Hooray for Climbing Tree Books

Sometimes you have to join the party. Ebooks sales are surging – so I\’m turning up with a large bottle of wine and my best party frock. Climbing Tree Books is the new publishing company I\’ve started with a friend called William Essex, specialising in quirky ebooks and occasional beautifully produced collectible treebooks.

There is a new website for Climbing Tree Books and I\’ve just posted something on it. We\’re calling it a soft launch until we get the hang of this publishing lark.

Go on. Take a peek!

 

Boris Johnson is such a splendid Chap!

When I was at Oxford I knew a lot of chaps like Boris Johnson. I liked them. Despite often incendiary views on politics and sexism, they were usually very likeable which is part of the essence of chapdom. However, caveat ridor (?!) because there are in fact three different species of chap.

***

The first, Chappus chappus is your standard rugger bugger who appears to be a simple likeable buffoon. And that\’s exactly what he is. They\’re dangerous only when unrumbled. It was an outstanding example of Chappus chappus who led the Charge of the Light Brigade.

***

Then there\’s the slightly brighter Chappus intelligens, with their colourful subspecies of Chappus intelligens financiae, Chappus i. legionae and Chappus i. respoliticii (City, Army and Parliamentary chaps, respectively). They only act like buffoons after large quantities of beer or port, depending on their age. There are fewer Chappus i. financiae about since a few of them went bust or to jail in the recent financial hitch we\’ve experienced but all varieties are still quite plentiful everywhere else.

***

Chaps incidentally are easily spotted because they speak Chappish (or -ese) and there is no better example of the dialect than that of Sir Rowley Birkin QC, the noted barrister and raconteur.

***

And then there\’s the really dangerous variety of chap which looks very like the basic buffoon Chappus chappus but is in fact Chappus periculosus, the one with the steel trap mind, the memory of an offended elephant and an inevitably wily way with elephant traps.

***

I first saw Boris coping chapfully with an elephant trap on the historic \”Have I got News for You\” programme, where they played a tape of him chatting chappishly with a chum from school rejoicing in the name of Darius Guppy. Unfortunately the chum was a fraudster who wanted Boris to help him get an irritating journo beaten up. Boris waffled affably with Guppy, assured him he\’d get the relevant address, and didn\’t. Nothing, as he said, eventuated.

***

It was an epic ambush and Boris got away with the whole thing through a mixture of baffled self-deprecating confession and hilarious bluster which he had probably honed on whatever chaps call Housemasters.

***

I rejoiced. As an amateur chapologist it was wonderful to see such a splendid example of Chappus chappus (quaere periculosus?) in full plumage and song on the Box.

***

Since then it\’s become clear that Boris must be a periculosus, because not only is he very bright, he\’s also good at getting things done. The Olympics worked – much to my surprise. I was expecting a humiliating lash-up. London works at the moment. I suspect he does it by the brilliant chap-tactic of getting out of cleverer, more industrious and organised people\’s way so they can do their job.

***

Johnson\’s ability to charm media birds out of technical trees is unparalleled. Yes, his interview with Eddie Mair on the Andrew Marr show last Sunday has been hailed as a train crash. So what? Boris bounced back by taking it on the chin and praising Eddie Mair for a splendid job – Lord, how Mair must hate him for that. The recent documentary \”Boris Johnson: the Irresistable Rise.\” was clearly planned as a stitch-up by anti-chap Beeb-people, and yet he comes over as endearingly human. Michael Cockerell\’s irritatingly doomy voice-over and attempt to make a full-blown Watergate affair out of Boris\’s young-hack invention of quotes, lying to Michael Howard about his mistress and the initial chaos when Boris took over as Mayor of London, bounces off the Chappus periculosus like water  off a Teflon duck. You\’ll never get the chap that way, you idiots.

***

As for a Chappus periculosus lying about his mistress to his boss – it is absolutely compulsory for chaps to lie about their mistresses to everybody, especially their other mistresses. Which stems from a pure and chivalrous instinct to protect them from intrusion, of course. And you may as well tick off a tom cat for spraying.

***

Unfortunately for Prime Minister David Cameron (who is a perfectly acceptable specimen of Chappus intelligens), Boris seems to be starting to think, or perhaps has always thought, that he could hardly make a worse hash of the job than the current Prime Minister.

***

This is bad bad news for Cameron.

***

Luckily though, a chap of any species just doesn\’t snaffle another chap\’s job unless he simply has no choice in the matter. The definition of when that can happen is elastic but all the chaps in the Tory party will probably agree that when it happens, Boris will be the very chap to insert the virtual blade.

***

I\’m not worried. I suspect Boris to be our current emergency Prime Minister. The British polity seems to have the capacity to generate the marginally bonkers but extremely sharp kind of Prime Minister you absolutely require when chips are down, collective back squished against the proverbial masonry and the legendary rock and hard place lined up on either side. Boris could be this generation\’s Churchill – though whether Winston or Randolph remains to be seen.

***

We won\’t know until we take him for a run. Not even the British electorate is likely to elect the gloriously chappish Mayor of London unless the organic fertiliser has squelched into the air conditioning. We like him a lot but we know he\’s a dangerous Chappus periculosus. We\’ve seen his sort before. I think we\’ll keep him in reserve.

***

Interestingly, he seems to know this.

 

Gob-smacking stupidity in Cyprus

As Cyprus sinks slowly under its debts, the eurocrats in the rescue helicopter are insisting that all of the people there take a haircut, weave the strands together and contribute to the rescue winch… Only it\’s worse than that. Cue scenes of banking shutdown, outraged protesting savers and financial experts everywhere holding their heads and moaning.

***

Now I realise that the people who did the deal live in the same comfy brain-sapping rich-bubble inhabited by our politicians and bankers. So this blog is for them.

***

Here\’s a little story for you. Years ago my husband and I were trying to encourage our autistic son, then aged about 10, to become a saver. And so I took him to the bank with his birthday cash and cheque from granny and opened an account for him. He handed over the cheque quite happily, but balked at the madness of giving his two crisp precious tenners to a woman he\’d never met before.

***

\”She\’ll spend it!\” he roared, hanging onto them desperately.

***

So I told him the bank legend. Inside the bank, I said, were lots of boxes and one of them now had his name on it. The nice lady would put his money in the box and the only person who could take it out was him. The nice bank lady would absolutely not steal his money. In fact she would GIVE him a few pounds every year to say thank you for letting her look after it for him.

***

Some weeks later he urgently needed a new Thomas the Tank Engine video and got some of his money out. He was appalled by what he found and came to me in tears. \”They stole it!\” he roared, \”They did, they stole my money!\”

***

I was bewildered. \”But you\’ve got it in your hand…\”

***

He gave me the universal mum-you\’re-a-moron child\’s look and said \”The numbers are different.\”

***

Naturally he\’d memorised the serial numbers and got the bank bang-to-rights on that. I gave him the next lesson on the interchangeability of cash and he calmed down, though he still prefers money boxes.

***

Meanwhile, the fact is that most of us grownups still privately think in terms of boxes in banks with our money in them and our names on the top. We know intellectually that banks actually use our savings to lend to other people (or put on red in the gigantic Derivatives Casino). We know that government can stick its sticky fist in and take some of our money and does so regularly when it taxes the interest, but we prefer not to think about that. Emotionally, we prefer to trust them.

***

So what\’s happening in Cyprus? Well the new government has said that EU bureaucrats can bust into the banks, crowbar everybody\’s boxes and steal some money – just like that. No warning, no ifs or buts (though they\’re frantically renegotiating as I write this). And there\’s now apparently a plane-load of cash going out to Cyprus to make sure UK servicemen\’s families don\’t run out of money.

***

Obviously, once the word got out that ordinary allegedly insured savers would suddenly be losing 6.75 euros for every 100 euros they had saved, all the cashpoints were immediately emptied as everyone desperately tried to remove their money. The Cypriot authorities have had to keep the banks closed until Thursday to stop a total run which would make Northern Rock look like the politely restrained affair it was.

***

I don\’t really care why they did it – scared of Russian oligarchs with Kalashnikov- wielding financial advisors? Nor do I care about the desperate fudge they\’re trying to come up with to stop the rot.

***

The damage has been done. All over the Eurozone people now know that, no matter what they tell you, the banks will hand over the keys to our moneyboxes to any Eurocrat who asks. Canny peasants are buying large socks. Millionaires are looking for the financial paper equivalent.

***

It\’s about the principle. The fundamental necessary lie of banking is that it\’s safe to give your birthday tenners to the strange lady behind the desk. That lie is busted.

***

It\’s always been true that there really is no such thing as a safe place to store wealth (see that under-rated economist Jesus ben Joseph of Nazareth for further details). However our entire civilization rests on the fiction that there is. We believe the fiction because it\’s convenient and it means we can have good food supplies, safe houses and lots of stuff. It\’s only our irrational collective belief that keeps the whole credit merry-go-round spinning.

***

I\’m a very strange kind of historian. I think it\’s fun to look for turning points as they happen, rather than with hindsight.

***

So for what it\’s worth, I think that this is the break-point for the Euro – which I used to support, by the way. Not because of what will happen in Cyprus at the end of the week (major deposit flight, bank run, hyperinflation…nothing?).

***

It\’s because the countries struggling to stay in the Euro will wonder if the mad prescriptions of the eurocracy are really less bad than sovereign bankruptcy.

***

Sooner or later one brave big nation (Italy? Spain? France?) will try it. That will be interesting.

Writing a book is brain-consuming!

Yes, this is all about excuses. Here we go. I know I haven\’t been posting many blogs recently. Yes, I know I should keep writing and posting if I want people to read it.

***

Thing is, I\’ve been writing a book – the sixth in my series of Elizabethan crime novels about the wonderfully dashing Sir Robert Carey and his hard-as-nails sidekick Sergeant Henry Dodd. I\’ve finally found a good title – \”An Air of Treason.\” You\’ll be able to read it soon – not sure when but it\’ll come out as an ebook and a treebook, published by the wonderful crime specialists, Poisoned Pen Press.

***

The stage I\’m at is the rewrite. I love rewriting – I find it relaxing and fun. You keep going through the story you\’ve written, laughing at the funny bits, getting excited at the scary bits, smoothing it out, making it clearer and adding the things that have turned up in your unconscious since you finished.

***

And it\’s really time-consuming and it fills up your head as you decide which bits need to go and which bits need to expand. It\’s not quite as bad as the crazy 0th draft stage (see my how-to-write-a-novel ebook \”Writeritis – the novel-writing bug\” for more details). But it means that nothing else gets written.

***

I\’m not sure what the solution is so I\’ve bought myself a scanner so I can do pictures (warning, technophobia alert). Yes, that\’s right. Spend money on technology I don\’t know how to use instead of getting on with what I really can do.

***

I\’m now determined to post once a week at least. Maybe I\’ll do some about my terrifying New Year\’s resolution to get rid of some more of my books on Amazon and eBay. Yes, I know lots of people do it all the time and think it\’s fun and easy but… Somehow I can always find the most complicated way of getting it completely wrong. Just the thought of it paralyses me.

***

I even promised to post sections of my next ebook \”3Steps to a Great Eating Habit\” and never got round to it because I was so busy writing it.

***

I dunno. Can I have some staff, please?