Monday, 3 August 2015

My First Leicester Writer Visitor - John Martin

An August Blog Event - Leicester Writers

Leicester is alive with writers. They cover all genres. Here in Leicester we have writers' clubs, writing crit groups, poetry groups and spoken word meetings, not to mention a wealth of writing courses to help us to hone our skills in all of the above.

On the first Tuesday of each month (except for August because it's the holiday) Farhana Shaikh organises a writers meet-up at a well known Leicester cafe. Anyone can join us. Just buy a coffee and come upstairs. If you want to know more about it then tweet Farhana on @farhanashaikh

Last month, during one of the Tuesday morning meet-ups, I invited local writers to visit me here on my blog and tell everyone a bit about themselves and their writing. Today I would like to introduce you to someone with a similar love to myself; music and writing. Please give a warm welcome to my first Leicester Writer Visitor, John Martin:

Music and crime - Strange Bedfellows?

I have loved crime fiction and music for as long as I can remember, and there's no doubt they often go together. Famously Inspector Morse (Colin Dexter) was a classical music fan, while Ian Rankin's John Rebus was more likely to be found sitting in a bar listening to the Rolling Stones. Meanwhile Nottingham detective Charlie Resnick (John Harvey) loved jazz, and Ngaio Marsh's Swing Brother Swing  (1949) is set in the world of 1940s swing clubs.

My love of crime fiction has resulted in my book Crime Scene Britain and Ireland: A Reader's Guide (Five Leaves, 2014, £9.99), but my love of music could have led me into writing much sooner. Way back in the 1970s I was an avid music fan, devouring as many music papers as I could. In those days we were well served by the likes of Sounds, Melody Maker & NME, not to mention Disc and Music Echo, and Zigzag . I wanted to be a music writer - for access to bands, of course, but more importantly, to girls. 

In 1977 I went to my first really big concert - Pink Floyd at the Empire Pool, Wembley, and I was so impressed that I went home (well, back to my student digs) and wrote a 5 page review. I saw them again in 1980 when they first performed their worldwide best-selling album The Wall, and again I went home and wrote it up.  If I had been brave, and sent them off to Melody Maker, who knows who they might have impressed? As it was I did nothing, and so when I was offered the opportunity to write my book in 2012 I had no real background as a writer. 

Often authors say they have a novel or two hidden away that will never see the light of day. In my case it was two concert reviews, written in spidery handwriting on classic student-style lined paper.  Does that count?

John Martin
Author and Speaker

If you are a Leicester writer and you would like to be a visitor on my blog during my August Blog Event then please drop me an email at rosalind.kathryn @

Leah Osbourne will be my second Leicester Writer Visitor.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

A Bit Black Over Bill's Mother's

A weather-related blog post

You've got to feel sorry for Bill's Mother this summer. For those of you who are bemused by this statement, it is the local slang for describing that darkening sky that precedes a downpour. I have no idea where it comes from and have found a number of conflicting explanations on the Internet. If anyone knows its derivation then please do tell!

So far this summer apart from one really lovely hot day, which, if I'm not mistaken, was a Wednesday some time in June, I've lost count of the number of times I've said,

      "Ey Up! It's a bit black over Bill's Mother's!" followed by a cloud burst of rain.

The scene shown below was the state of the sky from the kitchen window about half an hour ago. This was followed by rain which was followed by sun which will, no doubt, be followed by more exclamations of regret for Bill's Mother.

I wonder what we would talk about, here in the UK, if it wasn't for the weather.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Are You Influenced by Advertising?

I’ve always insisted that advertising does not influence me. I avert my eyes during the TV adverts and, when I look at my Twitter timeline, I ignore the obligatory advert flashing up just below the top tweet. Advertising passes me by, or does it?

I belong to a monthly discussion group and this afternoon the proposal was that advertising is evil. The discussion went something like this:

Surely we can ignore advertising. No we can’t. We might think that we are ignoring it but it works its way into our psyche.

Surely advertising can't harm us. Yes, it can. In the last century there were many adverts that would now make us throw up our hands in horror; adverts for smoking that involve babies (see left), adverts using the female body to sell cars, adverts convincing us that it is good to eat sugar as it helps weight loss.

We discussed the OXO family adverts, that ‘perfect’ 1960s nuclear family. We remembered the coffee romance adverts and the bizarre Meercat phenomenon. Without adverts there would be no newspapers as they rely on the revenue but then surely prices would be lower if companies didn’t have to pay such a lot for advertising.

We talked about how annoying it is when you click on a website about, for example, Spanish holidays and then get bombarded by adverts about such holidays. It’s this type of thing that is unnerving. Advertisers are delving into our lives, finding out things about us that maybe we don’t want them to know.

What do you think about advertising?

One of my favourite TV adverts (apart from Nick Kamen in the launderette, of course) is Maureen Lipman and the ‘ology’ advert for BT. 

What’s your favourite advert?

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Those Spammers

I have had to change my commenting facility on this blog. I have gone back to Registered Users and Open ID only. I apologise to all those genuine commenters who may be affected by this but I’m afraid the spammers have finally got to me.

I’m not obsessive about stats but I do occasionally look at my blog statistics. Usually there are five or six people on the blog at any one time. I don’t know who, of course, just the number of visitors. But every now and then there is a massive spike in the number of visits. I've shown an example below when some time late on 10th July my blog received 134 visits in the space of about half an hour.

This is not a cause for rejoicing, leaping around or patting myself on the back because I run such a successful blog. It is a sign that spammers have visited and I am about to be bombarded by spam comments.

Spam comments are illogical. Quite often they are no more than a string of disconnected words. I know that they don’t read this blog but if any of them do, can I point out that I refuse to allow myself to read what they say. I look at enough to establish that this is spam and then I delete it. I never visit their website and I would never, ever click on any of the links that they might include in the comment. In other words, Spammer, “You are wasting your time!”

It’s a shame that people trawl the Internet in this way. It’s an annoyance that they have affected my blog to such an extent that I have to change my security settings. I’m sure that most of my spammers are harmless enough. I wouldn’t know because, like I say, I’ve never visited, but there are, as we know, harmful people lurking, and that’s the biggest shame of all.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Take Off - a poem

My usual poetry writing is definitely the 'tee-tum-tee-tum' style. I enjoy writing it and, judging from your comments, you enjoy reading it. One of my favourites is Tomorrow but today I'm trying a different style.  (Apologies for the corny DJ link!) 

This is a piece of poetry that I'm planning to read out loud at a poetry meeting and so it could possibly be referred to as Spoken Word. Whatever the official title of its style, can you please read it in a kind of rapper's voice and all crit comments will be gratefully received. Thank you. Incidentally this really did happen, but not to me thankfully:

Take Off

Doors secure, engines roar, seatbelt light engaged
Life jackets, safety packets, demonstrations staged
Revs growl, wheels roll, runway now in sight
Nervous gasps, fists clasped, anticipate the flight

Ears vibrate

Engines slow, silence grows, the pilot says ‘regret’
Turning round, still on the ground, are we under threat?
From hostage takers
safety breakers
Anti-establishment fist shakers
Did air traffic say, ‘no’?
Would the lift-up thingy not go?
Was there the wrong kind of airflow?

To departure

Seat belt light goes out, passengers put out, sent out
Cabin staff regret, no threat, not yet but…

Next day’s papers, page four near the bottom on the right
“Mouse on board caused havoc to last night’s Madrid flight.”