Sunday, 25 April 2010

(Sunday) Monday Poetry Bus With Argent

Well my good friend Argent is hosting the poetry bus tomorrow, but since I will be looking after someone else's job that i don't fully understand and living in constant fear of his wrath when he returns and finds i've screwed up everything he's been putting right for two months - i thought i'd post mine a day early.

Argent asked us to write a poem either about a mad old relative or a time that we've been lost and true to form i haven't really done either. I do, however, have a story and a song that are somewhat relevant.

The story is very brief and revolves around the last time i went abroad alone. It was one of those cheap end-of-season holidays where you have to check out of your hotel at midday but the bus to take you to the airport isn't until 8pm, so you can't go anywhere because you've got thirty bags full of clothes to trawl around with you. So I sat out in the sun and waited...and waited...and waited...and of course the sun made me very sleepy.

So I got on the coach in the end and we started off on the three hour journey back to the airport on the other side of the island - and I kept getting that thing where you are fighting against sleep and your eyes keep closing, then you jerk your head awake and try to stay awake again...

Only because it was one of those tourist islands where everything is designed for people who only come to get drunk or catch the sun everywhere looked exactly the same - so every time i opened my eyes we were still driving down an exactly identical street. I began to get this terrible feeling of Deja Vu, like i was in an episode of The Prisoner and i would never escape, Very odd.

Exciting as that experience may have been we now move on to the second tangentially related topic, which is the song - which is sort of about travelling and being somewhere new...honest...

NB: please forgive that the video is on it's side - this was recorded on my mobile phone and i can't seem to work out which way is "up"

Down That Road

Well my soul is restless and my heart feels cold
And I’m sick and tired of doing what I’m told
I’m still trying to make connections to a life that’s put on hold
And I’d like to have some fun before I’m old

Down that road, down that road
No I won’t be going down that road again
Down that road, down that road
No I won’t be going down that road again

There’s a road to nowhere and the traffic’s slow
Still I’m searching for a better place to go
If it comes to nothing I won’t feel no shame
So long as I have tried there’ll be no blame

I’ve been looking in the mirror till I can’t see what’s ahead
Spent too much of my life lay in my bed
And I may be going nowhere, but there’s so much to be seen
And I’d rather stick with looking for the dream

Thursday, 22 April 2010

The Sound Of Muzak

Late one night, after an evening on the town, Richard Rodgers calls at the house of Oscar Hammerstein II with a suggestion for their latest musical…

RODGERS: Hey Oscar

HAMMERS: Hey Rich – it’s a bit late isn’t it?

RODGERS: Yeah but listen, I’ve got this idea for the musical we were working on the other day

HAMMERS: Which one?

RODGERS: Musical Sounds – The Story Of The Vonn Trapp Family

HAMMERS: Oh yeah. D’you know I’m still not happy with that title, but the studio aren’t buying The Singing Nun either

RODGERS: Well, we’ll work on it. Listen: you know that scene where Maria is teaching the kids to sing? Well it’s not really working with all the stuff about brieves and semi-brieves and all that Every Good Boy Deserves Fun nonsense – It’s dragging and I think it needs a song to liven things up

HAMMERS: I’m not sure – I mean the bloody thing is nearly 4hrs long as it is! Will people actually sit all the way through it?

RODGERS: Oh, we’ll just throw in a few more dancing Nazis and the time will just fly by.

HAMMERS: O-kay, and I’m guessing you have an idea for a song about learning to sing?

RODGERS: Yeah, it goes:
“Here’s a song, a song I sing:
A song that tells me how to sing.
Here’s some notes I have to sing,
Sing them all the live-long day”

HAMMERS: (LONG PAUSE) Hmmmmm – well I like the tune, but I think we’ll have to change a few of the words

RODGERS: Really? Which ones?

HAMMERS: Well: all of them.

RODGERS: Well, what do you suggest then?

HAMMERS: (EXASPERATED PAUSE) Oh, I don’t know. Something about musical notes

RODGERS: Such as?

HAMMERS: Y’know – Do, Ray, Me and all that – put it into simple terms

RODGERS: Yeah, that could work – we could have a cute bit at the end where, having learned the notes, the kids sing them out of sequence to demonstrate it

HAMMERS: We don’t want to be too sickly sweet. Remember what happened last time? Don’t forget, we’ve already got this woman making clothes out of curtains and singing about brown paper packages – we don’t want people thinking she’s nuts.

RODGERS: True. (PAUSE) Maybe we need to put it into some kind of context?

HAMMERS: Like what?

RODGERS: Y’know – give a visual image for each note, like (LONG PAUSE), er… (EVEN LONGER PAUSE) – I know:
“Do, a deer, a female deer”

HAMMERS: I think that’s spelt D-O-E. It’s a different thing to the musical note

RODGERS: Well, we’ll stick it in there for the moment – you can always change it later if you get a better idea.

HAMMERS: (UNSURE) Well…O-kay, but what about Ray?

RODGERS: That’s easy –
“Doe, a deer, a female deer,
Ray, a bloke who lives next door”

HAMMERS: (PAUSE) I think we may need some kinda image that’s a bit more generic – not everyone out there watching is gonna have someone living next door called Ray. Maybe we should think about something like a ray of sunshine?

RODGERS: (UNCERTAINLY) Well, I still think “Ray, a bloke who lives next door” could work, but if you’re really that unhappy…

HAMMERS: (PLACATINGLY) We’ll put it on the “maybe” pile for the moment. What about “Me”?

“Doe, a deer, a female deer:
Ray, a bloke who lives next door,
Me – that’s me, right over there,
Far – a thousand miles away”

HAMMERS: Well I like the principal idea of “Far”, but I think the “Me” needs a bit of work. What about “So”?

RODGERS: Hmm (PAUSE) I know! What about “a needle pulling thread”??

HAMMERS: Again, I think you’ll find that’s spelt S-E-W, but I guess if they’ll accept the thing with the deer we can probably get away with it. What about “La”?

RODGERS: (PAUSE) Er… (LONGER PAUSE) Umm… (EVEN LONGER PAUSE) Gee – that’s a tough one. Not a lot we can really say about “La” is there?

HAMMERS: Not really – but I’m sure we’ll think of something – maybe we can get away with just saying it’s a note that follows “So”? It’s a bit weak, sure, but that just leaves us with “Ti”

RODGERS: What about “Ti – a nice refreshing drink”?

HAMMERS: I think we need to be careful how far we push this misspelling thing – we don’t want to be promoting childhood illiteracy now, do we? (PAUSE)

RODGERS: Thinking about it now: did they have Tea in Nazi-occupied Austria? Wasn’t there rationing or something?

HAMMERS: I don’t know (PAUSE) Still: I guess the audience won’t know either, so we can put it in for the moment and work on it. (PAUSE) So what does that give us so far?

Doe, a deer, a female deer
Ray, a bloke who lives next door
Me, that’s me, right over there
Far, a thousand miles away
Sew, a needle pulling thread
La, we haven’t got that bit
Tea, a nice refreshing drink
And then something, a-bout Do, do-di-do-do-do-do

HAMMERS: Well…it’s a start at any rate.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Extract From A Novel That Will Probably Never Be Finished

This is a post about a project that just failed, by the narrowest of margins, to be massively successful.

It's also a post that shamelessly plugs a couple of writers who put my dire scribblings into the shade

And it's probably as close as I will get to talking about my current dissatisfaction with my creativity.

Back in 2003, just before I was about to start in the company that would lead to my present job, I started to write a novel. It was called The Firewalkers

Something of a departure from my usual guns-blazing, lots of shouting and aliens going "blerg" around the place, it was a historical romance set around a travelling circus selling their schtick just before the outbreak of the 1st World War.

Based on a short story that I had written in the 90's (of which i think the only copy got killed when my computer went foom) It was the story of a love triangle between (knife thrower and newcomer) Gino, (the son of the sadistic ringmaster) Marcos and (the object of both their affections) Isobel, as well as a story of redemption (Marcos), growing up (Gino) and freedom (Isobel - sort of) - but also of the mysterious Firewalkers led by a strange young boy named Bally

And for a while it went well - i probably got, oooh, as far as chapter two before I started thinking "this is shit" and had to start again.

This time I got all the way through to chapter eight before having to go right back to the start.

There were all sorts of problems: the writing wasn't very good, the characters weren't doing what i wanted them to - but mostly there simply weren't enough words.

And so the project got shelved

And so I started again

And so it still wasn't very good. And it still wasn't anywhere long enough - I just can't seem to make the words stretch and have reached a point, half-way through the story, where everything seems to be resolved.

And it's not like it's the first time - the previous novel to that one took me five or six years of going back to the start and was still pretty awful, and The Benefit (written last year in a month) was fun but if you took out all the swear-words and the bits that were thrown in just to get it to the Nanowrimo minimum length you'd have about five pages left.

Now I don't know precicely how creativity afflicts you. With some people (lucky gits to a soul) it travels in linear fashion: they get an idea, they can follow it through. ME?? My ideas flip about like goldfish in a tank.

Think of it this way: I play guitar. i quite like playing guitar and writing songs - it makes me happy (or via writing extremely bleak songs stops me feeling quite so bad - and I'm sure the Watercats will appreciate where i'm coming from with that one), but put me in a room with anyone else who can play and immediately it's clear i'm not very good.

Same with art, same with writing. Now this may sound like I'm blowing my own trumpet here - but just occasionally I write something really good (not this, admittedly) - but take a quick look at the following blogs:

Existentially Dynamic
(and apologies to all the other brilliant blogs, but i just want to focus on two for the moment - particularly as a) they are men and b) there are a lot less men blogging than women)

Firstly - Existentially Dynamic, come on people - why aren't you visiting this site??? the "Clandestine Samurai" writes with passion, energy and commitment that deserves your time. The thought that someone as eloquent as this could see their talent to go unused is terrible.

Pohanginapete - this man makes words flow as easily and as beautifully as water. Nuff said.

And yeah - you might think that none of this really matters: that creativity can be its own ends if it makes you happy - but I find that I am constantly frustrated by my ability to get great ideas and then not feel like I am able to bring them to fruition - and it's this feeling that I'm not as good as i would like to be that is a constant thorn in my side.

So I ask myself: what's the point? How come I get all these ideas? Wouldn't these ideas be better off sloping along to someone who can actually do something with them? What is the point of a book that is never read, a song that is never shared?

Anyway - enough of that. Here's the first page of the book. Maybe one day there will even be a last page, but don't hold your breath.

The Firewalkers

She span high above the sawdust, her body floating like a flower in the breeze as she moved. Her fragile limbs twisted madly in the heavens, arms and legs intertwining with soft, fluid motions. Gravity seemed to look away and sigh in defeat as she swung higher and higher across the canvas sky.

Suspended only by the bit between her teeth she flickered like a shadow cast by a candle, dancing through the air as if caught by the wind.
A single slim hand reached up, clasping firmly onto the bar. A second followed not far behind, fingers curling effortlessly around the cold metal.

Below her the lights were dimmed in the almost empty arena; only the pale light of the sun through the thin canvas walls and the dim flicker of the lights below illuminated her frame. They caught her costume, reflecting broken shards of sunlight. Pointed toes arched up and above her head, sending stray sequins glittering down to mingle with the sawdust. Her feet entwined around the ropes, like a slender vine climbing an old and cragged wall. Slowly, with no sign of effort, she pulled herself upright and onto the bar. She took a moment to enjoy the view, waving her arm to an imaginary audience. Finally she began swinging, faster and faster, legs kicking out in front, cutting through the turbulence.

Gino watched as the girl passed overhead, feeling drab and dull against her peacock colours. He glanced down at his worn-out clothes. The trousers were falling apart, held up and held together by string and will power. His heavy work boots were scuffed and worn with age, his waistcoat hanging uncomfortably on his thin shoulders. Both his shirt and jacket were two sizes too big, despite Mama’s best efforts to adjust them. Both were engrained with the dirt of a thousand places, worn in so deep that they could never be washed out.

Gino let his hand slip slowly beneath the corner of his waistcoat, allowing it to rest on the hilt of the dagger beneath. The weapon’s familiar weight reassured him, made him relax slightly under the wilting gaze of the Ringmaster. Still, he couldn’t help but feel their decision not to change into their costumes had been the wrong one. Perhaps their Circus costumes, paper thin and gaudy as they were, would have given a firmer grounding. He locked eyes briefly with the Ringmaster and knew that nothing he could do would make any difference.
Gino smiled nervously, trying to gauge the mood of the man in front of him, he was offered only a scowl by way of return.

The Ringmaster was a big-built man, fists permanently scarred from fights. His grey eyes were cold and calculating, almost impossible to read and his face could have been moulded from granite. A young man, clearly his son, stood silently behind him. He was about Gino’s age, with dark eyes that reflected some of the chill emanating from his father. Give him a couple of years, Gino thought, and he’d be as big a son of a bitch as his father. The young man caught Gino’s gaze and acknowledged the attention with a slow nod. A shiver ran through Gino’s body: perhaps he had been wrong about the son after all.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Rejected Planning Applications #1 and #2

In one of my very early posts I postulated what the response might have been if Darth Vader had needed to apply for planning application for the Death Star. Despite the fact that it was always my intention to follow this up with further rejected applications I never quite got around to it.

So since we are rapidly approaching my 200th and potentially final blog I thought now would be as good a time as any to re-print the original and to bring you another:

Rejected Planning Applications #1

Dear Mr Vader

Thank you for your recent application to build a space station in the Alderran system.The plans are with our board for discussion and will be on public display in the Horseshoe Nebula for 6 months prior to any decision.

However, we have a few concerns with regards to your plans.

Firstly we are concerned that for a “shopping centre, sauna, gym and relaxation planet” your base is a little heavily armed. Whilst we appreciate that in these times of unrest it is necessary to protect oneself we feel that the suggested “capacity to neutralise an entire solar system” is a little heavy handed when it comes to ensuring the safety of a leisure base. As such we would politely request that you reconsider the degree of your protection.

Secondly we are a dismayed that you are continuing to refer to the leisure base as a “Death Star” and feel that this may have a negative effect on potential tourism to outlying planets, including our own. We would suggest “Leisure Station” as a possible alternative.

Also we would point out that, by referring to your base as a “Star” you are in breach of the trades description act

Finally we would like to inform you that we will be submitting these plans to an independent advisor on Tatooine and request safe passage to that location.

Yours sincerely

HRH Senator Leia Organa

Rejected Planning Application #2

Dear Mr Blofeld

Thank you for your interest in purchasing Mount Kinbaya, however we feel that we have a few concerns regarding your plans for your plans for a “Luxury Condo With Launch Pad”

Firstly, whilst our design team were impressed by the scale of your plans and your attempts to conceal your house and thus have a relatively low impact on tourism we are a little afraid that the machine gun nests above your “bespoke camouflage ceiling” and the poison gas in the caves beneath your home, whilst intended to keep birds and bats away from the mechanisms, might also cause harm to lost tourists. Can we suggest some kind of recording of birdsong as an alternative?

Secondly we need to advise you that your helicopter pad looks a little excessive for the size of machine you have specified. One of our experts had voiced the opinion that you were actually creating a rocket launch pad – however as both he and his evidence seem to have mysteriously disappeared we will have to abandon this point for the time being.

Finally we must report a letter of concern into your venture from a Mr Bond of Universal Exports who has raised an issue regarding the large increase in sea traffic surrounding the mountain. We enclose a copy of his letter and, so long as you can provide sufficient answers to our concerns we see no problem with your plans proceeding

Yours sincerely

Government of Japan

Thursday, 8 April 2010


I pull it on
More holes than material
Cover it in shades of yellow
Feel the wind
Feel like Eric Clapton in Cream
The miles fly by

I change
Wear the shirt
Or does the shirt wear me
Crouched over keyboards
Crouched over desks
The hours drag by

Slip into t-shirt
T-shirt and jeans
Watch some repeats
Watch some repeats
So little time to be me

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Almost A Wordzzle

As some of you will know the Mistress of Wordzzle Raven has been off line for a week or so – hope you’re ok out there and manage to get your computer up and running

In the meantime my friend Argent has put a response onto Raven’s blog suggesting we carry on and provided some words (though you may get more response if you put the words on your own blog whilst Raven is away).

So although I will not be returning long term to the world of wordzlle I am writing the below in a display of solidarity!

The rules are simple – you get a list of 10 words, you get a list of 5 words and you can write 1, 2 or even 3 whole stories using the 10 words, using the 5 or using all 15

Argent’s suggestions were:

For the 10-worder:
Minute, shave, orange, cardboard, scissors, speaker, calligraphy, wooden, picture, juteFor the

Hope, milk, freshness, earring, blinds

And since we were following the adventures of the HMS Frightfully Sorry I think we shall return one final time to the ship that put the sick back into seasick for…


Captain Hogarth dipped his razor into the bathwater and cleaned the blade before continuing to shave. Steam rose steadily from the water and clouded the picture on the desk. He reached for the towel made of jute that had been a gift from King Wataniki the week previously and frowned in thought.

There had been something very familiar about King Wataniki, despite the huge earring, ceremonial scissors and deep voice, yet Jenkins had insisted that they had never met before the ship naming ceremony. Still, as Captain Hogarth thought back to that day he couldn’t help but feel that the King’s ceremonial mask might just have been made of cardboard.

Hogarth’s train of thought was interrupted by a knock on the door. First Mate Jenkins peered around, ‘Good morning sir’ Jenkins greeted, ‘Are you decent?’

‘Never been more so Jenkins’ Hogarth boomed, ‘Come in!’

Jenkins did so, caught slightly off guard by the Captain’s unusual ability to remember his name. He placed the mug of hot milk down on his Captain’s wooden desk and saluted
‘Everything ok sir?’ Jenkins asked

‘Not quite’ Hogarth replied, taking a minute to peel an orange before putting his train of thoughts firmly back on the rails, ‘I was just thinking to myself that there was something terribly familiar about King Wataniki’

‘No sir’ Jenkins replied, turning almost naturally to the windows and adjusting the blinds so that his Captain wouldn’t see the mild look of panic in his eyes. The slats opened slightly, bringing with them the freshness of the sea air

‘And you are sure that we’ve finally arrived in Hogarthland after all this time?’

‘Absolutely sir’ Jenkins replied with a smile full of hope that his Captain wouldn’t see the crossed fingers behind his back

‘Only I was looking out of the window earlier’ Hogarth boomed, ‘And I couldn’t help but notice that the coastline looked a lot like France’

Jenkins couldn’t help but wince slightly as paused and thought back to the conversation he’d had with the men two weeks back. He’d tried again and again to persuade them to head for the less familiar shores of Holland, but they had insisted that the beaches of Calais had to be seen to be believed at this time of year. It hadn’t been hard to find a foreign-language speaker in France and the addition of an old toilet seat as an earring and a quickly drawn mask with some impressive calligraphy had been just enough to fool his Captain at the time – but even a mind as blunt as the Captain’s was beginning to sharpen after a few days rest

‘There is an awful lot of similarity with the two, sir’ Jenkins agreed

Hogarth stared at his first mate for a long moment, then the moment of sanity finally slipped away and he smiled and splashed a few more suds onto his naked torso, ‘I say Garak!’ he boomed, ‘I don’t suppose that you could find my rubber duck could you?’

‘Certainly sir’ Jenkins smiled, secure in the knowledge that everything was back to normal, ‘And it’s Jenkins sir. Garak stayed behind and married a pirate queen sir’ With that he bowed and left the room, chuckling slightly under his breath.