Wordpress: Upgrading

**Just to make it clear, this is not sponsored by WP, and I get nothing for providing this information**

I have long thought about upgrading my blog to a ‘Premium’ plan. At £7 a month, it is not that expensive, but I was not sure I would really need all the extras provided by the upgrade, short of the large increase in storage space for photos, from 3 GB to 13 GB. However, I have just discovered that they now offer a ‘Personal’ plan, a limited upgrade with twice the amount of space (6 GB) for only £3 a month. I should also soon become beetleypete.com, losing the ‘wordpress’ from the site address.

So I took the plunge, and tried it for one year. I now have plenty of space for adding more photos this year, and you should no longer see any advertisements on beetleypete. I am posting this for information, in case anyone didn’t know about this lower priced upgrade. You have to pay for 12 months in advance, by credit card or Paypal. But £36 is the price of a decent meal in a restaurant these days, so not much to find for a hobby that takes up as much of my time as blogging does.

I am also in the process of getting the photos copied from the hard drive on my old Dell laptop, which can no longer be charged up. If that works out, then I should have a lot more photos to post on this blog.

Old photos, and a modest upgrade, something new for the new year. 🙂

Netflix: An Update

Thanks to everyone who recommended shows for me to check out on Netflix. I now have enough potential viewing to last until next January.

With all the suggestions for ‘Ozark’, I decided to start with that. I can see why it was suggested, as the modern crime thriller is right up my street. Good performances from all involved, and nice location filming. However, after three episodes, I am a little disappointed that the ‘moments’ are rather predictable. I may have possibly seen too many similar films and TV shows, but I was left wondering if anyone was actually surprised by the events in episodes 1-3. I will stick with the rest of series one, and see how it pans out.

Having that access to Netflix also turned out to be a double-edged sword for me. We had been looking after our grandson last weekend, and he discovered that we now had Netflix on the TV. That meant he knew that we had access to the animated show, ‘P J Masks’. This popular series about young people in America who can transform into super-heroes with special powers is all the rage here at the moment. In fact, he arrived dressed in a ‘Cat Boy’ outfit, clutching a model of Cat Boy’s car, and the ‘Gekkomobile’ too.

I tied to pretend that I couldn’t find ‘P J Masks’ on Netflix, but he had already spotted the link, and pointed it out to me. What followed was a dedicated viewing of every episode, lasting well over five hours. He had a couple of breaks for food, but quickly learned how to pause and restart the episodes. I am sure he has seen them all before, no doubt many times. But his devotion is unwavering at the moment, and he watched a dozen episodes back to back, his attention never wandering from his favourite characters.

I got some relief by walking Ollie, but when I saw it was still playing as I got back, I had no option but to retreat into my office room, and work on blog posts.

All I can hope for now, is that he becomes an overnight fan of the films of David Lean and Orson Welles.

But I fear that I may have a long wait.

And in case you are wondering what you missed…

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Reputation.

I was chatting to a friend on the phone the other day. He also happens to be an ex-colleague from my days as an EMT in the London Ambulance Service. We worked at the same base for many years, and he also later worked with me in a police control room, before I retired.

He told me a story about how he had recently returned to his home on the south coast, and had been told that his elderly aunt was ill. He went round to see her, and took her into hospital for a check up. They discharged her, and recommended that her family doctor attend, to carry out checks at her home. The doctor didn’t come as requested. Instead, he sent a Paramedic Practitioner, to call at the home of the old lady. This is something fairly new here. To save the time of general practice doctors, and also to save the cost of employing additional doctors to help, they use former ambulance paramedics who have attended an extended training course, to work in the community.

As the man was examining her, he turned to my friend, and said, “I know you, you used to work at North Kensington Ambulance Station, in London”. My friend was surprised that this man should have encountered him after all those years, but confessed that he didn’t recognise him at all. It turned out that he had spent some time as a shift relief on the West London rota, and had worked with my friend on more than one occasion. He continued by saying, “You had a bloke there, Pete Johnson, a real militant he was”.

He was talking about me.

As I left the ambulance service in 2001, it is always a surprise to me that anyone remembers me, unless they were close friends, or regular colleagues at the same base. This random man, now working over 80 miles away from where I might have met him, possibly worked with me once or twice, probably before 1990. I don’t remember him at all, but after almost 30 years, he certainly remembers me, and has strong opinions about what I was like too. I left a mark, undoubtedly, and half a lifetime later, my reputation continues, at least where this man is concerned.

That got me thinking. Yes, I was a militant. I was a union organiser, one of the first to go on strike in the 1989 National Dispute, and I voted for the Communist Party. I was around 36 years of age at the time, heavily involved in all aspects of the Trade Union, and politics outside of work too. But I never considered that I had a ‘reputation’, at least not in my day to day life as an EMT. I did the job to the best of my ability, and mostly played by the rules. I like to think that I got on well with 99% of my colleagues, and all the various medical departments and agencies we came into daily contact with. When I finally left to work for the Police, most people, outside of some senior managers, were sorry to see me go. At least I thought so.

Then 30 years later, a face from the past tells someone of my reputation. Not of my sense of humour, my kindness, or fairness. Nothing to do with my hard work, or the fight to get decent conditions for everyone in the Ambulance Service. Not a word about my years working on the committees to get better vehicles and equipment, or serviceable uniforms. No mention of 22 years serving the community of London in a low-paid, difficult, and often very stressful job. It all came down to one thing, a reputation based on perception.

“A real militant”.

On reflection, I don’t really mind that at all.

Retro Review: Peeping Tom (1960)

If you read my film posts, you will know that I have mentioned this film quite a few times. Released the same year as the much-lauded and far better known ‘Psycho’, it is a powerful psychological thriller about a serial killer, directed by the talented Michael Powell. Its main claim to fame is that it more or less ended that director’s career, as both the critics and the viewing public just didn’t get it. And sometimes when they did get it, they didn’t like it.

The lurid photography and disturbing subject matter resulted in Powell being vilified. Despite continuing to work on other projects later, this film effectively finished him off as a force in the cinema industry. When you consider that his previous work with Emeric Pressburger left us with such classics as ‘Black Narcissus’, ‘The Red Shoes’, and ‘A Matter of Life and Death’, then you can see just how tragic it was to lose him.

‘Peeping Tom’ later achieved cult status, and rightly so. It was a landmark British film, and in my opinion superior to ‘Psycho’ in every way imaginable. So, what was all the fuss about?

Austrian actor Carl Boehm plays photographer and aspiring film-maker, Mark Lewis. He operates in the seedy world of soft-porn photography in London’s red light district, Soho. The money he earns from the dubious ‘glamour’ shots enables him to try out his cine camera, getting occasional jobs with a mainstream film crew. But he has a dark past, one that has affected him beyond repair. From flashbacks and old cine camera footage, we discover that he was used in experiments by his father. He was deliberately terrified, and his fear caught on camera. That has left him with the desire to replicate those experiments, and to improve on them.

He conceals his small camera, and deliberately encounters a prostitute. Back in her room, he films her as he kills her, then rushes home to watch the results on a projector in his room. This behaviour becomes addictive, and he begins to stalk other women to kill and film. Meanwhile, a young woman who lives in the shared house has become attracted to him. Helen (Anna Massey) makes so secret of wanting to be his girlfriend. But he is afraid to become attached to her, knowing how his compulsion might surface. She eventually screens one of his films while he is out of the house, resulting in the eventual climax.

Considering it was made in 1960, this film stretched almost every boundary of what was seen by the public at the time. It was the first film on general release to ever show a naked female breast, albeit briefly. It exposed the underworld of pornographic photography, with prints and films available from apparently innocent corner shops and newsagents. And years ahead of video cameras, it used the viewfinder of Mark’s camera as a ‘POV’ for the viewer, taking us close-up into the action, right up to the deaths of the victims. It could also be the first film to ever feature ‘Snuff’ films, as Mark watches his own films of the murders he has carried out. I will repeat the date. 1960. We had seen nothing like it. (I saw it some seven or eight years later, as I was too young when it was released.)

Powell uses all his talents to good effect. Some location filming in London, backed up by convincing sets. A solid but not showy cast, all taking their roles very seriously. And the use of light and shade, colour too, to show changes of tension and mood. The music on the soundtrack is effective without being overly-intrusive, and the feel of the era also makes it historically interesting. London was changing, along with the rest of the world. Pop music was in its infancy, fashions becoming important, and the new generation of young people no longer wanted to be like their parents. Taken in the context of its time, this film was jumping a few years ahead, to the permissive London of the Swinging Sixties that was just around the corner.

Seen in retrospect, Powell’s film is both important, and challenging. Can we really sympathise with a serial killer, because he was abused as a child? This was one of the first films to even pose that question. Does an audience feel excitement as it focuses close to the moment of a young woman’s death? Maybe it did, and perhaps that’s why people found it to be so uncomfortable to watch.

For me, it remains as one of the greatest British films of its time, and has not been bettered since.

Saturday Stuff

I woke up this morning with my head full of stuff. Some days, I am left wondering where it all comes from. Memories, films, old TV shows. Snippets of decades-old conversations, faces of people that I recognise but can’t remember their names. It’s all tumbling around in my brain, like clothes in a washing machine.

I try to do things to focus on. Read a book on my Tablet, type up a couple of blog posts, and check emails. But it is to no avail, as those random thoughts and visions are refusing to go away. It is a very long time since I ever experimented with any hallucinogenic drugs, but it feels a lot like that uncontrollable experience. Perception of noise is increased, until everyday conversation and background sounds become like some sort of orchestral crescendo.

One way of coping is to try to compartmentalise all this ‘stuff’. Get it into categories, remove the ones easily dealt with, and confront the rest. Otherwise, the rest of the day is going to be lived in some strange dream-like state, looking at one thing, but seeing something else.

I am beginning to wonder if this is actually the true meaning of insanity.

Blogger’s Books: Mary Bradford

Today, I am pleased to feature the published author, Mary Bradford.

Here is her own short bio.
Mary Bradford is an Irish author who has written across genres, her main genre being Women’s Fiction. She has overcome open heart surgery to focus on her writing and in her time out for relaxation she loves to crochet or knit. Family is important to her and her writing reflects this with the ups and downs of relationships explored. Her short stories have been published in many magazines, newspapers and anthologies both in Ireland and abroad, Germany, India, and the USA.

Mary has sent me an article, and I am reproducing it here, unedited.

My Journey to Writing a Novel

When I began writing short stories and flash fiction, I wondered would I ever write a full novel, but being honest I often dismissed the thought. Sitting down to write a book is time consuming, takes dedication, discipline and of course a great story. My hands were full as a mother to four children and time was scarce, so the short stories and flash fiction pieces suited me perfectly.
Yet the yearning to know if I could do it, write that novel and hold it in my hand, feel the paper, admire the cover, kept tapping me on my shoulder and poking its head beneath my face as I stared at the sheets of paper before me. I wrote longhand, all pen to paper for me then.
Then at a funeral, I began to wonder what secrets lay buried in the graveyard. Stories that would never be told. An idea began to unfold in my head and when I started to write the story, my novel was born. My Husband’s Sin is a contemporary novel set in both Dublin, Ireland and Chester, England. It involves the Taylor family, in particular, Lacey. She’s the youngest in the family, and when their mother, Lillian dies, a revelation in her will shatters the family unit.
Published by digital Tirgearr Publishing in Ireland, it received great reviews on Amazon and I thought that was that. Until my readers asked what happened next? I was pleasantly surprised and so the second book in what has now become The Lacey Taylor Story came about. Don’t Call Me Mum, was published in March 2018. Can you guess what happened next? Yes, the readers wanted more and I am at present planning the third and final novel of this trilogy.
So from wondering if I could ever write a novel, I’ve ended up writing a trilogy, which means when you have dreams go for them. There will be moments of doubt, fear, exhaustion and hair-pulling but so worth it when you finally write those two magical words, The End.
Don’t let the word-count or the genre of what you are writing sneak beneath your skin and sow seeds of unnecessary worry. Writing your story is the important aspect you need to concentrate on, all else takes a back seat. Once your story is told, that first draft completed, then stand up and take a bow. Many people talk about writing a book and often start one, but it is those who finish it are the writers.
Now the hard work begins, editing, fixing plot loopholes, developing characters, and everything else in the kitchen sink needs to be attended to. But you have a full manuscript to work with, the buzz of excitement will see you through. Remember, if you do it once, you can do it again!
Happy writing.

Here are some links to Mary’ work, available from Amazon.
Also her site and social media links.

Welcome!
https://www.facebook.com/Mary-T-Bradford-Author-464343040298924/
https://www.instagram.com/marytbradford/

Please check out her site, or follow the other links, and show her some support from our great community.

Science Fiction Fans: Please Read

I have received some information about magazines that contain great stories for fans of the Science Fiction genre. I am pleased to note that one of those featured is Unfit Magazine, from the publishers of Longshot Island. Please check out the links if you are interested.

Eight Times the Gift of Science Fiction

Here are 8 places to find great science fiction short stories. The list is divided between 4 magazines (1-4) with a more traditional lineup of authors and 4 magazines (5-8) that typically showcase younger authors. All the magazines listed here have both, making any of them a great choice as a gift for someone who wants a little of everything.

1. Galaxy’s Edge – This magazine starts with “The Editor’s Word” and believe me, Mike Resnick’s got something interesting to say each time. Although this is a newer magazine, it tends to be graced with stories by older, traditional writers, such as Robert A. Heinlein. You’ll also see Gardner Dozois who worked as an editor for Asimov’s Science Fiction (below). This magazine has wide respect among the science fiction heavy-weights.
http://www.galaxysedge.com/

2. Analog Science Fiction and Fact – Everybody loves Analog. This magazine began as Astounding Stories of Super-Science in 1930. John W. Campbell took over the magazine in 1937. It grew out of ‘the golden age of science fiction’. The name was changed to Analog Science Fiction and Fact in 1960. In 1972 Ben Bova took over and today it is run by Stanley Schmidt.
https://www.analogsf.com/

3. Asimov’s Science Fiction – What better name for a magazine than the man himself, Isaac Asimov, one of the ‘big three’ authors of science fiction, one of the originals from the golden days. This magazine began in 1977, and like Analog, is owned by Penny Publications, which handles over 80 magazines. Sheila Williams is the magazine’s current editor. The long list of established writers found within these pages includes: William Gibson, Ursula K. Le Guin, George R.R. Martin, and of course, Isaac Asimov.
https://www.asimovs.com/

4. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction – Critics claim the quality of the magazine has remained consistent throughout the decades. This magazine was started in 1949 as The Magazine of Fantasy. Gordon Van Gelder took over the magazine in 1997. Today it is run by Charles C. Finlay. Along with Analog and Asimov’s, it’s one of the ‘big three’ magazines to watch out for.
https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/

5. ClarkesWorld Magazine – This magazine comes straight out of the realm of the newer digital publications. It tends to publish younger writers while working with industry superweights such as Gardner Dozois (above). The number of awards this magazine has collected is impressive for such a short run. The magazine began in 2006, is overseen by Neil Clarke, and is named in reference to him. Breaking with the traditional format, the magazine showcases stories in full on the website and offers digital copies at a reasonable price. Annual collections of the stories appear in print.
http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/

6. Unfit Magazine – This magazine has the attraction of a newer publication aimed at a younger crowd while still giving a strong nod to traditional authors. You’ll find both Robert Silverberg and Ken Liu on the pages. SFRevu calls it “a promising new magazine”. The editor is Daniel Scott White.
http://unfitmag.com/

7. Apex Magazine – The covers are fantastic. This magazine began as Apex Digest in 2005 by Jason Sizemore. In 2008 the name changed to Apex Magazine. Inside, you’ll find something new and something old. Past authors include Neil Gaiman, Ben Bova, and William F. Nolan.
https://www.apex-magazine.com/

8. Lightspeed Magazine – This magazine began in 2010 with John Joseph Adams working as the editor. The next year, Adams bought the magazine. It’s a balance of original stories and reprints. Adams is known as the “the reigning king of the anthology world” after publishing an impressive run of short story collections including authors such as Stephen King and George R.R. Martin. Adams worked as an assistant editor for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (above) prior to purchasing Lightspeed.
http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com/