Immunity, Teardrops, An Englishman Walks

Well hello there.

I’ll start with a quick bit of self promotion, and get it out of the way. In the past month or so, I’ve gone from co-running Improvised Comedy workshops and putting on the occasional show, to running a theatre company (B.I.G. – Barcelona Improv Group), organising regular shows, venues, promotion, weekends away, creating a website, AND running Improvised Comedy workshops.

The website is here: www.barcelonaimprovgroup.com , and it’s not finished… but it’s getting there. I’m making a little progress every day.

I spent the afternoon on a train to Sabadell to visit a friend (but let’s call her my financial advisor to make it sound more professional), so I got some bits of flash fiction done, and a haiku, and the themes of each one neatly flows into the next… sort of. So I’ll post them in the order of construction. Don’t be too critical – it’s the first time I’ve really gotten much done in all of hot, sweaty August. My brain doesn’t seem to cope well with the heat.

The first is heavily based on something I wrote once before – I apologise if I posted that, and am now repeating.

Immunity

He’d insisted: “When my son is born, we’re not feeding him that medication every day. What if he spits it up? It’s impractical. We’ll give him the injections – he won’t remember the pain.”
Twenty-four hours after the birth, when the nurse entered with the needle, he tried to leave, but his wife held his hand.
Five minutes later, the father emerged clasping his once-again quiet child. “Your first tears,” he whispered, “I caused your first tears in this world.” And he wept.

Teardrops

He stared at the train window; at the rivulets of rain that ran down the glass, gathering weight from the flecks as it fell. His grandmother slept in the opposite seat, her day smile washed off, leaving an exhausted sadness. Her reflection in the glass was half gone, and raindrop tears ran down her face.

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An Englishman walks
with head held high in drizzle
and doesn’t get wet

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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

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.

Throughout the month in 40 hours

Hellooooo!

It’s nearly exactly a yearsince I left Spain for Japan, so I suppose it’s only natural that at this time of year, while I’m living in Spain ago, I’m thinking of Japan.

Of course I’m loving Spain right now. And why shouldn’t I be? The improvised comedy AND stand up comedy groups are just taking off, the weather is amazing (it’s like a sunny English May right now), I’m working a full working week and only 3 hours of that week are really frustrating hard work. Well, it’ll become more briefly for the exam season, but I can hack it. I have a nice flat, I have an established network of crazy people I call friends… it’s all good.

But of course, Japan was a great time of my life too. I stayed quiet on the whole earthquake, tsunami and radiation crisis in Japan because it’s so close to the bone for me… I worked in Fukushima, 55km from the nuclear power plant, for 3 months last year, back when nobody had heard of it, even people living in Japan, and it took 2 minutes to describe where it was… now everyone knows. It was 5 days before I could hear from some friends to even find out that they were alive… others are close enough that they are worried about drinking the water. But despite all of the fears, all I felt was a desire to get out there again. The more I read of how the Japanese were dealing with the crisis, the more characteristics I recognised in people I know there. I miss them, and it. I want to move, to be there again.

My guess is that this feeling is coming as a result of feeling so settled down. The more I feel at home here, the more I feel an urge to travel. I see photos of friends in Japan, I itch to be there. I hear stories of fun times in Madrid, or Sevilla, or London, and I want to jump up and join in.

I often feel like what I really need is a teleporter. I know a lot of people can identify with this, so that they can have more time. But for me, I’d link it between my flat in Barcelona and my friend’s flat in Tokyo, so I could cut out all the stressful, exhausting, expensive flying and jetlag, and just be where I want to be, whenever I want to be there.

You’ll notice there’s no teleporter to England for me. Well, England is just a 3-hour flight away from Barcelona, and for me, that’s fine. I see more and more that, while England is beautiful in a way that really speaks to me… the 21 years I lived there are enough. I have great memories. I only need to visit it to see and spend time with all my friends and family.

SO clearly the only solution is to become a rich and famous writer who lives in both countries.

To that end, I’ve started my own personal writing challenge this month. Rather than the NaNoWriMo, which rewards a massive word output, I’m going for a “time spent” scheme. I have to write, in a non-work-related way, for 40 hours in 30 days. This started on the 24th. So that includes making a blog post. It’s obviously about poetry and short stories and flash fiction. But it also includes any writing I do in Spanish, and any Spanish homework I have. Because for a “permanent” Spanish resident, my Spanish has a LOT of holes, and a low level of grammar, and I need to push myself (and be pushed pretty hard by a private teacher) to get to a level where I can spend the whole evening in Spanish without feeling lost.

So far, so good, and I expect you’ll be seeing some of the (non-Spanish) results of this new project pretty soon.

Gràcia

Well hi there, Blog.

A lot of the graffitti here is thankfully more "art" than "marking your territory like a dog."

It’s been over a month, but you might be pleased to hear that good stuff is happening, and a lot of the stuff troubling me last month has disappeared, leaving much more minor problems to fix. First off, I found a flat. I signed a contract, I moved in, I bought a bed and some basic furniture, and I now live in Gràcia. For those of you who don’t know Barcelona, Gràcia is my favourite part – quiet in the day, fun at night, trees and narrow streets and sunlit plazas without the smells and petty theft of the old city centre. It’s also MUCH MUCH quicker to and from work, and I even sometimes have time to go home for lunch.

Also, I have more teaching time than I did, and can afford the rent on my new place. Which, by the way, is only mine. Sharing a flat is so much a part of life in Barcelona that when I tell friends I have a new place, they say, “What are your new flatmates like?”, and I get a little thrill when I get to tell them that I have privacy, independence, my own space…

Also, despite all the busy-ness with this, my writing hasn’t stopped. It hasn’t flourished... but I suspect that now I have a chair and a table (and no internet connection at home yet), I’ll be writing a lot more. In fact, watch this space, because I might instigate a personal NaNoWriMo as I have in the past – by which I mean, I give myself a month to write 50,000 words. Of anything.

So now the only problems are things like getting an internet connection working at home, and buying furniture, and getting a couple more private classes. And you know what? These problems are fun! So, life is good.

Here’s a pair of haiku for you to kick us off:

“Prolong this winter – ”
knowing you will leave in spring,
I thank the frosts.

Though time will not slow,
you watch clouds form from my sighs,
and make memories.

And second up. I had a little go at writing a Ferlinghetti style poem like I mentioned back in January.

When I’m old
aaaaaaI will cross the road just before
aaaaaathe light starts flashing green, then red
aaaaaaaaaaaaso the busy busy cars
aaaaaastop impatiently
aaaaaaaaaaaacaught between their self-inflicted stress
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand real,
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaame-inflicted respect
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa(‘coz I’m old and slow)
aaaaaamaybe I’ll stumble
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafor kicks.

But I won’t do it now
aaaaaaaaaaaaaas they won’t wait yet.

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Hopefully I’ll see you all in a week or two, rather than the month-long wait you’ve had since the last post.

Groanworthy Jokes and 3 Minute Haikus.

Hello, Blog.

I looked back over the past couple of weeks and thought – Oh, I’ve not been very productive. But that’s not entirely true.

First off, I’ve been writing reports. In Spanish. And some reports in English. It’s been moderately time consuming. I’ve also been creating (and marking) my own exam papers. This term, more than previous ones, I made an effort to create a fair few of the questions myself, rather than just cutting and pasting them from teacher book exam papers, and I’m quite happy with the results.

Secondly, I’ve made the discovery that writing poetry on a whiteboard is actually a really good place to do it. I spend so much of my working day using the medium of whiteboards to express meaning, and shuffling things around and making it look understandable that when I taught haikus to my Advanced Class yesterday, I actually found it quite easy to cut and move words around and get what I wanted to say. I think I need to buy a little one for myself.

Here they are.

Continue reading “Groanworthy Jokes and 3 Minute Haikus.”