Saturday, 31 May 2008

Sentimental post alert

Living with Stray is not without its surprises. (I shan't mention her current obsession with memorising sheep breeds, nor her plans for launching the sheep version of Top Trumps in time for Christmas.)

She has a remarkable intolerance for most television, but reserves a particular contempt for badly made documentaries. In a former life she used to write, direct and present factual TV which makes her something of an expert on the subject.

As I have come to realise.


Strange then, that her intolerance of flakey documentaries is matched only by her phenomenal tolerance for populist crap. Which is how come I know exactly who won  X Factor, American Idol and that ice skating malarkey, for the first time in my life. 

And how come I have just spent the evening blubbing like a loon with Stray as we watched this amazing young man win Britain's Got Talent.

Bet you cried too, didn't you?

Would you buy a book called ...

Homo Sapiens Globalis
The species that can save our planet.


It's a serious question. Finding a useful title for the book I'm working on is proving to be incredibly difficult.

Having completed all the chapter introductions and summaries, and the bullet pointed content from cover to cover, I'm now at the point where calling it 'the book' isn't cutting it anymore. Someone who has a potential hook into a publisher wants to read an overview, and the overview needs at least a working title. Today I'm attempting the 400 / 200 / 100 / 50 / 20 and 10 word synopsis. Many versions of each. The title above is a 10 word synopsis. I think I like it, but I need feedback!

Oddly I came up with the term 'Homo Sapiens Globalis' without even knowing if 'Globalis' was valid Latin, and then when I googled it I found that a couple of people have used the term to mean precisely what I am intending. That bodes well, surely?

So - as to the synopsis, the front cover of this book will also bare the statement:

Why the threat of Global Climate Change is the greatest opportunity ever to have faced the human race.

The back of the jacket might say something like:

Global Climate Change is not a technical problem - zero-carbon energy sources are available and well understood today. Global Climate Change is not an economic problem - a world that can afford Formula One, Space exploration and armed conflict is not unable to find the money to fund the technological solution. Global Climate Change is a human problem. If we do not successfully address the threat to the livability of our planet it will be because our own human nature got in the way.

So - are you interested? Would you pick it up and give it a flick through? Inside it's a mix of normal text and light hearted illustrations - not entirely dissimilar to the "Jung for Beginners" kind of books. It's being pitched at bright 13 year olds upwards - not too dry and stuffy but with a lot of quite complex ideas in it.

I'll also be looking for readers for the first and second drafts. Any volunteers? 

*edit: This is a book for grown-ups too! It's intended to be mainstream - we've included smart young people in the target group because they're particularly good at weeding out jargon etc, and because they're the generation who have most investment in the outcome.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Speed blogging because lately ...

... I am dehydrating. Everything. It's the best science experiment I've done in years. To take camping of course. Little bags of mexican chicken in the freezer. Making my own instant mashed potato. The miracle of putting the water back in and it all going back to how you made it is quite thrilling.  Water eh? Oxygen and hydrogen ... who'd have thunk it?

Our trip to Scotland was amazing, thrilling, terrifying, exhausting and the most exercise I have done ever. 5 hours hiking with gear in difficult terrain to get to the most amazingly remote spot out the back of Ben Nevis, at the foot of Stob Ban. Gorgeous, remote, breathtaking, great weather ... I was actually thinking that I might be the happiest I'd ever been in my life.  The next afternoon, Ms M and I said goodbye to our friends and their boxer dog at the peak, as they descended north whilst we went back south to camp for another night, having the monday off. We made good progress down to the coll between the 3 peaks, and then suddenly we lost Ruby.

An hour of shouting later, the weather came down hard and fast and we left the coll to descend, heartbroken, sobbing. I stuck a pole in the ground on top of a mound of dirt in the hope that we might return to look for her again in the morning as we dragged ourselves back through a bog for 2 hours and struggled to cross the swollen river. Suddenly the vastness of the landscape and remoteness of the location felt overwhelming rather than exhilarating. Back at camp we concluded that Ruby must have succumbed to her heart valve problem - she's never had any symptoms but the vets do warn me that her life could end suddenly at any time. Lots of tears. I kept telling myself that this was not the littlest Hobo. There would be no happy ending, my baby was lost and probably dead or badly injured and I would never cuddle her again.

And then. Five hours after we lost her. A woof. Far away. I know that is Ruby's woof. Ms M and I stared at each other. I blew the whistle. Two woofs. Definitely Ruby's woofs. Far away, but getting closer. And then, coming from the other side of the mountain, a little brown spot running in the distance. 

She ran and ran and ran until she reached us. It was like the end of a made-for-tv movie. I hugged her and she shook next to me. She was bleeding quite badly from a ripped claw and cut paws, and suddenly instead of looking like a paranoid overpacker I looked like a well prepared sensible person as I took the dog supplies out of the first aid kit and bandaged her paw.

She slept as late as possible the next morning as we packed up around her. I carried her pack as we limped collectively back to the car for four hours. Where had she been? No answers, but a theory - she thought the others were lost. The point at which she left us was where our path would have had line of sight / hearing / smell with their path. She almost certainly went to try to round them up, but couldn't catch up with them, and miraculously made the decision to return to the place we had slept the night before - even though that would have been three or four miles away and on the other side of a huge peak. I am sure she thinks it was us who were lost, and is relieved that we had the good sense to go back to her tent ;)

Other than that I'm writing. Writing the book. Need to blog some of it soon. Get your feedback if that's ok? Planning a couple more books. Planning on doing something different when I grow up. Planning another camping trip in June, and making my own dehydrated packet food. Suggestions for recipes very gratefully received!

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

The Patch!

Over the past few months I have been growing things in pots from seed and chitting potatoes on the window in preparation for my new vegatable venture.

I had a go last year in the tree house in Surrey but the elements were against me, including gale force winds blowing almost everything over... but I have not given in.

Back in February I took myself off to the local garden centre (I say local, nothing is really local around here, it was a 60 mile round trip), but I came back armed with packets of seeds and bags of compost. Since then I have grown 4 varieties of Tomato plants, which promise to give me a selection of yellow and red tomatoes.

My salad leaves are coming on very well indeed and I think we could even start grazing on them.

I also planted some broccoli seeds indoors back in late Feb and last week they were ready to go out into the patch. Their stalks are still rather thin but I hope they will grow to be strong. At the same time I also planted a few stronger plants straight outside, this included the elephant garlic and onions. Both these are coming along very well and they made it through all the snow we had.

Now the weather has improved I have put a few more things straight into the ground, including radishes, beetroots, potatoes, dwarf beans, and carrots. My potatoes would you believe were only planted 2 weeks ago and they have gone crazy, I hope I planted them deep enough, this is my biggest worry, other than my cat Frank being a complete bastard and digging everything up. I swear he is so full of self importance that he thinks I am making these dirt areas as outdoor litter trays for him.

Katy over at the potting shed gave me some of her finest Cauliflowers to rear in the patch. She also gave me a wonderful Strawberry tip which was to arange 3 Strawberry plants in a hanging basket and then the strawbs will grow over the edge ready for eating. This way no slugs can get them and they cannot rot on the ground.