And… relax. That’s enough. Back to work.

Visitor season is over. Nearly two months of it this year. I’d set up a temporary office in one of the unused upstairs rooms, among the boxes full of crap I’ll get around to sorting out one day. It functioned, with a dodgy WiFi connection through the granite walls, but it’s good to be back in the real office again.

This room, my office, doubles as the guest room because both staircases are seriously difficult to navigate until you get used to them. The main one is a steep, curved, 17-step staircase with a frighteningly low banister. The other is narrow with a 90 degree bend halfway up and no handrails of any kind. None of the upstairs rooms have heating. My father is 80 and would take far too long to navigate those stairs now!

Also, all the upstairs rooms are full of those boxes of stuff…

Anyway, the bridge down the road is now fixed so the post office is accessible again. I have a backlog of things to post, and a lot of the boxed stuff can go on eBay and get turned back into money. Probably not much in most cases but there’s a lot I’ll never use again. Camping equipment comes to mind…

My little lab has been scheduled for demolition. This is not a surprise, it was set up as a temporary lab in the 1960s and should have been demolished 40 years ago. This has spurred me to officially retire from lab based science work although I’ll still take on consultancy and advisory work. I’m getting too old to deal with 60+ samples a day anyway. I’ll clear the lab in the coming weeks and sell off anything that’s still in regular use in other labs. Might keep a few bits for dabbling, you never know. All those 5-litre flasks and heat mats are likely to come in handy 😉

Even with all this madness, the Halloween anthology is on track to be ready in time. As long as Amazon don’t screw up the merging of CreateSpace and Kindle, it’ll be fine.

Six authors are confirmed so far, a couple more possible and there’s still roughly a week before this one closes. There’s enough to make a book, I’d be delighted to make it a thicker one though. More details closer to the release date – but there are a few interesting new twists this time.

Once this is in the bag I’ll start looking for stories for the Christmas anthology. I could leave it until November but there is the possibility of novels arriving soon so I should get that one started early. As always it’ll be a Christmas theme but no restrictions on genre (other than keeping it within legal boundaries). I’ll be developing the dystopia I’ve built over several Christmas stories in that one, and in the process I’ll solve how I get to a genderless, utterly compliant population for ‘Panoptica’. The real sticking point for that one was always the backstory. I needed a plausible answer for ‘How did it come to this?’ and I have one now.

One day this blog will return to its scheduled programming of whisky-fuelled rants against pretty much anything (but especially Puritans) but for now I have to build a business while having absolutely no idea what I’m doing.

It seems to be working out so far though.

 

Arsebiscuits!

I knew it was going too well on this next anthology. Something was bound to bugger it up.

Amazon’s CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing are about to merge into one entity. On the face of it, it’s actually a good idea. It means the print and Kindle versions of a book can be created with a single upload. It should also mean no waiting for the listings to merge into one Kindle/print listing, as happens now.

However, when they start the process, the loading of new books and the editing of existing ones will not be allowed until it’s over.

I don’t know when it will start nor when it will finish. The anthology is going to happen anyway, authors will get paid and stories will get published. There is, however, a real risk this might not happen in time for Halloween.

I can only echo the wise words of my hero, mentor and role model.


 

 

Never easy

There is such a thing as a gay ram. Farmers know of them and are scared of getting one.

See, you put two rams in a field of sheep. Each ram has non-drying dye splattered on his underside and every sheep he shags has a colour on her back end. So you know which rams are most effective at producing the next generation of lamb chops.

Well, the reason for putting two rams in is simple. They will compete for offspring and the ewes are guaranteed a good time.

However, if one of the rams is gay, the other ram doesn’t have to compete. He can take his time. Maybe a candlelit dinner, a bouquet of hay, and then extensive foreplay including a bit of hoofing and a paint mark on her head… Basically, if one of the rams is only interested in the other ram, the farmer won’t get too many lambs next spring.

If both rams have each other’s colours on their back ends and the ewes are all pristine white then it’s bankruptcy time for the farmer and his customer satisfaction hotline will get a lot of calls that are just an angry and frustrated ‘baaa’.

But I digress. This was just part of a conversation CStM and I had this evening and I have spared you the full depravity of it. Oh yes, I really have.

I guess ‘time’ is the theme here. Currently I have none to spare. Parents are visiting and want to see as much as possible of their grandchildren and great-grandchild and that’s understandable. For me that means driving every day and with the bridge out, it adds at least 5 miles to every journey. Along some very crappy roads if I go the short way or somewhat better roads if I go the long (10+ miles extra) way.

I am getting nothing done. I have not touched publishing work, I have not touched the garden, I have driven well over halfway to Wales and not been 20 miles from the house. I am knackered. I do see the point though – for Parents, every visit might be the last so they want to make the best of it. If you have any inkling of how old I am, you can appreciate how old my parents are.

Author payments are due at the end of this month. These are never large amounts – yet – so I hope the authors will understand if I am a day or so behind this quarter.

Parents leave on the 1st September. On that date, author payments, Justin Sanebridge’s book and the opening of the sixth Underdog Anthology are due.

I can do this. All of it. It will happen.

I’ve never had to deal with the ‘easy way’ and I have no intention of starting now.

‘Easy’ is for the weak.

The Gallows Stone

The landlord has promised for some time to replace all the pebbledash (‘harling’ in Scottish) on the north end of the house. It’s cracked, damp gets in, in heavy rain the drains can’t cope and water leaks in through the base of the door… it’s a constant battle against black mould at that end of the house.

This week, it began-

You know when you start picking at a loose bit of cement and get carried away…

First thing I noticed was the big difference between the left and right sides of that double-roof section. On the right, there are big granite blocks. On the left it’s just made of whatever stones were lying around in the fields. A few things started to click into place.

The mysterious alcove in CStM’s craft room. It mirrors exactly the alcove of the window in my office but that wall backs on to the bathroom. We’ve been wondering about that alcove.

The strange staircase behind a cupboard door that is not at all like the main staircase, and which leads to two upstairs rooms that are not accessible by any other route. One of those rooms has bare stone wall part way up the end of it.

Conclusion? That ‘alcove’ was once a window and the house was roughly T shaped. The right hand part was added later. Bathroom, utility room, large cupboards and two upstairs rooms.

On the extreme left is likely to be the original door.

I just hope nobody is walled up in there.

So I did a bit of digging. The house is on a map dated 1768, so it was already here then. I haven’t been able to find anything earlier so don’t know exactly how old it is. I did manage to pin down the ‘new’ extension though.

There is an entry in a ledger from 1865 that refers to a load of stone tansported here from a place called Gallowshill, 30 years earlier (so around 1835). The stone was used to build the extension.

The thing is… the large stone blocks were cut from a much bigger stone. A stone with large holes in it to support wooden uprights.

It was the stone from the base of a gallows. The record is quite clear on this point.

Oh yeah. I live in a house built, in part, using a cut-up gallows stone. I found this hilarious. CStM, strangely, does not share my enthusiasm. She merely wonders how I always manage to find creepy places to live. It’s purely accidental. I had no idea, and if that coating had not come off the wall, I would never have known.

I won’t put the documents online here, obviously. I might as well just put my address up. Even the small clues in them lead to no other location. The map, well, little has changed in this part of Scotland for centuries. Roads have moved but the old ones are still there, including milestones. Place names are mostly exactly the same. Including this place.

The photos aren’t going to be much of a clue. We’re not on Google Streetview because we’re not visible from the public road and they weren’t allowed to go up private farm roads.

Anyhow, work is progressing. The entire wall was exposed and today they’ve been filling the gaps. Which is good – the old fireplace in the right side of the house has a very thin wall at the back and there was daylight coming through. No wonder it’s cold in there! Or maybe that’s the chill from the gallows stone. Woooo!

Anyhow. Fully exposed, the wall looks like this –

I’d love it if it could stay like that but it’s not an option. It wouldn’t be weatherproof against a north wind, and some of the random rocks used on the left side might be porous. Still, I have photos before it gets covered up again. Both chimneys are capped and out of use. The only live ones are at the far end of the house.

Also, the drain issue is being simultaneously solved. Looks like I’m getting a moat…

There has been some progress since then, most of the wall has been re-pointed and next week should see it completed. I hope.

I have until next week to finish with Justin Sanebridge’s book, despite all these distractions, because then my parents will be visiting. As soon as they leave it’ll be time to start on the Halloween anthology.

I might name it something along the lines of The Gallows Stone.

 

Update: No work on the house today or tomorrow so I grapped a couple of pics of progress so far.

The ‘moat’ is still there and has in fact extended – you just can’t see it from this angle.

Work resumes on Monday – it’s just two guys working on this and they’re moving pretty fast!

Boris and The Mask

I thought ‘The Mask’ was a great film. Loads of laughs. Of course, if face coverings had been banned back then, the film would probably never have been made.

Big burly buffoon Boris Johnson is in trouble over a mask. The ‘niqab’ that some Muslim women in the West, and many (in some countries, all) in the Arab world  use to cover their faces. He likened it, quite fairly I thought, to dressing up as a letterbox. It does look a bit silly but we in the West, especially in the UK, have a tolerance for those who like to dress up silly. We’ve never tried to ban Pearly Kings and Queens nor have we ever tried to ban the astonishingly silly dress of the Morris dancer. It has never occurred to anyone to ban those things.

Now we have a call to ban an article of clothing. This is something new and I, for one, am not comfortable with it.

Let’s be clear. It’s the niqab, not the hijab, that is the issue. The hijab is the headscarf thing. My grandmother, a staunch and sometimes slightly violent Christian of iron and coal mining extraction, never left the house without a hairnet and headscarf on her blue hair. Never. She spent money on hairdressing and blue rinses that nobody outside the house ever saw. I doubt she had ever even heard of Islam even though the last Caliphate ended in 1924, when she would have been around 30. The headscarf is no issue at all for me.

The niqab is the mask that covers all the face except the eyes. Some even have mesh over the eyes so you can’t see those either. Personally, I don’t like talking to someone so masked because I have no visual cues to judge the veracity of their words. Also, if they stab me, I can’t give the police a description.

But then, are they the only masked ones? Antifa are masked violent thugs. Nobody has demanded their masks are banned. The ‘Anonymous’ movement hides behind the Guy Fawkes mask from ‘V for Vendetta’. Any campaign to ban those?

How about bridal veils? You could be marrying anyone! What if you lift that veil and find a bearded Darren with three teeth and halitosis at the end of your vows? Should we ban wedding veils?

Old Holborn made the point very well on Twitter today. I can’t be arsed seeking out the actual tweet, that place scrolls too fast, but the essence was ‘Banning the veil and enforcing the veil are the same thing’.

He is right. Either of those things is enforcing what women can and cannot wear by law. Both are wrong. A better law is ‘forcing someone to wear a niqab is illegal’. That law punishes the enforcer, not the one being forced to comply.

And it’s the enforcer who is the real criminal here.

See, prosecuting a woman for wearing the veil is a bit like prosecuting someone for getting beaten up. You’re taking someone oppressed and oppressing them more.

The law ‘forcing someone to wear a niqab is illegal’ also means that if a woman wants to wear a veil, that’s fine. As long as nobody is forcing them to wear it.

The rule about no face coverings in banks and some other places still stands. If you go into a bank wearing any kind of mask you cannot be surprised if security take you down fast. Banks and masked people have a bit of a history there.

If you want to wear a mask in the street, fine. I will avoid any contact with you because you’re weird but I would not support any ban on you being weird. It should be your choice.

When France suggested banning the veil, I was uneasy. Denmark has banned it now and it looks like a lot of other EU countries including the UK are considering it too. The thing is, they don’t ban ‘the niqab’. The ban ‘face coverings’. All face coverings.

China uses CCTV with facial recognition. I was most impressed that they can tell the diference between Chinese people (channeling Prince Philip here) but if you have CCTV with facial recognition, it won’t work if your face is covered. The niqab is a really good excuse to ban all face coverings – even a scarf over your nose and mouth in winter.

Boris should not be forced to apologise over his remarks.  I really hope he won’t. The British take the piss out of everything – or used to – including and especially ourselves. Nothing was immune. If a religion – any religion – is so insecure that any comment aimed at them sends them into apoplexy, then they are following a very sad and weak god indeed. If your god cannot withstand a few snarky comments, then you really do need a better god.

As we need a better Prime Monster. Tessie ‘Jackboots’ Maybe is pushing Boris to apologise. In doing so she has set a challenge. If he does, then the rest of the Tory party are a bunch of tiddly lapdogs to political correctness and nobody will vote for them. If he says ‘Stick it up your censored hole’ then the last shreds of Tessie’s authority are gone faster than third hand smoke in a dry cleaner’s. Either way, she is toast. The first option takes the entire Tory party down. Let’s wait and see what the rest of their members think.

Banning face coverings is, as Old Holborn said, the same as enforcing it. It’s using law to force people to dress as directed. Nobody, anywhere, has suggested a law to punish those who force women to wear masks against their will. The Muslim patriarchy is sacrosanct, it seems.

I have recently wondered if Jacob Rees-Mogg would be our Chancellor Sutler.

Now I wonder if it’s going to be Boris.

If you haven’t seen, or better, read, ‘V for Vendetta’, it’s worth your time.

Just keep in mind that in real life, there is no hero coming to change it.

You’ll have to do that yourself.

Back to work

Well, June has ended and so has my little break from work. Back to full steam ahead tomorrow. I have a Dutch version of Justin Sanebridge’s ‘The Goddess of Protruding Ears’ to put out first, which won’t take long because he’s done all the hard stuff and therefore I’m open for submissions.

There will be a Halloween anthology and a Christmas one, I’ll be looking for stories from the beginning of September and from late October for those respectively. September to Christmas is likely to be pretty busy on anthologies but before and after that, loads of time.

There is a short short stories book, a scientific treatise and a potential new novel on the way but I don’t have a definite time frame for those. Writing is like that, it happens when it happens.

Plus, of course, some of my own stuff.

I’ve been watching the world descend into madness this month and I am certain there are violent times ahead. Vigilantism is on the rise on all sides. The government doesn’t seem to want to even admit it’s happening, much less try to deal with the issues that are causing it. Oh they won’t deal with the issues of course. They’ll try to deal with the vigilantes and thereby make things far, far worse.

Tessie ‘Jackboots’ May is going to fuck up Brexit. It’s going to be an absolute shambles, neither one thing nor the other. Add that to the fizzing fury already on the streets and I, for one, will be glad I live way out in the wilds.

But, serious stuff is for tomorrow. My last few hours of relaxing (well, apart from dealing with a tax form that’s changed this year and confused the hell out of me – but that’s done now) are not going to be marred with politics.

Yesterday was an unusually warm and sunny day. The sky turned so blue I almost called the police to report the aberration but then they’d all be on Farcebok and Twatter so it seemed more useful to post pictures where they’d see them.

If I add one word here – Islam – it will flag this post for police attention and they’ll see the strange blue sky phenomenon and maybe do something about it. It’s causing serious eye strain.

Well, since it wasn’t raining, CStM and I ventured forth to visit something we’ve lived near for two years and never seen. Gight Castle. It’s a ruin and you have to walk maybe 20-30 minutes from the car park to find it. You could walk there in a lot less time if you don’t bother looking at the scenery but if you’re not looking at the scenery it’s a wasted walk. So we didn’t rush.

The path is pretty much a North of Scotland A-road – it certainly has fewer potholes than most of the other roads around here. Maybe because cars aren’t allowed on it.

It gets into some deep woodland. Bright and sunny day, but stray six feet off the path and you’re in darkness. I bet it’s fantastic at night.

Anyway, we got to the castle and… it’s a bit of a shithole. Could do with a gardener, could have done with one 40 years ago at least and if I was selling it I’d have to come up with something more appealing than ‘a fixer-upper’.

It does have some interesting features and it would be worth restoring – although you’d have to be a major lottery winner to even get started. Would it be worth doing?

You’d have this view:

And this:

But you probably wouldn’t get any mail delivered. No postman is going to take a 40 minute walk to drop a bank statement through your door. In winter you would need your own snow plough to get  to the main road (which is itself an unlit winding country road) so you’d probably be best to stock up with food and hole up until the snow melts.

Oh, and you’ll need a generator. It’s several miles to the nearest electricity supply. Also a well pump and a septic tank. Or get used to walking down to the river with a bucket and/or a roll of paper.

It would be a fantastic place to live. The darkness in this farmhouse is total on a moonless night but out there it would be positively primeval. But, you know, we’ve gone a bit soft these days. I recall shivering until the coal fire got going enough to melt the ice on the inside of the windows. Now I set the central heating to come on half an hour before I have to get up and do I want to go back? Well… no, not really.

We do save on our heating bills with the wood burning stove but would I want to go back to having to shiver out of bed and light it, then wait until it warms up the one room it’s in? The beauty of granite of course is that it warms up a lot more than that one room as the heat spreads through the stone, but that’s also the downside of granite.

When it’s cold outside, those stones are very cold. Sustained sunshine and it’s like living inside a storage heater. The granite holds the heat of the sun and lets it out all night.

Gight Castle is made of granite. No surprise, pretty much everything in this part of Scotland is made of granite. We have loads of it. The castle would have had huge fireplaces and plebs to light them before Lord Byron felt a hint of a shiver. Bringing it back to life in the modern world would be massively expensive and seriously hard work.

It would be great though, wouldn’t it? I think I could only do it with a massive rollover lottery win where I was the only winner and even then it would be a tight budget.

But then, since I never buy lottery tickets, my chances of winning are slightly less than someone who does buy them.

If you look this place up and want to visit you will see options for getting there by public transport. Do not fall for this. Two buses a day pass the entrance, one at 6 am and one at 5 pm. There are no other buses, no trains and the nearest taxi rank is in Ellon, about 12 miles away. You drive or walk here.

And if you walk, you will walk from Methlick (about 6 buses a day, it’s a teeming metropolis – it has a shop! And a tractor dealership) for about an hour along a winding unlit country road with no pavements that is used by Audi driving madmen as a race track.

If you survive to almost-there you could call in on CStM and me for a cuppa.

If you arrive in the morning you can wait in the garage.

Rest period

All the books in the backlog are published so I’m taking a break before the next ones arrive. I should work on some of mine in this hiatus too. I am also transferring the mass of accumulated crap from my old computer onto a new one but I’m planning to sort through it on the way rather than transfer everything, including the stuff I don’t need any more. I don’t want to bog this one down like I did with the last one!

I have also finally relented and bought an Android phone to replace the Windows one. So I’ll have to move all that shit too. The Windows phone still works fine but it’s way too limited in terms of what apps it can access. My refusal to buy any Apple products still stands – the time they declared their warranties void for smokers is never going to be forgotten. I don’t care if they relented, I don’t care if they ever apologise. People who believe a molecule of nicotine can get into a phone and then kill the phone repairer are not the kind of people I will ever buy expensive electronics from. Being a gullible idiot is not a good marketing strategy.

I’ll now have time to look at how crazy the world has become while I was too busy to take much notice. A quick glance suggests that some parts are getting crazier and other parts are moving towards a bit less crazy.

Austria and Italy seem to have taken the stance of the Eastern European countries and are not taking any more nonsense from the EU, nor from the mass of ungrateful bastards they have given a new home to. Sweden, too, seems to be moving towards a less tolerant attitude to rape, murder and general violence. About bloody time.

That won’t happen here in the UK as long as Jackboots May is in charge. She’s still obsessed with controlling the internet and with buggering up Brexit negotiations. It won’t happen with Crackpot Corbyn in charge either. Our best bet is, unfortunately, Jacob Rees-Mogg. I say ‘unfortunately’ even though I agree with almost everything he says (apart from the religious dogma stuff) because he almost exactly fits the character description of Chancellor Sutler in ‘V for Vendetta’. I’d vote for him, yes, but with reservations.

Anyway, there are likely to be a few weeks of rage fuelled blog posts coming up, interspersed with some model making stuff. This is because I have had some G scale stuff here for some time and swore to do nothing with it until all the current publishing was done. Last night I set up a small test track in the kitchen…

The track gauge is 45mm and the engine (I have two now) is radio controlled. This means I can use plastic track which is a hell of a lot cheaper than brass track and since there are no power lines to the track, foldback loops are possible. A loop that goes back to the same track. Live track can’t do that without serious and fiddly wiring and operation. Any track configuration is possible, there is nothing to short circuit.

Points are way cheaper in plastic too. You can get one for about £8 while a brass one is going to hit you for £30 or more.

Both engines can be run from one controller, even though they are on different frequencies. Alternatively they can be run from two controllers so there is scope for two operators. They do have sound, which can be switched off. I like the sounds but CStM says they sound like they’re haunted. That might be why I like them…

Scale is 1:22.5 so all those 1/24 scale truck models are close enough. They’ll fit on the flat wagons.

Expensive? It can be, but I’m using mostly Chinese models sold by EastCoastRotor on eBay. Supplemented with whatever I can get cheap on eBay. Sure, it’s not as good as original LGB or Piko but it’s pretty damn good anyway. I have a box car with sliding doors (no big deal, I had vans with sliding doors in N gauge) but in this scale the door latches work. Yeah. You close the door and latch it closed.

A coach is about £30, a box van around £20. This is really not much different to what you’d pay for OO gauge brand new. I had an advantage in that I sold a website (gutbugs.com) so had an unexpected source of play money but really this is not out of most people’s range. Unless you want brass track and the really high end stuff – which, if I could afford to splash out that much, I would have. This stuff is plenty good enough for me though. The doors on the coaches open and the roof unclips so you can put people inside. The upgrade possibilities are huge.

Oh I still have all the 00 gauge stuff, some of which I will sell off because I have way more than I’ll ever use now. I had started picking up a few bits of 0 gauge but I’ll sell those on because 0 gauge has now been eclipsed by G. There are quite a few bits of N gauge around including a 9F that I just can’t part with (I still have the 00 gauge 9F I bought in 1976, and there are two of them now).

I even have an 009 engine I made many years ago but never did anything with. It still works, I think, but I’d probably sell it. I’m never going to build an 009 narrow gauge railway now I have a G scale one.

Quick bit of geekery – Gauge 1 uses the same track as G scale but it’s to scale with the ‘real’ trains. G scale is bigger because it’s narrow gauge on gauge 1 track. 009 is basically 00 scale narrow gauge using N gauge (9mm) track. If you’re lost here, you need to take a course in geekery.

Okay. I have not looked at the Daily Outrage for a long time. It’s time to get that rage going again. At least until I immerse myself in the world of publishing once again. It’s a welcome break, I must admit, from a business that is 100% white and straight (I believe the new word for ‘normal’ is ‘cis’) and I fully expect to have to paint half of myself black in the name of diversity any day now. I’d go for the bottom half, if the rumours are true.

Not tonight though. It’s way too late for such madness. Instead, have a look at the ‘also available’ page for the next Leg Iron Book.

I don’t yet know what the next one will be but I know this will be the final page.