Monday, 29 July 2019

The Useful Art of Forgetfulness: N M Browne

Memory is a strange thing. I have a special gift for forgetting -  names mainly  - I long ago mastered the art of the no introduction introduction, but it seems I have achieved a similar level of advanced forgetfulness about my own writing. Long ago, when I was good at exams I trained myself to forget the paper once It was done, as a kind of protective mechanism so I didn’t worry about my mistakes. Useful though that may have been to my teenage self’s mental health, it set an unfortunate precedent and I forget whatever I’ve written pretty much as soon as I’ve done it. I don’t remember the names of characters and I literally lose the plot.
  I find this irritating especially for those books which I researched. It’s like my mind is sand – washed clean at the end of every project. I must have seemed an air head when I was young and now I give an excellent impression of a half demented old bat. There is an upside, however. I recently reread a couple of old books of mine and thoroughly enjoyed them, not least because I did not remember what was coming next.
  I know that you are supposed to be more critical of old work. I think you are supposed to be clinical, professional, point out all the things that could have been better done. I feel no such obligation as, predictably, although I vaguely remember writing the books and indeed how I felt about the process, I retain almost nothing of the details. They could have been written by someone else, albeit a someone else who knew how to tell a story ideally suited to please me. I don’t think that someone was a bad writer either. I’d definitely read more of her work.
   Now and again I came across a passage I have often read aloud for a school visit or something and that briefly jarred me from childlike immersion in my own story, but for the most part, I was lost in my own imagination.
  I mention this for two reasons. The first is obvious, a small part of me feels it would be good to promote myself and point out that these old books are still worth reading. The second  is  that If anyone had asked, I would have said that I am very much the same writer I’ve always been. I’m not sure that’s true. Those stories came from a particular point in my life, a certain stage in my mothering, a particular political moment. It’s not that I would want to write them differently because I’d want to write them better, more that if I were to write them now they would become different stories because I’m different. It will be interesting to see if that’s how I remember them in future.

Sunday, 28 July 2019


I don't usually read one book after another, because I'm a slow reader, and I usually prefer to digest and contemplate one book at a time. However, I am currently emerging from a mini Reading Binge. This has come about because, like a lot of people, I buy far more e-books than I can actually read at that moment, assuming they'd always be there in a period of book famine which rarely happens as I live in a house very amply stocked with real print books. However, I've been doing Early-to-Bed-with-a-Kindle stuff in the last few months of extended convalescence from ankle surgery, and Kindles are so much easier to manage physically, although irritating in other ways.

And so it was that I discovered books I'd never read, among them one by friend and fellow author, Adele Geras. I'd first met Adele at a Scattered Authors conference aeons ago, and found her rather terrifyingly impressive, but in all the intervening years, I'd never read her work, until lo! there it was, upon my Kindle: "HIDE YOUR EYES", a purchased, but so far unread novel by Adele Geras, so I set to and read it. It's a wonderfully complex story with one of those subtle, shock surprises towards the end that only writers as good as Adele can dream up.

I loved it, and so, being still in touch email-wise, I told her so, whereupon this generous woman sent me a print copy of her much more recent and much more lighthearted novel, "LOVE, OR NEAREST OFFER", featuring a female estate agent I'd really love to do business with as she seems to have a talent not just for buying and selling houses, but also affairs of the heart. It's glorious, uplifting (NB I want Lisa's details asap, Adele, please.) Do seek it out.

These two books were swiftly followed by a classic children's novel which I'd always meant to read, but never did - Judith Kerr's "WHEN HITLER STOLE PINK RABBIT". Set in the mid-1930s when Hitler was in power, it tells the story of one family's escape from Nazi Germany from the point of view of a ten (I think, but may be wrong) year old girl, Anna, whose father is a very well-known anti-Nazi journalist, and her older brother, Max. It is, of course, autobiographical, and Kerr's very detailed memory of her childhood is amazing - mostly about the excitement of having to move from Germany to Switzerland, and from there to Paris where she had to learn a new language, and eventually London. It's about play, and friendships, all happening against a background of a developing horror she only hints at (they lose their house and possessions, among them Pink Rabbit, her comforter since babyhood, and there's 'a price on her father's head' which phrase she can't quite grasp the exact meaning of - how can you put a price on someone's head? It's so subtle, and so delicate, and quite unforgettable, from the writer/illustrator who eventually gave us "THE TIGER WHO CAME TO TEA", and the Mog stories. She died quite recently, but what a legacy she's left us.

A rumour Anna has picked up is the only direct reference to the appalling cruelty of the Nazi regime, and there's no indication that it's true, although we know now how much worse things were going to get. The story was that a respected professor (Jewish, of course) had been put on a leash at the gateway of one of the camps and forced to bark like a dog. Ugh!

So what is it with humans and cruelty? As long as the victim can be labelled as 'not one of us', it seems that cruelty has no limits - but why? What exactly is it that people get out of cruelty? And no one is blameless - from the extremes of nastiness to people who whip out their phones and film a disaster, the more explicit the injuries the better, or who slow down to savour in the results of a road accident.

Most of us enjoy crime novels, many of us really enjoy horror movies - the cruelty isn't 'real' because it's on print or a screen, but we do still want it to be convincing, don't we? Cruelty was big entertainment in Roman times - go with a flagon of wine and a bowlful of olives and revel in the bloodshed. And for centuries, we've been brutally destructive about people in public life whose policies or lifestyles we disagree with, often converting our dislike into deadly humour (I'm pleading guilty to that one, and yes, I do laugh, especially at Trump/Boris etc jokes) but humour and cruelty are uncomfortably close mates. There was once a time when people with disabilities were routinely laughed at, and it was great fun for lads about town to get an old lady into a barrel and roll it down a hill. I know a great deal has been written about sadism (and also sado-masachism) but I don't have the energy or inclination to plough through it. Your comments on the subject, though, might well be interesting.   

Saturday, 27 July 2019

Writers Amongst Dragons, Sharks, Tigers and Publishers - Andrew Crofts

Why does the fate of the applicants on Dragons’ Den, (or Shark Tank if you are in the US or The Tigers of Money if you are in Japan, where the show was first conceived) seem so familiar?

Because that programme’s format is what every professional writer’s life is like from the day we complete our first manuscript and go looking for a publisher to the day we finally give up the struggle.
Image result for Dragons' Den

Just like the Dragons’ Den hopefuls we start with our brilliant ideas, which always seem to us like the most original things ever. We believe they are guaranteed to be bestsellers because if we didn’t we would have trouble getting through the work needed to bring them to life. They are our babies and we pour months and years of toil into their creation.

Then we realise that we need someone else to see the potential that we see, someone with money and, hopefully, expertise in the design, marketing and selling of books, someone who will take our precious ideas, package them beautifully and get them out into the shops and into the hands of readers.

I don’t know how many people write in to Dragons’ Den and never even get seen, but I am willing to bet it’s a lot, probably the equivalent of the millions of “pitch letters” and the hundreds of thousands of “slush pile” manuscripts which used to circulate around publishers’ offices in corporeal form and now fly around in cyberspace as email attachments. In both cases the majority of these brilliant ideas sink at this point and you are left with the few which the dragons’ gatekeepers think look promising enough to be considered.

I guess now we have reached the equivalent stage in the writer’s life cycle as that moment when you get to actually speak to an agent, who thinks there is a slight possibility that they will be able to find a willing dragon to back you. There will then be a few exploratory conversations, maybe even meetings, where everyone and his wife/her husband gives an opinion on how you could improve your product and your pitch to make it more appealing.

Finally you have got over all the hurdles and you are wheeled in to the room with the Dragons themselves.

In a writer’s world these are the commissioning editors from the major publishers who have track records in making money out of books. They have flashy great glass offices to prove how good they are at this, but they are also hungry for new products which they can package and develop just like the ones they have been successful with before. They are willing to listen to your pitch before they decide whether to swallow you whole or spit you back out into the street.

You enter their flashy glass towers shaking with nerves, (just like those poor people you see rising in the lift on the show), and walk out in front of people who seem to hold all the cards. They are publishing professionals, insiders with salaries and pensions and access to the capital and the expertise that you need. You are just a writer, an outsider, with an idea for a book or a manuscript.

You now have to convince these fire breathers that your book, (which in most cases they will understandably not have had time to read in full), has the potential to be like the books they have produced before. Or you have to convince them that you have identified a whole new market of potential readers who no-one else knows about, who they will be able to target with their big budgets and marketing skills.

They, on the other hand, want you to tell them about your social media platform, your previous track record, the genre that your book falls into, and how many more books of a similar type you will be able to churn out in the future if they invest the money to make this one a success. They want to see how they can brand you and scale your book up into a business which will keep bringing in money for years ahead.

If you manage to convince them that your product has this potential for “scalability” then they might be willing to make you an offer. But they know there are many others like you waiting to come up in the same lift, so that offer probably doesn’t have to be that generous, and they can also be sure that you will agree to them keeping the lions’ share of the profit that results from whatever they agree to invest; a reward for their generosity in offering to make your dreams come true.

In exchange for doing you this favour they will also want to have complete control over what the book looks like, when it will come out, how many copies will be printed, and when it will be withdrawn from the market. They will also want to own the copyright and it is unlikely they will ever sell it back to you as long as there is even the slightest chance that the book might earn anything in the future.

Just occasionally a pitching author is lucky and manages to convince these dragons that they have the potential to be the next J.K. Rowling or E.L. James and the dragons will then start squabbling amongst themselves, offering better and better terms to try to tempt the author to choose them and not their rivals. It is knowing that these scenarios do sometimes happen that keeps new writers working and making it a buyers’ market.

Often on the television programme the Dragons inform the applicants that they have “nice little businesses” going and that they should keep it at that level, not trying to run with the “big boys” (them, obviously). In the analogous writer’s life that is where the small independent publishers, the hybrid publishers and the self publishers come in. If you can afford to print up your own book, hire your own editor and cover designer and, in an ideal situation, your own PR person, then you actually don’t need the help of the Dragons at all. You can stay out of the Shark Tank, remaining safe on dry land, keeping control of how your beloved book is presented to the world and keeping the bulk of any profit that might follow.

There is always a possibility that if you act as your own dragon you will lose the money that you invest in becoming or hiring a publisher, but at least you have given it a go and at least you have avoided the degrading process of having to convince a bunch of rich business people that you can make them a lot more money.  

Friday, 26 July 2019

Of Language and Love: An Indian Story

Bangla, in West Bengal

In 2017, I relocated back to my home city, Kolkata (capital of the Indian state of West Bengal) after a decade of living and working in the Netherlands. Both the city and I have changed irrevocably in the intervening time – hence, I find myself in something like a new relationship with an old lover! While I have taken most of what this new ‘relationship status’ entails in my stride, some aspects are difficult to accept. A reduced respect for diversity (both in the city and the state) is one of them.

In a recent rally, our Chief Minister, the feisty Mamata Banerjee, declared that those who wish to live in Bengal will have to learn Bangla. It’s the most redundant statement I have heard in a long time: because migrants from other states of India (like migrants in any host culture) have always taken the trouble to learn Bangla (imperfect though it may be) – for survival, if not for anything else.                           

Shekhar's parents & elder brother, 1965.
I know this for a fact because I married a man from a migrant community myself. His father had come to Kolkata (then Calcutta) from Jamalpur (in Bihar) way back in 1951 to study. But he never went back. For nearly seven decades, West Bengal has been home for him -- his college education, his career in a public-sector bank, his marriage (to a Bihari woman born and brought up in a railway workshop town in Bengal), the birth and education of his two sons, all happened in Kolkata. And in all this time, he told me, he had faced discrimination only once: he wanted to buy a property in a South Kolkata locality sometime in the 1980s, but was refused on account of his not being a Bengali. In his early college days, he was a shy teenager, and spoke broken Bangla. But by the time he started working, he became fluent in it. His elder son, Sanjay, can’t recall a time when he didn’t know Bangla or didn’t speak it. His younger son, Shekhar, however, distinctly remembers that though he had been exposed to Bangla from his childhood, he began to speak it more frequently from his college days.

Benglish, Hinglish

Shekhar & me, Versailles, 2007.
I remember the precise day and time I met Shekhar in 1995, and the fact that we fell in love soon after. But in which language did we love? I’m not sure. In which language have we fought? Expressed joy? Disillusionment? Difficult to answer. In that there has never been any one language in which we did those things. Like most Indians, we are multi-lingual. We speak three languages – Bangla, Hindi and English. (Just as Shekhar became more conversant in Bangla since his college years, I became fluent in Hindi only after our marriage in 1999 – before that, though I knew it, I didn’t have much scope to speak in it). In his case, there is actually also a fourth – Angika, a dialect with no written script, which he speaks only with his family. Between the two of us, however, we have mostly conversed in ‘Benglish’ and ‘Hinglish’ – strange hybrid versions of the languages we know, which is a familiar enough phenomenon in India and with Indians.

The Language of Love

Air Mail from Shekhar, 1996.
I just said I’m not sure in which language we have loved. That’s because there are two strong contenders for it: English and Hindi. Our pre-marital years were spent in long separations – continents apart – in which we wrote incessantly to each other. In English. I wrote entire writing-pad full of letters, in crispy pink and white paper; he replied in a lovely blue. But much as we shared our daily lives through the written word, the love and (especially) longing for each other was always conveyed through song. Hindi songs. I sent him customized collections of my favorites in 90-minute cassettes, through his friends (and sometimes, boss!); he gifted me rare editions of ‘classics’ when he came home for holiday in India.

A Tagore bust: my late mother's most prized possession.
I belong to a community who are fiercely proud of their literature; they are especially given to eulogizing ‘Rabindra-sangeet’ (songs written and composed by our greatest poet, the first Asian Nobel laureate, Rabindranat Tagore). It is said – and rightfully so – that there isn’t a human emotion or mood for which there isn’t a Tagore song. Of course, love (both for God and beloved, which often coalesce in many songs) features prominently in that repertoire, which I’d learnt for many years. Not just that. I was brought up in a very literary environment by a mother who taught Bengali literature and was herself a (closet) writer. And when I grew up, I chose to study English Literature. But the combined might of Bengali and English literature – all that celebrated poetry and song – was of no avail to me when it came to my love. Because Shekhar was equally ignorant of both and displayed little interest in either.

We had, however, one thing in common – a deep love of Hindi film songs, right from the 1950s upto the 80s (and beyond), when legendary singers and composers (many of them Bengalis), not to speak of lyricists (several of them Urdu poets, who wrote in Hindi-Urdu), ruled the industry. Just their names would fill up a blog-post, and their songs several books. Many have indeed been the subjects of detailed study.

Among the singers, there’s however one name that stands out when it comes to our romance: Kishore Kumar. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that we emotionally bonded over Kishore, an untrained musical genius, whose repertoire, too, covered an astonishing range of the varied moods of love. His songs have been an integral part of our lives. 

I don’t think our Chief Minister can imagine that a Bengali can choose to love through Hindi film songs; she will surely be surprised if she’s told that entire relationships can be forged and maintained in her state that have very little (or nothing) to do with Bangla.

Thursday, 25 July 2019

The View From The Back Door -- Susan Price.

This is the view from my kitchen door.
          About three years ago, I was idly watching a tv programme which showed a view of a perfectly neat, ordered garden, divided by a straight path with neat, straight-edged beds of flowers neatly arranged on either side with perfect symmetry. The presenter asked, 'Doesn't everybody want a view like this from their back door?'
          My answer, instantly, was NO!
          I had been wondering what to do with my garden, which made me feel dull every time I looked out at it. I hadn't any ideas until the TV asked me that question. Instantly I knew, and strongly, that I did not want a neat garden. I did not want plants growing in neat straight lines. I did not want geometry or symmetry. Such gardens can look wonderful, that is certain, but it was not what I wanted to see when I drew the curtain back in the morning.
         Knowing what I didn't want crystallised my thoughts. I knew, certainly, that what I wanted to see from my back door was a patch of wildness, a bit of countryside. I dug a pool. I planted wild flowers. I planted trees (some of them in big pots.)

          My garden is steep and I've left the upper level, under the hawthorn hedge, to go wild -- well, mostly. There is a birch tree, a purple hazel, a crab apple, a small holly -- and brambles, wild rose, foxgloves.
         In spring there are snowdrops, primroses and bluebells -- and at the moment the ground is covered with the white flowers of sweet woodruff and the pink flowers of herb robert.

You know angelika? That stuff you sometimes get on cakes, in tiny, candied green strips. Well, this is angelika, below. Seven foot tall and still growing. It's wild celery. Or so one person told me. Another said it was wild parsnip. It's pretty wild, whatever its name.

      I seem to have a liking for huge, overwhelming plants: elsewhere I have teasels.And giant thistles that you can't get within a foot of without being painfully stabbed. 'Touch Me Not With Impunity'-- too right. I'm told the bees love these thistles though as far as I can see, the bees prefer every other flower. Perhaps they don't like getting stabbed either.

           This is the view as you come back down the steep steps towards the house -- the pool is thick with duck-weed in this shot, but the water lilies are coming to the surface. You can just glimpse the brick wall of the house behind the foxglove in the background.

Rosa Mundi -- the 'rose of the world', the monastery or apothecary rose.

Pinks, named for the petals' frilled or 'pinked' edges.


     What has any of this to do with writing? Well, the garden is where I go when I'm not writing or when I'm stuck. I've often advised students that, when they're stuck for an idea, they should go and do something that's completely removed from writing and something physical, if possible. In the garden, I lug great bags of compost about; I dead-head, weed, tie-in, pot-on, prune, harvest and forget all about writing and even the government we're lumbered with.

Here is heartsease:--

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

When writing is like pulling teeth - Jo Carroll

I've begun another novel.

I love the idea (I'm not sharing that yet). I love the research - I've wallowed in books, taken myself off to tramp up hills and down a coal mine. My notebook overflows with lovely characters (and some not so lovely).

So why is it so hard to write? I have distractions - we all have distractions. I prevaricate - thousands of us prevaricate but still get words down. I make myself sit at the computer almost every day. For the first time I've given myself word count targets. When I wrote The Planter's Daughter I had no need of word count targets. My head was full and the words flowed. The first draft was messy of course, but that was fine. I had something to work with.

And that's what keeps me going now. I dare not reread, not yet - in case the extent of the inevitable messiness puts me off. But if I can only make myself frame this story into real words then I can settle to the months of drafting and redrafting that might make it into something readable.

But it has got me thinking. Why am I making such a meal of this, when the first novel spilled out of me without a hiccup? Am I trying too hard, unconsciously trying to produce perfect sentences when all I really need to do is write the bloody thing? Is this second-book syndrome -- having produced one I feel some pressure to produce another. (Which is bonkers -- nothing terrible will happen if I don't write it.)

Worse -- am I really convinced by the story? Is that the hold-up? But I am -- I know I am. Maybe my characters aren't yet fully formed, but that I can work on. Maybe I'm not yet familiar with my setting -- I can go back to the hills. Do I need to rethink the structure? Maybe -- but until I see what this looks like, I can't answer that. However, deep down, I know I have a story. And a strong enough story to keep a reader entertained for 300 pages.

And that, even when writing is like pulling teeth, is what keeps me going.

While you're waiting for that, do have a read of The Planter's Daughter.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Lev Butts Drops the Ball

So this last month has been really busy:

My wife and I are house hunting, which is hard enough normally, but we're needing a house to fit very specific needs: Room to move in some elderly family without the tediousness of actually having to, you know, deal with them on the daily. Room for our son to have his own living space without feeling like he's still a kid living with his parents. Room for me to write and research. Room for my books. Room for my wife to work. A yard for the dog. The cat can take what he gets. All within a very specific geographic area, and under a certain price tag.

It is like one of those really complicated grocery store logic puzzles.
Also, it being the end of July, my end-of-summer-term grading is kicking in full swing. Meanwhile,
I've been trying to finish the final volume of Guns of the Waste Land while also working on a secret side project with another writer (Hopefully I can talk more on that and on the process of writer collaboration next month).

All this to say, I completely forgot to write my blog post this month.

However, Here is a link to one of my favorite earlier posts about writing that, as an added bonus, has a link to one of my favorite short stories from Emily's Stitches

Here's the blog post: So You Want to Be a Writer

If you want to skip ahead to the story, here's that link: Negative Space

See you all next month!

Monday, 22 July 2019

Blind tasting, sour grapes and a small celebration: Ali Bacon compares literary prizes to wine awards.

Natalie at Poulton Hill Vineyard
Recently we were lucky enough to Poulton Hill, an English vineyard in the South Cotswolds.  This very small enterprise is testament to the 'upside' of climate change - English vineyards are flourishing and winning greater acclaim every year.

Our guide Natalie, co-manager of the vineyard, gave us a hands-on account of the challenges, not to mention the physical labour, involved in planting, training and harvesting vines in this country. The tour was of course followed by a tasting of their award-winning wines, from bottles bearing medallions from a number of wine competitions. One of our fellow tour members asked if these were earned from 'blind' tasting which Natalie assured us they were, i.e. they were competing against much bigger and longer established producers but removal of labels establishes a level playing field.

Poulton wines
In writing it's also the norm for any major short story competition to be judged 'blind' - a great encouragement to the unknown writer who knows  a well-known name can't guarantee success. I have 'judged' entries for live events of both kinds -- named and unnamed entries -- and I am aware that knowing the author does add to the interest. There's a flutter of anticipation when a writer who has pleased us in the past submits something new, even if it's followed by a smidgeon of disappointment if we like it less than the last effort! Does it affect the outcome? I'd like to think not, and it's equally exciting to spot something outstanding from someone we haven't read before. But blind reading is a huge comfort to the writer who may not succeed and even if he recognises the same names coming up on different occasions knows this has happened purely on the quality of the writing (tempered only a little by the predilections of a particular judge or set of judges). Having been on the receiving end of rejection, it's also an encouragement to learn from successful entrants and improve our writing accordingly, rather than linger over the ever-present temptation of sour grapes (Oh him/her again, wouldn't you know it? Mine was just as good as theirs. Actually no it wasn't!)

So the vineyard trip cemented my belief in 'blind tasting' for writers, but made me realise it's very different for the major book awards, headed for fiction writers by Man Booker, Costa and Women's Prize for fiction. These of course are for published works. There are competitions for unpublished novels but these are usually restricted to unpublished writers and the 'big boys' of the prize world are skewed (because of substantial entry costs) towards big publishers. But it makes you wonder if there would be any difference if these books could somehow be stripped of their covers and prelims and read in manuscript form. But hang on a minute, didn't a jaundiced novelist once submit a Jane Austen novel to a publisher in MS form and have it rejected out of hand? Possibly an extreme case of sour grapes which doesn't really prove anything - except the ignorance of one publisher's reader!

So really, there's not much to compare between novel and a wine vintage when it comes to blind tastings : we can't even decant a little bit of a novel into a tasting glass and see how it goes down - only the full bottle will do! But none of this makes 'blind reading' any less important for the situations where it does occur.

And this week I have become - tadaa! - the beneficiary of a 'blind tasting' competition. Having submitted to the Bristol Short Story prize for as long as I can remember (quick rummage in archives suggests 2010) this year for the very first time I have made it through the first round to be on the longlist.

Persistence pays!

That's one of 40 from a field of over 2,000. Even if I go no farther this is worth the popping of a cork!

 Ali Bacon writes historical and contemporary fiction. Learn more at

Sunday, 21 July 2019

Are you a 5G guinea pig? - Katherine Roberts

Whether or not you are one of the people who can feel them, all living things rely on electrical signals at cellular level. It's how our nerves work, and particularly our brains. Electricity is also in the air all around us, in the form of EMFs (electric and magnetic fields) given off by our modern devices, and it's not too big a leap to see how one might affect the other.

Very soon, on top of all our existing EMF producing devices, we will have a new technology: 5G, which promises faster wi-fi connections than 4G and uses microwave frequencies similar to those used in weapons for crowd control. The problem is that digital wi-fi (2G and above) has only been around since the 1990s and so we can't really know the long term effects yet. Also, nobody has actually asked our permission to expose us to this stuff. Following pressure from the public, several places have recently postponed or halted the roll-out of 5G, including in the UK Glastonbury, Frome, Stroud, and in Europe Geneva and Brussels, whose Environment minister CĂ©line Fremault said: “The people of Brussels are not guinea pigs whose health I can sell at a profit."

How happy are you about 5G coming to your town?

These people are clearly eager to see it installed
and your own telecoms provider is probably just as enthusiastic.

These people are not so happy

This site explains why people are getting so worried

And yet (according to the technology companies who are pushing it out, the UK government and most town councils) 5G is "safe". Here's the latest public reassurance from the BBC:

So why all the confusion?

The non-ionising radiation safety guidelines currently in use in the UK (as quoted in the BBC link) are 20 years out of date and have since been upgraded by the ICNIRP:

Doctors in the European Union were concerned enough about the health issues to start this appeal

If you are interested in the potential health risks of wi-fi, this is a good place to start

Tellingly, you cannot insure yourself or your school/business against the adverse effects of wi-fi radiation (which begs the question why not, if such symptoms are supposed to be non-existent, and presumably therefore no claim would arise?)

Will 5G make us happier?

We'll get faster broadband and better connections. Maybe.
Everything in our home will eventually be able to talk to everything else, and we'll be able to control the lot with our 5G phone while we're out. Or someone else will be able to control it with theirs. Oh, and we'll have driverless cars!
I'm sure there are zillions of other things techy people could do with 5G, including spy on us through our smart devices, hack the entire system, or crash all the driverless cars. (It probably won't help sell books, though.)

How badly do you want a 5G phone?

5G non-ionizing radiation is known to harm the environment, killing plants, birds and insects (bees included, which rely on natural Earth magnetic fields to navigate). It also causes cancer in mice and rats. If you want more details, there have been multiple scientific studies on the adverse effects of 5G and other wi-fi on various lifeforms though you might have to dig around a bit to find them.

Because the 5G frequencies do not travel as far as older generation signals, urban areas will require masts every few streetlights, and 400,000 new masts will apparently be erected in rural areas, requiring mature trees to be felled in case they block the signal - so don't think you can escape by moving to the country, like you could to avoid 2G, 3G and 4G. In fact, there is a 5G Rural First partnership in the UK that aims to test it on you if you do... if you were one of the cool crowd at Glastonbury Festival this June, you should probably read this.

Smart meters, which arrived in my neighbourhood last year, are just the start of a so-called 'Internet of Things' that will soon be installed in all new homes (whether we want them or not), requiring and sending 5G signals inside your house, 24/7.

What are the long term health issues of 5G?

Who knows? The technology has not been properly tested yet, and there's only one way to do that... test it on the public and see what happens.

We're due to get 5G in my neighbourhood next summer, and it might be a coincidence that our woefully underfunded and overworked NHS has recently sent me (and thousands of others, I guess) an invitation to come in for a free health check. Or it might not. While researching this blog post, I came across a recent disclosure notice from my local council, presumably in response to a freedom of information request, which I cannot publish in full here due to copyright issues but which declines to answer most of the foi questions on the grounds that the council has either no 5G strategy, or holds no data. In response to the final question "Where do you have 3G and 4G systems in public spaces and public roads?", my local council states: "We have no inventory of apparatus of 3G and 4G systems, as this apparatus would be owned by the statutory undertaker that owns the apparatus and fitted the equipment." Presumably, the same will apply to 5G. So, even though public health and safety is the responsibility of the council, they (apparently) do not know where any of these masts are sited, and therefore cannot be aware of the level of the public's exposure. This seems wrong to me - surely if the telecoms people (I assume) are erecting these masts and antennae to transmit their microwaves, then they should be responsible for public health and safety and not the cash-strapped local council?

What can you do now?

If you are concerned about the roll-out of 5G in the UK, you can sign this Government petition to postpone this potentially harmful technology until independent safety studies have been carried out into its effects on humans and the environment.

Or you can write to the Joint Select Committee on National Security, who have launched an inquiry into the UK's 5G telecommunications infrastructure.

Or you could send a freedom of information request to whoever is building the 5G infrastructure in your town, and ask where they intend to install 5G antennae - hopefully they will be more forthcoming than my local council - and then you can make up your own mind if you want to live in the house with a 'small cell' (i.e. small in size, not in signal) antenna on the streetlight outside your bedroom window, or send your children to a school with a 5G mast on the roof.

Which brings me back to the book whose cover illustrates this post. The Electricity of Every Living Thing was written by a woman diagnosed with autism (one of the health concerns of wi-fi radiation) in her thirties, who sets out to walk the South West Coast Path in a effort to find her way back to health - no, she's not me, but she might well be a younger me. As far as I'm aware, the author does not make any connection between her condition and wi-fi exposure, but it's interesting reading considering that, once 5G gets here, there will be nowhere for any of us to escape these signals, however far we walk.

They're up there now, watching you...


Katherine Roberts writes fantasy and historical fiction.
She has a BSc (first class) in mathematics and computer science.
She has signed the petition.