Monday, 28 November 2011


Apologies for this late post, regulars will know that I aim to post on a Friday and this week I have been unable to do so. I said two weeks ago that I would alternate between poetry and the background to the comic series CO2. Here is more about that parallel world.

I was struck by the idea that instead of using machinery the Church of the Holy Footprint could adapt plants and animals to their needs. These are the original sketches for the adapted elephants used in some of the stories.

In part the idea came from thinking about Darwin and wondering that instead of publishing the Origin of the Species, what if he published a different book-The Future of The Species: The Theory of Controlled Evolution? Everything fell into place after that, it was easy to imagine animals in place of machinery, adapted elephants to put out fires; adapted horses to pull trams; a plant altered to produce writing paper.

I thought that the Church should be all powerful, effectively controlling all aspects of the people’s lives. To do so I thought that the Church would be split into different parts. There are four arms to the Holy Church, although the Seers are by nature secretive and have never been formally admitted to exist. The public face of the Church consists of three sections.

Balancers: Their role is to balance the world; to do this they are split into many specialties. There are the obvious ones of policing the populous. While it is everyone man’s duty to balance his life and his endeavors, the Balancers ensure that tithes are paid to the Church, that there is no use of illicit machines or technology, that the populace are not indulging in “acts that would unbalance society”; these range from adultery, to tithe deception, illegal narcotic indulgence, to living an unbalanced life. The Balancer’s act as a secret police, records are kept on most of the population. Those found to be out of balance may find themselves working on one of the big re-balancing projects such as the reforestation of the midlands.

Adaptors: The Church’s scientific arm, Adaptors work in every field of knowledge. Adaptors are constantly working to alter animal species to the greater glory of God. Such work is the public face of the Adaptors, less well known is their use and refinement of the difference engines, and their mastery of information technology. Such technology is secret as is how it is used to shape society towards God’s Balance.

Adaptor’s design weapons and surveillance devices. There is much of their work that is unknown even to the other arms of the Church.

The Soldiers of the Holy Carbon: The military arm of the Church, commonly known as the Carbon Soldiers because to create the Holy Balance it is first necessary to destroy, and as destruction releases carbon dioxide which heats the world, the soldiers name reflects this ambiguity. Although since the carbon fixing adaption’s to pigs and cows, it has been possible to neutralise this effect.

Fanatically devout, the Carbon Soldiers never serve in the communities they are drawn from. Since the fall of the Dragon Emperor eight year before, there has been public talk about how best to use their skills.

The Seers of Albion: The little known steering group of the Church. A shadowy collection of individuals who it is said decide the direction of the Church and so Mankind.

There is also another group of Seers, whose role is to monitor the seven time streams, these are known as The Seers of Montserrat. They are based in Catalonia at the Holy Shrine of the Black Madonna. Their work is to monitor the seven time streams that make up the multiverse. It is thought that certain avenues of action caused the different realities to break off the main stem. These choices are known as crossroads and their detection is of paramount importance as an eighth time stream would upset the balance. It is not known how many times the Church has acted to prevent such an event.

In recent years there has been the development of combined skills, a small group of potential Seers have been trained as Balancer/Seers, their role is to ensure that the multiverse does not split into more time streams and that all potential crossroads are successfully negotiated.

On the surface the Church appears to be a grassroots organisation, the tenets are easily understood and can be simply expressed as balancing the world. This can be seen in the work of the Church to ensure that no resource is over-exploited and the energy that it expands on clearing up the effects of the wasteful industrial society keeps the world in Balance. You would imagine that the church is a Lattice-like organisation; in fact it secretly resembles a Greek Temple structure with all actions being secretly overseen by the Seers.

What do you think of this world? I do not think I would like to live there, would you?

Saturday, 19 November 2011

I have decided to alternate my posts between the background and characters of CO2 and writing about poetry. I first became interested in poetry after I heard Leonard Cohen’s second lp Songs From a Room when it came out in 1969, I was thirteen at the time and having read in a music paper, that Leonard was a poet, I rushed to the local library and borrowed the collected works. I think in retrospect that it was at this point in my life I made the decision to be a poet.

I did not really show much of what I was writing to people until I was in my twenties, when I started to get the hang of it. There followed a period when I would sporadically send poems off to magazines or competitions and some would get published, most would not. It was not until the 1990’s that I began to seriously apply myself to the craft, before that I would wait for inspiration and when I first began, influenced no doubt by the fallacy that the Beats never revised (they did, they just kept it quiet), favoured spontaneity over craft. While it is true that technique by itself creates hollow poems, I have honestly never seen a poem that was not the better for revision.

Here is a very old poem, from 1974. It’s very much a young person writing, full of indescribable desire and wanting.


I sat on the beach

Wanting to be a seagull,

To be able to fly away.

A forlorn Icarus

With no wings to burn.

A solitary figure on a cold beach,

Wanting an ideal

That was out of his reach.

Looking at it all these years later I think it could do with revision, for a start I am not enamoured with the repetition of the word beach, why would I be a forlorn Icarus? At least by being forlorn I am alive. And that rhyme at the end.... This was the oldest poem that made it into my first book. What do you think of it?

I am in a period of waiting at the moment, waiting for CO2 to be drawn and waiting for my second poetry collection Blessed by Magpies, to be released by Lapwing Publications. So here is a taster from the book.

The first poem is one I posted on my old blog a soon after writing. It is a popular poem when I do readings.


I saw Elvis thump Elvis,

Knock him to the deck,

I watched Elvis head butt Elvis

And Elvis fall on his sequined back.

Elvis’ pink sock was visible

As he put the brothel creeper in,

After that it was all a flurry, capes and karate chops,

Flying fists and flailing quiffs.

Who Called the cops?

I heard it was Elvis.

The Rapid Response boys didn’t give a damn,

They just bundled Elvis after Elvis into the van,

And it was Jailhouse Rock all over again.

This next one I started while on holiday in Wales, it took some work to get it the way I wanted it, I had to remove the extraneous details and I’m still not happy with the makeshift hospital line. I find that sometimes I have to do much research to get an authentic vision but the trick is not to burden the finished work with that research.


On the platform the soldier smokes,

Each match a one handed conjure.

Sacks of grain, stacks of uniforms,

Are to be loaded on that train,

Once the wounded have disembarked,

Transferred to the makeshift hospital.

On the platform the soldier sighs,

Charts the limits of the killing zone,

It is here, in this rural exchange.

A tribute is paid in goods and lives,

With the possibility of healing,

Should you return.

When we were on holiday in Abraeron, a coastal town in South Wales, I read about how the big hotel had been converted into a hospital for the wounded troops and it made me realise just how every part of the country had been affected by the First World War. I was struck by the transaction there must have been on the railway station platform; the injured exchanged for materials that enabled them to continue fighting. Such scenes must have been re-enacted all over the island. It must have been a terrible time.

This last poem is another about magpies, do you say “Good morning Captain” and salute when you see one? I do.


The copper penny set

In the vast blue is ignored

The Captain rises

On awkward wings

Makes hard work of flight

His cold eye is set

On the silver sliver

Of the tardy moon

Friday, 11 November 2011


This is the logo of my story CO2. Do you like it? I have to say I think its boss. I have spent the week thinking about how to structure the zero issue of CO2. A zero issue, as I think I may have mentioned, is a taster of the magazine to come, something that sets the scene, that hopefully whet’s the readers appetite for issue one. The issue will be launched at Cardiff International Comic and Animation Expo, 25/26th February 2012 (

At the moment I feel in a bind when talking about CO2, on the one hand I want to tell people all about the story and on the other I am conscious that there are a number of twists and surprises that would be spoiled by any such disclosure. Bearing this in mind I would like to share some of the background to the story.

It’s set in a parallel world where history began to diverge in the eighteenth century. In the world of CO2 there is a more aggressive economy in England, public liability companies came in to existence earlier, industrialisation starts earlier and is more vigorously pursued. The new factory system of manufacture sees the traditional systems of production destroyed. This results in massive unemployment and social hardship. Troops are deployed to deal with the machine smashing Luddites – groups of craftsmen who despise the poor quality of machine produced cloth and who do not wish to be brought into the factory system as unskilled labour. This industrialisation speeds up the enclosure of agricultural land and those people who relied on common land for grazing are now destitute and forced to work in the new factories.

The concept of a National Debt is adopted earlier than in our world which allows the English government become more politically aggressive overseas, as it is easier to raise the finances for war. The American rebellion is ruthlessly quashed in 1742; this rebellion was precipitated by the French Revolution of 1731. England supports Catalonia to throw off the chains of their Castilian oppressors and the Catalan Federation covers most of the Iberian Peninsula and half of France by 1760.

At this time the only other nation that could withstand the English Empire is China. An uneasy truce settles between the two superpowers. The English Empire is ruled by a corrupt Tory elite, while China is home to an enlightened and liberal society.

With social conditions deteriorating in England and dissent growing, the government turns the country into a police state. By 1800 the poet William Blake has been under house arrest for ten years, he is a rallying point for those who see another vision of Albion, of a world returned to the paradise that it was before The Fall.

Resistance to the corrupt, “old boys” network, that is the Tory government, centres on a Yorkshire man, Joseph Bramah, a genius, who develops the concept of Balance-that humans can return the world to its pre-Fall idyll. He is influenced by Joseph Fourier, a French refugee who publishes a paper; The Green House Effect: A Worldwide Disaster in the Making. The paper is banned by the government.

Bramah realises that the increase in industrialisation, if unchecked, will heat up the world and develops the concept of The Church of The Holy Footprint, taking Blake’s assertion that Jesus walked the fields of Albion with his uncle Joseph of Arimathea, as a starting point, promoting the rigid control of all industrial development and a return to the pastoral lifestyle of the pre-Fall.

Bramah is arrested from his house in Cato Street and his subsequent show trial as a traitor galvanises the downpressed populous. There is a revolution; Bramah is freed from his cell in Whitechapel, and the morally bankrupt Tory government is tried for crimes against humanity. The last Prime Minister; Arthur Wellesley, is hung in the ruins of West Minster Abbey, his cabinet, those not executed outright, are sent to the first re-education camp in Catford.

After the 1811 Chelsea Concord, The Church of The Holy Footprint becomes both the religious and the secular power of the empire. Work begins on the Balancing of the world. Industrialisation is rigidly controlled, the expansion of the American Colonies is ruthlessly curtailed, land is begun to be handed back to the indigenous peoples from whom it was stolen.

This is only the start of the Balancing. My story is set one hundred and fifty years later when The Church of The Holy Footprint has just managed to defeat the Dragon Empire, the last haven of dissent and opposition in the world.

Phew! That’s the background to my tale. As I say at present I am working on what to include in the zero issue, there has to be a historical framework for the story to make sense. If there is not a credible background to any work of fiction then it is not believable, I hope this potted introduction works for you. The zero edition also has to introduce some of the main characters, but that I will leave for another time.

Sunday, 6 November 2011


This week, slightly later than normal, I thought I would explore the ancient idea of the poem as a story. Ok you say, so far so very Homeric and I would have to agree, but I thought it would be interesting to share a couple of older poems that arose out of real life and imply if not explicitly tell a story.
Four people,
Four view points,
Four chairs around a table.
One secret is shared by three,
Exclude the other,
Fear her reproach,
Yet allude to the secret openly,
Describe the one perspective.
Discord divides the circle.

The originator speaks:
“I do not consider myself the same
As other women who have affairs.”
Note this evening,
This moment as a reference point,
A snapshot of relationships.
Four chairs around a table.
The logic of Euclid
Will disprove her proposition.

Inevitability crawls towards them all.
This poem evolved after one of the diners told me about their experience. I think it was sparked by the included dialogue, the illusion that this time can be different. Another example of this illusion is The Gamblers Fallacy; apparently it is common amongst people who gamble to tell themselves after not winning for some time that they are due a big win to even things up. But then again the human mind can convince itself of anything.
I liked the idea of a circular table and the four chairs as points around that circle; as I remember the idea that three of the four diners shared a secret enabled me to play with the numbers. I also thought the story marked a potential crossroads in their relationships, by this I mean that there is here the chance of the relationship floundering.
Someday you’re going to get careless,
That’s how fire’s start,
Speak the wrong name in passion
And your life will burn apart.

The air is becoming heady,
The heat begins to climb,
Her flesh is so incendiary,
As you ignite one more time.

Some day you’re going to get careless
Then the flames will start,
And all of your safety procedures
Will not save your heart.

I have a secret phone,
Store it next to my heart.
Lock both in my briefcase,
They help to keep me apart
From a wife and a lover,
With time divided I can cope.
Can either woman change me?
They just haven’t a hope.

The three poems in this post are of a piece. They were written close together and concern the same situation. As you may gather, there may be more than a hint that one of the participants worked for the emergency services. I had been reminded of the triangle of combustion after reading a section of a health and safety manual (yes, I am that sad that I read such things) and that triangle chimed with the human triangle that I could see in front of me. It was relatively easy to weave the conceit into the poem.
At the time I think, I viewed the participants in a rather negative perspective; if I am honest rereading these poems before posting, I feel sorry for the four of them. It feels like another example of the Gambler’s Fallacy that, after a period of unhappiness the desperate deceit would bring some kind of happiness. I do not think it did.
At the beginning of this post I made reference to Homer; perhaps for any human to be viewed as heroic many years have to pass.