Friday, 25 December 2009
This year I’ve gone and used the inspirational story I was going to tell you already, so as Christmas is the time of bad jokes I’m bringing you a short joke. Apologies for this in advance, the joke originates from a British Sign Language video and Deaf jokes are, frankly, rubbish. Have a great Christmas
It’s midnight on Christmas Eve and a man walks out of a pub. He is very drunk and desperately in need of a pee, but the queue for the toilets was far too long: so he heads out into the street and, being a bit worse for wear, finds a sign post on a street corner to relieve himself against.
Whilst he is standing there a large van (the type used by furniture movers) chugs slowly around the corner and stops immediately outside a jewellers shop. Even in his drunken state the man realises that there is something slightly off about a van making deliveries at midnight on Christmas Eve, so he tucks his manhood back away and watches as the driver of the van gets out, checks the street and goes to the back of the van.
Slowly the van door is pushed upwards and a ramp lowers, allowing an elephant to come out. The man leads the elephant to the jewellers shop and the large animal swings its trunk, shattering the glass. The man bags up the jewels from the display, puts the elephant into the back of the truck and drives off.
Our friend the drunk has sobered slightly at the sight of this, sufficiently for him to get his mobile phone out and call the police. He describes what he has just seen. Initially the police are suspicious
‘You’re taking the piss’ the desk sergeant says
‘No, seriously: I saw it!’
The sergeant sighs with the air of a man who has now heard it all, ‘OK – what colour was the van?’
‘I’m not sure, it was dark’
‘Did you get the licence plate?’
‘No’ says the drunk
The sergeant, quickly tiring of his useless witness sighs again, ‘OK – well what type of elephant was it?’
‘How many types are there?’ asks the drunk
‘Two’ says the policeman, ‘African and Indian: the African has large ears’
‘Oh’ says the man, ‘well, in that case I couldn’t tell’
‘Oh come off it’ the Policeman says, ‘it can’t have been that dark that you couldn’t see how big the elephant’s ears were?’
‘No’ agrees the man, ‘but the elephant was wearing a balaclava’
Thanks to everyone who has visited us pixies in 2009 - i'm sorry it hasn't always been possible to return the favour. Here's to a great 2010 for all. Peace, goodwill and success to all
Tuesday, 22 December 2009
Having sat through the X Factor final (an experience best described as having someone shove warm wax up your nostrils for two hours whilst someone applies a cheese grater to your brain) I have to say that I’m in two minds about this. Part of me thinks it’s a bit of a shame for (winner) Joe McElderry: after all he’s just after a slice of the old Fame Pie that everyone seems to want to bite these days and it’s not like his chances of a long music career are particularly great as they are.
Despite all the hype put forward by the judges McElderry was the clear winner over six weeks ago. After all television has taught us that people over 25 can’t possibly have anything relevant to say (so that was that category off) and can only be seen on Serious Programmes (and not always even then – the last time I switched on the news the presenter was barely out of her school uniform) and a band has never won the show (despite the fact that JLS and G4 should clearly have won during their years), so that only left the girls and little Joe who (lets face it) was young, pretty and could sing a bit.
Even so – we all know from past experience that should his first album not sell by the bucket load Joe will swiftly be cast aside by the corporate SyCo Machine – so the winners song was probably his best hope of getting that all important slice of fame. Gone are the days when a record label would support an up and coming band for a couple of albums, giving them time to grow to their potential: now it’s all about the instant success and making that big buck.
After all: fame is all that matters now. It has (arguably) replaced religion as the opium of the masses – just look to the TV talent shows if you don’t believe me and just watch all the self-deluded entrants desperate for their fifteen minutes. I seem to remember that when I was a kid you had to have to have a talent or skill for something to be famous, to have achieved something and recognised for that fact: now it seems sufficient to be famous and it doesn’t matter why.
Take a look at Amy Winehouse. Back To Black was a perfectly good album in a kind of sub Dusty Springfield way, but it’s her boozing and on/off relationship with her husband that she’s more famous for: and all those sad wannabies on the X Factor? Well, if they’re truly awful then they will have a career for a couple of years as a novelty act and then it will be back to their job in B&Q/Asda/instert dead end job of your choice here.
And of course part of me thinks that there’s something wrong in having a song full of swearing as Christmas number one. I mean, have we forgotten the true meaning of Christmas? (Selling expensive toys that go “Bing!” in case you were wondering – I once told a friend that I didn’t really celebrate Christmas because I wasn’t religious and they asked, in all honesty, “well, what has that got to do with it?”. I dunno – Christ-mass, ring any bells? Nope?)
But then the other side of me thinks its something of a coup. I mean there I was thinking that music had lost all meaning and passion: and here we are rebelling against the system. Raging Against The Machine (so to speak)
Music (at least rock and pop music) owes much of its groundings to rebellion and change. That’s why it was so important in the sixties and seventies – even into the eighties. Here was a young generation freed from forty years of near constant war and recession with a whole new set of liberties to explore – and explore them they did.
But the truth is that it could only last so long. Eventually the new found freedoms become second nature and, fuelled by the explosion of the Community Of Me Me Me, it inevitably became about the success and the money – and with nothing left to rebel against the fires died down a little. It’s hard to imagine it now but in the summer of 1977 with endless strikes, high unemployment and the cold war it really did feel like there was no future, but then came the booms of the 80s...
So seeing a bunch of people get together and care enough about music to stop some computer-written soulless song from getting to the number one slot renews my faith slightly in the passion of music and gives me hope that we still care. Music can touch us all more efficiently than almost any other form of media and it’s good to see that its still true today.
But surely there are more important battles to be fighting? Shouldn’t we be forming Facebooks to oust Gordon Brown from power? Shouldn’t we be campaigning for an end to poverty, child abuse or to stop Santa from superheating the planet as he whizzes around the globe at light speed and causes global warming?
But then Global Warming doesn’t have its own TV show, Save The Whale never released a video with Madonna and the Bengal Tiger doesn’t allow people to compete to be a part of its rich Hollywood lifestyle.
If only the Dodo had thought to become famous before it became extinct...
Friday, 18 December 2009
Margaret Mills, a semi-retired Bed & Breakfast/Hotel Manager is making the journey from John O Groats to Lands End on a mobility scooter – it has yet to be established what the eventual purpose of this journey is.
Along the way she communicates with her friend and employee Bernard “Spud” Maris, a youth of no fixed ability who has an on/off relationship with Denise the cheerleader and whose best friend Tosser is a known criminal.
Maggie is wanted for questioning by the Police in relation to something that has yet to be revealed, but is now additionally wanted for questioning relating to wanton destruction of property (namely a display of Harry Potter Audio Books), two counts of assault on a prominent marine biologist (looking for turtles), leaving several hotel bills unpaid and other minor speeding offences. Just prior to beginning her journey Margaret (or Mags) was seen in a prominent night club accepting a container containing a strange grey powder from Tosser…
Her journey has aroused much media and internet interest and resulted in the formation of the Margaret Mills Liberation Front – a facebook group resolved to helping her complete her journey via dressing up as elderly ladies and causing public disturbances.
For rules and to play along please visit the ever amazing Raven (loved those ice pictures btw) at http://ravensviews.blogspot.com/
An additional point for oversees readers: Spaghetti Junction is a famous junction on the M6 motorway outside Birmingham where the roads criss-cross in numerous directions. It is so call because, well…it looks a bit like Spaghetti…
Words this week were:
spaghetti, woe is me, mythology, avarice, windy, pathetic, paper towels, water, all my children, books
And: best deals of the week, Nobel Peace Prize, sleep deprived, cauliflower, practice
Walsall – Cirencester, (74.5 miles)
Well the bloody weather ain’t getting no better. This week it were trying to snow Thursday and Friday: so what with that and it being so windy I feel like I’ve been blown right across the country.
Well I’ve been all through the midlands this week. Remember when I called on Tuesday and told you about the incident with the paper towels in Bromsgrove? Well the cistern overflowed and the bathroom were all covered in water, so I tried me best to mop it up but ended up blocking the toilet instead. Well – that were just the start of the problems in that hotel. I don’t know what their head chef were thinking when he made the cauliflower sauce but the only thing it were good for was mending the hole in the spare wheel on me scooter.
Of course that happened whilst I were on the Birmingham Road towards Droitwich and I were right disappointed as I went through the area not to see Spaghetti Junction, but there’s no way I’ll be feeling sleep deprived over it.
Then I moved on to Cheltenham by Wednesday and went to the races. I didn’t have much luck: put a fiver on “All My Children” which were a ten-to-one outsider, but it turned out to be a bit pathetic and came in last.
The Hotel were nice though, though I got the idea that they were offering more than just the usual type of service. Whatever those young ladies outside were charging they must have been the best deals of the week, coz the place were full of young lads looking embarrassed.
Anyway, I finally arrived in Cirencester this morning and the Corinium Museum were right interesting. Had a special section amongst all them Roman artefacts where they told you all about mythology. Did you know they thought the sky were bronze not blue? Bloody interesting. I bought you and Tosser some books on it: course, we’ll have to teach Tosser to read first…
I took a quick trip to the amphitheatre, but it were trying to snow and there were this tour guide who wanted fifty quid for the pleasure of telling me about it. Well, talk about avarice! Whoever solves the problem of rip-off merchants like him should get a Nobel Peace Prize if you ask me.
I’ll try and call you during the week if I can find a plug socket to charge me mobile – maybe wish you a merry Christmas from wherever I am by then
TEXT FROM BERNARD “SPUD” MARIS TO MARGARET MILLS
Abit worrd abt Tosser. E was supposd 2 do a gig with his band “Woe Is Me”, but e never turnd up 4 practice.
Do u think he’s dun a runner?
PS: Denise is doin a special Xmas pud 4u. Will save u sum if we cant meet.
Monday, 14 December 2009
I'm waiting for the lights to change and listening to 21st Century Breakdown (general opinion: tries to hard to be something it isn't, but a good effort nonetheless. 7 out of 10 could do better). Despite the fact that it's nearly Christmas there's almost nobody about.
I'm only half-listening to the music: thinking about the giant holding cell that has become my life for the last 6 weeks. No change that - for the last year since we got the news about the end of the contract. Since that my ever increasing phrase of the day has been "When I know for sure about my job I'll..."
What? Go on a cruise? Get all the stuff sorted in my house? Study for a degree? There's so much I want to do and none of it seems to get any nearer.
Sometimes in life you can find yourself permanently waiting for that traffic light to change - for that opportunity to arrive. Truth is that I should get out there and make it happen: but I probably never will.
So what's been good about the past six weeks? Well I wrote a novel. It felt good to do something creative, to put something out there again. For so long I've been holding myself back because I'd lost my belief in my ability - you must know how it feels: you work long and hard on something and when its done a few people may look at it and grunt before it gets put in a box, but that's it...I mean what's the point? The very purpose of a novel is to be read, and a painting must be displayed.
So what's the point of me?
The lights change and I drive to the school where my partner is teaching. There's still ten minutes before the end of her class, so I look at the artwork on the walls and decide that some of it is just too damned good. There's a wall just outside the classroom where they've put up a picture of all the teachers in the school and I scan down it, noticing a few blank spaces where no picture has been supplied.
Being me I decide that the teachers involved were Invisible and spend a few minutes wondering how one puts that on one's application form and whether invisibility is covered in equal opportunities legislation. I think back to my own school days: I guess I was just average - which is the worst thing to be at school. If you're smart you stand out and all the teachers want you in their class so that they look good - if you're stupid and mess about then everyone knows you and you get all the attention in the world. If you're average you either get told how stupid and useles you are or you just slip through the cracks, unnoticed
But as I reach the bottom layer of the pictures I see a familiar face - it's one of the Art teachers who taught me when I was a kid: still going strong. Not the teacher who couldn't be bothered to enter me for my exams because of the paperwork, not the one that was only interested in his A level students: the other one.
The one who I only had for about one term.
The one who didn't care how good or bad you were as long as you tried and expressed yourself.
Maybe he was right: maybe the important thing is just to try...and maybe you might succeed along the way?
Friday, 11 December 2009
For those of you new to the game please visit the ever wonderful Raven at http://ravensviews.blogspot.com/
For those of you who don’t know already semi-retired Hotel Manager Margaret Mills is making the journey from John O’Groats to Lands End on a mobility scooter for reasons yet to be given. She is wanted for questioning by the Police for reasons unknown and is prone to causing havoc wherever she goes.
This week provided some interesting challenges and features the return of someone we met a few weeks ago…
Words and phrases for the challenge this week:
sugar, mortgage, logical, roller skates, outlandish, Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, cumberbund, unexpected, photo album, scarecrow
And for the mini: tomatoes, turtles, basement apartment, circumference, make my dayWeek Manchester – Walsall (85 miles),
EXTRACT FROM BBC1 NEWS, WEDNESDAY 9TH DECEMBER
Newsreader: …with a circumference the size of a bowl of petunias.
In other news this week there was a mass demonstration outside Number 10 Downing Street by the members of the Margaret Mills Liberation Front.
Mr Derek Kinkade, President of the MMLF later gave a statement from his basement apartment, saying “I wish they’d leave the poor old dear alone, I’m sure it can all be explained over a lovely cup of tea…
Well Manchester were just as bloody grim as I remember it: all full of moping students out trying to find some miserable bugger called Morrissey. Aparently he were a singer, but I’m buggered if I know who the hell he were. Anyway: I had to see one of the youths off with me collapsing zimmer frame after he collided with me mobility scooter. The daft bugger were out on roller skates: first time I’ve seen them since the 1980s. I tried my best Dirty Harry impression on him, givin him my “go ahead punk, make my day” expression, but he turned and rolled away.
Still I were swiftly out of Manchester and into Congleton, which is in Cheshire where the cheese came from. There were a lovely market in the centre and someone told me that it were where airbags are made. Would you believe it? Don’t seem right logical somehow. Still, there were a bit of a misunderstanding on the outskirts of Congleton, on account of the fact that I reversed my mobility scooter into what I thought were a fallen scarecrow, only it turned out to be that scientist what I met in Scotland. You know – the one who were looking for turtles? Seems he didn’t find any turtles in the Loch’s and had moved south to help with an ongoing study into the lifecycle of tomatoes – whatever the hell that means.
Anyway, I apologised as best I could for the tyre marks up his leather jacket, only I could tell he weren’t best pleased and left him too it.
Then I had a bit of a set-back outside Stoke-on-Trent, on account of the fact that me motor went in the scooter and I were forced to hitch a lift with a travelling magician. Professor Klump and The Amazing Asparagus or something like that. He were dressed right smart though, with a full tuxedo and cumberbund (although I had to ask him what he were wearing a girdle for before he explained). It were all a bit outlandish if you ask me, but that weren’t the worst bit by a mile.
See, he had this bleeding parrot: Asparagus (hence the name of the act) – only as it’s coming up to Christmas he’s been teaching it festive phrases and it kept yelling “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” the whole bleeding way until I were right ready to chuck it out the window. Anyway, he took me into Rugeley and I got the motor repaired and replaced and whilst I were waiting he showed me his photo album with all the famous people what he’s met down the years. It were right interesting and no mistake.
TEXT FROM BERNARD “SPUD” MARIS TO MARGARET MILLS
Tosser blockd the drain Mon, sed e woz pourin sum sugar away, but I don’t belief im
PS me n Denise are back 2gethr. unexpectd, but am glad. Do u think’s 2 early 2 get mortage?
Friday, 4 December 2009
OK: so for those of you who don’t know the rules please click on the link to Raven’s Views
Words this week are:
10-word challenge: edge, haven, sunglasses, sprightly, telling, frazzled, juicy, quartet, tied, necklace
And for the mini: bees, crackling, wooden, staple, earful
Weeks 7-8, Carlisle – Manchester
Well I’ll say one thing for the British weather: when it rains it bloody well rains. I couldn’t believe the weather last week – it were so wet that all me notepaper were ruined, which were why I weren’t able to send you a letter. In the end I had to pop into one of those hiking shops and buy a bloody great big waterproof: only it caught the wind and nearly bloody pulled me off a cliff before I was able to get some tent pegs and tied it to the handles of me collapsing zimmer frame. I were right frazzled by the experience.
That were in Penrith last week, you know – the day you rang about the bees having got into the mattress in number seven. I can understand how Mrs Bryce were upset and gave you an earful: I know I wouldn’t be best pleased if I got up in the morning, went to put on me necklace and ended up spending four hours in outpatients with me hand in a jar of Vaseline. You’d best give her money back and tell Tosser to have a word with Mr Kemp next door about his apiary.
Anyway – I took a bit of a diversion after Penrith and went to Kendal in the Lake District. Me and Norman used to have some lovely holidays there – only I see that they now have a shop selling Kendall Mint Cake which they never used to have. Full of sugar it is, but it must be good as it were the staple food of Edmund Hillary when he went up Everest, so I guess it must be ok.
So the weather were that bad that I didn’t get very far the next few days, but it were nowt compared to what I found in Morecambe. Honestly: it used to be a nice quiet place full of sailors with wooden legs and sprightly pensioners with knotted handkerchiefs on their heads and kiss-me-quick sunglasses: only now there’s one of them Haven holiday resorts at the edge of town, so the place is full of families and teenagers. Not my sort of thing at all.
Then this week there were the incident in Preston: I were trying to order some food from room services, but there were so much crackling on the line that I ended up with a bloody Russian ambassador and a string quartet in me room instead of the bacon sandwich I were expecting. That took a lot of explaining to the hotel manager and I weren’t too happy when he tried to charge me extra.
Anyway: I’m in Manchester now – so there’s no telling what might happen to me now
TEXT FROM BERNARD “SPUD” MARIS TO MARGARET MILLS
Erd sum juicy gossip abt Mr Kemp with the bees
Tosser recons he saw im hangin about on Trinity St looking for drugs.
Ow wud Tosser know if sum1 was looking 2 buy drugs?
Friday, 27 November 2009
I can't be sure - I never was one: but it must be an awful thing to be a Child Prodigy.
Fortunately for me I grew up with very few expectations that I would amount to anything, ever: so I pity the child of four who has been said to have an IQ of 120.
That's the problem though, when you start off with something that's right up there then you somehow have to follow it and are expected to do it again and again: inevitably you will probably fail.
Like right now JK Rowling must be shitting herself. Well, no: to be honest, she's probably too busy rolling around in bags of money and giggling to be seriously worried - but how do you top Harry Potter? No matter what she does for the rest of her career, no matter how big - she will probably never reach that height again.
Or The Beatles with Sgt Pepper, or Pink Floyd with Dark Side Of The Moon - both albums put immense pressure on the groups to come up with something as big and clever again and again.
So imagine what it would be like for an unknown to write something or say something that resonates with everyone - and then somehow be expected to come up with the magic again.
Often a single idea can be sufficient to keep you going if it's good enough - but where are those people who came through a few years ago? Where is Chris (X Files) Carter now? The truth is out there, and so is Chris - because the truth is that his single good idea only took him so far. Imagine that - knowing that there is a good chance that lightning may never strike there again and just hoping desperately to recapture the glory days
So perhaps it is better to live in hope of that Joshua Tree moment, to endlessly write that sci-fi epic in hope of attaining that Wrath Of Khan feeling - but to never actually reach it: because the view of hope in the future may actually be better than to watch it receding in the rear view mirror?
Would John Lennon ever have reached the same heights as his Beatles days, or would he have grown lesser and lesser as the years went by?
On the subject of which by way of response I would like you to summarise a plot in a single sentence - because all great ideas are essentially simple ones. Here's a couple of examples:
Wagon Train To The Stars - Star Trek
Four Dwarves Go For A Walk And Throw Away A Ring - Lord Of The Rings
Your turn :)
Friday, 20 November 2009
For those of you who don't know the journey from John O Groats (the most northerly part of mainland Britain) to Land's End (the most southerly) is quite a famous one (also known as LEJOG) and people make it via various means for different reasons. Maggie's reasons are secret for the moment...
Thanks as always to Raven for getting us all thinking: for those of you yet to play here’s the link http://ravensviews.blogspot.com/
Words for this week's 10-word challenge are: love is a many splendored thing, trucks, inspector, symbols, rising, organic, liberation, costly, smug, naughty
And for the mini: the nature of the beast, identical, charcoal, braggart, vacation
On a further note: there really is a Trout Inn in Oxford – a couple of episodes of Inspector Morse were filmed there, and it really is true about Gretna (at least the bit about the anvil is true)
Week six – Biggar – Carlisle, 87 miles
POLICE REPORT 111809/CS/CA
Detective Inspector Brains, Tames Valley Police attending
Brains: I was proceeding in a south-westerly towards Oxford canal on foot when I noticed a disruption taking place outside The Trout Inn. I saw what appeared to be an elderly lady with a collapsing zimmer-frame making rude gesticulations towards the landlord and calling him a braggart.
Having watched Crimewatch only the night before I was reminded that Mrs Margaret Mills is still wanted for questioning regarding..... and as the person looked identical to the photofit I proceeded to ascertain if it were she.
However, upon arresting the individual for public lewdness I discovered that it was not Mrs Mills, but a Mr Derek Kinkade of 1 The Crescent, Bewdley, President of the Margaret Mills Liberation Front.
I took him in for questioning, and he was subsequently released pending further enquiries.
I were right sorry to hear about your spat with Denise on Tuesday, but you should never have given her charcoal briquettes for her birthday. Honestly, what were you thinking? Nobody has a barbeque this time of year and you know how she feels about fossil fuels. Anyway I’m sure that you’ll get past it if only you can stop moping about feeling sorry for yerself, after all they do say that love is a many splendored thing: just look at me and Norman – he were never the most handsome man, but we got on right well enough.
Anyway – I’m finally bloody out of Scotland today, but it don’t get much better: as I’m in Carlisle today and that’s right on the border of Wales. Well, I ain’t got nothing against Wales as such, had lots of lovely holidays up here as a lass: but the bloody place is just full of wind and rain that won’t do owt for my gammy leg. The manager at the hotel in Lockerbie game me some orgasmic herbal remedy – or were that organic? Either way it looked like a bloody costly jar, so I shall use it sparingly if at all.
Gretna were a big disappointment: not how I remember it at all. Norman and me, well we eloped to Gretna when we was young, but it’s all changed. You can’t get married at the Blacksmith’s anvil no more: there’s just some smug tourist guide wanting to charge you a tenner for your photo to remind you of your vacation. Seems a shame really: I mean, where are all those mad passionate eighteen year olds just brimming full of naughty thoughts and repressed sexuality supposed to go now? Still I suppose that’s the nature of the beast that is tourism.
Carlisle is a bit grim: very noisy. I were kept awake all night by trucks bombing up and down the main road like there were no tomorrow. Still, today I were able to take a quick trip up to Hadrian’s Wall whilst me motor scooter were being repaired again. There wall were impressive: you can see it rising into the hills for miles around
By the way: thanks – I seen Crimewatch last night, but I’m sure I don’t have time to be bothering with the police right now. No doubt they’ll find me if they want me
TEXT FROM BERAND “SPUD” MARIS TO MARGARET MILLS
Hope u wont mind, as ow me n Tosser had to chuck Mrs Bayliss out of number three. Neighbors were complainin coz she spent all nite playin her symbols n drums
Friday, 13 November 2009
Meanwhile we begin with a quick hark-back to the suggested titles for my NaNoWriMo before we continue with Maggie’s story. I thought it might be interesting to have a quick think about each one and see where the titles led me: if anyone can think of better suggestions please let me know
ARGENT: “ Land of the bodiless" or "Falling Slowly".
Land Of The Bodiless sounds like a HG Wells or Edgar Allen Poe story doesn’t it? Falling Slowly could almost be anything, but my first thought was a story about someone losing control of their personal situation?
RESTON FRIENDS: Sparybk Speaks
Reston – this sounds like it could be the true confessions of someone, but with a name like Sparybk they’d have to be something like an alien coming to visit earth or something?
Dr John: "The Other End of the End ", "Parrot Soup for Breakfast"," The Blind Spectacles"
Again: these sound like Roald Dahl or HG Wells, maybe even Noel Coward or Marx Brothers titles (Especially Parrot Soup) – you could probably do a good sci-fi story about The Other End Of The End. I think The Blind Spectacles is one of my favourite suggestions, because you could do almost anything with it.
RAVEN: A Gathering of Ravens
Actually this was very tempting – If I knew the first thing about writing spy novels then I think this would be an excellent title for a thriller – so I think the prize goes to Dr John (for making me laugh) and Raven. I’ll put up more info on The Benefit next time, but I think it’s time to return to the story of Maggie and see how she’s doing.
Finally before we start the story proper I would like to thank Furry, my cat, who insisted on helping me with this weeks episode by clawing up my trousers, sitting on my lap and constantly trying to lick my typing hands throughout.
as ever for rules and regulations visit the ever wonderful Raven at http://ravensviews.blogspot.com/
Words this week for the10-word challenge are: officer, candid, drowning, turtles, sugar-coated, prospecting, shame on you, reclinder (I’m assuming this is actually recliner), luggage, brains
And for the mini: paragon of virtue, cats-in-the-cradle, swamp, sprinkles, garbage
Dumbarton – Moffatt (Dumfriesshire), 77.8 miles
Extract from CNN Live, Monday 9th November:
NEWSREADER: Still to come in the next hour, we bring you a candid report on John Goodenburgh, who’s been prospecting up in the mountains of Nevada since the 1920s and claims to have been abducted by aliens every week for the past five years, as well as Recliner Chairs: are they a hazard to your health?
But first more news on the continuing story of UK pensioner Margaret Mills, who after four weeks on the run is still wanted for questioning by the British Police in relation to... The story took an unusual turn this week, thanks to a Facebook group that has been set up dedicated to following her journey. It seems that members of the group are disguising themselves as old women and causing havoc around the country to try and hide Mrs Mills’s true destination. Over to Mel Binglebat on the streets of Dumbarton...
I can’t believe it’s been five weeks and I’m still not out of bloody Scotland. I tell you if I see another tin of tourist shortbread I shall bloody well scream. As If it weren’t bad enough with all the advertisements for Christmas having started. I tell you, I had a trip around Dumbarton Castle on Monday and they’d got a bloody nativity scene set up in the banqueting hall, only it must have been warm and cozy, because there were a bunch of cats in the cradle where the baby Jesus were supposed to be. One of them had peed on the hay, which I have to say ruined the display for me.
Still, it were nothing compared to Glasgow, which as you can imagine were full of bleeding American tourists blocking the path with their luggage and going on about how quaint everything were. I swear that you have to leave your brains behind at customs when they check your passport or something.
Mind you the hotel I stayed at in Glasgow were nice, chocolates on the pillows and all: only they had melted by the time I arrived, and when I complained the manager were only able to offer me some sugar-coated almonds. Well, you know how they always give me a dicky tummy? Well, I were up and down to the bathroom all night!
So on Wednesday I got as far as Lanark. I was going to head for Larkhall, but there’s bugger all here: I swear I’ve seen more life in a rancid swamp than I’ve found this last week. I did go past a lovely loch at one point, but I’m buggered if I know what it were called. Anyways, there were this bloke in the water and I thought he were drowning: only when I tried to fish him out with me collapsing zimmer frame he started yelling ‘shame on you, you’re disturbing the bleeding turtles’ What turtles, that’s what I’d like to know, and since when do you get turtles in Scotland? Honestly, some people.
So when I’d finish yelling at him and swiping him with me handbag I took a quick visit to St Nicholas’s Church and that were lovely: though as I caught the vicar nipping off to the betting shop I can hardly consider him a paragon of virtue, now can I?
Well, must be getting on to me final destination for the week, somewhere called Biggar. Don’t forget to put out the garbage and give Mr Jones in number 10 his notice. If he feigns death again just dress up as an undertaker and threaten to throw him onto the bonfire
TEXT FROM BERNARD “SPUD” MARIS TO MARGARET MILLS
Fanks 4 the sugar-coated shortbread sprinkles, me n Tosser really likd em n gave a few to Mr Jones, who weren’t no truble wen e left, coz of how Tosser hit im in the nose till e went.
Police Officer cum round again. Sed e just wantd 2 talk 2u, n straitn fings out
Friday, 6 November 2009
As I said before I don’t currently have regular access to the internet and what little time I do have needs to be mostly spent looking for work at least until I find out what’s happening with my current job. I’m actually writing this from the local library, where you get one hour free use per day (woo, and indeed, hoo!)
Thanks also to everyone who suggested a title for my NaNoWriMo – however, I had a very vivid dream after posting and was able to come up with my own title “The Benefit”. Still, once I’m back on line properly I’ll pick a winner from the suggested titles and let them know.
Thanks also to Argent, who very kindly offered to let me post the next instalment of Maggie’s adventure.
Words this week for the major:
Cute, come with me to the casba, bloodhound, respiration, facebook, Canada Geese, modern, gravity, spiders web, sea shells
Curiosity killed the cat, charming, Victorian, railroad tracks, tower, salt and pepper
Ballachulish – Dumbarton (73 miles)
Can you believe it? Four weeks on the road and barely out of Scotland. Of course, this bloody mobility scooter doesn’t help. Supposed to come with a five year guarantee, but I keep having to get people to push me up hills. Norman never did trust this modern rubbish, and I guess he were right after all.
Anyways, it were lovely to hear your voice on Tuesday, but I have to admit I didn’t really know what the bloody hell you were on about. What were all that nonsense about a Facebook group dedicated to finding me? Bloody rude looking into my affairs if you know what I mean – after all, curiosity killed the cat, and besides: why the hell would you have a book on your face?
Still, I guess it keeps them off the streets.
Honestly Spud, you should see the state of some of these hotels. The first one I stayed at this week had a spider’s web in every corner and the manager wouldn’t even move me. Said I should consider myself bloody lucky to even be alive. Well, I showed him I did – left without bloody paying and have no intention of going back neither.
Going on the second day were much easier, what with gravity giving me a hand down all those hills. Stopped at a pond in Altnafeadh and nearly got savaged by some Canada Geese, but a few waves of me collapsing zimmer frame shooed them off in a hurry.
Then Wednesday night I stayed in this B&B what had a bloodhound for a pet. They must have been just letting it loose and peeing in all the rooms, coz I had troubles with me respiration all night and you know how the smell of dog piss affects my breathing. Still the manager’s son were quite cute: and if I’d been sixty years younger I’m sure his charming ways would have won me over.
Still, I had to carry on with me journey, or else what would Norman have said? He were always a tower of strength were Norman. So I sets off on Thursday to Adochlay, which is on the banks of Loch Lomond, only my mobility scooter got stuck on the railroad tracks and I had to be pulled out by this bloke who had one of those Victorian moustaches – you know: the ones that look like they would still be perfect under fifty foot of water and covered in sea shells?
Oh well, I arrived safe and sound here in Dumbarton this morning and have no intention of moving until Monday. Right proper B&B this is and the food is lovely – they don’t even make a fuss when you ask for the salt and pepper.
TEXT FROM BERNARD “SPUD” MARIS TO MARGARET MILLS
Poliz cum round again
Wantd 2 no abt that nite wot you come with me to the casba club
Sed u took package from Tosser? Sumthin abt him givin u sum powder inna jar?
Mags – wot u got urself into?
Friday, 30 October 2009
Friday morning. Today.
It’s 5:30am and I’m wide awake, my body not having adjusted to the clocks going back on Sunday for the winter.
Furry is sitting in the gap between my body and my arm, his head resting on my bare skin. He offers a confused purr as I give up any attempt at sleep and get up.
Once in the bathroom I open the window and check the sky – perfectly clear. I get dressed and pack a towel and a change of T-shirt.
At ten past six I head out of the door with a slight headache from not having slept properly and Peter Davidson’s last scene as Dr Who plying for space in my brain. The Dr Who scene has been playing in my head for some days now. I think about Davidson’s last words as the Doctor “Might regenerate…I don’t know…feels different this time” and Colin Baker’s infamous “Change my dear, and it seems not a moment too soon”
When they first showed it I was mostly thinking what a great view Davidson had when he was performing that scene – right up and into the mountains that were Nicola Bryant’s cleavage, but today I am thinking about the wider meaning of those words.
Feels different this time.
I walk down the street and past the bus stop. It’s lighter this morning than it has been for some weeks, the change of the clock pushing back the darkness for just a while. Ever since the dark mornings have arrived I’ve been travelling on busses, feeling the familiar claustrophobia of public transport enshroud me like a tomb as I’ve shuffled from place to place, squeezing myself in to allow for other passengers, running from stop to stop to make that connection.
Today is different, today is not the same. Today I make the action (and points for anyone who recognises the lyric)
I walk under the main road, taking the subway and past the small factories. I’m trying hard to think about the fact that this is my last day at work, that after this my future lies uncertain before me, that everybody’s changing and I don’t feel the same…
Over the train bridge taking the steps one at a time and despite all my attempts to think about something else the thought that comes into my brain is Jimmy Osmond.
Yeah, that’s right – 6:30am on a Friday morning on the dawn of the last day I will ever take this route for this purpose and I’m thinking about Jimmy Osmond on Celebrity Come Dine With Me. For those of you who don’t know it CDWM is a program where people spend a week hosting dinner parties for strangers and they get marked on how well they do – the celebrity version of this gives the money to charity.
On the episode with Jimmy Osmond there was some size zero super model, a pop starlet and Nicky Clarke (hairdresser to the stars). Each and every one of them was “fashionably late” with Clarke arriving 1 ½ hours after he was due – causing the food to be ruined.
Osmond, being a Mormon and a generally all-round-nice-guy smiled it off and forgave him.
Personally – if it had been me – I’d have given him a mouthful of abuse, asked him who the hell did he think he was trying to score style points off me, ruining all my hard effort and finished by asking if he was too fecking busy to text me and let me know before slamming the door in his face.
As I walk down past the park where the circus comes and pitches up I realise that I’ve been taking it a bit too slowly and will have to speed up if I am to arrive in time to shower. I pick up the pace as I pass the supermarket. There was a factory here once, and when it went a lot of people thought that this is the end, my only friend, the end…but of course the world continued to turn and new opportunities came along and replaced the old.
I think about this as, covered in sweat, I pop into an early opening shop and buy a drink. I’ve been walking an hour now and, at just after 7am, it is light. The sun has risen as far as it is likely to and a new day has begun.
As I start up the Big Long Hill I think about the people I will never see again. The security guards who have to put up with a lot of shit for very little reward, the characters in the call centre who made me smile and made my dead-end job that bit easier to bear. I think about the people who have already gone and all the promises to keep in touch that never come to fruition. It’s sad, but perhaps inevitable and I know that I will always carry a bit of them with me in my heart.
At 7:20am I reach the 2nd factory at the top of Big Long Hill and start the descent again. The shops are still closed and there is no sign of the life that will inhabit them in the next few hours.
Bang on time I arrive to meet Argent and collect my guitar. I sent out an email to a few of the managers that played a few weeks ago saying that we should all bring our guitars the last day, not really expecting him to say yes…then yesterday he asked me if I was still bringing it in.
Argent feeds her cats and we walk the rest of the way together, guitars in hand. We talk about the end of an era, we talk about set-lists, we talk about the difficult second album, forever, ever, delayed…
And then we arrive - and I’m beaten to the ground floor shower by the Incredible Cycling Lady. She’s barely tall enough to look in the eye of Gimli the Dwarf, yet she cycles 32 miles each day to work and back, come rain or snow. I used to joke that she was six foot tall when she started and simply wore her legs away – but I guess I won’t be telling that one again.
I take the lift to the second floor and enter the shower. I think about all the times I have showered here and been afraid that I have forgotten to lock it, or that I will go into routine mode and start wondering around in the nude. For a second of wild abandon I am tempted to fling the door wide open and waggle my privates in front of the security camera. Fortunately I decide against it.
This is the last time.
I started this blog to relieve the tedium of a boring job that I found myself in necessity of having to do to keep a roof over my head and by doing so I met some fantastic people and finally felt there was somewhere I could belong. It is very much my intention to continue it, but with no internet activity at home I cannot guarantee how often this will be.
The only thing I do know for sure is that on Tuesday next week I have a meeting with my new employer to see where, or if, I sit within the New Order. It is likely to be at least two weeks before I know if I even have a job, let alone where that might be.
I want to thank you all for reading and commenting, for posting such interesting thoughts and for helping me to stay sane(ish)
As they always say – finish on a song.
Take it away Eric…
Anyone not interested in reading fiction blogs can find a related factual blog HERE or simply chose to read both by the efficacious means of scrolling up and down the screen
Secondly – and perhaps rather foolishly – I have just signed up to National Novel Writing Month with the intention of writing a 50,000 novel from scratch by the end of November
HOWEVER: I will only actively write this novel if one of you reading this blog is able to provide me with a title for my novel by 1st November
Titles should be sufficient to grab my attention and spark my imagination. The winning entry will get a dedication at the start of the book, an electronic copy of any resulting entry (should they wish it) and a free autographed copy should it ever come to publication
Finally – although my circumstances are changing due to the events stated in my related post “This Is The Last Time” I very much hope to continue the story of Maggie on Wordzzle day if sufficient people are interested? I’m afraid I don’t currently have regular internet connectivity, so updates may not always be exactly on time.
Yet again those of you who don’t know how a Wordzzle works the rules can be found here http://ravensviews.blogspot.com/2008/02/wordzzles.html along with a whole host of other players to enjoy
This weeks’ selection of words were:
plumber, autograph, Florence Nightingale, a chill wind’s a blowing, watering hole, sleek, triplets, backwards, surface tension, parrot
Free estimates, French fries, carpet, Braille, silver-tongued bandit
This week I need to say a quick thank you to the people at http://www.pewseys.eclipse.co.uk/ who were mad enough to make the journey for real and to Wikipedia – the font of all pointless knowledge.
And an apology to anyone of a young or nervous disposition, or from another country, who has never heard of (UK children’s wildlife presenter & naturalist) Terry Nutkins – as soon as I saw his name on Wikipedia I knew he was the one…
Oh, and yeah: French Fries – Chips: same thing.
Week Three - Inverness – Fort William – Ballachulish (79 miles)
Exhibit 12c: Text sent from mobile no ********, Mr Bernard “Spud” Maris to ******** Margaret Mills, Monday 26th Oct 2009, 1257:
Funny thin ap’nd 2day. Bloke cum round, sed he wuz givin free estimates coz he wuz a plumber – only I knowed im, c? He woz that copper wot got Tosser sent down, bangd to rites last yr.
Wot do poliz want Mags, is it true wot they’re sayin abt u on telly? Cum ‘ome, ur 2 old 2b out like wot u r now.
I got your text on Monday and tried to phone you the next day, only you weren’t there. I spoke to Tosser though about the Police and he said not to worry, he’s got it all under control. I’ll try to call you again next week, but my credit’s a bit low and the signal keeps cutting out what with all these mountains getting in the way.
Anyway, you know how much of a fan of Terry Nutkins our Norman was? Well you’ll never believe who was signin’ copies of his autobiography in Fort Augustus on Tuesday?
There he was, little old Terry, still fondling his squirrels and showing them off – the owner of the Lovat Hotel told me as how Terry used to own the Fort, and the Hotel as it happens – so I guess that explains why he was here. I can only hope that he ran the hotel better than the new bloke – but somehow the persistent smell of parrot droppings from the carpet suggests he didn’t
Anyways I knew Norman would like it if I was to get Terry’s autograph, so in I went and stood behind some twelve year old trying to control her triplets for half an hour. At my age I shouldn’t really be standing for as long, so I guess it’s no wonder as how I fell backwards into the Harry Potters. I think the security guard thought I was about to throw me knickers at Terry or something, so I had to try and explain about me dodgy hip. I don’t think he was impressed. He even threatened to get the police on me. Vandalism, he said! Imagine that, me a senile delinquent!
Anyway, Terry was lovely and gave me a few tips on places to visit, like the Caledonian Canal. Sadly I had to get back to the hotel, so as I could put me scooter on charge.
Next night I made it as far as Spean Bridge before the battery ran down on the side of the road. I must have been there for half-an-hour before this salesman came and offered me a lift to the garage. The mechanic who looked at the battery was very nice, but I could tell he were nowt but a silver-tongued bandit trying to fleece me. Never trust a man with hair so sleek you could ski down it, that’s what Norman would say.
There weren’t no hotels, not what I would call a hotel at any rate – so I managed to find a room at the local watering hole, the Florence Nightingale.
There wasn’t much on the menu and I spent a happy half an hour arguing that I just wanted a nice plate of chips and none of those fancy French Fries – if I wanted to eat French food I’d go to France, I said – but the manager just looked at me like I were mental. Eventually they brought me what he laughingly called soup, though the surface tension were such that I had to cut it with a knife before I could get me spoon in
Finally the mechanic came back with a new battery fitted and I were able to carry on to Fort William the next day and then to Ballachulish today. I can’t say I’m very impressed with the area, though the bridge is very posh. It’s taken me so long as to get here that I were very tempted to get on the train, but I don’t think Norman would ever forgive me if I gave up now.
Anyways, I’d best leave it there, as a chill wind’s a blowing through the hotel window and its going straight up me nightie.
PS: Don’t forget Mr Smith in room 12. He’s due for his rent, so feel free to kick the miserable bugger out if he don’t pay on time.
POLICE REPORT CS/FA/271009.
I was called to an incident at the local bookshop where a Mr Terrance Nutkins, formerly of Lovat Hotel, Fort Augustus, was signing his new book “Nutkins To See Here”. It was alleged by a member of staff that an elderly woman had deliberately destroyed a display of Braille books and attempted to thrust herself physically upon Mr Nutkins.
Upon enquiry I was informed the CCTV has been out of action for some time and that the lady had already departed the building by the time I arrived and was nowhere to be seen. The branch manager, Mr Spole, was unable to provide a description as the store was busy and Mr Nutkins was not interested in prosecuting. I have arranged to return to the shop at a quieter time to obtain a description of the suspect.
Tuesday, 27 October 2009
Being of a nervous disposition when it comes to all this new-fangled gadgetry they keep inventing (and remember, anything invented when you are a kid is in The Natural Order Of Things, anything invented after about 35 is Against God And Must Be Stopped) i'm still slightly bemused at the idea that one can find actual footage from a concert you've been to just floating about on the interweb
Anyway - here's the tour diary from the Indigo Girls concert i went to - the first four minutes are just Emily Saliers wondering about in the style of Spinal Tap, but at 4:30 you get some rehearsal footage and an actual live song at 6:30 (ish): bear in mind the sound you're hearing is mostly from the on stage monitors.
Just a quick note ahead of Friday because there will be two posts: a wordzzle and, for those of you who prefer them, a factual story. Read either or both - but in the meantime enjoy the girls on stage
Friday, 23 October 2009
Since so few of you clenched your fists and shook them at the sky shouting “Curse you pixie for your story of an elderly lady” Maggie returns this week for a second episode
For those of you who don’t know how a Wordzzle works the rules can be found here http://ravensviews.blogspot.com/2008/02/wordzzles.html
Each week we are given a set of ten words for the main bout, five for the “mini” or support act and all fifteen for the mega. The words of choice are:
Incensed, sidewinder (rattlesnake), bogus, conniption (a fit of excitement), Haz-mat (hazardous material), conniving, customize, perforated, zeal, rolling off a log
And for the mini: abstemious, chlorophyll, origami, cheerleader, dung beetle
This week’s Wordzzle gave me a few problems, because there were a number of words that neither of my two characters to date would know, let alone use. However, it did give me the opportunity to bring in another story element…slightly earlier than originally planned, but hey-ho!
And apologies for the slight moment of cheating: no doubt Michael Stipe is being called and informed that someone is trying to wake someone else as we speak...
Week Two – Helmsdale to Inverness (71 miles)
From “CNN Live, Tuesday 20th October”
“Well Tony, there’s been a high degree of conniption here today in Salt Lake City as we wait for the result from the Scientists, but there’s still no news on whether the Haz-mat was disposed of safely. We’ll bring you an update as and when we know something more”
“Thank you Kelly. Good evening I’m Tony Flowers and you’re watching CNN Live. News from around the world now: British police are refusing to confirm if the elderly woman who stopped a Bank Robbery in Scotland yesterday evening is Margaret Mills, the retired Hotel Manager who went missing from her home early last week. Mrs Mills, 74, is wanted by the Police for questioning in connection with…”
There was a bit of excitement on Monday when I was in Dornoch. You know what Bank’s are like on a Monday: everyone who didn’t cash in on Saturday is there with all their pennies. I had to leave my scooter outside and use the zimmer frame. Talking of which, please do thank Tosser for helping customize mine to be collapsible – it fits so much easier onto the scooter.
Anyway – I had my paying in book and my pension slip ready and this bloke comes in dressed same as a Policeman…only I could tell he was bogus, due to the fact that Police on the beat don’t usually have Velcro strips on the side of their trousers.
And he pushed his way to the front of the queue! Straight up to the cashier and handed over a piece of paper. Well I was incensed! Who the bloody hell did he think he was pushing past me as had stood there for half an hour?
So I let him have it, my zimmer frame that is. Don’t think he knew what hit him till he was crawling on the ground like a wounded dung beetle.
The manager of the bank was all over me, wanting to give me an award or some such nonsense, so of course I told him to sod off and just let me cash me pension cheque in peace.
All a load of fuss over nothing if you ask me, so I got meself out of there sharpish before the conniving git of a manager managed to work out a way of getting himself promoted thanks to me
Anyways, you don’t want to hear a lot of nonsense about some bank – so back to me journey. I caught the Merkle Ferry from Dornoch. Lovely ride that were – water as calm as if someone had applied chlorophyll to the waves. I bought meself a camera, not one of the new-fangled digital gizmos, but one of those disposable types, with a side-winder to move the film on.
Took some pictures of Foulis Castle, which were in very good condition I have to say. I was tempted to buy some of the shortbread, save meself the price of developing the film on account of the fact the picture of the Castle was on the tin, but the tin had one of those perforated edges that always cuts me fingers and besides, “I’m trying to be abstemious” as Reverend Johns would say, whatever the bloody hell abstemious means…must have swallowed a dictionary as a kid that’s all I can say – all those long words coming out of his mouth easy as rolling off a log.
Anyways, I stopped for the night in Dingwall, then again in Craigton where I got another ferry to North Kessock and finally ended up in Inverness early this morning. The hotel manager is certainly full of zeal for the place, but I have to say it’s a bit grim for my tastes.
Oh – just to finish lad – I got your text, but I couldn’t figure out how to respond. I tried the people in Tourist Information, but they were no bloody help at all
Exhibit 12b: Text sent from mobile no ********, Mr Bernard “Spud” Maris to ******** Margaret Mills, Thursday 22nd Oct 2009, 1700:
U were rite, Debs sed Yes. Can’t beleve am d8ing cheerleeder.
Tosser says wot do u want doin w ur copy of Origami Munthly – I sez leave on dining table. Hope that ok?
BTW: woz that u on telly?
Indigo Girls "Land Of Caanan" - so excited: going to see them live this sunday in the UK!!! They were fantastic last time i saw them
Bjork "I've Seen It All" - from the film Dancer In The Dark (not one for the faint hearted, or for people looking for a happy feel-good movie). I love the transitions from the real world to the songs.
Wednesday, 21 October 2009
A couple of months ago I sent two short stories off for consideration in a competition and consequently heard nothing for ages.
Then, around the end of September/start of October I received news that both had been accepted for publication – for which I would receive the princely combined sum of $40 (about £25)
There were, of course, slight catches to this – firstly there will be no free author’s copy to tout around and try and sell to family and friends, secondly the only place it is being published is in Canada and on demand – so when I do buy copies (admittedly at a discount) I will have to pay a transaction fee to my bank.
So not quite vanity publishing, but close.
But then my friend Argent was telling me that back in the beginning of publishing everything was vanity published – it was the only way to get things out there.
For anyone wondering I won’t be naming the stories, nor the location of printing here because I’m still keen to keep my name and face off the internet as much as possible – but if any of you actually feel like putting up £10 for 2,000 of my well chosen words (along with the words of about 13 other people) please let me know and I will email you details.
To be honest though, I don’t expect you to buy it – I’m happy that you come and read my thoughts in the first place.
And I know that some of you prefer my factual writing to my fictional (I enjoy the process of both), but today I wanted to talk about what we each get out of blogging.
I always remember what Douglas Adams said about writing – which was that it can be very lonely and like staring at a blank piece of paper until your head bleeds.
For me I have written stories and poems and songs for as long as I can remember and became terribly down heartened at the response from family and friends. Some just wouldn’t be interested in reading them at all, whilst others would look at my 50,000 word Magnificent Octopus (as I call Magnus Oppus – or great work) and pick out all the punctuation mistakes and fail to say anything positive.
Even worse would be the “great….great…sorry, what was it about?” that some people would give to something I had spent three or four years writing. Eventually I came to doubt my ability to write: which has (and continues to have) given me a certain degree of writer’s block – sometimes its difficult to continue writing something when you know that the end result will sit in a drawer, or on a computer file, unloved and unread by all other than a few non-committal family members.
On one occasion at work I tried to explain that I had woken at 4am with a really good idea and had to get up, switch on my computer and work on it there and then or lose it forever – the response from the person involved was that I was “sad” (IE a loser).
It’s something I continue to be frustrated by – this bizarre need to be creative and to express myself in some way and yet my personal feeling that I am never able to get what I mean on paper, or that the people in my own community wont “get” it.
And so when I discovered blogging it became a chance for me to talk to people that DID understand – people like myself that woke at 4am with ideas, people who were prepared to look at the world from a different point of view.
Since I started blogging I’ve done some of the best writing I’ve ever done and I have to thank each and every one for your continued support and feedback. People always surprise me as to what they pick out of something I’ve written.
Finally – I wanted to discuss an idea for my next Toastmasters speech, which will touch on the subject of genius and where creativity comes from.
Take William Shakespeare: the bane of school children reading in bored voices across the land, but universally accepted as a genius.
Most of us can quote some of his works – like “To be or not to be – that is the question. Whether it is nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of oppressors”
However – I saw a production of Hamlet recently and it said in the booklet that an early version of the play showed a much shorter version of the speech: “To be or not to be – aye, that’s the rub”
Why was this? Because back then plays were constantly written and re-written according to public response, actors might add lines that would be kept and writers would openly steal bits of plays from other writers that they liked and add them to their plays…
So if all this was happening to Shakespeare’s works – was he really a genius??
Perhaps true genius exists in the coming together of minds??
Sunday, 18 October 2009
OK – so, for those of you increasingly small number of people who don’t know how a Wordzzle works the rules can be found here http://ravensviews.blogspot.com/2008/02/wordzzles.html
Each week we are given a set of ten words for the main bout, five for the “mini” or support act and all fifteen for the mega. The words of choice are:
early morning light, Pinocchio, mist, leaves, sandy, coffee, walking, traffic, pray, stomach
And for the mini: train, art, admirable, cotton, fluffy
My story doesn’t really have a title yet – so any suggestions will be welcome. Hope you enjoy.
Week one – John O’Groats to Helmsdale (51 miles)
Well the train put me down Tuesday night and I was able to find a nice truck driver to take me the rest of the way to John O’Groats, but I can’t say much for the hotel: it smelt like someone had been keeping chickens in the room, and the less said about the coffee the better. You know that ultra expensive coffee on the news – the one where the beans pass through the stomach of a cat? Well it tasted like that.
I was a bit worried about the weather on the first day, you know what they say about Scotland – if you don’t like the weather hang around for half an hour – but the mist across the sea soon cleared and I was even able to go for a quick paddle in the water and spent an hour walking on the beach – although the walking frame did get stuck and the mobility scooter had to get a push start from the man with the sign. I didn’t like him much – he wanted to charge me £40 just to stand by a sign saying “Land’s End 600 miles”. He reminded me of Mr Johnson from the Chemist shop, you know – looks like his hair is made of cotton wool? I know you won’t like me saying that, but at my age you can’t afford to be mincing words.
Anyway, once we’d got the scooter out into the traffic it ran well enough, although I’ve noticed that the wheels skid a bit when you drive over leaves so I’ll have to watch that when I’m going down hill.
Going was really good the first day and I managed to get to Freswick by midday. Not that there was much there – just a pub called the Admirable Lord Of The Glen, where I was able to get a Bacon sandwich. The scooter does about 25 miles before it needs charging, depending on how many hills you go up, so I have to find a hotel that doesn’t mind me plugging it in – but I’m wishing that I remembered Mr Wiggles, the fluffy cushion that little Sally made for me last Christmas
Thursday was a bit better – having managed to get as far as Wick (which has a golf club that your mate Tosser would love) – but despite my best efforts my knickers are still really sandy – must have been from the walk on the beach. One particular hill I really thought I was going to have to get out and pray to make it up the hill, but somehow we made it.
Yesterday was not so good – my back was giving me gip from an uncomfortable stay in a Bed & Breakfast – they must have used corrugated iron for the mattress, that’s all I can say. So I was up with the early morning light and off, but I got rather distracted when I reached Dunbeath Castle and ended up spending half a morning walking around on the zimmer frame. Sometimes I really hate the walking frame, but it comes in handy as well – because everyone just assumes that you’re stupid when you have one, so if you play your cards right and shout about whippets from time to time you can usually get in free. The castle had a lovely display of modern art, not that I understand all that new fangled nonsense – frankly if they wanted someone to ride a bike all over a piece of canvas then I’d’ve been happy to take half what they paid Damien Hurst.
Anyway, I eventually reached Helmsdale about tea-time and found myself a nice hotel with a Jacuzzi. I think a few of the other residents resented me getting in, with all me wrinkles making me look like a whale, but I have to say it was a nice change after all that travelling.
Well Spud – I’ve got a lot of planning to do today before I set off again. The roads are very winding, so it could take me longer than I thought – especially with having to find somewhere to re-charge the mobility scooter each night. I will try to send you another post card next week. In the meantime – do yourself a favour: get a haircut and ask that Debbie out – she won’t wait for ever.
Exhibit 12a: Text sent from mobile no ********, Mr Bernard “Spud” Maris to ******** Margaret Mills, Friday 16th Oct 2009, 0845:
Where’s u? Cum bak ome – we’re watchin Pinnochio this w/end. No u like. BTW: Polize cum round, want no where u r, say u stole sumfink? Txt me back. I no u have this numbr
Monday, 12 October 2009
I’d got into amateur theatre the same way I get into many things – through a combination of sheer boredom and a desire to give anything a go at least once – but I think I knew fairly early on that if I was going to be on a stage then I would prefer there to be a guitar between me and the audience.
It all started when, bored of a woman at work constantly saying that she was looking for a play for four women and couldn’t find one, I wrote a play.
And OK – so it was hardly Shakespeare, but it did lead to getting involved with the Amateur theatre group that produced it (once in a field in the middle of nowhere, and once in a competition) and auditioning for a part in their Panto (1).
Although I enjoyed my stint in Panto (as the villain – always fun to play) I felt no burning desire to continue experiencing the roar of the greasepaint and the smell of the crowd (2) and it was only when our new receptionist at work found out what I was doing and asked me to audition that I became theatrically involved again.
This time around I was to play the vital role of Mr Yates in (Jane Austen’s) Mansfield Park – a character so important to plot progression that most adaptations miss him out. To be honest though I was never interested in playing the big parts – far too much pressure to get it right (and the more nights you DO get it right, the more you begin to stress that you won’t).
For anyone who has not been involved in Amateur Theatre you have to know a few things:
* IF you think actual actors are a bunch of “luvvies” (3) then amateur theatre players (in my experience) are 100 times worse
* The best roles always tend to go to the regulars
* There is usually a pretty intensive rehearsal period, which can be as often as 3-4 nights a week and a weekend rehearsal
* The “run” of the show can be anywhere from one-off to every night and matinee (afternoon) performances for two weeks
So the question I had to ask myself on night five of “Mansfield Park” was “Am I enjoying this enough to make it worth the effort?” – and the answer was “no”.
Having thus decided that my acting career was over you can imagine my surprise when, barely a few months later, I found myself in the audition hall clutching my guitar to my chest and looking down at a piece of music. The director (who might just as well have had “Panto Dame” scrawled across his head) had thrown the book down in front of me and challenged me to play a song – being unable to read music I sadly failed.
Regardless of this, and regardless of giving one of the worst auditions of all time, I landed the all-important role of Third Bloke From The Left and had the task of looking surprised, playing guitar, looking surprised, playing bass and falling over whilst looking surprised.
It was a rock n roll musical – one of those that uses popular songs to tell a story and, as second guitarist, I had two lead guitar moments: firstly the lead guitar in “The Young Ones” whilst doing The Shadows Step (4) and “Johnny B Goode”.
And of course, being a guitarist, I was determined to get my moment of glory right. And we all know that there are certain things that guitarists have to do to be proper rock gods:
* Throw guitar up in air and catch it whilst still playing – however Health & Safety concerns stopped me doing this
* Destroy guitar – this was discussed, with a “dummy” guitar rigged with pyrotechnics – however the guitarist concerned was a) concerned about destroying a perfectly good guitar and b) concerned about losing his arms in resulting explosion
* Throw plectra into crowd triumphantly (5) (drummers traditionally throw their sticks into the crowd – so I guess we can only thank the stars that piano players haven’t joined in the game)
And this is where I fell down slightly with my Rock N Roll credentials – because actually I’m quite fond of my plectra and the thought of throwing it away was uncomfortable at best, so I guess it’s just as well that I own neither a Rolls Royce or an outdoor swimming pool.
And so I took a special trip to my local music shop and specifically bought enough spare plectra to throw away at the end of my solo (sad, but true)
The play took part in two separate locations – once in the middle of a hot July at a theatre where no one had told the producers that the car park would be closed for the duration (resulting in one performance to a crowd of 10) and once about six months later – but it has to be said that my efforts at throwing my plectra away were not entirely successful.
The trick, or so they tell me, is to flick it with the wrist so that it flies out into the audience and catches the light, falling somewhere in the middle of the rapturous crowd.
First night we came to my solo and I stepped forward, crashing to my knees, putting the guitar behind my head and generally leering into the camera (despite everything the cameraman had told me about distortion on the big screen behind me), stood up and attempted to flick the plectra and watched as it fell directly at my feet. Rather shamefacedly I bent down and picked it up.
As the nights came and went my degree of success rose and fell. Some nights, buoyed by other events, I forgot entirely to prepare a spare plectra and had to forego my moment of Rock God Achievement, whilst others the offending piece of plastic managed to fly a few rows.
One particular occasion sticks out in my mind though. It was about half way through the second run (in which I only had the one solo anyway – my part in “The Young Ones” having been cut) and for once I managed to remember to have a spare plectra and to flick it at an appropriate angle for it to fly magnificently into the crowd.
Pleased with my effort I stepped back into the band and enjoyed the last few moments of the show.
Afterwards, and after the crowd had exited the building, we were allowed back on stage to collect our instruments and lock them away for the night…
…and there it was, on the front of the stage.
Someone had taken the time to pick up my plectra from where it had fallen and return it to me – inadvertently destroying my one moment of Rock stardom in an attempt to be helpful
1) Panto – or Pantomime. A traditional Christmas play – most popularly Dick Whittington, Cinderella, Babes In The Wood, Puss In Boots or Jack And The Beanstalk – in which the main character (whether male or female) is always played by a woman who falls in love with a beautiful princess/handsome prince (also a woman) – but in which the character that is usually best remembered is the “Dame” – played by a man in drag.
2) The roar of the crowd and the smell of the greasepaint – theatrical expression. Personally I think it makes more sense the other way around!
3) Luvvie – traditional way of describing an over the top actor who is very camp and tends to call everyone “love” or “darling” because they are a) extremely superficial and b) can’t be bothered to learn your name
4) Shadow Step – famous dance/walk perfected by The Shadows (Cliff Richards’s backing group): basically: Left foot forward, right foot forward and cross in front of left foot, left foot back to original place, right foot back to original place – and repeat.
5) Plectra – triangular shaped piece of plastic for strumming and picking guitar strings
Thursday, 8 October 2009
I was originally going to dedicate the whole of this week to posting each day about UK singer/songwriter Kirsty MacColl – who would have been 50 on Sunday, but I decided in the end that posting every day was a lot to ask people to read/watch – and instead have chosen to post four songs spanning the entirety of her career.
Kirsty was the daughter of (folk singer and political writer) Ewan Maccoll (who wote “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” and “Dirty Old Town”) and suffered from stage fright for much of her career, along with repeated lack of support from her record labels. She was married to record producer Steve Lillywhite through the 80s and early 90s and when her marriage broke down she moved to Cuba, where she discovered latin music.
During her career she worked with all the big acts of the time, including The Smiths, Simple Minds, Talking Heads and famously finalised the running order for U2’s album The Joshua Tree. She was equally known for her cover versions, which included “Days” (The Kinks) and “A New England” (Billy Bragg) and is probably best remembered for her immortal Christmas song “Fairytale Of New York” with The Pogues
When Kirsty was killed by a motorboat in 2000 England lost a truly unique talent.
Please take a few moments to watch these videos and celebrate her life.
I had the unique pleasure to meet her after a gig about four months before she died and found her to be a truly nice person.
NB: the final video is myself performing a song from her second album “Kite” – the song that has my dad eternally referring to her as “That woman who sings about Milton Keynes”
There’s A Guy Works Down The Chip Shop, Swears He’s Elvis
Fairytale Of New York
England 2, Columbia 0
LYRIC: Fifteen Minutes (from the album “Kite”)
Seven times in seven days
I've sat and wished my life away
I know the greyness comes and goes
But the sun don't shine
And the snow don't snow
There's Suzy-Ann with her tits and curls
Where mediocrity excels
For those vicious boys and their boring girls
You know it makes me sick but it's a bozo's world
Then there's always the cash
Selling yourself for some trash
Smiling at people that you cannot stand
You're in demand
Your fifteen minutes start now
City banker looks are in
The heartless heart, the chinless chin
And you'd spill your beans for just a pint of gin
How you got so holy
And became so thin
In Sunday papers every week
The silly words you love to speak
The tacky photos and the phoney smiles
Well it's a bozo's world
And you're a bozo's child
Then there's always the cash
Selling yourself for some trash
Smiling at people that you cannot stand
You're in demand
Your fifteen minutes start now
Then there's always the fame!
Autographs now and again
People who saw you on Blankety Blank
Or in the bank
Your fifteen minutes start now
Tuesday, 6 October 2009
It’s a story I heard as a kid, possibly based on Buddhist philosophy – but I’m not going to say where I heard it…who knows, maybe one or two of you out there will recognise it anyway.
So: the story goes that a long time ago there was a man who lived in a faraway land. The name of this land is unimportant, but it sounded vaguely like somewhere in Ireland and, when he later began his travels, this is where a lot of people thought he came from.
But the story begins before that, when the man was still a youth, living near the mountains in a society that he felt didn’t understand him and had nothing to offer. Every day he looked out of the window at the far horizon and wished to travel, to become a hero and perhaps to find some dignity – but with every passing day he felt the weight of his responsibilities weighing him further and further down.
Eventually he came to feel that the world he lived in was entirely grey and without hope – that nothing he ever did could ever come to anything – and inside he began to die.
Many times he thought of taking his life, just surrendering to the pain and being free, but something always held him back.
Then one day, when his depression was at its highest point ever he strode out of the world that he had always known and into the wilderness, looking to find a local hermit who was said to live in the mountains and who held the secret to eternal happiness. The man, who we will now refer to as The Traveller, put the last vestige of his hopes into finding the hermit, and set out across the bleak and barren landscape.
As he weaved higher into the mountains the ground became ever more barren and grey and The Traveller was exposed to the elements, becoming weak and hungry. For many days he strode through the desolation, feet tramping through muddy tracks until he could barely move his feet.
Finally, just when he was on the verge of total collapse he came upon the hermit, who was sat outside of a simple wooden hut, eyes closed and legs crossed in the lotus position. The Traveller sat at his feet and poured out his story of isolation and abandonment, letting the poison flow freely for many hours until he felt he could speak no more.
The entire time The Traveller was speaking the Hermit just sat and waited, never speaking, never opening his eyes: barely even moving. It was only when the last of The Travellers words had trickled to a halt that he opened his eyes and acknowledged the presence of his visitor.
Without a word the Hermit opened his hands and gestured to a small daisy that lay on the grass between them, almost crushed by their feet.
Just for a moment The Traveller saw the flower through the eyes of the old man, saw it as a thing of unique beauty. Its petals were bright yellow against the green of the stalk, its head standing tall and proud. It was as if someone had distilled everything that made a flower and poured it into this single daisy.
And then he looked around what he had taken to be a barren landscape and saw that the hills were full of daisies.
He saw that the grass was green, the sky was blue and the sun was bright and warm on his skin. What he had taken to be a barren and desolate land had all the time been beautiful, hidden from him only by the barriers he had put in place.
Take what you want from this story – but always try to remember that even in your darkest hour there is always beauty to be found somewhere.
You just have to want to see it.
Wednesday, 30 September 2009
I lie with my back on the bed, staring straight up into the void and watching the shapes fracture and lose cohesion. My world feels darker than any of the shapes and just as empty.
The events of the past few days still wrap their hands around my brain and squeeze, making me feel slightly sick, making my head pulse till I know that I will have to take some pills when I get up - and yet still they refuse to leave me alone.
Entropy increases. It's a phrase I heard somewhere, one that seems more apt now than ever - the more you stare into the void the more you become the void. Today, at this precice moment, I feel like the last vestige of hope I had took the last fast car out of town and eloped with my dreams.
I think back to Tuesday evening as I sat in the classroom after work, listening to the teacher for my latest part-time adventure telling me of all the additional costs that come with learning cookery. She is nice, but tends to ramble on and we spend an hour passing spices around from person to person whilst she explains about the texture and the smell. I hold each to my nose in their little plastic petrie dish and inhale the aroma, hoping that each will revive me, longing for just one more cup of coffee. For a change I am not the only man in the group.
As I lie awake and stare at the ceiling I pause to smile through my moment of darkness that we will not be allowed to cook using oil due to Health & Safety issues, and that chopping knives will have to be signed in and out - wondering how the world came to this. I'm surprised we're even allowed to do any cooking at all. So it is that, with about half an hour to go, we gather and stand in awe as she demonstrates the magical ability to dry cook some seeds and grind them, silently making our lists of what we have to bring next week so that we can do the same without severing an artery.
My brain continues to buzz, so I sit up and reach for a glass of water from the window sill, only to find none there. I leave it for a while and turn over, hoping that sleep will find me in the darkness of the pillow. When it doesn't I push myself out of bed and walk through to the bathroom.
The frosted windows are closed, leaving me no view of the outside world and only adding to the moment of isolation. I take a sip of water from the tap and swirl it around my mouth, allowing the taste of the fluoride to coat my tonsils.
The house is cold, the sign of the fast encroaching winter - another reminder that everything feels like it is coming to an end. For a moment I am tempted to go downstairs and turn the newly-serviced boiler on, allowing the heat to circulate, but the journey seems unimportant at the moment, so instead I turn off the light and head back to bed.
I climb under the covers, laying my head on the pillow and prepare to be sleepless again, when a small bell sounds in the corridor and two pairs of tiny white feet jump onto the bed and walk across me. Tiny pokes her face into mine and I reach out and stroke her fur, calming her and giving her the attention she wants.
Purring with the noise of a gieger counter she pushes her small nose under the covers and into the bed, settling her small body in the space between my side and my arm, content just to be there in the darkness.
I put my free arm out to my partner. She is sound asleep and I can only hope that she will understand the gesture as a display of my love for her, of my appreciation of her support, and in the darkness of the bed a small cat settles down besides me and offers her own brand of support.
I am eternally grateful.
Tuesday, 22 September 2009
Children and adults of 12+ will be able to hold pretend-y-wee guitars, basses and drums that contain no strings, only coloured pads, and attempt to hit the correct sequence of lights to reproduce “Pretty Vacant”, “Making Plans For Nigel”, “London Calling” et al.
Johnny Rotten will turn up and spit on a PS3 for effect, Captain Sensible (from The Damned) will do a quick rendition of “Snooker Loopy” (his theme tune for Snooker-related TV quiz Big Break), Billy Idol might even get a look in (though to be fair he was too late for punk). Someone will say what a great bloke Joe Strummer (and anyone who says "Who?" should kindly re-direct themselves forthwith to London Calling by The Clash) was and the one surviving member of the New York Dolls will be spending most of his time in a corner counting how many fingers he has.
However I suspect that “Orgasm Addict” by The Buzzcocks, “God Save The Queen” by The Sex Pistols and anything by The Slits will be noticeable by its absence.
Just the other day I saw someone walking home across town holding a big box marked Rock Band: Beatles, presumably containing it’s standard issue plastic Hohner bass (do players have to play left handed, I wonder?) ready for some unsuspecting family to attempt to reproduce Hard Day’s Night in front of their Wii Station 3 (or whatever) along with simply oodles of other tracks that some corporate suit has decided are the absolute definitive Beatles tracks.
Quite possibly people playing Rock Band: The Beatles have the same argument that most bands end up having – who ends up being bassist (even McCartney never wanted to play it until they sacked Stuart Sutcliff), who gets to drive the tour van when they take on the neighbours and how the royalties are split.
Perhaps a few hours of fun will be spent trying to reproduce the same sequence that the games producer created (not, as you may realise, actually reproducing the original song structure – McCartney especially is famous for introducing tricky B major 9th chords to mangle your fingers)
Speaking as someone who plays guitar (note that I don’t call myself a musician – that would indicate some modicum of skill) I have to ask one obvious question:
I mean – yes, ok I’m sure that getting your mates/family around the telly and watching notes scroll down the screen towards you (presumably with animated Ringo Starr to pep things up) is hours of fun for all the family – but there’s a far more effective solution.
Go to your local music shop – buy yourself some instruments and form a band. Find yourself a tab site online (and there are hundreds) and you will now be able to play any song you want to.
Actually play it – not just hit three or four different coloured keys – you will have an instrument that you can enjoy for the rest of your life. You’ll never have to upgrade it or replace it when a new batch of pre-selected songs is released and sold at extortionate prices, you’ll never find that your fret board is suddenly out of date and you can no longer get the games.
Radical isn’t it? Go out there and actually think for yourself, “what songs do I want to play?”, “what bands do I like?”
Hell, you might even end up writing your own songs that some poor unsuspecting soul will end up buying on their games station ten years down the line.
As a simple example of the kind of thing you can do with a guitar and half an hour with nothing on telly I offer you the below song. Recently I mentioned that I had gone through a 2 year period where I hadn’t written any songs at all – the below song was the absolute last one I DID write during that period and sat, mostly unloved, on a cassette tape in my drawer for the entire time.
It’s quite Oasis influenced and you’ll have to imagine the guitar solo and forgive the whine – this wasn’t on the original video and seems to have been caused by compressing the file (Watercats – if you have any idea how to avoid this please let me know)
Tomorrow Came Too Late
I always had too many dreams, and now they’ve turned to silent screams
I wish there was a way to make things right
If I could turn the hands of time, I’d go back to my recent crimes
And make sure things went right for you and me
But it’s too late, my time has come
And now I’m looking at my future in the barrel of a loaded gun
It took too long, to realise
Tomorrow came too late for me, and yesterday is far away
But it’s too late, my time has come
And now I’m looking at my future in the barrel of a loaded gun
It took too long, to realise
Tomorrow came too late for me
Tomorrow came too late for me today
I always try too hard to please, I begged you on my bended knees
I didn’t know where I had got it wrong
And if I had the chance again, to find some way to make amends
Don’t you know it’s just what I would do?
I wish that I could make it right, time goes by, another night
Has left me stranded, sleepless on my own
I wish that I could make you see, you drive me too insanity
But still I want you back if there’s a way
PS: hands up anyone who believes there's even a modicum of truth that Ringo tried to play the game and couldn't get past stage three?