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Michelle's corner

Michelle Knight. Writer, photographer, programmer, truck driver and general, all round nut case. Life is a journey and that's what this blog will probably end up being. Let's see where we go, eh? ;-)

Review - Do You Mind If I Smoke

Do You Mind If I Smoke - Simon McKay, Fenella Fielding

Fenella Fielding. A principled, wholesome person in both life and book. (which was released first as an audio book, if you prefer that format) If you're looking for the dirt, it is there but it isn't put on a paper plate, fluffed up and delivered to your face a'la Tizwas. For example she recalled about working with Norman Wisdom...

"Not a very pleasant man. Always making a pass - hand up your skirt first thing in the morning. Not exactly a lovely way to start a day's filming. Taking it for granted anyone was game. It wasn't confined to just me, of course. I remember Dilys Laye saying exactly the same thing. His attitude was: Female; fair game. No thought for, is he alluring? Are you interested? No matter. It was just, ooo-er! Female; go. Not very nice. And not the most attractive man in the world.

Other accounts, of which there are few, are dealt with in a similar manner. Well, that is except for the chapter on Kenneth Williams, of course. You are more than half way into the book before she even mentions the films from which she titled the book, "(I'll tell you about the Carry On's later on.)"

I can't imagine how it must be to have to sell yourself into roles and work contacts for auditions and parts on such a regular basis. McKay decided to write the book in subject order rather than strict chronological and I personally think that this was the wrong decision with Fielding's story, as I didn't feel like I got enough of an image of any single period of time.

However, when you've got skill and experience, it probably makes the volatile career as an actor or actress all the more enduring. There were points in her career where she was, "broke," as in extremely low on funds and at one point she  recounted the experience of claiming benefits. But Fielding certainly had both skill and experience. Knowing when to add a word here, or cut a word there, or how delivery could change things. As she said, "Later, I noticed that a bit in the sketches I did with Morecambe and Wise... it was the rhythm of them." The goal seems to be to do enough in the popular works, so that the residuals all add up by the time you retire.

She shares pearls of wisdom, including "Well, everybody can make some stupid decisions and perhaps that was one of mine, but it doesn't mean my life is a tragedy because of it," and, "You do pick things up if people are kind enough to tell you when you need it. They'll say, 'If you did it like such and such, that would make the point,' and if you listen it can make a real difference."

I even learned a new word, "hobbledehoy."

The book finishes with the last twenty -ish pages being her appointment diary from 1958 to 1968. Things like...

19th March - Costume fitting at Berman's
20th March - Rehearse at Dinley's for police concert
24th March - Voiceover Cool Tan

In conclusion, I would rather have had an extended piece about each period; the personalities of a particular time, the places she lived and what was going on. Without this, the book does get a bit ethereal, which I think is a shame. It lacks the up and down of a drama read; but that wasn't what Fielding was about.


As many in the acting world, she did far more than she was popularly remembered for and I get the impression of someone I'd have loved to have had coffee with. McKay definitely did us a favour when he upped the ante to ice cream.

Reading progress update: I've read 21 out of 202 pages.

Do You Mind If I Smoke - Simon McKay, Fenella Fielding

...And when I performed it - to a gay crowd, because it was a gay club - they were helpless with laughter, especially when I sang the bits we'd added: "Your fairy days are ending, when your wand has started bending," and "The glitter-dust they sprinkles but it just shows up the wrinkles." Now I know why so many of those "Widow Twanky" men did this number in panto; clearly it's not quite the song I thought it was when I was a child taking classes with Madame Behenna. And I suspect that more recent interpretations might have come as a surprise to Madame Behenna, too.

Marcia Lewis--Nobody Loves a Fairy When She's Forty, 1977 TV

When someone enjoys the journey...

Someone who has just finished the BDSM series, reported that they enjoyed it. Knowing my history and that it's based on my life experiences gave them an extra connection and even though some of the twists and turns were darker rather than lighter... they enjoyed the journey.


I might actually write another book on this subject... but based on a more real life couple. That, however, would be several years down the line. I've met enough people and seen their relationships start, form, develop and end, as well as the relationships that I've been in myself, to be able to write a solid and truthful story. But I'm not going to make the same mistake twice... I'm going to nurture my abilities as a writer first.


This year has been a year of having to dot I's, cross T's and I've been doing a little photography and web design to supplement the old bank balance. As a result, there hasn't been the space for any real creative energy. And there's little chance of that changing throughout the rest of 2018.


But overall, I'm looking forward to returning to the creative process when things clear up.

I think I've worked it out

For years, you could ask me the question of what would make me happy, and I genuinely wouldn't be able to respond. Now, after watching the making of, with Ernest Cline behind the scenes of, "Ready Player One," I know what I want in life.


I'd love to go on that creative journey. To meet people and witness something I had written, come off the page and come to life. I can totally empathise with Cline's reports of having to stop his heart jumping out of his chest, during the process, because of the people he was meeting and the power of the creation process.


The description of Spielburg as someone who's tall that doesn't make you feel small, resonated with the clips of the process in action, and everyone working on various sets to make things happen.


Truly awe inspiring.

Two days...

Cheaper than Amazon, 5 day delivery free... and it reaches me in two days !!! ... Now that's what I call... "Smoking !!!!" :-D


Do you mind if I smoke?

Sadly, Fenella Fielding passed away a few days ago. She reached a good age, suffering a stroke at 90. Her life was quite unusual and I decided to buy the book she released last year, titled from one of her best scenes in, "Carry On Screaming," where she asked her visitors, "Do you mind if I smoke?" and when they confirmed that they didn't mind at all... her body was enveloped in steam from a dry ice source. Good joke.


Her obituary on the BBC is here - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/45409341 - and is worth a read, IMHO.

The only thing that rankled was when she met fellow actors - and there were many - who'd been asked to do adverts with a "Fenella Fielding-like" voice. "Bloody cheek," she would say with perfect comic timing. "Why didn't they ask me?"

What is unusual about this, is that I got the book cheaper from Hive.co.uk, than I could from Amazon. Purchases from Hive also include a donation to an independent book shop. Lesson... always shop around, because Amazon isn't the cheapest, especially now that postage isn't free for orders less than £20. Add to that, the Hive order was free postage for 5 day delivery. What's not to like?!


Tribute Art for The Dark Crystal

I'm looking forward to reading this one. There are various artists involved in this tribute work, and as such the styles vary considerably. Some true to the original work, others with their own takes which go towards the surrealist.


Review - Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art - Scott McCloud

McCloud has done very well with this book.


Using the medium of comics, to teach the history, composition, creation, properties and philosophy of comics, is perhaps the only way that these things could actually be taught. McCloud is actually able to demonstrate, right there, what he is discussing.


He had a lot to bring to the table, but I'm not sure how much of that is in the version I read; with the original being published in 1994. Approaching sixty years of life, he has spent the majority of that in the world of comics, with a long running relationship with manga also. The art of symbols, language and everything that they became and sometimes decayed into, is summed up here in a book which, I have to admit, got a little heavy for me in places.


The representation of himself that McCloud chose to present in the book, would fit with his age at the original writing. I do find myself sitting back and wondering if he would change anything about the wisdom that he presented back then; or whether he reached the pinnacle of his understanding of comics at that point. So many years have passed.


I get the impression that he is a man for whom his life and his art, are one in the same; and the wisdom he expressed is from the very early days of the internet, and I find myself wondering if he had a crystal ball...


In conclusion, the book does a very good job of deconstructing comic art and bringing an understanding of the mechanics to the reader. It will ensure I take a step back when evaluating a new comic, and I feel like it has opened a door in the artwork, to the mind of the artist beyond. I do wonder about the breadth of audience for this book, however.

I'm literally crying right now.

Feedback received, via the friend I originally gave, "Check Mate," to... from the lady they leant it to... to read.


Thanks for sending it to me but my heart sank initially as science fiction is not usually my preferred genre. However I did enjoy it, the lady obviously has a technical back ground and a great sense of humour as the characters were so beautifully drawn and very funny.  The solution was so blindingly obvious but didn't occur to me remotely, so very clever. I will recommend it to my ladies in the book club


Yeah, I'm literally shedding tears.

Walmart take the fight to Amazon

In this article, it is noted that Walmart has entered the ebook and audiobook space.




Things are heating up, people !!!

Wonderful words

I gave a copy of, "Check Mate," to a friend at the pub. He leant it to someone else. This is what she's returned so far...


"I have just started the book, with some trepidation as apart from Dr Who, who I love, science fiction isn't my thing.  However I am almost half way through and the humour describing the various characters is hilarious.  I hope to return it by the end of next week, so hope that is OK."


It's feedback like that, which makes writing books worth the effort. I'm looking forward to her final report and I'm chuffed to bits that someone is enjoying it. I'm also impressed that she's "just started" the book and is almost half way through it already. I mean, I know the start is quite slow, detailed and technically sluggish, so for her to have made it through the heavy stuff and break through to the humorous sections is worthy of a medal.


Let's hope she likes how the story progresses, and the twists and turns that await her.

Reading progress update: I've read 117 out of 224 pages.

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art - Scott McCloud

This book is proving to be absolute genius. What better way to understand comics and the associated art, human and psychological theories, than to use comic art itself.


Sadly, it's taking odd pockets of time to get through books these days... like a hotel in Manchester overnight, to attend a headstone dedication the following morning... but I really want to get through this. However, this isn't your average read. It's a case of being fresh enough to be mentally engaged with what it's teaching.

Jante Law

An interesting topic that I found on the interwebs this morning, was Jante Law which is an unspoken, "ten commandments," found in Scandinavian society. - https://www.bbc.com/ideas/videos/forget-hygge-the-laws-that-really-rule-in-scandina/p06gtkxt


It was started by a book written by Aksel Sandemose which was meant as a satire, but over the years society forgot the satire part and has taken those rules to heart.


There is now a debate in Scandinavian society about the removal of those laws... that people shouldn't be outcast if they don't obey them.


To a degree, I can see reasons why a few of those laws should be thrown in the bin. If I've spent years on my career, then I have something valuable that I can bring to the table, and I'd like to think that I'm good at my job... that career that I've spent my life working on. But some of those rules undermine that.


Stepping away from the debate, we come to the aspect of thought that, as an author, our books outlast us, and we imbue our work with our ideas, thoughts and viewpoints. I have to wonder what Sandemose would think about his laws and the impact on Scandinavian society if he was alive today.


It also leaves me to wonder about my own works. It's another one of those things that will forever be on the periphery, nagging at an authors mind.... what if my works, indented to be a signpost for society, or in Sandemose's case, satiring society, ends up getting taken the wrong way and actually becomes a hindrance to that society.


It is another situation which demonstrates just how much mightier than the sword, the pen really is. What sword can continue to shape and mould a society after the war is over?

A book that leads to a golden owl

This is something I'd never heard of until reading about it on the BBC Website.


A book called, "Sur La Trace de La Chouette d'Or," (The Hunt for The Golden Owl) holding the puzzles that guide the reader to a buried owl. Retrieving that owl entitles the winner to the real gold and silver owl. It's a puzzle that has been unsolved for twenty five years.


The author, Max Valentin, passed away a few years ago, but the family hold the envelope that contains the solution.

Supporting Creativity

Mike S Miller. Currently going under the handle Blacklist Universe or, “Underdog Mike” on YouTube. Listening to his account of why he was blacklisted, I can understand why his unilateral assigning a religion to a character would have drawn criticism, but blacklisting him for it is perhaps a sad account of where our society is. But that’s another story.


He’s on Indiegogo with “Lonestar: Heart of the Hero” - https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/lonestar-heart-of-the-hero-fantasy-horror/x/13412092#/ - And the first few panels are on the overview page.


Now Lonestar appears to be a good old fashioned hero, potentially to the point of stereotypical attitudes towards women… potentially fed by Mike’s own Christian beliefs… but I backed it anyway.


I did so after watching a few of his videos - https://www.youtube.com/user/UnderdogMike - and I sat back and thought of the whole situation, of how the dynamics of funding artistic endeavours of not only comics, but also books are created.


Instead of waiting for a book to be released and then reading the reviews and buying it, we’re investing in the production of something which hasn’t even been created yet; purely on the reputation of the artist/author… even though we know that there are likely to be elements that won’t score a 10/10 with us. After all, what work does?


I sat and thought for a while if that mechanic would work for me. The input from people who are invested in the project would be a much needed driving force to push projects to completion. Personally, I think my own circumstances mean that it wouldn’t happen for me, but when it comes to a little bit of entertainment, I’d rather spend my money on an endeavour such as this, and enjoy being a part of the journey of its creation, than put money on the horses which is gone in an hour. (I don't actually bet on the gee gees, but you get my meaning.)


For the money, I’ve got far more than the finished product. I’ve got access to the creator and the whole creative process. That is something which I would definitely entertain for my own books, as long as I had firm time that I could dedicate to the whole process, and ensure that I was creating enough of a journey that the backers would enjoy.


Being part of the creation process, has also allowed Miller to include people within the comic itself. Things like this really alter the dynamic of the creative process considerably, and I have written friends into some of my books, where they’ve actually wanted to be a part of the book. It adds a whole different, personal dimension to things, and I might actually buy more books and comics this way in the future, because it is so much more than just walking into a book shop and buying something off the shelf.

Review - Goldilocks and the Infinite Bears

Goldilocks and the Infinite Bears - John McNamee

A collection of off the wall cartoons based on fairy tales, religious stories, legends and modern life.


Things start with a recognisable refrain and then, bam... there's a twist.


I actually got most of the jokes, but some were definitely better than others. It was a quick read and a refreshing change from my usual fare.


The quality of the pages are nice. There's an obvious chunk of work in this book. Even though it was over quickly, I do feel like I'll come back to this again.