richard pierce

richard pierce

26 February 2015

Birthday Talk


‘Fourteen.’

‘Fourteen?’

‘Fourteen!’

‘Years?’

‘Years.’

‘Not months?’

‘Not months.’

‘You must feel old.’

‘I do feel old.’

‘Very old, I mean.’

‘Well, not that old.’

‘Really?’

‘Well, maybe. I was young then. My wife told me on my fortieth birthday.’

‘Nice present.’

‘Better than you think. The plan finally worked.’

‘The plan?’

‘To have four instead of three.’

‘Oh.’

Shrugs. ‘She wanted six.’

‘Six?’

‘Six.’

‘And why not?’

‘It didn’t work out.’

‘Why?’

‘The risk of death and such things.’

‘Oh.’ Puts hand over mouth and turns away.

‘Am I boring you?’

‘No.’ Turns back. Mouth opens.

‘You asked.’

‘I was being polite.’

‘That’s never enough.’

‘And they’re all well? All things straightforward?’

‘Do you have any children?’

‘Erm, no.’

‘I’ll leave it to your imagination then.’ Smiles, turns away, one hand in empty pocket, one on full heart.

R, 25/02/2015 - for Alex on her birthday

17 February 2015

Is this a game you're playing?

Following on from my previous posts about the East of England Co-op's application to build a shop on Queen Street in Stradbroke, and Stradbroke Parish Council's unanimous (except for one abstention) refusal of planning permission, and the Diss Express's reports of the issue, I went to Mid Suffolk District Council's planning web site (still open for comments until 25th February 2015 - go here) and was very surprised to see a letter from Stradbroke Parish Council to MSDC which said that the parish council was supportive of the plans for a Co-op in the village but that it recommended refusal. This, I thought, was very odd. So I went to the recording of the parish council meeting of 9th February to see what was actually said and agreed and, most importantly, voted on. What I have discovered has, and this is no exaggeration, shocked me. Because, although there was a vote on the planning application, there was no vote on the parish council's response to MSDC on the matter.

Now, and this is relevant, I manage a registered charity which makes grants to many organisations, and if I want to put anything about that charity into the public domain, any such statement must be drafted first and then put to a vote by the board of trustees and passed before I can publish that statement, especially on substantive issues. I would have assumed and hoped and expected that the same process would apply to local governance. The note sent to MSDC does not reflect in any way what was said and, more to the point, agreed by the parish council on 9th February (listen to a recording of the meeting here).

I am expected to run the charity I manage as a business. I am publicly accountable for my actions. I expect other charities, especially ones which wish to be taken seriously and which wish to receive a grant, to be run like businesses, too. I expect a parish council, which comprises members elected by the inhabitants of that parish, to represent the interests of that local community and to run itself like a business. The parish council manages a budget, its accounts have to be audited, it too is publicly accountable, it can make a difference to people's lives, it is a voice for the populace. This latest episode suggests otherwise. It suggests that here is a parish council which does not understand its role, which is prepared to do things half-heartedly and reluctantly, which is happy to send communications out into the public domain which have not been voted on (and which distort the content of parish council meetings), and which do not voice the serious and justified concerns of the majority of the electorate.

One short excerpt from the parish council's letter to MSDC reads "The Council would like to see the Co-op work with SCC Highways to try and address the issues highlighted by SCC and look forward to seeing an amended proposal." At no point during the meeting on 9th February was this what might be interpreted as encouraging comment about the proposal and the suitability of the site in general voiced by the parish council, nor was this what might be interpreted as encouraging stance of the parish council voted upon, nor was there any statement at any point that the parish council would like to see an amended proposal, nor was any such statement voted upon.

In my view, Stradbroke Parish Council's response to MSDC is wholly unacceptable and should be immediately retracted because it was not agreed and voted on and passed as an official parish council communication to MSDC on what is a very substantive and significant issue. Furthermore, if the minutes of the meeting of 9th February are brought to the council containing passages from the communication to MSDC they should not be passed as true and accurate minutes. It is seriously beyond belief that such blatant misrepresentations can happen in this day and age, especially when everyone knows that parish council meetings are being recorded, that every point of order and process is under the microscope and can be replayed and analysed over and over again.

The truth will out.





15 February 2015

The fight is not over yet

There was a collective sigh of relief in Stradbroke on Monday evening/Tuesday morning, as news filtered out that Stradbroke Parish Council had rejected a planning application by the East of England Co-op to build a shop in Queen Street opposite Stradbroke Primary School. Except for one abstention, all councillors voted against the planning application.

Now, collective sighs of relief are all very well, but, in the end, parish councils have very little power compared to district and county councils, and their refusals of planning applications can be (and often are) ignored by these other layers of local government England has encumbered itself with since it grew from a primitive society in the Dark Ages to a more civilised society and then declined yet again, in the 20th century, into the primitive bureaucratic and unjust society we live in today. And that means that Mid Suffolk District Council could yet give the go-ahead to the planned shop, despite such intense and overwhelming local opposition.

Just to reiterate, the planned shop is on a blind bend on the busiest road out of and into Stradbroke. The road is heavily used at all times by lorries as well as cars and cyclists. Even without a shop on that road, it is a very very dangerous area of the village, and one where, sooner or later, there will be a serious accident. I have seen comments by some people on the MSDC planning page that, as long as parents keep their children under control, there is no danger. That's absolute tosh, written by people who either don't have children, or people who have discounted absolutely the possibility of unexpected and unfortunate events occurring in life (what a boring and predictable and unloved existence they must have).

The most disturbing thing that's happened after our short collective sigh of relief is that the Diss Express quotes Stradbroke Parish Council (no councillor credited with this quote, by the way) as saying that "they hoped the Co-op would work with the highways department with a view to an amended proposal." What's concerning about this is that it implies that the Parish Council is still willing to have a shop in that location, when, in fact, that location is totally unsuitable for a commercial development of any sort. Any development there which is not residential with sufficient off-road parking for residents must be opposed.

The planning application is still open for objections (and support if anyone is benighted enough to support it) until 25th February, so please do go there and register your views. This is one of the two most important issues facing the village of Stradbroke right now.

One last thing - parish councillors probably don't need reminding (or do they?) that there is an election in May, and that all their actions will determine how people will vote. I am only glad that councillors are now subject to full public scrutiny through the public's ability to record and broadcast parish council meetings. And if you're not happy with your parish councillors, then you can vote them out, or even stand to replace them yourself. At least there is still a semblance of democracy there.

As for the Co-op, I have said before I'd welcome another shop in the village but not in that location in Queen Street. Safety before economy.

12 February 2015

#31daysofshade

When Dead Men was published in 2012, and after my publisher's miniscule marketing budget had run out, one of my hobbies became carefully placing Dead Men advertising cards into other people's books in local supermarkets, or even supermarkets and bookshops further afield. That was fun; adrenaline, subterfuge and not a clue as to if it would actually get people to buy my book. Anyway, that's where I first came across Fifty Shades of Grey, and that's where I first read couple of pages of it, and they weren't the first pages of the book. I thought the middle bits might be more interesting, so to speak.

I didn't actually much like what I read. I thought the writing was not really of a very high standard, thought, too, that the relationship being portrayed was not just bordering on the abusive, but actually dangerously and disturbingly abusive, and primitive. What I found really frightening was the analysis of a female friend of mine, my oldest female friend, in fact, who said that of course women would want to read a book where a very rich man came and swept a young woman off her feet and dominated her, because that's what all women dream of. I think I changed the subject at that point in the phone conversation because I didn't really want to have an argument with my friend.

Weeks passed. I'd just finished writing anther historical fiction novel, the yet-to-be-published A Fear of Heights, and nanowrimo 2013 was coming up. What if, I said to myself, what if I could write a superior literary erotic thriller in four weeks, just to prove to myself, and to other people, that men could write decent erotica, erotica in which, like in all my books, there was a strong female character who would refuse to be abused, dominated, walked all over, by the male protagonist? So that's what I decided to do.

Where to start? I must admit that I was a touch bereft of ideas, realising that, by now, lots of people would have jumped on the badly-written erotica bandwagon, and, as I do, pouring most of my libido into poetry not fiction. And then I remembered that I'd written a short story in the early Nineties about a young man travelling round Europe and falling in lust and in love with a mysterious woman he meets on the train from Milan to Rome. That short story was called Voices, and you can download a pdf of the original draft for free here. And don't worry, the novel turned out totally differently to the story, so no need for a spoiler alert.

In the end, it took me seven weeks to write The Failed Assassin (31 Days of Shade), which was three weeks longer than planned, but I wanted to get it right. What I realised, after I'd put the book up on amazon as a kindle offering, was that people are quite reluctant to review erotica, which is a shame.

As you can imagine, my wife and children were quite cross with me that I'd written and published an erotic novel under my "serious" author name, and, to date, none of them have read it, which I suppose I should be grateful for, because it does get pretty intense quite quickly and throughout. However, I think it speaks of some universal truths, and the feedback I've had from fellow writers and from the few public reviews has been hearteningly positive. The ending has surprised and moved many people, and the device of not giving the two main characters names has also been successful. The most rewarding thing is that the first public review I got was from someone who acrtually got it straightaway, who understood why I'd decided to make the characters nameless.

And now we're reached the point where Fifty Shades is about to open in the cinema, and where I'm cynically asking myself why people would want to go to watch a film made from a badly-written book, and, more to the possibly belaboured point, a book about an abusive relationship. So I've decided to make The Failed Assassin free for this Valentine's Day weekend, across all Amazon platforms. I know there's always an argument about if it's really a good idea for a writer to give a book away for free, and I'm never sure which side of the argument I'm on.

However, in this case, I want to give readers the chance to compare what I've written with other erotica novels that I, now in my confident writer's mode, know are not as well written, that don't have this core of hope and love at their centre that The Failed Assassin has, because I believe that life has no meaning without hope and love, because I believe writing has no meaning if it can't reflect on how we hope and we love, if it can't reflect on how even pure lust can be a force for good, how it can burgeon into something more kind and nourishing than the type of lust portrayed in Fifty Shades.

Get your free UK copy here.

Get your free US copy here.

And let me know what you think. As always, you can email me at rps(at)tettig(dot)com. I try to respond to all reader emails I get.

9 February 2015

On villages and ethics

The East of England Co-op have applied for planning permission to build a shop on a very busy road out of Stradbroke, opposite a well-attended and excellent primary school. The road is the main route out of the village to Diss, and onwards to Norwich and Bury St Edmunds. Interesting, you say. Life-threatening, I say.

Village politics is always a muddle, always a hotbed for inflammatory actions by one party or another (not in the party political sense, although, come May, that might be a different story). In my experience, and I've lived in quite a few villages here in England and abroad, there are two kinds of people active in village affairs. Those who are ethical and altruistic and seek to improve life for everyone in a village. And those who are selfish, motivated by greed for power or money (or both), and who masquerade that greed behind a publicly and eloquently avowed desire to support the village in its quest for greater and better things.

The Co-op application is just another manifestation of how these two different kinds of people act. On the Mid Suffolk planning department comments page, there are many objections posted (you can post yours there, too - http://planningpages.midsuffolk.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=neighbourComments&keyVal=_MSUFF_DCAPR_101774), and a few supporting comments. What's interesting is that the objections are mainly concise and visceral, and aimed at saving children's lives, at securing growth for the village while ensuring that everyone is treated equally, and emphasising that a life is more important than any economic considerations. What's interesting, and appalling, about the comments which support the planning application is that they trivialise the danger to life on that road, especially the danger to the life of a child, and maintain that the most important argument in this case is that the village's economy will benefit. If child sacrifice were mentioned in any other context, these people would release howls of outrage, and deem any village that sacrificed its children to any god to be primitive and unchristian.

I am not in principle against the building of another shop in Stradbroke, but I am opposed to it being sited in an evidently dangerous position where children's lives (and actually others' lives) will be endangered from the minute the construction teams move onto site. It is a patently ridiculous application, especially following on from a consultation in the village arranged by the Co-op where the majority of residents expressed opposition to such plans. Add to this that the application is undeniably linked to a proposal to build 53 houses on the Grove Farm site less than a hundred yards further north on that road, and there must be serious questions as to who will actually benefit if a benighted Parish Council and District and County Councils do the unthinkable and approve these schemes.

It is here that the distinction between the two different kinds of contributors to village life comes into its own. Does any village benefit from the scurrilous and behind-the-scenes machinations of those who perceive themselves to be (or wish to be) the unofficial squires of a village, or does such a village benefit most from those who speak openly and honestly, and who contribute, at every turn, to the life of a village, often to their own financial detriment?

You decide.