Yearly archives: 2015

Two wheel drive electric motorbike? Yes please

Early in part one of Pickers, Maxine finds a two wheel drive electric motorcycle, and claims it as her own. I wrote it in knowing it was a possible vehicle, but not knowing whether any existed yet.

Well, it appears that Yamaha have developed a range of prototype electric bikes, including at least one which is two wheel drive. Their two wheel drive bike is built for the street, whilst their electric off-roader is only rear wheel drive. I’m sure that could be fixed, of course.

Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future: The Biography

Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future: The Biography

Not a biography of the dashing hero of the space lanes, but the story of the life of Eagle magazine and its main character. There was some stuff in there that was new, but it wasn’t as detailed as I’d hoped.

I’ve got a copy of The Man Who Drew Tomorrow, which is larger format and definitely better illustrated, but it’s been so long since I last read it that I can’t remember how it holds up on the detailed story of the comic.

From:: Ian Pattinson Goodreads reviews

The UN is investigating UK’s ‘grave violations’ of disabled people’s rights

The United Nations is carrying out an unprecedented inquiry into “systematic and grave violations” of disabled people’s human rights by the UK government, Disability News Service (DNS) can finally confirm.

DNS revealed last August that the UK appeared to have become the first country to face a high-level inquiry by the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities (CRPD).

The committee said last summer, when approached by DNS, that it was not allowed to say whether the inquiry was underway.

But DNS is now in a position to state definitively that the inquiry is taking place, and has been underway since January 2014.

I wonder what happens when the UN CRPD comes back with a conclusion that the government is a human rights abuser. Does it open the possibility that Iain Duncan Smith, Cameron and others could be prosecuted?

Source: Confirmed! UN is investigating UK’s ‘grave violations’ of disabled people’s rights

Night of the Crabs

Night of the Crabs

Night of the Crabs

Ah, the glory of mid-seventies horror pulp. I’m sure I read this as a teenager, but the only thing I remembered from it was the sex in the dunes (don’t look at me like that, I was a teenager).

A young couple on holiday in Wales go missing whilst swimming. The readers know that they didn’t simply drown- something violent happened- but no-one else does.

The uncle of the dead boy- and boss of his girlfriend- drives down to Wales to try to find out what happened. Here he meets hot divorcee Pat, who tags along when he goes out investigating. This is when the sex in the dunes happens, shortly before the couple witness a deaf mute beachcomber being torn apart by a horde of crabs the size of cows.

Of course, no-one believes them, not until the crabs come ashore and tear up an army base.

Now, the authorities take notice, and tanks and soldiers appear on all the beaches. Not that it makes much difference. The crabs are impervious to gun and tank fire, and are led by an intelligent King Crab. It’s only a last minute, poisonous, solution that saves the day.

The story is nowhere near as gory, or sexy, as I remember it (I was a teenager, okay). It rattles along at a great pace, though it could, on occasions, do with a bit more detail. I finished it in a couple of hours.

There are another four or five Crabs stories, and Guy N. Smith’s back catalogue is now available for the Kindle. I think I’ll be picking up more of them.

From:: Ian Pattinson Goodreads reviews

Taxpayers’ Alliance: Burn the old

Okay, this is from a fringe meeting, and not (yet) official Tory policy. Alex Wild, of the Taxpayer’s Alliance* thinks the Tories should slash old age payments as soon as possible.

Mr Wild, who is research director of the think tank which campaigns for lower taxes and highlights examples of Government waste, said the cuts should be made “as soon as possible after an election for two reasons”.

“The first of which will sound a little bit morbid – some of the people… won’t be around to vote against you in the next election. So that’s just a practical point, and the other point is they might have forgotten by then.

“He added: “If you did it now, chances are that in 2020 someone who has had their winter fuel cut might be thinking, ‘Oh I can’t remember, was it this government or was it the last one? I’m not quite sure.’

“So on a purely practical basis I would say do it immediately. That might be one of those things I regret saying in later life but that would be my practical advice to the government.”

Ian Duncan Smith would like that idea. He is running a department dedicated to making cuts and introducing policies that speed up the deaths of the people affected.

Source: Taxpayers’ Alliance: Cut pensioner benefits ‘immediately’ – BBC News

In the same way that the Countryside Alliance was only created to campaign to keep hunting with hounds, but pretended to care about more important countryside issues, I think the Tax Payer’s Alliance was created by people who go out of their way to pay the minimum possible tax.

Moonraker (James Bond, #3)

Moonraker (James Bond, #3)


Hugo Drax is a national hero in mid-fifties Britain, having risen from amnesiac wounded soldier to millionaire businessman. He is spearheading, and funding, Britain’s ICBM programme- the Moonraker of the title. However, horrors, he cheats at cards.

This is where Bond enters the story, as M asks him to show the cheater a lesson. This would probably have been a more thrilling sequence if I knew the rules of Bridge. Amped up on one of his less appetising cocktails- champagne and benzedrine- Bond fleeces Drax for fifteen grand, somewhere in the region of seven times his annual salary.

Then, the story proper starts. A security officer at the Moonraker site has been shot, before he could report something he deemed important. Bond goes in as his replacement, to work with undercover Special Branch officer Gala Brand. I won’t give away any more plot points, but, together, they foil a nuclear plot.

Bond doesn’t really do much to uncover the plot. He simply stirs up some trouble trying to find out what his predecessor had stumbled upon, whilst the key discoveries- and the solution- come from Gala Brand. He suffers some serious batterings, and writes off another Bentley, along the way.

The plot of Moonraker hinges on a lot of coincidences. Indeed, Bond himself muses on all them toward the end of the book. But, in the reading, it rolls along at such a pace that you don’t really notice the happenstance until the hero draws your attention to it.

From:: Ian Pattinson Goodreads reviews


When I’m earning enough (buy my books!) I’m going to donate to causes like Reclaim. Its Disruptive Leaders initiative is playing the long game against the corruption of wealth and patronage that gave us the current bunch of immoral idiots ruining the country. It’ll take a lot of years to have an effect, so it’s good they’ve started already.

80,000 people walking around Manchester

TUC Anti Austerity Demo

Here’s a slideshow of some of the pictures I took at yesterday’s TUC march.

Police estimated 60,000 turned up, the organisers said up to 100,000. The true number’s usually halfway between the two. I was quite near the front, so I got to see Billy Bragg perform before we set off, and got a seat in Castlefield Arena before the Police started claiming it was full up (it was nowhere near full up, don’t know why they’d make such nonsense claims). After getting the word out, several thousand more folk got in.

The event had a positive vibe, overall. Sure, there’s a lot of anger at the disastrous and callous shower currently in Government, but the turnout showed there’s a strong, and growing opposition to their plans to destroy the country for profit. And some of the pig related signs were excellent.

80,000 people marched, and there were only 6 arrests. The Police themselves put out a release saying the event was peaceful. However, most of the media coverage dwelt on those arrests, the one Tory hit by an egg and the journalists hassled by anarchists. Stuff that shouldn’t have happened, sure, but a tiny, unrepresentative part of the march as a whole. The Press have their narrative, and it’s that we’re a bunch of disrespectful yobs, because heaven forbid they show their viewers and readers the validity and wide base of support there is for opposition to austerity. It just shows that the premise for Kettled was valid. (Yes, I did just plug one of my books. :-P)

So, if you were there, tell friends, family and colleagues how much fun it was. Show them photos like these that depict what it was really like. Undermine their belief in the negative spin they’re getting from the papers and TV. We don’t have the media on our side, but we do have the power of word of mouth- from sources more easily trusted than the papers. Spread the word.

What’s In The Bag?

kETTLED-CVR-150Throughout Kettled, Irwin has his trusty courier bag with him. He produces a few useful bits and pieces from it. Questioned about the bag’s inventory, he says that everything in it can be bought from Amazon or Ebay.

So, what is in the bag? I thought I’d do a little browsing and draw up a list. I’m restricting myself to products available on Amazon UK.

Please note, unless otherwise stated, I do not own any of these products, have not tested them and cannot vouch for their effectiveness. I may still use them in a story, though. Links should redirect to your local Amazon, and some items available in Britain may not be available where you are.

Bump Keys

Lock bumping is a way of opening locks by jarring the pins out of position, then turning the lock whilst they leave it open. A more detailed explanation is given in the wikipedia article linked. This 24 key set is made to fit the most common locks used in the UK. The seller will only send them to ‘legitimate’ purchasers, but I’m sure Irwin could get around that.

Fire brigade master keys Master keys for communal doors, padlocks etc., so firemen can get in when needed. There was a point in Tiger (free when you join the mailing list) when Kay and Irwin could have saved themselves a lot of trouble if he’d been carrying them.

He may back these keys up with a drop key. This one includes a lift door key, for when he wants to play at being John McClane.

Lock pick set Bump keys can be noisy, and sometimes you want to be more subtle. You’d think lock picking sets would be illegal, but there are loads of them- and training booklets and practice locks– on Amazon.

Padlock shims Though, with time and a Leatherman (see below), it should be possible to make a set of these from a drink can.

Handcuff keys Okay, this wouldn’t be much use in the courier bag. If you’ve got to the point where you’re handcuffed, they’ve taken the bag off you. So this is a plastic handcuff key, good for a few uses, that could be hidden somewhere convenient. If you want to put it in plain sight, you can get clippy buckles with the keys concealed inside them.

Cable ties Everybody needs cable ties. They’re almost as useful as baler twine and gaffer tape. Irwin uses them as impromptu cuffs during the story. Cable tie cuffs, similar to the type used by the Police, are available. Amazon has them listed as sex toys, but I can only think of how much they could pinch. Pain does nothing for me, so no thanks.

Evidence bags Okay, not evidence bags, but freezer bags. But you could keep evidence in them to reduce the risk of contamination.

Leatherman Another item that probably wouldn’t be in the bag. Leatherman tools usually come with a belt pouch. They’re more for when there’s time to fashion a solution rather than one needed right away. I used to take my Leatherman Mini everywhere with me. Nowadays, it lives on my desk beside the monitor.

This is just what I’ve thought of today (or wrote into Kettled). I’m sure I’ll add to it over time. I’m trying to think of an urban version of the survival tins outdoorsy types can get as well.

A wheeled wander past some Solstice locations

2015 isn’t likely to give us many more days as nice as today. So I got on the bike and went for a little ride- something I’ve consistently failed to do this year.

Weir on the Irwell

I followed a route I took several times last year- down to the Irwell, then upstream a way, freestyling the exact route on the many tracks available. If you’ve read Solstice, the weir above is the spot where the first body is found. In the story, it’s June, and the river is lower than this.

(If you haven’t read Solstice, you can get it from Amazon, Smashwords and several other online shops.)


This rather lovely location is just over two and a half miles from where I live. Two and a half miles in the other direction is Manchester city centre.

What path?

At one point, the track got a little crazy. Lacking Boudicca style scythes on the bike, I worked a little way back and crossed the river on an old canal bridge nerby.

Under the M60

Having taken a photo of the weir where the body was found, I had to make it far enough upstream to get a shot of the location of the first murder, and opening scene, of Solstice. This track runs under the M60. I turned around and headed back along trails I didn’t discover last year. The ride was just under ten miles long. I did much longer ones last year when I was in the habit of heading out for a random ride most weeks. I need to get on my bike more often.

Why some scientists are worried about a surprisingly cold ‘blob’ in the North Atlantic Ocean

This isn’t the plot from The Day After Tomorrow, luckily, but could still lead to some serious changes in sea level and local weather patterns.

Which is nice.

Some researchers think the cool temperature anomaly suggests a slowing of ocean circulation.

Source: Why some scientists are worried about a surprisingly cold ‘blob’ in the North Atlantic Ocean – The Washington Post

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BBC’s Stephen Sackur accuses Tories of spreading propaganda about Jeremy Corbyn, and of being unaccountable and undemocratic | Politics and Insights

A coup d’état is an anachronistic and violent method of political engineering that happens only in one-party fascist, totalitarian and despotic states, it’s not an event you would expect to see used as a threat in a so-called first world liberal democracy. Regardless of how far-fetched the threats may seem, that a general feels it’s okay to threaten a coup or “mutiny” against a future left-wing government using the mainstream right-wing press as a mouthpiece is a cause for some concern.

Source: BBC’s Stephen Sackur accuses Tories of spreading propaganda about Jeremy Corbyn, and of being unaccountable and undemocratic | Politics and Insights

Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch, #1)

Ancillary Justice

After following the silliness around the Hugo awards this year, I thought I’d read one of the books that all the fuss was about.

Ancillary Justice won the Hugo, and several other awards, last year, and is, supposedly, exactly the sort of thing that’s destroying good old, hairy chested science fiction. To hear the various Puppies tell it, this is one long feminist diatribe with no redeeming features and too few spaceships and rayguns. They must have been reading a different book.

This is intelligent space opera in the Iain M. Banks mould, with gigantic empires ranging against each other, but with individuals still able to make a difference.

The narrator is Breq, an artificial intelligence inhabiting a human body. She used to run a space ship and whole garrisons of ‘corpse soldiers’, but a betrayal has taken all of that away. As we follow her through the end of a twenty year quest for vengeance, the full details of the betrayal are also revealed.

I had some problems with the story arc of the main supporting character, but also got the impression that Breq wasn’t completely convinced by it either. Perhaps it’s something that will be explored in the rest of the trilogy.

The fault with the story, as far as the Puppies were concerned, was with the handling of gender. The culture that Breq is from doesn’t differentiate between the sexes. Everyone is referred to as her, or she. Not knowing who’s really a boy or a girl upsets certain types of fanboy, apparently. It’s a dumb thing to get so angry about, and I’ll take this sort of interesting feminism over yet another story dwelling upon fantasy white guys and the size of their guns.

From:: Ian Pattinson Goodreads reviews

Buile Hill Park hothouse

Earlier this year, I shared a few photos from a wander around my council ward- Langworthy.

Amongst the buildings I took photos of was the skeleton of a large, wood framed greenhouse. I vowed to go back and try to get closer to take more photos, but haven’t managed to do so yet.

Buile Hill Park greenhouse skeleton
An article on SalfordOnline has given me some more information about the hothouse, built in the early twentieth century and, up until the 80s, full of exotic flora and fauna. This just makes its decay even sadder than when I though it was ‘just’ a big greenhouse.

While filming an archeological dig, was shocked to discover the skeletal remains of the once-grand Buile Hill Park hothouse in Salford.

Source: Watch: Salford’s Buile Hill Park hothouse abandoned to the elements –

Kettled- Rain and Bullets 4

kETTLED-CVR-200Kettled is published on October 2nd. Pre-order your copy now.

The Tories are in Manchester, and thousands have turned out to protest their presence.

In the midst of the peaceful protest, a small group of hired troublemakers are planning to cause trouble. They want to start a riot, to distract from the demo’s message, and usher in new laws.

Irwin has been working with an MI5 agent to track them down before they can do any damage. But now, she has been stabbed, and he is trapped in a big crowd being held on a square by Police. Just the right place to start a fight.

With the reluctant help of Kay Wood, Irwin must track down the troublemakers before it’s too late, and find out who stabbed the MI5 agent.

Land Rover Range Rover Sentinel- big and bulletproof

Maybe I’ll write one of these into a future Rain & Bullets story. I’d really like to do a car chase.

Designed in-house, the Land Rover Range Rover Sentinel can withstand impacts from incendiary bullets, grenades and even a 33-pound charge of TNT.

Source: Land Rover Range Rover Sentinel | News, Pictures, Specs | Digital Trends