Tag Archives: London

Write Here, Write Now: NaNoWriMo – Challenge Me.

For the third year in a row, I am going to take part in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). For those of you unfamiliar with this annual contest, the challenge is deceptively simple: you have the 30 days of November in which to write a novel of no less than 50,000 words. Sounds easy, right?

Wrong. My first attempt ended in failure. I shut up shop after ten days, much to my dismay. Last year was better, though; I completed the challenge with days to spare. The story itself was a bit iffy but it served as a template of sorts to my ongoing work in progress.

This year I want my friends and readers to challenge me. Last weekend I went to see the musical Wicked in London’s Apollo Victoria Theatre. As you may know, it’s based on a novel written by Gregory Maguire, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. Basically it’s a retelling of the story of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, but paints Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the title) as a misunderstood character and one that readers ended up rooting for, or at the very least sympathising with.

The musical is stunning and seeing it is definitely a high point of my year so far. (I saw Les Miserables, too, but that’s a subject for another day.) But what really got me thinking was the sheer audacity of the author. Maguire took a well-loved classic and twisted it into something else, something distinctive, something with its own identity.

My challenge to you is to pick a classic for me. Find a book that is as popular as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, then challenge me to do a Wicked on it. As long as it’s not as massive as War and Peace or as obscure as Ulysses, then I’ll consider it. Allow me at least a week to read it, if I haven’t done so already, then let me at it.

Am I being foolhardy? Am I setting myself up for a fall? Or do I have no original ideas of my own? The answers are possibly, very possibly, and yes, I do. But I fancy this.

Please give me your ideas, please. I would love to hear your feedback.

100 Words, 100 Days: Day 83. On Neighbours.

Mozart lived here when he was younger.

While I was in London this weekend, I stayed in The Belgravia Hotel (more like a guest house, but there you go) on Ebury Street, about ten minutes walk from Buckingham Palace. I took a bus tour of the city and it actually passed through Belgravia. I learned I was in august company. Mozart lived across the road from the hotel (he composed his first piece at the age of eight in London); Ian Fleming, Roger Moore and Sean Connery lived nearby too. JK Rowling and Margaret Thatcher are current residents.

Geniuses all, with the exception of The Iron Lady.

 

 

 

100 Words, 100 Days: Day 71. On Nice.

Wish You Were Here?

One of my least favourite sayings currently doing the rounds, especially in the bar trade, is “It’s nice to be nice.” Really…is it? Sometimes it’s nicer not to be nice. Sometimes you can get a hell of a lot of satisfaction just by being rude to people who deserve it. Of course, you can turn the other cheek – but why leave yourself open to another assault. It doesn’t make sense.

There is another nice – Nice, in the South of France. If you’re looking for me in the coming week, that’s where you’ll find me, lying on a beach, having fun.

 

 

100 Words, 100 Days: Day 70. On Musicals.

As part of my annual holiday, I’m taking a trip to London next weekend. It’s a beautiful city and one I’ve not seen since the late 80s (when I was too drunk to appreciate it). I was thinking of taking in a show.

I’ve only been to two musicals in my life: Jesus Christ Superstar and Jekyll and Hyde. But I’ve a number of soundtracks in my collection, most notably Wicked and Les Miserables.

Very few events can stir emotion better than a well-staged musical and I look forward to checking at least one out while I’m away. But which one?

 

Preparations.

I’m off on holidays this week. A friend and I are heading to Nice in the south of France for seven days. When I return, I am then taking a weekend break in London by myself. I’m looking forward to both trips immensely. But as everyone knows, when it comes to taking time off certain preparations must be made.

1. Cleaning: vacuum each room (hello carpet, long time no see), dust shelves, degrease counter top and cooker, clean out toilet and shower area. Replace old towels with new ones. Febreze the shit out of fabrics.

2. Organise: throw old newspapers and magazines away, sort out post, place bills in drawer (or burn them, whichever works), tell neighbour what day the bins go out (seeing that it’s you that always puts them out), make sure they know that the bins don’t come back in by themselves, renew library books online (for the sixth time) to save you bringing them back.

3. Bedroom: change bed linen (nothing worse than coming back from a holiday only to sleep in the same sheets you’ve slept in all year*), tidy floor, remove and hide pornographic material**, put books back in bookcase, check drawer for condoms and replace if out of date ***, check for batteries (why, I don’t know).

4. TV and DVR: from recent magazines, find out which of your favourite programmes are on what days and at what times, then set your DVR to record them while you’re away. Set aside three hours for this because you will check, double-check, then triple-check everything. Series Record on Sky is a must in these instances. Whatever else happens, don’t miss the series finale of Doctor Who.

5. Repeat Step 4.

6. Tell landlord that you’ll see him when you get back – but don’t tell him when you’ll be back. Make mental note to bring him back a stick of rock. This will act as a sweetener when you don’t have his rent.

7. Repeat Step 4.

8. Passport: check that all official documents are valid for time of travel. (Phew!) Cringe at photograph taken eight years ago. (Note: update travel insurance if you feel the need to. If not, you only have yourself to blame if a shark bites off your leg.)

9. Security: ask your neighbour to keep an eye on the place while you’re away. Say you’ll bring him back a carton of smokes for his troubles. Make a mental note to conveniently forget while in Duty Free.

10. Money: make sure you have some, otherwise it’s bread and water for a week.

11. Reading material: bring a couple of books for the beach/pool/balcony/police cell. I recommend a few thrillers to pass the time, but if you want to chat up the local talent, something intellectual will act as a conversation starter. And no, pornographic material doesn’t count.

12. Repeat Step 4.

I will update my blog as and when I can. Stay safe and keep warm.

 

* only joking

** really, I’m only joking.

*** they always are 😦

100 Words, 100 Days: Day 61. On History.

I mentioned to a customer the other night that I was taking a weekend trip to London in a couple of weeks. He liked England, he said, it is steeped in history. Ireland, on the other hand, has no real history to speak of.

I disagreed. Ireland has a fascinating history because of its ties with England. For better or worse, our relationship with our closest neighbour is an essential part of our history.

Can you imagine someone writing an autobiography that didn’t include any relationships or active engagement with another living soul? It would be boring and isolationist. People need people.

 

100 Words, 100 Days: Day 23. On Space Tourism.

What with the global economy looking like its going the way of the dodo (via a Life Extinction Event – Deep Impact, how are you?); with riots breaking out in nearly every major city in the United Kingdom; and with a 77-year-old semi-retired television presenter well on his way to becoming President of the Republic of Ireland, one thought comes to mind: Neptune is supposed to be nice at this time of year.

I don’t know about you, but the next space ship that passes my way, I’m on it. I just hope I don’t bump into some damn dirty apes.

100 Words, 100 Days: Day 21. On Righteous Indignation.

I’m not much of a Biblical scholar, and the concept of hermeneutics passed me by on its way to deeper intellects; but I know a paradox when I hear one. The Bible on one hand suggests taking an eye for an eye, while on the other it proposes turning the other cheek.

Watching footage of the horrendous goings-on in London and elsewhere in Great Britain, the only image that comes to mind is that of the late great Kenny Everett. His character, General Cheeseburger, had a distinctive way of ending his rants.

Let’s round them all up, put them in a field, and then bomb the bastards.

Amen.

On This Day…28 September

Tuesday, 27 September 2010

Welcome to today’s installment of On This Day, your daily trawl down memory lane. Some of us will not remember a lot of what happened in years gone by. Some of us will hardly remember what happened yesterday. They have pills for that, you know. Take two and call me in the morning – if you remember.

Where shall we start? Oh yes – how about on this day in…

351 – Battle of Mursa Major: the Roman Emperor Constantius II defeats the usurper Magnentius. Didn’t Sir Ian McKellen play him in the X-Men movies?

1066 – William the Conqueror invades England: the Norman Conquest begins. Good for William; bad for Norman.

1322 – Louis IV, Holy Roman Emperor defeats Frederick I of Austria in the Battle of Mühldorf. Bloody hell – those Romans keep themselves busy, what with all this usurping, bribing and what-not.

1787 – The newly completed United States Constitution is voted on by the U.S. Congress to be sent to the state legislatures for approval.

1791 – France becomes the first European country to emancipate its Jewish population.

Image: nationmaster.com

1844 – Oscar I of Sweden-Norway is crowned king of Sweden. He stopped being a grouch.

1867 – The United States takes control of Midway Island.

1928 – The U.K. Parliament passes the Dangerous Drugs Act outlawing cannabis. Duuuuuuude!!

1961 – A military coup in Damascus effectively ends the United Arab Republic, the union between Egypt and Syria.

1971 – The Parliament of the United Kingdom passes the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 banning the medicinal use of cannabis. Duuuuuuuuude!!

1975 – The Spaghetti House siege, in which nine people are taken hostage, takes place in London. I thought they were “pasta” all that.

2008 – SpaceX launches the first ever private spacecraft, the Falcon 1 into orbit.

Happy birthday to:

Brigitte Bardot, French sex symbol of the Sixties, is 76.

Birthday girl Hilary Duff (Image: reviews.in.88db.com)

Ben E. King, American r&b singer, is 72.

Helen Shapiro, English singer, is 64.

Jim Diamond, formerly with the band PHD and singer of I Should Have Known Better, is 57.

Janeane Garofalo, American actress and comedian (and a personal favourite of mine) is 46. Hey, Janeane, you and I should hook up sometime, you know. Call me…please.

Hilary Duff, American actress and singer, is 23. Too young for me, unfortunately.

On this day in 2003, the world of film lost a controversial figure in the shape of Elia Kazan. His testimony as a “friendly witness” before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1952, which cost him the respect of many liberal friends and colleagues. He was a three-time Oscar-winner.

On This Day…19 September

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Today is the biggest day of the Irish sporting calender: All-Ireland Senior Football Final day in Croke Park. The Rebels of Cork take on the Mourne Men of Down in what should be a cracker of a match at GAA headquarters. Grannies will be sold for a ticket!

My head says Cork will win; my heart says Down will shade it. We’ll see who’s right tomorrow. I shall report then.

But for now, on this day in…

1870 – Having invaded the Papal States a week earlier, the Italian Army lays siege to Rome, entering the city the next day, after which the Pope described himself as a Prisoner in the Vatican. He only recently escaped and was last seen in Birmingham.

Image c/o knowledgerush.com

1881 – President James A. Garfield dies of wounds suffered in a July 2 shooting. He hung around for while, didn’t he?

1900 – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid commit their first robbery together, while raindrops kept falling on their heads.

1945 – Lord Haw Haw (William Joyce) is sentenced to death in London. I bet he wasn’t laughing then.

1970 – The first Glastonbury Festival is held at Michael Eavis’s farm in Glastonbury, United Kingdom.

1985 – Tipper Gore and other political wives form the Parents Music Resource Center as Frank Zappa and other musicians testify at U.S. Congressional hearings on obscenity in rock music.

Happy birthday to:

Oscar-winner and Irish resident, Jeremy Irons (image: smh.com.au)

1933 – David McCallum, Scottish actor and star of The Man from UNCLE, Sapphire and Steel, and N.C.I.S., 77.

1948 – Jeremy Irons, English actor and Oscar-winner for Reversal of Fortune, 62.

1963 – Jarvis Cocker, English musician and singer with British band Pulp, 47.