mrniceguy47

The random everyday occurances of a sick and twisted mind.

Eternity Road – Review

Eternity Road
The Beeches, Bayston Hill, Shrewsburyish.
Saturday 10th August 2019

After months of threatening, the stars finally aligned and I had a kid free weekend when Eternity Road were playing so I hauled my ass to Bayston Hill to check them out.

The Band:

According to their Facebook page, they formed as a duo in 2016 before assuming their current line up at the beginning of this year. 2019 has been a busy year for the group, averaging a gig every other weekend around various Telford pubs, they made a break for the county/borough border and rocked up in the good part of Shrewsbury.

Liz Law, Vocals:

Who doesn’t love a badass front woman? She’s got the lungs and the moves, maybe not of Jagger but certainly Brian Johnson. In fact, imagine instead of Jeff Goldblum and a fly getting cross contaminated in that machine, Chrissie Hynde and Brian Johnson. You get the picture. She belts out a wide variety of hits, making them truly her own. And boy can she wear the shit out of the flat cap.

Jooles Lloyd, Guitar:

I won’t lie. I hate Jooles. The mother f*cker can shred, which doesn’t normally offend me, but he has the indecency to make it look easy. He has the air of a man who can rock out in his sleep and I have my suspicions he did perform at least one track while unconscious just to prove a point. I mean, I know he’s attained this talent through years of hard work and dedication and practice and if I applied myself in the same way I’d be just as good but I’m lazy so that’s not going to happen and he just makes me look bad. And he’s good looking to boot. That’s just greedy. Be good looking OR talented. Not both! 

Paul Atwell, Bass, Keyboards, Vocals:

Paul is a freak of nature. You’ll note above that he plays bass AND keyboard. I mean that literally. He plays them both. At the same time. One hand on each. Only thing I can play one handed is frowned on in public. Watching him work gives me the same sense of existential dread I get from watching Newton Faulker’s hands operating independently of each other. You want to look away, but you can’t quite manage it and you feel guilty for enjoying it.

Matt “The Muff Moisturiser” Chambers, Drums, Percussion, Fertility Services:

2011 was the wettest summer on record. Conspiracy theorists blamed it on the release of Fifty Shades of Grey. I have it on good authority Matt’s drumming was the cause. He left his band and so followed eight glorious summers filled with yellow grass. 2019 he returns to the drum kit and lo the wetness did return. Coincidence? I think not! Drummers are widely considered to be the sexiest position in the band and this man is no exception. When he drums, every menstral cycle in the room synchronises. Even the men aren’t immune. Gentlemen: if you have a vasectomy you’re particularly attached to, please don’t watch this band. You have been warned.

Reflections On The Gig:

I won’t give a blow by blow account of every song because I wouldn’t want to ruin any pleasant surprises for any of you considering going to watch them. All I’ll say is that there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Provided you like full on rock that is. If you don’t you’re pretty screwed.

The setlist contains numbers from Pink Floyd, Foo Fighters, Bryan Adams, AC/DC, Four Non Blondes and many others.

Not being the most widely read musically (or should it be, listened?) there was a number of songs I wasn’t familiar with previously, but the better educated among the audience were rocking the f*ck out to it, so they must have been good covers.

What sticks with me the most is not just the talent of the individual members (and they are each damn good at what they do. Sickeningly so. See above appraisal of Jooles) but the sheer level of work they’ve put in to creating a water tight performance as a group.

Perfection is an overused term, but it’s no exaggeration to say that every single song was note perfect. It’s a remarkable achievement considering the complexity of some of the numbers and the fact they are other people’s songs. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen bands fluffing songs they themselves have written so should know better.

So, in terms of execution, the performance is nothing short of excellence.

The highlights for me personally were the barnstorming renditions of Hit Me With Your Best Shot, The Pretender and Zombie. There was also a clever mash up of Seven Nation Army and Sweet Dreams.

The only downside was bassist/keyboarder/Ganesh impersonator Paul teasing us with the keyboard intro to Living On A Prayer and then not delivering. That’s just plain cruel, man!

Anyway! I definitely recommend giving them a whirl if you’re in the Telford area at any point. There’s at least a couple of gigs to choose from each month. If you live further afield and know someone who runs a pub that values artistry and will pay the going rate to get a decent band in, why not get on to them to book them. You won’t regret it!

In the meantime, why not give their Facebook page a like? You’ll get all the gig updates and even some live videos so you can see them in action.

https://www.facebook.com/EternityRoadTelford/

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What Difference Does A Pound Make?

How much difference can one pound make (note: I’m in the UK. If you’re elsewhere, substitute pound for dollar or euro etc)? On its own, not a fat lot. I could probably buy a handful of sweets that would rot my teeth, or half a lottery ticket. I’m by no means the richest person in the world but if I tripped and dropped one down the drain, while I wouldn’t be thrilled, I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it (if I did it twice I’d start sweating, mind).

So, as someone in full time employment slightly above the minimum wage, it’s not a substantial amount of money (it’s about 0.33% of my weekly income).

But a couple of Christmases ago I was searching for some Catana Comics related merchandise for my lady love (if you’re uninitiated, they’re a cute and hilarious series of Comics by a girl called Catana Chetwynd that purport to be about her and her boyfriend John, but are actually about me and my girlfriend (despite what everyone on Facebook says about them being about them). I mean, the guy is tall and bearded, like me, the girl is short and adorable and has a great butt, like my girlfriend. They say the same things as us. It’s us. Deal with it. Also check them out on Facebook and Instagram). While I was on the website, I noticed that you could donate money to help with the running costs or just plain support the artist and enable them to pay bills while creating the work that you love (and generally consume absolutely free online).

I spend $30 on presents in the store that day so didn’t feel TOO bad about ignoring the option. But it planted a seed in my head and later on that day I happened to be on their Facebook page and I noticed that they have over 1 million followers. Each comic posted regularly gets over 100k likes and comments. And a thought swam through my head: if every one of these people just GAVE them £1 (or $ or €) right this second, they wouldn’t have to work a minute of their lives ever again and could just sit and draw these comics forevermore.

The idea made me feel powerful. With a click of a button and dispensing of an inconsequential amount of money, and I could play a part in making someone financially independent (in this example, even a millionaire) in seconds.

It dawned on me that this is how artists survived “back in the day.” There is next to no money in art. Well, not on the front line any way. The vast majority of the stuff you love and admire in galleries, and which sells for millions of pounds between collectors now, was produced by people who were either the recipients of patronage by a wealthy benefactor, or they lived their life in abject poverty and their labours only created money after they died a miserable death (looking at you Vincent).

As a society, we really don’t like paying for art. We’ll look at the pretty pictures in galleries or online. We’ll illegally stream the movies and the music. Very few of us will go and buy the picture or the DVD or the CD. Or, if we will, we’ll complain about the price of it because paying the true worth of something someone has created is actually a really expensive business.

Yet, we’ll just expect artists to keep on producing these things that give us pleasure, while struggling along trying to make ends me and find the time to do it while working full time.

We all want something for nothing.

And we can. Sort of.

Going back to my previous point, £1 is next to nothing. Before you scoff, I’m not talking right now to people who rely on benefits to survive. I’m not talking to myself from a few years back who only had £20 a month disposable income. I get that for such people, £1 is a hell of a lot of money. But for the vast majority of us, it really isn’t.

So why not just GIVE that pound to someone who produces something that gives you pleasure? That adds value to your existence?

The internet is awash with crowd funders and the like that give you perks for donating money, which is fine. If you’re going to be donating ten quid, you really want to be getting something for your money more than a warm fuzzy feeling. But one pound? You won’t miss it. Why not just give it to someone, no strings attached. At the end of the day, they’ve probably already given you more than £1 worth of entertainment/pleasure if you were to honestly sit down and assess it.

I know it doesn’t feel like a lot, but if you were to go on to a Facebook group of an artist that you love the work of and saw how many people liked and consumed their work and say “if everyone gave this person £1 right now they would get £XXX.” And then give them a pound. Hell, encourage everyone else in the group to do the same. Not everyone will do it, but perhaps enough will for it to make a real difference to that artist.

Why not even say to yourself, “I am going to set aside £1 a week to just give to someone who produces something of value.” It doesn’t even have to be an artist, perhaps someone trying to get a business off the ground that could create jobs in your local (or even not so local if you’re thinking internationally) area.

It doesn’t even have to be a complete stranger either. We all know talented people that with a little cash injection could produce wonderful things that bring great benefits to their lives and the lives of those around them. And, the thing is, sooner or later, if enough people take part, you start receiving the benefits yourself. Maybe not in terms of actual money (though, if you’re an artist etc it’s possible) but in terms of people producing things of beauty and entertainment (which, let’s face it, makes life worth living), or by people having extra money in their pockets and spending it locally that creates jobs and boosts the local economy (creating more jobs and more wealth).

There are tens of millions of people in the UK alone that could comfortably do this. That’s tens of millions of pounds each week that could be just pumped into creating a better, more beautiful world that we all benefit from. If you add in Europe and North America, we’re talking hundreds of millions.

One pound a week can make a hell of a difference.

Editors note: this week my pound is going to Catana Comics, who inspired this brainwave and make me laugh on a daily basis. If you want to join me in this, here’s the link to their page: https://catanacomics.com/donate/

Liam Pritchard is an author, blogger, podcaster and freelance journalist. You can purchase his book The Girl With A Monkey On Her Shoulder here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Girl-Monkey-Her-Shoulder-ebook/dp/B01BP63GVW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1515602970&sr=8-1&keywords=liam+Pritchard

 

Telford Wrekin Raiders 9 – 1 Grimsby Wolves. Report.

National Division One North (Women’s Ice Hockey).
Telford Ice Rink. Saturday 13th April 2019.

The Raiders saw out the regular season with a comprehensive victory over league debutants, Grimsby Wolves on Saturday afternoon.

Heading into the game, the Division One North Champions boasted a one hundred percent record against their opponents, scoring over thirty goals without reply in the process. However the Wolves held their own in the opening exchanges, soaking up Telford pressure and fashioning threatening chances on the break. Home net minder, Teagan Hyatt – making her first start for the club, following a third period cameo and shut out against Sheffield Shadows in the previous game – made a number of smart saves throughout the game to deny the visitors.

The opening goal took until the twelfth minute to arrive, with captain Jade Poxon trying her luck from the point and Kathrine Lyttle deflected it past Courtney Smith in the Wolves net. It would prove to be the only score in the opening twenty, which ended with Wolves on the power play as Raiders’ Ann McLean sat two minutes for hooking.

End of Period 1: Telford Wrekin Raiders 1 – 0 Grimsby Wolves

Period two saw Raiders waste little time in exorcising their frustration in front of goal with Lyttle punching in her second on the rebound after Smith saved Donna Sumnall’s effort. Scorer turned provider less than a minute later as Lyttle teed up Nicola Goodwin’s goal. It was four on seven minutes as lightning quick Michelle Madziak found herself one on one with Courtney Smith. Smith saved the initial effort but Madziak reacted quickly to poke home the rebound.

Five minutes later, Raiders’ top scorer, Heather Metcalf notched her 19th of the season with the goal of the day, a fine one of one effort buried into the roof of the net.

With just eighty seconds left on the period clock, the Wolves finally got their reward for some excellent counter attacking play as Bryony Watson tucked away the rebound from Joanne Barnaby’s shot; their first goal in four games against Telford.

End of Period 2: Telford Wrekin Raiders 5 – 1 Grimsby Wolves

It was more of the same from Telford in the final period and five minutes in Katherine Lyttle completed her hat trick in fortuitous circumstances. Smith looked to have saved her shot but the puck looped into the air, over the head of the keeper, before dropping under the bar and into the net.

Maziak claimed her second of the afternoon five minutes later after Sumnall put her through for another one on one and, again, she made no mistake to make it seven. Thirty three seconds later, the puck was in the net again, this time from the stick of Poxon, who diverted Naomi Jenks’ pass between the legs of the net minder. And the goals were rounded off with seven minutes left on the clock as the defensively superb Donna Sumnall got the goal her efforts on the day had deserved.

In the end it was a dominant display from the Division Champions but Wolves looked dangerous every time they broke with Ketziah Brooke Robinson earning a Player of the Match award, creating several dangerous chances for her side. Only a fine performance from Hyatt, herself earning her side’s Player of the Match, kept the score down.

The victory took Telford to four wins in a row and gives them a record of ten wins in twelve games, dropping only three points all season.

Grimsby skated a penalty free game, while Raiders saw four skaters sent to the box, but the Wolves ended 0-4 on the Power Play.

Final Score: Telford Wrekin Raiders 9 – 1 Grimsby Wolves.

The Raiders now await results in Division One South to see who their opponents are for the Premier League Promotion Play Off. Currently, Cardiff Comets sit in first place, having completed their schedule. However, Swindon Topcats have three games to play and trail the Welsh side by just two points and with a vastly superior goal difference.

Scoring (Telford score first):

1-0 Katherine Lyttle. 12.44. Assisted by Jade Poxon.
2-0 Katherine Lyttle (2). 23.15. Assisted by Donna Sumnall.
3-0 Nicola Goodwin. 23.51. Assisted by Katherine Lyttle.
4-0 Michelle Madziak. 27.05. Unassisted.
5-0 Heather Metcalf. 33.28. Unassisted.
5-1 Bryony Watson. 38.40. Assisted by Joanne Barnaby.
6-1 Katherine Lyttle (3). 45.15. Unassisted.
7-1 Michelle Madziak (2). 50.07. Assisted by Donna Sumnall.
8-1 Jade Poxon. 50.40. Assisted by Naomi Jenks.
9-1 Donna Sumnall. 53.12. Unassisted.

Penalties:

Telford:

Ann McLean. 19.36. Hooking.
Donna Sumnall. 34.51. Tripping.
Michelle Madziak. 46.49. Tripping.
Madeline Fuller. 54.12. Hooking.

Grimsby:

None.

Players of the Game:

Telford: Teagan Hyatt.
Grimsby: Ketziah Brooke Robinson.

Telford Wrekin Raiders vs Grimsby Wolves: Preview

Women’s National Division One North (Ice Hockey)
Saturday 13th April 2019
Telford Ice Rink – 16.40 Face-Off – Free Admission

Telford Wrekin Raiders will be looking to round off a successful season with a fourth consecutive victory when they host rock bottom Grimsby Wolves on Saturday.

Goals should be on the cards with Telford having outscored their opponents 31-0 over the three meetings so far this season. Grimsby’s “goals against” tally sits in triple figures while their average “goals for” stands at less than one per game. Add that to the fact they’re yet to pick up a single point this term and it’s hard to predict anything other than a heavy home win.

The Raiders tied up the women’s National Division 1 North title three weeks ago, thanks to an 8-4 home victory over eventual runners up Solway Sharks, before condemning Sheffield Shadows to third spot with a 5-1 victory on home ice last Saturday.

Telford fell behind in that game as the Shadows’ Hannah Ware netted for the visitors, however, the lead was short lived as Abigail Plant struck back minutes later. Goals from Ann McClean and Michelle Madziak in the second period put the Raiders into a 3-1 lead, while a second from Madziak and one from Katherine Lyttle rounded out the scoring in the third.

Face-off is at 4.20pm at Telford Ice Rink and admission is free of charge.

Searching For Candy – Interview with Tracey J Morgan

Cover

Cover by Horse

John Candy departed this life on 4th March 1994. Fast forward a quarter of a century (plus one day for good measure) and avid Candyphile, Tracey J Morgan – a 22 year old residing within the body of a 40 year old veterinary nurse from Shrewsbury (I imagine it’s sort of a reverse of the deal that went down in that film, Get Out) – gave the world what it had been sorely missing: a biography of the great man himself.

The result is the fruit of seven years labour, researched and written alongside holding a full time job (including at one stage running an independent record label) and assembling an army of cats (quite how many is “too many” Tracey is reluctant to divulge, though I am assured it’s less than Hemmingway owned. Not that I knew Hemmingway was a cat person, but that would explain his obsession with fishing, I guess).

Tracey is a friend of a friend: we were introduced via the wonderful world of Facebook some years ago for reasons I cannot fully recall but were probably along the lines of “you write, Tracey writes, discuss!” I don’t remember a lot about our first conversation other than Tracey asking me “so, are you a fan of John’s?” I’d no strong feelings either way but, compulsively polite as I am, I grasped for whatever positivity I could muster and answered something along the lines of “I do love Cool Runnings.” Which is true.

While we’ve never met in person I have taken an active interest in the progress of the book from an artistic point of view and would message Tracey occasionally to provide positive reinforcement. So I approached the finished article with some trepidation, worried I’d dug myself a hole in which I would have to say something nice about it because I’m a flaky kind of guy that doesn’t so much shy away from negativity and confrontation as assumes the foetal position and cry at its emergence. I’d taken that much of an interest, it was inevitable that my opinion would be sought. But, the Gods’ honest truth is, this book is actually damn good. Which was a relief in that a: I’d manage to get through it with my painfully short attention span and b: I wouldn’t have to lie when asked for my feedback.

I’m still in the process of reading the book – I am a painfully slow reader – but I can guarantee that I will be writing a five star review for it on Amazon when done. One of the things I love about it is the warmth Tracey brings to the text. There is an obvious affection for her subject but she executes the tone perfectly, stopping well short gushing fan girl territory. Each anecdote brings John fully to life on the page and some of the stories are genuinely hilarious. I couldn’t help coming away from each sitting with a little bit of love for a guy I’ve never really taken the time to appreciate.

As coincidence would have it, the friend that introduced us was the same person (shout out to Jo Bloodworth) who encouraged me to start this blog. While I’ve never really taken the time to make it work to its full potential, I guess it’s fitting that I use it as a platform to pimp Tracey’s book. Serendipity perhaps!

So, to coincide with the release, Tracey was kind enough to spare some time to answer a few of my burning questions.

LP: You said in the recent interview with the Shropshire Star that Searching For Candy is more than just a biography. It’s also a love letter to John. So let’s jump right in with, what do you love so much about John Candy?

TM: Well for starters, who doesn’t love John Candy? He is human, warm and funny. His characters are usually the underdog and he makes it OK to be so.  And he is just so damn kind, he makes me want to be a better person.

LP: When did he first come to your attention?

TM: Probably when I was around five or six, my cooler older brother, Dave, used to watch Brewster’s Millions and The Great Outdoors religiously – if I wanted to hang out with him I had to watch what he watched. John as an actor just spoke to me on the screen, he was just all heart and so funny.

LP: To put into context for today’s generation, which current actors are on a comparable level to John at his peak?

TM: Oooo this is a tough one and a very good question! I struggled to think of an answer, I probably think if I was to compare him to anyone it would be Steve Carell. Carell is so funny but also a wonderful dramatic actor – he was incredible in Little Miss Sunshine, I think in terms of diversity he’s probably as close as you are going to get at the moment, although I don’t think he is as universally loved like John, John was a one off really.

LP: What’s your all-time favourite John Candy movie?

TM: I flick between a few. Planes, Trains and Automobiles is pretty much perfect, so clever with genius casting – John Hughes hit the jackpot with that one. I also love Uncle Buck, Cool Runnings, The Great Outdoors, Brewster’s and Splash. However Only the Lonely  with Maureen O’Hara, which is probably one of his lesser known films, is just beautiful, a few people I’ve interviewed have said it’s closest to his real life character.

LP: Without giving away too much of the book, is there a favourite anecdote you have of John?

TM: There are so many! Without going into specifics, the book is full of kind and funny stories, I love every single one of them – I cannot tell you the joy you feel when someone you have idolized turns out to everything you wanted them to be… and more.

LP: I was going to start by asking you “with all the John Candy biographies on the market, what is lacking from them that makes you think we need another” but a quick search on Amazon reveals a startling lack of them. I think I saw just one that was out of print and written in 1999. So my question is, how have we managed to get this far without having a biography on someone who was such a massive star in his day?

TM: Honestly I don’t really know, from what I have heard a few people have tried but never managed to get a deal for the book. He doesn’t have any scandal, publishers prefer scandal – it sells.  I’m just glad mine is out there now and hopefully I’ll get to do a second edition at some point. What I do know is that John deserves more – so hopefully this is the start or re-addressing the balance.

LP: I assume you’ve read “Laughing On the Outside” as a John Candy fan and as a biographer of him. What is missing from that book that your book redresses/tackles from a different angle?

TM: Although the author, Martin Knelman, is a better writer than I will ever be, I hated the book. I felt like he had tried to show a darker side of John. I understand you need to give a 360 view but I think that if you focus purely on molehills and turn them into mountains it is not representative of a life. I just wanted something warmer for John, something written by someone who it feels – actually likes him! I figured if it didn’t exist I would give it a go, once you’ve told everyone what you are doing it’s hard to stop – even if you want to.

LP: What is it about certain people that we are so drawn to them, despite having never met them, that we want to read biographies about them?

TM: I think we are nosy. We love to know about other people’s lives, we like to find the similarities between us, that makes us feel like we have a stronger connection. We all want to know that the person we love on the screen, in the band, in the team etc  is the person we think they would be – it doesn’t always turn out that way, but with John he was everything I wanted him to be and more.

LP: So, how does someone from Shrewsbury even start going about researching a biography on someone who lived and worked thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean?

TM: It’s not as hard as you think. The web makes the world a much smaller place and although social media does have its downfalls – you can also reach out to people you would never usually be able to contact, sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t.  Research has a snowball effect, one person always leads to another.

LP: What obstacles have you faced?

TM: So many! Financial being a big one, it’s hard to work on something for seven years with no financial renumeration, so I’ve had to work alongside writing the book which can be frustrating as life just gets in the way. Alongside that I have had health problems and have been diagnosed with multiple chronic illnesses  whilst writing the book, I’ve also had five surgeries – three of which were around 4 hours long, so that has slowed me down. I guess living in the UK and not being that connected so to speak was a bit of an obstacle but one that could be overcome with tenacity, and being a new author it was hard to get people to take me seriously – no really I am writing a book about John Candy!

LP: In the preamble you touch on struggling to get certain individuals to speak to you. Do you hope these individuals will see the finished article and feel proud of what you’ve achieved?

TM: I really hope they do! I would love them to see that my intentions were true and for them to come forward for a second edition, whether or not that happens – I guess time will tell.

LP: What advice would you give to anyone else wanting to take this on? (writing a biography of one of their idols)

TM: I would say do it! But don’t do it for the money – do it for the love. If the money doesn’t come, then you still have the love. Understand when people say ‘no’, they don’t know you, especially like me if you have no track record, they don’t owe you anything – they are just trying to protect their loved one/friend/colleague. Keep going and a few years later you might find that ‘no’ turns into a ‘yes’, but if you are an asshole about it that won’t happen.

LP: Can you talk us through how you went about getting a “book deal” with the publisher?

TM: I actually ended up self-publishing. I chatted to a few different publishers – some said if I could get some scandal they would be interested, others that John was just too nice to warrant a book being written about him. I got sick of that attitude, I thought screw you guys, I’ll do it myself. It’s been a real learning curve and has taken me longer, but I can say I did it myself and there was no pressure to dig any dirt or embellish anything.  I was also really lucky to end up with a great team of people around me.

LP: How do you feel the advent of Wikipedia affects the demand for traditional biographies?

TM: I’m not sure it affects the demand either way – I guess some people are happy with the basic information, others might peek their interest so they seek out a more detailed biography.

LP: Is Wikipedia actually a blessing for would be biographers? Providing the skeleton onto which they place the flesh?

TM: I don’t think it’s a bad starting place, certainly in terms of getting a basic timeline together – obviously you can’t take everything as accurate on Wikipedia, but as a starting line it gives you something to work with.

LP: How much did you learn in the process of interviewing people that you didn’t already know? How much was getting people who were there to confirm what you’d already learned and needed their “gravitas” behind it?

TM: I always knew John was a nice guy and it was nice for them to confirm that for me, but there are so many stories that I didn’t know, even a few that have never been published before.

LP: Were there any instances where people outright disagreed on what happened in any events? How do you go about dealing with that in the text (do you take the word of one over the other? Give both versions of the events?)

TM: Not really – where people have had different versions of events I tried to give both sides, but there was no major discrepancies.

LP: You recently went to Toronto to take photographs, what was it like going there? (Did you have to pay for the trip out your own pocket or did the publishers foot the bill?)

TM: I’m self-published so I paid for the trip myself – in fact I’m still paying for it! Toronto was like a dream come true, I had wanted to go for years but after losing a dear friend in 2017 I felt like I couldn’t wait any longer as life is not promised for anyone. So on New Years Day 2018 I thought screw it and I booked tickets. The people of Toronto were so lovely and accomodating and I finally got to meet Juul Haalmeyer, the costume designer for SCTV and Jonathan O’Mara one of John’s old school friends which was such an honour and joy. Funnily enough, the pictures I took do not feature in the book – even though that was part of the reason to go, but I think more than anything I felt like a fraud. I was writing about a place I had never visited so I think it made me feel a whole lot better about that side of things. I wanted to walk down the streets John would have walked, soak up the atmosphere and get a really good feeling of why he loved Toronto so much, and I did.

LP: Book was released 25 years (and one day) after John’s passing. How’s that for symbolism? If you’d completed the book faster, it wouldn’t have happened like that.

TM: No you are right. Originally when I had to put the book back I felt like such a failure. Literally one thing after the other was happening.  I have really struggled with my health and that is something I have had to come to terms with over the last few years – you kind of grieve for yourself as you cannot live life the same as you used to – but you hang in there and you find another way. It certainly benefited the book too – imagine finishing earlier and not getting some of the interviews I have, imagine not going to Toronto, the book is richer for the delays I like to think.  I was never expecting to release the book around John’s anniversary, it kind of just fell that I finished it and that would work – for me it’s a tribute to John so hopefully people will see it as a positive thing.

LP: You address John directly, at the end of the preamble and say “I hope I made you proud.” I can’t speak for John, but I imagine you have.

Tracey and John f3e883 jpg

Tracey and John by Odandiee

Searching For Candy was released on 5th March 2019.

It is available on Amazon Kindle: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Searching-Candy-John-Biography-ebook/dp/B07N8JJTF4/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1552386647&sr=8-1

And in paperback: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Searching-Candy-John-Biography/dp/1999653319/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1552386647&sr=8-1&keywords=searching+for+candy+tracey+j+morgan

 

Avonturen in het Nederlands! Deel Vijf: A Well Deserved Pat On The Back

So! A brief follow up to yesterday’s post in anticipation of my first conversation with a Dutch speaker:

All in all, it went pretty well.

The little critical voice in my head likes to chirp up and say “you spoke English too much” or “you ran out of things to say” and “you should give up now, this is pointless,” but I’ve been doing ok countering that with my rational voice.

So, I’m not going to give any credence to any of the “negatives” in this post. Sure, I did speak a lot of English and I did exhaust my vocabulary in the course of the session but I’ve been learning this language for three fucking weeks. I’m going to give myself a break on that front.

Fact is, I spoke MORE Dutch than I would have expected someone with only three weeks of half arsed study to have been capable of, and maintained it a lot longer than I would have anticipated.

I also understood far more than I was expecting to. I was expecting to understand next to nothing, and I understood slightly more than that. And it will improve each time I do it.

Christelle, my language partner, was absolutely brilliant. She speaks excellent English, was incredibly patient and took the time to explain to me when I said anything that was not quite right. Some of it was stuff I already knew but in the heat and pressure of the moment had forgotten, some was brand new stuff that I can add to my arsenal.

We discussed the very basic stuff, how old we are, where we live, what we like.

I’m going to allow myself a moment of pride for the expression on her face when I said I’d only been learning three weeks. She said she was impressed with how much I did know in such a short space of time and claimed that I knew more Dutch in three weeks than she knew from a year of Portuguese lessons. I am sure that’s not true but I was still pleased with having managed to surpass expectation.

The little voice in my head is trying to pick fault, but the best it can come up with is stuff I wouldn’t have expected myself to be able to do.

The purpose of the exercise was to push myself out of the comfort zone and take the first scary step in getting out there and talking to real people. It wasn’t about proving myself competent or fluent, or to show off. It was all about taking a first baby step and I did that.

So it’s mission well and truly accomplished.

Where next?

Well, the idea of talking to someone new still seems pretty scary, so I guess that means I have to seek out another complete stranger to talk at.

I definitely want to work with Christelle again but worry that I have nothing new to say to her. But I am sure that will not be the case. I will just have to figure out in advance what I want to talk about so as not to be stuck.

Yesterday, I completed the Foundation Course of the Michel Thomas Method CDs and started on the Advanced Course this morning. So my knowledge is increasing every day and will continue to do so.

I just have to keep reminding myself, I might not be fluent (who is after three weeks, or even three months?) and there might be HUGE amounts of vocabulary and grammar I don’t yet understand (daunting amounts) but every day I know more than the day before which means that the amounts that I do not know are getting marginally smaller with each passing day.

As long as I can look at myself and say “I am better than I was yesterday,” nothing else matters.

Avonturen in het Nederlands! Deel Vier: Vandaag Is De Dag!

As the title suggests: today is the day. The day when I push myself out of my comfort zone in the name of self improvement.

At 8 o’clock this evening I will be chatting with a Dutch language partner online. No script, no time to type what I want to say into Google Translate to make sure it’s as close to perfect as possible, no way of reading what they’re saying to me – relying entirely on my ears – and no hiding my piss poor pronunciation! In short, pretty damn scary but also essential if I am going to progress beyond the point of scanning down written documents, identifying the words I know, Googling the ones I don’t and figuring out the gist of it.

Today, for the first time, I will be required to actually speak the language.

It’s gonna be messy, that is for sure. I will stumble a lot. I will nervously laugh a lot and have to ask them to repeat themselves slowly or even translate into English what they said. But this is the only way I am going to be able to progress and actually learn the language.

I found the partner on www.italki.com, which was recommended by www.fluentin3months.com. It’s a website where you can set up a profile and seek native speakers of your target language to either pay for formal lessons/speaking practice, or conduct a “language exchange” whereby you help them with English in exchange for them helping you with whatever language you’re after.

The challenge with trying to find a Dutch language partner is the fact that most Dutch people are fluent in English and don’t need your help. Thankfully, I’ve managed to find a charitable soul who will help me.

As scary as it is (while also exhilarating), it’s a damn sight less scary than going out into the street and trying to converse with people. At least in this instance, the person already knows I will have limitations and is mentally prepared to help me surpass those, and has the time to go slowly with it, as opposed to a random stranger in the street who may be busy, impatient, or both.

So, it’s scary because it’s new and I’m afraid of failing. But it’s also a safe space in which to fall.

Here goes nothing!

Avonturen in het Nederlands: Deel Drie, Een Succesje!

Small success to share with you all today.

The opportunity arose to email a supplier at work in Dutch. They’re a Dutch company and although they speak perfect English, it was an opportunity I just couldn’t pass up.

So I muddled through as best I could with my existing knowledge, checking Google Translate for the occasional gap in my vocabulary. I then copied and pasted the entire thing into Google Translate to double check that I hadn’t written anything horrendously offensive by mistake. To my surprise, it was largely accurate. I tweeked it a little to clarify tenses but only minor amendments were required. It wasn’t the most complicated of messages I was trying to get across but still!

I ended the message with an apology for my poor Dutch and explained that I was trying to learn and needed practice.

To further my delight, I understood their reply perfectly without needing to resort to Google Translate.

They were very kind and signed off with “jouw Nederlands is best goed voor iemand die geen Nederlander is!” Which means, “you suck, please speak English.” Or “your Dutch is quite good for someone who isn’t a Dutchman.”

They then continued “keep up the good work!” which made me think that I had improved so much in the course of the email that I had begun reading Dutch as if it were English. But it was not to be!

Not bad for a first attempt, all things considered!

Dutch

^^^ the email in question

Avonturen in het Nederlands! Deel Twee: Dutch I Learned From Game Of Thrones

I recently discovered that Game of Thrones DVDs have the option of Dutch subtitles, so I was able to kill two birds (crows? Too soon…Jon Snow has literally JUST died) with one stone and improve my Dutch while binge watching the entire series.

In the latest episode, I learned the expression “broer neuker,” which means “brother fucker.”

I can’t wait to use that in general chit chat!

Schaamte…

Avonturen in het Nederlands/Vlaams! Deel Een.

So! My girlfriend (Pixel – not her real name. Her parents aren’t hippies or overzealous computer nerds) and I are learning Dutch.

We both have a passion for learning to speak other languages  – borne out of our love of Germany. She is fluent in German, having studied up to A Level and regularly visits a family she befriended on a school exchange near Frankfurt some years ago; whereas I lived there for two years from 2000 to 2002 and can just about buy tickets to the football and a banana split. Speaking basic German to each other was pretty much one of the major bonding points in our early relationship.

My parents instilled in me a respect for local cultures when I visit a foreign country and the belief that just because someone can speak English, doesn’t mean they should have to in their own land. I feel it is basic manners to butcher a local tongue so badly that the person you’re speaking to takes pity on you and speaks back in your language (while simultaneously being delighted you at least made an effort). In the very least, I try to learn “can you speak English” and “thank you” in their language.

As a result, I can speak pathetic amounts of German, French and Spanish (Welsh too, but that was more a patriotic thing cos no fucker actually speaks that here).

So why Dutch?

Pixel’s parents tend to go to Ieper (Ypres) in Belgium several times a year and they go as a family for Armistice Day every year. This year I was invited along and the local dialect is Flemish (or Vlaams – pronounced fl-aah-msh) which is, roughly speaking, Dutch spoken with a French accent (according to Google. Apologies to the Flemish people for this gross oversimplification).

I’ll be honest, I didn’t make a concerted enough effort in advance of going as I really should have done.

I already owned the Michel Thomas Method Dutch course when I impulsively bought it for £20 some years ago (a real bargain, believe me. These things are expensive) and made a half arsed effort to do that in the car the week before I went, but only managed about half an hour of CD 1. I also used the Duolingo App, which Pixel previously introduced me to, and slowly picked my way through that.

Google also provided me with a few useful phrases and I knew the language was grammatically similar enough to German to be able to cobble together a few coherent sentences.

It was when we arrived in Dunkirk and I started reading the French road signs, which quickly became Dutch/Flemish signs, that I started to become excited about the prospect of learning more. I would parrot back the things I read, muddling through the pronunciation and when learning the meaning of the word, delighted in its similarity to German and English words I already knew (like Vlaanders , meaning Flanders).

I hit the Duolingo with a vengeance whenever we had Wi-Fi and me and Pixel would take great joy in sharing things we had learned or amused us.

We decided that we would carry on with it when we got back to the UK.

Now, this might seem pointless to a lot of people. The Dutch and Belgians are renowned for being multi lingual and if ever there was a case of “everyone speaks English already, you don’t NEED to learn it” this would apply well here. But, as I said, just because someone CAN speak English, doesn’t mean they SHOULD.

As the Flanders region has been described as a “home from home” by Pixel, I imagine I’ll return there more than once in the future (provided she doesn’t realise she’s too good for me and dump my ass). So there will be plenty of opportunity for me to use the language as well. So it’s not totally a vanity project like, say, Welsh would be.

The similarity to German gives us both a head start in figuring things out and subsequent progress (I am now on CD 7 of the Michel Thomas Method Foundation Course and about halfway through Duolingo) has been greatly helped by that. We’re enjoying it, and we have momentum behind us. I am probably at a stage where I am better at Dutch than I am German. Although it’s only three weeks since I started learning in earnest, I can already find myself needing to look up the odd word to understand something I am reading, and muddling through creating sentences in my own head.

I have a couple of Dutch friends, who I have tried to enlist to the cause of helping me practice. I explained the situation to one of them in my best Dutch, they replied that they were pleased I was learning and they understood everything I had tried to say and to keep it up. They have read and ignored subsequent attempts to engage them…

My next challenge – which is where I have never progressed in any of the other languages – is to seek out ways to actively speak it. It’s all very well being able to read websites and write WhatsApp messages, but it’s a totally different skill to be able to think on my feet and not only understand what someone is saying to me but formulate a response on the spot. So, I am on the lookout for people to actually properly speak to. I know it’ll be horrible and I will (to coin the expression used by Benny Lewis, author of Fluent in 3 Months) talk in “Tarzan speak” but that’s natural and all part of the learning process. It’s just a case of being brave enough to allow myself to appear so inept in front of other people.

Successes and Failures:

Ok. So there haven’t been many successes to speak of. But three incidents in Belgium make me smile to think of on the “fail” front.

The first occurred when we checked into the house we were staying in. The owner spoke beautiful English but, being stubborn, I wanted to engage her on her terms.

I was of the opinion that I could just about muddle through the language but would need some help with pronunciation. So I taught myself the phrase for “how do you pronounce this?” Thinking I could say that and point at a word. The only problem was I had to ask for guidance on how to pronounce the word for “pronounce” (uitspreken), which was something of a double ended sword.

So I wrote it down and garbled as best I could “hoe uitspreekt je dit?” and she slowly pronounced the “ui” noise (for those of you that are interested, think of the “oa” in “oat” but a bit posher) and neither of us acknowledged the irony of my request.

In a bar on the last morning, I plucked up the courage to ask for my hot chocolate in Dutch. I thought I nailed it but she answered in English. So clearly I wasn’t fooling anyone with my nationality.

But it was better than the day before when I, again, nailed asking for a waffle in Dutch and not only did she talk back to me in English there was clearly a button on the till for them to press that informed the reader of the language of the customer for calling out their order (I heard French spoken in there as well as Dutch/Flemish) and mine said “Engels” (English) in big friendly letters.

Which was a slap in the face.

Waffle was good, mind.