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Iain's bookshelf: read

Yellow Submarine Goodbye, Pert Breasts: The Diary of a Newborn Dad I Shall Wear Midnight: A Discworld Novel Action: Pulse Pounding Tales Volume 1 Tales of Unease (Wordsworth Mystery & the Supernatural) Bunker 10

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Putting the icing on the creative cake

I draw'd this

I draw’d this

It’s all well and good having a bunch of ideas floating around in your head, but getting the little buggers to flow out of there into a form that others can witness is a right pain.

I’m not sure if I have a novel’s worth of thoughts stuck in my grey matter, or just a bunch of scenes that might somehow clag together to form a cohesive story. Or a series of stories. It’s just hard to put stuff together in a cohesive form so that I can get them on paper.

Thoughts and ideas for more adult tales are mixed up with ones definitely more suitable for the younger audience. Which brings with it other problems… like the fact that any decent book for under-10’s needs pictures, and I can’t draw for toffee (or any other sugar-based snack). But, then I’ve seen kids’ books with really bad drawings in them that the author has done anyway and they’re quite charming. Or do I try to find a friend who doesn’t mind wasting their time slapping some paint down in exchange for getting a co-author / artist credit?

I’ve always thought that arrangement a little unfair as the author, generally, has the ideas but the time taken to write a 30-page children’s story must be far less than that taken to draw / paint the accompanying illustrations. However, the person with the word processor generally seems to win out in terms of both fame and financial recompense.

I’d like to say “back to the drawing board” but, as detailed above, that’s probably somewhat inaccurate.

Orange Mojo

Source: WikiMedia

Source: WikiMedia

Why orange? Well, I’ve got a nice mug of hot orange juice on my desk. Other teachers have tea, I have dilute juice. Less caffeine, more sugar. That’s got to be good, right?

The interesting thing with oranges is that old argument about which came first – the name of the colour or the name of the fruit. Well, from what I’ve read it depends on what language you speak. As far as English is concerned, we didn’t have a word for orange until the fruit was introduced – along with its descriptive name. This is why we claim to have a bird known as a “robin red breast” when the vast majority of our avian friends have a more obviously orange tint to their chests.

Simply, there wasn’t a word to describe their colour so we went for the closest – red. If we had a more agreeable climate for the growth of these little spherical bundles of Vitamin C, how things could have been different.

I really like oranges, but I don’t eat them too often. Partly as fruit’s so damn expensive, and partly as I’m too lazy to peel them. It’s much easier just to shovel grapes into your mouth, or bite into an apple. Oranges need preparation. And, failing, that, too much tidying afterwards.

The simplest way to eat them is to slice one into quarters and just gnaw the flesh out. End result is juice all over the place, bits of fruit stuck between your teeth and – possible – crunching on pips you didn’t spot earlier.

Alternatively, you have to remove the skin then part each segment, examine them for pips which are then discarded and *then* you get to eat the thing. Nah, too much effort.

I tend to aim for the fruit juice with “bits” in it. That way I can pretend it’s more healthy as I’m getting some of the roughage. It’s also very rare that I’ll spill it all over my face when I drink it, making it less messy than the original source fruit. Admittedly, though, this is precisely what I did on Sunday. Oops.

The end of lunch approaches, though, and I need to top up my mug. Given the class I have next I’ll need all the sugar rush I can get…

7-Minute Mojo

7I have seven minutes before the bell goes and I’m out of free time, instead deluged with second-year pupils asking if they can “do work” over lunch. How playing an online tank combat game qualifies as “work” in any way, shape, or form is beyond me but what do I know? I’m only a teacher.

So what to do with those seven minutes which I could be utilising in a more productive manner, such as putting the finishing touches to an end-of-unit test we’re presenting to S1 next week? I know! I’ll tap something up on ye olde blogge because I’ve forgotten about it again!

Of course, I then spend half that time trying to find a decent image to put at the side. A task not aided by the poor selection now offered by Zemanta, a WordPress extension I used to use heavily. Sadly, they now seem to be pushing almost nothing but Getty Images which I prefer not to use. Once upon a time Zemanta would actually scour my own online resources (i.e. my flickr account) for relevant pictures which was very useful. But no more.

So now I have barely a minute left to rattle something off that might interest anyone passing.

Bugger. The bell has just gone. Hey, this writing to a deadline lark’s not as easy as they make out! No wonder Douglas Adams hardly wrote any books.

Kids and spuds

1 and a half russet potato with sprouts. Slice...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had all three kids over at the flat for the first time on Saturday for a sleepover, including Niamh’s first ever visit.

She spent the first ten minutes running round all the rooms opening every drawer and cupboard she could find. Her favourite room was the kitchen.

Open drawer, open drawer, open drawer – knives and stuff, boring. Close them all. Open cupboard, pots and pans, meh. Open cupboard…

*gasp* “Potatoes!!!”

Close cupboard move on, come back to that one a minute later and…

*GASP* “POTATOES!!!”

Exclaimed in the kind of way that a two year old would convey the sentence “Holy shitsnacks! They’re STILL BLOODY THERE!”

Ah, for the days when a simple tuber excited me so.

BINKY? PRATCHETT’S HOURGLASS IS EMPTY… BUGGER

Terry Pratchett enjoying a Guinness at honorar...

Terry Pratchett enjoying a Guinness at honorary degree ceremony at Trinity College Dublin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A man with a big scythe and mounted on an impossibly white steed arrived to pick up the soul of one Sir Terry Pratchett, aged 66 today. Pratchett, for those who’ve lived in a literary black hole for the last thirty years or so, was the genius behind the Discworld novels and all the history, back story and associated paraphernalia with the fantasy land he’d created.

I was introduced to Discworld by a handful of friends at school who latched on to them a little earlier than I did – Indy and Richard were the main guilty parties if I remember correctly. From reading The Colour of Magic I was hooked.

Annoyingly Terry Pratchett was a hugely prodigious author, chucking out a couple of books a year which made collecting his works quite pricey. On the other hand, they were almost without exception work paying for. Some of my favourite reads of all time flowed from his wonderfully creative mind, including Good Omens which he co-wrote with Neil Gaiman.

What made his work stand out, to me, was the way he wrote rather than what he wrote. The fantasy world he created was as good as any other which flowed from the pens and keyboards of many an author but his humorous style was second to none. With a bevy of pop culture references in his novels (annotated guides appeared on the internet many years ago which I downloaded, printed and promptly lost while at university), there was an extra layer to the stories which gave them an extra level of re-readability.

What I truly appreciated about him, though, was his eagerness to engage with his readers. Along with Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett took to the internet with aplomb in its earlier days as a publicly accessible network and regularly posted on alt.fan.pratchett, a newsgroup on the old usenet system. I remember him asking questions about the physics surrounding someone randomly teleporting from one place to another, and the input from respondents was used in (I think) The Last Continent.

He regularly did signing tours and would sign anything and everything he was given… with a different quote in each. I attended two signings in one day in Leeds many years ago, between which I think he signed about 15 books I had. Each one annotated “Best Wishes”, “More Best Wishes”, “Son of Best Wishes” and so on. He added drawings and stamps to his repertoire as the years went on.

And then he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

One of the most active and creative literary minds of our generation was being eaten away from within. A more cruel punishment for a person I cannot imagine. Yet, despite this, he ploughed on. He still had stories to tell and no damn debilitating mental condition was going to stop him.

Utilising copious notes and voice recognition software to allow him to keep track of the plots while writing as quickly as possible, and with the aid of friends and family, his output slowed but did not stop. Did he need to write more to pay the mortgage? No. He wrote because he was good at it, enjoyed it an – most importantly – other people got happiness from something he did. And also to piss off the Alzheimer’s, a condition he called an “embuggerance”.

And now that creative mind has ceased to function. News was released some months ago that his daughter Rhianna would take over the Discworld when her father passed, and on her capable (trust me, I’ve read some of her stuff) shoulders that responsibility now lies.

Thank you, PTerry (sic). Thank you for seventy-plus novels of laughs. Thank you for being one of many people who engendered in me a genuine love for the written word and how beautifully it can be crafted.

Enjoy that final ride on Binky. Such a brilliant moniker that we named our last dog after him. I just wish your hourglass had been that bit bigger.

A Just Giving page donating to the Research Institute for the Care of Older People (RICE) has been set up in his memory: https://www.justgiving.com/Terry-Pratchett/