Allan Mayer’s Weblog

Archive for May 2009

 

(This one is a RANT- and if I say anything that is uncharacteristic it is because I am angry and may feel differently tomorrow… but I doubt it.)

The term ‘Moron’ has long since lost its ‘scientific’ meaning as the title of a specific condition and now is used as an alternative word for ‘Idiot.’

After something I witnessed this week, I want to rehabilitate the medical connection of the word ‘moron.’

Now as morons are perceived to be of low intelligence, it makes sense that they would tend to have more accidents, so statistically will end up in A&E or ER more frequently than the rest of us. For instance, a moron may need medical assistance for a lung condition after burning his house down. Any of us could find ourselves in that position. Only in the moron’s case it has probably happened because when it started raining he (or she, because moronism is not gender specific) thought it a good idea to move his barbecue inside the house. That sort of thing.

The condition only becomes dangerous when the moron is taken to A&E. And he will be taken, even if he can get there under his own steam. He will be taken, because somewhere in the haze which is his brain he has grasped the idea that the big van with a flashing blue light is a free taxi.

And another thing that the normally docile moron is good at grasping is what things are his ‘rights.’ He will fight ferociously to defend the rights that a modern democracy has given him, without once feeling the need to give anything back in return.

 

On Tuesday night my wife suffered from a severe asthma attack. Her peak flow meter (a tube which measures how well you are breathing) usually registers 250 but had plummeted to 50. Similar things have happened before, and a visit to an emergency doctor’s clinic has been enough. This time, I phoned the clinic and after getting my wife to speak down the phone and listening to her breathe they advised me not to panic but to get an overnight bag together and call for an ambulance immediately.

In retrospect, there is a very funny side to a man having to get things together for his wife for a night. Somewhere in the urgency of it all I was there trying to choose a matching outfit and appropriate underwear. I was alao having to compute what the best alternative would be for our foster son, which I decided was to reassure him that she would be OK but soon and ambulance would arrive so would he get his shoes on and go over to the neighbours.

A paramedic in a car arrived first, shortly followed by the ambulance. I have to say that from the paramedics, to the receptionist, the nurses, the doctors and the porters, the service was absolutely first class, both in terms of competence and in terms of their professional and reassuring approach.

But then along came the morons…

My wife was admitted and put on a nebuliser very quickly, but due to about three morons kicking off  it was an hour before a doctor got to see her.

One moron had been wheeled by two porters to x-ray, wheeled back to A&E, then got up and walked to the front door to chat on his mobile.

When this waste of resources was pointed out to him he verbally abused the nurse and demanded to see a manager. The nurse pointed out that they were understaffed, and that the manager would gladly see him when she had finished her tour of thirteen wards, but the implications of this were totally lost on the moron.

His demands to see a manager and rant about his rights seemed to go on forever, and I’m there watching the fluctuations in the monitor that is attached to my wife as his manner became increasingly aggressive.

Then another moron interrupted the staff to ask if his wife could leave the building. They said no, because she had a head injury, and that led to a confrontation because she just had to have a cigarette…

Something else happened- we couldn’t see what it was from the cubicle- but the next thing was the police turning up.

Let’s just take a reality check here. This is a place where people go to be healed. It is staffed by intelligent, hard working people, who are there to save lives.

It seemed that the majority of their time was spent pacifying morons.

As far as I was aware, only one of them was drunk- the one who gave the staff a load of abuse when advised that he should not be walking on a  leg which was so badly injured. The drunks usually appear at the weekend. This was Tuesday night and these were morons. And they knew their rights.

I don’t know what the answer, but there is something so wrong about these hardworking heroes having to cope with this additional stress. And there is something wrong about genuine patients (one of the morons had a season ticket at the A&E) having to wait for treatment.

When it came it was superb, and my wife is fine now.

But tonight those staff will probably be facing the same situation all over again. And if you are thinking of scenarios from ‘Casualty’ or ‘ER’ you are in the wrong area. The scene was more like something from ‘M*A*S*H,’ as a group of staff did their job with humour and efficiency, at the same time as keeping one eye on how close the bombs were getting.

And although I have always prided myself on my ‘socialist’ leanings, I find myself wondering if the morons will eventually lead us to inevitable right-wing solutions, where the dwindling resources are allocated only to the deserving.

An advertising campaign once said ‘Don’t die of Ignorance.’

If only it were that simple.

(End of rant.)

Well, sometimes things happen in life which are just that bit more important than anything else you could blog about.

On Friday night my nephew, Matthew James Devine was born to proud parents Philip and Karen. Tomorrow we are going to meet him.

Can’t wait.

It has been so long since there has been a child in the family, then within one year we have a foster son and a nephew, and I feel lucky to be realising what I’ve been missing out on. Today we went shopping for baby clothes and I could barely disguise the fact that I was getting a little gooey too. I saw a photo today and I’m already convinced that he’s the most beautiful baby in the world.

So welcome Matthew James, you will see things that we could only dream of. Hope we’ve not left the world in too much of a mess. One thing we can guarantee: in these days when we are so aware of what can go wrong at the beginning of a new life, you are coming into a world where you will have the best of beginnings, where you have a mum and dad and extended family who already love you and will do whatever we can to give you the best of lives.

Can’t wait to meet you,

Auntie Alison and Uncle Al  xx

 

I’m no longer a member of a church- I did try, but having failed to settle into groups as varied as Plymouth Brethren and Church of England I eventually decided to give up and call myself an agnostic.

My wife is an active member of a local methodist church, and I go with her occasionally. I sometimes feel like I’ve been adopted (not proselytised, which sounds like something that the cybermen might do to you) but accepted, and although I occasionally join in some of the social events no one has ever tried to convert me- which is often an embarrassing feature of casual contact with other brands of christianity.

I was even approached by a couple of elderly ladies who had seen my press releases and wanted to buy my book.

This was due to the fact that they had been to the local W.H. Smiths and come away without being able to order. Not everyone has access to the internet, and the inability of some bookshops and the loss of sales that this has led to has been very disappointing.

So last Sunday I picked my wife up from church armed with three copies of Tasting the Wind. Two were for the ladies who had asked. The third was a ‘just in case’ and as it happened I sold that too.

But not without a little pang of contextual discomfort.

As I handed each copy over I was aware that these elderly churchgoing ladies were going to be reading a book packed with F-words, rude jokes and descriptions of abuse and bodily functions. So with each one I felt obliged to mention that the story was, well… not exactly Mills and Boon.

And in each case I got the same look- the one that people of my generation give to teenagers who think that they invented sex.

It’s a funny thing, ‘language’ in novels. Within my lifetime it has gone from the first novel to use the F-word being the subject of a court case to that and even stronger words becoming the norm. Not only that, but books aren’t subject to the same censorship as other media. As far back as the nineteen-seventies I couldn’t get into the cinema to see ‘the Exorcist’ as I was about thirteen, but I had no trouble getting the book from the local bookstore.

My view is that ‘bad language’ is fine within context- and is often demanded if an author is representing real life. I quite happily presented the people who proof-read for me a manuscript packed with words that I would never utter in their presence.

One scene in particular demonstrates the whole issue.

Martin, who has entered care work after spending his working life so far in a factory is confronted by a girl with a severe learning disability who habitually tears off her clothes. There was no way that in referring to her genitalia Martin would use polite or scientifically correct language.

Having said this, more than one of my proof readers objected to my use of the word c***, but were happier with f****.  Why should this be?  And why, whan we all know what I’m saying here, do I use asterisks? Well this is a blog and not a novel and… well I wouldn’t feel comfortable, in the same way that a bed in a bedroom is different to a bed in a shop window… if you know what I mean.

If what a writer seeks to do between the covers is to entertain and to educate, and not to offend for the sake of it- then surely there can be nothing wrong with that?

Having said this, I still await with some trepidation the responses of my elderly churchgoing readers…

 

It hadn’t been a good day, but I don’t want to talk about that…

 What I want to talk about is how ignorant people seem to assume that those around them are equally ignorant. Have you ever found yourself shouting at your TV screen during Who Wants to be a Millionaire: ‘DON’T PHONE A FRIEND! PHONE SOMEBODY ELSE’S FRIEND! ANYONE WHO IS YOUR FRIEND WILL BE AS THICK AS YOU ARE!

Friday was one of those days where a car crash may have brightened things up considerably… or so I was thinking as I drove back from the KFC.Now I don’t want to berate this fine institution and provider of jobs for a generation of hard working spotty youths, but I don’t actually like KFC. I think it’s over rated, and have my own theories about what its secret ingredients are. I was almost converted a few months ago by their gravy, but was disappointed the next time I tried it when it appeared to have been made by someone who had just been sacked from McDonald’s for making the thick shakes too thick.

But my wife and foster son love KFC. So what I tend to do is pick myself up a chicken kebab from the Nile kebab house (in my opinion the finest take-away meal in Chorley) then call for a KFC on the way home.

The Nile kebab is made in front of you from fresh chicken fillets, hand made naan bread, salad, chilli sauce… sorry, but the saliva is sticking up my keys…

So I get my kebab then go on to KFC. Normally it’s in and out, but tonight they’re queueing to the door and only two people are serving.

I’ve waited for five minutes when a middle-aged man in an expensive looking overcoat joins the queue next to me.

Five minutes later he says: I thought this was supposed to be fast food…

‘Yes,’ I say (and this was my first mistake) ‘and I don’t even like it. My kebab is congealling in my car.’

For some reason, this was taken as some sort of  signal. A signal which meant that we were somehow friends now, bound by our shared suffering as we waited forever in a queue for chicken covered in a blend of spices bound together by “”””.

‘I’ve been on a course today…’ he said.

‘Yes?’

‘Yes…  and there was a question about if I had any issues with staff who were homosexual…’

Right, I’m thinking, you’ve established that you’re something in management… but where is this going?

‘So I said,’ he said ‘no, I don’t have any issues with homosexual staff… because I don’t employ them.’

Now like I said, I’d had a bad day. I work with people with learning disabilities and am not only well aware of discrimination issues, I fully ascribe to those beliefs. What I resent is being tired and stuck in a queue on a Friday night where you suddenly feel obliged to uphold those values.

I didn’t feel that a lecture would be appropriate (or indeed understood) so I decided on another tack…

‘Well…’ I replied, ‘I won’t be applying for a job at your place then…’

It was worth it for the look on his face. I was tempted to mince out of the place, but Alison and Duane would have been denied their gourmet meal- and would have been deprived of their cholesterol fix.

So instead I just turned my back to him, not sure if I wanted him to take it as an invitation…

OK, before I start- Reality Check…

I am not, as has been said in some quarters about POD published authors, the literary equivalent of  the ‘Britain’s got Talent’ Saddoes who assault our eyes and ears and in some cases our moral sensitivities on a Saturday Evening.

I have written a novel which will have appeal to a discerning but limited audience, granted, but in having it published through Print on Demand I know what I am doing. People are reading the story, and they are enjoying it. Maybe in smaller numbers than if I’d been taken on by a mainstream publisher, but as my belief is in the story and not in money I would rather a few people read it than it stays on my hard drive until I die because it is not considered ‘commercial.’

But in my small way I got my fifteen minutes of fame today, and enjoyed it.

Let’s get it into perspective though. As much as I love writing, I belong to another world, a world which is more real and more rewarding.

Tasting the Wind features people with learning disabilities because for over twenty years that is a world in which I have been immersed. I manage a day service for people with Profound Learning Disabilities. Much of the job is administrational but occasionally I get to work ‘hands-on.’ Like yesterday when I spent an afternoon pedalling people around on adapted bicycles, getting the wind in their faces and experiencing speed.

Today I accompanied people to a ‘Wheelchair aerobics’ session at the local leisure centre.

I got back to the office where two of my tasks at the moment include merging two services into one, and buying equipment in memory of a dearly loved ‘service user’ ( a piece of jargon we are obliged to use) who died recently.

In the midst of this, a staff member called me. I picked up the phone to hear her say ‘you’re famous!’

‘I’m what?’

‘Famous!’

it turned out that a former member of staff who has now gone to university had walked into her tutor’s office to see a copy of my book on her desk, and had texted to pass on what she had seen.

It was a nice feeling.

Then I got home. Wednesday night is a night where I get a bit of free time. My wife, Alison, is now a Brownie leader- well almost- soon she will be taking an oath with her hand on a mushroom (which I think is bordering on the occult.) So she is out at the same time that our foster son, Duane, is at scouts.

So I go online. My blog stats and website hits are soaring at the moment, so I’m pleased. People are either reading what I have to say, or are mistaking me for an American Evangelist of the same name (I’m getting some weird e-mails from people wanting to ‘share their visions.’)

Then I read an e-mail from a company director who wants me to sign some copies of Tasting the Wind as corporate gifts. I am absolutely amazed, and honoured.

Like I say, I’m not so stupid as to think that this makes me Dan Brown. But it is pleasing and  flattering.

And it is a wake up call.

I don’t pretend to know enough about the publishing status quo to claim that traditional publishing is dead or broken. But I do know one thing…

The mantra of some supposed ‘experts’ is that self-published and POD published books are only bought by the friends and families of the authors.

Maybe this was the case in pre-internet days.

And yes, it’s true that POD authors won’t sell as many copies as those with the marketing machinery of a ‘real’ publisher behind them. And my novel won’t get as many reader as one by Peter and Jordan, because in this world hype is all-important, but…

people who have never met me- people in the UK, America, Australia, Canada, have bought my book because they saw it on the internet.

So one Shibboleth of the supporters of traditional publishing has fallen. Fact.

What comes next?

A book, that is…

I’ve taken to carrying around a copy (or two) of Tasting the Wind in the ruck sack that I take to work. Today I was in a multi-agency meeting, and someone who knew that I’d recently been published said that they’d like to buy one, so ker-ching! One more sale.

And as a demonstration of what a small world it is, the buyer was Kevin O’Hara, who himself is the  author of a book called  Tell Someone. Kevin originally self-published, then his book was picked up by a mainstream publisher. And, believe it or not, Kevin’s book sales have also raised funds for Derian House Children’s Hospice.

So Kevin bought a book, and during a coffee break someone else had a look at it and bought my second copy. A third person asked me to take a copy to the next meeting.

So the moral of the story is…

Never tell a POD/ self-published author that you’d like to buy their book… especially if they’re carrying a bag…

I’ve recently added a new feature to my website called ‘Author Interviews.’

So far there are two on there- the first with Huw Langridge, Author of Science Fiction Novel ‘Schaefer’s Integrity,’ the second with Catherine Kirby, author of a contemporary novel entitled ‘See Through.’

Since they appeared I have had a gradually increasing number of enquiries in my inbox from authors wishing to be featured, and they will start to appear shortly.

So if you are looking for new writing, pop over to my website www.allanmayer.com  and click Author Interviews. If you are an author who wishes to take part, go to the Contact page on the site and drop me a line.

Look forward to hearing from you,

Allan


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