A couple of days ago I took part in a funeral cortège with several other members of the Harley Owners Group Great Western Chapter. Around forty of us rode our Harley Davidsons through a tiny Welsh village near Tonyrefail to pay last respects to Charlie, a former member. The sight of all those powerful machines roaring through valley communities brought many people to their front doors.
HOG Great Western Chapter UK
I felt privileged to be honouring Charlie’s memory as it was his express wish that his fellow bikers join him in this, his last ride, and afterwards be with his family for a curry. Although I’d never met Charlie it was evident from the turnout and the many funny stories that he was a popular character in the chapter. His wife and family were clearly moved to see so many of us there.
It was another funeral a few years ago, when my friend and work colleague Uwe died unexpectedly, that led me to buying my trike. I knew Uwe owned a Harley but the entourage of Harley’s that followed his hearse took me by surprise. I was waiting with others outside the crematorium when an incredible roaring sound like an approaching thunderstorm filled the air long before we could see them. It was a thrill for me to see all these fabulous machines and reminded me of a life-long ambition to own one. I was also reminded by Uwe’s sad death that none of us know how long we have left on this earth and how important it is to try and enjoy every precious minute. So for me to be honouring another biker by riding my own Harley as part of the same group that honoured Uwe was a very special moment indeed!
I wish that I could have known Charlie and ridden with him and also with Uwe but we can’t turn back time. It is sad that it was the death of a friend that prompted me to follow through and finally buy the dream Harley – especially as it has given me and Mrs D so much pleasure already and introduced us to a whole new bunch of friends. So, if this strikes a chord with you, please don’t put things off! Seize the day and follow your dream, whatever it is, while you’re still able – don’t be a spectator in life, be a participator. Because participating is so much more fun than just watching!
What a time I’ve had during the past week and a half! It started with a trip to Greenway in Devon to see Agatha Christie’s summer residence. One of the room guides claimed that Agatha’s work is the most read after The Bible and Shakespeare – I don’t know if that’s true but I’m certain she must be the most read crime writer of all time and deservedly so – her ingenious plot twists are as popular today as ever and characters such as Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot will surely live forever in the imaginations of present and future readers. For this relatively new crime writer it was inspirational just to be there seeing some of her correspondence on display: I even bought a box set of the novels either about, or influenced by, Greenway.
Next, I attended a Jeffery Deaver seminar at the start of Bristol’s annual CrimeFest Convention that left me feeling empowered and with several ideas I can’t wait to put into practice.
During CrimeFest 2013, I listened to many heroes of mine talk about the craft of writing and rubbed shoulders in bars and elevators with the likes of Robert Goddard, Felix Francis, Denise Mina, Michael Ridpath, Lindsay Davis, Chris Ewan and loads more people I’ve read and enjoyed. I met many new authors too that I look forward to reading and my ‘books-I-must-read’ list has grown exponentially. In one session, Robert Goddard admitted that, even to him, reading other excellent writers can seem quite daunting but he concluded that great writers provide inspiration while not-so-great writers provide encouragement to do better. I made new friends too, from all around the world, including writers from Hawaii and Australia and came away feeling sorry it was over.
Monday, I gave a talk to a small group of writers in Sully where I met Eileen Younghusband who was awarded the British Empire Medal last year. At the age of 91, Eileen has also just won the People’s Book Prize for her autobiographical account of serving in the WAAF: during the Second World War, she played a crucial role in the RAF Fighter Command’s Filter Room monitoring and tracking Hitler’s bombs – what an inspirational lady!
Many of us have dreams and aspirations but, unlike those who yearn for success in, say, sport, one of the joys of writing is that the dream of ‘making it’ can be kept alive well into old age. If I can only manage to live as long as Eileen, then I still have a 30-odd year writing career ahead of me. And that’s a lot of books…
SO NEVER GIVE UP!
Writers often get asked where they get their inspiration from. The answer, in my case, is from the world around me. For example, I spotted these signs on the railings as I left the supermarket and it made me chuckle – there must be a story in it somewhere! Maybe it would go like this…
Someone eats too many portions of the ‘award winning’ fish and chips and gains weight. They try dieting and eventually turn to a hypnotherapist for help. Failing to lose as much weight as quickly as they’d like their partner starts to bitch and complain and they decide to go to marriage guidance and counselling but they suspect their partner might be ‘straying’ and so they decide to hire a private detective.
OK – you get the picture so I’ll leave you to take it from there – good luck!
If you’d like to share where you take your inspiration from then please feel free to comment below.
Filed under Humour, Writing
As I mentioned in my last blog, Maeve Binchy once stayed on a bus to eavesdrop the remainder of a conversation. I love listening to conversations myself – especially those glorious one-sided mobile phone conversations where one has to imagine the other side for one’s self. And just to make it easier for us eavesdroppers, people tend to talk louder on a mobile phone. The other day, while on holiday, I was walking along the promenade at Broad Haven when I heard a young girl’s voice loudly proclaiming: “I love you loads and loads too…” Nothing extraordinary about this until she added in fine and full voice: “…and the sex was great as well!” Now I’m not someone who is easily shocked but I was rather surprised (and secretly delighted!) that she should want to share such intimacies with the whole of Broad Haven in such an unselfconscious way!
At work, especially in open-plan offices, people often dash into meeting rooms to take their personal calls in privacy. Others misguidedly rush for the stairwells. Do they not realise how far voices can carry in a stairwell? I was moving between floors the other day when a voice drifted up from below saying: “Do you think we did the right thing telling him last night? I felt awful about it afterwards.” I never did discover who the owner of that voice was but I spent the rest of the day wondering who the unfortunate bloke was and what he’d been told that made the speaker feel so bad about it?
And finally, on a crowded street in Cardiff, a young Asian girl obviously forgot her surroundings when she yelled emotionally into her phone: “I don’t care what he wants, Mehmet, it’s my life and I’ll do what I want with it, not what he wants!” I felt like giving her a spontaneous burst of applause for that line but then she would have known I was listening! What might she have been talking about? An arranged marriage with someone she didn’t fancy perhaps? Or is that too obvious and stereotypical of me? Whatever it was, it certainly fired my writer’s imagination and prompted me to go home and write a short story about an overheard snippet of conversation.
But be warned! It’s true that eavesdroppers don’t always hear good things. I was in a hospital day centre earlier this week, having had to starve myself for a day and a half, for a colonoscopy procedure. The two nurses, oblivious to my hunger, were calmly and coolly discussing the merits of the beef burgers they ate the night before… That should teach me not to tune in – but I know it won’t!
Filed under Humour, Writing
Almost every creative writing book I have ever read has advised wannabe writers to carry, at all times, a notebook so they can capture ideas as they occur and before they are forgotten. But times have moved on and now we’re in the digital age let me update that advice: Always carry a smart phone.
You can still use it as a notebook – there are even apps for some models that let you make handwritten notes if you truly feel the need to cling to the old ways. Plus, if you wake up inspired in the middle of the night you can make notes on a smartphone without having to switch on the light and maybe disturbing your partner.
You can also dictate notes and even record evocative sounds, or take photographs of scenes that inspire. Some events are better captured in this way: take the dog in this photo for example – I just happened to walk past a parked car where his owner had temporarily left him in the driver’s seat. He looked so chuffed with himself that I just had to capture the moment. I know there’s a story there somewhere!
And I defy anyone with imagination not to conjure up a story of some kind from this sign on the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path.
I know it’s a cliché but you could start by asking yourself: Did he jump/fall? Or was he pushed?