Santa Claus is coming to town. (Scream!)

Santa’s a strange guy. I was watching ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ yesterday and I was fascinated by the character of Santa Claus, so wonderfully played by Richard Attenborough. Who was this guy with his white and red outfit, black boots, white beard and twinkling eye? Why would people start to think that someone would come down their chimney at night and give their children presents? It’s a strange double standard for modern parents to have: ‘Don’t ever take sweets from strangers, go with them anywhere or let them into your house!’ ‘But mummy, what about Santa Claus?’ ‘Oh, him, that old, bearded guy? That’s perfectly okay. You should let him climb down the chimney and sneak into your rooms at night. In fact, make an effort to leave food at night for him just so he’s in a good mood.’ Dodgy guy on the street, stay away; stranger entering your rooms through the chimney at night, give him a mince pie!


The Utter horror of the 'three for two' offer

I was in Waterstones today to buy a present for a relative. I had a rough idea what I was after and went straight to the appropriate section. There, stacked neatly on the shelf, were two books by John Lindqvist, the writer behind the hit Scandinavian film ‘Let the Right One In’, which I think is currently being remade in America on the grounds that the original is full of foreigners who talk funny. They’ve also shortened the title to ‘Let Me In’. I guess this is because a) no movie about Vampires should ever refer to them as ‘The Right One’ or b) Five words in a title is too long. Since ‘Twilight’ and ‘True Blood’ are incredibly popular and are stuffed full of blood sucking creatures of the night who somehow retain tender romantic feelings while their souls sit writhing in the nethermost depths of hell, I’m guessing it’s mostly about the title length.

Film tie-ins aside, I picked up the two books by Lindqvist that I wanted. Sorted! I could go home and have a cup of tea. Then I spotted something. Sitting prominently on the front cover of both books was a sticker marked ‘3 for 2’. Oh. That’s good, I thought. I have two books I want. I can pick up a third for nothing. I looked around casually. There were lots of ‘3 for 2’ books on the tables around. I’ll definitely want one of those.

The only thing was, each one I spotted I didn’t want.


The joys of towpaths and parks

Normally, when it comes to going on a long cycle ride, I always think of getting the road bike out. It's light, fast and I can zip along the roads emulating the stars of the Tour de France. The only problem is, I don't really emulate the stars of the Tour de France at all. Firstly, they're a lot fitter than me. Secondly, when we see them riding, they're on traffic free roads. They don't have to dodge 4x4's or huge lorries or people turning left without indicating. Thirdly, their rides seem to start at ski stations or medieval walled towns, rather than Tolworth.

This discrepancy nagged me one day. Why was I trawling through dull suburbia for twenty miles just to get to the start of a scenic route? Was there an easier way to enjoy cycling - the trees, the twisting lanes, the challenging hills, the exhilarating descents - without all that hassle? I thought back on what I'd done when I was younger. How had I enjoyed cycling then? I remember that I'd really enjoyed cycling on the tracks on the park and common near my house. Not as dramatic but just as fun. I therefore decided to find a route on my doorstep that had those elements. Here it is: Read More...

How owning a DVD ruined my evening

About five years ago, I was sitting in my flat, glancing through the television guide when I noticed that 'Indiana Jones and the last crusade' was on television, wednesday 8:30pm to be precise. What was even better was that it was on the BBC so there wouldn't be any adverts. Brilliant! I thought. I made a note of it and planned to get some snacks in, get back from London in good time, settle down and enjoy the movie.

Then a grim truth hit me. I already owned an 'Indiana Jones and the last crusade' DVD. There was no need to wait until wednesday evening. I could watch it whenever I liked.

I was completely deflated. Weird, isn't it?

An adult on a bicycle

A great quote from H.G.Wells:

"Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race."

The treadmill conundrum

We now have a Conservative government in power in this country (give or take a very strange attempt at a Liberal Democrat party). As a result, there’s lots of comment in the news about ‘reducing inefficiency’ and ‘getting the work-shy to do their fair share’ and other such political statements. It’s got me thinking about an idea I had ages ago to try and come up with a social setup that could be successful at encouraging everyone to do their fair share.

To try and reason out how this could be done, I thought up a fictitious room. In it, a group of people would be standing on a treadmill. They would run on the treadmill and thereby generate power. To keep them going while doing this work, food and drink would be given to them at regular intervals while they ran on the treadmill. This, in a very simple way, could represent a society. People work together to generate output and receive sustenance in return. Read More...

Lycra louts and trouser suits

Here's a personal favourite, resurrected from the pre WordPress crash days. Enjoy!

One phrase that has puzzled me in recent years is ‘lycra louts’. It is used regularly and with a fair amount of emotion but I really don't know why. I can understand ‘lager louts’ since drinking lots of lager can make the best of us into anti-social idiots. But why do people demonise cyclists wearing clothing that reduces chafing? If anything, you’d think it would be the opposite way around. The cyclists without the lycra would be the menace. If I cycled for four hours in damp underwear that had been rubbing itself against my sensitive areas with all the delicate softness of a cheese grater, I would scream and shout if someone got in my way. But it’s the opposite. Read More...

Writing advice

Is there something I've learnt from all this writing? I think I've learnt a few things. Here's a list, using Copper Book as a reference work:

Write a lot: If you haven't written a lot of prose before, you'll need to write a hundred thousand words of prose and get that prose regularly assessed before you even start writing the prose for the novel! I know that sounds terrible, but that's what I effectively did in the end - write 100k of text and then write the whole thing again. Read More...

A one act play: 'Can't see, won't see'

I've just sent off a one act play to the Cornerhouse theatre in Surbiton, It's part of a one act theatre festival next spring. I only found out at the last minute that they're looking for plays for a family audience so I've toned down the language. Apart from that, I think a secondary school kid would be happy with it (I think!). The play is a tense drama with suspense, betrayal, surprises and a twist (or two!). Let me know if you like it.
Click here to download the play: Can't see, won't see
p.s. don't read the summary on the first page if you want to be surprised! It is one big plot spoiler.

Jonathan Cape Graphic Short Story competition

When the Arvon graphic novel course finished, I was all ready and motivated to do some comic work. Unfortunately, a very sad event occurred on the way back which I won't go into in a blog. Suffice it to say, that strongly affected the whole of the next week. What I was able to do though was get together an entry for the Jonathan Cape Graphic Short Story competition. The competition had been recommended to me on the course by Hannah Berry and I checked the details on my return home. I had a little over a week to produce a four page graphic short story. Yikes! I decided there wasn't time to think up a new story. I would have to use one I'd already written. In the end, I went for the frog poem I'd submitted to a climate change competition.

Here's what I produced:

My favourite cycling books and films

A friend asked me recently to recommend some cycling books and films. Instead of just telling him, I thought I'd stick them on my blog so everyone can check them out.

First off, an absolute gem of a French animated movie called 'Belleville Rendezvous'. There's not much dialogue but there doesn't have to be. The expressions and actions tell you everything you need to know. A young french lad is given a bicycle and it transforms his life. With the help of his grandmother, he becomes a professional racer (incredibly skinny apart from HUGE thighs). He takes part in the Tour de France but ends up in the broom wagon. From there, he is kidnapped, taken to New York and made to take part in a 'simulation' Tour De France ran by gambling gangsters. Strange, magical, often hysterically funny. The only criticism I would have is that the middle section about the three old ladies - the Belleville triplets - drags on a little too long. Apart from that, brilliant.


New site!

Hello everyone!

This is the new version of my web site. Unfortunately, the old version suffered a terminal crash when WordPress (the blogging engine software) suggested that I upgrade my version of the software. I dutifully agreed. The software upgrade occurred and promptly crashed my site. I tried to apply the fixes. I then tried to install a clean version. I then tried to install the previous version. All to no avail. As a result of this, I've decided to take the opportunity to use a different web creation system. Instead of using WordPress to run the blog and iWeb to create the static pages, I'm now going to use RapidWeaver to do everything. Fingers crossed, it'll produce a better, easier to maintain and more stable site than the previous setup.

This currently isn't the final layout of the site. It's simply a temporary, simple version until the final layout is completed.

All my old blog entries will be recreated on the new site. It'll make a mess of any sense of chronology for events, but most of the entries weren't specifically about particular dates, so I don't think it'll be too big a problem.

Let me know what you think! There'll be a contact page as in the past if you don't know my email address.