Friday, 30 August 2013


I visited Castlefield watering hole Barca for #TVMINGLING, a TV industry networking event. The plan was to search out people with knowledge / experience of screenwriting.

I met a lot of people in a similar position to me ten years ago- in uni, studying media, thinking about entering TV, finding it incredibly hard. Most people were aiming for / clinging onto jobs in camera crew (camera operator, director, lighting technician, producer etc.) My screenwriting ambitions meant weaning out the people. I came armed with blog cards and dished them all out. Reminder- bring LOADS of cards to events like these.

I spoke to a man called Edward, who advised me to check out BBC Writersroom and the BBC iPlayer to see what kind of programmes get optioned by the heads. He also suggested emailing loads of channels and production companies with resilience, and in particular Made TV, who have recently opened a Leeds branch. (Can anyone point me to Edward's online presence please?)

After a brief mingle and chat with other attendees, the panel- headed up by Lou, gave a welcome presentation under the large #TVMINGLING sign hanging from the ceiling.

In the panel there was:
Zuhail Shah
Victoria Goodwin
Nikki Ball from Creative England
Zoe Duerden
Amy Wilson, who has worked for Endemol and on Deal or No Deal.

Advice nuggets from the night:

  • Don't let others channel your career. Stay true to what it is you want to do.
  • Do your best, but ask for breaks when you need them. Don't let people overwork you.
  • Take risks, but not too many.
  • Dish out CVs. Don't take rejection personally.
  • Check out Shooting People, a network for media creatives
  • Check out Creative England, an England-wide crew and location database
  • Use Twitter and Facebook to find scriptwriting people
  • If you move from drama to documentaries- in whatever capacity- take a step back and think about your career. Don't rush into anything. Don't climb too fast. Get the experience.
  • From a writing perspective, check out Charles Bukowski, US author. Also read Hemingway and Henry Miller.

An enjoyable night in an upbeat, smart venue, well-organised and informative. There'll be another #TVMINGLING in December, so keep your eye on the hashtag.


Here are a few cards I picked up on the night.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Surrealist Cut-Up in Wetherspoons

A few months ago I attended a class called Ghosts on the Dancefloor, ran by local poet Segun Lee French. I learned about surrealist cut-up techniques, and how to make bizarre stories and poems inspired by the mashing together of completely unconnected pieces of writing.

The results were very interesting.

I figured, why not have another go at this with my local writers group Writers Connect? I told them it might take a little longer than 10 minutes to perform, but with my own adjustments it should make a fun experiment…

I asked everyone to bring in a pair of scissors to the meeting in Wetherspoons. I brought in a bundle of A4 paper and a newspaper.

I gave each person a sheet of paper. I asked them to write a roughly 100-word synopsis of a popular film, spacing the lines out.

On the second sheet I asked them to do the same for a popular fiction book.

I pulled apart the newspaper and gave them a double-page spread each.

Next we took the scissors and cut the handwritten text up line by line. We cut the newspaper into strips, bunched up all the mixed strips like marigolds and snipped the strips into 3. Then we laid out the writing, mixed together. I asked everyone to look for connections within the different pieces of text that wouldn’t normally fit together, and to write out a new surrealist poem or vignette based out of this. With a further 10 minutes on the clock, here’s what I mashed together…

Chelsea boss Jose Mohrino hinted at a further bid: the robbery is botched! The police set up a fake assassination: when they find the young man, he’s beautiful, tall, a tanned god with a hockey stick. They walk alongside each other to the central line, a new warning. Joe Cabot wants to rob a jewel, but is subsequently killed by the cyclist whilst driving. But, after finding the 18-year-old boasting months earlier about speed, just as the police find them, the men search out the traitor. CIA operatives want to scare Jose, who has Roo in mind. He hires 7 men who continue the debate in a complete series on DVD and Blu-ray. The rat admits he is a policeman in a legal Twitter trap.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Mediterranean Beef Burgers

After a three-month hiatus from cooking, I eventually kicked myself up the arse and opened the Hairy Dieter's cookbook again.

The first attempt at these burgers was shaky. I couldn't find courgettes or balsamic vinegar in Tesco, and I chopped the onion instead of grating it. This resulted in a crumbly finished product. Note: READ the instructions. Don't just look at them. Tesco don't do slices of Mozarella, so I sprinkled the shavings onto the burger. They went everywhere.

The second attempt was much tidier, although watery. I recommend grating the onion under the extractor fan. Sunglasses also help, as random as it looks, but it's still hard work. Also, fry off the moisture before flipping, or it'll fall apart.

The burgers come out big, so eat with a knife and fork. You can't pick up something that size.



Sunday, 25 August 2013

Three Strikes: Week 39

Shoulder Press with easier, forward-pointing grip: up 1 notch after a 2-year hiatus.

Nothing to report, really. Smashing the gym, saving money, keeping busy.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Three Strikes: Week 38

Friday night: Spinningfields bar strip with the lads.

Oast House- an old-style pub which recently broke a beer-tasting world record- was rammed, and the queue was horrific, but their top row was eclectic and held some impressive single malts and American bourbons. Good outdoor seating area perfect for this time of year.

Around the corner you'll find The Alchemist, one of the best bars in Manchester. We managed to get an unusually large group in there through a contact, but we were lucky. The music, d├ęcor, drinks and women are awesome. Turn up early and in a small group. And with money.

At home, the flat's a little smarter now, with a new shelf for more alcohol in the pantry, not that I'll be buying any more for the foreseeable future. I've also cooked a new recipe, for the first time in ages. Small steps.

In the gym I've packed 182 metres onto my 10-minute record on the rowing machine. This week was the first time I've even tried that movement in 15 months, so my general fitness must have improved. I'm also enjoying mixing a few classes in when I can. Somebody else spurring you on can get your heart and limbs working a lot better than you can do on your own.

Again, small steps.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

“When in April, with its sweet showers”

Writing exercise based on a 14th-century poet’s work.

When in April, with its sweet showers”

When in April, with its sweet showers, sales of Gore-Tex fabric go through the roof. Especially in cloud-laden Manchester. You won’t go wrong with a Sprayway or Berghaus. You can’t get out as often as you might like, but if you are stuck in the house, rain is the perfect opportunity to knuckle down and write. Silence, when writing, can be a strange contradictory distraction, the sound of the computer keys and the endless sigh of the computer fan mocking you. Bu the tinny drum of rain on your window can spur on a thousand thoughts and inspire countless sentences. Who wants to go out in that anyway?

And so, a tale forms in the writer’s mind of a man trapped in his compact apartment, living out his adventures in his mind and on the page. He turns the background on his Word document to gold, to blur the contrast, and lives his life through fiction- void of restraint. In this world, it’s tropical, his skin sun-resistant, his world no longer a row of identikit houses but a network of caves opening onto a beach with a clear sea, where creatures lie like boats, ready to link him to other islands.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Three Strikes: Week 37

Jesus Christ, this is depressing. I'm smashing the gym as hard as I can and getting no personal bests. If I don't start making improvements, I'll have ruled out all the movements I've ever worked at the gym. I'm now diving onto as many classes as I can to see if I can shape up with somebody else (an instructor) spurring me on.

Meanwhile, the saving for Ibiza continues...

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Three Strikes: Week 36

Kee-rist. I'm 31. Where does the time go?

I introduced Mum and Dad to the exemplary Bem Brasil in Manchester's Northern Quarter on Tuesday. Great dining. The Brazilian steakhouse serves the finest cut of beef, sausage, prawns, chicken and hot cinnamon-coated pineapple. The parents aren't big meat eaters, but the fish platter they ordered went down a treat.

I went back in 2010 and loved it. It's still the best restaurant I've been to.

No personal bests at the gym this week: just a lot of endurance work.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Reading and Cycling: Take 2

This week: more endurance work blending working out with literature, seemingly the two staple themes of this ridiculous blog.

Last week I went for burnout by cycling for as long as possible, with as few breaks as possible. I did this whilst reading Dom Joly’s The Dark Tourist.

This time, to avoid the eventuality of burning out and finding my legs seizing up on me, I decided to read in bursts with intervals of sit-ups. I figured an anthology of short stories would be the best type of book to go for, so I could break for stomach work between each story. I picked out Don’t Look Now and Other Stories by Daphne DuMaurier. Printed in 1971, the collection was a success and the titular story soon turned into one of the scariest films ever made.

Don’t Look Now
An effective horror featuring a couple holidaying in Venice whilst coming to terms with their grief. It seems Nicholas Roeg stuck quite faithfully to the original text for his 1973 movie interpretation, with the odd adjustment for visual effect.
Reading time: 1hr 22.

Not After Midnight
An interesting holiday-set mythical murder mystery with a good twist in the tail.
Reading time: 1hr 32.

A Borderline Case
A woman is inducted into an Irish terror faction. With a terrified lead character and supporting villains altering photographs, it’s an interesting 1950s predecessor to Bret Easton Ellis’ Glamorama. Also appearing in the story is a woman called Dr. Dray, who is an actual medical practitioner, not the weed-smoking founder of Gangster Rap.
Reading time: 2hr 5.

Way of the Cross
Four people go on a double date in Jerusalem, resulting in dental mishaps, fallouts and loss of faith. If I read it right. Very strange.
Reading time: 2hr 15.

The Breakthrough
An electrical contractor is sent up to Scotland to investigate some unusual behaviour at a science lab. A predecessor to The Exorcist and Poltergiest, with a British slant. It features the most amateur science lab known to man, with dogs roaming through the kitchen whilst a paranormal-ologist assesses a potentially possessed teenage girl. Again, very strange.
Reading time: 1hr 7 mins.

Reading and cycling requires using your body and your brain at the same time. At the risk of typecasting myself, I found multitasking hard. I had to slow my reading speed down a lot, reread parts and sip copious amounts of water. I started the warmup at around 11am, and finished the last story at 8.47pm, just before the gym shut. I’d had a big carb breakfast first thing, but no food until after I'd left the gym. The breaks allowed me to rest my legs, letting them cool and giving my strength more longevity.

As for the book: the language was flowery and dated, but the stories were engaging and unusual, even to this day.