Madness or Method

This morning, I woke up to find myself in that half-life, hazy world of here and now/there and then. I know I’m in my tiny crone cottage in Liverpool, but I’m also in a space ship thrumming its way across the galaxy to save two solar systems. My accustomed butterfly-flitting thought processes are streamlining themselves into a more scientific process of ‘if this – then that – or is it? Check it again!’.

I am existing in the afterlife of a damn good book, and I want it to last as long as possible. The deep immersion into the fictitious universe of Andy Weir’s latest book “Project Hail Mary” has been my state of being for the past 6 days and nights. It took me that long because I listened to it on Audible. If I’d been reading it, back in the day when both of my eyes worked at full steam ahead, I know I’d have skipped great chunks of the technical stuff. Fortunately, though, I had to listen, and I had to listen veeerrrryyy caaarrreefffuuuulllyyy. Because if you missed any steps of calculation and experimentation carried out by our reluctant protagonist, you wouldn’t understand why the story was going where it went. The whole incredibly unlikely space adventure is told through mathematical equations and biological calculations. And I am the most mathematically inept and ignorant person I know. Sounds mad, eh? But oh so methodically it reveals the chaos of the characters’ lives as they try to save the universe. I just loved it.

Also, I have to mention the narrator, actor Ray Porter. I’m a reluctant listener to audio books, largely because my experience of them has not been wonderful. ‘Reading Voice’ just annoys me. And sound engineers who remove the sound of every breath do the listeners a great disservice. Listeners/audiences breathe with the performers. That is part of the physiological process of engagement with each other. If the pace of the speaker doesn’t allow for breathing to happen, we become stressed and our brains switch off. We either walk out of the theatre in frustration, or we fall asleep, or we just get cross, without knowing why. Ray Porter is a consummate performer. He doesn’t just read, or even just narrate, he actually performs the book. Cover to cover. Phenomenal.

This week I had the great fortune to work with another consummate performer, Mark Porter. He’s come on board to portray Jack, Susie’s current boyfriend, which he does with grace and charm!

Mark Porter

Mark is an actor/writer based in Liverpool. He can be seen on Amazon Prime in 2020’s “While We Wait” and stars in Rusty Apper’s “Artefacts of Fear” (October 2021). His crime comedy novels are available through Amazon, more details at www.markporter.weebly.com. To be honest, the words ‘cult hero’ and ‘international mega star’ spring to mind—if not quite now, then very very soon!

If you’d like to treat Mark to a cup of coffee (or a beer), just click here.

Spring is Sprung!

Did you play with that silly rhyme, back in the day?

Spring is sprung, the grass is riz

I wonder where the birdies is!

Anon

It still gives me a tiny thrill to say it out loud, with its deliberate naughtiness. I was raised to speak proper(ly), observing the known rules of grammar at all times, never allowed to drop my ‘h’s or the ‘g’s at the ends of ‘ing’ words. As I’ve travelled around the world and encountered different English-speaking cultures, its been a joy to realise that there are different grammars that are absolutely proper in their own contexts. Scots English is especially rich in its variety. There are theories in the world of Linguistics that it was the English of the southerners, the Sassenachs—English people—that diverged, back in the 16th century, rather than the other way round.

And yes, Spring is definitely upon us. No grass in my so-called garden, apart from the odd tufts that rise up in the cracks between the paving slabs, courtesy of the wind, the birds and my neighbours’ lawns. But there are blossoms on the miniature fruit trees in their pots, just outside the front door. And inside, the Oxalis tubers I rescued from what I thought was just a pot of old soil are now in flower on the window sill. Two tiny tomato seedlings have managed to sprout in sympathy.

This week’s episode, “A Small Insurrection”, picks up on the story line which has Helen secretly writing a memoir, while Janey secretly wonders if she is capable of responding to Geogie’s challenge to write some short stories. Janey is in her mid-fifties, a time when many women find themselves wondering “is that all there is?”

Unlike Helen in the podcast story, I have written all my life, but never actually published anything until last year. Things to do in Lockdown? Gather together all those poems and stories and self publish two volumes. Why am I telling you this? Because I am all in favour of people learning life’s great lessons at a much younger age than myself. In this case, the lesson is “Stop waiting for other people to help you. Just do it!”

This week also saw me not winning a poetry competition I had entered. I detest competitions, always have done. Why did I enter? Because the prize was to have a small collection published by an actual publisher, something I still believe gives the author some degree of credibility over and above self-publishing. So now I have to live with the actual, rather than the assumed, knowledge that yet another publisher does not consider my work to be worthy of publishing.

Whatever!!!

Here’s a poem from that as yet unpublished collection.

Breathing out

Breathing out is good for me

but so is being held.

Not to make the sadness go away

            That’s my job.

And let the hold be real

or virtual

I will feel your love

within my bones

keeping me warm

and safe

and calm

and still

while the movement goes on

so that I can keep on

Breathing out.

Please do drop a comment below, or use the form to send me a message.

Home again, Home again, jiggetty-jig

Back in my wee crone cottage, and I miss the cats but I love my garden. Oh, and I eventually realised that the yowling cat was just Pixie, talking. I’ve known a few talking cats in my life, but she really takes the cake. I arrived home on Tuesday evening with a broken tooth, soon followed by an abscess, and subsequent antibiotics. Ah well.

Last week’s episode is up to 20 downloads to date, still hoping it will catch up with Episode 6 “Saving Grounds” which is up to 53! I do feel I should apologise for my dodgy New York accent in Episode 7. Joanna Wilkinson was born and bred in New York, and she has now lived in Australia for over 30 years. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it!

Allana and me

Episode 8 “More Secrets” features the wonderful Allana Noyes again, as Helen’s Aussie niece Georgie. Allana lives in Toowoomba, Queensland, with husband Bob and the mighty Pluto—tiny dog with a huge heart. Such a joy to play with Allana on Zoom. We run through the scene twice, and then I edit the audio together to get rid of the ‘lag’ as they say.

I’ve another mystery guest performer lined up for next week. Who could it be?

Watch this space.

Swings and Roundabouts

It’s been quite a week, and apparently not just for me. A strange 7 days of nothing bad happening, but yet feeling stressed. And I’m happy to say, it seems to be waning—that stressed out feeling.

View from the kitchen table.

I’ve been staying at my son’s house, cat-sitting. I love the cats, but they do yowl, very loudly, at odd times of the day and night, for no discernible reason. And I love the trees over the back fence, which are fully loaded with birds chorusing throughout the day. Wonderful. I would post a little video for you, but WordPress won’t let me unless I pay up. But I’m happy with my little cheapo website for the moment.

The disadvantage of being here is that, what with the birdsong and the cats yowling, and the primary school playground just beyond the trees, I can’t record anything here. Apart from the birds…

Not the greatest recording quality, I apologise for that. Next time I’ll take the Macbook Pro out there and try again. It would be nice to be able to provide my own sound effects for Helen’s adventures. In the meantime, there is a wonderful website called https://freesound.org/ which has a phenomenal range of sound snippets contributed by people from all over the world. I slip a few pennies their way once in a while which doesn’t hurt either.

I’m heading home to my wee crone cottage tomorrow, with its sound box on the dining table and reasonably sound proofed double glazing—but sadly, minimal bird song. Hopefully have a new episode ready for you by the end of the week. I’d love to know how you find it. Are the episodes too long? Too short? Too many characters? Not enough characters? Please do drop me a line in the comments.

And yes, in case you didn’t notice, we are having stunning late spring weather here in Liverpool at the moment. Let’s make the most of it while we can.

A Proper Copper Coffee Pot

Yes, I do actually have one, a one-cup pot, picked it up in a second hand shop a couple of years ago. But I only started using it quite recently, when my lovely little DeLonghi semi-automatic machine died the death. It’s take me a while to get the hang of it, figuring out just how much coffee to how much water, how long to let the grounds steep before turning up the heat, how long to leave it after it has finished bubbling up and subsiding when the heat is removed.

Making coffee this way should be included in any list of ‘slow foods’, or just ‘slow down living’, because you absolutely dare not take your eyes off that pot until you turn off the gas before it bubbles over.

So this was the inspiration for this week’s episode of “Am I Old Yet?”. No, Helen doesn’t let it boil over, she manages to make a very different mistake…

I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to get Helen and her neighbour ‘Nana’ together for a conversation, and the relaxation of the garden visiting rules made it possible. Ah me, the times we are living in! Trying to keep it real, over here in my crone cottage.

I hope you are too, safely, wherever you are in the world. There are visitors from 9 countries so far! If you are enjoying the programme, please share it.

Thank you!

Holiday Schmoliday

All this talk about holidays lately—whether you are missing your fortnight on the Costa Del Sol, or arguing about the definition of the word ‘staycation’—got me thinking that I might try actually having one. So I arranged for all my teaching commitments to be postponed for a week, leaving the whole Easter weekend free.

To do what?

Aha! You see, I hadn’t actually thought it through. I hadn’t stopped to notice that ALL of my voice coaching clients have their lessons on Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays. And I had managed to completely forget that I hate holidays. That’s how long it is since I took one.

wood pigeon on top of the bird feeding house.

So here I am, Easter Monday, with only half a day left of my so-called holiday to figure out what on earth my non-existent plan consisted of. But I can tell you this: I’ve written the next episode, “Saving Grounds”, I’ve had a wonderful picnic in my garden with a couple of friends. Nibbles with Prosecco. I highly recommend it. I’ve kept the local wood pigeons fed and entertained, from their new feeding house next to the window by my desk. I’ve written half a song and two-thirds of a poem. I’ve made my first batch of coconut yoghurt. And I’ve a pretty good idea how the next two episodes will start. No idea where they will end up, because I never do. And I had a wonderful long catchup call with a dear friend, six months younger than me, who happily, defiantly, proudly refers to herself as ‘old’.

Thanks so much to the kind, lovely folk who have donated, anonymously and otherwise, to my “let’s pay Buzzsprout for the full hosting service” fund raising campaign. If you’d like to join them, head over to the Are You Enjoying The Programme page for further details.

Stay safe!

Caught out!

Yesterday I recorded the latest episode in the adventures of Helen Docherty, as she traverses the rocky road to antiquity. But instead of doing all the voices myself, I called in the help of a dear friend in Australia. Allana Noyes and I first met in 1997, in Brisbane, when we performed in a Trocadero production of “The Life and Death of King John” at Boggo Road Jail. Allana played Constance, and I was Queen Elinor. What a treat!

Queen Elinor (Flloyd Kennedy) Trocadero Productions 1997
Queen Elinor (Flloyd Kennedy). Trocadero Productions, 1997

We’d stayed good pals over the years, and nowadays have weekly catchup calls over Zoom, since I’m in Liverpool, UK, and Allana is in Toowoomba—just outside of Brisbane, Qld, Australia.

I figured we could just as easily record our dialogue over Zoom, which saves the audio in separate files. That made it dead easy to edit, adding in sound FX etc. So that’s what we did.

The new episode is now up on Buzzsprout, you will find it here, or in your favourite podcasting software.

Writing frenzy

OK, I’m exaggerating. But I’m excited! So I’ve started writing a new episode before I’ve even recorded the last one. And new characters are popping up insisting on getting into the action.

In other news, I’ve invited a friend and colleague, the wonderful Australian actress Allana Noyes, to play a role. This morning we experimented with recording our dialogue over Zoom. Now that was fun. Pure joy to be reading with someone else, and Allana has a great sense of the ridiculous. Zoom records our audio tracks separately, so the plan is to import the two tracks into Audacity, and play with any edits necessary. We shall see! It’s all a great adventure, from where this (are-you-sure-I’m-not-old-yet?) senior citizen is sitting.

Here I Go again…

So it’s not enough to write the scripts, play all the roles, record and edit the audio files—I have to create a whole new website as well!

Of course, I didn’t HAVE to. Just couldn’t help myself. It’s a bit dodgy at the moment, till I get used to the new system, but hopefully it will all make sense in a few days, and even more hopefully it will make it simpler for folk to find and enjoy the podcast.

Should I be calling it a podcast? I say yeay. It’s a short-form broadcast, sort of poddy format, so why not?

If you have thoughts on the subject, I’d like to hear them. Polite ones, of course.

Stay safe.

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