tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-64771436955433825522016-04-11T15:30:02.626+01:00Nicola Vincent-AbnettMusings on writing and other stuffNicola Vincent-Abnettnoreply@blogger.comBlogger692125tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-6477143695543382552.post-58625735359631740292016-03-21T11:43:00.000+00:002016-03-21T11:43:00.510+00:00A Fair Day's Wage for a Fair Day's Work<div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Of course, this is a Socialist precept, and the cry of the labour movement everywhere. I'm not sure anyone could disagree with it. It has always related to 'work' in the traditional sense, though. It has never, so far as I know, been applied to intellectuals or to the arts.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I was offered a gig yesterday.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">It’s always nice to hear from editors looking for stories for anthologies. I like reading short stories, and I love to write them. I don’t write a lot of them, and I tend not to write on-spec and then look for somewhere to sell stories. I like to have a focus.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I like to write short stories to order. I like to have a target. Anthologies are good for that. They’re generally genre specific, and there’s usually a theme to follow. They’re the kind of targets I like. Focus is good.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Every so often, an editor will e-mail me to offer me a gig, a slot in an anthology. I generally find a way to say ‘yes’. I like writing shorts and I can generally fit them into my schedule. I also like to be stretched, so any target is a good target. I’ve written SF, Horror, Urban Fantasy… all sorts of things. I’ve always enjoyed it.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Once or twice, my stories haven’t made the cut, and I’ve sold them on elsewhere. It doesn’t happen often, but when I’ve got something I like, I’m happy to move it on, and I’ve never been left with anything in the drawer. I wish I could say the same about some of my novels.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Sadly, there’s been a shift in publishing. Sadly, the last couple of times I’ve been offered a short story gig, it’s come with a caveat.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Yesterday, I was offered a gig by an editor, and that’s great; the down side was that I wasn’t offered a paying gig. This particular editor at this particular small press decided that it was OK to ask professional writers to write for free.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I’d probably be shocked if I wasn’t so damned disappointed. I’d probably be shocked if it hadn’t happened before, and if it hadn’t also happened to the husband.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Self-publishing is very popular now. A lot of would-bes and wannabes are publishing their work for themselves on various platforms, hoping that they’ll sell, and perhaps that they’ll be picked up by traditional publishers. For most of them, it doesn’t work. For most of them it doesn’t differ very much from the old vanity publishing. Of course, vanity publishing cost money, and self-publishing can be done on a shoestring, but it’s still about circumventing the problem of having the work appraised, criticised, edited and published. It’s a way of side-stepping the gatekeepers.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">When an editor at a small press expects writers to write for free, the publisher is simply extending the self-publishing model. Publishers pay writers to write. That’s the whole point. When a publisher asks a writer to write for free, he is no longer a publisher he is a third-party self-publisher.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I value what I do. It’s my job.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I don’t know anybody else who works for no money.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">When I decide to give something away that I’ve written, I do it here, on the blog, and I do it for my own reasons. I do it to talk to all of you. I do it to entertain. I do it as a gift.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I have talked on this blog, often, about self-publishing. I don’t like it. I don’t think it works, and I absolutely would not do it.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Given that I wouldn’t do it for myself. I absolutely would not do it through a third party. Third party self-publishing makes money for small presses that shouldn’t be in business at all if they can’t pay the talent they are exploiting.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Publishers take a risk. They believe in a writer’s talent, so they pay for it. That’s the risk. They bring the resources, the writer brings the talent, and there’s a relationship. The publisher who isn’t taking that risk doesn’t need to believe in the talent. The publisher who isn’t taking the risk doesn’t need to be a gatekeeper any more, because the product doesn’t need to succeed. There is no investment. I don’t want to be part of that kind of arrangement.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I was offered a gig yesterday.&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I liked the target, and I would’ve enjoyed writing the story. Sadly, I can’t do it, because the small press that offered me the gig decided that it didn’t want to pay me for my work.&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="float: right; margin-left: 1em; text-align: right;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-j7mj0yWJZpM/UygpGQD1JTI/AAAAAAAABWg/DLOaXhJ8jtg-6tCHCR--64gQJzaE-SHFg/s1600/nicjkb.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" height="400" src="https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-j7mj0yWJZpM/UygpGQD1JTI/AAAAAAAABWg/DLOaXhJ8jtg-6tCHCR--64gQJzaE-SHFg/s400/nicjkb.jpg" width="317" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Me, the writer who insist on being paid.<br />Creators work, too.</td></tr></tbody></table><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I’m baffled, though. I’m baffled, because the e-mail I received was enthusiastic and comprehensive. The e-mail I received offering me this gig, included a roster of writers who have committed to this project. Honest to goodness, I would have loved for my name to have appeared alongside those on that roster. The list included writers that I have read and admired, writers that are well-known and popular. It appals me that writers of this calibre are not only being invited to write for free, but that they are accepting those invitations.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I think it’s time that we all stopped accepting jobs that don’t pay, and by all of us, I don’t just mean writers, I mean creators of all kinds.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><br /><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">As far as publishing is concerned, it would probably mean the demise of some of the small presses, but, as it turns out, they’re not viable businesses as they stand. That won’t diminish the quality of the best writers out there. It might mean they write fewer stories, but they will, at least, be guaranteed payment for every story they write. I’m all for that.</div>Nicola Vincent-Abnetthttps://plus.google.com/109074152191643376239noreply@blogger.com2tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-6477143695543382552.post-69585319740190294282016-02-16T13:52:00.000+00:002016-02-16T13:52:13.230+00:00From Each according to his Ability, to Each according to his Need<div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><span style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: initial;">Yes, that’s socialism, and you all know that I’m a socialist. I’m probably what a lot of Americans would refer to as a Liberal Intellectual, but I’d add Socialist Feminist to that.</span></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">It’s a mouthful, isn’t it?</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">It makes me sound like an idealist, too, and I suppose that I am, but not necessarily in the way that you think.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">More than I believe in anything else, I believe in being responsible. And, like charity, responsibility begins at home. I believe that the first person we need to be responsible for is ourself. I believe strongly that the first thing we must do is admit to our failures and our mistakes. I believe strongly in honesty.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="float: right; margin-left: 1em; text-align: right;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-4kTyvrmfYEE/VsMmYYWAsDI/AAAAAAAABfo/o5Ha5QusICo/s1600/220px-Karl_Marx_001.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" height="400" src="https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-4kTyvrmfYEE/VsMmYYWAsDI/AAAAAAAABfo/o5Ha5QusICo/s400/220px-Karl_Marx_001.jpg" width="281" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Because who could resist a portrait of<br />Karl Marx</td></tr></tbody></table><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">You’ll all remember <i>from each according to his ability, to each according to his need </i>from studying Karl Marx, or from not studying him, but simply from knowing the little we all know about Communism, but the fact is that few of us know very much, and we all know just enough to be ignorant.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">This idea is older than memory. It is borrowed from the New Testament. The idea of community, of shared responsibility, of this kind of socialism can be found in Acts of the Apostles 4, 32-35:</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><span style="line-height: normal;"><i>32&nbsp;</i></span><i><span style="font-size: large;">And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.</span></i></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><i>33&nbsp;And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.</i></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><i>34&nbsp;Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,</i></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><span style="line-height: normal;"><i>35&nbsp;And laid them down at the apostles' feet: </i></span><i><span style="font-size: large;">and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.</span></i></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 16px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The French utopian Étienne-Gabriel Morelly took up the idea in 1775 when he outlined his ideas for&nbsp;his <i>Code of Nature</i>, which included:</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><i>Every citizen will make his particular contribution to the activities of the community according to his capacity, his talent and his age; it is on this basis that his duties will be determined, in conformity with the distributive laws.</i></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><i></i><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">In 1851, the socialist, Louis Blanc also adopted the idea, and was among the first to use the word ‘capitalism’, in this particular context:</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><i>...what i call 'capitalism' that is to say the appropriation of capital by some to the exclusion of others.</i></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 16px;"><i></i><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Redistribution of wealth is something that we all live with, even in the Capitalist society that we all live in and subscribe to, and it has to be a good thing. It surely behoves us to look after the least of us, to ensure that our children are cared for and educated, that our sick are hospitalised and that our old are comfortable.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">You know that I’m going somewhere with this, don’t you?</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">This is my first blog of the week, so you know that I’m going to refer to a news article that I read in the weekend papers.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The article I read was about social housing. I’m in favour of social housing. I never lived in a council house, but I know people who have. As a child, I did live in tied housing. My father was allocated housing as part remuneration for his job. While he was in that job our housing was secure at a stipulated rent. The houses weren’t furnished, but they were maintained. My parents were also allowed to buy their home under a similar scheme to the council house sales scheme in the late eighties.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">As an adult, I haven’t lived in council housing, but I have rented privately. Again, I know people who have been in the unfortunate position of having to rely on social housing.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Capitalism, by its very nature, creates an economic system that is cyclical. There are boom times and there are depressions. During those times of depression, there are large increases in unemployment, and where there is unemployment there is poverty. Of course there is never a time of full employment. The latest figures, June to August 2015, show unemployment at about 1.8 million and falling in the UK.&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">But unemployment isn’t the only thing responsible for poverty. According to the Poverty and Social Exclusion Research team 45% of people in the UK live in households that could not pay an unexpected expense, and 35% struggle to make ends meet. There’s plenty of poverty out there. The minimum wage keeps a lot of families on the poverty line, the cost of living is high with housing a big part of that, and the standard of living is dropping.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Some would argue that social housing is as important as it has ever been. Families need homes, and the poorest families need the most help. It’s tough to argue any of that.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The minimum wage is currently about £12,000 per year. Assuming that a young couple are living together and that both are working full-time at the minimum wage, that’s £24,000 between them. The average cost of a two bed flat in the town where I live is £950 per month. So one entire income must be reserved for rent. The average cost of full-time childcare for a toddler in the UK is £450 per month. So, this couple could not afford to have a child and continue to maintain two full-time incomes and their home. If they happened to live in Southwark, their rent would be £1700 per month, and they wouldn’t stand a chance.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">What, then, of the 58 year old single woman, earning £55,000 a year, who is only paying £650 per month for her flat in Bloomsbury, Central London? She’s been renting her flat from social housing for six years. She doesn’t save. Private rents in her area are £2,000 per month. She could afford to pay it. She would be a single person, responsible only for herself with earnings after rent of over £30,000 per year.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><i>From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.</i></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The point is that there are plans afoot to cap the amount that council tenants can earn before their rents go up in line with the private rental market.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I am a socialist, but part of the point of being a socialist is that we believe in personal responsibility. Part of the point is that we contribute when we are able.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Social housing must be available for those who need it, and there should probably be more of it. Of course, more social housing would be available if those who no longer needed it gave it up when their circumstances improved.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Someone close to me once needed and secured social housing. He worked hard, saved, did better, and, when he was able, he bought his own home. It was a struggle, and his mortgage payments were significantly more than his council rent, but he saw social housing as a stepping stone not a lifestyle choice. That’s how the system is supposed to work.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">There will always be people who need continued help and support, and I want to support those people on a longterm basis.&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">A couple was cited in the article. They earn £56,000 between them, and pay only £550 per month rent. To rent privately in their area would cost around £1700 per month, and they could afford it, but they have chosen to stay in their council flat. Of course they would be less well off if they rented privately or bought, but how many of their neighbours, friends and co-workers earn less than they do, but find a way to pay those rents? They say they want to remain in their community and they say they value their friends and neighbours, and yet they set themselves apart from them by doing what they are doing. They only want to stay in their community if they can maintain their lifestyle at a cost to the rest of us, and some of that cost falls on the poorest. All the time they remain in their social housing flat they are depriving someone who has a greater need. They are not taking responsibility for themselves and they are not contributing. They are appalled that their rent could rise. If it did, that money might be used for more social housing. They got the help they needed when they needed it; why should they deprive others of that help now that they are in a secure financial position?</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The problem with socialism is that it makes these kinds of people feel entitled. If they were ever taught humility, they have long since forgotten what it is to be humble.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Being given the use of something doesn’t mean it belongs to you.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Social housing is about the loan of a home, and, like anything else that is on loan, when you no longer need it, you hand it back in the condition that it was loaned to you. Just because it was loaned by the council and not an individual doesn’t change the rules. Where is the humility and the gratitude? We are lucky to live in a society in which there is the opportunity for us to care for each other and to be cared for by each other. This can only happen when people understand responsibility.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">There should be no need to cap the amount that council tenants earn and then raise their rents to match the private rental market. If we all learnt a bit of responsibility, council tenants would take it upon themselves to find alternative accommodation when their finances allowed it and simply hand back the keys to their social housing properties with smiles on their faces and songs in their hearts.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">These might not be my favourite people to hate. In the end, the financial gains from raising council rents will be small, and there are very much bigger fish to fry when it comes to social injustice. Let’s go after the corporations for massive tax evasion, shall we? That would be a decent step in the right direction, and would more than fulfil the main tenet of Socialism that I outlined so painstakingly at the start of this blog.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I can’t help feeling a certain amount of contempt for these people, though. They can’t have their cake and eat it. Either they’re socialists, in which case they should contribute to the system when they can, since they’ve been so content to reap its benefits; or, they’re capitalist, in which case they had no business applying for social housing in the first place, since doing so clearly flies in the face of everything they believe.</div><br /><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div>Nicola Vincent-Abnetthttps://plus.google.com/109074152191643376239noreply@blogger.com1tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-6477143695543382552.post-64953577983064456802016-02-13T09:00:00.000+00:002016-02-13T09:00:43.777+00:00Six Degrees of Separation… by Accident<div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><span style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: initial;">OK, in this particular case, not quite six degrees.</span></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Once in a while, I’m reminded of someone from my distant past, someone from school or university, and I wonder whatever might have happened to him or her. It’s often difficult to find those people now, especially the women. Time moves on; it’s three decades since I left university for goodness sake.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Nevertheless, we have the internet, so I always do a quick google search, just, you know, out of curiosity.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Last evening, sitting around, watching television and catching up with each other, the husband, the dort and I were talking about names. There is some confusion about our names; it’s something I’ve talked about before.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">You all know that I’ve never felt very comfortable with my given name, and that I generally go by Nik. This confuses people. It confuses them because it’s not a standard feminine abbreviation, and there are still people who insist on calling me Nicky (or is it Nikki?). Some of those people get away with it, others I gently correct. Formally, I occasionally use Nicola, and overseas, too, but otherwise, only members of my very immediate family ever refer to me by that name.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I should probably have changed my name a very long time ago; I have thought of it often.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I deed-polled my surname, and both of my children chose to deed-poll theirs. They don’t have the names that they were born with. It was a family thing, and it didn’t change anything or cause stress or anxiety when it happened.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The dort also goes by a first name that isn’t her given name, although it is a recognised first name. This isn’t as odd as it sounds, and it’s very common in my family. Neither of my parents called each other by their given names, and none of my mother’s siblings used their given names. Several of my father’s relatives were also known by names that didn’t appear on their birth certificates. I have a brother who doesn’t use his given name, either… It rather makes me wonder how I got stuck with mine.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I mentioned that the dort might change her given name, by deed poll to the name that she goes by, but she’s perfectly content to leave things as they are. Questions are raised from time to time, but she says that it’s easier than having to produce additional proofs of identity every time she fills in a form, and, of course, she’s right.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">We started to talk about what I might change my name to. It’s a tricky business, choosing a name, and many were mooted, but nothing stuck. The name I would choose for myself is, apparently, the name of the dullest woman on Earth. I rather like that. I rather hope that it might mean, in person, I’d confound expectations.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The dort came up with a string of options, and I only halted when she landed on Vivien.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I have no special fondness for the name Vivien, and it’s probably not one I would have come up with on my own, except that when the dort mentioned it I remembered something.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I remembered a girl that I was at school with. She was extraordinarily beautiful, and, although I didn’t know her well, I remember her telling me once that her name, in full, meant <i>lovely lily, little bay. </i>It sounded rather romantic to me then, and I can’t help thinking that it still does.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">There wasn’t a huge amount of ethnic diversity in the grammar school that I attended in Kent, except that, in a way, there was. De Cala, Vivien’s name, isn’t terribly Anglo-Saxon, is it? I imagine she must have been Spanish or Portuguese, but if I ever knew I’ve since forgotten. I do know that I went to school with one girl who was Polish and another who was Armenian. The girl who sat next to me in Chemistry was Iranian and the tall, striking blonde in my form was Icelandic. There were Smiths and Browns, but there was also a DuQuesne and an Adjentetti.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Anyway, I’m wandering horribly off the point.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I was reminded of Vivien De Cala, and of what she told me about her name, because the lily is meaningful to me.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I talked about the name and it’s meaning, and I talked about the beautiful girl I was at school with. The dort suggested I google her, and so I did; who knows, I might have anyway. I didn’t hold out much hope of finding her, because women of my generation married, and when we married we took our husbands’ names.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="float: right; margin-left: 1em; text-align: right;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-Fmp4q0HvASQ/Vr45rkfTcuI/AAAAAAAABfY/xbGD_oPTQzU/s1600/220px-Douglas_Booth_-_February_2011_-_crop.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" height="400" src="https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-Fmp4q0HvASQ/Vr45rkfTcuI/AAAAAAAABfY/xbGD_oPTQzU/s400/220px-Douglas_Booth_-_February_2011_-_crop.jpg" width="306" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;"><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_Booth" target="_blank">Douglas Booth and his Wiki page</a></td></tr></tbody></table><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Google search did, however, come up with a hit for a woman called Vivien de Cala. There wasn't a photograph, and even if there were I haven’t seen the girl I was at school with for thirty-five years, so I don’t know whether I’d recognise her.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Vivien de Cala’s name popped up on a Wikipedia page… it popped up on somebody else’s Wikipedia page, because if this is the girl I was at school with then she’s a mother now, and she’s the mother of somebody who has made a name for himself. Given how beautiful this young man is, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if the girl I was at school with did happen to be his mother, but what a very strange person to be separated from by a single degree of Kevin Bacon.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><br /><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I might, just might have been at school with Douglas Booth’s mum… If her name had been Jane Smith or even Alison Tate, I’d be a little less confident, but how many women do you suppose there are out there with a name that translates as <i>lovely lily, little bay.</i></div>Nicola Vincent-Abnetthttps://plus.google.com/109074152191643376239noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-6477143695543382552.post-30691192224789404852016-02-12T10:16:00.000+00:002016-02-12T10:16:21.996+00:00Little Things that Mean a Lot<div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><span style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: initial;">I don’t think of myself as a terribly materialistic person, or an acquisitive one, either.</span></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I do like shoes, but I also have a pair of boots that I bought more than three decades ago, and I still wear them. I don’t change my clothes on a seasonal basis, either. I’ve got favourites that I’ve been wearing for decades, and a smaller wardrobe than the husband. I like jewellery and art, too, but that’s not spending, that’s simply a transfer of wealth.&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">We all have little things, though, don’t we?</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I have little things.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I have pens, for example. I don’t like cheap pens. Cheap pens are horrible to use and they’re disposable, so we lend them and lose them and treat them with little or no regard. Over the years I have bought a number of good pens. I keep one in my handbag, another on my desk and one on my bedside table. I have five in total and I know where all of them are at any given time. I look after them. I look after them because I like them as tools, but also because I know what they cost and I value them.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">As a consequence of buying and using good pens, I haven’t bought a cheap pen for a number of years, and so my over all outlay on pens is now virtually zero. Of course, I do have to buy refills for my good pens from time to time, but a refill still lasts significantly longer than a cheap pen, not least because I won’t lose it, break it or give it away. The upside is that I always have a beautiful, reliable writing tool… always! I have five of them and one of them lives in my handbag, so I’m covered.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I generally don’t become very attached to objects. Twice, I have left everything behind; I have shut the door on a home and left, more-or-less, in the clothes on my back. It is hugely liberating. I might not recommend it, because I guess it takes a particular type of person to have the nerve to walk away from the trappings of a life, but I’m certainly glad that I was able to do it when push came to shove. I didn’t look back on either occasion, and both experiences taught me valuable lessons, about myself and about life.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">There’s always something, though… There are always one or two objects that matter. Some things matter because they are familiar, some because of associations, some because they have been around for a long time… Some for reasons that are simply beyond explanation. But, there’s always something that matters.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Once in a while, in one of those quick-fire interviews, a celebrity might be asked what possession he would rescue from a burning building. I don’t have many things that would fit into that category, and in the end, I guess there isn’t anything that I honestly couldn’t live without if the need arose.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I’m all about the people I love… Trust me when I tell you that losing a person is the only time for grief. That’s when hearts are broken.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="float: right; margin-left: 1em; text-align: right;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="https://4.bp.blogspot.com/-f9Zw1zWmZNM/U9wzHzEkuyI/AAAAAAAABKU/MSuFWXlDCaw/s1600/meanddan.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" height="400" src="https://4.bp.blogspot.com/-f9Zw1zWmZNM/U9wzHzEkuyI/AAAAAAAABKU/MSuFWXlDCaw/s400/meanddan.jpg" width="313" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">A big occasion, but the dress was a decade old and in my<br />bag was a good pen and <i>that</i> object</td></tr></tbody></table><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">There are a couple of objects that I carry everywhere with me. One of those objects was bought for me by the husband a decade or more ago. We were in Paris and it was a small but extravagant and useful gift. I loved it then and I love it now.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Several days ago, I lost that object. We were at home, and it was one of those strange occasions when one moment I had the object and the next it was gone. In the first minutes I took no notice, because I knew it had to be in the vicinity of where I was sitting in the drawing room. It couldn’t simply have disappeared. An hour passed and I felt the need to look around for it. I couldn’t see it.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Before I went to bed that night, I looked for it for several minutes, but couldn’t find it. It was late and the drawing room isn’t terribly well-lit, so I decided to look again in the morning. The object is small, but not perishable, so I decided that it would turn up.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The husband was first up the next morning and he looked for it without success. I looked for it too.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">That little object became our main topic of conversation over the following days. I dragged out all the furniture, lifted the rug, checked all of my clothes and began to retrace my steps and check the rest of the house.&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The husband and I went over and over what I had been doing that evening when I had lost it. We talked about where we had been and what we had been doing. We talked about where our pets had been… We talked endlessly.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I began to fret.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I had been carrying my useful little souvenir of Paris for a long time. I used it every day. It went into every pocket and every handbag and was my constant companion. It was strange not to have it, not to use it. I didn’t like that it was missing, even though I knew that it had to be in the house, in the drawing room, somewhere close to where I always sit when I’m in that room.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">At this time of the year, it is my custom to build a fire in the stove before we settle in for the evening… At least on the evenings when we spend some time together in the drawing room. I don’t know why the stove is my job, but since we put it in, I have always tended to it, except when the dort’s boyff is with us, in which case, he builds the fire.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">This evening, I poured myself a glass of wine and prepped the fire. I made faggots out of newspaper and I reached a hand into the bag of kindling that sits to one side of the hearth. I had to dig deep for the last handful of wood chips because the bag was almost empty. I put the kindling on top of the faggots and reached in again, thinking there was one last piece of wood in the bottom of the bag, even though it seemed too small, too hard and too heavy. It was elusive, too, sliding around the bottom of the bag as I tried to scoop it up.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Then I got my hand around it, and I smiled.&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I had found it.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I knew before I pulled my hand out of the kindling bag to take a look that I had finally found what had been missing for almost a week. I cannot tell you how pleased I was.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I don’t know how it got there, except that the bag of kindling stands on the floor behind and to the left of the table that stands at my elbow as I sit in my usual place on the sofa in the drawing room. I can only assume that I fumbled as I placed the object on the table and that, somehow, it bounced or fell into the bag of kindling. Being small and heavy, it fell between the wood chips to the bottom of the bag, and I only found it when the kindling was used up.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">It’s a small thing, but it was bought with love and I use it every day. I missed it when it wasn’t to hand, I moved everything within several feet of its last known location to find it, and I spent valuable time thinking about it.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Sometimes, objects have meaning far beyond their value or usefulness, sometimes they have associations to time and place and to people, and that’s OK.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><br /><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I wouldn’t want to be bogged down by a lot of stuff. I hate getting to the point at which I feel that stuff is owning me rather than the other way around (remind me to tell you about the condiment shelf one of these days), but souvenirs, mementos, reminders… they’re rather lovely things, and I was very happy to be reunited with one of mine.</div>Nicola Vincent-Abnetthttps://plus.google.com/109074152191643376239noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-6477143695543382552.post-27046343589511149702016-02-11T13:01:00.000+00:002016-02-11T13:01:42.475+00:00Writing Software<div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Bibbling through my Twitter feed yesterday, I came across something extraordinary, so I thought I’d write about it.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Someone had retweeted something that I didn’t quite understand, so I went to the original conversation and ended up reading through lots of comments from lots of writers about tools, and in particular apps that they use when they're working.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I’ve talked about my writing process before. It involves sitting in front of a black screen with a white page on it, and writing. I happen to use Pages, because that’s what my Mac comes with. I choose fonts and layouts according to the genre I’m writing in, but I like the page to look the way it will look in its final incarnation, more-or-less.&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">There are exceptions to this. If I’m writing in the first person, for example, I might choose a font to suit a character; that font is often Courier. If I’m writing fantasy, I often use a font with a serif, and for SF, sans serif. I never use line breaks for paragraphing, but always indent, and I always use page breaks for chapters. You get the idea.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I don’t use word processing packages, except for Final Draft, which I use when scripting in collaboration with the husband. I also don’t use software designed to help me to write. I don’t need help to write. I have a process that I’ve developed over time. When I write, I write. I use displacement activities, as I’m sure we all do, and sometimes I just sit and think. I also meet my deadlines. I just do.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I know that other writers do use software packages and apps to help them in various ways, and I know there are some good ones on the market. They use things that help them with practicalities like formatting. There are bits of software that calculate numbers of words and paragraphs, reading ages of the material a writer is producing, and even whether a writer might overuse a word or phrase. Some of this stuff is useful or reassuring to writers. That’s fine. I have no problem with any of it. I don’t use this kind of software, but I do understand why writers like to have it.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">There are also apps that keep writers motivated.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I don’t suffer from writer’s block, or at least I never have yet. When it’s time to write, I sit down and I write. If something needs to be done then I do it. Sometimes, it’s tough. Sometimes, I struggle. I believe that’s true of anyone doing anything. Sometimes, it’s a struggle just to get out of bed in the morning.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I’m lucky. I have a job that I love. I’m extraordinarily lucky to share my life with someone who understands what I do. Sometimes, I think that’s the biggest difference between the husband and me, and other writers. We have each other; most writers are doing this alone.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Anyway, my point was that there is software and there are apps that are designed to keep a writer in his seat, writing. Of course, none of them guarantee the quality of the words.</div><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="float: right; margin-left: 1em; text-align: right;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="https://2.bp.blogspot.com/-ChdNOXf0gyw/VryDXtN4hnI/AAAAAAAABfI/zw1VmvgJ3W0/s1600/6a00d8341c630a53ef0176156ad212970c-800wi.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" height="288" src="https://2.bp.blogspot.com/-ChdNOXf0gyw/VryDXtN4hnI/AAAAAAAABfI/zw1VmvgJ3W0/s400/6a00d8341c630a53ef0176156ad212970c-800wi.jpg" width="400" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/jacketcopy/2012/06/not-writing-theres-an-app-for-that-write-or-die-app.html" target="_blank">The LA Times reviews Write or Die</a></td></tr></tbody></table><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><i><br /></i></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><i>Write or Die </i>has been around for a while. The idea is that the writer sets a timeframe and word count. Then she chooses how severe the program will be. If she proceeds gently, the program will simply remind her to keep typing. In regular mode, the program will sound an alarm when the writer stops typing, until the keyboard is active again. In severe mode, however, the program will begin to delete what has already been typed if the writer doesn’t add more words.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Of course, any writer worth his salt will find cheats for the system, typing in nonsense, or adding buffer material to the end of a piece of work so that when deletion begins none of the good stuff is wasted. But who needs that kind of pressure? Well... It turns out that some people like the pressure.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><i>Flowstate</i> is the latest app of this kind, and it too offers timed writing sessions. Text is deleted automatically if a writer’s hands are still for more than seven seconds. SEVEN SECONDS!</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">It sounds like torture to me.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">A lot of people think they can write, and a lot of people think they can be writers, and for some people it’s true. Some of us are writers. I wonder what it is about a person that prevents him from doing what he wants to do and what he is fit for. I wonder what it is about a person that makes him feel the need for this kind of punishment.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Writing was never meant to be easy. No creative pursuit is meant to be easy, but I simply don’t understand the addition of this kind of masochism. It seems miserable to me, and it seems wasteful. What of the words that are lost in this process? What if for half an hour of a forty minute session the words flow and are beautiful and then are lost because the writing ends there, and the final ten minutes are redundant?</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Of course, I speak only for myself</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I have often had conversations with the husband about carrots and sticks. Most of us need a little of each in our lives to work well and to thrive. Some people need more carrots and some more sticks. When it comes to nurturing and encouraging and getting the best out of people, some of us are better at it than others, and some of us are natural wielders of sticks and some better at offering carrots.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">As a writer, I've been on the receiving end of my share of rejection, and perhaps that's why I tend to be a carrot person. I offer encouragement when it’s needed and I praise when a job is well-done. Others shout, believing that to be motivation, and then they nitpick when a job is finished.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">If you’re a writer who needs a stick then by all means try <i>Write or Die</i> or <i>Flowstate</i>, because they might just help you to succeed. Who knows, this kind of punishment might even prepare you for the inevitable rejection to come.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I think I’ll stick to my black screen and my white page, and I’ll keep thinking pleasant thoughts and losing myself in the words.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><br /><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">We all have a process, and it might take a little time to work out what that process is, but whatever it is there’s always another weapon in the armoury, and if one of these apps becomes your weapon of choice, I'm not going to be the person that argues with that.</div>Nicola Vincent-Abnetthttps://plus.google.com/109074152191643376239noreply@blogger.com1tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-6477143695543382552.post-83718247208831051882016-02-09T08:55:00.000+00:002016-02-09T08:55:06.677+00:00It’s Not What You Know It’s Who You Know - Brooklyn Beckham Shoots for Burberry<div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><span style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: initial;">Personally, I've never suffered from nepotism.</span></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">There are times when I wish that I had.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The husband always considered it to be a very dirty word, so he decided very early in my career that he was never going to talk about me to editors or publishers, or very much at all. He kept his word.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Ironically, he was instrumental in furthering the careers of many writers and artists, and of other people too. He got kids work experience and he forwarded the names of various people who approached him, putting a word in for those he met along the way, liked and believed to be talented.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">He liked me, too, and he thought I was talented, but I was his lover and then his wife, and for him nepotism was and is a dirty word. If I’d been an acquaintance, a colleague or a friend, I would have benefited from knowing the husband. In the end, not only did I not benefit, I regularly gave my resources, time, skills and abilities for free in the furtherance of his career and to improve product that he was associated with, so companies got my services for free, too.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">No, this is not me being bitter. If nothing else, I had a long and valuable apprenticeship, but I also got to enjoy working without many of the pressures that other writers have.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">A couple of years ago, it crossed my mind that if anything happened to the husband, I would not be able to work, and it seemed ludicrous. T<span style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: initial;">he husband and I had a conversation… or three. I stood up for myself, and, now, the husband does talk about me, and he does acknowledge my skills and some of the work that I’ve done over the years.&nbsp;</span></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I did also get a toe-hold in the industry on my own, eventually. I submitted a novel for the Mslexia prize and took a runner-up spot. And it was I, and not the husband, who first secured the services of an agent. I didn’t think nepotism was a dirty word when I subsequently introduced her to the husband and he was also signed up with the agency.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The thing is, I always took his point, and I was always content being a backroom person. I didn’t want the glory or the pressure of being out front, particularly when I was still raising our family. I wanted to work, but mostly on my own terms. I also lacked confidence, and, to some degree, having one writer in the family, especially one as hardworking as the husband, was more than enough.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Nepotism is uncomfortable, because it so often puts people in positions that they neither deserve nor are prepared or qualified for. There are exceptions to this rule, though.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Isn’t it natural, for example, that the husband should be drawn to a woman who shares some of his creativity? Isn’t it also natural that a brother should grow up with intimate knowledge of his family’s business? Or that a child might inherit his parent’s talent? We’ve all seen extraordinary dynasties over the centuries, of industrialists, inventors, artists, writers, actors and scientists: The Redgraves, the Fondas, The Amises, The McCarthys and Wainwrights; Iris Murdoch was married to John Bailey, and Ted Hughes to Sylvia Plath.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="float: right; margin-left: 1em; text-align: right;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-xTkgB_6_ZlE/VribYcBLnNI/AAAAAAAABe4/RBfoYyrT73w/s1600/2965.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" height="240" src="https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-xTkgB_6_ZlE/VribYcBLnNI/AAAAAAAABe4/RBfoYyrT73w/s400/2965.jpg" width="400" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/jan/30/sheer-nepotism-brooklyn-beckham-burberry-shoot-angers-photographers" target="_blank">Brooklyn Beckham behind his camera from an article inThe Guardian</a></td></tr></tbody></table><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Last week, it was announced that Burberry had hired Brooklyn Beckham to shoot their latest fragrance campaign. Brooklyn Beckham is, of course, the son of the footballer David Beckham and the dress designer Victoria Beckham. He is also a sixteen year old schoolboy.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Brooklyn Beckham might have a talent for photography; I couldn’t comment. I know that he doesn’t have a fully developed skill set in the craft, because he’s a sixteen year old boy. I also know that he isn’t experienced, because he’s a sixteen year old boy. Most photographers go to art schools and universities to learn their craft and then into studios as assistants and technicians to hone their skills. Brooklyn Beckham hasn’t had the opportunity or the time to do those things, not yet.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">What <a href="https://www.instagram.com/brooklynbeckham/?hl=en" target="_blank">Brooklyn Beckham does have is six million followers on instagram</a>, because… well… he’s Brooklyn Beckham in a World where celebrity counts.&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">What Brooklyn Beckham no doubt has when he is shooting for Burberry is a highly trained and experienced team of photographers and photographic assistants advising and working with him to take the pictures that Burberry needs for the campaign.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">There has been an outcry in the media about Brooklyn Beckham being hired by Burberry to shoot their latest campaign, and if I was a photographer I think I’d probably be up in arms too. The fact is, though, this happens all the time in all the creative industries. Katie Price is invited to write books, Gemma Collins designs clothes, and every pop diva is responsible for a perfume… Except that Ms Price isn’t a writer, Ms Collins doesn’t, as far as I know, have a degree in fashion design, and your average celebrity chanteuse doesn’t have a highly developed nose.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Burberry made a business decision based not on Brooklyn Beckham’s talent, but on his popularity with young people.&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I’m not sure this is really nepotism at all. This is a celebrity endorsement.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Celebrity has a down side, and the down side to celebrity can be so extraordinarily damaging that I wouldn’t wish the kind of celebrity that the young Beckhams are stuck with on anyone, certainly not on a sixteen year old school boy.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">If Brooklyn Beckham loses his following, if he trips and falls from the precipice that is modern celebrity by whatever means, and some of the falls we've seen have been utterly tragic, this foray into fashion photography won't save him. It will be business as usual at Burberry, who will go back to employing professional photographers for their shoots, and act as if nothing ever happened.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Most really talented photographers will work, and they’ll work steadily and make a living at the job they love to do. Some of them will be highly acclaimed and still be able to walk down the street unnoticed and certainly unaccosted. I’m confident that in most situations David Bailey, Mario Testino and Annie Leibowitz can still buy a coffee and read a paper without having to worry about being approached by the public. I wonder if Brooklyn Beckham will ever have that luxury.</div><br /><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div>Nicola Vincent-Abnetthttps://plus.google.com/109074152191643376239noreply@blogger.com3tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-6477143695543382552.post-70491423325036971682016-02-08T11:47:00.003+00:002016-02-08T11:47:37.725+00:00A Night Out with the Girls<div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><span style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: initial;">OK.. Well, to begin with there were only two of us, but this was a rare event for me.</span></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">It’s been a long time, a very long time since I did this, and how times have changed.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">It’s not that I’m anti-social, but I don’t really do crowds and I don’t really do strangers, and I have virtually no smalltalk.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I do like people, though… I really like people. People don’t always like me. They often find me a bit odd and confusing. I think that’s to do with my interest, my engagement with almost any subject, and I think it’s to do with my almost total lack of filters. I’ve tried to do something about these things as I’ve got older, and I’ve succeeded to some small degree, but I can still be a little daunting to strangers… I daunt people; I know that I do, and I try very hard not to.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Anyway, I’m not exactly a social butterfly, and I don’t know a lot of people, so the whole big night out thing isn’t something I ever really do, and it’s not something I’ve done since I left university… not really.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I had my kids in my twenties and big chunks of my life have been pretty complicated, and then there’s the husband. It’s worth remembering that we both work alone, from home, so we don’t, as other people do, have colleagues, and we don’t have a work place, and we don’t meet people in the general course of our lives. Add to that the fact that we work a lot, and you’ll begin to get the picture that we’re veritable hermits. Even the people we actively count as friends we don’t actually see on a regular basis.&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Frankly, when it comes to being sociable, we’re pretty pathetic.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I do, however, have one or two women friends. I see them mostly intermittently, but I do enjoy their company when I get to spend time with them, even though it tends to be infrequently.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">One of those friends is single, and her social life is massively compromised because her work takes her all over the World. She’s never still, rarely home, and never in one place for long enough to meet anyone. She lives out of a suitcase, except that she lives about a mile from me. Keen to do better socially, to do something regular and normal, she asked if I’d go for a drink with her on Friday night. Of course, I agreed.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">My friend chose a pub restaurant in a local village. I’ve eaten lunch there a few times and it’s very civilised. I quite expected that we’d buy drinks, perhaps exchange a few words with other drinkers at the bar. Find somewhere to sit down, have a convivial evening and probably meet some new people.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="float: right; text-align: right;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="https://4.bp.blogspot.com/-L472EK8tflY/UD8Z2p-2taI/AAAAAAAAAPc/6XVoEfVqF0Y/s1600/Nikforblog_copy.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" height="400" src="https://4.bp.blogspot.com/-L472EK8tflY/UD8Z2p-2taI/AAAAAAAAAPc/6XVoEfVqF0Y/s400/Nikforblog_copy.jpg" width="292" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">The '80s when going out meant meeting people</td></tr></tbody></table><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">What I didn’t expect was largish groups of very young people, traipsing from the bar to the outside space every half an hour for a smoke. What I didn’t expect was standing room only. What I didn’t expect was backs turned, closed groups and no one to pass the time with. What I didn’t expect was girls in leather skirts and thigh boots hanging on skinny boys’ conversations. What I didn’t expect was to be the oldest person in the place by a couple of decades, particularly as we’d deliberately gone out of town and to a very up-market area.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I’m married, and I’m content. I don't have a lot of friends or acquaintances, because my life isn’t set up for that, but I’m perfectly happy. On the other hand, if I wanted to make friends or meet people, I’d assumed that I’d be able to do it. I assumed that my friend was making a sensible move when she invited me to the pub with her on a Friday night.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">We perched at the end of a fully occupied table on a couple of stools that we managed to commandeer, drank a glass of wine each and talked about the situation. This clearly wasn’t a good way to meet people, but we weren’t ready to give up. There was another pub on the other side of the village green, so we wandered across to it, bought another glass of wine each, and managed to get a table by the door.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The situation wasn’t very different at the new location. Most of the patrons were couples and groups. They’d come out together and were sticking together. There was no room in their lives for anyone new. Casual social interaction doesn’t happen in pubs on the weekend anymore, at least not these pubs.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I’m pretty easy going… That’s not actually true. I’m moderately socially anxious. I overcome that, though. I simply remind myself that no one’s very good at meeting new people, but the worst that can happen is a rejection, so I smile and I speak anyway. A simple hello isn’t the end of the World. In a more formal situation, I’m fairly confident about sticking out my hand and giving someone my name.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I’ve been in rooms with John Noble, Sir Terry Pratchett and Joss Whedon and been the first to step up and smile with my hand sticking out while others have shied away from contact, simply because they didn’t have the confidence. I can be bold or at least friendly when I feel there’s no harm in making an approach. I don’t remember an occasion when I wasn’t met with warmth.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Drinkers in a local pub on a Friday night in Kent can pretty well freeze a person out. I don’t think it’s deliberate, exactly, there simply was no opportunity to speak to anyone. Everyone was ensconced in an established social group and there was no room for interlopers. Besides, there were no groups that it would have been appropriate to interact with.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The internet is a wonderful thing. I approve of it. I use it all the time, for everything. I’m exploiting it now to get my thoughts across to you.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I wonder, though, how much it has changed how we interact socially.&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">My friend and I discussed how we might strategise her social life, and we had to come to the conclusion that she needed the internet. It seems to be how single people organise their lives now.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Over the years, I made friends and met boyfriends through my social groups, by going out and through work, when I had a place of work. I met my husband through my brother. I met one boyfriend in a laundrette for goodness sake. Does that ever happen any more?</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I met one good friend because we were in the same art class and another because she’s the wife of one of the husband’s friends. I met another through my sister-in-law. I still have a couple of friends from university. One of my women friends is the sister of a man I met in a pub, because we both happened to be regulars on the same quiet night, and I’m friends with him too. I particularly like a woman I met at a mutual friend’s birthday party and another who’s the wife of a writer I met at a convention. Some of these connections take a little effort, of course, but they have to be worth it.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Tinder and Grinder take no effort at all, and they’re based on appearance. And then, of course, there’s FaceBook and the other social networks that keep kids attached to the people that they would otherwise naturally shed and move on from as they make their way through their lives. But maybe there are other things, too. Maybe there are better ways to meet people our age, people that share our interests and our ideologies. I hope so, because I have a friend who is in want of a more fulfilling social life.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I expect to take part of this journey with her. It’s going to be interesting, and, who knows, maybe I’ll find some interesting people along the way too, maybe I’ll make a friend or two, because I’d bet my life there are an awful lot of people out there who’d be more than willing to share more of their lives with people like them and like my friend.</div><br /><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div>Nicola Vincent-Abnetthttps://plus.google.com/109074152191643376239noreply@blogger.com2tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-6477143695543382552.post-41939604215525610432016-02-03T10:10:00.000+00:002016-02-03T10:10:36.383+00:00How to Buy a Desk<div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><span style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: initial;">I’ve been putting my office together for over a year, now.</span></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">2015 was a bit strange. The office was all set at the end of ’14, but not decorated. I had planned to decorate, and then life with all its stuff and things took over, so it didn’t happen. It is about to happen.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I’ve bought paint… Twice. I’ve switched out a bed for a sofa-bed and I’ve had a stove fitted. All good things.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">My desk is actually an old table. It’s round and two leaves of the top fold down if I don’t want to use the entire surface. It would comfortably seat four for a meal, if it was used for its conventional purpose, and six if the diners were close friends. It’s a good and attractive table. I like it, but I decided that it was a little too large for my purposes.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The husband has a slightly smaller, square table in his office that I’ve always rather liked. Furniture is community property in our house, and it’s not uncommon for it to be moved around from room to room for all kinds of reasons. So, I wandered into the office with a cup of tea on Sunday and asked the husband about the table.&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I’m not quite sure why I expected a two minute conversation, because it never happens that way. I’m not sure how long the conversation actually lasted, but I do know it involved a careful study of his room and quite a lot of measuring.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">By the time we’d finished, the room had undergone a fairly radical redesign.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The husband had decided that he’d like to move some furniture and add a new piece, if I was to have the little table, and then came the big one… The husband had decided he was in want of a new desk.</div><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="float: right; margin-left: 1em; text-align: right;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-AUnFg8Ecd0A/Ui7bw0WVFKI/AAAAAAAAApk/SMbinlt0GB4/s1600/dan5.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" height="258" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-AUnFg8Ecd0A/Ui7bw0WVFKI/AAAAAAAAApk/SMbinlt0GB4/s320/dan5.jpg" width="320" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">The husband, elbows comfortably on the old desk</td></tr></tbody></table><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The current desk has been in operation for about fifteen years. It’s seen a lot of use, he’s spent a great many hours sitting at it… I’m not sure I could or would want to work out just how many. But the husband decided it was time for a change, and he had a pretty good idea what he wanted to replace the old desk with.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">So, yesterday, we went table hunting.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">As a writer, I’m peripatetic. I have a writing room, of sorts, an office, and I use it, but it’s a room where all kinds of things happen. I call it my office, because it’s used almost exclusively by me, but it isn’t exclusively my writing room and it certainly isn’t the only place that I write. This is less true of the husband.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The husband’s office isn’t the only place that he works. If he needs to do research, he might watch something or read anywhere in the house, he might take handwritten notes wherever he happens to be, and we can talk work in the car, on a train, in restaurants… you name it. The husband writes almost exclusively in his office, and almost exclusively at his desk. The chair he sits at and the table he writes at are pretty important to him.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Did I mention that the husband had a pretty good idea what he wanted to replace his desk with?</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Did I mention that we’re also not actually talking about a desk?</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">What the husband actually wanted was a table, and he didn’t want new.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">We don’t buy a great deal of new furniture. We live in an old house and we buy a lot of pre-owned stuff, especially when it comes to cupboards, cabinets and tables. I’m a sucker for old chairs, too, and I’m lucky enough to have a good upholsterer working locally.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">So, the husband knew the size and shape of table he wanted, but he also wanted something old.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">You can’t just walk into an office supplier and pick out what you want when <i>that’s </i>what you want.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">You could, of course, check out eBay, but with furniture it’s nice to see it, and to touch it.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Let me make it clear that we’re not talking about antiques here. The husband needs a good, solid, strong piece of furniture that will take daily use. He needs to be able to stand electronics on it, piles of books and other research materials, some of which might impact on its surface, dozens of beverages in the average week, and, of course, desk breakfasts and lunches most days. He really didn’t want anything precious that he would be afraid to mark or dink. He also didn’t want anything that would buckle under the weight, wobble at the joints or be uncomfortable to sit at. EBay wasn’t going to cut it.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I expected we might find a table in six months, or that it might take a year. It didn’t matter, we’d find a table when we found a table.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">We don’t take holidays, but we do try very&nbsp; hard to take time off on the first Monday of the month. It doesn’t happen every month, but we try. Yesterday, Tuesday, after a long run without a break, the husband declared that we were going to begin desk shopping. There are several places local to us where we begin this kind of search. So, we jumped in the car and drove to the first location.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="float: right; margin-left: 1em; text-align: right;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-W_MGnlmD_7U/VrHQ3HNy-nI/AAAAAAAABeo/uw1Wvdkch4U/s1600/11866375_911477675591443_7355015323805054123_n.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" height="400" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-W_MGnlmD_7U/VrHQ3HNy-nI/AAAAAAAABeo/uw1Wvdkch4U/s400/11866375_911477675591443_7355015323805054123_n.jpg" width="400" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Inside Hendersons. <br /><a href="https://www.facebook.com/thehendersonsshop/timeline" target="_blank">See more on their FaceBook page</a></td></tr></tbody></table><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The shop in Rochester hasn’t been open for long, probably about a year, but we were one of its first customers and we return regularly. We always come home from Hendersons with something, often something small, but always something. The couple that runs the place has a good eye and they buy well; they’re also lovely to deal with. I wandered into the shop first, as something in the window had caught the husband’s eye.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">As I walked into the shop, something caught my eye, too, and I turned. Inside the shop, the window display had been arranged on a table. It was gorgeous.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">“I’ve found it!” I said as the husband walked through the door.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The tape measure duly came out, a chair was pulled up to it, so that the husband could check the sitting position, and we oohed and aahed for ten minutes.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">We couldn’t quite believe that we had found the husband’s new writing desk, so we asked the owner not to sell the table for an hour while we thought about it, and went for a cup of coffee.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">We drank our coffee and talked about the table, and another piece of furniture that the husband liked for his office. I decided what I wanted to pay, because Hendersons are always comfortable doing a deal, and we returned to the shop to make our purchases.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><br /><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I thought that replacing the husband’s desk after fifteen years, thousands of comics, dozens of novels, several computer games and a movie would probably prove challenging, that it might take six months or a year to accomplish. It took an hour on a Tuesday morning. Go figure.</div>Nicola Vincent-Abnetthttps://plus.google.com/109074152191643376239noreply@blogger.com3tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-6477143695543382552.post-30291152724977186872016-02-02T09:33:00.000+00:002016-02-02T09:33:41.516+00:00Angouleme… and Those Awards<div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><span style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: initial;">I was going to tackle the Oscars and the lack of inclusion of any but white nominees for the major awards… I don’t know why I didn’t get around to it, except that time moves on apace, and others attacked the topic with relish. I rather wish I had got some thoughts down, though.</span></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I did write about the Hugos in 2014 when they were controversial for two reasons. A Twitter campaign by women caused the resignation of Jonathan Ross as presenter, and the inclusion of Vox Day as a nominee caused an uproar because of his unsavoury stances on race and gender.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The World Fantasy Awards also came under attack for using the effigy of HP Lovecraft as their award. The once beloved genre writer’s racism is currently coming under intense scrutiny. A new design for the award will be unveiled for 2016.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Public opinion and that of interest groups has become increasingly easy to hear, thanks to social media. The Twitterverse lights up brightly and instantly whenever a wrong is perceived to have been done. On the whole, I’m tempted to think that’s a good thing, particularly when the problem being highlighted is one of social injustice.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Last week saw the return of the annual Angouleme Comics Festival, it was the 43rd, and it included one of the best known and most respected Comics Awards in the World.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Nominations were announced some time ago, and that’s when the problems began. Of the original thirty nominees, none were women creators.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The Angouleme Awards are inclusive in so far as they cover all serial art, internationally. We’re not just talking about American comics of the type we’re all familiar with, and we’re including graphic novels and not just ephemeral monthlies. The French take their comics very seriously. Comics are not just passing entertainment.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="float: right; margin-left: 1em; text-align: right;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-JtlZRdBWf9s/Vq-GdwgbmsI/AAAAAAAABeY/4blNCLR0oEY/s1600/5150.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" height="240" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-JtlZRdBWf9s/Vq-GdwgbmsI/AAAAAAAABeY/4blNCLR0oEY/s400/5150.jpg" width="400" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;"><span style="background-color: white; color: #767676; font-family: 'Guardian Text Sans Web', 'Helvetica Neue', Helvetica, Arial, 'Lucida Grande', sans-serif; font-size: 12px; text-align: start;"><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/06/comic-book-artists-pull-out-award-protest-all-male-shortlist" target="_blank">Daniel Clowes, Joann Sfar and Riad Sattouf from a report in the Guardian</a></span></td></tr></tbody></table><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">When the list of nominees was made public, several great creators decided to withdraw their names from it. They objected to the lack of representation of women. They wanted women creators that they knew well and admired to be included. They made a stand, and it was admirable. I applaud them.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Taking the Grand Prix, the lifetime achievement award as a benchmark, women have rarely been recognised in the Angouleme Awards. In 43 years, the Grand Prix has been won by only one woman, the French artist <a href="http://www.cestac.com/cmoi.html" target="_blank">Florence Cestac</a>.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">When asked to comment on the lack of inclusion of women for this year's awards, a representative had this to say:</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><i>The concept of the grand prix is to reward an author for their whole oeuvre. When you look at the prize list, you can see the artists on it have a certain maturity and a certain age. Unfortunately, there are few women in the history of comics art. It’s a reality. If you go to the Louvre, you’ll equally find very few women artists.</i></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><i></i><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">It’s a bald statement, and, on the surface, an unpleasant one. It’s easy to say that the Grand Prix wasn’t the only prize on offer, and that there were, in fact, no women nominated in any of the other nine categories either.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The men who resigned their nominations pointed out that there are great women working in comics, and The Women in Comics Collective Against Sexism agreed, pointing at the inevitable glass ceiling as the barrier to their success.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">And therein lies the problem.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The representative for the Awards made a bald statement and he was vilified for it, but wasn’t it the truth?</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Women are writing and drawing great comics, now. They’re using the medium for their own ends, to write and draw the stories they want to put into the World, their stories. It’s a niche market in a&nbsp; niche medium. The audience is small, and, for the most part it’s other women. Women creators in comics are very much on the fringes. They’ve found a place for themselves out of necessity, not from choice. They’ve done it because much of the mainstream closes its doors on them. The men who see these women’s work see it because they want to, because they’re interested in every avenue down which the medium can lead a creator. That’s why some of the most recognised creators in the World know these women creators and why they wanted to stand by them. It’s why the rest of us don’t recognise these women’s names and don’t know their work.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The women are not at fault, and the awards system is not entirely at fault… The exception is of course that Angouleme could decide to create an award or awards exclusively for women creators, celebrating their very particular contribution to the art and broadening and strengthening the audience for women creators and their work, by shining a spotlight on them. These awards might influence the industry and open more doors for women.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The industry is most at fault in all of this. In the west, the industry is most broadly represented by mainstream American comics, by superheroes, by the big two, by DC Comics and by Marvel. They still produce male-centric comics, largely written and drawn by men, edited and published by men, and aimed at men and boys. There are women creators writing and drawing for the big two, but when they manage to get a foot in the door, they invariably write and draw for women characters. They are shoved into corners, boxed, labeled and limited.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">It is no coincidence that the Best Series Award at Angouleme went to <a href="http://gwillowwilson.com/about" target="_blank">G Willow Wilson</a> for <i>Ms Marvel vol 1. </i>Wilson’s name was not on the original list. It was added in a second round of nominations when the hue and cry went up because there were no women on the list. She was an afterthought. Wilson has been much praised for her work on <i>Ms Marvel.</i> It doesn’t surprise anyone that a woman writer is writing a woman character… It certainly doesn’t surprise me.&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Wilson has worked hard on <i>Ms Marvel</i>, and it’s a pretty decent comic. I read a couple of issues, and I thought she was doing a good job. She’s a popular writer and has the awards to prove it. Giving an award to Ms Wilson was also a safe move, politically, and there are lots of reasons for that: She’s in mainstream comics so people already know her name; she’s won awards before so there’s no question that she’s deserving; and she hits all the political hot buttons, because she’s a woman writing a woman character, and she’s a muslim writing a young muslim character in an American comic book.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Is that cynical of me? Perhaps it is. The point is that, unlike male creators, women creators in mainstream comics must have an angle, a selling point, or why would anyone buy their books?</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><a href="http://www.gailsimone.net/" target="_blank">Gail Simone</a> is one of the most famous names among women creators in mainstream comics. She’s best known for writing <i>Birds of Prey</i>, <i>Wonder Woman</i> and <i>Lara Croft. </i>She’s a woman writer, writing women characters, because that’s what girls do.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Both of these creators are proven writers. They've shown that they know what they're doing and they clearly love their work. I say let them spread their wings. Let's see what they can do when working with a full cast of characters, and not just the sectors that happen to bisect with their gender.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><i></i><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I’ve written one or two comic strips in my time as part of my output for various licenses. I wouldn’t call myself a comic book writer. From a creative point of view, it’s something I'd love to do more of. I’ve got ideas for comics written in my notebooks. There are one or two artists that I’d love to work with. I also know the mainstream comics industry, and as an industry it doesn’t hold a great deal of appeal for me. The older I get and the more I work in the industries that I work in the less appeal they hold for me. The fight doesn’t get any easier when you’re a woman working in male dominated industries, and I’ve always worked in them.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">We shoe-horn ourselves in any way that we can. We compromise when we have to, we pick our battles and we lose the majority of them, we are patronised and talked over, our ideas are appropriated if they are heard at all, and when we have proved just how good we really are we are labeled and boxed and given a selling point, because we’re considered useless without those things.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">We have different working lives from those of our male counterparts. Those problems are invisible to most men, and they’re not the fault of the convention organisers or of the awards committees. They run very deep, deeper than any but the women can see.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">We talk about them all the time between ourselves, but when we try to talk about them to men there is such a chasm between us that there is little hope for understanding. So, we do what we can, and most of what we can do is find small slivers of space in hostile environments and we make little pockets of space on the fringes of those environments. We are outliers. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">There will be men reading this who will gainsay me. They’ll call me a failure, say I’m not good enough, and that if I was I could compete with any man in my field. There are men who will condemn this blog as the whining of a nobody, and those who will call me a nag or a feminazi.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I’ve heard it all before, and yet here I am again. It’s exhausting, but I can’t stop and I won’t stop, because I might not be the best in my field, but there are women creators out there who are the equals of their male counterparts, and if it’s useless for me to throw an elbow for myself, I can at least throw one for them.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I want women in all walks of life to have equal career opportunities with men, but I think that it’s particularly critical in the arts. Art reflects life, and life art. Art holds a mirror up to society, and all the time that women are only a small percentage of those contributing effectively to the arts, that reflection is incomplete or distorted. We do not see a true picture of ourselves when the picture is drawn almost exclusively by men. Life reflects art, the patriarchy is reinforced, and a vicious cycle is perpetuated.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><br /><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Women have carved a separate niche, writing and illustrating comics outside of the mainstream that has been the preserve of men. They’re using the medium for their own ends and doing a great job of it, but ‘the industry’ still isn’t finding enough room for them. It’s wonderful that well-known men in comics, the artists that are lauded and praised see these women and recognise their talents. Artists are generally very good at being gender and race blind. If only that were true of the publishing industry. It’s a pity the women don't have a wider audience, a broader scope or a bigger window onto the World in which to display their wares. If they did, perhaps, they would earn some plaudits of their own.&nbsp;</div>Nicola Vincent-Abnetthttps://plus.google.com/109074152191643376239noreply@blogger.com1tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-6477143695543382552.post-1779447493540022242016-02-01T13:09:00.000+00:002016-02-01T13:09:43.045+00:00January and the Them/Us Divide<div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><span style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: initial;">After a busy, stressful week, the husband mooted popping out for an early supper on Saturday evening. It seemed like a damned good idea to me.</span></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Life and work, and stuff and things got rather drawn out, and when the dort arrived home early in the evening, we still weren’t ready to go out. On her way home, the dort had gone into town to pick up a few supplies and drop in on the restaurant where she used to work. She couldn’t believe how busy it all was.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">We’re not terribly sociable people. We like to eat out, and we like company, but we don’t want to stand six deep at a bar or wait forty minutes for a table. We want to be able to hear ourselves think and each other talk in any and all situations. We do go out at the weekends, but we pick our time slots. We eat very late lunches or very early suppers, and we choose from the restaurants we’ve been patronising for years, where we can be confident that a table will be found for us at busy times.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Monday is our regular night out. We go to an almost empty bar, where we know the servers and they know us, and where the other patrons are invariably our friends and acquaintances, people who know we’ll be around and drop in for a chat and a drink. I sometimes wonder whether our go-to place on a Monday night isn’t entirely empty on the Mondays when we don’t venture out. I wonder whether virtually all bars and restaurants are all-but empty on Monday nights; I suspect they probably are.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The dort wondered how it could be that the town was so damned busy, late on a cold, wet Saturday afternoon in January.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">It only took me a moment to realise why, and it’s about the divide; it’s about Them and Us.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">When we think about Them and Us, we generally think about the pay divide. We think about the differences between the haves and the have-nots, and let’s not pretend there aren’t a great many more people in the have-not bracket than there are people who have. Them, I suppose are the 1%, and Us the 99%.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">That’s not quite what I’m referring to, here, though. This is a little different.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I realised that the reason the town was busy on such a miserable Saturday, when, generally I would have expected it to be quiet, to be able to get that table at the restaurant very easily, was because it was the last Saturday of the month; It was the 30th of January, and that’s very important.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Most people still draw a monthly wage or salary. The last payday fell at or around Christmas, and was probably used up by the festivities and the credit card bills that paid for gifts and socialising when the festivities were over. Most people don’t have a lot of disposable cash in January. The next influx of money for most people, the next time wages dropped into bank accounts was probably the last Thursday in January. So, the first opportunity to go out for supper, or to shop for a treat was the last Saturday of the month. January is long and tough and penniless for a lot of us. The town was busy on Saturday, and the dort’s restaurant was busy, because people had just got their wages and were taking themselves out for a treat after a long month of frugality.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">For Us, that’s Them.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">We work for ourselves, and because we work for ourselves, we pay our taxes twice a year. The first instalment falls on the 31st of January. We don’t have a chunk of money land in our bank accounts at the end of January to alleviate the impoverishment of Christmas and give Us an opportunity to treat ourselves. We have a big chunk of money going out of our bank accounts to pay to the government for the privilege of having a working welfare system, among other things. I don’t begrudge it. There are times when I wish my vote counted for something, since I haven’t elected a government in a long time, but that’s the nature of democracy. If I had managed to elect a government, I’d probably be paying more tax than I do now… But that’s by the by.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Of course, we know we’re going to deplete our coffers on January 31st, because we’ve been working this way for a long time. So, on Saturday, if we’d decided to go out for supper, we could have done it… Thank goodness. Frankly, there have been years, in the past, when January really has been the cruellest month.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">This, I suppose, is by way of a cautionary tale, because more and more people are working freelance or going into business for themselves. I applaud everyone who has the confidence to do it, because it takes confidence, and lots of it… And it takes hard work, too. The world is a competitive place, and with unpaid internships and creatives working for free for bylines and credit and to add to their portfolios, things have never looked bleaker.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">There are people who begin to see returns on the investment of their talent and hard work, though, and there are people who begin to add to their incomes or start to make a living from working freelance or starting their own small businesses.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">One of those people began a thread on one of the social networks the other day, and I happened to see it, which is why I decided to write this blog.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Said individual was in fear that her accountant would not have her accounts prepared in time for the tax man’s deadline, and that she would incur a fine for being late handing in her assessment. She added that she’d sent everything to the accountant the previous week.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The person’s friends were very sympathetic in the thread comments, and they were hugely disparaging of the accountant in question, recommending that she look around for a new one.&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I hope it works out for her, and that she avoids the penalty and can pay any tax she's liable for, but I take a rather different view from her friendly commenters.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="float: right; margin-left: 1em; text-align: right;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-f9Zw1zWmZNM/U9wzHzEkuyI/AAAAAAAABKU/MSuFWXlDCaw/s1600/meanddan.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" height="400" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-f9Zw1zWmZNM/U9wzHzEkuyI/AAAAAAAABKU/MSuFWXlDCaw/s400/meanddan.jpg" width="313" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">A picture of us being writerly,<br />because if I put up a picture of our lovely accountant<br />he'd be horrified.</td></tr></tbody></table><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">It is important to have the funds on hand to pay ones taxes, and to do that it’s important to know your tax liability. Generally, a financial year ends in April. This being the case, most freelancers and small businesses have eight months between their year end and their assessment deadline. Handing the accountant your receipts and invoices and any spreadsheets you might have cobbled together a week before that deadline seems like madness to me. If all of an accountant’s clients did the same thing, his workload would be unmanageable, he’d be in utter chaos, and what would he do for the rest of the year? You, the freelancer or small business owner would also have no warning of your tax liability and no time to prepare to make your tax payment.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Of course, in the beginning, when earnings are small, tax liability will be small, too, so this might seem unimportant. You want to become successful, though, don’t you? If a freelancer becomes successful, if a small business grows, that tax liability will grow with it.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I’m a creative person. Words are my thing. It’s tough enough being a writer, and I’m not an accountant. We can’t all be good at everything, so we have to put our trust in others and pay them to do the things that they’re good at and qualified to do.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I bloody love my accountant. I still regularly ask him stupid questions, and he still patiently answers them. He’s seen me through some tough times over the years. When I’ve run late with my accounts, he’s been patient and diligent, and my assessments have always been on time, because he’s gone above and beyond the call of duty to make sure of it.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><br /><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">If you’re new to freelancing or running a small business, take it seriously. Make sure you know what you earn and what you spend, and keep good records. Employ an accountant, and make her your best friend. But, for the love of the gods, don’t give her a box of bits a week before your assessment’s due and just expect everything to go swimmingly. She’s an accountant, not a miracle worker.</div>Nicola Vincent-Abnetthttps://plus.google.com/109074152191643376239noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-6477143695543382552.post-12782546560185628352016-01-31T14:05:00.001+00:002016-01-31T14:05:08.659+00:00Collaborating with the Husband, and a Pat on the Back<div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><span style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: initial;">It’s a funny thing, collaborating with the husband, and something I’m asked about often.</span></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The husband has some status. He’s pretty well-known, even celebrated in some small corners of the publishing world. People know who he is. People should know who he is, because he’s damned good at what he does.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The husband has been responsible for hundreds, probably thousands of comics, and dozens of novels. I don’t know how many short stories he’s written, and now he’s making a name for himself in the games industry, too. He’s written audio dramas, and even a movie. His work has been optioned for film and tv. Dan’s version of the <i>Guardians of the Galaxy</i> was the basis of James Gunn’s blockbusting movie.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I’m one of the husband’s biggest fans, and there are lots of reasons for that, not the least of which is that I’m the one person who gets to watch him work.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">He and I have very different processes and, separately, we produce very different types of work, but, from time to time, when we want to, for fun, and sometimes to keep the work rolling along, Dan and I collaborate. There have been a number of novels, and other things, too. Right now, we’re working on narrative for a big computer game, which I’m sure you’ll all get to hear about in due course.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Collaboration comes in many forms.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Much of my input has been incidental, small, simply part of our day to day lives. We talk and we share. He discusses ideas with me, and I give him my take on things. Of course I leak into his process. I might have given him a set-up, named a character, added a theme, offered a sub-plot, even given a political insight… It happens naturally. I’m simply one of his many resources. Is that collaboration? I don’t know, perhaps it is, in its broadest sense. Writers take inspiration from all over. I see no reason to take credit for another’s work when my contribution was half of a conversation, a thought process, being a sounding board.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Dan is successful, and it is partly due to his success that I am able to collaborate with him, it is partly due to his success that I am able to work, too. So, sometimes, we work together on projects for which I am also credited.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The things we do separately are different, and our processes are different. There are things that he can do brilliantly that I wouldn’t try for, and there are things that I love to do that he would never choose to attempt. When we come together, the things we produce are a third thing, something different from the things I produce on my own, and different again from the things that he makes, solo. That’s part of the wonder of it.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">So we collaborate. If you want to know about the process, it goes something like this: We talk… We talk quite a lot about ideas, and from the talking we evolve a plot. All of this is done together.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The ideas thing is fine; we can both talk ideas until the cows come home. Plot, I struggle with more. I prefer not to plot, because I like what comes before in the writing to inform what comes afterwards. When I begin a solo project, I start with nothing more than a theme or a basic idea, and I allow it to grow in the writing. Sometimes the process moves me away from my original idea, sometimes not, but I enjoy the freedom. I like the mental process to be part of the writing process, for those two things to unfold together. The husband is used to doing a lot of the thinking first, and plotting quite extensively. This, of course, is a bi-product of the commissioning process. Publishers like to know what they’re getting. I speculate more and write for myself first to deliver a manuscript that I hope might one day sell.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Once we have a plot, I begin to write. Dan reads, comments and edits until he wants to take over or until I want him to, and we go back and forth. The more he likes what I’m doing, the longer I write. When the book is done, I do all the final edits. We are equals when it comes to the practicalities of the job. Sometimes, I do more of the day to day work; it just depends how the project happens to be running. There is no sense that it is an unequal partnership.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Dan carries all the weight in this writing relationship when it comes to status, and that’s true when it comes to reviews, too. I get a co-credit, of course, but reviews of our collaborations rarely include my name in the text. I’ve seen great reviews highlighting tracts of prose that I’ve written, but with the reviewer attaching the husband’s name. It doesn’t matter, just so long as the reviewer likes the product. It’s bound to happen. Why wouldn’t they see me as a make-weight? They know the husband can write; he has a track record. They don’t know me. They could put both our names in the text, but that would take time and effort, and they’ve all got limited word counts for their reviews.&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">There’s no way for a reviewer to know who contributed what to a collaboration, so, if they use a name, they’re bound to pick the husband’s. So be it.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">If I sound put out by this, I don’t mean to.</div><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="float: right; margin-left: 1em; text-align: right;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-XE5MbDnbzN4/Vq4POCkEAUI/AAAAAAAABdw/rSKTKNVCQik/s1600/WildsEnd_EnemyWithin_005_A_Main-1.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" height="400" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-XE5MbDnbzN4/Vq4POCkEAUI/AAAAAAAABdw/rSKTKNVCQik/s400/WildsEnd_EnemyWithin_005_A_Main-1.jpg" width="260" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Wild's End: The Enemy Within #5</td></tr></tbody></table><br /><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I say that, because this is all a preamble to a celebration of a comic book called <i>Wild's End.</i></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><i></i><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The first six part series of <i>Wild's End</i> ran last year. It was published by Boom! and written by Dan with art by the incomparable Ian Culbard. I love the comic. The elevator pitch for the first arc was <i>War of the Worlds </i>meets <i>the Wind in the Willows</i>, and I think it’s extraordinary. I was very glad that a lot of other people thought that it was extraordinary too, and, as a result, the series has been collected into a trade paperback <i><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Wilds-End-Dan-Abnett/dp/1608867358" target="_blank">Wild's End: First Light</a></i>&nbsp;, and the second six part series, <i>Wild's End: The Enemy Within</i> was commissioned. The last episode will be out next month.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Each issue of the comic book has several additional pages at the end, which we call back-matter; others refer to this stuff as bonus material. Ian uses some of this space to draw beautiful maps of the countryside where the story takes place, and, in the beginning, Dan did some things with newspaper cuttings and whatnot. At some point, and I don't remember when, he came to me and asked if I’d help him out by filling these extra pages with stuff that interested me about the characters in this story and the situations they faced.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I loved <i>Wild's End</i>, and I loved what Dan and Ian were doing with the story. It was all there on the page, so I jumped at the chance to contribute.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Of the twelve issues of <i>Wild's End</i> that the guys have produced, I’ve written back matter for nine of them, three for the first series and all of the second series. Each month, I sit down to think about what I might do, I run a few ideas past the husband, and I get started. At no point has he told me what to do or interfered with my process. He’s let me run with it, and I’ve enjoyed every moment.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">These are small jobs of work, less than a couple of thousand words long, and never more than an afternoon’s work, but they’ve given me immense pleasure.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="float: left; margin-right: 1em; text-align: left;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-4lQDJ3zRqqk/Vq4PQHqs55I/AAAAAAAABd4/YuoTWJOxnJU/s1600/Featured12-23.png" imageanchor="1" style="clear: left; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" height="157" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-4lQDJ3zRqqk/Vq4PQHqs55I/AAAAAAAABd4/YuoTWJOxnJU/s320/Featured12-23.png" width="320" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Fawkes from Wild's End</td></tr></tbody></table><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Back matter isn’t new, it regularly appears in comic books in various forms. It is seldom commented on by reviewers.&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I was surprised and delighted when reviews of <i>Wild's End </i>began to include comments about the back matter that I’d written. I was thrilled when my name began to appear in those reviews. Then, something extraordinary happened,&nbsp; and it was so extraordinary, and so trippy and it gave me such a huge confidence boost that I’m going to copy it here in all its glory. This review came out on my birthday, and it was written by Matt Carter for <a href="http://project-nerd.com/" target="_blank">Project Nerd</a>.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><i>Wild’s End: Enemy Within #4 of 6&nbsp;(Boom! Studios)</i></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><i>created by Dan Abnett and I.N.J. Culbard; written by Dan Abnett; illustrated and lettered by I.N.J. Culbard; additional material by Nik Abnett</i></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><i></i><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><i>While Dan Abnett’s plot is engaging, his characters endearingly compelling—little Alfie shines in this issue—and Culbard’s illustrative work is some of the best you’ll find anywhere, it’s Nik Abnett’s supplemental material that really ties this series together, making this issue quite a moving read.</i></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><i>Major Helena Upton’s letter to her father is a beautifully written demonstration of feminist defiance inspired by prisoner Susan Peardew’s antagonistic strength during her interrogation back in issue #2. In the letter, Upton identifies as a compassionate woman, daughter, soldier, and rebel—her life is a constant tightrope walk and she’s been suddenly inspired by this seemingly powerless, meek woman who “did not just stand up for the truth…she made a powerful, arrogant man cower before her.” It’s an insurmountable power that comes from a place of total conviction.</i></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><i>This book has been a team effort from the start, but my hat goes off to you for this issue, Mrs. Abnett—the writer and artist are certainly very talented and I love their work, but this one is all you.</i></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><i></i><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I adore the husband, and I admire what he does and how he does it. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I write too. I’m never going to be him, but, you know what? I have no ambition to be him; one of us per family is plenty. As a writer, I live somewhere in the depths of a long shadow, and I know that there are worse places to be, but when someone gets a torch and shines a light on me, it’s lovely to bask in that glow for a moment or two.&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The first review came out on my birthday and it was enough. Then, a month later there was a second review, and I got to bask all over again.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><i>Wild’s End #5 of 6 (Boom! Studios)</i></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><i>created by Dan Abnett and I.N.J. Culbard; written by Dan Abnett; illustrated and lettered by I.N.J. Culbard; additional material by Nik Abnett</i></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><i></i><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><i>Another stellar issue from the Abnett’s and Mr. Culbard. As this series approaches its final issue, we’ve hit the third act in a highly entertaining, character-driven sci-fi/action story that has been a pleasure to read. The dialogue is peppered with dry, English humor—I’m pretty sure the intended accents of Coggles and Fawksie have only gotten more exaggerated as the story has gotten more intense—and the script has plenty of action, but it’s the on-page chemistry of the characters that really sells this book for me.</i></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><i>I haven’t had a minute to confirm it, but I suspect that there’s an underlying narrative to Nik Abnett’s backup material that will become clear in the final issue. When we all figure it out, we’re going to feel like a bunch of dummies for not getting it sooner. Contrasting with last month’s emotionally moving feminist creed from Major Helena Upton, Abnett gives us some perspective from the subject of Upton’s letter—Susan Peardew, who’s using her writing as a way to simply keep hanging on. It’s a heartbreaking vision of a character who was presented as the portrait of stoicism in last month’s backup, proving that how we are perceived is truly a matter of perspective. I wasn’t the only one who praised Mrs. Abnett’s work last month, and I doubt I’ll be alone in my appreciation this month. Great work, ma’am.</i></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><i></i><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Ceej at <a href="http://bigcomicpage.com/" target="_blank">Big Comic Page</a> also liked my work. He reviewed issue five of <i>Wilds End, </i>and had this to say, among other good things:</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><i>One thing I haven’t touched upon much in my previous reviews is the wonderful ‘bonus material’ that Abnett includes with every issue.&nbsp; Too busy gushing about the main story, I guess.&nbsp; While the standard has been consistently high thus far with newspaper articles, diaries and the like, in this particular issue it works even better, taking the form of Susan Peardew’s journal as she seeks outside assistance along with Mr Minks.&nbsp; With both characters absent from the main story here, this adds some much-needed additional flavor to the issue, allowing us to check in with two of our heroes without having to sacrifice or distract from the main narrative.&nbsp; Terrific stuff.</i></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><i></i><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I was particularly gratified when the husband left a comment, pointing out that I was actually responsible for the back matter, and agreeing that he and Ian thought it was wonderful, too.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Ceej responded:</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><i>Always a pleasure, Dan. I hadn’t realised that about the bonus material, but thanks for the heads up. Great work, Nik!</i></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><i></i><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The second series of <i>Wild's End</i> is about to end, and all the writing is done. I hope the readers and reviewers like the final episode when it hits the racks in February. I shall miss writing the back matter… I already do, but I plan to take this experience forward with me.&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><br /><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">A lot of writers take a great deal of rejection throughout their careers, and I'm no exception to that rule. When I do something right it might be recognised without my name being associated with it, and that's OK, too. But, when they come, recognition and praise are great motivators; they’re no substitutes for hard work, but a little confidence boost never hurt anyone, and I need it as much as any writer does.</div>Nicola Vincent-Abnetthttps://plus.google.com/109074152191643376239noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-6477143695543382552.post-62819367964554703142016-01-27T10:06:00.000+00:002016-01-27T10:06:53.999+00:00A Thought on the Arts: Where Craft Meets Concept<div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I was given pause, yesterday. I was given pause and it made me think about the other two occasions in the past few days when I’ve been given pause.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">On all three occasions the subject that gave me pause was creativity. They were small things, or at least, not so small in many ways, but the triggers seemed reasonably small in scope at the time. The problem is that all of these three smallish pauses are part of a bigger and more important thought-scape.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">It’s something I feel the need to tackle, and yet it is full of contradictions and culs-de-sac… And I’m not even sure where to begin.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Perhaps I should begin at the beginning with the triggers.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Last week, an English undergraduate asked me whether she should consider taking a Masters degree in Creative Writing.</div><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="float: right; margin-left: 1em; text-align: right;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-JB4TIkCWrA4/VqiToILKwsI/AAAAAAAABdg/wzYDEw313SQ/s1600/employees-of-sothebys-auction-house-pose-with-us-artist-mark-rothkos.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" height="262" src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-JB4TIkCWrA4/VqiToILKwsI/AAAAAAAABdg/wzYDEw313SQ/s400/employees-of-sothebys-auction-house-pose-with-us-artist-mark-rothkos.jpg" width="400" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://uk.businessinsider.com/afp-rothko-painting-sells-for-46.5-million-in-ny-auction-2015-5" target="_blank">The sale of a Rothko at Sothebys for upwards of £45 million</a></td></tr></tbody></table><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">A couple of days ago a very well known commercial artist who is famous for his SF book jackets talked in the social media about a Rothko that sold last May for upwards of £45 million.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Yesterday, I looked at some art by the twentieth century war artist and illustrator Evelyn Dunbar.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">My answer to the student’s question was No… Then I thought about it. It’s more complicated than that, of course.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">My response to the news about the Rothko was ‘I bloody love Rothko… and Auerbach and Hodgkin!’</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">My response to Evelyn Dunbar was that her sketches were energetic and dynamic and extraordinary, and that all of those things were lacking in her finished work.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Now, here’s where I contradict myself, again in three convenient points.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I become deeply frustrated by how poor some contemporary writing is. I wish that books were better written and better edited. I often feel the same way about tv and film scripts. I wish that grammar was taught in schools. I wish that writers had a better understanding of cadence and rhythm. I wish they knew how to develop themes and ideas. All of these things can be taught in English Language classes in school, but don’t seem to be anymore. And, besides none of that really matters because talent can’t be taught.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">While art does not have to be figurative to be beautiful, Rothko, Auerbach and Hodgkin did learn conventional skills, and it was those skills that allowed them to make beautiful, accomplished art outside of the constraints of the figurative. It is ignorance to suggest that this form of art has no value, and I was appalled when commenters on the social media thread did just that.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Evelyn Dunbar clearly had talent, but being taught art, studying it, stifled her creativity, hindered her process and did not allow her to produce her best work… Or was that her personality? Did she choose to conform? And this is only my opinion, of course.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Already, I’m in a quandary.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Already, I find that I am contradicting myself.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">It is not possible simply to <i>be</i> an artist of any kind, whether that is a writer, a painter or a musician. It is not enough to want to be an artist, one must practice one’s art. It is not enough to have an idea for a story, a song or a picture, one must have the skills to translate those ideas to the page, the stave or the canvas.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Practice is one thing, but learning blindly, alone is difficult. Instruction can be useful.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I know people who can play an instrument by ear, and can therefore compose by ear, but how sophisticated can a piece of music be that cannot be written down? It might be possible to compose a pop song, a verse and a chorus, and to be able to repeat it, but it can only be handed on to another person by repeating it to them, probably more than once.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">There is no way to write a concerto, for example, and to hold all of that information in one’s head, to make subtle changes, to draft and redraft each movement, and to arrange it for an orchestra.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">To be a serious composer, it must, surely, be important to learn to read music and to play an instrument to a high standard. To be a composer, surely one must have more than a natural ear, one must be trained.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Of course, it’s also possible to take a four year old child and to make it learn an instrument, to give it lessons and make it practice daily, perhaps for decades, and still not produce a talented composer.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Of course, there have been any number of very talented popular musicians who have been self-taught, and singers who've had no vocal coaching. Great music doesn't have to be classical music.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The same is probably true of the painter. Even a talented artist can only learn so much about materials by trial and error. Oils and watercolours are both highly technical mediums to work in, and without some instruction a painter might produce a beautiful painting that simply cannot endure, for example. On the other hand, some of the most beautiful art ever produced has endured for thousands of years, and who knows who painted the walls of the caves at Lascaux? Naive and primitive art does not rely on years of learning skills, but retains its value.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">As an art student, my enduring frustration was that I could not realise my ideas because there was no one willing to teach me skills. Ideas, concepts were currency, and I had plenty of them, but I never had the satisfaction of seeing them fully realised, because I simply didn’t have the craft. No value was ever put on the craft.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I know artists with wonderful skills who can do no more than reproduce what is in front of them. They make decorative work devoid of thought or expression, and it seems dull to me.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">There are, or at least there have been, schools of art, too. There have been times when there has been a trend, a right or current way to achieve something. We see it in various periods of art history. So, students during those periods conformed to those expectations, but what if their talents naturally lay in other areas? Would they tow the line, or must they rebel to achieve their ends? Would they even graduate art college if they failed to produce what was expected of them?</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Writing is very particular among the arts because it simply extends a skill that is universal. We all communicate, we all use words all the time. We don’t all write, not even e-mails or texts, although a great many of us do. But all but a very few of us have the power of speech. We all have a vocabulary. Very nearly all of us learn to read and write, even if we do not read for pleasure. Very nearly all of us partake of some form of entertainment that involves communication, whether that’s the written word or the spoken word, whether it’s books, comics, poetry, radio, tv, movies… Words belong to all of us all of the time.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">By comparison to the writing student, many art students have had very little real art training before they head off to art school.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">We do not all learn music and we do not all learn art. We do all learn to read and write.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">What we need, I think, in all of the arts, is a synthesis of skills and ideas. Neither, on its own, is satisfying for very long, and while ideas will always outlive craft, the best ideas will invariably be taken up by better practitioners in new ways and will always be exploited. Artists with the best ideas and with a compulsion will always, I hope, master the skills to produce outstanding art in any arena. They will always find inspiration from those who’ve gone before, and often from masters and mentors too.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The rest is about personality. Some will need encouragement and support, some will need solitude. Some will need order and routine, some will need spontaneity and chaos. Most, perhaps all, will need instruction. How much instruction and for how long will probably depend on the artist. Some might need tutoring their entire lives, others might prefer to rely on practice and on their own processes.</div><br /><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div>Nicola Vincent-Abnetthttps://plus.google.com/109074152191643376239noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-6477143695543382552.post-11760661790322141252016-01-25T14:48:00.000+00:002016-01-25T14:48:33.564+00:00Walking with Wolves… Or not<div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><span style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: initial;">So, we had plans last weekend… And the best laid plans…</span></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">We were supposed to be walking with wolves. There’s a place that offers the opportunity to do that. We were excited, because that’s the sort of thing we get excited about. We booked a place to stay, made arrangements to do other stuff for the weekend, sorted out the house-sitter, and made our way… well… away.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="float: right; margin-left: 1em; text-align: right;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-vOLwe441Suk/VqYzhnjnv4I/AAAAAAAABdA/gINK_FY3gKI/s1600/foxhall.JPG" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" height="300" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-vOLwe441Suk/VqYzhnjnv4I/AAAAAAAABdA/gINK_FY3gKI/s400/foxhall.JPG" width="400" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Part of the sitting room and the sleeping alcove<br />Fox Hall</td></tr></tbody></table><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><a href="http://www.landmarktrust.org.uk/" target="_blank">Fox Hall is a Landmark Trust </a>property located just outside Chichester. We like the Landmark Turst; you might know this from reading previous posts about our sojourns at the historic houses that they rent to the public. Whenever we have to venture away from home for a few days, we try to book a Landmark, and last weekend was no exception.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Fox Hall was the closest Landmark to where we needed to be for the wolf walk. We don’t generally book the smaller buildings. We like a bit of room, and we sometimes have other people with us for some of the activities we embark upon. Fox Hall is one of the smaller Landmark buildings we’ve visited, and, honestly, I was a little trepidatious about booking it.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I needn’t have been.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="float: left; margin-right: 1em; text-align: left;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-_AQditlACuY/VqY0rhprQkI/AAAAAAAABdQ/MwQiTe3JuGs/s1600/FoxHallInteriorEdPMar14_600x400.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: left; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" height="213" src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-_AQditlACuY/VqY0rhprQkI/AAAAAAAABdQ/MwQiTe3JuGs/s320/FoxHallInteriorEdPMar14_600x400.jpg" width="320" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.landmarktrust.org.uk/search-and-book/properties/fox-hall-7468" target="_blank">Fox Hall</a></td></tr></tbody></table><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The Hall was built by the Duke of Richmond, so that he could be close to the Charlton Hunt. It’s a little Palladian building over two floors. Below is an entrance hall with a twin bedroom and bathroom, and above is a large sitting room with an alcove for a double bed, and a little kitchen. It has a grand fireplace where we built roaring fires, silk covered walls, an impressive chandelier, and any amount of coving and gilding. The large sash windows on two aspects look out over rolling countryside to one side and stables to the other, and have shutters to keep out the darkness and the drafts.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Fox Hall is cosy and intimate for two, while feeling elegant and palatial. We absolutely loved it, and won’t need much of an excuse to return at the very first opportunity. If I could turn back the clocks a decade or two (or even three) this would be the perfect place for a wonderful honeymoon.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The sitting room is easily big enough for four, and there’s also room for a dining table that comfortably accommodates four people. The floor plan is bigger than the average new-build, so, providing privacy is allowed to those sleeping in the alcove, I imagine that there are couples who’d be more than willing to share this house with whoever they chose to tuck up in the twin bedroom downstairs: kids, friends or even younger of older relatives. We rather liked having the place to ourselves.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Every Landmark Trust building is special in its own way, but this one had a particularly lovely atmosphere, and we felt very relaxed and happy in it.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><br /><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">As for the wolf walk, the husband hurt his foot on Saturday, so wasn’t able to trek across country for several miles on Sunday afternoon; we called it off. It was a great pity, but it’s impossible to regret staying at Fox Hall. We did spend an hour in Chichester instead. The husband limped manfully around the Pallant Gallery, looking for stimulus, while I researched some art for a project. Time is never wasted.</div>Nicola Vincent-Abnetthttps://plus.google.com/109074152191643376239noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-6477143695543382552.post-89836879180093447622016-01-21T12:10:00.001+00:002016-01-21T12:10:51.952+00:00The Yellow Star, the Pink Triangle… The Red Door<div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><span style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: initial;">Right now I’d like to urge every right-thinking person in Middlesbrough to go to one of the local DIY shops as soon as possible, buy a pot of red paint and a brush, and paint the front door of his or her home.</span></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Right now, I see no other simple solution to this problem.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Of course, if this did happen, and if enough homes in Middlesbrough suddenly displayed red front doors there’d soon be a shortage of eggs in the town, but things would quickly settle down… Or would they?</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Here’s what’s happening, for those of you who haven’t yet read this tidbit of news.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">An asylum seeker in Middlesbrough noticed that the home he was assigned had a red door, and that the homes of other asylum seekers he knew also had red doors. The homes of asylum seekers in Middlesbrough are regularly attacked. Vandals pelt their windows with eggs and gob phlegm through their letterboxes, and dog turds are left on their doorsteps.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="float: right; margin-left: 1em; text-align: right;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-uvs1bYtU0ZQ/VqDJKvIq4_I/AAAAAAAABcw/BIUjAFczn88/s1600/Bronze-Red2.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" height="310" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-uvs1bYtU0ZQ/VqDJKvIq4_I/AAAAAAAABcw/BIUjAFczn88/s400/Bronze-Red2.jpg" width="400" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Bronze Red by <a href="http://www.littlegreene.com/" target="_blank">Little Green</a><br />A great colour for a front door</td></tr></tbody></table><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The asylum seeker and his housemates conducted an experiment whereby they scrounged together the funds for a pot of white paint, and they changed the colour of their front door. The vandalism stopped. It stopped until their landlords painted the door red again a fortnight later.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">As an aside, I’m not sure how painting a front door puts the asylum seekers in breach of a tenancy agreement or why a door would need to be painted twice in a fortnight. I won’t mention the fact that I’ve rented property in the past, and that I know trying to get even essential works completed in the space of a couple of weeks is virtually impossible. Doing a cosmetic job like painting a front door would be a long way down a very long list of household maintenance on most rental properties. Of the 168 properties managed by the contractor who did the work, 155 have red doors.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">According to the article I read, it is common knowledge among the locals that asylum seekers live in houses with red doors. They are easy targets. It clearly wasn’t common knowledge among the asylum seekers, who had to work it out for themselves.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The same contractor manages similar properties in Stockton-on-Tees where it also houses asylum seekers, and those houses also have red doors. The conservative MP for Stockton South is reported as saying, “I suspect they got a job lot of doors or paint and just didn’t think about it.”</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Not for nothing, that would mean hundreds of doors, or enough paint for hundreds of doors. I realise that contractors buy in bulk, but in those quantities? To paint the 155 red front doors in Middlesbrough alone would take over 90 litres of paint, and that’s a lot of cans to warehouse, and where would they keep the rest of the paint they bought in that ‘job lot’, all that magnolia emulsion?</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">It’s so simple isn’t it? It’s so easy to explain a thing away. It might even be true, but if it is then somebody should have thought about it. It’s a simple enough equation.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><i>Q: We are homing vulnerable people, does anything about our properties signal their presence?</i></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><i>A: Yes, they’re identifiable by the colour of their front doors!</i></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><i></i><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">If it was a coincidence at the outset, it must soon have become clear that the red door was an identifier, and that some members of the community were using the red doors as a signal to attack. Steps could have been taken to make the asylum seekers safer by making their front doors less uniform and more anonymous. Those steps weren’t taken. In fact, the contractor repainted a door, making that home less safe for its occupants.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">There is to be a Home Office investigation into this situation, an audit is to be performed.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">There is a possibility that the audit will find that the red doors really do put asylum seekers at risk. I imagine that no fault will be found, that this will all be put down to ‘a job lot of doors&nbsp; or paint’. So be it. None of us wants to think the worst of people. No doubt, this will be seen as some kind of isolated incident, an aberration. I imagine that the contractor will undertake to get rid of the red doors.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">But what then? Will they simply get another job lot of paint? And how long will all of this take? Will it be weeks or months before the red doors are gone? How much more abuse and vandalism will the asylum seekers suffer at the hands of their neighbours? And when they’re gone, how long will it be before the abusers know the homes of asylum seekers by their distinctive green doors?</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I’d be tempted to give the asylum seekers a voucher for their nearest DIY store and let them choose their own colours for their front doors, and then require the contractor to send someone to repaint the door with that paint. I’m sure that wouldn’t work, though. I’m sure there must be a hundred reasons why asylum seekers couldn’t be trusted to buy the right kind of paint, or why decorators couldn’t be allowed to use paint supplied by the tenant… Or who knows what else. There are always reasons why not.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Red doors are dividing these neighbours one from another. They’re preventing this community from forming some kind of integrated whole.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">It’s not the paint, though, is it? It’s the people.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">People have been building societies for millennia, and part of building societies is finding enemies and scapegoats, and the people we need to hate to feel better about ourselves. It’s the ugly side of who we are, and it’s a trait that surfaces in all circumstances.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Nazi Germany gave its people the yellow star and the pink triangle, and a number of other symbols by which to define people and then to marginalise and despise them. The people of Middlesbrough, whether by accident or design have found a symbol, a label for their asylum seekers, and it is ugly. I cannot think, however, that it is unique.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">John Stuart Mill said this:</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><i>Let not any one pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part, and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.</i></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><i></i><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">So, we must form opinions and we must hope that they are good, and then we must act upon them. While the asylum seekers of Middlesbrough wait for Home Office officials to investigate their problem, perhaps the good people of the town, the asylum seekers neighbours should form their own good opinions, and perhaps they should cease to look on and do nothing. Perhaps they should try to do something about the least of them, the people who are abusing their neighbours and vandalising the houses with the red doors.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><br /><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I might not have the nerve to confront a vandal, but I might just go out and buy a pot of red paint and change the colour of my front door.</div><div><br /></div>Nicola Vincent-Abnetthttps://plus.google.com/109074152191643376239noreply@blogger.com2tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-6477143695543382552.post-3843039334263162412016-01-20T10:12:00.002+00:002016-01-20T10:12:29.296+00:00A Comment on Writing Courses<div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Writing is Big Business</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">It’s true.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">And I’m not talking about writers earning money from their work, because we all know how rare that is. The average advance on a first novel is dropping all the time, and the average sales of a first novel are lower than most of you can imagine or would believe if I told you.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Of course, there are stars in the literary firmament. We all know who they are. I also personally know some wonderful, well-known, award-winning writers who can’t make ends meet on the earnings from their work. I’m talking about writers who write consistently and have put out a decent body of work and continue to write a substantial amount.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Writing doesn’t pay.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Nevertheless, writing is big business.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">It’s big business, because people still want to do it, they still think they can do it, and they still believe that they will make money at it. A lot of people who want to write still honestly believe that they will make their fortunes when they’ve finished their novel and those lucky publishers get to read it. People who haven’t done this job and don’t know what it means to do it still honestly think that publishers will fight over their work, and that fight will mean a bidding war that will land them earnings for life.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">They might just as well buy a lottery ticket.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Writing is big business because very good writers need to earn money. They need to earn money because writing doesn’t pay them a living wage.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">This equation leads a lot of people to be very happy to pay sometimes pretty large sums of money to take writing courses, and it leads writers to run them.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I’ve written about writing courses before. There are a great many of them, and I suspect that most of them aren’t terribly good or useful, depending on what the student is looking for or hoping to get out of them. I’ve never taken a writing course, and neither has the husband. We've never run one, either, not together and not separately.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">When I mentioned that I was going to write this blog, the husband said that anyone who wanted his advice on writing and, in particular, on writing courses could send him a tenner… He was only half-joking.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Of course, I wouldn’t claim to be any kind of an expert, but that’s never stopped me having an opinion before.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="float: right; margin-left: 1em; text-align: right;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-AUnFg8Ecd0A/Ui7bw0WVFKI/AAAAAAAAApk/SMbinlt0GB4/s1600/dan5.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" height="322" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-AUnFg8Ecd0A/Ui7bw0WVFKI/AAAAAAAAApk/SMbinlt0GB4/s400/dan5.jpg" width="400" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">The Husband at his desk, where he writes and earns money:<br />Not your Average Writer!<br />Photo by James K Barnett</td></tr></tbody></table><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">It saddens and frustrates me that good writers don’t earn good money. On the other hand, there’s a little bit of me that still believes that if they really were <i>that </i>good they absolutely would be able to afford to live on their earnings. Not for nothing, the husband and I are both writers and our only income is what we can make from our writing. The husband’s pretty well known in his field, but he’s not the sort of megastar that might translate into a household name, and, let’s face it, a lot of the time, I can’t get arrested.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">We work a lot and we work hard. We do what’s needed. We hit targets. We’re professionals. The husband’s talented and adaptable, and he works fast and cleanly. He’s also had a lot of practice at this thing we call writing.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The back page of Saturday’s <i>Guardian Review</i> section was a full page ad for the <a href="https://www.uea.ac.uk/literature/creative-writing/uea-guardian-masterclasses" target="_blank">UEA-Guardian Masterclasses</a>. Ad space in any newspaper or magazine has to pay, full-page ads are expensive and back page ads the most expensive of all. I happen to know this because I've sold ad space. This is a house ad, of course, but assuming the ad sales team could have sold the space to a third party, it would have been bloody expensive. Ad revenue is a big part of the profit margin of any newspaper and any magazine, and it’s often the difference between keeping the presses rolling and the end of the line.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The ad for UEA-Guardian Masterclasses clearly pays. People will respond to this ad and buy these products. The writing courses on offer from the Guardian in association with the UEA are clearly profitable, successful, beloved.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I will just say that the University of East Anglia probably has the best Creative Writing department in the country, with students studying at all levels. Its list of alumni is formidable. I question how it’s possible to teach writing, but if it’s possible at all UEA has learned how to do it well and effectively. The university deserves credit for its accomplishment. It has a great reputation.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Of course, the best writers seek out the best courses, and the best minds tend to congregate and find one another. I suspect that the writers that passed through UEA would still have written and would still have been published to great acclaim. Did their alma mater support and nurture them? I’m sure it did, but it did not make them; it could not have invested with talent those who had none.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Six courses are advertised on the back page of the <i>Guardian Review.</i> I’m going to talk about the first three. The first is a level one course titled <i>How to tell a story, </i>the second is a level two course titled <i>How to complete the first draft of a novel</i> and the last is a level three course titled <i>How to finish a work of fiction.</i> Having read the descriptions of the courses, and having surmised that the level distinctions indicate advancement, I’m jumping to the conclusion that completing these three courses might get a novice writer to the point where he’s happy with a final draft of a first novel.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Together, the three courses run for a total of twenty-one months. I think that it should be possible, with good intentions and this kind of guidance, to finish a novel in two years, even for a part-time writer.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">This all sounds rather wonderful. With a bit of self-belief, lots of guidance from qualified people, (the courses are all run by writers), an investment of time and a bit of effort, a keen writer should have a finished manuscript in two years.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I repeat. That’s wonderful! If all that writer wants to do is finish a novel, and if what he wants is to meet other writers, and have his work appraised and guided, I’d have no problem saying, ‘Go ahead… Writing courses are a fantastic way to spend your time.’</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Time is a precious commodity though, for most of us. Time spent doing something you love is always a good investment. If you love to write, don’t count the time spent. Most new writers, and most of the writers who want to be published aren’t thinking about it this way, though… at least not in my experience.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I generally write more than the average writer, at least more than the average novice or amateur writer. A portion of my year is given over to writing something for myself. I could earn more money by writing more of the stuff that earns me money, but it matters to me to do something of my own once in a while. I feel that I have something to say. To that end, I have several hundreds of thousands of words in files on my computer that have not been published or read by the public. That’s OK with me. I don’t know how OK that would be with most writers. I don’t know how OK the kind of rejection that goes with having a number of unpublished books languishing in files on a computer would be with most writers. I don’t know what percentage of writers keeps going. I don’t know what percentage of writers begins a second novel after the first has been soundly rejected… or the second… or the third. But, that’s what <i>writers</i> do.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Money is the other component in all of this. Money is also a precious commodity for most of us. Of course, there are people who want to be writers for whom money is no object. There are people who have or have had professions that have paid well, or who have private incomes or who even won the lottery, who want to turn their hands to writing. They’re the exception, but they must exist, I suppose. Any writing course will cost something. A weekend course run by someone who had a short story published ten years ago will cost less than something run by a big organisation with current authors, but every course costs money.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">In my experience, novice writers think that the investment in courses will be more than recouped by their earnings. The total cost of the three courses I mentioned above is twelve thousand pounds… That’s £12,000.&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Let me put it another way. The cost of those three courses is roughly the same as the annual minimum wage.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">In July of 2014 <i>the Guardian</i> ran <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jul/08/authors-incomes-collapse-alcs-survey" target="_blank">an article by Alison Flood</a> about the average writer’s income… Yes, <i>the Guardian!</i>&nbsp;She spoke to writers, including Will Self. He admitted that he’d seen his royalties decline dramatically over the previous decade. The article comes with numbers.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The median income of the professional author (by which they appear to mean writing full-time) was £11,000 per year.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The median income of all authors was £4,000 per year.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">So the average professional author now earns less in a year than it costs to get the advice it requires from those same authors to become an author and earn an author’s income.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">To take only one of those three courses costs what an average author earns in a year.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I can also tell you that to take only one of those courses costs more than the advance offered on the average first novel.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Perhaps it is in the nature of the writer to be an optimist. Perhaps we all believe that we aren’t going to be average, that we have something new to say and a new way to say it. Perhaps that’s true of one of us somewhere, and perhaps embarking on those writing courses might make a difference to whichever one of us that might be.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><br /><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">A great big part of me simply doubts that. So, I suppose, for what it’s worth, my advice would be, if you want to take a writing course and you can afford to, do it because you think you’ll have fun and maybe learn something; do it to meet new people, to get out of the house, to have your work read by someone who might have an objective opinion; do it to give you momentum and do it as a hobby. Please don’t do it with the idea that you’ll end up making money, or even that you’ll be published, because the odds are still very much stacked against you.</div>Nicola Vincent-Abnetthttps://plus.google.com/109074152191643376239noreply@blogger.com2tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-6477143695543382552.post-43202090301179437532016-01-19T14:26:00.000+00:002016-01-19T14:26:21.641+00:00The Landmark Trust does it again<div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I’ll be back tomorrow to have another chat about writing, because I’ve got a bee in my bonnet, but it’s the start of the week for me, so I’m going to begin with something lovelier than a snark.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">We were away at the weekend.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I do so love our weekends away. You probably all know by now that we don’t really take holidays. Let’s face it, we’re busy people with impossible schedules, so taking three weeks off to sit on a beach doesn’t really fit the profile of our lives… Besides, what the hell would we do with ourselves on a beach?</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">We do, however, take weekends from time to time. Often we add stimulus for the work, so these aren’t necessarily holidays, but we do so love them.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="float: right; margin-left: 1em; text-align: right;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-mYV0bwF9qTQ/Vp5GUK8gXxI/AAAAAAAABcg/cFyqKWK8cHk/s1600/Belmont-JMiller-1-600x400.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" height="266" src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-mYV0bwF9qTQ/Vp5GUK8gXxI/AAAAAAAABcg/cFyqKWK8cHk/s400/Belmont-JMiller-1-600x400.jpg" width="400" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Belmont House run by <a href="http://www.landmarktrust.org.uk/" target="_blank">the Landmark Trust</a></td></tr></tbody></table><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Last weekend, with our new and rather fabulous house-sitter happily ensconced, we toddled off to Dorset, to Lyme Regis in fact. There were reasons for this to do with the landscape, and the sea, which will feature in some of our work, and to do with palaeontology… and stuff and things, but we also used it as an opportunity to spend a few days&nbsp; at Belmont House, run by our very favourite holiday home rental organisation, the Landmark Trust.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">To call the Trust a holiday home rental business is rather to underestimate what they do, and to call Landmarkers renters of holiday homes is rather to underestimate their enthusiasm for the amazing historic buildings they choose to spend their time in.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The Landmark Trust is one of our very great pleasures, and its a fabulous resource for us as writers. We found out about it from another writer, and, over the past four years, we’ve visited a number of the buildings the Trust has lovingly restored and kept up so that people like us, and other people less like us, can live in and enjoy them.&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The Trust is in its fiftieth year and owns a little over two hundred buildings, mostly in the UK, but also in Europe and a couple in America. They range from tiny follies fit for two people to share, to larger houses and castles that sleep up to sixteen, and a campsite that will sleep forty people. The buildings range in age from over a millennium to less than a century. Each one is special, and they are all different one from another.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">They do have things in common. They are all beautifully restored, well-managed and made comfortable for twenty-first century living. There is also continuity between the Landmarks so that bedding, towels, crockery etc become very familiar as they are uniform across the properties. The standard of decor, and the choice of furniture, fabrics and fittings is also consistently high across the board. Every house is decorated by one man, appropriately, in keeping with the nature and period of the building. He does a wonderful job and never compromises comfort.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The other singular luxury is the lack of electronics. Whether there is a signal for a mobile phone is the luck of the draw. Wifi is not provided, and neither is there a television or radio in sight. There is nowhere to dock an i-pod. Of course, there are electrical sockets, so if you need those things, I suppose it’s possible to bring them, but the quiet of these buildings really is golden.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Belmont House is, perhaps, the best and most beautiful house in Lyme Regis. It was, until his death in 2005, the home of the novelist, John Fowles. His writing room is now the grand, first floor drawing room of the house with a wonderful balcony overlooking the grounds, an observatory where it is still possible to look at the stars through a wonderful telescope, and, of course, the sea. Fowles set his novel <i>The French Lieutenant’s Woman</i> in Lyme Regis, and it was partly filmed on location in the town. You may remember Meryl Streep in her cloak, walking out onto the Cobb. Playing the dual role of Sarah Woodruff and Anna, Meryl Streep won a number of awards for her work in the movie, including a Bafta and a Golden Globe; she was also Oscar nominated for the role.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">We spent time enjoying the house, the wonderful drawing room, the spacious kitchen and the master bedroom with its four-poster bed. The house sleeps eight, and for most of the time it was just the two of us, so the snug and the grand dining room didn’t get used, but that’s OK too.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The rest of the time we spent in Lyme Regis. We walked the sandy beach and the shingle. We followed the line of the Cobb on the sheltered side of the bay, and took Streep’s path along its ridge. We ate in the local pubs and cafes, and we shopped in the junk shops, fossil shops and book stores. We loved Ryder and Hinks, where I bought a beautiful shawl and some thick socks, because I’d underestimated just how chilly it can be beside the sea in January.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The Landmark Trust always delivers with its buildings, in a purely practical sense, but to find this building in this place was particularly wonderful. We’ll be back. Sadly, it won’t be soon, because Belmont House opened to the public only recently and it’s in very high demand, but the very first opportunity we get to book another visit, we’ll be returning to Belmont and to Lyme Regis. In the meantime, we’ll be back on the Landmark Trust website to look for other wonderful possibilities, and to return to some of our favourite haunts.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><br /><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">For its fiftieth anniversary The Landmark Trust, in association with Channel 4, made a program called <i><a href="http://www.channel4.com/programmes/restoring-britains-landmarks" target="_blank">Restoring Britain's Landmarks</a>&nbsp;</i>about its work and some of its buildings. It makes for fascinating viewing, so, if you haven’t seen it, follow the link and take a look.</div>Nicola Vincent-Abnetthttps://plus.google.com/109074152191643376239noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-6477143695543382552.post-227271698409494502016-01-13T11:03:00.001+00:002016-01-13T11:03:54.617+00:00Where’s Rey?<div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><span style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: initial;">This is a blog I’ve been meaning to write ever since the Where’s Rey hashtag hit the social media networks about a week ago.</span></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">All the big franchises, from Marvel Entertainment to Disney are notoriously bad at representing their female characters in merchandising. I know that the last time I became frustrated was when Black Widow was replaced on <i>that </i>motorbike by Captain America in the merchandised version. I thought it was ludicrous, and no amount of arguing would ever have changed my mind.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I’ve waited to write this post, because, honestly, I wasn’t sure of the angle I wanted to take.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I write feminist rants a lot on the blog.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Honestly, when I had my feminist training wheels fitted forty years ago, it never crossed my mind that I’d still be speaking out and loudly on this subject in the twenty-first century… I expected that it would all be over by now. It isn’t over. We’re still fighting the fight one battle at a time and there’s no sign that we’ll ever win the war. There is no accumulation of victories. With each win, we’re back at square one. The message never sinks in. We have to keep going on a case-by-case basis. There is no statute book for this stuff… There bloody should be.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Not for nothing, I resent that I end up using violent language when talking about feminism… it should never have been a fight.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The Where’s Rey hashtag took off in a big way when <i>the Force Awakens</i> Monopoly game came into play. There are only four player tokens rather than the usual six as this is a variant of the traditional game; the tokens come from the <i>Star Wars </i>franchise, so are not exclusive to the single movie that gives the game its title. Those player tokens are cast as characters from the franchise and they are: Kylo Ren, Finn, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Of course we all want to know <i>Where’s Rey? </i>Some of us want to know, <i>Where the f*ck is Rey?</i> More than that, I want to know why there are four male characters, why there are no women included in the player tokens, why there is no Princess Leia and no Amidala.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">It’s about corporate America run by privileged, middle-aged, white men, and it’s all about the buck. These, apparently, are boys’ toys and boys’ games. There is still a gender divide in the entertainment industry, and it is still accepted in the boardrooms of those who pay for the licenses to produce the merchandise that these are boys’ toys and that boys don’t play with girl dolls, and that boys don’t want to be represented in board games by female tokens.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">So, they exclude fifty percent of their potential audience, and they disregard the girl-buck (or should I say the girl-85-pennies-on-the-buck), and they underestimate the boys at the same time. And they do all of this before they’ve even considered the significant percentage of the population that doesn’t fit the binary gender construct or the heterosexual one.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Marvel Entertainment, Disney, Hasbro and many other entertainment and toy companies have simply decided that their audience is white, heterosexual men. What percentage of the population now fits that profile? And of those men, how many are so politically naive that they fail to see the nonsense that’s being peddled to them?</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The problem is that some white, middle-class boys are still politically naive enough… They simply don’t see the cynicism of this approach, the misogyny of it, or for that matter, the generalised bigotry: the lack of inclusion of any group that doesn’t fit the ‘norms’ that the industry chooses to subscribe to and perpetuate.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Most Monday evenings, the husband and I have a drink with friends, among them the son of one of our number, a rather lovely seventeen year old boy. He’s bright and engaged, and sometimes very sharp and funny. I like him. He’s going to be, with a little guidance, a very nice bloke one day, but there’s a little way to go. I like his father too, and I’m always particularly impressed by his aunt. She’s about my age, she’s single, cultured, bi-lingual, a professional in a male-centric environment, clever, funny and, as it happens, gay. I know very little about the other adults in this young man’s life, but the influence of his father and his aunt really ought to give him a great start.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">This week, we met for a drink, as is our custom, and it wasn’t long before the <i>Where’s Rey</i> hashtag was mentioned. It was actually used as shorthand between us women as part of another conversation, but the young man joined in. He began to tell us why the Monopoly game didn’t have a player piece of Rey. He gave us Hasbro’s line. He had bought it.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">On another day, in other circumstances, I would, very patiently, have explained to him how and why he’d been duped. I didn’t do it then, because it wasn’t the time. We piled in, made a joke of it, and the husband wisely told him it was a battle he shouldn’t even try to fight.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">That’s why I’m finally writing the <i>Where’s Rey</i> post, because now I have an angle.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">A seventeen year old white, middle-class boy didn’t notice that there was no woman player piece in the game and when it was pointed out, he was happy to accept Hasbro’s line. He was content to ‘explain’ to me and his aunt why we were wrong… SERIOUSLY!</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I know this child loves and respects his aunt, and he and I have had some feisty conversations. He’s seventeen, but he’s also white, privileged and male, and he feels totally at ease telling the two of us what’s what. That’s what growing up in a patriarchal society has taught him. He trusts white, male, privileged corporate America more than he is prepared to listen to the women in his life.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I saw the same Hasbro excuse that this young man saw, it went like this:</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><i>The Star Wars: Monopoly game was released in September, months before the movie’s release, and Rey was not included to avoid revealing a key plot line that she takes on Kylo Ren and joins the Rebel Alliance.</i></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><i></i><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Well, OK, but that doesn’t explain why neither Leia nor Amidala was included as a character in the game.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="float: right; margin-left: 1em; text-align: right;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-Vt0e5atEh6w/VpYuWqtpZeI/AAAAAAAABcQ/po4jkrpDFL4/s1600/Daisy-Ridley---soon-to-be-011.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" height="240" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-Vt0e5atEh6w/VpYuWqtpZeI/AAAAAAAABcQ/po4jkrpDFL4/s400/Daisy-Ridley---soon-to-be-011.jpg" width="400" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/film/shortcuts/2014/apr/30/daisy-ridley-star-wars-episode-7-actor" target="_blank">The Guardian's take on the Who's Daisy&nbsp;riff April 2014</a></td></tr></tbody></table><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Wait a minute… The game was released in September 2015, but wasn’t casting for <i>The Force Awakens</i> announced in April 2014! Yes, it was, and Daisy Ridley very quickly became the most talked about new member of the Star Wars family. Headlines appeared the following day, and not just in the RedTops and on the gossip sites. <i>Who is Daisy Ridley? </i>was a question that was asked everywhere; <i>the Guardian</i> and the <i>the Independent</i> both ran stories on her during the week of the cast announcement in April 2014, and so did <i>Vanity Fair</i> and <i>Glamour</i> magazine.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">This kind of publicity doesn’t happen without Disney’s involvement. The company wanted <i>The Force Awakens </i>to be talked about, and it wanted Daisy Ridley<i> </i>to be talked about. There was very little to know about the actress back in April of 2014, she had very little on her cv; nevertheless, the World’s press wrote inch after column inch about her. Disney managed to cover every base and every demographic, and pretty soon, we had all heard of Daisy Ridley.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">For Hasbro to suggest that including a player token of Rey in its Monopoly game to be launched in September 2015 would spoil the movie was ridiculous. They were simply excusing what had happened in the room when the game was designed and the tokens decided upon. They didn’t want to include female player tokens, because had they wanted to, they would have. It’s as simple as that. It could easily have been Rey, but it didn’t have to be, Leia and Amidala were right there in the mix.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The men at Hasbro were caught with their pants down, and they made an excuse. It was a pitiful excuse and it simply won’t play to this audience.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><br /><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The really sad thing is that it clearly does play to teenage boys, who still want to be like their fathers, and who are still taught that their opinion counts for more than their mothers count for at all.</div>Nicola Vincent-Abnetthttps://plus.google.com/109074152191643376239noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-6477143695543382552.post-1042034169960684322016-01-12T16:24:00.000+00:002016-01-13T10:22:42.581+00:00David Bowie<div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">It’s three o’clock in the afternoon and I’ve spent quite a lot of time today hunting around for inspiration for this blog.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Inspiration’s a funny thing; sometimes, it’s everywhere, and sometimes there’s just one little thread of it, but that’s all I need. Sometimes, I wake up in the morning and know exactly what I’m going to write on the blog.&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">That’s how it’s supposed to work… I wake up, pick up my cup of tea and begin to write a post. Part of the purpose of this exercise is to clear my head before the work of the day begins, to get rid of thoughts that are idle or excess, things that are preoccupying me, but that don’t add to the work I’m supposed to be doing. There’s also the writing muscle thing; it’s nice to run off a few hundred words before the real writing begins, just to get the mind moving, the rhythm a little honed.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I don’t want to suggest that you get something that’s less than good, less than right, less than… But this is a blog, this isn’t fiction; this is immediate and fun, and a bit of honest thrashing about, and it requires different skills from writing fiction. This requires a little passion and some immediacy. Fiction requires a little discipline and some patience.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Anyway, it’s three-o-four in the afternoon, and I’ve spent quite a lot of time today hunting around for inspiration for this blog.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The thing is, in one way, I’m not exactly short of a subject.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I haven’t written about the death of David Bowie, yet, except to acknowledge that it has happened.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I generally don’t write about the deaths of public people, either on the social networks or on my blog. I seldom write about the deaths of people I actually know, either. You’ll remember that I didn’t write about the death of my own father, or about the loss I felt associated with it. It was too much… It also meant that I didn’t feel able to write about anything else while my mind was so full of my father.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">This isn’t like that, of course it isn’t. I didn’t know David Bowie. I never met him. He didn’t mean anything to me, not as a person, not as a man.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The thing is, David Bowie, collectively, to the World, meant a very great deal. Every where I look, and every time my ears settle, Bowie is there.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I do not remember the last time a public person died and this happened.&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I suppose we could talk about Princess Diana, but that was really very different. Her place in the World was almost the antithesis of his. Diana was iconic and she was public. She gave meaning to things simply by being; her name and her presence had meaning, but not her<i>self</i>, not who she was or what she created. She didn’t for all sensible purposes create anything.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">David Bowie was not so much about who he was, but what he made. He rarely gave interviews and almost never talked about himself. We know little of his private life. He did not play out his role as a husband or father in public. How many of us knew that he was fond of cats, for example?&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">We know what he made. We know the art and artifice of his various images over the decades, of the costumes, the hair, the make-up. We know the gender-bending and the impact it had in the sixties and seventies. We remember the music… Above all and everything, we know the music… Almost fifty years of music.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Bowie wrote and arranged the music for his first album for Deram records, released in 1967. <i>David Bowie, </i>the eponymous album released on the same day as <i>Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band</i> was a commercial failure. Bowie was dropped from Deram, and it was two years before he released his second album.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The lesson he learned from his experience as a twenty year old, was to believe in himself and in what he was doing. Most young musicians would have given up or changed tracks after this early humiliation. David Bowie regrouped; he used one of the songs from the album,&nbsp;<i>Love You till Tuesday,&nbsp;</i>as a demo when he needed to do the rounds with the record companies, and he revisited themes from the first album throughout his career.&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="float: right; margin-left: 1em; text-align: right;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-8ulWQfp1RYE/VpUmbgz0GGI/AAAAAAAABcA/NdXZcKIzWA8/s1600/uk_blackstar_press_ad_1000sq.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" height="400" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-8ulWQfp1RYE/VpUmbgz0GGI/AAAAAAAABcA/NdXZcKIzWA8/s400/uk_blackstar_press_ad_1000sq.jpg" width="400" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.davidbowie.com/news" target="_blank">David Bowie's Website</a></td></tr></tbody></table><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Bowie had the courage of his convictions as a young man of only twenty, and I doubt that confidence ever left him. I wonder how many of us could learn from his example.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="text-align: right;"></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">So many of us have simply taken Bowie for granted over the years. I’ve always been more than pleased and impressed to hear his tunes on the radio or television, but he was so much a part of the landscape of my life that I never felt the need to buy any but one of his albums. Apparently, the same is true for many of us. Today, as I write this, only two of the top ten album slots are held by records NOT made by David Bowie. The top five albums sold on iTunes are currently all by David Bowie; Adele’s <i>25</i> is at number 6 and Justin Bieber’s <i>Purpose </i>is at number 10. The radio, certainly including every station that I’ve tuned to in the past couple of days, is playing wall-to-wall Bowie. All my social media feeds are choc-a-bloc with pictures, clips and tributes to the man who was a rock god to three generations of music lovers… More than that, we didn’t need to be music lovers to know who Bowie was or to respond to his talent.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Honestly, I don’t know what to say about David Bowie. I don’t know what to think of him, his creativity, his adaptability, or his talent for living in the limelight and remaining out of the public gaze... Put simply, I am in awe.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I’m not sure how such a person could possibly exist among us… I’m very glad that he did.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">@JeSuisDean on Twitter made this remark, retweeted endlessly, and notably, but erroneously attributed to Simon Pegg:</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><i>If you’re ever sad, just remember the World is 4.543 billion years old and you somehow managed to exist at the same time as David Bowie</i></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><i></i><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Jon Snow made <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6F0jJ6JcQH8" target="_blank">a rather lovely comment, too</a>… one of my favourites.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">In a sense, though, the tributes are a nonsense, because who can really say anything that will last longer or be more powerful or more poignant or mean more than the music, the art, the magic that the man left behind?</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">It’s three-twenty-four in the afternoon, and I’ve spent quite a lot of time today hunting around for some inspiration for a blog.&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">It’s impossible.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">How can I be inspired by anything when the World... the entire World is overwhelmed by the death of a single creative force. We can think of nothing else, even if we don’t really know how to think of Bowie, how to express who or what he was to us, even when he wasn't significant in the way that we feel artists we most respect really should be in our lives on a day to day basis.&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I always admired Bowie; I understood his worth, but I didn’t buy his work, at least not as much as I might have. It was bigger than that. It was right there, always there. It was ubiquitous. Bowie never went away. His creative energy has been part of the backcloth, the tapestry of all our lives for fifty years… it will continue to be there.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Mourning is for the family, for the people who belonged to the man. We didn't own the man, because we had something else, and that something isn’t going anywhere…&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Nevertheless, <i>The stars look very different today…</i></div><br />Nicola Vincent-Abnetthttps://plus.google.com/109074152191643376239noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-6477143695543382552.post-38174306993110778462016-01-11T12:51:00.000+00:002016-01-11T12:51:54.702+00:00Writing Prompts<div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><span style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: initial;">It’s been a while since I wrote a post about writing, and since my mission statement when I started this blog was to talk about </span><i style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: initial;">writing and other stuff, </i><span style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: initial;">it’s probably time I got off my soap box and gave you something a bit less political and a bit more useful than the stuff I’ve been churning out of late.</span></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I am often faced with writing prompts. This is sort of real life for me, or at least it has been for quite a long time. A job comes along, someone asks me to do something, and I do it. I work quite a bit in other people’s IPs, so the so-called writing prompts can be entire creative universes full of stuff.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">If I’m writing for the Black Library it’s going to be all about the <i>Warhammer</i> or <i>Warhammer 40K</i> universes, for example. I recently finished a <i>Tomb Raider</i> novel, so there are some prompts that are pretty well set in stone, right there.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><i>Come up with something for Lara Croft to do that doesn’t break continuity</i> sounds like a writing prompt to me.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Of course, this isn’t really what’s meant by writing prompts when it comes to most writer’s habits.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">It is my custom on Wednesdays to post my blogs on Twitter with the hashtag wwwblogs, and I think, if you are a woman who writes and you have a blog, that you should do it to. The hashtag is for Women Writers on Wednesdays, and it’s a nice community. We share our blogs, and read and repost what we like from each others’ stuff. There are several blogs that I now keep up with semi-regularly from those to be found on my Wednesday trawl through the hashtag. It’s nice to have routines and punctuation marks in the week, so this is how I spend an hour on Wednesday mornings. If I didn’t have stuff like this, one day would be very much like another.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">A few of the writers that use the wwwblogs hashtag write for a living, but many more of them are keen amateurs. I refuse to use the expression ‘aspiring writers’. Writing isn’t’ something we aspire to, it’s something we do; we aspire to be published or recognised, but we write, never-the-less. I regularly see blogs advertised with the hashtag that refer to posts about writing prompts. Honestly, I almost never read them. I have work to do, and with the work comes all the prompting I need.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The other stuff, the writing that doesn't come with prompts, is becoming increasingly important to me. The husband and I talk often about me writing more of my own stuff. He loves a small target when it comes to the work. He likes to know what he’s working with and what he’s aiming at, and he’s very, very good at hitting those targets. That’s why you all know his name.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I struggle with the process much more than he does, and there are a lot of reasons for that. I can do it, of course I can, I’ve had practice, but I tend to question it, and I tend to fight it. I’m never quite satisfied with the way I approach it. I never feel quite as free as I’d like, and sometimes it makes me a bit cross. There is, of course, great fun to be had, and a lot of satisfaction when it all falls into place and goes well, but that takes time and effort for me. The husband falls into it so naturally that I rather envy him.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">In life, the husband has a much bigger ego than I do, but not in the work. When it comes to the work, he’s a total professional; he deploys his talents very effectively, precisely where they’re required, and he does it without getting tangled up. I think we complement one another. I think I’m the opposite. In life, I tend not to have an ego; we’d never maintain a relationship if I did, because the husband casts a pretty long shadow. The writing’s different, though; when it comes to the writing, I want to have all the control, and that’s where I have an ego.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">A writing prompt, wherever it comes from, can lead to all sorts of wonderful things. It might be useful for some writers, particularly the less experienced, to get their prompts from wherever they can find them. I generally get mine from my own thoughts.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I might simply decide that I want to write something about the seven deadly sins, for example.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">If you’re the sort of person who likes instruction, here’s one for you. Write 2,500 words on the seven deadly sins. Off you go. You can always come back here later.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">As it happens, I’ve been thinking about writing a novel on this subject for a while, now. That’s where it begins for me. Other writing prompts that dropped into my head (or out of it, if you prefer) were, <i>I fancy writing a book about parenthood,</i> <i>I might tackle maternal sexual abuse, </i>and <i>What if 50&nbsp; Shades had been any fun?</i></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I’ve written before about the difference between premises and ideas. That is to say, it’s all very well having a premise for something, but until you have a fully formed idea, you’re not going to produce a good story. It’s true, but this is a rule I break almost every time I sit down to start writing.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">My process is odd. I begin with nothing. I sit down with a black screen, with only a white page on it, and I begin to write with only that premise in my head. Every day, I read everything that I have written so far and then make changes and/or add more text. This continues for about the first third of the novel. At that point, I generally know what my themes are, who everyone is and where the plot’s going.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">What comes before informs what comes afterwards.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The premise, <i>I fancy writing a book about parenthood</i> became a novel about the rights of the individual in opposition to the demands of the state. The premise led to a book about a relationship based on unconditional love, during a state of emergency, where Global security is reliant on one of the people in that relationship.&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">For me, that premise would never have led to that idea or to that novel being fully realised had it not been through the writing.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The novel is called <i>Savant</i> and it will be available from Solaris later in the year.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The thought, <i>I might tackle maternal sexual abuse</i> turned out to be a rather more direct process, in that I did write about the subject I began with, except that I wrote a first person narrative in which the protagonist remembers episodes from her childhood in the most mundane, matter-of-fact way, her life utterly normal to her.</div><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="float: right; margin-left: 1em; text-align: right;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-AnuwokRr1f0/UUBTNtVmfCI/AAAAAAAAAUs/m5MXSkiYbGE/s1600/Names.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" height="400" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-AnuwokRr1f0/UUBTNtVmfCI/AAAAAAAAAUs/m5MXSkiYbGE/s400/Names.jpg" width="282" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Still unpublished... Maybe one day</td></tr></tbody></table><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The novel is called <i>Naming Names</i> and it was runner-up for the inaugural Mslexia novel writing competition. I’ve written about it often on this blog. It is yet to be published, because, although it was met with considerable praise from a number of houses, the subject matter has always been considered too difficult or too controversial for a mainstream audience.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">If you want to know what became of <i>What if 50 Shades had been fun? </i>You could always read <i>Addled Kat</i>, which is available free on the blog.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I’m currently writing two new books, prompted by these thoughts, <i>What’s it like when an old dog learns a new trick</i> and <i>Deconstructing a dysfunctional, co-dependent couple’s relationship…</i> And there are plenty more where they came from.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">My prompt for this blog was, <i>Writing prompts - is this good discipline, or just for people who lack ideas? </i>But, on reflection, I think that’s rather unfair.&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">No writer lacks ideas… No person lacks ideas. I think the ‘lack’ is often about confidence. What feels like an idea to me might easily be discarded by someone who is less used to jotting down every thought that pleases them. My problem isn’t that I lack the confidence to write ideas (or in my case premises) down, my problem is that after maybe a dozen novels I still don’t know that I can write a book. I still don't know that I can sit in the chair and have the stamina to get to the end of something. It’s true of short stories, too… It’s true of everything I decide to do. I still don’t believe that I’ve done the things that I’ve done or that I could duplicate my process and come up with something the next time I make an attempt.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I do write down those thoughts, though, and I’m not embarrassed by them, however simple they are, however trite, however derivative, however vague.&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The husband is still surprised, even after all these years, that I’ll say to him, ‘I’ve had an idea for a story; I want to write about the Bayeau Tapestry.’ He’ll ask why? and what’s it about? and do I have an idea for the plot? and what’s the genre? And I’ll begin writing without the answers to any of those questions. It baffles him, but it suits me… And when the book’s done, he’s surprised again. He’s surprised by what I’ve done, and I’m surprised that I’ve managed to do it at all.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Look out for that one, by the way, it’s working title is <i>White Work</i> and it’s going to be a doozy.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">So, I’ve rambled on for long enough, but if I was going to to write a conclusion to this post, it would read something like this:</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Make notes of the thoughts that please you, because something might come of them, even if you only use them as writing prompts, as exercises. We all need to exercise our writing muscles, especially those of us who don’t get to write as often or as much as we’d like.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">And</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">If you struggle with the confidence to write down thoughts, because you think they’re a bit daft, don’t worry about it, there are lots of places where you can find writing prompts. The point is to flex your writing muscles any time you feel like doing it. We all start somewhere, and we all carry on in any way we can, using the tools that suit us.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><br /><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">There is no right way to write. I’ve found a process that seems to suit me, but it evolved over a period of time, and I imagine that it’s still evolving. If you want to write, evolve a process that suits you, and if that includes writing prompts: great… have at it!</div>Nicola Vincent-Abnetthttps://plus.google.com/109074152191643376239noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-6477143695543382552.post-64519895240065450262016-01-10T14:44:00.000+00:002016-01-10T14:44:15.800+00:00I Do Love a Matinée - “Guys and Dolls” at the Savoy Theatre<div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><span style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: initial;">January isn’t my favourite month… I don’t think it’s anyone’s favourite month. Christmas and New Year’s offer the opportunity for parties and get togethers and that festive, celebratory feeling, and all January seems to offer is</span><span style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: initial;">&nbsp; </span><span style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: initial;">cold, wet misery.</span></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">We have a remedy for this… We have more than one. The first is to try to accept invitations for events in January, wherever they come from, and the second is to have a treat. I mentioned to the dort, yesterday, that since this was the third time we’d booked this particular treat in January, it now counted as a tradition, and we must continue to do it every year.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Yesterday, we went to the theatre. The husband and I, along with the dort and her boyff, jumped on a train up to town to take in a matinée. It was the last of my birthday gifts, booked in advance, to see <i>Guys and Dolls </i>at the Savoy Theatre.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">We made a day of it. We had tea and cake at the Savoy before the show, and met London-based pals for dinner at <i>Quo Vadis</i> afterwards. It was lovely! We didn’t care that it was wet and windy, and we didn’t mind the NHS protesters making their way down the Strand. Frankly, I applaud them for taking a stand, and for their good-natured and orderly conduct.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><i>Guys and Dolls</i> is one of the older musicals still being performed regularly. The show was adapted from short stories by Damon Runyon, notably <i>The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown</i>. Runyon’s original story was published in 1933, the year that prohibition ended. The musical was first produced in 1950, with songs by Frank Loesser, and a stellar cast, including Frank Sinatra, but writing on issues like prostitution was still not explicit, and certainly not for a stage musical.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="float: right; margin-left: 1em; text-align: right;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-YbXzeeBC78g/VpJr-nVM64I/AAAAAAAABbw/WX-Bb5FPRLo/s1600/Jamie_Parker_%2528Sky_Masterson%2529_in_Guys_and_Dolls_-_photo_by__Johan_Persson.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" height="266" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-YbXzeeBC78g/VpJr-nVM64I/AAAAAAAABbw/WX-Bb5FPRLo/s400/Jamie_Parker_%2528Sky_Masterson%2529_in_Guys_and_Dolls_-_photo_by__Johan_Persson.jpg" width="400" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Jamie Parker, front and centre, as Sky Masterson<br /><a href="http://www.guysanddollsthemusical.co.uk/" target="_blank">Details of Guys and Dolls is at the Savoy Theatre</a></td></tr></tbody></table><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">This cast was great, particularly Sophie Thompson as Adelaide, who rather put me in mind of Lucille Ball, and Jamie Parker’s Sky Masterson brought the house down. David Haig put in a nice performance as Nathan Detroit, and Gavin Spokes and Ian Hughes were great as the Johnson/Southstreet double act. The ensemble worked hard, and choreographers Carlos Acosta and Andrew Wright delivered dance sequences that were clever and appropriate and often funny. The smallish stage sometimes seemed a little crowded for the amount of business that was going on, but this is a London theatre, and they tend to be on the small side. Siubhan Harrison, playing Sarah Brown, was a little underpowered, but I can’t help thinking that Thompson and Parker, in particular, cast very long shadows that it must have been tricky for her to step out of at times.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">For those who could pick up the references, there was a lot to look at, listen to and like in this production. The very seedy side of prohibition America is kept off the stage, but it’s all there if you’re already familiar: The temperance movement, the conflict and violence, the prostitution (not for nothing, the club’s called ‘The Hot Box’); and the gamblers end up in the sewer, and if that’s not a metaphor, I don’t know what is. The witty lyrics are full of allusions to the times, too, and to sex.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The whole thing plays out rather well.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The audience laughed in all the right places. Part of that was to do with the performances, and it probably didn’t hurt that this was a matinée and the average age was on the high side. Having said that, the dort and the boyff enjoyed the experience, too. They both thought the first half was a little slow, but the second half romped in at a pace. The best songs were towards the end, too, with Parker giving a very good performance of <i>Luck be a Lady. </i>With a running time in excess of two-and-a-half hours, I think we got our money’s worth.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><br /><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I’m a sucker for a West End show, and January’s a great time to see one. I can highly recommend a matinée on a cold, wet afternoon. Take your pick! We liked this; it was a great outing and we’re very glad we went. I'll be looking out for Sophie Thompson and Jamie Parker, and I'll definitely be booking tickets the next time either of them is starring in the West End.</div>Nicola Vincent-Abnetthttps://plus.google.com/109074152191643376239noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-6477143695543382552.post-73981414178194303762016-01-05T18:24:00.000+00:002016-01-06T12:10:43.645+00:00The Wonders of Music part ii<div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><span style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: initial;">Yesterday, I waxed lyrical about the wonders of classical music as given to me by a primary school teacher, the rather wonderful Mr Clay.</span></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Today, I’m going to talk some more about music.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Things have changed so much since I was a kid that I hardly know myself where music is concerned. It all used to be so simple. We listened to the radio, then. We listened to Radio One and Luxembourg and Capital and Caroline. If we wanted to buy music, we bought vinyl records, but they were expensive. A seven inch single (one song on either side, but we almost never played the B-side) cost about the same as an hour’s pay. If you wanted to buy a top ten charting album in Woolworths in 1982 it would have cost you £9.49, in 1998 it was £17.49 and in 2008 an equivalent album cost £9.99. In 1982, I was earning 98p per hour. The minimum wage is now £6.70 and the cost of a single tune from Adele’s latest chart topping album <i>25</i> on iTunes is 99p. It literally costs the same amount of money to buy a single now as it did in 1982, but wages have increased almost sevenfold. In 1982, an album would have cost me more than a day’s pay, and more than I regularly paid for a dress or a pair of jeans.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">It sounds crazy when I put it like that, but it’s still true.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The only free access we had to music was the radio, and we used it. As kids, we also shared music. We shared it within the family, not least because most families had one record player and it lived in the sitting room. We also shared it with friends, mostly by taping our music.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Tape recorders were expensive, but we all, eventually, got our own as Christmas or birthday presents. Some plugged in, some took batteries. My sister’s first car didn’t have a radio, so we used to travel with a tape recorder and a glove box full of batteries.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">We bought budget tapes in multi-packs, and we reused them. Sometimes we taped entire albums; more often we made mix-tapes, and we regularly taped the chart shows on the radio, which meant we also got the whole show, including everything that the DJ said, and usually stuff that came before and after the show, too. Our machines were manual; you couldn't just set them up and expect them to record when the show started. We had to simultaneously press the record and play buttons.&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">It all worked fine if the tape deck was integral to the radio, but some of us actually had to position our tape deck so that the microphone was in proximity to the speaker on the radio, or even the television before pressing the buttons. Sound reproduction was diabolical as the mic would pick up all the background noise in the room, as well as the music we wanted to listen to over and over again. Tape quality was often poor because we could only afford the cheapest tapes, and we taped over and over them.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">We didn’t care. It was the music that mattered, not the sound reproduction. I loved music, but by the end of my teens, my tastes had developed, and I no longer want to listen to the stuff my siblings were listening to. I only owned a handful of records, mostly bought as gifts, but I did build up a bit of a tape collection. The husband, who was the boyfriend then, made me lots of tapes, and it was those that I took to university with me.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">After university, music was, essentially, free, for me at least. I could have whatever I wanted and as much of it as I wanted. What’s more, I had access to a damned fine music system to play it on.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">After university, I worked for a hi-fi magazine, which included a record review section. I learned a lot about the hardware, and, most importantly, I learned the kind of sound that I wanted out of the system. My tastes in music also broadened quite dramatically.&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">That’s about the time that CDs happened. In the beginning, I could hear that the CD format wasn’t great. Vinyl just sounded better, even on cheap music systems.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Time moved on. I stopped work, lost access to the music and the technology, and I forgot all about it. CDs became the easy go-to, and then, of course, MP3 players.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I don’t know when the husband and I started talking about real music again, but it was probably a couple of years ago. We realised that we weren’t listening to music in the way that we used to, and that we weren’t buying as much music, or listening to it as often as we once had. We weren’t enjoying music in the same way and we weren’t getting enthusiastic about new finds, new bands, new stuff coming along.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The same thing had happened to us with photography, and we’d rectified it by switching cameras. I’d bought the husband a great little digital, and I’d found some lovely old film cameras for myself. We started taking photos again. We started to enjoy doing it, and we started to get results.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">A couple of months ago, the CD player in the drawing room started playing up. I had to meddle with it to get it to play CDs, and I knew I’d have to replace it some time soon. On Christmas Day, we noticed an odd smell in the drawing room and quickly realised that the amp had burned out. It was a blessing in disguise. We decided to ditch the old separates, and we went out and bought a little mini system. We still had access to a CD player and we still had an iPod dock, but we also decided to take the opportunity to add a turntable.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">To begin with, we bought a cheap, off the shelf turntable that we could just plug in and not worry about. We weren’t even sure that we’d use the thing, or what it would sound like after not playing vinyl for twenty-five years. That day, we also took a trip to a local second hand record shop and to HMV, and bought some records, mostly for their nostalgia value.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">An hour later, we were playing tunes.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">It was a revelation!</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Even on a cheap deck plugged into a mini-system, vinyl sounds very different from any other format. Analogue recordings on old vinyl sound even better. It’s the stuff that I remember, and I like it. Of course, part of the experience was the nostalgia of the albums that we’d chosen to buy, but there were other things, too. I love the rituals of vinyl. I love slipping a record out of its sleeve and putting it on the deck. I love the slight crackle as the stylus hits the groove, and I love the hisses and cracks and pops that no other format has... And did I mention that analogue recordings on vinyl simply sound better?</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Of course, some of the records aren’t great, but that's because we bought some modern pressings of digital recordings; I’ll be reverting to digital formats of those tunes, for now. Modern, digital recordings on cheap vinyl aren't great purchases, but we all live and learn.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Right now, I suspect the husband and I are going to become regular visitors to our local second hand record shops, and, who knows, eBay might become a good source for our scavenging. I suspect there might also be a decent music system in our futures.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><br /><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="float: right; margin-left: 1em; text-align: right;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-xCBReNeTOHM/VowFUd7bNlI/AAAAAAAABbg/Wv3d_oX4PFg/s1600/Klimax-LP12-Oak-3Q-Playing-x1090.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" height="197" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-xCBReNeTOHM/VowFUd7bNlI/AAAAAAAABbg/Wv3d_oX4PFg/s400/Klimax-LP12-Oak-3Q-Playing-x1090.jpg" width="400" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">A bit of Hi-Fi Porn for the enthusiast.<br />the <a href="http://www.linn.co.uk/hifi-separates/turntables" target="_blank">Linn Sondek LP12</a>, arguably the best and most beautiful<br />turntable in the World</td></tr></tbody></table><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I still maintain that it’s the music that really matters, though. I’ve known hi-fi enthusiasts who spent fortunes on hardware and spent more time tweaking it than listening to music on it. I’ve known hi-fi enthusiasts listen to music sitting still and silent in a perfectly positioned chair. I’m not one of those people. When I listen to music, I still want to talk and even sing, and, if the mood takes me, I want to turn the volume up and rock some moves. I used to have access to some of the best hi-fi in the World, made by Linn and Naim, and it’s wonderful stuff for those of you with deep pockets, big vinyl collections and serious time to listen to records.&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">In the end, though, the music’s the thing.</div>Nicola Vincent-Abnetthttps://plus.google.com/109074152191643376239noreply@blogger.com1tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-6477143695543382552.post-89400116098567356802016-01-05T11:39:00.001+00:002016-01-05T11:39:07.645+00:00The Wonders of Music<div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><span style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: initial;">The husband and I don’t watch a lot of television, at least not in the regular way. We watch tv like most people do these days, which is to say that we watch it on demand. We very seldom simply sit down, put on the tv and run through the channels to find something to watch. If we want to watch something we generally choose from what’s available on Amazon or Netflix or from what’s archived on i-player or demand-4 or other streaming sites.</span></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Bear with me, this blog is about music.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">We watch some pretty decent television, and, in my opinion the best tv is getting better. Quite a lot of people once involved in film, where we used to go for the good stuff, are now making the move to tv, including some of our star actors and even the most celebrated directors. This pleases me. It does lead to series of hour long episodes of often quite demanding material, but that’s not a bad thing, either.&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Of course, once in a while, we simply want half an hour of something bright, clever and funny. Most of the time, this means resorting to programs that are very deliberately funny, or to sitcoms. We love <i>Community, Breaking Kimmy Schmidt, Parks and Recreation </i>and even <i>Brooklyn 99.&nbsp;</i></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="float: right; margin-left: 1em; text-align: right;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-E5WrIXP6FIs/VouogdjAhhI/AAAAAAAABbI/5tMxv-lGdT4/s1600/Mozart.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" height="225" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-E5WrIXP6FIs/VouogdjAhhI/AAAAAAAABbI/5tMxv-lGdT4/s400/Mozart.jpg" width="400" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Mozart-Jungle-Season-Official-Trailer/dp/B018GTUXE4/ref=sr_1_2?s=instant-video&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1451993189&amp;sr=1-2&amp;keywords=mozart+in+the+jungle" target="_blank">Mozart in the Jungle available on Amazon</a></td></tr></tbody></table><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">In 2014 Amazon ran the first series of its own <i>Mozart in the Jungle. </i>Jason Schwartzman, regular collaborator with Wes Anderson and responsible for <i>Rushmore</i> and <i>the Grand Budapest Hotel</i> co-created this series with Roman Coppola who won an Oscar nomination in 2012 for co-writing the screenplay of <i>Moonrise Kingdom. </i>Co-creator credits also go to writer-producer Paul Weitz who wrote the screenplay for <i>Antz</i>, and Broadway director and writer Alex Timbers, who has won several awards, including Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards, two OBIE and Lucile Lortel Awards and Emmy and Tony nominations.&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The guys who put this show together come with some impressive credentials.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">It’s a half hour show about a New York orchestra, following the politics of keeping the whole thing afloat when money is always an issue as well as the fate of a new, young conductor and several charismatic members of the orchestra from the most senior to a new recruit. We see them together and separately. The program is often funny, but it’s also warm and has adult themes. We like it a lot.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The second season of <i>Mozart in the Jungle</i> just aired, and the husband and I binge-watched it.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The show is good. We like the writing, and the cast, headed up by Gael Garcia Bernal, Saffron Burrows, Lola Kirke and Bernadette Peters, with the brilliant Malcolm McDowell featuring, all do a great job. One of the really lovely things about this show, though, is the music.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The music becomes another character.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Music, whether it’s a theme tune or the incidental stuff, is important to any viewing experience. Sometimes we hardly notice it, but we’d certainly miss it if it were absent. There are a great many themes and signature tunes that come very easily to mind whenever we think of a particular movie or tv show. Yesterday, Samira Ahmed mentioned Gerry Anderson’s Supermarionation kid’s show <i>Joe 90</i> on Twitter. I immediately began humming the signature tune. It’s part of my childhood, hardwired into my brain. I can’t tell you the nostalgia I felt in that moment.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">We all have long and very personal histories with music. We’re all surrounded by it. My own history is, perhaps a little odd, but it’s very special in many ways, and I consider myself lucky.&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">My maternal grandparents were musicians, so my mother grew up surrounded by music. Her father was a violinist and her mother a pianist. Her mother taught piano and played the organ in church. My grandmother composed too. Music was a constant in their home. Neither my mother nor any of my uncles or my aunt were taught music as children, although an uncle of mine did learn to play the piano as an adult. I have never had a close relationship with my mother’s family. I remember meeting my grandparents only a handful of times.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">As a child, I went to a very ordinary state primary school. There were sixteen classes in the school, so about four hundred kids aged between seven and eleven. Schools have changed, but forty-five years ago my little school had a choir and an orchestra. The choir was run by Miss Hemsley-Flint with Mr Clay on piano. Miss H-F had her own class, but Mr Clay lived in a little room and came out to teach French and orchestra. He was the loveliest man. We also had peripatetic teachers who came into school to teach various instruments. I decided that I wanted to learn to play the violin, and shortly after I began lessons, my grandmother visited and gave me an instrument.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="float: right; margin-left: 1em; text-align: right;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-hZ_LgZ2a70k/Vouo6Eqq_wI/AAAAAAAABbQ/APyLhY_TTVM/s1600/hartley-ensemble-539x393.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" height="291" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-hZ_LgZ2a70k/Vouo6Eqq_wI/AAAAAAAABbQ/APyLhY_TTVM/s400/hartley-ensemble-539x393.jpg" width="400" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Freya Ritts-Kirby (2nd right) with the Hartley Ensemble 2015</td></tr></tbody></table><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">In the end, I didn’t get much of a music education. I can read music and I learned to play a little. I lived in a big, busy family and I didn’t practise enough to progress very well, but I was in the school choir and I was in the school orchestra for a little while. The child I sat behind in the string section was called Freya Kirby and she went on to become a professional musician. She still plays her violin under her professional name Freya Ritts-Kirby.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Except that I did get a music education… In a way, I got rather more of an education than I realised, and it happened by osmosis, and it happened without my noticing and over time and because of circumstances.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I loved watching <i>Mozart in the Jungle</i> and I shall watch it again, and one of the reasons why I enjoyed it so much was because of the music. I recognised the music… I could whistle it. I knew all of the tunes, and I knew some of them very well. I wasn't surprised that I knew a lot of the tunes, because, of course, they’d been well-chosen. It would be foolish to make a mainstream television show, something to appeal to a lot of people, and then fill it with music that was unfamiliar. Remember, though, that I was watching the show with the husband. He didn’t recognise all of the music. He recognised a significant amount of it, but it became clear that I was more familiar with classical music than he was.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">There was a reason for that.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I couldn’t identify the music. I knew what some it was, who had composed it or what it had come from, but most of it was simply familiar tunes. I have no education in classical music, and this stuff takes some learning, but I knew the tunes, and they came back to me easily.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I spent four years in my primary school, and for those four years, Mr Clay was in charge of music. He took his job seriously. We were kids aged between seven and eleven, but we all did some music with Mr Clay and Miss Hemsley-Flint. We all learned to sing hymns for assembly, and those of us who wanted to could join the school choir. We all played percussion instruments. We all blew recorders. Those of us who wanted to were given the opportunity to take lessons in various instruments and join the school orchestra. There was even a lunchtime guitar club. Music was available to those who wanted it.&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">What I had forgotten until I watched <i>Mozart in the Jungle</i> was that music was also part of our daily lives. The whole school congregated every morning for assembly. We walked into the hall in silence and sat down in long rows in our class groups on the floor. Except, we weren’t in silence. We weren’t allowed to talk, but as we filed in, Mr Clay would play a piece of classical music on the record player in the school hall, and it would continue to play while we sat in silence, listening to it.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Every so often, we would have a live performance from one of the students who was learning an instrument or from the school choir.&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><br /><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I don’t know how much music I heard in those four years. I don’t know how often Mr Clay repeated a piece of music, and I don’t know what he chose or how esoteric some of it must have been. Of course, I don’t know who the composers were or what the pieces were, although Mr Clay may have given us that information at the time and I’ve simply forgotten. I do know that Mr Clay gave me the gift of music. I know that I respond when I hear a piece of classical music, and that’s largely due to him. The music he played as we filed into the hall for assembly was simply part of my childhood routine, and, while I’m not sure it meant a great deal to me at the time, I know that it means something to me now.</div>Nicola Vincent-Abnetthttps://plus.google.com/109074152191643376239noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-6477143695543382552.post-48352026927980808272016-01-04T15:40:00.000+00:002016-01-04T15:40:11.247+00:00Celebrity Big Brother 2016 - Reality TV and the Cult of Celebrity<div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><span style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: initial;">Reality TV isn’t a new thing. The general public has been appearing on our screens for a long time. There’s a reason for that, and the reason is that people make cheap television. Get a handful of the public on the goggle box doing something daft, and the budget for a half hour show can be next to nothing. Big names are expensive, and drama is expensive, but people are cheap.</span></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I always think that Reality TV as we know it, which is why I’ve given it capitals, began in the UK in 2000 with the first British series of <i>Big Brother</i> on Channel 4. At the time, and thinking that it was an interesting social experiment, I was intrigued. Of course, it turned out to be a bit of a freak show, although the first series was positively tame by comparison to what came later.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The genre took off, and Reality TV is a wall-to-wall phenomenon. Turn on the TV at any time of the day or night, and it’s possible to tune in to some form of Reality TV; every station has a show… several shows, and every format has been milked. <i>TOWIE</i> spawned <i>Made in Chelsea</i>, then <i>Geordie Shore</i>. <i>Castaway</i> spawned shows like <i>Shipwrecked</i>. There is a plethora of dating reality shows, and I’ve lost count of the talent shows, everything from <i>Pop-Stars</i> and <i>Pop Idol</i> to <i>X-Factor</i>, <i>the Voice</i> and <i>Britain’s Got Talent</i>.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Back in the day, putting the public on the TV made them famous for the duration of the show, and, in their home towns, for a week or two after the show aired. Back in the day, the day being 1968, Andy Warhol wrote, <i>In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes </i>in the catalogue for one of his exhibitions. Interestingly, at that time, the idea wasn’t a new one. A Canadian philosopher called Marshal McLuhan may have got in ahead of Warhol, not to mention the English, who have been using the phrase <i>A nine days’ wonder </i>since the fourteenth century.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Of course many of the thousands of people who have taken part in Reality TV shows since 2000 were only famous for fifteen minutes, or days, weeks or perhaps months. Then there are the others… those that for some reason we liked more, or who wanted it more. Some of the ordinary people plucked from obscurity to take part in Reality TV shows over the past fifteen years became celebrities.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Reality TV became very successful, so successful, in fact, that there have been close to four hundred shows aired in the UK in the past fifteen years that fit the criteria. Reality TV makes money. This cheap format is a money maker, and it is popular. It began to turn previously anonymous citizens into stars.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">We all know what happened next. Someone had the bright idea of making celebrity versions of Reality TV shows. If Reality TV could make stars out of nobodies, how much more interesting would it be with celebrities at its heart?</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">You might think that no right-thinking celebrity would ever want to take part in a Reality TV show, but, clearly, you’d be wrong… and so would I. Apparently, agents had no problems persuading their celebrities to take payment for all manner of humiliation when it came to big ratings on Reality TV shows. If those shows could make stars out of Joe Public, imagine what they could do for celebrities whose careers were waning.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">For the production companies who’d needed to fill their shows with cheap bodies at the outset, the money didn't matter any more, because the format was proven. Reality TV was profitable.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Crikey! That was one hell of a preamble.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="text-align: right;"></div><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="float: right; margin-left: 1em; text-align: right;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-ECutP3BbUmY/VoqOxxD4-1I/AAAAAAAABa4/LOq4CnESXqE/s1600/Celebrity-Big-Brother-2016.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" height="225" src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-ECutP3BbUmY/VoqOxxD4-1I/AAAAAAAABa4/LOq4CnESXqE/s400/Celebrity-Big-Brother-2016.jpg" width="400" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">Daniella Westbrook, Gemma Collins and Kristina Rihanoff<br /><a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/news/celebrity-big-brother-2016-line-up-confirmed-gemma-collins-kristina-rihanoff-jonathan-cheban-a6794461.html#gallery" target="_blank">This is what the Independent had to say about the CBB line-up</a></td></tr></tbody></table><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Yesterday, I read the Sunday papers, and because it’s New Year, and I’m in a good mood, I didn’t want to crash in on a Monday with a heavy blog. I skipped through the news and landed on the entertainment pages. The headlines were devoted to the latest run of <i>Celebrity Big Brother</i>.&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><i>Big Brother</i> has been running for sixteen years. This is its seventeenth season, except that some years there has been more than one run, because of the celebrity editions. I don’t know how many shows or casts there have been, but it’s been a lot. I’m not a regular watcher of the show, and I haven’t been for a long time. It makes me rather tense watching something as unpredictable as caged people and their personal interactions unfolding in difficult circumstances, manipulated by the production company, and often under duress. It doesn’t entertain me. I realise that it does entertain a lot of people. I know that viewers like, admire and relate to a lot of the contestants that appear on Reality TV shows. It’s all good. It might not be for me, but I make no judgement.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The big reveal for all of the celebrity Reality TV shows is, of course, the line-up of stars that is going to appear in the program, and that’s what I saw in yesterday’s paper.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><i>Celebrity Big Brother 2016</i> has sixteen contestants going into the Big Brother house, including several that I have never heard of, but I presume must be famous.&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Here’s the list:</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Winston McKenzie</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Christopher Maloney</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Nancy Dell’Olio</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Tiffany Pollard</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">John Partridge</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Megan McKenna</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Angie Bowie</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Daniella Westbrook</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Scotty T</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">David Gest</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Kristina Rihanoff</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Jonathan Cheban</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Darren Day</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Jeremy McConnell</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Stephanie Davis</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Gemma Collins</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">These people have in common that they are all celebrities, it's right there in the title of the show… OK, I don’t know who half of them are, but I’m not the target audience for this program. I do know that Winston McKenzie is a politician of sorts, that Nancy Dell’Olio was a lawyer, that Angie Bowie was once married to David Bowie, that Daniella Westbrook was an actor, that David Gest was married to Liza Minelli, that Kristina Rihanoff is a dancer and that Darren Day was once a singer with a pop band.&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">So, of the people I recognise, only two of them have a current status, a politician and a dancer, and Kristina Rihanoff is a professional on another Reality TV show, <i>Strictly Come Dancing</i>. I assume that Winston McKenzie is hoping to look like a good guy in order to improve his chances at the next Mayoral election in London. I wonder whether that’s horribly cynical of me, or of him.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Of the guests I recognise, Nancy Dell’Olio has appeared on the Reality TV show <i>Strictly Come Dancing</i>; Daniella Westbrook has appeared on <i>I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here</i> and <i>Dancing on Ice</i>; David Gest has appeared on <i>I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here</i>, as a guest judge on <i>Soapstar Superstar</i>, as a judge on <i>Grease is the Word</i> and on <i>Come Dine with Me</i>; Darren Day has also appeared on <i>Come Dine with Me</i>.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">That’s an awful lot of Reality Television.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Of the remaining contestants, Christopher Maloney is a former <i>X-Factor</i> finalist, so we’re back with Reality TV again. Tiffany Pollard is an American Reality TV star, appearing on <i>Flavor of Love (1 and 2)</i>, <i>I Love New York (1, 2 and 3),</i> <i>New York Goes to Hollywood</i> and <i>New York Goes to Work</i>… Oh for goodness sake! Thank goodness for the actor John Partridge, famous for his role in <i>EastEnders</i>! Megan McKenna is from the Reality TV show <i>Ex On the Beach</i>, which I’d never heard of. Scotty T is from Reality TV show <i>Geordie Shore</i>. Jonathan Cheban is a friend of Reality TV star Kim Kardashian and appeared in the Reality TV shows <i>Keeping up with the Kardashians</i>, <i>Kourtney and Kim Take New York</i>, <i>Kourtney and Kim Take Miami </i>and <i>Kourtney and Khloé Take the Hamptons</i>, and yes, the words you are looking for are, <i>Oh good grief!</i> Jeremy McConnell is a former Mr Ireland, who appears not to have his own wikipedia page, which makes me wonder whether he qualifies as even remotely known, never mind a celebrity. I believe that he might also go by Jeremy McConnell Cooke, and if this is the same man, he appeared in a Reality TV show called <i>Beauty School Cop Outs</i> on MTV in 2013. I am now extremely grateful for the actor Stephanie Davis, who is a <i>Hollyoaks</i> star. I don’t watch the show, but at least this girl does something that looks like a real job… No, wait, her character was axed in September last year.The last person on the list is Gemma Collins of <i>TOWIE</i>. She also appeared in the Reality TV show <i>Splash</i> and, famously in <i>I’m a Celebrity</i>, which she endured for a grand total of 72 hours.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I suppose, my question is this: At what point will Reality Television disappear up its own fundament?</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">If the latest run of <i>Celebrity Big Brother</i> is anything to go by, Reality Television has become an enterprise all its own, a kind of factory system, an odd sort of revolving door.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Step 1: Put the public on Reality Television shows.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Step 2: See who grows as a star.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Step 3: Get these budding celebs as many tv gigs, interviews and ads as possible.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Step 4: Get them exposure, attached to clothing lines and hooked up with other celebs.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Step 5: Put them on Celebrity Reality Television shows.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I like to admire people. I like to take an interest, but I like to have something to take an interest in. Youth and beauty are not virtues, and neither is exposure.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Give me a great actor or musician, give me a raconteur or a polymath, give me a scientist, a historian or someone who genuinely makes me laugh… All of these kinds of people have something to offer, and most of what they have to offer has come through hard work, preparation, diligence, struggle… Looking good and being in the right place at the right time just isn’t enough, I’m afraid.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The really odd thing is that in other worlds, and in other circumstances, some of these people could and should be really good at something. I understand that Nancy Dell’Olio is a hugely intelligent woman, so I wonder why she’s chosen this route. Perhaps she enjoys the attention or the money, or perhaps there’s a vulnerability about her that I fail to see. I don’t know. It’s interesting to contrast her with the other famous wife. Angie Bowie seems to have worked hard her entire life, but perhaps her talents are limited, since her successes have been meagre. Sadly, Angie Bowie’s wiki page reads like a long list of failures, when she might have expected her name, her face and her address book to lead her somewhere more fulfilling than the Big Brother House. I don’t see that any of this diminishes her value as a person, though. She might be a wonderful woman, kind, generous and lovely. I wonder what it is that drives her ambitious to be famous, to be loved by people who don’t even know her, or to be known for something… for almost anything.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I’m sure that <i>Celebrity Big Brother 2016 </i>will find its audience, and I’m sure that those who watch it will enjoy the experience. Being a celebrity appears to be a job title without a qualifier, and the job of this kind of celebrity appears to be appearing on celebrity versions of the Reality Television shows that spawned them in the first place.&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I can’t help thinking that this list of celebrities signals a turning point for Reality TV, and perhaps even sounds its death knell. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.</div><br /><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div>Nicola Vincent-Abnetthttps://plus.google.com/109074152191643376239noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-6477143695543382552.post-58092477624883770612016-01-03T16:56:00.001+00:002016-01-03T17:50:31.613+00:00It’s all about the Money<div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><span style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: initial;">None of us carries as much cash as we used to. We’re all accustomed to using debit and credit cards for most of our purchases. We do, however, still use small change and the five pound note for bits and pieces. It’s true that we can now pay for parking and taxis using phone apps, but most shops, especially the independents and family run places that I prefer to use, don’t like to take cards for payments of less than a tenner, and since they’re charged for every card transaction, I can’t say I blame them.</span></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">We all use less cash, but the Mint still prints money, and, from time to time, they come up with commemorative editions to celebrate various events, like the Olympic Games, for example, or a Royal Jubilee. 2016 is no exception.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">This year, the Mint will be issuing a set of commemorative coins, remembering events and lives from British history. It all seems fine to me. It gives the Mint an opportunity to do what it’s supposed to do, which is print money, and it gives it a chance to make money too. It also gives hobbyists an opportunity to collect.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">My father used to collect First Day Covers of new editions of stamps when I was a kid. He was a hardworking family man and he didn’t have a lot of hobbies. He didn’t drink or smoke, and he didn’t take part in or watch a lot of sports, but he did collect stamps when I was a child, and I clearly remember him enjoying getting his First Day Covers at regular intervals. There are people who collect new editions of coins, too.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">This year marks 950 years since the Battle of Hastings, 400 years since the death of William Shakespeare, 350 years since the Great Fire of London, 100 years since WWI and 90 years since the birth of Queen Elizabeth II. There are coins to commemorate all of these things in 2016.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I had heard talk of a coin to commemorate the birth of Beatrix Potter 150 years ago, but can find no&nbsp; mention of it on the Mint’s website. It would have been nice to see a woman (other than the Queen, of course) represented in the list. 2016 marks 200 years since Charlotte Bronte’s birth, Royal Academician and miniaturist Mary Green was born in 1766, 250 years ago. The first English feminist, Mary Astell, advocated for equal educational opportunities for women, and was born 350 years ago in 1666. Mary Tudor was born in 1516, and Elizabeth of York was born in 1466. In 1566 Agnes Waterhouse was the first woman executed in England for witchcraft; she was hanged.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I didn’t intend this to be yet another feminist rant, but I’m sure you take my point.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Let’s get back to good old Bill Shakespeare, the Great Fire of London, the First World War and the Battle of Hastings. Let’s get back to boys’ stuff and the patriarchy.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">1916 was probably the bloodiest period of trench warfare during World War I. Verdun and the Somme will both be commemorated by the Mint in their World War I coin this year. Two million men died as a result of those two battles.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Every man who fought in the Great War and survived is now gone. Those who fought and died in the Great War did so out of duty and obligation, and out of loyalty and patriotism. The First World War should be studied, and those studies should be as objective as possible. I think it’s time to let go of the jingoistic fervour we have long held, and the righteous attitude some of us still espouse when it comes to historic wars. Sometimes, embedded in war there is, of course, right and wrong (we can all point at the Holocaust and believe in the evil of a regime), but war is generally about politics, ideologies, circumstances, strategies and alliances.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">A hundred years on, it only remains for most of us to remember the lives lost and the soldiers who died doing their duty, whatever their nationalities. We remember our own first, of course we do, but for every branch of our own family tree nipped in the bud, a young man died who spoke another language, but might have been equally honest, hardworking, caring or talented.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The Mint has been striking coins to commemorate World War I since 2014, and I expect it will continue to do so through to 2018. It seems right and appropriate that it should.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The other war that will be commemorated by the Mint in 2016 is, of course, the Battle of Hastings. This is still one of the first things that most kids learn about in their first history lessons in school, or at least I assume it is. Dates aren't taught as much as they used to be, but say 1066 to anyone, and The Battle of Hastings has to be the first thing that springs to mind. I suppose, with a history as long and as colourful as ours has been, it’s inevitable that key moments resonate: The Battle of Hastings, the signing of Magna Carta… That sort of thing. In fact the eight hundredth anniversary of Magna Carta was celebrated with a £2 coin from the Mint last year.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Inevitably, the image chosen for the coin is from the Bayeux Tapestry, and even less surprisingly, it’s the death of Harold Godwinson, taking an arrow through the eye. It’s the first of several violent or morbid images on the coins this year. You’ll see others below. This one’s a particular niggle for me, because the Bayeux Tapestry is still being studied, and this image is highly debated. The arrow appears to be a later addition, and this might not be Harold at all. The King might be depicted in another panel, killed with a sword, the script above his head, ‘he is slain’. It’s all rather confusing, but the jury’s still out. It would have been more appropriate, perhaps to have used another panel from the tapestry, depicting the coronation of William the Conqueror.</div><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="float: right; margin-left: 1em; text-align: right;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-jRGLBO-NqMw/VolSTYQdtYI/AAAAAAAABao/T4e1EXp0llY/s1600/UK16S3BU_01_gray.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" height="400" src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-jRGLBO-NqMw/VolSTYQdtYI/AAAAAAAABao/T4e1EXp0llY/s400/UK16S3BU_01_gray.jpg" width="400" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.royalmint.com/our-coins/ranges/2016-commemorative-coins" target="_blank">Commemorative coins available from the Royal Mint</a></td></tr></tbody></table><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Let me say that I have no problem celebrating Shakespeare. I’m a fan. I wish his work was more widely studied. We all have a lot to learn from reading his work, as writers and readers, and as people. His plays were still widely read when I was at school thirty-five years ago, or so, and the sonnets, too. My children read him less than I did, and I wonder if he’s studied at all in schools now. It’s a pity.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">My problem is that this has clearly been reflected in the choice of images for the coins that are to commemorate his death this year. The Mint has decided that the three coins dedicated to Shakespeare will depict a fool’s motley, Yorick’s skull and MacBeth’s crown and dagger. Motley isn’t specific to Shakespeare, and nor is the idea of a court jester or fool, so this is rather a generic idea, and I can’t help thinking that it’s a bit of a cop-out. That leaves us with the depiction of two tragedies, and probably the two plays that the British public is most familiar with. “Alas poor Yorick…” and “Is this a dagger I see before me…” are, perhaps the most quoted and quotable lines from Shakespeare. I’m not sure they’re the best, most representative, most interesting, enlightening or even (dare I say) the nicest images that might have been chosen. Are we entirely sure we want a skull and a dagger on our coins? Is it all rather morbid? Add these two images to the image of Harold Godwinson (?) taking an arrow to the eye in the coin to commemorate the Battle of Hastings, and a theme begins to emerge.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The Great Fire of London is something else that most of us know very little about, except what we might have learned in primary school. We know the date, I suppose, and that the fire took four days to bring under control. We know the story about Pudding Lane, and we might remember that Pepys was writing his diary at the time. Some of us might remember that the fire put an end to a nasty bout of the plague… On the other hand, I could be making all this up, and how many of you would know?</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The devastation of our capital city seems like a strange thing to celebrate, to me, or are we commemorating it? Are we remembering that seventy thousand of the eighty thousand Londoners were displaced? I don’t know. Are we remembering the dead? I rather doubt it, since we don’t know how many died in the fire, or of smoke inhalation. We don’t know how many died in the chaos that followed. At the time, deaths from the fire were numbered in single figures, but I imagine those were the deaths of important people. How many bodies were destroyed so utterly in fires that reached temperatures up to 1700 degrees centigrade that there was no way to count them, and no one to do it? With 87 parish churches destroyed, who remained to record those deaths in parish records?&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">London rose once more from the ashes of that devastation, as it has from other disasters. We are proud of the city and its long history. I wonder at the choice to celebrate or commemorate this destruction, though. I wonder what the intention is. I wonder whether we want to see an image of our city burning when we daily feel the threat of it happening again.&nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Perhaps, after all, this is a positive reminder that London prevails, that despite everything, and whatever the threat, London has always survived. I hope that’s the intention, because I can see no other reason for this coin.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I rather like the idea that the Royal Mint produces coins to commemorate events and people from our history. I don’t entirely object to its choices for this year’s coins. I do have one or two issues, though. I regret that no women, apart from the Queen, are to be represented in this collection, when there were clearly women to choose from. I’m sorry, too, that more positive events in our history couldn’t have been rooted out. In the end, it’s the images themselves that I’m rather sad about. Death and destruction seem to have prevailed. It is only right that the World War I commemorative coin should be sober, solemn, even, but Shakespeare was so full of fun and wonder that much lighter images might have been found for his coins. The Battle of Hastings could have been represented by one of the beautiful images from the Bayeux Tapestry, which was, after all, made in England, but why this image? And depicting the Great Fire of London with the actual conflagration simply baffles me.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><br /><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">I won’t be ordering a set of the coins, and I don’t imagine I’ll see a great many of them in circulation, but I’ll certainly be taking a look at next year's collection to see what the Mint can come up with for 2017.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><br /></div><div><br /></div>Nicola Vincent-Abnetthttps://plus.google.com/109074152191643376239noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-6477143695543382552.post-41276765074382443952016-01-02T14:15:00.000+00:002016-01-02T14:15:20.552+00:00And a Wonderful Time was had by All<div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;"><span style="-webkit-text-stroke-width: initial;">I’m hanging on in there until Twelfth Night, but basically that’s it… it’s all over… The Festive Season has wound down for another year.</span></div><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="float: right; margin-left: 1em; text-align: right;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-Wv1nj7x1gGw/VofY7PlxhyI/AAAAAAAABaQ/7uRHIU9KB4w/s1600/Us%2B2015.JPG" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" height="320" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-Wv1nj7x1gGw/VofY7PlxhyI/AAAAAAAABaQ/7uRHIU9KB4w/s320/Us%2B2015.JPG" width="320" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">US being blurry on New Year's Eve</td></tr></tbody></table><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">We’ve celebrated my birthday, Christmas and New Year’s, and we’re marching onward into 2016… Well, I say marching, but it’s more like bustling about between bouts of meandering.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">We try to clear the decks in the week before Christmas. We try very hard. This year we both had a massive workload, and I was recovering from pneumonia, so December was tough. My birthday, which falls on Christmas Eve, was very quiet. We ate a vast breakfast, I opened my gifts and we chilled. I always watch ‘Singing in the Rain’ on my birthday, and the husband and I did just that. It was a matinée, in front of a roaring fire, with a blanket over our knees. We snacked, and I drank wine. The dort and her boyff arrived around 7-30, and we did more of nothing. There may have been big sandwiches and another movie, or it might just have been bad tv… I don't remember, except that it was easy and very relaxed. Christmas Day was much the same. We opened presents, we ate a big, late breakfast and we played a game. We were all in the kitchen, cooking together, and lunch didn’t happen until after dark, but it was very good! I never got out of my pyjamas, but nobody seemed to care.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Christmas is a very big deal, but it is so often fraught with duty and obligation, and it is so often spoilt with dashing about from one place to another to fulfil those duties and obligations. Too often, we spend time with people we don’t like very much doing things we don't particularly want to do, locked together, trapped by blood and history, by tradition and habit. Sometimes, of course, we can't be with the people we long to be with, and perhaps that’s the saddest thing of all.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">We had a lovely Christmas Day and I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. And we had a wonderful family day during Christmas week with one of my favourite traditions, borrowed from the husband’s grandfather.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Gift-giving is lovely. I enjoy it immensely. We love to give, and we do big birthdays and big Christmases, but we keep it close to home. We long ago gave up gift-giving outside of our own immediate family. I’ve got an abundance of brothers and sisters and nephews and nieces, and they all have partners; I’ve even got great-nephews and -nieces. It’s too much and totally redundant to buy gifts for so many people, and it’s far too expensive for the younger members of the family to be expected to do it, so we simply don't. &nbsp;</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">Chez-Abnett, we do, however, give Table Presents, and it’s a tradition that I particularly enjoy. On Christmas Day, and any time we have guests for a Christmas meal during Christmas week, we have Table Presents, which is to say that there is a gift at the table for every diner. These tend to be small and personal, and generally not terribly expensive. The husband will often buy me a small bottle of my favourite perfume, books are always good, the boyff got a video game the husband had worked on, but it could be anything. I got a lovely notebook at the table this year with a particularly apposite quote on the cover: A simple, perfect thing.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">The husband and I are not big New Year’s Eve people. When the dorts were kids, we always had an open house family party to see-in the New Year, but the numbers dwindled as the kids grew up, and eventually they stopped entirely. The dort has hosted a couple of New Years parties Chez-Abnett, but it’s been more than fifteen years since we’ve attended anyone else's party. It’s an odd time of year, and it tends to make me reflective.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" class="tr-caption-container" style="float: right; margin-left: 1em; text-align: right;"><tbody><tr><td style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-uHV1qDrZ_hM/VofZRWJL12I/AAAAAAAABaY/J4ShMyQ0wdU/s1600/Thomas%2Band%2BLily%2Bdancing.JPG" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><img border="0" height="252" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-uHV1qDrZ_hM/VofZRWJL12I/AAAAAAAABaY/J4ShMyQ0wdU/s320/Thomas%2Band%2BLily%2Bdancing.JPG" width="320" /></a></td></tr><tr><td class="tr-caption" style="text-align: center;">The dort and her boyff getting their groove on<br />New Year's Eve</td></tr></tbody></table><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">This year, we were invited to a house party, so we decided to go. We’re glad we did. There were charades and dancing, and a wonderful buffet, accompanied by vast quantities of good Prosecco. The company was positively sparkling, and we had a cheerful and celebratory time. I even got up and jigged about a bit, despite breaking a toe over Christmas.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">It’s all over now, but I shall remember the holiday season for 2015 very fondly. We had a lovely time. The dort and her boyff left yesterday after spending a lot of time with us over the past couple of weeks. We loved having them here, and had a lot of fun talking, playing games, and building all those Lego projects we found in our stockings.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">They’re off to spend some well-deserved time together, decorating the boyff’s flat and having some fun before he goes back to work and she goes back to university. We’re tidying up, taking stock and getting back to work. We’re making some plans of our own, too.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">It’s been lovely and we look forward to spending more time like it, but I wonder why we don’t do this more often. There’s no reason why we have to wait for next Christmas to eat a meal together, play a game or have a party. Life’s too short not to spend time with the people who matter and enjoy the good things in life, the simple pleasures.</div><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal; min-height: 13px;"><br /></div><br /><div style="-webkit-text-stroke-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-stroke-width: initial; font-family: Helvetica; line-height: normal;">We shall miss the dort and her boyff. The house feels rather empty without them, today.</div>Nicola Vincent-Abnetthttps://plus.google.com/109074152191643376239noreply@blogger.com1