Moulders Lane

A New Year – and a New Writing Direction?

I’ve found throughout my life that Fate has always been handy with the bit of lead piping, so it shouldn’t really be surprising that, with a short story, a script and two ideas for further screenplays now in hand, as well as an inkling, at last, of where my writing bent could best express itself, the health problems which first made an appearance in late September are still hampering attempts to actually get on with things.

We’re inching towards some sort of diagnosis, mostly by finding out what it’s not, and tidying up some other things on the way. (I did say it would be nice to have some sort of MOT, now I was at the point where I could drop ‘at my time of life’ lugubriously into conversations – but this isn’t quite the way I envisaged it.) After three months traversing the health care system I’m getting a good idea, not just of how the NHS works but, even more helpfully, the rationale of how it works. So, in my usual vein of passing on useful info I would have been really glad of myself, various future posts on this subject will hopefully spare you my own errors as you move through the NHS.

As to the writing: the screen-plays were started in the late summer before all this health nonsense began. The first is supposed to be a romantic comedy but, as ever with my attempts at this genre, keeps edging more towards romantic drama: it’s more a love story with a twist, about a misunderstood man and the power and importance of music to move people.

It came about after I’d been idly spinning out a clip of The Voice I’d found down a YouTube wormhole into various follow-on scenes: I woke up at four o’clock one morning to find the whole thing suddenly unfolding as if I was recalling a film I’d seen the night before for a friend. After a week during which the script poured out relentlessly whenever I sat down at the computer, it stalled on the lack of solid back story and my minimal technical knowledge of the music industry – and has been on hold ever since.

It was during the work to fill in these gaps that I got the ideas for the other two screenplays; both also set around the music industry, as there’s no way I’m wasting the amount of research I’ve had to do on just one script. One is a dilettante-ish piece using the stock industry and media types I discovered during work on the first script. It lacks body at the moment – all I really have is a theme: ‘Love is for Everyone’, the basic outline of a fairly interesting journey for my main character and a general idea of the other characters. I spent quite a few weeks constantly spinning various detailed scenarios in idle moments to find ones that could fit and flesh out/illustrate the plot/character points, but once I got these I rather lost interest. It’s all a bit Millenial in its treatment, so if I am to do it I need to get on with it if it’s to stay topical. It’s a little bit too frothy to really get my teeth into but it could be quite fun if I can get it to work properly.

It’s far more likely, though, that it’ll be yet another of my doomed attempts to write romantic comedy. This is something I generally aim at when writing screenplays and always fail. As any Pratchett fan will tell you, the Story goes where it wants to go and one of my favourite characters in the script I wrote ten years ago about Second World War pensioners ended up getting stabbed, which was extremely annoying. She didn’t die, but it definitely brought down the mood of what I’d intended as a feel-good comedy.

(Perhaps when I get Even Older I’ll be one of those sweet faced little old ladies: a diminutive figure with snowy white hair and perhaps a shawl. I shall pat small children on the head, always have a pound coin on the mantle-piece for whichever charity comes calling and then retire to my knick-knack filled sitting room where I write blood-curdling murder mysteries under nondescript initials and a surname; a fact only discovered after my death by my startled biographer. My fan club of diehard goths will also be duly appalled and there will be a short dip in sales as they recover from the shame. This will be followed by an enormous surge in popularity as the incongruity of the situation is just the thing to appeal to the chattering classes and, cleverly managed by my agent who appears on numerous chat shows after publishing his account of affairs, results in a large extension to the Cat’s Home to which I have left the copyrights. But I digress.)

The third screenplay is just an outline along the lines of a ‘what if?’ scenario with the build-up and resolution done in an unusual way. At the moment I only have the pivotal midpoint scene but the idea interests me a lot because it explores the reasons behind the three key characters’ behaviour that brings them all individually to that place. It’s far more of a thriller/drama and something I’d be keen on workshopping if I ever get these health issues resolved.

In an attempt to get round this I’m thinking of doing a sort of on-line workshop for the first of the rom coms, by posting the back stories for the characters and the details of how I worked out the plot. The idea is that by explaining things to you I’ll discover where I’ve gone wrong with some of it and how to improve on the weaknesses. I’m not sure it’ll work but it should be interesting even if it doesn’t.

Now then, the perennial search for a writing niche. Much of the work I did to get an idea of the music industry was through studying radio and tv interviews posted on YouTube. These proved absolutely fascinating and, after a while, interestingly predictable in questions and responses. Both interviewer and band have an agenda, ostensibly the same, in reality often conflicting, which leads to various manoeuvres between the two to elicit/not disclose information. (I can see I’ll have to do a separate post, because I could go on for another couple of thousand words about this almost chess-game.) But in terms of my script, very few interviewers managed to draw out the person behind the lifestyle that I needed. (Very few of them seemed interested in doing so.) Even print interviews were often frustrating in their chosen angle and general lack of depth.

Inevitably, I started to think that I’d rather like to see how I’d get on, if I tried this myself (at home). I’ve always been interested in people and how they tick, have found in the past that people I meet end up telling me all their problems and spent a large part of my last job ‘interviewing’ academics about their work, how they did it and what they wanted to achieve with it. The outlook seems quite encouraging then from this basic level, though obviously I’m completely ignorant in terms of professional technicalities and experience. But it feels like a very comfortable ‘fit’ and one I want to explore this year.

There’s also the Girls’ Own Annual project, that ran into copyright issues on my first attempt, to be picked up again. A lot of the articles make points that are still amazingly relevant to the things we’re going through today and you might (possibly) find them as useful as I do. (Plus ca change etc.)

So, lots of things on the boil at the moment, which should hopefully result in some interesting posts for you to read (argue about/deride/like) in the next few months. As to New Year’s Resolutions, one is to write more far regularly this year, and the other, more importantly, is to actually write down all the random scenarios and near constant dialogue for these scenarios that clog up my thoughts day-to-day. And then maybe, just maybe, I’ll start producing some good stuff.

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Carpool Karaoke – the Coffee Break Cheer-up

YouTube is probably the no 1 internet site for leading you down primrose byways – you start off, earnestly, to see if that interview you want a quote from has been posted online and before you know it you’re looking at pictures of kittens with captions. I’ve never actually made it to the kitten stage but I have lost a lot of writing time this way, following rabbit hole suggestions to that point where you suddenly realise you’re watching a video someone’s made about their camper van. The bonus is inadvertently finding some other bits and pieces along the way; and one of these discoveries is a very happy find: the Carpool Karaoke segment of James Corden’s American late night chat show. This has proved an ideal switch off for when things aren’t going well and you sit down with a cup of tea or coffee and a biscuit to take a break. They’re the perfect mini cheer up – compressing good humoured banter, silliness and singing into an eight to fifteen minute clip that gives you a little window of joy in what can seem like an increasingly drab world.

The basic premise is extremely simple – Corden needs someone to carshare with him so he can use a priority lane in negotiating the Los Angeles traffic on his way to work. He calls up a friend to help out and they chat about what they’ve been up to, while singing along to songs on the radio throughout the journey.

Except that the ‘friends’ are the likes of Elton John, Jennifer Lopez and Madonna, and the songs on the ‘radio’ they’re singing along to are a compilation of their greatest hits.

The result is every bit as entertaining as you could wish for, with energetic seat dancing, unexpected insights, ridiculous jokes, some very funny moments and, of course, some great singalongs.  (Corden takes this to a whole other level in the Gwen Stefani clip when George Clooney and Julia Roberts hop in, discuss favourite lines in (their) films and join in, wholeheartedly bellowing along to a Queen chorus: ‘We are the cham-pions!!!!’)

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Things You Can Do to Take Charge of Your Health

 

Part one – Taking Charge of Your Health

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Part two – Things You Can Do to Take Charge of Your Health

Take control of your health at a basic level

* When you attend a surgery or clinic with your symptoms the first thing they generally do is some very simple and basic health checks. Did you know you can do these yourself at home? Professional quality basic diagnostic tools such as an aural thermometer, finger tip pulse meter, and blood pressure tester are available from medical supplies websites at surprisingly affordable prices.

* The second level of tests is likely to be a urine sample. This is initially tested with a ‘dipstick’ in a similar way to a pregnancy test and matched against a colour coded chart. If this indicates areas of concern the sample is sent to a lab for further testing. Again, this dipstick test can be done at home. All the necessary bits and bobs can be bought from the medical supplies websites.

* Undiagnosed diabetes can be life-threatening but, with the right equipment, you can do a simple test for this at home. A digital meter that measures both glucose and ketone levels, lancet pen, and separate blood test strips are all easily obtained from retail pharmacies and will alert you to the need for any action without waiting for a GP appointment.

Becoming familiar with the state of your own general health and what readings are normal for you, as well as the average, is a good starting point for taking charge of your own health. Doing the basic medical tests when you have concerns about symptoms that have appeared will help you feel more in control when you’re ill. It’ll also help you make a more informed decision about whether or not you need a GP’s appointment.

Understand the system

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Taking Charge of Your Health

Like many people who’ve always had good health or those, like my mother, who belong to the post-war generation where you Don’t Bother the Doctor unless significant amounts of arterial blood are involved (and probably not even then) I’ve never really had that much to do with the NHS. It’s been something in which, as a Briton, I took a vague pride – but also took completely for granted. Now, after a recent Series of Unfortunate Events that left me both in awe at my first experience of its sharp end and frustration in my first experience of its bureaucracy, I’m starting to realise that what is required is a far more active approach on the part of us patients. In other words – we need to take charge of our health.

Being ill is worrying enough but when you have no idea what’s wrong with you, and you’re trying to navigate the medical support in your area when you don’t fit into the system, it makes it a whole lot worse. What this also throws up is how medically ignorant you are and, how much, in the past, you’ve left all the responsibility for managing your health to the medical profession. Do you know, for example, what your temperature should be and when it indicates illness? Or your blood pressure? Do you know about the early signs of diabetes or what your urine tells you about the state of your general health? Read the rest of this entry »

Book Review: The Observer’s Book of British Geology by I. O. Evans (1949)

This is one of the book reviews I mentioned in an earlier post, each started and put aside for another attempt as I struggled to get to grips with the format. As I’m picking up several, long hanging, threads now, in various corners of my life, I’ve decided to dust these off and tidy them away too.

IMG_0003After getting completely bogged down with my first attempt at book reviewing, I decided that what I needed was something Much Smaller; and looking through my bookshelves in search of inspiration I lighted upon The Observer’s Book of Geology. This may not seem like an obvious choice but: it was written in 1949; I like bricks and it’s quite literally about the building blocks of the English landscape; and at six by three and a half inches, it’s certainly small.

So there we go.

For those who aren’t familiar with this peculiarly English (British?) phenomenon The Observer’s books are a series of pocket sized reference books, mostly published after the Second World War, by Warne and Co., best known, perhaps, for bringing us the Beatrix Potter series. The Observer books are in a similar vein: satisfyingly sized, with delightful watercolours and line illustrations and, rather like the Ladybird Books of my youth, now collector’s items.

From Birds in 1937 to Opera in 1982 the series eventually consisted of some 97 titles, having expanded from its natural history origins into spotters’ guides, and the Arts and Crafts. The idea behind the books Read the rest of this entry »

How Writers Get Published: The Lure of the Pen – Flora Klickmann (1917-18)

I’ve been looking through another volume of The Girl’s Own Annual and found a series of articles by the Editor, Flora Klickmann, entitled The Lure of the Pen or, how to get rid of all your Romantic claptrap about Being An Artist and write something that will actually Get Published. One of the things I really like about Klickmann’s writing is that so many of the points she makes are just as valid today; and the ideas and suggestions in this set of articles have been incredibly useful in boosting my own glacially paced efforts.

It’s statistically impossible that I’m the only person with my particular set of problems as a writer, so the idea that others out there will also find the articles helpful is probably a good one. With this in mind, I’m going to do a review of each article here with my thoughts on what I found particularly useful. (If you want to read the articles in full, they’re in book form at Project Gutenberg; the American edition from 1920.) And then maybe we’ll all start writing, rather than trying to write!

Klickmann’s first article is concerned with the problem of the would-be writer from the publisher’s perspective i.e. – where you are all going wrong. This was incredibly helpful and a good eye-opener, with Klickmann pulling no punches:

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A Writing Update

New Year’s resolutions have a way of foundering on the rocks of personal temperament and unforeseen circumstance – generally the former – which is pretty much what happened to the projects I started up last year.  I had a couple of ideas that I thought would not only help me post more regularly but also kickstart me into Writing again, and this post is in the nature of an update for anyone who’s wondering what on earth happened.

The first of these projects was based around something I find interesting and thought you might too.  I have several volumes of The Girl’s Own Annual and, reading about the things that concerned and entertained women a century ago, in 1916, I thought I’d do a little synopsis of the relevant issue each month and add scans of articles on things like the changing fashions – and particularly those on women’s involvement in the Great War.  It seemed to me that, with all the media coverage of Important Battles, it was just as important that women’s battles to keep the country’s homes and industries afloat be flagged up too – and this was to be my small contribution towards highlighting them. Read the rest of this entry »

A Partial Book Review: Middlebrow Wodehouse: P. G. Wodehouse’s Work in Context ed. Professor Ann Rea (2016)

Rather like looking for a word in Chambers, running a Google search means you never know what odd thing you’re going to discover. The latest piece of flotsam to strike my bemused gaze is a new book on Wodehouse: Middlebrow Wodehouse: P. G. Wodehouse’s Work in Context published in January of this year and written by a gaggle of American and British academics. Having read through some of the sections previewed online, I’m rather intrigued to know if anyone’s read it and, if so, what they think?

Although claiming to be examining Wodehouse ‘in context’ it seemed to me that the writers knew pretty little about that context: Read the rest of this entry »

Something for the Tea-break

When trying to find a word last week to describe the delightful medley of Wodehouse reviews I’d discovered at The Aroma of Books, ‘gallumifray’ occurred to me. Unsure if I’d made this up or not, and unable to find it in Chambers, I ran a Google search and stumbled upon this endearingly bonkers site.

Devoted to the celebration and importance of Biscuits in Daily Life – did you know a survey had found that the varieties of biscuits on offer at business meetings can affect how the meeting goes?? or how many biscuits etiquette requires you to take, when offered with your cup of tea? Read the rest of this entry »