Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Apprentice

Well, after yesterday's Budget we all know for certain that this country is in a huge financial mess. And then we watch wannabe future leaders of industry on reality TV and all becomes clear...

Pants Man?! Bright green cereal packaging they didn't even get round to designing? And to top it all, a self-combusting team with two apparent passengers and not the slightest spark of creativity amongst any of the members.

It's difficult to pick potential finalists this year. Debra is manipulative, Ben too pushy and Philip a bulldozing bully. The there's Lorraine, who seems like a fish out of water. I'm quite liking Kate, she did well yesterday.

But at the end of the day The Apprentice is compulsive viewing, one of the few programmes we all watch together in this house...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Day tripping

Yesterday I travelled into central London to have lunch with the lovely Helen, who is my hard-working co-editor at bookersatz. We had only met in person once before, very briefly, so it was great to have a long leisurely meal on a sunny terrace in Islington, chatting about lots of writerly things and life in general. Sadly I had to leave all too soon in order to get home for the school bus, but I hope we'll be able to do it again in the not too distant future.

Today I spent much nearer to home, catching up on the phone and then over coffee with local friends I hadn't seen during the school holidays.

So tomorrow, in order not to have a guilt trip, I will have to get on with my writing. My novel and final OU assignment ( a 4000 word story plus commentary) await me...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Substance over style

I was tidying up last Saturday and half watching Britain's got Talent at the same time, when this stopped me in my tracks.

In an age where everyone seems obsessed by appearance and designer goods, it was lovely to see someone turn prejudices upside down and inside out. Susan Boyle has made the news, rocked America and at the time of writing has over 12 million hits on YouTube.

It is too early to predict whether she will win the series but she is already a star and the pound signs were almost visible in Simon Cowell's eyes as he listened. Yes, of course she would benefit from a little makeover, but as an unemployed person she won't have been able to afford to pamper herself in the past. What really counts is that she has personality and huge talent, unlike most of the bland celebrities we are bombarded with on a daily basis.

It made me think about my own friends who, like me, are mostly very ordinary. I realised that the ones I get on with best and to whom I would entrust my children and my life, are those slightly older friends from a 'make-do and mend' generation, who have no interest in fashion fads and can run their households on a tight budget, within their financial means. They might not have designer homes and wardrobes, but they are selfless and freely give their time and energy to help others. They are the ones who have stuck by us during a few very difficult years when others disappeared. One in particular has literally been a lifesaver.

It may be a generational thing, but give me substance over style any day.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Amazon antics

There appears to be something nasty going on at Amazon.

If you haven't already picked up on this via Facebook or Twitter, then Anne's article will explain the apparent censorship far better than I can.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Read, read, read

How Publishing Really Works is a blog I always enjoy for its perceptive views on writing and the publishing industry.

Today's post on the importance of reading is spot on. Whilst I do think writing can be taught, at least to an extent, reading widely and in more than one genre is also critical to both new and experienced writers. A taught course or even a how-to book will inevitably reflect the personal views and style of the teacher. However, a depth of reading will introduce writers to a huge array of styles and subject matter, which can improve their own work as they discover what works for them as a reader.

So get books for free in the library, buy them cheaply in a charity shop. Experiment with books you would never normally choose. If you don't like them by all means give up, but not before you've worked out what you don't like. It can only improve your own work.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Don't forget autism

Today is World Autism Awareness Day.

Of course there are lots of other things happening in the UK. The G20 Summit and the accompanying protests in Central London are considered far more newsworthy, so there is perhaps only a slim chance of seeing a representative of The National Autistic Society on TV or radio today.

But the world financial situation will impact on autism. There are already far too few services for people on the autistic spectrum, particularly adults and those of all ages at the more able end of the spectrum. The hugely increasing national debt resulting from bailing out the banks will inevitably lead to a further squeezing of funding for public services and some existing schemes are likely to suffer or be lost altogether. Many services are run by charities who are also suffering in the current economic climate.

The current rate of diagnosis is around one child in a hundred, but as no comprehensive records have been kept nobody actually seems to know how many people in this country have autism. It's a demographic time bomb of vulnerable people needing help and support and it is difficult to see where the money for that help is going to come from.

Don't forget people with autism today.