Vanity Press (or The Glass Bead Game Revisited)

The fact that this was written around the time Rob Slade and I were doing the preparatory work and negotiation on a book called Viruses Revealed does not mean that this piece in any sense refers to Osborne or McGraw-Hill. On the other hand, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t. I did think about doing something similar about my experiences with Syngress and Wiley, but got depressed just thinking about it.

I haven’t any plans to write any more books at present (and if I was, I’d be thinking seriously about self-publishing), but most of the security-related books I’ve been involved with are listed on the Wikipedia entry devoted to me, which is surprisingly accurate. 

Dear Mr. Harley

Thank you for choosing MacMidden McGrawful Simplex and Shyster to publish your book on Algorithmic Approaches to Bio-molecular Modelling, which we will be publishing under the title Shiny Bead Diagrams for Morons. We are pleased to offer you an advance on royalties equivalent to a trainee assistant copyeditor’s salary for one month. You will receive 6.25% of whatever we eventually decide to charge for it, for sales in the United States, and 4% for sales anywhere we don’t care about, such as Europe. As a European, you presumably won’t object to being paid beads, rather like the ones you bought this country with, several years ago.

You will agree never to publish any other book on the same subject, or indeed, using diagrams or mentioning beads, for any other publisher, until the book has been out-of-print for five years or you have been dead for fifteen years, whichever comes later. In any case, we operate a print-on-demand service, so the book will never be out of print unless we get bored with it. If we decide that it’s worth our squeezing a 2nd Edition out of you, you will produce it for exactly the same sum, irrespective of the amount of work entailed, the rate of inflation, and the current exchange rate.

We look forward to receiving your detailed book plan. Please ensure that it specifies the number of pages and words each chapter will contain, including tables and footnotes. We will also need you to supply us with a schedule detailing when each chapter will be submitted, and whether it will arrive before or after lunch. We realize, of course, that other commitments, family illness and so on may lead to unanticipated delays. You should therefore include details of any unanticipated delays in your preliminary schedule.

We regret that we cannot handle whatever archaic word-processor or esoteric document processing package you favour, since you have to use our house-style document template, so that our Desktop Publishing Package doesn’t fall over with its paws in the air. Go and buy a copy of Microsoft Office.

You may wish to know more about the book production process. First of all, we will keep you busy changing the book plan, so as to eliminate any risk of your starting work on the first chapter before the submission date in your original schedule. You will then need to recast the schedule. This should not take more than five or six attempts, as long as you don’t attempt to defer the submission date for the final chapter. This is because we will be arranging all manner of expensive promotional exercises with deadlines we have no intention of telling you about, but expect you to meet nonetheless.

When you submit your first chapter, we will tear it to pieces for not conforming to the Chicago Manual of Style. We do not care that you have never been West of Rhyl: we expect you to write like Jerry Springer talks. Nor have we heard of the Oxford English Dictionary or anyone called Fowler. After we have argued about this for a few weeks, we expect you to submit a style sheet incorporating the spelling and formatting details negotiated over that period. This will be used during the copyediting process to wrap bagels and dispose of gum tidily. It would be helpful if you could submit a digitized photograph of yourself at this stage, so that we have something to spit at.

After we stop laughing, your chapters will then be submitted to a technical reviewer. You are encouraged to suggest the name of a suitably qualified expert in your field. After he or she refuses our contract on the grounds that it costs them more than the fee we’re offering to switch on their laptop in the morning, we will offer the contract to someone who has never heard of you (or vice versa), but who once had a job in a bead factory.

After you have incorporated their suggestions into your chapter, we will pass it on to the copyeditor. Our copyeditors are very careful selected, and have to meet very strict criteria. Copyeditors whose first language is English are only allowed to work on foreign language books. In this case, UK English is not regarded as a foreign language. Copy editors are not allowed a sense of humour. This is to ensure that all traces of wit and irony are removed at the pre-proofing stage. Any copyeditor with an IQ over 90 is diverted to the comics division.

These criteria are strictly enforced, being designed to ensure that the book will be comprehensible to the general public and press, who would never dream of reading your book anyway.

After the copyeditor has squeezed all the life, elegance, humour and academic credibility out of your work, disregarded all your typographical, syntactical, and grammatical errors and introduced some new ones, the proofing editor will ask you to rewrite whole chapters because one or two of the footnotes cite articles without listing the first names and middle initials of one of the contributors. Each chapter then goes to our highly-qualified proofing team, who will take time out from randomly hitting typewriter keys in the hope of writing the complete works of Shakespeare. Their task is to misplace, scramble, or mislocate whole tables and paragraphs, sabotage the formatting, and introduce yet more typographical errors. You will be sent copies of their work in the form of humungous email attachments which you will be expected to review and return within two hours so that we can get on with the indexing. Trust us, you do not want to know about the index compiler, whose fee will come out of your advance.

This, by the way will be sent to you in dribs and drabs as you reach arbitrary milestones in the production process, just often enough to stop you abandoning the project in a fit of rage. Regardless of the fact that you are not a US national, we will send you numerous forms relating to taxation, so as to give us an excuse for delaying dispatch of royalty cheques, proofs, and author’s copies. Just to inject a little humour into your tight-assed English life, we will also enter your address into our database correctly, apart from the suffix “Shetland Islands”, despite the fact that you live in Lyme Regis. This will ensure that cheques will not reach you until you have written them off and asked us to stop them and send another.

We look forward to playing – errr, working – with you.

Yours truly,
Aaron Grunge
Acquisitions Editor

[Any resemblance to any real publisher, living or brain-dead, is entirely coincidental. David Harley, 23rd August, 2001]

Trencrom – a Woolf at the Door

One of my friends on Facebook drew my attention to an excellent blog article from 2019 by The Cornish Bird about Virginia Woolf in Cornwall. While I was vaguely aware of Virginia Woolf’s connection with Cornwall and in particular with the Godrevy lighthouse, which partially inspired her 1927 novel To The Lighthouse (I’m going to have to reread it now), I hadn’t realized how large a part the county had played in her life. Nor had I realized that on a spontaneous visit at Christmas 1909, she recorded paying a visit to Trencrom hill, very close to the engine house that gives its name to this blog.

Wheal Alice and Trencrom’s Iron Age hill fort 

As Elizabeth Dale says in her article, Trencrom (or Trecobben) is indeed “a place full of history and legend”: I was very aware of that when I wrote the song ‘Cornish Ghosts’, which took shape while I was doing my daily walks around and on the hill. The next time I walk to the top, not many minutes from where I’m writing this, I’ll surely think of Virginia Woolf sitting there in the mist.

David Harley

The Game of London [demo]

The first version of this was written in the 1970s: I remembered it suddenly as a possible title for a current album project, and finally found the lyric. I did tweak the lyric somewhat to make it less gender-specific. A version will probably appear on the album.

No, it isn’t autobiographical…

Jack in the Box

Down in the workhouse when I was a lad
No tongue can relate all the pleasures we had
Dry bread, and Bastille soup by the bowl
And a flogging or two for the good of our souls x2

A tale I recall of those happy times
And an orphan lad always to mischief inclined
He was ever in line for a kick, at the best
And the poor workhouse master could scarcely find rest

Till came the day one of the other lads died
“Aha!” says the master, “I’ll settle your pride!”
He shut up the lad in the dead-house to stay
Alone with the coffin until the next day

But what should Jack do but open the box
He takes out the corpse, and with it swaps clothes
Props it up on the rail at the top of the stairs
Then he hops in the box and the winding-sheet wears

And when it grew dark, the master came up
With a plate for Jack, some victuals to sup
Holds it out to the corpse on the rail
Who says not a word, but stands stiff, cold and pale

“Well, take it!” the master says in surprise
“I should think you’d be starving by now, damn your eyes!”
Then up leaps Jack, who was lying so still
And says “If he wunna eat it, I will!”

When the master heard this he got such a fright
He let go of the plate, and turned whiter than white
Gave a terrible shriek, such a fright did he get
Fell back down the stairs and near broke his neck

Wasn’t that a sad fall for a man such as he
So kind to his charges, with his boot so free?
So pity the poor who must live on the roll
And think on the guardians and pray for their souls

A half-written song of mine based on a story of Knighton workhouse from ‘An idler on the Shropshire borders’, by Ida Gandy. Told to her by Ellen Hughes (nee Jordan) 1864-1940 also known as Granny Hughes. Many thanks to her granddaughter Denise Lewis of the Memories of Shropshire FB group for the information and photograph.

The song doesn’t doesn’t have a tune yet.

(c) David Harley

Llanfair Wakes

There was a man, long years ago, lived up in Skyborry
David ap-Evan was his name, a farmworker was he
Those days in Llanfair Waterdine each year they held a fair
And David dearly wished to go and see the wonders there.

“Gaffer, today is Llanfair Wakes; I’d dearly love to see
The doings that I’ve heard of there, if you can just spare me.”
Said farmer, “Not this year; why, mon, myself I have to go.
While I’m away, you must stay and scare away the crows.”

So David went down to the field, though he thought it wunna fair
And while he stood and grumbled, he saw a stranger there.
“David, it’s the Wakes today: why aren’t you at Llanfair?”
“Cos gaffer says to stay home, these ruddy crows to scare.”

Says the stranger, “Come with me, for I mean you no harm,”
And straightaway he called the crows and shut them in the barn.
So David went down to the Wake, and coming to Llanfair
He’d scarce been minutes in the place when he met the farmer there.

When he told the farmer what had passed, the mon began to rail:
Says he, “You think I’m simple, but I’ll not believe that tale!”
So back they went together, and the farmer said no word
Till they opened up the old barn door, and out flew all the birds.

“David, this is Devil’s work,” said farmer with a frown.
“I think you’d best be on your guard next time he comes around.”
Sure enough, before too long back the owd devil did roll,
A-tempting him to this and that till he feared for his soul.

One day as he was sowing wheat, the Devil told him straight,
“David, you must let me have half your crop of wheat,
So tell me which is my share, and you may keep the rest.”
“Why, take the roots!” said David, and so he came off best.

And sure enough the Devil came by as he was planting spuds.
Surely thinking this time he’d do himself some good.
“I’ve a mind to try some tater pie” says he, being cute,
“And I’ll not be caught out twice, me lad, so this time you’ll take the roots.”

Says David, “Twice I’ve bested thee, and third time pays for all:
But there’s a job you’ll do for me, if you mun take my soul.
Fetch me water from Llanfair up here to Skyborry,
And for summat to carry it in, this owd sieve I’ll give to thee.”

Owd Joseph tried, and tried his best, but no water could he bring.
“Third time pays for all,” said David with a grin.
“Uncle Joe, I’ve bested thee: you’d best be on your way,
And if you call this way again you can bring some tater pie!”

In course of time old David died, and when they read his will
It said “When I die, fling my heart onto the owd dunghill.
A raven and dove will fight for it, and then by that you’ll know:
If the dove wins, I’m for heaven; if the raven, for Uncle Joe.”

“And when my corpse you come to take, dunna go by the door,
Nor yet by any window, nor by any path or road.
And when you come to bury me, you’d best be on your guard:
Be certain not to lay me in church, or in churchyard.”

So they took some slates from off the roof to lift him through the gap,
And carried him along the dykes, and not by any path.
They laid him with his head in church, his feet in the churchyard,
And there he lay until at last Llanfair church was restored.

This is based on another story from ‘An Idler On The Shropshire Borders’, by Ida Gandy, told to her by a Mr Powell from Treverward, about halfway between Clun and Llanfair Waterdine. I’m not sure yet whether to put a tune to it or leave it as a recitation – poem seems a bit too grandiose a name for it. 🙂

According to Wikipedia,  “Skyborry” is an anglicisation of the Welsh for barn – ysgubor”. Llanfair or Llanvair means St Mary’s Church, while Waterdine denotes a place by the water.

(c) David Harley

Twm Siôn Cati 

A man of resource and a thief well-famed
Tregaron my home, Twm Siôn Cati my name
Your horses and cattle are all of my game
But rich and respected I’ll die, just the same

In an ironmonger’s shop in Llandovery fair
A fancy I took to a porridge pot there
Said the man “Oh, I have three of the best”
And one I admired above all of the rest

But before I ventured to lay money down
I examined the pot above and around
“Oh no, my good man, this won’t do for me:
There’s a hole in this pot as you plainly may see.”

He peeked in the pot, said “Your pardon I crave,
But no hole can I find, as I hope to be saved.”
“If you put in your head, you’ll see it quite plain…”
So he put in his head and tried once again.

But the man had such brains, his head hardly would fit
So I rammed the pot down, meaning but to assist:
The while that he struggled to free himself there
I tiptoed away with the other pair.

But as I departed, my pots in my hand,
Some advice I gave, as I left him to stand:
“Indeed, there’s a hole, for if there were not,
However could you put your head in the pot?

A story from George Borrow’s ‘Wild Wales’ about “the Welsh Robin Hood”, though Borrow didn’t seem to like him very much. Samuel Rush Meyrick tells a rather different version of the same story in ‘The History of Cardiganshire’ (1907). I wrote this at some point in the 70s, but haven’t put a tune to it so far.

(c) David Harley

Easy Jack [demo]

Words & music (c) David A. Harley

Originally written in the early 1980s for a revue directed by Margaret Ford, but not used. Because I wanted to reflect the sort of rough humour I often encountered in various industrial settings around that time, it originally included a reference to a misogynistic ‘joke’ I’d heard about a female worker described as ‘the factory bike’, not because I found it amusing, but because it was the way people often talked in those settings. When I found the song again, I decided that any authenticity it added wasn’t worth the discomfort.

Jack-easy is slang for very easy. If I remember correctly, it was also the name of a strip cartoon in one of the tabloids about a stereotypical British workman.

Bread and beer and a roof for your head
Easy, Jack, easy
Spinning a lathe until you drop dead
Easy, Jack, take it easy

Three pound an hour while you’re on your feet
Easy, Jack, easy
And all the chips and beans you can eat
Easy, Jack, take it easy

When I was still young and in my prime
Easy, Jack, easy
I’d knock out those countersinks ten at a time
Easy, Jack, take it easy

Now I’ve got wise and a rick in my back
Easy, Jack, easy
I keep two on the table and eight on the rack
Easy, Jack, take it easy

Here comes the foreman, the king of the shop
Easy, Jack, easy
I’d give a day’s pay to see his pressures drop
Easy, Jack, take it easy

When you get your ticket, take it from me
Easy, Jack, easy
Leave eight on the table and two up your sleeve
Easy, Jack, take it easy

David A. Harley



Apprentice Song [demo]

Written many years ago for a revue, but not used. The tune is basically ‘Tramps and Hawkers’. Vocal needs work. Or maybe it should stay as a poem.

(c) David  A. Harley

Fetch the rolls: make the tea: grab the end of that
And sand it till your fingers bleed, if you think you’ve planed it flat.

Call yourself apprentice? Lad, I’d be ashamed
If I knew so little, to be called by such a name

Never mind the splinters: In a year or two
You’ll have quite forgotten that they ever bothered you.

Hands as hard as English oak, muscle, skill and guile:
That’s what makes a craftsman; but not you, for a while

 Cut yourself, you silly sod? Take care, if you please,
And don’t bleed on the timber: do you think it grows on trees?

Call yourself a craftsman? No, lad, never you.
Though if you try your hardest, one day you might scrape through

 So you’ve got your piece of paper? I hope I’ve taught you well,
And I won’t deny you’re willing: no doubt time will tell.

Call yourself a craftsman? That’s as may well be…
Another year, or five, or ten, and then perhaps we’ll see…

David A. Harley