Monday, 15 February 2010

Climate there’s an interesting thing. Assuming you are not a creationist and believe the world began some when during Ghandi’s childhood, you have to accept climate change has happened loads of times during the world’s history. Ice ages have come and gone, shallow tropical seas have pottered about aimlessly, trilobites, dinosaurs and thousands of species have had their leaving do’s, cleared their desks and waddled slithered or sadly flopped into the fossil record of the planet’s ‘Animal Resources’ department.

Why in god’s name then do we…small hairless, bolshe apes…think we are so powerful that we can stop the inevitable? Just because we have had an eleven thousand year spell of relatively stable climate doesn’t mean things ain’t ever going to change again. Quite the reverse is true in fact, we are long overdue for a good sort out! Perhaps the industrialisation of the western world, two world wars and farting cows are speeding things up a tad...but the world was going to change sometime. Surely it’s how we deal with it that matters.
Human beings have survived so far and become the dominant species on our planet by being very good indeed at adapting: we don’t have warm fur, but we have big brains so we can make clothes for warm or cold climates…that’s called being adaptable. Dinosaurs were very bad at bespoke tailoring…therefore it is their bones we look at in the museums rather than those of the small intelligent mammals who we descended from.

Unfortunately the politicians of the world and the loony climate change lobby (who are in the process of becoming a sort of new age Spanish Inquisition) believe that if we adopt the 'sit back, stop using energy, eat chic peas and polenta and develop very small carbon feet (apparently)' approach...everything will be fine. History, unfortunately tells us it won’t , things are all set to change…It’s just that I’m too nice a guy to lie to a polar bear!

Friday, 27 November 2009

I have my very first book signing on Dec 12 at
Janette Moss Horsewear
114 Brooker Road, Waltham Abbey, Essex,EN9 1JH Tel. 01992 712908
Please feel free to come and join me... you will find lots of gifts...including my book...for the horsey one in your life or just those who like reading about them.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Drivers beware

As a horse rider who has to share the over stretched roads in the Essex country side with car users, can I just say….a big thank you to the 90% of considerate drivers out there who slow and give us room. To the inconsiderate, pushy b******s who make up the other 10%...boy racers…white van men…mums on mobiles while kids distract from the back, dustcart drivers (bus drivers who think they are more important than god): may I just say… I will find out where each and every one of you lives and pee through your letter boxes!

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Welcome any friends from Facebook

Welcome welcome! I thought long and hard about making this blog available to any and all of those who know me from facebook...I mean some of it is pretty near the knuckle and hard hitting.
Still like Pandora I will open the box...fasten you seatbelts! For some: farriers, livery yard owners, people who wear suits, ecologists, cyclists, vets, politicians and possibly Chris Evans...this may be a bumpy ride.

Essex livery yard hell

Unfortunately there are many livery yard owners in Essex (and probably elsewhere) who do not realise they are running a business with customers.....they believe that you should pay them your hard earned money for leaky stables, substandard bedding and feed and poorly maintained, and at times outright dangerous facilities.. They demand in return for use twelve by twelve bit of box space and some muddy turnout (if you’re lucky) practically the power of life and death over you and your animal, and if there is anything you don’t like about their service....well, you will be expected to ‘get your horse and get out’, usually, with no period of notice.

I’ve seen unsafe sparking electrics...field mud allowed by poor maintenance to get so deep it broke a horse’s leg....I have seen liveries abused, fleeced and exploited....even robbed. I’ve heard twelve year old girls threatened with violence by owners...I’ve seen horses beaten by yard owners when the livery was safely out of the way. Of course their ideal world they would like you to leave your money with them and not bother them with your horse. Yet still people put up with this and live in the sway of these bullies and in some cases criminals.

These are the sorts of yard where you will never get a livery contract, where the most obnoxious liveries survive and even thrive by sycophancy and back stabbing. These yards are hell on earth for decent horse lovers yet in our part of Essex at least, are in the majority. If you don’t like it...get out.
At one of these yards you can pay £400+ a month to be abused, exploited and ripped off. You can pay £7.00 or more for a bale of substandard woodchip bedding that contains dust, cigarette butts, tape and even wire. You can pay £5.50 a bale for low quality poorly stored hay, covered with vermin faeces and reeking of mould....

There is no government regulation of the livery business, riding schools have to have council approval...but any idiot can open a yard.
Teachers and support workers at schools have to have CRB checks...even with the high number of un attended children at yards...anyone can run questions asked.
These are livery yards you could be sending your daughter to!

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Team GB?

There was a great Queen song called, I think, One Vision……and that’s by in large how history moves forward, one vision at a time. A great mover and shaker - whether it’s Genghis Kahn, Jesus of Nazareth or Thomas Elva Edison – will have a vision of the shape of the world to come and impose that vision single-mindedly on their world….for good or ill.

Well…that’s how it used to work anyway. You see nowadays one vision is out of fashion…the ability of a leader with initiative and courage daring to tread new paths, or the innovator ready to push new boundaries…well that’s not really politically correct is it?

Today we live in a corporate, team based, outsourced utopia where all managers are created equal and ‘following the heard’ is merely supporting the home side.

Why do so many products these days look like they were designed by committee? Often it’s because they were. If the vision did indeed start with one person then chances are many layers of boardroom decision making and tampering emasculated the original concept…that is before of course the marketing bods got their grubby mitts on the concept and perverted it even further.

The problem with team decisions is that they are a double edged sword…yes you have the benefit of multiple minds to dedicate to a problem, but you have also ‘inverse gestalt’, whereby the whole can wind up in fact being less than sum of the parts. An army marches at the speed of its slowest recruit, and a committee is as intelligent as it’s most dense member.

Let’s not forget, that today the prestige lies with heading up a shining team…not with ploughing a lonely furrow. As a weak leader can after all hide his or her inadequacies by relying on the team….the ‘you chaps pop over the top and take that trench, there’s good fellows…I’ll just supervise from here’ mentality.

Rejoice…Today none of us is alone: we have a lovely nanny state to tell us how to think, to chastise us when we are naughty and to damn us with faint praise when we come up to societies’ meagre standards. Where once authoritarian Ward Matrons held hospital discipline in an iron grip now the joint is run by droves of lovely civilian managers who have ensured, with their polite corporate efficiency, that one can now leave hospital either with the free gift of MRSA or in a nicely hand fitted pine box from a dose of ‘C Diff’. You’ve gotta love progress!

The problem as far as I can see is that we as a society have totally lost the ability to realise our own limitations. I’m not a brain surgeon because I don’t have the brains/talent for it….my maths chemistry and biology grades stunk up the place therefore I must accept I could never have been one. It is not because I came from an inner city area, or that my parents were crack-heads or that I had poor schooling or that English is not my first language, or that I’m too thin or too fat or not ethnically diverse enough….it’s simply that I’m too thick! This is not to say that us ‘fickkos’ can’t lead happy and fulfilled lives…it’s simply that we have a ‘famous for fifteen minutes’, instant results, don’t bother to think or have talent, Big Brother/X Factor society. The joke used to be the working class chap muttering ‘I know my place’…..well what’s wrong with knowing your place in the scheme of things? If you know where you are you are not lost, you have a direction to move in and you can be to some degree content with your lot. You can even (I shall be pilloried for saying it) have pride in your status…not shame.

The is trouble in our team lead service industry world we have forgotten to provide enough jobs for those of us who are better suited to working with our hands than our copies of PowerPoint. We have taken away any pride in physical labour and replaced it with an aching longing to get rich and always strive for the bigger TV or liposuction.

Yes brothers and sisters we are all part of ‘Team UK’ a team that used to have a reputation for producing colourful and brilliant eccentrics, being strict in our fairness and somehow managing to be ‘cool’ while rigid and anally retentive. Now we have a basket case economy and an international reputation for being the US’s whining sidekick (with worse dentistry). It’s amazing what being part of a team can do!

Thursday, 7 May 2009

I expected this…but Shadowknight is not having an easy route to being published. When a new writer says that he or she is fully prepared for rejection…we don’t mean it…honestly! I know a new author has to do the rounds of sometimes dozens of agents before getting a bite, but each of the first ten rejection letters I received cut like a knife. You spend every waking moment for six months immersed in the lives of wholly fictional characters until they are as familiar as friends and family, then go through a curious sense of loss when you finish their story and have to leave them. Worse, you must abandon their exploits to the scrutiny of prospective agents pretending stoically not to care. I know it has ever been so for authors since Bard of Stratford’s day, but with fewer and fewer publishers accepting submissions directly, it’s hook an agent or leave your novel to gather dust in a drawer. Rejections are most often polite, but in their very sparseness of wording they leave questions hanging in the air…was the opening too slow? Did I flesh this or that character out fully? Did any typos slip under the wire? Does anyone love me?


(Cue a pregnant pause with the sound of wind and the possibility of a tumbleweed…)

Watch this space!

Wednesday, 11 March 2009


Well, the scent of spring seems to be in the air again with new life bursting into bud. It seems to have been a particularly long and irksome winter this year with ice and mud in equal unpleasant measures and I shall be glad to see the back of it.
We have had illness in both horses with Murph having a corneal ulcer and Chestnut having had his operation….and illness with me needing two courses of antibiotics to shift a flu bug that turned into a chest infection.
We are due, I think, a spot of good luck and good weather…especially for my novel Shadowknight, out to various agents at the moment looking for representation.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Bye bye Freeforest

A great deal has happened in the months since Fiona and I started Freeforest, some good and some not so. I took a back seat some while ago, feeling that personally I could not come to terms with the apathy shown by the vast majority of the riding population of Epping Forest. Many people were prepared to join organisations, true, but few would lift a finger to assist those fighting on their behalf – except perhaps to criticise.

Fiona and I have spent many hours writing letters on behalf of the members, making phone calls to officials, being interviewed on radio programs and badgering the press. We both are, or have been media professionals, and felt that the most important task facing any minority pressure group is to gain the sympathy of the general public.

This is particularly true of horse riders as we still have a very poor public image as privileged, snooty, conservative ‘fox chasers’. We know that to a large extent this is not true today, but the taint still clings to us.

Our plan from the outset was to show that we as riders were as committed to what we believe as the Heathrow protesters, Fathers for Justice, the ‘Forest Uprising’ in the New Forest or any of the other organisations that have benefited by capturing the public imagination. The reasoning being that while City of London could happily argue with a bunch or riders alone, they would balk at the embarrassment of crushing a united front of all forest users in the full glare of media attention.

Unfortunately it seems that the overwhelming majority of horse risers in Epping Forest do not care enough about their freedoms or even their safety to do anything but sit back passively moaning and expecting others to fight their battles for them. Worse, they do not wish to experience the challenging emotions of speaking their minds, or have their ‘Middle England’ conservatism rippled by questioning the status quo.

I fully admit my personal attitude to EFRA (the Epping Forest Riders Association)is antipathetic. Any organisation meant to be representative of the best interests of its members that will not entertain discussion of its methods and dissension in its ranks without spouting personal ‘anger’ against those that question its committee, is deeply flawed.

Personally I have a problem with a riding organisation run largely by people who do not ride, and worries about an body where a significant portion of the committee and the chairman all hale from one stable yard, and often conduct their business in ‘the tea room’ without democratic process, minutes or scrutiny.

I resigned from EFRA in the honest belief that the organisation - or rather its leadership - is arrogant, outmoded, out of touch, with a limited appeal to the average non-pensionable age rider. I stick by that view.

Fiona has finally had enough of all of the above. While she has an altogether less cynical view of humanity and likes to see the best motives in everyone, even she has her limits, and the petulant childish blandishments of certain EFRA members have hurt her deeply.

To those that have helped us and the cause of keeping the Forest free of gates, cattle grids etc, heartfelt thanks to you. I won’t mention you by name but you know who you are.
To those who have criticised, moaned and obstructed....well though I’m tempted to blow a big fat raspberry....I shall simply say: I rather think that you will get, in the end the sort of Forest you were prepared to fight fact, the sort of forest you richly deserve.

Thursday, 22 January 2009


My novel ‘Shadowknight‘ was completed last month, after a year of labour….well six months of writing and six months of writer’s block caused by giving up smoking!

Am I proud of it? Yes I rather think I am. Getting it published will be another matter again, but I am revising and honing it, and initial reactions from beta-readers have been favourable. It was always going to be part of a series so I have bitten the bullet and started writing book two…..working title Shadowreaper!

I am planning to have a lot of fun writing the sequel and developing characters that have become old friends…..and of course bringing in new characters to play with.

I wish I could be as positive about Fi’s campaign to keep Epping Forest free of fences and cattle grids. I never cease to be frustrated by the ease with which some people are walked over! Local support from the very people who will be most effected is limited to a hand full of dedicated people. There is a great apathetic majority who are willing to give tacit approval only to methods of protest that don’t ruffle the calm waters of their parochial pond.
Ho hum, I suppose it equates to Epping Forest riders getting the forest they deserve in the long run. It’s a shame however that those of us who are prepared to fight must be chained and gagged while the forces of mediocrity efficiently lose the battle for us. Fi has done her best...bless her, but I fear she has been flagellating the proverbial deceased equine.