This is a plea to all Facebook and Twitter users, to check the facts before you share or retweet. The recent attempt by the Conservative Party to pass off their Twitter account as fact-checking is a reminder that it is very easy in the current febrile environment to simply pass on things that are not true. I have been guilty of that as well, but I am now being more careful about what I share with others.
Before sharing or retweeting I check the source and ask myself if it is unbiased and from a reputable source. So-called facts by some newspapers are not facts but opinions. We no longer have a ‘newspaper of record.’ The Times which I do read regularly but not daily is owned by an Australian, living in the USA and has very right-wing views. The current editor does seem to be less influenced by the owner than previous ones, no doubt because of the backlash against the News of the World. The Telegraph is owned by the Barclay Brothers who live in an offshore island off Sark. High wealth individuals who have their own agenda. Incidentally, it’s no good sharing articles from either of those newspapers as they have paywalls so I can’t access them. Nor can may others and headlines alone are not of much value. The Guardian is owned by a trust and is quite open about its left-wing bias. You may disagree with them but at least you know where they are coming from.
I don’t even consider the ‘redtops’ as there propensity for misrepresentation is legendary.
I’m really suggesting that when you consider your vote, think for yourself about the issues you think are important rather than the soundbites.
When I studied politics at University, Professor Bernard Crick said we got the government we deserve.
We have a very poor choice as leaders of our two main parties, but there are good MPs who deserve their seats in Parliament, some are members of a political party, some are independent. Perhaps we should try and elect honest people as MPs rather than those who simply follow the party line.
As always it’s your choice.
I have decided to do some posts about this forthcoming election because I think it is a crucial one for the country as to our direction of travel for the next generation. I should declare my own interests — my politics are centre-left. I feel uncomfortable with any political party at the moment, none of which represent my views at all. I believe we should remain in the EU because the benefits outweigh the disadvantages. No one has given me a satisfactory explanation as to why we should leave. Throwing words like sovereignty, undemocratic or take back control isn’t helpful unless we all agree on what those words mean.
Someone said to me that lawyers think differently and I believe he meant we look for evidence and for the definition of the words people use. So I’m going to look at what we are being told by those asking for our votes for the privilege of representing us in Parliament and suggesting questions you might like to ask yourselves about their election promises. Promises that as we all know too well can be broken the minute they are in power.
So the first question is what kind of society do we want. I’m not going to provide an answer. I have my own thoughts but I am going to suggest that you watch the film, ‘Sorry we missed you.’ It’s the story of a young couple with two children struggling when the husband is made redundant and can only get a job as a courier working on a zero-hours contract. His wife works as a carer again on a zero-hours contract. Their finances were hit by the collapse of Northern Rock – the fault of bankers. They struggle to make ends meet, working all hours and from that their family life breaks down. It may be exaggerated as most stories are, but I’m sure there is a real kernel of truth in the story.
The review in The Guardian gave it five stars and the journalist Peter Bradshaw said this at the end of his piece. ‘When I first saw this film I reflected that the European Union is the modern-day nursery of employment rights. Outside it is where working people will find more cynicism, more cruelty, more exploitation, more economic isolation, and more poverty.’
It’s your choice.
I began this blog by writing about the cases in which I had played a role either as an articled clerk, then a solicitor and for over twenty-five years as a barrister. Although mostly I worked in the criminal courts -‘defending the indefensible’ I did some cases in the family court and a few cases in the High Court.
I have recently published a number of these anecdotes in a memoir called Trials, Errors, and Misdemeanors. It is available as an e-book and a paperback on Amazon. From tomorrow 7th June to 12th June the e-book is available free.
Reluctant Consent will be available for 99p from 11th to 14th March as an ebook on Kindle.
Check out the five star reviews it has already.
Reluctant Consent has another five star review. See below. And a Danish Cassie Hardman Fan Club! How cool can that be.
Reluctant Consent is a superb follow up to Crucial Evidence and I can’t wait for the trilogy. The characters are real and you are kept guessing right to the very end. As well as this, the books give a fascinating insight (educational, in my case) to the workings of the British legal system. I have done Margaret Barnes no favours by passing my copy of both books, highly recommended, onto friends, thus denying her royalties (sorry!). I have now bought two further copies to give to friends abroad. Wait for the new Danish branch of the Cassie Hardman Fan Club.
I loved Albert Finney. Saturday Night, Sunday Morning hit the cinemas in 1960. I went to see it in our local flea pit and there on the silver screen was a world I was familiar with. Streets of terraced houses, men and women who worked in mills and looked forward to the weekends as the days when they really lived. Until then films were about elegant people who floated around enchanted gardens worrying about trivia or could agonise over getting to some lighthouse. Albert Finney portrayed a life that was raw and hard.
Tom Jones spoke to a newly liberated me as I moved from pupil to university student. The age of Aquarius — sexual freedom, uninhibited music, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.
His stage presence left me mesmerised – Hamlet at the newly opened National Theatre, the full text, all three hours of it. Finney commanded the stage, striding around and constantly touching his codpiece, his voice resonating around the modern auditorium. Then his last stage appearance in 1996 in Art, that witty piece about the nature of art.
His life a reminder that it was possible to change from working class child to a sophisticated man. We should celebrate that life.
Just a quick thought as we move into 2019. In the last pages of her book, the Secret Barrister bemoans the lack of interest in the Criminal Justice System in comparison to the NHS or education.
Her book has been a best seller but in The Guardian, on Saturday the list of 100 bestsellers for the year was published and guess what ‘The Secret Barrister’ was nowhere to be seen but ‘This is Going to Hurt; secret diaries of a Junior Doctor’ by Adam Kay was number 2. Says it all really!
I would urge anyone who values freedom to read The Secret Barrister and for a more fictionalised account of how the Criminal Justice System works try either of my novel ‘Crucial Evidence’ or ‘Reluctant Consent.’ on Amazon.
The photographer whose picture I wrote about said my story was well written and had ‘got’ the photo, before I told him I was the author.
It was a busy night in Teignmouth, and when we saw the crowds of people streaming across the car park, we thought briefly they were all headed for TAAG. But no; we had chosen the date of the annual firework display as the night we would launch our exhibition with a private viewing. So apologies to anyone who struggled with parking.
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The main attraction of the Budleigh Literary Festival was the master class given by the renowned writer Hilary Mantel. On 21st September about fifty of us sat in the pretty Church on the Green to hear from Hilary about her life in writing. I have tried to distil four hours into a few hundred words, but I hope I can give a flavour what she said.default
It took her five years to write her first novel ‘A Place of Greater Safety’ eight hundred pages documenting the lives of the lawyers who made the French Revolution, but it wasn’t published for twelve years and not before she had published other novels which publishers thought marketable. Her own story she hoped would encourage others to write. She believed the starting point of any piece of creative fiction was the desire to bring into being the novel/short story etc.
She put her novels together like a collage, often using a board to pin index cards in different colours as an aid. She sometimes felt like she was in a nursery school with different coloured pens and pencils, cut outs from papers and magazines to create a mood board. She never plotted her novels in any detail but didn’t necessarily stick even to that – ‘the best ideas come when you are writing.’
She believed that a writer’s voice came from ones personality and ones experiences modified by technique. It helps to learn to live with the incomplete. One doesn’t have to resolve everything. Mobilise the reader’s sense of the possibilities in your narrative. Always say ‘yes’ to your ideas first.
She advised against showing your work to friends – ‘you don’t have to account to the outside world.’ If you do, listen to the advice and nod, take it away with you and think about it.
Plot is simply what happens. Characters must be interesting and have the capacity to act, grow and change. They should want something, struggle towards it and change in the struggle. Screen writers are good at holding attention – what happens next? She thought books about screen writing could be helpful.
One can tell if the structure is wrong when one is bored with it. Look for the turning points and ‘be wary of a book that doesn’t write itself.’ If it seems wrong, put in a drawer – ‘they change in the dark.’ If you have a split narrative one needs to get the reader so involved with one strand before switching to another.
Dialogue is not what people actually say but should have the appearance of being natural when it is contrived. Don’t tell characters in dialogue what is already known – each line should be unexpected. Think of every point in each exchange as potentially different. Think too about the characters age, status and education. Create dialogue for the not so articulate. Use word order and syntax to show different language or dialect. The odd word is enough so that you leave the reader feeling secure.
Memoir is the same art but with you as the main character. Decide on a theme and the aspect you want to write about. Should be authentic but not tell everything – the reader is not entitled to know everything about you. The alchemy is the art of turning the individual experience into the general.
Characters should grow organically. How does the character think, how does he protect himself. Each one is many sided. Hilary gave the example of Cromwell – a cloth merchant, a banker so when he looks at someone’s clothes he sees the quality of the cloth and knows its price.
The challenge of writing is the gift of being there – the sight, the smell, the noises. Look and listen before judging.
Dame Hilary was gracious and generous with her advice. I am sure everyone there was inspired to write more and better.
Keeping it Short.
Most writers agree that writing short stories is one of the most difficult writing forms. Two writers, Kirsty Gunn and Chris Power were to talk about how they make their stories complete and compact whilst drawing you into the tale. I was hoping to get some clues as to how to write short stories, a form I am not happy with. Instead both writers talked about their latest books.
Kirsty Gunn has written both short stories and novels. Her latest being a novel ‘Caroline’s Bikini.’ She said she found no difference between writing the short form or a novel – she used the same method, writing one short story after another. In ‘Caroline’s Bikini’ which is a book about writing a book, she keeps avoiding the action, leading the writer on to expect something to happen. She was interested in real lives and how imagination can transform everyday life. Fiction gives us the ‘a world on a page’ and allows the reader to get behind the reticence human beings display. She read a few pages from her novel which has footnotes to actively engage the reader.
Chris Power’s book of short stories Mothers’ began with an anecdote his mother-in-law had related and when he began to think about mothers he found the real people more complex than the traditional image. The stories all concern mental health which he examined with a ‘cold eye.’ There are three stories about the same character at different stages of her life. He hadn’t considered them as a novel.
So I didn’t learn much about how to write short stories and it didn’t turn me into t fan of them either, but I bought ‘Caroline’s Bikini’ and discovered another writer whose book I loved.