Friday, 26 October 2007

I'm just a boy who cain't say no

I've just been commissioned to write two articles on cars for a magazine.

Now, before everyone starts scaling tall buildings along my route to enable them to shower me with ticker tape (can you still GET ticker tape in this age of computer screens and online trading? If not, what a great loss. What will they do when China puts a man on the moon, and then puts another one on the moon an hour later?)

Anyway, I digress.



Before you get all excited, I should admit that these commissions are based far more on WHO I know than my Hemingwayesque writing skills. The next Jeremy Clarkson I am not.

Well, not yet anyway. FAR too tolerant (stop laughing at the back).

However, I need to deliver both articles by the 31st.

I am in Belfast at the moment, sitting in an airport lounge and am off again for a large chunk of next week. Which means I have committed to writing two professional, glossy executive magazine style articles over the weekend.

On a subject that, frankly, I don't know much about. If, 10, maybe 15 years ago I'd been asked to write about supercars, I could have done it easily.

20 or 25 years ago, and you probably would have found me struggling to write about much else. I could quote the BHP, 0-60 times and pros & cons of the Ferrari 308 GTS (the Magnum car - see, now you know the one) compared with a 911 Turbo. I could tell you that a Lamborghini Countach SS was ferociously fast, but that you couldn't see out of the back and needed to hang out of the door to reverse.

The clutch would also break your leg if you didn't watch it like a hawk.

But that was a long time ago and now, I know a Ferrari when I see one, but couldn't tell a Scuderia (and before you think it, I just read the name on the front of a magazine) from a Raspberry Ripple.

So, here I sit in Belfast, £10 lighter and 10lb heavier from Car magazines, facing a weekend of research and writing.

Now, don't get me wrong, I love writing and love the idea of being PAID to write even more.

But WHY do I always commit myself to things I simply don't have the time or resources to do?

Will you join me in the chorus?

All together....

He's just a boy who cain't say no,
he's in a terrible state
He just commits to everything
He's far too much on his plate.

Still, if I get paid, does that make me a proper writer? Damn, I hope this doesn't just become a 'job' to me.

Although, then again, if you pay me enough

Now, where did I put those magazines?

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Talking to strangers

The UK is a small place.

Having seen the vast distances in the US, where the distance from horizon to horizon is the distance from my home to my Brother's, I realise how small.

I don't see my brother much because of the distance.

Well, the distance and because we've drifted apart. I think the continental drift started the night my Father died. I went to pick him up to go to the hospital, and he offered his hand in a handshake. I ignored it and hugged him, but could feel drift begin even then, inexorable but definite.

So given the lack of size, it amazes me sometimes the huge differences even a few miles can make in regional personality and behaviour.

A few months ago, I went on my annual road trip with my daughters. Each year, we pack a bag, and set off, following our noses (a not difficult task in my case), stopping for the night in hotels wherever we may be, letting them enjoy the thrill of the things I take for granted in my life - room service, free sewing kits and shower gel, notepads and branded pencils. I remember their excitement the first time I confirmed they could keep them, along with the credit-card sized keys.

Now, experienced travellers that they are, they take them for granted.

Innocence lost.

We ended up in Blackpool. It's sort of like Las Vegas, but without the class.

Or entertainment

Or anything else particularly.

But that's where we ended up. Why were we up there? Because my youngest, bless her, when asked where she wanted to go, replied:

"Can we go anywhere?"

"Anywhere within reason, yes."

"Cool. Can we go to Manchester?"

"Manchester? Why on earth do you want to go there????"

Turned out a friend had been to the shopping centre there and told her it was "amazing"

It's not. It's a mall. But that's where we ended up and so from there to Blackpool seemed like a good idea.

What has this to do with anything? Well, not a lot, but I have found that in a blog, it's hard to keep to the point. So forgive me.

Anyway, both the girls were stunned by the different accents, the slower pace and different nature of the people they met up there. Particularly, how chatty and friendly everyone was.

They were also amazed by how their Dad was so chatty too, talking to complete strangers, immersing himself in conversations with complete strangers.

And that's my point. In the US, you get regional differences, noticeable changes in accent from State to State, region to region, with personalities seemingly growing out of the earth. I've been to New England and met people who wouldn't p*ss on you if you were on fire, and I've chatted to a Navajo indian at the side of a desert road as if he was an old friend and found that he had visited Great Yarmouth.

But that's another story.

But in England, less than 50 miles can mean a different attitude, accent and view on life.

So here I sit in Belfast, in a lonely hotel room, wondering whether to order room service or go to the pub (can't afford the hotel restaurant), and looking back on a day of chatting to the lovely Irish people I've met. This place is my secret - nobody else from work comes here, because they all think it's a war zone.

Why do they think that?

I couldn't POSSIBLY say, unless somebody, somebody who wants to keep the secret to himself, somebody devious has told them that.

People here are nice. They chat, they laugh, they smile. How they had so much trouble for so long I don't understand. How can you get on so well with a stranger, yet hate your next door neighbour enough to kill him?

I like talking to strangers. They are interesting, you can't guess what they are going to say. Sometimes you can't UNDERSTAND what they say, but that's ok too.

Best of all, they haven't heard my jokes.

And some of them are nice enough to laugh, which makes them friends.

Odd that, isn't it?

Sunday, 21 October 2007

I didn't win

I didn't win tickets, or rather, the right to buy tickets for the Led Zeppelin concert next month.

By rights, I'm a little too young to be a true Led Zep fan. I make a noise when I get up from a chair, a sort of cross between a duck laying an ostrich egg and a seven-stone weakling lifting 300lbs in the gym, but the egg still gets laid, the weight lifted.

My joints creak as I bend to pick up a piece of paper, but I can still bend.

I have my 'Craft' moments (Can't Remember a F***ing Thing), but can still remember my kids when they come and ask for money.

More's the pity.

And as I started young, I remember their songs, their lyrics. I remember lying in a darkened bedroom in my parents house, headphones the size of Volkswagen beetles on my head, volume turned up to eleven before Spinal Tap. I remember leaping horizontally 3 feet into the air as my mother, thinking I'd fallen asleep, sneaked in and lifted the headphones off.

I'm grateful, as now I will recognise the heart attack when it comes.

But I'm sad I didn't win tickets. Sad I won't be able to say to my grandchildren that, when the latest boy band covers Black Dog as an acapella harmony, all covered zits and rippling pecs, that I remember actually SEEING Led Zeppelin, the REAL Led Zeppelin, in concert. Sad that I will never have the chance to hear Stairway to Heaven, live, warts, bum notes and all. Something to look back on as the Craft moments take over more and more, knowing this is one thing I will remember, along with my generation's Kennedy, the Towers. I'm sad because I won't be at this last of the great concerts, when others will be, others who simply have money, but no right.

And, if I'm honest, I'm sad I won't be able to sell the tickets on Ebay and clear my cards. Sad I won't be able to persuade some corporate poseur that he should entertain his clients there, letting them hark back to their youth whilst he cynically reckons the value of nostalgia in future orders.

Besides, let's get real here. When I was too young to go to a Led Zeppelin concert, the joints Robert Plant was concerned with weren't the ones he has to smear with Tiger Balm when it looks like rain.

So, do I REALLY want to sit there, realising that they have subtly changed the lyrics, and now, in 2007, they're singing about a "Stairlift to Heaven"?

You bet I do.


Saturday, 20 October 2007

The oddest things

Make me laugh.

I have just heard a television presenter say:

"The only way to take a tapir's temperature..."

Say it out loud.

Now tell me that's not funny.

Oh well, takes all sorts I s'pose.

However, I makes me think I will keep a section of this blog for the things that make me laugh, in the hope it does the same for you.

Right, I'm off to wander round saying "only way to take a tapir's temperature" and chuckle.

To Blog or not to Blog

Well, here we are, committing what I'd always considered to be the height of self-absorbed arrogance - Blogging. Committing to cyberspace my thoughts, in the curious idea that somebody, anybody, may want to read them.

So, in the spirit of a litigious world, these are the terms and conditions of my blog.

This blog is intended for my personal use. Any content is intended not for the reader, but for myself. It's primary use is as a receptacle for the outpourings of my subconscious, as a personal journal which I won't put down and lose.

Ok, so I don't lose things, I just remember them being elsewhere.

None of the thoughts, statements or opinions are posted to elicit any reaction in the reader, as I fully expect the reader to be me. They are not designed to be provocative, confrontational or indeed, accurate. I fully reserve the right to post comments that are ill-judged, founded on poor logic and just plain silly. It's my blog, if you want to disagree, get your own. I promise not to read it.

I do not commit to posting with any regularity, for my posts to have any particular theme or even to make sense. This is not a journal of any aspect of my life, it just 'is'.

Some of the things I post on here will be true.

Some of the things I post on here will be fiction.

Some of the things I post on here, I will be able to distinguish between the two.

Others I may not.

I leave it to you to decide which is which. If you can tell, please don't hesitate to tell me. All assistance in dealing with reality is gladly received.

Generally ignored, but gratefully received.

This blog will therefore be free of all warranties, guarantees, promises and commitments. I don't do well with commitment. I've spent my life trying to avoid being committed. Then again, they tell me the food is good in there and they now have cable...

All I do promise to try to keep my posts readable, grammatically correct (unless for effect) and wherever possible, free of spelling errors. This last is promised because I've just noticed the spellcheck button. Now I live in fear of American spelling.

If you wish to comment on anything posted (Blogged? See? Already I'm struggling), please feel free. I may even read your comments, or even comment on your comment.

Then again, that will rely on my remembering my password. For me, passwords are a bit like car keys. I put them down in a logical, safe place.

Then someone moves them.

I blame the sock-pixies.

Over time, I'm sure I will become more familiar with Blogging, and this journal will evolve.

Or maybe not. Either way, you have no grounds for complaint.

I have only one request.

If something I post on here makes you smile or laugh, then I'm glad and please feel free to tell me. If something I post on here makes you sad, then please feel free to share that too. If something I post on here makes you angry with me, then please feel free to stick it.

If I want to be reminded of my failings, I talk to my children. They're professionals.

I thang yow.