- January (6)
- February (7)
- March (9)
- April (6)
- June (8)
- July (9)
- August (8)
- September (9)
- October (8)
- November (9)
- December (8)
- January (9)
- February (6)
- March (8)
- April (8)
- June (9)
- July (9)
- August (8)
- September (8)
- October (9)
- November (9)
- December (8)
- January (7)
- February (6)
- March (8)
- April (7)
- June (6)
- July (7)
- August (6)
- September (8)
- October (8)
- November (8)
- December (7)
Ways with words
Posted by Simon on 30th, October 2011 at 08:35:47
A jolly good question arrived in my inbox a couple of weeks ago, and 'twas this - why do I write the tvdetective books in a sparse and factual style?
The answer - and prepare yourself for a shock here - is that it's no accident of chance, but actually planned and intended. Stop laughing, it is I tell you! I do occasionally, sometimes, just now and then come somewhere close to having a deliberate plan for some parts of this curious phenomenon called life.
The reason is straightforward, perhaps even (ready for another shock?) logical. I thought as I was writing about a journalist, it would be appropriate to pen the things in a journalistic type style.
Clever huh? Hey, what're you looking like that for?! Oh, ok then, I'll just keep rambling...
First aside here (took a while coming, not bad for me) - journalistic "style" it may be, but hopefully without all the cliches of this disreputable trade that you know and hate so well. "The battle's being stepped up (translation; nothing much is happening)... furious row erupted (a mild disagreement) ... only time will tell (I can't think of anything else to write to end this report) etc etc.
Anyway, it also helps me in that the old hack's way of writing is that which I've grown up with, and so it's like putting on a familar and friendly T-shirt. I do sometimes slip into the odd bit of florid writing, but it's not really me - I'm a boy, after all.
Do keep the questions coming in, I always enjoy hearing from readers. You can get in touch via the contact page of the site - www.thetvdetective.com/contact.html
Final couple of things to mention here (in a sparse and factual style, naturally). Many thanks to the kind folk of Weymouth who ventured out in the autumnal typhoon to see me at the library last week. It was a pleasure talking to you again.
And if you're up for some early Xmas shopping, there's a book fair in the fine Devon town of Chudleigh on Wednesday evening (2nd Nov) where I shall be appearing and touting my "literary" wares, with a signed dedication for anyone of your Xmas choice. What mere mortal could resist?
And, of course, on the theme of questions, there are some which are better left unanswered..
Words and the weather
Posted by Simon on 27th, October 2011 at 07:41:33
Ever the most British of fascinations, the weather is even more so at the moment. I suspect it's because Autumn turned up so tardily that when it finally arrived it came as a shock.
I was thinking a little about the part the weather plays in the tvdetective books, and the world of words in general. I defy just about any English author not to mention the weather on repeated occasions - we're programmed to do so! - but equally you've got to be careful not to let it become a cliche.
How many times is the denouement of a work set against a storm... how many times must a chase scene take place through the pouring rain... and a happy ending against a sunset?
Ah, some of it is unavoidable. It's hard to write realistic misery when the sun is blazing down upon the characters. It's just the way of sunshine, it magics up smiles. And it's hard to be cheery when caught amidst a monsoon, unless you're one of those doommongers, the modern day Horsemen of the Apocalypse, known (with no obvious sense of due irony) as weather "forecasters".
(Quick aside - I use the quotes because if you look at most of what they say, they're telling you what's already happened - and even I could get that right! - and when it comes to the "forecasting", they always couch their visions in the most esoteric of caveats and provisos.)
However, as I was saying, the weather is so influential in our lives, I suppose it's inevitably going to play a big part in our literature. I however, having thought about it, and being the contrary type I am (rules were made to be broken etc.) am now going to try to set some scene counterwise to the weather in a future book - perhaps a jolly wedding in the rain type thing - and see if my editors let me get away with it.
All this because some of my shoes are still drying on the radiator after they, and I, got a good soaking earlier in the week...
And at my window comes a rattling reminder of the presence of Autumn, and the fact that I now have to venture out into it again.
Final thought for this ramble - if you are up to braving the weather, and you're in the Weymouth area tonight, I'm doing a talk about the tvdetective books at the town's library and you'd be very welcome along. There are more details on the News and Events page - www.thetvdetective.com/news.html
And if you do make it, I promise not to go on too much about the weather... unless I get really wet today...
The joy of animals
Posted by Simon on 22nd, October 2011 at 14:46:14
I had a curious conversation this week (first aside of the blog - in fact, I tend to have many in most weeks, but whether that's just me or the two strange professions I pursue I leave to you to decide), which I thought worth musing about, as it's central to the tvdetective books and also the lives of many of us.
'tis this - the wisdom of animals.
I'm not quite sure how the conversation started, but a friend was arguing that the most intelligent birds she knew were chickens.
How so? asked I. Did you once come home to find one sitting on the sofa, in front of the fire, sipping whisky and doing The Times crossword? (This chicken isn't so smart, look - it hasn't got 12 across etc...)
No, her contention was the delight of the simplicity of their lives. And from my observations of the birds in question, that's certainly true. Their entire existence appears to be taken up with (1) hopping around, letting out a squawk of joy every time they discovered a piece of corn (which happened a lot), and (2) sleeping.
Personally, I favour geese, as there's a gang on the river here in Exeter of whom I've grown fond. They recognise me to the extent they come running each time they see me, and are gentle and amusing whenever I feed them, taking the bread by hand and showing signs of being true English geese; that is, they queue politely for their turn for titbits.
Anyhow, we debated the matter (you may not believe it, but it really was a stimulating chat), until I pointed out that my favourite creatures are dogs. Not because of their brains, but more to the point, the lack of them. What I like about dogs is that they'll never leave you alone to be a fool.
If you're acting daft in front of a cat, it'll give you a look of pure and icy contempt. But as for a dog... it will join in with your stupidity without a second thought, and often top it.
Which in turn brings us to my point (yes, I know that can take a while). As keen and thoughtful readers of the tvdetective books will know, Rutherford has, on at least a couple of occasions, been instrumental in solving the crime.
That's not to say he's climbed up on his haunches and whispered the answer into Dan's ear, appealing though the prospect may be. It's more that the joy of being outside somewhere with a dog, with time to think, and that wonderful sense of leaving the cares of the world behind, can free the mind in a way that allows the rare and elusive phenomenon called inspiration to edge in.
So, here's to Rutherford, and geese, and yes, if you must, to chickens, for being our kind companions on this wonderful planet, and such fine ones at that.
Lastly for this blog, a big thank you to all the folk of the University of the Third Age who came to my talk in Callington on Wednesday. It was splendid to meet you, I very much enjoyed the morning, and you also make some of the finest tea I've enjoyed in my nomadic writing career.
And lastly lastly (promise), don't forget I'm doing a talk at the lovely Weymouth Library on Thursday evening. If you fancy coming along, there are more details on the News and Events page - www.thetvdetective.com/news.html
Stretching mind and body
Posted by Simon on 19th, October 2011 at 06:36:03
Something interesting has happened (it occasionally does to me).
I had a straightforward and simple title for this little musing - just the one word - but hesitated when I went to write it, as I thought the original version would put many people off from reading onwards.
I suppose that's because the word is very divisive, some people loving it and being almost addicts, others immediately shutting down their ears the moment it's aired.
Anyway, all that's a new record in itself, a digression to begin a blog, instead of at least having the decency to wait until I'm a few sentences in. However!
The word I was thinking of is exercise. And it came to mind yesterday, when I was thinking how much I envied Dan.
It's at this point of the year I really yearn to have a dog. It's such a great time to go out on walks in fair Devon; not yet too cold, often just right in fact, and all that beauty in the countryside with the palette of autumnal colours, the spiralling leaves, the wonderful sunsets (they're my favourites in spring and autumn).
But, for now at least, this often chaotic lifestyle of mine doesn't allow for a Rutherford of my own, so it'll just have to remain a dream. But this I have promised myself time and again - as soon as life settles down, one of the first things I shall do is go out and get myself a dog.
Anyway, all that was a bit of a digression too. The main point of this was a little musing on how exercise helps me to write. I went to the gym yesterday morning, and I can't claim to look forward to and enjoy it, but I do have a strategy to cope, one which works well with writing.
I find if I've got some issue to resolve in a bit of writing, my teaching work, or even just the scary business known as "life", then if I fix on that during the self-flagellation session it helps me to notice the pain rather less.
Interestingly, it usually also gets the problem solved. Which is why I titled this blog the way I did - I find forcing the old and weatherbeaten body to get moving does likewise for the brain.
Maybe it's the blood flowing, perhaps it's just the space to think, but I've become a convert to exercise, and not just for the simple reason that it stops my bottom from expanding too much into middle age!
One final thing to mention here - if you're around Weymouth next Thursday evening (27th Oct), I'm doing a talk at the library. Dorset is where I began my broadcasting career, so it's always a great pleasure to return. There are more details on the News and Events page - www.thetvdetective.com/news.html
Socks, scarves and other follies of fashion..
Posted by Simon on 15th, October 2011 at 06:54:06
I've been having trouble with my socks of late, as those lucky folk who follow me on Twitter and Facebook will know. First one of my favourite pair splits, and that on a Monday morning too - what an inauspicious start to the week! - and then I can't find a matching pair anywhere in the whole drawer.
Which all got me thinking about the broader issue of fashion, both in the tvdetective books, and the rest of my life.
The following confession will come as little surprise to anyone who knows me, and it's thus; I don't think I ever really got the hang of fashion.
I couldn't help but notice that, from the very first of the "fortunate" bunch, every one of the few girfriends I've ever had has gone about trying to amend, alter, or just entirely change the clothes I wear. Every one! There's a hint in there somewhere, surely...
Even my friends have, on occasions, looked me up and down, and if not said anything, then probably haven't needed to do so. Sometimes the eyes are all that's required.
It's true I favour louder shirts and ties, but there's a reason for that. As a man, there are only limited ways to express any form of personality, particularly in the working environment. Gals get to choose skirts or trousers, frocks or jackets etc etc. We boys are stuck with the jacket, shirt and trousers, so any opportunity for a little indulgence I tend to take.
I'm often asked how much of Dan reflects me in the tvdetective books. Adam is a sharp and expensive dresser, and Dan admires his style whilst being unable to replicate it in just about any way. Which I suppose provides an answer of sorts!
I fear I just never got the hang of making clothes work. Where my late and lovely gran could iron a shirt merely by glaring at it, I could spend 20 minutes just chasing a crease around the fabric. And as for the issue of co-ordinating colours... in my view, that's PhD standard fashion and I'm barely at GCSE, and struggling with that.
All this rambling of a couture kind was prompted by some Xmas shopping I did yesterday. As is often the case - and curiously pleasantly! - I didn't buy anything for anyone else, but did get myself a scarf.
It's rather colourful, a bit on the Tom Baker's Dr Who side, if you're old enough to remember that. But whatever the merits of the colouring, it's soft and comfortable and feels good on my skin, and that's largely how I tend to shop - by touch. Maybe that explains a lot...
Final thought for this blog; my thanks to all those who've followed me on Twitter. I'm grateful, even to the Swingers site I found had become one of my followers yesterday. I'll take that as a compliment!
If you do want to follow me (swingers and all!), there's a link to my Twitter site about half way down the home page - www.thetvdetective.com/
A basic human fear
Posted by Simon on 12th, October 2011 at 07:37:25
I had the pleasure of talking to the Hampshire Writers' Society last night, and one subject came up aplenty and guided me to today's subject for musing.
It's something which strikes at the heart of we fragile human things, and which dominates many of our fears. In a word, it's rejection.
My first memory of the dreaded feeling was from age about five or six. There was a singing lesson at school, and some of the class were selected to be recorded warbling Christmas carols. The teacher went around listening to the various children and picked them out, one by one. I'm sure my memory is making this worse, but the way I recall it is that every other kid got chosen, apart from me and the smelly boy in the corner who no one liked.
Cue constant waves of tears, all the way home and long into the evening.
And then come the rejections of later years - of first loves when the heart is lanced through with a blade of ice, of first jobs, when the stomach sinks lower than the deepest pit of the Pacific Ocean at that bland letter, thanking you for your interest, but...
Last night we were talking about being rejected as a writer. The fall, I can tell you, is no easier now than with first loves or first jobs. You have this great idea for a book (at least, you think so), you fall in love with it, you plan and plot it, you work on the characters, you write the thing, then re write and re write time and again, and then finally, all that time later, you send it to some publishers...
... who - almost inevitably - don't want it.
And maybe the tears aren't so obvious as they were 35 years ago, but the feeling inside is no different.
So, I was able to sympathise with those members of the society who had tasted the acrid bitterness of rejection. And all I can offer in return is the reassurance that everyone gets rejected in the writing world. It's a rite of passage, nothing less.
And all the advice I can offer is to try to match the natural disappointment with another basic human emotion - resilience. Get back up and try again, and keep trying, because the editors by no means get it right all the time. By no means!
Take this legendary rejection of a rather well-known woek. It went along the lines of "the girl having no special insight which sets this book above the curiousity level".
Really? Hmmmm... that was on Anne Frank's diary! So there, literary editors!
Anyway, before I really start going on (told you rejection has quite a lasting effect!) my thanks to all at the Hampshire Writers, for making me so very welcome and for laughing at all the right places in the talk.
It's much appreciated, I hope to see you all again, and most importantly, don't forget - don't give up!
Finally for this entry, I've got a few more events coming up - if you're interested, for more details keep an eye on the News and Events page - www.thetvdetective.com/news.html
Reflections of time
Posted by Simon on 8th, October 2011 at 06:50:32
If you're wondering what I'm going to write after such a grand title for an entry, then I fear I may be joining you in that. However...
What I was thinking of is how we use our time and how much of it we waste.
The reason for today's musing is this - another fine question has arrived in my inbox, and it asks in essence; "How do I come up with some of the strange tweets I post?"
In truth I've edited the inquiry a little, there was a suggestion some were more than a tad strange, accompanied by the thought that my mind must be either jolly creative, or simply mad.
On that matter I won't - daren't?! - comment, but i will do my best to answer the question, and it comes back to the title of the blog.
I've always been fixated by time. From early memories of watching Dr Who (very quick aside - it was the Cybermen who freaked me the most, not Daleks), i think I fairly rapidly came to the conclusion that time itself is the one enemy we can never defeat.
And from there, I've noticed time had featured strongly in many of my tastes in life. One of my favourite paintings is Dali's The Persistence of Memory, with its mesmeric melting clocks. A favourite poem is Eliot's Four Quartets, with its reflections on time.
For all the great innovations of mankind, it's time that always hunts us down in the end. We can make new friends, make money, make so many things, but we can't make more time for ourselves. And for that reason, I hate wasting time.
What has this to do with the question I was posed, you may well be asking by now? Well, the answer is this.
It's unavoidable in life, I suppose, that we have moments where we have to wait, or be doing something we're not particularly interested in. But I try to make even these passably worthwhile, and that's where the ideas for some of my tweets come from.
I'll think of them when I'm doing mundane chores, like brushing my teeth, or shaving. And I'll often - at risk of traumatising you with the image - think of them when I'm laying in bed at night. In fact, it's one of my ways of getting myself off to sleep. I find it far more enjoyable than imagining sheep, as it were...
On which subject, it's time to be getting my kit together ready for my Saturday morning self-flagellation class at the gym. So, as I assemble the offending articles, I shall think up something, this time probably on a theme of autumn, as she's currently busy swirling leaves and greying the sky outside my window.
Don't forget, if you've got a question you'd like to ask about the tvdetective books, any area of my writing or education work, or indeed any of my often strange musings, you can get in touch via the Contact page of the site - www.thetvdetective.com/contact.html
A simple pleasure of inspiration
Posted by Simon on 5th, October 2011 at 06:57:37
I haven't answered a question for a while, being the naughty writer type chap I am - it's part of the job description not to play by the rules! - so I thought this morning may be a good time to rectify that omission.
An email arrived a couple of weeks ago with the simple inquiry - what inspires me?
As with so many apparently straightforward questions, it's much more complex than it first sounds and there are a host of possible answers. But one has been nudging me to talk about it, so I'll choose that boisterous candidate.
A quick aside here - I suppose it was inevitable - I've never been materialistic, and have always been glad of that. I don't seek contentment in new cars and big foreign holidays, but tend to find tranquility and release in more modest manners.
Such it is with the answer to the question. What I've been much enjoying in recent days is the simple pleasure of the sky.
I mostly write in my study, a converted attic with a skylight which looks out over Exeter. And often, when I'm searching for inspiration, I find myself gazing to the heavens.
For all its many moods, the sky is always stirring. Be the great canopy filled with the fires of the autumnal sunsets we've enjoyed of late, the pure blue of the lost summer, the thousand shades of grey of the moody winter, or the racing clouds of classic October, there's always something to stare at and lose yourself in.
I wonder if it's a primeval thing, part of the root of so many beliefs that heaven lies in the sky, that so often causes us to look upwards when we find ourselves in times of need. But be that as it may, in moments of pause, thought, reflection and searching, it's often be the simple sky that comes to my aid.
Perhaps it's a fine example of the old saying that the best things in life are free? Which isn't to say I don't enjoy the sky most with the assistance of some material delights; a little background music, a pot of olives and a tin of beer being the commonest candidates. I'm no puritan, after all!
Don't forget, if you've got a question about the tvdetective books, or any area of my writing, which you'd like me to grapple with and then waffle about, you can get in touch via the contact page of the site - www.thetvdetective.com/contact.html
Fighting a modern-day dragon
Posted by Simon on 1st, October 2011 at 06:06:31
Every day, I partake of a practice which I thought - until recently - was perfectly normal, but have come to realise through conversations with friends and those members of the wider world, that it very much isn't.
First aside of this blog - and so rapidly! - I can sense you're starting to worry what I'm going to say here, and indeed whether it's safe to carry on... Fear not, it's nothing offensive. Just, apparently, unusual.
I might as well get on with it, so here's the confesssion which it seems puts me out of step with much of modern society. Deep breath, prepare myself, right, here we go, it's this...
...I am able to turn off my mobile phone and email!
Yep, that was it, but as bland as that may seem, it strikes me I'm unusual in doing so.
The thought first came upon me in August, when I was teaching at the wonderful Swanwick Writers' Summer School. A discussion was going on about how to keep writing when emails were a constant distraction, and I suggested the simple remedy of turning off your email.
To be given a reception roughly akin to the devil himself strolling in to join the congregation at a Christening!
Since which, I've carried out a little research, on the subject of mobile phones, and found that many people seem genetically unable to turn the things off. Take the gym class I plan to toddle along to in a couple of hours. It's a circuits thing, and some of the younger folk there take their mobiles in and check them every few minutes, between exercises.
What are they worried they'll miss?! Ok, if you're a heart surgeon, or firefighter, maybe you need to keep the phone on ready for an emergency, but is it such a great risk for most of us to turn the thing off occasionally?
Oh dear, this is turning into a rant, but as I'm enjoying it, I'll carry on anyway.
One of the great things about writing, is being able to have a dig about something that annoys you in print. In the tvdetective books, Adam is continually irked by mobiles, particularly people who insist on shouting into them in pubs and restaurants. There is a great invention known as the door, and a place called the outside, where you can carry on your conversation without annoying your fellows, my fine detective friend often comments...
Anyhow, back to the point, before I spiralled into that little tirade, and what prompted me to this blog. It's been a beautiful few days of late, and as regular sufferers of my musings will know I like to have a stroll around the river, enjoy the air, take in the scenery and do some thinking.
How many people do I pass with mobile clamped to ear, bawling away, and duly missing the wonderful spectacle all around them?
I'm not against all this modern technology, I'm doing my best to embrace it (120 followers on Twitter, 176 Facebook friends now, even had my first poke this week (as it were), very proud of all that!)
I just think technology can sometimes distract from what life is really about.. which for me is time to enjoy the beauty of this wonderful planet, the delights of your friends, and ok, yes, in my case get lost in the occasional thought-mire.
So, whether it be for thinking, writing, or just simple engagement with life, I can offer a helpful hint - it's not fatal to turn off your mobile or email for a while...