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Wreck of the Week

This week I was musing on the title “Rust in Peace”. (I think some classic car magazines have used this as a title for photographs of nostalgic/rusty collections they feature).

This led me to find the following Facebook page (via a well-known search engine):

https://www.facebook.com/Kevins-Rust-in-Peace-1518931078411009/

This might be of interest if you love American automotive history.

If anyone finds anything similar for British cars (or even European cars) please share (and I will put it into a future post).

Recently my Uncle sent me the following YouTube video. It must belong here even if it doesn’t feature one wreck of the week but many:

This is 7 minutes of heart-break. For I have known so many of these cars and there seems no way to contact the current owners to ask if they will sell one of them to me.

The first scene opens at MacLeod Limited of Skye; this seems a great lead until I find that Skye is the home of the clan MacLeod, so there must be many – many MacLeod limited of Skye.

Here we find not just lost cars but lost makes of cars. Hillman for example – at one stage a well-loved brand but no more, similarly Austin, Humber, Singer, Sunbeam…

The cars highlighted are:

Nissan 300ZX 1983

1979 Nissan 280ZX

1961 Austin A40 Farina MKII (I have a friend with a 1966 version)

1970 Wolseley 1300 (for years I drove past a garden that had one of these permanently parked as it gradually corroded away)

1964 Humber Sceptre MKI

1966 Humber Sceptre MKII

1971 Humber Sceptre MKIII

1965 Singer Vogue Estate (which must be a very rare car indeed)

1964 Singer Gazelle V

1960 Sunbeam Rapier Series III

1961 Hillman Super Minx MK IV (my Dad had one)

1960 Hillman Husky Series II

1969 Hillman Imp

1966 Hillman Imp (my sister had one)

1972 Hillman Hunter GL

1973 Hillman Hunter GL Estate

1966 Ford Thames 307E (I haven’t seen one of these anywhere else)

1954 Ford Consul MKI

1962 Ford Anglia

1964 Ford Consul Capri (this is quite a valuable car now)

1964 Ford Cortina MKI

1963 Ford Cortina MKI

1966 Ford Cortina MKII

1970 Ford Cortina MKIII

1979 Ford Escort MKII

1955 Vauxhall Cresta EIP

1962 Vauxhall Victor FB Estate

1961 Vauxhall Victor FB Estate

1962 Vauxhall FX 4-90 FB

1957 Vauxhall Velox EOPV

1958 Vauxhall Velox PA S Saloon

1959 Vauxhall Velox

1962 Vauxhall Velox PA SX

1959 Vauxhall Cresta PA

1960 Vauxhall Cresta PA

1962 Vauxhall Cresta PA

1968 Volkswagen Beetle

1967 Volkswagen Beetle 1500

1970 Morris Minor 1000 Van (a van which judging by the nation’s favourite auction site is in high demand right now)

1967 Morris Minor 1000 pickup (I’d love one)

1961 Morris Minor 1000

1953 Morris Minor 1000

1953 Morris Minor 1000 series I tourer

1979 Morris Marina (as so loathed by Jeremy Clarkson)

1967 Morris Mini (a Morris Mini no less before Mini was a brand in itself)

1969 British Leyland Mini

1968 Morris 1100 MKII

I wanted to gather them all up (like some abandoned puppies) and take them all home with me.

But mostly I was tearful for times lost that can never be again.

However, as my uncle pointed out, people really want a car that you can start and run with lowest cost and maintenance. A 1969 car is not going to offer you that. Even in a 1976 car – starting was something of an art. Roadside repairs were also not unknown.

These mostly look very restorable. But given the video was posted in September 2017 there is every chance they have gone the way of many other unearthed collections. (In that they are now the raw materials for a Chinese fridge).

If anyone reading this knows of their fate I would be interested to know.

However this is Wreck of the Week. Whilst nostalgia is great for the soul we are here to examine corrosion. And outlandish prices paid for the steel carriages of yesteryear.

Some American muscle this week, or some parts of it in any case. (What is a part of a muscle? – meat perhaps.)

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/FORD-MUSTANG-67-V8/192428828718

£2550 seems a very sensible bid and well below the kinds of prices I’ve seen cars of this type fetching.

This one for example is asking $45,000: https://classiccars.com/listings/view/1067958/1967-ford-mustang-for-sale-in-mesa-arizona-85204 (roughly £33582 or €36585).

The devil as always with these things is in the detail; what did our lucky purchaser get for his 2 ½ thousand pounds (roughly $3417 or €2882).

The upsides are it’s a coupé (which is desirable as a body style). The seller vouches for the solidity of the “body tub” (whatever that is worth). And some of the seats remain.

The downsides are it’s an automatic (manual is preferred – at least in the UK). It has no dashboard. Some of the seats are missing. There is no V5; no NOVA; no title; no import paperwork. (It sounds like a nightmare to register with the DVLA).

Of course you also need to deal with a car that recently emerged from the swamp. Carrying swamp detritus like some creature in a Scooby Doo cartoon.

I’m not the seller but unless the moss is performing some structural function I think I might have power washed that off before listing it:

Mustang 1

I suppose this is now what is described as an “honest” listing. i.e. nothing has been made of the car and there are no attempts to spruce it up, including clean it evidently.

All the tyres are flat, but those alloys are not the most in keeping with the character (unless you want to race it). Look again at the expensive one for an example of what I mean https://classiccars.com/listings/view/1067958/1967-ford-mustang-for-sale-in-mesa-arizona-85204

Mustang 2

In its favour all of the rust looks to be surface-rust. So it may not require the intercession of a man with knowledge of the arcane art of sticking two bits of metal together.

If the original colour was that blue then it seems a charming choice, but given the range of shades visible who knows.

The front wing arch lip has a split in it. Miraculously the rear arch seems to have escaped so rescue might come just in time.

Mustang 3

Well I’ve got to say if I were being followed by something looking like that along the M5 I would be tempted to make like Shaggy and Scooby. (And not after the Scooby snacks).

It is in fact barely more than a shell. It looks like it has been raced – holes for bonnet pins are in evidence. (Unless these were drilled there by someone for the effect only).

The screen surround looks remarkably intact given its overall appearance. I think I might have been tempted (but then my thinking is on the romantic side of sensible).

Mustang 4

The rear wheel arch has corroded through here. It’s hard to tell at this magnification but the front wheel arch possibly as well.

Given the state of the rest of the car it is surprising that the rear lamp clusters seem all present and correct. Whether the internals have survived corrosion is anybody’s guess.

The rear screen is present and as we saw passenger door glass is present. It is odd that the driver’s door glass and the windscreen did not survive then.

Mustang 5

The drilling on the driver’s side wing – not replicated on the passenger side wing – seems to mark a long-lost aerial. I thought perhaps a wing mirror but the door mirrors survive. Usually holes of this type are where the crusting starts so this one is pleasingly intact.

The roof thus far seems to be subject just to surface rust. Parts of the rain gutter though could be getting a bit close. There also seems to be sill damage just ahead of the driver’s side door.

On the face of it I would have limited confidence that much could be rescued except for the metalwork.

Mustang 6

In fact the front wing on this side is in better condition than on the other side. This wing (barring possibly welding up the old aerial hole) might be saveable. (They might both have to be saveable – dependent upon availability of parts for these cars. Fifty years is a long time in parts sales).

Mustang 7

A V8 engine employing that well known corrosion inhibitor – a damp old pink towel. Thank goodness someone thought of that. Either that or it is the latest in free flowing air filter design and I’m revealing my (no doubt massive) ignorance on the subject.

This engine seems to have received much more recent attention than the rest of the vehicle. Aside from the distributor – it appears in great condition. This reinforces the idea that the engine was the most important part of the car.

This is what you would see in a race car. A body made of Papier-mâché, an engine made of volcano.

The oil filter canister corrosion says it’s been stood for a while. But perhaps not so long that a refresh of the internals (a rebore/regrind so-on) might not see it run again.

Mustang 8

Wow that looks like it’s made a permanent home in the forest floor. But I believe what we are seeing is a sorry-looking gearbox in the interior of the car. This was home to Squirrel Nutkin more recently than to the bum of a keen driver I’m thinking.

One hopes that the oil is still in the interior of the gearbox and that water isn’t. Outside appearances seem to indicate an expensive rebuild could be on the cards.

No sign I notice of the seats or the state of any other part of the interior.

Probably safe to assume they are all completely wrecked then.

Mustang 9

Well wow, I would not have expected that. This looks like an intact underside. Some consistent elbow grease, a DA and a quantity of sanding disks might just be able to resurrect it. It’s quite awe inspiring when you have seen the rest of it.

(Conceivably I’ve been overcome by appearances. If you are more Eagle-eyed do point out the crumbling bits which I have missed.)

Mustang 10

This is presumably the chassis number which confirms that this is a genuine V8 (at least to those in the know).

What I can’t get over is how primitive it looks, to be honest. If you had knowledge of chassis number sequences and a set of number punches. It looks like you could rig up a facsimile of this in an afternoon on a spare sheet of steel and stitch it in.

No doubt no one is doing that, but it does make you think.

Well given how little is there I hope that parts availability is top-notch for a 1967 Mustang. In the interests of the brave soul who purchased it I also hope that parts prices are on the inexpensive side (you’re going to need a lot of them).

Well my hat off to the man, woman or child who has taken this on. Should you have meandered across this blog do leave a comment about what you intend to/have done to the car.

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Credit to the property website from which the original idea (for Wreck of the Week) came:

http://www.wreckoftheweek.co.uk/

(Unlike that house-orientated site, this series of blogs is about elderly vehicles).

Photo by jamie r. mink on Unsplash

Privacy – A How-To Guide

There can be few people alive now who have not heard about Edward Snowden. 

He is a marmite character hailed as a hero by some and a pariah requiring execution by others.

I realised that in my Gravatar profile I state: “Keen on privacy and IT Security. A volunteer counsellor. I use blogging to improve my writing.” There has been a few blog items on writing and the odd one related to counselling but except for the EXIF article precious little in support of privacy.

Snowden showed us that if you decide to put something on the Internet it is not private anymore. (No matter how much security you imagine protects it).

Security services have techniques that can read information, often when we believed that information was protected.

Information that you put on the Internet today, believing it to be secure, is exposed in a security breach tomorrow.

Some people believe that this is fair enough, if you decide to put a nude selfie online for example then on your head be it.

This article is not for them.

Still reading? Ok, well there are some basic steps that you can take which will protect you. Some more advanced steps you can take if you are very keen on privacy. There are also steps you should take if your life depends on privacy (which is sadly not unfamiliar to some activists in the world today).

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/improve-internet-privacy_n_6902622

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/11/12/snowden_guide_to_practical_privacy/

  • Mobile Phones Mobile Phones – transmit a great deal of information about you. they are used by shops to track your purchasing preferences. They still transmit information even when you have turned location services off.

    If you are in the group that really needs to protect your privacy faraday bags for phones do work.If you like your privacy but your life isn’t likely to be in danger over it – turn on location services only when you need it.

    Similarly turn off Bluetooth and wireless when they are not in use.Better still if you do not want to be tracked leave the phone at home.

  • Encrypt Encryption uses mathematics to render the information inaccessible to anyone other than the people you want to have access.However encryption does not solve all problems.There is some evidence that some encryption has been circumvented. .However encryption will defeat prying eyes in the majority of cases.

    You can encrypt your phone .You can encrypt the hard drive on your laptop.

    You can use encrypted file storage online .

  • Encrypted Apps – Use encrypted alternatives to text messages. The recommended system here is an app called Signal which is as easy to use as any text message system.
  • Unique Passwords – Make certain that every website you log into has a unique password.

    Breaches in passwords happen every day.

    A breach is when a company loses the usernames and passwords of its customers onto the Internet. Criminals then get hold of these details and attempt to log into as many websites as they can. It takes criminals minutes to do this it can take many years before a company is aware of the leak.

  • Password Managers – maintaining a different password for each login (for every website) is a discipline that is sometimes beyond the memory of the average individual. This means that you really must use a password manager.

    Password Managers store all your passwords in one place and you only need to remember the one password – the one to access the password manager.

    I use KeePass . It is a standalone password manager (in that it is not integrated with your browser).This reduces functionality a little but increases security a lot. (With all your passwords in one place you do want the solution to be secure).

  • Use two-factor authentication. Remember I said that passwords are leaked onto the internet every day? How do you stop a criminal logging in when you don’t know that your password is already out there?

    Make certain logging on to your account takes more than a password.

    A number of sites permit use of two-factor authentication. Usually this means that after you add your username and password you get a text on your mobile phone giving you a code that you also need to enter.This small amount of extra effort can have a big effect on your security.

  • Use a VPN service that cloaks your location.Every ISP has a list of addresses that they hand out to their clients. This means that when you browse the Internet others on the Internet can determine which ISP you use. In many cases this gives a good approximation of where you are accessing the Internet from.In addition every piece of browsing behaviour goes through a link provided by your ISP who has a log of your activity. The only way to disguise your activity from your ISP is to have a tool that uses an encrypted tunnel to hide what you’re are doing.

    This can be a VPN , use of ToR browser or using ToR browser over a VPN .

    A VPN creates a tunnel between you and a VPN Provider.

    The problem with this is that it moves the keeping track of your actions from your ISP to your VPN provider.

    You therefore need a VPN provider that undertakes not to track your actions.

    For the truly privacy conscious use ToR.

    https://lifehacker.com/what-is-tor-and-should-i-use-it-1527891029.

    ToR is not a panacea but it does make it much more difficult to trace any actions back to you. ToR is a technology that sends the messages you use to communicate on the Internet through a very convoluted route, making it very difficult to trace.

Of course it is far easier to keep something private if you do not share it in the first place. If you share something which would have consequences (if it became public) then perhaps sharing it is not wise. Don’t depend for example on Facebook privacy settings. It is known that people use Facebook to monitor and to trap the unwary.

Don’t put your holiday destination into Facebook until after you have returned.

It is really a bad idea to exchange nude photographs. Can you really be certain that the picture won’t turn up later on in a context which you might not like?

Many sites allow recovery of your account if you supply personal details about yourself. This means that they allow you access after you share with them a secret that they know about you. A favourite is Mother’s maiden name for example. If you forget your password – you supply your mother’s maiden name – you get to reset your password.

If that information (your mother’s maiden name) is on the Internet already (say on social media) it is no longer a secret. Criminals can use this information too.

Firstly be careful what you share. Secondly if you are asked for a secret that can be used to reset your account – lie. If your dog is called Fido and the recovery question is “pet’s name” use ”jambalaya” for example (don’t do that – it’s in the Internet now so people know it – make up your own version and keep it secret).

Once you have created a lie make sure you record it somewhere offline (say in the password manager) so if you need to recover the account you can remember what lie it was that you told them.

Make certain that you use the HTTPS version of a website (most sites have a HTTPS version now). The HTTPS-everywhere add-on can do this for you. HTTPS uses secure communication and hence is more secure to use than HTTP.

Adverts on the Internet have been the source of a great many attacks. Wherever possible use an ad-blocker. This also makes it harder for sites to track your behaviour and use it to bombard you with ads.

It is known that search engines like Google mine your information in order to sell it to advertising companies. One way to obviate this is to use an alternative search engine that does not log your behaviour. The best known of these is DuckDuckGo.

If you are one of the people whose life depends on your privacy then this article is not going to be cautious enough for you.

ToR is a good start. There are also guides as to how compartmentalise your life. There are guides about how to communicate with journalists. Encrypted email solutions exist and should be considered. Even operating systems designed to preserve security.

However it would be remiss of me to advise about these given my life has never been at risk because of a lack of privacy. You must gauge the level of risk and apply appropriate precautions.

For everyone else these few steps can make a big difference.

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The Writing Manifesto

This was something unique to one of the courses. I had never before come across the idea of having a writing manifesto. This is a declaration – public usually of your policy and aims. Presumably any such declaration is going to be a forceful lever motivating you in your desired direction in this case writing).

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/grammarly/write-manifesto_b_5575496.html.

It’s a good idea before writing a manifesto of your own to look at manifestos that others have written for example:

The Futurists Italy 1909

Manifesto of Futurism

  1. We intend to sing the love of danger, the habit of energy and fearlessness.
  2. Courage, audacity, and revolt will be essential elements of our poetry.
  3. Up to now literature has exalted a pensive immobility, ecstasy, and sleep. We intend to exalt aggressive action, a feverish insomnia, the racer’s stride, the mortal leap, the punch and the slap.
  4. We affirm that the world’s magnificence has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing car whose hood is adorned with great pipes, like serpents of explosive breath—a roaring car that seems to ride on grapeshot is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace.
  5. We want to hymn the man at the wheel, who hurls the lance of his spirit across the Earth, along the circle of its orbit.
  6. The poet must spend himself with ardor, splendor, and generosity, to swell the enthusiastic fervor of the primordial elements.
  7. Except in struggle, there is no more beauty. No work without an aggressive character can be a masterpiece. Poetry must be conceived as a violent attack on unknown forces, to reduce and prostrate them before man.
  8. We stand on the last promontory of the centuries!… Why should we look back, when what we want is to break down the mysterious doors of the Impossible? Time and Space died yesterday. We already live in the absolute, because we have created eternal, omnipresent speed.
  9. We will glorify war—the world’s only hygiene—militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of freedom-bringers, beautiful ideas worth dying for, and scorn for woman.
  10. We will destroy the museums, libraries, academies of every kind, will fight moralism, feminism, every opportunistic or utilitarian cowardice.
  11. We will sing of great crowds excited by work, by pleasure, and by riot; we will sing of the multicolored, polyphonic tides of revolution in the modern capitals; we will sing of the vibrant nightly fervor of arsenals and shipyards blazing with violent electric moons; greedy railway stations that devour smoke-plumed serpents; factories hung on clouds by the crooked lines of their smoke; bridges that stride the rivers like giant gymnasts, flashing in the sun with a glitter of knives; adventurous steamers that sniff the horizon; deep-chested locomotives whose wheels paw the tracks like the hooves of enormous steel horses bridled by tubing; and the sleek flight of planes whose propellers chatter in the wind like banners and seem to cheer like an enthusiastic crowd.

The New Puritan Manifesto

  1. Primary storytellers, we are dedicated to the narrative form.
  2. We are prose writers and recognise that prose is the dominant form of expression. For this reason we shun poetry and poetic licence in all its forms.
  3. While acknowledging the value of genre fiction, whether classical or modern, we will always move towards new openings, rupturing existing genre expectations.
  4. We believe in textual simplicity and vow to avoid all devices of voice: rhetoric, authorial asides.
  5. In the name of clarity, we recognise the importance of temporal linearity and eschew flashbacks, dual temporal narratives and foreshadowing.
  6. We believe in grammatical purity and avoid any elaborate punctuation.
  7. We recognise that published works are also historical documents. As fragments of our time, all our texts are dated and set in the present day. All products, The Introduction to The New Puritan Generation 15 places, artists and objects named are real.
  8. As faithful representations of the present, our texts will avoid all improbable or unknowable speculation about the past or the future.
  9. We are moralists, so all texts feature a recognisable ethical reality.
  10. Nevertheless, our aim is integrity of expression, above and beyond any commitment to form.

A Writer’s Manifesto

I guess my most important aim is to entertain.

First commandment of popular fiction of any kind is (as the lovely Claudia Carroll once said): Thou shalt not bore. Quite right too.

Second aim – to say something.

I know this sounds a little vague but sometimes I read books that don’t actually say anything. They just potter along, telling a nice story, but not really going anywhere. I think books should have something solid rooted at the heart of them – a theme if you like. Sometimes that theme doesn’t make itself fully known until you finish the 1st or 2nd or even the 3rd draft, but it’s often bubbling away under the surface of your words, slowly rising to the surface. For example in the first Amy Green book I wanted to tell readers it’s OK to be yourself. In fact it’s pretty darn cool to be yourself. It’s a theme that runs through all the Amy Green books.

My third aim is to write with passion and with confidence.

I’ve been writing for many years now and I’ve started to understand what both these things really mean and how important they are. Write without passion and you’re doomed. The confidence bit – that can be learned over time. But if you write with both passion and confidence – then you might just have a pretty good book on your hands.

Tips for Producing a Manifesto

  • What are your aims when you write?
  • What symbols reoccur in writing?
  • Prose vs poetry?
  • What do you want to glorify?
  • What do you want to eschew?
  • What do you believe in?
  • What do you declare?

The manifesto is a mechanism for recognising why author’s write.

A manifesto is a declaration of intent – a public declaration of policy and aims. It will help your focus as you need to know why it is that you are writing.

A manifesto states what is important to you in your writing. The best place for your manifesto is on the wall somewhere you can see it to remind you why you are writing. In the first place the manifesto is for you.

At the time the manifesto I came up with was this:

Phil’s Manifesto

I write to enjoy the process

I write to enjoy the output for myself

I write so that other people will read my writing and will get enjoyment from reading it

I want to make a living from writing

I am keen to write novels

I will write of things in psychology that interest me

I will write of people in conflict with themselves or with others

I will write of people who escape “real life”

I will write attacks on the mundane, the boring, the routine

I will write prose rather than poetry

I will glorify freedom and escape

I will write of people with complex thought patterns

I will write of people who are small and boring

I will write about anyone who is protesting

I will eschew tediousness and boredom

I will eschew too much sanity or saneness

I will eschew routine

I will eschew “real life”

I wish to be published – a real book with paper not an e-book or a blog

I believe in rebellion as a method for change

I believe in not sticking to the status quo

However all these years later I think I would make a few changes to this manifesto now. Perhaps if there is sufficient interest I will write a new one.

 

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The Neighbours from Hell

I have been fascinated for a long time in stories about Hell.

On one of the writing courses one of the tutors suggested that we write a story about a neighbour from hell who was literally from hell. (As I mentioned in my earlier post https://magic-phil.co.uk/2018/02/13/on-the-theme-of-hell/)

For some reason this has captured my imagination and over time I have created different stories on this theme.

This is the first of these. Many of them are quite old now and I would rework them today.

But here it is unadulterated in case you like it.

Perhaps this will encourage me to produce more of the same in which case watch this space.

Story

Hi, I’m David and I’m a servant of the Devil.

Of course it isn’t obvious to look at me, I’m a balding middle aged civil servant but nonetheless I am Beelzebub’s man so to speak.  It started when we moved to a small estate in Tunbridge Wells.  I had never liked the place from the beginning.  But the price was right and Deirdre; yes, Deirdre just had to have the place.

It’s comfortable enough in a boring suburban way but any place that has a fridge and a sofa would suffice for me.  Deirdre though has to maintain “standards.”  That started almost the first day.  We had only recently moved in when Deirdre started on about meeting the neighbours.

“You should meet them David, you never know if he might be something important in The City, it doesn’t harm to network”

Frankly I couldn’t see the point in this, I’ve worked as a Junior Civil Servant for twenty years now and I see no obvious break in that career coming anytime soon.

“We should show we are good neighbours David, Go next door and introduce us.”

I noticed the “us” in that sentence and the very final ring to it.  A decision had been made, and I was to be the one to implement it.  I didn’t even dare sigh.  I shed the carpet slippers with regret – I had just got comfortable with The Sunday Times (one of my rare pleasures).

I am not naturally an outgoing person, I would happily leave the neighbours to themselves, however Deirdre had spoken.  (I am more frightened of Deirdre than the unknown quantity of the neighbours).

The house from a distance looked exactly like ours. It looked comfortable four-bedroomed detached with a beautiful white picket fence and a tidy arbour over a tiny front gate.

However as I approached the road appeared to darken and clouds began to gather. The gate began to look horribly distant when previously it had been mere feet from mine. I paused uncertainly. The charming arbour with red English rose seemed to be writhing like a nest of snakes. The pleasant curving aspect of a moment ago now seemed to me a gaunt gothic archway. I felt the challenge of the few steps to be too much. Something was definitely wrong.

However into my head rushed the vision of Deirdre: if I returned without having performed my little “task”.  The glare, the folded arms, that stare which told me what a pointless little individual I truly was.  I shuddered and then hastened on.

The tiny white gate now seemed to be of rusty iron (how strange what a change in perspective can do).  And the picket fence I noticed also iron – it reminded me uncomfortably of the cage surrounding a Victorian grave.

I girded myself for the short walk to the door.  This was ridiculous I told myself – a perfectly charming little place.  As I pulled, open the gate to a sound like wood tortured by a gale I distinctly heard the tolling of a resonant bell but from a great distance.  The grass surrounding the path swirled and twisted as if animated with menace, which seemed odd.  When I had set off the day was fine and clear – mere seconds ago.  It was as if the garden had weather of its own.  I realised that I had closed my eyes against the “illusion”.  As I opened them, I recognised that I had been wrong all along, the garden was dead, dry and brown, dusty grass bordered by dried out stumps of a herb garden.  I mused that they certainly needed to get the gardener in.

I hastened to the door – a plain white UPVC door with a faux brass knocker.  At last, I thought something sensible to latch onto.  I lifted the knocker and was amazed at its extreme weight and that it appeared to be hot like a pie direct from the oven.  I flinched immediately and the knocker fell with an enormous clash like hammer meeting anvil.

The door slowly swung inwards as if assisted from behind.  I could feel the sweat beads – clammy in my armpits and cold as they trickled down my ribcage.  “Hello is there anybody there”.

It must be a shy child, that’s it, hiding behind the door, that’s what it is.  I could feel myself trembling just a little.  But the vision of Deirdre firmly in my mind I stepped in.

The door slammed immediately shut behind me with a sound more normally associated with a massive door of oak closing on a vast frame.  I think I would complain to the double-glazing company I reflected whilst peering around what appeared to be an unusually vast hall.

Nothing at all like ours, I couldn’t even see the ceiling and the dining-room door seemed an impossibly long distance away.

Odd that they have the heating on, I remember thinking.  So strange in July, it’s like a real oven in here.  I could feel my white shirt become transparent as it fixed itself firmly to my spine – pulling it free was pointless.  It was more humid than a rainforest.  The neighbour must grow tropical plants I thought to myself.

“Hello, hello, I’m David; I’m your new neighbour”

I could hear the trembling highness of my voice.  I really did not want to be here any longer than I had to.  A quick hello and then go I assured myself.

I stepped into the impossibly long hall and perceived in the distance a standard hardboard-faced door.  Very retro I thought, time they had a man in to replace that.  The door seemed completely smooth and gleamed an impossible brilliance of white.

In front of it gyrating and jumping a Chihuahua.  It appeared to be a Chihuahua at any rate.  The yapping also had a familiar tone to it (Deirdre’s mother owns one; she says it is more fun to live with than her ex-husband ever was). I’ve always hated them; they seem perfectly capable of inflicting a very painful wound only to be swept up by the doting owner as if you had hurt them.

This one was strange though, it must have been the odd lighting but I could swear it seemed to have three heads!

The dining room door swung inwards with a scraping noise like stone dragged across massive stone.  This chap must be a sound effects man I thought, quite amazing the effects he can produce.  Well I sighed, that lets down Deirdre’s view of a chap in the city.

As I peered forwards (still apparently some yards from the doorway), I noticed their obscure taste in carpets. From this distance the red and grey carpet appeared like hot coals.

I halted, unsure what to do next, I was trespassing in somebody else’s house.  That bothered me quite a bit.  But the house was doing strange things to my mind.  That bothered me quite a bit more.  I am not naturally courageous.  (I’ve lived with Deirdre too long for that).  This was beyond my threshold for fear by one hundred percent.

I could almost feel a sense of panic rise within me.

Then a voice both sweet and soothing spoke directly into my ear as if the owner was stood right beside me.

“Mr Blythe, do come in, have a drink”

I didn’t remember to jump, I didn’t remember to be afraid, I couldn’t remember ever mentioning my name. I felt so relaxed so calm suddenly. Some distant voice was yelling “you’re in mortal danger, leave, leave now”. But that was only from inside my own head, I wasn’t about to pay attention to that when I could listen to this beautiful voice right here.

I turned slowly and looked straight into feral eyes.  Not human, more like a cat, devoid of any emotion, yet somehow echoing back concern and charm.  Subconsciously I was thinking I bet this man could con his way into the royal mint.  The face smiled, a smile without warmth, like the gape of a large carnivore.

I couldn’t remember moving, but I was sitting, relaxed in a very comfortable high-back chair. A glass of something was positioned conveniently by my right hand. The light was terrible everywhere in this house I determined. The glass seemed to hold a half pint of steaming blood (or at least blood colour liquid). Revolving slowly at the top of the glass appeared to be a large eyeball, which turned and fixed me with a baleful stare. I set the glass slowly on the floor to hide it. I did not wish to offend my host.

I hadn’t seen him, concealed as he was in shadows just opposite me in a chair very like the one I was occupying.  Somehow, his chair seemed vast in comparison with mine though, fully ten times the size.  I couldn’t imagine how I could have looked into his eyes only moments before.  Oh, this is ridiculous I told myself.

“Sorry I didn’t introduce myself, I’m David”

“Ah, yes, I know”

“Right, Right” I mentally tried to recall if we had met previously but I failed utterly.  I shivered.

“Yes well I’ve just moved in next door”

“More Deirdre’s choice than yours wasn’t it”

So he knew my wife as well?  “Sorry?”

“More Deirdre’s choice, you never liked the area?”

I recalled the first visit – even the drive up to the house had felt uncomfortable – I put it down to a head cold, but nonetheless I had been very glad to leave.

“Yes I suppose more Deirdre’s choice,” I mumbled

“I am just a piece of folklore of course”

“Of course, of course…………………………………………………………………what?”

“A piece of folklore, people can’t actually see The Devil”

“The what?  Sorry I thought I heard you describe yourself as the…”

“Devil, yes of course, but I am just a series of ideas, not a ‘thing’ as such”

“So how……..?”

“How can you see me?”

His eyes flashed yellow and at the same time, a stream of images began to play in my head.  I began to realise that Hell was not a place beneath the tarmac after all.

I had been living in it for the past forty-five years.

 

 

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Failure

Throughout my life I have liked writing, but I have never understood writing.

Someone my age once said that she felt that during our time in the school system there had been some great social experiment in which the basic rules of punctuation and grammar were avoided as if we would ingrain them though some process of osmosis.

Certainly I can only remember being told to add a full stop when I needed to breathe and commas were just little breaks in between.

As for concepts like verbs and adjectives I remember a conversation about doing words at one stage but little else. So in many ways I am ill-prepared for a blog, a book or anything involving the written word.

So it is that when reading that this offends people http://theeditorsblog.net/2016/12/19/please-learn-the-rules/ I feel like a failure.

I considered that a person writing a blog should try to understand something about writing. The only method that I can conceive of is to read accounts written by other people who have tried it. To this end subscribing to blogs written by people who have been writing for some time seemed an obvious avenue.

It is surprising therefore how often these successful bloggers start to write about failure.

For example:

https://writetodone.com/10-ways-to-stop-feeling-like-a-failure-as-a-writer/

It seems that failure is a pain that can afflict those who genuinely know nothing and those who really should be feeling great about their success.

I read a great deal about counselling now. (I need to do this because I am a volunteer counsellor). Failure is something that will feature in this reading.

Attitudes to failure can be shaped by a person’s upbringing.  But no counselling literature I have encountered maintains that anyone is a failure. Hence when working with someone who perceives themselves to be a failure the first technique is encouragement.

Alfred Adler (1870-1937) Austrian psychiatrist

I studied Adlerian Counselling and I think that some quotes from Alfred Adler may be relevant here:

“No experience is in itself a cause of success or failure. … We are not determined by our experiences but are self-determined by the meaning that we give to them”.

“No one need remain inescapably bound by the limitations of their brains all their life”

“We will always find in all human beings this dominant theme running through their lives – the struggle to rise from an inferior position to a superior position, from defeat to victory”

Failure 2
Photo by Alex Smith from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/naked-baby-sitting-813616/

It seems however that fear of failure is not constant throughout a person’s life. For example children learn to walk and in the process fall over many times. However this is not seen as a barrier to learning to walk.

Similarly on the way to becoming adept at speech children make mistakes and this causes them no pain. I remember that my Nephew said ominge for a while on the way to saying orange.

There is no doubt many paths from a child that embraces failure to an adult that has to get it right first time.

Failure 3

High standards (either from parents or schools or some combination) may have had a role to play.

“Over-parenting” may teach a child that they are incapable.

Failure 4

The simple act of labelling a person as a failure becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; worse still if the label is derogatory.

For this reason I dislike the term “loser”. A label such as “loser” is easy to apply but is going to discourage the person it is applied to.

A person is not a failure. They can fail to perform a specific task but that does not make them intrinsically a failure.

In fact each failure is a chance to learn and to apply the learning when you try again.

Failure 5
Photo by Amaury Salas on Unsplash

Many enlightened businesses now embrace failure as a fact of life.

Some regard failure as a pathway to success; if you haven’t succeeded yet then you haven’t failed enough.

Fear of failure can lead to undesirable side effects such as perfectionism and procrastination.

Fear of failure can lead to avoidant behaviour. Whilst avoiding the problem alleviates the fear it also removes any chance at having the experience. This ultimately means that you have no chance to succeed.

Failure 6
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

The only way to develop as a writer is to fail. I have no doubt that in some years I will look back on the items I blogged today and wonder at how inelegant they were.
But unless I keep on trying I will never get the chance to get to a better place with my writing.
The lessons of a child are the ones we need to recapture; it’s ok to fall over when you’re trying to walk. Later you can get up and have another try.

 

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https://www.adler.edu/page/about/history/about-alfred-adler
https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/06/23/why-we-all-have-fear-of-failure/
http://www.selfgrowth.com/articles/overcome_fear_of_failure_be_aware_and_take_action
https://amotherfarfromhome.com/how-to-erase-your-childs-fear-of-messing-up/
http://thebrainflux.com/how-fear-of-failure-affects-learning/
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/sep/05/parenting-tomorrow-why-should-let-children-fail
http://opencommons.uconn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1074&context=srhonors_theses
https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/loser-how-labels-stick-to-your-child-and-affect-behavior/
https://willyac.wordpress.com/everyday-articles/dont-fear-failure/
https://www.arrkgroup.com/thought-leadership/fail-fast-fail-often-explained/
https://webstandardssherpa.com/reviews/breaking-the-perfectionism-procrastination-infinite-loop/
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/overcoming-self-sabotage/201005/avoidance-anxiety-self-sabotage-how-running-away-can-bite-you

Character

A good character is key to your book. If you have poor characters there is nothing to rescue the book.

These tips come from a writing course and I’m hopeful will be useful in improving your characters.

“Nothing moves forward in a story except through conflict.”

(The principles of screenwriting by Robert McKee) Bookfinder 

McKee

Character ‘Dimension’

A quote from p.p.  377-8 of the above book:

‘Dimension’  is the least understood concept in character…Some years ago a producer pitched me what he believed to be a ^three-dimensional’ protagonist in these terms:   ‘Jesse just got out of prison, but while he was in the slammer he boned up on finance and investment,  so he’s a expert on stocks, bonds, and securities. He can also break dance. He’s got a black belt in karate and plays a mean jazz saxophone.’ His Vesse’ was a flat as a desktop – a cluster of traits stuck on a name. Decorating a protagonist with quirks does not open his character and draw empathy. Rather, eccentricities may close him off and keep us at a distance.

A favourite academic tenet argues that, instead,  fine characters are marked by one dominant trait. Macbeth’s ambition is frequently cited. Overwhelming ambition, it’s claimed, makes Macbeth great. This theory is dead wrong.  If Macbeth were merely ambitious, there’d be no play. He’d simply defeat the English and rule Scotland. Macbeth is a brilliantly realized character because of the contradiction between his ambition on the one hand and his guilt on the other. From this profound inner contradiction springs his passion, his complexity, his poetry.

Dimension means contradiction:  either within deep character (guilt-ridden ambition) or between characterization and deep character (a charming thief). These contradictions must be consistent.  It doesn’t add dimension to portray a guy as nice throughout the film, then in one scene have him kick a cat…

Dimensions fascinate; contradictions in nature or behaviour rivet the audience’s concentration. Therefore, the protagonist must be the most dimensional character in the cast to focus empathy on the star role.  If not, the Centre of Good decanters; the fictional universe flies apart; the audience loses balance.”

Plot and Character

A Plot led structure

If your story is about the robbing of the bank – you still need to care about why the character is robbing it.

Plot led structures are found in crime, thriller, horror and where there is suspense in action.

A Character led structure

Character led structures are found in romance, family drama and anywhere suspense is found in the character’s internal struggles.

You may not know what structure you’ve got until you’ve written your first draft. (Outlining in sufficient detail may help).

Plot Structure

  • Give your character a huge problem to resolve.
  • In the process throw loads of obstacles at them.
  • Your character needs to come up with a solution and redeem themselves.

What is your characters main dilemma?

What is the most exciting action line or crisis or major discovery?

Does this serve to highlight your character’s dilemma?

Is your character’s dilemma rooted in their personality?

Character

Normally there is one main protagonist.

This is the character whose story you are telling.

Aim to create a struggle within your character. Struggle reminds us that we are human.

Create a dimensional, real, character with their own wants and needs.

The outer goal is what they want recognisably to achieve.

The Inner goal is why they want or need to achieve those goals.

What is at stake if the character fails to achieve their goals?

What is stopping the character from reaching their goal?

The inner and outer goal should be linked. This is the basis for the reader’s engagement.

During the story the character “finds themselves” and this is the resolution.

Levels of conflict

Relationships – other characters, family, friends, antagonists

Societal – organisations, murder, rules

Nature – forces of nature, disaster,

Supernatural – monsters, God, aliens, ghosts

Character Building

There is a good questionnaire for this here https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/interviewing-your-characters/

  1. Where does your character live?
  2. Where is your character from?
  3. How old is your character?
  4. What is your character called?
  5. What does your character look like?
  6. What kind of childhood did he or she have?
  7. What does your character do for a living?
  8. How does your character deal with conflict and change?
  9. Who else is in your character’s life?
  10. What is your character’s goal or motivation in this story or scene?

You should really know your character.

This is a slow process building up from small details.

Gradually build up the intimacy between them and the reader.

Take time to allow them to get to know one another, time to care about what happens to the character, time to allow the reader to root for them to achieve their goal.

 

I was set a task of exploring a character and came up with the following which I hope you enjoy:

Story

Cigarettes, how he hated getting the cigarettes.  Here he was in the “sad bastards” ten items or less queue at Tesco’s.  Everything in the basket evidence of his vegetarian “live healthier” lifestyle and then Gary has to ask for cigarettes.

Of course he could never say no to him.  One inkling of that cheeky smile and the lights went on inside.  He felt like some school girl giggly and shy.

If only the eczema would give up he might try to know him a bit more – hand cream it was a euphemism really.  Try “whole body cream” and you would be closer to the truth. The red-scaly patches could rage up at any time and cause him wakeful nights; his flagging will-power all he had to stop the damn scratching.

It was easier to stay awake – a bit more coffee, a chunk of Bourneville and a late night weepy.  He hoped the checkout assistant wouldn’t stare again – the patches on his cheeks were bad today – if only he could send out for shopping.

Still it was his only activity outside his self-imposed prison.  Exercise was the rowing machine and work was always by email and by telephone.

Hopefully the Soya would be enough for the lactose intolerance.  The doctor had said IBS – then he had said that in his opinion IBS was “all in the mind”.  Well he’d try the Soya and avoid the bloody doctor.

How could anyone fancy him like this, especially Gary?  He tried not to think of it, best not to cry just as he was handing over his clubcard.

 

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Wreck of the Week

Hello corrosion fans and welcome to another week of car wreck fantasy.

Following on from last week’s example:

https://magic-phil.co.uk/2018/02/07/wreck-of-the-week-5/

I thought that we could again focus on the expensive.

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/1966-Austin-Healey-3000-MK3-Phase-2-U-K-R-H-D-/273036416368

This one is an Austin Healey. These are suitably famous so that many people may have heard of it. Like other things famous it is high cost.

Posted at £24,995.00 this is a car where the wealthy need only apply.

The closest I could find in shiny was this one:

http://www.rawlesmotorsport.co.uk/car-brokerage/cars-for-sale/Austin%20Healey%203000MKIII%20Phase%20II%20UK%20RHD%20from%20Monaco.html

listed at £65,000 so there is quite a bit of money that you could sink into this project Healey and still be ahead. (Assuming you’re ruled by your head rather than your love for metal corroding things which some of us are victim to).

You can tell things are getting serious when the listing has to state the specific model number 1966 Austin Healey 3000 MK3 Phase 2 U.K R.H.D as if any Austin Healey 3000 was not going to be of interest. This car is for the connoisseur or the collector.

And one of these must have caught up with it because I notice that it is now sold.

So what were you getting for your £25,000: (about $35000 US, or €28250)

Firstly a very crisp and accurate listing, how many have we seen where it lists the exact date of first registration 16/02/1966. Would that more sellers would do this.

I can’t be the only person searching for a car that is exactly as old as he is, and that is rendered impossible if the closest description is “1966”.

So according to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Austin-Healey_3000 the Healey 3000 was made between 1959 and 1967. That makes this quite a late one. 91% were exported – mainly to North America. This must mean that a great many are LHD. This must be why the advert is at pains to point out that it is a RHD car and an original RHD car at that. Judging by this advert RHDLHD conversions are very popular in the UK http://www.rawlesmotorsport.co.uk/car-brokerage/cars-sold/austin-healey-3000-mkiii-bj8-phase-2.html.

Healey 1

In comparison to some we’ve seen on Wreck of the Week this is in pretty good shape. Some serious rust in that door I notice and who knows what’s under the replacement wing.

The advert indicates that “finished in the car’s original combination of British racing green with black interior”, obviously discounting the large quantity of grey primer.

Healey 2

One of the great things about a quality car from a commercial seller is the range of photographs on offer – 12 for this one. This side looks healthier. I’m hopeful that they’ve kept the chromework somewhere although perhaps if you can afford these numbers buying new chromework is a minor obstacle.

One thing that you don’t get is the interesting tales about what is wrong with it. – No clues here as to whether there is more here than meets the photograph.

However even cheap cars can be a victim of this my favourite recent listing stating “needs work” with no further clues as to what that actually meant.

Healey 3

This one is a BJ8 which apparently is the more powerful of the Healeys with some desirable additions like power assisted brakes. If you’ve never driven a car without a servo believe me this is a thoroughly worthwhile development.

Healey 4

Apparently with only 2 owners from new it’s a shame that they never thought to spray it with wax. But after 52 years it’s a bit much to expect a restoration project to look any better than this. The shiny versions having been through the restoration process sometime in the recent past.

In the 1960s rustproofing was not what you expect today and an 8 year old car was commonly considered fit for little.

Healey 5

I‘d always wondered at the term “matching numbers” as used in this advert. Apparently this is where components are those that were originally installed.

In this case I am only aware of chassis and engine numbers being registered so I imagine it is these which verifiably match what they should be.

Healey 6

Well that’s a relief – the chromework is present, rechroming gives beautiful results but you do need to be resourced to fund it.

These parts look in good condition. Perhaps the last owner (who apparently had it since 1978 – so took it over only 12 years after manufacture) took more care of it than it appears. Chromework tends to pit rapidly unless cared for.

Healey 7

Apart from the grillwork, bumpers, hood, light there are quite a few items I cannot identify although no doubt bringing a gleam to the restorer’s eye. I’m not clear about the covers upper LHS (radiator muff or similar?) Healey 3000 fans please enlighten me.

Healey 8

Apparently under this is a gearbox (with overdrive) having covered only 51,000 miles which seems incredible. That’s less than 1000 miles a year since registration.

For those who have never encountered overdrive: in these days of multiple ratio gearboxes it has probably been forgotten that at one time gearboxes tended to operate up to direct drive. So when you had selected top gear the engine was driving straight through the gearbox. The output shaft of the gearbox turning at the same speed as the engine. In many cases the most fuel efficient ratio was lower than this i.e. that the output from the gearbox would be turning faster than the engine.

On modern cars the 5th, 6th and so on gears achieve this in the same gearbox.

On cars of the 60s a separate gearbox was hung behind the main gearbox (often being bolted to it). This was an overdrive gearbox. They were often electrically controlled – a little switch would kick in overdrive. Effectively the car gained a couple of extra gears. The downside was the extra weight of the additional gearbox.

It was popular on larger-engined cars, for those who could afford it (it was an option).

Healey 9

This is a 2,912cc petrol engine. This was a bored out version of one designed for more stately cars like the Austin Westminster A99, the Wolseley 6/99 and the Vanden Plas Princess 3 litre.

The difference with the Healey could not have been more marked. It strikes me more as the type of car that Terry Thomas (in character) would have liked to have owned.

Healey 10

I remember that this rear end would break out under pressure. Oversteer being the order of the day. In fact somewhere I think it was described as a “hairy-chested” car (presumably because you needed large cajones to drive one swiftly).

Healey 11

Years ago I think the Austin Healey 3000 was considered a cheaper alternative to the Jaguar but with just as much fun. Now no longer cheap, as we can see here you need to dig deep to afford one.

This looks like the floor is going to need welding. There appears to be daylight shining through here. When even the gearstick is rusty it’s quite likely the whole interior is flaking.

The glovebox looks like the veneer has taken a hammering. But whether you could write that down to patina and keep it like that in a car this valuable is debateable.

Healey 12

They made proper steering wheels in those days, none of your tiny rally wheels here. This looks like it would be at home in a Routemaster. I’m guessing driving with the wheel polishing your thighs was all part of the experience.

However those gauges are to die for. Proper chrome bezels and manufactured by Smiths, how lovely.

Well sadly it has gone so all you lottery winners will have to look elsewhere for your old car fix.

Alternatively be back here next week for another edition of Wreck of the Week.

I realise that there might be some new visitors so here are all the previous Wreck of the Week postings in order:

https://magic-phil.co.uk/2018/01/08/wreck-of-the-week/

https://magic-phil.co.uk/2018/01/14/wreck-of-the-week-2/

https://magic-phil.co.uk/2018/01/22/wreck-of-the-week-3/

https://magic-phil.co.uk/2018/02/01/wreck-of-the-week-4/

https://magic-phil.co.uk/2018/02/07/wreck-of-the-week-5/

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The property website from which the original idea (for Wreck of the Week) came is due credit:

http://www.wreckoftheweek.co.uk/

(Unlike that site, which is about houses, this series of blogs is and will be all about rusty vehicles).