Monthly Archives: October 2012

Hide & Seek

‘Ready or not, here I come…

Hide and Seek is surely one of the oldest games in the universe. It’s so beautifully simple – one person closes their eyes and counts to ten and the other dashes off to hide somewhere. I loved playing it as a child and also loved playing it with my children.

The trouble is I’m too good at it! One time I was playing with my son when he was about four and I dashed off and hid in a wardrobe. Standing still and silent in the dark of the cupboard I could hear him rooting around the bedroom checking under the bed and I froze expecting to be discovered at any moment. It was a double wardrobe and he opened one of the doors and peered in but for some reason he left the door I was behind closed and failed to spot me. Success! Surely he’d have to give up now. I heard him move onto other rooms and remained where I was. After about half a hour my wife came into the bedroom and almost passed out with fright when she found me lurking in the wardrobe.

“Where is he?” I asked. To tell the truth, I’d been getting a bit bored waiting for him.

“He went out to play in the garden with the little girl next door,” she said, laughing at my being cast aside like a forgotten toy!

Undeterred, I still love the game and yesterday, while Grandma was busy cooking sausages in the kitchen, I played it again, this time with my four year old grandson. I found a really tight but well concealed spot wedged in the corner of our living room between the sofa and a little-used cupboard. Once again I felt the thrill of anticipation at hearing my grandson moving around the room searching for me and not finding me. Soon, he’d enlisted the help of Grandma and the two of them came into the room and still failed to discover my hiding place. They moved on and I could hear them searching around the house calling my name but I wasn’t about to fall for that old trick! After a while, a note of desperation crept into Grandma’s voice as she called out that the sausages were burning. It was only then that I realised I was well and truly wedged into my hiding place and couldn’t budge. Eventually, guided by my cries for help they found me and, when they’d stopped laughing at my predicament, they managed to help me clamber out.

What a great game!

Have you had any embarrassing moments playing children’s games that you want to share?

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Hoggin’ The Bridge 2012

Last Sunday I attended my first ever Hoggin’ The Bridge event and took loads of photos of the thousands of bikers who gather together every year to raise money for charities by riding across the Severn Bridge and heading to Chepstow. Whatever stereotypes you may have in your mind about leather and denim-clad bikers, these guys were friendly and polite and the atmosphere in Chepstow was simply amazing.  The townsfolk lined the streets to clap and cheer the bikes as they made their way to party in the town centre with some great bands playing too (I particularly liked the folk group ‘Rusty Shackle’). A great day out for all the family!

I’ve been a push-biker up until now but this is going to have to change: next year I would love to take part! Here are some of my best pics:

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Dedicated to my former friend and colleague Uwe Frey (deceased) who participated many times in this event and whose spirit will have been lingering in the mist.

More info: http://www.hogginthebridge.co.uk

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A Hug for Gadget Geeks

The Psion 3a

One of my first digital organisers – the Psion 3a

I know there are some writers who shun technology in favour of simple pen and paper and if you’re one of them that’s fine – but I’m most definitely in the other camp. I am an unashamed gadget geek and have been ever since throwing away my slide rule in favour of a pocket calculator. I was one of the first among my family and friends to own a Psion Organiser (pictured) and I willingly abandoned buying CDs as soon as I could download music from the Internet, my cameras are all digital, I do most of my writing on my iPad, or iPhone, and it’s all backed up in the cloud – and yes, of course I have an eReader! I tweet, I blog and I design and maintain my own websites. I love technology!

That said, some of the new technological developments I’ve read about this week leave even a technophile like me flummoxed. Apparently, television remote controls may soon disappear from our living rooms as new TVs will change channels at the wave of a hand. My first thought was ‘wow’ but then I considered some of the practicalities: Does it mean that every time a toddler runs in front of the set the channel will change? I often jump up excitedly when my football team scores a goal and would not appreciate missing the instant replay because the TV thinks I want to switch over! Also, Mrs D has a tendency to wave her hands as she talks – is she supposed to sit on them to watch TV from now on?

Then there’s the new ‘Like-A-Hug’ jacket designed by Melissa Kit Chow, a student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which “allow(s) us to feel the warmth, support or love that we feel when we receive hugs”. Apparently, it works through air pockets that inflate when the wearer’s mobile phone picks up a signal that a page has been liked. At first I liked the sound of this but what happens when you’re not wearing it and someone ‘likes’ your page – does it jump off the peg? Also, can people still give you a Facebook ‘poke’? It could be embarrassing if your jacket starts poking you in public!

Such a jacket would be wasted on me anyway as I only have 21 ‘likes’ so far on my new Facebook page… so, if you like this blog, then why not give me a virtual hug now by following this link to Facebook and liking my page too?

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Robert-Darke/430009677022290

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Put Your Ears to Good Use

I’ve read several books on writing that advise reading your work out loud because ‘the ear is a better editor than the eye’. This is so true and yet it is a simple technique that many writers (including me) often overlook. I’m a member of a writers’ circle in Cardiff where people can bring their work and read it aloud and then receive praise and criticism from others. I’ve often read a piece there for the first time and stumbled over my words, quietly chiding myself for not having read it aloud at home first. It’s embarrassing not being able to finish a sentence because it’s so long you run out of breath before the end, or discovering you’ve repeated the same word three times in one paragraph.

While you may feel a bit silly reading your work out loud in the privacy of your own study, you’ll feel much more foolish if the first time you spot a mistake is when you’re reading it in front of others, especially one that could so easily have been corrected!

It’s also wonderful practice for that time when you’re invited along to a book group or a writers’ conference and asked to read a passage from your best seller!

If you live near Cardiff, South Wales and fancy reading your work to a friendly, knowledgeable and supportive group then why not give Cardiff Writers’ Circle a try?

Full details of our programme and where we meet can be found on the Cardiff Writers’ Circle website: www.cardiffwriterscircle.org

If you live elsewhere in the UK, and want to find a writers’ group near you check the National Association of Writers’ Groups website: http://www.nawg.co.uk/category/writing-groups/

If you’re reading this in another country and would like to add a link to your own writers’ group please feel free to do so in a comment.

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National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)

November is National Novel Writing Month – a month when thousands of writers around the world unite in a common goal to produce a 50,000 word novel in a month. Some ‘serious’ writers frown upon this activity – how can one possibly produce anything ‘of value’ in such a short timescale. I admit I was also sceptical at first. My first completed novel took over 3 years to produce and I was impressed that some writers could produce a book a year. But in a month? Impossible! That was what I thought until I tried it!

This time last year I was in a very dark place. A string of family bereavements and pressure at work led me into depression and stress-related stomach problems. My writing output had dropped to zero. Being off work, I had more time on my hands than usual and I stumbled across NaNoWriMo. I’d been dismissive in previous years, but this time I had nothing to lose. I wasn’t working on anything else and I desperately needed something to focus on other than my woes. The germ of an idea came to me from an advert in the classified section of my local paper and it was something with which I was already familiar so research requirements were minimal. With just two weeks to go I had no plan or outline but, what the heck, it cost nothing but my time and I had plenty of that so I signed up.

You can participate in NaNoWriMo for free, it is a voluntary organisation supported by donations but there’s no obligation to donate and no pressure (I did donate before the end of the project but only because I wanted to show my appreciation for the support I’d received). There are no prizes other than a certificate to show you reached your target word-count (actually, there are some other donated freebies and discounts from sponsors as well). You also get tremendous support and encouragement, both on-line and locally, but no one is checking up on you, or pressuring you to complete the project – all you have to provide is the commitment to produce approximately 1700 words a day for 30 consecutive days.

So what did I personally get from it?

The joy of writing freely – without feeling the need to get it right first time (which no first draft ever is no matter how hard one tries!)

A tremendous start to my new novel – I completed the target but didn’t finish the first draft for another two months (80,000 words). I’m still editing and polishing but it’s almost finished and that’s just fine. It’s still taken less than one year to near-completion!

A new method of working that suits me well – this approach of getting it all written first and then going back and improving has really worked for me and is an approach I shall always adopt going forward. I’ve also learned that I definitely write better with a deadline!

There’s also a wonderful sense of achievement in overcoming a tough challenge – many fall by the wayside!

The discovery that I can really write anywhere and don’t need a special room, or desk, or place, or pen (I rarely use a pen these days anyway!) – I even managed a few thousand words with my iPad balanced on my lap in the passenger seat of a car travelling down the M4.

Some lasting friendships – I attended the local NaNoWriMo meetings during November run by a marvellous Municipal Liaison (ML) volunteer, Jaywalker, and made some great new writing friends with whom I naturally have a lot in common: Some of us even formed a mutually supportive group with the aim of finishing our novels and publishing them. We meet every 3 weeks and have kept each other going through the highs and lows of creating our novels.

Self confidence in my writing – as I said above, last year I found myself at an all time low. So much so that I’d stopped writing and even worse, stopped believing in myself. Participating in NaNoWriMo last year gave me back that self-belief!

So what are you waiting for? Why not sign up now and give it a go?

You’ll find all you need to know here: www.nanowrimo.org

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