Where I’ve been, and Some Jokes I did

Well hello Blog!
It’s been a long time. 4 and a half months.

When I last typed stuff here, it was still hot. Also, I still had a lot of free time, I was trying to get started on performing comedy, and my flat was cleaner.

What changed? Well, quite a lot. First, and most importantly, I started studying again. I’m doing a Masters in Applied Linguistics and Bilingual Acquisition in Multilingual Contexts, which is a big way of saying “ooh, look at me and my cleverness.” While I’m doing that, I’m also continuing to teach part time, and between all of that, I’ve been performing stand up comedy and pulling together a group of funny souls to perform improvised comedy too.

As a result, the writing kind of got…. pushed to the back. And it annoyed me. “I should write again”, I told myself every other day. But I wasn’t even finding time to read anything that wasn’t an empirical study, so I can see why that didn’t happen.

But now, a month’s reprieve. I only have 2 Masters classes for the next month, and instead of the stress-inducing 12 hours of classes (which obviously meant at least that again outside of class to study), I now have a measly 4.

I plan on using the time to stretch my writing muscles (at first) and then get some full on writing done (after that).

I also need to try and get our first Improvised Comedy performance arranged, and write some new material for a new stand up comedy set.

While I get that started, I thought I’d show you something I did over my long hiatus – one of my two stand up comedy sets! (with any luck, I’ll get a copy of the video of the other set soon)

Some forewarnings

– it comes with a long and glowing introduction from the MC – I just skip that bit.

– one of  comedians really is called Adolf. That’s not a joke.

– and it ends when the camera runs out of battery. The last minute BEFORE the battery died… I kind of lost my stride. It was very unpracticed, that bit. As in, written that afternoon, not really learnt. So feel free to stop before the end.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VcwLTYaG8H0&feature=plcp&context=C3773470UDOEgsToPDskIAfXP7aaH2noCRebKOMRht

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Extract from “Escape From Winter”

I’ve spent most of this last month back in cold, rainy England. Even though it happens every year, I’m constantly surprised at how August really is nothing special in England. In my memory it was always great, but I suppose that that was probably an assorted collection of days from June, July and September. Ho hum.

Anyway, in all that time, I have done no writing, except a journal with my twin brother, as we travelled around Wales, England and Scotland. Perhaps I could find an amusing extract from that and post it here at some point.

In the mean time, here is a little manuscript researching I’ve been doing. Yes, oooooooh. You see, my grandmother came round to visit my parents, and brought with her a whole host of materials and photos she inherited from her father. His name was W.M. Ridgwell, and is the inspiration for my pen name. (At the time, I didn’t know the name was without a central “e”, and I’ve been constantly debating since then whether or not to change my pen name, the problem being, it’s part of the web address and I can’t work out how to change that.) He wrote two published books – one I think a vanity publishing (if that’s the term) of his autobiography, and the other “The Forgotten Tribes of Guyana”, from his time as Organisational Adviser to the United Force of Guyana. My grandmother brought with her a third, unfinished book. Its name is “Escape from Winter”, and it is part autobiography, part guide book for the Canary Islands, composed in a Franco-ruled, pre-mass tourism time, and designed to encourage those elderly Brits who suffered from the cold to migrate. I haven’t finished reading it yet, but I’m really enjoying it, partly for an insight into a relative, partly to see how times and writing styles have changed, and partly from a Spanish-speaking, historical perspective. It’s great to find myself bonding with a relative who died when I was 7, and seeing what we had in common and what set us apart.

Continue reading “Extract from “Escape From Winter””

Heavy Suit; Gentleman

Time for another update, I feel, and this one has a good bit of Japan about it.

First up is a poem I took to that creative writing group I mentioned last time. This was one of the things that the group as a whole liked, and I’ve made some adjustments, following their advice… and then a few more adjustments that might or might not work.
I wrote it in Japan, when I was first getting used to the concept of getting up at 7am and not getting home ’til 8pm and working the whole time between. I suppose being an English teacher is quite an easy-going career at times. I often get large stretches of a day with nothing to do, and I often get to pick my own timetable. In Japan, it was work work work, 5 days a week, and this poem was the result:

Heavy Suit

My suit is heavy today.

As I shrug it
on to my shoulders,
it pulls them
down into a hunch.

As I slide
my arms down the
cool black sleeves,
they grow tired…

My fresh shower legs
crawl into
stumbling trousers

I yank on socks
suffocating,
restricting,
and bolt my toes down
under leather and laces

In the end,
only my head remains
unclothed, shackled
to this endless suit.

Soon, at work, that
too will sink.

Today, my suit is heavy.

a

a

On Sunday night, I was on stage performing something that I only had about 24 hours to prepare. This was OK, because I wasn’t performing stand up. I was telling a story – a true and personal experience from about this time last year in Japan, when I had a run-in with the fox spirit statues of Ikari Shrine. The event was called VENT! ,  which is all about telling stories from the heart, and I’ve attached a link to the Facebook page for those who are interested.

These are some of the malicious fox spirits

I wasn’t expecting much from it, but it turns out that even though the material (restricted by truth) wasn’t that shocking or gripping, I delivered it very well, and it was an enjoyable listen. At least, that’s what I was told afterwards.
I have a written version of this story that I’m working on now. The problem with that is that now that I don’t have to be entirely truthful, and I can be creative, I’m tempted to tinker with it a lot.
In the end, I’ll probably  publish here a refined version of the truth with a couple of flourishes but no drastic changes, and then use the scenario as a scene in a story I’ve been plotting on and off (mostly off) since November.

I’ll close with a silly haiku:

Gentleman

Remind me why I
live between Spain and Japan
when I prefer blondes?

Walk Up (Microfiction)

Hey,

I don’t have much to say today, but as it’s the last day of July, I thought I’d sneak a quick post in.
I would like to tell you that I’ve joined a creative writing group, which is nice. It’s working well because rather than the usual “you should get yourself published” that I hear from my friends, I’m getting criticism, feedback, advice….
I will admit, it stings when you get 90% criticism and 10% praise, but I write it all down, and I would say at least 70% of the criticism comes from a good point, so I’m learning. It’s a learning experience.

Here’s a piece of microfiction (this one limited to 50 words) that I came up with as a writing exercise. Basically, my brain needs training right now and if I can get through tasks like this and do them well, then I will get better. It’s all about practice practice practice….

Walk Up

The cold biting wind washed her lungs clean, but left her drained. She couldn’t march on like she used to. Pausing for breath, she looked back down on the valley of her married life. Scrub and rock it was, heather and gorse. Sharp, unyielding, barren. And yet she loved it still.

Stand Up Comedy!

After a LONG wait, here is my stand up comedy show in all it’s glory. I messed up a bit, got things a little out of order, and didn’t hit the delivery on a few, BUT I had a lot of fun.

Two last notes:

It IS rude.  Be forewarned of rudeness.

The first couple of lines that are missing are something like “HELLO!” (hello from audience) I’m Matt and I’m single.

Trying to Multi-Task; My Bench

I have a friend who is writing a novel, and he told me the other day that the way I’m going about things is all wrong. He just writes his novel, and he gets about 4 hours done a day. I’m trying to write short stories, I tell people, and poetry, and maybe soon, a novel or two. But at the same time, I’m trying to write comedy, to write stand up.

Now that he points it out, I see what he means. They are all different arts from one another. I have always held that the best stories are so well written that they contain bits that feel like poetry. I’ve always thought that the best novels have scenes that could be taken out and left on their own, as complete short stories (especially as so many short stories these days seem to start in the middle and finish somewhere later in the middle of events). I’ve even taken a scene from a short story I wrote and posted it on here as flash fiction, and since that time I’ve never felt inclined to post the whole story on here (mostly because it needs attention I haven’t given it). In this way, I could be said to be following a progression – from poetry to flash fiction to short stories to novels.

The comedy doesn’t fit into this. Partly because I’ve never really written comedy. I’ve written some comic scripts, once upon a time, but not for a long while. Stand up is still a new art for me, something I’ve only tried a handful of times, something I struggle to even start to write.

But the main reason that they don’t work together is that I draw on a different part of my brain when I write comedy. Whereas my fiction is inviting a reader to enter a world I create, comedy is about stepping into someone else’s world and making them laugh at the absurdities in it. They have similarities, in perception, in surrealism, in painting a picture… but they have more differences than similarities.

Writers often say you have to be in the right mood to write. I say that part of the great skill in writing is in training yourself to get into that mood, and the other part is bloody-minded persistence. I’m trying to get into lots of moods at the same time, and I’m not winning at the persistence – yet.

Anyway, I have two stand up comedy performances at the end of the month, so I need to spend a good bit of my writing time preparing for them. And maybe, after I’ve performed those gigs, I’ll have some more comedy in me, some more material, and I’ll write more and perform more. Including my old jokes (if I can find them), I’m probably nearly at the point of having three sets, which is wonderful.

But I miss the fiction, so for the rest of this month, I will try my darnedest to do two things – poetry and comedy. They may be totally different, but at least they are both about editting and cutting down and getting to the point as quickly as possible. And progression, and building on what went before. And over the summer, I’ll sit down and get some flash fiction and some big old short stories out of my brain.

Until then, some poetry!

My Bench

Come, sit. This is my bench.
I sit here, often,
staring out across the pond.
My stick rests just so.

Folks here know it’s mine.
I sat on it in the frozen cold
last year when my wife died,
stared out across the pond.

I sat here after I retired.
We moved here together,
all peaceful. She chose it.
I chose our bench.

I’ve had benches before, and others:
that ink-stained desk at school,
a bunk, a cabinet, a peg,
all mine once, all remembered,

all solid. Now they’ve all gone,
my memory stays… ’til my memory goes.
And this bench, too, you see?
But I’ve got a plan.

It’s not truly yours
’til it’s marked with your name.
So this bench is In My Memory.
Plaque’s made, missing a date.

Who knows where I’ll go next…
but I’ll be on this bench.

Stand Up Build Up

I don’t like posting when it’s just a series of excuses.

Instead, I’m going to instigate another 40 hours in 30 days in June.

And I’m also going to say that, while my other kinds of fiction have done very little over the last 5 or so weeks, I have been working on my stand up comedy. I performed a week and a half ago, to an audience of higher-ups in the EFL teaching career path – book-writers and bloggers and much more professional teachers than myself who attended a conference. My boss had me perform at the end of the drunken dinner at the end of the day – a cross between my stand up (all the teaching and language jokes) and and after dinner speech (including topical references to the day’s conferencing). Everyone said I did a really good job, and it was a great end to the day, so it’s boosted my confidence ahead of us performing in a week or two. Again, I don’t like posting my jokes on here, especially since so much of it is about delivery…

… but I’ll be more prolific again soon, I’m pretty sure.