Friday, November 8, 2013

November


Nothing like an excuse to post a link to one of my favourite Tom Waits songs: November. So, anyway, do you remember what was happening in your life five years ago to this day? No, of course you don’t, because November 8th 2008 was, more than likely, “just another day” for you, wasn’t it? For me, on the other hand, 08-11-08 – “Eight, Eleven, Eight” – was a very special date for very different reasons...

For a start, it’s the date Mike’s Milestones was born - basically because I preferred that title to Writer’s Crap Diary Notes. Here’s how my entry began that day:

08-11-08
Decide to write novel
Choose title: dayrealing (small case)
Prefer simple “-ing” titles, like Trainspotting or Nightswimming
Want sth. memorable, easy to say, suggestive & original
Buy notebooks & pens
Start planning contents:
Teacher (Colin) whose life is a disaster, etc. (semi-autobiographical)...

And it goes on in a similarly exciting vein for several lines. My narcissistic self reasoned that if I was going to write a bestseller, get rich and famous and so on, then sooner or later my adoring fans – ha ha! – would want to know how it all started, read all those soulless rejection letters, empathise with me and my excruciating pain, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Amazingly, I did write that book! It took me about a year to write and involved getting up every day at 3 a.m. At weekends, I had a lie-in and started at 4 a.m. Yes, it absolutely killed me. How I suffered for my art! Even more amazingly, after about 40 rejection letters or so, I found a wonderful publisher with two screws missing who was happy to put his name to my rubbish.


So now, five years on, it seemed like a good moment to take stock, to see how my life has been transformed since that momentous day in history. Except it hasn’t, of course, has it? Basically, here’s the sequence of events since dayrealing hit the market:

  • 6 kind friends wrote glowing five-star reviews.
  • 5 thousand people downloaded free copies to their Kindle.
  • 4 strangers actually read the book.
  • 3 years later, we tried changing the cover and title to Huh?

  • 2 heartless bastards delightful ladies laid into me over on Goodreads:
 

  •  1 discerning dude defended me on Amazon: 



I love Darren! I think his review absolutely nails it, don’t you?

In the meantime, my wife keeps telling me to pull myself together and “write a proper book”. I will one day, if I can only find the time, energy and something actually worth writing about.  

08-11-08 is also the day I received a call out of the blue from my little sister:

Receive call from Sue: expecting twins for late May / early June 2009



Beautiful boys, aren’t they! And notice how my sister always manages to take photos of her boys with photos of her boys in the background at the same time.

So, anyway, I decided to mark these milestones by getting up this morning at 3 a.m., writing this blog entry, and adding this simple entry to Mike's Milestones:

08-11-13
Mike's Milestones celebrates its 5th anniversary

Thanks for reading!

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
            Choosing a title was the next battle. Sir Colin? Lord Raphead? Colin had noticed that people were suckers for one highly unoriginal formula in particular: The X (who / with / in . . . ): The Book Thief; The Time Traveler’s Wife; The Woman Who Walked into Doors; The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas . . . The list was endless. The formula was a doddle, and Colin had no problems generating candidates for his forthcoming blockbuster: The Dyslexic Director of Studies . . . The Twit Who Thought He Could Teach . . . The Man with the Battered Briefcase . . . The Really Old Student in the Bright Pink Stockings . . .  The Silly Sod Who Wrote a Load of Bollocks and Got Away with It (and Them) . . .
            Whilst it was reassuring to know that he had a guaranteed best-seller formula to fall back on, Colin would have preferred something simpler and snappier if only because it would look better on the spine (of the book; not his own). Whether it be the title of a book, film, song or whatever, Colin soon realised – and don’t ask why – that he had a penchant for three-syllable activities ending in “–ing”. Why? He just did, OK? Ice Skating, Home Shopping, Name Dropping . . . Admittedly, those were pretty naff titles, but the quirkier the activity, the better the resulting title seemed to be; to Colin’s ears at least. And if you could combine the two words into one, you were definitely on to a winner in Colin’s book. Sleepwalking, Trainspotting, Nightswimming . . . they could hardly fail, could they?
            Thus was born dayrealing; a bloody stupid name for a book if ever there were one.

            dayrealing, Chapter 45, “Wonderful Life”

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Run For Home

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8AbjnAT-r4




We’ve just returned from a few days in the mountains. Don’t panic, I’m not going to bore you with all the details or stunning photos of the Pyrenees. Besides, the real adventure began when we arrived back home...

On opening the front door, we were greeted by our fabulous hall plant, albeit somewhat the worse for wear:




On closer inspection, it appeared to have taken the form of an arrow pointing up to the poor clock above, as if to say, “And I’m not the only one who’s stopped ticking in your absence”.



No big deal, I thought. I’ll replace the clock battery later, and I never liked that plant much, anyway. Needless to say, however, the worst was yet to come...


The kitchen absolutely stank; the bin had been burnt to death; the steaks in the fridge had merged into a singular cow pat formation (and would doubtless have attracted millions of visitors if this were the Tate Gallery); four half-empty milk cartons stood proudly by the door; ten beach towels had been stuffed into the washing machine; a pristine yet cracked crystal wine glass sat all alone in the dishwasher; and some mysterious “hang your head here” leads had popped out invitingly behind the extractor fan:

 
Could have been worse, I kidded myself, as we proceeded to inspect the remains of our home... The whole of the bathroom had been converted into a gigantic clothes basket: every single garment that had ever been bought or worn in the last 20 years had been put out for urgent washing. Cardboard tubes decorated the toilet; empty shampoo and gel bottles adorned the shower.

As if all of this weren’t enough, our living room had been converted into an impromptu Play Station Exhibition Centre; the kids’ bedrooms looked like Paintball Parks; and my car keys had disappeared... as indeed had my car.

Well, that was five days ago, and we’re still tidying up the mess (and looking for my car); not to mention still unpacking the 50-kilogram suitcase that my wife painstakingly packed for our mini mountain tour. Not that I’m complaining, of course. I know how lucky I am to have so many jobs to keep me busy when I could be wasting my time and money down the pub.

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

‘What's that bag doing in the hall?’
‘Nothing, Daddy.’
‘I mean, Why did you leave it there?’
‘I had to leave it somewhere, Daddy.’
‘Is it your gym bag?’
‘Yes.’
‘And are the clothes for washing?’
‘Yes.’
‘So why don't you put the clothes in the washing basket?’
‘Because you always do it for me, Daddy.’
‘Well, I'm not going to do it this time.’
‘You'll see.’
‘And what about that rucksack?’
‘What about it, Daddy?’
‘Well, can't you take it to your bedroom?’
‘What for? I'm going to need it tomorrow.’
‘Do you have an answer for everything, darling?’
‘Yes, Daddy. When will dinner be ready?’
‘Soon. And don't change the subject.’
‘Don't do too much for me. I'm not very hungry. Did you remember to buy Coke?’
‘What about those trainers? Do you have to leave them there?’
‘I always leave them there, Daddy.’
‘Yes, I know. Everybody else leaves their shoes in the shoe cupboard.’
‘Anything else, Daddy?’
‘No, just shoes.’
‘Eh?’
‘Never mind. Just make sure you’ve tidied this all up before Mummy gets home.’
‘When’s Mummy coming home?’
‘About ten.’
‘Oh, we’ve got plenty of time, Daddy! Can you smell something burning?’ . . .

 fifty shades of Spain, 22, "Everything I Do, I Do It For You"

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

           After much stumbling, grumbling, and fumbling, Colin finally emerged at the top. Holy Jackson! The first thing that caught his eye was the ambitiously entitled “Monument to JB”. It was one of these modern affairs, consisting of three massive stone cubes, balanced precariously one on top of the other, with the one-metre cube at the bottom, the two-metre cube in the middle, and the three-metre cube at the top. By Colin’s calculations, Jackson’s Bollocks came to about 36 cubic metres. It must have taken the “artist” about 36 seconds to design, 36 weeks to make and 36 years to persuade his mates to help him lug his giant-friendly building blocks up the bleeding hill. And he probably charged the Council 36,000 pounds for his efforts. Plus expenses. Oh, and don’t forget the handling fee.
            Most modern art left Colin feeling hollow; he couldn’t help feeling he was being taken for a ride. On the other hand, he very much envied those people who were able to get genuine pleasure from looking at dead rabbits, wavy green lines, and bowls of corn flakes. Of course, he envied even more those people who were able to make their fortunes from exhibiting dead rabbits, painting wavy green lines, and putting corn flakes in bowls. ‘If you think putting corn flakes in a bowl and then getting some poor sod to pay to look at your stupid bowl is so easy, Colin, why don’t you do it yourself?’ There was no answer to that. Bastards.
dayrealing, Chapter 40, “Fountain Of Sorrow”

Friday, August 2, 2013

Shiny Happy People

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



What a charming couple! I wonder who they could be? Why don't you click on the photo to find out?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Right Here Waiting

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGkJ4NL0Xoc


They must have read my books. How else could they possibly have known that I’m a lonely language teacher with a serious wine and women condition?

Well, according to Facebook, “We show you ads we think you'll find interesting based on these types of information: the things you do with Facebook; info we get from others; (and) info from third parties.”

So, that’s alright, then. I guess it was only a matter of time before I would be called to order for clicking on that “Like” button every time I looked at a photo of my nephews and nieces. But let’s just have a closer look at those “personalised ads” again, shall we?


Meet fellow Brits in your city! I’ve already met him, actually. His name’s John, and very nice he is too. Or is there a third Brit lurking in the bowels of our village that neither John nor I know about?



Master in Bilingual Education? OK, so which Facebook “friend” has been spreading it about that my teaching techniques could do with a little polishing up? They’re absolutely right, of course.



Meet single mothers! Well, I suppose it would make a nice change from meeting stressed mothers, angry mothers, worried mothers, anxious mothers and, come to think of it, not-yet-divorced mothers. But why single mothers, and not single ladies? Where’s the attraction in adopting a screaming stepkid into the bargain? Sounds dangerously like a Nick Hornby novel to me.


English speaking rehab in Spain? Great idea! Except that’s precisely what I’ve been doing for the past 30 years. Maybe what I need right now is Spanish speaking dehab in England?



Free dates and chat! Here they go again, trying to find me somebody to talk to. At least, they don’t limit my options to single mothers this time. But why does Facebook and indeed the entire world always assume that we want more friends, more conversation, more social life, etc? I don’t know about you but, personally, after 12 ear-battering hours at the office, the absolute last thing I want to do when I get home is carry on chatting. Quite the opposite in fact, but will they let me drink my beer and read the paper in peace? I think you already know the answer to that one.




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

Having run 25 miles up and down corridors every day for the past 25 years, Colin was delighted to discover that he was in far better shape than he had ever imagined; or looked. Eat your heart out, Dustin! Indeed, it was one of life’s best-kept secrets that most teachers – lazy sods excepted – are Olympian athletes just waiting to be discovered. That said, most of them would rather be left alone to finish their pint in peace.
dayrealing, Chapter 41, “Don't Fear The Reaper”

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Chasing Cars

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GemKqzILV4w


It had to happen sooner or later: I am now officially number 4 in the Church household. I held on to the number 3 spot for as long as I could, but it was only going to be a matter of time before my son followed his sister's example by passing his driving test. Bad news all round, except for my son and the Basque economy, of course.

The reality was driven home to us the other Saturday when my wife and I were debating whether to cruise to the coast or head for the city. We opted for the latter only to discover that our daughter had borrowed my wife's car and – yes, you guessed it – my son had grabbed mine. Prisoners in our own home, we spent the rest of the day clearing out the garage and smiling at our neighbours who in turn smiled back at us in evident bemusement-cum-sympathy.

But the story doesn’t end there, does it? As any long-suffering parent will testify, once your teenage darlings have got their licence to spill, getting into your own car will never feel the same again; assuming you ever find it, that is.

To mark this milestone, I decided to compile a My Kids Kidnapped My Car! Checklist. I wonder how my list compares with yours?

1. Er, where is it?!
As I have just mentioned, this is our first challenge, and no joke on a freezing, wet, miserable Monday morning. A good place to begin your search is on the other side of the road behind that tree on the embankment. But mind that puddle!

2. Oh, that’s odd...
You’ve found your car, you’ve opened the door, but the inside light no longer appears to be working. Somebody’s been messing about with the buttons. I wonder why?

3. Hang on a minute...
As your knees hit your chin and your nose is flattened against the windscreen, you struggle to adjust your seat to a more driver-friendly position.

4. Now, what was that doing there?!
As you shove your seat back with all your might, you hear a crunching sound as you mangle the remains of your poor umbrella for the umpteenth time this month. It’s anybody’s guess why they couldn’t have left it behind the navigator’s seat, where you’d carefully placed it the day before.

5. Oh...
For a split second you fear you may have just gone blind but, before you panic, try adjusting the rear-view mirror, which, for reasons best known to itself, offers excellent views of the navigator’s legs, but little in the way of actual road visibility.

6. It’s stuck!
You used to be able to release the handbrake with just one hand. When did I become a weakling? you wonder as you pull frantically with both hands until the brake clicks... and your back cracks under the strain.

7. Aaarrrggghhh!!!
What happened to my Barbra Streisand compilation? you ask yourself, as your ears are subjected to the deafening din of Nasty Noise’s Greatest Hits Volume 111. After all, the only reason you bought the sodding car in the first place was so that you could listen to your own music without anybody telling you what crap musical taste you’ve got.

8. But I filled up only yesterday!
The petrol gauge is already back down in the red zone. You really can’t understand how a daily trip to your place of work a couple of miles down the road can have such a devastating effect on your fuel tank. You suspect, however, that somebody might be taking you for a ride.

9. What’s the matter with him?
If you ever make it onto the road, the first thing you’ll notice is that everybody, present company excepted, appears to have overdosed on amphetamines. Grannies overtake you at 200 miles per hour while businessmen cut you up at roundabouts. What’s the rush, for heaven’s sake?!

10. Oh, now I get it!
Blinded by full-beam headlights from the car attached to your bumper, you’ve had enough and decide to pull over for a breather. You ignore the angry honking of the passing driver, check your mirror before pulling back out into the urban jungle, and that’s when it dawns on you: your son forgot to remove – or deliberately left? – his learner plate on the back windscreen; an invitation for trouble if ever there were one.






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

164
–¿Por qué no pruebas con las otras marchas, cariño?
–¿Tienes prisa?

–Why don’t you try the other gears, darling?
–Are you in a hurry?

165
–¿Quieres conducir?
–Para nada. Conduces muy bien. ¡Cuidado con ese poste!

–Do you want to drive?
–Not at all. You drive very well. Mind that bollard!

166
–Hace un calor infernal. ¿Abrimos la ventanilla?
–Bien. Podríamos quitar la calefacción también.

–It’s baking hot. Shall we open the window?
–OK. We could turn the heating off too.
  
Spanglish for Impatient People, Lesson 17, “On the road”



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

‘Where to?’
            After 15 minutes or so on the run, Colin’s legs had already begun to tire. So when he saw an old milk float preparing to overtake him, he didn’t think twice about thumbing a  lift.
            ‘Beaconsfield, please.’ It was worth a try.
            ‘Another comedian, eh? Hop in, son.’
            It was easier said than done, and in the end Colin decided to use both his feet; he had had enough exercise for one day.

dayrealing, Chapter 42, “The Passenger”

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

Some bastard had blocked him in again. Naturally, Mick only had himself to blame. When was he going to learn that you should never park in an empty parking space? After all, this was Spain, where double parking was a national pastime; triple parking, however, was positively frowned upon – if only because the buses couldn’t get through.

Strictly speaking, he had blocked two of them in – it was always a he – in such a way that it was impossible for either one of them to back out.

Mick knew the routine well by now:

1) Sound your horn “politely”
2) Check to see if the driver has left his keys in the ignition
3) Curse everything and everybody
4) Sound your horn again, this time “rudely”
5) Note the car model
6) Locate the nearest bar

Et cetera.

Typically, the offender would smile at you – though never actually apologise –, amble out of the bar, get into his car and drive off.

So much for theory. In retrospect, the owner of the shiny black Mercedes Coupé could consider himself frightfully unlucky to have caught Mick on a bad day.

fifty shades of Spain, 20, "Don’t Look Back In Anger"

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The News From Spain

The news from Spain is not good: more than 6 million people unemployed, and rising; 56% unemployment among youngsters, and rising; 500 homes repossessed every day, and rising.

At least, Greece is giving us a good run for our money. Hang on a minute. Did I say 'money'? Most of it is in Switzerland and Argentina if the rumours about our government's former treasurer and his creative accounting practices are proven to be true. 'Why don't you transfer all your money to your UK account?' asked my father. 'What money?!' I replied. Besides, the last time I tried to transfer money from Spain to Britain, it never arrived, even if this didn't stop NatWest charging me a 25-pound mishandling fee. Even so, I thank my lucky stars that I still have a job and a home to go to. Who knows? I may even get the last Spanish pension before they turn the lights out.
On the writing front, sales are going from strength to strength, and it can only be a matter of millennia before I achieve a major breakthrough. This month I have released three more books in my Spanglish for Impatient People series, and initial download figures have been promising. I won't bore you with my successes, however, as I imagine you've come here to hear about my latest failures, haven't you? If that's the case, you'll be delighted to learn that Spanish for Rhythmic People continues to languish in the US Amazon charts, thanks in no small part to a dissatisfied arsehole customer:
To add insult to injury, the reviewer opens with a double negative – "Should not recommend this book to no one" and adds, "Thanks God did not pay much". I was sorely tempted to comment, "Perhaps you should have begun with English for Monosyllabic People?" But that would have been rude, of course, and totally out of character for me. Besides, on scrolling down, I was delighted to read that divine justice had already taken its course:
"Headaches, acne, diarrhea, sore throat, nausea and more!" How wonderful! My poor tormentor may yet rue the day they picked up my silly phrasebook.
Thanks for reading!
--------------------------------------------------------

Pattern 18: di-di-DUM-di di-di-DUM-di

Hacen footing en el camping

171
A los hechos me remito
Look at the facts
A los HEchos me reMIto

172
¿Desde cuándo sabes tanto?
Since when did you become an expert?
¿Desde CUÁNdo sabes TANto?

173
Hacen footing en el camping
They go jogging in the campsite
Hacen FOOTing en el CAMPing

174
He pisado ese charco
I stepped in that puddle
He piSAdo ese CHARco

175
Lo que tú digas, cariño
Whatever you say, darling
Lo que digas, caRIño

176
¡Me importa un pepino!
I couldn’t care less!
¡Me imPORta un pePIno!

177
Mis alumnos son huevones
My students are lazy sods
Mis aLUMnos son hueVONes

178
¿Qué estás insinuando?
What are you insinuating?
¿Qué esTÁS insinuANdo?

179
¿Sabes cuál es tu problema?
Do you know what your problem is?
¿Sabes CUÁL es tu proBLEma?

180
¿Y qué quieres que yo haga?
And what do you want me to do about it?
¿Y qué QUIEres que yo HAga?
 
Spanish for Rhythmic People, Pattern 18, di-di-DUM-di di-di-DUM-di