Weel Done, Cutty Sark!~~by Steven J Pemberton

In honour of Burns Night, I’m reprinting this article from a simpler time (i.e., when it was safe to travel on a train to visit a tourist attraction). The connection to Robert Burns is revealed in the third paragraph.

A photo of the Cutty Sark in its dry dock in Greenwich.

Cutty Sark is a 19th-century sailing ship, preserved as a museum in a dry dock in Greenwich in London. It’s a clipper, a type of ship built for speed, specifically to carry tea from China to Britain. Tea was still something of a luxury in Britain at this time, and the first ship to make a delivery of the new season’s crop could command a high price.

The exhibition tells the story of the tea trade in general and Cutty Sark in particular. When tea was first introduced to Britain, import duties on it were so high that it was a profitable cargo for smugglers. Aristocrats would keep their tea stash under lock and key, and prepare the drink themselves, rather than trust their servants to do it.

The name of the ship comes from the poem Tam O’Shanter by Robert Burns. Tam is on his way home, drunk, late at night, and sees light coming from a ruined church. Witches and warlocks are dancing there, and the devil himself is playing the bagpipes. Tam notices one particularly attractive young witch wearing a sark (a shift or chemise) that’s too cutty (short) for her. Unable to restrain himself, he calls out “Weel [well] done, cutty sark!” in admiration. The witches and warlocks, alerted to his presence, chase him. He makes his getaway over a bridge (the devil and his servants can’t cross running water), but the young witch manages to seize the tail of his horse. The ship’s figurehead is a likeness of the witch, holding the horse’s tail. It’s not entirely clear to me why the ship’s owner chose the name. Certainly it suggests a fast vessel, but since the witch’s quarry escaped, it also suggests one that’s not quite fast enough.

For a trip from China to Britain, the ship’s hull was essentially packed solid with tea crates, and carried about 580 tons of tea – enough to make about 200 million cups. The crew initially slept in a compartment at the bow, but complained this was too small, and so a couple of cabins were built on the deck. Even allowing for the fact that people tended to be smaller back then, these must have been cramped – eight or ten bunks in a space not much bigger than our spare bedroom.

Cutty Sark made “only” eight runs on the tea route. The ship’s launch coincided with the opening of the Suez Canal. The canal shortened the route from Shanghai to London from about 16,000 miles to about 12,200, but it wasn’t suitable for sailing ships. That, coupled with the improving efficiency of steam engines, meant that steamships became a much faster way of bringing tea to Britain. Clippers were broken up or moved to other routes where speed wasn’t as important. Cutty Sark spent forty years or so sailing the world before returning to Britain in 1922 to be converted into a training ship. By the 1950s, it was no longer needed in this role. As it was the last surviving tea clipper, it was moved to a permanent dry dock on the River Thames and converted into a museum.

The exhibition tries to convey what life was like on board, though a lot of imagination is called for – you’re spending a few minutes on a stationary platform in the middle of a big city, not weeks on a rolling ship hundreds of miles from land, constantly being chilled by the wind and drenched by the waves.

Unusually for a ship in a dry dock, you can walk around underneath the ship and admire its lines. The way this was done has been criticised as being ugly and more for the benefit of the corporate hospitality market than for the sake of preserving the ship. Personally I don’t see what the problem is, though I know very little about architecture.

Allow an hour to go around, or maybe an hour and a half if you want to read all the text or have a go on the interactive exhibits.

This article originally appeared on Steven’s blog at https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/15925731-weel-done-cutty-sark.


OMP Admin Note: Steven J Pemberton is the editor of the OMP blog. His writing is mainly fantasy and science fiction novels. You can learn more about those at his website at http://www.pembers.net. He contributed a short story (History Lesson) to the One Million Project: Fantasy anthology, and writes stories for the OMP’s Fox Universe/Earth-F project on Wattpad.


Our short story anthologies written by over 100 writers are now available (links below) with all proceeds being donated to the charity organizations our group supports.

If you are a Kindle Unlimited member, you can read the complete anthology for FREE, and KU proceeds are donated along with the proceeds from the sale of our anthologies.

Our volunteer authors love to see reviews, and every review helps to make the One Million Project’s books more visible to Amazon customers, assisting us in our mission to raise One Million Pounds / Dollars for EMMAUS Homeless Programs and Cancer Research UK.

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Off-plan~~by Mark Huntley-James

I’m pantser, not a planner. I don’t analyse, I just write. Except when it all goes to pieces in the middle of writing a book and a bit of structure is needed to dig my way out of a hole.

There has been a lot of that lately, with my currently book proving unusually troublesome, and at a time when my plans in general have been upended. Two years ago, set up with both life and writing plans that stretched over two years, I suddenly found myself struggling to write whilst sitting in various hospital waiting rooms. A year later, with diagnosis and treatment plans established, enter COVID.

That’s the trouble with plans – the vagaries of life can upend them in a moment.

All of this came together in my head recently as I had a breakthrough with a shambolic plot where everything was floundering, going nowhere, and completely failed to have any relationship with the overall story. Somewhere in the back of my mind there was a plan of sorts, probably a sentence or two at the most, but never written down. That plan, however, was nothing more than a random collection of minor triumphs for my characters, their own grand plans coming to fruition in an almost linear and distinctly pedestrian progress towards success.

Real life isn’t like that, and all the people I know who talk about the theory of writing tell me that fiction shouldn’t be either.

After weeks of struggle, that mess became a coherent plan in the space of two days (including grumbling on social media and feeding the sheep in the rain). I put that sudden success down to the weeks of effort finally paying off, leading me to a moment of insight, the desperately needed plot-twist to provide the point of failure in the plan.

So, I have a new plan. Not a plot outline, though, because I’m still too much of a pantser for that.

To explain my moment of insight, I need the writing analysis, which I never do, unless I’m desperate. A great many stories seem to follow a very simple structure which I found was particularly noticeable in some episodic tv shows. I happened to do that noticing recently whilst watching some old favourite DVD box sets during lockdown.

It goes like this.

Set up the conflict. Devise a plan which will resolve the conflict so that everyone lives happily until the next episode. Drop in an unforeseen factor that derails the plan completely. Devise a new, more desperate and challenging plan. (Add to taste, optional, extra-desperate plan-C for final twist if desired.) Deliver a nail-biting, skin-of-the-teeth success in the alternate plan. Final credits.

Funnily enough, that’s not unlike real life. The last year has had more than its fair share of sudden phone calls from the hospital “that terribly urgent test you are booked in for tomorrow has now been cancelled due to COVID-19, press one on your keypad now to reschedule.” That might be less dramatic than “your plan to save humanity from the deadly plague from outer space has now been cancelled due to the Zarg invasion, press one on your interdimensional confabulator to connect with the subspace resistance fighters” but it comes down to the same thing: no plan entirely survives contact with real life.

So, now I have it. My plot twist. The unforeseen factor. My original pedestrian plot is no longer a walk in the park. The plan is derailed, the new plan is there to rescue the mess, and now it all feels like fictional real life again.

Maybe I will add a line to the dedication, thanking the hungry sheep who helped my thought processes along.

Oh, and the “new plan” actually fits with the theme of the book, which is completely fortuitous, because I never plan or analyse for that. Not consciously, anyway.

Oh. Not consciously… Now I have a plan for my next article. Not what I was originally planning…


OMP Admin Note:  Mark Huntley-James writes science fiction and fantasy on a small farm in Cornwall, where he lives with his partner and a menagerie of cats, poultry and sheep.

He has two urban fantasy novels out on Kindle – “Hell Of A Deal” (http://relinks.me/B01N94VXBC ) and “The Road To Hell” (relinks.me/B07BJLKFSS  ) – and is working on a third.

He can be found online at his blog http://writeedge.blogspot.co.uk, his website (https://sites.google.com/site/markhuntleyjames/), and occasionally on that new-fangled social media.


Our short story anthologies written by over 100 writers are now available (links below) with all proceeds being donated to the charity organizations our group supports.

If you are a Kindle Unlimited member, you can read the complete anthology for FREE, and KU proceeds are donated along with the proceeds from the sale of our anthologies.

Our volunteer authors love to see reviews, and every review helps to make the One Million Project’s books more visible to Amazon customers, assisting us in our mission to raise One Million Pounds / Dollars for EMMAUS Homeless Programs and Cancer Research UK.

LINKS

myBook.to/OMPThriller

myBook.to/OMPFantasy

myBook.to/OMPFiction

myBook.to/OMPVarietyAnthology

It’s an Ill Wind~~by Christine Larsen

The words "IT'S AN ILL WIND" in a spiky font. The background is a dark blue sky with wind-swept white clouds.

In January 2020, I was writing about stopping the home fires burning. My Australia was on fire, and it seemed nothing could outstrip the losses, the grieving, and the pain this disaster caused. Currently, we are seeing many replays of the horrors… and the painful aftermath. The follow-up a year later shows the human spirit triumphing over that appalling disaster, in many ways. The common denominator is courage and an unquenchable will to survive.

In March 2020 a pandemic swept the world in unimaginable numbers that forced all else to pale. The losses and suffering have been immense, testing the fibre of far too many human beings beyond anything they should ever have known. Daily, the news reports have bombarded our senses with a more intense ‘doom and gloom’ scenario than the entire world has ever had to face, accept and contend with.

To imagine any positives out of this horrific scenario had seemed impossible… and yet a significant percentage of homelessness has become a solvable problem, being called an unbelievable ‘silver lining’ of the ominous cloud of the pandemic.

Unconventional approaches across the world are achieving varying levels of success… it seems ‘one size (or solution) does NOT fit all’, sadly. That many options are being trialled—even though some are resulting in failure—is SO encouraging; to think so much more care and studied thought is being spent on this soul-destroying problem than ever before.

Considered the most innovative (but commonsense) reaction and subsequent action has happened in Finland, where a successful program has seen immediate placement of homeless people into existing housing, newly purchased flats and purpose-built housing blocks. They give these tenants individually tailored support services that continue as long as needed.

From their welfare payments, the newly housed contribute what they can to the rental, and the Government pays the rest. Successful? Well…there are no more homeless shelters, they are all now converted to supported housing.

An unexpected financial bonus to the authorities has seen up to 9,600 euros (over 15,000 AUD) a year savings on the regular ‘homeless’ costs of just one person! An amazing win/win situation for all … surely?

The ‘knee-jerk’ response to place these ‘lost’ beings into hotels and motels is proving UNsuccessful. No independence of feeling of self-worth is fostered, and in fact, a common reaction has been to feel ‘trapped’, being ‘a burden with nothing but nuisance value’ — and still no independence or opportunity to develop a sense of responsibility.

Moving homeless people into empty student apartments is a reasonable choice… IF they have their own, most basic cooking and self-care facilities. Far preferable is converting long-term empty houses and buildings of all varieties into permanent housing, and purchasing housing units where rent amounts can be income-ability based.

Then comes the need for recognition that support may not stop the moment a person walks into what may be their ‘forever’ home. In an ideal handling, dedicated co-ordinators would assist those in need of a guiding hand and a voice to walk through all the regular necessities, like credit checks and applications, budgeting, furnishing/daily living requirements, and the actual move-in. Ongoing needs could include negotiations with the landlord, neighbours and facing and meeting problems and potential conflicts.

Many would need physical and emotional support as they learn (or re-learn) ways of adjusting to; coping with; and succeeding in their alternative world. For others, serious addictions, bad habits and ‘crutches’ must be addressed and resolved if possible. A whole other world, for sure.

As various bodies around the world reach out, we hope and pray—despite their deepest despair—the ‘rough sleepers’ can accept and benefit from the TLC being offered. How wonderful if 2021 saw the beginning of the end of that other, sinister pandemic — HOMELESSNESS!


OMP Admin Note: Christine Larsen is a writer, farmer, wife, mother, and grandmother from Australia. She has never been homeless or had significant cancer – yet – but has had exposure to both – creating a great sense of empathy and desire to help in any way she can. She is humbled by the opportunity to give one of her stories to the sincerely worthwhile causes of Cancer research and Homelessness.

To find out more about Christine and her work:

ceedee moodling  (Christine’s website)

Christine Larsen, Author

 – on Wattpad

–  on Facebook

– on Tablo

– on Amazon

Old McLarsen had some Farms (farming memoirs)

ceedee4kids (Christine’s children’s book site)


Our short story anthologies written by over 100 writers are now available (links below) with all proceeds being donated to the charity organizations our group supports.

If you are a Kindle Unlimited member, you can read the complete anthology for FREE, and KU proceeds are donated along with the proceeds from the sale of our anthologies.

Our volunteer authors love to see reviews, and every review helps to make the One Million Project’s books more visible to Amazon customers, assisting us in our mission to raise One Million Pounds / Dollars for EMMAUS Homeless Programs and Cancer Research UK.

LINKS

myBook.to/OMPThriller

myBook.to/OMPFantasy

myBook.to/OMPFiction

myBook.to/OMPVarietyAnthology