Springtime, Snooker, Sadism & Smugness

SnipSpring’s arrived here in sunny Warsaw, which is a good excuse to post some pictures of the garden I took this morning.  April also means the World Snooker Championships in Sheffield, England: 17 days of proper sport played by gentlemen, where skill on the baize counts for little if the players can’t keep themselves together in their heads.  Only two days into the tournament and the defending champion is already out, along with a former champion.  The next fortnight promises to be hugely enjoyable, especially if, like me, you’re a bit of a sadist when it comes to sport.

Elsewhere, my latest novel-length book went out to my poor, long-suffering beta readers this week.  This has led to me feeling a bit smug: when I got out of hospital back in January I had less than half of it written, and a renewed sense of my own mortality drove me on to continue with a story which I suspected would need many months’ more effort.  In the event, I beat my own deadline and can now sit back and enjoy the snooker (job, wife and kids notwithstanding, natch).  Do spare a thought for those unfortunate betas: this book is easily the least accessible thing I’ve written, and it breaks every single accepted rule of fiction writing.  And no, I don’t give a shit :)

Anyway, the garden looks lovely today – see?

PlumBlossom

Maple

Magnolia

Tulip

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Apple

SilverBirch

Pear

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And… We’re back!

HeardItOnTheRadioApologies for the almost three-month break in posts here.  I had some minor health issues over the Christmas period which held me up somewhat.  Nothing serious at all, just a couple of things which, to use the correct medical terminology, come under the generic term “middle-aged bullshit.”  Anyway, shameless huckster that I am, I’m posting to see if I can twist your arm into buying something, because from now until 21 February it’s on special offer.  I Heard It On The Radio is the latest collection of short stories from the five59 group of awesome authors, whose editor-in-chief, the remarkable Alan Seeger, is empathic enough to let hacks like me contribute from time to time.

The collection features ten shorts by highly talented authors, and one of mine (the one about the terrorist attack on London which I first published in Stories of Genesis, Vol. 3 in 2014).  I’ve read all of them and can thoroughly recommend them as an introduction to what these writers can do – writers you’ll not likely have heard of.  Short story collections like this are a great way to discover new authors, and for the next week you can get the whole shebang for just USD 0.99, by clicking here.


 

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The Ten-Day Fast

WatersnipIf you’re thinking of going on a fast as a way to lose weight or detoxify your body, this post describes my experience when I recently fasted for ten days.  In summary, I don’t recommend it.  For me, the substantial discomfort outweighed the benefits; not by a significant margin, but by enough to convince me that fasting is a worse option than simply adhering to a regular, healthy diet to keep one’s weight under control.

However, fasting is popular with a lot of people, so it must work for them.  If you’re wondering how it might work for you, then one book you need to read is The New Life Fasting Guide by Hellmut Luetzner M.D.  A German acquaintance called Peter gave me a copy a few months ago.  Peter is a large-boned baker with a guffawing laugh and a kind, generous spirit.  He also fasts for ten days every year, and is a keen enthusiast.  I read Luetzner’s book and was taken with its thoroughness, enthusiasm and erudition.  It was thus a short step to joining Peter on his annual “fat camp” to southern Poland, where a lady called Renata runs an activity health spa for others who enjoy fasting. Continue reading

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Exclusive! The new Polish government’s five-point plan to make Poland great again!

The leader of PiS demonstrates what he's about to do to Poland

The leader of PiS demonstrates what he’s about to do to Poland

With the election of the PiS political party in Poland today, we bring you a world exclusive: Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s five-point plan to make Poland great again!  Just as soon as he boots out the hapless “new” Prime Minister, Beata Szydlo (Who she? Ed.), his party Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (which translates into English as “Feeble-Minded Simpletons”) will instigate the following wide-ranging reforms:

1.  Holding an investigation into the 2010 plane crash in Smolensk which killed his twin brother Lech and 94 other people, who were innocent, which will report that it was an assassination by Putin, rather than because his brother was being a drunk bully to the pilots and forced them to try to land when they should’ve diverted.

2.  Promoting rabid hatred of Russia, Germany, the EU, refugees, gays, women who want to chose what they do with their bodies, and anyone else not like him.

3.  Scaring off foreign investment until the rest of the world realises that Poland has become another basket-case economy.

4.  Raising hypocrisy to an art form.

5.  Ensuring that millions more Poles flee to the UK and elsewhere – because who needs those unpatriotic shits anyway?

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Cute Kitten Click-Bait (and some other stuff)

KittysnipIn a shameless attempt to generate clicks on my blog by posting pictures of a cute, adorable kitten, here is the newest useless mouth to feed member of the James household: a six-week-old white Persian.  When next-door’s cat evacuated five of these things in late August, it took serious negotiating skills to settle on us taking only one, instead of all of them as the kids wanted.

Kitty1

Kitty2

Continue reading

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A Picture Post [mostly]: Vacations and Vacillations

“For now I see more clearly, many things that passed me by,

Like the Paul the Visionary, I see things in a different light…”

SquaresnipIt’s been a hot and hectic summer.  The wife and kids, naturally, are still slumming it on vacation on various boats in the Polish lake district for the next couple of weeks, while I’m back at work.  Typical.  Anyway, July began with two-week return to the UK, which was hugely enjoyable once I’d got past that awful little woman at Dover customs (see previous post).  On 3 July lots of family and friends gathered for the wedding of Jenni and Max.  The happy couple managed to assemble quite a motley crew, but there was a great deal of laughter and goodwill.  And as the official photographer, I had a fun time:

 Wedding1

Wedding2

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We also spent a day in Cambridge, where the most staggering sight I saw was an advertisement in an estate agent’s window, offering a pokey little terraced house in the town centre for a cool one million pounds.  But the botanical gardens are well worth a visit if you’re there: Continue reading

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Me and the customs officer at Dover

Ferry1On Monday evening, after driving 1,300 km from Warsaw, I arrived in Ghent to hear that Calais port was closed – again. Quick as a flash, I booked a DFDS ferry from Dunkirk to Dover for the next day.  My smug self-satisfaction lasted until I drove there and spent half an hour stationary behind a freight truck. Then, it became clear that all major approaches to the port were blocked solid with freight, and the police were just directing cars away and back onto the motorway. Luck was on my side, however, when my sat-nav took me along a kilometre of farm-tracks and into the port.

Ferry2

I checked-in for the 12.00 o’clock ferry to Dover, and then enjoyed 15 minutes of a French customs officer rummaging through my clothes, and my wife’s and children’s clothes, before I finally got on the boat.  Congratulating myself that I would soon be back in Blighty and able once again to enjoy proper fish and chips see my UK family, I had only one more hurdle to jump: UK customs. Continue reading

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FOR SALE: a brick wall (one careless owner)

Brick wall1We are delighted to announce that this attractive brick wall has just come on to the market, in perfect condition despite its current owner constantly walking into it.  Made from quality engineering bricks held together with the strongest sand-and-cement mortar, this brick wall has withstood the present owner repeatedly walking into it on numerous occasions over the last ten years, without so much as the slightest hint of colour fade.

The brick wall came on to the market when, last week, the current owner walked into it for the 3,137th time.  When it was explained to him that doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different outcome was the very definition of madness, he finally conceded the point and allowed himself to be carted off to the nearest loony-bin.  So, if you’d like to become the proud owner of a brick wall that can withstand being constantly walked into, why not write a screenplay about early Genesis and Tony Stratton-Smith invest in this marvellous example of contemporary brickwork?  For full details including the price, please send a padded straight-jacket to: The Gibbering-Wreck Home for Recovering Writers, Third Field on the Left After the End of Patriots’ Street, Warsaw 05-816, Poland.

Brick wall2


 

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A screenplay, for a change

script1Last autumn, the BBC showed a documentary about Genesis called Together and Apart, which was later released on DVD as Sum of the Parts.  Fans of the band were furious; it’s enough to look at some of the 22 one-star reviews on Amazon.  While a couple of the band members were treated very badly (Hackett and Wilson), Collins came out of it very well.

I wasn’t too impressed either, but I understood that it wasn’t designed for the fans but to drive sales of R-Kive, yet another collection of Genesis’s hits and well-known songs, to people who didn’t know the band or much of its music.

At the time I was wrapped up writing a novel.  Nevertheless, after watching the documentary I felt convinced there had to be a much better, and far more entertaining, way to tell the story of Genesis; a way which would also entertain non-Genesis fans, and which would appeal to a general, film-going audience.

And, as the old cliché goes, if you want something done properly, do it yourself. Continue reading

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