Thunderbirds are Go! (Day Eleven Writing 101)

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1966 was a very good year in my hometown it was the year England won the World Cup and everyone was excited about that.

I was twelve years old and from what I can remember I seemed to play from dawn till dusk getting up to all sorts of mischief. I might be looking back through rose coloured glasses but from what I can remember the summers were sunnier and the days longer that they appear to be now.

I lived with my parents and my younger brother in a house that had three bedrooms and unusually for the time a bathroom with an indoor toilet, (which was a novelty to many of my friends). Now not many people will remember the trip down the garden to the toilet late at night with a torch, but I can assure you it was every bit as terrifying as it sounded when you were twelve. So when we moved into our new house that was one tradition I was pleased to see the back of.

Now in 1966 central heating was the domain of the wealthy and to stay warm we had large roaring fires in every room which made you warm at the front but because of the draughts cold at the back.

The only luxury I can remember was the TV that sat in the corner of our front room that we were allowed to watch until 6.00 pm when the adult programmes started. Now the big programme that my mates and myself watched and never missed an episode of was Thunderbirds, to us it was the ultimate in adventure and had a group of brothers all doing great stuff to help save people who found themselves in peril.

I look back at those programmes now and think they look a bit dated but back in the day I can remember pretending to be Scott Tracy in Thunderbird One. Now back then we didn’t have anything but our imagination and our bikes to play on, but riding around the neighbourhood making jet noises and swooping in on anything that needed rescuing was great fun.

We even had our token girl in our gang only because Lady Penelope was cool and had a pink Rolls Royce with guns. Our lady Penelope had a pink bike and we always seemed to be picking her up of the floor because she couldn’t steer her bike very well.

It seems strange that Thunderbirds has recently been updated and with the latest animation techniques seems to have reinvented the programme for a whole new audience, which is never a bad thing.

The only down side is the fact it doesn’t quite live up to the programmes I remember enjoying as a twelve year old, but then again its 48 years since the last time I watched it and what was fiction then in most instances has become a reality today, but try explaining that to your twelve year old Grandchildren. They look at you as though you lived in prehistoric times.

Childhood Celebrations

Celebrations, were do I begin. My childhood was full of celebrations but I was to young to appreciate what was happening.

I was fortunate to be a part of a fairly extended family, geographically speaking. Now I know that in American terms 100 miles is around the corner but to us in England in the sixties it may well have been on another planet.

Celebrations happened every time we met usually in the summer holidays, when haymaking was to be done and my parents took a break from the factories they worked in and worked on the land for two weeks helping my Uncle Paul and Aunty Vera to bring in the harvest.

Its strange that when you are young the summers seem endless and your family seem to be immortal. I loved those summers, building castles out of bails of hay, walking to the village for sweets and sitting in the Pub garden waiting for your parents to finish talking no doubt with a drink or two on the way.

What I remember more that anything was the dark, not just dark like when you live in a town  but the ink black dark punctuated with stars that made you feel very, very small and insignificant.

I suppose thats why we always had lashing of hot chocolate to get over the ordeal of walking home with my older cousins telling ghost stories to frighten the living daylights out of us younger ones on the way home.

Celebrations in the sixties were small affairs but special never the less. Today the expectation of the young is that you will be educated  to become highly successful without having the time to savour those magical moments that made my childhood magical.

So here is my challenge to all the Grand Parents out there, take time to relive the magical moments that you had as a child. Forget computers and technology but watch the face of your grandchild when you show them something truly magical. A kingfisher darting in the stream, the full moon rising over the moors or even how to skim stones on a lake.

It matters not a jot what it is, but whatever you remember from your childhood and I will guarantee your grand kids will find it magical, just like you did.

The Proposal Scene 01

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This is a scene that I wrote for a short film based in the eighties in a village pub somewhere in rural northern England

Scene 01

The small bar was full with people chatting and stood at the bar. Doreen the barmaid serving a beer to Dave at the bar.

DOREEN

There you go love, I’ll just get your nuts.

DAVE

Well I’m up for that but I don’t think Nancy will take that to lightly.

Dave nods over in Nancy’s direction laughing.

 DOREEN

Less of that sort of talk otherwise I will get George to bar you.

GEORGE  (The Landlord)

What’s that Doreen? Is he giving you lip again.

DOREEN

Don’t worry George, I’ll have a word with Nancy She will sort him out.

Dave Picks up the drinks and walks over to the table were Nancy is sitting, she looks at him and shakes her head.

NANCY

What have you been up to? What have I told you about flirting with that trollop.

I’ll stop you coming in here if you carry on like this.

Dave nods his head in disbelief, sits down and puts Nancy’s drink on the table.

DAVE

I was only having a bit of fun, I didn’t realise It was a crime to have a laugh nowadays.

Anyway I have a surprise for you, but you have to guess what it is.

Dave goes into his pocket and puts a wrapped box on the table. Doreen Looks over from the Bar and says to George.

DOREEN

It looks like we could have a proposal on the cards George.

George is stood drying a glass and looks up and at Doreen

GEORGE

Bloody Hell I know he’s not very bright but even he’s not that stupid!

Nancy looks at the Wrapped Box and smiles and looks at Dave, smiling and expecting a life changing experience.

DAVE

Come on then have a guess.

NANCY

You will have to give me a clue

DAVE

A clue,erm

Dave takes a drink

DAVE

Its something that people all over the world have done and are still doing even now.

Nancy’s eyes widen in anticipation

NANCY

Is it something have always wanted

DAVE

Possibly

NANCY

Look Dave i am hopeless at guessing

Doreen shouts over

DOREEN

It looks like its from the Jewelery store to me

NANCY

I wasn’t asking for your opinion if you don’t mind we are having a private conversation.

DOREEN

Sorry I didn’t think it was that private with all the noise you are making.

GOERGE (the Landlord)

For godsake put us all out of our misery just open the bloody thing.

DAVE

Go on them get it opened.

Nancy starts ripping at the wrapping paper and then stops and looks puzzeled.

NANCY

What the hell is it?

DAVE

Its a Rubik Cube, they are all the rage.

NANCY

A Rubik Cube, what use is that to anyone

DAVE

I bought it off your brother he said they are all the rage.

NANCY

But whats the point of it.

DAVE

You have to get all the colours to match on each side

NANCY

Like I said whats the point.

Dave takes another drink

DAVE

So what did you think it was

NANCY

If I have to tell you it doesnt mean anything does it.

DAVE

doesnt it?

NANCY

Dave we have been going out now for Ten years, don’t you think its time you showed some comittment to our relationship.

DAVE

I do, I bring you out for a drink at least once a week.

NANCY

I need something more that a poxy drink or two. Im not getting any younger and all my friends have settled down. I dont want to be that Aunty who never married but gets to babysit for ecveryone.

DAVE

I thought you were happy the way we are?

NANCY

Happy! I’m delerious.

Dave takes another drink. Looks down at his pint then back upto Nancy.

DAVE

Well, I have another surprise for you.

Nancy looks at him and a smile comes across her face.

NANCY

And what would that be then?

Dave Starts searching in his other pocket.

DAVE

I got you some pork Scratchings rather than nuts for a change.

NANCY

You are unbelievable, here i am bearing my soul to you and all you can think of is Pork Scratchings. I give up!

Nancy looks away from dave forcing back the tears.

DAVE

At least you could eat them now I’ve bought them

He puts the bag on the table, Nancy looks at the opened bag.

NANCY

The bags even opened, its not even a new bag you tight fisted idiot.

DAVE

Here have one you know you want to.

NANCY

I wouldn’t eat out of that bag if it was the last bag of Scratchings on the planet.

DAVE

Go on you know you want to.

Nancy turns and looks at the bag that dave is wafting under her nose and spots something shiney, she grudgingly puts her hand in the bag and her face changes.

NANCY

Dave what’s this?

DAVE

Its an engagement ring Chuck, will you marry me?

Nancy looks at the ring with tears in her eyes. pauses then looks at Dave

NANCY

Marry you, you have to be kidding, what prospects have you got! we go through this every month and my answer will be the same, I will when you get a job. Now get me a drink.

Doreen turns to George

DOREEN

How many times is that George

GEORGE the Landlord

I dont know I stopped counting when it got to double figures.

Dave empties his pint and gets up to go to the bar.

DAVE

A pint and a Cinzano Bianco with Lemonade and an umbrella please Doreen

DOREEN

Sorry for your disappointment Dave

DAVE

Disapointment, isn’t the word I would use, why do you think I haven”t told her I’m working!

© John Eccles 2015

Rubbing Shoulders with Famous Folk

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Ex Inspiral Carpets Frontman Tom Hingley at the Oldham Literary Festival
A couple of years ago about this time I had been rubbing shoulders with a few famous folk at the Oldham Literary Festival. I had been interviewing guest authors for the festivals social media sites which should help promote next years event.

The first person to give me an interview was Paul Lake whose book “I’m Not Really Here” is a sensational read, an often harrowing account of a talented footballer who at the hight of his career was injured and unable to pursue his passion, playing football.

The person I interviewed rather than being a self assured athlete was an articulate and incredibly modest man who has discovered the hard way that fame and fortune sometimes comes to an end just as unexpectedly as it arrives, and the road to were he is now is an inspirational story of how to pull yourself up from the depths of despair.

Together with his wife Joanne they have told the story beautifully and rather than being another football autobiography it is essentially a story of the aftermath of essentially being put out to grass at the age of twenty seven.

The other interview was with Tom Hingley the ex lead singer with the Inspiral Carpets. His book “Carpet Burns” is a great read. I was surprised to hear that he came from Oxford and only arrived in Manchester when he studied at MMU. But his time with the Inspirals has been documented in several books on the Madchester music scene, but his gives us an insight into what its like to be a part of a band, with all the highs and tensions that brings.

What these two people had in common is that they both have been in a position to be revered almost like gods in there respective fields and both have dealt with the resultant tensions since in ways that I was surprised by.

If you ask either of these people what do they treasure most in life, they both gave me the same answer. It wasn’t the money, the fame or the fantastic great times they had experienced but something far more simple. It was the families and close friends who had been with them through thick and thin.

Perhaps a lesson to be learned the next time you decide to work an extra couple of hours at the office instead of spending time with the people who should matter the most to you.

The Red Umbrella

Image courtesy of www.shutterstock.com
Image courtesy of http://www.shutterstock.com
I normally don’t write fiction but if I did it would probably look like this.

The Red Umberella

The Monday morning commute is always a challenge. Standing on the platform waiting for the train whilst your head still feels like it is still on the pillow is the worst feeling in the world.

This morning it is even more of a challenge, its raining, not real rain but the fine drizzle that wets you through to the core which gives everything the appearance of an old black and white photograph.

Out of the corner of my eye I spot a beautiful young woman with flame red hair and a vivid red umbrella , which stands out like a beacon against the drab backdrop.

She is busy balancing her umbrella and fumbling in her bag looking for her ticket as the Liverpool train pulls into the station.

As the carriages pass by I look through the windows envious of the passengers sat reading books and papers in a nice warm carriage. The train stops, the doors open and the young woman and many of the people on the platform get on.

The  last of the doors slams shut, the whistle blows and it sets off leaving us stood like statues waiting for our train to Manchester.

I look around and spot a crisp white envelope folded neatly in two were the young lady had been standing. I walk over and stoop down to pick it up. I unfold it and on the envelope is a single word written in very elegant hand writing. Miranda.

The envelope had been opened and contained a crisp white folded single piece of matching note paper. Maybe there would be a clue as to who she was and how I could return it. I take it out carefully and unfolded it. It contained a very simple but chilling message.

The next time I see you, I will kill you!

Our Bucket List Successes

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My Daughter left this on our coffee table. Very worrying.
If you have been following my blog for a while you will notice several references to my imaginary Bucket List. It’s my list of things to do before I either enter a care home or shuffle off this mortal coil and go to meet whatever maker awaits.

We started this list a couple of years ago when we thought I had suffered a heart attack. Thankfully it wasn’t and before you ask it wasn’t indigestion either.  Apparently I had ruptured the cartilage that joins my rib cage to my sternum. Inoperable but it sort of repaired itself and things are back to almost normal.

The one thing I lost during the six weeks of investigations was the feeling I once had, that I was invincible and that death only happened to other people and that has been a good thing.

It is almost like being given a second chance at life, to do the things that would be very difficult to do if your health gave way in such an life changing manner. So myself and Ann sat down and had a discussion about what we would like to do before the inevitable happened.

I wasn’t a big list but it meant we had to change our rather conservative outlook and stop ourselves judging activities solely by affordability and see how we could perhaps do something that wouldn’t break the bank. So here are the ones we have already crossed off our list.

Our bucket list successes

Work a little less and play a little more.

I quite haven’t managed that one yet but Ann says I enjoy what I do so much, I haven’t done a days work in my life. I agree but the hours can be long and it can get very stressful. But the weekends are now family time.

Make sure I spend more time with the Kids and Grandkids.

The past couple of years have been great, they stay at least one day a week and bring life back into our house, a reminder of what it was like when the kids were home. I am sure they only come to use the technology and for me to help them with homework but its great and they keep us feeling young when they are here and exhausted when they have left.

Buy a two seater sports car to use on road trips at weekend.

My kids call it my belated mid life crisis, but I just tell them I bought it so me and Ann can spend time together without any hangers on being able to join us at short notice.

Enter a Classic Car Rally

We did this last year and are about to do it again this year. We have driven on race circuits and test tracks that are not open to the pubic, we have also met some great people and made some good friends, most in similar positions to us.

See Michael Bubble Live

This was Ann’s. So who am I to judge. I saw him with several thousand women of a certain age when he visited Manchester last year. It pains me to say this but he was very good and every bit as talented as he is good looking (according to Ann who still glazes over at the mere mention of his name).

Have a Romantic Holiday. 

Santorini in Greece is possibly the most beautiful place I have ever visited. We spent a week in a fantastic hotel and did nothing but relax and eat and drink. It exceeded our expectations by a million percent. We went sailing on a yacht visited other islands and again met people from all over the planet and found out that basically we are all the same with similar stories to tell and photos of kids and grandkids to be shown.

Watch Queen with Adam Lambert Live

This was my concert of choice, we had chance to see them when Freddie Mercury was in the band but we had just moved house and thought we could catch them next time, we all know how that ended. So for my birthday Ann got tickets to see them this time around. It was the best concert I have ever been to. It was stellar.

I suppose if I view the effect my health scare has had on our lives, we have not lost anything, in fact we have learned a valuable lesson. Treat every day like your last and don’t waste a second, time is to valuable a commodity to waste so if you get up in the morning and its all still working you are quids in already.

So what else are we planning, you will have to wait for the next instalment of my Bucket List Successes, coming soon to a blog near you.

The three most important songs in my life

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Music is magical, it enables you to remember what you were doing when you listened to it instantly. It also reminds you of how you felt when you listened to it. So here are my top three songs this week.

Comes the Sun – The Beatles

Here in the Pennines here in the UK we have 6 months of winter and the village almost hibernates until spring. Its only around this time of year that when the clocks go forward and we get lighter evenings we get to see the neighbours a little more and people stop for a chat. I definitely know summer has arrived when we have the first sunny morning and I have the car windows down and this song comes on the radio as I drive over the moors to work. It sets me up for the day.

God Only Knows – The Beach Boys

I first heard this track on my transistor radio as a teenager. I was on a train travelling to Cornwall to meet my Mother, Father and Brother who had gone on holiday. I couldn’t leave at the same time due to work commitments. I had obviously heard the Beach Boys but the harmonies on the track along with the light coming through the carriage windows made it seem almost hypnotic.

I can still remember the compartment I was sat in, the man in a suit reading his Financial Times, the mother in her flowered dress keeping her little boy occupied by reading him Swallows and Amazons and the musty smell of the velvet upholstery that made your legs sting after sitting on it for an hour or two.

Little Green – Joni Mitchell

Off her 1971 album Blue it’s a track I never get tired of listening to. Every song on this album is a track about lost love wrapped up in the crystal clear voice of mitchell. The words and melodies are magical. Every now and again I put this album on late at night when everyone has gone to bed and listen to it with a drink in my hand. Instantly I am transported back to 1971 thinking about all the people who are no longer with us and count my blessings that I still have my health and the support of a loving family.

Although these songs are magical they may change next week when I hear something I haven’t heard for ages and that reminds me of something else, but thats life i guess.

The Secret of Managing Chaos

Perron Lighthouse Angelsey
Perron Lighthouse Angelsey
I have a thing about lighthouses, I don’t know why but I am drawn to them whenever I am at the coast. I took this photograph of Penron Lighthouse whilst on Anglesey in Wales a couple of years ago whilst on a short break.

It was a glorious summers day and after the hustle and bustle of everyday life the couple of hours we spent there were heavenly.

All you could hear was the lapping of the waves on the shore and a distant bell tolling somewhere out to sea. Every so often the scene would change with the passing of yachts gracefully gliding silently by.

We sat on a grassy bank just above the rocky shoreline and ate our lunch whilst soaking up the sun. It was so hot you could almost hear the hissing of the grass.  Now to someone with my hairline that can be quite a scary proposition but I have discovered that wearing a straw hat does have its uses. For those who may be interested I think it was the fresh Salmon and Cucumber sandwiches that I remember the most.

I often think of that visit when I am busy in a dark studio rammed hard against a deadline whilst trying to remain calm trying to get the best from the crew to deliver on time and on budget.

My wife calls this my “Be a Swan behaviour” (calm on the surface whilst paddling furiously out of sight) and apparently I am quite good at it.

So the secret of my laid back directing style can be attributed to an afternoon visit to Llangoed on the Isle of Anglesey in the UK eating Salmon and Cucumber sandwiches..