Their Mortal Remains

P1020956Their Mortal Remains is the title of the huge Pink Floyd exhibition at the V&A Museum in London, which we went to see last weekend.

I’d been excited about the trip for weeks, and it didn’t disappoint. It was huge, it was stuffed with material ranging from personal letters to the band’s own instruments to huge models of album covers and/or special effects. There were things to look at, things to read, and things to watch and listen to. Everyone was given an audio headset on the way in, which played a variety of Floyd’s music and/or interviews with the band, roadies, and various other connected folk, depending on where you were amongst the exhibits.  And at the end, past a collection of vast replica inflatables from Animals and The Wall concerts (not least the floating pig!), there was a big interactive space where you were surrounded on all four sides by film footage and walls of sound, so that it felt as though you had prime seats at a Floyd concert.

There was also a wider interest in terms of the cover art, designed by the British company Hipgnosis, and critical acclaim for both the music and the lyrics of Floyd’s work. One expert said that in his opinion, Roger Waters should be ‘up there on the podium’ with Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, a sentiment I totally agree with.

I found the whole experience incredibly moving, and as well as the sheer scale it also provided smaller items of note, like a handwritten letter describing the band’s first ever tour bus (you enter the exhibition through a larger-than-life version of it), and an explanation of where some of the album names came from.  Atom Heart Mother, for instance, was inspired by a newspaper headline about a woman who’d had a radioactive-powered pacemaker fitted, in the late 1960s.

A couple of small gripes – it was very hot, and very, very crowded.  There’s not a lot the V&A can do about the latter because this is turning out to be their most popular exhibition ever, and the queues just keep on building up. However, the twisty layout did create a few bottlenecks and as some of the fans wanted to read Every. Last. Word. on every label on every item, progress was slow and I kept getting elbowed out.  It was also pretty dark, which added to the overall atmosphere but made some of the exhibits and labelling hard to pick out.

However, this is an exhibition on the grand scale, entirely appropriate given some of Floyd’s own, dare I say, excessive set pieces.  But in amongst the replica aircraft, animals, and giant puppets, there are also small, intimate reminders that this was, first and foremost, a group of friends who gathered together to make the sort of music they loved.  And the interview about the inflatable pig breaking loose over London and getting into Heathrow airspace is just hysterical.

Their Mortal Remains was originally slated to end at the beginning of October, but it’s been so popular the V&A have extended it until the 15th. So if you’re a fan of Pink Floyd, prog rock or the history of music, do think about going along. It’s not cheap and it’s not a quiet ride, but it’s more than worth both the cost and the effort to see it.

(To give you some idea of scale, the model of the Division Bell cover at the top was over 20 feet tall; Battersea Power Station (below) probably larger still. But then Pink Floyd never did anything, well, small!)

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Dumb criminals strike again

couch-sleepingMy faith in the underside of human nature was restored the other day by this daft little tale about a burglar high on drink and drugs, who broke into someone’s house and fell asleep on their sofa.

The home owner, not surprisingly, was a bit shocked when they got back and found him there.  When they confronted him, he was still so groggy he managed to give away his name and age… and seems to have been surprised when the home owner tracked him down on Facebook and tipped off the police.

Best of all is the judge’s comment that “You must rank very high in the scale of incompetency of burglars.” Clearly a man with a sense of humour – but not enough to let the dozy burglar off.  He got a 12 month suspended sentence, not to mention a whole lot of embarrassment!

A brand new interview

I’m delighted to say I’ve been interviewed by the ever-supportive Fiona McVie, who runs a blog devoted to finding out more about authors both established and less-well-known. Answering her questions was almost as much work as my latest novel, and really made me think! I hope you’ll enjoy the results, which include a scattering of details about Raise the Blade (inspiration for the plot and characters; cover art) together with all sorts of information on me, my life, my hobbies and interests, my favourite authors, and a great deal else besides.

I almost missed it, but the interview went live on Saturday – so apologies for the delay in posting about it.  Better late than never, and you can read the whole thing here.

Can’t blog… writing.

cartoon_gravy_train_grinding_haltYou’ll have noticed I’ve been rather less than my usual chatty self lately.  There’s a good reason for this – I’ve been working hard on rewrites to my first novel, ‘Gravy Train’, as well as a number of other projects.

‘Gravy Train’ started life as a novella, rather like ‘Raise the Blade’, but when several of my writer friends pinned me to a wall and threatened me with dark deeds if I didn’t make it longer, I decided to have a go at just that.  And after many months of scribbling, I’ve got it from 35,000 words to almost double the length.

Now comes the scary bit – submitting it to publishers.  My first choice regretfully rejected it (no hard feelings – it just didn’t fit).  But this morning I’ve taken the bovine by the facial protuberances and sent it out again.  After first re-formatting the entire manuscript to take out lots of pesky extra spaces after all the full stops.  And finding a few typos and howlers as I went.

On top of that, I’m about to submit two more short stories, one to an anthology and one to a magazine.  Cue yet more fiddling and polishing, and a couple more deep intakes of breath.

After that, I’m hoping things will quieten down a little, and I’ll have time to catch up on all the blogging I haven’t been doing for a while. As long as my own gravy train doesn’t come shuddering to a halt…

Doing a Canute on gangs?

p02pm564The latest news report from Birmingham is that 18 members of two rival gangs have been banned from parts of the city for two years.  The gangs, the Johnson Crew and the Burger Bar Boys, have been fighting each other, with frequent collateral damage, for years, and the police and judiciary have clearly had enough.

It’s an interesting solution to the problem, and will give the police somewhere to start: find one of those gang members in the wrong place at the wrong time and they’ll be able to arrest them.  This should be made easier because the 18 will have to register their mobile phones with police as well, presumably making it possible to track their movements at all times.

I do wonder, though, how easy the ban will be to enforce.  What exactly stops one of these people simply wandering down the street one day and ending up in a banned area?  Who will report them if they do?  How will the police know?  Short of placing them under house arrest (expensive) or fitting them with electronic monitors, I can’t see how it will work.  Interesting that the lawyer interviewed in the article I quote above has similar concerns, and thinks it may even encourage the gang members to play ‘chicken’.

I guess in the end the authorities will have to hope that, unlike Canute, they don’t get their feet wet.

A raffle-y good cause

First of all, apologies for the pun.  I couldn’t resist!  But it really is in a good cause… because on Sunday I went along to a charity lunch on the shores of Windermere.  It was in aid of PIES (Partners in Education Swaziland), which raises funds to provide education to desperately poor people in this particular African country, and is supported by, amongst others, the local Rotary Club and Soroptimists.

The lunch is held once a year at a house on the shores of Windermere, with stunning gardens that sweep down to the water’s edge, and views across the lake to the old Claife Viewing Station, a Victorian relic that the National Trust have just finished renovating.  This year, the weather was kind and we were able to sit at tables on the patio.  Luckily the patio is large, because the turnout was really impressive – over 80 people had turned up for their lovely, home-cooked two course Sunday lunch, plus stalls, plus plant sales, plus a raffle.

Looking around for something I could donate, at the last minute I realised I could take a signed copy of my book along.  The organisers fell on it with glee, placed it at the front of the raffle stall, and it was won during the afternoon by… someone, but I didn’t get a chance to see who it was.  So if you are now clutching a copy of ‘Raise the Blade’ then thank you for choosing it – and I really hope you enjoy reading it.

The event was a resounding success and raised over £2,000 in one day for the cause.  And I’m glowing, because although I never win anything, I won first prize in that same raffle – a M&S gift card to the tune of £50!

Instagram here we come…

I’ve finally got with the latest trend and joined Instagram, no doubt months (or even years) too late!

It was a “right fiddle” getting everything installed.  My mobile phone and/or tariff aren’t capable of supporting photo handling, so I set up an account on the computer.  Then I found I needed to download an app before I could post any photos.  What?  I thought Instagram shared pics instantly and virtually automatically.  Shows how wrong you can be.

I don’t use Apple and don’t trust Google so downloaded the Microsoft version of the app.  It took ages.  Checking files.  Restoring data.  Please wait.  Etcetera.  But after much finger-drumming it was finally ready.  I hit ‘launch’ and prepared to upload my photos.

Except that I couldn’t.  It wouldn’t let me.  There was a nice big shiny button labelled ‘share photos and videos’ right there in the middle of the screen, but it didn’t do anything.  At all.  I tried clicking, I tried pressing, I tried clicking again (and again, repeatedly), I tried swearing at it, I tried a special Tess Makovesky Hard Stare.  But even that didn’t work.

Frustrated, I Googled the problem and found I was not alone – the MS app won’t let you upload photos from your computer unless you have a… wait for it… touch screen.  How nice of them to let everyone know this before they download a useless app.  Not.

Fortunately a helpful techie site came to my rescue by recommending InstaPic, which is free to download from the Microsoft store and lets you upload pics to your Instagram account.  It’s not brilliant – I can only load one photo at a time, then have to close the program and re-open before loading another, single, pic.  But at least it’s something, and has let me get started with a few publicity stills for ‘Raise the Blade’, and some shots of interesting statues around Birmingham that I’d snapped over the years.

I’ll obviously be adding more, including other less well-known corners of Birmingham and some location shots for my book.  So to catch these, do feel free to follow me on  https://www.instagram.com/tessmakovesky/.  I’m looking forward to seeing you there.

Stories are like buses

You get none for a while, then three turn up at once!

In other words, I’m delighted to report that I have three new stories coming out in the next few weeks/months.  All three are in charity anthologies; two are completely new and one is a reprint of a story I had in Betty Fedora #2 before that sold out.

rabbitstewFirst off is ‘Rabbit Stew’, a tongue-in-cheek tale based on an old (and terrible) World War 2 joke my Mum told me years ago, which is due out in Kannibal Cookbook from Down & Out Books soon, with proceeds going to St Jude’s Children’s Hospital.

Then I have a rather more thought-provoking story called ‘Bang to Rights’, about animal liberation activists and the sense of belonging, which should be appearing in Paladins 2, in aid of cancer charities.

Lastly, ‘Last Chance Saloon’, featuring a dirty weekend, a clapped-out car, and a deserted country road, will be re-published in the second Crime & Publishment anthology, working title Wish You Weren’t Here, soon.  This is very much a work-in-progress, but donations will be heading to a respite holiday charity, possibly the Calvert Trust.

Do keep checking back for a revised timetable, cancellations, fares and more, which I’ll post as soon as I have them.  Just don’t get run over by the bus…

Betty Fedora updates

In case anyone has been trying to get hold of the first couple of issues of Betty Fedora (including my stories ‘Going Off the Deep End’ and ‘Last Chance Saloon’), I’ve just discovered that both issues have now sold out and aren’t available.

This is great news for the magazine, of course.  And the even better news is that if you missed it, you may be able to catch ‘Last Chance Saloon’ in another publication fairly soon.

I’ll post more details as soon as I have them, so do pop back to check the news.  And in the meantime, why not catch Betty Fedora #3, which is still available?  There’s no Tess, but there are some great stories about kick-ass women!

Body Breaker launch

Thursday was the hottest day of the year so far – 28c and hardly a day I’d choose to go travelling by train.  However, I piled on the sunscreen, wore my coolest clothes and set off for sunny Carlisle (not just a figure of speech for a change) for the launch of Mike Craven’s latest crime novel ‘Body Breaker’.

In spite of the heat, it was a great event.  The evening started with a meal for about 8 of us at the Old Bank pub in Carlisle city centre.  It’s a ‘gourmet’ pub doing a nice line in chops, steaks, grills, fish’n’chips etc; I hadn’t been before but thoroughly enjoyed my whale (sorry, haddock, the portions were huge) and chips.  I’d happily go back.

After that we all piled down the hill to the Old Firestation where Mike was holding his combined book-launch-and-birthday party.  The launch was really well attended – I’m hopeless at counting crowds but would estimate around 100 people had turned out – and was highly entertaining.  Mike’s an amusing speaker anyway, and he’d invited fellow crime writer Michael J Malone along to act as question-master.  The two are great friends, have a neat line in banter, and spent the rest of the evening quietly killing each other with quips.  The audience, myself included, loved it!

Mike answered a wide range of questions on everything from how old he was when he started writing, to researching golf courses in Cumbria.  (The novel opens with a grisly discovery on a golf course.)  And once all that was over, there was cake.  Birthday cake.  Or book launch cake.  Or, well, you decide.  Either way it was delicious. (Apologies for the blurring, by the way.  I wasn’t seeing double, but apparently my phone camera was!)

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The only slight annoyance was getting to Carlisle station at the end of the evening and finding all the trains up sh*t creek, and absolutely nothing open – no shop, no café, no bar, no information desk, nowhere to get even a bottle of water, on a blisteringly warm night.  I thought I might have to book into a hotel in the city for the night, but luckily (and unusually) my train was one of a tiny handful still running, so I made it home after all.  And was really glad I’d gone, melting stickiness (and not just from the cake) or none.

Dark Side of the… cake?

floydcakeA friend of mine sent me this wonderful photo after a recent trip to London.  It’s cake, but not as we know it… from the Victoria & Albert museum, who are currently hosting an exhibition on Pink Floyd.

The exhibition takes in the history of the band, their sound, and their very iconic ‘look’, from their earliest Syd Barrett incarnation right through, presumably, to the present day.  It includes sound, vision, and interactive elements and sounds absolutely fascinating; although it’s not cheap at a minimum of £20 per head to get in, it’s on my list as a ‘must do’ later this year.

The event ends on 1 October, but I’m assuming the cake won’t last anything like as long.  Apparently it was orange cake with chocolate ganache, and quite delicious!  Ten out of ten to the V&A for a bit of additional, tongue in cheek, advertising for the occasion.

If we get there, I’ll try a bit for myself and let you know what it was like.  And many thanks to Andy for letting me use the photo.

Dark Minds success

darkmindsIt’s official – the Dark Minds charity anthology from Bloodhound Books has been a roaring success.

Word is that so many copies have sold, the company have been able to donate almost £5,000 to the two charities the book is supporting – Sophie’s Appeal, and Hospice UK.

This is amazing news, and I’m delighted that my own contribution (in the shape of short story ‘My Own Eggsecutioner’), has helped in however small a way.

The anthology is still very much available to buy, so if you’d like to see what all the fuss is about (as well as reading over 40 great stories in the crime, noir and horror genres) then head to Amazon to order a copy now.  You never know, you might be helping Bloodhound donate another few thousand in due course.