Does Brexit mean a break with the past or a return to our roots?

Many people argue that we as an island do not belong “in” Europe.  We have always stood off at a distance and got involved in Europe only when we had to.  This vote expresses our true nature as the Island Race to which we can now return.

Others say the World is getting smaller and that leaving the EU makes us an irrelevant little country with no real influence and at the mercy of events caused by decisions made elsewhere.

I hope both are wrong.  I think that, paradoxically, as an island we have always been more outward-looking than many nations.  Coastal peoples usually are.  From the days when we were linked to the Continent as a result of our kings’ holdings of titles and lands such as Normandy and Gascony, to the days when we had the Empire.

Even the legends of King Arthur involve overseas travel.

As a child, I used to live in Southport where there were a lot of retired people.  Some were former colonial administrators, others were ex-soldiers, but many more had been seafarers or had had business interests overseas.  I heard a lot about Africa, India and lots of other parts of the World.  In many countries it would have been unusual to hear of life beyond your own town or village.  All that before the EU or the Internet.

Does this affect my writing?  Yes!  You will often find characters in my books who are foreigners, or who go abroad at some stage in the story.  It just seems natural to me.

One of the negative effects of our EU membership has been the decline of some of our great port cities, such as Liverpool, Glasgow and Bristol.  This is because our trade across the Atlantic and beyond has dwindled as that with the Continent has increased.  Hence the growth of some of our eastern ports.  However, all is not lost.  I have visited the International Festival of Business in Liverpool.  It is obvious that many people think that city and region have a future.  Perhaps leaving the EU will be the spur to the expansion of trade with everywhere else.

To me, the worst thing we can do now is to pull up the drawbridge and become Little Englanders.  My hope is that the opposite will happen: that we will build up our contacts with the rest of the World as well as negotiating a satisfactory arrangement with the EU.

People often claim History is on our side.  I hope so.  Let us not forget that Geography is on our side too!

 

What is the relevance of Beowolf to our religious beliefs?

I have to confess I have never read Beowolf nor watched the recent TV version, but I have heard of it as an important milestone in English literature.  One thing that has often been said is that it was fiction.  Not only were the monsters and magic unbelievable, but the setting was mythical too.  Anglo-Saxon kings, let alone warriors, were not so wealthy as to have lots of gold and silver on their armour and weapons.  Not many precious stones either.  The whole country was much poorer than the impression given in the saga.

That seemed reasonable.  Until they discovered the Staffordshire Hoard.  It consisted of vast quantities of gold, silver and jewelled objects of all kinds: helmets, swords, saddle-fittings, belt-buckles and much more.  This was from the period when Beowolf was written.  So it was more accurate than we thought, at least in certain respects.

So what?

When people tell us with apparent certainty that the Bible is nothing but a collection of myths, they should speak with less certainty.  In fact, archaeology has sometimes confirmed statements in the Bible that critics have dismissed.  King Solomon’s stables did exist.  So he did establish a cavalry, contrary to God’s Will, as it would lead to the oppression of the people.  A lot of ivory was found at the site of a palace in Samaria, where kings had been condemned by prophets for living in ‘Ivory Palaces’  while the people lived in poverty.

Beowolf is another reminder to be careful before dismissing something as mythical just because we do not yet have evidence to prove it.

I will try to be true to history where I can be, but I am writing novels, not textbooks.  I hope they will encourage some of you to study further to get the whole story.

Can Too Many Words Spoil Communication?

“No adjectives!” cried Geoffrey, the author, “No effing adjectives?  Who says?”

“It’s company policy.” replied Colin, the executive from his publishers as he handed back the annotated manuscript.

“Well, what stupid, blinkered, unimaginative, idiotic, moronic old fool came up with that one?”

“You’ve just used six adjectives, most of which were unnecessary.  They were synonyms, or nearly.  There was no need for the expletive in your previous remark, either.  You see how wasteful you are with words?”

“So is this an efficiency drive?”

“I suppose that’s one way of looking at it.  To answer your question, the policy came down from the top.  The senior partner, Mr. Roget, has recently stated the policy unequivocally and categorically.  By the way he’s not old.  He’s only in his forties, although they say his mental age has always been greater than his chronological age.”

“You’ve just used two adjectives.  You said ‘mental’ and ‘chronological’ and they’re near-synonyms.   What about adverbs?”

“They’re banned too.  Most of them are unnecessary.”

“You use them.  You just said ‘unequivocally’ and ‘categorically’ which are also near-synonyms.  And ‘unnecessary’ is an adverb too.  You’re as bad as I am!  Anyway, repetition is often used for emphasis.  We all do it in speech.  Why not in print?  I’ll bet a lot of famous writers would never get published if your Mr. Roget had his way.  What about titles?  Do you allow adjectives and adverbs in them?”

“I don’t know.  I don’t think we encourage them.” Said Colin as he looked nervously at the list of new titles he was holding.

“I suppose you would have published the Curiosity Shop!

“If you’re going to be like that, I suppose it ought to be just the Shop.”

“Like the Girl with the Earring, or is that the Girl with the Ring?”

“Now you’re being silly and pedantic.”

“That’s good, coming from you!  What about the Sleep by Raymond Chandler, and Hardy’s Far from the Crowd?  Would you have told Louisa May Alcott to call her books Women and Men, not to be confused with the Man by H.G. Wells?  Or Dashiel Hammett to call his book the Falcon?  Don’t you see that adjectives make a difference, sometimes an important one?”

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“They’re all great writers who know when to use a word and when to leave it out.  You seem to think the more words the better!”

“Isn’t that a subjective opinion?  Some readers probably like it plain and simple, whilst others prefer a bit more colour.  If people like you and your Mr. Roget had their way in the art world, paintings would be reduced to diagrams.”

Colin looked at the cover of a book on his desk.  There was a picture of matchstick men on a minimalist background.  He said, “I can think of some modern artists who do just that, quite successfully!”

“Yes, but not everyone wants that kind of thing.  Surely we want to give the readers a choice?”

“Go through your manuscript and take out all the adjectives and adverbs that don’t add anything to the narrative or even to the descriptions.  Then I’ll see if I can persuade the firm to give it another look.”