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23 September 2015

As always, I never quite know how I get into things. But sooner or later I wake up and find I’m kneedeep in something I hadn’t planned, it just happened. That’s how I’m writing Sherlock Holmes books. Quite some time ago a couple of eminent Sherlockians that were friends of a friend mentioned an idea. As is not uncommon for me, my sub-conscious promptly took over and willy nilly, I found I was writing a collection of 14 new Sherlock and Watson short stories (based like concrete on the ‘original canon” because that’s what I like.) I wrote them mostly for fun, but through fortunate circumstances, they sold to a publisher, and appeared as Sherlock Holmes: Repeat Business at the start of 2014. Somehow since then I’ve continued to have ideas, and a second book, Sherlock Holmes:Beastly Mysteries came out last April, while a third book, Sherlock Holmes: Poisonous People was accepted a couple of months ago. And then a short story seized me. After which I had another idea based on that story and… I have no idea where all this is going, I’m just along for the ride, but whenever, or if ever, it ends, it’s been a great trip and I’m loving every minute. That’s the advantage of simply following your nose, you end up in such interesting places.

Currently in NZ the percentage of those of us over 65 is steadily increasing. I suspect at the same time, however, that the percentage of the population with common sense is rather more rapidly decreasing. Recent events confirm that for me anyway – as an MP, and an entire Government Department in my beloved country appear unaware that a small group of islands have been part of our country for around 60 years and refuse to allow the legitimate travel discount to go there to a war veteran. Then there’s two radio hosts who think it perfectly acceptable to verbally abuse a lady that rang in to complain – of them verbally abusing an earlier ringer-in – and the hosts now appear to be astounded that they’re ‘unfairly’ suspended. And then there are house prices in Auckland. I live in the Tararua, here and in Hawkes Bay to our north, house prices are affordable, and yes, there’s work. But does it occur to any of these lemmings to move to where they could afford a house, and still be employed, and hence have more money and a better lifestyle? Nope. Not that we’re the only country with this problem. What with America having hysterics about a schoolboy’s clock, and Australia changing PM’s every year, whoever said that “ommonsense – isn’t” had it all too right.

I strolled out to bring in firewood this morning, to find my progress seriously impeded by the gander and a goose. Idiot goose had decided that the woodshed was the ideal place to nest. Not by me it isn’t. I made a stragegic withdrawal and returned with my shepherd’s crook and an umbrella. Removed the goose with the crook around her neck, while fending off the gander with the umbrella. (yes, I’ve had experience in this.) I then swiped the single egg and tossed loose firewood onto the nest site to discourage any return. Sigh. It’s spring, but not yet warm enough to do without a fire, I do NOT plan to do this each time I want to bring in wood. She isn’t nesting there – and that’s that!

17 September 2015

I’ve never known how true it is, but there’s a story about Ralph Nader (American car safety enthusiast) from some decades ago. He insisted that new cars should all have a system where you couldn’t start the car engine until your seat belt was properly fastened. A new line came out with this feature, and the first was purchased by a father for his daughter, starting her first year at university. Some months later she worked late at the university library and headed for her car, now the last one in the library car park. There she was attacked by a would-be rapist as she opened the car door, she managed to fight him off long enough to get into the car, lock the door, and attempt to start the car to flee. The car refused to start of course, since she wasn’t wearing her seat belt. Before she could fasten that the rapist broke the car window, dragged her out, beat and raped her. Her father sued the car company and won a huge settlement. Now that story may or may not be true.
What concerns me is the latest possibility of similar kind. Recently on TV there was a brief item about a new type of computerized braking system they want to fit to cars. It stops your car slamming into the back of the car in front because you weren’t paying attention when that stopped. The point is that once you get within a certain distance of something static – like another car or perhaps a wall, the brakes come on and refuse to allow you to advance by any distance at all so long as the obstruction remains. One very dangerous possibility dawned on me at that point. Picture this. A driver crosses a railway line just as the car in front for whatever reason stops dead. The car behind it is now trapped on the railway line because the braking system refuses to allow it to move closer to the other car, or even to drive past it at very close range. And you know people, there’s a good chance the driver will stay in the car trying desperately to get it to move forwards – right up to the moment the train hits it. And I can think of other scenarios of that sort that could be caused by a computerized braking system of this type. Computers do not reason, they act as programmed. I don’t think a system like this is a good idea, and it could kill people. Wonder if ALL the possibilities have been considered by the makers?
(And I should add for a friend who asked about reversing the car, that often when one stops at a railway crossing, there is a line of vehicles behind you. You’d have to go to the back of that line and persuade the last in line to reverse, then all the others, up to the front of the line. Then too, while the material I saw on this system said only that you couldn’t go forward aginst an obstacle. It may be too that the computer will not allow the car to reverse against something behind. And if so, that could leave the car stranded for reversing as well if the barrier is down behind the vehicle and the computer refuses to allow reversing through that to escape the train.)

9 September 2015

tradepaperback, published 1998 by HarperCollins.
I saw this when it came out years ago, speed-read my way through an item or two and bought it on the spot. And every 4-5 years I re-read it and chuckle happily. (This week was the fourth time.) I might not recommend it to those that are under thirty, they won’t remember a lot (if any) of the subject matter, and half my enjoyment in reading this comes from remembering the events pilloried, but for those in their forties and up it’s a gem of a book.
It’s based on a column written for TRUTH (a weekly newspaper) by the author, with a sprinkling of other articles written around the same time for The Sunday Star Times and the NZ Herald. They are both clever and funny, but often add in a pointed comment or two, and while now and again I didn’t always agree, I always enjoyed the writing. Copies are still around, and if you like a good laugh – with some excellent social commentary (and a lot of non-PC) buy one. My regret is that the author doesn’t seem to have written a sequel.

yup, a new magazine started a while back. I offered them a couple of items and was then so busy with two books I didn’t realize there’d been no reply for months. Finally got to checking my mailing list and discovered this. A small polite query later (there’d been a death in the family) and I’ve sold them not only a humorous essay and a short story, but they’re also planning an interview and using a flash story reprint with that. This quartet will appear over the next couple of issues I’m happy to say, and will provide a nice boost in a couple of areas of my credits lists. The publisher is a genuinely nice guy and you could do a lot worse than to buy the Odd Tree Press magazine, or to offer them work.

and I have proof. The gaggle have established two nests in which they have eggs – and a nasty attitude to anyone approaching. In fact you don’t even have to get that close. Stroppy my gander is his usual paranoid self, and has taken to lying in ambush around the back of the main water tank. I came in with an armload of firewood this morning at 7am and found as I turned to shut the door behind me that I’d been stealthily followed. Too bad, just as he dived to the attack I swung the door shut and he bounced backwards with a startled shriek as beak and door met. That’ll teach him.

last week I was chatting to a much younger friend, who, as I do, likes westerns. I mentioned that Audie Murphy has done some excellent ones and received a very blank look.
“Who was he?”
He died in 1971, never mind. Still not quite with the programme, I suggested John Wayne. Well. she’d heard of him vaguely,
“Isn’t he dead?”
Ah, yes. I brightened, however I have a stack of video tapes of a bunch of his movies which I re-watch regularly.
“You’d love El Dorado. I can loan you that?”
“Video tapes?”