Afternoon in Godalming

October 21, 2014
Church Street

Church Street

I was surprised how cold it was when I alighted at Godalming Station.

Was it different location or was it temperature falling during the day?

A big storm was due to hit during the night. The remnants of a hurricane that devastated Barbados over the weekend. I cannot say I noticed, but this morning it was very windy, and reports of extensive damage from across the country.

The first big storm of the autumn. Trees still have most of their leaves hence maximum damage. Storms are arriving earlier and earlier, and of increasing severity.

If we hold global temperature rise to less than 2C we are going to see an increase in severity of storms. Ideally we should hold to less than 1.5C. But with the amount of carbon we are pumping into the atmosphere, we are unlikely to hold to 2C. If we go beyond 2C, the models start to break down and we are likely to face thermal runway.

But it is still businesses as usual. And when we use austerity as excuse for Shock Doctrine, slash and burn of public services, we are in not in a good position to withstand shocks to the system, as we saw with the floods and storms last winter (which stated with autumn storms, and we have already had nearly two weeks of rain).

A look in the Parish Church. Where prayer cards are left, and candles lit. I noticed a memorial book for our animal friends. And why not, they are as much a member of the family.

A walk along the River Wey. Very cold.

Lunch at Café Mila. It was packed. I have never seen it this packed.

Even upstairs was packed.

mushroom soup

mushroom soup

cauliflower and sweet potato curry

cauliflower and sweet potato curry

I ordered mushroom soup followed by a curry. Both were brought up to me by the chef.

The mushroom soup was excellent. Often soup is sloshed around a bowl. Not when the chef serves. Presentation is equally important. Generous portions too.

The curry was ok. Not what I would have chosen, but everything else had gone. More like a broth. It lacked body. I would have added some chopped up boiled new potatoes.

Lunchtime eateries in Winchester have a lot to learn. In Ginger Gelato, watery tomato soup. Lunch consists of a little more than ciabatta with a little melted cheese. Were Café Mila Winchester to open I cannot see anyone else surviving.

A little wander through Godalming.

Tea and cake in Café Mila. Not much choice left on the cakes.

sunset over Frensham Pond

sunset over Frensham Pond

Catch 4-30 bus to Aldershot. Three counties, Surrey, Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire, through the Surrey Hills. I thought it might be heavy rain, a nightmare journey, but luckily sunny. Sunset over Frensham Pond. A pity the bus drivers do not clean their windows.

When I get off the bus over an hour and a half later, very cold at the bus station. Five minutes wait for a bus, and I was chilled to the bone.

Guildford Book Festival 2014

October 21, 2014
Ben Collins aka Stig at Guildford Book Festival

Ben Collins aka Stig at Guildford Book Festival

This year 12-19 October 2014 marked the 25th aniversay of the Guildford Book Festival.

The execution of Charles I was a huge disconnect in English history, not only the killing of a King, the English Civil War, but the awful retribution metered out to those responsible. This was the topic for Charles Spencer The Killers of the King. Sold out.

ghost town of Famagusta sealed off behind rusting razor wire

ghost town of Famagusta sealed off behind rusting razor wire

ghost city of Famagusta seen from the sea

ghost city of Famagusta seen from the sea

The latest from Victoria Hislop is The Sunrise, the story of Famugusta, an abandoned ghost city on the Island of Cyprus, abandoned since the illegal Turkish invasion and occupation of 1974. The world turns a blind eye, Famagusta surrounded by rusting razor wire and crumbling to ruins.

Maybe Victoria Hislop writing of Famagusta will focus world attention, but I would not hold my breath. Even more so now the world needs Turkey in the fight against ISIS.

A special edition of The Sunrise from Waterstone’s has an essay in the back on Famagusta.

A literary lunch placed the event outside the pocket of many people, and limited numbers.

Coffee morning. House of Fraser! It could have been worse, Costa or tax-dodging Starbucks. At least pick somewhere that serves decent coffee, Harris + Hoole or Glutton & Glee.

I am Malawa with co-author Christina Lamb, left many people disappointed as the venue was far too small.

Head of State, A Political Entertainment a very interesting insight by Andrew Marr into how corrupt and rotten the political system. Party apparatchiks who have not done an honest days’s work in their life in the pocket and at the beck and call of Big Business, lack of respect from the electorate, out of touch with real people, in Scotland a move to independence, in England a shift to Ukip and the Green Party, EU dictating policy. Following in the footsteps of Jonathan Swift, Head of State, the latest book from Andrew Marr, is satire.

Too many events running concurrently. An illusion of choice. No real choice as cannot be in two places at once.

Kate Mosse a natural story teller, The Taxidermist’s Daughter, discussing the background to Labyrinth, Citadel and her latest book The Taxidermist’s Daughter.

Poorly designed website. Irritating pictures flicking across the screen. But worse were highlights that were not live links, and live links not highlighted that you had to stumble upon. Books and authors were highlighted, these should be live links to pull up more information on the books and authors.

Guildford Book Festival is a registered charity, in receipt of public funding, I would therefore expect to find published accounts on their website.

Very poor use of social media. Puerile, sycophantic, drooling tweets.

Please no. Stick to straight forward factual information. And please no, please do not re-tweet every sycophantic, drooling tweet. Added to which a fundamental lack of understanding of social media, social networks.

  • social —> interaction
  • network —> many to many

A dialogue should be taking place.

Steve Lawson gave a three hour talk on the use of social media at the Digital Music for Musicians seminar held in Leeds at the Belgrave Music Hall. He summarised in a five minute video.

Little book festivals are springing up all over the place.

Lincoln Book Festival, an interesting line up, half a dozen authors. OK with that. What is important, have they something worthwhile to say, can they write, are they worth reading.

Halfway up Steep Hill at a suitable resting place, BookStop Cafe, a little coffee bar tucked in a Norman Undercroft. Inside lined with books, emphasis on local writers, looking out a stunning view, occasional evening talks with local writers.

The world’s oldest and the largest book festival is the Frankfurt Book Fair, established by Gutenberg, an estimated 300,000 visitors over five days. This year the highlight was a discussion on publishing between Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho and festival director Juergen Boos.

Two books around which there has been a great deal of buzz, The Zero Marginal Cost Society and This Changes Everything. Naomi Klein was in London, then Oxford, a pity not Guildford too. Last year there was a lot of buzz around Feral.

Too many events are taking place concurrently. An illusion of choice. Not possible to be in more than one place at the same time.

One Tree Books has for the last few years been the official festival bookseller. And that is as it should be. The Festival depends upon local support, in return the Festival supports local indy bookshops. It was offensive to book lovers to find WHSmith selling the books, a failing High Street chain that has no interest in books.

Kate Mosse stressed the importance of supporting indy bookshops.

Ironic then Guildford Book Festival has ditched One Tree Books and this year the Festival book supplier was WHSmith. A High Street chain that does nothing for books, hated and despised by book lovers.

One Tree Books used to have a wonderful display of books in the Electric Theatre during the book festival, you could talk to them about books. Sadly not WHSmith. They could not even be bothered to mount a display in their own bookshop. Nor was there any mention of the book festival in their stores in neighbouring towns.

WHSmith a huge mistake. Hopefully not to be repeated next year. Or if is, buy your books elsewhere and bring them along for signing.

Amazon often get the blame for killing off indy bookshops. It is not Amazon. It is chains like WHSmith, that not only destroy indy bookshops, but also destroy our town centres, draining money out of the local economy and turning them into Clone Towns.

Mid-August Paulo Coelho had a new book out Adultery, WHSmith had it on special offer at half price. It was an international best-seller from an internationally known author, and yet WHSmith staff clueless as to title and author, most stores did not have in stock or only two copies and when sold, not restocked. One of the worst was WHSmith Guildford where it was claimed only opinion an international best-seller.

September This Changes Everything was published. About to ask for it in Waterstone’s Winchester, I saw it was piled up, a few weeks later, was told it was an excellent read, well written, well researched. Asking in WHSmith Guildford, they had not a clue, never heard of title or author, and no it was not in stock, it was not even showing on their computer.

High Street sales are falling at WHSmith (no surprise there), down 5% compared with last year. The only reason they are not posting big losses is strong performance in travel (56% profits compared with around 20% nine years), in-store Post Office counters and cost cutting.

How soon will it be before WHSmith follows Clinton Cards, Jessops, HMV, Phones4U into oblivion?

WHSmith is to books, what McDonald’s and KFC is to food and Costa and tax-dodgining Starbucks is to coffee.

It is important though to differentiate between the company and its employees. They shrug their shoulders in despair at not being able to provide a service, and some go out of their way to try and be helpful.

Indy bookshops need our support. Guildford Book Festival should be setting the example.

Guildford Book Festival has become far too celebrity focussed and obsessed. A PR bums-on-seats mindset. Where are the poets, the local writers, the up and coming writers, local publishers?

Most festivals have a fringe. It is long overdue, a Guildford Book Festival Fringe.

Occupy Democracy

October 20, 2014
Occupy Democracy

Occupy Democracy

For a couple of weeks or more, pro-democracy activists have taken to the streets of Hong Kong demanding open and fair elections. They have faced down police brutality and attacks by thugs orchestrated by the imposed illegitimate chief executive (Hong Kong a business not a democracy).

At the weekend, supporters mounted a rally in solidarity outside Parliament.

With full backing of the political establishment?

Er no, akin to scenes from Hong Kong, police were sent in to brutally break up the rally.

In the face of police brutality, Parliament Square has been held.

And as usual deathly silence from mainstream media.

In the UK we do not have democracy, we have a sham democracy.

We have party apparatchiks who are out of touch with the people, who have never done an honest day’s work in their lives, who are in the pockets of Big Business. The people are reduced to Election fodder, cast your vote every five years then keep quiet.

In Hong Kong, thousands of people are fighting courageously for the right to a real vote. They know that a system where candidates are decided by the state is no democracy.

In Scotland, 45% of people rejected Westminster rule. They know that a system that takes the power to make local decisions out of their hands is no democracy.

Democracy is not just about having a vote every four, now five years. It is about having the power to make your voice heard. It is about people taking the decisions, not corrupt politicians.

A government that answers to profit before people is no democracy.

In the UK today, record numbers of people are homeless, record numbers rely on food banks to feed their families, and record numbers face fuel poverty as energy prices rise eight times faster than wages.

At the same time, inequality is back on the rise, making us one of the most unequal countries in the developed world. The amount we ask businesses to contribute to our social services in tax is set to be the lowest of any of the G20 countries. Tax evasion and avoidance costs the UK £95 billion a year, enough to fund the NHS in England.

Nobody voted to be made homeless, hungry or unemployed. It is clear whose voices are being heard.

Austerity, Shock Doctrine, is not working.

We need to start a movement for real democracy. The voices of the majority have been ignored for too long. We need to give ourselves the tools to hold our politicians to account, and to end the corporate lobbying power that drowns our voices out.

Parliament Square is to be occupied 17-26t October 2014, to begin a fight for a real democracy. There, in the shadow of Nelson Mandela’s statue, we will transform the Square into a civic space where we can re-envision what our society could be like, with talks, workshops, community assemblies, music and theatre.

This is what real democracy was like in Athens. People met on a hillside overlooking the Acropolis. Anyone could speak. They stood on a large stone and addressed the assembled crowd. That large stone is still there. Not the sham democracy in Parliament.

The NHS is being privatised whilst the politicians claim it is safe in their hands.

TTIP is being forced through in secrecy. A trade agreement that is a front to hand more power to global corporations.

The planet fries whilst the politicians lie.

Follow Amazon on twitter

October 19, 2014

How do you pursued people to voluntarily follow Amazon on twitter?

Offer them some free Bose music equipment.

Not even that, offer them the remote possibilty of some free Bose music equipment.

Naomi Klein in Oxford discussing This Changes Everything

October 19, 2014

Naomi Klein in Oxford discussing This Changes Everything.

Fast forward 15 minutes to bypass the preamble.

TTIP & transparency

October 19, 2014

A trade agreement TTIP is being negotiated between EU and US.

A trade agreement that will pass more powers to global corporations to trash the environment, to walk all over ordinary people.

A trade agreement that is being negotiated in secret.

Trafalgar Square

October 18, 2014
Whitehall as seen from Trafalgar Square 1839.

Whitehall as seen from Trafalgar Square 1839

Whitehall as seen from Trafalgar Square 1839.

This one of the earliest known photographs.

The Taxidermist’s Daughter

October 17, 2014
Kate Mosse books

Kate Mosse books

Kate Mosse book signing

Kate Mosse book signing

We will each write a ghost story. — Lord Byron

I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion. — Mary Shelley

A natural story teller.

Labyrinth, Sepulchre and Citadel are based on historical fact set in France, important to get the historical facts right, which necessitates a lot of research.

In France, Kate Mosse unknown, thus known for what she was, a writer. She had written books before, but only family had read. To see people, strangers, reading Labyrinth, was a delight.

Writers, write to be read. They want to share their thoughts with others.

The Taxidermist’s Daughter was an interlude, a pleasant break. A thriller, a Gothic thriller, no need to check facts.

A Gothic thriller in the mould of The Castle of Otranto, The Mysteries of Udolpho, The Monk, Frankenstein, Dracula.

You cannot understand or appreciate Northanger Abbey, without having read Ann Radcliffe. It is also self-referential with her gullible heroine, Catherine Morland, being handed a copy of The Mysteries of Udolpho to read. The original is vastly superior to its parody.

The Taxidermist’s Daughter is set in Sussex, gloomy marshland, a river estuary, very much the setting found in The Moonstone. The seed, the gem of an idea, a museum, no longer there, in Arundel.

What are ghosts, are they something out there, or something within us? Or maybe both but we have tried to rationalise out of existence?

Odd, some readers want to know what happens to characters after the end of a book.

Kate Mosse stressed the importance of supporting indy bookshops. Ironic then Guildford Book Festival has ditched One Tree Books and this year the Festival book supplier was WHSmith. A High Street chain that does nothing for books, hated and despised by book lovers.

One Tree Books used to have a wonderful display of books in the Electric Theatre during the book festival, you could talk to them about books. Sadly not WHSmith. They could not even be bothered to mount a display in their own bookshop. Nor was there any mention of the book festival in their stores in neighbouring towns.

WHSmith a huge mistake. Hopefully not to be repeated next year. Or if is, buy your books elsewhere and bring them along for signing.

Amazon often get the blame for killing off indy bookshops. It is not Amazon. It is chains like WHSmith, that not only destroy indy bookshops, but also destroy our town centres.

WHSmith is to books, what McDonald’s and KFC is to food and Costa and Starbucks is to coffee.

Indy bookshops need our support. Guildford Book Festival should be setting the example.

Guildford Book Festival 12-19 October 2014 at venues in and around Guildford.

Man drives through hairdressers

October 17, 2014

car drives through  hairdressers

car drives through hairdressers


Late morning an elderly man drove through a hairdressers in Giffard Drive in Farnborough.

Why? Absolutely no idea. Possibly he hit the a accelerator rather than the brake. Or he could have had a heart attack or a stroke or a fit.

He was in a state of shock. But, he looked in no fit state to be driving full stop.

This raises the question of fitness to drive.

Cars are given MoTs, so should drivers. Fitness to drive based on both health and the ability to drive.

Head of State, A Political Entertainment

October 15, 2014
Andrew Marr book signing

Andrew Marr book signing

I arrived at the venue Raddison Blu, to find there were no tickets left. Most annoying, as Tourist Information had told me there were tickets, turn up.

I was then given a different time. Even odder. Turned out I was at the wrong venue. At least explains why it was not same location as the map.

I arrived at correct venue, Mandolay Hotel.

It was packed, must have been a couple of hundred or more people.

Head of State is a satire. Andrew Marr, is following in good footsteps. Was not Jonathan Swift writing satire? If it cannot be written as fact, then disguise as thinly veiled fiction.

We no longer have politicians, who we may not necessary like, but at least we respect, Winston Churchill, Clem Atlee, Harold McMillan.

The political class is not up to much, never done an honest day’s work in their life, party apparatchiks, yes men, lobby fodder, and with each intake it gets worse.

Andrew Marr suggested minimum age of 40 to gain entry to Parliament.

But would that work? Surely what we need are intelligent, articulate, independently minded Members of Parliament who understand the issues, who act for their constituents and not Big Business and other vested interests.

And that is only one of the problems, Parliament has no power. It has been transferred to the EU and and global corporations.

And it will get worse. Most trade agreements are not about trade, they are about passing power to global corporations.

How many have heard of TTIP? is it being discussed? And yet that will involve a massive transfer of power to global corporations.

Journalists are not up to much either. Real journalism involves hard facts, hard graft, doing the leg work, checking, double checking.

Someone has to pay for it, and no one is willing to pay.

How do you get on the bottom rung? Work as an intern for nothing. Only the rich can afford to work for nothing at least voluntarily. The poor are forced to work for nothing under Workfare.

Add in corporate ownership of the media, and the media is seen to be owned by the same corporations as the politicians.

Add in the revolving door, same schools, same universities, same clubs, and you have the media-political establishment driving the mindset.

Stephanie Flanders, once BBC chief economic correspondent, now works for an asset management company. Other BBC journalists have become political spin doctors. Former spin doctors get wheeled out by the BBC to spout garbage. Former newspaper editors get their own shows.

It is less an owner barks orders than the servile journalist knows what is expected.

George Orwell:

Circus dogs jump when the trainer cracks his whip. But the really well-trained dog is the one that turns his somersault when there is no whip.

John Pilger:

The truth is, Britain’s system of elite monopoly control of the media rests not on News International alone, but on the Mail and the Guardian and the BBC, perhaps the most influential of all. All share a corporate monoculture that sets the agenda of the “news”, defines acceptable politics by maintaining the fiction of distinctive parties, normalises unpopular wars and guards the limits of “free speech”.

There is a room in Parliament with a print out of speeches. The Member for So and So gave a speech Somewhere. Most of those speeches did not take place, no one bothers to check, and yet they get reported as fact.

Most journalism is churnalism, regurgitation of what has already been reported, or worse still, copy and paste of press releases as news.

The Scottish referendum and UKIP have served as a wake up call. SNP has seen a tripling of its membership since the yes vote. There is a massive rejection of Westminster. In Scotland this is reflected in the desire for independence and a rejection of austerity. In England, anti-EU and vote for UKIP.

In Scotland there was a massive turnout. There was engagement. How doe we achieve this in England?

One way is to engage people, devolve power down to people, involve them, participation.

In This Changes Everything, Naomi Klein shows there is an alternative, we just have to have the will.

The media political establishment is itself a satire.

  • Caroline Lucas cut off mid-sentence on wato when arguing for inclusion of UKIP and Green Party in any national debate
  • failure to report massive anti-austerity march a few weeks ago
  • failed Chancellor and has-been politician Nigel Lawson wheeled out as climate expert
  • the ignorant views of Owen Paterson on climate and energy given airtime let alone credence
  • failure to report let alone discuss any alternatives to austerity
  • tittle-tattle
  • yah-boo politics
  • emphasis on Westminster

The ultimate satire has to be the book launch of Head of State hosted by David Cameron at No 10 Downing Street with the media and political circus in attendance.

Pause for one moment. If Vladimir Putin hosted a book launch in the Kremlin for a Russian journalist, would that journalist have any credibility?

Andrew Marr has made an incredible recovery from a stroke he suffered a couple of years ago. He is still frail, needs a stick to walk. NHS has brilliant intervention to save the life of a stroke victim, but very poor after care to aid recovery. Most stroke victims are written off. But as Andrew Marr has shown, you can suffer a stroke and recover. But it needs intensive physio over years and that is not available on the NHS. He paid for it privately.

Andrew Marr provided a tantalising insight into the political world.

A model introduction by Jim Parks, no waffle, no preamble, simply welcoming Andrew Marr to come and join him on the platform. Which is as it should be.

One Tree Books has for the last few years been the official festival bookseller. And that is as it should be. The Festival depends upon local support, in return the Festival supports local indy bookshops. It was offensive to book lovers to find WHSmith selling the books, a failing High Street chain that has no interest in books.

Head of State is the first attempt at fiction by Andrew Marr. He did not find it easy. Like dropping the innards of a watch on a table, then wondering where all the pieces go. As an aid, he drew caricatures of the characters.

Andrew Marr was the founding editor of the Independent and BBC Political Editor. He currently hosts the BBC1 Andrew Marr Show, and presented the Radio 4 Start the Week from 2005 to 2012. His acclaimed television documentary series include Andrew Marr’s History of Modern Britain and Andrew Marr’s The Making of Modern Britain (both of which have associated books of same titles). Head of State was written whilst he was recovering from a stroke in 2013.

Guildford Book Festival 12-19 October 2014 at venues in and around Guildford.

Top Story The Katzing Digital Report (Thursday 16 October 2014).


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