Bad Day Good Story: The Fallen Soldier

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“The cars we drive say a lot about us.” – Alexandra Paul

It was an idyllic summers day. I had just finished a long and hard job full of eighty-hour weeks and rainy days (as are the qualms of working in outdoor theatre).  It was time to sort my life out before my next contract which was merely one week away.

The morning had been a constructive one.  First thing I drove to Warwick to drop off my car for her MOT before continuing to the office to retrieve my remaining belongings and say my final goodbyes.

It was 9.30 am.  The sun was shining, and I had already achieved so much!  Nothing to do now but wait until the garage rang and informed me that Lisbeth (my green Nissan Micra) was ready to collect.  Time to treat myself!

I headed for Jephson Gardens book in one hand, Magnum in the other and set up camp under the dappled shade of a beautiful beech and began to read.

I hadn’t felt this completely relaxed in months.  Ice cream demolished and first chapter smashed I lay back, cushioned by the grass, completely at peace…

… then my phone rang.

“Ruth?” It was my mum. “I’ve got some bad news.”

Bollocks.

I quickly fell from nirvana and back to earth with a start.

Whenever my Mum says “I’ve got some bad news” it was serious.  This means someone I love is dead or dying.

I trod carefully. “OK?”

“It’s Lisbeth.”  My heart plummeted right through the bottom of my stomach.  “She’s not gonna make it through her MOT.”

* * *

Lisbeth was my first car.  The car I learnt to drive in.  She had been with me through thick and thin.  Trips to and from college during the week and parties for 18th birthdays on the weekends.  My uni companion, accompanying me to Edinburgh, playing the moving van for countless students ferrying possessions from flat to flat, a key member of Cobweb Theatre Company carrying costume, props and sets, the late-night taxi service for emergency cake runs and the best hotel when long, late-night drives were too much. Then essential to my stage management freelancing career, cruising from venue to venue, company to company, theatre to theatre, an essential asset and a firm friend. And now, she was gone!

* * *

I had a few more days with her before the MOT certificate expired. A few more drives.  A few more mixtapes to blast out that killer stereo system.  And then the mighty Lisbeth breathed her last.

But that wasn’t enough for me, I needed something to remember her by.  A keepsake.

I left the house, screwdriver in hand, ready to remove her number plate.  Something I could keep forever.  I popped the caps off to reveal the screws and took a firm grasp on the bottom of the plate… and it fell off in my hand.

Hmm, on the other hand, it was probably time.

Bad Day Good Story: The Pokémon Remnants

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“I wanna be the very best, Like no one ever was” – Pokémon Theme Song

 

I was crazy hungover.


Lying in bed that morning, cursing the production meeting that had been scheduled for 10 am, I had decided that more sleep would be more beneficial than a shower.Five minutes before the bus was due I threw on whatever was nearest to me and ran to the stop.

As I jumped on and looked for a seat I noticed a few people staring disgustedly at me.  Oh, God!  What am I wearing?  Why did I get dressed in the dark!  I looked down: Jeans, converse and a plain t-shirt.  Nothing weird there.  I didn’t have a coat which I guess may have seemed a little odd in Edinburgh’s Winter season but I had acclimatised.  It certainly didn’t warrant all the interest.  Undeterred I settled in for the thirty-minute journey to campus.  The perfect amount of time for a power nap.

* * *

The night before has been an absolute blinder!  A course mates birthday meant an excuse for a Team DTA (Drama and Theatre Arts) wide party on Sunday night, student night.

The Theme?  (Because there was always a theme, we were drama students after all) Children’s TV Characters.

I take costume parties as a challenge.  I must have the best, most unique and original costume.  To date, I have been a burger, Audrey Two (the Venus flytrap in Little Shop of Horrors) and an extremely convincing Eminem.  But for this, I was something even better: the greatest children’s franchise of my youth, maybe even my adulthood. From the Legendary Pokémon: the amazing Pikachu!

This took some serious preparation.  My GBF of the time and I trawled the charity shops on the lookout for anything yellow.  After finding some shorts, a strappy top and some pretty jazzy fluorescent Adidas trainers (What a find!  They were proper new rave!  Dunno what happened to them.  If I did I would wear them everyday!) we set forth to the fabric shop for some yellow and brown fabric to make the tail and ears and yellow and red Snazzeroo facepaint.  After badly moulding a coat hanger into the shape of a lightning bolt tail and some serious glue gunning my costume was complete.

I had the best costume and the best night drinking a few bottles of rosé at the pre-house party and then hitting the club!  It is amazing how many men I could have gone home with wearing a Pikachu outfit!  Single ladies take note!  Although I cannot vouch for the calibre of gentlemen you may attract.  Try this pulling technique at your own peril.

I arrived home thoroughly late, thoroughly drunk and thoroughly exhausted.

* * *

I opened the rehearsal room door, script in hand.  My team were sitting waiting for me.  “Well,” I began, “Let’s crack on shall we.”

And so the meeting went on. I led and took extensive notes ensuring not a stone was unturned and by the end, we were in great shape to pull together the show’s technical elements.

“Right, does anyone have any other business to discuss?”

I looked up smiling and saw the team were staring at me.  It was that same look of the bus passengers, only I had misinterpreted it.  This wasn’t a look of disgust: it was worry.

“Are you guys OK?

They shuffled in their seats looking at each other, to the ground and back to me, as if trying to silently nominate a lead speaker.

“Erm, Ruth,” the director finally piped up.  “What did you do last night?”

Slightly unorthodox in a meeting but I played ball.  “I was at a friend’s birthday party.  Why?”

“I think you need to go to hospital.”

Did I really look that bad?  And I thought my light and breezy, yet professional tone had hidden my hangover so well!  I smiled and replied jauntily, “Come on!  I’m not that bad, am I?”

“Ruth, really.”  He lowered his voice, pointlessly if you ask me as everyone was completely silent, and continued, “I think you might have jaundice.”

“What?!”

“Your skin is yellow!

Shit!

Shit, shit, shit!

I looked at my arms.

SHIT!

How had I not noticed?

It was all over my chest too.

God only knows what my face looked like!

And so, professionality flying out the window and dignity not too far behind, I confessed everything. Thankfully the room filled with raucous laughter. Presumably, everyone was just delighted they didn’t need to accompany me to A&E.

It was a rather embarrassing day for me but an excellent advertisement

Bad Day Good Story: The Bristol Shubunkin

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“Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man can invent” – Arthur Conan Doyle

My sister’s first love was a Bristol Shubunkin called Squiggle, named for the black wiggly line on his nose (which he grew up he grew out of but renaming him Squiggless, my very witty 7-year-old suggestion, was deemed out of the question!)  It was the first pet that was just hers, no one elses.

A Bristol Shubunkin is basically a fancy goldfish.  Very low maintenance and therefore perfect for a kid at primary school.  It was fed morning and night with that horrible, dried, multi-coloured fish food. Side Note: I was very rarely allowed to feed Squiggle as I was guilty of overfeeding. It was therefore assumed by everyone that I would be me that would be responsible for his death.

We had been on holiday for a week.  I don’t remember where, most likely Cornwall, but I do recall there was a massive heatwave!  The kind where shorts and a vest are too many layers and cars become uncomfortably sticky saunas.  The kind of hot cars dogs die in.  We had been in such a car for hours.  In short, we were boiling, angry and miserable, and in my parents’ case, forgetful.

When we finally made it back home we all peeled ourselves off our seats keen to get out of the car as quickly as possible.  My sister of course was very eager to be reunited with her beloved Squiggle.  She ran into the kitchen where she let out an almighty high-pitched scream before sprinting upstairs, floods of tears streaming down her face, where she promptly entered her bedroom and slammed the door.

Well, my curiosity got the better of me and I bolted straight for Squiggles’ tank.  Immediately I observed the same awful sight that had terrified my sister.  A pitch-black, uber fish with pug eyes bulging out the top of its head was floating upside-down just below the surface of the water.  Not only was Squiggle clearly dead… he had gone to the dark side!

I stared, fascinated!  So many questions!  I wanted to Sherlock Holmes the hell out of this mysterious case:

  • How did he die?
  • How long ago?
  • How quickly did it take for him to change colour?
  • Why did he go off?
  • Why are his eyes popping out his head?
  • Was this a murder?

Super Sleuth Ruth would get to the truth.

Step One: Question the parents.

“MUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM?!”

“RUTH! SHUT UP!  Just go and see if your sister is ok!”

Step Two:  Question the parents… later.

After what felt like hours of comforting my hysterical sibling who kept asking me why I wasn’t sad (Er, a previously gold fish had turned Black in death, this wasn’t upsetting, it was bloody brilliant).  Mum and Dad entered, faces sufficiently forlorn and explained everything.

* * *

Squiggle had been left in the allegedly capable hands of our long-time family friend Jane.  Unfortunately, the first evening Jane had come to feed Squiggle he was found dead floating on the surface of the water like his sinister doppelgänger!  Jane spent the next week desperately seeking a replacement but alas Bristol Shubunkins were hard to come by.

Now, this is where, even to this day, I struggle to connect the dots.  Unable to find a Bristol Shubunkin (a fish that so closely resembles a goldfish that you may as well spend a lot less money and just buy a goldfish) she apparently found the next best thing:  A Black Moor Goldfish.  The best way to describe this fish is as a cross between a piranha and Sloth from the Goonies.  Unfortunately, this fish didn’t even last out the week, hence this bizarre reality we were confronted with upon our return.

Mystery solved, with very little effort…

And it’s safe to say we never got another fish.

Illustration by Kirstie Notman – Illustrator & Artist

Bad Day Good Story: The Job Interview, Part 2

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“I picked up an issue of Cosmopolitan the other day that had tips for job interviews, because I was like, ‘I need to get better at interviews.’ The article was basically about how to get someone not to hate you in 20 minutes. Every single thing they told you not to do, I was like, ‘I do that every day.’” – Jennifer Lawrence

 

Not read The Job Interview, Part 1? Click here.

The panel was made up of three women all of whom limply shook my hands before inviting me to sit down.

For the sake of this article, I will be referring to them as Angela, Bella and Caren to protect their identities (but is mainly because I don’t remember, nor do I care).

Angela was fixated on her mobile.  “Just to let you know I take notes on my phone, so don’t worry!  I’m sending texts throughout your interview” she explained.

I thought ‘Great Angela, why can’t you just make notes on pen and paper like everyone else in the world!’  I said, “You can’t fool me, I know you’re catching Pokémon”

Dead silence.

Shit.  Off to a fine start Ruth!  Well, if they don’t appreciate your incredibly witty and current joke (it was 2016 after all) you’ll just have to win them over with your adorable banter.

I had been asked to plan a 10-minute presentation about a specific spoken word artist and what digital media platforms I would use to promote them.  This took me around 5 hours of my life.  I worked hard on it, and I was psyched!  It would be bloody brilliant.  It had to be.  I had cue cards!

“Apologies” Bella piped up.  “We’re running a bit late.”  Again, no shit!  “So, that 10-minute presentation we asked you to prepare, we’ll be cutting you off at 5 minutes.”

What. The. Fuck.

I came all the way from Birmingham to give you this sodding presentation and now you tell me you don’t even care what I have to say.  Being my stubborn and competitive self, I decided to interpret this as a challenge.  I rummaged for my cue cards and took a deep breath: On your marks, get set, GO!

I was off.  Galloping through the gates at a million miles per hour.  1 cue card down… 2… 3, 4, 5… smashing both my presentation and the world record for the fastest speed anyone has ever spoken!  I slam the cards on the table and consulted the wall clock.  30 seconds to spare.  Game, set and match!  “Was that fast enough?” I asked, rhetorically of course.  I knew it was.  In your face bitches!  I am the winner! VICTORIOUS!

Dead Silence again.

OK, there was a chance I had lost track of why I was doing this.

“Right, well,” said Caren, smiling with her mouth but pure disdain in her eyes. “Let’s move onto some questions about you.”

Yep, clearly CRUSHED it!

But she didn’t ask me any questions you’d expect to hear at a job interview, the generic but suspected ‘Why did you apply for this position?’ or ‘What’s your biggest weakness?’ No, there was none of that fluff!  Instead, it was a round of quick-fire yes or no questions.

I felt like I was in the big black chair in the Mastermind, the moving lights had circled round the studio and landed upon me. A bead of sweat pooled on my forehead and the camera began to zoom in.

“Can you use a computer?”

“Yes.”

“Can you use Word?”

“Yes.”

“Can you work Excel?”

“Yes.”

“Powerpoint? Outlook? Publisher?”

“Yes, yes and yes.” Although I feel like if you could use computers, Caren, you maybe would have put that all under the banner of Microsoft Office.

“Windows? Macs?”

“Yep and yep.”

“The Internet?”

“Er, yes?”

“Facebook?”

“Yep.”

“Twitter?”

“Yarp.”

“Instagram?”

“Yeash.”

I thought ‘I wouldn’t have actually been able to apply for this job without many of these skills Caren… and to be fair, all social media platforms are pretty fucking similar…’ but instead, I just creatively reimagined ways to say yes.

“Yeppers…Yepster…Yeperoonie…Yah…aye…yes I surely canly do!” BLAH BLAH BLAH.

At the end of her checklist she glanced up at me, a worrying glint in her eye, saying “And, finally Ruth, Can you explain to me why you’ve been out of work for the last 5 years?”

Dead Silence… from me this time.

But after a far too long pause I managed to muster up the following extremely eloquent and intelligent response:

“Er, I haven’t?”

“Well,” Caren continued, “there’s no evidence of any work here on your CV.”

“How strange.”

I’m not gonna lie, this had thrown me through a loop. I mean, why had they even offered me an interview if they thought I had never worked in my life?!

“Could I take a look at that copy?”

Unimpressed, Caren palms it over.

I analyse my CV carefully before looking back to Angela, Bella and Caren in turn.

“Um…”

Beat.

“Have any of you thought to turn it over?”

I couldn’t believe it! I had travelled for hours, spent the best part of a day devising a presentation and waited for even longer and they hadn’t even bothered to turn over a sodding piece of paper?!

They all burst into laughter. I joined in, though I was crying on the inside.

And so, the interview was drawing to a conclusion.

“Now, are there any questions you have for us before we end?”

I had a list; I always have a list.

“Do you have any tablets or company phones to test the mobile capabilities of your site because at the moment it isn’t auto responsive?”

Having quickly scanned the equipment when I was trapped in the office and accessed that most of the hardware seemed to predate the Commodore 64 I can’t say I was hugely surprised by the answer.

“No.”

Great.

“We are however in the process of launching a 5-year plan to make our website mobile-friendly.”

5 years?

5 YEARS?

What are you doing every day Caren!? Step One, turn on the computer, Step Two, wipe brow, well that seems like plenty of work for today.

And actually, more to the point, in 5 years your mobile-friendly website will be out of date. In 5 years, we’ll probably be viewing websites through high tech contact lenses! (Or they’ll be a pandemic which will stunt the economic growth of the world and put you, Caren, out of a job.)

“Well, thanks for your time,” I said standing up and rolling my eyes as loudly as possible. “Looking forward to hearing from you.”

And with that, I spun on my heel and walked out the door.

* * *

Now I know what you must be thinking. ‘You bought The Girl on a Train, where does this come into play?’

Well folks, if ever a book has a more depressing opening of hundred pages of soul-destroying sadness I am yet to read it.

If you haven’t read it, in a nutshell, two women have given up on life and are sleeping or drinking the pain away.

Now I’m assured it picks up. Its twists and turns are (allegedly) enough to keep any reader hooked. I wouldn’t know, I have never finished it.

Because those hundred pages…

Whilst sitting on a train wanting to give up on life and sleep or drink my pain away, it wasn’t exactly the escapist thriller I was hoping for.

Oh well, at least it wasn’t raining.

Illustration by Kirstie Notman – Illustrator & Artist

Bad Day Good Story: The Job Interview, Part I

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Bad Day Good Story, Comedy, Entertainment

Death will be a great relief.  No more interviews” – Katharine Hepburn

It was a bright autumnal morning as readied myself to embark on the 11.12 to London.

* * *

I had already got off to a bad start by waking up late and rushing off leaving my entire life at home.  The essential item I had forgotten was a phone charger (for my 2-year-old Samsung Galaxy which, in its current battered and bruised state, had a battery life of around 10 minutes).  With no time to go home, I ran (by which I mean walked quickly-ish, quicker than my usual casual saunter anyway) to Sainsbury’s, and bought the world most overpriced charger.  On a whim, I also picked up The Girl on the Train to keep myself entertained on the journey.  I returned to the station and boarded the train.

* * *

I travelled the additional hour-long journey on the tube* to Deptford ready for my interview.

! SIDE RANT ALERT !

I bloody hate how long it takes to get anywhere in London.  Everyone raves about the public transport system, and I will admit that the buses and trains are very frequent, but they neglect to mention:

  • Whatever your vehicle choice it only travels at about 10 metres per hour;
  • There are strikes every other day which means everywhere you look closely resembles a cattle ranch, the population herded on and off buses and being housed in extremely close quarters;
  • Scheduled maintenance guarantees whatever tube line you want to travel on will be closed;
  • If you want to go south of the river swimming through the Thames and then hitchhiking to your destination via Guam will end up being much faster.

! SIDE RANT OVER !

Now no offence to the people of Deptford (says she as she is most likely about to cause great offence to the people of Deptford) but Deptford is not a great place… I did see evidence of one shady looking hipster café complete with mismatched furniture and Edison lightbulbs (very original) which implies it is up and coming, however in my opinion its only redeeming feature was a very large and well-stocked Poundland.  I believe this illustrates perfectly that it is in fact very much down and going. 

My Interview was at the Local Arts Centre with a Poetry and Spoken Word promotions company and on paper looked right up my street.  Their Mission? Evolve this area of the arts so it is more widely received throughout London and the UK and to rid people of their preconceptions that all poetry is wanky, pretentious and weird.  A brilliant concept.

I signed in on time at the reception and went to chill in the café.  After 15 minutes I was approached by the recruitment officer who informed me they were running late (No shit) and invited me to wait in the office.  I thought ‘Nope, I am quite happy sitting here where you can’t see me checking social media on my laptop.  I would therefore not like to walk into your office where all your staff can stare at me making me feel excruciatingly awkward thank you very much, but not wanting to reveal the sarcastic cynicism that is my personality I said “Ooo yes, that sounds great!”

I took a seat and scanned the offices, a typical arts hub with ratty pictures of success stories on the walls, old furniture including a couple of bean bags to add the air of chill and funk and lots of hustle and bustle.  I opted for a chair, sat and picked up a leaflet from the coffee table and pretended to read (to look all profesh and deeply interesting) whilst subtly rotating my head so my ear was pointing in the direction of the raucous laughter in the corner. 

Man, I would be a great spy!

Unfortunately, what my sneakiness revealed was not some delightful anecdote about a poet they were with the other day. Alas, No. These middle-aged women were hysterically divulging their individual, very personal, Tinder Dates.  Now, I’m no prude, I love a funny tinder story as much as the next person, but in the pub or on lunch or in the office when you don’t have complete outsiders and potential employees coming in and out all day.  I turned back to my leaflet, now actively trying to read its incredibly dull content.  Anything to attempt to erase the all too graphic images of these strangers and their explicit sex lives that now seem to be burnt on the surface of my mind’s eye.

Finally, the recruitment officer called my name.  They were ready for me.  I was marched down a corridor to a small meeting room.  The door opened.

And so began the worst job interview of my life.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Illustration by Kirstie Notman – Illustrator & Artist

A Children’s Book Adventure: Zog and the Quest for the Golden Star

Posted Leave a commentPosted in attractions, Entertainment, Events, Publicity

Finally, in a year of lockdown, the end seems in sight and on day one of the exit plan Step 43,865 Warwick Castle has opened its doors with an awesome event which centres around one of the bestselling books from Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, Zog, the story of a clumsy dragon who just wants to be top of the class at Dragon School.

Having had at least 3 months of being able to plan this event since a Merlin attraction was last open it did have a few too many glitches for my liking but it does have a fab layout with clever use of the outside area of the castle. (Especially when you are legally unable to go inside!)

Guests follow a map to different years of Dragon School where they complete challenges and collect stamps to earn their very own Golden Star to show their friends they’re the best in the class.

With 5 stops to attend in total there is some great inspiration for arts businesses up and down the country to create events suitable for all kinds of budgets to get the crowds back in when the world opens up:

  • The first year of dragon school is a simple photo stop where you can pose with Zog while you learn to fly! Not only is this perfectly situated at the entrance, but it is a exceptional way to immediately trigger some social media interaction. People love a photo op plus this can be a cheap and easy thing to set up! My advice? Make sure your social usernames and hashtags are made visible to encourage that user-generated content!
  • The second and third years see interactive floor buttons which triggered great special effects to teach Zog how to roar and breathe fire. Admittedly this is for a higher budget including effects to outdoor speakers, dry ice and water fountains but there are loads of easy and cheaper ideas to encourage interaction. You could use anything from simple tech like QR quotes to send you to videos, polls or pages of your website or some old school carpentry like lifting flaps and spinningwheels! Just make sure there’s some alcohol gel around for hands-on activities!
  • Dragons learn how to capture a princess in year four with two assault courses (one made accessible for wheelchair users) assembled from tree stumps and branches and painted in orange and blue on brand with the event. This is the perfect event for children (and childish adults) and a really clever use of natural, easy to source materials; an excellent idea for any budget!
  • In the final stop dragons learn to fight! A marked-out area with a couple of actors playing knights, including the legendary Sir Galahad teach you to battle. I’m not gonna lie, kids with fake swords can be pretty lethal and I’m really not sure how covid safe it is as social distancing seemed to go out the window, but it certainly created an amazing memory to take home! Also a sneaky way of upselling with a strategically placed merchandise hut containing both Zog memorabilia and an array of medieval weapons, shields and armour you could purchase to take into the training arena. Do you have places where you could add sales to your arts business?

Anything linked with a bestselling children’s book is bound to make tickets sell. It also immediately provides you with another marketing outlet and fanbase!

For some companies, I appreciated that the potential royalties for current books might make them inaccessible but if you don’t ask, you don’t get.  Authors like David Walliams or Michael Morpurgo for example have worked with a wide array of theatre companies, from Heartbreak Productions, a small-scale outdoor theatre company to the Birmingham Stage Company which tours mid to large scale theatres and has been known to house venues of the West End, so they can be made available to a spread of different budgets.

It’s also worth thinking about popular works that are out of copyright.  Generally, these become free 70 years after the writer’s death. (There are exceptions like Peter Pan where the royalties were given to Great Ormond Street Hospital by J. M. Barrie so all copyright is received as a charitable donation.)

So, look back through history! Anything by William Shakespeare… that’s free. Jane Austin, the Brontës, Louisa May Alcott… free. Dickens, Conan-Doyle, H. G. Wells… you get the idea. It’s also worth checking out school curriculums, creating educational days out to attract parents and entertain children. Books like Animal Farm by George Orwell are just out of copyright and a popular choice for GSCE due to the fact that it’s short and engaging.

Do your research, reach out to schools or authors and agents, collaborate with other arts companies to pool your resources! It’s been a difficult year for arts companies worldwide and will need some serious innovative thinking to keep them afloat!

Has your company utilised children’s literature in events? We’d love to hear from you! Let us know in the comments.

Bad Day Good Story: The Speeding Ticket

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Bad Day Good Story, Entertainment

“Drive fast on empty streets with nothing in mind except falling in love and not getting arrested.” – Hunter S. Thompson

I was running late!  I grabbed my keys, jumped in my car and floored it, pedal to the metal.

* * *

I had recently upgraded my vehicle.  My old and first car, Lisbeth the Green Nissan Micra, had croaked her last.  I was freelancing at the time and had a week to find a new set of wheels.  This led me to a slightly panic bought Fiat Punto.  It is, in short, the worst car I have ever owned but at this point in time, I hadn’t noticed.  I had a new love: Hans Hoofington the 3rd or Howard for short.  Unlike my Nissan Micra, Howard could accelerate.  His 1.2-litre engine had blown me away.  I could now go from 0-60 in 30 seconds (as opposed to the 10 minutes it used to take).  The novelty had not yet worn off.

Another added bonus? Howard was bright yellow, very easy to find in a car park.

* * *

I was only half a mile from my house when I saw the police officer.  At first, I thought he was waving me around some sort of crash.  That was until I saw the speed gun in his hand.

Shit!

Shittedy shit shit shit!

I slowed down and wound down my window. (Electric by the way.  Just another life-changing feature.  No more back-breaking winding for me)

“Hello,” I said.

Awkward!

“Could you read what it says here?” he asked, showing me the screen on the speed gun.  He was stern and cold, like Liam Neeson I was sure he would show no mercy.

“44 miles per hour.”  I was in a 30 zone.

“And what can you tell me about that?”

I sensed this was a trap.  In hindsight, I should have played it cool.  Used my right to remain silent. But instead? This is what I said…

“Presumably your equipment is very accurate.”

Smooth.

I parked down the next road to see his partner. Before parking up, I shouted to him: “I’m just going to find somewhere to turn round.  I promise I’m not running away!”

As you can probably tell by now, I do not cope well with confrontation, especially not with authority figures.  My brain melts on the spot and with it, my thought to speech processing completely abandons me generally leading to the blind rambling of whatever comes into my head.

I knew I didn’t have a leg to stand on.  I had been caught red-handed and pretty much admitted my guilt, so I decided to admit defeat.  I walked towards him saying “I’m really sorry”.  The policeman looked up and smiled.  Phew.  I had encountered bad cop already, thank god, his partner was the good one.

“Can I start by taking your name?”

“Ruth West,” I blurted.

“And your surname?

I looked in disbelief.  You are a policeman who has asked me my name.  I kind of assumed you would require both first and last.

“Er, that’s it, Sorry.”

Pause.

“Ruth West.”

Longer Pause.

“My parents weren’t quirky enough to call me Ruthwest.”

Jesus Christ Ruth, engage cognitive processing.  To compensate I hung my head shamefully and hoped I was pulling off remorse.

He continued with his list, all straight forward enough.  I made sure to annunciate and stop slurring words together.  I felt like he’d been talking forever before realising what was going on.

“You don’t have to say anything…”

Oh God, I thought, slow on the uptake, I’m being cautioned!

“…but it may harm your defence if…”

I’d never even got a detention before.

“…you do not mention now…”

Ok, so not never, a couple of class ones but they were other peoples’ fault.  And there was one for not submitting my science homework but it’s not like I didn’t do the homework.  I’d got it because I stuck to my principles and refused to slide my hard work into a dark classroom under the door.  I mean, how very uncouth!  And there were a couple in primary school but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t count if you’re under the age of 10.

“…something you later rely on in court…”

And I suppose there was that time I’d got a caution for ‘Trolley-napping.’ I kid you not, this was actually written on the official warning sheet we were given. Some friends and I were caught joyriding around a public park in a shopping trolley but I reckon the policeman only gave it out to scare us, or to so that we could show off by parading the slip around school because he knew this story would make for great banter… which we did… and it was.

“…anything you do say…”

Well, clearly I wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t like I’d microwaved a toddler.  This seemed way too harsh!

“…may be given in evidence.”

Damn it Ruth, focus!

I didn’t know what to do, so I asked: “Um… is there anything I should answer?”

The police officer actually laughed.  “How about ‘fair cop’?”

“Oh yes, you can write that down.”

And then I was on my merry way (at a very cautious 26mph) when I suddenly remembered what I was driving.  My new Fiat Punto: the colour of the sun; the most in-your-face offensive yellow; visible from outer space.  Why on earth did I think it would be a good idea to rag it around the Solihull Borough’s suburban streets?

I had learnt a very important life lesson: Slow and steady wins the race…

…Nah I’m just screwing with you. The moral is: Keep your eyes peeled for police officers especially when driving fluorescent automobiles.  You are much easier to see coming.

Illustration by Kirstie Notman – Illustrator & Artist

APP OF THE MONTH: Google Arts and Culture

Posted Leave a commentPosted in App of the Month, Art, Entertainment
Name Google Arts and Culture
Product Description Compiling Knowledge from over 2000 institutions worldwide to allow you to visit and inspect museums and art galleries right from your Smart Phone during a global pandemic.
Availability Available from the Apple App Store, Google Play Store and through your browser.
Key Features ·       Art Transfer – stylise your photos to look like works by your favourite artists.

·       Art Selfie – Ever wanted to look like Van Gogh or dress up as the Girl with a Pearl Earring. Now you can with ease.

·       Art Projector – Check out exactly what artworks look like in their real size.

·       Pocket Gallery – Visit hundreds of art galleries worldwide during the lockdown.

·       Art Camera – Inspect your favourite artworks close up.

·       360° videos and Virtual reality tours – With VR technology you’ll truly feel like you’re at the museum

·       Street View – Tour famous sites and landmarks like the graffiti of Banksy across the world

·       Exhibits – Take guided tours curated by the worlds leading experts

·       Favourites – Save your favourite artworks into galleries to share you’re your family, friends or students

·       Nearby – Find museums and exhibitions near you to explore when Covid is over!

·       Notifications – New content and features are added weekly to keep you hooked

·       And much more!

Prices and Plans Completely Free!
Biggest Pro The ability to get your arts and culture fix in lockdown! Absolutely brilliant!
Biggest Con It’s a little bit glitchy here and there but I think that’s down to the enormity of content and activities available.

 

If you’re missing galleries and museums this is for sure the next best thing! But be warned… you can easily spend hours on this app exploring art, playing games and re-immersing yourself in the wonderful world of culture.

BAD DAY GOOD STORY: The Skipping Rope

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Bad Day Good Story, Comedy, Entertainment

‘A smooth race never made a skilful racer’ – Nascar Racing

This tale is truly on a par with the mighty Shakespeare.  My pen is my sword.

Why?  Well, I can pretty much guarantee had this incident not occurred I would (almost definitely) be an Olympic Athlete by now running alongside Hussain Bolt, probably faster, having been the only female ever to compete with the men.  I would have at least twenty gold medals hanging around my super strong neck.

But alas, this dream was not meant to be.  It was shattered a long time ago on a cold spring day in 1994.

* * *

I was 5 years old.

It was lunchtime, our time, a time to let our imaginations run away with us.  We could be anything we wanted.

Do you remember those times?  Where running was an enjoyable activity performed for fun?  We could run for hours and hours and never tire or bore!  They seem so far away now I’m a little bit podgy and a lottle bit unfit – but whatever, if I ever find myself being chased by a bear I only need to be faster than the slowest person in the group, right…

Well, today was one of those running days.  I was running, and running, and running some more.  No purpose, no destination, just running.  Little did I know I was being watched.  Not in a weird stalky way, more accurately, I was being scouted.

“You run fast.”

“I know.”

“Wanna Race?”

I couldn’t believe it!  Me, the lowly Ruth West had been challenged by Tia Maloney, widely renowned as the fastest girl in the infants!

“Yeah, ok.”

She summoned an audience for what was bound to be a spectacular event.  The rules were simple.  First to the wall and back would be the winner.  Two of her minions came forward, each one carrying the end of a skipping rope.  This would be our finish line.  There was just one thing I noticed.  One tiny, insurmountable detail that I picked up on.  Just prior to our finish line position lay a rogue skipping rope which was directly in our path.

‘Someone might trip over that’ I thought.  I looked at the raucous crowd leaping in anticipation.  This was no time to raise a concern.  ‘Meh, they probably won’t.’

“On your marks, get set, GO!”

And we were off!  I leapt out the starting blocks flinging myself forward.  I thought I’d been fast, but Tia was faster.  I looked up to see her pulling away.  Had I tired myself with all the running I had done already done that day?  No!  Focus!  This wasn’t a time for doubts.

I pushed onwards and as I approached the wall, the halfway point, I was gaining on her.  I kicked off for the return across the playground: Harder, better, faster, stronger.  I was level now.  Thrusters on maximum I pulled ahead gaining more with every step.  The finish line was so close now I could taste it.  If I just reached out…

BANG!

I hit the floor mere metres from the finish line.  I gazed around I saw Tia run past, arms raised above her head, victorious.  She had won.

But how could this have happened!  I was so close, what could have stopped me?  I looked down at my grazed knees and just beyond I saw it.  The Rogue Skipping Rope, that traitor!!!

Only after Tia had been crowned champion did the faithful followers flock around me to see if I was ok.

I was not.

I couldn’t get up.

My mum came to pick me up.  She carried me from the car into the house and plonked me on the sofa.  I refused to walk.  I was in agony.  Mum was getting increasingly angry with me.  Apparently, it was just a graze and I wasn’t even trying.  She set me a (in hindsight) cruel challenge, placing Smarties around the room, instructing me to walk to collect them.  I tried!  I really did.  But I couldn’t put any weight on my foot.  I just about managed to hop to the first one and eat it, but I was too exhausted to carry on.  I sat on the floor and cried.

PANIC STATIONS!

My mother must have thought ‘SHIT!  She’s not even going to get chocolate!  There must be something seriously wrong here’.  She scooped me up in her arms and rushed me to the Surgery.

“Hmm,” the Doctor pondered.  “It’s definitely not broken.”

Good news!

“But I’d go to the hospital just to check.”

Dad met us in A&E where the Doctor said “Hmm, it’s definitely not broken.”

Great News!

“But I’d go to the X-ray department just to check.”

A couple of hours and a full leg cast later it transpired that it was, in fact, one of the worst breaks you can get.  It had split diagonally in two and shifted out of place.  I was in a wheelchair for three weeks and on a zimmer frame for three more.

Six weeks out of training was too long.  My hopes of Olympic Glory disappeared.  I knew it was nothing more than pipe dreams now, evaporating like steam from a kettle.  All those moments lost in time, like tears in rain.

Illustration by Kirstie Notman – Illustrator & Artist

Dream: An Interactive Theatre Experience in your Living Room

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Entertainment, Technology, Theatre

Thank God this pandemic happened in the 2020s! Even 10 years ago we didn’t have the same level of technology we do now, where we can communicate through images, text and video to anyone from wherever we are in the world. Such is the beauty of the evolution of the Smartphone!

Utilising this wizardry alongside technology evolved from their 2016 performance of ‘The Tempest’ the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), in collaboration with Manchester International Festival (MIF), Marshmallow Laser Feast (MLF) and Philharmonia Orchestra, brings ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ directly to your home through VR.

Dream gives a unique opportunity for audiences to directly influence the live performance from wherever they are in the world. Audiences will experience a new performance environment easily accessed on their mobile, desktop or tablet via the dream.online website. The performance uses the latest gaming and theatre technology together with an interactive symphonic score that responds to the actors’ movement during the show.

The live performance is set in a virtual midsummer forest. Under the shadow of gathering clouds at dusk, lit by the glimmer of fireflies, Puck acts as the guide. Audiences are invited to explore the forest from the canopy of the trees to the roots, meet the sprites, Cobweb, Mustardseed, Peaseblossom and Moth, and take an extraordinary journey into the eye of a cataclysmic storm. Together with Puck, they must regrow the forest before the dawn.  When day breaks, the spell breaks.

The 50-minute online event will be a shared experience between remote audience members and the seven actors who play Puck and the sprites. Audiences can choose to buy a £10 ticket to take part and at key points in the play directly influence the world of the actors, or to view the performance for FREE.

At the moment, the only way for our artistic work to reach an audience is through the magic of the internet, and though no one is looking to replace attending artistic events in real life the creative industries are being forced to explore alternative options.  Now is the time to reach out to tech or design companies and create shared experiences that showcase both your work and theirs in a mind-blowing collaboration.

So, get researching tech and design companies in your area and reach out. If you’re Midlands based (like me) you have The Silicon Spa right on your doorstep! That is one of the largest hubs of video game designers in the UK hidden in the rural Victorian bath town of Leamington.

And don’t be scared!

If you have a great idea, reach out to these kinds of companies and figure out what’s possible. The worst they can say is no. And the best? Having cooperate sponsorship and starting a creative revolution from your home office!

Have you done any awesome work with companies like these? If the answer is yes tell us in our comments! We’d love to hear about them!