Friday, 25 May 2012

Happy Towel Day

Did you know it's Towel Day?

Every year, around the known universe, fans of the late, great Douglas Adams do towel-related things to celebrate his genius.

I discovered Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in my teens - on radio, then the books. They are the works I most wish I had written. I love his fount of ideas and the way he marries comedy with deeper truths.

If you have never read it, and I urge you to do so, click here for a full explanation of the significance of the towel, which finishes with:

"...any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with"

I blogged a towel-related story yesterday without having even remembered it was Towel Day, so I probably already have Betelgeusian* Brownie Points for that.

Despite the fact that I really don't like being told not to panic, some of my favourite quotes are from the first of the six books in the H2G2** trilogy:

Time is an illusion, lunchtime doubly so.

"It's horrible - it's like being drunk."
"What's so bad about being drunk?"
"You ask a glass of water."

A man who no more knows his destiny than a tea leaf knows the history of the East India company.

"I'd listened to what my mother told me when I was young."
"Why, what did she tell you?"
"I don't know, I didn't listen."

Anyway, I can't sit here blogging all day - it's a beautiful day and I'm off up the nearest hill... with my towel.


And here is the proof (and there's Hilbre Island in the background again!

* Full list of races and species in the Adams Universe is here

** Geek shorthand for Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and also an Adams-created alternative to Wikipedia which is seriously worth a browse:

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Swanning around

WARNING: I'm very giddy!

I only went and won Flashtag's Flash Fiction Competition for Chorlton Arts Festival!! It was a fab event, with 8 very different stories from finalists and more cracking short fiction from the Flashtag Five - who I first encountered HERE - and special guest Valerie O'Riordan.

My story was set in a hotel where the maids make those towel swans... but things escalate. I'm not reproducing it here as I'm going to try and get it published, and it's frowned on to be in a blog.

There was even a typewriter in pride of place where we took turns to write a line or two of a story... which worked in unexpected ways and provided a lovely tap...tappity tap writerly soundtrack to the comfort breaks.

Friday, 18 May 2012

The Odd Couplet... and other Poetical Films

One of the things I love about Twitter is how it's become a natural home for the dreadful pun. I've blogged before* about Hashtag games, where people compete to come up with the worst puns on a particular subject - usually a mash up of film titles, songs, animals and some topical theme.

This week I had a lot of fun with #poeticalfilms ... I don't know who started it but was surprised how many took it up and ran with it. Here are some of my faves...

Faust Amongst Equals

2001: A Space Ode Essay

Crocodile Spondee

Doggerel Day Afternoon
Raiders of the Lost John Cooper Clarke


Private Betjeman
Die Hardy
Whitman Can't Jump


Silence of the iamb

Rimbaud: First Blood

The Men Who Stare At Goethe
Honey I Shrunk The Keats
Debbie Does Ballads
The Odd Couplet


Look Ted Hughes Talking

Mad Max Beyond The Palindrome

The Hitchhaiku

The Hughes Brothers
Dead Men don't wear Plath.


Con Ayres

Haiku Fidelity

Here are some of my own: ‏

For Whom the Belloc Tolls
Anapest in Show
Truly, Madly, Hegley
Baudelaire of the White Worm
Woolf Creek
Quatrain Man

and of course Carol Ann Duffy the Vampire Slayer


and, a personal favourite... drum roll...

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day of the triffids

Go to it! You may not be on twitter, but you can still join in here...

* Why are there so many songs about librarians?

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Flash, bang, wallop!

It's all go here at Broken Biro Towers!

After a dry spell in terms of acceptances while I hunkered down to finish the novel and play (I mean I was writing a play, not playing!) I suddenly have developments to support on several fronts:-


I've been short-listed for a Flash Fiction Competition run by Liverpool's Writing on the Wall literary festival and the final's tonight!


I'm in the final of the Chorlton Art Festival Flash Fiction Competition next Wednesday!


Last night I won a place in the final of Pulp Idol - a competition for unpublished novels, also run by Writing on the Wall. Just getting to the final means my first chapter will be published alongside other finalists and sent to agents and publishers! PLUS I got to chat with experienced published writers like the host Cath Bore, and judges novelist Caroline Smailes and crime-writer Dave Jackson. It was especially nice that the other finalist from my heat is none other than Dave Hartley from Manchester's Flashtag collective - who are doing all sorts of whacky things in Manchester today for National Flash Fiction Day!

If you head over to that last website you can find out if there's anything going on in your area and perhaps read some super short stories!

p.s. ... and I haven't even mentioned what's happening with my play, and that 80's band thing... but BBC breakfast TV this morning might give you a clue...

Monday, 14 May 2012

Hilbre Island visit

Hilbre Island from Middle Eye
This weekend I walked out to Hilbre Island off the Wirral coast.

Hilbre Island is a sandstone outcrop off the coast of West Wirral with plenty to offer anyone up for a blustery hike across the sands. It's part of the Dee Estuary Site of Special Scientific Interest (migrating birds and rare flowers like Rock Sea Lavender) - so special that entry would probably be severely restricted if it could be policed!

Popular with twitchers, the island also has an evocative history having been occupied since before Roman times and an outpost of wrecking, smuggling and dodgy-dealing up to the 1800's.

Seals on West Hoyle sandbank, with North Wales beyond
What I love the best is the fabulous views: across to North Wales with glimpses of the Great Orme at Llandudno, and Anglesey; coloured sails bobbing on the Marine Lake at West Kirby; the Royal Liverpool Golf Club at Hoylake and the North Liverpool coast beyond. Other interesting sights: seals lolling on the sandbanks (or in the water), offshore windfarms and oystercatchers on the waterline.

Royal Liverpool Golf Club and Wirral coast from Middle Eye 
Although I only live ten minutes walk from the slipway, I don't go out there that often - you have to time it right because the island is cut off at high tide and I'm not a great planner-ahead. Also an afternoon building a dry stone wall in the seaward side with an ill-fated council staff volunteer scheme turned my bad cold into bronchitis and the brink of pneumonia back in 2005, which put me off a bit.

Setting out from West Kirby for 2 mile walk out 
It's a leisurely hour's walk, taking in two smaller islands - Little Eye and Middle Eye (which has a gorgeous little beach, enticingly springy turf and great views.) It takes another hour to have a good look around Hilbre.

Time it wrong and you may be stranded for 5 hours - which is actually kind of fun as long as you have provisions with you! But the tide times and the safest route are always posted on the slipway at the bottom of Banks Road, West Kirby.

You can see it at hight tide and get more info HERE.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Mum's the word

My mum is quite adept at the inadvertent funny line.

She said to me just the other day: 'You always EMPHASIZE with people.'

And she's ABSOLUTELY right - I do, I really, really DO!

She has also mastered the fine art of the compliment, telling me: 'If there's one thing I like about you, you're punctual.'

Thanks, mum.

When I first started writing poetry and produced a little booklet of it, I didn't have any blurb for the back so I used this genuine comment from her:

"I think these poems are great, but I know nothing about poetry... and I am her mother."
Mrs T. Kirwan

Me: I'm really struggling with the plot of this story
Mum: Can't you just make something up?

Sometimes she comes out with fascinating, almost poetic, statements about the world around her: 'Your father has no joie de vivre - that's why he never understood the dog.'

So I should have expected this, this week:-

Me: I'm going to see Status Quo at Speke Hall next month.
Mum: Are they still alive?

Probably... it wouldn't be much of a show if they weren't, would it?

Thursday, 10 May 2012


I was on a course for work last week - they're merging the library service with One Stop Shops (OSS) so we're learning about all the council does.

It's been really interesting. Having worked before in the council's press office I thought I'd be pretty clued up but there are loads of initiatives I didn't know about. This shouldn't surprise me - advertising is pricey and local press are unwilling to publish positive news which actually benefits people for nothing.

The worst thing about learning the A to Z of the CST (Customer Service Toolkit) is the bloomin' TLA's (that's three letter acronyms to you.)

Do I ask the FIS or CRS what do I do if we have an EOI for WPH (that's an RSL)?

If there's an SOS involving GBH, is it ASB?

Was it M&Ms and TCP or free G&T's for the OAPs?

When I just don't know, I will have to guess - is it ELO or JLS?

I need to read the FAQs PDQ to find the right PDF.

From my POV I need a glossary... and a BLT!

Excuse me if my PMT has sent me OTT!