Spitfires in Albert Square


Courtesy of word being passed on by my mate, John, I paid an unscheduled visit to Manchester City Centre today, for an open-air exhibition in Albert Square, outside our closed-for-refurbishment-until-2024 Town Hall, to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the RAF.

I’m not usually into military things but just as the E-type Jaguar is the sexiest car ever made, so too is the Spitfire the sexiest fighter plane there ever will be and the chance to see an actual one, up close, was irresistible.

It wasn’t the the only plane on show: there was part of a Lancaster Bomber:

A World War 1 biplane:

A Hawker Jet:

Something else modern, where you could see into the cockpit if you had the stamina to queue:

And the Spitfire.

Pure beauty.

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Work in Progress


The fervent burst of writing that began the day of my Eskdale Expedition may have slowed slightly, but it’s still very much in evidence. Within the week, it had carried me to the end of the First Draft of my newest novel, a direct sequel to The Legendary Semi-Autobiographical First Novel or, to give it its formal title under which you can buy it through Lulu.com (hint, hint), Love Goes to Building on Sand.

Usually, once I finish a book, I take off a couple of weeks or more to cool off, but having been bitten so firmly by the bug, I went straight back to the beginning and started on the Second Draft.

The First Draft was simply compiled in a single document, entitled, in my usual manner, ‘Working Document’. For the Second Draft, I’m extracting Chapters in sequence, creating them as individual documents, enabling me to move quickly between parts of the story.

It’s been brisk work so far, already taking me up to chapter 14, about halfway through, though that count includes two instances where I split overlong chapters in two, having to build up the detail in one of the new chapters to avoid it being short.

It’s been the usual mixture of cutting and polishing and adding detail where needed, rearranging the order of events to create a smoother flow or avoid the awkward set-up of important sequences. But as I reach the midpoint, or thereabouts, I’m noticing a certain drop in the energy levels. I’m attributing this to the fact that I’m past the early writing period, which took place some months back, and coming into work that is considerably fresher in my mind, and also that, given my habit of working out the structure as I go along, I’ve come through the work that needs channelling towards what the book eventually turns out to concern, and into the section where I can an idea of where I was going, and where it would end.

From hereon in, the redrafting will be more cosmetic than substantial. Rephrasings, tightenings, that sort of thing. There are sections that I know will need a more radical approach, where I may well end up just rewriting from scratch. And my colleague who did the cover for LGTBOS has just returned to work after a lengthy absence and is eager to design another cover for me.

So: if I can get everything pulled together for Xmas, I will, or early in the New Year again. Though I’ve other incidents between my cast of characters in my head, and some of them drafting, I’ve no plans to turn this into a trilogy. Not yet, anyhow.

I do have four other novels in various stages of conception/part-completion, and I’m determined to get all of these completed. I’ve pretty much decided which one of the four will be my next project, and it’s not the one that has gone the furthest. I’m in the mood for something a bit more flamboyant for a couple of books.

Once I’ve got this one licked into shape.

Fenella Fielding RIP


A long time ago, when sex used to be more subtle, there was no sexier figure in British films and TV than Fenella Fielding. She was gorgeous, she acted seductive and that husky voice was the epitome of sexuality. She was the formative image of more than one generation.

And she was a talented actress, whose real range and gifts were represented by her stage career, rather than film and television, which saw (and heard, and felt) only one aspect of her.  Carry On films and Doctor films were enlivened by her presence (and the underlying impression, in those who weren’t completely overwhelmed, that she knew exactly how absurd she was being and was very deftly overplaying it in the slightest degree).

Her glory days were long ago, but Ms Fielding worked until incapacitated by a stroke last year, and now she’s died, aged 90. We won’t see her like again, largely because we don’t want her type any more, which diminishes us.

Happy Birthday to the King


This won’t be enough. It can’t possibly be adequate because I don’t know enough, I wasn’t there at any of the right times, and because I don’t have enough of the right temperament. But today is an anniversary, and because of who it is it demands recognition, even from those of us who can’t do the job justice.

Today is a birthday, the birthday of someone no longer with us, a man born Jacob Kurtzberg who achieved fame under an anglicised pen name which he later took officially as his own. He was Jack Kirby, and they called him the King, and rarely if ever has a nickname been more fully justified.

Jack Kirby was a comic books artist. Many would call him THE comic books artist, and if you restrict that definition to the superhero field that has dominated the form, for good or ill, for so long, you’d hardly find anyone to argue. In terms of dynamism, energy, imagination, inspiration, the King was unequalled. Whilst nt discounting Stan Lee, there are viable arguments that Jack Kirby was responsible for creating Marvel as it is. His characters dominate Marvel, and the number of creations that sprang from them will probably never be countable.

But whatever you can say about Kirby’s approach to art, and many far better qualified than I to analyse it have worshipped at its feet and drawn untold inspiration, there is one aspect in which Jack Kirby can never be equalled. The man was a Creation Machine. He created more and more varied characters than anyone else, without stopping, almost without thinking. They just poured out of him, until the end of his life.

Kirby just was a marvel. He would have been 101 today. He deserved to be 101, to be physically immortal and not ‘merely’ creatively immortal.  And everyonee who met him to this day misses him like crazy.

Everyone in this picture. Everyone.

On Writing: A Week of Words


I don’t know where it’s coming from, sang Kate McGarrigle in ‘Kiss and Say Goodbye’, a song about snatched time with an out-of-town married lover, here for a few hours. Her line was about the urge to kiss (him) until (her) mouth gets numb. I’m talking about the words.

There are times when I can barely write a word, when the emotional energy that underpins writing is lacking. And there are times when, to use the word I find most apt, I am fecund, when writing is fluid, fluent and prolific.

But I can’t remember a hot spell like the current one.

What triggered it is unknown. I started last week, off work, in a dull state, exhausted and empty, physically and mentally. It was a waste of opportunity.

But I finished a course of counselling on Monday morning. Wednesday I visited Dukinfield Crematorium, paying my eternal respects to my long-gone Dad, talking to him as I usually do, at first with awkwardness, then with increasing fluency.

Then Thursday was the Eskdale Expedition, and I wrote all day, almost obsessively. Between what became the blogpost for that day, a crucial section of my current novel, and blogposts you haven’t seen yet, I must have written something like six thousand words. And I’ve not stopped since. Any moment in which I wasn’t actually doing anything, my thoughts turned to writing. As I draft this, I;m on a coach to West Kirby to do a Beach Clean. This is already the third different thing I’ve worked on.

I don’t know where it’s coming from. All I do know is that I am now only two scenes, one substantially rough-drafted and one transitional scene, from completing that novel’s First Draft, my first completed work of new extended fiction since 2011. I have five Infinite Jukebox posts to polish and post. I have other articles scheduled. Every dead moment for the past seven days, I have turned to screen or notebook with a buzz in my head, written a line, and, like pressing a button, it has spilled out, until I resent interruption, because every line has a line that just has to follow it, compelled into being.

Like this little piece, which yet furthers my belief that what I write comes not from my consciousness but instead some place out of conscious control or reach, so that I am ultimately a conduit, not a source.

If that’s the case, sobeit. ‘He’s obviously in good nick this past week. Sit back and let it happen. What will be this coach-ride’s fourth piece?

ADDENDUM

And suddenly, later in the afternoon, on our way back, I complete a scene from the novel and it all goes silent in my head. Subject only to juggling the pieces to fit, I have finished the First Draft. And everything is still and it feels weird. I’ve finished a novel again. The drive is done, for now. A different use of my imagination is required now.

There IS such a thing as a Free Lunch…


…because I won one this afternoon.

It was a bit of a game, to get us increasing the number of times we promote our Customer Satisfaction Surveys. Make eight promotions and you got a go on a Pitch’n’Putt hole on the carpet. One practice shot then five real shots, with the highest number of hole-in-ones winning a £5 voucher for our Cafeteria.

One of the guys on our opposite team set the pace with 2 out of 5. One from the group opposite equaled that record.

Meanwhile, I was plugging away and finally scored my eighth promotion at 3.40pm. I was disgusted to learn that the ‘competition’ had ended at 3.00pm, but they gave me my go, just for the hell of it. I took my practice shot and didn’t even reach the ‘green’.

I then holed five in a row.

They accepted my score. I won a Free Lunch.

Those years of charging round the Crazy Golf course in Keswick, reducing the ‘record’ to an eighteen hole 34 have not left me yet…

Brainfart


For the past four weeks I have been getting up early on Monday mornings to go to Chinley, in Derbyshire, for counselling sessions organised through Occupational Health at work. It’s very CBT oriented, and I don’t do CBT, but I’ve managed to orient the last couple of sessions towards orthodox face-to-face counselling, which has been a lot more useful.

The point is that Chinley – which is the nearest place the organisation actually has a Counsellor – is very difficult to get to from Stockport by public transport. There’s no direct route. After a lot of online research, I worked out that I needed two buses – one into Stockport, then one to Marple – and the train from Marple to Chinley, each way. And be back for work in the afternoon.

There’s only one train each way stops at Chinley every hour, at 14 minutes past for Sheffield and 5 minutes to for Manchester. Given that my appointments are at 10.45an, and there’s a twenty minute walk from the station to my Counsellor’s cottage – 95% of which is uphill in the current heatwave conditions – I can only arrive on time by leaving Stockport bus station on the 9.14am to Marple, and hanging around Chinley for the 12.55pm train back.

Given that my shift starts at 1.00pm, this has meant that, except for the week I was on leave, my manager has had to book me an hour’s Medical Appointment Leave from 1.00 to 2.00pm.

All has been well so far until last week when he started querying this. He was certain there was a direct train from Stockport that would be quicker, cheaper and more convenient, and he found it for me on Network Rail’s Journey Planner.

I was stunned. none of this had shown up on my research, and I’d sat at Chinley Station watching trains not stop enough times to be dubious, but there it was. I didn’t need that hour’s Medical Appointment Leave.

So, despite many misgivings, I put his plan into practice this morning, going out later to catch the 10.02am train at Stockport Railway Station, to arrive at 10.21am. I’d just have to be that bit more brisk up the hill. Atleast it was cooler today, and I was better able to maintain a decent pace than I’ve been lately.

On the other hand, I nearly made a mess of it and triggered that old paranoia by suddenly realising I should have started off sooner. The 203 being late, for the millionth time, didn’t help. I sweated, strained and marched to the Station, baulked at the queue in the Tucket Office and paid on the train. And at 10.21am, I hopped off. At Disley (for Lyme Park). On the A6. Nowhere near Chinley. With no chance of getting there for 10.45am.

How did this disaster happen? That’s why this post is titled Brainfart. Because last week I had one. I completely lost the word Chinley and talked about my Counsellor being in Disley. I couldn’t even remember the name Chinley until my Counsellor mentioned it when I rang her from Disley Station to apologise.

So, it was all my fault. My mamager’s well-meaning help – he’s in the process of moving to Disley, hence his knowledge of its train links to Stockport – was correct, but for the wrong parameters. If i get charged for missing thissessio on less than 48 hours, I have no-one else to blame.

And one more thing to worry about. I’ve noticed that I can forget things I know, usually in matters trivial, but this is a bit more important.Did I just have ‘a senior moment’? Or is it the first sign of something a bit more sinister? I really don’t need that on top of everything else.