Brest, An Unexpected Stopover

The unexpected makes life interesting.

Say It With A Camera

So there we were happily sailing across the Bay of Biscay doing about 19 knots. I’m sitting in the 800 seat theatre and I can feel a definite list on the ship. We are changing course, I can’t see it, but I can feel it.

There’s been a medical emergency and we have to turn back to Brest in France. A good few extra hours sailing.

As we approach Brest we pass the concrete German U-Boat pens which are left over from WW2, now used by the French Navy.

Submarine Pens

The ship we are on is one of those massive cruise liners. It’s like an 18 floor , floating apartment block and from the attention we are getting from small craft, ships that size are not often seen in Brest.

Getting Close

We won’t be getting off, just docking, whilst the passenger with the medical emergency is transferred to a French Hospital. The…

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Back in blogaction

It’s been quiet on the, not exactly Western front, but certainly on my personal blog front. For two reasons: 1, what is the point? and 2, I have been busy actually working on my latest book. Title now: Changemakers. Like it? My critical reader suggested it, and I think it is rather good.

I am now looking very carefully at various agencies, to try and find one that I think will suit the kind of material that I produce, and that will have me.

Finished reading a biography of George Orwell, yes, he with Animal Farm and 1984. Such a great personality, and very hard working. Inspiring that he also struggled to be noticed for his first few novels, but kept on keeping on until he had his breakthrough. Got my daughter (13) to read Animal Farm, and she thoroughly enjoyed it.

This morning, as the sun shines on a beautiful Palm Sunday, I decided to give my blog a new look and restart my efforts at communicating with the wider world. Will try to blog more regularly and keep you updated on the process of writing.

New wine in what?!

A very intelligent lady – a professoresse no less – was interviewed on BBC Radio 4 earlier today. She said about fraud crimes now carried out on the internet “…old wine in new bottles, if you like” (52 minute into the clip in the link).

It was a clever metaphor, but her picture was, not only the wrong way around, but also slightly inaccurate, due, I guess, not to her lack of religious instruction, but because she was instructed in that glorious institution of the English language that is the Authorised King James translation. Now, many people think that is the only translation that counts. One quote that springs to mind is an old chap in a Southern Baptist Church in America who said, “If King James was good ’nuff for Paul, it’s good ’nuff for me”. That aside, the proverbial image conjured, albeit imperfectly, by this good lady is from the Bible (as so many of our idioms and expressions are) and back in those sandal wearing days they did not use bottles, but skins.

Here is the King James version that the professoresse based her outburst on:

Luke 5, 36:

“And he spake also a parable unto them ; No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old ; if otherwise, then both the new maketh a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new agreeth not with the old. And no man putteth new wine into old bottles ; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish. But new wine must be put into new bottles ; and both are preserved. No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new ; for he saith, The old is better.”

The professoresse, consciously or not, turned the quote on its head. It is not “old wine in new bottles” but new wines into old that creates problems for the butler ( the word comes from the old French “boteillier”, the cup-bearer, the officer in charge of the wine). What, you may ask, does the age of the bottle has to do with anything at all? A very reasonable question, my dear fellow. Let us therefore turn to the New Living Translation, which has the following rendition:

 “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the new wine would burst the wineskins, spilling the wine and ruining the skins.38 New wine must be stored in new wineskins39 But no one who drinks the old wine seems to want the new wine. ‘The old is just fine,’ they say.

First of all, I don’t really care much about the skins. Secondly, notice that old wine is the point one really should take away from all this, but leave that to another day. The comparison, as seen in the fuller quote from King James above, between cloth and the receptacle of wine only really makes sense when it is a wine skin and not a bottle. Cloth tends to shrink when washed, so mending old clothes with new fabric may cause a tear. Similarly, the old wineskins have been stretched, and if you put new wine, still fermenting, into the old skins, they may burst and waste the wine (an unforgivable act of uncreative destruction).

The highly educated professoresse’s misquoting of the Bible, even if it was a misquote of the King James’ version, which we readily forgive, is symptomatic of a society that is growing increasingly secular. Even if I am an atheist (which I am) I am concerned that we are losing touch with one of the greatest carriers of cultural heritage that we have: the Bible. One cannot understand, or even begin to have a whiff of understanding, of Shakespeare, or so much of our literary heritage, without some understanding of the Bible, and some knowledge of it.

So, in conclusion, as one is suppose to say, I am glad that the professoresse did make a biblical allusion, and I hope this may have tickled your curiosity about that great text a little.








Finished one – on with with the next!

It’s been a while, but here’s an update:

The book I started on in June was finished before Christmas. That is, the story was completed, but of course, it is not completely finished. I have sent the manuscript to someone who has kindly agreed to read it it and give feedback.

In writing, and in anything, to be open to critique, especially negative, destructive, damaging, painful, crushing criticism is absolutely crucial. So-called “constructive criticism” is too often a cover for a lack of ability to accept one’s own faults and weaknesses.

On that happy note, I can say that without some painful criticism of my first novel, the semi-autobiographical In Good Faithimg_6272, I would never have had the idea to the story that I have now completed. The working title for that is Calling to Kill, although I am also considering How to Kill a Pastor. Do please let me know which you like best. Answers on a postcard (or just in the comments section). The criticism sparked a thought that turned into a pale flame that eventually became a roaring fire of inspiration and the new story became a reality.

Having completed this story, I decided to take it easy over Christmas, and read an Evelyn Waugh story (Put Out More Flags) and the spoof Famous Five story Brexit Island, which someone gave me for Christmas.

As Candlemas put an end to Christmas it was time to turn my attention to a book project that I started a few years ago. The idea had started as the story of four students going up to a university loosely modelled on Oxford/Cambridge, and the experiences that influences their process towards their more mature self. After just above 46000 words I had become stuck. Well, now I have come unstuck, so to speak. The story will have a death. It will be a killing of some sort, but is it murder? You will have to read the story to find out. It has an evil professor and a good don. It has some great characters, and some loathsome ones.  Some inspiration is drawn from the concept of the Stepford Student.

The original working title was The Students, but now it is Oliver or The Body in the River. How about that? The book will have sex and violence, so it is bound to be a best seller.

Publishers, here I am.

Towards Completion of New Book

My current favourite title for my new book is “Calling to Kill” (previous title “The Pastor” was no good). I like the double meaning of “calling” (ringing on the phone, shouting, and a religious calling – and that is actually a triple meaning, I realise), and I also like the alliteration of the k-sounds.

I have completed the story (notice I do not say “finished the book” – the story is complete, but the book isn’t). 73 and a bit thousand words, and now I am up early every morning to edit, re-write, add and take away, until I reach at least a satisfactory result.

This story will be a lot funnier than my previous one. In Good Faith had its funny bits, but they were spread out, shall we say. This will have a constant comic thread running through it, and then the serious stuff will hopefully be like hidden gems that are uncovered little by little.

One of the challenges of writing is to transform what may be a clear enough visualisation in your head of physical places, to a description that makes sense to the reader. I’ve had to make drawings of the most important rooms that feature in the story, so that I could concretize the spaces, and make sure that measurements and ratios make sense.

I have a trusted friend who, as I finish my rough edit, will proofread, before I start sending the script to publishers. Been here before, but unlike the first one which took me years, I managed to finish this book in less than half a year, so I am hoping I shall have it published next year. Fingers crossed.

The picture is my drawing of one of the characters’ room. He lives in a bedsit in Acton. The place is based on a house in which I lived with my wife in 1999.


Clare in the Community

On Remembrance Sunday, 13th November, I had the pleasure of taking my daughter and two of her friends to the tiny village of Clare in Suffolk. The village sports an antique/second hand emporium that I like to visit, and the ruin-remains of what was once a motte-and-bailey castle, that my daughter likes to visit. But the main purpose of our visit on the 13th November was to take part in a Remembrance Sunday service.

The church of St Peter and St Paul in Clare is one of the around 500 medieval churches in East Anglia. The size and beauty of the church testifies to the wealth and importance of the area in the medieval period. Some interesting facts can be found on the church’s own website here. More on the history of the church on this Clare history website.

A remembrance service is yet another opportunity to reflect on the importance of sacred buildings, such as this, to our communities and to our souls. I may not share the regular church-goer’s literal belief in God, but there is no substitute for the sense of sacredness (in Norwegian we have the term “høytid“, which literally means a high, in the sense exulted,  time) that the physical frame of a church building provides. It is one of the few remaining places where we come together, not to be entertained, but to create meaning in the occasion, by our actions and our togetherness.

In the case of this service to remember with gratitude and respect those who gave their lives in the two word wars of the last century, to save us from the tyranny of totalitarian regimes. Coming shortly after the divisive referendum, there is, I believe, healing in knowing that the entire nation is coming together, in similar actions all across the country, to unite around the values that bind us together as democrats and believers in the freedom and dignity of the individual.

The End is Nigh!

Today I reached 66,000 words on my new novel, which has the working title Calling to Kill. The climactic point in the story has been reached, and now I just need to wind everything up nicely.

It is a sort of crime story, but also just a story about the dangers of seeking to be a change maker and what fanatical belief in religion can lead to.

I take my inspiration from my strange time at Kensington Temple in London, from 1997-2002. This fanatical, charismatic church was in my not so humble view a Petri dish of madness, and my crime novel is a fantasy very much inspired by some of the characters I met in my time there.

Unlike me, my hero will not turn Atheist. I do not wish this to be an attack on Christianity as such. That is such an easy target. If we really want to challenge dangerous religious fanaticism these days, we need to turn our attention to Islam and the violence and vehemence it seems to engender against women, gays, and Western values in general. But that must be a future project.

Calling to Kill will hopefully be enjoyable for people of faith as well as those without. And now: publishers out there, this is your chance. I do not have a contract with my previous publisher, so I am free. This book will be a killing…(pun intended).

The drawing is a little sketch of how I see the main protagonist, Bjørn-Eirik.20160923_062851