Thursday, 6 March 2014

World Book Day Ray Bradbury and me!

It's World Book Day today this 6th March and I thought I'd bring you up to date if you don't mind on a busy couple of weeks in Reader In Residence land.

Book groups are flourishing in libraries across the Scottish Borders and in those two weeks I’ve visited a fair number of them. My little car rocking and rolling down this road and up that road to the Rolling Stones Jumping Jack Flash and always my favourite It’s Only Rock and Roll but I like It. 
I’ve stopped off in the libraries in Innerleithen, Peebles and Kelso.  Also at
the book groups taking root in Berwickshire High School and Hawick High School.
Books books and more books discussed and debated over. 
In that short space of time I’ve learned about books totally unknown to me which are now on my reading list. 
That is the thing about book groups with every meeting and visit your world expands.
Most of the books read are new, recently new, or a book like The Talented Mr Ripley which I had never read seemed recent to me.
The effect of the film which I had seen maybe? 
Looking it up I was shocked to discover the film was made in 1999 (never!!) and the book published in 1955. (Get away with you!)

Funny how the mind works shifting some memories forward and others back in time.

Which brings me neatly I hope onto the title of this blog World Book Day Ray Bradbury and me!
In the run up to and in my role as Reader In Residence I’ve been working with the librarian, teachers and pupils from Kelso High School in their build up to their celebrations on the day.   Together we’ve worked on an improvised drama around favourite characters from favourite books.    I’ve also read to the gathered assemblies of first to sixth year excerpts from one of my favourite authors and books.
Yep you’ve guessed it—Ray Bradbury. 
In thinking about what I was going to read I tried this book and that author on for size. Like many things the first instinctive thought that comes into your head tends to be the true thing. 
For me that was Ray Bradbury and his book of short stories The Illustrated Man.  A book published in 1952 but when read feels like it was written today.
I’ve loved this book since I first read it in my teens.  It has remained a lifelong favourite. I've lost count of the number of times I’ve taken it down from my shelves over the years and settled down for hugely imaginative  well told tale. 
In fact when I was looking for it this time for the reading I discovered I had three copies! 
At the assemblies as well as reading an excerpt I explained why I so admired this book and this author. 
For one thing as a writer its the cleverness of the premise of the Illustrated Man himself as a device for linking the stories.  Almost like a modern ‘Once Upon A Time’ with pictures that come to life and after that particular tale is told you turn the page and another image is alive with story.
The imagery vibrantly visual through Bradbury’s language.  Above all was the fact that all this cleverness and rich language never overshadowed the story itself.  They served it.  They were never tricks.  They were never showing off. 
It was writing with a pure imaginative emotionally charge.
That is why it has truly stayed with me all these years.  Like many of his novels and stories do.  That is why it was the first book that popped into my mind when I was asked to read something in the run up and in celebration of World Book Day.
As I said to the assembled pupils and teachers he’s well worth hunting out to rediscover or if you’ve never read him.  
 Give him a go and see what you think.

Did I enjoy myself?  Goes without saying.  They were a brilliant audience.  Thanks to them for listening and for the librarian and staff for asking me to participate.

Today on World Book Day itself  I’ll be back doing something I always fancied doing--acting as a quiz master. This will in the school’s special World Book Day literary quiz.
What a responsibility!  Should be fun. 
It’ll be interesting to see how many of the questions I would have got right without the answers in front of me of course!

That was going to be me for now but as I write I’ve just spotted another Ray Bradbury book above my desk.
Zen in the Art of Writing.
A book you’ve gathered I keep close.
It’s a book of essays.  As it says on the blurb on the back.   eleven exuberant essays on the pleasures of writing…’       
It’s a gem of a book wise and practical as well as entertaining.
I’m away to dip into it one more time starting with Investing Dimes: Fahrenheit 451.’  Now there’s another interesting book that seems like it was written today!

Like visiting or being a member of a book group one book leads to another.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Dr Feelgood:Roxette.



I don’t like throwing things out.   I take after my dad in that respect. 
There comes a time though if only for the need for space so that new things can be accumulated to never be thrown out tough decisions have to be made.  So cupboards are delved into and the nether world below beds is explored and…you find a box and in that box are LP’s that sing of another time.

You come across one of your all time favourite bands Dr Feelgood and all time favourite LP ‘Down By The Jetty’.
You remember buying it the last time you forgot then discovered then remembered.

You hear the music as clear as yesterday inside your head.
You remember when you wrote the article below.  How it appeared on the Laura Hird website a few years back.

Here it is.  My thoughts and feelings are exactly the same as then. 
I’ve brought it up to date slightly.


Bands and songs like people can drift out of sight and mostly out of mind as you move on both physically and emotionally. Never entirely though. They still linger there seemingly dormant and years can go by and never a thought crosses the front of your brain, and then…You browse and on some nostalgic impulse you buy the DVD of ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’.
Why? 
Because like old photographs it takes you back to another time before itunes and downloads or YouTube and all there was (or seemed to be) was Bob Harris whispering his introductions to loud guitars and even louder hair.
It takes you back to the insistent beat, the crazy jerky guitar playing of Wilko Johnson, diagnosed with cancer in 2013 but still playing occasionally I think.
He has also appeared in Game of Thrones.
Then of course there was the singing and harmonica of Lee Brilleaux.   

I like all sorts of music then and now.  A lot of it I still have and listen to but Dr Feelgood somehow fell of my particular radar. And I don’t know why especially watching and listening to them again from 1975, pounding out ‘Roxette’ from the ‘Down by the Jetty’ album.  I used to have everything by Dr Feelgood.
‘ Roxette’ and ‘Down By the Jetty’ remain my favourite. 
That image of them on Whistle Test has come dancing up from the back of my brain and is beating its rhythm inside my head now as I write.

When you listened to Feelgood that’s exactly how you came away feeling.  It was impossible to keep still. And that was very important to a teenager back then wondering like every other teenager then and since where the hell he was going. For a few minutes you left all that behind.  I wouldn’t find out until years later where I was heading, when I gave up trying to climb the greasy pole of the textile industry which I had drifted into on leaving school, and decided that it was a writer’s life for me, come rain, hail or sunny weather.
Discovering Dr Feelgood again prompted me to find out what had happened to them since.   It was then that I found out that they were still going strong but that Lee Brilleaux had died in 1994. It was like finding out an old school pal that you had lost touch with had died.  He was only forty two. It made you feel like you should have kept in touch more. 

It’s glib but true to say that he, and the band, still continue through the music.  They For me that music was epitomised in ‘Roxette’.  I’ve gone past the nostalgia part now and listen to it for what it is.  
Everlasting top of the range Rhythm'n' blues.  Music that you just have to move to even if the bones creak ever so slightly now.

Time to forget the delving into cupboards and making space except inside my head for that music.  Time for YouTube to see and listen and try to move to Dr Feelgood all over again.