Category Archives: book

Another book on the way…

Proposed cover

Proposed cover

UPDATED 8/1/14: The script has now been published (ISBN: 978-1-291-62773-2) and is available from from lulu, Amazon and possibly from other booksellers.

I’m planning to publish the script of my 2005 play Upside Down and Back to Front as a book in the near future. I’ve sent off for a proof copy and this is the cover I’m thinking of using.

The play tells the story of a photographer travelling around Worcestershire in 1913 and the present-day story of a batch of pictures being found in an attic. It has loads of characters, which means the cast of three have to work really hard!

The play was commissioned and produced by artworcs at the Number 8 Community Arts Centre in Pershore. It was fun to do.

The cover image features my Gran in the hop yards when she was a girl.

More news on this soon.

Three Youth Theatre Plays

The book cover

The book cover

I had previously published my play for young people, now, as a paperback but it always seemed expensive for just a single twenty minute play.

So what I’ve done is printed three of my plays in a single volume which is now available at £5.99 from Lulu.

Full details of the plays are elsewhere on this site but, in summary: they’re all for large casts aged 11-16, between 20 and 30 minutes in length and are great fun. All three were developed with an active youth theatre group and one, now, has had a whole series of productions around the country.

One of the plays, Incredible Feats, has never been produced. Anyone fancy putting on a world première?

Maeterlinck

I have been reading some of Maurice Maeterlinck‘s early short plays in translations by Francis Booth. Maeterlinck refers to these works as his Marionette Plays. He wanted an unemotional style of presentation that he thought would only be achievable by using puppets. Given these reservations, it’s interesting that Konstantin Stanislavski was an early director of his work.

Stanislavski thought that Symbolist work would shake up the Moscow Art Theatre‘s repertoire and so directed The Blind at the theatre. His actors, it seems,were unable to shake off their naturalistic acting styles developed through the company’s work with Chekhov’s plays. The production was regarded as something of a failure.

Stanislavski, anxious to avoid stagnancy in the theatre’s style and repertoire, created the MAT Studio and asked Meyerhold to work on Maeterlinck’s The Death of Tintagiles there. Meyerhold’s view of drama seems to chime much more closely with that of Maeterlinck. The work was certainly radical but Stanislavski pulled the production during final rehearsals. Meyerhold later mounted a production of an amended version of the play with his own company.1

I’m ashamed to say that I’ve never read any of Maeterlinck’s work before, despite having taught students about the work of Meyerhold.

The Blind is easy to stage in your mind as you read it. It’s dark and funny and the action keeps moving. I can see how the author desire for a cool, emotionless presentation could be undermined by actors falling back on a more emotive, naturalistic acting style.

The Death of Tintagiles is darker still and much more stylised. It’s a short, five act (!) play. I found it much more difficult to imagine it working ‘on its feet’. I’m going to have to read it again.

Interior is, like The Blind, in continuous action. This helps the flow of the piece as a corpse is carried on its relentless journey from the riverbank to the house.

Maeterlinck held that we are powerless against fate and the approach of death. In each of these plays death is in the room and getting closer. But why would we sit and watch that? What does he do that makes this not just depressing, but intriguing? I suppose it’s the struggle to fight, delay or ignore the inevitable that makes it bearable. He may think that the struggle is pointless, but it’s what gives us a connection to the action.

1 All this information from here: https://sites.google.com/site/arttheatrestudio/stanislavsky-meyerhold-productions-of-maeterlinck. There is an amazing video of Stanislavski and Olga Knipper acting in The Cherry Orchard on the home page.

Castles and bread

Sorry for the hiatus.

I am still researching castles and medieval bread.

Who would have thought that castles would be so controversial? The Battle of Bodiam Castle, it turns out, was not a medieval siege. It’s a contemporary academic quarrel that seems to crystallise the opposing camps’ points of view. Is Bodiam a military masterwork covering a strategic weakness in England’s defences or is it a symbolic architectural statement of status with little or no defensive worth? Discuss for 30 or more years.

It’s strange to be reading academic journal articles again. If you’re interested there’s an introductory guide to teaching medieval castles here (including a bit on the Bodiam battle) and there’s a Castle Studies Group.

Cooking & Dining in Medieval EnglandOn the whole bread seems a lot less contentious. Although I have found arguments over how effective medieval flour sieving was and there’s some argument over whether trenchers were square or round. Peter Brears’ Cooking and Dining in Medieval England has been a good and useful read. I’m currently reading Nicole Crossley-Holland’s Living and Dining in Medieval Paris which analyses the medieval text Le Ménagier de Paris.

I’m back in work on Thursday. Let’s see if those six years olds are ready to grapple with medieval architectural performance analysis.

>Calshot and a bookshop

>Saturday was another trip to Calshot velodrome. Despite a hard week – why do my legs hurt so much? – the session was fun. It was, unfortunately, slightly curtailed by a nasty crash. I hope the rider who came off recovers quickly.

A big thanks to Keith, Steve and the team for a well-organised session. My mate Andy managed the fastest flying lap of the day despite spending most of the 142 metres around the blue line. There’s one more Prime Coaching session to go in March, but it’s near to the proposed, mythical move date.

I’ve been playing with the Amazon affiliates scheme. You can see a book/DVD widget to the top right of this page and there’s a playwriting bookshop at the foot of the page. It’s obviously there to make me rich, but I hope that the choice of books is relevant and interesting. The full bookshop experience is available on my Web site. There’s a category for cycling and one for playwriting as well. Let me know if there are any titles you think should be included.

>On Tour

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I’ve just read On Tour by Bradley Wiggins with photos by Scott Mitchell.

The book tells the story of Wiggins’ 2010 Tour de France riding for Team Sky. The race didn’t go as Wiggins hoped and he’s honest in his assessment of his performance. A lot of the text seems to be based on notes taken at the time and this rawness makes for great reading (I read it at a single sitting). There are some more reflective pieces on fellow riders and team helpers that are interesting as well.

It’s fun trying to read between the lines. Wiggins is good at taking responsibility for his own performance, but there were obviously issues with how the team prepared for the race and how sometimes their famous seriousness and focus worked against the riders’ interests. I’m looking forward to seeing how (if) Team Sky 2.0 change their approach this year. It will be great to see Wiggins duke-ing it out with Schleck and co. in July.

The black and white photographs by Scott Mitchell offer a great sidelight on Wiggins’ writing. I’m looking forward to going back to the book to look at them more carefully (you can see many of them here). Mitchell is not normally a cycling photographer – Wiggins approached him because he shared an interest in mod culture. He often has a different angle on classic cycling situations. There is a great new generation of cycling photographers coming through at the moment – it’d be great to see Mitchell being part of that.

PS: The use of monochrome took me back to the photographs of my early days in cycling. The pictures of people like Bernard Thompson. Amazingly you can buy a CD of 100s of Thompson’s pictures from Rouleur – source of much of the new photography – here for only a tenner.

>Midweek 10

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I rode the Westerley CC Wednesday night ’10’ on the Hillingdon circuit. It was a breezy night and I couldn’t get going – finishing up with a 27:00 for the 11 laps / 10.44 miles. I went through 10 miles in 25:55.

Race stats: Time: 27:00 (23.20mph). First 5 miles: 12:51, second 5 miles: 12:56. Top speed: 26.8mph. Slowest mile (1): 2:40 (22.50mph), fastest mile (3): 2:30 (24.00mph). Average HR: 162bpm, maximum HR: 172bpm. 10th of 23 finishers. Ave. cadence: 75rpm. Winner: Malcolm Woolsey (Westerley CC) 23:46.


I’ve just finished reading Jean Bobet’s book Tomorrow We Ride. I do recommend it.

>Books for Sale

>I’m selling some books using Amazon. The list includes some cycle coaching manuals and I will keep adding material as I work through my shelves. If you’re interested the list is here.

>A brief respite

>A quiet Christmas, an airing cupboard half built and not a line of dialogue attempted. Tomorrow we head North to Speke for a few days to see P’s mum. I shall take a notebook and a pen and leave behind the Internet connection – Have a Happy New Year!.

I bought Peter Ackroyd’s Shakespeare: The Biography before Christmas. It’s a fascinating read. Biographers have to make so many interventions to try and get close to the man, but still (for me) he seems to disappear between the conjectures.

I was also given a copy of Terry Eagleton’s play, Saint Oscar. I’m ashamed to say that I had never heard of it – I will read with interest.

>A Gift

>I am mostly reading The Gift by Lewis Hyde at the moment. It’s a fascinating study of gift economy in comparison to market economy (the arts, he argues, need to be understood principally in terms of the first). It’s sometimes tough going because of the detail of the argument, but it’s great to come across a book where you suddenly realise that your view of the economy (i.e. no great faith in the market as the be all and end all) is supported by rational argument. Margaret Atwood recommended it on the Today programme a couple of weeks ago. It’s a great riposte to so many crass arguments about arts funding (“if it was any good it wouldn’t need subsidy”). And it’s only £9 from Amazon.

I am also re-reading Howard Barker’s Arguments for a Theatre which is alternately inspiring and annoying (which is a good thing).

We had the electrician in today. The house is now properly earthed, we have an outside light, a new fuse box (‘consumer unit’) and a socket for the fridge-freezer. We are also over £800 lighter. I know it would be selling out, but I may be forced to offer to write the next Bond movie.

Tomorrow it’s the long iron road to Birmingham. Saturday we take the shed out of its box, find there’s a critical bolt missing and put off building it for another couple of weeks.