The Battle of Paris

Notes Very, very rough outline here of what will eventually emerge.

I’ve never thought I was particularly brave, and I like to think I’m not foolish. But one of those two traits must have been in play when I didn’t get on the last train back to Britain.

I had just taken one of the photos of the year, and I’m sure that had some effect. The attention that sort of thing gets feels good and can leave you wanting more. So, whilst the other Brits were heading North, I went South.

Two days earlier I had posted the following-

The Ghost of the Eiffel

Hitler ordered that Paris should be levelled when his armies retreated from it, but General von Choltitz refused. So, until yesterday, most of its great cultural landmarks remained unharmed.

Until yesterday.

Four days ago the area around the Gare du Nord were on fire. Someone had been killing young men in the predominantly muslim areas around there, and they had finally been found out. Foreign agents- common thought has it they were American, and yesterday’s events give it credence- were operating in France’s capital assassinating suspected terrorists.

Gangs of young, angry Parisians took to the streets, torching and looting any American symbols they came across. I don’t think there’s a McDonalds left standing in the city. I didn’t go out of my hotel after dark, when the rioting was worst, but I wandered out in the morning. I have uploaded the pictures.

It was during the second day of rioting that the culprits were flushed out. They were armed, and they fought back when they realised they faced a lynch mob.

If you’ve been following me on Twitter, or checking the blog regularly you’ll probably have read some of my frightened messages after I found myself driven before the mob as they dragged the assassins to the spot they were to be executed.

In the crowd at an execution isn’t somewhere I want to be again. As the eight men were lined up to be shot in the back of the head with their own guns I managed to work my way to the edge of the crowd and down an alley. I wasn’t the only one. Scared, angry and disoriented people were drifting out of the crowd, trying to get back to sanity. We didn’t run until we heard the crack of the assault rifles. The gendarmes didn’t stop us as we streamed past them. They were closing in on the heart of the crowd.

I took pictures that day as well. I haven’t uploaded any of those, none of them were that good.

Travel out of the city was restricted. The hotel staff had managed to hoard some food and had left bread, pate and wine in my room with a note in stilted English suggesting I didn’t leave the building until it had been declared safe to do so. I settled into my room to watch CNN and see what they were telling the rest of the world about the riots. There was no mention of the rumours that the assassins were believed to be American.

I was quite safely to the south of the river. The view from my room presented a vista of the north of the city, framing the Eiffel tower. I set my camera up on its tripod, having to wedge it between the window and the bed, and set it off taking pictures on time lapse at one every thirty seconds. I worked out that the memory card would fill with a day’s worth of pictures and I could do a time lapse movie of a day of rioting.

I was about to nod off when the room lit up with a yellow flash. The roar of the explosion and the shockwave hit a long half a second later. The windows were open, but they rattled against the walls. One of the curtains was ripped from its rail and whipped across the room.

When I picked myself up off the floor the room dust was filtering in through the window. I crawled over to the window. The tripod was still standing where I had wedged it, the camera still taking pictures of the devastation.

From the near bank of the Seine, where the Eiffel Tower had been, a mushroom cloud rose. All the buildings halfway from the epicentre to my hotel were on fire. The camera took another picture.
I don’t think the bomb was a nuke. I don’t think it was powerful enough. But it was huge. Sirens were going off everywhere. There was commotion in the corridor outside my room. But, it took me a while to realise, the television was still on. We still had power.

That was yesterday. I’ve been told not to leave the hotel, but the staff have been around with more food and water and the electricity stays on. I even found an open wireless network this afternoon, which is why I can send this out. I’ve been through the photos on the memory card and I think I’ve found one taken right at the moment the bomb went off. I fact, I think the bomb went off when the picture was already half exposed. The ghost of the Eiffel Tower is in the centre of the image, directly under the bright white burst of the explosion. CNN says the explosion was a terrorist device set off under the Eiffel, but this picture says otherwise.

I will upload as many pictures as bandwidth allows, and sit here waiting for a way out of the city.

The bomb, it turned out, was a MOAB, a Mother of all Bombs or, to give it its proper name, a Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb. The full story has yet to be revealed of how it came to be dropped on Paris. The insanity in Germay kicked off at the same time, so it had to be part of the whole madness in the States. Maybe they’ll be able to dig something out of the ashes of Washington that’ll explain how the President was allowed to go so far and why so many went along with the war for so long.

Two days later they arranged an evacuation of Paris fearing further bombing since war had been declared. Britain was claiming neutrality, offering safe haven for any US servicemen who wanted help getting home. There were trains back to the UK, but the borders were going to be closed soon. I’d been offered ridiculously large amounts for my Paris explosion pictures. I could head back and live off my one momentary brush with history, safe and sound.

But there was news of an American army group fighting its way out of Germany and a fleet patrolling the Mediterannean. There were going to be lots of chances for further brushes with history. I tagged my suitcase and sent it home and walked out of the station with a backpack filled with one change of clothes, a laptop and a camera.

NaNoWriMo first draft – Easter Eggs

The whole terrace of houses had been replaced with Easter eggs. That’s what it looked like. Or maybe pine cones. That’s probably what they’re meant to evoke- pine cones standing on their fat bases in the sun- but I can’t help but see easter eggs. The kind that were filled with toffee, they were always a little too elongated to be properly ovoid. It doesn’t help that they’re brown. I’m sure that’s part of the pine cone motif as well, but it just reminds me of chocolate.

I’m still a few streets from where I’m heading, the address sent to me by Sally from Keith’s email address. But I have to know how they came to be here. They’re set further back from the street than the houses they’ve replaced, I reckon, and each has a small garden out front. In many cases the garden extends around the egg house, as they’re detached from each other, to further greenery at the rear. The gardens are mostly given over to practical plants- herbs and root vegetables, one garden is filled with the familiar large leaves of potatoes.

I must be looking lost, or confused, because the guy working in the garden I pass half way down the street steps up to his gate, “Are you looking for someone?”

“No, I…. Well, not on this street. I was just surprised by these buildings.”

I guess he’s in his fifties, greying but still lean. When he stands up straight he’s a little shorter than me. He gives me that ‘You’re not from around here.’ look. I’m getting used to it, but I’m worried that there’s sometimes hostility behind it. I can understand it, there’s not been a lot of movement within and between countries unil the last few months. And, of course, so much of the troubles of the last few years started with strangers coming to town. But this guy is curious, maybe a little defensive, nothing to get too nervous about.

“Where have you come in from?” That he would understand without me mentioning it is a little unexpected. He smiles, “You have the look.”

“The look? I just got back from France a few days ago.”

“Where in France?”

“Paris when it kicked off, Apt most recently.”

“That’s where the last of them were rounded up, wasn’t it?” he steps back and opens the gate, inviting me in. ‘Rounded up’ is far too tame to describe the events down in the south of France, but I haven’t found the right words for it yet either, and I was there.


“You chase trouble?”

“I guess I do. Did. I’ve come home now.”

There is a large bush of Rosemary inside the gate. I rub the leaves and savour the smell. There’s a patch of squash taking up the rest of the front garden. “Are you self sufficient, then?”

“Off this small a patch? Not likely. But I have an allotment on the old park. It’s still not enough, but I do well off it. But you were really interestedc in the house.”

“Yes.” There’s a little, cartoony, porch. He opens the door and beckons me inside. The room is circular, as I’d expect, with a spiral staircase in the middle. It’s split, with a low work surface, a breakfast bar even, into a living room and kitchen. There is ample light from several portholes high up on the wall. “It’s a little poky, but not much more than the old place. And I don’t have much crap left to fill it up with any more either.”

“How did a whole street get replaced with these things?”

“It was burnt down, in the riots. These pods were a quick and cheap way to replace them. They bulldozed the rubble into the house’s own basements, concreted them over and dropped these in their place. They’re manufactured locally too, lots of recycled materials. I think it was a bit of a publicity stunt, the factory that produces them has never been so busy.”

“There’s two bedrooms upstairs and a toilet through that door there. The walls are about this thick” he does the cliche fisherman thing with his hands, “so it’s warm in winter and cool in summer without needing any heating or air conditioning. I miss my old house, and all the stuff I had in it, but this place is a good home. Would you like some tea?”

“Well, I….”

I’m beginning to think that I may have happened upon a lonely man looking for any sort of company he can find when there’s a knock at the door. “It’s open!” he shouts.

A black boy in his early teens or late tweens comes in. He’s wearing a hoodie and jeans and carrying a box under his arm. “Mum said to give you this mister Robinson.”

I admit, I take a step back when Robinson pulls the from the box. I’ve seen a few guns in the last five years, and their arrival rarely bodes well. This one is practically a toy, a skinny little child’s drawing of a gun with a skinny barrel mounted on a small wooden frame and stock. It’s still too bulky to be an air rifle, perhaps a .22. I make a guess on how quickly I can get out of the door and over the gate.

Robinson lays the gun on the counter and lays a box of shells and a telescopic sight beside it. “Thanks Sammy.” The boy notices me, or acknowledges me, for the first time. He cocks his head to one side, curious at my presence. “Oh, Sammy, I was just telling mister?”


“I was just telling mister Jones about my house. He’s just got back from France. I’m sure he has a few interesting tales to tell. One day.”

“One day.” Who am I kidding, I’ve got the book deal already. That one day had best be soon to justify the advance.

“I’m going hunting tomorrow.” Robinson answers my unvoiced question about the gun. “Sammy’s mother is a gunsmith, self taught, she looks after my gun and packs the bullets for me.”

I’m beginning to relax again, the explanation seems plausible enough. The gun may even have been legal, back in the days when that mattered. “What do you hunt?”

“Vermin mainly. It’s pest control and a source of meat. Two birds with one stone.”


“Well, squirrels mostly. There are still lots of greys in the city. American invaders, it’s quite apt. How are you with a gun?”

“Far more experienced than I’d like. And quite a good shot, to be honest.”

“Join me tomorrow, about noon.”

“Okay. I never did like those little grey bastards.”

“I should be going.” Sammy announces, “Shoot lots of them mister Robinson.”

“Okay Sammy. Tell your mother thanks. I have a new batch of wine if she wants to pop over for a drink later.” They both blush, because they both know what that really means.

After the boy leaves Robinson puts the ordnance back in the box. “He’s a good kid. His father left when he was just six. And his mother and I have been…..” he puts the box on a shelf above the sink. “I wish he’d call me George. I offered you tea.”


When the kettle is on he comes back around the breakfast bar “Is your name really Jones?”

“Robert Jones.”

“There was a Jones who kept, what’s the word? Blogging, from France. He got quite a following. When the network was up long enough to read it.”

“Yes. I spent a lot of time with him.”

“And then one day he just walks down my street. Who would have thought I’d have a brush with fame today.”

“I’m not that famous.”

“You’ll do.”

“Do you often strike up conversations with strangers and then invite them to use you gun?”

“Not often. But then again, strangers don’t often walk down my street.”

NaNoWriMo first draft- The Battle of Longsight Market

Note A very rough chapter, this one. It’s my attempt to work out what happened to Paris on the page. To hit 50,000 I should be averaging 1,666 words a day. So far I’m nearer to 1,200. I’ll see if I can raise that, and carry on until I run out of ideas. What I’m producing is far less a novel than very detailed notes for a novel I may one day write.

There used to be shops here, and a church. And the market of course. Now there are trees, saplings really, where the shops used to be and a memorial in the middle of the market place. It’s built from material salvaged from the wrecked buildings, the names of the dead listed on a brass plaque that’s still shiny.

Well, all but three of the dead. The sheet that I picked up in the revolutionary bookshop names the “original martyrs” of the battle, the first to die. I’ve read similar claims on equally badly laid out sheets of paper about other memorials.

“That’s white boy shit, that is.” the asian teenager who’s walked over to see what I’m doing opines, “You don’t believe none of that shit do you?”

“I’ve seen this said about other people.”

That wasn’t quite the right answer. He’s eyeing me suspiciously now. “You one of those memorial freaks? Or you here to recruit?”

“I’m here to find out what happened. I’ve been away a while. But I have seen a few of these memorials in other cities.”

“Well, maybe you don’t look like one of them white jihadi wannabes. Tell you, only the white boys really interested any more We drove the rest of them out. The ones the Yanks didn’t kill.”

“These three were the real deal?”

“Yeah. My bro knew him,” he taps the top name on the list, “says he was a right tosser even before he got fundamentalist. Most of us just want to get on with our lives, make some money, get laid. Our parents don’t like it much, grandparents are worse. But we’re integrating, know what I mean? And people like this, they get some stupid idea about God and want to hold us all back Blow people up and shit and get Police all over us and the white folk calling us all paki and raghead and terrorist, when we’ve done nothing to deserve it”

It’s a weird thing about the memorials, I always get someone coming up to me and telling me the Truth about the local radicals who were assassinated. If the wind were blowing another way I might have got one who told me the three really were martyrs, that the local true believers are just marking time before striking again at the infidels they live amongst. Probably it’s because I’m white, but I like to think it’s because the crazies are in the minority, but I’ve talked to more people like the guy I’m listening to now than the other type. Like him, I want to believe that no idiot’s going to strap a bomb to himself and go off in a crowded place. No-one in their right mind wants any of the remaining western governments thinking “Maybe the Americans had a point.” I’m intrigued, and a little worried, by this talk of white guys coming round and talking about sacrifice and jihad. It’s so hard to tell agents provocateurs from ordinary idiots. If I meet and identify anyone who falls into the latter group I have some photos on my laptops of just what jihad does to a child’s body.

I could be in line for a long lecture from my new friend, that I’d rather not listen to. “This used to be a market. I bought fish from a stall here.”

“It’s all moved now. All the shops are in the old supermarkets over there.” I stare in the direction he’s pointing and nod understanding. In reality I already know this, my bike is locked up outside one of the market halls after all.


The Battle of Longsight Market was the Battle of Paris on a smaller scale. A three way fight where two of the sides had firearms and one had whatever it could get its hands on. It started several months before the first rock was thrown, on the other side of the Atlantic.

There is too little karma in the world, so whoever came up with the idea of stretching the Bush Doctrine to include the use of covert hit squads on individuals in sovereign nations probably isn’t suffering anywhere near as much as they deserve. The reasoning went that there were extremists everywhere, hiding in plain sight in muslim communities and flaunting their radical credentials. These were in countries that couldn’t readily be invaded. Old Europe may not have been the greatest allies in the War On Terror, but the USA couldn’t rightly threaten them the way they could with smaller, darker nations. So they had to be more sneaky and inventive.

They turned to the many flourishing private security companies, for deniability’s sake, presented a list of people they were certain were wannabe terrorists and offered on the head of each one. As with everything Blackwater et al touched, it rapidly became about the profits and within weeks there were multiple teams wandering around Europe tracking down extremists and terminating with extreme prejudice. They managed to correctly target extremists oe time out of three and weren’t all that fussed about collateral.

The team operating in Manchester were right with their first hit. In fact their use of the bomb makers own materials to take them out was inspired. The inspiration was lost on the woman who lived next door, who was also killed in the blast.

Their second hit was on an outspoken, but otherwise innocent, local student. He and his family died of carbon monoxide poisoning from a heater that had obviously been tampered with. The local community had an idea what was going on and had the luxury of being able to jump to the conclusion without the need for evidence that held the Police up. After all, everybody knew what had happened in Paris, Hamburg, Berlin and elsewhere.

And the culprits were easy enough to spot- big swaggering Americans with oversized jackets that likely hid weapons and body armour. They hadn’t been recruited from the top of the covert infiltration class, no matter how good their other skills were. Walking around as a group, dressed as they were, in the middle of the local market just drew attention. Attention became antagonism and then violence, to which they responded with firepower.

By the time the Police got to the market five people were dead, and many more injured The hitmen were holed up in a pound shop that the youth of Longsight were threatening to torch. The first officer on the scene wasn’t even a real policeman. The asian Community Support Officer was known to most of the stone throwers and respected enough that they heeded his calls to back off whilst and take the injured to safety. Then, however, he tried to do the same for the assassins. Trapped, scared and out of their depth, they panicked and shot him Which started the whole process off again. In the end Police marksmen found themselves being stoned by rioters and having to shoot the assassins who were firing into the angry mob.

A lot of blood, a lot of names on the plaque.

NaNoWriMo first draft- Storage and cashflow

Notes I’m world building as I go along here. The result may not be a very coherent tale, but will probably serve as the basis for a fully realised project after the month is over. It’s going to get even more jumbled as I start jumping about and covering subjects as they occur to me, no matter where they end up in the timeline or finished tale. My apologies to City fans for what I’ve done to Maine Road.

I had wondered at the heavy tog duvet in my room, but I’d forgotten I was back in Britain. Years in the south of France have left me a little nesh and used to the warmth. An arm that sneaked out in the night whipped right back in, recoiling from the cold. I love this town, and it’s not really that chilly, but I wonder if I can get used to the weather again.

Other things interrupt my sleep, dreams of a forest and guns- the very moment I decided to come home. I wrap the duvet around myself to form a coccoon and sleep nearly to noon when I finally drift off.

I’m going to need more warm clothes until I get used to the lower temperature. I feel like such a wuss, where’s my Northern hardiness? For now I put on some extra layers and a heavy leather jacket I picked up on the way through London.

It’s not raining. I’d psyched myself up to expect constant precipitation, so that’s a pleasant surprise. I step out into a bright, crisp autumn day and go hunting for food and money.

There are a lot of vegetarian options everywhere. Meat is a lot more expensive nowadays, or maybe priced a lot more realistically, and local, seasonal veg is filling the gap. I go for roast, curried squash and potatoes, warming and filling, with big chunks of bread instead of rice to soak up the sauce.

My wallet has several partitions in it, but still not enough to separate the many different currencies I’ve picked up on my travels. There are a few French local currencies that I didn’t manage to get rid of, some London chits, Euros- which remain the most stable and most acceptable currency in the world, even some pounds, and my Curry Mile dollars. I lay them out on the counter to see what’s acceptable currency in the local fast food outlets. The owner tuts, but slides the London currencies into the acceptable pile beside the Euros and pounds. “Where are these from?” he points at the various French chits.


“France? You been to France?”

“Just got back.”

“They had it hard over there. Harder than here.”

“I was in Paris when it kicked off.”

He shakes his head in shame. “I always wanted to go to Paris.”

“You’d be surprised what’s still there. But give it a couple more years before checking it out.”

“Can I keep one of these? The French ones? For my wall?” he gestures to a pin board on the back wall, decorated with postcards and multi coloured currencies.

“Can I have some bhajis to go?”

As a bonus, the bhajis are straight out of the fryer and almost too hot to hold in their waxed paper envelope. I stand in the middle of the road, watching the cyclists go past from a traffic island. I’m looking for a shop with the double plus sign outside, showing it’s part of the trust network of international exchange.

I’ve got money in recognised and accredited banks but that’s got to be vetted and work its way through various levels of bureaucracy before it can be accessed from a British bank. There’s not a lot of trust for large international transfers at the moment, so they’re monitored closely. And, before I can even start that process, I’ll have to get a new British account or find out what state the old one is in. Luckily a secondary network of exchange has developed. Its legality is dubious, but it’s tolerated because of the problems that shutting it down would cause. I’ve got some data stashed on a thumb drive that basically guarantees that I have deposited cash and goods to the value of several thousand Euros with another double plus trader in Apt. My Mancunian double plus trader will give me Euros or local currency to the same value (minus fee, of course), safe in the knowledge that the money will be transferred to them by the slow official route on production of the encrypted key.

I was looking for a pawn shop, but found my double plus trader in a jewellery shop. The thumb drive goes into a battered old PC nestled beside the cash till and Pretty Good Protection matches the code and spits out the numbers. Meanwhile the greying man behind the counter balances glasses on his large nose and studies my passport. “France….” he says, not asking for or expecting a reply.

After flipping through my travel history, more for curiosity than security, he slides the pasport back to me and leans to the computer screen, nodding. “How would you like your money?”


“Thats a lot of cash. Do you not have a bank acount?”

“I don’t know.” It has been five years since I put money into it or transferred any out. I know that others’ accounts have been frozen for less, so I’m not holding out much hope.

“If you think it has been stolen by the government my brother has experience releasing such funds.” He has started counting out money onto the counter, “I will give you his card.”

I get to keep the reformatted thumb drive, for what little capacity it has. I haven’t worn the money belt for a while, I haven’t had that much cash to carry around, so I go back to the hotel to get it. I turn the laptop on, I might as well. There are messages for me. Several of them are along the lines of “Bloody hell, I thought you were dead!” One is intriguing. It’s from the account of Kieth, a guy I worked with for a while who remained a friend, but it’s signed ‘Sally’. Has Kieth had a sex change, or has Sally hijacked his acount? The message gives me an address in Levenshulme and says I should drop in any weekday afternoon.

Another message is from the storage company, saying they have located my locker and I can collect the keys from their local franchisee- the very same jewellers that was my local double plus. He’s surprised to see me back. “You want to put some money back into the system?” I explain about my lock-up and slide my passport over the counter again. “That is a different database. Or I could have done this for you earlier.” He chuckles, making great play of checking my passport again and comparing the picture inside. Satisfied, he wanders off into the back room and there’s the sound of a heavy door being unlocked. He comes back with two keys on a ring. “There you are. There is twenty four hour access, when I have given you the code for the pad on the gate.”

“Are there any other sevices you offer? Am I likely to be back in here asking for anything else?”

“Maybe. I don’t sell much jewellery any more. These days luxury is….. a luxury. But thirty years in this business mean people trust me in matters of money. So it is easy for me to take on roles that require me to be trusted.”

The tag on the key ring gives the address of the yard where my box is stored. I look at it for a while before having to ask “Is that right.”

The shopkeeper cum moneylender cum key holder puts the glasses back on his nose, checks the tag and nods, “I’m afraid it is. You know how to get there?”

There is no trace of Maine Road football ground left. Unless you count the negative indicator of a big open space where it used to stand. They never got around to the housing development promised when Manchester City up and moved across town to the former Commonwealth games stadium. It found an alternate use soon enough.

My container is on the western end, farthest from the gate. It’s a half sized shipping container butted against another and at the bottom of a stack of four. Several frantic, and often interrupted, telephone calls had led to this container arriving on the back of a lorry outside my old flat and several of my friends helping to load it on the promise that they could “look after” anything they really liked until I got back. I’m surprised how full it is when I swing the door open.

It’s going to take a while to work through this treasure trove, but my first target can be seen on top of the shorter stack of crates. It takes a lot of swearing, tugging and rearranging to get the bike out. It’s the fixie I had built out of a second hand frame and scavenged parts, that I never really got around to riding. My friends were scared of it, especially its lack of brakes. It looks like someone coveted the urbanised mountain bike enough to take that though.

One of the crates I moved to get at the bike contains cycling spares and accessories, including two locks complete with keys and a back pack. I have transport.

I pull down another crate and look inside. There’s nothing really special about the contents, I get the feeling every box will be capable of making me well up like this. There are cds, dvds and a few magazines. Actually, the magazines don’t look at all familiar. I might have forgotten them, but a check of cover dates tells the story. My subscriptions carried on whilst I was away, at least for a while. The information’s half a decade out of date, but it’s more reading material. I stuff the magazines into the back pack.

The next crate offers up a real treasure. A one terabyte external hard drive. With luck this still has all my old photos, gigs of music, a few unfinished novels and the back up of my desktop computer from the day before I left the country. It may even have some porn on it. It, too, goes into the backpack.

It’s getting dark, and I haven’t found any lights yet. I noticed last night that not all of the street lights come on at night. Until I’m certain of the safety of night time riding I think I’ll take what I’ve found and head back to the hotel.

First draft NaNoWriMo- It’s Odd To Be Back

Note This is a first draft, but I’ve decided to share my NaNoWriMo progress as I go along. We’ll see how I get on. The idea is to write a travelogue of the narrator’s return home after being far too close to some momentous events. How his old home has changed whilst he’s been away, and what kept him away so long, will be revealed as he feels like making it known. Any comments are welcome. There are bound to be loads of continuity errors before I go through and do the second draft, but it’ll help to have them pointed out.

My taxi is powered by a well known local kebab chain. In fact all the motorised cabs in the taxi rank had a rosette around the filler cap championing their source of biodiesel. I’d have taken one of the pedal rickshaws, but my baggage is heavy and I doubt they would have been able to haul it.

“Are you up from London then?” the taxi driver asks.

“No. I’ve come over from Europe.” This surprises him, I see the twitch of his head as he looks at me in the rear view mirror.

“Were you there long?”

“A while.”

I used to say I never planned to leave Manchester- until I went travelling for a month that turned into five years. A lot has happened in those years, a lot that has kept me away from home. Which is a shame, because a lot of interesting and important stuff has happened here whilst I’ve been away. Less spectacular, but arguably more important, than the stuff I was nearly part of. I’ve made a living covering the events in France and elsewhere, but I want to write about something positive for a while. And I want to meet all my old friends, and find out whether they’ve still got any of my stuff.

There aren’t many vehicles on the road. Buses, other biodiesel or ethanol powered vehicles, some electric cars and bikes. Lots and lots of bikes. Some sections look like old snapshots from India or China, the two wheeled masses blocking much of the road. I can’t help wondering where my bikes are, this would be so much more relaxing to ride through than the old days of constantly dodging motorised road users.

Most of the cycles flocking around the taxi are quite basic, old school even. Lugged and brazed steel tube frames in the traditional sit up and beg arrangement, quite a few of them single speeds. I get the feeling there’s a factory, or at least a workshop, somewhere nearby turning these things out. I shall have to investigate.

We move out of the centre at pedal pace, which isn’t much slower than the old motorised pace. I’ve booked into a hotel in Rusholme, not that far from one of the branches of the kebab chain that powers my taxi. So that’s dinner sorted. Through snail mail and email I have told people I’m on my way, but you don’t just turn up on someone’s doorstep after five years away. So I’ll set up camp in the hotel and then go visiting.

The taxi driver accepts Euros, and offers change in a variety of currencies. “What’s a Levy?”

“It’s Levenshulme money. One of those LETS things? Local shops and people take them instead of real money.”

The list gives exchange rates. This is a taxi, so I expect them to be somewhat less than I’d get elsewhere. And we’re not in Levenshulme, so I should go for an even more local currency. I’ll take it in Curry Mile dollars please.”

Tipping generously gets me some help carrying my bags up to my room. They’re heavy because everything I want to keep from the last five years is in them. Turmoil has done wonders to cut down my hoarding instinct, but I’m still a sucker for comics and books. Most of one bag is made up of mensuels and samizdat one sheets I haven’t got round to reading yet. I have a week’s worth of clothes, two very small laptops, a number of peripherals, some very clever cabling and a few mementoes. Everything I left in Manchester, if it hasn’t been further dispersed, is spread around the homes of friends or in a self storage container I arranged remotely and don’t really know the location of.

The hotel is actually three terraced houses, and the rooms are more like bedsits. My room is the top floor of the middle house, a bedroom, bathroom and storage room. I share a hallway and the front door with the two rooms downstairs. I plug the laptops in to charge and head out for food.

The Curry Mile isn’t as gaudy as it used to be, there’s a distinct lack of neon. It’s still nowhere near a mile long either but it doesn’t really have anywhere to expand into. The menus have some interesting additions. “Rabbit kebab?” The man behind the counter gives me a look like I’m from outer space. Evidently they’ve been selling Thumper in a naan for a while now and only an idiot wouldn’t know about it.

“Yes? You want one?”

“Sure, why not.”

The rabbit chunks on the skewer look like darker chicken meat. It sizzles satisfyingly when he puts it onto the coals. “Where do you get rabbit meat from?”

“Local grown. A farm in Cheshire.”

I want to ask more, but he goes back to kneading dough into naan. So I stare out of the window at the stream of cycles, chip fat taxis and electric cars that are passing by. It’s odd to be back.

The rabbit is tough, but very tasty. It’s not as if I’ve never eaten it before, it was just a surprise to find it in a kebab shop.

Now I want to sleep. It’s been nearly four day’s journey to get here from the south of France and I have that wiped out but not really tired lethargy of sitting around for extended periods. GMT is only seven o’clock. I could go out or I could go to sleep, but I don’t really want to do either. So I decide to do some wireless sniffing.

I’ve accumulated a bag of kit that’s larger than both laptops combined, just for the finding of and connection to wireless nodes. But I don’t really need any of it, because the lights on my little keychain sniffer are all green. Urban networks always have better coverage, but too much time spent in valleys and small towns have left me paranoid. There are more than enough open nodes, so I pick one and I’m away.

It turns out Manchester, and the Northwest in general, has a good wired and unwired network. Connections to the rest of the world are spotty as always but they’re getting better slowly. I’ve even had a few emails from the Divided States, where I seem to be getting ever more readers. I fire off a few replies and tell Manchester in general that I am here, then start on my notes for the day.

I don’t know when I fell asleep, but when I roused it was dark outside and the computer screen was filled with 3s where I’d slumped against the keyboard.

It’s nearly NaNoWriMo time again

National Novel Writing Month starts on Saturday. Either my spam filter’s been over active or their mailing system’s changed (the former is more likely), because I haven’t received any information about it this year. However, I was struck by an idea last night that I think might have the legs to be my project for this year.

I’ve been reading Stasiland a chapter or two at a time most nights. I’ve also been wondering how to tell a tale about adapting to climate change, global financial meltdown, etc. to create a utopian novel. The two collided last night and I think I’ll be doing a pseudo travelogue of someone discovering self reliant communities and emerging technologies.

Weekend round up

Rather than a whole bunch of little posts, here are a few snippets, complete with headlines.

No More NaNo For Now

I know I’m supposed to battle on doggedly until midnight on Thursday, but I’m not going to finish NaNoWriMo this year. I’ve got an interesting part 1 to expand upon, but no clue where part 2 would go.

The Muppets take Manhattan

Following the announcement of Harry and Meg’s engagement came the news that the wedding will be in the States and the reception over here. Tim and I immediately invited ourselves to the wedding and started planning some sort of Spinneyhead does America thing.

No Dice

Pretty girls dressed as dice don’t like it when you point out that they’ve got their numbering all wrong.

What the other half reads

As I’m about to return to Post & Publish and make it all about relationships I figured, by some twisted logic, that I should read a bit of chick-lit. My entirely arbitrary choice (from a charity shop) The Trials of Tiffany Trott and Come Together.

Technorati tag: ,

NaNo News

I’m lagging badly on my NaNoWriMo writing. A quick bit of maths tells me I need to average 3133 words a day for the next nine days to hit the 50,000 target. I might do it, but I fear I won’t. Either way, I’ve produced some interesting stuff and even if I don’t complete the story I’ll be reusing some of it elsewhere.

Part 1 of the story just ended at 21,000 words and I could beef that up as a stand alone story. I’d ramp up the Mancunian psychogeography and try to make the sex sexier without making it more explicit. Part 2 goes beyond the silly adventure and tries to look at the wider problem and attempts to work on it.

Anyway. Got to get some writing done.

Technorati tag: ,

All you need is sex

I thought I’d hit an inspiration block with my NaNoWriMo story. For the last few thousand words all my main characters seem to have been doing is having sex, pondering the strangeness going on around them, then having more sex. I thouight this was just because I didn’t know what to do with them next, but all the shagging has dislodged a plot idea in my head and now there’s a reason for all the nookie.

It kind of makes it less fun when it’s not gratuitous any more……

Technorati tag: ,

Manchester Area Psychogeographic

I may have linked to these guys before- Manchester Area Psychogeographic.

I’m trying to find a ley-line map of Manchester, just a bit of idle research relating to my NaNoWriMo story. I haven’t found one yet, but I keep coming across these interesting organisations.

Technorati tag: ,

American Jesus

Writing avoidance is in full effect. I’m ripping all of my albums to MP3 and drinking a lot of tea.

However, this can just about qualify as being related to what I’m planning to write for NaNoWriMo. The USA In Bible Prophecy: The Foundation on which the Answers for Today will come to Light!. I’ve decided to do a silly allegory about Global Wierding, how the increase in belief in the supernatural and denigrating of science is speeding up a break down of reality. I get to have elves and imps and The Rapture whilst making fun of the sort of people who believe in them- cake had and eaten. This book is a prime example of the sort of nonsense I’ll be taking pot shots at.

Did Christ know of this North American Continent? … Sure he did. Did He know this great nation would be Christian from its beginning? … Of course he did. Is it possible that this nation, the greatest Christian super power of all time, known to Jesus Christ, was never mentioned, indicated, or foretold in the Bible?

Many Christians today have not been exposed to what our forefathers believed and understood. Whether through God’s purposeful blindness or due to modern-day revisionists intense desire to rewrite our Christian American history, the fact remains, we have lost our true identity, our heritage, our Israel roots. It’s time our people awakened from their sleep and learn not only their true history but also their destiny that is unfolding, even now, according to God’s Divine Plan.

This book clearly shows that America (Zion) is the land set aside by God Almighty to be the place of regathered Israel. Sermons and documents by the Founding Fathers testify to their belief that they were the Israel people of the latter days, and that the Old Testament prophecies were being fulfilled in their undertakings. It would be wise for us who are living in these last days to take a closer look at the past generations of our great nation to relearn what they knew about America’s critical role in Bible prophecy.

Technorati tag: , , ,

NaNo NaNo

Every year I say that I should be taking part in National(?) Novel Writing Month, and so far, every year, I don’t.

So, this year, as I’m back in the swing of this writing thing, I’m going to give it a go. I’m going to ressurect Post & Publish and try to do another 50,000 words for it. Update It appears that plan is against the rules, which is annoying, because that’s where my inspiration lies at the moment.

Either way, I’m going to start posting fiction here again, starting with the first draft of So Much To Answer For, the crime story I wrote whilst working on the helpdesk. I’m also going to publish it on Spinneyhead’s First Drafts, a blogspot blog just for my fiction.

Technorati tag:

History Repeating

The following incoherent rant will only really mean anything to Mr. Ottesen. Everyone else look away………………. now

Aaaaagh! Salesmen! Commission payments! Bonus structures! Payroll weeks! Payroll Weeks! Oh Dear God the payroll weeks! When will the madness end?

Thank you. We now return you to our scheduled programme.

I wandered through the shiny new Bullring earlier. It’s a very impressive building, a very nice shopping centre. Absolutely no shops of any interest, but a very nice building. And it gave me today’s pic of the day-

Click on the image for the full picture

I haven’t officially joined in with NaNoWriMo, though I did get some writing done on the train. I think I might keep my involvement informal and just try to get something done by the end of the month.