View from a Walkie-Talkie; the Sky Garden, London

View from a Walkie-talkie

The Sky Garden, a view of London in the round.     Or: Daze out in London

If you get off the tube at Bank and exit via Lombard Street you can see the building known as the Walkie-Talkie looming, or is it leering? over the skyline a short distance away.  I have to admit to disliking its external shape despite its probably well-known and understood architectural and aesthetic positives.  It is purely the height and shape I dislike, sorry.

You have to zig-zag across streets and round corners to find the entrance to the building as it is  not quite as close as you thought. When you arrive at its foot you can tell it is a giant footprint but the entrance for the Sky Garden is a small lobby with smiling guides (guards) to check you have tickets and direct you into the queuing chicane where your ticket is scanned and you walk along to the security check-in.   Don’t be like me and have change in a pocket, a leather pouch on my belt that has a Press-stud closure and rivets on the belt hooks!  If you remember to remove all these (as I did), as well as coat and phone and rucksack you may find yourself overtaken by those less encumbered as you try to collate yourself!     Another option is to forget and raise the detector alarms as well as hackles of those helping you through the system.  Happily, in London I have only had pleasantries on such occasions but not so at the few airport mis-haps………

I am not good at heights, I darent go on the slightest of exposed climbs or paths despite bravado or wishful enthusiasm.  Luckily I am now old enough to be open about it and was promised plenty of space between me and the glass walls, even a garden area to hide in.  I had no idea what to expect as I had not even thought about checking this visit out on the internet and stepped into the lift with about twelve other people.  Within a few seconds we stopped, I hadn’t realised we were moving, and we all stepped out.  A fascinatingly fast ride for the storeys we had risen.

skygarden-left

wordparc: view from Sky Garden

Good gracious, I was promised space but had not expected football pitches almost, with a large coffee shop and many scattered tables in front of a huge glass wall and revolving doors leading out to what must be the biggest verandah (nice old-fashioned term) in width and length along the front of the building.  Actually it was the size of a mall’s marble plaza or large, high auditorium.  Steps on both sides led you upwards again through sub-tropical vegetation and beside the glass walls with London sitting all around.  The steps led up to a fully fledged restaurant plus another viewing area behind it.  With beautiful wooden seating and ledges along the back wall (of glass).  This time with a view that included the Gherkin.

gherkin

wordparc

Yes, I did venture out on the verandah, yes I did almost approach the edge with its high wall and higher glass wall atop.   And eventually I stepped to the handrail and looked out on the wonderful view whilst keeping a firm hold of the cool stainless rail.   I suppose I can regret that the sun didn’t glint off St Paul’s as it sat so far below us.  Nor did the Shard look quite so ethereal in the light-grey covered sky and background of London buildings.  You could see St Pancras, KIngs Cross and Waterloo railway stations.  The ubiquitous BT Telecom Tower was but a small matchstick.    Alexandra Palace sat almost on the horizon and assorted blocks of offices or flats littered their way out to the skyline.

skygarden-wide

wordparc

Those few steps outside where the breeze slipped over the glass gave you the impression of actually being outside and not on an almost enclosed balcony made the view of the river, its assorted boats and all its vagaries of buildings and streets, look untidily impressive.

The Tower of London, quite imposing from close quarters, was peered down on and its then brown shadowed walls looked compact and enclosing, but small.  Such is the perspective of time and place, I suppose.

So there it is.  A dramatic view enabling much of London to be seen if you know where to look and the weather works for you.   Maybe they will decide on having a model or a map somehow identifying  some of the landmarks that are visible.  Especially for the tourists, who seemed in the majority.  No doubt it would have to be a touch-screen virtual map with the views overlaid with tags of information.   Problem might be if it became more popular than actually looking at the scenes and guessing!   As the tickets are few and far between, snapped up quickly when released for Londoners, it is not an easy place to visit.  Well worth it though, even the coffee.

thames4

wordparc

Another few seconds in the lift and we were out as if from another world and having a walk along the Thames before shrugging off the now dampening weather and ducking into the side streets again to find a coffee-cafe in one of the many railway arches.  Here the coffee was delicious and their home-made cakes and open sandwiches were all a ‘must go back for’.

Question:  Where was it?  Looks like another day trying to track it down!

100 best English Novels, the critics’ choice

A Recent Item from Guardian reads:    link to article

‘What does the rest of the world see as the greatest British novels? In search of a collective critical assessment, BBC Culture contributor Jane Ciabattari polled 82 book critics, from Australia to Zimbabwe – but none from the UK. This list includes no nonfiction, no plays, no narrative or epic poems (no Paradise Lost or Beowulf), no short story collections (no Morte D’Arthur) – novels only, by British authors (which means no James Joyce).’
I have highlighted those that I know I have read although some others I will have seen as television or film productions but then it does not count.

100. The Code of the Woosters (PG Wodehouse, 1938)
99. There but for the (Ali Smith, 2011)
98. Under the Volcano (Malcolm Lowry,1947)
97. The Chronicles of Narnia (CS Lewis, 1949-1954)
96. Memoirs of a Survivor (Doris Lessing, 1974)
95. The Buddha of Suburbia (Hanif Kureishi, 1990)
94. The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (James Hogg, 1824)
93. Lord of the Flies (William Golding, 1954)
92. Cold Comfort Farm (Stella Gibbons, 1932)
91. The Forsyte Saga (John Galsworthy, 1922)
90. The Woman in White (Wilkie Collins, 1859)
89. The Horse’s Mouth (Joyce Cary, 1944)
88. The Death of the Heart (Elizabeth Bowen, 1938)
87. The Old Wives’ Tale (Arnold Bennett,1908)
86. A Legacy (Sybille Bedford, 1956)
85. Regeneration Trilogy (Pat Barker, 1991-1995)
84. Scoop (Evelyn Waugh, 1938)
83. Barchester Towers (Anthony Trollope, 1857)
82. The Patrick Melrose Novels (Edward St Aubyn, 1992-2012)
81. The Jewel in the Crown (Paul Scott, 1966)
80. Excellent Women (Barbara Pym, 1952)
79. His Dark Materials (Philip Pullman, 1995-2000)
78. A House for Mr Biswas (VS Naipaul, 1961)
77. Of Human Bondage (W Somerset Maugham, 1915)
76. Small Island (Andrea Levy, 2004)
75. Women in Love (DH Lawrence, 1920)
74. The Mayor of Casterbridge (Thomas Hardy, 1886)
73. The Blue Flower (Penelope Fitzgerald, 1995)
72. The Heart of the Matter (Graham Greene, 1948)
71. Old Filth (Jane Gardam, 2004)
70. Daniel Deronda (George Eliot, 1876)
69. Nostromo (Joseph Conrad, 1904)
68. A Clockwork Orange (Anthony Burgess, 1962)
67. Crash (JG Ballard 1973)
66. Sense and Sensibility (Jane Austen, 1811)
65. Orlando (Virginia Woolf, 1928)
64. The Way We Live Now (Anthony Trollope, 1875)
63. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Muriel Spark, 1961)
62. Animal Farm (George Orwell, 1945)
61. The Sea, The Sea (Iris Murdoch, 1978)
60. Sons and Lovers (DH Lawrence, 1913)
59. The Line of Beauty (Alan Hollinghurst, 2004)
58. Loving (Henry Green, 1945)
57. Parade’s End (Ford Madox Ford, 1924-1928)
56. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (Jeanette Winterson, 1985)
55. Gulliver’s Travels (Jonathan Swift, 1726)
54. NW (Zadie Smith, 2012)
53. Wide Sargasso Sea (Jean Rhys, 1966)
52. New Grub Street (George Gissing, 1891)
51. Tess of the d’Urbervilles (Thomas Hardy, 1891)
50. A Passage to India (EM Forster, 1924)
49. Possession (AS Byatt, 1990)
48. Lucky Jim (Kingsley Amis, 1954)
47. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (Laurence Sterne, 1759)
46. Midnight’s Children (Salman Rushdie, 1981)
45. The Little Stranger (Sarah Waters, 2009)
44. Wolf Hall (Hilary Mantel, 2009)
43. The Swimming Pool Library (Alan Hollinghurst, 1988)
42. Brighton Rock (Graham Greene, 1938)
41. Dombey and Son (Charles Dickens, 1848)
40. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll, 1865)
39. The Sense of an Ending (Julian Barnes, 2011)
38. The Passion (Jeanette Winterson, 1987)
37. Decline and Fall (Evelyn Waugh, 1928)
36. A Dance to the Music of Time (Anthony Powell, 1951-1975)
35. Remainder (Tom McCarthy, 2005)
34. Never Let Me Go (Kazuo Ishiguro, 2005)
33. The Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame, 1908)
32. A Room with a View (EM Forster, 1908)
31. The End of the Affair (Graham Greene, 1951)
30. Moll Flanders (Daniel Defoe, 1722)
29. Brick Lane (Monica Ali, 2003)
28. Villette (Charlotte Brontë, 1853)
27. Robinson Crusoe (Daniel Defoe, 1719)
26. The Lord of the Rings (JRR Tolkien, 1954)
25. White Teeth (Zadie Smith, 2000)
24. The Golden Notebook (Doris Lessing, 1962)
23. Jude the Obscure (Thomas Hardy, 1895)
22. The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling (Henry Fielding, 1749)
21. Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad, 1899)
20. Persuasion (Jane Austen, 1817)
19. Emma (Jane Austen, 1815)
18. Remains of the Day (Kazuo Ishiguro, 1989)
17. Howards End (EM Forster, 1910)
16. The Waves (Virginia Woolf, 1931)
15. Atonement (Ian McEwan, 2001)
14. Clarissa (Samuel Richardson,1748)
13. The Good Soldier (Ford Madox Ford, 1915)
12. Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell, 1949)
11. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen, 1813)
10. Vanity Fair (William Makepeace Thackeray, 1848)
9. Frankenstein (Mary Shelley, 1818)
8. David Copperfield (Charles Dickens, 1850)
7. Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë, 1847)
6. Bleak House (Charles Dickens, 1853)
5. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë, 1847)
4. Great Expectations (Charles Dickens, 1861)
3. Mrs. Dalloway (Virginia Woolf, 1925)
2. To the Lighthouse (Virginia Woolf, 1927)
1. Middlemarch (George Eliot, 1874)’

 

If world critics cite these as the top 100 titles  I wonder how I stand on having to admit to reading 26 of them, as highlighted.
How do I rate my score of 26 out of 100?  Is this good or should I relate it to a pass rate score of 42 and so consider myself a failure?
I have said previously that I am a slow reader.  Not a late reader but an avid early-reader who seemed to start by reading every word and never progressed in speed.  My inward response to those with faster, even accelerated reading skills is that I savour the words and characters, enter the story itself and become immersed in the detail.  Simply put, that I enjoy the story more.

Of course it is really a defence against the reality that I have never learned to read faster as I do not have the skill-set or patience to develop it.  Plus I may have been deterred that several people round me have or had this ability and I knew I could not compete when I took two days of hard reading to finish even a short novel while the ‘speedies’ needed less than two hours.  Even worse was that their knowledge of the book would be at the same level as mine.

This probably highlights lack of skill or mental capacity on my part, another recess I have no torch for.

However, looking at the 100 best of English writing my first nod at contrariness is that I thought Joseph Conrad was Polish though likely took English nationality when he retired here after a life at sea.  They point out that Joyce was Irish so not included,  therefor  Scottish and Welsh were excluded too.  Is Conrad an exception to the rule or should I check my memory?

So is this a bucket-list?  Well maybe for the student of English Literature but not for me. I expect it will encourage sales of these established and well published titles throughout the world but don’t let it discourage you from reading their other titles.  Critics around the world cite these as the best 100 but you are your best critic so don’t be railroaded into someone else’s choice.

Okay, so statistically speaking this list of 100 titles, as being the choice by whatever points system was used, could well be considered a serious(ish) result.  Remember it is from a professional’s subjective view.  Apparently if you average out a large number of guesses of how many beans in a jar, that average will be correct or within a whisker of the correct figure.  A true fact than can be carried over into other averaging like polls to the stock exchange etc. The mean of a quantity of guesses is most likely to be correct(ish).

Your view, as a reader is subjective and as personal as any critics so by all means use these 100 as some form of centre-spot in a soccer field but do not lose sight of the whole field around you for out there are horizons you may prefer.  Mixing metaphors may not get me into any critics good books but those critics are there as signposts of their personal tastes, not yours, or mine.

I have read 26 of these 100.  I have read many of their other books and enjoyed them or not.  Do I feel guilty or sad that I may have missed so much?  No, but I will look at some of those gaps and maybe fill them, in my slow and tortoise-like way.  However I will also read my usual fodder of crime, sci-if, historical fiction and good old story-telling.  This latter is possibly may favourite though it ought  to be part of any genre.  I seem to have gone off the action novel as I have got older!  Are these 100 choices leaders in their  sales field, pushing boundaries or stepping on toes when first published, or interesting literature?  Obviously I don’t know without reading them.  Many books doing such things will have been fated to disappear so perhaps luck, publicity, controversy that hits the public emerging interest have their place. As well as word of mouth and critics.

One question that may well stick in my mind in future, is the nationality of the author.  Are they English, Welsh or Scottish?  Trouble is when I go up this little creek I will have to know if they are regional such as Cornish or Tyneside, live in the hills of the Lake District the Levels of Somerset or the temples of Hampstead and Highgate.  And of course I then have to throw away my paddle and let the current take me back to my first loves of reading: anything with a good title, a good story and ideally at least a touch of real-life and humour.

Many of the authors I have read over the years would not bear the ‘English’ standard though one who does,a lasting favourite, would have to be Leslie Thomas.  Of course some of his novels were better than others but he was good on writing an honest book on the strengths and frailties of human nature within a documentable period of events.  A journalist in origins and a storyteller at heart.  For me this is the sign of a good book: am I carried along by the story and characters and is my imagination flooded with a real world?  Simple as that.

Now, where is that paddle and what is the first book on that list?  Middlemarch……but my sister assures me that Virginia Woolf is the best writer..ever..   I have no option, I must go ‘To the Lighthouse’.

 

Art in Bricks, London Exhibition April 2015

An exhibition, in the famous Brick Lane, London, of Lego bricks.  The famous Lego Bricks as constructed by the also- famous Nathan Sawaya. This is where I was led to yesterday.

I know Lego, who doesn’t, I have been to Brick Lane a couple of times but had missed any adverts for this exhibition at the Old Truman Brewery so it was an unexpectedly pleasant arrival.  Timed, group entry so it didn’t get too crowded as we wandered through.  First was a brief introductory video by Nathan Sawaya, prefaced by where the exhibition had previesly been seen around some major world cities.   Then, forward, through the darkened rooms to the highlighted, spotlit constructs.  Lego-models like you have never seen!

view fromInitially we came across famous picture masterpieces reconstruced in lego.  Quite intriguing how similar to the original but more pixelated, from a distance.  A little more obvious as you got closer but fascinating to see the small blocks appearing in the picture.

Interesting to see the difference in one picture with its flat surface versus it’s neighbour where the connecting roundels were all facing outward creating a 3D effect.

the waveProgressing through designs of a hand, people, faces, skulls of assorted sizes and numerous others.  A large, 3D version of ‘the kiss’ by Klimt; one couple, from life ( with accompanying video) in full size.

Cracked

‘Cracked’ photo by wordparc

Extra large masks, assorted skulls.  Frequently models of (parts of) people included in the image as well as recognisable designs such as Earth and the planets.  A beautiful swimmer encased in the water.  A magnificent dinosaur might have been considered the highlight of the event.  The room where copies of the modern portraits of Dylan, Bowie and Warhol seemed to attract less attention but were highly effective in their minimal colour range.

celloThe main highlight for me was the Cello. An incredibly realistic sculpture.  My photo does not do it justice at all.

But, maybe showing my preferences a little more , the best elements were in the last room. This was listed as an additional section: ‘In Pieces’

This last room is a collaboration between Nathan Sawaya and Australian photographer Dean West and a highly successful step it was.

pictures as art

art in bricks, London: promo web image

Here we initially see Lego constructs placed in front of, next to, large colour photos.  I have extracted an image from the advertising website with the pictures and items included.  Though on our visit the sculptures were not placed as a purely central display but near the appropriate photograph.

The beauty of this room, was in the individual photos and their accompanying sculptures; the key being the way the sculpures were integrated into the pictures.  I mentioned earlier that the first images were of ‘masterpieces’ that were copied, seemingly pixelated when close.  In this final section we have sculptures ‘pixelated’ into photographs.  A gentle discovery in viewing but unexpected and ingenious, creating additional excitement in the viewing.  A selection of photographs of differing shade of image, reflecting but not quite copying iconic scenes.

RushFinally, I have to say I was unexpectedly impressed by the exhibition as a whole and very impressed by some sculptures/pictures in particular.  Also have to report that all friends, with or without children, that have visited have said nothing but good about the exhibition and the decision to have it in a gallery in Brick Lane, London.

Ah yes, children:  They did seem to appreciate the difficulting and quality of the ‘models’ and the very last room was  laid out as a shop for lego and Tshirts etc and so on but they had a number of child-height tables smothered in assorted lego-bricks.  Here children could indulge in free-modelling for as long as parents allowed (and if it wasnt too crowded).  There was also a display section where they could put finished models for other to see and be encouraged by.  Any proud child could place their model there, whatever it was.  If the tables ran low of bricks then staff came along and topped the level up.  Great for marketing, of course, but good fun to encourage creative activity.

A great hour or two, well worth a visit if it should reconstruct somewhere near you.

The Orwell Prize 2015: Book Longlist

The Orwell Prize 2015 Longlists announced
announcement of March 25, 2015  from Orwell Prize website

Not an area I would often consider but I was taken with the wide range of subjects, authors and journalists from the heavier papers and journals that are being considered and their concern at casting a serious light on the current problems of society, albeit mostly in the UK.  Problems that Orwell would  been just as forthright about, as well as unsurprised at their (in many cases, continued) existence and that need of focus and attention.

Books, Journalists, and social reporting announced for Orwell Prize Longlist 2015

– Book Prize longlist includes four first-time authors as well as several established political writers
– Journalism Prize longlist includes Economist writer Rosie Blau and Middle East reporter David Gardner
– Prestigious new reporting prize longlist includes journalism on themes as diverse as London’s housing problems and the problem of loneliness amongst the elderly.

Longlists for the Orwell Prize 2015, Britain’s most prestigious prize for political writing, were announced at 12pm today. From hundreds of entries, 12 books, 15 journalists, and 14 pieces of social reporting were chosen.
The judges for the 2015 Book Prize are Claire Armitstead, Gillian Slovo, and Tony Wright. The judges for the 2015 Journalism Prize are Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Stewart Purvis, and Caroline Thomson. The judges for the 2015 Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils are Anushka Asthana, Richard Sambrook, Nicholas Timmins, and Julia Unwin. The three £3000 prizes will be announced in a ceremony on 21st May 2015.

The director of the , Professor Jean Seaton, said: “We take journalism for granted as just part of our everyday experience. But when you sit down and read the journalism and political writing that has come in for the prize, it is so good that it is almost shocking. The new Joseph Rowntree Foundation-sponsored prize also shows just how journalism is evolving in tremendous new ways. The Book Prize longlist, meanwhile, offers a fabulous array of insights into our national and international situation: they are great books that together help analyse the world.”
Stewart Purvis, a judge for the 2015 Journalism Prize, said: “The entries provide an encouraging and rather reassuring snapshot of the writing talent currently at work across the U.K. I came away optimistic that journalism is flourishing in both old and new ways.”
Anushka Asthana, a judge for the 2015 Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils, said: “What each of these impressive long list entries achieved was to combine cutting edge investigative journalism with beautifully crafted storytelling – whether that be in print, on TV, or through innovative digital platforms.” Fellow judge Nick Timmins stated: “The entries showed that the issues remain live, but so does some excellent reporting of them – increasingly by using a mix of words and video, or graphics and analysis, in ways that blur the distinctions between print, broadcasting, and online.”

Orwell Book Prize 2015   longlist:
Jamie Bartlett, THE DARK NET (William Heinemann)
John Campbell, ROY JENKINS (Jonathan Cape)
Rana Dasgupta, CAPITAL: THE ERUPTION OF DELHI (Canongate)
Dan Davies, IN PLAIN SIGHT: THE LIFE AND LIES OF JIMMY SAVILE (Quercus)
Nick Davies, HACK ATTACK (Chatto & Windus)
Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin, REVOLT ON THE RIGHT (Routledge)
Zia Haider Rahman, IN THE LIGHT OF WHAT WE KNOW (Pan Macmillan)
David Kynaston, MODERNITY BRITAIN (Bloomsbury)
Louisa Lim, THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF AMNESIA (Oxford University Press)
David Marquand, MAMMON’S KINGDOM: AN ESSAY ON BRITAIN, NOW (Penguin)
James Meek, PRIVATE ISLAND: WHY BRITAIN NOW BELONGS TO SOMEONE ELSE (Verso)
Lara Pawson, IN THE NAME OF THE PEOPLE: ANGOLA’S FORGOTTEN MASSACRE (I. B. Tauris)

Journalism Prize longlist:
Ian Birrell, Mail On Sunday, The Guardian
Rosie Blau, The Economist
Martin Chulov, The Guardian
David Gardner, The Financial Times
Anthony Loyd, The Times
James Meek, London Review of Books
Suzanne Moore, The Guardian
Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi, OpenDemocracy.net, Lacuna, New Statesman
Melanie Phillips, The Times, The Spectator
David Pilling, Financial Times
Steve Richards, The Independent
Mary Riddell, The Daily Telegraph
Peter Ross, Scotland on Sunday
Clare Sambrook, OpenDemocracy.net
Kim Sengupta, The Independent

Prize for Exposing Britain’s Social Evils longlist:
George Arbuthnott, Slaves in peril on the sea
Lucy Bannerman, FGM: Child abuse that’s gone mainstream
Michael Buchanan and Andy McNicoll, Mental health crisis
Aditya Chakrabortty and Guardian team, London’s housing crisis
Steve Connor, The lost girls
Edward Docx, Walking with Karl
Alison Holt, Care of the elderly and vulnerable
Nick Mathiason, A great British housing crisis
Lindsay Pantry, Loneliness: The hidden epidemic
Lindsay Poulton and Guardian team, The shirt on your backs
Randeep Ramesh, Casino-style gambling
Louise Tickle, Domestic abuse: How victims are failed by society and the state
Times team, Secrets of Britain’s teen terror trade uncovered
Mark Townsend, Serco: A hunt for the truth inside Yarl’s Wood

ENDS

Extracted: November 1914

Extract from: A Certain Trace

Michael’s return journey to the front line was slow and erratic, in dramatic contrast to the movements of the front he had left some two weeks previously.

He found himself, with others, taking almost three weeks to reach Locon (France) at the beginning of November.  The officers were mostly transferring from their previous regiments to fill the gaps in the 1st and 2nd battalions of the Bedfordshires.

On 6th November the men of the 1st Battalion marched into Locon and were incredulous at the sight of 500 London buses and their drivers.  Two days earlier the buses had been in London where they had been requisitioned.  The bus drivers in London had all volunteered to remain with their buses and had driven in long, timeless convoy to connect with the army near Loker (Belgium).

Some three weeks earlier the 2nd Battalion had arrived in France from their barracks in South Africa and were moved by rail and foot towards Loker.  Just outside Loker the two battalions met and had time to rest and mingle.  Many of the soldiers were ‘old’ regulars and had been with the regiment for years, many starting as boys, subsequently there were old friendships between battalions.  Over the years men and officers had met between postings at bases like Kempston so friendships amongst troops via commissions and transfers had naturally developed.  In the middle of nowhere and in the rush and muddle of this new war it was a surprising but ideal time to search out old companions and in some cases, kin, to exchange cigarettes and stories.  Food, rest and relaxation were to be grabbed when and where ever.
Re-embarking on the buses, 2nd battalion was joined by the 1st. and the column moved north making its way via Lestrem, Le Donilieu and on.  But not far.

Along the Menin Road, via Hooge, just time for a rest then to march towards Geluveld.  The end of a long day.  The end of a brief respite from the immediacy of war and off into the Klein Zillebeke wood and a dark hell.  From 6th November through to the 19th there was almost continuous fighting in the woods.  The Bedfordshires initially took up a defensive line amongst the trees, preparing positions against the continual threat of German attack and actual sporadic bombardment and sniper fire.  The English and French troops were not alone in working defensive positions, the Germans were preparing just as hard in mirror image on the other side of the wood.  Each side were digging pits and trenches on point, forward or defensive lines.  Nights brought little sleep for lookouts, scouting parties or those huddling in the trenches with permission to rest.  No fires in the open, little to eat, no respite and no relief.  Only defence and persistent danger of wounding or death.  The dense trees gave them cover but the trenches were often difficult to dig, lines were bent and shortened by clumps of trees too close to dig through or just too big to go round.  So digging would stop and another pit started in order to cover the line beside or behind.  The expectation was to excavate to the depth of a man to stand and fire, or peer over a rampart made from the moved earth rammed down or bagged (if able).  Roots from the spreading trees made it impossibly hard work.  Some could be cut out or maybe worked round.  Like demon archaeologists they would dig round or under or hack away with axes or bayonets to clear out what they could.  Stopping and starting, straight or curved, the front and support trenches began to weave through the forest, edging forward like morse code laid on the ground but hidden by the trees and remaining leaves from the buzzing, dangerous, ‘flies’ that flitted through the broken skies.  They were as deep as graves and shallow as pits, waiting for the storm and hail.  Trees cracked and shuddered all around as all through the forest came sound and deeds of war.

Shelling was like an inconsistent tide that moved in and over from different directions as the warring fronts washed round the clumps of frantic workers.  Advancing German troops, albeit some distance away would shift the balance in these local trenches.  Again, like an incoming tide, the British line of defensive trenches, really only shallow pits, might at one hour be a front, a stable hinge that slaughtered advancing Prussian guards with one, rescued machine gun, or part of a lost flank that withdrew 30 metres to another defensive line.  Forward and back. Both forces thinned by death and wounding.  Time and again the British infantry would defend the line by retaking a lost trench with bayonet charge or defend against opposing bayonets with shot, bayonet or even fist.  And the fighting got harder, trench to trench, yard by yard.  The lie of the land in the forest meant it was easy to got lost, difficult to see the trench ahead or behind.  It was difficult to tell who was friend or foe as movement was fast and deadly through day and black of night.  Many died, many were wounded and some got lost in the melees to walk, creep or crawl into enemy lines, of whichever side and out again, or not.

This part was but a small element of the 1st Battle of Ypres.  A period from 30th October through to 22nd November that saw the 1st and 2nd Bedfordshire starting with their depleted, combined, strength of 1100 men and officers move to the new front.  By the end of November, when the defensive lines began to deepen and hold and the tactical movement lessened, both friend and foe were literally worn down by constant battle.  Attack and counter, both sides running out of replacement troops and shells and resources.  By the end of November that original 1100 had been whittled down drastically, the able number, some maybe wounded but still unwilling to leave the field, was 2 officers, 5 NCOs and 200men.

Men were exhausted and filthy and had witnessed each day more than they had seen in previous years of being regular soldiers.  As battalions, as a regiment, part of the divisions of the British Expeditionary Force, they had fought, marched and fought again and again since arriving in Belgium at the beginning of August.  In three months the BEF had received 86,000 casualties and had fought to a standstill.  The Old Contemptables were born across the face of France and Belgium.
Michael might have been considered lucky, he was only lightly wounded, a bullet in the thigh and broken leg as he fell into a trench.

Michael, wounded in right thigh and other leg broken, was hoisted out of the pit and onto a stretcher, still conscious and swearing.  He felt the hand of his sergeant on his shoulder, steadying him and the stretcher as they manoeuvred down the slope away from most of the immediate danger.
“Thanks Henry”, He managed to gasp towards the sergeant crawling beside him as his stretcher was dragged off the sightline
The two soldiers who had tended him in the soft mud at the bottom of the trench and helped lift him out slid rapidly over the top, hugging the ground to limit their profile.  They said he was lucky, he said, ‘like hell’.  They discovered the wound was bloody but not an artery, though his other leg was broken.  Twice lucky, for had the trench been full depth he could have broken his neck too.  Third time lucky, as the three men who had been just before him on the bank had been felled by a burst from a nearby machine gun just as his sergeant had thrown himself into Michael and knocked him down with such force that he rolled into the trench.  He never felt the bullet but felt and heard the crack of the left shin bone as it crashed on to the unforgiving tree root with excess force and left him breathless and temporarily legless.

He had listened to the noise, yells and screams from the base of the trench, unable to distinguish events. Had shivered in the cold of the night. The cold slipped into his core as the warm blood pushed out of his thigh, twisted down and stuck his long-johns to his leg.  It was minutes but seemed endless before two men jumped down beside him.  He was sure his heart stopped with the shock and panic but the the air was dragged into his lungs as he heard the questioning English voices and he had shouted back, “ I’m okay but my legs are done in.”

They carried him to the the medical station and joined the shuffling queues of wounded and dying.  He tried to insist he stayed but the medic sent him down the line.  Michael knew the situation in the woods was critical, vital to hold and secure but it was chaotically fluid and he was immobile, useless.  Michael also realised he was getting light-headed so he had gripped the edge of the stretcher to hang on as they moved him away from the madness.

To medical station, to base, to hospital and home in time for Christmas 1914.

poppy  single

Bibliography:
Many internet sites, 3 listed below.

www.firstww.com

www.great war.com.co.uk

www. history learning site
title:    1st Bedfordshires in World War 1    by Simon Fuller      pub: Fighting Highs

Semantics algorithms for ebook publishers?

Well, here’s an interesting link to set the blood a’flowing:

semantic algorithms to help publishers sell more books

This links to an article in BookBusinessmag that highlights the possibilities with ebooks  and the use of predictive analytics to increase sales.

Once upon a time you would write a book, someone else would publish, another print and yet more: the author and booksellers and reviewers would help get it into the hands of readers.  Word of mouth being another creditable method of helping to sell (or not) a book.

Arrival of the ebook!    Of which I am a partial fan for its applications in confined spaces whilst travelling very long distances.   Well strictly speaking I have never read a book as an ebook so my uses for one are hypothetical, I suppose.

But I have read many online or offline articles and journals on netbook at home, in numerous different rooms of the house, so the principal has not escaped me.  I truly recognise the increasing yearly percentages of ebook sales.   The ownership and uses of handheld devices are continuing to expand as are the subject areas and quality of content.   Ebooks can be downloaded almost anytime and read anytime, anywhere.  Fidelity to academic texts’ print content is now able to be remarkable, as is also found in some areas of childrens publishing.   Note-taking, page-marking developed already. This was once a failing in ebooks for students but not always now in new publishing.

I must point out that I see ebooks as having a serious place in the current as well as future marketplace.  The current I would suspect is fiction by a large way but the future is still wide open as the youth versus elderly mix blurs over time and becomes, like mail-order, a high-quality norm for all sales.  Though to a percentage. Uses and need for the physical and tactile book will always remain but for how long and how big will be the interesting finale.

The point of the link above is that parallel to the huge content improvement in ebooks, is the need to engage with and pursue the world of semantic analytics in order to develop full marketing potential for books.

This would appear to be done with ever greater sophistication in some retail and insurance companies and in sports arenas. Using and refining collection of data and algorithms is the next step for the publishing industry in the eternal need to keep its product in the best possible position to sell.

Sadly I am not a technical person, nor one that pushes at the boundary just to see it snap but even with the dear old Amstrad you could see a better way of communicating knowledge beckoning.  If it is there and sells more books, more knowledge (whether it is fiction, poetry or the A-Z of all subjects) then like data-mining, cloud-computing and any other recent trends that have become vital, it needs to be embraced.

The problem is, where will it leave the medium, small publishers and self-publishing authors.  I hope they will be able to swim with the tide of personal appearance at festivals and bookshops with hard-cpy books(!!) and social networking as well as being on ebook sites. People will read their work it will be harder to sell in quantity, but it ever was…..

Like the small-scale in the film and music industry the small-scale in publishing will have to be faster and creative in finding its market, its sales.