Here it goes again

Still up to the eyes in book stuff here. The Christmas anthology looks like being a big one, some long stories in so far. I still have to get back to some authors though. Almost two years of on/off lockdown has set me into a ‘well, I can do it tomorrow, it’s not like I’m going anywhere’ state of mind. It is increasingly difficult to shake that off. Every day is the same now, it’s difficult to even work out what day it is. Also we are getting power outages weekly now. This does not help.

It’s also hard to write Panoptica now that the brain chip and recently, the medichip have crossed into reality. It’s going to be a history at this rate. But then history does repeat so maybe it’ll still work. If there is anyone left to read it.

We now have ‘the unjabbed’ as the subhuman creatures we are exhorted to ostracise. They are the enemy. The Evil Ones. The spreaders of disease and the termination of human life.

Hello.

I’m one of them.

Well, frankly, I’m probably the worst person you can make ‘one of them’ because the termination of all human life doesn’t sound like such a bad idea to me. After one of my dinner table rants, many years ago, my son said ‘If everyone died tomorrow you’d complain they died in the way’. He was right. They bloody would. There’d be stinking corpses all over the place buggering up your suspension with no garages open to get it fixed.

But then, that was before I became a grandfather. I no longer yearn for the termination of all human life. Just… most of it.

The more observant reader will have realised by now that I’m not really a ‘people person’. My granddaughter isn’t a ‘people person’ either. Try to grab a hug and she’ll bite you. I am so proud of her 🙂 and look forward to when she’s old enough to pull a 50 lb bow or swing a log splitting axe.

So you might be thinking that I’m on board with the whole ‘population reduction’ crap. It does sound like it, I suppose. Well you’d be wrong.

I am not bothered about a billion people who live a hundred or more miles away. I am only bothered about those who live close enough to be in the way and in my current situation that would add up to about five at most. And I rarely see any of them. So, global population reduction is not a matter I’m at all interested in.

Now, if I was a billionaire (I’m not and never will be) I’d buy an island, fit it up with all I need and then wave a middle finger at the rest of the world and disappear. I would not try to force the world to live the way I dictate. You guys can do whatever you want, I’m over here on my island and not playing.

This is not what billionaires do. They try to force their beliefs on those they consider inferior. That’s us. They have money and they believe that makes them superior beings.

Modern money is just numbers on a screen. It’s not real. A solar flare can wipe the lot. They don’t get it, their superiority is as tenuous as the scales on a moth’s wing. If it gets wiped, what will they offer any group who takes them in? Can they cook, harvest, plant? Can they even dress themselves? These ‘superior beings’ are, let’s face it, utterly useless in a future real life. They’re pretty damn useless in this one.

They always do the same thing. Pick a group, demonise them, tell the idiot drones to hate them and then isolate and exterminate them. It’s not new. It’s not even Nazism. It’s been going on all through history. And it is happenning again.

So, one day soon, they will come for me. As in Austria and Germany where history is clearly no longer taught, and in Mussolini’s Italy, where their leaders have forgottten how that turned out for him.

I am your demon. Your plague rat. Your disease carrier. Let’s just forget that I haven’t even had a cold in the last decade, and I could tell you why but you’ll burn me as a witch if I did. But I have declined the mRNA experimental shot therefore I must be infected with a terrible disease that is less deadly than flu.

And you have wondered, haven’t you, why I am not a ‘people person’?

Against stupidity…

…the gods themselves contend in vain.

No idea where that quote came from originally. It was in a SF book called ‘The Gods Themselves’ by Isaac Asimov. I read it a very long time ago. Three parts, I found the middle part most fascinating – but I digress. Already.

There is so much stupidity in the world now. I see people who have had two jabs that were supposed to protect them from Covid, then catching Covid, then worrying about how long it will take to get their third jab to stop them catching something they already caught after the first two jabs didn’t stop them catching it.

Our governments are trying to convince the unvaccinated that the vaccines work so they’ll get it, while simultaneously trying to convince the vaccinated that they haven’t worked so they have to get a booster.

The definition of ‘herd immunity’ (no, it’s not a farmyard term) changed so that it can only be acheived through vaccines rather than the ‘old way’ of people recovering and becoming immune. The definition of ‘vaccine’ changed from something that stops you catching or spreading a disease to a thing that just makes your disease less bad. And now the definitions have to change again because ‘herd immunity’ is not possible with a ‘vaccine’ that does not confer immunity.

So much more. So very much more. We’ve seen Fester Rancid declare that the unjabbed over 65s should die at home and not bother the NHS. ‘Unjabbed’ now includes those who have had two shots and now refuse a third shot that works just as well as the first two – not at all. Soon ‘unjabbed’ will include those who haven’t had a fourth.

There are the same proportion of people jabbed in hospitals as the proportion jabbed in the population. Anyone with any sense at all would conclude the jab isn’t making any difference. Nobody is making that conclusion. Instead, the ‘vaccine passport’ is coming to life. The vaccine does not stop you catching or spreading the disease and yet it is somehow magic if you show your papers. If you are infected but have the jabpass, you can go places. If you are uninfected and don’t have those papers, you are a pariah.

Well, we smokers are already pariahs so pfft. I’d say ‘bring it’ but they already did.

The Welsh mobsters in charge have admitted there is no scientific basis to extend the reach of their vaxpass but they are doing it anyway. Boris is ramping up the fear for a Christmas lockdown now his COP jollies are finished, and people will not see it. They will go along with the lockdown and like last year, he will ignore it.

It’s all very confusing and it’s designed to be. Confused people look for a way out, any way out, and that way out is likely to appear soon. It will look like a way out but it’s really a way in, with no way out.

I think most people will actually welcome it.

Frank Davis’s farewell

From Emily:

Frank Davis passed away peacefully in his sleep on October 8, 2021. A funeral service was held in Hereford on November 5, and his lovely family was kind enough to make the service available live as a webcast via Obitus. Readers and friends were watching live online in the UK, US, Denmark, Germany, Australia, and New Zealand.


Three readers of Frank’s blog – friends of Frank’s and regulars on the Smoky Drinky Bar – attended the service in person. Among them were Bucko the Moose, Mrs. Bucko, and 20Rothmans. Bucko posted a really lovely writeup on his blog and it also includes an embed of the recording of the service, if anyone would like to watch it. 


The service began with a procession to “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” by the Platters followed by a moving reading by Frank’s brother-in-law, Ian Stone. Ian recounted Frank’s fascinating autobiography and travels around the world as a child and his work as an architect, computer programmer, and research assistant.


One of Frank’s nephews, Matthew, then read “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost which seemed a very fitting tribute. Another nephew, Daniel, then read from some of Frank’s blog posts, including reflections on how the smoking ban in the UK in 2007 decimated his favorite pub and destroyed his social life.


Hilary, Frank’s sister-in-law, read aloud comments on Frank’s last post, as well as Underdogs Bite Upwards, from commenters Fumo Ergo Sum and Stewart Cowan, as well as a tribute from Simon Clark.


Finally, Frank’s brother, Andrew, read a very moving account of Frank’s scientific work including Idle Theory, orbital simulation, his glaciation model, and mentioned a new work Frank was writing entitled “The Philosophy of Time.”


It was a bittersweet goodbye to Frank – our dear friend, and a great man. I thank his family for arranging the webcast and very graciously letting us all be a part of it.

Smallpox

I don’t know if I had the smallpox vaccine. I was around in the 1960s when it was still being given but it wasn’t compulsory then. The compulsion ended before 1900, but the vaccine worked so well that smallpox was eradicated in the wild by 1980.

It’s probably in my medical records somewhere, but it doesn’t matter. There is no smallpox any more.

So, how was this acheived, and why isn’t it now done with more viruses? Well, smallpox was something of a unique disease. It only affected humans, it didn’t have an animal reservoir. Coronaviruses are found in bats and other animals, so are cold and flu viruses and most other diseases. Smallpox, however, only ever affected humans – so all we had to do was make sure nobody caught it and it died out. That’s not going to work with anything else.

Smallpox is gone, and yet it’s back in the news. Bill Gates suggested that a bioterrorist could use smallpox to launch an attack. The FDA has approved a new smallpox vaccine and Canada has ordered millions of doses. Why?

None of it makes any sense at all. Why a ‘new’ vaccine? The old one did the job exceptionally well. If there is any risk of a return of smallpox, why not just make more of that one? Well of course there’d be no money in it – the ‘new’ one will still be in its profit phase.

Why would anyone order millions of doses? The only smallpox in existence is in a very few, very secure laboratories. Anyone wanting to study it should of course be vaccinated, but as it no longer exists in the wild, there’s no need to vaccinate the whole population. I suspect the answer there is likely to involve money again.

As for using it as a bioweapon, that’s the most insane part of all. It does not exist in the wild. There would be no question that it came from a lab because it doesn’t exist anywhere else. The list of suspects would be really quite short too.

I saw that Bill Gates interview. He quite specifically said ‘smallpox’. Not any infectious disease, not one that is still out there in the wild, like say anthrax, plague, tuberculosis, polio, nothing like that. He said, specifically, smallpox. Which would be likely to be the hardest one for any bioterrorist to get hold of.

This hypothetical bioterrorist is not going to isolate smallpox from a contaminated sample or a patient. He’s going to have to break in to a high security lab and then into a -70C freezer – which are always locked – and he will have to know exactly what he is looking for and get it out of that freezer without losing fingers to frostbite or infecting himself with the smallpox sample or anything else that will be in there. Basically, he would have to be working in that lab with enough training to know what he is doing. He’s not going to be hard to find.

It’s also the most idiotic choice for a bioweapon. Once you let this thing out you’re not going to find it easy to put it back. It has a nine day incubation period. Patient Zero is spreading it for over a week before they even start to get sick. So is everyone he interacts with. Back in the 1800s this might be containable but now, nine days is enough for someone to travel over most of the planet.

If you release this, it’s coming back to bite you. You cannot contain it.

So, if you have a new, experimental vaccine and you don’t know if the vaccine is safe or not, you have to take it. You have no choice. There are no effective treatments and unlike Covid, this time you have a 70% chance of dying from smallpox. Even if you survive it, it can leave you with permanent disfiguration.

If Bill Gates really is deranged enough to even consider this, someone needs to talk him out of it fast. It’s well known that he hasn’t had his children take any vaccines. This one though, he’ll have to. He’ll have to take it himself. Even if it’s a dodgy mRNA potion.

Smallpox is a lousy choice of bioweapon. It cannot be contained once released. Its origin can be traced very quickly since it has to come from a lab, and there aren’t many that have it. It would have to be handled by an expert otherwise the risk of contaminating themselves is huge. There would be little difficulty in finding out who was responsible, and once they are caught they are going to talk. A lot. They won’t want to take all the responsibility for something like this, whoever paid them is going to get named.

It would be an extraordinarily risky move, so I don’t think it’s going to happen.

What might happen is a fake smallpox scare. We’ve seen this recently with necrotising fasciitis, mad cow disease, Zika and Ebola. It takes less than ten cases for everyone to think they’re all doomed. A couple of Ebola cases in the UK (they were medics who had returned from treating African victims) and the whole country went into panic. Stirred, as always, by the media.

Necrotising fasciitis had stories of people visibly dissolving on trains. It never actually happened. Mad cow disease had about ten cases in a year, this was projected by a ‘scientist’ (with an impressively straight face) to become 100 cases over the next ten years. Yeah, that’s ten cases a year. There aren’t any at the moment, as far as I am aware.

All of these things are gone now. I’m sure there are still cases of necrotising fasciitis but they are very rare (I think at its height there were eight cases in a year) and not newsworthy.

You really don’t need to release a virulent bioweapon. You just need to make people think it’s going to happen and you can sell them vaccines. Even vaccines against a disease they have no chance of catching. A couple of photos of chicken pox or cowpox sufferers, magically saved by your smallpox ‘vaccine’ and there you go. They’ll line up to pay for your cure.

In the fiction that was ‘The Macbeth Trio‘ I used scrofula as the sales pitch to sell a vaccine nobody needs. I didn’t think smallpox would be a credible one to use.

Seems someone else thinks it is.

No rest for the wicked

And I must have been very, very wicked. I’m going to be working on books all through November. In addition to the Christmas anthology I have at least four other books in the line (my own will have to wait for December) plus an update to one of Mark Ellott’s – although he has taken care of the new cover which does take a lot of work out of my hands. His neice has been making his covers and she’s really very good at it.

Even so, it’s impossible to avoid the madness in the world today. The Covid game is crumbling, people who have accepted three jabs and still caught it anyway are now being told they need a fourth. I have received an invite, well, more of a summons, to go for a booster shot. I don’t know what it’s supposed to boost since I haven’t had the first one yet.

If they knew me at all, which they don’t since they don’t see me unless I’m at Death’s door, they’d know that sending me an ‘appointment’ with time and date, an option to phone up and change it but no option to say ‘no thanks’, will only end one way. I’ve ignored it. I will not be phoning in and I will not be summoned by some medical despot who thinks they can just boss me around. If they turn up here to stick things in me, I have a collection of things to stick in them in return. Some of which can be applied from quite a distance away.

I really can’t fathom how they have persuaded people to take three shots of some experimental potion within a year, and then, when they still catch the thing it’s meant to protect them against, the answer is to squirt more of it in. How many times will it take before people start to wonder if this stuff is doing anything useful at all?

Side effects are becoming clearer by the day. Oh they deny them, Dr. ‘Haw Haw’ Hillary on TV pretends everything is fine and rosy while young people drop with heart problems and blood clots. Well, it was a blood clot that killed my father. Long before vaccines, nothing to do with that – but if I’ve inherited a genetic predisposition to blood clots I am not taking anything that could increase that risk.

That’s just my opinion, of course. Anyone who wants the stuff can get it. I’m not taking it.

Well, but doesn’t that mean I’m going to be excluded from society? No nightclubs or football grounds for me – and soon no public transport of any kind either?

Pah. The smoking ban excluded me from society over a decade ago. I haven’t been in a night club in 40 years, have no interest in football, and really don’t like to be in crowded places. Public transport? Out here there isn’t any. I’ve been eligible for a free bus pass for over a year and haven’t bothered applying. Because there are two buses a day here, one at about 6 am and one coming back about 6 pm. Not, you might say, particularly convenient. So I can have a free bus pass, but can I have a bus? Ah… no.

Australia, especially Victoria under the iron fist of Kim Jong Dan, is now refusing to allow the unvaccinated to even claim unemployment benefits. Rather like the UK’s NHS – you pay in or they arrest you, but try to claim the service you’ve paid for and you won’t get it. Government policy based on the business model of the Kray twins there.

It gets worse. The UK government are setting up to criminalise the words I have written above. Any deviation from their narrative and you’ll go to jail for two years. For disagreeing.

All the restrictions on the unvaxxed are irrelevant. You might think, with your perforated arm, that you can be smug and look down on those of us who refuse to play this silly game. There are more shots coming – miss one and you’re back to the ranks of the unvaxxed. You might be twenty shots in but the moment you say ‘no more’ you’re one of us again. You get on this train, there’s no getting off. It doesn’t stop anywhere. The only way out is to get thrown onto the tracks at full speed.

Let’s say that, as unvaxxed, I have to walk everywhere and forage for berries and insects to survive. You think it’s going to be better if you take the shots? Then you haven’t been paying attention to the progression from Covid to the Church of the Green God.

‘You will own nothing and be happy’. They really mean it, you know. It’s not just words.

You will not be driving an electric car. Nobody will. You might get the first one but when the battery dies, it has a trade in value of zero. You have nothing to use as a trade in and will likely be charged for disposal of the highly toxic and potentially explosive battery. Or you can buy a new battery for much more than the car will be worth by then.

You will not have public transport because you will have no business going anywhere. You walk to work or work from home.

You will eat synthetic meat and mashed insects. Hunting your own food will be illegal, even picking a blackberry will be seen as stealing because you don’t own any land. The billionaires own it all.

You have no money. It’s just numbers on a screen and you will buy what your masters approve of, no more. Step out of line and your numbers are deleted. Eventually, your food will be delivered based on what your masters deem are your requirements.

There is a hope that this will fail, of course. The house of cards around Covid is trembling and I think it will fall. So it’s time to ramp up the climate fear. Again.

This time, there is a problem. It has become clear to many, many people that the government and media are lying to us and have been for some time. Trust in government, media, medics, police, even science, is collapsing. People are getting very, very angry.

So these people who are villified for driving a Nissan Micra and buying an occasional burger while mumbling through a mask are now treated to the sight of COP26. Hundreds of private jets, the posh gits all feasting on fancy food and patting each other on the backs, unmasked, 85-car motorcades, cars lining the streets of Glasgow with their engines running so those ‘important people’ can be ferried around in comfort and safety… and none of them need worry about the vaccine passport rules imposed on the rest of Scotland.

Well sure, a lot of people have nothing now. Do you really think they are happy?

Are they happy to hear Jeff Bezos declare that his little jolly into space made him realise how fragile the planet is? This wasn’t a mission to discover anything. It didn’t advance scientific knowledge one iota. It was a dick in a dick-shaped rocket pumping out CO2 so he could literally look down on us all. It acheived nothing more. It demonstrated that the rich can go into space for a look around, while the rest of us won’t be allowed to go into the local pub unless we obey their commands.

Boris told us that the world is going to fry if we don’t give up everything and live as 13rth century peasants. Well, ‘we’ doesn’t include him and his ilk, naturally. He’s getting a priivate jet from Glasgow to London rather than mix with the hoi polloi.

And of course let’s not pass over Jug-ears himself, the Prince who has people to dress him in the morning. He’ll be Charles III before too long and he is quite clearly determined to end the monarchy just like Charles I, and for the same reasons. The mood in the country – in the world – suggests he’s going to meet the same ending as his predecessor. This time there is unlikely to be a Restoration. This time is the proverbial ‘it’.

These people have really misjudged the mood of the people. We are mightily pissed off. For reasons too numerous to list – but the sight of the rich twats at COP26 telling us how we little people must suffer so they can continue living the high life might be the lit match in the boiling fat that’s been coming for some time.

‘You will have nothing and you will be happy’ they say. They are missing the point. They have failed, in their caviar-driven limousines, to see what they are really imposing on us all.

‘You will have nothing left to lose’.

This is always where times get interesting.

The month of spookiness and soup

Hey everybody, CstM here. I hope you’re all doing amazing.
This has been the month of trying out new recipes, especially soup. Leggy has been my culinary guinea pig. A job I don’t think he minds too much.

Clockwise Potato soup, Shrimp and broccoli with homemade prawn toast, tomato soup, French onion soup and broccoli and cheddar soup


It started out with loaded potato soup, with homemade croutons. That was very delicious, although I still think it’s a slightly over glorified mash with extra steps.
Then we tried out a recipe for Broccoli and cheddar soup. Now I wasn’t really expecting too much from this soup, but dang that thing was so good. Definitely my favourite one so far. Closely followed by the tomato soup. It has roasted tomatoes and garlic in it, plus chipotle paste that gives it a nice kick. The grilled cheese sandwich even had bacon jam, which warms my Danish heart.
The French onion soup wasn’t my absolute favourite. It wasn’t terrible, just not the most amazing either.
Lastly we tried the stir fried broccoli and prawns. That was very delicious. I’d highly recommend that. Was very quick and easy to make.

I got a couple of cross stitches finished for Halloween, so that was pretty neat. I’m working on one last Halloween piece before switching to my pile of Christmas projects.

Now new things are happening. I actually finished the book of the month. I know, it’s a bit of a shock. Who saw that coming?
There will be spoilers of The Pearl coming up, so if you want to keep yourself free of those, please skip this section.
I actually really enjoyed this book. I admit I had a somewhat hard time getting into it at first. It started out very action packed with baby being stung by a scorpion, but it has moments of being quite over descriptive of the nature. Like no one cares about all the different species of fish in the water. Well at least I didn’t.
Then there was Kino and his ability to hear the song of family, the song of the ocean and so on. I’m sure it’s some metaphor or something but it just left me wondering if the guy needed to talk to a doctor or something.
Now the copy I had was 124 pages, now what I didn’t realise was that 40 of them was an extract from one of Steinbeck’s other novels. So I had a massive emotional rollercoaster reading the book. First the joy of finding the pearl, then the outrage at the pearl merchants trying to cheat Kino out of his rightful pearl price, followed by the horror of Kino turning into a bit of a twat, hitting his wife when she tries to free them of the pearl. He really should have listened to his wife. Did he learn nothing from Alien? Granted that is a bit after his time, but still. Listen to the woman!
Then as if it wasn’t dramatic enough Steinbeck throws in a bit of manslaughter and an epic run for safety up in the mountains.
Now at this point, my book till had plenty of pages let. Or so I thought. So I was in a false sense of security, thinking there was plenty of pages left. They still had loads of time to get through the mountains, sell the pearl and live happily ever after. Imagine my surprise and deep feeling of betrayal, when we went from Hey, we’re in the mountains, there’s a nice pond with wild life. It’s really pretty, a scene straight out of Bambi. And then, Bam! dead baby! Like WTF! I was not in anyway what so ever prepared for that. What sort of Game of Thrones moves are you pulling here, Mr Steinbeck. I’m still not over it. Who kills a baby?! Jesus!
So yeah, I love the book but I also kind of hate it.

November is my birthday month, so I figured we’d read the Stephen King book that I’ve been thinking about reading for a few month now. Carrie.
I’ve seen the new version of the film, so I haven an idea of what I’m going into this month. I never saw the original film, but I’ve heard it has John Travolta doing weird things, so sounds like I may have dodged a bullet there.
I hope you guys will join me in the reading and I hope you all had a great Halloween.

The Door Ajar

Halloween is tomorrow, but this particular tale takes place in the early hours of the 31st of October so it’s best enjoyed the day before. In the UK, that’s when summer time ends and the clocks go back to give us our early darkness in the evenings. I wonder if any trick-or-treaters will venture up the driveway this year? They haven’t managed it yet. Which reminds me, I have to put those pairs of mini red glowsticks in the trees tomorrow. Have to get them in the spirit in case they do decide to visit.

So anyway, here’s the story. It’s in ‘The Darkness at the End of October’, available on Amazon and Smashwords.

The Door Ajar

“We’ve been here three days. It hasn’t bloody worked. Let’s go home.” Jim started packing his things into his rucksack.

“Well, give it a few minutes. We’ve spent all this time setting it up.” Billy kept his gaze on the fire in the centre of their pentagram. “Maybe it just takes a while to get through the dimensions.”

“It’s ten past midnight. The demon was supposed to show up at midnight. Nothing has happened. It’s all bollocks. We’re never going to get rich by wishing for it, Billy. We’re going to have to work for it like normal people.” Jim pulled out the tent pegs and collapsed his tent.

Billy studied the book in his hands. Had he misread something? Pronounced a word wrong? Was there something missing in their carefully constructed pentagram? A wrong stone, a misplaced candle, anything? No, it was all as it should be and yet the demon had not appeared to claim this book and give them riches in return. What did the demon want with the book? Who cares? Billy and Jim just wanted the money.

He sighed. Jim was right, they were never going to get rich the easy way. Although camping out in the woods for three days while finding specific rocks to form the pentacle was hardly ‘the easy way’. Billy read once again the first instruction in the book – The demon must be summoned in the first minutes of Samhain, after the last stroke of midnight.

Then it would be trapped in the pentacle and they could bargain with it. It wants the book, and it will give them absolutely anything for it. Here they were, in the first few minutes of Halloween, and all their effort had achieved nothing. Billy sighed again. It had all been a waste of time. He closed the book and joined Jim in packing up their camp.

“Well, it was worth a try.” Billy tried to hide the disappointment in his voice as he dismantled his tent. “At least we had a fun camping trip.”

“Fun?” Jim spat the word. “Camping at the end of October cannot reasonably be described as ‘fun’. It’s bloody cold out here, and we’ll be too knackered to enjoy the Halloween parties tomorrow night. We’ll be lucky to get home by two o’clock in the morning.”

“We’ll have a lie-in. We’ll be fine for the parties.” Billy placed the book carefully in his rucksack. He’d have to sneak it back into Marchway Library on Monday, before anyone noticed he’d stolen it.

“Hurry up.” Jim rolled his tent away and started strapping it to his rucksack. “I’m not waiting for you if you take too long. I want to sleep in a real bed tonight.”

“Okay, okay, I’m packing.” Billy folded his tent. “Come on, Jim, you were all for it until now. We both thought it would work. We both fell for it.”

Jim stared into the darkness of the woods. “Yeah. You’re right. It’s not your fault. We both believed in it.” He lowered his head and traced his shoe in the dirt. “We’re both losers, and we’d better get used to the idea.”

“Oh it’s not that bad.” Billy finished packing his gear. “We got caught up in a bit of fakery, that’s all. I mean, how many people got caught up in scams before? And still do. It doesn’t make us losers.”

“Huh.” Jim strode to the pentacle. He kicked one of the outer circle stones into the central fire. “You’re probably right, but it feels like failure right now. We did everything we were told by that book and it was all rubbish.” He closed his eyes. “We’re supposed to be anti-establishment and we just spent days following rules from an ancient establishment. We probably don’t want to tell anyone about this.”

Billy laughed. “Since we did it with a stolen book, we definitely don’t want to tell anyone. I’ll sneak it back into the library first chance I get.” He finished packing, hoisted his rucksack onto his back and with one last glance back at the pentacle and the dying embers of the fire within, he followed Jim along the trail to home.

***

As they approached the lights of town, Jim broke the silence. “Well there’s one thing we can be happy about. When someone finds that pentacle, they’ll wonder what the Hell was going on.”

Both laughed. Billy checked his watch. “Ten to one. We’ll be home and asleep by half past, I reckon.”

As they reached the main square in their small town, Jim glanced up at the town hall clock. He squinted. “What time did you say it was?”

“Ten to one.” Billy checked his watch again. “Well, it’s almost one now.”

“That’s odd.” Jim pointed upwards. “The town hall clock says midnight. Are you sure your watch is right?”

“Must be. It’s one of those radio watches. Picks up a time signal and sets itself so it’s always right.” Billy frowned at the town hall clock. “Maybe it stopped?”

The front door of the town hall opened and old Charlie Simmonds, the caretaker, stepped out. He closed and locked the door behind him.

Jim and Billy gave each other a quizzical look. This was pretty late for a caretaker to be at work.

“Hey, Mister Simmonds, I think your clock has stopped.” Billy waved from across the street.

Charlie glanced up, smiled and shook his head. He walked over to join them. “No, lads, it’s fine. I’ve just been setting it back for the end of Summer Time. The clocks go back tonight, you know?”

Billy showed his watch to Charlie. “I’ve got one of those radio ones that updates itself, and it says it’s one in the morning.”

“Yeah, but officially the time doesn’t change until two a.m., and I’m buggered if I’m waiting up until then. Everything is closed, everyone’s asleep – apart from you two lads and me – and the clock will be right in the morning. So I don’t have to get up early to change it.”

“So what’s the real time?” Jim wrinkled his nose. “I mean, is Billy’s watch or the clock showing real time now?”

Charlie pursed his lips. “A lot of people get confused about that. It’s actually simple. Summer time, daylight savings, is one hour ahead of the real time. The real time is in the winter, it changes on the last Sunday in October, when we’re on the ‘one hour back’ time. The time on the clock up there is the real time. Billy’s watch will change over after two a.m., and it’ll then say one a.m. So we all get an extra hour of sleep tonight.” He slapped Jim’s shoulder. “Well, assuming you two plan to sleep tonight. I certainly do, so I’ll say goodnight.” He walked off, whistling, into the growing fog.

A cold chill ran through Billy. “We were an hour early. We missed it.”

“Would it still work? I mean, you read the spell, we set everything up. Do you think the demon is there now? And where did this fog come from? It’s getting really thick.”

“If it’s there, it’s trapped in the circle.” Billy looked back the way they had come. “Maybe we should go back. If it’s stuck there it’s going to be pissed.”

The colour drained from Jim’s face. The image of the rock he kicked into the circle’s central fire replayed in his head. “It’s not trapped. I broke the circle.”

Billy continued to stare back at the way they had come. Jim followed his gaze. In the distance, a red blaze glowed. Getting stronger and bigger. Or maybe not bigger. Maybe closer.

The fog intensified. Something was coming, and now it had no need to bargain for what it wanted.

Responsibility

So, Alec Baldwin, actor, political shouty person, anti-gun activist and generally an arse (for many reasons, and certainly not the only, nor indeed the biggest arse in Hollywood) accidentally shot a woman on set and killed her. Using a ‘prop gun’ that was loaded with a real bullet.

Naturally the internet has instantly polarised into two camps, because politics. On one side, the argument that he had no reason to suspect that a stage weapon was loaded with anything other than blanks. On the other, the argument that he was responsible for ensuring he handled the weapon safely, no matter what he thought it was loaded with. Who is right?

Well… since I won’t join in the polarisation, I’m going to say both. To an extent. I hear he is being charged with involuntary manslaughter, which seems fair. He didn’t know the gun was loaded with live rounds but he did point the gun and pull the trigger. However, in mitigation, he would have expected the props department to have ensured he wasn’t carrying a live gun on set. That doesn’t make him innocent, but it should reduce the severity of any sentence.

Let’s try an analogy. I drive a car, and in the UK (and I suspect most other countries) the roadworthiness of the car is the driver’s responsibility. Whether you own it, rent it or borrow it, even if it’s provided by your work, making sure it’s safe to be on the road is the driver’s responsibility. So even if it’s a rental car, if there is no tread on the tyres, the driver is the one who gets fined. It’s up to you to check it over before you drive it.

Never mind the engine, or the exploding batteries in the new street dodgems. Nobody could be expected to foresee everything – but brakes, tyres, fluid levels… these are really not difficult to check and should be done regularly anyway. Not just once a year at MOT.

So let’s put Alec Baldwin in the driver’s seat here. Let’s say he’s just picked up his car from the garage where he’d had the brakes serviced. It would be reasonable for him to expect those brakes to now be in perfect condition, since the mechanic (analogous to the props manager) has assured him the work was done correctly.

Driving, he notices the brakes feel a little spongy but hey, they’ve just been fixed. It’ll just be the new pads bedding in. At the next junction the brakes fail – the bleed nipples were left loose and he’s been losing fluid – and he crashes into another car. Who gets the blame?

Legally, as the driver, he gets the blame. His insurance will have to pay out and his insurance premiums will go up as a result. If anyone is hurt, if it goes to court, he will stand as the accused. He was driving, it was his responsibility to ensure the car was safe to drive.

However, his lawyers will argue that he had just collected the car from a mechanic who assured him the brakes were now in perfect condition. The mechanic who didn’t properly tighten the bleed nipples is partly to blame. This won’t save him from the insurance claim, nor any driving charges that might come up, but it should reduce his punishment – fines or withdrawal of licence – because he quite reasonably assumed he had been handed a safe set of brakes. It would also likely finish the mechanic as a trustworthy servicing worker but that’s really a separate issue.

He didn’t intend to crash into the other car. He genuinely thought his brakes were safe but in a strict interpretation of the law, it was his responsibility to make sure those brakes were safe. So his insurance will pay out and he’ll take the hit at the next renewal. If there are any claims against him from the other party, he will lose. The other party, remember, is completely innocent in this incident. All he can do is mitigate the blame by saying an ‘expert’ had only just told him the brakes were fine and he had no reason to doubt that.

So I say, in relation to the gun incident, that both sides are right. He was on set, he had a gun he believed to be a prop, firing only blanks. There is absolutely no reason why any gun used in such a scenario would ever have live rounds in it. There is no reason why any live rounds should be anywhere on set. Alec Baldwin believed his prop manager when he was handed the gun, that it was loaded only with blanks.

On the other hand, he was the one holding the gun. I don’t have any live round guns, only ever handled two (a .22 live round rifle and a shotgun, once each) in my life and even I know this – you never assume a gun is safe. If you are holding it, you are responsible for it and responsible for any consequences arising from its misuse. The gun he had, although called a ‘prop’, was quite clearly real and (he thought) loaded with blanks. Why it was loaded with live rounds is open to question, obviously it should not have been, but it was capable of firing live rounds and really, he should have known that.

It is fair to say he was not expecting it to have live rounds in it, but even so – pointing a gun at someone and pulling the trigger is always, always a very silly thing to do. Even if you are absolutely sure it’s not loaded. The day might come when you are wrong about that. As it did for Alec. Especially with modern guns. You can’t see the bullets and even if you take out the magazine, there could still be a live round in the chamber.

I don’t, as I said, have any guns. My particular preference is bows, crossbows and bladed weapons. The most powerful crossbow I have is 175 lbs draw weight, which will penetrate a standard car door with ease. It’s easy to tell if it’s loaded, because your fingers will still be hurting from drawing it into firing position and the bolt will be visible. At that point, I am extremely careful where I point it.

It is not safe to point it upwards since it will fire that bolt quite some distance and if one of the local farmers finds it embedded in a cow or a sheep’s back, he’s not going to be very pleased with me. It’s only safe to hold it pointing downwards and if that means a misfire buries the bolt in the ground, or even if the bolt slides out and I damage the bow with a dry fire, that’s better than letting a wild bolt loose into the air.

Even the smaller 50 and 80 lb crossbows can do serious damage, even kill someone. Those are much easier to load and yet require exactly the same safety protocols as the powerful one. Again, it is quite clear when they are loaded, but even when they are not, I don’t wave them around randomly. That’s a bad habit to get into. If you do it unloaded, one day you will do it loaded.

It’s not really the same, I know. I couldn’t possibly ‘accidentally’ fire a bow I could claim I thought was ‘unloaded’. It’s similar in that I would never aim a loaded crossbow, or even a standard bow with an arrow nocked and drawn, at someone. A crossbow safety can slip, your fingers can slip on a string, when dealing with anything dangerous you never assume safety. Same with the bladed weapons – swords, axes etc. You do not ‘show off’ by waving them around. My wood axe will split a log with a casual one handed swing. You really don’t want anyone in the way.

So while I don’t think Alec Baldwin should get off scot free – he did kill someone, after all – I can see mitigating circumstances around the case. He was an idiot to point his gun at someone even though he thought it only contained blanks, but he was acting on a film set and had no reason to believe the gun contained anything but blanks. He is anti-gun so it’s reasonable to assume he has no real idea about gun safety. He’s an actor so probably has little idea about the real world at all.

I’ll admit I’m not a fan. Of him, nor of any of his compatriots who have spouted off politically over recent years. On either side. You are actors. Politics is not your job. Just stick to what you know. Our politicians are bad enough at politics without the rest of you encouraging them.

Still, the polarisation in the response to this is clearly political. One side wants him jailed forever, the other side wants him exonerated entirely, and I have to say that I feel this man is now in a position many have found themselves in in recent years. Piggy in the middle. Does he deserve it? Maybe. That’s not for me to judge.

The question nobody seems to be asking, the question I’d have thought was paramount, is…

Why was there a live round in a prop gun in the first place?

And… was it accidental?

Curry and evils of the world

Hi everyone, CstM here I hope you’re all doing well. I am doing much better than my last post. Thank you all for your kind comments. I really do appreciate all your advice and well wishes.
I’m so sorry for the late post. Life has been busy around here, with the visit of the Welsh mothership. It was a very lovely visit. We had a dinner party, and of course I had to go all out and make two different currys and homemade onion bhajis. At least Leggy got to have a spicy curry for once, so he was happy. I’m a strictly butter chicken girl, anything else can be too spicy or has coconut in it. Dang weird allergies.
Speaking of allergies, something funny happened. Well I thought it was funny. I was oven roasting butternut squash for the curry. For some reason if I handle butternut squash with bare hands, I get a really bad rash, so I wear rubber gloves as protection. The Welsh mothership was in the kitchen watching me prepare the butternut squash, wearing my handy rubber gear and didn’t bat an eyelid. Although I guess it’s more dramatic inside my head. I always feel like some Dr. Frankenstein ready to bring my creation to life. Even if it’s just a curry.

Another thing I’m behind on is the books. I’m about half through the Hunger Games book. I’m genuinely enjoying it, I just keep getting distracted by other things. I must admit I didn’t remember the original books being this brutal. Maybe it’s because I’m older and everyone seems so much younger.
It is an interesting book though. We’re following Coriolanus Snow, as he and his classmates mentor the participants of the games. A game they are trying to make more viewer popular. Now this is a guy who, if you’ve read the original books, will become the personification of all the evil in the Capitol. But hearing his traumatic upbringing in the first rebellion, you do end up feeling sympathy for this young boy, who is just trying to survive and excel.
It does make you wonder, when does bad people turn bad.

The book reminds me in some ways of the film The motorcycle diaries. It’s a film about young Che Guevara travelling through latin America and seeing the poverty and destitution first hand, and ultimately leading him on a path of trying to make a change. Now I don’t condone what he did, but watching that film, you do get a bit of understanding of where he came from. He started out wanting to do good. Does that excuse all the evil he brought into the world? No, in no way. It just makes you understand to some degree where he was coming from.

One book that is a very good read on the topic of evil is The Lucifer Effect by Robert Zimbardo. It looks into the psychological explanation for why even good people sometimes turn evil. It goes over his Stanford prison experiment and also talks about how similar things has occurred in real life like the Abu Ghraib prison.
It is well worth a read, if you’re interested in the topic. I’m still annoyed that someone borrowed my hard back copy of the book and never returned it. Although quite ironic to steal a book about evil.

Now for this month book in the Gloom Dog book club, I went for something short. I figured there isn’t much left of October, so to make it plausible to actually finish it, it needed to be an easy read.
So this month we’ll be reading The Pearl by John Steinbeck. Cade over from Cade F.O.N Apollyon was the one who suggested it. He’s been reading along, and helped start the Gloom Dog Bookclub, so go give him a read, if you have the time. I’m sure he’d appreciate it.
I’ve heard very good things about The Pearl, so I’m excited to start reading it. I’ve only read Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck, so it’ll be nice to read some more of his works.
I hope you’ll join us on our next reading adventure.