Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Last of the Spice Schooners

I'm delighted to report the availability for download of the first of my stories to be podcast.

Gallery of Curiosities has produced Episode 22 of its steampunk series, this one featuring my Victorian horror story Last of the Spice Schooners narrated by Vic Mullins.

I have to warn you that this story is not for the squeamish or those of a nervous disposition! On the other hand it would have made a great Hammer Films production back in the good old days of creepy cinema.

One morning an ancient schooner, filthy, moldering and riddled with ship-worm, was found moored illegally at an out-of-the-way and long-disused old berth in The Pool of London...

Download the podcast here if you dare.

Friday, 22 April 2016

The Wild Hunt of Sliabh Mannan

It's hard to describe how delighted I am to receive an acceptance from Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores.

I'm doubly delighted because this is a story about the Gododdin, the old people who lived in Sliabh Mannan before me.

It's called The Wild Hunt of Sliabh Mannan and is about 3400 words.

I'm pretty sure I made it up, but the events have now melded so inextricably with the surrounding landscape that I cannot help thinking Yes, this is where that happened.

Of course when our characters tell us a story about the past it does tend to become historical truth as far as we, as writers, are concerned. I sometimes can't understand how no-one else seems to know about it until I tell them how it happened.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Seasonal Changing of the Guard

At the beginning of April small skeins of geese are already making training flights around Sliabh Mannan, preparatory to their annual departure. We used to think their summer destination was Russia but more recent research suggests northern Sweden may be their preferred area.

Just when you think they may have left without saying goodbye a huge flock of a hundred or more will make a grand farewell tour of the moor as they did last week.

Then today the first house-martin and the first swallow arrived on the same day. Sometimes in the past these early arrivals have not been joined by the mass of our summer tenants until a week or more has passed. Sometimes the others follow swiftly.

For the benefit of our hirundine friends I can report midges are already present in reasonable quantities. Ah, the joys of a Scottish summer. Never mind, there are compensations.

Bumble bees are already active in the garden, where the main mid-season daffodils have now joined the early-flowering woodland species with which we are well provided. Most of these latter are already on the way out.

After a mostly barren winter in the garden I always welcome the first spring flowers and feel so sad when they pass.  However, at this time of the year a walk around the garden always reveals new colour and old flower-friends remind us that they were not dead but merely sleeping.

The nights are still potentially frosty at this altitude, but already there is real warmth in the sun and the unaccustomed experience of daylight being longer than darkness to enjoy for at least a few months.

Despite the clutter of windmills that have recently arrived in Sliabh Mannan it can still be a beautiful place to wander about in the sunshine.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

The Betrayal of Steel

As a son of a steel city I am feeling particularly unhappy about the travails into which the UK industry has been forced by problems not of its own making.

It seems steel is suffering the consequences of four related problems:

  1. The last Labour government (specifically Energy Secretary Ed Miliband) unwisely decided to set an example to the world by running well ahead of the field in anti-climate-change policy. As a result British manufacturing industry pays the highest energy costs in the world, far more than Germany or France and twice as much as China or the USA. In other words, metal manufacture, as a very heavy energy-user, was deliberately disadvantaged by our own government. This achieved negative results for climate change since it exported British jobs to China where the metals are produced by coal-generated electricity.
  2. The present UK government is so keen on developing trade links with China that it wants to go ahead with the absurd Chinese-backed Hinkley Point power station project that will (if it is ever built) compromise our national security in order to produce electricity at triple the current wholesale price.
  3. Sheffield tram
    And to make sure the Chinese stay on board with that and other trade schemes our government has led the way in blocking EU attempts to impose effective tariffs against the huge quantities of Chinese steel currently being dumped on the world market as a result of the economic slowdown in China itself. Moreover we are helping the Chinese achieve a fraudulent market economy status to make it even easier for their state-subsidised production to enter western markets. Meanwhile the Chinese themselves erect huge tariffs against Welsh Steel despite the fact that it is not state-subsidised and should therefore be entitled to free trade.
  4. Domestic discrimination in public sector contracts or business rates in favour of British steel is outlawed under EU rules as long as we remain an EU member. Remarkably enough, the EU has managed to complete the single market in manufactured goods, in which the UK has a comparative disadvantage, but has not managed to complete the single market in services where the opposite applies. Needless to say, the same government whose energy policy has contributed so greatly to our problems in manufacturing trade is urging us to remain in the EU. No doubt they are worried that if the EU erected tariffs against us, obliging us to retaliate, it might even help us get a handle on our crushing Balance of Payments deficit.
Doing all we can, they say?