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If you could go back in time, where would you go (and why) #Backtothefutureday @History_hit

22 Oct "San Lorenzo Monument 3" by Maribel Ponce Ixba (frida27ponce) - Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons -

This post is inspired by the following #backtothefutureday – what do you mean you haven’t seen Back to the Future? That pinnacle off 1980s film making – by Dan Snow on Twitter (@History_hit):


As soon as I read it, I knew exactly the places and times that I would go. Before I take you on a short tour of the history that I would visit, a quick note on time travel.

A lot of the responses Dan got were along the lines of: ‘I’d warn voters about the oil price crash following the Scottish Independence Referendum’; ‘I’d prevent the Great Wars’ (always amuses me describing them as ‘Great’, my Grandad fought in the Second and it wasn’t that great); ‘I’d kill Pol Pot.’ All tempting prospects, I will grant you, I’ve lost track of the number of times my wife and I have thought ‘If we could go back in time, get to the hospital sooner, would Tristan be with us today?’ Recent theories in theoretical physics have something to say about this.

In the Standard Model of Physics, Time Travel is allowed, at least in theory, if you create enough gravity you can force SpaceTime to bend back on itself and travel backwards in time along a Closed Time Curve (CTC), but inevitably you are going to run a high risk of creating paradoxes: banging your own Mum, killing your Dad etc these paradoxes, it is theorized, would lead to unfortunate things like the unmaking of the very universe, so not cool. For this reason it has always been suggested that Time Travel will always be impossible, even if technically possible. Stephen Hawkings famously threw a welcome party for time travellers on June 28, 2009, no one attended.

Last year, University of Queensland physicist Tim Ralph and PHD Student Martin Ringbauer proposed a new theory, that they partially tested suggesting that – as much as I understand it – Time has a built in anti-paradox mechanism born of Quantum Mechanics meaning you could go back in time, irrevocably change the past but return to the present to find nothing has changed. Any changes that you made, any paradoxes you create, may or may not endure in the multiverse but the present you will return to is the present you left. So there’s no killing Hitler (or your Dad), no banging your Mum to create the paradox of fathering yourself and, closer to home for me, no way to save Tristan’s life.

Kinda cool, huh? If you want to read more on that, here’s some further reading:

Nature: Communication – Experimentations in Closed Time Link Curves
Huffpo: New Time Travel Simulation May Resolve ‘Grandfather Paradox’

Anyway that’s not at all what this post is about, I just find it interesting. Here is, in Chronological order, the points of history that I would visit and why:

The Mystery of Potbelly Hill

In my earliest visit, I would take our time machine to the Southeastern Anatolia Region Turkey and the
rough period of 9130 BCE (Pre-pottery Neolithic A). On a mountain ridge rising out of a flat valley a group of Hunter-Gatherers are quarrying stone, huge quantities of stone. Why they are quarrying stone, what they used to quarry and why they began are not clear to us in 2015, but these hunter-gatherers will soon be using this stone to build a series of 20 stone circles consisting of at least 200 megaliths. I will drop in on these pioneers at 100 year intervals and watch the site become the first of religious sanctuary on the planet with successive generations continuing to build upon this site for 1000 years, until it is abandoned quite suddenly.

12 000 years after my first visit, the remains of this once mighty site will be uncovered by Klaus Schmidt and given the name Göbekli Tepe (Potbelly Hill). Since its discovery, the site has totally rewritten our understandings of when humanity moved from a more primitive hunter-gatherer existence towards society in a form that we can understand today. Excavations continue at the site and create far more questions than we have answers about its builders and the purpose of their building. You can read more about Göbekli Tepe here.

A meeting with the rubber people

Having left Turkey and the mysterious ruins of Göbekli Tepe, now buried by the very people who built and inhabited it for 1000 years, I would take our time machine to Central Mexico and the states that are now called Veracruz and Tabasco. Here, we find another culture closely related to the early hunter-gatherers that first established themselves in the region around 5000 BCE. We do not know what they called themselves but history has named them The Olmec, meaning Rubber People.

Often referred to as the mother culture of Pre-Columbian Central American peoples, everything you probably think came from the Maya – the concept of Zero; the Mesoamerican writing system; the Mesoamerican Ball Game; the Long Count Calendar (of 2012 conspiracy theory fame); and even the very building of pyramids – all originated with The Olmec.

It’s the pyramids that I’ve brought our time machine here to see, you see they simply don’t exist anymore, with the notable exception of La Venta in Tabasco. In the early 20th Century, oil was found in both states and our modern hunger for black gold would lead to the destruction of priceless archaeology and forever rob us of a more complete understanding of Olmec Culture.

I would walk the paths betweeen the first pyramids ever to be built in Central and South America and marvel at some of the finest artisans the world has ever known work their wares in precious Jades, Amethysts and Obsidians; take in a match of their insanely violent ballgame in one of the first stadia ever built for sport and follow them as drought and environmental change would force them to move from capital to capital abandoning their previous monuments, often ritually sacrifing the stone back to the earth in the process.

Finally, around 500 BCE, in the last days of the Olmec Culture, I would follow in the wake of their emissaries from the Olmec Heartland along their well trodden trade routes across Central and South America. Here I would bear witness as they continue to teach their advancements to the Maya, the Aztecs and cultures too numerous to name from Southern Mexico all the way through to the Brazilian Amazon.

Paying my respects to ‘Oriens’

Next for our travel through time, I would like to bring our time machine back to the UK and a Villa close to the Roman town of Mancetter about 1600 years ago. This one is different, closer to home, I’ve brought us here to pay my respects. We are here for the funeral of a Roman child.Couirtesy of Archaeology Warwickshire

A little girl, her name lost to history, embalmed using Frankincense and buried with the wealth of a noble lady. Laid to rest in a beautifully worked, lead-lined, coffin with jet bangles on her wrists beside the family villa where she had spent her short life. Her parents grieve beside her graveside, 1600 years separate us, their tears fall from my eyes. Their pain, is now my pain. Her name is Oriens.

I was there when Warwickshire County Council’s in-house Archaeology Team, Archaeology Warwickshire, opened the lead lining of her coffin for the first time in 1600 years. Filled with silt, all that remained of a child so loved: two jet bangles, a few teeth and some bone fragments, everything else lost to the acidic soil she was buried in. I remain very proud to have been involved in giving her the name Oriens and being able to help tell her story to the world.

I wonder if her parents would take some solace knowing that in 1600 years time their daughter would be remembered, that she would have a legacy stretching far beyond their own.

We won’t linger too long by the graveside, we have more to see…

Not all romance with Byron and the Shelleys in Switzerland and Italy

Next, I take our time machine to 1816 and the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland. where we are going to hang out with one of my favourite poets, Lord Byron, and some very notable friends.

To say we are joining ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’ Byron at an interesting time in his life would be an understatement and a half. Having been the darling of English literary scene since the publication of the first two parts of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage in 1812, Byron’s excessive lifestyle had finally caught up with him.

In the previous 6 months, He left/fled England following the rather public breakdown of his personal life. His wife Annabella had quite openly left him, taking away their daughter and was filing for a formal separation on the grounds that Byron was a lunatic who was involved in an incestuous relationship with his half sister Augusta Leigh with whom he was obsessed and that he had the unfortunate propensity for sticking his cock in anything that moved…all largely true. This is not even mentioning the fact he once tried to buy a 12 year old girl for £500. All these things came to a head, with his life imploding and debtors beating a path to his door, Byron decided a change of scenery was in order.

It was only a few months into his stay at Lake Geneva that Byron would meet and befriend fellow poet Percy Bysshe Shelley – another one of my favorites – and Mary Godwin who would be soon to marry Shelley. At the Villa Diodati by Lake Geneva in June, Byron, the Shelley and Godwin with 2 companions were kept indoors across 3 whole days where they would entertain each other by reading out loud German ghost stories and composed their own. From this literary play, Mary Shelley would form the basis of her magnus opus, Frankenstein – A Modern Prometheus.

Byron rarely stopped still for long and I would follow him from Lake Geneva to Italy, where he would stay until 1823, fall in love with Armenian culture and write prolifically both poetry and none-fiction whilst having numerous affairs with married women in various cities across the country. I would be there when he founded the Liberal Newspaper with Leigh Hunt and Shelley and present at his debauched dinner parties before the dream ended with the death of Shelley in a boating accident in 1822. Two short years later Byron would also die.

This is one of my favorite Byron poems:

WHEN we two parted

In silence and tears,

Half broken-hearted

To sever for years,

Pale grew thy cheek and cold,

Colder thy kiss;

Truly that hour foretold

Sorrow to this.

The dew of the morning

Sunk chill on my brow–

It felt like the warning

Of what I feel now.

Thy vows are all broken,

And light is thy fame:

I hear thy name spoken,

And share in its shame.

They name thee before me,

A knell to mine ear;

A shudder comes o’er me–

Why wert thou so dear?

They know not I knew thee,

Who knew thee too well:

Lond, long shall I rue thee,

Too deeply to tell.

I secret we met–

I silence I grieve,

That thy heart could forget,

Thy spirit deceive.

If I should meet thee

After long years,

How should I greet thee?

With silence and tears.

Sir Richard Francis Burton and the Hajj to Medina

From one legendary 19th Century shagger to another and now we take our time machine just a short jump forward to 1851 to join the company of one of my personal heroes: Sir Richard Francis Burton.

If there is ever want to feel like you haven’t perhaps done quite as much as you could with your life, take a look at what Sir Rich was known for: he was an explorer, geographer, translator, writer, soldier, orientalist, cartographer, ethnologist, spy, linguist, poet, fencer, and diplomat. He was known for his travels and explorations as well as his extraordinary knowledge of languages and cultures. According to some, he spoke 29 European, Asian and African languages. Yep, I definitely need to spend less time on social media.

I would join Burton on his most celebrated expedition, completing the Hajj to Mecca and Medina. Although Burton had spent 7 years in India and possessed a highly evolved and intricate knowledge of Muslim culture, this journey was best described as ‘batshit crazy’ even for him. At the time, few Westerners had ever completed the journey largely because if you were caught attempting to do so, even if by some miracle you could convince your captors that you were a devout Muslim they would, in all likelihood, kill you. Burton was an avowed atheist and despite being attacked by bandits en route, managed to complete the Hajj (affording him the right to bear the title Hajji) using a variety of disguises that would not have seemed out of place in a Baldrick ‘cunning plan’.

It is often noted by his biographers that on return from his Hajj and on rejoining the British Army, Burton took the examination to be an Arab Linguist…and failed.

I can highly recommend reading more about Sir Richard Burton and the wiki page is a decent start: Sir Richard Francis Burton  it reads like someone who just got carried away making things up about themselves, only the vast majority of facts about his life are all 100% verified by contemporaries and if anything Burton was known for understating his achievements – presumably just to avoid all other humans feeling inferior.

So I hope you enjoyed my little jaunt through history.

What about you? Where would you go in history and why?

Remember: If you don’t like these thoughts, stick around, I have others…


Give me back my face… #NaNoWriWee

3 Mar

I may have mentioned that I took part in Kernel Mags #NaNoWriWee challenge to write a novel in just 30 hours? You hadn’t heard…okay, just to recap:

Find out more about #NaNoWriWee

Read my entry: Singularity

Read a short extract from Singularity: Tale of the Unseen Hand

Read the other entries

To cut a long story short, I’ve been thinking it might be nice to have a cover for my piece and I was wondering if a lovely artists or illustrator out there who has read Singularity might be kind enough to do me one.

I have something in mind, dreamed up on a late night with just the right amount of whisky. In my head, the planet earth, seen past a terraformed moon, swirls in thick black clouds and forms the eye of the traditional illuminati ‘all seeing eye’. At each corner of the pyramid that forms the outside of the eye is a circular panel featuring one of the three main characters: Lancelot (possibly with Guinevere) The Archivist and The Singularity (in physical form).

If that captures anyone’s attention and imagination or even you’ve read Singularity and have a better idea for a front cover, please get in touch. I’d love to hear from you!

Sneak Peek at Singularity – My Submission for #Nanowriwee

2 Mar

The Tale of the Unseen Hand

Where there is chaos, you will find us.

When there is chaos, we thrive.

For countless millennia, we have been watching your Kind.

They will say that I am the villain of the piece. We have grown quite adept at being the villain of the piece and I don’t mind really, it is a label that has always suited my ends well.

I think it’s important that you love your job. Chances are you’re going to spend a lot of time working, so it’s wise to try and make the best of it. I certainly love my job, which often surprises people when I tell them, partly because no one recalls a time when there wasn’t The Archivist reigning over the Monastic Order of Telepaths and partly because no one really understands the work that I do and the few that do see it as something sinister or in some way distasteful. My job is both sinister and distasteful at times, sometimes things have to be done that are not pleasant, but still must be done. The Archivist exists to perform those tasks and perform them rather well, if I do say so myself.

The Archivist has not always been my name. I trace my lineage back to the days of Earth. I was young in the days before the fall, before that infernal Coming Darkness descended on the planet that was to be ours. In those times, before the Darkness Came, and the times before that, I was known by a good many names, but most frequently by that of Kezef. Some of the oldest books to have survived from Earth tell the various stories of Kezef at great length, but they are seldom read by anyone these days, their power over Humanity has been lost. We had to react to these changes, to maintain our position in the universe.

The fall of Mankind and the death of Earth changed everything for our organisation. 26th March, 2125, that single day when 14 billion humans along with all other life perished. We had failed, with all our power, all our money and all our influence, we had failed. We were expected to see the future, the past and the present, all at once; it is the gift that the universe has bestowed upon us. Such compelling power and yet not one of our Order saw the Coming of Darkness approach. So many of us were lost on that day. I should have perished too…

Read more here: Singularity

#NaNoWriWee 26th and 27th January 2013

6 Feb

For those of you who don’t know, a couple of weekends ago I took part in #nanowriwee which was organised by Kernel Mag in conjunction with publisher HarperCollins. You can find out more about the event in The Kernel. Been remiss in not posting this sooner but life and being mortal got in the way.

The premise is rather simple: over a weekend, writers, journalists and miscellaneous creative types would come together and each try to write a novel in just 30 hours. It sounded crazy the first time I saw it advertised and, to be fair, it probably is. Received wisdom teaches us that great works of fiction don’t get written in 30 hours. A friend, a writer, described it as a fool’s errand, but I do like a challenge so I have now written a Novella-ish in 30 hours. I’m so pleased I did, it’s one of the most rewarding and fun weekends I’ve had. I wasn’t alone, 122 pieces of fiction, of varying length and style, were submitted from all over the world, by the deadline at midnight on the Sunday the 27th. I Wanted to share some of my experiences.

I decided not to venture out to London to write my novel at Kernel Mag HQ, instead choosing to write mine in our office at home in Rugby.

I have some regrets about not going to London, as all reports from those who did have been of a supportive and creative environment. I was worried I would be too easily distracted by others and not manage to finish the task. I was equally worried that my incredibly loud typing might have me thrown out and barred; anyone who has ever worked with me can attest to this, the keys have been bad, they must be punished. So I missed out on a part of the experience, but throughout the Twitter hashtag #nanowriwee provided ample support for writers taking a break from the slog.

You can read accounts from Shirley Ayres and Chris Brosnahan who were both at Kernel HQ over that weekend.

I’m certain I would not have been able to complete the challenge were it not for the support of my beautiful wife Lara. From 8am on Saturday morning until 10pm on Sunday when she went to bed I was taken very good care of, provided with endless cups of coffee and three meals throughout the day while ensuring not to offer too much in the way of distraction while being supportive of her, increasingly frazzled, husband. I’m a very lucky man, there’s no doubt about that!

So, what did I learn? (in no particular order)

I’m really rubbish at picking titles for novella: Singularity was chosen as title for my Sci-fi masterpiece towards the end of my 30 hours…not exactly my most inspired moment, Singularity was the name of the first chapter I wrote and therefore the name that Word picked to save the file under. I should probably come up with a) a better title or b) a better story for the title.

I learned that, no matter how much I might like it to be true, I did not think up the line: ‘Here I stand with the knife in my hand and now I understand why the genius must die’. That’s a lyric from the Iron Maiden track Edge of Darkness which I probably hadn’t heard for at least 10 years, but still managed to recall word-for-word with the exception of the source until post-submission.

There should be a name for a work of fiction that is longer than what can reasonably be termed a long story but a little shorter than what can be thought a novella. I quite like Novella-ish which feels quite a fitting description for my work.

I learned that writing for 15 hours a day, almost continuously, for two days is exhausting. I’m not overstating that in the slightest, it was far harder than I had ever appreciated. By Sunday night it had sapped every ounce of strength from my body, leaving my brain feeling decidedly like it had the consistency of a cheese soup. I’ve been reckless in the past, fun but reckless, I’ve gone quite long periods without sleep, but seldom have I been so tired. It took me the best part of a week, filled with much more sleep than I would usually have, to recover from the weekend; it’s been a long time since I said that.

I was reminded how much I enjoy writing, totally exhausting granted, but I loved every single moment doing it. Not since I was a student have I really had the opportunity to sit down and focus on a single piece of writing like I did over that weekend. Writing has always felt exhilarating to me; the excitement of crafting totally new worlds out of words, crackling with potential, The exhilaration of creating and completing such a work in such a short space of time remains, though tempered somewhat by recent events.

I learned that, despite my long-held suspicions that I had been a pretty awful student, I remembered most of what I’d been taught by David Morley and the other brilliant writers on the Warwick University Creative Writing Programme. I’m not sure whether I would have been able to get through the challenge without using some of their techniques. I shared this link before the event, but these writing challenges are a really useful resource.

I learned that if you are not going to go completely abstract and plan to write a traditional novella with a beginning, a middle and an end, it is advantageous to know what that ending will be before you start writing the final chapters.

I’ve learned that the story I just planned to tell in a weekend seems to have the legs to become a lot bigger over time, already written some material around the fringes of my submission.

Finally, I learned that although one day I will possess the prowess as a writer to convincingly describe sex between a man and a badly damaged android in a zero gravity environment, that time is not yet. Perhaps not ever. Seriously, sex in a zero-g environment, ponder that thought if you will.

Well done to Nero and The Kernel for organising a great event and congratulations to everyone who took part whether you submitted a piece or not. Same again next year!?

A White Flag

5 Feb

Yesterday, I discovered that Chris Huhne’s son, Peter, hates his Dad. Out of all the terrible things we now know about Chris Huhne, the fact his Son hates him is perhaps the most trivial. Trivial perhaps, but it’s a fact that all the News outlets felt the need to run with on their respective front pages. Why?

We’re a warlike species, we humans, it’s seldom enough to beat an opponent. No, victory is not enough, all too often we feel the desire to destroy our opponents. Huhne’s opponents had soundly exposed their target, but it wasn’t enough, every aspect if his life had to be picked apart and destroyed. Welcome to the age of escalation.

Something has got to give.
Recently, I found I had an enemy. My enemy felt so threatened that I might expose his secrets that, without thinking any more than a matter of minutes, took it upon himself to try and destroy one of the things in my life that means the most to me: my career.

I didn’t know anything damaging about my attacker at the time other than the fact their behaviour towards people is as atrocious as behaviour they so readily condemned in others. They did not seek clarity about what I planned to expose, but hey I guess facts don’t matter before you try to senselessly destroy a man’s life.

Facts matter to me.

People matter to me.

If me and you have an argument, on or offline, I will stand my ground, but it’s never personal. If the only place I have to go is to seek to destroy your life, then I’ll stop way short. Why? I have to look at myself in the mirror every day and when I do I want to know that the person staring back isn’t the sort of person who destroys the lives of others on a whim, whether to prove a point or to protect my secrets. I am better than that.

This last week is the closest I have ever come to abandoning my ideals in this area. In fact had I not read those horrific texts between Chris and Peter Huhne then perhaps this would have been a lot different post. Just because others have lower standards than my own I will not be lowering mine to compete. I have never been, nor ever will be, in the business of destroying people, even when they afford me no such courtesy.

So, this is not an escalation, but I hope my attacker reads it, because this is a white flag. You win. I just can’t compete with the extents you are so happy to go to to destroy an enemy.

If you are reading this, please know: I don’t hate you. My experience is, life is far too short to waste on hate. No, I don’t hate you, I pity you and I forgive you. I hope you have taken whatever you expected to get from the pain you have caused me and that it was worth it.

It will always strike me as sad that you didn’t spend the time checking out whether the person whose life you were so hell-bent on destroying was someone who you’d have otherwise probably got on well with. So, so sad.

What brave, brave heroes the Left hold up as their atheist Gods.

This is the last I will say on the matter.

My first year blogging

22 Nov

You know those really annoying episodes of American TV shows, where they do just clips of older episodes? Yeah, this is one of those!

Today is exactly a year since I registered this blog and I’m all about marking the passing of arbitrary periods of time…

Joking aside, it does present me with the rather good opportunity to say a heartfelt thanks to everyone who has read my posts over the last year, to those who have commented, in both agreement and otherwise, and to everyone who has shared my content with their networks. I’m handing out virtual hugs and cookies this evenimg and you all get one.

Blogging’s hard. It always surprises people when I say that.

‘But you’re a writer, isn’t that just what you do?’ They often ask.

It’s true, I write every day, without fail, it’s my compulsion, but most of you will never read what I write each day, because it’s not intended to be read. Often it’s a part of my creative process, not the end result and the bits that do go on to become something more go through a rigourous editing process, often lasting weeks or even months, before they see the light of day. It’s a timeline I’ve always felt happy with, but it just doesn’t work for blogging.

My blogging timeline has an inbuilt motivational tyranny to it, which has taken me a while to get used to. To begin with, the thought of publishing content only hours after it existed solely as unconnected thoughts in my head terrified me. I’ll be honest, it still scares me a little and this is part of the reason why I have so many drafts, works in progress and the reason that I have not published quite as much as I might have liked. Still, not complaining too much, 42 posts is not bad going and I’m proud to say I’ll stand by each. Whether it’s prose, poetry or life-writing, I choose my words carefully and I stand by them.

42 posts. If you are new to my blog here are 5 popular posts:

Prince Harry’s cock Back in August if you Googled ‘Prince Harry’s Cock’ or variations of it you’d see this post at the top (Mum would have been so proud): The Prince is naked, please don’t look if you’re thinking, who Googles Prince Harry’s cock? Apparently lots of people do and this post has been the most viewed by a huge margin. Sadly most people who found it would probably have been disappointed by the lack of a Royal member money-shot.

We’re all going to die here – read my thoughts on space, space travel, life in the universe and the future of Humanity: we’re all going to die here…

Punching otters in their Kidneys – Balloon Releases are dumb, really dumb. They kill wildlife and pollute our environment. Find out more here: does your life suck? Why not kick a duck to death?

On Shyness – I talk about overcoming shyness: confessions of a shy guy

If the president does it, it’s not a crime! Perhaps the most controversial of all my posts and the one I’m assured will come back to haunt me. Bring it on: On Abuses of Power I’ll say again, I choose my words carefully and stand by them.

Thanks again to everyone who has read my posts over the last year and to all the brilliant bloggers who have given me the benefit of their experience.  There are lots more to come over the next year.

You know the drill, if you don’t like these thoughts, stick around, I have plenty of others!

that #ff thang #2 He Who Licketh the Skip

6 Sep

I’ve never had to point a firearm at someone and make the decision to pull the trigger. I hope I never will. My Granddad did. It was a decision taken, not out of anger, or fear (though he was afraid) but from duty and the instinct to live. ‘Here be man’s most monstrous’ he’d write in margins. It was horror that he could not find words to express, at first. He awoke screaming for the rest of his life and never spoke of the war if he could avoid it. Granddad died before anyone knew what Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was. My Granddad was a hero.

I’m posting this a bit earlier than Friday to meet the real (not one of the squidgier variety) deadline for this week’s Weekly Blog Club. It’s such a great initiative aimed at encouraging people (especially in public & 3rd Sector) to write. Each week, there are suggested topics for any writers who are struggling to come up with something to write about, one of last week’s topics was Hero’s and it reminded me I should post this one. Anyway, I highly recommend checking them out on Twitter and visiting the site, they always have a lot of great content from some really brilliant writers.

My mate Skip’s a hero.

He’s seen darkness far worse than anything Granddad saw, but took the same action and lives with a similar consequence.

SkipLicker, to use his own description,  Is:

King of the Stickmen. Hardcore Troll. Carried a rifle once, then got shot at… Fuck off and be offended somewhere else

It’s the Hardcore Troll bit that gets some of my followers hot under the collar and not in the groovy, post-watershed way. To them, Skip’s just a Troll and Trolls are bad. mmkay? There is only one other person* I am warned about more for following and talking to on Twitter than Skip.

I like Skip, I have from the first time I read one of his blogs and chatted to him. I take people as I finds them and Skip has always been lovely to me. More than this though, Skip has a lot of very interesting things to say about a lot of different things. He is a fantastic writer with a voice that swings, often disarmingly, from sneering, acidic wit to warmth and empathy.

I’m most interested in his thoughts on war. You see, Skip’s writing a book about his experiences and, just as I think she’d approve of my granddad’s journals, I think Mary O’Hare would approve of Skip’s portrayal of war…

If you’re wondering what the hell I’m talking about, it probably means you haven’t read Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. You should rectify that situation immediately, it truly is a brilliant book. Vonnegut was writing a War book too – an anti-war book in fact, as perfectly pointless as an ‘anti-glacier’ book – he was reminiscing with an old war buddy, when the man’s wife interrupted:

“You were just babies then!” she said.
“What?” I said.
“You were just babies in the war — like the ones upstairs!”
I nodded that this was true. We had been foolish virgins in the war, right at the end of childhood.
“But you’re not going to write it that way, are you.” This wasn’t a question. It was an accusation.
“I — I don’t know,” I said.
“Well I know,” she said. “You’ll pretend you were men instead of babies, and you’ll be portrayed in the movies by Frank Sinatra and John Wayne or some of those other glamorous, war-loving, dirty old men. And war will look just wonderful, so we’ll have a lot more of them. And they’ll be fought by babies like the babies upstairs.”
So then I understood. It was war that made her so angry. She didn’t want her babies or anybody else’s babies killed in wars. And she thought wars were partly encouraged by books and movies. – Slaughterhouse 5 – Chapter 1

I think we can be certain that wars are not even party encouraged by books or films but, just in case, Skip’s writing will have no role for Frank Sinatra or John Wayne. Read this: Words in a Skip: Hang em’ High and this: Words in a skip: Holes and Me

Quite recently, Skip has been a voice of reason in the growing cycles of online ‘outrages’  following trolling and is amongst a group of interesting folk asking important questions about Freedom of Speech. One of the few things that the Left and Right of UK politics seem to agree on is the need for freedom of speech applied to some and not others. You can threaten to blow up an airport and get away with it, but don’t dare threaten an Olympic Diver…

Skip thinks you should be able to say anything you want and he’s right, I think. That is how Freedom of Speech works? I’m asking, not telling. Either everything is okay to say, or nothing is. Read this:  Words in a Skip: Frankie Says Relax and this: Words in a Skip: Sticks and Stones.

Skip suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. That didn’t come from nowhere, it came from the things he saw and did at war and the things done to him in preparation for war. Skip is not alone, there are likely huge numbers of troops returning from war with mental scars invisible to the naked eye, but that are as debilitating as lost limbs. Read more of my thoughts on War and the armed forces

So there we have it, follow my mate Skip…but not literally, that probably won’t end well.

*The dubious honour of ‘Person I am warned most about on Twitter’ goes to Milo Yiannopoulos (@Nero), Editor-in-Chief at The Kernal. I like him too, he’s a brilliant writer with an acerbic tongue and yes, if you’re going to tell me about the horrible things he’s said…I know. He’s said a lot of things that I find pretty awful, but I suspect a lot of them he has said because he likes to shock and, besides, he’s always been sweet with me, as I said before, I takes ’em as I finds them. Also rumour has it that he is a great deal nicer in real life than how he sometimes chooses to present himself in print.

You Know the score: If you don’t like these Thoughts, stick around, I’ve got plenty of others.

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