Not quite there

I’ve been writing for myself since I was young, but aside from this blog which I do as a hobby, I’ve completed one novel (though honestly it needs more editing) which I submitted to the Wilbur and Niso Smith adventure writing prize (shortlist in link) and I’ve submitted one other piece to Asimov magazine. I neither got shortlisted for the award of had my submission accepted.

No big deal, I honestly didn’t expect either to be a screaming or immediate success.

What has somewhat surprised me is my lack of pessimism about this. If I had tried and failed 10 years ago then I probably would have packed it in altogether and focused on my current career fully and completely…or at least other things.

That’s not how I’m feeling though. I want to put more energy in. I want to refine and improve my writing and put more ideas down on the page.

Maybe I’ll never make it something I can subsist off of, though I can hopefully get something published and I can definitely enjoy myself while doing it. I’m not convinced the pure aim of life, of writing is to simply enjoy what you’re doing. It does feel like a good starting point though, if the business of survival is in order.

So, here’s to my writing hobby. Long may it continue.

Weaving elements of life

I hate to think of time as limited and something that needs to be divided up. Endless prioritisation exercises are needed to try and all of a life into those divisions. Of course I do prioritise it, but I really hate to. Things tend to go in the immediate “I have to” or “I want to” files. The former is typically the daily grind at work plus to real have tos – eating, drinking sleeping. Though these also fit firmly in the latter camp. I can’t bring myself to call a nap a waste of time. It may take up a division or two and mean I don’t complete a piece of work on a particular day, but I love to do it and it feels good.

These divisions don’t haunt may as they may some. I don’t clock in and clock out. They cast a shadow though on my desire to write. I only want to write when I want to, when I enjoy it. As a hobby that’s right. Still, I wish I could ease up on twine of the “have to dos” which may make me more likely to get that time back to write more than I have for the last several months.

I’m sure I could just be more disciplined. Where’s the fun in discipline though?


I originally set a goal to do 50k words on the Cazique of Poyais story in a month. I did pretty good, getting to something like 13-15k, but no where near 50k that I wanted to. Life happened and I fit the writing in when I could and wanted to. Now I’m at 70k words […]

The French foreign office

…some work in progress from the Cazique of Poyais story…

Jose was, deep in his heart, a bureaucrat. His one foray outside of that world, the world of records and procedures, had lead him to where he stood today. Perhaps, ultimately, a better place than he was, but with all of the risk and pain that came with the journey there. If he had stayed, walking by and staring at St John’s Church, he would have continued to stare in wonderment. To ask questions generally and to question his life. If he walked by that same Church now, he would only wonder how he thought of it as such a, well, wonder. An easy thing to say when you have seen Notre Dame. There was nothing bureaucratic about his current life.

The entry was formulaic. He strolled up to the front desk, wearing his best set of clothes, and politely asked in his very best mock French, “Where is the passport office?”

The pale, dark haired bureaucrat looked up from his papers and eyed up Jose. A foreigner, for sure, but a respectable one and so he responded with his own question, “Do you have an appointment?”

It had occurred to Jose to make an appointment, but he had no clue who to make an appointment with.

“No — may I speak in English?”

Jose was losing the man, but he reluctantly nodded.

“I come on quite urgent business. It is my strong suspicion that there is a scam ongoing that I have seen occur in England.”

The bureaucrat’s ears pricked up. He did not say anything, though his head nodded as if to urge Jose on. To coax a bit more out of him.

After a brief pause and almost imperceptible sigh, Jose continued, “While the English victims to this particular scam did not apply for passports, I believe that their French counterparts have. No one in government would believe me or even listen to me, but the proof lies directly here in the passport office. If anyone can do anything, it is them.”

The bureaucrat looked back down at his papers. His English was ok, and he understood everything that was being said. Was it worth a potential reprimand to send this man through? On balance, he felt he could deal with it. No love lost with this foreigner. If he was correct though, then the bureaucrat felt he could be entitled to a title such as ‘the man who saved so and so’. It made him feel good.

“You may go. Third floor — Jacques Marc will show you.”

With that, a young man appeared seemingly out of thin air to escort Jose to the passport office. The boy was slim and youthful, wearing an age behind his eyes. There was pain hiding in the depths of his soul, a soul being sucked out by his job. Without a word he lead Jose up the stairs to the passport office. Jose didn’t bother to try and engage him. He focussed on the next conversation.

The passport office had another reception. Jacques Marc handed Jose off and briefly explained the situation. This next gatekeeper looked Jose up and down and then proceeded to leave him standing in the reception, without so much as a ‘hello’. Jose wondered if he would be spending his entire time in this reception or if they would deem him worthy of an interview in a proper office. It didn’t matter so much as long as the message was received and acted upon.

As he waited, Jose studied the paintings on the wall. There was a scene from the revolution, a portrait of some statesman, a sprawling scene of Paris from some vantage point. By the desk of the gatekeeper, the French flag hung, limp without the aid of the wind, standing ineffectual guard over the gatekeepers papers. Jose looked to see if there was anything of interest, but it was all gibberish to him.

Continuing to pace, rather than sit in one of the waiting chairs, Jose considered something they hadn’t yet thought of. What if the French foreign office ignored his warnings? Conceivably they could still get the money from Lehuby. What of MacGregor though. Was he the type to hunt them to the ends of the earth? Even if not, the thought would haunt their waking moments. There would be know respite without some conclusion. These flooding thoughts brought about a similar flood from his poles. His back was now slick with sweat and beads dropped from his brow. As each moment went by his discomfort increased exponentially.

When he thought he might not be able to stand anymore, the gatekeeper returned, with another man in tow. Not an auspicious start. They didn’t trust him or respect him enough to welcome him in to an office.

“May I present Monsieur De’Ratan, person in charge of issuance of passports for the greater Paris region,” the gatekeeper said with a small bow of the head.

“A pleasure,” said De’Ratan, “what is it exactly that I can be of service with, Mr…”

“Johnson, Percival Johnson,” it was only in the moment he said it that Jose decided to use a fake name, in a mild panic.

“Well, Mr. Johnson, how can we assist you?”

“It’s more that I am hoping to assist you. I grew up on the other side of the world, in British Honduras, so I know the area very well.”

The two Frenchman looked at each other in confusion, but Jose pressed ahead.

“I have heard of a company, the Nouvelle Neustrie, extolling the virtues of a particular country that I have never heard of.”

“Really?” Asked De’Ratan, “to what end?”

“The company is backed by a man from Scotland, a Sir Gregor MacGregor, who has done this once before in England. He sent hundreds to a spot on the map which he claimed to be Poyais. There is indeed land there, but it is swampland owned by a nearby chieftain. The lands are worthless but being sold to these people as settlement land. Worse, they don’t even actually own the land they are selling.”

“This is awful, but why have you come here?”

“Well, sir, as I explained to your colleague downstairs, I did not know who to properly discuss this with. The police would not necessarily have listened to a stranger off the street without clear evidence.”

Before Jose could continue, De’Ratan interjected, “well, if you have no evidence, what good is it to come to us?”

“You have the evidence, sir.”

Intrigued, De’Ratan urged Jose on with widened eyes and a tilt of the head.

“I know that several of these would be victims have had the diligence to apply for passports in order to travel to Poyais. Something their British counterparts did not do. So, on the one hand, your department should have a handful of applications for passports to travel to a land which I can assure you exists in no Atlas you have on file and on the other hand you will have my testimony and this.”

Jose handed over the shortened pamphlet on Poyais that was being distributed.

“This,” Jose explained, “when linked with the passport applications, is the evidence you need to pursue the orchestrator, Mr Lehuby, and the mastermind, Sir Gregor MacGregor.”

Both De’Ratan and the gatekeeper looked through the pamphlet and pondered Jose’s words. The word ‘poyais’ must have triggered something with them as they seemed to be taking things seriously.

“Please wait here,” De’Ratan said, as he returned whence he came, pamphlet in tow, leaving Jose standing with the gatekeeper watching over him.

Jose was about to sit down and rest, but he was slick with sweat and decided against the idea of essentially sitting down in his own sweat and doing god knows what to the upholstery on the waiting room chair. It didn’t seem worth the benefit. Avoiding eye contact with the gatekeeper, he looked around and continued to take in the paintings.

The gatekeeper remained silent, simply watching Jose’s every twitch and movement. Waiting for something that would call him to action. Something that would never conceivably occur. It was all he knew to do. Jose’s obvious discomfort just amplified the feeling that he was doing his job well.

Lacking a seat and absorbing the watchful gaze of the gatekeeper made the wait for De’Ratan feel like an eternity to Jose. In fact, it was about fifteen minutes. A remarkable turnaround time in such a bureaucratic institution as the French foreign office.

“I made enquiries with my team here, Mr Johnson, and they confirmed they had received the passport applications you mentioned. There was already some initial concern about them as none of my team had heard of Poyais. Your corroborating evidence means that we must take action.”

Relief washed over Jose, his mission complete, he responded with a lengthier response then he originally intended, “thank you, sir, it means a lot to me. I was in British Honduras when the survivors of the Poyais scheme in Britain cane ashore. It was an awful sight, to see such hopeful and hardworking people who were willing to fight for the prize of a better life abroad to be reduced to such a state because of the greed of one man. This doesn’t repair their pain and loss, but it may at least bring these scanners to justice.”

Without another word, Jose was escorted out of the building with great relief and the thanks of De’Ratan. His reward would come elsewhere.