Death Factor: Now and Then

Right now we are staying in a converted stone barn in central Portugal and I am watching a tiny lizard scampering along the top of the concrete edging which separates the outdoor terracotta tiles from the burnt grass. Preparing camarão for lunch earlier while listening to an old ’69 recording of Duane Allman / Boz Scaggs combined on a blues workout got me to thinking about a time when I was in a similar situation, staying in an almost identical stone barn in central France not long after the annual grape harvest had concluded, just as it has already in Portugal this year.fiat doblo

The time of year was near enough the same, with hot late-summer temperatures folding into cooling autumn days and encroaching star-filled nights. We – a new-found friend and myself – had travelled up from the Beaujolais district on a train with Tigre, who we had met while working in the vineyards, and were staying in his friends’ vacated property. Amongst the album collection were a stack of blues rock recordings, most notably those of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, which seemed never to leave the turntable and whose sound dominated the barn interior while melding into the surrounding green hills and endless heat-filled days.

The big difference is in the times, in every sense of the word.

Back in the late-seventies you could believe that the world was actually going to become a better place to inhabit, no matter in which part of the globe you lived. Sure, there was already the growing North-South economic divide, and both the post-colonial states and pre-empire USA had proved themselves willing to go to any lengths in order to secure their influence in foreign countries around the world. Both elected and non-elected elements in these states were continually plotting murders, coups and mayhem which they felt would sustain and develop their ascendancy. The Chilean coup by General Pinochet, supported and financed by representatives of the USA, and subsequent dismantling of democratic societies around the world by use of force, along with the rigging of financial institutions (as outlined by the discredited Milton Freidman Chicago school of economics), was the model successfully adopted and imposed on an indoctrinated and gullible public.

Prior to these simultaneously planned and meticulously orchestrated seizures of political and economic power, the mood music – the times they are a’changing mentality – actually had some resonance. Which is what scared the ‘planners’ in the first place. Which is why they introduced their dissonance. Which is how we have come to be in a world that appears to have taken several steps backwards along the road of progress rather than continued moving forwards.

Back then in late-summer France it would have been impossible to imagine a global corporatocracy being fronted first by a Hollywood B-list actor with incipient dementia, followed by a string of downright corrupted or toady characters, leading to the most insane public choice of all in a three-times bankrupted celebrity TV star real estate magnate of dubious moral standing by the name of Trump. Not even K Dick had come up with that one.

Just as there has been external change in hopes between these times, so has there been internal change taking place (that said, had world events continued on a trajectory which appeared to be leading to further freedoms and international cooperation, the internal would have better mirrored the external. Instead, there has been both convergence and divergence).

In the first place, an internal psyche first shaken and even unhinged by the monetarist and militarist takeover of two predominant social orders – the US and UK – rallied to the point of discovering and asserting perfect harmony within and without. This took years of concentrated study, only to be followed by dismal years of disappointment leading to busted ideals and broken dreams. Time both covered up the cracks and buried previous idealistic hopes – whilst also furnishing many opportunities for growing relationships built on trust and love. But what had seemed certain at the outset – that love and contentment would develop in equal measure to a far more equitable and peaceful world – at last appeared hopeless. Not naïve, just hopeless.

And now, looking out at the summery decline of another year to a backdrop of sixties and seventies freedom-loving and politically-inspired white blues music…?

Yesterday morning we were woken to a particular sound…and understood precisely what had happened… Phone calls received from a sister-in-law on my wife’s device are announced by a programmed ringtone; so when Motown blared out at seven-thirty a.m. as we snoozed in bed what had been half-expected became finalised.

“Dad’s died! Dad’s died!”

Naturally, this news has harbingered a whole slew of thoughts and emotions concerning the very bedrock of life itself. We all have our own views about what happens to the human being after death – my own are clearly laid out in a sequence of eight novels which I started writing that summer after my stay with the French hobo Tigre in the stone barn following the year’s vendange – but whatever we may believe seems hardly important against the very first and very real impact arising from the knowledge of the death of a parent, which is an event that can only happen twice in any lifetime. A human being that gave you life is now departed.

And so now here we are living temporarily in our stone barn situated in central Portugal amongst the olive groves of the village…

For me, at least, I’d say the big difference between the time spent in France that late-summer and the time spent here in Portugal is exactly that – : time. Whereas there seemed so much of it back then – in fact time felt limitless and so therefore did freedom and all possible outcomes – now, all these years on, with failed dreams and busted hopes, insults and amassed injuries, that self-same time seems somewhat curtailed, contracting and diminishing, ever-shortening as the final event horizon draws ever closer.

Novels by GLYN F RIDGLEY available at Amazon and bookstores worldwide

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Hawkwind, Road to Utopia (aka High Wycombe)

Hawkwind meets Mike Batt is probably one of the battiest combinations anyone could think of.

But here we are with ROAD TO UTOPIA

And get the album cover with its equally batty image of a most perfect Englishness almost unmatched since Pink Floyd decided to go quaint with Ummagumma. Along with the flying saucer, Cosmism remains alive.hawkwind road to utopia

Quark, Strangeness and Charm turned into a Brazilian rumba that would get any party started, is the opening track. Robert Calvert will be turning in his grave…if in fact he is dead and not merely play-acting…

The beauty of all this for me is that our old-time fave psychedelic band Hawkwind is on Cherry Red Records who in turn now sponsor Wycombe Wanderers.

A perfect circle.

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Salad Cream

Just had a real Proust moment…

Cooking up a tortilla and preparing a salad at my folks’ place, tearing up a lettuce leaf I recalled a tube of Heinz Salad Cream lying in the cupboard for…oh, I don’t know how long.

Who uses Salad Cream anymore?

We did.heisnz salad cream

I remember the two boys who were my so-called friends that lived either side of our first house way back coming out one summer day each holding a big broad lettuce leaf literally plastered with Heinz Salad Cream. It just looked so good!

Back then, you didn’t get a second chance. We didn’t go into each other’s houses and because I hadn’t been around at that moment, I missed out.

Not this evening..!

I just had a healthy dollop!

Oh, my – a lettuce leaf with Salad Cream. What a treat!

cropped-gfr novels @ Amazon and bookstores worldwide

 

My denim jacket

When I see my Levi jacket, there is simplicity. Stitched up denim with a couple of top pockets and good hand pockets lower down. Used to be left pocket for my fags and right pocket for my money and drugs. Now it’s going to be wallet on the left and phone on the right, specs in a hand pocket…levi jacket_06.jpg

First time I wore my Levi jacket into the woods with a headful of acid in my brain there was always a new tomorrow just a’waiting  round the corner.

The town of High Wycombe and the vast expanse of the Rye before us made a welcome for any kind of thing to happen – and if you were to hear of those things, I don’t know, you might be completely shocked.

Novels by GFR are available at Amazon and bookstores worldwide

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Still on the road

I’ve got a big pink sky here and home-made beer and all is pretty good.

What else happens in south Bucks?

Not a whole lot.chiltern-hills

Most of what happens is entirely personal.

The politics are all true-Blue (that’s Red for our American cousins).

I wouldn’t mind if it got shaken up a bit, but then you wouldn’t want to shake it up too much since everybody by and large gets a good life here.

I guess you’d like to spread it around.

Novels by GfR from Amazon and bookstores worldwide

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Years of waste: 1979-2019

1979-2019 will surely be remembered as a 40-year pointless wandering in the desert by the western tribes. When we could have helped found the promised land, we instead were drowned, and engulfed by the conservative forces of inertia. Following decades of plenty after the recovery from WW2 there will have been succeeding decades of drought and waste. All easily predicted. All self-inflicted, governed by the dictates of greed and self-interest.

We could have had it all – love, life peace and prosperity – but have ended up with little else than wars, death, famine and disease. The lands of Israel and Yemen are exemplars of all this catastrophe. The West is stagnant and in danger of rotting away under the sway of establishment forces.

Ah, just think, those halcyon days of the fifties, sixties and early seventies when the world looked set to yield all its fruits; a time when it was possible to consider the possibility of shortened work hours and time to enjoy all that had been attained. Technology would be used to improve the human load and maybe even take our race out to the stars.

Driving through a couple of villages today I easily saw how this has all ended in affluent decay and sociopathic ascendency. The more mindless you are, the more money you are able to acquire, which can then be converted into cars and property and purposeless luxuries.

In the UK and USA and similar western states we only have to look at our leaders and the ruling class to see what are the dominant trends and values. Taking the first two, we have a PM whose joint family income is generated through interests in the machinery of war and killing, and a thrice-bankrupted president who built his racist empire on property and financial speculation. Both are proven liars. What more do we need to know?

Which brings us to NOW again. Currently there is a fightback against the forces of human exploitation and oppression and this movement is still thankfully easily enough accessed through social media (though even these channels are currently under attack from the conservative forces). There are also politicians of integrity with a substantial following, like Corbyn and Stein.

So that all is not lost.

Historically, 1926 brought about the General Strike, 1976 was the UK’s best year according to economists, so that if the fifty-year cycle of the Kondratiev wave means anything at all, the next few years leading up to 2026 could bring about the greatest benefit of all to the peoples of the world.apple

And this time the fruits may be picked off the tree and not be left to fall and rot. Not like earlier.

Novels by GFR available at Amazon and stores worldwide

What a (long, strange) trip it’s been

Corn ripening in the sunny Burgundy fields brings about a sense of well-being that can only come through travelling in a landscape of harvested grain and burgeoning orchard fruits. It’s John Keats come early.fiat doblo

When this trip starting in the Balkans began I kind of had the feeling it might lead to some new sense of purposefulness and maybe a place to promote and facilitate that brand new calling. Whereas, it has further strengthened just exactly what I have felt all along regarding the role of the human being in the universe and how society might be made to fit that most important of all aspects. The places we have been to, the experiences we have had, and the people we have met, obviously, have led to this conclusion. Which is the whole point. What is travel for except to have new experiences and develop understanding?

Now I know what I have to do.

Some people may recognise the title of this blog as being borrowed from a celebrated biography of the Grateful Dead (and a line from their song ‘Truckin’). Anne and I are not part of any hippy movement fanning out from Golden Gate Park – although we went to the place on a trip (not an acid one) to southern California a couple of years ago (see my novel Answer) – but I, for one, would dearly love to see some of the thoughts expressed during that period be evoked again in our present time. On this occasion, brought to fruition. The musicians of the sixties and seventies did a great job of expanding people’s consciousness but the artists, writers and thoughtless intellectuals sadly let them down. So here we are living through times of enforced austerity brought about by the connivance of the enervating conservative powers, when we could all be living in prosperity and having unbridled dreams for an even better future.

This is what I have re-learned through our trip to the likes of Albania and Calabria where I discovered that just like with ourselves the old regime has reasserted its previous stranglehold on the present and future well-being of the population.

The eighties and beyond were like being told to expect sunshine only to have a great big rain shower come along and spoil the day.

All that ‘drip down’ economic wealth nonsense, what an insult!

And the outcome of such untruths were plainly laid out in one particular novel – Question. At least the hero of this work had the sense to see what was happening. We are the agents of our own misfortune.

Modern economic movements are making it clearer and clearer where money comes from and how it can be produced and manipulated for the benefit of society as a whole, and in so doing are giving a lie to the politicians and 1% who would have society believe otherwise.

For sure, the Establishment wants people to live in fear of the present and future in order that they can continue to govern and remain in positions of power. They don’t care that people suffer. That is not their remit. Their one and only aim is to somehow sit on the top of the pile – no matter what a heap of shit they maintain and so long as the flies continue buzzing around them.

It can sometimes be very difficult to see the present and future as being different from what they are as a result of events that happened in the past, but it is possible. The political and economic past can be seen for what it was and overcome.

So, hey, here we are sitting in a very comfortable municipal campsite in rural France and can have no complaints of a personal nature. Soon we will be back in Blighty. And the work of my blog and my novels continue.

Posted from Louhans, Borgogne

Novels by GLYN F RIDGLEY available from Amazon and bookstores worldwide

The trip continues…

Perfect hangover weather here, 3000 feet up in the French Alps. After bludgeoning temperatures of over 30 degrees even up high on the plateaux it’s a relief to have them lowered as a result of the rain. Wisps of cloud are clinging to the wooded alpine slopes as they move through the valley before fading away. The rain falls soft and gentle, just like Van Morrison describes it in some of his best songs.fiat doblo

We are hungover because last night Pascale and Lionel invited us over to their place for a nosh up of the most wonderful tartiflette, made from potatoes and onions combined with lardons and Reblochon cheese produced from raw milk by the dairy farmers in the mountains of Savoie, where we are still camping. We began with a rose wine and croutons before ‘changing colour’ to a beauteous red wine which accompanied the main dish. I have never experienced such a matching up of wine and food. There was jambon sec and cornichons to follow with the crispy Batavia lettuce leaves and simple but perfectly proportioned oil-and-vinegar dressing. In the meantime a partly-drunk bottle bearing the hand-written legend poire 2015 had been produced and put on the table. When the Nescafe coffee and sweet fruit tartlets from the local boulangerie appeared so did four small liqueur glasses. As he poured out the pear schnapps from the bottle Lionel explained the label. In the region only certain families are permitted by law to distil alcohol and they are usually approached sometime in the autumn when the fruit is at its ripest to make the different flavoured liqueurs. Before the first tasting Lionel described it as ‘anti-freeze’, which fortunately proved to be a misrepresentation. Though it was obviously pretty pokey. More conversation followed and this led to another bottle of clear liquid being produced; this time we learned it had been flavoured with the ‘mirabelle’ plum, and dated back to 2010. A vote was taken and the second bottle took precedence. What I should say is that the rain had been pelting down since soon after our arrival at their caravan-and-awning and the thunder crashing and the lightning flashing down the mountain valley for hours. Essentially, we were captive. So my glass kept being refilled with plum schnapps as we awaited a break in the weather. By midnight we decided that, rain or not, bed beckoned and for the umpteenth time we made our farewells. This time successfully.

That was last night. Today…

Posted from Petit Bornand les Glières, Haute Savoie

Novels by GLYN F RIDGLEY available from Amazon and bookstores worldwide

 

Point one: The world expanded and then contracted again

The liberal dream becomes a conservative nightmare

Back in the nineteen-sixties when my generation was growing up there was a real feeling that barriers – class, educational, racial, national – were being broken down. In fact that was happening and continued into the early seventies. There is plenty of evidence for this in a variety of cultural analyses, so that I won’t spend time discussing the Beatles and Rolling Stones, Germaine Greer, red-brick universities, labour union rights, anti-war movements etc. And then something happened. The ruling elites – or old-time Establishment – cottoned on and began to get scared that all their power and influence might well slip away from them. All they really had was their wealth and powerful contacts and so they thrashed around in search of a unifying ‘idea’. Eventually they settled on one that had appeared to work in Chile, where a brutal dictatorship had been established against the will of the people by use of force and the introduction of a financial system so fixed that a small group of insiders inevitably grew richer at the expense of the larger population. This ‘idea’ was called ‘monetarism’ and its long-ridiculed advocate was hauled out from obscurity, dusted down, and hailed as an economic messiah. His name was Milton Friedman and the disciples of his dis-credited economic model were known as ‘the Chicago school’. The system had been discredited because it plainly failed to operate in favour of the wider public. This flaw, however, was precisely what the western ruling elites required as they fought in hidden corners to regain their pre-modern ascendency. With such an ‘idea’ in place they were firmly able to quash the modern liberal-thinking upstarts. The first thing they needed to do was to create unemployment and destroy the labour unions. The former was easily initiated by taking out and misspending huge international loans that undermined the national economy; with a lack of proper investment and poor management oversight the industries that had formerly underpinned the whole economy – engineering, public transport, the National Health and educational system etc – were all quickly dismantled. And of course, by use of media manipulation, the blame could all be put squarely on so-called socialist ideas and labour rights. For example, as British Leyland was being undone in the Midlands the national media launched a campaign demonising just one person: a factory-worker they labelled Red Robbo, and somehow with the help of MI5 managed to plant the idea in the national consciousness that this one inconsequential man was responsible for the entire collapse of a massive national car-making industry, as large and as successful as any existing at that time in the industrialised world. The Soviets would have been proud. All they had come up with were supposed saboteurs deliberately harming their nascent industry back in the nineteen-thirties. With regards to labour rights, and following on from what had happened in Chile, the government mobilised the national police force and sections of the British armed forces to brutally attack the miners and their thriving communities, forcing them into near starvation and growing dependence on outside charities until at last their resolve collapsed and they were shame-facedly beaten into submission. This was a British government using British law-enforcers, the British military, the British Broadcasting Corporation and British Secret Intelligence Services (SIS) i.e. the whole state power, against its own people, just as had happened in Chile. Essentially, the British working-class were disempowered and the old Establishment could wheel out its previously ridiculed ‘idea’ of monetarism in order to con the public out of all the national utilities and organisations they had previously owned and in some manner controlled. Privatisation finally left the British people with virtually no national resources and massive debt as big companies creamed off the profits and simply left the public to bail them out after the new owners had taken the money and run. And subsequent governments called this economic model a success.

And so, to the point of this blogpost.

You will recall point one was: the world expanded and then contracted again.

By this I meant that a whole series of social developments were taking place over more than a decade which would have for sure led to an opening out of communications and opportunities between different peoples, both nationally and supra-nationally.  This very opening out of the world threatened the UK ruling class and all its accepted hereditary rights and privileges. Hence the fight-back. Of course, all us liberal-minded citizens had no clue concerning the machinations being carried out which would deny us a brighter future. Not until too late has it become clear with what perverted vision our long-standing rulers have contracted the circumstances which would have enabled the vast majority to flourish in this eminently possible open world.

More to come.

Novels by GLYN F RIDGLEY available from Amazon and bookstores worldwide

Posted from somewhere in the Haute-Savoie, France

A bit of a whinge

After driving several thousands of miles and staying on a variety of campsites – some lovely, some not so – in different countries, we have pulled up less than an hour after arriving in France to stay in what is probably the loveliest of them all, in the Savoie Mont Blanc.fiat doblo

Our very first pull-up after getting off the ferry at the Hook of Holland nine weeks ago was in a layby off the autobahn close to Munich, from where we set out early next morning and travelled past black-hatted churches and white-misted forest down into Austria and through the Alps to Slovenia.

That night we stayed in what was probably the worst of all the sites; marred by a suburbia of plasticated motor-homes replete with self-satisfied retirees from the north idling away their time and pensions in a back-slapping display of utter mundanity. So much for the wisdom of old age. Slovenia has apparently succumbed to the mind-sapping influence and affluence of nearby Austria. Take away people’s money worries, it seems, and what’s left is an air-hole between the ears. And that pertains to any background, royal or proletarian. So you can’t accuse me of any bias.

Well, good luck to Slovenia. We stayed in the country for about forty-eight hours.

Croatia had a different feel despite it, too, having been invaded by the northern pensioner hordes. Actually, we made a point of avoiding the county’s touristic coast and wandered inland; but even then we ended up staying on a plot of land bought by a Dutch family soon after the Balkans war when land there was still very cheaply obtained. An old, state-owned campsite dating back to the Tito years provided the only refuge; while in a friendly nearby bar we watched their football team dismantle Uruguay in the football world cup group stage, and England scramble a last-gasp win against Tunisia (not realising the two teams would meet up in the semi-final…).

Following Croatia, entering Bosnia-Herzegovina was like returning to an old Soviet state. The campsites were either non-existent or pretty dire – and dear. Ten euros to camp in an abandoned field, and fifteen to remain on a scruffy patch of grass next to a freezing cold river only good for trout-fishermen. For want of a decent place to stay we crossed back into Croatia, and from there on into Montenegro.

While the country is really rather beautiful and the people apparently laid-back and having a typically Mediterranean outlook, the Montenegrin campsites usually failed to meet our rather modest needs. Again, they were far too expensive for what they offered. On one, we had to park the van on a space outside the gate beyond which lay the amenities, and yet still had to pay twenty euros for the privilege (a figure that just seemed to be made up on our arrival). Up north a similar figure applied for staying in a large field.

So, we with our intended daily budget of thirty euros weren’t doing all that well. Wild camping wasn’t an option because we couldn’t find any decent spots and were reliant on the internet to keep in touch with family members who were either ill, preparing to leave for abroad or simply in the throes of purchasing their first property.

And the problem – if that’s what you can call it – as we see it is this. Camping used to mean getting out into the countryside and living in nature, often under canvas. To do this required an element of ‘roughing it’, but part of the pleasure was indeed getting away from everyday domestic comforts. Plus, because amenities were basic they didn’t cost much. Now that has altered. Everybody wants to bring their home comforts with them. And by purchasing a big plasticated box built on a wheeled chassis and powered by a modern gas-guzzling engine there is no reason to leave anything behind. You really can bring the kitchen sink (quite why you would want to do so is a different matter entirely). Not only the kitchen sink, but a motorbike or a hitched-up car, too. Just to make life really, really easy. Why forgo anything that alleviates any type of inconvenience?

And, of course, one can see the pleasure in this – the logic, even. You escape your everyday environment and don’t have to suffer any discomfort or apparent consequences. The ‘snowbirds’ of the northern USA have got this down to a fine art as they live in their comfy homes for the summer months and take their polluting high-spec RVs down south immediately the thermometer shows a dip in temperature. Arguably, the wealthy and privileged have always done this. Only last week we visited the site where Hadrian had built his exclusive country getaway. Certainly northern Europeans are beginning to follow this pattern in their droves, so that even far-flung Islamic Morocco is considered a desirable winter destination.

But, anyway, my gripe is not the fact that people like to travel in comfort – why shouldn’t they, since they have every right to? It’s that because the affluent north European pensioners are spending their time hitting the roads of the south and spending their money in places that traditionally have not seen the touristic euro/dollar, an over-inflated sense of what they – the campsite-owners – have to offer i.e. sunshine and warmth, has led them to understand that north European prices are somehow compatible with south European standards. What’s more, they naively imagine every north European must be wealthy. (We met with the same scenario in newly-opened Myanmar a short while back.)

In Albania, because we felt rather imprisoned, we got off the campsite which had been privately developed on the northern border, and really did achieve Germanic standards and prices, and walked up to the local shop and bar. We ordered local food and local drinks at local prices and got talking to the English-speaking daughter of the owner. She repeated what we had been told by the Italian-speaking care-worker in the mountains concerning how much the average Albanian could expect to earn right now and also about how many Albanians had made or were intending to make their way to London. These stories are rife and no bones are made about the advantages of doing so. We were told them everywhere we stopped and talked.

As a matter of fact, everything we heard and discovered in the Balkan states is exactly as we found during our winter sojourn in Greece nearly three decades ago as the northern Europeans flocked into the country to take advantage of relatively cheap property prices and the Greek way of living. In some parts of town – the nice parts – you’d only hear German or Dutch and the only Greeks around were the cleaners and unemployed. The one campsite we stayed on during this trip had a similar distribution of nationalities.

Italy was a different proposition altogether. There you pay high prices because the average users of campsites are entire families who expect to be provided with swimming-pools, shops and some kind of entertainment: a ‘camping village’, in fact.

Ciro was not like other campsite-owners. I would say he had the perfect set up and ideal philosophy. Inheriting a piece of Calabrian land from his nonna which had been used to grown corn, he gave up his humiliating and enervating job as a bagnino catering to the beach-needs of wealthy northern Italians, and planted it with all manner of trees to provide a hospitable environment for campers. He also grows vegetables and fruit (which he gave away freely), while his brother keeps bee-hives in the adjoining olive grove, and his father continues to look after some naturally-fed sheep and pigs and lives in the big, old family house. Ciro’s place was an absolute haven (excepting the arrival of a clearly dysfunctional Italian family in their big white camper…) We also lucked-out by finding an inexpensive state-run site in the pine woods by Lago Arva in the Sila mountain range. A find that was countered by being ripped off for basic food purchases in the nearby village (and perhaps the subject for a future gripe about travelling around in the van).

And so after driving up through Italy on its expensive autostrada in the aggravating heat – losing our exhaust and waiting to have a new one fitted outside Florence – and staying overnight on its expensive campsites, crossing the border into France by way of the Monte Blanc tunnel and heading immediately for a municipal campsite up in the mountains has come as a relief. The municipal campsites came about from the desire of the French people to have access to their own land at prices the average person can readily afford. They are usually set in natural beauty spots and provide just the right level of amenities. The site staff are universally friendly and give the camper a feeling that it is a shared experience living for a time out in the country, rather than one where the campsite-owner charges the highest price they think the poor, miserable saps in their diminished circumstances will be prepared to pay.

Happy Holidays!

Novels by GLYN F RIDGLEY are available at Amazon and bookstores worldwide