Friday, 17 March 2017

Tales From The Sea by Eddie Gubbins

Eddie off to sea                                                                Eddie as Chief Officer

Tales From The Sea is a semi-autobiographical novel following my time at sea as a ships officer between 1957 and 1969. The reader will meet the characters with whom I sailed, the good, the bad, the comedians and the tough guys. There are the nights ashore and the visits to exotic places to which I voyaged. Sail with me on the ships old and new, tankers, cargo liners and ferries as they ploughed across the oceans carrying the products of the world. Weaving a spell over everything is the sea and its dangers. To most semen, the sea itself calls. No seaman ever knows what mood will greet them when they sail out of the port to greet the sea or how the mood can change very quickly. This is the excitement of sailing the seas and it still excites me when I board a ship and sail off as a passenger to some distant places.

This is an extract taken from Tales from the Sea

The Cigar

I was sailing on the San Wifrido as a cadet around the Caribbean and down the South American coast. It was a well organised ship and the Captain insisted that each cadet was attached to one of the ship’s deck officers. This way we would learn what was required of a ship’s officer. My officer was the second mate. I followed him round the ship and sometimes ashore while he was working. Helping him in his jobs and running errands when ordered. Over time during the voyage we had become more than colleagues but good friends.
The ship had berthed in one of those South American ports bordering the Caribbean sea to load crude oil. As seemed often the case it was the middle of the night. After securing the ship, the second mate and I had watched from the catwalk as guards were posted, one on deck, the other at the foot of the gangway. I asked the second mate why in this tin pot dictatorship they needed to post guards. He shrugged.
“ What are they looking for?” I asked as our bags were searched as we went ashore to deliver papers to the agent.
“ Subversive material,” he muttered while smiling at the guard.
When we took over the loading of the cargo from the Chief Officer, it was mid morning. The water ballast had been pumped ashore and the crude oil was now flowing into the ship’s tanks.
As we opened and closed valves to start loading into one of the tanks, the sun was beating down on the black painted deck. Heat haze rose causing the structures to shimmer and waver. The only shade was under the catwalk which joined the amidships and aft accommodation. This was high above the deck to give safe passage when the deck was  battered by waves. Joining the heat haze was the cloud of gas from the open vent through which we measured the oil depth in the tank.
By the amidships accommodation,  a guard in his green uniform, gun slung over his shoulder, lounged against the rail watching our efforts. Ashore, another guard sat on a bench by the foot of the gangway chatting loudly to a refinery worker.
I measured the oil depth and reported this to the second mate.
He grinned. “ Another forty minutes until we have to change tanks. I’m off to the cargo office to enter the figures in the book.”
“ And get a mug of coffee,” I muttered.
“ I heard that,” he laughed. “Privileges of yer officer class me boy. I’ll bring one back......”
He never finished what he was saying, Like a statue he was fixed to the spot, his eyes bulging from his head. I glanced in the direction in which he was looking and froze.
The guard had straightened and was pulling out of his pocket what looked like a large cigar. Calmly,  he unpacked it from its silver case, throwing the case into the sea.
We stood rooted to the spot, unable to move. Both of us were silently willing him to put it back into his pocket but, after rolling it between his fingers, he raised it to his lips.
After that it was as though everything happened in slow motion. The lifting of the arm to place the cigar in his mouth. The reaching into a pocket and extracting a lighter. The hand going round the lighter, thumb on the striker. The cupping of the hands against the breeze.
His thumb moved and the lighter sparked. Flame leapt from the wick. His head lowered until the end of the cigar disappeared into his cupped hands. He straightened and the end of the cigar glowed red.
The second mate had ducked under the cat walk and I quickly joined him, hunching down behind one of the pillars. 
Nothing happened.
I took a quick look.
The guard was standing looking straight down the deck through the gas cloud pulling contentedly on his cigar. All I could see was the glowing red end. It appeared to get bigger and bigger.
“ You’ll have to order him to put it out,” I told the second mate trying to sound calm.
“ Not me after what happened to Joe the last time we were here.” The second mate sank further into the shadows under the cat walk. “ All he did was let the national flag touch the deck when he was lowering it one night. The guard shot at him and arrested him. He spent two weeks in jail before the company could get him out.”
I stepped out of the shadows and took a measurement of the oil. About half filling the tank.
A sound made me turn sharply and I once more froze to the spot. In measured steps, his gun slung jauntily across his back, the guard was walking along the catwalk towards the stern contentedly puffing on his cigar.  Screaming at me from behind his back in big letters on the accommodation bulkhead. NO SMOKING in three languages.
I stood rigid and glued to the spot. The measuring tape dangled unnoticed in my hand. Clouds of gas drifted upwards over the catwalk from the tank opening. The smell of oil filled my nostrils. My stomach was filled with ice.
Clank, clank. Measured footsteps along the metal grating over my head. The red tip of the cigar, big and round, bright even in the sunlight. As though out for a Sunday stroll round the village square, the guard passed overhead, leaving a trail of smoke in his wake. My eyes followed his progress but my feet were fixed to the spot. I wondered how much I would feel when the ship exploded.
The guard walked out of the gas cloud and continued until he reached the end of the cat walk. Turning towards the port side, he strolled under the NO SMOKING signs, took one last puff on his cigar and threw the butt over the side of the ship.
Looking in my direction, he grinned. “ Very good cigar. Come from Cuba.”

The novel can be read as a paperback from Amazon or
For downloading as an ebook go to Kindle or

Have a good read!!!

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Running After Maria by Eddie Gubbins

This short story was published in ' With Islands in Mind' in 2006. As a short story it was  the basis of my novel ' Running After Maria' published in 2011.

My heart was pounding in my chest as I looked out of my cabin window across the deck of the Otter and the docks beyond. I was excited because I was waiting for Maria to drive to the ship and take me back to her home to tell her parents that we were to get married.
My mind drifted back to that first time I had met Maria. It seemed so long ago now, that night at a party on the Otter. It had not been an auspicious meeting. I had been sitting on the deck in a corridor, slumped with my back against the bulkhead, trying to regain my senses after too much drink. I was feeling as though I was floating a few feet off the deck, free and above the mere mortals attached to the earth who walked by in a blur.
Then somebody had spoken, breaking through the drink induced fog and I was looking into pair of dark brown eyes gazing seriously at me through large glasses. The face was round, with a small nose on which her lenses perched. Even through the fog of the alcohol, I was aware that she had a rather large mouth filled with very white regular teeth that smiled at me from very close. The face was framed in brown hair, neatly cut and not quite reaching her shoulders. She introduced herself as Maria Tourvelinen and told me she had come to the party with my friend Brian’s girlfriend.Somehow, I had pulled myself together enough to dance with her and ask for a date when the ship was next in Helsinki.
The following time the ship had come to Helsinki, we had met, had a meal and been to a concert. After that, we arranged to see each other at every opportunity and started to make love in her flat whenever I was in Helsinki. After a while, I had asked her to marry me but she refused.
It came to a head one day in April, when the snow had melted and the grass was starting to show green in the parks. We were walking through the park near the sea and it was so sudden and unexpectedly that I did not know how to handle myself. Innocently, I had said to her, “ I have this feeling we were meant to stay together and grow even closer. I suppose what I am trying to say is that I think it is

time for us to talk about getting married.”

When I had finished speaking, Maria stopped suddenly. It was as though I had punched her. Roughly, she pulled me over to the rail by the edge of the water. She stood there not looking in my direction but staring out to sea. It was as though she was asking the sea to give her some inspiration, for the words to rise from the waters like a siren and rescue her.

“ Its so hard to explain ,” she had began, her voice trembling. “ If you were a Finn I would most likely say yes to marrying you. I don’t really understand why but there is something which holds me back from saying yes to marrying you.”
“ I am from this land, this is where I belong,” she went on after a pause and I did not reply. “ We Finns have feelings which are rooted deep in the soil of our forests and in the history of our people. For all the hard climate, the isolation from the rest of Europe, the snow and the cold, over the centuries, we have built a way of life. All my friends and my parents live here and I am scared to move away. If I married you, I would have to leave my land and my friends.”
“ Other people have managed,” I had replied harshly.
Now, standing looking out of my cabin window waiting anxiously for Maria to arrive, I distinctly recalled her words. “ Ah, James you are not like all those other people. Don't you ever listen to yourself when you are talking? When we lie together, our passion spent or as we drink coffee in the mornings, you should pay attention to what you are saying. All the other English seamen I have met talk about the here and now and never give any indication that they ever think about the future. To them the whole purpose of living is for their ship to arrive in Helsinki, what they are going to do while they are in port and whom they will meet. I have noticed, even when we are with other people from the ship, you talk about different things than they do, as though the ship is only a place of work and there are other things to do in life. When you describe England in the spring with the soft rains and the budding flowers, the country bars with huge open fire places and pints of beer, your eyes shine with an inner passion. Though you might not realise it openly, I can see that is where your heart is and England is where you will eventually return to settle down once you have had enough of the sea. James, I have lain in bed listening to you talking about the town you come from, about your friends and family and I know that you have roots as deep in that community as I have here. Your bonds to your family are as tight as my own. Our roots go deep into the soil of the places and into the soul of the people from whom we sprang. I am tied to my past and you are to yours.”
“ Maria, that may have been true in the past but events change our outlook on life. If we got married, your family would become my family, your home my home. My attitude to England would change just in the act of marrying you!” I had emphasised each word by almost shaking her.
“ No, It would be like caging an animal which has always been free to roam and cutting it off from it's home. You do not talk about the sea in the same way as the others, as though you are going to spend the rest of your life at sea. Always in the background of what you are saying, I have detected that if the right job came along, you would leave the sea without hesitation. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying you do not like going to sea. All I know is that I am certain that one day you will say to yourself, I have had enough of the sea and then you will find a job ashore and that job will be in England. James at the moment, I don't think I could leave Finland and come to live in England even for you.”
A silence had fallen between us after that. It was not the silence of contentment nor of anger but of bafflement at how this divide could have grown so swiftly. No doubt both of us were thinking about how we could rediscover the excitement of being together which we had had before the question of marriage had arisen.
It came as a shock to me when I realised that Maria had inadvertently opened my eyes to the way I thought about a career at sea. For the first time in my life I began to realise that the sea was not everything to me but only another job. The sea which had dominated my life since as long as I could remember, could this only be a passing phase in my life? I asked myself as the doubts about the foundation of my living began to make all certainty crumble. Would I be able to leave the life I had built for myself at sea if I found another job which did not involve going away from home? Was my character so rooted in England that it was obvious to Maria, while not to me, that I would finally settle down in England? Was Maria right in claiming that it would be impossible for me sail to Helsinki for the rest of my life, that in the end the excitement would fade and I would seek a more stable life style?
After our disagreement,the Otter had sailed to other ports than Helsinki and for a long time I had not seen Maria. All through this forced separation, in her letters, Maria had maintained her stand of not wanting to get married.
When I had finally arrived back in her flat in Helsinki, she had told me before we had made love, “ Your being away for so long has convinced me that I cannot live without you. As far as I can think, this means we will have to get married. I suspect that nothing has changed between us. Our getting married will mean I have to come and live in England at some time in the future. If going to live in England is the only way I can be with you all the time, I will be willing to leave Finland and come with you.”
All I could say was thank you. She had been aware of how I felt towards her for a long time. For me it had been an age to wait silently, hoping each time we met for her to say those words. At the time there was little I could say.
After she arrived on the Otter, we had lunch and it turned into one of those happy occasions which come unanticipated, one which I can even now recall in every detail as though it was only yesterday.
Captain Harris ordered a special meal, even going so far as to break out some of his much cherished wine which he usually kept locked in his locker. He played the gracious host, dressed in his best uniform, presiding over the meal with genial competence. Indeed, he appeared to be genuinely pleased that Maria and I had decided to get married. I had shyly told him of our plans on the way round the Finnish coast from Helsinki to Kotka. As I came off watch, he had called me into his cabin for a gin before we went to bed. His normally serious expression had almost changed to a beaming smile and he had insisted we had one more than our usual ration of gin.
All my friends were sitting around the table. Most had delayed their usual headlong rush to leave the ship and catch the bus for Helsinki in order to meet their girlfriends for the weekend. We sat in the same saloon where I and Maria had first met, surrounded by memories of the party and my first kiss. Above the echo of my friends laughing and drinking through lunch, were the ghosts of other friends who had been at the party that night.
The toasts that lunchtime were for the ship and for Maria who sat in her seat by Captain Harris sparkling and smiling. When the last of the wine had been consumed, all those present insisted on lining up and kissing Maria in turn. As an after thought they all shook my hand and wished me good luck.
When we finally got back to my cabin to fetch my bag, Maria flung her arms round my neck, kissing my lips through the taste of the wine. The warmth of her body and her trembling excitement made my heart beat faster and my body pushed against hers as though I had no control over my behaviour.
“ Let us make love here in your cabin before we drive home,” she had whispered in my ear. “ I have always wanted to make love on board the Otter and in your bunk. You have always come ashore to my flat whenever you are in Helsinki, so I have never had the chance.”
We made love slowly and silently, conscious of the people walking passed the door of my cabin. It was wonderful. Afterwards we lay in each others arms laughing about how we should have done this that first time she had been aboard the Otter.
Then, after a drinking a coffee, we went arm in arm out into the cold, down the gangway and into her car. Even after so much time, I can still see her smiling face as she waved goodbye to Bill who was leaning on the ship’s rail watching us depart and, if I think deeply, experience my sense of happiness and the rightness of what we were about to do.
The light was growing dim as we left the Otter in the middle of the afternoon and Maria had to turn on the car headlights. As we sped through the frozen landscape towards Maria's home, the woods on each side of the road look dark and forbidding. The trees were individually visible close to the road but fading into a dark mass further away. We hardly talked, content to let the dirty snow at the side of the road slip by as the studded car tyres threw little chips of ice into the air. We were still, I suppose, enveloped in the warm relaxing glow of our love making, in many ways outside of time.
Through half closed eyes I recognised the approach to the village where Maria lived, thinking vaguely that it would not be long before we arrived at her parents’ house.
When the car started down the steep slope just before the edge of the village, there was a bang from the front of the car and I sat up in my seat conscious of a sense of fear creeping into the car. Maria was now fighting the wheel, the gears and the brakes. She was staring straight ahead, a vein throbbing in her temple, her mouth a tight, thin line. The skin was pulled tight across her cheeks in an expression of fear and her back was rigid, away from the back of her seat.
The car was gathering speed down the hill and I looked away from Maria and out of the windscreen. A sharp bend was coming towards us too fast. Everything seemed suspended. I stopped breathing, my mind went blank and all my muscles were stiff and unmoving. It was apparent to me even through my fear that the car was not going to get round the bend at the speed it was travelling.
I must have called out something to Maria but she did not answer. A piercing scream seemed to come from outside the car, a scream which told Maria to hold tight. The frozen snow was flashing passed the car, throwing up clouds of spray exactly like a ship in heavy weather. The car was bouncing horribly on it's shock absorbers as it left the road and headed for the trees. There was a loud bang as an object hit the side of the car and pain was shooting through my body as the sound of grating metal filled the air.
Another loud bang, more pain as my body bounced off some metal and I felt I was flying through the air. My leg smashed against something rough and hard and my side was being dragged over what felt like broken glass. Another thump and I came to rest.
Events became completely disoriented then. It was cold and I can remember trying to find out what had happened to Maria. I tried to get to my feet but everywhere there was pain and my legs would not hold me upright. My eyes would not focus and all around it was dark. Somehow I was outside the car, even my fuddled brain could work that out. I was lying in the frozen snow slowly getting colder and colder. The cold did not matter too much because the colder I became, the less the pain throbbed through my body.
Then I was surrounded by people and flashing lights. I tried to ask about Maria but all they did was push me back onto a blanket. They were fiddling with my legs and I confess I screamed with the pain. Then I was inside a vehicle travelling at speed through a village with the people in the green coats still leaning over me wiping my face and holding my hand. The vehicle stopped, the doors were flung open and I was being pushed at great speed along a corridor on a trolley. Doors clanged shut in our wake and more people were leaning over me looking at my legs. I heard a voice as though from a long way off moaning Maria's name and then there was nothing.
It was like floating in a tank of liquid, relaxed and secure. There was no sound and the sense of being detached from anything else was very strong. The light was soft but dappled, dark and bright as though I was laying in water under a tree. There was no time and my body did not exist. It was wonderful.

Then the noise started, a relaxing sort of sound as though I was lying, dozing, on a beach with my eyes closed listening to the waves breaking on the shore. A noise in the background, soothing absorbing, helping me sink back below the surface of consciousness, floating, relaxed and secure. It was only in the mind, not in the body.

Then I was rising above the surface and the soothing sensation of floating was thrust aside by the pain. The colour in my mind was now red. I was surrounded by red but I tried to get back to my floating. It was still all in the mind but I was surrounded by pain.
As I broke the surface of the liquid, the pain started to separate. Soon I could identify different parts of my body by the type of pain. Then I was fully conscious and I wished I had stayed in the liquid. My head had been taken over by a trainee drummer who was practising the same phrase over and over again. My leg hurt with stabbing bursts of pain as though somebody was pushing a knife into the muscle and twisting it savagely. As my heart beat rapidly, I could feel my side and arm throbbing as though somebody was hammering to get out.
I opened my eyes slowly but had difficulty focussing at first. Raising my hand, I rubbed my eyes and was surprised to feel bandages. The general whiteness of my surroundings started to come into focus. Trying to sit up proved difficult, if not impossible. The red curtain descended again as soon as I tried to move. Pain filled my whole world so much I wanted to cry out. Steeling myself against the onset of the pain, I raised my head sufficient to look around and found my leg encased in plaster, raised above the bed on some kind of harness.
Just as I was sinking back onto the bed, sweat beading my brow, a girl in a white uniform and with a cheerful face crossed the room into the direct line of my vision. She went to the door and shouted something I did not understand. Soon, another girl appeared and between them they managed to raise me into some semblance of a comfortable sitting position. I asked her in a very hoarse voice, what had happened to Maria but she only shrugged and made signs that she did not understand what I was saying. It was obvious she did not speak English or so I reasoned. I told myself, I would have to wait until somebody who spoke some English came to see me before I would find out about Maria.
Later a doctor came to examine me but he would only answer question about my condition. With a touch of a smile playing at the corner of his mouth, he told me to lie back and try to relax. I was helpless to do anything else, though I dreamed about walking out of the room. Instead, I lay back and let the nurses deal with my needs. After an injection, the pain stayed in the background and I was able to relax.
A long time passed, or so it seemed to me, when the door to my room opened and Mrs. Tourvelinen was standing there looking at me. My heart missed a beat when I saw her. She was visibly drawn into herself but rigid as though trying to hold herself in control. She looked so much like my Maria, I wanted to cry out. She came a few steps into the room and then hesitated for what, to me lying captive in that bed, seemed like hours. Then she pulled back her shoulders with a mighty effort and walked across the floor to stand by the bed.
Suddenly as though all the courage she had stored up had vanished, she collapsed onto the bed and pulled my face into her breasts. She sat like that, rocking back and forth, stroking my hair like a mother with a son she wants to protect from the evils of the world. I could feel the tightness inside, the cording of her muscles as she fought to control her emotions. She lost the private battle with herself. Tears cascaded down her face and sobs shook her frame.
I knew then what she had come to that hospital room to tell me. It was as though her grief had been transmitted without words. There was no need for her to try to compose herself but she fought for control so that she could tell me what had happened. Stiffening myself against the onset of my grief and anger, I strove to make my face appear as unemotional as possible.
When she was able to start, she was very blunt and brutal. I suppose at the time there was no other way in which she could have braced herself to speak.

“ Maria died in the crash and the funeral was yesterday.” Her face was still wet with tears, the anguish of her expression showing how she was trying to comfort me but finding the right words was proving difficult. “ I hope you will be able to forgive me for not telling you as soon as you regained consciousness but the doctor told me that you must not be stressed too much so soon after coming round. In addition, I wanted to tell you myself what had happened. I could not leave that

painful duty to somebody unknown to you.”

“ The car hit a tree on Maria's side and she was crushed against the door,” she went on, even though it was obvious she wanted to hide the memory from herself but was compelled to tell me what had happened. “ Somehow you were thrown clear of the car because the emergency service people found you lying some distance away jammed between two small trees. The doctors and nurses fought to save her life. They managed to get her back to the hospital but she died the day after she arrived without regaining consciousness. At the same time they were trying to put your leg back together and bring you out of your coma. My husband and I have taken turns to sit by your bed. It has been over a week since you were brought here and when they told me you had regained your senses, I thought it was time to come and tell you what had happened.”

While she was talking, I kept my face impassive but my throat was so tight, I could not say anything. All I could do was sit and stare wide eyed at the wall. My mind tried to grasp what Mrs. Tourvelinen was telling me. I knew her words were important. I tried to reason out what her words foretold about my future but I could not hold onto the words long enough to understand. My stomach felt as though it had been placed in a freezer and been turned into a lump of ice. Cold fluid filled my veins. Numbness was rapidly spreading towards my brain. Echoing through my mind was just one refrain and this was not really a part of me. What am I to say to a mother who has just lost her daughter while I lived through the same crash? What comfort can I bring to this vulnerable woman when I feel so empty and bereft of any reason for living?
After she had finished telling me as much about the crash and what had happened afterwards as she could, we sat in that white painted hospital room in silence. We were lost in our own thoughts but the presence of the other brought a feeling of sharing and a great deal of comfort. She held my hand and after a while, quietly left, whispering goodbye as she went out of the door. I did not move but lay still staring at the wall. The silence stretched into my small world. All alone I sensed the white walls crowding in on me, making me feel I was in some sort of snowy hell.
I cried then, deep sobs wrung from the depths of my very soul. The shaking tore at my body until there was no emotion left and I could lay back. I now had to confront the images from the past that rose up out of my mind to join me as though they were real. The nurses frequently bustled into the room and performed their secret rites before leaving to find their next victim. Through this time, I hardly noticed their passage or the passing of the hours or the days. For a while it was as though I was suspended from the bed, looking down at events as they happened, completely divorced from the person lying there. At other times, I was submerged below the oceans of my emotions trying to swim through an opaque darkness that had no end.
What fools we humans are, I kept telling myself in the few moments when I was conscious and rational. We build in detail our future plans in the certain knowledge that what we plan will come to pass. All the time there is lurking in wait the sudden event that shatters all the certainty from life in a fleeting moment. We are then all left naked before the world. All we humans beaver away like ants to construct relationships, to lay the foundations on which we base our lives. But, I kept asking myself as the time floated by as I lay in that hospital bed, what for? Why do we plan and what is the point of making foundations for our future life? Who in the whole universe can answer me that question honestly? At times when the plans we lay are crumbling before our eyes and there is nothing we can do to save them, the whole exercise of living appears such a huge joke. Something or somebody must get a whole lot of pleasure out of watching the manoeuvring and posturing of these earthly beings as all their plans and hopes turn to dust in their hands. How often does the bad appear to triumph over the good? That is true, I hear myself almost shout. Why do the bad win most of the rewards in life? Why do the bad seem to enjoy life much more than the good? Or have I got the meaning of life all wrong? Am I really looking at the bad and the good? It is a mystery to most of us as to why some people always win and yet others always lose. It does not look as though there is any connection to good or evil. It is a mystery of which most of us are not privileged to glimpse the answer. 

Running After Maria a tragic romance novel by Eddie Gubbins can be purchased from Amazon and www.createspace as a paperback and Kindle and for downloading to e-readers.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

UK budget

Am I the only person who thinks the change in national insurance contributions was fair. I have wondered for years why national insurance have different rates for different classifications of workers. What makes the self employed so different? They charge for their services and it is up to them how much they out away to cover sickness and holidays. They want it all. Pay less and get the same benefits. Of course part of the row maybe because many of the commentators are themselves self employed. They have a vested interest in getting the policy reversed. Many are the same people who have in the past and might still use tax avoidance measure. Why do the rich object so much to fair contributions when they can easily afford to pay their share?
As is discussed in my novel An Ordinary Life when talking about the 1979 election in the UK and the rise of what was known as Militant.
Mike Pearce was saying, " As a manufacturing country, we cannot afford to let the skills and expertise fade away. If we could only truly politicise the working class so that all became active, they  would take over the unions and make them do what the true working class want the unions to do. That is push for a socialist society. From a position of strength in the unions, ordinary people could then move into the ward and Constituency Labour Parties. I reckon the only way to save the Labour Party from the disaster of another election defeat is to start putting in place a Marxist agenda. There is a newspaper called Militant which argues this.”
“ That is not the way,” Tom put in softly. “ We have to create wealth. My brand of socialism has always been about how we use the wealth to create equality rather than the state running everything. Like you Mike, I fail to see how anybody can justify earning one hundred times more than the ordinary worker but we have to create wealth before we can embark on a socialist agenda. The rich and more fortunate in society have to be convinced that taxes are a way of encouraging the poor and disadvantaged to better themselves.”
“ In order to create wealth for the whole of society we have to encourage people to take risks and keep a great proportion of their wealth,” Edward shrugged eloquently. “ What is most important, as Tom said, is how we then use the wealth created. There has to be an element of redistribution within the system but more important is that everyone has access to a good health service no matter how rich they are. In addition, the education system should be funded so that every child has a chance to fulfil their potential.”
“ You would say that, Edward Houseman,” Mike almost shouted. “ You have wealth and a high standard of living. You never have to think about where the next penny is coming from. Your wife never has to make choices between whether to feed all the family small portions or whether to go without herself so that her husband and children will get enough.  There is a lot of poverty out there which the world does not see. All poor people are not slovenly. Some struggle to put on the best outward appearance they can to the world. It is these people we have to help and letting the stinking rich keep more of their earnings is not going to help these people.”
“ Will it help the poor people of this country if we tax all the rich people to such an extent that they take their wealth and talent abroad and do not pay any taxes at all?” Edward put to Mike bluntly. “ People with wealth spend their money here which helps with employment. We have to stay true to our Labour Party principles while finding a way which allows people to make money while helping those at the bottom of the heap.”

“ Rubbish!” Mike shot back equally bluntly. “ The wealth of this country is made by those who work with their skilled hands. Could your average managing director make something from a block of metal? Could they stand the heat of the shop floor? Militant newspapers says that we should do away with the management classes as they stand and run our factories by workers councils.”

Available from Amazon and as a paperback, from Kindle and as an ebook for downloading to all e-readers.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

President Trump

Before I start it has to be acknowledged that Trump was elected properly. He is the President of the USA. That he is having troubles might stem from his background. He is a businessman and a chanced. As the head of his empire when he said do something it was done. There were very few checks and balances to mitigate his actions. He now finds himself in a situation where there are a great many checks and balances. He is a man who does not like people disagreeing with him. He thinks he is right and is trying to carry out what he proposed in the election campaign. He can justify all his actions to himself and believes that people who disagree are enemies.
Jeremy Corbyn in the leader of the UK Labour Party suffers the same tendency. He thinks he is right. Like Trump he surrounds himself with like minded people and disregards all critisism of his stance on all issues. He forgets the first law of politics. That is that it is very noble to stand on principles but the only way to put any philosophy into operation is to gain power.
Both believe they are right even when it is manifest that they are wrong.
My novel An Ordinary Life is based on this philosophy in many people. Everybody has a means of justifying their actions as Tom Houseman wrestles with the question of whether what he is doing is morally right if legally above board. Like many people in the end he will have to confront this question and decide what to do.

Letter to Joe

This is an exercise we had to undertake for my creative writing class. It had to be something amusing. This is my attempt.

Dear Joseph

Thank you for helping me move that wardrobe the other day. The charity van collected it the next morning consequently it was not on our drive for long.
I trust your foot is not too bruised and the swelling is starting to go down. The wardrobe was far heavier than I anticipated. It was an accident when it slipped while we were turning it onto its side to get it out of the door. It came as a complete surprise to me that you knew such words, let alone could say them with such force.
Has the skin on your knuckles grown back? I thought you said push when we were manoeuvring it through the door.  It would have got through easily without chipping the paint if your hand had not been in the way.
The stairs are much steeper than I have ever noticed or it might have been the weight of the wardrobe that emphasised the slope. I know I was supposed to take most of the weight while you held it off the carpet and made sure it did not hit anything. It seemed to have a mind of its own and quite took over.
 People have told me there is a very good tailor in town who does invisible mending so your trousers should be as good as new when he has finished with them.
As for the window at the bottom of the stairs, the glazier advised me that I should have toughened glass to replace the broken pane in case we try moving something down the stairs again. The glass he has put into the frame, which was still usable, is very nice with a slight pattern on the surface.
Now the blood on the carpet is a different matter. I have tried carpet cleaner but there is still a stain. My wife suggested vinegar but I am not too confident in her sources. I might have to get a rug to hide it. Have you any suggestions as to what design of rug would look in place at the bottom of the stairs? I have always valued your advice.
The ambulance people were excellent. They patched you up in no time and whisked you into the ambulance without any fuss. Maybe I should have asked them to help me get  the wardrobe down the stairs. They appear to have experience of getting burdens round awkward places without banging into things.
I tried to phone you in the hospital but they would not let you answer the phone. Something about you getting agitated if you heard my voice. You have never told me about  your having any heart problems. Hence my writing this letter which I will give to Vera, your wife, to deliver.
If you stay in hospital much longer, I will come and see you. A visit from me might cheer you up.

Regards from your dear friend.