2018, the year you see more of me, and see me less

Happy New Year to everyone, welcome to 2018…yes I know, we are so over that now, but this is the first time I have seen most of you (by that, I mean the other two of my three readers.)

I have been doing this writing malarkey since around 2011, seriously doing itMe in Bahrain that is. Obviously, I could write before that, but doing joined up sentences then making them into paragraphs, paragraphs into chapters and chapters into books, is something relatively new to me.

Once I had managed to achieve this, there came the problem of what to do with the finished article.

‘Sell them,’ they said. (I’ve never actually got to the bottom of who they are, but they do seem to say a lot.)

‘What a grand idea,’ I said, and that’s where it all came apart.

You see, everyone told me (‘everyone’ appears to be related to ‘they,’) that I need a presence on social media, Facer and Twittbook at the very least and so I did that.

Not long after going public with my private Facer profile, I gained my first con artist, a young lady from the USA, (probably a 55-year-old man from Croydon) who was doing her(his) best to wheedle her way into my life and separate me from my money. She failed and moved on to pastures new, I set up my ‘professional’ profile on Facer.

Ever since then, I have been active on my social media, some days and weeks more than others, and in all the time (well since 2014 anyway,) the organic growth of my followers can be measured on the fingers of one foot; the same applies to the followers of my blog. Now, maybe this is because I bore the pants off people, or maybe it’s because there are no longer enough people to go around all the bloggers, Facers, and Twittbookers. I suspect it’s a bit of both. As for the book sales, I sell more paperback copies than eBook because I sell paperbacks face to face (the pistol in my hand helps.)

Then there is the fact there are not enough hours in the day for me to read every post, tweet and blog, I suspect most people are in the same boat and I fear that as a tool, social media is fast becoming blunt. Followers are already following the ones they want to follow (officially sanctioned stalking is another way of putting it.)

So, I am going to reduce reduce my social media presence. I no longer intend to trawl through countless posts asking me to ‘like’ something to save a little boy in China, ‘repost my meme’ and twenty wishes will be granted, ‘cut and paste this’ and Microsoft will donate $20M to save the lesser-spotted cat ferret.  My time would be better spent writing more novels, magazine articles and continuing with my cookery interests and posts; especially as I have four novels, a screenplay and a cookery book on the go.

Coming in 2018

It’s not all negative though, and I’m not giving up on it altogether (I realise that might be a negative for some people!)  I still intend to pop in from time to time to see the fabulous people I would never have had the opportunity to meet otherwise. As a bunch, authors have to be up there with the best. You are supportive, warm, generous and selling more books than me, dammit!

So how are you going to see me more if I am to be here less? I am nearing completion of a small (okay, not so small, it’s huge) recording booth and I intend to release some of my blog posts on video. I will also be recording some music tracks which will advertise my books, but their primary raison d’être will be the music (ear plugs will be provided free of charge.) I will be attempting to do my first audio book too. Just quite when this will all happen is not finalised yet (my round tooit is still in the post, apparently,) but happen, it will.

2018, the year you will both see and hear me…be afraid…be very afraid.

I was born under a wandering…fish?

Ill manIt has been several weeks since I posted anything on the blog. Whilst illness was the initial cause of my absence, I must confess sheer laziness and a lack of subject matter were the more recent causes.

At breakfast this morning, my wife was reading a newspaper, not something she does frequently, but on this occasion, it turned out to be somewhat fortuitous, as I now have a subject for a blog post.

As she turned the page, a headline caught my eye, ‘A Fish Called Wander.’ Whilst an obvious play on the name of the film, the content of the article proved to be interesting.

I’m not going to get into the evolution/creationism debate, but suffice to say I believe we climbed out of the primordial soup around 3.8 billion years ago, give or take a few millennia. Over millions of years we evolved into the magnificent specimens that you see before you, every time you look in the mirror; masters of all we survey and guardians of the planet…ok, I’ll come back to that one in a moment.

Sir David Attenborough, who has been on the planet a fair amount of time himself, long may it continue, presents one of the Broken Biscuit Corporations better offerings, Blue Planet II.  Not a flashback to the decorating programmes of the late nineties and early noughts,  the programme celebrates the amazing diversity of life on earth.

What caused me to read this article was the revelation that Sir David’s teamFish with legs had found a species of fish that had evolved to use its pectoral fins as feet and could walk along the bottom.

Although I am of a certain age, I am not old enough to remember when life first emerged from the oceans, but I am fairly sure it would be in a way similar to how this fish has evolved. Now, given the state of the planet under our guardianship… I told you I would come back to this… and the fact there are many who would rather put profit before planet, I couldn’t help wondering if we are witnessing the emergence of a new master race. One which perhaps understands that money isn’t real, you can’t eat it and the accumulation of wealth beyond a certain amount is pointless.

You have been warned, A Fish Called Wander is coming to a beach near you.

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Stansfield – What’s in a name?

My last blog post was about DNA testing, and the origins of my own family, Stansfield. It seems to have been a popular subject because I doubled my readership from two to four. However, I suspect at least one of them was someone who stumbled across my site by accident while searching for Arachnids of the Lower Amazon Basin, but I’m not complaining, I’ll take who I can, when I can (get your minds out of the gutter, I’m talking about readership!) Anyway, I digress.

Some of you may remember a singer by the name of Lisa Stansfield. She had a string of hits starting in the eighties and is still producing good music. Well, it was thanks to her I managed to avoid a rather long wait in Greece.

Athens at Dawn
By User:Leonard G. – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2205944

I was working for a local airline and as I was not a citizen of Greece, I had to register as an ‘alien’ to pay my taxes (there are some who say I should register as an alien just to be on this planet, but I ignore them.) I was taken to the Alien’s Bureau by the Greek company representative, Petros, who was there to ensure things went smoothly. I handed in the duly completed forms, along with my passport and a declaration of what I had eaten for breakfast (only kidding about the last one, but those of you who have ever had to deal with the Greek authorities will know they take the meaning of bureaucracy to whole new level.)

The normal waiting time, after handing in the paperwork, was around two hours. After being seated for only five minutes, my name was called, much to the dismay of Petros who was convinced there was a problem and we would have to return another day with a missing piece of paper. One minute later I was out of the office with all my documents in hand, everything completed and I was now a fully-fledged alien.

It seems that when asked if Lisa was a relative, my reply of ‘yes, she is my

Lisa Stansfield
By Lisa Stansfield By Daniel Åhs Karlsson.jpg: Daniel Åhs Karlsson;derivative work: Berita – This file was derived fromLisa Stansfield By Daniel Åhs Karlsson.jpg:, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33964082

cousin,’ was the perfect response. If you are reading this Lisa, (I wish,) sorry for using your name in vain, but I’m sure that somewhere in the dim and distant past, we once shared a relative.

On another note, I am related to Gracie Fields, (Gracie Stansfield,) for those old enough to know who she is. For those who don’t, you could try Google, or one of the multitude of other search engines.

So, there we have the proof; it’s not what you know, it’s who people believe you know.

 

DNA – Digging for New Ancestors

The internet is full of adverts for DNA testing. At first I thought this was as a result of yet more government cutbacks and we were now being told to solve even the most serious crimes ourselves. It seems this is not the case, but a new craze doing the rounds, to find your ‘roots.’

DNA double helix
By brian0918™ – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=404735

Clearly, I don’t mean the roots that are a different colour to the rest of your hair, but your ancestors, forefathers, call them what you will. They are the people without whom you would not be reading this, because you wouldn’t exist.

These DNA kits are guaranteed to give you results. Whether they are the right results is the subject of much debate. Now, clearly these kits are not to CSI standard. To start with, you don’t get to arrive in a Chevy Suburban, nor do you get a fancy jacket to wear while taking the sample. And from all accounts, their accuracy can be a bit hit and miss; even the providers will admit to their being some latitude in the results. So, if yours come back stating you are fifty-five percent orang-utan, twenty-percent blue whale, and twenty-five percent Wensleydale Cheese, don’t be surprised. Apparently, the secret is to shop around and not use the first one you come across.

Have I used one of these kits to determine my ancestry? No, you see, I don’t need to. My family name is traceable back to its origin, so it is said.

One Wyon de Maryons, follower of William de Warrene Earl of Surrey, who came to England with William the Conqueror and fought at the battle of Hastings in 1066, was given the village of Stansfield, in what is now West Yorkshire, as recognition for his support for the King. He took the title Lord Stansfield and it is from there the family name originates. My own birthplace is not too far from the village, but on the proper side of the border; I am a Lancastrian!

I am sure there will be some of you who doubt my story, despite the extensive documentation, so I therefore offer you this evidence of my heritage, taken shortly after the battle…

…it’s on Facebook, it must be true.

Viking Family

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Adult advisory – for the easily offended

*Adult content* – well…almost.

Sometimes, you will catch sight of something and it will stop you in your tracks. A couple of days ago, this happened to me. The something in question was a TV clip my wife was watching on the internet and I must say it left us both a little – well – confused.

The program from which the clip originated, is a daytime TV chat show from the UK, and often features subjects such as cooking, medical issues and any items of general interest to the viewer.

Now, we didn’t see the full interview, but I have read a transcript and it makes me a little uncomfortable. On the studio couch sat a man and a doll. We are not talking about a child’s toy here, but a full-size replica of a human female and Ithink you can already guess where we are going here. The doll is a sex toy.

Surprised emoticon

As was pointed out by one of the presenters, most toys of this type are capable of being hidden away in a drawer, or at the back of the wardrobe. And this is where it gets weird. Samantha, as she is known, is not just your average inflatable, highly surprised looking, adult toy, she is a fully functioning robot.  Can you imagine the shock of finding a female body hanging among the shirts?

She has a repertoire of jokes, can discuss animals with the children and is capable of discourse on philosophy or science (not to mention intercourse on the kitchen table – sorry, couldn’t resist.)  She is programmed to be part of the family. Yes, you did read that right, the designer believes she is part of the family.

Apparently, his children, aged five and three, already ask where she is and his wife is totally comfortable with her being around. They even had fun in the car on the way to the studio – okay, we are not going anywhere with that one.

Duracell Bunny
By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48645665

Personally, I think it is like having your mistress out in

the open, but the designer believes times are a-changing and this type of thing will become more acceptable.

If he is correct and these robots become a part of our daily life, even a simple form will have to change with the addition of ‘with robot’ to marital status, and

programmable.’ to any gender questions.

Of course, it isn’t up to me to judge, so all I can say is, if in the future, a neighbour asks if you have seen her rabbit, it might be worthwhile clarifying things before answering.

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Furry friend lovers

Today, I am feeling a little bit tender, not physically, but emotionally. The cause? The loss of a dear friend, feline, not human.

Now, there will be those who say, ‘get over it, it’s only a cat,’ and maybe they are right, but I don’t think so.

As humans, we are all born with the ability to love and hate. What we choose to do is up to us. For many of us, we choose to love unconditionally, whether that love is for a fellow human or another species sharing this planet with us.

When it comes to animals, we all have our favourites; for some it’s cats, and for others, dogs, quite a few like scaly things or creepy crawlies. It doesn’t really matter, it shows we have compassion, an empathy for another living creature. I worry when a person has no time for animals at all. That is a person who I will shy away from. They lack something very basic in their make-up.

The cat in question came from a rescue centre in Scotland. I first saw her at a place near Glasgow, then, because she had not been adopted from there, she was moved to another, closer to where I lived. I felt this was fate.

Within minutes of her coming home, she attacked me. Not the sort aggression you get from a frightened animal, but an all-out hatred. Over the next two years, she continued to hate me with a passion. I suspect she had been mistreated by a man and she didn’t trust any male of the species homo sapiens.

It took a lot of time and patience to win her over, but win her over I did. She would come to me at night, loving, purring and rubbing her head against mine. She showed me that animals can love as equally as any human, and she had come to realise the love I had given her was unconditional.

My love will always be for animals and humanity alike and I will never understand man’s cruelty, be that with a fellow human or another inhabitant of planet Earth. Perhaps the ones who care not for their fellow man chose the path of hatred for all things living and perhaps that is why I don’t trust them one bit.

Nisha   20??-2017

Nisha

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‘Oh my god, that’s the haggis exploding!’

In case you are thinking this is some kind of Scottish Armageddon, I would like to put your mind at rest and assure you that whilst it was something of a minor cataclysm, it was extremely localised.

As one of my two readers is aware, I have returned briefly to the UK to top up my rust levels, visit family and do some work on the house (not necessarily in that order)

Rust levels? Yes, when people from the UK appear to be tanned don’t be fooled. It isn’t a sun tan you see, but rust, on account of all the rain we get.

Scottish Breakfast
Scottish Breakfast By Jeremy Keith – Flickr, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3253929

Anyway, I digress. One of the essential ingredients of a visit to my homeland is that British tradition, known as a fry-up (or a fry, if you are from Ulster.) There are many variations on this wonderful British institution, bacon and eggs being the central core of all of them. Get beyond that and basically anything that can be fried, can be added, with the exception of baked beans which must never be fried! (Mexicans, please note.)

As I live north of the border (Scotland, for those of you who are geographically challenged, or unaware that England is not the entire nation but only one quarter of it,) there are two items that no self-respecting Scottish breakfast would be missing – black pudding (also favoured in England and Ireland) and haggis.

Should you be unfamiliar with haggis, it is a large sausage made from things you don’t wish to know about, onion and oatmeal (wild haggis is an entirely different beast.) It is exceedingly tasty. The breakfast variety comes sliced, ready to fry and you just pop it in the pan with the other ingredients to cook up instant arteriosclerotic vascular disease and heart attack.

So, there I was on our first day back in Scotland, cooking a hearty breakfast with said ingredients, along with Portobello mushrooms. Given the size of the pan and some of the ingredients, especially the mushrooms, it was necessary to cook in batches, keeping things warm in the oven whilst the rest were cooked. Unfortunately, one of the haggis slices got damaged in the process, leaving behind quite a few pieces of oatmeal.

Into this pan, I added some oil and heated it before adding eggs, the final

Wild Haggis
Wild Haggis with its favourite food – tatties. By Emoscopes – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1420068

ingredient. As I started to flick some hot oil over the yoke there was a small popping sound and I was suddenly hit in the face by something hot, this was followed by a barrage of noises and a scene worthy of being included in the opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan, as pieces of oatmeal exploded, spreading their fiery destruction far and wide across the kitchen.

It was at this moment I uttered the words to which my wife replied, ‘that’s not something you hear every day.’ – ‘My god, that’s the haggis exploding.’

In case you are worried that this could be utilised in some way by the Scottish Liberation Army as an IED, I don’t believe exploding haggis will be on their list of ordnances anytime in the near future, although it will undoubtedly be on the breakfast menu.

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When the (micro)chips are down

As both of my readers know by now, rather than write my novels, I spend my time trawling the news sites to find things of interest (well I do have a PhD in procrastination, ask my wife.)

Anyway, I digress. I was looking at that well known news site (you know the next bit so well – the one run by the Broken Biscuit Company,) when I came across this fascinating but scary story.

Microchips. The future of the human race? Honda Asimo
The future of the human race?
CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=140450

A Wisconsin company is to become the first in the US to insert microchips into its employees. Yes, you did read that right, people are being microchipped just like your dog or cat. The company in question is offering to implant the tiny chip into workers’ hands for free – and they suggest everyone will soon be doing it. The rice grain-sized chip will allow them to open doors, log on to computers and purchase food, all without any effort on their part. A spokesman for the company was very upbeat about the whole thing, focusing on the benefits of having the device, and so far, 50 of the 85 employees agree with him and have signed up to the deal.

Of course, I can see the advantages, but do we really need them and have we looked far enough ahead to see the problems on the horizon? The idea of mobile phones was sold on the basis they would simplify communications; make it easier to stay in contact with friends, relatives and, unfortunately, even your employer. And yes, that has happened – but the downside is that now, we only seem to be capable of communicating with people who are not in our presence. Next time you are in a coffee shop, take a look at around, I can guarantee most will be on their mobiles, texting, watching videos, playing games, anything except communicating with their present company,

Then there are computers. Sold as a device to make our lives a lot easier, freeing up our time to do all manner of things – except our time is spent tending to our new masters, trying to get them to do what we want, not what they want. Whether you like it or not, we have become their slaves. Not to mention the thousands of people who are now unemployed, replaced by a computer.

First edition of Orwell's 1984
First edition of Orwell’s 1984

For those of you, like me, who are thinking of Orwell’s 1984 scenario, a spokesman for the company believes this is the way forward, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. When the inevitable question about tracking arose, he assured the reporter the device had no GPS technology and was the same as the microchips in your credit cards.

Forgive me for being a little cynical here. It may well be the case the microchips are simply an identity device, such as in your credit card, but how long before some government, or business, sees the enormous potential of tracking the whereabouts of every citizen and works clandestinely to put that tracking technology in place. It doesn’t need to have the GPS technology in the chip; that handy little mobile phone I mentioned earlier, can be tracked from its signal strength at the cell towers.

This may be a conspiracy theorist standpoint, but do you trust your politicians to tell the truth, be open and honest and have your best interests at heart? Sorry, it may well be advantageous to pay with the wave of a hand and have the light come on when I enter a room; I don’t need to be turned into R2-D2 in the meantime. The more someone tells me something will never happen, the more I believe that will be the most likely outcome. That’s not cynicism, nor conspiracy theory, it’s experience.

The only chips I want inside my body come wrapped in paper and are liberally covered in salt and vinegar (sorry, my American cousins, those things in a foil bag are called crisps; you’ll get the hang of it one day.)

Have a good one.

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When a dog’s life isn’t a dog’s life

Dog with no name

As a Jedi, no – seriously, I am – anyway, as I was saying, as a Jedi, I believe things happen to us for a reason. We aren’t always sure what the reason is, and it may never become obvious to us, but it is part of your destiny, young Luke. On Sunday, one such thing happened and whilst it is a tiny thing, figuratively and literally, it is going to have an enormous effect on our lives.

Bahrain has a massive problem with stray dogs. Initially, these would have been dogs abandoned by their owners when they left the island, (just how someone can do that to any animal is beyond me, but that’s another story,) but now they are breeding amongst themselves and it is not unusual to see and hear large packs of dogs roaming around in the late evening and during the night. How they survive in this heat, with virtually no water, I am not sure, but survive they do and we see mothers with pups on a regular basis.

Dog with no name
© 2017 Glen R Stansfield. All Rights Reserved.

So, when our cleaner told us she had just found a puppy at the entrance to the compound, with no mother in sight, we were not prepared for the tiny, dehydrated, tick infested, bundle that was lying on our back doorstep. Her respiration rate and lethargy told me this dog did not have long for this world.

We cooled her by wetting her and she responded by trying to lick the water on the ground, so we gave her small amounts of water to drink and brought her into the house in a cardboard box. Mindful of the tick infestation and our two resident cats, the box was placed inside a plastic carrier bag to contain the myriad of ticks that were now dropping off her.

My wife spent the day looking for signs of the mother, as we weren’t sure if this little bundle was even weaned. Sadly, she was nowhere to be found and the poor little thing spent the night with us, hardly moving.

The following day she had regained some of her strength and found the cat food, not a good diet for dogs, but in the interim it was preferable to no food at all. Clearly, she had been weaned and was perfectly capable of wolfing down food as well as lapping the water, although still somewhat unsteady on her feet.

One trip to the vet later, the dog with no name has been estimated to be  just five-weeks old, de-ticked and de-wormed, supplied with suitable food and my wallet depleted.

A long discussion ensued as to what we were going to do with her in the long term (the cats never moved their position on this; one now lives upstairs and the other lives in fear of this overgrown mouse.) This resulted in us buying the inevitable chewy rubber toys, (which she ignores in preference for the tassels on the rug,) two feeding bowls and a litter tray (how she knows to do it on paper already, is beyond us)

I knew after day one, this little bundle of mischief was destined to be with us and was going to stay.

I am just looking forward to the day when I can teach her to drive like this owner has. What a dog’s life, eh?

Dog Driver
© 2017 Glen R Stansfield. All Rights Reserved.

The way to curry favour – or in this case, soup.

When I first started this writing malarkey, my intention was to write a novel, just the one, and that would be it. The malarkey however, was not prepared to let me do that, so not only have I now written two novels, have two more in progress, with a further two in the planning stages, I also make a monthly contribution to Bahrain Confidential, a local glossy magazine and write a weekly cookery feature for another Bahrain based publication, Weekender .

Titled, Around the World in Eighty Dishes (thank you, Jules Verne,) I cook a dish from a different country each week, photographing the ingredients and finished product, as well as writing a brief history of the food or the country, and supplying the recipe.

Selection of Dishes

Shortly, we will be arriving in the Caribbean, and as I like to be a couple of weeks ahead with the articles, this week I cooked a traditional recipe from Jamaica.

As is usual with these dishes, the quantities I cook far exceeds what the two of us can reasonably eat in one go; sometimes we have the same dish over two days and sometimes we freeze a portion. On this occasion, I decided to combine the leftovers to make a soup.

As is often the case, something that is effectively thrown together, as this

Curried Goat Soup
Curried Goat Soup

soup was, far exceeds your expectations, so much so, I decided to turn it into a recipe so you can give it a go yourself.

It is time consuming, with each stage taking several hours, and that is probably what made this dish taste so good, the final ingredient – lashings of time.

The full recipe can be found here.