Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Craven Conflict: a pre-Christmas bargain

For the run up to Christmas, Craven Conflict is going to be half price on the Kindle Countdown deal.

If you're searching for a good legal suspense drama, and you've already read every one of John Grisham's novels, or if you'd rather read something set in the UK, look no further.

Here's the Amazon link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Craven-Conflict-David-Cooper-ebook/dp/B015GGRUBE/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1482277204&sr=1-1&keywords=craven+conflict

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Yellowstone National Park: a near near death experience

No, that’s not a clerical error. All will be revealed shortly. But let’s set the scene first.

Yellowstone National Park is dangerous. An unwary visitor could be eaten by a bear. Or fatally gored by a bison. There are plenty of opportunities to plunge to inadvertent doom from high places, such as the lava terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs or the cliff edges at the Park’s own Grand Canyon. And of course there is the option for a scorcher of a demise via the endless supply of boiling water and steam from the geysers, not forgetting the volcanic hot spots lurking beneath the surface.

But it would be a travesty to think of Yellowstone as Beelzebub’s Backyard in all but name. For the thousands of sensible visitors who take the trouble to make the journey to the far north west corner of Wyoming, it’s a sightseeing spectacular. Few would need to be told that it is inadvisable to step too close to a wild animal or a steep drop. And for anyone not quite tuned into the risks involved in straying off limits on a geyser basin, where the danger is sometimes more latent than visible, the boardwalks and their signs ought to bring the point home beyond all reasonable doubt.

Or so we thought…

It did not take long to realise, on our first full day in the park, that the “selfie” craze had arrived on an industrial scale. I will simply observe that the vast majority of its perpetrators were tourists for whom English would not have been their first language, and leave it at that. What made it so bizarre in a place like Yellowstone, as they poured off the coaches and homed in on the viewpoints with their weapons of mass observation primed for attack, is the plentiful supply of scenery that surely cries out for silent admiration and the occasional well judged photo to preserve the memory. Ideally, with as little human presence in the frame as possible. How much true enjoyment of an adventurous holiday destination can seriously be preserved in hundreds of grinning face smartphone shots is one of those impossible conundrums. “This is one of me, my other half, and a few more of my friends at Yellowstone National Park – no idea what that steamy thing is behind me…”

So there we were in the Upper Geyser Basin, heading off on a late afternoon walk that began on the boardwalks reaching out from the Old Faithful Inn, hoping to reach Morning Glory Pool and return before the daylight ran out. On the far side of the Firehole River, looking back towards the Inn and the eponymous geyser, the photo opportunities are plentiful. A point that had clearly not been lost on the group of overseas visitors whom we walked past, as they continued their quest to crowd as much human flesh as possible into their smartphone screens without completely losing all of the grey mist and the rocky thermal crust. What was that feature in their immediate foreground, with the Inn and the most famous of the geysers distantly visible? Oh yes, Dragon Spring, how very…

But what on earth? Is that really one of them marching out over the crust, smartphone in hand, towards a crater that has the unmistakable look of a geyser outlet or a thermal pool? Is he seriously glancing back to make sure his companions are framing him in a good shot? And are they making moves to step off the boardwalk too? Yes, yes and yes…

What happened next is something of a blur. I can just about recall that after the first few seconds of utter disbelief, we combined frenzied gestures and forceful exhortations to stop them in their tracks and persuade them to get back on the boardwalk with a degree of considerable alacrity. Whatever damage their feet may have inflicted on thousand year old fragile thermal crust in the process, they made it. In a later Facebook post, I noted that “DANGEROUS!” ought now to have become part of the main culprit’s limited knowledge of the English language. My wife had the last word: “Dangerous wasn’t the only thing you shouted.”

Following a few nods and mutterings that we took to be thanks, we left it at that and decided to put as much distance between us and them as possible. Had there been a convenient “Report A Blissfully Ignorant Suicidal Moron” hotline to the Park Rangers within easy reach, we would have made full use. But with a citizens’ arrest not being a sensible option (is this available on US soil for one foreign visitor to carry out on another?), we had little choice other than to draw a line under our near near death experience – now you’ll get it – and move on. It was at least well worth then making the trek out to Morning Glory Pool before the blizzards set to work on the way back to the Inn.

To conclude on a sober note and dispel any suggestion of exaggeration, here’s a link to a June 2016 fatality at the Norris Geyser Basin, another thermal wonderland not far from Old Faithful. Key sentence: “Efforts to recover the body…..were suspended…..after rangers determined there were no remains left in the hot spring.”

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Craven Conflict: free download today

That's right - an end of summer promotion, for one day ahead of the Bank Holiday. Use the links on the right for Amazon, or read the prologue first via the page links above.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Craven Conflict: free promotion on Saturday 27 August

Would you like a free download of Craven Conflict? For one day only, on Saturday 27 August, you have the chance to obtain one. Head over to Amazon - the links are on the right.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Nashville Cast, Black Sabbath, and online touts

Tuesday night’s Nashville Cast performance at Birmingham Symphony Hall was a great show. All credit to cast members Scarlett, Will, Deacon and Gunnar – otherwise Clare Bowen, Chris Carmack, Charles Esten and Sam Palladio – for taking the risk of arranging a UK tour based on a US TV series, all the more so when the two female leads Rayna and Juliette were not involved. The Birmingham show was a sell out.

But we almost didn’t go. Having only found out about the tour late in the day, when it was sold out, the only tickets available were from secondary sources (OK, let’s not beat about the bush, from online touts) at double and in one case treble their face value. No chance. Only the late availability of two unbelievably good tickets, at face value from the box office, meant we’d see the show after all.

Here’s another example of online touting in practice. In today’s Birmingham Mail, it is reported that even before tickets for the final Black Sabbath tour went on general release, they were already in the hands of online touts at inflated prices. No fault of the band, but their reputation will suffer as a result.

A few thoughts. The touts’ purchase of these tickets does not involve any adding of value to them. Not a penny of the mark-up finds its way back to the artists. And the subject matter of the tickets – an audio visual experience from a live concert on a specific date – is of no interest to the touts, but of great interest to genuine fans, who would not find comparable pleasure in a Justin Bieber concert, a Birmingham City home match or a Shakespeare play if they were unwilling to pay the touts’ prices.

Legislation may be the answer. Here’s a link to a petition from Royal Blood’s site with their own comments. But is it really beyond the ingenuity of the artists, their promoters and the venue owners to put a stop to online touting of their own initiative? Surely there is scope to print the purchaser’s name on show tickets and carry out random ID checks at the venue? And in the event that a purchaser was genuinely unable to go to the show, surely the artists would be happy to reimburse the venue for any unsold returns, if it meant that they were not tarred with the same brush as the online touts?

Come on, artists, get thinking. If it’s quick and easy in the digital age for independent authors to cut out the middlemen that stand between them and book publication, can’t you find a way to make online touts history?

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

EU Referendum: a hymn for Brexit

“Mighty EU, flexing muscles, trampling on democracy
Lording o’er us all from Brussels, bastion of bureaucracy
Yours are clouds of sinful madness, driving precious hope away
Giving such unending badness - regulate and make us pay!”

Well, that’s the first verse of a possible Brexit anthem. Three more to follow. And you might already have worked out the musical inspiration. Scroll down to the end for the rest now if you wish. But all good things come to those who wait. Let’s have a quick history lesson first.

The European Union’s official anthem is Beethoven’s “Ode To Joy”, adopted as such in 1972. But only the music. Why no lyrics? Because, as is confirmed on the EU’s official website, “In the universal language of music, this anthem expresses the European ideals of freedom, peace and solidarity.” Oh, what a relief. Just imagine having to write an appropriate set of lyrics that could in turn be rendered into meaningful and thematic rhyming couplets just as easily in Finnish as in Portuguese.

As far as the German and English speaking worlds are concerned, there are already lyrics available. If we go all the way back to 1785, we will find the work of Friedrich Schiller titled “An die Freude”, which begins ‘Freude, schöner Götterfunken, Tochter aus Elysium‘. Moving onwards to 1907, the American author and clergyman Henry van Dyke was evidently so moved by a visit to the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts that he wrote what came to be described as one of the most joyous expressions of hymn lyrics in the English language. His first verse (the link gives the other three): -

“Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flow'rs before Thee, opening to the Sun above,
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness, drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!”

So how, we may ask, could those cheeky Eurocrats have had the brass neck to hijack such an uplifting composition, both in Beethoven’s music and van Dyke’s lyrics, and pass it off as the theme tune for their corrupt and ramshackle institution?

Let’s not get mad, though, let’s get even. We need to mark the occasion when those of us under the age of 60 finally heard that we would be given a chance to vote on UK membership of what was then the European Economic Community and what has now become the European Union. The Brexit campaign may be in need of an anthem, all the more so if it might now help unite the Leave factions against the common enemy. So why not take Ode to Joy and treat it to a good humoured and light hearted adaptation, as closely to van Dyke’s original as possible, for this very purpose?

“Mighty EU, flexing muscles, trampling on democracy
Lording o’er us all from Brussels, bastion of bureaucracy
Yours are clouds of sinful madness, driving precious hope away
Giving such unending badness - regulate and make us pay!

Lobbyists with joy surround thee, auditors reject thy books
Cash rich fonctionnaires around thee, brushing off our helpless looks
London, Dublin, Copenhagen, Athens desperate to be free
Let’s bring on this referendum, cast this deadweight corpse of thee!

Thou art taking and forsaking, ever cursing, ever cursed
Wellspring of fake global warming, open borders, it gets worse
Thou our Emperor, Jean Claude Juncker – not much choice, it might be Blair –
You just make us loathe each other, leaving us in dark despair!

Voters, join the rising chorus, smash that cursed ring of stars
Stop the EU reigning o’er us, bureaucrats and commissars
Ever singing, let’s march onward, free ourselves from Brussels strife
Time to lead the UK sunward – Brexit now for joyful life!”

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Craven Conflict - half price on Kindle Countdown

For the next seven days, Craven Conflict is going to be half price on the Kindle Countdown deal.

If you're searching for a good legal suspense drama, and you've already read every one of John Grisham's novels, or if you'd rather read something set in the UK, look no further.

Here's the Amazon link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B015GGRUBE

Friday, 25 March 2016

A Brexit speech for Penny Mordaunt?

One claim to fame for Penny Mordaunt MP, undoubtedly a rising star in Parliament, is that she once made a rather unorthodox speech in the Commons about poultry welfare in satisfaction of a forfeit that she incurred as a Royal Navy reservist. Specifically, she managed to use the word "cock" within that speech on more than one occasion, without arousing undue suspicion at the time. Here's a link: -


Now that she has nailed her colours firmly to the mast of the Brexit campaign, she might be in need of another inspirational speech. It might go something like this...

"Fellow British patriots, we should no longer tolerate the Prime Minister’s cock and bull stories about his EU reforms. His shuttlecock diplomacy has achieved nothing.

The Remain camp can do little more than strut around like peacocks and peddle the arrogant propaganda of Project Fear. They know full well that we Brexiteers can use reason and common sense to knock their scaremongering into a cocked hat.

We can now see what a cock-eyed scheme the EU was all along, serving a hideous cocktail of regulation and waste.  It is high time we commandeered the stopcock and diverted the flow against its legislating cockroaches.

Just take a look at the almighty Cockaigne in Brussels. Do we want to take orders from that cockalorum Jean Claude Juncker? Or from that cockatrice Angela Merkel? Is it befitting for our Prime Minister to solicit their treats like a cocker spaniel before returning home to cock his leg against Parliament?

The battle ahead will be more than just a cockfight. I call upon my Conservative colleagues not to spin aimlessly like weathercocks in a gale. I call upon Scousers and Geordies, Brummies and Cockneys, to climb into the Brexit campaign cockpit. Let us cock a snook at the powers that be, and reject their poppycock for once and for all. Let us ensure that we will be cock a hoop on Referendum Day. Victory will warm the cockles of our heart.

One final word for our cocksure Prime Minister. If you really think you are cock of the walk, take me on in a debate. And if you don’t have the courage, send Matthew Hancock."

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Pointless Professional Awards - with hidden extras

Last week I was treated to the news, via an unsolicited email, that following months of research by the in-house awards team at the Spennymoor & Cricklewood Combined Pigeon Fanciers’ Association International*, my law practice had been named the “Most Innovative Law Firm of 2016, your region”.

Well, whoopeedoo. There’s something to crow about. Even if they were so bird brained as to omit a specific reference to the West Midlands. If they really want to describe us as one of the UK’s “most competitive, cutting-edge and inventive law firms…most deserving of one of our prestigious awards”, who are we to bury our heads in the sand? Especially when we are reminded that we can put a further feather in our cap by announcing this news publicly?

Now for the catch. Publicity from the makers of the award comes at a price. It starts at £300 for a basic package comprising a listing in print and online, a trophy, and a “Most Innovative Law Firm” logo. The creative package, a bargain at £800, would bring a “full page inclusion” of an article that we were evidently expected to write. If we really wanted to push the boat out, we could go for the cutting edge package with a front cover headline and a double page spread, which we would again evidently be expected to write. Quite a lot for £1,400?

Well, perhaps not. Even if it could be taken on trust that the makers of this prestigious award did in fact have over 100,000 subscribers and 40,000 monthly website visitors, it’s still a lot of money to pay for some here today gone tomorrow advertising. Especially without any guarantee of a worthwhile return that was actually generated by the advertising.

“Oh, but it’s not just advertising! Don’t forget the award!” But let’s get some sense of perspective here. It’s not the Oscars. And many potential clients would quite reasonably think that professional advisers’ awards were, frankly, not that much of a reliable illustration of true quality and skill, but were more comparable to an exercise in mutual backslapping and self congratulation, often fuelled by an excess of food and drink.

That may be the main reason why the Most Innovative Law Firm award will, deservedly, fall flat on its face. Not the Nigerian scam undercurrent of the unsolicited email. Not even the unfortunate acronym that the award’s trophy would no doubt graphically illustrate. Think again, lads. If you’re going to give us the perfect chance to waste money for your benefit, at least give us an excuse for a booze up.


*Name changed to protect the innocent/guilty. For all the commercial benefit likely to have been generated from the award, it may as well have made by the SCCPFAI. One small clue: the award peddlers’ actual name is two words, the second of which is International, and it sounds remarkably similar to one ending in Monthly.