I’ve been working on something for the best part of a year, a small booklet about Anglo-Saxon women who are only remembered in specialist circles but who were well known and respected in their day. It came out of a series of articles I wrote last year.

I haven’t made any progress on it in months, but then I was looking something up a few days ago and came across a reference to St Aethelthryth of Ely, and she seemed like an interesting person. So today I went through a few of my books to find out more. And then wrote it all down. Usually that’s what I do.

At the minute I have the barebones of eight biographies that I intend to make in to a small ebook, eventually. I made progress today. I’m quite pleased with it so far.

Coming soon: Review of ‘Deadline’ by Mira Grant



The myth of the double negative?

Good morning.

Something on Facebook caught my attention yesterday. It was a joke about language, something along the lines of a lecturer saying in English a double negative become a positive, in some languages a double negative is still a negative but in no language does a double positive become a negative. And then the punch line is someone says ‘Yeah, right.’

Well that got me thinking. And yes, before anyone says anything, I do know its a joke, but that’s doesn’t stop me thinking these things. Imagine going to the cinema with me, its hell I’m told.

Its a fairly common statement that two negative words make a positive statement, but that makes no sense. You don’t write or say ‘No never’ and mean ‘Yes’, it emphasises the negative meaning. And I’m certain I’ve seen somewhere, in one of the books I have about Old English that the double negative is used to emphasise the negative point, in Old English.

So why, if logically this idea makes no sense, do people continue to perpetuate it?

I have two hypotheses as to why this is.
The first involves maths and science; in these subjects it is the case that a negative number added to a negative number gives a positive number. Thus the idea is drilled in to young minds that this is the case in ALL things.
But language and maths are the same things and they don’t have the same rules, so the rules of mathematics are irrelevant when it comes to language.

My second hypothesis involves people who think that there is only one ‘correct’ way to speak/write English. Perhaps, some years ago, when mass education arrived in England, some people got sick of others saying ‘aint nowt’ or similar phrases. These are perfectly correct dialect ways negate a sentence, but they aren’t standard English. And so began the myth of the double negative. Snobbery is responsible, not logic.

I have absolutely no proof that either of theses ideas are relevant, except personal experience – I had a strong
regional accent as a child and was repeatedly told I must lose my accent and speak out of dialect (to borrow a phrase) or I’d never get anywhere in
life; the reasoning behind this? The person who told me so had been told the same thing by his teachers seventy years ago so it must be true – and logic.

So is it true that a double negative in English makes a statement positive? No, not at all. As far I am aware. Let me know if I’m wrong, I’d love to see the sources. Seriously, I would. I’m a bit strange like that.



Local libraries

I know, two posts in a day, how unexpected!

After I finished writing my last post I had a few jobs to do before I could go to the library. I had to take a book back. Well, I just made it, they were closing the blinds, a minute more and I’d have missed them entirely.

We’re fairly lucky, I suppose, that despite the threats to close local library’s we’ve managed to keep ours, if at reduced hours. Until late last year the library was open until half seven three nights a week and until 5.30pm the other two nights, plus 9 – 2 on a saturday. It is now open 9 – 5.30 everyday and 9 – 2 on a saturday. And the next nearest is only a half hour bus ride away. So, fairly lucky.

Many communities have not been so lucky. This is terrible. I know from a lifetimes acquaintance with the local library that it is not just a place to borrow books. Its a community centre and meeting place, local notice board for clubs and societies, access to the internet, a safe place for children to do their homework, an extension to the local schools and somewhere those who might other wise be isolated can feel welcomed and included. Staffed by members of the community (mostly, here at least) and provided for the community, they are essential, especially in isolated areas.

Not long ago the library got flooded and was shut for the best part of a month. The staff put on a skeleton service in the civil hall next door and tried to carry on, but everyone was pleased when it re-opened. The building is a dodgy sixties prefab, too small for the community, which has grown so much since then. There are only two computers, constantly in demand and booked. We could do with a new, bigger and more comfortable building to house what is essentially our community centre.

But we won’t get it.

Cuts in council budgets mean that when other libraries are closing the local county council won’t spend money improving an old one, and the town council can’t afford to.

And the provincial in me wants to say that the county council has no love for my little town, despite it making significant contributions to the council’s budget, so we won’t get anything even if we need it. Yes, that feeling is fairly common, although not necessarily justified.

So, value your library, its not just a building full of books.



Review: Feed by Mira Grant (Seanan McGuire)

Zombie apocalypse’s: I do so love them.

Bloggers: News reporters, entertainers, educators. I have a soft spot for them as well.

What happens when you combine them?

Georgia and Shaun Mason, and their colleagues, that’s what.

The adopted children of the first people to lose a child to a zombie labrador, their entire lives have been dictated by, and dedicated to, the ratings.

Shaun likes to poke dead things with sticks, in the hope that its moan back, and then he can shoot it. Of the siblings he’s expected to die first, he lives with reckless abandon, goes out in to the field and returns to tell exciting tales. He’s an ‘Irwin’.

Georgette ‘Buffy’ Meissonier, their partner, friend and tech expert, likes to write poetry and romantic prose while giving the CIA a run for it money – if its electronic and can collect information she can improve it. Mostly she’s a ‘Fictional’, barely ever seen outside of the haven of their van and rarely in the field.

And finally, there’s Georgia ‘George’ Mason. All she wants is the Truth.

They run ‘After the End Times’, a blog site, that’s home to all three kinds of bloggers. They’re organised, determined and young. When they get the job of official press covering the presidential campaign of Senator Ryman, of Wisconsin, they also think they’re made. Travelling with the campaign, they give the public everything they need to know with as little bias as possible. They become among the most popular blog sites on the ‘net. And their candidate is gaining support.

And then things start to go very wrong. After a series of tragedies, sabotage and betrayal, events come to a head at the party Conference. Things will never be the same again for those who remain at ‘After the End Times’.

Well, that’s the story (or at least all I’m going to give you because I don’t want to give too much away), so what did I think?

The characterisation was well done, although Senator Ryman was a little too good, no politician is that decent. The world, a post-Zombie-apocalyse world, is carefully thought through and the society it presents is convincing. The story itself is riveting, keeping the readers interest throughout, exciting and intelligent.

Plus, there’s a sensible explanation for the living dead. Which is always a bonus.

In other words, I liked it. I’d even recommend it.

Now I’m off to read the second book in the series, Deadline.



Review: The Long Earth, Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

Good evening,

It’s just occurred to me that I forgot to review this book. No excuse really, I have a day job and sometimes it gets in the way of writing, before I know it things have got away from me.

Anyway, on with the purpose of this post.

The Long Earth is an interesting book, intelligent and gripping. And there should clearly be a sequel, because I want to know what happens next.

The hero, and he is a hero in the traditional sense of a flawed yet almost superhuman main character, is Joshua Valiente, who was born on another Earth, just a step away. When the Long Earth’s are discovered he rescues scores of children and returns them home. The discovery of untold numbers of Earth’s has an interesting effect on home, or Datum, Earth economics and politics as people drift away.

Eventually Joshua takes on a mission to see how far a person can step, with the assistance of the re-incarnated soul of a Tibetan motorcycle mechanic currently embodied in a computer. Along the way they discover new hominid species and societies of humans, with the help of ‘Sally’ another ‘natural Stepper’ like Joshua.

But back on Datum Earth, among those unable to Step at all a rebellion is brewing and the results will be devastating for everyone.

And I’m not saying anything else because I don’t want to spoil it for you.

This is an interesting new direction for Terry Pratchett (I love his Discworld books) but the fun, insightful nature of his writing clearly shows in this book. I have never read any of Stephen Baxter’s work so I can’t compare The Long Earth to any of them. However, I think I might have to take a trip to the library to find something of his to read.

That’s it, not my most insightful review I know, but I had to write it quickly while I had a decent net connection,

Good bye