Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Thoughts on the Occupy movement.

I have to admit I was a bit skeptical at first at seeing the start of the protests. My first thoughts were probably the same as many: Why do people think that standing around shouting things is going to make even the slightest difference?

This was followed up with the more practical question of: How can these people afford to be spending the foreseeable future living in central London? I doubt my bank balance would afford me more than a couple of weeks - even if I was living in a tent.

But despite these questions, as things have advanced and I have learned more about what is going on in the movement and how they are organised, I have found my support for them, and indeed their ideals, growing.

Oddly enough, the thing I like most about them is the same thing that seems to annoy the mainstream media more than anything else. Which is that they seem to have no fixed aims or agenda. Instead they have turned up to say that there is something very wrong with the way things are being done at the moment. Something wrong in the heart of the way things are run in our countries. They're not offering a defined solution, but instead are giving a voice to a thought that many people have: This can't be the only way! And yet that is what we are told. It's what most of us have been conditioned to believe in many cases: That the system we have now is the best of all the bad choice. But is that the truth? Maybe it was at one point, but the world has moved on since the times of Adam Smith - capitalism and politics have moved on to something far beyond what was imagined. What's so wrong with standing up and questioning if there is another way that things can be done?

My doubts about our system come when I look at what's been happening with the Euro and Greece. Most governments and newspapers looking to see how this all seeing beast the we must worship – namely “THE MARKET” - will react to the choices that are made. Yet there seems to be much less concern as to how people are reacting. Likewise in government, where it it often feels that this “MARKET” creature is in charge of ratifying all decisions made by minsters and I can't help but wonder when did this all start? When the markets start to trump democracy?

The other complaint I have often heard against the protesters is that they should follow proper political process. That they should put up candidates for election and have the people vote on what they want and I would agree with this, but for the rigged system of politics that we have. Yes things are far better than they are in say China, Iran or many other countries around the world. But these two party systems, both in the UK and USA, that are both swamped with money contributed by “THE MARKET” are hardly fully fledged bastions of true democracy. Nor is the first past the post system by which people are elected, or the whips by which they are controlled. As such, new parties and small groups have little chance of success in a game where the rules are made by the bigger parties.

So will I be pitching a tent in the capital? Well... no. In part because I couldn't afford it and in part because I live in China - I doubt that sort of thing would go down well in Beijing (It is good to grateful of the freedoms we do have). But I am supportive of what the protesters are doing. It's true that they might not have the right answers, but at least they are there asking the right questions.

Monday, 26 September 2011

The EPIC awards

Paradigms has made it in as finalist in the EPIC (The Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition) book awards:

Monday, 30 May 2011

Spiritual Fiction Books Review

The story of “Paradigms” is a combination of spirituality, fiction and fantasy. The plot has been well thought out and the characters are believable and aptly suited in the roles that they play

Monday, 16 May 2011

The Truth about Faries - Free!

"We're not your best friend! We're not your little pets either!" "The Truth about Faeries" brings the inside story of the faerie realm. Through six dark faerie tales, tied together with explanations by a fae narrator, we get a glimpse of the sometimes funny, often dark, and always fantastical, world of the fae. (Narration in Scots with English translations)

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Paradigms Updates

The new verision of Paradigms should now be available. For ebook users, you simply have to download it again from the site (it shouldn't cost you anything to do that. If you can't get it, just contact me).

If you are not happy with your early paperback version you can are welcome to get in touch and I can see about buying you an updated version.

If anyone has any problems, please let me know.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Shambhalasun Review

Got a nice review from Shambhalasun Magazine (Thanks to Meredith Bailey and Andrea Miller)

Thursday, 5 May 2011

The two paths

Again I find myself caught in that great dilemma of life: to renounce the world and its things completely, or to run wild fanatic fervour, taking in all the pleasures that hedonistic life has to offer. I could be inspiring on either path. There is truth on both of them; perhaps one is no better than the other.

Yet there is fear there. Fear that the wrong choice has been made. Fear that this limited life is being wasted running down one road to find nothing at the end. What greater curse would there be to renounce everything of the world only at death to have found out this is all there is? Or worse, to give way to passion and discover at the end that there was some attainable, higher goal, or higher state that was missed for momentary pleasure?

Some might say that the best choice would be to walk the middle ground. Yet what a bland dull life that would seem to be: the path of the masses and not of the heroes. It would be the suburbs of life, a halfway place where the benefits and curses are neither strong nor weak and a dull colourless existence at best.

But it's here in the strange half way purgatory I always seem to end up. A shard of metal caught between two poles. A branch swinging in opposing currents. Here I am neither able to choose one nor the other and am cursed all the more for knowing there is choice that can be made.

` If only I could really know.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Dignity in Dying

It had taken almost a year. He had crossed a continent, passing over mountains and braving wild forests. He had made his way across seas, both calm and stormy. He had wandered the desert and sweated under the suns unrelenting heat, but finally, he had arrived. He stared up at the ancient pyramids, the wonders he had travelled so far to see, and felt... nothing. He knew then for certain, what until now he had only suspected: It was time to end it all.

He had never suffered much in his life. Never had he been a slave, nor had his family died in some tragedy. He had never been part of a great, intolerable war. But he wondered now if any of these things would have been worse than the life he had ended up with. At least those people knew the bleeding colours of life and death, rather than the monotonous grey that seemed to make up his existence. It sounded selfish, yet part of him knew it was true.

He knew the problem was his lonesomeness. All he had fared on his travels, all that he had seen was meaningless without companionship. But it was already too late for that. He knew the solitary life changed people in irreversible ways and knew that it had made him cold, made him insulated, made him see the world as abstract. No, it was time to end it.

He would wander back into the desert, the land that mirrored his present life more than any other place. There he would end it all with a quiet, drama-less dignity. There was nothing else left for him in the world.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Cigarettes and Politics

The BBC and other news agencies often make it seem like the people in China are on the edge of revolution, just waiting for their chance to rise up. It's far from the images I've seen, most people seem content with the party and their leadership, but something happened the other day that made me think otherwise.

Recently the Chinese government said they were going to introduce a smoking ban in public places, bring them into line with many other countries in the world. A move which seemed like a good idea to me, as most young people I've met don't like being around people that smoke.

It was when I went to bathroom during a break in class that I found half a dozen male students of mind all crowded round the window smoking. I asked them what they would do when the ban came into effect.
“What they going to do about?” said the most confident one, “They can't make people.” Clearly the others agreed.
Statements like this a pretty rare from students, who are normally quite nationalistic and it did make me wonder if times were changing.

On reflection, it's probably part of this unspoken agreement that seems to exist between the Chinese people and communist party:
“You get to run the country as long as things keep getting better, but don't interfere in our day to day lives.”

Like fake DVD's (including all the “banned” films), free music downloads, local gambling and other things that are supposed to be illegal in China, smoking is public places is almost certainly here to stay. For the government, to try and really enforce the ban would be to break that unspoken agreement and is something they're not going to risk their leadership over.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

A Confession

  We recently had a few days holiday and I decided to go on a little cycle trip. I picked a point on the map, a lake in the west, and started heading towards it – I didn't get far.
About sixtey kilometers from the city I live in, as I was leaving another city called DengZhou, I met a guy called Shao Shan (Little mountain), who was ridding his scooter back home. We travelled together for a while and seemed to get on well. For a start he spoke “proper” chinese, rather than the local language that I still struggle to understand. I think as well the fact that he had spent so much time away from his home gave us some things in common to talk about.

  He invited me back to stay with his family for the night and I got to take a trip out in to the Chinese countryside. It was a nice experience, as not only did I get to see a part of Chinese life that few make contact with, but also I had someone who could explain it to me as well.

  Now at that time it was the grave sweeping festival and I went with Shao Shan to see his grandmother's grave: a large mound, about a meter or so high in the middle of a maize field. He tapped some money on to large blocks of paper, which he then set light to (the paper not the money), before kowtowing to the mound serval times. The cermony was finshed after he set off a line of firecrackers. Shao Shan told me much about his grandmother, the woman who had raised him for the most part and I couldn't help but be reminded of my own Nana.

  My Nana, as we called her, was not really our relation. She was an odler woman who had been a close friend of my mothers for a long time. I think they may even have been novice nuns at the same time, though I can't be sure. Nana looked after us a lot, we went to her house every day after school for dinner and she looked after us in exactly the same way a grandmother would.

  I'm not sure why, perhaps because we were older, perhaps she just missed her home, but at some point Nana returned her real family in Shropshire, somewhere on the border with Wales. Despite all she had done for me, I didn't keep in touch anywhere near as much as should have done, just a phone call now and again, and I'm embarrssed to think how much I took her for granted.

  It was maybe about a year after I learned to drive that I decided I should try to go down and visit Nana. I called her up and made some vague plans to go and see her after my exams – it never happened. I can't remember why exactly, it was just one of those things that I kept putting off and putting off, maybe there was a good excuse - probably there wasn't.

  I eventualy made it down to Nana's home in time for the funeral and, even today, I still feel shame for never having repaid the kindness that she showed to me and my family. But my vist to Shao Shan's grandmother's grave made me realise that I never learned my lesson from Nana's death. I am still as selfish and still forget to show thanks to those in my life who have always been there for me.

Why show respect for the dead, when we don't show respect for the living?

Tuesday, 5 April 2011


Recently got a short story published with Abandoned Towers Magazine. You can see it for free on their website:

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

The state of things...

So, I'm back in China once again. This time in the city of Nanyang. I'll be honest, it a bit scummy and dirty with not that much to do. However, for me that's a plus side as it means I am able to get some work done.

Had a few successes recently. Abandoned Towers magazine are putting a story of mine on their website – I'll send a follow up post when it's up.

I also got a mediation accepted for The Upper Room. Which is a Christian publication of sorts, but one which seems to be trying get away from the daily religion with out practice. Unfortunately it wont be published until the start of 2012. So you'll have to wait a little for that one.

On the writing front I am on to chapter eleven of the new novel “Bardo”. If anyone wants a sneak peak then let me know.

Soon, I hope in the next week or so, I also going to be putting out a free Ebook. It's going to be short collection on short faerie stories. I'm hoping it will be a way to introduce myself to a wider audience – thanks to Jane H for the idea. Again I'll send another facebook message when it's out.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

The Secular Buddhist

The interview with the secular Buddhist pod cast is out!

Listen to me ramble on about the book, myself and other things as well:

Monday, 31 January 2011

One Regret

I'm just back for a walk around the area of my old home and old street and I spent a lot time thinking about the person I was and the person I could have become. It's something that I've used in my writing a lot, especially in the recent chapters that I did for the new novel, where I focused on the idea of regrets.

I don't think I have many regrets in life, at least few that I would seriously consider give up the person I am now to fulfil; which is ultimately what it would mean: nothing could be changed in my past without changing the person I am today. But there is one regret I have that I'd think about giving it all up for and that would be young love.

"It's only love, that can wreck a human being and turn him inside out." - Billy Bragg

I've been in love, but I was long Jaded before I found it. I look with awe and envy at movies of young couples discovering love together before their fresh young hearts became tainted by the possibility that it might not be forever, before passions were tempered by practicality. It seems that there is true beauty in such an experience and it's one that I have missed out on and the one thing that I regret more than anything else in my life. Breaking up with past loves, losing friends, even my parents separation. Nothing compares to the longing I have to change this in my life. I can't explain why this is. Maybe it's true that we regret the things we don't do more than those we do. Maybe it's because I tried so hard to have it and in the end, failed.

The logician in me says that this is just another form of craving and that I'm painting a prettier picture of the ideal that would the true reality would have been. That even if it had happened to me that I would have a whole different set of regrets - and this is true. But my heart still wishes otherwise, even though it knows that to wish such a thing is silly at best.

I doubt if I would really give up everything I am to live out a life where I got to know young love and maybe my acceptance of it as a part of me will, in time, allow me to let it go. But for now it will remain the darkest spectre of the past hanging over me and one which will continue to phase me into moments of dry melancholy.

It makes me wonder what regrets others carry with them and how much of themselves they would be willing to give to change their own history. Would you change everything about yourself to change one thing in your past?

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Endings: the winters of our lives.

       It's hard to really appreciate a place until it is time to leave it behind. It won't be long before I'm heading back home to UK, before making my way back to China. It's really got me thinking about my life here and the things I'm going to miss, that I might not have considered were I going to be staying here a long time. Knowing that a change is coming has forced me to really reflect on the things I'm going to be without and the things I will be glad to leave behind.

       I would be lying if I said that Japan was the place for me. In many ways I find it too western and too work oriented; at least the side of it that I have seen. However, I am going to miss some of my lifestyle here: quality food, cheap dental and medical care, a place to go running, a wage that translates alright when I head back home to UK. Probably more than that though I'm going to miss the people. I've made some friends here, both foreigners and Japanese, and I have developed some connection with at least a few of my students; I even got a going away present from some of them. It will be a little sad to say good bye to everyone and I wonder if I would have realised this, were not for the time limit on how long we have left together. 

     I think that's the great thing about leaving: about knowing that the change is coming. I've been trying to practice mindfulness for a while now and never has it been so easy than when change is just beyond the horizon. The thought that is soon going to be gone makes you really focus on the things around you. But I'm not fully in present. Part of me is looking forward to going home to see family and friends. Another part is looking to China and is already planning spring bicycle trips and I glad to have the excitement of the new place that is waiting on me.  

     I'm sure, in time, I'll be looking back to Japan and remembering only the good things and wishing I could have some of them back. Maybe if I enjoy this leaving time now, in the future I wont miss it anyway near as much as I would otherwise... maybe.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Abandoned Towers

The interview with Abandoned Towers is now available on their site:

Abandoned towers is a short fiction magazine which also includes interviews with authors along with a whole bunch of other stuff. They have some free stories available and others that you have to subscribe to in order to read. Have a look round their site. You might find something that interests you.

Hopefully in the future I will get some short stories posted with them as well.

Big thanks to the people there for doing the interview. A few of the questions made me think!

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Splashed out on a dalek

Ever "splashed out on a dalek"

Been having a good day today writing while listening to Radio 4. A couple of good series have restared and have lost none of their origonal greatness. I think Mark Steel is funnier than ever before:

News Quiz:

Mark Thomas manifesto:

Well worth a listen if you are looking to get no work done.

Friday, 7 January 2011

The Secular Buddhist

Just finished the interview with the Secular Buddhist:

Big thanks to Ted Meissner for having me on the program. Was a lot of fun and I look forward to hearing the final results. Will send out and update when it's going.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

The comming interview

I have the interview with the Secular Buddhist coming up this weekend:

I'm quite looking forward to it for the most part, but I'm getting a bit nervous as well. In preparation I decided to look through some of the podcasts that are on the website; that's what made me nervous. There seems to be a lot of heavy hitters on the program, which is a good thing, but it does make me wonder if I'm qualified enough to be on there. Still, I'll give it a go and hope for the best.

Any advice would be appreciated!