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:




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.


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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The unremarkable life and death of a flightless fledgling

JaythumbNot having studied ornithology, I have little idea at what point a young bird thinks it knows it can fly, and so jumps out of the nest.  This morning a young jay appeared in the garden, unable to fly.  Its parents swooped and fluttered from tree to tree while my wife and I quickly got the cat back in the house.  The young fellow didn’t seem too bothered and preened himself while I snapped away with my camera:

Continue reading

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Blimey! It’s June tomorrow – already?!

Such is a writer’s life: After several weeks glued to the laptop finishing my latest writing project, I stick my head up, mole-like, to find everything’s turned green and the seasons have changed.  Again.  The latest thing is a screenplay for a feature film, so not something I’m going to publish.  But it’s done and dusted, that’s the main thing.  Meanwhile, the hawthorn in the front garden is in gorgeous bloom:


The rhododendrons are in full flower, and when I pointed my camera at this bumble bee, he mooned back at me:


The vine has burst into life, attracting lots of lovely, cute baby snails:


And it won’t be long till we have a nice crop of strawberries:


In fact, the whole place is looking wonderfully… verdant.  Yep, that’s the word :)

Verdant Verdant2



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Spectral Mornings

I had a shit of a day at work yesterday: a double-dose body-blow of corporate bullshit which felt like I’d just gone a punishing round with Tomasz Jablonski.  Then, in the evening, I got home to this, and it was like my best friend put their arm around me, gave me a beer, and told me not to worry.  Please listen; this is the best thing you’ll hear this week.  Then buy it, because the proceeds are going to a UK charity which supports research into Parkinson’s disease.  Enjoy, folks; the hairs on the back of your neck will stand to attention, because that’s just the way our Mr Hackett rolls :)


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Expunging Frustration: Guest-Post Wood-Cutting Tutorial!

Axe1Hello everyone!  And welcome to this week’s edition of Expunging Frustration, which is proud to be guesting on Chris James’s blog.  Expunging Frustration is the magazine for people who know that Inner Peace can’t be reached until we’ve properly expunged our frustration with lots of jolly nice violence!  In last week’s edition, we discussed how cold-blooded murder is still frowned upon in many parts of the world, and alas, not really a frustration-expunging option for most of us!

Well, this week we have an activity which we guarantee will leave you completely frustration free and open to enjoy quality Inner Peace!  So without further ado, here is our massively helpful tutorial for expunging your frustration by cutting up lots of wood!

First, tell your wife to order three cubic metres of wood.  You’ll have plenty of frustration when she decides instead to order eight cubic metres, and then has it all dumped on your drive like this: Continue reading

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Irony (a rant)

Beautiful, isn't it?

Beautiful, isn’t it?

In four years, I’ve never ranted on this blog.  Until now.  I’ve had enough.  And the reason?  One thing: the Large Hadron Collider.  You would have to be living in a cave not to know about the most wonderful scientific construction of our generation.  Thousands of years from now, future historians will marvel that, back here in the Dark Ages, we were able to push the boundaries of science like they are doing today at CERN in the midst of our vicious, arrogant, feeble-minded, hate-filled, prehistoric capitalist paradise.

Ten years ago, when this incredible piece of machinery was still under construction, I wrote a futuristic novel with it as the backdrop: when the LHC accelerated a certain particle to faster-than-light speed, it opened up a whole new multiverse, revealing limitless alternate realities.  The story was, at that time, good enough to get a literary agent.  But the literary agent couldn’t sell it to a publisher.  So I self-published it in 2011, and I’m very grateful for the handful of approving readers I managed to snag (keep going: I’m getting to the irony bit). Continue reading

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Good news for all Renaissance fans

RenaissanceHere’s some good news for fans of the symphonic progressive rock band Renaissance.  Yes, they are still going, and the lovely Annie Haslam remains on top form with one of the most beautiful English singing voices ever committed to record.

Next month they’re doing their first European tour in over 30 years, and yesterday they started a campaign on indiegogo to raise funds to film the concert at the London Union Chapel on 16 April.  Seeing as getting to one of the gigs is outside my price range, I decided to pitch in to hopefully get that gig filmed.  Click here to go to the campaign page and have a look at all the lovely Renaissance-related goodies on offer!  You’re welcome :)


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