I never expected this

It is now eleven months since my life changed completely because I had a stroke. I was in hospital for 11 weeks. I thought my recovery would be a lot faster.

Nothing can prepare you for a stroke. You don’t think about it until it happens to you. I thought that because I had a good diet, always been vegetarian, and exercised regularly I would continue to be fit until my 90s.

Then one day you wake up and wham!

Several months later I am still in a wheelchair and my left arm is fairly useless.

I want to thank first of all my partner who takes good care of me, which is a miracle in itself, and the team of domiciliary carers who work for Carmarthenshire Council and help me to get dressed and have a shower every morning.

Let’s also hear it for the NHS nurses in Glangwili hospital, the occupational therapists and physiotherapists, counsellors, my personal assistants who I’m able to employ because of the direct payments from Carmarthenshire Council and because I receive attendance allowance, the government support.

Nurses and social care staff are underappreciated and underpaid and there aren’t enough of them but they are amazing people doing wonderful work and we need more of them.

Meanwhile my recovery is very slow but at least it is going in the right direction. And I am coming to terms with a whole different kind of lifestyle than what I had imagined for myself at this time of life.

Coming on top of my cerebral palsy makes it more difficult. I’m trying to sort out which symptoms are due to this since they are lingering after the others clear up.

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What’s left to write about

Various Dadaist collages and artworks by Raol Hausman, Kurt Schwitters, Max Ernst and Richard Huelsenbeck

The world is now so post-dada that absurdist meta-commentary has become mainstream. How should writers respond? What is left?

102 years after Cabaret Voltaire and 340 years after Candide we find ourselves in a similar age of pessimism where everybody except our noble leaders can see that we are headed for disaster.

Think you can survive by pursuing expanded consciousness or mindfulness? But I don’t want to be mindful of the current shitspace, nor let my consciousness expand into it. That’s the precise reason I want to escape.

Besides cultivating your own garden and burying your head in the sand of eternal Netflix bingeing, the only other response people have is the darkest humour.

But, sadly for the cynical intelligentsia, reality is beyond satire, unless we are talking about the fad for identity politics and fiction. This fad favours certain minorities over others: if you are black, a woman, gay or transgender this is your time, for what it is worth, since the average attention span is now less than the time it takes to repress an unpleasant thought.

Any other minority is invisible as they have always been. The favoured minorities have their day in the spotlight, but, as this is the end of the world as we know it, no one is watching except their friends.

The original dadaists wanted to escape the horrors of World War I. I want to escape the whole damn shitshow.

Do you do this by following Voltaire and describing in minute detail like a correspondent of the Apocalypse every atrocity the privileged and powerful are inflicting upon the majority and upon the natural world?

Some are scrambling to turn their smallest piece of suffering into click bait, while those who are genuinely suffering are passed by like beggars on the sidewalk; pity is a rapidly inflating emotion. We don’t like to feel it.

Shame is the other taboo; it does exist, just as much as before, but few will admit to it.

Do you describe the fundamental importance of friends and family relationships as the only thing that truly matters when the shit hits the fan?

But I abhor horror and cruelty, and family is too often dysfunctional. Where does that leave me? Confused. Mixed up. Angry. So that’s what I write about.

I can’t be only one who feels like that. How about you?

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Books to change your life

Sometimes reading can change your life. This post tells you the books that changed mine. Tell me what books changed yours?

Read more on the Shepherd website

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New climate fiction! Celebrating Kurt Vonnegut!

I have two new short stories out! Both very different kinds of climate fiction…

So It Goes

Kurt Vonnegut

So It Goes Vol. 10 – The Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Museum & Library, The Good Earth: Vonnegut and the Environment is a new compendium of stories honouring the wise fool’s commitment and advocacy for Our Good Earth.

Kurt Vonnegut wrote about the evolution of man and his destruction of the environment in his 1985 novel Galapagos.

This collection tackles everything from forest fires to floods to all kinds of environments as they relate to people and their struggles and joys.

My contribution is “The Sense of Smell”, a very short tale involving a little  girl lost, set in a future sustainable city neighbourhood. What could possibly go wrong?

Here’s a pre-order link: https://kvml.square.site/product/so-it-goes-vol-10-the-journal-of-the-kurt-vonnegut-museum-library/518

Teens Of Tomorrow: Stories of Near and Far-Flung Futures

AND… Teens Of Tomorrow: Stories of Near and Far-Flung Futures explores possible futures, near to today, through the stories of twelve courageous teens grappling with their realities and the roles they aspire to play as the future unfolds before them. Stories like that of:

  • a boy scientist battling lions in Kenya
  • a student activist taking on the caste system in India
  • a teen mother joining a climate strike (my contribution)
  • an anti-gun protester at a school shooter drill
  • a cyborg social media star striving to self-actualize
  • and a space colonist fighting corruption amongst her own crew.

Incorporating personal issues of race, sexuality, gender, ability, class, religion and politics with global matters such as the environment, technology, healthcare and social reform, these stories are as urgent right now as they will be in the turbulent years sure to come.

Buy on Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Teens-Tomorrow-Stories-Far-Flung-Futures-ebook/dp/B096SCTWSW/

Posted in climate change, sci-fi | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

In praise of the NHS

I’m in Glangwili hospital, Carmarthen, recuperating from a stroke. I’ve written this rap poem to say thank you to the incredible nursing, physio and OT staff, who every day go beyond duty to help all patients. I hope someone records this!

Scene: Hospital waiting room

Patients (slow intermittent chant throughout)

We are patients

we are patient

We are waiting

to be seen.

We are patients

we are patient

We are waiting

to be seen… [etc.]

 

Nurse

We treat all who come through our door

Don’t matter if you’re rich or you’re poor

Young, old, you’ll all get told

where your bed is and where your ward

 

Doctor

24/7 we’ll diagnose

Always open, we never close

Get you in triage, process you

You need a heart massage or an abcess removed

 

Nurse

Do our best whatever the cause

We’ll stop your clots and wash your sores

We’re overworked and underpaid

but we’ll make sure your bed is made

 

Doctor

X-ray, ultrasound, MRI

Our technicians’re always standing by

You’re in safe hands, we’re here to care

 

 

 

Don’t be scared, we are your prayer

 

Nurse

Got an allergy or a sports injury?

Maybe a Caesarian delivery?

Did you smoke or drink or work too much,

Get into a fight on Saturday night?

 

Doctor

We’ll treat you just the same

Whether you or no one is to blame

We won’t begrudge you, We won’t judge you

Whatever it is that now bugs you

 

Nurse and Doctor (together)

So come on in, wait your turn

All human life is our concern

Come on in, wait your turn

All human life is our concern…

 

All

We are patients

we are patient

We are waiting

to be seen

We are patients

we are patient

We are waiting

to be seen

We are patients

we are patient

We are waiting

to be seen…

 

Posted in NHS, Poetry/rap | Leave a comment

Despair at climate change, and how (maybe) to deal with it.

Woman despairing at burning forests

I feel so sad for the future of all life on Earth, and for my children’s future.

I’ve been involved in environmental activism, research and the business of testing and spreading solutions to environmental problems for 30 years.

I always thought we had a chance of saving ourselves and nature from the worst that could happen.

But today I am in despair.

Sir David King, a chief British climate scientist, knows that there are already enough greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to warm the planet to dangerous degree.

We’ve already passed scary tipping points.

We have the solutions

It’s not that we don’t have the solutions, we do have many of them.

I’ve got one here. And more here.

It’s not even that the politicians and CEOs of corporations, who have the ability to do what’s needed, are still in denial.

It is that they pay lip service. They want to have business as usual and fix the problems. This is not possible.

It is possible for people to have a decent quality-of-life and to solve these problems.

But this entails a change in attitude and understanding. Such a culture change must come before the system can change.

Why isn’t this happening?

We can learn something from the so-called culture war going on in most developed countries nowadays.

The right wing is winning most of these culture war battles.

They win, not by saying that the so-called woke culture is wrong, i.e. racism does not exist.

They win by saying the woke people threaten your way of life. For example, immigrants threaten your jobs.

Take this approach by analogy to the subject of climate change.

Activists can say: we can create thousands of green jobs in eco-renovation. This is good news!

But it is not good news to mainstream business, or to the unions, upon whom both the Tories and the Labour Party depend in the UK.

Too many business models are threatened by the transition to a green economy. These businesses and unions have big lobbying power.

Extinction Rebellion achieved the goal of getting the government to declare the climate emergency and to have a citizens assembly.

The citizens assembly made its recommendations to the government.

You wouldn’t know it, would you?

These have been ignored, because the voices of business are louder in the ears of the Tory government and the voices of the unions are louder in the ears of the Labour opposition.

This is one reason why nothing is done about making existing buildings consume much less energy.

It is why nothing is done about making all new buildings zero carbon.

It is why they still building on greenbelt land, and planning new roads, and tearing up woodlands for HS2.

It is why we have a crazy trade deal with Australia to import sheep when we have plenty of sheep here.

The list of madness is endless.

Only when the fear of the effects of climate change is greater than the fear that their business model will suffer will the main political parties show the kind of leadership that they need to show.

By then it will be too late.

We have already passed the point at which we could make cheap, reasonable changes and still save civilisation from disaster, as suggested by Sir Nicholas Stern in 2006.

This is why Sir David King is proposing drastic geo-engineering.

I can’t seriously see this working. Can you?

So what can you do as an individual?

I can only suggest that you do your best to make where you live as resilient as possible, and start learning practical skills, like growing your own food.

When supply lines dry up because of extreme weather and the supermarket shelves are empty you will need all the skills you can master.

Please, if you feel the same way, I’d like to hear from you.

Posted in climate change | Leave a comment

How to keep cool in summer without using energy!

Woman using cold water to keep cool

Trying to keep cool in the hot weather? You’ll find many no- and low-cost tips in my book Solar Technology! Topics range from the simple and straightforward to the more advanced:

  • curtains
  • natural ventilation, such as cross ventilation and taking advantage of the stack effect
  • night cooling
  • shutters
  • greenery
  • overhangs
  • evapourative cooling
  • glass coatings
  • insulation
  • heat reflecting paints
  • and the more exotic topic of phase change materials!

Get Solar Technology: The Earthscan Expert Guide to Using Solar Power for Heating, Cooling and Electricity here!

Posted in Renewable energy | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Log on to a table read of my rap musical Validation!

Poster for rap musical Validation by David thorpe table read from New Works Playhouse

I’m happy to invite you to a table read of my rap musical Validation! It’s on May 31 at 7.30pm on Zoom.

Tickets are available from here: https://www.thenewworksplayhouse.org/event-details/live-table-read-validation-a-rap-musical-by-david-thorpe.

It’s produced by the New Works Playhouse.

 

I had been hopeful that Validation could have been developed in the last year for actual theatres in Wales but the pandemic halted development funding.

The idea of this table read (there won’t be music unlike the above trailer) is to get feedback so that this can possibly happen as things open up again. So I’d like to ask you, that if you watch the reading, I’d be grateful for any feedback and advice on whether you think this is worth developing, and, if so, how. Thanks.

Spread the word!

The actors share out the ticket sales equally, so the more people watch/pay, the more they get! Please invite anybody you think might enjoy it. Thank you for your support.

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Support this Kickstarter campaign for climate stories for teens!

I’m one of 12 authors with a short story in a new book for teenagers.

Teens of Tomorrow book cover

Teens Of Tomorrow is filled with diverse voices about future scares. It’s about climate change and lots more – an anthology of exciting future-focused YA stories about issues affecting young people today and in the future.

It’s on Kickstarter – why not back it and get a free copy?

Featured Stories and Writers:

The Brief Death Of Aparna by Shreyas Muthusankar
Maasai Lights by Mary Ball Howkins
Eye Of The Beholder by Alec James
School Strike For Baby Hope by David Thorpe
Crimson Constellations by Abby Mayers and Melody Lumb
Swamp Reeds by Mary Ball Howkins
The Zebra Genus by A. Rose
Pax Park by Margaret Forze
What We Do Know How To Do by Anneliese Schultz
Being Lavender Blue by Hannah Ray
True America by Kell Cowley
Reach Out And Touch Faith by K.C. Finn

Back it here!

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Loneliness and the friendship of technology

robot friend

I’m now reading Kazuo Ishiguro’s new novel Klara and the Sun, which is about AI, and tonight I watched a webinar organised by the independent bookshops’ challenge to Amazon, bookshop.org, in which he was interviewed about it from his home by an independent bookseller in Bath.

He was fascinating. I’m half way through the book, and the themes are in a Venn diagram with my newest novel Perfect Girl’s simulants, which makes it especially pertinent to read.

Like Never Let Me Go, Klara and the Sun is emotional, deep, and about teenagers and technology.

Its narrator is an Artificial Friend, which are as common as perhaps games consoles nowadays. She is a robot designed to help teenagers not feel lonely. Her perspective on humans and on the world is illuminating.

In my novel Perfect Girl, simulants are artificial humans designed to be better than the humans they replace. I use it to discuss the effect this might have on our attitude to disability and illness. Its narrator is a teenager with cerebral palsy.

This evening, Ishiguro discussed loneliness, as a defining characteristic of what it is to be human.

Today, after one year of lockdown, I definitely feel lonely because I miss people. My partner goes to work, where she interacts with her clients and other staff, but I see no one but the odd shop keeper, apart from online.

As an only child I’m perhaps better equipped than most to handle solitude, and don’t mind it that much. In fact being an only child probably helps a person to be a writer, as it is a lonely activity specialising in inventing imaginary people.

But all the same, this lockdown is, in Wales, now almost 4 months old, and the lack of real human connection, one year since the start of the first lockdown, is wearing.

Still, at least I am healthy and fit, and not living alone but with someone who loves me, and I have not lost anyone close to the virus, all things to be grateful for, but I miss my sons very much and look forward to the time when I can see them in person again.

If I were living alone, I might be grateful to be able to buy or hire a Klara, as long as I were sure my personal data were not being collected.

I know people who treat Siri or Alexa as a companion, sharing things with them that I would find impossible to share with a corporation. It doesn’t seem to bother them.

I am grateful instead that I can imagine characters and scenarios, as a way of connecting with what it means to be human.

And I am grateful for technology like Zoom and Telegram, that enables connection. They are now our firm social scaffolding, despite, pre-pandemic, being blamed by some for being used by teenagers as a substitute for face-to-face communication, and so being anti-social.

If Ishiguro is correct, and loneliness is a baseline human quality, anything which makes us feel less lonely is welcome. The question of whether we can ever really know another person, which Ishiguro also raised in the webinar, remains open.

For those who do treat Siri or Alexa as a companion, Apple or Amazon may know them better than they know themselves… or at least differently.

Technology is a boon in many ways. But, as present opposition to Facebook shows, we also need strong legislatures who are able to curb the anti-social, or exploitative tendencies of some who wield it.

This is also a theme of Perfect Girl. I hope Ishiguro also discusses it in the remaining half of Klara I have yet to read.

Posted in AI | Leave a comment