Alice Injury

Alice's finger after treatment The packaging on the Master Excell padlock is lethal. At http://www.trevorlockwood.com/alice-injury/ is a picture of a young lady’s finger after hospital treatment. It was injured – a long gash along the side – as she tried to remove the packaging from a Master padlock.

We bought the padlock from B&Q – and have sent them this email. I’ll let you know what they say.

I had to use a hacksaw to cut through the packaging to remove the keys and product.

The product itself needs to be strong and secure – but the packaging needs to be redesigned – after all the customer pays for it – and we don’t expect to be injured.

Alice (the injured person) is a primary school teacher – now incapacitated, although still working, she’s a brave girl.

We know that the Canadians are lovely people, big and butch – but please tell them to go easy on the packaging, and provide clear instructions. The picture showing scissors cutting off the key restraining tab – does not work.

MASTER padlock

Hint of Danger

800px-Nach_Gasangriff_1917

British troops after a gas attack 1917

We have started to withdraw from Afghanistan. Iraq continues to fester, Syria is a mess. Now we have the Ukraine.

The biggest warmonger in the world today is the United States of America.

It needs to recognise what it is doing to itself and the rest of the world. Too much of its own wealth is spent on its war machine. In addition it is making and selling arms all over the world. It has been actively involved in too many conflicts since the end of Word War Two to believe that it is really a peacemaker.

The crisis in Ukraine is now being exacerbated by USA’s interference. There’s even rumours that it is creating insurgency and conflicts. True or not it should stay away.

The Cuban missile crisis all those years ago had the USA jittery because the Soviet Union was establishing a base close to its shores. Isn’t that what is happening now, in reverse?

Europe should now consider its role in NATO, and the media should stop talking of the ‘West’. To remain linked to USA means we are dragged into conflicts. We are no longer the little sister forced by big brother to conform. Europe is much larger than the USA. We have more clout. We have much more history, particularly of conflict, and have possibly learned a few lessons.

The people do not want war.

The USA has plundered virgin lands, and made a bit of a mess of a wonderful country. It needs to go home, build a proper economy, consider the advantages of equality, and stop marching across the world suggesting it will solve problems. It does the opposite. It needs to remember that it has never won a war (except Grenada) on its own.

President Eisenhower said, in 1953:

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This is, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”

Breakfast

I’ve just finished a lovely breakfast. Everything was perfect, and it was all produced locally.

Bacon and eggs, on toast with grilled tomatoes: a simple plate of food. You can drive to a supermarket and pick it all up in one go.

Jamie WillowsPlaced in a pan the supermarket bacon will soon be swimming in water – literally. My three rashers came from The Artisan Butcher run by Jamie Willows from the stable block behind Rose House, 5-7 St Peters Street, Ipswich, Suffolk IP1 1XF. Jamie knows about butchery, and once worked at Jimmy’s Farm, and has a love of rare breeds.

Grilling these rashers of bacon was a delight. With good bacon the fat is transformed into a crunchy delight. The fat drops away, leaving cooked rashers which taste wonderful.

With the bacon I added two fried eggs. These came from Den’s Hens in Nacton, near Ipswich. Cracking these thick-shelled brown eggs into a pan you can tell they are fresh, and do indeed come from happy hens. I’ll not mention that they are also cheaper than any found in a supermarket.

The Bakery breadBread came from The bakery at 118 Hamilton Road, Felixstowe. Three days old it made superb crunchy toast for the eggs and bacon to sit upon. No web site – but like their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Felixstowe-Bakery/149202751792654 .

tomatoesI must mention Newbourne Farm shop. Clive and his lovely wife work tirelessly to produce fresh produce. Clive restocks the shelves of the shop three times a day, cutting or picking produce from his market garden – just across the road. They work so hard that web site and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Newbourne-Farm-Shop/277743195580487 are rarely up-to-date. Never mind – their produce is always wonderful. I added grilled cherry tomatoes to my breakfast feast.

‘Oh I don’t have time for all that,’ is the common cry. Of course you do. Just rearrange your life a little and it will open up a new world. These artisan producers will give you food – real food. You are what you eat. They give you much more. The money you hand over will be recirculated locally, not grabbed and handed over to an anonymous CEO or shareholder to spend elsewhere. You will be part of your community. The shop staff get to know you, take time to chat, to explain their produce. Jamie, the butcher, even runs butchery classes – for you and your children. What better way to introduce good food to the next generation than for them to cook a sausage they made themselves!

Forget supermarkets – go for real local quality. Join the real world.

Writing: Liberation

liberationExpressing yourself using words, or your voice, on the page or screen has a refreshing feeling of freedom. It’s your life so it is important that you open as many of the doors and windows in your mind as you can. Don’t be afraid. You’ll not come to any harm.

Many writers complain of ‘writers block’. Why is that? You have the basic skills. You can read and write and have a rudimentary understanding of grammar (despite the education system).

It may be the piece you are writing. It’s not inspiring you. So why bother? Change tack, do something else or tackle the subject in another way. Many people start writing on the first page. That sounds silly, of course you start on a page but it need not be the ‘Once upon a time’ first page. Experiment with different approaches. In the ‘Know Yourself’ chapter about writing diaries there are a number of suggestions that may help.

That block may have many causes: a failed relationship, illness, losing a job, moving house, a bereavement and many other barriers can get in the way. Give yourself time. At some point your mind will tell you what to do.

Change is always as good as a rest, so get liberated. You need fresh air! A walk where you look around, notice everything, can move you on, leaving you refreshed and ready, You need mental stimulation, so set yourself a small challenge. Just walking down the street with a smile on your face can bring results. Older people will appreciate your look and smile back. It can make their day, and yours as well.

Maybe you’re feeling strangled by the mundanity of your life or simply uninspired. Writing can set you free, but then you know that already. You only need to rediscover it.

If you’re bored with your ‘voice’ and need to find another, the chapter on style exercises may help. If a piece of work is giving you pain from which you cannot get away; one of the style ideas could change your mood. Even if you decide not to use a new style, you might feel better about your writing after trying some different voices. Alternatively, making a change to a different style could give you the confidence you lacked.

Perhaps it’s the very act of writing that you need to get away from? If you don’t want to wash dishes (water is very therapeutic) then turn to the Creative Frolics chapter. These ideas will get you out of yourself, out of your rut and away from your fed-up mindset. They’ll help you start thinking visually and you’ll feel so refreshed.

Are you feeling bogged down with the politics and shenanigans of the publishing world? You’re not alone because everyone feels like that. The world is changing and you need to recognise where your work can be directed, what will bring out the best in your writing?

Be Bold, Be Different

Perhaps it’s only contempt for the familiar that’s tying you down. Here are some simple ways to snap out of it :-

Travel to another town

Preferably use public transport so you can observe the other travellers and then and sit in a café to write. Park your car in an unlikely location, even if only in a different part of your usual car park, and sit and write, in the vehicle. Look around you. Notice the world, the people, the birds and animals. Each has a story to tell, that you can include in your text.

If you have a story or project to pursue,

That you really do want to get on with, then heap all your reference material into a rucksack, along with a hot flask, sandwiches and a groundsheet; and go somewhere you have never been to before. Find a tree and a seat or a patch of grass if you can (both for the oxygen and to atone with nature) but do especially get away from the interruptions. Leave the mobile phone at home, make a break from your email addiction, and avoid eye contact with any passers-by. It is surprising how much you can write when you’re deeply focused.

Wear a blindfold to test your senses

Next time you eat a meal (not straight from the oven or microwave, please), cover your eyes and eat slowly; feel the textures with your tongue, taste the differences. After the meal, remove your blindfold and write down the descriptive words for the tastes and textures.

Stay blindfolded

(it could become really exciting) to play feely games with food and other materials. Have your partner or friend place items in small dishes in front of you, then you feel each one in turn. Try, for example:

Pickles

Beetroot

Raw egg and yolk (if you really must!)

Soil from outside

Cold porridge

A few dry cornflakes

Dried fruit

Vegetable peelings

Root ginger

Soft fruit of the season

Twigs fallen from the tree

Now record or ask someone to write what you say these items feel like. Use the words to extend your vocabulary, and write a story with the ideas.

Write more by hand

Believe that you can write just as well – if not better – by hand than on a computer, in the first instance. Even if transcription is essential before anyone else can read it, the act of writing by hand will set you free to write from the heart. Sometimes the PC is your worst enemy. Go get some oxygen. Hug a tree!

Keep Trying

You may not know that emotional hang-ups are your problem. The Therapy chapter will give you some ideas, and help you turn problems to progress. You could emerge with a new project, sweeping old feelings into the past.

People often say they need someone to write for, to feel it is worth writing at all. Perhaps you need a tutor or mentor to give you personal encouragement.

We discuss some aspects of the creative process – putting thoughts into words – in the chapter entitled Creative. As an adult you have imposed numerous inhibitions upon yourself for the sake of dignity and responsibility, and in response to education and social demands. In doing so, you may have quashed the fresh spontaneity of childhood. Go to Creative Frolics and rediscover that feeling of freedom.

Whatever works for you: do it! Liberate yourself, because your writing ambition deserves it.

This is a draft chapter from my next book ‘Pathways to Publication’

 

Bloor Homes update

Bloor Homes

This sorry tale continues:

See http://www.trevorlockwood.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=278 for my first attempts to gain some information.

Update 11 July 2015

The saga continues. I cannot understand why a Council refuses to answer a simple question. We (the people) own land; 17.6 acres of coastal land – which should be sold at a premium. When normal building land can command £1 million an acre what can be obtained for 17.6 acres on the coast.? Perhaps £30 million.

Suffolk Coastal District Council have as secret contract with Bloor Homes, a private company, in which they have handed over this land. I believe we should be told how much money has been paid.

In answer to a Freedom of Information request the Council reply is:

The Council is not willing to disclose information regarding how much J S Bloor (Sudbury) Limited (Bloors) paid for the land in question. It is the Council’s view that this information is exempt from disclosure because disclosure of the information would, or would be likely to, inhibit the free and frank provision of advice, or the free and frank exchange of views, for the purposes of deliberation or would otherwise prejudice, or would be likely otherwise to prejudice, the effective conduct of public affairs.

By virtue of paragraph 3 of Schedule 12A to the Local Government Act 1972, which relates to access to information and exempt information, the information requested relates to the financial or business affairs of the Council and another person – Bloors. The Council believes the purpose of Schedule 12A would be undermined if details as to the sale price of the land were released, and the information was thereby put into the public domain by that means.

If this information was disclosed it would, or would be likely to, inhibit the Council’s ability to have free and frank negotiations in relation to land transactions, or to obtain the best price for land, if it was known that any such negotiations or terms might be made public. It would also prejudice the position of a third party (Bloors) if such financial information became public knowledge. Their ability to negotiate would be weakened.

Schedule 12A provides a basis for exempting information relating to the business and financial affairs of the Council and others, and the statutory scheme provided in Schedule 12A would be undermined if exempt information had to be disclosed under the FOI or EIR process.

Under Regulation 12(5)(d) of the EIR, disclosure would affect the confidentiality of the proceedings of the Council (as a public authority) where such confidentiality is provided by law. This is for the reasons set out above relating to the fact that the sale price of the land has been treated as exempt information under Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972, and has not been published, and treated as confidential, under those provisions.

Under Regulation 12(5)(f) of the EIR, the Council considers the sale price of the land to be excepted from disclosure because if it were disclosed, it would adversely affect the interests of both the Council and Bloors.

Given that the Council wishes to rely on the exceptions set out in Regulations 12 (5)(d) and 12(5)(f) of the EIR, it needs to apply the public interest test. In applying the public interest test it is necessary to consider whether, in all of the circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining the exceptions outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.

In favour of disclosure, it might be argued that:

  1. here is an inherent public interest in the Council being transparent in the arrangements which it has made in relation to the development of land in order to promote accountability. If the sale price were made public, there is a strong argument that this should improve accountability and the public’s confidence in those arrangements.

ii. There is public interest in an individual having access to information regarding the sale price of the land if it helps them to understand what the arrangements are for this land.

iii. There is a public interest in disclosing information which will help to determine whether the Council acted appropriately and reasonably. It is in the public interest that as much information in relation to the development of land, using Council Tax Payers’ money, is available for public scrutiny as possible, so as not to undermine public confidence in the Council’s processes, procedures, and decisions.

In favour of maintaining the exceptions, it might be argued that:

i. There is a strong public interest in protecting the established principles of confidentiality in commercial arrangements made between the Council and a developer about complex land transactions and public finances.

ii. There must be reasonable certainty relating to confidentiality and the financial and business affairs of the Council and others. Without this, the principle of confidentiality would be undermined, as would be the ability of the Council and its developer to negotiate in a full and frank manner as they would wish, if there were a risk that those negotiations would be disclosed in future.

iii. The legislative framework provides that the information may be exempt. The expectation of the Members of the Council is that their deliberations will be conducted in private. This is supported by the statutory regime in the form of Schedule 12A. The release of exempt information, in the form of the sale price, would undermine this statutory regime and undermine the confidence and position of the Members to have a free and frank discussion about any matter.

iv. Those third parties who might trade with the Council would be reluctant to do so, if they could not be assured that their business and financial affairs would be kept confidential.

In considering the points set out above, the Council believes it can rely on the exceptions in EIR 12(5)(d) and 12(5)(f) and also for the reason set out above, that the public interest in maintaining the exemptions/exceptions outweighs the public interest in favour of disclosure. Hence the refusal of this element of your request.

Update 29 August 2014

Letter from Information Commissioners – he refers to a letter he sent on 21 August, which I never received.

He outlines my requests, then says that I made a further request in December 2013, so did I want both requests to be considered? Would I contact him?

I telephoned him (his number was not shown on 28 Aug letter) and we spoke (at my expense) on the phone for some time.

He said I should have contacted the Local Government Ombudsman: http://www.lgo.org.uk He only deal with Freedom of Information.

Today (29 Aug 2014) I submitted a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman – nobody had ever suggested that they would or could deal with my complaint. BA7E88EF-6131-483A-9DF8-8FE110827A17

The saga continues.

Update 5 June 2014

Letter sent from Information Commissioners Senior Case Officer to say that he was allocated to my case. They preferred to resolve complaints informally, and he would write to the public authority (SCDC).

 

May 2014

Sent request to Information Commissioner on 21 March 2014, and received conformation being allocated Case Reference Number FS50534430. As of 20 May 2014 nothing further has been seen. Email sent to ICO asking what’s happened.

March 2014

Finally I have sent a complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office following my repeated requests to Suffolk Coastal about the Felixstowe South development, which have resulted in no real information.

It’s sad that the Council seem to believe that they don’t act for local people, but have a responsibility only to themselves. It raises a much larger question about the role of local Councillors and local government officials, and the lack of substantive information that is given to local people.

My submission to the Information Commissioner’s Office says:

There are 17.6 acres of publicly-owned land along the coast at Felixstowe South.

 Suffolk Coastal DC went into partnership with Bloor Homes, a developer, intending to develop this land. A publicly-owned building, Herman de Stern, was damaged by fire the day after SCDC awarded planning permission to Bloor Homes to build a number of houses. Affordable housing was reduced from 30% (a requirement) to 10%, no reason was given.

 The Herman de Stern was demolished, even though it was repairable using the £1 million insurance on the building.

 A dispute followed because this is flood plain land, with a history of flooding. The DOE finally agreed to allow building provided the occupancy portion of the new buildings were built above the anticipated flood level.

 Building started last year (2013). Repeatedly SCDC were asked how much Bloor Homes were paying for this land. No response was given, as it was stated it was commercially sensitive. I asked again once planning permission had been granted – and presumably a contract had been signed. No satisfactory response was given. I submitted a further FOI request but still the Council will not reveal how much Bloor Homes are paying.

 There is supposition – but lacking any firm information nothing can be relied upon, except there are now large buildings on the site, being sold, and yet nobody knows how we have released 17.6 acres of land to a private developer for which it would seem we have received no return.

 I have traced the story – with links to the relevant documents at my web site at www.trevorlockwood.com. The main entry of relevance is http://www.trevorlockwood.com/bloor-homes-scdc/ although I have mentioned it earlier at http://www.trevorlockwood.com/felixstowe-update-2/, which provides some background information.

There’s a larger issue at stake here. Local Councils are servants of the people. That message seems to have been lost. Instead local residents are treated as potential antagonists who are not entitled to information.

Two FOIs and countless contacts with local politicians (still ongoing) have proved fruitless. This land could be worth £2 million an acre. If a proper price was paid it could reduce the local tax demand considerably. There is no credible reason why this information cannot be released. Not to do so leaves anyone to speculate as to the real reason.

Yours truly

Trevor Lockwood

Writing: Finding Yourself

Shelby Healey's diary pageWriting a book: a chapter about you, and how to find yourself.

I like a good meditate. It’s the way I start my day. Not thinking about anything is the ideal meditative state but (and don’t tell anyone) my mind is not good at doing nothing. So, I sit quietly, eyes focused on a spot in front of me. Getting comfortable is the first priority. I sit upright on a chair, although staying in bed flat on my back, but awake, is an alternative, much frowned upon by aficionados who need to be sitting on hard cushions, Buddha like, with contorted knees. Whatever makes you happy. Once a meditation session starts my aim is not to move, at all. If my nose itches it is ignored, I am as still as a statue. I start by breathing – I mean becoming conscious of my breathing I’ve no intentions of dying at this point! Counting the breaths: one in, one out, two in, two out until I’ve a regular rhythm. Reaching ten I start again. Keeping it simple. If a mistake is made I’ll just start again. That allows me to switch off my mind. Thoughts will arrive but are not considered just accepted and pushed to one side. Relax, remove all the tension from your body.

This takes practice, but is worth it. Simply explained we all have two minds. The everyday mind that keeps you aware, standing, walking, sitting and working away at dozens of bodily functions. Beyond this is another deeper being. It may be the real you – whatever or whoever you really are. This part of you is responsible for those flashes of intuition, and it works quietly in the background. It can be reckless, urging you on to foolish acts or circumspect, urging caution. Too often it is the part of your brain you ignore, often at your peril. How often do we say, ‘I knew I should have listened to myself’?

For me, and I’m not going to demand that you follow my example, it works. Those sudden thoughts that flashed through my mind as I meditated can be considered with more care later. They offer inspiration to the writer. They are the source of originality. OK, there’s nothing new in the universe but you didn’t know you had an opinion about keeping cats, or nuclear power, or your neighbour’s hairstyle, until that thought came into your mind.

Use it.

If meditation doesn’t work find something that does. The pathway to choose is one that relaxes you, takes you away from the humdrum of daily life, that allows you to explore a new world. From those depths will come inspiration, perhaps give you the core of your next work.

Let’s move on from the esoteric to a more practical world. Let’s say that all writers should keep some form of diary or journal. They can be the start of the process of being a writer.

Even if you don’t know ‘famous’ writers for their novels or factual writings, you will probably have read or heard extracts from their diaries or about their lives. You might think there is nothing special enough about your life that’s worth recording, but think again. You’ve probably got more profound things to say than all the celebrities, often non-writers, whose memoirs are piled high, often unsold, in the bookshops. Look on the shelves of charity shops to see how many of these biographies are found. Massaging egos, using books as a marketing device, may work well for public relations but they rarely satisfy readers for very long. Bought as presents, often discarded unread.

Ordinary life is the main ingredient for every work of fiction, and the ability to put detail, explanation and subtlety into any piece of writing, hinges on the skill of interpreting actions into words on the page. The expertise is gained through practice. Even if the diaries you write never come to anything more than practice, you will gain a great deal by writing them.

 Other People’s Diaries

There’s much to be gained from reading diaries and journals as well.

Diaries take many forms, from poetic exposition through personal experiences to love letters. There are personal viewpoints from, for example, expectant surrogate mothers, or a soldier’s view of his war: if you can find a diarist writing about your specialist interest, then reading these diaries can be the extremely useful research for your own writing.

Write about yourself

There is no doubt that writing about yourself can help to define who you are by outlining your beliefs and what you want to do with your life. This may demand an honesty that you have not needed previously in your life. Your mind will become focused and it may bring you peace and organisation.

Writing a diary will sort out problems, collect ideas together, organise your life and offer a sanctuary from the chaos that surrounds you in the world outside of your diary. In these writing focus pages you’ll find that personal writing is of the utmost importance in finding your voice and your style in being a writer.

Your diary will become an uncritical ‘shoulder to rely upon’, allowing your inner mind to express itself more clearly. Look at the positive and joyful parts of your life examining what makes you really happy or expose those hurtful bits that you think you don’t want to know about. Facing reality is always better than living in fear.

As the years roll by the diary will provide a record of your life, an aide-memoir for clarity, a record of events and of tasks you have accomplished. It will show that your life has not been wasted. It will show patterns of events that will surprise you when looking back and you will discover repetition, or linkages to other events that you’d never recognised.

Making you a better person

A diary will help you to communicate more effectively, because it is practice in putting words to something that might be incomprehensible to other people. As a spin-off it will serve as a family history for future generations to enjoy.

Freewriting

Put pen to paper to write everything that comes to your mind. Don’t stop to correct or read what you’ve written. Keep going, mistakes, rubbish and all for 10 to 30 minutes. Worry about grammar, punctuation and spelling later. Get those words down first.

Focused Freewriting

Pick a topic before you begin and try to write everything that comes into your mind about that topic. Write for at least ten minutes.

Brainstorming

Draw a shape (such as a box, oval, or circle) in the middle of a blank page and write the topic you wish to write about inside it. Draw lines branching off from your topic, ending with more shapes, each filled with sub-topics relating to the main topic. Some people call it a ‘Starburst’ of ideas. I use one of the mind map software programs to achieve the same task. Once mastered such programs allow even more free expression than paper and pencil.

Writing Prompts

Use a word bowl or a list of questions to spark ideas. A word bowl is a container full of words that you’ve cut out of magazines, or words you have written on slips of paper. Or ask someone else to give you a word or theme to get you going. The ‘distance’ of another person’s perspective can provide you with unusual freedom.

Making Lists

A list makes you only consider specific topics. Expansion is then easier, next time you come to write. If you are a list person, which I’m not.

Descriptive Writing

Involves writing in vivid detail how you perceive the world around you. Write from your point of view. Sit down with a pen and pad and write what you see, just as an artist might set up easel and paint the landscape before him.

Portraits

Capture another person on paper: their personality, mannerisms, opinions, relationship to you. Describe facial expressions and the way these change when they feel cold, miserable, happy, excited, et al.

Reflective Writing

Pause after several weeks of writing to reflect on your past thoughts and actions, and consider your future. If a diary is to be for self examination it’s important to write down how you feel about events.

Altered Point of View

Try putting yourself in another person’s shoes. Change sex, or become the omnipotent third party. This can really be quite an eye-opener, and will certainly make you a better person in that you’ll be able to empathise with those around you.

However much you try to write a total fiction, there will always be an element of yourself, your hopes and fears, within the pages. Don’t fight it. Your experience is good; and contrary to what you might think, if it came from the bottom of your heart then it will meet with your readers’ minds, and that is where it matters. True fiction comes from experience not just imagination.

Meditative Writing

Be very relaxed and clear your mind of all thoughts. This is meditation. Use an image to create fantasy, think upon the tranquil, serene or peaceful. Or you may be able to draw a picture, from intuition, drawing without thinking of what you are doing. Doodling is a version of this but instead of doodling while you talk on the phone or listen to a lecture, try doodling to simply fill a blank page. By the time the page is filled, your mind will be buzzing with ideas worth writing.

Intensive Writing

Writing can be a cathartic process, clearing out all the rubbish in your mind to produce clarity and peace. Highly emotional writing that is freely expressed but really says what you want to say. Scream at the page as you write.

Dialogue

Conduct a conversation in writing, representing both points of view. Talk to yourself, which is how George Sand worked.

Unsent Letters

Another way of clearing out the detritus in your mind is to tell someone how it really is, in writing, knowing that you will not send it. No need to be polite, to consider feelings – just sock it to them!

Podcast Diaries

Having started and run a community radio station I have a love of radio. Today podcasts can easily play the same role, with you as the presenter. Radio, or podcasts, can be a lot of things: Radio can be a news report. Radio can be a commentary. Radio can be a conversation. Radio can be an audio postcard. Your story can be a combination of all this and more.

There is lots of good information and advice to help use this medium, and you can listen to many individual podcasts. Do so, with a critical ear. What makes one podcast compelling?

Talking into a voice recorder is very different to writing, and you might baulk at the thought. However, you’ll be surprised at what comes out of your head when you get used to talking to yourself (I do it all the time!).

Try keeping an audio journal. Create an online journal. Most mobile phones have a voice recorder that will allow you to create an electronic diary. Start with yourself then talk to your family and your friends; ask them to tell their stories. The politician Tony Benn has used this method to record every event in his life and now has an enormous collection of tapes.

Very quickly you will be sticking the microphone under all sorts of noses and finding that people are quite happy to answer your questions, often very revealingly. I like to sit down, with a cup of tea, and just talk, letting the recorder run quietly.

Soon you could be making radio documentaries, letting the audience participate and experience things as they happen, and carrying your recorder (mobile phone) wherever you go, like a press photographer and reporter, ready to record events as they happen.

Journals versus Diaries

Whereas a diary is thought of as a regular record (and consequently sometimes mundane), a journal is an occasional occupation. You write up an entry in your journal whenever you feel like putting something into words. It might be an observation you want to remember, or an occasion that deserves recording in complete detail.

Your journal entry will be more thoughtful and more discursive than a regular diary. My blog at www.trevorlockwood.com follows that format. I record all sorts of observations, and too often make political comments. Some people read them, and even comment occasionally. I use it as a cathartic exercise, to get it off my chest. There’s more about this aspect of life and writing in the Therapy chapter.

Diaries and journals keep you in the habit of writing and are a constant way of teaching yourself to write. Sooner or later the diary will be opened again and its subjects aired within the pages of your fiction or your documentary.

Audio Diaries are similarly useful as time goes on. A writer must seek detail to help make his work seem authentic, and sometimes the detail of a private life can only be found in a diary.

Learning to write

Diaries and journals are an excellent starting point. Keep a freewriting notebook and take it anywhere, everywhere. Keep a diary of special events, holidays, and hectic days when it will be useful to reap hindsight of the way events unfolded. By their very nature, daily diary entries are subtle in the telling, yet lively and concise. Reading them later will reveal secret crevices.

Record your dreams and your maddest ideas because they, too, will become useful in your writing.

One of the greatest ways to start feeling confident as a writer is to record your thoughts on how your writing feels to you, and monitoring – in words on the page – how you progress. As your writing career develops, so will your appreciation of your collection of diaries and journals that are loaded with meaningful source material.

Green and Pleasant

Trimley

an old aerial photograph

Took my little car to the garage this morning, and walked back through Trimley and Walton towards Felixstowe.  It gave me time to look around, and reflect.

For those that don’t know this peninsular Walton was the original village. In about 1880 the Empress of Germany spent her summer at Felixstowe, which then rapidly grew into a fashionable resort. The Trimleys sit inland at the start of the peninsular and have grown because every decade Trinity College, Cambridge build a new estate on land they were granted by King Henry VIII upon dissolution of the monasteries. Trinity College is now the third largest land owner in UK.

From Trimley I walk down the road towards Walton. It’s a ribbon development and housing styles change as new builds infill the land and gardens of grander houses built years ago. There’s still traces of the original farms. Now it is largely little tacky houses all built the same that sprout from this main artery.

There’s a new road now, the A14, which carries most of the 3.5 million containers on lorries, all mixed up with workers cars and even residents need supplies and have vehicles of their own.

The original road that I’m on crosses the A14. An incessant rumble of traffic going somewhere at speed.

There was once a break from houses, green fields, old farm building and Walton Hall, a country manor house. This stretch of land was described by William Cobbett in 1820 as the finest he’d found in all England.

Now there’s a square box of an Academy school being built with planning permission for 190 even smaller little boxes to come.

No shops on my journey so far, except for a fish and chip shop.

The Feathers

Demolition for new housing?

I arrive at Walton. Traces of the original village remain. Cottages nestle together, corner shops are still to be found. One of the three pubs has just closed. I sit opposite this forlorn building, once the centre of village life, The Feathers, which is just across the road from the church. Like many unwanted buildings in this area its had arson attacks. Beside it is a small toilet, now closed, with a notice directing bursting bladders to the nearest convenience some two miles away.

The toilet leans against a solidly square building, once Lloyds Bank, now a furco-op Waltonniture store, then there’s the church hall, a fine Victorian structure, clearly built with love and attention. Beside that is an East of England Co-operative store and funeral service. I look above the garish wall tiles and plastic advertising facade to the lovely Edwardian House that is now hidden behind this ephemera.

Progress? No doubt. A grammar school building will soon disappear or be converted, the secondary modern is already demolished, the new Academy, managed by an Essex-based company whose Board of Directors has  little education experience has yet to prove its worth. The Councillor responsible for the decision to close two schools is now in charge of traffic, and will never be held to account.

Town planners should hang their heads in shame. I suspect it is because they are forced to consider each proposal separately, when we really need a proper plan. What does Walton need? Or Trimley? Then we could ask Felixstowe how it feels.

Wonder if my car will cost much to repair?

East Suffolk

The East Suffolk Growth Group (whoever they are) have just published a draft plan: http://www.suffolkcoastal.gov.uk/assets/Documents/Business/ESGP-DraftConsultationDocument.pdf to promote sustainable economic and housing growth.

growthWhy do we need ‘growth’ at all? To maintain our present status, and to be able to rely upon our life styles, would be sufficient. Happy bunnies reproduce, bunnies squashed into cages, feeling pressure, fearing the future, do not give of their best. Who decided we need to grow?

The latest statistics we have for Felixstowe show the population is declining. There is not great demand for new housing, except as second homes. It’s clear that national net migration is over 110,000 a year and the government wants us to accept more. There’s a demand for more social housing, but do the present residents of East Suffolk need more 3-5-bed houses? Do they want more people? In most cases the answer is no.

Let’s deal with Felixstowe first, and consider the rest of East Suffolk later. The report is 39 pages long, and does contain statements that need to be examined.

Felixstowe Port: handles 40% of Britain’s container shipping and is important. For how long? The report highlights two major competitors.

London Gateway: who can tell? It has proved its worth during the recent bad weather, with ten ships diverted there from Felixstowe, and has easier access to major UK markets. Growth must be expected.

gothenburg

Gothenburg

Gothenburg is highlighted as the major competitor. It has similar limitations to Felixstowe, including a one-track railway, but it does have ambitious plans as it will be able to handle super-ships, and so include load breakdown and European distribution.

The Report does not mention Rotterdam or Hamburg, both ranked within the top ten world ports, which Felixstowe isn’t.

Rotterdam is 40 just miles away, it has annual throughput of more than 400 million tonnes of goods (including 9.8 million TEU) and has more than 500 scheduled line services connecting the city to over 1,000 ports worldwide.

The port and its accompanying industrial area stretch over 40km and cover 10,000 hectares of land. As such, the port is equipped to handle chemicals, ores, liquid bulk, dry bulk, vehicles, perishables and general cargo. It has invested substantially in new infrastructure and industrial sites and is currently preparing the reclamation of almost 2,000 extra hectares of new industrial land off the coast.

Hamburg handles 9.7 million TEU. It’s 110km inland, making it similar to London Gateway. With four large container terminals; the Eurogate container terminal, the HHLA container terminal Tollerort, the HHLA container terminal Burchardkai and the HHLA container terminal Altenwerder. Each can be expanded to meet the demands of the market and ship sizes, with 42 additional terminals dedicated to project cargo, liquid cargo, suction cargo, bulk cargo and grab cargo.

Felixstowe (the Report says) does have problems. A shortage of land on the Peninsular. Even passive Suffolk voters will begin to rebel if the beautiful Suffolk countryside is totally covered in concrete. Transport links are abysmal: one road which uses one bridge. One single-track railway. Both designed to serve a peninsular of about 35,000 people let alone the Port, which has staff of 2,500, most of whom do not live in Felixstowe and about 10,000 auxillary staff for suppliers.

Not mentioned is the DOE concern over pollution in West Felixstowe, close to the Port. A full health survey of residents and workers should be undertaken.

Being positive it does suggest that the recent and planned expansion of the Port of Felixstowe will result in capacity growth of 50% and predicted employment growth of 5% – 1,400 new direct and indirect jobs – by the end of the decade. There’s no substantive evidence for these claims, and it is unlikely that any of our bankers will be impressed.

Felixstowe Town began as a spa resort. It is now a mess. Hotel provision is very poor, leisure facilities are archaic and even the Report is hard-pressed to find anything worthwhile, suggesting the wonders of a shared space shopping street, a temporary plastic cover over the town square, and handing over of 17.6 acres of public land to a private developer with no known return, as useful assets. Its future looks bleak, unless you believe the Council will spend its car-park revenue on anything worthwhile (it hasn’t so far).

Geopolitics

Halford_Mackinder

Halford Mackinder

It’s fascinating. Watching the changing world patterns of power. A century ago, in 1904, Halford Mackinder presented the Heartland concept to the Royal Geographical Society. Hes said ‘Control Germany and you control the world’. It was much more complex than that but that’s the essence.

We now know that history proved him right, or was it the other way around? In any case two major wars demonstrated his theory.

The world has now changed. The EU is an attempt to water down German influence. It seems to be working, for now. The power balances are shifting, and the fascination comes from seeing how it moves.

As individuals we can be little more than bystanders but that does not stop us from having some idea of the future. They just have to be stated. They are of no real consequence.

Since the last Great War, the Cold War, and the collapse of the Soviet Union the United States of America has strutted around the world, openly stating that it is the dominant world power.

It’s true this young country began with every advantage. It took over a sparsely populated country rich in resources. Its early immigrants were eager to progress. They worked hard to establish themselves. They were fighters.

That’s slowly changing. The world’s economic structure is inherently unstable. That’s because too much is being creamed off the top by gamblers, thieves and modern vagabonds who contribute very little. They are fat juicy leeches sitting on the backsides of workers., and work in smart city suites as bankers, accountants and lawyers. Governments are part of this horde of hangers-on. They have the added advantage of being able to steal the results of labour and spend it as they wish.

That arrogance is now misplaced. Power is shifting. The USA is now just a pile of debt. Its government keeps issuing money, in various forms, which has no substance. The country is living on its imagination.

That’s slowly being recognised. Yesterday a commentator at the Oscar awards bemoaned the movement of skills from Hollywood, blaming incentives offered by other countries. There is a deeper malaise.

It may be that the rest of the world is disenchanted with being exploited. Too many US companies operating in the UK, for example, are failing to pay proper taxes. Some are exploiting workers, paying low wages encouraged by working tax credits provided by a hapless UK government.

Slowly Russia, China and other countries, such as India and those in South America are presenting a different image. If anything it’s a more conservative approach. They make mistakes, and do not offer an alternative panacea. Globalisation and Western economic values have seduced these governments. State industries were gobbled up by new oligarchies. Slowly that is changing.

Russia has also changed. Its peasantry still does what it is told. Opposition is ignored or crushed. We must wait to see how Putin’s world develops. There’s cause for optimism. Sochy demonstrated that a new regime can work. There’s still too much corruption, but an opposing order is emerging. Maybe the free capitalism of USA is being pushed aside.

Today sees bluster. Russia has taken back Crimea. It may encroach further into Ukraine. The fear of increasing EU influence is apparent in Russia with an additional concern of how effective the USA involvement will be.

We now have a testosterone-filled confident Russian facing a weak US President who is backed by a crumbling social structure.  Putin is playing all the right cards in this geopolitical game.

The lap-dog running in front of the USA is represented by William Hague, British Foreign Secretary whose nasal nonsense shows just how powerless the UK has become.

Russia will do whatever it decides. The USA may bluster but it has no weaponry left. If an answer is to be found it will probably come from Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor. She’s a strong intelligent woman who understands how to manipulate both sides.

Perhaps the Mackinder theory is still working.

I hope so: I’m a geography graduate from London School of Economics and a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society (haven’t paid my fees for years so probably not entitled to add FRGS to my name) I follow, in awe, behind Mackinder, and I believe that Merkel leading Europe can avert disaster.