Blog Archives

My first Self-Published Book!

So I haven’t been all that unproductive, really. It’s taken many months to write – actually more than a year, which is pretty sad for a novella! – but I have completed a dystopian novella set in our future – sixty years down the line.

It’s called The Logical Solution.

It’s something I think is appropriate to our own time – as in all the best dystopias! – so I have decided to self publish it, on Kindle Direct, and have it out there asap for  everyone living through this crisis – the pandemic: let’s take things one step at a time, but there are more crises to worry about later  (and that’s everyone on the planet, bar the bastard politicians and the rich who pull their strings) – can have a look and see how much worse things could get!

Seriously, it’s supposed to be funny, too. Things might not get that bad…

AI cover

 

It’s on pre-order right now, for 99 cents! a steal. and it will come out on September 1st.

You can hit me up for a review copy if you can’t wait that long – but the review needs (please!) to be ready by publishing day so you can post it on Goodreads and Amazon and anywhere else you reckon the readers of the world will see it!

And since the novella talks about computer algorithms and whatnot – a small heads up: if everyone I know buys this book before Sept 1, then it will become an automatic best seller on Amazon. Seriously. It’s that simple to fool the computers. Then it gets on adverts from Amazon and more people see it and buy it. And then you get to say you know a best-selling author, instead of saying that one of your mates writes books, but you’ve never read any of them (yet).

Take a peak at the blurb here:

https://davidjmobrien.wordpress.com/the-logical-solution/

 

 

 

 

 

The Lockdown Posts

 

While I was in my house for the duration, I posted a message every day on my personal facebook page.

Most had no photos, just text.

 

I am posting them all here for posterity… a little snapshot of two months using humour and faux complaints to entertain those who read my news feed…

 

I will try to add some of the photos for context. The links I sometimes attached are lost, as are the interactions of others – people’s replies on my news feed, which were fun.

 

I started at day 3 of our lockdown, which was Monday, after our schools closed on Friday and the kids didn’t go to school but stayed in their cousins’ and I took them home at 12. We were ready for a few weeks at home. It took a lot longer.

Of course, we didn’t get out back to normal after any weeks. But are slowly regaining our former freedoms. But we will be okay as long as we have the countryside.

 

Hope you have a few smiles.

 

(Day two – over that weekend…)

hope the hell someone shows this to Leo V. And Boris. we’ve only just shut down in Navarra, days later than we should have – and not even properly. still saying we can take students in school tomorrow… stupid people

 

 

(first post:)

from my vantage point of 3 days into lockdown, here’s some info you might find useful…
I have been to the stores twice. they are well stocked.
my family of 4 has gone through 1.5 rolls of toilet paper.

Stay home, but stay calm. Stay away from busy supermarkets.

 

(This was a post from my author page, with the intro..)

this will give us all a lot of time to think…

It’s day three of me staying at home because of the #coronavirus lockdown.
As I went for an now illegal run around the block this morning, I thought about book recommendations – seen a few requests on facebook.
well, I don’t know who has the copyright on The Diary of Ann Frank, but that book should be required reading for every teenager who’s home from school these coming weeks.
I’ve been to the Ann Frank house in Amsterdam. More than two years in that space gives perspective on our current crises and what we’re asked to do to help our families stay alive.
And for the single folks… About a Boy has some good tips on time management.

 

Day four of confinement.
When you calculate how much booze you need for your quarantine, don’t forget to include in your calculations the fact that your kids will be at home with you. Adjust accordingly.

 

(Day 5..)

Happy St Paddy’s Day to everyone from Locked Down Spain! We hope to use these masks for more than just messing when they let us out of our house at the end of this crisis. Meanwhile, it’s day five of our confinement – and the typical Paddy’s Day rain might seem to make it easier to stay inside, but it really doesn’t. Still, we have a tree to look at outside our window, and the distant hills… And I have a bottle of black barrel Jameson…
We’ll remember this Paddy’s day for a long time… no parades, no pints in the pub, but there is still magic and mystery in Ireland. Here’s a link to something you can read to yourself, or your kids.

Paddy's day.

 

Day 6.
You think you’ll be bored…. people will repost a million ideas of virtual museums and educational websites for your kids…
Yuu’ll be too busy to do half what you’d like to do.

Plus, if you have kids they’ll be using your computer for their virtual clases and downloaded lessons and you’d not even have time to attend to your own work from a distance, never mind watch a bit of Netflix.

 

Day 7. It’s my birthday.
The good thing about this is that I can easily avoid all the fuss about it, when I’m not a big one for being the centre of attention.
The bad thing is that there’s very few people to share the cake with, and what with the new rule saying we can’t even use the building stairwell for exercise, as it’s common space, never mind go outside, well, I’ll be adding extra insulin – and kilos!
Oh, and we’re about 4 toilet rolls into our supply….
if you’ve run out of paper books to ready already, why not buy an ebook or two? the best birthday present from afar is a reader’s review

 

 

Day 8 of staying at home…
Get a dog, they say, and you’ll get exercise.
They were right.
Now every time I see someone walk their dog past my window I feel my solidarity slipping away and envy creeping in.
Because walking a dog doesn’t have to have a destination, like going to the shop does, and there are no shops in the park!

 

 

Day 9 now. A full week since my kids left the house.
I always said that apartment living was great – for many reasons. But I’d love to have to mow the grass in my garden today! Or not mow, but play with the daisies.
I have a garden, 40 minutes away, which I hope to see after another week. I’m told the daisies are blooming there!

 

Day 10.
Tickles.
I’ve never tickled my kids so much and so often in their lives as in the last ten days.
It’s great exercise for a four year old and in times of doubt and worry and things on the telly they don’t quite understand, it’s an amazing therapy. So hug your kids – if you’re not isolating from them – but tickle them too.

 

 

Day 11. Hoping to see some shift in the curve soon.
Meanwhile, I’ve discovered why our mothers gave us so many chores to do back in the old days – it keeps the little gits busy for a few minutes, or even half an hour, during which you can actually do something useful! I’m even considering pretending there’s a run on dishwasher tablets as well as toilet rolls so they can wash and dry and put away!

 

Day twelve!
They say this is going to go on till the 12th of April now… That’s a long time if you think about it.
So we don’t.
We count toilet rolls – about 7 gone, but I really don’t count toilet rolls. Why would I – there’s plenty in the shops now.
We don’t count beers. But when I went shopping on Saturday afternoon there was a serious dent in the supermarket’s supply – only a few crates of San Miguel and of course lots of the fancy expensive beers we should also be drinking right now because if anything this has taught us is that life’s too short to skimp on good beer.

 

 

Day 13.

It’s amazing how fast the days go by, really. But the death count keeps going up, though we’re supposed to see a drop in infections now soon (everything is soon, but not soon enough). The police are having a field day fining and arresting anyone out without what they say is a good reason. One Ould Granda was buying speed for his granddaughter – well, we can’t argue with that. But one lad was arrested for going out to buy beer – apparently not a necessity (well, only if you’ve got wine and spirits left at home) and now they say you’ve to spend at least 30 euro at the shops to justify the trip. So no popping out for eggs unless you add a bottle of vodka or two to the list…
In my humble opinion the cops would be better employed helping out in nursing homes, which are in a terrible state from sick workers and lack of funeral home workers up to the task of dealing with the dead – which the workers aren’t supposed to touch, apparently.

 

Day 14.
There are many lessons to be learnt from this experience. Our children are teaching us one important one:
Accept the situation and make the best of it.
As long as you have your loved ones, all will be well.
One day at a time, take the time to smile.
The world outside will be waiting for us.

 

 

Day 15.
This crisis, like every crisis, reveals to us the Haves and the Have Nots.

in this case, it’s those who have a balcony from which to applaud the health services, versus those who don’t and so don’t appear on the news singing.

Those who have a south-facing window which gets some sun versus those who are giving their kids Vitamin D supplements after two weeks indoors.

Those who have computers and internet so their kids can do all their assigned work versus those who are lucky the government is putting some revision lessons on TV.

Those who have a flat where you can swing a cat versus those who are watching tv because the only place to sit down is the sofa and the only way to avoid arguments from being in each other’s faces all day.

 

 

Day 16.

And.. for the first time
in forever…

I don’t give a fuck about the clocks going forward.

 

 

day 17.
now we know why those movie characters in jail were always doing push-ups.
The smaller the place of confinement the greater the urge to exercise.

 

 

Day 18.
Despite the applause etc., some bitterness is showing through. Some finger pointing goes on without trying to consider special circumstances – reporting old couples going for walks together when one has Alzheimers and needs to get out, or complaining that some nuns were playing football on the TV, when they were in their own garden and members of a closed order who haven’t been on the street in decades, never mind ten days…
There’s a message going around that kids with blue armbands are outside because their autistic – just so that the hotheads and finger pointers won’t lash them and their parents out of it for showing their faces on the street like they’re conspiring to kill us all.
Take a breath, and pause to ponder – is there possibly a good reason these people are outside? Yes, there probably is.
Unless they’re teenagers snogging. Then definitely rip them a new one.

 

 

Day 19
Hamelin was a sad place.
Pamplona is almost as sad, but with some common sense, we could make the streets alive again.

 

 

Day 19. This shit sure does feel long now. Imagine how it feels to a 4 year old, or a toddler?

 

 

its day 21. yesterday I repeated 19.. shows how this thing is going!
anyway, today they brought the army into Pamplona.
Yes. The army.
I watched a patrol walk past my house. 8 men, in formation, looking around and up at the balconies.
I can’t see why they were walking down my street.
Ostensibly they’re here to help.
I don’t know how. I didn’t see them disinfect the bins downstairs. There are no old folks home on my street. Parking their trucks in the square where the children play isn’t going to help the kids get through this confinement any better, unless they’re going to volunteer to take our kids out for supervised walks to some green space.
All that I know is going to the stores now will involve being stopped by soldiers.
The residents of the city centre are not impressed by their arrival. Anyone who understands politics in Northern Spain will know why.
I fail to see how anyone in the government thought this was a good idea.
I’ve great respect for the army. They can help out a lot, when deployed properly. but as a Paddy, I have learnt about bad deployments. and a city (with no greenery to speak of inside the walls) under lockdown where people are already restricted from doing more than letting their dog shit and getting a loaf of bread once a day, is no place for army deployment.
But I’ll get back to Netflix now.

 

 

day 22. three weeks and they just announced 3 more – until April 26th.
Tired of watching how badly those supposedly working for us are doing things so shitily. There have to be more tests, yet I near from biologists that local governments won’t shell out a tenner to have people tested accurately, instead going for 17euro fast tests from China that only test for antibodies. They told us masks weren’t necessary, but we all knew that was just to stop us rioting in the streets because there were no fucking masks. We won’t get our kids back out in the sun and grass until things are organised right. And I don’t see it happening anytime soon.

 

 

Day 22. Sunday, wrote Mr Kipling…
I wonder how many other parents are thinking about faking symptoms in order to self isolate?

 

 

Day 23. Went shopping. Didn’t need bog roll because even with all four of us crapping at home we’re still only about 20 rolls in.
There are some shortages – people are taking my advice and drinking good beer, but there’s still lots of San Miguel despite everyone drinking at home rather than their local…
Cup-cake holders and other baking supplies are scant – but that’s my fault for not realising I could distract my oldest for hours by letting her have at with the kitchen.
only one minor incident with the microwave and a plastic bowl so far…

 

 

Day 24. Some unfortunate news from the UK,
and from Ireland…
People are already starting to get angry with others about them sunbathing or going to the beach. I’d advise everyone to be thankful for the permission to get out of their house in the first place and not invite the powers that be to start restricting movement more than necessary – they’ll be happy to oblige if it gets to that.

 

 

day 25.. the curve is starting, starting, to turn here. it’s still higher than I thought it would be after this long. No sudden drop after 14 days by any means. We’ll be inside another two weeks. But then, perhaps, we’ll get out. Doesn’t seem so long. Two weeks. no problem. we’ve done more than three.
And I might actually get some time to read since we’ve Easter Holidays!

 

 

Day 26
Newton had a nannie.
This is something any scientist worth the name has figured out in in this quarantine.
As for Shakespeare, well that lad might have written King Lear during lockdown for the plague, but he wrote a whole lot of other shit when he was allowed out and about, so we can conclude that he had a fecking nanny too. Or he had no kids.

 

 

Day 27?
This is going to be a lot longer than most Good Fridays.
Traditionally, I would scoff at Ireland having their pubs closed while here in Spain we can go for a beer.
Ireland started opening their pubs last Good Friday, so I stopped…
It was nice while it lasted, lads!
Here, meanwhile…
We don’t even have that crazy procession tonight – seems the pillowcases on their heads don’t let them avoid the physical distancing rules.

 

 

 

day 28. 4 weeks in. well, I don’t feel like I got a lot done in that month… read Gulliver’s Travels. Only travelling I did.
Reading The Shock Doctrine. Not happy reading, but important for the times we’re living and going to live.
Nearly edited a dystopian novella – adding some sentences relevant to our pandemic (it’s set in the future, of course) and… well, I suppose keeping the kids fed and watered more-or-less entertained while my wife tries to concentrate and also fulfilling my teaching workload counts too, right?
Oh, and we watched Tiger King and lots of news. too much news… not new news… stupid people telling us bullshit news.
what’d ya do in the pandemic Granda?
watched a lot of news, kid!

 

Day 29
Happy Easter!
As if any of us needs more chocolate.

But it could be worse…
Could be vodka.

Only kidding!

It’s vodka as well.

 

(there is no day 30, it seems…. Unless FB deleted it, like they deleted other content, conts.)
Day 31. A month.
I just want to point out that these old memes, from the old days (last month) said living ALONE… and in the friggin’ WOODS.

They never asked who could do it in their FLAT with stressed out spouse and bored/frustrated/worried kids who have to be homeschooled while you yourself will be working from home at the same time.

So, after my month, I think I deserve the Million Bucks!

that is all.

 

 

Day 32.
This is the part of the movie where they skip forward weeks or months, and come back when my quarantine beard is an inch longer (or I’m mad fit from all the zumba) without all the boring shite in the middle.

we could have a fluttering of the calendar, days falling away until mid May…

Or a montage.

Even Rocky had a montage…

 

 

Day 33…
This is not The Martian.

There is no fast forward.

We have to suck up every boring day of same old shite for however many years this lasts…

Today’s quibble:
I used to hate running.

Now I’d be happy to go for a run.

All my hate has been transferred to Zumba.

 

 

Day 34
So a couple of days ago Mariano Rajoy, the former president of the country, was filmed breaking the quarantine laws – out walking in his neighbourhood every morning as blatant as you please. This is the person who would have been in charge of this state of emergency if it had happened two years ago.
He sets an example, though, of how politicians, especially the right wing, could not give a fuck about us, or the rules they make us abide by. They really believe they are above us and the law.
We are the ones fixing this problem, by our sacrifices and they merely make life harder than it needs to be by their incompetence.

 

 

Day 35…
In the before time, I used to watch the part of the news where they talk about the stock market, and ask…

Who needs to know this?

The trends in the IBEX, FTSE, Ibex 100… that’s all just meaningless information to most of us.
It’s only relevant to a few lucky rich people.

Now, I ask myself the same question when they show the weather forecast…

 

 

Day 36…
You’ve probably noticed this by now everywhere, but it’s funny how when we were kids we had various chores….

One was to help put away the shopping after the weekly supermarket trip.

Another was we’d to wash, dry, and put away the dishes after dinner.

Now these two have multiplied by one another, and we’re washing, drying, and putting away the fecking shopping.

And we can’t even make the kids do it, much, either…

 

 

Day 37
we have positive news here in Spain… the govt. has decided to let us take kids outside for walks from next week. Kids who’ve not left the house (flats) for a month and a half.
They’ve yet to say exactly what time table and how far we can go, but they reckon between 10am and 12pm, less than 1km from home.

And yet, it was on the news that 60% of citizens reckon we should keep the kids inside…
WTF?
Who are these people?

 

 

Day 38.
A sad day in Pamplona. The festivals this year have been officially cancelled. We knew it was coming, but it’s a hard blow. It’s a lesson for us all that whatever we used to take for granted, and assumed would happen every year was really a luxury we should be grateful for the little things we still have.

ps, the clock counts down to 12pm on July 6th…
https://www.diariodenavarra.es/…/suspendidos-los-sanfermine…

 

 

day 39
Earth Day.
Well, fifty years on we can see a clear progress
in the wrong direction.
But this time now, is hopefully a wake up that all we have, and all we need, is the earth.
I see a lot of people who are not used to thinking outside the concrete box realise that going for a walk is the best thing they could ask for.
And today, despite the problems they and other migrants are facing, I saw the first swift of the season. Something that made my quarantine lighter.

The Little Alleviations

There are things that make this almost okay:
A kite fly past; the sight of storks soaring over
Distant river plain; bats, breaking out at twilight
Across the buildings; blackbirds warbling from
Rooftops, bursting forth louder than before due to
Absence of traffic drowning out twittering; blue tits
Appearing on balcony railings while waiting claiming
Arrival of swallows and swifts gliding above turtledoves.

 

 

Day 40. a “full” quarantine, as the bible says.
went to the doctors today (eye check up) and got to actually walk through town. So I took the route through the park and it was a beautiful sight!
The lawns haven’t been mowed in weeks!
I’m delighted.
The only things missing were kids, running and jumping and falling and hiding in the long grass, plucking and blocking dandelions.
I hope to hell they leave it like that for next week when the kids can get out.

 

yamaguchi 1

 

Day 41 (delayed)
sometimes the internet just doesn’t work.
And I wonder how people would deal with this if it happened back in the 80s.
Probably fine. We were used to being bored back then.

 

Day 42 (late, also)
It’s amazing how many stupid questions students still send after six weeks of this.
Sunday morning answering emails from Saturday midnight
And my doctor said, “on holidays,” when I told her I was a teacher the other day.

 

 

Day 43.
Finally got time to write this idea about lessons to be learned these days.

(a link to Lessons Learnt)

 

 

Day 44
The birds are singing more and louder in the cities now that the traffic has died down.
But by Jaysus, it’s still not the same as the chorus in the countryside.
A feast for the ears.

 

 

Day 45 (late again! I am as bad as my students!)
Since Sunday we’re allowed out for exercise. A freedom we truly appreciate.
Yesterday we went for a walk outside the village, through the country.
But to our surprise and disappointment, we found that in our absence, while we locked inside hoping spring was flourishing in blessed isolation, the local council had decided that the brambles and bushes along the field access paths should be cut back. In April.
Clearly in Spain there are no rules about not cutting hedges during nesting season.
The really stupid thing is that this area has a lot of erosion. Those walls of soil under the fields are only held up by the roots of the bushes and will crumble during the spring and summer storms if we get a good downpour.

We’re getting lots of storms this week, and I can only hope that new growth can cover the bare earth before it’s washed into the river.

 

 

Day 46.
Missed yesterday, but hey, you didn’t notice. and when you look back on this, it’ll all blur into one long weekend in your memory.
Anyway, I’m reading this book. It’s taking a long time because I’m so super busy (as I’ve already complained about.) I’m on the bit where both American and British Governments had inquiries to find out what the hell went wrong, who was responsible and how to make sure it didn’t happen again (which it didn’t until roll on roll off put profit over safety again)…
It’s an appropriate comparison to our current situation – dipshit businessmen in charge, (on both sides of The Atlantic) no thought for safety over profit, wilfully ignoring warnings, and even going gung ho, full speed ahead into the danger zone like they were fucking indestructible.
Except there’s a titanic – or two – going down every day now.
And at least in the Titanic, old folks were taken care of.

 

 

 

Day 47
It’s May Day, international worker’s day.
Many of us are at home, not working anyway. Some without pay.
But lots are out there, working away the same as every day these last two months.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could swap jobs for today.
If the delivery workers and amazon warehouse staff and nursing home care givers could stay home and the oil company executives and airline CEOs and cruise ship owners could take their place – not that they need anyone in charge right now.
It’d give the former group some time to practice lobbying the government for bailouts and subsidies and grants and interest free loans; which seems to be all the latter group are good for.
And then, perhaps, the front line workers, with the ear of the politicians, might get the decent wages, the worker’s rights, the PPEs that are actually needed to keep our society stitched together.

 

 

Day 48

Spain has allowed adults to go out for exercise for the first time in two months.
If you live in a town with more than 5k people, your windows are 6-10am and 8-11pm.
Smaller than that, you can go when you want.
In the before time, we had been hearing of the problem of depopulation.
However, that might slow down now.
Telecommuting is now much more viable, houses with gardens rather than poky flats without a balcony are a godsend to mental health in lockdown, open spaces mean you can avoid your neighbours – which is why we have an open timetable (and few visits by police to make sure you’re not walking in the field behind your house a few days earlier than the restrictions were lifted).
I think this pandemic will make many reconsider rural living.

these are what I woke up to today…. first from my window, second the wall of our garden, when I went for my jog. viva the countryside!

website 11

 

website wall

 

 

Day 49
I have still not had to buy more toilet paper.
I have had no problem buying more beer and wine.
Whiskey levels are still looking good.
But I was running low on one vital item… TEA Bags.
Irish tea bags.
In the before time, my parents would have been visiting me here this weekend and resupply me, but of course, that trip didn’t happen.
However, fear not!
My brother and sister-in-law have sent me a care package!
I got tea bags and Tayto crisps (yeah, I was hoping for King, but don’t tell them that) soda bread mix, Keanes crisps, AAAAND a packet of Cadbury TWIRLS!!!
Hurray for them, and for the post office.
It really feels like being in prison now!

 

 

Day 50
After having classes with all my school groups, and chatting, I have discovered something I kinda guessed at, but was hoping would not be true…..

Nobody took the opportunity of the last 7 weeks to read a book they might not have read otherwise.

Those who read, read some more.

Those who don’t read played a shit load more video games.

 

 

Day 51.
They say we will have school opening in September with half the kids in class. That means kids have to rotate, one day on one day off, or something like that.
However it turns out, teachers are going to have to reinvent their classes again.
And the government better shell out for free internet access and laptops for all students,
Because if I am spending my life correcting work from off days, like I am spending it now, as kids send in work days and weeks late.and I have to keep sending messages and mails to ask them where their work is, and report to tutors for kids MIA, I will come down hard on the kids who’re not keeping up their end of the bargain.
There will be no excuses of “I had to share my computer with my little sister.”

 

 

 

Day 52

If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all.
They say.

Today I have nothing to say.

(Here I posted photos I’d taken in the village.)website 7website 6

 
Day 53
I have nothing to say today, either.website1

Some more photos…
Day 54

How often to we look down and notice the struggles that go on below us?
How often do we consider just how small are our troubles in the context of the world?

website 5

you have to zoom right in to see the struggle ensuing.

 

Day 55 (late again, but god I’m busy!)
Interesting article about the impact of having a garden or not in the Financial Times.
We need to get ourselves, and especially our kids, out into the greenery, however we can.
Here are a few photos of some poppies popping up in some barley, a paddock so full of orchids I had to pick my steps to avoid stepping on them, and the victims of the drying ponds (it rained last night, but too late for many) some of which I rescued and put into a little pond I made out of a plastic tray.

website 4website3

 

website2

 

Day 56
This is the last day of our confinement.

Tomorrow we can go to small shops, bars and visit friends and family – all within our province of Navarra.

I’m going nowhere… it’s Monday, so I’ll be chained to the computer as usual.

But things will be different… A birthday party in the village can be celebrated by all the kids, since there are fewer than ten of them here!

Parents will watch from a safe distance, and wash everyone before and after!

It’s a new kind of life, but it’s life.

 

 

(The final post, more or less….)

 

A study of the Spanish population shows that only around 5% have gained immunity from Covid 19.
It’s going to be a loooong road, folks.

 

 

 

 

We continue on still, with restrictions being lifted slowly, but we won’t be going back to normal. Ever.

But we will go onwards to something new.

 

Things you learn from reading books

It’s amazing what you can learn from books.

Sounds silly, that sentence…

I love when I’m deep in a book and something stops me halfway through a paragraph and makes me say “Holy shit!” out loud – I never knew that! Or, “Wow. Who knew?”

And sometimes it’ll send me off to investigate further.

There are some writers, editors etc., and I suppose readers, who don’t like this. They don’t anything that makes you interrupt the story, that keeps your nose in the leaves.

But for me, a really rich book is one that makes you pause every now and then and think about what you’re reading, ponder the meaning of what you’ve read, assimilate the knowledge this piece of writing has given you over and above an entertaining read.

This is why people read fiction. This is why science indicates that people who read fiction are more empathetic.

Here are three examples:

homo deus.jpg

I started reading Homo Deus, a recent non-fiction book, the sequel to Sapiens, which you might have heard of.

But before I go deep into it, I wanted to read a similarly titled novel – Men Like Gods, by HG Wells.

men like gods.jpg

An interesting book. We are clearly still in Wells’ Age of Confusion, with our population soaring way, way past what Wells worried was too many (2000m), and our world yet being pillaged by the rich.

But what really amazed me, in a book about a crossing dimensions into new universes (where the telecommunications department knows where every human is at all times but the knowledge can only be used for the good of the individual!) was the fact that the main character commented on the fact that there were thrushes singing in July – that he knew these birds stopped singing by June.

This is a character who writes for a liberal paper in the centre of London.

I’m a zoologist – sorry, I have a doctorate in zoology (there are picky fuckers out there in twitterlandia who like to point out that there’s a difference if I no longer gain employment from zoology except by teaching biology, who I hope die when they’re on a plane and a retired doctor tells them he’s no longer qualified to give them first aid while they suffer cardiac arrest, but I digress) – though not an ornithologist, but I had no idea.

He also commented on the fact that nightingales could be found in Pangbourne and Caversham, both in Reading just outside London were great places for nightingales (I wonder if there are any there now) which was amazing knowledge for an average Joe, too.

Why don’t we all know such things now? Where is our general knowledge of the life of other species around us gone? I was only familiar with the Blackbird and Robin – aside from the magpies and seagulls – back home in my hedgerow.

 

How much we have lost, even from such busy, hedonistic, polluted and poverty-stricken times as 1920’s London.

point counter.jpg

Another book I recently read, and commented on in my facebook feed, is Point Counter Point, by the contemporaneous Aldous Huxley, who only predicted the future in this particular novel by talking about the fact that the world would run out of phosphorous, and other important raw materials and minerals due to unhinged addiction to progress, while politicians fucked around with petty, inconsequential nonsense that they hoped with get them elected over someone equally competent – or in competent, as the case usually is – while the problems that really affect us only snowball.

 

The third novel was Meridian, the second novel by Alice Walker, the author of The Colour Purple.

meridian.jpg

 

 

At the end of the book, Walker describes the main character in the following paragraph:

“On those occasions such was her rage that that she actually felt as if the rich and racist of the world should stand in fear of her, because she – though apparently weak and penniless, a little crazy and without power – was as yet of a resolute and relatively fearless character, which, sufficient in its calm acceptance of its own purpose, could bring the mightiest country to its knees.

And I couldn’t help but think of Greta Thunberg – a beam of light in our own dark times, who seemingly powerless, is nonetheless, so resolute in her purpose that she has an immense effect upon countries.”

It is so often the person who seems weakest who can stand the strongest.

I only hope that in contrast to how people treated people like Meridian in the era of civil rights, that we will appreciate Greta for the positive influence she is on global justice and the survival of our society, and protect her from the evils we know some amongst us would wish her.

 

 

 

“From a Distance…”

In my last blog post I said that we need government to get us out of this crisis we are immersed in (it’s 20˚C in Pamplona today, the 26thof February, while the kids in my school are supposedly up in the Pyrenees skiing for the week).

 

The problem is that governments are only interested in keeping their economies going full steam ahead on the coal of capitalism.

 

Of course, some of them are so fucking shit that they’re doing the opposite of what their puppet masters would have them do. It’s possible that they might help the planet by fucking up our society… something pondered in this next poem.

 

 

Macro Views

 

What would another species say

About our world?

 

Watching these tiny actions,

While the worst barely awaits,

Each effort hardly abates.

 

Indeed, we are bathers

Intent upon our piece of sand,

While the wave rears up behind.

 

The idiocy of some, the ignorance

Of others, ill intent and greed of

Thirds all add up to cancel out

The efforts of all the rest

To avoid the coming destruction and

Current misery.

 

Yet, in cold chemical analysis, knowing

The decimation imminent for so many

Might an outsider smile at

Individual deaths

Inflicted by despicable people if that

Also impedes the current trajectory:

 

Disruption of our good government,

The usual business of bustling populations

Slowing down the business as usual

Which we aren’t wont to stop

But must if we are to have

Any business being on the planet

In the usual way we’ve been since

First becoming people.

 

The course needs altering, if not

Halting. The actors less relevant

Than the actions: Evil instead of

Well-intentioned will still be better

Than acting not at all.

 

 

https---d1u1p2xjjiahg3.cloudfront.net-ac18a1c3-a7d0-4838-9dc4-e2ec82d46859.jpg

You can see the walls, but can you see the fuckwits from space?

 

No points for guessing who is the main person I had in mind for this clusterfuck.

 

 

Good News and Bad

We have good news and bad news.

No, not that Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump won the New Hampshire primaries, though for the natural world, and the rest of the world, it might be very significant in the long run.

I’m talking about things much closer to home, to Ireland and Europe.

First, the good news.

The European Parliament has voted to approve a report on the Mid-term review of the EU’s Biodiversity Strategy, which calls for the protection of the Birds and Habitats Directives.

They did this on the back of a huge public movement to urge their MEPs to protect the habitat, which shows the power of people to get the word out to their elected officials to do the right thing.

(Of course, we have to compare that to what happened in Ireland the other week, when the will of the people lost out to the vested interests of the farming community.)

 

The bad news is that protecting our wildlife might be too late for some.

It’s possible our efforts to save species are, in some cases, doomed to failure, due to past pollution we can’t turn the clock back on. Whales and dolphins in some areas will go extinct, including in Ireland, where despite our shores being a cetacean sanctuary, no orca calf has been spotted in twenty-five years.

Though the adults seem okay, the high load of toxins they carry from pollutants that have been banned for years seems to have rendered them unable to breed.

orca_ireland_regan@body

Orca pod off Ireland’s coast. Credit: Lt Alan O’Regan, XO L.E. Clare

This reminds me of what might have happened to any real animals in Loch Ness, waiting for that last example of a long-lived species to die. Will we have some Lonesome Fungi, an old lone dolphin, or an orca, like we had Lonesome George on the Galapagos? Even worse, when we go whale watching will we stare into the eyes of an animal who knows that their numbers are slowly dwindling, and they are destined to die out?

 

My Seventh Son might be an Angry Young Man…

So I’m working on edits to my novel, Peter and the Little People. This will be my seventh published book, none of them seem to be in the same genre – this one way different to the rest; my first children’s novel. I think it might be my last children’s novel. At least, I assumed it would be when I wrote it. The idea seemed perfect for a children’s book, but whether I am a children’s novel writer, I am not at all sure. I wish I could put my books in a handy category, but I can’t yet. Only the characters’ awareness, and love, of the natural world around them unites these very different stories. In that, they are all my children.

I also assumed I’d never write another young adult book when I finished The Soul of Adam Short, but I’m in the middle of writing another one now. I got the idea for a new one when I watched the profusion of gorse fires across Ireland last April, and it seemed an issue that teenagers might be likely to tackle rather than shake their heads and get on with their day.

Readers will know I’ve pledged to donate 10% of my royalties to WWF, the World Wildlife Fund. For Peter and the Little People, I also plan to give a further 10% to IWT, the Irish Wildlife Trust, which advocates for wildlife on the island of Ireland, and whose work Peter, and the Little People, would most certainly support. The Little People remember the animals with which we once shared our island, and are dismayed when Peter tells them they’re gone from every corner of it.

I don’t want to reveal too much about the story, but it is for kids and as long as you promise not to tell them before they get a chance to read it, I can tell you that there is a happy ending which is open to a sequel – which I never envisioned until my editor mentioned she’d like to see how Peter grew up.

Instead of the work to rewild Ireland, and return those missing species to it, for the benefit of the ecosystem, the delight of the Little People, Peter, Gemma and all the rest of us, which I might have the pleasure of writing about, it seems that some humans are not quite finished exterminating as much wildlife as they can.

Our native red deer of Killarney National Park, one of the very few symbols we have of wild Ireland, of the wildlife people come to Ireland to see, the image of which was put on our Punt coins when we had our own currency, are under attack from a group of Kerry politicians.

They are calling for a cull of an already tiny population for dubious reasons, and just yesterday, the IWT released a press-release describing how this is an indication of a move to treat wildlife as vermin, to depreciate their value and blame them for any perceived problems we may encounter with them. (http://www.iwt.ie/press-release-deer-culls-symptomatic-of-increased-verminisation-of-our-wildlife)

Press Release: Deer culls symptomatic of increased verminisation of our wildlife

Photo: By Ken Billington (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

One Kerry senator has since declared that just the sika (an introduced species that is found in more parts of Ireland now than the native – and park escaped – red deer) should be culled, despite the fact that no evidence exists that the deer have caused any problems, and the fact that these deer are harvested every year both inside and outside the Killarney National Park. He also wants to fence in a section of the national park to restrict deer movement across a road that traverses the park, rather than ask motorists to cease speeding along that section.

How can we hope to rewild our island when this level of hatred of wildlife exists among our elected officials, when our representatives are so ignorant of the realities of wild animals, and are absolutely unwilling to give an inch in any real or perceived conflict, but instead prefer to bulldoze the wildlife out of the way. How can any children’s book have a happy ending when they are so willing to make vanish from our land the very things that children love – the wild animals and plants that we all know make life so much more worth living than any book we can read them or give them for Christmas, or any video game or toy they could get either.

If Peter does grow up under the tutelage of the Little People, I can see him becoming a very angry young man…

The Catalan Question; The Answer is Yes

Almost exactly a year ago I suggested the Scots take their chance at independence like a wide receiver clutches an American football to his chest and legs it.

I stand by that.

At the moment, the Catalans – the people of the region of Cataluña or Catalonia in the North east of what we call Spain – are pondering a similar question.

mapa-cataluna
Here’s a map for those who’ve never heard of the place – I should add that Barcelona is the capital of the region; might jog the memory..

It’s not quite the same because there will be no referendum.

The right wing government in Madrid are insisting such a referendum would be illegal, clinging to a constitution made when everyone was not quite sure some follower of Franco wouldn’t take over and return the country to Fascism for another forty years, so it was best not to ask for too much. They tried, actually, not many years later, on February 23rd 1981 (I know that because my daughter was born on the 23rd of February and everybody makes a comment; not far from the mind of people even now).

So the pro-independence parties of Catalonia have decided that if they get a broad support from the populace in their regional elections this month, they’ll go ahead and announce independence anyway, to come in after eighteen months of negotiations and preparations.

The answer is the same. Yes.

I fully expect them to get the support they want. If there had been a referendum, I reckon the Catalans would have voted to stay inside a federal Spain, albeit with more autonomy. But they weren’t given that option, and when some powerful fucker from somewhere else says you can’t have something, then it’s not too uncommon for the common folk to say, fuck you, I’m going to take it.

The question you might perhaps be asking is if I just last week said it was time to get past this silly notion of nationality, how can I suddenly support the separation of a part of a state from the rest based on that same idea?

I implied patriotism for a place that is just as good as any other place, with people who are just as good, and bad as (equal to, in fact) you and me is a load of wank, there to empower only a few dodgy politicians.

And I stand by that.

And the Catalan question involves a fair few politician of the distinctly dodgy persuasion, who have thus far got fairly rich (actually very fucking rich) off their positions, and a decent handful of whom are being investigated for fraud and corruption and all that good stuff, while they all touted how bad they and their fellow Catalans were being treated by the big bad government in Madrid.

Because the shittiness of their politicians does not negate the Catalan’s right to self-determination. They deserve to decide if they will be a separate country, and they deserve to determine how that country will be run; if it will involve the same kind of structures used up to now or if they’ll try out a whole different thing – or even return to the way things were done during the heady days of 1936 when George Orwell was marvelling at the anarchists of Barcelona, before the war was taken out of their hands by the Nazis and Stalinists.

The patriotism of the Catalans is not better or worse on its face than that of Americans or Afghans. But in the greater scheme of things it will be more positive if we end up with a situation where people are able to run their own small patch of land. I don’t want to say that they’re governed by people closer to them, because I don’t think they should be governed necessarily – I prefer to see politicians as citizen representatives than leaders; which they jolly well should be, to put it nicely.

If the world, or in this case, Europe, was broken up into smaller and smaller pieces then people would have more control over their politicians, would be able to keep closer tabs on them, and make them do what they are supposed to (forward the good of their fellow citizens and the area as a whole) rather than get rich helping out big corporations. Iceland got itself out of debt because the politicians could not hide from the population, and had to do what the citizens said – which in this case was don’t pay those fucking leech banks. Ireland didn’t do the same because our politicians are separated, just a little bit too much, from their constituents, and because they know we’ll vote them back in in four or eight years because we’ve short memories and we’re a little stupid at times, and since we had our independence and a civil war we’re reluctant to go on the rampage again (by we I mean those still keeping their heads above water by keeping their heads down, to mix a metaphor).

Even though Ireland is run by a bunch of arseholes, they haven’t fleeced us as much as the corrupt pigs in Spain have, simply because they couldn’t get away with such opulence if they took all they could. We’d notice if they suddenly had their own helicopters and yachts and private islands. The Spanish have been used to rich nobility for ages, what with that old woman who’d more titles than the queen of England. There is a social circle to which the politicians can aspire, which is kind of lacking in Ireland. Saying that, we did have Charlie Haughey in Ireland, who had his own private island and boat and all that gear, and it took us a long time to ask the question, “how the fuck is he able to afford race horses and the like, and just why is our prime minister called Champagne fucking Charlie anyway?”

But that’s the Irish for ye.

Back to the point.
If Europe is a band of tiny nations, it’s less likely that one arsehole can just do that the hell he wants. Putin rules one huge country, and as such, has power. If we could knock Russia back into a plethora of small principalities (not calling them that, though, since we’d rather not have any princes running them) then he’d only be in charge of one.

It’s hard to do with Russia, but the nationalistic movements of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that unified Germany and Italy, and Spain and France, too, can be turned back now. It was all well and good (actually, it was shit, cos it caused two fucking world wars) for a while, but we’ve gone beyond that now – we have a unification of Germany WITH Italy and Spain and France into mother Europe, and so it’s fine to go back to having Bavaria and Prussia and Lombardy and Galicia, etc. If Mrs Merkel was the leader of just one Germanic region (not sure where she’s from), then she’d not be able to frog march us all into eternal debt. She’d have to find consensus. And that would be harder to find (a consensus that we all pay back huge banks money they don’t deserve and we didn’t lose) when every other leader had to answer to a population he or she was forced to live closely among.

The smaller the country, the more accountable are the representatives.

And the more necessary for such small nations to band together to pursue common goals.

And those common goals are less likely to be sucking the bell ends of banks and corporations.

So go for it, Cataluña. What have you got to lose? EU membership? Nah. They need you more than they need the Greeks, or the Irish for that matter. Just come back in under better terms.

Why We Write

As you know, we just voted for equal marriage in Ireland.

I posted and shared and liked a lot of stuff on my facebook page recently regarding that vote. I also wrote a blog post and even reposted it the day before the referendum.

As an author, perhaps I shouldn’t put such political or religious sensitive material things out there. I’ve been told to be careful. There can be a backlash against it, and it can hurt your career as an author. I learned this from the experience of another author who I follow on facebook. Someone didn’t like the author’s opinion in regarding the Irish vote for Equal Marriage. And they lowered themselves to dirty tricks.

Which is very sad.

Do we always have to care what people think to respect their work?

I mean, I don’t like Tom Cruise much as a personality, but I think he’s a great actor and I watch his movies – ditto for Mel Gibson.

Of course, in my own case, I believe I am on the right side of the arguments, and hope it will make people more receptive to my writing, in the end.

Because why do I write?

Let me say first, in answer to my own question, that I don’t care much about an author’s opinions.

I follow Anne Rice on facebook. I love that she’s cool, and that she replied to my email when I pointed out a typo in one of her books. But I read her books before I found out she was cool, and would have kept reading, despite her political views. I have rarely looked up information on the authors whose books I have read. I don’t think many people do. Even vegans read The Old Man and the Sea and see the quality of the book.

But many readers do care about the writers. They want to like the author.

I hope that these readers don’t hate my books (or pretend to hate them because they don’t like me).

I am sure, on the contrary, that if they hate what I say then they will hate what I write.

For what are my books if not attempts to tell a story at the same time as awaken consciousness, make the reader aware of a topic, make them think, change them a little, for the better, for having read them? (High aspirations, I know, but we must try. If we don’t try save the planet we are certainly doomed.)

As an example, a post I wrote about farmers illegally burning land in Ireland got much more coverage than most of my musings and was sent around facebook quite a bit (to my amazement). I looked through a few comments (Okay, all of them) and found nothing but agreement, even with my use of bad words.

Every author, I think, tries to change their reader.

And to a certain extent, we have a responsibility to do so. Just this week, George Monbiot took a children’s author to task for contributing to the whitewashing of the realities of intensive farming for food and milk production.

There are some who write just to thrill, to scare, for the enjoyment of making the reader have an emotion.

I do too. But I also want the reader to pause, to learn a little.

I know I’m not alone. Before the internet came about to let us connect to the daily musings of our favourite writers, everyone could get a sense of the writer’s opinions from their novels. I never knew anything about Rolling Stone Magazine until I read Stephen King’s Firestarter. But it gave me an insight into King that none of his shared postings on the internet have altered.

I know it’s not considered good writing to have the reader pause, to look up from the page to have to go and look up a word, or a reference. Perhaps.

But I love those kind of books. I like being immersed in a movie so much that I don’t notice two hours go by, but afterwards, I like to be able to talk about it, about the parts that I haven’t quite figured out. I love the same with books, though I can take a break in the middle rather than waiting till the end. I love spending two hours on wikipedia or youtube, filling in blanks and adding to my knowledge, like I did after I watched Pride last month.

If we writers really thought thinking was a bad thing, then why would be bother thinking up these stories?

And I have faith that thinking hasn’t gone completely out of fashion. Even though the thoughts are often depressing.

Post 101: Thoughts on the future

I’ve been pondering the future over the Christmas and New Year, mostly spurred by reading that as we go into a new year we can look forward to seeing some more wildlife in some places in Europe, but others are disappearing. In light of the recent Greek election and the rise of a new political party here in Spain which seems likely to take away power from the current entrenched and corrupt parties, I wonder what the future will look like. Since I just hit 100 posts on the blog, too, I thought today a good day to splatter you with my not-very-logical array of thoughts!

 

We are a very strange species, us humans: we have the ability to ponder and understand the past and future, which is, as currently demonstrable, pretty uncommon in the animal world. We think about the future and our past so much that we often seem incapable of enjoying, or even appreciating, the present. Yet at the same time, we consider the future only in the context of our current situation, and seem incapable of avoiding the oncoming train of change.

 

This Christmas, people in Europe looked back at a moment 100 years ago when men showed their common humanity. Right now after the attacks in France, politicians are falling over themselves to declare our unity against a common enemy. Yet we are stuck in the same paradigm – our politicians can’t get past the supposedly separate destinies of each different European country. They’re kicking out emigrants now, if they don’t have a job, sending them back to their home countries despite our purported freedom of travel and working. When they wanted to create the common market, they sold us citizens a stream of shit that we’d all be equal. When I moved from Ireland to Spain I was able to collect unemployment benefit until I found a job a few weeks after arriving. That’s suddenly something they want to stop doing now, though. Imagine New York kicking out Iowans because they lost their job? Ironically, if it were a real union, then there would only be migration for cultural or personal reasons, because policies would be applied across the union and people would have equal opportunity in their own land. The citizens who upped sticks and went to a land with a different language are the ones who invested in this union, and to treat them so badly now shows that it is all a facade.

 

Looking at the past seems easier than looking forward, or even around us. We follow constitutions people wrote thirty or eighty or two hundred years ago (depending if you’re in Spain, Ireland or the US) without considering their authors wouldn’t have a clue about our modern world – and would have a thing or two to say to us on that score, into the bargain, because I’m sure our world doesn’t conform to their expectations of the future.

 

Many of us follow the teachings of a man who was alive two thousand years ago – but do we look two thousand years ahead? Or two hundred? Or eighty? Or thirty?

No; we seem locked into the idea that all will be well. 350 years after that man died, everyone presumed that the Roman Empire would continue forever, and all was well, but the dark ages came.

Are we prepared for our dark ages? We know it’s entirely possible, but seem to be incapable of getting out of the way of it – blinking at the light like deer and about to be run over by it.

 

We would like our lives to be the same in the future (more or less: not all of us live in luxury of course). We like the way we live, we like our houses. After storms we reconstruct. But we have to realize that reconstruction is not going to be an option for too much longer if we don’t change other things. We won’t be driving cars in eighty years unless we stop using all the oil.

 

Staying somewhat the same will require an effort – and in some cases a change in how we do things.

Horseshoe falls

I always remember my trip to Niagara Falls when I lived in America. I learned that during the day only half the water from the river goes over the falls: the rest is diverted. At night, just a third goes over. Not only does this produce electricity when the water is sent through the turbines rather than over the cliff, but it ensures that Niagara Falls stays in one place – right there, where they’ve built the town around it. If all the water went over the falls, it would erode it back towards the lake, and then the nice viewing platforms and lighting arrangements would have to be moved, too. People want to keep the cascade where it is, and they make sure it stays there.

Yet we want (or at least should) the temperature of the planet to stay the same, so we can remain living in the same places we are accustomed to, where the climate is just right for us. Moving would be a much greater effort than changing the way we do things so we can stay.

 

Unfortunately, not all of us can probably stay in the same houses because of the change that already faces us. But we have to find them somewhere else to stay, and that might mean allowing them into our areas where we think there are already too man people. Like the European immigration problem, though, the only way to confront the situation is from a stance of equality – and for some that will mean a lowering of our standards of living. If we don’t decide that we must band together to fight towards a common destiny, though, we’re all going to face a much bigger fight.