Thursday, 25 June 2015

Here Be Dragons Nearly Here

Remember this?

(except without the free sample bit).

A few years ago, I used to do science workshops with children of whatever age.  These were generally popular and successful although also hampered by lack of resources and poor attendance.  The time came when our own children reached adulthood and I stopped doing them because of that, and also because I found them very discouraging.  However, there is a quandary for me in home education, thus:  how do you participate in home ed without becoming some kind of teacher when your own children are not participating?  There is a danger that as your children leave that age group, you will cease to empathise as well and not be able to "keep your hand in", as it were.  On the other hand, one does seem to acquire useful skills and experience as one raises children which are then lost to the home ed community when one leaves it.

In order to address this, I decided to produce a collaborative book with the children involved in the late lamented Big Science project.  This kind of got off the ground with the design of two dragons, but after that failed to proceed, as is often the case with my projects.  I decided to turn the germ of the idea into a book called 'Here Be Dragons'.  The idea behind this was to write the kind of book I enjoyed reading as a child, and from which I learnt a lot (shades of Ross Geller here:  "playing AND learning", but okay, if it's just entertainment that's also fine because childhood needs to be enjoyed for its own sake too).

I spent eight months on this book.  At first I expected collaboration but found that people were unwilling to do so, probably because they had lives to live, so I ended up writing it myself with input from others.  I also wanted it proofread by others, so I sent them copies and it didn't happen, so it's more or less stayed as a first draft.  Most importantly, I wanted it illustrated.  Each of these activities was to be rewarded by a share in the profits.  None of them was forthcoming.  I then got concerned that I would miss the deadline and that the bad energy created by missing the deadline would affect me in other ways unless I imposed swingeing consequences for missing that deadline.  Then I missed the deadline.  I stuck what I had on Scribd and did something else I forget - possibly put it on Smashwords - and abandoned the whole thing.  Someone also suggested that I pay the illustrators, and I would of course have been entirely willing to do so but that would only have been possible after someone had actually bought the book.

That was someone else.

This person was not the one who made the rule that the book wouldn't be published, so I'm going to cheat and pretend that rule wasn't made by me at all, but by the previous occupant of this body, as it were, even though neither of us was dualist.

Therefore, I am now revising 'Here Be Dragons' with a view to publication.  The illustrations problem has been addressed by exhorting the reader to illustrate the book, I have added a glossary and a preface, today I will be adding a table of contents and I will then be providing a cover.  I will then submit the book to Create Space.

Then it will be ignored.  Nobody will buy it, read it or even notice it's there.  I will have wasted my time and the discouragement I feel as a result of the silence will probably provoke a bout of depression.  I can't really avoid this depression, just acknowledge that it's lying there in wait for me, probably some time next week.

This is the thing about us, Liz and me.  We put enormous amounts of effort into what we do, and incidentally what we do includes looking for paid work with an employer, and we're not even fussy about that work - shelf-stacking or street sweeping is fine - and nothing, nothing at all ever yields financial rewards, and we don't know why.  Nonetheless, I'm convinced there's something I must be doing wrong, and I can't see what it is.  I also find that the suggestions people make are entirely useless and reflect projections of their own issues.

So I dunno, I wrote a book, it's rubbish, and it's going to be on Amazon.  Whatever.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

"Will, Will, Harry, Stee..."

Three months since I last posted here, but this time there is something worth saying again finally I think, so here I am.

Now, I am in no way a monarchist.  I think the monarchy is a pointless anachronism and probably has no place in any society, and even if it had, that it had long outlived its usefulness by the seventeenth century when Cromwell did his thing.  Having said that, I also think the monarchy is the least of our troubles and that arguing for a republic is a bit like complaining that the handle of the axe which is about to chop off your head is green rather than red, so I don't feel strongly about it and I think there are more important things to worry about.

Even so, I find the monarchy interesting for a number of reasons, and also believe it to be a structure to hang history on in the same way as the periodic table is a structure to hang happy tales of underachievers with lung cancer on (or maybe even chemistry) and the tree of life to be something useful to enthuse oneself about the variety of life on.  On the whole, monarchs are winners, so there is a problem with looking at history through queens and kings, and I also see history as a process which goes on without individuals having much to do with it, so I wouldn't want to personalise history too much, but doing that can give you a way into it.  Unlike most other subjects I've mentioned on here, I'm very much an outsider to history.  It's not like science, herbalism or linguistics to me, so I may very well be pretty naive with respect to it.  Well, I just am - what more can I say on that matter?

Anyway, there's a famous mnemonic rhyme for the kings and queens of England from William the Conqueror onward.  It has various versions, one of which goes like this:

Willie, Willie, Harry, Stee,
Harry, Dick, John, Harry three;
One, two, three Neds, Richard two
Harrys four, five, six... then who?
Edwards four, five, Dick the bad,
Harrys twain VII VIII and Ned the Lad;
Mary, Bessie, James the Vain,
Charlie, Charlie, James again...
William and Mary, Anna Gloria,
Four Georges I II III IV, William and Victoria;
Edward seven next, and then
George the fifth in 1910;
Ned the eighth soon abdicated
Then George the sixth was coronated;
After which Elizabeth
And that's the end until her death.

I've always felt a little uneasy that we can't know how this ends, but that's just how time is, isn't it?  As it happens, someone on YouTube has addressed this issue thus:

We just don't know what the future holds, do we?

Monarchs are interesting for several reasons.  One of them is that they are people who represent their time.  They're clearly not representative of people at their time in that they are far from average, but the attitudes they have and embody are often in some way typical.  Moreover, precisely because there's nothing special about them, they constitute interesting character studies because they're thrown into the limelight and respond in all sorts of ways to the pressures their times and places put upon them.  Also, they are by no means any more free than their subjects.  They have to marry out of expediency, for example, and if they try to exercise their supposed freedom in certain ways, bad stuff happens to them (think of Edward II for example).

Also, what's going on around them is important.  A country in which even a royal can die of smallpox in this part of the world is clearly very different from the one we're living in now, and many of the events currently taking place in other parts of the planet are remarkably reminiscent of what went on here a few centuries ago, so either it's being hushed up better here than it used to be or we have no leg to stand on when we look down at such shenanigans.

Therefore I make no apology for being interested in the monarchy, and to this end I hereby submit the picture I've just cobbled together which is the real raison d'etre of this entry.  It's derived from the artwork above and will of course be removed on request, but here it is: