Saturday, 1 December 2012

I Take Another Tentative Step Into The Twenty First Century

A few months ago I opened a Twitter account.

Having so far resisted the lure of social network sites I did so on the recommendation of other writers. They told me that it would increase my internet presence and thus help to promote my work. So who am I to argue with the experts?

Before taking the plunge I decided to have a look around and see what all the fuss is about. I wasn't impressed. I trawled a few sites only to be informed that someone I didn't know was sitting in Starbucks with a latte and laughing out loud (what at, they didn't say). Another stranger was deliberating over what colour socks to put on. Why this should be of interest to me I wasn't sure.

But I persevered and soon found a few sites that were more pertinent to my interests. I even discovered that several of you lovely people out there are already veteran Twitterers. (You know who you are). I learned that you can indeed publicise your work (and other people's) and you can pass on information that may be relevant to your friends. You can brag about your successes and moan about your failures. It's a bit like blogging but more immediate and concise.

I have an interesting assortment of Followers. Apart from friends and colleagues I have The British High Commission in Singapore, a restaurant in Coventry and a rock band from Los Angeles. I think that's what you call an eclectic mix.

I don't have a mobile phone (come off it, I'm not THAT far into the 21st century!) so I'm not going to be sitting in a restaurant and informing the world that the waiter's fly is undone. Neither will I announce to all and sundry that I am strolling through Tesco and laughing my bottom off. I have more important subjects to occupy my mind than to lapse into such banalities. My advice is that, if you use it sensibly, it won't excessively intrude into your life. But if you decide it's not for you there's no more to be said.

Anyway, I'm off to get a cup-a-soup. I can't make up my mind whether to have chicken and vegetable or carrot and lentil... Damn!

@KeithHavers

Thursday, 1 November 2012

The Next Big Thing


Helen Ellwood has nominated me for The Next Big Thing so here it is.

What is the working title of your next book?
Youthopia
This is the name of a kid's TV talent show. It's supposed to be an amalgamation of 'Youth' and 'Utopia'.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
I just wanted to write a kid's book which wasn't about wizards or vampires.

What genre does your book fall under?
Children 11-14 years.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
I would like the kids' parts to be taken by unknown actors. If the adults have to be established actors then I think the main baddie could be taken by a chap called George Costigan. He played Bob in the film Rita, Sue and Bob Too and he's been in loads of other stuff. I used to know him when he lived near me.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
A bunch of kids who don't know each other are thrown together and must join forces to overcome an evil scientist.

Will your book be self published or represented by an agency?
Agency is the preferred route.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Can't remember. Probably about 3-4 months.

What other books would you compare this story to in your genre?
It's sort of a modern-day Famous Five. (Except there are seven kids in it - and no dogs).

Who or what inspired you to write the book?
Just got fed up hearing about all this Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings crap and wanted to write something that could actually happen. (Sorry, HP and LOTR fans).

What else about your book might pique the readers' interest?
One of the kids is in a wheelchair. At the end of the book it is revealed that they have all had some form of disability to overcome in their lives.

Anything else?
It's brilliant.

Thanks to Helen for nominating me for The Next Big Thing. I'm now passing it on to Carol.


Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Cup Winner


I've won another cup.

O.k. it's a coffee mug really. This is me looking smug with my mug.

Those nice people at Words with Jam have sent me this prize for being one of the winners in their October Comp Corner.

Other news:

I found out last week that my latest story for Take a Break was not wanted for Fiction Feast. It had already been published in their Autumn Special. A quick dash down to the Co-op and I got myself a copy. I was shocked to find that the photo they have used looks a lot like me. Creepy.

Also last week I managed to track down a copy of The Weekly News from last November which had one of my stories in it. First time I'd seen it.

Waiting to receive the manuscripts for another competition I've got to judge. A ghost story set in or around Nottingham. Looking forward to some scary reads.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Exceedingly Good











 

Thanks
 to Carol at Carol's Corner for awarding me the Super Sweet Blogging Award. To accept it I have to answer the following questions:

1.Cookies or cake?
     Definitely cake. Isn't cookie an American word?
2.Chocolate or vanilla?
     Yes please.
3.What is your favourite sweet treat?
     Bread and butter pudding just like my Aunty Helen used to make.
     Even better than cake.
4.When do you crave sweet things most?
     When I'm awake.
5.If you had a sweet nickname what would it be?
     Mr Kipling.

I'm wheeling the sweet trolley across to Helen and Paula. If they're on a cyber-diet or don't fancy cyber-crumbs in the keyboard that's fine. If you do it, remember to copy the picture of cakes above.

PS Have you checked out Ace Of Cakes on Really Freeview 17?

While I'm posting stuff I thought I'd do a bit of bragging:
 
I have a story in A Year With Yours 2013 available on Amazon.

People's Friend seem keen on another story of mine. They've already asked for two lots of edits. Apparently it's nearly there.

Take a Break have asked to buy another story for Fiction Feast.

As the end of the year approaches things are beginning to look up a little.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Everyone Judges The Judge

Eek! The time has come.

Three months ago I agreed to adjudicate in the Nottingham Writers' Club summer prose competition. I have now received the manuscripts and I have a few weeks to come up with a winner, a second and a third. Not only that, I have to publicly justify my decision for choosing the top three places and write critiques for every single entry.

This will not be news to those of you who have done this sort of thing before but this is a first time for me and I'm a bit apprehensive. I'm only just starting to get accustomed to people asking my opinion on writing-related topics. “You what? You want me to read the first three chapters of your novel and tell you if I think it's any good? How would I know? I can't even get Woman's Weekly to accept any of my stuff.”

It occurred to me that, while sportingly applauding the winners and commiserating with the also-rans, anyone else reading my fellow club members' efforts will be at liberty to question my decisions. I now know what it must be like for a football referee. A player may make several mistakes during a game – miss a few passes, commit a few fouls. But if the ref makes an error of judgement it's the talk of the terraces. Likewise the X-Factor panel. If their choices don't line up with the general public's opinion then they are lambasted in the press.

Anyway. Can't sit here blogging all day. Somewhere there's a block waiting for my neck to be placed on it.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Dirty Harry

A couple of weeks ago we had a poetry workshop at Nottingham Writers' Club run by humorous poet Les Baynton. The task he set us was to write a poem in twenty minutes, one of the choice of themes being the recent episode with Prince Harry and those pictures. I couldn't come up with anything at the time although many attendees did manage some very funny pieces.

Events have moved on since then but I thought I'd be a good boy, do my homework and try to complete my effort. It has gone down well at my two writers' clubs so here it is.

                       Flash Harry
Oh, Harry, you've been such a daft Silly Billy,
Showing the world your bare bottom and willy.
Didn't you realise there'd be such a drama?
Now everyone's phone has a digital camera.

Why spend all your spare time with airheads and fools?
Getting drunk and displaying the Royal Crown Jewels.
You're an officer and gentleman in your granny's army.
You shouldn't be acting all wacky and barmy.

You should follow the lead of Prince William and Kate.
They know how to be dignified and sedate.
Wait! What am I saying? They managed to shock us.
When your sister-in-law showed a neat pair of knockers.

I may need to delete this post if they decide to serve me with an injunction.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Wait For Me

This is an apology.

I've been a little remiss in attending to my blog and commenting on all my friends' posts. For that I'm sorry. If you've been visiting here and wondering why the hell I'm not responding to your undoubtedly wise words and fascinating articles it isn't because I'm not interested. I just seem to be so pressed for time lately.

A while ago I opened a Twitter account. This was in response to advice from writing colleagues who said that it's advantageous to have plenty of internet presence if you're trying to sell your stories and articles. I try to Tweet something on most days, even if it's only a bit of trivia or a terrible joke. But then I also have to trawl through the people I follow and the people who follow me to see if there's anything of interest to reply to or Retweet.

On top of all this there are the magazine stories to send out, the competitions to enter and the longer pieces that I'm trying to complete. As if that isn't bad enough there's the cricket to follow, the cycle tours to keep up with and the rugby season has just started. I've just been called back to college to do a bit of student supervision and soon I'll have a couple of writing competitions to judge.

So if the rest of you could stop writing for a while, the competition organisers could put all their deadlines back a month or two and the TV channels agree to close down until Christmas it would give me chance to catch up with everything and I would be so grateful.

Thank you.

Friday, 17 August 2012

An Epic Final

I think I must have got caught up in all the sporting euphoria. Here's another tale of fighting spirit from my rapidly fading memory. This was from my younger days when I was still interested in football. I think I was studying for my A Levels at the time.

The 1970 Cup Final was between Chelsea and Leeds United. These two teams were about as different in style as you can imagine. It would be like comparing ballerinas to clog-dancers. The florid South Londoners against the gritty Yorkshiremen.

The game took place on a Wembley pitch that had been shredded to pieces by an equestrian event the week before and was in no fit state to host a showpiece final. With no hope of putting on a display of flowing football on such a surface, both sides resorted to basic tactics. This suited the tough Northerners who dominated the game from start to finish. Such domination was epitomised by the battle on the touchline. Dave Webb, the Chelsea right-back, was turned inside out by his counterpart. Given the task of marking the Leeds wizard Eddie Gray, Webb was completely baffled by the winger's dazzling footwork. So mesmerised was he that I remember one critic claiming that he had spent more time stumbling backwards and sitting on his rear-end than on his feet. Despite their overwhelming superiority and twice going in front, Leeds were hauled back by two Chelsea equalisers and taken to extra time. With no further goals the game was scheduled to go to a replay at Old Trafford nearly three weeks later.

Chelsea must have been punch-drunk from that first encounter. It would have been equivalent to me going twelve rounds with Muhammed Ali and then being asked to do the same thing a few days later. Yet this game was a more bruising battle than the first. Some would call it brutal. Chelsea played better but once again were put under pressure by the Leeds terriers. In the first half Leeds went ahead after Bonetti, the Chelsea goalie, had been half crippled by a typical Leeds challenge. The Londoners looked dead and buried.

Then, ten minutes from the end, an equaliser was conjured out of nowhere by the Chelsea striker Peter Osgood, whose diving header flew out of the reach of Leeds keeper Gary Sprake. Once more scores were level after ninety minutes.

Almost at the end of the first period of extra time a long Chelsea throw-in reached the Leeds penalty area and skimmed off the top of Leeds centre-half Jackie Charlton's head.

And who was it that leapt above the Leeds defence to knock in the winning goal? Forgetting his previous humiliation and with less mud on his backside than in that first game it was Dave Webb who got his head to the ball and sent it rocketing into the Leeds net. This was the first time Chelsea had been in front in three and a half hours of play. They held on until the full-time whistle to celebrate a tremendous and unlikely victory.

The ethos of never giving up until the bitter end proved a winning strategy. This must have been one of the last football matches I ever watched. After that they all seemed a bit dull.

Sometimes I feel like Dave Webb. Floundering around in a literary quagmire while editors and agents humiliate me with their rejection letters. But I'll rise above them all and score a fabulous goal before the final whistle.

Blimey! I've gone all metaphorical.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

A True Golden Girl

While newspaper headlines are still shouting Gold Rush! and the BBC continues to play Spandau Ballet's Gold I thought I would mention one of my sporting heroes.

Lillian Board (1948 – 1970) was a British middle-distance runner and a sporting icon when I was a young man. She won an Olympic silver medal and held several track world records. She was also one of my early inspirational role models.

In the 1968 Mexico Olympics she was narrowly beaten into second place in the final of the 400m by Colette Besson of France.

At the 1969 European Championships, having won gold in the 800m, Lillian ran the anchor leg for the British 400m relay team. Once more she was pitted against Besson and found herself well behind the French girl coming out of the final bend. Nevertheless she didn't give up and crossed the line a whisker ahead of her rival. I have watched the closing stages of that race over and over again on YouTube  and every time I see the two girls coming into the final straight I still think there's no way that Lillian can win. If you have time take a look for yourself.

Sadly, just over a year later, Lillian succumbed to a virulent form of cancer and died on Boxing Day 1970, just two weeks after her twenty second birthday.

Every time my goals seem unreachable and I need motivating I think of that black and white footage. I remember watching it over forty years ago and can recall the feeling of amazement as the gap between the two runners closed in dramatic fashion.

Thank you, Lillian.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Winning And Losing

If you had tuned in to any of the news channels this past fortnight you could be forgiven for thinking that the Syrians had stopped shooting at each other, the recession was over and the ice caps had stopped melting. I must admit, it's nice to hear mostly good news for a change.

I'm sure that most people couldn't fail to be moved by the efforts of all the Olympic competitors, whether they are winners or also-rans, British or foreign. A lot has been written in the press and talked about on TV about how the games will inspire the youth of this country. Inspire them to do what, they don't make clear. But I suppose they mean, first and foremost, to take up sport. Secondly I imagine they expect people to be inspired in their everyday lives. Nice sentiments but easier said than done.

It's good to see our British athletes doing well in so many events. A lot of the time they make it seem so easy. Which, in my opinion, could be the problem. Before they can reach Olympic standards these people have to work hard for years. Going to the swimming pool for a couple of hours before school, getting out on the bike on a freezing Sunday morning, going on a ten mile run after work etc. How many aspiring young athletes will lose interest after attending a few sessions at their local track? Especially if the weather is bad.

David Brailsford, Performance Director of British Cycling and General Manager of Tour de France winners Team Sky, gave an interview on BBC this morning where he emphasised the importance of commitment. He also claimed that, in the course of attaining your goals, you will lose more than you win. Which just confirms what I've always thought. You learn more from losing than from winning.

So it is in writing. Which is why I don't throw away my rejection letters. They are there to remind me how much hard work I've put in when that acceptance e-mail suddenly appears in my Inbox. When I hear of some new author that has their very first manuscript accepted by a publisher, I imagine all the other would-be novelists thinking they can emulate this feat, only to give up after one knock-back. Which brings us to Dave's point about commitment. Talent is no good without it.

Happy writing, everybody. Keep at it.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Teamwork

I thought my apathy towards the current sporting extravaganza might have melted away now that it has actually started. I imagined that, once the showbiz bit was over and the games got under way, I would be glued to the screen. But no. I'd still rather watch repeats of Morse and Upstairs Downstairs. After the Tour de France, the test series and the rugby tours I must be all sported out.

It has got me thinking about teamwork though.

By the way, when did our boys and girls suddenly become 'Team GB'? Shouldn't Northern Ireland get a mention somewhere?

Anyway, whatever it's called, it's nice to belong to a team isn't it? I've always thought of myself as a team person. I emphasise this in any interviews I attend – “I'm a team player, I'll do anything anything for the team”. I have no inflated ego and I've always loved any activity that involves working together with other people. You don't always have to be shoulder-to-shoulder with your team-mates. I've taken part in a few sports that would appear to be individual disciplines but, nevertheless, I've often been a member of a club – and therefore a team.

And my greatest sporting moment? It's strange, but it's not the obvious ones that spring to mind. I was pleased to finish a marathon in a little over three-and-a-half hours, I finished several Olympic-distance triathlons and I received £45 prize money for 4th place in my age group at the Jersey Powerman. But there's one small incident that I recall most often. I loved playing rugby at grammar school but I wasn't good enough to be a regular in the school team. I did, however, make the house team and there was one occasion in a match where a ruck had formed and I was right in the middle of it. I managed to force my way through and hack the ball downfield. I chased after it followed by my team-mates but it ran into touch just short of the try-line. I turned to see my captain following up and apologised to him for not creating a scoring opportunity.

“Don't worry,” he said. “That was just what we needed.”

You have no idea what those words meant to me. I hadn't scored a brilliant try nor had I won a medal but I had made a significant contribution to the team and my efforts had been acknowledged. And that's all I want from writing really. Not necessarily to be famous or win national awards (although some money would be nice). But just for my scribble to be appreciated.

Monday, 16 July 2012

We Have The Technology

When I graduated with a degree in Electronic Engineering forty years ago the world seemed an exciting place and we scientists were going to improve life for the general population beyond their wildest dreams.

At the time I started at The Lucas Research Centre we were starting to put sophisticated electronics under car bonnets and at the side of roads. We were developing engine management systems that would make cars more efficient and less polluting. We were making vehicles safer with better braking systems, reliable lighting and ergonomic controls. We designed and manufactured street lights that came on automatically when it got dark and we invented ways of getting accurate, up-to-date traffic information to drivers without distracting their attention from the road.

When I moved to Plessey I became involved in communication systems. The laborious telephone dial was replaced by a push-button. Memories were incorporated into phones together with features such as redial and callback. Phones were becoming smaller and more modern looking. And then we got hands-free phones which eventually morphed into the mobile phones that are in use today. Soon I moved into other areas – data communications, digital exchanges and fibre optics.

And what has all this space-age technology produced?

On every street we see zombies walking round tapping away on their infernal devices or with the things glued to theirs ears shouting at the tops of their voices. It seems it is now socially acceptable to discuss your sex life at full volume on public transport. Or, with a few deft thumb strokes, you can inform the whole world that you've “Just sat down in Starbucks with a skinny latte LOL :).”

As if that isn't bad enough we end up sitting on the bus next to some hoodie playing some sort of 'shoot-em-up' game on a tablet no bigger than a postcard with faint sounds of gunfire and explosions emanating from it. And if we want to ask someone to move out of the way or ask if a seat is taken we are in danger of being ignored because of those invisible earpieces playing tinny music rendering them deaf to the outside world.

No one can follow written instructions or read a map anymore because of these marvellous satellites that guide us up dead ends and down river banks.

What happened to my Utopia? I'm living in a nightmare which I helped to create. Where the hell did we go wrong?

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Flash Fiction

Last night we had a mini-workshop on flash fiction at Nottingham Writers' Club.

This was run by Sally Quilford who is a columnist for Writers' Forum and writes pocket novel romance. Sally gave away plenty of handouts to save us having to make notes. She also kept us busy with little exercises to test our skills. We learned about the requirements for flash fiction, a little bit of history and how to edit. Everyone who attended went home having spent a very profitable evening.

Sally runs several different workshops through the year, details of which can be found on her site.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Exam Time

Another summer, another exam season nearly over. After several years of doing this we think we've seen everything, but there's always something new for us invigilators to talk about in the staffroom. This year I've had to remove a spider from the exam room because a girl was too terrified to carry on with it sitting several feet away on the floor. It took me a while to scoop up the little blighter but eventually I managed to escort it outside. Another invigilator had to keep waking up a student in the middle of his exam. (Don't judge him too harshly – he hadn't been very well). She would have left him alone but his snoring was disturbing the other candidates. Unfortunately, when he woke up he found he'd dribbled over his answer sheet.

Looking forward to results day and the autumn resits.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Busy Summer

 It's turning out to be a busy summer one way or another. We've had a lot of flag waving recently. Right now some lads are kicking their balls around for the next couple of weeks. Our boys in white have been bowling their maidens over and trying to pull off a googly or two. Soon there'll be those chaps and lasses running round in circles, jumping in sandpits and throwing bits of junk around.

















Personally I'm more interested in those magnificent men on their cycling machines. The French countryside, the wine the mademoiselles. Three weeks of pelotons, bidons and bonking. (All legitimate cycling terms, I assure you). They'll be sprinting on the flats and climbing the mountains while trying to avoid the gendarmes, the road furniture and the spectators. One year I might find time to cross the channel and see it for real. Until then I'll just shave my legs, slip on my Lycra and dream.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Older But Not Wiser

Keith

(b. 28th May 1952)

Is now officially an old man

Many thanks to all my followers who have given me so much support over the last two years


Saturday, 19 May 2012

A Funny Old Game

Last Wednesday was Manuscript Meeting night at Nottingham Writers' Club. This is where people can read out a short piece and get feedback from the other members who have a wide variety of knowledge and experience. Two efforts stood out for me.

One fellow read out his entry which had come second in one of last year's club competitions - a short story suitable for radio. This was a tale about a gambler who starts out winning at the casino and has beautiful girls hanging on each arm but then ends up having to sell his furniture and lock himself in his flat to escape his creditors. The description of the atmosphere at the gaming house and the final tension when the debt collector is hammering on his door was excellent and I couldn't find much fault with his effort. The reason that I'm telling you this is that my own entry actually won this competition. I think my friend may have been a little unlucky and, on another day, the placings could quite easily have been reversed.

The other piece that excelled was read by a newcomer who has written a series of short stories all set in the same fictional seaside town. As I listened to him narrate one of these tales I could imagine this one also being being read out on the radio. It was a sinister story with bizarre characters and snappy dialogue. The whole room was blown away by this brilliant work of fiction but were surprised to learn that he has no intention of being published. All we could do was persuade, advise and beg him not to let it go unheard but he seemed unmoved and quite happy just to write for his own (and our) pleasure.

So how do I feel after listening to one story that I thought deserved a better fate than runner-up to my own and another from a chap that seemed so cavalier about his undoubted talent? Bemused. Humble. A bit insecure. Just goes to show what a funny old business this writing lark is.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Mature Times

I thought I'd try my hand at writing an article.

So I wrote a piece about a little-known actor and sent it off to a newspaper in Canada. Having received no reply after a few weeks I sent it to Mature Times, the magazine for the over fifties which you can find in most libraries. They hadn't room for it in the paper but they have put it on their website at www.maturetimes.co.uk/leisure-and-lifestyle.html. It is dated Thursday 12 April 2012.

Those of you who are (ahem) old enough may remember the guy. He was a star of the first TV programme that I can remember and I still have the hardback annual from 1958.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

My Taxes, My Rules

The unseasonally warm weather last week meant that most of the students spent their spare time outside. (I suspect that many of them should have been in lessons but that's another matter). This left the main building feeling like the Mary Celeste with empty corridors and a deserted student lounge. My fellow supervisors thought this was great but I wasn't so sure. I'd rather have them all cooped up inside where I can keep my eye on them.

The alfresco lifestyle brings its own problems. I've had to confiscate footballs and skateboards as well as warning some of them about water pistols and frisbees. There are ample playing fields at the back of the college but the picnic areas seem to be the preferred spaces for larking about. You would think it was a primary school instead of a sixth form college.

There must be something in a teenager's head that makes them query every reasonable request to behave responsibly. Maybe their brains are wired in such a way as to cause them to question everything. Perhaps it's evolution's way of ensuring that the human race progresses and never becomes satisfied with the status quo. Being a firm fan of creativity, I can't really complain too much about their inquisitive nature. I believe, however, that it's important to channel their curiosity into something that is productive rather than rebellious. I'm not a teacher or a student counsellor so I try, in my own small way, to use my experience of the outside world to apprise them of the expected code of conduct. After all, it's our taxes that are paying for their time here.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Caught In The Act

Because of the way the college building has been designed I can look over the balcony from the top floor and see what's going on three floors below. This is very useful when trying to keep an eye on things. I do have to avoid jumping to conclusions though.

A few days ago I was at the Arts Department end of the college. On the ground floor is a theatre and sometimes rehearsals spill out into the corridor outside. I looked down from the fourth floor to see a young lad lying on his back with a girl sitting astride him. Now salacious displays like this have been going on under the stairwells and we've had to put a stop to it but I quickly realised that this was all part of some drama. After a while the lad spotted me staring down at him, threw me a lewd smirk and gave me the thumbs up. He seemed well pleased with his choice of curriculum.

A few days later, from the same vantage point, I spotted some students arranging a few tables together. One of the girls then lay down on top of a large plastic sheet and allowed her colleagues to roll her up inside it and place her precariously across the tables. Curious, I continued watching while a couple of lads read from their scripts. It appears that the girl was meant to interrupt their dialogue by throwing the sheet aside and exclaiming something. Unfortunately, the first thing she saw on bursting out of her cocoon was me, whereupon she forgot her lines and said, “Ooh! There's a man looking at me!”
And there was me thinking that the whole point of being an actor is that you want people to watch you.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

A Satisfactory Outcome

A couple I often see around college are quite distinctive in their manner and appearance. I often see them around the recesses and stairwells doing things to each other that really shouldn't be seen in public.

The other day I had to go outside and remind them that smoking is not allowed at the picnic tables and that they should remove themselves to the smokers' area at the corner of the main building just a few yards away. This they did without fuss and I considered that to be the end of the matter.

Less than ten minutes later I spotted them, still smoking, at the same table so I went outside and asked them which part of my original request they hadn't understood. As they had so openly defied me I also asked for their names. The lad mumbled his and I managed to catch it on the second attempt. The girl was more reticent and kept asking me why I wanted this information. My intention was to check the database to see if they had a record of ill discipline but I didn't feel inclined to explain this until she had surrendered the information. A condition of attending the college is that all students respect the staff. Eventually she told me and I went back inside.

About ten minutes later I was in the refectory recalling the incident to my own supervisor when the couple approached us. They wanted to apologise and wondered if I was taking the matter further.

Result!

I told them I had no intention of reporting it any higher and explained that my annoyance was due to their ignoring my original request. My supervisor also explained to them that the college is required in law to have a designated smokers' area and if any student is found in breach of the rules a letter and a fifty pound fine can be sent to their parents. At this they appeared horrified and explained that they had become engaged in a conversation with some other students and had drifted back to the picnic area without realising. A lame excuse I thought but I let it go. I haven't had any more trouble with the pair since.

Monday, 2 April 2012

There May Yet Be Hope

I was in the student lounge on the top floor when I spotted a lad who I've had confrontations with in the past. I was certain he should be a lesson at that time so I checked on the database and found that to be the case. I decided not to challenge him until I was sure. Sometimes we get fobbed off with 'I'm feeling ill', 'I don't have to be there', 'I'm doing coursework' etc.

I went down to the ground floor and checked with the teacher.
“Yes he should be here,” she said. “And I'm pretty angry with him.”
“Would you like me to drag his sorry carcass down here?” I asked.
“Yes and tell him from me he's in for a damn good bollocking.” (Her exact words.)
I vowed to do my best, bearing in mind that this particular chap is quite a large individual, has been quite surly with me and the other supervisors and sometimes looks like he might get violent.

I found him still in the lounge sitting with his mates. I was quite prepared for him to refuse to cooperate, in which case I would have to point out he would be making things worse for himself. It also crossed my mind he might punch me.
“Mr ***, you need to come with me.”
“What's this about?”
“I'll explain on the way.”

To my surprise he followed like a lamb. As soon as we were outside the lounge I informed him.
“Your English teacher sends her regards and is very much looking forward to seeing you.”
At this point he cottoned on and began making his excuses. Apparently they were having a test. He hadn't done the work, was bound to fail and just decided not to turn up.
Then I told him the truth. “Actually, I think she's going to roast your ass.”
I suggested that it would have been better to have seen his teacher and come clean. He admitted that might have been the wiser option.

This was amazing. This was the first proper conversation I'd had with this guy and he seemed quite chatty so I decided to try and connect with him.
“So how is the photography going?” (I know this was on his timetable.)
“I've dropped it. They told me I was no good at it.”
“That's a shame.”
“Well, I didn't do any work for that either and I missed a couple of photo shoots.”
“So what are you concentrating on if not photography and not English either, going by today's evidence?”
“Nothing. I'm leaving at the end of the year. I'm going to be a barber.”
I didn't see that coming. I told him I would be sorry not to have the pleasure of his company next year. I meant that sincerely. I'm sure he could do well at college if he applied himself but maybe he'll make a success in his chosen career. He might even change his mind and stay on – just to confound me. I wished him luck and left him to face his teacher.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Still Loving It

I'm still loving my job at the college and it's giving me an insight into the surprising ways people behave. You expect them to do one thing and they do another. As a writer this is fascinating.

Having spent most of my working life in industry this is a completely new environment for me and I'm having to try and find my own way of coping with the challenges it brings. I've found myself applying the rules and boundaries that I learned while I was a rugby coach and referee. If I ask people to do something (or, more often than not, stop doing something) I expect them to obey more or less straight away. I don't mind them querying my motives but I expect their body language to indicate that they intend to comply with my request. If they just stand their ground and argue the toss this makes me less inclined to be tolerant.

As it is now the Easter holidays I thought I'd share some of the incidents with you over the next few days to give you an idea of what we have to cope with.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Two Successes (But Not Mine)

Today I'm happy to blog about the achievements of others.

Nottingham Writers' Verse Of The Year competition went well on Wednesday night. We had sixteen entries on the theme The Darkness Behind The Door. The winner was our Poetry Secretary, Viv Apple, who (surprisingly) has never won it before. We hand in our entries anonymously to be recited by a team of readers and then have a secret vote. It was gratifying for me to be amongst the majority that voted for the winner. Viv has had stories and articles published over the years but these days concentrates on poetry where her success has continued. You can hear Viv recite her poem here.

I think most people who visit this blog are grateful for the wonderful links that Patsy Collins posts for both poetry and prose competitions. They will also be aware that her d├ębut novel Escape To The Country has just been launched and she has been very busy guesting on other blogs. If you haven't visited Patsy's blog please take a look. You won't be disappointed.

Friday, 16 March 2012

My Number Is Up

At last my story Waiting For The Number Eighteen has appeared in this week's People's Friend – March 17th edition. I thought I must have missed it as it was accepted before Christmas and I was paid ages ago. First thing I did was ring my mum. The central character is named after her and the picture they've used even looks a bit like her.

Apart from that things have dried up a bit but I'm persevering. I did win Nottingham Writers' autumn prose competition with Rachael's Party and on Wednesday it's our Verse Of The Year competition which I won last year so I'll be trying to defend my title. I'll keep you informed of the result.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Cause And Effect

Hooray! I have my Followers back.
For months I haven't been able to see the Follower icons on my blog page. Then last week my browser decided to update itself and they reappeared. I've now been able to become a Follower of some of you who befriended me since they vanished. It feels like a reunion.

A number of incidents at college has brought the theme of 'consequences' into my mind. This can make a good plot-line if done cleverly but I'm not sure if I have the skill to do it. This is the series of events which made me think of it:

Students have been congregating under the stairwells at each end of the building. They are not supposed to because they are fire exits but we have been turning a blind eye to it. Recently the areas have been left strewn with litter, graffiti has appeared on the walls and damage has been done so we have now put them out of bounds. Thus the consequences of a minority have now spoilt it for others. I had to explain this to a group the other day and ask them to move. One of them gave me some lip and kicked his basketball against the wall in temper. I confiscated the ball and took his name. When I checked the student database I discovered he should have been in a lesson so this has now been reported. The consequences of his tantrum has resulted in inconvenience for himself and a reprimand from his teacher. In addition I now know his name and will be keeping a check on him.

Now the theme is in my head I can't get rid of it and I know it will drive me mad until I can come up with something. I suppose that's a consequence of my over-active mind.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Those Pesky Kids Again

The college rang me up last week asking me to return to my job as general supervisor until the exams start in May. Since the January exams finished things have got a bit boisterous again and they think it's better to have three of us during the middle part of the day instead of the usual two. Nothing serious has gone on, just horseplay and high spirits. I was delighted to return and relished the challenge. I haven't been able to use any of my experiences in my writing yet but I'm collecting the little incidents and hoping that one day something will come together.

The other day I was walking along the corridor towards the theatre when I saw a youth coming towards me wearing grey trousers and matching jacket. As our paths crossed I did a double take when I noticed his swastika armband. I suddenly remembered there were drama exams going on and soon saw lots of others in costume. For a split second there though, I thought that the extracurricular activities had gone too far.

Back in December the Art Department installed a Wish Tree in the reception area. This is a piece of artwork on the wall with a number of lengths of twine stretched down it from top to bottom. Staff and students are encouraged to write a wish on one of the tags provided and tie them onto the twine. Some have expressed personal desires for family health and wealth and to pass their exams while others have sent out wider prayers for global peace and the end of world poverty. Here are two that made me chuckle:

“I wish I was a size 12.”

“I wish my mum would let my dad out of the cellar.”

On a different subject – have you heard about the uproar concerning the Woman's Own writing competition? It's all explained in Helen Yendall's blog. However, many competitions do treat the writers with respect and I'd like to mention one here. A few months ago estate agents Peter Barry launched a short story competition on the theme Moving Home. This was judged by writer Anne Aylor and the results were promised for January. As often happens, many more submissions were received than had been expected. However, instead of making us wait longer, the shortlist of twelve was revealed bit by bit as the entries were sifted through so that we were given something to look forward to each day. I didn't make the list but I enjoyed reading the winners and still have a story that I might be able to recycle. It was nice to feel that an effort was being made to keep us informed on the progress of the judging.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Back To Normal

The end of January already and I've just completed my last bit of exam duty at college until the summer. I also had the chance to resume the supervisory work I was doing before Christmas because one of the two permanent team members fell ill for a week. A third opportunity has arisen with the need for cover staff for the college library. I passed the interview and will shortly be undergoing training. With three jobs at the same place I feel a bit greedy. But it will still only amount to a few hours here and there.

Both my writers' clubs have resumed their meetings. The invited speakers, workshops and competitions for the year ahead are being finalised. Even Blogger seems back to normal after sorting out its recent problems. I can now start leaving comments again.

Payment for my accepted story at The People's Friend has appeared on my bank statement but I still haven't seen it in print yet. Can't be long now surely?

Also had a call from Marion Clarke at Yours magazine to say they have accepted my last submission.

I have had five stories accepted by five different magazines now, plus a newspaper and an anthology. I feel gratified that so many editors think I can write a bit. They can't all be wrong, can they? The worrying thing is that no-one has come back for a second one yet. It's amazing how a tiny bit of success can still leave you paranoid isn't it?