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Mad Dogs & Englishmen

May 26, 2012 Leave a comment

Sure, it’s a clichéd title, but it’s the most appropriate for what I wish to discuss; namely, the bizarre British habit of sun worshipping.

It’s the beginning of the Great British Summer (lasts for exactly one weeks and reverts back to The Great British Monsoon and stays that way for an undetermined time) which means the sun worshipping has begun. The second there’s the slightest bit of sunshine, people strip down and parade around in parks desperate to be blessed by the mighty hydrogen-based god.

Now, everyone enjoys a nice sunny day, that’s not the dispute here. I spent much of my last day off sitting with my laptop in the garden working on my novel, partly because sitting all day in room with a computer and no air conditioning with this weather is a good way to prepare yourself for any waiting cannibals expecting a barbecue.

The thing that makes the British love of the sun so truly bizarre is how obsessed we are with it. People will stand out in shorts and t-shirts (or less!) at the mere sight of the sun, even if it’s accompanied with a bitingly cold wind. Within 15 minutes of the sun’s appearance, parks are suddenly full, and woe betide anyone who works within a park-based organisation. And what’s more, it makes the general British public slightly crazy, which is why the clichéd title is so apt.

The reason I mention working for a park-based organisation is because my day job is just that. I’m not going into specifics, just letting you know that my confusion on the matter is only enhanced by working in such a job. Among the sun-induced bizarre behaviour I’ve encountered was someone ordering cheese. Not extra cheese on something, or requesting to have cheese put on something that doesn’t currently have cheese. They just wanted cheese, in a bowl, on its own. To eat.

Cheese. Why?

What baffles me most about this behaviour is that despite sharing a race and nationality with these members of the public, I have no similar inclinations. Oh, I love it when the weather’s like this, and driving in it makes me want to roll the windows down and subject the world to some Shibuya-kei or geek rock about zombies, but this is the extent of it (I want to expose the world to these things generally, so it’s not that unusual!). I don’t feel the urge to immediately hit the park in this weather, nor do I get a sudden craving for unaccompanied cheese.

It’s actually pretty fascinating. I’m sure someone could do some kind of psycho-social analysis of all this bizarre summer behaviour, and in fact, someone probably has. I understand the sheer, unbridled joy accompanying the arrival of the sun in Britain. It’s so rare you may as well be waiting for the second coming of Jesus. But to some people, it actually is the second coming of Jesus, an event to mark off on the calendar as the historical moment that the sun came out. All clothes must be shed in worship, and you must live entirely off a diet of ice cream and beer to appease the mighty orb.

Does this phenomenon exist anywhere else?

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Why Am I Doing This?

May 18, 2012 3 comments

Figured it was time to write a post about myself. But this isn’t going to be a post saying “hi, my name is…” along with a description of my favourite foods. For a start, this isn’t a cooking blog, so talking about food would be a bit of a strange introduction.

No, this a question of why. Why do I want to pursue a potential career in writing, and why do I wish to use this blog as a key platform for doing so? Am I mad? Potentially.

The first reason is simple. I have a love for writing. Always have done, in fact. As a child I used to write loads of short stories. They were terrible. All inspired by the Goosebumps books I was bafflingly addicted to, they were pseudo-horror stories about slime monsters and ghosts of fictional sisters that all had nonsensical twists at the end. But it was a start, right?

These days I have much more varied ideas floating around my head. I still have a great interest in the weird, though, considering two of my major ideas involve a detective novel series mixing the paranormal and conspiracy theories and a potential web serial about a haunted small town. Short story ideas include a moral tale set in a winding set of tunnels under a hotel and populated by a judging cat, a story about a woman whose obsession for Elvis Presley makes her attempt to raise him from the dead and a story featuring a robot on a train.

So yes, my ideas are still in the weirder spectrum of fiction, but that seems to be how my brain works most of the time. But the fact that these ideas keep coming suggests that maybe I should pursue them, and develop them into full-fledged stories. They might still be kind of silly and probably won’t set the world on fire, but I’m sure there’s an audience out there and I intend to find it.

The key reason for wanting to make it into a career should be obvious. As someone who has worked in a series of low-paid jobs in customer service and in a council office, I found myself increasingly bored by the daily grind, and constantly baffled as to how anyone can live their entire life that way. Essentially I want the freedom a writing career brings, as well as the ability to do what I love and get paid for it. Who doesn’t want that?

I’m not deluding myself into believing it’s easy however. I know the difficulties. But in a weird way, the difficulties are an attraction too. They make the career look exciting and ever-changing, and the thought of that makes me happier than a penguin on a ski slope. Pursuing publishers, maintaining an open dialogue with your readers, constantly marketing yourself, it all keeps you on your toes more than working in an office ever could.

The reason for pursuing the blogging route is because that’s the way the world’s going. The economy now exists largely on the Internet, and anyone failing to realise this will lag behind. It’s why the aforementioned novel series is likely to get self-published and distributed online, potentially using this blog as a promotional platform. Creative Commons and the freedom of an open market free from the grip of large publishing houses (and other old media institutions) puts control in the artist’s hands away from the demands of an executive.

Not that this means I want my writing to be of a sub-standard quality. Anything I’d want people to pay for will be slaved over and handed to others for inspection before publication. If I need to pay for professional editing, I will do so. But I much prefer the idea of exploring this new-fangled blogging concept as a platform for all the other writing projects I have in mind, and I want to see how far the experiment takes me. And it is an experiment, since I have no idea what’ll happen. Which brings us right back to the excitement factor.

So what are my current plans regarding writing? Well, I still have a day job (well, it’s more of an evening job) so I can’t work on all the projects I have in mind (I’ll be writing a post on that soon!), but I aim to work slowly on the first of the proposed novel series, as well as updating this and my movie challenge blog (which I highly recommend you also take a look at). And I’ll see where things take me from there!

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