Recording A Radio Play

All the way back in July 2014, one of my fellow community radio presenters, Steve, asked if I'd be interested in taking part in the recording of a radio play... y'know... just for a laugh, not even necessarily for broadcast, but to see what the process was like.

I joined in an initial read-through at the Media Factory in Preston, a second read through at the Korova Arts Cafe (again in Preston) and then a mini-recording session at Will's house (the venue for many recordings of The Big Cheese too) and from what I gather, organising this recording has been like herding cats because the cast could never be assembled in one place at the same time.

Almost A YEAR LATER the final production has now been released.  The original copyright was owned by the BBC and Steve has obtained permission from both Auntie Beeb and the writer of the script to release the recording as we recorded it as a community project and not for financial gain. Enjoy the play and then carry on reading for some "behind the scenes" secrets.

Welcome To Our Village, Please Invade Carefully (Episode 1)



Because the cast were having trouble becoming an official ensemble due to various commitments and distance to travel, Plan B had to be formulated and put into action. So, whilst you're listening, please remember that the whole of this official recording took place over a period of two to three months, there was very rarely a time when two of the actors were in the same room at the same time, Steve has created the title music, recorded the credit voice-over, mixed everything together himself (including a promo) and added all the 'ambience'.  I personally think he's done a cracking job.  Don't you?

You can find all the official information, credits, cast list and more on the (un)official WTOVPIC  website


A Navel Gazing Brain Dump

I wish I was half as cool as my blog followers think I am...
I've been in this blogging game for a while now - thirteen long and eventful years if you're interested - and this blog has taken on a number of guises. I've blogged since the days when no-one else was blogging, or it was a dirty secret, or people just didn't understand why you'd want to share your thoughts and musings on this new place called The Internet because it was full of geeks and weirdos. I feel as though this blog has grown and matured with me (stop laughing at the back) and there are parts of it that have branched off appropriately because they took on a life of themselves.

But the growth of The Internet as an entity is one that hasn't surprised me. Initially, I didn't understand why more people weren't taking advantage of this wondrous thing. However, with easier accessibility, there were more and more people embracing the fact that being online was going to become part of their lives. In fact, there's a whole generation out there that have never known a time before The Internet.

Kathryn, who is one of my earliest blogging friends (so early, I can't even *remember how we initially connected), published this post today which stopped me in my tracks. She reminisces over the times when our community was full of 'awards' and 'memes' (prompts that would help you find your writing confidence - I really enjoyed them at the time) and there was a lot of support for bloggers and writers. I've also seen Kathryn lament that her blogging and social media activity don't give her the same fuzz of happiness that it used to.  She doesn't get as many comments on her blog and she sees a lot of uncomfortable conversations on (for example) Twitter. Her journey with her blog has left her unsettled and confused as to where it's taking her. I think there's more to it than just that but you'll have to read her blog post, and my comment, to see where I'm going with that. 

To some extent I totally agree with Kathryn and there are times when I look back over the growth of my blog(s) and wonder if I should have, or even could have, kept things more concise and less commercial but I embraced the change as I saw it and went with the flow. It has brought me countless opportunities and connections and I hope that I (eventually) found a balance that resonated with my readers too. A cacophony of my internal voices, you might say? The blogging community is most definitely not the same as it was five years ago, but then neither am I. The Internet has grown beyond my wildest expectations and there have been ways in which online activity has had to be monitored by people/groups/companies who, rightly or wrongly, consider themselves an authority. And this is where changes have happened.  New people have joined The Internet, new friendship groups have formed, new tools and skills have been developed just in the way that they did ten years ago.  You can either embrace that or you can carry on doing the thing that works for you but people may move in a different direction. I also believe I'm lucky in the fact that I haven't experience too much negativity online. Don't get me wrong, I see it - anonymous keyboard warriors are the worst kind of online evil. People with preconceived ideas are also almost as bad and that's where the name for this blog originally came from.

Blogging is a legitimate way to indulge my narcissism
I don't get the same volume of comments on my blog posts these days and I sometimes wonder why, in exactly the same way that Kathryn does. Speaking to my blogging peers and comparing notes I don't believe that I'd be anywhere near the 'top of the charts' like I used to be, I don't get as many people linking to my blog posts as I used to, I very often feel very out-of-the-loop when I see blogging friendship groups arrange to meet up at event and there's all sorts of technical talk that interests me but doesn't feel important all the time.  Maybe it's because I'm comfortable in the way in which my blog has already grown - and continues to do so.  I look at the community I have built and I'm proud of it. There's a stalwart few that connect with me (and vice versa) on a regular basis and there's very much a feeling that you have to put out to get back (*f'nar*) and I have been very slack on that score recently too.  There was a story about a blogger from the USA this week who comments on over 500 blog posts per week.  Yes, that face you're making now... mine was the same. But she is a 'full time blogger' (a lot of paid work on her own blog and for other websites) and I'm sure her own blog is a hive of activity.  There's also the fact that a lot of people now use the internet on mobile devices. This brings a new wave of interaction processes because (a) people read on the move and don't comment or (b) they can't comment because of commenting/device incompatibility issues or (c) they use social media to share/comment/converse about what they have just read. It's a fresh way to interact but it doesn't necessarily suit the way in which us old-school bloggers work because were are/were used to on-blog engagement. 

There is no call-to-action here. This isn't a plea for comments or for you to share this post. It's just a general musing about how times change but sometimes we can become so embedded into what works for us and settled into our comfort zones that changes happen and we don't see where that began. The edges are blurred. We look round and our Twitter feeds are full of promotional-style "READ THIS NOW" updates, Facebook isn't showing us our friend's news, there are even more social networks to try and keep up with and you feel a little over-whelmed with it all. It's a good exercise to stop and think about where you've been and where you are going. 

For what it's worth, I don't often do these type of navel-gazing blog posts. I used to do a lot of them and I enjoy writing them. They used to eliminate about 50% of my readership because they were non-bloggers and didn't want to read about the way in which bloggers think and act. They just wanted to engage with content and then go about their day. I think that more of my readers will understand this train of thought now.

TL;DR Blogging has changed but you don't necessarily have to.

¨¨°º©©º°¨¨

*I think it might have been through a writing forum called Judith's Room which led to a blogging community and that is where I met a lot off 'the original crew', most of whom I'm still in touch with and a couple of whom became my closest confidantes.


Will I Soon Be Appearing On Google Street View?

This admission is going to divide you.  You're going to think I'm absolutely pathetic or you're going to completely understand where I'm coming from but *deep breath* today I saw my very first Google Street View car. Be still my geeky heart... 

For the last few years I have enjoyed the wonder that is Google Street View. The first time I dragged that little yellow pegman onto the map I didn't go and see the Statue of Liberty or the Eiffel Tower or even any of my favourite London landmarks.  No, I dragged it to my own street and looked at my own front door, wondering when the Google Street View car had driven past my front window.

Today, after leaving work, I needed to take a slight detour to grab some petrol for my car and to run an errand at the post office. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught sight of an odd looking car and knew immediately that it was fate.  It was (sort of) heading in the same direction as I was so I took it upon myself to follow it... all the way to the car park of a local supermarket where the driver parked up, got out, locked up the car and disappeared into the store.

Which is when I took the opportunity to capture my digital moment on my digital camera roll.

Google Street View Car

Was this my moment of fame and glory? Will I be forever immortalised on a version of the most famous map on the internet peering over the steering wheel of my car? We will find out soon enough, won't we?  As an aside - does anyone know how I can get a job as the Google Street View Car driver?

Random Things I Hear On The Radio

When I was working in an office with Mel we used to map our day out by the structure of Radio 2; it was all about Popmaster, really ("...and anyone else who knows me").  During the time I worked at home, I had music on in the background but it all mashed into one long song whilst I hummed along, tunelessly (the modern equivalent to my Grandpa's whistling). Now I'm back in an office environment I have talk radio on in the car whilst driving too and fro and we have a commercial radio station on at work.

Random Things I Hear On The Radio, radio microphone,
Apart from the odd channel hop in the car, I haven't listened to commercial radio on a regular basis since Rock FM was Red Rose Radio. Now, it's becoming embedded into my daily working day life. It's very noticeable that commercial radio tends to follow the same structure and there's four parts to it: talk, news, music and adverts. 

Talk

It's a long time since I sat and really listened to the radio. It takes a lot of concentration, doesn't it? I suppose that's why there's not a lot of real talk on commercial radio. It's not opinionated, there's no discussion about the real happenings of the day. It's just filling space between the news, the music and the adverts. It's very much like the teacher in Charlie Brown: waahp waaphp waahp waahp

Occasionally there is the need for listener participation. Phone-in slots are mainly used for the telling of a funny story or to enter a heavily sponsored competition and are very rarely for sharing a point of view. Long gone are the days of Allan Beswick and James Whale with their late-night phone-in shows where a caller would either be drunk or could be heard attempting to share their perspective before their money ran out in the phone box or even trying to beat the time delay by shouting a swear word down the phone before getting cut off. 

News

Commercial radio tends to concentrate on local(ish) news as priority and national news as an afterthought. I never really know what's going on in the world until I get home and catch up properly online via Twitter. If something really important happens, please can one of you go old-school and text me? You know, just in case there's a nuclear war or something and the DJ's are trying to cover it up by finishing their hour of power.

Music

Quite randomly, but most definitely a bit of a boost during that post-lunch slump, we have a rave hour on the station we listen to at 1pm. It's definitely bring back some memories but I've been banned from bringing my whistle and a glow stick in.  Spoilsports!

Random Things I Hear On The Radio ~ transistor radio, union jack
Uptown Funk is the most played tune I can remember in my lifetime and I'm still not sick of it. However, thanks to a passing mention, I now can't hear it without also hearing the theme tune to the Really Wild Show and parts of Walk The Dinosaur!  [Don't believe me? Just watch...  RWS | WTD  Say whaaat!]

If a commercial station wants to feature music from a specific genre or for a certain reason it feels as though there is a library of 'titles' to delve into to use as part of their promotion. These include (and are not limited to) "Fun Time Five at 5", "70s at 7", "80s at 8" (see where I'm going with this?). A constant and unnecessary use of alliteration

One thing I have noticed - and I'd love to find out if there's a scientific reason for this - is that almost everyone in the room starts quietly singing along at exactly the same point in a song that's playing unobtrusively in the background. And everyone stops singing at the same point. This happens multiple times during the day and no-one ever mentions it.  Also, hardly anyone ever expresses a preference for any particular type of music.

Adverts

Adverts are a strange one. Like the news, they are generally very local-specific but I'm sure every region is the same. One advertisement has me listening to Ray Winstone offering me 'cash for scrap'. He regularly uses the world "we" when talking about the company which makes me want to ring them up and see if Mr W actually turns up to collect my car and the log book. I'd be very disappointed if it wasn't him.

Also, there is a regularly played advertisement for people who may have difficulty hearing after working in noisy environments.  The juxtaposition of this aural experience just makes me laugh.


And that's it really.  On a loop. Hour after hour after hour. Is your local commercial radio station like this? Have I missed anything out?

Seven Things That Are Wrong With The World Today

Things That Are Wrong With The World #1 : Bodyshaming.  And even moreso, bodyshaming the singer, Pink!. I'd fucking LOVE a body (and hair) like hers - and I'm sure my husband would too!  Is there a perfect body size and shape? If so, can someone please tell me what it is and then I can sort myself out and make sure I'm harming anyone's eyesight as I walk down the street. Anyway... if anyone could give a lesson in shutting down the body-shamers, it's Pink. (original Facebook picture | original tweet)

Things That Are Wrong With The World #2 : Death threats after a made-up news story that lead to people having to take time away from Twitter. ESPECIALLY when it's over fucking Top Gear. Speculation last Friday saw Sue Perkins as "one of the favourites" to take over the main presenting role on a programme that probably isn't even going to continue in it's original guise - this has since lead to Twitter Trolls wishing her dead for some strange reason!! I didn't see Chris Evans receiving death threats and having to take time away from Twitter when his name was originally bandied around. (because he's a man?)

(I've also even forgone a groan-worthy "specs" joke there because I'm so ranty)

Things That Are Wrong With The World #3 : Blogger networks being paid to promote brands and/or services but requesting that bloggers do it for free (there's a whole other rant just bubbling under the surface here - sorry to non-blogging readers. You can just skip this one and move on to the next one).  Yet another 'opportunity' lands in my inbox which tells me that I can APPLY to blog about a company and, if selected, I can conduct a full review, talk about it on my blog and MAYBE win a voucher for a determinable amount of money whilst the network receives a substantial amount of money for 'sharing' and the brand gets lots of lovely unique internet coverage for free. *head:desk*

Things That Are Wrong With The World #4 : Spring has not yet sprung properly. I hear gardens being mowed for the first time this year, the sun is peeking out occasionally and I feel the tickle of hayfever in my sinuses and eyes but there seems to be no blossom on the trees yet and very few daffodils lining the roads. It's almost the middle of April and I've not had chance to take my tights off yet!

Things That Are Wrong With The World #5 : Encouraging ballot spoiling.  OK, so British politics isn't in its best place at the moment but times can change and this is your opportunity to do that. A spoiled vote doesn't decrease the votes of the party you don't want to be in power for the next five years. In fact, it does the exact opposite because it takes away a vote from another party, possibly giving a majority.  Yours might only be one vote but it's one vote that matters. Take some time out to read manifestos and policies and make a decision formed on your own opinion and not those opinions you see in tweets, media reports or overhear on the bus going to work. 

Things That Are Wrong With The World #6 : People who favourite tweets for no apparent reason. If you agree with it or find it humorous, BLOODY RETWEET IT and share my wit or wisdom.

[Edit - for clarification - in my world, a 'favourite' is not a 'like'. If you like it, share it. If you're bookmarking it for future reference then that's cool by me.]

Things That Are Wrong With The World #7 : Waxwork figures of YouTube zelebrities. YES, REALLY!  I'm all for us having clean-living beautiful people as (almost) relatable role models but let's just remember that they are promoting a daily (or not in most cases) snap-shot of their lives which is unachievable for 99.9% of the fans, doesn't portray a 'normal' way of life (i.e. working hard for your money) and shows that you can lie about your achievements (writing a book?) and young, impressionable people are OK with that. *sigh sigh sigh*


AAAANNNNDDDD BREATHE, NICOLA!!  

What's wrong in your world at the moment? What would you add to this list?  Feel free to rant in the comments and add to mine.

10 Things From 10 Years Ago

10 Things From 10 Years Ago
I loves me a bit of nostalgia. I'm especially attached to the 1980's because they were mainly my defining years but each time I create one of these "x things from x years ago" posts* I'm reminded of how quickly life passes us by.

Last night's Friday Twiz theme was 10 Things From 10 Years ago and even when the year 2005 doesn't seem like such a long time ago, whilst researching the questions I was really surprised at which news and music events I'd forgotten about. 

So... here are ten things that happened ten years ago - 2005 was a fairly unforgettable year!


¨¨°º©©º°¨¨


1.  Hurricane Katrina struck the Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama coastal areas flooding 80% of the city of New Orleans.

2.  Angela Merkel assumed office as the first female Chancellor of Germany

3.  YouTube was founded by three former Paypal employees - Steve Chen, Chad Hurley and Jawed Karim - after they had found difficulty sharing videos online and finding video clips of current news events (namely one of Janet Jackson's nipples which just happened to make an appearance at the 2004 Super Bowl).

4.  London was awarded the responsibility of hosting the 2012 Summer Olympics by the International Olympic Committee. 

5.  Harold Faltermeyer’s tune ‘Axel F’ was remixed to form part of the Crazy Frog phone ringtone

6.  George W Bush started his second term as 43rd President of the USA? 

7.  Over four million mourners travelled to the Vatican after Pope John Paul II (Karol Jozef Wojtyla) died. Pope John Paul II was the second longest serving pope in modern history and the first non-Italian pope in over 400 years.

8.  On the 7th July (herein after known as 7/7) a terror attack rocked the whole of the London transport network killing 52 and injuring over 700 people. 

9.  Peter Kay and Tony Christie recorded ‘Show Me The Way To Amarillo’ in 2005 to raise money for Comic Relief and spawed a deluge of copycat videos.

10.  HRH Prince Charles married Camilla Parker Bowles in a civil ceremony which took place at the Guildhall in Windsor. Camilla was then given her title, Duchess of Cornwall.

[contemplates whether to insert *that* Ferris Bueller quote here...]

¨¨°º©©º°¨¨


* Here's 25 Things From 25 Years Ago on Typecast and here's 30 Things From 30 Years Ago which I wrote for Buzzfeed


ALL THE STATIONERY THINGS!!

Hand-made hobonichi-style notebook cover from EtsyOver the past six months I've been working with online stationery company, Bureau Direct to bring you new ideas and inspiration from their virtual shelves. It also basically meant that I could indulge in all things stationery-related without having to make excuses.  As a blogger it was probably one of the best ambassador and review opportunities I've ever had which goes to show that it's not always about the money but finding a good blogger/brand relationship.

Over the weekend, I created a few stationery-themed YouTube videos. I've linked these below with a bit of an intro to each of them.  I hope you enjoy them.

¨¨°º©©º°¨¨


A couple of weeks ago I filmed a stationery haul in which I showed my final Bureau Direct order and some goodies from Smiggle. This should set the mood for the rest of this post...


First, I talked about the limited edition Ambition set of Field Notes notebooks (from Bureau Direct) which I'd been eyeing up for about three months. I already knew that I wanted to use these as a daily journalling system instead of carrying my Filofax around all the time (the job I'm currently doing doesn't need me to diary note an awful lot of appointments as I'm very much desk based now) but I needed a notebook cover.  I had seen a couple of handmade notebook covers that I knew would do the trick but got mixed up between Hobonichi (or Fauxbonichi when it's a copy) and Midori (Fauxdori) even though I knew how I wanted my notebooks to "sit" in the cover.

Anyway, I commissioned a gorgeous hand-made fauxbonichi cover from Masters and Matthews on Etsy in a candy skull material which works in exactly the way I want it to, however, if you watch the video you can see that the fauxdori style of notebook cover may be more fitting. I'll just have to save up some pennies and order another cover in the future. Watch the Filofax, Field Notes, Faubonichi video here.


Next I unboxed another of the monthly stationery boxes from Anna Brim (aka Mrs Brimbles). This is a new venture for her this year but, as a fellow lover of stationery, she knows exactly what people look for in a stationery box subscription.

Each box does follow a theme (February was the month of love, March was Spring/Easter related, April is all about April showers and ducks... you get the drift) and I will be including this monthly subscription in a review on Stationery Lovers later this month. It's easier to watch the video than list what is in the box. You can find Anna on Twitter and Instagram as @MrsBrimbles and please do visit her blog/shop to sign up - you can try one box every so often or have a rolling monthly subscription.


Finally, I asked friends on Twitter and Facebook if they had any burning stationery questions they wanted to ask me. These ranged from wanting to know why stationery was so called, to my three favourite stationery brands and why stationery gets me so excitable.  Watch my Stationery Q&A here and if you have any other questions to ask me just let me know.




Even though this is the last month of my "working" relationship with Bureau Direct, it most definitely isn't the end. In fact, it's probably very much the beginning (but with just a little less enabling). You can find all my previous Bureau Direct / Stationery Wednesday posts here.


Things I Learnt In March

In no particular order, here is what I have learned this week...

It's really hard to choose between 'learned' and 'learnt' when you are a fully paid up member of the Grammar Police. 

When your 21 year old son passes his driving test the insurance quotes start at around £6000 and the lowest quoted is £1900, probably because of his job.

When your 21 year old son goes out driving alone for the first time since passing his test you do not relax until he is home again.

'Family meal time' is very strange when 50% of your family (i.e. the two-thirds of your off-spring that still live at home) are actually out working and earning their own money outside of traditional office hours (but hooray for new jobs and independence).

Doves used at weddings and funerals are not actually doves but white homing pigeons called Rock Doves.

There are about 40 real doves stranded near a cemetery in Cheshire after the 'wrong type of doves' were used at a Jamaican funeral.

Listening to a phone on your 'other ear' distorts what you hear (trust me, try it - it's all echo-y)

Running twice in three days in really wet weather actually chills you to the bone and you spend the next three days trying to warm up again, This isn't easy when your husband opens the bedroom window half way through the night 'to let some fresh air in'.

There are two sides to a birthday depending on which sibling you are. The person who's birthday it is will be super-excited whilst their sister will tell you that "today is not a good day, Nana" complete with a Very Sad Face.

Sometimes my head is full of ideas and sometimes it's completely devoid of inspiration. And there is no happy medium.

Forgetting to put on a piece of your everyday jewellery creates discombobulation for the whole day. 

The day after you order a notebook cover you discover that you've probably ordered the wrong thing because you didn't know the name of the thing you were looking for because you didn't think it existed so now you have to find extra money to order more stuff.

SketchShe are currently the greatest thing on YouTube.




What have you learned this week. Let me know.