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Chaz'z Blog

Sunday, March 30, 2003

Who was it said that violence was the last resort of the incompetent?

Actually, I have a sad & sneaky feeling that it'll turn out to be someone like Asimov (from one of the Foundation books, perhaps?). It definitely feels like it came out of that time of my life, early teenage, when I was reading nothing but SF. It sort of goes hand in hand with 'Violence never solved anything/Tell that to the city fathers of Carthage', which is the opposite sentiment and definitely Heinlein.

Incompetence does it for me, though, especially right now. I know I'm hopelessly nave, but it still seems extraordinary to me that supposedly mature political systems can decide to solve a problem by sending their own citizens halfway round the world to fight and kill the citizens of another system. What is equally extraordinary is that they should actually believe - or pretend to believe - that that will solve the problem. Delenda est Carthago, sure, but look what happened to Rome...

Posted by Chaz at 12:14 AM GMT [Link]

Friday, March 21, 2003

The TV is full of war and rancour, with the pro-Bush faction (notably, of course, our own Tony) demanding that those of us opposed to this bloody invasion should immediately and entirely reverse our position now that it's actually started, to support Our Boys (and, of course, Girls). Well, I'm sorry, but no. If a thing is immoral and unjust in prospect, it remains immoral and unjust in practice, and those who prosecute it will have no support from me.

Which is why I have fled the TV and come to the keyboard to change the subject entirely, and talk about my chillies. Last year, the two varieties I grew took weeks to hatch, from seeds in pots on the windowsill. This year I put 'em in the airing cupboard, and half of them are coming up already. Trouble is, it must be like being born, the same degree of shock for the poor wee things. There they are in a nice dark humid hotness, and now they're out they must have light, and all I have to offer is the grey chill of an English springtime windowsill. Their pots are cold to the touch, and I don't think they've grown at all today, I think they're stalled. Tomorrow I'll see if I can find a propagator they can sit in, for the extra protection that would offer; there's nothing else I can think of to do, unless I can find some way to warm the windowsill beneath them. Ah, the burdens of parenthood...

So I fuss around the chillies, I fuss around the back yard (finally having access to the back yard again, after a winter of being locked out; my back door had warped itself solid in the frame and I couldn't get at my herbs till Harry came round with his plane and smoothed it back to regularity), the cats and I fuss around each other. The rest of the time, I work. Sometimes, work is not too demanding; today I had to abandon chillies and yard and cats and all and go meet Jean in town in her lunch hour, in order to give her the US cover for Outremer vol 3 (A Dark Way To Glory), so's she could scan it for the website. I'm sorry, but it simply had to be done. And I did only have one pint. Well, there wasn't anywhere to sit, and I hate standing in pubs. Some people do that by choice, do it as a matter of course, and I don't understand it. And mostly they do it at the bar, and that drives me wild, it's just so extraordinarily selfish. People are, I find. They think all the time of themselves, and hardly any of them hardly ever of Me. But setting their bodies in groups between me and the beer, denying me access, making it awkward to squeeze by when my hands are full of drinks - that's unforgiveable. Amazingly, I have never yet dropped a drink in a pub, but it's got to come. And when it does, it's going to be their fault, no question.

Posted by Chaz at 12:06 AM GMT [Link]

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

...So I ordered the dried chillies on the Wednesday evening, and they came by Friday lunchtime; so I've spent some time playing. Made a base (beef, black beans, onions, garlic and a tin of tomatoes, not much more than that) and have been adding three habaneros a day, to find out where my limits are. Haven't reached 'em yet, not by a distance. Today I put in a chipotle also, for that smoky flavour.

Not that I've been getting much time or opportunity for eating: Friday night was party night, where I got rambunctiously drunken; Saturday the same people hauled me out for dinner up the road, at our favourite Indian (this is no bad place to live: best take-away in the city on one corner, best eatery in the city on another - why do I bother to cook? Because I have the best Asian foodstore in the country, just a fraction closer than either) and Monday I was at the university all day and all evening (they pay me for four hours a week and I reckon I did an eight-hour day, not counting walking-time) and we went straight to the pub after because we deserved it, and I didn't get to eat at all, except in so far as alcohol is food.

And today, inter a lot of alia, I have figured out how to make my zip drive work under Linux. It's only been sitting there entirely redundant for two years, because I didn't understand the system. Time well spent, I call it...

But what I really went online to say tonight is that Northern Gothic does not support this war, at all, in any way. It strikes me as quite likely that I may never vote Labour again, which is a truly weird feeling.

Posted by Chaz at 12:04 AM GMT [Link]

Thursday, March 13, 2003

Tuesday was awards night, the announcement of the Northern Rock Writer's Award (20,000 a year for three years, the most generous literary award in this country), plus a number of other grants from New Writing North. I had applied for everything, of course, and got nothing, grrr; but I went along regardless, doing my wounded-but-noble act, being loudly and conspicuously graceful in defeat. Loads of friends there, lots of drinking - and Julia Darling got the big award, which is brilliant. A second-best decision, obviously (it really should have been me), but brilliant regardless. So then I went to the pub with a couple of the judges and a bunch of mates, fetched Julia later and got thoroughly drunk [see my earlier comments on literary events and their propensity towards inebriation; this was a fine example of the genre].

Yesterday was a slow day, then, and a chilli day (chilly outside, chilli within, ho ho). I ordered a lot of dried chillies from Cool Chile Co and received my order of seeds from The Chile Seed Company. Apparently I should learn to write chile rather than chilli, it's more authentic; but I like it my way, so tough. Anyway, I spent a happy hour with pots and compost and clingfilm (for that greenhouse effect), and there are now nine different varieties getting all hot and steamy in the dark, in my airing cupboard. I'll let you know how many come up, and how they fruit. This is my fallback position; if I can't find a publisher and don't win the lottery, I'm going to give it all up and grow chillies, and make interestingly piquant sauces to sell at farmers' markets. And of course write a book of recipes, all beginning 'First grow your chilli...'

Then I went to an event in Durham, Kitty Fitzgerald and Peter Mortimer talking about short stories (though I suspect that I talked more than they did, sigh...), and stayed over with Jean and Roger. Who share my tastes both for wine and for armagnac (who was it who said 'Cognac is the wine-drinker's brandy, while Armagnac is the brandy-drinker's brandy'? I quote it often, conveniently overlooking the fact that I am a wine-drinker also), but are prepared to argue about almost anything else, so that was fun.

And so home this morning, and a day spent pottering around, hoovering and rescuing houseplants and cleaning windows and throwing out junk; but in between all of that I carried on with what I've been quietly doing all week, writing the synopsis for my proposed fantasy novel. A hateful process, but mine own. And I finished it about half-seven this evening and immediately e-mailed it off to agents both sides of the Atlantic, before I'd even read it through. That's how much I hate those things, I didn't want it kicking around a moment longer than necessary. Synopses take something soft and slithery and sexy, this idea that's been eeling its way around the back of my skull for a couple of years now, and they skin it and spreadeagle it and nail it down all nice and square and neat, and then it has fixed angles and exposed bones and isn't soft and slithery and sexy any more.

Posted by Chaz at 10:22 PM GMT [Link]

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Sunday morning, while I waited to be picked up, I ordered many varieties of chilli-seeds from a supplier in Grange over Sands. People crop up in the most unexpected places. So do sudden hobbies. I never was green-fingered, I could barely keep a plant alive until I found this little bay-tree in the supermarket. That started the herb garden in the back yard; then last year I murmured some vague romantic dream of growing chillies, and my friend Jess sent me a couple of packets of seed, and I was doomed. My only regret now is that I have only the two south-facing windows, and no space for a greenhouse. My only embarrassment is that all the varieties I mean to grow are hot, hot and superhot. Honestly, sometimes I'm such a boy...

And then it was up and off to my best friend Ian's new house with a couple of other mates, to help demolish a shed and barbecue before lunch. I was kind of possessive about the sledge-hammer, although it isn't actually mine. See above, under 'boy' - it is (I am told) unexpected in me, but I love demolition. No good at putting things up, but knocking 'em down just comes naturally. Who was that Frenchy/Russian anarchist fella who spoke about the creativity of destruction? Had a K or two in his name, but was not I think Kropotkin... [Actually I've just looked it up, and I find it's Bakunin: Die Lust der Zerstörung ist zugleich eine schaffende Lust! Well, I was right about the K...]

Ian and Carrie have also promised to let me demolish their front wall, soon as they're ready. Delenda est Carthago! Meanwhile I came home and smashed up the concrete coal-bunker in my back yard. Its days had been numbered for seven years already, which is altogether too high a number.

And today, Monday, I had to go to my physiotherapist and explain why my shoulders were so tight this morning, and why I couldn't answer her questions about what ached where on account of everything's aching everywhere. She said not a word, but Lord! she hurt me after. Elbows of carborundum, that woman, if carborundum is very hard and grindy. [I've just looked it up, and it is.]

And anyone complaining that today, Monday, is actually Wednesday: you are right. Been holding this one back while my website moved house. It has now settled in, unpacked its boxes and shelved its books, but we are operating on timelag here; I cannot now report on yesterday until tomorrow, and Lord only knows when I'll get to tell you about today.

Posted by Chaz at 11:26 AM GMT [Link]

Sunday, March 9, 2003

Okay, so I haven't been keeping this up regularly, the last couple of weeks. I've been getting complaints. Complaints! Bah humbug, I say. You wanna read a weblog, go write your own...

Well, no, don't. I'm not shirking my responsibilities, not really. It's just that I have almost no time to write at the moment, because I'm far too busy Being a Writer, doing all those other things that people who like what we write invent to stop us doing the thing that they like so much. I'm working at the university, which is taking up significantly more hours than I get paid for; and I'm dealing with a rush of stuff from America. Because they're publishing the Outremer books in this really inventive way, six volumes in six months, it means I'm getting proofs and covers and such at the same rate. Last week I was checking proofs for vol 2, cover copy for vol 4 and the copy-edit for vol 5, all needing doing yesterday.

And then when I do get back at the computer, I really need to be working on the proposal for the next fantasy; the opening chunk of it is with my agent, but while she juggles manuscript in one hand and new baby Teddy in the other, I have to write background material and synopsis and all the stuff we hate. Well, I hate. There are novelists who really like the planning and plotting, but not me. Novels are a journey, and I just like to pack and go. Someone said that being asked to write a synopsis was like being asked to draw a map of a country you haven't visited yet, which seems to me to be exact.

But it must be done, they kind of insist on it, these publishers. So, of course, every time I sit down to do it, the novella I'm working on just rises up and begs just a look, a sentence, half an hour, finish the page... Besides which, it's genuinely the most fun I've had writing something for years. My narrator is just describing the time he met his twin brother. In a jar. Bit of a pivotal moment - how can I not work on that?

And then of course there's the life outside, which has also been busy. Last three days: World Book Day on Thursday, so of course we went to an event and to the pub after and got drunk. Literary events are fatal, because they're always timed at six or seven or seven-thirty, always too early to have eaten first. And there's drink there and often lots of it, and there are friends there and often lots of them, so of course you want to go out after, so you never get to eat at all. And so I find myself swaying gently home at chucking-out time, pissed again. Ah, me.

And Friday Harry and Louise came round. Harry and I did manly and non-literary things, shaving the back door and taking the cats to the vet (just for their MOT, nothing worrying; the worried one was the vet, who had never seen anything quite like my Sophie. Queen of the Undead, I said, try not to worry...), and then I cooked curries. Got a new book to play with, a whole new family of recipes. Indian food is I think the only genre left where I still cling to recipes, because I don't have the confidence to balance that array of spices against each other without a guide. Like learning Chinese, I think it's a lifetime commitment...

And Saturday was International Women's Day, and I got to be an honorary woman for the evening, at a celebration of women's writing down on the quayside. Much fun, much wine, many friends again. And this is Sunday morning and I'm being taken off shortly for lunch and demolition-work; have sledgehammer, will travel.

And these are my excuses for falling behind with my weblog (sorry, Chrissie...), and they are many and varied and true. But, of course, inadequate, as excuses are by definition. I've been sleeping dreadfully anyway, bed at two and awake by six; think how much more I could do if I just converted that into 'bed at two and up by six'. I might as well, I just get all restless and disturb the cats if I stay in bed. Sigh...

Posted by Chaz at 09:52 AM GMT [Link]

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© Chaz Brenchley 2002/2006
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.