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A pal of mine is buying bitcoin, she’s been doing it for a couple of  years. Might be a good thing. It might take over the world’s currencies. Then again, it might be a bubble.

I think, financially, the trick is to attack the space, go where others are not, then you get a free shot – not go where the crowds are already flocking and where you have no room for manoeuvre.  Having said that, I’m not Nassim Taleb, nor am I John D Rockefeller. So I won’t be investing in digital currency.

Hester

Today I read Once Upon a Time in the North, Philip Pullman’s novella about the early days of Lee Scoresby.

After three weeks labouring over a really bad genre novel that I eventually abandoned, it was great to find an actual story, written from someone’s imagination.

“that’s what I’m not”

 

Books have to be readable. They should tattoo that onto writers’ foreheads, in reverse, so they see it every morning in the mirror. I’ve been struggling with a novel for a month, wondering why I never spent much time reading it, and I got to about three quarters of the way through and just thought, naah, that’s going in the bin.

Fortunately, my girl bought me some classic kitchen-sink novels for Christmas. I haven’t read them since I was in my teens and I’m looking forward re-reading one of them now.

 

triage

I was very interested in the response to Lord Sumption’s comment that a cancer-sufferer’s life was less valuable than a healthy person. I get what he was saying, in purely mathematical terms, and I respect that he said it to the woman’s face, but on a human level it was a cold thing to say.

But what interested me more was the response of readers, via comments in some of the tabloids.

Comments supporting his view were massively upticked, indicating that most people (or at least, most readers) supported his ‘battlefield’ view of  healthcare. On reflection, I think that people are a lot tougher-minded, and maybe a fair bit harsher, than we give them credit for. When it comes to survival, we’re clear-minded, if not always sensible of our own mortality.

I heard a story the other day of someone’s grandparents who were on a bus during an air raid in WW2. The bus behind them was blown to pieces, I was told, and they were very lucky to survive. But my thought was, ‘You’re saying there was an air raid, so they got on a bus?’

And that’s not even the first time I’ve heard of how people just carried on during the blitz. I remember hearing an old lady tell me how she was pushing her pram through the streets during an air raid, watching bits of shrapnel ping off the tramlines close to her feet. And yet another story of how, if a shop was hit, everyone would dash to it, pile in and steal every scrap that was left undestroyed. While the shop was still smouldering, the building ready to collapse, people were picking up everything and taking it home. And all the while, bombs were still falling.

Anyhow, without digressing* too much, the point is this: despite the pandemic, in general, we’re enjoying period of extreme safety and comfort. The state is treating us like an infant child, to be coddled and nurtured. To the point that you can be arrested for using harsh words, even if no one was upset.

So while it’s lovely and soft and cozy, I don’t think this social swaddling reflects us as a species, or even as a nation. We’re quite happy to be protected because, why not?, but we don’t need it and we don’t really expect it. We’re a lot more durable and tougher-minded than politicians and the self-appointed elite expect us to be. They repeatedly tell us life should be safe.

But we’re not fooled.

 

 

*if you want to know how harsh people can be, ask a class of fourteen-year-olds about their attitudes to crime and punishment. It will frighten you. When it comes to the death penalty, while they’re mostly thoughtful, and extremely fair-minded, they aint liberal.

 

Deor

In one of my short story collections I included two fragments – Fenrir and Deor. They’re short and unresolved, unless you know the Lament of Deor, and even then they’re opaque.

Combined, the two fragments are about injury, care, and recovery. And the hubris of the wolf.

 

Hraet!

I think it’s the singularity of the voice that counts. The story has to work. But the voice is first.

 

(it should be spelled “Hwaet!” but with my lisp, it’s barely different)

 

loose ends

I think a finished text can afford a certain amount of loose ends. There are Plot loose ends and Character loose ends.

Plot loose ends should be minimal, though one or two are ok. Character loose-ends should also be minimal, but you can cut yourself a little more slack. Say character A is the protagonist, and character B is the antagonist – sure, it’s best to tidy up the loose ends in regards to the plot, but their characters can be a tiny bit opaque. And K, who is a one-off character and only appears midway through, well he can afford lots of loose ends. K only needs to be tidy in regard to the narrative. The rest can be messy.

So long as loose ends don’t confuse, so long as they don’t, in some way, thwart the final act, they’re ok.

A few.

But not too many.

dark into night

The sun is shining, it’s frosty outside, temperature hovering around zero. Today there’ll be a little over eight hours of daylight.

I love the dark, the possibilities are endless, but the light is good too.

tick tock

Not being wealthy, having to pay rent, and being only occasionally reimbursed for my work, means that in the twenty-four years that I’ve been writing, I’ve mostly worked too. The last year or so I haven’t worked much at all, and I’m realising that I’ve missed it.

I’m used to writing around work, fitting it into the beginning or the end of the day: there were long stretches of getting up before five am to write, before completing a full 9-5 day job. The first thing I would do on getting a job contract would be to locate the nearest MacDonalds, so I could get there with a couple of hours to spare, and write.

But now I’m work-free, and the entire day stretches around and ahead of me, and it’s too much. To get things done, there needs to be a bit of pressure. When it comes to time, I need to feel the pang of not having enough, rather than the quiet hum of an ample sufficiency.

Writing isn’t a luxury to be enjoyed at leisure, it’s not a path laid out in rose petals.  It’s an obligation, ruthlessly enforced.

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