Friday, 29 June 2007

Colliding worlds

So how many different worlds can you inhabit all at the same time?

Clearly the answer will be different depending on whether you are male or female, but even for the males among us, I reckon the answer is more than one.

I don't know why, but this question has crystallised in my mind over the last day or so, through a fog of jet-lag, pain and phlegm (apologies but it is the most medically accurate, least offensive and simply the best word ever for it).

I'm inhabiting many different worlds at the moment. I'm back into the real world of my home life, with school runs, assemblies, catering for children and washing (piles and piles of washing - how can one person generate so much washing in only six days away?). Part of my mind is still in the other real world in Boston that I inhabited for most of the last week, with memories pricked by the pain of the blisters.

Then there are fictional worlds. The fictional world of my book is ever present, if somewhat at the back of my mind at the moment. I also have the fictional world of my Bridport Prize short story (just completed and submitted this evening - more than 24 hours before the deadline, I must be getting better at delivering ahead of expectations!) strongly there.

But where I recognise that I'm bumping up against my personal limit is that my head is also full of Will Self's fictional world from The Book of Dave, my Boston reading material. I finished it at the airport in Boston. I tried to start another book I took with me but have been completely unable to do so. The impressions of Self's book are just too strong. The language and the characters were so well developed and so ingrained into my head that they keep impinging on my real world - I keep thinking in the Mokni (Mockney = mock Cockney) that he employs throughout the book, translating my normal conversation into his language.

What this also does though, is instil a very real goal in me. If only one person, on reading MY book, will be transported into my fictional world in anywhere near the same way, I will rate it as a success. Hopefully the last week of research (and yes it did include the local brews - especially Samuel Adams) will help me, in some small way, to create such a compelling and believable world of fiction.

Friday, 22 June 2007

Looking at the Charles River...

Hi y'all!

I am here and finally online after much fiddling and eventually giving in to paying the hotel $10 a day for using their wireless network.

Have had a great far. Although it's my usual time for blogging, it's only 6pm here and I still have a number of plans to delay the onset of sleep and therefore hopefully negate the impact of jetlag.

Weather on the M25 was severe this morning and it took my maximum allowable 2 hours to get there. Good conversation witht he taxi driver who may well feature in the book now. The usual extremely long lines at check-in (and later at passports and security and the gate and then the second check in at the gate to finally get a seat allocated). Why is it that all air travel related activities seem to be weighted towards efficiency for the airlines and away from customer service?

So I ended up iin the very back row, left thinking until the very last minute that I'd have a spare seat next to me. The very last passenger to board turned out to be my neighbour. But he was great and I had a very in depth philosophical discussion about life, God, the universe, evolution and molecular biology with him. He was German so I slipped in a few words and shocked him suitably!

Read some of my book, one of three I purchased on a threefer offer specifically for this trip, and watched a movie. And then we were here. Hot and sunny when I arrived but it's gone steadily downhill since then, although it has now stopped raining so I can see the river and Boston University beyond.

I have to admit to being very stinky when I got here and was really looking forward to a shower. Imagine my dismay when my room wasn't ready. But then I guess it was only 12.45 here. I drank coffee while they got housekeeping to fix up the room, then showered and headed out for the University. The nice people at the Barnes and Noble store - I correctly guessed that slipping into the conversation that I'm writing a book would elicit both excitement and friendly help - sold me a book about the Uni (written by students for students) and recommended a campus tour, telling me exactly where I need to go to do that. And because they are 7 days a week, my plan is to hit there tomorrow. I sat in their Starbucks and made some notes. I already feel that I have some additional research material that will make the book better - from the colours of the stripes on the buses to the hairstyle of the barista, and from the bike lock attached to the railings but completely devoid of a bike to the three trust-fund babies discussing boyfriends and dates.

I've called home on the old Skype - what a great invention that is! - and now am gearing myself up to go visit the gym. I'm going to eat in the hotel tonight because I know that by the time I've eaten and drunk a beer (or two) I will only be fit to collapse straight into bed, hopefully to sleep until a reasonable time in the morning. But if not, I guess I can always do some writing if I wake up at 3am.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Running to stand still...

Been busy. The short round-up of the news is as follows:
Interview today. Went well. Don't want the job.
Weight 107.3kg. Woo-hoo! Lowest in a long while. Thank you Paul McKenna! Bought some new shorts with a waist size not seen in this household for many a year.
Flying away on a "research trip" on Friday. On my own. For 6 days. Good 'ole US of A. A brew of tea parties. Excited? You bet I am. Fairly flash hotel booked (at Mrs Moose's insistence). Me, the laptop and some books. A list of locations to visit while I'm there.

In the meantime, one to mull over...
Lies, damned lies and statistics. But consider these two numbers:
We have to build new prisons and release some non-violent prisoners early and everyone is up in arms about the amount of crime we have - there are 81,000 people in prison.
There were 194,000 abortions last year.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

My life is over...


According to a failed reality TV contestant on a reality TV programme that I have not watched a second of this time around (for the first time). I know this only because the reports of what is happening in the BB house are unavoidable in the red tops that accompany my gym breakfasts. That and 'News in Briefs'.

Somebody called Lesley apparently dissed half the population as being dead because they have silver cars. Apparently the woman herself drives a black Porsche. She claims that black is the only acceptable colour for cars.

My gripe is not really with her taste in colour but rather her taste in marque. Maybe I'm judgemental but Porsches usually seem to be driven by short men with big chips (on their shoulders) or trophy wives/girlfriends. And more annoying, even people who drive the things can't say it properly, demonstrating the usual British lack of skill and desire to correctly pronounce anything remotely foreign. Ikea is pronounced with a short i like in pig, but no we have to say Eye-key-ah. Ikea themselves have even given up trying to correct this in Britain as they realised they were in a losing battle. Munich and Cologne don't exist but we can't get our tongues around Muenchen and Koeln.

I suggest Porsche do a bit of rebranding. They will have to change the spelling of their brand. They have two options. One is to call it Porsh, capitulating to our laziness and ignorance. The second is to call it Portia - at least some British people are educated enough to have read some Shakespeare and know how to pronounce her name, and it's closer to correct than 'Porsh'.

Maybe Katie from The Apprentice could advise on the global branding aspects - I hear she's looking for work.

The muse strikes...

It's funny what inspires me to write and what doesn't.

I was telling Hazel this morning that my lack of a blog posting recently was not for want of trying. I have spent an hour or two over a few evenings sitting with a blank New Post screen in front of me waiting for the muse to strike. Nothing.

A skateboarding half-pipe in a church in Cornwall? No.
A 26 toed cat? Nearly, but no cigar.
Two deaths in one day, one police officer and one at the hands of the police? Unbelievably, not that either.
England winning at cricket or throwing away a football match by missing a penalty? Not even that.

But then I arrived at the office and it hit me. Even before I had logged on, for I read the paper at the gym while consuming breakfast. And it was this.

Katie (from The Apprentice, just in case you didn't immediately know) has been fired...again!

What does that say about me? Am I cruel, enjoying the schadenfreude (again)? Am I vindictive? Or do I just get a sense of righteous satisfaction when the 'burning coals' get heaped on someone's head who seems to deserve them?

Maybe some of each. Katie's statement in her interview that she can be pretty ruthless, when she rated getting someone else's husband "because I wanted him" as an 8 on the 1-10 ruthlessness scale, got me and half the nation wondering what would earn a 10. Well how about this?

An employee takes unpaid leave for a few months to join a reality TV show where she doesn't want the prize on offer but does want the fame and notoriety of winning the show. On walking out of the said show, just in time before being fired, she returns to work to have 3 more affairs with married men (allegedly). One of her 'encounters' in a field is caught on film and published in the national Sunday newspapers. Her employer fires her (allegedly) for bringing the organisation into disrepute. Is that worth a 10 for ruthlessness?

Or just full marks for common sense and decency...

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Blame culture

Now we have the moon to blame for our violent and criminal behaviour. Interesting that in the interview on the radio that I heard with one of the top police officers in West Sussex Police he was very careful to keep mentioning that the critical statistical link was made between high crime/violence episodes and the days when the full moon coincided with payday.

Now I learned at school that just because there is a statistical correlation between two things doesn't mean that there is a causal relationship. Sad person that I am I can still remember the example that our Economics teacher used. Sad person that I am I also remembered it in an entrance scholarship exam at University - a memory feat that helped me earn some much needed and appreciated extra cash. Anyway, it was that the incidence of cancer in the countries of the world had a very strong correlation with their consumption of canned sardines.

Stop the sardines! Ban the sardines! They cause cancer! They are to BLAME!

Of course the real link was the degree of development of the countries concerned. Only rich, developed countries eat lots of canned sardines. And in poor, underdeveloped countries, most people die from other things before cancer can get a hold of them.

So, wild guess here...but could it possibly be that the larger consumption of alcohol and drugs by people with wallets as fat as their heads at the end of the month might just have a small causal impact on the whole situation?

In the meantime the good police officers of West Sussex will no doubt enjoy the overtime cash they will earn during the times of upgraded police cover. Let's just hope they don't spend it all at the end of the following month on drugs and alcohol or there could be real trouble.

Monday, 4 June 2007

Conditional payments

It's interesting to see the plan to only pay for cancer drugs if they work and to think of other situations where the same principle could be applied...

- maybe I only have to pay my car insurance if I have a crash
- I only pay my TV licence if I think the BBC programmes are any good
- I can borrow self-help books from the bookshop, returning to pay for them only if I am a noticeably better person for it

My life would be distinctly cheaper if I could follow these rules. Let's hope that it's also cheaper for the NHS.

Number 100!!!

Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday dear blog,
Happy birthday to you!

The 100th entry on this blog and what better way to celebrate than with the news that the secret of a happy marriage is recognising that sometimes it will be miserable.

Well I never realised that! How many times have I said that when our expectations are too high we end up with problems? How many times have I commented on self-sacrifice and humility being fairly important in all relationships but especially in marriage?
How much do we pay people to come up with these findings? Is there a University of the Bleedin' Obvious somewhere that churns out these studies? Will they pay me a load of money if I spout self-evident conclusions on not very important stuff too?

Oh, I do that already...could someone please just send the cheque to...