Archive for July, 2010

Nearly there, Bernie Bolts Bergen is almost ready – final proof readings are done, the cover has been designed and the promotional website, video etc are near completion. It has taken a little longer than planned – I am 7-10 days behind schedule – but the next few days should see it all coming together. Over the last few weeks/months  I have had a number of discussions about different parts of the book; Chapter 1 underwent numerous revisions and even last week was tweaked, yet again; in another early chapter I adopt a lighter humerous touch to represent the gap between Bernie’s show career and his decision to escape – a decision to retain or change the chapter had to be made, it stayed with some minor adjustments; and finally, the chapter in which the characters speak using Scots.

Gaunae no dae that

A number of blogs have argued against the use of dialect citing reasons such as; errors in spelling or presentation; it breaks pace for the reader; it may be condescending and patronizing;  it may present the speaker as an object of ridicule and represent the tongue used as inferior, ignorant or of a lower class.

First of all Scots is not a dialect, it is a language. It’s a variant of English, ‘a branch of the  same tree and with some effort and good will (both languages (sic)) are mutually intelligible and complementary to one another’ (Billy Kay). However, the questions/issues of translation, breaking pace and condescension remain and are compounded by my own schooling where we were actively discouraged from using Scots orally and in writing. ‘Please don’t do that’ rather than ‘Gaunae no dae that’ was a common cry from parents and primary school teachers. But, as Kay argues, Scots is part of our culture, landscape, people and history and represents a way of looking at the world that is unique to us and not easily translated. So when Bernie meets up with Hamish, a Scottish Fold, who refers to him as  ‘a big feartie’ in the book I feel it conveys a stronger more vivid picture than the literal translation of him being a ‘big coward’.

Scottish Fold

Yes, children will have to stop a little and think about what is being said but is that a bad thing?  Reading isn’t a passive activity, children should be engaged and new words, new ideas, thoughts and viewpoints  should all be part of that engagement. The aim of the chapter was to capture and present Bernie as being lost in his own country, in the hielands of Scotland.  The language used helps to enrich the chapter giving it a depth that would not have been possible if I had used a language which is ‘rootless and impersonal.’

I wanted the book to be about Bernie returning to Scotland and to convey some idea and feel of my own country. This small chapter I hope goes some way towards that end without causing offence, appearing to be condescending or patronising.  Ah ken that sum fowk ‘il no be happy but here’s hoping




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A new Howler

Meryl and her baby (BBC news picture)

I saw this story today and just had to change the planned blog.

This six-week-old baby Howler Monkey was revealed to the public for the first time at Edinburgh Zoo. The full story can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-10687938 as can the picture.

These monkeys hail from the forests of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay. The male Howler Monkeys, according to National Geographic, ‘have large throats and specialized, shell-like vocal chambers that help to turn up the volume on their distinctive call.’ This apparently makes them the loudest animal on the earth and their howls can be heard for up to 3 miles away.

But they haven’t heard Costa. I’m not aware of Costa having modified vocal apparatus but when he is in full shout he can be heard around our whole street, just ask our neighbours. We have had to resort to locking him down at night so he doesn’t disturb any one. His strange peacock like cry echoes through the night if we don’t. Not only is he loud he is as regular as a church bell ringing every hour, not on the hour mind you, but certainly at hourly intervals. As I’ve said before I think we get away with it because he doesn’t sound like a cat.  I can hear you say that your street can’t be three miles long so there isn’t any comparison. But there is.

When we compare strength  among animals, ants are rolled out as superheros due to their ability to lift 5 times their own body weight.  Howler Monkeys from my very brief unscientific research are on average at least three and a half times the size of Costa which probably means that they have a much larger lung capacity than Costa. So far so good but the comparison loses ground due to the Howler Monkey having modified vocals. For that reason the Howler Monkey should be disqualified.

All things considered I think that pound for pound Costa must be the loudest animal on the planet. At 4.00 am, usually after he has cleared his throat with a couple of mini – shouts, when he decides to offer one of his Pavarotti type vocals I defy anyone to say he is not the loudest animal on the planet. Our neighbours will, I’m sure, support our position on this. They may, of course, wish to compare notes with those people who stay near Edinburgh Zoo but in the early hours if we haven’t locked Costa down, the debate may well be a little academic.


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This week has been a horrible week, everything we have touched has gone belly up. One thing did raise a smile and that was the Land Rover I passed last saturday with the message ‘we supply meteorites’ on the spare wheel at the back. It might just be me but what a fantastic thing to be able to say – imagine being introduced at a party and responding to the question – ‘What do you do for a living? – and oh, so casually replying that you are a supplier of meteorites. As I child I would have loved to tell the my friends that my dad was a meteorite collector.

I think I've found something.

As I passed the Land Rover, I had to look across at the driver, hoping that he would be wearing a superhero uniform. Then I started to think;how do you declare yourself as a meteorite supplier? Is it something the career advsier at school can help you with? – my recollection of the career advisor at school was to be given a might tome of a book of jobs and being told I might find something in there. I never read it but I don’t think the job of meteorite supplier was in there. Is this a job where things literally fall into your lap?

That's enough digging for any cat.

I suspect not. I presume that being a meteorite collector has it’s boring parts, and that meteorites have to be first of all found and then, inter alia, analysed, graded and catalogued. The careers advisers never ever tell you about the boring bits. Writing the book has been like that, I wrote the first version of the book 5 yrs ago in under 5 weeks spending an hour or so here and there. I put it away and picked up some time later but didn’t have time for it and then this last year decided to rework it and do something with it. But the work didn’t finished there, I’ve had to think about book covers, target markets, promotional plans and platforms, pricing and other ‘P’s’ so loved by marketers. The idea that fell out of the sky that day in Bergen, needed to be refined to take it to market and I have to do it. As I near the finishing line, I do wonder whether enough people will like it – and that’s the dream.

There's nothing in there

We all like to dream; maybe falling meteorites offer more realistic goals than reaching for the stars but to realise the beauty of the meteorite we still have to reach for the stars.


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Now the World Cup is over – focus

I love my football. I played for years, not at a high level but I did have some senior trials and at one point I did get paid for playing and was even transferred for the princely sum of £100. I also did some coaching. I don’t play anymore the old knees won’t take the impact but I do love my football. I’ll watch games at any level, from young kids to old crocks. I’ll stop and watch kids having a kick-about and if the chance arises I still love to get involved. So when the World Cup comes around I try to watch as many games as I can.

For the last few weeks my evenings and weekends have been structured around watching the football. For these last few weeks I have been a football junkie totally addicted to the beautiful game. Result – nothing else gets done. Nothing is a slight exaggeration but the nights had to be stretched into the small hours if I had paperwork or other things to do. The combination of work, football and other commitments meant that time on the book was much less than it should have been. The rewriting and tidying needed to get the book launched in 4 weeks time hasn’t had the time and focus it deserved and more importantly the time it needed. In watching their ball I have taken my eye off my ball.

Focus, focus, focus. These will be the key words for the next few weeks. I am in the fortunate position, with the exception of tomorrow that I will be able to devote as much time as I can to ensure everything is in place for the launch.

Will the book be ready in 4 weeks time? The answer is yes. With the exception of tomorrow I can devote virtually every hour of every day for these coming weeks. There is no football and there are no other commitments to meet. Focus, focus, focus will be the key word for these coming weeks. I have played around with cover formats, I have included an example of one of the ideas for the book cover but I still have lots more to do

Book cover example

No games and no more excuses. The football season doesn’t start for a few weeks, so no distractions. The next world cup is 4 yrs away, maybe Scotland will qualify,between now and then with some luck I will have written my next two books. But that is to come and it won’t happen if I don’t finish this book. In some ways the writing has been the easy bit, it’s all the other bits I need to fix. Bernie Bolts Bergen will be out in August and I will be able to watch the start of the season without feeling guilty unlike the World Cup where every game was followed by ‘I should have done …..’ But all is forgiveable when Spain play the beautiful game beautifully. THere I go again.

What was I saying about focus?


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The hols are here and the mammoth list of tasks has been started. Another 5 weeks to go of late rises, they are not that late. I’m not one for lazing in bed, during the hols, I’ll generally be up and ready by 9.00am. Despite being on hols I check my work emails and my personal emails before deciding on any plans for the day.I hate planning ahead, that’s for work, I like playing the day as it comes or how I feel.

The last few days have raised an interesting question for us and the cats. The question is whether or not we should become involved in the world of cat breeding and showing again. As I’ve said before it was always a hobby for us, I think the most money we ever made on a litter enabled us to buy a pizza with starters and drinks. But we gave the breeding world up due to time constraints and other business commitments. But the question has been prompted by a reminder that our domains nounour.com and nounour.co.uk are about to expire and a question from an old breeder friend asking to use Leo as a stud cat.

We are quite attached to the breed name Nounour, derived from Nounours (teddybear- French), it also came with the strapline for cats like teddybears.As a brand it worked, our cats were fairly successful at the shows, and our site received visitors from around the world. The brand was spearheaded by Rhumtetum, but Seil, NemieSabie, Coco, Fara and Bernie all did well on the show circuit.

I have wonderful memories of the shows, You haven’t lived unless you’ve driven from Scotland to Wales at 4.00 am in the morning with two meowng cats for a cat show.We used to show Rhumtetum and Nemie, neither of these two howled it has to be said, together and frequently stopped at motorway service stations, and put them on their leads and walked them, much to the bemusement of other travellers. On one occasion, Nemie spotted a young rabbit and decided to give chase, dragging Linda down a grassy embankment. The other joy was toileting, while at the show Rhum never used his tray and always waited until we were back on the road. The smell fresh cat pee and/or poo wafting through the car as you travel at 70mph down a motorway is something else.

The shows themselves are also strange affairs, filled with a motley collection of people, within which we include ourselves. The majority were friendly, but not all, and had their cat’s welfare at heart but they were also very competitive. On one occasion Rhum was sprayed with perfume in order to provoke a reaction from him and make him unmanageable when he was judged; they almost succeeded. Rows and rows of cats in cages makes for a strange spectacle and can only be for the dedicated. While we adore our cats I can’t see myself going back but it is against the backdrop of a cat show that my book Bernie Bolts Bergen opens.

So should we breed and not show? This question is a bit harder. We have bred some gorgeous and loving cats over the years. I love watching the development of these tiny mouse like creatures, as they evolve into playful kittens.
The tiny patter of little feet bounding round the house, climbing the curtains or anything else for that matter, knocking over ornaments and incurring the wrath of their mother is almost irrestible. But we can’t keep all the kittens and to raise them properly takes an investment in time, a commodity that has been rather scarce in the recent past. Parting with these little characters is also painful and is another reason behind Bernie Bolts Bergen. If we do decide to keep a kitten, do we look for another Rhum, Nemie or Leo. Is it fair of us to try and impose the character upon another cat?

Well, should we breed Leo?

We still don’t know.

Watch this space.


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