andrewgodsell

Tales from an author

#AliceInWonderland #LadyOfShalott #GlassOnion

Here is another extract from my new novel – with a bizarre poem.

Alice was suddenly feeling very alone. Indeed she felt a bit like that mysterious woman. Which mysterious woman? With a bit of thought, Alice remembered what she meant. The idea that had popped into her head was about The Lady of Shalott, a poem by Alfred Tennyson. This had inspired an atmospheric painting of the same name by a painter, and his name had been….“J M W Turner….no not Turner….J M W Watercolour….no….and it was not Watercooler….oh I remember now, he was J W Waterhouse.” The Tennyson verses about unrequited love drew upon a tale featuring Elaine of Astolat – linked in some way (Alice could not quite remember….how?) to King Arthur. The lady in the poem experiences a sad existence, watching the reflected activity of other people in a mirror (“shadows of the world appear”), and weaving stories she observes into a tapestry.

Trying to re-orientate herself, Alice said “Do I know the things I used to know? Let me see. Try Geography. Britain is England, Scotland, Wales – yes that seems okay. Now try to remember the states that made up Yugoslavia. What were they? Croatia, Serbia, Titograd, Yugotours, Sveti Stefan, Spassky, Bonsai Eva Herzigova, Macedonia, Alexandria, Cleopatra, Albania. No I do not think that was quite right. What about the provinces of the Netherlands? Should be simple. There is Holland, North Holland, South Holland, New Amsterdam, Edam, and New Zealand. Maybe not? Will try to recite some of The Lady of Shalott.” Alice began her favourite poem but, like a northern song, the words appeared to be going wrong:

Weaving a tapestry, the Lady of Shalott

Visions reflected through a glass onion

Catch a glimpse of a fair maiden

Her feet sore from bunions 

Fixing a hole in the ozone

Nearly ending the verse, that’s your lot

“I’m sure those are not the right words”, said poor Alice, and her eyes filled with tears again as she went on, “I am so very tired of being all alone here!” As she said this she looked down at her hands, and was surprised to see that she had put on one of the Rabbit’s little white gloves while she was talking. “How can I have done that?” she thought. “I must be growing small again.” She got up and went to the table to measure herself by it, and found that, as nearly as she could guess, she was now about two feet high, and was going on shrinking rapidly. She soon guessed that the cause of this was the flapping of the fan, and dropped it hastily, just in time to avoid shrinking away altogether.

“That was a narrow escape!” said Alice, a good deal frightened at the sudden change, but very glad to find herself still in existence. “Now for the garden!” and she ran with all speed back to the little door. Alas, the little door was shut again, and the little golden key was lying on the glass table as before. “Things are worse than ever,” thought Alice, “as I was never as small as this before.”

As she said these words her foot slipped, and in another moment, with a splash, she was up to her chin in salt water. Her first idea was that she had somehow fallen into the sea. “In that case I can go back by railway,” she said to herself. As a young child, Alice had come to the general conclusion that, wherever you go on the English seaside, you find some children digging in the sand with wooden or plastic spades, then a row of beach huts, and behind them a railway station. In later years, Alice understood the symbol of the steam train thrusting into a dark tunnel. Now she made out that she was in the pool of tears, which she had wept when she was nine feet high. “I wish I had not cried so much!” said Alice, as she swam about, trying to find her way out. “I shall be punished for it now, I suppose, by being drowned in my own tears! That will be a queer thing, to be sure! However, everything is queer today.”

Alice was wearing a rather fetching blue and white dress, bought for a fancy dress party as far as she could recall, and found swimming in this a bit of a challenge. Alice was also wearing a pair of black and white chequered hold-up stockings, and a pair of high-heeled black shoes.

 

 

 

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Re-Blogging an excellent piece on #PattiSmith #Devotion – amazing book I have read recently.

I started this review at three in the morning. I woke up with a pain in my side; probably the result of poor cooking decisions on my part. I sat in a large chair, covered myself in blankets, and wrapped a heavy scarf around me for a shawl. The pains subsided with the writing, and […]

via Devotion: Patti Smith —

#AliceInWonderland #AmWriting #Fantasy

A day on from a Blog piece about my new novel, Alice’s Adventures in Fantasyland, here is an extract from the first chapter, in which Alice is transported from Britain to a different place.

       1 An Enchanted Garden

“An enchanted garden, and a golden afternoon” Alice declared. Alice was sitting in the grounds of Strawberry Fields Forever, a National Trust stately home, with her friend Sadie. The house, situated at Lyndhurst, a quaint village (or was it a town?) in the New Forest, retained the decor of the late 1960s, when it had been owned by a wealthy hippie, Mean Mr Mustard, and his sister, Polythene Pam. Alice and Sadie had just eaten lunch, each having chicken salad followed by strawberries and cream, washed down with quite a bit of wine. Alice checked the incoming texts on her mobile phone, replied to those requiring a reply, updated her Facebook status, and skimmed through the latest happenings, plus thoughts from dozens of people, on Twitter. This brought her up to date, if only for a moment, in the ever-moving world of mobile communication. Putting these things aside, Alice sat in the sun with Sadie, enjoying a rare moment of carefree relaxation. Sadie mentioned the stunning surroundings – the grass and trees were bright green, and the sky was bright blue. Sadie started to read The Diary of a Nobody, by the Grossmith brothers, a delightful Victorian novel, brought to life with lots of hand-drawn illustrations. Sadie was looking for inspiration, as she hoped to become a paperback writer.

Alice plugged herself in to her IPod, and listened to songs by the Beatles – including a lot of tracks from Love, the surreal remix and mashup album. Towards the end of the glorious 80 second edit of Glass Onion, Alice closed her eyes, saying she was “resting” them, and dozed. Entering the place where wakefulness drifts into sleep, when in bed at night, Alice often experienced something she called a “mini-dream,” a dream of just a few seconds, from which she would exit, briefly awaking, before falling properly asleep – her “golden slumbers.” Alice had a “mini-dream” about eating giant strawberries, and told the detail to Sadie, who seemed unsure what this meant.

Alice drifted on to the image of a White Rabbit, seen wandering the grounds of Strawberry Fields Forever. The Rabbit seemed almost human, as it was wearing clothes, and muttering something to itself about the passage of time. The Rabbit even took a watch from a jacket pocket, and announced the time as “fifteen minutes,” without specifying any relationship to an hour of the clock.

Intrigued by this, Alice wandered towards the Rabbit, which hopped through a gap in a hedge. Alice noticed a group of four beetles, as she continued to pursue the Rabbit, which jumped into a narrow tunnel. In a moment of spontaneity, Alice squeezed into the tunnel, and felt herself to be moving at great speed. The strange thing was that she was not falling downwards, instead she was being sent in a roughly horizontal direction, apparently by some unseen wind or other power, through an ever-twisting tunnel. Alice felt a mixture of fear and exhilaration, as if on a rollercoaster ride, and wondered where she might arrive. Perhaps the other side of the world, or was this a route across the universe into another dimension? How long would the ride take? The answer to the latter question came just a couple of minutes after entry to the tunnel. All of a sudden, the helter skelter journey stopped, as the tunnel reached a fork, and the power pushing Alice forward ceased. Alice took the left prong of the fork, having seen the Rabbit do this. Passing a sign advising that this was Penny Lane, Alice walked along a wide, empty, corridor, and found herself to be alone. Where had the Rabbit gone to? Where was Alice? Was this a place far away from the lonely people?

In a dash to follow the Rabbit, Alice had left her handbag, with her mobile phone and money in it, by the chair in the garden of Strawberry Fields Forever. In any case, she did not know where she was, and whether her phone and money would be of any use in this new place. More importantly, how could she get back to where she had been? “Help!” Alice whispered to herself. As she walked what appeared to be a long and winding road, Alice was reduced to tears.

Alice walked further along the corridor. Having seen a table in the distance, Alice walked towards this, and found a small golden key placed on top of the table. There were several doors leading off the corridor, but Alice could not get the key to open any of them. Then she saw a single curtain in the corridor, and moved this to reveal a small door. The key opened this door, leading into a tiny corridor. Alice crouched down low, but the corridor was too small for her to be able to safely enter. Alice wished she could navigate the corridor, as it led to the loveliest garden she had ever seen – or imagined. The garden had tangerine trees, marmalade sky, cellophane flowers of yellow and green. It all seemed splendidly surreal, and reminded Alice of something. Then she realised, and said “It is Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds brought to life.” Alice was experiencing a day in the life of a wonderland. Suddenly, as if moved within a giant kaleidoscope, the scene shifted, and Alice could see a walrus and some eggmen, sitting in an English garden, waiting for the sun. “I am the Walrus” reflected Alice, meaning a song, as she did not really think she had turned into a walrus. Actually Alice wished she was a rather naughty girl, the sort who would let her knickers down, just like sexy Sadie, after the fancy dress party, as they shared a brief moment in the park.

Speaking to herself – as there was nobody else here (was it here or there?) to hear her – Alice said “I wish I could shrink down to somebody small enough to get through to the garden.” Alice locked the door, stood up, put the key back on the table, and found that a bottle had mysteriously just appeared on the table. The bottle had the words “Drink me” printed on a label. Alice realised it might not be a good idea to taste the mystery drink, as it might be harmful, even poisonous. On the other hand, with strange things happening, it might be worth trying the drink. There were not any ingredients listed on the bottle – perhaps it was a dubious alcohol mix. Alice tried a quick smell, followed by a small sip, and it seemed okay. Alice drank about half of the contents of the bottle, and suddenly felt herself to be shrinking. Before she knew it, Alice had been reduced to about two foot in height. Alice walked back to the door that led to the garden, but then remembered that she did not have the key. The key was on the table and, trapped by her small stature, Alice could not reach the key.

The small woman resumed talking to herself, saying “Now Alice, you need to concentrate.” Alice repeated similar phrases, as she said (she said) things to herself. As a child, she had been very fond of pretending to be two people, and Alice occasionally reverted to that frame of mind. Alice said “It’s no use now to be pretend to be two people! Why there’s hardly enough of me left to make one respectable person. I cannot recall anything so strange as this happening in my life. At least, not since that piano – or harpsichord – had started playing to me for no real reason”. Alice found that a small cake had appeared on the table, with the words “Eat me” marked in blue icing. Alice thought that eating the cake might return her to her normal height, at which point she could reach the key to the door. Alice started to eat the cake, and was soon growing back to normal height. She grabbed the key. Alice was not now able to fit into the tunnel, but reasoned that by drinking the rest of the drink she could make herself shrink again. This did indeed happen. Looking through the door, Alice hoped to walk into the enchanted garden. Perhaps she might find the White Rabbit, or even a human being, in the garden. Alice wanted company, as it was eerily quiet, and she did not even have her IPod with her.

 

 

 

 

How Does an Author Promote Their First Novel? #AliceInWonderland

 

How does an author promote their first novel? I have recently published my first novel. This is something I have wanted to do for many years. Part of the reason for delay is that I have been busy writing factual books. The first sentence of this Blog piece deliberately ends with a question mark. I am not so much offering advice on how to promote a novel, as asking myself, and anybody reading this, how is it done?

Belief in the quality of my writing has always been dwarfed by a lack of confidence in promoting the books, and myself. I think a lot of this is due to my struggling with Asperger Syndrome and OCD. Here is a link to something I wrote about how these things affect me. It was one of my more popular posts on this Blog – and received some comments.

https://andrewgodsell.wordpress.com/2016/04/15/aspergers-syndrome-and-obsessive-compulsive-disorder/

In the case of my novel, there is the complicating factor of my not even being sure that publishing it, without a pseudonym, is a good idea. It is my first foray in the world of….(dare I say it?)….erotica. The whole book is not erotica. There is a lot of gentle comedy, updating the tales in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland books to the present day. There may even be aspirations to literary fiction. Most people, this generally includes myself, do not talk openly about their sexuality, but people are equally fascinated by the concept. I ask myself, will the book be welcomed as an interesting piece of work? Will the “oddball” nature of my novel cause people to take my other writing less seriously? Or will it be largely ignored? For a long time, I lacked the confidence to explicitly tell family and friends, who know I have been writing the book, the direction in which it was headed. Now the novel, Alice’s Adventures in Fantasyland, is available for all the world to read, as both a paperback and Kindle Ebook.

Much of my output has been self-published, but a couple of books have been issued by mainstream publishers. Both of these were books of football history which, after an encouraging start, lost some impact as they became out of date. In the first case, the publisher went bankrupt, while in the second the book was quietly allowed to fade away. Like many writers, I have the ongoing difficulty of getting a publisher without having a literary agent, while attempts to get a literary agent are stalled by my relative lack of prior success getting a publisher!.

It is often said that many writers have a large ego about their writing, combined with a lack confidence about promoting themselves. The outlook of the muddled creator of a piece of art has been likened, by various people, to famous lines from W B Yeats:

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity

The anxiety I have always felt, due to mental health issues, has made dealing with publishers on a personal level difficult. Similarly I have attempted to sell my books in person at book fairs, but lacked the confidence to make much of this. I used to be good at writing and emailing press releases, but terrible at following up with telephone calls to real life journalists. More than 30 years after I started writing books, I am often overwhelmed by a feeling that it will be difficult to be a major success. Should I continue to follow my big dream? Should I settle for the limited level of literary success I have been able to enjoy? In an attempt to prompt myself to be more active, I am writing this short piece, with the intention of updating it as things progress.

I hope to return later with more to report.

Writing Week 2 #Asperger #OCD #Orwell

george_orwell_press_photo

Hello again, here I am with the second instalment of the planned series of Blog posts about being Asperger, and my writing. There is not a great deal of progress to report, as I have been feeling unwell since posting here last week.

I managed to upload a video on YouTube, in which I talk about the new book, and give a short reading. So far it has received a grand total of 23 viewings, plus a few complimentary comments on Twitter.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_FrD-Wi5YQ

The second chapter of Obsessive Compulsive Asperger explains my enthusiasm for Story-Telling. Here are a few paragraphs:

“Begin at the beginning, and go on till you come to the end: then stop”. This advice was given by a King to a White Rabbit, during a bizarre trial, staged near the conclusion of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (published in 1865). There is a lot to be said for starting stories other than at the beginning – I often begin in the middle, hop backwards to the opening, and meander through several digressions, before reaching something like an ending. The curious world of Wonderland has been an unlikely influence on my story-telling, as an imaginary counterpoint to the facts I normally rely upon. Following this short diversion, it is time to mention I have been fascinated by stories for almost as long as I can remember. Good stories entertain and inspire us, often providing vital insights into people’s lives. Stories can be fact or fiction – and sometimes a hybrid.

In my youth, I planned to develop the enthusiasm for books, by becoming a writer. I started to read the works of George Orwell, who remains my favourite author, due to his profound ideas, expressed in a conversational prose style. Besides books published in his lifetime, I enjoyed The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, a posthumously-compiled four volume set. The series opened with Why I Write, an essay from 1946, in which Orwell gave a summary of his literary career. Orwell argued that writers are motivated by four factors, the first of these being “sheer egoism”, caused by a wish to be recognised as a clever person. Next came “aesthetic enthusiasm”, which could follow from appreciation of external beauty, the taking of pleasure in the usage of words, and a wish to share experience. The third factor was “historical impulse”, with an author finding facts to be used for posterity. Orwell’s final motive was “political purpose”, with writers seeking to be an influence on people’s ideas about the direction of their society.

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What is my motivation as a writer? I think – we cannot always be certain about motives – that the central factor is a wish for communication. I feel a need to connect my enthusiasms, ideas, and knowledge with those of fellow human beings – often the effects of Asperger Syndrome make it more comfortable to do this through writing compared with other interaction. I also seek to give permanent record to experiences, many of which would otherwise be forgotten – probably a manifestation of my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Enjoyment in the creation of a piece of writing is followed by a sense of satisfaction when it is published, read by others, and discussed. From the preceding sentences, it appears the second and third of Orwell’s themes are predominant for me. I must confess that ego plays a big (too big?) part, while politics has often been a feature of my writing. My books may appear diverse in nature – spanning history, politics, football, autobiography, and fiction – but they form part of a logical progression, as writing is interweaved with other activities. The books and experiences are twin facets of the developing story of my life, with personal activity placed in a wider context (I could say “the bigger picture”).

I have developed a role as something of a raconteur, offering funny (sometimes slightly exaggerated) tales of my experiences. Stories are told, in animated fashion, at social gatherings, sometimes fuelled by alcohol, although audience participation (or even heckling) often proves a more effective stimulant. I have a love of trivia, and thirst for knowledge, taking delight at links between odd scraps of information. Interesting turns of phrase are often adapted to new purposes in my writing. I also make (I think) good use of irony.

#Asperger #OCD Literature – Week 1

I have posted a few previous pieces in this Blog about my writing, and uncertain confidence in promoting it. I am particularly proud of my latest book, entitled Obsessive Compulsive Asperger, and have therefore decided on a more concerted effort.

The book is available from Amazon, and a bargain at £5.99.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Obsessive-Compulsive-Asperger-Andrew-Godsell/dp/1521780781/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1504266886&sr=1-1

The content is neatly summed up by the following blurb

This is an amazing kaleidoscope of stories. With pen in hand, and tongue-in-cheek, Andrew Godsell plays the roles of writer, public servant, politician, minor television personality, and English eccentric. The author visits John Noakes, discusses football with Bryan Robson, out-wits Anne Robinson on Weakest Link, shakes hands with Ed Miliband, touches Bruce Springsteen, and shares an anecdote about mistaken identity with Patti Smith. Andrew writes with courage about the darkness of a struggle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome. He also finds light by weaving fact, fiction, and fantasy into a modern-day fairy tale.

The plan is to post a Blog piece each week, combining an extract from the book with a summary of the progress (if any??) that I make in promoting my writing.

With my conditions meaning that I work best with a structured plan, I aim to post during each of the next 22 weeks – one week for each chapter in the book.

Alongside this I intend (despite not being great with new-fangled technology) to upload some videos on You Tube. My activities and opinions have attracted some media coverage across the years – so I think I must be doing something right.

 

The first chapter of the book recalls – mostly with nostalgia but also some anxiety – my childhood. Here are a few paragraphs:

My father had been a close friend of John Noakes during the 1950s, when they served in the Royal Air Force. In 1972, with my brother and I regular viewers of BBC’s Blue Peter, dad wrote to John Noakes, seeking a reunion. One day a neighbour told us that John had arrived looking for dad, while we had been out, and left his telephone number. Dad called John, and our family met up with the Noakes family at their home. We encountered Shep, the Blue Peter dog, looked after by John, but there was not any sign of sticky-back plastic. Mark expected to meet Peter Purves and Valerie Singleton, and was surprised the three Blue Peter presenters did not live together. Following this, John and his son made a return visit to us at Fleet. This was my first brush with celebrity, and I learned that John Noakes was basically an ordinary bloke, despite having found national fame. Meeting John sticks in my mind as a great childhood experience, and a story I still enjoy re-telling – here’s one I did earlier (could not resist that).

The Easter holiday of 1973 included a visit to Stonehenge. I remember being captivated by the aura of Stonehenge, with the ancient stones sat in quiet isolation, holding thousands of years of memory. This was a wonderful survival into the modern era of our earliest past. I felt the power of history, something which still holds my imagination. Sometimes stories develop, and expand, over a long period of time. Fully 35 years after the visit to Stonehenge, a piece about the place would form the opening chapter of my book Legends of British History, which arrived in 2008. The trip to Stonehenge occurred during a weekend with granny and granddad, at their home in Salisbury. Mum, dad, Mark, and I frequently visited granny and granddad, and retain happy memories. There was tea-time, with lots of cakes, followed by our eating suppers of crusty bread with cheese and pickle, before retiring to beds where the sheets and blankets had been tucked in very tightly by granny. In the sitting room, a large clock ticked solidly, and chimed each hour. Displayed in a bookcase below the clock, granddad had a collection of books, mostly history and novels, some of which I read. Alice Rattue, a great grandmother, was a lively character, and I recall visits to her home at Green Croft Street, in Salisbury, the street in which she lived for most of her life. Always seeming to wear grey pleated skirts, Alice swore quite a bit as she recounted disputes with a next door neighbour. Although illiterate, Alice was able to write her name. Alice had been born in 1892, a few months after William Gladstone became Prime Minister for the fourth time, and she died during the first of the two 1974 General Election campaigns. The February Election led to Labour regaining power, nearly four years after losing to the Conservatives.

Many of my happiest childhood memories stem from holidays in the sun, at Goodrington, a village adjoining Paignton. Mum’s extended family visited Goodrington in each year from 1974 to 1980. On the first of these trips we stayed in a cramped boarding house, owned by a grumpy couple, which did not live up to an enticing name, Paradise Lodge. In subsequent years we based ourselves in the comfortable Goodrington Lodge Hotel. We became friendly with the family, named White, who owned the hotel, and several other regular visitors. The hotel was a short walk from Goodrington Sands, the two parts of which are known as the “morning beach” and “afternoon beach” respectively in our family. We used to rent a beach hut at the southern end, which had soft sand, and base ourselves there in the mornings. We would move to the northern part of the beach, with compacted sand, in the afternoon – to enjoy swimming, making giant sandcastles, and playing tennis. The tide comes in fully on the “afternoon beach” so in practice it could not always have been used – but I have the recollection of many afternoons on that beach rather than the opposite. On Wednesday evenings there was a regular disco at the hotel, hosted by the manager, John White, who endeared himself to young and old alike by inadvertently introducing records by Showaddywaddy as performances from Showaddyshowaddy – seemed even more of a tongue-twister. The discos were preceded by cricket matches in the neighbouring park, with our family being joined by other guests. The games got rather competitive, from my perspective – there were arguments about the rules, plus displays of frustration with opponents and team-mates alike.

Cricket was a sport I followed with interest, including attendance at a few Hampshire matches. During 1974, I saw part of a County Championship game, in which Hampshire (the previous seasons champions) beat Worcestershire (who went on to win the title this year) by an innings. The trip was organised by Neville, who was a keen cricketer, playing for Droxford, a picturesque village near Hambledon, “the Cradle of Cricket”. In 1977 Fleet was the scene of a benefit game for Barry Richards, the brilliant South African batsman who played for Hampshire. An injury prevented Richards from playing that day, but I was able to get him to autograph my copy of the benefit brochure. The progress of the England team featured in excellent BBC coverage, with television pictures being complemented by Test Match Special on the wireless – the word dad used for radio.

Dad was my hero as I grew up, with his offbeat sense of humour, and enthusiasms, being a great influence. Mum was the more practical, and steady, member of the family. Mum was also, as dad often remarked, an excellent cook. My parents grew a variety of fruit and vegetables in the back garden. I had lovely moments on Summer afternoons, sat in the garden, eating blackcurrants or strawberries, and watching butterflies flit among the flowers and plants. Each year we travelled to Cheltenham, the home town of the Godsell family, for the August bank holiday weekend, staying with Yvonne, a sister of dad, her husband David, and their daughter Elaine. Dad and David took Mark, Elaine, and I on visits to Pittville Park, with another cousin, Linda. I recall boat trips, with my poor steering rendering return to the perimeter of the lake problematic. On one occasion, reaching an island, I rapidly hopped onto land, whereupon Linda tried to do likewise, but fell into shallow water, and had to wade ashore. We would also visit my dad’s parents, Christopher and Phyllis (nee Cook-Cove). It was saddening to see Christopher, my grandfather, suffer very poor health for several years, leading to his death on March 19 1976.

I attended filming of an episode of Are You Being Served? at a BBC studio in London, during November 1978. With mum having obtained dozens of tickets, a coach trip was organised, with mum, dad, Mark, and I being joined by lots of friends. It was fascinating to see how the programme was made. Prior to filming, we found ourselves in a studio corridor, alongside Wendy Richard and Penny Irving, who were dressed up as Miss Brahms and Miss Bakewell respectively. Dad exchanged hellos with Wendy and Penny. As a curious teenager, suddenly catching sight of a prominent pair of ladies from the exciting world of television, I was left in silent admiration.

Having previously gained a place in the junior school’s chess team, I represented Court Moor at that game. My place in the Court Moor team was secured by a good position in a school chess tournament in the latter part of 1978. I became rather obsessive about chess at this time, with enthusiasm turning to stress about my performance in the competition. My GP referred me to a paediatrician, who prescribed a course of Valium. Unfortunately the doctor also appeared to be a paedophile, who felt diagnosis of my condition required him to attempt a sexual assault. I managed to prevent an assault. I felt shock, combined with a wish not to alarm my parents, and did not say anything at the time. I thought I had dealt with the matter. I took Valium for a few weeks, did not feel any better, got worried about being on the medication, and stopped taking it. I was wrapped up in wider anxieties, about school work and my future. For some reason, which I did not really understand, I was lonely during the latter part of my time at Court Moor. Having been outgoing and popular, I became rather introverted, and was suddenly lacking in real friends. I was a bit of an oddball, who did not fit in, and suffered some bullying.

In May 1979 a General Election was won by the Conservative Party, with Margaret Thatcher becoming Prime Minister. I subsequently wrote about this grim event in the book A History of the Conservative Party, published a decade later in 1989. I felt the outgoing Labour government, in which Jim Callaghan had replaced Harold Wilson as Prime Minister (1976), performed fairly well. The Labour government’s position unravelled during the “Winter of Discontent”, as the effects of industrial disputes were exacerbated by severe weather through the Winter of 1978-79. Long afterwards, I can still recall (picture this) myself walking home from the centre of Fleet, on a cold day in February 1979, with lots of snow on the ground. I had just bought Blondie’s Parallel Lines LP, this being the start of a record collection, which grew rapidly in the next few years. Besides Blondie (fronted by Debbie Harry, an adorable illusion), my initial favourite artists included Elvis Costello (lyricist of genius), and the Sex Pistols (leaders of Britain’s punk rock movement). In August 1979, I bought Because the Night by Patti Smith, a passionate love song that had been a major hit on its release the previous year. I also purchased discs by Buddy Holly, tragically killed in an air crash back in 1959, at the age of just 22. With a great admiration for the Beatles (and a wish to extend A Day in the Life into Strawberry Fields Forever), I became interested in John Lennon’s solo records. The senseless murder of Lennon, in 1980, left millions of people around the world with feelings of immense sadness.

I acquired several records by Bruce Springsteen during 1980, starting with the Born to Run single. Next I bought Bruce’s Darkness on the Edge of Town, a remarkable album, released two years earlier, portraying a life in which struggle is combined with optimism. On May 30 1981, an excited 16 year old attended a concert by Bruce and the E Street Band, at Wembley Arena, which lasted nearly three hours. The highlight was Because the Night, a song Bruce recorded for Darkness on the Edge of Town, but decided not to use. A tape of the song had been passed to Patti Smith, working on Easter – an album with an alluring cover picture of Patti – at the same studio complex as Bruce. The intermediary was Jimmy Iovine, multi-tasking (or multi-tracking) as engineer on Bruce’s album and producer of Patti’s record. With Bruce’s approval, Patti penned changes to the lyrics. Bruce performed Because the Night in concert with his set of words, but had not released his version as a record. I learned that a legendary track, The Promise, intended for the Darkness album, was another omission, and wondered when I might get to hear the song.

Our family had a seventh successive Summer holiday at Goodrington in 1980. Some members wanted change, but the only problem I could see (or feel) was hard potatoes, served at dinner in the hotel restaurant. Walking through the reception of the Goodrington Lodge one evening, I overheard John White on the telephone, complaining to the supplier that the potatoes would not go soft when boiled, which meant residents were not eating them. John had raised this with a delivery man, who said the hotelier was going soft in the head.

Theresa May Creates a Constitutional Crisis

During the 2015 General Election campaign, Theresa May, as Home Secretary in the Con-Dem coalition, claimed that the emergence of a possible minority Labour government, backed by the Scottish National Party, would be the biggest constitutional crisis in Britain since the Abdication in 1936. May’s idea was met with derision.

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/04/26/snpbacked-labour-governme_n_7145404.html

In the recent General Election campaign, May and the Conservatives kept banging on about their offer of “Strong and stable government”. They contrasted this with the “Coalition of chaos” envisaged if the small Conservative majority was replaced by a progressive government led by Labour, with support from the SNP, Plaid Cymru, and the Green Party. The Tories also consistently smeared Jeremy Corbyn, saying his dialogue with Sinn Fein – which eventually helped the Good Friday peace agreement for Northern Ireland in 1998 – equated support for IRA terrorism.

Now we have a minority Conservative and Unionist government, with the weak and wobbly May desperately clinging on to power, through an unholy alliance with their “friends”, the Democratic Unionist Party.

Jeremy Corbyn has said that Labour, energised by a positive campaign (Jeremy is too modest to add that he has been an inspirational leader) stands ready to take power. As a political activist who supports a written constitution for Britain, I have concerns about the vagaries of the current unwritten constitution.

The Hansard Society has produced an excellent briefing on possible scenarios in a hung Parliament.

https://www.hansardsociety.org.uk/resources/a-numbers-game-parliament-and-minority-government

The document is well worth a read.

I wish to draw attention to a few specific points.

If May’s government is defeated on the Queen’s Speech, convention suggests she should resign as Prime Minister, and advise the Queen to invite Corbyn, as leader of the second largest party, to attempt to form a government (see pages 11-12). This is only a convention, which means May could suggest that the Queen try to appoint another Conservative (is that Boris Johnson, the £350 million man, waiting in the wings?) as potential Prime Minister.

The whole possible process of May proposing a Queen’s Speech, being defeated on this, and a subsequent vote of no confidence, followed by a vote of confidence in a new government, means the current uncertainty could last several weeks. The reference on page 13 to a “technical drafting error” in the Fixed Term Parliament Act casts further doubt on the transparency of the process.

Much has been made of the regressive nature of the DUP, who oppose gay marriage and abortion, but support creationism being taught in schools. There are also suggestions that the Conservative and DUP agreement conflicts with the legal responsibility of the Conservatives, as the British governing party, to be neutral in dealings with the Northern Ireland parties, in line with the Good Friday Agreement. With the governance of Northern Ireland in limbo, following the collapse of the Sinn Fein and DUP administration earlier this year, this has major implications.

There is also the elephant in the mainstream media room. The DUP have consistently had close links with loyalist terrorist organisations. For many years, the mainstream media have not so much underestimated the extent and horrors of loyalist terrorism, as pretended it simply does not exist.

Now where did this loyalist terrorism start? Back in 1912, when the Unionist Party, as the Conservatives were then calling themselves, founded the Ulster Volunteer Force, as a private army that sparked civil war in Ireland, and derailed the plan of a Liberal government to give Home Rule to Ireland.

Back in 1912, the Unionists argued there was no mandate for the Liberal government’s programme, as they were a minority administration, only kept in power by the informal support of Irish Nationalist MPs.

A century later, May is arguing the complete opposite to justify her Conservative government!

I think Labour should be very clear about what is happening, remain united, and press the case that we have the solution to the crisis. By keeping our nerve, Labour can win power, either in the new hung Parliament, or by our momentum leading to victory at the next General Election – widely expected to be held within the next few months.

May and the Tories – who cried wolf about a crisis in 2015 – have suddenly plunged Britain into something that has potential to be the most severe constitutional crisis for over a century.

My life doesn’t understand me.

Interesting first post……..when will the saga continue?

#WorldBookDay 2017

On World Book Day I thought I would post something that looks back to the start of my attempt to be writer – 30 years ago – and other things happening in the late 1980s.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Obsessive-Compulsive-Asperger-Andrew-Godsell/dp/1326877984/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1488462109&sr=1-5&keywords=andrew+godsell

800px-westminster_palace-colour 

With bold ambition, I began writing A History of the Conservative Party on September 30 1985. As a member of the Labour Party, it seemed natural to plunge into literature with a critical history of the Conservatives, despite being aged only 20, and lacking any experience of writing for publication. I drew inspiration from Antonio Gramsci and Aneurin Bevan, two great Socialist politicians. Gramsci was imprisoned by Benito Mussolini’s Fascist dictatorship in Italy. After his arrest, Gramsci wrote to Tatiana, sister of his wife, Julia Schucht: “I am obsessed by the idea that I ought to do something for ever. I want, following a fixed plan, to devote myself intensively and systematically to some subject that will absorb me and give a focus to my inner life”. This led to Gramsci writing the Prison Notebooks (between 1929 and 1935), which rank among the most profound political writings. Gramsci’s theory of hegemony, by which a ruling class asserts and reinforces its position, along with his advocacy of ways that the working class can counter this, have been a massive influence on Socialist thinking and action.

Bevan’s Why Not Trust the Tories? was published in 1944, when victory for Britain, and her allies, in the Second World War was in sight. He drew parallels between the contemporary situation and the position after the First World War, when a Conservative and Liberal coalition government proceeded to condemn the hopes of a nation to the scrapheap. Writing about Tory procrastination over development of the welfare state, Bevan suggested the approach was “Jam yesterday, jam tomorrow, but never jam today”. Several years later, I realised Bevan had borrowed this curious idea from Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, And What Alice Found There. The White Queen offered Alice work as a maid, for “Twopence a week, and jam every other day”, going on to say “The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday – but never jam today”. A Labour government took power in 1945, with a landslide election victory, and delivered the welfare state. The defining achievement of Labour was the National Health Service, with Bevan, a Marxist agitator, being the architect. The Conservatives responded with vehement opposition, voted against establishment of the NHS in Parliament, and have continued to undermine its principles.

My book, which would be published in 1989, demonstrated that the Conservative Party has merely acted as the representative of the ruling class, following reactionary, and anti-democratic, policies while displaying an incoherent political outlook. Amidst lots of adverse comment, the narrative had a single hero, with Disraeli being a man of imagination, who brought drama, and comedy, to politics. An unusually enlightened Conservative, Disraeli (albeit reluctantly, and out of opportunism) gave the vote to urban working class men (but not women) in 1867. I showed how wishful thinking by the Conservatives had credited him with developing the idea of “One Nation”. One of the many villains of the book was Margaret Thatcher, who approached the NHS, and other Labour achievements, with the rationality of the Queen of Hearts.

The book opened with the formation of the Conservative Party in 1830, and ended with the 1987 General Election – which meant the final part of the book covered events that unfolded as I wrote. Thatcher’s government discarded mone­tarism during the Autumn of 1985, realising it had failed, but maintained the general plan. Although there had been some economic improvement, mass unemployment was only gradually reduced. At the beginning of 1986, two Cabinet Ministers, Michael Heseltine and Leon Brittan, resigned amidst a dispute over the ownership of the Westland helicop­ter company. Thatcher’s position appeared threatened by revelations about her role, but she survived the crisis. Work on the book about the Conservatives did not go as well as hoped, and I took a break, starting in February 1986.

I retained enthusiasm for writing and, within a few months, the 1986 World Cup finals prompted a decision to write a history of the competition. England made a poor start to the tournament, held in Mexico, before enjoying successive 3-0 victories against Poland – with a hat trick from Gary Lineker – and Paraguay). In the Quarter Finals, England lost 2-1 against Argentina, with Diego Maradona grabbing two goals within a few minutes, early in the second half. The first effort should have been disallowed for handball (the infamous “Hand of God”), but Maradona’s second goal was a brilliant solo effort. There was a late onslaught from England, in which Lineker scored, but it was too little, too late. Argentina went on to win the World Cup, beating West Germany 3-2 in the Final.

I began work on The World Cup on August 18, the day after returning from a visit to Portugal. I spent a week at Estoril, and took regular walks to the neighbouring town, Cascais. One lunchtime I enjoyed a variant on fish and chips, with the main part of the meal being fried swordfish. Having left the restaurant, I was chased down the road by a waiter. I thought that he thought that I had not paid the bill, but he was actually checking I was sure about the (slightly larger than usual) scale of the tip left in appreciation. In November I bought Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band Live / 1975-85, a five LP box set. One of the inner sleeves featured a photograph taken at a concert by Bruce, and the band, at Wembley in 1985, and I appeared in this picture, stood in the crowd – a wonderful link to a hero. The real highlight of this collection was the first release of Springsteen’s version of Because the Night, taken from a 1980 concert. Bruce’s rendition replaced Patti Smith’s performance of the song as my favourite record. During the latter part of 1986, I produced a mass of notes, and statistical material, for The World Cup. In the early months of the following year, I wrote the narrative section of the book, completing the process in May 1987.

As a Labour Party activist, I was involved in a General Election campaign for the first time in 1987, hoping we would prevent a repeat of the Conservative landslide of four years earlier. The outcome would subsequently be reported in the final passage of A History of the Conservative Party, which in turn is re-cycled as the remainder of the current paragraph. Thatcher called a General Election for June 11, and issued a Conservative manifesto entitled The Next Moves Forward. In the Foreword, Thatcher made the curious claim that her government was fulfilling the “One Nation” ideal. Thatcher led a poor campaign but, with the opposition weak, the Conservatives won 375 seats, Labour 229, the Alliance 22, and the others 24. The Conservatives retained power with a majority of 100 seats. Reconstruction of the govern­ment included the sacking of John Biffen, who had been Leader of the House of Commons. Biffen responded by saying that Thatcher’s government was Stalinist. As Thatcher entered her third term in office, the thinking of the Conservative Party was characteristically incoherent.

I went to Wembley, in August, for a match that marked the centenary of the Football League. A Football League selection beat a Rest of the World team 3-0, with two goals from Bryan Robson, and one from Norman Whiteside. I was thrilled to see Diego Maradona and Michel Platini play for the Rest of the World, combining magically in midfield. Pele was introduced to the teams prior to the match, as guest of honour. A few days later, I began a holiday at Funchal, on the beautiful Portuguese island of Madeira. For Sunday lunch – far away from England – I ate up-market fish and chips, sat outdoors at a restaurant, wearing shorts and a T-shirt. A lovely meal could have been improved with a thematic cherry cake.

Back in England’s green and pleasant land, I attended the fourth day of the match that marked the bicentenary of the Marylebone Cricket Club, with an MCC team playing the Rest of the World. I returned to Lord’s the next day, only for play to be rained off. I will admit to being a bit pedantic sometimes (or more than sometimes). I once noticed that the 1986 edition of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack incorrectly stated that Michael Mates, the first MP to score a century for the Lords and Commons team, represented Petersfield. In 1988 I corresponded with Graeme Wright, the editor of Wisden, and Mates, suggesting a note be put in the Errata section of a future Wisden, as Mates was MP for East Hampshire. Wisden and Mates each attributed the error to the other, but declined the idea of a correction. Mates gave his views in a scrawled handwritten letter. Wright stated electoral constituencies could be confusing, adding “a sound grounding in the works of Lewis Carroll would seem essential were one to take them seriously”.

My diary entry of Sunday October 18 1987 began with a promising event in my writing career, and moved on to the awful effects of the British hurricane:

Much has happened since my last entry – including the lights going out! On Thursday I was pleased to receive a letter from Collins Willow which suggests that they are interested in The World Cup, and wrote the reply that they asked for (giving biographical and bibliographical details). This seems to be a major breakthrough and I am excited about it. On Thursday night I went to bed only to be kept awake by a tremendous storm for literally hours.

On Friday I discovered the details of the storm. It had in fact been a hurricane. It has caused widespread damage throughout south east England. I saw some of the local damage, in our back garden, and in a short trip with dad in the car, followed by a walk back. We were without power from the early hours of Friday until Saturday breakfast time. I spent Friday evening alone by candlelight, having gone round the shops in the afternoon to get some candles. That afternoon I posted my letter to Collins Willow. I had always thought of hurricanes as something that occur in other countries, but not here. It appears that the last one to hit Britain with such force was way back in 1703. The damage done, and the loss of life, have been terrible. We lost power again shortly before I began this entry, and have yet to receive it back.

Collins Willow were part of William Collins, one of Britain’s largest publishers. Across a period of several months, leading into Spring of the following year, I had dialogue with Michael Doggart, an editor at Collins, who came close to offering to publish the book, before eventually deciding against this. The World Cup was rejected by a steady stream of publishers, although quite a few considered signing me up for their team.

After a break of two years, I returned to writing A History of the Conservative Party, in March 1988. I decided to leave Dresdner Bank, having worked there for more than four years, and have a spell in which temporary work would overlap with concerted effort to get a writing career underway. On my final day at the bank, May 13, I invited colleagues to join me for a drink-up at a pub. In an echo of my twenty first birthday celebration, I was visited by a stripagram lady. By leaving the bank, I exchanged a secure job for an uncertain future, but felt excited by the possibility of becoming a writer. When Benjamin Disraeli persuaded the Conservatives to take a gamble by passing the second Reform Act, in 1867, Lord Derby, Prime Minister and Party Leader, described the action as “a leap in the dark”. I was following the example of Disraeli, taking a personal leap.

In June I made my third visit to Yugoslavia, spending a week at Bol, a village on the island of Brac, in Croatia, accompanied by Phil, a friend I worked with at Dresdner. Brac was quiet, but picturesque, particularly the Zlatni Rat (Golden Cape) beach near Bol, this being a promontory that emerges from a pine wood. At the hotel, Phil and I sampled a local drink, mishmash, composed of red wine sat on top of orange juice, with the two components kept separate in the glass. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band toured Britain in the Summer, and I saw two concerts, the first at Villa Park, in Birmingham, and the second at Wembley Stadium. Both shows featured Because the Night. The Wembley concert lasted three hours and 35 minutes, as Bruce sang 33 songs – including 10 encores, in response to loud, and lengthy, calls from the crowd for more songs.

A couple of months after leaving Dresdner, I resumed the role of something in the City. At intervals over the next two years, I worked on an agency basis for a long list of banks. These were London and Continental Bankers (British), Rabobank (Dutch), Sanwa Bank (Japanese), Banca Nazionale del Lavoro (Italian), Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank (Japanese), Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (you guessed), SDS Bank (which was Danish), Norddeutsche Landesbank (based in West Germany), Tokai Bank (Japanese), and Arab Banking Corporation (based in Bahrain, but jointly owned by the states of Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, and Libya). I said it was a long list.

Dorothy Collings died of cancer on September 13 1988. Dorothy was a wonderful woman, who was to be sadly missed by her family, just as Ernest, her husband, had been. Following granny’s death, we learned that Ernest had been illegitimate, but con­cealed this. The revelation prompted resumption of work on my family history, put on hold a decade earlier. Helped by membership of the Society of Genealogists, I was able to discover a great deal of information over the next few years, taking my known ancestry back to the 1700s. Later progress, to earlier dates, will be outlined subsequently in this book (well it makes sense to me).

I visited France in October 1988, spending a long weekend in Paris with Phil. We visited historic sites, and I went to places of personal interest. At Montparnasse cemetery, I found the grave of Alexander Alekhine, a Russian who became a citizen of France. Alekhine was world chess champion from 1927 to 1935, and then 1937 until his death in 1946. I also followed in the footsteps of George Orwell, along the Rue du Pot de Fer, where he lived while writing his first book, Down and Out in Paris and London (published in 1933). In December, the Clapham Junction train disaster caused the deaths of 35 people. I was very lucky not to be involved in the crash, as I regularly travelled to work on one of the trains that collided, but did not use it that particular day.

I attended an Amnesty International concert, at Wembley, in September 1988. The headline performance by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band followed impressive sets by Youssou N’Dour, Peter Gabriel, Tracy Chapman, and Sting. I became a member of Amnesty International, supporting the battle for human rights throughout the world. I also joined the Chile Solidarity Campaign, which participated in the struggle for the resto­ration of democracy in Chile. The country had ceased to be a democracy on September 11 1973, when Salvador Allende’s government, which was transforming Chile into a Socialist society, was overthrown by a military coup, and replaced by a Fascist dictatorship. The achievements of Chile’s Socialist government provided a great deal of inspiration for the British left, and Allende was one of my political heroes. At this time I voted in a Labour Party Leadership contest, supporting Tony Benn, as he was a com­mitted Socialist intent on a clear programme of radical reform in Britain, but Neil Kinnock won. During the Spring of 1989, I attended the annual general meeting of Chile Solidarity, chaired by Judith Hart, a Labour MP dedicated to Socialist causes. I also stood as a Labour Party candidate in the Hampshire County Council Election.

In May 1989 a publishing company offered to publish The World Cup. This was followed by a cruel change of fortune, as a few days later the company mysteriously changed their mind. Refusing to be beaten, on the day I learned of the rejection, I set to work on producing an expanded version of the book. During June, I saw England beat Poland 3-0 in a World Cup match. Prior to this I had seen England draw 0-0 with Sweden, and beat Albania 5-0, in their 1990 World Cup qualifying campaign. In the space of a few days, either side of England’s match against Poland, I saw concerts by Elvis Costello and Lou Reed. Elvis Costello performed a solo acoustic set at the Royal Albert Hall, in which the highlight was an amazing Alison. Lou Reed’s show at the London Palladium (a venue that looks better on television than it really is) started with his playing most of the songs from the recently-released New York album, one of the peaks in a long career. This was followed by earlier material, including Rock and Roll plus Sweet Jane, from the Velvet Underground days, and Walk on the Wild Side. The back cover of the New York album had a note from Reed, advising “It’s meant to be listened to in one 58 minute (14 songs!) listening, as though it were a book or a movie”. Lou Reed, who died in 2013, was a great role model, with the gift of self-parody (too often under-rated).

There was a rapid return to the electoral front, in a Hart District Council By-Election. On polling day, the Labour candidate was midway through a holiday, at Playa de las Americas in Tenerife. Phil and I climbed the peak of Mount Teide, besides spending long nights in the bars and discos of our town. Here is a diary account, written on June 16, of helter skelter events:

As the polls were closing in Britain last night, Phil and I were off for what proved to be a remarkable night. The first stop was a pub called the Waikiki. After the Waikiki we went to a couple of other places. At one of these I got talking to a soldier. He told me about being shot twice by the IRA. I decided not to get into an argument about Ireland. The early hours of this morning saw our daily visit to the Crow’s Nest. At this venue I found myself dancing at one point with about eight girls. It seemed fun at first, but events took an unfortunate turn. These girls literally ripped my shirt off, and refused to return the torn remnants. It was the shirt I got in exchange for my spare Bruce Springsteen ticket, at Birmingham last year. I did not wear the shirt much, but I am annoyed at having lost it. The girls tried to take my jeans off. I managed to restrain them. I then left the disco. I waited outside to see if Phil would follow. When he did not I walked back to the apartment alone. The man at the reception reluctantly gave me our key, complaining that I should have been wearing a shirt.

Phil soon returned and we exchanged stories. He said that while I was being attacked he was snogging with a girl he had met. Her friend wanted to meet me when Phil said it was I who had been attacked, but I was by now gone. Phil also bumped into the soldier we had met earlier. Phil managed to knock the soldier’s pint of lager all over the pool table. Besides buying a replacement drink, Phil had to pay the barman the cost of damaging the pool table. The good news of the night is that Phil arranged to meet the two girls he was with. We are due to meet them at the same venue at midnight tonight. Walking home from the Crow’s Nest last night I felt demoralised, but Phil’s story brightened me up. Today we have been able to look back on last night as quite funny. It was certainly different.

Immediately after the holiday, I arranged publication of The World Cup with Nimrod Press, based at Alton, in Hampshire. I was delighted with my bouncebackability. Is that a real word? If not, it should be. I soon completed re-writing the book, which was scheduled to appear in the Autumn. Continuing research included trips to the headquarters of the Football Association, in London, having arranged access to the library with its custodian, David Barber. On one visit, as I sat in the reception of the Football Association, admiring a replica of the Jules Rimet trophy, Graham Kelly, the Chief Executive, walked through, casting a disapproving look at the casually-dressed young man, who had somehow been admitted to the plush building. I corresponded with the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), based in Switzerland, and received positive letters from Guido Tognoni, head of public relations. In the light of points I made, FIFA corrected errors in the official World Cup statistics. My efforts were also recognised by a freebie from FIFA, as I received a set of postcards, combining reproductions of publicity posters for each World Cup tournament, and match statistics.

 

 

Books abandoned, 2016 — Biblioklept

As always: I’m sure it was my fault, and not the book’s fault, that I abandoned it. (Except when it was the book’s fault). And also: “Abandoned” doesn’t necessarily mean that I won’t come back to some of these books. (One of them even ended up on a list I made earlier this […]

via Books abandoned, 2016 — Biblioklept

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