Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Things about Modern Life that drive me clean around the bend.

Today I was a reluctant witness to the death of the English Language. It
came in the shape of a phone call, and it so thoroughly unnerved me I
nearly moved to another carriage in the train.

Now there are university professors who proclaim that spelling, grammar
and language really don't matter that much. Honestly? Well I beg to

The unwitting murderer of English was a young woman. Late teens, or
possibly early twenties. Admittedly this slaughter was a social call, so
this young woman was clearly far from being alone in her inability to
articulate a complete sentence which made any kind of sense.

First of all, I will take us back in time. For all of you out there who
remember the days of vinyl... ever put a 7 inch 45 on at the wrong
speed? Say 78? This young woman spoke rather like a 45 played at 78.
Words tumbled out of her mouth like a barrel going over Niagra Falls.

Like was used a lot, like every other sentence. Incomplete sentences,
like every other statement. She said "I don't know" rather a lot too. I
was trying to decide whether this was intended as a form of apology for
her incredibly limited like vocabulary.

I started to count the "likes" there were 97 of them between Wimbledon
and Clapham Junction... at one point they were coming along at a rate of
one every three seconds.

Apparently, the modern teenager now leaves school with a vocabulary
which barely contains a thousand words.

I'm sorry, but that is incredibly poor. It would appear that our
children are being deprived of the ability to express themselves with
anything approaching coherence. Presumably as our youngsters regress,
the English will return to dwelling in caves.

I left the train feeling confused. Sad (yes), annoyed (most certainly),
and very depressed.

I decided between appointments to have a drink and a sandwich.

Can someone tell me why, if I order a nice cold bottle of mineral water,
that the accompanying glass must always arrive with a slice of lemon? If
I want lemonade, I will order lemonade. I didn't... I wanted water. A
slice of lemon always makes your nice glass of cold water taste of
toothpaste. And no. I have no idea why. So no extraneous floating fruit
or vegetables, please.

Why, oh why, must the more upmarket restaurants do chef-y things with
classic dishes? These chef-y things don't always work. And they always
double the price of the dish.

Since most of the rest of the day went brilliantly, I suppose I really
shouldn't complain, but there you have it. Modern life... not
necessarily an improvement.

Posted via email from mock-ing-bird's posterous

Monday, 25 October 2010

Interview with an Author: Kim Menozzi

As many people know, I am a partner in the publishing company, As we head towards our first anniversary, I thought now
would be the moment to talk to one of my author's in the run up to
publishing her new book. Ask Me If I'm Happy is launched next month, and
here we are, talking to the author, Kimberly Menozzi, about her new
book, and what makes her 'tick' as a writer.

Q: Thank you for this interview, Kim. Can you tell us what your latest
book, Ask Me If I’m Happy, is all about?

A: Oh, I should thank you for this opportunity instead. Ask Me if I'm
Happy is a modern-day love story set in Bologna, Italy, wherein two
people meet by pure chance but have much deeper and more troubling
connections than they could ever imagine. When these discoveries come to
light for both of them, they have to deal with the emotional fallout of
having hidden the truth and of dealing with lies of omission.

At the heart of this story is their need to be open and honest with each
other in ways which prove quite difficult, due to the painful prior
experiences with previous partners. Ultimately, it's a story about how
people need to be honest and up front with one another and be able to
trust their loved ones on every level, as well as how we unknowingly
sabotage ourselves in love. Being honest and truthful isn't exactly
painless, but the struggle is worth it, in the end.

Q: Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

A: Okay. The main characters are Emily Miller and Davide Magnani
(Dah'-vih-day is the pronunciation of his first name, by the way). Emily
is an American in her mid-thirties, who is coming out of a bad
relationship and determined to leave Italy behind her. Davide is a
professor of literature and ancient mythology at the University of
Bologna. Both of them have been substantially wounded by past partners,
and they're both struggling with a number of trust issues as a result.

The supporting characters include both of the exes: Jacopo Spadon and
Letizia Costa. Jacopo is the sort of man accustomed to getting what he
wants when he wants it, and comes from a rather privileged background,
besides. Letizia is the sort of woman we see countless versions of here
in Italy, nowadays; she truly defines herself by the brand names she can
buy, wear and drive, etc., etc. You get the idea, I'm sure.

Other supporting characters, all of whom influence the story, include
Emily's best friend since their teen years, Jenn; Davide's best friend
(and fellow professor) with a tendency to be politically incorrect,
Michele; and Emily's rather comically overbearing mother. Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they
totally from your imagination?

A: I have to say there are elements of both in my characters. Often they
start off inspired by someone in particular, usually by how that someone
looks or speaks or behaves, but by the time the story is truly taking
shape in my mind, they've become very much themselves. Once I've written
the first draft, it's sometimes hard to pin down who it was I had in
mind in the first place – they grow that much, in my mind and hopefully
on the page as well. Their voices become distinct and clear, and from
that point onward, I just have to trust them to show me the way.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do
you discover it as you write?

A: I'm seldom aware at the start. I had a general idea with Ask Me if
I'm Happy, but up until I wrote the final pages, I wasn't completely
sure how it was going to end. There are several incidents within the
story which I didn't know would be there until I'd typed them out. When
that happens, all I can do is sit there and think "Well, huh. I didn't
see that coming." Generally speaking, I just listen to what the
characters tell me is supposed to happen and then I go from there. On
the rare occasions where I've tried to make them to do something I'd
dreamed up at the start, it just didn't work. I'd write pages – force
them out, more or less – and then, in the end, I'd end up scrapping them
because they didn't work at all. Now, I just listen to the pretty
voices. (laughs)

Q: Your book is set in Bologna, Italy. Can you tell us why you chose
this city in particular?

A: There are many, many reasons why I chose Bologna, but I'll try to
pick just a few. For one, it was the natural choice for the start of the
story, because it's the major train travel hub for northern Italy.
Another reason is that it's simply a place I love – there's fantastic
food; a youthful, creative atmosphere (thanks in part to the
university); it is, as my husband might say, characteristic of the
region where I live – what you see in Bologna, you'll see elsewhere in
Emilia Romagna; and finally, it's just a beautiful and historic city.
Most of all, I feel it's one of the unsung locations in this country.
Nearly everyone knows about Tuscany, Rome, Naples and Venice, but very
few folks, it seems, are even aware of Bologna. I wanted my area of
northern Italy to be represented, for better and for worse, and I think
I've done that in Ask Me if I'm Happy.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

A: Yes, it does. As I said before, Bologna is a major travel hub –
Bologna Centrale is the principal railway junction in all of Italy. So
it's entirely plausible that Emily and Davide would cross paths here, or
that she would be stuck there in the event of a transportation strike.
Plus, as the majority of the story takes place in winter, the foggy,
grey atmosphere of Bologna during that season really affects the mood of
the story – and perhaps, to a degree, even the actions of the characters
themselves. The fact that it's Davide's home – not hers – is also
significant, if only on a subconscious level.

Q: Open the book to page 69. What is happening?

A: Davide is alone, purchasing the train tickets to Milano. There are
some subtle, comic aspects to the transaction (I hope).

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

A: This small excerpt is a favorite of mine, because of the way Emily is
drawn repeatedly to watch this stranger on the train who has done
nothing more than smile in her direction.:
The broken window fell open with a soft thump and the banging and
rattling of the train’s progress drowned out the soft hum of
conversation around her. A steady, chilling wind blew inside the
carriage. Several passengers grumbled their disapproval and tugged their
scarves and coats more tightly around themselves, but none made an
effort to close the window.

After a moment or two, the man stood and pushed his glasses up the
bridge of his nose with an air of determination. Emily observed even
more openly this time as he returned to the broken window, shoved it
upward and stuffed the wedge of paper between the Plexiglas and the
frame once more.

When he turned, he saw her watching and his smile lit up his face again.
His eyes met hers fully and she looked away, her cheeks tingling as she
turned to the window and the countryside emerging in the growing
daylight beyond it.
In spite of herself, her eyes shifted to follow him yet again when he
stepped away from the row with the broken window. His hair had been tousled by the wind, and upon settling back in his
seat he ran one hand cautiously over it, taming any wild, out-of-place
waves. His dark eyes behind the oval frames of his glasses flicked in
her direction before he turned toward his own window. She thought it was
clear that he was trying not to be obvious about watching her.

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Kim. We wish you much success!
A: Thank you for your time and for your interest. I hope everyone will
enjoy the story when they get a chance to read it.

Posted via email from mock-ing-bird's posterous

Sunday, 3 October 2010

15 Authors I can remember offhand

Okay... here goes, perhaps not as literary as some, but my measure of a
book is a darn good yarn. One that has me daydreaming about it for days
afterwards. In no particular order.
1) Jack London - I can spontaneously shiver even now. White Fang and
Call Of The Wild had a profound effect on me as a child.
2) A A Milne - nuff said!
3) M M Bennetts - If you don't know why by now... wait for her next
4) Alexander Kent - Perhaps not as good as CS Forrester or Patrick
O'Brian, but I loved his Bolitho novels, and they really opened up the
period for me.
5) Len Deighton - for all sorts of reasons, Harry Palmer, Game, Set and
Match, Hook, Line and Sinker... and a brilliant non-fiction work
6) Michael Crichton - because the despite the lame kiddie movies that
Spielberg turned Jurassic Park and The Lost World into, the books
themselves are actually thoughtful criticisms of how science sometimes
goes places it really shouldn't, just because it can. And he writes a
stonkingly good thriller.
7) Anne Rice - for The Mummy... and for bringing the Vampire genre into
8) Douglas Adams - for the Hitchhiker, The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul
and Last Chance to See - proving that he wasn't just a great comedy
writer but a concerned and interesting environmentalist too.
9) Lincoln Preston - These two guys, Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston,
wrote the book which became the film The Relic. In fact there are a
whole series of books featuring their FBI Agent, Special Agent Aloysius
Pendergast. Thoughtful and very creepy thrillers. Still Life With Crows
is one of the most genuinely frightening novels I have ever read.
10) Agatha Christie - She may have put murder in the parlour and bodies
in the library, but she wrote a great thriller, created two characters
which in their own way have entered into the legend of literature and
has kept us entertained through books, plays, radio and the medium of
television for over eighty years.
11) Dan Brown - for basically writing the same book over and over and
over again, but nevertheless getting published and being made into
movies - how the devil does he do it?
12) Janet Evanovich - for Stephanie Plum.
13) John Galsworthy - I read my way through the Forsyte Saga when I was
fifteen, something of a forgotten gem.
14) William Makepeace Thackeray - Vanity Fair, I loved this book I've
read it cover to cover many times.
15) Bram Stoker - for being the original master of gothic suspense.
Jewel Of Seven Stars beats Dracula any day of the week.
I can hear it now... why would I include an author that I really don't
like. To be frank, Dan Brown has a lot to do with why I am where I am
today. Had it not been for Dan Brown, Authonomy, Year Zero and the
realisation that there had to be something better than the mainstream
and the status quo, I would be in a very different place.

Posted via email from mock-ing-bird's posterous

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Say what I mean... and mean what I say...

So it's goodbye to The Bill... After twenty-seven years.

You can officially colour me gutted.

I've been watching since Woodentop first aired in 1984.

Whilst TB has been one of my favourite programmes over the years, it has
been so much more in this household. In one of those "not a lot of
people know that" type stories, let me try to put into perspective what
TB meant to my family, and explain why its loss for some of the behind
the scenes, blink and you'll miss 'em crowd extras and walk on bit parts
is something of a disaster.

When my father passed away in 1976, I was still a schoolgirl. My mother
therefore fell back upon the only thing she was trained for. Acting. I
didn't think of school fees and all that jazz in those days, hey I was a
confused (and somewhat angry) child. "I, Claudius" was the first, but
you can trace my growing up through the television and filming work my
mother did, she kept me at that school, paying the extortionate fees...
until I was 18 and had staggered somewhat unsuccessfully through my A

Acting is a precarious profession at best. Work cannot be relied upon.
Fortunately for my mother and me, my mother believed in consummate
professionalism, it would have never occurred to her not to turn up on
time to do the work she was hired to do, even though sometimes it was
deathly dull. The nature of the acting world meant that my school fees
and general living expenses came about in the most fantastical ways.
Michael Cimino's "Heaven's Gate" paid my year's school fees and sorted
out the flat roof over the study in 1981... I could bang on at length
about the various films and televisual highlights which kept the wolf
from the door until I started full time work in 1985.

Then along came The Bill. Suddenly, something of a sea change took
place. Suddenly my mother's agents were asking her if she had done The
Bill lately, suddenly there was almost a guarantee of work. Something
almost unheard of in the industry. Through the late 80s, 90s and up to
2004 when my mother really retired from work, The Bill kept her in a
reasonable living. Where money was tight, she would get a walk-on or
crowd work and somehow bills would be paid and the wolf wouldn't be
licking paint from the door again.

The list of stars who got their breaks in TB either in the regular cast,
or as guests, is endless.

Now all that has gone. Almost three decades of virtual job security,
chucked away... and for what? Darned if I know... I only know this. It
is a very sad day for British Television.

Thank you, "The Bill"... for all the times I've laughed, all the times
I've cried... and for the amazing friends I've made along the way
because of you... and thanks to all those friends for putting me back
together when I somewhat lost the plot after my marriage collapsed. The
second time in my life I've been somewhat... angry.

TB maybe gone... but not likely to be forgotten...

Posted via email from mock-ing-bird's posterous

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Agent or No Agent...

Everyone is suddenly talking about them. So I thought I would chuck my
ten cents worth in there. Okay, I have to admit that a lifetime's
experience of agents has not been the best proving ground to trust their
abilities. My mother's theatrical agents were, broadly speaking, quite
good. But that was because she ditched the ones who made grandiose
promises and did zilch. By the time I was going to secretarial agencies
I was a committed cynic who heard blah, blah, blah when they started
speaking. First thing to remember, it is in their interests to keep you
on side. You are the cash cow. There in lies the first real problem. A farmer never has just one cow.
He has a whole herd of them. This is true of agents. They don't have
just one author, they have a whole herd of them. So they are not overly
worried about touting your work about. "I have got an agent." is just
the starting point. Once you have got one, you need to keep after them.
Not in a crazy stalker-ish way, but in a "I am not going to be fobbed
off and go quietly into the night" way. Some agents will only work hard
if their backs are to the wall and they are cornered like rats in a
trap. This is a simple fact that has served me well over the years.

Frankly, some of them are not up to the job. Being an agent requires the
persistence of a door to door brush salesman and the patience of Job;
but it also requires a deep understanding of markets, reading habits and
literature itself.

It pays to keep your ear to the ground. If you just leave everything to
your agent, it may be years before you hear anything at all. My view is,
that you will only get out what you are prepared to put in, an agent is
as potentially hard work as doing it all yourself.

Posted via email from mock-ing-bird's posterous

Sunday, 1 August 2010

The Arts?

Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce
I had high hopes when I was proposed for Fellowship of the RSA. A
meeting of minds perhaps; a place where my interest in the arts, in the
process of creation, in the celebration of things that make life grand,
might be shared and appreciated.

Over the weeks and months, not very much has happened with my
fellowship. True, some of this is my fault, I haven’t particularly
engaged with any of my fellow Fellows, or gone to any meetings.

Therein lies the problem.

I am confused. Very confused.

The Royal Society for the encouragement of the Arts holds meetings
with titles such as: “The Big Society Approach to Anti-Social Behaviour”
and has projects for Drug Addiction and Citizen Power, and the

Okay. These are all very worthy subjects, but seem to have remarkably
little to do with the arts (in any form), or manufacturing, or commerce.
I am not entirely sure what I did expect from the RSA but did not expect
to see a agenda focusing entirely on social issues.

There are any number of quangos, interest groups and government
departments whose sole purpose is the discussion and policy making in
relation to Society, or Drugs, Citizen Power, the Environment. I am
curious as to why the Royal Society which is supposedly for the
ENCOURAGEMENT of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce appears to be only
interested or engaged in the duplication of the work of all these other
quangos, interest groups and government departments.

There is a big problem with the Arts in this country. One that goes
largely unrecognised; and I need hardly add that Manufacturing and
Commerce amongst this once great nation of “shopkeepers” is floundering
too. Surely the Royal Society should be engaged in activity which does
something to right these problems. Yes, some social engagement is
necessary, in fact vital, but for it to be the bound and centre of
everything that the RSA does seems wrong and inappropriate.

Which leads me neatly to my next bugbear. The Big Society. Let me say it
now, and get it out of the way quickly so that the shouting and whining
can be over and done with.

95% of the people who are likely to read this will not have the
slightest nodding acquaintance with what the government and people with
posh job titles and high salaries are talking about. Politicians won’t
either. The media paints a view for the clucking classes to shake their
heads over and feel secretly grateful that they don’t have to live like
that. Very, very few of these people have ever lived the lives that
they talk about in such grandiose terms. They don’t understand it, and,
I am certain they wouldn’t survive it if they were suddenly plucked from
their nice hermetically-sealed, money-cushioned lives and dumped down in
this world.

I have. I moved up to Leeds, and for eight months I lived the life. And,
let me tell you that on my own, I would not have survived it. It is a
different world. Some of the societal ills people like to pontificate
about are inflicted upon the people living them. It is simply stunning
the number of times these shortcomings are brought to the attention of
the powers that be, and still nothing is done. This is not about the
last thirteen years, this malaise has been growing for at least the last
thirty years. You can probably trace the origins back to the post war

The cycle of dependency that has been created will not easily be broken.
The feelings of injustice and hopelessness will not be easily put aside
by some sort of social programme dreamed up by politicians and quangos.

The Big Society is another political initiative, put together by people
entirely divorced from the true reality of the lives they are talking
about. It will not succeed in the way that politicians think it will,
because they have failed to grasp the nettle of the things that have to
happen before it can have a hope of success.

Oddly it is in the Arts, and Manufacturing and Commerce where the
answers to some of these riddles would ultimately lie. Not in the social
agenda but in areas that the RSA apparently feels no need to commit to.

Posted via email from mock-ing-bird's posterous

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Un-Common Places

When I started out on my publishing adventure, and it is an adventure, I
never suspected the places I would be finding and falling love with.
Some of them from my own living room.

I signed up for Second Life only this year. I'd known about it for a
long time, sure; but there were always reasons why not.

Everyone was so friendly and helpful. Lovely ladies, Selina and Arton,
made me welcome, Arton fixed my shop for me; Imarad let me share mike
time on readings of my writings... I found a whole new place to be, and
people who were happy, interested and engaged with reading and writing.

So when we launched the seventh novel from our tiny publishing "cottage"
(house is much bigger and grander), it seemed natural to come to Second
Life for a reading and discussion.

Common Places by Paul House launched last Friday at the Winchester
Writers' Conference, and now has the distinction of being my first
launch on Second Life too.

It was an excellent reading, and discussion, everyone really enjoyed
hearing the book, it was slightly unfortunate that audience was
curtailed by technical glitches, but this was more than made up for by
the generous enthusiasm of the audience.

So, thanks to everyone who could make it, and an extra special thanks to
Paul for sharing his marvellous new book with us.

Posted via email from mock-ing-bird's posterous

Monday, 7 June 2010

Now I really have read every damn thing!

For the uninitiated, and my non-UK friends who would otherwise not see any of this, in the UK we have newspapers. Actually, the word in itself is a bit of a stretch... apparently “news” includes stories about people you have never heard about (and from seeing the reports, never want hear about again) walking down the street.

British newspapers also have a serious obsession with the value of people’s homes and their ages. Presumably, so that the reader can orientate themselves on the pity scale, by adding up the value of the home and the ages of the owners and making value judgements about their likely class or political persuasion.

All of which leads me neatly to the point of this diatribe.

A couple of nights ago, twin baby girls were attacked by a fox as they slept in their cots in their parents’ home.

Now you would believe that such a horrific incident would illicit the sympathies of almost anyone who read the story. Nine month old babies attacked by a wild animal.

Not a bit of it.

In fact the responses I have read tonight on one website in particular make me question if there is any point, value or need to preserve the British people, especially the urbanites, for the future.

In between blaming the parents, suggesting that they are covering up for the family dog (the family don’t have one), even suggesting that the twins’ four year old brother let the fox in, and postulating that it’s a Tory conspiracy to re-start fox hunting, this little gem was posted.

“Hate to say it, but even if 'bite marks' are proven to be that of a fox still, it still doesn't mean the fox did it. Is it not possible for a human to take a dead foxes jaw/teeth attach them to make a pliers type of device & then sink away into flesh. A very sceptic thought I know, but possible nonetheless.” 

WTF??? That isn’t scepticism... Honestly, I don’t know what that is. A product of a very unwell mind most likely.

Most of the comments championing the fox are drowning in a tide of anthropomorphism and nauseating sentimentality that is simply not rational. Watching a few wildlife programmes does not make you an expert. Urban foxes have existed for decades. They are getting bolder, because people are actually trying to attract them into their gardens, leaving food out for them, and trying to make contact with them. If you care about the fox, leave them alone, interaction with humans is bad in every way for the fox. Wild animals do not benefit from contact with Man.

For the record, I am no fan of hunting. I don’t believe in killing things unnecessarily, and if it becomes necessary a cull by professionals with high-powered rifles would seem to be both more efficient and more humane. I believe we are here to care for weaker creatures and the less fortunate among us, not to exploit everything for some kind of meaningless political point.

Where is the humanity? I’d just like to know. 

Posted via email from mock-ing-bird's posterous

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Absentee Landlords and Rotten Boroughs

Unless you have been hiding under a rock, or up the Amazon completely out of touch from newspapers, television, radio and gossip, you will know that the most infuriating and important election in at least the last twenty years is upon us.

I have always voted. It would never ever occur to me not to vote. It is my right and my duty. Braver women than I chained themselves to railings and chucked themselves under racehorses to win the vote. It's the least I can do, frankly.

I was up and ready this morning before the 0700 alarm. No mean feat as I crawled away to bed at 0315 this morning, carried away by writing again.

The least I can do. That particular statement carries even more irony when you consider that my vote doesn't really count. I live in what is laughingly termed, a safe seat. Not so much from my cold, dead hands as from my safe, warm seat. In my case, the incumbent has been in residence since the dawn of time... or so it seems. Actually he was first returned in this seat in May 1997, it just seems like forever.

I rolled up this morning fully intending to cast my vote for the Lib Dems; perhaps the least dire option amongst some real stinkers. I picked up my two papers. White for National Government (surely a particularly grubby shade of grey would have been more appropriate), and Green for Local Government. I walked over to the booth. Unfolded the papers and stared at them.

A list of names, the candidates' addresses, box to make a cross in. Simple.

Yeah, right.

First of all, at the top of the paper, the incumbent. Fair enough, I wasn't going to vote for him. Second on the List, the Labour Candidate.

Apparently, Surrey matters so little to the Labour Party that they can't even be bothered to field a candidate who actually lives here. The Labour Candidate lives in West London.

Then my eye fell on the listing for the Lib Dem Candidate.

Apparently, Surrey matters even less to the Lib Dems, whose candidate did not even put down an address, but stated in brackets that she had addressed in Hampstead and Kilburn.

Hampstead and Kilburn, those well known boroughs of Surrey!!!

I refuse to vote for candidates who don't even live here. How can they know anything about Surrey if they don't actually live in Surrey?

I cast my vote. After all, it makes no difference according to Voter Power Index.

In Mole Valley, one person does not really have one vote, they have the equivalent of 0.073 votes.

The average UK voter has 3.45x more voting power than voters in Mole Valley. 0.253 to be precise! [Source: Voter Power Index].

I didn't vote for whom I wanted to. I didn't vote tactically... apparently I can't even do that. And I refuse to spoil my ballot paper.

NONE OF THE ABOVE was the option I wanted. It is the option we should have for when all else fails.

* * * * * *

Those who know me well, know that my music in the truck is usually played at a fairly ear-splitting level.

Right now, I have an irritating problem with my truck and a loose wire somewhere in the system.

As I drove away from voting this morning, my truck's front right tyre hit a particularly large pothole. For a few seconds, my music was at psychological warfare volumes. It was that point that I remembered that the party mostly in power and responsible for things like the potholes (which in my town are enormous and have done untold damage to many cars)... is the Liberal Democrats.

Maybe my wasted vote wasn't such a waste afterall.


Saturday, 24 April 2010

An open letter to ITV


I read with considerable interest the article by Alexi Mostrous in the media section of today’s Times.

Apparently, The Bill “attracted an ageing audience unattractive to advertisers.” Should I therefore assume that at 45 I am on the scrap heap as being considered as ageing and unattractive to advertisers? Although, half an hour spent investigating the forums dedicated to The Bill would prove beyond any reasonable doubt that this statement is factually incorrect. The bulk of TB’s audience is in the demographic age group 16-25.

Apparently only middle class viewers are of interest to ITV, curiously I had believed that terrestrial programming (in particular) was supposed to be accessible to all? My mistake.

“Am I satisfied with the development pipeline?” Mr Norman said. “No. We’ve had some good successes. But in the last five years we haven’t [developed] a big global hit.”

I beg to differ. The British Television market has been sagging badly for many years. The very many misses far outstripping the very moderate successes. One of the reasons so many of our young actors seek employment in the USA is that we don’t make much of any worth here anymore.

In the last five years, the strongest, most innovative and ground-breaking drama programming has all come from the US. Today, this trend continues. Programmes such as The Wire, Lost, Heroes, any one of the excellent crime dramas such as NCIS, CSI, Criminal Minds, Numb3rs; Sons of Anarchy, Justified... the list is endless. Exciting writing, character driven plots, huge loyal followings – worldwide!

Yet what do we have to look forward to from ITV? Amongst the delights we have been promised, a re-make of A Bouquet of Barbed Wire. Delightful. A re-imagining of a programme from the seventies, which has already had one re-tread in the eighties. Personally, I found it stilted and dull thirty-four years ago, I have no intention of tuning in this time around.

Whitechapel 2? The first time around the concept was novel. A second series on the same premise would appear to be over-egging the pudding somewhat.

The truth is extremely simple. I do not believe that ITV have what it takes to find a real hit. Let alone make one. After all, they took a hit show, with a twenty-seven year pedigree, shunted it around the schedule, interfered with its execution, and then axed it before it had a chance to settle.

I am well-educated, middle-class and aspirational. I own my own business (publishing). I am therefore (apparently) the demographic you wish to target. Yet, with the axing of The Bill, I find that your programming does not meet my needs, or pique my interest.

One of the concepts behind my publishing business is to seek out the innovative, the unusual and the niche, and publish it. The mainstream does not necessarily cater to the aspirational tastes of early adopters and innovation seekers.

The same is true of British television. Terrestrial television no longer holds my interest.

Another medical drama? Why? We have Casualty and spin off. ITV had a medical drama which had the added interest of being set in the sixties. Yet The Royal, and its companion “Heartbeat” have both been shelved. Again look to the US, medical drama is amply covered and top notch in delivery. What more could a British made drama add to the genre? Or do you believe in the concept of if you loved A, you will love B? Because frankly, it’s not love we feel here, it’s déjà vu.

Audiences have changed, but some of us don’t feel that you either know or care what audiences actually want.

The Bill is a well-loved institution that ITV has endlessly played fast and loose with in the schedules. An almost unpublicised shift to Tuesdays for the rest of the run took audience numbers down further. Yet 28,296 people have signed up to a Facebook page in the cause of Saving The Bill. That is a pretty powerful statement of commitment to the programme.

Some of us are no longer prepared to play ITV’s game. When a Facebook campaign propelled Rage Against The Machine to number one at Christmas, didn’t that give you a clue? Or did you think that was solely a comment on Simon Cowell’s assumption that X Factor would give us a Christmas number one? It was as much about the disaffection with the reality dross led by X Factor as it was about a bad cover version.

In sum, we care what we watch. We want good, exciting drama. Not reality dross.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Exercise!! Moi... Part Deux

"Yoga is for ANY-BODY. You don’t have to be super-fit, super-supple or super-beautiful, or any of those images you may have of yoga. Yoga is for every-body. Yoga not only stretches your muscles and invigorates your joints, but also massages your internal organs and calms your mind. Come and find out how Yoga can benefit your life.”

I decided to put that claim to the test. Now I am willing to bet that most of my friends (especially the ones who know me well) would have thought I would have given up by now. I am sneakily delighted to be able to prove them wrong.

It isn’t particularly elegant, and from time to time I get things quite spectacularly wrong. But during my morning half-hour with Sam and Doug’s DVD, I just let the explanations and instructions flow over me, emptying my mind of life’s little petty irritations. (Such as the Lord of Snow dumping another two tons of the white cold stuff all over my car again last night. I looked out of the window this morning, and actually felt quite serene.)

You guys who know me, know that serene isn’t really ma thang! I am pretty full on, with a dress sense that’s best described as bright (ahem!), I tend to go 100 miles an hour in first (not when I’m driving though) and I really don’t come with an off switch.

Well, I have come to relish my peaceful half-hour of Yoga in the morning. I may not be great at it, but I’m enjoying myself and I won’t be giving up anytime soon.

One of the main reasons I have stuck at it, is the DVD. Sam and Doug don’t talk down to you, there’s no high pressure sales techniques (which never work with me anyway). There are just simple, honest and clear directions. You can take it at any pace you want to.

Hey... if I can do it, you can too!