KAFKA’S CYCLE in search of a publisher – A Sequel to Death of a Nightingale

I am about to publish a second book. I have just been confronted by doctors with my own mortality. At the age of 85 I can’t complain but, apart from anything else, I do need to make the point that the young make a great mistake when they dismiss the experience and the wisdom – yes, I claim a bit of that too – of their elders. The West has much to learn from the East here.

In my retirement I wrote my first book, Death of a Nightingale, under extreme provocation. I experienced the machinations of the Sunderland’s Local Education Authority when they attempted to close a particularly good special school I was involved with as its chair of governors. These machinations best stay in my archives. Fortunately, I was able to help the parents, teachers, carers, and the pupils themselves in their successful campaign to keep their school open.

However, the provocation went much further. The whole policy of closing special schools had started before the Warnock Report gave effect to it in 1978. A small group of ideologues had hijacked the State two years before that. OFSTED became the heavy mob implementing it. No-one was interested in the heavy-handed way it was being implemented, not OFSTED, not, the Local Government Ombudsman, not the Audit Commission. I hit the wall several times. Size 7 shoes had to be made to fit size 5 feet, and, even worse, size 9 feet, quite regardless of unexpected cost.

I was appalled. Hence, an unplanned, unexpected job descriptor, author. I wrote and staged a play Death of a Nightingale. A Public Service Union reviewer for Stage Magazine attempted to kill it! I published it in book form and on a website. Few have bought the book, but thousands have spent time reading my writing on my website.

Now, it’s the other way around. Thousands have spent time reading my blog and my articles in Linkedin. My stat’s have sustained me. I have recorded my collision course with the Local Government Ombudsman, the Legal Ombudsman, and with my lawyers, Bindmans LLP. This time it all started with the machinations of Newcastle City Council’s plans for cycle lanes for non-existent cyclists on Gosforth High Street. What made the whole thing more provocative to me was source of the policy along with the ring-fenced money to pay for it – from London, maybe even from Europe, at the time of savage austerity cuts elsewhere.

In a strange way history repeated itself and I was hitting the same wall as before.

A small group of ideological zealots had hijacked the system; here they installed the Bristol-based cycling lobby Sustrans to implement their auto-phobic cyclo-manic ideas. Electric autonomous cars out of their line of vision. While each one of my confrontations before and now was disconcerting to a degree, when they are seen and read together they tell a terrible story of the way bureaucrats keep making mistakes, fail to correct them, and try to perpetuate them right through to 2040. A truly Kafkaesque situation. A new book is the only way to tell the tale.

I needed an editor with powerful shears.

I turned to Jan Woolf who had edited some of my earlier posts under ispy into my book Death of a Nightingale. We are from different parts of the political spectrum. This was not an obstacle. She describes herself as Socialist or “Marxish.’ Me? I am still Liberal by instinct but in no way identify myself with the LibDems. Enough of labels. We live in a mixed economy in a highly complex world. We both question in political debate its sterile language, its over-simplistic slogans, its Tweets and its soundbites, as well as ill-considered, egocentric expectations. Autocracy and the abuse of power are our common enemy.

Almost every day we read of some new cock-up.We simply crave something that works.

PS Jan Woolf as my editor is a great good fortune. We climb the mountain from different sides of it. Her outlets for activism include Stop the War, The Writers Guild of Great Britain, and a founding director of the recently re-launched Left Book Club. The nearer we get to the top, the more we agree with each other.



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