Monthly Archives: July 2015

How much is art worth? I proudly present to you a chance to avail yourself of a truly retro experience!

Writers have used many subtle schemes to get people to buy their wares. Variants on “Buy now or the kitten gets it” have proved widely popular amongst the more desperate of the fancy, but frankly I don’t think that they’re entirely successful.

Still the artist starving in the garret has to do something?
And then I realised, was I doing the starving in the garret bit properly? After all, was it enough to be a mere scribbler dabbling in Fantasy or Science Fiction? Perhaps I had to become a proper artist, perhaps even, (pause for brief drum roll) a poet.

Here I confess to being uniquely qualified in the role as starving poet. I have no poetical skills whatsoever and thus if any poet is going to starve, it would be me.


But I still had to produce some poetry. This is where fate stepped in. Enter, pursued by a bear, one Mike Rose-Steel. Not only is he my editor but he is an accredited poet, being just the man to shift a butt of canary or sack (should Her Majesty be reading this).

I’m working on some early stories of Benor in Port Naain as a young man, and his landlord and friend is the poet Tallis Steelyard. Of course I dropped a line of Tallis’s work into a story and this provoked an email from Mike.

Rather than a ‘cease and desist’ order; or even a firm note pointing out that there was such a thing as demarcation (he doesn’t do roof top chases so why was I dabbling in the finer arts) he asked if he could borrow Tallis.

Thus and so, ten poems latter the art of Tallis Steelyard is available for a world hungry for great poetry.

But we didn’t stop there, lest people feel unable to grasp the depth of the passion or the subtlety of the symbolism, the renowned Cartographer, Benor Dorfinngil, has commented on each poem to give it context, and literary criticism is also available from Lancet Foredeck.

And here it is the heart of the issue. As is traditional with modern poetry it is available as a hand stitched pamphlet with about 28 pages (obviously it depends upon how you count these things as any true poet would know.)

And the price? How much to charge? What is the value of art? We have ten unique poems, plus background, plus literary criticism, all of a calibre rarely offered to the public in this sad and declining era. What should I ask for it? Is forty pence too much for a poem? Are there skinflints out there who would haggle an artist down to a mere thirty-five? I think not. I have faith in the world, I believe in the basic decency of humanity. Let us look at forty pence a poem and throw in all the rest for free. Let us forget the bleeding fingers of the poet as he hand-stitches the pamphlets, let us draw a veil over the agonized soul searching of the literary critic, let us just call it a straight £4, cash.

And here is another matter. We live in an age of instant gratification. Press a button, swipe a card and it’s yours. Live in the right metropolitan conurbation and the mighty Amazon will deliver your goods a full hour before you felt the need to order them!

So I want you to see this rare pamphlet not merely as an object, a book of poems or whatever. I want you to think of it as a piece of performance art. Not only that but it is performance art that you, dear reader, may take part in. A role has been reserved for you.

The procedure is as follows. Having decided that you can no longer call yourself a person of fine literary taste if you do not possess a copy, you are all of a quiver to purchase a copy? What do you do, what steps must you take, how can you ensure that within minutes an electronic document lies quivering, trapped, enmeshed within the coils of your restricting technology?

The answer is simple. You cannot. Instead you must walk a different, more creative path.

Should you know me, you merely pick up the phone and call me, reserving a copy, which I will hand to you in person when we meet and you will hand to me the appropriate sum of hard currency.

If you know me and feel it is unlikely that we will meet, then you can send a message to my email (although I feel a letter in the post would be more in keeping with the nature of this performance, but still I will not penalise an email).

If you wonder whether you can trespass on a very limited acquaintanceship, I insist, feel free. There is an email address available, which is checked not infrequently. Then using the miracles of modern technology we can discuss such matters as are of general interest as well as you discovering both the current level of availability of Lambent Dreams, as well as how much it will cost me to post said slim volume to whatever part of the world you are currently domiciled in.

Then, in keeping with the retrospective nature of this performance piece, you can post me a cheque in pounds, sterling, or even push grubby currency notes into an envelope. This is an experience I am sure that younger readers have never had and that older readers can revisit, the pleasure of briefly reliving the trials and tribulations of your younger days will surely add to the value to the experience.

Then when said cheque or bundle of grubby currency notes reaches me I shall place a copy of Lambent Dreams in an envelope, hasten to the post office and thrust it into the system which shall, in due course, deliver this delectable offering into your own fair hands. Think of the bliss, think of the pleasures of gratification denied, think of how you will clutch it to your bosom in glee. Finally and at last, it is yours.

Oh yeah, and I suppose at some point we’ll stick it up on kindle and people can do the whole click and download business but it isn’t what I’d call art.

Moving through at speed

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Lambs always look sweet frolicking on the grass, kicking up their heels and jumping about. What people forget is that the same animal will often try the same tricks when it weights the best part of forty kilos.

Moving a group of weaned lambs can at times be an interesting experience. If they’re all sort of going in the right way together then it’s not a problem. The problem comes when one has somehow got separated. It’ll look for its friends and run toward them. If it’s standing half way up a bank eating hedgerow plants, the run might well start with a jump. Having 35kg of lamb heading for your chest at about 33km/hr because you’re between her and her friends can spoil your whole damned day.

I got a phone call from a neighbour; one of our lambs had got out and was in his yard and garden. So I nipped down on the quad to see what was going on. The lamb, 40kg of superbly toned muscle, had panicked. She didn’t know where she had left her friends so every time the neighbour approached her; he was obviously trying to cut her off from her mates. So she went everywhere at maximum speed, often at low altitude.

Now it you know what you’re doing and you’re fast, rather than trying to stop them in mid air, you can divert their flight. I’ve seen one person catch one in the air and let it spin him so that when he let go the lamb crashed back into the bunch it had just left. To be honest that falls very much into the ‘do not try this one at home’ category.

But anyway when I got there the lamb had spotted a door open into a shed and had gone in there. So with a piece of rope in my pocket I went into the shed and the neighbour held the door shut. Whilst the shed was a bit cluttered, this was to our advantage as she needed open space to accelerate in. As it was when she did try to run, it was from a standing start and she never got more than a foot before she was caught. Then with her feet tied we whisked her back to her mates. Job done.

Actually there’s been a lot of that sort of thing recently. I’ve spent a lot of time fixing fences, sorting sheep, and generally trying to keep on top of the job. I’m not complaining, I’m just trying to think up excuses for why I’ve not kept up with the blog. I’ve been busy.

On top of that I’ve got back into the writing again. I have a project that is almost finished. The year before last I wrote and published ‘The Cartographer’s Apprentice.”

It was something of a change of direction. Rather than a full novel, it’s more a short collection of stories, all about the same protagonist. They’re tales from the career of Benor as a young man.

This slim volume (can you say that about an e-book?) has been well received so I decided I’d repeat the process. The cunning plan was to release three of these a year. But timetables and life being what they are, I’ve written six, the first is due to be published on the 1st August, and the other five are virtually ready, so they can reliably appear at four month intervals.

Also I’ve produced a slim volume of poetry and literary criticism. Lambent Dreams is a cooperation between various people, both real and imaginary. I’ll let you decide for yourself which is which.

There are Poems based on the work of Tallis Steelyard, friend of Benor with commentary by Benor, and an introduction from noted fictional poet Lancet Foredeck. Cover design by Esther van Raamsdonk.


As a reviewer commented, “This short book really amused me. If you’re familiar with the stories of Benor the Cartographer from the author’s Land of the Three Seas then you will have some idea of what to expect. Tallis Steelyard is a poet. He makes his living that way. Lambent Dreams is a collection of some of his works and his friend Benor comments on them to give some historical or geographical insight. Then there is the commentary from fellow poet and critic Lancet Foredeck. These remind me of the notes you get on wines from some of the ‘experts’ and I chuckled along with them. Perhaps funniest of all was the fact that, somehow, the footnotes inserted by one of the typesetters were left in by accident; a much more refreshing view is revealed!

This won’t take you long to read but I guarantee you’ll smile a lot while you do. A little gem!”