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Rhythm and rhyme
Posted by Simon on 31st, March 2012 at 07:57:46
'tis time I answered another question, and this occasion sees a cultured one. These worry me a little, as I'm never sure how well I'll be able to respond, but I'll give it a go.
The enquiry was about my thoughts on poetry, and was prompted by some of the stranger verses which I occasionally post on the long-suffering Twitter.
The answer is that I love poetry and always have, since even before schooldays. In those early years I delighted in trying to read the tongue twisters of Dr Seuss (Tweetle Beetles were my favourite, along with the chicks with their bricks, blocks and clocks), and the wonderful works of Edward Lear (the Yonghy Bonghy Bo could make me both laugh and cry.)
In fact, I do sometimes wonder if such early influences helped me to become a writer - with the evocative and entrancing use of language, but also the creation of so many memorable characters.
In later years my tastes developed to more classical poetry. In this field, as in many others, I tend to the old-fashioned. Some will wince at me saying this - how twee! - but I still prefer my poetry to rhyme.
I love the gentler poets, particularly those who write about the natural world. John Betjeman is a delight, but probably my favourite is Housman. And here, I shall attempt a Hall first for these blogs and try to quote one of my most loved of his works, and very appropriate for this time of year -
"Loveliest of trees, the cherry now / Is hung with bloom along the bough / And stands about the woodland ride / Wearing white, for eastertide."
And here I emphasise, I'm not comparing my curious Twitter rhymes to these amazing poets, just trying to explain where the curse of my verse (I had to drop one in!) comes from.
Two final matters to mention here. Firstly, the site has a new page, dedicated to the play, if you're interested in reading more about it - www.thetvdetective.com/play.html
And finally, a song for this morning. And given we're on a highbrow theme (or the best approximation I can manage), how about a similar-such type song? In which case, I nominate Kate Bush's Cloudbusting.
Aside from the beauty of the music there are some fascinating stories behind that one! And if you look it up for a listen, make sure you try the full length version. It's a truly haunting song, in many ways.
Posted by Simon on 27th, March 2012 at 07:46:00
As they say in the theatrical trade - and now, ladies and gentlemen, we proudly present... an update on the play, as requested.
Sunday saw the first full run through of An Unnecessary Murder and thus an overexcited Hall, perhaps akin to a puppy out for his first walk, and with a choice of balls to run after and scents to sniff, as it were.
It's the first time I've been to a rehearsal for a few weeks - they don't need me hanging around, getting in the way - and I was hugely impressed with how the cast have done. They've really bonded as a group, working together to carry the story along. And they've also got to know their own characters and are truly starting to feel and be them.
The interactions and exchanges felt genuine to me, and I found myself being drawn into the tale. I started off with notebook and pen poised, looking for anything that needed work, but soon ended up just sitting back and watching and enjoying it. That feels like a very positive sign and the passing of a significant test.
It's tricky for me to comment on how An Unnecessary Murder works as a play - as I wrote the thing, and so am more than a little close to it! - but I got the sense the director, producer and cast all believed in it and were enjoying themselves, which was plenty enough for me.
It's designed as the personal journey of a series of characters, set around a passably cunning murder mystery, and as such I think it does its job. The rest will be up to the audience, and not so very far away that big moment now, the small matter of only a day over four weeks (gulp!)
So, this Tuesday morning finds me happily optimistic that we're going to achieve the aims we set out with - to entertain a few people and raise some money for Hospiscare. Yeah!
If you want to know more about the play, have a look at the News and Events page - www.thetvdetective.com/news.html I've also posted links to a couple of articles.
Finally then, a song to go with the theme of the blog (see how well planned these apparently chaotic rambles really are?!) And how about a surprisingly modern one for me?
I think it's an excellent example of the songwriting art, a stark and powerful transportation into a certain state of mind - one which is often suffered by Dan in both the tvdetective books and the play - Robbie Williams' Come Undone.
The blessed night
Posted by Simon on 24th, March 2012 at 07:07:55
I was walking along the river last night, reflecting upon the beauty of this changing time of year, and in particular the nights.
It might have been because of the conjunction of the twin diamonds of Venus and Jupiter in the western sky, or the warmth, clearness and peace, but it was a stunning evening.
(And first aside here - to the more cynical of you, because I can almost hear you thinking it. No, I'm sure it wasn't anything to do with the three pints of ale I'd enjoyed beforehand.)
Anyway, the point of this blog was a little musing about the night. It's a favoured Hall time, not because I'm a creature of the darkness (although that may be entirely arguable), but because it's my chance to think.
The way I tend to write, whether it's the tvdetective books, or anything else I'm working on, is to do the actual scripting in the early morning, normally around this kind of time (6 - 8am). But the evenings I set aside for thinking about what I'm going to be writing the next day.
I find it an effective way to clear my mind before setting of to sleepland, to help me relax after whatever chaos the day has inflicted, but also a very good time to explore a few ideas.
I lay back upon the sofa, or sometimes recline in a chair in my study, close my eyes and think. There's always some music on in the background, not too loudly, just enough to tickle the consciousness (listening to music with the eyes closed always enhances the experience, in my view - it takes out the dominance of sight and makes for better concentration) and I let my mind wander.
And this time of year is wonderful for an evening's thought. The promise of the oncoming summer, the renewal of the earth. Ahh! Tomorrow, when the clocks spring forward, we'll almost be in what John Travolta and co. would have eulogised in song as those Summer Nights.
On the subject of which, it's choice of song time. I was picked up by several people in my last blog for forgetting to mention some preferred music. I apologise; this must have been due to the trauma of the Butlins weekend. So, for this blog, I'm going with several songs on the theme of night, just to make up the average.
Try these - Franki Valli's and The Night, because of the dangers of the darkness hours, The Eagles and One of These Nights, for the same reasons, and because I'm a softy at heart, Nights in White Satin, by The Moody Blues, for its evocative lyrics and melodies.
And a final thought for this blog - tomorrow we're doing the first full rehearsal of the play. Lots of people have been asking me about how it's going. Standby for a report early next week, when I've calmed down sufficiently to write again...
An awed author and some handy tips
Posted by Simon on 20th, March 2012 at 07:52:05
As regular readers will know, I take a notebook with me everywhere. It's an indispensable tool for an author; you can have an idea for a book, or piece of writing, can see a quirk of character or a nuance of description anywhere at anytime, and I hate losing them.
This weekend, my notebook grew very fat remarkably fast with all I witnessed on my 70's themed Butlins weekend stag do. How could it not?
Being the jealous type, I'm keeping them to myself. I can definitely see a tvdetective book based on such a premise! But, as part of my public service duties, I thought I'd use my experience of the weekend to offer some tips about how to survive such times.
1. Don't bring a watch. You won't want to know how slowly time appears to be passing.
2. Drink lots (even if you're teetotal). If you're not drunk, you'll see the place as it really is, which would never do. Note - your car can be searched for alcohol on the way in. If you haven't got enough, the security staff give you extras.
2(a). The drinking also helps you to deal with the undead creatures of the night which you'll meet, somehow magically resurrected by the power of a 70's weekend.
3. Leave sanity, dignity and civilisation at the gate. As (2), you'll be searched on entry and if you've got some, it will be confiscated.
4. Don't bother using irony. It's not a tradeable currency. No one laughed when I asked for directions to the on site library.
5. And forget words with more than 6 letters, or sentences with more than 10 words, too.
6. Bring earplugs. Sleep is frowned upon. People come home at all hours, very loudly, and the soundproofing of the chalets consists of cardboard and papier mache.
7. Also bring bedding, or preferably a bed. Those provided are as narrow as a fast-food addict's arteries, as long as a chav's list of qualifications, and as comfortable as laying on cobbles. You won't sleep (see 6), but it's better to have somewhere comfortable to suffer.
8. Try to wipe from your mind the dictionary definition of "entertainment". Disappointment will be your companion, otherwise.
9. Dancing. A very important element this, and try to remember - if you've any sense at all of rhythm, tempo or time, do not dance. You'll be horribly conspicuous.
10. If you're really keen, practice some of the fun activities beforehand. Projectile vomiting, public sex demonstrations, drinking, smoking, and screaming at artillery barrage volume levels will serve you well.
One final word - despite all this, I actually enjoyed myself. As ever, it was down to the people I was with, which, I maintain, if you get right you can have a good time anywhere. Cheers lads, if you're reading this! Now, where did I leave the booking form for next year...?
Posted by Simon on 15th, March 2012 at 06:58:44
I was privileged to enjoy a simple, but very beautiful experience at the weekend, which set the Hall mind on one of its little treks into the musinglands.
(Don't worry, it's nothing too shocking, reading on is safe - or as safe as it ever is with me.)
It was about midnight, the turning point between Saturday and Sunday, and I was strolling home along with river. There was a big splash and I looked over, but could see only ripples in the water. I thought it was a fish so kept on walking, but then looked back - and there was an otter, happily swimming away on the surface.
I stopped to watch, and it was apparent the creature in question was enjoying itself (maybe otters have Saturday nights out, too?) It swam back and forth for a while, hopped out of the river, shook itself off, stretched, and then plunged back in.
(No, it wasn't the beer, I'd only had a few, it really happened.)
How about that? An otter, right in the heart of a city. What a great boast for Exeter.
Anyway, what it got me thinking was this - you've probably heard me say before that writing is a great way to tap into the subconscious. You find yourself returning repeatedly to subjects which you weren't particularly aware were important to you, but clearly are.
Justice is one of my key themes in the tvdetective books. But so too is nature. Dan is often out in the fabulous Devon countryside with Rutherford, thinking through a case but also delighting in the fantastic spectacle of the scenery.
Nature is a fine justification of the old saying that the best things in life are free. And that's even more so at this changing time of year, when Spring is sprinkling her magic and resurrecting so much of the natural world. It feels like a time of renewal and rebirth, and is my favourite season of the year for that.
So then, finally for this blog, a song to go with the thoughts of nature - and how about Woodstock? (Joni Mitchell) I love the lines about bombers turning into butterflies, and all of us being stardust. Wish I could write like that...
The Sweet Bird of Youth
Posted by Simon on 10th, March 2012 at 07:52:51
I've been working on some ideas for a new tvdetective book, and a potentially fruitful theme which has emerged is the disaffection of today's young folk.
It's not easy being young at the moment. We're saddling the generation with huge debts if they have the cheek to want to go to college for further study, and when they come out unemployment is a constant stalking spectre.
The thoughts - and obviously I can't give too much away here, they're mine and precious! - were along the lines of what might happen if a group became dangerously disaffected, so bitter and disillusioned that they decided to take revenge on society. It feels like the idea has mileage, so I'll keep thinking about it, to see if it's got enough for a book.
Part of the reason I mention this now is that I had the pleasure of doing some careers teaching at Exeter University on Thursday. (First aside - thanks to all who came to the session - I hope it was worthwhile - and for playing along with my strange games. As I warned you at the start, I don't like to teach conventionally!)
I like teaching for a variety of reasons, much of it altruism, but it also helps reassure me. The young people I meet are invariably extremely clever (sometimes fearfully so), and equally keen, dedicated and determined to make a way in life and do some good. Exposure to such energy and verve is invariably good for the soul, and that was exactly how I came away feeling from Thursday.
Young people get a lot of criticism, but the vast majority I meet are great and that's very reassuring to know.
(It won't, however, stop me inventing some bad ones as characters if this book comes to pass, but that's a thought for another day.)
So here's to the future, it's under good (trainee) management and not anything like as bad as we doom-mongers in the media will often make out.
Finally for this blog, another favourite tune, as promised, and how about one which is in keeping with my rant of the moment (you see how much care and preparation goes into these musings?!)
In which case, I suppose it has to be The Undertones, and Teenage Kicks. If it was good enough for John Peel...
And finally finally, an apology to Tennessee Williams for borrowing the title for this blog. It's because (you guessed it!) I'm very into the theatre at the moment, for obvious reasons, and Sweet Bird has always been a favourite play of mine.
As to An Unnecessary Murder, I'm trying not to bore you with my excitement, but I'll doubtless churn out another blog with an update on progress soon. Suffice to say (for now) that we're less than 7 weeks from the opening night, and all seems to be going well.
If you want to know a little more, there's a kind article just gone live on the fine Cyprus Well website - www.cypruswell.com/calendarFull.php
Lessons of Life
Posted by Simon on 6th, March 2012 at 08:40:54
A question that often comes up, particularly when I do a talk about the tvdetective books, is - why do I write?
I don't think I've ever found a satisfactory answer. Sometimes I go on about a feeling inside, some drive or calling, or the desire to amuse / entertain people. But there is another good reason and perhaps a little deeper one, which I didn't realise when I started out.
Writing is a great way to learn about life.
I love the whole education thing. I think that's partly why I chose this strange career as a hack - you get to meet so many people, go to so many places and see such extraordinary events. It all means you learn something (and usually quite a chunk) every day.
Maybe it's also why I enjoy the education work, passing on to others the few things I've worked out about this great game called life.
Anyway, that's a digression. What I was thinking about writing is how much it teaches you, and in particular about one area of life, perhaps the most important of all.
I've learnt so much about characters since I've been scribbling; what makes people the way they are and how it influences their reaction to any given situation. The contrasts and conflicts between the surface and the reality. The debate about the influence of nature and nurture. Instinct versus rationale. All that stuff which goes into making people.
There's been loads more besides, but that's probably the most important for me. I suspect I was always a people watcher. But now it's become more of an addiction. I just love studying people and trying to feel my way below the surface (metaphorically!) to find their drivers, passions, motivations and even detestations.
An additional small aside (can't resist it!) - another great part of that has been the play. The idea of being able to convey character only through words and actions. How am I ever going to get to grips with that?!
Ah, you'll be able to find out, and not so very far away now. It's just seven weeks until An Unnecessary Murder opens (not that I'm counting), and all is still ticking along nicely. More of that as we get closer to the night itself (there's additional info on the News and Events page, if you require it - www.thetvdetective.com/news.html )
Finally for this blog, another choice of tune, and this time on the theme of learning about life and exploring the mind. Try The Windmills of Your Mind (Noel Harrison version) for its haunting melodies and evocative lyrics. Like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel..
Posted by Simon on 3rd, March 2012 at 08:09:46
Tomorrow is the first anniversary of me joining Twitter.
How do I know? Not because I've looked up the tweets in question, or that the info is stored in my smartphone (I don't think it's so smart, it's never made me a cup of tea or won an argument with me etc, but that's an early aside.) I know because I've written the snippet in my diary.
Which, in itself, probably tells you much about where this particular musing is going. I don't keep my life on a computer, as do many these days, but still in that spectacularly old fashioned manner of a diary.
I suppose it's partly the same reason I haven't got an ebook reader. I just like the physical contact of the thing. It's a kind of comfort. Plus, my diary has never crashed on me and erased everything I've written in an electronic brainstorm. A small, but important issue.
Anyway, back to the point of this, which was a few thoughts about technology. From a wary beginning, I've come to enjoy tweeting. It strikes me as an obvious thing to do for those talkative types - like writers - who think they have something to say and that the world (lucky place that it is) should hear it.
I've set a few rules, like don't get into the mundane (I'm having a coffee... I'm cleaning my teeth...) and don't overdo it. Instead just try to keep it either insightful, whismical, thoughtful, or just plain daft.
(The latter is my specialist subject.)
But the final rule is, for me, the most important, and it applies to all technology. Don't let the tweeting (or texting, or any mobile communications stuff) become a substitute, or even distraction, from life.
I continue to be irked with/disappointed by those folk who are walking along the river here in beautiful Exeter, past the fantastic scenery, the wildllife, and still have face firmly buried in phone. You're missing the world...
I think part of the reason for all this is just me, that I'm old fashioned enough to like talking to people, face to face, rather than emailing or texting them. But there's also the fact that - as with Dan in the tvdetective books - the day job of hackery can mean relentless phone calls, emails etc. So when the time comes to escape from them, I like to take it.
Right, two more bits to mention in this blog. First, I've been getting a fair few questions about how the play is going. I will update you on that in the next couple of weeks, but I've been trying to give it a rest for a while so as not to bore you. Fear not, it's all going well and I'm still as excited as ever.
And finally, a tune for today. As this is a techno type blog, how about a related song? (See how much thought goes into these things!)
So I've chosen Living by Numbers by New Musik. Because it's another from my youth, but also a fine bit of thinking about the dangers of where technology can take us...