E10

I had to fill the car with petrol the other day. I also filled my 20 litre jerrycan for all the petrol driven things around here – generator, mowers and the brushcutter (AKA The Petrol Driven Bastard). The only unleaded petrol available here now is the new E10 – ten percent ethanol.

The car’s fine with it, almost all Toyotas have no issue with this silly diluent. Saving emissions? You really need a bit of chemistry education – what do you get when you burn ethanol? The generator and mower are also fairly new so I don’t expect them to have problems. My little tractor – the ride on mower – might, and the Petrol Driven Bastard (PDB) certainly will.

So I’ll have to get the ethanol out or at least reduce it for those things. It’s not difficult but it will reduce the octane rating of the remaining petrol by, as far as I can find out, 3 points. It’ll drop from 97 to 94 octane, I doubt the old engines will notice that.

I am not going to do it for the car because I’d have to deal with 50 litres at a time and the car doesn’t need it anyway. The PDB declares alcohol-free petrol essential and I expect the old engine in the tiny tractor will need it too, but I only have to deal with a couple of litres for both.

It’s very simple. Ethanol is soluble in water. Most of the hydrocarbons in petrol are not. So you mix the petrol with water (for E10 I’d say 1 part water to 9 parts petrol), shake the hell out of it and leave it overnight. You’ll have the water (and hopefully most, if not all, of the ethanol) at the bottom and the petrol at the top. Oh and… don’t be tempted to have a smoke around it. Shaking it is going to release a lot of explosive fumes. Probably best to not do it in the kitchen, eh?

This is easier if you have a garage full of lab equipment including a separating funnel and stand but you can do it in any petrol resistant container. If you can tap off from the bottom, take out all the water and a bit of the petrol just to be sure, and dispose of it without killing anything that matters to you. Do not attempt to drink the ethanol/water mix, you don’t know what else got extracted. Dump it. Ideally not into the sewage system and certainly not into your septic tank. I have a lot of weed-strewn waste ground here that would be improved by a treatment with something horrible, you have to find your own way.

No separating funnel, you could carefully pour or siphon the cleaned up petrol into another container. Make sure you only get petrol and sacrifice the last bit, don’t try to get it all or you’ll get water in there again.

This works if you only need a litre or so for an old, small engine. It’s not viable for a very old car engine. That would need a whole industrial scale fractionation column and I don’t think many people will have space for that – or sufficient training to use it without blowing themselves into mince.

This E10 is not about saving the planet. Burning ethanol produces carbon dioxide, same as pretty much every chemical compound on the planet. It’s about getting rid of old cars. They want you to drive electric dodgems that won’t work in winter or in floods.

There is a solution, if you have the equipment and knowledge. Unfortunately modern education has ensured that few people have that knowledge.

I am increasingly convinced that this has happened before.

Reading ambitions

Hi everyone, CstM here.
I hope you’re all doing well and haven’t melted away in the heat. We had almost two weeks of really great weather. Of course summer arrived before and after Leggy’s mother had gone back home. That’s how life works I guess. We did have a really lovely time with the Welsh mothership. It was sad to see her go home, but it was also nice to have the house for ourselves again.

Now I almost had to come back here and admit that I once again didn’t actually read the book of the month. I spent way too much time munching ice cream, playing Zelda breath of the wild and dazing in the sun. It was far too hot for cross stitching, so there hasn’t been any progress on that front. But after procrastinating, I finally read the book on the last day of the month. Now I had read it before, years ago, but I’d forgotten how great a book it is.
The characters are well written and I was finding myself getting invested in their development. The characters have their flaws and Carl Mørck, the main character, is battling with PTSD following a job that crippled one of his coworkers and killed another, plus going through a divorce. But it is all really well written. He feels like a real person and you can’t help but root for the cranky sod.
Although hands down my favourite character is his side-kick Assad. Where you know the back story for Carl Mørck, not much has been revealed yet about Assad. He has a wife and daughters, has strange not so legal contacts, can drive a tank and much else isn’t known about him. For me it makes it me much more invested in reading the other books in the series, because I want to know more.
Now this is the first book in so far an 8 book series, so I was thinking of being ambitious in my reading plans and keeping reading one of the Department Q books parallel with the Gloom Dog Book Club book. So there’ll technically be two books a month for the next 7 months. Hopefully you’ll keep following me deeper into the Department Q universe.

Now that brings us to the new book of the month. This month we’ll circle back to political satire/comedy and read “Look who’s back” by Timur Vermes.
I haven’t read this one before and I must admit I don’t know too much about it. It’s about Hitler coming back to life in the present time and how he reacts to life in modern society. It claims to be funny, so we’ll have to see if it can keep that promise.
We’ll also be reading book two in the Department Q series, so Disgrace (UK title) or The Absent One (US title) by Jussi Adler-Olsen. The Danish title is Fasandræberne (The pheasant killers). Side note, am I the only idiot who keeps getting pheasant and peasant mixed up? I’m still surprised NSA or MI5 didn’t show up asking questions, after I accidentally Googled “Can you keep peasants as pets”. Not my greatest moment.

I almost forgot, it is a bit of a special month. Gloom Dog is turning 13 on the 12th, so she’s looking forward to her celebrations. We’re still figuring out what to get her. She got a new bed for Christmas, so we may get her something nice to eat. A cheap cut of steak or some chicken maybe. If the weather holds up she may insist on us taking her to one of the castle parks nearby.

I hope you’ll join me on the reading adventure this month and have an amazing day.

A smile interlude

The competition has been won. Ianronj got it right, it was an ancient Goons song, I think it’s the oldest vinyl in my collection (even older than me, you’re lucky it’s not in Latin) and here it is with the B side too. I had it in my head it was the B side of the ‘Ying Tong Song‘ but no, it’s even older than that one. I’ll have to rummage in the records to find what’s on the B side of that.

The video is not of my copy, my record player is a Garrard, but it’s the record I have always played when I need a bit of cheering up. That and the Marty Feldman album, maybe a bit of Bonzo Dog Band. Could do with a bottle of that Goon stuff around the place now, it probably cures Covid too.

Anyway, Ianronj, you have mail. If you don’t see it check your spambox.

Gloom for the book club

Hi everyone, CstM here. I hope you’re all doing well.
We’re having the Welsh Mothership visiting, so life has been a bit hectic. Especially after almost two years of no sleep over visitors. You do get a bit complacent in your solitude, don’t you?

So last month we were reading The Catcher in the Rye. Honestly, I absolutely hated it. I could just not get on with it and gave up after 4 chapters, which may be a bit unfair towards the book.
Maybe it was just not the right time to read it, or maybe it’s my aversion of first person character books, but yeah I’m happy to see that book gone.
I am a strange one about first person character perspective in books. In school we read this Steen Steensen Blicher story, Late awakening (Sildig opvaagen). It’s told in the first person perspective, about this guy who is in love with a woman, but the plot twist is that for most of the story we only see his version of events, and it turns out he has a very twisted perspective of reality. After that I’ve never trusted a character narrating in first person.
I tried reading Moby Dick, but I read the fist line of “Call me Ishmael” and I was just wondering why I’d spend some 400 pages with a guy who isn’t even upfront about his name. Like can I really trust anything you try to tell me about some whale?

This month I’m going for a Danish book. Now it’s a bit cheeky, since I’ve already read this one before, but it’ll be a nice reread.
We’ll be reading Jussi Adler-Olsen’s Mercy. The first book in the Department Q series. Now I’ve seen it elsewhere as Keeper of lost causes, but there may be a British title and an American title. Just a heads up. The Danish title is Kvinden i buret which means The Woman in the Cage.
Now this is one of my favourite genre of books. I love a good detective novel and tv show.
I hope you’ll have time to join in on the reading.

How to sell the world

Many thanks for all the good wishes. Grandson is likely to make an almost complete recovery although it is going to take a very long time. One thing this family has a lot of, even if we don’t have much in the way of talent, is sheer bloodyminded persistence. And grandson has already demonstrated he has that too. I will not be surprised if he exceeds the medical expectations for his recovery.

It’s far from over but the prognosis is far better than it was.

So today we hear that tree pollen can spread covid and you’re all going to die. I know there are many out there who will believe that trees can catch covid and shed it in pollen even though we are beyond species and genus and into kingdoms now. Hay fever is now covid. No matter, I expect to have some sly fun convincing them that lettuce and tomatoes can get it too. It won’t be difficult. Oh… avocados…

They want to be scared, so I am happy to oblige.

If you wanted to take out all governments and install your One World Government, how would you do it? Just state it? Nobody is going to accept it, it’s a silly idea. Nobody wants to give up their country.

But look, the WHO have stated that vaccinating children for covid is a bad idea and should not be done. It’s true, children suffer almost nothing from covid so why vaccinate them? It’s pointless and damaging, the adverse effects from the vaccines (which are still experimental) far exceed the risk to children from the virus.

And yet Mad Wanksock and Boris the Spider keep pushing this. So do the idiots in charge of other western governments. Why? Don’t they know what they are preparing for? Perhaps they do and they have been promised they will be a part of it. They are simply useful idiots.

The WHO, all part of the WEF/UN New World Government, will let the idiots proceed until we are crying out for a saviour. Then they say ‘We told them not to do this but they kept going. Would you like us to take over?’

How many would welcome the New World Overlords at that point?

Oh, and Boris… Mad… sorry. They don’t need you any more. Except for one thing.

To take the blame.

Long live Snowball

Hi Everyone, CstM here.
I hope you’re all doing well.
So last time in the Gloom Dog Book Club we were reading Animal Farm. Now that was an emotional roller coaster. I didn’t know much about it, besides the famous quote “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others”
So I went into it thinking “Oh a book about pigs and farm animals, how bad can it be!”. Holy bejesus, that went dark really fast. The scene were Napoleon went all “Off with their heads” with the chickens. I did not see that coming! Or the part with the puppies, when they kick out snowball. Poor guy!
I really liked Snowball, maybe he just spoke to my Scandinavian mind. So I was getting really angry at Napoleon for how he treated Snowball. Although Squealer was the pig I mostly wanted to punch on the snout. He was just a massive, self serving twat, wasn’t he?
So yeah, I went into the book not really expecting much, but I ended up really enjoying it. I’m pretty happy with having read that.

Now this months book is going to be The Catcher in the Rye. Another book I just know by title but little else. I’m sure it’s been mentioned in crime dramas as a favourite amongst serial killers, but I’m not sure how much truth there is to that. The only thing I could find online, was that it was the book John Lennon’s killer was obsessed with.
So I hope you’ll join in on the reading adventure.

I was talking with David Davis, and I was mentioning how since I grew up in Denmark, I’ve mostly read the Danish and some Scandinavian classics.
Now I have a list of future picks for the Gloom Dog Book club, but I’d mostly gone for English/American literature. I want the book club to be easily accessible to everyone. Books you can just pick up from the library.
But I was wondering, if they’re available in a translated version would you guys be interested in me adding some Scandinavian books into the mix? Please let me know what you think.

We have finally been allowed to go inside people’s houses. It’s a brave new world. We actually get to socialise and not freeze our butts off. We’ve been to see the grandkids, which was really nice. They grow so big, so fast.

We’ve even had a week of pretty decent weather, so Gloom Dog and I have been spending time out in the sun, whilst the guinea pig have been roaming around in his outside enclosure. Even the garden pheasant has been more active, eating the droppings from the bird feeder and screaming the songs of his people. It could also be because I feed him bread scraps.

Leaving the Dream

Well, I have finally finished meddling with the latest Underdog Anthology. It’s now available on Amazon and on Smashwords – and unusually for these anthologies, it’s passed Smashwords’ Premium status so it’ll turn up in eBook form on a whole host of sellers. Which is good news.

Good news always has to be balanced, so Amazon are opening up a local print-on-demand site in Australia. This means that if you have books published on Amazon you have to redo the pricing and set an Australian price. And of course, you can’t automatically set it all, you have to do it for each individual book. I’ve now done that because if you don’t Amazon will set it for you and you’ll get no royalties.

So, with the anthology now complete, I will be returning to the edits on Wandra Nomad’s next book, then I still have a Gastradamus book in the queue and another coming in from Gayle Fidler. These have to be out of the way before the Hallowen anthology. I’ll also need to contact the commenter who suggested ‘The Dark Ides of March’ as a title – I owe him a free book. I should have copies by the weekend.

I have four stories in this one, and as is traditional, here’s the most recent one for free as an advert for the book. It’s pure fiction, of course. You might need to remind yourself of that in some places. It follows from ‘The MacBeth Trio‘, which was in ‘Treeskull Stories‘.

Leaving the Dream

The stern lady behind the plexiglass screen glared at Philip. “Hand on the scanner.” Her lips barely broke their sneer.

Philip knew the routine. It was the same as everywhere else. He placed his left hand on the pad and watched the embedded chip, in the flesh beside his thumb, glow that sickly green.

The woman turned to regard the screen beside her. “Philip Armitage. Status amber. You have missed three vaccinations.” She scrolled down a long list. “Boosters for measles, malaria and scrofula.”

Philip raised his eyebrows. “I thought I was up to date.”

The woman snorted. “They always do. Go into the booth and wait. When your vaccinations are updated, you will be permitted to enter.”

As Philip took his hand off the scanner, a disinfectant mist sprayed over its surface.

In the booth, with the door closed, Philip waited patiently. He wondered when those vaccinations had expired. Yesterday he was at the supermarket and they were fine, everything was showing green. He shrugged. It was worth it to visit Grandad. The ones the woman had mentioned probably weren’t expensive, so it wasn’t an issue. He’d need them updated anyway, to be sure his children didn’t get taken into care.

Presently the door opened and a white coated man came in, wearing a bubble helmet and pushing a trolley. He consulted a small tablet.

“Mister Philip Armitage. Boosters for measles, malaria and scrofula, yes?”

“That’s right.” Philip rolled up his sleeve. “I have no idea what those diseases are, you know?”

The man laughed as he filled the first syringe. “Nobody does, because we’re all vaccinated against them. We don’t have to experience them any more.” All three syringes filled, the man rolled the trolley beside Philip. “Well, as long as we are up to date. The unvaccinated can still infect us, of course.”

Philip winced at the first injection. “There can’t be any of the unvaccinated left, surely?”

The man picked up the second syringe. “Sometimes we come across those who won’t update their medications. They have fallen for the conspiracy theories. They are a danger to our safety so they have to be isolated.” He stuck the second needle into Philip’s arm. “But there is nothing to worry about. They are soon removed from the rest of us.”

“Where do they go?”

The man drew a breath. “Isolation camps, I think.” He avoided eye contact as he injected the third vaccine. “Okay, you’re up to date. Your account will be debited for these three shots.” He checked his tablet. “You should be okay for at least three months. Then you’ll be due for flu and chicken pox shots.”

Philip rolled down his sleeve. I wonder how much this will cost. It would have been rude to ask. The vaccines were for everyone’s benefit and you couldn’t put a price on that. He simply thanked the man and returned to the receptionist.

“Hand on the scanner.” She hadn’t improved her public relations skills in the last few minutes, Philip noted.

He placed his hand on the scanner. The woman checked her screen.

“Hm. You’re up to date.” She pressed a buzzer and a door opened beside the reception booth. “Go to visiting room seven. It’s been disinfected.”

“Thank you.” Philip walked through the door, rubbing his arm. These constant injections hurt and sometimes caused fever, but that just proves they are working. That’s what all the doctors say. He walked along to a door with a seven stencilled on to it, pushed it open and entered.

“You’re bloody late,” boomed the voice from the speakers.

Philip dashed to the console and reduced the volume. He smiled through the plexiglass partition. “Sorry, Grandad. I had to have some vaccines updated before they let me in.”

The old man sniffed. “Well it’s not as if I have all the time in the world. I’ll be seventy in three days.”

“I know.” Philip sat in front of the screen. “We’re planning to visit for your birthday. One at a time, of course. That’s the rules.”

His grandfather, Judas Armitage, rubbed his forehead. His hand seemed to rub across his eyes as he lowered it. He took a breath. “You won’t need to. I won’t be here.”

Philip narrowed his eyes. “Grandad? Is something happening to you? Is this why you wanted me to visit today?”

His grandad’s brow furrowed. “So which vaccines did you get today?”

Philip shrugged. “Boosters for measles, malaria and scrofula. Why?”

Grandad shook with laughter. “My parents named me well. I wonder how they knew?” He took a few deep breaths. “Okay. I’m going to tell you things that will horrify you. I’m sorry, Philip, but all this mess is partly my fault.”

“What mess?” Philip shook his head. “Are you going daft in your old age? We’re safer than we’ve ever been. I know you used to work for a vaccine company so you helped the world become this safe. What do you mean, your fault?”

“Just be quiet and listen. Right. First of all, measles vaccine has never needed a booster. Malaria has never been a problem in this part of the world, and as far as I can recall, nobody has had scrofula since the fifteenth century.” He looked into Philip’s eyes. “Scrofula vaccine was my idea.”

“I—”

“Shush. You won’t be able to tell many people what I’m going to tell you. Maybe there’s nobody left to tell. Maybe, one day, you’ll tell it to one grandchild, the one you trust the most. Just so the knowledge doesn’t die out.”

“Grandad…” Philip stared at the emergency button. Should he call a nurse?

“Don’t even bloody think about pressing that button, boy.” His grandad glared at him. “What I’m telling you is truth and you won’t hear much of that these days.”

Philip sighed and nodded. Grandad was on one of his rants. Best to just let him roll it out, better get it over with today so he’d be okay for his birthday.

Grandad rubbed his face. “Okay. When I worked on vaccines, I was the one who came up with the idea for a scrofula vaccine, among many others. One in particular will haunt me in my grave.” He lowered his head. “I had been talking with the agricultural department and they told me about Marek’s disease.”

“You found a vaccine for it?”

“No. There was already a vaccine. But it wasn’t perfect. Marek’s disease doesn’t affect humans, it’s only a problem in chickens. The vaccine didn’t stop infection but it reduced symptoms in infected birds.”

“We have some like that. They’re…”

“I’m coming to that. The thing is, the leaky vaccine for Marek’s disease led to the development of a very nasty strain of the disease. Vaccinated birds got sick but recovered. Unvaccinated birds almost always died.” Grandad leaned forward. “It meant that all birds had to be vaccinated, forever. It was a permanent income stream with no way to stop it. Do you see?”

Philip’s head swam. “But vaccines stop us getting sick, or at least make it so we don’t die. Aren’t the Pharmers trying to save us?”

“Oh hell no.” Grandad laughed. “The Pharmers are out to make money. It’s business. They don’t want to cure anything. Cured people stop buying drugs.” He took a few minutes to compose himself. “I was one of them. I saw that if we could induce a version of Marek’s disease in humans then we could sell all of them vaccines, forever. If they refused to take it, they’d die. And, with a coronavirus, we did it.”

“You gave humans a chicken disease?”

“No. We made a human disease mutate into something deadly. Using leaky vaccines. Now you have to keep taking six-monthly shots for that one or you risk a quick death from the vicious variant.” Grandad lowered his head. “I am sorry, Phil. Really. None of us saw where this was going to end up. We were only focused on profit.”

Philip pressed his hands to his head. “I don’t get it. Are you saying a vaccine made a disease worse? How is that possible?”

“It’s like this. Take a deadly disease, like say, Ebola. It kills most of the infected and it kills them pretty fast. So it doesn’t spread too far. People soon stay away from the infected area and the infection burns out.” Grandad licked his lips. “Then a pretty harmless one, like a cold. Hardly kills anyone and it’s mostly just a nuisance. Spreads like crazy because it isn’t really doing much harm. People aren’t much bothered about it.”

“Okay. I get it.” He didn’t, but Philip thought it best to play along.

Grandad raised his finger. “So you get a deadly disease like Ebola and vaccinate people, but imperfectly, so they still get it but it feels like a common cold. What do you think happens next?”

Philip shook his head.

Grandad sighed. “You have Ebola that spreads like a cold. The vaccinated survive it, the unvaccinated don’t. Just like Marek’s disease in chickens. You have to keep up your vaccinations or this thing, which you’ve been told is all over the place now because the vaccinated can still carry it, will kill you.”

An uneasy feeling twisted Philip’s guts. He wasn’t sure he understood but somewhere, deep in his subconscious, alarm bells were ringing. “Yes, but as long as we keep up the vaccinations we’re fine, right?”

“Oh sure. That’s the part we thought was pure profit. We didn’t consider politics. It wasn’t our thing.”

“Politics?”

Grandad spread his fingers on the table. “It soon escalated. You had to prove you had the coronavirus vaccine. Then you had to prove you had the flu vaccine. Then a whole shitload of other vaccines, including vaccines against things you’d never come in contact with. Then boosters, even for things that didn’t need boosters. Oh we were coining it in. It was great. Until the politicians found the loophole.”

“Um…” Philip considered the emergency button again.

“The politicians figured out how to cut back on pensions and the cost of care for the elderly. Like me. You get to a certain age, you’re no longer productive, you cost money rather than pay in taxes and they can just stop the vaccine and let you die. That is what will happen to me now. I retired at sixty-five. They gave me a few more years because I was one of those who made it possible.” He looked into Philip’s eyes. “Don’t spend money on presents for my birthday.”

“Oh come on Grandad. You don’t believe the government will kill you.”

“Governments have killed their own people since governments were invented.” Grandad leaned forward. “They have killed people who disagreed with them, or who were inconvenient, since the beginning. Sometimes millions. It is still happening. They will kill me in a few days. They will kill you when you are no longer productive. They will not be blamed. It will be blamed on a disease variant from the unvaccinated, even though it actually comes from the vaccinated.” Grandad fell silent, his chin in his chest and his lip trembling.

“Are you okay, Grandad? Should I call a nurse?” Philip leaned closer to the plexiglass screen.

“No. I mean yes. I mean I’m okay. Don’t call the nurses.” Grandad rubbed at his eyes before looking up. He stared right into Philip’s eyes. “It wasn’t all that dangerous, you know. The one we picked. I picked. The others were against it at first but I convinced them, as I did with the ridiculous scrofula vaccine.”

“I don’t understand, Grandad. How did it get so dangerous?”

Grandad bit his lip. “I thought I’d explained that. Maybe I didn’t explain it so well. I guess they stopped teaching many aspects of science years ago, so you wouldn’t figure it out for yourself.” He stretched and settled in his chair. “Most viruses mutate.” He held up his hand to forestall Philip’s response. “I know, that’s what you hear every day and it’s why you need so many vaccines.”

“Isn’t it true?”

“Yes, it is true. Some viruses mutate very fast, they can throw up many new variants in a matter of weeks. Those viruses tend to become less dangerous over time.”

“But—” Philip shook his head. “You said you made one more dangerous.”

“That’s right.” Grandad reached for the glass of water on his table and took a sip. “Normally, natural selection would favour the less dangerous variants. The really bad ones put you in bed for a few weeks, the milder ones just gave you the sniffles. So the milder one spreads very much faster and if you catch the mild one, you’re immune to the vicious one. The vicious one dies out while the mild one stays around.”

Philip closed his eyes. This made sense yet it was the opposite of what he had always been taught. Mutant viruses were always more dangerous – but here was his grandfather, with a lifetime’s knowledge of the subject, telling him the opposite.

“Are you taking this in?” Grandad tapped on the plexiglass. “There isn’t much time to make you understand. These visits are limited, we only have a few minutes more and there won’t be another one.”

“Yes, Grandad. I think so.” Philip opened his eyes. Through the screen, his grandad glowered from beneath bushy white eyebrows.

“Just remember it. You can work it out later when you have time to think.” Grandad composed himself. “Okay. What the Marek’s vaccine did, and what we did, was to create a population who were resistant to the more vicious form. They didn’t get confined to bed, they didn’t feel all that sick at all. So they spread the more vicious variant around. Among themselves it felt like a cold, but when it got into someone unvaccinated, it was deadly.”

Grandad lapsed into silence. Philip wondered if he had fallen asleep but he still sat upright. When he looked up there were tears in his eyes.

“We didn’t mean to kill so many people.” Grandad drew his sleeve across his eyes. “The first round of vaccines caused so many deaths, so many ruined lives. We couldn’t stop. It was too late. The Marek variant of our virus had started to appear and we had no choice but to vaccinate everyone. The vaccines were killing and crippling people but if we stopped, the vaccinated would kill everyone unvaccinated.” He drew a deep breath. “I don’t suppose you are understanding this entirely. I should have started telling you much sooner. Well, it can’t be helped. This is my last chance.”

Philip pressed his hands to his face. “Come on, Grandad. First you say the government is going to kill you and now you’re claiming to be a mass murderer? How can I take this in?”

Grandad shrugged. “Neither was intentional. Obviously we didn’t want people to die. Our only focus was profit from selling medications, and the dead don’t need medications.”

“But you kept going.”

“We had to.” Grandad stared into Phil’s eyes. “Don’t you see? The virus we had forced into existence was running rampant. We thought… we thought it would just need to apply to that one virus. We didn’t consider the politicians and their bosses.”

“Their bosses? I thought the politicians were in charge.”

Grandad snorted. “That would be a story for another time, if we had another time. I’m afraid it’s something you’ll have to find out yourself.” He took another sip of water. “Look. Those ‘boosters’ you just had? Sterile saline. They do nothing. They aren’t needed so why take a risk? We were promised huge profits if we played along and the business I was in has only ever cared about profits.”

Phil felt his arm, where the injections had just gone in. “So I paid for salty water?”

“Yep. And you’ve paid for a lot of it over the years. Only a few vaccines are real now. Most of the ones on that long, long list are made-up crap just to keep you in line, and keep you paying.”

“So I could just stop them all and I’d be fine?” Phil stared at his hand, still holding his arm.

Grandad snorted. “Yes, but you’d have to run. Once the system flags you up as an anti-vaxxer – and you only have to miss a booster for a few days – they will come looking for you. Either you take the booster or you can’t buy anything, can’t pay rent, can’t travel… it’s really not an easy choice to make.”

“So it’s impossible.”

Grandad bit his lip. “No. Quite a few have done it. You’d have to find them and they don’t want to be found. They aren’t in the cities…” His voice faded into silence.

Philip blinked a few times. “They live outside quarantine? How? There’s nothing but scorched earth out there.”

“That’s what you’ve been told. Is any of this sinking in? Almost everything you’ve been told has been lies. There was no global warming catastrophe. Even our Marek variant has become rare. These are not cities, they are prisons, and they are becoming increasingly isolated from each other.” Grandad wiped at his eyes again. “The unvaccinated are the only hope for humanity now. You should take your family on a day trip out of the city and just not come back. Find them. It won’t be easy, our government is hunting them so they are very elusive.”

“Grandad…” Philip shook his head in an attempt to stop it spinning. “You’re turning my world upside down. I can’t take this in. Where are these unvaccinated? Aren’t they all diseased?”

“Of course they’re not diseased. If they were, they’d have died out.” Grandad lowered his generous eyebrows to give his favourite glare again. “They are healthier than any of us. Stronger, fitter, faster. I met some of them, years ago. They invited me to join them but how could I? They would soon have found out who I was and what I had done. I couldn’t live with it.”

“You could have left? But I thought the unvaccinated were all sent into isolation.”

Grandad laughed, long and hard. “Oh yes, they go into the strictest isolation of all if they’re caught. Individual accommodation six feet underground.”

Philip furrowed his brow. “Really? Isn’t that expensive?”

Grandad rolled his eyes. “Coffins, you idiot. They are killed.”

Philip pressed his arms around his midriff. His guts felt as though they were intent on some kind of intestinal origami and he didn’t think he’d like the result. All this information. All the contradictions. He’d expected a nice chat with Grandpa and here he was with his life being torn asunder, his beliefs shredded and his trust in authority demolished. Philip threw his head back and groaned.

“It’s a lot to take in, lad.” Grandad placed his hand on the plexiglass screen. “I really should have started sooner but there never seemed to be a right time. Now you’ll know I’m telling the truth in a few days, when you get the call.”

“What call?”

“You won’t be allowed another visit. Tell your kids Great-Grandad was thinking of them. Tell your sister too, she won’t be allowed in here now either. And I’m sorry, but I’ve forced your hand on this. It’s for the best.”

“What are you talking about?” Philip wondered if Grandad was finally losing his marbles.

“These visits are monitored. Call tomorrow to try to arrange a visit. They’ll tell you I’m too ill for a visit. They’ll be watching you because they know what I’ve just told you. You will have to move, and soon, without arousing suspicion. It’s going to be a hard life for you and your family now.”

“Grandad, you’re rambling. Have you taken your meds today?”

A red light flashed on the ceiling. Grandad stared up at it. “Time’s up. Don’t do anything unusual. Wait for the call.”

“What call?” Philip tapped at the intercom but no sound came out. “Is this thing on?”

Through the screen, Grandad shook his head, slowly. Behind Grandad, a door opened and a nurse in a bubble helmet entered, pushing a wheelchair. Grandad glanced at her and looked back at Philip. He mouthed some words, slowly, then sat in the chair and allowed the nurse to wheel him out.

The lights on Grandad’s side went out. On Philip’s side, a buzzer sounded and the door behind him clicked open.

Philip stood still for a few minutes, staring into the darkened half of the room behind the plexiglass screen. His mind went over Grandad’s last mouthed syllables time and again, but they always returned the same answer.

‘The call that tells you I’ve died’.

Philip left the room in a daze. His life was about to change in ways he could not even conceive, and he had to admit, a part of him welcomed it.

Reading for the soul

Hi everyone, CstM here.
So can we all agree that lockdown is starting to suck massive balls? I’m here panicking, trying to write a blog post, wondering how to act human, since the only socialisation I’ve had outside family and friends is the occasional visit to the pharmacy.

I’ve taken up bird watching. Or a more fitting description, I’ve started semi stalking the local pheasant and his wife. They come to the garden every day to eat the droppings from the bird feeder. We did have a quite fun sighting of a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Well I was there starring into the soul of this poor bird, wondering what the heck kind of bird he was and really, the bird just wanted a bit of privacy so he could eat.

Although it hasn’t all been bad. I’ve started and finished quite a few cross stitching projects and I’ve started a wall of cross stitch.

Well I was talking with Roob and Cade, over from Library of Libraries, and we were talking about how we’d like to read some more. I know I have a big list of books I’d like to read, but I’ve really fallen behind on my reading these past few years.
In an attempt to start reading more and just enjoy books with friends, we came up with the idea of starting a book club.

So I hereby introduce you all to Gloom Dog Book club.
The idea so far is that we’ll read one book a month. I’ll get on here and introduce the book and if you feel like reading along with us, that would be grand.
I have a whole list of upcoming book ideas, but if you have any suggestions feel free to drop it in the comments below.

The first book we’ll read is Animal Farm by George Orwell.

I hope you’ll consider joining us on our reading adventure.
Happy reading!

Final Poll

Okay. Two titles came close, but since Heyjude added three options, ‘The Dark Ides of March’ only beat ‘The April Halloween’ by one third of a vote. So we’ll have a final vote. I’ll run this for 24 hours (until 01:30 BST, 21st April (we’re on summer time in the UK)) so it has to be quick.

All the authors have responded to edits, I have begun assembling the book and just need a final title so I can send out contracts. Those who opted for cash get paid right away, those who prefer books won’t have to wait long now.

In the event the poll doesn’t show up (I haven’t tried this before), just put your preference in the comments.

  1. The April Halloween……………..2 votes
  2. The Dark Ides of March……….12 votes

It’s nearly over. Then I’ll get back to my usual ramblings while I work on the next in line. I promised that the originator of the winning title would get a free book but since this was so close, I think both should get one. So you’re no longer deciding who gets a free book, just which title you’d prefer.

UPDATE: Poll is finished.

  1. The April Halloween……………..2 votes
  2. The Dark Ides of March……….12 votes

That’s pretty conclusive. The Dark Ides of March it is. I’ll be in touch when the book is published. Shouldn’t be long now.

The Cult of Covid

I have a seriously long post in the draft pile. It wanders around a lot, it’s about how everything is a cult now and you’re either in it or you’re a heretic. There’s no middle ground. Could end up as quite an essay if I can untangle it. So here’s a quickie*. Book info first, you can skip the next couple of paragraphs if you’re not interested in that.

*Definitions of ‘quickie’ are open to interpretation here

Mark Ellott’s novel ‘Ransom‘ now has a new cover. It was one of the first to be published on Leg Iron Books and I was never happy with my first attempts at that cover. Mark now has an actual professional involved and the cover is far, far better.

There is also the next book from Wandra Nomad in edits and the 14th Underdog Anthology under way and there’s one from Gastradamus… and more. One of the reasons I’ve been a bit out of touch lately.

Another is Twitter. A few days ago I put up a very simple tweet that basically said ‘I’m a retired microbiologist and I’m not having the Covid vaccine’. Well, that started a war of sorts and my follower count increased by over 2000 overnight. I’m still tracking them down to follow back. It could take a while, apparently there is a limit to how many you can follow in a day. So I started a war and raised an army in 24 hours, entirely by accident. Well, these things happen.

Should I start a cult? I don’t think so. I don’t want to be a leader, I don’t want people to do as I tell them. I want them to think for themselves. And I don’t want to be famous. I’d quite like to be rich, but I really don’t want fame. I have neither so I guess I’m halfway to my goal.

I have noticed a distinct polarization between the vaxxed and unvaxxed. To the extent that I, who has taken so many vaccines you could rip my arm off like a stamp, am now branded ‘antivaxxer’ because I don’t want to take part in an experiment.

“Oh but polio, TB, tetanus, so many things are under control because of vaccines, this is just one more.” No it isn’t. No mRNA vaccine has ever been approved for use, no mRNA vaccine has ever been widely used in humans. This is entirely new and it’s also entirely experimental.

Incidentally, none of the Covid vaccines have formal approval either, and none have completed safety trials. They are released under emergency licence only. End the emergency and they can’t sell any more vaccines. These vaccines have not passed experimental trials. This is the experiment. It’s you.

Which is the real reason they’ve just extended the ’emergency’ for another six months, and why they’ll extend it again afterwards. I don’t think these vaccines will ever get full approval so the government (several of whom have big financial stakes in all this) will have to keep lockdowns going forever. Booster shots are planned for October, they’ll need to extend the ’emergency’ for another six months so they can baptise more of the cult with the Holy Syringe of God Knows What.

I see this ending in one of two ways. Politicians in the stocks, or… Panoptica.

It’s already falling apart. Mad Hancock was challenged in parliament on how many his vaccines had killed or seriously disabled and his answer was… bluster. Bozza’s crap about a ‘third wave’ was just to keep everyone scared so they’d take the vaccine. It is emerging that the threat of ‘covid passports’ is to get the young vaccinated so they can go to the pub. Well, vaccinations were supposed to let you travel, right? Summer holidays are banned. You took the injection but you’re going nowhere. Do you really think you’ll be going to the pub? You really think they’ll keep their side of the bargain? After this last year, you still believe that? Really?

Oh you’re going to get a Covid passport? That conspiracy theory that multiple government ministers, including the Prime Monster, repeatedly told us was never going to happen? Well, now it’s going into a trial phase. Don’t have one, you can’t go to the pub.

I don’t give a foetid dingo’s kidney. I, along with everyone else who likes a smoke with a drink, was chucked out of pubs in 2006 (Scotland) and 2007 (England and Wales). Why would I care about being excluded from somewhere I was excluded from fifteen years ago? How much further excluded can I get?

As for shops, screw them. If they want to restrict their sales that’s their business. I can get everything online, the last year has taught me that, and delivery charges are far lower than the cost of petrol to go there myself. You want to stop deliveries? I live on a farm. I have a massive garden. I can grow my own food and keep chickens, and hunt rabbits, deer, pheasant and partridge through the bloody living room window. Seriously. I don’t need to leave the house. They come to the garden. Rabbits have actually burrowed into the lawn again this year. I have space to keep a cow for milk and I know how to pasteurise. It’s not hard.

A few years ago I lived in a top floor flat with four rooms. It was a very nice flat but I’m glad I wasn’t in there when all this crap arrived. I might have eaten the neighbours by now. So yes, I do understand how all this impacts those who aren’t as lucky as me or who didn’t prepare. Cut off my water and sewage? Pah. Water comes from a well and sewage goes into a septic tank in the woods. I’m not a bear but still I shit in the woods, if only by proxy through a pipe. The rhubarb in the soakaway is doing very well too. Cut off my heating? I have a fire and a massive supply of wood. Cut off my electricity? I have a generator.

If it came right down to it, I could manage with little to no electricity. Sure, the central heating won’t work and neither will the ovens, The gas hob is powered by bottled propane but if that failed, one of the fireplaces still has the swing-out pot holder. I could party like it’s 1699.

But I have descended into rant. Deep breaths, a quick swig of the Juice of Calm (yes, it looks and smells and tastes like whisky but it’s the Juice of Calm, just trust me on this) and we’re back to as normal as it ever gets.

Okay. There is currently a container ship stuck sideways in the Suez canal. Previous tracking of that ship’s course suggests the entire crew had used up their rum ration for the year. This has now been touted as ‘a worldwide toilet paper shortage’. Here we go again. Yes, you’re all going to die but you’ll get to the afterlife with a clean arse. China is not the only source of bum hygeine. We make this in the UK too. There is also the old-days version of a peg on a string hiolding cut up squares of newspaper… Any of them will do, although they are all so full of shit already they might not have room for more.

There are theories that it was a deliberate blockage and given the insanity of governments now, I can see where that comes from but it looks to me like something a drunk crew did. An ‘oh bugger’ moment. We’ve all had them.

Anyway, it doesn’t really matter. You played a good game boy, but the game is over. It’s the old witch game now. You are witch or witchhunter, there is no neutral. You belong to the cult or you ae a heretic and must die. Given that choice and surrounded by the cult, are you braver than a tenth century peasant faced with the same choice? Do you really believe those people were all that different?

No, it’s the same. The Mob is active once again against the witches, except this time the witches are those who don’t believe in magic. It works either way. You are split between believers and heretics in so many things now. Covid and vaccines are only the new game. It’s a game we have played from the beginning and still hardly anyone knows the rules. It will not end until you see it.

Fear the witch, for it is you.

I beleive I might have mentioned this before…