Monday, April 17, 2017

My Hand-Me-Down Phone

The things are everywhere.  On the streets people are talking into them.  On the train, they’re watching movies or tapping messages on finger sensing screens.  At any time of day they’re pulling them out of pockets, bags or those whaddyacallit slipcases they keep them in to see if there are any incoming messages.  If they lack information of any kind, they’re there for googling.  If they want to know the weather, the screen throws up cloud, sun and raindrop icons to guide them through the remaining hours of the day.  If they want to know where on earth they actually are, the things can tell them with seeming pinpoint accuracy.  If they want to know how something’s done, the things have videos to show them.

I’ve tried to keep up with technology.  I went from an Amstrad to a PC with all of a massive two gigabytes of hard drive memory, to the laptops I use today with their squidgywiggabytes and more.  But somewhere in the last decade or so I found I’d stopped being an up-to-date sort of guy.

At first I was up for resisting them altogether.  I didn’t need them.  Good grief, I’d lived for a full fifty years without them and I was still here to tell the tale.  Why should the future be any different?

The first crack in my defences was driving.  I have next to no idea what happens under the bonnet of my car and if it goes wrong, the job goes to a rescue service.  Some bugger or other pointed out to me that phone boxes are getting pretty thin on the ground these days, and if I had a phone with me in the car…

Damn!  I could not deny the logic.  I think my younger sister had something to do with that.  She’d ‘updated’ and had an old one I could have.  It was a clunky great thing compared to what’s around today and when you charged up the battery it would last up to a good… ooh… ten minutes or so.  But fine.  I could keep it in the car, switched off.  Just use it in dire need.  I didn’t want to go a step further.  I could just about handle it.

It got broken.  I forget how.  By then my sister had got her first smartphone and was cultivating a taste for it.  The road of temptation for her began with the inbuilt solitaire game.  Now she plays Scrabble on it with people from the USA.  And checks for messages, and the weather, and…  Yes.  She’s hooked.

So I got my next hand-me-down.  A Nokia something something something, I believe it’s called.  Somehow against my better judgement I was forced to learn to text message on it, which I still do clumsily and slowly with a lot of cursing.  By day, I use it to make phonecalls, because somewhere along the line I got on a ‘contract’ which I have no idea how to get out of, and my landline costs money if used before 7pm on weekdays.

But that’s it.  I’ve reached my limit.  I don’t want to tap screens with greasy fingermarks.  I don’t want to make things get bigger and smaller by sweeping with my fingertips.  I just…  I just don’t.

One thing haunts me.  What will I do when my Nokia something something something finally gives up the ghost?  Will my sister have one of those things ready and waiting for me, because she’s updated to a device on which she can play Hyper-Scrabble with creatures from Proxima Centauri?

Oh, good grief…  Will I finally have to crawl, protesting grouchily all the way, into the twenty first century?

Okay, behind all this 'grumpy old man' foolery there's a serious point to be made on this topic, which returned to my attention after reading a review in New Scientist magazine of a film shown at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in London.  'Complicit', the film, documents the suffering of Chinese workers in the factories where smartphones are manufactured.  They are exposed to toxic chemicals on the production line, chiefly benzene and n-hexane, which give rise to leukemia, nerve damage and paralysis.  In addition, anyone making a protest is subject to often brutal repression.  Although Apple have, since 2014, banned benzene and n-hexane in final assembly manufacturing processes, these are by no means the only unethical aspects of most smartphone production.  Should I ever find myself having finally to 'update' to one of these devices I would go to a company known as Fairphone ( which appears to be bringing the principles of fair trade to smartphone production, along with considerations around re-use and repair issues.  So they probably deserve this plug.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Wilful Misunderstandings - One Year On

‘Wilful Misunderstandings’, my collection of short stories was published a year ago more or less to the day.  Regular readers of this blog will know that hard sell is something I find rather difficult to take on seriously, which may have proved to my detriment sales-wise.  Nevertheless on the whole I prefer to live with myself as I am, rather than aspire to any kind of slickness.  Sales, I tell myself, are not a reflection of quality, and it’s quality that jolly well counts.

Besides, ask any writer who isn’t in a position in which s/he doesn’t have to self promote, and you’re likely to hear a similar story.  We’re mainly into knocking the stuff up, not pushing it through people’s letterbox slots. Hence the fact that I generally prefer to fill this blog with anything that it crosses my mind to write about, rather than the book it was set up to promote.  However, now and again, bullets have to be bitten.

So here we go.

Accolades (not the kind you drink):

“Richard Foreman’s Wilful Misunderstandings comprises thirty four stories based around the twist or misunderstanding of an English word or phrase.  They are utterly beguiling and often unsettling, combining quirky humour and philosophical thoughts within slightly off-centre fictional worlds.  The stories veer between fantasy and surrealism yet somehow hold a balance of credibility that make them disturbing.  This variant Oulipo fiction with added humour is simply a tour de force of storytelling.”  David Caddy, editor Tears in the Fence magazine, issue 65, spring 2017.

“Within five minutes of picking the book up and reading it for the first time I was immediately entranced. These stories are a delight, and I have spent much of the ‘Festive Season’ proselytising about Foreman to anyone who would listen. I have found myself using the words ‘delight’ and ‘delightful’ far more often than I would have wanted to, but I truly cannot think of a better adjective. My life has been enriched for having read these stories. I cannot wait for the next volume.” Jonathan Downes, editor Gonzo Weekly magazine, issue 215/6, January 2017..

“Expect the unexpected while reading Wilful Misunderstandings.  The oddball characters and their quirky concerns will attract your attention. Richard Foreman demonstrates how deep his imagination is, and how the simplest of ideas can make interesting prose. He writes fluently, wittily, and his stories tend to approach the dark side in a humorous way.”  Michelle Stanley, Readers’ Favorite website.

And from Amazon reviews and some reader correspondence:

“Stories like dreams half remembered, tapping into a seam (or seeming) of the unconscious mind.”

“I love the feeling of shifting, malleable realities.  It is so much fun and encourages thinking in new ways about the world.”

“The book is bloody brilliant. I read it in nearly one sitting. It totally messed with my head.”

“This is a collection to reread, a book to tickle and amaze, to ruffle and amuse and sometimes to raise the hairs on the back of your neck.”

“Unafraid to tread off the beaten track into vivid, unsettling worlds where nothing can be taken for granted.  Where anything can happen.”

There, now that wasn’t too painful, I guess, being a simple copy and paste operation.  So you’re reading this and you still haven’t bought yourself a copy?  You can get it from online retailers and even order it through bookshops, but by far the best way is through Lepus books.  Just go to

skip the blurb because you’ll have already read most of it here, click on the relevant payment buttons and you’ll get a pristine copy, lovingly signed by me (ask if you want a message).  And I’ll get to use up some of the padded envelopes I bought in specially.  Win-win or what?