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June 16, 2010 / castingpods99

Casting Pods Show 2 Bombs Books Bad Weather and Random Radio

Show #2 – Bombs Books Bad Weather and Random Radio Click the title to listen while you read.

54:03 mins – uploaded 10/07/07

My weekend with my writing buddies, begins with a rant about the bombs and bad weather that nearly stopped me from going. Hilarity and serious conversations around books, writing and writers.

Keywords: Books, bombs, terrorism, floods, weather, reading, writing, fiction, radio, comedy

Time Stamp Hello and welcome to the second instalment of Casting Pods. My name’s Josie Henley-Einion and I’m your host. // //
0:07-0:15 [Music – Fastbeat]It’s strange to think that I’m already recording for the next show when I’ve only just uploaded the first one. But these things are cyclic and from my experience of working on Velvet magazine we often think several issues ahead. So at the moment we haven’t yet reached the deadline for the Autumn issue but I’m planning what I’m going to do for the Winter issue. The same goes for a podcast, I’m thinking ahead and mapping out my shows over the next few months. Today I spent a bit of time messing around with my PodoMatic profile which was fun. I’ve got fans already even in the first day, wow.
0:48 The main reason I’m starting to record this early, when I’ll probably not be quite so eager on my seventh or eighth show (yes I have done stuff like this before and I know what it’s like at the beginning all exciting and shiny new), the main reason is because I’m going to be spending the weekend with some writing buddies and don’t want to miss the brilliant opportunity this presents to interview them and get their thoughts. We met first of all at the BBC studios in London on September 13th 2001. I’ll always remember that date because it was only a few days after the Twin Towers attacks and everyone was very nervous of travelling because there were rumours flying around that there would be a London attack. Of course, as we now know, there was a London attack but not until years later.
1:34 We’d been invited to the BBC for a writing workshop as the six finalists of the BBC Talent Children’s Fiction Prize competition. We met some of the judges and talked about our books and had some excellent feedback. Altogether there had been over 4,600 entries to that competition and we were the six finalists. Well, after discovering that we all had quite a bit in common we decided to swap email addresses and stay in touch. Over the last six years we’ve have regular weekend get-togethers in each others’ homes and we’ve stayed in touch over email and telephone. We discussed writing a novel in collaboration and we’ve supported each other with our own separate and very different writing projects, proofreading manuscripts, bouncing ideas off each other, that sort of thing. We call ourselves The Talents, which began as an ironic nod to the competition which brought us together but we liked the name and couldn’t think of anything better, so it stuck. Our most recent project is Children’s Fiction Services which is an editorial service where authors send us their manuscripts and we give feedback. As this is what we’ve been doing for each other we decided to share the love. Our website can be found at
2:47 The BBC Talent competition rules of entry stipulated that the entrants must not be published novelists already. They must be new novelists. Since this, some of us are published and some are still not yet published, but we are all still creating in one way or another. Two of us have had children and several of us have moved homes, even emigrating and coming back to the UK again. Three of the Talents came to my Civil Partnership ceremony in 2005, which was excellent. It was a rather bizarre experience for me to sit in my wedding dress sipping champagne while they grilled me about the plot of my latest novel.So I’m off this weekend for a visit, and I’ve warned them that I’m bringing my Dictaphone so I’ll hopefully be able to get some good material for my next show. The last time I saw one of The Talents was at the book launch for Seven Days, when I stayed over at Sarah’s house. It’s very handy to have friends dotted around the country, then you don’t need to pay for a hotel. Sarah came to the book launch and drank champagne. We have a lot of champagne with The Talents as it’s becoming a tradition to toast our successes. So this weekend we’ll be toasting Sarah’s latest success which is her novel Door of No Return, a teen novel, which I’ll discuss later.
4:05 Seven Days is the Legend Press short story anthology in which my story Sunday appears, which is why I was at the book launch. It was my first ever book launch and was a bit of a launch for my confidence as well. After the publication date I started to take off in all sorts of directions. The next day I met Sarah’s editor who later agreed to have a read of my teen novel, the one that was shortlised six years ago for BBC Talent. She’s still reading it now and I’m still holding my breath.Today, the Amazon ranking for Seven Days is 467,742. I have absolutely no idea what that means, but it does sound good, doesn’t it?
4:49-4:56 [Music – Fastbeat]Good evening, and here is the news. Falling masonry. A shoe-box sized piece of masonry missed Princess Anne’s unoccupied car today when it fell from Buckingham Palace. It also missed the rest of London, and the rest of Britain. And it missed me, I was in Cardiff. Why is it that this is so important? Who knows? It missed the car. Didn’t hit the car, and it was unoccupied anyway. But this was the first headline that was read out in the evening news.

This is Breaking News indeed. The fact that the queen is asking for three million pounds from the taxpayer as an extra to the fifteen million per year that she’s already fleecing us for so that she can repair this symbol of imperialist pride, is news. A brick not hitting Princess Anne is not news.

Second headline: The Spice Girls are getting back together. This is of national importance. It is so important for us to know that Gerry and Mel C, or whoever it was, are friends again. They’re not falling out any more, and they’ve got back together and decided to do a special concert to say goodbye to all their fans. Because they didn’t say goodbye properly when they did split up. For gods’ sake! As if we didn’t have enough of them ten years ago, now we’ve got to suffer them again!

Less important news: some guy left his house in Number 10 Downing Street, and some other guy moved in. The end.

6:40-8:04 [Music – boy playing Stegosaurus Stomp]How odd that I was only discussing the terrorist attacks on London on Thursday and then this all happened this morning.

It’s the morning of my trip up to the midlands for my writing weekend with my lovely writing friends. I was looking at the weather this morning and noticed that, um, as usual with the great British summer, we have a lot of rain. When you look at the map of Britain, there’s a band of rain going across Britain. From Cardiff to the midlands is the heaviest part. So my journey is going to go through all of this rain. I’m not looking forward to it.

8:50 I was planning on leaving after lunch so I’ve been doing a bit of transcription this morning. Because that’s what I do in my spare time when I’m not writing and making podcasts and playing with my son and dog and cat and reading and making music, and all the other things that I do, I have to do some freelance work to earn some extra money. So I was sitting at the computer doing the transcription and I had the news on in the background and the weather. So I took my headphones off because I thought, ‘What the hell’s going on here?’ And found that there had been two car bombs in London and that they had been defused.
9:35 My initial reaction to that was, this is going to be blamed on, on Islamic extremists, like everything else is. Like everything else in our country is blamed on Islamic extremists. The trains don’t run on time, oh, some Islamic extremist has done something. Now I could be a conspiracy theorist if I, if I really… I wouldn’t have to work very hard to be a conspiracy theorist. There is a new prime minister now, in office, as of two or three days ago. And then this morning you get these two bombs. Now, coincidence? Probably not. It may well be that whoever put these bombs there had done this deliberately to coincide with the change of prime minister. It may not have been the people that we will all assume that it will be. It could quite probably, now this is where the conspiracy theory comes in, it could quite probably have been somebody who was wanting to make it look like Islamic extremists, wanting to make it look like there is a danger and a threat in our country. Wanting to actually scare the public. Now, who would benefit the most from scaring the public?
10:58 I’m not, I’m not gonna, I’m not gonna actually spell it out because if you, you know, if you’ve got what I’m saying, you’ll know what I mean. Because I’m not going to, you know, be dragged off into some horrendous prison somewhere and tortured for my beliefs, so I would rather not say the actual names. But when I think about it, whenever a country has gone to war, who has benefited, who has benefited from that? Whenever a new prime minister or a prime minister whose popularity is, is flagging, has declared war on another country, what has happened? It happened with Margaret Thatcher, with the Falkland Crisis. It happened with George Bush, and I know that he’s not prime minister but I’m, I’m referring to a leader of a country, head of state. George Bush decides that he’s going to wage war, and suddenly the whole country is behind him. And nobody is allowed to criticise him, the people that wanted to criticise him, the people that were, were actually about to criticise him suddenly were seen as unpatriotic and a danger to the country. And, and I’m really a bit worried now about living in Britain. Not because I think that I’m going to get caught in, in the middle of a terrorist bomb myself, but because of the fear, the fear that this is generating in our country. // //
12:34 On the one hand, it’s worrying that there are people who think that it’s okay to do this kind of thing. That if they are disgruntled with their life, if they’ve got a particular view and they disagree with the generally held view, that they will just go and blow something up, and kill innocent people. That, that is something that, that worries me. But the other thing that worries me is the fact that these threats are being used to control the country, to reduce our civil liberties. Now because of this, because of what’s happened, there is going to be an increased state of awareness, there’s going to be an increased infringement on privacy of citizens in Britain. We’re going to end up living in a police state, I can see this happening. I, I can look at history and I can see that it’s happened before.
13:35 The, the last time we had terrorist threats to this extent in, in Britain, was, um, from the Irish. And there were a lot of Irish people living in various parts of England, there were, there still are, pockets, um ghettos, if you will, of Irish people. And I can remember, I grew up in the seventies, and I can remember hearing stories of Irish people being beaten up. Children even, Irish children being beaten up by other children. Not because anybody thought that that particular Irish person was going to go and, and stick a car bomb somewhere. But because they identified the person that they saw in front of them, they identified that person as being belonging to a group of people who they saw as being a threat.
14:26 So what we have now in this country, we don’t have the same kind of animosity towards the Irish, although there are still a lot of Irish jokes, it’s not really any big deal any more. What’s happened now is that, that this hatred of another kind of person has changed. Instead of it being directed towards Irish people, it’s directed towards Muslims. And it’s not just Muslims either, it’s anybody who’s brown. A Hindu, because they’re brown, will be targeted as being a terrorist. And that is, that is just so, ah, it’s just incredible, it’s unbelievable, and it’s incredible, but it does happen. You know, there are stupid people. There are stupid people living in Britain, I have to say there are some people who live in Britain, who are so stupid that, it, it’s just, it’s beyond belief. There was the case of, um, when England lost against Germany, oh when was it 1996, something like that? England lost against Germany, um, there was all these penalties, there was all this crap. I hate football, I have nothing, nothing about football at all. So, but I do remember that there was a lot of anti-German feeling going on around the time of this football match where England was in Germany and the English team lost on penalties against Germany. Now, after that match, a lot of German people who were living in England took a lot of flack. Again, children, women, people who had absolutely nothing to do with football whatsoever, just because of their race, just because of the language that they spoke.
16:14 But the thing, the thing that I’m, I’m thinking when I’m talking about stupid people, I mean I think that anybody who targets anybody to, to, to their race is stupid anyway, right. I think that anybody who sees a person and sees them as being, er, a member of a group and therefore they must have all the same characteristics and all the same, um, faults and are to blame for whatever this group of people, you know, have done, I think that that’s stupid anyway. But, apparently, just after this match, there was a Russian man travelling on the London underground. And a group of English yobbos, because that’s the only, the only way I can describe them, heard his accent, because he was speaking to someone, heard his accent. He was Russian, right, they heard his accent and they beat him up, because they thought he was German. Now, a, if he was German and they beat him up that would have been abhorrent anyway, and b, for gods’ sake! I just, he, it just… He was Russian! You know, I heard that ten years ago, but it still sticks in my head now as an example of English stupidity.
17:33 So that’s my rant over with, for now. But I’d just, you know, I’d like to share my thoughts about this diffusion of bombs this morning, and how worried I am, um, about the state of our country, really. And I’m not saying, I’m not saying at all that anybody should plant a bomb if they have a problem. Violence is not the way to deal with a problem, you should talk. You should, you should talk it out. And if talking doesn’t work then you should just move away. You know, if you have two children in a room and they can’t agree, and talking doesn’t work, then you put one child one end of the room and the other child the other end of the room, and this is what should happen, I think, with, with nations, you know. Rather than fighting it out, just, just avoid each other. Just ignore each other for a bit, and then you can be friends again later. Because, at the end of the day, the people who run our nations are children, aren’t they, really? They’re children in their heads. I’ll play with your toys, you play with my toys. If you steal a toy off me I will get mad and I’ll start throwing things at you, and, um, don’t play with that friend because I don’t like that friend. If you want to by my friend then you have to be, you have to stay here and not play with them. And playground, children, because they’re men. If women ran the countries, that kind of thing wouldn’t happen, except if it was Margaret Thatcher of course, because she wasn’t really a woman. That’s, you know, my theory. Then, then I’m coming back to conspiracy theories again, aren’t I? So.
19:29 I should retract what I said there about if women ruled the world it wouldn’t be like playground bullying, because that’s patently wrong. I used to believe this, and I’ve heard other feminists say it too. And there’s that joke about what would the world be without men, full of fat, happy women. But I don’t think this any longer, since I’ve worked in all-female environments and the bitchiness back-biting and mind games that go on within groups of women are equally outrageous as the kind of things that go on between men. The only difference is that women smile at your face while they’re stabbing you in the back. It’s easy to blame the world’s troubles on men, but if women didn’t allow them into those positions in the first place by spoiling their sons and obeying their fathers and husbands then the men wouldn’t have that power. That said, I’ve heard a lot about honour killings lately and I appreciate that there are women living in our world who don’t have the choice to stand up and laugh when some ugly git of a man tries to tell them what to do. Where was I? The bombs, yes. The bombs were in London and I’m in Cardiff and I’m driving up to the Midlands. And I’m not going to let the bombs stop me from going and seeing my writer friends any more than I’m going to let, um, the rain stop me, right. I might just have to strap a boat to the back of the car, just in case, you know. But, it’s just, I think it’s just unsettling, that’s, that’s the way I see it: it’s unsettling. Scary. Yes. Right, so I’ve talked for quite a while now, and I’m probably not going to have much time left, um, in this show to, um, to include my writer friends, I might have to cut, cut this down a bit. So I’m going to shut up, and, um, go back to my transcription, and then I’m going to get in the car and drive off. And speak to you later.
21:27-21:48 [Music – Short Riff]My weekends with the Talents are full of conversation, wine, curry and laughter. We generally start off with writing as a process, then go on to discuss particular books.

S: You’re going to edit this, aren’t you?

J: Oh yeah, I’m going to edit it, don’t worry.

S: Go to Google, type in ‘narratology’. I mean, I discovered this and it was like, oh my god. Out there all the time I’m paying, like kind of, eight pounds for like, How to Write a Bestselling Novel. You know, and ploughing through it and it’s just giving you exactly the same advice as the last How to Write a Bestselling Novel. Apart from Elements of Fiction series which were really good. And all the time there was this free resource on the web.

J: Yeah, there is. The internet is just amazing, I mean, a lot of the places that I use, you know it’s free, they’re free to join. And it’s incredible, the resources that you get. Go to Google, there you go. There you are Wikepedia.

C: Ah, narratology, Wikepedia. The first one.

J: Oh, I think Wikepedia is just incredible, it’s fabulous.

S: Who updates it, I don’t know.

J: The whole thing about a wiki is that it’s a communal thing. The person who started it off didn’t actually write most of it, it’s people, people who know the stuff, write the stuff. You could edit it if you want.

S: Read out the beginning of that.

C: Okay, in principal, narratology refers to any systematic study of narratives…

J: See the other thing about Wikipedia is all these things that are in blue are actually links, so could click on that, and go somewhere else. You know I could spend the whole day on Wikipedia.

C: Gosh, there’s a lot on here.

J: I know.

C: God, that’s a whole website.

S: You know, like, you know, you’re going in and buying these books in bookshops, and it’s just all there.

J: It’s just the same thing as what’s already there.

S: Yeah.

23:26 C&J: Catcher in the Rye.S: Catcher in the Rye, I know, because I’ve been studying this, because I’ve been wanting to do a kind of crossover effect. I want to… Catcher in the Rye is a really interesting novel because, I mean partly because I, kind of, I’m trying to specialise in a first person narrative for various reasons, I’m finding it very difficult. But it was written in something like 1959.

J: 51 it says here.

S: 51 okay. And it is still so fresh today. I mean, that’s fifty to sixty years later. The voice is as fresh as when it was written at that time. Now, how, how can that be? Even the turn of phrase that the boy in Catcher in the Rye uses is, you know, is almost as modern as nowadays. And it’s like, okay, so, yeah, so I want to kind of hijack what he does that works, look at why it works, then try to reapply it in a first person narrative to have that kind of teenage voice.

J: Was it a book for teenagers? Would you say Catcher in the Rye was, because it’s got a teenage narrator.

S: It was a seventeen year old, so no it’s not really a book for teenagers.

J: No, no. I mean, where there books for teenagers written then, I mean, the only, the earliest books for teenagers I can remember were things like Judy Blume. Or Nancy Drew, maybe Nancy Drew mysteries?

C: Oh, yes, yeah.

J: Would you say they were books for teenagers?

S: I don’t think they were written in the fifties, though, were they?

J: No, they’re much later, they’re more like sixties and seventies. I suppose some of Enid Blyton’s could be teenage, you could see them as teenage books. You know, The Famous Five, but they’re young teens, really.

S: Not really, no. I would say that’s still nine to twelve and at a stretch fourteen. I mean, Lord of the Rings was essentially written, is a teenage fiction…

J: Really? You would say Lord of the Rings was? I would say that was an adult.

S: Well I was, well I read it when I was eleven.

J: Yeah.

S: I read it in my second, I read it in my first year of secondary school, and that was in the sixties, so it hadn’t been out that long. Um, I read The Hobbit first, and then I read Lord of the Rings. Um, I mean that was along with books like White Fang by Jack London.

J: I remember White Fang, yeah.

S: Which again I would have said was a kind of teen, teenage fiction. I mean there were other books, like, do you remember that series called My Friend Flicker.

C: Oh, yes.

S: And The Green Grass of Wyoming all those kind of American…

J: Oh, I read The Green Grass of Wyoming.

S: And Anne of Green Gables, and all of those.

J: Oh yeah Anne of Green Gables.

S: I mean I would have said those are kind of early teenage fiction as well.

J: Yeah.

C: Flambards, my daughter likes Flambards.

26:14 Of course, any discussion of books leads into a discussion of a certain children’s author.S: I think JK Rowling has done for children’s literature such a service. She’s made it financially viable. And do you know what that’s mean? That’s meant everybody who thinks they can earn a penny writing children’s literature has turned their hand to it. And children’s literature has been vastly improved because of it.

C: Enriched.

S: Enriched because of it. Because now there’s a bit of competition and it’s like now, you know, you’ve got to be good enough, you’ve got to write good, you’ve got to deliver something to these kids. And so, wow. She’s done a great service, plus she’s produced seven fantastic, almost seven fantastic novels for kids to read.

C: Yeah, look I find it fantastic. Especially when you hear the old established authors crabbing about her. She’s been so successful, and people looking down their noses because they think it’s populous fiction. And I know on the Winchester reading list, it was like JK Rowling because of, what was it? Um, popular interest rather than literature. And I thought, well two fingers up to you, mate. Because kids read what they like, and they love her, and that’s fantastic because they read. My son read because Harry Potter made him read, and I think she’s done a great service, and I, you know, take my hat off to her. She’s been, and success builds success. And anybody who carps about her, I think, is very easy to carp about people…

S: Mind you, I think she’s gone off a bit with the last few.

C: Well, yeah, the fifth book wasn’t great, but you know I still, you know, I think…

S: I think it must be a hard act to keep going, anyway.

J: Well, I thought the sixth book was, was the best one, actually.

C: Did you?

S: I didn’t read that one. I gave up after the fifth.

J: I really enjoyed… oh I think that the fifth was just too long, I think that it should have been edited.

C: I thought it was rubbish!

J: But I think the sixth was really good. I’m looking forward to the seventh now, because I’m looking forward to seeing how she ties everything up, you know the full arc. But the fifth book was…

S: I just loved the third one.

J: …sorry, was really, really, sort of, accomplished in that, that way that… You know, like we were saying that you have to be able to write, you have to just keep writing and that you get better. Every book that you write is better than the last one, to an extent. I mean there are…

C: She’s also… the tremendous economic interest and there are so many financial things…

J: She’s probably got a bloody good editor.

C: No, but the problem is that in a sense you can be overtaken by that. So if people are too frightened of you because of your financial muscle and your potential to produce a lot of money, they are not going to complain too much about your book. And it needs hard editing, every book needs.

J: I think that’s what happened with number five. People have said that the, the Order of the Phoenix was um, not edited as it should be because basically they knew that it would sell anyway. You know, but I think…

C: Laziness.

J: Yeah, it is laziness because at the end of the day if the book is going to… if so many children are going to buy it, you, you owe to those children who are going to buy it and read it, you owe to them to give them the best, yeah. Yeah, but I think the number six was much, much better than number five, so you should read it.

C: I think people should back off and give her enough time to write.

J: Yeah.

C: You know, to actually follow the act time after time, especially when you have this huge media machine around you, it must become a huge pressure to deliver something decent, you know. Some people only manage to write one book. Look at To Kill a Mockingbird. Fantastic book but only one. Harper.

J: Harper Lee, yeah.

29:53 Then we get into general conversations, society and politics.C: I think this idea that everybody should have access, no everybody should have the ability to have access to university, but the idea that we have X percent of the population that must go to university is a nonsense. Whatever happened to the idea of the apprentice and the craftsman and the artisan? You know?

S: The renaissance.

J: Yes. And somebody taking, taking pride in actually doing a practical skill, and not necessarily having to study academically in order to do something practical.

C: Become a plumber. Because we have this weird idea that somehow a plumber is less valuable than a doctor and actually if all the plumbers disappeared then we’d be in much…

J: Well, you don’t think that they’re less valuable when you’re in, at two o’clock in the morning and your kitchen’s flooded, do you? That’s the thing. Somebody who’s a plumber actually earns so much more money than I do as a computer programmer, it’s incredible. I should have, I should have been a plumber, I should never have bothered going to university, I should have been a plumber.

C: It’s English preoccupation for class, the class system and I think that it’s part of the problem, and it still exists, you know? Um, this idea that everybody should be pushed to university, it’s absolute rubbish. You know, why? You know, I did a theoretical physics degree, wow. What did that do for me, in terms of my ability to go out and get a job? I haven’t used any of it. The hardest thing I’ve ever needed is O Level maths. And even that was pretty advanced for some of the things that I do. And I’m in finance, you know. Seriously.

J: So are we going to…? Are you going to burn the…? Oh you always burn the poppadoms, you’ve got a thing about burning poppadoms.

C: They have a great flame. There’s so much oil in them, if you ate that…

J: Yeah.

S: You’d burn.

J: Yeah, you’d burn. Yeah. Well, you’d burn… Oh, Caroline why have you turned the light off? Because you want to watch the poppadoms burn?

C: Yeah, look at that, watch it go all the way up the chimney, it’s great. This is what it’s all about, woooo.

J: It’s very spooky and dark. Where’s my wine, can I have some, is that my wine? Thank-you very much.

S: I know this is terribly naïve but I just think that most people have got really good hearts. And if you face them with kind of simplistic choices between what might be good for the whole and, or good for a few, they’ll choose what’s good for the whole. But the more I listen to politicians, the more I realise, you know, that they don’t care about anything. And, you know, it’s all spin, and I don’t know, yeah I’m sounding a bit jaded here. But god, Blair and Bush!

J: Oh don’t get me started on Blair and Bush. Oh no. Well, he’s out now, anyway and now we’ve got Brown. And we have yet to see whether Brown is any better than Blair, because Brown and Bush doesn’t sound too good to me. But we’ll see, we’ll see. I made a comment about, um, Tony Blair being so far up George Bush’s arse, and you know, somebody called Brown…

S: Doesn’t go well, does it?

J: No, it doesn’t go well. Anyway, anyway. So, it’s what is it? Quarter past eleven. God.

C: That’s early!

J: We used to stay up so late for these things, but now I’m feeling like, am I getting too old?

S: No.

J: I feel like I’m tired all the time.

33:28 Talking about politics often leads to talking about personal politics.C: I get overwhelmed when I feel like I do everything in the house and I’m trying to run a family, cook, clean, tidy up, write a book, run a job, help my children, and the ironing gets put on one side and I say to my husband, ‘Why don’t you put the ironing away?’ and he says, ‘Because I don’t know where it goes.’ So I say, ‘Well, hang on, we’ve been married for twenty-one years, and you don’t know where the ironing goes? That’s a really bad thing to say about our marriage.’ Bah.
34:14 And we always come back to our favourite subject again: writing.C: You have to take your hat off to those people who publish a book, especially women, because we are still shackled with drudgery, believe it or not, because we have this interest called children, if you have children, where you do the cooking, the cleaning, the washing, the school homework, the beating up the child, the comforting the child, you know, up in the early hours in the morning cleaning up sick, and you’re supposed to write a book, and you have a job.

S: And you’re supposed to smile through it all.

C: Ha! I tell you, I just take my hat off to any woman who’s married, has a job, has kids and manages to write a book on top of that. God bless them.

35:00-35:38 [Music – Are You Ready?]I was driving Alys’s Ford Ka rather than my old ratty Skoda. Last time I drove the Skoda up to the midlands, we ended up being towed home, which produced much hilarity from Steve, my Mum’s boyfriend. I did try to explain to him that my transfer of a Chinese dragon and the Chinese writing that means ‘power’ on the bonnet is actually supposed to be ironic, and that I’m taking the pee out of myself in hanging an air freshener in the shape of a pair of pink boxing gloves from the rear-view mirror. Steve spends so much time being heavily sarcastic that he doesn’t actually notice when other people are using mild irony.
36:11 So I was in the Ka, which is lovely to drive. I spent the whole time driving out of Cardiff trying to find a radio station that I wanted to listen to. The only time I listen properly to radio is when I’m driving. At home I’m on the internet with the TV on in the background, the radio is generally hit-and-miss because there’s no saying what’s scheduled for the time that I’ll be travelling. I usually listen to Radio 4 when I’m in my Skoda, and when the politicians drone on too much I switch to Classic FM. As it’s not my car, I didn’t have my usual set buttons and I couldn’t find either so hit the scan button and got Radio 2 which I noticed was playing some music I recognised.
36:51 When we were kids, my sister Jennie and I used to laugh at my Dad’s choice of radio whenever he drove us anywhere in his taxi or if he hired a car when we went on holiday. We used to beg and plead for Radio One but he always listened to Radio Two. We used to call it the Oldies Radio, because it was what Dads listen to. Let me explain that my Dad was quite a young dad, only about 23 years older than me. But at the time, obviously, I thought he was old. I figured that he was middle aged. If you die when you’re seventy – which you’re supposed to as it’s three score years and ten – then thirty-five is the middle of your life, which means that at around thirty-five you’re middle aged. I don’t feel middle-aged right now, I feel like I’m still young. Except on a Monday morning before my first cup of tea. But I’m thirty-six so by my juvenile reckoning, I’m an oldie. Do I care? I try not to, but I can’t help thinking that if I worked this out when I was a kid, then my boy must have already decided it about me.
37:51 I was driving along the A48, nearly at the M4 and it struck me that I had become my Dad. I was listening to Radio Two in the car. Radio Two was playing music that I like to listen to. I haven’t listened to Radio One for a good few years because the music they play is trash and the talk is nonsense. So. I am my Dad. But actually not, because most of the time I do listen to Radio 4 and Dad never did that. I listened to a comedy show ‘Out to Lunch’ on Radio 2, which was hilarious and I must remember to listen again if ever I’m driving on a Saturday lunchtime. Then turned over to Radio 4 and listened to Arcadia, part of the Tom Stoppard season. Fabulous. I didn’t care about the weather and the long journey. In fact, I pulled over before I got to my friend’s house so I could listen to the last five minutes of the play.
38:43 Now here’s the thing. I’m so used to the ‘on demand’ nature of the internet, listening to podcasts and stopping them when I need to, going back later etc. that I find listening to the radio in the car quite frustrating. I often switch on in the middle of a programme. I get interrupted by the traffic news, I get to my destination before the programme is finished. None of this used to bother me years ago, that was just the way it was. If you missed something then, well you missed it. If there was a power cut in the middle of something you were watching on TV then you found the candles and sat around playing cards.
39:15 I do wonder how we would cope now with the power cuts that we had when I was growing up in the seventies. I imagine that the level of public outcry will be a lot greater. And I’m not just talking about young people who will always find something to amuse themselves in the dark, I’m talking about people of my generation who’ve got used to the convenience of instantaneous communication. Our mothers and grandmothers had the spirit of the blitz and would battle on through, pulling together, making cups of tea and casseroles for each other and generally being annoyingly gleeful whenever a disaster happened. I wonder about the women of my generation, who are already pushed to the limit as far as work, housework, keeping the home together is concerned, and already have to put a brave face on it every morning. I can’t see many of us rolling up our sleeves and tying our hair up in headscarves, mucking down to the dirty work of creating a community in time of need. What we get now when there’s a disaster is people complaining that it took the government more than a day to mobilise aid. We expect everything immediately, and behave like frustrated toddlers when it doesn’t just magically drop out of the sky for us. I blame this on the fast food culture. I sometimes feel like saying, if someone is angrily demanding immediate service, ‘Do you want fries with that?’
40:28-41:06 [Music – Are You Ready?]I have been thinking about getting an iPod, I’d love to have one. That way I could listen to all my favourite shows without having to lug my laptop around. But what happens when the inevitable power shortages come back? Because they will, you know they will. Oh, we’ll kick against it but when there’s no more fuel, there’s no choice. We’ve got a wind-up radio, excellent invention. I’ve been wondering if anyone has thought to invent a wind-up iPod? Anyone know of something like that? You could have a little turning key at the back, it wouldn’t need to make the thing much bigger. Then there’s the solar powered iPod. Or how about wind powered? You could wear a hat with a wind turbine attached and then run a line down from that to your earplugs. Better be careful in a storm though, because you wouldn’t want to be struck by lightening.
41:52 But seriously, something one of my friends talked about this weekend made me stop and think. She said that the method of producing solar panels is toxic and creates its own environmental problem. So the net effect on the environment is false because the process outweighs the benefits gained by using solar panels. This reminds me of the problem with driving your recycling to the recycling centre. The fuel used by taking a journey specifically for this purpose outweighs the benefits of recycling. So unless you have roadside recycling, or you regularly pass the centre, don’t bother to recycle. The other thing that you find is that people put their old newspapers, glass and whatever in the boot and drive around for days or weeks before they go near the recycling place to drop it off. The added weight in the car over that period of time will cause more fuel to be used.
42:39 Then I heard that a certain famous fast food restaurant chain who are desperately trying to improve their public image as a happy, healthy, environmentally friendly, charity-giving company, are going to start using bio-diesel in their delivery vehicles. The old cooking oil is going to be collected from each of their thousands of outlets, taken to a processing plant where food particles will be filtered out, then that will be taken to another processing plant where the oil will be converted to bio-diesel, and then that will be used in the delivery vehicles. My question here is: what fuel is going to be used in the vehicles that will be doing all this collecting and transporting between the restaurants and processing plants. Will the net benefit actually make any difference to the environment or is this a shameless marketing tool and also convenient method of getting rid of the old oil rather than dumping it? When the delivery lorries are driving around, pumping out the smell of burgers and fries in the exhaust, they will get more free publicity than the usual picture on the side of the lorry. Cynical, aren’t I? Well when it comes to these large corporations, I actually am very cynical. I can’t believe that they will do anything other than for their own good.
43:50 Of course, what you could do, what you could do to raise awareness of environmental issues, is stage a massive festival, huge high-profile music festival, which uses huge amounts of energy in the sound systems and the lighting, inviting thousands of people to travel there, and all the energy that they will use up by travelling there. Not mentioning the chemical toilets and all the environmental damage that they will do, and all the knock-on effects of having huge festivals, and local environmental effects as well as global environmental effects. Not just pop stars flying in on their private jets but the thousands of people who travel from miles around and how they’re gonna get there. You could stage one of these huge festivals in the name of environmental issues. And that would raise awareness. That would raise awareness of environmental issues, I’m sure. Now that’s what I call irony.
44:55-45:54 [Music – Dum Dum]On my way home from my literary weekend, I listened to Radio 4 again, and found a programme featuring Germaine Greer talking about her book The Female Eunuch. I cheered in the car. This is what I call the serendipity of random radio. I may complain when it’s not ‘on demand’ but generally I can switch it on and there will be something worth listening to. I have a great affection for this book as it is the same age as me. It was published in 1970, the year I was born. I was eighteen when I first read it, and I was twenty-one when I read it for the second time, the twenty-first anniversary edition with a new introduction. After twenty-one years Germaine said how ironic it was that when she wrote The Female Eunuch, she was saying women should have the right to say yes to sex, and now twenty-one years later women were fighting for the right to say no. She said something of a similar vein in this show, and also how sad it was that her book was still relevant now, how we haven’t moved on in thirty-seven years and we’re still arguing about the same issues.
46:55 Later, and continuing with the Tom Stoppard season, I was delighted to hear that Fifteen Minute Hamlet was scheduled. I saw the fifteen minute Hamlet at a festival years ago, and I loved it then. I studied Hamlet at A Level so I’m well aware of the play, but the fifteen minute Hamlet is something for newcomers as well as old hands, and it definitely beats sitting for four and a half hours. I see this as a joke at the fast food culture, and I think this was Stoppard’s intention. Who is going to sit for four and a half hours to watch a story that could be told in fifteen minutes, really? It’s fun to listen to, but better to watch because you get the frantic scenery changes as well. I was also interested in finding out whether the one-minute Hamlet at the end was in Stoppard’s play or if it was an addition from the theatre company I saw perform it.
47:41 So I was just coming into Wales as Hamlet and Laertes are about to fight, I was on minute fourteen or so. And the radio started to get fuzzy in the reception, which happens around there. At some point you have to switch frequencies, but as this wasn’t my car and I’m not used to the radio, I couldn’t figure it out. I scanned this way and that way, and swerved around the suddenly curving roads. I got Classic in one direction and BBC Cymru in the other. “Mae’n debyg fod na cysylltiad rhwung Glyndwr ag…” No! I want Hamlet! I might be interested in hearing about Owain Glyndwr after Hamlet has finished. I pressed scan, scan, scan.Viking North Utsire South Utsire Forties: East or southeast 5 or 6, Nooooooooooo!!

Cromarty: Southeast 4 or 5, Radio 4 why do you do this to me??! I wanted Hamlet, I don’t want the shipping forecast.

Fitzroy Sole Lundy Fastnet: Showers. Moderate or good. Nooooooo. Oh no. I’m becoming cyclonic.

Southeast Iceland: Northeast 5 to 7, occasionally gale 8. Moderate or rough, occasionally very rough . Rain or showers. Moderate or good.

48:57-49:18 [Music – Fastbeat]So I’m home now and I’ve had a cup of tea and I’m feeling better. Thoughts of the weekend will stay with me and bolster me on. My supportive friends who agree that it’s okay to ignore the housework, who are excited to see I’ve won a place in the Bestsellers list for my story Resurrection, and who have set my target for when we next meet up. I showed Sarah how to set up her MySpace page, with the book cover for Door of No Return, and an animated banner describing the book as ‘betrayal, lost gold, skulduggery, a perilous journey through the jungle. The Door of No Return, out now! Sarah Mussi.’ I interviewed Sarah and promised that I’d do a special podcast show just for her interview so that she could post it on her site. So that’s what my next show is going to be, an interview with Sarah Mussi about her book.
50:09-50:26 [Music – Slow Riff]Before I go, I just need to give an update on what I said earlier in this show, recorded on the morning the bombs were discovered and diffused. First of all, if you don’t know me, then you may be wondering how I managed to turn around a discussion about the abhorrence of racism into a rant about how stupid English people are. If you didn’t notice this, then maybe you need a lesson in irony, but I’m not the one to give it. My second point is that it transpires that some people have been arrested and that these people are NHS doctors. How shocked we all are that terrorists turn out to be intelligent after all. Though everyone is careful to insist that the suspected terrorists haven’t yet been charged, this will come as a powerful blow against Asian doctors working in the NHS. If it weren’t for the thousands of immigrant workers in the health care services, then we would not be able to function. In fact if it weren’t for immigrant workers who will labour long hours for low pay in jobs that British-born citizens who are entitled to state benefits would turn down, then the country wouldn’t function at all. Don’t get me started on that one.
51:31 Well, we know that the people who perform these sorts of attacks are generally the stooges and the people who plan them get to live. Remember Guy Fawks? He was a hired mercenary who became the scapegoat. We have to think about the bigger picture here, instead of simply reacting aggressively in a way that is ill-conceived when seen in retrospect.Then I heard on the news this morning that our new Prime Minister is focussing on NHS reform as his main priority. Coincidence that a group of NHS doctors have been accused of terrorist plotting? I ask that question, but I’m not going to answer it because I think I can hear the knocking on my door.
52:10 Here’s an extract of the interview with Sarah Mussi to whet your appetite. Speak soon.S: I would say that all writing essentially is a self-taught art. However, like any art form there are people who’ve been there before and they have stories to tell. And so there are actually strands, if you like, that have been explored before that could be learnt. But it would be a bit like kicking a ball and then going to football school, in a way. If you went to football school and you just watched all the replays of all the greatest matches and David Beckham scoring goals in all the last cup finals or whatever he does. It wouldn’t teach you how to kick a ball.

C: Course not.

S: It would teach you how other people have kicked a ball, it would teach you great moments in football, it might teach you the rules of football. It might teach you about how fans respond to football, it might teach you about how teamplay is important, it might teach you about capitalising on the moment, it might teach you about the pitch and about, you know, combinations and teamplay. It might teach you loads of stuff which would be incredibly valuable, but it won’t teach you how to kick a ball. You have to get down with the ball and kick it. That’s how you have to learn to do it. And I think that writing is the same, you can go on courses, you can read books, and all that is like watching replays of the best matches and listening to all the coaches, and listening to people telling you, you know, the theory of football, but until you get out there with the ball, you are not a writer. Until you get out there with the words you are not a writer. And when you do that, then you start learning.


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