Writing, Tapes and Chocolate Biscuits

Once again, it’s Saturday and time for me to entertain my small band of readers with a new blog post. Just lately, having produced over 500 blog posts, I’m starting to feel a little pleased with myself. I started blogging in 2014 but now I think of it, I’ve been blogging a lot longer than that. As a schoolboy I used to publish a blog every week. OK, it wasn’t digital, it wasn’t called a blog and it wasn’t available on the internet, in fact the internet itself wasn’t available either.

My ‘blog’ was very low tech. It was written on the middle pages of a schoolboy exercise book and passed around to my fellow pupils. It was called ‘The latest from the Perverted Press!’ It was mainly a spoof on the then current news stories from the late sixties and early seventies. They were things along the lines of, President Nixon issues apologies after visiting the nuclear command centre and saying ‘time for launch’ when in fact he had really said ‘time for lunch!’

I used to bill myself as the celebrated author of that great trilogy, the ‘Master’ novels. There was the first one, ‘Master Smith’, the follow-up, ‘Master Jones’, and the one that caused a great deal of unwarranted attention to the Perverted Press, ‘Master Bates’.

I had a friend called Jeff Langdon who, as far as I know, was the only pupil from my rough and ready suburban high school who ever made it to university. Jeff created a blog, sorry, I mean pamphlet, called simply The Steve Higgins Story, so I was forced to reply with The Jeff Langdon Story.

My pamphlet was rather popular, far more popular than Jeff’s and he always complained that my popularity stemmed from the fact that my pamphlets looked better because of the liberal use of coloured pens and drawings. Alas Jeff, art always was one of my top subjects. Even so, I thought my blog -sorry, pamphlet- was much better anyway, coloured pens or no coloured pens. Jeff, I’m sure, would disagree.

Talking about The Perverted Press has made me look at my blogs and videos in a different way. One of my regular blogs is my Holiday Book Bag in which I review the books I’ve taken on holiday. Back in my teens I used to make a similar review about the records I used to buy. I still have a few of those tapes. One was called simply Tape Review and in it, I played excerpts of records and tapes I had bought and talked about the best ones. I remember on one of them I chose my favourite guitar solo of the year and if I remember correctly the winning guitar solo was one from One of These Nights by the Eagles.

Another one was Self Portrait in Tape, a possible precursor to my podcasts or perhaps my Life Story blog posts. In it I rabbit on about myself and play some favourite music tracks.

Those tapes were the forerunners of my book reviews and podcasts. Back in the 1970’s there was a show on Radio 1 called My Top Twelve. It was actually a straight rip off of Desert Island Discs in which someone would choose their top 12 tracks and talk about them. My old friend Steve and I decided to interview each other and we both introduced our own top twelves. A few years ago, I digitised my copy but I changed some of the tracks as in the intervening 40 years my tastes have changed a little. Neil Sedaka’s Laughter in The Rain was a pleasant enough track but hardly Top Twelve material so that had to go as did a couple of other tracks that are no longer my cup of tea. Barry White got a bit of a slagging off from my younger self so I felt compelled to add a few interjections from the present day -actually 2017- to redress the balance and explain my changed attitude towards Barry. (What would my younger self think if he knew I had a copy of Barry White’s Greatest Hits in my car?)

I play the resulting Top Twelve CD in my car quite a lot. It’s nice and perhaps a little surreal to hear my old self from 1974 and my somewhat older 2017 self, chatting with my old friend Steve, sadly no longer with us, once again.

Now I think of it, my past life has been the inspiration behind quite a lot of my writing. My early life inspired a lot of Floating in Space and many of my blog posts. I like to take something, some incident from the past and make it into a funny story or compare the situation to one in today’s digital, internet, mobile phone 21st century world.

As I’m looking back and getting nostalgic, I thought I’d throw in the following story from when I first started work. It’s nothing whatsoever to do with blogging but now I think about it, I bought my tape recorder with my very first wage packet so I must have made the Top Twelve recording round about the time of the following events so there is a faint connection.

When I lived at home with mum and dad and my brother, I occasionally might have got to eat a chocolate biscuit. My brother and I would have had to have been good, done our homework, tidied our bedroom and eaten all our dinner and so on. Then and only then would we be offered a chocolate biscuit with our after dinner cup of tea. Even today I find it hard not to have a biscuit with a cup of tea; old habits die hard.

One day at work I went out for lunch with our company surveyor and on the way back he nipped into a small shop nearby. He emerged with a large pack of chocolate biscuits. Back in the office he offered a biscuit to me and my colleagues. Most people said no but I took one thinking that if I was offered one later by my mother, I would have doubled my chocolate biscuit intake for the day.

Coming back from the tea machine with a cup of tea I watched Dave the surveyor, settle down at his desk which was on a slightly higher level than mine. Dave took a biscuit and quietly scoffed it. Then he took another and then another, and then another! I remember watching wide eyed as Dave ate the entire packet of chocolate biscuits, one after the other. I felt I had witnessed an act of unbelievable gluttony. A grown man eating an entire packet of biscuits. What would my mother have said?

Looking back, I reckon that was the moment when I decided to leave home. Away from the constraints of my family I would be free to stay up late, drink alcohol, invite women home and spend as much time as I desired on my writing projects.

And eat chocolate biscuits of course.


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Blogs, Video and a Social Media Marketing Mix

The lockdown of last year didn’t really affect me that much. It was a bit of a pain not being able to go out and I did miss the pub quiz night as well as my visits to my favourite restaurants. Essentially though, I’m not an outdoor kind of guy. I like my TV and my laptop and I’m pretty happy sitting outside in the summer reading a good book. This last week I’ve been experiencing a more personal kind of lockdown. Liz has just had a hip replacement and I’ve been off work tending to her every need.

Even people who are close can have their differences. Liz likes to be challenged by word games and I like my challenge in the form of a good documentary film.

‘Not another quiz show’ I usually say when she has got the TV remote.

‘Not another Kennedy documentary’ she tends to say when the remote is over on my side. Oh well, recuperation is important and if she can put up with the occasional JFK documentary I can deal with another Countdown, I suppose.

When I’ve had a brief moment to myself, I’ve been looking at my book, Floating in Space, and wondering what more I could do to promote it. This entire blog is about promoting Floating in Space, at least that was the idea when I started. Every blog post, whether it’s about books, films, my life or any other random subject that comes to mind always ends with a little plug for Floating, right down at the end of the post. It usually comes in the form of a short video with the prime intention of making the viewer wonder if their life is worth living if they haven’t got a copy of my book. Most people and I’m talking a good 90% plus of people who decide to watch decide that life is worth living without a copy of Floating in Space and decline to buy. Pity, especially as I went to a lot of trouble making those videos.

A lot of people ask me about the title, Floating in Space. Why is it called that? Is it a sci-fi book? No, it isn’t which makes me wonder whether changing the title would be a good thing. The title comes about because of the way the main character, Stuart Hill, looks at his life. Sometimes it’s a good thing to look at your life not in little segments but as a whole. How could you possibly do that? Well Stuart does it like this.

Updated version of Floating In Space available now from Amazon!

This technique, for want of a better word, is best employed in the summer. Find yourself a quiet outdoor place. Lie down on the grass facing towards the sky. A clear blue sky isn’t much good for this. What you need is a blue sky and a good selection of white fluffy clouds. Now relax. A good way to do that is start at the top of your head and relax your scalp, then go down to your eyebrows and relax them. Then your eyes, nose and so on, all the way down to your toes.

Now, I don’t know if you can remember those visual teasers you used to see in comics years ago. For instance a line drawing of a cube which by an effort of will you could make into a solid box or, again using only your mind, see the box as an open box and look inside. That’s the thing to do now looking up at the sky. See the curve of the sky bending down towards the horizon at the extreme end of your peripheral vision? Well turn that around so instead of looking up at the sky you are looking down. Imagine you are floating in space, seeing the blue, not of the sky, but of the planet Earth and down below is you and your life, going about it’s everyday cycle of work, sleep and relaxation. Down there on the Earth are moments of enjoyment, moments of happiness, moments of sadness and sadly, moments of horror.

Most of my promotions for Floating tend to focus not on the process I’ve described above but on the city of Manchester where the book is set. I’ve only visited my home city once since the pandemic and it’s looking good. New towering skyscrapers seem to be going up with every month that passes by, at least according to the small group of Manchester photographers that I follow on Instagram. Manchester’s nickname is the Rainy City because of course it rains a lot and one of my favourite photographers makes a habit of photographing the puddles of the city, either with the city’s new buildings reflected in the water or low angle pictures with a rainy puddle in the foreground and some Mancunian architectural delight in the background.

When I visited Manchester a few months ago I took my camera along and made a bit of a walkabout video. I had my selfie stick and walked around chatting to the camera. I looked at some of the new hi rise towers and then walked round to the old end of town and took a stroll down the Rochdale canal which was completed in 1804. Instead of writing a narration I just stayed with the video of me chatting to the camera and added a few voice over comments and snippets of info. That video is currently one of my most watched videos so if I had any sense I’d probably make more of the same but it so happens I’m just not that comfortable walking around chatting to my camera. I much prefer my usual videos, many of which have voice-over narrations which originate in many cases from my blog posts. Like a lot of my blogs and videos, I can’t leave them alone, I’m always tinkering with them and here’s a case below, another edit of my favourite Manchester video.

I am of course an old school video producer. I like videos that open up gradually and have titles and an introduction. That technique, I am reliably informed, is very old hat indeed. In the 21st century social media world, videos need to be straight to the point. Quick introductions, a quick statement of your credentials, perhaps a brief exhortation for the viewer to subscribe to my channel and then wham, straight into the subject. That is internet video in a nutshell because there are thousands of other videos out there that are just a click away and can instantly nab your viewer if you fail to grab and keep their attention.

Getting back to blogging, I have probably written more words, in my blogs and tweets and other social media posts promoting my book, than are actually in the book itself. Oh well, that is one of the facts of the self-publishing world: Writing a book is one thing but marketing is an entirely different ball game altogether and of course the competition is fierce with more than 5000 new books released on Kindle every day! Is it worth it you might ask? Why do I do it? Well, quite simply I do it because I like doing it and when the enjoyment has gone, I’ll start thinking about doing something else with my spare time.

Nothing improves and hones your writing skills more than the writing process itself and as a blogger with a deadline of 10am on a Saturday morning I have even started to feel like something of a professional writer. Nothing gives me more pleasure than to log into WordPress and find that someone has liked one of my posts, or better still has left a comment. I’ve always thought that an intrinsic element of the human condition is finding that out that there are others in the world who think the same way as you do and like the things that you like.

I do tinker quite a lot with Floating in Space and some time ago I added a version which hopefully corrected the book’s various grammatical mistakes and I also added a small index to help explain 1977 to my younger readers. So, what else should I do to market my work? Another Tweet? Another Facebook post? Another YouTube video? Perhaps I should go further afield in the social media world and do more on Instagram or sign up for Tik Tok?

Actually I think I might just give marketing a rest for a while. Liz is still in bed so I think I might just relax for a while with Oliver Stone’s new Kennedy documentary.


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Writing, Recording and The Next Blog Post

Well, I’ve had the Big 500, that was last week so time to move on and get on with Blog #501. Things are the same for every content creator whether it’s me and my blog or Martin Scorsese and his next film. One project finishes and we move on to the next one. It’s great to put together a creative piece of work but I’ve always felt a little sadness leaving a completed blog or video behind and moving on to the next one. In fact, I wonder if it’s a feeling experienced by all creative people? In the movie The Bad and The Beautiful, Kirk Douglas plays a film producer who goes into a deep depression every time a project is finished. Was the author or the director putting his own experiences into the film?

The other day I was scanning through my diary from 2021 and I noticed in one entry I was feeling pretty pleased with myself because I had put together not one but three separate blog posts. I must have been feeling pretty creative that week because these days I often seem to be struggling for ideas.

Lately I’ve done some beta testing work for the online editing website Animoto. I put together two short video projects for them and reviewed a new facility in their software and in exchange they sent me an Amazon gift voucher. Now it just so happens that my subscription with Animoto has expired and I tried to barter the gift voucher for a discount subscription but despite my charm, which I’ve always thought was one of my great assets, they declined. Pity really because I rather like Animoto.

During my separation from them I’ve tried other online editing sites but I’ve not been totally happy so I suppose that soon I’ll just have to cough up the appropriate fees and re-join Animoto.

In the meantime I’ve been wondering what to do with my voucher. Eventually I decided it might be an idea to invest in a good microphone so I can improve the voiceovers I put together for my YouTube videos as well as my podcasts. That seems like a good excuse as any to publish a link one of my videos with an extensive voiceover. The video below has a narration based on a number of my blog posts as well as text from my book. the voiceover isn’t actually bad but a new recording might make it sound a bit more professional.

I sent off for my selected microphone and the one I chose came in a set with a telescopic arm, just like the ones you see in recording studios. Later I thought I might as well have bought the usual one with a little tripod as I don’t really have the room for the arm. I don’t have a room, a special room for writing and recording but then I don’t think a lot of writers do.

My workspace: Laptop, cup of tea, notebook and the TV remote not too far away

Recently I decided to take a short demo screenplay I had written ages ago and rewrite it as a short story. I did so and feeling fairly pleased with it decided to send it to an online magazine that was looking for just such a story. I was actually going to use the story as a blog post but I noticed in the small print that the magazine didn’t want work that had been printed elsewhere. Well, if I recorded the story as a podcast then really it wouldn’t have been printed elsewhere, would it? That was my cue to set up my new microphone and start recording. The sound quality was so much better than my previous recordings.

Not long ago I read Agatha Christie’s autobiography and in it she mentions that many people ask her where her famous novels were written. The fact is, they were written any place that was handy at the time. She didn’t have a special writing place and I wonder if writers, or indeed any writer has a particular writing place? I like to write in the dining room but then I also like to write in the lounge with the TV on in the background but the sound on mute. Sometimes I’ll write in bed or jot down ideas at my desk at work.

The interior of Dylan Thomas’ writing shed.

Dylan Thomas famously had a writing shed in the garden of his ‘house on stilts’ in Laugharne. I daresay he didn’t write everything he ever wrote in there but of course he did write there when he was at home. I visited the house once many years ago. I was really impressed with it. The national trust or some such organisation had rescued the building, saved it from sliding into the sea and reopened it as a museum. I arrived late in the day, just before they were closing up so I returned the following day for another look. The staff didn’t charge me as they remembered me having to leave prematurely and so I bought various items from their museum shop.

One place I’d like to visit would be Charles Dickens’ home; Gad’s Hill Place in Kent. Dickens spent the last 15 years of his life in the house and it was one he had seen and fallen in love with as a child when he and his father took long walks together. It must have seemed quite an achievement for him to buy the house, even in a life filled with great achievements. Dickens died in the house on June 9th, 1870 aged 58. What would Dickens make of a present-day writer’s life I wonder? Writing blogs to promote his work, tweeting Tweets, and making Facebook posts. I’m not sure he would have been impressed.

My minor problems of wondering what to write pale into insignificance when I watch the terrible news from the Ukraine. A few weeks ago, the Ukrainians had similar problems to us here in the UK. Things like getting to work on time; would the bus be late? Picking the kids up from school. What to have for tea. Now they wonder if their homes will be destroyed by bombs. Will their loved ones be safe? Only the other day I watched a newscast where a distraught woman went to a makeshift hospital with her young daughter who had been hurt in the Russian attack. Doctors fought to save her and the cameraman followed their efforts. One man, a doctor turned and began to rage at the camera. I guessed he was complaining to the cameraman for intruding but when his words were translated, he was calling for the camera man to take the video and show it to Mr Putin: let him see what he has done raged the doctor. Sadly, the young girl died.

So, here we go. My laptop has been cranked up. The Saint is playing on the TV with the sound muted. A large cup of tea is ready to be sipped. I pause for a moment to nibble on some toast and marmalade then press the button for NEW BLANK DOCUMENT and I am ready to write.


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The Big 500

Yes, here we are, the big 500. My 500th blog post. I have to say that I had big plans for this post but plans, as we all know, don’t always work out. I started out wanting to write on the theme of 500: Things named 500, famous 500’s and so on. The problem is, the only thing I could come up with was the Indianapolis 500, the famous Indycar race in the USA.

That was fine of course, I’m a big motor racing fan and I do know a little about the Indianapolis 500. The Indianapolis motor speedway where the event takes place is known as the brickyard as it was originally paved with bricks. Graham Hill and Jim Clark were famous European winners of the Indy 500 back in the 1960’s. Emerson Fittipaldi, another F1 driver retired after two world championships in the 1970’s but made a comeback in Indycars winning the Indianapolis 500 in 1989 and again in 1993.

OK, that’s it off the top of my head. For anything more I’d have to head for Google. To be honest, I did do a search in Google for some ideas. Some suggestions from over there were the dog recently rehomed after 500 days in the kennels and the Fiat 500 motor car. I did hire a Fiat 500 once in Lanzarote which was fun. I’m OK driving on the other side of the road but sitting in the left hand seat and changing gear with my right hand, well I’ve always found that to be the difficult part. Anyway, the Fiat 500 was a pretty tasty motor car, even for a big lug like me but I’m not sure I can say much more about it. Glad to hear about that dog getting rehomed though.

Perhaps a quick troll through my blogging landmarks might help.

Blog 100: Mr Todd and the Sound of that Elusive Next Blog.

Looking back to my 100th blog I see I was still searching for things to write about. A blog post prompt tasked me to write about a sound and the one that came to me was Mr Todd’s projector. Who was Mr Todd? Well he was a teacher at my junior school, Crossacres Junior School in Manchester and every Christmas Mr Todd set up his projector and we filed into the hall, sat down cross legged on the floor while the curtains were closed, the lights switched out and Mr Todd’s projector took us into another world, the world of films. They were mostly cartoons, things like Woody Woodpecker and Bugs Bunny and sometimes he showed a few Walt Disney animal documentaries.

Those Christmas film shows were just wonderful for us children, sitting in the dark watching those slapstick antics on the screen. I used to like to sit near to Mr Todd and marvel at the projector. He would open up little doors in the workings and make adjustments, and little shafts of light would escape until he closed the small doors again, and the whirring of the reels and the clicketty-click sound was a sound I loved.

One day, and I think it must have been my last year at junior school, Mr Todd retired but not only did he retire, he took his projector and films with him and the last Christmas at Crossacres was empty without him. I remember sitting in the hall listening to the choir or some play or other and hoping that eventually someone would give the signal to close the curtains and the projector would be wheeled in and the fun would begin. Mr Todd and his projector however, never returned and Christmases were never the same. Still, whenever I hear the sound of a projector the memory of that Christmas film show returns to me. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the Hitchcock movie ‘Rebecca’, but there’s a sequence in the film where Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier start watching their home movies and we hear that clicketty click projector sound again.

The World of the Vinyl Single

My 200th post was actually about TV Spies. It was OK but nothing exciting but for my 201st post I found myself writing about The World of The Vinyl Single. In 2022 there are still music charts although youngsters today prefer downloads to actually owning a physical copy of their chosen music. They have never known the joy of spending Saturday afternoons flipping through the singles in the numerous record shops of cities like my home town of Manchester. Not for them the allure of the soft dark vinyl or the album art or sleeve notes. No personal annotations like there were on my record sleeves with the discreet addition of the date I bought the record. The first single I ever bought was in 1973 and it was Olivia Newton-John’s version of ‘If Not For You’. Reduced to half price it was 24 pence. I sometimes wonder what was the last ever vinyl single I ever bought. One day I’ll have to search through my boxes of old records and work it out.

Edit: An Alternative 200th Post

WordPress is pretty good at showing you how many posts you’ve done but finding the 100th, the 200th and so on meant having to count back to blog number 1. I have to admit here that I made a big cock up looking back and after a recount I think my 200th blog post was actually one about photography. It was called Adventures with a Camera. I showed the reader some of my favourite pictures and talked about my favourite cameras from my first one, an Instamatic 126 to my current one a Nikon D100.

Night Shift

My 300th blog post was a poem, not one of my very best but my 301st was a post called Night Shift. What I did was string various threads together and link them to my night shift. As I’m now semi-retired I don’t do night shifts anymore so reading this post was a nostalgic look back for me at how things used to be: Trying to get some sleep during the day, the burst of activity at the start of the shift, the gradual winding down of things. The endless cups of tea, the midnight sandwich and finally the relief when the morning shift came in to take over. Going outside and getting into my car after the last one was a good feeling and so was the feeling that while everyone was off to work for me it was the other way round, off home for a sleep and remembering to set the alarm so I wouldn’t sleep away what was really my first day off.

Edit #2

After a substantial recount I found out later that my 300th post was (surprise, surprise) The Big 300. I think I was a little surprised to have got to that milestone and I talked a lot about writing and finding inspiration and also about the film and TV scripts I have written and had rejected. Writing scripts isn’t so hard but it’s what to do with them afterwards. Who will read them? Who can I send them to? Most companies are not interested in unsolicited scripts or ones from an unknown author or writers who are unrepresented by agents. For a while I paid to list one of my screenplays on Inktip.com and although I had some interest, producers weren’t queuing up to buy my script.

The Big 400

Blog Post 400 was about Things to Do During the Pandemic. Well, I guess we are all pretty happy to have put the pandemic (mostly) behind us. The things I was doing during the pandemic were watching TV, drinking wine and ordering restaurant meals to be delivered. Nowadays I’m doing pretty much the same thing although I’m actually back visiting restaurants instead of asking them to deliver food. Of course, the food is only part of the restaurant experience. Chatting to friends, having banter with our waiters and being waited on is really what a restaurant is about as well as good food and wine. In 2022 Liz and I have discovered a different restaurant called Spago and we have currently been taking advantage of their January and February offers. We have already found our favourite table (table 12) and the waiters are by now pretty used to our little idiosyncrasies (we like to pour the wine ourselves, we don’t like sweet stuff dribbled on our food, we like a lot of lemon in our table water to name but three).

The Big 500

Of course, we also like to visit our regular restaurants too like Ego (table 30 please) and Allegria (table 16). I also still watch far too much TV. Interestingly in the 400th post above I talked about watching Rocketman, the Elton John biopic. Last night we watched Bohemian Rhapsody the 2018 Freddie Mercury/Queen biopic.

Just like those earlier blog posts, in 2022 I’m still trying to flog my books, Floating in Space and A Warrior of Words. I’ve got a few more followers than I had back in 2014 when I first started blogging. Have I made any money from my blog posts? Er, no. Have my posts gone viral? No. Has writing and blogging made me a better writer? Well, those 500 blog posts haven’t hurt me in any way and more writing can’t be bad for a writer, it can only be good. Do I still like blogging? Of course, I do. The only problem is, what can write for blog #501?


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More Beginnings and Ends

As I approach my 500th blog post, I sometimes wonder if I’m running out of steam. Yes, instead of brand new posts I’m looking back at my old ones and giving them a bit of a rehash or sometimes writing more on the same theme and adding ‘More’ to the title or ‘Part 2’.

Last week I talked about more Essential Englishmen and this week I’m going to return to a post from 2021 so, without further ado, let me see if I can interest you in some more beginnings and ends.

I’m going to start with an end, a personal end.

I wrote about the issues I had paying my electric bill a while ago. Here’s a quick recap. I’d paid my bill but my banking app remembered the account number from when I used to pay my mother’s electric account and used that instead of my own account number. Mum is living in a nursing home at the moment so her electricity account has been closed. I contacted my supplier Eon, who were not at all helpful. They wouldn’t credit my electric account and neither would they return the money to my bank. Contact my bank was their one and only suggestion. My bank tried to sort the issue, they tried to retrieve the payment but contacted me back the other week saying Eon’s bank were not playing ball.

I called Eon again but after waiting over 30 mins in a telephone queue I gave up, put the phone down and wrote a moaning email to Eon. In sharp contrast to last time, their staff member Jim checked the details I gave him, saw immediately an error had occurred and credited the amount into my bank account. Simple, although I’ve had weeks of hassle, hanging onto phone lines and going through various phone menus until I got basically nowhere. Thanks Jim at Eon!

Beginnings

Next I’d like to talk about one of my favourite films written and directed by my favourite director, Woody Allen. Woody is not the most popular guy in Hollywood these days but back in 1979 he made the film Manhattan and the opening sequence is one I’ve always been fond of. In it he’s narrating the opening to a new novel and as he goes along he starts editing and rewriting and starts over again. No, that’s too preachy, he says. That’s too angry, till finally he comes up with some text he really likes –I love this says Woody.

I loved it too, so much that I made a spoof version about Manchester rather than Manhattan.

The Godfather

The Godfather is one of the classics of cinema. It’s based on the book by Mario Puzo which is a classic in its own right. In the film version Marlon Brando plays Don Corleone, the head of the Corleone mafia family. The film opens on the day of his daughter’s wedding which is a day when no Sicilian can refuse a request. In his office that morning is a man whose daughter has been the victim of an attempted rape and he comes to ask the Don for revenge. The Godfather emerges out of the shadows not a happy man. Has he been asked with respect? No. Has he been called Godfather? No. Marlon Brando plays the Don beautifully as a man of honour but also a dangerous man.

Director Francis Ford Coppola always wanted Brando for the role but the executives at Paramount weren’t happy. They made him do a screen test and also put up a bond in case he delayed the film and caused unwarranted expense. The result is a wonderful piece of cinema.

The Truman Show

I’ve not always been a fan of Jim Carrey but I’ve always rather liked The Truman Show. It’s a sort of reality show where Jim Carrey’s character Truman is the star only he isn’t aware of it. Everyone around him knows everything is fake. Secret cameras film everything he does and all those around him, including his mother, his wife and best friend who are all actors in on the secret. The TV show is the brainchild of Christof, a producer/director played by Ed Harris. As the film unfolds we gradually realise that Truman is becoming aware of things that are not right; a spotlight that falls from the sky; people who approach him and want to talk but are hustled away by strange people; an office building where no one is working and his wife who seems to announce the benefits of various products as if she is in a TV advert.

The film is based on an episode of The Twilight Zone. A man getting ready for work finds a camera in his bathroom and realises he is being secretly filmed. It turns out that unknown to him, he is the star of a reality TV show. The producers take him aside and explain what a hit the show is and how much money he could be making. Why not carry on as if he never found out the truth they ask. Keep the show running. No one would ever know.

The man decides to just carry on with his life and allow the filming and the money to continue. In some ways I think that might even be a better storyline than The Truman Show. Either way, this film is a really interesting look at the current reality TV genre and flips the whole concept on its head. Carrey is great in what is really his first dramatic role too. The most telling moment comes at the end when the whole world has been glued to the last episode. When it has finished one of the enthralled TV viewers asks ‘what’s on now?’

The Big Sleep

The book The Big Sleep was written by Raymond Chandler and he had this really fabulous talkative way of writing. You can almost imagine hearing Humphrey Bogart’s voice as you read the book. Here’s a quote from the text, an example of Chandler’s descriptive style:

I sat down on the edge of a deep soft chair and looked at Mrs Regan. She was worth a stare. She was trouble. She was stretched out on a modernistic chaise-longue with her slippers off so I stared at her legs in the sheerest silk stocking. They seemed to be arranged to stare at. They were visible to the knee and one of them well beyond. The knees were dimpled, not bony or sharp. The calves were beautiful, the ankles long and slim with enough melodic line for a tone poem. She was tall and rangy and strong looking. Her head was against an ivory satin cushion. Her hair was black and wiry and parted in the middle and she had the hot black eyes of the portrait in the hall. She had a good mouth and a good chin. There was a sulky droop to her lips and the lower lip was full.

Not bad eh? Dilys Powell called his writing ‘a peculiar mixture of harshness, sensuality, high polish and backstreet poetry’ and it’s easy to see why. Anyway, the book was made into a film starring Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe and the film and the book open with Marlowe’s visit to see General Sternwood. I was calling on a million dollars says the famous detective in the opening monologue. Sternwood is an elderly man who spends his time in a stiflingly hot conservatory where he offers Marlowe brandy while he explains just what he wants Marlowe to do.

The Story in Your Eyes

In my original blog post I stuck to film, TV and books but for this version I thought I’d throw in some music, just for the hell of it. Despite being a great music fan I was pushed to think of something with a really outstanding opening but I think the guitar riff on this track from the Moody Blues really fits the bill.

The Cut

Before I cut to the ‘ends’, I thought this might be just the point to show what we video editors call a cut. Here is what has been described as the most epic cut in film history.

Ends: The Fugitive

Another old show repeated currently on the CBS justice channel is The Fugitive starring David Janssen as Dr Richard Kimble, falsely accused of the murder of his wife. The show ran for four seasons but as viewer ratings began to fall, the series was cancelled. It was then that the producers hit on what at the time was an unusual idea. Instead of the show just ending, they decided to make an actual finale. Yes, they would wrap up the story of Kimble’s wife’s murder. Kimble had been searching for the supposed one-armed man he had seen leaving the murder scene for the past four seasons, now he would finally find him!

Back in the 1960’s, TV was not very highly thought of even by the TV networks themselves. So what if Kimble never finds the murderer. So what? It’s only a TV show. Of course, the viewers would disagree. They had kept faith with the series for four long years, they deserved a proper ending.

The final episode aired on August 29th 1967 and in the USA the viewing figures were a sensation: 72% of US TV viewers were watching that final episode and the show held the most watched record until November 1980 when someone shot JR in Dallas.

Citizen Kane

The cinematography was by Gregg Toland, one of the film industry’s top photographers. Toland had asked to work on the film and director and star Orson Welles replied ‘Why? I don’t know anything about making films.’ Toland countered that was exactly why he wanted to work on the film because a film by a newcomer, Kane was actually Welles’ first film, would produce something new and original.

There are some fascinating elements to Citizen Kane, especially in the special effects department. A famous one is where the camera flies through a rooftop sign and then drops down through a skylight into a restaurant. That was done with a sign that came apart as the camera approached and then a fade from a model shot into the restaurant set disguised in a flash of lightning. I could go on and mention plenty of elements like that but if you haven’t seen Citizen Kane let me just explain what it’s all about. The film opens with the death of Kane, a millionaire newspaper magnate. His last words were ‘Rosebud’. The makers of a cinema newsreel decide to find out what or who Rosebud was.

To do so they research Kane’s life; his inheritance of a huge fortune, his takeover of a newspaper, his great wealth, his power and influence, his marriage and divorce and ultimately his death. The reporters never find the answers to their questions but we, the cinema audience, have the secret revealed to us right at the end of the picture. The end is what makes the film really and Welles admitted that Rosebud, and the idea behind it, was the idea of his co-writer Herman Mankiewicz. The final scene takes place in a huge storage area, packed with crates containing all the numerous items the acquisitive Kane bought, packaged and hoarded during his lifetime. Some of the stuff is scheduled for the furnace and as one labourer throws in an old sledge, we see the flames begin to consume the wooden frame. The top coat of paint is burned off and we see revealed underneath the name ‘Rosebud’.

One Final End.

I’m due to get my state pension in October which as regular readers will know is my least favourite time of the year. I thought it might be nicer to retire in the spring which is actually one of my favourite times of the year, the days are getting warmer and longer and the summer is on its way. A nice time to tootle off in our little motorhome perhaps so I sent in my early retirement request letter to my boss. That is in fact one really big end. I’ve been working since I was 16, starting my working life in Manchester city centre in the world of insurance back in 1973. Apart from a break in the early 1990’s when I decided I wanted to be a film maker and went on a video production course in Manchester I’ve worked all my life so understandably I was a little nervous when I pressed the send button on that particular email. I didn’t get to be a film maker, well, not a professional one anyway. Still, I’m not dead yet so there’s still time for a new beginning . .


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The Essential Englishman (Part 2)

I published a post quite a while back called The Essential Englishman. I say a while back but now that I’ve looked, it was 2017. Anyway, as a working-class council house boy I’ve always envied those well-dressed gentlemen who look impeccable and talk ‘proper’, dropping witty comments here and there with apparent ease. I wrote about six Englishmen who all rather impressed me either themselves or in the characters they played on screen so I thought it might be time to look at some more candidates.

Roger Moore.

I’ve always liked the debonair Roger Moore. Many people think he was good as James Bond 007 but sorry Roger, I wasn’t impressed. His other famous character did impress me; Simon Templar alias the Saint. The Saint was based on the books by Leslie Charteris about an adventurer called Simon Templar. Templar seems to have no job but owns a smart London flat, drives a white Volvo with the registration plate ST1 and sets about helping damsels in distress and solving various crimes. The police, in particular Templar’s nemesis, Inspector Teal of Scotland Yard view Templar as a criminal and are determined to put him behind bars.

Moore had always wanted to film the Saint and in fact bought into the latter part of the series becoming a co producer. Most of the clothes worn in the series were Roger’s own clothes too showing how keen Roger was about the way he looked. Later, when the series ended, Moore co-starred with Tony Curtis in the Persuaders, another action series, although the Persuaders was filmed all over the world whilst the Saint, despite all the various locations portrayed in the series, was filmed almost entirely at Elstree studios in the UK.

One of the best elements of the series was the pre-title sequence where Moore turns to talk to the camera. In later episodes there is a voice over instead but someone usually recognises the famous Simon Templar. Cue an animated halo appearing over Roger’s head which he looks up at just before the title sequence begins.

Moore played James Bond in seven feature films. The last one was A View to a Kill in 1985. He died from cancer in 2017.

Ronald Colman

Colman was born in 1891 and became a well-known amateur actor in his native Surrey. He joined the army when the first world war began. He was seriously injured at the battle of Messines in 1914 and was invalided out. When his wartime wounds healed, he resumed his acting career and eventually graduated to films. In the USA he became a famous silent film star but it was not until the talkies began that he could use his best asset, his wonderful voice. According to Wikipedia, he mirrored the stereotypical English gentleman and he went on to great success in the golden age of Hollywood. He appeared in many famous films like The Prisoner of Zenda and two of my personal favourites, Lost Horizon and Random Harvest.

Colman died in 1958 aged 67.

Wilfrid Hyde-White

Hyde-White was born in 1903 and trained at RADA, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. He once famously said that at RADA he learned two things; ’One, I couldn’t act and two, it didn’t matter.’

He became almost a fixture of many British films of the 1950’s and in fact his film credits are almost too numerous to mention. He appeared in some of my favourite films such as The Third Man, Last Holiday, The Browning Version, My Fair Lady and many others. In Hollywood he appeared with Marilyn Monroe in Let’s Make Love. In later life he also appeared in many US television series including two episodes of Columbo. Hyde-White was apparently in trouble with the inland revenue and was declared bankrupt in 1979. He died a few days prior to his 88th birthday and his body was flown back to the UK for burial.

Kenneth More

More epitomised the English officer gentleman in many films, most notably with his portrayal of Douglas Bader in the film Reach for the Sky. He played an officer aboard the Titanic in A Night to Remember and a naval officer in Sink The Bismark.

He was under contract to the Rank organisation but was dropped by Rank after swearing and heckling their managing director at a BAFTA award ceremony.

In later life he had further success on TV playing the part of Jolyon Forsyte in the Forsyte Saga and later the title role in Father Brown. He died in 1982.

Terry-Thomas

Thomas was a comedy actor who found fame in many British radio shows and films of the 50s and 60s. He typically played an upper-class rogue or bounder and his distinctive upper-class accent is fondly remembered by many, including me. According to Wikipedia in 1921 he began to develop his distinctive, well-spoken voice, thinking that “using good speech automatically suggested that you were well-educated and made people look up to you”. He apparently was impressed by Douglas Fairbanks so much so that he began to imitate Fairbanks’ debonair dress sense.

Thomas played a similar character in most of his films and was a great success in films like Carlton-Browne of the FO, I’m All Right Jack and School for Scoundrels. He appeared in a number of Hollywood films such as How to Murder Your Wife in which he played the genteel English butler to comic strip author Jack Lemmon. He is probably best remembered for his portrayal of the scheming rotter in Those Magnificent men in Their Flying Machines. Thomas died in sad circumstances in 1990 after suffering with Parkinson’s disease and spending most of his fortune on medical bills

C Aubrey Smith

C Aubrey Smith is perhaps an unfamiliar name on this list to anyone who is not a fan of classic films. Smith was born in 1848 and became a stage actor only after retiring from an early career as a cricketer. He appeared in some early British films but went to Hollywood in the 1930s where he carved out a career playing an English officer and gentleman. He was Colonel Zapt in the Prisoner of Zenda and played another colonel in Hitchcock’s Rebecca. In Hollywood he was the acknowledged leader of the British contingent and in 1932 founded the Hollywood Cricket Club. Other film stars considered to be “members” of his select social group were David Niven, Ronald Colman, Rex Harrison, Robert Coote, Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce and Leslie Howard.

Smith died in 1948 aged 85.

Hugh Grant

There are others I could possibly mention here, stars like Christopher Lee, Dirk Bogarde, Basil Rathbone, Dennis Price and Jack Hawkins but perhaps it’s time to look at some more modern actors. Hugh Grant has played the essential Englishman in a number of film roles starting with his part in Four Weddings and a Funeral, the 1994 British comedy written by Richard Curtis. Four Weddings is a direct successor to the Ealing comedies of the 1950s and 60s and Grant’s persona is in the same way, a successor to Ronald Colman, David Niven and many others of the same ilk.

I’ve always thought that Four Weddings was one of the best British comedy films ever, only marred by the constant use of the ‘f’ word. I was happy to hear that American audiences agreed with me and in the US version, the word ‘bugger’ was substituted.

Hugh Grant was born in 1960 and is still working in film and TV. He recently starred with Nicole Kidman in the TV mini series The Undoing.


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The Idea, The Inspiration and The Kebab

A few weeks back I was asked to test some new editing software for a company whose software I used to use regularly. They were trying something new, in fact a feature that I had advocated a few times on one of their forums. It was a surprise to be asked to test the new feature but also rather nice. It’s always nice to be acknowledged so anyway as soon as the feature was enabled I set out to make a test video.

I thought about doing a new version of my usual content. You know the sort of thing, the videos that you usually find down at the end of my blogs extolling the virtues of Floating in Space and A Warrior of Words. Instead, I thought of doing a quick few minutes on the subject of poetry writing. It was called Ideas, Inspiration and Effort.

Nothing can start without an idea. Amateur writers like me just tend to wait for an idea to come but to be really professional you have to make the ideas come. You have to sit down and start writing. It’s only then that the ideas come. The same is true for blogs. I do get ideas. I get them driving to work. I get them while watching television. Sometimes I get no ideas at all but then I can always write about the books that I read, the old TV shows that I like and the classic black and white films that I watch on TV. Either way, blogs or poems, everything starts with the idea.

Next comes the inspiration. Again, when I’m in amateur writer mode I usually just wait for the inspiration to come. Sometimes it does. Sometimes it doesn’t. The thing that makes it come is just to start writing. Sitting down at the keyboard with the TV on and the sound off, that’s usually when inspiration strikes. Last week if you may remember I was doing battle with my electric company because they wouldn’t give me my money back, the money that I had paid, in error, into the wrong account. I wasn’t happy about it at the time but on reflection I could see the funny side and that is hopefully what made that particular blog post rather amusing. The good thing as well is that it’s that kind of self-deprecating humour which Floating in Space is all about so if you liked that post, you should like Floating. (An in-post plug for Floating! Hey, I’m pretty pleased with that.)

The same is true for poetry, once I have an idea I start playing with words until inspiration finally comes. Then of course I need to make the effort. The effort to get down to work, typing away until the first draft is ready. Then more effort comes, the effort to edit and to develop the blog or poem until I think it’s finished. That of course is where I usually fail. I don’t have my editor on my back, I don’t have a publishing company that has paid me a million-dollar advance and is waiting for the book I promised them. The only promise I have made is to myself, a promise to one day complete another book which actually may be a long time coming. The thing is there are so many other things to do, restaurants to visit, books to read, TV shows to watch and so on.

Anyway, it’s time for another blog post and as usual lately I’m struggling. What I need is an idea. So using my own method above I thought about an idea and I came up with disappointment. Yes, what has disappointed me lately? Let me see, well there was the pizza I made the other day.

When I spend a little time on my own I tend to eat a lot of snack food. I do love sandwiches as you might have guessed if you had read this old post about sandwiches but sometimes I like to do something a little more exciting. I do like cooking with my slow cooker and I’ve made numerous bologneses, chillis and curries in this way but the other day I thought I’d try and make a pizza, a proper pizza made from scratch. I had some flour and yeast and I had Jamie’s Italian, Jamie Oliver’s Italian cook book to guide me so what could go wrong? I mixed all the ingredients and made some basic dough then I gave it a good kneading and eventually I got a good spongy dough. I left it to prove and a bit later made it into a few portions. I left one to rise once again and made a simple tomato sauce using tinned tomatoes. Later I slapped on the sauce then some cheese, some pepperoni and some onions and I was all ready to bake. Jamie recommended putting the oven on its hottest setting, gas mark 9 so I slapped the pizza in and about ten minutes later it was looking good.

The crusts were ok but the rest was a bit soggy. Even so, it was pretty reasonable. The next day I tried again and looking at some other recipes I thought it was better to cook the base first and then add the toppings and cook again. I did that, added the toppings but this time I left it in too long and the pizza emerged a little frazzled. Maybe I should just stick with chilli in future.

Here’s something else that was disappointing. Sitting down to eat I was happy to find that The Time Tunnel, the sixties Sci-fi TV show was about to start on the Horror channel. It’s about two American scientists ‘lost in the swirling maze of past and future ages, during the first experiments on America’s greatest and most secret project, the Time Tunnel. Tony Newman and Doug Phillips now tumble helplessly toward a new fantastic adventure, somewhere along the infinite corridors of time’ as the opening blurb used to go.

The Time Tunnel starts off with a Congressman coming to investigate the growing budget of the time tunnel complex and threatens to close things down unless he sees results. Scientist Tony Newman decides he must therefore travel back in time to prove that the tunnel really works and save the project. Tony ends up on the ill-fated liner Titanic. His colleague Doug follows him back to 1912 and the control room struggle to shift the two in time before the ship sinks. Unable to return the duo to the present, the technicians struggle every week to shift the duo to somewhere new just in the nick of time. One episode that I particularly remember was when the pair land in Pearl Harbour, just before the Japanese attack in 1941. Tony meets himself as a young boy and finally solves the mystery of the disappearance of his father in the attack.

The Time Tunnel was a sci fi series from the 1960’s and as a child I was crazy about it. I thought it was wonderful but it only lasted one season before producer Irwin Allen moved on to something new. I had missed the first few episodes of this latest re-run but as I settled down I realised that my favourite episode, the one about Pearl Harbour, was about to start.

Tony lived there as a child and his father was reported as missing in action so the first thing Tony and Doug decide to do is to go and visit him. Cue some rather daft dialogue and some clumsy situations which led on to more clumsy dialogue and daft situations. What a disappointment that episode was and yet for years and years I’ve looked forward to finally seeing it again. There are some things which just don’t stand the test of time.

Another thing that I found rather disappointing this week was a large donner kebab. My last few shifts at work this week went pretty well and as I drove home after the last one I thought it was time to treat myself. I ordered a large donner with salad and chilli sauce, took it home and settled down with a small beer.

The salad was as limp as the Time Tunnel dialogue, the chilli sauce didn’t have much get up and go and the donner meat had seen better days. All in all, I could have done with a trip through the time tunnel to Manchester city centre in 1986 and gone to my very favourite kebab emporium where they served donner on naan bread with fresh salad and a tasty hot chilli sauce. Yes, I had the idea, I had the inspiration, I just wish I hadn’t made the effort and got that kebab!


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The Worst Week of My Life

Regular readers might have noticed that this blog is hardly topical. Most of these posts are written, or at least started weeks ago. I get an idea, scribble it down and sooner or later I finish it off. Sometimes I never finish it and a number of my blog posts have been condemned to an eternity in my drafts folder waiting for a day when I will feel inspired enough to either finish the post or hit the delete button. Anyway, I thought I’d try to do something topical for a change.

This last week three particular people have been in the news for having a bad week. let’s take a closer look.

Boris Johnson

I’ve always kind of liked Boris. Some seem to think he’s just a bumbling buffoon but at least he does have some charisma, which many politicians lack. Boris had to wait quite a while for the top job. He was the leader of the leave group during the Brexit campaigns and should have rightly become prime minister when David Cameron decided to resign. Strangely he didn’t, Theresa May became the prime minister despite being in the same remain camp as the newly departed David Cameron. Anyway, the top job clearly wasn’t for her and she was soon to give way to Boris.

Boris has tried to keep on top of the Covid 19 situation which has caused mayhem all across the globe. His government have issued lockdowns at various times but recently he has stepped back from another lockdown and just asked the populace to use common sense. The big problem for him though is more and more revelations of partying at 10 Downing St when the rest of us were staying at home and keeping away from friends and family.

He has apologised to the Queen for a drinks party at number 10 on the eve of Prince Philip’s funeral and new reports suggest that staff even went with a suitcase to buy more alcohol to continue the festivities. All of that contrasts sharply with the image the Queen presented, sitting alone at her husband’s funeral wearing a black mask.

Will Boris be able to ride out calls to resign? Only time will tell. By the time you read this, we might know a little more.

Novak Djokovic

Tennis player Novak Djokovic flew to Australia to defend his Australian Open Championship Title. He apparently had a ‘vaccine exemption’ but the Australian authorities weren’t happy about it and the Serbian player was denied entry. He and his team decided to appeal and he was forced to go into quarantine while everything was sorted out. He won his appeal but the immigration minister decided to quash the appeal and reimpose the penalty.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that ‘Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic and rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected.’

Djokovic has appealed again so is in further quarantine while he awaits the latest result. The whole thing must be a pain in the neck for the tennis player and I don’t understand why the Australians let him into the country in the first place. Of course, a lot of the actions of the Ozzie government have been fuelled by the feelings of the Australian people themselves. I saw quite a few interviews on TV where members of the public were deeply unhappy about Djokovic entering the country. After all, he wants to enjoy international travel but at the same time, isn’t willing to be vaccinated. Not a great week at all for Novak and as you read this he is back in his native Serbia.

Prince Andrew.

Andrew must be the most unpopular member of the Royal Family. For years I’ve been reading articles in newspapers about his bad attitude, his rudeness and his desire to go everywhere in private jets, paid for by us, the UK taxpayer.

What has happened to him now? Well, he is to face a civil case in the USA over claims he sexually assaulted a lady called Virginia Giuffre in 2001 when she was 17. Andrew’s lawyers claim the case should be dismissed citing a 2009 deal she signed with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein who apparently introduced Andrew to Giuffre but a New York judge doesn’t agree so the case is now free to come to court.

The Royal family have reacted by stripping Andrew of his HRH title and a whole list of other military titles such as Colonel of the Grenadier Guard, Colonel in Chief of the Irish Regiment, Honorary Air Commodore of RAF Lossiemouth and many more. Basically, the royals have cut him loose to protect the family and are saying, ‘Bye Andrew, you’re on your own!’ Yep, not a great week for Andrew.

Nicholas Rossi

It hasn’t been a great week for Nicholas Rossi. Mr Rossi isn’t quite as famous as the three detailed above but he has had just as bad a week as they have. He was admitted to hospital in Scotland using the nom de plume of Arthur Knight. Unfortunately, he was unmasked as Rossi and found to have an international arrest warrant waiting for him regarding an alleged rape in the USA.

Mr Rossi told US media in December 2019 that he had late-stage non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and had only weeks to live. Various media outlets reported that he had died in February 2020 and a memorial posted online declared him a “warrior that fought on the front lines for two decades” for children’s rights and said his ashes had been scattered at sea. He was arrested by Police in Glasgow on behalf of their counterparts in Utah.

Me

I really can’t imagine what the worst week of my life might have been. The engine blowing up on my first car? My Kawasaki Z500 stolen from my back garden? The death of my father?

This week hasn’t been so bad really. I haven’t done much although I went to the quiz night the other night and also went to one of my favourite Italian restaurants, Allegria in St Annes. I had the usual email from the national lottery telling me to check my account because I had some good news coming. I’m glad I did because that £6 lottery win should come in pretty handy.

One thing I did do this week was embrace the digital world even more by adding Google Pay to my mobile phone. The first time I tried to use it I was struggling a little and nothing was happening. Luckily the lady at the till had seen this sort of thing before and advised that I was pointing the wrong end of my phone towards the pay hub at the checkout. I turned the phone round and made my first payment. Of course, big downside of this is that the old tightwad’s excuse of sorry, I forgot my wallet doesn’t pass muster anymore so clearly I’ll have to bring that up at the next Tightwads’ members’ meeting.

This is the bit where I tend to link these ramblings to a film or TV show. Big ask this week, you might be thinking. However, it just so happens that back in 2004 there was a TV series called just that, The Worst Week of My Life.

The Worst Week of My Life follows publishing executive Howard Steel in the week prior to his wedding. It’s perhaps not the best-known TV series but personally I thought it was pretty funny.

That’s it from me, hope you had a good week!


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2021 And All That

Well, that’s it for 2021. How was your year? Not very exciting I suppose, just like mine, and all because of the global pandemic. One day everything will be back to normal, although I’m not quite sure when that will be. Here’s a quick look back at 2021 with particular attention to some of last year’s blog posts. Click the links and they will open into a new page.

I started off in 2021 looking forward to a break from the cold UK weather in Lanzarote. Lanzarote has just the perfect temperature for me, a pleasant 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and although it can be a little cooler in the evening it’s still pretty nice. In the UK parts of the country were separated into various lockdown tiers. We in the northwest were in tier 4 which prevented foreign travel but then we realised that the restrictions were not mandatory, only advisable so it looked like we might still get away. Our flight was still showing the week before we were due to leave, then it was cancelled, then another lockdown began. Our holiday was off.

As I was stuck at home, I wrote quite a few posts about the lockdown. One was A Mostly Musical Slice of my Locked Down Life. I talked about the Beatles who incidentally are back in the news again as director Peter Jackson has taken all the unused footage from a 1970 documentary, released it as Get Back, and made it into three two hour films. I haven’t seen yet it because as usual it was all shown on some pay to view channel, actually Disney+, so until it gets released on DVD or shown on the BBC, I’ll just have to wait. Pity because it looks pretty interesting.

In the same post I mentioned that Joe Biden was sworn in as the President of the United States and Donald Trump, the outgoing President, was so upset he didn’t even attend the swearing in. Personally, I think it was a pity that Hillary Clinton didn’t run again but as an Englishman living in the UK, what do I know?

As I was part of locked down Britain, I didn’t get up to much earlier in the year so I thought I might impart some of my poetry writing wisdom to my readers in a post about The Secret of Writing Poetry. I even threw in a video of me rabbiting away to the camera and explaining my three different ways of writing poetry.

In March I was still writing about being a Locked Down Blogger but I had started to pine for my favourite sport F1 racing. The season was due to start in March and just to get myself in the mood I decided to watch some old F1 on an old VHS tape. Monaco, TV Ads and the Problem with VHS Tapes will explain what happened. While we’re on the subject of F1, Lewis Hamilton, like Donald Trump, didn’t show up for the new guy to be sworn in, well, given his World Championship trophy, but as the season ended up in a rather disappointing fashion with Max Verstappen winning because of a controversial safety car decision, I can’t really blame him. There are rumours in the media that Lewis might retire but I certainly hope not.

In April I was back writing about books again. I do love books and reading so I thought I’d set down Some Thoughts About Books and Reading.

I went for an eye test in April. For my previous test I’d been subjected to a new electronic gizmo which I didn’t like at all. This time I’d gone somewhere where they used the old fashioned method, a big set of specs into which the optometrist pops his little eyeglass variations until I had the perfect prescription lenses. That gave me an idea for a blog post. Most people take good eyesight for granted but as a lifelong spectacle wearer I can assure you I don’t. I’m used to having to change specs every time I want to read the small print on a CD in a shop or on a book or on food packaging. Now with my new varifocals I can see up close and far away without changing to another pair. Varifocals, I love them.

When I start writing a blog post, I tend to look back on my life and the things I’ve done which is how I came to write a post called A Series of What If Events I talked about how my life would have turned out if certain things hadn’t happened, like if my Dad had taken a job offer that entailed him moving away or if my Mum hadn’t broken off her engagement with another man before marrying my Dad.

In May I’d probably put together a new playlist on Spotify which prompted me to write A Brief History of the Disco Era. I’ve always liked disco music but what was the first disco record? What was the last one? How and why did the disco era end, if it really did end?

In June I was doing a lot of pottering about in the back garden which is how I came to write How Does Your Garden Grow? I’m not any sort of a gardener but Liz certainly is and so I got out my camera and took various shots of her vegetables and my lemon trees -not shop bought but grown from lemon pips, and threw it all into a blog post.

In July I was suffering with a trapped nerve in my neck which was hurting my neck and arm and that painful time prompted A Pain in the Neck as well as a later post, My Arm Hurts.

In August I had managed to get some space in a local newspaper talking about my poetry collection and that led to an interview on local radio. The recording was made available as a download so I duly downloaded it, cut out the boring bits and made it into a short video. The whole experience was one I wrote about in Diana, Meghan, Nixon and Me.

In September I was looking for inspiration not only for my blog posts but also for my videos. Sometimes I’ve made a video inspired by my blogs, sometimes it’s the other way round, I’ve made a post about making videos. From Blog Post to Video was a post about just that, how my blogs and videos sometimes overlap.

In October I hit the Big 65, yes 65 years old or to put it another way, 23,725 days old or 569,400 hours old. Wow, I didn’t realise I was so ancient!

In November I wanted to get a good moan off my chest, hence a post called A Kind of A Moany, Whingy Sort of Blog Post.

In December Liz and I were finally in Lanzarote and I was probably enjoying it all too much which is why Thoughts from A Sun Lounger part 13 was such a short one. Later as I lay on my sun lounger my thoughts drifted back to my childhood and I jotted down a few childhood memories in Make Me A Child Again, Just For Tonight. I even had a few reminiscences left over for The Post Holiday Blues and Other Ramblings.

So there it is, that was my year. Not particularly exciting but I pretty much enjoyed it anyway. To be honest, I may have been a little bored during the lockdown but mostly, I pretty much enjoyed that too. Yes, it was more time for reading, writing and blogging, all of which I hope to be doing in 2022 along with, pandemic permitting, some motorhome travels too.

Best wishes and a happy New Year.


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Thoughts and Reflections from Lanzarote

As I write this we are on our 5th day in Lanzarote. I do love it here and it was nice to go to our favourite bar and see all our favourite bar staff there. The manager Juan was pleased to see us and greeted us in his usual fashion, calling out good morning as he does, no matter whether it is morning, afternoon or evening.

I’m not sure that Juan’s English is as good as he makes it out to be because sometimes I can see a little confusion on his face when we talk about something other than the usual greetings and ‘how are you?’. Still, he is the consummate professional waiter, always focussed on who is coming in, who needs attention and even as we chat I could see he had spotted a table that required attention and he was soon off to take their order.

I do love being in a warm climate. There are so many things that once here we take for granted. How easy is it to rinse out a pair of socks or under garments and hang them outside to quickly dry? So easy. Come to think of it, why I have brought three pairs of socks over from England I do not know. I only tend to wear socks when I go out in the evening. During the day I am either barefoot or wearing my sandals without socks. Come to think of it, I didn’t need all those undies either as most of the time I wander about in my swimming trunks.

The villa we have rented is not one that I’ve stayed in before. We came across it just out walking back in 2020 and decided to book it for this year. Actually, we booked it for January but Covid 19 put paid to our travel plans. I have brought my laptop and iPad over and brought an array of electrical plug converters in order to keep everything fully charged. The thing is, this place has built in USB ports, so we didn’t need all those adapters after all. Next year I must seriously review my packing.

Another problem I’ve encountered is this one. Earlier this year a routine check up showed that I was suffering with type 2 diabetes. The doc gave me three months to cut out sugary stuff and get my sugar levels down before recommending medication. So I’ve tried to cut down on my nightly nibbles of chocolate and biscuits. No more sugar in my tea and no more choccy bar in my lunch box and happily I found that on my last check up I was back to normal. Great news but I’ve noticed that a lot of my trousers don’t seem to be fitting me as well as they did and I’ve had to cut an extra notch in my belt to tighten it up.

Before flying out from the UK I duly ironed my favourite shorts that I’ve had for a couple of years but they were way too big so they were jettisoned in favour of an older pair. My favourite trousers are feeling a little big too so I may have to look at buying some new clothes soon, especially with all the swimming and walking I’m doing.

Talking of new clothes. I usually make my Holiday Book Bag posts into a video for my YouTube page. Looking at the video from 2017, I’m wearing my favourite T shirt as I talk to the camera, the same one I’m wearing today. Note to the video wardrobe department. Make sure I’m wearing something different for this year’s video!

The other night we went to one of Liz’s favourite restaurants, Casa Carlos. Carlos is a big guy and always remembers us. He always takes the orders in his restaurant and usually comes and fills us in with the delights of the numerous fishy dishes that are on offer. He generally gives me a pretty black look when I order the pizza but sorry Carlos, I don’t like fish! This year the restaurant has relocated to the centre of the Marina Rubicon. When we arrived, Carlos was not in evidence but the waiter began to talk us through various fishy specials. I tried to look interested but probably failed dismally. We haven’t had a menu yet I told him. It turned out that Casa Carlos has gone hi-tech – on each table is a card with a QR code. You scan the code with your phone and a pdf version of the menu is instantly downloaded. Sorry Carlos, but I prefer an old-fashioned physical menu.

Carlos soon appeared and as usual remembered us and was pleased to see us. Liz ordered some fisherman’s soup and I went for the tomato variety. For the main course I couldn’t seem to find the pizza section but it seemed they just don’t do pizza anymore. I’m not sure if Carlos thought that he’d got me and I would be compelled to order something fishy. He did seem to have a bit of a smile on his face which crumbled a little when I ordered Spaghetti Bolognese. Yes, I know, a rather uninspired choice but the menu just wasn’t my cup of tea. We only go there so Liz is able to eat some exotic fish.

I tasted some of her fish soup and believe it or not, it wasn’t vile. In fact, it was really nice. Of course, I’m full of a holiday cold at the moment so perhaps my taste buds weren’t functioning as they should be.

One of our holiday rules has always been no TV. We’ve stayed at plenty of places with impressive TV and satellite combos but we’ve never been tempted. This year as I’ve suddenly developed the cold and sore throat that Liz has recently got rid of and also because she is suffering greatly with a sore hip, we haven’t done much walking down to our usual restaurants. Well, at least not as much as usual. It’s November and it goes dark early here so we have relented and turned the TV on to watch I’m a Celebrity; Get Me out of Here!

Yes, I know it’s a load of old tosh with plenty of non-celebrity celebrities competing to be King or Queen of the jungle. I’m really not that interested but I think Liz likes it when I squirm at the bug eating antics of the show’s cast. This year the show is not in Australia it is in some castle in Wales. It looks pretty cold as the contestants are wearing numerous layers of coats and body warmers. They consist of a music producer I’ve never heard of, a TV presenter I’ve never heard of, a DJ I’ve never heard of and some others whose fame has just passed me by apart from Richard Madeley, once a presenter on some daytime TV magazine show. There is also a lady from BBC news and two late entrants, two stars of UK TV soaps, Eastenders and Coronation St, so to me that makes a total of four genuine selebrities.

The first episode was last Sunday and by chance the TV set was already tuned to Channel Four and the Qatar Grand Prix highlights were just starting. I’ve not written much about F1 this year but it has been a cracking season with some great battles between Max Verstappen and 7 times champ Lewis Hamilton. In recent years Hamilton has really rendered the sport rather boring by virtue of just winning almost everything but this year he has had to fight to keep up with Verstappen. Lewis won the Qatar Grand Prix so now has an outside chance of overtaking Max’s superior points score. I hope he does because it will be a long time before we see an 8 times champion again.

These last couple of days have been a little dull and much cooler. We mentioned this to our host Carlos the other night but he just dismissed our moan with a laugh. ‘What is it like back home in England?’ he asked. Infinitely worse than where we are now of course. ‘It will soon be warm and sunny again’ added Carlos, ‘don’t worry.’

I think that is really what I like about Lanzarote, the chilled-out outlook and the optimism of its people. If it isn’t sunny today, it will be tomorrow.


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