Hello everyone. This is where I’ll be writing stuff. I’ve also got all the usual, but I’m not sure how everything will come together yet. Let’s just see how things pan out eh?
Please see the About section for other links.
Hello everyone. This is where I’ll be writing stuff. I’ve also got all the usual, but I’m not sure how everything will come together yet. Let’s just see how things pan out eh?
Please see the About section for other links.
As the man trudged out of the stadium, son walking briskly at his side, he started to feel guilt. Guilt that he’d never felt before. Guilt over what in all honesty was simply twenty-two men kicking a ball about on grass. Guilt over those tens of thousands baying for blood, metaphorically speaking.
Guilt that he was letting down his late father. Giving up, just because times were tough. Giving up because it was all just getting monotonous. He remembered his words. Over and over in his head.
“Without us, they are nothing. Without them, we are nothing. We need each other.”
The boy, sensing a change of mood, turned his head upward. “We did the right thing Dad. It’s just no fun anymore,” he said. Before the man could smile in consolation, they both turned back towards the stadium. An almighty groan emanated from the gladiators’ cauldron, followed by a cacophony of boos. He quickly checked his phone to confirm what was already obvious.
The guilt had now turned to sadness. He wanted to weep, loudly. Although not mathematically certain, relegation to the fourth tier of the footballing pyramid was certain. A three-year complete fall from grace. From the very top, to the absolute stinking bottom.
What about the fans of all the clubs down there, that have always been down there? Why should I feel so self-righteous? Everything finds its true place eventually. The cream rises. And what isn’t the cream, certainly sinks.
After five minutes walk across a sodden field, they found themselves at the queue of buses, ready to take them back to the out of town car park. Unsurprisingly, there was a reasonably populated line of the disgruntled, the bitter and the “I just couldn’t care anymore”.
“I’m feeling really cold, Dad. When can we get on the bus?”
“Won’t be long. Just jump up and down and count to ten thousand.”
So the boy did. A count for each and every one of those left inside the stadium behind them. The “die-hards”. Those that, like automatons, hand over money they probably didn’t have to spend in the first place to attend that arena. Their place of worship.
Luckily, they reached the front of the bus queue before the boy reached fifteen hundred. They decided to take the twenty minute trip on the top level.
“Can I have your phone, Dad?”
The man nodded. He already had his journey planned – listening to the football phone-in show on his portable radio. As he dropped his earphones in place, he prepared himself for a journey of a different kind. Torture.
He looked down towards the boy. He was emersed in a world of trying to make three colours match one another as many times as possible in order to score as many points as possible. As he sneered, he desperately tried to ignore the overwhelming feeling of hypocrisy starting to cover him like a huge, warm blanket.
Of course, when he was younger, he would spend many an hour in his bedroom trying to complete a plethora of challenging titles on his ZX Spectrum. Of course, he was all grown-up now, and he found the use of these mobile devices for such purile activities a savage annoyance.
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
“We’ve got Jim on the line now..”
“Oh, hello, thanks for taking my call. I want to talk about the match today.”
What a surprise!
“I just want to say that since they changed the manager, they are just not playing the style of football our fans are accustomed to.”
Wonder why that might be? Oh yeah, it’s a different manager.
“We’re used to fast, attacking and flowing football. This stuff is rubbish.”
So. Since he arrived, he has managed to win three trophies. In fifteen months. Where did the fast, flowing attacking football get them. Answer. Nowhere. Not a single honour. But as long as the crowd are entertained, that’s alright then. This is not the X-Factor. Entertainment is nice. But. BUT. Winning stuff is what this is about. It’s sport, not TV.
And so, on it went. The boy still sat, playing his game. Zombie-like. The man was amazed just how his son had managed to navigate the short trip from bus to car – across a couple of busy roads – without dying, both in the game and in real life. The pain continued in the confines of his black Ford Focus.
“We need to get rid of our manager now, otherwise we are down.”
And get who exactly. Is there anybody any good available? Wouldn’t you just be picking from a pool of failure anyway? Your manager has never taken a team down. Oh, it’s the style of play thing again! Rather be playing in the lower division, but with this magical flowing, attacking, entertaining football again. Well fine. But what if the team never comes back again? Would you be thankful for that? No, I didn’t think so. Be careful what you wish for.
“I couldn’t make the game today, but I just wanted to say that the referee was disgraceful. How he didn’t give a stonewall penalty, I do not know… the TV replays back me up..”
I would not like to be a referee. I’d bet if it was a decision in favour of the other team, you’d be lauding the bloke. Hang on a minute… you weren’t at the game? TV replays? So, not only are you happy to have a go at the ref, you (a) didn’t even turn out to see the game and (b) in all probability watched it illegally!
“I was at the game, and I couldn’t care less about TV replays. There was no way that was a penalty..”
Here we go.
“We need to sack the manager. Two months ago, we were in the play-off positions. Now we’ve got no chance of going up. The team is poor. It’s the same every year. We always tail off towards the end of the season.”
So, this is the same manager everybody was raving about at the start of the year. The breath of fresh air. And besides, your team is one point off the play-offs with two, YES two games in hand on everyone else!
“It’s the manager’s fault. We’re down.”
“It’s the players’ fault.”
“It’s the owner.”
“It’s the board.”
“It’s the fans.”
This did at least manage to distract the boy’s attention.
“What you listening to, dad?”
”Nothing,” The man replied, turning off the radio. They were nearly home anyway. He turned off the radio just as a rather articulate lady called in the berate all those who had called before her. Pointing out that it was only a game, and that sometimes it goes wrong. That those wanting a change should be careful what they wish for. Better the devil you know is sometimes best. That those calling in and complaining about how poorly they are doing when they are mid-table in the top division should think about those teams that genuinely are struggling to cope, that have no TV money coming it, etc.. etc…
Click! The rest of her point was lost, forever. Whether it would’ve changed his mind anyway would be a debate for many a historian in years to come.
The car ground to a stop on the driveway. The man pulled the handbrake and disembarked. The boy did the same.
“What you doing?” Asked the boy, noticing his father walking towards the side of the house.
“Best ring the doorbell, eh?”
The boy turned away, doing as he was told. He failed to hear the sound of the dustbin lid opening, followed by two dull thuds, and his father slowly closing the top again. He did hear the the two beeps of the car remote-locking mechanism, just as the front door opened. He turned and felt a waft of warm air.
His mother was stood at the door. She smiled a welcoming smile.
”Hi”, said the boy, “that game was rubbish.” He rushed past her and into the living room, in search of food.
The man sighed a deep sigh before he stepped in front of his wife. He thought of all that had gone before him. The triumph. The glory. The disaster. Almost forty years. Every second Saturday (or Friday, Sunday or Monday night, depending on the whim of the pay-TV channels). He fondly thought of his father.
“Bad game, again?”
He laughed, but didn’t reply. She looked at him quizzically. He stepped forward and kissed her gently on the left cheek. She felt a chill as his cold face brush against hers. His right-hand held onto her side, and squeezed her. She fell back a single step.
“You know that lodge you fancied going to?”
“Well I think it’s a great idea. I think we should go. Weekend after next.”
She was delighted, but then she realised something. Surely he knew they couldn’t?
Before she could finish the sentence, he put his hand on her shoulder and kissed her again. He pulled back.
“I’ve made a big decision.”
And with that he made his way past his wife, hung up his coat, and followed in the footsteps of his son.
Realising the magnitude of his previous comment, she paused. Then she smiled to herself. She closed the front door, and made her way into the front room.
Thanks for reading. You can find my other efforts at the Amazon Kindle store. Your faith will be rewarded, The girl on the park bench and My ZX Spectrum and Other Stories are also available to borrow via Kindle Lending Library.
A continuation from Part 1.
4.00 exactly. Almost time for the players to re-emerge for the second half. He felt a sudden chill, and rubbed his gloved hands together as quickly as he possibly could. He blew on his hands.
Why do I do that? Does it really make my hands warmer? Surely the air gets colder from mouth to hand anyway. I am really overthinking this.
His son was happy. He’d finally got his own hands warm, thanks to an over-expensive, over-cooked steak pasty. And, he had seen a few goals for the home team during the interval – even if that was at under-twelve level.
The man thought of how he had really fancied a nice cup of tea whilst queuing for half-time snacks, but declined at the final furlong – somehow he felt inadequate doing so whilst among the hoards of (extremely unhappy) people in search of beer – lager, bitter, cider – it didn’t really matter.
“Yeah, really nice. Really tasty.” He didn’t mean it, but at least he was starting to feel as close to normal as he could, given the circumstances.
“Good half-time match?”
“Yeah, really good. It ended three-two. I think”.
“Wish you were down there?”
The boy looked up at him in apparent disbelief. He pointed towards the pitch. “Dad, I could be down there playing for the proper team.” He sighed, “I couldn’t do much worse”.
A man sat in front almost spat out the coffee that he’d taken on board at the moment the boy spoke. He almost choked. When he regained his composure, he chuckled, and turned round to address the boy. “You’re not wrong there, lad!”
The boy looked back at him quizzically, but at least smiled and nodded in return. His dad looked down at the boy.
“Do you think we’ll get any goals back this half?”
“I’ve more chance of getting another pasty.” The man in front gulped once more.
The man panned around the ground. Empty seats. A lot of empty seats. Must’ve been at least thirty percent less than fifteen minutes before. Some people would come back, but it would not be as many as had disappeared through the exits at half-time.
Why do I even bother? He’s not bothered. Twenty-thousand other people aren’t bothered. I pay how much a year to come and watch this?
The stadium speaker system boomed back into life, breaking his train of thought. The teams re-appeared. Barely a shout from the fans, now sparsely scattered around the ground.
“At least one goal, eh?”
“Yeah. Whatever, dad”.
The second half couldn’t have started in more comical style if it tried. It took the match officials approximately two minutes to realise that the home team had started a man down. The sharp-eyed fans (that were left) had noticed this ten seconds in and were desperately trying to make the bench aware of this. They tried shouting and booing. Finally a rendition of We’ve only got ten men got the message across.
This cataclysmic error was greeted with a further three-thousand odd people upping-seat and turning their back on the team as they tread towards the brightly lit exit signs.
They certainly know where the exit signs are. If you’re going to go home now, why did you come in the first place? At least the toilets won’t be as busy!
A further five-thousand disciples vacated once goal number five hit the net. Actually, this was a true candidate for goal of the season. Well worth the entrance fee. Bizarrely, for the sixth and seventh efforts, nobody left. Maybe everybody had died due to the torment.
He looked around and nodded.
This is what is left. The true core support. The “’til I die” fans.
But it certainly wasn’t a cheerful atmosphere. Every pass by the home team was met with resounding boos. His son joined in. He motioned for the boy to hush.
“Booing the team doesn’t help anyone, mate”. His son stopped.
Another man on the row in front turned round to address the man. His face was red. Furiously so.
“What do you mean?”
The man didn’t want to get into an argument, certainly not in the company of his son. He tried to calm the situation.
“I was just talking to the boy”. This didn’t matter. The man’s face looked increasingly more red, not helped by the fact that he was wearing a bright blue jacket. He wanted an argument. It didn’t matter who, but he wanted to vent.
“Look, mate. I’ve been coming here for nearly sixty years. Nearly sixty years and I have never, ever seen a team as bloody rubbish as this! They are an embarrassment. If I want to bloody boo, I’ll bloody boo!”
The man looked down at his son, who was starting to look slightly disturbed by this change in events. He wasn’t going to get into a “who has been watching the team for longer” contest. He wondered how many away games this person had actually been to.
“That’s fine. But all I’m saying is that shouting at them is only going to make them play worse. Who does that help?”
“It helps me.”
Helps you raise your blood pressure higher than your probably already high blood pressure. Over a game of football? Really?
“Well, if it helps..”
The man in front snorted, looked at the boy and promptly turned round. He wasn’t getting the bite that he wanted. So he decided to turn his anger to anybody else that wouldn’t listen. The players. The manager and coaching staff. The referee and his assistants. The ball boys. The seats. The goal posts. The corner flag. The advertisting hording stretched around the ground, playing on a ten-minute loop.
Anything. Everything was to blame in his eyes. And the rest of the crowd, for that matter. The air was becoming slowly more toxic.
4.30. Almost something to cheer. The home side had a chance. Thundered against the post. It must’ve shook for ten seconds afterwards. It was amazing that through this endless torrent of abuse, that the players could manage to still carve out an opportunity of note.
After a further thirty seconds, the boy looked up at the man, and uttered those five words that, in his dad’s eyes, were totally unutterable.
“Can we go now, Dad?”
He thought back to the days when he would ask the same of his father, on similar occasions. The mantra he always followed.
“Son. Look around you. This is my club. This is your club. This is the club of everyone here. If we walk away from them, where does that leave everything? I’ll tell you. It leaves us with nothing to share with those guys down there. We can’t share their joy when things are going great, or their sorrow when things are bad. We can’t shout at them, when they are not putting in the effort. This is the lifeline of this place. The thing that keeps us all together. Through thick or thin. Good or bad. We never give up on them. Never.
So the answer is no, we cannot go now. We will leave when the game is finished, and every last player has left the pitch”.
He looked down at the boy.
“Yes,” he sighed, “let’s go home”.
To be concluded…
I like to write. I also like to watch sport. So, what better than to write about sport? Especially Football. Association Football. Soccer.
Firstly, let’s get something clarified. I don’ t consider myself to be a fan of any particular club. Not any more. I lost faith in the game. I’d hoped to seek solace in a book called The Game of Our Lives by David Goldblatt (available at all good retailers, and a few bad ones too).
It only served, for me at least, to confirm many nagging doubts. I’m sure that it was not the intention of this book to re-affirm my already dwindling support for my team, but it managed to succeed. Maybe the river had already ran dry, I guess I’ll never know. I leant the book to a friend whom I thought was mad. Week, after week watching one turgid performance after another. Finally, he was put out of his misery and his team were relegated from the Premier League.
Reading the book did not have the same effect on him. He said it was a really good read. I did at least agree with his critique.
To those who continue to support your team through thick and thin, I applaud you.
The following is the first part of something inspired by the above. Hope you like it:
2:45. Quarter of an hour to kick-off. The late-winter sun shone brightly over the stand opposite. The man covered his eyes with his left hand. It was about as successful as trying to reason with a puppy. An easier solution was to look right, and downward – toward his twelve-year-old son.
‘I’m really excited, Dad.’
The man gently stroked his bearded chin with his thumb and fore-finger.
How can he be excited? We’ve not won a game at home all season. We’ve not scored a goal in five games.
He stopped stroking and pondered further.
What does “we” even mean? This is the team from the town where I was born. It’s my team. But is it really mine?
He looked back down at his son, taking another tentative bite of the steak pie that he’ d asked for, but didn’t really like.
Even at twelve, he had mastered the art of saying what he thought his father wanted to hear. He hated football. His feet were freezing cold. The pie was horrible. He wanted to be back at home, playing on his Xbox. And now, the sun was getting in his eyes, and he was starting to feel a pain in his temple.
In truth, his dad was starting to feel the same way – save the games console. Surely, there was something else he could be doing for three hours every second Saturday. At least that’s what his wife thought.
‘Have you had a look at the match programme, son?’
Of course you haven’t. You never do. It doesn’t stop you asking every bloody time though. Three pound a pop. Hang on.. Nineteen matches. Three pound a match. That’s at least one game for your sodding Xbox!
‘Yes dad. It’s really good this week.’ A short pause. ‘Who are we playing again today?’
The man looked skyward. Straight into the blinding sun. He whinced.
‘On the front page, mate. Right-hand side, at the bottom.’
Suddenly the noise started. 2:55. Jean-Michel Jarre’s Equinoxe pt5, no less. The man, and his boy looked up. The team was coming out of the tunnel, alongside their counterparts. Ready for battle. Mascots attached to each player’s hand. Boys and girls, probably no older than his son. Beaming smiles. So happy.
Their parents must be so proud.
He looked down at the boy, who in turn looked up. He smiled as he ruffled the boy’s short hair.
“This is my favourite bit!”
They stood, along with the rest of the crowd. Clapping. Cheering. Singing. Singing the name of the town, his town, over and over again.
Why are they doing this? They know what the outcome is going to be. From where does this blind faith come forth?
He laughed at the thought, then abruptly stopped clapping. His son, who couldn’t see beyond the six-foot gentleman in-front, did the same. He took his seat. So did his son. Eventually, the rest of the thirty-odd thousand people in the stadium stopped clapping and chanting and duly followed suit, in almost unnerving synchronicity.
3:00. Kick off on the dot. A huge roar. The roar fell with a dull thud, as the opposition quickly dispossessed an attack for the home team, and launched the ball up field with pin-point accuracy. The crowd watched as the ball was headed down into the path of the oncoming midfielder, in centre field, who dissected the oncoming two defenders with ease and left the striker – top scorer in the league no less – with a simple tap past the goalkeeper.
The players stared at each other, then to the bench, looking for inspiration. The match plan (if there even was one) was blown apart in forty-six seconds. He looked around. Most of the crowd were looking at one another. Dumbfounded.
Well, that optimism lasted, didn’t it?!
3:03. Following post-goal celebrations, the second kick-off. Only this time with a one-goal handicap, and met with complete silence. He looked down once more at the boy. He shrugged his shoulders.
3:09. A total defensive calamity let in the opposition for their second. In truth, a really well taken goal. It was too much for the man in front.
’Bleedin’ useless crap! What the f..’ He’d turned to notice the boy was sat, staring at him. He tried to smile. He turned quickly to face the pitch once more. His wife looked back at the boy, and smiled reassuringly at him. Similarly, with the man.
The man infront had just joined a very distinguished club. One which contained those that had suddenly become aware of their “salty” use of the English language and dealt with this realisation in a mature and sensible way. In short to shut the f*** up.
Unlike the rest of the stadium within five seconds of the ball hitting the net for a second time, and certainly not the gentleman five rows down. He knew that his son must hear this and much worse at school on a day-by-day basis, so simply decided to turn the other cheek.
Boos started to echo around the ground.
Only ten minutes ago, you were all cheering and singing. You’ve cheered and sang for the previous ten games. It didn’t help then, and it’s not going to help now. We’re bottom of the league playing third. You all really thought it was going to be different today? REALLY??
3:24. Time for number three. A crescendo of foul-mouthed abuse, and boos arrived even before the ball crossed the line. As they did fifteen minutes later when number four went in.
3:44. The first cheer of the day, albeit an ironic one, as the home side managed its first attempt on goal. An extremely tame one. By this time, even the opposition were playing at quarter pace.
3:46. Like pulling open the trap door on the gallows, the referee blew on his whistle to put just about everyone out of their misery. All except the away fans. And one lonely home one. The man looked down at his son. The look in his eyes showed that he really wouldn’t care if it was four, ten, or even four to their team. He flashed-back momentarily to his own childhood. Days when he was the one looking up at his father. He couldn’t help thinking of a song by Half man, half biscuit – Dukla Prague Away Kit.
Come to half-time, you were losing four-nil…
‘Each and every goal a hotly disputed penalty!’ he exclaimed.
His son looked up at him, totally perplexed. The man laughed. Loudly.
Part 2 to follow…
Note: I’m assuming for this post, that you are aware of the different ways of converting / previewing kindle books for upload.
When uploading my Kindle Book manuscripts for the first time using the upload facility, I would find that I could not go direct to the Table of Contents in the Kindle Previewer. I could get to the start and end of the book, no problem, but not the contents page.
Everything I read seemed to point to the fact that this was generated for you during upload and conversion, but repeated attempts proved fruitless.
So, what I had to do in the end was create a manual bookmark within my document, named “toc” just where the Table of Contents started.
Put this through the previewer, and, hey-presto, I could go to directly to the table of contents.
The end of the year is approaching, and this gives one the opportunity to reflect on what has been particularly enjoyable over the last twelve months.
Two TV shows immediately come to mind. Both handle totally different subject matter. Both (for the moment at least) have a couple of important things in common.
Firstly, being be able to watch events unfold without constantly thinking <insert character name here> would never behave like that. Investing in the behaviour of the character helps amplify the feeling toward them when they suffer adversity. If you actually like them or not. All the better when you actually feel as if you know them. Believable people in believable situations.
Secondly the length. For one of the shows, this is a bit unfair because it is British, and normally they are limited to six episodes per series (or season if you prefer). I remember Lost, waiting for that all important answer to all of those important questions. What is the island? What was the island? What does the mist represent? Why can it alter the fabric of time? What of the numbers? And the polar bears? Six series of twenty-four episodes. That’s a lot of TV. Ok, so I watched it over a period of six years, but I just couldn’t imagine even thinking about binge-watching it.
And, as it proved (to me at least), it was too much. It only delivered disappointment. I can only reach out the warm hand-shake of thanks to those who realise the pace of a story and can judge the right number of episodes that should involve. Those who can judge the right time to end it for good certainly deserve a warm embrace.
Last but not least, the ending. One of the things I find disappointing in the internet age is the ability of people to sway those in control to potentially change it. A perfect example was Peter Kay’s Car Share in the UK. Over a couple of series the relationship between the two main characters grew and flourished. It was going to end one way or another. But my point is that the way it did end was fine. It ended in a way that one could expect the characters to behave. It was ok. It was satisfactory.
There was a clamour. People weren’t satisfied with the ending. They wanted to see the next part. And so the paymasters caved in. We will find out in the new year. It’s a shame. I was happy to imagine how it all might’ve turned out. Now, that imagination will disappear in a puff of regret as I am told.
So anyway, to the shows in question. First, Halt and Catch Fire, which aired its fourth and final series. It tells the story of five people, whose lives always seem to find some way of catching up with one another over the time-frame of the show. It follows the birth and eventually explosion of the digital world into the mainstream. From the world of IBM and the big suits all the way through social, anti-virus and ending with search.
What I particularly like about the programme is that each individual series has its own confined interval. Each with its own beginning and end. Yes, the characters remain constant, but they react in a way that you would expect when faced with the challenges that each time period pose. So much so, that I believe you could watch any of the series in isolation and still come away content.
In my view, the show is perfectly paced and of perfect length. Tied up in time-honoured Let’s take you right back to the start fashion. Those who have seen the whole show will know what I mean of one event during the last series that absolutely left an emotional mark on me for days.
The show was aired on AMC, and is available on Amazon Prime Video.
Now to the second. The a-word. It has just completed the second series. I was pleased to see it return, but also entered into it with a sense of trepidation. The first series had been excellent, and (unsurprisingly) ended in a satisfactory way. Enough to come to the conclusion that further exploration of the story was not completely necessary. Hence my apprehension.
But I’m so glad they did. The show tells the story of how a Cumbrian family copes with the fact that their son is autistic. It explores the subject from both the point of view of outsiders with their prejudice toward the condition, and those that deal with it on a day to day basis.
It is wonderfully weaved and acted in equal measure. The show was almost gut-wrenching in parts as you could see what direction various relationships were heading. I vary rarely find myself talking out loud at the TV, but couldn’t help it at times. WHAT are you doing? Why would you say that, you idiot?
Most importantly, when watching, when you did see a particular actor that happened to be Down’s syndrome for example you simply thought what a good actor, not awww, wasn’t that actor nice?
Once again, the ending was perfect. It left enough to enable those imaginative enough to plot a future path for the characters involved. I don’t know if it will continue, but I am content enough if it doesn’t – much like after the first series.
This show was aired on the BBC. I do hope you get chance to see it.
And finally, this got me thinking about the best ending to a TV show ever in the world ever. Well for me there is only one. Six Feet Under. Perfectly in tune with the nature of the show, although the downsides for me was that I felt it went on for too long and the characters were just a little bit too “complicated”!
So there you have it. Two thoroughly enjoyable shows that have not outstayed their welcome.
I just wish that many of the modern day shows would do the same. That they would not rely on so much sexual and violent “filler” to try to pull in the audience. To not play it safe and re-fund something that is popular rather than invest in some new ideas.
And definitely not to pander to the fans that demand further exploration of an ending that, put simply, was good enough.
Similarly with a good book.
But that’s a story for another day!
Last time, I covered Bear’s first appearance on UK Television.
Bear was very proud of his first break in the industry. This came at a price though, and soon he found that the work dried up and he was left somewhat in the wilderness.
Just two weeks after hitting the small screen, he was invited to play Aladdin at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton.
“A six-week stretch,” he told me.
He immediately found that, although being on television gave him a buzz, there was nothing like the thrill of treading the boards. Even though it was only pantomime. He told me that he met many famous people whilst on duty. It was the time of the rise of the reality TV celebrity, but a little research did show that some people I’d even heard of appeared in the show.
“The audience was fantastic. They would cheer and clap every time I came on.” Bear beamed as he told me this.
But unfortunately, this lead to a bit of a problem. Bears are Bears after all, and not human. Especially the slightly tubby ones with little legs.
“Mommy and Daddy Bear always told me it was something to do with how I was made. Anyway, the problem is that when Bears stand around under really bright lights for more than twenty minutes, they.. well, let’s just say that they let out a little trickle of wee.” He genuinely struggled to hold back the tears as he recalled this.
Normally, Bears live in woods, with very few people watching. More specifically, not a theatre full of about three hundred screaming children – baying for the blood of Jafar, desperately wanting an increasingly bungling Aladdin (for comic effect of course) to succeed.
“In the woods, when the sun comes back out, it dries you up. But, in the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton, I did not have this luxury. At first the children though it was hilarious. Laugh out loud funny. Or, L.O.L, if you prefer. I know that David Cameroon thought that means lots of love, but I know!”
By now, Bear had lost concentration, and was starting to follow a fly instead. It was only when it landed on his head, and he attempted a hard swat, that he seemed to snap himself out of it. Once he had stopped crying.
The children generally found the patches of urine funny, very funny indeed. After all, who wouldn’t? After a short while though, there was quite a puddle deposited on stage, and those at the front were starting to complain that Aladdin was starting to “smell of wee,” and that they wanted to go home.
“Every time I came back on stage, the audience would start to boo. It was really hard to take.”
Two days later, Arthur Moron (he isn’t, or at least I don’t think he is – Bear didn’t give any indication either way) came to deliver the fateful news. That it was not really working out, and that Bear was relieved (no pun intended) of his duties. Ticket sales had plummeted after word had got round.
“I was gutted. Mommy and Daddy Bear stopped being proud of me, although they did say that they understood.”
Arthur had contacts in TV, particularly the BBC. The producers of Outnumbered found out, and Bear was dropped. He was literally high and dry.
Bear did not follow that path though.
“I was very upset with the man at the BBC. He didn’t even tell me face to face. I just got a letter. ”
The letter simply read:
You are fired.
Man at the BBC
“I’m not very proud of this. I should’ve gotten some help, but I did turn to the Whiskey. It became my best friend.”
Luckily, Bear had another two.
“Pengy Wengy, my friend out of my book, is a doctor. He sat me down and told me some very horrible things. Then he said those things weren’t horrible because he was being horrible to me. My other friend from the book, Baby Bear, also said some bad things. Really, really naughty. But he was only doing it to help.”
It took a few long months of intensive care, but Bear came through the other end.
“I was so happy they told me all of the bad things. I can’t repeat what they were. The words are so rude it is not right for a Bear of my stature to say. At the start of that few long months, I was lying in a gutter, repeatedly pushing my paw in my belly button shouting about cheese. At the end, I was sitting up straight, able to look straight ahead.”
So much so, his medical compadre was able to hand him a life line. He’d just helped out the new Director of Programming at Channel Five. Given an opportunity for payback, he thought he would chance it and allow Bear a way back.
Thankfully, he obliged, allowing Bear to appear in a great new series where couples tried out the holiday homes (or caravans) of others. They would then rate them. A bit like Come Dine With Me for caravans. Or Come Dine with me for couples … etc… etc…
Bear appears in episode four, as pictured.
“The man at the channel was really nice to me. He said to just be myself and enjoy it. I certainly did. As you can see, I am totally different. I do not have my bottom in the air, and I am sat up, loud and proud. My eyes are wide open and I’m completely conscious.”
A corner was turned, and Bear was back on the way up.
You can read more about Bear’s escapades during the early days of computing in My ZX Spectrum (and other stories). It is available on the Amazon store and via the lending library, as are my other efforts to date.
I’m sure that most, as indeed did I, think just who is this Bear character? Well, he is a little bit more well-known than you might think.
In the first edition of a short series, Bear looks back to when he first appeared in the BBC TV series, Outnumbered.
I was really excited. It was my first big break since I’d moved all the chairs around after the school play a few years ago. I’d just moved into my bedsit in London, when I saw an advert. It said “Bears wanted to appear in new BBC comedy”. I went down to the audition, and sang a couple of songs from my album (Bip Bop) and did a couple of dances. I got the part straight away.
The first scene that they wanted me to do was to appear on the bed with some other toys. Of course I was much more talented than all of them, and I really wanted to showcase my talent. I asked if I could. They said, “Yes you can, Bear. This comedy is not totally scripted, and we are allowing the actors to ad-lib from time to time, so if you want to do the same, go for it!”
This made me so excited. I nearly wee’d myself there and then, but I held it in. As the scene got closer, I also became nervous. The only thing that could stop me being nervous was to have a little tipple of Whiskey. I’m afraid that I may have had a little bit too much by the time the actual thingy came around. The room was spinning.
When the scene was on, I was in so much of a pickle, I didn’t know what to do so I just put my head against the pillow and did nothing. I might have fallen asleep. I don’t remember. When I watched it back, the microphone didn’t pick up any snoring.
Mommy and Daddy Bear were very proud of me.
I remember when I was a little Bear, I found it hard to do that thing where you have to say numbers and what they come to (Bear is referring to Times Tables) or something like that. I would really struggle when it came to the high numbers like three. I mean, what is the point of them anyway? It’s not as if you use them in real life, is it? One day, I came home from school crying, because Pengy Wengy (Bear’s best friend at school) was bragging that he’d just done twelve. And he didn’t stop at twelve times twelve. He went up to thirteen or something like that. Mommy Bear put her arm around me and explained that although I wasn’t the brightest button, I could still become anything I wanted.
Those words inspired me, and within a few weeks I could reel off these stupid things in my sleep [research shows that Bear successfully recounted his one times table up to ten times one].
I came bouncing into the house the day I did it at school. Mommy and Daddy Bear were so proud. That’s about how proud of me they were when I was on the TV!Roughly transcribed from conversation with Bear
You can of course see Outnumbered on Netflix, and also buy the DVDs from major retailers.
You can hear more from Bear in My ZX Spectrum and other Stories, available on the Amazon Kindle Store. You can also borrow it if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited.
I’ve recently completed and self-published my third story. I’ll not call them novels because that would give the impression that I see myself as a novelist, or at least a proper one. One that does it for a living. And one whose effort and passion for the task I greatly admire.
I started on Your faith.. just to see what it might be like. I had a small idea, a start and an end with no middle, but wanted to see where I could take it. As I’ve alluded to in a previous post, it went through a number of iterations. I found it easier to write late evening time. I even managed to carefully select different Spotify playlists to match the particular mood I was trying to convey through the character. It’s quite amazing the amount of music from times gone by that you rediscover.
And quite a bit of crap as well.
The Girl on the Park Bench was different. It started with the ending and worked backwards! I’m not really sure what happened with My ZX Spectrum. No music required.
Back to the point though, these (and indeed the other stories) were “side of the desk” activities. As a result, they all took a longer time to complete than I would’ve liked.
I really cannot begin to imagine the amount of dedication shown by people who do this type of thing for a living. Always awaiting that next advance. Where a “writer’s block” really can make all the difference.
Whilst I do intend to increase efforts to publicise the stories around the internet, I am realistic to know that (a) being “best selling” on a self-publishing or electronic platform is not the same as using a publisher and (b) that there is so much stuff of the same type out there; and discovery is so, so difficult. Almost equivalent to landing heads a hundred times out of a hundred on the toss of a coin. Or more likely a million.
Luck indeed. Certainly with the first two stories, although the third may at least gain some interest, should someone have a hankering to return to the by-gone days of the home computer.
So, back to the question at hand. Why? My answer is simple. It’s because for me it doesn’t matter. Writing my stories is just for fun. A hobby.
I guess it was just to see what it was like. It has been a journey, and I’m happy with the resulting 0.24p royalty every year.
But to those doing this for a living – hats off to you all my friends!
I’ve noticed when looking around the internet that there is a varying attitude towards the price authors will apply to their work when publishing on Kindle.
Now, let’s be clear, I am not talking about the big guns, already published in print format offering their goods digitally. Not even those who have now carved a living from self-publishing.
I’m talking about the tin pots. Those, like myself, who would be lucky to gain five purchases in a year (and that is my record to date) – with maybe a few page reads on KDP.
Some seem to suggest that the price should reflect the amount of work put into it. Therefore, they may debut with a £4.99 price tag. Or even greater. Ok, so maybe they run a podcast and will get an instant spike of sales at that price. Then of course they realise that there is no longevity in such a stance, as the sales dry up. Even reducing the price doesn’t change anything. Their “followers” have been and gone.
Personally, I don’t think it matters how long a project has taken. If you are unheard of, then you are simply a pin stuck to a fish in a Pacific Ocean sized pond.
You don’t stand out. You can’t stand out. You go for the lowest possible price, on the lowest possible royalty, hoping that somebody will stumble upon your work.
I am also a believer that by offering a book on Kindle KDP, there is perhaps a chance that a reader may take a risk on something unknown. It is essentially free for them to do so. Almost 60% of my royalty in 2016 came via this method. Approximately £0.76 worth.
Additionally, I do not set the DRM capability on my books. This may be naive, but I trust in the morality of the human race. If a customer reads, and likes, then I’d like to think they would press that little old purchase button anyway.
So my advice. Please don’t think about the effort as a measure, and be realistic. Self-publishing in the most is not publishing. It took me one and a half years to finally be ready to publish. This included writing the thing, editing, re-writing, recording my reading the story aloud, and replaying it numerous times until happy. A lot of work, but also done personally.
Does that all warrant a high price tag? No chance.
Print publishing can be onerous and potentially comes at a price to the author. It also exists for a reason. I recently borrowed a history book on the KDP unlimited plan. Quite frankly it was awful. Spelling errors everywhere. I went for a print alternative instead. It was “worth” £2.99.
Only go high if you already have an internet presence (podcaster for example), but remember that fan/follower loyalty only lasts for the number of fans/followers that you have, and that there is no guarantee they will share among their friends either.
That in itself could lead to those more astute within the flock turning against you, in realisation that you have possibly increased the price artificially to take advantage of them.
So in summary, go low, and always expect the worst! Then you can only ever be pleasantly surprised. As I am with my 79p this year.
What can I say? This third retrospective talks about my encounter with Bear, and the stories of his Rainbow Computer.
Now I can tell what you’re thinking. Who the hell is Bear? You may have seen Bear on the TV once or twice, but not realised that. That story is for another day, this is about how the story came about.
I’ve always wanted to tell the story of my childhood. Don’t we all? It’s just mine was so dull. Some might say, normal? But that chance meeting with my furry friend gave me a great opportunity to reopen the floodgates.
And that is My ZX Spectrum in a nutshell. Bear told me his stories, and I wrote them down, give or take a bit of translation.
So, is this a kids book or not? Well, I guess reading through it, you would be forgiven for thinking it is aimed at those below the age of about five years old! But that is not the intent.
The audience of the story is twofold. Firstly, for those who remember what it was like to have to wait for something – both the machine itself and then for the software to load. It may even re-kindle a memory or two.
Secondly, for those who don’t know what it was like to live in this age. The age when technology was just starting to spread its wings without the ability to touch a screen, or call an API. When there wasn’t always an app for that. Not a criticism of the younger generation in any shape or form. Just a reminder of how lucky you really are nowadays.
It is available on Amazon, both for purchase and through the Lending Library / Kindle Unlimited, as are my other efforts.