There’s always Hope

This is something I wrote nearly 24 years ago after attending an event at the Hay-On-Wye Festival Of Literature.

Saturday May 21, 1994, 12:20p

‘The First Novel’

A motley gathering of aspiring authors collect together under the grubby canvas of a  large marquee. Two hundred or so enthusiastic literary souls eagerly await the arrival of an editor from a famous large publishing house. She is to be accompanied by two of her latest discoveries – two brand new novelists just about to have their first works published. There is hope, it is transmitted by the excited breathing of the assembled scribes. Books from new authors are being published, despite the economic climate; someone with the power to rescue the diligent, lonely aspirants is prepared to take a chance with new writers.

Four smart middle-class women enter the arena and arrange themselves tastefully on the dais; the background hubbub fades, all eyes face front. A dedicated wannabe novelist, a cloth-capped round man is scribbling frantically into his filo-fax. An elderly lady with a limp finds herself a last-minute seat near the front and sits down with a tired sigh – it’s been a long road.

Let the lesson begin. The editor speaks first: OK, let’s forgive the carefully cultivated tones of her voice, the expensive haircut and the cigarette dangling from manicured fingers. Let’s give her a chance. The slush pile is dismissed immediately; nothing of any value comes from that. The audience fidget, embarrassed, thinking of their own contributions to that bane of the publishing world. OK, what is it then? That magic spell to get your first novel published.

Let’s have examples. The two new authors are discussed.

Writer A is an old friend of the editor, her father was a well-known poet and her mother is an accomplished novelist. Poor thing had a deprived childhood with her arty father, even had to slum it in the castle-like homes of her family’s aristocratic Mediterranean friends. The editor and this princess of words spent months, meeting for lunch and at each other’s houses, trimming and buffing her manuscript until it eventually emerged as a thin and delicately polished literary flower.

Writer B is a senior literature journalist with the Times. She was wooed by our editor (why?) until she produced a delightfully funny piece of work based in the offices of a gardening magazine. Wonderful gimmick – a free packet of geranium seeds with every book sold.

Both writers have got friends who are literary agents. So what is that magic?

The two authors speak about their work and read extracts to the sinking audience, and finally, a marketing superwoman from the publisher explains how new authors are launched with minimum expenditure and maximum publicity (in the literary sections of quality newspapers no doubt – ah! that’s why); but none of these discourses mattered, all hope had long vaporised along with the few quid each of us had paid for the privilege of a sharp slap in the face. Maybe that was the point of the event after all?

Go back to your kitchen sinks and your allotments, you’re a punter – not a writer; writers are smart cultured people with friends in the ‘write’ places.

There was to be a question and answer session afterwards. In the back of the auditorium, a disappointed and disgruntled working-class man stands up, touches his forelock to the dais and makes a quick exit. It is me.

NOTE (December 2017): I don’t think much has changed in the quarter of a century since I wrote the above piece. Maybe I should have concentrated on running my computer business. I was quite good at that until I walked away from it to focus on writing, a couple of years after that Hay session.

Still – that’s hope for you.

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An ordinary bloke writes about the Gents

Due to my cisgender conditioning the inside of women’s public toilets are not familiar to me, but as someone who seems to urinate twice as much as I drink I am a frequent visitor to the Gents. Maybe I’m anti-social but I’ve got to the point where I prefer to use a cubicle even if all I want is a pee. I’m not comfortable standing thigh-to-thigh with strangers as we merge our steamy urine against the ceramic. It’s not them, it’s me, and that’s just the way it is.

The consequence of this is that I do spend more time than most out of sight behind a closed door, so get to hear the comings and goings of others as they use the facilities unseen. I hear them come in, position themselves at the urinals, and release their streams. Sometimes you hear only one person at a time and sometimes you can hear more. After they’ve wetted that wall I’ve noticed that people behave differently, depending on how many others are in the toilet at the same time and where they are.

A row of urinals in the toilet at an arts centre

For example, in scenario one; if I am alone in the cubicle and a solitary bladder-emptier comes in to the room, it’s more than ninety-percent certain that when they’ve done their business they will leave immediately without bothering to use the hand-washing facilities. That is probably the most consistent behaviour pattern I have observed but there are many other scenarios and responses, for example:

Scenario two: If when I walk into the gents there is only one person already relieving themselves, then after I’ve gone into the cubicle and they’ve shaken it dry the probability of them walking out without washing their hands is reduced to around sixty percent, although I think that more than half of the people who do visit the sink don’t actually wash – they just push the tap and walk. The other half of those ‘gentlemen’, splash about a bit then put their hands under the blower for a couple of seconds in a pretence at cleanliness.

In scenario three, when there’s more than one other person using the urinals then the first one to finish will actually wash and dry their hands. All the others will behave the same except for the last one to finish, whose behaviour will revert back to that described in scenario one above.

Scenario four is a variation of scenario three, based on the times when I finish and come out of the cubicle and there is still someone lurking or peeing. Of course I walk immediately to the sink, wash my hands then dry them thoroughly. If the other person is ready before I leave then they too will walk over to the sink and go through the motions. If I leave before they finish then my educated guess is that they revert to scenario one.

There are many other variations on these scenarios but the moot point is that if no one is looking then the overwhelming majority of people using the male toilets to urinate do not wash their hands or at best make a feeble pretence at washing them.

I don’t even want to think about the other things they do in the Gents, especially when they’re cosy and invisible in a cubicle.

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Helo

I can’t do anything better than anecdotal and observational so I might be wrong and I can’t be bothered to do any real research because if I’m right it would be a waste of time since no one would read this anyway.

I mean even if I don’t bother to do any research and this does get read I’m still quids in aren’t I?

I am aware that the chance that anyone who is actually another person and not some automatic bot-type thing that visits random websites in the hope of finding something of value – like a list of email addresses that they can sell to their fellow bots who send emails offering riches galore, is minscule.

So, the point is: no matter how obvious I make it, no matter how honest I am, it won’t matter because no one is going to read it anyway,

Why do I bother to continue writing then?

Because part of me wants to read what another part of me wants to write. Maybe it’s just one part behaving in two different ways? I don’t know, but here it is, my voice in the void.

Is anybody out there?

(Doesn’t really matter so don’t bother responding, even if you are one of the anybodies out there)

Nos Da

(p.s. This is not as self-indulgent as it seems)

 

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The Artistic Imperative

The Artistic Imperative

* Warning – this is a self-indulgent ramble *

When I was young I was told I was very clever. ‘You are so intelligent,’ they used to say. I was also a very nice kid – generous, gentle, helpful and uncomplaining. I was full of life – ‘Fond of play’ as my form teacher wrote on my final report from the primary school. I was top of the class, number one of thirty-four, and that was in the A stream in the final year at that school – so at that time I was the top pupil of the whole school.

Allot-profile01

Me writing in the chalet/shed at the allotment. pic by Rhian

To be fair my teacher recognised this and wanted me to apply for a scholarship to go to Llandovery College – a private school around thirty miles from my home – it would have meant boarding I believe.

But, my parents didn’t have the wherewithal, either in monetary terms or in imagination to pursue the idea and the teacher realising it was an impossibility, let it go. As it happens, I’m glad about this, I don’t think I’d like the person I would have become if I’d spent those important years of my childhood in such a place.

Now, I’m approaching my 65th birthday – my mother is disappointed in me. I can see it in her eyes – and anyway, she says it often enough. ‘You used to be so clever,’ she’ll say. ‘You could have done so much.’ Continue reading

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Tafftown – a new Cardiff based Soap Opera

tafftown-header-image02

So, it looks like Tafftown is becoming a reality – when I say reality, of course I mean it’s not real, but it’s a drama of the sort that’s commonly known as a soap-opera – a term originally coined to mean a programme that depended on advertising revenues from soap (or washing powder) companies, or as Wikipedia says (although I’ve never heard the term ‘soapie’, it sounds Australian?):

“A soap opera, soapie, or soap is a serial drama on television or radio which features related story lines about the lives of many characters. The stories usually focus on emotional relationships to the point of melodrama. The term soap opera originated from such dramas being typically sponsored by soap manufacturers in the past.”

So that’s what Tafftown is, and it’s based on an idea of mine, influenced by several factors, including the fact that I have lived in an area similar to the one depicted in Tafftown for the last ten years and for a period in my twenties. I’ve been thinking about such a television series for a long time, and it finally came to a head a few days ago when after a meeting with my co-writer Dafydd Wyn Roberts and consultations with the other as yet unnamed people involved, we decided to announce it to the world.

So there it is it’s a reality.

The first episodes will be short – ten minutes or so – and will be broadcast online only.

Scripts and characters are in development and several parts have already been cast.

There’s a little bit more info on the Tafftown website and on the Tafftown Facebook Page or you can follow Tafftown on Twitter

see ya soon

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Overheard on a train

Overheard on a train on the Heart of Wales railway line. Notes found on a scrap of paper in one of my old files. I’m not sure when this was, probably in the last ten years.

4 girls

‘The annoying thing is all the boys said – don’t, he’s gonna cheat on you.’

‘He took this scale (girl) back to his house then at 2 o’clock there was this scale leaving.’

Old Gits

‘They brought the family down from Newcastle. Newcastle paid the council to take them off their hands. They’re causing obstructions there. None of them working of course.’

‘Look at that fridge – they must know whose house it is from.’

‘There was a banana skin on the bus.’

‘It’s the politicians – they’re ripping us off.’

‘The word is foreign and that’s what you see all the time – what’s wrong with Welsh timber?’

‘They just chuck their McDonald’s all over the car park.’

Shopping Women

‘I go to Aldi for all my veg, then mop up in Tesco.’

‘I’m trying to get them to eat healthy – but all they want is fish fingers and chips. So, I boiled some potatoes and put them with some faggots – all they had to do was microwave them – but they still wanted fish fingers and chips.’

***

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Uncaged – Script

Another script developed with TAPS, this time for their Continuing Drama course.

It’s a domestic:

UNCAGED SCRIPT 2010

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Bumps in the Night

TAPS – Television Arts Performance Showcase were an organisation whose aim was to discover and develop scriptwriters for television. They did pretty good for a long time then, I believe, the recession put paid to them in 2009.

I was involved in a number of their schemes and wrote a short drama with them in 2006. The drama “Bumps in the Night” never quite made it to production. Anyway I thought I’d put the script up here in the faint hope that someone will be interested in it, or at least to give an example of a tv drama script, the length of an episode of a soap opera on ITV.

Click below to download / open the script

BUMPS IN THE NIGHT 2014

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All about Alex

A script for a short TV drama, written as a sample script to demonstrate all the elements, it’s “All about Alex” a frustrated young DJ

Click here to read/download the script as a Word document

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Web Street – Soap on the Web

The nostalgic mood continues. Here are the first two episodes of a soap-opera / drama thing I started writing specifically for publication on the Internet in its early days – 1996. The idea was that it would be published online in short sharp episodes using only text in a visual style, though there were always plans to add pictures and possibly videos when the technology got fast enough to make that viable. Maybe it’s time to do that now?

I know it needs editing, think of it as a draft.

Figanwr was a pen name I used occasionally then. Continue reading

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Midnight Comes

This is a script developed with TAPS with a view to getting it produced by ITV for the It’s My Shout scheme. In the end it didn’t make the final cut but got as far as a reading and development at the BBC studios in Cardiff.

Anyway – here it is.

Midnight Comes Script 2010

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