Saturday, April 30, 2005
There's not much to say about the day. Most of it was spent in the garden and getting it tidied and in order. I cut all the hedges, weeded, de-mossed and sprayed the patio with weed killer, mowed the lawn and cleaned the drains and gutters. It was tiring, but good to sweat last night's efforts away.
By early evening I was starving and Gail made Toad-in-the-hole with fritters peas and gravy for dinner. It was fantastic and I was just ready for it when we sat down in the conservatory to eat and look out at our nice new garden.
I wrote until 2.30 in the morning, working on the poems I wrote yesterday in Finnegan's bar and editing issues 69 and 70 of Hunting Jack then sending them in. As well as all the usual checks for grammar, structure, tense and spelling I also have to make sure all the aspects of the story are being dealt with properly in the run up to the finale. Continuity is becoming even more vital and I have to make sure all the clues and red herrings from the rest of the story are either linked up or explained.
Friday, April 29, 2005
Don't Call Me Scarface
With a departmental meeting scheduled for this afternoon it was probably just as well lunch in the pub was cancelled. Dave was working from home and Tom spent the afternoon swigging champers at Musselborough Racecourse. I was prepared to go to Clark's myself just, if not just to relax me before the three hour meeting called for today, but in the end I couldn't be bothered.
I wrote more Hunting Jack in the morning taking the issue count to 72 and the overall completion status to 90%. This issue in particular, is where I start to divulge myself and allow the fantasy and powers of being a fiction writer to really take over. The story is still there; unplanned from how I wanted to handle it, but the characters I have used are very interesting and it provides an integral part to the conclusion of the story.
After lunch we had the big meeting. A department re-org is in the offing as suspected, and do you know, I think it might just work out to be a good thing. For the first time in a long time there may actually be opportunities opening up where I would feel comfortable to move into.
Obviously I don't want it to cut any more into my writing time, but things may be about to get better, although I will, as ever, tread with caution.
I wasn't due to meet my pal Rob until about 5.30pm in the Black Bull on Grassmarket so I left work and toddled up myself at about half past four. On the way, I passed the venue for the gig we were going to later and I decided to stop off in Finnegan's Wake, which is next door.
The pub was more or less empty so I ordered a pint and sat on a stool by the wall. The sound check next door was underway and it could be heard reverberating through the rafters. Rob sent me a text to say he was going to be an hour or so late so I got out my notebook and started to write.
While the bar slowly filled up with students, office workers and couples, I wrote four new poems based on the things and people I saw around me.
Rob arrived later and we sank a few beers and caught up with each other's lives. We nipped round to the ATM on Grassmarket and on the way back, stopped into The Last Drop for a quick half. I left my mark on the blackboard inside the toilet, penning a wee nutty logo above the trough for the punters to wonder over while they urinated.
We arrived in the Liquid Rooms for the gig and was pleasantly surprised to see the venue already at bursting point. It holds about 300 people on two levels and it appeared the management hadn't expected such a turn out for this concert judging by the lack of bar staff.
Already on stage DJ'ing was Mr. Jerry Dammers, playing a variety of powerful Jamaican reggae records at full blast. Jerry Dammers was the man behind The Specials. He was the driving force behind one of the most influential bands of the post-punk era in Great Britain in the late 70's and 1980's. Without him, there would never have been a 2-Tone record label, which although small, quickly became an institution and gave a voice to the millions of disaffected youths of the Thatcher era.
I couldn't help thinking what a crime it is he still refuses to get back together with The Specials to create more music and tour, in preference to playing Reggae records to a crowd who consider him to be a legend in life. It is beneath him, though he did get the crowd jumping with a mixture of Jamaican reggae and British ska.
He had to be asked to leave the stage after he overran and he could be seen pleading with the stage manager to let him play one more. He did, and set us up with a reggae classic of the 60's, later covered by his own band in the 80's called A Message To You Rudi.
The crowd swayed and the walls heaved with the sweat of a few hundred skinheads, rude boys and girls and a few other interested neutrals. A tall Rastafarian gentleman walked onto the darkened stage and into the spotlight over the microphone. In strong Patois, he introduced the star of the evening, the man we had all come to see (Dammers excepted), the King of Reggae, one of the first star's from Jamaica's musical history - Prince Buster.
He came on stage to a wondrous reception dressed in black trousers, black leather coat, black shades and black trilby. He told us of his delight at playing in Scotland for the very first time in his long and illustrious career. We've all heard that line before, but something told me it might not just be a crowd-pleasing statement this time. For Prince Buster's birth surname is Campbell.
In between some of the best songs ever to come out Kingston, Prince Buster told of his battle with American R&B artists when he was first starting out. He wasn't on any political agenda, but was refused entry to the US on one occasion because of the threat the musical fat-cats thought he posed. He ended up going elsewhere and cemented himself in the musical Hall of Fame by the time he was thirty. He just wouldn't go away, and how lucky we are he never once thought about giving up.
The power of Reggae should never be underestimated. It has the ability to get hardened sceptics tapping their feet and racists wishing they had a connection. And this is the beauty of it; it doesn't matter if you are black, white, Chinese or anything, Reggae reaches out and touches the hearts from all classes, cultures, sexes, religions, colours and creeds. There is no difference; everyone who listens to reggae is reggae.
And while I watched Prince Buster sing with passion through songs like Rough Rider, Madness, Al Capone and Too Hot, and dance with fervour to the "masterpiece" that is One Step Beyond, I thought to myself how lucky I am to be here in the presence of one of the world's greatest musical heroes.
A superb encore of Enjoy Yourself summed up the night and a sentiment I think everyone can learn from.
Thursday, April 28, 2005
The End Is Nigh
Arriving at work made it worse.
I discovered a hilarious blog: http://darthside.blogspot.com.
It's Darth Vader's personal blog and is really funny. If you are a Star Wars fan then it will totally appeal. I've added it to my list on the left.
Speaking of Star Wars, normally I would be going cock-a-hoop over the new film to be released on May 19th. My mind is on other matters however, such as the Oasis gig in Edinburgh's Usher Hall a couple of night's before.
Like millions, Star Wars was a big part of my life when I was young, though on a more cult level, I also loved The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, also to be placed on general release tomorrow. I am more interested to see if they have done this justice, because I already know I will be entertained by Star Wars Part III. The Guide gave me more creative energy and really made me think about my place in the world at a young age. Star Wars, is essentially a love story and not quite as deep in the"off-the-wall" sense.
I remember being able to recite entire sections of the The Guide's script when I was but a nipper. In a similar vein, I wrote out the entire script for the first Star Wars film from memory when I was in Primary 6. Signs of a writer in the early days indeed!
Gail went to Ikea and left me at home. I wasn't disappointed though; Ikea on a Thursday evening is one of the last places I would ever want to be. I stayed at home, watched Married With Children and ate a steak I found languishing in the freezer. I fried it up with some fresh mushrooms and onion and added some nice Jamaican spices to give it a bit of kick. Came out lovely and I was very satisfied.
I wrote one and a half issues of Hunting Jack; around 1500 words taking me to over the 80,000 word mark. Once issue 72 is complete there is only one month of subscription story left (9 issues). It is all coming to a head and each issue now contains exciting action, revelations and gets to the truth of Hunting Jack.
Soon, it will all be over.
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
It occurred to me while arriving at work how much our building resembles a satanic monster gobbling up all life surrounding it. As you walk up the steps the glass doors invite you in, but the large, dark, overhanging roof protrudes outwards and seems to swallow everyone who comes near. It's like the tractor beam on the Death Star! It is at this point each day, I lose my natural glow and succumb to the robotic and repetitive actions of working here. At least the coffee tasted not bad today.
I'm growing tired of wearing contact lenses. I like to wear them on nights out etc. but I think I will invest in a good pair of glasses that I can wear daily. At the moment I wear my lenses every day apart from at work but I am fed up with them. The glases I have are old and falling apart.
It sounds a poor thing to say, but when I was chasing women throughout my teens and twenties, glasses just weren't a cool thing to wear; there was no Harry Potter when I was growing up. Contact lenses were my saviour from that point of view. I'm married now and I'm 31 years old and don't do the skirt-chasing thing anymore. To be honest, I couldn't give a shit what people think I look like anyway. I mean - my tie is never pushed up, I sometimes don't shave for several days and sometimes, just sometimes, I let my hair grow back to several millimetres!
The problem is, what kind of glasses to get? I fancy a pair that are not just practical but that look good. I've got a strong prescription (minus five each eye) and so I need thick lenses. The pair I wear just now were specially thinned out and had to be imported so if I'm going to do that again I need to get the right frames. I quite like the look of some of the thicker, obvious type specs. Bold and impressioning - that's the way forward.
There are some things I might have to accept will not get done this month. Possibly the sitcom script will have to be ditched as I don't think I have the time. With the deadlines for Hunting Jack quite tight at the moment and all the energy I am putting into my poetry and short stories, not to mention the house move - I don't think it will be possible.
One project I still want to complete though is the travel article on Edinburgh's literary figures. This is a higher priority than a sitcom script, which is more of a novelty than anything else. If it won I wouldn't be able to work in London for several weeks anyway.
Throughout the day I got some work done. I edited issue 69 and wrote issue 70 over lunch! It continues to work and for once, I was excited to be at my desk.
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
Characters That Come To Life
From the bus on the way up Leith Walk I saw the homeless black guy I based Victor the Rastafarian from Hunting Jack on. There he was, perched on his seat at the bus shelter just like in the story, watching the workd go by and leaning on his cane. It's been a while since I've seen him about and it was strange seeing him in the flesh - the first time since I brought him into the story. Kind of like seeing your own imagination come to life in the street.
Ten minutes after arriving at work and sitting down at my desk, I looked out the far window to see the heavens emptying over the land. Typical. And me with my light jacket on.
I edited issue 68 of Hunting Jack and caught up with the issue summary and key point/character reference sheet. Again, my planned route to the finale has been changed by the characters themselves. They just will not let go and it is almost scary how this is being dictated to me. Every time I try to take full control of the story it rebels against me and goes another route - though still rocking towards the ultimate goal.
One of my writing friends from across the sea has taken hiatus from the writing group so she can concentrate every spare moment of her time to her writing. Brenda is now very much missed, but she is making a necessary sacrifice that all writers have to make from time to time. So - go and read her blog or check out her site and leave a message of support. She is an immensely talented writer and the the sooner she gets through this intense period the better because not only will she will have some wonderful prose under her belt, but she will also be able to get back to her other cyber-buddies in the writing group. :-)
I wrote through issue 69 of Hunting Jack in the evening and it came very easily. I made a decision as to an extra twist in the tale to really it give it a wonderful bit of self-indulgent spice. Anyone who reads it will hopefully find it amusing and not out of place; in fact I think it adds to the story.
Of course, the way this story is working out it will never happen if Jackie and Co. decide against it.
Monday, April 25, 2005
Great To Be Alive
It is a glorious day here in Edinburgh. I walked most of the way to work in the fresh sunshine morning and lapped up the spring weather. I had an overwhelming feeling of being glad to be alive; long may it last.
Work was crap; 'nuff said about that.
I edited some poems and went through the two issues of Hunting Jack from last night so I could get them sent off when I got home. I find sometimes that by sitting on several completed issues can hold me back. Once sent I have committed them and so by keeping a hold of them, there is always the question in my mind of whether to go back and change something. Very rarely is it justified so I like to send them - normally - as soon as they are ready.
I posed to a writer's forum about my concerns over the KIC contract and it's soon to be conclusion. Then an idea came to me. I have a large piece of work in WIP and it has been in that state for quite a while. Maybe, just maybe, it could be worth serialising also. I took a long look at the manuscript but in the end, decided not to pitch it as a serial. I want to free up time for other non-contractual projects.
We were supposed to have one of Gail's friends from work over for dinner but she cancelled during the day. Since I had bought in the ingredients beforehand, I went ahead and made it anyway - Marzetti! I served it up with crunchy salad and garlic bread.
I sent in issues 66 and 67 and started writing at eight o'clock. I got through a tough issue. It's mostly dialogue just now and needs padding out, though conversation between the two characters in the scene is vital to the entire story so I've got to get it right.
While I was writing a van showed up outside. On closer inspection it was for the neighbour two doors up who Laura damaged their car. He specialises in removing small bumps and scratches from cars. Looks like a bill will be on its way very shortly.
Sunday, April 24, 2005
The Disgrace Of Scottish Education
Gail got up a while later and we started tidying the house. My sister Fiona dropped by for a cup of tea and to see the new house after a night out in Edinburgh on her way back up to Perth. She's training to be a Primary School teacher and has about seven weeks of the course to go.
Her next placement is in a Catholic Primary. Yes - despite it being the 21st Century, we still have separate schools in Scotland. 'Us and them' is still the policy; no wonder there is so much bigotry in Scotland.
Another thing I think is an absolute disgrace, is the fact she has to Bless herself when she is present in the class when prayers are taken. Okay - so it's a Roman Catholic school and there is a heavy accent on religion throughout the daily curriculum, but why should a non-Catholic trainee teacher feel pressured to Bless herself when it is not part of HER religion?
Surely it is as much an insult to her as it is to the Catholic Religion, to have made someone do something they do not want in this fashion? It is not out of prejudice or any biased opinions - merely a sign of respect for differing beliefs.
I understand she is doing it so as "not to rock the applecart" in her teaching career, but the fact she is compelled to do so asks some serious questions of the legitimacy of split-religious schools.
If you are Protestant you go to one school, if you are RC you go to another. What kind of society are we breeding when the school kids, on the behest of their parents, walk down one side of the road in red, white and blue and on the other green? Don't these people know this is where the problems start?
I lost a friend once when I put it to him that if he were to send his kid to a non-denominational school, maybe it would be the start of the breakdown of religious hatred. He went into a rage over it being his choice and nothing to do with me. So now we have another Proddy-hating, IRA supporter in the making.
It works on the other side of the fence too. The Billy Boys of yesteryear spawn babies and take away their innocence by brainwashing them of with the glory of the UVF and a warped sense of what the Monarchy really stands for.
This is my country - our country - and it is these knuckle-draggers that are destroying it and making us the laughing stock of the world. Who the hell are we to try to sort out the Middle East problems when we have this kind of thing going on in our own back yard?
I say we ban individual school based on religion and bring the children of our nation back together. Maybe them we can start to move forward and flush out the parochial bigots that exist in too many of our towns and cities.
After Fiona left we got to work around the house again. I cleaned and polished all the windows - a much larger task these days since we now have two floors and a conservatory. I did some work in the garden and took stuff to the dump. A mid-afternoon visit to B&Q for a wallpaper stripper ended up costing me over £40 as more and more stuff got added to the pile.
I made a nice dinner after everything was done; lemon chicken and basmati rice, which we eat in the conservatory in the late afternoon sunshine.
Evening saw the laptop out and I got to work. My planned conclusion of Hunting Jack issue by issue is not working but I am getting there by another route. Katie did something unexpected and I had to go with it - there was no other way. I wrote two issues and am now 14 from the final episode.
I have been getting e-mails from my editor about how serials are meant to go on forever. While I started Hunting Jack with no idea how long it would last and having signed a 9-month contract, I knew it would not be a completely on-going story like she wanted. Some of the other authors have been going for well over 18 months and still going strong, so I hope I am doing the right thing with this.
I doubt I will renew my contract but it depends if that means Hunting Jack would be removed from publication in that format. Writing it has taken so much energy and commitment I want to move into other things when it is over.
Before I go, some of you asked about he fate of the man who was threatening to kill himself off the North Bridge on Edinburgh on Saturday.
He's okay, "but has been taken away to safety" - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/4476719.stm
Saturday, April 23, 2005
Gail had been busy all morning and I felt a bit guilty but then I did work during the night. She left for a lunch date with her girl pals up in a restaurant near the Royal Mile and on the way got caught up with the traffic congestion caused by some bloke offering to kill himself by leaping off the North Bridge. I'm not sure what happened yet.
Laura spent most of the afternoon playing on her bike playing with newly adjusted brakes. Apparently last night when she was out, her wee fingers couldn't get to the brakes in time and she smacked into the next door neighbours parked car in the street. She was fine, but when we Gail answered the door the neighbour to tell her about the dent and scratch in her 4-day old car, things took a turn.
Laura was inconsolable and offered to pay for the damage. I told her we could try and find her a paper round but it would take her a while to raise the money so we would cover the cost for now - kidding ;-).
My energy started to lag drastically the more the day wore on and I got nothing done about the house. When Gail came back she noticed and I don't think she was too impressed because she had brought back her pal Kelly to my surprise.
They sat in the conservatory with wine for most of the night while I wrote. I am in urgent need to get Hunting Jack closed off; mainly because the story needs attention, but also because I am only a couple of issues ahead of my first subscribers.
I did an update to my website, www.colingalbraith.co.uk in readiness for the Brick by Brick chapbook and the front cover is now viewable. On May 1st the book will be available.
Be evening I was shattered from yesterday's strenuous efforts so I bid goodnight to Gail and Kelly and hit the hay.
Friday, April 22, 2005
When All Around You Are Getting Drunk...
It was a slow day, because I knew I was going to be back in work at 3am for a software implementation and it was also the night of a celebration for Dave's new baby, Lily. I had a decision to make; go home early and go back to work in the early hours, or stay out in the pub until it was time to work and try not to drink too much.
I decided to stay out.
We met back at 4pm in Clark's and watched the horse racing from Chepstow while partaking in some beer. Then we moved to the Candy Bar on George Street where it became a battle of wills to stay sober. When some of the boys started ordering shots, pitchers and champagne with strawberries, my metal was well and truly tested. I stuck to vodka with Red Bull, but after 11 hours of the stuff it began to take a somewhat negative toll.
At around midnight, Dave realised he could hardly stand and the bouncers kindly escorted him to the exit. He got a cab and fled into the night along with a few others who had taken enough punishment. I was left to watch the others making fools of themselves and it really was a disgusting sight - when you are sober (almost).
When they all decided to go to Fingers Piano bar, I knew it would not belong before I would be leaving because Fingers is the hell-hole of all drinking establishments in Edinburgh. Imagine a couple of hundred pissed-up wankers crammed into a tiny space and you can see that it would be a real test of patience even when drunk. Try being relatively sober and you can imagine my desire to make a speedy exit.
I left about 1.30am and walked to work. I stopped off at an all night garage and bought some sandwiches, crisps and a bottle of Irn-Bru. Then I sat at my desk, read some poetry and logged onto my writing forum and waited until 3am.
The time between 3am and 6am dragged like no other three hour period of my life. I nodded off a few times after I did my business and waited for the business testers to do their bit. I even heard myself snore at my desk once or twice. My eyes were sore and heavy; let's face it - although it was at a reduced pace, I had still been in the pub since 12 noon that afternoon. I was sobering up and not enjoying my time.
The call eventually came in that everything was okay and so I called a cab and made my way home in daylight. I had been on the go for 23 hours, worked for 8 of them and drank the rest.When I got home there was one last surprise in store; Gail had slept the entire night in the house with the door snib undone. Instead of me having to unlock the door to get entry to our new house, I merely pressed the door and it swung open. A ticking off was swiftly handed out!
Thursday, April 21, 2005
I came across a wonderful quote in a mailing list for freelance writers that I subscribe to. It is their Thought for the Week:
"What no wife of a writer can ever understand is that a writer is working when he's staring out of the window."~ Burton Rascoe ~
I am going to show it to Gail.
I finished lining up and proofreading Brick by Brick and created a PDF out of it. Now it is completed I shall send it off to the Poetry Free-For-All organisers in readiness for the big giveaway.
On May 1st, I encourage all my readers, friends and other blog readers passing through to download a copy of my e-book from the link provided. It will only be available from the site for 24 hours, after which I may put it up on my own site. We shall see. The book is free and can be read on any PC, PDA or mobile device with Acrobat Reader installed.
For further information please see: http://poetrysuperhighway.com/pshffa.html
I reorganised my completed poems into genre and where I had split themes I copied completed poems into each category. It showed some interesting results: 5 Corporate poems, 2 Edinburgh poems, 3 Everyday Object poems, 1 Glasgow poem, 1 Health poem, 1 Homeless poem, 9 Kids poems, 4 Love poems and 1 Writers poem. I also had 12 poems classed as 'Not Submittable', which I pulled out of retirement and will work on more.
This analysis led me to thinking I should write more about these and other themes more so as to get about work together for submitting as actual body's of work. And so my pen met with pad and I wrote the first drafts of 3 poems under the corporate banner.
We went to visit our friends Sarah and Rob last night. Sarah gave birth to wee Charlie three weeks ago and we went round to get a swatch of him. He's lovely; really cute and oh so tiny. Gail was shocked I wanted to hold him. Normally I have a thing about holding really tiny babies but I didn't mind this time when offered. Maybe I'm reaching my natural time for this type of thing.
Next up is Lily, the new addition to Dave's rapidly overflowing home with females. Can't wait to see her also.
At home, I went over some more of the poems I have been rejuvenating and sent off my e-book to the Poetry E-book Giveaway. I have 15 new poems in my armoury now, some of which I might post to various forums for critting first.
Still got lots to do before the end of the month, the most pressing of which is the sitcom script, which is still unstarted.
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Dreaming About DIY
Work was slow and crap. I went out at lunchtime to B&Q and got some tools for jobs that need immediate seeing to. I'm slowly going to build up my armoury of DIY and fix-it tools and will invest in a proper case in the future. I've already done some reading and speaking to people about the jobs that are closer at hand.
Now we have a house together I want to make an impact on it and not rely on other people to do jobs. Apart from anything else I know I can do the jobs quicker and just as well, but it is the personal desire to see my work in the house instead of someone else's. Gail would rather her Dad did all the work, but he isn't doing it in Gail's flat anymore - he would be doing it in our house and I want to be able to do these things for my family.
Call it male pride or whatever - it's something I have to do.
I went onto my poetry forum to try and kick-start my brain and it seemed to work. I read a load of poems (they are very talented over there - I feel quite lowly at times) and I can feel myself returning to normal.
I am worried about the lack of organisation around the house. It's great we live in a much bigger house but the old habits have not gone. The girls trail a mess around with them wherever they go, so while we have more rooms, this just means more rooms to mess up. I can't wait to get my study. I need to get more work done to get help myself get into a routine so I can relax more and concentrate fully on my writing. It's going to be a long slog.
I added a brilliant wee virtual image to my blog. It's a virtual image, which shows the current status of the moon phase and is updated online every four hours. I think it looks fantastic and I sent an e-mail to a couple of friends who might be interested.
I've picked up another two readers for Hunting Jack. That's me got nine current subscribers, though over the last eight months I have lost five.
When I got home I changed the toilet seat, fixed the phone connection, attached the nameplate to the door and caught up with my emails. Then it was time for dinner - beans on toast in the conservatory (posh, but still with the common touch) and then I showered and left for a game of snooker and a few pints with my FIL.
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Greasing The Wheels
I had a lot of catching up to do and a couple of meetings for impending weekend implementations so was kept busy most of the day. I couldn't resist thinking about the house and looking forward to getting back to it. I feel like a kid who gets their birthday dream present in the morning then has to go to school without it. Going home is so much fun!
When I got home I started working to clear out the mess left over from the empty boxes lying around. I did some other jobs and before I knew it the time had gone 9pm.
I got my laptop out and tried to write for the first time in five days. It wasn't easy. I haven't written or even thought about anything to do with writing for days. No character or story ideas, no poetry, no thoughts as to plot advancement of Hunting Jack - nothing. All I have had in my mind is the house move.
This seems to have had a negative effect and although I wrote out my blog easily enough, I seem to have got rusty very easily. Last week I was consumed with word by word analysis of my poetry and fiction. This week, I cannot get the flow started again.
Eventually, my mind slowly started coming round and I ground out the re-edits to three poems for the Brick by Brick chapbook. I need to get this in by the end of April and so I completed it for preparing into a final pdf tomorrow.
Of the goals I set out to complete by the end of last week, the following were achieved:
* first draft of the sitcom scripts written - not done
* several issues of Hunting Jack complete - 2 written
* first edit of my short story, The Dictionary - done
* first draft of the new story, Whisky Snatching - half-done
* resubmitted A Bond of Faith and The Oasis - done
This week I really must try and get back into the routine. Balancing it all with the commitments to the new house is going to be hard but it MUST be done. I cannot let slip all the good work I have got through and want to do. I have to keep a balance while at the same time putting my back into the task of making a nice home for my family.
It's a great situation to be in. If only I had more time and money!
Friday, April 15, 2005
The Big Move
There wasn’t much time for reflection; that would come later. Some mail had already arrived when we walked in; paperwork for next week's broadband installation and a letter from Dogma Publications. I submitted three poems to them online and one of them - The Lamp - was accepted for an anthology. The trouble is, the author doesn't get a free copy and it "may not be available to buy after it's limited publication run". It sounds to me like another con so I'll check them out with my writing group when I get back on line.
I went down to the van hire centre with Ian (FIL) to pick up the Luton van and met Gail back round at the flat to start loading up at 9am precisely. My friend, Zander, arrived soon after and by 11 o'clock we had loaded the van with the first shift of furniture and boxes and unloaded it into the new house. The rain threatened to start but held off enough.
Back round at the flat, we loaded up again and as we were loading the last of our gear the new owners turned up in their own truck. Hunger was also settling in so we stopped off after loading it and had lunch at Gail’s Mum's house who had made soup and bacon rolls.
By the time we restarted, the lactic acid build-up in my arms had made me stiff and it took a while to get going again. Laura joined us after school and helped to carry the smaller bags and before long, the house and garage was filling up with all our stuff.
There was one more trip to make and me, Ian and Zander headed round to Ian's storage shop to pick up the last of the boxes and our new bathroom suite; to be installed at a later date.
With that done the move to the new house was complete and the only thing left carry in was a small bag containing a bottle of red wine, a loaf of bread and a box of salt with a large 'X' on it. The bread and wine would be consumed later and the salt went into the cupboard where it will remain, unused. These three items were recommended by a friend to bring happiness and joy to our new life in our new home.
We set up the stereo and the first tune to played in the house was Gangsters by The Specials. I showered and got the television working while Zander went home to freshen up. Gail's friend Susie then joined us all back in the living room where I bought everyone a Chinese meal and we drank until 4.30am to celebrate our new home. I popped a bottle of Mo Et Chandon and Zander helped me with an annoying bottle of vodka that had been hanging around in a box for way too long.
To top it all off, Zander agreed to sell me a ticket to a small concert involving Oasis in Edinburgh next month when they play the Usher Hall.
I woke up on Saturday after only 4 hours sleep - probably due to the excitement of being the new house. Laura, who we thought would have a bad night, slept solid until 8 o'clock; she must have got herself so excited she knackered herself out.
The process of unpacking and cleaning began and it took most of the day. Gail took Laura out to the shops to get some essentials and I explored the attic for the first time. I was surprised but delighted to see it is big enough to hold another bedroom should we want to expand as well as the presence of a wine brewery; just my thing!
Ian turned up for day one of the restoration and decoration of Laura's room. At the moment she has a temporary bedroom in what will be my study so her room can be replastered and everything else that is to come.
The new phone line isn't getting connected until Monday and so I have to wait until then to get onto my computer. Internet withdrawal symptoms are now becoming an issue.
Gail's brother, partner and 1 year-old son arrived for a visit and to see the new house in the afternoon, and in the evening Gail's pal Sam came down and we had a few drinks. I was very tired from the previous night and and lugging around fo boxes anc leaning, but I got my second wind at about midnight. We played the age-old "Guess Who You Are" game with post-its on our foreheads, which provided much amusement.
By Sunday morning I was glad to get a hint of a lie-in. When I did get up it was another day spent cleaning and clearing around the house; well until half past one when my parents arrived from the West to visit the house for the first time.
They brought a steak pie and vegetables dinner with some lentil soup and we had a rare meal. My dear mother got a little tipys-wipsy after several glasses of wine and a couple of Bailey's Irish Creams to wash it all down.
When they left and after Ian had finished working in Laura's room, Gail and I sat down, together and alone, for the first time in our new home and shared a drink together. Bliss.
I went to bed on Sunday night relaxed and more happy than I have been for a long time. I've moved house/flat several times in my life but this has been by far the biggtest and most meaningful. When I moved in with Gail ti was her flat and I had to arrange everything around an already determined way of life and planned decor. It never really felt like my home in the last place.
In saying that, I do have some wonderful memories; proposing to Gail by the tree on Christmas Day, leaving with my Best Man to be married, the many great parties we have had - and hangovers the next day to name but a few.
Moving into the house means a lot though, because we chose it together and we will decorate it together. In a way, it has brought us more together becuase under the surface, I am sure she knows that it has seen a difference in the pride I feel to being able to say, "that's my house".
Next morning Gail left early for work with Laura at 7am and apparently on the way out the door she shouted goodbye but I didn't hear for my snoring. She was jealous I had thought of taking today off to work in the house instead of going to the office, but it allowed me to get on and take delivery of some items we ordered.
I finished clearing the kitchen of boxes and mopped and polished the floor with bleach until I could see my face in it. Then I sorted out all the CD's and got some of my clothes sorted out that still exist in bags and cases. I emptied more boxes and found places for the items they held and generally tidied up.
First to arrive was our brand new washing machine and dishwasher. In the afternoon the cable guy arrived and got us setup with cable television, broadband internet connection and a new phone line complete with new phone number. When he left I put together my PC in the kitchen and got everything ready for going online again. I'll still be on dial-up until Laura's room is complete, then I can move into my study and start on broadband and a new, dedicated area for writing. I'm planning on getting a new tank for my goldfish and I'll be able to erect my record player again and start moving my vast vinyl and cassette tape collection onto CD.
It's going to be great living here. We have settled in so quickly and the house is large enough that for the first time in years we don't feel like we are living in each other's pockets like before.
I'm glad the move is over though. It was a long weekend, but a joyous one. Tomorrow, it's back to the routine!
Thursday, April 14, 2005
The Penultimate Day
Before I could do anything about the house I had to go up to town and buy Gail a new charger for her phone. She must have packed her original away because can she find it? Nope. It's a typical thing to happen, and what's more typical is all the mobile phone and accessory shops on Princes Street don't stock any chargers. Good eh? So I ended up along at Queensferry Street before I got my hands on one.
I got some messages while I was up town and some lunch for when I got home, which by the time I got there, it had already gone 1pm. Half the day was gone and nothing in the house was accomplished.
Then the phone started ringing - and ringing - and ringing. It's nice of people to wish us luck over the phone - but today of all days!? What's wring with Royal Mail? I finally got into the work at quarter to two; bathroom duty first.
I got through a lot before Gail came home from work. Polished the bathroom and the kitchen bar essentials like coffee and the goldfish. Smashie is as excited as everyone else - he told me during a quiet moment.
Gail came back from work and lit up before the battle royal began. We fired into everything and a smooth military-style operation rolled into force. Let's hope we can carry this through to tomorrow as well. The plan will be to drop Laura off at school and start the move. Hopefully, by the time lunch comes, most of it will be done.
With all our plates and everything else packed we resorted to a MacDonald's for dinner. I know it's been a bad week for fast food but it has by far been the easiest solution.
I got a great text message late afternoon; my good friends Dave and Isla Graham became parents for the second time. Lilly Graham - a wee sister for Molly - was born this morning and both mother and daughter are doing well. Good on them - congratulations both of you!
We finally got the gas fire fixed tonight before the new owners make a complaint over it not working properly and by half ten everything was as could be expected. Last thing to do is post this blog entry, dismantle the PC, then try and get a good night's kip.
It's going to be a long day tomorrow!
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Countdown To The Move
When I got back from snooker I turned on the television and a programme was on about The Last Laugh; the sitcom competition I am writing a script for. The show was covering each of the scripts available and showing filmed extracts from each one; some of them with famous actors taking up the roles.
The Old Guys was not what I expected. Hearing the writers talking about it was as I expected, but they two guys in the actual show itself are totally different to as I imagined. First, they were much younger. Second, one of them is black. Neither of these things are communicated in the script and I think it should have as I think it does make a difference.
My initial feel of the script was of two much older white guys. Born and bred in the area they still live (London) and probably in the seventies. Having a black guy as one of the characters does make a difference because his personality will be different to the guy I had in my mind.
I may have to rethink if I can do justice to this or go with my second choice, Last Quango In Harris.
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
Driving Towards The Weekly Goal
Over lunch, I did some work towards meeting my targets set out for the week. I submitted The Oasis to One Story after it's recent rejection by The Summerset Review. I also edited A Bond Of Faith and got it ready for submitting to The Portable Muse. This is the perfect publication for this story; I only hope the editor likes it.
I read over and edited several poems to differing degrees. I submitted Disposable Pen to the poetry forum and gave several others a new lease of life. This desire to look back over all my unpublished poems is a direct result of the overhaul my approach to poetry has had this week. I am learning to let go and analyse more each word and space. Everything within each poem is only there because it has a reason to exist.
I posted the first draft of The Dictionary to my writing group and got some interesting feedback on it. In the evening I ran through it a second time and other than some small problems with point of view at the start of the story and some minor typos, I managed to get it reading right. It's the right length for the competition requirements, which makes life easier as I won't have to cut large sections out. I'm happy with it on its second draft and I'll give it another read through in the cold light of day.
Gail, Laura and myself went round t0o see the new house now that we have a key. It was a weird sensation; being in our new home but not quite fully owning it or having moved in. At the moment it is a musty shell. In three days it will be a hive of activity.
Worked on Hunting Jack and some more poems in the evening until tiredeness took over. Although I'm off tomorrow I need to be up sharp to get busy.
Monday, April 11, 2005
An Epiphinal Moment
I met Gail at lunchtime and we signed all the papers for the house sale and purchase. It is all but done bar the transfer of monies and keys. By lunchtime on Friday we should be in possession and can begin the move.
Work was awful, as always. I hate it.
I managed to get my new cards registered with PayPal and so I renewed all my subscriptions to the KIC serials I subscribe to. I've still got some catching up to do since I have fallen behind. I'm worried though. There has been a lot of problems with the publishing of the e-zines lately and it has been difficult to keep up with the requests for issues from the publisher. So I'm worried my sudden re-subscribing will cause a fluster with those authors who write them. Hopefully not.
I did a LOT of poetry reading when I got back over lunch. I have pulled out a lot of information on how to read poetry. I figured it will help me understand it more if I look at it from the reverse angle.
As a result, I pulled all of the poems currently under submission to see if I can work on them more. I have had responses to In The New Town Mist from people on the poetry-only forum and there seems to be two common themes developing that people are picking up on; the use of rhyme versus free-flowing and my inverted sentence structure. The root cause of these problems is easy to identif - I am trying to BE the poets that inspire me, and not be myself. I am sticking too rigidly to pre-defined structures and not letting the poetry flow through my arm into the pen and onto the paper. I need to learn to channel and relax.
We had an engineer over to fix the gas fire in the evening. Amazing how things manage to break just at the worst possible time.
I checked my subscriptions list at KIC and it looks like I have lost a couple of subscribers. The person who bought the three month subscription for Hunting Jack hasn't renewed nor has one of my gift certificate readers. I did pick up a new reader today by way of a free month. Not sure if it was through the competition or not - but it’s a new reader. That's me at eight.
I started work on the next few Hunting Jack issues and began to feel that the way I had the build up to and the conclusion to the story planned wasn't fitting right. I started to write anyway and went with the flow.
The it hit me. Perhaps the most incredible epiphinal moment I have had during the entire writing of the story. Suddenly, there is a sub-plot which will not only provide a stronger link from Jackie to the core, but also brings forward the twist to a pre-cursor of itself. If that makes sense - well it does to me.
I wrote a couple of issues before calling it a night.
Sunday, April 10, 2005
It's an eye-opener for sure and a lesson learnt the hard way. Is there any other better way of learning fast than getting your fingers burnt? I work in an I.T. department by day, and from experience I know the only way to fully understand a new application or piece of software is to break it first, then fix it. Only by getting your hands dirty and breaking it down to its lowest level components, can you begin understand how it was constructed and the reasons it was put together in a specific order.
And so it has to be with poetry. I must go back to the drawing board and read, study and write. I will continue to write poetry as it comes to me; as an artist I must continue to follow my heart on this. But I am at a crossroads now and I can feel a positive change in my poetry in the near future.
It was a slow start to the day. Gail let me lie in but there was motive behind her kindness. I had left out my digital video camera from yesterday's photo session and she used it to prove that on the odd occasion, I do in fact snore. Revenge will be mine, and it shall be sweet.
The day was all about packing and. Boxes are springing up everywhere and the cupboards slowly emptying. There is still much to do and a feeling of urgency is growing. Tomorrow we sign everything off and there is no going back after that. Friday will be great. It will be a day long rembered. It will see the end of Kenobi, and will soon see the end of the rebellion. Sorry - slight attack of Star wars syndrome there.
I spent some time on the new forums I subscribed to, but other than that and this blog, no writing got done. I wrote longhand into my notebook more of the story that started in my head the other night but I can't see me meeting this month's GDR. I don't think the effect of moving is going to have as great an impact on my output that I first thought it might, but it's never going be completed.
By the end of this week I want to have the first draft of the sitcom scripts complete. I also want to have several issues of Hunting Jack complete and have done the first edit of my short story, The Dictionary. I also want to have completed the first draft of the new story that came to me the other night called Whisky Snatching and to have resubmitted A Bond of Faith and The Oasis, which was returned to me this evening from the Summerset Review with a standard rejection.
To finish today's entry I want to wish Prince Charles and his new bride all the best for the future.
Saturday, April 09, 2005
Edinburgh, And The Poetry Group
Laura came through at 6.30 and that was me awake for the day. I got up and did the domestics and get her ready for dancing classes. I dropped her off - giving Gail a deserved lie-in - and with my DV camera in hand, made my way into town.
I had a certain amount of specific shots I wanted to get for my chapbook, but I ended up taking a lot more as it turned out. I started off in Princes Street and covered Waverly Bridge, Cockburn Street, North Bridge, South Bridge, The Royal Mile, Victoria Street, Grassmarket, King Stables Road, Lothian Road, Young Street, Queen Street, Dublin Street, London Street, Broughton Street and finally Leith Walk. There is so much more to this city when you look up, as opposed to forward.
I walked the whole way and by the end of it I had some good photos and a pair of sore feet. I won't show the photos for the chapbook here, but I will scatter this blog entry with some of the other ones I liked.
The Royal Mile looking north
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I picked up Laura and came home to make lunch. I heated up the bridies I bought from Gregg's and we sat down to enjoy it with a much needed cup of tea. While doing so, I tuned in to the Royal wedding. HRH The Prince of Wales was already in the Church marrying Camilla Parker-Bowles.
Victoria Street leading to Grassmarket
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When they left for the Blessing from the Archbishop of Canterbury, she did so as the Prince's Consort and the new Duchess of Cornwall.
It was a quiet affair, certainly compared to his first wedding, but it seemed to have an air of much-needed dignity surrounding it.
Edinburgh Castle from the Grassmarket
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With the post-wedding celebrations on in the background, I got to packing - again. The house is not getting any tidier despite more boxes appearing in every corner. We're now down to the items that we reckon we can live without for a week at most. The disappearance of the stereo in this time-frame caused a minor "discussion".
King Stables Road Cemetry with Edinburgh Castle in background (from Hunting Jack)
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Not only did today see a Royal wedding, but it was also Grand National day at Aintree Racecourse. I had been tipped a horse by Tom in Clark's yesterday but never got time to put a fiver on it. Just as well as it came in sixth place.
King Stables Cemetry, closer view
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I took some photos in the house - close-ups of certain items relating to some of the poems in the chapbook. The DV camera is excellent at taking these kinds of photos and they have definitely added to the entertainment and communication values of the book.
The Oxford Bar on Young street - Inspector Rebus's hangout
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I received a rejection from Open Wide Magazine for A Bond of Faith. I'll give it another read through and submit it elsewhere. It's not my strongest piece, though it is thought provoking and in this respect, I like it.
Howe Street towards Fife
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I can't see me ever taking rejections as a final severance of a piece of work from the 'production line'. Every piece I complete has only gotten so far because I think it is worthy of completing and spending time in perfecting. Therefore, it is my attention to get them all published one way or another.
Dublin Street towards Fife and Firth of Forth
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I knew I would not get a lot of work completed today. I had to give it all over to packing boxes and throwing out the stuff that never made it onto the 'moving list'. I did update my Brick by Brick chapbook with the photos I took and it's looking better every day.
Fife and the Forth from Dublin Street, closer view
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The situation at the poetry-only forum took an interesting turn. It would seem I posted my first poem in the preverbial "Lion's Den" area and was advised where it would best suit. Apparently, I am not the first "newbie" to have been given a fright by the crits received in that area.
A typical street in Edinburgh's New Town
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So I have moved the poem and spent some time in the evening reading through the poems that are posted there. It is indeed a very interesting place. I am going to learn much from this group and althoguh this one post gave me a fright, it has had me think of nothing else than my poetryat a totally new level.
A house in the New Town
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There is so much to learn in the world of poetry - methods and persepctives I never knew existed. Being blasted as I was, could well turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to my poetry. It's time to roll up the sleeves and prepare to work hard.
London Street in the New Town
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Friday, April 08, 2005
Perils Of Poetry
Other than the weather, it was a great start to the day. I had Madness playing on my mobile mp3 player, it was sunny and bright and it was my 10th cappuccino from Club Sandwich, therefore free.
Things got even better as the day progressed. I met Dave and Tom for a pint or two in Clark's over lunch. With my overnight shift due to start at 3am I played it wary. The last thing I would need was to sleep in and miss it.
As fate would have it though, the computer programmers employed by The Company struck again. They fouled up magnificently; meaning two critical systems fell over and when I returned from lunch, I discovered tonight's implementation was cancelled.
So I went back to Clark's later on and had another couple of pints. Dave left early; his wife, Isla, is expecting their second child within the next week and should he need to drive, he doesn't want to be caught out.
It was never going to be a late one for me either since Gail had already booked to go out tonight. It suited me though because I wanted to get some writing done. At least the pressure is off about working from 3am till God knows when. It also means I can get up in the morning, take Laura to dancing then go and take photographs for my poetry chapbook.
I got home about 6'ish just as Gail was about to go out and made Laura her dinner. We watched some television together and had some ice cream before her time to sleep came.
I watched some highlights of the funeral of Pope John Paul II. One thing that has struck me since his death is the depth of feeling from young and old. I'm not sure I was quite expecting to see so many normal people travel from so far to pay their respects while he lay in State. It doesn't help my analysis of late as to whether or not there is a God. Perhaps that is too large a problem and I should just concentrate on a less confusing question; is God for me?
I'll get back to you on that.
The other day I was asked to join a poetry-only forum. Over the last couple of days I have been taking a look about and I liked what I saw; plenty of healthy discussion and critiquing from poets of every ilk. I signed up and when I couldn't find a board to introduce myself, I dove straight in and posted In The New Town Mist - one of my better poems I felt.
I logged on tonight and someone had posted a criticism. Now - I know I'm not an advanced poet by any stretch of the imagination, and I know poetry is probably not my strongest talent but I don't think my poetry is without meaning, purpose or lacking in point. My poem was torn to shreds line by line and it left me feeling quite despondent.
I am hardened to criticism from my work. It is part and parcel of being a writer and the process is an important part of the learning curve as well as the insight you can gain from another's interpretation of a piece of work. This criticism though, lacked constructiveness and this left a slightly bad taste in the mouth.
The person who asked me to join this group is a wonderful poet who has been published many times. In her e-mail to me, she said she had noticed my poetry becoming more deliberate and honed, which was the reason she asked me in. So, although this criticism (from another person I should say) was stinging, I am tempted to put most of it down to them just not getting the point. Yet part of my is nagging me and saying, "Maybe it is a pile of shite after all."
On another forum, I had told someone of the subjectivity of poetry, which is to say its beauty is often in the eye of the writer. I also read a lot of online poetry, some of which I would consider to be naïve or perhaps reading more like dialogue. Yet much of it is from published poets with several legitimate book publishing deals under their belts.
So who is right and who is wrong? Probably no one. But I joined to gain constructive criticism, not a morale beating, which is what I felt I got. I will persevere however, because I think my poetry is improving and I also think some of it is actually quite good. At the end of the day, if my poetry is crap, it looks like I'm about to find out.
Thursday, April 07, 2005
The time was midnight and not wanting to appear like a party pooper, I obliged. Having never been to Samantha's flat before (hereafter known as Sam), I wasn't entirely sure which door was hers. A prostitute saw me standing in the street looking about and assumed I wanted to do business (Sam lives in the 'Tolerance Zone') and approached me. I declined her offer and found the door to the flat.
Gail and Sam were already quite merry when I arrived. We listened to some tunes and had some drinks. When we left, Gail was more than merry, She giggled and zig-zagged her way up the road. We got to bed at 2:30am. As a result, this morning was not the easiest to pry myself out from between the sheets. Even worse was the discovery when I got to work that I had a meeting in ten minutes in another building - 20 minutes away.
The day went in faster than I expected, which was good. Mostly this was because I was busy with a workload for this Friday night's overnight shift. I start at 3am on Saturday morning and am unsure as to the finish time yet. Much of it depends on the success of the implementation.
After work we ate dinner then headed over to the other side of Edinburgh to collect Laura from her Aunts house where she stayed over last night. While there, we visited Gail’s cousin and stopped in to say hello. By the time we got back it was about nine o'clock and tiredness from last night was catching up fast. With little time left to do any solid writing, I worked on the poetry e-book for a couple of hours, now officially called, Brick by Brick.
It's coming on well. I've written blurbs for each poem; their inspiration and meaning, and I took a photo for the cover design. This weekend I'll take the photos I've planned out for the individual poems, which should be fun.
Lying in bed waiting for sleep to come three people started having a discussion in a bar. One was the barmnan, the other two regulars. The outcome of their discussion merited a short story and so I started to write.
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
Little Old Ladies And The UK Electoral Process
On the bus, I plugged in my earphones and turned on the radio. Rat in the Kitchen was playing - my favourite UB40 track. The song ended and out of the corner of my eye I noticed the little old lady sitting to my right waving wildly in my direction. I assumed she was trying to get the attention of someone in the street behind me, so I ignored her. Then it occurred to me we were sitting on the top deck of the bus and it would have to be a pretty tall person for her to be waving at.
I looked at her. She gestured for me to take my earphones out, which I did.
"Sorry," I said and laughed. "I thought you were waving at someone else."
"No, sonny," she shouted rather loudly. "Can you tell me where this is?"
She handed me a business card for a hearing aid centre situated on the South Bridge; a fair walk for a little old lady at the best of times.
"I'm not sure exactly where it is," I said. "But you need to cross the bridge at the Balmoral Hotel and keep walking for about half a mile. That’s the road which leads to the South Bridge."
"Eh?" she said, and waved her hand at her ear to emphasise her hearing aid wasn't working.
"I don’t know exactly where it is," I said again. "Cross the bridge at the Balmoral Hotel and keep walking. You'll find it about half a mile up the road."
She waved her arms again and screwed up her face with frustration.
"I - DON'T - KNOW - WHERE - IT - IS," I shouted. "CROSS - THE - BRIDGE - AT - THE - BALMORAL - HOTEL - AND - KEEP - WALKING - FOR - HALF - A - MILE. THAT - WILL - TAKE - YOU - TO - THE - SOUTH - BRIDGE."
"Oh right," she said and smiled. "Thank you, sonny."
She turned round on her seat to face the front of the bus. It was at this point I noticed the other people sitting nearer the front laughing at my attempts to help the wee woman on her way.
Needless to say, I've given her a name and she now lives in my wee red notebook until such time she makes into one of my stories.
I came across this site, http://poetrysuperhighway.com/pshffa.html, in a poetry newsletter I subscribe to. It is inviting e-books containing poetry to be submitted, which will be made available online for people to download for a set period of time. I collected some of my better poems, designed a cover and I'll send it in to see what happens.
I subbed The Blind Man Of Cathkin Street to The Edge Magazine. There's something much more exciting about postal submissions over e-mail. It's got a more traditional feel and is less immediate. According to the website I should expect a response within three weeks, but more than likely one.
Devon Ellington asked for a run-down of the election process in the UK, which I am more than happy to provide.
Calling an Election
On Tuesday, the 2005 General Election was called by the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair. Only he can do this, but first he must ask The Queen to dissolve parliament. This is done by a Royal Proclamation because ultimately, the Government is one level below The Monarchy. Hence why it is called Her Majesty's Government.
Parliament is then dissolved and writs issued to this effect. When parliament is dissolved, Members of Parliament (MPs) become ex-Members. During the period of an election they are not even allowed to enter the Palace of Westminster or use any of its facilities, though they are still paid up until polling day. The Government continues in office until the results of the election are known.
The election timetable runs for eighteen days starting with the dissolution of the old parliament and the issue of writs on day 0 and ends on day 17, polling day.
Elections are traditionally held on Thursdays but this is only a custom, not a requirement.
For electoral purposes, Britain is divided into parliamentary constituencies. Each returns one MP to the House of Commons. There are 659 constituencies as of the 1997 general election. Constituencies range considerably in area and in the number of electors. In general, the intention is to ensure that constituency electorates are kept roughly equal. However, this is not always possible, particularly for the more sparsely populated areas where it would be difficult for an MP effectively to represent a very large area. The average size of constituency electorate over the UK as a whole is around 68,000.
The UK Parliament is based on a two-chamber system. The House of Lords and the House of Commons sit separately, and are constituted on different principles. However, the legislative process involves both Houses.
House of Commons
The House of Commons currently has 659 MPs, each representing an individual constituency. Of the 659 seats, 529 are for England, 40 for Wales, 72 for Scotland and 18 for Northern Ireland.
House of Lords
The House of Lords considers legislation, debates issues of importance and provides a forum for government ministers to be questioned. The Committees of the House consider a wide range of issues and produce reports on them. The House of Lords also includes the Law Lords, which is the highest court in the United Kingdom.
An Electoral Commission was established in November 2000 as an independent body to oversee new controls on donations to and campaign spending by political parties and others. It also has a remit to keep under review electoral law and practice and to promote public awareness of the electoral process.
British citizens are entitled to vote at elections providing that they are aged 18 or over and are not subject to any legal incapacity to vote. Citizens of other Commonwealth countries and the Irish Republic may also vote at parliamentary elections if they are resident in Britain, aged 18 or over and are not subject to any legal incapacity to vote.
Electoral law does not prohibit The Queen, or other members of Royal Family from voting. In practice it is considered unconstitutional for the Sovereign or heir apparent to vote in an election. Other members of Royal Family do not vote because of their closeness to the Sovereign.
General elections are elections of the whole House of Commons at one time: one Member of Parliament for each constituency in the United Kingdom. Each MP is elected from the various candidates through secret ballot by a simple majority system in which each elector can cast one vote. The candidates may be from one of the three major political parties, from a minor party or from any other organisation that has been registered with the Electoral Commission. If a candidate does not represent a registered party or group he/she may stand as an 'Independent'.
Most voting takes place in polling stations, but any citizen eligible to vote in Great Britain can apply on demand to vote by post. British citizens living abroad are also entitled to a postal vote, as long as they have been living abroad for less than 15 years.
General elections are held at intervals of up to five years. The Government can, and often does, decide to hold one at an earlier date. In times of national emergency, such as war, general elections can be postponed, but this is very rare.
After the Vote
Once the votes are counted, the Prime Minister will select his/her Cabinet and Parliament will be opened by way of the State Opening of Parliament. The State Opening also takes place in October or November on the first day of the new parliamentary session.
The Queen's Speech is then delivered by the Queen from the Throne in the House of Lords. The speech is given in the presence of members of both Houses, the Commons being summoned to hear the speech by an official known as 'Black Rod'. In a symbol of the Commons' independence, the door to their chamber is slammed in his face and not opened until he has knocked on the door with his staff of office. Although the speech is made by the Queen, the content of the speech is entirely drawn up by the Government and approved by the Cabinet.
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
May 5th was confirmed as the date - worst kept secret in British politics - which is a date that will ring some ominous bells for some Labour supporters. For it was almost the same date in May 1979 that Maggie got into power and begun her transformation of Britain from industrial to privatised. Watch out Blair, there may be blue in the air!
I'd put money on Blair getting a third term anyway - in fact it's pretty much a certainty - but I think the Tories might give them a better run for their money this time round. They are already picking up in the polls and despite what the politicians say, it is going to be as sleazy and bloody a campaign as ever.
I was off work with school holiday cover today and I also had a list of things to do around the house. I took Laura with me to our first stop at B&Q to buy a saw - the reason for which will become apparent. Then we into the supermarket to get ingredients for Marzetti, which I wanted to make later on. When we got home we had a cuppa then I got on with washing the windows and throwing out a tonne of waste cardboard boxes that we were unable to use.
Then the saw came out, and in the roasting heat that is our sun-trapped back garden, I chopped up the remains of my desk, which the bin-men refused to take away due to their size, (the planks of wood - not the bin-men).
I got hold of Which Digital Camera? Magazine as I am now in the market for a good quality camera. I'm after pretty much the same qualities as when I was after my digital video camera - good quality images, easy to use and advanced enough for me to take it further than a mere 'general snaps' camera.
I e-mailed a couple of friends who have recently bought cameras or are in the business of photography themselves to gauge where I should be looking.
Flicking through the magazine though, the more I read about the Canon EOS 300, the more I like it. It's a digital SLR and is a quality entry-level camera. A quick scan on eBay, and I can get one, including the extras, for a reasonable price.
I worked on my latest poem, The Old Woman Of Edinburgh and polished up The Blind Man Of Cathkin Street for submission. I scanned my Artists and Writer's Yearbook for suitable markets but could only come up with one; The Edge magazine. There is not a lot of scope for mainstream horror in the UK it would seem. I'll send it off and if that fails, I will hit the information highway for possible suspects.
Monday, April 04, 2005
The Sun Is Shining
Reading through April's edition of Writing Magazine and I saw the winners of last summer's ghost story competition have been announced. The Blind Man of Cathkin Street didn't make the shortlist so I now have a tale of terror to try and sell. With it being written specifically for a competition, the horror market was never something I deliberately have written for and so this could be an interesting search. Horror isn't one of my genres either in writing or reading, but creating atmosphere and building tension is, so it's a case of finding the right place for it.
I tried to submit In The New Town Mist to theharrow.com but their site is technically unable to accept online submissions. It's a very long and complicated process for submitting, which I eventually gave up on when it wouldn't accept it.
Dinner was a flop. It was supposed to be one of those unhealthy-sounding-but-made-in-a-healthy-kind-of-way type meals. Chicken in spicy batter with chips. Sounds easy enough, but the chips came out floppy and the chicken tasted - poor. Time to face facts; I'm better cooking healthy complicated meals. Ahem.
I wrote over 1600 words for the February short story competition in Writing Magazine. The remit is for it to involve a dictionary and must be between 1600 and 1800 words, which is harder to do than it sounds. Creating believable characters and stories in that amount of words is a true test of craft above all else.
I'm being drawn more and more towards taking more and better photographs. Most of the pictures I have taken are stills from a digital video camera so can be vastly improved upon. I believe taking better photographs will aid my writing, particularly non-fiction, and it's an interesting form of art I want to expore as a support to my fiction and poetry.
When writing, whether a short story, poem or longer piece, I always have specific images in my mind. It would be good to be able to capture these. I like the idea of making a collection of photographs which relate the story of Jackie McCann in image-form. A project worth thinking more about.
Speaking of photgraphs, click here for pics of me and Laura on our wee trip to Edinburgh Castle last week.
Sunday, April 03, 2005
Packing For The Move
Thankfully, Gail took Laura out for the best part of the morning and I got to make up for the loss of sleep. When she returned I had risen and was looking forward (?) to another day of packing the necessary and binning the unrequired.
I was invited to join another writing forum more inclined with the world of freelancing. I had a look about and posted a few notices and was impressed by the various sections it aims to cover. I'm hoping it takes off, as there are areas outlined in it I want to learn more about, such as photography.
Regular readers may remember me speaking last autumn of a photograph that I took many years ago of a wintry scene from the rear of the house I grew up in. The subject in the photo was a small blackbird who returned every year to the same area and I caught it in a moment of reflection. I was unable to show you the picture because I lost it among the many boxes of gunk I brought with me when I moved in with Gail five years ago.
Today, I found the photograph! I'll get it scanned in on Tuesday while I am off and display it here on the blog. How exciting!
We spent a chunk of the afternoon at Kinnaird Retail Park looking at washing machines, dishwashers and fridge/freezers. A first for me obviously, but even Gail was startled at the washing machine at over £1000 which, apparently irons and folds your clothes as well!
I took the opportunity to nip into Borders and get this month's Writing Magazine and also PC World. I need to carry out a couple of upgrades on my PC to get it configured better for website work and for broadband when it comes along in a couple of weeks. I need to upgrade the RAM, which is proving more difficult than I thought - because I've packed away my specification guide and am not sure which card to buy. I'm also looking at routers and more hard disk space. RAM is the essential component.
By the time evening came round and Laura was down we sat down knackered for a lasagne meal. We got through a lot during the day, but the house is still a tip and as a result, makes it very demoralising to have done so much packing, with so little apparent result. It'll probably be the last couple of days when we move before we really see the house emptying, instead of filling up with more rubbish and bags.
I got the laptop out after dinner with the intent of battering on with a short story I have worked out for the March Writing Magazine competition. Unfortunately, a programme detailing the top 50 UK comedy sketches was on from 9 till 12 and it constantly diverted my attention. Everyone from Kenny Everett to Fry & Laurie, Smith & Jones to Morecambe & Wise and The Two Ronnies to Les Dawson reduced me to tears of laughter.
I got little done but laughter truly is, the greatest tonic!
I did manage the first draft on another two Edinburgh-related poems; one about the Castle and the other of the Royal Yacht berthed in Leith.
It's going to be another good month.
Saturday, April 02, 2005
A lot of the packing for the move is now underway and a lot of things are being thrown out. Some tough decisions are being made but it's got to be done.
The client in the music biz that I was hoping to design their website for sent me an e-mail to pull out of the project. I'm very disappointed because I wanted to do a good job after being recommended by a friend. I had problems with the price negotiation and I'm pretty sure despite the discounts I offered, the decision came down to cost at the end of the day.
In the evening I received an interesting e-mail from the Arts correspondent at the Sunday Herald. It was a reply from the second press release I sent out at the tail end of January. She suggested a journalist in another area of the newspaper who might be more able to help me more.
After Laura was down for the night and with Gail away to the Playhouse with her pal, I made my dinner; an old fashioned steak with onions. Nothing more, nothing less.
I flicked on the television and saw the breaking news that Pope John Paul II had just died in Rome. While not a Roman Catholic myself, I admire anyone who lives their life through their Faith to such a level of committment and I offer my condolences to anyone his death affects.
I got little writing done today due to work around the house and I am hoping tomorrow is better - though I am not counting on it. With under 2 weeks to go, the house is screaming out to get sorted now and I can feel Gails stress levels mounting.
Time to get the sleeves up and leave the writing until later at night.
Friday, April 01, 2005
An Embarrassing Moment And April's GDR
It took us over two hours to get round it all, and I was amazed who much Laura enjoyed it. When she said she wanted to go I thought it was more the idea that had taken her fancy because of her fascination with painting. I expected her to want to leave after five minutes, but she was genuinely interested in the details of the paintings, some of which are over 500 years old.
A section of the gallery was pay-to-enter and it detailed the time of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert throughout Scotland. Laura was awe-struck by Victoria's tartan and diary excerpts.
A moment of madness occurred while in the most protected part of the gallery. Laura had taken a seat on a leather couch to look at a large painting of the Battle of Bannockburn, so I joined her. All of a sudden, the sound of the Madness classic, One Step Beyond, recorded as an MP3 from a live performance in 1980, blasted out from the inner pocket of my jacket.
I panicked and fumbled with the mobile phone and managed to answer the call from Gail. Alas, it was too late. The female curator knew who it was and appeared from nowhere to demand I turn it off. Of course I did so, apologising profusely and with a face as red as a tomato. I was sure I had turned it off on the way in, so I wasn't expecting it, but it's something I will double-check next time I go into a gallery, that's for sure.
Gail and I went to a surprise 50th birthday bash in the local Fireman's Social Club. Gail was in her element; the thought of loads of firemen in their "dirties" as she calls it - but then I thought it was rather good too. At £1.80 a nip I was in my own element!
GDR for April
With the demise of KIC Magazine last month before it really got a chance to establish, I did get the taste, but perhaps the wrong experience of freelance column writing. It was good to be in print, but I miss regret losing the opportunity to develop the columns more.
Last month went well, so this month I am going to up the anti on fiction and poetry. I found a new aspect/voice of poetry that I enjoyed writing in and I want to work more on it.
And so, this month's GDR reflects these desires.
16 (and concluding) issues of Hunting Jack
3 new short stories
Write two Last Laugh sitcom scripts
Restart work on A Friend to Die For
Write at least 4 new poems
Submit In The New Town Mist
Find markets for children's poems already written
Write travel article on Edinburgh Literary figures
Marketing and Promotion
Leaflet re-distribution for Hunting Jack
Promote web design services; new site maybe?
Reading and Research
Read more fiction
Catch up with KIC e-zine subscriptions
Read notes on Buddhism
Purchase books on RL Stevenson
Purchase 'Eats, Shoots & Leaves'
Buy books on poetry
Complete another 6 chapters of the Web Development manuals (chapters 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 & 19 already done)