Sunday, 31 March 2013

Easter Structures

Happy Easter to everyone, and since the clocks went forward last night, I guess its a Happy Spring too...not that it feels like it at the moment.
In the past week I have been reading Scarlett Thomas’ book ‘Monkeys with Typewriters’, subtitled ‘How to write fiction and unlock the secret power of stories’. So far its very interesting, and also very useful too. Having been on a couple of writing courses in the past I’ve never had too much enjoyment out of them, probably because they dwelt too much on ideas and writing itself. These are things I’ve never had too much trouble with. Ideas zoom in and out of my head all day and writing a sentence is fairly straightfoward.
But the biggest problem I have always had is with structure and how to fit all the various ideas and sentences together. Scarlett Thomas’ book dwells much more on these theories, at least in the early passages that I’ve read so far. For me this is exactly what I needed, the bare bones and skeletons from which to hang the flesh of inspiration. I seriously hope this will help my writing in future and not be another one of those false dawns of excitement that lead to nothing but crumpled papers and a deletable word file.
For now it makes me wonder what type of plot the Easter story is: Is it rags to riches; carpenter’s son becomes son of God and the leader’s right hand man? Is it a voyage; man journey’s from life into death and returns three days later? Or is possibly modern realisim; man is charged with incitement of terrorism and is sentenced to death? Either way, its intriguing.
It’s now been three months since I began my new blog, and I’m very satisfied with how I’ve been keeping it up on a regular basis (unlike my last one). I feel I have more things to say, partly because I gave it a little bit of structure before I started (it’s obviously something I need).
But other demands are coming upon me more and more, and I want to begin to work on some things a little more privately too for a little while. So I will be taking the month of April off from this blog. I still plan to be tweeting, so you can follow me there and see what might be going on. I promise that I will be back though before the Walpurgis embers stop glowing!

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Due Date & Delicacy

Two films on review this time around since I only watched the first thirty minutes of one before turning it off in despair.
Due Date was that film which I had hoped would be entertaining, especially since the baby has its own due date before too long, however it started badly and began to get worse before it was untimely ripped from my computer screen.
Two single dimensional characters, both different in their own ways I guess, and yet also both so self absorbed that you really couldn’t care less what happens to them, with idiot prowess conspire to get themselves thrown off a flight and then have to share a road trip to get where they want to be...and that’s pretty much all I’m prepared to say...

So onto Delicacy with the gorgeous Audrey Tautou (my wife won’t mind me saying that I’m sure!) She plays a woman who falls in love but then loses her husband in a freak accident a couple of years into their marriage. In shock she shuts down and pours herself into work.
But after a couple more years without explanation she suddenly kisses one of her new co-workers, and as they begin to spend time together, an odd sort of romance ensues.
This is a very enjoyable and very cute film that leaves you with happy feelings, and yet there is a slight lack of substance too. The male lead is funny and a little gawky which makes the romance all the nicer (probably giving hope to some of us males out there), but for me at least the funniest thing about him was that he was meant to be Swedish.
There is a great line when he is asked why he left Sweden to which he replies “the question is why more Swedes don’t leave Sweden”. There is also a bizarre scene right in the middle conducted entirely in Swedish where his mother complains about him not eating enough Sill. This was not subtitled and so I wonder if many viewers got it.
I guess the story is about getting over loss and how it is still possible to find some sort of happiness even if the love of your life has gone forever, but the unexplained kiss which kick-starts it all has an air of unreality to it, an event unlikely to happen to most people.
As a feel good film however it should not be dismissed on that basis and in this world of austerity and continued bad news it might be enough to give us all the little glint of hope that we need.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Mother Nature's Gifts

Where did it come from?
That plastic bag in the tree
It flaps like a flag
But signals nothing to me

Where did they come from?
Those cans piled in the bush
Like a nest for metal birds
But there's no birdsong - shush!

Where did they come from?
The fast food wrappers in the flowers
Bright colours attract the bees
But no nectar and the grease sours

I know where they come from
The bushes, birds and trees
The flowers and the bees
They are mother nature's gifts
But the waste and refuse mountains
Piled in man-made drifts
They are a mystery to me

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Docklands Nails

An image
Of gnarled fingers
Bitten to the quick.
Twisted and broken
Bloodied and soot-flecked
Ridden with splinters
The badge
Of your occupation - Not
A beauty salon.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013


I read a story recently which said that the East Side Gallery of the Berlin Wall was under threat of being demolished. It seems that the land had been sold to a construction company and now they want to knock it down in order to build luxury flats. To be honest I was a little shocked. I had always considered that Germany had a pretty good grip on looking after its history and I hope that the recent protests are enough to allow a halt to these works.
It would be incredible to think that if these flats were built there would be no memorial of the chilling period in history where a city was physically divided. No matter how many photographs you see, or museum exhibits you encounter, nothing brings the brutal truth home to you than standing next to it and looking up. Imagining friends and relatives on the other side and yet you can’t even reach to the top of it. Even if you could, and you could sit astride it, all you would see is barbed wire, gun emplacements and roving attack dogs. It has only been a quarter of a century since it was still in use and definitely needs to stay in place for at least another quarter century as a stark reminder to what mankind is capable of.

On another note, I dragged my very pregnant wife out on a walk into the woods at Abbey Wood at the weekend. It was rainy and very wet, with sticky and slippery mud in places, but it was still good to get out amongst a bit of nature; to hear birds singing and woodpeckers pecking, and also squirrels amongst a more natural habitat rather than that of roofs and aerials (ironically as we neared home again we saw a very excited looking squirrel carrying a small muffin in its mouth!)
It may seem obvious to some of you that Abbey Wood may be so named because of an Abbey, but it is not quite so obvious that the ruins of Lesnes Abbey are very close by, and after a somewhat circular walk through the trees we came out upon them. The weather and the season being what they were there was barely anyone else about, barring a couple of dog walkers we were alone there. And how wonderful that was!
When you live in the middle of the city, with a busy A-road stuttering past your house, it is almost impossible to find some space alone. And yet here it was; a small nirvana on the outside of the city. It would be impossible not to draw some connection to the centre of contemplation that it once would have been, and not difficult either to gauge the grandeur from the ruined walls that remain. It was beautiful and I think for a while to come, if I need to clear my head a little, I will just imagine myself back there.

I can’t go without mentioning the rugby, and Wales’ historic victory over England in Cardiff. It was their best win since 1905 over them and the first time that they have retained the Five/Six Nations trophy since 1979; and what a resounding victory it was!
The most fascinating thing was how outclassed they were in the first match against Ireland, when after 42 minutes play they had conceded their third try and were 30-3 down. Roll on six weeks and they beat England by that same margin and in the process of winning the championship had not conceded another try. For almost six hours French, then Italian, Scottish and finally English waves of attack tried to breach that red wall of Welshmen – but failed.
It won’t be remembered as a particularly exciting tournament sadly. The total number of tries scored was less than half that of the 2000 competition and the problems of the scrum recur again and again. But it will be remembered in Wales for that incredible victory against England and for the even more incredible turnaround from the opening match.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Farmers Market Lunch

That trickle
And sunshine.
Crunch like
But flavour
Without the heat.
Cheese tingles
The tongue; Waters
The mouth.
Salad leaves
Like lemon zests
And mustard
A desire.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013


There may still be a couple more months to go until the Eurovision party kicks off in Malmo, but the majority of the songs participating have now been selected and announced. Last week Bonnie Tyler was given the nod for the UK entry, hoping for a better outcome than Engelbert Humperdinck a year ago, but for the last six weeks I’ve been more closely following what’s been happening in Sweden, and not just because they are the defending champions and hosts for this year.
The Swedes select their song through Melodifestivalen, a music festival and competition which lasts for six weeks, with four semi-finals, a second chance round and the grand final itself. The four semis have eight songs each, two of which go through to the final, and two to the second chance. Similarly the second chance round has eight songs, the top four going into two play-offs, the winner of each going to the final. The final therefore has ten songs.
Intriguingly, the overall winner is chosen by not only a public telephone vote, but also through international juries, both groups having an equal weighting. This way a song which has more international appeal has a better chance of winning as it is also more likely to do well in the Eurovision competition.
So what about the songs? One of my favourites was Bed on Fire, a rock ballad that was perfectly over the top in both its style and the pyrotechnics on display. It only came seventh on the night and should have done better, but interestingly the UK jury had it in third place.
Another song which was extremely entertaining was En Riktig J√§vla Schlager (I have no idea what that translates as). It made me think of four hobbits singing a drinking song on a table in the Green Dragon and for that it should have done better, but unfortunately finished last. Certainly the international voters wouldn’t have understood any of the words.
Funniest song titles must go to Only The Dead Fish FollowThe Stream, and Copacabanana, the latter gaining the second most votes in the UK jury, but they only came fifth and sixth respectively.
So what about the top three? Tell The World I’m Here was second after the jury voting but only finished third overall. It also received the most points from the UK. It seemed a bit of a Disney song to me though somehow. Heartbreak Hotel came second and was the most popular amongst the Swedish phone voters, but the winner was You which was popular all round. It didn’t receive any points from the UK jury however, but most other countries put it in their top three. It’s not a song I particularly liked, being a bit trendy for my tastes, but I would predict a top three finish for it.
As for Melodifestivalen itself, I really enjoyed the whole show, it being the first time I’ve ever seen it. It’s both entertaining and light hearted, with several other musical acts interspersed between the competitors and the voting it comes across as a real music festival. There were songs from Jedward as well as past competitors, and both the presenters sung too, a lot of the songs being parodies or jokey.
It was much more entertaining that I remember a lot of UK ‘Song for Europe’ shows, with Terry Wogan looking as comfortable as a man with piles sitting on a cactus, and Michael Ball singing all the songs. I have no idea what demographic that was aiming at, but in Sweden it does seem to be a show for everyone. And that, surely, is what Eurovision is all about.

Saturday, 9 March 2013


Graham had to admit that it looked suspicious; after all he had plenty of reasons why he might want to take revenge on his neighbours.
There was the incident the summer before when Mr Damsel had loaned him sunscreen, assuring him it was factor fifty. It ended up being factor fifteen and Graham’s sensitive skin got extremely sunburned. The Damsel’s never used sun cream apparently.
Then a few weeks ago Mrs Damsel had invited him around for dinner. However, the shrimps she had served as a starter were well past their sell-by date and Graham had diarrhoea for a week. The Damsel’s had cast-iron stomachs apparently.
But having said all that, it was an accident that the tiger had gotten loose during the dress rehearsal for the village amateur dramatics society performance of The Jungle Book. The Damsel’s didn’t know that you shouldn’t run away from a stalking tiger apparently.
Graham was sure that everyone would realise that it was just an honest mistake.


Type: Any
Location: Village
Age-group: Middle