Blogging about my blog – Meta self promotion!

This week, we’re going to be tackling one of my favourite subjects…Me! Just for a change right?

A few weeks ago I started work on a new blog, because I have apparently absolutely nothing better to do with my time. As regular readers will know I am a bit of a fan of the BBC Radio 4 soap, The Archers. Its little slices of bucolic life act as a salve to some of the worlds stresses. Plus, to my delight, I have discovered a whole subset of Twitter devoted to the show with some very, very funny people. So when the villainous Rob Titchener recently made an abrupt (and slightly odd departure)  I thought it would be rather fun to create a fictional diary of his adventures, the central conceit of which is that he had never left and that he continues to lurk, unseen, in Ambridge, spying on the ongoing events.

(You can find it here –  https://whatrobdidnext.wordpress.com/ )

This means I write an entry for every episode, and have to find a way to shoehorn Rob into each day’s action. So for example, if, in the episode, Eddie and Lillian are stood outside the village shop having a chat, in my blog, Rob, dressed as a pensioner, is lurking behind the post box, listening in and taking note.

At first, this seemed a fun and jolly idea. But, very quickly, I realised it presented a whole new level of a creative challenge. If I was just writing a story about Rob, I am in control of the entire plot line, I can introduce characters and events as I see fit, to construct a (hopefully) satisfying and entertaining storyline. However, by tying Rob’s activities to each day’s episode I am handing over creative control to script writers, and I don’t know what is going to happen each day. So, for example, I can’t have Rob burn down the Village Hall, if, in the next days episode, the WI meet in there. So far he has only interacted with main characters in a very low key way, which need not cause comment in the episode.

To try and counteract this, I’ve also been building an entirely separate plot line based on the Boarding house Rob finds himself in, its unlikely Landlady and its dubious inmates. But this of course, takes it away from The Archers which is the hook most of my target audience would be caught on.

It is also a challenge to time management and discipline. Ideally, I want to ‘post’ the morning after each episode is aired. Which means in practical terms I listen to the podcast walking down to the bus stop, hoping there is a nice interesting outdoor or public scene for me to use. If all the action happens in kitchens or living rooms then I’m stuck. Hopefully inspired by that day’s action, I then write the approx 500 hundred words on the bus. (Who knew art would be happening on the X1 bus right?) It means I have very little time to tweak or proofread before I post the blog entry. (Which meant the other day I said Will and Emma Grundy were BDSM swingers, when of course, it should be Ed and Emma. Very embarrassing)

Last week I was poorly, so got a few days behind and it was quite an effort pulling it back up to date.Thankfully there are websites run by fellow Archers nerds which have summaries of each days episode, so I could go back and construct a narrative.

This leads me onto another challenge. What does the character know, and what do I know? Thanks to the podcast, I haven’t missed an episode in years but little details, which add to the authenticity, can be forgotten quickly. The other day I had to dump a whole bit of action because I couldn’t remember where Peggy Archer got her hair done. I’ve already left Rob manning a bicycle and having to do a much bigger round trip then I originally planned because it turns out I’ve mixed up the location of Borchester and Felpersham, the biggest towns near the Ambridge. Still, all those miles will keep him fit and lycra, shades and a cycle helmet make a great disguise.

But it also means I have to get inside the head of Rob, who is a pretty revolting character. I  can only have him know what I think he should know of the other characters in Ambridge, and to view everything through his own sense of injustice and narcissism.

I’ve even invested in an official map of Ambridge and district, which means I can actually pace out distances between farms and houses etc. It has also messed up the mental image I’ve had of Ambridge all these years.

So far, it seems to have been quite well received with a few, mostly nice, comments. The visitor stats I compulsively follow show that most visitors stay to read a number of days entries and I’ve had a number of people sign up for email updates, which I’m guessing they wouldn’t do if they hated it.

This takes me down to one of the root causes of why I’m writing it, and part of the reason why I write this blog as well. To find out if I have any ability in writing. I’ve always fancied that I can turn a phrase but have carefully avoided putting pen to paper, or finger to keyboard, to prove that as correct. I showed some promise at school but a lot has changed since then, not least my waistline, my hairline and my blood sugar count.

The blog is growing, slowly; more visitors, more readers returning and more followers on Twitter, so for the time being I’ll keep going. Of course, the day will come, when the real Rob will return to the show and my blog will dissolve into pure fan fiction. I’ll have to find some other outlet for my nonsense then and of course, I’ll still be writing my weekly outbursts on this blog.

I mean, eventually someone is going to say, ‘Hey Fat Bloke’, here’s a great big Advance, go and write the 21st Century’s great novel.’ right?

Right?

*sigh*

If you would like to have a look at my new blog, you can find it at https://whatrobdidnext.wordpress.com/

The entries started on the 5th February https://whatrobdidnext.wordpress.com/2017/02/05/

And you can follow What Rob Did Next on Twitter – @whtrobdidnxt

 

Find me on Facebook – www.facebook.com/fatbloketalking  and on Twitter – @fatbloketalking or email me at fatbloketalking@outlook.com

 

Valentine’s Day Special -Too much *ahem* Romance?

It’s that time of year again. Where we empty our pockets for more Hallmark inspired obligation and red roses appear in great swathes in the supermarkets. St Valentines day is, when you get down to it, pretty awful really. If you are single it’s just a way of reinforcing the fact. In a relationship, then you’ve got to make sure you balance each others efforts or else that causes stress. Of course, our retails overlords are happy to tell us that real love needs Jewellery, Lingerie anything with a price tag, not just a card. As ever, as with Christmas, and Easter, the message is that money equals love.

Now, I’ll make a confession, Mrs Bloke and I didn’t even exchange cards this year. And it is an anniversary for us. It is an eye watering 27 years this Valentine’s since I first asked her out, back in the heady days of 1990. We were doing our G.C.S.E’s at the time and I am absolutely sure here parents were delighted I appeared on the scene to drag her grades down.

I caught some of ‘Who do you think you are’ with Warwick Davies the other day. And his glee at discovering that one of his ancestor’s marriages took place just a couple of months before the birth of their child got me thinking. Because, in my own family history research, I have discovered similar evidence of, shall we say, over enthusiastic ardour?

In fact, and don’t tell a soul this, Mrs Bloke and I had our own little scare all those years ago. A trip with her family to The American Adventure Theme Park coincided with an upset stomach and, well, lets say, some calendar worries. Boy was that ever a long couple of days. Needless to say it was just an upset stomach but not before I was preparing plans to pack a bag and run away to join a circus. Of course, as I wrote recently My little boy ain’t so little anymore…. , having children would turn out to be a whole ‘nother thing.

My paternal grandfather, Douglas, was born in 1913, in Sept. His parents married in 1913 in, oh, July. Bless ‘um. Different world then up in the North East of England. His father, my G.Grandfather Elijah, worked as a miner at Usworth Colliery, near Washington, Tyne & Wear. He worked down the pits with his father and brothers including my great uncle Joseph who fell at the Somme just a few years later.(I talk about him here Remembering one forgotten man: The Somme 1916.)  My grandfather, would also spend time down the mine.

The patriarch of that family, Elijah’s and Joseph’s father was another Joseph. And he was the product of another pre-marital encounter. Though in his case, it wasn’t followed by marriage and a happy life. Joseph senior first appears in the census record in 1861, aged nine years old, living in Penrith Workhouse in Cumbria. On further digging though I found he was actually there in 1851 as well, though still safely installed inside the womb of his mother, Emma. He was born in the workhouse a few weeks after the census and, as far as we can tell, spent his whole childhood there before going off down the mines in Maryport, Cumbria. Hard to imagine a more miserable start to a life. I have a copy of his birth certificate. It only lists his mothers name and her signature is just a large ‘X’. She would have been separated from the baby quite soon and at some point she left the workhouse. Poor Joseph, just like Oliver Twist grew up alone under lock and key. That he came from that, worked hard, got married and had a large family earns him my greatest respect, and just one of the reasons Little Blokes middle name is Joseph.

Emma, his mother. Had had a tough life as well. She had a sister and parents in a tiny village nestling under the bulk of Cross Fell on the Pennines. Her father, again also a Joseph, had a brother in the same village and we know from court records that they both did time in prison for theft. We don’t know yet quite what happened to Emma. We know her mother and sister died when she was quite young. Then, when she was in her early 20’s her father died as well. I would have liked to think her Uncle’s family, in the same village took her in, but apparently not as she found herself pregnant at the gate of the Workhouse. Part of the workhouse policy then would be to get the mother to identify the father so the parish could pursue him for costs in supporting the child. I have not been able to track down the record of any such interview, if it still exists, but since the father is anonymous on the birth certificate I can only assume she kept silent or, god help us, she never even knew his name.

It is easy to think of her being cruel in leaving behind her son but, at that time, she probably felt she was doing the kindest and best thing for him and I suppose we’ll never know who the real father was.

My point is, all this lust and romance, can often get out of hand and historically cause many, many problems, even within my little family tree. We may not have the same moral standard these modern days but I can’t help thinking that’s a good thing. When a woman who has become accidentally pregnant can only find shelter in the workhouse and not with her family, you know society is not at it’s morally and compassionately strongest. Not to mention the quality of sex education and contraception in days gone past.

I want to finish though by talking about the practices of the little community on the Isle of Portland, way down south, dangling below Weymouth. In centuries past the community there was so tiny and hard to reach they had a very different approach to courting. If a couple expressed an interest in each other they were encouraged and given every opportunity to sleep with each other. If the girl fell pregnant than a marriage was performed and a new family created. If, after about 6 months, no child was on the horizon than the couple were split up to move onto fresher partners. What an amazing policy. However, when industrial quarrying began in the 19th century and outside workmen came to the isle the practice fell apart. Can you imagine the delight of the workman to find an island full of sexually experienced women who would happily jump into bed with them. Unfortunately, they didn’t understand the other side of the bargain and the number of children born on the island out of marriage sky rocketed as the workmen would run for the hills on finding out they were to become fathers.

So, the moral of the story? Just be careful and don’t let yourself get too swept away in the greeting cards romance of this week.

That being said, big kisses for you all! xxxxx

If you have liked this blog piece, or others I have written, I would be very grateful if you could help spread the word by sharing on Facebook or Twitter.  

Find me on Facebook – www.facebook.com/fatbloketalking  and on Twitter – @fatbloketalking or email me at fatbloketalking@outlook.com

 

 

The Lego Batman Movie and this AFOL

In an early episode of The Simpsons, Homer buys Marge a bowling ball for her birthday. A ball he obviously wants for himself. This act of sub-par husbandry  (so to speak) has led, in our house, to the expression ‘Homer Present’ meaning a gift one gives that you really want yourself.

With that thought in mind the Fat Bloke Family, in celebration of Mrs Bloke’s birthday, decamped down to the cinema to watch The Lego Batman movie on its preview weekend. ‘You like Lego Batman don’t you honey, remember, you smiled slightly at the trailer?’ Now, because I’m a gentleman I won’t tell you her age, except to say that there was a spirited conversation in the car about what point Early 40’s ended and Mid 40’s began. I felt that when you are nearer to 45 than 40 you are in the ‘mids’.

Apparently I am wrong.

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Fat Bloke and the Dark Knight

The movie though was great and we all enjoyed it. This is the second Lego movie and, what at first seemed the most cynical of Toy cash-ins, is actually becoming a truly ground breaking and innovative franchise. The first Lego Movie, released in 2014, won the Bafta for Best Animated Film and blew my mind. The action was frenetic, the gags piled high and the sheer, crazy imagination created a story that was so different to other kids films and, at times, was genuinely moving. Add to that a range of characters from the licences Lego has for producing toys and you ended up with a film where Han Solo, Batman, Dumbledore and Gandalf all rub shoulders. It was such a chaotic mixture of craziness it was utterly irresistible. The Batman in that movie was dark, into death metal and only wore black, (and sometimes very, very dark grey)  was egotistical and emotionally distant. Voiced by Will Arnett this comedy Dark Knight seemed to exemplify better in one inch of plastic every other Big and Small Screen outing of the Dark Knight.

That this character earned his own spin-off movie also made me think ‘Cash In’, but the trailers looked fun and in a similar vein to the first movie so we gave it a shot. (Incidentally I must give a shout out to The Light Cinema Wisbech, three tickets for a brand new film for only £4.50 each. Excellent value.) I was laughing straight away. It is immediately knowing and tipping  a nod to the audience that, whatever this is, it is not a standard superhero movie. I am pretty certain I missed many of the sight gags and inside jokes, they came so thick and fast. (For example a sign up Arkham Asylum pointing to the ‘Museum and Gift Shop’ and ‘Basket Weaving’ and a sign on The Jokers cell saying ‘No Stationery’ – Disappearing pencil from The Dark Knight anyone?) They refer to all the previous Batman movies, including the ‘weird 60’s one.’ (I miss the 60’s, Alfred the butler at one point complains.)

What I liked though was that the plot and best bits were not all laid out in the Trailers. Far from it. The character list explodes again from the DC universe. (Condiment Man?) to a mind boggling list of cinema villains as Batman wrestles with his own emotions and fears. (Clown Snakes being one apparently)

It does not, perhaps, have quite the emotional punch of the first film’s live action sequences, but again it is bonkers, and imaginative, and doesn’t take itself seriously. It is not a toy cash-in. These are stand alone films of real worth in the genre of Children’s Animation. Would I go and see it if I weren’t taking a child along? Yup. Would I go see it again? Yup, ‘cos I want to catch more of those jokes I missed. It’s a very solid 4 out of 5.

But then, well, I have a confession to make.

I am just a bit of an AFOL. That is, what us big boys and girls who have failed to grow up, call ourselves – Adult Friends Of Lego. I love Lego, always have. From being a tiny sprog playing with my brothers handed down bricks. (Many of which I still have and, thanks to the construction quality of the brand, still work.) I was lucky enough to grow up in the golden age of Lego, when the Space and Castle themes joined the existing City range. Some ranges have worked out for them, some haven’t. Joining up to create Star Wars sets was economic genius. Those early sets in the Star Wars range are now serious collectibles. In times of financial stress I’ve had to sell sets on Ebay and sold them for more than the Purchase price. Some Lego minifigures are literally worth their weight in gold.

I love those little minifigures. They are so tactile and friendly and fit so well into their world. So many times I’ve seen my son, with just a couple of those little guys disappear into an epic adventure played out in tiny scale.

Yes, there are issues with representations of race and gender but it’s getting better and yes, there is the common complaint that ‘in my day it was just bricks’ where as now many sets have complicated larger, formed plastic sections. But the bricks are still there, you can use both and all are fully compatible. Lego can take you from newborn baby with Duplo up to Graduate level robotics with Mindstorms. (Check out mindstorm machines on You Tube it is amazing what people can do.) And all those bricks are compatible, made from high quality plastic, formed to within tiny margins of error. Ever tried to get apart two flat bricks? Hard isn’t it, that’s because the fit is so damned good.

So, how to do you make friends with an AFOL? Buy them a random 1kg bag of bricks off eBay. How do you make an enemy of an AFOL? Tell him Megabloks is just as good. (Oh, the heresy. It really, really isn’t)

And how does an AFOL amuse himself after going to see The Lego Batman Movie? He visits Frankie and Benny’s and logs into their wifi as Bruce Wayne of Gotham, with I AM BATMAN as an email address. Well Little Bloke thought it was funny.

All in all, to quote Pink Floyd, it’s just another brick in the wall.

So, you see, Mrs Bloke, we may be in our early (mid) 40’s, but this husky fella is still a little boy at heart and always will be.

If you have liked this blog piece, or others I have written, I would be very grateful if you could help spread the word by sharing on Facebook or Twitter.  

Find me on Facebook – www.facebook.com/fatbloketalking  and on Twitter – @fatbloketalking or email me at fatbloketalking@outlook.com

 

 

 

One for ‘The Archers’ Fans only….

If you’re not a fan of The Archers, most of the below won’t make any sense. But trust me, it’s comedy gold!

SPOLIER WARNING – IF YOU HAVEN’T HEARD THURSDAY 2ND FEB’S EPISODE, DON’T READ ON!

So, the Archers plotline we have all been expecting has finally come to pass, the evil Rob Titchener has kidnapped his son, Jack. Last seen heading across a field, into the rain, with Jack in his car seat.

Here are the odds on what I think will happen next…

2/1 – Mowed down on the green by Lily Pargetter on a driving lesson. Jack thrown clear and caught, unharmed, by Toby Fairbrother. Jill not impressed.

10/1 – Drowns, hiding in the Culvert in all this rain for a 100% Ironic death. Jack floats to safety in car seat like Moses.

20/1 – Escapes with Jack, lives life of peace on a farm. Jack returns in 20 years to claim Bridge Farm, marries Tracey Horrobin..

50/1 – After fit of remorse, found hanging in Millennium Wood, dangling from Fallon’s missing bunting. (Yes, that was him too, the monster)

75/1 – Runs to a hideout in a seedy part of Brighton, recruits gang of ne’er do well’s to do his bidding. Toby Fairbrother singlehandedly takes them all on and, bloodied and beaten, emerges with Jack safely in his arms. Hailed national hero. Jill still not impressed.

100/1 – Chokes to death on Tuna Bake in motorway services. Jack taken by passing circus folk and raised as an acrobat. Has unexplained dreams about sausages and organic cheese.

1000/1 – Get’s job as President Trumps spokesman on women’s rights. Fired for being too liberal and politically correct.

10,000/1 – Has change of heart, returns Jack, hands himself in to PC Burns. Becomes changed man in prison, writes autobiography called ‘My Struggle’ and has gender reassignment surgery. On release saves village from nuclear destruction when Justin Elliot’s Farm Park and Toxic Waste Dump goes critical. Marries Tracey Horrobin.
Would love to hear any of your suggestions fellow fans. You know, this started as a tweet but I got a bit carried away.

Just one serious comment that has ticked me off with this last bit of the storyline. The idea that a strange man can repeatedly go upto a school fence and talk to one of the pupils without getting noticed is just ridiculous. Not least of which, what 5/6 yearly old can keep a secret like that? Especially one who sounds like Henry.

If you have liked this blog piece, or others I have written, I would be very grateful if you could help spread the word on Facebook or Twitter. 

Find me on Facebook – www.facebook.com/fatbloketalking  and on Twitter – @fatbloketalking or email me at fatbloketalking@outlook.com