Monday, September 01, 2014

Space Dog Alfred

I have written children's story for the National Literacy Trust. My deadline was mid September so I am getting ahead of myself!

This is a story for 8 to 12 year old readers. I have been uncompromising. This is the story I would have loved to read at that age. I enjoyed writing it  and some readers will love it.

It tells the story of a French Bulldog who ends up going into space with Finbar Cool, a very dodgy street trader and uncle to Tom and Seren, the twins who accompany him. Finn brings his daughter, Abby, along too.

On the planet they go to there is a group mind which is shared by Gai - sentient tree-like creatures - the Veck who are humans but have mastered unpowered flight and the people of Ardin who are small but perfectly formed. They worship death.
The group mind is not shared by creatures known as the gnarl who are warlike and largely live underground.

It is an adventure story in which the powers of all the characters are tested to the maximum. Abby realises her selfishness is holding her back. Seren eventually comes to realise that Abby can change. Tom finds out that he really doesn't know everything. Finn realises the futility of war. Alfred's bravery and his powers of hearing and smelling make him into a hero. Like all French Bulldogs, he has the power to understand what humans (and other creatures) are thinking.

In the end good triumphs over evil. The heroes succeed in averting a war which would have cost thousands of lives. In doing so they also introduce the gnarl to the joy of storytelling. They prove that it is possible to win a battle by surrendering.

--   http://derekmcmillan.com

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Review of "How to build a girl"

Caitlin Moran was brought up on a council estate in Wolverhampton. She
became a journalist on the Times, probably the poshest newspaper in the
world, at the age of 18. Consequently she works alongside a fair
sprinkling of the upper class public school boys who have all the
positions of power in the country. She is unique in thinking Michael
Gove is not a waste of space. Her reason for this, however, was that he
knew the name of the hamster Freddie Starr was alleged to have eaten!
(Teachers believe it is a pity he didn't know anything about education).

The title is a postmodern reference to the idea of constructing and
reconstructing the personality. What is different about this book is
that the idea is for the first time rooted in the realities of class
society. It is indicative of Caitlin Moran's style that the difficulties
of masturbating while sharing a bed with a sibling feature as an example.

A book which deals with the effects of poverty while growing up in
Wolverhampton and the cruelty of the benefits system sounds like a
"worthy" book which socialists would read out of a sense of duty rather
than an expectation that they will enjoy it. *This is not that book!*

The narrative veers between pathos and hilarity. You will recognise the
bitter anger against the treatment of the poor one minute and be
laughing your socks off the next.

It is an "adult" book. This means that teenagers will love it and some
adults will think it is totally unsuitable for teenagers to read.

I leave that judgement to you. Just read this book. You will be hooked
after the first few pages.

Derek McMillan

--
http://derekmcmillan.com

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Old boys' network

There is an absurd old left-wing idea that the top jobs in British society are dominated by an "Old boys' network" of posh public school boys. It is interesting therefore that a government report produced by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission has produced the following hard facts.

The old school tie brigade make up

71 percent of senior judges

62 percent of senior armed forces officers

55 percent of Whitehall permanent secretaries (the "Sir Humphries")

50 percent of House of Lords members

36 percent of the Cabinet (22 percent of the Shadow Cabinet)

33 percent of MPs

26 percent of BBC executives.


The report produced similar percentages for the number who went to Oxbridge. Oxford and Cambridge deny that they favour public school pupils over the state sector. Methinks they do protest too much.

With these percentages and the misogynist nature of most public schools, it is hardly surprising, for example, that Cameron's line-up of MPs and MEPs show a distinct gender bias. In the global table of female representation, the UK ranks 74th - down from 33rd in 1999 and 62nd in 2010.

And what are the chances of the government doing anything about this? Are a group of public school boys who have cottoned on to a good thing going to put an end to it? The odds are on a par with turkeys voting for an early Christmas I imagine.

Don't be fooled by the wigs and silk stockings. They are public school boys underneath.

We are many. They are few. They use their power to defend their wealth and privilege. They will not give up either without a fight.. TUSC (The Trade Union and Socialist Coalition founded by Bob Crow)  is the only political party which fight.





Friday, August 22, 2014

Fishing in troubled waters

The latest suggestion from Dannat - work with Assad against Isis. The Western Powers and the arms merchants are rubbing their hands with glee at the opportunity to bring more death and destruction to the Middle East. Oppose Assad, Support Assad. Toss a coin. Just make sure our profits benefit.
It is beyond satire and it isn't funny. Arming both sides in a conflict and then wringing their hands over carefully selected atrocities (the Israelis do not commit atrocities - not in Cameron's book anyway) these hypocrites still claim the moral high ground.




Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Skylight


Worthing is a town which has always re-elected Tory sunkets in the past and the worship of the blessed Saint Margaret Thatcher is widespread. It was a pleasant surprise therefore when the Connaught Studio was packed out for a performance of "Skylight" by David Hare.

The play is part of the National Theatre Live screening program whereby plays are broadcast throughout the country. David Hare sees this as an alternative to touring and made it a condition of putting the play on that it should be broadcast by the NT Live program.

In it Carey Mulligan plays a teacher and Bill Nighy as her former lover is the epitome of Thatcherism. The play cleverly weaves a love story, a comedy and a political statement around each other.

I will not give away the plot but David Hare commented during the interval that it was originally staged at the end of the Thatcher era in which those who work in the public services were denigrated and "we have just had four years of the same!"

Carey Mulligan has one final statement in which she says that teaching is about setting your own objectives, and celebrating them when you achieve them rather than following the daft objectives set by politicians who hate the public services. All teachers will recognise that.

It is well worth seeing if there is another NT "encore" performance in your area.
Sent from my iPhone

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

NHS campaign


NYE Bevan is head and shoulders above any of the career politicians in the Labour Party today. We have a health service to be proud of. We do not have a Labour Party anyone can be proud of.

The orgy of privatisation began with Blair's removal of Clause 4 from Labour's constitution.

They cannot be trusted.

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition

Socialist Reviews

Jarrow Crusade to save the NHS

This weekend, a group of Mums from Darlington will begin a March from Jarrow to Parliament, to send a message of outrage at the attacks this Government are making to our National Health Service.
Over three weeks, joined by other campaigners on the way, they’ll march more than 300 miles – because they, like so many of us, believe that our NHS is precious, and that we have to fight for it.
This Tory-led Government wasted £3billion on a top-down reorganisation of the NHS that was opposed by patients and health professionals alike. And now we’re seeing the consequences.
That’s why we’re launching a new campaign today, to take back our NHS. Will you add your name?
http://www.unionstogether.org.uk/backthebill


This campaign is being backed by the pro-Labour "unionstogether" campaign. Labour have betrayed us again and again and again. The privatisation orgy of the Tories was started by New Labour. They have torn up all the principles of socialism and they can no more be relied on to defend the NHS than any other capitalist party.

We need campaigns like this. We also need an independent working-class voice in the election. We have to defend the NHS against the Tories, against the Liberals and against the Labour Traitors.

The Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) founded by Bob Crow is a step in that direction.





--   http://derekmcmillan.com

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition

Socialist Reviews

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Book reviews in less than 140 letters!

You must do this! You can help the Literacy Trust just by tweeting a book review - a very short one necessarily! - to ‪#‎flubitbooks‬ 
My example - How to Build a Girl Caitlin Moran. Alternately hilarious and moving insight into life on the breadline in Wolverhampton

http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/




Paras support wounded and widows

The local Parachute Regimental Association were out collecting money to help the wounded and the widows. I gave them a few pounds but shouldn't the government be looking after the wounded and the widows? And to pay for it perhaps the politicians could be forced to pass the hat round to pay for rubbish like Trident. I wonder how much they'd collect!