Archived pages

This is an archive of the front page of this website as it looked on 19th November 2018, before I shorted it.

What you see below is that part of the page that was extracted.

3rd September 2018

Sunday postings come to an end.  I have given up posting on Sundays. Now I post whenever I have an article ready, to go live. Read more

Sunday 5th August 2018

book covers from FB

My novel The Streets of London reaches a new phase in its development. An explanation is given in my blog.

Sunday 15th July 2018

Firstly an apology. This website has not been available for about a week.  This was due to a technical problem with the domain name. I hope that has now been rectified.

Today’s blog post is about imagination.

Sunday, 8th July

Ways of writing a novel, is the theme of today’s blog post. Despite this debilitating heat wave, I continue to pound the typewriter keys.

Sunday 20th May 2018

Trevor Locke has adopted an unconventional approach to writing his third novel.

Today’s post explains how and why.

Sunday 13th May 2018

Head of a Young Man by Jean-Baptiste Greuze
Drawing of the head of a young man by Jean Baptiste Greuze.

In my series of Sunday blog posts, I discuss the relationship between drawing and describing scenes in creative fiction.

Sunday 6th May 2018

masks African animal mask
African mask depicting an animal form

The function and nature of masks is discussed as part of writing a novel.

Sunday 29th April 2018

In this week’s blog post I talk about planning a novel

Sunday 22nd April 2018

In another of my blog posts, I ask: Should novels have plots?

Monday 2nd April 2018

London Theatre in the 1960s

April 2nd Royal Court Theatre
Royal Court Theatre, London

Today’s blog post looks at how the theatre of the late 1960s finds its way into my third novel.

Sunday 25th March 2018

Writing about characters, in a novel

Devising characters and then bringing them to life, in a story, is far from easy.  In this week’s article, I talk about how I have gone about making the three characters who are central to my latest novel.

Writing characters

Sunday 18th March 2018

The Swinging Sixties? Was it?

Sunday 11th March 2018

I continue my blog posts by discussing the question ‘What is masculinity, anyway?

I write about my third novel – The Streets of London.

Buckingham Palace photographed bny me in 1963 cropped
Buckingham Palace in 1965

In this article I discuss the relationship between fiction and reality.

25th February 2018

In the first of my regular Sunday blog posts, I examine and discuss individuality. Considering how males become men and how they become masculine.

Read it here – Being an individual.

18th February 2018

My blog has left port. Today I published the first of my weekly pieces.

Read it here –  embarkation.

16th February 2018

I need to get going. This blog has not been updated. That will change. I have decided to have a blog section. That is a section of this website where I post weekly posts about what I am doing. The first instalment is due on Sunday 18th February.

I have made a start by putting a link, on the main menu bar, to the home page for my regular blog. Click on Blog Home above. ↑

17th November 2017

A new beginning

Now I have got my domain name, it is time to revamp the blog.

I want to give the whole site a fresher feeling; simplify it, make it easier to use and focus on the new rather than the old.

Please come back soon – lots of new writings are on the way.

Shipwreck story

The wreck of the Imperial Prince

Wreck of the Imperial Prince trawler off the coast of Scotland in 1923

by Trevor Locke

[This is an amended version of a story I wrote that was published in issue 2 of Family News, June 1992. It was later published on my family tree blog in February 2017]

On a stormy October night in 1923 a small Scottish trawler was sailing back to her home port when she was blown aground in a storm and heavy fog. The rescue attempt mounted to save her crew led to honours being bestowed by the Prince of Wales on the rescuers one of whom was my father – Leslie James Locke.

In the early morning, of October 19th 1923, a fierce southerly gale struck the coast of Scotland. The steam-powered fishing vessel Imperial Prince (129 tons) was returning to her home port of Aberdeen when she was overcome by strong winds and high seas and was washed ashore on Black Dog beach off Belhevie, four miles north of Aberdeen. Four lives were lost. The coasts around Aberdeen must have been treacherous because several ships were wrecked there in 1923 alone.

By daybreak, only her bow and stern could be seen above the waves. Imperial Prince was a steam-propelled fishing vessel built and launched in 1899 by J. T. Eltringham & Co. Ltd of South Shields, she weighed 129 Gross Registered Tonnage. Eltringham was an established ship-building company based at South Shields. By the year 1910 the twenty-sixth trawler had been delivered to what had then become the Prince Fishing Company. The shipyard closed in 1922, hit by the recession.

The trawler sank at 5.30 am and her nine crew were left clinging for their lives to the rigging. The rowing life boat was called from the fishing village of Newburgh and the big powered life boat of the Harbour Commissioners was summoned from Aberdeen; she was equipped with a rocket apparatus and this succeeded in firing a line on to the wrecked trawler and a breeches buoy was established to haul the men ashore. This took a long time in the rough seas and by the time it was ready the trawler men were so exhausted that they could hardly haul the buoy and one of the crew was drowned in the rescue attempt. The Aberdeen Lifeboat station was one of the earliest in Scotland, being established in 1802 by the Harbour Commissioners. It was the forerunner of the Aberdeen Lifeboat Station run today by the RNLI.

Before the advent of helicopters, if a lifeboat was unable to reach a stricken vessel, the only alternative means of rescue was the rocket-propelled Life-Saving Apparatus (LSA). It was invented by Cornishman Henry Trengrouse (1772 to 1854.) The LSA later became the Breeches Buoy. The apparatus provided a way of getting a line on to a ship. In 1808, Trengrouse designed a device that could deliver the line to the ship by means of a rocket. Once the line was established, a chair could be pulled across the hawser.

Villagers turn out to help

After a determined battle with the elements, the Aberdeen lifeboat was eventually swept ashore. Whilst this was happening, the Newburgh lifeboat was on its way from the fishing village seven miles further along the coast.

In 1828, Newburgh became the first port in Scotland to have a Lifeboat Station, then called the Shipwreck Institution. The RNLI, as the Institution became, based a lifeboat in Newburgh until 1961, when it moved to Peterhead.

The sea was too rough to launch it and so it had to be dragged along the soft sands by the men, women and children of the village. They reached the stricken trawler at 2 pm, eight hours after she had run aground. Eventually the Newburgh lifeboat was on its way, with Coxswain John Innes at the helm and his son James amongst the crew. They succeeded in saving two of the trawler men but a third was washed out of the buoy and drowned. One of the two men they saved was badly injured and the lifeboat crew became exhausted by their struggle with the sea they were forced to return ashore. Coxswain John Innes and his son Andrew were decorated by the Prince of Wales at Mansion House, in London, in 1924.

After a valiant effort, Coxswain Innes was forced to return ashore. The Newburgh rescuers made two further attempts to reach the trawler men but without success. A motor life boat was summoned from Peterhead, twenty-two miles away, up the coast. A message for help was sent to the Commanding Officer of the Royal Naval ships lying off Aberdeen.

Sailors to the rescue – in a fleet of taxis!

On board HMS Vampire, off-duty ratings were sprucing themselves up in readiness for a run ashore. One of these was 19 year-old Able Seaman Leslie Locke from Little Ann, near Andover, in Hampshire. On receiving the plea from the rescuers at Black Dog Beach, The commander of the Royal Naval destroyer called for volunteers from the ratings aboard Vampire and another destroyer, HMS Vendetta, lying nearby.

Eleven sailors, led by Petty Officer Essam of the Vampire, volunteered to help with the rescue and were dispatched to Black Dog Beach in the only means of transport available – a fleet of taxi cabs. The light was beginning to fade as they made their way along the windswept coastal roads to Belhevie. A soon as they arrived, a fourth attempt to reach the trawler began with the navel crew supporting the locals in the Newburgh lifeboat under Coxswain Innes, injured in his previous efforts and Petty Officer Essam.

It was nearly 7 pm and the light had gone. Although the wind had subsided there was a heavy swell breaking over the deck of the Imperial Prince. Her remaining crew had been had by now been clinging to her rigging for thirteen hours. Only her masts and the top of her funnel could be seen above the breaking waves by the light of the moon which had come out through the clearing skies.

After a long hard pull, the rowers in the Newburgh lifeboat got to windward of the wreck and threw a line to her. The boat dropped to the port side of the trawler, where she lay with her stern close in under the foremast. She rose and fell eight feet in the swell as the sailors struggled to take the remaining five trawler men from the wreck. Eventually, all the crew members were saved and the Newburgh lifeboat set off once more for the safety of the shore. The Peterhead lifeboat arrived at the scene, after struggling for 22 miles against the gale, shortly after the men has been rescued.

Prince rewards bravery

The story of the rescue of the crew of the Imperial Prince was told at the centenary meeting of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, held in London in June 1924. In the presence of His Royal Highness Prince Edward, His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of London and many other dignitaries, the Deputy Secretary of the Institution accounted for the rescue of the Imperial Prince and described it as the outstanding service of 1923.

As a result of the gallant efforts of the sailors from Vampire and Vendetta. The Lords of the Admiralty showed their appreciation by promoting Petty Officer Essam in rank and each of the eleven ratings was given six months seniority of service, including Able Seaman Locke. At the centenary ceremony, Prince Edward presented the Institution’s silver medal to Coxswain John Innes and the bronze medal to his son James who was the Bowman. Petty Officer Essam, of HMS Vampire, was also awarded the Institute’s silver medal.

A special letter of thanks was sent to the women of Newburgh for their part in hauling their lifeboat seven miles along the sands. Each of the eleven naval ratings was awarded the RNLI’s certificate of thanks, inscribed on vellum and signed by the Prince of Wales.

Leslie Locke commenced his time in the Royal Navy on 10th January 1922 for a period of 12 years. He served on the Vampire, as a rating from 16th November 1922 to 5th June 1924. He was an ordinary seaman and then an Able Seaman. In February 1924 his naval record was endorsed with ‘awarded six months additional seniority in rating … for advancement purposes for rescue … of trawler Imperial Prince by men of Vampire and Vendetta …’

The Prince of Wales later became King Edward VIII, until his abdication following the constitutional crisis of 1936; he later married the American Mrs Simpson.

Sailors from HMS Vampire pictured with one of the framed RNLI certificates (left). Leslie is shown on the far right of the photo.

This article was compiled with the assistance of the rescue records Department of the RNLI in 1992 and drew on records left by the late Leslie Locke.

Find out more about the RNLI

References

The centenary meeting, The Lifeboat, June 1924, pp 135 – 159.

Poetry Day

Poems for poetry day

4th October 2018

Today is National Poetry Day, 2018. To mark this, I publish three of my poems based on history and legend.

17/12/1965

Antiochus, 1965

A thousand slaves on Nemrud’s height did toil
and raised a tumulus of such might
that snow lay on its body, huge and bare.
Six Titans sat, carved from titanic stone,
and guarded Antiochus, lord of Commagene,
whose mortal ashes, in his tomb,
no longer can be seen.

1966

Some lines depicting a Greek legend, 1966

Wild chaos, like a milky void, was there
and from it, through the very beats of time,
arose a Goddess with a graceful form.
She found no solid thing to rest upon
and so divided water from the wind.
She made the boundless sea with flowing tide
and danced upon its ripples and its waves.
She danced upon the universe alone
and grasped the tameless wind between her hands:
she rubbed it and behold! A serpent grew.
The star-crowned, black-winged goddess of the night,
before whom even Zeus must stand in awe,
was courted by the wind and made an egg
of silver which she laid in Darkness’ womb.

24/01/1966

Artemis, 1966

Artemis gazes from above
with hornéd creatures by her head.
She fills the world with stormy love
and constellations of red dread
lie throbbing on her many breasts
above the aching chasm’s floor
that once contained her great incests –
rise now with human gore.

All composed during my teenage years when ancient history was a new-found interest of mine.

Aakash Odedra

“Echoes & I Imagine” World Premiere at Curve – Review

10th Oct 2015

Echoes and I Imagine – World Premiere – Curve

By Trevor Locke
Rating: *****

The solo dance performance of Aakash Odedra tonight was sensational. I have not seen male dance of this calibre since I last saw Rudolf Nureyev in the 1970s. Odedra’s first piece was a stunning performance based on the Indian classical dance genre Kathak. Dancing to the choreography of Aditi Mangaldas, Odedra demonstrated the sublime artistry of his abilities, with movements that had razor-sharp timing, perfectly synchronised with the music. The work opened with with gloriously evocative sounds creating a hauntingly beautiful atmosphere, heightened by the lighting and the floor of the stage being spread with long filaments of golden threads studies with tiny bells, laid out to look like the ripples of a lake.

The piece drew on the image and symbol of bells, which hung from the top of the stage in clusters of long strings. As the programme notes explained ‘The resonance of the bells awaken us to the now. A breath and senses awakens. LIFE awakens me.’ The Kathak dance form is story-telling in motion. The elaborate footwork, enhanced by bells, attached to the ankles, was characteristic of the dance form; Odedra pulled down two of the long strands of bells and wound them around his ankles before proceeding to display amazing footwork, in his bare feet. In something that Western audiences would recognise as tap dancing, he also used his feet as percussion instruments, drumming on the stage, producing sequences of intricate rhythms. Echoes is a work that plays with the idea of bells, their tradition in classical dance, their ritualistic significance and their potential as a metaphor for freedom and awakening.

The piece also included many of the spinning movements – the chakkars – so characteristic of classical Kathak. What Mangaldas has done is to bring the ancient art form into the 21st century without losing any of its resonance and vibrancy. Some of Odedra’s spins were like those of an ice skater; he has a fluidity of movement that is remarkable but he combined this with dynamics that are amazing. All the time we watch those extraordinarily impressive hand movements, the fingers that wave and flutter like the wings of a bird. It was like seeing dance from another planet; something that moves forward what we understand about solo dance. Utterly enthralling and spellbinding throughout.

Echoes celebrated the form of classical Kathak, but the second piece – I Imagine – brought a totally new approach and direction to the stage. In it, Odedra demonstrated his sense of humour, his consummate capacity for entertaining his audience. It was another demonstration of his story-telling powers, using mime, antics and even spoken word to engage us in a meditation on the theme of travel and migration (very topical.) Odedra came on to a stage stacked with suitcases – like the bells, another evocative metaphor. This piece used a variety of masks to signify characters, not unlike those used by actors in classical Greek drama, I thought. At the beginning of the piece, one of the larger suitcases begins to move and Odedra emerges from it, foot by foot, leg by leg, rather like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis. It reminded me of Ernest being found in a handbag. The story goes on to depict arriving in a new country, migration to a new and alien culture, the feelings evoking loss of homeland, leaving behind the ones that are loved, the challenges of accommodating a new style of life. And then Odedra does something totally innovative for a dancer – he engaged in a spoken monologue in which he used surprising skills of characterisation, speaking in accents to bring his characters to life, much to the amusement of the audience. It was a sequence that bore similarities to stand-up comedy, recollecting the Kumars, I thought. Towards the end of the piece, Odedra walked across the top of a line of suitcases, having used them beforehand to make an armchair and a house. It was a gleeful deployment of the props and one that took us a long way from the previous classical dance routines.
I Imagine included spoken word by the celebrated Sabrina Mahfouz, the British Egyptian poet, playwright and performer who was born in South London. Odedra’s collaboration with the award-winning Mahfouz created a work that was supremely one of theatre, one that gave us dance, drama, comedy and gymnastics. It reminded me of my previous experience at Curve when I saw Bromance, the production by the Barley Methodical Troupe that created a new genre of dance and gymnastics. Odedra commissioned the masks used in this production from circus practitioner David Poznanter (it must have been the association of circus that conjured the idea of the work by the Barley Methodical Troupe in my mind.)

Tonight’s World Premier of Echoes and I Imagine crowns the previous appearance made by Odedra at Curve, including Inked and Murmer in 2014.
Speaking after the performance, Odedra paid tribute to his teacher, the internationally renown Kathak dancer Nilema Devi MBE.

Aakash was commissioned by Curve Theatre in Leicester to choreograph a piece for the opening of the theatre in November 2008. This piece, called “Flight” was the only one invited to perform for HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh on their visit in December 2008

Aakash Odedra was raised in Leicester and his company is based here.

Curve has over the years given us so much that is new and exciting in the arts and tonight was no exception.

This entry was originally published in Arts In Leicestershire online magazine,  on March 12, 2016

A country walk 1966

A country walk, 1966

I walked all wreathed in bliss and happy thoughts,

bathed in the pleasant sunshine of the noon,

with grass, a happy carpet for my feet,

the trees were clothed in leaves so rich and thick,

the sky was blue and shining like the sun,

and all lived in the country’s earthly peace.

The sadness and the grief of concrete wrong

had left itself away, a journey long.

I wandered in the heart of nature’s breast,

and had no future, in my little life,

I was a cow, a ship and roaming beast.

I knew no place of living; here was rest –

it lay about me on the verdant grass,

There was no ardent torture for a climb

to higher ways and better means of life,

such things were lost in dim, historic time,

entombed beneath the joyous here and now

it was as though to heaven I had gone.

See all poems on poetry home page

St. Crispin’s Day Observed

25th October 2017
St. Crispin’s day observed

Saint Crispin’s Day falls on 25 October and is the feast day of the Christian saints Crispin and Crispinian (also known as Crispinus and Crispianus, though this spelling has fallen out of favour), twins who were martyred c. 286.’ Beheaded during the reign of Diocletian; the date of their execution is given as 25 October 285 or 286.

Most people who know of such a day are familiar with it through Shakespeare. ‘It is a day most famous for the battles that occurred on it, most notably the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. Because of the St. Crispin’s Day Speech in Shakespeare’s play Henry V, calling the soldiers who would fight on the day a “band of brothers”, other battles fought on Crispin’s day have been associated with Shakespeare’s words.’

This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember’d;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

Henry V. Act IV Scene iii 18-67
Here is Kenneth Brannagh’s version of the speech.
and here is Laurence Olivier’s version (in which the speech is almost drowned out by the background music.)

Painting of Archers at The Battle of Agincourt

These lines appear to be the source for the phrase ‘band of brothers’. So should we associate St. Crispin’s day with brotherhood? Do we want to celebrate brotherhood, or is today’s world too ‘unisex’ to permit that? It is a concept that focuses on the relationships of male siblings. Beyond that, brotherhood is an icon of masculinity and the relationship between men, even if they are not related. In contemporary times, the concept of brotherhood has been transmogrified into Bromance – love between men that verges on romance and simulates brotherhood. It is a genre that is fascinating for today’s audience – of both sexes. The male name Crispin has long been a signifier of effeteness – used to characterise unmanliness and ineffectualness. It is a name associated, traditionally, with curly hair – a feature that, for some, might suggest effeminateness. One website went so far as to claim that the name Crispin denotes ‘People with this name have a deep inner desire to serve humanity and to give to others by sharing money, knowledge and experience, or creative and artistic ability. ‘ What the origins of that might be defines imagination. Might we redesignate St. Crispin as the patron of anti-sexism? A step too far for many people, I would surmise.

So, does St. Crispin’s Feast have any meaning or relevance for today’s world? Is it an emblem of leadership? Does the band of brothers idea suggest manliness and masculinity? Do we want to celebrate glory and brotherhood? How would today’s orators inspire people who are downtrodden and despairing?

Henry V’s St. Crispin’s day speech has been described as ‘…one of the best inspirational speeches in literature.’ But is the speech about misguided loyalty? Do the brothers of Agincourt give their lives and their blood for the sake of the King, for Henry, and his glory? Is this speech a moment of calculation and cruelty? They are about to give their lives to make Henry a great man – not themselves. The speech is an icon of great men and their ambitions to glory. So, Agincourt is about winning; winning for its own sake. Henry V is urging his soldiers to win the war – for him. History now views the battle as inconsequential. As writer Guy Patrick Cunningham put it: ‘Henry’s triumph at Agincourt brings no benefit to the English nation. The whole reason his force is so small is because most of his troops are needed back home to prevent a split among the English nobles from turning into a full-fledged rebellion — a split that Henry makes no effort to heal. ‘

We remember Agincourt on 25th October. ‘The Battle of Agincourt was a battle of the Hundred Years’ War that resulted in an English victory. The battle took place on 25 October 1415 in the County of Saint-Pol, Artois, some 40 km south of Calais.’ It can be recalled as the victory of the English over the French – a nation, that now, we count amongst our friends and allies. History has seen countless thousands of Frenchmen slaughtered by English soldiers; and many thousands of Englishmen killed by the French. History has also seen the English dying to free the French from tyranny. The culture of France is deeply embedded in the heritage of England. The 25th October could be a day on which we commemorate the mutability of history; the way in which international relations change dramatically over time. The day we think about how yesterday’s enemies becomes today’s friends. And vice-versa.

Painting of a Shore-maker

So what should be observe about or on St. Crispin’s day, if anything? In the third act of Die Meistersinger, Wagner has the shoemakers’ guild enter singing a song of praise to St. Crispin. For me, I choose to celebrate shoe-making. ‘Saints Crispin and Crispinian are the Christian patron saints of cobblers, curriers, tanners, and leather workers.’ My paternal ancestors were shoe-makers. For my part, I prefer to associate St. Crispin with footwear. Oh happy band of cobblers.

Poetry 2017

Working on poems

Sunday 24th September 2017

Back in March this year I had my first poetry week – seven days during which I did no other work than editing and transcribing my poetry. It was a successful project and so I marked up another week –  from 18th September to 24th September. As with my last project, much of the work was about transcribing hand-written poems into word processing documents and printing them out for the Poetry folder. During the week I worked on 80 of my poems, transcribing them into the current anthology.

The project allowed me to become reacquainted with my early poems, just as it did last time. As before, I was impressed by the quality of some of pieces I composed in the 1960s through to the 70s; others I just left in place as a record and archive – having looked at them and judged them to be too poor to justify even the work of typing them. In those early days, my approach to writing was spontaneous; there was no planning, no premeditation. I just sat down with some paper and wrote. Whatever came into my brain I committed to paper. That is not something I can do these days. During the 60s I was very given to writing in decametres – lines with ten syllables. I loved the way the thing flows and its rhythms and I still do. It is, however, an outmoded style of poetry – a bit like a contemporary composer writing a piece of music that sounds like Mozart.

Reading through my teenage poems put me in touch with myself, the self I had some fifty years ago. Having edited a large number of pieces, I began to think like my teenage alter ego. A couple of pieces were turned into metrical versions just so they would fit more into the flow of the work of that period. In doing this I had to be careful not to alter what the piece was about or to add new material that was not in some way or other present in the original. An example of this is The ever dying men, 1968, where I gave each line ten syllables but took great care not to doctor the content. It is still the same poem; it is just presented differently.

Some pieces I looked at and thought it was not worth the effort of typing them; they were just so bad. A few poems were transferred to my Journals – these were written like pieces of prose and lacked either poetic form or content. Now much of the Poetry folder has been committed to type and only a small number of pieces remain in their hand written format. When I was working on some of the poems, I thought they were worthy of a complete re-edit and that I might one day compose them again, afresh. Several of my early works went though a number of versions before being placed in one of the anthologies.

Reserving time for a project – setting aside days for working on something specific – has been, I think, useful and beneficial. These two weeks of poetry time have seen a lot done that would otherwise not have been done. It is an approach I might use for other aspects of my work.

It might be some time before I work on poetry again. In a life spent doing many other things, there are few opportunities for making poems; there is little now that inspires me and rouses my passions. Too little in today’s life to be passionate about. I rarely write poetry these days because I cannot seem to find subjects, as once I could. I would not sit down and write poetry for the sake of writing poetry – I must have something to be poetic about. My youth was full of poetry; not something that one finds in old age, quite so much. I have one work in progress – The age of starlight – a poem that contemplates the history of the cosmos from its birth through to its final end and all that means for humanity and the world we cherish so much. It is the the last of my ‘cosmological poems.’

 

Character profiling

Writing a character profile for a film

18th May 2017

My character profile for Riffkid in The Trench†

Physical appearance of the protagonist

Riffkid is 18. He is somewhat short in stature. He has a mop of black hair and very bright blue eyes. His face is pretty. He dresses how he thinks rock musicians should dress. His choice of clothes portrays his identity. He is an unemployed teenager living with his parents on a deprived housing estate. He is a dreamer; he has passions and associates with the outcasts who don’t want to be like the other working class kids who have their lives mapped out for them by their parents and community. He sees punk music as his ideal and in it he sees his values. Riffkid’s strengths are his good looks and his passion for music; his weaknesses are his lack of knowledge and skills in guitar playing and his dreams that are out of kilter with reality.

Background note: Riffkid joins the music scene at a time when punk is the predominant style of rock; but rock changes rapidly and soon fans start to prefer the edgier sounds of post-punk. All this is thrown in the air by the generation of the new romantics who come in with their new sounds – the indie bands. Musical tastes are fickle and change rapidly. All the bands play at the venue called The Trench, a dismal, damp basement that traps young musicians and exploits them mercilessly. The bands are trapped in the Trench and only the best manage to escape from it.

The story

Actions taken by Riffkid (include wants and needs) [How he thinks] {affect – consequences}

Act 1.

Riffkid goes to The Trench music venue to ask if he can join The Howlers – a big and successful punk band. His mates have told him that this is the best punk band in Portsmouth. The lead singer likes him and invites him to come for an audition. (Riffkid wants to be in the band he idolises) [He thinks he has to skills to hack it.] {Riffkid goes to the audition but he fails to prepare himself for it. He fails to study the songs of the band.}

Riffkid attends the audition with The Howlers but he is torn to shreds by the musicians. He realises that the invitation was a fake. He’s been strung along. [He thought he had enough skills to do the job but they prove to him how little he knows.] {Riffkid is rejected by the band. He is devastated. His dreams have failed.}

His best mate tells Riffkid not to give up but to go back to The Trench and try to find another band to join. Riffkid is driven by his dreams; his best mate is more practical and realistic. Riffkid goes back to the venue and, by chance, meets Sean, the bassist from the post-punk band Distorted. Sean just happens to be looking for a new guitarist. [Sean thinks that Riffkid would fit in; realises he is not that good as a musician but his personality would fit and make up for his weaknesses as a guitarist.] {Sean does not bother with an audition; he takes Riffkid on and hopes for the best.}

Riffkid joins Distorted. He decides he needs to get a better guitar and people help him to do this. (He is desperate to be in a band.) [He thinks that trying to get into the much bigger band was a bad mistake) {He gladly accepts the offer to be in Distorted as the rhythm guitarist. He buys the new guitar he needs.}

Act 2

Riffkid’s new band is a great success. Everybody loves them. They enjoy considerable popularity in their home town of Portsmouth. (They want to be popular and in demand for their music.) [They think their music will attract people in large numbers.] {They get booked at all the major venues and play to big audiences.}

Two years pass. Riffkid and Distorted become a successful post-punk band. But the scene is changing and fans are beginning to like the new wave of music coming from the new romantics.

Riffkid has an argument about musical style in the band and quits. (He wants to be a success.) [He sees the band failing because it clings to outmoded post-punk songs when the fans are moving over to indie. He thinks that the world of rock is changing and the band must change with it.] {He sticks to his beliefs and leaves the band.]

Riffkid and Jennifer enrol on the music course. (They need to learn about music.) [They think that having skills and knowledge will get them where they want to be] {They are exposed to a lot of new ideas and experiences they never had before.}

Riffkid makes new friends on the music course. He also goes back to his old friends – the ones who supported him when he needed them. (He wants people around him that can help him; people he can depend on.) [He begins to realise the importance of comradeship.] {He visits his old mates from the band he was in.}

Act 3

Riffkid and Jennifer complete the music course. He now has the skills and the knowledge to become a professional musician. (He wants to make a success of himself) [He realises that music is more than just image and passion.] {They both realise that they will get nowhere if they stay in Portsmouth.}

Riffkid leaves Portsmouth with Jennifer; they go to London to start a new career in music and a new life together. They are free of The Trench at last. (Wants a new life) [Thinks about the future] {Chooses to be with Jennifer.}

† The Trench was my second novel.

Explanation

This character profile was written because I was doing a course about screen-writing for films. The course was led by Michael Lengsfield of the University of East Anglia, whose article ‘Thoughts on character’ set out how to compose the profile. I chose to write about my novel The Trench. The protagonist, main character is Riffkid. This provides my choice of story for the exercises to do with script-writing.

Rewording housing

Rewording housing

In this article I suggest that we should stop talking about ‘housing and starting using ‘homeing’ to describe how people live.

Housing. A word everyone uses. A familiar word. An everyday word. So familiar that we rarely stop to think about what it means. We all know what ‘housing’ is. But do we? Is it the right word for the modern world? The world of twenty-first century Britain.

My definition of housing is: accommodation in which people live. That does it for me. People live in accommodation, of various kinds. For a lot of people that means living in houses; but for an increasing number of people it does not. We all live in homes; some of those homes we make in houses. From that point of view, the whole idea is very simple. The problem I have with the word ‘housing’ is that it implies houses; living in properties that we think of as being houses. In fact, people live in all kinds of residential structures and units. Blocks of flats, caravans, boats, converted windmills, mobile homes, prefabs… there is a wide variety of things in which people have made their homes.

The word housing, to me, also implies status, ownership and tenure. Let’s stop, and  think what is known:

The property market is splitting Britain into two classes: Those rich enough to own their own homes, often outright; and those under 35, who pay twice the percentage of their incomes to rent in the private market. The split is new. Ten years ago, a majority of people under 35 owned homes, according to government data. Now, a majority under 35 rent. In fact, half of all renters in the UK are under 35.

Those are the words of journalist Jim Edwards, writing in The Guardian on 7th May this year. He talks about the ‘property market’ which is understandable and I have used to same term myself; it’s the collective known for man-made structures. Interesting to see his choice of words – that people who own their own homes are ‘rich.’ Not my choice of word. Wealthy or better-off perhaps, but rich? Behind the figures he refers to is the belief that rent forms a very high percentage of disposable incomes – for a lot of people.

More people than ever before are renting apartments from private landlords. In England we often call these ‘flats.’ Tenants tend to pay for a flat to live in on a monthly basis. A key datum is the ratio between rent and income; for some people, their rent takes up a high percentage of their monthly income.

‘…the average rental cost across the UK taking up 41 per cent of take-home pay, according to online letting agent Rentify.’

Reports the website This is money, in September 2015. Regional variations across the UK shows that the proportion of income swallowed up by rent varies between a third and a half. The proportion varies according to age group and to type of property; single people living in one-bedroom flats can pay a higher percentage and have to foot the rent bill alone.

There are an estimated 4.3 million tenants in the private rental market. Added to that there are people who live in what is called the ‘social’ market where their accommodation is owned by either the local authority or by a housing association.

For a high proportion of people the private rented sector is the default choice. These are people who cannot afford to buy their own houses. Statistics such as these obscure the diversity of the populating renting homes. Some of them are students. Some of them are transient migrants. Some of them are contractors who know they will need to move on after a few months. Some of them are young people who need to leave home and set up in a place of their own. A growing number of retired people are leaving their family houses and down-sizing to smaller units of accommodation but cannot obtained a mortgage because of their age.

The groups that concern me the most are those aged 25 to 35 who cannot afford a mortgage and older people, over retirement age, who cannot afford to keep a family home going just for themselves.

Figures like these get to the crux of the issue. People don’t live in houses any more. What people live in is a mixed economy of residential properties. This economy includes what has blandly become known as ‘social housing.’ I rejected this phrase when I said “All housing is social housing.” What I meant by that is that providing people with homes to live in is always a social function; not merely a commercial one. The distinction between private and social sectors is as artificial as it is obfuscation. Having a home to live in a social right and a social need. We don’t need to differentiate between the status of the property – by distinguishing between types of owners. A home is a home – who ever owns it and however they provide it to its occupants. If people live in it, then it is their home.

Almost half the adult in Britain these days live in rented apartments. And yet the government and politicians keep on talking about housing. Journalists keeping writing about the ‘housing crisis.’ We like to use words with which we are familiar; we like to think that familiar words will be understood by everyone.

The problem with the familiar word ‘housing’ is that it fixes our ideas; it formats our thinking in a certain way. It inhibits policymakers from thinking outside the box of everyday speech. We need to think differently about residential accommodation. The problem is: what word do we use that is short enough for everyday speech which means what we current mean by ‘housing’ but which does not just mean houses? Even in 2017, the kind of professionals who should know better, still see the private rented sector and its supply of apartments, as catering for temporary need. Just like the legislators of the 1980s did. But it’s not about short-term tenancies and temporary arrangements; it’s about permanent homes.

According to the website of lpcliving, in 2017,  just over half (51%) of private renters are under 35 years of age and 54% have no dependents, and so are unlikely to get social housing. Newspapers continue to wax lyrical about the increase in house prices – as though it was actually a good thing! In fact rising house prices is a two-edged sword – good for some but a disaster for others.

If we are to change the way that policies are made – about living accommodation – then the words used in those policies will have to change. The people who most need to start changing their choice of words, are politicians. They need to stop talking about housing as though it means only houses.

People in government, who control our lives, either limit or expand the choices we have available to us, permit or deny access to the resources we need to live ordered lives; they need to talk differently, change their dialogue, revise their mantras, re-gear their codes – about living. What people want these days are choices. They want to be able to choose where they live, what kind of property they live in, how they get access to that property, what they have to pay for it and how long it remains theirs to live in. They want to choose; to decide for themselves. They do not want to have choices forced on them by market circumstances.

People in government, policymakers, builders, landlords, local authorities – everyone needs to change the way they think about residential accommodation. The world is changing and our minds have to change to keep up with reality. In 1988 people talked about renting as being temporary. How times have changed! In the twenty-first century a large proportion of the British population has abandoned any hope of ever getting on the ladder of housing ownership. Renting a residential property is now the default for a substantial proportion of adults. This is why the law now needs to be updated. Politicians will be better able to deal with the current crisis in the provision of homes if they stop talking about ‘housing.’

More importantly, we must stop seeing the solution to the current crisis as lying with building. We cannot build our way out of this problem. Increasing the supply of newly built houses is not the way; too many people who need better homes simply cannot afford to buy them.

The sooner we stop talking about housing the sooner will be able to see solutions to the present problems. So what word should be using? It might be a neologism but my suggestion is to use the word ‘homeing’ – the supply of residential accommodation for people to live in. That changes the emphasis away from the type of property to the one things that all types have in common – being a home.

What people want is homes to live in; if they cannot afford to live in houses then they have to accept alternatives. If we start talking about homeing people then we can begin to think freely about the crisis that confronts us.

Trevor Locke, 12th May 2017.