Friday, 24 May 2013
Spring has been miserable as far as the weather is concerned and I am in desperate need of sunshine. I have a dream to throw tent and camping gear in the back of our car and travel around the coast of Italy this summer to ensure I find some warmth somewhere but, alas, it isn't going to happen this year so I've enjoyed a virtual tour instead thanks to the I Love Italy page on Facebook.
Tuscany I know quite well because that's where my mother comes from but I've never heard of places like Alberobello (pictured above) which looks absolutely enchanting and a town that's definitely on my bucket "to visit" list - hopefully next year because it will take me at least that long to inspire the same enthusiasm in my other half for this mega trip. After all, he will be the one driving. As I often get left and right mixed up, I think he would be safer on roads in countries where cars travel on the wrong side.
The little narrow rustic streets like that pictured above in Orvieto just beg to be explored. Many of the old towns and villages in Italy have many streets like these. I found myself enchanted by Palaia a couple of years ago when we visited in a bid to try and track down some of my relatives from my aunt Marcella's side of the family.
Lake D'Orta is another beauty. When I showed my other half the picture above his response was simply "There doesn't look as if there's much parking there." You can see what I'm up against.
And then there is Sorrento. A place that is a must see when travelling in search of beauty, colour, culture and sunshine.
I also have a hankering to visit Pompeii one day so if my dream camping and travelling trip around Italy ever becomes an actual reality, then time must be made to visit as I'd like to visit perhaps lesser known ghost towns like Faraone too.
I've been hinting at my other half, posting copious amounts of I Love Italy's photos on my own Facebook page in a bid to wear his resistance down but it hasn't worked so far. However, I have twisted his arm so far up his back about this that he promises next year will be the year when we do it. I can't wait so until then I'll just enjoy the virtual tour, close my eyes, put ear plugs in and pretend that outside is not thundering winds that fell trees, lashing rain with grey skies, and bitter cold that makes wearing two thick jumpers a necessity.
Roll on summer.
Friday, 10 May 2013
It was a couple of years ago that I first came up with the idea for my novel which involves the kidnapping and long term captivity of a young woman but I wonder if the idea, in a fictional sense, is becoming cliché already.
In reality such events are rare and few had given the idea much thought until Josef Frizl horrified the world when his secret family was freed from his home made dungeon, traumatised and rubbed out as people in their own right.
There have been more of that type of case than I thought, however unique they are, and now another terrible story has emerged of the three women freed from hell in Cleveland, Ohio but the shock factor, although still great, is not as raw as when we first heard about this type of case.
Since Fritzl, more and more writers are using the captivity scenario in novels and screen plays. I've seen it in the CSI series and other cop and forensic shows and I wonder if the reader or viewer is becoming desensitised enough to the awful idea to see it as becoming old hat in fiction writing.
But then there are only, apparently, Seven Basic Plots that make up just about every story ever written so the key must be the originality of the writer in how they present that plot - in this case, The Monster.
My story does have a twist, and there are other factors in it to raise interest and suspense for the reader. I have seven chapters written but reading back over them, I wonder if the captivity plot is really a necessary part and if all my characters are pulling together or apart as they should.
I often tell my students that if they are struggling with their story then it would be a good idea to take their characters out of it, stand them up on their own, write a few pages about their normal day, their usual traits and ticks, and then put them back into the story and see how they cope and react to the situation they've been dropped into. I also need to write a timeline to frame the events which should act as rough guide and set the pace of the story.
That is going to be the next thing on my agenda as I have quite a few characters now that I really need to get to know better before I can go back to the captivity aspect and ensure it is as original as I can make it. My "monster" at present certainly needs more work and it will be a good place to start again.
Summer is coming and I will have time on my hands to dedicate to this project but the initial June deadline I set myself to have that first clumsy draft written was probably ambitious. September now seems more likely and realistic but I really can't wait to get my teeth back into it.
Thursday, 9 May 2013
It looks like the hit 1960's series The Saint is coming back to our TV screens and I await it with both anticipation and trepidation.
The promo trailer looks very Americanised for this stiff upper lip quintessential British icon created in the 1920s by Leslie Charteris but at least Templar keeps his English accent and the original actor Roger Moore has a role and did, indeed, produce this new venture.
I expect the new Saint won't be sexist like his 1960s counterpart which I find highly amusing these days, nor will he smoke and he will probably be very nuovo glamorous in a show with lots of actions, bangs, explosions and bullets that, for me, often distracts from the main storyline and seems included for the sake of inclusion. I am not, clearly, a fan of the action genre although my other half will probably love it.
I don't know what channel it will be on, apparently it's still in development, but if it isn't on terrestrial TV then I'll miss it. I don't have Sky or Virgin or a satellite dish but the simple free digi box. Until the BBC stops charging us a licence fee to watch TV then I see no point in paying more to watch something I feel I'm already paying for.
Ah well, I'll just have to wait and see when the time comes and if it isn't generally available to all then I'll happily keep watching the reruns of the old Saint programmes on ITV player.
A chat with a friend on Twitter The Angry Exile about his roo icon reminded me of the Lincoln Kangaroos owned by former local surgeon and amateur naturalist Geoffrey Morey who kept them as pets. The story I'd written about them was on another blog that I used to keep but have since deleted to concentrate on this one.
I guess it was Morey's interest in wildlife that made him jump at the chance of owning two Kangaroos as pets back in 1962. They were brought to London by a young Australian man who had been offered free transport by the ship's captain.
The young man thought it would be a gesture of admiration to present them to the Queen on his arrival in London but unfortunately for him, as he was living in a London hotel with the two animals much to the consternation of the management, Her Majesty declined the gift, and he had to get rid of them elsewhere sharpish.
When Morey heard about his plight he thought he could help solve the problem by taking the marsupials off the young man's hands.
The surgeon ripped out the back seats of his car and covered the floor with straw. He was just about to set off for London to pick the kangaroos up when he heard they'd been snapped up by an Australian born City of London dignitary.
Morey was so pissed off about it he went to the press. The story reached Australia where a nurse who used to work with him when he was a medical student in Adelaide read about it and put him in touch with two families in a rural area who had kangaroos they wanted rid of.
The kangaroos were shoved into crates on a ship bound for Liverpool where Morey picked them up. They were lifted into the adapted back of his car and apparently sat there happily with their heads sticking out of the window, probably in shock, as he drove them home to his big house and garden in a posh part of Lincoln in the middle of a perishing winter.
Named Nardo and Pinto, the two kangaroos settled in well and began to breed quite quickly. Morey was one of few people at that time to have witnessed a joey coming out of it's mother's pouch. In 10 years, the Morey family had up to five male and female kangaroos living in the garden, the house and a specially made kennel although three joeys died before they reached adulthood.
Nardoo tried to escape a few days after her arrival and broke her leg. Morey called for help from his medical friends at Lincoln County Hospital. The orthopedic surgeon and his registrar, general surgeons, physicians, anesthetists, radiologists and four Lincoln vets volunteered and the surgery was carried out at Morey's house.
The kangaroos did get out of Morey's high walled garden eventually while he was travelling in Africa. He heard news while in Nairobi of how the city police had to call out 20 officers in the early hours of the morning to join those on foot and in cars already on duty to round them up.
After three hours of chasing them up and down Lincoln High Street the police got the kangaroos home and warned Morey that more escapes would lead to them applying for his removal from the city.
Morey also found out how aggressive male kangaroos could be. One named after the original Pinto, who died after eating too much of a poisonous yew hedge in the garden, changed almost overnight after the birth of a male joey. He grabbed Morey in a tight hug unexpectedly one day that left him breathless. The doctor managed to break free after a fierce wrestling match.
As Pinto the Second became more aggressive and unreliable Morey packed him off to a zoo. When people found out that one of the famous kangaroos was leaving the pack offers flooded in which included a family that knew nothing about kangaroos but wanted one as a pet, and a circus owner who wanted one to box for entertainment.
The story of The Lincoln Kangaroos ends with Morey's book published in 1962. I've asked around locally and no one can remember him except one friend who recalls as a child looking over the wall from the top of an open top bus. Kids, apparently, tried to climb the walls for a glimpse of the animals.
Another friend tells me there used to be what she called "Washingborough Wallabies" in a field in a village near Lincoln but they've been gone a long time and whether they were kangaroos and not wallabies and related to Morey's originals is desperate speculation.
Maybe someone who knows more than I do about what happened to Geoffrey Morey and his kangaroos almost 60 years ago will stumble across this post as it floats around the internet and enlighten us all as to how the family's story ended.
I recently became aware of a new blog called It's All About Lincoln which I've added to my blog list so I can keep updated with new posts. It reminds me of when I used to write nostalgia features for my local paper's long standing Gossiper column and brought to mind the above photograph which one reader gave to me because, he said, it was so horrible he didn't want it back after I'd used it.
It's been such a long time since this came into my possession that I've actually forgotten the details of it. All I remember is that it was a local ratcatcher called Jack (something) with his industrious terriers. He lived in a house in St Martin's Square at the bottom of the hill between Steep Hill on the right and Spring Hill on the left.
The scrawl on the back of the photo, presumably in Jack's own hand, tells me that he caught 33 rats that day from the Naafi which is now gone of course like much of old Lincoln which did, at one time, have a huge problem with such vermin in many residential and commercial areas of the city. I suppose today they just use poison to get rid of the blighters and Jack's type, like the old rag and bone men, have simply disappeared.
Perhaps It's All About Lincoln or some of the site's readers can tell me more about him. Jack certainly seems to be one of the many characters that used to be around Lincoln and the like of which we never see anymore.
Wednesday, 8 May 2013
One of my creative writing students presented a lovely poem in class the other day and it reminded me that I once wrote a book of poetry which I decided to dig out. Oh dear. Perhaps I shouldn't have done. It wasn't as good as I remembered it but then it was written 30 years ago. Make your own mind up after reading this effort - the only one in the book that actually rhymed.
From a family of ten,
Tried hard to find someone,
But failed again.
She first got married
To a kind gentle hood,
But Nellie was bored and wanted excitement
However she could.
She found it with Sonny
Oh what a mistake,
Her mother did warn her.
She said : “You’ll be sorry.”
He battered and bruised her
And broke her two arms
Smashed a bottle on her head
Was this his charm?
The ambulance came
And took Nellie away
For a very long stay.
They mended her arms
And stitched up her head
But that was no good
Because to Sonny she’s wed.
They took him to prison
And gave her some money
Nellie’s life at last
Looked rosy and sunny.
Then she met a rich man
With a business his own
He fell madly in love
And left his wife at home.
They have a young boy
Nellie's own pride and joy.
A spiteful child
Left alone to run wild.
Ten years later
The man still calls around
On a Saturday night
With his duty £10.
She waits for the weekend
To see him again
She says she will end it
But she doesn’t know when.
She still has her dreams
And exciting schemes
And doesn’t see why
Her life has passed by.
Gone is her beauty
And soft golden hair
It’s hard to believe
That she once made men stare.
Now her face is all wrinkles
And her hair’s harshly permed
She’s older than years
And feels quite disturbed.
Victorian crime drama The Suspicions of Mr Whicher is back on TV this Sunday which falls just right following my WEA group's study of the book by author Kate Summerscale, who wrote and researched material about Britain's first detective for her book recalling the Murder at Road Hill House.
It is Whicher's failure to secure the conviction of the main suspect in that case that caused him to be shunned and avoided by the newly set up Detective Branch which led to him becoming a private investigator. His reputation was later restored, and due credit given to his detective skills, when the nice middle class girl from an upstanding 19th century family, Constance Kent, later confessed that she had, indeed, murdered her little half brother as Whicher surmised.
That is probably the cloud he left the force under which he refers to in the new TV adaptation that looks set to be another cracker of a programme well worth watching. Paddy Considine again plays the role.
Whicher inspired so many authors in his day from Charles Dickens to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to Henry James whose weird little novella The Turn of the Screw was inspired by the Road Hill case. It seems obvious now, having read both books, that the children in James' story were based on Constance and her brother William - the governess who claims their house is haunted is possibly based on the second Mrs Kent, their wicked stepmother.
My crime literature group has now broken up for summer and won't be back until mid September. That will give me plenty of time to read the two books we'll be studying next term - In the Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco and Dissolution by C J Sansom.
Meanwhile, my WEA creative writing course continues in Gainsborough and is so far going really well. Some of my students tell me that I inspire them and I know that they inspire me. Whether their genre is poetry, short stories, scripts or novels, they really are a talented and dedicated bunch who could also teach me a thing or two. I'm itching to get back to my crime novel which has been sadly abandoned as paid work has taken precedence but soon the summer holidays will be here, all my university journalism marking will be done, and I'll have nothing to stand between me and my protagonist Lou Weekes.
Thanks to a press release I sent out that was picked up by the Boston Standard and the Boston Target we now have enough interest to start another writing course in Fydell House next term.
Anyone who lives in the area is welcome to come along. You could also join the crime literature group, if you fancy getting your teeth into crime classics, where new students are always welcome.