Midwinter Anthology, 2014

So, for a long time now, I’ve been working on getting a small digital publishing house going. Not just as a show-case for the writing work that I do, but as a place where I can help other authors and poets get their feet out there.

This is a long process. It requires building a name for yourself, and letting people submit work. It takes mostly work from myself in laying out the books, and passing the strange digital hoops that distributors ask for. Hopefully, with each edition, I get better at it, and the process gets quicker.

For those that want to have a read of it, check out the current Midwinter Anthology on Google Play.

It’s free.

Midwinter Anthology, 2014

The Wild Sea – For Dad

The Wild Sea – For Dad.

Gone beyond the wild sea,
Where foam washes the shore,
Storm-grey waters reflect your eyes.

You stand on distant inaccessible land,
the end of all journey,
Look out to the stormy horizon,
And I will look back.

Beyond the storms, Beyond the calms,
Where fair breeze blows,
Ruddying your weathered face,
Wrinkles your now-eternal smile.

Stand awatch on that shore,
Watch the horizon, and watch for me.
Once my storm is over,
Together, we shall watch the sea.

~Phil Bettinson, 20/01/2014 – For Dad.

The Roman Catholic Church, and Single-Sex Marriage

In a rectent news article in the Independent, the Catholic Synod moderated it’s language towards single-sex couples.

While the Synod continues to uphold the current line of the Catholic Church, and does not seek to change that, it does offer a way forward. It comes on the back of Pope Francis’ statement last year to the LGBTQ community “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?”.

The full document itself is lengthy, and does attempt to explore what the Catholic Church means by family. It explores in depth the problems faced by families in the social context, raising the problems of isolation and children born outside of marriage seen in the west, and the practice of polygamy still seen in many places in Africa.

It is as the discussion on what it means to be family develops does the Church find that it needs to say something on the nature of same-sex relationships

In the section entitled Truth and beauty of the family and mercy the document has this to say:

21. The Gospel of the family, while it shines in the witness of many families who live coherently their fidelity to the sacrament, with their mature fruits of authentic daily sanctity must also nurture those seeds that are yet to mature, and must care for those trees that have dried up and wish not to be neglected.

22. In this respect, a new dimension of today’s family pastoral consists of accepting the reality of civil marriage and also cohabitation, taking into account the due differences. Indeed, when a union reaches a notable level of stability through a public bond, is characterized by deep affection, responsibility with regard to offspring, and capacity to withstand tests, it may be seen as a germ to be accompanied in development towards the sacrament of marriage. Very often, however, cohabitation is established not with a view to a possible future marriage, but rather without any intention of establishing an institutionally-recognized relationship.

23. Imitating Jesus’ merciful gaze, the Church must accompany her most fragile sons and daughters, marked by wounded and lost love, with attention and care, restoring trust and hope to them like the light of a beacon in a port, or a torch carried among the people to light the way for those who are lost or find themselves in the midst of the storm.

Here the church begins to wrestle with the reality of life that is experienced by most people. It affirms, of course, the stance on marriage, but also makes the point that there are those who have formed non-traditional unions that show the hallmarks of what would be held up as the hallmarks of marriage.

It is good that the Roman Catholic Church has faced this issue head-on. Jesus himself had a non-traditional family, and it is about time that the Churches that attempt to live by his teaching try to minister to all of God’s Children, just like he would have.

~BX

The 10 Books that have had an impacton on me

Following a Facebook Meme, I though I’d have a go at writing out which books had the biggest impact. So, for no particular reason, here they are:

1. Dragons of the Autumn Twilight, Margaret Wise and Tracy Hickman : It is very difficult to describe the impact this has, but it is the first book that changed my life. I had always been into Dragons, and high-fantasy, but I don’t remember reading anything that got me as hooked as this one did. It came free with the game based on it (something I still think we should do more of). It was designed to be read while the loading screens happened (on a ZX Spectrum, this could take several minuits). I remember that I actually got so absorbed in the book that I don’t think I played the game for more than few minuits. I then went on to read as much of the series as I could get my hands on. I remember a birthday where all I got was books from this series (The Time/War/Test of the Twins, 1 and 2 Chronicles, etc). It was epic. It was reading a book from this series that got me my first friend in Secondary School, as he was reading a collection of The Time/War/Test.
Continue reading The 10 Books that have had an impacton on me

Thai sat down, took a sip of tea, and began to write.

Thai sat down, took a sip of tea, and began to write. His pen glides over the bleech-white paper, slowly at first, letting the words form themselves. The desk was covered in similar sheets of paper, covered in scrawls, and the occasional brown ring of tea. The apartment was small and dark. The curtains had been pulled shut months ago, and now a combination of mould and dust held them in place. Thai ran his fingers through his once-short hair, and scratched his stubbled covered skin. He wanted to stop writing. He had wanted to put the pen down, but they wouldn’t leave him alone. They called to him, called him to keep writing, making their world live.
Continue reading Thai sat down, took a sip of tea, and began to write.

Gender Roles in Short Stories.

Inspired by : this post on Women in History, or should I say challenged by, I took another look at short story that I written. I had chosen a male pilot, and a female stewardess. The reasons was exactly the point being made there. It was lazy writing. I didn’t need to think too hard about the back story of these two characters. I picked up a readily-available sterotype and I used it. It was lazy. The story, to my mind, is not changed very much at all by the change of the gender.

What is now the story can be found here: http://blog.valhalla.jara23.co.uk/?p=1299.

It would be helpful to see if people can read both stories and see if this gender swap really does make a difference. People’s thoughts on the matter would be appreciated!

~BX

Noises like that very rarely bode well.

The pilot looked up from his instruments to the panoramic window in-front of him. Smoke was billowing out of the left-hand engine, and the propeller turned it’s last with a grinding, juddering noise. The little EMB 120 shuddered as the second engine took up the strain. With practised ease the pilot began to ease back off the throttle, slowing the plane, letting the other engine pick up the slack. It was not the first time that he’d lost an engine in flight. He jabbed some buttons, turning off the fuel supply to the burning engine, and watched with some satisfaction as the black smoke became grey and vanished. Immediate danger over, he reached for the internal microphone, a weather eye on the instruments. “Ladies and Gentleman, there has been a small technical problem with engine one, there is no need to panic. Our ETA will now be 30 minuets later”. He replaced the microphone, satisfied. No doubt the stewardess was busy handing out peanuts and other complimentary items to take the passenger’s minds off the worrying lack of engine. They had nothing to worry about, this little plane was solid and reliable. The stick juddered in his hand, and his heart nearly stopped. He didn’t need to look, he knew in his gut that that was the feeling of the second engine failing. It took moments for him to know that there was no way he was going to survive the crash. The realisation swept over him, and calmed him. His only option now was to see how many of the passengers he could save. He pointed the nose of the plane towards the river, and tried to slow the decent.

Noises like that very rarely bode well.

She was surprisingly calm considering. The movement of the air-plane suddenly downwards meant only one thing. She fastened her seatbelt like the panic and flustered stewardess demanded, and dug into her handbag for her compact. As she dabbed her face with the powder, she contemplated her life. She was single, by choice, and had a string of lovers in her past, some she remembered with fondness, some she would rather forget but they all rose unbidden to the surface of her mind. As she fixed her lipstick, she reflected that her mother’s warning that she would die alone looked likely to become true. She didn’t care. She hadn’t had to spend her life watching others lives their as her mother had done. She hadn’t had to explain every bruise or black-eye like her mother had done. She had not wasted away mourning a worthless lowlife. She had lived. She finished fixing her lipstick and dropped back into her seat. She would die alone. It was only the thought of no-one to mourn her that caused a single tear to roll slowly down her perfect, paid-for, features.

Noises like that very rarely bode well.

Jonathan was sat next to the sleeping Howard. They had always joked that he would sleep through anything, even the apocalypse, and it seemed that Howard was going to do just that. Jonathan looked at the chiselled features and the mop of red hair falling attractively into his face. They had been friends since high-school. They had survived the horror of college together. They were now young, relatively successful businessmen enjoying what was meant to be a kayaking trip of a lifetime. Jonathan didn’t care for kayaking, but he wouldn’t have passed up a chance to spend time with Howard, whatever they were doing. He was infectious. He was, truth be told, the reason that Jonathan never kept a girl-friend. He wasn’t really into girls. He managed by picturing Howard’s chiselled features. It was a secret that burned in his chest, and always had, since the first time he had seen that playful smile. It really was now or never. Howard hand was limp on the armrest, and gently Jonathan took his hand in his own. The touch was electric. Jonathan squeezed the hand, trying to send all his emotions, all his late-night hoping through that single touch, before Howard awoke and snatched his hand back. Howard stirred, and Jonathan’s heart beat so loud he was sure the entire plane could hear it. Howard squeezed Jonathan’s hand, and held it, tight.

Noises like that very rarely bode well.

Rupert looked at Cynthia’s alabaster face. She was gripping the arm-rests with her claw-like nails, and staring straight ahead. He could see that she was terrified. He could see that she needed comfort, and he realised that he didn’t care. They had been married for nearly 20 years, and he couldn’t remember their relationship ever being that intimate. They had married because it was the thing to do, but neither of them, really, were into any real kinds of intimacy. They had perhaps held hands about half a dozen times, and they had made the pragmatic choice for separate beds over a decade ago. They didn’t row, because they didn’t talk. They had a rota for chores, and they were done. They would come home from work, offer each other the obligatory peck on the cheek, and spend the night perusing their own individual hobbies. Sure they would attend each other’s gala lunches, but only because it would be unthinkable not too. He had never really contemplated that he had no emotion for Cynthia at all. None. Here, in what could be their last moments, he didn’t even care enough to take her hand and offer her the kind of comfort that one human being would offer another. Cynthia looked at Rupert, and he saw in her eyes the same realisation. A calm point in the storm of fear. They nodded at each other, and offered one another what they each, in turn, thought was a sympathetic smile, and both sat back in their seats to contemplate their individual fates.

Noises like that very rarely bode well.

“Father, will you pray for me?”. Her soft voice broke him out of his thoughts. Reverend Ronald Buchanan hadn’t prayed for anyone for months. He had been sent by the diocese on a spiritual pilgrimage, a journey that they hoped would help him find God. Though he had to confess he hadn’t really been looking. He had mostly been site-seeing, simply trying to relax. The woman from the seat behind had come to sit next to him looking at him with pleading eyes. He had seen eyes like that on many men and women. Those that wanted something that he cannot give. They wanted a miracle. They wanted him to pray and take away the pain, to hold back death, to make the world not be the way it was. And he had prayed. He had prayed with all his strength, he had prayed night and day. He had prayed until he was weary, but never once had it made a difference. Never once had what he prayed for come to pass. “My dear… “ he began, wanting to confess his disbelief, but the words died on his lips. His hand went to his neck, the tell-tale collar was missing, he didn’t even ware a cross any more. He wanted to ask how she knew. He didn’t have his title on his passport, or ticket, or even his luggage. “Perhaps…” he thought, and shut it down. It didn’t really matter, it would be churlish of him not to. He dug into his pocket, but there was no breviary there. It was amongst the things he had joyously thrown into the sea a month ago. He took her hand, and dug into himself, looking for words of comfort. “My dear, let us pray”. He began, letting the words form themselves. He let them tumble out as he found himself voicing only that which was on his heart, words of comfort, of peace, of the surety of the love of God. It was not fear that caused his tears to fall.

Noises like that very rarely bode well.

Stephanie strapped herself into the stewardess’ seat, and tried to run through the safety procedures in her head. She clung to them, her only life-raft. She had been in planes that had done emergency landings before, but never had she faced one dropping at such a rate in such a remote part of the world. The noises of the wind was oddly comforting, but that wasn’t the noise that unnerved her the most. It was the silence. In other planes, in other places, similar events had led to short panic screams, men groaning in fear, hushed and frantic whispers to others that it was, despite all evidence to the contrary, going to be okay. The entire cabin was silent, except for a soft murmuring coming from the back, the rhythmic sounds of prayer. But even that prayer was not frantic, not a call to whatever deity to save them, it was simply prayer. She didn’t know what to do with the silence, it was unnerving. She had no-one try to calm, she was being left alone with her thoughts. Her only thought was that she didn’t want to die. She was terrified of it. She opened her mouth, and screamed.

Noises like that very rarely bode well.

In a Brazilian Jungle, there was a brief thunderous noise as the EMB 120 dropped out of the sky, and ploughed into the river, water spraying over the banks. The birds, startled by the sudden noise took the sky cawing wildly to each other. In a few moments, the birds had flown away, leaving behind nothing but silence.

Noises like that very rarely bode well.

Noises like that very rarely bode well.

Noises like that very rarely bode well.

The pilot looked up from his instruments, to the panoramic window in-front of him. Smoke was billowing out of the left-hand engine, and the propeller turned it’s last with a grinding, juddering noise. The little EMB 120 shuddered as the second engine took up the strain. With practised ease the pilot began to ease back off the throttle, slowing the plane, letting the other engine pick up the slack. It was not the first time that she’d lost an engine in flight. She jabbed some buttons, turning off the fuel supply to the burning engine, and watched with some satisfaction as the black smoke became grey and vanished. The immediate danger over, she reached for the internal microphone, a weather eye on the instruments. “Ladies and Gentleman, there has been a small technical problem with engine one, there is no need to panic. Our ETA will now be 30 minuets later”. She replaced the microphone, satisfied. No doubt the steward was busy handing out peanuts and other complimentary items to take the passenger’s minds off the worrying lack of engine. They had nothing to worry about, this little plane was solid and reliable. The stick juddered in her hand, and her heart nearly stopped. She didn’t need to look, she knew in her gut that that was the feeling of the second engine failing. It took moments for her to know that there was no way she was going to survive the crash. The realisation swept over her, and calmed her. Her only option now was to see how many of the passengers she could save. She pointed the nose of the plane towards the river, and tried to slow the decent.

Noises like that very rarely bode well.

She was surprisingly calm considering. The movement of the air-plane suddenly downwards meant only one thing. She fastened her seatbelt like the panic and flustered stewardess demanded, and dug into her handbag for her compact. As she dabbed her face with the powder, she contemplated her life. She was single, by choice, and had a string of lovers in her past, some she remembered with fondness, some she would rather forget but they all rose unbidden to the surface of her mind. As she fixed her lipstick, she reflected that her mother’s warning that she would die alone looked likely to become true. She didn’t care. She hadn’t had to spend her life watching others lives their as her mother had done. She hadn’t had to explain every bruise or black-eye like her mother had done. She had not wasted away mourning a worthless lowlife. She had lived. She finished fixing her lipstick and dropped back into her seat. She would die alone. It was only the thought of no-one to mourn her that caused a single tear to roll slowly down her perfect, paid-for, features.

Noises like that very rarely bode well.

Jonathan was sat next to the sleeping Howard. They had always joked that he would sleep through anything, even the apocalypse, and it seemed that Howard was going to do just that. Jonathan looked at the chiselled features and the mop of red hair falling attractively into his face. They had been friends since high-school. They had survived the horror of college together. They were now young, relatively successful businessmen enjoying what was meant to be a kayaking trip of a lifetime. Jonathan didn’t care for kayaking, but he wouldn’t have passed up a chance to spend time with Howard, whatever they were doing. He was infectious. He was, truth be told, the reason that Jonathan never kept a girl-friend. He wasn’t really into girls. He managed by picturing Howard’s chiselled features. It was a secret that burned in his chest, and always had, since the first time he had seen that playful smile. It really was now or never. Howard hand was limp on the armrest, and gently Jonathan took his hand in his own. The touch was electric. Jonathan squeezed the hand, trying to send all his emotions, all his late-night hoping through that single touch, before Howard awoke and snatched his hand back. Howard stirred, and Jonathan’s heart beat so loud he was sure the entire plane could hear it. Howard squeezed Jonathan’s hand, and held it, tight.

Noises like that very rarely bode well.

Rupert looked at Cynthia’s alabaster face. She was gripping the arm-rests with her claw-like nails, and staring straight ahead. He could see that she was terrified. He could see that she needed comfort, and he realised that he didn’t care. They had been married for nearly 20 years, and he couldn’t remember their relationship ever being that intimate. They had married because it was the thing to do, but neither of them, really, were into any real kinds of intimacy. They had perhaps held hands about half a dozen times, and they had made the pragmatic choice for separate beds over a decade ago. They didn’t row, because they didn’t talk. They had a rota for chores, and they were done. They would come home from work, offer each other the obligatory peck on the cheek, and spend the night perusing their own individual hobbies. Sure they would attend each other’s gala lunches, but only because it would be unthinkable not too. He had never really contemplated that he had no emotion for Cynthia at all. None. Here, in what could be their last moments, he didn’t even care enough to take her hand and offer her the kind of comfort that one human being would offer another. Cynthia looked at Rupert, and he saw in her eyes the same realisation. A calm point in the storm of fear. They nodded at each other, and offered one another what they each, in turn, thought was a sympathetic smile, and both sat back in their seats to contemplate their individual fates.

Noises like that very rarely bode well.

“Father, will you pray for me?”. Her soft voice broke him out of his thoughts. Reverend Ronald Buchanan hadn’t prayed for anyone for months. He had been sent by the diocese on a spiritual pilgrimage, a journey that they hoped would help him find God. Though he had to confess he hadn’t really been looking. He had mostly been site-seeing, simply trying to relax. The woman from the seat behind had come to sit next to him looking at him with pleading eyes. He had seen eyes like that on many men and women. Those that wanted something that he cannot give. They wanted a miracle. They wanted him to pray and take away the pain, to hold back death, to make the world not be the way it was. And he had prayed. He had prayed with all his strength, he had prayed night and day. He had prayed until he was weary, but never once had it made a difference. Never once had what he prayed for come to pass. “My dear… “ he began, wanting to confess his disbelief, but the words died on his lips. His hand went to his neck, the tell-tale collar was missing, he didn’t even ware a cross any more. He wanted to ask how she knew. He didn’t have his title on his passport, or ticket, or even his luggage. “Perhaps…” he thought, and shut it down. It didn’t really matter, it would be churlish of him not to. He dug into his pocket, but there was no breviary there. It was amongst the things he had joyously thrown into the sea a month ago. He took her hand, and dug into himself, looking for words of comfort. “My dear, let us pray”. He began, letting the words form themselves. He let them tumble out as he found himself voicing only that which was on his heart, words of comfort, of peace, of the surety of the love of God. It was not fear that caused his tears to fall.

Noises like that very rarely bode well.

Stephan strapped himself into the stewards seat, and tried to run through the safety procedures in his head. He clung to them, his only life-raft. He had been in planes that had done emergency landings before, but never had he faced one dropping at such a rate in such a remote part of the world. The noises of the wind was oddly comforting, but that wasn’t the noise that unnerved him the most. It was the silence. In other planes, in other places, similar events had led to short panic screams, men groaning in fear, hushed and frantic whispers to others that it was, despite all evidence to the contrary, going to be okay. The entire cabin was silent, except for a soft murmuring coming from the back, the rhythmic sounds of prayer. But even that prayer was not frantic, not a call to whatever deity to save them, it was simply prayer. He didn’t know what to do with the silence, it was unnerving. He had no-one try to calm, he was being left alone with his thoughts. His only thought was that he didn’t want to die. He was terrified of it. He opened her mouth, and screamed.

Noises like that very rarely bode well.

In a Brazilian Jungle, there was a brief thunderous noise as the EMB 120 dropped out of the sky, and ploughed into the river, water spraying over the banks. The birds, startled by the sudden noise took the sky cawing wildly to each other. In a few moments, the birds had flown away, leaving behind nothing but silence.

Noises like that very rarely bode well.

Can you be an intelligent believer?

Stephen Fry is a man I have a lot of time for. He is funny, thoughtful, brave, and generally all-round talented. The thing that we would probably disagree about is Faith and religion, and a lot of other things in the same ballpark.

What he seems to hate is the exploitative nature of some of the practices. Homeopathy being chosen instead of science, rather than along-side it, the casting of Runes used to lock people into a dependent life-cycle.
Continue reading Can you be an intelligent believer?

The Devil and Mrs. Durant

It was a short rap at the door. A rap that suggested it’s owner was expected, and that time was of the essence. Elenor Durant, opened the door a tiny crack. Beyond it, bathed in the yellow glow of the security light stood a small, sharp mine. His dark brown eyes sunken into his sallow face, his black hair clinging to his head depite the dryness of the evening. He had a mustach, though the collection of dispirate hairs that made it up were simply an unconnected colleciton of long hairs. His lips turned up in a smile. “Mrs Elenor Durant, I presume”. It wasn’t a question. “Or should that be Miss Elenor Durant”. He made a strange wheezing noise that shook his shoulders. “Mr P…” the man held up his hand, “no names please. Sir will do”. He flashed is seedy smile again, and Elenor opened the door. The man shuffled in, and peeled off his grubby overcoat, and placed it into Elenor’s surprised hands. Underneath he wore a baddly fitting, rumpled suit, and carpet slippers. “Where is he?” the man asked, a slight hint of some eastern accent slipping out on the r. She motioned through into the sitting room. The man pushed the door open with a pen, and made a “mm” noise. “I didn’t me…”. The man held up his hand, as his beedy eyes explored the scene before him. The simple cream livingroom had gained a new and surprising colour, blood red. Sprayed from the now deceased corps of Rodney Durant, filander, abuser, and violent ex-husband. Elenor had no idea what it was that had pushed her over the edge. They had been together for nearly 20 years, and not once had she even raised her voice to him. He had powerful friends, the kind of friends that could do terrible things with wire and electricity, or an inappropriately placed poker. She had never imagined that one day she would have to make that call.
Continue reading The Devil and Mrs. Durant

Do you need to be baptised to be a Christian?

Baptism with water is, and has been for a long time (at least the 3rd Century AD (Burnish, Raymond, The Meaning of Baptism, (London:SPCK), 1985 p1). However, the centrality of baptism does not necessarily make one a Christian. While for the Anglican churches of England and Wales, baptism is the de-facto sign of membership, membership of a Church, nor baptism, makes one necessarily a Christian.
Continue reading Do you need to be baptised to be a Christian?

Generation Right

Generation Right.19-June-2014 (ver 1.1)

They said on the radio, yesterday, that Generation Y,
Is generation right.
A generation so convinced of it’s own, individual superiority that they would rip up the welfare state,
That they would deny health-care and life to the addict,
To those not as fortunate as them,
because they deserve it.
Continue reading Generation Right

The rise of the Far-Right in the UK, and other worrying correlations

There has been something percolating through my mind about the link between scapegoating and the rise of the Far Right that has been bugging me. Something was telling me that there was something going on that I had missed.

So I spent some time searching the news to see what it was that people were saying, and suddenly there it was. The Rise of Islam as a terror threat. A manufactured scapegoat.
Continue reading The rise of the Far-Right in the UK, and other worrying correlations