Monday, 27 September 2010


Look at my word counter! *points to sidebar* Finally, I've hit 40K. The last 10K has been tortuous and interminable. I do hope the next 10K won't be so arduous, because then I'll be halfway.

I hit the mid-30Ks and floundered to a stop. Part of the problem was realising I didn't have enough plot for my intended word count. I needed quite a bit of mulling time to work out a load more plot, but now I'm happy with my story again, in fact I think it'll be a whole lot better as a result of the new sections. So I'm back to churning out the words - 1K per day, most days - and, if I don't stall again, I might have a first draft by Christmas. Here's hoping.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

By Special Request: The Pope

OK then, seeing as you were all teasing me in my comments box, here are my considered views (as opposed to the ill-considered ranty ones you would have got if I'd written this a week ago).

I was brought up as a Catholic. I'd like to say I was born into the faith, seeing as my parents were both observant Catholics at the time, but the church doesn't allow that, newborn babies being full of sin and evil as far as they are concerned. Needless to say, I'm not a Catholic any more - I parted company with the church in my early teens, and tried a couple of other religious/spiritual identities before settling down as mostly atheist with a side order of agnostic.

I have no quarrel with any individual Catholics - or individuals of any faith, come to that. Some of my family are Catholics, and I have friends of many faiths and none. I would never deny anyone the right to the happiness and comfort that faith can bring. However, I abhor many of the Catholic church's policies, such as those on women, gay people, condoms, and secrecy.

The Pope is not just an individual Catholic, he is the head of the church and its abhorrent policies. I have no objection to him coming to England - he is the spiritual leader of some of the people on this island, and they have every right to a visit from him. Also, I'm entirely in favour of freedom of speech. I do object to an expensive state visit. We don't extend this privilege to other heads of religious bodies, so I don't see why we should for the Pope.

I wish the Pope hadn't chosen atheists as the current enemy of the church. The whole atheists = Nazis thing has been covered extensively, so I'm not going to bang on about that. What worries me is that it seems the Catholic church always needs an enemy: infidels, Jews, Muslims, witches, Protestants, Communists, the list goes on. Just this month an official Catholic blogger was writing about 'the enemies of the Pope' and 'the enemies of the State'. Perhaps I have no right to say this, not being a Christian myself any more, but it doesn't seem very Christian to me to declare enmity on whole swathes of the population.

(Which reminds me of the Milton Jones gag I caught on TV the other night, which went something like this: A man at a festival sees a stall, run by Christians, giving away burgers.
Festival-goer: Can I have a burger please?
Stall-holder: Are you a Christian?
Festival-goer: Do you have to be a Christian to get a burger?
Stall-holder: Yes.
Festival-goer: How Christian is that?)

The official atheists aren't helping by embracing the position of enemy. I'm no great admirer of Richard Dawkins, and he made me really cross when he described the Pope as 'an enemy of humanity'.

So much of this seems so knee-jerk and un-thought-through. Which, of course, is one of the Catholic church's specialities. The church doesn't want its adherents to think about things, it wants them to follow its rules. Sadly, this also seems to apply more and more to the state we live in, at least if our education system is anything to go by (and this isn't a lone view: for example, the Society of Authors is so worried about the extent to which children in schools are taught by rote and procedure these days, that they are preparing to engage with the Secretary of State to advocate that children should once again be taught to think for themselves).

The media, of course, has a key role in all this. And they do think. Oh yes, they do. They think about how to sell newspapers, increase viewing/listening figures, and attract more advertisers. Fat lot of help that is. Yes, there are some excellent journalists and broadcasters, and at least we've still got a BBC which is independent of some influences. But most of our media is commercial, and commerce is its primary driver.

I am noticing more and more discontinuity between the messages from organisations which claim to speak for people, and my own experience of life in our society. I've blogged about this before in relation to the Government. It also applies to messages from religious organisations. It's not only the Pope who is positioning atheists as the enemy: the Archbishop of Canterbury was quite happy to join him there. Yet I'm getting on with my family and friends, of Christian and other faiths, as well as I ever have. I don't feel like anyone's enemy; do any of you feel like mine? Or anyone else's?

I'm not sure what is going on here, but I am sure I'm going to go on thinking about it, and that we all need to form our own views, discuss them with others, refine them and think again. And really, however unsatisfied I feel at times with the pronouncements of political and religious leaders and with their official policies, the good news is that I live in a part of the world where I can express my views without fear of repercussions in the name of religion or the state. That makes me very lucky.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Mostly Good News

Remember my lovely nephew and his pre-university woes? I'm delighted to report that he started at university last Sunday, had made friends by Monday, and was generally well settled in by Tuesday. He's busy and happy and generally loving the whole experience. Hurrah!

I've been writing and editing: not my novel, or short stories for my group (naughty me), but other stuff, some perhaps for publication, some for competitions. And I've been enjoying it enormously.

Life has been rather busy, what with one thing and another, and pleasant for me, but not all that interesting for you to read about, I suspect. MOT fail leading to a new car, quick trip to London leading to a possible new client, OU assignments leading to a new course... yes, quite a bit of new stuff, but not new new as such; each a new version of something I'm familiar with. So, nice, but not particularly exciting.

I decided I would blog again next time I had something thought-provoking or entertaining to say, or simply something I want to get off my chest. But the days rolled by and it hasn't happened. So I thought I'd just pop in and say hi.


How are you?

(and don't get me started on the Pope, OK?)

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

A Teeny Weeny Rant

You know something that bugs me? When non-religious people say, 'It was meant to be.' Because that statement almost always seems to be evidence of lazy, sloppy thinking.

I'm not trying to pick a quarrel with people's beliefs. Some people believe in a Grand Designer Of The Universe (other titles may be used) who has a Plan for Everything. I don't believe that myself, but I'm very happy for other people to hold such beliefs. They may be right; I don't know, and I don't mind not knowing.

However, I often hear the 'it was meant to be' refrain uttered by atheists. And I think, hang on a minute, what are you saying here? 'Meant' by whom, exactly?

For example, I recently came across a woman, at an exploratory business meeting, who I'd known socially some years before and who I knew to be an atheist. As soon as she saw me, she clapped a hand to her heart and declared that the business would definitely go ahead because 'it was meant to be' (presumably, in some kind of not-very-atheist mystical way, because of our previous relationship). In fact, the business didn't go ahead, because she decided to work with one of my competitors instead. So what was 'meant to be'? I submit, your Honour: nuffink.

I think what people may be saying, when they use this phrase, is something like: ooh, look, a coincidence, maybe even a pattern. We are naturally good at recognising patterns, and have been describing them in terms of fate, destiny etc for centuries, so perhaps the phrase isn't so surprising. But it still grates. 'Meant to be.' Not for me.