Category: Blog

May 17th, 2013 by Vobes

ne-beach We haven’t had great weather this year, so when the sun comes out and the opportunity to sit in the garden to work arises, then I have to take advantage. The importance of getting Vitamin D from the suns rays cannot be over stated either. We spend too much time in doors looking at dreaded computers screens.
Yesterday, the sun was out all day and there was little or no wind and so I rigged up an old computer with flat screen monitor in the garden. It was better than the laptop for two reasons. Firstly, the laptop screen isn’t anywhere near bright enough and second it is slower than the tower case computer. It took only a few minutes to lash the thing together and I was able to enjoy the sunshine, copious amounts of tea and write and edit my book, which thankfully is close to the end.
I love the sun and generally do not burn, although I still advise a slow build up to the time spent in it. Kids, apparently, are not getting enough sunshine and I have heard that Rickets has made a come back. Doctors are concerned as there is not a huge amount of Vitamin D in most people’s diets.
So, if you can, get out in the sun!

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May 7th, 2013 by Vobes

booksI am reading loads of social history at the moment. I love it. I am fascinated by people and their lives, particularly in history. It is helping me with my writing work too as well as the Bald Explorer programmes. I think a broad understanding of where we have been and how we have developed is essential for a writer.

I am particularly curious about the poorer members of society. We all think we are hard done by at certain times in our lives, but on the whole this is nothing to the hardships that people in history have had to suffer. I do think it is important to remember how far we have come, the diseases we have conquered.

History is so important in our lives. To understand the past is to obtain a grip on the present and to some extent to appreciate the future.

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May 5th, 2013 by Vobes

I have made a decision. I have deleted and got rid of all posts on my Facebook account prior to 2013. The Bald Explorer page is fine, just the personal one. Not that I have uploaded anything I am ashamed at or want to hide particularly, but because I want to manage my digital life, not them.

Fortunately I have this blog where I shall put my digital information which people if they wish and using a search engine people can find it. I have started to be very wary about all the digital stuff out in the open. I always have and only post relevant stuff generally to my projects.

The right to be forgotten, or to remove my own content as and when I wish must remain with me. If I die, I want my children or next of kin to be able to access my accounts and access memories of me, if they wish to. Facebook locks you out. So, my digital world on Facebook is going to be restricted to a few months at a time and then removed. I can store my stuff else where. Simple.

As to Twitter? Well, judging from the response I get from posts on that, I think barely any sees anything I tweet, so shall cut right back. There is so much noise out there as it is and when you don’t tweet or post on Facebook, no one notices anyway.

Notice the words. I will cut back, not stop. There is a difference. I do believe that a blog is a far better place to communicate and it stops the timeline getting clogged with pictures of sodding cats, dogs and stupid so called witty puzzles and wisecracks. Jeez.

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March 20th, 2013 by Vobes

The book is going well, thanks for asking. I am have to say I am thoroughly enjoying the writing process. And thank God for the spell checker. The one thing that doesn’t seem to improve for me is getting the words written correctly on the page. Some of it is due to the lack of knowledge, which order the little letters ought to be in and the other is coordinating the fingers on the keyboard being too not speedily enough to fit the pace my brain wants to work at.

Although work is thin on the ground at the moment and the usual worries about where the next meal is coming from are continually uppermost in my mind, the time off has allowed me to get down to the creative process of hacking a children’s book together. I have a number of written projects I wish to complete, but the most commercial I think is my Splidge, the Cragflinger kids novel.

It is set in the make believe world of Gud, a fantasy place where I have the advantage of allowing anything to happen. There is a weird logic to the place, but it may not necessarily be a rational one. For example, ‘plastics’ do exist, but the motor car does not. Playing God is fun when dreaming up the characters and all that happens to them and I suppose it allows one to disappear into a world where I have loads of control rather than the so called Real one, that I do not.

I am rather hoping to have this draft finished by the end of March and then edited for publication by the last week in April. It is aimed at the 9-12 year group, so I am not expecting my readers or listeners to the podcasts to clamour to read it, and even if they did, I don’t even know how I could evaluate their opinions anyway. If kids enjoy it then that is all that will matter to me.

There is often a stigma attached to writing or performing children’s material. It is as if it isn’t quite ‘proper’ or ‘real work’. A writer friend of mine even mentioned it to me, forgetting that I was working on my particular story and went on to say that it wasn’t the same as producing a real work of fiction. I do have to protest at that and of course challenge that individual to have a go at a children’s book genre first before saying it isn’t in the same class. Each have their problems.

I think personally kids are going to be a harder audience to write for in fact because if they get bored or loose they train of thought, they have no qualms about chucking the book away and moving on to something more shiny and inviting. Many adults will give the author the benefit of the doubt. ‘Oh, its his first novel,’ they might say, ‘I will give a another hour or so to see if it wakes up a bit.’ Kids wont do that. If they are not engaged, its dead.

We shall we see where I score on this front when it is finished. That’s going to be the time to hide down a hole, if it all goes wrong.

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March 10th, 2013 by Vobes

I have been a little busy to post on this blog recently. Does any one read it anyway? I am writing my children’s book that I started in 1988. I originally wrote the thing as a series of mini adventures, send it off to publishers and got nowhere. However, it has been in my mind to re-work it for sometime and that is what I am doing.

The funny thing about this version is I really do not feel as if I am writing it. The characters have taken over and, in effect, are dictating what goes on to me. It’s very odd. No matter how I try and keep to a prearranged plot, they interrupt, do the opposite and change everything. I am not sure how that works, but it keeps you on your toes.

As I say it is a children’s book and aimed for the 9-12 year age group. I believe that makes it harder than normal fiction to write because a child will put the book down if they are bored, so you really have to work to keep them engaged. That doesn’t mean that it has to be all plot and no substance. I do think children love little details that make them smile. You just have to be inventive. This doesn’t seem to be a problem for me as I love coming up with crazy logic.

Anyway, I will carry on and let you know when it is ready and if there are any big kids out there, you might even enjoy giving it a read.

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November 5th, 2012 by Vobes

My special warm office wear…

I have a feeling that it is going to be a harsh winter. Weather wise it has been a pretty shit year. I haven’t managed to get out to shoot all I wanted to as all the good weather appeared to clash with work or when assistants were unavailable. Regrettably so far I have only managed to shoot one Bald Explorer episode. The good news is that the first three are on the TV.

I have no heating in my house. When I bought it there were antiquated gas fires in several of the rooms. Over the past twenty years these have given up the ghost or proved too dangerous to keep using and have been removed. Consequently, it is cold in the winter time and incredible as it may seem, it often is colder inside than out.

Do something about it you cry! That would be nice. In the journey to follow my dreams, (the thing that feature films, books and TV programmes tell us to do), the ‘reach for the stars’ has meant that most of the time I am actually broke and just earning enough to keep my head above water. There is no cash to buy central heating. So we have to make do with expensive plug in electric fires when it is extremely cold. I know, it is my choice.

I do have a wood burning stove in my front room and it is our saviour and it does manage with the front room door open to take the edge of the temperature in the rest of the house, but logs are not cheap and burn too quickly and cold is messy and bad for the environment. You can’t win.

The energy giants who fleece us on the cost of gas and electricity and make vast profits need to be taught a lesson. There has to clever people designing new technology that can heat homes cheaper than the conventional methods. Maybe all the poor ash trees that have been affected will be sold off cheaply so people like me can buy it to keep warm? I doubt it. Any sign of a big profit and these bastards will sting us again.

So meanwhile, I press on with my projects and TV ideas in the vain hope that one day someone will spot me and think he has a good idea and pay me enough to survive. Until then I will keep wearing my woolly hat and thick jumpers. I am not complaining, its just a point of fact. :)

Keep warm out there!

Posted in Blog

November 1st, 2012 by Vobes

Narrow boats on the Shropshire Union Canal

This week I have been on location doing my research for another Bald Explorer episode. Now that I have the programme on the Community Channel and they are keen to have more I want to up the anti, so to speak, and provide more involved productions.

One subject I have been working on is the history of the canals and in particular the maintenance and repair work to keep them open. The Canal and Rivers Trust have very kindly given me access to their ‘stoppage programmes’. These are days when sections of the canals are closed and a team of dedicated volunteers concentrate on specific repair work. In one instance, I believe, at Welshpool, in Powys, Wales, they are going to remove and replace a pair of lock gates. I should think it will make interesting footage.

I am also going to be following the work of the Shrewsbury and Newport Canal Trust who have given themselves the task to try to open the now disused and totally abandoned canal that once ran from the county town of Shropshire in the West Midlands to the Shropshire Union Canal. In all, 17 miles of restoration work. It wont be easy as most of it has been filled and ploughed over by farmers. Some areas have car parks and brick buildings on it and others have in filled locks. Fortunately, most of the farmers whose land the canal runs through are enthusiastic about the reinstatement.

An infilled lock at Newport in Shropshire waiting for restoration.


Bernie Jones, the chairman of the trust, tells me with great enthusiasm and gusto that it is all possible. Never before has there been a time when there has been more interest in canal restoration. New materials for lining them are available and with a few property developers are on board who can see the market potential of a few desirable homes along the length, the cost of project is a lot lower than one might expect. It makes it more likely to happen.

I am very excited for Bernie and the other Volunteers. I took a trip along route of the old canal to see what elements of the story I could transpose to video. There are plenty of fascinating features. Wappenshall Junction, for example, lying about half way along the route, is an amazing lost in time wharf where at one time merchandise was loaded and unloaded, repairs carried out, supplies obtained and horses that use to pull the barges, tubs and narrow boats housed or exchanged. There is an original building designed by Thomas Telford, the famous civil engineer who did some much work on the canals in Britain at the height of the Canal Mania at the end of the 18th Century. This will be restored and opened up as a centre to pay homage to the great man. The junction is important because a cut leads off from the main canal down towards Telford at Trench, where there was a lot of coal works during the height of the Industrial Revolution.

I can’t wait to get filming on this wonderful project. I will of course keep you posted.

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August 5th, 2012 by Vobes

The other weekend, my very good friend Harriet and I took a trip to the medieval town of Hay on Wye, renown of course for its annual literary festival and unusual number of second hand book shops. For someone like me who adores real books, this is something of a Mecca, yet curiously I didn’t enter one of them and more striking managed to leave the town without purchasing a single book!

The town itself is just in Wales in Powys, a couple of miles north of the Black Mountains and within the Brecon Beacons National Park and adjoins the county of Herefordshire in England. It sits along the River Wye, as its name suggests and there is a marvellous road bridge that carries you across this shallow but fast flowing river and offers excellent views, either on foot or by car.

What is curious about Hay on Wye, apart from the bookshops and the vast number of independent shops and obvious lack of chain stores, is the fact that there are two castles. Firstly there is the remains of the earthworks from the Motte and Bailey castle close to St. Mary’s Church on the western side of the town, the bailey now under tarmac and a large car park. It would have been built as part of the push into Wales after the Norman Conquest. If you were not aware of its existence, as I suspect many people are not, it is easily missed. The second castle, more dominantly, sits high up on in the centre of town, sadly now in stone ruins with a more recent mansion house attached.

It is not a terribly large town and doesn’t take long to transverse its higgledy-piggledy streets, which probably remain very much as they developed in the middle ages when they served their Norman Lordships, but there is a beautiful collection of architecture to encounter. If like me you like to look up above the shop fronts and plate glass windows of the ground level, you will enjoy a terrific feast of old buildings, sagging rooftops, chimney, gabled ends, dormer windows, cornices and finials, cobbled together in a way that only British towns seems to do. There is an excellent example of a butter market made up of Doric columns of classic Roman or Grecian design, unfortunately locked when I visited.

As to what shops I did venture in, well, Harriet took me in to buy some clothes from some excellent independent businesses and I was very thrilled with my selection. I will have to go back again and take a large wallet of spending money to purchase a big stack of books.

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July 25th, 2012 by Vobes

A question I continual struggle with is, as the title of this blog post asks, does the various types of social media do what it says it does on the tin? The answer has to be that it certainly seems to for some, but for others, and unfortunately I have to include myself in this category, it drastically falls short of those promises.

The trap I fell into, many years ago now, was believing a friend of mine who said that if you cannot get Muhammad to go to the mountain, then take the mountain to him. The inference was that if you are struggling to get a television programme idea accepted by the broadcasters then use another source of transmission device to reach your audience. I am talking about the Internet.

While the Internet had revolutionized many businesses, making communications quicker, faster and cheaper and with it purchasing products and services less tedious and tiresome, it has offered a lot of promises which I have discovered, for me, it does not keep.

Despite the fact that millions of people are wired to the web via their various computers and mobile devices and access to content is available in milliseconds, getting enough people to find, like and enjoy my productions has been a struggle. Social media was supposed to change all that, but it appears to have let me down too.

Presumably because it works for many others, it is down to the way I use it and the content I provide. There is no silver bullet and the task is to find the right way of using the tools currently available to me and adapt the content that I make to suit the possible audience.

The snag, however, and a truism at that, is that even if you do, this audience still expects to have the content I produce, whether podcast or video made available for free. To tell the truth, I have run out of the resources and inclination to do that any more.

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