Saturday, 8 August 2009

Merger with Engine Punk

This is the last post on this blog for Anarchadia has merged with Engine Punk and my writerly and artistic exploits will continue under that heading. Having separated the two themes out I feel it's time to merge them again as everything seems more interlinked than ever and I seem to exist in an enthusiastic state of perpetual over-stimulation (oo, er!)

But that's a good thing - when I read I want to write when I see great images I want to paint and draw and when I see an abandoned Vintage Thing I want to take it home and look after it. I can get a bit tired sometimes, though. And maybe a bit annoying to be with.

I'm working on a new workstation (how's that for creativity displacement?) and will be returning to my writing more frequently when the longer evenings are with us. But first let's have a summer, eh?

This blog will remain open for a while until I get around to updating my web pages. All the Anarchadia posts can now be found on Engine Punk and the Anarchadian outlook will remain.

See over there.


Monday, 6 July 2009


It's not just me that's inspired by my surroundings. Gonamena is the tale of ordinary Cornish farming folk who experience tremendous upheaval when mineral prospectors come to their farm and turn it into a copper Klondyke. During the boomtime it's live hard and play hard but when the copper price crashes not only is there no work but no farm, either for the land has become poisoned. Emigration is the only solution to avoid solution.

This could be a mawkish and self-righteous account of environmental disaster and the Cornish diaspora but it's bloody funny and gets its point across without preaching -- although there is a preacher among the central characters.

For several weeks throughout June, what are known as the Gonamena guerillas have been targeting local supermarkets and shopping centres to publicise the show at Sterts Open Air Theatre. A gang from our row went to see it because one of our neighbours is in the chorus and I really enjoyed it.

For a cast largely made up of amateurs the standard is very high. As I pointed out once before on this blog, amateurs do things out of sheer love and the depth of feeling that the subject matter shines through in this production of Gonamena.

And because they are local, and therefore Cornish, they use the script and language to devastating effect and ably demonstrate the best of Cornish humour. The bottle boys and old biddies have brilliant timing and a number of people have told me that last Wednesday's performance was the best yet.

The performers are now going to have a little break but will be back from Monday 20th July to Wednesday 22nd.

I strongly recommend Gonamena to anyone who is in south-east Cornwall during this time. If you want an idea of what performance looks like, go toRob Frost Photography to see pictures of the rehearsals.

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Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Extra-curricular summertime activities of the author

If things have been a bit quiet on this blog recently, it's not because I have fallen off the world. I went to one of the inspirations for the Wild Hunt, the Le Mans 24 Hours race and since then have been making the most of what is turning out to be a fantastic summer.

This was the view from my sleeping bag of a morning - that's the Morgan of mate Al parked in the Houx campsite within the circuit and in the distance are the tribunes around the start and finish line.

Everyone was there because they were enthusiasts and we had a great time enjoying the atmosphere together. I felt very much like this during my time in this year's Land's End Trial.

Of course, what I should have been doing at Easter was promoting the launch of The Wormton Lamb for this was published on the Easter Saturday but this was the very day that I was making my almost triumphant ascent of Blue Hills near St Agnes. At Le Mans I should have been promoting the Engine Punk thing and networking with everyone, telling me who I am and what I write. Maybe one day. Sometimes it seems to happen naturally but at others I seem to be foisting myself on people. I reckon this could alienate them so I go with the flow and if it feels good I network like a loon and if it doesn't I do something else. Like enjoy the competitive spirit and great company. And the rolling sculpture.

When it comes to writing -- whether it’s books or blocks -- I find that it is a seasonal activity. When it's raining outside, which it did for much of last summer, it's easy to put together a website or a blog or a book when it's sunny outside I feel I must pursue some of my other interests. Good weather makes me feel wealthy in all sorts of non-monetary ways and I like to spend such wealth wisely. I also like to spend my good weather when ever I have the opportunity to spend it. Good weather is not like money, which can be spent many times over, but is more like time, which can only be spent once. There will be plenty of opportunities to write when there are no opportunities to build sheds, weld cars, paint cars, play with motorcycles, travel and socialise with friends while the sun is shining.

There have been a couple of other factors that have mitigated against blogging.

Late at night, when I am most likely to get my blogging muse, the Internet seems much less reliable than at other times of the day. The UK government is winding itself up over broadband speeds but, from what I can make out, there are many occasions where the Internet is simply not available. I know I live in a very rural area but I don't think you should make a difference. At the moment I'm having to dictate this blog entry into Word in anticipation of the Blogger website becoming available again.

The other obstacle to regular blogging is the ongoing lack of a proper workstation. I have no desk, just one dining room chair, a cordless keyboard, my Dragon voice recognition software and my screen. The ergonomics of this combination are not good. After about five minutes, I start to ache, no matter how interesting the subject matter, and after harping on about the importance of well-designed workstations on this very same blog I am only a little closer to solving this problem. However, I have ordered very nice plywood that, after a short interval, will metamorphosise into a splendid wraparound tabletop. I already have the executive leather chair but this hasn't emerged from its box yet or been assembled.

A forthcoming but short term lack of blog entries can be ascribed to me addressing these issues but disturbing the snake pit of all these cables and wrestling with a wireless connection again as I move my workstation upstairs will be a steadying step backwards before a giant leap forwards -- even if I do go off-line for a while.

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Sunday, 7 June 2009

Why I like Jan Needle's Wild Wood

I read this book for the first time many years ago. It was recommended to me by a friend, which is always the best way with anything. He lent it to me which meant that I had to give it back afterwards and is part of the ongoing thought processes concerning the development of the Sole Trader Trilogy, I wanted to read The Wild Wood by Jan Needle again.

Getting hold of a copy proved surprisingly difficult. Amazon listed it but, on closer inspection, this proved to be an entirely different book altogether. In the end, I notified eBay that I was looking for one and after a few weeks found an original paperback complete with illustrations by Willie Rushton in good condition -- and all for the princely sum of 50p.

The Wild Wood retells Winston Grahame's The wind in the Willows from the point of view the working class stoats, ferrets and weasels.

I had often wondered what Ratty, Moley and the Badger did for a living. Toad was clearly gentry. Although he was a menace to everyone when behind the wheel, including himself, if ever there was an amphibian destined to ride in Nick Hob’s Wild Hunt, here he was -- Toad the Wild Hunter, Toad the cheater and death on the highway, Toad the arch enthusiast.

I never understood the way his friends treated him, either. If he was such a bad driver, wouldn't it have been a better idea to arrange for him to have driving lessons? Instead, they attempted to repress his enthusiasm and this left me feeling vaguely uncomfortable. In my darker moments, I wondered if The Wind in the Willows was not the depiction of some rural idyll that an attempt by Winston Grahame to close young minds against the glories of mechanisation. However, on rereading The Wind in the Willows I could tell that Winston Grahame felt the same way about cars as Toad. His descriptions of Toad's magnificent machinery -- the way the wheels ate up the miles – suggest that he understood what motivated Toad but also recognised how easy it was to get (literally) carried away by an overriding enthusiasm for the motor car.

Jan Needle seems to have understood this as well. I particularly identified with the central character, Baxter Ferret, who loses his job on the farm went Toad runs his Throgmorton Squeezer lorry off the road.

The Wild Wood is deliciously subversive. It turns around the story of The Wind in the Willows entirely. The stoats, weasels and ferrets are no longer sinister villains and thugs, they are a down trodden underclass existing on the breadline and the animals of the riverbank are completely heartless, selfish and oblivious to the plight of their neighbours and fellow creatures.

I loved the way Jan Needle set a different point of view on each and every event in the story of The Wind in the Willows. It almost answered a number of questions about this children's story that had been bothering me ever since I read it the first time.

Again, I believe Jan Needle understands the glory of the internal combustion engine just as well as I do. He goes a few steps further than Kenneth Grahame and that he gives the machinery names and identities, mapping out their technical details and brief specifications.

Jan Needle has written a number of children's books and although I haven't read any other of his works are delighted to find that he was the man behind Wagstaffe the Wind-up Boy, for I once saw a brilliant stage play of this title by the Kneehigh Theatre.

Apparently, when The Wild Wood came out, there were attempts by the Thatcher led regime to block this story from publication. I don't know if this is true but it has a ring of authenticity about it. This wasn't the first time that Jan Needle had been the focus of controversy. Other books of his had addressed even more contentious subjects such as the nuclear industry and the Falklands war.

And then there is still this funny business on Amazon, where you click on the cover to look inside or scroll down to read the descriptions and customer feedback and discover information about a book by Tamara Pierce. Is this deliberate? Or do people in high places still feel uncomfortable about children reading about social unrest and trying to assert their rights?

This is a book that deserves a far wider audience. It's funny that a joy to read.

But it's that dangerous word wild. Anything wild needs to be tamed, whether it’s Toad's enthusiasm, The Wild Wood or the Wild Hunt.

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Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Engine Punk Litmus

There's something interesting going on across the internet at the moment. Somebody else has picked up the engine punk ball and is running with it.

Engine Punk Litmus is a blog that suggests examples of the engine punk aesthetic and I have to say that so far - having coined the phrase in a tongue-in-cheek effort to pigeonhole my own brand of sci fi fantasy writing - the suggestions so far are pretty much what I would call engine punk.

But what do other people think?

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Monday, 18 May 2009

Forthcoming merger of blogs

This blog will shortly merge with my Engine Punk blog. I separated out the two originally to keep the themes clear but now that Engine Punk has been listed on Wikipedia and elsewhere on the net, I think there's no distinction between, on the one hand, the aesthetic and technical aspects and, on the other, my scribblings.

For a while I felt the inky-fingered arty-farty wouldn't want to know about the guitar wielding motorheads and vice versa. But now I know that these two prospective audiences are really the same people (freinds I haven't met yet) and that art and engineering are actually expressions of the same thing.

I don't know when I will achieve a unified blog but it will continue the Engine Punk name because this has a stronger identity than Anarchadia.

It'll still explore what artistic influences inspire me as well as what music and machinery appeals to me.

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Sunday, 10 May 2009

Engine punk on Wikipedia

I can't quite believe this but if you click here, Engine Punk is on Wikipedia! And it's accurate, too.

I can't believe this so much that I think everyone should visist this page to make sure that it's not just me that can see it.

Go on- you know you want to.


Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Very favourable review for The Wormton Lamb

I've just been advised of this extremely positive review on BookPleasures for The Wormton Lamb.

I am particularly pleased because I wasn't entirely sure if the Anarchadian Engine Punk thang would translate for American readers but it seems that in this country we've been led to expect the worst. Obviously, this particular reviewer is a highly intelligent woman of considerable taste. And before anyone asks, no i don't know her.

In the UK we hear so many stories of British TV programmes being re-written and re-acted to suit the American sense of homour - hell the folks in the parish beyond the Scillies even spell it differently - but they are people like you and me. Some jokes they get and some they don't just like Europeans, Africans, Indians, Chinese, Japanese and Australians.

So I am re-assured that it my stuff will appeal to the American market and could even go global.

It's quite easy being a megalomaniac, y'know.

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Tuesday, 21 April 2009

My writing to be cited in a creative writing course

I don't know the full details yet but my work is to be used as an example in a new on-line creative writing course - that's a good example before anyone out there says anything.

Run by the New Horizons Writing Academy on, one module concentrates on inspiration and breaking up writer's block and I have been cited as a good example of writing about what I know and using my imagination to put a new twist in things.

I'm thankful that I've never really suffered from writer's block. Sometimes it would be quite nice to be left alone by my muses for there often seems to be so many of them.

But if I ever get a bit stuck with what happens next or wish to link sections that I've already drafted - because i don't write sequentially - then write a literary review of the section I am about to write. I've travelled forward in time and am looking back through the eyes of another person at something I am about to write. Of course, they think it's absolutely brilliant and say why it's brilliant. I find living up to this imaginary expectation of a fictionary literary student, studying your work for their PhD (and why not?) inspires me come up with the goods. Often these students read my stuff on a completely different level, soemtimes seeing it as an allegory or finding all sorts of associations and subtleties of meaning of which I was totally unaware - until reading their piece.

Anyway, I am extremely flattered that anyone likes my stuff, let alone a tutor on a creative course who wants to use me as an example in this way, with links to my website and everything.

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Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Amazon review for The Wormton Lamb

The Wormton Lamb has just had a 4 star review on Amazon. Apparently Mr B (me) is not in the same league as Mr A (Douglas Adams) but I would have agreed with that.

Get this - "I was frequently completely taken aback by the inventiveness, cleverness and downright absurdity of many of his ideas." That's me the reviewer's talking about, not Mr A.

There are 6 new copies available from ₤11.97 and 3 available from ₤17.24 – so there’s already a cachet associated with secondhand copies. No ranking yet but with three secondhand copies somebody must have been buying it.

Buy why are they re-selling it so quickly?

Or is Amazon operating true to form again? Are these prices simply meaningless?

There was me wondering if The Wormton Lamb was doomed to a life of obscurity.

This is just the beginning.

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Tuesday, 14 April 2009

The Wormton Lamb is now available

While I was competing in the Land's End Trial, The Wormton Lamb became available. I know the timing of my book becoming available should have been part of a finely co-ordinated promotional campaign involving lots of media interest and an attention grabbing launch party but that doesn't sound much fun to me.

Leave that kind of thing to the professional book promoters who operate hand in glove with mainstream media. They're good at it and they've got it all sewn up. Your book is called "product". It's a production line and you fall off at the other end.

My idea of fun is doing just what I've been doing - connecting to like minded souls whether they are motor sport enthusiasts, fans of artists I like or readers of my books.

I have many other interests besides book promotion - writing is one of them for goodness' sake - and while some say I spread myself too thinly I view it as achieving the right balance.

I enjoy doing it and I think I come across better than I ever could in a speculative e-mail to someone who never will be interested.

So The Wormton Lamb has had a quiet start to its commercial but one that is not over yet.

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Monday, 13 April 2009

Pavane - is this the start of Steam Punk?

I discovered this book in the best way, by chance and through a personal recommendation. If I had not sat next to Peter Jenkin on the train and fallen into conversation with him he would never have told me about the book he was reading.

It was the traction engine on the cover that caught my eye. Although I prefer the internal combustion engine, external combustion varieties - where the fuel is burnt outside the cylinders - still appeal tremendously. Railway locomotives may have a literary presence but road locomotives rarely feature in fiction of any sort, let alone sci-fi or fantasy.

A pavane is a dance of Spanish origin popular around the time of Queen Elizabeth I and this story is divided into measures and a coda. Now, I know nothing about music but I know what I like and I quite like this musical example of a pavane. Not sure how you dance to it, though - probably too courtly and graceful for my usual enthusiastic outbursts of physical musical pleasure.

Keith Roberts' Pavane is really a series of closely linked short stories set in an alternative history where the Spanish Armada successfully landed in Britain following the assassination of Elizabeth I. The whole world subsequently came under a very repressive Roman Catholic rule in which the Pope issued directives on every aspect of life. Continuing the long association between men of the cloth and the steam engine, the Pope banned the internal combustion engine for most of the twentieth century, restricting its use and stunting its development. I'm really intrigued by this idea - but what a terrible world this creates!

Catholicism controls every aspect of like in Pavane. All other technological advances are potential heresies until the pope has passed judgment upon them and the Inquisition is more active than ever.

The scene is then set for a great deal of nastiness and civil unrest. The action takes place over several generations and depicts the slide into revolution of an incredibly repressive religious regime. It's set in the Wessex and probably stands comparison with Thomas Hardy's novels. I also associate Dorset with the Great Dorset Steam Fair so relate to the setting particularly strongly, although foreign readers probably won't pick up on many of the references.

I really enjoyed this book. Classified retrospectively as Alternative History, it pre-dates the genre by several decades - it was first published in 1968. It's also hailed as one of the first examples of steam punk. There's more to it than that and yet the exploration of the steam punk possibilities Keith Roberts conjures up would have intrigued me more than the sadistical excesses of the Inquisition, although this is handled adroitly and the violence is not gratuitous. The ceremony of blessing the instruments of torture so that the truth can be revealed is an idea that struck me particularly.

I would have enjoyed it even more, however, if the story had concentrated more on the steam engines. It strikes me that the old British steam-powered road trains offer vast literary possibilities and have been overlooked for too long.

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Wednesday, 1 April 2009

The Wormton Lamb competition

5 people have just won copies of The Wormton Lamb in a competition run by Zopa the internet social lending network. I should be able to get them in the post on Saturday.

The Wormton Lamb is released on 11th April. I won't be involved in a huge media event - on that date I'm crewing a 1946 Allard in the 2009 Land's End Trial for a mate of mine who was let down by his navigator/co-driver/bouncer-for-when-the-going-gets-sticky.

So obviously I've got my priorities right.

I should also point out that any similarities between classic trials and The Wild Hunt in my books about Hob and Anarchadia are purely coincidental.

More about The Wormton Lamb dreckly.

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Wednesday, 25 March 2009

I'm a Type B kinda guy

Last night I was making a bracket - as well as a racket - in my garage-cum-studio when I heard a very thought provoking programme on Radio 4. It was about sleep patterns and how the early risers have been favoured by society ever since we were an agricultural economy. In our pre-industrial society, our lives were ruled by daylight and the early bird really did get the worm. However, since the dawn of industrialisation, we have adopted much more varied work and sleep patterns.

Our sleep patterns change throughout our lives. As young children, we tend to go to bed earlier than when we are adults and when we are teenagers we prefer to stay up late and have long lie-ins instead of getting up at the crack of dawn.

And sleep patterns vary tremendously between individuals. The point this programme made was that some of us are Type A and naturally disposed towards getting up early and going to bed early. The disposition towards early-ness for larks is much greater than it would be for most of the population.

Type B people are the other way round - they prefer to get up late but quite happy to work well into the small hours in some cases.

This programme went out before the 10 O'clock News and I eventually finished in the garage at about 2230. I think that proves that I'm on a lark but I'm very much an owl.

According to some of the speakers on this programme, people like me have been discriminated against the generations. We are dragged out of our warm cocoon is far too early during our childhoods and have had the "early to bed, early to rise, makes a child healthy, wealthy and wise" mantra drummed into us from an early age. As adolescents, our sleep patterns shift back by as much as three hours and for some of us that’s where they stay. Most adults begin to go to bed a bit earlier in their 20s and, by the time they’re in their 40s, getting up at 0630 seems quite natural.

But if it is natural for you and you have to conform to the more traditional work patterns of a 9 till 5 job, then it is very easy for you to end up in a state of sleep deprivation.

Although I have no difficulty getting up in the morning, the natural time for me is 0900, not 0600. Going to bed early simply doesn't work because in evening I'm not tired. Very often I don't get to bed until about midnight. If you are running a publishing empire in your spare time after the working day this can be quite convenient but the lack of sleep gradually creeps up on you.

Flexible working hours and changes in more traditional working patterns are beginning to allow Type B people to adopt working lives more in tune with their own body clocks. We have effectively been jetlagged for most of our lives without benefit of going anywhere exotic.

I'm quite comfortable with my status as a Type B, but I have been aware for some time that the two had a half hours of sleep but I'm not giving every morning can't be compensated for by going to bed two had a half hours earlier. At certain times of the day I'm ready for a little nap but in that pleasant state between waking and unconsciousness I can be incredibly creative. The linkages between the various compartments of my brain seem to occur with greater regularity and I have my best ideas when she asked on the point of drifting off to sleep.

The trick is to stay just awake long enough to remember what brilliant ideas I've had. I once tried keeping a tape recorder close to my bedside and on several occasions had the presence of mind to record my ideas. The only trouble was, when I played the back, the grunts and mumbles were unintelligible. Keep your notebook didn't work either. By the time I switch the light on and found a pen I've forgotten what it was that I was trying to get down on paper.

I'd like to be able to work later during the day but not in my present day job. I won't be able to give this up for some time but my ultimate dream would be to make my living from my writing and when I'm able to do that (or more likely when I have retired) I will be able to get up when I want and do what I want in tune with my own sleep patterns.

In recognition of this tendency to work and live later, a movement known as the B-society is growing on the Internet. Some industries, such as IT and more creative disciplines, have already adopted work patterns that suit B-people. This is because many of the people who work in these industries are fresh from college or university where a student life centres upon staying up late. The purpose of the B-society is to promote awareness of B-people and maximise their talents, whereas in the past these have been blighted by sleep deprivation as they try to fit in with traditional working patterns that have been more geared towards A-people.

For the moment, though, I think I will still have to participate in a day job that is a little bit too early for me. This allows me to indulge in my more creative passions for hours but the feeling that this work pattern is slowly killing me won’t go away!

It's 2130 and I'm off out to the garage to finish off that cunningly fashioned bracket that will transform the way my van drives.

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Monday, 23 March 2009

Review of The Horsepower Whisperer

I've just had an extremely positive review on, the independent internet review site. Read it here!

I am particularly encouraged by this coup - I had a sneaky feeling some of the humour wouldn't be got by an American reader. Either the reviewer was particularly clever and understood what I was on about or it's not so abstruse for our transatlantic cousins as I'd thought.

At first I never considered how it would appeal to an American reader. People are still people wherever you go but over the years I've heard many instances of British shows being adapted for American tastes. This seems especially true of comedies but it doesn't seem to be a problem for Jaspar Fforde whose very Britishness is one of his keyways to success.

Wallace and Gromit also cross this great alleged divide. The Japanese love them especially their tea drinking. It makes for an alternative take on their tea ceremony, I suppose.

In case Jaspar's sense of humour needs explaining, his website offers explanations and background information to help people who've never been to Swindon. I suspect this is now an accepted part of publishing - both book and author are supported by the web to create an information resource or mystique that adds to their appeal.

All I have to do now is get some of these great quotes from this review onto my Amazon page.

One thing - of many - that I've learnt during the last 12 months is how important third party recommendations like this are. It's no good just me saying I'm brilliant. It's got to come from other people and, thanks to my recent efforts in publicising my work, it's starting to at last happen.

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Friday, 13 March 2009

Why I like Doctor Who

Although I don't have a telly these days, when I was younger I watched a lot. And my favourite programme of all was Dr Who. In my opinion the best Doctor Who was Jon Pertwee who brought such action and excitement to the role.

I remember Jon Pertwee was on the phone once to The Master, played by the brilliant Roger Delgado, when The Master tweaked a gadget and Jon Pertwee's phone cable became alive and began to strangle him - complete with sound effects from the BBC Radiophonics Workshop. Of course he escaped but I don't think Tom Baker would have managed it. He was too intellectual for me.

Pertwee's Dr Who was like a time traveling James Bond. He had the the gadgets. Who could ever forget the sonic screwdriver? (I had one of those once but it gave me a nosebleed.) He had a quirky Edwardian car (a Siva Edwardian no less! - see my occasional blogs about Sivas on my Engine Punk blog) that did more than 007's Aston Martin and could call on reinforcements in the shape and form of UNIT if any gargoyles suddenly came to life. Complete this sentence, uttered by the Brigadier during the story entitled The Daemons, "Chap with wings...."

Jon Pertwee was a bit of a dandy as Dr Who but the sheer energy he put into his performances overcame my reservations about this.

But the ultimate Dr Who moment for me predates - as in coming before, not eating - Jon Pertwee's Dr Who.

I have a black a and white memory of a Patrick Troughton episode where The Doctor was unconscious in a sewer beneath London and the cybermen were entering it. The cybermen were second only to the daleks in terms of Dr Who's adversaries and what I found particularly appalling was their unhurried gait. They didn't have to walk quickly because they just knew they were going to get you.

As they nonchalantly made their way towards the unconscious Doctor, I couldn't bear to watch anymore. And yet I had to see what happened next.

Peering through my fingers was not good enough. I tried watching from behind the settee but that didn't work either.

In short, I couldn't be in the same room as the television when that episode was on.

In fact, I couldn't even be in the same house.

My father was digging the garden at the time and as he paused in between spade loads he noticed me outdoors, peering in to the sitting room through the window.

"What are doing out here?" he asked. "I though you were watching Dr Who."

"I am watching Dr Who," I insisted, shading my eyes to minimise the reflection.

I later acquired a Dr Who annual and in an interview with Jon Pertwee he mentioned criticism from parents that Dr Who was too scary. His solution? "There's a button on the set marked off," he said. "If parents are really concerned they should try using it and see how their kids react."

But what Dr Who did best was introduce kids to sci-fi and adventure. I've seen the latest reincarnation but the effects are not quite so quaint as I remember. Maybe today's generation will look back at them and think them charming like I do. The latest Dr Who is still just as much a trouble maker as he ever was - as soon as he turns up you just know there's going to be trouble.

And at long last the BBC have got the marketing right. If Airfix had produced packets of Daleks instead of fighting human figures from historic battles, then I would have spent all my pocket money on them. They are still my favourite "monsters" even today.

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Monday, 2 March 2009

Back to writing

I am currently re-drafting the beginning of my next book and it has occurred to me how much of this self-publishing lark has nothing to do with the simple act of getting your thoughts down on paper. Or a screen. Or a digital dictaphone.

Assembling these often random ideas into a coherent story also takes a lot of time but I quite enjoy doing that - drafting and re-drafting until the story has a direction that and sense of purpose that makes it almost write itself.

Once I have that all important orientation in the narrative, the story assumes a kind of critical mass and I get carried away by it until it's finished. It always needs more polishing once I've reached The End but by then I can see the whole story, something no amount of planning can bring out.

So that's the writing part, the easy bit.

The self-publishing manuals are also telling me to do a whole lot of other things. Some of them I find easy, others I don't. And if I am to be a writer who actually writes - instead of being only a publisher - I've decided I'm going to have to ignore their advice and do what I like.

No change there then, some of you might think.

My point is that the To Do list for a self-publisher is endless and I can't do all of it myself. So I choose what I can and like doing and don't do what I can't or dislike.

I haven't had much success so far at getting reviews for my books. In fact, if just one review qualifies as a successful then I suppose I've been unsuccessful - so far.

"So far" is the balm that restores everyone's optimism. Who can tell what ripples i have created over the interweb? What out of the corners has my message reached? How long will it take for the ripples to bounce back to me as I sit like a spider at the centre of my far-reaching tentacles, mixing my metaphors and touching people's lives everywhere, sometimes without them even knowing it?

Unfortunately, publicity is critical and I would be delighted if my ham-fisted efforts resulted in some. Publicity is what publishing is all about but if newsapers and magazines have a policy of no reviews for self-published work then I have to look for otehr avenues for promotion. And thise 'ere blog is one of them.

I don't have the time to chase up media types with short attention spans. I don't have the time to tout my books around bookshops. And I am not a particularly good salesman, either.

I know conventional publishing wisdom dictates that I should have a book launching party for The Wormton Lamb but I have no idea of how to organise one.

Why bother about these negative character traits, though? I ought to be capitalising on my strengths, not worrying about my weaknesses.

So that's why I am writing again, and writing with a clear conscience. It doesn't matter that I haven't built up a media blitz yet. The long dark evenings are ideal for a little introspective fantasising. The next part of The Soul Trader Trilogy is taking shape.

Bob Blackman - never knowing overhyped - that's me.

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Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Appealing to grown ups and children

I really like this photo. It was sent in to me by Mr Charles Coad of Snozzle and shows him reading The Horsepower Whisperer with his daughter Katie, appearing courtesy of Mrs Sharon Coad who took the photo.

One point of interest is that although this book was ordered via Amazon only last week, the cover is the very first version, so Charlie and Katie have a collector's item in their hands. I can only assume that Amazon stockpiled some when my book first came out. Sometimes I don't think they "get" print-on-demand. Anyway, there can't be many of these left in the Amazon warehouse now so order your own one quick...

Personally I prefer the current cover. But I really like this image and thank Chas'n'Shaz for sending it in.

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Friday, 20 February 2009

Why I like Facebook

After trying MySpace and Bebo and not finding either to my liking, I couldn't see the point of going on Facebook for a long time but now I'm on there, I think it's great. When you join, it strips all your e-mail addresses out of your mailbox and sends messages to your mates to tell them you're on Facebook. And blow me if most of them aren't on there already!

I've had ping pong games of messages with friends in real time (that never happened with e-mails) and I can let my little circle of friends know what I'm up to and what the next exciting event for Anarchadia Publishing will be. I can post photos and links - it does everything that e-mail can do but better.

After the usual initial flurry of interest, I've found Facebook to be a useful tool. For networking it seems ideal. I'm on there to promote my writing mainly but I can easily see why it could become addictive.

You can even be fan of someone.

But I would like to be someone who has fans. I just haven't asked anyone yet.

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Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Post tax submission euphoria

I've been feeling particularly high-spirited lately and I've just realised why. It's because I avoided that ₤100 fine for late submission of a tax bill.

Now that not sound a lot to you but there was a principle at stake here and I'd spent a lot of effort for the last two weeks of 2009 and the whole of January 2009 in avoiding that fine.

I managed to submit my return in the end and now I can get on with my other activities. Writing is one of them.

I can allow myself to be stimulated again, instead of shutting down my creativity because "I really must have to do this piece of admin instead".

One day, I'll have an office manager to do that for me. I find administration and business stuff really tedious so it's great to get it out of the way. I have to do now is (assumes exuberant Latin gestures) CREATE!

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Monday, 16 February 2009

Bob Blackman beats slush pile

Here I am doing it!

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Sunday, 15 February 2009

Yet more trouble with reading

No, I don't mean having trouble with reading - I'm having trouble finding good stuff to read. I want books that absorb me into their world completely. I want to feel that nothing else matters except the story I'm reading. I want to find books (just one would do for a start) that make me feel that I don't want to do anything else but revel in their story.

But the more I look, the more difficult it becomes to get this feeling.

I want the outside world to stop. I want the only thing that matters to be between the pages of a book. And I want to stretch out on my leather settee (it could do with being a bit longer actually becauue I'm 1.85 metres or 6'1" in old money) and read beside my open fire during these cold dark nights.

How is it that with so many books being published these days, so little interests me?

I went to the library today and nothing appealed. In these circumstances, how can I realistically expect to go into a bricks and mortar bookshop and see a book I like?

I perused the sci-fi/fantasy section and instead of names or title leaping into my eager hands to be read, every volume just stared back at me blankly.

I obviously wasn't the kind of reader that these books were hoping for, either.

I could consult my copy of 100 Must-Read Science Fiction Novels mentioned in an earlier blog entry for the 8th October but what I really want to do is find a book club that can weed out the rubbish and recommend to me only books that I'd like - guaranteed.

I could also do with a radio station that only plays music that I'm guaranteed to like but I can't find one of those, either.

The only thing to do, it seems, is write my own book to read.

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Thursday, 12 February 2009

Why I like Edgar Allen Poe and Harry Clarke

I first came across Edgar Allen Poe when I read a legendary treatise on steam locomotive history. The Chronicles of Boulton's Siding by Arthur Rosling Bennett - er - chronicles the fascinating and mysterious locomotives that Isaac Boulton bought, rebuilt, sold, sometimes bought back, rebuilt again and often finally sold as winding engines to collieries. Many of them had illustrious careers before they appeared at Boulton's siding in Ashton-under-Lyme but once Boulton had converted them for industrial use only someone with an infectious enthusiasm and deep knowledge of his subject could hope to piece their stories together. Rosling Bennett was that man. Many stories remain incomplete despite Bennett's best efforts but this book is the start of many enquiries into ancient locomotive lore.

Despite the murky origins of some of these locomotives I especially liked the line drawings that illustrated them in the condition when Boulton owned them.

Boulton even built his own locomotives and it was one of these that was that was painted a peculiar tint of black that Bennett singles out for especial mention. The work's manager, Thomas Boulton, Isaac's first born son and heir to the firm, had been reading Edgar Allen Poe and christened one engine as the Raven. One of their employees, a Mr Knowles, was something of an amateur artist when it came to painting steam locomotives and he endowed it with a blue-black paint finish that served to emphasise the title. Shortly afterwards, Thomas Boulton died suddenly abroad, a blow from which his father never fully recovered.

Bennett drew a link between the two events. "Quoth the Raven 'Never more!'"

I wondered at the time who was this chap Poe who could evoke such doom laden portents? Until then I thought a Poe was a guzzunda - another name for the chamber pot that goes under the bed in case one was caught short in the night.

When I lived in Kent in a shared house the only book in the communal sitting room was Edgar Allen Poe's Tales of Mystery and Imagination, illustrated by Harry Clarke. I was captivated by the striking black and whiteness of Clarke's illustrations and the feverish mortality of Poe's over blown prose. I was already familiar with the work of Aubrey Beardsley's work but Clarke's drawings were something else again. With a line or two quoted from Poe's tales, his illustrations left an impression on me has stayed with me ever since.

The other day I found a copy of this book on Ebay and have been re-visiting the sensations this Gothic masterpiece made all those years ago.

Some of Poe's stories are - in truth - a bit boring but most are wonderfully evocative. You can smell the rotting grandeur of The House of Usher, feel the chill of the tomb in The Cask of Amontillado and reel at horror at the The Strange case of M. Valdemar ("upon the bed.... a nearly liquid mass of loathsome - of detestable putridity")

I love the sense of inevitable horror and the dramatic language! It's archaic but it sucks you in so you forget the modern world and it seduces you with odd, long -forgotten branches of experimental science like magento-galvanics. And let us not forget that Poe invented the modern detective story with his Murders in the Rue Morgue. Conan Doyle may be more readily associated with the snug terror in his Sherlock Holmes stories but Poe got there first.

I can't imagine a better illustrator for Poe than Harry Clarke. He brings out the darkness and adds to it, making the poses more exaggerated and the details in costume or plants in the background grandiose and bizarre and unworldly. It must have been a labour of love for Clarke to work on Poe's stories.

I am especially pleased to have this version of Poe's stories because it includes some colour illustrations but to be honest it's the graphic qualities of Clarke's black and white work that pleases me the most. In Clarke's capable hands, a simple black line becomes a thing of beauty and he wields his lines with such exuberance.

I like the line drawings in The Chronicles of Boulton's Siding for different reasons. There is another sort of joy in laying done these lines. They don't capture a dramatic scene or a distillation of Poe's glorious horror but a record of an engineer's idea, a dream that was made real out of iron and copper. The way Arthur Rosling Bennett tells these chronicles, they are indeed tales of mystery and imagination.

In both books, I like the combination of words and pictures. The typeface is old-fashioned but stark against the white of the page. The illustrations seem to squeeze out every nuance from a single line of Poe's rich text - "But then without those doors there did stand the lofty and enshrouded figure of the Lady Madeline of Usher."

Maybe it's just me but I reckon Harry Clarke sometimes spotted some double meanings in Poe's prose. The best example is from The Assignation, a morbidly romantic story that Clarke considered worthy of a double spread. On the left - "It was the Marchesa Aphrodite - the adoration of all Venice." And on the left, balancing in a gondola - "I had myself no power to move from the upright position I had assumed."

And it's the black and white line drawings that bring me back to The Chronicles of Boulton's Siding, too. The draughtsman behind the line drawings remains uncredited although Arthur Rosling Bennett thanks him anonymously. Many of these engibes were a bit freakish and some even had Gothic fireboxes.

Another of Boulton's engines was called Fowler's Ghost, an almost apocryphal locomotive built for service under the city of London on Brunel's seven foot wide broad gauge. It was supposed to have swallowed its own smoke in the tunnels it habituated but in the end produced "neither smoke nor steam" and was condemned as a failure before arriving at Boulton's Siding.

I can't help but wonder what sort of drawings Harry Clarke would have produced if he had been chosen to illustrate The Chronicles of Boulton's Siding.

Harry Clarke (1889-1931) had an illustrious career as a stained glass designer but it's his black and white work that entrances me. One day I'll travel to the Emerald Isle and see some of his windows. I like stained glass and when the fine lines of his drawing are combined with the colours of stained glass I suspect the overall effect is amazing.

It is rumoured that Harry Clarke's continuing ill health was caused by the toxic chemicals that he and his brother Walter used in the stained glass processes.

These poisons may even have hastened his death, a twist of fate of which Edgar Allen himself would have made much.

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Saturday, 7 February 2009

Summoned by bells to St Ervan

The other day I took my silver haired rellies out to St Ervan church. This little-known church in Cornwall was mentioned in a guide book on churches that one of them received for Christmas and the description was so interesting it even tempted a heathen like me to go and have a look. St Ervan lost its tower many years ago and the stump remained a stump until given a proper job roof as late as the 1950s. For many years an improvised tripod of tree trunks supported a bell in the churchyard and this was how a youthful John Betjeman found the church whilst on holiday in Cornwall.

Betjeman visited Cornwall from an early age and is buried at St Enodoc. He championed Victorian architecture and Britain's railways when they were most under threat and had a knack of making the most mundane things appear special.

But St Ervan was something exceptional, a strange place in a strange land.

Betjeman found St Ervan when he was still quite a young chap and by chance - always the best way. I can imagine what an impression a semi-ruined church with its bell outside the porch on some rusticated sheer legs would have made on him. He met the vicar who summoned Betjeman by whacking the bell and later gave him tea in the bookish atmosphere of the vicarage. And "Summoned by Bells" was how Betjeman described his autobiography.

Like many churches in Cornwall, that of St Ervan is wonky. In plan, the choir is at an angle of several degrees, enough to look deliberate at any rate. And my learned relations told me that this to symbolise the head of Christ lolling on the cross. Anyone in the congregation looking towards the altar would never be allowed to forget this.

But what really struck me about St Ervan was the story of its tower.

Despite great thick walls, the tower was considered to be unstable by the middle of the nineteenth century and the parishioners had a go at pulling it down. First they tried with horses. That didn't work. Then they tried with one of those new fangled traction engines (Why didn't anyone photograph this?). That didn't work either.

Without pausing to consider whether the tower was really going to collapse that easily, they eventually resorted to dynamite and in 1883 succeeded in destroying the top half of the tower.

And a goodly portion of the roof.

When Betjeman found the battered little church, it was still a jagged stump, although they'd repaired the roof and could at least hold services in the dry.

Such determination to destroy the tower could stem from the fate of St Issey's tower to the north, which collapsed in 1869 after being struck by lightning. Much closer to home, the church tower at St Eval also gave trouble. Merchants from Bristol contributed to its rebuilding because it was such a welcome marker for vessels coming up the coast.

I remember the legend of Widecombe-in-the-moor in Devon when the devil visited the village. When he paid in a high value of coin for his ale at the inn, the ale turned to steam as he downed it, so infernally hot were his vitals. And when he left, Widecombe on a flying black horse, his steed lashed out and caught one of the pinnacles on the tower, sending it tumbling through the roof and onto the congregation below with great loss of life.

Some attributed this not to the devil but to another lightning strike. I reckon it was the devil. When I was a mixed infant at Goonhavern County Primary school, a touring group of players dramatised the story of Widecombe's disaster. I was convinced then and have been ever since.

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Wednesday, 4 February 2009

How I saved a ₤100

Well, I avoided having to pay £100 to the Inland Revenue. My top-secret log in PIN arrived with just a few days to spare and as soon as I had it in my grubby little hands I burst into action, logging on in a blur of fingers and accurately typed alphanumeric characters. The computer said yes and I was able to record my loss in the first year of trading as Anarchadia Publishing without any communist subversives hacking into the system beside me.

Many years ago, in a weak moment, I once tried to train as an accountant but couldn’t understand tax. Someone who worked for me at the time actually taught students in it and said that he would help me.

“All you have to do,” he said, “is ask yourself, is it fair?”

I seem to recall he mentioned something about chimneys as well.

Despite this congenital handicap, I found the on-line tax return very easy to use and look forward to recording a vast profit next year (just for a change)

It has occurred to me that if I hadn’t been able to get into the system to record my loss and been late, instead of being fined (if I had turned a profit), would the HMRC then owe me money?

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Monday, 26 January 2009

The prospect of a ₤100 fine

Time is drawing close to the deadline for submitting one's tax return for 2007/08 and this one has already received a hopeful looking ₤100-fine-sized envelope from what used to be the Inland Revenue. Nowadays they trade as the HMRC or Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs, not Harrogate Model Railway Club as I originally thought. I couldn't work out why I was being asked for a hefty subscription - and then I saw that it was for another kind of club entirely.

The reason for the looming deadline is that I've yet to receive a PIN that works. Back in 2008 (ah the nostalgia!), I didn't bother making a paper tax return for Anarchadia Publishing (a member of the Robert Blackman group of Companies), preferring to trust that my IT skills will enable me to make an online submission.

So here we are with a few days to go (possibly less by the time you read this) and still no tax return filed, a pile of rejected PINs on special secret paper and that hopeful envelope smirking at me from its pigeonhole in my escritoire.

What seems to have happened is that I have entered into a kind of infernal loop. I registered before Christmas for the Unique Taxpayer's Reference number and Government Gateway card and then got my PIN . Apparently all this is necessary so that Al-Quaeda don't de-stabilise the British Government by paying my tax bill.

Let them I say.

After three goes at entering this PIN the system freezes you out and automatically issues a new PIN. What I think may have happened is that I entered one of the other code numbers instead of my PIN, thereby caasing another PIN to be generated. When this didn't arrive within 5 working days, I logged in again to hasten my PIN. Two days later a PIN arrived but it was not the one that I'd hastened. It wa sthe one before. Of course, this was not recognised when I tried it and, after three failed attempts with an out of date PIN, the system generated another one for me. As soon as the next PIN arrived, which would have been okay to use afew days earlier, I’d try activating my self-assessment area with a PIN that had been superseded.

This could have gone on indefinitely but I managed to speak to someone on the helpline. This 7 days a week from 8 till 8, which sounds pretty good until you discover that it’s inundated by callers and an automated voice tells you to try again later.

At about 1955 hours on a Sunday I got through and explained my predicament to someone who probably already had his coat on. He explained what had happened and didn’t seem in the least surprised by it. All I can do now, he said, is wait for another PIN to come through the post within 5-7 working days and then try logging in again.

The clock is ticking….

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Friday, 23 January 2009

Revised book covers were a Good Idea

My efforts last year at a re-design seem to have been endorsed. I went into my local bookshop last week because it's under new ownership and found the same staff behind the counter as before. I got recognised as a local author in front of the customers which was - I have to admit it - a very nice feeling!

I asked how the shop was going and it seems it's doing well which is always good to hear. The lady behind the desk remembered that they'd returned The Horsepower Whisperer just before the business was sold. "I'm afraid we didn't have any luck with it," she said.

She went on to mention that she didn't like the cover - then apologised when she realised that I'd done the cover.

"Why didn't you like it?" I persisted.

"It looked too cartoon-like," was her reply.

This was the cue for me to take a copy of the new revised version of The Horsepower Whisperer out of my rucksack (I always have one to hand for just such an eventuality). And she could hardly refuse taking the new edition back on a sale or return basis.

I still think that this particular person doesn't like the cover but probably dislikes it less than the old one. I don't think even I will ever be 100% happy with it but I don't get too amped about it these days. I'll settle for 99%.

And when you get a copy of The Wormton Lamb next to The Horsepower Whisperer they look fantastic! (I reckon anyway.)

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Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Getting my book reviewed

I spent some time this week following up leads about book reviews. With The Wormton Lamb coming out at Easter, I want to create more of a media splash than I managed with The Horsepower Whisperer. The ultimate is to arouse (good word) some interest from the national media but this seems to be a closed shop. If you are not a buddy of the editor I don't think you get a foot in the door. I could send them a copy but from remarks Bill Bryson made in his introduction to The Ascent of Rum Doodle by W E Bowman, newspaper offices are awash with books sent in for possible review that either get pulped, binned, sold on eBay and Amazon or used as Christmas presents by skinflints.

Not that Bill Bryson would ever do this, of course. The point of his introduction was how pleased he was to have discovered The Ascent of Rum Doodle, which enjoyed a kind of cult following among rock climbers against all the odds.

As you can imagine, that kind of story interests and inspires me greatly but I am aware of the odds against and don't see the point in sending out review copies if they are not requested.

The advise in all the publishing manuals is to ensure that you have reviews in the press ready for the launch of your book. That means a lead time of about 3-4 months to give them time to read it. There's a lot of angst-ridden moaning on discussion groups about review copies appearing for sale on Amazon. I wonder how many copies are sent out? One thing I am certain about is that unsolicited review copies are not welcome. the trouble is establishing some sort of working relationship with the media to not only get reviews but to ensure they are used to best effect.

Professionals can do this because they have a constant stream of books with which to interest the media. It really is a question of who you know in that game but even if you have a professional publicist to care of your book, they have half an eye on the next "product" on their publicity production line.

Despite all this, I believe the internet still offers untapped opportunities for shouting about yourself, hence this blog, my Engine Punk blog and my Anarchadia website.

What my research into reviews threw up was that there clearly is never any guarantee that your book will be read for review. Some internet sites offer a pay-for-review service but I don't see what value these have. As far as I can make out, they don't do anything with the reviews they provide, either. It's still down to the author or publisher to make what they can out of them.

I tried - unsuccessfully I might add - to get a famous author to read The Horsepower Whisperer. Their opinion would carry some weight, especially if they were the sort of person whose readers would like my stuff.

It's struck me how book endorsements are often from people I've never heard of. There seems to be a tacit admission that I am not alone in this, for the reviewers credentials are often listed after their name.

It's also struck me that I might just as well use quotes from readers on Amazon. At least these are real people who've read my work.

So I cruised around looking for free review sites and think I might have come up with some. Bookpleasures is one that I'm trying. I've already sent copies of both books to what sounds like an enthusiastic reviewer. I've also had some positive remarks about extracts of my work on Authonomy.

But it occurs to me that to receive reviews you need to be a reviewer. It's not so much "you give me a great review and I'll give you great one" - it seems to work like this. You make sure everyone know you are an author every time you publish a review on these sites and either the reviewee checks out your work or other people get to know you through your insightful comments. Some authors are clearly hoping to be noticed by agents in this way, for - allegedly - these shy retiring creatures actually check out these sites for new writing.

Whether you post your work for free or go for paid reviews, time is the big constraint. And if you start sending out books it gets expensive. Most of these review sites are in the states.

Enquiries with the local press brought the response that they very rarely review self-published books. Notice that they never said never so there is a glimme rof hope there. I suspect the professional publicists would get cross if they did it too much. Or is it a pay-for-review system everywhere?

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Monday, 19 January 2009

Website stats

I checked my website stats over the Christmas hols and found this. Now, I know that I had not been publicising my enterprise as assiduously as I might have done while revising my book covers but this looked a bit disappointing to me. Back in the summer, my Anarchadia site was getting nearly 700 uploads and 200 unique visitors a month. During August this fell away to almost nothing.

Then it occurred to me that since smartening up my Anarchadia site in Serif WebPlus X2, I'd omitted any stat counter code. I didn't know how.

Fortunately, Serif WebPlus offers on line help and pretty soon I had identified where to insert the code from Statcounter.

A couple of page loads to test that I'd spliced things in properly and everything was set up again. Suitably encouraged, I found where to insert the code on my blogs, too.

Boy, am I glad I did!

When I checked Statcounter again about a week later, I found that my Anarchadia website is getting 40-50 visitors a week with about 60-80 page loads. It's not at the same level of interest that this site had 12 months ago but lots of forthcoming attractions are about to come forth so I am not really concerned.

I was pleasantly surprised to see how much interest this blog got. It's not as popular as the website. It gets 40-50 page loads per week and 30-50 unique visitors.

But the Engine Punk blog seems to be taking on a life of its own. For the first week with the statcounter, it had 500 page loads, which is nearly what the website had in its prime. When I blogged about the Exeter Trial, the hit rate jumped dramatically to over 300 a day.

I'm nearly famous. If I can maintain and build this level of interest and sell my books to a proportion of these people I'll be very happy indeed.

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Sunday, 18 January 2009

In the media again!

Now I know I should be blase about this and not get excited but I can't. I don't see the point of even trying.

I was in The Herald again last week. Yes, The voice of Plymouth was talking about me again. It's to do with my unconventional approach to raising funds for my publishing adventures but it's still publicity and who knows what connections it'll make with the general public?

I'm using what's called peer-to-peer lending with Zopa and it could be the answer to the banking system's problems. There are no brokers or bankers or middlemen - just the good old internet, matching lenders and borrowers with each other.

Here's the link - Author Bob's sci-fi dream

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Thursday, 15 January 2009

The Buzzcocks at the Lemon Grove, Exeter University

The Buzzcocks began their latest Another Bites tour on the 13th January 2009. The idea is very simple - they play their first two albums - Another Music In A Different Kitchen and Love Bites - in their entirety plus some of their other hits. They even do the intro and outro using bits of Boredom. This is the music that established their reputation and introduced a load of people to the more cerebral side of the punk rock revolution. These are thoughtful songs that pull you up short and it's very difficult not to move about to them.

And the crowd on their first date at the Lemon Grove, Exeter University were highly appreciative and really had a good time.

I was there with the usual reprobates - Gary, Rich and Nick. Actually, that's not a bad name for a band.

Support was by The Lurkers, a band who I'd somehow contrived not to notice over all this time. I suppose that's what lurking is all about.

I don't (whisper it) like every song by The Buzzcocks. Their opening number is called "I hate fast cars" when obviously I absolute llllooooovvve fast cars. I can't sing along to a sentiment like that but I suppose it represents a kind of song writing achievement - fast cars are part of the rock'n'roll scene and here Pete Shelley's singing about how much he doesn't like them. I bet he does really, though. Maybe The Buzzcocks are just playing "Opposites" when they play this.

But the songs I like I really like . I mean I really, really like them. And that - I would suggest - is the way it should be. There's no mediocrity with this band and obviously if I thought they produced rubbish I wouldn't have seen them four times since the year 2000.

My absolute faves are Harmony in my head and Autonomy. Autonomy had haunted me for years. When I was a student at Coventry Poly, we used to go to the Dog and Trumpet, which was in a cellar in the city centre, under the HMV shop (hence the name). Friday night was punk night and they played Autonomy there a lot. Although I'd heard loads of Buzzcocks albums by then, I never made the connection and often wondered who played this song and what it was called. I spent most of my time on the dance floor on those nights and never seemed to have the time to ask the DJ what it was.

I was travelling up to Bristol with The Usual Reprobates (see above) to see The Buzzcocks for the very first time, when I asked these punk quiz pro-celebrity grand masters if they recognised this song and I hummed it to them. Autonomy had passed the Old Grey Whistle test years before and I'd been carrying it around for all those intervening years so I made a reasonable fist of the tune. I thought it was called I want you.

"That's Autonomy!" cried Gary and he punched some keys on the CD player and there it was, my long lost song with that haunting ending that doesn't fade. Somehow The Buzzcocks make it slow to a crescendo. I don't know how else to describe it but it demonstrates how these guys just know how to write songs.

The Buzzcocks even agreed to share a riff with founder member Howard Devoto who used it for Magazine's seminal Shot from both sides hit. That's a one of my all time favourites, too. I can't imagine that sort of thing happening in the "every things a threat" 21st century.

Bring back Captain Scarlet.

As a live act The Buzzcocks imbue a great deal of energy into their audience. The sound quality was good. The Usual Reprobates saw them at The Phoenix Arts Centre a few years ago, also in Exeter, and were deafened for days afterwards. No probs this time, though. If anything their performance on this first night of their tour was more energetic than before.

It occurs to me that Steve Diggle could be the punk rock equivalent of Cliff Richard. He never seems to change.

But for the complete nostalgia kick, I suppose Pete Shelley ought really to be playing a replica Starway guitar. His first guitar was a bargain basement from Woolworths that broke along the grain at the top when it got thrown across the rehearsal studio. He carried on playing it at live venues and it became an early part of The Buzzcocks myth.

Eastwood Guitars are now offering Pete Shelley endorsed replicas. These are of a much higher quality than the original - which could hardly be any lower - and come in an especially small guitar case that wouldn't take a proper, unbroken guitar.

This little legend constantly inspires me to get the best sound from my cheapo eBay special. I would never have thought of going to Woolworths to buy one and now they are no more. This makes you realise what an achievement it is for The Buzzcocks to keep going for 30 years. And how good they are what they do. It's not easy to play well with rubbish, ether, as my guitar teacher constantly points out. He hates my made in China Medusa but I reckon that if I can play that well I'll be able to play anything. (Ellis, bless him, reckons I'm wasting my time even if I am saving my money.)

The only disappointment for me was that they didn't play Everybody's happy nowadays. We need affirmative messages like that even more, during these gloomy times.

"Life's an illusion, love is a dream,
Life's an illusion, love is the dream."

Go and see The Buzzcocks and find out about the quality of their performance for yourself. And remember that these are the guys that started the self-promotion indie record label revolution that gave punk its chance and to all manner of creative types - myself included - ever since.

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Thursday, 8 January 2009

Promo video

I've just managed to capture the first few frames of a new promotional video. I'm very excited about this but feel quite worn out. I have even managed to extract a still image from the new video footage. From this, you will see that I have one collar sticking out on one side whereas on the other it is tucked in. Never mind. This is a trait I often display at work and at home. I suppose it shows that it's the real me. I think I'll probably have to re-shoot it all again, but it's a lot better than my previous efforts.

That would we won't happen tonight because the battery on my Sony Handycam is nearly flat. And I feel like I need recharging, too.

The quality of the lighting and sound is better. When I tried this before, there were all sorts of problems. The biggest (literal) hiccup was that of dropped frames. My images didn't jerk around like some mad thing but I exhibited clear tendencies towards Splicer's Syndrome. Because my computer wasn't fast enough, it dropped some of the movie frames during capture and this is why I appeared to be grabbed by a new idea before I’d properly finished my words and sentences. Before, if I remember correctly, there were over 250 dropped frames, which in such a short length of footage was not good enough. After a vast investment in new IT, I have this evening prevented any frames from being dropped, hence tonight's tremendous sense of achievement.

Spurred on by this minor but significant success, I have deleted my promotional video from YouTube. It's been annoying me for months and now it's gone so you can't see it any more. But over the next few days I'll get to grips with my new editing software and a new version will rise phoenix-like from the ashes that I've just scattered on YouTube.

One of the things I noticed from my first effort was that I leant noticeably to the left. I never knew I did this. I tried to rectify this and re-shot my promo video while making a conscious effort not to lean to the left. However, I got my left and right mixed up. I couldn’t remember if it was my left when looking at the camera or my left looking at me when on the camera. Consequently, I leant even more in the same direction and the resulting footage just looked ridiculous.

Best of three, I thought but managed on that occasion to move the lights so that my spectacles caught the reflections. I looked like I’d sprayed them brilliant white.

Tonight, after a supreme effort, I managed to sit up straight and with my contact lenses in look reasonably normal. Please do not adjust your sets I really am this good-looking.

All I need now is to practice getting my collar under control. That’s tomorrow’s learning objective.

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Sunday, 4 January 2009

Author's Den and Authonomy

As part of my publicity push I've just updated my listing on Author's Den. I first heard about this site on a self publishing discussion group. I uploaded some very discreet personal details some months ago but have taken the opportunity of the free time over the Christmas and New Year season to update my very low profile. I was stirred into action when I did a web search on my name -- Bob Blackman -- and the first entry that was actually about me was on Author's Den. Consequently, I thought that, if this site was getting so many hits, then I ought to raise my profile on it. There are opportunities to upload examples of your writing, post photographs of yourself (portrait of the author just before he made it really big) and even the ability to advise visitors to the Author's Den of any events.

Hmm. I suppose the opportunity here is to advise the world at large of book signings, book tours, successful reviews and your latest book releases. Planning "events" and generally making myself "newsy" is not one of my present strengths and could be regarded as a significant learning objective.

On my old school reports they used to say "Could do better" but we're in the twenty-first century nowadays. I will give some thought as to what I can put as an event on Author's Den. The obvious thing is the forthcoming release of The Wormton Lamb.

Meanwhile, I have picked up on a new development, sponsored by HarperCollins. This is a new website called Authonomy and it's for readers and writers alike. The idea is to showcase new writing and it's surprising how many ordinary people like to sport new talent. For instance, there is a league table of the top talent spotters on Authonomy. There is also the possibility that self-published authors like me could be offered a contract by HarperCollins. Even if you are published with another publishing company, there seems nothing to stop you posting up some sample chapters, provided that you have your publisher's permission.

Having a presence on Authonomy can't do me any harm so I've posted over 10,000 words of both The Horsepower Whisperer and The Wormton Lamb.

It has also occurred to me that I need a better author photograph. I will have to give this some thought. This should look professional and a bit arty.

We'll see if anything comes from being on these sites. If nothing else, they can only help raise my profile on web searches.

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Friday, 2 January 2009

Social networking sites

Over the last couple of years, some friends of mine been raving about various social networking sites. Suitably encouraged, I had a go at MySpace but, after an initial surge in enthusiasm, I stopped using it and so did the friends who got me into it. Somebody else reckon that Bebo was good but nothing happened after I'd set up my profile. Of course, when I say nothing happened, I don't include all the messages I got from chicks in the States young enough to be my daughter who reckon that I looked "hot". They seemed intent on inviting me to look at the website of theirs that featured them getting naked in the outdoors. I think this is what they call cybersex. The attraction of this is lost on me, I'm afraid.

So, when another section of my social circle began to talk enthusiastically about Facebook, I didn't listen to them. The lesson I have learned from my experiments in social networking sites was that if I wanted to contact someone I would send an e-mail. Despite various lectures about its numerous advantages, I closed my ears and mind and, determined to manage quite happily without it, managed quite happily without it.

I was also slightly prejudiced against Facebook due to the experiences of one of my "friends" on MySpace. She was an artist who use the site to promote her work but posted a comment about Facebook. At that time, some people were alleging that Facebook was financed by the CIA and past personal details of its members onto the security forces in the United States. She posted a link to a video on YouTube about this and, as a direct result, had her profile is sabotaged by an American redneck who said she shouldn't have "any hangups about the United States being the number one nation." He effectively froze her site but after a great deal of effort and help from her friends she managed to get it unfrozen.

When I was reviewing the various options open to me in terms of publicising my writing, I took a fresh look at Facebook. And to really take a proper look at it, I had to sign up for it. Now that I have, I think it's rather good. It's surprising how the people I already know on Facebook and the main advantage to me is that I can see what mutual friends we have. I've only been on for 24 hours and have something like 30 friends. I've searched for some friends of mine with whom I've lost contact and because they have some rather peculiar names I've been able to find them. And I can see who's friends my friends have, who is friends with whom and who has mutual friends or friends in the same area.

MySpace seems to work well from the point of view of bands who are interested in promoting themselves but it didn't quite work for me as a writer. I had some interesting developments that these occurred soon after I joined the site and for the last 18 months I've regarded MySpace as dormant.

I expect the honeymoon period with Facebook will wear off after time but I've enjoyed it so far. it'll be particularly interesting to see if it benefits my career as a writer through publicising either myself or my work.

Unfortunately, it's only a matter of time before I get spammed but it hasn't happened yet and I can always delete or report them if it happens. If they are really attractive I might be tempted to look.

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Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Have you ever done a search on your own name on the Internet?

I have. It seems that there are many other Bob Blackmans, far more famous than I am. The most famous Bob Blackman of all is listed on Wikipedia and was an innovative American football coach who died in 2000, aged 81. I'm not listed on Wikipedia yet. Apparently you're not supposed to list yourself. I have tried. I also tried to persuade some of my famous friends to mention me, on the promise that I will mention them but they are being too British and modest about this. I'll keep one of them and eventually they'll agree, especially writing yet the point across about the importance of being listed on the Internet when you're authors like they are.

Having said that, my first amateurish attempt at a promotional video appears alongside an entry for the football coach Bob Blackman on FamousWhy. Now that I've got my voice back (I'm dictating this again on Dragon NaturallySpeaking), I'm really going to have to prioritise making a better video.

The second most famous Bob Blackman is best known as host of "The Folk Tradition" on WKAR-FM 90.5, every Sunday at 6:00 p.m. in East Lansing, Mitchigan. As well as working on radio, he also writes for various magazines although he is a computer analyst by profession. I'm not sure if American folk music is similar to British folk music. I suspect it is dangerously like country and western, which just rubs me up the wrong way for some reason. Or it is something like the songs or by Bob Dylan or Joan Baez. These would be much more to my taste -- so long as they are not sung by Bob Dylan. David Bowie described this man's voice is the sound of sand and glue and although I think he's a very clever songwriter I think his spoils his own songs by seeing them. In June of integration

Number three in the hit parade for Bob Blackmans is really a Robert Blackman, who, despite this handicap, still manages to get in to the Bob Blackman top three. For Robert Blackmans, this guy is deffo the number one. He's the costume designer for Star Trek The Next Generation and has been designing aliens and Starfleet uniforms for years. I suppose designing new life forms is pretty Godlike, so I reckon he deserves this high ranking in the Bob Blackman league. He may not have created his own universes, as I have, but he's brought something of the future to the big and small screens and millions of people enjoy his work. Not only that, but he has beaten me to be interviewed by the BBC and had a fictional member of the USS Enterprise named after him.

It seems that your web presence improves dramatically if you are an American, but a number four of the Bob Blackmans, is Cllr Robert Blackman who has been a Conservative party representative on Brent Council in London since 1986. In addition to his political duties, Bob Blackman works for BT and is also listed on Wikipedia. Although he is a Conservative, I think I might be able to forgive him this. In 2008, Cllr Blackman was accused of permitting the victimisation of black Tory party members but he strenuously denied this. I'm sure that with a surname like ours, the irony of being accused a racist is not lost on him. My father was born in London so maybe Cllr Blackman is my closest famous relative.

Bob Blackman number five is another American and a science-fiction author. Also known as Padre Bob, he is the author of "The Commission", which explores the question of how Christian beliefs could change over an eighty year period following the colonisation of a new planet. This Bob Blackman is a retired 59-year-old Baptist pastor originally from Washington State but now living in Oregon. "The Commission" is available on Amazon and Padre Bob writes poetry and short stories.

I think it's interesting that he comes from the North Western states of the US. In doing this search into the name of Blackman, I came across the Blackman Bros who invented a steam locomotive that ran along tree trunks instead of steel rails. This device was built for the brothers by the North Pacific Iron Works of Seattle in August 1881 and featured on this site that's devoted purely to geared steam locomotives, which have a long tradition of working in the logging industry.

In at Number 6 is the Bob Blackman who used to sing the song "Mule Train" whilst bashing himself over the head with a tin tray. I can remember this act from years ago but never knew he was called Bob Blackman. I think he was something of a one-hit wonder but was obviously not what the legal profession would call a thin skull case. It's worth watching the video on YouTube. My favourite bit is where he hurts his fingers. I think it was probably just part of the act but it's a beautiful moment. Considering his energetic performance, he wasn't a bad singer, really. He ought to be on Wikipedia as well but is probably dead now.

Bob Blackman number seven is the Principal at Kaboom Consulting, Jacksonville, Florida and at number eight is Bob Blackman, vice president of business development at RealtyUSA, who was interviewed in Business Review in 2008.

I don't appear in the ranking of Bob Blackmans until position number nine. That's discounting Guru Bob Blackman (an advert for network marketing and ) and Steal Bob Blackman's Secrets, which turned out to be the same thing.

I feel some consolation in the fact that I made it into the top 10. Increasing my website ranking will be quite a challenge in such illustrious company but I have a sneaking suspicion that during 2009 there could be other Bob Blackmans about to burst onto the Internet, who could knock me out of the top 10. It's going to be an interesting year.

Yeah, but who's the best looking? Honestly.

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Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Subtly improved website

For Christmas this year I got a tremendous cold so I'm keeping it all to myself. A by-product of this is that I can get on with some of those little jobs that I've been meaning to do for ages, although my voice recognition software has got a bit snotty with me over my gravelly voice.

Consequently, I've re-vamped my website slightly to include the new cover images for The Horsepower Whisperer and The Wormton Lamb. The forthcoming attractions scattered around the site haven't fully come forth yet but like the early signs of spring they are definitely budding.

When it came to publishing to the web I'd forgotten how to do this completely. Good thing I'm clever and can work it out from scratch. If I was less bright maybe my memory would be better. I guess it's all part of the yin and yang. Or is it ying and yan? I suppose I can get by without remembering things because I can always work it out again. Eventually. Remembering it straight away would be better. I would get the same sense of achievement, though, even if it is a bit spurious.

For those who are interested I use Filezilla to look at my ftp server and Serif WebPlus to design my site. What I should have done was logged into my ftp server using my password and set up an incremental update through Serif. When I'm happy with my offline changes and previewed it to my heart's content, I just publish to the net. But my ftp server doesn't let me in straight away, so I began blundering about with files in Filezilla, which used to be necessary when I was hammering out my web pages from raw pieces of html. In the screen shot I would connect to the web and start clicking and dragging across the new files.

But Serif WebPlus just makes life so easy for a non-professional web designer who comes back to his files after months away. So long as each changed web page retains the same name as its predecessor, the new files just over-write the old. When I come to add the new features dreckly (good word) Serif will simply add them if they're not on my ftp server and the referencing that goes on behind the scenes makes the links work between the pages. I don't have to open up Filezilla and do it individually - it knows what's been changed and moves only these files across. It really is a fantastic piece of software.

And I've discovered this trick about screen shots! I've often wondered how this was done so I asked the web. (It's essentially ALt+PrintScreen but you need an image editig programme. Mine is OpenOffice Draw and this saves by default in an .odg file that none of my image editors recognise. Boo! But I found that it will export to JPEGs! Hooray! That way Blogger can accept them as pictures.

Updating these minor change shad been good revision for me and I've learnt a few new things along the way. Maybe I should catch a cold more often.

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Sunday, 28 December 2008

Ergonomics for the writer

Ergonomics is the study of man, or individual men, in the working environment. The term is derived from the Greek "ergon" for work (and nothing to do with Jason and the Argonauts) and "nomos" which is law and nothing to do with "gnomic" remarks. Ergonomics is now a recognised profession and one of its pioneers was Henry Dreyfuss, who was one of the first superstar industrial designers. His most famous work was not John Deere tractors or the streamlined locomotives he designed for the "Twentieth Century Limited". It was a text book entitled The Measure of Man and this became staple reading for students, like me, of industrial design. The Measure of Man obviously refers just as equally to female women of the opposite persuasion but to publish a seprate book entitled The Measure of Women would probably attract the wrong sort of readership - even though it would have been much more interesting to a load of teenage predominantly male industrial designers and probably have become even more of a best seller.

So what has this to do with writers and the sedentary business of writing?

One of the benefits of being the budget manager for the health and safety team at work is the advice I absord about work station design. (I've also learnt a lot about safety risk management. I now do a risk assessment before I do anything stupid in my workshop, sorry studio. I still do them but at least I know how daft they are and I think that's the important thing. I could have mitigated against the risk but chose not to. So, what's new? I laugh in the face of danger - so long as it's safe to do so.)

One of the greatest current areas for health and safety concerns (health and safety guys don't have issues, man, they have concerns) is about laptops. It's nigh on impossible to work in the position shown in the diagram above when you're using a laptop. This has serious implications when it comes to hot desking. No organisation wants to be shown to have committed corporate negligence if their staff get repitive strain injuries and bad backs.

Having used a laptop to produce two books of 140,000 words apiece and acquired a few (fortunately) temporary aches and pains in the process, I can fully understand what the heath and safety guys are concerned about. I think I've been able to mitigate against the effects of bad posture while using my laptop and a little careful thought can minimise the risk of repetitive strain injury or posture related problems for you, too.

This is me in action. Unfortunately, it's just a still photo so you can't appreciate the speed at which I type. The shutter was speed was quite fast in this shot so you can't see how fast my fingers were moving (both of them). Anyway, it gives you an idea of how I've come close to achieving my optimum working position. The seat is not what you could call a computer chair. Most of these keep the head and pelvis vertically in line. I prefer a more relaxed seating position because I get my best ideas when drifting off to sleep. Yes, I work best when in a brown study. This way, I can suddenly snap out out of my torpor (good word) and record my thoughts.

So how have I achieved such postural nirvana?

This is an invalid table with the table top unbolted and turned through ninety degrees. This simple modification allowed me to slide in from one side but with my laptop on top it fell over. I solve dthat by weighing it down with one of my weight-training dumbbells. Because this table is on casters and the dumbbell is round, I can push this back and forth for when I get up and sit down. On this particular type of bed table, the tabletop can be angled and when combined with an adjustable height and further experiments with the angle of the screen of my laptop, I was able to get the screen on the ideal line of sight, as recommended by my health and safety colleagues, which is just below your line of sight. This avoids neck pain.

More general advice is as follows.

Don't hunch over your laptop. Don't have it on your lap. It should be on a separate surface that's steady and allows you to stretch out your legs.

Be careful of using the touchpad, too. I found that, after prolonged use, I grew a pain my left hand side. Although I am right-handed, I'm left handed when it comes to using a computer mouse and the same is true for a laptop touchpad. I found the best solution was to use a cordless mouse. This came with the cordless keyboard and by using this across my knees with the laptop some way away from me I found a much more comfortable writing position.

Now that I have my voice recognition software, I am doubly protected against repetitive strain injuries in the hands and wrists. I still need to use a mouse and a keyboard to make corrections but my voice is much better evolved as a communication device than my fingers.

And, dare I say it, I quite like the sound of my voice.

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Saturday, 27 December 2008

A laptop rises again

The title sounds a bit of an "Oh, matron!" in retrospect but it's true - my old laptop has been resurrected, leaving me feeling like a self-satisfied Dr Frankenstein. And without having created any monsters, either - for the time being at any rate.

I'm pretty pig-headed and although my laptop is nearly superfluous, I decided to have another go at it. The problem was the very limited time in which the keyboard or touch pad would respond. If the McAfee logo, or a message saying that a Java update was available, came up I was stuffed. The only thing to do then was to switch the power off and let the FAT do its stuff and have another race against time.

After a less than promising start, I managed to get a message saying that Open Office was opening up automatically and at more than one application at a time, too. So I deleted Open Office and bought myself some extra time in which I was able to delete McAfee and Java, too.

The result of this, however, was a complete inability to do anything. The touchpad wouldn't respond and neither would the Task Manager. All I could do was switch my laptop on and then turn it off again on the power switch (and that now took ages).

So I did a quick surf on the net with my desktop and found some advice that pointed to - of all things - the battery.

This renewed my hope because my laptop wouldn't work for very long on just the battery, back when it was working. So off came the lithium-iron battery and guess what? It still didn't work.

And then I found another piece of advice about the F7 key. On Acer Aspire laptops like mine these feature a little graphical device of a finger hovering over a square. Somebody had interpreted this a touchpad symbol and pressing it had revitalised the touchpad. So I tried this, too, and it worked it!

I am now defragging the laptop and operating without the battery. I might not need a new one, either. Before I throw it away (or offer it as a down payment on an electric car with lithium-iron batteries), I'll very gently clean up the battery contacts. Apparently, they can corrode and the touchpad and keyboard, which require power via the battery terminals won't work.

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Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Why I like Oliver Postgate.

Everybody I talk to about Oliver Postgate reckons he was on drugs. I think this says more about the chattering classes than dear old Oliver. They obviously don't understand what it is to have an imagination. Some of us - and I include myself and the late and great Mr Postgate - don't need drugs to think wonderful thoughts. A few years ago I read his autobiography, Seeing Things, and this confirmed my already high opinion of him. I'd grown up on Ivor the Engine and Bagpuss and can still remember the anticipation that the prospect of a new Oliver Postgate brought me and my sister late one Sunday afternoon when we visited our grandparents.

It all started for me with Pogle's Wood.

Mr and Mrs Pogle lived a wood in an old tree stump. Mr Pogle would go out and have some sort of adventure, whereupon they would wake up The Plant, a kind of talking tulip that grew outside their front door, by pouring farmhouse cider over his roots. The Plant would then tell them a story. The Pogles also featured in a children's newspaper called Pippin. Pippin wasn't just about Pogle's Wood. It included any Watch with Mother series such as Camberwick Green or Trumpton but Pogle's Wood was Number 1 in the hit parade for children's television programmes and Pippin was the name of the Pogle's son. In one story in this magazine, Mr Pogle came home on a model traction engine, which so dleighted me that I can still feel those rapturous feelings to this day.

Very often, my sister and I would attempt to recreate some of the Pogles' magic by building some sort of shrine in my parents garden. This would often take the form of windows and doors placed in a hedgerow and I was convinced that, in a future episode in Pippin, Pogle's Wood would soon adopt the internal combustion engine, an old-fashioned and eco-friendly way, of course.

I reckon that was the skill of all of Oliver Postgate and his collaborator, Peter Firmin. They understood exactly how to entrance their audiences and that entrance moment happened in so many different ways.

Who could not fail to be entranced by the following lines?

In the lands of the North, where the Black Rocks stand guard against the cold sea, in the dark night that is very long the Men of the Northlands sit by their great log fires and they tell a tale...

These are the opening lines of Noggin the Nog. Fore maximum effect click here for a really captivating introduction. Again, an early steam engine featured in one of Noggin's adventures.

I thought Bagpuss was okay but this program was recently voted one of the nation's favourites of all time.

There's never any cynicism in a Smallfilms production, never any aggression and never any violence -- unless it's entirely justified against Nogbad the Bad. You get the sense that Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin had such fun in creating these iconic series that they could scarcely believe their luck in being commissioned to do this for a living. This feeling was confirmed when I read Oliver Postgate's autobiography. It was hard work and they probably never received the recognition they deserved but I have inspired a whole generation of animators and given a large dose of magic to children everywhere.

I was fascinated to learn that Oliver Postgate was a conscientious objector during World War II.

I was also intrigued by his proposals for a domestic heating system. This proved entirely successful and for someone with no formal engineering qualifications I think this is a remarkable feat. What is particularly interesting, however, is that the company who commissioned Oliver Postgate to produce this remarkable system didn't pursue it. They said there was no maintenance component that would make his proposals economically viable. When Oliver Postgate asked them what they meant by this, they explained that, as his system had no moving parts, there was nothing to wear out and nothing to be serviced and no real way of making any money from it. As a domestic heating system it really couldn't be faulted and therein lay the problem -- nobody would make any money out of it.

Oliver Postgate was a man ahead of his time. It seems to me that his clarity of thought as well as his prodigious imagination could offer solutions are more relevant than ever in today's world.

But for most of us he will be associated with a deep sense of nostalgia. His name conjures up feelings of happy innocence and harmless fun. I feel very tempted to buy some of the DVDs of his work that are now available, particularly the pilot film for The Pogles, which was and never ever shown on the BBC because executives felt that it was too frightening the children. Now that I am an adult I think I can probably cope with that and have a strong suspicion that reacquainted myself with Oliver Postgate's work will continue to inspire my own creativity.

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Monday, 15 December 2008

The Clangers, vans and Tory leaders

I've been welding up my van in the workshop recently so the book publishing activities have taken a bit of a back seat. This is awkward right now because at this point I should be doing all sorts of promo stuff about my publishing activities. The website needs updating and I want to make more videos with the new software I've got.

But my old van needs me and I quite enjoy forming new panels. I'd much rather it didn't rust at all and have various plans to make sure that it doesn't. You'll be able to read more about those on my Engine Punk blog in due course. I'd much prefer to be getting on with more creative stuff in steel. And in print. I enjoy bringing stuff back from the dead, though, and I'd feel lost without a van. It's so useful and a great facilitator. The back of this van will be the back of the van from which I'll be selling my books and when I'm rich and famous it'll be worth a fortune. So, you see, it's really all part of The Plan.

I often listen to Radio 4 when I'm in my studio. (It's more of a studio, actually, seeing as I'm such a creative person.) And on the news the other day, was the report of Oliver Postgate's death.

And what did the BBC have to say about him? That David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party said that he didn't "get" The Clangers.

What right does Cameron think to comment on one of the greatest conceptualists and animators of recent times?

This confirms my opinion of Tory MPs.

If they don't "get" The Clangers there really is no hope form them.

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