“The Beetle,” an amateur radio adaptation by Jack Graysmark

The Beetle novel

This has taken far, FAR too long to upload, but as part of one of my final English modules at University, I produced a radio adaptation of the 1897 novel, “The Beetle.” This wasn’t an unusual piece of coursework that saw a dozen different radio productions handed in to our tutor; instead, we had to create something that could demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of one of the texts we had studied for the module, and Richard Marsh’s horror story was little known enough that I could create something without being influenced by other adaptations. Imagine my surprise when Radio 4 broadcast their own version later in the year! I had my suspicions about where they got the inspiration from, but who am I to go around criticising public service broadcasters.

As the novel is split into four parts, each featuring a different narrator, I decided to focus on the first, as if I was adapting it for a four part series Condensing it down to its essential plot points, I adapted the text so it would be suitable for radio, adding sound effects and background music that was formidable enough to evoke a few shades of darkness along the way. It earned a 2:1 in the end, and I meant to upload it soon after I finished my course, but then the relentless anxiety of job hunting set in. It was only this week when it came up on shuffle on my iPod that I remembered it, and thought that having some kind of home on the internet certainly had more purpose as a location than my fading music player.

Massive thanks goes to Alex Ferguson and Liam Hale for coming on board to star as The Arab and Paul Lessingham! Give yourself half an hour’s rest and let me know what you think.

 

Let All The Children Boogie.

david bowie starman

In my mid-teens I made a short lived venture into amateur musical theatre, starting with a seventies’ jukebox musical called Disco Inferno. While I flitted between small roles as an announcer and a priest, I looked on as the lead attempted to blow our minds with a cover of “Starman.” That was my first experience of Bowie: a tribute, although admittedly by someone with a perfectly capable voice, but nothing like the real thing. After rehearsals I dug out The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars just to listen to that track, but by the end of that Thursday night I had listened to the whole thing from start to finish.

The weekend came and I was engrossed in Hunky Dory and Heroes, and was doing my best to learn “Starman” on guitar. Years later I was interning at the Liverpool music magazine Bido Lito!, and I remember scouring gig listings for new additions while Ziggy Stardust soundtracked our afternoon. Bowie had suddenly re-emerged a few weeks before at the start of 2013, banishing firmly anchored rumours of retirement, and music suddenly felt a lot more exciting. Just this weekend I was devouring Blackstar, rejoicing in the sheer versatility of its experimental jazz. And now it’s Monday, and he’s gone. Just like that.

It might seem a tad trivial for a tribute to commence with a few anecdotes, especially as I’ve only really been into Bowie for the last seven or eight years, but this morning’s news was surprisingly upsetting, considering that I never knew him in person. I guess it was even more shocking because we’re still reeling from the impact of Blackstar, and on listening to it again Bowie suddenly sounds even more fragile than I previously registered. For a record so intricately produced, it still exhibits a carefree nature, of not having to satisfy anyone but itself; a trump card for creativity, if anything.

But I wanted to share a handful of memories, like so many others are doing, because those details which have such a huge influence on our mind-set, our happiness, and our lives overall, are often taken for granted. “There’s a star man waiting in the sky,” Bowie first sang many years ago. “He’d like to come and meet us, but he thinks he’d blow our minds.” To say he did just that doesn’t quite do him justice; really, all you have to do is listen to his music. He was the man who fell to earth, gave us a gaggle of dazzling colourful characters, and highlighted the importance of creativity and integrity. More than anything, he showed us just what we are truly capable of.

“And all the fat-skinny people, and all the tall-short people,
And all the nobody people, and all the somebody people,
I never thought I’d need so many people.”

David Bowie

1947-2016

The Twelfth Blog Of Christmas: The End

christmas mug

The first time I properly considered the Twelve Days Of Christmas, I was quite surprised by a number of factors. Firstly, with all the lords leaping, drummers drumming and ladies dancing, surely your “true love” is going to be sent down for human trafficking? Just something to consider there. Secondly, twelve days of Christmas may sound magical to some, but it is unrealistic to the rest. My family go full throttle with the celebrations from Christmas Eve through to Boxing Day, and by the end of it we are well and truly knackered. And finally, the fact that the twelve days of Christmas begin on Christmas Day itself, and finish on January 6th, surprises me. Surely it’s time to move on once the New Year is here?

Sometimes I think it’s just to allow us some flexibility in getting our decorations down and finishing up all the leftover food (the twelfth day is upon us and we still have several blocks of cheese to get through, plus half of my Mum’s Christmas cake). Another part of me thinks it’s to do with easing the pain of letting Christmas go after all the build-up. One small cynical part of me thinks it’s to allow corporations just a bit more time to shove sales, discounts and must have deals down your throat. Whatever it is, I doubt there are many people who will be continuing the celebrations for a dozen days.

And you know what? That’s a good thing. Everything ends after all, and although that might be a particularly bleak way of looking at it, the beauty of Christmas is that it is an annual constant; it’ll roll back around in its usual fashion next winter, or even October as the retailers continue to push the festive limit. But even the supermarkets have moved on; one of my local branches had all their decorations down by the end of December, and were already pushing the “limited time offer” of the Crème Eggs. Only till April you say?! We better get our skates on!

At the other end of the spectrum, it allows those Scrooges among us room to breathe. It might seem ludicrous to those of us who particularly indulge in the festive period, but not everyone likes Christmas or indeed celebrates it; last year, one of my housemates didn’t even go home for the big day, and spent it alone in our house share. While I find that image horrific, others won’t be bothered, and of course they are entitled to their own opinion. If anything, both sides will stop spouting their opinion of Christmas, and we can all go back to getting along.

Do I have any regrets from the period? Well, apart from the number of mince pies I consumed, I didn’t take as many photos as I could have; I always forgot to beg and plead family members to try and smile for a handful of pictures. While they would have been pleasing trinkets to an extent, the honest truth is that I was simply too engrossed in enjoying myself to even think of it. Christmas is best experienced in the moment itself; besides, photos just would have been too enticing for me to look over at other times of year, when really Christmas should be the last thing on my mind.

So, farewell Christmas. Despite a few bumps, 2015 was an absolute cracker, and 2016’s has a lot to live up to. Bring plenty of festive cheer (and more mince pies) on your sleigh when you come back.

The Eleventh Blog Of Christmas: A Happy New Year?

nye 2012

New Year’s Eve at Master Osbon’s in 2012; like many outings, full of silly dancing

It is impossible to reflect on 2015 without thinking about how 2016 will be different. What will you achieve? Will you be satisfied this time next year, or does the idea of setting goals fill you with anxiety or dread? And before you even come to achieving the resolutions, how exactly are you going to keep track of them? Some fill jars with small post-its to cement their objectives more firmly in their minds, while others leave a little note on their phone. Or maybe you’ll latch onto one in a moment of inspiration, only to push it to the back of your mind once New Year’s Day comes round; it all depends on how seriously you take the occasion.

Setting targets may seem like the last thing you want to do after all the stresses of the festive season. You’ve just finished clearing up after all your guests and you’ve barely had a moment to breathe, yet you’re already moving on to the next big thing. Can’t you just play the time out card? Well actually, I find New Years resolutions work wonders in helping you move forward and battling post-Christmas depression. Already I’ve decided I want to be driving home next Christmas, or at least be able to, and I’m determined to venture outside of our beloved island and see what the world has to offer. They’re not exactly formidable monoliths of targets, but they’d still be achievements I’d be happy looking back on.

But before all that, there is the act of seeing in the New Year itself. The Hootenanny or fireworks on the telly just isn’t enough for our generation; you HAVE to be out there living life to the full, no question about it. Sometimes the stress of simply having something to do is too much to handle, and it would be a lot easier just to work, or make your excuses and shrug it off at midnight. I headed up to London this year to see the new year in with old uni friends, and there is nothing quite like the hassle of venturing across the Underground with multiple bags. You have to plan it tactically like a top-priority mission; a major first world problem if there ever was one. Was it worth it?

Of course it was. Old acquaintances rekindled, music tastes indulged and a the London skyline ablaze with fireworks as the clock struck twelve. 5 hours sleep and a New Year’s Day that has needed all of my perseverance to get through has been a reasonable price to pay. Honestly, you should start the year as you intend to spend it, and going in with all guns blazing is a good attitude which sets the standard for the rest of the month which, let’s face it, can be pretty bleak. January seems to be the month where the country shuts down; everyone retreats inside to repel the harshness of winter, saving costs wherever they can, and it needs all the motivation you can muster to get through it.

From that perspective, there’s nothing like seeing friendly faces on New Year’s Eve and thinking about what you’ve achieved in the past 12 months. A couple of stand-out memories for me are starting to write columns for my local paper and smashing Ditchling Beacon on my first attempt of the London to Brighton bike ride. So set some goals; after all, you have 365 days to achieve them, and a checklist might just be the stimulus you need in June if you’re pondering where the year’s gone. Only my third outing at Glastonbury is set in stone for 2016, but a new year can mean many things, and the best thing about a clear slate is that there’s plenty of room to fill in.