Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Never Marry...

Never marry an archaeologist – they’re always digging up the past.

Never marry a proof-reader – they’re always looking to find fault.

Never marry an astronaut – they always want more space.

Never marry a boxing promoter – they’re always trying to pick a fight.

Never marry an ascetic – nothing is good enough for them.

Never marry a typesetter – they won’t let you get a word in edgeways.

Never marry a socialite – they won’t have any common interests.

Never marry a cruciverbalist – they always have to have the last word.

Never marry a model – they’ll change before your eyes.

Never marry a tennis player – love means nothing to them.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Crumbs

Our toaster is horrible. An offcast of an ex-girlfriend’s mother, it has a hideous 80s-style “ears of wheat” motif on the side (the toaster, not the ex-girlfriend's mother). But my girlfriend and I now have a new toaster. OK, it is not exactly new, but comes from my girlfriend’s flat that is about to be sold and thus needed clearing out at the weekend. It is chrome and big and curvy like a toaster should be, with not a hideous "ye olde farmhouse kitchen" design in sight. It is still quite old as it was there when my girlfriend bought the flat, so it does need a bit of a clean. I decide to do that this morning.

Not everything has been going well on the work front for me this year, so I relish the opportunity of doing a small job like this that will give me satisfaction upon completion. That way I can build my confidence towards writing another spec script. By the time that is rejected the kettle will need descaling again, and thus the cycle of depression and irregular cleaning jobs continues.

The first task is to empty the crumb tray. She must have been charging too much rent, because it seems that whoever lived in my girlfriend’s flat for the past two years subsisted entirely on toast. The crumb tray itself is of Tardis-like dimensions – by the time it is empty there is nearly half a loaf in the bin.

The second task is to give the chrome a nice polish. I usually hate the thought of any kind of cleaning, but given a small, achievable, well-defined goal such as this I take a real pride in my work and soon I can see my distorted face in it. (The mirrored surface is distorted, not my face.)

The third task is to have the leftover Monday bagel.

Clunk – That is the sound of me pushing the bagel down into the toaster.

Thwock – That is the sound of the untoasted bagel immediately popping back up.

Clunk.

Thwock.

Clunk.

Thwock.

Clunk-thwock-clunk-thwock-clunk-thwock.

Clunk.

Thwock.

It is obvious what has happened. The clunk-thwock mechanism has broken.

This should be the work of just a few moments to a man with a BEng, and I fetch a screwdriver. Forty minutes later I admit defeat and put the toaster back together again. It may have been a first class degree (from a proper university as well), but education standards were obviously slipping even in 1991.

Clunk.

I grimly hold the handle down until my bagel is toasted.

Thwock.

I get the butter, wondering what this means for the year ahead.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

And Your Cheques for Free

Along with “Where do you get your ideas from?” and “What do you do all day?” the third question that I often get asked is “How much do you earn?” Sometimes it’s phrased a bit more politely than that, but the gist is the same – because I am a writer, I must either have a massive income from royalties, and I just choose to live in an unfashionable part of north-west London to keep it real and stay close to the streets that made me, or that I have to suck off sailors to pay the gas bill.

The truth is somewhere in between – I am a secret millionaire, but hey, who can resist a sailor?

No, the truth is somewhere in between – by saving when the times are good I can get by when the government decides to ban advertising junk food to kids. I hate wasting money, and am always checking for the cheapest utility suppliers and best mortgage rates, and I never, never run up interest on a credit card. I am the annoying person who always has his tax return done by mid-September. It was therefore with some dismay that I opened a letter saying that I had a loan that I should have paid off last year that had now accrued £100 interest, and could they have it all back please?

My heart sank; it was true. I had taken out a career development loan for a course a couple of years ago even though I hadn’t really needed to as the government were lending money at 0% for a year. Today’s money-saving tip is that if someone lends you money at 0% you should always take it, as any interest you can earn on it elsewhere is free money. Today’s other money-saving tip is to always remember to pay it back before they start charging interest, otherwise the whole clever sticking it to The Man idea becomes a bit redundant and you realise that you’re actually bent double with your trousers round your ankles whilst The Man lubes up in quiet anticipation.

But I had paid it back, hadn’t I? Yep – there was my little note on the statement, and I remembered the phone call asking how much I had to repay and what the latest possible date was to avoid interest. And there was the corresponding transaction on my current account, paying the loan off.

I rang my loan providing bank. They said that the loan hadn’t been paid off, and the loan department would have to ring me back.

The loan providing bank has been pretty useless. This is an account that has only required two transactions (paying my college, then me repaying the loan) and they have messed both of them up. They managed to pay my college the day before they put the money in the account in the first place, which of course made the brand new account overdrawn, then tried to charge me for their own poor co-ordination. And now this. I don’t care that they claim to be ethical – I am prepared to sacrifice a few baby seals in the name of basic fiscal competence.

The loan department rang me back. The money had gone into the account, but bizarrely hadn’t been used to pay the loan off. What it had been used for, no one could actually say, but they apologised. A lot. I said I’d like to close the account to avoid any further problems, which the woman said would be fine, then she said a curious thing: “You’ve still got a balance of £30.38 in there.”

This was a bit odd, as this account should never have had any money it. As soon as it did, that went straight to the college (the day before, actually, so no interest earned there), and as soon as I put money in it a year later it should have paid off the loan. So where had this come from? Apparently it was the interest earned over the past year whilst my money was inexplicably failing to pay off the loan (the interest on which they had rightly written off). I quickly told her to transfer it to my current account at another bank and to shut the loan account immediately.

I felt like a man who had just been wowed by a street magician. I kept thinking that half an hour later I would say, “Hang on, he’s still got my watch.” But I think that I borrowed money from a bank and they paid me interest.

If only I could make a career doing that.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Film 2007

Here are some of the films that we can look forward to seeing this year:

I Know What You Did Last Year At Marienbad
Did Giorgio Albertazzi have an affair with a married woman last year? The writer of a taunting letter seems to think so in this post-modern art-house slasher.

Guess Who’s Coming to My Dinner with Andre
Existential stagey two-hander livens up in the second reel with the introduction of a black man. Yes! A black man!

The Unbearable Lightness of Being John Malkovich
John Cusack finds a portal into the head of a man who has sex with Juliette Binoche a lot. He ignores the Russian invasion, and pretty much everything else.

Barefoot in Jurassic Park
Mismatched newlyweds try to make it work, despite having to share their tiny fifth-floor apartment with a velociraptor.

The Empire Strikes Back to the Future
Luke Skywalker goes back in time to save his father from the dark side, but Jar Jar Binks starts falling for him...

Buena Vista Fight Club
The first rule of Buena Vista Fight Club is – you do not change key. The second rule of Buena Vista Fight Club is – you do not change key. Apart from that, it's just like jazz.

To Kill a Mockingbird on a Wire
Gregory Peck defends Mel Gibson on charges of racism. With Goldie Hawn as herself.

Eternal Sunshine of a Beautiful Mind
Russell Crowe tries to forget that he ever had an imaginary friend.

The Dirty Pretty Dozen
Illegal cleaners and minicab drivers are rounded up into a lean, mean fighting machine.

The Sixth Sense and Sensibility
Mr Dashwood wasn’t dead all along.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Storm in a D-cup

I had a problem with my radio script last week. I had a sketch with a punchline that relied on the fact that a Canadian man would think that 40 inches was a large bra size. This got quite a nice laugh at the read-through, but I was never entirely happy with it.

I felt as though on one shoulder I had a slightly lazy writer saying “It got a laugh – it’s in”. But on my other shoulder I had Martin Bryce from Ever Decreasing Circles saying, “That’s illogical – isn’t Canada a metric country? Shouldn’t he be thinking that 101.6cm is a large bra size?”

I sometimes hate my inner Martin Bryce, but he is right, dammit. I have been to Canada, and all their road signs are in kilometres. The lazy writer said it would be OK though. That it was for a British audience, used to bras being measured in inches, that they would laugh and we would then be straight into the next joke. Who would notice? What kind of sad idiot would write in and complain?

But the lazy writer was wrong. I knew that a sad idiot would write in and complain because I am that person. The lazy writer is someone who would write a sketch that depicted dinosaurs with cavemen, despite the fact that dinosaurs died out millions of years before humans evolved. Unless the lazy writer is also a creationist, in which case the dinosaurs all died out about two and half hours before humans were created. But then he is wrong on two counts, though he wouldn't listen to reason at all, and would claim that he was created lazy and so he shouldn't try to change. He is also the sort of person who would think that “Storm in a D-cup” is a good title, but sometimes Martin Bryce lets his guard down.

Every comedian and writer that I have ever admired has at some point said that comedy is truth. I suspect that they were talking more about the integrity of the characters and situations that they create rather than a point of fact about measurement systems, but they are right. Even though this was the linchpin to a huge chunk of the script, and a callback to something that was intricately set up pages earlier it wasn’t true. But I couldn’t change anything about it as the man had to be Canadian, and the number had to be 40.

I was prepared to just cut it all and write something else, but had one last ray of hope. What if, despite being metric, Canadians actually did measure their bras in inches? But how would I find out?

Before the advent of the internet I would have had to have flown to Canada and gone to a lingerie department and asked somebody. This would have been tax deductible for research, but still a bit pricy and inconvenient. So it is a wonderful world that we live in that I can just Google “Canadian bra sizes” and get almost instant help from an expert lingerie retailer. Luckily I am not a pervert who gets his thrills from emailing random women and asking them about bra sizes and has written a whole script based around needing to know this information just so that he can get his weird kicks. No, I am not that man. No.

And the outcome was that whilst the labels show both inches and centimetres, most Canadian women measure their breasts in inches. Hurrah! Except perhaps in Quebec, but that doesn’t matter as I already know that my character is not from Quebec.

And it is an even more wonderful world where I can also Google “bra sizes” with image search accidentally switched on. Even Martin likes that.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Rafael Benitez’s Troubleshooting Guide to the History of the World

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez offered the following explanation for his side’s recent 6-3 defeat to Arsenal:

"The problem was conceding four goals in the first half.”

Thanks, Rafa. I’d been reading the match reports for hours trying to work out what might have gone wrong, but you’ve really hit the nail on the head there. As Basil Fawlty would say, “Can’t we get you on Mastermind? Specialist subject: stating the bleeding obvious”. Here are some answers you could give:

The problem was the ship hitting the iceberg.

The problem was the plague making the people ill.

The problem was the earthquake knocking the buildings down.

The problem was the man with the rifle shooting at the president.

The problem was the people not having enough to eat.

The problem was the airship catching fire.

The problem was the volcano erupting and burying the city.

The problem was the first aeroplane colliding with the second aeroplane.

The problem was the nuclear power station exploding.

The problem was the asteroid hitting the Earth.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Everything You Will Ever Need To Know About Me

Sunday in London with my girlfriend. We meet some friends from Brighton, browse at the nearby Royal Academy and chat in the cafe about work, visits to India and Brighton house prices. We stroll through Green Park, then St James’s Park, where we talk to a man walking a ferret on a lead. London is cold and grey, but all the more beautiful for it. There are locals and tourists here alike, all from scores of different countries. We then semi-ironically/semi-unironically admire the guards at Horse Guards Parade and take a walk along the river. We end up in a top secret underground wine bar where we order lovely wine and brilliant fast food in the form of big chunks of cheese with pickles and salad. And I bump into a couple of people that I know, which almost never happens, but makes you look very cool in a “London is just one big village” kind of way when it does.

We say goodbye to our friends, then look at The Guide for a film to see. We are faced with a huge choice, so, unusually for us, we instead decide we’ll pick up some sushi from a little place just over the road, buy a liberal Sunday broadsheet from a salt-of-the-earth Cockney vendor and head home.

As we walk to the tube, my girlfriend says what a great day it has been, and lists all the different things that we’ve done. She’s right; it has been great. It has been like being in an advert for Oyster cards, or a TV programme where impossibly beautiful metropolitan 30-somethings with high-powered jobs ponce around doing interesting things instead of watching Friends repeats in their pants.

“Yes, it’s been great”, I reply. “But if other people did it I’d think they were wankers.”

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Writerwatch

START AT THE BOTTOM...

19:00 The end - I'm off to do the washing up, but cleaning the fridge can wait. I hope this all answers the eternal question about how I spend my days. Though it does perhaps raise some other questions. It's actually been quite useful in making me describe what I'm doing and why, but also a bit distracting and time-consuming. Though I’m sure that having to account for every minute means I’ve wasted less time than I usually do. (I still did quite a bit of web browsing though.)

In a final push I managed 444 words on Project MF (to the end of the speed dating scene, albeit roughly), some useful editing on the radio project (a glass half-full way of saying I threw some words away), and I walked 1426 paces, some way off the 10,000 recommended (though I think my pedometer doesn't work properly). I did however write over 3,800 words here, which is easily the most words I’ve written in a day.

I bought light bulbs, but my email problems are unresolved. I emailed friends (though one was a frustrating “I don’t know” reply, so it’s still in my inbox). No notes on children’s show #1, but that can wait till next week if necessary, and I’m well prepared for show #2.

I do hope that none of you committed suicide as a result of this. But why so few trains? Why? The afternoon usually has up to half a dozen.

The main thing that I have learnt is that I get distracted very very... Ooh look! Something shiny!

18:20 OK, music off, email to email people sent. Final push. 40 minutes of the worst men to meet at speed dating. Hang on, I've just had an email of a picture of someone's baby. OK, starting... now!

17:59 Who'd have thought that writing down everything you do would be so time-consuming? Just had another funny German chocolate and emailed a friend thanking him for a Christmas present. Worried about the non-appearance of notes, so I'm about to look up how to read email message headers as I think that my email providers are lying. Have sort of accepted that I'm not going to write anything more today. Listening to a Christmas CD - The Auteurs' last album. I can't listen to music when I work which is a shame. Because I can't concentrate. Haha. Imagine how bad I'd be if I did.

17:10 Where did the last hour go? It can't all have been on the web. I've found some character notes I made earlier, and although I don't have all the answers, I do at least have some of the questions. I got my rhyming dictionary out to see if I could come up with the name of a loyalty card for someone who goes to lots of dating events, along the lines of Frequent Flyer, but I couldn't. There's an obvious alliterative one that I passed on.

I had picked today as Writerwatch as I thought it would be more interesting, with a variety of work - I am expecting some notes back on the main children's show that I am working on. It's my bread and butter work at the moment in that I've got a rolling contract, but by "bread" I mean "quite thinly sliced", and by "butter" I mean "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter". Each month I expect the phone to not ring. So it looks like I will have to explain the joys of that process another day. Perhaps they have been delayed by my email providers. The best note that I have ever had back (on a different show) was "Why not make it funny?"

And there hasn't been a train for hours.

16:12 Not going too badly, though the friend may as well be wearing crotchless knickers and a T-shirt saying "I am a slapper", and the protagonist seems to be shocked at the thought that anyone has had sex ever. Not sure what her problem is. Is she too romantic? Too impractical? Are her standards too high? Is it possible for an attractive, reasonably well-balanced woman (though a bit too interested in reading) to have got to 29 without having sex (even in the unrealistic world of a romantic comedy)? Or at least casual sex? OK, ditch that, maybe she has - perhaps an Unsuitable Man put her off relationships. Or she thought she had perfection, but lost it, and now no one comes close. He died? No - too much. And what does this pairing of women say about me? Hmm...

The "My Sex Change Disaster" book title doesn't work - why would a romantic book shop stock this? Still, I've written 275 words and am now well on to page 4. And I've confronted the "CLICHE CLICHE" voice by just acknowledging it and writing about it here. The downside being that this first bit is the easiest bit. And when I've done this stuff before I've managed 8 pages a day. I'll carry on, then maybe write some character biographies (I can never seem to do these without making the characters do something first).

15:10 Right, I've emailed my friend saying I'll check with my girlfriend re holiday dates, made a cup of tea, filled my water glass and resolved to ignore the washing up and the fact that the fridge needs cleaning. Nothing can distract me now.

14:58 That's better. Interesting things on the bank statement:
1. When PayPal verify your account they make two small payments into your bank account. If you can confirm the value of these, then it shows that it's your bank account. But PayPal never charge you for these. I accidentally deleted my PayPal account last month (a long story), and had to set it up again and re-verify it. I am now an extra 18p + 4p richer. Ker-ching! I could just keep doing this.
2. I signed up for LoveFilm's introductory offer where you get a month's free membership and they pay you £10. I watched five films for free, cancelled before sending the fourth one back and am now £10 up. Ker-ching!

14:38 TRAIN! EWS class 66 (it is usually a class 60) pulling kerosene tankers from left to right past my window. I know that they are kerosene because one day I, er, got a bit distracted and looked up the 3Y 1863 hazchem code. This one goes past every day at about this time (except Sundays). I think that I will stop blogging about trains now. Unless a particularly unusual one goes past.

I am also desperate to put my bank statement away as it looks untidy on my desk, but before I can do that I have to work out some joint account stuff. I like to follow the rule that you should only touch paperwork once, ie not keep picking it up and putting it down again, but to immediately do the thing that you are meant to do with it, so long as it takes just a few minutes, then file it forever. This is how Sir Alan Sugar works. Perhaps I need an apprentice? Sod it - I'm not very creative in the afternoon anyway.

14:24 Back from lunch (organic red pepper and chickpea pate with cherry tomatoes on wholemeal bread (including a crust - I am the only person in this flat who eats the crusts), a satsuma clementine tangerine mandarin small orange fruit and a strange but not unpleasant German chocolate). But it was a working lunch - I watched an episode of a children's show that I am hoping to start work on next week, thus answering the third most common question that people ask me - "Do you just watch children's television all day?"

13:43 I am back with my lightbulbs. Three energy saving ones at £7.99 each to replace ones above our bookcases that keep blowing, but should work out cheaper in the long run. I'll keep the receipt though. 1044 extra paces, but before any stalkers start drawing 522 pace radii around north-west London branches of Homebase I don't think my pedometer is working properly. I only put it on today to make this more interesting (I know), but some basic counting showed a problem, as did the fact that I appeared to take many more steps coming back. Nothing interesting or amusing happened en route, though a man approaching me on the pavement did say hello to someone behind me, and I briefly wondered why he was talking to me. But I worked out what was going on before I returned his greeting.

13:00 Break for lunch. I have written 124 words on Project MF, but -66 on the radio thing leaves just 58. Perhaps I shouldn't do the subtraction. It's the words you throw away that makes the John West salmon the best. I have, however, written 2276 words here. I don't usually do word counts - now I know why. I've definitely spent less time than usual semi-aimlessly web browsing (eg confirming the opening two lines to Sleepless in Seattle), but mainly because I would be embarrassed to record how much I had done if I did my usual amount. And whilst analysing my writing process has been quite useful, it has also been quite disruptive and time-consuming having to document whenever I have a thought. Or get distracted.

My pedometer shows that I have only walked 157 paces, so I'm going to buy some light bulbs.

12:36 Or maybe the protagonist says defiantly that a man came in to sign his book just the other day. And the friend says, "What, [BOOK TITLE]?" where [BOOK TITLE] is something that implies he's not someone a woman would view as a great catch, eg "My Disastrous Sex Change Operation" or "How To Be Celibate" or "Out and Proud - Growing Up Gay". It needs some polishing, but it's a bit better as the friend could pick up a copy of the book disdainfully, making it a more visual joke. But this is all for the rewrites - I must carry on and not get distracted. (Writing down everything you do all day is a great way of spotting behaviour patterns. Clearly I have a problem with being distracted. As I am showing, not only with these parentheses, but with the fact that I AM WRITING DOWN EVERYTHING I AM DOING ALL DAY.)

12:32 Maybe I could give the Daniel Defoe line to the protagonist - this would make her more interesting, and the friend less clever, which would fit her character better. This is a good trick - just swapping things around till they work.

12:17 I am a bit hungry and look for a snack. Normally I try to eat healthily, but I am missing Christmas food so am pleased when I find a handful of kettle chips left over from entertaining at the weekend. (They are still in the bag, not down the back of the sofa cushions or anything.) Whilst washing the bits of crisp off my hands I notice that the kitchen soap dispenser is empty, so I top it up from a larger spare one in the bathroom.

I am worried that speed dating is very cliched. I sort of have a structure for the scene - there is a joke opportunity with the fact that the friend goes there a lot so has slept with everyone, then possibly a jump cut montage of the protagonist and unsuitable men (CLICHE CLICHE CLICHE), then ends with the friend taking the afternoon off to shag someone. Aaagh - it's all been done before. Also, the friend is becoming much more interesting than my protagonist.

Perhaps I should go speed dating for research, though I'm not sure how I can persuade my girlfriend about this.

11:42 I tweak the end of the second scene a bit, but I should really crack on. I've got a "placeholder" joke in there - I know what sort of joke I need, but can't quite find it, and shouldn't spend too much time on it at this stage. My female protagonist runs a bookshop, and her friend/sidekick/reflector character is trying to tell her that she needs to get out and meet men more as she's not going to meet any running the bookshop. (This itself isn't brilliant and might all change, but as Hemingway said, all first drafts are shit. And he should know as he ended up blowing his head off with a shotgun. Is there some kind of link between writers and suicide? STOP GETTING DISTRACTED!) At the moment the friend says "We share a customer demographic with the makers of nuns’ habits and posh cat food. The last man in here was the guy who built the place."

That's a bit crap and overwritten, but gets the point over. Maybe something like "The last man in here was Daniel Defoe signing a first edition", but that makes the friend a bit too clever. There is some book-related joke to be had though that implies that not many men visit the shop.

I leave it looking rough and press on to the next scene, where the friend takes the protagonist speed dating.

11:25 TRAIN! I live next to a railway, and the first train of the day has just gone past - a Freightliner class 66 with a train of green recycling wagons going from right to left. Despite having lived here for nearly five years, I still always look at the trains. This is usually the first train of the day, but is late today. I have arbitrarily decided that this one should come at 11am, and that if it comes before that it is early, and if it is after that it is late, despite having no actual knowledge of the timetable. This is not some kind of omen for the day though. It would be funny if someone read this just as the same train went past their window. From the speed of the train they could then work out where I live.

11:15 EMAILS! Even though Outlook scans every minute, two still arrive at once. What are the chances of that happening? I try not to get distracted into working it out. The first is about a new film that I have a vague link to the writer of. Sometimes other people's success inspires me, sometimes it depresses me. This inspires me, but perhaps as it's not at all like anything I would write. The second is from a writing friend wondering when our small group will meet up for another writing workshop. This is good as it will give me a deadline for writing a chunk of Project MF. He also mentions going for a drink which is always good. I email back saying I am free for either at any time.

11:04 POST! The post comes. It is the usual post lady who knows to buzz me straight away to get into the building. She was away yesterday, and I eventually buzzed in a man instead. I was a bit wary as it could have been anyone just saying that they were a postman, but 30 seconds later some letters came through the letter box. If it was a serial killer he was going to a lot of trouble, what with forging three thank you letters that specifically mentioned the presents we'd given. Unless he had just killed the usual post lady and taken her sack of mail. But she is back today. But what if she is the killer? I try not to work out a plot for yet another idea, and just open the post and then get on with my work. A bank statement (I spent a little bit more than I earned last month, but not too much), and a letter for my girlfriend and me that has her name first, so I will leave it for her to open.

10:37 Got a bit distracted with an email from another friend. I again try to impress upon him how terrible This Life+10 was, though I am working from a baseline of thinking that the original series was awful. I then got a bit lost in YouTube, but I am back now and my girlfriend has left, so I can really get creative.

When I am not working on things that people pay me to, I write spec scripts. Spec is short for "will never get made", but I have to fill my days somehow. I once sold a spec script - in 1999. And did have a short radio play made that was my own. But after spending most of 2005 writing a feature script that got rejected by a much higher class of producer than previous scripts had (and with a general consensus of "very funny, but we don't want to make it"), I spent 2006 starting four different projects and not finishing any of them. This is bad, though I was doing the radio thing mentioned below for a bit. I kept losing faith in all of them, but have decided to stick with one until I manage a first draft, or I die, whichever comes sooner. This will be known as Project MF, and is a single (ie not a series like everyone wants) romantic comedy for TV, of 60-90 minutes in length. I have a 6-page outline, which isn't exactly perfect, but I find that sometimes it's best to jump in and write the first bit to really find out about the characters. So yesterday I wrote two pages.

I've just re-read it and it's all right-ish. It certainly introduces the central protagonists in a way that leaves you in no doubt that they will get together in the end, though perhaps not as succinctly as in Sleepless in Seattle. Anyone interested in writing rom-coms should study Nora Ephron's work. Though they shouldn't stop there - they should actually write something of their own. This is where I have been stumbling lately.

9:43 My girlfriend brings me a cup of tea. She works later hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so that is my excuse for not having done much yet. Instead I look at the Guardian and Telegraph websites, Found magazine, The Onion and some blogs.

9:32 Second job of the day (obviously today is happening a bit more slowly than usual) - to update my website with any forthcoming broadcasts of programmes that I've written. My website is just a CV, but it's got a page of forthcoming broadcasts. It was getting quite time-consuming looking through the Radio Times website for these, so as an ex-computer programmer I simply wrote a program that scans their website and tells me about any repeat broadcasts so that I can quickly update my website, and also double-check "repeat fees". There are no new forthcoming broadcasts today, but with four already coming up in the next fortnight I can't complain too much. My Mum, who is just about the only person who regularly visits my website, will be impressed.

9:19 First job of the day - to transcribe everything from the post-it notes by my bed that I have written in the night. I can easily spend eight hours in front of the computer not thinking of anything, then as soon as my head hits the pillow the ideas come. Which is a bit annoying when I am trying to sleep. Last night was not that fruitful, but luckily I can read my in-the-dark handwriting this morning. It says "cut curtains new house". Not some interior decorating that I am planning, but a note about a radio script that I need to submit next week. There is a section that the producer has already hinted that I could cut, and last night I realised that she is right as I am effectively telling the same joke twice in quick succession. I cut 66 words and am immediately pleased with the result. This does however mean that my running word count for the day is -66. I shall have to work extra hard now.

9:12 Replace "continuously" with "continually" in 8:50 post. I will try to stop doing this though.

9:00 I try to keep regular working hours. Check emails. 34 junk, two very boring (eg gas & electricity bill), one from the people I have my webspace/email domain with (my real name .com) saying that recent email delays are not their fault, one with the Screen Daily headlines (I am too cheap to read more than the first three lines of any news story - who knows what opportunities I am missing out on) and the Shooting People Screenwriters Network which I still subscribe to even though I have never got anything useful out of it. The interesting thing is still in the inbox from yesterday from a friend trying to organise a weekend away, which I know will clash with my girlfriend's holiday plans for us. So I am still trying to come up with a reply/think of what to tell my girlfriend.

8:50 Breakfast. Jordan's 3 in 1 with a banana, apple and raspberry juice, Yakult. Whilst reading news on web. I used to write sketches for a topical radio comedy show, and as a side effect still continually look at the BBC news site in case a new story has broken. Preferably not one involving children dying as that is harder to be funny about. "General Condemns Forces Housing" is not immediately promising though.

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START HERE...

After "Where do you get your ideas from?" the question that I get asked the most is "What do you do all day?" Sometimes it is phrased more politely than this, eg "What is a typical day like for you?" but the gist is always the same - that because I am a writer my working days are at best mysterious, and at worst idle.

So, today I am undertaking Writerwatch - a day in the life of a working writer. I shall attempt to reveal the creative process as well as my own working practices. I have no idea how this will turn out. Will something unexpectedly exciting happen, like in the Naudet brothers' documentary about a rookie New York firefighter? Or will it be like that episode of Badgerwatch that didn't feature a single badger? Or perhaps it will be like the BBC's infamous Ghostwatch that led to one of its viewers committing suicide?

Just a few rules:
- I will not answer comments or write stuff like "10:18 - updated blog" as that could then all get a bit recursive.
- I assume that no one is interested in when I go to the toilet.
- Normal spelling and grammar standards may slip slightly as I will not be proof-reading.
- I will write newest entries at the top, like in a live football report. Though for anyone reading it in one sitting this evening it will then look like Memento. It will all become clear when you get to the beginning/end though: "Oh, he had a cup of tea, did he?"

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Queen of Hearts

Christmas at my girlfriend’s parents’. Poker. There are just three of us left in:
– My girlfriend’s “Monday night is cards night” cousin,
– Me, who, whilst I wouldn’t describe myself as a card sharp, did once play poker every lunchtime for a year, and I reckon that my knowledge of probabilities will help me (eg I know, understand and can explain how many people you’d need in a room for it to be more likely than not that two of them share a birthday – go on, have a guess),
– My girlfriend’s mum.

They say that if you want to know what your girlfriend will be like in 30 years to look at her mother. Well, I’m sitting back with my feet up and my slippers on. My girlfriend's mum is absolutely lovely, and spends most of her spare time enjoying cooking wonderful food. She doesn’t seem to have any other hobby in life (except perhaps finding ever more inventive excuses for accidentally touching my bottom). She does not, as far as I am aware, frequent casinos or gambling websites. When she deals there’s an even chance that we won’t all have the same number of cards, or someone will be trying to get a pair for the Rules of Bridge card. Her attempt at a riffle shuffle nearly blinded half the table. She is either very, very bad at cards or very, very good at bluffing.

The three of us have been locked into the final rounds for over an hour, and she has just asked if she gets anything for all her cards being the same colour. Other choice lines from her this evening have been “What’s a flush again?” (more rounds than not) and “Two pairs? Oh, well done. I only had three nines.”

Do you really need me to tell you who won? I just hope that her daughter’s inherited this skill as well. That way as well as being well-cooked for for life I’ll be very, very rich. And, er, have my bottom touched a lot.