To make that clear, 29,089,259 people did not vote to leave the EU. How is that the “will of the people”?
What about those who were excluded from the electorate but will be eligible to vote by the time the full implications are understood and the details of whatever deal is reached at the end of the negotiations between the UK government and the other 27 nations of the EU?
I am well aware that, in the UK, we almost always have governments that do not have the express support of a majority of the electorate or even of those eligible to participate in a general election. I have always deplored that fact and spent a good deal of time and energy over the years campaigning for proportional representation. So it is perfectly consistent for me to deny the oft repeated claim that 1.3 million is a clear enough majority and that I should “get over it” and accept the result.
There is, however, a great deal of difference between the question “which of these individuals would you like to represent you in Parliament for the next five years” and “do you agree that we should overthrow 43 years of co-operation with our neighbours and return to making our own way in the world?” Not that the question was framed with quite such clarity, but that is the import of the decision. It seals our fate, not for the next five years, but for a generation. And most of the generation that will be affected had no say.
On Thursday’s “Question Time” Nigel Farage insisted that the government’s own economic forecasts are wrong, that countries like China, India and Brazil are queuing up to do deals with the UK. Ignoring the first claim, which simply highlights the man’s contempt for the civil service, let’s examine the second, which has also been asserted by Liam Fox in the past.
The truth is, as the prime minister was keen to point out, on her recent trip to China, we already have trade agreements in place with most of these nations, under the auspices of the EU. Of course they want to trade with such a large bloc with it’s population of close on half a billion. When we leave the EU, not only will we have a less advantageous trading arrangement with that bloc, but those existing trade agreements with other nations will lapse and have to be re-negotiated.
If they are indeed “queuing up” to do deals with the UK it is because they can see we will be an easy touch, desperate to sign up to anything, any relaxation of consumer protection regulations, in order to get a deal, any deal. And this is not because they are desperate to purchase goods and services produced by British workers, but because they want to offload their own surpluses on unsuspecting British consumers.
How will imports of Brazilian beef help British agriculture, which by then may well be reeling at the loss of support from the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy?
An often repeated response from Bexiters, when it is pointed out that almost half our trade is presently with the EU, is that we import more from the other 27 than we export to them; there is a deficit.
But we are not obliged to import so many German cars, Spanish vegetables and French wines – or, come to that, so much dairy produce from Ireland. That is the true will of the people, exercising their right of choice to purchase what they obviously see as offering good value for money.
If you are part of the 17 million minority that wants to leave the Single Market and the Customs Union should you not be boycotting those goods already? It might help you to gain a better understanding of what you are rejecting if you did.
Another Brexit supporting politician, Daniel Hannan MEP, recently told the BBC that leaving the EU would benefit the poorest Britons because they would have access to cheap food. People like Farage, Fox and Hannan want you, and the 29 million who did not vote to leave, to introduce hormone injected beef from cattle fed on antibiotics and chicken washed in chlorine into your diet. How is this of benefit to anyone except the importers? It will impoverish our farmers and threaten the health of ordinary people, placing even greater pressure on the NHS.
It is not too late. It’s time to wake up to what awaits us after March 2019. Exiting from Brexit might leave a few politicians looking foolish, but what’s not to like about that? It’s time to respect the will of the many, not the few.
If you read yesterday’s post about making my books available on other platforms as well as Kindle and then clicked through to my publications page you may have wondered why Honest Hearts was not included. Honest Hearts was my first novel. Before uploading it to Draft2Digital I read it through and decided that there is much room for improvement. So until those improvements are made I shall not be ‘going wide’ with it. That may take a little while as I also want to finish The Poor Law Inspector.
Meanwhile, here is a short extract. It is a bit of back story that explains how the female protagonist came under the evil influence of a dodgy character of Italian descent. I present it here exactly as I wrote it back in 2011 and I’m offering it as my entry to Stevie Turner’s March short story contest. I shall call it “Byrne Terrace”.
The new buildings that sprang up to accommodate the massive influx of humanity flocking to the new conurbations of North America during the second half of the nineteenth century were often of poor quality construction. Many were made of timber. So it should be no surprise that there were so many devastating fires during that period.
The wealthy – professional people, landlords and factory owners – could afford to take out insurance against such an eventuality. The poor could not. So when a building was consumed by fire the owners of the affected buildings could easily build anew, usually using better quality materials. The tenants however lost their few belongings and, being uninsured, were frequently left with little more than the clothes they were wearing. These, though, were the fortunate ones for many others lost their lives.
But life for everyone was precarious in these years. Professionals, factory owners and landlords would, like as not, be in hock to a bank or money lender. In the event of a fire or other disaster it would be the bank or money lender who would benefit. It was the bank or money lender therefore that acquired the new building paid for by the insurance money.
Some of the wealthy adopted habits not entirely conducive to retaining, let alone expanding their wealth. On the shore of Coney Island for example frequent horse races were run and many people who ought to have known better lost fortunes betting on the outcome of these races. Others became slaves to the god alcohol. Combining the two was a recipe for disaster.
It certainly was in the case of Joseph Byrne. Since arriving in North America Joe had worked hard, saved diligently and invested his savings in land on which he built, with his own hard labour and that of fellow Irishmen, houses that were of a generally higher standard than most of those that he watched being crudely assembled alongside. Once his houses were completed he was able, because of their superior quality, to lease them to some of the more discerning of tenants. In this way he was able to ensure that his wife Mary and the daughter they eventually produced enjoyed relatively comfortable lives.
Of all the houses that Joseph built the most solid and attractive was the one that he and his small family inhabited. Its rooms were larger than any in his tenanted houses. It was furnished with cabinets and chaises of a quality that would normally be found only in the homes of much wealthier individuals.
All of this was achieved in fewer than two decades of hard work and Mary was naturally proud of her husband’s achievements and as grateful for the beautiful and talented daughter he had given her as for the many examples of craftsmanship and artistry with which he had filled their home. Now that Joe’s thick wavy hair was turning grey and his jowls coming to resemble those of an overfed turkey she had begun to hope that he would slow down. It would be nice, she thought, to be able to spend more time together; to have him beside her, as well as their daughter, when they took a stroll along the boardwalk; to accompany him to the races and maybe have a small flutter on a horse.
Had Mary been aware that Joe was already attending the races on a regular basis and having much more than a “small flutter” on every occasion she would have had cause for concern. To be fair, Joe’s judgement of horseflesh, like his judgement of quality in building and in interior furnishings, had been impeccable at the start. Indeed, not a few of the fine things in Joe and Mary’s home had been purchased with the proceeds from a well placed bet.
As time went on, though, Joe began to make some reckless wagers. Even the best of tipsters will sometimes fail to produce an accurate forecast of the outcome of a race. Perhaps the rider is out of sorts on the day. Perhaps a sudden fall of rain makes the sand softer than anticipated thereby favouring a different horse. And it is never beyond the bounds of possibility that behind the scene someone is determined to ensure a particular outcome and has the power to guarantee that such outcome ensues. No amount of expertise in the attributes of horse or rider can counter such things.
The sensible punter puts such losses behind him and determines either never to bet again or, at the very least, to keep his bets within affordable limits. The man who is confident of his ability on the other hand will conclude that the best way to cover his losses is to place a bigger bet on the next prospect. It is at this point that the sensible person will begin to question the judgement of the other. The over-confident person never questions his own judgement. And if he is partial to a drop of the best Irish whiskey that money can buy his judgement can quickly become impaired to a dangerous degree.
It didn’t take Joe very long to get himself into a position where he needed to mortgage his tenanted houses in order to pay off his gambling debts. And it was not very long after that when he realised that he still was not winning – or at any rate not with the frequency necessary to meet payments on the mortgage. It was at this stage that his better judgement departed entirely. He determined that, as the houses were insured, if they were to be consumed by fire the mortgage would be paid off and he would be off the hook. Never mind that what he was planning was a crime. Never mind that it would leave him with no source of income. The bank would be off his back.
Still, it was a high risk strategy, only to be followed in extremis. One last bet on a certainty would also get him out of trouble. Only if that failed would he adopt the strategy that he had come to refer to as the final solution.
The wager on which he decided to stake everything – including his home and everything in it – was indeed an absolute certainty. Of course, as has been stated above, there is no such thing. The weather changes; riders have off days. So too do horses. Nevertheless, it was neither of these things that was to be the end of Joe Byrne and his small property empire.
Joe would never know it but the man with whom he placed at stake his only remaining asset was also the man who knew the outcome of the race; knew it because, as the owner of the horse and, in all but name, its rider, he had decreed that it would be so. Leonardo Carlucio had watched as Joe Byrne had worked to build his successful business. Consumed with envy Leonardo had nevertheless bided his time. He had watched as Joe’s gambling addiction had taken hold. He had encouraged Joe to cover his losses with ever larger stakes; had accompanied Joe as the latter sought solace in drink.
Joe was pleased to have found such a sympathetic ear into which to pour forth his concerns for his future and that of his wife and daughter. After all, he could hardly discuss the plight into which his business had fallen with them. That would have meant admitting to his weakness and would have destroyed their happiness. Of course, if his plans went awry their happiness would be destroyed in any case. But that would not happen. His new Italian friend had assured him that the bet he was about to make was as safe as any he had ever made. And Joe trusted Leonardo; would trust him with his life.
Leonardo certainly did know the bet was safe. But not in the way that Joe thought. Joe had no way of knowing that the person with whom he was placing the bet was actually in the employ of Leonardo and that Leonardo would be the beneficiary were the horse, by some freak of fate, not to win the race. Nor could Joe have known that there was no freak of fate involved; that, in fact, it was all pre-arranged so as to deliver Joe’s home, and with it his wife and daughter, into Leonardo’s hands.
As he watched the horse, on which he had staked everything, stumble and fall Joe Byrne wept. His life was surely over. His dearest friend Leonardo was beside him and tried to console him but it was impossible. He extricated himself from Leonardo’s embrace and, feet dragging, left the boardwalk. Entering the centre house in the block of five that he had built with such care barely a decade ago, he retrieved the tin of kerosene that he had stashed under the stairs earlier in the day.
He was certain that the houses would be empty at this time but, to be absolutely sure, he went to the front door of every apartment and checked that it was unoccupied. His judgement may have departed but he retained enough humanity to not wish to be responsible for the death of any of his tenants. All he wanted to do was to ensure that Mary and Maeve were not going to be held responsible for the mortgages on these properties. Rather, he aimed to ensure that they received a lump sum from the residue of the insurance payout after the mortgage had been repaid. This, he fervently hoped, would be sufficient to save them from destitution.
After he had placed a kerosene soaked rag under each basement floor he set a slow fuse to burn in the centre property. Then he walked away from the block. Crossing the boardwalk he strode across the sand so recently disturbed by the hooves of race horses. The seaward side of the track was already being eradicated by the incoming tide. Ignoring the waves washing over his feet and soaking the heavy corduroy of his trousers he continued walking. He did not hesitate as the icy water reached his paunch. He uttered a brief gasp as a wave several inches higher than its predecessor splashed his jaw and he tasted salt. But he didn’t stop. He had never learned to swim. If he had it would have made little difference. The weight of his wet clothes dragged him under and there was no longer any visible evidence of his existence. No neat pile of clothes on the beach. Nor had anyone seen him walk to his death. Everyone within sight was distracted by the fire raging in the row of dwellings that Mary liked to think of as Byrne terrace. It would be a long time before Mary came to appreciate the irony in the sound of those two words.
Those of us who have little hope of ever getting a contract with a traditional publisher have two viable alternatives. There is, of course, the route of ‘vanity publishing’ in which you are offered a contract that requires you to shell out large sums in order to have your book published. That is something to be avoided unless you have deep pockets and little faith in the value of your work. There is, too, the option of engaging a local printer and launching the book in your home town. I know several people who have done that with considerable success. It is especially appropriate if your book has local interest but limited appeal in the wider market.
If, however, you want your work to be made available to a world wide readership, the options are Amazon exclusivity or something that has come to be known throughout the independent publishing community as ‘going wide’.
Amazon currently has abut 70% of the market for digital books. Its Kindle, in its various versions, is the most popular of all e-readers. It is possible to publish with Amazon without having an exclusivity clause, but the big advantage of KDP Select, the exclusive option, is that your book is available free to anyone who subscribes to Amazon’s ‘Unlimited’ reader programme which for a $9.99 monthly fee (plus local taxes), enables a reader to download up to 10 books. If you want more you have to return one for each new one you choose. Writers are rewarded according to the number of pages read. There are other advantages, like the ability to offer discounts or free books for a few days every 3 months. And that’s not really an advantage at all, since outside of KDP Select you can vary your price whenever you want by as much as you deem appropriate.
But what about the other 30% of the market? The market served by Apple, Barnes & Noble and four or five other distributors of digital books? What about people who do not own a Kindle but are able to read books on their tablet or one of the other e-reading devices like the Nook? To make your book available to those people it is necessary to upload your book to an alternative platform.
There are several, none of which requires you to remove your book from Amazon’s standard publishing programme, though, of course, Amazon does not permit you to publish anywhere else whilst you are in its exclusive ‘Select’ plan. Smashwords is one of the oldest, and I published my first book there, along with most others, before I published with Amazon. More recently I tried the Amazon exclusive option and archived my titles at Smashwords.
After having Summer Day there for 9 months and A Purgatorry of Misery for 3, I have decided to ‘go wide’ once again. This time with a platform called Draft2Digital. This gives me access to half a dozen or more potential outlets, including Apple and subscription services like Scribd. Draft2Digital has a sister site, Books2Read, which shows readers all the different channels where a book is available.
Here are the Books2Read links for the 4 books of mine currently available there.
The important thing is that you don’t have to have a Kindle to read these books digitally. You can read them on your iPad or other tablet, or, if you have one, your Nook, Kobo or other e-reader. They are priced the same as at Amazon, but watch this space because I’m going to have some special offers later this month to celebrate going wide.
And for those of you who prefer the look, feel and smell of paper, all 4 are available in print via Amazon’s Creatspace. You will find more information about all my books, with a full set of book links, on my Publications page.
Back in November I posted about coming third in Dan Alatorre’s “Word Weaver” contest with the theme of “Relationships”. The short listed stories are going to be published in an anthology soon. But we are stuck for a title. Feel free to offer your suggestions in the comments either here or on Dan’s original blog post.
It had been cold all week up to now. A brutal North Easterly wind scoured the coast in sub-zero temperatures under leaden skies. I was working in Grimsby, awaiting the board’s approval of my permanent posting, still travelling back to Coventry at the weekends. That Thursday morning, St. Valentine’s Day 1979, was no different to any other that week: still bitterly cold as I left the guest house at 8am for the twenty minute drive to work. As I crossed over the traffic lights where Grimsby Road, Cleethorpes, transforms itself into Cleethorpes Road, Grimsby, I felt the wind rock the car and saw the first flurries of snow caught in the headlights’ glow.
By the time I reached the next set of lights, at the junction with Freeman Street and Fishdock Road, the traffic seemed to be at a standstill, nothing moving when the lights changed. The snow was still fine and light, though driven by that bitter wind. There was now a light dusting of white powder on the road being picked up and swirled around by the wind, mingling with the steam from vehicle exhaust pipes.
Eventually the traffic in front of me began to move forward slowly. I switched into the right-hand lane by the derelict Alexandra Theatre, ready to turn right onto the swing bridge. As I made the turn into the wind, the snow began to plaster the windscreen and I turned on the wipers. Beyond the swing bridge, the road climbs briefly. It was here that I discovered the cause of the hold up. Heavy vehicles were struggling to negotiate the incline, their rear wheels spinning, causing them to snake slowly forwards.
Beyond the dock estate the road to the plant runs parallel to the coast, about half a mile inland. That half mile consists of a flat cultivated field – or it did then. The field is separated from the road by a low hedge and a ditch. Here I was to learn the meaning of the expression ‘white out’. The road, the sky, the field, were all white. Snow flakes swirled around the car. The only guide I had, as I covered the mile or so of straight road to the plant entrance, was the red glow from the rear lights of the car in front of me. Its driver, like me, an employee arriving later than usual to work that morning.
My morning routine, having arrived in the office, was to take a walk around the various projects for which I had responsibility. This necessitated a quarter mile walk outside. I donned waterproof over-trousers, wellingtons and a hooded waterproof, carrying the hard hat and goggles I would be obliged to wear inside the plant. Snow stung my face and I turned my head to the side so that the hood took the brunt of the storm’s blast. Where the internal factory road turned a corner between two buildings set at an angle to each other, snow was piling into a huge drift.
By noon I was back in the office, nursing a mug of hot tea. In the meeting room all eight of us Engineers were gathered around the conference table to hear the Chief Engineer explain that the road leading to the plant was completely blocked, the narrow channel between low hedges creating the perfect repository for every flake of snow the wind scoured from the farmer’s field. Nothing could get in or out of the plant. No deliveries, no collections.
Of greater importance was the fact that a change of shifts was due at 3pm. The road needed to be open, both to enable the employees due to arrive to do so, and to ensure those leaving were able to do so safely.
The plant generated its own steam and electrical power by means of a bank of nine boiler and generator sets, 4 coal powered, 5 oil fired. The company employed two large bucket loaders to move coal around the yard. It was agreed that one of these would be deployed to clear the road. The cars belonging to incoming employees would be held at the entrance to the road, then led in, in convoy, behind the bucket loader. The loader would then lead the vehicles containing departing workers away from the plant. This process would be repeated as often as necessary to complete the change-over.
With this operation completed, the day staff, officially due to leave at 5pm., would be led out. Finally, those of us who would normally leave at 5:30 would be led out. We were left in no doubt that this operation would take some considerable time and that we would likely be here until well after six.
There are 3 other plants, further North along the Humber Bank. Two produce Titanium Dioxide and the other, fertiliser. I learned the following day that staff at one of those had been unable to leave their plant and remained there over-night.
I had hoped that, by Friday afternoon, the roads out of Grimsby would have been cleared. They were not. So I had to spend an extra night in the Cleethorpes boarding house, journeying to Coventry on Saturday morning. By my return on Monday morning most of the snow had cleared, just the drifts under the hedges remaining.
And here is an odd thing. Four weeks later, on Friday 15th March, there was another heavy snow storm that prevented me travelling to Coventry until Saturday morning. That was a bigger blow, personally, than February’s winter blast had been. My son, Ian, was a scout and was in the Gang Show company. Their show was playing Saturday night in the Coventry Theatre. I had to be there. More than that, the plan was that I would drive to Hereford on Saturday morning to collect my mother and her husband so that they could see her grandson’s performance. That part of the plan had to be abandoned, but I did get to see the show.