Monthly Archives: March 2014

Now you’ve got broadband, text me.


Some years ago, I got an email from a mate which said “Now you’ve got broadband, send me a text.”

I just stared at the email on the screen of my desk top computer before finally emailing him back the one word, “Why?”

I’m afraid I couldn’t understand his answer, but it seemed to boil down to ‘because you can.’

I felt my comment still stood, ‘Why?’

It’s just that yesterday I was talking to a chap, he’s a decent bloke, competent, useful, and if fate has led him to becoming an office wallah, it’s not really his fault and nobody holds it against him.

He was saying how he’d ended up taking a fortnights holiday because he hadn’t managed to get all his days used up before the year end. The day his holiday started a farming friend of his was rushed into hospital with a suspected stroke.

Our office wallah showed his true mettle and for ten days out of the fourteen he worked full time (so we’re talking about twelve hour days here,) alongside his friend’s son and they pitched in and not merely kept everything fed, but got sheds cleaned out and tidied up so that when the friend came out of hospital (fortunately it wasn’t a stroke) he didn’t have any catching up to do.

The reason the chap mentioned this to me comes in the punch line. He said, “I had ten days mucking out sheds, feeding round, spreading slurry, and my phone never rang once. It was heaven.”

Now I realise I’m really blessed in that we don’t have a mobile phone signal here, so my phone, an elderly nokia, lives switched off in a drawer. If people want me, there’s the land line.

When I go out, mostly I remember to take the phone and sometimes I even bother to switch it on. But it doesn’t matter, if people want me, there’s still the land line. If I’m out and they phone, my lady wife will take a message, and I’ll get back to them on my return.

If I’m out and she’s out, well try ringing later.

Why do people have to be able to be in constant in touch?

Now I can see the advantage of a mobile phone. If I’ve got a problem, or I’m running late, then I can switch the phone on, ring home and let them know. Sometimes if I remember I’ll leave it switched on, on the off chance home want to contact me (I don’t think there’s more than six people have the number.)

I have a friend whose use of the phone I admire, it’s a genuine tool of his trade; he can see something, price it, buy it if it’s worth buying and have it sold before he’s even left the shop. That is something that couldn’t have been done ten years ago.

His phone also holds an inordinate number of books so he always has something to read with him. This is possibly the one use that would tempt me to getting a more up-to-date phone. (Even nokias fail eventually, especially if they’re jostling in your pocket with your car keys. At some point I’ll have to bite the bullet and get a new one, this will probably happen this decade.)

But at the moment my phone costs me about £15 a year on pay as you go, which isn’t bad for a phone that cost £25 with £20 phone credit. Looking at the price of contracts for a ‘decent’ phone, given I spend less a year than these contracts cost a month, I might just keep on sticking a paperback in my jacket pocket.

Edited to add that since then I have acquired a ‘smart phone.’ I switch it on far more often to use the (admittedly mediocre) camera than I do the phone. Actually it’s even cheaper than the Nokia and didn’t cost any more. I’m down to spending less than £10 a year. Still on pay as you go, have it set up not to use data because it was burning through the money just updating apps I never use and I haven’t sent a text this year or last.


And if you’re looking for  a good paperback or ebook, try


As a reviewer commented, “I am a keen reader of the fantasy genre and looked forward to reading this book. The story is engaging and there’s lots of action, some humour and a little pathos. The characters all worked well for me, especially Benor, Cartographer (and much else!) The story deals with a land which has its own races of people, its own herds of animals and I found it interesting to imagine this other world which is in many ways an equivalent of our medieval world. There’s plenty of intrigue here and the story has potential for a sequel.

Jim Webster has an engaging story telling style and a good knowledge of this genre. His writing has a gentle humour which comes naturally from the characters and their dialogue. It’s not played for belly-laughs but is very effective. There were some real gems, which I very much enjoyed. ‘He spat on the floor and missed’ really tickled me! I look forward to more of the same.”

You might as well give an elephant a chainsaw



One too-clever-by-half young lad was interviewing for a job, there was nothing he couldn’t do better than anybody else. So finally the interviewer, exasperated asked “Can you wheel smoke in a barrow?”

Quick as a flash the lad came back with “You load it, I’ll wheel it.”

One thing I’ve learned, no matter what you’re doing there’s always somebody out there reckons they know how to do it better. It doesn’t matter that they’ve never actually done the job; it’s just that they’ve got enough life experience to be able to tell them how wonderful they’d be if they had to do it.

Some professions suffer more from this than others. Teachers suffer badly; after all, we’ve all been to school, so we are all experts on schooling and how teaching should be done.

I’ve had it myself; I’ve been told how I should handle cattle by people whose whole experience of livestock handling was that they were allowed to fetch the class hamster home during the holidays. (It died twice and Mum had to go to the pet shop with the corpse in a carrier bag to make sure she brought one back the same colour so that nobody noticed.)

But there is another phenomenon. While everybody knows how to live everybody else’s life better than they do it themselves, the vast majority of us are happy enough to just comment and barrack from the sidelines. We don’t roll our sleeves up and organise the person’s life for them. There are exceptions and they’re people we’re all wary of, ‘pushy parents’ are one category of people it’s possible to be derogatory about without being politically incorrect.

But put people in power and it can go to their heads. In fact it can go to their heads if they merely aspire to gain power or in the case of John McTernan if they merely advise people who aspire to gain power.

As John McTernan said, “You can’t trust people to spend their own money sensibly.”


Let people decide what to do with their own money! You might as well give an elephant a chainsaw.

All I can say is that if these people don’t trust us to spend our own money; I’m surprised they trust us to choose the right party to vote for.


What do I know, you might as well ask the dog.

As a reviewer commented, “This is a selection of anecdotes about life as a farmer in Cumbria. The writer grew up on his farm, and generations of his family before him farmed the land. You develop a real feeling for the land you are hefted to and this comes across in these stories. We hear of the cattle, the sheep, his succession of working dogs, the weather and the neighbours, in an amusing and chatty style as the snippets of Jim Webster’s countryman’s wisdom fall gently. I love this collection.”



A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.


The tale is told about a farmer who got a surprise inspection from the agricultural wages board. The official wanted to see all the paperwork relating to any employed labour.

“So who do you employ?”
”Well there’s the cowman, here’s his payslips, he’s on £30K a year with a house and a jap pickup for getting about in. Works forty hours a week but some of that is guaranteed overtime.”

“Is there anybody else?”

“Yes, there’s a general farm worker. He’s on £25K, doesn’t get a house, works forty hours with overtime. Here’s his payslips.”

The official checked the paperwork. “Seems satisfactory; is there anybody else?”

The farmer thought briefly, and then said, “Well there’s the idiot.”

“And what does he do?”

The farmer shrugged. “Bit of this and that, about a hundred hours a week, covers for the other two when they’re off, gets his baccy money and even the occasional fiver to buy his self a pint.”
”That does it,” the official said, “I’ve got to speak to the idiot.”
The farmer just looked at him. “You are doing.”

Yep, that’s the world I’ve come out of. I once calculated that the previous financial year I’d earned the magnificent sum of £0.09 an hour.

Now then you might well ask where I’m coming from. I’m not looking for sympathy; I know where to find that. As a friend of mine once remarked, “You’ll find it in the dictionary between sh*t and syphilis.”

It’s just I was re-reading ‘The Other’ by Matthew Hughes, a talented Sci-Fi writer whose work I enjoy.

I’ll quote him, rather than try and explain it myself;-

“At that moment, Imbry experienced an instance of the abrupt mental dislocation that often struck those who travelled widely among the Ten Thousand Worlds. He had heard it called the ‘Bump’ or the ‘dissonance’ and had encountered it himself more than once. It was the psychic shock suffered by a human being from one world who suddenly became aware that the person from some other world with whom he was innocently interacting possessed a radically, perhaps chillingly, different mindscape.

The two might be chance-met in a tavern. They would fall into innocent chat about inconsequential matters, each convinced by the other’s views on the weather or the quality of the beer that they were like-minded in all that matters. Until one of them offers an offhand comment about the tedium involved in having to sell his surplus offspring, or enthuses salaciously about next week’s public evisceration of a malefactor whose crime turns out to be something like scratching a buttock within ten paces of the portrait of a local saint.

An icy frisson passes through the stranger. He holds himself perfectly still though his eyes dart about, alarmed. Shadows seem to gather about him. All at once it seems perfectly possible, even likely, that the bland couple sitting at an adjacent table, or the idlers in the street outside might without warning show fangs and unsheathe claws, leap upon the hapless visitor, and turn an until-now pleasant excursion into an impromptu abattoir.”

Now I’m sure I’ve experienced the ‘Bump’ or ‘dissonance’. I’ve had my run-ins with modern culture, even blogged about it.

But I had a real ‘dissonance’ experience on Facebook. There I was minding my own business when I read someone’s post. She was really upset that somebody didn’t tip. The person who had upset her had been into a café or something and not left a tip, they may even have boasted about it!

Now then, I’d probably be in my teens the first time that I saw someone leave a tip, two shillings slipped under his plate in an auction mart café. Tipping just wasn’t done. I’d heard women mortified that someone had tried to tip them. I’d grown up thinking that tipping was something shocking from our past, like sending children up chimneys to clean them. It was the employer’s job to pay people, and if they didn’t pay, you didn’t work there and you let everyone know and people didn’t eat there either. It might happen in big cities down south but that merely proved it was wrong.

So the discussion that followed was something of a shock, to put it mildly.

We don’t need aliens to provide the weird in our lives, people are alien enough to do that.


But then what do I know, ask the dog


As a reviewer commented, “Brilliantly written, honest, funny and if you’re from this little bit of land you’ll have been intrigued by the title – sold by the end of the very first line “There’s a lamb climbing out the oven””

Don’t smile at the camera, it makes you look like the ‘Before’ in the ‘Beecham’s Pills’ advert.

You know what they say, if you think you’re important, try giving orders to somebody else’s dog.

(Actually you don’t give orders to a Border Collie, but they will occasionally deign to discuss policy)


But anyway, I’ve been trying to be noticed, having a book to launch means that you try and get everywhere and somehow look like you’re important enough for people to stop and read about. Perfectly sensible people have asked me why. Surely publishers do all that sort of stuff for you? The answer to that is, “Well, sort of.”

The great P.G. Wodehouse said it best.


“Too often when a publisher entertains an author at the midday meal a rather sombre note tinges the table talk. The host is apt to sigh a good deal and to choose as the theme of his remarks, the hardness of the times, the stagnant condition of the book trade and the growing price of pulp paper. And when his guest tries to cheer him up by suggesting that these disadvantages may be offset by a spirited policy of publicity, he sighs again and says that eulogies of an author’s work displayed in the press at the publisher’s expense are of little or no value, the only advertising that counts being – how shall he put it –well, what he might perhaps describe as word-of-mouth advertising. “


Thus wrote the great man in ‘Uncle Dynamite’ and in homage to the great man and his insights I’ll mention the book is available here


You see, as far as I can tell, old PG was right. Do I buy books because they’re mentioned in adverts? Do you? I know that I buy them because they are recommended by friends whose tastes I trust, or because I know and like the author and their work. In a shop I’ll pick the book up and flick through it before making a decision, but buying on-line or e-books, that isn’t an option.

So I’ve been all over the web like an undignified medical condition, I’ve seen my photo so often I’ve developed a dislike for it, hence the title of this blog.


Fortunately I’ve been able to keep a sense of proportion. Whilst all this has been going on we’ve had builders in. We had a chimney fire on New Year’s Eve and this meant we had to get a new liner put down a five hundred year old Chimney.

This involved scaffolding and that went up the day before we had the extreme gales. Say this for the gentlemen at Speedier Scaffolding, it never budged.

Then we’ve been lambing and what-have-you, and when the weather’s been fine I’ve been busy trying to get some hedging finished before spring and the new growth comes.

But I was talking to one lady who was really full of the spring lambs in her area. She told me that the farmer next to her was so progressive and advanced that all his lambs wore little plastic jackets.

I told her that that was nothing. Tom makes sure that all his have a fleece!

French without tears?

“Into the face of the young man who sat on the terrace of the Hotel Magnifique at Cannes there had crept a look of furtive shame, the shifty, hangdog look which announces that an Englishman is about to speak French.”


Once again I borrow the words of PG Wodehouse, a fine writer who managed to be humorous and insightful at the same time.

I shall draw a veil over my own language skills, sufficient to note that the school system taught me French from the age of seven to the age of sixteen, and frankly, it didn’t stick. My late mother always said that it was because I couldn’t see the point of it so didn’t bother. She may have been right in this. She also taught me to read before I went to school and then wondered if she’d done the right thing as I seemed to have the attitude that once I could read, what else did I need to learn?

But I did learn. I got a decent old fashioned education that would have qualified me for a proper job. One with a salary, a pension, holidays and even time off, but somehow I never went down that road. I’ve farmed all my life, even now I genuinely enjoy hedging which combines the outdoors (admittedly in winter when it’s cold and wet) with a sort of four dimensional Tetris as you try and work out not only how the next tree will lay in, but how it’ll grow and fill out.

Perhaps because of my decent old fashioned education, in spite of everything that modern media and technology can offer, it’s been reading that has always been my preferred way of relaxing. At school, aged eleven, we even had a time at the end of lessons where, if you’d finished the work set, you were allowed to read. I remember sitting there, head propped in hands with my fingers over my ears, totally engrossed in the book.

I remember one occasion when suddenly this hand appeared, as someone blocked the page where I was reading. This had happened before, people used to think it was an amusing trick, but this time I reacted instinctively. I brought one of my hands down, hard, and slapped the offending hand in front of me.

I suppose I ought to have studied it for longer; had I done so it would probably have occurred to me that it was larger than my hand, and certainly larger than the hand of any other eleven year old I’d met. This only occurred to me after I’d made forceful contact and so I looked up, to see the headmaster looking down at me. Yes, I’d just slapped his hand and not softly.

Back then head teachers were just teachers who also did other stuff, not administrators tied to the office. I think he was just pleased to see a pupil who enjoyed reading, because he just smiled at me, called a giggling class to order and we went on with the next part of the lesson.

And now I’m not just reading; I’m writing stuff as well. I’ve got five fantasy books out there. They’re E-books and I confess I’m proud of them. But today, on the 1st March 2014, I actually have a book coming out in paperback with a proper publisher. Yes, Safkhet are publishing ‘Justice 4.1’ (Tsarina Sector).


The kindle edition is here


I’m writing this before it happens, so I can post it tomorrow morning and jolt everybody into going out there and buying it.

It is a strange feeling, the feeling that the world, for me, will change slightly. For billions of other people (probably everybody else actually) it’ll just be another Saturday. But for me it’s one of those milestones in life. Not one of the big ones like births, deaths, marriages, but significant in its own way.

But one thing that amuses me, after all these years, in spite of my utter inability to communicate meaningfully in French, Justice 4.1 is out there, on Amazon.Fr


French without tears indeed.