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Book reviews Earlyworks Press Poetry Short stories

Bruce Harris’s Odds Against

One of the things that’s really absorbing about running writing competitions is that you meet and judge works before you know who’s written them, so when I first read a Bruce Harris story during the 2015 competition judging, I didn’t know that was what it was. The story was called ‘Home Movies’, and it’s a brilliantly presented monologue by a teenager who has escaped from A level revision hell and is amusing himself by annoying various friends and relatives by filming them on his phone. We, the readers, get to follow both his inner commentary, and the reactions of those who find themselves being filmed. It’s intricate and utterly absorbing.

And one of the things I particularly enjoy is when two quite different works get put forward to the shortlist and turn out to be by the same author, so it was a real surprise when ‘Roxanne Riding Hood’, a detective-suspense-thriller that creeps up on you via a drag queen going about his/her late night club act business, turned out to be yet another Bruce Harris creation.

journeys_cover

Both stories appear in the resulting Earlyworks Press prizewinners’ anthology, Journeys Beyond. It was some time later that Bruce approached me again to say that he had a big enough collection of prize-winning works to put together a collection of his own – and a very sobering reason for wanting to do so. Let’s leave aside the joy of his range of extremely human, often funny, always well-crafted stories, to consider a very common problem of our day and age – all those long-term, sometimes fatal, debilitating illnesses that don’t quite require permanent hospital care and don’t quite get the kind of home-care that makes life easily manageable for friends and relatives of their victims. When Bruce found himself in the situation of carer for a loved one, he set about looking for ways to improve that situation and his new poetry book Kaleidoscope and the story collection Odds Against which we published as an Earlyworks Press title, are part of that project. In both cases, all Bruce’s earnings from the book are going to the Huntingdon’s Disease Association.

But you don’t have to be in a charitable mood to buy them. Bruce’s poetry and stories Bruce blog revieware, as Booker shortlisted author Wendy Perriman put it, both amusing and uplifting. ‘Odds Against’ offers 15 stories about people doing what they can, in serious and humorous ways, with difficult and sometimes insoluble situations. You will find a young woman, a victim of refugee trafficking, rescuing herself in midnight London, wartime spies trying to adjust to post-war living, restauranteurs trying to survive the horrors of customers, wedding guests exhibiting contrasting takes on a universal situation, ex-lovers manouvering their way to (perhaps) reconciliation a series of consequences of a falling bucket on a building site, and more… all full of the pathos, belly-laughs and heart-wrenching that human life entails.

Bruce_Harris_Odds_Against_coverBuy Kaleidoscope   https://www.artificium.co.uk/buy/Kaleidoscope-p86230028 (Proceeds to the HDA)

Buy Odds Against     http://www.circaidygregory.co.uk/shortstories.htm (Proceeds to the HDA)

Buy Journeys Beyond     http://www.earlyworkspress.co.uk/fiction_index.htm  (Journeys Beyond is an anthology by Earlyworks Press competition winners, including Bruce Harris, but is NOT part of the HDA fund-raiser)

 

One of the many reasons I’d like to recommend Odds Against is that the much-loved Hastings artist Katherine Reekie offered Bruce the choice of images of her works for the cover. He settled on the haunting ‘Icelantic Field’, with its mix of the bleak, the absurd and the beautiful, as the image to speak for Huntingdon’s Disease sufferers and their carers. You can learn more about the Disease, and the HDA association on their website here, see more of Katherine Reekie’s work on her website, here and find out more about Bruce’s work at Harris Central.

Categories
Election Hastings Politics

Our Election Campaign (not theirs)

I don’t follow sport closely but from my viewpoint the main role of a manager seems to be that of scapegoat. Player falls over own feet and his team loses? SACK THE MANAGER! Team have a bad run and fail to work together? SACK THE MANAGER! Team put in remarkable hours training and come out ten times as good? MANAGER’S A GENIUS (until next week).

Categories
Election Politics

The last blog before the election from a ker-nackered campaigner

Woke up this morning stiff, rattling and exhausted. How many desperate conversations, how many sessions of leaflet waving and door-knocking, how many brain-cells battering against the algorithms trying to send the message where other messages cannot reach? How much? How long? How far? How, how, how?

Categories
Election Hastings Labour Politics

About the Censorship at Rye Hustings ***updated***

(If you’re looking at this for the 2nd time, please scroll down to the bit about the election results at the bottom). They never learn, do they? The one sure result of attempts to censor anything is to amplify it across the world. That amazing clip of Amber Rudd instructing the chair at the Rye hustings to silence another candidate was seen everywhere from Craig Murray’s Edinburgh-based blog to the Daily Mirror website.

Categories
Election Politics

If I’m so clever…

I am Vice-Chair (membership) of Hastings and Rye Labour Party. In many ways, I’m in the wrong job in this election campaign. I am constantly being asked to do things that I’m not good at, in ways that make no sense to me, and that are emotionally and physically exhausting. The people around me do not seem to notice this at all.

Categories
Election Labour

What you do now is…

You were as upset by what happened in Manchester. You’ve been all keyed up trying to do your best for a fast and furious election campaign, and now you feel sad and sorry and worried sick. The campaign’s been halted. And while you sit there trying to work out the rules, (Tory) government ministers are on TV and radio, telling listeners how they’ll keep us all safe, and the media billionaires and their right-wing supporters run riot all over the news stands and social media.

Categories
Election Housing Unite

A suitable MP?

Can you imagine living in a house in a super-fashionable little corner of a south coast town without having any idea of house prices? Can you imagine being responsible for the people of that town during a housing crisis and being so blasé about house-prices that your casual estimate of their value is over £150k out? That is what just happened to Amber Rudd. Watch this…

Categories
Book reviews Election NHS

Nurses’ public duty

Oh, just look what is being advertised on social media. Now, why would an election period where the Tories are angling for the ‘older’ vote be a good time to advertise ‘affordable’ private health provision? And, as with Tory affordable housing, may we ask ‘affordable to whom’?

Categories
Corbyn Election Labour

Answer to the answers to ‘The answers’

This is a thank you to the many people who commented on my ‘doorstep answers’ blog post here,  or on Facebook or elsewhere. The comments tend to fall into two categories –  “they won’t believe it” and “here’s some better info”.

Categories
Corbyn Election Labour

The answers…

“Where’s the money going to come from?” It’s a question a lot of people ask on the doorstep, when Labour campaigners come around and tell them we have the answers to the problems the Conservatives have created. Surprisingly often, the question wrong-foots the canvassers. It’s because it’s such an illogical question. How do you pay for a revenue generator? It’s like saying where do you find the energy to eat your dinner?

Here’s my answer:

How do we pay for renationalising the NHS? By rejecting deals with private companies that put hospitals expensively in debt, by refusing all corporate ‘services’ that are priced so high to pay for share-holders’ dividends and commercially minded managers’ salaries.

In short, we pay for renationalising the NHS by renationalising the NHS.

How do we pay for renationalising the railways? Pretty much as above, except that we don’t even have to get into arguments about ‘compensation’ for companies that were expecting to get rich out of our railways – we just take them back when their franchises end. We could also drop ticket and season ticket prices so that more people could afford to use the railways, if we re-invested the money currently going to foreign companies in profits.

In short, we pay for renationalising the railways by not paying for any more franchise deals.

How do we pay for all the local authority schools, childrens’ centres, libraries, museums and other education projects we’ve been losing in recent years? By ceasing to funnel vast amounts of government money into private and semi-private ‘academy’ companies.

In short, we pay for education and culture by renationalising education and culture.

How do we pay for running the tax collection system properly?

By adjusting taxes so that those who can afford to pay more – the millionaires, the billionaires and the corporations – do pay more. We can put a small proportion of the revenue generated that way into re-staffing and powering up the HMRC so that it has the capacity to administrate and collect all the tax that should be collected. The result will be a MUCH greater income, with less burden on those who DON’T have large amounts of money to pay taxes with.

How do we pay for setting up a national investment bank?

With the rest of the income generated by sorting out the tax system.

How do we pay for the council houses, the new schools, childrens’ centres and care services, and the green infrastructure we’re desperate for? With the money generated from the national investment bank, once it’s set up and funded by the money rolling in from the HRMC.

How do we get everyone who wants to work back into work so they can pay some taxes and keep things rolling? By employing them to get on with all the things listed above.

Any other questions?

Update added 20th May 2017: some other questions did come up – here are some answers to those, courtesy of We Own It  …

Update added 30th May:

More answers please pass around one more time, with the added message for any Tory-leaning friends that…

the BIG, BIG problem with selling off your assets to gain funds is that it comes to a dead stop when you run out of assets.