Category Archives: Equality

Supporting Survival International

 

 

So you might know that I have pledged 10% of my royalties on The Silver Nights Trilogy to the NGO Survival International.

Here’s a snap of the Christmas Cards I am sending this year – which I bought from Survival’s website. Aren’t they cool? They certainly make the North Pole look a bit more real.

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Five things I learned writing the Silver Nights Trilogy

So, I know it’s been a while, but things have been as hectic as a 2-year-old in a new playground. Literally.

My final chapter of the Silver Nights Trilogy is out now, and so I thought it a good time to recap what I learned in the process of writing it.

 

1) Things take longer than you think…

Especially when you think you can squeeze side projects in there between…

I always knew I’d finish my trilogy (I advocate the finish your shit mantra) but I thought I’d have it done a couple of years ago – around six months after the first novel came out and I realised just before publication that it was going to be a trilogy. The nuclei of the second two parts came to me very clear and I reckoned that I’d have them both done by Christmas – I had a part time job and summer in between, after all.

But then I got the idea for a novel about Loch Ness, and that just grabbed my attention like a talon clutching my balls, insisting I go along with it. So I thought it best to comply. The first draft spun out easily, but then there were drafts to go over before I submitted, and another project popped up. This was going to be easy – my publisher put out a call for erotic romance novellas set in one night in any city, for a series called City Nights. Well, I had a long short story set in Madrid that could be refitted in a jiffy. Or not. The challenge of writing erotica wasn’t half as hard (fnarr!) as shaping it into a longer story that was still under 25k words. Anyway, despite it taking me several rewrites I got the bug and did 2 more cities since, Pamplona and Boston (for these the story was simple, starting from scratch always is simpler) published under the name JD Martins – yes, I am a school teacher. Then there were edits for a YA paranormal and a children’s fantasy novel to go over for publication (yes, I’d a drawerful of old novels that I finally found willing publishers for). And of course, real life did it’s usual trick of getting in the way. Our daughter was diagnosed diabetic at two and a half, so I spent a lot of time cycling across town to inject her at lunchtime, we had another sprog six? months ago… all that great stuff. But the sequels kept simmering away in the meantime, slowly taking shape… of course, people kept asking when they’d be ready and I kept telling them a date not too distant in the future – three months or so, by this Christmas, as soon as submissions reopen, I’m sending both books straight away…

 

2) Think before you decide to write a trilogy.

At least, think before you tell everyone, and have the second and third pretty much ready to go before you tell everyone. Sure, the idea for the second and third novel might come to you real quick and seem pretty safe and secure, but they need to tie together like a trilogy, and, more importantly, people are going to be waiting on them – some won’t even read the first part till they know the second and third are written and out there for them to read straight after – hands up who’s waiting on Game of Thrones to finish it’s run before even starting? Only me? Oh… anyhow, though the ideas might seem pretty solid, they have to lead directly from the first to the second and into the third and though there might be three books, hence trilogy, a series can have three books, too – you just don’t write the fourth book, and nobody’s going to feel cheated. Are you? It’s not that the second and third novel aren’t solid, but the challenges facing the characters can’t be the same, and things that happen in the sequels need to have a coherency with the first, so perhaps write them all at the same time, rather than have one done and decide to add two more

But definitely write part two and three together. It might piss off those waiting impatiently for the second to come out, but it’s better in the end. Also helps keep all those characters in your head at the same time – werewolves have big families, dammit, especially when they’re trying to build up their numbers after centuries of persecution.

 

3) Stick to your original vision

I wrote the first novel in this trilogy, Leaving the Pack, twenty-five years ago. The time in between turned out to be very useful. I was inspired by Whitley Strieber’s novel Wulfen, and to honest, I never really read much about them since then. I liked my werewolves (almost as much as Strieber’s) and I didn’t much like the movies I occasionally saw or the few books I read. Having a book out before you write the next leads to the temptation to take reader’s opinions into account as write. But making everyone happy isn’t a possibility and if the reader didn’t like the first book, it’s pointless to try please them in the second, or the third. Besides, when I looked around at some of the other werewolf novels out there, I realised their tastes were more aligned with the books I wanted my story to stand out from – the real tribe who engendered the original myth.

 

4) Don’t bother reading in-genre – it’s probably not your genre, and there’s some weird shit out there.

I did read a few other books over the years, but reading other werewolf novels was a bad idea. They filled my head with stuff that I didn’t like, making me second-guess the world I’d created – a real world where shifting is just as physically impossible as it is in ours.

In tandem with their physiological lunar rhythms, these people worshipped the wolf, had an affinity with their four-legged brethren that had led their enemies to assume they turned into beasts.

As a zoologist, I knew that wolf mating is similar to dogs, where they are unable to separate afterwards for a while. I went to double-check the term (knotting) in the final edit and discovered a sub genre of werewolf novels that was eye opening, let’s say.

 

5) The real world has changed, and so must your characters.

Even though my werewolves are first found roaming the city during the late Eighties, when homosexuality wasn’t nearly so visible in our cities, and I have no interest in writing gay sex scenes – and I doubt I could make them hot enough for the readers of werewolf knotting – I totally agree that we need more diversity characters in our novels. The werewolves are an ancient tribe, and the poster boys for patriarchy, but even they have to evolve to deal with the way things are nowadays, including equality for their daughters. But such changes are a joy to write, to put your characters in awkward situations. One thing that has not changed for the pack, however, is they still hate vampires, and real vampires are not so nice as they’re made out to be.

You can get all three books here….

 

 

The End of Fire Season… until next year?

The cranes started passing over Pamplona yesterday evening.

They were chased by the rain that came in overnight. The first in weeks.

Autumn has thus officially started.

And hopefully also this means the end of the fire season for this year.

While Ireland braced for an almost unheard of hurricane in the North Atlantic, in northern Spain and Portugal, forest fires were killing even more people than Ophelia killed.

There were dozens burning over the weekend and until Tuesday, when the rains helped to finally extinguish them.

Unlike hurricanes, though, which are terrible, and indirectly related to man’s activities, these forest fires were only wild in the sense of the untamed destruction they could wreak. They were not natural. They were man made, purposefully started, and repeatedly so.

 

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Forest fires across Galicia, photo Diario Sur

After so many deaths, there are now questions being asked of politicians as to how these arsonists can be stopped. Spanish news has little else, other that the Catalan situation – politics and fraud, even football has been put in the background by the terrible scenes of people trying to escape burning villages only having to turn back as the roads are flanked with flames, and others park inside a motorway tunnel to wait rescue, or let the fires pass overhead.

Because these fires have been a part of summer in places like Galicia for years. As soon as the weather dries, huge tracts of forests go up there. All directly caused by humans and usually set intentionally, with a few the result of stupidity and neglect.

The people of Portugal are naturally outraged, after a summer of huge fires has been followed by an autumn death toll almost as terrible, with dozens of people claimed by the flames.

The perpetrators must be caught and jailed for their murders, but also, the politicians and police, if it is the case, must be held responsible for letting this situation get to this state. Why have these people not been caught for their previous fires? – because there’s no way these conflagrations were started by first-time arsonists.

Why do people go out of their way to set fires, driving along highways in the middle of the night with fireworks tied to helium balloons?

It’s clear they have nothing better to do, and they’re assholes of the highest calibre, but there must be some other, external, motivation for most of the fires. What is it? Why has it not been identified years ago and why has it not been removed?

There are forests that could burn just as badly and even more easily in other parts of Spain, so why are there not so many fires elsewhere? Galicia has 40% of all fires in the country, and half the area burnt every year for the last decade.

Surely the arsonists are spread out in a broader swath across the country. Or is there something about the mind-set of Galicians that makes them excessively prone to arson?

The gorse fires and heather fires we have seen in Ireland in recent years were all set intentionally for financial gain – the current agricultural subsidy system means that farmers make more money if there land is considered in use, even if it’s not.

Ultimately, stopping them will require a change in the EU farming subsidy system to allow land go fallow without farmers losing money.

Is there a financial motivation in Galicia and Portugal for setting huge fires?

According to Ecologists in Action, this is only the cause of a small proportion of the fires set.

What other factors are in play?

The use of fire for farming practices is permitted much more freely than elsewhere.

In most of Spain it is not permitted to light fires in camping and picnic areas and other recreational areas during times of fire risk. Not so in Galicia.

Vehicles are also allowed onto forest paths in Galicia during the summer, which is prohibited elsewhere.

AND they allow fireworks in village festivals during the summer, which is just asking for trouble.

 

But as I said, the summer is over.

The cranes, luckily, don’t stay long in Spain during their migration.

When they passed before on their way north I wrote this poem. Hopefully it will ease the depression of these fires. Watching the birds certainly lifts the spirit.

 

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European cranes. photo wikipedia – need a better camera myself!

 

The Great Migration

 

I’ve not yet seen the Serengeti,

Nor the caribou upon the artic plains

But up above my house in the hills,

I’ve been privileged to witness

The cranes migrating, calling

Eyes aloft to observe their long

Strings streaked across the sky

Huge wing beats by the thousands,

 

And can’t but wonder where

Those numbers bide in other times,

(Amazed such spaces yet exist)

And where they will find abode

In other climes.

 

 

Fewer Flags, More Flowers

I haven’t commented on the current situation in Cataluña yet.

I suppose that some might think that strange, given my previous comments on other referenda, such as the Scottish one, and my advocating for a yes vote on proclaiming independence.

This is a little bit more complicated.

And not just because I live in Spain, where some of my friends and family would be of the opposite opinion, and I can do without the aggravation

It’s complicated because the Spanish are, to throw a stereotype out there, bloody stubborn and ill-disposed to listen to the opposite point of view with much in the way of tolerance. Just a few minutes watching any chat or panel show will show you that. They can’t stop shouting over one another even when they’re paid to give their considered opinion.

This means the Catalan question has the potential to get worse, in a way nobody wants, but well, shit happens, and has happened.

People get entrenched.

Of course, my reticence on the subject doesn’t mean I haven’t been asked my opinion, usually with the anticipation that I’ll agree with the inquirer’s point of view.

I have tried to be diplomatic in giving that opinion. But give it I have, for I never learnt one of my father’s lessons – only say something if it’s to your advantage. I can’t hold back the truth. There are too many wankers walking around our world, walking on our world, because people have been reluctant to cause offence or call them out on their bullshit.

I went to Cantabria last weekend. Wonderful. But a small blemish on the experience was seeing the Spanish flag draped from many balconies. Some of these balconies were on the houses of Guardia Civiles stationed in the towns, others were on working class blocks of flats.

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Does the flag add anything here? No.

The thing is, that Cantabria is in the opposite direction from my house to Cataluña. Santander is three hours west, Barcelona five hours east. What the fuck the Cantabrians think they’re doing with the flags that the Catalans will feel any emotion whatsoever is beyond me. Nobody in Barcelona gives a toss if some lad in Santander sticks a flag out his window. At least, they shouldn’t.

But this is how entrenchment starts. First it’s the fucking flags and the waving them and the burning of others’ flags. Next thing you know, you’ve got the Guardia Civil staring across a barricade at a hastily formed citizen’s militia.

I’ve never been one for flags. Nor football jerseys. I can’t see the point of them outside the Olympics, to be honest.

There were several mass demonstrations in various cities across Spain (and I include Cataluña for brevity) over the last couple of weeks. Most of them had flags waving. There were thousands of people in Madrid waving their flags under the biggest Spanish flag ever in the Plaza de Colon, singing Yo soy Español. Amazing. We know you are. You’re in fucking Madrid – the capital of Spain. What the hell has that got to do with Cataluña seeing independence? They aren’t trying to make you a fucking Catalan. How could that demonstration help in the slightest? Or how, pray tell, is bussing thousands to Barcelona from all over Spain to do the same thing going help in the slightest?

It only serves to entrench.

There was one cross-country demonstration where everyone dressed in white and waved white placards. I liked that demonstration. The idea was that the politicians should fucking talk (‘cause you’d be surprised that a group of people employed to talk to each other could hide so efficiently from one another, or from the media for that matter. But Rajoy is a master at staying at home watching football while the country he’s supposed to be helping falls apart at the seams.). Needless to say, it had little impact. Because the politicians get elected by the people in the trenches.

They don’t care if that leads down the road to shitville. They don’t go to war, their kids don’t go to war, they are of the elite to whom this shit just doesn’t stick. And while we’re all in a fluster, they’re quietly getting away with the frauds they’ve been perpetrating this whole time. Both sides are as corrupt as the other.

So here’s my own opinion. which has changed little since last time the Catalans were looking for a referendum…

I would like to see Cataluña remain as part of Spain.

But only on their terms.

If they want to go, the rest of Spain has to let them go. It’s that simple. Anything else is just bullshit. And bloody bullshit if things go awry.

I would like to see true European integration. I bought that idea way back. My kids are trilingual, have two passports and I think we should move to whatever country we like for as long as we like, because we like, and not because some places have better jobs and better wages and their politicians grind other places down to keep things that way.

But the small-minded, short-term thinking of politicians has shown that to be a dream – hitherto fore, anyway.

Until then, though, each community should have as much say about its own destiny as it can get for itself. George Monbiot has been talking about the benefits of the commons in recent weeks. The smaller the group holding the purse strings, the better.

Now, the Catalans have been getting a bad deal compared to other parts of Spain, at least in their view – and let’s face it, it’s their view that counts. So an ever-greater proportion of the population has decided that it’s time to take not just the purse strings into their hands, but the reins and to hell with the rest of Spain.

Once that proportion of the population becomes big enough, then you have to listen to them. You can’t just ignore them as crackpots or begrudgers or whatever else you want to label them.

Sending in the cops against some hippies might work, but sending the cops in against a million people taking to the streets is just not on. As we have seen. I’ve witnessed National Police do similar shit to people in the past, but when they did it to thousands on October first, they got a media backlash that had just the opposite effect to that desired. To quote Peter Gabriel in Biko, “you can’t blow out a fire.”

Had the Spanish government given some certain concessions, perhaps the numbers looking for a referendum. But they didn’t do that. And look where it got them.

If a part of the population looking for independence reaches a critical mass, you have to give them a referendum.

Had the Spanish government done that a while back, well, everybody who knows anything says that the No vote would have easily won.

Look what happened in Scotland, even though we were all sure it would go the other way.

But they didn’t do that.

And look where it got them. Exactly where anyone who knows anything knew it would.

Once you deny a large group something, and especially if you go about it aggressively, without talking, with the heavy hand, the hard boot, well, all of a sudden other people outside that group will ask why the fuck you are denying their fellow citizens, and who the fuck you think you are denying them, and well, hell, they might just ask for the same thing themselves, just to piss you off, you prick.

It’s called History, Mr Rajoy.

So now you have a growing independence movement and a government still saying there’s no way in hell they’re going to get independence. And in fact, some of them are going to jail for sedition.

Easily solved, I think not.

The only option is talking.

There are other options, of course. Like what happened in other countries which became independent. History has lots of those examples.

And at the same time, history means fuck all to the future.

The fact that there was no Catalan kingdom before is irrelevant. The fact that Ireland was never joined as one country before the English invaded was irrelevant. The fact that half of a currently designated area is in favour of separation and the other half isn’t doesn’t mean that they either stay or go – they can split. Look at Ireland – though I know that was a bit of a fudge/fuckup. Belgium can become two countries, if they want, just like Czechoslovakia did. Cataluña might not all become independent. It’ll depend on what the local people say, and how many of them say it.

And everyone else, who doesn’t live in Cataluna can keep their noses out.

Except the goons in government. They need to get fucking talking.

So let’s see more flowers and fewer flags on people’s balconies, please.

 

 

 

Theresa May, please pay attention!

What I can’t understand about politicians is how little they have studied history, and how little weight they seem to give to it.

But there is only history.

None of these people can really be in it for the money.

At least not the wages.

Perhaps they are waiting for the revolving door to give them a cushy number, but you’d never know that when you see how hard they try to hang on to their current positions.

And that’s what’s confusing. Why are they so god damn eager to stay in power over their duty to do what they were voted to do – improve the country?

It’s not as if they’ll be on the dole forever after if they do get voted out next time around.

And it’s not as if they’ve not got a nice pension for the rest of their life off the back of those four years

If they’d studied their history, they’d know, they’d understand, they’d see very very clearly that there is only history.

Nothing else counts.

Staying in power is not important. How long was Churchill in power? The first time was shorter than David Cameron’s stint. Contrast that with Margaret Thatcher’s long reign. What do you think of when you hear her name? That she fucked over the country and it’s poorest citizens. Not that she was in Downing Street for longer than either man.

Yet Theresa May seems to be concentrating on staying in power as long as the other woman, and not accepting the fact that she is there to do one job, and then go if the going is good – to get her people through this next two years as best she can.

A newspaper article I read yesterday says she’s worried about parties on her right flank and their media supporters.

Fuck the right flank. History is not written by the Daily Mail.

You’ll be out of power soon enough no matter what, Theresa. Concentrate on the task at hand and ignore everyone on either side. Do what you have to do right while you’re doing it.

You’ll still be rich enough outside number 10, and whoever takes over will at least, hopefully, have a country worth leading when you’re done.

If the wise among us tell normal Joe Bloggs like ourselves to live our lives thinking of what others will say about us after we’re gone, how much more important should that advice be for our glorious leaders? After all, when I pop my clogs, a few folk might say they’re happy I’m dead, and though I hope more will lament my passing, I don’t expect the streets to be awash with tears. After all, most people will probably have no idea who the hell I am, or was.

But many politicians seem to have no clue, or care, about what we’ll say about them when they’re gone. And we’re all going to talk about them – mostly badly in many cases. Is that worth a few extra years in power? Who thinks about opening up trade with China, ending the Vietnam War, or even the amazing Clean Air Act when they hear the name Richard Nixon? Nobody. Everyone thinks, “he was a c**t.”

End of lesson, Theresa. Thanks for paying attention.

Leading the Pack, Silver Nights part 2..

 

So, after much quiet, the howl returns…

As I said in a post longer ago than I thought it was, I’ve been living in the real world these last many months.

But I’d done a year or more inside my imaginary city, the setting for the Silver Nights Trilogy.

I’m ready to publish the second and third instalments now.

Leading the Pack is out on Pre-order as of today!

you can get it for just 99c until publication on March 15th from Amazon….

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and Unleashing the Pack will be edited soon and the cover is nearly done…

It was a pleasure to return to the characters, but working on the two novels in tandem was a struggle while I was immersed in them, and I hope I’ve done justice to my original vision of the werewolf story.

The question I feel I have to answer, before anyone even reads part two,  is, “why go back?”

Because I didn’t need to.

The first book, Leaving the Pack, didn’t have an open ending. It was a stand-alone novel.

But I couldn’t leave it alone.

I had to go back and expand on the idea.

So I hope I’ve done the right thing. I hope I’ve not made a mess of the story.

One thing I hate is when writers and moviemakers go back just for the sake of it.

One of my favourite movies is Highlander, and I’ve seen it many times. I hate the sequels. I hate the series. Stupid films that made a mess of a great original story.

I’m watching Lonesome Dove, after having read the book, and now I have discovered there are sequels and prequels, but I’m wary about even going there, given some comments I’ve read.

Why mess with such perfect stories? Why corrupt the vision?

If you go back, you have to have a reason, a need, something else to say.

In my case, I wanted to explain the werewolves from different angles. Firstly, from the viewpoint of a new generation. Paul’s pack, in Leaving the Pack, is a disciplined machine. Paul has complete control (mostly) of his power. But is such camaraderie innate in a race so apt to violence? What is it like to feel such potency for the first time. I wanted to explore the line between being the alpha and what I called the leash – does power necessarily come with responsibility or vice versa?

Secondly, how do werewolves adapt to a new millennium? The twenty-first century is a world that such an ancient tribe as my werewolves would have trouble confronting, in terms of our more open, permissive and public society. How can you remain hidden in plain sight with so many cameras watching? The world is changing rapidly for us; imagine for a race who live so much longer. And at the same time, if they can embrace the future, then so can any other culture.

 

 

 

 

Woolly Maggots

I’ve favoured a return of our wild megafauna to our mountains for some time, now as a general wish to see wildlife flourish on our island. This includes letting the red deer extend their range beyond the small confines of Killarney NP, where it seems only those with friends in the right places and a pile of cash in their back pocket can get to hunt stags. It includes getting wild boar back, as far as our scant natural habitat is still suitable for them. And of course in includes letting the wolf roam the uplands, as those uplands regain their balance in terms of flora as well as fauna.

There are clear barriers to such steps. One of them is the lack of that suitable habitat, and another, connected to that, is the extent of sheep farming.

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Sheep in a field. See any trees? Only habitat for tellytubbies.         Photo by Paul Mutton.

I have long marvelled at the fact that sheep are still farmed in Ireland. I’ve spent decades hearing about and seeing how destructive they are to the uplands – anyone whose seen the golf green fields where farmers have them on the lowlands can imagine their effect on a wild landscape. When I was still in college in the early 90s we learned about overgrazing at important conservation and recreation areas of Ireland (like the slopes of Errigal Mountain in Donegal, Connemara NP). Some call them woolly maggots, for obvious reasons.

 

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Sheep in the mountains. Hard to spot a tree here, either.        Photo from http://snowdonia-active.com/news.

Simultaneously, I’ve spent decades pushing these animals ahead of me, both in cars on the roads and while trying to hunt or just hill walk without them scattering every shred of wildlife I might have otherwise had the chance to see. I even spent an hour saving one, which had got its leg caught in the wooden slats of a footbridge. It gave me scant thanks, and I was sure the farmer wouldn’t have been too pushed either way, given the huge numbers of dead animals you see while walking in our mountains. But I didn’t think letting it die of thirst was a valid option for anyone with a conscience. If my car jack wasn’t able to push up the slat, I was going to smash its skull in with a wrench, or a rock. A better end, despite the visual image you’re probably conjuring up right now…

Anyway, I remember a farmer telling me more than a decade ago that the wool was barely worth the effort to shear the sheep, and that the merchant only took it from him under no obligation to actually return money to the farmer. If it sold, he gave a portion of the sale, if not, then he… I’m not sure what he’d have done with the wool – throw it out, donate it, or what.

I’ve only eaten lamb a few times in Ireland, and I never liked it much. How much lamb is eaten round here and how much a lamb is worth, I’ve no idea, but I never imagined it was much (again, seeing how little attention is paid to them on the hill).

 

George Monbiot has the numbers. He reckons it’s less than 1% of the British diet, and the wool has almost no value. And it’s probable that the flooding caused by overgrazed hillsides means less food is grown downhill than otherwise would be, meaning sheep grazing actually reduces agricultural production.

He’s submitted a whole list of problems with the current Common Agricultural Policy and its effects on the environment.

One of these is that without subsidies sheep farming on uplands would be so clearly a waste of time that the sheep would disappear from the mountains by themselves.

And if that happened, well, two obvious effects would be that there would be no problem with sheep kills by reintroduced wolves up there (down the slopes any remaining sheep are easily protected in electrified pens at night), and the deer and other fauna would have something to eat and habitat to hide in as they spread over a landscape currently almost devoid of plant cover.

And real money could flow into these areas from people who want to see the wildlife, just like the reintroduced red kite (hopefully right now spreading across and out from Wicklow) brought £8 million in tourism revenue to parts of Scotland.

Seems simple maths to me.

The College Election

It’s an important day in the US, and for all of us, given the way the world is heating up.

I know it’s a bad idea to dis the President if you want to get into the country, but for the secret service dudes reading this, please understand, this is an exception…

So here’s hoping it’s a happy holiday for us all, and we can see some people who went to see the musical Hamilton paid attention, and we can stop thinking about how bad things are going to be in the New Year, but instead have some hope.   Here’s a couple of poems to mark the occasion.

The Clown Fools Us All

Remember when we thought this guy was a joke?

And now it seems so serious; yet still,

Even at this late stage, he could

Be red flagging us:

Showing us he’s seriously taking the piss,

Waiting for us to see it for what it is,

And pull the plug.

Mixed Blessings?

Remember when we used to say:

“Jays, we were blest with the weather today,”

As if we’d got lucky, and we didn’t worry,

Nor wonder what was coming?

Strange Things Indeed

I’ve just started watching season one of Stranger Things (two episodes so far) and enjoying it immensely. I won’t give away any spoilers by saying that a kid goes missing (it’s the title of the first episode), and it’s set in a small town in Middle America, back in the Eighties.

 

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It reminded me of some of those Eighties movies I loved – Pretty in Pink, etc., where the differences between the haves and have nots are pretty striking, even within the same school. There are the typical contrasts between the lazy, loutish children of privilege, and the studious sons of middle class, trying to raise their social level by excelling in their education.

One scene, however, seemed so odd to me, that it made me think about the whole setting and scene of the story, and there are disturbing trends that say a lot about America. While the story involves some eerie happenings which are obviously unreal, the daily life of the citizens should be normal enough to be believable. We all know that even in the divine Reagan years, income inequality was stark, if not quite as scandalous as it is now. Winona Ryder’s character is clearly living paycheck to paycheck, but it’s hard to credit that a few hundred photocopies could clean her out completely. But okay. That’s not the scene.

When she goes to her boss looking for an advance, though, at a job she has worked for ten years (without a sick day, as she says) the guy hesitates. He fucking balks at giving her two weeks pay!

What the hell? Where is the loyalty? Where’s the sense of community? Where’s the fucking pity?

It wasn’t the only weird thing about what I assumed was a homogenic and happy Heartland (with a token African American in the show). The kids don’t go to a school assembly to show support for their missing friend (they have their reasons). What’s shocking to me, is that the parents weren’t already planning to take the whole family. After all, the kid would have been eating dinner in their house with the other boys if he’d not been missing.

There hasn’t been a case of a missing person in town in decades; but the whole community isn’t up in arms. It’s only the second episode, but two days have passed and nobody so far has taken a pot pie or a pot roast or a casserole or a fucking sandwich to the single mother who’s at home alone, waiting for news of her child.

There’s a lot more wrong with this town than the dodgy experiments being conducted in the government labs in the woods.

If this is considered normal behaviour, or a valid representation, then the good folk of Middle America have more to worry about than the elites in the big cities.

 

Do Civil servants read Kafka?

Do Civil servants read Kafka?

This is not new. Complaining about the strange way civil service has of not serving much of anything or anyone is almost cliché. Kafka showed us all a hundred years ago. ? made fun of it in the forties. And yet it’s amazing how much it still goes on, even after demands for change produced significant improvements.

It’s not that they don’t give a fuck – they do, though they didn’t used to, and the can deny that all they like. The structures are too inflexible to make movement forward anything but slow. Though sometimes you can’t quite see what’s wrong.

Everyone has their story. This is mine.

I joked on my facebook page back in August that it would have been quicker and easier to go home to Ireland and get my Irish driving licence renewed there rather than get a Spanish one here instead.

I wasn’t far wrong. I went home last month without having received my new Spanish licence. And it was far from easy to get….

Part of the problem was the fact that this project of European integration is not running on rails – some of it is active resistance and some just ineptitude. That goes from the top; government departments not really eager to make it easier for dirty foreigners to come and get along here, to the bottom; civil servants unwilling or unable to learn the new rules and systems to follow the new laws.

driveers-licecnce

My old licence photo – part of the problem was having to hand this over, in case I tried to fool the system and get two licenses,  and thereby having to saying goodbye to my last ID where I have black hair…

The Traffic department has been turned to an appointment only system. You can’t just walk in off the street and seek assistance, like you would in any other service. That keeps down the number of people arriving at any one time. It hides the flaws, means the slowness is not so apparent. The queues not visible there in the office, but in cyberspace, where you need to wait at least a week to get a window – if you’re flexible in what time you can get there.

So when you get there, if all goes well, you are out in around an hour and on with your life.

But if you hang around, as I had to on my recent visit, well, you notice things that if they happened in any store or restaurant, you’d ask to see the manager and point out the problems with their service. Since it’s the civil service, we’re shit scared to do so, since the bastards know our numbers and can get their own back with good old losing our info.

Anyway, I was trapped in there for a lot longer than I should have when I sought to get a new driving licence. My mistake was not having a photocopy of my identity documents. And they don’t make photocopies in there for Joe Public. They might have a photocopier going night and day, have several sitting around, but they expect you to bring your own, even when they don’t tell you to have them.

I pointed out that the photocopy of the information sheet I’d got after queuing up the previous w

eek hadn’t said to take said photocopy, and the lady behind the desk produced a different photocopy that said I did.

So what were my options?

Go to the stationary store across the street and pay twenty cents for copies.

I had no problem with that. As long as it means you don’t have to come back another day, you forgive a lot of shit in these situations.

She gave me directions and then said she was going on break, but the next person would take care of me.

The copy took twenty seconds. Add to that the minute and a half it took to get there and back and I was standing before her before she’d got her handbag together.

But she was not going to sit back down – or, more precisely, let me sit back down. She’d mentally checked out for her break already. Instead she said to wait just there the next guy was on his way.

He was. He came and told her he wasn’t going to sit at her desk, but at the one next door. There was already an older dude sat there, dealing with some South American selling his car or something. That dude wasn’t going on break, but would swap to the information desk (Yes, I hear you ask, why didn’t the new guy just sit at the info desk and let the old dude stay where he was? Because I’m sure there are strange rules about how much time you have to spend doing each type of job) when he’d done with the car buyer.

He was in no rush, and his computer wasn’t working the best, so the new guy, a long, tall, sour-looking guy with a Union Jack tee-shirt (not necessarily a point in favour or against him) stood there behind him, then started to pace, holding his water bottle, while I stood there in front of the desk, making sure he knew I was next in line.

And we waited.

And so did the poor people who were queuing for the information desk

Because there was nobody there. And the tall guy wasn’t going to sit down there. It wasn’t on his job list for the afternoon.

So for ten minutes, at least, as we waited for that computer to process the car purchase, people came in off the street to find an empty information desk, and the queue built up. And the only person doing any work to speak of was a the security guard – a short young South American lady, who, being responsible for our safety could not allow the line to get so big and out of control. So she gave out photocopies and information to those she could, zipping around the office from place to place, and she most probably getting paid a pittance by the hour compared to the civil servants sat on their arses, or standing like long streaks of piss and going redder all the time in embarrassment at the situation.

Eventually out of said embarrassment, the guy started to acknowledge my presence, and my frustration, and when I finally sat down, and he began to process my own application, he did his best to make the computer do it’s jobs, and he was even nice enough to photocopy of one of my documents for me, so I could keep the original – which I didn’t even want, since it would only be valid for six months and I purposefully didn’t bother photocopying it. But he insisted, and I wasn’t going to argue, though I did wish that his workmate had been half as nice so I could have avoided the whole wait and his embarrassment.

After all that, the poxy computer would not work (they work through the internet, not with their own internal programs and server, if you can believe that shit).  So after another half an hour of so of sitting at that desk, I had to come back in half an hour. That didn’t help, and I’d to go back next day. Still the process wasn’t working, and in exasperation I decided that I’d not bother driving for the next few days.

That allowed me to leave my driving licence there with the dude so that he could work away on the renewal in his spare moments. This was because if the driver’s licence is not in his hands, he can’t work on the application – just in case, god forbid, I should try to send my old Irish licence back to Ireland and get a new Irish one in addition to my new Spanish one. Which is fair enough, I’d say – if I didn’t know better.

I’m sure he’s loads of spare moments, but at least he put a few to good use, so that the next day I got a call to go collect my temporary drivers licence, with the assurance that my new, ten-year licence would be in the post in a couple of weeks.

That was September. Now it’s December.

Even when you think you’ve finally won, you’re not always in the clear.

And then, just when you think you’ve seen it all, you get surprised. My new licence arrived eventually, just as I was about to get time off work to go to the DGT office and see what the hell the story was.

spanish-licence

The new licence! Worth waiting for? Not for that photo… ;-(

And then it was joined by a second, identical, Spanish licence, so that, if I was so inclined, I could indeed go back to Ireland and get a new Irish one. It’s like waiting for a bus, sometimes.