About wronghand

Who Am I? An aspiring novelist, working hard to complete my first novel. In previous years I have written, published and broadcast adult short stories, some posted here, and many stories for children. What Lights My Fire? My passions are the power of words, my love of books, art, people, all animals - but especially dogs - and the precarious future of our precious world. Where Have I Been? I've been travelling, mainly in Europe and South America, and blogging for several years on a variety of themes. I would love to hear from you, so please share your thoughts below. You will find links below to social media, so that I can contact and be contacted by friends and followers. Welcome to my small corner of our world, I hope you will find something here to interest you, make you smile or maybe even cry. Thank you for visiting!

It’s the only World we’ve got

Terrible things have happened before – take the Great War, that was pretty terrible. The Spanish Flu that came after, the Bubonic Plague back in the Middle Ages. World War 2, the Holocaust, more recent. Thing is, human history of our blue planet is a litany of terrible things happening.

So how come we got though all this terribleness more or less intact? The human race is still here, still destroying itself and the planet. But alive and, seemingly, thriving. Seems like even when we have real dumb-ass types in charge, humanity finds a way of stepping back from the brink. 

Trump is gonna lose, I’ll bet my own money on it. And, though the US is in a real shit-storm right now, decent people will take over and work hard to repair the divisions he has wrought. It will take time, of course it will, and no doubt many people will still lose their lives, either from Trumps’s denial of the pandemic or the precariousness of being a person of colour in a nation where that seems to be like a red flag to so many, even some law-enforcers. Maybe especially some law-enforcers.

And in the UK, the next election will see the defeat of the Tories, hopefully for many years. It will, I’m depending on it. The bean counters will be ousted. Humanity will prevail and quasi-dictatorship will give way to actual democracy once more. When that happens, it will present an opportunity for the UK to demonstrate to the US the many benefits of socialism. Right now US citizens are brainwashed into thinking socialism represents a repressive state. But what could be more repressive than free market capitalism? Basically the slogan for this kind of political belief is, ‘Bugger You, Jack, I’m All Right’. We need to return to the teachings of Beveridge and Buddhism. The current global ‘dollar worship’ isn’t working for people, wildlife or the natural world.

So when you see the sun low in the sky, know that it will rise again, if we help to keep it rising. We need to follow all those old fashioned sayings of cutting our carbon, loving our neighbours, caring for and loving our planet and not destroying it with waste and nuclear weapons. Don’t think that someone else will do this stuff, for there is no one here but us. 

For sure, we are feeling low right now, we have been buffeted by gust after gust of lies, disorder, broken promises. But we must not turn away and wait for someone to come rescue us. We have to take a long clear look at our world, decide how we can help to maintain it, reject the current mendacious forces keeping us in fear, and stand up to the Terrible. Together, with love in our hearts for each other and our world, is the only way we can win through.   

Some Characters – Tolstoy versus Turgenev

I’be been reading a book by Richard Cohen, entitled How to Write like Tolstoy. Now, I don’t especially want to write like anybody, I want to write like me and set my own example for others to follow. But when I noticed that the book was endorsed by twice Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel, I thought there might be something in it. If you have read Wolf Hall, you’ll get my drift.

The book follows the usual How To rules with chapters on beginnings, characters, point of view, etc.. The chapter on characters I found particularly enlightening and amusing. It seems that there was a rivalry between two masters of literature – Tolstoy and Turgenev – about the creation of characters. Turgenev allegedly didn’t speak to Tolstoy for several years because he thought Tolstoy was better than him at creating characters.

How brilliant is that? Here are these two incredible writers, creators of Anna Karenina (Tolstoy) and Fathers and Sons (Turgenev), who were so competitive and jealous that they behaved like schoolboys over who excelled in character creation. Tolstoy (allegedly) showed off and Turgenev (allegedly) couldn’t stand his contemporary’s superior ability at characterisation.

Cohen refers to a story, it may be apocryphal, about the two men playing together on a seesaw, forcing each other to soar higher and higher, until… well, he doesn’t actually finish the story. But the point is clear. How childish, how relatable, how much this story will be understood by every fiction writer. How totally human.

Fiction writing is all about character. Create an unforgettable character, you’ve cracked it. Think Madame Bovary, Humbert Humbert and Lolita, Dr Zhivago, or, departing the Russian Masters for a moment, Scarlett O’Hara, James Bond, Indiana Jones, Gollum. These are characters who will live in your imagination as strongly as members of your own family.

Have a look at How to Write Like Tolstoy: there are some little gems you might find useful in your own writing.

The New New

Uh-oh! WordPress has been upgrading and improving again. As I haven’t posted anything for about eighteen months, I’m up the creek, paddle less. Nothing else for it but to jump right in, so here we go…

So, should I create a public profile? Do I want to share my words of wisdom and a photograph of my fizzog with my followers? What have they done to deserve that shock! Why would I want to be visible?

Well, many moons ago, when the earth was young and flat, I decided to become a writer and write stuff. Anyone can dream, can’t they? And a wise old Yoda told me that I would need a blog, to publicise my words and show the world how it’s done. Or not, as the case may be.

So you’ve seen some words: now what about that photo?

A Meaningless Deal? Or Just Madness?

I don’t want to write this, but I must face the fact that the Maybot has just signed the Brexit withdrawal and draft future trading agreement with the other 27 EU countries. There was no argument from the EU, Unity was preserved, much to the delight of the 27, though they do look rather shell-shocked, reminiscent of Gove and Johnson the morning after the referendum result. Spain in particular was cock-a-hoop, crowing that co-soverignty over Gibraltar was now a clear prospect.

I console myself with the fact that there is little chance of May getting the so-called deal through the Commons. The troops are lining up to shoot her down, or stab her in the back, depending on your pov. It says something when the Scottish Nationalists, the Democratic Unionists, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and even many Conservatives on both sides of the Leave/Remain argument can come together in their condemnation of what Jeremy Corbyn called a ‘miserable failure of a negotiation’ which offers the ‘worst of all worlds’. Good description, JC, though why couldn’t you have spoken up and offered some leadership earlier in the debate?

Now we wait and fret until the ‘meaningful vote’ in the House, in a couple of weeks time, time the PM will spend attempting to buy loyalty from her party and threatening future calamities for the UK if her deal is rejected. I pray the current opposition from all sides to the deal holds and that our politicians, for once, put the interests of the country before personal gain and don’t bottle it.

Heat-addled thoughts…

It’s the BH weekend and the weather is amazing, really HOT sunshine, really BLUE sky, NO clouds and WIND-FREE. Can this be miserable Brexit Britain, or have I been suddenly transported to a parallel universe? (If only.)

Don’t you just love it when you can venture outdoors without your fleecy jacket and double-thickness leggings? Couple weeks ago we woke up to 10 centimetres of snow. That was AFTER Easter, yes, really. We were visited by what was referred to in the media as the ‘Beast From The East’, i.e., perishing cold temperatures and biting winds from chilly Scandinavia.

Like you, I’ve seen those dark Scandie thrillers, where they all wear wooley jumpers with reindeer and snowflakes on them, a bit like the ones daft Brits wear at Christmas, to show they’re not taking the whole Christian festival thing too seriously. But, in Scandie-land, those jumpers cover up dark secrets like dragon tattoos and multiple body-piercings. Could it be that Brits are slipping down that road too? For all we know, they have already arrived. Could you imagine our – current – PM with ring nipple-piercings? Tastefully done, of course, and linked by an ‘I Heart Brexit’ padlock on heavy duty chain? She could go the whole hog, of course, and have her longshanks tattooed with leopard markings, all the better to adopt the current political craze, the Power Pose.

Must be dehydrated, drink more water…

Drafted the above in May, still hot in Albion now, in August, what a crazy summer. We pathetic Brits are not built to withstand heat. Like the witch in Oz, we’re m-e-l-t-i-n-g…

Here’s a pic of our neighbour, also going nuts!

Beginning. Again.

There’s nothing so exciting as starting out on something new; think new school, new job, new love, new journey. Those pleasurable sick feelings in your stomach, the inability to sleep, to eat, the fact that you can’t focus your thoughts on anything except the approaching unknown. What if schoolmates don’t like me, I can’t do the job, the love turns out to be stillborn, the journey wearisome and unrewarding?

Any of these situations can result in disappointment, but, being human and hopeful, the very next time around, we simply fall into the same old sick torment. It’ll be different this time, they’re going to love me, I’ll be such a success, nothing can go wrong…

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Is it ever too late to begin again? Many folks think so, saying things like: I’m too old to wear jeans, take up running, post my face on a dating website. Even when they might look amazing in denim, get super-fit doing 3k a couple of times a week, meet Mr/Ms Right-Now online, after only a couple false starts. Okay, maybe more than a couple, but my point is, just have a go, dive in. Just do it, try. You’ll never know until you try. Dig out the denim and running shoes. Polish up your dating profile, smile and put yourself out there. It could be the best beginning ever.

See you back in the race. Good Luck!

Afternoon Delight

via Daily Prompt: Tea

Last week, my niece Amber celebrated her seventh birthday. She told her mum that, instead of a party, she would like to go for afternoon tea at an upmarket local hotel. It’s one of those places with a gym and a pool and Amber had seen the Afternoon Tea menu advertised one morning when her mother took her swimming. We all thought this request was out of character, as Amber is the archetypal tomboy. If she’s not playing football or being Spiderman, she’s climbing trees and having fun with her two dogs. But the menu choices seemed to have mesmerised her and her mind was firmly made up.
The whole family, well, the distaff side, turned out, dressed to kill and ready to hit the dining room. There was Amber, her 11-year-old cousin Cara, mum Maggie and me, Auntie Noreen, Granny Brigit and Great-Auntie Josie. Talk about competitive! The two seniors had donned wedding hats and brandished their handbags like weapons, and Amber even wore a dress – unknown!
In the dining room, we could almost inhale the gentility. Flowers were everywhere, dahlias and gladioli, in sparkling containers brimming with greenery. The table linen was as gleaming white as Granny Brigit’s new dentures. Our chairs were noiselessly adjusted by smart young waiters as we were seated, conversations hummed around us in muted tones, spoons really did tinkle against fine bone china. It all felt a bit like an Agatha Christie murder mystery was about to kick off, so much so that I found myself peering round to see if there was any sign of Jane Marple or the immaculately French Hercule Poirot. But no, there was only our excited little party and a dozen or so other ladies, taking tea at tiny tables, waited on by a contingent of attentive waiting staff.
Until. We had oohed! and ahhed! over the neat pyramids of wafer-thin sandwiches, the light crumbly scones with oodles of jam and cream, and were dreamily contemplating the heavily-laden cake stand – chocolate and cholesterol heaven – when HE arrived. Our daddy, Brigit’s ex, Willie.
Picture the scene. A mature – 85 next birthday – stocky chap, short in stature but making up for it in havoc potential, paused in the doorway. It was like an alien had entered the chintzy room and every female’s eyes swivelled to check him out. Willie wasn’t wearing his glasses – vanity being another of his main attributes – and seemed to be having some difficulty in focusing. Our entire table groaned, before turning to concentrate on the contents of the cake stand.
Except Amber. Reverting to her usual demeanour, she leapt to her feet and yelled, ‘Grandad! We’re here! Just look at the size of our bloody chocolate eclairs!’ The very room seemed to gasp. Grandad followed Amber’s call, weaving his way through the seated ladies, occasionally nodding and winking, coming close enough to hover over Cara, eyeing the unfamiliar bevy before him with something resembling incredulity.
‘Is it you, Brigit?’ he eventually blurted. ‘Is that you? What’s wrong with your face? You look like a tomato plant!’
As one, we turned to look at Granny Brigit. To say she’d turned scarlet would be an understatement. She swayed to her feet and removed her primrose hat, crumpling it against her green twinset in short fat ring-festooned fists. She’d gone from tomato plant to velociraptor in the space of five seconds. Fiery sparks shot from her eyes in Willie’s direction.
‘I invited you,’ she growled. ‘I distinctly remember asking you to come. But you said you’d a snooker match at the club. Too busy playing with your coloured balls to come to your grand-daughter’s party. And what in the name of God is that you’re wearing?’
She’d done it now. Everyone in the room stared at Willie’s turquoise silk jacket, peach chinos, yellow paisley cravat and engineer boots. The fact that he is only sixty inches tall and had his hair slicked back like John Travolta in Grease seemed to somehow complement his choice of outfit. ‘He looks like our old Andy Pandy with a quiff,’ I whispered to Maggie, who glared at me and tried not to giggle at the same time; no mean feat.
‘It’s not the party, Granny,’ Amber piped up. ‘The party’s tomorrow. Today is afternoon tea.’
‘Afternoon tea?’ Willie’s eyes widened to a zombie stare. He gripped the back of Cara’s chair, threatening to tip her out of it and onto the parquet flooring. ‘Don’t they serve any proper drink in this fancy shebeen? I’ve not got done up in my best gear for bloody afternoon tea!’
A rush of activity ensued and Willie was surrounded and rapidly seated by the smooth young waiters. As though by magic, a pint of Guinness appeared on the gleaming tablecloth beside the waiting chocolate fancies. Willie smiled and chucked Amber under the chin. ‘That’s more like it, you know what your old Grandad likes, darlin’, don’t you?’
Amber looked at him innocently and nodded. ‘Yes, Grandad, football and drinking and snooker and chips and golfing and…’
Cara dived in to change the mood. ‘Would you like a scone first, Grandad? Before your drink?’
Willie thought about this. He looked around the table, taking in the mixed expressions of the adults and the trusting young faces of the two girls. ‘Well, if there’s no chip butties on offer, I suppose I could risk a scone.’
Beside me, I felt Millie relax. Across the table, Brigit’s face still threatened war, but we knew that she wouldn’t spoil her granddaughter’s special day. The ladies at the other tables had lost interest, sensing that no fireworks were going to be set off, and returned to their muted gossiping.
Amber picked up a china plate and loaded it with a huge fruit scone, a pot of thick cream and a tiny jar of strawberry jam, before handing it to her Grandad. She waited while he prepared his feast and took a bite before turning to Maggie, her expression serious.
‘Next year, Mummy, if we come for afternoon tea, I think we should all wear fancy dress, like Granny and Grandad. I’ll be Spiderman.’

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Smell like a new man

Perfumes for men and boys? Why not? They’ve been smelling of sporty shower gel and sharp aftershave since at least the sixties or seventies, when heavyweight boxer Henry Cooper advised them to ‘splash it all over’.

Nothing wrong with a bloke smelling like he’s had a decent wash. Trouble with these millennials is, though, they’ve all got beards or heavy stubble. How can you get a good niff round your jaws if you haven’t shaved? Oh, excuse me, I didn’t realise that modern lads just rubbed their fragrance of choice over their hairy chops. Seems a bit strange, though, like changing your shorts without having a bit of a spruce up around your dangly bits. Still what do I know? I’m a dinosaur, apparently.

But it’s definitely taking the piss when I read that some new men’s fragrances are inspired by the scents of concrete, skateboards and even – I’m not kidding – baby teeth. Has the world gone mad? No, not the world, just, as usual, the market. And marketing.

I’ll tell you something for nothing, though: I’m quite partial to the smell of freshly laid tarmac. I think you call it asphalt in the US. That’s a good strong, masculine pong: maybe that’s where the notion of a fragrance reminiscent of concrete comes from. Who knows? It might catch on among those rugged muscular types, maybe. Can you imagine? New fragrance, what’s that called? ‘Concrete mix’, really? Mmmm… different.

Skateboards have never played any part in my everyday life: roller-skates, yes, when I was a kid, mostly associated with the smell of sticking plaster and lint bandages, with light notes of iron from oozing blood trickles. Course, you only get the iron notes if you catch the blood escaping from the plaster on your grubby fingers and then lick it off. Ah, the sweet remembered tastes and smell of playing out in childhood. Yes, maybe there’s something in that one. What about ‘Blood and Sand’?

Milk teeth – does this have anything to do with baby breath, a delightful, milky, unique scent? Doubtful, by the time little ones are losing their milk teeth, their breath smells of toffees and liquorice and fizzy drinks. Or is that only my grandkids? My imagination can’t quite reach far enough to come up with a name for a men’s fragrance inspired by milk teeth. Suggestions on a postcard, please.

Sport? Not by any definition.

Today I am making Paella. I’ve got chicken pieces, prawns and Chorizo sausage. It should be easy – how hard can it be? It’s only a sort of risotto with protein in, instead of my usual mushrooms. I’ll tell you how it turns out.

Lately, I’ve been struggling with my liking for flesh. I won’t lie, I love nothing more than a crispy bacon butty, a nice thick rare steak or a succulent piece of salmon with pasta. But something on Twitter recently stopped me in my tracks. It was a whale hunt, taking place in the ocean around the Faroe Islands. The first post I read, last week, was about a mother and baby pilot whale, a type of dolphin, who’d become separated from their pod and, seemingly, escaped the hunters’ nets. But not for long, as a photo showed all too graphically. Mother and baby, dead, laid out side by side on a blood-soaked beach. That day, the Twitter post informed me, 193 animals had been slaughtered. For sport. I moved on quickly to the next post and put the image out of my mind. It was nothing to do with me, after all.

But a day or two later, there it was again, further news of how the hunt was progressing and the shocking information that nearly 1000 Pilot Whales had been killed by this hunt in just two months. Nearly one thousand dolphins. I had a mental picture of them, rounded up, trailed to shore in the nets thrashing and trying to escape, to save themselves and their young. Then suffocating on the beach, before the ‘sportsmen’ – read ‘killers’ – arrived with their clubs and their lances, the surf turning red. I couldn’t ignore a thousand dead dolphins: I opened the attachment and read further details. It appears that the whale carcasses are used to provide food for farmed salmon, you know, the type I buy, once a week, in the supermarket. I don’t know why this should have affected me so much, killing whales on an industrial scale, for sport and to fatten captive salmon, to feed me and other people like me, just ordinary people, who enjoy a bit of fish once or twice a week. I didn’t know about this annual slaughter: did you?

Why did it trouble me? I thought of the dolphins I’ve seen, off the west coast of Ireland, surfacing, splashing their tails, swimming alongside the tourist boats with their calves. Maybe they were Pilot Whales, dolphins, maybe not, does it matter? They were just alive, happy, splashing along, going somewhere, wherever it is that dolphins go, but not expecting anything like a boatload of hunters – ‘sportsmen’ – to be waiting, planning their deaths on an industrial scale.

I think I’ll cook the mushrooms.

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Don’t Soil Your Frock, Doc!

SoilSo, the new Doctor is female, who’d have thought it? Come on, it’s only taken 50-odd years for the regeneration of the Timelord into the Timelady. Or is that me being sexist? And elitist? Honestly, you can’t open your mouth these days without giving offense.

Anyroad up, as they allegedly say in Yorkshire, what’s the difference? Gender roles in film and drama seem to be interchangeable these days. We have Superman and Wonderwoman, Spiderman and Lara Croft, Batman and Catwoman. But if you haven’t seen the difference, you’ve been asleep in front of the screen.

These thoughts led me to wondering about how the Doc, as an either/or, might have been conditioned as a child. For that we need to go back-a-ways, s/he has been around since the year – only Who knows? And also, the Doc, sorry to break it to you so crudely, is non-human. Yes, I know the character has been portrayed as a human, David Tennant, Tom Baker, William Hartnell et al portraying him over the years. But he’s never been human, he’s an alien, a fugitive from the planet Gallifrey, and he twoced the Tardis, when he fled from his fellow Timelords, way back in the day. All very normal, for an antihero. But the Doc is a hero, or at least he’s become one over the course of twelve series, with a correspondingly heroic fanbase. They love him. So how will they take to her, number 13?

Will the new incarnation be allowed to scruff out, like David Tennant, in a fleabitten pair of old tennis shoes, heavy stubble and an unflattering mac? Or act completely outre, as did Tom Baker, winding himself up in that striped scarf, mad as a box of frogs? Will she be permitted to show her genius, her vulnerability, her ego, her age, her complete range of attributes? I hope so. I don’t want to watch a fashionable, perfectly groomed, freshly manicured and eyebrow-threaded performance. Will we be able to forget that the Doctor is a female? We should. Will the production team bite the bullet and let the actor act? I hope so.

A lot of young girls are longing for this opportunity to breakaway from the tyranny of body-image, the banality of beauty-worship and the strait-jacket of sexuality. Will the 13th Doc be given the chance to do all that, in however-many episodes? Or will we be able to guess that the conditioning on Gallifrey was as limiting for females as it is here on the Blue Planet, and that she is constantly being reminded to ‘look good’ and not to get ‘dirty’?