Friday, July 22, 2016

Read My Mind

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zc8hbSM1zVo

Any idea what yours truly is doing in this photo?


a) consulting the dinner menu before the waiter returns to take my order?
b) examining my wife’s manicure set with a view to identifying the nail clipper?
c) reading Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky?

Yes, you guessed it: I was looking for the nail clipper. Incidentally, if you chose a), you really should try living in the Basque Country for a few years. But what if I had been reading Dostoyevsky’s harrowing tale?


And therein lies the real problem for Kindle lovers and e-book addicts in general: nobody will ever appreciate what magnificent literary tastes we have. Non-Kindle converts will tell us how much they love “the feel and smell of a real book”, how they like to “thumb and turn the pages”, how they need to “touch base with the physical world”. And similar bollocks.

What none of these romantics will admit, of course, is that their main reason – dare I say, their only reason – for not embracing the e-book revolution is that they want others to look at them and think, “Wow! I wish I were reading that book!”; “Dostoyevsky? That guy must be really smart!”; and so on.

Fortunately, thanks to Kindleractive Electronic Cover Technology™, Kindle owners no longer need to feel like second-class readers.


Simply press the Kindleractive button on your Kindle to let your fellow poolside users know what masterpiece you are reading today.


Beware, however, of the deadly Kindleractive Trojan virus which, once installed in your Kindle, will destroy in one fell swoop what little street credibility you might once have enjoyed:


‘Never mind all this Kindleractive nonsense!’ I hear you saying. ‘What’s with all this Dostoyevsky stuff? You’re not going through one of your silly existential crises again, are you?’ Well, no more than usual. No, the point is, a few years ago, I very unwisely decided to buy Fyodor’s masterpiece, The Brothers Karamazov. “The most magnificent novel ever written,” said Sigmund Freud; the book that would “teach you everything you need to know about life,” added Kurt Vonnegut. As it happened, I hated the blasted book and would happily have thrown it out of the window had it not been on my Kindle at the time. Come to think of it, perhaps that’s the real reason why some bookworms still refuse to read e-books?

That said, I am nothing if not a glutton for punishment forgiving, so I decided to give Fyodor one last shot. On this occasion, however, I set my sights lower and plumped for Crime and Punishment. “Start with this one. It’s the easiest,” said Amazon Customer. Whether it’s his easiest, I couldn’t say, but it’s certainly his most entertaining. I’ll keep you posted.

Thanks for reading.


---------------------------------------------------

After a while they came to a fork in the road. Who left that lying there? Colin wondered. There was no sign of a knife or spoon. Colin was beginning to feel a little peckish. It was way past his dinner time.

‘What’s that noise?’ asked Mal.
‘Just my stomach rumbling. Sorry. Is there anywhere we can grab a bite to eat?’
‘If it’s not sex, it’s food. Is that all you Earthlings ever think about?’
‘No,’ said Colin, lying through his teeth, and somewhat taken aback by the ferocity of Mal’s sudden outburst.
‘Don’t you ever spare a thought for the starving millions, Colin? Well, I’ve got some very bad news for you. Welcome to the Land of the Starving Jillions, sunshine.’
‘ “Jillions”? Is a jillion bigger than a zillion?’
‘Stop trying to change the subject. Now where was I?’
‘We were discussing large numbers.’
‘Down here, there’s no breakfast, no lunch, and no dinner. Got that?’
‘How about afternoon tea?’
‘No afternoon tea, no morning tea and, no, before you ask, no evening tea, either.’
‘But— But what do you live on?!’
‘ “Live on”? “Live on”?! Did you hear that, Louise?’
‘Shall I saw his legs off, Mal?’
‘Maybe later, Louise. Let’s wind him up a bit more first, shall we?’
‘Whatever you say, Mal. Just give me the nod when you’re ready.’
Please, God, wake me up.
‘I know exactly what you’re thinking, Colin.’
‘No you don’t.’ Does he?
‘Yes I do.’
‘Prove it.’
‘You’re thinking, “Please, God, wake me up”.’
Bastard.
‘And now you’re probably calling me a bastard, aren’t you?’
‘No.’ Bastard.

dayrealing, Chapter 42, “The Passenger”

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Rewind

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1eEC4foVtI

It’s just one blow after another, isn’t it? First, in a moment of madness, Britain votes to leave the European Union. Next, the most corrupt political party in the history of this blog, namely the “Partido Popular”, an oxymoron if ever there were one, gains 14 seats – yes, gains!! – in the Spanish general election. Then, finally, as if that weren’t all bad enough, England has just been knocked out of the UEFA Euro 2016 by mighty Iceland.

Don’t you just wish we could turn the clock back a week and try again?



Come to think of it, can we make that fifty years? For what it’s worth, I’ve started an online petition demanding a rematch with Iceland, though I don’t hold out much hope.

Indeed, there is only one thing that distresses me more right now than this catastrophic chain of events. Yes, you guessed, it’s people’s stubborn refusal to use apostrophes correctly despite my rants over the years on this topic. It seems like only yesterday when I exploded for the first, but unfortunately not the last, time:

[July 2011] “I can’t stand it anymore. My blood boils every time I see them: the five most abused, misused and misspelt words in the English sandwich. Er, language, sorry. OK, here goes ...

5. its / it’s / its’
Its refers to possession and means “of it”.
It’s is a contracted form of It is or It has.
Its’ is not an English word and means nothing.

Wrong: *Its important to know its’ meaning.
Right: It’s important to know its meaning.

4. your / you’re
Your does not mean you are.
Your refers to possession and means it is yours.
You’re is a contracted form of You are.

Wrong: *Your you’re own worst enemy.
Right: You’re your own worst enemy.

3. their / there / they’re
Neither their nor there means they are.
Their refers to possession and means it is theirs.
There refers to location and means it is not here.
They’re is a contracted form of They are.

Wrong: *There over their waiting for they’re instructions.
Right: They’re over there waiting for their instructions.

2. who’s / whose
Who’s is a contracted form of Who is or Who has.
Whose refers to possession and means “of whom”.

Wrong: *Who’s mistake is this? Whose interested?
Right: Whose mistake is this? Who’s interested?

1. ’s
We do not use ’s to form plurals. Well, I don’t, let’s say.
The apostrophe + s has three uses:
contraction of is e.g. It’s easy!
contraction of has e.g. He’s learnt it!
possession e.g. Is that John’s son?

However, we do not use ’s to form plurals; we use s (no apostrophe).

Wrong: *All monkey’s love banana’s.
Right: All monkeys love bananas.

If the noun ends in consonant + y, we must use ies (but still no apostrophe).

Wrong: *Many family’s are having difficulty’s feeding their monkey’s.
Right: Many families are having difficulties feeding their monkeys.

So, if you’d like to make me happy, next time please, please spell it right. And, by the same token, if you want to carry on annoying me, I’ve handed it to you on a plate now, haven’t I?”


‘Put a bleeding sock in it, Mike!’ I hear you saying. I would if I could, believe me, but I’ve developed this horrendous ‘gift’ over the years of spotting glaring grammatical mistakes from a mile off. So, when multimillionaire authors – or multimillionaire authors’ editors – who really should know better write, “You’re timing is great, McDeere” (John Grisham, The Firm) or “Lot’s of people die when there’s a war on” (Anthony Grey, Saigon), my eyes pop out of their sockets, my skin breaks into a sweat, and my kids want to know when their dinner will be ready.


----------------------------------

‘I’m sending you to Coventry.’
‘Coventry?! Coventry?!!’

Colin had never used two exclamation marks in his life, but there was a time and a place for everything. Now was the time, and Coventry was the place.

Coventry!!
‘Er, any chance of Stratford?’
No answer.
‘You can’t send me to Coventry against my willy, Miss Slapper.’
But she could … And she would.


dayrealing, Chapter 30, “Laughing Stock”


Friday, May 6, 2016

Old Friends

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M24Yhd7N91s

Jose Mari & Santos
I see them in the bar every morning. They’re not the most talkative of couples, but they appear to enjoy each other’s company, even if I have never seen them facing each other, let alone – Heaven forbid – holding a conversation. I know very little about either of them; just their names and a few things that I’ve observed over the past ten years or so.

Jose Mari must be about 72, at a guess  I like to be precise in my guesses , and is becoming increasingly unsteady on his feet. He uses his walking stick to fend off customers who would like to read the bar’s newspaper that he’s just bagsed for himself. Once he’s finished reading, he pulls his stick away, and it’s safe to move in. When he’s not reading the paper, he looks into the distance, and a faint smile sets in as he recalls whatever it is that he is trying to recall.

Judging by the clothes he wears, I think it’s safe to assume that he lives on his own, though I honestly have no idea. I used to see him in church on Sunday mornings operating the projector with the words to the hymns. Recently, however, a younger chap (68-ish?) has taken over that role. I do hope Jose Mari didn’t lose his faith at the same time as he lost his job.

Santos turned 66 last November. Or 67 last July? I haven’t a clue, to be honest, but he’s definitely a good few years younger than his table mate. He also dresses rather more smartly, so I reckon he must still have somebody at home looking out for him. Santos never reads the paper, preferring instead to sit there and meditate on life in his own way while looking down at the floor. 

When he was younger, Santos used to enter the bar and burst into song, terrifying his British fanbase in the process as I tried to concentrate on my coffee and croissant. Nowadays, Santos is somewhat quieter, and the years are clearly beginning to take their toll. That said, he is still known to pipe up on occasions; usually to curse his country’s political leaders, a sentiment almost certainly shared by his fellow customers.

Well, that’s all I have to say about this odd couple who, despite never having addressed a single word to each other, would appear to be perfectly content to just sit there in silence and watch the world go by. Or watch the ground go by, in Santos’ case. And I find their friendship very moving.


----------------------------------------------------

91
Patos, patos y más patos. ¿Dónde están las ardillas?

Ducks, ducks and more ducks. Where are the squirrels?


92
–¿Prefieres en el sol o en la sombra?
–En el sol.
–Yo también. A ver si deja de llover pronto.

–Do you prefer in the sun or in the shade?
–In the sun.
–Me too. Let’s hope it stops raining soon.

93
–Esto parece un buen sitio. ¿Nos sentamos aquí?
–Tú primero.

–This looks like a nice spot. Shall we sit here?
–After you.

94
Cuidado con las caquitas de perro.

Mind the dog turds.

95
–¿Has visto a esa pareja?
–No tienen vergüenza.

–Have you seen that couple?
–They ought to be ashamed of themselves.

96
–¿Damos de comer a los patos?
–¿Con qué? Sólo tengo chicles.
–¿De qué sabor?

–Shall we feed the ducks?
–What with? All I’ve got is chewing gum.
–What flavour?

97
–¿Has visto a mi madre?
–Estaba al lado de la fuente, hablando con los vagabundos.

–Have you seen my mother?
–She was by the fountain, talking to the tramps.

98
–¿Nos puede sacar una foto, por favor?
–Claro que sí. ¿Con o sin las grúas en el fondo?

–Can you take a photo of us, please?
–Yes, of course. With or without the cranes in the background?

Spanglish for Impatient People 2, Lesson 10, "in the park"


Saturday, April 30, 2016

The End

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSUIQgEVDM4



The end of the month, that is; not this blog. Due to circumstances entirely within my control, I have failed to meet my deadline. May's entry will be better, I promise.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Listen To Me

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6loDylLcWig

The Other Mike Church is celebrating! I finally managed to get the audiobook of ‘dayrealing’ recorded, edited, uploaded and approved. This took me the best part of two years, but let’s stay out of the weeds and cut to the chase...

If you’d like to download a complimentary copy from Audible, try using one of these codes:

TLETGN7SW5PW8 (Audible.co.uk)
2MNAG6SPPFULL (Audible.co.uk)
K66HAAS67AJEH (Audible.com)
YP945GZGJWGSR (Audible.com)

Here are the instructions for Audible.co.uk:

1.      Go to my book's page on Audible.co.uk: http://www.audible.co.uk/pd/B01CDIU7KE
2.      Add the audiobook to your basket.
3.      If you are prompted to sign in, please create a new Audible.co.uk account, or log in using your Amazon details. Otherwise, proceed by clicking "Do you have a promotional code?" beneath the cover artwork of the audiobook.
4.      Enter the promo code, and click "Apply Code".
5.      A credit for the audiobook will be added to your account. Click the box next to "1 Credit" and click the "Update" button to change the price to £0.00.
6.      Proceed to checkout by clicking “Next Step” and “Buy Now”
7.      Download the audiobook or listen online, as you prefer.

Here are the instructions for Audible.com:

1.      Go to my book's page on Audible.com: http://www.audible.com/pd/B01CDITDKY
2.      Add the audiobook to your basket.
3.      If you are prompted to sign in, please create a new Audible.com account, or log in using your Amazon details. Otherwise, proceed by clicking "Do you have a promotional code?" beneath the cover artwork of the audiobook.
4.      Enter the promo code, and click "Apply Code".
5.      A credit for the audiobook will be added to your account. Click the box next to "1 Credit" and click the "Update" button to change the price to $0.00.
6.      Proceed to checkout by clicking “Next Step” and “Complete Purchase”
7.      Download the audiobook or listen online, as you prefer.

If you try a code and it isn’t accepted, that means somebody used it before you. Sorry! But please drop me a line just in case I can help you.


If you prefer to listen to some samples before downloading the whole sorry affair, please click here:


Happy listening!
----------------------------------

When he was feeling uninspired, Colin would take songs into class, together with gapped lyrics for his students to fill in as they listened. They had done Yesterday only yesterday:

Yesterday, ___ __ ________ ______ __ ___ ____
___ __ _____ __ ______ ____’__ ____ __ ____
__ _ _______ __ _________

Miss Tedley had taken to the task with relish:

Yesterday, ten or thirteen people in New York
Had no water or lights must’ve been no joke
If I grasped it correctly

‘I always knew you were a bit hard of hearing, Miss Tedley, but I didn’t realise you were that bad.’

‘Don’t you like my lyrics, dear?’

‘It’s not a question of liking or not liking, Miss Tedley.’

‘ “Listen and fill the gaps,” you said. Well, that’s what I did. Instructions, dear. Your instructions were ambiguous.’

Seeing that Miss Tedley was the sort of person who could quite happily complete The Telegraph Crossword without reading any of the clues, Colin knew better than to pursue this conversation any further.

dayrealing, Chapter 1, "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet"

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Grow Old With Me

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rgHYP0dD_4




I did a really silly thing the other day. You see, I received an invitation to enter the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2016 Short Story Competition on the topic of ‘ageing’. I was won over in equal measure by a subject dear to my heart (‘ageing’), combined with two correctly used apostrophes in the same mail (Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook). Also, I will readily admit that I was curious to see whether I could still produce anything remotely creative after so many years away from the keyboard.

At the same time, I decided to raise the challenge by leaving my comfort zone and attempting to write a serious piece for the first time in my life. Out went the awful puns, the pathetic jokes, the painful dialogues and the stupid punchlines. For once in my life, I would follow Stevie Wonder’s my wife’s advice and write something simple that people could actually understand on first reading.

More than anything else, however, I admired the sheer nerve of an organisation who brazenly announce in the competition rules that, “The Bloomsbury Publishing Group reserves the right to change the rules of this competition without notice.” Can’t get more reasonable than that, can you?

If this were a Hollywood movie, I would win first prize (£500, plus a place on an Arvon writing course), my writing career would take off, and I would never look back. Unfortunately, this is just another blog post, for which I won’t be winning any prizes, and nor indeed do I deserve to; as I’m sure you’ll agree if you manage to get to the end of my humourless story.

Be that as it may, thanks for reading, whoever you are, and never give up on your dreams!


Grow Old With Me

BRADLEY made straight for the living-room and crashed out on the sofa. He was getting too old for all of this, and he wondered how much longer he would be able to make his daily walk down to the newsagent’s. In theory, the exercise should have done him good, but his aching limbs told him otherwise. As he lay there recovering his breath, he took stock, not for the first time, of his life’s achievements to date. It didn’t take long, of course, for there had been very few milestones worth mentioning along the way, except that yearly milestone which came round all too quickly and only served to heighten his depression. Tomorrow was the Big One, and there was no turning the clock back.

One of life’s greatest challenges is accepting that you are an insignificant speck in the universal order of things, that the world can get by quite happily without you, and that nothing you do will ever change this sorry state of affairs. Sure, they will pretend to miss you once you are gone, and a few tears will be shed along the way. Sooner or later, however, it will be business as normal, and smiles all round as if nothing much has happened. And, indeed, nothing much has, has it?

Feeling thirsty, Bradley headed for the kitchen to get some water, but he only got as far as the mirror in the hall. Who was that grumpy-looking oldie staring right back at him? Where had that fun-loving youngster gone to? Naturally, he knew the answers to these questions, but they offered little in the way of consolation. He was on the way out, and it promised to be a lonely, miserable ride. He was getting old, and he was terrified of dying.


--- --- ---

ANGELA jumped out of bed and peeped  through the curtains. It was a glorious day, and it had only just begun. From her bedroom window, she enjoyed a fine view of the park across the road. The first joggers were already out there by the lake, doing their stretching exercises. She hoped to be joining them soon. After the latest scare, Doctor Jones had advised her to slow down, but his words had fallen on deaf ears. Besides, she had just ordered one of those smart wristband things as a birthday present to herself, and she was very much looking forward to trying out her new toy. With any luck, it should be arriving this morning.

            First things first, however. Today was a special day too for dear old Bradley, and she was determined to make it a day for him to remember. He had been down in the dumps recently, Heaven alone knows why, though she hoped this was just a temporary phase he was going through. Recently, he hadn’t even wanted to accompany her to the newsagent’s, which was most out of character for him. He was no longer eating properly, either. It was as if the silly thing had lost the will to live. 

            As Bradley lay there snoring, lost in his dream world, Angela crept out of the bedroom, tiptoed down the stairs and entered the kitchen to prepare their breakfast. Or Bradley’s breakfast, rather. Angela would have hers when she got back from the park. Now where had she put that card? She had bought it with the paper yesterday when Bradley wasn’t looking – or was pretending not to look – but she had evidently hidden it too well on arriving home. She opened the kitchen cupboard. Ah yes, there it was! She’d left the card up there on the top shelf, next to the crunchy biscuits that she had been saving for today. They were his favourite.


--- --- ---

BRADLEY returned to Earth with a bump. Had somebody called him? He rolled over and noticed that Angela had already got up. Downstairs, getting breakfast before her early-morning run, he supposed. Well, good for her, but he was in no hurry to join her. He was already dropping off again when he heard his name being called out for the second time, and this time there was no mistaking it. Fearing the worst, he scrambled down the stairs and charged into the kitchen. Angela was sat on the floor, looking rather shaken.

‘Sorry about all that noise, Bradley. And all this mess. Can you believe I dropped the sugar bowl? Anyway, breakfast is ready. Oh, by the way, happy birthday,’ said Angela, handing him his card. ‘Shall I open it for you?’

The picture on the front of the card was of a Basset Hound playing with a bone. Bradley was looking somewhat tongue-tied, so Angela continued, ‘I’ll read it for you, shall I?’ Angela opened the card and went on. ‘Happy tenth, Bradley! Here’s looking forward to our next ten together. Lots of love, Angela.’ It wasn’t the most original of birthday greetings, but nor did it need to be. ‘Fancy a biscuit?’ Bradley was in Seventh Heaven.

--- --- ---

ANGELA was still tidying up the mess on the kitchen floor when the doorbell rang. ‘Ah, that’ll be my parcel,’ she said, running to the door with Bradley in hot pursuit.

‘Happy birthday!’ said the postman, handing over the letter.
‘Oh.’ Now it was Angela’s turn to look tongue-tied.
‘Are you all right, love?’
‘Yes, I’m fine. It’s just I was expecting a different parcel.’
‘I’ll take this back to the depot if you don’t want it.’
‘           You’ll do no such thing, young man,’ said  Angela. ‘Give it here.’

Back in the living-room, Angela opened her letter as Bradley looked on in curiosity.

‘I send you my warm congratulations and best wishes for your one hundred and fifth birthday on 10th January, 2016. Elizabeth R.’

Goodness gracious me! Could it really be five years since the last greeting from Her Majesty? Angela glanced across at the framed letter sitting proudly on her mantelpiece.

‘I am so pleased to know that you are celebrating your one hundredth birthday on 10th January, 2011. I send my congratulations and best wishes to you on such a special occasion. Elizabeth R.’

‘How time flies, Bradley! Now hurry up and finish your breakfast. We’re going for a jog, young man.’

--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---


--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

Until now, Colin had always had a healthy interest in death. He asked himself the usual questions, and came up with the usual answers: Where will I go when I die? Wherever they decide to dump you; What will happen when I die? Some people will pretend to be sad, and then they’ll get dinner; Will I be missed? Only if you had a dog. All in all, death was a rather depressing topic; especially your own.

dayrealing, Chapter 33, “Kill The Director”

Friday, January 29, 2016

Slip Slidin' Away

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_H-LY4Jb2M

Slowly but surely, I am making progress on the audiobook version of "dayrealing - the trials and tribulations of a stressed-out teacher in a spaced-out world... in ten tortuous, torturous hours".

I spent ten tortuous, torturous hours trying to decide whether to put a comma between "tortuous" and "torturous". Pacing is very important, you see, and, by a happy coincidence, the final audiobook will run to exactly ten hours if all my Excel sheet calculations are correct; and if I get my pacing, breathing and screaming right.

Having pointless objectives in life keeps me going. And yet, who cares if the final running time is 9 hours 37 minutes or 10 hours 23 minutes? Well, I do for starters because "in ten tortuous, torturous hours... and twenty-three minutes" sounds pretty crap; to my ears, at least.

I hope to have everything ready and on the market by April at the latest. This depends in part on whether and/or when the Holy Trinity of audiobooks, ACX-Audible-Amazon, approve my submission. I'm quietly confident they will, but it's by no means a certainty.

Here’s a rather silly excerpt from Chapter 41, "Don't Fear The Reaper":


Transcribing the screams of a reluctant birdman hurtling headfirst down a water slide at the speed of darkness is never easy. Colin’s went something like this:

‘W-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-h!
  W-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-h!
    W-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-h!
    W-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e!
  W-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-h!
W-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-h!
O-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w!
  O-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h!
    O-n-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o!
    O-y-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-s!
  O-s-h-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-t!
O-w-o-w-o-w-o-w-o-w-o-w-c-h!’

The seagull had landed.




If you would like to hear what was left of my voice after that scream, please click here for the unedited version:



If you would like to download the first hour or so of "dayrealing", please click here:


If you would like a free copy of the audiobook when it comes out, please click here. Alternatively, contact me via Facebook or the comments below this post if you prefer.

Thanks for reading and/or listening!

-------------------------------------------------------------

Inside my recording studio

View from my recording studio