Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Another Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood's brilliantly realised drama, brought back some memories for me: -

A while ago, when I worked in mental health, I came across a very interesting experiment carried out by scientists investigating the survival instinct in animal behaviour. This is what happened:

Dogs were kept in kennels where they were fed, cleaned out and watered regularly and had a comfortable place to sleep. They were not petted, walked or groomed. There were electrified fences around each enclosure, and each enclosure had a low roof over it.  After a number of weeks the scientists took the roofs off the enclosures and watched to see what would happen.  Most of the dogs stayed right where they were, in the knowledge that food and water would arrive at regular intervals.

However, a small number of dogs saw an opportunity to escape, and risking the mild electric shock from the fence, jumped out of the pen and, not knowing where or how they would be fed, ran away to face the unknown dangers of OUT THERE, rather than stay in the relative safety of their pen.  I thought, when I read this, that people are like this. Some seize an opportunity with both hands, no matter what the cost to themselves. Others remain in situations which have become prisons, stifling and punishing free thought, creativity and relationships. So I wrote The Marsh People, a dystopian fantasy, where the situation is reversed. This time the dogs are in charge...
Kelpin, the real heroine of the story, is adaptable and quick witted enough to survive. Others fare less well. Scummo, in taking care of her, finds a role for himself for the first time.

Published by Immanion Press. Kindle Edition £2.24. Hard copies £6.00

The Marsh People is a story about a captive people who make a bid for freedom and survival, beyond the shelter of the City, on the land around the Burham Estuary.

Dogs have rounded up the villagers and herded them into the teeming, inhuman City to work under the control of the Masters. The workers can barely remember their previous lives and have grown used to conditions in captivity. Scummo, however, impulsively makes a bid for freedom, whatever the consequences, taking with him his neighbour’s orphaned daughter, Kelpin.

Meeting up with The Outsiders, a group of rebels opposed to the rule of Masters, Scummo meets an array of eccentric and colourful individuals, who, like him desire freedom.

But the Masters are not about to allow them that luxury without having to fight for it.

A dystopian fantasy.  ‘a great imagination on show’.

Monday, 29 May 2017



I’ve been thinking recently about the spaces between states, or objects. The spaces between spaces, if you like. That pause between the phone ringing and hearing the bad news; that interval between certainty and incomprehension. We thought we knew something; now we don’t. We have something; then it’s lost. And in between, what? Blissful ignorance?  This is a space filled with unknowing. Fear, uncertainty, confusion inhabit this middle ground, along with what now?  And it’s this space before ‘what now?’ arrives that I want to investigate, because there is creativity in these gaps.
There’s a cessation of activity, a pause in which things take root and grow.  I wrote about buddleia, that stubborn, pervasive survivor of building sites, I wrote about the Chinese cockle pickers caught between the tides on the lost sands of Morecambe Bay, I wrote about the wait for a new political morality, about a lost child being found after the Boxing Day Tsunami and finally I realised that I'm more interested in seeing what's cooking than eating the finished dish. 
We're in a gap right now, the gap between today and the day after the election results. Coping with uncertainty isn't easy. Here in Market Drayton, the food banks are running out of supplies. I am about to take a contribution to them and I'm thinking How much longer can this go on?  Marie Antoinette
said, when there was no bread  'Let them eat cake'.  Then the revolution really got going.

Leaving the EU - here's another gap, a space full of uncertainty and doubt. The creativity that drives groups - mainly charities- to look back into their own resources and invent new ways of dealing with the world is working hard to plug the gaps, not always legally. But the people who are stuck at the bottom of the pile, when their benefits are cut, when they are out of work, when they become a single parent, or sick, or desperate, or homeless, live in another space between one hand out and the next, sometimes one mouthful and the next. 


Turning on the shower
there’s a gap,
filled with an icy flow,
before the arrival of hot water.

She stands and shivers.
Anything could happen.

Opening the letter, there’s a gap.
A thousand possibilities-
love, hate, an accident.

Heart and entrails know;
her eyes read what’s concealed.

She holds her breath, waiting for hot water.
Anything could happen.