“If you are defeated once and tell yourself you will overcome, but carry on as before, know in the end you’ll be so ill and weakened that eventually you won’t even notice your mistake and will begin to rationalize your behavior.” —EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 2.18.31
The quotation above is from today’s entry in The Daily Stoic. Just before I read the above, I read the latest news. After some two thousand years, the quote has rarely been more apposite. The quote was paraphrased by Einstein –
‘The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.’
Yet, here we see political leaders going down a well-worn path. Create an enemy, you know, them. It doesn’t really matter who but Jews, Black and Brown people, Roma and, of course, immigrants are handy punchbags. Anyone who can be categorised as ‘other’ will do. Then tell lies about them.
This post has been kicking around in my head for a few weeks now. In fact, ever since some motorists yelled at me. Let me explain.
My wife and I sometimes meet up with our son for lunch in a town not far from where we live. The pub is, unfortunately, in an old part of the town and you can only access it by driving down a single narrow street. I’m usually in luck in that I can find a disabled parking space near the pub entrance. We need this because my wife is disabled and, on her worst days, she can only walk a few steps so I need to get as near the entrance as possible. On this particular day, the disabled bays were full as were all the loading bays. There was nowhere to pull over. So, as we hadn’t seen our son for a while and didn’t want to go home, I stopped to let my wife get out with the plan that I would drive off and park in a nearby car park.
We were stopped for no longer than a minute and a half and, in that time, I was passed by three cars. They had to go up the opposite pavement and still came with a millimeter of my car mirror. All three shouted and made disparaging gestures at me, with one quite wildly intimating that I only had sex with my hand.
With a brand New Year having arrived all too quickly, I’ve been thinking about what might be happening in 2022 with regard to my books. I’ve now written twelve Mac Maguire mysteries and the thirteenth is about a third of the way there. This one will be set at Christmas and a Mac Maguire book set during the festive season is something that I’ve been trying to achieve for quite a while. In order to ensure that I succeed this time, I will continue writing this book during the early part of the year and will hopefully have it completed by June or July. If my plan works out then I should have no problem in publishing it in the run-up to next Christmas.
Does that mean that I will only be publishing only one book this year then? No.
So, it’s Christmas once again and there’s a strong feeling of deja vu in the air. Covid is still news as the Omicron variant spreads and, in the UK, the threat of a new lockdown is on the horizon. News is constantly coming out about how little right-wing Governments care for the lives of the people they rule and even democracy itself come to that. Lying and alternate ‘facts’ have inexplicably become okay with a lot of people but only if these align with their incredibly distorted world-view. Partisanship is worse than ever with both sides vilifying the other as the far-right wingnuts disappear down into the rabbit hole of total virtual insanity and see weird conspiracies all over the place.
I must admit that I like that word. It means that there might be some light at the end of the deep dark tunnel that we’ve been living in lately. Yet, I see acts of kindness daily, people smiling at each other under their masks and children still getting excited about what delights Christmas Day will bring.
Looking through all my posts, I realised that I’d never written anything about something that looms large in my life every single day and also in that of my fictional alter-ego, Mac Maguire. It can, by itself, decide whether a day is going to be good or bad.
So, what brought this up in the first place? I was having an email conversation with one of my readers, who also has pain issues, when I was reminded of a review that someone left for one of my books a few years back. I’m paraphrasing here but it went something like – ‘It’s a good story and we know that the lead character suffers from pain but I don’t know why the author needs to keep mentioning it.’
To explain, Mac Maguire is the main character in my crime series of books. He’s a former police officer and murder specialist who was forced to retire from the force due to damage to his lower spine. This damage led to him having ongoing pain issues, in fact, pain issues very similar to mine! So, why did I saddle poor Mac Maguire with this in the first place? I was working at the BBC when I finally had to admit that I had a disability and it was only then that I began to notice the absolute lack of disabled people on TV and radio. This was also true for books and movies. So, when I began writing (ironically to take my mind off my pain) I wanted to ensure that I did my bit to make disabled characters more visible and that is why Mac Maguire inherited my pain issues.
2020 was a horrible year. I know that Covid was a major issue for many people but, surprisingly perhaps, it rated fairly low when it came to my family’s other health issues during that year. One of these issues, and not the greatest, was my Prostate Cancer. I had been diagnosed just the year before when, by luck more than anything, my problems urinating became apparent. I didn’t go to my doctor though as, like most men, I just tried to ignore it. However, I was asked by my neurologist during a routine examination about this and she insisted on reporting it, just in case. While the problem could have been caused by the damage to the nerves in my lower spine (which is also the cause of my chronic pain), my neurologist wanted to rule out Prostate Cancer first. This proved to be a very wise decision and one for which I’m very thankful. Continue reading →
Although I have to say that there were times this year when I was very blue indeed. This wasn’t just down to Covid but a number of other things that coalesced into a mountain of worry that couldn’t be ignored or gotten around. I think I became quite depressed at times which is not my usual style.
Thankfully, things have improved but it proved to be something of a warning to me. Since retiring I’m now trying to write full-time, however, this year has proved to be a problem. The combination of the virus and some quite extreme family issues has stopped me in my tracks. To date I have been averaging two books per year but so far this year I have yet to complete one. And this got me down. The problem was that I didn’t have a Plan B. Continue reading →
In this era of Covid-19, I’ve found it incredibly difficult to write. I couldn’t see it at the time but, looking back, I can understand why this might have the case.
Lockdown was (and still is) an utterly strange experience. It’s a time when all the milestones that delineated the weeks and months have disappeared. We’re living in a sort of time fog with each day being much like the next. No meals out, no pubs, no family visits, no nothing.
Two Dogs, the sixth Mac Maguire mystery, has just been published in Amazon Books. I’ve also written a book of ghost stories 13 Ghosts of Winter so that makes seven in all. So what’s next?
I started writing seriously just over three years ago as a response to my pain issues. I’d dabbled with writing before but had never been able to stick at it long enough to come up with anything decent. I found that my work as an Audience Analyst gave me some respite during the week as it took my mind off the pain. However I then needed something to do at the weekends and so I started writing. Since then I’ve averaged a book every six months or so. I’ve now got another book nearly completed, The Black Vaults Experiment, which is a paranormal thriller and something of a new departure for me. I’ve also started on Mac 7 as I call it and, although I’ve got four or five chapters written, I’ve no idea where the story is going as yet. I always find this quite exciting as it’s almost as if I’ve got to write the story first so I can see how it all ends. Continue reading →