Coronavirus Chronicles 1

The Coronavirus pandemic started to have an effect on my routine, with mass cancellations appearing in my diary, on St Patricks Day, 17 March 2020. So, 24 March is Day 8.

I’d decided that I needed to keep active, fit and well, so planned a small project to replace the 3 trellis panels supporting the climbing roses in the front garden.
Bought the panels the day before and decided this morning to ‘tosh’ them with some preservative, as they looked a bit bare after the factory process. I would not have done this but for the enormous amount of time bestowed on me by cancellations. I found two dented cans of stain in the garage. One half full the other with a little left. Felt good to be saving dosh by using up old stuff. Then I managed to find a dog-eared paintbrush that was still soft.

6-foot-high and 2-foot-wide (1.82 x .609 for the yoofs.) narrow timbers forming squares. Well, that’s a lot of narrow timber to coat with a one-inch brush. (.025) The first panel took over an hour and that was just the front side. It was a sunny morning and I was enjoying it.

I was contemplating a coffee break when my mobile rang. My Optician’s receptionist told me that my new glasses were ready to collect, but they were closing at 1pm for the duration of the Coronavirus outbreak. It was 11.45am, so no rush then! There would be no fitting, touching was out. Nor could she take the balance of the payment in the shop for fear of contamination, so I paid by card, there and then over the phone.

I set off, still in clothes marked by years of wrestling weeds and more recently, preservative stains. In Station Square, I actually saw parking spaces, this is rare as they are usually hidden beneath cars. I parked outside the opticians, ignored the pay and display requirements. After all, would they, at a time like this?
A sombre face appeared at the window of the bank next door. The Optician’s door was locked and when I caught sight of my reflection in the glass, complete with baseball hat, I resembled a bank robber rather than a short-sighted gardener. A tap on the window brought the receptionist up to the door. ‘I’ll put them on the chair,’ she mouthed. The door opened and she shielded herself behind it. Sure enough, on a straight-backed chair, were my specs, receipt and discarded lenses for my growing collection.
‘Any problems, come back in a month, we should have re-opened by then. Keep well from the Virus.’ She called out. ‘Keep well,’ I returned and she closed the door for the duration.

At least the street was clear of Parking Wardens, but at home my soft brush had turned hard.

Political Plots

You may not agree with the recent devious, delaying and deceitful deeds of our elected ‘representatives,’ in Westminster, but there is a spin off for writers. We always need material and what a wealth of plots they are creating. How many times have we heard the comment, ‘You couldn’t make it up?’ Well writers you don’t have to, they have done for you, and a lot of it may have been beyond your own imaginations.
It won’t be long before we see elements of this fiasco featuring in; TV dramas, sitcoms, plays, novels and stories. At least something creative will come out of it all.
Of course, self-interest and dodgy tactics are not new to our politicos. If we look back 100 years, the first woman MP, to take her seat in the British parliament, Nancy Astor, was up against it. 1 December 2019 is the centenary of this event, and back in Plymouth the home of her old constituency they are erecting a statue to her on the Hoe. Read more Lady of the House.

My Part in the Moon Landings

NASA plans to send a manned spacecraft to the moon by 2024. This will be the dawn of their ‘Moon to Mars’ Project, where the Moon will be permanently populated and become the spring board for a manned expedition to Mars. It’s good to see such staggering ambition in space exploration, after decades without the print of a space boot on the surface of another world.

It’s an astonishing 50 years this month since Apollo 11 astronauts, Neil Armstrong and ‘Buzz’ Aldrin, landed on the moon on 20 July 1969. It’s a mere 46 years since the last team; Eugene Cernan and ‘Jack’ Schmitt of Apollo 17 walked the moon. See Cernan’s story –

Time travellers like me can be back to that Sunday night in 1969 a lot quicker than Armstrong took to take his small step. I remember tracking Apollo’s journey over 4 days, to find that the moon walks, to be shown live on TV, were timed to suit American viewers and not us. This meant dragging our black and white TV into the bedroom, and after setting it up, losing a night’s sleep, so I could tell you and my grandchildren about it half a century later. (Hi, put Minecraft down and read this.) Well, I did see it as it actually happened, with only the time delay that the signal took to travel from the moon to my aerial in South Liverpool.

The slow progress and the primeval TV pictures sharpened our attention. On the Moon, caution was paramount, we’d been warned that our Luna walkers needed to be careful not to fall and damage their life support suits. Armstrong appeared florescent white when the sun shone on his suit as he clung to the module’s access ladder. Cautious steps took ages to lower him to the surface. By the time he got there, my eyes were full of moon dust and sleep had taken me, so I missed the historic words. Not that we expected them, the script had been kept secret. I was bleary eyed at work on the Monday morning when I could marvel at the words- ‘That’s one small step for man, and one giant leap for mankind.’

So, prepare for the 2024 landings; book the next day off work, and hang on to the astronaut’s name and words. You may be writing an article about it in 2074!

Know what you are selling

Writers seldom make a fortune from selling their stories and articles, so it is important to maximise fees in this competitive market. A degree of business savvy is required, a quality not always found in the creative.

When work is offered to a publisher (magazine or other) and they accept it for publication, they will pay a fee. The basis for making a binding contract must include these three steps known legally as; Offer, Acceptance and Consideration.

Another essential requirement are the contractual Terms. The writer will normally accept the contractual terms presented by the publisher and have no input into their drafting. However, terms should be scrutinised to ensure that they are acceptable to the writer. If they are not, then the writer’s concerns should be submitted to the publisher and agreement reached or in the event of no agreement, and the terms so unpalatable, the writer’s offer withdrawn. A tough decision to make in view of the infrequent incidence of success.

It’s within the Terms that the fee will be stated and payment details e.g. ‘Payment on publication,’ and precisely what the publisher is getting for his money. This commonly allows the work to be published once and perhaps the right reserved to republish later in a publisher’s anthology, special edition etc.

Less common are sales on an ‘All Rights Basis,’ this means that the writer surrenders his copyright and all moral rights. He will not be able to reuse his work or even be credited as the author should it be republished by the publisher. This amounts to a loss of income for the writer.

World Cup Hiccups

Writers can harvest numerous story and article prompts from the history of the World Cup. (Which needs no further introduction in June 2018!) It’s 88-year history is peppered with tales of; theft, money laundering, bribery and even some events on the pitch.

The much-travelled Jules Rimet Trophy was held by Italy during WW2. Afraid that the Nazis would steal it, the Vice President of FIFA secretly removed it from a bank vault and hid it safely in a shoe box under his bed. There’s no record of where he kept his shoes for the next 5 years.

Eventually thieves did get their hands on it just before England’s win in 1966, when it was stolen from a London exhibition. The FA Chairman received a ransom demand for £15,000, (when the pound in your pocket …) during the handover the thief was spooked, and the cup was not recovered but an arrest was made. Mysteriously a few days later, the cup was found by a curious dog named Pickles, in an Upper Norwood street, South London.

The trophy was stolen again during another exhibition, this time in Rio de Janeiro. Brazil had won the contest for the third time in 1970, and under the rules at that time, qualified to keep it. The cup has never been recovered.

Even on the pitch there was skulduggery, in 1986, England were knocked out by Argentina, when Maradona punched the ball into the net to score the winning goal. The linesman didn’t flag the foul and regretted it for the rest of his life.

The most extraordinary score was when Australia beat American Samoa, 31 – 0, in 2002.
There is no truth in the story that Australia’s extremely high score was due to Samoa’s goal keeper leaving the field to start his shift in the tuna cannery.

Already in 2018, we have reports from Moscow of BBC camera crews being under surveillance by the Russian authorities. A spy story with a World Cup setting would be good. Must be more to come.

In the Beginning

Like many writers my fascination started with the school magazine. Being a failure academically (the pointed hat was reserved for kids brighter than me) the selection of my essay for the magazine was a major surprise. When ‘Elvis’ the English Teacher came into the room waving my scrawl covered pages, I thought I was in for another rollicking for poor work, but this was one of the few times when I received praise… and publication.

I was about 13 and reading a lot of Hemingway, so my modest success convinced me that the bell was tolling for me to be a writer. The essay was about stamp collecting, and of course…it didn’t get me anywhere! I won’t reveal the time it took to get my next piece published.

I was still a teenager when I sat on the sunny side of a bullring suffering post ‘Cuba Libra’ despair, to watch the methodical slaughter of six bulls. The ‘sport’ did not appeal to me, Ernest would not have been impressed.

I wrote postcards home, one informing my Trotskyist father that living in a fascist run country didn’t really seem too bad. When I affixed the brightly coloured stamps I kept a few for the collection.

End of the Line for Short Story Magazine

Sadly, an outlet for short story writers has announced after nearly 30 years that it is to cease publication. The prestigious magazine, Glimmer Train, based in Portland, Oregon, USA will close after issue 106 in the autumn of 2019. Until then it’s submissions as usual, so writers still have the opportunity to be published. Glimmer Train seemed to be a caring organisation who paid writers well and uniquely accepted short fiction up to 12,000 words. Follow the link on the ‘Links’ page.