Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Still hoping for Akmal Shaikh

As the time ticks by, I hope very much that the Chinese government might show mercy to Akmal Shaikh who is sentenced to be executed at 1030 Chinese time (0230 GMT) today. The following story shows that the government has made a final appeal to China to halt his execution on the grounds that he is thought to be mentally ill. Foreign Office minister Ivan Lewis said the execution would be "entirely inappropriate" after last-ditch talks with the Chinese ambassador in London. He also said that it "cannot be right that there has not been any medical assessment done of Mr Shaikh's mental condition. In any judicial system that simply cannot be acceptable."

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Short summary of BabyBarista Reviews

For a more detailed summary and links to the reviews click here.

REVIEWS
Broadcaster Jeremy Vine: "a wonderful, racing read - well-drawn, smartly plotted and laugh out loud"

Newspapers and magazines
The Times (Kirsty Brimelow): "a cross between The Talented Mr Ripley, Rumpole and Bridget Jones’s Diary...a gallop of a read"
The Times (Iain Finlayson): "'The Legal Apprentice'...with relentlessly racy, rumbustiously Rumpolean humour"
The Independent (Robert Verkaik): "For all those aspiring advocates who believe they are entering a glamorous or even principled profession, this book is essential reading."
The Lawyer Magazine: "If this is a fictional account it is genius"
Big Issue (Scotland & Wales): "[a] blistering romp through chambers...devilishly funny"
Western Morning News: "hilarious...his characters...are all deliciously ghastly."
Edinburgh Evening News: "fascinating, subversive and pretty much impossible to put down"
Counsel Magazine: "has certainly earned the right to stand there alongside Rumpole in the pantheon of legal fiction."
The Bookseller (choice for August 2009 and a top title): "wickedly funny...likely to appeal to Geraint Anderson's Cityboy market"
Northern Echo (and Western Daily Press): "Possibly the funniest blog-turned-book to hit the shelves this year"
Legal Week: "more than enough laughs to keep the reader on the right side of the dubious ethical path plotted by the central protagonist"
NSW Bar News (by novelist Richard Beasley): "very funny...a well-rounded and sharply observed comedy"
Weekly Law Reports: "provides an authentic flavour of chambers life, with its… rituals, and heirachies and often petty absurdities."
Devon Life: " the hilarious upward struggle of a pupil barrister"
Magdalene Matters: "In the great tradition of A P Herbert and John Mortimer (barristers - practising or otherwise - blessed with a gifted pen) comes Tim Kevan"

Writers/celebrities
Author Boris Starling (Messiah): "sharp, acerbic, and almost illegally funny"
Author David Wolstencroft (creator of Spooks): "Tim Kevan is a masterful manipulator"
Newsreader and broadcaster Katie Derham: "[BabyBarista] is very clever, very funny, and his double dealing antics had me gripped."
Boxer Barry McGuigan MBE: "a terrific read which makes you both laugh and keep the pages turning"
Actress Denise Welch (Coronation Street, Loose Women): "sassy, sexy and hilariously funny."
Author Andy Martin (Stealing the Wave, Invisible Cows): "beyond any reasonable doubt fast, funny, and furious".
Author Thomas Farber (Face of the Deep): "Tim Kevan has deployed extreme wit...very well-honed satire"

Websites and blogs
Bar Council: "Tim follows in a tradition of barristers writing legal comedy including...the great John Mortimer"
U.S. Review site Rebecca's Reads: ""hilariously funny...British Humour at its Pristine Best."
Blogger Charon QC: "a Hogarthian romp, a parody, a satire with edge"
Blogger Geeklawyer: "a hilarious parody of the profession" and "a side-splitting read"
Infamy or Praise blog: "a book worth reading; it's entertaining and insightful...well worth your time"
Overlawyered.com blog: "a fun story...with a dash of the mischief and romance of Ferris Bueller"
Family Lore Blog: "genuinely laugh-out-loud...well thought-out and cleverly written...pure comedy"
Delia Venables Legal Information: "an extremely funny exposure of what it is like to be a pupil barrister"
Law Minx blog: "a fine and rollicking yarn...you won't be able to put it down once you've started!"
Family Law Week Blog: "[a] hugely enjoyable debunking of the world of the Bar"
Swordplay blog: “fast, furious and effervescent, a Bucks Fizz-meets-Machiavelli of a book."
CaseCheck: "a legal Belle Du Jour, without the sex, but with wigs…a well crafted, highly enjoyable chambers based comedy."
Kent University’s The Argument: " imaginative and very captivating"
Lee Solicitors blog: "a rollicking read...[a] hybrid between...John Mortimer...infused with a feel of James Herriot."
Blogger Michael Scutt: "There's plenty to amuse both lawyers and non-lawyers alike...a good holiday read..."

Two reviews of BabyBarista in The Weekly Law Reports Student Newsletter Autumn/Christmas 2009 (click to enlarge)
















Saturday, December 26, 2009

'Scribblings from the Surf' - Devon Life 1/10: North Devon's School Sports

The seventh in a series entitled 'Scribblings from the Surf' for Devon Life. To read the article see the text below or click to enlarge the pictures of the original article below that. To see the whole series, click here.

NORTH DEVON’S SCHOOL SPORTS

Barrister and writer Tim Kevan discovers that sport is alive and well in two of North Devon’s schools

With all the chat of the rise of obesity and young people being distracted by computer games, it’s refreshing to hear good news from North Devon schools in relation to sport and particularly outdoor activites which might not be considered mainstream. That is exactly what both Braunton and Kingsley Schools have to offer.

Braunton School
It’s not often you hear about a school which has a national champion and even less common to find one which has produced a host of them in recent years. Perhaps it’s the outdoors life or maybe the fact that so many parents enjoy sport themselves but such is the pedigree of Braunton School and Community College. Most recently this was seen in their domination of the Hunter Billabong British Schools surf contest in 2009 in which they not only regained their team title but even their B team won enough points to put them in third place. Members of the team included pupils and ex-pupils such as Karma Worthington who took the under 18 girls title, Stuart Campbell who won the under 18 boys title and Flora Lawton who won the under-18 girls bodyboard title.

But perhaps most impressive of all are the achievements of 14-year-old Lucy Campbell who not only won the under 16 girls UK pro surf tour in 2009 but also won seven titles at a National Surf Life-Saving competition in the same year. What’s more, Lucy, along with fellow pupil Laura Crane who won the British under 14 title in 2009, will be representing Britain at the 2010 ISA World Junior Surfing Chamionships in New Zealand.

But it’s a school not just defined by its champions in sporting terms. As head teacher Dave Sharratt is keen to point out, it’s about engaging all levels and abilities and helping children to build their confidence. To this end sport pervades much of school life with, for example, pupils having made a surfboard, skateboard and even a board rack as part of their technology course work. Then there are the beach days for the whole school as well as the fact that the school was second in a national competition for the Youth Sport Trust in they designed a circuit for pupils with struggling fitness.

It all reflects a great ethos for the school’s sporting activities and this is reinforced by head of PE Steve Rogers who mentions that rock-climbing is on the curriculum and that he’s even trying to get surfing and life-saving officially recognized in this capacity too. Above all, it’s a community school and involves members of the community at many levels including assistance from the likes local rock-climber Mike Alford and ex-pupil and champion surfer turned trainer Sarah Whiteley.

Kingsley School
Another school with close links to the community is Bideford’s Kingsley School which was formed in 2009 and is the first new independent school in Devon for over 50 years, having been formed out of a merger of Grenville College and Edgehill College. After huge investment over the summer it is now fully integrated on the Northdown Campus, formerly the site of Edgehill College, with classrooms, theatre, sports facilities, boarding houses, a sixth form centre and the Dyslexia Department which has been a jewel in Grenville’s crown for many years.

One of the sports for which the old Grenville College was rightly well-known was rowing and it was fitting that they chose to celebrate the foundation of the new school in October with amongst other things a rowing event with the Bideford Blues Rowing Club at which the guests of honour were two rowing gold medalists in the form of brothers Jonny and Greg Searle. They joined the teachers and pupils for a training run on the river followed by a small ceremony in front of the statue of the school’s namesake Charles Kingsley on Bideford waterfront. Kingsley was a local man, rector, teacher, tutor and most famously author of ‘Westward Ho!’ and ‘The Water Babies’.

After their stint on the river, the two brothers were full of praise for the school with Greg emphasising in particular that it was lovely to see people getting the chance to go rowing outside of the Thames Valley and Jonny Searle specifically mentioning the high standard of the rowing itself. This was high praise indeed and no doubt in large measure due to the school’s rowing coach Tina Robertson who mentioned that last year the ladies under 14 team won at the South Coast Championship and not so long ago the boys under 18 crew held the fastest time at the Exeter Winter Head.

But as with Braunton School’s head teacher, Kingsley’s headmaster Andy Waters is keen to emphasise the inclusive nature of their sporting activities and how they can help to develop the personalities and skills of all involved. Not that rowing is the only activity which is offered outside of the mainstream sports. The school also does judo and gymnastics to extremely high standards and then of course there is once again surfing. P.E. teacher and head of surfing Simon Mathers perhaps best personifies all that is positive about the school, having himself competed in the inaugural Lundy Swim Challenge. He not only teaches surf live-saving and takes the students out surfing at Westward Ho! and the beaches around Bude but also takes them out kayaking, running on the beach and around the cliffs at Abbotsham and climbing at Hartland Point. He also mentions that one of the pupils, James Bunney, is in the Great Britain team for ski paddle as well as the Great Britain squad for triathlon. All in all, it’s another wonderful school of which North Devon can be proud.

So despite all the talk which denigrates education and sport in this country, it’s great to discover that in two schools in particular there is instead much to be celebrated.

Tim Kevan is the author of the comic novel ‘BabyBarista and the Art of War’ (Bloomsbury) and the co-author of ‘Why Lawyers Should Surf’ (with Dr Michelle Tempest). www.timkevan.com.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Article in Legal Week about literary lawyers from a few months ago

Article from a few months in Legal Week about literary lawyers.
Success stories
Author: Alex Aldridge 02 Jul 2009 10:13

Alex Aldridge meets the next generation of literary lawyers and asks what it takes to get published

With their weakness for long-winded sentences, concern with preserving reputation and grinding 24/7 workloads, lawyers aren’t the sort of people you’d immediately associate with creative writing. But the link between law and literature has always been strong. And where Charles Dickens, Henry Cecil Leon and John Mortimer once walked, now come the next generation of lawyer-novelists.

One Temple Gardens barrister Tim Kevan – AKA Times Online legal blogger BabyBarista – is the lawyer-turned-writer of the moment. The commercial disputes and personal injury specialist’s first novel, BabyBarista and the Art of War, will be published by Bloomsbury in July.

Having begun BabyBarista as an independent blog three years ago, Kevan was contacted by The Times with an offer to host the blog on its website about six months after he started writing. A book deal followed soon after. “What has happened is beyond my wildest dreams,” says Kevan, who did most of the writing while “sitting on trains to various courts”. He adds that he has no problem adapting his style to make it accessible to non-lawyers: “Barristers are, by nature, storytellers. And the human interest side of life at the Bar makes great material for books.”

More tricky was keeping his identity quiet as speculation as to the identity of BabyBarista raged around the Inns of Court (the blog was written anonymously until Kevan outed himself earlier this year). “I was keen to keep my name under wraps in the beginning, as I enjoyed the anonymity of the writing, though given that it was genuinely fictional and that I was writing in the voice of a pupil barrister, I didn’t arouse too much suspicion.”

Based in Devon, where he is taking a few years off to surf, write and run an online seminars business, Kevan is set to return to practise law in the near future (he still holds a door tenancy at 1 Temple Gardens), having found that he misses the camaraderie of life at the Bar. He has no plans to give up the writing though, with a BabyBarista sequel based on his continuing Times Online blog already underway.

Another lawyer drawing inspiration from the legal profession to fulfil his creative urges is Andrew Iyer. By day, Iyer (pictured) heads up Ince & Co’s energy litigation team. By night, he pens John Grisham-style thrillers. He’s currently working on his third book, The Discovery, having already crafted two thrillers, Domino Run and The Betrayed. All the books feature lawyers in lead roles – the first starring a City solicitor, the second a partner in a provincial law firm and the third an in-house lawyer.

Iyer got into creative writing in his teens, contributing short stories to his school magazine, before going on to write plays at university. Alongside his two novels, he has also penned a professionally-performed play about football called The Big Game and an off-Broadway musical revue, Living in America.

Where does he find the time? “Mainly after work and when I’m travelling on business – which is something I do fairly regularly as an energy lawyer,” responds Iyer. “It takes discipline, but once I get going it actually helps me to relax.” He adds that the case management skills he has honed through his years as a litigator have helped him when “developing the mechanics of a novel”.

Although Iyer is passionate about writing, he is realistic about its downsides – “the solitude, the obsessive element of honing a particular plot, the financial uncertainty” – and has no plans to leave his day job. His advice to aspiring authors has a correspondingly down-to-earth theme: “If your sole intention is to get published, then you’ll probably be disappointed. Focus on writing the novel for the sake of it, because you enjoy it. If you do that, you’ll probably end up with a better draft.”

Unlike Kevan and Iyer, barrister and children’s author Frank Hinks QC mostly steers clear of the law when in writer mode. “There are a couple of times when I’ve drawn inspiration from the law – in the Magic Magpie, I based a character on a notorious Chancery division judge – but generally I get my ideas elsewhere,” says the Serle Court Chambers silk. As for the style of writing, Hinks describes it as “the antithesis of anything I ever drafted at the Chancery Bar – chalk and cheese”. A flick through his latest book, The Kingdom of the Deep – a story about some boys magicked to an underwater kingdom by a witch (fortunately, they’re rescued by a cat) – confirms this.

Hinks wrote his first full-length children’s adventure when he was 16, but it wasn’t until he had children himself – providing a captive audience on which to perfect his storytelling skills – that he started thinking about writing seriously. The recession of the early 1990s provided him with a perfect window of opportunity: “Suddenly all the property work just disappeared and I found myself sitting in my room at Lincoln’s Inn with just enough work for three days a week, at which point I thought: ‘Right, this is the time to write up the stories I’ve been telling the kids.’”

But Hinks’ decision to diversify his practice to include authoring children’s books (for which he also does the illustrations) didn’t meet everyone’s approval: “At first when my senior clerk came into my room while I was working on an illustration, he’d look at me as if I was snorting cocaine,” he recalls. Happily, the doubters have since come around, with Hinks now ‘out’ as an author/illustrator: “For much of my life my intellectual side was fulfilled, but my creative side wasn’t. At the moment, though, I’m satisfying both.”

The strictly adult writing of ex-Allen & Overy (A&O) senior associate Deidre Clark is a long way from The Kingdom of the Deep. Having spent two decades doing 70-hour weeks as a corporate lawyer with Simpson Thacher in New York and then A&O in London, Clark suddenly found herself with free time on her hands after a move to A&O’s less hectic Moscow office. She decided to put it to use by embarking on a sexually-charged novel about expat life – written under the pseudonym Deidre Dare. After several months of posting chapters on her website, the A&O management in London got wind of what Clark was doing and dismissed her, leading to a flurry of media attention and an unfair dismissal lawsuit.

“The whole thing was awful – the worst time of my life,” she recalls. “There was this gigantic scandal, my family were very upset, and from January to March it was very bad. But then, as human beings do, I adjusted to the situation.”

The bright side of all of this was that she attracted an editor and agent for her book and got a weekly column with a Russian English-language newspaper, The Moscow News. The $200 per week that she earns from the column is not quite A&O rates, but it’s just about enough to keep her ticking over while she waits for her book to be published and fights the unfair dismissal case. “I have enough money for a year or so, but I’m still facing a crisis – my hope is that my book will support me,” adds Clark.

How to get published

•Court publicity. Getting into a bust-up with her employer over erotic writing published on a website featuring semi-naked photos of herself worked for Deidre Dare, but it cost her a top-paying job.
•Self-publish. Frank Hinks QC published his first batch of short stories under the name ‘Perronet Press’ – a publishing house he set up himself. After the initial success of those books, Hinks decided to continue self-publishing. His most recent book, The Kingdom of the Deep, was reviewed in both The Guardian and The Telegraph.
•Persevere. “You’ve got to be thick-skinned,” says Andrew Iyer, a partner at Ince & Co and author of two legal thrillers. “I never actually managed to get an agent, but I kept sending out my manuscript and eventually secured a publishing deal directly.”
•Blog. The blogosphere may contain a lot of rubbish, but that means when something good comes along it tends to get noticed, as BabyBarista author Tim Kevan discovered when The Times and two publishing houses came calling after stumbling upon his fictional blog about life at the junior Bar.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Article for Writers and Artists website

Here's an article I had published a little while ago on the Writers and Artists website.

From blog to book deal
October 26, 2009 by Writers, Artists and Insiders

Back in 2007 I had been practising as a barrister for some nine years when I started writing a blog about a fictional young trainee barrister who I called BabyBarista, a play on words based on his first impression being that his coffee-making skills were probably as important to that year as any forensic legal abilities he may have.
One of the most satisfying things I found about blogging was the immediacy of the publishing process. You think it up, type it out on your keyboard and then publish. It also allows the writer in many ways to busk or play around with ideas and see how they work.

It’s a strange thing to say but I discovered that this bold, irreverent and mischievous voice along with a collection of colourful characters had simply jumped into my head and the words started pouring on to the page. I was hopeful it might raise a few smiles, but in my wildest dreams I hadn’t imagined quite the extraordinary set of circumstances which then unfolded.

First it received a glowing comment in a legal magazine and off the back of that I emailed a few publishers and started getting interest as well as taking on a literary agent who had approached me direct. In the meantime, The Times kindly offered to host the blog and finally, I was offered a book deal with Bloomsbury – all within the space of less than three months.

Since that hectic start, it’s been a long haul. I took a break from practising as a barrister and moved to North Devon, where not only have I been able to go surfing a little more frequently but I also finished the book. It finally came out in August and does seem to have been well received with broadcaster Jeremy Vine describing it as “a wonderful, racing read – well drawn, smartly plotted and laugh-out-loud”.

The book is called BabyBarista and the Art of War and centres around BabyB’s first year in chambers where he is fighting his fellow pupils for the coveted prize of a permanent tenancy. It’s a fictional caricature of life at the Bar and includes characters that probably exist in most workplaces. Alongside the pupillage race is an altogether different battle with BabyB’s corrupt pupilmaster whose dishonest fiddling of chambers’ records all starts to unravel and threatens to embroil BabyB’s entire career.

With the first book finished, I’m now working on book two in the series and very much enjoying life down here by the sea.

What can (and can’t) a blog do for a writer? “Blogging is definitely one tool which might help some writers. The need to keep it up-to-date can provide discipline and the diary format gives an immediate structure, particularly for first person narratives.” Read more in our full interview with Tim Kevan.

Tim Kevan is a barrister and writer and the author of ‘BabyBarista and The Art of War’ published by Bloomsbury.

Surfing the Amazon

'Glass Love' by Andrew Kidman

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Bar Council promotes social mobility

A new report shows how the Bar has adopted the widest range of initiatives of any profession to encourage social mobility. The Bar Council, in conjunction with the Inns of Court has launched No bar to the Bar, a review of the diverse measures adopted by the profession to help all those of ability to have access to a career as a barrister, regardless of their background. 'No bar to the Bar' takes stock of the Bar’s continuing work in this area, and gives a snapshot of just some of the talented applicants who have achieved real success at the Bar and within the judiciary. They include: Andrew Powell, a tenant at 4 Paper Buildings, Kate Grange, a tenant at 39 Essex Street and Lady Justice Hallett, a member of the Court of Appeal.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sponsored Guest Post: Health and safety – finding the right balance with accident claims

When David Cameron made his headline grabbing attack on what he described as the “Health and Safety Culture” in a speech earlier this month, he seemed to have hit a chord with many people in Britain. But have health and safety regulations, and workplace accident claims really become a restrictive influence on employers and on the public at large?

Occupational health and safety grew out of a realisation in the early to mid 20th century that many fatal workplace accidents and injuries could be prevented. In recent years however, a common theme in the press has been the criticism both of excessive health and safety regulation and of compensation claims made by people injured in workplace accidents.

Much of the health and safety criticism focuses on so-call ‘health and safety myths’ which are often portrayed as fact. They include stories such as the old favourite that schoolchildren playing conkers were issued with safety goggles, which in fact referred to an isolated incident which had more to do with simple misinterpretation than it did with actual health and safety regulations.

Compensation claims come in for similar criticism when stories in the media report people who have received substantial settlements for what appear to be comparatively minor injuries. What isn’t reported in many cases is the life-long impact these injuries might have, and how they might affect a person’s ability to support themselves financially. Many large compensation settlements are mainly composed of the monies that the injured person could have been expected to earn had their injury not cut short their career, or left them unable to do their previous job.

When criticising these issues, it is important to look at whether any issues are the fault of excessive regulation, or whether the blame lies with the person or persons interpreting these regulations. Health and safety is about assessing risks in the workplace and taking appropriate action, it is not about wholesale banning of things such as school activities. Likewise, compensation claims solicitors are there to help genuinely injure people to seek redress for their injuries from those responsible.

Author: Neil Worrall

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Hemp Fabric UK

If you need to buy hemp then look no further than Hemp Fabric UK. It is run by Samantha Pickering who is based in North Devon and is also a full-time mum of four. As she says on her website:

"I got into hemp by accident, thanks to my children and an existing business, Happy Nappy Days, which supplies cloth nappies. I had been looking to add a natural, environmentally friendly, absorbent and soft fabric to my product range – and hemp seemed to be the answer. As luck would have it I then discovered Hemp Fabric UK. I was very impressed with the business and the amazing potential of hemp so, on discovering that the people running the company couldn’t commit the time to developing it properly, I decided to buy it. That was in February 2006. I am still thrilled to be working with such a versatile material and continue to learn about its properties, uses and applications."

Since then the business has gone from strnegth to strength and in 2008 it was selected as a regional finalist in the HSBC Start Up Stars Award for Western, Wales and Northern Ireland. Then this year Samantha was invited to 10 Downing Street along with 150 of the UK's top entrepreneurs and business leaders as was reported in The North Devon Journal.

Review of BabyB at Spada's Swordplay Blog

Nice review of BabyBarista and the Art of War at the excellent legal blog run by Spada and entitled Swordplay. You can read the full article and all the recommendations here. The following is the text about BabyBarista:

"Barrister-turned-writer Kevan seems to have secured more plaudits than a Nobel prize winner with his first novel, a romp through London’s Inns of Court. Baby Barista is fast, furious and effervescent, a Bucks Fizz-meets-Machiavelli of a book. Fans might care to slip a book token amid its pages – Kevan is penning a sequel."

Exmoor Adventures

If you're looking for an activity break or just a great day out then look no further than Dan French's Exmoor Adventures. They do kayaking, canoeing, mountain-biking (and hire), rock climbing and coasteering as well as all round activity days from £25 per person for a half day. Dan himself was brought up in Minehead and has over 7 years experience in the outdoor industry and has a range of national governing body qualifications as well as a degree in 'Outdoor Studies'. He has worked in a number of Activity Centres in the UK ranging from Cornwall and the Lake District through to the western Isles of Scotland. The job has also taken Dan to the United Arab Emirates and Spain, where adventurous activities have been delivered to a range of clients. His NGB quailications include Mountain Bike Leader, Mountain Leader, NARS Beach Lifeguard, Single Pitch Rock Climbing Award, BCU Level 3 Kayak and Level 2 Canoe Coach. All instructors employed by Exmoor Adventures have the necessary NGB's, are experienced and fully insured. For more information, click here.

Friday, December 11, 2009

USBCELL rechargeable batteries, space elevators and Christmas stockings

Every year, tens of billions of alkaline batteries from Christmas gadgets and toys are thrown into landfill as toxic waste. According to the clever people at USBCELL, that’s enough rubbish batteries to build a column to the moon and back vs the greener alternative of using rechargeable batteries. Scientists at Moixa Energy , the pioneering UK Cleantech company behind energy innovations such as re-usable USBCELL batteries,and low cost home energy systems are researching future ideas.

Space columns or cables, according to the late Arthur C Clarke, could form Space Elevators, to provide lower carbon methods of traveling into geo-stationary orbit and beyond, due to the reduced amount of fuel burnt in the atmosphere, and recovery of energy from bringing meteorite/minerals back to Earth. Moixa Energy postulates that perhaps rather than throwing batteries into landfill, which is soon to be illegal in the UK under the recent EU Batteries Directive, disposable batteries could be used as a scaffold or vine, on which to grow hyper strong carbon nanotubes. The nanotubes would be formed by ‘eating’ and cleansing C02 from the atmosphere, and releasing O2 and perhaps also use up residual energy left in the batteries. The idea may seem far fetched, but scientists at Cambridge University are progressing developments on light-weight flexible nano-tubes, motivated by a $4m prize challenge from NASA. Simon Daniel, Moixa CEO, who recently spent a couple of months at Singularity University at NASA, believes it is only a matter of time, and comments ‘Exponential technologies saw the time to sequence a genome fall from over 10 years to 2 weeks. Technology will be able to solve the problems of climate change if politics fail’.

In the meantime, Moixa Energy announced release of a special USBCELL Gaming pack, of 4 re-usable AA batteries that can recharge in USB ports on laptops, desktops and games consoles - to help save money and battery waste this Christmas. They were recently voted a ‘Top 5’ stocking filler by the Gadget Show on Monday 8th Dec, and also won a top 50 iF Gold design award alongside Apple at Cebit from 3000 global products. USBCELL batteries are available online and nationally at Morrisons, Waitrose and other leading stores. Each battery saves money, 7kg of C02 and 3kg of toxic landfill in basic reuse compared to disposables. A small but important practical action, ‘to fill stockings not landfill’ this Christmas, in the spirit of Copenhagen.

Andrew Cotton scores huge Mullaghmore in Ireland this Wednesday

This photo is public available at
MagicSeaweed. It was taken by
Mark Capilitan.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Review of BabyBarista at CaseCheck ™

Nice review of BabyBarista and the Art of War at CaseCheck ™ which you can also read below. CaseCheck ™ is a legal resource used by lawyers, law students, in-house lawyers, paralegals, claims handlers, barristers and advocates throughout the UK and the rest of the world. Register at www.casecheck.co.uk to establish your own profile, access their full functionality and receive their weekly bulletin.

From Blogger to Bloomsbury: BabyBarista and The Art of War

Many of you will be familiar with Tim Kevan as the barrister behind PI Brief Update, PI Journal and Law Brief Update.
You may also be aware of his involvement alongside Daniel Barnett in the innovative CPD Webinars, which offers you the full benefit of CPD instruction for your whole office, without the hassle of having to travel anywhere.

You may be less familiar with the fact that he co-authored Why Lawyers Should Surf with Dr Michelle Tempest before Bloomsbury published his first fiction novel ‘BabyBarista and the Art of War’.

‘BabyBarista and the Art of War’ is a comedy revolving around one pupil barrister’s attempts to secure the only tenancy place available in a character rich set of chambers. The ‘Art of War’ in the title refers to Sun Tzu’s influential book on military strategy which BabyB’s pupil master presents him with on his first day:

“Litigation is like war, Baby Barista. Read this and learn.’

Instead of deploying Sun Tzu’s strategies to assist him in court, Baby B focuses on how he can secure the coveted tenancy spot at the expense of his three fellow pupils. Financial pressures at home serve as justification for his actions.

I generally try to keep away from legal fiction, but I must say that I really enjoyed BabyBarista, particularly through its link with the ‘Art of War’. The book was also made more enjoyable for me as a result of my assumptions that there must be a few individuals at the English bar squirming at lightly veiled descriptions of their worst characteristics.

‘Everyone will be able to identify him as being ‘X’ and her as being ‘Y’, I thought.

But when I asked Tim about this he clearly pointed out that this was not the case - even after I had asked him the same question, in a different way, approximately fifteen times.

“Not in the slightest – the book is fiction – full stop.”

“But how, then, did you come up with such rich characters if they are absolutely 100% fiction?”

Tim then explained;

“For me they were almost like real characters in my mind. I wanted to write a legal thriller, but what came out, initially as a blog, was this comedy. The characters just came into my brain and I tuned, almost like a radio, into their frequency.”

“The blog, http://babybarista.blogspot.com/, was picked up by the Times Online and then, following a review by the Lawyer magazine, I emailed a whole load of publishers. Bloomsbury got back to me after that and I also managed to get a literary agent around the same time.”

“ The support of the Bloomsbury editors and my literary agent was invaluable in terms of helping me with the structure and character development. (i.e. BabyB’s private life, aspect of his mother’s life, physical details, romance etc). They helped me to introduce different angles to the story, making it a more rounded, fuller novel as opposed to the blog, which was more like a race to the finishing line.”

Writing is probably seen as being a solitary existence in which one labours away on an idea for months unsure as to whether it will ever see the light of day but Tim’s experience shows that this has perhaps changed.

Using a free tool like Blogger, Tim could immediately access a publishing platform for his creativity and thereby permit the characters to grow and develop within an environment where he could measure take up, reaction and returning visitors. Suddenly there was an audience, returning for the next instalment. Think of a legal Belle Du Jour, without the sex, but with wigs.

As Tim says;

“Writing a blog is definitely a very useful tool in that it facilitates the process of writing in a first person narrative and it is also a very good way of presenting your work”

In terms of spreading word of his blog Tim did use his own newsletters but he also says that getting involved in the legal blogging community helped in that he promoted the blogs of others and they, in turn, promoted his. The legal editor of the Times Online became a member of his audience and this editor’s suggestion that the Times Online should host his blog drastically increased Baby Barista’s reach.

For Tim the path has ultimately lead him from online to offline, from free to paid for and in Tim’s explanation of the effort Bloomsbury and his literary agent put into helping him turn a blog into a novel one feels that £11.99 (or £8.36 on Amazon) is a price worth paying for a well crafted, highly enjoyable chambers based comedy.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Buy a building block of the Museum of British Surfing

The Museum of British Surfing has launched a building blocks appeal in which they say the following:

"We now have hundreds of friends on our mailing list and on our Facebook group - that's a powerful force of support and we need your help. Our plan is to create a carbon neutral Eco-home for the Museum of British Surfing at Saunton in North Devon, and now is your chance to be a big part of that. For a donation of £10 (UK sterling) to our Registered Charity, we will log your name and you will 'buy a building-block' to create the surf museum - we'll make sure your name is inscribed on a founders' plaque in the museum when it is open, to publicly thank you for your donation and support. Of course we would be delighted if you want to donate more and buy more than one 'block'! If you're a UK tax payer we can claim Gift Aid on your donation, which means the Museum will receive an extra 25% from the Government. Please help - it will be a very special Christmas present to the surf museum if you can. Thanks very much for your support, from the Trustees and team at the Museum of British Surfing (Registered Charity No. 1131433)."

How to donate
Please post a cheque to: Museum of British Surfing Ltd, Barn View, Lower Park Road, Braunton, North Devon EX33 2HJ. Don't forget to include your name and address because they will need that to send you a Gift Aid form, and for the inscription at the Museum when it opens. If you are outside the UK, please email thesurfingmuseum@btinternet.com for information on the best way to donate. All donations received will go towards the planning and building of our new Museum only.

Eddie would go...

See the Quicksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau live here. Congratulations to Andy Martin the author of Stealing the Wave who hopped on a plane on the off-chance after seeing the swell forecast just to get a glimpse of it.

Update
Andy has since written about his trip in an excellent article for
The Independent.

Excellent walking stick making website

For anyone interested in making walking sticks, look no further than John Marsh's excellent website http://www.stickmaker.com/. He can provide all the raw materials and is also available to provide specialist advice if necessary.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Review of BabyB in Western Daily Press 3/10/09 (click to enlarge)


Highly recomended: www.qccartoon.com (click to enlarge)


BabyBarista covered in Legal Week (click to enlarge)














University of Kent's 'The Argument' reviews BabyBarista

Nice review of BabyBarista and the Art of War at the University of Kent's The Argument.

Life at the Bar – BabyBarista and The Art of War by Tim Kevan
written by Shirah Zirambamuzale on Dec.03, 2009

BabyBarista and The Art of War by Tim Kevan
(Bloomsbury 2009. ISBN 9780747594642)

I agree with many that this book may be a true portrayal of life at the Bar, but I would also argue that this is true of many successful professions and success in general. Based on a Times Online blog by the same author, the book traces the life of a law student who acquires pupillage at a prestigious set of chambers in London. An Oxford law graduate with a first, the student is in stiff competition with other baby barristers with top-class degrees from Cambridge and Harvard. And, as if this was not enough, BabyBarista has to contend with his mounting debts and those of his mother, a working-class single woman who has borrowed heavily to pay for her son’s legal education. This background sets the plot where BabyBarista is left with no option but to outwit his fellow competitors by all means necessary. Through a combination of dubious tricks and the aid of his manual, Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, BabyBarista concocts a series of measures which see him facing moral dilemmas, fighting to pay off his mother’s heavy debts and competing for the only tenancy available at Chambers. Beneath all the drama, tragedy and comedy found on every page of the book, the author also provides a satirical yet vivid account of life at the Bar. The book portrays most barristers as being arrogant, pretentious, corrupt and unrealistically aloof. Solicitors too are not spared as some are painted as being money hungry ambulance-chasers while others are ‘Clich├ęClangers’ and ‘skilled in the creative art of billing’. It isn’t all ghastly portrayals, however, as the book also has several examples of barristers who have coped with the pressures of the legal profession and gone about their business with integrity. One thing that I sympathise with is the debt one incurs during the endeavour to become a barrister, but the appalling thing is that the financial difficulty does not end with one succeeding at the Bar but evolves into one continuing a lifestyle they cannot afford just to fit in with the other tenants at Chambers. Finally, I was very impressed with the author and his style of writing, as it was imaginative and very captivating, and contrary to the preconceived notion that life at the Bar is tedious and not half as exciting as we soon discover in the book. Overall, this book reflects well on life at the Bar. Another issue that the book competently addresses is the notion of the ‘class ceiling’ and the bias of established chambers towards the Oxbridge class. This book, however, suggests that this traditional bias may be nearing its end. The author perfectly highlighted this when he captured a moment when an ageing barrister bemoaned the changing face of the Bar, complaining about the fact ‘… that over half of our next-door chambers’s [sic] tenants are now non-Oxbridge’. One can be optimistic from this alone. This, as the author puts it, is ‘the wonderful modern Bar’.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

BabyBarista covered in Legal Week Student Edition (click to enlarge)


O'Neill World Cup at Sunset Beach - biggest swell in last ten years on its way

Conservatives to reduce health and safety requirements and compensation claims

Very interesting speech by David Cameron as to how he will deal with health and safety regulations and also the personal injury world. Here's some extracts:

I believe consideration of all this evidence can only lead us to one conclusion: for the good of our society, we need to sort out the nonsense of this over-the-top culture of health and safety and compensation...

School activities
But I believe we should consider whether further protection should be provided in cases involving adventure training and other outdoor activity by schools....I also want the law to be quite clear that there is no obligation on activity organisers or public authorities to warn of an obvious risk. It is time that we rid our country of those ludicrous warning notices stating the completely obvious...

Good Samaritans
We have said we will amend the police and Crown Prosecution Service Codes of Practice so that if a person acts in good faith to prevent a crime or detain a criminal, this would be a factor weighing against any decision to prosecute them. I want to see if we can extend this sort of legal protection for all people acting in good faith – especially public service professionals...

Small, local and voluntary groups
Second, can we help alleviate some of health and safety oversight that currently burdens small, local and voluntary organisations? To my mind, there is good reason for this. If, for instance, four or five people come together to clean their local park, they do not as a group fall under health and safety law at all. But they may do if the work benefits the local council running the park, as it then becomes their employer...I have asked David Young to investigate what could be done to exempt them from regulatory burdens...

Civil Liability Act
Third, do we need a Civil Liability Act? By that, I mean do we need to define civil liability for negligence in statute? At the moment there is no one single Act of Parliament that ties all this work together, showing where the liability for negligence lies. So I have asked [Lord] Young whether such an Act would be necessary and effective in reducing our excessive health and safety culture...

Conclusion
And what I have described today is the beginnings of putting it right. For every piece of health and safety legislation, we need to ask whether it fulfils a useful purpose – and if not, it must go. And we must bring some common sense to the laws surrounding compensation. I want people to know that with the Conservatives, government will let you get on with your life without unnecessary rules and regulations. I want everyone to know that with the Conservatives, if you do good, get involved and make a contribution, the system will back you. And I want people to know that with the Conservatives, the legal system will be there protecting those who need it most.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tip on avoiding spam

To make it more difficult for spam bots to 'harvest' email addresses from your pages you can use the 'scrambler' at GoLiveCentral.com that turns the email address into its ASCII code equivalent.

Hat tip to Garry Wright.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Cycle of Life

Check out Cycle of Life for an inspriational story of both good deeds and adventure which took place in 2008. As they described themselves beforehand: "A team of bicyclists will trek 5000 miles across Africa – a journey that will last almost 4 months as we cover ground from Namibia to Kenya. By the end of the trip, with your help, we will have raised £500,000 for distribution to communities in and around conservation areas."

Hat tip to journalist and writer Jessica Hatcher.

The Hobo Rambler blog

Heads up for a new blog The Hobo Rambler which is an anonymous account of the life of a homeless person. It'll be interesting to see how it develops.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Poole axes real Christmas tree 'for safer fake one because of health and safety'

The Telegraph reports that the Dorset town of Poole has spent £14,000 on a health and safety-approved fake Christmas tree because real ones are a danger to the public.

Archie the Springer Spaniel breaks the beer mat catching world record on film!

Meet Archie, the incredible beer mat catching springer spaniel who belongs to Rick Yeo (of Rick Yeo Plumbing and Heating - tel: 07789 640966) who lives in Braunton in North Devon. He's been well-known for a long time for his special skill but after he broke his own world record the other day by catching nine beer mats at once he has become a youtube phenomenon. You can see the video of the world record breaking catch immediately below and then below that is an earlier attempt which gives you an idea as to quite how difficult this really is.






Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Muppets do Bohemian Rhapsody



Hat-tip to Jon Rawlinson Productions

Porkies and living the dream

Just received this from Chris Preston at the excellent Adventures In Trim surf blog:

Dear Secretary of State [for the Environment],
My friend, who is in farming at the moment, recently received a cheque for £3,000 from the Rural Payments Agency for not rearing pigs.. I would now like to join the "not rearing pigs" business.
In your opinion, what is the best kind of farm not to rear pigs on, and which is the best breed of pigs not to rear? I want to be sure I approach this endeavour in keeping with all government policies, as dictated by the EU under the Common Agricultural Policy.
I would prefer not to rear bacon pigs, but if this is not the type you want not rearing, I will just as gladly not rear porkers. Are there any advantages in not rearing rare breeds such as Saddlebacks or Gloucester Old Spots, or are there too many people already not rearing these?
As I see it, the hardest part of this programme will be keeping an accurate record of how many pigs I haven't reared. Are there any Government or Local Authority courses on this?
My friend is very satisfied with this business. He has been rearing pigs for forty years or so, and the best he ever made on them was £1,422 in 1968. That is - until this year, when he received a cheque for not rearing any.
If I get £3,000 for not rearing 50 pigs, will I get £6,000 for not rearing 100? I plan to operate on a small scale at first, holding myself down to about 4,000 pigs not raised, which will mean about £240,000 for the first year. As I become more expert in not rearing pigs, I plan to be more ambitious, perhaps increasing to, say, 40,000 pigs not reared in my second year, for which I should expect about £2.4 million from your department. Incidentally, I wonder if I would be eligible to receive tradable carbon credits for all these pigs not producing harmful and polluting methane gases?
Another point: These pigs that I plan not to rear will not eat 2,000 tonnes of cereals. I understand that you also pay farmers for not growing crops. Will I qualify for payments for not growing cereals to not feed the pigs I don't rear?
I am al so considering the "not milking cows" business, so please send any information you have on that too. Please could you also include the current Defra advice on set aside fields? Can this be done on an e-commerce basis with virtual fields (of which I seem to have several thousand hectares)?
In view of the above you will realise that I will be totally unemployed, and will therefore qualify for unemployment benefits. I shall of course be voting for your party at the next general election.
Yours faithfully,
Nigel Johnson-Hill

Surf dog raises $10,000 for quadriplegic Patrick Ivison and 3 years of therapy

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Life on Mars

Received this email recently: CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL MY FRIENDS AND FAMILY WHO WERE BORN IN THE 1950's, 60's, 70's and 80's ! First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us and lived in houses made of asbestos.. They took aspirin, ate blue cheese, raw egg products, loads of bacon and processed meat, tuna from a can, and didn't get tested for diabetes or cervical cancer. Then after that trauma, our baby cots were covered with bright coloured lead-based paints. We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets or shoes, not to mention, the risks we took hitchhiking. As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle. Take away food was limited to fish and chips, no pizza shops, McDonalds, KFC, Subway or Nandos. Even though all the shops closed at 6.00pm and didn't open on the weekends, somehow we didn't starve to death! We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this. We could collect old drink bottles and cash them in at the corner store and buy Toffees, Gobstoppers, Bubble Gum and some bangers to blow up frogs with. We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter and drank soft drinks with sugar in it, but we weren't overweight because...... WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING!! We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O.K. We would spend hours building our go-carts out of old prams and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. We built tree houses and dens and played in river beds with matchbox cars. We did not have Playstations, Nintendo Wii, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 999 channels on SKY, no video/dvd films, no mobile phones, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms..........WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them. We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no Lawsuits from these accidents. Only girls had pierced ears! We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever. You could only buy Easter Eggs and Hot Cross Buns at Easter time... We were given air guns and catapults for our 10th birthdays, We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just yelled for them! Mum didn't have to go to work to help dad make ends meet! RUGBY and CRICKET had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!! Getting into the team was based on MERIT Our teachers used to hit us with canes and gym shoes and bully's always ruled the playground at school. The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law! Our parents didn't invent stupid names for their kids like 'Kiora' and 'Blade' and 'Ridge' and 'Vanilla' We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL! And YOU are one of them! CONGRATULATIONS! You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated our lives for our own good. And while you are at it, forward it to your kids so they will know how brave their parents were.

Do Google ads target the user's web history?

Just chatting with a friend today about a particular website's Google ads and we discovered that the same webpage was displaying different adverts for the two of us simultaneously. Now I know that Google looks at the actual content of the website in deciding what particular advert to display but it does raise the question as to whether they are also analysing users specific web histories?

Online backup: Sugarsync v Carbonite

Update to my original post below
I have had an extremely helpful email from Jeff Robison who is VP for Customer Care and Operations at Carbonite. He has not only apologised for the problems they created and offered a refund but also made it clear that they intend to learn from this and use it to benefit future customers. In addition, he offered to help with my particular account if it was still needed. Can't ask for more than that and a big thank you to Jeff.

Original post
I have recently changed online backup provider from Carbonite to SugarSync for the simple reason that when I did need to access the files which had been saved on Carbonite they weren't available. First complaint went in well over a month ago and having been pushed from one customer support email to another I've finally been sent an email today which looks like it might actually specifically deal with my problem. Not exactly a great service in a business where reliability must surely be top priority. Thankfully old school hard drive backup rescued most content and therefore led to minor irritation rather than disaster. It's replacement SugarSync has been excellent so far and makes it extremely easy to access your files from any computer - even the iPhone. For the sake of completeness, another tool which has been drawn to my attention but which I cannot comment on one way or the other since I haven't tried it is the Cloudberry S3 Backup which works with Amazon S3 storage.


Monday, November 23, 2009

'Single Fin Yellow' by Jason Baffa

Will the Conservatives ban referral fees?

The Law Gazette report a very interesting comment from Conservative MP Henry Bellingham from the Motor Accident Solicitors Society’s annual conference. Apparrently he said a Tory government would "almost certainly" review referral fees and furthermore "[Shadow Justice Secretary] Dominic Grieve is very anti-referral fees. I’m probably slightly less violently anti-referral fees but I think there is a very strong case for getting rid of them."

Naomi Cudmore Communications

Nice to see the new website for Naomi Cudmore Communications whose services include brochure design, copywriting, nhs project management and design of annual reports, interim communications cover and all-in-one writing, design and print. One of her clients is the wonderful Exmoor Magazine which is edited by Hilary Binding.

Book recommendation: Schott's Almanac 2010

Looking forward to getting Schott's Almanac 2010 when it comes out. The blurb summarises it well: "Schott's Almanac is designed to be a practical and entertaining annual volume that tells the real stories of the year, from the anxious South African elections to the hope generated by the election of Barack Obama, from worldwide recession to the green shoots of recovery, from Russia's growing ambition to the Copenhagen Conference on climate change, and from the Ashes rivalry to the possibility of another all-English Champion's League final, all in the UN's Year of Astronomy...In an age when information is plentiful but selection is rare, Schott's Almanac offers both the essential facts and the lucid analysis, combining the authority and accuracy of the Economist with the wit and vitality of Have I Got News for You."

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Kite-surfers Jake Scrace and Lewis Crathern jump over Worthing pier in East Sussex

'The Final Curtain Call' by Hector Christie

Just ordered a book called The Final Curtain Call by Hector Christe. A review describes it in the following way: "With globalisation spreading its tentacles across the planet and Corporate America throttling the Third World with debt ... while GM crops taint the fields and pollute the gene pool ... while diseased cattle roast on funeral pyres and protesters are rounded up and sent to prison – what can a Devonshire farmer based at Tapeley Park do to halt the madness? Maybe it’s his daughter, Annie, who can carry the cause forward. Here she tells his story, partly seen through her own young eyes, and partly through accounts of protest and punishment detailed in his own diaries. Either way, it’s a harrowing – but sometimes hilarious – saga of war against a sick system. Maybe when Harold Smith, political altruism personified, calls the Revolution from his village refuge in Italy, humanity can finally haul itself out of the mire, live a life with less fear and greed, and face the post-collapse 2020s with a greater sense of fairness, tolerance and spirituality."

Friday, November 20, 2009

Non-fire night at Ilfracombe

The Daily Mail reported the other day that bonfire night in Ilfracombe was going to involve people crowding "around a screen showing film footage of fire after organisers gave up wrestling with health and safety rules to hold the real thing." It went on: "The event - dubbed 'non-fire night' - will leave families holding sparklers and staring up at a 16ft by 12ft screen showing images of a roaring blaze. Organisers at Ilfracombe Rugby Club say they were put off having the real thing by the 'mountain' of paperwork and regulations set by council bosses.
Officials at the authority said that to have a bonfire they would require five qualified fire marshals and metal barricades to keep onlookers at a safe distance."

Thierry Henry Handball Against Ireland in the World Cup Qualifier