Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Something is wrong when a field trip with 30 five year olds is the most relaxing experience of the week

Today I went on a field trip to a farm with lots of five year olds by mistake.

I was dropping off Thing 1 at school last week and noticed that their school trip to a local farm would be cancelled if they didn’t have more parent helpers.

My mouth worked before consulting my brain and soon I was undergoing security checks and being recruited as a parent helper.

If you’ve been brave enough to read my Seven things you don’t know about me post you will know that I have a hefty science/zoology background. I’ve also worked with most farm animals. The truth is that I get on better with animals than people. The type of people I have most problems with are about five years old.

But enough of this. I am now a stay at home dad so it’s important to leave my comfort zone behind and interact with very small people who are not related to me. So I turned up carrying two rounds of sarnies in Thing 1’s Ben 10 lunchbox. I wasn’t nervous but was expecting a serious headache in the next hour or so. Boy was I in for a surprise.

A day spent with a big group of very small people is actually much easier than a day on my own with Thing 2. This was partly down to the fact that they were a great bunch of kids, but also the Jedi mind-shift skills of the teachers. Amazed, I was.

I didn’t hear a raised voice from the adults all day. It was calm tones and simple instructions that got quick responses. My highlight was a small group of children getting a bit rumbustious in the woods. I was about to do my best scouse ‘calm down’ routine when a teacher appeared and softly said something along the lines of “I don’t think I like this behaviour”. Job done. Instantly.

We got very wet and had some close up interactions with animals - including an impressively friendly barn owl called Albi. Afterwards the kids ran around in the woods in the pouring rain to let off steam without adult intervention and they loved it.

On the way back on the bus I realised I was the calmest I had been for some time. Life has been a bit interesting recently and I am always tired as I tend to dream all night instead of sleep. Suddenly I felt drowsy instead of tired and tetchy.

My mind drifted to a quote from one of my favourite films B.Monkey - a film completely unsuitable for a primary field trip being mainly about sex and dangerous relationships. However, the male lead character is a primary school teacher and he recounts being on a bus on a school trip when one of his pupils asked him when the trip started. He explained that the bus ride was an important part of the trip; it was not all about the destination.

Thing 1 was cuddled into me, tired after an exciting day. He asked me. “Is it over yet?” I find myself quoting from an unsuitable film on a packed school bus and feeling ridiculously calm.

Life is not all about the destination. Sometimes you need to need to take a detour and enjoy the trip.

Note: Thanks go to the teachers for such a well organised event and sorry if I just plodded along and waited for instructions. Also to the two young ladies who were in my charge alongside Thing 1 who never erred further than the ‘right side of monkey’ (as one of Thing 1’s teachers describes it).

I should also point out that the images are stock photos and not taken by me. The big give away is the blue sky in the background of the cow photo!

Friday, 13 July 2012

Guest post for It's all about you

Russ is not always working from home. He is currently appearing as a guest blogger on Mick Davidson's excellent blog A world in pictures + words.

The guest slot is called It's all about you and in it I discuss how Roald Dahl's lesser-known naughty books have influenced my work. You can read the blog article here It's all about Russ King

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Working from Home reviews: The Midnight Tango show with Flavia Cacace and Vincent Simone

It was my birthday treat last weekend (delayed from February) and my wife whisked me away from the working from home routine to see Midnight Tango, starring Flavia Cacace and Vincent Simone - two of the dancers from Strictly Come Dancing.

The tango has been a big inspiration to my writing ever since I saw Moulin Rouge in the cinema and was captivated by the Roxanne dance number. My novel Working from home: Mixing business with pleasure? was written to a soundtrack of classic and modern tango music and the climax of the book is set within a tango dance scene.

I’m not a huge fan of Strictly Come Dancing as I tend to drift off during some of the ballroom dances and usually have to mute Bruce Forsythe (he's not my favourite), but I’ve often said that I can watch Flavia Cacace dance for hours.

Midnight Tango is set wholly in a bar in Argentina and the plot is very simple. It is about the drinkers having fun, the comic squabbling of the bar owners and a love triangle between Flavia, Vincent and a dashing intruder (played by Leonel di Cocco) who seduces Flavia.

It is light, energetic and fun until Leonel di Cocco appears and he nearly steals the show, bristling with sexual menace and style. I really want to be like him when I grow up.

I won’t give away the ending but the dance steps, particularly those of Flavia and Vincent, are bewilderingly fast and exquisitely done. You could hear (and feel) the audience holding their breath during some of their routines and Flavia was simply mesmeric.

My only criticism is that there was only one slow tango dance and while this was beautifully done it left me wanting more. Oh yes, and whilst Vincent’s dancing was impeccable he was not really given scope to show his cheeky personality (until he started egging the audience on for more encores).

Whilst this show is a vehicle for the considerable talents of Flavia and Vincent, it is far from being just about them. I’ve already mentioned one of the dancers but there were five other couples who looked like they were born to tango and the bar owners provided comic interludes and got one of the loudest applauses at the end.

However, it was not all about the dancing. They are accompanied by a fantastic tango band Tango Siempre who launched into song after song - many of which are old friends from my writing soundtrack. Coupled with a high class singer, Miguel Angel, whose deep, mellow voice filled the theatre; it was a fantastic tango experience.

I was miffed to have to pay £4 for a programme though; especially as it was mostly advertising. For £2 you can buy a complete novel ebook (Working from home: Mixing business with pleasure?) that will make you laugh and maybe even make you dance.

See what I did there?

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Why women discussing 50 shades of grey make me laugh

The 50 shades of grey phenomenon is becoming more and more irritating. I have nothing against the genre of ‘mummy porn’, experimenting with new experiences, books that straddle genres or people who buy books because everyone else under the sun seems to have read it. I am mostly annoyed because this huge exposure is not happening to my books.

I haven’t read the ‘50 shades’ books so can’t make any comment on their content, style or the writing ability of the author. However, I’ve seen them summarised in blogs, overheard women discussing them in public places and I can’t go anywhere online without them being plastered everywhere as recommended reading.

They are now in my local Asda, although by the sound of it they won’t be there for long. The stock is flying out the door.

So what makes me laugh?

It’s the way that women discuss the books in public. So far I have experienced the ‘I’ve read it but it didn’t really grab me’ the ‘it’s quite fun but it’s shockingly badly written’ and the ‘it’s fun, something different - I enjoyed it’.

All facets of the book are up for discussion in public apart from the fact that it is a pornographic book. Contrast this to the male association with pornography. Men who claim to read magazines like Playboy because of the articles have been ridiculed by women for years.

Excuses for men watching porn films because they are funny or because of the music soundtrack have also been lambasted by women for decades because everyone knows men watch porn for the sex. Men are quite upfront about this, we are quite simple beings. Imagine an erotic book for men having equivalent success to the 50 shades of grey series. It would be criticised as being offensive to women and for exploiting women - but then isn’t exploitation of women as submissive creatures what 50 shades is all about?

Personally I think it’s wonderful that an erotic book is having huge success. It’s not a genre I have experience with but one of my goals as a writer is to write a book that makes people feel like getting it on.

I’m currently working on a passionate bohemian love story with a chilling edge. The aim is a real page turner that will also excite the reader to the extent that they will be reaching for their partner the moment they put down the book.

I’ve already hit one of my writing goals with Working from home: Mixing business with pleasure? as it makes people laugh out loud while also introducing them to the opportunities (and avoiding the pitfalls) of working from home.

So here is the real reasons for my annoyance about the success of The 50 shades of grey. When a book that straddles genres like Working from home hits the big time they get huge sales (Harry Potter - children’s literature read by adults; Twilight - vampire horror set in US high school) but it can be difficult explaining the book to people who like to pigeonhole books into certain genres.

Will Working from home create a new genre like ‘mummy porn’? Very unlikely, but at least women (and men) can admit to reading it for the humour, the love story or the business information and not pretend that it was for anything other than the sex.

Talk about the 5,000lb elephant sitting in the corner of the room!