A couple of days ago, a copy of my Marilyn Monroe biography was
offered as part of an auction to raise funds for a plaque to commemorate Ross McNaughton, a lifelong fan of Marilyn, who lost his brave battle with leukaemia earlier this month.
All sorts of memorabilia has been donated, proof (not that it was needed) of the regard in which Ross was held. I was pleased that the book was considered worthy to be part of the auction, but amazed to see the bidding grow from $10 all the way through to the eventual winning amount of $45.
It will be a pleasure to sign the book and send it on its way to the winning bidder, Veronica, on Monday and however much the overall auction raises, I’m sure the end result will be a heartfelt tribute to a lovely man...
Also on the book front, I’ve been busy proof reading Desperately Seeking Susan Foreman before the manuscript is send to BearManor (don’t worry Maureen, it still needs your expert eye!). I’ve also got the Gateshead Thunder history to go through one last time before it can go on sale; the cover needs a bit of work too, but so far the text reads pretty well.
I was hoping to get the chance to sit outside and do some of the proof reading accompanied by blue sky, warm sun and a glass of wine, but on the basis we had snow, hail, rain and a howling wind yesterday, I’m not overly confident for this afternoon.
No matter, indoors with a Doctor Who DVD and a can of pop will do just fine...
Russian cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov was forty years old, married (to Valentina) and had two young children. He was selected to pilot what was to be the Soviet Union’s ninth manned space mission aboard Soyuz 1 (Soyuz being the anglicised version of the Russian word Союз meaning “union).
The Russians had held an advantage over the United States in many aspects of the “space race”: the first man in space – Yuri Gagarin, first full day in space - Gherman Titov, first simultaneous flight of two manned craft, first woman in space – Valentina Tereshkova, first spacewalk - Alexei Leonov and the first multi-person craft (Voshkod 1), of which Komarov had been the command pilot.
The inaugural Soyuz flight was very much part of the Russian lunar programme and was the first manned spaceflight in over two years. The mission was certainly challenging: the Russians planned to launch Soyuz 1 with Komarov inside. A second rocket with two additional cosmonauts would blast off the next day, dock with Soyuz 1 and Komarov would crawl from one to the other and come home in the second craft.
Three tests in the lead up to the launch had failed (the third being an abort that triggered a launchpad explosion). In addition, a staggering 203 structural problems were found with the Soyuz craft, but political pressure not only from the need to “beat” the Americans, but also a planned celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Communist revolution meant that the mission would go ahead, irrespective of the potential problems with the craft and the consequent risk to Komarov himself.
Komarov’s back-up pilot was Gagarin himself. The two were close friends and a month before the flight, Komarov told a demoted KGB agent (named Venyamin Russayev) that he knew he would not return alive. When asked why he didn’t just refuse to go, Komarov explained that the back-up pilot would just be sent in his place and he wasn’t prepared to let his friend Gagarin die...
The launch went ahead as planned, but the flight was beset with problems. With power and navigation issues, Komarov was already in a perilous situation, but when the following day’s launch was cancelled, his fate was almost certainly sealed. On this day in 1967 (just three months after the Apollo I launchpad fire that killed three American astronauts), Vladimir Komarov perished when his craft’s parachutes failed to open. A back-up parachute then became entangled with a small canopy and Soyuz 1 basically crash landed with the force of a meteorite.
Amazingly, US intelligence picked up Komarov’s cries of rage as the craft plunged to earth as well as a conversation with former leader Alexei Kosygin. My Russian isn’t particularly good (actually it’s non-existent), but seemingly Komarov (the first man to be killed in a spaceflight) was cursing the “people who had put him in a botched spaceship”. His charred remains were displayed prior to a state funeral, but the death of Komarov, as well as Grissom, White and Chaffee just a few weeks earlier highlighted just how
expendable these brave pioneers actually were, no more than pawns in a game of outer space chess.
This blog therefore salutes the selfless courage of Vladimir Komarov (1927-1967)
The scenes at the end of yesterday’s Boston Marathon were more reminiscent of a movie than real life –after all, you don’t train for months to run in excess of twenty-six miles, cheered on by loved ones and watched by tens of thousands of spectators and then expect so many lives to be cruelly ripped apart by two explosions near the finish line.
I’m sure that information will become clearer as time passes, but as I write, three people are dead and more than 140 injured – several critically and a number of amputations have also been carried out as a result of injuries sustained by what I’ve seen described as “crude devices”. Some reports have suggested that the bombs contained shrapnel, which I would guess is designed to inflict as much damage to anybody unlucky enough to be caught in one of the blasts.
What could ever possess people to be so callous and uncaring about the lives of innocent folk simply enjoying a public holiday? Maybe the perpetrators are have some nationalistic objective or maybe the dreaded word “religion” will be mentioned at some point, but whatever the case, does any organisation seriously believe that their cause will have been in any way enhanced by the murder of an eight year-old boy?
Whatever the answer, surely anyone capable of free thought will be simply horrified at the events that unfolded and the tragedy of the aftermath in which lives were ended or forever altered in an instant.
A century ago next year, the world witnessed the start of a conflict of massive proportions and millions of lives were lost in the name of a “peace” that appears no closer now than it did when Yugoslav nationalist Gavrilo Princip shot and killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo all those years ago.
Yesterday three more names were added to that death toll – my heart goes out to all those affected by what transpired yesterday. It makes no sense... and it’s such a terrible waste...
It has been my long-held belief that some actors stay in “soap operas” for a reason – and that is because they’re not actually very good. I’m saying “some”as opposed to “many” or even “most” because I’m not an actor and even a poor performer is evidently far better than I could ever be (and there’s a “but”coming), but...
I watched Jimmi Harkishin in Coronation Street last night and his attempt at creating credible emotion at the death of his “beautiful Sunita” was, frankly, awful. Dressed as Casper the friendly shopkeeper, Harkishin’s character Dev demonstrated the “triple sniff” technique for displaying grief; it was embarrassing to watch and was bad enough to make Karl Munro’s best “guilty face” look almost believable – no mean feat.
I’m not going to dissect the apparent ability (or otherwise) of every soap actor (although the kid who plays Simon Barlow is beyond irritating), but in an attempt to prove my point, I would ask you to list any genuinely gifted actor/actress who, in the last ten years say, has gone onto bigger and better things after leaving Weatherfield, Walford et al.
I’ll give you two (with a probable third to come...): the equally brilliant Suranne Jones (pictured below) and Lacey Turner – now these young women can really act (Katherine Kelly would be the other...). So whilst serial dramas might be the final resting place of some actors who seek the security of a regular (and probably fairly hefty) pay cheque – and who could blame anyone for that? – they can occasionally be the breeding ground for a few of this country’s most talented and versatile television actors.
It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Jacqueline Jossa (Lauren Branning in Eastenders) emerged from Albert Square to become another name on a list that definitely will not include the name of Jimmi Harkishin...
Sniff... sniff... sniff...
It’s two years to the day since I wrote my first blog – I’m not entirely sure how many I’ve posted since then (feel free to count and let me know...), but I’m guessing it’s in the region of two hundred. The subjects have varied from the random to intensely personal and I’m grateful to all those of you who have read any of the articles. It’s no great surprise that the most significant reaction (in terms of comments and messages) came when I revealed my struggle with depression.
There is a selfish element to being so open in a public forum, although I wasn’t (and am not) looking for any sympathy. Writing was my release from the occasionally vice-like grip of an illness that I didn’t ask for, don’t want, but however hard I try can’t always hide from those who care.
The response was overwhelming – knowing you’re not alone is not necessarily a comfort because that means others are suffering too, but it does bring a kind of reassurance that doesn’t totally remove the black clouds, but lightens their shade just a fraction.
For the record, I’m coping reasonably well and have been for a few months. I still get anxious (very easily if the truth be told), mostly about money and security, but given there’s a major work restructure drawing ever closer, I defy anyone with a anxious tendencies not to pick up their half-full glass, tip it over, empty it and have a bloody good worry. On the better days, I’m consoled by the fact that I’m good at what I do (or at least that’s what I’m told), but my mind still finds it easy to run away with any scenario that has a bad ending.
Away from the workplace, I have carried on my writing and self-published more books: a 1994/95 diary of Gateshead FC, a book about the Coronation Street barmaids and a biography of Marie Prevost. There was also a lot of interest (relatively speaking) in my Marilyn Monroe bio, which somehow found its way into the hands of various authors, experts, fans, impersonators etc, many of whom had kind words to say about the book. I was way out of my depth here, because Michelle, Marijane, Marisa, Maureen, Jackie and Hanna et al have probably forgotten more that I will ever know about Marilyn, but their reviews and comments about the content, but also my writing style were a huge boost.
The revised edition of Desperately Seeking Susan Foreman was also published in 2011 and I’m still digesting the fact that the updated version is to be published by BearManor Media. I can’t fully describe how it feels to know that someone considers your work worthy of publication, but I’ll start with “thrilled” and “excited”. The only downside is they’re not keen on the use of parentheses or the three-dot ellipsis (bugger...).
On the home front, Elaine and I are closing in on our fifth anniversary – which I believe is signified by “wood” (I was hoping for wine... maybe it counts if it comes in a wooden case?). I don’t need a blog to tell her how much she means to me, but... I love you darling xx
We are starting a new diet on Monday... and added to my 2-3 weekly trips to the gym, I’m naively expecting to have the body of a God by the time the summer finally gets here. One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to reveal (via the gift of photography) my torso on my 49th birthday. The date you need to put in your diary is 2nd June... my birthday is actually on the 3rd, but you might want to unfriend me in advance!
Anyway, that’s the second anniversary blog done and dusted. As always, any/all comments welcome and thanks again for taking the time to read the stuff what I wrote x
Elaine and I popped out last night to see The Karma Heart playing at Mink Rocks in Middlesbrough. It was the first time I’d see the band play live since December 2011, but the fifth in total, one more than Killing for Company but still some way behind The Alarm...
The Facebook advert said an 8pm start, the notice on the door said “Live Music Tonight 9pm” and the first guitar chords were eventually played shortly before ten o’clock. It was like the recent Justin Bieber concert, only in reverse... the twenty-somethings were fine, but my eyes were heavy and the Steradent was back at home, waiting impatiently to start soaking my teeth...
I’ve said it before... The Karma Heart are a very very good band. They played a lot of new (to me at least) songs last night; a couple stood out – in particular one involving hands reaching up into the sky (you’re going to have to help me with the title!!). The addition of a rhythm guitarist (and second backing vocalist) has added depth to the overall sound and Jen’s vocals are just superb...
There’s a new EP due to be released nearer the summer and if you haven’t heard any of their music before, start Googling now... actually, would you wait until you’ve finished the blog?
Yesterday was also the day I was able to reveal that I’ve been given the chance to have my Doctor Who book “Desperately Seeking Susan Foreman” published by BearManor Media –something about which I’m flattered and exciting in equal measure. I’ve got quite a lot of formatting work to do (I appear to have broken every grammatical rule in the proverbial book... the three dot ellipsis is apparently a big “no no”... oh dear...), but this is an opportunity I never imagined would be offered and I just hope that the book does justice to BearManor and the belief they are showing in me.
Back at Mink Rocks, I was telling Jen about developments; we have agreed to swap EP for book later in the year and then simply sit back and see who is first to achieve fame and fortune! In fairness, I’ve hardly got age and talent on my side, but I’m just looking forward to seeing what the future has in store... for the writer and the singer.
So here we are... Saturday morning with the prospect of a week off work to follow the weekend.
We haven’t got any major plans, but hopefully it’ll be a relaxing few days and some battery recharging. Hopefully...
I’ll be spending time finishing off my Gateshead Thunder history (volume 2) and ordering a proof copy for a final pre-publication check. The book covers the period from November 1999 to the end of the 2002 season and I hope that in amongst the memories (and the seemingly never-ending ups and downs) reflection will recognise the incredible efforts of those around whom the text is built.
More than a decade had passed since the main body of the book was completed – I guess I’ll soon find out if people want to relive a remarkable chapter in the club’s history, but for me the simple fact that Gateshead Thunder is still here bears testimony to the determination of those whose names fill the 279 pages.
Next is Desperately Seeking Susan Foreman (volume 3) complete with this brilliant new cover design courtesy of Dominic Lea, to whom I’m extremely grateful. I’ve still got the last few chapters to write, but as Doctor Who closes in on its fiftieth anniversary, now seems the opportune time to bring to an end my search for the female TARDIS companions with the final instalment of a book I’m really proud to have conceived and written.
One plus of having a break from work is not having to complete the daily 100 mile round trip to Newcastle (and back... obviously...) or the 125 mile journey to and from Leeds which I’ve done a couple times these past two weeks. The bank balance benefits, which is always good news, but I will have to play my music a lot quieter for the next few days...
That said, Monday will bring The Karma Heart to Middlesbrough and the chance to meet up with Jen and the lads and listen to some long overdue live tunes from a top quality band. But today’s short piece ends with a picture quiz... the girls below are my current rock band of choice as I speed up the A19 (within legal limits of course). There might not be a prize for giving me their name, but you can’t put a price on a sense of satisfaction so... can you name this fantastic band?
Today’s blog is a bit of a request for help... not exactly a cry for help, well not yet anyway...
I’ve written quite a few books now; the subjects have been varied (from Marilyn Monroe to Coronation Street, astronauts to rugby league), but this is specifically about my Doctor Who offering – and about me.
Desperately Seeking Susan Foreman 3 will be the third and final edition of my quest to obtain a signed photograph from all the female TARDIS companions. Running alongside the search is a history of the programme written in my own... er... personal style.
The first edition was sold to raise funds for Children in Need and I’d be more than happy for this book to have a charitable aim as well. I am probably more proud of this book than any of my others but I’m well aware that self-publishing with printer’s postal costs added to the book price is prohibitive as far as significant sales are concerned.
So I have two questions... requests...
Would anyone be willing to write a few lines about me, my writing style, or my books (honesty is preferable, but I’ll happily accept exaggeration and white lies!!!) that might convince someone to “take a chance”? If so, my e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org and it would mean a lot if you would be prepared to spend just a few minutes to help an ageing writer...
And secondly, does anyone know a publisher, or know of anyone who knows anyone etc who knows a publisher who might at least consider taking on this project? I’ve written to several people/companies over these past months, but sadly the answers have all been variations on a theme – and that theme was “no”!
Please feel free to share the link... and thank you in anticipation of your e-mails, help or advice. I’m about three quarters of the way through the rewrite and if there’s any interest at all, the book will be finished by the middle of May.
From me and Jenna-Louise, thank you so much xx
All my own work... almost.