7 August 2019

How to scan documents with an iPad


It is not immediately obvious that you can scan documents with Notes (one of the apps that comes with the iPad), but, once learned, the process is both quick and easy. The scans can be uploaded to your iCloud drive, then downloaded to your Mac or PC.

(My iPad is running iOS 12.3.1.)

1. Open the Notes app.

2. Tap the ‘pen on paper’ icon at the top right. This will open a new note and the keyboard appears.

3. Dismiss the keyboard.

4. Tap the plus sign at bottom right.

5. A dialog appears. Tap ‘Scan Documents’.

6. The rear camera is activated. Position your document so that it fills as much of the screen as possible, whether in portrait or landscape view.

7. Four icons are visible on the right of the screen. (Notice that they switch position if you change from portrait to landscape view and vice versa. If you are using landscape view, position the iPad with the home button on the right so that the camera lens is not obstructed by your hand.) The large, white circle is the ‘shutter release’; the smaller icon above it (three overlapping circles) lets you choose whether to optimise for colour printing, greyscale, monochrome, or a photograph. Optimisation of a scan can also be done later (see Step 12). ‘Auto’ allows the shutter to operate by itself when it thinks it’s got the edges right. The iPad will try to determine the edges of the document for you; this can be assisted if your document is placed on a black, or at least a strongly contrasting, background.

8. A yellow rectangle indicates the area the iPad thinks you want to scan. Even if it is mistaken, press the shutter release icon. A pale rectangle now appears with a small circle at each corner. If necessary, drag these circles to the corners of your scan.

9. If you’re not happy with the result, tap ‘Retake’ at the bottom left; or ‘Keep Scan’ at the bottom right.

10. Now you can scan another document, up to a total of about 15 if you wish to create a single PDF (e.g. a year’s bank statements). Once you have made all the scans in the series, tap ‘Save’.

11. A new view opens showing you your notes. If necessary, scroll to ‘Scanned Documents’ and tap on it.

12. Four icons appear at the top right. The first lets you adjust and crop the scan; the second activates the optimiser (see Step 7); the third lets you rotate the scan anticlockwise in steps of 90º; the fourth lets you share or save the scan. If you tap the fourth, a self-explanatory dialog appears. Scroll the lower half of this to see the ‘Save to Files’ icon.

13. Tapping this icon lets you save the scan to your iPad or to a selected folder on your iCloud drive.

An iPad cannot replace a dedicated flatbed scanner if you need to make high-quality image files or run OCR software, but it is very handy for processing documents such as bank or credit card statements, receipts, etc., that you would rather have in digital form. One advantage of using an iPad for scanning is that it can cope with odd paper sizes such as foolscap, which is too big to fit ordinary consumer-grade scanners, most of which are limited to A4 size.

1 July 2019

Phoebe Rising


I have at last finished writing this novel. It is the longest and one of the most ambitious I have ever attempted. The process began with only a vague idea (of a girl arriving on the ferry from France) and grew from there, so it qualifies as what they call a ‘pantser’, plotted by the seat of the author’s pants rather than from a synopsis.

The period is the early 1960s, a rather simpler time and one to which the very English flavour of the piece is suited. The setting is Kent, on the archetypal white cliffs around Dover, but the village of Pelling-on-Sea is imaginary, combining elements of a number of English seaside resorts.

The central story is about the struggle a sensitive little English girl, Phoebe, undergoes to recover from a disastrous upbringing among the super-wealthy in the South of France. Her mother dies when she is seventeen and Phoebe returns to England to meet, and live with, the father she has not seen or heard from for nearly nine years.

The extent is 141,000 words, and you can read the first chapter here.

Phoebe Rising: First chapter

Friday, 8 June 1962 

From his desk, Howard was watching the grey procession of incoming waves. As ever, they were approaching without cease; but then other waves would be going in the opposite direction, towards the French side. How did that work? Was there a central, equidistant boundary where a wave decided, or was directed according to some obscure law of physics, which way to go?
     The waves were crested here and there by the same south-easterly breeze that would be blowing aslant his cousin’s face were she leaning on the taffrail, assuming the taffrail was where he thought it was, at the stern. He rather supposed she might be, puffing on a Gitane she would flick into the sea a quarter finished, deciding after all that she hadn’t wanted it. Above her would be a flapping ensign on a slanting pole, below her the ferry’s broad and ever-dwindling wake.
     Situated below Howard, at the moment, were the French windows of his uncle’s dining room. These opened on a balustraded terrace and thence the gardens. A hedge, mostly of escallonia, formed the eastern boundary. Beyond this lay bramble-strewn turf sloping down to the cliff.
     He turned back to the task in hand. Today he was especially regretful about his algebra, though his knowledge of geometry was even worse.
     Leafing hopelessly through these notes, he came across a caricature of his current maths master in the process of having his hair cut by a machine driven by two donkeys harnessed to a windlass. Other drawings, many just as intricate, swarmed all over his notebooks. Often they obliterated important matter he had failed to memorise: more than once this afternoon he had resorted to holding a single page up against his desk-lamp in hope of deciphering what lay beneath.
     Maths was his chief terror. The first paper was to be sat on the third of July, so twenty-five days of grace remained. Fewer, in fact, because the exam would be held in the morning and the time now was nearly five. If he needed a nightly minimum of six hours’ sleep and a couple of hours a day for other things, such as feeding and going to and from school, he had far fewer than four hundred hours in which to absorb what had engaged his more diligent classmates during five years of attention to Mr Ince and his mathematical predecessors – because, besides maths, the boys were to be examined next month in several other subjects. Of these he was weakest in chemistry and physics. Last year he had been entered for, and passed, English and Latin, so at least he had those under his belt, and he was reasonably confident about his French. As for Greek, Howard, together with everyone else in his group (everyone but Hinde, of course, late recipient of the Golden Tongue), had long ago resigned himself to failing that and was even in two minds about showing up for the exam.
     If he failed the maths exam alone, he might be able to retake it in the autumn. But if he failed it again, or failed the hard sciences too, he might very well not get into the Sixth, which meant he might very well have to leave school, which in turn meant he might very well have to make a start on something resembling work, and that was a terror indeed.
     His disquiet today was coloured by the expectation of meeting again his only cousin. He could barely remember her, a dark, sober child, a year older than himself; he had been seven when last they had met. There were half a dozen ageing snaps of her in the family album, including one marked Juan-les-Pins, 19.vii.53. In a hooped bathing costume and squinting sulkily at the camera, she was perched on the edge of a recliner on a terrace by a swimming pool, railings and palm trees behind.
     She might no longer be as skinny as that, or as snub-nosed. In fact he had little idea of what she looked like now. He was afraid she might be pretty. Equally he hoped she would be, even though – since they were first cousins – there could hardly be a question of … not that he knew anything about girls, anything whatever. In any case, she was older than him.
     He wished she were not coming, not just now, at least. Her arrival would disrupt the household and interfere with his revision. Then when the results were announced during the summer holidays he would need to manage undivided his uncle’s reaction: no easy matter at the best of times.
     ‘If a polynomial in x is divided by a factor,’ he read aloud, trying to drive the words, one by one, like screws, into his brain, ‘then another polynomial will be produced. If the polynomial is divided by a non-factor then a remainder will emerge in addition.’
     His voice trailed away to nothing, because what he was reading was incomprehensible. Incomprehensible too that people wasted their time on such rot. The world, freedom, lay just outside his window, albeit under this dull June sky, and yet here he was, chained to a desk by the expectations of his uncle, of his teachers, of the whole of society, when he could have been doing any number of pleasurable things. For some reason he wanted most at this moment to be catching a bus to the seafront and its penny-in-the-slot machines.
     Just down the corridor the vacuum cleaner started up.
     ‘That’s that, then,’ Howard said to himself, pretending to be annoyed. No good trying to concentrate now. Mrs Davey had been galumphing about like that all afternoon, making ready for the Grand Arrival.
     It was not due till seven o’clock at the earliest. Dinner might be late. He got up from his desk, went down to the kitchen and speculatively opened the fridge.

∗ ∗ ∗

Even though he had spent the whole afternoon at the club-house, Silvanus believed the course his Majestic was taking to be acceptably exact. However, it now occurred to him that it might be a mistake to be driving with such exaggerated caution. An observant constable might become suspicious. For this reason he introduced a certain vagueness into the luxurious and barely audible passage of his automobile as it left the golf course behind, passed through the village, and began the long ascent that led, after a narrow side-turning, to his house.
     He knew he should not have drunk so much, especially as he had planned to drive into Dover himself. Curry had been to Bromley the previous night, so Silvanus would send a taxi instead and give its driver a placard to hold up.
     It pleased Silvanus that his daughter had chosen to keep his surname rather than assume that of the person who had cuckolded him. Otherwise, on the whole, he did not view the turn of events with pleasure. He had not seen her for nine years and had only the vaguest idea of how she had developed. Nor, except for her recent letters, had she sent him so much as a Christmas card. At seventeen she was surely old enough to fend for herself. Even his ex-wife could not have run through such a fortune before she had died.
     What would Phoebe do with herself in this backwater? Had she already finished her education, or would she want to go on with it here?
     Despite his various misgivings, her first letter had impressed him. Not just for its spelling and grammar, nor for the quality of her handwriting. The italic script she had been taught at prep school had shed some of its rigour, suggesting flexibility of mind, idiosyncrasy, even charm, and all these, especially the first, would be welcome. No, what had impressed him most about the letter were her choice of words and their concinnity. She had managed to imply regret while simultaneously shielding herself from rejection. It was quite a long letter, and when he had come to the end of it he had realised that he had had little choice but to grant her request.
     The car, more or less independently, safely found its way home and into the garage.
     ‘You’re drunk,’ Joyce observed.
     ‘That is quite true. Where’s Howard?’
     ‘He went out.’
     ‘Where’s he gone?’
     ‘I don’t know.’
     ‘When’s he coming back?’
     ‘No idea.’
     ‘Why are you so angry?’
     ‘I’m not angry.’
     ‘I like you better when you’re angry. Even better. Do you think we’ve got time to …?’
     ‘Would that be possible, in the circumstances?’
     ‘Oh, I don’t know.’
     Unable to prevent herself from smiling, however faintly, she shook her head in reproof.
     The word ‘nubile’, both in its original and modern senses, might have been coined specially for her, except that she was wonderfully averse to remarrying and quite content with the way things were. Silvanus counted himself blessed. Her features, her fair complexion and her gentle grey-green eyes, her Irishness, pleased him greatly, but most of all he valued the eager softness of her embrace. Besides all that, he loved to admire her from behind, especially when for any reason she bent down: an instant transport of delight. ‘Ah, Mrs Davey,’ he said. ‘You are not only a sublime cook and housekeeper and a paragon among women, but wise beyond your years.’
     ‘Not really. I’m forty-three.’
     ‘Oh, did I forget? I’m sorry.’
     ‘You always forget my birthday, you selfish beast.’
     ‘I am a bit of a beast, aren’t I?’


3 June 2019

What to read next

If you have read one or more of my novels but not all of them, and wish to read another, the following list may help to guide you.

Each title is numbered. After its name, in brackets, are four follow-up reads suggested by their tone and content. These are listed in descending order, so that if you have enjoyed, say, The Drowning, I recommend sampling Adrian’s Wall next.

Because I self-publish and am not beholden to external influence, I enjoy the luxury of being able to write what I please. Hence some of my books are very different from others and not all of them may appeal to everybody.

1. The Stone Arrow (2, 3, 4, 5)
2. The Flint Lord (1, 3, 4, 5)
3. The Earth Goddess (1, 2, 6, 7)
4. The Penal Colony (5, 1, 2, 9)
5. Refuge (4, 1, 9, 2)
6. The Tide Mill (7, 3, 10, 11)
7. The Drowning (10, 6, 3, 11)
8. Darling Brenda (11, 10, 6, 4)
9. Dismemberment (5, 8, 4, 1)
10. Adrian’s Wall (7, 11, 9, 6)
11. Phoebe Rising (7, 10, 8, 6)

20 May 2019

Lionel Shriver on the death of fiction



It comes to something when a writer as liberal – in the classical, original meaning of that word – as Lionel Shriver is characterised as right-wing; or, to use the version of that term habitually applied to anyone who does not fully subscribe to every aspect of today's shape-shifting orthodoxy, 'far-right'. She makes the point in this interview that brainwashed children are now setting forth from their campuses and taking influential positions in society. Her run-in with Penguin shows just how pernicious this will become.

She also says that she feels like a lone voice; that other writers who may be of a like mind seem to keep their heads down, no doubt in fear. Well, even though I am far less successful than Ms Shriver, I nonetheless may be classified as a 'writer', and I completely endorse her views.

I am coming to the end of drafting a new novel and have been toying with the idea of submitting it to a traditional publisher rather than, as I have with my last few books, self-publishing the thing. The novel makes no concessions to political correctness whatever. I have even set it in the early 1960s before the rot set in. It will be very interesting to me to see what reception it meets, and I shall leave this post in place for any prospective publisher to read.

We must fight back against this creeping tyranny. Unless we do, it will morph into something far, far worse than being hounded on and deplatformed by Twitter and Facebook, far worse even than being doxxed and having your employers blackmailed into firing you from your job.

The most relevant part of this interview starts at 8'31, though the whole of it is well worth your time; Part One is here.

9 May 2019

An offline electronic thesaurus



In 1975 I bought a copy of the Longman edition of Roget’s Thesaurus to replace an abridged Penguin edition, and the Longman’s has been by my desk ever since. As it is a printed book rather than an electronic file it is comparatively unwieldy and time-consuming to consult, especially because it runs to over 1,300 pages and is so exhaustive.

Since 2004 I have been using Apple Macs, and these come with an Oxford dictionary and thesaurus that is more than adequate for an author seeking the best word. But I also use a Linux machine and plan to transition entirely to Linux when my present Mac reaches the end of its days.

Thus I have been looking around for a Linux-friendly thesaurus. Those I have found are too sketchy and/or need an internet connection, and when I’m working I like to be offline.

Roget’s Thesaurus was first published in 1852 and has been revised many times since. The penny has now dropped: I realised that at least one of the better revisions would be out of copyright, and where more obvious to begin looking than Project Gutenberg? The more popular version there dates from 1911 and is available in various formats. The body of the work and the index are held in two different files, both of which I downloaded in Microsoft Word format, speedily converted to Open Document Text (.odt), which is more compact.

The body file, as it is called, is the more useful to me. I use FocusWriter for drafting: the draft goes in the first buffer and the thesaurus body file in the next. To switch between these two all I need to do is press Ctrl-1 or Ctrl-2. Then, with FocusWriter’s search facility, it is easy to find the keyword and see its context.

The Gutenberg edition isn’t as detailed as the Longman’s, which I would not be without, but nine times out of ten it does the job.

2 May 2019

On keeping one’s word

Elections were held in England today for local councils. In the ward where I live four candidates were standing, one from each of the three traditional parties (Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat) and an independent. I know nothing about any of them except that the prospective Conservative councillor, a beefy young fellow, rang my doorbell the other day and introduced himself.

Given the recent antics of the Conservatives at Westminster, and especially the despicable conduct of their leader, Theresa May, they are now so universally hated that I marvelled at his bravery – or foolhardiness – in thus opening himself to the abuse of the electorate.

This in itself generated some sympathy in my breast. Like other politicians or would-be politicians, he probably persists in the pleasant self-delusion that his aim is to ‘serve’, whereas narcissism or even megalomania are bound to be at the root of his ambition. However, he is still young, and assured me that if he himself were involved in Brexit he would soon sort things out in Brussels. Feeling a bit sorry for him as I did, I subjected him only to a gentle wigging about the behaviour of his party, and such was his gratitude (and my desire to be rid of him) that I foolishly promised to give him my vote, whereupon he pathetically shook my hand.

In the succeeding days I wished I had not made this promise. Following the betrayal of those, like me, who voted to leave the EU, my inclination is never to vote again, since my vote has been definitively revealed as worthless and I have better things to do than leg it down to the village hall (which today was labelled POLLING STATION) and waste my time and the council’s pencil-lead. I considered the hypothetical situation in which the Conservative candidate discovered that I had not voted and confronted me with this breach of faith. ‘I lied,’ I would tell him. ‘Now you know how it feels to be lied to.’

I cannot bring myself to vote for a Labour candidate, since Labour has now been fully taken over by Marxist entryists (as opposed to being controlled by crypto-communists and Soviet moles, as in the past). The Liberal Democrats are just a joke, and one in poor taste, at that. I did think of voting for the independent candidate, though, as I say, I have no notion of what, if anything, she stands for. The idea there would be to deny a vote to what is known as LibLabCon, the godless cabal that takes its orders from the European Commission and pretends to run things at Westminster.

I also thought of spoiling my ballot by scrawling NONE OF THE ABOVE, or something rather more blunt, on my paper.

The final and dominating idea was the first I had entertained, which was not to vote at all.

After my tea I decided to go for a walk; and I decided on a route that takes me past the POLLING STATION. I felt guilty. Sure enough, I found myself entering and making myself known to the two clerks.

Confronted with the four choices on the ballot paper, I briefly hesitated, pencil in hand. Then, because I had said I would, I marked an X next to the Conservative’s name. He won’t be elected – the Lib Dems rule round here – and anyway my vote is a grain of sand on a beach pounded and reshaped by the mighty forces of globalism: it is a meaningless speck, only granted me as part of the cynical theatrics designed to convince the herd that we live in a democracy.

However, I had kept my word. Had I acted otherwise, I would have made myself no better than Theresa May and I, at least, still retain a shred or two of self-respect.