My Amazon Author Page

Find my Amazon author page via this link

"A Scottish Wind in the Willows on high end skunk."

"I enjoy Kate's stories..."
"A fun and spooky read..."

"The characters are so involving and
loveable that you do want them to really exist. It does read like you've
stumbled across someone's long lost diary from and alternate timeline/universe.
I quickly got into the story and loved every second of reading it...
total gem of a read by an author who deserves a lot more recognition."


SCROLL DOWN THE PAGE TO FIND LINKS TO ALL FOUR BOOKS

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The Moon is Made of Mushrooms. And a Very Happy New Year (when it comes)

31/12/13 sea penguin

"The world is full of miracles and wonder, of which you and I are a part."
"Not like you to be so positive, Tuppy."
"I know.  I'm discombobulated.  The sky is greeny yellow and the moon is made of mushrooms.  I've just had a manicure and I'm in a crowded Japanese sushi bar sporting a spanking new silk suit and an orange bow tie.  I'm also wearing hand-tooled lizardskin cowboy boots with lead toecaps and I'm smoking a liquorice-flavoured cheroot.  I want to use my bare hands to kill everyone who smells wrong but I'm afraid I'll get caught."
"You're out of your mind on cheap port and puffer fish."
"I think it's mainly the latter."
We had noticed a news story featuring some 'research' about dolphins who gently chew on puffer fish (without harming them) in order to get the psychotropic effect of the toxins exuded from the skin.  We never trust 'research', so we decided to test this theory ourselves.   Ergo we went and fetched the net from the attic, pottered down to the Bay at low tide, and caught our own puffer fish.
It's all very well for dolphins, but we didn't fancy holding a live fish in our mouths, and waiting anxiously for it to squeeze out its venom, so we decided to bang it on the head, toss it in seasoned flour and cook it in a light beer batter.
Dousing the fish in batter after slicing it into goujons and then deep-frying it only seemed to intensify the effects.  Geoffrey had some too, only it hasn't kicked in yet.  Either that or he's immune.  Mind you - he didn't have lemon on his, and I did...or was it the other way round?
Time will tell.
We're well-primed for 2014, that is for sure.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Now Reading

...My Name Escapes Me, Alec Guinness' diaries from the 1990s, which I received as a Christmas present.  I love Alec Guinness as an actor and his diaries don't disappoint.  He clearly knows they're going to be read, so one is always aware of that, but it doesn't really matter too much.  He writes about the minutiae of daily life - pets, meals (cauliflower cheese is a favourite), music, church services, public speaking (which he loathes), doctor appointments (inevitable at his great age of 82), garden birds - and also reminisces about his acting life.  It's a lovely, gently entertaining read.  I'm now seeking out more of his writing.
That's the Christmas free download offer over now.  A couple of hundred went this time, no idea where to.  Mostly in the USA though.  About fifty or sixty in the UK.
If anyone actually reads them and likes them, please let me know.  If you don't like them, keep it to yourself!  Thank you.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Free Downloads Reminder

Just a reminder that my Christmas offer of free downloads of all five blog compilations ends on the 28th. Click on any of the relevant pictures on the right hand side of the page to find them on Amazon, or on the link to my Amazon page beneath the main header pic.

Or on these links below.

Sea Penguin Part Five

Sea Penguin Part Four

Sea Penguin Part Three

Sea Penguin Part Two

Sea Penguin Part One

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Home for Christmas...

We're not sure if we're really home, or if we're hallucinating due to lack of food and drink.  At the moment, we don't much care.
We seem to remember being pushed shore-wards at alarming speed by the Great 'Fat' Whale of Norway.  Both of us remember that,  so it must be true, surely.   We reached land at about 5 o'clock this morning - Christmas morning - and managed to leap ashore and throw the painter round a rock to secure Fancy, before she could escape.
It wasn't easy, weak with hunger as we were, and we wouldn't have managed it but for the assistance of the forward momentum provided by the Whale.
"Thank you, Whale!"  we cried.
"Don't forget me lads!  Throw me some food as soon as you get the chance."  The Whale circled slowly in the deep water of the Bay.
Not too far behind him, circled the other coracle - the Big One.   When we got back to the Outcrop, I found my most powerful spyglass and had a look at it from the livingroom window while Geoffrey set to in the kitchen, lighting the fire and getting some breakfast on the go.
"Sausages, egg, bacon, fried bread, tattie scones, beans....yes, that should do.  Brown sauce.  Mustn't forget that.  Toast and marmalade for afters, and a large pot of tea," I heard him murmur, amidst the clattering of pans, and the spattering of hot fat.  Comforting, homely sounds.
"That coracle's carrying a ragged black flag at half-mast,"  I said. "What do you make of that,  Geoffrey?"
The kettle whistled.
"Same as you,  I imagine,  Tuppy.  She's a Death ship, come to claim her own during the Dark Days of Winter.  Let's chuck a sausage sandwich down to the Whale and then light the signal fire.  We'd better warn the others."
"What others?"
"You know.  Our neighbours.  The Fulmars.  Stormy Petrel. The Narks.   Doctor Wilson."
"Wilson?  The Narks?  You must be kidding."
"Well, the Tupfinder-Generals then. Although, I'm quite certain he'll already be aware."
"Oh I can't be bothered Geoffrey.  At least, not until I've had my breakfast and a serious nap.  Surely nothing bad will happen today.  After all, it's Christmas.  Goodwill to all.  A time of joy and starlight and happy faces crowded round a homely fire over glasses of hot punch.  Everyone will be busy with their Christmas dinners and stockings and presents and stuff."
"Not everybody,  Tuppy.  Think of that poor Whale, circling round and round all alone in the cold and the dark.  All he has to eat is what we throw down to him."
"But that's his natural environment Geoffrey.  He's a Whale.  He can't manage on land, just as we can't manage in water."
"I can.  I'm a gull.  I can manage water, land and air."
"Don't be smug!   You know what I mean.  Not everyone can enjoy Christmas like we can,  but there's nothing we can do about it so we're just going to have to blot out the guilt with insane amounts of food and drink,  and hopefully every other nasty memory.  Is that breakfast ready yet?"
"Oh dear Tuppy.  That's not the way to approach things, at all."
"Well I can't help it,"  I snapped," I'm tired and I can't manage moral dilemmas and guilt on an empty stomach.  I hope you've made plenty tattie scones."
"I have,  Tuppy.  I have."
"Black pudding?  Don't say a word.  I can tell by the look on your face that you forgot."
"Well to be honest Tuppy - and I know this is very poor timing - I think we need to give up black pudding."
"Oh?"
Geoffrey swallowed anxiously.  "I want to go macrobiotic Tuppy.  There, I've said it."
" I'll have your full-cooked then."
"I didn't mean right now!  It's something for the New Year. You know the kind of thing."
"I do."
Phew!  I thought.  Macrobiotics?  It'd be yoga next,  if I couldn't nip this in the bud, and giving up smoking and opium.  And then where would we be?  Life wouldn't be worth a candle.  I'd need to keep a close eye on Geoffrey.

We sat by the fire and ate in silence, and then dozed pleasantly in the warmth as we waited for the sun to creep above the horizon.

And we tried not to think about the lonely Whale, swimming round and round in the cold dark water, or the coracle of Death, as it drifted ever closer....


Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Free Downloads over Christmas

All five of my blog-based e-books are now free to download, for five days over the Festive only.  You can find them via my Amazon page here.


MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Yuletide Ramblings

"You know, it looks like we're going to be celebrating Yule whilst tossing around in..."

"Do you mind!" interrupted Fancy, doing one of her twirls.

".... in the middle of the Atlantic," I continued, ignoring her.

"With nothing to eat or drink bar our own finger and toenails," added Geoffrey.

"Make that just 'toe', Geoffrey," I said,glancing at my fingers, which were bitten down to stumps.

"I mean come off it Fancy. It is Yule after all,  Season of good will and so forth. Can't you see your way clear to coming out of your towering huff and sailing us back home again?"

Silence.

"I might be able to help," ventured the Whale. "I could push you landwards, till the water gets too shallow for me.  It would be my pleasure.  What with it being Yule and that,"  it added, glancing darkly at Fancy.

"Whales don't celebrate Yule," sneered Fancy.

"We do so too," replied the genial Leviathon*. "Only this morning I felt the joy of Christmas leaping in my breast, and I wanted to scream "Happy Christmas!"  at the top of my lungs."

"Screaming doesn't sound very festive," said Fancy," Are you sure you didn't have a case of heartburn?"

"Quite sure," replied the Whale,"Given that I haven't actually eaten anything for ages.  Besides, Yule means different things to different people.  For some, it's a time to gaze at the stars, and ponder the coming of the Christ child.  For others, it's a time to contemplate murdering your own family, as you stare at them over the skeletal remains of an Aldi three bird roast and the last of Aunt Bessie's frozen roasters.  For others,  it's a time to enjoy the sight of brown land lying fallow before the resurgence of Spring.  For others, it's a time to sit down beside a roaring fire, at a table laden with food and drink.  Turkey,  stuffing, ham, bread sauce, gravy, fine wines..."

"O stop, stop," cried Geoffrey,"You're torturing us.  Stop talking and start pushing.  We want to get home!"

So home we went, despite Fancy's sulky efforts to the contrary.    In hot pursuit, however, was the other coracle - the Big One.....

*apologies for using the term 'genial leviathon' again

Please remember that all five of my blog-related e-books are available for FREE for five days, as from Christmas Eve.  Here is the link.  to one of them, on Amazon.

more later






22/12/13 sea penguin

Now Reading....

Crome Yellow by Aldous Huxley, and A Christmas Carol.  I don't think I need to say who wrote that one.
Crome Yellow is good.  It was Huxley's first novel, so I approached it warily.   But it's got GENIUS stamped right through it, so I needn't have worried.  I'll move on to one of his later ones next.
I drag A Christmas Carol off the bookshelf every year but to be honest I prefer the films.  Especially the Alastair Sim and Patrick Stewart ones.
Included in my very cheap volume are The Chimes and The Cricket on the Hearth.  Both teeter on the edge of the nauseatingly sentimental (some might say that they plunge right in and have a wallow), but I don't care and I prefer both to A Christmas Carol.
All five of my blog-based e-books will be free to download to Kindle,  phone, PC, whatever, for five days from the 24th.  Here is the link to my Amazon page, where you can find them all.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

pinetum 21/12/13 sea penguin

Jethro Tull Rare Promo Vid for Solstice bells 1976



I think I've posted this every year for the last five!  Happy Solstice - it's time to polish your brasses, whack out that Yule log, set it ablaze,  and break open the dusty barrel of Somerfield 'Yellow Label' cooking sherry.
Or even just to appreciate the dark and quiet days.

Solstice Thoughts

The other coracle - the steam-powered one (or so we thought...) - paused in its relentless approach.  Everything paused, as the world itself drew a breath and settled down in front of a roaring fire with a large brandy and several mince pies.
Or perhaps a Mr Kipling Frosty Fancy from the reduced shelf, and a mug of Earl Grey, in front of a one-bar electric.
Sprinkle some crumbs on the windowsill and a robin will arrive.  Then you will see the tree into which it flies, and notice how the rain or snow makes the branches gleam in the dim winter light.
Then you will see it fly to an evergreen hedge and find shelter, till the weather turns.
It's the solstice.
A time of cold, and silence.
A time of darkness and waiting.
A time to take stock of the failures and successes of the past year, and to look forward with hope to the next.  Because in the darkness even the tiniest spark of light can be seen, just like a star, and one can gaze in wonder as it grows and flames, miraculously, into brightness.



 'The tide of darkness (has) reached its fullest ebb...' (George Mackay Brown - master of the winter tale).


Friday, 20 December 2013

Thursday, 19 December 2013

shelfie 19/12/13 sea penguin

"Biscuits," I said. "If only!  We ran out of food AGES ago and now we're going insane with hunger.  I was just thinking about eating my best friend, until you came along, taunting us with talk of biscuits and weight gain."

"It's remarkable how long one can manage without food," said the Whale, "For example, when I was Overthere... "

"Yes," interrupted Geoffrey, "Food's not important.   It's water that's essential to life.  At least at first.  And we're running out of that.  There are only three teeny weeny drops left in the flask.  Ooops!  I dropped it and it broke!  I'm sorry Tuppy.  I've let you down again, haven't I?  Please don't be too angry.  I feel bad enough as it is."

"Right.  That's it.  We've no food, and no water, and our boat refuses to behave as it should," I began furiously, thumping the foc's'l with my front hoof.  I had to take control - I simply had to.  But how could I, when the boat had a mind of its own, and we were in the middle of some sort of trackless ocean-style thing?

"Coracle!" shouted Geoffrey.

"Yes, I know it's a coracle.  I was using the generic term.  We're being dragged to wherever Fancy takes us, and it's about as much fun as having your fingers trapped in a door."

"No - CORACLE!  There's another one, and it's heading our way.  It's far bigger than this one, and it appears to be steam-powered.  Oo-er.  Fancy - you have a rival."

more later


Sunday, 15 December 2013

The Great 'Fat' Whale of Norway Shares His Feelings about This and That

"I don't know much about This,  but I can tell you an awful lot about THAT," began the Whale.*

Then it began to cough.

"Jings,"  I said.

"Crivvins," said Geoffrey.

"Help ma boab**," said Fancy, spinning round and round in her excitement.

"STOP THAT FANCY!" I shouted, "You'll knock us all sick."

"Yes please do stop," said the Whale,"I can't address a spinning audience.  It reminds terribly me of the terrible time when I had a terrible inner ear infection, and I got terrible vertigo.  I got terribly ill and it took me a terrible length of time to recover.  And even then, when I was supposedly better, I felt terrible."

"Doctors eh," said Geoffrey.

"Never trust 'em,"  I added darkly.  (We were both thinking of Drs Wilson and Kwak, mentioned in earlier Tales, and in the first four e-books)

"That was how the weight gain started," continued the Whale, warming to its tale. "There I was, housebound, with only a reclining chair, a biscuit barrel, a deep fat fryer and a wall-mounted TV for company."

Geoffrey and I glanced at each other.  "Where were you?  A sheltered housing complex?"  I asked. "Did you have a walk-in bath, as well?"

"No Tuppy.  You're quite wrong.  They couldn't possibly allow deep fat fryers in sheltered housing, due to health and safety issues," said Geoffrey in his best 'job'sworth' tone.  Not that he's ever had a job.

"Yes!" said the Whale,"Well, kind of. It was a theme park for elderly whales.  Well they said it was a theme park, but really it was a knacker's yard, for old whales who couldn't jump and do tricks any more. Before they made us into scampi bites and fish-style fingers.  They wanted us to fatten up.  Pile on the beef, so to speak.  You know - Overthere.  Right by the Speedispend Hypermarket and Compulsory Screening Centre.  I managed to escape," it added proudly.

"How?  How did you manage to escape?"  we cried.

"Give me a biscuit and I'll tell you.  I've not had sight or sound of so much as a Rich Tea for three long months."

more later



*apologies to the late Chic Murray

**apologies to The Broons

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

A Christmas Present on the Frickin' Way

....for all readers.  All five of my e-books will be available for free download for five days, starting on December 24th.

I don't do free promotions as a general rule any more - this is for Christmas only.

Not that they cost very much anyway.  However, there we are.

Merry frickin' Christmas.  Compliments of the frickin' Season.  And so on and so forth.

I'll post links at the time.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

An Encounter with the Great 'Fat' Whale. Of Norway.

No,  of course I didn't eat Geoffrey.  He would probably be perfectly edible served up with a couple of rashers of bacon on his back and some sage and onion stuffing, or even, at a push, roasted with a Knorr stock cube crumbled and massaged into his skin 'to bring out the flavour', and an unwaxed lemon up his nethers a la Marco Pierre White,  or even simmered vilely in Coca Cola a la Nigella,  but sadly there are no cooking facilities on the coracle and I just couldn't face him 'au nature' or whatever.
I certainly couldn't manage to pluck him, with my hooves.  I'd have to singe his feathers off.  Maybe with my Zippo.  But it would take AGES.......

"Tuppy!  How c-can you even think of such things!"  gasped Geoffrey.  I'd forgotten about his mind-reading facility.

Oh dear.   Oh well.....

"I'm STARVING Geoffrey!  Have a heart.  Call yourself a friend?  The least you can do is...."

WHOOOOOOSSSHHHHHHHHHHH     BBLLOOWWWWWWWWWWW

A large whale appeared off our starboard bow.  Well, it would have been our starboard bow, if we had one. The coracle doesn't have bows,  being circular.  So,  I suppose all bows are at the same time either and or equally starboard and or port depending on how the mood - or indeed "Fancy", to make another nauseating and laboured allusion* - takes you.

"My.  You're awfully big.  Even for a whale.  What kind are you?" asked Geoffrey politely.

"I'm the Great 'Fat' Whale.  Of Norway," replied the creature.

"Really?  How interesting.  Do tell me how you came by your name, especially the 'Fat' bit. I'm sure it will be an absolutely fascinating tale, and I'm longing to hear it," enthused Geoffrey.

I put my feet up on the bowsprit and prepared myself for a nap.

"Fire the kettle on and crack open your best biscuits, friend," replied the genial Leviathon**, "Chocolate ones.  And maybe some cake as well.  And I wouldn't say no to a scone with clotted cream and strawberry jam, if you have it.  And plenty full fat milk and six sugars in my tea.  And after that I'll tell you how I got my name and other tales that will make your feathers fall out."

I opened an eye.  "Ummmmm....."

*the name of our coracle is Fancy.  Feel free to split your sides.

**apologies for using the term 'genial Leviathon'

Monday, 2 December 2013

Hamster Droppings

We're still on the boat.  IN the boat, rather, what with it being a coracle.  And all.

It's still in a mood.  It skirted the Corryfreckle whirlpool, lacking the courage, thankfully, to plunge right in, and took us instead round the Paps of Jura and out into the wild Atlantic.  Where we remain.  Waving forlornly to passing trawlers and such-like.

Not to mention whales.  More of those later.

Two rather pressing issues.  One, we forgot to bring the Travel Scrabble (always a godsend on a long trip).
Two, we're STARVING!!!!!!

Goji berry flapjacks, UHT almond milk smoothies and all that other vegan food is no substitute for flesh.  To make matters worse, Geoffrey informs me that the flapjacks that we so blithely consumed, were made from the sweepings from Val Nark's horrible child's horrible hamster's cage.

"Those chewy bits weren't goji berries Tuppy.  They were hamster droppings."

"Hamster droppings?"

"Yes.  From the Nark child's hamster's cage."

"I didn't know that there was a Nark child."

"Oh yes.  I think it's a boy child,  called Bucket or something.  Something that's not a proper name, anyway.  I can't remember.  Oh Tuppy!  I'm too hungry to think!  What are we going to do?"

"I haven't the foggiest.  Only I'm thinking, you DO look rather like chicken Geoffrey.  Quite appetising,  if you were trussed up with a couple of rashers of bacon on your back and half a dozen chipolatas sizzling on the side. I might even manage a sprout or two, if they were going begging.  Just for the aesthetic appeal."

"Charming!  I thought that sheep were herbivores!"

"Not in a tight spot, Geoffrey."  I edged towards him, hands outstretched.  Was I really going to eat my best friend?

more later

Sunday, 24 November 2013

from 23/11/13 seapenguin

A few thousand miles away from here,  LA poet Wanda Coleman has died aged just 67.  I just read an obituary in the LA Times, which popped up on my timeline - link beneath poem.   It includes comments from her scathing reviews of  some of Maya Angelou's work - for example 'another traipse to the trough'!  Ouch ouch ouch.   I don't suppose Angelou cared.   This is someone whose work I would like to read.   I'm taking the liberty of cutting and pasting the poem from the end of the obituary.  It was written when she was older.  I am older too, and I am always interested in other older people's thoughts.   (As long as they're not dull.  Or even if they ARE dull.  Because then I can think,  that is not how I want to be!)


"Southerly Equinox."
who am i? what am i? are no longer important questions.
knowing that i am is finally enough
like discovering dessert is delicious following a disastrous
meal, a sweetness that reawakens
the palate, or finding that one's chalice is unexpectedly
filled with elixir of euphoria
and i stumble happily into the cornucopia, arms
outstretched, upturned, drunk
my heart athrum, bones full samba. the night
blesses me with his constellations
baptizes me with his deathless autumnal chill
and i invade the moody indigo
full-throated and singing


http://www.latimes.com/obituaries/la-me-wanda-coleman-20131124-1,0,3349194.story?page=2#ixzz2lYvyvYHr

Saturday, 23 November 2013

23/11/13 2 seapenguin

23/11/13 seapenguin

Aldous Huxley

I'm posting a link to this essay in the LA Times.  http://lareviewofbooks.org/essay/aldous-huxley-in-los-angeles/#.Uo_K-Q07yRE.twitter

It's about Aldous Huxley.  I did not know that he died on the same day as JFK, nor that he was injected (at his own written request) with LSD just prior to death.

I don't think I've read much, if any, Aldous Huxley.  I can hardly believe that I'm saying that, given that his name was bandied around by many of the writers and musicians of my youth.  Surely I must have had a crack at The Doors of Perception and Brave New World?   I like the sound of Crome Yellow.  That's next on my reading list.

A trip to the library would be on the cards, if I thought there might be the slightest chance that they'd have any of his books among their rapidly-dwindling stock.  As it is a trawl through the 1p. listings on Amazon will have to do.  I know it's wrong but needs must.

Update  I just learned via this article here that CS Lewis also died on that day!  And someone has recommended a couple of books - Laura Huxley's biography of her husband, and Michael Holroyd's biography of Lytton Strachey, which apparently has a lot of related information.  So I will have a look for those two.

Crome Yellow first though.

Dream of the Week




I had a dream that I borrowed my friend's mobile phone so that I could go on tour with the Rolling Stones.  Keith Richards was fixing mirror tiles to a bathroom in Newtyle and carrying a bag of tools, between gigs.  I stuck my head round Mick's hotel room door and said 'I'm just popping out for half an hour, in case anyone's looking for me.'  He was listening to 'Sway' on a teak stereo, along with a couple of very geeky, studenty-looking blokes.
I was kind of a teenager, yet not a teenager.  I tried to text my friend, to tell her about it all, but couldn't work out how to use the mobile.  I was out on a moor somewhere, and the sky was white.....
That's dreams for you.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Breakfast of the Week - Co-op own brand Fruit and Nut Muesli

You say moozly,  I say mewzly.  This is quite surprisingly good, choc-full (you say choc-ful, and I say choc-full - or perhaps I just stay silent) as they say, of fruit and nuts, and not the Utter bag of Total sawdust I'd expected for £1.79.

However - word of warning.  This might just have been a good batch.

The Nose-dirt Extraction Device (pictured)

I forgot to mention that while we've been on this journey back from Frockall with a trailer-load of orange sheep with false yellow wooden teeth, Geoffrey has been working on a new invention.
"Look Tuppy!  It's a nose-dirt extraction device!  I'm going to patent it when we get back and I'll be rich as Croesus!"
"It's a turkey baster," I stated flatly.  "In fact, it's OUR turkey baster.  And I don't want it sticking up people's noses extracting dirt willy nilly and without so much as a by your leave."
"I'd wash it afterwards.  Naturally.  A good rinse under the tap and a wipe on the old sleeve.  It's an object with multiple functionality."  He was sounding less convinced by the second.  A bit like a wind-up gramophone winding down.
"Yes Geoffrey.  I think you'd better take one of your special pills and have a nice lie down under the tartan knee-rug.  There's a good chap."

My Amazon page  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Kate-Smart/e/B008MFK3NE/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

The Self-Destructing Coracle

Well here we are, still stuck on this sodding boat.  Yes I know that's a horrible way to describe our beloved coracle 'Fancy', which has served us so well etc. etc. and been our friend yawn yawn through many dangers - enough already.
If YOU had been crammed into a coracle, especially ours, which is spherical, and has a mind of its own in terms of whether the 'fancy' takes it to actually go where we want it to,  i.e. in terms of NAVIGATION, which is kind of an essential aspect of a 'craft', you'd be calling it a 'sodding boat' too, or perhaps a lot worse.
Besides, it leaks.
It doesn't have to leak.  It just does, because it's in that kind of mood.
A leaky mood.  You could say it was crying I suppose, if you were feeling sympathetic.
Nobody here felt sympathetic.
And nobody was talking to it.
No.  We were all talking ABOUT it.
"It's all an act.  It's all put on.  Ignore it, that's the best way.  Anyone got any fags left?  I'm gasping."
"I'll sink myself!" shrieked Fancy. "I'll self-destruct!  I'll remove my bungs!  Don't think I won't!"
"Why though?" Geoffrey was using his most soothing tone.  I've no idea if it was deliberate. "Why self-destruct?"
"Well, I'm not sure.  But I just feel in that kind of mood.  I know what.  I'm not going to remove my bungs.  I'm going to circumvent the co-ordinates you put in and I'm going to head straight for the Corryfreckle whirlpool INSTEAD, where Death surely awaits.  Put that in your pipes and smoke it."
"If only we could,"  I murmured.

Next time - Cannibalism - the pros and cons when in a tight spot.

Just finished reading...Helen Percy's Scandalous, Immoral and Improper

I finished reading Helen Percy's Scandalous, Immoral and Improper the other night.  A brutal tale,  but what a cracking book.  Thoroughly absorbing, thought-provoking and as I said in my previous post, beautifully written.  There's very little I can say about it that will be new and of interest to anyone, given that it's been out for a couple of years.
However - just a couple of points.
I've never been drawn back to the Church of Scotland following a childhood during which I was forced to attend and 'worship', and now after reading this assuredly one-sided account, I am even less inclined.  All my worst childhood memories of Holy Willies and the 'unco' guid' have been confirmed. I hate those terms but they do fit and so there they are.  
Whatever Helen Percy did or did not do,  from this account she was pursued mercilessly and made into a scapegoat, in probably the most horrible case of institutional bullying one can imagine.  The only positive  I can take from this sad tale of hypocrisy and wagon-circling is that not everyone joined in. Some people did not take part in the witch-hunt.  And that is quite a lot.
I wonder if the male protagonist remains a church elder, today.  I would not wish any of those involved to minister to me, should I ever have reason to call on them for help.
That is the trouble with pastoral care in the context of the church.  It is wide open to abuse.  People who are spiritually in need are at their most vulnerable and there is an opportunity for someone in a position of trust to take full advantage.  At least when one receives counselling via the NHS or another professional,  accountable source, the boundaries SHOULD be crystal clear,  and abuses are less likely to occur.  Theoretically, anyway.
We all need help and support at times, and at those times we aren't often thinking clearly. Where do you go?  If you are a believer,  the church is where you go.  You turn to the Lord's representative.  And you expect your trust and vulnerability to be respected.
I'm not sure how church appointments work, but in my opinion, it sounds like the church was at fault for placing a young, unconventional female minister in that parish in the first place.  It sounds to me like an accident waiting to happen.  That said,  the church went on to behave brutally, denying any responsibility at all.
As Richard Holloway says in the blurb - read it and weep.  It is a very sad document and a classic tale of, I would say, human frailty.  There but for the Grace of God, etc..
Helen Percy is an excellent writer, and a survivor.  I'm sure that she will produce more books, and will thrive.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Scottish Islands Explorer: Where Shadows Dance

Scottish Islands Explorer: Where Shadows Dance: If you like the photograph (above) of Northton Sands , South Harris, by Ruth Fairbrother , you will certainly enjoy the exhibition (below)...

We rented a cottage near this beach many years ago, and I remember we walked across it towards the sea the evening we arrived.  The beach is so vast it can be used as an airstrip, and the tide was out.  We walked and walked and the sea never seemed to get any closer.  It was like an illusion.  We closed our eyes and walked, knowing that all there was in front of us was yard upon yard of flat sand. I don't remember that we ever did reach the sea.

Nowadays I'd be worried about quicksand, or a tidal race.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Rex Ingram's The Magician




Here's the clip I mentioned.  Rex Ingram's adaptation of Maugham's The Magician.  And I'm intrigued to note that Michael Powell was assistant director.  Serendipity.  I've always loved Powell and Pressburger films.  I don't want to sound unduly fey but nobody can deny that there is definitely something of the weird about them.  In this internet age of one-click connections we've lost the mystery and magic of a bookshop or record-shop find that suddenly shines a light through the gloom and leads you a bit further along the path. We've lost the sixth sense, the part of the subconscious that enables us to close our eyes and trust while we feel our way through the dark and home in on what it is that we need to find.
Or have we?

Now Reading....Somerset Maugham and Helen Percy

I finished Somerset Maugham's The Magician a week or so ago, and have since read a couple more of his short stories from the volume I mentioned before.
After my initial feeling of disappointment, which I mentioned in a previous post, I stuck with The Magician and ended up really quite liking it.  It's quite a good early horror 'romp' and I note that there was a film adaptation made in 1926 by Rex Ingram.  I will post a Youtube link after.
However I prefer Maugham's short stories, which are always entertaining and insightful, and I'm finding them pretty inspiring for me as a writer.
Another book I'm reading at the moment is Scandalous,  Immoral and Improper - the Trial of Helen Percy, which is her own account of her 'trial' by the Church of Scotland - and by the press - back in the 1990s.  I'm not sure why it popped into my head recently;  I suppose I've been meaning to read it for a while.  I'm glad I've finally got round to it.  It's beautifully written and quite fascinating.   Lots of resonances for me personally, not least because I was working in the area at the time and remember the 'scandal' vividly,  via the headlines and the odd bit of local gossip.  I thought at the time that it all sounded 'wrong', on a number of levels.  Nobody really comes out of it well.  It's published by Argyll Publishing, a small independent.  I'm puzzled as to why a bigger publisher didn't pick it up; given the extreme publicity the case received at the time I would imagine it would be a seller.  Perhaps not. Anyway,  I haven't finished the book yet and will give my opinion after.  It will require some thought.


Thursday, 14 November 2013

Does Chewing One's Own Toenails Mean You're a Cannibal?

"Of course you can't turn cannibal, Tuppy," scolded Geoffrey. "It would be absolutely appalling."

He was reading my mind again.  Where was the Mind-Reading-Prevention-Device when I needed it? (as mentioned back in 2011 or 12 or thereabouts, and possibly in an e-book only don't ask me which one)
Back at the Outcrop, somewhere in the cupboard under the stairs, probably.  Or down the back of the settee, possibly.  Or propping up the end of the sideboard where the woodworm had eaten through.  At any rate, it was somewhere well out of reach.  I made a mental note to always carry it with me, in future. It's an unattractive but impressively functional device, with an effect similar to throwing a blanket over a garrulous budgie's cage.  Only in reverse, as it's me that has to wear it.

"What do you mean, cannibal?" snapped the sheep with the greenest, most piercing and most disturbingly gyroscopic eyes.  He was definitely the leader.  Far too full of the big 'I am' for my liking.

"You're feeling threatened by him, aren't you Tuppy?  I'm sure there's no need." Geoffrey again.  How tiresome, not to mention intrusive, this mind-reading is!  Mind you - when he manages to read minds other than mine, it can prove quite interesting AND useful.  Depending on whose, of course.

"I'm quite sure there will be a need, if he turns cannibal," said the sheep leader, folding his front legs in a truculent manner.  All the other sheep huddled behind him, bleating their support in a rather half-hearted fashion.

"Is it cannibalism when you chew your own toenails?" asked Geoffrey.  "I've always wondered. Same with nose dirt consumption."

"Nose dirt consumption is definitely not cannibalism, because nose dirt is an exudate - a bodily excretion.  It isn't part of the fleshy corporeum, or whatever," said the sheep leader.  "Toenails are a moot point.  Especially if they're someone else's."

"You're awfully sure of yourself, aren't you?" I said.  "What's your name, anyway?"

"It's Wool I Am," sniggered Geoffrey.

"Don't be stupid Geoffrey," I snapped.  It annoys me when he pretends to be "current".

And he knows it.

"No really it is,"  he protested.  "Ouch!  Don't pinch me.  It is, isn't it,  Wool?"

"Yes," muttered Wool,  blushing. "But how did you know?"

"Geoffrey can read minds,"  I said proudly.  "And he's my best friend in all the world."

Geoffrey beamed with pleasure.

more later




Tuesday, 12 November 2013

"I'm hungry, "  said Geoffrey.

"That's a good sign.  So am I.  We must be returning to normal."

We had just spent a week spinning round in the Corryfreckle whirlpool-cum-tidal race, and it had knocked us quite sick.

Now it was High Springs, and we were Out.

"We're hungry also," bleated the trailer-load of orange-fleeced, wooden-toothed sheep. "Does that mean we're returning to normal also?"

"Of course!" I lied.

"Whatever 'normal' is," added Geoffrey.  Then "THEY'll never be normal!" he hissed out of the side of his mouth,"Stop giving them false hope!"

"Oh do shut up Geoffrey, and have a goji berry flapjack.  Fling a couple back to the sheep while you're at it."

"All right," he agreed meekly.

Things were definitely returning to normal, I thought smugly.  Geoffrey being meek was a Very Good Sign.

Mind you, one of Val Nark's goji berry and raw oat flapjacks wasn't going to hit the spot. I needed sausages, and I needed them fast.  I glanced behind me at the trailer-load of sheep....could I turn on my own kind, in a tight spot?  Could I turn...cannibal?





Saturday, 2 November 2013

The Dark Crossing

"Tuppy?"

"At your service, as ever.  In a manner of speaking.  Terms and conditions apply."

"I think we're going to need a bigger boat.  In fact,  I know we are."

"I could have told you that before we set off.  Now shut up and keep rowing."

The moon was up and lighting our path homewards across the Clinch, and a following breeze was proving helpful, especially with Geoffrey being terrible at rowing;  so far so good.  However, a vast, expanding, black cloud was obscuring the stars on the far horizon, and it was moving our way.

Rapidly.

And we were towing a trailerful of terrified, orange, wooden-toothed sheep.

"Tuppy."

"What is it now?"

"I'm scared.  I'm scared of the big black cloud.  Pretty soon the moon will be covered and we won't be able to see a thing. And the waves are getting bigger.  We've the tidal race and the whirlpool to get through, and they're bad enough in daylight."

"I know."

"Maybe if you rowed as well..."

"I can't!  Not with my back.  Just do your best and we'll deal with whatever happens somehow.  Something always turns up when we least expect it.  And I'm sure that for once it'll be a good something."  I filled my pipe and stared out at the oily swell.  "Karma, Geoffrey.  We've done the right thing by rescuing those poor sheep.  Nothing can possibly go wrong.  The fates are with us."

"It would make a change.  What did we rescue them from, exactly?"

"I'm not sure..."

more later

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Monday, 28 October 2013

The Orange Cannibal Sheep of Frockall

"How dare you steal our treasure!" shrieked the sheep.  He was the biggest of a very big...well, I would normally say "flock", but this lot were more like a gang.  There were at least ten of them, all sporting varying shades of orange wool, with enormous, garish yellow teeth and green staring eyes with pupils that moved constantly, as if controlled by an internal gyroscope.

"We hadn't got that far," quavered Geoffrey.

"That's right," I said quickly," We were only looking."

"Admiring its wondrousness," added Geoffrey.

"Why were you loading it into your boat then?"

"Only to look at it more closely! Listen, you've got it all back now haven't you, anyway, so could you ask your friend here to remove his teeth from my backside?  It's not like I'm going anywhere and he must be getting tired."

"I think he might be stuck," said Geoffrey.  "Perhaps I could attempt to prise the teeth apart using my zircon encrusted tweezers..."

"NO!  Don't touch the teeth!" said the biggest sheep.  All the other sheep murmured in an alarmed fashion, and huddled together.  I began to wonder if they were really as terrifying as their reputation and appearance would have it.

"Go ahead Geoffrey," I said. "Prise away."

"Do you think - "

"YES!  Just do it.  Else I won't be able to sit down for a fortnight. Oh!"

The sheep had let go of its own accord, and was rapidly backing away towards the others with its mouth firmly shut.

"Phew," I sighed. "What a relief.  Ouch!  Oh no.  It feels like they're still there.  This must be what it's like when you have a leg amputated.  Something like that anyway.  I must ask the T-G when we get back - IF we get back...Geoffrey, Geoffrey - is my bottom still there?  Has it been bitten off?  Has it been amputated like the T-G's leg?  Where is it?  How will I sit down? Sitting down's my favourite thing - what if I can never do it ever again?  Oh my GOOOODDDDD!!  Help me help me!"

"They ARE still there Tuppy.  The teeth.  AND your bottom.  Stop babbling.   Just stand still till I remove them.  Tuppy, I think that poor sheep was wearing false teeth.  Look!"  And he held a vast set of dentures aloft. "They appear to be made of wood.  I can see the grain beneath the yellow paint."

"I think they've ALL got false wooden teeth Geoffrey. Which implies that they aren't half as scary as they look.  Thank goodness.  In fact, they look like a bunch of wimps."

"Wimps like us Tuppy!  How marvellous!  I'm sure we'll all get along famously!"

"I wouldn't go that far myself, but I suppose some impoverished, half-witted souls -"

"Oh!  You're on about me again aren't you.  How cruel.  And to think I loaded all that treasure while you sat on your fat backside being the so-called look-out.  And look where that got us!  I'm upset now.  Especially since I removed the teeth and was sympathetic and everything."

" - might call it marvellous to have  few moments respite from worrying about ending up being simmered in a cooking pot with a couple of onions, a carrot, a squeeze of tomato puree and a bouquet garni.   The eyes are still pretty strange mind.  For my liking.  Did you say "fat backside?", you peevish creature?"

"I know!  Mine too!  I can't look at them for more than a second without feeling like I'm getting sucked into a vortex.  Yes I did and I'm not sorry.  You're an ungrateful sod and I wish I'd left those teeth where they were.  You'd have looked a right twit back at the Outcrop, with a set of teeth sticking out of your backside - which, by the way, is expanding by the second."

"Well!" I spluttered.  I hate spluttering, but sometimes I just can't help myself.  Although,  now I came to think of it,  I could feel something distinctly odd going on, behind...I tried to glance over my shoulder,  but I knew it was futile to try to see my own backside without the aid of two mirrors.  Which I didn't happen to have, on my person at the time.  Or indeed at any other time.  What kind of maniac goes around with two mirrors?  They just don't, do they?  And who can blame them?  They'd have to be unhinged.

"Please don't tell anyone," interrupted the biggest sheep,"We're supposed to terrorise anyone who comes looking for the treasure with our huge carnivore-style teeth, and if people think we've only got wooden ones they won't be frightened any more."

"What do you mean, you're 'supposed to'?  That implies that there's someone in charge - someone who's telling you what to do."

The sheep huddled together even more closely, and exchanged anxious glances.

"We need to get away from Frockall," bleated one of the smallest ones, "We're frightened.  Can you help us to escape please?"

"I'm sure you can," said another, whose eyes were twirling even more hypnotically than the others,"You're using words like "implied",  which implies that you must be clever enough to think of a way to help us..."

more later




Friday, 25 October 2013

The Local Countryside Today

hawthorn on oak tree 25/10/13 sea penguin

thru an oak tree 25/10/13 sea penguin

wild swans on stormont loch 25/10/13

Taken on a local walk this afternoon.  Migrating swans are always a favourite sight at this time of year.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

from the glack 24/10/13 sea penguin
Near home today

Who Gives a Rat's Ass?

I was just browsing through some of my back catalogue of about thirty stories on Shortbread Stories website, with a view to asking for most of them to be removed.

However, leaving the AWFUL early ones aside, they're mostly not as bad as I'd thought!  I hadn't read them for ages, so am quite surprised.  I'm happy with about half a dozen of the flash fictions (Uncle Charlie, Night Vision,  Stupid Stewart,  Krowley's Korner,  Lunch at the Cornerstone,  Festive Cheer at the German Market) and I like my Psychotweeter series, especially the more recent episodes, and Goats Head Soup. And Island of Mist will always be one of my favourites, despite the dreadful title.

But, so what?  Who gives a rat's ass?

Nobody, that's who.

If YOU give a rat's ass - yes, you, spammer from the Ukraine - you can find them all via the Shortbread Stories widget further down the page on the right hand side.

Now Reading....

...The Magician,  by Somerset Maugham.

I have a book of Maugham's short stories - sixty four of them - that I bought from a charity shop for a pound or something.  (A rare bargain) I've read about twenty so far, and there isn't one I haven't liked.

However, The Magician isn't grabbing me so far and I'm a little disappointed because I bought it NEW on the back of enjoying the stories so much and also because the central character was based on Aleister Crowley, whom my ancestor Hector Macdonald reputedly met in Paris shortly before shooting himself, and I was really looking forward to Maugham's "take".  The writing style is not as sharp as in the stories, I think, and, perhaps because it's an early work, the psychological observation not as acute - and overall I'm just not being swept along.
Mind you, I'm only on chapter two!
I will persevere.

Interesting to read for the first time by the way, two of his stories that were made into films that I know quite well.  The Letter,  which starred Bette Davis,  and Rain, which starred Joan Crawford.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Starlight on Seaweed


Starlight on Seaweed


Just wanted to have a link to this track, which is by a 1970s prog band called National Health, is available on an album called Missing Pieces, and was written by Mont Campbell of Egg.

I wish I'd thought of that title and used it for one of my stories.  (I might yet!)

We've Been Where Fancy's Taken Us - and now we're going home again (hopefully)

"Load it up Geoffrey.  Hurry!  The tide's about to turn."

"It would help if YOU helped, Tuppy. I can't manage all these bags of Spanish coin on my own."

"I AM helping.  I'm the look-out.  And if I help YOU,  I won't be able to see anything,  will I?  Just get on with it, will you?"

Fancy had taken us to the secret cave stuffed with treasure from a wrecked Spanish galleon (mentioned in a post last week.)  For days we had huddled in Fancy's bowels, surviving on a "sample" bag of dried cranberry and macadamia nut mix, three fun-sized flapjacks, and a flask of goji berry tea - all courtesy of Val Nark's table sale at last weekend's Harvest Home Festival.

We don't have a "church", Hereabouts, but Val and Dave felt that some sort of seasonal gesture would be nice, as well as being a good promotional tool for their ongoing yurt business.

"We're building a super-yurt next.  It'll be up and running for the start of the next tourist season," stated Dave, in his most irritating "I will not be denied" manner.

Naturally, that remains to be seen.  Or in other words,  NOT if we have anything to do with it.  Which we fully intend to ensure we do.  In every imaginable respect.  Especially if said respect involves large amounts of combustible material,  fire accelerant,  and a Zippo lighter.

"You shouldn't be taking samples," said Val, as we filled our duffel bags with flapjacks, goji berry tea, and anything else that was lying about. "You've tried everything.  You should be at the buying something stage by now."

"We just want to make sure that we like it all before making our minds up," said Geoffrey obsequiously, as he brushed a few macadamia nut crumbs off his waistcoat.

"Yes.  Times are hard and we can't afford to spend munny on stuff we aren't sure about,"  I added, through a mouthful of yogurt-covered dried fig and banana bar.

"Really." snapped Val.  "And since when did you two have a dog?"

We glanced at each other in astonishment.  "A dog?"

"Yes.  Those are organic vegan dog biscuits you're dunking in your samples of knotweed and dock leaf tisane."

Well we liked them.  But we thought perhaps best to leave Val to her rapidly-emptying stall, and her latest knitting project.

And so here we are on the far-flung outpost of Frockall,  loading our coracle with the treasure that we found at the bottom of the secret cave, and trying to avoid the attentions of the native cannibal sheep with orange wool...

"And truly massive incisors Tuppy.  Did you see the incisors Tuppy?  They're truly massive.  I saw the incisors Tuppy.  They're massive and they clearly belong to a serious meat-eating species."

Geoffrey was reading my mind again.  It's very annoying - although sometimes, very useful.

"Do stop panicking Geoffrey.  Have you finished packing the gold coin?  Oh I suppose that'll do.  We can always pop back for more.  Right.  Let's be off before  - aaaaaaaarrgghhh!!!!!!!!!!!"

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Friday, 18 October 2013

craig y barns 18/10/13 sea penguin

from craig y barns 18/10/13 by sea penguin

A local walk the other day.  Looking down the Tay valley to Dunkeld.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Sea Penguin Part Five just out on Kindle

My latest e-book is now available to buy on Amazon Kindle.  Sea Penguin Part Five:  Our Front Door.
I think it costs just under two quid.
Here is the link.

You can read the beginning for free.  As usual it's an edited series of blog posts, strung together in a kind of narrative.  It starts with Mrs T-G's Paris Diaries.  There's a bit about the Narks and a bit about the Kiltie Twins, and it doesn't really have an ending.  So I'll have to write Part Six I suppose.

There are illustrations throughout by Barry Nicol, as usual, and photographs taken by myself, mostly of the West Highlands.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Sea Penguin Part Five on the way

It is in the publishing queue on Amazon.  I expect it will be available to buy tomorrow-ish.   Here is the cover meanwhile.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

One of Them

abandoned boat oban 2012 sea penguin
"Oh, Geoffrey.  What's the point? One travels only to arrive, and when one arrives, one simply wants to be off again.  Isn't it best for one simply to remain where one is, and wait for Death?"

I dropped my end of the coracle and sat down heavily on a sea-weed-covered rock.

"Pull yourself together Tuppy.  We're not on a pointless mission.  We're after a hoard of Spanish treasure, remember?  Look - I've painted FANCY on the bowsprit, so that we can truly say that we're going where Fancy takes us!"

I smiled weakly. "Thanks for making the effort,  Geoffrey."

Geoffrey blinked rapidly and preened himself.  "I knew you'd like it.  Perhaps as well as the treasure we'll get some of that orange wool off the indigenous sheep and get Mrs T-G to knit us jumpers when we get back.  She's got a new Acme Knit-o-matic knitting machine and is knitting loads of stuff, all the time.  Did you know that, Tuppy?  Did you know about her new Acme Knit-o-matic knitting machine, and that she's knitting loads of stuff, all the time?"

"No I didn't.  Stop babbling.  Now think.  Did you pack the blunderbuss?  Because honestly I'm not going one step further if not.   These orange sheep are cannibals, and in case you hadn't noticed, I'm One of Them.  I don't want to end up simmering in a pot at Gas Mark 3, with a Knorr stock cube, a glass of red wine, a bay leaf, a sprig of thyme, two onions, a carrot and a third cousin twice removed."

"I think it's in the carpet bag under the extra gelignite.  But more than likely you won't need it.  I'm sure you'll be welcomed with open arms Tuppy.  Come on now - the moon's up.  Let's catch the tide."

Fuckall.

turtle by barry nicol all rights reserved sea penguin
"Get out there and DO IT Tuppy!  Come on - get up off your fat back-side and do some star jumps.  Healthy body healthy mind. UP UP UP!!!!  Get that blood pumping through those blocked arteries and flush out those fatty plaques before you develop clinical depression and slash or die of a massive myocardial infarction."

"No.  I've got stuff to do."

"What stuff?"

"Absolutely fuck all - and that's the way I like it.  Now fuck off."

"Did you know there is an island off the north coast of North Rona,  called Fuckall?  It has its own breed of indigenous sheep.  They have orange wool and are cannibals.  And there's an underground cave,  packed with treasure from a wrecked Spanish galleon, which lies undiscovered to this day."

"No, I didn't.  And neither does anyone else.  Stop making things up.  Wait a minute - did you say treasure?  Fetch the coracle Geoffrey, and fill the flask!  We're off to Fuckall on the next tide.  Let's follow the stars and see where fancy takes us."


Friday, 4 October 2013

Blog News, price increases - and my thoughts on e-publishing

sea penguin painting copyright barry nicol reproduced with permission
Going through all the Sea Penguin material from the last year or two I find I have enough for another two ebooks of about 20,000 words each.  I don't think there's any point in producing anything longer than 20,000 for an e-book - especially given the nature of the Sea Penguin tales.

So, Sea Penguins Five and Six are in the pipeline.

It may take me a while;  from 2008 till 2010/11 the blog was scrupulously well-organised, everything was labelled and dated, it had a kind of narrative drive, and therefore it was relatively easy to track things down and compile the first four ebooks.  However, after I shut it down for a while then savaged it and then salvaged the e-book material I became a lot less diligent and the whole thing has become, unfortunately, fairly messy.  It reminds me of the dog-eared pile of A4 notebooks languishing under my bed, actually.  And that's not nice.  I do hope to sort it out!
I'm spurred on by my feeling that the new e-books - well, one of them - will be the best yet.
Fiona Smith has just moved on from her post as editor of Shortbread Stories, and last week she paid me the compliment of saying that since 2008, which is when I began writing, I've gone from being a good writer to a "great writer".  (I think she meant "great" as in "better than I was".)  I HOPE Sea Penguin Five will reflect that.

I've over 30 stories on Shortbread Stories and I'm only really satisfied with about ten of them.  Now that I feel more sure of myself as a writer, I'm going to ask the new editor to remove some that I feel are especially bad.

Do excuse the dearth of new posts on here meanwhile.  It's a lot of work!

I've also put the prices of Sea Penguins One to Four back to their original £3 or thereabouts (it's converted from dollars by the Amazon system, and in the U.S. I'm charging $4.99), and I've decided I'm not keen on the Amazon free promotion system, either.  It's tempting to use it to give your ratings a boost, but after putting a lot of work into a book, why give it away for free?  Either people want to buy it, or not.  I've had hundreds of e-books downloaded for nothing, and no feedback whatsoever, so I'm fairly sure that in most of those cases people are simply looking for a freebie and then don't read it.  Or, they read it and don't like it.
My work is never going to be commercial, I'm not capable of historical romances, porn or cookery books (believe me, I'd do it if I could!), and I'd far rather have only a few genuine readers who are sufficiently interested to actually fork out a couple of pounds.
I've done an awful lot of writing for free for the past five years, which has been great practice and often very enjoyable. I don't mind continuing with a certain amount of that, but the whole Amazon situation is leaving me feeling quite ripped off, cheap, and feeling that by doing free promotions I'm not only undervaluing myself but am being unfair to readers who paid full price for the ebooks in the first place.
I'm still looking around for a way of publishing digitally that doesn't involve a massive juggernaut like Amazon or a website that's full of rubbish.  I could of course send my stuff away to a publisher, but that would involve the dismal prospect of waiting in a slush pile for months with, I'm fairly sure, no hope of success.
Ah well.  Sea Penguin Part Five rumbles ever nearer and it'll most likely appear along-side the others in due course, on Amazon.  I've got a good cover for it - Barry's art work, as usual.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

The Original Rocky Outcrop

I found this photo this afternoon when having a clear-out.  It's a copy that my parents ordered from Scottish Field magazine, back in the late 60s or early 70s I'm guessing.  I remember it hanging on our livingroom wall as a child.
It's taken from the McCrimmon Memorial,  Borreraig,  Isle of Skye, and the occasion was an anniversary, I think.  The McCrimmon Memorial is a large cairn which commemorates the great McCrimmon piping family and school.
The photographer was a George B. Alden,  I think, and copyright belongs to Scottish Field.  I haven't asked for permission to reproduce - am assuming that because the photo is so old, it might not matter...
The cottage in the background is my late great-aunt's.  Her sheep can be seen grazing around it.  At times one would wander inside.  The two dots on the far cliff are people - my great-aunt, and my cousin, I think.
The cottage no longer exists.  It's been completely remodelled and extended and turned into a very upmarket holiday let and artist's studio.
However,  the version pictured remains as the original inspiration for Sea Penguin and all related stories.
The view from the iron age Dun above and to the left of it is tremendous - right across Loch Dunvegan to the coral beaches, and across the Minch to the Outer Hebrides.  In the other direction are the Cuillins.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Please Make Me a Nice Cup of Tea

"You've been looking at the news on the itternet again, haven't you.  That's a rhetorical question by the way.  I don't require an answer because your face tells me All I Need to Know."

"Ummmmmmmmm......."

"As I thought.  Unplug that itternet thing and forget about it."

"But what about the rapists, and the child molesters, and the thieves, and the terrorists, and the holesale destruction of the planet?"

"That doesn't concern us.  And it's "wholesale", not "holesale"."

"How did you know how I was spelling it?  This is a real-life 3D conversation, not an online convo."

"Oh shut up with your online convos.  That itternet thing has turned you imbecilic."

"I don't like the itternet anyway.  I only end up getting upset.  And don't you mean, "that itternet thing has turned you into an imbecile"?

"No.  Now leave me alone.  I need to concentrate on my new book, "One Hundred Ways to Polish a Turd (wot u never thought of B4)""

"Wow.  That sounds fascinating.  I'm sure there will be a huge market for it."

"No there won't.  But I don't care.  I refuse to pander to the popular whim."

"Will there be pictures?"

"Yes.  No.  What am I saying? Perhaps.  Please make me a nice cup of tea."



Wee in the Tea-pot.

Our front door
"What's green, yellow, and orange, has no superego to speak of, and can recite Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit in its entirety, in the original German, backwards, while accompanying itself on the piano accordion and eating a bacon sandwich?"

"I don't know.  Give us a clue.  Where does it live?"

"It lives up your chimney."

"What does it eat?"

"It likes milk chocolate digestives.  McVities ONLY.  But it realises it's being a snob."

"So it has insight.  Does that not indicate that it does in fact have a superego?"

"...."

"I see. You don't know what you're talking about, do you?"

"No."

"Good.   Now let's get on with the game.  Loser has to thread the other one's eyebrows."

"I've not got eyebrows."

"That doesn't matter, because you're going to lose."

"How DARE you!"

"Oh shut your pie-hole and put the kettle on. Look, I'm sorry, all right?  I've not got eyebrows either.  And what's more I don't care. Let's crack open the Soreen loaf and forget about it."

"Maybe.  Maybe not.  You said to shut my pie-hole and that's not very nice.  It'll take more than Soreen loaf to make up for that."

"I said I was sorry."

"You said it too fast.  It was meaningless."

"No really.  Really, I am sorry.  Will that do?  It better had because it's all you're getting.  I know there's issues and stuff underlying my foul nature, but I can't be bothered dealing with them.  Can't we just have a nice cup of tea and not talk about it any more?"

"Oh I s'pose. I weed in the teapot when I was in a temper last night by the way. I really regret it now that you've said all that.  If I rinse it out with boiling water do you think it'll be OK?"

"No."




Tuesday, 24 September 2013

autumn 24/9/13 sea penguin
Autumn sunlight catching birch leaves in a dark corner of the woods

Monday, 23 September 2013



Lovely animation, pointed out to me by the lady who plays musical saw on the soundtrack.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

the old a93 sea penguin 22/9/13
Nature reclaiming its own

It's only a few years since this road was categorised an "A", with tour buses, lorries, and other heavy traffic careering along.

"And I know a grove
Of large extent,  hard by a castle huge,
Which the great lord inhabits not;  and so
This grove is wild with tangling underwood,
And the trim walks are broken up, and grass,
Thin grass and king-cups grow within the paths."

From Coleridge's The Nightingale, 1798

Why I Hate X Y and Z, growths, boils, and other awful rubbish

geoffrey by sea penguin
Geoffrey
"WTF are you doing Geoffrey?"
"I'm blogging. "
"Well would you mind doing it in the privacy of the latrine, or somewhere?  That tippy-tappy noise is spoiling my enjoyment of my fourth bacon and red sauce sandwich.  What's blogging, anyway?"
"Blogging is writing a whole load of crap about things nobody cares about, and then blasting it round the internet.  Or attempting to.  I've got a computer now, see?  I'm on the itternet."
"What's the itternet?  Don't you mean INTERnet?  Surely."
"No I don't.  I mean ITTERnet.  Leave me alone."
I peered over his shoulder. "WHY I AHTE.....you've spelled HATE wrong.  And what do you hate, anyway?  You're a very mild-mannered type as a rule."
"Stop it!  Go AWAY Tuppy.  I hate everything!  I'm an itternet hater!  I'm a troll!"
"You're not.  You've turned bright red.  You're getting hot and bothered.  You're embarrassed because you're writing a lot of rubbish that any right-thinking  person should be thoroughly ashamed of."
"Oh all right.  I admit it.  I was feeling neglected because you were spending too much time discussing that book about growths and boils with the new librarian from the mobile library and I needed some attention.  You're right.  I don't hate anyone."
"Except yourself.  Come on - say it after me.  I don't hate anyone - "
"Except myself."
"Louder please."
"I don't hate anyone except myself.  There."
"Thank you.  Now I can get on with reading more about growths and boils.  In peace."