"Who is the judge that sits perpetually in your head? Write those lines, you silly fool, they are all yours, both the good and the bad, and no one exists in purity and essence. Write the bad lines if only to keep writing... Writing is lonely, wretched, unheralded, often meaningless, insignificant, and too often devoid of even a masturbatory pleasure, mean though that is. Write, Martha, and stop crying at the cold. You've wept long enough."
- Robert Presnell to Martha Gellhorn, 1953
Congratulations to the winners!
I hope you're all feeling inspired by the Cloudies' continued success and thinking of entering your own stories into the competition. The next deadline is June 30th on the theme of a pet. You can find out what the judge, best-selling author, Jane Rusbridge, is looking for here.
‘That’s kind of you,’ she said, ‘but I’m going to stay in my room. I really like watching television.’
She said this without a trace of hesitation or guilt, but I’m quite sure that all of us middle class, middle income, liberal office-types were surprised and possibly challenged by the statement. After all, the appropriate response would have been ‘yes please’ after which we would all have ambled along together discussing music, literature, maybe even some of the theories around the course.
Wittgenstein, one of the greatest philosophical minds in history was a sucker for movies. He didn’t rush to see the art-house offerings; not for him the work of John Ford or Rossellini. He liked adventure movies, cowboy and gangster films and he sat in the front row like a little boy. Now, Wittgenstein was a tortured man but there’s not a scrap of evidence that he felt any qualms about his theatrical tastes. Indeed, he frequently dropped themes and incidents from the films into conversation with his colleagues; men (by and large) who were more likely to fill their leisure time with Aristotle and Milton than Billy the Kid and Sam Spade.
So what, exactly, is a guilty pleasure? More to the point, why is it guilty? Clearly I’m not referring to major breaches of moral or even criminal laws. For me, the idea of a guilty pleasure isn’t the thrill of house-breaking or that long term affair with the next door neighbour’s teenage daughter, it’s much more to do with the illicit chocolate biscuit mid diet, or drawing the curtains and tuning in to Britain’s Got Talent when the day’s editing is only half done.
I was idly searching through Spotify recently when I remembered a song from the 70s and dug it out for a listen. It was ‘You took the words right out of my mouth’ by Meatloaf. No way on God’s Green Earth would I have admitted to liking that at the time: so cheesy, so uncool. But I did and it was a classic guilty pleasure.
Then I thought back over my reading matter since an age when I could make my own choices. It occurred to me that amidst all the classy stuff was a fair smattering of science fiction. OK, not the great works; not George Orwell or Brian Aldiss or Kurt Vonnegut, not even Jerome Bixby or Philip K Dick, but really crappy stuff in even crappier paper volumes: pot-boilers about alien invasions and epic adventures in space. When it comes down to it, I would still read it. What’s more, I’m quite happy to sit down goggle-eyed to an equally thinly-plotted piece of sci-fi tosh on the television or in the cinema. More guilty pleasures.
So I invite you – fess up. What guilty pleasure floats your boat? There’s no need for embarrassment; it’s only me and I promise not to share. And if it’s too dark and murky, then feel free to tell me in a message. Trust me.
I am correcting after an edit. Slash, cut, sweat, tremble cringe, and then oh yes that is tighter and follows the point.
I have cut out what I thought was some of my most expressive beautiful writing but the editor didn't. But there is one sentence which I would like to hang onto and would like help with.
An idylic eveing summer scene in the meadows, known as the backs, in Cambridge is being described to show the reader everything the MC is leaving to join her pen friend in Chicago.
Then the friends go into Trinity Chapel to listen to a concert.
'Once inside they sat quietly absorbing the atmosphere, their spirits renewed at the sight of the stained glass windows and vast, garish, baroque altarpiece. The chamber music sung by the visiting Dutch choir immediately pulled at Amy's heart. Thoughts of Zak flitted across her mind but she didn't have to check them......'
The word in question (that is if you don't all demolish the whole sentence completely) is renewed. The editor said that they had already been renewed by the sights in the meadows and the evening light.
The suggestion was to use 'lifted'. But this doesn't strike me as saying what I was trying to convey.
Can you inspire me? Please.
I have an excuse for this blog being really late. I wanted to write about the writing team of Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder who scripted (and directed) Millions Like Us, which was on TV last week. But I was already due to take my parents to the BFI on the Tuesday to see London Belongs to Me, which I discovered was also written and directed by Gilliat and co-produced by Launder. So I put off writing the blog till after I’d watched London Belongs to Me. Which is just as well cos I forgot Millions Like Us was on.
Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder apparently first worked together in 1929 on Under the Greenwood Tree (although my sources differ so don’t quote me), on which Gilliat was uncredited. They first wrote together officially for 1933’s Facing the Music. They did not work exclusively together but, as so often seems to happen, their collaborations seem to show them at their best, notably scripting the gem of Hitchcock’s British period; The Lady Vanishes (director and writers did not get on but what a result!). Millions Like Us (about which I remain annoyingly ignorant) was their first directorial effort but they are probably best known for writing The Belles of St. Trinians (this time Launder directed), one of several collaborations with the great Alistair Sim.
London Belongs to me was one of these collaborations. I had not heard of it and had no idea what to expect; I certainly didn’t expect as great a film as the one I saw. I cannot understand why this film is not better known; Millions Like Us, Green For Danger, The Green Man (all Gilliat and Launder) all appear regularly on Film 4 but not this one. And, like its makers, it deserves to be better known, as one of the most deft balancing acts of comedy and drama I have ever seen. Great performances from Sim, a young Richard Attenborough and a host of British character actors you recognise but can’t quite recall why, great photography and script of intelligence, economy, and stunning depth of character. It also boasts one of the bravest endings I’ve seen in a while, simply because it backs away from Hollywood grand-standing and delivers what ought to be an anti-climax but is in fact funny, appropriate and carthartic.
Gilliat and Launder’s partnership as writers, directors and producers, changing roles to suit their talents (broadly speaking Launder did comedy, Gilliat more dramatic stuff), lasted over 35 years and over 40 films, ending with The Great St. Trinians Train Robbery (a somewhat ignominious end but what can you do?). They are forgotten treasures of the British film industry, and are long overdue some credit.
After approximately twenty-five years stored away, we were thrilled that the train set still worked!
Our grandson loved it and, when his parents joined us, it gave me a warm feeling to watch three generations of family men enjoying the glory of model steam engines, as they conjured up the magnificence of the Age of Steam.
Railways have been a feature of historical family life on both sides. My father, grandfather and grandfather-in-law were all steam train drivers at one time during their careers.
Watching the present three at play, I remembered the magic of childhood holidays, transported to the seaside in corridored carriages pulled by powerful , proud engines spewing out their clouds of vapour. The smells, the sounds, the scenes flashing by. Happy memories of childhood's world, now inhabited by our grandson, where all seemed safe and imagination was free to run riot with characters and adventures.
As I grew older, my father related how physically hard it had been shovelling coal to keep the fires burning in the engines - 'to keep the home fires burning in the war.'
I learned, too, of the hardships of the men who had laid mile upon mile of our country's railway network.
Watching the model engines and trucks glide around the track, I also recalled trips, when our son was small, on heritage steam railways and the visits to steam museums. I was glad that his parents had chosen a trip on the Bluebell Railway for our grandson's recent birthday. It had been lovely to hear his thrilled voice over the telephone and share his experience in that way.
I have never lost my awe for the ingenuity of engineers, nor has the magic of steam power ever ceased.
However, I felt more subtle powers filling our home on the 2013 May Bank Holiday weekend. There was that of generational connection and continuity,
but also that of creativity in all its forms.
I do believe there might be some Cloudies on it again...
Winners will be annouced by the end of May and entries are open for the June comp, which will be judged by author Jane Rusbridge on the theme of 'A Pet'.
Loving all the entries and if you didn't get shortlisted this time then please try again next!