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Get your own print from Simon Zec’s latest book!

September 23, 2020

After two bland and uneventful years, our poetry editor Simon Zec finally managed to find something interesting to write about for his second poetry collection, available here.

In the Downtime is a reaction to both the world and his personal life. Trying to find the cracks in the darkness where the light can shine through.

Simon has striven to make the book beautiful as well as thoughtful and together with two talented artists (Benita Hibbert and Rob Winterson) they have created two original artworks to go with the books.

These are available to purchase for £15 each, but we are making available the first 20 prints of both pieces as a special deal combined with the book for a special price of £28.99 (plus p&p).

The book and the prints will also be signed by the creators too.

In the Downtime is now available from here. Also available from Steyning Bookshop, and also from JE Books in Hull, on Amazon and on kindle. You can also get £3 off by buying both of his poetry books together..

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Lesley Yarranton at rest, after publication of Saving Munich

August 20, 2020
Lesley Yarranton

Lesley may look like an Englishwoman in Gloucestershire – which is what she is – but she also speaks fluent German, ran her own press agency in Berlin when the wall came down, and in Saving Munich 1945, she has written, researched and chased down one of the remaining great untold stories of the Second World War.

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Chronicling covid in poetry

August 17, 2020

To celebrate our resident poet, Simon Zec, joining the team as Poetry Editor we will are happy to announce the launch our first project…

Simon in various moods…

The Covid Chronicles will be a compilation of poems from a diverse selection of poets, who will donate their words and thoughts on the past few months of trials, tribulations and narratives old and new.

All of the profits will be donated to a chosen charity (to be announced soon).

We ask that your submissions are not overly long and have no offensive language. We cannot guarantee that your submission will be used and please limit your submissions to no more than two per poet.

Closing date for submissions is 2 October 2020. Please submit your poems to
simon@therealpress.co.uk

We look forward to reading your words…!

Thank you

Simon Zec
Poetry Editor
The Real Press

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Simon Zec is our new poetry editor…

July 26, 2020
Simon in Steyning, not actually reciting…

Simon is a poet and has two poetry collections with us (Death of the Suburb and In the Downtime (forthcoming)) and we will be working together to publish a diverse selection of poets to represent the modern poetry scene. 

We hope to dive deep into the well of modern poetry, finding abdominal working with voices that represent the modern world that we live in. Please feel free to submit a small selection of your work for us to have a look at. 

Simon is also active on Twitter at @simonzec23…

But watch this space too!

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When fairy tales come disturbingly true

November 01, 2019

It could be something taken straight from a folk or fairy tale. A young child with a gift for seeing the truth, and the courage to tell it, sails across a great wide ocean to a land with a palace where the most powerful people on earth gather. Fearlessly, she berates them for the suffering their complacency is causing and the perils people face as a result. Then she tells them what to do: act on the science of the climate emergency.

The cover of Knock Three Times

Most powerful of all, and again like something conjured from a firelight story, her impact comes from a complete lack of guile. Her earnest delivery comes unfiltered, straight from the heart. The directness is part of what she calls her ‘gift’.

Because the Swedish schoolgirl, Greta Thunberg, has Asperger’s Syndrome. She describes herself how one consequence of this condition – the difficulty she finds in being with others – contributed to her decision to begin the lone protest which sparked a global movement. Another effect is that she holds herself to very high standards and expects others to do so too. She does not set out to please people or be liked, and is not interested in excuses. The tale continues.

Greta’s approach was coolly logical, she questioned why she should attend school and listen to teachers when politicians weren’t listening to the facts. She committed to strike each week until the politicians acted.

It’s ironic that the young woman, whose recent life carries the contours of a slightly unlikely story, rightly accuses the powerful of believing in ‘fairy tales of eternal economic growth’. Of course, she is right. ‘Fairy tale’ is a synonym for something that cannot exist in the real world. Much the same is true when something is described as being an ‘old folk tale’ – it is not to be believed. Both types of story, however, aren’t meant to be plausible in their worldly details; they are about revealing deeper truths.

There are plenty of myths, fables, folk and fairy tales that warn of the destructive power of greed and of disregarding natural limits. From the Midas touch to the flight of Icarus, King Canute’s inability to halt the incoming tide, and the abuse of the goose that laid the golden eggs, there is wisdom embedded in our cultural heritage that could better guide us.

Another function of folk tales, written about in the introductions to our previous story collections – There was a knock at the door and Knock Twice – is to help people come to terms with extremes of human experience. Tales often have their roots in times of struggle, during wars and the famines that result from them.

In the light of our current political and ecological upheavals, and the great displacements of people driven by climate extremes and blocked by intransigent borders, we need new tales more than ever for this reason.

But even greater, as the forms of an old culture of unbounded consumerism die, we need new stories to help us imagine and make the rapid transition to a different future. ‘Stories are one of the most ancient and most effective ways of making sense of the world,’ wrote the author Philip Pullman in a foreword to the first collection of stories in this series, adding: ‘When we try to live a good life in a world we seem to be simultaneously destroying, there is nothing more valuable or worth encouraging.’

In this regard, nothing has changed since our last collection. In other, very important ways, many things have. Partly because of the real life tale of a Swedish child with a very special gift, the world is dramatically more aware of the critical threats to the biosphere and our life support systems. Millions are taking to the streets and taking risks to push for change from below, because those on high have failed to act on the science.

There are too many rich tales in our new collection, Knock Three Times, to pick out any one, but we can guarantee you a rich and surprising variety. All, in different ways, seek to reveal a truth or light the way ahead. We invite you to knock three times on this book, turn the page, and begin a journey that may contain some peril, some surprises and doors that may open, hopefully, to new possibilities. Although to sometimes highly differing degrees, this is the prospect and predicament facing us all.

You can buy a copy of Knock Three Times as a paperback from here, on epub from the online bookshop Hive, on kindle – or all three books together at a reduced price of £5 off.

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Mowgli can still save us all, even now

February 06, 2019

Now that the film Mowgli: Lord  of the Jungle has finally been released on Netflix, we asked Swati Singh – author of The Secret History of the Jungle Book – to see it. This was her reaction…

It’s very good. Brilliant in many parts, though mediocre in some. Shere Khan is menacing and dominates the frame. Mowgli is small and vulnerable. Mowgli’s journey from a man cub to man explored wonderfully.

The scene where Mowgli hides terrified under water while Shere Khan stands above, to the point where he stands in the open challenging Khan, Mowgli’s journey comes full circle.

The movie is not exactly based on the book but rather very heavily and intelligently inspired by it. In fact very well scripted. Mowgli’s crisis of identity has been made the focus of the movie. The movie shows how Mowgli bridges the divide between man and nature owing to his unique in-between position. In fact, the movie has a nice message on man- nature conflict.

The controversial King Louis character has been totally removed, though the monkey people stay. A good watch. Not possible to capture the complexity of the text in an hour long movie but a very commendable job.

You can get hold of Swati Singh’s book The Secret History of the Jungle Book: How Mowgli Can save the World here, on kindle here and also as an ebook download in ePub or pdf.

 

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Getting the Munich Crisis wrong…

January 07, 2019

David Boyle writes…

Those fascinated by the events of Munich eighty years ago will be aware that there are two books out which assume rather different interpretations. On is by the novelist Robert Harris, who has made no secret of his pro-Chamberlain views. The other one is by me, and Munich 1938 puts rather greater weight on the testimony of the pro-Czech writer Shiela Grant Duff than he does.

Now, it so happens that I have been sent a copy of the letter sent by Shiela to The Observer three decades ago, complaining about Robert Harris’s opinions back then (thank you, Penelope). I reproduce it here without further comment:

“20 September 1988

In his monstrously misleading article as your guest political diarist, Robert Harris follows the now embedded myth that what was at stake at Munich was whether we should fight for the Czechs. In fact, Chamberlain’s concern was, above all, to prevent the Czechs from fighting for themselves, and the French from honouring their solemn treaty obligation to go to their aid should Germany attack.

Munich was only the final scenario of a policy which the British government had been following more or less consciously since it came to power in 1935. The ‘wets’ in the Foreign Office were not those who opposed appeasement, as Robert Harris seems to think, but those who concealed – or perhaps honestly did not recognise – the true war aims of German policy and the iniquity of the Nazi regime.

The Czechoslovak government realised this from the start and, with greater foresight than ourselves, immediately began to fortify its frontier, build up its army and air force, augment its massive armaments industry and tried to develop the only international security system which would have prevented the German general staff from allowing Hitler to fight a war on two fronts – the Franco-Czech-Russian alliance.

Throughout the pre-war period, we not only refused to have anything to do with this allowed Hitler to “enter his backyard” in the Rhineland, thus depriving France of this demilitarised safety zone on a frontier, and positively encouraged him to look for German expansion in central Europe. Neither Austria nor the Sudetenland had ever formed part of Germany before.

What appalled Chamberlain was not the weakness of Czechoslovakia but its strength, in the dreadful fear that, if the Czechs defended themselves, we and the French would be drawn in. The Berchtesgaden-Godesberg meetings were concerned, not with preventing Hitler from invading Czechoslovakia, but making sure that the Czechs would neither defend their fortifications, nor use their army or air force.

At 2 o’clock in the morning of 22 September 1938, the British and French ministers aroused President Benes from his sleep to tell him that, if war broke out, not only would neither we nor the French intervene, but on the contrary, would hold the Czechs responsible for any catastrophe which followed. Benes surrendered. The German armies marched in, took possession of the tanks, planes, the guns, the armament factories, and turned them against us and the French on the Western front, defeating the French and expelling us from Europe just two years later.

“A triumph for all was best and most enlightened in British life”?

Shiela Grant Duff

Observer correspondent, Prague, 1936-8″

You can buy copies of Munich 1938 on kindle and as a paperback.

 

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“You’ll end up in Saint Nick’s” and other reasons I wrote A Critical A-Z of Electroshock

November 08, 2018

Craig Newnes writes about his book A Critical A-Z of Electroshock

I loved my grandad – still do, I suppose. Trouble was, too many others did as well. He had a double gift – of the gab and generosity. The latter wasn’t much in evidence when he swanned off with Maud in around 1962, leaving my grandma (who everybody loved) to fend for herself.

He had eighteen brothers and sisters. The story was that three of his brothers went down on HMS Hood and his mum received three separate telegrams of condolence. One brother died in a strait-jacket in Thorpe Asylum – my first introduction to psychiatry though, like the three naval brothers, was his death was during World War Two. I didn’t come along until later.

By the time he left to live – and eventually die – in a caravan in Fakenham, I had another reason to fear psychiatry; the usual alarmist warning to anyone who misbehaved in the ‘fifties and ‘sixties was, “You’ll end up in Saint Nick’s,” the bin on Great Yarmouth sea front. And an imposing place that was. My beloved grandma spent two nights there – but more of that later.

Electroshock – called, for marketing purposes, Electro-Convulsive Therapy, was big at Saint Nick’s. Unsurprising really – electricity is a form of magic and psychiatry and psychology have a love affair with magic.

There is far too much to say about writing on electroshock – the whys are as complex as the hows. A couple of whys. One: It’s hidden, surfacing only when someone famous gets blasted or, as in the recent debate hosted by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, when a couple of Psy folk go head to head in the media (see: https://www.madintheuk.com/2018/10/the-57th-maudsley-debate-interview-with-professor-john-read-and-doctor-sue-cunliffe/)

Two: Psy professionals target older women with it – and, as I said, I loved my grandma; everyone did. She had distant cousins who had died in various camps. Her father had the good sense to leave Germany at the end of the nineteenth century and eventually settled as an undertaker. He was still alive when the synagogue in Great Yarmouth was burned down in the 1920s – one reason that Jews became a serious minority on the East Anglian coast.

But all of that has little to do with electroshock and psychiatry – unless you count the way in which Jews were eventually classified as a sub-human species and, thus, deserving of no mercy. My grandmother eventually became – in her words – a bit “doo-lally” and was found wandering around the garden by her neighbour who happened to be a social worker.

She was admitted to Saint Nick’s on the Friday which was the day the hairdresser visited. Grandma’s unkempt hair was unacceptable – so it was all shaved off. By Saturday she looked like any one of millions of face-less folk. But, for her, the transformation was like stepping back into a distant history of pograms and worse.

All of that left me with no great love of psychiatry but I was already training as a clinical psychologist and – as it happens – married to a psychiatric social worker. Electroshock was rife, tranquillizing drugs (marketed as “anti-psychotics”) everywhere and the only people who in-patients trusted were domestic staff. So, I watched and learned, understood that words meant little in case conferences and it was better to inscribe older people as dementing rather than depressed as it would save them from electrocution.

Many, many years later, I wrote a paper called ‘ECT, the DCP and ME’, published in Clinical Psychology Forum, in which I suggested that my profession was doing nothing to speak out about electroshock. The outcome? The DCP committee suggested they might fire me as editor for potentially upsetting a few psychiatrists and fellow clinical psychologists.

They didn’t. But that was a kind of turning point. The work of Peter Breggin, Steve Baldwin and Peter Lehmann became (unsettling) bed-time reading. The experience of survivor activist friends needed publishing. So I edited and published their work. Maybe, these are the reasons why I write on Electroshock. The “how” is a different story.

I just sit, write and then structure whatever comes to mind and once in a while publishers like PCCS Books or the Real Press come along and I can offer some additional academic substance to the various Facebook groups speaking out about the excesses of Psy. Perhaps, it’s all for my grandma – perhaps it’s so that in a thousand years the British Library copy of A Critical A-Z of Electroshock will stop some fool expert electrocuting a stranger on the grounds it will “help”.

You can hear Craig Newnes speak about the book at the 2018 Olive Bucknall Memorial Lecture on Friday 23 November 2.30-4pm, at The Gateway, Chester Road, Shrewsbury SY1 1NB. Olive Bucknall was a much-loved mental health activist who died in October, aged 97. She was a fierce critic of electro-convulsive therapy, having received it herself after a breakdown caused by witnessing the damaging effect ECT had on her son Terry. An obituary of her appeared in this month’s Guardian newspaper. Craig was a close friend of Olive’s and is a leading critic of the Psy industry. He was Director of the Department of Psychological Therapies in Shropshire’s NHS Trust for almost 20 years. There will be opportunities after the lecture for questions and comments from the audience as well as to buy signed copies of A Critical A-Z of Electroshock. Paperback available here, ebook available here.

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Police, camera, action: a year on from Fourth to First

October 31, 2018
Steffan Aquarone, co-author of Fourth to First, writes:

There’s a saying that, if no one’s complaining, you’re doing something wrong.  In spite of this, the feedback on my how-to-do-it book Fourth to First has been fantastic!

I couldn’t be happier to learn that so many people have found the book to be somewhere between mildly amusing and practically useful.  If good people stand for political office, we all stand a better chance of getting the politicians we deserve.

One reader, however, was not so enamoured.  In fact, they reported me to the police!

I’ve never been the subject of a police investigation before, and actually I wouldn’t mind doing it again. I even got to go to Wymondham where all the serious stuff like counter-terrorism and serious organised crime get dealt with.

The professionalism and courtesy of Norfolk Constabulary was remarkable.  They apologised for the time it took to carry out the investigation, and explained that they’d been dealing with an unprecedented level of violent crime in the city centre.

You’d have to be bold to suggest this isn’t a result of austerity and cuts to public services – which makes it even more of a shame that the reader who thought they’d ‘shopped’ me was a Tory!

Happily, the investigation concluded that there had been no wrongdoing.  In spite of investing all that money in campaigning, car stickers, and cash handouts (sorry: actually showing up and talking to people), we’d kept meticulous records of our expenditure.  But everyone has a right to report something they believe is a crime.

The most important thing that’s happened since Freya and I wrote Fourth to First is actually that I’ve had over a year in the job, and it’s been fascinating.  You couldn’t make up the sorts of things I’ve come across, from low-level nuclear waste in a barn, to a case where I had to call on the county council’s own lawyers to make sure a constituent got the personal care they were entitled to.

It’s been, variously:

  • Incredibly satisfying, when more things like the Save our Lollipop Lady campaign happen – like saving our mobile libraries, which has been a huge victory this year
  • Deeply frustrating, when you see the way even good Conservatives fall into line to serve their own interests
  • One of those things that expands to fill however much time it’s given
  • A good thing to do, that I’m very glad I did

What has really struck me though, is realising how broken our politics is. In particular I’ve felt first-hand how big the gap in conversation is between politics and people. I’m not surprised – I’ve long thought that politics in general has a recruitment crisis. But something needs to be done beyond just having values, campaigning, and trying to win elections.

That thing is very much what I hope will come next.  We need to do something to counter the effects of extreme movements that are dominating the political discussion, and just changing what we say won’t fix that.  We’ve got to change who it is speaking, and bring masses of people into the conversation again.

This is exactly what we’ll be trying to do as Liberal Democrats in North Norfolk, alongside our ramping up of the district council campaigns heading into 2019.

Get in touch with me here on if you’re interested in finding out more!  Or if you want to show your support, you can donate here.

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Why is using the railways now so degrading?

August 05, 2018

David Boyle writes (a version of this blog first appeared on the New Weather blog:

Yes, it is hot. The heat has also added a layer of what I can only describe as degradation to our public services.

But before I describe it, I don’t want to be pigeon-holed as someone who believes that all services should be managed by ministers, as they were before – say – the start of privatisation in 1984. I am not an advocate of re-nationalisation, because I don’t believe it is a solution to the fundamental problems – which are that they are organised into units that are inhumanly and unfeasibly big and that they are far too close to Treasury control. A bit like handing services over to 37-year-old paint-by-numbers specialists (in my experience, everyone at the Treasury is 37).

The problem with privatisation was that it has failed spectacularly to inject the kind of flexibility and responsiveness into the management of our services, as it promised to. Nor – as it also promised, though less explicitly – has it been able to provide either staff or users with any kind of ownership stake.

Which brings me to my journey to Salisbury a couple of weeks ago. As regular readers will know (if there are any), I am a critic of Southern Rail, and their part of the journey to Southampton was bad enough – broken air conditioning, unexplained delays, you know the kind of thing.

But really, I have to say, that the GWR part of the journey was far worse. Again late, again no air conditioning and no adequate ventilation, but the few carriages were so packed – I think they had cancelled a previous train – that I saw five fellow passengers managed to find some space to stand rigidly upright in the toilet. they finally deposited us half an hour late, without any explanation or apology.

One poor foreign tourist asked me if this was normal. It obviously is. You can read more about what that is the case on Southern in my short book Cancelled!

It might be possible to dismiss this as the slow collapse of the railways, which is well-documented. Were it not for somebody sending me the following description of the court system by a barrister last week (thanks, Nick):

I was fascinated to read this and begin to understand from these experiences what a degrading experience it can be now to deal with some public services, because of the absolute contempt with which the establishment regards service users of any kind. Not perhaps because they are snobbish or useless – though some of them may be both – but because they are technocrats blinded by target data.

They peer myopically at the figures that show the basic numbers and feel reassured. The passengers arrived, didn’t they? The case was settled, wasn’t it? What is all the fuss about, they may think to themselves.

Perhaps it is all of these mixed up together among the current monopolists and nomenklatura who manage and regulate our services – a sort of disdain which has grown up around Whitehall and the City for decades now, and a sad belief that the numbers that pour out of our services refer to something real.

All I can say by way of conclusion is that this situation is getting worse and it certainly isn’t sustainable.

Please sign up for our regular newsletter and we will send you a pdf or epub version of David Boyle’s medieval Brexit thriller The Remains of the Way.

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