Work in Progress…

Writing a novel takes time – lots of time.

For me, one of the most difficult things about the lockdown has been hearing about how much time everyone has on their hands. The media (social and otherwise) has been full of people describing how they’ve used all that time to learn Sanskrit, gain a fast-track degree in psychology, or build a one-in-five scale model of Canterbury Cathedral out of matchsticks. Or in some cases, all three. So why is it that even during the lockdown I still don’t have enough time to write?

I’m making progress with my latest WIP, but only by grabbing what little time I can from a busy schedule. At the end of last year I moved from South Wales to Shropshire, and between designing and building a new (quite large) garden, working on the house (which, being Victorian, will happily swallow as much time (and money) as I can throw at it), and my part-time studies (Post Graduate Diploma in Garden Design – nearly done now), I’ve been kept rather busy. Add in the diminished energy levels that I presume to be a combination of age, and my on-going battle with sinusitis, and it feels like I’m swimming against the tide. I’m not a strong swimmer. You may have noticed a lack of posts on this blog recently.

I’ve written about 35,000 words of novel number three (so about a third of the way through) and I’m at a critical stage. Now, more than ever, it’s important to work on the draft regularly. Even if I don’t have long to spend each time, I find it’s better to write little and often; that way I can keep the thing in my head, and even if I’m not getting many words down on the page, I’m still developing the story and the characters in my mind. If I go more than a few days between writing sessions then it all starts to slip away, so that when I next get a chance to write, I waste a lot of time re-familiarising myself with what’s already written, and trying to recall what I’d intended. I wonder, is this just me; or do all you other writers out there find the same..?

 

text & image ©Graham Wright 2020

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10 Great Ways to Beat the Coronavirus…

  1.  Ridicule. Cut the coronavirus down to size with some well-placed mocking. By abbreviating the name from Covid-19 to just C19, you can turn it from a deadly virus into a rubbish cassette tape.
                                     C30, C60, C19 Go!
  2.  Boo for Boris. We clap the care workers to show our appreciation, so why not raise our spirits with a regular session in which we boo the government whose ineptitude has made the UK the Covid capital of Europe [1.], and who have scapegoated the general population, invoked marshall law, and put us all under virtual house arrest? At eight o’clock on Thursday we clap for the NHS; what say at eight o’clock on Friday we Boo! for Boris!

  3.  Positive Thinking. The UK is never going to win the football European Championships, but when it comes to the league table for covid deaths, we’re in the No. 1 slot. Take that Europe! Champions! Champions! You’re not singing anymore…
  4. Sneer at covid’s potency. Cancer will take the lives of 160,000 Britons this year, and every year. Coronavirus will probably only manage 50,000 at the most, this one year. Is that the best you can do Covid? Pathetic! If I succumb to the virus and don’t make it through, I want everyone to say ‘He died of the small c‘.
  5.  Sneeze your way back to health. If you’re unlucky enough to get the virus, remember that every time you sneeze you’re ejecting millions of the little buggers out through your nose. So sneeze as much as you can, and every time you sneeze, taunt the exiting virus with the words ‘Take to the tissue and die in my dustbin, coronavirus scum!
    (Although, maybe just make sure you’ don’t sneeze on anyone else!)
  6. See things from the virus’s point of view. Coronavirus doesn’t mean to hurt you. It loves humans. It just wants to snuggle up and get warm and cosy with us. It isn’t vindictive or cruel – it’s killing us with kindness.
  7. Use anthropomorphism. Take the sting out of the virus with some timely anthropomorphism – morph the the sinister looking viral sphere into a friendly, smiling cartoon character.
  8. Turn a problem into an opportunity. For once in your life you can wear a surgical mask and gloves without fear of being arrested for impersonating a doctor.
  9. Use the virus for your own purposes. Like ridiculing the irritating politicians that got us into this mess.

    Michael Govid

  10. Use the Covid hysteria to cover your mistakes and omissions. Everyone will be so distracted by fear of the virus, they won’t even notice that your ’10 Great Ways to Beat the Coronavirus’ article only has 9 ways!

 

[1.] Where do I start? The government failed to act on the warnings they were given that the virus was coming, and failed to act on the advice to stockpile PPE to make ready. They failed to track and isolate infected people coming into the country, or to identify who they had been in contact with. They have consistently said that the only symptoms were a cough and a temperature (whereas in fact there are many other symptoms)  causing many cases to go un-noticed (and the virus to be spread extensively).
On the same day Boris received a report saying that hand-shaking spreads the virus, he went to a covid ward, shook as many hands as he could, and then went on TV to tell everyone he’d done it. And he contracted the virus and nearly died – had he done so, he would have been a worthy nomination for the Darwin prize.
Having set up the huge ‘Nightingale hospitals’, instead of using them to isolate the infected, they decided to ‘keep them for later, in case it gets really bad’. Covid patients were sent to general hospitals around the country, where they went on to spread the virus to NHS workers and on into the general population. Nice one Boris!

 

text & images © Graham Wright 2020

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Pandemic of Lunacy – Why we could be getting it wrong on Covid-19

The average UK citizen has approximately a 1 in 3,300 chance of dying of Covid-19 this year (assuming there are 20,000 deaths). For cancer, it’s around 1 in 400. Which disease would you prefer the government to concentrate its efforts on?

In his novel 1984, George Orwell’s dystopian society was permanently at war with, it was implied, an enemy invented for the specific purpose of giving the population something to fear. In our dystopian society the dreaded enemy has been Russia, North Korea, terrorism, and now, could it be  Covid-19?

We’re all isolated now, but I feel particularly alone. Am I the only person who thinks governments have panicked; that the measures they have introduced are nothing short of insane? Why are they taking away so many people’s livelihoods, destroying so many businesses, and leaving so many lonely people ever more isolated? To save lives, of course, but how many? Estimates suggested overall deaths from ‘the virus’  in the UK could be in the range of 10,000 to 20,000 (though now it’s looking like at least 20,000). We can act to minimise this figure, but no matter what we do, thousands will die. We might, with the current approach, save 5,000 to 10,000 lives. Surely that’s worth doing?

Well, let’s put that into perspective, shall we? According to Cancer Research UK, there are around 165,000 deaths each year from cancer. Around 38% of those are avoidable. That’s 62,700 avoidable deaths. Think what we could do if government were to allocate just a tenth of the absurd sums they’ve set aside to support British business during the lockdown for Covid-19, to cancer. Early diagnosis is critical. Think how much more testing could be done. Think how much progress could be made on research into treatments and cures. And all without any disruption to the economy, individuals or businesses; beyond taxes being a little higher.

And then there’s heart disease (40,000 deaths), and Alzheimer’s & dementia (26,500). There are over 7,000 alcohol related deaths, and 6,000 suicides – surely we could do something about those? [1.] It isn’t unreasonable to think that government could save 50,000-100,000 lives if they addressed these causes with conviction. CBA, apparently. They’ve even refused to legislate to stop food and drink producers loading their products with the sugar, salt, and fat that are making us all so unhealthy, perhaps because they don’t want to upset an industry that is so influential. And yet, one sight of Covid, and at a stroke they’ve put much of the food industry out of business.

Don’t get me wrong; every one of the estimated 20,000 deaths from Covid-19 is a tragedy. But so is every one of the average 600,000 or so deaths in the UK from other causes. A friend of mine once attempted to peel a satsuma while exiting from a multi-storey car park. The satsuma slipped out of his hand. Thanks to his lightning reactions he was able to save the satsuma. But he lost control of the car and totalled it against a concrete wall.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t act to minimise the effects of Covid-19. There are plenty of measures we can implement, short of pressing the self-destruct button, which is what is happening now. We would, of course, be better prepared if successive governments had invested properly in the NHS, rather than running it down and opening it up to be preyed upon by the private sector.

We’re spending the kind of money economists didn’t know it was possible to raise, and which will leave the country in hock for a generation. We’re destroying our economy. Many people have already found themselves unexpectedly out of work, with millions more wondering whether they’ll have a job to go back to once all this is over. Businesses are going to the wall at a rate never before seen. Oh, and the entire population has been put under virtual house arrest for an indefinite period. And when it’s all finally over, how long till the next strain of virulent respiratory disease mutates, meaning it all starts up again?

In poorer countries, the ensuing global recession will have even more devastating consequences, including increased famine, poverty, disease (in addition to Covid-19), disruption to already poor education provision, and knocking back advances in equality for women.

It doesn’t meet Mr Spock’s famous logic test – the needs of the many outweigh those of the few. The lives of millions in the UK (the many) are being devastated in order to save perhaps 5,000 to 10,000 lives (the few). And all the while government inaction over cancer, heart disease, etc, is squandering many tens of thousands of lives.

I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but we’re all going to die one day. That’s the cycle of life. I don’t have the meaning of life for you, but if I had to give it my best guess I’d say it’s live well, and be ready to look death in the face when it’s your time.

Our biggest enemy is not Covid-19 (unless, of course, we’re being lied to about the potential death toll). It’s fear, and the virulent pandemic of lunacy that’s infected governments across the world.

 

 

[1.]https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/causesofdeath

 

Text & image © Graham Wright 2020

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Scrivener Trial

I’ve recently been working on my latest novel again, having put it aside while there were too many other things going on for me to find the time. And I’ve been trying out some writing software. Called Scrivener, it is, according to its makers, ‘the go-to app for writers of all kinds’, designed to provide everything you need  to start writing and keep writing. You can download it for a free one-month trial (where rather than a calendar month, only the days you actually use the software count towards the trial). So how have I been getting on?

My first task was to work my way through the tutorial, which took some time. And then I was ready to create a new project, and start typing. I write the old-fashioned way, with pencil and notebook. It works well for me. I get to do the creative bit unencumbered by soulless ‘tech’. And then later, the process of typing up what I’ve written acts as an additional level of editing and proof-reading. I had nearly two full notebooks ready to be typed up. I created a new document for each chapter. They suggest you give the chapters titles, rather than  numbers, to save having to re-number if you either change the order or insert more chapters as you progress. This is a screenshot (snip) of Scrivener:


The main panel looks very much like MS Word – presumably this is what it’s based on – but without the full range of controls and options you get with Word. A column on the left, which they call the binder, is effectively the file structure; a list of the chapters, plus notes, research – anything else you want to put in there, you can just create a folder and/or a document for it. Folders can contain text, images, videos, sound – whatever you need. On the right, another column is for comments, notes, references, plus a synopsis of each chapter. This column is called the inspector. There are different views – you can look at two chapters or documents side by side (or split horizontally) which could be very useful when you’re referring to reference material or notes. You can have attachments pinned to a cork board background.

I had quite a few problems trying to get the program to give me what I wanted. Finding options was difficult, as it differs from Word quite a bit (and, as I’ve said, there aren’t as many options). It took me a while to find where to change the paragraph indents, for example. And I still haven’t found how to change the measurements for indents from inches to millimetres (maybe you can’t).

Some of the functions are rather strange and annoying. The spellchecker insists on starting from the beginning of the document, and won’t let you highlight a particular word. The comments look just like comments in MS Word, except that rather than aligning with their position in the text, they appear as a continuous list. The relevant comment is highlighted when you click into the text at the point it refers to (or, conversely, if you click on a comment, you jump to the point in the text it refers to). This doesn’t really work for me.

I think part of the problem is that I’ve really just been typing (I’ve put in one notebook worth of text) rather than making full use of the program. I have put most of my reference material and notes in too, but I just haven’t been doing enough with the various functions to learn how the software works. Plus, it’s now over a month since I went through the tutorial, and I’ve forgotten most of it. I can go back to the tutorial whenever I need to. But who wants to be playing that game when you’re deep in the creative process of writing?

Another problem is that I write on a tablet, with a keyboard attached. It’s small, and therefore portable, so I can carry it around with me (and occasionally go and write in a coffee shop while sipping at a long black – bliss!) But the screen is, of course, small, which is a disadvantage even with a standard word processor. But in Scrivener, with a panel to the left and right, and the option of splitting the screen to look at two documents at once..? Well, those functions just aren’t practical on a small screen. You can hide both left and right panels to give yourself full screen width. But that kind of negates the added functionality they give.

With the trial period coming to an end, I set about exporting the text I’d written in Scrivener, so I didn’t lose it. If I decide not to buy the program I’ll need to get it into MS Word. Scrivener has a ‘compile’ function, which allows you to export your book into a variety of formats, including PDF, RTF and MS Word. You can specify page breaks, font type and size, etc. Sounds great, but it’s complicated, and would need a fair amount of experimentation before you get the result you want. It reminds me of my days as a computer programmer. Adding an extra step (compilation) between writing your manuscript and putting it into a finished format seems to me like a retrograde step, compared to a word processing program, where you format as you go along, and can see the finished result and make corrections to it.

With Scrivener, you compile, check through the result then, if it isn’t quite how you want it, you have to look at the settings, recompile, and hope that it works. That really does seem too much like hard work to me; particularly as Scrivener doesn’t do typesetting, so that when you finally get the result you want you have to import it into another program to typeset, before you can send it to the printers. It’s a process that’s just asking for things to go wrong. And they did! The screenshot (snip) that follows illustrates this perfectly. I compiled to a Word (docx) format, to include the comments. You can see that while some of it formatted properly, for a large chunk, the main text has migrated into the comments field:

I deleted all of the comments, to see what happened – whether that would put it right. As you can see, the text in the section that wasn’t formatted correctly then disappeared off the edge of the page!

If this is the kind of problem you get from what was only a basic export of what amounts to perhaps a sixth of a novel, I dread to think what awaits when I try to compile the full manuscript. There’s also the issue of confidence – you need to know the software is going to give you what you need, and not produce random unexpected results.

When I copied the text into my Word document, things got stranger still. Trying to delete page breaks, or changing the font size, didn’t seem to work. Clicking the option to show hidden formatting marks didn’t solve it – there was nothing I could see that would be causing problems. After a lot of messing about I think I may have put it right, but I’m not confident of what will happen when I start to edit the text further.

I think you can tell from the above that I’m not going to buy Scrivener when the trial period ends. The main function of the software is to have everything relating to your book – the manuscript, notes, research, etc. – in the same place. It is handy to be able to click through a list of chapters by title, and it saves time switching between different Word docs. But it also seems quite claustrophobic, and needs a reasonably large screen to work. Darius Marley commented on a previous post to the effect that software writing aids are not necessarily all they’re cracked up to be. Thanks Darius, for that wise advice.

The time I spent testing Scrivener was not entirely wasted though. It made me think more about how I can use existing software – in my case MS Word and Excel – to better organise the writing process. MS Word may not be perfect, but at least it’s familiar and reliable (most of the time).

 

text © graham wright 2020

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Book Review – Letters From a Lost Uncle

Mervyn Peake has long been one of my favourite authors. So when, late last year, I discovered a book by him that I hadn’t read (or even known about), I was eager to get my hands on a copy. ‘Letters From a Lost Uncle’ was, according to my (then) local bookshop, unavailable. But when I tried again last month at my new local book shop (called Bookshrop – as in a bookshop in Shropshire – get it?) it was available. But I didn’t bother in the end. Only joking – of course I ordered a copy straight away!

Mervyn Peake is best known for the Ghormenghast trilogy – three novels (like most trilogies) based in a mythical realm, and following the central character of Titus Groan, seventy-seventh Earl of Ghormenghast. Peake wasn’t prolific. I remember a TV adaptation, many decades ago now, of his only other novel, MrPye. He did write poetry as well mind, and childrens’ books, and was a talented artist and illustrator.

Peake’s characters are somewhat surreal, but his powers of description and his creative imagination were, in my humble opinion, second to none. He’s able to draw you into worlds, and to have you believing in characters you know couldn’t possibly be real.  ‘Letters From a Lost Uncle’ is not so much a novel as a picture book. Each page consists of a drawing, or series of drawings, in pencil, with a typed (on a typewriter – remember those?) piece of paper cut out and stuck on over the top (cut and paste just isn’t the same nowadays!)

The style of writing is simplistic – narrated by someone who supposedly isn’t used to writing. It’s the story of an arctic explorer, told through his letters to a nephew he’s never met. I don’t know that it’s a childrens’ book as such, though it could well appeal to, and be easily understood by even quite young children. There aren’t any themes in it you would describe as adult, and it’s an easy read (and short, as there’s only a small amount of text on most of the pages). The real joy is in the artwork. The drawings are superb, and bring the story to life. The whole endeavour is a triumph of the imagination, the writing is funny and endearing, and despite the fantastical nature of the story and characters, really draws you in, building to a satisfying conclusion.

I read the book in three short sittings, with a smile on my face the whole time. I would say I was sad when I’d finished, but unlike most books, there really isn’t an end – I know I can spend plenty of time looking through it again and again because of those astonishing drawings. Who knows, maybe I’ll come across more by Mervyn Peake that I didn’t know existed? In the meantime, I’m thinking that perhaps I might re-read some of the books I do know about quite soon.

text © Graham Wright 2020

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Chick Lit

Our new house came with some unusual accessories – the previous owners left us some chickens. And to help us work out how to look after them; their collection of chic lit. Say hello to ‘Your Chickens’ magazine!
I can’t help thinking of ‘Have I Got News for You’, and their missing words round:

‘Life size sculpture of  Spitfire made from <What?>’[1.]

I know you’ll be disappointed if I don’t show you the chickens, so here they are:

The two littl’uns at the front are Lavender Pekins; Lola on the left, and Charlie the cockerel on the right. The punky one behind is an Arakoon, who we’re calling Ari. The big hen on the perch is Ollie, and I believe she’s a breed called a Plymouth Barred Rock. It’s fitting she’s on top, as she really does rule the roost – she’s a bit of a bully.

A bit of a diversion from the literary theme of this blog, I know, but I couldn’t resist the pun.

[1.] The answer is egg boxes – from Your Chickens  May 2013. It was made from ‘Eggs for Soldiers’ egg boxes to support the charity ‘Help For Heroes’, and was at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford (and who knows – maybe it still is).

 

text & images © Graham Wright 2020

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When is a writer not a Writer?

Answer: when they’re not writing!

I’m sad to say that for some time, that’s been me. It’s not writers block – if such a thing exists – just that I had to put my latest novel on hold when other things took over. First, I was so busy self-publishing, and then promoting, my last novel Moojara, that I didn’t have enough time to work on the new one. And then I was moving house. And not just house: I’ve moved all the way from South Wales to Shropshire. I can tell you that moving is definitely as stressful as has been reported. Stressful, and very, very time consuming.

The move is done now though, and despite being surrounded by still-to-be-unpacked cardboard boxes, I think it’s time to re-familiarise myself with the latest WIP (work in progress) and get back to work. And I’ve decided to try something new. While trying to find software for typesetting that doesn’t cost a fortune and require a masters in typesetting to operate, I came across a program call Scrivener. It’s really a writing aid, but I had hoped it might include some typesetting functionality (beyond the limited capabilities of MS Word). Having downloaded it for the trial period, I now know it doesn’t. But it does look as though it might be useful for the writing process.

Writing a book generates a  huge amount of information. Beyond the manuscript (which itself makes for a very large Word document) there’s notes and ideas for the characters and for plot development. You may need a  calendar to keep track of when things happen, to avoid continuity errors. For the locations you may have photographs, maps, train and bus times. I find myself switching from one Word document to another, then to file explorer to look at images, or Excel to check facts. The idea of Scrivener is that everything is kept as a set of documents within the same software, so you don’t have to keep flitting about from one place to another. Sounds good, but will it work? I’ve run through the long tutorial (they say it should take 2 hours, and it did). And now I’ve created a new project for my latest novel, and begun to load in text and reference material.

I’m a little bit lost at the moment, staring at the screen and struggling to remember what I learnt from the tutorial; trying to work out the right way to import text and images, and whether it’s actually possible to call in a spreadsheet. So far, the software is just proving to be a barrier between me and the writing, which is no good; no good at all. But it’s early days. Hopefully I’ll get to grips with the program soon, and  then I can properly assess whether or not it’s going to work for me. I’ll let you know how it goes…

 

 

Text © Graham Wright 2020
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

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Marketing Your Novel

I’ve been through all the stages of publishing my novel, and I’ve done almost everything myself, from editing, to typesetting, to designing a cover. If you haven’t been following, you can read how I did it here: An Idiot’s Guide to Self-Publishing.

Actually, I did get some help with proof-reading and with editing, from friends and family. I called in the professionals for the actual printing of the books, which is the one thing it’s just not practical to do yourself. Up until now I think I’ve coped quite well. But I’ve hit a bit of a block when it comes to marketing.

It began well. I persuaded my two local bookshops, somewhat reluctantly, to take some copies. And their lack of enthusiasm melted away when I managed to get the local paper to run a story about the local author who set up his own publishing company Well, it’s technically true, even if the company so far exists only to sell my own books (that may change one day).  My article, complete with a photo of me printed frighteningly large, made page three (and I didn’t even have to take my top off). I sold a few copies off the back of that article. Unfortunately, I haven’t kept up the momentum. Two bookshops were never going to get me enough sales. So I made Moojara available by mail order, and also set it up as an ebook for sale on Amazon. But availability is not enough; people need to know it’s available, and that requires marketing.

It’s difficult. I’ve got a rough idea of what needs to be done, but it involves an awful lot of work of the kind I’m not really suited to, never having been a ‘people person’. I don’t like to impose on friends, because that’s not what friends are about (although the feedback I’ve had so far would suggest any unhappiness with being press ganged into buying a book would disappear when they started to read it[1.]) Although I don’t actually have many friends. To quote the Mark E. Smith song, I can count them on the fingers of one hand. Even my dog hates me. It’s OK, I’m only joking (I don’t have a dog).

I’ve given copies of the book to my local libraries (Penarth and Cardiff). I’ve tried independent bookshops further afield, in places like Brecon and Crickhowell, but they didn’t want to know. I haven’t even tried Waterstones, as I’ve read that self-published authors stand no chance with them (although perhaps I’m showing a lack of ambition – nothing ventured, nothing gained). Social media is, apparently, an essential tool for self-promotion, but to say I’m not great at social media would be an understatement. One of the most essential ingredients for social media success is time, and that’s something I don’t have much of.

It hasn’t helped that I’ve been distracted by an impending move from South Wales to the North West. We all know how stressful moving house is. I suppose I’ve sub-consciously made the decision to hold fire with the book promotion: it probably isn’t sensible to do a lot of work to promote my novel here, when I’ll soon be moving away. Perhaps my New Year’s resolution will be to take it up again with vigour once I’m settled in my new home. In the mean time, if anyone can offer some encouragement or advice, I’ll be very grateful. Only remember, this is very much a DIY affair – I don’t want to spend more money than I have done already…

 

  1. There you go – blowing your own trumpet isn’t so difficult after all – you just need to channel your inner Poirot.

 

text & image © Graham Wright 2019

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This Poem is Rubbish!

Or at least; it’s called ‘Rubbish’. As you can tell, I’ve been thinking about the environment quite a bit recently (maybe it’s the influence of the inspirational environmental protest group, Extinction Rebellion).

They say the oceans are full of plastic,
But you should see the front gardens where I live
On a windy recycling day;
Scenes of carnage and dismay,
The kind of heart-sinking mess
That’s sure to cause distress;
Make you feel like doing something drastic,
Like devoting your time to collecting it anew,
Something you know you’re not going to do,
Leaving you contaminated by guilt,
Blowing through your mind,
Like plastic bags blowing through the streets.

Where does it all come from?
The rubbish that accumulates in drifts,
Against fences and gates, under hedges,
That wedges in crevices,
Or flies aloft in the breeze,
Catches in trees, or floats in the canal,
Journeys along rivers,
Maybe all the way to the sea,
To wallow like jellyfish,
Be swallowed by many fish,
Seals, dolphins, whales and birds,
The situation is too absurd:
Should never have occurred.
But we human beings are profligate,
With no regard for the environment on which we, too rely.

I blame McDonalds – those golden arches get everywhere.
They don’t seem to care that they’re the cause of so much litter.
See, I reckon they view it as a kind of publicity;
All that discarded packaging is like free advertising,
A subliminal reminder that whenever we’re greedy for a cheap meal,
They’ll always be there with a special ball-burger deal.
But it’s too easy to look for scapegoats,
To blame governments and multi-nationals
For the degradation of the land, the air and the sea.
But while that may be rational,
We too must share the responsibility;
It’s not just the big guys who are tossers.

We need to change the way we live.
No excuse for single use;
Don’t take that plastic bag, for goodness sake,
One day it could spell the demise
Of something that lives in the sea.
Bubble-wrap, shrink-wrap; no way, sorry to be a nag.
They say’s there’s no planet B,
Actually, there is (probably)
But we’ll never see it;
Never bridge the millions of light years.
We’re trapped here, on our own planetary sphere,
Drowning in trash.

Better do what we can; eschew all packaging,
Re-cycle, re-use, don’t fling cigarette ends out of the window,
Dropping litter is a no-no; pick litter instead.
There’s something to be said for getting yourself in rubbish credit.
But when all’s said, it isn’t you and me,
But all the other buggers, who won’t see,
Who can’t be told; who won’t involve themselves
In the battle to save our world from free range plastic.
So where it will end, I’d rather not say,
But sooner or later, human kind will have had its day.


Enjoy your weekend everyone…

Text & NSW poster photo©Graham Wright 2019
Beach photo by Javardh on Unsplash

 

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Stupid Human Part One – Burning the Amazon

We are the third most intelligent species on the planet [1.] our big brains a miracle of evolution. We’ve developed vaccines to defeat disease, held nature at bay, created incredible machines, landed on the moon, and sent satellites out into space beyond our solar system. But this series of posts, which I’ve entitled ‘Stupid Human’, celebrates human kind’s greatest talent – our infinite capacity for stupidity.

We need plants. If someone tells you they’re more of a city person, that they really do prefer concrete, steel and glass, that they don’t do all that horrible green stuff; don’t believe them. They may think that’s how they feel, but studies have shown we have a profound psychological relationship with, and need for, plants. Without them we could perhaps get by at a psychological level. But physically – no chance. Those of us who are concerned about the environment, and particularly the effect that human activity/stupidity is having on it, have been bleating on for years about CO2, rising temperatures, rising sea levels, acidification of the oceans, etc., etc. Could it be we’ve been missing the point; that the real threat is a little more direct, a bit more simple – oxygen?

We breathe oxygen, and expel carbon dioxide. Plants do the opposite. Without us, there’s more than enough CO2 in the atmosphere to keep plants supplied [2.]. The other way around is a very different story. The only reason planet earth has oxygen in it’s atmosphere in significant levels (i.e. sufficient to support large animals like us) is because we were preceded by plants. Before plants evolved, the atmosphere would have been toxic and could not have supported life such as ours.

The Amazon rainforest has been famously referred to as ‘the lungs of the planet (so famously, I don’t know who said it). It’s been estimated that it produces around twenty percent of the oxygen in our atmosphere. [3.] Burn the Amazon and, quite apart from all the other environmental problems it would cause, we will reduce the oxygen producing capacity of the planet by around a fifth. We could blame an individual, but it took the majority of an entire country of humans to elect a mad-eyed fascist as their president.

Here in the UK we throw our arms up in horror (well, some of us do…), but forget that, before us stupid humans arrived, our tiny island was pretty much entirely forested. Now, we’re down to thirteen percent (ten percent in England) [4.] And the plant loss isn’t just historic. Successive governments boast about planting large numbers of trees, but for the truth, look around you. Around the country, front gardens are being levelled for parking, street trees are being chopped down to save on maintenance costs, ever more green land is being lost to development. New roads in particular, and bonkers projects like HS2 (which stands for Holy Shit 2 – as in ‘Holy Shit, I can’t believe a government could be so stupid as to do that’) are resulting in what remains of our precious ancient forests being destroyed. We can’t in any way claim to be part of the solution.

As the quantity of oxygen producing organisms (i.e. plants) continues to diminish (because of us), how long before we begin to see a thinning of the air we breathe? Could it be that our great grand children/grand children/children won’t meet their demise (thanks to preceding generations) at the hands of rising seas and changing climate – they’ll simply suffocate for want of oxygen?

[1.] After dolphins and mice (according to Douglas Adams in his ‘Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy’)

[2.] Actually, thanks to us there is literally more than enough CO2 in the atmosphere!

[3.] Taylor, L. (1996). Saving the Rainforest. Retrieved 08 30, 2019, from The Raintree Group, Inc: http://csc.columbusstate.edu/summers/Outreach/RainSticks/fRainforestFacts.htm

[4.] Forest Research. (2019). Woodland Statistics. Retrieved 08 30, 2019, from Forest Research: https://www.forestresearch.gov.uk/tools-and-resources/statistics/statistics-by-topic/woodland-statistics/


Text © Graham Wright 2019
Image © Igor Lepilin on unsplash

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