent, side stories relating to Peter and Chris, that eventually find their place in the whole. I had wondered about them and the relevance, but the author does a beautiful job of weaving the threads together into a wonderful if disturbing tapestry of family, heritage, duty and deceit.

I’m giving Motherdarling

Happy New Writing Year

Hello! Happy New Year. And welcome to the first post of 2021.

It’s been a while, I know, but some of you will already be familiar with my haphazard, impetuous and remissful style of blogging. *shrug*

It’s been a tough year for many people, some of us have lost family and/or friends, some have been in a negative place emotionally – but I’m not here to talk about the gloom, let’s look forward and think positive.

At the turning of the year, many like to think about how we might improve ourselves; resolutions and so forth – I spent a lot of the lockdown period thinking this over already, and decided that I was extremely lucky, for tonnes of reasons which I am not going to recount here, instead, I want to think about the successes and future endeavours.

Last year saw me (finally) publishing my novel – Beneath the Skin. A Steampunk duology about an Indian-Irish airship courier who unwittingly becomes embroiled in the politics of a secret society within the British East India Company. Plus, I won our writing group annual in-house short story competition! Which came with a cup (still needs to be engraved).

Beaneath the Skin covers for Parts One & Two

I don’t make New Years resolutions, or all-encompassing lists of things -to-do, but I am determined to begin this year as I mean to go on, both personally and workwise. I will continue to watch my diet (lost almost 2 stone between Nov 2019 and Dec 2020), I intend to get more exercise (continue to do 40 sit-ups a night) and be more joyful and thankful for the simple things.

On the writing front: on 24th December I put in 2 submissions; one for flash fiction competition. On the 31st December, I submitted my novella to a publishing company, and on the 1st January, I submitted a sci-fi short story and a poem to two separate competitions.

Cover design for novella The Floating Church

I’m one of those writers who don’t seem to have one specific/favourite genre. And that’s okay. Where does it say that you should write just Romance, or Fantasy? I have a LOT of stories piling up in notebooks and stuffing my brain, and I don’t see why any of them shouldn’t be written – how well they are written is a different matter!

 I read on social media, that some writers get stuck with their writing, they’ve finished a first draft, then sort of… dry up. Or think they do. I have only one piece of advice, that you’ve probably heard a million times before – keep writing – but I’d say specifically, WRITE SOMETHING ELSE. Unless you are contracted to create something within a certain timeline, you’re pretty much free to write whatever you so choose. If you find the juices drying up on a novel, pack it away and go and write a piece of flash fiction or a short for a competition. This is the key bit – FOR A COMPETITION. You will be pressured into writing in a different style or format than you’re used to, and have a limited time to get it done. A change is as good as a rest.

Looking ahead, I hope to get my current fantasy WIP completed and also the YA sci-fi novel completed. I’ve never done a book promo or anything like that, once I put something out there, it’s on its own. But I see that I’ve been rather negligent, so perhaps some of that will be going on too.

I have also decided to be less critical of other people (and myself). I converse with another writer on Twitter, we pointed out the fact that writers (and other creatives) put work before the public for more reasons than money (hell, if money was the aim, I wouldn’t write!) and sometimes that piece of work isn’t as good, when one looks back on it, as one originally thought. This is the nature of creativity, it’s always (or should be) going to improve as one progresses. Unfortunately, that means that people reading your ‘older’ stuff might find it full of faults.

Hey ho, that’s life, is all I can say.

In the meantime, keep writing, painting, filming, dancing, playing, singing, doing whatever it is you do, and have fun doing it. I wish you all a happy, healthy and successful year ahead.

Bless you for reading my nonsense.

Beneath the Skin: Where Sleeps the Serpent?

Heads up to my readers. I have a new Steampunk adventure now available on Amazon! Only £2.24 (Kindle) or free with Kindle Unlimited!! This is the first book in a duology.

Publication date: 30th August 2020 Publisher: KDP, Sticks & Stones imprint

Beneath the Skin, Book One: Where Sleeps the Serpent?

Airship courier, Shakti O’Malley takes on one last job before heading home. It will be a job she deeply regrets. All she wants is a simple life, to go home to her mother in Kerala, but her employer convinces her to take on a final delivery. It’s paid for, sealed, and already in her cargo hold before she has agreed – couriers rarely know what is in the packages they are delivering.

On board the Emperor Ashoka, Shakti discovers a stowaway, defends her ship from pirates, and finds out what is in the box she is transporting. She is forced to confront the truth about her father’s death and of her own hidden nature. From the heat of Kerala to the cool of Paris, Shakti is drawn into international politics and espionage.

The year is 1878. France’s Empire has overtaken the British and has a strong alliance with India. But some English men have ideas to alter the balance of power.

Meanwhile, in Paris, a serial killer is on the loose.

Extract

Paris

The Emperor Ashoka sat on the waters of the River Seine. The dock swarmed with shoals of flying boats, mini dirigibles, fantastic arrow-shaped craft with water landing gear. Mooring masts on the Champ de Mars sprouted dirigibles like giant seed pods, docking towers ran cables that tethered a variety of craft. The Aerodrome du Seine was a floating docking station replete with everything the aeronaut could need; food supplies, engine parts, engineers even. It also provided a hotel service for those who were unable to live on board their vessels, or for tourists who had newly arrived. President Charbonnier even had his own personal zeppelin stationed in the aerodrome complex. Shakti, Anita, Kinza and Deepak gawked around in wonder at some of the sleek airships and the brilliant aerodrome from which a harsh spring sun glinted. Apart from Kinza, they had never been outside of India before. The princess had travelled throughout much of the Middle East with her tribe before joining the Ashoka, and was, therefore, less awed but just as delighted.

Kinza exclaimed loudly and excitedly, indicating the arrow shaped airship that looked at home on the water as much as in the air.

“Oh my goodness! What is he wearing?” she cried pointing at a strangely garbed man exiting a semi-submerged craft.

She continued gabbling enthusiastically, clutching and tugging at Torben’s sleeve now and then. The big man smiled patiently. Shakti and Anita linked arms and wandered along taking in the European scenery. Michel had headed straight into the city proper to purchase supplies, after reminding her that she needed to register their vessel before too long. She had watched the boy tag along behind the Frenchman, staring at leather-clad aeronauts and straining his neck to see to the top of the huge gleaming aerodrome. Shakti noted the new smell, so different from home – no warm spices, hot, dusty air, or lush green vegetation. There was a cool, crispness with an underlying hint of river water. Cigarette smoke and perfume and urine. Coal and engine oil.

“Let us get registered and give the ship an overhaul before we get carried away.” She said, “Remember, we’re not on holiday.”

“We are not working either,” her first mate reminded her, “So what exactly are we doing here?”

Shakti twisted her mouth sideways, thinking. “You know, I am not really sure. Tinka was definitely giving us a hint to get ourselves here. All I know is we are now on the run from the Indian authorities.”

Publishing: Trad or Self?

To print, or not to print, that is the question, Whether ’tis nobler to self-publish or suffer the endless grind of querying.

Book written – novella actually.

Completed third draft? Check.

Spelling and grammar? Check.

Beta reader? Check.

Editorial Assessment? Check.

Currently with editor for the complete works – copy, line, structural, proof-reading.

I can’t say I’m not nervous. I really am, for a couple of reasons: 1. What if she discovers some appalling plot-hole (or holes!) that I’ve overlooked? 2. It’s costing me money that, in all likelihood, I’ll never make back on sales.

How To Workshop N-Words - The Rumpus.net

I have previously self-published on Amazon, both collections of short stories which you can find here and here, before I had any real idea of what I was about. This time I want a ‘real’ publisher. This time I want someone else to do all the work. This time I want to get it right (whatever that means).

Now this isn’t to say that other folks who have self-published haven’t got it right, many have. I have seen some exceedingly professionally produced books, well formatted, attention to interior, solid cover and sound back blurb. I have also seen titles produced by actual, real life, proper publishing companies that I haven’t been totally bowled over by.

How To Workshop N-Words - The Rumpus.net

Personally, I’m terrible at querying, I’m terrible at writing cover blurb, a synopsis, a pitch etc. I’m a creative writer, creative being the operative word. I want the idea written, complete and done so I can move onto the next one. I seriously resent the time spent on ‘Learning How to Write the Best Query Letter’ and similar. Why does self-publishing hold a lesser place in the eyes of others than publishing houses? Isn’t it the writing that ultimately matters?

I’ve spent the morning looking at domain names, cost of said domain names, how to have an imprint, how to register your imprint, how to…yadda, yadda, yadda. It goes on indefinitely – and I think this is my issue, I know that, given time, I could produce a decent product for the book market – because regardless of what the saying is, we DO judge a book by it’s cover.

How To Workshop N-Words - The Rumpus.net

But I don’t want to spend the time doing all that. I want to write, just write. I want to be able to be creative and develop my skill. I’m not interested in producing a trilogy to satisfy mass market appeal. I’m not particularly interested in becoming the next top selling author (of course it would be nice should anyone want to promote the shit out of my upcoming novella!), but that’s not what I write for.

I’ve read variously that a self-published author needs to spend anything form 50% to 70% of their time doing marketing, which leaves only 30% to 50% on writing. I want to be a writer, not a marketer. I spent too many years after leaving uni with my B.A in Fine Art, hoping that I would be magically discovered by some agent or art dealer – we were simply taught NOTHING about how to make a living from our art – I imagined in some airy-fairy, I’m a Bohemian kind of way that something would just fall into my lap – I didn’t have a clue! Seriously.

I am aware that talent alone does not get the work sold. It doesn’t matter if you’re the best author/painter/sculptor in the world, if it’s not out there in the public domain, it isn’t going to earn you anything. (If you create purely for yourself, that’s another thing, but there’s also the argument that art isn’t complete until viewed by an audience.)

How To Workshop N-Words - The Rumpus.net

So my bind is this, after the editor has done her job, do I go to self-publish, or attempt to get it professionally published? Can I bear the repeated individually written pitches and synopsis, as each agent/publisher will have slightly different criteria. Do I want to spend all that time asking, pitching, selling it to someone else to sell, or go indie?

Watch this space.

Actually, no don’t… you could be here for eons!

Sticks & Stones

Pointing Finger Left And Right Hand, HD Png Download - kindpng

You can find my work at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Alexandra-Peel/e/B0180332YY/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1

Pointing Finger Left And Right Hand, HD Png Download - kindpng

The Floating Churchwill be coming to a ‘bookshop’ near you soon.

#Lockdown Sex. Have Sex – Stay Healthy!

(Something light and fluffy for a change)

Pink Fluffy Handcuffs. Image courtesy of wattpad.pink-fluffy-handcuffs

Sex is great.

I mean you feel great doing it, and pleasantly satisfied and relaxed after it, assuming you’re doing it right!

During #lockdown, some people are beginning to feel a little glum and gloomy around the edges, which is a shame, because it’s an opportunity to delve inside oneself,(fnarr, fnarr) be in the moment, and discover what it is you want – truly want – from life after #lockdown. Ask yourself those questions about life, the universe and everything. Who am I? What really matters to me as a person, as a community member? You know, the BIG stuff.

In the meantime – sex!

Sex has many health benefits – and before any of you single guys and gals complain about not having someone to do it with – self pleasuring has it’s benefits too! And as Truman Capote said, “The good thing about masturbation is you don’t have to dress up for it.”

Sex not only feels good, it helps reduce stress – and who doesn’t want a bit of that these days?!

Here’s a Sexy List:

Orgasms help reduce tension. Hormones are released, including endorphins which work as relaxants. Less stress, reduction in anxiety, reduction in depression.

It encourages feelings of intimacy with your loved one.

Keeps the heart healthy.

Helps with a good night’s sleep.

Stimulates blood flow to the skin, that rosy afterglow is from oxygen, and oxygen stimulates collagen.

Some studies suggest it boosts our immune system.

Mortality rate for males is reduced.

Active sex can help us reduce weight (unless you get pregnant of course!)

Blood flow to the brain increases, if you do it regularly, you’ll be more brainy!

Helps women improve bladder control.

If more people were having fun sex, there’d be less complaining and conflict in the world. I bet all those who raise placards in the name of ‘needing a haircut’ (Sheesh!), haven’t had a shag since Easter.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image.png

And also, don’t measure the amount of sex you do or don’t have in comparison to others, I mean, I don’t want people rubbing themselves raw or nothing, but keep it to a rate that’s comfortable for you, and your partner, or partners.

#lockdown sex can be anything you want (consensually speaking). What a perfect time for playing dress-up, or swapping underwear, or whatever it is you like to do, or wish you could do. I’m not advocating everyone order stuff from their local DIY store and build an S&M dungeon – but if you want to…hold on a moment…just adding to my ‘To-Do’ list… hmm, hm, there we go, so where was I? oh yes, #lockdown sex, I’m not suggesting you literally lock each other down…hang on…hm, hm…but whatever tickles yours, hers, his, theirs fancy, have a bash at it (I couldn’t help that one)

Grab your partner, grab your lube, grab your vibrator; whatever, (it’s not called hand ‘relief’ for nothing!) just get going. Too many people feel shame, or embarrassment when thinking or talking about sex, it’s weird, we all do it, to one degree or another, and none of us would be here today if someone else hadn’t before us; it’s natural people.

So whether you’re indulging in some Afternoon Delight, playing Blanket Hornpipe, or Friggin’ in the Riggin, enjoy it! Just, y’know, keep the noise down – you might live next-door to me!

Stay safe – Stay sexy!

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/232318#common-misconceptions

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9448525

https://www.powerthesaurus.org/masturbation

https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/12399/17-euphemisms-sex-1800s

Book Review – The Man Who Couldn’t Stop Thinking: a novel, by Timothy Balding

I need to make some apologies first. It has been a long time since I posted a book review, and I feel I have somewhat let my readers down – but hey, this blog isn’t called Flailing Through Life for no reason!

I also need to apologise to the author I am reviewing today, Timothy Balding, as I read this book some time ago – last October to be exact, and I am sure that I promised to write something about it, what can I say? I’m a slow reader and a lazy blogger! And, another person to apologise to – Emma Lombard author and ‘mother’ of the Twitter #WritingCommunity, who has probably been wondering when I was going to get around to this. So, without further ado, here’s my take on The Man Who Couldn’t Stop Thinking…

The Man Who Couldn't Stop Thinking: A Novel: Timothy Balding ...
The Man Who Couldn’t Stop Thinking
by Timothy Balding

Genre: Fiction, Satire
Pub Date: 2019
Publisher: Upper West Side Philosophers, Incorporated
Length: 274 pages
Kindle Edition: £7.91

Synopsis

Victor Andrews cannot decide whether thinking is a good thing or not. He has managed to escape it till now, too occupied with his career and the pursuit of his romantic and carnal ambitions. A heart operation and an inheritance suddenly change all that. He has time on his hands and new ambitions to invent for himself. If he starts thinking, will it take him forwards or backwards? he wonders. Will it lead him out of the confused labyrinth of his life and give it some new meaning before it’s too late? Or push him to join the company of the crazy people who chase endlessly the tails of their obsessions?

Firstly, I must tell you that I was bought this book by the writer Emma Lombard. On a Twitter post, she ran a competition asking the community which book they would most like to read at that moment. I responded, and was one of three individuals who received their chosen book. Also, I must add, that she bought me the paperback version AND had it posted to me! So many, many thanks to @LombardEmma.

Secondly, this is not the sort of book to read if you’re after action or huge dramatic scenes. It is very low key, with a few sections of dialogue, and mostly focuses on Victor’s day to day musings and concerns. But that isn’t to say it isn’t a good read, it is. In fact I found it to be one of the most interesting books I have read in a long while.

8 common mistakes people make when ordering whisky and how to ...
Wee dram of whisky, image courtesy of Scotsman Food and Drink

Victor has just had surgery again, and (this is only my take as a female of a certain age!) is possibly going through a mid-life crisis; I have to admit that the opening scene made me laugh a lot, still does when I re-read it, a good example of how to grab your audience’s attention! Instead of succumbing to mastering ‘the use of a boomerang’ or taking ‘up skateboarding’, he buys an African grey parrot which he decides to teach phrases such as Nietzsche’s “God is dead.”

The parrot becomes a kind of sounding board for Victor and his philosophising, beginning with questioning his own motives for buying the bird, “Was his act the realization of a tyrannical dream of power, he joked to himself?” and later questions his own motives for teaching the parrot the phrase “God is dead” and how humanity could possibly continue without hope and a deity. He also has a relationship with a woman called Helen, who I would say is Victor’s intellectual equal, but doesn’t give credence to some of his ideas; she comes across as somewhat acerbic and I quite honestly don’t see how Victor stays with her.

Balding’s writing style made me think of British authors from a bygone age. It strikes me as terribly British and a little old fashioned; this is not a criticism, far too many aspiring writers concern themselves with being unique and ‘modern’ instead of concentrating on producing good writing. It is deceptively easy to read – but not to be rushed! Victor’s self-questioning (and self-questing) had me pausing for long moments to give some thought to, well, Victor’s thoughts (but without the whisky). There is no superfluity in his writing, Balding has the skill that many of us budding authors so crave, the ability to write concisely and to the point.

Objectivity and subjectivity drive Victor through his post-op life – he asks, how can a person make decisions if one cannot see the world from the perspective of others? Who is responsible for one’s personal happiness? And “I know I’m egocentric…but I will try harder.” Though I cannot say that I fully understood every philosophical musing, nor every reference to research topics that Victor had undertaken, I was acutely aware that I was probably missing something due to my lack of acquired knowledge or intellect, but I still found the story fascinating. And although Victor seems to suffer minor existential crises internally, he never comes across as morose, or self-obsessed. I found the character to be less white-middle-aged-man-with-English-pomp, and more bemused-middle-aged-man-seeking-the-truth; I felt I could relate to him very much. Victor’s musings are funny and he has a much more positive and generous attitude toward his fellow human beings than many folk I know in real life.

He makes statements like “Women were as unpredictable as Belgians.” which made me laugh out loud, because it’s so English and so male, but, and it’s an important but, this never comes across as offensive, because Victor always quizzes his own opinions and offers us facts that he has dredged up from news articles or papers he has read. I found myself reading a paragraph and thinking, Yes, I think this or I have done that – spouting off my theories to a stranger then wondering why on earth I did that. When I tried to describe the book to friends, I found it really difficult, why would a woman want to read the musings of a middle aged man? one asked me. I can’t explain. To the uninitiated, I suppose Victor Andrews might epitomise all that is wrong with white men of a certain age, however, I found him to be lovely, thoughtful, witty, erudite and at least he’s trying! It also goes a bit Kafkaesque near the end when Victor is interrogated! Maybe I just find ‘male humour’, if it exists, to be funnier than female?

As I was reading, I couldn’t help but hear the voice of Roger Allam, whose voice is very distinctive, very English. I adore Roger Allam and his voice, you might recognise him from the film ‘V for Vendetta’ and the TV show ‘The Thick of It’. And I would love, simply love this book to be made into a radio or TV drama with Mr. Allam in the lead, though what the author Mr.Balding would have to say about that I don’t know!

Roger Allam - IMDb
Roger Allam, English actor

If you’re after some good strong writing that is humorous as well as thought provoking, I can thoroughly recommend this book.

I’m giving The Man Who Could’t Stop Thinking 5 stars.

Maybe You’re Just NOT THAT Creative !

Sorry. But it could be true.

But hey, it doesn’t matter if you don’t mind.

Just don’t try telling other people what to make, write, draw, design, sew, compose.

Maybe you think you have something special going on. Maybe you think you have something to sell. Maybe you’re going to be the next big thing. That what you do is ‘my creativity’. Maybe you have urges to make things. But where does true creative talent end and hobby craft begin?!

I know some people are going to read this and think ‘You sanctimonious bitch’, and you may be right.

This is going to be harsh. Look away if you have a weak stomach.

Top 30 Boo Hoo GIFs | Find the best GIF on Gfycat
Fat Bastard says ‘Boo hoo’.
From gfycat.com

1. But my mum said my voice/painting/ is great

That’s wonderful, but don’t confuse parental praise with real, honest, healthy criticism. Of course your mum would say that, she’s your mum! And friends are, often, no better. They don’t want to HURT YOUR FEELINGS.

If you’re thinking of going professional, semi-professional, or exhibiting your creativity in public in any way, shape or form- you’re going to need a thicker skin.

I once spoke to an art student about what she was going to do after college. Sell my work in a gallery, was her naive response. HER WORK WAS SHITE! And what if they don’t like it? I asked politely. She stared at me as though I was saying something in a foreign language. This young woman had no idea how talentless she was.

Stop living in fantasy land. It’s just self-deception.

Be brutally honest with yourself.

Otherwise, things are going to get painful somewhere down the line.

2. Your creative endeavours are original

Are they? Really?

Nothing is original. Everything has been said before. We just try to find a unique way of re-purposing the original message. It might be that the wonky-eyed portrait of your pet poodle looks unique, but is it really creative. And let’s be honest, should you even expose the world to it?

Please don’t set up an Etsy shop, and proceed to fill it with tat. It is quite simply embarrassing. Don’t do that to yourself.

Why would anyone want to buy your shit?

Why do you think it merits equal attention as someone who has worked seriously and with total dedication for decades?

Look at it – it doesn’t!

3. You love being free and Bohemian, surrounded by tubes of paint/paper/fabric/instruments

You think this is the 60s? You want to remain in a student state of mind forever?

Time to grow up.

For most artists, creativity does not come from flopping around in silk dressing gowns, traipsing through a mist of linseed and oil paints. It’s fucking hard work.

You must work at honing your skills on a daily basis. You must practise your craft – and I use this word in it’s true sense; ‘skill, dexterity, strength, talent’. You must learn that what you created last year, is not as good as what you will produce this year. It is a never-ending striving to reach something over there.

Art doesn’t make itself. The tools of your trade, whether they be brushes and pens, electronic devices, piano, fountain pen or keyboard, will need to be used on a regular basis for you to learn what they can do. After that, your brain needs to be trained, put into gear and applied to the problem at hand.

One doesn’t simply wake up one day and dash off a masterpiece. Your painted stones with hideous dog and cat faces are NOT ART!

One does not simply. Made on imgflip.

4. I’m an introvert, therefore I must be creative

No. Not necessarily so.

Stamping INFJ, or whatever the fuck, all over your social media pages doesn’t make you a better person, or more interesting, or more thoughtful, or creative!

And then you get upset if someone passes a remark that doesn’t fit your idea of yourself. And weep copious tears so your ‘Followers’, or whoever, send hugs and kind thoughts, and tell you to ignore the vicious bitch in the corner, because you’re a ‘beautiful person’.

Bull. Shit!

Just because you class yourself as introvert, doesn’t mean you have to affect a delicate flower demeanour. Introverts live in the real world, we just need time to recoup energy away from other people.

Plus, just because you’re a ‘beautiful person’, doesn’t mean you have a ‘creative soul’.

5. But isn’t creativity whatever I say it is?

Well, if we’re sticking with creativity as meaning using one’s imagination to create something – to invent, then yes.

But simply painting from a photo is not using one’s imagination!

Making fan fiction – I hear a gasp of horror – is not true creativity. The honest truth is that most fan fiction is fucking awful, and why?

Because it is the soup of the soup. It can never be as good (or tasty) as the first/original.

Why is it that we can all spot a truly gifted sportsman or woman when we see them in action? We know that Serena Williams is one of the best tennis players, and that Usain Bolt cannot be beaten at his game.

Because we can see the evidence with our own eyes. When a footballer scores repeatedly, that tells us they’re one of the talented ones. We know who is the best, the talent oozes from gymnasts and boxers and cricketers.

But art is another thing. Most people won’t have a clue what makes Turner fucking amazing, whilst Tracy Emin is shite. Many will say that’s my personal opinion – and there’s the rub!

People today simply don’t have the ability to determine what is good and what is bad. Should we say that someone who has been practising their craft for over 30 years can have the right to make this decision?

But newcomers don’t want to know. And the talentless get mardy and whinge and whine because, “I have a right to make art as much as anyone.”

Yes, you do.

But don’t try telling an experienced and ‘time-served’ creative that you know better than him/her.

Maybe listen to criticism once in a while.

Perhaps give the experienced people the benefit of the doubt, and look at what you’ve created, and say ‘Shiiiit, I really am bad at this, maybe I ought to go and do something more useful with my time.’

And stop putting it on Etsy for fucks sake!

May You Live In Interesting Times – or – Let Us Not Forget

These are extraordinary times we are living in.

In fact, ‘Interesting times’. This expression is fairly well-known in England, and is often attributed to the Chinese, although there is no proof that it originated there. While appearing to be a blessing, it is in fact a curse. The expression is used ironically, with the inference that ‘uninteresting times’, of peace and tranquillity, are more life-enhancing than interesting ones.

It basically means that interesting times are not peaceful, they are times of war, uprising, change – or pandemic.

Last night, I stood on my doorstep, along with some neighbours, to applaud and show our appreciation for our country’s NHS staff (Clap for Carers) – who are doing an exemplary job under strained conditions. On social media, we see this ‘trend’ occurring across the world. We are all seeing just how vital our hospital staff are. It’s just a shame that it takes something like COVID-19 for those in government to truly appreciate this.

But around the world, there are other people who are still working through this. They provide us with products and services, and some, many, are invisible to the general public.

I wanted to take a moment to show appreciation for these people. Many of whom do very unpleasant work; sewage workers. There are people who are putting themselves at risk daily so that you and I can continue to live our lives as smoothly as possible.

Let us not forget the:

Shop workers – Supermarket employees are working very hard at personal risk – and always appreciate a thank you. While you’re hunkered down at home, supermarket employees continue to show up to work every day, putting themselves at risk as they come into contact with hundreds or thousands of people who may be asymptomatic.

Bin/Refuse Collectors – “The Covid-19 pandemic poses a serious and unique risk to the 6,000 Teamsters employed by Waste Management. Over the course of each workday, our members visit thousands of homes, businesses, schools and hospitals,” https://www.wastedive.com/news/coronavirus-covid-waste-recycling-safety-collection-mrf/574359/

Sewage Workers – Sanitary workers around the world are carrying out, potentially, life-threatening tasks, some without access to the most basic hygiene. In many parts of the world, they often descend into the sewers without gloves or any other protective gear for very little money or respect. The work is usually accompanied by a set of risks, some of them life-threatening. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/03/sanitary-workers-risk-lives-spread-coronavirus-200325051916407.html

Long Distance Lorry Drivers – “Truckers aren’t health care workers and we’re not anybody special. We just have to keep working because, what else are we going to do right now? And people need their toilet paper.” https://edition.cnn.com/2020/03/26/cars/truck-drivers-coronavirus/index.html

Zoo-keepers and Animal Sanctuary Staff – ‘COVID-19 could infect great apes’. Those who care for animals must go to work, who else is going to feed and minister to them?

Emergency Services – It goes without saying that our Police, Firefighters, Ambulance, Paramedics etc are doing extraordinary work. Remember, not everyone is as willing to be as thoughtful as you and stay at home. Some will test the boundaries of authority for sure. People with nothing to do, people with no moral compass, people with learning difficulties who simply do not understand the situation.

Farmers – Your food does not come from Tesco, Morrisons, Asda, Lidl, etc. In the first instance, most of it comes from farms. The challenge is how long suppliers will carry on supplying the farmers with feed for the animals, with diesel and fertiliser. Without that supply, the farmers cannot provide you and me with our fruit, vegetables, meat, wheat for cereals and more.

If you work in one of the ‘industries’ I have mentioned above –

I thank you.

If you work in an industry I have not mentioned, that is keeping me supplied with goods –

I thank you.

If you are enabling me to live as normally as possible diring these difficult times –

I thank you.

It is not the billionaires who will get us through this. It is the low-paid, the put-upon, the invisible, those usually taken for granted, those who in normal circumstances we do not spare a thought for.

Let us not forget – it takes all sorts to keep a community, a country, a planet working daily.

Let us not forget – that there are people performing job roles that you and I have not even thought about, who are working very hard at this moment.

Let us not forget – to say ‘Thank you’, to these people, let them know we appreciate them.