More harm than terrorism

NationalCrimeAgency-copy“…organised crime harms more people than terrorism.” This is the staggering but very real statistic quoted in a piece in the Guardian today on the work of the UK’s National Crime Agency.

The Agency was set up five years ago to amalgamate the work of various other departments and organisations including the Serious Organised Crime Agency and the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Agency, and has a remit to tackle virtually any and all organised or large-scale crime, from smuggling to child sex via prostitution and bank fraud. And thanks to a chronic lack of funding and the archaic policing system in the UK, it’s finding it very hard work.

Part of the problem is that crime, and the gangs that run it, develops constantly, taking advantage of new technology and the opening up of international routes for global trade. The other part is the odd, inherited structure of the UK police force, which is divided into lots of local (county) units and a few national ones, many of which duplicate each others’ work.

The article, titled “Organised crime in the UK is bigger than ever before. Can the police catch up?”, is a lengthy and somewhat depressing read. But it’s essential material for anyone interested in, or writing about, the police response to organised crime in this country. Just don’t expect any easy answers.

Hospice aid

darkmindsThere’s a news item in The Guardian this morning about a charity which has run into difficulties over the amount it’s being charged by a marketing company.

The name of the charity, Hospice Aid UK, is quite similar to the charity the Dark Minds anthology is donating a share of its proceeds to.  However, please rest assured that the two are NOT the same!  I’m delighted to say we’re giving to Hospice UK, which is a completely different organisation.  So you can ignore that Guardian piece and buy the book with a clear conscience!  And yes, that was a hint, by the way.  😉

The Peter Pan effect

170px-peter_pan_1915_coverThere’s a marvellous piece in the Guardian today, where various children’s authors share their thoughts on whether characters in children’s books should grow up or not.

Every author has a different view point and the vote is split roughly 50-50; you can read the various comments here, and very interesting they are too.

For myself, I mind less now that I’m (allegedly) grown up myself.  Seeing the last bit of the ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’ film, for instance, where the main characters are all adults with jobs and kids of their own, didn’t really bother me, although I’m still in two minds whether it added anything to the story arc or not.

However, as a kid, I absolutely loathed anything that smacked of too much change.  Books where the characters I loved grew up or even worse, died, upset me so much that it could be years before I went back to that author again.  Even something as inoffensive as ‘The Lord of the Rings’ was difficult; there I was ensconced firmly in the story, feeling the characters’ emotions, being there in their world with them, and then I turned to the first Appendix, which virtually says ‘oh, don’t bother about them, all that stuff happened centuries ago’.  It pulled me out of the story so fast you couldn’t see the smoke.  And as for C S Lewis’s ‘The Last Battle’, I cried for what seemed like days.

I think as much as anything that books were a means of escape for me, from a fairly unhappy childhood.  I enveloped myself in another world, a better world than my own (at least some of the time), and anything that intruded on that world, or made me realise it was all just a figment of my (and the author’s) imagination, was deeply unsettling.

In the end I guess different people react in different ways, and some kids will enjoy seeing their favourite characters mirror their own development, their own triumphs and problems in the journey from child to adult.  And as one or two of the authors mentioned in the Guardian point out, the idea of being a child for ever (like Peter Pan) can be every bit as difficult in a different way.

So what does everyone think?  Do you, or did you, like your characters to grow up, or go on living in some kind of Neverland where nothing changed?  I’d love to know.


It’s official – Simon’s Cat rules!

“Carpe diem, my friends, and sod the fruit bowl.”

There’s a hilarious article about the phenomenon that is Simon’s Cat in The Guardian at the moment, taking a distinctly tongue in cheek (or paw in cheek) look at philosophy through the eyes of a cat. A cartoon cat, to be precise, since this is what Simon’s Cat is. The first cartoons hit YouTube a few years back and promptly went viral, not just because they’re brilliant studies of the struggle between feline and human, but also because they’re extremely funny.

You can see for yourself if you visit the article because it comes complete with its own exclusive video, Pawtrait, involving an ultra-cute kitten and an attack of the green-eyed monster.

I still think one of the earliest, Let Me In, is the funniest of the lot, though, with its tale (tail?) of a cat permanently on the wrong side of a door. I really did ‘laugh out loud’.