Colin Alcock

Verbal Ramblings.

Last words

I have just had a birthday. Another year to add to my tally and time to take stock again. What do I still do that's worth doing? Well, for one my writing has become more concentrated on short pieces, although I will still be publishing my latest novel,'The Spider Man' in a month or so, but my infrequent verbal ramblings have run their course. So, in the next week or two, the blog section of this website will disappear. When I do want to say something, it will appear on the home page, where I currently highlight new stories and may occasionally add a featured image.

All other sections will remain and I will chop and change these from time to time, as new material is produced or historic works are recycled. So there will still be a fluidity to what appears. For those who do visit the website, every now and then, be assured that I will continue to develop it over time. Maybe just a little more slowly. However, the only way for you to confirm that will be to drop in every month or so, to find new material; or as often as you like to read and re-read, or view, the current writing and images.

I may be reducing the output, but I'm not going away.

Car showroom or finance house?

Over the last couple of months I've been looking at an alternative to my ageing motor and that has meant both online research and a few visits to showrooms. OK, it's a few years since I've done this, but I was amazed at the lack of interest sales staff show in actually selling cars. I have made a number of visits where I've climbed all over the model I'm interested in and not one salesperson has approached to help (or hinder) my exploration. I've been elsewhere, where I've been guided to the appropriate model and nothing has been said about its qualities or suitability for my purposes. The sales person not even bothering to take my name or contact details. And everyone wonders why sales this March were so low.

Of course, I do realise the reason for all this. You've only to look at the promotional material in the showrooms. Gone are the technical and factual details for each model that you used to find. All you have is banners and stickers for personal finance, manufacturers' contributions, enhanced trade-in and the like – provided you take out a contract where you rarely ever get to own the car, unless you make some massive final payment. Want to pay up front? They don't really do any deals for that, you can't have your £1000 reduction, sir, unless you take out a plan that costs you £2000 over list price.

It's the way of the world. Push more and more people further into debt and appeal to those who are ready targets. The young and impressionable. Take out the practical electrics like electric rear windows, door mirrors and cruise control and shove in bigger speakers and social media connection (which you shouldn't use anyway, when you are driving) to make the whole thing a mobile beats box. Oh, and keep the costs down, by detuning the engine, throw away the spare wheel, and pretty it all up with scrub-off-in-time, liable to fade, coloured decals or a different coloured roof, which will be out of fashion by the time you want to resell the car. Except, of course, you won't; because you will be talked into exchanging it for the latest model or an upgrade, at an even more costly personal finance package.

Has the car industry forgotten there's still a good few mums, dads and aged P's who want a car that is comfortable, economic and gets you places quietly and efficiently, with plenty of boot space for kids' and grandkids' paraphernalia? Some will say that's why there's a growth in the 'every one must make one' SUV. But unless you buy a big one, are you that much better off. They all seem to have roof rails ready for the top box, because the boot isn't big enough. Still they do cost a bit more and you can win more on the finance stakes if you're a dealer that sells them.

So there you have it. Sales staff who know to the last penny how much your personal finance will cost and how many different phones you can connect on board at the same time: and not much else. And certainly no real effort to sell any cars. Just the finance, if you do all the fact finding work yourself and decide to buy one.

Today was typical. After research, I've two cars in mind. In one showroom I appeared to be invisible: in the other a salesman did guide me to a vehicle parked in the corner of the forecourt (because a new showroom is under construction), but offered no information on the car, whatsoever, and only as I was leaving the site did he mention I might want a valuation on my car. Too little, too late. And I was in the mood for buying. But not now, I may as well keep my reliable old model. Maybe for another year or two.

Write what you like …

To me, writing is a pleasure, to some it is a chore. The effort needed to produce erudite prose or emotional poetry can be wearing and the thought of rejection off-putting. But every word is worth it.

Having lived by the word, as a copywriter, I had to toil away to strict demands, but since retirement I have rediscovered the joy in writing purely for pleasure. Something I rarely had time for, before. Now, I have a small audience and don't crave for fame, with those who enjoy what I write and those who are critical. I welcome the criticism. It's like medicine: hard to swallow and might leave a bitter taste at first, but makes me a better writer in the end. (Except for when I totally disagree, of course.)

The other thing I have I discovered is the huge spectrum of writers and wide gamut of genres open to all. The Internet has been strategic in this, allowing many more to express their creative ability to much wider audiences, even when rejection by traditional publishing may have proven a deterrent. Online competitions and magazines give that extra platform for those of us who may never reach the dizzy heights of best seller stardom. Nevertheless, however small a personal readership, striving for the best is always the aim and I've come across some little gems by unheard of authors through trawling the web pages – and not always the competition winners, often amongst the also rans and unlisted, too.

So if there is a moral to my rambling, it's simple: #keepwriting. If you enjoy writing it, it will probably be enjoyed by others. being selected for publication is just a matter of someone's taste or maybe some marketing guidelines. That doesn't mean there's no audience for your work. You just have to find the like minded, whether you write simply for fun, like me, or wish to launch some academically exciting literary masterpiece on the world.

Write what you like. Someone else will like it, too.

Is Trump really a robot?

I am not that deep into US politics, but like anyone who watches news programmes, the coverage of Trump's term as President intrigues me. It's not just his lack of political experience – or acumen – that keeps me wondering how so many of the American public were fooled into voting for him; more that the Republican Party (albeit with many internal objectors) let its credibility be torn apart. Now, with the FBI naming names for Russian interference in the electoral process, it makes me wonder, in this cyber age, just how far can a foreign power go? (Or anyone with cyber mischief intent?)

I look at President Trump and think: is he real? The robotic arm waving, the lizard like eye flicking, the static poses between phrases, the disproportioned hands, the parrot like repetition of statements, the unstable gait down steps and slopes. Has someone assembled this character from a kit of parts, programmed to make a joke of the all American dream? Someone guaranteed to bring the US down, by delivering a brief bubble in the economy that will surely burst before the next presidential term is due. There are signs. That flap of hair is easily lifted for access to the inner workings of his brain assembly, to swop out a chip or two, when ready to send him into truly destructive mode. His inability to maintain political conversation with his aides, sacking them if they actually offer a differing opinion, regardless of that opinions worth, and ignoring anything that is outside the program set in his firmware: even when it is obvious that the majority of US voters (who would have preferred Clinton, anyway) would welcome some compromise, some change of direction, or a less aggressive stance on individual issues. Issues like The Wall, the Dreamers, skewed Immigration Restrictions and Healthcare. And the frequent, mostly unjustified, Obama and Clinton bashing: two people who contributed greatly to overall US prosperity and its status amongst foreign powers. Alas, it seems the robot's AI is not fully formatted, yet.

Who would do such a thing. The Putin – Trump relationship looks a little strained and the signs of interference are there with "Putin's chef", Yevgeny Prigozhin, quite happy to be seen as the devil. However, has their technology advanced enough in the field of robotics? China is certainly a contender, where that is concerned: also Japan and maybe North Korea, if its advances match those of the South of the peninsula. Who would really benefit and from how far afield could they pull the puppet strings?

OK, so maybe I'm not too serious in my comments, but the underlining factor is that today's cyber technologies can reach far. Using just the ubiquitousness of social and networking media can prove as dangerous as any direct hacking. Because even real, live humans can denigrate, mislead and generally spout nonsense, without needing more than a simple app to do so. There are many causes doing that already, besides the empirically lacking Presidential Twitter outbursts we have seen.

Trump is only human, after all, so lets not blame foreign powers on his version of presidency. However, be aware that the insidious infiltration of dark matter is all around us, from both internal and foreign soils. Religious fanatics, gender interpreters, political persuaders and straight forward marketing ploys, all exploit the social media ether. The social media of friendly banter and activity exchange has been invaded heavily and we should all be aware of this. All its streams are now used as tools to browbeat the weak, the hesitant and those afraid to stand up for themselves – both individuals and companies. Yes, even an organisation as big as Center Parcs shows its weakness, getting all het up because someone accuses the Daily Mail of homophobia, all because one correspondent, very carefully and totally inoffensively, expressed a personal view on parenting. So Center Parcs pulls its advertising from that newspaper, which implies it is not in favour of free speech and the right to state your individual opinion (something that Trump is not afraid to do).

If true, that's a PC step too far, for me – assuming I am allowed to say so.

The Weaker Sex?

In this age of equality, why are some women purporting to be the weaker sex? Read Moreā€¦