The Awesome Power of Questions

It’s been a while since I’ve added anything to my blog, and there are two reasons;

  1. After my post entitled Friday-3-March-2017, Sportsmans-Inn, I received some unwelcome messages and contributions from people who clearly don’t get out much, and
  2. I’ve been working on a new business book, entitled The Awesome Power of Questions.
  3. I’m now delighted to announce that the new book has been launched today and is available as an ebook on Kindle and in paperback from Amazon, you can order or take a peek here; Ian’s New Book

Dom’s book is still ongoing and will be launched after I finish my PhD next year but in the meantime, this one is live, and any profits will go to Cumbrian Lad


Tuesday 25 December 2018 Beech House – 5.45am Christmas Morning

There will be millions of children lying awake or just waking up as I write these words. Excited, bursting with anticipation of what they will find under the tree when they go downstairs.  Over the weeks and months leading up to today, countless lists will have been written, one by the children asking Santa for all their wishes and dreams, and another by mum or dad, preparing a ‘to do’ list for the perfect day. What groceries will be required? Shall we order a fresh turkey or buy a frozen one? Does everyone like prawns? Note to self: Don’t forget to put the cranberry sauce on the table because you forgot to last year, and importantly, get the spare chairs out of the garage in plenty of time to dust them down. These are the principal, weighty issues, just for this one day.

It seems though at the moment, as a society, certainly in the UK, we don’t talk about these normal happy families. These normal extended groups seem to have been forgotten, replaced by other, diverse minority groups that don’t have a voice either, but even as they become new words in our everyday lexicon, they get huge amounts of column space and air time. Sure, we see the media images in advertising, which now sadly starts at the end of October, encouraging us to buy the latest smartphone for little Johnnie, at only 29.99 per month for the next three years.

Pan into a family of six people sat around a roaring fire, there’s a twinkling tree in the background, a lazy sausage dog in the foreground, and falling snow through a window to the right. They’re unwrapping Christmas presents, smiling, having a wonderful seasonal moment together. Suddenly, the scene comes to life with a multitude of green screen and cartoon graphics.  The Afro-Caribbean grandfather figure, morphs into a lean, mean lycra superhero, who chases and stops a runaway train saving millions of people, and little Johnnie of non-specific ethnicity or obvious gender (so he could be Janie) beams with pride and captures the whole incident on his/her new HD,1000 megapixel phone camera. Which incidentally also has the ability to switch on the central heating from the jungle/arctic circle or driving home from work, at the same time it can play Dad’s favourite song when Johnnie/Janie heads off to Uni and is feeling low.

‘Sold, to the electronic cigarette smoking single mother of four, who goes to the food bank every month’.

For weeks now, in the run-up to Christmas, all the media have been discussing are the estimated 120,000 ‘homeless’ children in the UK. Everyone; charities, social media, and every political party except the one in government have been pulling at the nation’s heartstrings to try to raise awareness. However and more accurately, the children are not technically homeless, they are in rented accommodation rather than in a ‘family’ home over Christmas. Clearly, this isn’t right either but many of them have been in this situation for many years, but at Christmas, it’s more newsworthy and easier to score political points when you are in opposition to her majesties government.

It’s Christmas morning, those millions of excited kids, including the homeless ones, didn’t sleep much last night and are desperate to sneak next door and bounce on mum and dads bed to get permission to go downstairs and see what Santa has brought them. The weeks of preparation and build-up to this one day is over, the adults have done all they can to make it the most memorable family day and the most perfect and enjoyable day of the year. Mainly, they just want everyone to enjoy the atmosphere and appreciate the time with close family and good friends.

So, why am I being such a miserable and cynical old bastard on Christmas morning?

Saturday 25 December 2010

Vicargate – 5.45am Christmas Morning

Overnight, the smell of cooking turkey had slowly drifted upstairs, it’s the Loftus traditional Christmas morning wake-up call. The bird has been in the bottom oven of the aga since 11pm Christmas Eve and will be cooked to perfection when it’s browned off a few hours before lunch. Downstairs, the smell of pine needles and cherry wood logs smouldering on the fire blend with the turkey essence to set the perfect ambience for the perfect Christmas morning.

I didn’t need to peak through the bedroom blinds to see if had been snowing, there’s been a five or six inch covering for days. Snowmen have been built, and the kids have already sledged and snowboarded down the hill from the house to the bottom of the beck that runs between us and the nearest farm, Well House. Olli Strong lives there, one of Dom’s best friends. Besides, it’s pitch black, and there’s no street lighting at Castle Sowerby, but, on a cloudless Christmas Eve night like last night, the clear moon and the millions of stars give a soft cinematic sheen to the ground snow, and on closer inspection of the snow-covered silhouetted trees, the moonlight transforms each one into a crystal chandelier that reflects its glass secrets like a whisky highball left in dining room candlelight.

As they went to bed carrying their pillowcases, the kids left a mince pie and a damson gin for Santa, and a carrot for Rudolph. Reuben had carefully placed them on the hearth next to the log fire, but the dog had eaten the mince pie even before he left the room. As they settled in bed, thinking their private seasonal thoughts, Susan and I quietly brought the boxes of wrapped gifts down from the spare bedroom. Eventually, when the kids were asleep, we stuffed their pillowcases with stocking fillers, and their ‘big’ presents would be left around the tree and added to the ones that had been dropped off by family and friends over the last few days.

The gift opening was now getting progressively later in the morning, Dominic would be 20 in a few weeks, Chloe was 16, and Reuben was 13 a few days ago. It didn’t seem that long ago, that all three of them would burst into our bedroom carrying their pillowcases at 4 or 5am.

I would get endless hours of laughing and paper tearing on the VHS video camera. In 2014, I got 6 or 7 of these tapes, which also included footage of family holidays, parties at Vicargate, weddings scenes, and Christenings, transferred onto DVD.

As I write now on December 25th, 2018,  I still haven’t had the courage to watch any of them. Nonetheless, on Christmas morning 2010 even though all of our children are now in their teens, the anticipation of giving and receiving, and spending the day together, was still as very much a part of the Loftus family Christmas as it was in 1991.

We all came downstairs together. The kettle goes on the aga, a quick rake of the fire, some dry kindling placed on the still glowing embers, and we were in business just as the kettle started to whistle. An hour later, there was a pile of gifts around the feet of everyone, the living room carpet was camouflaged by torn wrapping paper, and without exception, everyone had said, ’Just what I wanted’.

Pan into a family of six people sat around a roaring fire, (Linzi was now living at Vicargate), there’s a twinkling tree in the background, a lazy whippet in the foreground as close to the fire as she can get, and falling snow through French windows to the right.

To start the 6000 calorie intake of this one day, I always cooked smoked salmon and scrambled eggs for breakfast served with a glass of champagne. The toast was buttered and cut into tiny triangles and left on a plate in the warming oven while the finishing touches were put to the eggs. As the eggs started to scramble, black pepper and salt were milled into the pan, the chopped salmon was added, and just before serving on the toast, a dash of cognac and a big glug of double cream was stirred in. To be fair to Dom, he ‘fessed up a few years earlier and said he preferred a bacon sandwich with tomato ketchup. Everyone else stuck to the tradition, but I suspect with one eye on Dom’s sandwich.

The rest of Christmas day always played out roughly the same too, Vicargate often also catering for a mixture of Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. After more Christmas gifts were unwrapped, at around 2 or 3 pm depending on how the aga was performing, homemade canopies were served, a turkey and a ham were placed in the centre of the table, pigs in blankets snuggled closely together in the bottom oven, waiting for their moment of glory, and celeriac, mashed potato, cream and garlic, made their annual pilgrimage, to sit next to the little piglets in the bottom oven, also waited for their roll call.  Sat aloof on a cheese board in the pantry, surrounded by his little celery soldiers, green grapes and a green apple waiting to be serrated, stilton knew he was the final, satisfying piece of the Christmas lunch jigsaw.

After lunch, and for the rest of the day, people chatted, sipped wine, dozed, watched a movie, or played games, the more competitive the better. Then, around 8pm someone would whisper, ‘Fried turkey sandwiches’ and it would get louder until I eventually gave in. The turkey came back out of the pantry, and once more the smell of a cooking bird pervaded the house. Dominic preferred his sandwich to be smothered in mayonnaise and this did become the norm for all the younger ones. As the turkey was being cooked, someone would choose a movie to settle down to, the log fire was banked up for the night, and the family stretched out around the living room, a dog or two sat waiting patiently for titbits.

This wasn’t the last time we enjoyed a ‘normal’ family Christmas celebration, but it was the penultimate and a poignant reminder to me of how families should grow and develop as a unit.

Around this time in 2010, we started to think about our children’s future, their careers, university choices, house deposits, and of course the first thoughts about the patter of new little Loftus feet.

As offspring make their own way in society Christmas time is often the only time a family might get together, we’ve been lucky, we were together every Christmas, and 99.99% of the time in between too.

So, Christmas morning 2018, why am I being such a miserable bastard? Apart from the obvious that Dominic is 28 in a few weeks’ time, but he is no longer a part of that happy family scene and the fact that scene hasn’t actually happened for the last six years because of his death. Life has gone on without him and all his friends’ lives are playing out as their parents had dreamed in their houses, on some similar family Christmas morning, as we did,.

This year, we have watched (happily) from the sidelines as one of Dom’s friends bought a house and was married, another fell in love and he and his beautiful girlfriend worked for months on their house, their friends helping out where they could, and they moved in together too. Another became the proud father of a baby boy and also moved into their family home with his girlfriend.

We are delighted that they and their parents have been privileged to progress through life as planned, but in the knowledge that Facebook doesn’t always portray the normal family ups and downs that dictate our lives. The everyday truths that, there could always be a bit more money in the pot, two siblings don’t get on particularly well, how can that be managed come wedding or christening day, or the in-laws have fallen out about the new-borns name, so is the baby going to called David John, or John David?

Thinking ahead, and with my miserable bastard hat still on, will it really matter in ten years’ time when you’re having a meaningful conversation with David/John about gender reassignment?

Friday 3 March 2017 – Sportsman’s Inn


Sad LucyThe probation officer rang at 12 o’clock today. You were expecting the call at some point this month, but it still came as a blood-stopping, brain freezing, kick in the groin.

She said, ‘He’s getting released today.’

The memories come wave after wave, and you drown in the pain of them all over again. As you sink below the surface, her voice dims to white noise and you think about revenge for the first time, about taking his life, ending it short like he did to Dominic, but doing it slowly, and very very painfully.

Then, you’re curious how his family might react if he too, left them suddenly.

‘He was a wonderful, thoughtful son,’ they would say. ‘How could someone do this to him?’

Everyone else thought he was a dirt-bag apart from other dirt-bags. He needed killing. But surely, even in their narrow innocent perspective, unwrinkled in their unconditional love and their parental blindness, they should suffer as you have?

It wouldn’t be murder, would it? You could plead insanity, diminished responsibility. It could be viewed as an accident if he was crossing the road at the same time that you were driving past. At speed. Or even better, you could do it under the cover of night time, hiding down a dark alley with a cricket bat. Later, you burn the bloodstained willow on the pub’s open fire, the evidence destroyed.

As if your thoughts couldn’t get any darker, you think about other options, like paying someone. On one hand, that’s probably more dangerous than doing it yourself because now two people would know your plans. However, a professional would be more clinical, less emotional and make fewer mistakes. He or she, if there such a job as assasinette, would be more likely to have the right equipment; a gun with the serial code filed off, a stiletto, or an undetectable poison slipped into a pint at the Station Hotel. This toxin doesn’t have an antidote, but it kills slowly and painfully. All major organs shut down. He bleeds from his ears, his nose, and his arse, Ha! you smile at this method. Yes, he’s fucked and his friends can only watch as he dies very slowly.

After recent events at Kuala Lumpur airport, your contractor might contemplate a VX nerve agent. It was very successful, but the finger was automatically pointed at the leader of North Korea. That wouldn’t do. You would be on the police’s suspect list anyway, you’d at least have a motive. So you would ask the killer to pass on this method, yes it’s deadly, but it would be over too quickly, at least for your liking. Where would he get it anyway, unless he has contacts at the highest level in Pyongyang.

Kim Yong-un is paranoid. He sees his relatives as a threat to his rule, and Kim Yong-nam wasn’t the first of his relatives to be mysteriously killed.

What’s the difference between fratricide, Avunculicide or employing a virucide?  You’re not paranoid and you don’t feel threatened, but at this point, you are contemplating organizing, planning, and hiring someone to do your dirty work.

You think about a ‘no win no fee’ type arrangement like mis-sold PPI. If the terminator can provide proof that the contract is complete such as photos of the dead target in a pool of blood, perhaps a headshot with his testicles in his mouth. Even better still bring his head back on a platter, cash in hand, no questions.

‘He’s under the same bail conditions as before,’ she says rising above the white noise. ‘If I can be of any help, you’ve got my number.’

How the hell can she help when you’re drowning?

’Maybe she can,’ you think as your head pops briefly to the surface. Who’s the most violent, unbalanced, and disturbed person on her probation list? Who does she know that has no remorse and has killed before? She could text you his number.

Then again, he might not be around very long as you dream the ironic dream, start the plan in your head, and Google ‘Assasinette.’

Cumbrian Lad gives Will a little support

P1110255Will didn’t have a brilliant start to his life after being diagnosed with leukaemia. However, (drum roll) this year he has completed his senior education at Ullswater Community College (UCC) and has won a place at Newton Rigg College, going on to study Business. His Mum Karen, has worked super hard and is super proud of his achievement, as are the staff at UCC.

But to carry on to Newton Rigg, Will needed some specialised voice software that allows him to interact with a PC, and translate his spoken word to text.

This is where Cumbrian Lad steps in with their small bursary scheme. We were contacted by Heather Hopkinson from UCC and then by Will and Karen to see if we could help.

We managed to locate a copy of the Dragon software that he needed and we met with Will and his Mum this week on Wednesday 9th to present it to him, already pre-installed on a laptop.

Will is a very positive and happy young man with an easy smile, and we too are proud we could make a little difference to his educational experience.

Best of luck for the future Will, and of course to you too Mum!!

Cumbrian Lad

There is still funding available so please Click here to apply

Is the News Media Biased?

The Unreported Journalist.  #IanPLoftus

Like many of my friends, I have slowly become disillusioned with the quality of media news reporting since 23rd June 2016. Perhaps we didn’t notice it before, but as people voted on the most important decision the majority of us will ever make in our life and times, we feel that many of the accounts on the E U referendum have been one sided. I have to say, this bias was much more in favour of the remain camp than the leave, but either way it doesn’t matter, this piece isn’t about sides, it’s about why journalism has left the equitable high ground, and has now entered into the debate, with opinions.

My old fashioned idea of journalism or reporting was; to present the facts, first hand, and in a balanced report. I aspired to this when I was fourteen thinking about careers. Sadly, I have to say, I didn’t go down that route, and my schoolboy view doesn’t seem to be the case any more. Many high profile journalist now often have their own agenda, or follow those of their news outlet, and comment on situations which clearly show a thinly veiled biased view.

They, again mainly high profile journalists, are turning into ‘commentators’ which is fine, but there are certain ways and situations to present that kind of reportage, particularly in the written media. And many ‘Commentators’ do this very well in the press. You always know which side politically they are on, there’s no hidden agenda or thinly disguised pretence of even trying to be balanced. You either buy that paper or you don’t, depending on your views.

I feel the clue is in the word ‘reporter.’ I’m guessing derived from the Latin. ‘Re’ for ‘back’ and ‘portandum’ to ‘carry.’ And, ’Reporto’ is the latin for ‘I carry’ but I’m willing to accept corrections from the word police.

Is this type of reporting happening because editors are looking for original journalism?

I ask that because on a Sky advert today, advertising themselves, the anchor boasted, ‘the only channel with original content.’ Surely, depending how you define ‘original’, the report is the report, particularly in things like ‘Breaking News?’ I might be doing Sky an injustice, and the originality she spoke about is the stories they cover that no-on else is reporting on?

I hurt my arm skiing in January and haven’t been able to drive. Consequently whilst working at my desk, I have had the news on in the background for much of the time. I have watched the news on an off from 7am to 1am the next day, channel hopping between, Sky, Fox, BBC, CNN and Al Jaazera et al, trying to find something new or an unbiased balanced view.

My findings, after four weeks of intense viewing are; the news channels all basically report the same stories and frankly, if you take away the branding of the organisation at the top of the screen, it’s getting very difficult to establish the difference between them. The formats are the same, their views on the story are the same and most disconcerting are the one to one interviews. There’s always the combative approach from many journalists particularly if they have a politician beside them. The journo’ jousts back and forth with them, trying to skewer and embarrass them, very often interrupting them as they answer the question put to them, ‘because they really want to get at the truth of the story.’ The truth is, many of them want to hear the sound of their own voice and more importantly, drive the agenda and their own opinion on the topic.

I googled the meaning of the word journalism, and pulled it off the web, deleting the bits irrelevant to this piece. ‘Ahh, he’s miss directing to prove his point,’ you might argue, but honest Joe, the other bits where actually just not relevant.

a :  the collection and editing of news for presentation through the media

b :  writing designed for publication in a newspaper or magazine

c :  writing characterised by a direct presentation of facts or description of events without an attempt at interpretation

d :  writing designed to appeal to current popular taste or public interest

As well as the pressure from the editor, as everyone is fighting for readers or viewers, there is now also the conundrum of points c: and d: above to content with.

As previously stated, I don’t want to make this into an EU story it’s not, but the way much of the media reported the referendum as it unfolded, as a viewer it started me thinking about how the media’s spin on a story, how ever small can influence a reader or an audience.

As a leaver, it was very frustrating when watching many of the news articles and even a Question Time (Q T) program just recently. The panel consisted of David Dimbleby, clearly unbiased, three remainers and just the one leave campaigner. That combination was always going to end up going in one direction, but it was another one of the things that got me even more interested in this issue of unbalanced reporting.

During the debate, and this program is now just the tip if the politically biased iceberg, David constantly interrupted the leaver when speaking, often after a few seconds and fired another question at her putting further pressure on having not answered the first question satisfactorily. He mainly let the remainers carry on, uninterrupted, and more ashamedly, he explained the point they were making even further.

Whilst Q T IS a politics program and we expect, even relish the cut and thrust of the debate, it’s unbalanced approach gives the viewer a twisted view of what should be an objective argument. Therefore it presents an overexposed view of one side in the debate, consequently changing or confusing opinions. For me as an informed viewer, that’s dangerous, even more so for the viewers on the sideline of the debate wanting to make a decision.

More often than not now, I and my friends find ourselves screaming at the TV screen, or posting frustrated FB messages, and not just during Q T, ’You asked him a bloody question, let him answer it!’ This seems to have crept over from the dedicated political show, when we had the likes of Jeremy Paxman who was so desperate to trip the interviewee up and prove him or her wrong or to be lying, that he became rude, over into the normal everyday News program,

So, here I am, trying to give an unbiased opinion on the biased opinions of the UK media and press.

After four weeks of being desk bound and over indulging in a news fest, I’ve concluded that there are several different types of media bias. The most common include: Bias by omission, that is just leaving stuff out, which occurs when the media just focus on one side of a story, or one aspect of a story, even such as the Q T approach by ‘talking over’ some guests giving the other view more airtime.

There’s bias by selection of sources, which occurs when media outlets leave out sources or interviewees that support an opposing point of view. We’ve seen this recently with the UK immigration debate, especially around the migrants at Calais. The reporting always covers the 1000’s of migrants at the camps, who are starving, cold, living in poor conditions, travelling for months across Europe from their war torn country of origin, ripped off by a trafficker, but now can’t get over to the UK. Compelling viewing, especially with interviews with the migrant. What the reporter invariably fails to say, is that the migrant has crossed six other countries where they could have claimed asylum and need not be in that desperate situation.

Then there’s a bias by story selection, and I’ve seen this right across the US news channels. This type of bias is a pattern of reporting stories that coincide with a specific agenda, which at the moment is ‘Anti-Trump.’ This type of bias occurs when a media outlet regularly reports stories that support only one political point of view. This is similar to bias by story placement. This variation occurs when a news outlet prominently places stories that coincide with a specific agenda while ‘burying’ those that represent an opposing point of view, again, ‘Anti-Trump is still relevant here.

I really didn’t want to head into Donald Trump territory, but for the sake of clarity, biased reporting is not the same as Fake news, but can be just as dangerous. I do suspect though that many of the news stories that President Trump refers to as ‘Fake,’ are actually just a story with the reporters or that media’s outlet own spin on it. Trumps feels they are not in his favour.

As a suggestion, perhaps the main stream political media could take a leaf out of the Six Nations reporting. Rugby is just as passionate and as absorbing as politics, and everyone including the supporters are an expert with a view. The reporting, whether by the English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, French or Italian media, is well made without bias. And at then, everyone has a drink in the bar.

This essay is purely about the quite obvious news bias I’ve encountered since my accident. So, whilst I’ve mentioned various programs, people or current news, this only reflects my own opinions, as I ‘Carry it’ to you.

Naively I did a Google search today, on ‘Biased News reports in the UK.’ I had a return of 2.7 million hits on the same subject.

Clearly it isn’t just me then?


Cinnamon Press update

Just to let you know, I made the final cut but I didn’t win.

The book deal has gone to…….

The Disobedient Wife by Annika Milisic-Stanley.

Congratulations to Annika!!!

Stephen May (The judge) says of this novel:

“I liked the authenticity of the setting and the conflicts and misunderstandings between the characters. I learned about Tajikistan and the weariness of both the NGO workers and the local population was well captured.”

I’m absolutely delighted to get through to the finals with my first submission to a publisher and in my first competition.

‘The Innocents’

Following my MA lecture this week, I have decided to change my screenplay ‘The Innocents’ (6 half hour episodes) an epic medieval ‘road’ movie that has romance, action, religion, honour, intelligent fantasy, and clearly poor dialogue as CBBC rejected it, into my second novel. An epic medieval ‘road’ movie that has romance, action, religion, honour, intelligent fantasy, and lots of sex.

It’s taken me hours to remove all the screenplay formats. but at least if it gets optioned, I’ve already written the screenplay!!!

Planning a novel

Just got yourself a job at Caldbeck 2015 ‘Story Planning Workshop – RK’

The (W)rites of Rob Knipe

Planning a novel can often feel a little daunting, or, as I always used to feel, like a massive pain in the arse and a waste of time. When I wrote A Heist too far and The Good, the Mad and the Undead, I wrote them start to finish, with only a few small pages of notes for each one. Although it worked well enough, and the story was there, I can’t help but feel that they would have been better if I’d have planned them more thoroughly and edited them better (more better? 😉 ).

IMG_5132 Extensive notes on things to add to the second draft of The Good, the Mad and the Undead.

From the one above, I realised that I probably needed a bit more planning, especially when it came to writing A Game of Two Halves this year, when I just couldn’t mentally keep track of which team played…

View original post 794 more words

Short-Listed for Cinnamon Press Debut Novel Competition 2014

I’m pleased to say that my first novel One Hundredth has made the final six.

Billy Elliot meets Cool Running’s.

One Hundredth is the story of MICHEAL MILLER, a 16 year old living in poverty on a Manchester housing estate. It follows his journey from deprivation to finally competing in the most prestigious event in men’s downhill skiing. Michael’s family history is another strand of the story told through his Great, Great, Grandfather. Born into slavery, but he escapes his shackles to a better life, which runs parallel to Michael’s journey.

Good Luck to the other five authors who are short-listed!!!