Too many words . . . too little time!

There is no better reminder to me of how quickly time passes than this blog. It seems like only yesterday that I posted the last one but, in fact, it’s almost two months!! I remember promising myself that I would leave no more than a month between each thrilling episode! Ha! So much for ‘notes to self’!!

Two months! Jeez! Tempus doesn’t ‘arf bloody fugit when you’re having fun . . . innit!

And fun I am indeed having! Since the last blog, I have submitted a radio drama script to the BBC Writers Room, five poems and a short story to various competitions and ‘expressed an interest’ in a commission for a Great War stage play. I have learned that nothing in the literary world happens quickly so I will not know the outcome of any of the aforementioned for weeks yet! But . . . no news is always good news! The trick is just to keep writing . . . keep the spit turning . . . the more ‘shit’ you throw at the barn door, the more will stick, etc etc! (Other inane clichés are available!)

The one that excites me most and, hopefully, I will find about sooner than all of the other submissions, is the Great War project. I read about it on New Writing North. Durham County Council need a writer for a brand new play they are commissioning. It will be part of the Council’s First World War Centenary commemorations and will explore the war from a County Durham perspective, both at home and on the frontline.

The inspiration for the play is the story of ‘The Fighting Bradfords’ – four brothers from the small village of Witton Park with an extraordinary record of military service during the war. The brothers collectively received two Victoria Crosses, a Distinguished Service Order and two Military Crosses. Three of them paid with their lives. The play will have its premiere in September 2016 at the Gala Theatre, Durham.

Having researched it, it is an incredible story! Sue and I spent a few days visiting World War 1 sites on the Western Front this summer. It was an emotional experience, to be sure, and this is a project I would dearly love to be involved with.

So I have sent them my ‘pitch in a letter’, my Writer’s CV (such as it is!), ten pages of script from a previous play and a one-page description of the treatment I would propose. The ‘script’ part of the submission, as I have explained to them, is an adaptation of my only submitted work thus far, ie my radio play about the Wilkinson factory bombing, currently sitting in a ‘virtual’ pile among 1000s of other submissions in the BBC Writers Room.

Fingers crossed! Nothing ventured, nothing gained! Gotta be in it, to win it! Watch this space! (Other inane clichés are available!)

Oh . . . and I also wrote great long poetic sagas on a weekly basis which I posted on the Archers Appreciation Facebook page. I kept it up for four weeks but then started to lose the will to live. Events in Ambridge – once the domain of the slowest form of human life – has recently taken on a headline-grabbing intensity, normally reserved for more ‘mainstream’ telly soaps like Tenders, Corrie or, shamefully, Emmerdale which, in its early days, was the Northern televisual equivalent of The Archers until the new producer used the device of a plane crash to wipe out most of the cast and end several of the prevailing storylines.

I hate to say it but The Archers is moving in that direction! The new producer has so far given us a flood of Biblical proportions, the death by plague of dozens of cattle, a villain of Victorian, Sir Jasper, magnitude and the disappearance of many previously familiar characters, followed by their return weeks later with a different voice, a changed personality and a new outlook on life that tramples to death all that they were before.

It’s too sensationalist by far; too many personifications of evil; too many dim-witted characters of the type that one screams at when they walk up the stairs in a haunted house horror movie! So I am taking a sabbatical . . . until the waters of the Am cease to become a torrent and allow me to dip my jaundiced toes back in without of fear of them being consumed by a shoal of piranha!

I am also writing a Bennett-style ‘talking head’ for the Saltburn Drama Festival next March. I met up recently with Marje Wilson. She is a good friend of ours and was in the cast for the first Team Players school science productions – The World of Science and The Magic of Science. Marje is a real old trouper, witnessed by the fact she performed two shows on her 70th birthday, way back in 2002! She braved early mornings, long days and long journeys, loading and unloading of the van in fair weather and foul and . . . sharing the cab of a Transit van with me and a mutual friend Martin Gibbons. We were the original A Team! I think she has only just forgiven me for making her wear an alien outfit, complete with facemask, in the World show! We then went on to play mother and son in a telly ad for geriatric chairs in which she got more lines than I did! But I forgive her for that!

Any road up, I’m rambling . . . again! Marje expressed a desire to do a ‘talking head’ and I heard myself saying “I’ll write you one, Marje”. So I am . . .

I won’t give too much away here because I haven’t actually finished it yet but it is basically an older lady reflecting on her wartime service in the SOE – the Special Operations Executive. There are tears and laughter as her memories come to the fore . . . culminating in a confession that the audience is the first to hear. Underwritten and enhanced by the mellifluous voice of Al Bowlly, it is a thought-provoking piece. I am enjoying the writing of it – always a good sign! – and it is entitled Love Is The Sweetest Thing. Bring tissues!

It was actually at a performance of Sue’s children’s play – The Spoils of War ­– where I met up with Marje again. Sue’s play was first aired at this year’s Saltburn Drama Festival and it won Best Youth Production and the Comedy Award. The Adjudicator was very complimentary of the play and the writing. It tells of the experience of five or six children in a war-torn Northern town. (It’s Leeds, but don’t tell anyone! Walls have ears!) Bombing raids, evacuation, broken families! Despite the grim backdrop, it brings out the infinite adaptability of children and the indomitability of the human spirit in adversity.

The Adjudicator also went on to say that he wanted to know what happened to the children at the end of the play so, encouraged and spurred on by that comment, Sue has just finished her children’s novel – Bombs and Bunting – which continues the story. It will be going off to a publisher next week. It’s a wonderfully poignant tale!

I think that’s all I have time for now, dear people! Sue and I are off to the wilds of the Tyne Valley tomorrow to do some workshops at one of my favourite schools . . . and then again on Wednesday!

Well . . . I see t’nights are cutting in, as they say in Northern climes. I don’t know about you but I hate it! Why are we constantly out of step with every other nation? Why does daytime suddenly draw to a close in the middle of the afternoon? I know what the reasons used to be but, I’m sorry, they are just no longer valid!


PS I am thinking now of lots of other things I wanted to say . . . but that will have to wait until next weekend! (Yeh, right!)