Saturday, 18 November 2017

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

The Meaning of a Life - short story


The Meaning of a Life - cover - a cave



As promised, here is your short story for Halloween 2017...


The Meaning of a Life


The meaning of life had eluded Greg Williamson. Despite his 45 years on this earth, he had failed to find a satisfying answer. A successful career and two failed marriages had not even hinted at a meaning to a life that felt devoid of rhyme or reason. After his sister died Greg had taken an immediate decision. He had driven, alone, to the coast. To think. To retreat. To survive.

Nature hugged him as he drove there. It was a contrast to his city life which seemed full of angular, straight lines and laptop screens and rectangular pop-up adverts. Here everything was curved or else twisted. Here, the rules were different.

He parked at the top of a cliff. There didn’t seem to be anyone far below on the secluded beach. And there were steep steps leading down to the beach. It was a lucky find – to find an area in which there were no other people. Most of the tourists were at the popular destinations and few people went on holiday at the end of October.

Dusk was coming. Greg looked across the sea and saw only dark clouds.

“There’s a storm coming,” he said aloud to himself. But his inner storm was also at its height and Greg knew it. Down to the beach it was pebbles rather than sand. He followed the call of the sea. Wrapping his coat tightly, Greg looked at the shells which had been washed ashore. There was a large jellyfish which had been washed aground too long to live. Some kind of shiny black tar could be seen between the pebbles. The dull, wet sky seemed to permeate his body, to saturate his skull. The cold winds seemed to blow right through him as if he was not even there. As if he were invisible and his life had no meaning. He looked out across the grey sea and despaired.

His mind gripped hold of the name of the beach - Smugglers Cove – and the childhood fantasy of adventure and hidden treasure made him feel a little better. He would walk the beach, storm or no storm. He would clamber across rocks to the left, across bladderwrack seaweed and explore. And maybe the exploring would change his state.

I suppose he had never expected to go out quite so far. I suppose he had never intended to go across the barnacle encrusted rocks and explore quite so many miles of coastline. But it was like a siren song inside. As the winds buffeted his body, he felt compelled to continue. He was, as he had always wanted to be, in the moment and out too far. Certainly not waving. And going back was a worry which was boxed in a clam at the back of his brain. 
When he reached the cave entrance it seemed to be a place of lost dreams. Dusk now. Total dusk, when the strangest things can happen.

The cave seemed to have always been there, its dark opening like a mouth willing to swallow him. He explored. The cave itself felt bitterly cold and austere, but it provided some shelter from the wind. The waves outside approached and seemed to warn: ‘Curiosity killed the called.’

There was no smuggled treasure to be discovered. There were a few bottles and rusty cans and in one corner a pile of paper which looked suspiciously like toilet paper. Someone had scratched a name and date into one of the cave walls: ‘John – ‘10, 10, ....’. The year had been eroded.

He sat at the entrance, his back to the darkness and he looked across the sea to the approaching dark clouds. There were no moon or stars to be seen, no crack in the aluminium greyness of the merciless sky. Greg had felt the workdays eating into him. He had felt his life passing by and he felt guilty that he had let his life pass by without really living. His dreams seemed to have dissolved like mist. They seemed only delusions now. Like the American dream. Like the British dream – one of money and possessions and a happy family and two and half children. Watching TV alone was not enough. He would watch celebrities climbing mountains or visiting strange exotic places. He would watch the famous discover their family trees. He would watch ordinary people doing extraordinary things and sometimes he would wish it was him. When he received the news of his sister, his reaction was immediate and he had driven to the sea without even packing. And the storm grew closer.

Greg’s mid-life crisis was like an intoxicating poppy flower which he had carefully watered and fed. It was not a case of wanting to buy a motorbike or make love with beautiful women. His crisis was that he wanted to know the meaning to life and why he was put on this earth. He had accomplished so little. Neither his words nor his deeds had forked any lightning in the hearts of others. No thunder from his intentions had shaken the needy into a places of safety.

“I like you for that Gregory.”

Greg jumped at the voice. It had come from behind him. From a darker entrance deeper inside, further down into the throat of the cave. It was not an internal voice. There was even an echo which took place outside the cave of his own skull.

“It’s impossible not to like Gregory Williamson. Well… not quite impossible, but I like you anyway…” said the voice from a distance, the echo, rebounding from the cave walls and the inside of Greg’s head.

“The things that Gregory has been through… so very much. We should look out across the sea and watch the waves crashing and breaking in the coming storm and it would remind us of eternity. It would make us feel very small. We would be unable to look at the horizon then, and instead gaze down at our feet…”

After the word ‘feet’ there came an edgy laugh which sounded as hollow as the cave. As hollow as his head.

“Hello!” shouted Greg deeper into cave. “Who are you? How do you know me? Have you followed me?”

He felt safe though. A strange bliss seemed to envelope him, more intimate than the sea and the horizon which spoke of eternity. The storm and the darkness made him curious. There was no fear. A kind of peace caressed him in that moment, like the soft wing of an angel.

And the air was full of the smell of salt and seaweed and something else which he couldn’t put his finger on. He wanted to go further. He wanted to go further than anyone else. And the crashing and breaking of the waves as the tide came seemed to have an atmosphere of their own. ‘Curiosity killed the called.’

“Hello!”

But there was silence still, apart from a strange ringing in his ear as if the pressure had changed or someone had clashed ancient swords at the side of his head.

Then there was singing. A hum, a childhood nursery rhyme. “Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream, merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.”

Greg’s curiosity overtook him and he walked deeper into the cave and the last of the dusk light showed a fork ahead. The cave seemed impossibly deep. It seemed labyrinthine. He followed the singing and soon most of the light was gone. The voice of the sea became a whisper. He had to feel along the cold rock and soon he saw something sitting on a rock further inside. At first he thought the dark outline to be some kind of stalagmite. He gasped as the silhouette moved.

“What do you want to know Gregory?” said the voice.

“Hello,” replied Greg finally.

Greg wondered how the stranger could have known his name.

“Do you want to know how we know your name?” asked the voice. “We have been expecting you and we know the question you will ask and we know the answer to that question – the question which had been burning in your heart for years. Ask it and we shall answer.”

So Greg thought frantically of what that question might be, because doing so seemed to be his only escape. And then he remembered…

“What is the meaning of my life?”

Soft laughter.

“It is well that you have asked what the meaning of your life is and not what the meaning of life in general is. And now we shall tell you what the meaning of your life is… it is this. You were born to come here and you were born to be in this place at this time. There can be no meaning without a creator who created both you and us. And so the meaning of your life is quite simple: You are here to be our supper.”

Then bliss left and fear came. It was a horror for Greg and no kind of answer. It would have been no kind of answer for anyone.

“I’m sorry? What are you doing here? Who else is with you?” said Greg thinking he must have misheard.

He fumbled for his mobile. And clicked the torch app and suddenly the owner of the voice was lit up. It was a merman in reverse. It was a merman but it was not a merman. It had the legs and midriff of a man but it had the torso of a huge fish. It was wrapped in seaweed as if the seaweed were a clothing. There were no feet, simply a tail where the legs joined. The head seemed normal, apart from the mouth. Part of the back could be seen and barnacle ridges formed there. On the front there were mussel shells clasped to the creature’s scaly chest.

Greg was horrified and he would have raced from the spot if the strange merman in reverse had not spoken to him with a voice which sounded like the eternity of the sea.

“The meaning of life is like the sea. When you look at the sea from the place that the river and estuary flow, it seems only to be the sea, of no relevance to you, something to only be aware of. Hardly even important. But when you are in the sea itself, when you are no longer fearing it, when you have passed the boundary between land and water, when you flow into the sea you feel it all around you. You feel it all and you know that it is forever and that it is beautiful and it becomes a compensation for the sufferings of dry land and the saltless river which led you there. But you have to follow the river to the sea. We have been waiting for you.”

“I’m sorry,” said Greg. “What are you? That’s no answer. That answer sounds like bullsh…”

And then he suddenly realized that the mouth of the merman in reverse was not that of a merman but the mouth of a tiger shark. The teeth so sharp. A mouth which gaped open, its jawbone disconnecting to widen its maw like a snake. And then there was a lurch and suddenly the creature met the place where Greg stood frozen. He dropped his mobile and in the darkness the great sharp mouth opened and suddenly there were no questions left in Greg’s head to ask because he had no head.

And the others came to feed too.


And the vast ocean, outside the mouth of the cave, the body of this strange soul, welcomed its new guest with a whisper... ‘Curiosity kills the called.’



Merman



Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Send your name to Mars

No spectacular reason for this post and my next blog post will probably be the free Halloween short story on here on the 31st (unless something really interesting happens like Theresa May appropriating the idea of The British Dream © for her gremlin-laden keynote Tory conference speech).

But some dreams can come true if you have always wanted to send your name into space...




...as long as you act before November on this link:
https://mars.nasa.gov/participate/send-your-name/orion-first-flight/

In the meantime...






Thursday, 7 September 2017

Is Wendy Alec leaving GOD TV?





Wendy Alec
Wendy Alec


Wendy Alec, co-founder of GOD TV, says that she has not received a salary from the Christian broadcaster since July. The London born author and presenter is now asking supporters for personal financial help.

On her Facebook page she writes:

"Beloved friends - I am going to be SO very vulnerable with you now - And brutally honest as well. Deep breathx...

To explain to those who may not understand... I in a short term extremely tough transition period where after the divorce I am still faced with paying quarterly rent; council tax; utilities and other bills connected with the divorce. And I presently have NO Income. Things happened re GOD TV that I am not at liberty to discuss or disclose... only to say that my salary was terminated abruptly and with virtually no warning in July... no severance pay."

She goes on to detail her difficult circumstances following her high-profile divorce to Rory Alec in 2015 but says that she is unable to give further details of the current situation between herself and GOD TV.

She writes: "You know me. This is REALLY HARD FOR ME TO ASK THIS.
I have never in 21 years asked for myself but always promoted others to the best of my ability."

The GOD TV website also appears to have scaled back on references to its co-founder and presenter.

Founded in the UK in 1995, GOD TV has a global viewing audience of 1.1 billion people.


UPDATE: Wendy Alec says that her ex-husband and co-founder of GOD TV, Rory Alec is getting remarried this weekend (16/17 September 2017).

"I honestly didn't think it would affect me," she says. "I've had so much prayer healing deliverance and cut all soul ties... but it has far more than I realised... The end of an era of 30 years."


Editorial comment

At the moment it seems that viewers are either in camp Wendy, camp Rory (who has gone on to establish a business website called 'The Internationals') or camp GOD TV. Given the historically fickle nature of much Christian media it must be hoped that GOD TV treats its founders fairly, whatever the current circumstances.


Tuesday, 15 August 2017

This year's free Halloween short story...

The Meaning of a Life
October 31st
On this blog






The Meaning of a Life cover - picture of a cave


Sunday, 16 July 2017

We're not ready for the end of the world

Globe


A few years ago I wrote an article for a niche US publication in which I speculated that there could be a referendum on Britain leaving the EU (even the re-election of the Tories, the only party offering this, seemed unlikely at the time) and that this could possibly relate to eschatology (note to the uninitiated – eschatology refers to the study of the end of the world).

We are not ready for the end of the world.

I’m really not any kind of prophet and I don’t claim to be, but it reminded me that just sometimes I can be right. Just sometimes. (My wife would say ‘very, very occasionally’). I’ve always preferred beginnings to endings, but I am still fascinated by the theories and mythology that accompany the end of days. In story terms I prefer beginnings, the blank page, the start, the hook and the possibility. But endings naturally fascinate many of us. We want to know what is going to happen in the end and we want it to satisfy. Part of us wants to see the sky fall.

As better people than me have said: ‘We face immense adversity’. Most of us. We face all kinds of problems. I’m going to spare you the pessimism of my Christian worldview as I’m not a literalist and I don’t really know how the end times are ever going to pan out. Some people say that the end times can be mitigated through prayer and preparation. But safe to say I don’t think we are in the last of the last days yet. If there is anything I have been conscientious in, it is in not alarming people by saying that the world is about to end imminently. I have never misled people in this. To be honest, I’ve rarely led people at all, but please indulge me unless you think I have no care for you as a reader. I have usually been as honest as I can be, I have a little integrity. So despite rumours to the contrary it is not the end of the world. There is hope for your children (if you have them) to live full lives without the fear of getting raptured (and, believe me, in some circles, there is a lot of fear surrounding the rapture). 

Things are grim on this island for many of us these days in 2017. There is no getting round it. I think it was the TV series ‘Lost’ where a character exclaims: ‘…we're just going to go crazy waiting for the next bad thing to happen’. Lost was about a group of survivors stuck on an island and that may sound like a familiar plot to us in the UK.

Seriously, even if the rich elites stockpile gold and have reinforced boltholes in Alaska because they ‘know things’, it still doesn’t mean that the world is about to end. They live in fortresses like Prospero’s castle in Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death. But my theory is that things were just as grim in 1666 when the plagues hit Britain and the great fire of London burnt it all out. They blamed the terrorists then too – except they said the terrorists were Catholics not Muslims. It is convenient for a Government to have an enemy like that. It is in the Government’s political interest for us to have a common enemy of flesh and blood. When really we should be fighting together against so many other adversaries that are not human or animal.

I was so fascinated by eschatology that I wrote a whole fictional novel about it for the writing contest NaNoWriMo, speculating about end of the world scenarios. Accepted thinking is that the earth is destroyed by the sun in millions of years and that the hope for humanity centres around finding the technology to occupy some other world. But even then, accepted wisdom is that, eventually, the universe will either expand or collapse into some kind of oblivion. There is no hope. We’re doomed, if you subscribe to the narratives of scientific speculation… and they are narratives and speculation (unless we are somehow able to transcend the physical universe or you are able to see some kind of strange beauty in transience and meaninglessness).

Christian thinking is that there are not millions of years. That what is left are the last raindrops of a storm and that another storm is coming. But my point is that we are not prepared for nuclear holocaust, a third world war or the opening of the abyss from the hadron collider. We are not the generation to deal with these things on top of all the rest of our problems.

What I’m trying to say is this – whether you are fascinated by beginnings or endings, by the past or the future, you have to accept that our interest in current affairs and in what will become of us is almost certainly (and I’m 99% sure) going to revolve around the sun getting turned to darkness, the moon to blood and the stars falling from the sky. When I say this I’m using the Bible’s own metaphors when it comes to sun and moon and stars. In the story of Joseph in Genesis, Joseph has a dream in which the sun is a metaphor for his father, the moon for his mother and the stars for his siblings. Presumably the end of the world, and the end of all our worlds is the loss of our own lives and that of our friends and family. Some suns have already darkened. Some moons have already turned to blood. Some stars have fallen. And this is sad and real and something we all face if we have not faced it already – it is going to happen. We can’t escape it through a portal or through any other means. I’m sorry, but as Jim Morrison said, ‘No-one here gets out alive’. All we can do is prepare. Or distract ourselves.

However it feels at the moment for some of us, it is unlikely that we are the last generation. It is a coincidence too far that just as the digital, information and news revolution has taken place that we somehow suddenly face the end of the world too. We are more likely to lose our own suns, moons and stars and experience our own world ends on a micro level. And so, on that level, yes, suffering is always going to be with us and we are always going to be afraid as long as we live and the end of the world could be imminent (quite probably through house fire, car crash or some disease (please check your smoke alarms – I have too few readers already and don’t want one less)). We are unlikely to die from a terrorist attack. I’m sorry, but we’re just not. We are unlikely to die through an end of the world scenario. We are likely to die before the end of the world takes place and who knows if we will ever see how that happens.

I’m a little sad about the jaded tone of this blog entry. But that’s not the end of the world.


Think happy thoughts.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

The Second Review



Pastor L. J. Darkside, following his controversial review of 'Life', has penned another review for the appraisal of those who remain on this planet. Enjoy...


The Second Review

(by Pastor L. J. Darkside)

In my review of today’s theatre performance I am compelled not to be too biting. As I have said repeatedly to my readers: ‘I don’t bite’.

My first point would be to say that none of the show was realistic. It was an anachronism. The aesthetics were lacking in some way. I appreciated the slightly camp symbolism in the ‘over the rainbow’ entrance and the psychedelic lighting which filled the huge venue. It was – perhaps, like Sharif’s horseback entrance in Laurence of Arabia in some ways. Except the desert was the barrenness of the scriptwriter’s imagination in this particular production.

But please, spare me the clouds and the flying horses. If one were a marketer or advertiser, one would use the visuals to promote beer, which, is, ironically, precisely what I require after experiencing this shambles.

Not that it was without merit. In some ways it was like a forgotten Frankie Goes to Hollywood video – but I could clearly see the discrepancy between reality and the cloudy backdrop. The effects were lacking. Aren’t we beyond this? I mean – angels – really? Angels. As, I say, archaic and condescending in many respects.

I had heard much about this show prior to its release – rumour had it that it would be a satisfying end to anyone’s day. There was a mixture of expectancy and nervousness surrounding the whole performance. How long did it even take to recruit such a vast army of extras? Points are gained for detail, but that is all.

And that was the problem for me. It simply was not realistic enough, at some points it went into out and out fantasy. There was no life to it. It lacked the X-factor.

The rest of the audience seemed to be either thrilled or horrified. One man turned to me and said ‘Told you so’. What was that even supposed to mean? Clearly we held very different artistic sensibilities. We were in very different places.

As a production, it appeared to be performed simultaneously across the globe. And that was the problem, not merely the appropriation of the platform to force this performance on (often unwilling) crowds, but the thoughtlessness, the crass nature of the whole drama. Some of us were busy.
I am not one to criticise a free performance without cause. I am no philistine and I have reviewed many, many such shows for papers. But the audience was clearly divided in their appreciation and reaction.

I cannot, of course, criticise the aesthetics inasmuch that the special effects were effective to an extent. But please – a man on a white horse coming in the clouds to save humanity? In terms of narrative it lacked any satisfaction on a personal level. In terms of endings it was both predictable and slightly depressing. At least for me.

Spoiler alert: The lacklustre character on the white horse won – at least in some people’s eyes. So predictable. And unnecessarily violent. There seemed to be an underlying hypocrisy to it all. It was even gory in places when the dragon character succumbed to the mouth-sword prop. A bit of an over-reaction towards a character with no discernible or meaningful backstory. Was he killed by bad breath? Many of us were left wondering, I can tell you. For some reason I am unable to parallel these archetypal characters with any previous form or genre. I fear they are stereotypes. The best that can be said of them is that they are caricatures, but I am stretching the parameters of my goodwill.
I watched, hoping for some kind of resolution to the drama, some kind of redeeming quality. Drama should be uplifting, especially in these troubled times. But I found that it was not life-affirming at all. I found it to be quite the opposite. I pride myself on being in-touch with my audience and that was one of the problems of this performance – it was so out of touch with the day to day life of the hoi-polloi.

I saw faces in the strangely painted stage clouds and I would suggest that they were the faces of similarly disappointed viewers. At one point I found myself distracted by what seemed to be a great crested newt in a spiral of contrived cumulonimbus. The newt turned to me and said, ‘Remember Tangier?’ I forget the specific point at which this happened, but it seemed incongruous and irrelevant, my fascination with this detail only revealing the depth of my ennui.

Then there was the whole battle scene – both brief and unsatisfying. The dragon character seemed to come from nowhere and was dispatched with the sword-prop coming from the mouth of the protagonist in an instant. Many viewers were left wondering what on earth was going on. The antagonist had popped up from nowhere. What was that all about? An army on horseback riding through the clouds, simultaneously performed at a number of venues? It reminds me of the ending to some half-forgotten tale from childhood. I feel I should remember it, but for the life of me it has passed me by. I would say though that the lead actor was the only one who seemed to be taking the whole proceedings seriously, albeit he was far too melodramatic. Perhaps he could do better things than this. I can see him in a Woody Allen adaptation one day.

The relevance of the trumpets at the start I will leave to your imagination. Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd introduction was less of a cacophony of noise than this. It was an assault to my virgin ears. The shofars were too Jewish.

During the performance, I turned to my neighbour and asked him what he thought. But he was engrossed, his eyes glassy, as if hypnotised. His entire demeanour shouted: ‘Drug-induced psychosis’. I think he had been to the toilets and tried to make the performance more tolerable in the only way he knew how.

The end of the whole show was ridiculous. As I say - It simply was not realistic. Where was the life? Where was the passion? One can sense when there is love behind a performance and I can only think that the actors had all had a bad day or were being underpaid. A massive over-reaction from the protagonist towards the dragon character resulted in it being thrown into some kind of fiery pit which appeared stage left. Surely that was a fire hazard? Indefensible of the producers. The theatre programme suggested a backstory for the protagonist that was a contrast to the angry vengeance he displayed. It seemed as if he and the character from the backstory were two different characters, one kind and gentle, the other the reverse of everything he had ever stood for. And as for that fiery pit – it lacked any kind of beauty. Such an ugly thing. Anyone could have fallen into it at any moment – and it was too literal. Indefensible. I confess to feeling sympathy for the dragon character at this point. It was the sheer predictable didacticism of the performance which was its greatest failure.

Where was the irony? Where was the passion? It was a perfunctory anti-climax. I’m sorry, but it was. No questions were answered. No words were spoken in the whole drama. Pathetic.

Spoiler alert… I laughed at the epilogue – the finale when the audience members began to ascend from their seats. How passé. They were clearly stooges who had been placed in the audience with wires attached. It was a low-brow, people-pleasing effect. If I had wanted to see Wicked I could have gone to the West End any day of the week. Even my neighbour turned out to be one of the plants.
The rest of us watched as the assorted hoi-polloi extras ascended to the clouds. And that was the problem, as I have said – this sheer lack of realism. Most of the audience seemed to be terribly pre-occupied – why stage such a divisive performance during such tense political times? The mind boggles.

I confess to feeling somewhat unnerved, disturbed even by some aspects of the show. But it was disturbing people for the sake of it. Street art is fine – and in effect, that was what this was - but artists do not disturb for the sake of disturbing. It seemed so contrived. I am not the only one who felt no feelgood factor, no affirmation of life. And that is important, because it is important for a show to create a sense of joy, a sense of bliss and there was none of that. Where was the bliss?

End

Note for the editor

I rushed home and was so affected by this performance that I quickly wrote this review. However, I was unable to post my review on the newspaper website as there appears to be a blackout in the area and neither my mobile or computer seem to be working. So I have been forced to write this by hand. That I am reduced to such a platform is a problem but I’m quite sure that you will be in touch presently. At present you appear to be unavailable.

I have some pressing personal matters right now but shall invoice my fee as usual when things return to normal.

Information for review box graphic:

Overall: 1 out of 12 stars.

Positives: The camp portrayal of angels in a sky-based psychedelic backdrop.
Negatives: Where do I start? The protagonist seemed familiar somehow. It detracted from the performance. Had he been in The Bill? I think even I could have done a better job than he did.

Personal note for final draft:

Delete the reference to the cloud-newt. Tangier should not be mentioned for obvious reasons. 

Friday, 16 June 2017

Lost books

Brian Haw


In my glory days, back in the early noughties, I worked in London as a trainee staff writer at a trade magazine. It didn’t last long. The truth is that it was not as glamourous as it may sound and in the end I returned to the Midlands, defeated by London. When a man is tired of London he is tired of life they say. And I left London both tired and a little jaded. London had been fickle to me.

But occasionally I would still go back to the capital. On one journey I met the anti-war protester Brian Haw in Parliament Square in his makeshift protest camp in support of ordinary Iraqi families. He died from cancer as he was a smoker (but this one fault did not outweigh his great principles – he was a man of genuine conviction).

I talked with him a little in Parliament Square. I mumbled about how he needed to be heard in the media and how he deserved to be taken seriously. He spoke to me of how one of the large established churches in London had rejected him and his cause even when he had asked them for help. That was very sad as he was one of the most conscientious Christians I have met and he deserved to be supported. He wore badges on his hat, some of them Christian badges which praised God, others were badges of protest and resistance. He stood (or rather sat) to defend humanity – to defend the ordinary people of Iraq who were suffering because of UK sanctions and who later suffered even more from UK war intervention. He made great personal sacrifices to protest and was treated with disdain by the British Government of the time who preferred war, for their own agendas. The Government considered him to be invisible, as they do to many of those who oppose them. To ignore someone is often an act of enmity.

When I met Brian, he asked me to fetch him some tobacco from a newsagents and I went to the shop and bought a pouch of tobacco for his roll-ups. I didn’t know that he would later die of cancer - I just wanted to be of help at the time. When you are consciously resisting the Government day and night you really do need some kind of comfort and some human faults can be necessary.

And Brian Haw showed me a book which he was writing. It was a handwritten diary of his experiences and life story. He had no computer. He only had pen and paper and principle.
And sometimes, late at night, I wonder what happened to that book.

What happened to it? Where did it go? Why was it never published?

I’ve searched for any reference to Brian Haw’s book over the internet but I can’t find anything. The distrustful, jaded side of me speculates that it was ‘appropriated’ by Government. But it seems to me that it is a little like Anne Frank’s diary. One document is lost, another is held as rightfully important. Sometimes important things are lost or kept private. Sometimes the truth doesn’t out in this lifetime. And how can it without people working towards that?

We all have stories to tell. They are documents. They are often important testimonies to the events which we experience and which we cause. Some are more important than others. But many deserve to be told.

And Brian Haw’s is one of them.



Wednesday, 5 April 2017

The Plan






I’m aware that I’ve been neglecting my loyal reader again.


You probably should know that the Church of England has a new campaign planned for the 25th May – 4th June called ‘Thy Kingdom Come’. In a nutshell the idea is that it will organise people into praying for the country to somehow fill churches again. They say it is a cross-denominational, inclusive initiative.

Just think of all those Christians praying for the people of Britain (whether you like it or not). Filling the post-Brexit vacuum of division and sporadic violence with an atmosphere of love.

Will it work? Sheesh, who knows. But anything that holds back demon-inspired racism and violence has to be a good thing doesn’t it? Anything that lifts up the vulnerable and oppressed in this country sounds okay to me. Of course, the efficacy of prayer is always up for debate and few people expect a paradigm shift.

So that appears to be the Church of England’s plan following Brexit. ‘Pray’. It probably took about 1000 meetings to come up with that one.

‘Surely someone, somewhere has a proper plan?’ I hear you think.

Nope. Hope the world doesn’t end. Don’t immanentize the eschaton. Pray. Try to stay alive. That seems to be the plan.

Think happy thoughts.





Sunday, 29 January 2017

Book launch - Irony by Nick White

Book cover - Irony


“We’re living in strange times.” It was an offhand remark to the electrician as he came to assess a broken cooker. We had been talking about politics. It seemed like a safe, anodyne remark, unlikely to cause offense or to alienate. And maybe it was ironic.

But it’s true – we are living in strange times. Perhaps the times have always been strange, but they are no less strange today than they were before. This world of alternative facts and fake news has driven many of us to the edge of our resources. All kinds of things that we used to take for granted now have to be fought for. It’s partly the fault of the citizen journalists but it’s also true that alternative facts and fake news are not new.

We can say we are post-truth and post-irony and that we are far too sophisticated to accept old dogmas, but there is still that longing for some kind of meaning to it all, some kind of certainty. For some kind of pragmatic way of survival in this strange world. And that is partly why I have written my new book, released today.

It is a non-fiction book which takes an original look at irony in our modern lives. It is a book which extends the definition of irony in line with our modern understanding of the term. And it is written for people who blame God when things go wrong. It’s for the agnostics, for the people who wonder why the believers and atheists are so loud. I make some wild claims in this book. I say that irony needs there to be a story. That it needs there to be an audience. That it implies an ironist in the same way that a story implies a storyteller. But what would the nature of such an ironist be, given the nature of the ironies which we are subject to?

Would it be ironic for there to appear to be patterns in both our lives and in the story of history or in our meta-narratives, stories like the Gospels, Frankenstein or 1984? Or are such things evolutionary survival mechanisms, like the formulation of language or the willingness to arrange our lives into some kind of meaningful story? What is the point of the sword which is irony? Why is it there?

I invite you to read my book as it is written for thinking people like you. People who seek meaning.

It’s available from Amazon here. 

Think happy thoughts.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Irony


My first non-fiction book 'Irony - Evidence for God' will be published soon so it seems right to blog about that.

Of all the evidences for God to be found on the Wiki page, you won't find irony listed. In fact, historically, writers have used irony to argue against the existence of God. Literary giants like Voltaire have used irony to state the alternative view. So, you could say, at the very least, it's an original book.

The book was born out of a growing conviction that the primary sustaining factor in my faith was irony. That irony had become a kind of secret pain in so many chapters of my life. A pain so intimate and seemingly-orchestrated that to see it as dumb luck or coincidence was more unlikely than any other possibility. That it hinted at the existence of God.

The book talks about this in further detail and about the way God allows irony in all our lives. In the book I call for a wider definition of the word in keeping with today's understanding. Language evolves and for many people irony today is not the strict dictionary definition. What if the real irony of Alanis Morissette's iconic song was that the lyrics really were ironic after all?

Irony can be hypocrisy, 'crazy bad luck' and even serendipity. And, to be honest, sometimes 'Crazy-bad-luck - Evidence for God' felt like a better title. But we live in post-ironic, post-truth, and post-God times - we are far too sophisticated to accept dogmas which we may have been expected to accept in the past.

If you understand, observe and think about irony in your life you will realise that most ironies are negative. So, to say that they are orchestrated by God is a big ask. It is intellectually insulting (at least, if we are to believe that God is good) to say that God has caused ironies to occur. Or worse than that, it is inhuman. So you will be able to see the spiritual gymnastics I take in order to get God off the hook for the bad ironies while still trying to defend human dignity or the remains of my intellect. After all, isn't that what being a believer is about - 1001 ways to defend God even when all reason says he is to blame? Of course, I'm trying to be ironic (or at least being disingenuous). How can irony be evidence for a benevolent God? To find that out you may need to read the book.

Without being too defensive, I'm anticipating a few possible reactions to my book. Firstly (and most likely), I'm anticipating it to be largely ignored. There is a solace in being an obscure, relatively unknown writer in that it means that I'm off the radar of most critics. So, 'Wouldn't it be ironic to totally ignore this diatribe?' is perhaps the most cruel criticism I face. 

But there is also the possibility of a considered counter-argument - that I have misunderstood irony, that I have misunderstood God and that I have taken one too many illogical steps in the formulation of my premise. An unreliable narrator can safely be questioned. I think there are many holes in my argument, but I'm willing to defend it.

Or a worse reaction still, that the universe would have me subject to more negative irony for even daring to write about the subject. Because that's how it all works isn't it? Or that in pointing out God's apparent neglect I have somehow forgotten to toe the faith party line.

The book is written for the agnostics, the seekers, the doubters, the skeptics. It is not primarily aimed at believers or atheists (although I hope that these two groups would at least find it interesting). It is not a very long book as I tend to write shorter books, finding them easier to read myself.

I approached a handful of publishers with the work but unless one of those who ignored me offers me a contract too late (and that really would be ironic) I'm indie-publishing it since I know the process so well. The most fun rejection I had from a publisher was: ‘This is an interesting idea… clearly the Christian faith has plenty of ironies to offer, but irony is not uppermost in the day to day life of the church. I don't think our market would react with sufficient enthusiasm.'

The ironic thing is that it is a book which can help you a little to survive day to day by making progress towards a meaning to life, and pointing away from despair to hope. Surely this helps people to survive (unless Viktor Frankl was wrong about all that)?

However, you don't really need this book. It won't resolve the issue of suffering. It won't make you rich or make your tweets go viral. 'Why should I read it then?' I hear you think.

Firstly, because, you may want to know why everything is conspiring to keep you from reading it.

Secondly, because it's original and brings some fresh ideas forward.

Thirdly, because it's shiny?





Wednesday, 4 January 2017

'Irony - Evidence for God' book trailer

This is the trailer for my first non-fiction book which should be available by Feb 2017.