What was my new book about? Alan asked me, realising we wouldn’t be able to sit down for a cosy Hogmanay chat – why? Because I was phoning him to explain how we wouldn’t be turning up for his little party, that’s why…. What’s my book about? Ah Alan, that dreaded question…. It’s about…. well, it’s a story – it’s a fairy-tale…. Er. Um. Just read it. – All right, I will.
I have to do a bit better than this, I know.
Our Hogmanay, which began straight after I finished my last blog, turned into a bit of a disaster, but interestingly, so I thought, might also have given us a small peek at Things To Come. We set off for Nether Tomlea, the Ashtons and the Roys, to bring in the year with the Patersons. We (the Ashtons) knew we had barely enough petrol in the tank to get us there, let alone get us back again but, hey, there’s an unmanned 24-hour petrol station in Huntly nowadays, thanks to Mr Asda.
Wrong. The unmanned 24-hour petrol station was indeed unmanned, but it wasn’t 24-hour – not on this night of the year, at any rate. Maybe something to do with that thing in Hamlet about the Christmas season – “and then they say no spirit dare stir abroad; no fairy takes, nor witch has power to harm, so hallowed and so gracious is the time” – I’m sure if there’d been petrol stations in Shakespeare’s time he’d have included the closing of same in his list of Christmastide blessednesses. In the days before I learned to drive I used to look forward to the twelve days of Christmas as a time when I did absolutely nothing practical that involved stirring from the house, but that was a long time ago.
The Peek into the Future? Yes, that was the driving around between one coned-off petrol station and another as the gauge wobbled between Empty and Really-Truly-Empty, undergoing the lottery of uncertain supply. Will says that Peak Oil has now actually occurred and from now on we shall see a gradual, barely perceptible, spiral into Third World conditions as the price-screw gets tighter and the consequent supply situation lets everyone Know His Place in the economic pecking order. No, only joking: of course we’re going to be rescued by the invention of some magic fuel – water-derived, or something mined on the Moon and transported hither at incredibly low cost…., though that it may not be happening quite yet.
Anyway, what was my book about? That wasn’t really why I was writing this blog. I was writing this blog because Anna tentatively asked me if I didn’t think it might be a good idea to mention some of the e-books which, thanks to her efforts, are now available for purchase, at extremely modest prices, on Amazon. And yes – I do think it’s an excellent idea, now that she’s mentioned it, it’s just it hadn’t occurred to me before. I’ve been so busy fuming over my failure to make a decent-quality recording of Hobble, Yobble and God, like I promised last blog, that I forgot about something that had actually come out right.
We have three little stories available: Manhunt in Golden Mall, which is a boy’s quest for his missing father in a distinctly bizarre shopping mall somewhere in a city that might be London. Then The Sundial, which is about nuns and baby-eating ogres from the Longside, which is this particular story’s name for our world’s shadowy companion-world. And then The Page Boy and the Stars, which is about a trip to the end of the universe, and conversations with Lucifer and the mysterious Spinner of Yarns, and about Good King Wencislas and about a rather remarkable telescope which has the uncanny ability to telescope a person’s whole life up into a few minutes…..
There, I’m getting quite into this explaining What the Story’s About milarky. Maybe I should stop writing stories and just do synopses. I could frill them up a bit and call them poems.
Just a mention for the snazzy covers, which with a bit of luck and some more jiggery-pokery from Anna you should be able to see flashing right beside this text: they were Anna’s design too, the one for Manhunt in Golden Mall being based on one of Rachel’s new-style pictures.
Objects on a Screen
So now, let me tell, well – Alan, and anyone else who cares to hear – what the Kings of Drumdollo is about. I guess it’s following a theme begun in The Smoke People (still sitting in a publisher’s Pile, dutifully waiting its turn) which is about – well…. It’s about – or rather the opposite of about, really – our human readiness to turn the living world, and its components, into objects. This readiness underpins the myth of the Achievement of the human race – including the fact that we’re able to call ourselves (at least, no-one else seems to be talking about it) the Dominant Species on this globe. So, it addresses this matter of communication – ie. the fact that no-one else apart from members of the human race is talking about the wondrous achievements of the human race. I think there’s a mathematical term for such a conundrum. We talk to our own kind, but to no-one else. So for example we think it’s all right to do stuff to animals in the name of science: because presumably if the animals clearly told us otherwise we’d back off, but they don’t so obviously they must appreciate our efforts to further our happiness. Again, I’ve always been a bit diffident about the whole ‘anthropogenic’ Global Warming argument. There’s a bit of me which relates it to those fears we used to entertain in the ‘seventies about how a nuclear war could spark off an Ice Age – and a niggling thought that this is just another little myth we’ve made on the theme of How Great We Are. Look. so wondrous are we, and so dangerous, we could trigger an Ice Age / runaway Global Warming / at any rate the extinction of all species…. Getting our knickers in a twist about Global Warming and the cracking-up of the earth’s Carbon Cycle to burn a few million years’ worth of carbon in a couple of centuries – yes, that is a sensible thing to do, though it does lead to nonsenses like carbon trading or whatever conscience-salving fad will be replacing it next week, whereas enduring the discomfort of twisted knickers would undoubtedly do us a lot more good. The global warming debate for me simply boils down to this objectification of the living world. We basically think it’s all right to do stuff because no-one’s stopping us. And with our stuff well and truly done, we jump into the role of the cavalry coming over the hill because we realise we may have gone a bit too far in plundering the earth’s resources. But in either event the living earth is somewhere away off in the third person – The Environment – doesn’t that have a good, impersonal, scientific ring to it – it’s an object; and whether we’re making the mess or sorting it out we sit like drone ‘pilots’ in the Arizona desert with the object of our attention neatly confined to a computer screen.
So, I think that’s what The Kings of Drumdollo‘s actually about. But it’s only a fairy-story for kids. I will try and get it posted up here some time, and eventually into e-book format, but there’s a whole queue of other stuff that’s still impatiently – well, queuing up.
On the subject of an objectified world – we went to see The Hobbit as our new year family treat. Gollum is what I’m thinking of in this respect: the nasty little creature in his autistic bubble from which he views his entire world as Object. Actually that bit was faithfully, and well, rendered. Otherwise, while we had a fine evening out, I have to say the film was business as usual: Tolkien’s Hobbit, but stripped of its charm and lightness of touch. Then the special effects (of course – can we survive without them?)… And oh, the clichés! Cliché piled on cliché – and for whose edification, exactly?. If I see one more vertiginous descent, one more hanging-off from a crumbling cliff/tree/ridiculously oversized building, one day I sincerely think I’m going to throw up my overpriced popcorn onto that strangely sticky cinema floor.
A lot cheaper, but regretted not because of that but because we missed it, was Natalia Kieniewicz shivering the timbers of the Tin Hut last Thursday – no, two Thursdays ago now. I’ve always thought that place has the most wonderful acoustics, so I hope she hasn’t damaged them, especially since it was I who urged her and Adam to go and sing there: we had a bad conscience about not going ourselves, but we couldn’t leave poor Ben sitting his lonesome at Coldhome with his broken leg and our challenging toilet facilities.
Oh and – yes, I almost forgot the highlight of the season: We watched Back To The Future when we got back home, furiously disgruntled, on Hogmanay. – Clichés? Loved ’em. If I’d properly understood, back in 1985, about the value of a fist in a man’s face, I could have really made something of my life. Funny to think we’ll have flying cars in two years’ time though. I wonder what’s going to fuel them?