Freedom From The Mundane - A Writer's Blog

Thursday, March 31, 2005

GDR for March

End of the month and here's my GDR results.

13 issues of Hunting Jack (upped from 9 last month) - 12 issues completed
1 new short story - not done
1 short story for Writing Magazine - not done
Re-write Bill McCarthy short story and submit (binned after several re-writes)
Complete and submit Loaded for publication - done - subbed to Spoiled Ink
Complete and submit The Oasis for publication - done - subbed to Summerset Review
Follow up A Bond Of Faith submission to Sol Magazine and resubmit - done - subbed to Open Wide Magazine

4 new poems - 2 done (The Lamp/In The New Town Mist)

Complete Issue 2 of KIC website development column - completed then cancelled
Write issue 3 of KIC website development column - cancelled
Write issue 2 of Theatre review column - cancelled
Write issue 1 of Travel column - cancelled
Complete issue 1 of UK music column - completed then cancelled
Write Issue 2 of UK music column - cancelled

Marketing and Promotion
Leaflet re-distribution for Hunting Jack - not done
Print off business cards - not found suitable service
Do more to promote web design services - submitted various small ads, worked on dedicated website for marketing and completed legal contracts and requirements sheets.

Reading and Research
Read A Friend To Die For manuscript. - done
Finish reading The Prison House by John King - done
Read more fiction - several short stories - done
Read notes on Buddhism - not done

Chapter 1 of Web Development manuals - chapters 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 & 19 drafted
Complete design of new site for client - client pulled out

Things that turned up
Recalled Heart of a Child from WCP and resubmitted to Take A Break magazine
The Last Laugh sitcom competition - 8 scripts read and narrowed to 2 for further development
4 poems rejected from This Is It Magazine - resubmitted to various.

Did a lot of work on fiction projects, managing to get all short stories complete and into circulation.
Worked heavily on Hunting Jack to a point where the conclusion is mapped out and contract renewal is now in the back of my mind.
Did a lot of work on the Web Development manual first draft

Folding of KIC Magazine so soon into production
Being dropped for the web design project by NY client

Fiction - 13800
Non-Fiction - 11100
Blog - 22400

My aim was to focus in fiction this month and I achieved this. Hunting Jack is resolving and I got all my WIP short stories out into circulation. I worked a lot on my poetry and have found an interesting style I enjoyed working working with. I will expand and develop further next month.

All in all hard work, but an enjoyable and rewarding month.
Colin 3:08 pm | 1 comments |

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Dull, But Typical

The rain was accompanied by mist over Edinburgh this morning giving the Castle an eerie look to it. It fit perfectly with my mood, generated by the contemplation of having to go into work. Dull and gloomy pretty much summed it up to a 'T'.

Some days I sit in work and have the opportunity to work on a poem or story, develop an idea on paper or just think about possible writing projects in general. But it is as if an invisible force exists within the walls of this building, preventing any independent thought from breaking through and limiting creativity until it's dead.

Today was one of those days. I fought with it, wanting to use my time productively, but I could not overcome it.

I walk oedut of the building for lunch and the release was immediate. Thoughts and ideas flooded out and I struggled to memorise them all until I got back at my desk, then try once again, to develop it.

I left the office as early as I could and went home.

Then I went to the pub, drank some been and played some rounds of snooker.
Colin 9:04 pm | 1 comments |

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Busy, In A Non-Writing Sense

It was Gail's turn to go to work today and mine to stay off with Laura. The school club were unable to open for the Easter holiday, which left a lot of parents in trouble with childcare. Fortunately, my job is flexible enough to take time off whenever we need cover.

The day started lazily enough with coffee, toast and cartoons. We got dressed and nipped round to the local shop for some basics; milk, bread, newspaper, Bisodol! The weather was pretty poor; rain and dark clouds for miles so there wasn't much chance of us doing anything outside today.

Laura's wee friend from next door phoned to ask if Laura wanted to come round to play. "Of course!" I said, and off she went, giving me time to tidy up the house and do more packing for the big move.

I was under instruction to get Laura to her extra dance class for the Festival performance, and it was then that things started to go wrong. I turned the house upside down looking for her leotard and dance trousers - absolutely no sign of them anywhere. She had to go with a pair of joggies and t-shirt on, which may sound okay but they are strict in this place and I don't want her getting any hassle.

Then there was confusion over who was picking her up so I tried to contact Gail and my Mother in Law to find out the score. It was no good - neither was available so I had to wait about in rainy Leith for over half an hour before I knew if I could go home or wait for Laura to finish up. Eventually I found out my MIL was getting her so off home I went.

I made Welsh Rarebits for dinner; not the healthiest option but most satisfying to have every now and then. I watched Mastermind and saw the funniest subject I have seen on it for a long time. A writer/journalist bloke answered questions on his specialist subject of Trumpton! The Mayor, the Fire Brigade, Farmer Bell and Windy Miller were all put under the spotlight. When asked why, by John Humphrys, the man laughed and said, "Because it's always been in my life."

I read over issue 64 of Hunting Jack and ended up making some more big changes to it. I finally got it reading well and doing what I wanted so I moved on and also got through issue 65. One more, and I've done my month's quote set four weeks ago.

This month's GDR is almost due for analysis, so I am slightly conscious of time, but placing no pressure on myself to make sure it all gets done. I've had a good month overall, so it will be interesting to look back.

I had hoped to be able to find more time for writing today, but as is always the case when on babysitting duty, it never works out.
Colin 10:51 am | 0 comments |

Monday, March 28, 2005

A Happy Rejection

Disaster struck this morning when I slept in and woke at exactly 10am - the same time I should have been in work at the latest. Gail had the day off for the Easter Bank holiday, but she wasn't in the mood to be hassled for a lift, so I phoned a taxi and got ready in record time.

I found out it was all a waste of effort when I discovered most of my teammates were just in the door before me. It seemed none of them could be bothered today either, what with it being a holiday for the rest of the world - except us - except, The Company.

I neglected to mention that in Saturday's newspaper, there was a report detailing how our Chief Executive was "hurt" by the previous days reports about him receiving several million pounds into his pension fund after dropping customer bonuses, staff levels and his own bonus. The report said he "couldn't understand why someone who gave up his bonus had still managed to become a figure of hate amongst the staff and customers."

I'm sure we are all very sorry for any hurt caused, but trust your swollen bank account and ego will get you through what must be a very tough time for you, your family and your Porsche.

Back to today and work was extremely slow with it being a holiday. No shops were open and I had to go to the petrol station for my lunch. The sandwiches all had best before days of today or yesterday. The ones with salad were all soggy and yellow and the shelves were disgusting. I plumped for a bottle of milk and a bag of crisps; anything else and I would have been ill.

Gail picked me up in the car after work and we went for a wee drive with Laura. The rain still fell as it had done all day but we had fun nevertheless. The roads were more or less clear and we were able to nip around easily. As a treat (for Laura) we got a drive-thru MacDonalds for dinner.

In the evening Gail went over to her pals for an Ann Summers party and I "lent" her a few quid just in case she felt like buying anything. ;-)

This gave me time to work through and sort out the problems in issue 64 of Hunting Jack. It took a while and I'll maybe give it another run through tomorrow in the fresh light of day just to be sure.

A rejection came through from This Is It Magazine. In a weird kind of way I'm glad because this was one of the first publications I ever submitted anything to. They accepted Once A Borderer last April and published it in May. I always had a small niggling wonder that getting the story published so quickly and with so little rejections from an online magazine, was more down to the quality of the editing process rather than the quality of my work.

And so in a perverse way, having them reject work that I would think is technically better than work I produced a year ago, proves the piece was worthy after all.

I'll put it down to another bout of self-doubt, which creeps into my brain every now and then when things are going well.
Colin 1:44 pm | 0 comments |

Sunday, March 27, 2005

A Question Of Easter Eggs

The clocks going forward an hour to bring us into line with BST did little to hamper my sleep and I was up as early as I expected to be. My parent's house is always warm at night; too warm in actual fact, and it can make it hard to stay in bed too long.

After several cups of coffee and toast we headed back through to Edinburgh to get Laura and count her mountain of chocolate Easter eggs.

I have to admit to not getting the point of Easter any longer. It seems even worse a cock-up than Christmas. I remember saying three months ago that Christmas had become too much about spending money, receiving presents and getting fat on thy turkey. Easter isn't that far behind.

In Scotland alone, the number of people attending Church on a Sunday has dwindled to the point the Church as a business, is a skinny, bone-wracked feeble old man, where before it was plump and full of life. There are many reasons for this, but the point is nobody gives a toss about religion much in this country unless they happen to be extremist bigots who walk the streets with sash and flute-in-hand or to celebrate some ancient and irrelevant war fought by terrorists under the "freedom" banner in the name of Erin Go Brath.

What we are left with is poisonous vitriol, wich tarnishes the nation, keeps the blood flowing down our gutters and those who would benefit from war in the comfortable zone.

Who are we to continue celebrating religious holiday's, when no one goes a damn to begin with? Cadbury's and all the rest (who make damn fine chocolate I have to admit), put together fancy packaging with crappy chocolate eggs inside and rip off all the people who think it is a just cause to waste cash on empty chocolate eggs. Wouldn't they be better off celebrating Easter some other way, like oh - I don't know - actually going to an Easter Sunday sermon?

I know there are holes in this argument and I know the kids love Easter so it cannot be denied them, but there is no religious message going with it. None of them know what the egg stands for. So - should we scrap the religious message altogether? Or should we leave well alone?

I may sound like a hypocrite and a sour mouthed old fart, but I think if we are to enjoy these celebrations, then no matter what we do or spend our money on, we should always take a step back and remember WHY we are doing it. This is what is lost and this is why the Church suffers.

Despite me telling Gail I didn't want money wasted on it, she bought me an Easter egg. We halved it and now it's gone. I thought about the Jesus' resurrection and wondered who the hell was I to eat a religious symbol when I don't even go to Church. In fact, I ended up questioning myself; do I believe in God?

I find myself increasingly of the opinion, that when it's over, it's over! Time up, bring yer boats back in. When I was in Sunday School, then the Boy's Brigade we were taught about the Bible and of the story of Jesus. There are a lot of good messages to take from this, but as I got older I found myself questioning this more and more. My cynicism towards the Church grew and I think it was because we were TOLD to believe.

Why did we have to have it shoved down our throats as opposed to being left to make up our own minds? Why should we take what we were told to be The Truth, when there were no conflicting opinions or evidence to the contrary to test it? Why did I always get the feeling the Church was a support mechanism for the old, the empty and the dying? Why did I get the suspicion the entire set up was nothing but some strange way of manipluating the population? Why were there so many wars on the television brought on as a result of religion? Why did terrorists bomb our country in the name of God? My God? Why do millions of people die unfairly every year? Why, if there is a god, did we as a human race have to suffer Hillsborough, the Bradford fire, 9/11, The Asian Tsunami, Heysel, the Nazis, the Ethiopian famine, Apartheid, Stairway 13, Lockerbie, World War 1, World War 2, Vietnam, the Falkland conflict, cot deaths, child labour, Pop Idol, Fame Academy, house buying/selling programmes, the list goes on and on.

The question I'll be asked most now is, why have you so little faith? I mourn when someone close to me dies but I see it also a celebration of life. It is such a precious and carefully balanced gift, it is a shame when it is wasted. We are fortunate to be alive at this exciting time of development of the human race, but is there a deity responsible for our being or are we merely the product of chance? Are we but the lucky ones to have developed so far and so fast, that we are arrogant enough (or insecure) to think we are part of something larger and that there is a reason we are here? Or is it just that without Faith we feel more close to the reality that we are as insignificant in the grand scheme of things than we like to believe.

If these disasters can teach us anything, natural or not, one thing is for certain; the human race will die out one-way or another. Whether it be from global warming or a religious-based war, to some massive natural anomaly destroying us outright.

Dust to dust.

I suggest we make the best of what we have, stop fighting and get on with making everyone full-bellied and happy. They're only fucking Easter eggs.

I respect those who choose to follow and committ to a Faith - any Faith - I just don't think I am 100% convinced. After all I have said here in this post, you may fall off your chair if I also told you I guard my leather-bound copy of The Bible with pride, and sometimes, in my weakest and darkest hour, I find peace when I pray to God.

Further Reading:

That was My Two Cents, and my name is Kent Brockman.

I couldn't resist making a delicious Chicken Tikka Masala for dinner. It was a new sauce than my usual Indian and had bags more onion in it. Nice and thick and subtly stronger. I'd got some Nan bread last shopping trip too, which just topped it off beautifully.

I polished up issue 63 and tried to work on 64. It needs some work to get it ready as a lot of it sounds more like a reading of events rather than a description of someone's life.

Show, don't tell, Colin!
Colin 12:16 pm | 1 comments |

Saturday, March 26, 2005

A City That Fits

My sister Fiona turned 30 yesterday and today we had the family get together to celebrate. Gail and I dropped Laura off with her Gran for the night and drove through to Glasgow. My parent's stay just outside Glasgow in the Paisley area and it always sparks memories from my childhood when I visit.

No matter how much I settle in Edinburgh, being back in Glasgow always makes me feel like I am back in my true home, where I belong. Though I didn't grow up on Glasgow's streets, I can't get away from the fact that so much of me is engrained into the city and that there is something about the Dear Green Place that changes my inner self when I see it's skyline approaching from the motorway.

I lived in the city for several years and just as I believe there is one woman for every man, there is only one city for every person. A city that fits perfectly that person's personality, loves, hates, habits, vices, heart and soul. My perfect fit is Glasgow and I am as much a Glaswegian as the boy fae Anderston or Maryhill.

People ask; why do you love Glasgow? It's just a city. Glasgow isn't just a city - it is life. It is a twenty-four hour living, breathing entity. So much happens at any one time it is possible to feel tiny and insignificant, yet if you embrace it, will take you into its arms and you will become it. Hence the reason for the saying; "you can take the boy out of Glasgow, but never Glasgow out of the boy."

click tae enlarge

We all met up at my youngest sister, Lindsay's flat in Mount Florida and had a couple of drinks. Fiona received all her presents before we got taxis into Corinthian's restaurant in the city centre. It's one of Glasgow's more upmarket places, and so it wasn't long before a book was started to guess the time it would for us to 'make the Galbraith presence' felt.

Glasgow at night. Never a city looks more beautiful with a river running through it between its shimmering lights, than Glesga toon.

The wine flowed and the conversation ebbed; the food was fantastic. Fiona chose the restaurant well and I was surprisingly well fed by the end of the deceiving portions of goat's cheese salad to start and fillet of salmon for main. It was good to be back together with the family that, if truth be told, I don't see as much as I should.

We all grew up together, but now nature has taken its course and we all live very different lives in different parts of the country. So when the occasion merits the arrangements we get together and find that nothing much has really changed - except the age of the participants.
Colin 11:02 am | 0 comments |

Friday, March 25, 2005

A Reward For Jackie


With the Easter weekend all but here, most companies have the decency to let their employees enjoy a long weekend. With public transport at skeletal service, no sandwich shops open and none of our branches open, it would seem to make more sense to just go with the flow.

Not us. Not The Company.

I sat in work in a mostly empty office wishing there was someone to talk to, but it was not to be. My day perked though when I saw the front page of one of Scotland's national broadsheet newspapers.

In January, our [sarcasm removed] Chief Executive "sacrificed" his bonus of £524,000 ($980,000 USD) and pension entitlement of £1.4 million ($2.6 million USD), which everyone regarded as pretty nice thing to do seeing as The Company were in fact, cutting policy holder's bonuses and laying off loads of staff. He said he wanted to "align his interests with those of the members."

[section removed for possible slander]... for today it was announced that his bonus and pensions sacrifice [portion removed for stinging sarcasm] would increase by £2.75 million ($5.2 million USD) to the tune of £6.7 million ($12.5 million USD). So while he was cutting staff loose from their careers and customers pensions by 7.2%, he was seeing his own pension rise by 72%.

[paragraph removed due to inflammatory content]

This place stinks; not just from a great amount of un-washed hands, or from the lines of ants that constantly work their way across the desks, or even from the mice that sometimes chew on the cables during the night. It stinks of hypocrisy, lies, fat-cat mincers and greed.

Note: The above comments are purely a mix of facts taken from The Herald newspaper on Friday 25th March, and my personal comments on a generic basis. None of the above comments can be related to any specific company, though the facts themselves do.

I polished up the last two issues of Hunting Jack still waiting in the queue and updated the issue summary and character tracker. The story is now mapped out to the end and it looks like 9 months is going to bring Hunting Jack to its fitting climax. As I've said before, this route may change, but the outcome is now decided. There are a few loose points I need to ensure get tied up but they are minor and easy enough. I'll have to find out how the contract situation works too.

It's going to be a hell of a ride down to the finish. I don't know about my readers, but I'm getting the seatbelt tightened and bracing myself for a bumpy and exciting ride.

I got home and sat down to a big plate of home-cooked mince and tatties, delicious! Then I wrote out two large issues of Hunting Jack taking me to the end of issue 64 and 73,500 words (81%). It was a happy writing session; I got to finally reward Jackie and it felt good. It was always going to happen and it felt good to see him enjoying himself and more importantly, finding himself. It's just the rest that needs to fall into place now.

Yesterday's 'Things I might/might not have done' list provoked some interesting responses. Naturally I am bound to secrecy, but I will reveal that of my list of 34 items, I HAVE done 22 of them! Figure the rest out ourselves ;-)
Colin 10:39 am | 0 comments |

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Things I Might Have Done


But then, if nobody noticed it running out a fortnight ago, they sure as hell aren't ever going to notice it has been refilled.

Moral: Don't shake hands with anyone who works for The Company.

I left work early last night. The late nights spent writing and lack of sleep when I do get to bed, finally caught up with me. All this week I have been getting worse; headaches, sore eyes, a head cold, exhaustion. So I went home, cancelled my snooker evening and went straight to bed.

I slept till 9pm then got up for something to eat (nothing wrong with my appetite!). Then I went back to bed and worked on my poem about Edinburgh and read more of the scripts from the sitcom book.

I started to get really tired again and so I went to sleep at 11 o'clock. That was me until 8am this morning. In total I got about 13 hours sleep. The exhaustion is gone and I feel much better, though the head cold is still here. Beecham's can take care of that; at least I can bear being out of the house and awake again.

My friend Angela wrote an interesting article in her blog the other day and it got me to thinking. She listed things she had never tried or done that she would wish to.

I've been thinking about this for a couple of days now and remarkably, there isn't many things (outwith writing) I can think of that are still outstanding on my life 'to do list'. This is remarkable, but true.

For example, I've done a bit of travelling - not as much as I would like but other priorities came along. I married the right woman. I met the right people and did the things I wanted. And that's the secret - I did what I wanted. My motto always was; Why reason why, when you can reason, why not?

Most of the other things I might put down on a list, either I never intend to do or quite simply can't.

And so I took the list further and developed it to come up with this. The following is a list of things, some of which I have done, and some of which I haven't. Anyone who sends me the correct answer for each point will win a prize! (Y=done N=not done).

Obviously I'm not going to say on this forum which is fiction and which isn't, 'cause my dear old Mum might be reading. :-)

Things I Might/Might Not Have Done

  1. Jumped out of an airplane
  2. Bungee jumped
  3. Rode a stunt helicopter
  4. Been to a film premier
  5. Been to the Oscars
  6. Appeared on the television
  7. Rode the 'Big One' at Blackpool
  8. Been to a Cup Final at Hampden
  9. Walked the Wembley Way
  10. Met the band Madness
  11. Seen Pink Floyd live
  12. Seen The Beatles live
  13. Walked around a live film set
  14. Had sex on Arthur's Seat
  15. Had sex on an airplane
  16. Had sex with a bloke
  17. Had sex with someone famous
  18. Slept rough
  19. Drunk a litre of whisky in one night
  20. Drunk for 36 hours continuously
  21. Taken a class A drug
  22. Smoked cannabis
  23. Had an autograph tattooed on
  24. Broken a bone
  25. Dislocated a joint
  26. Seen the Pacific Ocean
  27. Taken part in a pitch invasion
  28. Been arrested
  29. Been run over
  30. Appeared in a tabloid newspaper
  31. Signed the Official Secrets Act
  32. Formed a Limited Company
  33. Hired a private detective
  34. Been part of a conspiracy
Answers to Good luck!

I finished reading the script book for the Last Laugh and decided what scripts I have narrowed it down to. I will write endings for Last Quango in Paris and The Old Guys. Mike Davis P.I. came a close third but just lost out. The rest didn't do it for me at all.

Next move is to finalise my ideas for each ending, write the scenes out then script it accordingly. After that, pray to God someone finds it funny. My mate Dave Graham is going through the same process and we've agreed to read each other's manuscripts once they're written. He's picked 'Last Quango' also, so it'll be interesting to see how he approached it.

Gail bought me a nice surprise dinner: curry from the Prince Balti restaurant. I had a beautiful medium/hot chicken dupiaza with pilau rice and nan bread. Just what I probably need to sweat the last of this cold out.

I worked on my Edinburgh poem and fought with three titles. I settled on In the New Town Mist and posted it to my forum to see if it gets any feedback.

I polished up issues 58, 59 and 60 of Hunting Jack for submission to the editor. I'm waiting for the go-ahead to actually send them in because she is having such dreadful computer problems. Issues 61 and 62 just need a polish and then I'll be a month ahead again.
Colin 9:57 am | 2 comments |

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Curse Of The School Trip


It was the desire to check my e-mail that levered me out of bed this morning. I dreamt about all my current submissions getting back to me with refusals, and thinking this was some kind of omen, I crawled out of bed and switched on my PC. There was, of course, nothing.

I got ready for work, delighted that I ironed my shirt last night instead of leaving it until this morning, and walked to the bus stop in a glorious morning sunshine. I can feel a cold coming on (have been since Monday) and hopefully some warm weather will help. I boarded the bus and decided the upstairs would be better compared with the trapped heat on the lower deck.

I took my seat on the right hand-side and settled into my seat. The window above me was already open and allowed a gentle breeze to filter over my baldy napper, and the warmth from the sun kept my skin pleasant without overdoing it. There was nobody else on the top deck; it was quiet and peaceful and just the exact amount of relaxation I needed before getting to the office.

I had previously loaded my phone up with some mp3's of a trip to London last summer when I went to see Madness. I inserted my earphones and pressed play; reggae providing the ultimate soundtrack to my journey, which now seemed complete.

I fell into a daydream and began to ponder Hunting Jack; the wheres the whys and the possibilities. A kid got on at the next stop and I vaguely thought it strange given this was a school day. I looked up and saw his pal racing after him, who wore the local school jumper under his jacket.

My heart stuttered.

"Oh no," I muttered.

There then followed a mad rush of around thirty excited kids going on a school trip. My peace was shattered by the sound of rogue children flicking rubbers, shouting above each other, hitting their pals and generally being - kids.

Unable to even hear my music above the sound of the melee, I concede defeat and unplugged my mp3 player. I must have looked a forlorn figure to anyone on the street. My sad round face and cracken neck, surrounded by a sea of blurred red school jumpers and sweaty teachers.

For the first time in years, I was almost pleased to see my office.

It's definitely getting warmer and spring is developing towards summer. Only last week my overcoat was a necessity to shield me from the snow, rain and blistering winds. Now, it is nothing short of a liability and I may have to consider getting a lighter jacket to see me through the warmer months.

I like the heat, but only in moderation. Last year in Florida was a nightmare weather-wise. I don't adjust to the warmth as easily as the cold and I sweat constantly. Pulses of salty water shoot out of the pores in my scalp, over my head and into my eyes. Add suntan lotion into the equation and it's a wonder I'm not blind.

I much prefer cool weather going to work. Luke-warm air coupled with the odd gust of a breeze will do me fine. I like the cold too. It's easier to get warmer than to cool down. The cold keeps the streets clear but the heat has its advantages too. The ladies come out in the sun and brighten the place up, which is always good.

I'm thinking about pulling Bill McCarty from the production line. It doesn't seem to be working on any level and despite several re-writes, it just isn’t fitting the bill (no pun intended). I think it may work possibly as a character or pattern of events in a larger piece of work, but as a short story, I think it's time to put it in the 'On Hold' folder for the meantime.

I think my contract with KIC could be up for renewal within a month to six weeks so I want to have HJ wrapped by then. If I need to go over the 9-month mark I'll have a better idea once I'm nearer the end. If I don't then I won't renew. The story will be told and if it works out the way I intend it will be a rounded finish. I'm reluctant to tie myself down, however. Jackie has surprised me before and I should be prepared for the eventuality that something happens on the journey to the end.

There are plans afoot for KIC to publish e-books related to the serials. I'm thinking about it. It would involve a parallel story running based on the serial and with some of the same characters. It's an interesting concept and I'll have to have a good think before committing. I like the idea though, but only if the story fits and doesn't retract from the main plot.
Colin 10:39 am | 0 comments |

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Riding The Crest Of Creativity


Each morning I get worse. I so very badly need a long, deep sleep. When I do manage to get to sleep, my mind buzzes into the world of Jackie McCann. It has been an obsession for so long now (almost 7 months) that I am not sure how I am going to handle it when the day arrives for the last word to be written. It's going to leave a huge crater that's for sure.

This lack of sleep is beginning to have an effect on me other than chronic tiredness. I'm starting to feel run down and I woke with a sore head and my sinuses all stuffed up. I'd better have it shaken before the weekend; it's my sister's birthday and we're going through to Glasgow for a meal.

I wrote up an e-mail to the Leith FM radio people and fired off a couple of requests to their websites. If this fails, I'm going round to their office once they get it open. They've just blagged some free office space for a couple of months to work on the project so I'll just have to walk in the front door if I need to.

I'll offer an interview, a reading and an on-air competition to win free subscriptions to Hunting Jack. That is, if it suits their style, but reading the general specs I'm sure it can fit in somewhere.

And get this. While checking out their media website, it appears there is also a Leith TV station! Whit!? I downloaded a form for a programme proposal and though this may sound conceited, I think they should do a documentary on me. I could take them to Jackie's world and actually SHOW my readers where he lived on the streets, and talk about the story. I can talk about the promotional work the story is doing for Leith and Edinburgh and of course, the fact that I am a local author publishing to an international market. :-)

I read the first script in the BBC sitcom book over lunch. I've decided when I read each one, to jot down some general thoughts and feelings about it. Then I'll write a short blurb for the ending I would give it, should I choose it. Then I'll give it an overall mark out of 5. When I've done this for all of them, I'll decide on my choice and then do the script for it.

I worked on the poem I started yesterday. I've not got a title yet either but it's coming on. I'm not quite sure what structure to use as it's pretty 'free verse' at the moment, but it's packed with atmosphere and 19th Century spirit.

I looked out my old table for my computer, now that my desk is dismantled and gone. It's actually a better height and it gives me more room so I think I'll stick with it for the foreseeable future. If I do get a new desk, I won't go for one like I had. I much prefer a simple table; nothing fancy - just long and flat. All my books and reference material can go into folders and onto a bookshelf when we move.

I hit another rich seam of creativity again tonight. I wrote out four issues of Hunting Jack and broke the 70,000 word mark. I am really riding the crest of the creativity wave just now and really loving it. I found out something new about Jackie I never knew before - he sounds a bit like Rod Stewart when he sings!

Gail went to bed early (I really should have too) and before I knew it the time had encroached into the early hours once more. I just know I am going to regret it in the morning.
Colin 10:23 am | 0 comments |

Monday, March 21, 2005

Detached From Normal Life

As could have been predicted, I slept in. The pull of an empty house in which to write proved irresistible last night, and I wrote long into the early hours. What am I to do? If I could, I would have continued until daybreak, but alas, the nightshift is not sustainable in my current way of life.

And so the alarm went off - probably. I never heard it and woke at 9:35am. In the space of 25 minutes I ironed a short, showered, dressed, got my gear together and called a cab.

While out getting my lunch, I thought more about last night's documentary on Robert Louis Stevenson.

The more I write - or to be more specific - the more I think about writing and my place in the literary world, the more detached I feel from 'normality'. Every day on my journey to get a cappuccino and filled roll, I see people in shirt and tie. They talk about routers and servers, budgets and projects, and I know I am not like them. The more I move towards a life of art and reaching the creative soul within me, the more the rat race appeals less and fades into the distance.

This beggars two questions.

How can I expect to write fiction that is real to normal people who read my work, when I feel I do not fit in to the normal pattern of life?

Also, how can I expect to relate to people around me, when I feel further away from the people in the street, my countrymen and women, when I feel I am not even like them.

I'm not above or below these people, merely that I see them from a different angle, through a third eye. But - and here is the truth - the more I drift from the normality of the nine to five world and the people who dwell in it, the happier I become with myself and where I am going. But at the same time, the more I despise the routine of desk-sitting in an office prison.

I don't think I have found my true voice as yet, but it's under the surface of my skin, itching like a worm burrowing through my flesh and between my veins. It is coming; I can feel it. I suspect, only a writer can fully understand this.

All this talk about Edinburgh inspired a poem during the afternoon. An image I have always held about Edinburgh's New Town came to mind and I developed it into a first draft. This is a longer poem, and will take some time to complete.

The people of Edinburgh often refer to the people of Glasgow as 'Weegies' and the even less complimentary, 'The Great Unwashed'. Yet I found myself this afternoon, writing a letter to our Building Manager to complain about the lack of soap in the dispensers of the men's toilet.

This is a problem that afflicts this building more often that not and I have grown sick of it. The dispensers have been empty for over a week now and I find it ridiculous that even in this age of cutbacks, we have to complain to get soap.

Except it wasn't "we". It was only ME that complained. Nobody I spoke to about it had even noticed there was no soap for them to wash their hands after urination or defecation.

And they call us the great unwashed? No wonder they call this place Auld Reekie!

On the way home I picked up a copy of the Last Laugh from Waterstone's. Some of you may remember I entered the BBC's End of Story competition last year. You had to pick one of six partially completed short stories and completed it, then if you got shortlisted you got onto the television and meet your chosen author.

This year they are doing sitcoms. There is a clutch of excellent sitcom writers to choose from, and like last year I will choose the funniest one I can do the most with.

Check it out:

Gail is home and balance has been restored to the Universe. I think she doesn't get how much I missed her, citing my trips away as a reason. But she forgets; I miss her just as much when it is I who is travelling. I know I'm in danger of getting all soppy but it's great to have her home.

After washing my hands thoroughly, I cooked her chicken in a honey and mustard sauce with green peppers and basmati rice. It was okay - not the best sauce I've made, but it was different. I prefer spicier sauces myself. She said it was great to come home to a) all the washing done and b) a home-cooked meal. Can't say fairer than that.

I wrote till midnight on Hunting Jack. The creativity is channelling through me onto the page, but I am finding that being on the road home, I have to concentrate much more on the plot. It is becoming harder to manage all the strands and weave them all together, slowly and carefully, so as to protect the reader from the truth too early, and build this story to its maximum peak of excitement.
Colin 11:28 am | 1 comments |

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Stevenson, Rankin And Galbraith

It was wonderful to slide under the sheets last night - and Gail wasn't even there! I could feel myself cool down, my neck muscles relax and my forehead loosen. I seem to get tensed up sitting at the laptop for so long; lost in concentration and unaware of what else is happening. It's good when it happens, but it's hard work.

I'm not complaining though. I ended up watching a film in bed. Ewan McGregor and Nick Nolte in Nightwatch. It's not one of either actor's top-raters, but it was an eerie thriller with some good suspense throughout and plot management so it was enough to make me want to watch it all. McGregor showed a side of his acting I’d not seen before; playing an easily manipulated, naive character with hidden depths of courage. A bit like Jackie McCann, which is why I think I watched it to its 2 am conclusion. (Sorry Brenda!)

This morning I slept through my alarm. I woke to Laura standing in the room shouting at me to answer the phone. It was Gran wanting to know when I was bringing her round. We got her bags packed and I took her over then returned to an empty house. How glorious!

I've been doing all the laundry while Gail's gone. Normally she doesn't allow me to do the clothes washing but she forgets I lived alone for four years. Her reason for banishing me from the washing machine is because once - just once! - I neglected a red sock jumbled with the whites (mostly Laura's school uniform) and, well, I always liked pink. So much for three strikes and you're out.

So in between tasks yesterday and today I have been working my way through the whole load. There were 7 loads of washing in total to get through, dried and put away.

Ideas for short stories, poems and Hunting Jack are flowing through me. I realised last night that with me having to re-send my Ed each week's publication issues, I am able to see what issues all my subscribers are on. Someone next week is getting issue 52! That's only 6 behind! Not only that, but if the Editor cannot receive new issues, I could be in a position of sending her e-mails, for new issues, for immediate publication. Better get ma finger oot!

I stopped mid-way through a day of writing to watch a documentary about Robert Louis Stevenson. It was fascinating and rang some familiar bells concerning the problems of coming to terms with being a writer and the agonising journey you let yourself in for.

It started talking about his father's desire to have him follow into a life of engineering (the family was responsible for building lighthouses around Britain, ALL of which still exist AND in use!) and of the moment he told his father he wanted to be a writer.

They spoke to Ian Rankin (on top of Calton Hill by the look of it) who said, "there comes an epiphinal moment in every writer's life when they must decide if they want to follow their dreams or not". Talk about nail on the head!

It showed Stevenson living in Edinburgh's salubrious New Town, yet going to the slums of the Old Town to write and gather material for his writing. His nanny would tell him stories about Burke and Hare, Scottish Historical events and what they did to murderers; tales that would inspire him in later years.

Discovering his approach to gaining inspiration from Edinburgh's streets made me think of this town in quite a different light, yet what I see when I am out and about remains the same. Only a few weeks ago I was wandering around the back streets myself, researching dodgy locations and the possible movements of Jackie for my own story.

There is so much I can do with this town, and while I already am with Hunting Jack and other stories, I still want to do more. I want to explore this town the more it reveals its history to me. Yet one question bothers me; why do we not get more writers from Glasgow? Why has Glasgow not inspired more writers such as Edinburgh? This is one of the things I love about HJ - the combined Glasgow/Edinburgh element.

Rankin also compared the problems Stevenson faced to his own life and thus to the wider writing community. He said, "Every writer shields themselves from the world. They say to themselves, 'I know I am good, and I’ll keep on trying until YOU know I am good'." I think every serious writer I know feels exactly this way.

He also spoke about how "authors take things for their characters from anyone and everyone around them," and how Stevenson surrounded himself by the lower classes of Edinburgh to gain material. My notebooks are full of things and people like that and suddenly I don't feel so daft pulling out my notebook in the middle of the night, or going to the toilet in a bar to scribble an idea.

The program revealed how Stevenson struggled with the novel-length format. How he hit writer's block during Treasure Island, and how the sheer length of a novel frustrated him no-end. Jekyll and Hyde almost drove him mad, in this respect.

Rankin also talked about, "stories being channelled to a writer through the soup of their subconscious minds." And how "Stories come to writers at any time, just as you fall asleep, in dreams, sitting in a cafe - whatever." Which is the reason I carry my notebook. Vindication, if I ever needed it

As a writer, I found the connections made in this program fascinating, and in a way, liberating. Ian Rankin sounded like he was comparing Stevenson's issues and mentality as a writer and trying to convince the viewer this is still the case for writers today - including himself. Listening to Rankin talk about himself in contrast to Stevenson, the validation I feel makes me feel very much a part of a Scottish tradition of literature, and very, very inspiring.
Colin 11:05 am | 0 comments |

Saturday, March 19, 2005

The Red Notebook

I did 'dance duty' this morning, somewhat bleary-eyed after a late stint in front of the laptop last night. It was another 1am lights out scenario. I dropped Laura off and went back home to fill the time by checking my e-mail and other bits and bobs.

On the way back to collect her at noon I bought myself some new notebooks from Woolworths; six A6 pads to compliment the A7 ones I use for daily scribbles and notes. I'm going to carry these ones for daily notes, but of more evolved stories and thoughts. Not quite a journal - that's this blog - but somewhere in between. Free-writing is the term I'm looking for.

I'm still trying to find a method that fits. I've got a small book for scribbles and things to remember, which I then transfer into my larger, permanent notebook later. This works okay. This blog is the daily journal - that's settled too. The new notebooks will be for free-writing and spontaeneous prose/poetry that I find I cannot write into the small book because it is, well, too small. This sounds good. I'm happy. :-)

Whenever I buy new notebooks (which seems to be more and more these days), I am always reminded of the significance the colour of the notebook itself. This is something I never thought about until I started reading Paul Auster's work, but I now find myself changing my mind several times while holding varying permetations of colours before finally deciding. There's only three colours! In the end, I decided on three red and three black.

Why the colour significance? I think it comes down to mood and creativity. Some days I prefer to write in a black book, others red. My small daily notebook is red and probably always will be. I would feel uncomfortable writing between the covers of anything else. It is a free colour, whereas black is sometime restrictive and always more formal. I can really let loose in a red one.

As a writer, most days I am at a constant plateau of creativity. That is, I am able to be think and write to a satisfactorily level. Some days this level dips and I struggle to be creative. Not quite writer's block since I can squeeze it out until the level rises naturally. On days like today though, the level rises and I have to write like a crazy bugger to get the ideas onto paper before they are lost.

Laura had some great news when I picked her up. She has been picked to dance solo (tap) on stage during a performance at this years Edinburgh Festival. She didn't quite get the magnitude of it at first; I think she thought it was the Leith Festival she heard me talking about the other day. She has to take individual lessons which is great, but going to put a strain on the day care arrangements. Not to worry; when she's on Broadway it'll all be worth it!

After lunch I took Laura to the cinema. We went to see Robots, which came out yesterday and it was quite good. Not the best animation film I've seen but still quite good. In fact, the best thing about it was the trailer for Episode 3 of Star Wars. Whenever I hear Vader's breathing filling the auditorium I cannot help the tingle sensation on my neck and the excitement build.

We got back in time to see the second half of the Wales v Ireland Six Nations rugby match. Wales won 32-20 and so took the Championship title, the Grand Slam and the Triple Crown. Good on them - they deserve it.

There was a more important match on later however (for a Scotsman anyway); Scotland against England at Twickehnam in the final Six Nations Match. Nothing much was at stake except for 4th or 5th place and the Calcutta Cup (sic) but Scotland fought well and looked as though they kept some of their best play for the last match. We still got humped 43-22 but managed three tries before we succumbed.

I worked more on the Web Manuals in the evening. The word count is circa 8,500 words but as a technical manual I'm not bothered about that at the moment. It's more about content and getting a technical message across in easily readable words and images.

Tomorrow Laura goes to her Grans for the whole day and I should be able to dedicate the day to fiction.
Colin 1:42 pm | 0 comments |

Friday, March 18, 2005

Community Radio And A New Poem

There were several urgently marked e-mails from my ed at KIC in my inbox this morning. She's back online (kind of) but is having major problems publishing so I had to scramble together several issues and send them to her as she cannot access the originals. It sounds like a nightmare and hopefully it will be fixed soon.

I've been watching the Leith community blog ( and notice they have started a community radio station for May and June during the Leith Festival. They have posted a call for people to get involved in all aspects from presenting to producing, but also for features to put on the radio. I immediately thought of asking them if they wanted to do an interview with me but getting in touch seems to be more difficult than I thought. I left a message since there was no apparent e-mail and on the Festival website you have to contact the media agency running it via their forum - except their forum is offline!

I shall keep trying; I'm positive it could/will work. Just the thought of it makes me nervous but it would be a great experience and could provide a new audience for my work.

I wrote a poem - my first in over a month. I've been focussing on every day objects lately (my last effort was called Disposable Pen) which is boring in itself, but the poem represents so much more in its metaphor and life. The same applies to The Lamp, which I wrote today.

Poetry flows through me in a funny way. Some days it is effortless, as though I am channelling a flow of energy through words. Sometimes it takes days, even weeks, to complete a poem to something I am happy with. Today was easy - I don't know why, though I am likely to go back in a few days and see if it still works.

On the way home I picked up some ingredients to make a nice pot of Spaghetti Bolognese for dinner. I wasn't sure if Laura would eat it seeing as it has a mince base, but she loved it. It's been a while since I made it and it sure beats some of the crap I've been eating for dinner lately.

I worked hard and late on my Website Manual. It's coming along nicely now and I've found a good rythm and I am trying to talk plain English as I go. Hopefully it will make sense when it's done.
Colin 10:45 am | 1 comments |

Thursday, March 17, 2005

A Nice Little Earner

My body feels back in sync again. All my tiredness and aches have gone despite drinking a couple of pints last night over a game of snooker. I feel much better after what must have been a very deep sleep.

Gail left for London with her pal, flying into Heathrow for a long weekend. I miss her when she's not here - more than she realises. I do like the chance to have some time to myself in the evenings and to spend time with Laura during the day, but when she's not around my body reacts. I find it hard to get to sleep without her next to me. B.K. Birch said in her blog, Pure Grace, yesterday that one of her friends was "NOT getting enough sleep". She was talking about me and I promised I would try and reverse it. With Gail gone, it'll be hard.

I went online and bought my web client's CD. It should be here within a couple of weeks and I'm hoping it will give me some ideas to use in the design of the site itself. I finished drafting up the proposals and the estimate and got the worksheets ready for sending over.

It seems there are technical problems galore in several situations at the moment and it frustrates me that I can do nothing to help. Devon has switched provider and is having some kind of integration problems. She needs reliability - her work is done on her PC and without it her career suffers. My Ed at KIC, is also having problems to the point her computer is totally out of action and there is now a risk to the publication of the weekly e-zines. It never rains!

Speaking of tech problems, I was asked today to do some work on a project that has a legal requirement behind it. One of the developers called me up (not the sharpest tool in the box - I've worked with him before) and demanded I work overnight on a Friday in a few weeks. Naturally the money is good so I want to do it, but it was his approach. No-one demands I take time out on a weekend to work for them.

I said to him, "Well I'll see what I can do. Can't promise anything."

"It's vital this goes in," he said. "Company Name will get fined loads of money and there's just no way round it. You have to work - that's the end of it. My boss says everyone has to come in."

My response; "First, your boss isn't my boss. Second, do you think I give a f**k what happens to Company Name? I'll work when it suits."

And I will work when it suits. The gig got moved to a Saturday night on my request because I have a party that Friday night. Why is this good? Cos it's double the money I would have got had it been a Friday. How can I get away with this? Because 'm the only one in the company qualified to do the work. It's a niche, and a nice little earner.

After Laura was down I worked through and polished issue 58 of Hunting Jack, taking the total word count to over 66,000. I also worked on Bill McCarthy, checking over the grammar etc. but also trying to figure out a better ending. I need a twist, something the reader never saw coming or at least suspected. Originally it was meant to be an 'oh look – what a surprise to see it's you' piece, but that's been done a million times.

I find myself drawn every time into the world of espionage and gangsters - not sure why, but the stories I write with these themes seem to do better when it comes to publication for some reason. Not everything I write concerns those subjects of course; my plots are wide ranging, but sometimes, more regularly than not, I find myself going down that road.
Colin 9:52 am | 0 comments |

Wednesday, March 16, 2005


It's the start of a new holiday year and my holidays are all back to full. I carried a week forward so I am pleased to see I have 7 weeks holiday to look forward to this year. I also have a further 12 days (2.5 weeks) flexi-time I can use so long as I put in the hours beforehand (not as easy at it sounds).

My holidays will start to disappear again as soon as next week because Laura's holiday club isn't running over the Easter Holiday's. That was nice of them. So I've a few days over the next couple of weeks where I won't be in work. I'm going to miss it so much (not).

My friend got back to me with some good advice and I put together an offer for a good Website package for my potential new client. I think I just needed the confidence to know how to approach this, but long term maybe a short course in 'Negotiation Skills' is required.

I did a lot of work today drawing up specific worksheets for this project to send to the client. They are designed to help me to gather as much information as possible on what he is looking for with regards to content and architecture, and I will be able to re-use them. They should make it easier for the client to communicate their ideas and requirements. Next thing to do is send them off to him, then buy his CD. I want to hear the music he produces - it might give me more ideas.

Half way through the month and a quick check at my To Do list revealed that I look to be about 40% complete with my targets. Some of them have been wiped (KIC Mag columns) and others I have done several weeks more of work (Website manual). But I wanted to focus on fiction more this month and that is going well. I'm going to make sure this weekend holds no surprises and I get through a lot.

Gail is leaving tomorrow afternoon for a long weekend in London so I should be able to find plenty time to write once Laura has been taken care of. Before the end of the month I need to have re-written Bill McCarthy, written short story entries to the January and March competitions in Writing Magazine. I have ideas percolating and hopefully I can get them down over this weekend. I also need to take Hunting Jack forward significantly - things are happening on every page now. A crescendo is forming.

It's my sister's birthday next week and I am struggling to think of what to get her. It's a milestone birthday so I want to be a bit more special than say an oven glove or a hat stand.
Colin 11:03 am | 1 comments |

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


I was absolutely shattered when I got up. Having watched A Clockwork Orange until almost 2am, it is no surprise the first I knew it was even morning was when I heard Gail shouting "don't forget to go to work!" as she left the house.

I struggled to open my eyes and get my legs to function but eventually managed to get myself into a reasonable state to get to work (sic).

They (The Management) are trying to get us to focus on not being a department whose first rule of thumb is apathy. They tell us that the kind of staff they want for the future are motivated people who are forward thinking and not concerned with what just happened in The Company (25% shown the door). They told us (quote), "Over 30% of staff are dis-engaged" and that "the engagement of all staff is essential."

Motivating words indeed. Personally speaking, it makes me just want to drop everything and devote every waken hour I live to making the Company a success. Then I can sit back and watch the fat cats rake it in while I rest content in the knowledge of a job well done.

If they want people to get motivated - then MOTIVATE US!!!!

It's the first rule of almost every book on management there is. But then, we've seen the management skills of this company's elite, highlighted in detail by almost every newspaper in the country and beyond. Yes - hmmm - what pride we feel particularly when after dumping 25% of our work colleagues you tell us there's to be no Christmas Bonus and that we have to start paying extortionate, over-inflated amounts into our pension scheme. Oh - and the food in the canteen is shite these days too by the way.

I digress.

It was back to work in the evening. I am hoping to be working with a customer to design a web site for them and have set aside time in which to get the work done. I contacted a friend about methods of negotiation over costs since this job didn't come through the normal channels. We've narrowed the design down to two, and once we have arranged fees I can get to work.
Colin 4:55 pm | 1 comments |

Monday, March 14, 2005

Aches, Pains And Strains

The clouds have gathered over Edinburgh and a light patter of rain is falling gently on the windscreens of the coaches as the Welsh head south to home. In their wake they leave a tormented and hungover nation, smiling publicans and the odd pavement-pizza.

It was a weekend of sporting wonder and of two Celtic nations coming together to celebrate all that can be good about the sporting world. No hostilities; just party, party, party.

As I sit writing this, my head is sore, my belly aches and my muscles are crying out for a massage. But it was all worth it. When Scotland play Wales it always throws up extremes of everything.

I really needed this weekend. A blow out of major proportions to reunite me with my friends, remember the old days, laugh and joke hysterically for hours on end and drink and be merry. Thank God it's two years before the Welsh come back!

I achieved nothing today in work, although getting there before 10 am might just fall into that bracket. I spent most of the day procrastinating and wishing it was 5 pm. When the time came, I grabbed it with both hands and made for home and to an early night.

But of course, I couldn't sleep and ended up staying up late to watch A Clockwork Orange. Something tells me tomorrow might be a different story as my body recovers itself from one of the best weekends I have had in a long time.
Colin 1:32 pm | 0 comments |

Sunday, March 13, 2005

The Welsh Are Here

I would like to apologise for three things in advance to any brave souls who may actually choose to read this post.

  1. It's length. It was written as I recall it - and it was a long, long weekend.
  2. The graphic descriptions used to portray a day drinking at the rugby.
  3. The photographs of my compatriots and I in action. Mostly the ones of me though.

And so to the post.

There was no point in writing an entry for yesterday. The weekend started at 10am on Saturday and never finished until the early hours of Monday morning. With nothing but a brief eight hours break in between, the whole weekend is now, nothing but a blur. Thankfully though, I have photographs!

I was up early and donned my kilt - Royal Stewart for this occasion complete with Scotland top and my Glengarry with Black Watch flash - its first time on 'official duty'. I got the call from the Group Captain (GC) about 9am to say he and Craig (HRH) were leaving Glasgow by train and would be into Edinburgh for about 10'ish. I called a taxi, and waited not too long before it arrived.

"I thought the match was tomorrow," said the taxi driver when I climbed aboard.

"Aye, it is," I said.

"Whit ye all dressed like that for, like?" he said.

"Because the weekend starts here," said I.

"Didn't I pick you up last year?" the driver said suspiciously. "Ye were all kilted up then for the full weekend shift as well. Dropped you next to Filthy McNasty's in Rose Street didn't I?"

I laughed. "Quite possibly," I said. "It's Filthy's I want dropped off at today as well."

Amazing. Unlikely, even. But true.

I arrived at Filthy McNasty's and discovered it empty except for the half a dozen Welsh fans at the table against the far wall. It's a simple pub. Two small doors at either side with a small bar along the other, and a large screen on the wall next to it. The floor is old and made of hard wood and it is as simple a drinking bar you will get.

Filty McNasty's

Click for details

I ordered a pint of Tennent's Lager and waited for GC and HRH to show up. After almost an hour and well into my second pint, not only had I lost the table I reserved for us, but I was surrounded by 50 Welshmen all with hangovers and trying to shake the pervious nights drinking. One Scotsman in a kilt amongst a sea of red and green - I wasn't without conversation for long.

HRH finally arrived and we had our first drink together in a couple of months. GC had gone to his digs to dump his overnight bag and would join us in about an hour, which gave me and HRH time to catch up.

We left Filthy's to the growing numbers of Welsh and over to the Hogshead Bar, also on Rose Street.

The Hogshead

Click for details

More beer was partaken and we got a table at the back so food could be ordered. HRH enjoyed his first feed of the day - ham, eggs and chips while I sat and watched (having already eaten earlier).

Ham and eggs - HRH style (click to enlarge)

He ate all he could to "form a base" for the beer, then proceeded to belch the loudest and most vile-smelling burp I have ever had the misfortune to experience. I looked down our area of the bar to see a man and wife with their daughter (presumably) doing their best to stifle their laughter. Meanwhile, the smell of minging ham and eggs was playing havoc with my nasal passage, so I used the menu to waft it away.

"Don't send it this way!" the family man shouted, and they all laughed.

"He's just had ham and eggs as well!" I shouted.

"It was him that did it," lied HRH, pointing at me. "Cannae take him anywhere!"

Shocked by this attempt to pass the buck, I took hold of HRH's hand and summoned up the campest, most gay voice I could and said, "Surely you don't mean that, darling?"

The people in the vicinity spluttered on their food and drink and there wasn't a dry eye in the house.

The Kenilworth

Click for details

GC sent a text message to say he was in the Kenilworth Bar, so we made our over the road to meet him. I bumped into Tom, his mate and his father who was over from Ireland for the weekend and drinking in the bar as well. It was so busy and hard to move, even getting served was nigh on impossible. We cut our losses and went back to the Hogshead.

A nonchalant HRH (click to enlarge)

Inside, we found a place beside the bar where we could see the big screens and got more beers in. We teamed up with a bunch of Welsh fans and formed a raucous group, drinks and piss-taking all round in generous quantities. The pub was now packed to the rafters with people waiting to watch the first game of the weekend - Ireland versus France.

The Group Captain and me fearing the worst for Scotland v Wales (click to enlarge)

The Group Captain resurrected his tour tradition of sticking an old dart in his ear and walking up to strangers asking, "Did you throw something there?" It gets a great reaction every time.

The game kicked off with little fuss and the frolics continued. The drinks flowed well and by half time, I realised I had still to go to an ATM for money to last me the day. Everyone decided they would come as well and off we all trooped for money and to watch the second half of the match in another bar.

The GC and his tiny prick - note presence of dart in his ear (click to enlarge)

GC attempts to order a drink from the bar by text message (click to enlarge)

Wearing a kilt in Edinburgh isn't normally a risky thing to do. The cold is about as bad is gets, but ask anyone who was sitting in Starbucks while we all trooped past on the way to the next pub, and they might disagree. The wind took it upon itself to gust merrily up my kilt. Being a 'drinking kilt' (ie. Only intended for parties, stag or rugby weekends), it is made of a much lighter and cheaper material and you can pick one up for about £40. The wind blew and my kilt flew - up over my head.

The looks on some of the people in the coffee shop were priceless. If anyone still had any doubts as to the authenticity of the "what do Scotsmen wear underneath their kilt" question, there was no doubt in their minds now. Had it not been for the rugby, I would quite possibly have found myself on an obscenity charge.

We arrived at another bar back on Rose Street - the Gordon Arms.

The Gordon Arms

Click for details

Small and light, it wasn't too crowded and had a good crowd of Welsh, Scots and English in. The drinks were coming faster and furious and before long we were onto Vodka and Red Bulls.

Is there a game on? (click to enlarge)

The second hand kicked off with Ireland needing to win against France to keep alive their hopes of winning the Championship, in what is the penultimate weekend. They were good, but not quite good enough and the final score ended up Ireland 19, France 26.

The Irish started singing in glorious defeat and The Welsh in the bar responded with their own songs. The Scots kept pretty quiet because it was expected we not stand a chance against Wales the following day.

More drinks followed as did another game of rugby. The commentators switched from Lansdowne Road in Dublin to Twickenham in London for the England versus Italy game. England, with an issue of pride to re-establish started the game easily and never looked like they were troubled as they came in winners by 39 points to 7.

HHR and his rapidly diminishing hairstyle - unlike his belly (click to enlarge)

The game finished and the singing started again. The England fans in the bar rose up with their song, Sweet Chariots. Orchestrated by 4 Welsh fans sitting in the bay of the bar window, the Scots and the Welsh fans sung back with their famous little ditty, "You Can stick Yer F***ing Chariots Up Yer Arse!" song.

GC uses HRH as a bar stool (click to enlarge)

HRH starts to enjoy being used as a bar stool (click to enlarge)

Time was getting on and a new bar beckoned. As we all trooped, staggered and jumped out the bar into Rose Street, it became apparent the four lads in the window seats were getting the last laugh after all.

The Welsh get the last laugh (click to enlarge)

On the way to the next bar, HRH decided to accost some Welsh ladies in his usual, inimitable way.

How not to charm the ladies (click to enlarge)

We decided on Breck's Bar and joined the hundreds of rugby fans already inside and found a corner near the bar to get on with the party.

Breck's Bar

Click for details

GC discovers he might be quite drunk (click to enlarge)

With the time fast approaching nosh-time (dinner-time), there was some discussion as to the best way to proceed.

GC had decided he was going to head back to his overnight lodgings and get freshened up, and after much discussion, me and HRH settled on the Rose Street Chippy for dinner before heading back into Breck's Bar. Tom joined us at this point and started buying bottles of Champagne. Not the best of moves but it certainly went down well amongst the female Welsh supporters.

We drank vodka for a couple of hours before getting the call from GC to meet him in the Hopetoun Inn near the top of Leith Walk. HRH left to catch his train to Glasgow and left me, Tom and GC to keep the party going in the Hopetoun.

The Hopetoun Inn

Click for details

I stayed for a while, but whether it was the late hour or the awful karaoke in the corner of the room I still haven't worked out, but I started to long for my bed.

By 11'ish I felt I had done enough for the cause. I said my goodbyes and jumped into a cab for home, presuming I would be able to jump straight into bed. Not to be. I arrived back to find Gail entertaining some of her pals. What could I do? I ended up havnig a wee snack and cracking open a coupld of cans of beer and joining them in a drink.

I got to bed at 2am.

8 hours later I woke to the sound of my mobile phone ringing. It was the Group Captain himself, asking if I would be gracing his presence on the day of the big match.

I got up - slowly - and got dressed. Since everyone else had tickets for the match itself, I elected not to wear my kilt. The plan was for me to go out and have a couple of beers with everyone then go home and watch the rugby on the television when they all departed for Murrayfield.

I jumped into a taxi and made my way to Filthy McNasty's yet again. It was mobbed with Welsh fans. In fact, Edinburgh was swarming with them. The papers reported 45,000 Wales supporters had made the journey to Edinburgh for the game. If they win it, they are on target to win the Grand Slam.

I couldn't see GC or anyone else, but at the far end of the bar I spotted two old comrades dressed in kilts and battle gear - Donnie and Stevie. I haven't seen either since last April in Milan when we flew over to celebrate the GC's 50th birthday.

We moved from Filthy's to Bad Ass (don't ask)

The Bad Ass

Click for details

and then to Dirty Dick's (please continue not to ask)

Dirty Dick's

Click for details

before popping into Breck's Bar (again) to meet up with the GC. I had a couple of pints with the lads before seeing them off to the game. Just as I was about to find a taxi to take me home, I struck upon an idea.

I called my mate Zander to see if he was in town for the game. He was, and suddenly I wished I had worn my kilt again. We agreed to meet him in Sportster's Bar as soon as possible.

I got there first and had a beer while I waited. The Sportster's is a relatively new, modern bar in contrast to the bars spent in on Saturday. It cost several million pounds to install hi-tech audio-visual equipment throughout. Slowly, it started to fill up with a mix of Scottish and Welsh fans. The atmosphere was electric as we waited for the big game.

Inside The Sportster's Bar (click to enlarge)

Scotland needed a miracle. They have been a poor team for several years now and this year nothing short of diabolical. Most people expected Wales to win comfortably, and the Scots fans just wanted not to be embarrassed too much.

It wasn't to be. After 10 minutes Scotland had given away three tries. By the end of the first half we were being royally shafted. Our worst fears had come true and to say it was an embarrassment was an understatement of mega-proportions.

During half time we were treated to some tunes from a Tartan Army pipe band and a Welsh Choir. I sent a text message to Donnie five minutes into the second half. I wanted to know how he was enjoying the game (heh) but as I looked up saw a familiar face working towards me through the assembled crowd. It was Donnie - back from the game already.

Donnie arrives back early from Scotland's mauling by Wales (click to enlarge)

"Whit you daein' here?" I asked in astonishment.

"It's too cold out there. Besides - we're getting humped so we thought we weer better off watching the rest of the game in the warmth of the bar!"

Donnie and Stevie had only jumped into a taxi at half time!

Scotland played better second half and actually managed to score a couple of tries, so by the end we ended up getting hammered with al lost some small amount of dignity remaining. The final score was Scotland 22, Wales 46.

The pipe band returned when the game was finished and played for the bar, as did the Welsh choir. It provided a fantastic atmosphere and proved two nations can compete with fervour and passion and still share a drink after the game.

The pipe band in full skirl (click to enlarge)

The band dance round the bar (click to enlarge)

Stevie and Donnie headed off to another bar early leaving myself and Zander to keep things moving. We were waiting for the GC but he never showed, having left no time to get a quick final pint or two before heading off to get his train.

We had one more stop before the weekend was complete - Bar Kohl. Trendy and full of posh people, all smoking Marlborough Lights lit be silver flashy Zippos.

Bar Kohl

Click for details

There was a bloke at the next table who I thought was Julian Clary. Turned out he wasn't because Zander - in his infinite wisdom - asked him. He left shortly after.

We met up with some of Zander's pals and joined them at the table. My will was drooping though, and when they headed off to a nightclub, I decided enough was enough. I left to try and get a taxi, but as is always the case when the rugby weekend comes round, getting a taxi is never easy.

I walked from the North Bridge down to the Balmoral Hotel in the freezing cold. When I eventually flagged a taxi the driver informed me the temperature outside had dropped to minus 3 degrees.

I got home at about 1 am, freezing, starving and a just a tad drunk. Gail had left me out some food - what a darling - so I topped the night off with a slice of re-heated pizza and a cup of hot tea.

Then I hit the sack, and feared the worst for the next morning.

Colin 12:12 pm | 0 comments |

Saturday, March 12, 2005

See Sunday 13th March.
Colin 12:01 pm | 0 comments |

Friday, March 11, 2005

Charity And Weariness

I got up to take Laura to school as promised, though I was totally knackered. All these late nights writing to the early hours have caught up with me and I struggled to get to a decent level of consciousness. Wearily, we made our way to school; me with my bunnet on wishing I was still in bed, and Laura with her pyjamas on and pigtails done into wild bunches. Why? It's Red Nose Day.

For 10 years now, Britain has devoted a Friday in March doing stupid things to raise money for charity, and then in the evening the BBC dedicates the whole night to live television comedy sketches and charity appeals.

Millions are raised this way and the money then used to enable people in Africa to rebuild their lives from starvation and disease to being self-supportive and healthy. The money raised also goes to helping the young in the UK and the problems they face including drugs, homelessness and prostitution.

I do wonder though, if there is a maximum saturation point at which people cannot give any more. It's a worthwhile cause, of course it is, but after the recent Tsunami appeal, which was a global plea for money to help out the victims, I do wonder if they will be able to raise as much money tonight as they have in previous years and which the project deserves.

Everyone can spare a few of pounds to help those out in need - and I always do - but there is a tendency to feel guilty when you walk into a shop and avoid the cash bucket because you already put a fiver in the bucket at the last shop. So you feel guilty and pressured into giving another few pounds.

Then you are in the street and are approached by someone collecting, and they dance about giving you rehearsed lines about what a worthwhile cause it is and if you don't give them something you are a miserly git. You're told how lucky you are to live in a country such as this, so you feel pressured into giving again.

And so the cycle goes on, but for how long? People, at the end of the day, do have their own responsibilities and there can only be room for them to give so much of their money. Higher earners should rightly be able to give more; simply because they can. But they are under the same intensity in the streets from charity collectors as the jobless bloke who can't sleep at night for worrying if his next dole cheque is going to keep his own family in food for the week.

The point I am making is this; give to charity by all means, but bear in mind just because you might live in the UK doesn't mean you have it good. If you can't afford it, then don't feel guilty about saying "no." If you have given what you can, you aren't going to go to hell for declining more money into another charity's bucket.

Back home I made myself a coffee and breakfast and sat down to read the paper and a couple of writing magazines. Then I tidied up around the house and got the place half-decent so I wouldn't have to do much later before Gail got home.

The tiredness grew worse though and when I sat down to my laptop I just couldn't concentrate. I wrote very little and ended up nodding off for a couple of hours. When I woke I felt dazed, as though it was the middle of the night and I hadn't slept at all. I can see an early night ahead tonight.

I prepared a nice dinner for Gail and Laura coming home; Thai Chicken curry with coconut and bamboo shoots. Delicious!

Then I got down to write for the evening. It was slow and mostly dialogue so I am going to have to go through it again in detail later. Now that the story is on the way to the flip-side score, I have more decisions to make with regards to handling certain plot lines. I got an issue written, but it proved to be a disappointing day overall.

On a sad note, I caught the news just before I hit the sack (early). Dave Allen died today. I remember watching him at my friend's house every week when his TV show was on the telly. He did sketches but I thought he was always best sitting on his stool with his glass of water talking to an audience. He wasn't afraid to make fun of anything, which is why I think I liked him so much. The Catholic Church was a favourite target for him, but as a devout Irish Roman Catholic himself, he was allowed to. It's the old Celtic thing again: "We can take a joke about ourselves, so we reserve the right to laugh at anything we want" attitude.

And so I'll finish up this blog entry. Tomorrow I will be spending kilted up in the hostelries of Rose Street as we entertain the Welsh who are in town for the Six Nations Rugby match. It proves to be an exciting weekend.

In the words of the late Dave Allen RIP: "May your God go with you."
Colin 9:44 am | 0 comments |

Thursday, March 10, 2005

All Out For Consideration

I neglected to mention in yesterday's blog entry that I spent most of the day working on and revising The Oasis. I know it's a cliche but I am finding that the more I write and revise, the more I feel I'm learning. I submitted it this morning before leaving for work to the Summerset Review.

There was an email in my inbox from the Fiction Editor at Spoiled Ink Magazine, letting me know it will be under consideration for the July issue.

I now have all of my current completed short stories and poems out for consideration simultaneously. This is something I having wanted to get a grip of; there's been too much writing stories then having them languish about un-completed. I need to get a faster turnaround and send them out quicker. This goes for re-writes if/when they are rejected.

I'm still fuzzed about the dropping of KIC Magazine. I decided to rearrange sections of my directory folders on my PC - moving all my research and planning for the columns into the "On Hold" folder (I'm still praying).

My "On Hold" folder contains some interesting items. I have five short stories all at different stages of abandonment that I couldn't quite bring myself to ditch entirely. They cover a myriad of topics from childhood pranks to abortion and so I am reluctant to pull the plug. They contain good stuff, which could be useful somewhere else in the future.

There is also the first draft of a sitcom script I started writing for a BBC competition way back in April 2000. It may be a coincidence - though it may not - but the BBC is launching a new End of Story competition this week. Unlike last time where we had to complete a short story, this will see us completing a sitcom script.

I'm going to give it a bash, and reading over the script in the "On Hold" folder it doesn't look to be a bad idea. I may have a look at it sooner rather than later and see if it is worth developing again.

I also came across a story I consider my destiny to write. I first came up with the idea in a bar in Leith one summer afternoon with my mate Chris. I have started writing it a dozen or so times in various formats and points of view but have crashed each time. I have never been able to decide how to go about it - and this has been the case for nearly 6 years.

I think I have finally come to a decision on it though. It isn't a story or play or anything in between - it's a novel. This came to me last night over the snooker table and I will be pulling this story out of the fire shortly A fair amount of research is required though, so it won't be in the next couple of months.

I caught up with my old mate Bobby Mackerel on the phone in the evening. We have one of those friendships where we don't see or talk to each other for months on end, but when we do catch up, it's like nothing has ever changed.

I then spent the rest of the night going over and editing issues 56 and 57 of Hunting Jack, which I will send in tomorrow morning at some point. I'm not allowing myself to sleep in tomorrow. I told Laura I will take her to school again so it gets me up and I can spend the day writing.
Colin 11:29 am | 1 comments |

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Such Is Life (Publishing Life Anyway)

My neck is killing me. Yesterday the left side was only slightly sore and I assumed it was down to the way I have been lying in bed. Today it is worse; tense and sore. Not having a desk for my PC is not helping either I fear.

I have taken this Friday off work. If I don't take one more day before Tuesday I'll lose my entitlement and The Company isn't getting any more out of me than I give them. So I am off. I will get up early, take Laura to school (if she'll let me), go and buy some fresh coffee, go home and write. I will then pick her up from school and make Gail a nice dinner. That's the plan, anyway.

What's this all about?

BBC News - Biscuit Tester Report

If this is meant to assess the crumb generation potential of biscuits, why doesn't it have lips, saliva or a tongue? And does it really need to have feet?

It looks to me like the Jammy Dodgers may have invaded the McVities PR dept.

I got an e-mail from my Ed at KIC Magazine and it looks like the project is being dropped after only one issue. I'm pretty gutted, but obviously it's out of my hands. It looks like lack of money and resource is mostly behind it. It was a good project to work on and I was enjoying it. Getting into print was a major coup with ergular work - paid or not. At my stage the cash wasn't a problem and I was happy to buy a copy to help out. I can understand some of the moer experienced writers view as to payment though.

Having got four columns and planned out several issues ahead I'm sure the work won't go to waste and can be used in other avenues, but it is still a huge disappointment. If it was going to fail it shouldn't have begun, and now that it is underway, it should have been given more time.

Such is life.

For the second time in a week I managed to shave my head entirely, with a razor, and NOT cut my scalp. I am naturally, overwhelmed with happiness.
Colin 10:21 am | 0 comments |

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Team Hug Anyone?

As promised - here's the new look for Freedom From The Mundane. There are still a few minor bugs to sorry out, but I hope you like it.

I did the school run today for first time in several months. I used to share it with Gail but when she started her new, more closely located job, it meant my services became redundant. Laura walked hand in hand with me round to the school and ran off into the hundreds of kids running about the playground.

It was another lovely statr to the day. There was a crystal blanket over the Links where Jack Frost passed through overnight and the sky tinted a beautiful shade of blue. Spring is definitely making a fight of it.

I can feel a bout of early morning starts coming on with the weather turning good. A fresh spring is just what I need and I think we are moving house just at the right time. I still have my fingers crossed this is going to be a great year.

I posted Heart of a Child to Take A Break magazine over lunch and then spent some time getting A Bond of Faith ready for submission via email. I subbed it to Open Wide Magazine when I got home.

I had planned to go over Loaded in the evening with a view to posting it tomorrow, but I discovered I couldn't because the requirement is for 1800 words maximum. Pity, as it would have been perfect, but there is no way I can cut that many words out of it.

I sent it off to Soiled Ink Magazine instead and I'll have a think about ideas for the competition, which I still intend to enter.

I don't do many competitions; the Bridport Prize, BBC Competitions and the some of the monthly ones at Writing Magazine. They give great prompts and the charity they support through the David St. John Trust is a worthwhile cause. They give great feedback and over the years it has become more recognised. The prize money isn't too shabby either.

They have two running at the moment I want to enter: one about 'dictionaries', the other about a 'journey'. I’ll think about them until something strikes, which always does.

I worked on The Oasis in the evening with a view to subbing when I find a suitable market for it. At 5000 words, it may take longer to do so.

I also polished up and sent in issues 54 and 55 of Hunting Jack. That's me back to being over my contracted 9 ahead minimum. *phew*!

My submissions list reads thus:

Short Stories
Heart of a Child - Take A Break Magazine
A Bond of Faith - Open Wide Magazine
The Blind Man of Cathkin Street - Writing Magazine
Loaded - Spoiled Ink Magazine

(All print magazines)

Robots - This Is It Magazine
8:41 - This Is It Magazine
Who Am I? - This Is It Magazine
Lost Tears - This Is Is Magazine
Perfect Place - Binnacle Competition
Disposable Pen - Binnacle Competition

I finished off the UK Music Column for KIC complete with black and white photographs and reviewed the Website Column. What a time to decide I don't like it either. I'm now contemplating re-writing it. If I do decide, it'll have to be a rush job. I'm worried it reads too technical and might put people off from reading it.

We had Laura's Parent's Consultation Evening at the school. It was a great report, but the highlight for me was when the teacher told us about Laura's caring attitude towards her fellow pupils. She always asks how people are and genuinely cares for everyone. The best bit though, is something she "stole" from me, and it proves I'm having more of an influence on her than I realised. She likes to get everyone at her table together for a ‘Team Hug’ - something I started at home. when someone is down we have a 'Family Hug', and now Laura has taken it into the classroom. What a wee gem!
Colin 10:10 am | 3 comments |