Monday, 30 July 2012


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.