• E for Election

     

    In the UK, it is that time again.

    Next month the country will elect a new government for the next five years or so.

    Between now and polling day, we will be subjected to an enormous amount of posing, pontificating and promises.

    Someone, somewhere has decreed that the ‘big’ issue is immigration.

    The thesis is that Britons are tired of foreigners coming into the UK, claiming benefits, exhausting public resources, taking over communities and thereby worsening the lives of those people already here.

    A variation on the theme is that the foreigners are stealing the jobs of the poor hard-working Brit.

    Parties all the way along the political spectrum are offering solutions to this problem.

    What utter nonsense.

    In the UK we are lucky enough to live in a country where on one street we can eat the finest examples of cuisine from every continent.

    Our universities are crammed full of bright and enquiring minds from every corner of the earth.

    The very name of the place should give it away – ‘The United Kingdom”. It has always been our way to embrace multiple cultures, nations and races. The diversity of the population has always been what has made this country so vibrant and exciting to live in.

    There is competition for work. There is strain on limited resources. This country, like any country, faces problems. Immigration is not one of them.

    While the politicians tilt at windmills, pose for the cameras and pursue the perfect populist sound bite, they neglect the work that needs to be done to make things better.

    There’s only one thing for it.

    We will have to bring some immigrants in to do the job.

    It is the British way.

     

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    Challenge Home Page

     

     

     

     

  • D is for Death….

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    The fourth day of the AtoZ Blogging Challenge.

    Thank you for reading and commenting. There are masses of blogs to check out. Here is a list.

    Death. Christians are now celebrating Easter, with Friday being all about death.

    An important and profound subject.

    Way too important and profound for me to tackle.

    I am writing about “Death to the Stock Photo“. Not really about death at all. This is a fantastic service provided by Allie Lehman and David Sherry for people like you and me.

    As my last post illustrates, I am a dreadful photographer.

    My shots require captions as explanations.

    Each month Allie and David send me a pack of beautifully crafted tableaux, absolutely free, which I am able to use here on the blog. There is one at the top of this post.

    There are, of course, great pictures all over the internet. Here is the thing, these photographs belong to people. They are creations.

    I aspire to write books, books that people might pay for. I daresay I am unlikely to demand masses of cash for my debut novel, but I know that I would be upset were I to find my work free all over the internet.

    Photographers, writers and other artists create. They invest heavily of themselves and toil to make their art as good as it can be. Most ask for very little in return. Some ask for recognition, some ask to make a living. (The very cheek of it!)

    Get yourself over to “Death to the Stock Photo‘ and sign up. There is a free service and there is also a subscription model (more artists looking to make a living, tsk, tsk) with completely unfettered access to a growing library of great shots.

    Quite apart from the fact that they take beautiful pictures, these guys seem really cool too.

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  • C is for Covent Garden

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    A poor photograph, but an excellent string quintet.

    Thank you to all of those people whom have taken the time to drop by, read and even comment on my posts.

    If you have been paying attention, then you will recall that yesterday I was travelling to London to have a professional work on my hair and my beard.

    “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” Perhaps the most famous quote from Samuel Johnson.

    On the train, I asked Twitter for any suggestions on where I might get a decent glass of something white and bracing and a bite to eat.

    Isn’t Twitter incredible? Within minutes @CoventGardenLDN read my tweet and came back looking for detail on what type of wine I was looking for. Astonishing!

    @BeaBTCharles, a friend from #writingchat came back with a specific recommendation for The Crusting Pipe, where I went.

    As promised, I sat on a terrace that felt outside, but was inside. I listened to live opera, with a cool glass of Sauvignon Blanc from Chile in hand.

    Between the arias, I could catch snippets of conversation in German, in Italian, Spanish, French and many more languages that I can only vaguely recognise. It truly felt like the World’s capital.

    Energy, enthusiasm and fun. I could not help but be caught up in it.

    When I lived in London, I found it frenetic and exhausting. Now that I don’t, I find it energising.

    Tired of life? Not at all. Take me to my Beard-Barber!

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    A to Z Challenge

  • Beards. Who knew?

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    Photo taken from  Murdock London.

    I have a beard. I think that I have had a beard since the last century. Some time in the late 1990s, I grew a goatee and have had one ever since.

    In all of that time, beard-husbandry was unknown to me. In the shower, I would massage in a little shampoo.

    Length? I had a trimmer set to number two, and when the beard started to itch, I ran the trimmer over it.

    There were occasions when I might risk a little experimentation with shape. Often these experiments were forced upon me by a slip of the hand, accidentally removing a section of beard.

    Suddenly beards and their maintenance are quite the thing. On Tuesday the second of April a highly skilled professional from Murdock London is going to give me a whiskey and guide me through a complete beard consultation.

    Then he will shape, trim and condition my facial hair to ensure that I might hold my head up in the hippest of company.

    I have absolutely no doubt that I shall emerge from Murdock in Covent Garden laden with all of the essential beard grooming products that have been hitherto absent from my morning routine. I am prepared to bet that they will come in one of those high quality designer bags that used to be the preserve of Italian fashion labels.

    In truth, I am quietly excited.

    Should I risk a Musketeer’s flamboyant moustache?

    Soup-catchers of which Hercule Poirot would be proud?

    I wonder. Can you get beard extensions?

    I shall let you all know….

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  • Advertising. Why do they bother?

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    Let me be straight with you. I have done a lot of travelling. My work sent me to all sorts of fun places, and as per my previous post, I often take rain to far flung parts of the world as a leisure activity.

    Since becoming based in the UK, I have signed up to the British Airways Executive Club. Ultimately, if you live in the UK, then signing up to the Singapore Airlines frequent flyer program is fairly pointless unless you are happy to go everywhere via Singapore.

    British Airways spends an absolute fortune on marketing. Recently, the tagline “To Fly. To Serve” has been at the heart of its prolific advertising.

    We sat down to dinner on our last night in Ajman and I received a text message.

    “Sorry, your flight BA108 on 21Mar DXB/LHR has been cancelled…Call BA on +44……”

    So I did.

    I was told that the aircraft had gone ‘technical’ and that BA were going to rebook me on a flight 14 hours later. I enquired as to whether BA was to cover my expenses for the delay, and was told that they would. So – “To Fly” was not going so well, but “To Serve” was right on track.

    The hotel was very understanding, and for a fee (naturally) was happy to extend our checkout time. They were of course, more than happy to sell us dinner.

    Being a straightforward sort of fellow, I elected to claim the late checkout fee and dinner. I was quite happy to cover my own lunch and liquid refreshment. I really am a very fair-minded sort you know. You would like me.

    Upon our return, I dutifully completed the online refund form.

    “While I appreciate your reasons for asking, I’m afraid I cannot offer you any compensation or refund your out of pocket expenses”.

    Oh dear. Not only had “To Fly” not really come off, but now “To Serve” was going wrong too.

    To cut a long (and still continuing) story short, I adopted the attitude of a wronged Englishman. I may even have used the phrase ‘not cricket’. Thus far, I have invoked two articles of EU Regulation and received six times the financial amount that I had initially claimed.

    I am far from finished.

    Here is the mystery. A very astute, bright team of people has elected to position BA as THE British airline. “To Fly. To Serve”. Somebody in that team oversees somebody whom oversees someone else whom oversees a ‘Customer Contact’ team.

    That team has adopted a policy of “Always refuse in the first instance” in the hope that the company will ‘get away’ with ripping customers off.

    Sad.

    I am not sure how Sean is going to feel about changing airlines, but I am hoping that I won’t need to send him via Singapore every time that he travels.

  • Expert Raindancer for Hire

    IMG_0430I posted not long ago about the dangers posed to writers by sunshine. Somebody was listening.

    We had booked a week in Ajman (a lesser-known Emirate) certain that we would have uninterrupted heat and sunshine. We were half right.

    All around the pool, experienced visitors explained to us how they had never seen cloud like this at this time of year. As the raindrops fell onto our towels, friends posted on social media that they had lived in the Emirates for three years and had never seen rain.

    The silver lining must surely be no distraction. What else could I do, but boot up the wireless keyboard and the writing app on the iPad? It turns out that there were quite a few things that I could do other than write.

    Drink beer was one.

    Attempt to amuse a grumpy sun-worshipper spouse was another.

    Catching a vicious variant of the common cold was an unexpected insult to be added to meteorological injury.

    Not a word was added to the count in the soggy Emirate. Not a word was added in the week following as I bravely fought off the cold. (I know, pathetic.)

    In 2013, we brought rain to the Mayan Riviera. This year it was the turn of Emirates. Next year – we are going to rent our services to a country stricken by drought. I think that there is money in it.

    In the meantime – I might have to make this writing lark work; so off to the grindstone for me.

  • The Law of Sod

    Just when you think you know what is happening, along comes life.

    I had amended social profiles to boldly state ‘Writer’. I have even ordered business cards that are militantly UN-corporate.

    It felt good. Bold. Decisive.

    Literally the next day, a dear friend whom I have worked with in the past got in touch. They are immersed in an exciting project and could really do with a hand.

    By the time lunch has finished, I am back in the mad world of financial services and compliance.

    Suddenly, Sean is on the back burner.

    Today, I am taking the long suffering Mrs L on a well deserved (by her) break. A week in the sun.

    Sean will get some attention too – as he adjusts to having a little more competition for my time.stock-photo-compliance-word-cloud-216482392

    Let’s face it – a truly first world problem! It is great to be ‘wanted’ and I daresay many would be delighted to have this ‘problem’.

  • Oh No! The Sun’s out.

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    Don’t get me wrong, I am usually partial to a bit of Spring and sunny weather. Right now, I am thinking that I need to be outside enjoying it rather than sitting at my desk writing about it.

    I bought and read a book yesterday. (This is a habit I encourage you, dear reader to develop. Keep an eye out for anything by Stuart Lennon).

    I found this particular book while wandering around in the slightly mad worlds of Twitter and Blogs. The book can be found on amazon (Click on the word book earlier in this sentence!)

    It is by a guy called Ben Adams. I enjoyed it. It is an easy read, and good fun. Ben is a little cagey about which bits are his experience and which are his imagination – but that is at it should be. We are British males. We don’t want too much of this metrosexual nonsense. We are uptight and proud of it, what?

    Currently, I am stalking Ben. He published ‘Six Months to Get a Life‘, his first book, in January and his blog records his experiences. Damn it.

    I will definitely use different pictures here if nothing else. He posted about #MondayBlog.

    You can read it here but essentially it is a hashtag which one can add to tweets. Fellow authors then pick up on this and retweet and favourite it.

    I only have a rudimentary understanding as to what the last sentence means, but I am hopeful that it is a good thing.

    This page is on a new theme. Again.

    Mrs L pointed out to me that having a ‘sign up’ box right at the bottom of the page was not necessarily very clever. So now it sits proudly top left.

    So…no excuse not to sign up now.

    Oh yes!

    The book. Sean is getting along OK. With my long and varied experience of Central European hangovers, I found writing about Sean’s remarkably easy.

    Until of course, the Sun came out.

  • ‘When words don’t come easy….’

     

    ‘When words don’t come easy, I make do with silence and find something in nothing’  Strider Marcus Jones – Poet.

    Well there’s a thought. Very nicely put Strider.

    Also, what a fantastically poetic name! You had me at Strider.

    Right now, words are coming easy in my little corner of Hampshire.

    My target is a paltry 500 words per working day, which should allow plenty of time for editing and rewriting before reaching my target self-publication date at the end of April 2016.

    By working days, I do not mean days spent in furious concentration in front of a screen; I mean weekdays.

    I know from experience that an easy target motivates me to get ahead, to ‘bank’ some overachievement against the inevitable days where the golf course, the pub, or indeed both, are just too seductive to resist.

    Therefore, the target is to be at 3500 by bedtime. At the time of writing, I am at 8,017.

    Today, one thousand words were in the bank before ten. I rose at six, walked the dog and was at the screen before eight thirty. For the book’s hero, it was Friday night. I have always been fond of Friday night, so words came easy.

    Now for all of you…

    Oh all right, for both of you:

    I am happy to reveal that the hero has been christened.

    Sean. Sean for a brother that I never knew.

    Now, I am going to have a little look at Strider’s Facebook page and maybe even mosey on to his Amazon page and buy a wee book.

    The photograph by the way comes courtesy of Death to Stock. Well worth a quick look too, if you blog.

     

  • The Secret to Becoming a Better Writer

    See! All of this perusing the internet is not a complete waste of time. I stumbled upon a site all about blogging in particular and writing in general. Brian Clark – has very kindly made the image above available.

    So the secret is out. He has even made a pdf available should you wish to produce your own poster. Really.

    A Writer writes.

    My project is going well. I have taken to heart the advice above. My focus is on getting words on paper (or at least into the computer). I am resisting the temptation to do too much editing at this stage.

    The logic being that there is always plenty of time to edit – but you cannot edit what is not there. It is difficult to argue with that.

    My target is to rattle off 500 words per working day as a minimum.

    So far, I have managed 5,000 words in the first five days, but I am realistic enough to realise that things are likely to get harder after the first flush of enthusiasm.

    Several hours today were spent on this site. I had chosen a theme where the focus was on everything except the posts – and it is the posts that this should be all about. So, I installed a new theme.

    I was feeling quite smug, until my wife asked me why I was bombarding Facebook with nonsensical posts.

    My apologies to everyone on Facebook and Twitter that I hit with my avalanche. This post is on purpose – but those this afternoon were not. Whoops.

    What am I looking for? I am looking for YOU. Yes, you there. I am new to this. Both to writing and to blogging.

    Sign up to the newsletter at the bottom of this page and it will drop into your mailbox each month.

    Comment on the posts – got some advice? Let me hear it. I have a lot to learn.