Outside the Box

‘Ground’breaking, boundary-pushing women’


Je Suis Charlie parce que L’Amour plus fort que la haine

A very thoughtful account of the issues from Gerry.

That's How The Light Gets In

L'Amour lus fort que la Haine

At first, there are no words. Then Salman Rushdie – a man whose opinion carries more weight than most in the present circumstances says this:

Religion, a medieval form of unreason, when combined with modern weaponry becomes a real threat to our freedoms. This religious totalitarianism has caused a deadly mutation in the heart of Islam and we see the tragic consequences in Paris today.

I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity.

‘Respect for religion’ has become a code phrase meaning ‘fear of religion’. Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.

While this response from Simon Jenkins in the Guardian is the best I have yet read:

Why does it happen? Whenever a political outrage is committed, the sensible question is to ask: what…

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Winter by Bill Greenwell

The Poetry Shed

Sheena2Artwork: Sheena Clover

February 1963

Groundsmen like lead; the snail’s tinsel
frozen over; the tongue stuck to the cheek

by a rush of breath; fifty stiff lashes
around a startled eye. This must be

the aftermath of water, the asphyxiation:
that sacred moment when saints faint

because they have been starved. The dog
digs for hot coals, the cat for the memory

of a toddy. Grandmothers wave away fans,
call for the spirit of ’13, when the air

blazed for weeks, when the gas bills stopped.
Not as now, the coins solid in the socket,

the keenest schoolchild sprawled out,
pigtails at angles, cap-peak caught

by the last blizzard, nothing left to do
but watch the sleet on the television, the way

announcers say, without apology,
without flinching, their bow-ties rigid,

normal service will be resumed
as soon as possible

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Rembrandt The Late Works at the National Gallery: unearthly brilliance

This is a fabulous exhibition.

That's How The Light Gets In

Rembrandt, Self Portrait as the Apostle Paul (detail)Rembrandt, Self Portrait as the Apostle Paul (detail), 1661

On 5 October 1669 the sheriff’s men are called to Rembrandt’s house on the Rozengracht in Amsterdam, fetched there by his 14-year old daughter Cornelia, his only surviving child and sole offspring of his relationship with Hendrickje Stoffels whose death six years earlier had left him distraught.  Rembrandt lies dead, and there is a lot of sorting out to be done.  The great painter’s final years have been marked by many misfortunes – the death of loved ones, and  bankruptcy only avoided in 1656 by selling most of his paintings and large collection of antiquities.  He has debts outstanding, there will be multiple calls upon whatever estate remains from both family and creditors, and there is his burial to be paid for.  So an inventory must be made of the contents of the house.

Rembrandt, Simeon with the Infant Christ in the Temple, c 1669

Rembrandt, Simeon with the Infant Christ in the Temple, c 1669

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Do authors dream of electric chairs?

This guy really puts his finger on the problem.

Oliver Tidy


Over the weekend, whilst recuperating in bed from a rather nasty brush with outdoor exercise (see previous blog-post), I was surfing the Internet, checking out the competition among other things. I like to read about other authors who write in my genre, especially those whose writing I have enjoyed. I learned a couple of things that have had something of an effect on me as a writer, a reader and a human being.

First guy I checked out was John A.A. Logan. I’d just finished his rather excellent book The Survival of Thomas Ford. It was a free download for a few days (why I got it of course) and one of the best I’ve read in a long time. I tracked him down on the web and found this blog-post, which is really worth reading for any aspiring author. It’s interesting and saddening.


Later, I found myself…

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Watching migrants drown: ‘there are lines which, if crossed, make us immoral’

Gerry says it all, so powerfully. Today, I’m ashamed to be human and British.

That's How The Light Gets In

Martin Rowson 29.10.14

Martin Rowson in today’s Guardian

A few days ago I posted a piece about the photo of desperate migrants perched on top of the border fence that surrounds the Spanish enclave of Melilla on the north African coast.  Now we learn that the British government has supported, and the EU justice and home affairs council has adopted a policy of leaving migrants to drown.

For the past year the Italian navy, with EU financial and logistical support, has operated a search-and-rescue operation called Mare Nostrum for migrants in danger of drowning in the Mediterranean which has saved the lives of an estimated 150,000 refugees. It is to be replaced with a much more limited EU ‘border protection’ operation codenamed Triton which will not conduct search-and-rescue missions. The justification given by both the UK government and the EU for this inhumane decision is that Mare Nostrum exercised a ‘pulling factor’, encouraging economic migrants to set sail for Europe.

Amnesty International’s UK director, Kate…

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The Lemon Tree: friendship and debate across the Arab-Israeli divide

That's How The Light Gets In

Remains in Imwas, al-Ramle today (photo James Morris, That Still Remains)

Remains of Palestinian homes in al-Ramle today (photo by James Morris, That Still Remains)

They fettered his mouth with chains,
And tied his hands to the rock of the dead.
They said: You’re a murderer.
They took his food, his clothes and his banners,
And threw him into the well of the dead.
They said: You’re a thief.
They threw him out of every port,
And took away his young beloved.
And then they said: You’re a refugee.

– Mahmoud Darwish, ‘Refugee’

I was ten years old when a small branch library opened in the Cheshire village where I grew up.  Week after week I devoured novels, many of them beyond my childish comprehension.  One of the books that did made a powerful impression on me that year was Exodus by Leon Uris.

Published in 1958, Exodus was a hugely influential book, and  I was one of those who were deeply affected…

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The Weather



Its ten years since my play ‘The Weather‘ was on. It was about a shopaholic, addict mother, an absent, fat-cat father and their teenage daughter.  It was also, to me, a play clearly about climate change. It was called The Weather’ for a start, and began with the declaration: ‘It’s over. I mean, have you seen the weather out there? Have you seen the fucking weather?’ In each scene, although they were only days or even hours apart, the weather had changed dramatically – from snow to tropical temperatures. It depicted a world on the cusp of an ‘eremozoic age’ -the age of solitude – as butterflies and birds died out leaving nothing but ‘people and their things’, and there were long speeches about consumption and blame and the impossibility of imagining the end of the world. There was also a poltergeist in the house, flinging things around…

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