What a Hullaba..loo

As both my readers know by now, I am constantly trawling the news sites for snippets which are worthy of inclusion in this esteemed literary masterpiece (okay, it’s a tatty old blog, but my first version sounds far better.)

Once again, the famous news site, run by the Broken Biscuit Company, has come to my aid in finding something on which to comment.

Man on a toiletNow, we Brits have always found both embarrassment and humour in the most basic of bodily functions, number ones and twos, tinkles and poos, call it what you will, but there is a love-hate relationship with the process that every human, and indeed living creature on this planet must go through, the excretion of waste.

We all know a least one person who delights in the passing of gas at the most inappropriate times, and another who never seems to visit a toilet, ever, but it would appear embarrassment far outweighs entertainment for many people, regarding all matters toilet.

Renowned for being something of a reserved nation, I thought the Brits would be at the top of the league in this department, but according to the article I read, the Swedes are up there too. What we sometimes refer to as schoolboy humour isn’t at all humorous to schoolboys after all.

One town has come up with an idea to drown out the nefarious sounds of the

Brass Band
This may be a common sight in toilets in the future..
By NawlinWiki at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3960443

loo by installing music in the school toilets. It seems that both primary and senior high school students are loath to use the loo for fear of being overheard.

According to Centre Party Councillor Cecilia Cato, in the town of Tingsryd, some children are so concerned that they refuse to use the toilet all day. She suggested the musical solution to the local council.

“I don’t think it’s just about number two on the toilet, but many also don’t do number one,” Ms. Cato said.

I just wonder about the choice of music. Would that be left to the individual concerned, depending on their circumstances? On occasion, I have been in public toilets when the person concerned would probably require Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, complete with cannons and for some, maybe Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumble Bee would find favour. Then of course there is Handel’s Water Music….perhaps I should leave it right there.

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A Day in the Life of an Author

Walk into any bookstore or library and you are walking into a multitude of worlds; worlds created in the mind of a writer or author. The books you see are the result of hundreds of hours of angst, perspiration, joy, anger, tears, frustration and relief. Relief? Yes, relief that finally all those ideas spinning around in your head have wormed their way from your brain to the paper, in what you hope is a meaningful order.

Have you ever wondered how those words got there? I have created a snapshot of a typical weekend in the life of an author, (an author who has a day job,) so you can see how all those random thoughts are processed to create the wondrous work you see on the bookshelves.

10:00pm          Decide on an early night to tackle a full day writing tomorrow, starting at 8am.

11:59pm          Stop looking at silly cat videos on YouTube.

01:00am          Think of a marvellous plot twist as you are finally dropping off to sleep, one so brilliant you are certain to remember it in the morning.

05:00am          Wake up at your normal weekday time. Find a cat pawing you in the face looking to be fed (cats do not understand weekends and neither does your body clock.)

05:10am          Get up. Trip over the other cat lurking at the foot of the bed (cats work in pairs to trap humans; even cats who hate each other do this. It’s a basic instinct.) Feed the cats to keep them quiet.

05:15am          Go back to bed for a further half-hour sleep.

09:30am          Wake up and realise your day is off to a late start.

09:40am          Decide you should have a full English breakfast before getting to work. Spend the next ten minutes debating with your wife whether to cook or to go to a café.

09:50am          Having decided on the latter, start writing a shopping list to kill two birds with one stone. No sense in going out and not doing the shopping at the same time.

09:51am          Remember you had a brilliant idea for a plot twist the previous night. Fail to remember what it was. Resolve to buy another notebook to put at the side of the bed, along with a pen (the previous twenty-three notebooks and pens appear to have been taken by aliens. What they are going to do with all those notebooks and pens, you have no idea, but the germ of an idea for a sci-fi novel pops into your head.)

09:55am          Complete shopping list, failing to add notebook and pen as you have been distracted by the sci-fi book plot.

10:00am          Leave the house resolving to be back by midday.

02:15pm          Arrive back with the shopping.

02:30pm          Having packed the shopping away, decide to have a cup of tea before getting to work on the next chapter.

04:00pm          Stop looking at Facebook and open your writing program.

05:00pm          Having written six words, which do not quite convey what you have in your mind. Decide to cook the evening meal.

05:01pm          Open a bottle of wine while you and your wife decide on what to cook.

05:20pm          Order a take-away as you don’t fancy any of the food you bought that morning.

05:25pm          Have another glass of wine while you wait for the take-away to be delivered. Pointless to start writing now, only to be interrupted by the delivery driver.

07:00pm          Get back to work on the next chapter, glass of wine in hand.

07:05pm          Open another bottle of wine because the first one seems to be empty. Squint at the old bottle to see if it is cracked anywhere and has been leaking.

07:20pm          Look at the thirty-seven new words you have written and try to think of a better way it could be worded.

07:25pm          Start researching on the internet for a suitable location for your two main characters to have a meeting.

09:35pm          Stop looking at silly cat videos on YouTube and resolve to finish this chapter before bed.

11:55pm          Wake up with a stiff neck because you have been slumped on your desk for the last two hours.

12:01am          Go to bed.

12:15am          Remember the marvellous plot twist as you are dropping off to sleep. Also remember you forgot to buy a notebook and pen.

This is likely to be repeated the next day, shopping included as many items were missed off the list the first time around while you considered the sci-fi plot.
So, next time you complain the sequel to your favourite novel is taking too long to appear, give the author a break, you now know why.

Situation Vacant: Waste Management Specialist – (Extra-terrestrial)

Photo Credit: NASA

Ever since I was a child, I have had an interest in space exploration. Growing up at the same time as the Apollo missions was a magical experience. I was immensely disappointed when the programme was cut short and I couldn’t understand why the average person could not see the benefits that space exploration brings, not only to life on earth, but for the future of humanity which ultimately will have to move off this planet.

As I write this wee blether, several projects are on the go with the idea of sending people to Mars. NASA intends to set up a kind of base camp to support future missions, while Elon Musk and SpaceX have an eye on colonising Mars in the future, but in the meantime, intend to have crews spend time on the planet before being rotated back to earth. A Dutch project, on the other hand, promotes the idea this should be a one-way mission, with people signing up to live permanently on the red planet.

Now, this got me thinking (run for cover!) There are individuals on earth whose sole interest is making money. They don’t care how they do it, what harm it does to the environment, who it hurts in the process, or they have reached the point where making any more personal wealth is pointless. Making money is the focus of their lives.

Then there are a number of politicians who only have an interest in furthering their careers, not serving the people they were elected to serve (did your careers officer ever mention to you that ‘politician’ could be considered a job? I know mine didn’t.) There are very few politicians who could say, no fellow humans were harmed in the making of this career.

Suggested use of first deep space mission

And what about the death and destruction caused by armed conflicts, still happening over one-hundred years since the start of the war to end all wars? We didn’t learn our lesson then and we are still not learning it. I saw a meme on the internet the other day, Once, weapons were manufactured to fight wars. Now we manufacture wars to sell weapons.

The world is in a dire state, so I have an idea. Space exploration is vital to the future of the species, but could we not make the first few extra-terrestrial missions a sort of garbage disposal run and send the politicians, arms manufacturers, unethical business men and anyone else who cares not a jot about his fellow man, on a one-way trip to another world? It would make this one a much better place.

Nominations on a postcard please, to the usual address.

Tree Fellers Wanted….Only One Found

I was engaged in my third favourite occupation the other day, browsing that well known news site run by the Broken Biscuit Company (no, I am not telling you the first two!) when I came across a little piece about a van driver; not a white van for once, but a blue one…well, blue when you could see it.

Brings a whole new meaning

This enterprising (not quite sure if that is the word I should use about him, as you will see in a minute,) young chappie came up with what he thought was an ideal solution to his problem and gave a new meaning to a road sign many of us are familiar with.

Now, as is often the case in these situations, he didn’t quite think it through. Like many people, he set about the task entirely focussed on what he needed to achieve, without considering the wider implications of what he was doing. The task? To take a newly felled tree and transport it somewhere else. We are not talking mighty oak or Californian redwood here, but what looks to be a leylandii that may have got a little too big for its boots, or the owner’s garden.

Whether this chappie was the feller (sorry about the pun) who cut down this tree, or whether he saw an opportunity to grab himself a bit of timber, I don’t know, but I do know what you should do to avoid making the same mistakes.

First and foremost, don’t do the equivalent of the male thing with the shopping; you know what I mean. It doesn’t matter how many bags there are in the car, they are coming in the house in one go, even if the circulation of several of your digits will take days to recover, you are not making a second trip. If this is what you are going to do with a tree, you will either need to make more than one journey or use something substantially larger than the average Transit van; here is the vehicular equivalent of the loss of circulation in your

The Police were looking for tree fellers, but only one was found. Photo: BCH Road Policing

fingers.

Secondly, if you insist on overloading your vehicle, then avoid driving it through the town centre disguised as a small forest because it is

probably going to attract a bit of attention if you do, and indeed, the Sherriff of Nottingham (sorry, Hatfield), in the form of Her Majesty’s Constabulary, duly noted the arboreal expedition and decided to investigate.

And finally, should you still be contemplating ignoring the advice above and do it anyway, you should perhaps ensure you have the relevant driving documents in place to present to said Sherriff for inspection. This gentleman had a provisional licence and should have been accompanied, but perhaps his designated supervisor was at another branch.

I suspect the only trees this chap is going to be carrying in the near future are bonsais in a basket, on his bicycle.

Lies, dam*ed lies, statistics…and the News.

As both of my regular readers know, I often trawl the news sites looking for, well, news. Yesterday was no exception and I read a couple of articles on that well known bastion of current affairs based in the UK (yes, of course, you know where I am going with this; it’s the one run by the Broken Biscuit Company.)

What I am about to tell you will come as no surprise to some; the news we receive these days is the news that someone wants us to receive and in a way, they want us to receive it. In other words, it is at the very best spin, passing through propaganda and arriving at the very worst of news, lies; nowadays referred to as ‘alternative facts.

By The original uploader was SilkTork at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.→This file has been extracted from another file: GravityCask.jpg, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1754095

The two articles I mentioned were published on the same day and both on the front page of the UK section of this particular site.

The first was about alcohol consumption in the UK. Apparently, the Brits have fallen out somewhat with having a bevvy, a wee dram or getting blootered. In a poll carried out in 2016, just under 60% had had a drink in the past week. This apparently is the lowest rate since 2005. The report did urge caution as the survey was based on the personal recollections and for those who drink to excess, that may not be too clear. It also stated the young are not big drinkers… I think that certain European destinations may not agree with that. Perhaps the fall is due to that very fact, with the amount of tax placed on alcohol it could well be cheaper to book a flight on SneezyJet to Prague and have a few glasses there.

The second article suggested that a fall in public violence had been offset by an increase in domestic violence. In a request made under the Freedom of Information Act, a report highlights the move away from violence in public places into ‘private’ places.

The report went on to suggest the Police believed the increase in violence may be down to an increase in the consumption of alcohol and the use of psychoactive drugs.

So, there we have it;

  1. The British are drinking less.
  2. The British are drinking more.
  3. The statistics are being manipulated to suit the teller’s tale.

I think I know which my money is on and of course if you want to see the finest

By Rwendland (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
examples of this, watch any politician in the run up to the election; except Dianne Abbot, who has gone back to primary to learn to do sums.

This was a party political broadcast on behalf of the , When Is Somebody Actually Going To Tell The Truth? party.

Unity; the final frontier (Space is just another place to go)

I was listening to a radio programme this morning on the way to work, one broadcast to the world by a well-known news agency (yes, that’s the one, run by the Broken Biscuit Company.)

In Lifechangers, Dr Kevin Fong talks to people about their lives in science, and in this episode, former NASA administrator, Major General Charles Bolden talked about his life and career.

Image Credit: NASA

As soon as the term NASA, or the word space, is mentioned, my ears prick up. I grew up in the sixties when space exploration was at its boldest. The Apollo missions fired my imagination and I was devastated when I found I would be on holiday in Spain, when the first man was scheduled to walk on the moon.

However, I digress. You see it turns out Major General Bolden was the first African American to head NASA on a permanent basis. Now this may not be significant to some of you, but you must remember that Bolden grew up in the deep south and started his career when the United States still had segregation. He talked about the prejudice against black people at that time

and the obstacles put in his way, first of all in becoming a naval officer, then a pilot, and so on. At no point did he allow any of these barriers to deter him and he kept trying until he got what he wanted.

This got me thinking how lucky I have been in growing up without any of these

Image Credit: NASA

struggles that are cast on many people throughout their lives. My skin colour has caused me no problems nor has my perceived religion (for the record, I don’t practice one.) The only small issue I’ve encountered is my northern accent leads some people to believe I am lacking in the intelligence department. I am more than happy to allow people to continue their beliefs in that direction; I know my IQ and I really don’t care what others think.

I cannot imagine what it must be like to face such barriers as many do, and I can only marvel at the strength people have, to tackle these issues on a daily basis.

I long for a time when we accept people for who they are, not what physical attributes they have or notional groups they belong to. Sadly, I suspect I won’t see it in my lifetime.

Major General Bolden, I salute you for all you have achieved and if by some miracle, you do happen to read my blog, I would like to buy you a drink sometime and talk about the stars.

Holy moly!

Occasionally, something you write provokes a far greater reaction than expected, and that was the case a couple of weeks ago.

As some of you will be aware, my father is in hospital. My wife and I returned to the UK for another visit, a prospect she didn’t relish this time, not because of seeing my father I hasten to add, but because we were going to spend the entire week on a motorcycle.

Yes, that’s me and my wife, Jess

For those of you who have never ventured out on two wheels, let me tell you something about it. When you are in a car, you are cut off from the outside world, insulated from the cold, and isolated from a lot of the road defects. Four wheels and a good suspension system allow for a smooth ride. On two wheels, the elements are all around you, but more importantly, the road surface and defects take on a new dimension. Run over a pot hole in a car, you may get a jolt, hit that same defect on a motorcycle and it could have you off in a jiffy. Bikers become far more aware of the road surface than the average car driver.

So, what did I write that provoked a reaction from so many? Below is a copy of my post on Twittbook in a closed group from my home town of Bacup, in Lancashire.

I was looking at a leaflet my father had that explained where the council tax money goes. Apparently, there is money provisioned for potholes. Clearly the money is being well spent and the council must be

buying potholes by the truckload, because since our last visit they seem to

We did’t encounter anything quite this size! Photograph courtesy of Madera Police, CA © 2016

have doubled in number. Not only that, the quality of potholes is excellent. None of your shallow depressions masquerading as a hole, but full blown chasms in which you could lose a bus.

Money well spent it seems, and that post resulted in the highest number of likes I have ever had for a Twittbook post and only one person saw it as politically motivated against a certain political party; which one I have no idea, they are all the same to me.  Yes, you could say it is politically motivated, but against all politicians who are willing to take our money and give us very little in return. Otherwise, it was an attempt at an amusing comment on a not so funny situation on the UK roads.

Right, anyone fancy a bike ride? I’ll be around in the UK in August if you do; bring your own shovel and rubble to fill those chasms.

Say yes to what?

One of the things we first noticed when we moved to the middle east was the television. Unless you are willing to pay a subscription, the English channels available are extremely limited. To be fair, that is understandable, we don’t have too many Arabic speaking channels in the UK.

By USAF (Los Angeles AFB) – http://www.losangeles.af.mil/art/media_search.asp?q=aehf&btnG.x=0&btnG.y=0 [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3352085
So, we bit the bullet and took out a subscription to a local satellite provider and hey presto, we now have as many channels as we had in the UK. The number of English speaking channels has certainly increased, we now have Discovery, several movie channels, BBC First, ITV Choice and quite a few more, including the inevitable twenty-four-hour news channels that rarely have twenty-four hours’ worth of news with which to fill their air time.

Of course, we have the good old BBC and ITV to fall back on; a bit of home right here on our doorstep in Bahrain. Well, actually not as much as you would think.

It seems that someone at these illustrious channels has something of a distorted idea of what an expat might like to watch. Some of the programmes are relatively up to date, for instance, Coronation Street and East Enders are within twenty-four hours or so of the first UK broadcast; terrific if you like soaps. (My idea of a soap is confined to something you would use in the shower, but my wife likes some of them, so I am now up to date with what goes on in the streets of Weatherfield.) Most of the other offerings are at least a season out of date and repeated endlessly (no change on that score then.)

Now obviously, these cannot make up all our TV viewing time so my wife searches further afield and has come up with the TLC channel, an American cable network, showing a variety of programs, and here’s the important part, in English. (Yes, I know, American isn’t English, I hear you say, but to be fair, they do get most of the words right.) So, all is happy in our household when it comes to TV then, right?

Wrong! Her most popular programme on this channel is ‘Say Yes to The Dress,’ set in an upscale bridal boutique in New York. Before I came to Bahrain, I had no idea what a sweetheart neckline, A-line dress, raglan sleeve, mermaid or pick-up were (mermaids live in the sea as far as I’m aware, and the latter I always believed to be something you drove, or did in a bar.)

© Dm_Cherry/Shutterstock

Quite how this new-found knowledge will help me as an aircraft engineer, I’m not sure, but you can bet your bottom dollar if one of the victims in my books is a bride, there will be one hell of a description of what she is wearing.

 

 

Please Remember

Every day, somewhere in the world a tragedy occurs. Some are enormous, such as the 2004 boxing day tsunami which was responsible for the deaths of between 230,000 and 280,000 people, not to mention the devastation to the coastal areas, affecting countless numbers, across many countries.

Then there are the individual tragedies, such as an unexpected death in the family, affecting only a hand full of people. For those involved, the scale of the tragedy is unimportant.

Occasionally, something happens which affects a disproportionately large number of people and that’s what happened last week in Ireland. Whilst on the way to provide assistance to a rescue at sea, the crew of Coastguard Helicopter Rescue 116 were lost in the line of duty.

We have a saying about families in Lancashire, kick one and we all limp. The emergency services community is a tightly knit one and a loss in any of the branches is felt by all; this past few days everyone is limping. For a few years, I was a member of that family, but as with all families, you never really leave, and I don’t mind telling you, I’m limping too.

Most of the time, the people who ensure our safety or come to our aid in times of trouble, are invisible; out of sight, out of mind. Please don’t let it be that a tragedy such as this is the only time we remember them.

 

Emirates Festival of Literature

Emirates Festival of Literature

Last weekend, my wife and I were lucky enough to get a chance to go to the Emirates Festival of Literature in Dubai. This festival has been in existence since 2009 and is an opportunity not only to purchase a

The Burj Khalifa early morning. (Taken from our hotel room)

selection of books, but to see and hear the authors talk about their work.

Unfortunately, we were only able to spend one full day at the festival, but manage to cram a lot into that day, starting off by having a chat with the lovely Sue Moorcroft, Romantic Fiction author; an arrangement we had made earlier in the week.

Kathy Reichs is a name you will either know well or have never heard of, depending on the type of books you like to read. Whether you know Kathy or not, I suspect most of you will have heard of the TV series, Bones, and that is based on the forensic anthropologist character of Temperance Brennan, featured in her novels. The interview with Kathy, conducted by the talented Paul Blezard was in my opinion, far too short; the hour flew by. Paul’s relaxed style made it feel as though we were at dinner with a couple of friends discussing their work.

After this feast for forensic lovers, my wife and I parted company, temporarily I might add, whilst I went off to do a two-hour workshop on screenwriting; a subject in which I am very much interested. Conducted by the talented Nicholas Forzy, I was soon immersed in the intricacies of setting scenes and creating characters. His dynamic approach to the subject had us all caught up in the excitement of creating a world of characters for the screen; again, it was over, seemingly almost before it had started.

Another session with Kathy Reichs, this time on stage with another

talented writer, Andrew Davies, whose historical screenplay adaptations are

By Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12082893

widely acclaimed by TV and cinema audiences alike, was our first fayre after lunch. Again, the stage was oozing talent, and not without its moments of comedy too, when someone asked if Kathy Reichs thought President Trump would make a good character in one of her books; “As a victim?” Kathy asked.

It is many years since I picked up a Jeffrey Archer novel, so many, that I am not sure even of the title, but there is no doubt he has a large and loyal following. Our final session of the day was an audience with the man himself. Love him or loathe him (much like Marmite), without a shadow of a doubt, that man knows how to entertain an audience and tell a story.

If you ever get the opportunity to go to the festival, grab it with both hands. I will be back next year, as a member of the public if need be, but I do intend to go back one day as an attending author and talk about some aspect of my own work.