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Can you hear the words?

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You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, a few thoughts on the voices in your head…


Audio books are a conundrum for me.

They are an attractively packaged way to absorb a book. The words are broadly the same as in a printed or downloaded version, often abridged.

Why cut down? They reduce listening time for a not-huge novel to 10-20 hours rather than 30 or 40. A working week for some. Therein lies the nub of the problem, it doesn’t matter if it’s Charles Dance or Benedict Cumberbatch reading the book out and providing a nuanced voice to differentiate between characters’ voices. The problem for me is that it is too slowly delivered. I process a word and race for the next one which I need to carry on the flow. So why not speed it up? Making it 1.5x speed or more just makes it sound like Mickey Mouse is providing the reading voice.

So it’s too slow or too fast.

Either way, it’s relentless.

I sometimes dwell over a paragraph or re-read it in a book. That’s not possible with an audiobook without a great deal of haphazard fiddling with the buttons.

Relentless, like the tapping of the Master’s fingers…

It will keep coming until the charge runs out, and you wake up at 3 am five chapters on. The Voice is still going and you’ve no idea where in the book you lost consciousness.

I don’t know whether it’s a scientific Thing, but the words don’t seem to stick with me as much when I’m listening to them being read. It’s much easier to be distracted because there’s nothing right in front of you drawing you in. I am more absorbed in the pages of a book, paper or otherwise. (Some people can learn how to speak Swahili while listening to a tutorial tape as they sleep, so perhaps it’s the way my brain is wired.)

Why have audiobooks? Why are they so popular?

They give the gift of time.

When driving a car or gardening or doing something else active, an audiobook nearly allows the luxury of multi-tasking which, from my perspective as a male, is an alluring and usually unattainable prospect. But it comes at a cost. Keeping up with the story. Driving a car and listening to an audiobook, especially at a gripping bit, has to be one of the most dangerous ways of getting from A to B, when you want the gripping bit to be the tyres on the road. That Voice requires concentration and focus, not things one typically wants to divert from pointing a couple of tons of metal and plastic along some tarmac.

It’s a compromise, then. But sitting in a hammock on a lazy afternoon in the blazing sunshine and floating away to the past or the future or simply somewhere else without squinting at dappled pages and battling a wasp for a good view of the next paragraph is a wonderful thing, while swaying in the breeze.

It’s like having a radio station follow you around dedicated to telling you stories. A kindly nanny reading you bedtime stories. Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime on tap. It shouldn’t replace a book but, like most things, at the right time and in the right place, it can be perfect.

I am currently listening to The Massacre of Mankind by Stephen Baxter (main picture above). It’s War of the Worlds 2 with more tooled-up ETs. Like Independence Day 2 but set in Surrey. Bertie Wooster fighting off Martians. More likely, Jeeves fighting them off, having invented a fiendish secret weapon while spit-and-polishing some brogues. Unlike Wodehouse, there is strictly no humour in MoM, which is a shame, and there’s precious little soul. A little too much stiff upper lip for me. The pace is – like the audiobook – relentless, but at the same time also rather sedate. Only five hours to go, and I’m sticking with it.

What ho!

Alan

Alan Camrose

Martians, pah! Meet Dogzilla…
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The Cheshire Riviera

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You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, the pleasures of a staycation…


We have just returned from our hols. An exotic Summer holiday, in Cheshire. At Knutsford, just inside the city limits.

We went for a week, stayed in a cottage which has a hot tub in the garden, so we were able to recreate Footballers’ Wives, without the naff haircuts or the whining. The cottage had everything that we needed, and three bonus alpacas, called Tom, Dick and Harry, who provided serene audience for our antics. Not that there were many antics.

Tom, Dick and Harry

A special place in my heart for Harry’s mullet, a sneaky homage to the Beatles?

Harry

There were also three chickens, mysteriously un-named: they were the Chickens With No Name. We called them Nugget, Dansak and Run. They were shaped like ambient tea cosies. We don’t have pictures of them, for data privacy reasons. They periodically and loudly trumpeted their displeasure to the alpacas about periodically being treated like the balls for alpaca polo. Those chickens were pretty chukka. The introduction of a grey cat called Mitzi made it like a strange petting zoo where none of the creatures were available for or in the cat’s case amenable to petting.

Our Offspring did their usual trick of surfacing at a brisk 1 or 2 pm, ready for a nourishing breakfast of sausage rolls and cider. In the meantime, we loafed on the outdoor furniture and vied with the alpacas for the glory of the Loafing Award. They still won as a group entry, which was a surprise since we had fielded the Offspring. Their teamwork was immaculate, like the England back three but with more positional awareness and better footwork. They followed up by proving to be very adept at Statues, too, so something to bear in mind when Creature Statues takes over from Breakdancing in the 2028 Olympics.

We patronised an ice cream shop, a honey emporium and Tatton Park (very flowery, which is as far as my knowledge of botany takes me).

  • Red flowers
  • Gunnera?
  • Tatton Park gardens

We visited friends just outside Liverpool and had a pub lunch with draft beer. And then went to a family get-together in Liverpool and drank more beer. I was not the designated driver, so all good.

This was all in the sunshine and over 20 degrees, all in a very pleasant episode of Being Somewhere Else Away From Our House.

Based on this, I’ve formed the view that staycations have a lot going for them. No jet lag, no exhausting twenty hour journeys for long haul, no PPE gear. A contrast to our previous hols to all sorts of places in foreign climes, but with much to commend it. I think we may have uncovered something…

I suspect that Ryanair will not be re-tweeting this.

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

Shadow puppetry for beginners
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Lily

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This time, a trip down memory back roads in a work of art…


Lily is beautiful. She has a special place in my heart.

She has a swooping, V-shaped front, and gleaming green-and-white bodywork. And a pop-up roof. Marvelous.

Lily of the Valleys

We met many years ago when our Family trekked over to Pembrokeshire for an Escape to Nature in our version of the Mystery Machine. Camping. Board games. Rain. British holidays at their most alluring.

We collected Lily and got down to the serious business of grappling with a steering wheel the size of a dustbin lid and brakes which had a stopping distance of around two miles. Cornering required forward planning, The bed in the back looked comfortable., not that I was ever going to see it up close. The Boy and I were turfed out under canvas at the camp site, under the stick on awning that turned Lily into a caravan in the more exotic sense of the word. We forgot the Turkish delight and made do with Welsh cakes.

6:30 the next morning, the thrill of a night out under the stars was tempered by (a) the lack of stars all night because of the cloud cover; and (b) the detached edge of the awning wetly slapping me across the face as if flapped in the wind.

No matter.

We had conquered the challenges of sleeping in and next to a vehicle on a cliff-top. First-hand evidence demonstrated that the handbrake was well-made and functioning. After braving the hose-shower and the peculiarly unstable toilet tent provided by the site, we were done and ready for the next adventure.

In search of snacks

Managed chaos and discomfort, the joy of the outdoors. Freedom.

And we will do it again, these days subject to there being three bars of Wi-Fi and a buffet, but Hell it’s the thought that counts while starting to emerge from our cocoons. For us, Lily was, unknowingly, good practice for Lockdown.

Let’s hope we can all make our way back to the open road soon…

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

Open house

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Time travel for beginners

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It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix. You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, several steps back in time. Not sure what the main subjects of this post would have made of it…


I came across some family photos yesterday. The ones that really caught my attention were those of a couple of my uncles. Uncle Dave and Uncle Alf. Memories of their war exploits.

I was impressed by their quiet confidence, the feeling of duty being done that shone from the pages of the photo albums. The clear pictures, the whiff of invulnerability as they got ready to do their bit. Not in the Falklands, not at Dunkirk.

In the trenches of France, where Uncle Alf died on 8th October 1918.

Uncle Alf

Uncle Dave survived the First World War, he was way too old to serve in the Second World War, and died at a ripe and comfortable old age in the late 1970s in a two-up, two-down in North West London, Ford Cortinas and Rovers clanking past on the street splashing water over pedestrians’ flares.

Weird how that sort of thing can hit you when idling through family stuff, but it occurs to me that there aren’t many people around whose uncles fought in the First World War.

My dad was getting on a bit to serve in the Second World War; I arrived in the world when he was 52.

Alf was a rifleman in the London Regiment (Queen’s Westminster Rifles), number 555636, his death – a tantalingly short time before the end of the war – is commemorated at the Terlincthun British Cemetery (Wimille), in the Pas de Calais, France, these pictures are all that I have found.

I believe that Dave was a batman to an officer. So much better if he’d been Uncle Bruce, but never mind.

He has the bandoleer and what looks like a tam o’shanter at the bottom left in the picture below.

I believe this is him again, in a formal photo pose, polished and gleaming in front of a no doubt painted backdrop of an idyllic garden scene:

Uncle Dave

It is at times like that that I wish I had sat my parents down with their old albums and marched them through the pictures to capture their fleeting memories and stories of past lives before they were no longer around and the stories retreated further away.

My reproduction of these pictures is my homage to all that, and a window back in time to a very different place.

I hope these pictures and these reflections stir some memories for you.

Best wishes,

Alan

Alan Camrose

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Watch this space

Welcome to my Blog


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix. You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, a Spring break, sort of…


I have been working on a new novel (recently completed the manuscript) and a non-fiction book, to add to my list of available titles, hence the slight break in blog posts.

We are getting ready for Jab 2, enjoying the re-invigorating weather and generally keeping busy, busy, busy…

Here’s to a warm and welcoming Summer and my normal blog-posting will be resumed shortly.

I’m thinking of re-vamping my site to spruce it up now that I’ve been at it over a year and posted 44 articles. When I get to 50, I’ll come up with something to celebrate that milestone…

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

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Remember-member-member…

Welcome to my Blog


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix. You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, a university sing-along…


I have news of an exciting scientific discovery. One of our Offspring has been identified as the next evolutionary step in Mankind’s journey, a fusion of Human and Womble to tackle all challenges that beset us.

(Drum roll)

But something changed.

Out of the product of the dry ice machine and the grinding, doom-laden industrial music (and some Taylor Swift): Something Emerged into the light (at around 11 am as usual) from behind a hillock of crockery and cutlery in its Nesting Place. A hillock tall enough to warrant investigation by the Ordinance Survey guys as a separate landscape feature.

Something that rocked our world.

What has been classified in the scientific community under the Taxonomy (nothing to do with stuffing badgers) Hierarchy as:

The Anti-Womble.

A creature that creates chaos in a 500 metre radius by the sheer focus of its awesome will.

Wearing a patched set of black bags and a necklace of used vodka bottles and glitter.

The Offspring came into the light and was fed pancakes before we shipped her back to the bosom of her Uni house now that the snacks box had been decimated and the vodka oceans drained at our Ground Zero.

The dark cloud of the Anti-Womble advanced on Uni in her Mini One – a vehicle of desolation and eight-months-old empty crisp packets – to re-colonise her Uni House, a site rich with uncovered areas of floor and rug ready to be bent again to the will of the Anti-Womble, harnessing the power and restlessness of a loaf of bread that had been lurking with intent in the dread bin for four months.

Emergency services have been alerted on campus in case there is a security breach where the Anti-Womble manifests in a lecture theatre to scatter around surrounding desks an empty Costa cup holder, cup and related detritus. Fear stalks Uni land.

And then, as with the best horror movies, there is a stirring in our attic, a sting in the tale.

There is another one, dragging itself from under the duvet.

Ready to strike, with still a week and a half left until Bin Day or, as it is known in our house…

The Bin Czar* vs Anti-Womble 2 : Judgement Day

Great to see a glimmer of the real world with that Delivery and the restriction changes.

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

…you’re a Womble
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(I HOPE YOU’VE HAD A) HAPPY EASTER

Welcome to my Blog


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix. You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, some Easter wishes…


Easter 2021 is nearly over and it’s a good time to celebrate rabbit-kind.

Whether you prefer the thought of the tardy White Rabbit, Mister McGregor’s Rabbit Pie, a re-reading of Watership Down accompanied by a few verses of Bright Eyes, a perusal of The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde (recommended for fans of anthropomorphic lapins), a bit of Chas and Dave, or the footprints left by the Easter Bunny in your dusty hall, or simply no bunnies at all…

Happy Easter to all.

Cheers!

Alan

Alan Camrose

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French culinary delights – no “pain”, no gain

Welcome to my Blog


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix. You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, some French food to tickle your taste buds…


I find myself looking out through the shutters of my study window at the dark skies and the whipping rain.

I’ve unsurprisingly taken a moment to pine for the delightful markets in Southern France, the friendly people, the blazing sunshine, and several bottles of regional wine with good friends. And the baguettes and the cheese and everything else. God’s larder.

Those times will come again, with a bit of patience and a lot of endurance.

For the moment, I want to share with you some glorious French food, wrenched from the clinging hands of local farmers near Montpellier in France a few summers ago. I came upon these images again today and they have made a wonderful end to my week. I hope they bring some much needed joy to you.

Fab toms

And more, with amis

Transformed into magic

And accompanied by unsung heroes

Fig 1. Beautiful figs.

A glorious note to end on. Thanks, Marie!

Au revoir!

Alan

Alan Camrose

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Pinned to the tropes

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It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix. You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, some genre mish-mashing in an epic battle of thriller vs historical romance


I thought that I’d have a play with a couple of books, in totally different genres: thriller and historical romance clashing head to coiffure (one of the two is not the type that I usually read, but Lee Child shouldn’t feel left out by that).

I thought I’d see where they took me when trying to compare the genres, checking out the tropes in the first few chapters…

GEORGETTE HEYER

“Sylvester”

First published 1957

Novel

Historical romance

Essentially timeless, allowing a reader to sink into it.

Style

  • Third person omniscient narrator, perfect tense – provides distance. Do not necessarily want to get inside the characters’ heads in this genre. Need that distance.
  • Various elements are used to paint a picture of opulence and privilege as the overall setting for the story.
  • Very formal, “old-fashioned” writing style with archaic language used – scythemen, breakfast parlour, things are agreeable, matters are of sufficient moment. Infelicitous. In keeping with the genre.
  • Names – Sylvester, Edmund, Ianthe.

Setting and character

  • Difficult to place in history with precision from the first few pages. The reader would be expected to place it in the Regency period, late 18th, early 19th century without the author spelling it out. You would be forgiven for expecting period historical detail later to place it more fully, but light touch.
  • Difficult to place geographically. Sylvester is the Duke of Salford, but it doesn’t really matter where it is, it’s the characters which are the important feature of the story, unless later the place becomes more relevant. I would not expect that to be the case in this genre other than to reinforce the sense of privilege. I would expect visits to the equivalent of the Pump Room and extravagant balls. We are set up for all of this in the first few pages.
  • First line: Sylvester in his breakfast parlour – sets the scene and prepares the reader for “Chance”, which has an “east front”. This genre demands a lavish house as a starting point to establish wealth and social importance.
  • Tudor-origin winged staircase, gallery guarded by two figures in full armour (not just any old armour). Building the feeling of solidity and the weight of history.
  • There are “scythemen” in the grounds, servants, a nanny, a butler, a footman.
  • The weather has robbed him of two hunting days – hunting would be a suitable pastime for a gentleman. Horse riding too.
  • Sylvester has a “huge inheritance”. Born to a “great position”, with “a long line of distinguished forebears”. Standard to have a well-established family. Therefore he has rank, wealth and elegance. All the pre-requisites of a historical romance leading man.
  • He is handsome, with a singularly charming smile, but with a slight rakish look when he frowns…He has the tiniest glimmer of a fault in his appearance no doubt intended to make him more attractive.
  • There is a liver-and-white spaniel, which is to be expected in this type of setting. No doubt it is graceful and loyal.
  • All tropes present and correct.

LEE CHILD

“Killing Floor”

First published 1998 – the first Jack Reacher book.

Novel

Thriller

Punchy title, punchy delivery.

Style

  • First person narrator, perfect tense – provides immediacy. Breathless. Things happen quickly and IN YOUR FACE.
  • Various elements are used to paint a picture of grit and toughness.
  • Clipped, aggressive writing style with modern language used – in keeping with the genre.
  • Short chapters for faster pacing.
  • Names – Jack Reacher – blunt and no nonsense. Baker and Stevenson (the cops) – everyman names.

Setting and character

  • First line: I was arrested in Eno’s diner. Compelling start. The impending arrest immediately sets the scene for the novel and does not relax.
  • There is a low-key, ordinary, everyday setting as the launch point – a diner, filled with non-descript civilians. Adds an air of earthy reality to the scene.
  • Drama injected early with police cruisers pulling up outside the diner.
  • Violent language and violent moves: screamed, yelled, focus on hardware and police tactics. Exclamation marks! Very short sentences and fragments to allow tension to be cranked up.
  • Rebellious language: reading about a President he hadn’t voted for and wouldn’t.
  • Set in the US, but assumes reader knows that. Good introduction of place – Georgia – when he is arrested and read his rights, including a state-appointed attorney, rather than saying: “I was in Georgia”…Then, arriving at the police station precisely places the action in the town of Margrave.
  • Action is more important than the exact location except for providing colour in this type of fiction to ground the action.
  • Reading Miranda rights – readers are expected to be aware, and reading the rights adds a further air of officialdom and authority to the scene. Typical in a thriller of this kind.
  • Description of the car and the tarmac again ground the action.
  • All tropes present and correct.
Sylvester is the Champion!

I think Historical Romance has marginally kicked ass and left Reacher gasping on the tropes, although the re-match is likely to be brutal (and quite polite).

I found this an interesting exercise in getting to the heart of those genres, peering at what makes them tick…Difficult to mix up, and difficult to position wrongly in a book shop…

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

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Cuban Coffee Break – maybe make it an espresso?

Welcome to my Blog


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix. You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, reflections on the sea and Cuban cats…


This is a selection of six word stories, following on from my three earlier articles about the form, Hemingway and his extraordinary (and hopefully true, but what the hell) bet…

I have started with a six-worder that I have written as an homage to The Old Man and the Sea.

I have tried to capture the essence of the book – a futile exercise in many respects, but a fitting place to start…It’s not a movie trailer or blurb, but an attempt to encapsulate the book’s essence as an evolving story. Ironically, Hemingway’s book title comprises six words. They elegantly tell you what the book is about; it is not in itself a six word story that stands in for the book as a whole, it simply sets the scene, promises a story. About an old man. And his interaction with the sea. Hemingway had the whole book to dazzle us with that interaction. I have instead endeavoured to tell the story within the self-imposed limit…

Here it is:

Elder catches marlin. Sharks. Start again.

There’s an old man (an “elder” – it seems to me important, for dramatic effect, that the balance of power is shifted even further away from the fisherman in his struggle). He catches a marlin (an impressive catch), but is thwarted by relentless sharks and is forced to start again his almost Sisyphean task of battling the elements and Fate. A survivor, but a battered survivor.

In the stories below, I have sometimes played a little with the font and spacing in the stories for dramatic or comic effect, but always sticking to the rule for the body of each story.

Here we go…


Receding tail lights.

Rain.

FadIng hope.


Shiny licence. Road trip. Twisted metal.


The Four Horsemen arrived.

THE END


Measuringdevicesland coup.

I’m the new ruler.


Lifeboat. Two passengers. The non-vegetarian survives.


I have given the final SWS a title, to see whether it’s: 1. cheating, 2. helpful for context, 3. see what you think…


NCIS: Lothlórien

Galadriel slain!
Elf-defence?
First degree Mordor.


That’s all for now. I hope you have enjoyed these voyages into tragedy / thriller / very silly.

Please do let me have your comments; all welcomed.

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

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