The trailer is finished – and our campaign to crowdfund production of Issue 1 of our comic book series is now live!
There’s no denying it’s been a long haul – fitting in the creation of a four-minute, part-live action trailer around busy workaday lives has been a constant challenge for everyone on our team, with members living far apart: the Hampshire/Surrey border, the south coast, Nottingham and Oregon (USA) but we finally got there: and the result is even more exciting and spectacular than I could ever have imagined when we began the process!
As you’ll see from the finished trailer if you click on this link, the ‘Minding Mama’ team managed to create a small corner of future Earth in a drama studio in Surrey on a very small budget. We used polystyrene packing, old electrical equipment, as well as a prop robot. We had a brilliant Mama in Kate Davies-Speak, and the voice of Cyril the FarmBot (and our narrator) was none other than David Learner, who has played Marvin the Paranoid Android on stage and TV, and was one of our very first celebrity guests when I ran the official appreciation society back in the early 1980’s.
We’ll be running a series of interviews with the team over the duration of the campaign (which ends September 23rd), so please do check out the campaign
Neon Sky Books will also be at Reading Comic-Con on Saturday & Sunday October 13 – 14th, so please drop in and say ‘Hello!’!
… Or to go bravely to! Indie Comics are uncharted territory for this author. So why would I leave my comfort zone (long-form novels) and venture into the unknown? The answer is pretty simple: I wanted to see this particular story visualized in glorious colour. Preferably, with moving characters – animation or even (the holy grail for me) live action. But I also love art – used to dabble a little bit myself many years ago, but didn’t think I was that good and got out of the habit. Although I came to them late via back issues once I was earning, I do remember the ‘Captain Scarlet’ strips in TV21 – Mike Noble, Ron Embleton, Frank Bellamy… names familiar to many of you, I’m sure. I would stare at the pages for hours, enjoying the detail and colour. Since we (like most people then) only had a black & white TV, the printed adventures were the only way to see Spectrum and its personnel in colour. On our TV, Captain Scarlet was Captain… well, grey, Captain Blue was also grey… ) I had a Captain Scarlet annual, I remember, and I looked at it so much the front cover came off!
So… A couple of years ago, I penned a short story about a post-apocalyptic vision of Earth in which the ozone layer had been all but destroyed by decades of intense solar flare activity, forcing humanity underground. This scenario had really captured my imagination because, as I discovered some time later when revisiting my first draft, there is more than a kernel of scientific fact in the premise. It could happen. Let me explain…
In October 2016, the then-US President Barrack Obama issued a Special Executive Order requiring that the nation be prepared for ‘Space Weather Events‘. Whether this mass education of US citizens about the perils of Space Weather ever happened, I don’t know. But I do know that the release of this Executive Order seemed to be very providential – almost as if it was confirming my decision to write the story. The premise chilled me to the bone. What kind of world would any survivors of this mass-extinction scenario inhabit?
Well, actually it would be a horrible world. We already know that UV levels are higher than in the past; when I was a child (in the ’60’s and ’70’s), we could stay out and play in the sun (often without any kind of sunscreen, either because it wasn’t available or my parents didn’t think to get any/couldn’t afford it) for hours before getting sunburned. Nowadays, if you happen to forget to apply sunscreen, it doesn’t take very long at all before you begin to feel that ominous prickling warning you your skin is under attack. Imagine it magnified many times as the ozone layer thins; people, animals and plants would all suffer terribly. Even undersea creatures and plants would not be safe. Incidences of cancer (especially of the skin) would likely rise many times their numbers today. Without crops to feed livestock, humanity would also likely be deficient in the protein derived from meat, as well as green leafy vegetables.
So, I did a lot of research, and began to world-build (one of my favourite parts of the writing process – I can lose myself for days, weeks…).
The result was a tale of small, fragile communities struggling to grow enough crops to feed themselves; a society splintered and reliant on old technology to grow anything at all underground; a society desperate to find a way to return to the surface without dying from UV-induced cancers; a society probably deficient in vitamin D, and a society increasingly reliant on robots (specifically, FarmBots) to create new strains of food crop which could be grown on the surface. Incidentally, the precursor to my FarmBots already exist – check them out here .
After almost two years of research, world-building, finding artists who also saw the potential in this post-apocalyptic tale, developing the idea from my initial idea to create a short animated feature into a comic-book series, building a crowdfund campaign to enable us to create a live-action trailer to head up the main campaign to help fund the production of Issue One, we are on our way! On 27th August, our main campaign went live on Kickstarter, but we already have an ongoing campaign in place on Patreon, which we’ll use to help fund future issues and (who knows) maybe that animated feature I originally envisaged!
With a week to go on the first Kickstarter campaign (we used Patreon and Go Fund Me to raise funds to make the live-action trailer with Kate Davies-Speak and David Learner as Mama and Cyril) I don’t know if we’ll meet our goal this time… but it has been and continues to be an education and if we don’t make it, we won’t be the first (or the last). But we won’t stop – one way or another, ‘Minding Mama’ will see the light of day!
Our official ‘Minding Mama’ poster by Amanda Fullwood. Not ashamed to admit it brought tears to my eyes. Can I imagine it as a movie? Oh, yes…!
After Thursday’s Road Rage incident, it was nice to see a retweeted post this morning showing some kind people in the US of A rescuing a mummy duck’s babies after they fell down a drain. Went some way to restoring my (slightly dented) faith in humanity!
It reminded me, too, that my husband and I carried out a similar rescue in Midhurst, Sussex, in the summer of 1990. We’d taken my old Mini Clubman out for a spin and decided to stop off for a meal before making our way home.
We arrived in the car park and noticed a crowd of people gathered around a drain (the picture below isn’t the actual drain (in fact this one is from Vancouver, but it’s very similar) and joined the throng to see what was going on. It seemed that a mummy duck had been leading her kiddies back to the river Rother (you try saying that in a hurry) which runs through the town, and one of her ducklings
had fallen through the grating and was now sitting miserably on the bottom, calling for his/her mummy. Various discussions ensued, which ran along the lines of ringing the RSPCA to see if they could send someone out, ringing the council to see if they could send someone out (to open the drain cover) and so on. Because there was quite a big crowd and it all seemed to be in hand, with people donating a handkerchief and shoelaces to improvise a sling, we went off and got something to eat. When we got back about an hour or so later, it was late in the afternoon and we were surprised to see that the crowd had dispersed but that one chap was still there, with the duckling in his hand! He said he didn’t know quite what to do – he lived in North London and had to get going, so hubby told him we didn’t live too far away so we’d take the duckling and see if we could reunite him/her with his/her family.
Because this was way before people routinely carried mobile phones, no-one had known the local RSPCA number, but we thought if we couldn’t find the duck family we could hopefully drop it off at a local RSPCA or veterinary practice in our local area.
By that time the mother duck had long given up on her stray child and had waddled off towards the river with the rest of her brood. I suppose when you have half a dozen babies you have to consider the family as a whole – ‘the needs of the many’ and all that! We decided to follow the path down to the river and see if we could find the Mother Duck and her family.
We were younger and fitter in those days (!) so what looks like quite a long walk on the map didn’t take too long. We found the river, and after following it along for a little while, found a duck family. The duckling tweeted but there was no response from the mother duck. Wrong family! We walked a bit further and found another family – the duckling heard them and tweeted loudly; again no response. ‘We’re going to end up taking him home with us!’ my hubby worried. Then we found another family – ‘our’ duckling started tweeting loudly again. This mother duck stopped paddling and quacked back – we’d found the right family at last! Hubby went as close to the water’s edge as he dare, and as soon as he opened his fingers, the duckling tumbled out of his hand and down into the water, then started paddling. He was quickly rounded up by his mother, who seemed to be telling him off, then away they went. Our good deed for the day!
Below you can see the car park (on the right, near the bus station) where the duckling fell into the drain, and somewhere between the right angle of the river near the Cowdray ruins and Midhurst Castle is where we finally caught up with Mrs Duck.
Thanks to my hubby’s prodigious memory, I’ve been able to tell our little rescue story with reasonable accuracy. I often wonder if the other people (those who donated a handkerchief and their shoelaces) remember their part in the rescue. It would be lovely if any of them were to see this and realise that all was well in the end!
I haven’t been on the receiving end of ‘road rage’ for a very long time (thankfully), and I had forgotten just how upsetting it can be! But yesterday afternoon, I had a reminder of just how unreasonable other drivers can be…
My sister had picked me up from a medical appointment in Aldershot (which almost merits a post on ‘car park rage’, but I’ll save that for another time – maybe). It was a lovely sunny, breezy afternoon, and if all was not exactly right with the world, well, it was, shall we say, fair to middling.
But as we rounded the corner into my street (of course I don’t own it – I mean, the street on which I live), my sister had to pull out around a car parked on the corner, and almost (note: almost) failed to notice a car approaching in the other lane, hot on the heels of another car (driving on its bumper, practically). Luckily, she has fast reactions and noticed just in time and managed to pull the wheel back the other way, avoiding (note: avoiding) the second car. ‘Phew! That was close!’
A moment later, as we made our way further round the circular cul-de-sac (er, dead end) so that my sister could park outside our house facing the right way, and not have to drive back through the narrow street in the dark later on, we realised that a car was right up behind her. Then the driver started leaning on his horn, and as he followed us all the way around, leaning on his horn all the way, we realised it was the driver of the car she had almost (but didn’t) hit.
‘Shall I drive on round a bit, we don’t want him to know where you live?’ my sister asked, both of us feeling a bit freaked out and threatened by now – he was gesticulating at us by this time, still leaning on his horn.
‘No,’ I said, thinking that if there’s trouble at least my husband is home – he is six-five, big with it and has a scar running down one side of his face from a childhood accident (one day I might tell you about the time he accidentally reversed back onto another car in the filling station and cracked the their number plate… the driver got out, all angry, and hubby got out to apologize and to offer to pay him for the cracked number plate. The guy took one look at him, jumped back in his car and drove off (without stopping for fuel) much to my husband’s amazement and the amusement of the guy at the till!) … so we pulled into the drive. Road Rage Man stopped, blocking the road, and started shouting at us. The conversation went something like this:
Road Rage Man: “Any reason you decided to swerve your ****** car at me, love?”
My sister: “I was trying to avoid you!” (which she did)
RRM: “Yeah, well, you two ******** ********* need to learn how to drive!”
At this point I got really annoyed. We hadn’t hit him – so what was his problem? If we had, I could maybe understand his anger, but chasing after us, leaning on his horn and verbally abusing us was really not warranted for a near miss!
Me: “(unprintable) … we’ve been driving a lot longer than you have!” (Guessing he was in his twenties/thirties, maybe even forties, hard to say because he had sunglasses on and never got out of his car – but he was certainly younger than either of us)
RRM: ” *** **!” There then followed a tirade of abuse which although I can’t recall it word for word, went something along the lines of: if we had hit him or he saw us again he would hit us back twice as hard “and you wouldn’t be standing there now!”
Well that was a threat, so I walked towards the house intending to get my husband to come out and see him off – but with a few parting words of abuse, he sped off (luckily he didn’t hit anything but he was certainly well above the speed limit).
It took us both quite a while to calm down after that, as you might imagine! I wished I had taken a photo of his number plate with my phone, because when someone gets that angry over a near miss, you never quite know what they might be capable of – maybe he’d come back and slash our tyres after dark?!? (We once had a driver who had illegally parked in our private parking space for an air show -we used to live in Farnborough and it was a nightmare for the local residents- let the air out of our tyres after my husband got home from work to find someone had parked there, and had himself parked close to him – not enough to stop the driver getting out, but enough to make it awkward)
I know (because I know my sister) that had the guy not been so downright rude and aggressive, that she would certainly have apologized for giving him a fright, and probably made light of it with “at least I did manage to not hit you” which is what most people would find acceptable, right? But the guy wasn’t interested in anything but having a go.
Thankfully nothing else has happened (so far, touch wood), but I know it will be a while before I stop looking for Road Rage Man in his silver estate car…
You may recall that I posted once before aboutWASPI and their campaign to seek some kind of compensation for women born in the 1950’s whose SPA (State Pension Age) was raised from 60 to as much as 66 but who were not informed until it was too late to do anything to cover those extra years – meaning that thousands of us (not all) will have to work on or face poverty.
During the past couple of months, I and other ordinary members of WASPI have been subject to a flurry of emails from the current board of directors and, disturbingly, from a group of members appearing to represent a group of resigned directors wanting to regain control of the organisation. Alarm bells rang when the very first email asked me to take part in a ‘vote of no-confidence’ in the current board of directors, and another email from the current board of directors claimed that the ex-directors had retained the company database and were using it to email the membership to force a vote of members about who should run WASPI.
Since then hardly a week has gone by without an email from the ‘ex-directors or their representatives, and the current directors, talking about AGM’s and EGMs and proxy votes and who-has-done-what. My first thought was – ‘What the hell is going on?’ my second was: ‘Data security breach!’ Why has no one done anything about it?
The government seem intent on ignoring us until we all pop our clogs when the problem will, they no doubt hope, go away, and I now have little faith in WASPI as an effective campaigning force for 1950’s women. So, with little expectation that it will make any difference whatsoever, here is my response to all that, in the form of:
An open letter to all those involved in the WASPI dispute over who should run the organisation and how:
Dear past and present WASPI directors/committee members,
As an ordinary member of WASPI who does not personally know any of the previous or existing board/committee members, and who has paid my membership fee like thousands of other women who were hoping that WASPI might be a force for good in the campaign to seek some kind of recompense for those women born in the 1950s who have been left in financial difficulty following the DWPs failure to adequately inform most of us, I have watched with disbelief and dismay as this very unprofessional and unseemly ‘WASPI civil war’ has unfolded.
It is my understanding (from the various emails from both factions (the current board of directors and the ex-directors/a group of members’ representatives) that the ex-directors may have passed access to the private WASPI database – or at the very least a list of members email addresses – to a group of women who describe themselves as the ‘Members’ Committee’ and ‘Members’ Representatives’, with the apparent intention of forcing the resignation of the current board of directors so that the ex-directors can force a members vote and re-take control. As I understand it, THIS WOULD APPEAR TO BE A CLEAR BREACH OF THE DATA PROTECTION ACT. (Not to mention that calling for a vote so that they can re-take control sounds a bit like the sort of thing a tin-pot regime might do – how do they know they will even win?)
Now I am not a lawyer (but I would very much like to hear from someone who is about the legality of what has been happening), but surely, ONLY THE EXISTING BOARD OF DIRECTORS SHOULD HAVE ANY LEGAL RIGHT TO BE EMAILING THE MEMBERS FROM THE OFFICIAL DATABASE? Can someone with legal qualifications please confirm or refute this?
The current board of directors (whatever one may think of them) appears to be in the quite ridiculous position of having to create an alternative membership database because the ex-directors have held onto (and it seems may have restricted their access to?) the original membership database. The ex-directors/Member’s Committee (again none of whom I know personally) are stating that no-one on that new database can be allowed to vote in the EGM they are proposing, for fear of ‘vote-rigging’. Is this legal? Members are members, regardless of who has access to their email addresses. I am surprised the law has not been able to restore access to the database to the current board and remove it from the unauthorized people who have been using it. Why? Surely the law is the law?
For those reading this who are not too sure what is going on: As I understand it from reading the many confusing emails that have been sent to myself and other members during the last couple of months, THE PREVIOUS BOARD OF DIRECTORS RESIGNED due to ‘irreconcilable differences’ – Okay, fair enough, but they appear to have RETAINED THE DATABASE AND ACCESS TO MEMBER EMAIL ADDRESSES, instead of handing it all over to the new board of directors. Is this legal?
The ex-directors who have (apparently) retained access to this database seem to have been using it – either themselves or by passing access to the ‘Members’ Committee’ – first to call for a vote of no-confidence in the current board of directors, and now to organise an EGM at which thousands of current members are being emailed and asked to vote for new directors. Is this legal?
I am pretty certain that most of those members (including myself) WILL HAVE NO IDEA WHO TO VOTE FOR BECAUSE WE DO NOT ‘KNOW’ THESE PEOPLE well enough to judge who should be a director. It is my personal opinion that in order to ensure there is no repeat of this situation a year or two down the line, that NO PAST OR PRESENT WASPI DIRECTOR SHOULD BE ELIGIBLE TO STAND. Sadly, it would no doubt waste a lot of valuable experience and skill, but it would seem to be a sensible precaution.
On a personal note:
I do not like the fact that my personal email address has been disclosed to people who (I believe) have no legal right to use the database or to contact me, no matter how deeply they feel about their cause. I’m pretty sure they have broken the law.
I was at first bewildered and then increasingly annoyed by the number and content of a flurry of emails, all from the same email address but clearly from both ‘camps’ (current directors and ex-directors). It has been hard to know which are legitimate. I am not one of the active campaigners, but the hours I have spent reading the emails, ruminating on it and finally on writing this post, would have been better spent telling other women about the cause and using social media to promote it. Now, I’m not sure it is worth it anymore.
So I would like, please, the two ‘camps’ to explain publicly to me, other members and to other interested individuals, what this ‘in-fighting’ is really all about; why have so many directors resigned and why have the ex-directors/other members felt it necessary to ‘hijack’ a database they should surely no longer have access to. Do you really think WASPI can recover from this? I think you will lose a lot of members, and I will probably be one of them.
As far as I can make out after reading all the emails sent by both parties, it would appear to be about personality clashes within the board of directors, and disagreement about how the WASPI campaign should proceed, After hearing from one party that unauthorised filings had been made on the WASPI database at Companies House, I looked at the filing history; it is a litany of appointments and resignations. No way for me or anyone not ‘in the know’ to tell which are legitimate filings and which are not. Anyone can look this up for free: Companies House
I do not particularly care about the personality clashes within the WASPI leadership. I only want the WASPI officials to crack on with the task in hand, at which they were doing so well until the derailment! I realise that the issues which led WASPI to be founded in the first place are very emotive, I am grateful that enough women cared to do something about it, and I don’t doubt the sincerity of each and every past, present and future board member/director. But this current situation is helping no-one, and certainly not instilling in me any kind of confidence that the campaign can ever recover. Bad enough that 1950’s women get ‘stick’ from members of the public who want to know why we in particular deserve compensation when there are others with equal just cause; others who think we are complaining about having to work until we’re sixty but who don’t understand that it is not the new SPA as such we object to, but the way we were left largely ignorant of the change until it was too late to compensate… and now people are laughing at the WASPI women who are fighting among themselves. Very funny (not).
It seems to me, as an unbiased member (because, again, I do not personally know any of these ladies) that the focus here should be on how to get born-in-the-1950’s women’s’ plight taken seriously by those within government with the power to make some kind of recompense, rather than fighting about how to do it. The government/DWP must be laughing fit to bust right now, don’t you think? How can WASPI (as an organisation) ever hope to be taken seriously if the people involved can’t even agree on how to carry the campaign forward? You only have to look at the comments on the FT articles to see how people are laughing at the women as they fight amongst themselves. Very funny (not). If the two ‘sides’ can’t agree, then perhaps the ex-directors should set up a new company and a new campaign, and run it the way they want to.
I am very, very disillusioned by the whole thing. Successive governments have badly let millions of 1950’s women down (we are not alone, of course, but this is about WASPI) and are unwilling even to apologise, let alone do anything to help those they have so badly treated. Now the very people (hearts in the right place but…) who wanted to try and convince the present government to do the right thing are shooting us all in the foot too.
So, Ladies, please, please stop this bickering, bury your differences, and act like grown-ups. Your fellow 1950’s women are counting on you!
Disclaimer: the views in this article are mine and mine alone, as are any errors/misunderstandings of the situation within WASPI. I salute all the ladies who have worked so very hard to spread the word. I have not named names, but the following links may be of interest:
Congratulations to everyone who made it this far, and thank you for reading! Despite the recent setbacks, the WASPI website has lots of useful information about how you can lobby your MP to take up our cause. We are many… our MPs are few!
Bob Dylan certainly got that right… This last Christmas holiday, my husband and I spent quite a lot of time watching YouTube on our Smart telly, and some of what we watched was footage of the world in the 1890’s, early 1900’s, and the years up to 1958. It was a fascinating glimpse into a world which has vanished forever, except in those snippets which have been immortalized in family photographs (on which no-one ever wrote names) or on jerky black and white film (any sound has been added post-production and probably was not of the exact event(s) being shown). But still, it was captivating.
Then I saw a post on Facebook which essentially congratulated people born in the thirties, forties and fifties for having been able to play outside rather than sitting indoors on a computer, tablet, or PlayStation. And I wondered, is this down to concerns about safety, or is it because today’s children simply prefer to play in a virtual world rather than the real one? And is the world really any more dangerous than it was when people of my generation were growing up?
I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, when personal computers simply didn’t exist. I was excited to get my first transistor radio! I remember having to perch on the edge of the bath on a Sunday evening to listen to the Top 40 on Radio One, because you couldn’t always get a signal. Mine had a little arial you could extend and move about, but it didn’t always help.
But prior to that, my friends and I would play – quite happily, for the most part – in our back gardens. When we got a little bit older, we would ask permission to go to Rowhill Copse (now a nature reserve). To us, it was the biggest & best playground you could wish for, and we spent many happy days acting out adventures. It often featured in my dreams well into adulthood! To today’s parents the idea of letting your pre-teen child go off into a nearby wood with others of a similar age might seem horrendously dangerous – we had to cross at least one main road to get there, and there were all manner of opportunities to injure ourselves, probably the biggest being a pond deep in the woods. But of course we didn’t worry about that, and I remember being grounded on at least one occasion for going there without first telling my mother where my sister and I were going. As we got older, days spent ‘up the copse’ or in the garden became few and far between, and we swapped outdoor delights for our bedrooms, where we would read books, play vinyl records and moon over ‘Elvis Monthly’ magazines. Nowadays we’d be surfing online, listening to music on YouTube and Googling ‘Elvis Presley images’. (which I just did to get the picture below)
My son will be twenty-five this year. He spent quite a lot of his childhood playing outside with friends, but (just as with my parents) it was very rare indeed that we didn’t know where he was or who he was with. We lived, for most of his childhood, in a cul-de-sac, and his playmates mostly lived in the same road. But as he got older, he too opted to play indoors more often – and when we got our first home computer (in 2001, and it cost in the region of £1,000 for not very much processing power at all, really) that was – mostly – the end of outdoor play! Even now his preferred free time activity is an online game. He recently bought himself a ‘daylight’ lamp… I wonder why?!
So do today’s children ever ‘play out’ like we did? I’m of an age now where most of my friends also have grown-up children, and since we’ve not yet been blessed with grandchildren, I am a bit out of touch…
Will the children of today make tutting sounds when their attempts to get their own children outside for some fresh air fail miserably, or will they see nothing unusual in it? Perhaps they will be trying to convince the younger generation that laptops and tablets are a safer/healthier option that virtual reality games! My parents used to stand at the gate and call our names – and later up the stairs – when it was time for dinner or tea or bed. Now we have a hand bell that we ring, because nothing else penetrates the headphones our son wears clamped to his head most of the time… I sometimes worry that things might grow in the warm, dark interior between his ears and the ‘cans’ -but perhaps that is preferable to worrying about him being attacked in a nightclub…
Do you have pre-teen children? Do they play outdoors, or do they prefer computer games? How do you feel about that? I’d love to hear from you!
I have been following (and sometimes participating in) this ongoing debate on social media for a while now. As with all conversations on social media, it becomes fractious from time to time, and it is a sad fact that many people (not just women) do not understand what many women who were born in the 1950’s are upset about.
“SPA” = State Pension Age – the age at which you can claim your state pension.
“WASPI” = WOMEN AGAINST STATE PENSION INEQUALITY” – a voluntary UK-based organisation founded in 2015 that campaigns against the way in which the state pension age for men and women was equalised. They call for the millions of women affected by the change to receive compensation.
Some participants express incredulity that women are complaining that they now have to work as long as men (FACT: the SPA age will equalise next year, with both men and women who were born in the 1950’s having to work until we are 66 (and 8 months in my case) before we can claim our State Pension.
Some participants express incredulity that many women did not know that they would no longer recieve their state pension until they were 66 (an example – the SPA varies according to the year you were born) – the primary reason being that many women born between January 1954 and December 1959 did not recieve a letter informing them of the change in their SPA from 60 to 66. I am one of them.
Often (but not always) those same participants in the conversation seem to find it hard to believe that, even though many women didn’t get a letter, they still didn’t know about the change to their SPA, even going so far as to accuse these women of “living under a rock”. There may well have been articles in the tabloids and features on the radio, but it is a fact that not everyone reads tabloids (I don’t) or listens to the radio (very rarely) – nor do they belong to a union (never have). And if they heard anything about it via friends and family, that is patently not the same as hearing it officially, as should have happened.
The DWP (or whatever it was called back in t
When the SPA issue started to come up on social media, I talked about it with friends and work colleagues, and the number of women who, like me, had not received a letter was considerable.