Monday, 28 October 2013

Call Of The Wild

Our Lost Connection With Nature

I imagine most of us have had the experience. Out walking or picnicking with a partner, we feel a sudden overwhelming urge to make love in the open air. 

I have come across some surprisingly conservative grown-ups, some even quite elderly, who have been taken in this way. They describe it in a way as if they might have been possessed while out minding their own business.

"There we were, Marjorie and I, marvelling at the workmanship of a gate as we made our way casually along the South Downs Way, when suddenly she turned to me and said, Lionel, I want you to do me. Now in the long grass over here. I was taken aback. What right here? Yes, she said. I confess I was somewhat afraid. It wasn't like her. She couldn't get my trousers down fast enough! A wonderful experience, though. We do it regularly now. Never discussed, but I know when it's going to happen. Walking boots with a skirt and wooly stockings were never Marjorie's kind of thing in the past." 

I have wondered a lot about this. Once I became aware of the phenomenon, I became more aware of what was going on around me when out and about on my daily walks. I don't wish to sensationalise. Obviously not all walking couples are up to it, but if one becomes attuned to it there is little difficulty identifying those with outdoor carnal intent. There is a furtiveness in their body language. Exaggerated eye-contact. Pressing closer than needs be as they pass through a gate. A hand used unnecessarily to steady a woman's thigh or buttock as she crosses a stile. Look more closely, there's a lot of it about.

So why all of a sudden the passion for outdoor carnal activities?
Well, of course it has been going on for rather a long time – long before human beings ever had any notion of “indoors” in fact. It is our natural carnal playground. But I do believe there is a bit of a resurgence, and I think I know why.

Look at our lives now – especially in the developed world. We spend more and more time indoors. Even when we get exercise it increasingly tends to be indoors or at least removed from nature. Even pastimes with their roots in our primeval past, like hunting and fishing, have become steadily more sanitised and high-tech. We have become shy or even afraid of nature. It is dirty and uncomfortable. I surf because it brings me close to the forces of nature – one with its tremendous power – but even there, young surfers seem to spend more time on-line or in shops perving over equipment, or posing at beach-front bars and cafes than they do actually in the water, standing up.

So what is the future for our children? Call me extreme, but personally I think sport involving full contact with nature, some survival training and some wilderness adventures should be compulsory. Without it, I believe, we are doomed as a race. We will live comfortably with all our luxury, our digital virtual world gaming and our labour saving technology, but when the tipping point comes and nature gets angry, a revolution or a war begins, then 90% of those in the developed world will be wiped out. They will lack the wherewithal to survive. It’s not such a sad prospect, I don’t think. Yes if I think about individual people I like and love being washed down nature’s drain for losers, it does make me sad. But in the wider depersonalised scheme of things, the planet and the human race will be better off. Those who survive will be the more resourceful. It is survival of the fittest at its most painfully extreme, folks.

And what does this have to do with people – often very conservative people – suddenly being overwhelmed by the desire to fornicate out in the woods and fields? Well quite simply, they are responding subliminally (primitively) to the call of the wild. Nature is constantly reminding us that we are animals first and foremost and that our survival depends upon our ability to function as such. Many of us try to fight off these messages. Most of us have ceased to trust our primitive instincts. We are afraid of them. We are ashamed. We even make laws against them for goodness sake! The naked and the passionately unrestrained have been criminalised. But nature is fighting back in the form of our genetic memories. Nature is encouraging us to behave badly (“badly” in our society's ridiculous moral terms anyway), and when nature is the stimulus, many of us (the lucky ones) find it hard to resist. But calm yourself – this should not be seen as a problem. It is just our survival instinct kicking-in, and we should be thankful. One day it may save our lives.

So the next time you are out walking your dog and you see a local councillor or a couple of respectable members of a local rambling or bird watching society in-flagrante amongst the buttercups, console yourself with the knowledge that this is positive sign of human preparedness for survival. You might even try it yourself… Vicar.

Motivated by this subject, here follows part of a short story by the author, A.K. Anders:

Call Of The Wild
Sunday morning often finds me out foraging. Mushrooms are my main target. I have a penchant for wild mushrooms. I am in the habit of taking a small camp stove on a Sunday morning, along with some chorizo, eggs and ciabatta so that I can create a hearty breakfast somewhere impromtu. Last Sunday I took a lady I am acquainted with. She had requested it. Involved in a polite group conversation at the church fete, she professed to share my love for wild mushrooms and was taken with my description of these early morning open-air feasts. I took my time inviting her. I waited until later as I was leaving. I was being careful not to seem too forward, but it would have seemed impolite not to invite her at all.

So this lady is a rather well-to-do woman who's land I like to walk on now and again. She has seen me there a few times and not objected, at least not openly. Her husband shoots, although he's limited by arthritic knees these days. We were on last year’s church fund raising committee together. He seemed rather to be living in cloud cuckoo land, to be honest. Thought the new roof could easily be paid for with a “Sunday morning whip-round.” She, on the other hand, is much younger and in possession of all her marbles. So anyway, out of politeness I invited her. We walked quite a way before we felt we had collected enough fungi for our feast. She's a tall, strong woman and takes mammoth strides, even for a country lady. A successful three-day-eventer in the past, apparently and still an impressive horsewoman, or so I’m told. Eventually my foraging bag was full and we stopped at a small forest clearing by a fast flowing stream. There’s been a lot of rain recently and the power of the stream reflected it.

Sylvana had brought one of those waterproof picnic blankets, which, she said, would make everything more civilised. I was not sure I liked it. Getting muddy is part of the pleasure for me, but I didn't object. Anyway, though I say so myself, I had made a decent job of cooking the fare and Sylvana was just pouring some coffee when we heard giggling from nearby. We were very much out in the sticks so it was a surprise. She looked at me to see if I too had heard, then put her finger to her lips. Carefully Sylvana got to her feet and began heading in the direction from whence the sounds had arrived. Turning, she waved to me to follow her. All of a sudden this rather serious, mature lady had taken on the behaviour of a schoolgirl. Her face seemed filled with intrigue and delight. Down between silver birch saplings she tiptoed, beckoning me to follow. I duly obeyed. The giggling sounded close-by now, but we still saw no sign of its source. There seemed to be a line of large chestnuts with dense bushes grown up between then and it was in this direction Sylvana was drawn. 

"Be careful," she mouthed to me, "there's a sudden drop."

Carefully I followed her into the thicket, noticing how the ground beyond the thicket was at a starkly lower level. I heard a sudden intake of breath from Sylvana and saw her raise her hand to her mouth, but she was blocking my view. Placing a hand on her shoulder I moved in close behind her to see over. I could feel Sylvana's heart beating and it made me a little concerned about what I might see. Still the source of the sounds was not apparent to me. Frustrated slightly, I followed her gaze and caught my own breath as I focussed upon the brook. It was larger at this point – a river in fact.

What caught my eye first was the shoulder bag and the clothes laid out on a rock. Then the splashing of water and a restrained screech as something emerged from the water. Now I could see them. A woman was sitting in the water with her back against the bank and hanging onto a tree root so as not to be washed downstream. Something about the way her chest was rising and falling so quickly and the short gasps we could hear every now and then, told me the water was very cold. I was just considering this, when out from under the rushing white water something surfaced – a man. Clearly the woman knew him as he was now making amusing growling sounds and had begun biting her. It was entertaining to watch. However, very soon her girlish excitement gave way to squeals of shock as he began biting her and it was obvious that she was finding the attack deeply pleasurable. Laying her head back on the bank, the woman laughed brazenly and allowed her pale legs to float to the surface of the water. The man responded, moving in closer, preparing to pounce.

For those who feel the need to know how this story progresses, the complete story "Call Of The Wild" (and others like it) will soon be available on

Just click the relevant link, or enter the title and author into the search-box of your local amazon website.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

How Fictitious is Fiction?

"Joe, I'm afraid you've read something that makes you a threat to someone. I can't help you."

The question, "How fictitious is fiction," puts me in mind of an excellent film released in 1975 by Sidney Pollack – 3 Days Of The CondorJoe Turner (Robert Redford) is a CIA employee (Condor is his code name) who works in a clandestine office in New York City. He reads books, newspapers, and magazines from around the world, looking for "hidden meanings and new ideas". As part of his duties, Turner files a report to CIA headquarters on a low-quality thriller novel his office has been reading, pointing out strange plot elements therein, and the unusual assortment of languages into which the book has been translated. One day Joe returns from buying a sandwich and finds everyone in his office has been shot dead. Following his training he runs into hiding but soon realises he can trust nobody - least of all his employers. 
I loved this film and found it an intriguing subject. Just like the book in the film, however, the film itself seemed to me like it might have been based on truth. The danger to the CIA, the US government and other unknown powers, was that the reading public would spot the fact that the story had a little too much authenticity – that what was written was very close to real life circumstances, and that they would put two and two together. They could not, of course, allow this to happen. So how far does that seem from reality, eh?

The dictionary provides several definitions of fiction. I find them particularly interesting:

a. An imaginative creation or a pretence that does not represent actuality but has been invented.
b. The act of inventing such a creation or pretence.
2.      A lie.
a. A literary work whose content is produced by the imagination and is not necessarily based on fact.
b. The category of literature comprising works of this kind, including novels and short stories.
4.      Law Something untrue that is intentionally represented as true by the narrator.

I especially like number 2. A Lie. All my own writing is lies. An imaginative creation may sound more literary perhaps, but I prefer "lies".

image courtesy of www.overtheretohere by John Burningham

But fiction needs to be more than lies. It is in the nature of fiction writing, that what is written seems believable, is it not? Lies are all very well, but we need believable lies. Even with fantasy writing or with science fiction, if the job is done well, the reader's disbelief is suspended. Something that may be far fetched still has a sense of authenticity. When it does not, the reader is dissatisfied. So how does the writer achieve this?

I think it is generally true to say that good fiction writers have highly developed observational skills. They notice how people behave and how others respond to their behaviour. They will usually have a wide experience of people, cultures and circumstances. These skills and their life experiences are then married to a literary ability to describe characters and situations in words (including in film scripts). Both elements are required to achieve success. So the fiction writer is a repository for a mass of memories about people and circumstances; of life stories and intriguing events. All things that are filed away in their mental library for future use as fiction. Why are we surprised, therefore, when people or events found written into fiction, bear a strong resemblance to people or events we know? Why accuse the writer of presenting fact as fiction? Must we fiction writers tweak things to ensure that they do not seem too authentic, for fear of such accusations?

image courtesy of

In my own writing, I have experienced exactly this phenomenon. People say (very flatteringly) that my writing has an overwhelming sense of authenticity. Not just the stories, but the detail. Particularly the characters, they say. The descriptions of my characters, what they do, what people say and most importantly how they say it, give the reader the sense that I am describing a real person and a real event. "Surely," I say, "all good fiction should do this?"

"Fiction my arse, I know that Newsreader"
Since the publication of my first book, The Pimlico Tapes, my publisher has received over a hundred accusations from people who claim that the characters (in this case the patients of a therapist) are in fact wholly and completely them, or someone they know. Only the name has been changed, they say. I call it "The Condor Effect." What makes this especially problematic, is that some of these patients are famous and therefore wealthy people with a taste for instant litigation, especially where their private lives are concerned and especially when it concerns sex. Their claims are hard to prove but it does not stop them trying, and that can be tiresome as well as expensive. Why do these people find it so hard to believe that their particular issues (the one's they have gone to a therapist about) are not unique to them. This is how palm readers and clairvoyants manage to dupe people. "You met a dark haired man recently and something he said made you nervous of him." "Someone in your family told you something that hurt you." Almost everybody will identify with these statements. It does not make the palm reader a gifted seer or a genius! The skill of the fiction writer is to conjure up something that people will immediately identify with. Something perhaps that they will feel is personal to them. Yes the individual components of what is described will come from the writers real life memories, but few would write them down exactly as they had happened in real life. In most cases it would not fit the story anyway. But I think what I have been accused of is actually the opposite of the legal dictionary definition 4. above:

Law Something untrue that is intentionally represented as true by the narrator.

In the case of The Pimlico Tapes, people feel that I am taking something true and deliberately representing it as untrue. Hah! I say to them, "Prove it."

The docudrama on television and sometimes in cinema has made good use of blurring the lines between fact and fiction. Imagine one of those political dramas featuring past or present senior politicians. References to certain events, phrases people use or they way they dress connect the characters to real life people or events. This is intentional of course but they don't say so officially. Certain elements in the drama are true but not all. Enough of them are true, however, that the viewer believes that all of what they are seeing might be true – or at least they do for a while. Such programs are often said to be fiction but based loosely upon real people and events. The question is, how loosely? Carefully, in most cases, they do not mention specific names. Some, on the other hand, do take the risk of mentioning names but it is a risk. It's a dangerous game and one that provides meat and drink for lawyers.

For myself, and perhaps for many others, the line between fact and fiction easily becomes blurred. I am a self-confessed fantasist. I live (as my father used to tell me) in a dream world. Many real things seem like fantasy to me and equally many unreal things seem painfully or pleasurably real. Step down all you therapists, I have no desire to be cured of this. I like my life this way, thanks. This does mean that often the things I invent (fictitious stories, or "lies" as I've chosen to call them), over time become fact to me. The more I read them, edit them and re-work them the more real they become. People pick me up on it.

"You're talking hypothetically of course," they say. Or "You mean if you had stolen the car!"

And I have to stop and think. Did I make it up? I'm not so sure I did. I remember everything about it – the place, the time, the people who were there, what shoes I was wearing, what I ate for breakfast that morning, the smell of the glovebox, the electric shock as I twisted the wires together. All of it. So it is real for me. Who's to say it didn't happen? Maybe in a different dimension, but it happened.

I wonder how that would stand up as prosecutory evidence in a court of law. By pure coincidence, I am a trained lawyer. Can you imagine how it would have been if I'd become a high-court judge? Outrageous. Yet there must be practicing judges out there who have the same tenuous grip on reality that I have. Fantasy Judge!
"I find you guilty because I met you in a dream once and you told me what you'd done." The mind certainly does boggle!

image courtesy of