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"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."


Monday, 25 April 2016

Splintered World

The world has changed a lot during my lifetime and especially so over the last ten or fifteen years.
Obvious,  I know.  I'm just trying to get my head around it in order to make sense of the world as it is now, and my place therein.  If indeed I have one.
When I was young, and if you were of the working class, there were unions to represent you and steady, reliable jobs that paid proper wages and at the end of your working life you got a pension.  You knew that, you were sure of it.  You saw your parents' generation doing that.  They'd fought in the War, most of them, and if they were old enough to have done that they were also old enough to remember what life was like before the NHS and the Welfare State and they valued these things.
There was plenty of work.  You applied for jobs on paper, or if it was a temporary job you might just phone or go along and speak to whoever was in charge.  In summer, there were generally plenty of seasonal jobs in hotels or on farms.  And if you couldn't work, there was social security instead of 'welfare'.  You could go to the Job Centre and look at the job cards and if there was something you could go for you took the card to the desk and spoke to someone who would assist you.
Now what do you do?  You fill in some crappy online form and send it to some anonymous agency which takes all your personal details and stores them who-knows-where, and you never hear from them again.
Or perhaps that's just me.  Is it just me?  I don't know.
Property was affordable.  They talk of affordable homes now but they aren't really affordable, not for the majority of people in the way that homes used to be.
People generally did better than their parents, educationally and financially.  If you didn't do well at school there were other chances, if you wanted them. People went to libraries and evening classes and learned new skills to help them 'get on'.  There was no such thing as 'student debt'.
That's all in the past now, by and large, and of course, there's no going back.  Even if you wanted to go back, you couldn't. You never can because things never gel together in exactly the way things used to be.  Some might say that's just as well and perhaps in many respects they're right.
A lot of people were like me and didn't want to 'get on'.  In fact. they spat in the face of 'getting on'. The old certainties were taken for granted.  Looking back from where I am now, I can see that that was quite the luxury - at least, if you so chose, you could 'get on'. At least, for most of us, there was the option of so doing.  Now?  Not so much.  Not at all, for many.  For many. there is nothing but bare survival and little if any
chance of escape.
To me it seems that the world has splintered into layers.  At the bottom, there are those who live among the shards of life,  living among shattered pieces of the old and the new.  Grubbing around in the best way they can.  There is no sense, anywhere, any more, not really any sort of a workable consensus anyway in the way that there used to be, that 'these people' (or 'the poor') have a right to a decent life and dignity and that we should all help each other to achieve that because by helping one we help us all.  Lives are uncertain at best, precariously desperate for many.  The old certainties of job security and having a sense of how one's life would, or should, evolve aren't there any more.  The new certainties are fear and chaos. Patterns have shifted or vanished, like unused paths to an abandoned coal mine.  At the top, are people who seem to have everything, and who seem to control everything, materially.  And there are just enough people in the middle to stop the world imploding. People who can afford mortgages and these big white cars you see all over the place and even second homes.  People with buy to let mortgages, for heaven's sake.  People who have retired on public sector pensions and who can afford to eat out a lot.
But there are far too many people at the bottom.  And the bottom seems far, far grottier and far, far harder to escape than ever it used to be.
Where will this end?  I fear for us all.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

When Houses Were Real

Remember when houses were real?  Made of real stone and wood - materials you could work with and fix and as long as the roof was OK they would stand for hundreds of years? Living, breathing things with a hearthstone and a sunny windowsill with a ginger cat looking out and a jug of daffodils on. Creaky floors and steep staircases.  Open eaves where sparrows could nest.  Dusty corners where spiders could thrive.  Cast iron guttering that didn't collapse under heavy snow and cast iron skylights you could prop open on hot summer days and watch the stars from on winter nights.  Single glazing that would never 'blow'.  Houses that watched over generations of families.  Houses that had gardens where cabbages grew,  and roses.  Houses that witnessed births and deaths and everything in between. Houses that were homes that held memories and ghosts.
Now houses are made from kits, thrown together in a matter of weeks - perhaps days.  Cheap bricks, plastic fixings and MDF.  No carpentry.  No masonry.  No skill.  Will they hold memories?  No. They can barely hold themselves up.
Houses are money now.  That's all they are.  Symbols of money.
Give me dry rot, draughts and woodworm over laminate flooring, a smart meter and a wall-mounted fake fire any day.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Food of Life

And so we beat on - boats against the current...or is it currant? I don't like fruit
Remember when you could survive on pot noodles, Supernoodles, Vimto and crisps without worrying about the consequences - i.e. indigestion, diabetes, malnutrition, high blood pressure and possible very early death?  A whole bag of smokey bacon crisps crammed on to a buttered roll and rammed into your face washed down with a bottle of orangina.  That would do you all day.  Then for tea you might have steak McCoy's - a special thing.  You felt like you were eating real steak. You really did. Curry flavoured pot noodles were exotic - like going out to a restaurant, or abroad on holiday.  And Supernoodles - ah well. They required actual cooking, so were rarely used.  But you liked them when you had them.  You thrived on it all!  Thrived!   Or is it 'throve'. I'm not sure.
Remember when you could smoke with abandon, inhaling the noxious, powerful fumes until said noxious, powerful fumes reached the tiniest corner of your tiniest, pinkest, most delicate alveoli (look it up if you don't know) and coated their tiny delicate pinkness with thick tarry residue?  Nobody minded about the smell and the racking cough because everyone smelled and coughed like that.  Everyone!  Remember when you could drink nine pints after work, eat three kebabs and go home and sleep like a baby, waking up fresh next morning ready for your day?  You picked the lettuce out of your hair and ate your breakfast of pickled onion Monster Munch on the bus to work, and had a mug of instant Maxwell House and a stale custard cream when you got there.
Somebody's life - not mine.  Honestly.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

A tree - i.e. a thing that newspapers used to be made from. 
Is it a good thing to 'have news'?
For fairly lengthy spells in the '70s  I lived in parts of the Highlands where you didn't have news. You'd access a TV maybe once every few weeks and a paper maybe once a week.  You might have a radio and get the odd snippet from that, or someone would mention something in a pub.  That would be about it.
'News' as we now know it didn't really exist.  It happened somewhere else.
I'm still aware of what occurred back then.  I have a sense of the history of the time, I think. I don't remember ever feeling I was missing out.
You didn't worry about 'the news', as such. You kept in touch with friends by letter and occasionally by phone. It was enough.   Nowadays your every move is tracked on Facebook, which is why I don't use it.
'I see you've been here.  Seen that person.  Liked that thing.'
Sod off and mind your own business.
It's beyond my comprehension.  As people say now, 'I can't even.'
But that's a digression - that's the personal side of news.  In terms of proper 'news' - 'news' news, or perhaps rather, 'the' news - we now have local, national and global news, 24 hour news. You can now get 'news' on a watch, for pity's sake.
How did we manage before?  Why do we need to know all this STUFF?
We don't, of course.  It's simply put in front of us, larded with targeted adverts and cookies and other tracking devices.
I find it quite addictive sometimes.  It can be gripping following dramatic events online.  On the other hand the rolling news on TV is dire, especially their inane, flailing questions when they desperately try to fill in time.
Can you imagine if there had been Twitter during World War Two?  Nobody would have done ANYTHING except look at their timelines.  Hitler would surely have run even more amok.  Well no, perhaps not.  Someone would have started a petition to stop him. LOL.
And it concerns me that we don't know if what we're ingesting online, news-wise, is accurate. Who's answerable if it's not? Everything's so fast, so plastic, so disposable - it's almost as if it doesn't matter who says what because it's gone in an instant.  Gone before you know it.  It used to be said of newspapers that they were tomorrow's chip wrappers.  Virtual news seems even more transitory and perhaps that might sometimes be a good thing;  if you're the subject of an intrusive news story of course you want people to move along quickly, nothing to see here - yet there's something unhealthy and invidious about it, as if the awfulness of it all doesn't really matter because it was only awful for a short while.
AND I really don't like that it's all chosen for us, all this rubbish.  Who's behind it all?  I'm pretty sure it isn't usually a human being. Of course there are still 'proper' newspapers, of course there are, and thank goodness for them but they're being increasingly squeezed into a corner as all 'news' seems to meld together in a gelatinous squelching mass, produced and prioritised by algorhythms that I don't understand and am not quite sure I want to, although I think I really should.  Perhaps an algorhythm is an improvement on Bob Maxwell or Rupert Murdoch,  I really am struggling to decide.
If you look at what is fed to people in the guise of news on Facebook, especially, it's astonishingly crass and shallow.  And cynical.  Can the people who produce all this tripe be held responsible - sued, even - for inaccuracies - not to mention for intrusions into people's personal lives, in the way that newspaper editors and owners formerly were?  Will apologies be published to the person who was pictured parked badly in a disabled bay at Tesco, or with their bumcrack on display as they bent over to pick up their shopping in Asda?  I doubt it.   I worry that people don't trouble to look beyond all this.  Why should they?  Their lives are busy enough.
Move along here, nothing to see.
Well - nothing I'm prepared to admit to online anyway.