This is my Blog, which is the place where I announce new published works or reflect on current works in progress. It is also the place where I will occasionally write reviews of theatre shows I have seen or gigs I have been too. Less often, I will use this space to write about things in the news that annoy me or even write long essays about just how much I love all of the movies in the Star Wars universe (yes including episode one!).  


If you are feeling particularly brave, you can scroll down to the bottom of this page to read a brief biography about me too. You don't have to do so, but it might be nice to know a little more about the person whose books you are reading. 

Jayne Hecate Writer & Thinker

Jayne is a writer of fiction and reader of political philosophy. She also has the dirtiest sense of humour of anyone she knows.

Lego Hates Trees

A review of a couple of the newer Technic sets currently available, plus some general bitchiness and the usual bile you would expect from me! 

Have you ever really looked forwards to a new Lego set and then when you open the box, you discover that maybe it was not as good as you hoped? Have you ever been in the position of having a large wad of Lego Vouchers and not known what set to buy and so just go for one that looks OK, but turns out to be really great?

Well let me introduce you to the 2018 Technic set, Forest Machine (set number 42080), a strange and occasionally confusing set that is all about harvesting the lungs of the planet that even comes with a teeny little chainsaw and a few logs to knock down. The box appears large from the front face, being 475mm by 370mm square, but with a depth of only 65mm, the internal space is quickly filled with the not overly full plastic bags. (Actually, while I am here discussing these planet wrecking deforestation machines, why the bloody hell are Lego still shoving stuff in disposable plastic bags, when a paper envelope or even a cheap paper box would work just as well and be easier to recycle?) The box, instruction book and the stickers are beautifully printed and given that the suggested age range is ten to sixteen years, there are some small complicated moments that are easy to miss if you are not concentrating. The back of the box shows both the A and B models, and of the two, the A model is by far the prettier of the two.

The light and dark shades of green work really well, especially when combined with the white stripe and the raising boom, but the darker colours quickly fade into each other in low light. Gone are the days of brightly coloured simple machinery in technic sets, but the realism does give a degree of credibility to the set once built, especially if it is just going to get sat on a shelf to gather dust and be looked at rather than played with. I will point out that my Technic does not sit on dusty shelves. Oh no, my technic is used, abused, taken outside and very occasionally, even modified! (Oh yes, I am a brick cutter!)

With any new set, there is usually a degree of joy in the first build, seeing if there are any new techniques used in how the pieces go together and so over a period of a couple of hours last week, I sat at my desk and built up the A model and to be honest, I found it to be an uninspiring build. The expected complexity for a set aimed at older builders was not really present for most of the model. Instead there were confounding tiny but ultimately unimportant steps designed to make the set look prettier, such as a colourful flask that sits in the cab and the clipping on of Minifig scale tools and tool box, all of which look strangely out of scale. 

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The Chainsaw looks too big to hold at the scale suggested by the tool box, shovel and Axe, but if the scale of the flask, cup and chainsaw is taken, the axe, shovel and tool box appear tiny and would never be placed on the outside of the truck. I would also suggest that the driver of the truck will have to use the chainsaw to remove their own legs prior to getting into the cab, because again the scale is slightly off and the poor sod has no where to put their feet! The small log that rests on a trestle is again out of scale with the rest of the set, the trestle itself feels too high and the log too small to warrant such a tool. However, once the build is completed, these slightly irritating features work to make the model far prettier than us old school Technic builders are used to. At this rate, we can justifiably ask if we are likely to see a reprise of the old technic Minifig, not that they would fit into this model just because of the confusing scale?

I stopped half way through this build, as soon as the front section of the machine was built and left the rest until the next day. Which given that I sat building the Han Solo edition Millennium Falcon in one four hour session (that left me with a profound bum ache, due to barely moving in my chair), was unusual. Being an obsessional Lego builder, I tend to like to complete my models in one sitting. The Mercedes AROCS was completed in one session, as was the CLAAS Xerion, both model builds I greatly enjoyed for their complexity. But after an hour or so of this build, I was bored and complained vocally to my partner about this fact. The following day I continued the model and quickly had it finished. It was then time to start on the B model, using parts from my extensive reserves. However, the new Pneumatic switches make using old parts complicated and I had to modify the design slightly to get the old parts to fit into the same space. This took only a couple of minutes extra, but as with the first model, I found this build to be rather uninspiring and the finished model is actually rather ugly, bordering on crudely finished. At least the driver of this vehicle does not have to saw off their own legs, but the same scale errors seem to be present.

Functionally, the A model is more interesting than the B model, but this is only by a small margin. Both models seem to lack features and by far the worst sin is that the A model steering, which although ingenious looking, does not actually work very well. When pushed backwards, the model is smoothly moving and works better than when it is pushed forwards. Going forwards seems to put a great deal of stress onto the steering mechanism and the truck just wants to veer off to one side or the other. Strangely, despite this movement, actually controlling the steering is a stiff and joyless experience. The model just wants to fold in half, which is just odd and a little painful on your fingers if they get caught between the two parts of the machine. Also the front steering axle has an annoying feature in that it seems to have only two types of motion. It is either locked out fully and inoperable or wildly activated by the rocking beam suspension that it has been given, which just adds to the instability, especially given that the A model steering is done from the rear part of the machine and there is a degree of strong backlash in the system. When the steering is activated on both the A and B models, it effectively drags two axles in an arc and this too makes moving the models difficult because the action is not smooth and you can feel it twisting the axle used to mount the steering gear wheel.

The pneumatic rams are as always completely fabulous in their smooth action and the large Power Functions motor provides plenty of oomph to the compressor, but this model is screaming out for an air tank. It also has an alarming shudder to it when the motor is running and this increases as pressure in the air lines builds. The lack of a piston driving the log grabber in the B model is also a discrepancy that cannot be over looked, given how complex the similar mechanism is on the A model. However, the swinging saw blade seems completely incongruous with the realism of the set. To my knowledge and then confirmed by a super fast Google image search, the great majority of these machines have a chainsaw cutter, not a huge wobbly saw blade spinning on the end of the boom! The one image I did find of a large saw blade machine, had it mounted on a tracked excavator type machine. Most of the eight wheeled machines seemed to either have a log carrying flat bed, or a chainsaw mounted in the tree grabbing claw. The saw blade on this model just looks like a last minute add on to over come a problem that the Lego designers had built themselves into. Functionally, it is weak and rather uninteresting, freely swinging back and forth as it does. Now while I was looking at real forest machines, I did come across a fabulous looking six legged walking forest machine (that resembled a Star Wars, Clone Trooper walker)… Now that would have been a fabulously interesting machine to build, have Lego released any actual moving Technic walking machines?

The new Pneumatic switches are interesting, seemingly having a little more control over the action of the rams than previous incarnations. However, fine control of the boom and gripper on the A model is still an art. Using the gear wheels to turn the switch is a great idea for grip, but gives no visual clue as to where the switch is in its travel. To overcome this, I switched the gear wheels for two stud beams with axle holes, which gave a visual track of switch placement, but reduced grip overall.

Another feature that I noticed as I compared the real machines with this model set is that quite a lot of the real machines have large load spreading tracks, on each part of the truck. The two rear axles are often covered in track, which obviously makes them easier to move and creates less ground pressure under the tyres, essential for machines that operate on soft unpaved roads and tracks. Which leads us nicely into 2019 and another new tree destroying model. Set number 42094, AKA the Tracked Loader. I did really did not like the look of this set and yet found that the B model makes a surprisingly pleasing little tracked flat bed loader, that can actually carry the logs placed on it (unlike the B model of the forest machine). There were a couple of features that I did not enjoy as much, such as the fake engine and the strange use of the clawed teeth to represent some kind of perforated engine cover, but the rest of the model works really well. The turn table is operated by a gear wheel on the front of the truck and the tipper is powered by the gear wheels located on each side of the bed. There are no Power Functions, although I suspect it would not be too hard to attach them somewhere. In some respects, this reminded me of a snow grooming machine, but the clean simple mechanisms are just joyful, if anything this is a far prettier model than the Forest Machine.

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My final criticism of the Forest Machine set A model is actually due to a design flaw and that is the pivoting axle design when it is combined with the rotating cabin. If the truck is straight and the boom is pointing straight ahead, the truck is quite stable, however, if you turn the cab while the truck is turned to the same side, the truck will tip. It is top heavy and the swinging axles make it just flexible enough to twist, which again caught my attention as it promptly fell over!

The inclusion of two large and one small turntable make this a great set to buy for parts, especially given that it also contains a large motor, a battery box and a pneumatic system. For MOCers like me, this is great, but for those who want to build a model to play with or as a first time technic set, it is probably a little flawed. I simply do not understand the necessity to include the two frames and the length of chain which is fitted to the top of the rear of the A model. The dark metallic grey tubes are pretty, but I am not sure yet what I can use them for, I suspected that they would be great for running strings through over difficult corners, but it turns out that they are not hollow through out their length, so that screws that plan. The battery box switch on the rear unit of the A model is very elegant, as it almost disappears into the smooth sides of the design. In contrast to this, on the B model, it is crudely finished and the gaps in the flat bed mean that the truck cannot even carry the logs the set comes with!

So, would I recommend this set to anyone? Yes, I would but with this proviso, this is a great set for parts, but the model it builds is actually quite dull. The inclusion of Minifig parts feels slightly childish (says the forty five year old woman, still playing with Lego!) for an advanced set. The Pneumatics are excellent, the turntables are also excellent and the new shiny dark silver wheel hubs are very pretty indeed. There are also enough of these parts to make construction of an MOC even easier. So do buy set 42080, just don’t bother with the B model, instead build the A model once if you can be bothered and then put the parts into your kit to build something more fun.

February 13th 2019

Opening night at the opera...

I had been looking forwards to this show for weeks, I had a special dress, new make up and severe anxiety for the whole day leading up to going out of the door…

The opera was the brand new production by The Welsh National Opera of “Un ballo in maschera” by Verdi, a Gothic melodrama in three acts and it was beautiful. This was also the opening night, in their home theatre, in Cardiff. So you can imagine the excitement among the audience, which unlike that we see in Bristol, seemed to have a bias towards the older opera lover. Generally speaking, from where we were sat, the average age of patrons was around 170! Come on young people, you need to embrace the arts because you are missing out on a spectacle of beauty.

So let’s start at the beginning of my story, which involves a trip to the theatre to see the WNO perform in Bristol, which was as always, utterly wonderful. During the intermission and after my dash to the loo, we were approached by the Press Officer, a charming young woman who clearly knows her onions and she asked if my dear friend Ginny would like to review a special show? It turns out the plebs like us are just the sort of people the WNO needs to bring in, in order to keep going. To be blunt, more plebs means more money in ticket sales… OK, that is remarkably disingenuous, but it stands as a point. The arts in this country are in desperate need of support and the more ordinary people who will embrace them, the longer they can survive. 

So, I placed the date in my diary and then pretended to forget about it, while inside my stomach squirmed at the thought of going to Cardiff to see a show in a huge auditorium. I also needed to make sure that I looked smart, this was after all, a special event, so no jeans and Slayer t-shirt for this one. Actually, as I think about this, I have never worn jeans and a Slayer t-shirt to the opera. Maybe I should from now on! Anyway, the only good frock I had in my wardrobe was broken. It also did not fit me that well and quite frankly it was close to being thrown out, despite having been really pretty when new. 

Luckily for me, while out at a Death Metal gig, I met the fabulously clever and talented Cassie of Jolliff Sewing and Embroidery and she said that no dress was beyond saving. Somewhat doubtfully, I gave her my frock and a small payment and hoped for the best. I told her to take her time and in almost no time at all I was told to come and get my frock. It looked brand new. No, actually, it looked better than brand new. It looked tailored, it fitted me perfectly and she had even repaired the lace on the front that I thought was beyond repair. I could not have been happier. My advice to anyone in need of dress making advice or clothing repairs is to talk to Cassie. Mind you, you will have to wait your turn because she now has the rest of my ripped and ruined wardrobe (I must stop fixing the motorbike while wearing ball gowns!) to fix up and alter. 

With a new frock and some new make up, I got myself ready and two hours before I was due to leave, I realised that I really did not want to go. The thought of travelling to Cardiff, of being in that huge room with all of those people, of being somewhere posh, of being sociable… all of the things that us socially awkward quiet shy types have to deal with on a daily basis suddenly piled up on my shoulders and threatened to crush me. I could not eat, I could not drink anything and I even forgot to take my meds prior to leaving. Physically shaking, I left the house and sat in the car. Not even rancid death metal could calm me down.

I picked up Ginny and we hit the motorway, in bad weather and low visibility. The trip to Wales was on and I was focused on getting us there safely. I had offered to drive because Ginny has always driven us previously and it seemed fair to share the load so to speak. Mind you, with no sense of direction, I needed a co-driver who could give me a running list of directions… It cannot have been a relaxing journey for her! Finally we arrived, parked up and I asked Ginny to remember where we had parked, otherwise we would have to walk home and I would never see my car again. 

The Wales Millennium Centre is huge, intimidating and very pretty, well for a building anyway. The acoustics are spectacular and the stage is fabulous. But that is not the best bit, not by far. The best bit is that the seating is soft, comfortable and plush, even in the cheap seats! I love the Bristol Hippodrome, I truly do, but this was a step up in terms of luxury. Everything is shiny and new, the floors are polished, the air is fragrant and the views of the stage are really well designed, even with an ugly fat bald bloke slumped in the seat in front of you! The lighting is wonderful, every detail is clear and yes, I was blown away. My nerves faded along with my inhibitions (thanks to the pain killers I was forced to swallow… Thanks useless body!) and I was able at last to relax in my seat and wait for the show to begin.

I was in awe as soon as the curtain rose. The set, the costumes, the choreography. It opened with a coffin, upon which lay my favourite character of the entire show, Oscar, performed by Julie Martin du Theil, with whom I immediately fell in love. The character of Oscar is a young, possibly gay, Herald, performed by a soprano, but for me the winning moment came when Oscar slid from his Master’s coffin top to reveal the most magnificent costume of the evening. It was all leather, with huge Gothic boots, making the character look like a young Danni Filth of Cradle of Filth. 

Photo credit:- The Welsh National Opera.

Once again, I am comparing classical music with black and death metal and as always, the comparison is worthy. The themes of this opera are dark, with images of Satanism, sacrifice and murder. This is in every blood soaked second, a truly Metal experience. The first act was for me the best, it is dark, occasionally evil and often sinister. My next favourite character was the Sorceress Ulrica, performed by the wickedly dark Sara Fulgoni. The dancers who played Ulrica’s servants were covered in brutal, but hilarious wounds that were soaked in red ribbons of gore, with the various implements of torture poking out of them. There were the usual knife and sword wounds, but also screwdrivers stuck in heads, hacksaws half way through limbs, scissors stabbed into backs, machetes embedded in brains… Every single one was brilliantly brutal and once again, just pure Black Metal.

Act two saw a less exciting and for me less enjoyable scene. The love torn Amelia performed by the always fabulous Mary Elizabeth Williams, is at the gallows gathering the magic herb needed to break the spell of love on her heart. The count who is in love with her watches in the distance, but given that she is married to his best friend, things are not going to end well for any of them. For me, this part of the show was the least interesting because it contained all of the heart break and misery of the piece. It was just far too nice, far to emotional and did not contain much of the mayhem and darkness of the first act. Mind you, the watchful foxes with their glowing red eyes were creepy and beautiful, while the full moon painting was breathtaking.

Act three sees the resolution of the piece and once again the costumes were fabulous, the music swelled and the lights were magnificent. As the party goers arrived at the masked ball (for which the show is named after) dressed in skeleton printed long coats, I desperately wanted one of the black ones to wear home. The wonderful Cassie may well have repaired my damaged velvet jacket, but the creepy and ghoulish skeleton coat would have been a prized piece indeed. 

With the show ended and numerous bows taken so that the royal visitor could be whisked away before us plebs got in the way, I was left with my fingers in my ears because right behind me was sat a man whose clapping was a sonic weapon, probably commissioned by the Police in case anyone decided to have a pop at the royal guest. How one man can clap that hard and that loudly and still have hands left at the end appalled me. I can only imagine that he has had plenty of practice, clapping down concrete bunkers until all that remains is pulverised gravel and dust! 

The drive home was somewhat more chaotic as lost drivers struggling to find the motorway swerved across lanes, almost as lost as I was. They badly needed a Ginny to navigate them too! Finally I arrived home, elated and still feeling pretty in my posh frock and make up. Taking it all off felt like I was stripping away something fabulous, removing something special that I did not want to lose. 

I must now thank the following people. Firstly the whole cast of the Welsh National Opera, for their fantastic Black Metal performance. Cassie for my wonderful dress and jacket. Then most of all, my dear friend Ginny for all of her tolerance, kindness, support and navigating. 

As for all of you, you absolutely must go and see the opera and support the arts in this country before they die out through falsely assumed snobbery and horrible feelings of impostor syndrome. Organisations like the WNO will not only welcome you into their home theatre, but they will do so with the open arms of friendship. If you have never seen an opera performed live or think that opera is not for you, choose one of their lighter ones, grab a good friend and go along. Trust me, I speak as a rancid Black Metal fan, opera really is for everyone and the Welsh National Opera are one of the best out there. 

February 10th 2019

Out with the Sistas

A little while ago, I was asked to review a show for a well known Website and to be honest, I was genuinely touched to have been asked. I went along with one of my closest friends and found the show to be utterly outstanding.

That show was called “The Gift of Presents” performed by the theatre troop, ‘Shesus and the Sistas’ a gender variant Messiah and two Nuns, Sister Pauline Hollywood and Sister Mary Berry.

Although being a reviewer has its perks, such as seeing a lot of really good shows, the downside is that we have to watch the audience as well as the show, judging how well the show is being received. After all, it is no point my saying that a show is awesome, if every one else in the theatre is throwing tomatoes at the stage. I also get asked to review the strange stuff, the gender related stuff because I am a gender warrior and a little strange myself. So when I was asked to review this show, I was looking forwards to it, but at the same time, not really knowing what to expect.

One thing that I really do not do is review a show and then go and see it again. Why would I want to do that? Well, what if that show is so stand out amazing, that you want to share it with close friends? So this evening, myself and four special people trekked over to Bristol so that I could share my new found love of Shesus, and love them I do.

For this show, I could leave the reviewer head at home, I could just sit back and participate in this awesome comedy show. To make matters better, I had front row seats and was with some truly wonderful people. Watching the performers interact with my friends, made it even more special and I sat there glowing, soaking up what was an even better show than when I reviewed it. So here I am, writing up the show, but this is different, I have no need to discuss the important gender politics, the deeply moral content, the cries of personal despair that went into writing such an important piece. No, I can just tell you that Shesus and the Sistas are fucking phenomenal and if you get the chance to see them, you absolutely have to do so. 

I loved their show, I loved that I laughed so hard I cried, I loved that I got to participate in an experience rather than sit back and watch and I loved that the performers played the show with all of their love and heart and soul. I loved that at the end of the show, one of my friends felt that they could share an experience that was in many ways deeply personal, with the performer who plays Shesus. I loved that Shesus and the Sistas were gracious enough to not mind that five strange and unusual women could gate crash their private time for a few minutes. 

So thank you to my friends who came with me, thank you for the huge amount of fun we had together. Finally, thank you to Shesus and the Sistas for writing such a heartfelt and exciting show. Laughing at my gift of bread sticks and prawn crackers (I could not find Loaves and fishes!) was exactly what I wanted and deserved! I love you, you wonderful artists, thank you.

December 28th 2018

The Faerie has landed...

A while back I teamed up with my beautiful friend and fellow writer Jan Housby to write something filthy and fun. We published our dirty stories in the club books, which you can buy on Amazon here and here. Well, we have done another one and this one comes in its own book, a liber sordida if you will!

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Story number three is entitled Gladys Meuchelmorder and the Great Glass Ceiling and can be found in the compilation book now available on Amazon. A lucky few have already received pre-release copies, with a rare green cover and several embarrassing spelling errors! 

The paperback edition will be available with in the next few days, but before then for the excited, the e-Book version is available right now. However, you may wish to hold off on that one for a few days because purchasers of the paperback should be able to download the e-Book free of charge.

The book is reasonably well priced, being £10.99 for the paperback and £3.99 for the e-Book. You can buy the books here, but give it a couple of days for everything to settle down and get sorted, unless you absolutely cannot wait and need to buy the kindle edition right now! 

December 19th 2018

Something new in the works

I originally wanted something new to release in time for pre-Christmas sales, something nasty, mean spirited and evil that could be given as gifts, but it looks like we might not make it in time! Ooh bugger…

My good friend and co-writer Jan and I have been working on yet more fairy tale nastiness and have now completed a third story set in the world of Faerie. Our previous works have always taken current affairs as inspiration, the first story was based on Brexit and the horrors of that colossal catastrophe. The second book was based on the inauguration of Trump as President and his interactions with North Korea, not that it was in any way obvious! 

For the third story set in Faerie land, we have chosen another subject close to home and this one is a doozie. You can expect the usual filth, monstrous characters and political incorrectness as we rip apart the world of the media. As before the jokes are mainly lavatorial in context with some large dollops of satire poking out of the lumps of poo jokes… 

The first two stories first appeared in the group publications for our writing club, mixed in with the other more gentle stories written by writers who most definitely do not use the C word as much as we do! However, we have now brought them together for the first time into a special edition book. Bobney-King of the Fairies and Demonika and the war in Fairyland have been combined into a new volume, along with the new novella Gladys Meuchelmorder and the great glass ceiling. Also included is a short story based around everyone’s favourite Hell Hound chef, Wuffles and it tells of his adventures after the Fairy war as he goes on walkabout to find new and exciting recipes. 

The cover of the book has as always been provided by my partner in publishing, Carol Jadzia and for this one, she was seen outside in the garden photographing faeries as they wandered about their business! When asked if she was able to find a photo of King Bobney himself, she simply grinned and said that she had been sworn to secrecy. 

We are right now waiting for approval from Amazon, but hope that the paperback will be available in the next couple of days. If this is the case, the book will be available to buy for last minute Christmas presents, perfect for the sort of robust family member or friend who you either want to shock or darkly amuse. We will let you know when it is ready as soon as we can. 

December 16th 2018

So who is Jayne Hecate?

Jayne Hecate is a collective of evil thoughts 

coalesced into one very wicked person!

Jayne Hecate just happens to be a published author, who lives in the nice bit of the South West of England,where the sea is brown and the beach is mainly mud. 

She is a keen movie buff, loves a good book and will eat pizza for every meal if allowed. If that were not enough, Jayne also spends far too much time playing Scrabble and eating cakes cooked by her wife. Oh yeah, Jayne is an advocate of gay rights.

Jayne has few hobbies, most recently she discovered that she enjoys making replica props. When there is nothing else to do, she will sit at her desk and build Lego trucks until her fingers give out. Yet, when her ancient rotten bones allow, she likes to ride her motorbike as fast as possible, for as long as possible. She uses many of these influences in her writing and bases many of her stories on the experiences that she has had. 

 

Jayne on her Suzuki SV650
When not writing, Jayne is an advocate of human rights for all, with ideals that state that all people should have access to clean drinking water and a safe roof over their heads. Jayne is a proponent of the ideas of anti-war and anti-fascism, but then it is hard not to be when you consider all people to be equal and worthy of respect. Jayne believes that mental health is just as important as physical health and has a great deal of respect for those individuals who work in mental health. Having been a user of these services, Jayne is thankful every day for the strength and courage given to her by these medical professionals. Due to this belief Jayne is a strong advocate of the British NHS and strongly believes that it needs saving from the greedy eyes of the capitalist Governments who want to place it in private hands. 
Jayne holds an Honours degree in Environmental Science, is a qualified teacher of Outdoor Education and likes to read almost as much as she likes to write. Although since discovering the Kindle, she has rarely been seen above a duvet with out one clutched in her bony arthritic hands. Often known to be self critical to the point of combustion, she is peculiar in more ways than can be listed on a single website and is utterly devoted to her partner and her cat. 

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