Archive for January, 2018

Cheesecake Pressure

January 27, 2018

cheesecake-baby-funny

One of the biggest splashes on the world news scene is the supposed move toward unification of North and South Korea for the winter Olympics. Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be another rant about Trump or Communism but I’d like to write about a topic my son suggested; cheesecake.

In the world where the Olympics started some 2800 years ago, Ancient Greece was just as much eager to win the latest contest as we are nowadays. You might be surprised to find out, as I was, that the secret to a gold medal lies in cheesecake. This ancient equivalent of drug doping pumped the athlete full of high quantities of energy before the bashed it out with the other Greeks. It seems surprising that such cheating methods should have lasted so long (though technically it wasn’t cheating back then) and yet we have scandal after scandal in the modern world. In 2017 the Russian team was yet again banned due to doping, a country that has had over 1000 athletes caught and 51 Olympic medals stripped.

So why do we actually do this? In my opinion (the beauty of blogging) it is the pressure that the modern world puts upon people, fighting for them to be the best or reach the top. Education forces children towards higher grades, to fight for university placement or to get the better careers. Do we ever consider that a teenager might be happier with a low paid job that makes them the wage they need to live but gives them the time to enjoy life?

My other reasoning is one of the backbones of human history: war. Nowadays we have less warfare to compete over (I think) and instead of being the best on the battlefield we need to be the best in the stadium. War is all about defeating the opposition, having the best troops to be the best country so perhaps this is what drives us into such a frame of mind. Are we so fixated on such a way of thinking that even in modern day society those who rule push for high grades, high standards and high results. Its certainly food for thought.

All in all, I hope one day we can sit back and put our differences aside and create games that don’t involve being the best. Perhaps we can live up to those days when we tell them the lie that we’d like to believe ‘remember, its not winning that matters but its the taking part that counts’.

Either that or we should all sit down peacefully with each other and have a slice of cheesecake.

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End of Life

January 26, 2018

euthanasia

It has always surprised me that we are willing to end the life of an animal, should it be suffering significantly enough, and yet euthanasia of humans is out of the question. I’m not saying we should finish off every person who’s on their last legs, its just that we seem to act more humanely on organisms of the Kingdom Animalia than those who are in a constant state of pain that can never be cured.

I guess this is the problem with the situation. How do we know that the pain can never be taken away? Though treatment may be around the corner or even a decade away, I can’t believe that there is possible treatment with every condition. As someone whose brave wife passed away to cancer and gradually was lost to pain killers, I don’t think I would have had the bravery to end her life unless she had requested it.

There has to be a fear within us all, a question that throbs in the back of the mind or beats its drum in the forefront. The question is ‘What if?’ and its a hard question to face. As humans we so want security and a definitive answer that we are sometimes afraid to step into the unknown and make decisions that require options and risks to be weighed up and assessed. That final decision of ‘nay’ can be significantly easier to make than ‘yeay’.

We recently lost author Terry Pratchett (I guess not so recently now) who was a strong supporter of euthanasia, and it makes it significantly easier to assess if we know what is required of us before hand. However, it is not so easy when an accident or condition comes out of the blue and then every decision is on our shoulders.

I suppose this is another supporting argument for a strong relationship between you and your next of kin, where someone knows what you wish even if you haven’t had a chance to tell them. I would like to think that my partner knows I am a fighter till the end but I would like to be left to care and the NHS rather than hold her life back. Much as I don’t give in I am not one to tear someone’s life apart.

Euthanasia is a tricky topic and it important that we respect anyone whether they argue for or against. In a time when the population rises further and further, the need for decision makers will grow and it is a topic we may very face in our own lives. Hats of to any who have to make such choices and I pray that it will never be my task to face such a hellish task.

On another note, I’m always looking for topics to discuss and give my thoughts on so if you have any ideas just leave a comment. Thanks for all those who have decided to follow and thanks to those who have given a like 🙂

Applying Application

January 25, 2018

exam stress

Fifteen years ago, when I started tutoring, I taught biology.

Five years ago I started to teach less biology and more exam technique.

Nowadays I teach application.

Pressure and stress are places upon the shoulders of students when the militaristic structure of the exam paper assessment technique is laid upon them. If it wasn’t bad enough that they feel the weight from the countdown to the exam, studying every week in order to cram the knowledge into their heads, they will learn that in the end it doesn’t matter. It is exam technique that puts up their grade. And of course there isn’t even the understanding of what went wrong for those who don’t realise the important of examination technique. Some don’t know that they all count; the wording of the question; the layout of an applied question; the marks per question. Why should these be part of a student’s assessment of a topic?

The last two years I’ve had to solely concentrate on application because this are of exams has expanded and expanded. Now a student can know the topics inside out, to the extent of being able to teach a subject, and still only get a C grade. How can that be? We’ve changed our world into such a statistical, bureaucratic machine that pumps out education we are blind to that fact that our system destroys the hearts and minds of those we should encourage to learn.

Application has an important place as it assessing whether a student can use this knowledge in the context of real life and the science that they will come across but should an A-level be made up of so much of it? In my day (man that makes me sound old), the A-level biology was primarily about learning and understanding and yet my generation did pretty well at uni. We turn on today’s pupils because their grades are getting higher. We accuse them of easier exams because the percentage of high marks go up rather than being proud of our children.

And why should it mean exams are easier or kids are more intelligent? With an ever increasing size to our population there is bound to be greater number with higher grades. Our answer? Punish them through stress, blowing their confidence and making them frustrated.

Congratulations education system, you’re destroying the next generation.

Capitalist Versus Communist

January 24, 2018

capitalism-communism-collage-new

I’ve been teaching about the Russian Revolutions recently and studying up on the various topics has been interesting, opening my eyes further to the ways in which people were treated in this growing communist state. Millions of people died through the Civil War, famines brought on through natural disasters and War Communism, The Purge and Red Terror.

And yet you can see the ideas and reasons why such a form of government became popular. The capitalist countries have so much corruption amongst the higher powers that it clearly shows the weakness of our system. Are millions of people taken advantage of throughout the Western world? Maybe it does not cause the deaths of so deaths as those who suffered in the first half of 20th century Russia but people are certainly taken advantage of.

I come from a middle class family but I’ve lived most of my life in the working class, at least according to categorisation by wage. You realise that the businesses and governmental bureaucracy seriously takes advantage of the people who cannot form a solicitor. Many times I’ve had utility providers make mistakes due to their systems.

‘I’ve just made two payments because I had a letter from you threatening to take me to court. I’d actually made the payment but didn’t realise it.’

‘Ah but the letter takes a week to get to you so the one you got threatening to take you to court was irrelevant.’

‘So can I have the money back. I need it to pay another bill.’

‘Ah well sorry there but that’s not how the system works. It was your responsibility to contact us. You’ll have credit next month.’

‘I don’t need the credit next month, I need the money this month or I’ll be fined.’

‘Ah well sorry but that’s not how the system works.”

This doesn’t put my faith in the capitalist system where the financially unsound have no way to fight those who have their pockets laden with cash.

That’s not to say I agree with communism. The system of having just the people in charge and no way of building up something in your life seems very bleak. Or at least it does in a true communist regime. I’m sorry, but if I work hard I want reward rather than seeing a lazy good-for-nothing being treated just as equally. Send them to the firing squads! Ok, maybe I’m not that harsh. I just don’t know which way to turn.

When we go by governments that currently exist they’re not pleasant examples. Russia with Putin in charge who just has a little too much control over people’s say; North Korea who…need I say more; North Vietnam that hasn’t got the best of reputations; Cuba full of its corruption; and, probably the best of all, China. Saying that, China isn’t really truly communist any more so I guess that would shouldn’t be counted.

Quick fact, I’ve just read that North Korea isn’t actually a communist state. Who knew.

Personally I prefer this capitalist world but it doesn’t make me overly happy. Maybe its the cynicism you develop with age but I’m only 37, surely I shouldn’t be feeling so disappointed in the corruption I can see. Then again, perhaps we don’t look at the good side. We have freedom of speech, a huge push toward equal opportunities, the right to vote, the right to own capital and the list goes on. Perhaps there’s a reason why people often immigrate to the capitalist world but few emigrate to the communist world. If I remember the upsides, rather than looking at the downsides, maybe my capitalist world will look just that little bit better.

British Farming Extinction

January 23, 2018

farmingRecently I read an article ‘what if everyone in the UK became vegetarian’ and it was absolute bollocks.

I really hated the way it used farmers as a target, looking for ways to strike killing animals from our culture. There is a reason why eating meat in our culture has survived so long and its not just because it tastes so good. I wanted to write my own strike back article to show just how important is, a kind of ‘what if’ story like the ones I’ve been watching on youtube recently (and I’m not addicted – damn you alternate history).

One of the things that annoys me is small farms are grouped in with the commercial giants that cause serious damage. When the media has a go at the agricultural industry it snaps at the throat of ‘farmers’ but this is an extreme over simplification. Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising as the newspaper and internet likes to do that, put a massive label on what they don’t know and shove it into a folder with a stereotypical description. However, this does have a seriously unfair downside of suggesting the damage caused by commercial farms are caused by the small farmer too.

My uncle has a 100 acre farm, a lot of woodland, with just 100 sheep and about 40 cattle. That’s a small farm nowadays though it used to be big once upon a time. How the giants of England and West Wales have grown. He uses fertilisers but primarily spread the manure his animals produce whilst pesticides are avoided. What’s the point when you don’t grow crops. Field are harvested for grass but these grow a long time and species, such as the field mouse, have learnt to become part of the farm year and move on when its time for the grass to be cut. Around these stretches of land hedges grow, maintaining biodiversity and allowing wild animals, insects and flowers to inhabit the area.

This isn’t some happy self-sufficient smallholding, but a farm that (just about) makes its living from agriculture and so we’re crammed into the same category as the big giants. We’re a farm so we must be washing nitrogen into the waterways. We’re a farm, so we must be emitting masses of greenhouse gases. We’re a farm, so we must hacking apart the ecosystems for our own good. Have you ever thought how the use of monoculture, Uks major form of vegetable production, damages the number of species? Livestock farming requires hedges that act as shelter for the animals but it also provides biodiversity. Monoculture doesn’t do that.

Did you know that only 9% of greenhouse gases is produced from UK agriculture? Before slamming the farmers, who have maintained our landscapes for years, tackle the problems brought on by industry and cars! Not only do these produce fumes that poison the atmosphere but they release fumes that affect the direct landscape as well. Have you ever walked past a car that’s pouring out exhaust fumes? Jesus!

Don’t get me started on hedges. Well I’ve started now so I’m going to rant anyway. Farms have maintained the hedges for years, laying them then shaping them until they need laying again. This thickens the hedges and makes them good habitats for wild birds and insects, helping the biodiversity of our ecosystems. I heard about an article where someone commented that farmers shouldn’t cut the hedges but lay them and just leave them. Do you know what would happen? All you’d end up with is tall trees without that nice bushiness that the animals love. Yes, if you want trees growing up in a line go for it but if you want that thick, lovely hedge habitat then let the farmers get on with their work!

Deep breath.

So what would happen if farmers just walked off the face of the UK? I tell you, sometimes they’re tempted. Without them those lovely green fields that hikers love to look out over while climbing the hills would fold to succession. Primarily, the UK would be a load of forest. Unless you went up to the mountains where you could look down there wouldn’t be any lovely views or skies to stare up at the stars while you walk (remember those lovely canopies), just the same old tree territory. Of course the roads have to be maintained by the government now and money has to come out of the tax payers pocket for the damage caused by trees.

Of course lets not forget the hedges, or the lack now of them. No more pretty hawthorn where the little birds dance. Now its just trees (not always bad) where animals hide away and can’t be seen nearly as well (not so good). You don’t get to hike along pointing at the pretty lambs or baby calves, there’s no cows calling or laughing as the sheep go chasing the farmer on his quad bike. Your kids get to look at trees on that 2 to 3 hour journey across the countryside with ‘are we nearly there’ chanted repeatedly.

I spy with my little eye, something beginning with T.

Trees.

Yup

Anyways I’m joining to now shut up as I’ve typed enough. I could keep on writing about economy and all that jazz but maybe I’ll save it for another day. After a couple of days contemplating what to write I came across my passions in farming and how we need to work with farmers, not against them. But that’s just my opinion.

Sexism Too Far?

January 22, 2018

The other night, while I went about my usual pizza delivery tasks, I listened to an interesting debate on the radio. Two females were discussing (or maybe arguing) whether feminism had been taken too far and that it’s image was being affected as a result. Its an interesting concept and as a man I often think whether sexism is now sometimes thrown on male shoulders. Now don’t get me wrong, this is only a fraction of the mantle that women have had to bear over the centuries but when we’re trying to create equality shouldn’t we make sure it is applied to both sexes?

Ok so before I start let me get some facts straight. Sexism against women is rife in the world and a lot more than people realise. Abuse occurs a lot more than we know, women’s careers are held back and a lot of men have stereotypical images of women that are morally and ethically wrong to have. I support equality one hundred percent but I’d like to think of myself as a realist too.

There are many places where inequality is put upon women where it is extremely unfair but I do feel that sometimes things are taken too far. Recently we’ve seen just how many women have been sexual abused thanks to the Weinstein scandal but I really feel like I’m not allowed to look at an attractive woman as if its some sort of crime. Am I wrong in thinking that attraction is part of humanity? I like it when a woman happens to smile at me. I’m not talking about staring at someone’s breasts or wolf whistling and cat calling, Jesus get some manners, but with ‘men’ being grouped together I feel like I’m being thrown in with these guys. Is it wrong to make a move on someone? I’ve never just suddenly jumped on a person, I pretty much get to know them first, but I’ve heard female friends say that a bloke has no right to touch a date’s face or close in for a kiss. How the heck are things supposed to go forward then? I know we shouldn’t clamp our hands on a woman’s thigh under the table or grab a breast but am I wrong in thinking we should be able to kiss someone and if they pull away then just call a halt with an embarrassed expression and glowing red cheeks? I remember one girl who used to work with me that I met up with at a staff do and moved in for the kiss at the end of the night. We ended up seeing each other for eleven months.

Interestingly the woman on the radio who said feminism had been taken too far talked of the possibility that equality might not be a hundred percent possible due to pregnancy. She pointed out that in school, college, university and the 30s woman fair better than men but it is around the time of motherhood that inequality at work occurs. I guess it makes sense when you think about it. I definitely don’t agree with the housewife philosophy. If a woman wants a career than you should both try and work towards it, find a plan to get there and you can manage it. You might have an extra job to do to cover daycare or beg and plead to relatives but there is no reason why a woman should be forced to be the one who stays at home.

However, a lot of women have strong maternal instincts and want to be at home with their baby, even if it isn’t indefinitely. With our baby on the way I’ve asked my partner to plan a way she doesn’t have to put her career on hold but she’s turned me down. Two or three years out of the workplace is going to hold your career back and its going to create inequality. Nevertheless all inequality at work can’t be due to this and there’s definitely a lot that needs to be done to help sort this matter out.

I really hate being plonked in a group who are seen as sexist and therefore morally poor. I’ve always supported my partners’ rights, been horrified when sexism and inequality rears its ugly ahead in abuse women taken advantage off, and disappointed in public opinion when society sees this as the norm and just something women have to live with. How many times now have I heard ‘Men see woman as…’ or ‘Men don’t understand what its like…’ and I’m branded along with those who do show prejudice and sexism

sexismPower to women but power to men too.

Home Education Disgruntlement

January 17, 2018

outdated educationI have to say that my passion at the moment is torn to my defence of the home education world. Its a very understood part of society, particularly as we group every home education family into one basket when they are so different. Believe me, they vary a great deal more than from the commercially produced factory belt families that our society produces. Don’t get me wrong, I see the reason and the needs for helping the masses – we’re a very big population – but then I can also see the need for helping those who have unique requirements and passions.

I guess I should say what qualifies me to garble on about this and I reckon its something that many people don’t have. I’ve been a tutor for 15 years, a lecturer in a college for a short time (3.5 years) and I’ve seen how the system works. Its affected by paperwork, grades, targets, bureaucracy, health and safety and risk assessments. I’ve seen it go wrong, with teachers yelling at crying children, and I’ve seen it go right, with pupils enjoying themselves so much they don’t want to go right. Teach right, in a well structured school, with the correct funding, then you can have a lot of well educated students who are happy and enjoy the experience.

A private tutor, five years ago I started to teach one and a half hours a week for a home education group. “Home education group?” I hear you ask in shock. Yes, the home education world has places were kids and families can group and chat, getting to know each other and socialise. These kids aren’t locked away, in the corner of the room sat in front a lowly desk, quill in hand. They don’t scream “The light! Not the light!” as they emerge from their homes, disintegrating under its glare. They have social lives, get over it.

I was there to aid their learning as some home education parents can’t help as much when they hit their GCSEs. I taught maths, biology, environmental science and even history. It was lovely as for once it wasn’t about the grades and marks. These kids had picked to do this work because they enjoyed it and their parents didn’t demand As and Bs or even passes. A lot came along to just sit the class and listen, rather than take an exam at the end, and it was fabulous to see kids learning because they wanted to learn. Can you imagine that? I gradually integrated into the home education world, having expertise in the state schools and also understanding education in this new environment. I read about the different reasons for home education, the different forms, and found out why people enjoyed it so much. I even fell for a home education single mum and have four lovely kids and a beautiful partner. Its safe to say that I may not be the master of either side but I know about both.

There are two, well actually three things that bug me the most and really have to be addressed.

Firstly, society groups the home educated under one big umbrella. If your kids learn at home they are home educated and they are all the same. Really? Do you know what racism, sexism and homophobia are? They’re grouping people and unfairly judging them because of characteristics. How can you say that all home educated families need to be registered just because they are home educated? We already know if there are children in a family – there are these things called birth certificates – so why the heck does there need to be a special register? I’ll come back to that later.

My point is that we home educate for different reasons but, in my eyes and from what I’ve seen, they can be boiled down to five main ones:

1. Religion – With religion sometimes contradicting what is preached in the schools, some families want to bring their children up with religion in the background. Remember school assemblies where we had to say the Lord’s Prayer? Now have you thought what its like if you’re another religion? Or maybe schools have removed the religious features now and this is what a family wants. Its their choice, not the government’s.

2. Advanced or needing help – Schools in the UK have the most stupid system of putting children in classes according to age, not ability. Why? Surely if I’m struggling I need to stay at a lower level? Or why should I be held back if I have an advanced age? Its not a necessity to pass GCSE’s by a certain age, to get into college by another and to shovel teenagers off to university by a deadline. These are just outdated traditions.

3. Bullying and mistreatment – A child’s work suffers if they are being bullied or even if they have been. Couple this with the fact that worse things can happen, I’ve seen one teacher yelling at a seven year old kid while waggling a finger in their face, then their school work can be severely held back. Home education can provide a secure environment which can help them recover or just provide an atmosphere where they learn better.

4. Conditions – There are tonnes of conditions that affect kids. Anxiety, depression, ADHD, OCD, autism, dyslexia…the list just doesn’t stop. Now theoretically these kids are supposed to have help in schools, have assistants who can aid them but I can tell you this doesn’t happen in A LOT of places. I know one child who was put into a special needs class without finding out what was holding them back only for me to discover they had bad dyslexia. The child was getting headaches when viewing white paper and they wondered why it held his maths back!

5. The system – Its safe to say that our education system is outdated, traditional and backward. It needs changing. Look at the European countries, child centred learning, open schools – all these things improve learning ten fold and make it far more enjoyable. I’ve met numerous families who are just fed up, watching their children become held back because of the way the commercialised system holds them back. We are no longer a mass producing ‘get everyone educated’ world of the late 19th century. Change the system.

Okay I’m going to shut up now as I have used up a lot of my time and…ahem…written an essay. I’ll gas on about my other frustrations at another time but until then have fun!

Home Education and Theresa May

January 9, 2018

Home educationDefinitely a day that made me want to head butt the wall as the dog knocked glasses off my face (tip – don’t pick up mad, hyperactive, nutcase mongrels) and I turned around only to feel the ‘crunch’ beneath my foot. Honestly, its like something from a sitcom only this left me partially blind. Out came the glue, which seemed to fix the job, only now I have a smear of the stuff in my vision. Great.

Lack of time prevented me from getting on with the latest words I’ve plotted in my head, which made me a bit disappointed. So much for a new years resolution (two days after I started it). Fingers crossed this will just be a blip! In all fairness I did stay up till late helping one of my students, rather than getting on with much needed writing, so I have an excuse. Trouble is there are some times when I always have excuses…

Yesterday also saw us dosing the sheep, a job that went smoothly thanks to the trained nature of the sheep. It does mean Woolie is a step towards coming home (yeay!) after she’ll be PD’d (pregnancy diagnosis) later this week. For those who don’t know, Woolie is our pet sheep, given to us by my uncle as a runt who was rejected by her mother. After three…awwwwww.

Looks like Theresa May has had another black mark against her name with this cabinet shuffle cock up, failing to make changes that she said would come. Will it make a difference though? I’d like to think that by now the Joe Bloggs will understand that she is not a good leader but will they vote for Labour? I’d like to think so as Corbyn seems a much better guy to have in charge! Saying that, we have a local labour party member who is trying to infiltrate the home education groups and with this forced register coming out (honestly it sounds like something from the Hitler’s regime) coming out there is a severe lack of trust. Its almost as if she wants to gather information about the home educated.

Perhaps we’re paranoid but can you blame the home education society? People don’t understand the way they have been mistreated. I had one friend whose child suffered severe anxiety but wanted to try to go back into school for a few days. They were told by the school that this was fine and she could always leave again only for them to find letter after letter and threat after threat piled against them when the girl couldn’t cope. So much for being allowed to leave. Local Education Authority officials falsely tell parents that they have every right to enter people’s houses (this happens on numerous occasions) breaching people’s privacy. And now, with one child dying of nutrition deficiency in the home education world, everyone is put under scrutiny. Let me ask you, how many children are abused that come from state schools? How much children have died by mistreatment who go to the state schools? A hell of a lot more.

People simply fear what they don’t know. And that’s the crux of the matter; there is a lack of trust between LEAs and the Home Educated and that needs to be fixed before we can work together. Personally, I don’t see a forced register as allowing this to happen.

Jedi Powers and Writer’s Block

January 7, 2018

mark hamill.jpgGood old Trump strikes again. By the way I apologise to any Americans who are reading these blog posts but hell, the end of the world is something I have to write about. Have you actually seen the child like remarks he’s made about Wolff’s book? It does not make him look good. If there’s one damn thing you don’t do to illustrate you’re not mentally like a child is spill insults and snaps like a child! Has anyone seen Mark Hamill’s reply to Trump? I can only hope that he can use his Jedi mind powers to control Trump’s temper tantrums. Remember he has a bigger button.

Another grouch of today’s news is the media’s love of slagging off celebrities and royalty. The latest punch is Meghan Markle’s sister-in-law assaulting her fiancée, I should say allegedly, but so what? These aren’t the rulers of the country. Hell, they don’t even know what has actually happened. Just to sell papers or please ads on websites they’ll publish anything that will scratch under the surface of public curiosity.

A session down the farm and a session with the pizzas pretty much took up a day that started with the splat of two teabags falling from my teaspoon to leave a brown liquid psychological interpretation image on the floor. However, all things considered the day was good as a new student signed up (only for four lesson but hey ho money’s money and as my wallet is empty and I was close to setting up a pole dancing club I’m more than happy).

In all the best part of my day was getting through my writer’s block (hence the exert from my last post). 1300 words of a story that I was happy with and now on to the next part. It came to me that Khazar could capture Nils’ son as he tries to get the message to Ancora, sacrificing him to control Nils (who has the death charm). It’s a nice twist and one I didn’t think of but as it happens most of my ideas come to me during my writing. Is this the same for everyone else? After that its on with the next chapter, back to Wilhelm and Aldar as they escape the tribesmen who are going to hunt them down. In jump the Elves…Finally I’m moving closer to a scene I thought of about a year ago! Nothing more satisfying than finally getting it down on paper!

Snippet From Sequel

January 6, 2018

Brienne_of_Tarth-Gwendoline_Christie.jpgOk this one is from the sequel to my book I’m currently writing. If there’s crap grammar etc its because I haven’t redrafted it and won’t until I’ve actually finished! This part of chapter 3 (I think) sees the main protagonist (Khazar) using a spell to control the mind of a stranger he has planted in a castle that he wants to take. His plan is to use a death spell to force the man to commit suicide so that he rises from the dead (its a zombie book) and thereby spread the death to others in the fortification. Better than taking the castle by force!

‘Reaching out with my mind, I channel it into the flames, into the magical artefact. The swirling snakes of energy that wind around my scalp reach out to be sucked into the interwoven twigs before I begin to picture the vision of the man I seek out. The man who’s daughter I slaughtered in order to control that single mind. My thoughts flow through the air, riding the cold winds that blow over the snow covered slopes, and then I am there at the fortification that halts my army’s advance. Upward, over the huge walls that seem to be designed to hold back dragons or even the gods themselves, towering above the rocky ground below. Upward, over the parapet and along the walkway where soldiers stand, dressed in their thick black furs and protective armour.

I speed through the air, to the second wall, and then onwards until I pass a figure I know. Nils, commander of the Eastern Fortress, an old man yet famed for his use of the sword. He is broad shouldered but not a giant, not like the woman who stands next to him. Not the prettiest, I know this will now matter to Nils as long as she is loyal and can protect the castle. He shows his age now, hair a matt of grey and unshaven pock-marked face showing many wrinkles, but he would defeat many before he fell. He is a thorn in my side and one I plan to pluck from my skin as if a fly. Irritating but killed with a swift blow.

Onward, past them and through to the room where they are now heading, past the guard who stands idly at the door and inwards into the bedchamber where the father of my sacrifice sits. Looking down at him, invisible to all but those of the highest magic, I see a young child whose mind is almost gone. Huddled like an embryo, he shivers in spasms, staring at the wall with a lost gaze. Soon is pain will be over and the infection of the fortress will begin.

Mumbling the words of the curse, cross-legged in my cave, I picture the charm within his clothes and channel my magic into its woven shape. For a moment I feel a wave of nausea, dizziness flowing through my brain as if I am spinning round and round but then I use all my discipline and training to focus again and I am there, within him. The death spell is complete.

Now a puppet, his eyes look away from the wall and I and his vision are the same. We look around, searching for something to quench a need to end a meaningless life and he is captured with the need to end his own life. The spell will force him to take this path and then his undead form shall rise and those within the castle will become my army. We rise from the bed, searching the room for something of use but there is no blade or knife that may make the task easier.

Staggering forward to the window for a second I think we may throw himself to the stones of the courtyard floor below but bars prevent our exit. This time we move towards the door and I smile inwardly. The guard will end him and then the infection can begin. Just as our hand is placed on the door, ready to attack the guard beyond, we stop and I wonder what we are about to do. Our eyes have caught something, the blanket on the bed, and as we take it in our hands and twist and twist I realise what we are about to do. Under my breath I growl.

Formed into a makeshift rope we step up onto the bed, tying the end to the beams above. The other end is torn short, ripping as we pull with all our strength, then he fashions the noose that will be our end.

No good! Anger stabs into me as I recognise that protesting is futile. I cannot control his actions now, only watch as a spectator from within and feel frustrated. This death will leave him strung up like a chicken, spasming and swinging from the wood above, but much less likely to bite those I wish dead. This zombi will be unlikely to spread the underneath to others of the castle and all my work will have gone to waste. Even as my attention returns to the situation at hand his feet step out into the air and then he jerks once, twice, and hangs dead with spittle trickling down his chin.’

I approach 18k words…