The biggest news in the UK at the moment is all about when IT goes wrong. Well, really it’s about the appalling injustice, destruction and simple chaos that can follow when IT goes wrong and the management who commissioned it are still believers.
And that, of course, brings us very quickly to the people who use the IT in question. And who might have been responsible.
It’s a big issue and, oddly enough, one that I started to grapple with umpty-um years ago in my first single-title novel. Not that I realised that was it was any sort of issue at the time. I just had a story and some characters and a cracking setting on an imaginary Caribbean island.
Armistice Day 2023 falls on a Saturday. Five years ago I wrote a piece for this blog about the evolution of remembrance ceremonies since the end of World War 1.
Armistice Day was the first – on Tuesday 11th November 1919, in the grounds of Buckingham Palace. It specifically commemorated the signing of the document which ceased hostilities on the Western Front. It was the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918.
Big Ben, silent since 1914, chimed again in London. The next morning, Tuesday 12th November, the front page of The Daily Mirror showed photographs of jubilant people, some in uniform, waving flagsand cheering.
But it was a pause, rather than the end
It took another 7 months before the (arguably disastrous) Treaty of Versailles ended the war between the European Powers. And it was yet another 4 years until the Treaty of Lausanne ended hostilities between the Ottoman Empire and an alliance of Britain. France, Italy, Greece, Romania and Japan.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines “armistice” as “an agreement made by opposing sides in a war to stop fighting for a certain time; a truce.”Continue reading →
Do you speak politics? Can you string a whole series of political buzzwords together and mean, pretty much, nothing at all?
Politics-speak is the art of saying nothing, but with fancy words that sound impressive. At least, they sound impressive to some listeners. And it’s not only politicians who use them.
Often, it’s a case of the emperor’s new clothes—often, there’s nothing there at all.
For those who aren’t politics junkies, it may be useful to know that when a newspaper runs a story criticising an organisation (or a government), the organisation is usually given a right of reply. That reply often appears in full at the end of the critical article.
Those replies are great places to find political buzzwords. Or bromides, if you prefer. Gives you a chance to count them. Or to laugh at their absurdities?
Last week was the Chelsea Flower Show. I aIways beam at the enthusiastic visitors who pour down the King’s Road on their way to the Show. (Love a good enthusiast!) But somehow this year the excitement has seemed a bit muted.
Normally the Flower Show People — you can tell them by the floral outfits, exciting hats and sensible shoes for hours of walking — are a pretty cheery bunch, even in the pouring rain. This time, the worst excess of the weather has been no more than overcast. But too many of the visitors have looked harassed.
It made me really grateful for the display at the end of Royal Avenue: a Mary Poppins of indigo flowers, Gladstone bag in hand, flying in to save the Mr Banks in all of us. Her author, P L Travers (her blue plaque currently obscured by builder’s fencing), lived two streets away in Smith Street,
Chelsea in Bloom
Mary Poppins, together with her accompanying carousel ponies, are entries in a floral street art competition, supported by the Cadogan Estate, in conjunction with the Royal Horticultural Society. Since 2006, it has become a traditional companion celebration to the Chelsea Flower Show itself. Continue reading →
When I wrote about coronations a few weeks ago, I didn’t mention flags. But for the 2023 coronation, they were everywhere, weren’t they? Strings of bunting featuring the Union Jack (or Union Flag, if you prefer). So I thought I might blog about the origins and evolution of the flag we all recognise and take for granted.
Many, perhaps most, national flags are fairly simple, perhaps just three coloured stripes, like the French and German ones. The Union Jack is much more complicated, as is the flag of the USA. That’s another flag that has evolved and may continue to do so, like the differences in our languages. Dame Isadora has blogged about that, more than once 😉
The Union Jack is the flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, to use the full title. And so the flag should represent the constituent parts. But does it? Where is Wales, for example? Continue reading →
2023 is turning out to be the year of the RomCom movie. This has come as a surprise to me. But I heard it on BBC Radio4, Woman’s Hour, and it certainly sounds about right. Their researchers know of 36 new RomComs scheduled for release this year. (The clip starts 27 minutes in, if you’re as interested as I am.)
It started me thinking about romantic stories in general. And wondering — could the same be true of books? Continue reading →
This blog doesn’t normally touch politics but today (Friday) I learned that Jacinda Ardern is resigning as Prime Minister of New Zealand. She has decided to leave the job after more than five years because, she said, she “no longer has enough in the tank to do it justice.” It’s a frank and honest statement. Possibly even heroic? But is it failure?
Can heroes admit to failure?
And then I started thinking about the heroes we write and wondering whether any of them would get away with making a statement like Ardern’s. Does an alpha hero (say) ever admit that he’s no longer up to whatever it is he does? That he’s a failure? Or that he would be if he continued?
Can’t say I’ve met many in the fiction I read, especially not in contemporary romances. Romantic heroes may occasionally fail at some task, sure. But don’t they usually learn from their failure and go on to bigger and better things?
And, even when they do fail, do they confess it to the world at large? Or do they keep that chiselled jaw suitably clamped and say nothing?
The key question, I suppose, is this: is a hero a failure—unheroic—if he admits he is no longer up to the job?Continue reading →
The Chinese curse of May You Live in Interesting Times well and truly struck this week, didn’t it? I have tried to keep away from news media, I really have. But the appalling tragicomedy that is our current government just wouldn’t leave me alone. And then I re-encountered Rupert Bear.
I was really grateful to my friend and fellow writer Lesley Cookman for spending a happy few hours in the Rupert Bear Centenary Exhibition at the Beaney (House of Art and Knowledge) in Canterbury. She came back and told our Zoom Circle all about it. Continue reading →
Tomorrow is the Queen’s funeral. There will be a great deal of black and much sombre music. And probably quite a few tears. Not a day for laughter.
But the Queen was a woman who had a mischievous sense of humour, a woman who, in private and sometimes in public, loved a joke.
Remembering the Queen’s sense of fun
So today, in advance of all that sombre black, I suggest we remember her funny side. Mostly, as Sophie said last week, she kept a straight face in case someone was offended. But sometimes, just sometimes, she had a chance to let her puckish sense of fun have full rein.
Last week the Libertà Hive and several fellow authors were on a writing retreat in the north. It was a great shock, when I came down to raid the fridge for lunch on Thursday, to find four of them, very serious, sitting round the table looking at the news feed on various laptops. “It’s over,” said one. “The Queen is going.” They had heard the announcement made by the Speaker of the House of Commons.
At first, I didn’t believe it. I may even have said, “Going where?” But then someone else said, “Of course it’s been coming for a long time.” And I realised what they meant.
It was like that moment on a staircase, when you trip and think you’ve righted yourself, only then to find you’re still falling. All the way to the bottom. (I’ve done it twice.)