Saturday, 31 December 2011

Waving goodbye to 2011

And so, as the year 2011 sails off over the horizon and 2012 sets sail, it's time to climb the mast, spruce up the rigging and count the pieces of eight (excuse the nautical references, partly a flashback to the New Brighton Pirate Muster and partly because I was just watching Pirates of the Caribbean). I am reliably informed that on New Year's Eve, staying in is the new going out. Cheers! So what have been my highlights of 2011?

Poetry 24
Thanks to an unexpected invitation from Martin Hodges at Square Sunshine early in 2011, I have been involved in setting up a unique online poetry site which has since published news-related poems from contributors around the world almost daily on an extraordinary range of  subjects. Check out this marvelous snapshot review of the year from one of our regulars.

Library Centenary
OK, it's all in a day's work really, but it's been a roller-coaster ride through the year with more than 60 events for the Centenary of the library where I work. We had author visits, themed days, quizes, music, talks and performances, culminating in a ukulele-rich Centenary Weekend with John Hegley and quite a lot of cake.

Re-visiting Israel
Twenty years after I first went to Israel as  kibbutz volunteer for three months (and stayed the better part of three years) I went back. I do like to stir up the ghosts and managed to surprise two former lovers by turning up unannounced decades later. Closure, at last.

Finished my novel
I finally completed my work in progress which I started three years ago. The (Un)Dead Residents Association - a light-hearted romp through local authority nonsense and the living-challenged - currently seeking representation.

Festival of Firsts
Mixed feelings about this - proud to have been involved in a new local festival and setting up Wirral's first Poet Tree, but it also nearly sent me back to the dark side, I wasted a lot of time unnecessarily on it and I fell out badly with a member of a prominent Sixties band (it's ok - we've made up now, especially as he bought me thunder for Christmas (no - really!)).

Other highlights: I had more quality time with my mum and dad, and my brother didn't die in the Andes (which is always good news). Jet-setting to Cuba, Fuertaventura and Copenhagen. I had a story published in one of Lancaster Litfest's prestigious publications (and was profiled on their website) and 16 other stories or poems published. I met lots of groovy people online - you know who you are - and in real life (local poets mostly, also borrowers... ooh, and poetry hero John Hegley 3 times!). I had larks performing at Studio Liverpool, Vintage Radio, and Wenlock Poetry Festival... and of course I was briefly an internet sensation exactly a year ago... in a sad, nerdy sort of way.

I haven't really thought about 2012 yet... watch this space.

Meanwhile, what were YOUR highlights! Come on, share... and a Happy New Year!! *gets all teary*

Monday, 5 December 2011

10 Best Christmas Gifts for Writers

Looking for a Christmas present for the writer in your life?

Yes, it's that time of year again: sleigh bells glisten, Santa is nipping at your toes and the mince pies are burning away merrily. And here I am again exhorting readers to use my link (on the right) when buying their pressies from Amazon so I get a few shiny pennies under my tree (not a euphemism).

Top 10 Stocking Fillers for Writers for under a Tenner

Writers need to back up their works in progress or perhaps move stuff from one computer to another.  Show them you 'woof' them by filling their stockings with this delightful Humping Dog USB flashdrive.

Or, if your loved one prefers a pen... and is writing something gruesome, look no further than this Novelty Syringe Pen at just 99p.

How about this Book Lovers Calendar - a page a day of great novels they didn't write, serving the dual purpose of reminding them of how unsuccessful they are and the swift passage of time, and hence their own mortality.

Anyone who wants to write for a living is a mug - so buy them one. This one is from the Literary Gift Company (see below) at £9.95 but there are loads at £11 from Cafe Press who will also make one with your own wording on (or maybe a quote from one of your writer's poems or stories?).

Oh, you want to give them books? Anyone who loves words will love The Etymologicon from ace blogger The Inky Fool - a witty and enlightening little book described in the Observer as 'the stocking filler of the season.'

Another gift for hungry word lovers is Scrabble with Chocolate Pieces at £8.50. There is a range of other classic games with a chocolatey twist... although the Twister with Chocolate looked disappointing. I'm sure I could have been more imaginative with that idea... but it wouldn't have much of a literary bent so I digress.

Of course the classic gift for any writer - a literary equivalent of The Beano is the seminal The Writers' & Artists' Yearbook 2012 which is packed with useful advice we do not heed, how-to guides we do not read and lists of agents and publishers we keep meaning to submit material to. But as it's just over £10, why not look out for a pristine (unopened) 2011 one as they're not going to open it anyway!

Beware of buying your writer this gorgeous Handmade Leather Journal. Beautiful notebooks demand beautiful writing, and most of us need notebooks for demented scribblings. We will not sully our beautiful notebooks with such things and will never write another word.

Try something cheeky instead like this Marvel Retro A5 Notebook at £5.70.

Nothing says more clearly 'I'm a writer' than this typewriter pin badge which is £4 gift-boxed from the Literary Gift Company... except perhaps a pin badge saying 'I'm a writer' which would just be silly... but available from Cafe Press (above).

I mention the Literary Gift Company last because once you go to them you will be lost to me - and I don't get any commission from them!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Out of office reply...

I'm not around right now.  Like a bird, I'm flying south for winter (well, a week anyway).

Unlike a bird I won't shit on you as I pass overhead.

There may or may not be wifi, my laptop may or not survive a strip-search, so I may or may not post / comment. I planned to schedule a post or two to amuse and entertain in the meantime, but time is running out... so I'll leave you with a little competition:

I'd like you to write me the worst opening sentence of a novel you can come up with.  There'll be a 'super' prize* for the winner. You may want to read my previous post for inspiration - you may even want to start your sentence: 'It a was a dark and stormy night' but I won't hold you to that.

Post your answer as a comment.  Tell your friends too - get me up to the 100 follower mark while I'm away so I miss it and feel terrible, why don't you?

* Well, a prize anyway - and you'll really get it too. I remember how skeptical Dave was about ever getting that camel prize until it turned up on his doorstep (sans three wise men).  P.S. But it won't be a camel this time... I promise!

Monday, 21 November 2011

It was a dark and stormy night

I used to love reading 'Peanuts' by Charles M Schulz in the Daily Mail (I was just a kid, OK? It was my parents... I didn't know what I was doing.)

My favourite character was Snoopy, the wannabe novelist dog who, like me at the time, never got much past the first sentence of any great work of fiction he was writing.

Did you know his standard opening: 'It was a dark and stormy night' was written by Victorian novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton at the beginning of his 1830 novel Paul Clifford?  I thought the name sounded familiar, and it is because of he annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest for examples of really bad fiction.  Last year's winner is a fine example:

For the first month of Ricardo and Felicity's affair, they greeted one another at every stolen rendezvous with a kiss--a lengthy, ravenous kiss, Ricardo lapping and sucking at Felicity's mouth as if she were a giant cage-mounted water bottle and he were the world's thirstiest gerbil. 
--Molly Ringle, Seattle, Washington

This passage must have been perilously close to being nominated for another much-loved literary award - the Bad Sex Award, the winning passages of which I found strangely erotic:
"like a lepidopterist mounting a tough-skinned insect with a too blunt pin he screwed himself into her"
"He unbuttoned the front of her shirt and pulled it to the side so that her breast was uncovered, her nipple poking out, upturned like the nose of the loveliest nocturnal animal, sniffing the night"

  *blushes fetchingly and goes back to the cartoons...*  

Friday, 18 November 2011

To be brief

Shall I tell you what's interesting about writing a novel?

Yes.  I shall.

As regular readers know, I've mainly written poems and short stories. I've also worked on a local newspaper, and as freelance newsletter editor and press and PR officer.  It's all writing, but it's all writing of a certain kind... succinct!

Learning to edit comes in really useful for poems and stories... where the reader is expected to do a good deal of the imagining.  It's good for any writing which, due to the limitations of space or the pursuit of brevity, applauds the cutting down of what you want to say to the minimum possible number of words.

This can be tricky in a novel.  It dawned on me some way into it that readers may struggle with this kind of succinctness and could need some breathing space between events, some scene-setting - the sort of stuff I cut out of stories, poems, articles ... and blogs!

When I read, I'm too impatient for pages and pages of irrelevant 'purple' prose - but I'm not sure I want to romp through a story at breakneck speed either. So I'm now anti-editing - adding rather than taking away. What's she thinking?  What's the background to this?  What's the weather like? - not for padding (it's already 77k words with a few scenes to add), but to make it a more satisfying read.

I'm interested what you think - do you like the 'two veg' of scene-setting or do you skip to the 'meat' of the next exciting thing?  Do you want to know a character's whole back story or is a well-chosen pen sketch enough?  And when YOU write do you find yourself writing too much or, like me, do you compulsively edit what you've written until you are gnawing on the bare bones?  Short - or lengthy - replies welcome!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

A novel request

Help! I'm in need of some assistance and advice again! The novel's up to 76k words and I'm hoping to have a full draft ready within the week (eek!). So now I'm looking for anyone willing to:

(a) read first 3 chapters quite quickly - which will be sent to the first of a long list of agents imminently

(b) read a first draft of the whole thing, offer general constructive comments and answer some questions afterwards about specific aspects

(c) join in a less time-consuming way by offering suggestions for the following:

  • Examples of low-level bullying by girls ... nothing too nasty, preferably something quirky/ embarrassing circa 1980 (I was lucky enough to not have been subjected to or witnessed any bullying at school)
  • Examples of saints with silly names
  • Examples of bureaucratic jargon or local authority political correctness 
If you'd like to do the actual reading (a) and (b), please send me your email address to clare at clarekirwan dot co dot uk. It's expensive and laborious to send hard copies out, so please only say yes if you're happy to just get a Word file to read on screen.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Think you're funny?

Laugh? I nearly died.
There are no clowns in my book, but plenty of coffins
This is a serious post about being funny... but there are some jokes at the end.

I was thinking about being funny when I posted about doing stand-up the other day. Like I said, they weren't exactly rolling in the aisles - wrong material / wrong audience maybe?

People tell me I'm funny. It's one of the things I aspire to be (being funny and being liked: my two aims in life - how needy is that?) But if the occasional quip falls on stony faces I begin to doubt my powers to amuse.

I've been working a lot on my novel-in-progress lately - a lighthearted romp involving a little trouble with Big Society, planning department shenanigans and the undead. And last weekend I finally allowed a good - but critical, discerning and ruthless - friend to read the first half. How many times have you seen a book described as 'laugh out loud funny' but it barely raises a titter? Imagine my delight to hear my friend laughing out loud at my book, my baby. Don't worry - it is supposed to be funny! But it's easy to lose faith when you are the only one to have read something, and humour is subjective.

Meanwhile on Twitter there was a meme where people shared their favourite short joke. Here are some of the ones I liked the best, which gives you a clue as to the sort of humour to expect :

  1. My wife bet me I couldn't build a car from spaghetti. Imagine her face when I drove pasta...
  2. I bought ten tonnes of Tippex the other day... big mistake!
  3. I just spilled glue all over my autobiography - that's my story and I'm sticking to it!
  4. Two goldfish in a tank, one says to the other... "How do you drive this thing?"
  5. What do you call a donkey with 3 legs? Wonkey
  6. "Doctor, doctor, I think I'm a moth." "Sorry, mate, this is a solicitor's, not a doctor's surgery." "I know, but your light was on."
  7. How do you titillate an ocelot?  Oscillate its tits a lot
  8. What's gray, wrinkly and hangs out your granddads pajamas? Your grandma.
  9. Why did the baker have brown hands? Cos he kneaded a poo.
  10. (gotta have a library joke) Man walks into library: Can I have fish & chips please? Librarian: This is a library. Man whispers: Can I have fish &.. 

Monday, 31 October 2011

The Shout

Simon Armitage* was the first contemporary poet I took a shine to when I stopped regarding poetry as a secret compulsion and started submitting, performing and reading poems.

His poem 'The Shout' had a powerful impact on me. You could read it HERE now but I worry you'll get distracted and go off surfing and end up looking at a series of knitted body parts on a Czech website! So I've embedded a video of Simon reading it below. (Followed, if you have the patience, by a delightfully quirky poem about whales.)

It's the last line that does it. I like the poem and the story which inspired it, but the thing I LOVE is that I will always remember it: like the man can still hear the boy I can still hear Simon Armitage reading out those lines.

That is the impact of a good poem. It is what I want to achieve when I write. The best thing is when someone quotes one of your own lines back at you years later, and yes, it has happened to me.

* Related post - Out of the Blue, Simon's piece on 9/11

Buy it from here: The Shout: Selected Poems

Friday, 28 October 2011

Cold Calling

Do you get 'cold calls'? People trying to save you energy, sign you up or sell you something? I give them short shrift, ask them to take this number off their list, but they keep coming. Sometimes I just put them on hold until they go away but I feel mean doing this. Mostly I just hang up to save my time and theirs, but here's what I should say:

The other person knows you are waiting

Thank you for calling my home
I value your calls. You are a valued caller.
Please press your hash key now.

Press one if you are calling
to sell me something I don’t want or need,
have never wanted or needed
will never want or need.

Press two if you are calling
to try and convince me to change my mind
when there is nothing wrong with the one I have.

Press three if you are calling
for somebody other than me
no matter how convinced you are
that I am lying
when I say I am not them.

Press four if you are calling
to shame me into a contribution
to a charity that will use that contribution
to pay people like you
to call people like me.

Press five if you are calling
for information about my lifestyle,
income, habits and desires
- which you think I will disclose
in return for your shoddy free gift.

Press six if you are calling
with a completely unintelligible regional accent,
or speaking as fast as you possibly can, to get it over with, tick the box,
then have to repeat everything three times
because I can not understand a word you are saying.

Press seven if you are calling
from a call centre in the third world
because you will work for lower wages
and your employers don’t have to worry
about health and safety, holidays or unions.

Press eight if you are calling
Because you have to, because you can’t get another job
and you hate doing it and you’re on the brink now,
and if you don’t get a sale tonight they’ll sack you
and who will feed the children?

Press nine if you are calling
the last person on your list
at the end of a twelve hour shift
of saying the same line over and over again
and care even less about your product than I do.

If this is a personal call, please hold for an operator.

©  Clare Kirwan

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The Blurb

As promised yesterday when I was bigging up new books by Maria Zanini and Inky Fool,  here's the blurb I'll be shortly sending to potential agents about my novel. I welcome comments.

It's the first in a series planned in the same general location with the same main characters:

The (Un)Dead Residents Association

A rom-com with added zom!

Conscientious but accident-prone, Laura Moon* – the council’s new community engagement officer - has discovered shifty goings-on at the Town Hall, but where’s the proof? The planning officer and his files have vanished, one of the Councillors is a little tied up just now – literally – and Laura's efforts at damage limitation have started an escalating cycle of disasters: leaks to the press, community unrest and some residents not being quite as deceased as they used to be.

It's going to take all her witand tenacity to sort out friend from foe and find out what’s really goingon.  Who is the mysterious figure lurkingin the cemetery? What ingredients didthe library users put in their ‘special’ recipe? Why do all those builders look so hungry? And how do you get a dead person to hold apress conference?

* I'm still struggling with name for main character - she's about thirty, British lower middle class, bright, quirky, not too 'girlie'. Do we like Laura Moon? What about Julie Moon? Noon? I know I went into all this with you in Naming the fish but I got some very silly answers then... Cressida Trout, Anna NotherMess, Donna Hatt... although The Invisible Woman's suggestion is still in the offing - Liz Pelling (Miss Spelling to you!)

p.s. Although this isn't a horror book - it's more a comic satire - yes there are zombies in it - it was sort of an accident but took the book in a really interesting direction. However it raises the thorny issue of genre. Am I digging a hole for myself here?

Sunday, 23 October 2011


I'm delighted to announce that the normally shy and retiring Fran - author of the very funny and popular 'Being Me' blog - has emerged into the limelight of YouTube.

So in case you don't follow her (and if not why not?) I'm posting one of her comedy/poetry performances below for your weekend edification.

It will appeal particularly to parents of teenagers/young adults. If, like me, your nest has always been empty (except for that cuckoo incident in 1993), I can also highly recommend her other poems about poetry versus sex and getting to 'gwips' with twitter.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

A Big Rant (about publicity)

I don't rant a lot - which is a shame because I actually enjoy it - but I'm going to rant now.

I was at an event this week organised by Wirral Libraries. On the way out a friend of a friend (and I'm not dissing her - she's a nice person - but this sort of thing happens ALL THE F***ING TIME!!) said:

'It wasn't very well publicised.'

I HATE it when people say this. How are they expecting to hear about local events? It's not going to be on telly during your favourite programme. No-one's going to knock on your door to tell you about it. Probably no leaflet through the door either - it's a pricey business advertising and really hard to do effectively on a tight budget - especially when you're trying to do it along with your regular job.

I used to work in press and PR so I know my stuff. I now work in libraries where we literally have no budget for promoting our events, or running them for that matter - we made cakes and sandwiches for our Centenary paid for out of our own personal pockets.

So can I just say, for the record (and general principles apply here):

a) It was advertised in the local paper. There was also an article about it - no mean feat as the only guaranteed newspaper space is a paid-for advert and a half page costs around £500. So if you're interested in local events - try checking the local paper. Just a thought.

b) Like author readings? Why not visit your local f***ing library and pick up the f***ing leaflet? Or go online to the council's website or library page on Facebook (try 'friending it' even!) and see what's coming up?

c) It was a poetry event in Wirral. It was on my 'poetry events in Wirral' page which I know you know about. Try checking it out occasionally.

d) The event was sold out

e) You were there, so you must have found out somehow.

I really don't know what people are expecting when they say something wasn't well publicised. As the potential audience for said publicity you have to be open to it, keep looking in places where sorts of things you like would be publicised.

You'd only complain if we found a way of beaming this sort of stuff directly to your brain.

Going through the Motions

I saw Sir Andrew Motion last night as part of Wirral Bookfest and he was rather charming and very easy on the ear (also the eye, in a Charles Dance sort of way)

He said a couple of things which were really encouraging (to me anyway):

1. That he didn't come from a family that read. But a teacher - Mr Wade - opened up his mind to poetry and "...changed my life. Gave me my life." If I were a teacher I would be so inspired by this - and I needed to know this having just read in this article on 'the rise of rhyme' that:

"As recently as 2008, a survey
of 1,200 British primary school
teachers for the UKLA found that
22% could not name a single poet."

2. How poems are partly the creation of your rational, educated, manipulative, conscious mind (he was talking more about himself than me here!) and partly the murkier depths of the unconscious - so you don't always know instantly what they're going to be about or what form they should take nor should you try too hard to make them conform to shapes they don't want to be.

3. That he tweaks and twiddles, puts away, tweaks again, passes to friends, tweaks, leaves a while, gets published, hates it, tweaks again etc etc

4. That his Poetry Archive project - which makes available poets reading their own work - historic and contemporary is a massive success despite struggling for funds. And with 250,000 unique users and 1,500,000 poems listened to every month more poems are being listened to now than probably in the history of the world.

My only regret of the evening is that I never got a chance to get to the bottom of the story my colleague was telling me about a conversation she'd had with him earlier involving 'moist gussets' - it has to be some kind of 'favourite word' game... hasn't it?

Saturday, 8 October 2011

On the Library Wall

We put a lot of things on the library wall: posters, pirates, pictures, plaques and post-it notes, fire extinguishers, directions, instructions, clocks and lists.

But last week I was delighted to find myself on this most beautiful library wall at Paraxis. Go over there now! It's rich with treasures - stories, art and poems all related to libraries.

My contribution is about third along on the bottom - each item opens on it's own if you click on it. I especially love Fat Roland's 'Libraries that no longer exist' which is very silly as you'll see from the first line: "Hayle Library: wheeled down th road by monkeys"

I'm afraid it knocks my own '100 words' library-themed competition (which I haven't mentioned here as it was only open to Wirral Library members) off the leader board. This is how I showed our winning entries. It's not nearly so pretty is it?

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Games you can play in a library

Now I don't want to risk monopolizing National Poetry Day (today folks!) but I just thought I'd mention that this year's theme is 'games'.

I assume it refers not just to games in the traditional sense, but to mind games, war games etc and also to sports... which I don't 'do.'

You don't need to be a mastermind to realise lots of games are relevant to library work. Just yesterday I was playing Jenga with the crime books... which is a bit of a taboo. Then someone called my name out, which distracted me: 'Clare Kir...?'

Plunk! I'd dropped them all - it was quite an operation sorting them again - I needed a couple of people to help me scrabble around and then check them. The checkers had been looking for a copy of Othello, or some other trivial pursuit.

One of them - Marj Ong - kept complaining about the draughts in the crime section until I had to poke her and twist her name tag till she shut up and went off to look for a book about pontoon bridges requested by a Mr Cribbage. Then a borrower came up to me and said: "Have you got 'The Hungry Hippo' by Sue Doku?" I said: ' I'll have to check, mate.'

I'd go on, but I haven't the patience...

But before I go, of course I've written a poem for National Poetry Day... but it's quite long so I'll just leave you with the final stanza (I have to say 'stanza' on NPD):

At least in a game at the end of the round
as the bricks fall or the buzzers sound
you slide down the snake without visible bruises,
it's back in the box for the winners and losers:
the tiles and the tiddlywinks, aces and kings
the pawns and Park Lane hotels and such things
and your hurt pride or your pile of winnings,
back in the box till the next beginnings -
operation successful, hippo fed,
game over and time for bed.

Well, looks like there'll be no outdoor games today - there's a cold snap coming. When you've found the 22 games hidden in this post, you can have a look at this game you could play in your local library:

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Time Travel - ahhh, it takes you back

I need to go back in time for this... I was going to post this just before the Doctor Who series finale, but then I missed bits and ended up watching it all on iPlayer, so in my reality we haven't got to the end yet... and we're looking forward to a heatwave... and I am all the characters in a fictitious version of somebody else's life.

Confused? You may find Army of Dave's Guide to Time Travel useful.

I rarely know exactly what's going on in this sort of programme as I spend most of the time muttering darkly about anomalies in the plot. I've enjoyed the re-invention of the Doctor so I should swerve around the plot holes (they're nowhere near as bad as the dreadful latest Torchwood... don't start me on that). It's all tosh after all... and yet I still have unsettling memories of the old Doctor Who, especially that episode where giant slugs squeezed through mines eating people. Urgh.

But anyway - here's what I wanted to share - Bill Bailey's Belgian jazz version of the Doctor Who theme tune... "c'est lui, dans la nuit... Docteur ...Qui!" I heard this when he first did it and have been quoting it to people for eons so was delighted to find it on YouTube. Enjoy...

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Cautionary Tales

I grew up with The Penguin Book of Comic and Curious Verse, as I've mentioned before - and I loved those Cautionary Tales the best.

Matilda with her dreadful lies, Henry King (pictured left) who chewed string, Jim - who ran away from nurse and was eaten by a lion... the great Hillaire Belloc was the author of many of my favourites which can be found, nicely illustrated by The Baldwin Project which 'brings yesterday's classics to today's children.

It wasn't the horrible fates in themselves that attracted me, it was more the style of writing - faux serious, ridiculous rhymes and romping rhythms - and the escalating series of disasters where one thing led to another.

I attempted to write a cautionary tale this week - on the dangers of giving up blogging. It was addressed to Dave, (who is often first to comment on my blog): Reverend East – who gave up his blog but then realised he had nothing better to do. It sorto of works, but it's not nearly dark enough and while I was writing it he decided to start blogging again, which rather spoiled the ending I'd originally planned.

According to Wikipedia, authors of the cautionary tale were not obliged to abide by the usual rules of etiquette and gruesomeness was positively encouraged because they were meant to horrify a small child into Sensible Behaviour and Right Thinking.

I can't help thinking this sort of thing is probably a bit frowned on these days by those same right-thinking people due to their delight in disaster and uncomfortable overtones of child abuse.

There are no right-thinking people still reading this, are there? No? Then here's one you may never have come across . . .


Who caroused in the Dirt and was corrected by His Uncle

His Uncle came on Franklin Hyde

Carousing in the Dirt.

He Shook him hard from Side to Side

And Hit him till it Hurt,


Sunday, 2 October 2011

Went the day well

In case you were worried after my last post, I can now report that my library's Centenary celebrations went even better than 'best case scenario'.

For starters, we were presented with this fantastic cake by the sugarcraft group that meet in the library. A cake made out of books! Cake and books - what more could a woman want? (answers on a virtual postcard!)

Actually, lets start with Friday - comic poet John Hegley was on top form for his performance at the library despite it taking 4 trains to get to us from a gig in Wakefield!

He did some fab new material and yes, we ended up in the pub again, and, yes I gave him a lift again and YES! (everyone kept checking...) I had tunnel money this time! What a nice chap, well worth seeing live if you get a chance - great comic timing, surprisingly good singing and he read some of his fave poets too (a bit stressful as he asked me to find specific poems 10 mins before he started... and we've lots of poetry.)

Anyway, Saturday was the warmest October day on record, and there was a Liverpool / Everton Derby on but we still had hundreds of people turn up to help celebrate our 100th birthday (and no plumbers... although they still haven't finished)

We laid on a splendid 'Edwardian' Cream Tea ... you can see my perfectly edible cucumber sandwiches at the front there, and none of the borrowed china was dropped and nobody drowned in whipped cream.

And the speeches and prize-giving went swimmingly and I didn't even drop all the certificates and the winners read beautifully, including Cath Bore, who has talked about the event in her blog. And I met a few old friends and colleagues, and did a LOT of mingling. I could mingle for England.

The Wirral Ukulele Orchestra were the highlight. It had been a bit touch and go whether they were coming or not right up to earlier this week, but they stole the show with lively renditions of everything from Rawhide to Delilah, with oldies, rock and roll, TV themes, you name it. I'll upload a snippet to YouTube to give you a flavour and pop it on here.

Another plus point - I wasn't the only person who dressed 'in keeping' (which happens to me a LOT) and I even managed to get a group photo of all the staff to prove it.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Centenary Weekend - best and worst case scenarios

It's the 100th birthday of my library this weekend, with John Hegley tonight and an afternoon of delights tomorrow including Cream Tea, Wirrral Ukulele Orchestra and The Mayor.

Best case scenario:

Hegley's a sell-out sensation, we've bought enough wine and, unlike last time I have money for the tunnel fare if I give him a lift back to Liverpool.

On Saturday, the Mayor arrives at the right moment, says the right things, we've made enough scones, we can actually fit 30 Ukulele players by the counter, the glaziers have removed all the scaffolding and the plumbers have finished installing the central heating or at least made it safe. The 'great' and the 'good' of Wallasey arrive, having spontaneously decided to dress as 1911 gentry, photographers from the local paper capture our finest moments and the library is filled with LOVE which lingers through the winter like your favourite scent.

Worst case scenario:

I have horribly miscalculated dates and Hegley thinks it's next year, the wine is left unattended and 'evaporates' before everyone has arrived, as people file away disappointed one of them falls down a hole the plumbers forgot.

On Saturday the Mayor arrives early just as someone is withdrawing that book with all the penises in the inside cover and the scaffolders are re-enacting Laurel and Hardy scenarios with long poles. It is ridiculously hot. The fire alarm has gone off for no reason so we are ignoring it. The Mayor has some kind of phobia of cucumber sandwiches. The ‘ok’ and the ‘mediocre’ of Wallasey turn up in shell suits and complain about the sandwiches. They have dried out in the heat (the sandwiches, that is) so we call them 'toasted'.

It turns out you can't fit 30 sweaty Ukulele players next to the counter – so they have to use the vertical space. My boss loses her speech and has to improvise – all she can remember is the inappropriate jokes about early 20th Century facial hair that I thought of but we discarded. There are grumblings amongst facial hair present. I have inadvertently bollocksed up the certificates of the writing competition prize winners - a fight breaks out and someone is fatally stabbed with a bic 9mm.

The untested plumbing system, combined with unseasonal temperatures, begins to overheat, starting a small fire in an untrampled corridor of dried out poetry. Within minutes, Rabbie Burns is up in flames. The fire alarm has been going off all afternoon so no-one pays any attention. Anyway you can’t hear yourself think for ukuleles. I realise I have spelt Ukulele wrong on every piece of publicity and invitation. So does the Ukulele leader.

The boss of our department comes after all and chooses this moment to announce changes in staffing... 3 library assistants leave in tears. The fire spreads through Humour and Sport. A small child notices it but is told to ‘Shhhhhh’. Within minutes it has taken hold and there is a stampede to the door. The plumbers have disguised a hole with carpet, into which the Mayor falls, dislodging her coccyx and some piping which fountains water into the reading room. People only escape by surfing out on oversize books about maritime disasters. The photographer arrives in time to get a picture of the bedraggled Mayor lying in a pool of soggy Mills & Boons and scones.

The scent of roasted cucumber sandwiches lingers all winter...

Wirral library to celebrate centenary - What the Wirral Globe says... I think they're banking on the Best Case Scenario, but John looks a bit worried

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Bucket List

I've been putting some thought into a bucket list, lately. You can't put some thought into an actual bucket - it just spills over the edges and makes the idea of a mess on the floor.

I have actually done a lot of the things which might be on the average bucket list: I've performed in Vegas, done stand-up, written a novel (ok, I haven't had one published - picky, picky!). I've back-packed, flat-packed, rat-trapped. I've had several interesting jobs... and I just walked away from some of them. I've set up a charity, had an expense account, been offered food by beggars near the Alhambra. I've been on a camel, in a helicopter, lost at sea in an open boat. I've swum with dolphins, heli-hiked on a glacier, walked on a volcano... all hate me now, don't you?

The trouble is, I can't think of anything much I am burning to do. World peace? Yeah, but I'm realistic. Win a million? Yeah, but I'm not really sure what I'd do with it. (I wouldn't say 'No!' - that would be churlish - but I don't want it enough to get off my bum and go and get it.) I mean what's the point of anything?

Maybe it isn't that I don't want anything in the world, I just rationalise myself into thinking I don't. I know people who do this really well and it's certainly a strategy to avoid disappointment.

But I respect the idea of a list as an impetus to provoke action, so here it is so far:

The List

  • see the Northern Lights
  • jump out of a plane ... preferably with a parachute and someone attached to me who knows how to use one
  • fly a plane
  • drive across the USA
  • write a best-selling novel
  • go on some kind of retreat
  • get invited to the Oscars
  • win a major writing competition
  • eat at a Michelin starred restaurant
  • jump fully clothed into a swimming pool
  • get thrown out of a pub for bad behaviour (I'm not nearly bad enough)

What's on your list that I could steal for mine?