Monday, 30 April 2012

30th April

This is a very special day.

All across Europe there will be a great merry-making . In Finland there will be widespread swilling of sparkling wine at fancy picnics...

in Estonia there will be joyful costumed processions through the streets...

in Germany there will be bonfires and pranks (which I dare not illustrate), and in Czech Republic witches will be burnt.

For today it is my birthday!

What?... What do you mean it's Walpurgis Night?

Yes, April 30th, half way to All Hallows, is a spring festival across large swathes of Europe. I'd have a day off and be celebrating my special day in an appropriate manner (which may indeed involve bubbly, processions and pranks).

Instead I am on a course for work. A bit of a jolly? No! Wasting council tax-payers' money on perks and incentives? No. 'Bring your own tea-making stuff' I have been told.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

10cc and all that

Have you noticed there seems to be trend for bands of the 70's and 80's to dust off their platforms, rustle up the glitter and strut their stuff once more?

If only! Actually they all look a bit like your dad (not mine, obviously), wear jumpers to hide their middle-aged spread and sing more reflectively from the safety of a Val Doonican-style stool (below).

Yes, 10cc are regrouping.

I don't have a problem with that. They weren't the worst band in the world - I'm not in love with them but I wouldn't run away from them either - but they'll be saying 'Good Morning Judge' of they try to fire rubber bullets into my Dreadlock Holiday.

This all makes you wonder what Marc Bolan would be like now, or Freddie Mercury, doesn't it? Alice Cooper probably.

Which bands would you like to see reforming... and can you guess which 80's band I am about to be forever linked with?

Friday, 27 April 2012

If girls are smarter...

If girls are smarter than boys, why don't we run the world?

(I can't help thinking I'm setting myself up for some facetious 'comedy' answers here...)

Girls in STEM
Created by:

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Yes! Yes!....Well, maybe

Do you subscribe to the idea of ‘saying yes to everything’?

Watching ‘Yes Man’ with* Jim Carey I was both attracted and appalled by the idea of ‘saying ‘yes’ to every request, offer or possibility. It wouldn't be feasible to take up all opportunities and run with them - too much time and energy.

When I was younger I found it hard to say ‘no’ – I don’t mean I was ‘that sort of Biro’, but I volunteered for things I didn’t want to do, took on too much work, wasted time on things I wasn’t that interested in. It took its toll and I eventually learned to say ‘no’, made it a default response even, especially when the anxiety attacks kicked in a few years ago.

Perkier again now and knowing plenty of other creatives locally, the possibility of writing collaborations is almost infinite. But I have stacks of my own ideas too – 65 pages where every other line is an idea for a story/ poem/ character/ premise/ title. And there are competitions and calls for submissions coming from every direction. I can find this paralysing. Pulled equally in different directions, I find myself stuck in the middle, still saying ‘no’ to everything.

But I know in my heart that you make your own opportunities by being open to them. I’ve just stumbled on a couple of blogs where the author has been open to new projects: AndrewBlackman with a short story/photography collaboration and Inkslinger Girl at Blogger’s Block who pulled her finger out and got an article in the Independent. Inspiring examples.

I’m going to try and do this more, so watch this space.

But one project slipped through a while ago when I said ‘yes’ to something without thinking – did I mention my first play is to be premiered this July? Can you guess what it is yet?

* I mean he was in it, not sitting next to me on the sofa

Friday, 20 April 2012

Spot the difference

Someone on Twitter decided to follow me because my avatar looked like Bert from The Racoons.

I'm not sure how to take this.

I quite like my avatar, though it's a year or two (ahem) old now.

What do you think?

Do I want to be mistaken for a medium sized mammal* or is it time for a change?

* A raccoon has a greyish coat (tick), is omnivorous (tick), is noted for its intelligence (tick) , communicates through birdlike tweets (tick) and can weigh twice as much in spring because of fat storage... hey, just a minute!

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Flash Fiction - Competitions

We're now less than a month away from National Flash Fiction Day on 16th May.

I'm a big fan of Flash - I like reading them and I like writing them. The length can be anything from 140 characters ( e.g. HERE) to 100 words (e.g. HERE) 1000 words depending where you look- and that's a massive difference, but this definition seems to cover it nicely:

"Flash fiction work contains the classic story elements: protagonist, conflict, obstacles or complications and resolution. However unlike the case with a traditional short story, the word length often forces some of these elements to remain unwritten: hinted at or implied in the written storyline."
Bridport Prize website

I've listed some of the competitions around which are linking to National Flash Fiction Day in case you are tempted to give them a try:

  • Enter now! Lancashire Writing Hub's Flash Fiction Competition closes today - April 20th - and asks for exactly 165 words (including title).
  • Manchester's Flashtag writing collective want 500 words or less by Friday 27th April.
  • Yearning for Wonderland wants Unexpected Fairy Tales of under 350 words before 29th April.
  • Writing on the Wall in Liverpool want stories no more than 3000 characters (letters, not people - that would be silly) on the subject of 'The End of the World' by 30th April.

There are more competitions, events and initiatives at the National Flash-Fiction Day 2012 website

If you have the best flash fiction story ever, you could invest in the hefty £6 entry fee to the Bridport Prize's new Flash Fiction category which offers a first prize of £1000 for 250word stories - which equals £4 a word!

Related post: Short ... and I mean short... stories

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Half a fish finger

My brother is a lawyer. He's big in mediation. Who'd have thought those interminable verbal battles with a troublesome little sister would hone the skills for alternative dispute resolution? It makes me proud.

My brother recently mentioned he'd been at a legal conference where participants were asked to come up with examples of a grudge. He chose the half a fish finger story.

Mum was always scrupulously fair - equal shares for both of us. Is there anything as precisely measured as the piece of cake halved under her King Solomon-like 'one of you cuts it, the other chooses' principle? Her system of social justice has had repercussions in both our lives. I have, for example, never considered myself inferior by reason of gender. But both of us then arrived fresh-faced in adulthood with unreasonable expectations that life would continue in the same spirit of equality and fair play.

In retrospect it perhaps wasn't as fair as it seemed - my brother was two years older than me, and bigger. He probably could have done with a bigger share. But still, when mum gave him an extra fish finger one day (I was about ten) I was incensed. And I never forgot.

My final words on so many subsequent arguments were: '...and half a fish finger!' For years, decades, I held it up as an example of hideous unfairness, persecution, favouritism... and probably the main reason that he ended up at an Oxbridge college and became a proper professional person and I... well, I didn't.

Although, two of my poems are circulating within family law circles - check out 'Weapons' on The Mediation Centre website - so I'm there in spirit... and they said at his conference that mine was a 'perfect example of a grudge'.

... unless you have a better one?

Monday, 9 April 2012

Getting my rocks off

I've been back a week but didn't have time to sort my photos or thoughts.

The main thought is: Wow!

When American's say things are bigger and better over there it isn't just hyperbole. There is little in England to compare with the sheer scale and violence of American geology and the scenery it throws up.

It turns out the Colorado Plateau - which covers much of Arizona and Utah - has an average elevation of 6000ft, so we shouldn't have been surprised to get a good 2ft of snow in our first stop on Rte 66 in Flagstaff (twice as high Ben Nevis).

Fortunately the roads were soon clear enough to get to Sedona (Good Morning America's 'most beautiful place in USA') - nice!

Then it was north to the Grand Canyon - which is, indeed, as Grand a place as you can, grander. It's too big to talk about, too big to think about - a mile deep, all carved by that biddy bit of water you see in the picture.

After a night on the rim (canyon, not toilet) and LOTS of photos, we headed east.

Monument Valley - based in the massive Navaho Nation and home to 300,000 Native Americans... only ONE of whom I reversed the hire car into in a parking lot - will be familiar to you from dozens of movies - from the iconic images of classic John Ford westerns to the latest fantasy romp John Carter.

But we had the best view: from The View hotel, the only one there. And we did the 17 mile dirt road drive through it... but don't tell the hire car company, they're already pissed off about the parking lot.

Heading into Utah, we stayed near Lake Powell, created by the Glen Canyon Dam. Upstream of the Grand Canyon, it took 17 years to fill and provides power and water to five states.

Heading further into Utah, we visited two extraordinary national parks I'd never heard of until some friends went there last year. The first - Bryce Canyon - is one of the maddest places I've seen. It's a giant ampitheatre full of multi-coloured eroded pinnacles called 'hoodoos' - some 60ft high. This is probably where the word 'awesome' was invented.

And just when we thought we has seen enough gob-smacking rocks and crazy canyons, we popped into Zion Canyon for the afternoon. The road into it from Mount Carmel was like a journey on another planet, and the Canyon itself was stunning. It was the place I least wanted to leave, but we were due in Las Vegas... which is a whole other story.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Evil for Easter

I know this is Bad and Wrong and we shall all be SMITTEN DOWN (or possibly smited, smote, smit or smought) for laughing, but have a look at the pictures of Unintentionally Sexual Church Signs.