Tripping again!

Here in Britain, we have a new education leader who has been excoriated in the media and by teachers since he took his job. His name? Michael Gove.

Mr Gove is a man who invariably causes fury. He has stopped increasing funding for schools and colleges, he has cut budgets all over, he has presided over a decline in teacher pensions, salaries, and prospects, and he has crippled the education system with his meddling in the curriculum.

In fact, I think he eats babies too.

The left-wing of British politics adores to despise him. Actually, after a half century, I reckon the left wing loves to hate. It doesn’t matter who it is, necessarily, but they do like to loathe and insult. Gove ticks their boxes: he speaks with the most fruity accent. He is obviously a terrible man. And this week he has banned, yes, banned, “Of Mice and Men”. There is nothing more to be said, obviously.

Except, sadly, he hasn’t. He has suggested that rather than a very limited list of books to be taught at schools, a broader spectrum should be used. He has, shockingly, suggested that books written by British authors should be considered. No ban on “Of Mice and Men” or any other books, but a broader set of books from which teachers can pick.

But teachers hate him. More than that, they loathe and detest him. He is the devil incarnate to them. The unions tell us that.

I admit it. I rather like the man. Under his authority, I believe our education system is being improved. And any teacher can still recommend (and teach about) “Of Mice and Men”. What is deplorable is the way that local authorities are trashing the fabulous institutions up and down the country – our libraries are all at threat now. Without access to free books (in a manner that rewards the author still), we will lose a fundamental arm of education.

My last trip to Canada - Bouchercon

My last trip to Canada – There’s the CN Tower. Long way down…

Enough of politics. I’ve been rather lax in recent weeks and I’ve failed to update the blog very often (I’m making up slightly by putting two up today: this and a review of SAVAGE MAGIC, which I found a very absorbing read). Apologies for my tardiness, but I have been very busy with my new video posts. I’ve embarked on a project of regular interviews about my books, and videos that look at the process of writing, the tools I use, the methods of preparing myself – everything.

This week I must go to Toronto for my long-anticipated visit to Bloody Words 2014 as the International Guest of Honour. I’m deeply touched by being asked to go in that capacity, and I’m looking forward to meeting old friends and making new ones in a city that has always been a favourite of mine. In the 1980s I used to take my summer holidays in Canada with friends who lived in Uxbridge, Ontario, and the city always felt friendly and cosmopolitan.

I fondly remember the trips I made to the city centre, to my trek to the CN Tower, where I queued for almost an hour before looking up and seeing that the lifts were all a) on the outside of the building and b) made of glass so that the prisoners inside could see the view in all directions. Including down.

I left that queue and hurried to a bar to refresh myself. I have no head for heights (or depths, as Terry Pratchett would say).


View of downtown during my last trip

There is one outcome of my journey to Canada that will be difficult.

I am a thoroughly professional author, or I try to be. Partly that means I am forced to write at set times and create many stories every year. To do that, I have real problems in terms of alternative technology. For example, YouTube. I cannot work it, as my daughter/director reminds me at regular intervals. Which is why I am not allowed to upload new films on my own. She must do it for me.

Which means that I cannot upload a new video to YouTube on Thursday for the simple reason that I won’t be here. And no, daughter dear, I will not leave my laptop for you to play with!

So, for one week only, the upload will be put up on YouTube on the coming Tuesday, rather than Thursday. Hopefully it won’t discombobulate or distress the folks who’re enjoying the videos!

The video project is interesting. I’m having to remind myself about all my books (which is not as easy as it ought to be for this author). It is a real pleasure to work with my daughter (She Who Must Be Obeyed, or “She”), and we are both having great fun writing ideas, planning and recording the videos. Hopefully, if enough people subscribe, it’s a project that will take on a life of its own, but even if not, I think it’s worthwhile recording the videos about my work just so that people who are interested can look them up and see what I look like.

Although perhaps that’s not a good idea, thinking about it …

I’ve had a busy weekend. I’ve had to empty my workshop so that a new staircase can be fitted.


My not-very-good impression of the workshop!

It was an easy job. Our friendly local chippy put in a second storey in my old shed, mainly so we have storage for various items, and when a friend’s house was modernised and tidied up recently, I saw that the old staircase was being removed and put in a bid for it immediately. So I had a hole in the ceiling, and a staircase. What could possibly go wrong?

About a half inch. That’s all.

The gap for the stairs was a rectangle with the long side at the wall itself. Fine. I had to walk the staircase in, shove it up into the hole, and then rotate it ninety degrees in order to let it drop into place.

Half an inch. The staircase at the top was about a half inch too wide. So I cut a slot out of the edge of the staircase. But the staircase, when I shoved it up into the hole in the ceiling, couldn’t turn. The fit was so tight that the stairs couldn’t rotate by ninety degrees. So I took a chunk out of the beam to the side. Then some more out of the staircase. That was when I realised that part of the problem was, the wall itself had a massive pair of bulges. They were preventing the stairs from turning up at the top. So my wife helpfully suggested that I should hit the wall with a hammer…

I am an author, you know. My muscles have fallen into a happy state of disuse from long inactivity. My legs work fine with walks, but the arms — well, clutching a lump hammer and slamming it against a cold chisel to knock away ancient fossilised concrete is not my mêtier. I  clambered upstairs and started knocking, and had as much effect as tapping the wall with a rubber mallet. I hit it harder. Result? A forearm that developed simian proportions and ceased to function.

That was when my wife helpfully (she is enormously helpful) that I should use my hammer drill.

I had forgotten I owned a hammer drill.

With that, it was much easier. I managed (just) to hold the damn thing steady enough and it sent thick slabs of concrete tumbling to the ground. My wife didn’t want to be covered in dust, so she left me. And once I’d finished, sitting with my legs dangling over the void, I realised I needed a step ladder.

I called for my wife. No answer. But I could hear her voice. I called again. No response. Later, I learned she had been chatting with a friend. That was why I had been left up there for twenty minutes.

Anyway, with that modification to the wall, the stairs did fit at last. Judicious use of a club-hammer brought them to a correct fit in the gap.

The new stairs! They fit!

The new stairs! They fit!

Which is a relief. Then I could replace all the tools (my junk) into the workshop, and soon I’ll be able to get upstairs and begin to tidy up there too.

So, that was my weekend. Now it’s back to the real world and work. I hope you had a great weekend, and that the week isn’t too onerous. In the words of my favourite Canadian, you work to live, you don’t live to work!

Have a good one!


2 Responses to “Tripping again!”
  1. Old Trooper says:

    As my Norwegian relatives by marriage might say, “Uff da!”


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