Sunday, 19 September 2010

Writing Exercise

The postings of the last few days started off as an exercise at a writers' group meeting. The title was 'The Milestones Of Life'.
I didn't know what to do with it so I thought I'd just put it on here for a bit of fun.
So, to answer Jarmara's questions:
No. It wasn't a dream. Just a bit of (creative?) writing.
My plumbing is in excellent working order now. Thanks to Nottingham City Hospital.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Journey's End

You Have Reached Your Destination

And what has life taught me?

Just this:

You're born

You die.

You just have to fill up the bit in the middle as best you can.

Friday, 17 September 2010

In Case Of Breakdown - Use Hard Shoulder

Roadworks Ahead
Delays Possible


Just when I've got more time on my hands and I'm beginning to wonder how I'm going to fill the hours, life decides for me. I start visiting the men's room more often and spend more and more time in there. What's happening? The damned thing used to work alright. But don't worry. Help is at hand. I ring the breakdown service and the good old NHS arrives to put everything right.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Tiredness Kills - Take A Break

Then I realised. It's not a milestone. It's a brick wall and in gigantic letters:

DEATH
From Now Till Eternity
No U Turns


I wasn't too concerned. It looked a long way off. If I kept it in my line of sight then it couldn't suddenly loom up in front of me could it? Will I never learn? They tell you not to rely exclusively on your SatNav don't they? Well, mine took me off the main road, down an embankment and into the icy waters. As I thrashed around trying to keep my ahead above water I noticed a sign on the river bank...

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Road Liable To Subsidence

I was getting the hang of it by now and decided to keep my eye on the ground for any other hazards along the way. Unfortunately this meant that I cracked my skull on the overhanging sign that said:

Recession Round The Corner
Keep Your Head Down


Well, my head rolled, along with a few thousand others. Still, not to worry. I'd learned a lot from my mistakes.
I had my wits about me now. Pushing sixty. Surely nothing could surprise me at this stage? A SatNav-like voice in my head told me not to worry and just keep cruising. Then I spotted something on the horizon. It looked like a huge milestone. Nobody could miss that...

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Danger - Hazard

The third milestone says:

Family Life
Screaming Baby to Stroppy Adult
30 years
Rough Road Ahead


I couldn't have been paying attention when I stubbed my toe on this one. The birth of my son came as a big surprise to me. I'm still not sure what caused it. My wife tried explaining it to me but it sounded so far fetched that I didn't really believe her. But, to be on the safe side, we never did that again!

Monday, 13 September 2010

Slow Ahead

The second marker must have said:

Marriage
Honeymoon to Domestic Tedium
7 years
Turn Left


I must have still been groggy from stumbling into the first when I went sprawling over this one. So, it's not all lovey-dovey, a bed of roses and sweet kisses all day every day. How was I to know? Nobody told me about money worries, mortgages, arguments over whose turn it is to wash up, decorating, in-laws etc. etc. They should put up a big neon sign to warn you of the danger ahead.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Life's Milestones

Milestones?

Can't say that I've seen that many on my journey along life's rocky road. My time on this earth so far has been one mad headlong dash down a steep mountain track with hairpin bends and blind corners. The milestones must have been those things I tripped over sending me flat on my face in the dirt.

The first one, I suppose, probably said:

Education
Infant School to University
16 years
Straight Ahead


It was a big shock to find that not all kids were the same as me. That some liked different TV programmes, some couldn't tie their own shoelaces or recite the alphabet. Some didn't even talk the same as me. Then there were the others, bigger and stronger, who would steal your Kit-Kat, push you around and generally make your life a misery. And the boys were just as bad. Getting to university was no different. For Kit-Kat, substitute girlfriend.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Let's Applaud The Writer

My last post called into question the abilities of some of our most successful sitcom writers. This wasn't really the intention. It was just a talking point. So now I thought I would turn the argument on its head and defend the scriptwriter.

This time I'm talking about live performance. It has always irked me when people are only interested in going to the theatre when there is somebody famous in the cast. They go along to see a play with a perfectly good plot and excellent dialogue but only because so-and-so off Emmerdale is in it or what's-his-name who used to be in Casualty plays the lead. It's particularly upsetting when the 'star' of the show pulls out for one reason or another, audiences go into decline and the rest of the cast and crew are out of a job.

Here in Nottingham the Theatre Royal puts on a Classic Thriller Season every August. It is the same company every year and they put on a different play every week for four weeks. Members of the cast have served their time in various bits of TV, radio and theatre so they are no mugs. The point is – the actors are not household names but the playwrights are. They put on plays by the likes of Agatha Christie, Brian Clemens, J.B. Priestley etc. and it is excellent entertainment. They wouldn't keep getting invited back every year if it wasn't would they?

Each Spring the Nottingham Playhouse puts on a musical by a local operatic group. I went to see The Producers one year and was blown away. The brilliant acting, the flawless musical numbers and the slick scene changes proved that, although their status was amateur, the production standards were professional and no TV star could have enhanced the performance.

I suppose all this is just an extension of the celebrity culture we have nowadays. People are famous for being famous and seem to attract the attention of the masses. So what do I expect to be done about this? Just for people to think more about the entertainment that's on offer and less about the performers.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Are You Having A Laugh?

I recently wrote a pilot episode for a sitcom and had someone take a look at it. The guy has worked on several television programmes and once had his own series back in the early nineties so he knows what he's talking about. He filled four pages of A4 with his comments telling me that the basic idea was good and it was funny but that it needed a lot of work. I've almost finished the rework and it got me thinking about classic comedies. Was the writing as good as we think?

Now I'm not going to question the undisputable talent of the likes of Galton and Simpson, Croft and Perry, Eric Chappell etc. But would their shows have enjoyed the longevity without the comic geniuses that starred in them?

My particular favourites are Dad's Army and Rising Damp and they still make me laugh. But when I watch them now for the millionth time I begin to wonder whether the script is really all that funny. Is it just the brilliant comedy actors that are turning poor jokes into pants-wetting crackers? In other words – is it the way they tell 'em? And just because someone has had a successful series are they allowed to get away with substandard stuff the next time? Because there have been a few turkeys on the telly lately.

I personally think Leonard Rossiter was in a league of his own and could probably make the telephone directory sound funny. So where does that leave us budding John Sullivans? We can't approach the BBC and say 'I know this script is crap but get David Jason and Julie Walters in it and it'll be a BAFTA winner'. For us unknowns I suppose we just have to try and make the first few pages catch the attention of the reader so that they are encouraged to read on and give us a chance. Just one chance... just a little bit of encouragement... please... the blokes down the pub think I'm funny... my mum says I was always making people laugh...