Thursday, 22 June 2017

A Mermaid in the Bath is now available in Mexico!

A Mermaid in the Bath is now available in Mexico!

I have made it especially cheap in Mexico because Lola in the story is Mexican. I have also made it especially cheap in India just because I feel like it. If it is cheap in the USA that is because of Amazon's pricing policy, however I do not think that the official price of $3.99 for the Kindle edition is all that much for a philosophical love story.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Free Silly Stories for Grown-ups

I have created a selection of stories entitled Silly stories for grown-ups. It is in Kindle format (also readable on your mobile phone with the free Kindle app) and you can get a copy by subscribing to my emailing list (not the same as the signup for receiving notifications of blog posts).

It contains such gems as The girl who was not a vampire and The true story of Redcap and the Wolf, and how vengeance was wreaked on the woodcutter. There is also a drabble (a hundred-word novel) called Love in space, and a couple of other things to brighten your early morning commute. Don't read Chocolatina on public transport as random giggles tend to create an odd effect on other travellers.

I am using MailChimp so you will not get any dodgy files because MailChimp does not allow email attachments. The ebook is hosted on MailChimp's servers and they know where I live, so no dodgy business. Also I don't like spam and neither do you, so there is a big fat unsubscribe button if I send you too much rubbish. (It may be rubbish but at least it's British rubbish.)

Thursday, 8 June 2017


My daughter aged 4 was pinched by another child at nursery. Apparently there was no provocation, and in any case I know my daughter to be a placid and non-aggressive child. One of the nursery teachers told my daughter to pinch back, 'to show him what it's like.' My daughter did as commanded, but with reluctance, and in a way that amounted to a touch rather than a pinch.

In her own way my daughter was resisting the command, or carrying it out under duress and with minimum force. It was the furthest she felt she could go short of open defiance. But clearly she was not happy with what she had been told to do.

On the one hand I felt admiration for her, that a small child already understands what is 'not nice' and has the understanding not to do things that are 'not nice' to others, even if told to by an adult. On the other hand she is at an age at which she has to learn to obey, simply because there are a huge number of aspects of the world that she does not yet understand, and there isn't always time to explain them. 'Stay on the pavement!' must be obeyed sometimes without question. Going to bed at the right time is another thing that has to be done whether the child wants to or not. Without obedience a child may do all manner of things, pulled this way and that by the impulses of the moment, and lack the structure that is necessary for a calm and healthy life.

My preliminary conclusion is that, in the usual order of things, obedience must be learned first and conscientious objection later, even if in the case of the pinching, conscientious objection has begun early. For us as adults also, inner self-control has to be developed as a strong base from which occasional necessary resistance to what is expected of us is possible.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

A Mermaid in the Bath is now available in Kindle format!

Well this took a while! There are books out there that tell you that you can convert your word-processor files into e-books in an hour. But it takes a lot longer than that if you care about the look and feel of the result.

While an e-book can never quite match the experience of having a real book in your hands, I have done my best to put into the Kindle version the little images that are scattered between sections of A Mermaid in the Bath, including mermaids, starfish, jellyfish, an evil-looking squid and the wonderful union-jack underpants. The lovely mermaid facing the title page I had to leave out because Amazon charges authors by the kilobyte for the so-called download fee. Even so a smaller version of the sleeping mermaid is still to be found in chapter 44.

Ah me! Because of the download fee I had to reduce all the images to the minimum file size possible without losing too much quality. Current e-readers will not support the 600 dots per inch that print allows in any case. That's why it all took a long time.

Anyway, it's a work of art and it's a bargain at less than the price of a cup of coffee.

Friday, 26 May 2017

I believe in the religion of love

(This Ibn Arabi quotation was found here.)

How can anyone believe in a God of hate? But as Hannah Arendt pointed out, evil is banal. It is a failure to think and to understand. It is the mindless acceptance of whatever rubbish someone else has said, or the mindless misinterpretation of scripture. Think, question, and don't trust your own conclusions.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

The missing mermaids

Phew! The mermaids are back! Was this censorship?

Martin's mermaid images disappeared from Etsy recently, and his Etsy page (visible at that time only to him) had a red banner saying that the mermaids were under review to see if they violated any of Etsy's policies.

Some people seem rather sensitive about nakedness, not being able readily to distinguish between art and pornography. A similar thing happened on Wattpad, when the management became aware of A Mermaid in the Bath. They liked the story so much that they wanted to feature it (it is still featured on Wattpad in the humour category) but they asked that the mermaid's breasts be covered up. He duly put cockle shells on them, although this is explicitly excluded in the book and for excellent reasons. (If cockle shell bras were a good idea you'd see whole sections of Marks and Spencer devoted to them. I dare you to go and ask.)

Michaelangelo had exactly the same problem with his painting of the Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel, having to put up with some other artist painting trousers on his nudes. The trousers are still there.

Having read Etsy's policies carefully, Martin discovered that Etsy permits breasts within the bounds of decency, as long as it's art or proper photography. It turns out that he just hadn't paid, and as soon as that minor matter was sorted, the mermaids reappeared in all their glory.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Innocent faith

Clever atheists sometimes mock the faith of the faithful. I used to do the same. But there is an obtuseness about the mocking.

If I may plead in my own defence, it was because I was looking for the door and no-one seemed able to show me the door. The myths by which religions live were opaque to me. The myths are the door, but without the key the door is a wall.

Some denied there was a door at all let alone a key. Specifically, in my youth I would ask, 'what is the meaning of life?' and I was told that the question was naive. Probably I'd grow out of it. At the same time I didn't see how the Virgin Birth or even Hanuman and his army of monkeys could help me. Are these not stories for children?

Again, some of the faithful claim that their version of the truth is the only correct one, the only path to Paradise. How should one choose? Choosing on the basis of ones parents' belief seemed to me rather arbitrary. Surely one should choose what is right, not necessarily what is habitual? Given that my revered primary school teacher was a Spiritualist (who believed her dog was the reincarnation of her previous dog, but had the clarity of mind to explain to us children that not everyone believes as she does, and that there are other points of view), my father flit between the Quakers, the Roman Catholic Church and some kind of misunderstanding of Buddhism, and my mother became a born-again atheist, I did not have a clear route to follow.

I cannot resist putting in a little anecdote told to me by a Bahá'í: someone was travelling through some part of the USA and passed a sign saying The Church of God. A little further down the road was another sign, reading The One True Church of God. Later they passed a third sign reading The One and Only True Church of God. Now clearly they cannot all be the only true church, and the philosopher Bertrand Russell would have pointed out that asserting that something is true does not add one iota to its truth value ('P is true' means exactly the same as 'P', where P is a proposition).

There is a problem with belief and it is this: a clever atheist can always come along and point out that parthenogenesis is recorded among some animals but not among humans, or that a reporter from the Daily Mail was not present at the Annunciation (not that that would have made the events any more plausible), or that no-one has ever been seen with blue skin (and I certainly mean no disrespect - dancing with all the cow-girls is one of the most delightful stories in all religion). How do we address this?

It seems to me likely that there is a door and there is a key. I cannot prove this, but without this assumption there is no point in even starting. This assumption has been made by the best minds since the dawn of history and probably before. The world is full of it and civilisations have been built on it. Correctly understood, the similarities between the faiths and the wise are there to see, although clothed in different styles and with different myths. A myth is simply a story, in this context a story that contains a truth. A truth that cannot be expressed better any other way.

Everyone needs a story to live by. Carlos Castaneda refers to 'a path with heart.' As we live and learn, perhaps the way we describe our path becomes less naive, we put away childish things (1 Corinthians 13:11). Meanwhile, a childish faith is a path with heart.

He who mocks the infant's faith
Shall be mock'd in age and death.
He who shall teach the child to doubt
The rotting grave shall ne'er get out.

He who respects the infant's faith
Triumphs over hell and death.
The child's toys and the old man's reasons
Are the fruits of the two seasons.

- William Blake, from Auguries of Innocence