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29 December 2013

It often isn’t their fault, but small presses come and go. Sometimes they last for many years, other times they vanish before they actually publish anything. Best example of that is one to which I contributed a short story for their first anthology many years ago. In September I received the acceptance – in October the story rights were returned because their funding had fallen through and they were disbanding without ever having actually produced anything or even considered all of the submissions received. Then there was the small press to which I sold a story for an anthology. They produced the initial edition, those books intended to be sent out as author copies. I didn’t get mine and the publisher vanished off the radar. I enlisted help, the editor contacted me, but all she could do was apologize. Apparently matters between her and the other editor had imploded, the author copies intended for those of us who lived overseas had never been sent and she didn’t know where they were. Nor would further copies be printed for sale. So I was left with a short story that I wasn’t certain could be described as ‘published and now available for reprint,’ or ‘unpublished.’

And then there are books sold to small presses, sometimes they appear, sometimes they don’t. It helps to have a quit-clause. As in “If this work has not been published within x period, all rights revert to the author on request.” But then if you like the editor, if you think the problem may be only a temporary setback, do you activate the clause or wait? I’ve waited. There’s also the ‘not living up to a minor section of the contract’ SP, and for that you should ask them to do so in polite but firm tones. And  there can also be the ‘bitten off more than they can chew” SP. Sadly one of those reared their head for a friend and me in 2013. We’d carefully selected the particular press since the book we were offering was set in that country and might therefore be expected to sell better there. The editor did a good editing job, but after that everything fell flat. (It was also distressing that when we did a deeper check, while the site didn’t actually lie, it had concealed information that had we known it, would have tended to act as a warning about signing with them) No financial information was forthcoming as per contract, a number of other contract clauses were unfullfilled, and finally despite numerous emails, we had no further contact with the SP. So we sent a registered letter asking for what was owed – both in information and cash. (Make darn sure that you have a physical address.) It was received without response. So – sadly and reluctantly – we sent notice of contract termination. We’d liked the editor, but there is a limit. We’ve now severed all ties and have all of the rights to the book back with us again, and (more happily) we may have a nibble on republication. More on that if/when… But this is part of being a writer, most of us write ‘on spec,’ and sometimes the speculation falls over. Che sera sera.

(as an addendum, the latest SP event has been the return of a sold story since the Small Press publishing the anthology in which it was meant to appear are locked in mortal combat with their printer. It seems that this conflict may go unresolved – and in consequence the anthology will go unpublished. Just another day in the life of a writer. And the only thing that surprises me about any of the above, is how many of us continue to write regardless.)

So far as celebrities and stars go it’s been a lethal month. Peter O’Toole the actor died at 81 in London December 14th. I well remember, in the 1960s, going to see the movie, Laurence of Arabia, that made his name as an actor, The film was brilliant, I’m not at all sure how historically accurate it was although it was based on T.E.Laurence’s own book (The Seven Pillars of Wisdom) but as a spectacle it was gripping and I’ve never forgotten it. O’Toole was perfect for the part too, although I believe that in real life Laurence wasn’t nearly as gorgeous, but O’Toole brought not only the spectacle but also the politics of the time alive and understandable. I also loved his version of King Henry II a couple of years later in The Lion in Winter opposite Katherine Hepburn, they played off each other in a way that brought both period and characters alive.

Then there was Joan Fontaine (actually Joan de Beauvoir de Havilland, but you’d have had trouble fitting that on a marquee,( and yes, she was related to the designer of the De Havilland planes.) who died only a day later in California at 96. She was beautiful, a fine actor, particularly noted for her work in the 1940s and ’50s. She had roles in many noted movies, including Island in the Sun, Rebecca, Othello, Jane Eyre and other classics. I recall seeing her in the movie, Island in the Sun, and in later episodes of various TV series in the 1980s and ’90s, and thinking that she was a fine actress able to bring alive almost any part and character.

And then there was Ronnie Biggs who died aged 84, also in London, December 18th. A nasty little man whose criminal career began when he was dishonourably discharged from the RAF (at 20) after two years service, when he broke into a shop and was caught. He was one of those responsible not only for a over-publicised train robbery, but also for the bashing of a guard who was never in good health again, dying younger than he should have. (It is notable that the guard received 250 pounds compenation while Biggs and various members of his family received tens of thousands for retellings of his story.) In rather typical British fashion Biggs was lionised because of the amount his crew took, and because although jailed, he escaped and remained at large sucessfully for many years until he surrendered voluntarily. He served a mere eight years before being released on ‘compassionate grounds’ and in my opinion should have remained in jail. He was a lifelong and habitual criminal, and had no compassion for his victim, why should he have been granted any. It isn’t as if remaining to die in jail would have meant that he was tortured, or even given less than good medical care. He was finally released in mid-2009, on the grounds that his death was immanent -This meant that he was expected to die within the next three months, something in which he failed to cooperate. There have always been suggestions that some at least of his ill-health was faked, and that isn’t impossible, since for someone whose death was expected before the close of 2009, it seems odd to me that he lived on for a further four years.

So that was the three deaths I really noticed for December. Two actors, one who had entranced me in a number of his works- one in particular. Another actor who did sterling work and won several awards including the Oscar. And a dirty little crook who never received his true deserts. Interesting, isn’t it? That all three had very long lives, and that they all received at least as much publicity.

I went out to get the mail and say Hi to our rural delivery, was halfway back to the house when he began honking the car-horn and I reversed hastily. What, something more for me? Nope, well, yes, if you consider information as something for me. The very unwanted unwelcome information that almost all of the gaggle were wandering off toward the ranges via our road. Arrrggghhh. I went forth, goose stick in hand to corral them back, while wondering how on earth they’d managed that? The rural delivery pointed to the fence. ‘there’s a hole there.’ I couldn’t see one but as the gaggle, having received a clear impression from me that they should go home right now (!) dived through the hole, I identified it. Investigation showed that while the sheep had spent time recently eating down the lawn they’d improved that by pushing up a corner of the front fence so they could reach a particularly succulent patch of grass. That had left a good-sized gap under the fence corner which the gaggle had promptly found and utilized. They are now back on the lawn, the gap is blocked, and I’m hoping they don’t find another one soon. I have better things to do than chase geese up and down my road!

(And very annoyingly, the new gosling died. No idea why, just that it went missing and my house manager found it lying dead by its mum’s nest. Sigh. Does happen with baby things. I just wish it wouldn’t. However the older one is now almost adult-sized and prospering.)

23 December 2013

Hardcover, published ACE, November 2013

I should admit from the start that I’ve never read one of this author’s books that I didn’t like, didn’t expect this to be the exception and it wasn’t. In fact of the “Priscilla Hutchins” series, I enjoyed this most of all. I believe that many authors who’ve written a series eventually want to go back and write a book that starts with the character’s earlier life and events. It was why Andre Norton wrote Horn Crown. And this is what Mr. McDevitt has done with Starhawk. He’s taken Priscilla later known as ‘Hutch’ – back several years before the events of the first in the series ((The Engines of God) and shows her as a young woman, eager to become a certified pilot, with daydreams of heroism, a journal in which she writes spasmodically, a cat-lover, and who has a mother who can exasperate Hutch at times. (There’s this nice young man I want you to meet. And, I think you should take a safer job at home.) Hutch is a normal woman at the start of a career she loves,

The book starts out with Hutch, a few months before her certification as a pilot, at the Union Space Station, The Wheel, having a meal and being interrupted by an old friend with strong views. A fight between the friend and another diner is narrowly averted and he and Hutch part. Hmmm, interesting, I thought. And it was. The book shifted next chapter into Hutch’s certification flight in which things begin to happen when they receive a distress call that another ship may have a bomb on board and the passengers need to be evactuated. Problem is that the smaller ship Hutch is flying doesn’t have the capacity to take all the passengers. So how will she and her trainer, Jake, manage the crisis, and who put a bomb on an intersteller passenger ship and why? A question that ties in with the argument Priscilla’s friend had at The Wheel and with whom he had it. With that flight concluded, Hutch has her certification and takes a pilot’s job with a major company involved in terraforming a new planet to Terran specifications. Unhappy with some of what is going on she resigns and accepts instead employment with an organization where she is working more as an administrator than a pilot.

Things go from bad to worse with Hutch having to make life or death choices, and likely to be damned whatever choice she makes. In the process she’ll lose friends, find that her personal life suffers, but that given everything she’d still rather be a pilot than anything else. In the broader sense of the story this is about a woman whose choices are not always conventional, but whose desire for her chosen career is over-mastering. She will give up everything perhaps even her life to be what she wants to be.

As always with this series I loved the news headlines that conclude each chapter. They provide a wider picture of events of the day and in a noirish amusement show that ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same.’ I also particularly liked the small neat salute to Heinlein on page 256. This look at Priscilla Hutchins’ earlier life is fascinating, involving, and the characters come across as real people. The events are always believable, while being amusing, awful, alarming, and thought-provoking in turns. The small on-going thread of her dislike of her own name, and also her dislike of the very pedestrian name of one of the ships that she flies and which she rechristens are a quiet thread of both something understandable and typical of even today. Finding a name that befits a star ship is similar to the attempts of many girls to find a fittingly romantic name for their pony, while Hutch’s attempts to find a nickname for herself that she likes is also familiar territory.  And if you haven’t read any of this series before, run, do not walk to the nearest place you can acquire Starhawk and buy it and the rest of the books. This is one of those series that is what SF should be and I recommend it.

18 December 2013

Paperback published Futura 1980.

I’ve always had a liking for Disaster/Post Holocaust novels and this is a good one. There’s sufficient scientific stuff to be very convincing, and not more of the information that you need to do that, so that the reader isn’t bored or taken beyond what they can understand as an ordinary intelligent layperson.

William Stovin (known as Sto) is becoming convinced that a new ice age is coming, and not at the expected glacial speed either. If all the information he’s pulling together is right, then they’re five/sixths of the way into one and moving faster all the time. With his friend Diane Hilder, coyote expert and also knowledgeable on wolves, he flies to a region of Siberia where a phenomen known as an ‘ice dancer’ has occurred and killed almost 200,000 people. With Sto is also an Alaskan pilot, half Innuit, called Bisby, a man who remembers many of the tales and legends he was told as a child, some of which may have an un-nerving relevence to what has now begun.

Because Sto is right, a new ice age is bearing down on Russia, America, Canada and other areas north of London and Washington, and in bare weeks, their populations will need to be evacuated. That possibility will already be too late for millions about to be entombed now for thousands of years in the ice, and over vast ice-fields the wolves will reign. What happens, with emphasis on Sto and the Asmerican President is a very solid read. Nothing unreal, just, this is what will happen if this does happen, and these are some of the choices we’d make and have to make. And some of those choices will have to be brutal. Better to save some than lose all. One of the things I liked most about this book was the brief prologue and epilogue that gave you both the early setting and a glimpse of the outcome, and the two maps too were excellent in allowing a reader to place themselves and the events. (This book also reminds me very strongly of both book and movie, The Day After Tomorrow. However The Sixth Winter was written well before either, and I think that the similarities are because both are based on scientific information about  a possible ice age given certain circumstances, and that if those do occur, the alteration in climate may also occur far faster than expected. When several books are written each based on factual data, it is not uncommon for them to appear mildly alike.) But this one was a very good read too. If you can lay hands on a copy it’s recommended.

 

Another in my irregular consumer series – DEALING WITH HAY FEVER – appeared Saturday December 7th 2013 in the Dannevirke News(paper). As Christmas bears down on me like a runaway train, I’ve been hurling out articles, stories, and reviews in all directions. (And that isn’t even counting cards and letters.) And, while all of such items are now up to date, I have a novella in mind to do shortly, no rest for the wicked…

Yes, a second gosling has joined the gaggle this season. Sister One went off to nest under the bathroom window and sat on two eggs. One hatched. She has continued to sit on the other still so the gaggle have taken over the baby for daytimes. So far junior is three days old and still waddling about while three geese and two ganders guard it ferociously – heaven help any burglars. Friends and family are safer since the gaggle abserve that they are with me (legal) and mostly ignore them. But if that second egg hasn’t hatched by the end of the week, it will be going out and Sister One can darn well look after her own gosling.

It occurred to me that some businesses do howl when they kick someone else and stub their own toe. There was a news item about the amount of stock that self-service checkouts in supermarkets are losing. But that goes back to their own decision to lose a number of checkout operators. What you had originally were low-paid, physically hardworked people, mostly women, who stood on their feet all day, took a fair amount of abuse from customers, and cast a beady eye over every single item that went past them. It was rung up on the till, listed accurately (almost always and if not you could point that out) on the receipt, and you were wished ‘have a nice day’ as you departed. In the name of making more money, or at least, in saving outlay, certain supermarkets then shed staff. Persuading customers to do the work free would mean that they could operate with a far lower annual salary outlay, and wasn’t that a wonderful idea? Er, no. What puzzles me is just how stupid an idea that was, and why supermarkets espousing it didn’t pause to think out the system beforehand. For heavens sake, we all KNOW that customers have ‘”taking ways,” that the younger generation are computer savvy, and that for some people, anything that isn’t nailed down is fair game. (and for items that are nailed down a percentage of those people carry a crowbar.) So why would supermarket chains assume that all of their customers will join the queue, check out every item with meticulous honesty, and go on their merry way having saved the business the salary of an operator? Perhaps someone should have explained the meaning of the word ‘naive’. (as in – having or showing a lack of experience, judgment, or information; credulous…)

What made supermarkets think that they wouln’t have stock stolen if they stopped having human operators who watched for that? However it finally appears to have dawned on them. Why ‘finally’? In Britain they’ve had this system for some time. I would have thought that any business with a grain of common sense would have looked at the benefits and problems of a new system when it already exists elsewhere. In Britain a survey showed that almost one third of shoppers admitted using self-service checkouts to steal. And that’s “admitted,” the actual numbers could be considerably higher. Move on to NZ, and you find that a poll here in August of 2012 claims one in ten kiwis say they’ve stolen via a self-service checkout. And how many aren’t admitting that? No way of knowing. But there could be far more than are happy going on line to admit that they’re thieves. In Britain they found that another problem was that of customers who had trouble working the selfservice system. This not only slowed down the queues, it also endangered checkout operators because customers could (and some do) take their anger out on the person available and the numbers of that sort of incident seem to be climbing there.

     In the end what supermarkets are going to have to decide, is do they make more with self-service systems and thieving customers, or paying operator salaries and having far less theft? And are they also factoring in, that if assaults on operators become more common and those operators must go on paid sick leave – and possibly be compensated for an unsafe workplace environment by higher salaries – just how long is it going to be viable to have self-service checkouts in supermarkets? More so if you move on to a worstcase scenario… (as in Murphy’s Law and how often is HE wrong?) and say that assaults on operators become common, OSH steps in, and the supermarkets find that they have to pay guards to prevent the attacks – and things come full circle. Because now it’s cheaper to have checkout operators, with less theft, and fewer frustrated bad-tempered customers – and not have to pay for expensive security guards in stores. But then, wouldn’t it have been easier and cheaper all around to stay with what we already have? Probably, but you can’t stop some businesses assuming that progress = increased profit. It’s just unfortunate that those who’ll suffer until possible end results sink in, will be the supermarket checkout operators who’ll have fewer jobs. It will perhaps, be some compensation as they watch events unfold and snicker into their unemployment records.

8 December 2013

I have seen these books described as fantasy now and again over the years, and as such they fit into this article series. But whether they are genuine fantasy or only borderline, I love them so much they’re here anyhow.

Peter O’Donnell (born 11th April 1920, died 3rd May 2010) was a writer of mysteries and of comic strips who – under his own name – is best known as the creator of Modesty Blaise. In an odd combination he was also an award-winning Gothic historical romance novelist who wrote under the female pseudonym of Madeleine Brent, and in 1978, his novel Merlin’s Keep won the Romantic Novel of the Year, presented by the Romantic Novelists Assn. (“Brent” was noted for her use of strong dynamic female lead characters and “her’ books remain popular.) O’Donnell was born in London and began to write professionally at the age of 16. From 1938 and during the war he served as an NCO. After the war O’Donnell began to script comic strips, including Garth and Romeo Brown, but in 1963 his created his most famous comic strip character – Modesty Blaise (With long time artist collaborator Jim Holdaway.) Two years later the strip sold for a movie, but in a reversal of the usual time line, O’Donnell wrote the book of the movie from his own original script and that was published in 1965, a year before the movie appeared. This was where I came in. I saw the book in my usual bookshop, thought it looked fascinating, bought a copy of it and read it – to become instantly hooked. The blurb that caught me said in part –

A twelve-year-old girl tramping across war-ravaged Europe, through refugee camps, across the Middle East, knowing hunger, rape, despair – this was the making of Modesty Blaise. She wanted the security of money and got it. In every worthwhile place she organised The Network, a crime organisation, efficient, deadly. She took Willie Garvin from the gutter and turned him into her right-hand man – a man as deadly and professional as herself. They made their money and retired. But where was the excitement? Now on the right side of the law for once they pit themselves against a vicious schemer who plays for very high stakes ruthlessly…”

I bought the book, loved it, waited for the movie – and I didn’t have that on my own either – but when that finally made it to New Zealand and I went to a showing I was stunned at the truly awful quality of the work. As the movie progressed one by one many of those attending (presumably fans of the book and of the characters) walked out, some demanding their money back. I followed suit about two thirds of the way thorough – yes, I did get repaid – and a number of us stood around talking about how the movie had been a caricature and who on earth had decided to cast a blonde busty Italian starlet – who couldn’t act her way out of a paper bag or at least was totally unable to depict the character– as Modesty? We were not impressed by Terence Stamp as Willie Garvin either, he didn’t fit the book’s (or the comic strip’s) description and the whole tone of the movie had been high camp, and not in the clever and amusing way of many early TV series but in a clumsy crassness that had turned all of us off totally. (Not to mention that the movie actually included a romance between Modesty and Willie which disgusted all fans since the original book made it crystal clear that this not only didn’t exist, it never would!) At the time the comic strip hadn’t (to my knowledge) reached New Zealand, and whether many of us continued to read the books, since the movie had been so unrelentingly lousy, was up in the air. It was fortunate that the second in the book series came out around then with Sabretooth, followed quickly by I, Lucifer, so that the taste of the movie was washed out of our mouths and we could settle to read happily – while mentally deciding never to go to another movie that purported to be about the characters. (I note that the O’Donnell script for the movie was rewritten and rewritten until it bore no relation to the ultimate result which was so abysmal – and I’d have loved to hear O’Donnell’s own unvarnished opinion of the film, because I’d bet it was unprintable…) 

Over 1965 to 1996 O’Donnell would write eleven full-length books and two short story collections, I have all of them, most in hardcover, having purchased them at the time and I regularly re-read them – all but the last book, Cobra Trap, which I received as a gift only recently. O’Donnell once said that with the kind of people Modesty and Willie were, it was unlikely that they’d survive into old age, and that was true. What we wanted was for them not to grow old, just to continue as they were, Modesty in her late twenties, Willie eight years older, and always a new adventure. But it may be that O’Donnell now knowing that he had Parkinson’s and might not be able to continue writing Modesty and Willie forever, did his final book, Cobra Trap, (which appeared after a gap of eleven years since the previous one) and which was a collection of five short stories, with the final one of the title telling of his characters’ deaths. It was a brilliant short story, embodying everything that they were and relating the final three paragraphs with a poignant lyricism that brings tears to my eyes, but it was still their deaths, and to this day many fans of the characters refuse to read that final story. I refused to buy the book or read the story for 17 years but finally yielded on that. And find that it’s okay, the story is so well-done that it isn’t going to spoil my enjoyment of re-reading the books still – for which I am deeply grateful. I only wish O’Donnell was still alive so that I could write and tell him so.

Films or TV attempts continue however – In 1982, a one-hour pilot (also titled Modesty Blaise) was made for a proposed television series. This aired on the ABC Network to positive reviews, (I have no idea from whom because no one that I know who loves the books would have been at all positive) but no series resulted, (thank heavens) because although the pilot was less crass and treated the characters more seriously, in this attempt the setting was moved from London to Hollywood, and both Willie and Tarrant were portrayed as Americans. (Agghhhh!) In 2001 O’Donnell retired from writing the comic strip but between 2004 and 2009 he wrote the introductions for a series of Modesty Blaise comic strip reprint volumes published by Titan Books. He was also interviewed for a special feature included on the DVD release of the straigh-to-video 2002 film, My Name Is Modesty (telling of earlier times in her life before Willie and The Network,) This movie to my knowledge has not played in New Zealand but I have heard from overseas fans who have seen it and say that it is a reasonably good depiction of the character but still fails to capture her essence.

The writer Kingsley Amis was also a fan of the characters and once said that Blaise and Garvin were “one of the great partnerships in fiction, bearing comparison with that of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson.”

There is an official web site – Modesty Blaise, Ltd.

O’Donnell’s stated wish was that “no one else should write any future Modesty Blaise stories.” And considering that he wrote her for thirty-eight years, and that every word on all of the strips and books was his and never delegated or collaborated, I can only say that I agree. I don’t think anyone could ever write the characters so “right” again.

The book series is –

  1. Modesty Blaise (1965)
  2. Sabre-Tooth (1966)
  3. I, Lucifer (1967)
  4. A Taste for Death (1969)
  5. The Impossible Virgin (1971)
  6. Pieces of Modesty (1972) (short stories)
  7. The Silver Mistress (1973)
  8. Last Day in Limbo (1976)
  9. Dragon’s Claw (1978)
  10. The Xanadu Talisman (1981)
  11. The Night of Morningstar (1982)
  12. Dead Man’s Handle (1985)
  13. Cobra Trap (1996) (short stories)

However while those were the actual written books, Titan Books (UK) published eight volumes of reprints of strips featuring art by Holdaway and Romero, covering the period 1963 to 1974. These appeared between 1984 and 1988, and starting in March 2004 Titan have also  launched a new series of reprint comic strip volumes. I am told that these new versions use larger images and come from better source material than the earlier editions. As well as an introduction to each story by Peter O’Donnell for books 1 to 16, and by Lawrence Blackmore for books 17 onwards, most books include articles about the series. These appear to be currently available via The Book Depository UK that I know of, (because I looked them up and plan to buy one to evaluate it – and buy the remainder, if the evaluation is favourable) and probably from Amazon as well and other possible outlets as well.

I read the first Modesty book in 1965, and the last in December of 2013. I have currently been a fan for forty-seven years and expect that enthusiasm to continue. If you liked Emma Peel in The Avengers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and others of that ilk, you will probably love Modesty, Willie, Sir Gerald, and the works in which they appear. Run, do not walk, to the nearest place you can buy, or let your fingers do the running, and start buying on line. I can only say – recommended.

5 December 2013

The other night I was watching one of a series of documentaries on TV. The  series is entitled The World’s Scariest… this particular one as, Near Misses. And some of the events depicted were very near misses. Not of injuries because a number of those involved were badly injured, but of death. And once the programme was finished I sat back and started wondering just when responsibility kicks in on such antics. It tied in as well with my recall of a recent event when people went up a mountain with inadequate clothing, against weather reports, were trapped, called for help, still sadly died, but put search and rescue hugely at risk – something that isn’t uncommon. So where exactly does responsibility kick in when this sort of thing happens and whose ultimate responsibility is it?

It may seem brutal, but if I go tramping, deep into the bush without telling anyone exactly where I’ll be, if I go alone, without adequate gear, and then lose or injure myself, do I have the right to expect anything up to three hundred people to risk their lives by coming into very rough country in an effort to find this one person who shouldn’t have been there under those circumstances in the first place? In the days when I had two good legs I did go tramping and deer-shooting deep into very rough bush areas. However I was never alone on the trips in and out, and  if – once we were where we were going – I was alone for a day then at least one other of my party knew where I would be, and I had more than adequate gear including a rifle, machete, heavy jacket and the multiple pockets of that filled with emergency supplies that weighed little but would provide a sleeping bag, fire, hot drinks, food and first aid at need.

Those were the days when there was no GPS system, emergency beacons, or mobile phones, and conscious of the fact that if something bad happened we’d be on our own, we tended to be more careful. I suspect that of recent years many people are less cautious because they assume that these items will bring rescuerers running right to them at need – and some find out  (painfully, or even lethally)  when an emergency occurs, that, because of weather conditions or equipment failure, this isn’t always so. And my question is, if I make  a series of really stupid mistakes, fail in common sense in a big way, and get myself into great danger, have I the right to expect others to perhaps die trying to rescue me? And I don’t think I have that right. Or rather – because no one is going to be happy leaving someone out there to die when they could perhaps be saved – in any case where large amounts have been expended in the rescue, and the rescue was necessitated because the rescuee had behaved like an idiot, then they should have to pay the cost of the rescue – which can run into tens of thousands of dollars.

To sum up, I think that the various emergency services should look at any case where saving someone has cost a sum of money over a certain base  amount, and if the accident has happened, or a rescue has been required, because of illegal acts/failure to use basic commonsense or pure damn stupidity, then the person or persons should have to pay up. If someone strolls off into the bush on unmarked and not well defined paths without bothering to check the local weather report, wearing only shorts, sandals, and t-shirt, with no food, water, or matches, and no GPS/beacon, (with the excuse that they were only going for a walk,) become completely lost and require many searchers to recover them. Then they should pay the cost.

If someone goes off-shore in a small boat without flares, without a radio/emergency beacon, lifejackets for all aboard (and wearing them) and without bothering to check the local forecast, and then needs to be rescued. They should pay the costs. If someone goes up the mountains to practice extreme skiing, base jumping, or some other lethal pursuit, and injures themselves at that pursuit, they should be saved if possible, but they should also have to repay the costs. What right has someone to risk the lives of many people, and cost tax-payers a fortune, because this person enjoys taking chances with their own life? We come to their aid physically and financially, and it is we who pay. And I believe it is time that some action was taken legally to prevent the burdon falling on us. Perhaps a few court cases in which a reckless idiot of this type did the paying might remind them that commonsense is a virtue!

I read a while ago that a driver who was alcohol impaired, and caused a major accident, involving injuries, property damage, and much distress, was charged with the cost of the fire engine/police/ambulance callout. Maybe if that was done regularly we’d be trying to rescue fewer fools, seeing fewer drunken drivers (or at least paying less in rates or taxes when they crash)… and it might even encourage the growth of commonsense. A pleasant – if unlikely – hope. As they say; nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool. And that’s all too true!

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