Wednesday, 30 September 2009

The House of Lords...

One of Gordon’s key points during his “triumphant” speech the other day (yawn), was based around the modernisation of the House of Lords and I see that he has already set the wheels in motion in order to abolish the remaining hereditary peers. Quite frankly, I think he is wrong to do so, but then I think he is wrong about almost everything...

The House of Commons is a purely elected chamber of MPs, which holds the right to debate and pass just about any motion they like. In the early part of the twentieth century, a bill was passed which curtailed the powers of the second chamber (the Lords) so that they could not oppose any finance bill and had to pass any elected motion on the third attempt. The idea was to prevent “the old guard” from simply blocking any bill in the Commons due to their own conservative values or narrow-mindedness. On the whole, it was a worthy idea and one that has been expanded throughout the years in terms of the structure and make up of the House of Lords in order to remove as much of the “privileged” seats as possible. Such measures have typically come about during periods of Labour rule and have been born partly of class prejudice towards the middle and upper classes and disguised behind the public cry of progress, fairness and democracy. What a shame, then, that this is – in practice – hot air.

Of course Gordon Brown wants only elected peers. Of course, deep down, he wants only people he rates, values or who will act in his interests – which is why he re-appointed Peter Mandelson (New Labour champion), regularly confers with JK Rowling and why he fast-tracked Sir Alan Sugar into one of the seats (both huge Labour party donators). In the same sense, he refuses to acknowledge the break up of the British Isles as, whilst ostensibly he blames the "radical factions" from Wales and Scotland for seeking independence, he actually realises that without the existing votes he enjoys from these two countries, Labour would be finished (in 2005 more people in England voted Tory than Labour). We could also use the example of his attitude to media channels in light of the Sun’s decision to abandon New Labour – he wasn’t complaining in 1997, 2001 and 2005 when they backed his party in the wake of Campbell’s spin machine, was he? And yet, now they’ve turned against them, apparently we need to observe substance over style all of a sudden...

But anyway, back to the point, which is the matter of hereditary peers. It is clear that, by removing any obstacle to him or his policies, he will buy himself more time. In my opinion, the value of having certain hereditary peers in the Lords is no different to the value of having a Monarch. Of course, the practical extent of their powers is questionable and the hand of democracy doesn’t seem to come remotely close. However, if we formed our opinion of people’s credentials based upon their birth right, we would be in a mess. Prince Harry could not help being born into royalty any more than an African child could help being born into poverty, which is why it is the reserve of the foolish, bitter socialists to criticise and oppose anyone who has had it lucky, just as much as it is the ignorance of a wealthy man not to employ someone purely because of their working class origins. But that isn’t the point. The fact that we have a Monarch, gives us something that republics don’t have – a sense of the greater good, a figurehead and a national entity that preserves the historical values of the country. For every Wilson, Heath, Callaghan, Thatcher, Major, Blair and Brown, we have had Elizabeth II. She sits there, fully adorned for every State opening of Parliament, without any real power, but with the will of a nation, representing the hopes, spirit and duty of the British people. Policies and politicians come and go – lining their pockets as they do so – but she remains steadfast in her patriotic duty. Yes, she enjoys riches far beyond the majority, but with that comes great responsibility. When did you see her fall out of a taxi drunk? When did she appear on reality TV? When did she have a drug problem and have to go to the Priory? Her homes are in the possession of the State and at least two of them are open museums to the public, generating a huge amount of revenue for the UK every year. It is clear to me who is the richer for having a Monarchy and that is Great Britain.

For this very reason, we should value the servants of and to the crown. But that alone is not reason enough to preserve a portion of life peers. There is another valid reason and that is the safeguard of conservation. There is a saying that goes “whoever is not a communist at twenty has no heart, but whoever is not a capitalist at thirty has no head.” I, of course, had no heart, but there is a truth there that correlates to something beyond just experience. It relates to a sense of conservatism (and I’m NOT talking politically here), an acknowledgement of the greater good, the historic values, ideals and principles that are often lost or misplaced over time. You can’t possibly expect to elect people who have an in-built sense of this – those who possess it are simply part of the fabric of certain factions of life. Of course, hereditary peers should not make up the majority of the chamber, but they should be there nonetheless. They need to act as a buffer to the scores of five-minute politicians, the trendy lefties, the social hypocrites, the bitter unionists and the student protesters. The further we move to a democracy (in spite of Labour’s nanny-come-police state), the more essential it is to protect the great values of Britain and especially England (I am English and would expect the Welsh and Scots to feel the same) from the scourge of ignorance-fuelled politics that Blair’s reality-based generation have come to hold.

Remember, turkeys never vote for Christmas, but if chance would have it ALWAYS vote for the goose, so bear that in mind when listening to any politician’s point of view, especially in this present government.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Rugby is back!

Cold winds, muddy fields, pints of Guinness, total commitment, not caring who wins – what a relief after the recent One-Day drubbing England received in the cricket...

(notice I’ve refrained from mentioning Quin's Dracula impersonations – we’ll move on...)

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Speculative Historical Fiction – the novelistory

I meant to add this video some time ago; however, in keeping with my recent bout of promotion towards the Litarena website, I felt “better late than never.”

Part Two to follow...

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Guitar videos - explanation and disclaimer

You may have noticed that I have recently begun adding guitar videos to the internet. In order to clear a couple of questions up, the reason for me not posting them to this blog was due to the fact that I didn't want it to seem that I was trying to emulate Dick Van Dyke as a jack of all trades and master of none. This blog is, generally speaking, a way of conveying updates on my writing and I only allow it to encompass other thoughts and issues in order to ensure variety.

Therefore, I tend to keep guitar videos on Facebook and YouTube. By doing so, at least I wont draw any more attention than is needed to what is quite often a most lamentable performance of a classic song or riff. You may well ask why I post video content at all if my playing is so sloppy these days and the answer is quite simple - so that I improve my lazy ways out of embarrassment and start practising again!

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Medieval fiction and literature

As a writer of historical fiction, I thought I would make a brief return to the principle subject of this blog and give my take on the genre, in the wake of much recent debate...

Historical fiction may centre on historical or on fictional characters, but usually represents an honest attempt based on considerable research (or at least serious reading) to tell a story set in the historical past as understood by the author's contemporaries. Of course, those historical settings may not stand up to the enhanced knowledge of later historians, given the propensity for technological advancements in research and investigation.

Of course, many early historical novels played an important role in the rise of European popular interest in the history of the Middle Ages, whilst historical fiction has also served to encourage movements of romantic nationalism. Historical fiction can serve satirical purposes, the best example being George MacDonald Fraser's excellent Flashman series, although these were set several hundred years later, during the height of the Victorian era.

It is fair to say that I have been clear in my thoughts on politics and accuracy within historical novels. However, whilst I would like to think of my Silver Knight series sharing in the same league of detail as the Flashman series, it is a very different beast. Comedy and satire, though tools endemic to my view of life, are not particularly evident within the narrative. Nor is the central character as free from piety, morals and decency, although I believe the sequel to The Silver Knight will make for interesting reading on that subject (further news in due course!)

There is quite clearly a difference between historical fiction, fiction and alternative history. The Silver Knight was aimed firmly at the first camp, but then when definitions change so frequently, one can never been truly sure!

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

It is years since I wrote a short story...

Probably well over a decade in fact. Since then, I've tended to either compose the first fragments of an idea for a novel (only to bin it), or draft a thriller plan before writing it. Short stories are fun, but ultimately (I suppose like a game of twentytwenty) they seem to fall by the wayside, giving way to their more illustrious counterparts - novels being the test matches of the book world.

Anyway, not wishing to blather on further, the point is that I have just written a short story for a Litarena short story contest. I chose the offered title of "A Rat with a Sore Ear," simply because...well, I don't know really - it just grabbed me! I must confess, having less time than ever to write at present, I was slightly dubious about spending a couple of hours thinking up something worthwhile, but once I got started the proverbial pen flowed copiously. As someone with a predilection for writing a hundred words when ten will do, it was certainly a challenge to hone my skills and make every phrase count. It is really quite refreshing - you should all try it!

In fact, better still, find a similar competition and enter it!

A Rat with a Sore Ear

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Literary Reviews

Firstly, my apologies for the lack of content being posted on here of late. There are numerous reasons for this, which I'll skirt over for now, but I would hope that normal practice will resume shortly. Anyway, whilst I am here, I wanted to quickly mention some book and author reviews that have taken place on the latest book festival at Litarena....

For my part, I have compiled reviews for Charles Dickens and Kit Marlowe that you may be interested in reading. If you are keen to contribute to a review, I'm sure it would be welcomed by Patrick at Litarena...

Friday, 4 September 2009

Customer Service – A Happy Ending

For those of you who are under the illusion that I only ever have barbed words for the service I receive from present day organisations (despite actually working in marketing myself), here’s something to warm your heart.

The other day, I received an email from Nectar – the loyalty card scheme. It stated that I had 480 points and gave me a plethora of suggestions as to where I could spend them. Recalling that I needed some petrol, I passed BP on my way back home, topped up with fuel, thus receiving 30 extra points, taking me over the 500 points threshold required for a redemption voucher. Then, also recalling that a favourite brand of real ale was on offer in the Merry Hill branch of Sainsbury’s, I headed off to recoup my “prize.”

What followed was a succession of bitter disappointments. Firstly, the ale (Butty Bach as it happens) was not on offer anymore. Secondly, I was informed that one had to have swiped one’s card at least twice in a month before points could be redeemed. Thirdly, the points from BP had not yet registered. As a somewhat vicious punch line, I was then stuck in traffic for an hour as two cars had broken down in Brierley Hill.

As you can imagine, a strongly worded email was dispatched to Nectar, asking for some tangible reasons why I should simply set fire to their miserable card and post the ashes back to their headquarters. However, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a grovelling reply, with full details of the actual policy, a full and frank apology and 500 free points as means of recompense.

So, some people do care. Incidentally, if anyone would like to hire me out to handle their written complaints, I am fully willing to quote my time on an hourly basis...

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

An Indian Summer...

...a Mancunian Autumn.

We were promised a barbecue summer and the only action my barbecue has seen is about an inch of rust. If this is summer, then what will winter hold? Ten feet of snow? Ice blizzards? Biblical tornadoes?