Tag Archives: creative writing

A Man called Horace and other Saturday morning Odeon Tales!

I have many happy memories  of the Odeon Cinema on the corner of High Street and Brighton Road.

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Induction into the fantasy of film started early with us. The Odeon Cinema cleverly had a Saturday morning Mickey Mouse Club and for the princely sum of 6d (2.5 pence) you could gain entry into a world of Laurel and Hardy, Buster Keaton, Harry Langdon and the firework capers of Flash Gordon and his unfeasibly good-looking girlfriend, pitted against the Oriental looking Emperor Ming whose every thought was dastardly!

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There would be cowboy serials featuring Hopalong Cassidy or the Lone Ranger and Tonto.  and more modern films made in the fifties and early sixties that featured childhood stars who would go on to feature as staples in seventies and eighties TV. People like Dennis Waterman and Richard O’Sullivan.

These British Film Institute youth films always involved middle class children from comfortable homes and well off parents discovering spies, whilst flying their radio controlled planes, or spotting bank robbers whilst casually sailing along the estuary in their dinghy. Not the sort of thing that happened on the Reso.

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The short and longer feature films were punctuated by an intermission when the lady with the tray of ice cream would appear and fight her way to the front. The tubs of ice cream were out of reach for me if I was to buy a Beano on the way home to complete my weekend expenditure of my pocket-money, so I settled for the latest fad, the Zoom Lolly which looked a little like Fireball XL-5 and had traffic light colours.

In the intermission, young punters were encouraged to take to the stage and show their talents. Besides the fact I did not have any talents, I wouldn’t be seen dead trying to entertain the assembled masses. Duncan and Andy had no problem with warbling their hearts out though. As they finished there was a second’s amazed silence, followed by rapturous applause. I wish I had the courage!

I had been a Mickey Mouse Club regular for a couple of years when I caught the eye of the management for what seemed the right reasons. Apparently the manager wanted to interview me. My first thought was that I was suspected for some heinous criminal offence, like opening the exit doors nearest the toilets to let our mates in.

It turned out my name had been forwarded to him as a reliable sort of lad for an important mission. Perhaps I had become middle class and a radio controlled plane was on the way, or otherwise there were spies operating in the area? It was none of these escapades, but a position of great responsibility was being thrust on my shoulders, or rather round my rather feeble upper arm.

I was being made a member of the Committee, which I thought might involve both riches and status. It conferred none of these, but merely a command to arrive no later than 9.45 on a Saturday morning, and to don a Perspex badge to be worn on the left arm saying COMMITTEE. When I enquired what the remuneration package for the role was, the manager was taken aghast, saying it was a great honour, a position of responsibility and would be the making of me. He also said that I would get in free on Saturday morning.

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It only occurred to me three weeks after accepting the role, that I now spent Saturday morning walking around the cinema, most usually with my back to the screen, telling people to sit down and stop ruining it for the rest of the audience. Saving sixpence in return for abuse and sore feet seemed little compensation once the swagger of wearing a Perspex badge, like some latter-day one horse town sheriff,  wore off.

Week four was the crunch point. I quickly realised that the secret to this job was to do a cursory tour of the stalls so that the manager saw you and then loiter around the stairwells head up to the balcony where the older children congregated.  Given a little luck, I could drift into the high seats on the left hand side of the auditorium so that my badge would not be visible and settle in for the main feature.  Even better if some of the girls from my school were there we could call it an informal date (you know who you were).

I was, like with Watch With Mother, sitting comfortably and about to begin,  when the Manager caught me. I was taken out to the corridor next to the Projection room, and with the flickering and clicking of the Projector as the backing track, was given a right dressing down. The manager seemed under the impression that he was still fighting the War and used a number of military adjectives to describe my dereliction of duty.  Apparently he knew my dad, and would not relish having to tell him what a towering disappointment his son was to the Odeon Organisation!

He watched me return to the Upper Circle and immediately address a couple of lads with their feet on the seats in front, a common occurrence. Flustered from the altercation and with the crescendo of the film blinding and deafening me, I didn’t realise who I had addressed my ‘Get your feet down, lads!’ to. At that point the film froze and out of the darkness came a terse reply… ‘Or else?’

I’d made the mistake of addressing the Cardno brothers.

If I learnt two things whilst living on the Reso, the first one was the TV jingle about mints which went ‘Never Hurry a Murray!’ the second which came from experience, was “Never hassle a Cardno!’

My badge went back at the end of the shift and in the following weeks I resorted to bunking in from the queue at the Fire Exit, by way of compensation for a near death experience.

As to a Man Called Horace, when we were teenagers, my cousin Tim and I went to see a Richard Harris film about a guy captured by Native Americans who came to appreciate their ways. To prove himself, he went through terrible rituals involving eagle claws and needles and being suspended by ropes by tender parts of the anatomy. Tim had mistakenly thought the film was called A Man Called Horace. We still laugh about it almost fifty years later. A Man called Horse is still a remarkable film.

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Copyright: Alamy, United First Artist Pictures and Odeon Cinemas. Used under Creative Commons Usage.
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Teaming up to spread the love… The Reso and Draig Enterprises…

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Having been working informally with Ali Carter of the Laundry Studios in Colwyn Bay for some time, we formalised the arrangement last year with the formation of Draig Enterprises, a community Interest Company designed to bring some creative community projects to North Wales and beyond.

We are looking to gain funding for projects which address the most vulnerable or isolated in the community and to begin processes of change, rather than simple develop a stand alone event.

Ali comes from the creative industries and is well-known for her projects across Wales. My background is in education and community learning and we have other partners from the artistic and commercial world to call on.

 

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Here is the first project that Ali has managed to get funding to develop… it gives a supportive and creative opportunity for those with dementia and others…

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e have many other projects in development, including a Reso Film production which has been a long time in gestation!

Look out for this logo… our Chinese speaking readers will understand the significance…

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Rhyl’s secret passages

As a lad I used many short cuts around Rhyl and assumed that everyone else knew of them.

One of my favourites was pointed out to me by my dad. He grew up in King’s Avenue, and the family continued living in the same house after he got married.

When he moved into the first marital home in Gwynfryn Avenue, he showed me the short cut he used to travel between King’s Avenue and our house in what seemed to be an unfeasibly quick time.

From his house in Kings Avenue he would cross to Oxford Grove and turn into an entry of maybe twenty metres. At the end of the entry was a corrugated iron gate. Once you passed through it you would think it was just another back gate to the houses in the Grove. You were now standing in the much bigger entry which was at the back of West Kinmel Street. When you came out from this entry you were looking at the old Rhyl Engine Shed near the corner of Ffynnongroew Road.

It must be close to fifty years since I last used this short cut. Is it still there I wonder?

It always seemed mysterious to me and I thought it was just my dad and I’s secret passage.

Hardly secret, but the little wooded entry between Mona Terrace and Mount Road which opened out onto Grange Road was always a great short cut.

The footpath over the railway from Lynton Walk gave access to the pathway that bordered the railway and led to some steps onto Grange Road Bridge – short-cutting and trainspotting was always a winning combination with me.

On the Reso was the little footbridge over the Cut at the top end of Gwynfryn Avenue. This was a favourite place to catch sticklebacks and eels. In fact, there were footpaths for much of the length of the cut and if nettles or rats were not a problem you could navigate around the town following the Cut. I even ventured under the bridge where the Cut  went under the railway tracks. My mum would have had kittens as she always gave me morbid warnings of the horrors that would await me if I played in the Cut, ventured near the bottomless brickpond, or messed about in the Foryd. She seemed to suffer from hydrophobia.

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For years I thought  mine was the only solo expedition to venture through there and it was only recently when I mentioned it to Peter Trehearn that he disabused me of the fact as it was a regular haunt of his!

So what have I missed? Where else in Rhyl were there secret passageways?

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Americymru… one great organisation!

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The Welsh expatriate community in the United States and Canada is large and has a great interest in all things Welsh. In some cases, this is because they have emigrated from one culture to another, in other cases, it is an abiding cultural link spanning several generations.

Either way, Ceri Shaw of both Americymru and Eto Welsh Literary magazine is the go to guy for curating and promoting all things Welsh.

It is almost a decade since we first met online and we have been corresponding off and on since. Few people have been more supportive of my writing. He has been a great gateway into promoting my writing in North America. It is always good to speak with him.

You can find his work here:

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He published my ramblings on writing and getting published today:

Potential Welsh Writers

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The trials and tribulations of a Welsh writer

I have often been exasperated by the way booksellers classify my books. They tend to work to set parameters and the Reso can easily fit into several categories, so in some book listings it appears as fiction: young adult, in others as general fiction. I’ve even seen it in a section on social issues: young people!

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In truth, all of these are technically correct. Others would be equally appropriate such as  fiction: Wales, fiction: historical (it is disconcerting to realise that what appears to you as your short life to date, is now generally considered as an historical time span!) fiction: the sixties.

Unfortunately the way a book is classified can also have an impact on sales because readers tend to concentrate on the sections they know and will never find books in other sections, unless by recommendations. This is what makes recommendations so powerful and valuable. Thank you so much to all those people who took the trouble to write something on a website about how they enjoyed the books, it is biggest compliment you can pay to an author and keeps me positive and writing.

A back-handed compliment which really frustrates me is the reader who tells me that they enjoyed the book immensely, and that they have passed it round the family and everyone enjoyed it immensely as well! I’m not looking to make my fortune from writing, so few people do, but I would like some recompense for the hundreds of hours spent researching, writing, re-drafting and publishing the books. If you love a book, any book, try to encourage the author a little more by buying a couple of copies for birthday or Christmas presents.

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Regarding making my fortune from writing, a few statistics will soon disabuse that notion. If you take all the fiction books published in the UK in a single year it amounts to almost a million. The average number of copies sold per book is 18! That means from J K Rowling, who sells millions, down to me who sells a few less, 18 is the number of copies that the average book sells.

There are few fortunes to be made in publishing your writing – so it is best to write because you enjoy doing so or because you think you have something important to say about humanity. I am in the first camp.

The top-selling books tend to come from established writers with agents, big publishing houses and massive marketing budgets. There are also the best sellers from ‘celebrities’ ghost written for them to give them another income stream and promoted shamelessly on television chat shows. Not that I’m bitter!

For the rest of us, it is rather like the lottery… you have to be in it to win it, but the chance of making a living, let alone a fortune from writing, is very remote indeed. I console myself with the thought that when I die, something will live on beyond me and will consistently fail to provide an income stream for the beneficiaries of my Will. 

Having originally gone through a publisher to have a professional endorsement of my writing, I made the decision to self-publish through a company called Lightning Source, part of the Ingram Group. This allowed me to cut costs and to take out the publisher from the trough. Even so, I receive about 1.40 in pounds sterling for every book I sell, the rest is accounted for from set up and production costs.

There is a line of reasoning that suggests you should set the book cost level as low as possible so as to maximise sales.   5 pounds is often seen as a critical price point for fiction books, which is why so many retail at 4.99.  However, this assumes that you have a budget to promote your book so that it can compete in the crowded 4.99 market. I don’t have a marketing budget. I am in the Catch 22 situation of knowing that to maximise book sales I need to market the book but I can’t market the book until I have generated enough sales to justify a marketing budget, which I can’t do until… round and round it goes!

That leaves this blog and sites such as Linked In on which to promote the books. The secret here is to segment the market by exploiting the different categories a book will appear in. My books are time bound to the sixties, the seventies and the eighties respectively so I would do well to find niche markets for such writing. Similarly my books have a Welsh setting and there are active Welsh communities overseas to which my writing is recounting their youth, or making a wider cultural connection.

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In this context, no-one has been more helpful than Ceri Shaw and the team at Americymru  and Eto magazine for bringing my work to a large expatriate community in the United States and Canada. The Welsh appear to be great networkers so that the Americymru  connection has led to Australian, New Zealand and South African sales – just leaving the Patagonian  market to crack!

There is support for Welsh writers in the form of bursaries and writing camps under the auspices  of Literature Wales, but these, quite rightly, focus on writers writing in Wales and debut authors. I wish I had known that when starting out on my debut book!

For the most part this has been a dismal article of trials and tribulations, so I feel I muse end on a positive note. Nothing quite prepares you to have people share their memories with you and tell you that you brought back to life things half-remembered or forgotten.

My favourite reader comment was from a Principal of a Welsh primary school. He could not have pleased me more when he said, ‘I see a lot of young Dylan Thomas in your writing.’ I’m assuming he was referring to stylistic qualities and not plagiarism!

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