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Archive for the month “April, 2012”

20th Century Boys

I was watching a fab BBC 2 programme on Saturday night about 1972. It was right down by street as I have such a fondness for that often maligned but underestimated decade. The bit I really enjoyed was the look at glam rock. It’s hard to believe that in a time when male/female roles were still clearly defined, despite the second wave of Feminism, that men were dressing up and wearing make-up (and I’m NOT referring to the Black and White Minstrels). Marc Bolan and T-Rex along with David Bowie are the two acts which stand out from that time, but there was a whole load of other bands and singers plastering on the eye-liner and wobbling in platform shoes.

Bands like The Sweet, Wizard and Slade became part of this music movement. But its influence went further. Queen had their own heavier rock take on it and even Elton John got on the band wagon.

Now I’m not Elton’s number one fan (there are plenty of others who would put their hands on their hearts and say they were). However, he is a showman extraordinaire and I do have a soft spot for one or two of his songs from this era. And of course his appearances on the Morecambe and Wise show. I guess his private life and the way it is portrayed in our hungry media detracts from his talents and reputation, at least in this country, so here is one of Elton’s hits from 1972. Rocket Man.

And finally, I have a photo of Slade signed by all its member, got for me by my Uncle Dick around the release of Merry Xmas Everybody (the first time round). He met them in a hotel in the Midlands somewhere and thought of me for some reason, even though I was only about five years old. Uncle Dick has now sadly passed away but I still have that photo. It’s in the garage.

Any offers?

They’d have to be good to let me part with it, mind…

Festival virgin makes it through the night

I was very nervous on Thursday as I was speaking at my first festival, about my journey as a writer since winning the Yeovil Literary Prize in 2006. I was privileged to be asked along to the inaugural Brympton Festival at the stunning Brympton House in Somerset. I had a lovely receptive audience and it was informal and relaxed. They were very gentle with me. And it was a cathartic experience, talking about my ups and downs until finally having The Generation Game published last summer, five years after the opening chapters won the Yeovil. It was particularly touching to have Margaret Graham there, as she organised the Prize the year I won and has been an encouragement ever since. 

In fact, I met lots of  great people, including author Katharine McMahon who writes novels about strong women in historical settings such as the Crimean War and the French Revolution. She was the speaker at the literary supper. Very glamourous evening. Too much champagne (if there is such a thing) in a gorgeous setting.

I wish the festival well for next year and the years to come. And I’ve got the festival bug. So I hope there are more to come…

Wonder of the World

I’m at Toronto Pearson airport, having spent the week in southern Ontario in the Niagara region. I’ve been to Canada several times, and this was my third visit to Niagara. But this trip was different. I came as more than a tourist. I came as a writer, trying to see things I never noticed before, digging deeper and looking closer.

So first… Niagara Falls is a mad mix of powerful nature and man-made tackiness. The falls take your breath away, every time you look at them. They change according to the light, the wind, the time of year. But the aggressive beauty is constant. The skyscraper hotels, noisy garish tourist attractions, chain restaurants and Casino clash with this wonder of the world in a way that you either love or hate. I kind of love it. It’s like Blackpool on acid. Marilyn Monroe in the film Niagara captures the darker, seamier side of Niagara Falls in the classic 1953 film. Niagara launched her into superstardom and ever since she has been an icon of the last century, the beautiful, fragile women, used by the men who flocked around her. There’s nothing fragile about the falls, but they do lure us in…

Secondly… the history. I got to thinking about what is must have been like to be the first people to discover the thundering waters. We don’t really learn much about Canadian history in school in Britain. Maybe because we have so much of our own to handle. But I was fascinated by the War of 1812. Basically this was a war between America and Britain over Canada (which wasn’t yet Canada). Maybe it’s not part of our national consciousness because it was considered a sideshow to the main grabber of attention, the Napoleonic Wars. But it was a key war in Canadian history. What really impressed me is the part a young girl played.  There are myths and legends about Laura Secord but it is generally believed that she heard somehow of an impending American attack at Niagara on the British troops. Laura walked twenty miles over rough terrain to warn the British Commander. The result was that the British and the Mohawk contingent were prepared and defeated the Americans.

These days Laura Secord is probably better known for the chocolates…

And thirdly, I love ice wine! Niagara is famous for its wine but the Canadians keep it for themselves. And who can blame them? I went on a winery tour and did some tasting. Some of it was amazing, some of it was like nothing I have ever drunk. One of the Sauvignon Blancs smelt and tasted of cat pee but this was more than made up for by the ice wine. It’s incredibly expensive (because of the way it is harvested, when the temperature hits about -10 degrees) and it explodes with a whole range of flavours and sensations in your mouth. If you ever get the chance to try it, then do…

So just a few thoughts… I’m sad to be leaving this vast country behind as it grabs you by the heart and grips your imagination. But it’s back to dear old Blighty…

Au revoir, Canada…

Happy Easter

Your eye is a a lamp lighting up your whole body.

If you live wide-eyed in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light.

Luke 11:34

The Generation Game

My novel The Generation Game is now for sale on Amazon for only £3.68.

Check out these fab clips from Brucie’s reign on the game show in the 70s.

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