January 8th 2021: We have relocated to beautiful Herefordshire, but as a result, have been disconnected from broadband for over a month. Now back up and running!
for National Poetry Day October 1st, 2020
The Hollow Politicians
Thirty-two million pounds for the colonel
They are the hollow men
They are the stuffed men
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Spinning the figures
With accompanying platitudes
As they work day and night to battle the enemy
Chloroquine and disinfectant paralyse reason.
Gesture without motion.
Ramping up the game-changer:
Spikes, peaks and the R,
Do they regret
The price of procrastination?
Prioritising motivational headlines?
Believing they did the right thing at the right time?
Silent invisible droplets spread.
Eyes over masked faces.
We fear to meet
The exhausted eyes of the dedicated
On survival’s treadmill,
While millions stay at home to save lives
Let me be no nearer
Than two metres,
The etiquette of social distancing
Greased by essential oils.
On the blame-game playlist.
Test, track and trace overwhelmed.
Herds not immune.
Life in lockdown:
Rainbows in windows
Is the new normal.
You are in a virtual queue.
No slots for you.
No flour or sanitiser.
Empty toilet roll shelves
Sing the anthem of fear:
Pathetic gestures of non-compliance,
While they claim they did the right things at the right time.
The pandemic profiteer
Trades through inflated contactless payments.
Picking on the unprecedented
While empty nightingales
Now includes coughing.
Were you in the right place at the right time?
Who will win
The most urgent research race
In living history?
Guided by science
From the ethical.
Exercise in public yards and small back gardens:
Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At ten o’clock in the morning.
Between the podium
And the frontline,
Between bookshelf platitudes
And re-used PPE,
Falls the shadow.
Sing ring a ring of roses
While we wash our hands
And we all fall down,
Clicking the app.
Padlocked theme park gates,
Deserted drive-through testing,
‘We did the right
Things at the right
Is this the way the world ends
Is this the way the world ends
Is this the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper?
Chris Malone, May 2020
Inspired by ‘The Hollow Men’, T S Eliot, 1925
22nd September 2020: My review of Claire Askew’s ‘All the Hidden Truths’
15th September 2020: Latest feedback on ‘Zade’ from a secondary headteacher:
‘As a Headteacher with comprehensive values, I particularly enjoyed the premise. Your mischievous development of academisation and selection was an intriguing concept.
It beggars belief to see the hysteria over the summer with some people trying to blame an algorithm for contributing to educational disadvantage. A shame that nobody mused whether there might be a link between the very existence of private and selective education and endemic educational disadvantage!
Scintillation? As though the wealthy need additional help to preserve the status quo.
We live in interesting times and increasingly different groups are starting to find their voice. It is a difficult balancing act trying to educate young people (and their parents) of the need to comply with rules for the greater good, yet legitimately challenge when things are unfair. That is as true in a Covid world as the situation facing Zade. The timing of your publication couldn’t be better with the way your message resonates.
I particularly hope your comments in the postscript come to fruition: “Despite unremitting technological advance, there emerged a collective and heart-felt public commitment to preserving the integrity of childhood, starting with increased investment in the youngest children …The teaching profession slowly recovered and started to gain renewed respect from politicians and officials, who eased their fervour to control matters, delegating more decisions to the experts.”’
7th September 2020 Visit to The Hill End Centre, ‘a place of possibilities’ to thank Selby Dickinson, Centre Director, for his involvement in #stoptheglitch.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
We all wish to unplug at times. Notifications from Office, Slack, or social media – plus texts — can quickly overwhelm. The key to our comfort, though, is deciding when to disengage and for how long. A short interruption in service is enough to snap us back to the realization that most of us are unprepared to live without the digital infrastructure supporting our phones, lights, hot water, and TV. The more imaginative among us might also wonder how secure our bank accounts and investments really are.
Novelist Chris Malone has been thinking a lot about this and presents such a scenario in her latest book, #StopTheGlitch. The antagonists are a rogue band of cyber terrorists who send an electronic pulse that crashes the power grid, halts transportation, and turns now-useless phones into sirens that scream until they’re turned off. More critically, it opens the gates to savings and stocks. This second “Glitch” follows a shorter-lived one at the end of the pandemic we’re living through now. The attackers intend to redistribute wealth and stop capitalism’s degradation of the environment. These goals, broadly speaking, align with those of the protagonist, an idealistic and independent woman named Robin. She prefers reading a (paper) book to watching TV, tolerates roughing it in a sleeping bag, and shares her daily breakfast with homeless people.
Author Malone fleshes out her main character with the moral dilemma of a privileged upbringing and, upon her father’s death, a massive inheritance. With this windfall, Robin intends to buy and revive a remote camp in Wales, Caernef, that until recently welcomed kids to a safe, off-the-grid experience eating farm fresh food and learning about the natural world. It’s the perfect place for Robin to put her vision into action, and introduces her to refugees — two parents and a toddler — who’ve been hiding in one of the buildings. After an awkward meeting, the family invites Robin to a humble meal lit by candles. Here, the parents share their ordeal of escaping war-torn Syria before finally achieving asylum in the UK. This compelling and detailed chapter must have come from personal accounts, and I applaud Malone for researching the stories of those fleeing war. It gave me a better insight and enhanced the story by foreshadowing Robin’s own journey fleeing chaos after the second Glitch.
Caernef becomes a beacon of hope when Robin is stranded in Oxford and must hike more than a hundred miles with a cobbled-together band of companions. The group sticks to out-of-the-way paths to avoid gangs of opportunists who feel free to loot and commit violence. Along the way the travellers learn more about the cyber terrorists’ conspiracy, and the government’s knowledge of- and efforts to prevent – the second Glitch.
Malone’s book is more than entertaining. It will heighten your awareness of how vulnerable our civilization has become, and of our own potential for good or evil when the lights go out. I’m not saying I’d welcome such a Glitch. But if it comes, I’ll keep Malone’s novel (in paperback) close by for inspiration and maybe guidance.
‘I really enjoyed #stoptheglitch. The idea of cyber-terrorism and the internet ‘going down’ is a completely believable set-up, and the notion of having to go back a step, to once again need to value low-tech, manual and/or rural skills, is oddly appealing.
I liked the way #stoptheglitch referred to the pandemic as being in the recent past, as part of a collective memory but not an over-dominant one. The vaguely sinister lurking background presence of the virus added authenticity to the very real idea of internet vulnerability, and the subtle fear of a second wave/glitch, especially in conjunction with the way China (CCP) allegedly used hundreds of thousands of fake Twitter accounts to bring about Covid-19 global lockdown, as a catalyst for global economic failure and resultant reliance on China for supplies and manufacture. A comparable spirit of unintended consequence and chains of unexpected effects hangs in the air of #stoptheglitch.
The setting, the architecture and the sense of place is especially pleasing, particularly the presence of a folly with a stack of actual cash in the roof! The camp being off-grid is satisfyingly both old and new tech, although the notion that it was a ‘camp’, rather than (say) a farm, gave it a faint hint of Animal Farm and communism, more as a place for ‘others’ to visit rather than a place deeply embedded in the local rural community.
There is a clever use of moral dilemma and hypocrisy attached to the coupling of a significant inheritance with the theoretically worthy environmental and social aims of the camp. The narrator it at pains to point out the bicycle, the delivery job, the giving of food to homeless people, the accommodation of refugees and so on, as if these actions, and especially the mentioning of them, may somehow offset the inheritance. This seems comparable to the almost priggish self-righteousness of people carbon-offsetting their air travel while not actually giving up their air travel. It is appealing that the narrator is prepared to admit to being slightly preachy. It would have been easy to have made the person a bit more modest about their worthy world views (and actions, to be fair), but that would have been far less entertaining and a great deal more irritating, so the tone of that ‘moral dissonance’ was pitched just right to engender genuine sympathy with the narrator and the collective dilemmas and paradoxes thrown up by life.
Some of the characters seemed slightly two-dimensional, and the characters of both original father and the family house seemed unclear, bit of a mish-mash of old and new money, for instance an old house with parkland and lodges etc but in a millionaires’ row kind of place was slightly puzzling. I imagined it as an elegant old country house gobbled up by home counties sprawl, but the father and the ex-husband somehow didn’t ring true. But none of this mattered at all, since the point of all this was really to introduce and explain the source of the inheritance.
#stoptheglitch is an enjoyable, believable and slightly alarming romp into the near-future unknowns of cyber-terrorism, with enough technological authenticity to be disconcerting, enough social conscience to be thought-provoking and enough of the far-fetched to be hugely entertaining.
I hope #stoptheglitch reaches a wide readership and gives many people the pleasure and fun it has given me.’
24th August 2020: First pre-publication review of #stoptheglitch, from Dan Klefstad on goodreads today: https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/20260868-review-of-stoptheglitch
7th July 2020: Beta readers have now provided their feedback on #stoptheglitch. What is a beta reader? They read manuscripts before publication of the book, providing the author with feedback from the reader’s point of view. Here’s a flavour: ‘Thoroughly enjoyed reading this from beginning to end. Very current, mixed with a bit of conspiracy, politics and suspense.’ ‘The style of writing packs a punch! Every word counts! The story is fast moving except, I think, for one chapter …’ Now addressed!
29th June: Banbury Guardian article
‘What a lovely surprise arrival at school today! @CMoiraM I look forward to reading your book! Thank you so much! Looks like an awesome read!’
26th June 2020, Beautiful new film about the Hill End Centre, Oxford
‘Zade’ on the summer solstice
June 2020 publication announced by Burton Mayers Books
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