Homage to Catalonia – George Orwell

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“I have the most evil memories of Spain, but I have very few bad memories of Spaniards. I only twice remember even being seriously angry with a Spaniard, and on each occasion, when I look back, I believe I was in the wrong myself.” – George Orwell.

I have been a long term reader and fan of Eric Blair (George Orwell) ever since I was a teenager.  Not the Orwell of 1984 or Animal Farm but rather the earlier man of essays and of books such as Road to Wigan Pier and Homage to Catalonia (not to mention the sublime Down and Out in Paris and London).  Time permitted me to read Homage to Catalonia over the last week during a time of great joy and a friend’s wedding celebration.  It is a book well worth reading if you are interested in several different aspects of life, politics and writing.  It is auto-biography, it is a war memoir, it is a social account and it is a man’s take upon the Spanish Civil War.  Read Orwell and learn about the workings of the world.  Here are some thoughts and if you want to get a copy of this book it is very easy (not the first edition above!) it can be had for pennies from bookshops and elsewhere as it has been in many editions.   My own is in the bin now, water damaged and smelly it was due for composting.

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Orwell went to Barcelona in 1936 to report on the Spanish Civil War. He was so struck with the progress of the workers’ revolution there, the camaraderie and the hope, that he decided this state of affairs was worth defending, and enlisted with a militia unit. His unit soon went to the front, where it stood nearly idle for several months and did little fighting. The unit returned several months later to what seemed like a different city, in the throes of inter-party fighting as the Russian-backed communists attempted to take control of the war effort. Orwell’s unit returned briefly to the front, but while he was hospitalised (due to a bullet caught in the neck,) its members were declared illegal, and he was forced to flee the country.

Most of us are more familiar with the Spanish Civil War through Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls. Unlike that novel, Homage to Catalonia paints an affectionate portrait of a brave, but naïve, effort that was doomed from the start by international intrigue. Orwell’s affable co-combatants are poorly equipped, crawling with lice, and little interested in fighting, which is lucky because they’re left on an immobile front where if the food isn’t great, the cigarette ration is at least adequate.

This book is indeed an homage, to a brief time in a small place where equality was real, but fleeting, and to the people who were there to live this hope. It also shows us the moments when Orwell became disillusioned with communism, leading to his best known works. (It may difficult for us to imagine, but we need to keep in mind that in the 1930’s, the violence and cynicism of the U.S.S.R. were still widely unknown, and there were many active communists all over the world.) Thus, this book, in addition to being highly enjoyable, is vital to understanding a mindset now remote and alien to us, and a time we mostly know nothing about.

The power of this book is in its indictment of the foreign press and the hypocrisy of international communism. Each did its part to muck up the war effort and betray the people it purported to defend, and Orwell explains as clearly as possible the complex international forces that wasted the war effort and opened the door to fascism in Spain.

Well worth reading and in case you wonder…the world is not so different now.  Be careful what second hand accounts you believe.

GBS

The New Bank of England 5 Pound Note…plastic!

An Idle Muse for a Sunday afternoon,

Money, Money, Money…great isn’t it…but what is it?  It got me thinking, musing, on this subject during this week when in my change at a shop I was handed a very odd bank note.  A new plastic polymer ‘fiver’ a five pound note issued by the Bank of England.  Though Scotland has had a plastic note similar for a while now it is rather rare and I have only encountered a few.  Let me tell you that after a life time of paper notes this object is weird in the extreme and does not even feel like ‘money’.  So my musing, what is the note and what is money?

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The new five pound note is very small, smaller than its paper predecessor.  It no longer folds and it has a transparent pane.  The front has the Queen as expected and the rear that most prominent of British statesmen Winston Churchill.  I can see the securing features, the holograms and the other measures making it harder to counterfeit.  It has an odd feel and quite unsettling actually but I suppose I will get used it to as those who swapped coin for note initially did.  I folded it, rolled it, crushed it up and it does not return to shape with any ease unlike paper.  Have a look at this five pound note from about 1932-37.

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I say what is money since the first non tactile notion I gained from this new note was its change from paper to plastic.  It puts in physical reality the twin factors of inflation and the illusion of currency as opposed to money. Humour me here.  Currency is used as a physical representation of value that changes over time (bank notes) where as money is actual value (silver or gold coins with inherent value themselves) and this new fiver shows it.  It is a mere token, an abstract, another step down the line away from ‘money’ on the gold standard.  We are moving into plastic ‘chit’ reality devoid of value as all the nations have borrowed in extremis which can never be repaid.  Inflation is subtle but there and over time it mounts up and up.  Have a think.  In rough terms a pack of twenty cigarettes is now about ten pounds, less than a decade ago it was five pounds and when I was a child in the early 1980’s a fiver would have got you hundreds of cigarettes (I use this as I could find the data but it is applied to the pricing of all items).  Inflation makes currency worth less and less.  I will not go into more detail here as it is a musing.

Remember the 1930’s fiver above..when new it could have bought you 113.5 litres of Petrol….now it buys you about three or four!  As for housing…a nice house in London would have set you back thirty of these notes (you earned about one per year on a typical wage)…now…well no point in even trying to work it out.

Anyhow.  Lets not get depressed!

You can watch a wee video and learn more officially at the notes very own website The New Fiver.  Oh and keep them away from heat..for they melt with ease…I am now without mine… 🙁

GBS

The first digital download of my work….

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I began a test today with a wargame rule system I wrote back in 2005 and then re-issued in 2010 before now in September 2016 turning into a digital download.  The system is DarkeStorme and it is one of my earliest stand alone titles.  I am actually rather proud of it really since it has held up well.  Set on the fictional world of Valon where the mighty rule system Flintloque takes place but in an earlier age of sword and sorcery it was my idea to create a ‘third age’ to replace the lack lustre earlier system ‘Dresda’ which was in a world before Flintloque.  DarkeStorme focuses on warbands of a dozen or so miniatures of any fantasy race and has full rules for monsters, magic and more as well as progression and RPG elements.  A lot packed into sixty pages….mainly due to this being written before I had a lot of parenting responsibilities which makes working life a tad more complex. I am not joking!

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The test is to find out if the customer base of Alternative Armies wishes to purchase paid for PDF’s (digital books)  as well as print books.  DarkeStorme has sold over a thousand copies in its time thus far in print so it is an ideal place to try out this test.  The purchase is made straight from the website using the existing shopping cart and the links are delivered on screen to download from there.  Thus far we have sold a half dozen or so e-copies and it is a good start.  You can visit the page HERE and read the official blog post HERE.

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How do I feel about my work, often running to hundreds of hours per title, being distributed in this fashion?  If you had asked me a few years ago I would have refused straight off since I have watched people being ‘pirated’ our of existence by file sharing networks in the gaming industry.  That and the customers simply did not ask for PDF’s in anything but ‘bolt on’ small items and preferred printed books with their miniatures.  Now though the world has turned and customers are asking for both particularly with The Ion Age title Patrol Angis.  So I will wait and see what happens.  My feeling is that we will be putting out more titles as digital downloads including the big books such as War in Catalucia for Flintloque.  Heck, it may even result in me penning original works for digital download only.  The future will tell.

Thanks for your time as always on my little page.

GBS

Remembrance 2014 – 100th Anniversary of WW1

“At the going down of the light and in the morning we shall remember them….”

It is one hundred years since the beginning of World War One and today that is most salient with me as it is Remembrance Sunday.  Silence to remember those who fell in all the conflicts from that day to this in wars all over the world.  I have done my part with fund raising and donating for the correct Poppies that came my way in the street from hands both young and old.  Remember them, we owe them that much.

This day holds significance for me as I make my living from ‘war’.  Not real war.  But the kind of pretend conflict where when the sun sets everyone stands up and returns home.  This life of mine is only possible in part due to the sacrifices made by soldiers of days now long gone and more recent. They ensured our freedom.  You can disagree with the motives of war of the goals of war but for the men who leave and never return there should only ever be respect.  So let this life of pretend war of mine bring excitement and joy to thousands across the world but for today let it be tempered with the horrid reality of battle.

GBS

Blasted out of Blast-Tastic 2014

This Saturday the long anticipated wargame show Blast-Tastic is happening in Bristol in the UK. The show is a new venture specialising in science fiction wargaming mainly in the 15mm scale. I had long planned to attend the show (one of the first to sign up to it!) but due to circumstances beyond my control (other meetings scheduled on the near thousand mile round trip pulled out on us!) it had to be cancelled.  This is actually rather upsetting as I had been really looking forward to going and had already got the stock ready and the demo game of Patrol Angis too!  The game is near completion and this would have been its only gaming public appearance before publication.

But all I can do is put a link to the details of the show and ask if you are near Bristol to consider attending on Saturday.

Seems a weekend in the rain of Ayrshire is now mine.  🙁

GBS

Graduation Glasgow University 2014

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I was invited to Glasgow University on the Wednesday of this week to be a part of my sister in law’s graduation from the university.  I was honoured to be selected as tickets are rare and it meant I would once more be able to walk the halls of my old haunt and enter the illustrious Bute Hall for the ceremony.  By an odd coincidence it was twelve years to the day after my own graduation from the university in exactly the same ceremony but this time I was able to see it from the outside without the gown and the mortar board.

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The programme of events. We were lucky with a mild and dry day and it was really fantastic to see all the smiling faces full of accomplishment.  I will admit it was a lot of deja vu  on my part but I will avoid going into details.  I had not been back to the university since 2002 but I keep in touch with letters and email.  Its a place that holds and radiates its five hundred years of scholarship and its formed the minds of thousands who have shaped the modern world.   I have done a lot since I graduation not least the public work I am known for but I have gotten married, bought two homes, had three children, travelled, wrote, thought and fought the good fight.

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A view of the side of Bute Hall to give an idea of the scale of the stone work.  My sister in law Kirsten Loy was the star of the day and trust me it only seems like yesterday when she applied to go to university.  While some might argue the benefit of further education I can tell you from my perspective that you go in one person and come out another better one more suited to the rapidity of the world now and better to deal with it.   So congratulations and I am so proud of you.  I wait to see where you go now!

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I will end with the above photo of Kirsten on the left and my good lady on the right.  I am so lucky to be part of a world of such beautiful and talented women.

GBS

Rest in Peace Rik Mayall and know that I will miss you…

I was going to do a blog post this evening about how the build of the mighty new Alternative Armies website is now complete and that preparation to move over to the new site will begin soon.  I was going to do a blog post about it being only 100 Days until Scotland must choose to be in this union or become an independent nation once more.  I was going to do a blog post about the great success of the latest Ion Age early supporter offer or about the great reception to the re-mastered Sabre Jet Flyer for Laserburn or even about the massive efforts we have been going to for project Darkhelm.  But no.  I little piece of my world died this afternoon for my comedy hero of my entire remembered life is dead.  Rest in Peace Rik Mayall aged only 56.

Its not a big tribute.  Its just what I feel.  On the odd occasion where it has gotten a little dark for me in life the comedy programme of Rik kept me going.  I know literally all the lines of Bottom dialogue off by heart.  I own four copies of Guest House Paradiso in an effort to support him.  I have seen him live on tour.  I own all the Young Ones, all of The New Statesmen, the movie Drop Dead Fred and even the little known Filthy Rich and Catflap and the Dangerous Brothers.  Since the 1980’s and boyhood I have adored Rik Mayall.   Hell in the last blog post I put up there was a still of Ade Edmondson leading it, that is how much its on my mind most weeks.  I had hoped for another series of Bottom, of another Tour.  Really anything but no chance of that now.

I do not yet know what happened to Rik but it must have been quick and that is something.  Time will tell.  My thoughts are with his wife and three children.  Enjoy these video links:

No more work for me today.  Email will have to wait this evening and instead its going to be a DVD and a few beers.  Anarchic comedy one last time before it becomes legend.

GBS

Don’t go to Egypt on Holiday….

I was thinking that I might take a week’s foreign holiday this year.  You know somewhere in the sun.  Somewhere myself and the children could relax and enjoy ourselves and why not I have not been away for several years.  I have a list in my head of possible places that are in the sun but the list just got shorter..by one nation.  That nation is Egypt and while that country has had it share of troubles during the Arab Spring I had thought that visiting the more remote areas in a place like Sharm Al Sheikh but no more.  Go along and read this article being carried by all of the major news networks today and if you are a woman or a man who cares for his other half just don’t go.  Don’t.

You can give other cultures a lot, you can make allowances for languages and indeed you should for that and for other cultures and systems of living but not always.  It seems Egypt is far from a nice place especially if you are a woman.  You might complain that walking about in normal (for western countries) clothes is not an invitation to be physically assaulted but in Egpyt it really is.  Even in the grounds of the finest university in the land which you would expect to be a beacon of progress.  Was I surprised, well a bit, but sadly not really; but what I did learn is that in Egpyt sexual assault is not even a crime.  A UN report finds that nearly 100% of the female population has been harassed in one way or another.  Yuch!

I will not be giving money to this nation.  Not until it enlightens itself…which might be a really long time.  I wonder what St Andrews is like for a summer break?  Might not be as warm, might be raining but it will be freedom for all.

GBS

Google Plus for GBS

I am now on Google Plus.  If you are keen on keeping up with me more directly than here on the blog go along to this link and sign up to follow me.   The system is easier for me to manage than Facebook is or Twitter so it suits me best.  I will be expanding my presence on the plus as time passes but for now I am on the whole rattling around the 15mm science fiction communities to be found there.

GBS

Scotland passes same sex marriage bill today

A bill which allows same-sex weddings to take place in Scotland has been passed by MSPs in the Scottish Parliament. MSPs voted by 105 to 18 in favour of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill. The Scottish government said the move was the right thing to do but Scotland’s two main churches were opposed to it. The first gay and lesbian weddings could take place this autumn. Religious and belief bodies can “opt in” to perform same-sex marriages. Ministers said no part of the religious community would be forced to hold such ceremonies in churches.

That is the first paragraph from a BBC News post online HERE.  Its a good day to be Scottish.  My country just got a bit more liberal and bright.  Another piece of medieval darkness removed.

As for me I am all for love be it of any Human kind and I hope to get some more blog posts up soon.  Its been a mad hectic week for me but the reasons will come clear soon enough.

GBS