Wednesday, September 21, 2022

A Right Royal Event.

Although it wasn't officially announced until the evening, we knew the Queen had passed by the early afternoon. There had been a vague announcement about doctors somewhere around lunchtime, and nothing more. Then we noticed the BBC announcers were wearing black, which they surely wouldn't do were she still with us. One BBC reporter tweeted she had passed, then retracted it with an apology, stating there hadn't yet been an official announcement.

But then it was announced, right in the middle of a late thunderstorm here in Lincoln, which somehow seemed appropriate, while there were two rainbows over Buckingham Palace at the same time. Serendipitous. (After the reign?) And then we had a week of little else but Royal programming on TV. And then we had a day of ceremny and funeral, which was full of pomp and very moving indeed.

Being a Scottish Australian, I'm not a monarchist by any stretch of the imagination.But that doesn't mean I'm against the Royal Family. I attended an event during the last year which made me uncomfortable for jingoistic, colonialist reasons. I mentioned this tome someone, and from later comments I had they feeling they think I am anti Royals.

I think they need to evolve, I think they are basically ceremonial and part of the tourist industry, I don't like much of their behaviours, but I see their importance to the economy of the UK. So maybe a few should be fired, others should be forced to get jobs which pay the rent, but for the most part, with modernisation, I think they are good for the UK.

When we were leading into the Jubilee, someone in a meeting said that whether you were a Royalist or not, everyone is pretty pleased that Queen Elizabeth had lived so long. I pointed out that it was not everyone. Perhaps Prince Charles didn't feel that way. Which was meant as a joke, and perhaps held an element of truth, but in return I received some quiet glares. Personally, I think the Queen would have chuckled at that one.

I know public opinion of Charles has softened over the past few years - I'm still not sure where I stand on him. Perhaps he'd be quite a charming fellow with a pint in hand and a good natter. I think William will make a good King, although I suspect that won't be for a few more years.

RIP, your Majesty. And good luck, King Charles. And if you ever want a quiet evening with a pint and a natter, I'm sure your security team can find me easily enough.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Home Is Where The Stomach Is?

It has been three years since I was last in Australia. Generally I go back every 18 months or so, but the pandemic threw that timeline out of whack. Once airlines started flying again, flights were limited, rules and restrictions were tight, and prices were beyond ridiculous. In the end I figured I would wait until things were a bit more back to normal.

Sometimes I am asked if I miss Australia, and I suppose I do - not in any yearning, sit at home, homesick kind of way, but there are times when I feel like I would quite like to go somewhere or do something over there. Mostly I just miss my family and friends.

I belong to an expat group on Facebook. For the most part it's encouraging, supportive and fun and I quite enjoy it. People regularly share tips on like in the UK, including which shops currently have Tim Tams and other goodies for sale. Others share pictures of care packages sent from loved ones. Sometimes we just get to joke about things that make no sense if we say them to Brits. ("Lock it in, Eddie" was mentioned recently)

Personally, I'm don't yearn for Australian snacks and sweets in the same way others do, although occasionally I would love a dim sim or a Chiko roll. Just one, and then I'd be good to go for another year. But there are some on there who are in the UK because they married a Brit, and are desperately homesick. I feel for them. Homesickness can be a terrible thing.

I don't feel that personally. Maybe because I was born here, and to me this has always felt like home anyway. Maybe because I enjoy my job and have my wife's family close by, or maybe because my feelings just don't work that way.

I look forward to going back. When it happens, I'll relish the time spent there, in the company of friends and family. And expect me to return here with a couple of extra kilos round my waist.

Friday, August 26, 2022

Whoosh!

This year seems to be rushing past. It's already late August, and it shouldn't be!

I suppose in reflection, I can see a lot that I have achieved so far in 2022, and yet there was so much more I wanted to do.  Work has been busy, but then when isn't it? Projects around the house, renovating and maintenance. They never seem to end. At least there is great satisfaction when we see the finished product, something we've both worked hard to achieve.

I have a few things in my planner to look forward to in the latter part of this year. There are trips, visits, and even a convention in there. I'm rather excited about all of these.

A new story dues for publication early next year has lifted my spirits no end. I was also privileged to have the editor not only tell me how good the story was, but also that he was making it the featured story for that issue.  Always nice to have a cover. 

So there is more writing to be done. I must write more stories, but beyond that I am currently involved in four other secret writing projects. Lovely things which will bring me great joy. Two are quite labour intensive, but the rewards will be intense.

Winter is coming, and already the mornings are darker and evenings are drawing in. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as I quite enjoy the seasons. But it does mean there is more time suitable to not be sitting outside but inside and writing.
 
Sometimes we need to take the motivation where we can find it.


Sunday, August 7, 2022

Another Story On Its Way.

Way back in March, I submitted a story to a magazine - my first in a year or more.

And on the weekend it sold. The Leviathan Awakens will be publish in early 2023.

I'm pretty excited about this one. It's a story I really, really like, and it's going to a good home. The Martian Wave (Hiraeth Publications) is a new market for me, and I'm thrilled to have this story under their banner.

The Leviathan Awakens has its roots in a painting a friend did way back in the 80s. When he showed me the painting I had a tiny idea. I wasn't a writer then so nothing came of it. But that idea never went away, and kept niggling
and niggling. And then, a few years ago, I was at a writing workshop and I had to write an opening paragraph in a particular style. That opening paragraph became the opening to this story which started to develop in my mind.

The paragraph I wrote at that workshop was well received, but is now gone. In the context of the story, it confused things too much and so was completely rewritten. It's a shame, as that was a paragraph I really liked, and I thought worked really well. The readers, not so much.

And so, of course, I need to dive back in and get another story happening. Which is good, as I just had this little idea on the weekend.

Friday, July 29, 2022

Journey Through The Past

On holiday recently, and in a fairly isolated location with no TV, I read a lot. I brought four books with me, but they only lasted a couple of days. And so I went in search of more.

Fortunately, in a nearby town, I found a brilliant little second-hand bookshop. The owner was extremely knowledgeable on her stock. I asked her about a couple of titles/authors, and she was able to tell me yes or no, and exactly where. I told her, as I left, what a fantastic shop it was and she seemed genuinely pleased.

There were a few shelves of SF books, and I found a few old paperbacks I hadn't read and looked promising. In the middle of all these, however, was an old favourite I haven't read for many, many years. Downward to the Earth by Robert Silverberg. I picked it up, then put it back as I have a copy at home. But that cover! It wasn't the cover I had, and the artwork was beautiful, and so I grabbed it.

I posted way back in 2009 that Silverberg was one of the people I would love to meet one day. This has come true - not once, but twice. The first time I met him, in 2010, I thanked him for his work and told him what it meant to me. I told him that the first two SF novels I read as a teen were by PKD and Silverberg. He asked me what they were, and while I remembered PKD's novel, my mind went blank with his. And so I stood there looking like a fool and feeling embarrassed.

In 2014 I met him again, and we managed to have a longer and more coherent conversation. And Cat Sparks was on hand to capture the moment - a photograph which still brings me joy.

But back to the present. 

I absolutely tore through Downward to the Earth, and it was wonderful. The writing, the plot, the characters, the worldbuilding - all as brilliant as I remembered it. Since I last read it, (in the 90s, I think) I have been to University and studied Heart of Darkness, and so as I read Downward this time, I couldn't help but see the references to Conrad's work (and, in some ways, Apocalypse Now) Heck, there is even a character named Kurtz, a kind of dark reflection of the protagonist.

While firmly a product of its time (1970), there is a post-colonialist reading to this text which is, perhaps, more relevant than ever. 

Once again, I am reminded why Robert Silverberg is amongst our greatest writers.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

When Would You Go?

Time travel has always fascinated me. What would it be like to visit times and places long gone and events long passed, to see what your surrounds were like in earlier times, to try to understand how people lived then?

I've been reading some time travel fiction recently. A few short stories, a novel or two, some website posts which claim to be true, as well as some theoretical works. Most of it was pretty good, some was less than impressive. But they all gave me ideas and got me thinking about what I would do if I had the chance to use a time machine.

Where would I go? Or, more accurately, to when would I go? Would I go back and see a Beatles concert? And if so, which one. Would I go back and try to warn the boys about events that would lead to breaking up the band. And how could I prove my credentials? 

"Hey Paul, I'm from the future, and I can prove it. What is the name of a song that you've just written that no one else has ever heard, and I'll sing it to you." That would surely get their attention. "Oh, and here's a new song I wrote you might like - called Blackbird."

But if I had the chance to travel in time, would I choose something so self indulgent.

There are so many historical events, so many big questions.

Last week, while wandering through the Castle and Cathedral, and then looking at some Roman ruins, my thoughts again turned to like in those times. And yes, once more I wondered.

I used to teach a time travel film to my students. It wasn't a bad film and provided a lot of fodder for teacing beyond English. We used to talk about science, survival, history and technology. I also spoke with them about the psychology of visiting another time, and how the biggest danger might simply be not fitting in with the people around you. Stranger danger has a new meaning.

This was something that Year 9 boys in particular thought could be overcome simply by taking a motorcycle, a mobile phone and modern weapons.

The more I think about it, the more I have no idea when I would go. But dinosaurs might be cool.


Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Just Because You Can....

I've been listening and watching some podcasts and video-podcasts recently. And there have been one or two which I visit regularly, keeping up with new episodes and remaining topical. But for the most part, I don't revisit them. Mostly because they are just not very good.

The ones I revisit don't have particularly high production values. In fact, there is very little in the way of production or post-production. They don't appear to have expensive equipment or anyone assisting them. Simply put, it's the quality of the content and the skills of the presenters/interviewers that draw me in.

Interviewing is a skill, and good interviewing techniques take practice. I wouldn't say I'm an expert, but I do have some radio experience, I majored in Drama at University, was a teacher for more than twenty years, spent several years as an investigator conducting interviews, and undertook Research Methods for my Postgraduate studies.

So let's be clear. There is an art to conducting interviews and presenting. You need to prepare, to have areas to cover (especially if the interviewee isn't forthcoming) as well as being prepared to shoot off on tangents if the interview leads into other interesting yet relevant areas. And yet I have seen and heard so many who cannot interview or present to save their lives.

I saw one particular interview where the subject was fascinating, with a great tale to tell, and yet the interviewer, who had no charisma, presence or technique, tried to revert everything back to their own experience and made it about them. (And believe me, it was dull)

I saw another where the presenters had all the equipment, expensive and high quality, but spent the first five minutes talking about connection issues as though no-one was listening.

Another where the two co-hosts thought they were hilarious, and laughed at all their in-jokes which the audience wouldn't have understood.

And the one where the interviewer obviously hadn't prepared and made vague generalised statements about the subject (and the interviewee was a specialist) which showed a general ignorance and lack of understanding. They did have a marketable gimmick, though.

Oh dear, the list goes on.

It's all too easy these days, isn't it? Anyone can throw a podcast onto a streaming service, or a video up on a channel in YouTube. Anyone can claim to be an expert, and it appears many can build a following without actually being any good.

Which reminds me. There is also an art in being an audience member and using your discernment.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

God Save the Queen!

The Queen's jubilee weekend has just finished with a number of events across the UK. Much of it was televised, and I didn't see any of it. Well, except for that one YouTube clip where a UFO seemed to fly across the path of an Air Force flyover just as they passed. But surely that doesn't really count.

There were some local events, including a tea party in the village hall. I was supposed to go, but decided not to at the last minute. We were told the hall was limited to 150 people due to regulations, and another 100 would be seated outside. The weather, however, was pretty awful and so the organisers (who did a fine job, I've been told) decided to squeeze all 250 people into the hall. I thought about it and was a little reluctant, partly because I'm not keen on crowds in this post-lockdown world and partly because there are vulnerable people around me. And so I declined.

I was invited to a neighbour's house for drinks and nibbles where I got to meet some other neighbours I hadn't yet met, had some great conversations, and generally had a really relaxed and enjoyable evening. I think a few of them have decided that I am a republican, (which I am for Australia, but not necessarily for the UK) as a couple of people made it clear they were going to toast the Queen but I didn't have to partake if I didn't want to. Maybe it's my Scottish/Australian background that screams that.

But I was happy to toast the Queen. Seventy years in a role you didn't plan on or want is no mean feat in anyone's book. And I think for the most part she has done a fine job under some very trying circumstances.

In other news, I have managed to secure a copy of the extremely limited Jubilee reissue of God Save the Queen (Sex Pistols) on coloured vinyl.

Yes! 

Thursday, May 26, 2022

And So We Wait

So I rewrote, proofread and sent that story off. And I haven't heard anything yet.

Back when I was a new writer, I sent off my first "real" submission, and after about three days watched my inbox anxiously. Oh, how naive I was.  That beast took seven months to come back to me. And even then it was a rejection. A personal one, but a rejection all the same. And seven months?  That was insane.

Still, the editor said fine things about my story, and I did rewrite it and sold it to an anthology. A couple of years later I saw this editor at a convention buying that anthology, and I laughed and told him that I always knew he would buy my story. We always got one well, and he chuckled at that one.

My current story is still out in the wild and still no word. I have subbed to this editor before. He usually only takes about two months but we're closing on three months as I write this and waiting is difficult. I have some confidence it will sell, although I never count on that happening. It would, however, be nice to have this story published.

Oh well, the waiting continues and continues. Tomorrow and the next day and the one after that - I'll be here checking my inbox.  

And as always, any publication details will be announced here

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Now Why Did They Do That?

Oh no! Someone unfriended me on Facebook!

Now I have no doubt that others have too. With a friend-list well into the hundreds, some of whom I don't know personally, it's likely I may not have noticed them. I don't know how long ago this person unfriended, although I think I interacted with them earlier this year.

We're not close, have only met a couple of times in person, but we share several interests. I always enjoy reading their posts, usually hit the like button, sometimes add a positive comment, and have very occasionally tagged them into a post I thought they would like - as they have with me.

Recently I realised I hadn't seen them in my newsfeed for a while, and I just figured it was the FB algorithms at work again. No matter, I searched for them and they weren't in my friend list. I searched for their homepage, and noticed we were no longer friends. Which kind of surprised me. And then I noticed all our mutual friends hadn't been unfriended. And that kind of bugged me a bit. 

And now I'm wondering if I did or said something wrong on my FB feed.

Or maybe they had a purge and I didn't make the cut.

Or maybe....

It has me wondering. What if one of us accidentally unfriended the other, or there was a FB glitch which did it? I have heard of this happening. What if they're sitting there wondering why I unfriended them?

Is there etiquette for this? Worry about it? Ignore it? Ask a mutual friend? Do you send a polite message asking?

Of course, there is then the concern that they're too polite to tell you the truth, claim it was an accident and reluctantly re-add you. Or worse, they tell you why they unfriended you.

I have been unfriended in the past - twice in purges of friend lists. And I know this as they both announced they would be running a purge prior to doing so. It was a little disappointing as I liked following their posts.

Interestingly, both these people later re-added me as friend. That pleased me greatly, but I did wonder why they did so. I'm not convinced it was my sparkling and charming personality that brought them back.

But it is what it is. And if you're reading this, I'll miss your posts.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

It's Hug A Puppy Year!

Life and work has been hectic recently - more than usual. Or maybe it just feels like it.

There's always something to do, and I do feel like I've been far busier than usual. I've been stripping wallpaper and prepping a couple of rooms for plastering and painting. Obviously home renovations and DIY take up some free time, but it's not really eating into my evenings much. I feel like I'm on top of my job, ahead in some projects, and yet work has felt much more hectic than normal. Everything just feels busy and tiring. I had Covid a month or so ago, perhaps the tiredness is a hangover from that.

Maybe it's the world. Maybe the craziness of the past couple of years, coupled with everything that's adding to it at the moment is just wearing and draining. Maybe we're being overloaded with negativity and bad news.

What we need are more things that make us happy. Things that bring us joy. For me, it's reading, listening to music and playing with my dog.

Everyone should spend ten minutes everyday lying on the grass and just cuddle a puppy. Works wonders for me!

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Andy Remic

I haven't been able to write this post for some time. I've wanted to, but just haven't been able to get the words down.

My friend, Andy Remic, passed away just over a month ago. It wasn't unexpected, although it was sooner than we'd thought.

It was a couple of coincidences that brought me into Andy's orbit. We shared several interests, and both loved writing. Andy, of course, was a well know SF and Fantasy writer with a string of credits to his name. I'm just a guy who sells the occasional short story. But Andy treated me like a peer. He not only taught me a great deal but asked my advice and opinion. Due to circumstances, Andy didn't write for a few years. But when he did return to writing, with a short story for Grimdark Magazine, I was thrilled when he asked me to crit it for him. I was really pleased he incorporated most of my suggestions.

We talked of collaborating on some fiction, but time got away from us. Andy started writing a script - I have the early draft here somewhere - and was planning to film a series of short films featuring us both. But in the past few years, Andy's focus was on film-making. He made a series of documentaries on the early days of computer games, mostly centred around the Spectrum, one of his great loves. Writing wasn't abandoned, though, as he had started writing another novel, incomplete at his passing.

We weren't able to see each other too often in the past couple of years, mostly due to the pandemic and especially with his vulnerability due to his medical conditions. We planned to catch up, but it was close to two years before I saw him one final time.

I was privileged and thrilled to be invited to his wedding a few months ago. I think like many people, I was surprised at his changed appearance and physicality due to his illness. We managed to grab 20 minutes to chat at the reception. And that was fantastic. We didn't speak about his illness at all, except when he mentioned his discomfort. We spoke about life, film, Philip K Dick, teaching and writing. And beyond his appearance, there was an even bigger change evident.

Andy was a straight-talker. He had no time for people who were dishonest or messed him around, and he could be quick to see red. There were a couple of times at conventions, for instance, where I'd have a quiet chat to try and calm him. And since I'd known Andy, there were certain events and people towards which he was angry.

But at his wedding he was the calmest, and most serene I'd ever seen him. He seemed accepting of much of what had happened to him. I sensed he had forgiven much and felt comfortable. He told me that he was progressing with his new novel, and that he was in the right headspace to be writing. He told me he was past the anger he had held. And he told me it was all due to his new wife, Linda.

I don't know Linda anywhere near as well as I knew Andy (and that wasn't anywhere near as well as I would have liked.) but I like her a lot. She was good for Andy, and I got the impression he was good for her. 

Andy told me how much Linda meant to him, that she was his rock and had eased the anger from inside him. He told me how special she was, and that he didn't know where he would be without her.

Don't get me wrong, he also spent time talking about his boys, how much they mean to him, and how proud he was of them. But when he was talking about Linda, it sounded almost as if she had saved him.

And my heart aches to see Linda going through all this.

Andy was my friend and my writing mentor. Just yesterday, my Facebook memory was:

Despite his nagging, just spent a fantastic afternoon in the company of Andy Remic. Talked books, writing, publishing and music amongst other topics.
Once again I leave feeling inspired and having learned so much.
Thanks, Andy.

Yeah, he always nagged me to write a novel - sometimes loudly and in front of other people. He always said good things about my words.

Tomorrow is his funeral, and although invited, I can't go for reasons beyond my control. And I'm absolutely gutted. I want to be there to remember, to celebrate his life, to mourn his untimely passing, to wish him Godspeed, and to be with others who feel the same way.

I'll be doing all that, but from the comfort of my home.

Farewell, Andy. Sleep well.

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Back to Writing.

I've been working on a story.

True, it's a rewrite rather than a fresh story, but it's a major rewrite with restructures and plot changes. And a fairly interesting change to the ending. It's also writing - something I haven't done for enjoyment for a long while.

Most of my writing over the past few years has been academic in nature, as I undertook further studies. But that's now out of the way and I'm in the right place and space to be creative once more. I have this story I like. It's had some close calls, and last year I subbed it last minute to an anthology I wanted to be part of. They held it for a very long time, and it was only cut at the 11th hour. So eleventh hour that I woke up and saw the TOC in an announcement before I checked my emails to see the rejection.

It was a lovely rejection, and very positive, but disappointing, of course, as I had hoped to sell to this particular publisher.

Oh well.

But a month or so later I revisited this story, just to read it, and realised I had not sent the latest version. Also, it contained a few embarrassing errors.

But this story is now rewritten, and although I thought it was a fine piece before, I feel it is all the better now.

And so it's back into the internet to find a suitable market. I have a couple in mind. But before it goes anywhere, I'll wait a week and give it another read.

I mean, I wouldn't want to send out a story that contained too many mistakes now, would I?

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Some Things New Under the Sun.

According to a quick search on google, and clicking on the first site that appeared, this year is the Chinese year of the Water Tiger. And apparently this means it will bring a confident and authoritative energy to us all, as tigers are aggressive, tenacious, ambitious, competitive, and strong.

I suppose there is something quite zen about my approach to this "research", and perhaps I lucked out and it's entirely accurate. But I must admit to feeling rather optimistic about this coming year.

Now, this may simply be down to a few factors, such as moving home recently, having my desk at a large window where I can look out over a garden, watching Spring arrive and flowers appear in this garden, a couple of opportunities arising in my job, and several personal events which have all been positive. It could, however, be argued that some of these are the result of the Tiger Year, or it could be these coincidental and seasonal events have shaped my world view.

Does it really matter?

Ultimately, I have a renewed confidence in things. My head is in a good space, and I have several things to look forward to. Sure, the pandemic is still all around, and there are other matters close to my heart and mind which concern me, but overall, things are pretty good.

Once again I have tentative plans for writing, music and publishing. Plans also extend into a few other areas as well. I have some travel plans, some visitor plans (receiving, that is), and social plans. Not all of these will eventuate, but I have high hopes for some of them.

In the Fortean world, I've seen an increase in reports and documentaries on UFOs. And I've seen some state that this year is the year of disclosure, that there will be leaked and official videos and documentation, that this could be the year that governments admit cover-ups and long term knowledge of UAPs and EBEs. That we have the technology, and we have made first contact.

It would be nice, I think, to know that there are others out there. I believe there are. Have they visited us? Do the governments know this? I don't know, but if they do, then it's time to be more open.

[hums the five note sequence from Close Encounters]

Will they disclose? Will I write and sell a story this year? Will my other plans come to fruition?

The truth is out there.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Australia Day in the UK.

It's Australia Day. And for many Australians, myself included, that doesn't really mean much.

Growing up, it was a public holiday which meant a day off school. But it wasn't a day we "celebrated" as such. No one wished you a Happy Australia Day, we didn't put flags up, we didn't do anything special or eat a particular meal. It didn't really seem to have much depth at all, apart from some civic fireworks or maybe a local 'Australia Day' branded concert or something.

But like Halloween, which also had no real meaning when I grew up, it's starting to gain traction as an event, to become something more than what it was.

I'm not going to get into any discussion on whether the date should be moved, apart from it absolutely should. I'm not posting this as some kind of national pride thing. I'm writing this because I'm currently sitting in a small English village in the middle of winter and some English friends have wished me a Happy Australia Day.

Sure, I have played it up a little. In our weekly meeting at work on Monday, I was asked what was happening this week. Rather than commence with my deadlines and plans, I told them Tuesday was Burns Night and Wednesday was Australia Day, which provided them with a fantastic opportunity to celebrate me as a colleague. Without a pause, our meeting moderator replied, "We do, Steve, every single day."

But I suppose all the posts on social media have made me think a little about Australia. And my family and friends. And that it's still not easily visitable.

The world is a different place since I last visited Australia more than two years ago. It was just before the pandemic, and if I had gone with my original plan to visit in March of 2020, I wouldn't have been back in around 4 years.

I love Australia, and I miss my family and friends, but in some ways I feel more at home in the UK than I do in Australia. I feel a connection with the land here. And I've felt it every single time I've arrived. I especially feel it when I'm up in Scotland. 

But I would dearly love to visit Australia sooner rather than later.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Shhhhh. The Secret Project.

I'm working on a secret project at the moment. Nobody has told me it's a secret, and there's nothing particularly special about it. But for personal reasons, I choose not to share it at this time.

It's something I've thought about for a long time now and have decided to take the plunge. It's something writing relating I want to do for my own enjoyment, and I guess for my own benefit, and it's something which I will enjoy.

I often see writers post on social media that they're working on a secret project. I must admit to sometimes wondering why the project is secret. Is it because they've been asked not to talk about it, or because it might not eventuate, or are they simply trying to build an air of mystery around the life of a writer?

Yes, I get curious when they post about these projects, but I don't ever really remember any later official announcement that made me thing "Aha! That's what they were working on!" But don't worry, I will share this project when the time is right. I'll even make it easy for you to identify and recognise by starting with, "Do you remember that secret project I mentioned?"

I might have to swear a couple of people to secrecy, though, as there are elements that will require advice and guidance.  Does any know where I left the cone of silence?