Apr 24th

That telly thing

By Skylark

There's a telly thing I've not been allowed to talk about and now I can talk about it a little bit. If you're interested in finding out what I've been up to in the last year, turn on ITV next Tuesday, 8pm. That's all I can say for now!

Apr 20th

Victorian Gothic

By mike

      A billboard at a London railway terminus advertises a work of contemporary fiction with the words ‘All the sinister thrills of Victorian Gothic‘  Over the past week I have been reading one of the sources of this Gothic:  ‘The face in the Glass and other Gothic Tales’ by Mary Elizabeth Braddon’

    I picked this off the shelves of my local library.   It is a selection of her stories published by the British Library; the selection is made by a curator.  Until relatively recently these stories were not available. They were originally published in Victorian periodicals and access was limited to universities and the library itself.

    I checked on google and the book is still available. Perhaps it is on the shelves of your local library?    There were three comments on Amazon, the third being ‘boring and dated’  This may be the contemporary verdict.  It is not my opinion and I enjoyed reading all the stories.  I have read other of her novels.  She is best remembered for ‘Lady Audley’s Secret.’ but I recall ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ which is Madame Bovary transported to the English countryside,

    I notice the BBC are producing yet another version of ‘Wilkie Collins’s ‘A Woman in White’  I saw a musical of this earlier in the year.  The composer is Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber. On the day I saw it, the very small theatre was half full/half empty.’ I enjoyed the production which made the most of the ‘sensational’ novel.

   I have no critical abilities and thought the stories well written. I am, however, used to reading Victorian popular fiction.     Some of you write ghost stories and the book might be of interest to you.  Perhaps the book is on your library shelves?  The price on Amazon is £8.99  which seems a bit steep,  Somebody posted ‘would  read a story that is badly written?”  Or one that is ‘boring and dated?”   I certainly can.   Her spirited heroines ride carriages with Cee springs and, if you know South London, one heroine on hard times lives off the Walworth Road and, for recreation, walks to Dulwich picture gallery. 

    From previous researches, I understood that there had been an attempt to give Mary Elizabeth greater recognition.  It is a pity the BBC had not dramatised ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ rather than ‘The Woman in White’ as her novels had been as popular as Collins had been.

    Braddon had been an actress and a few of the stories reflect the Victorian theatre . One is a rather horrifying variation on ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray.’

 

 

Apr 20th

Hindsight

By Dolly

The only time I seem to talk simple, straight forward, unambiguous sense, is in hindsight. I'm looking at a teabag in an empty cup waiting for the water. A thought walks slowly and deliberately to the front of my mind and says: 'I really shouldn't have said that, or not said it, or done or not done it.' I say this because my mind is in hindsight and that's the only thought I have. I suppose, in some sense, its an original thought, as there aren't any other thoughts there, which would mean it wouldn't be an original thought, because millions of people must have thought the same thing at one time or other. Unfortunately, this situation doesn't last long, as other thoughts amble up, gather round the original thought, and mutter among themselves. This creates a slight hum, which slowly increases in speed and sound until a babble ensues. This in turn, also gathers in speed and sound, signalling the end of any sort of common sense.

Apr 18th

What's in a name?

By Tony

I met a guy last Sunday who had been working in Egypt for the Petrescue Bible Institute; he showed me his card and that's what it said. I had to ask.

'What's a Bible Institute got to do with pet rescue?'

Turns out the founder of the Institute is called Petrescue - pronounced pe-TRESS-cue. I never found out whether it meant anything significant in Egyption.

Have any of you guys come across odd names on your travels?

Apr 14th

a few seconds of fame

By mike

  

    Yesterday I had my few minutes of fame.  This was no choice of mine and events occurred at random.   I had attended a play in which the theater had been turned into a TV quiz show.  We, the audience, doubled as the audience of this show.

     That morning, I turned up at the theater and the usher at the kiosk allotted me a seat for the evening’s performance.  It was a random choice of a seat with a restricted view.

      My appearance at the theater on that day was a random choice too. I had intended to go to the opening night, but there had been a gas leak in the road occupied by the theater. It had been closed for that evening. The next day the road was still closed.  My attendance was postponed till yesterday.

      In the evening, I took my seat at the theatre, and found I was in a box to the side of the  stage.   An usher then spoke to me and said that I should leave the seat to my immediate right severely alone.  It was to be used an actor.  

     It transpired that this actor was the wife of the hero of the play who is a contestant in the game show.  He  is later prosecuted for attempting to defraud the show for their million pound prize.

  I have absolutely no idea why his wife should have been in the audience next to me.

    There were two video cameras on the stage and a screen to the rear of the backdrop, unto which images were projected.

    When a video camera was pointed at the wife in the box, I found that my face was also projected onto the screen at the rear of the stage.

    At the conclusion of the play, I left by an exit which had been opened into a side street. On the pavement, one of the audience was being slowly lowered into a wheelchair.  I waited in the doorway to prevent the people behind me pushing us all  into the wheelchair.  

    The gentleman turned to me and said, “Ah!  You were the face on the screen!’” 

     In that second my moment of fame occurred.

     We laughed and I proceeded on my way home.

 

   This sort of dramatic presentation is not new to me.  About thirty years ago, I went to theatrical evening classes and my ideas were met with rather blank incomprehension.  I remember suggesting that Hamlet should be staged around the National Theatre building and not in the theater itself - though one could stage the play within the play in one of the auditoriums.   I  saw a play there a few weeks ago in which two of the actors played a scene by the river in front of the theater.   The actors had left the stage and their images were projected on a screen at the rear of the stage.  This stage  represented a TV news programme.   Why two people going for a walk by the river  - to be on their own - should be accompanied by a video camera, does rather escape me.  The same couple bonked on the stage in a restaurant which was part of the stage set, The director is Dutch which might explain things.   It was all great fun and quite a whiz round the topic of internetology.

  As for  my suggestion of taking the band out of the orchestra pit and putting it on the stage all that time ago!   Well!  Total  disbelief!   It is now difficult to see a play where there is not a band on the stage.  I was thirty years in advance!

 

  The view from the box was restricted, in that the left wing of the stage was not in view and, occasionally, an actor was out of my site line. But I could see and hear everything very clearly.  

   

Apr 11th

Writing a series?

By Squidge

Just embarked on book 2 of 5 in a series; book 1's out with both my current publisher and a UK based one to see what they think.  

Series writing has its own pitfalls and problems, so I've linked to a couple of articles over on the Scribbles, and mused a bit about the new addition to the Doubt Demon family who's appeared, simply because I'm trying to write a series...

Wondered if any cloudies have anything else to add to the list of what to avoid in a series (either through writing or reading), or anything you've done that's helped you write your own series? 

 

 

Apr 10th

Is It Art?

By Barny

Clebs and I moved recently, from Surrey to Devon, with the aim of getting a slightly different lifestyle, and we’ve rented a house close to the centre of a small-but-not-too-small town, chosen specifically so we can easily walk to its facilities. That has worked rather well: it’s rather pleasant, Clebs and I have found, to be able to walk for five minutes to get necessities or to indulge ourselves, without having to drive. The town has enough shops to meet most needs, including an impressive hardware store that sells nails by weight :-)

Last night was my first watercolour class at the local Arts Centre, which is a three minute walk away. Not quite so big as the arts centre I used to go to life drawing classes at in Bracknell - like maybe two rooms and a kettle instead of twenty including a bar and delightful small cinema - but ten miles closer to our home.

I’ve dabbled in watercolour a little before and just like writing what I’ve discovered is that going to a class forces me to do some art that I otherwise would find some excuse not to do.

Picture this: Barny meanders out of the pouring rain (the weather options this year seem to be rain or snow, don’t they?) into the classroom five minutes early and everyone else is already there and obviously knows each other well, and our tutor Richard (a cyclist, which seems very optimistic considering the weather options this year) then points at an arrangement of a vase of daffodils and a red metal coffee pot and optimistically asks/tells us to paint a still life without perspective! And using solid blocks of colour! This was a shock, because for me the challenges of painting have been mainly about getting better at drawing in perspective to be able to then paint a realistic scene in perspective, and using colour mixing, wet-in-wet and other techniques to build form (as they say on the Great British Painting Challenge). This abrupt pulling away of the rug of 3-dimensional representation was a bit like telling an author to write with only words of six letters or less, or using sentences of no more than eight words. That sounds a bit over-dramatic, doesn’t it. Yes it wasn’t that dramatic really, but still it was a surprise to me.

I won’t share the resulting painting with you. It wasn’t so bad, but also not that good, despite Richard’s optimistic encouragement. What I’m really hoping is that by practising I’ll get better, because I do believe strongly that the whitespace ‘unknown unknowns’ territory beyond what we can already do automatically/easily is a place that can only be explored by taking a step into that unknown: sometimes you’ll stub your toe and promise yourself never to put your foot in that particular spot again, but sometimes you’ll step into a whole new world and discover something new and interesting with scope for further discovery.

And that’s the point of this blog: what have you discovered by trying something different that you’ve never tried before, by taking a bit of a risk? And how much has failing contributed to your learning?

 

Apr 10th

Anyone spot any changes?

By Harry

Hi folks

You'll see that the banner at the top of the Cloud has changed, as have the menu options immediately below. So just to say a few things:

1) Do pop over to the new Jericho Writers site and take a look

I think you'll like it! Lots of you won't want or need the things offered under the membership umbrella, but I'd still be interested to know what you think.

2) Making the new Jericho Townhouse free (or very low cost)

That's still a very real possibility. We just can't commit to that until we've actually got some data on site revenues, use and all the rest of it. Don't worry of there's a bit of silence from us on that front for a while - a thriving, affordable community remains a priority for us

3) Do share!

We're about to start tooting about the new look us. If you can help by sharing news of our transformation (on FB / Twitters / websites) we'd really appreciate it.

4) And yes, we know . . .

As we actually complete the migration the WW website will gradually vanish, and the JW basically replace it. While that's happening (and being tested) you may get some weird results for a while. Don't worry. We're on it. I also know that the "Need more help?" column (bottom left) on the Word Cloud is out of date, but the collapsing software won't let me change that, so it is what it is.

***

When we make a final decision on how to maintain a peer-to-peer community on the new platform, y'all will be the very first to know.

Big love and squashy kisses to all

H

Apr 10th

Variety Theatre

By mike

      This is just a note for Secretspi but others might be interested. There is a great interest in popular music but the Victorian era is rather excluded from this.   This concern is Variety Theatre.  Had there been such a divide between classical music and popular music?

    

     On Friday, I attended the first night of a play - or rather the first night of its West End run. I think the play originated in Hampstead. The subject is that of the man who founded Glyndebourne Opera House.  The narrative is a tale of one man’s dream.

       The film Fitzcarraldo is about someone with a similar obsession.  I suspect the author of the play would agree with me.  The Surrey countryside is far removed from the Amazonian jungle but the dream is the same.

     During the play,  another opera company is mentioned - ‘The Carl Rosa Opera Company’ which predates Glynebourne.  The company still exists but like micro-breweries, I think it might only use the name.  The original company had quite a few connections with Sadler’s Wells. 

     In a ‘Who’s Who’ entry, my grandfather gives one of his occupations as that of 1st Violinist of the Carl Rosa Opera Company.  I was not able to check this, but it is possibly true.  The composer recalls playing in the orchestra pits of Australian theaters.  This would have been around the early 1990’s    What he recalls is Vaudeville - what we call Variety Theatre.

        The Coliseum in London is the home of the English National Opera - another descendant of the Carl Rosa Opera Company.   The Coliseum was built as a Variety Theatre - as were many theaters along the Strand.    On one of the walls of the Coliseum is a poster from, I think, the 1920’s.  It lists performances of Russian ballet along with jugglers and comic acts.  (I cannot remember the poster well)  

      I am not sure of the connection between Variety Theatre and opera but there might not have been such a great divide. Gilbert and Sullivan’s operas were originally performed at the Savoy in the Strand.  I am, however. no theatrical historian.  

       According to my grandfather, Verdi was sung in the streets as much as any ballad,  He heard Souza in America. Souza was  an influence, but so was Maori music.  He claims that is was music heard around the world that formed the melodies of his marches. 

     Perhaps my little jigsaw piece fits into a larger puzzle.

Apr 7th

Wildlife Walks

By Mat

dr1 [draft up during the day]

 

Sometimes a walk on your own outside in nature , in the countryside might be endurable, a pleasure even -  if there is a destination, but for me personally the aimless wander along a cliff only provokes the bleakest of feelings.  So, recalling the St John’s Wort and garlic in the hedgerow would not be sincere from my point of view.  Trickling brooks and twist of foot, no I cannot do it.

I’m sure any walk is enhanced a thousandfold with a dog, or a friend at your elbow.

But then I tell myself to man up, defend the honour of the billion eccentrics forced to take walks on their own, many of them are family members.

Here in my exile in the North of England, winter this year has been relentless stretching towards May.  Outside, the oldest folk are still wearing gloves and for my own part during my leisure walks to the supermarket I’ve still been wearing two jumpers and an anorak or sometimes my poet’s jacket if I’m feeling bold.  Thankfully I’m not wearing the spectacles like I did when we first moved here, although I still lack the confidence to purchase those Polish pickles down at Sainsbury’s lest anyone finds me Polish.  I learned my lesson with that scene the time wearing the All Blacks shirt and was bear-hugged by a Polynesian gentleman.  Won’t do that again.

SO, the walking.  I watched a good scrap a couple of weeks back, real traditional, two fellas both wearing the honourable sweats and grey, the discharge kit from the station, it’s  a fine look with the baseball cap, they were rolling in the road like the olden days.

One guy scrambled to his feet and chased after his wife in the aftermath,

‘I’ll remember your face, mate,’ he threatened over his shoulder.  His assailant or enemy, who knows, he was checking for knocks and by all appearances they’d cleared up some dispute.  My relief was that I had not stepped over the traffic lights and intervened, the community volunteer.

Twenty years ago in Bristol I intervened and ended up with a dog on my face, the guys stopped fighting and shared a smoke, giggling at this dick who’d wandered into scene and wrestled the dog.  That’s a recurring flashback, that one .

Country walks.  Beachy Head if you’re a poet is very distressing, the tiny wooden crosses on the headland.  But up here I have managed to scout my neighbourhood.  There’s a reputed mad woman keeps accosting my tiny wife at the corner shop, ‘high on drugs,’ says my wife.

‘Share the drugs,’ I say, but she says this woman at the corner wants to kill her so she won’t go outside at all.  I have to make all our messages as the savages a mere hundred miles away say, I think they do.

Yes, one end of the coast I walked up to the sea-life centre which is a little spooky with ‘ten penguins’ and ‘three octopussi’ it says on the placard, like Bedlam really.  I should go see the penguins when the sun shines.  Down the other end there’s a scar on the landscape where a hotel plunged into the sea, all the residents in the beds apparently, this local told me.  He looked out to the horizon, his dog was having a pee, he said you have to imagine a hundred bedsteds floating in the harbour, it was terrible for the local economy.

Anyway, I’ll walk a bit farther when the sun comes out in October and also have a swim or a widdle in the North Sea at some point which will be awful.  Just hanging in really for my ten thousand from the writing contest and my move to the South of France with my people, all best.

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