Monday, November 09, 2020

Taking the show on the road

One of the things I love about being a writer is going on the road for book festivals and events.

I didn’t do much of that in my non-fiction days for some reason but when I started making stuff up I rediscovered my performing mojo.

I had lost said mojo for many years. As a teenager, I wanted to be an actor. This followed early ambitions to be an astronaut, a detective and a garbage collector. In pursuit of the world of make believe, I attended drama classes, performed in community theatre and wrote and appeared in comedy shows for hospital radio.

There was even a bit part in an episode of a TV show here in the UK. It was a drama for the BBC called ‘Sutherland’s Law’ and I played a drunken thief. No, it wasn’t typecasting. And yes, I would say that.

It was an exciting time. Filming for my scenes and others was done over a day and night near Oban on the west coast of Scotland. That episode’s guest star was Brian Cox, before he played Hannibal Lecktor (as they spelled it) on ‘Manhunter’ and answered the siren call of Hollywood.

He is a talented and erudite man who proved to be entertaining, funny and great to be around. There are long moments of inactivity on a shoot, unless you are on the crew, and he set himself up as morale officer as we sat in a mini bus waiting to be called.

It was after I saw myself on screen that I decided the likes of Mr Cox had nothing fear from my thespian talents.

I stopped performing altogether. Life took over; making a living, getting married, setting up a home.

Eventually the very thought of public speaking, let alone performing, filled me with horror.

That was, as I say, until I became involved with the fiction racket and had to get over myself.

Now I do a ten-minute bit when the fridge light comes on.

I’ve been all over Scotland for book festivals, events and shows with the two comedy/crime writing teams I work with. I’ve crossed the border to Newcastle and Bristol, both in England. I’ve even been to Spain for a show, which was great fun. I’ll tell you about those comedy/crimewriting teams in a future Type M for Murder.

Many authors love to meet readers, as long as they’re not telling us our books are nonsense. Some of us like to enteratin audiences not only on the page but on stage. We like to make audiences laugh. Off stage, though, I am actually quiet and reserved and not hugely sociable, which even I think is kinda strange given my antics in front of an audience.

All that activity came to a grinding halt this year, thanks to Covid-19, which has has been such a downer I don’t think I’ll binge watch the first 18. There were no festivals, no bookstore events, no comedy performances.

I had a great year lined up but one by one each of the events dropped like extras in a Tarantino movie. Yes, some have gone ahead in a digital format and they have been huge successes but you can't beat the excitement of being in the room with your audience. There's a  connection with live events that the internet just cannot replicate.

As I said, the suckage of 2020 has been immense.

It has also led to a curtailment of my photography.

Wherever I went I took my trusty Nikon camera (other brands are available, just not in my house) and I would click away like a snap happy chappy. It's landscapes mostly and I’ve included a few photographs here mostly from a trip to the isle of Mull last year, but that has been seriously curtailed this year, too, thanks to the C word.

For me, photography - and the editing of them afterwards - is strangely therapeutic. A writer's life is by necessity a solitary one and so is a photographer's. I prefer being on my own when at large with a lens because - frankly - I annoy non-photographers with this urge, no need, to stop every few miles, yards or feet to snatch a shot. And often more than one. 

So I hope festivals will resume when they can. I hope I will be invited and meet new readers. I hope I will grab new photographs! I hope our governments get on top of this crisis. I hope 2021 will see at least a partial return to normality for us all.

Towards the mainland from the Mull ferry

Lismore lighthouse



Kilchurn Castle on Loch Awe

Clouds gather on the road from Oban

St Conon’s Kirk

A beach on the isle of Arran

Ayr Harbour looking towards Arran

Wetlands around Wigtown

The marina in Javea, Spain

A medieval bridge in Javea

A winter shot near my home


Anna said...

Douglas, these photos are wonderful, not least because I have wanted to visit Scotland for years and explore the islands reached through the port of Oban. Moreover, my first art was photography, and I am still probably a better photographer than writer. More photos on your next post, please.

Congratulations on your refusal to "binge watch the first 18." (Notice American punctuation.) I'm stealing that line to work into conversations. We can use a dose of healthy Scots/Scotch/Scottish humor over here.

Sybil Johnson said...

What great photos. I particularly like the one of the lighthouse.

Douglas Skelton said...

Thank you, glad you like the shots. I'll try to think of an excuse to include more!

Douglas Skelton said...

Thank you. It was taken from the ferry to Mull.

Tanya said...

Douglas, thank you so much for the beautiful photos. A great way to take our minds off the trials of this year. As a former photography major who turned to writing/editing, I have to say you have an incredible eye for composition and lighting. More, more, more!

Douglas Skelton said...

Thank you. If I can come up with enough excuses to include photographs, I will.

Unknown said...

I love the light in the shot of Tobermory. Great photos.

Donis Casey said...

Gorgeous pictures. BTW, If I can scare up the money, I'll make it a point to hop over to Scotland to catch you act as soon as we are all released back into the world.

Donis Casey said...

p.s. how about a coffee table book of photos?

Douglas Skelton said...

Thank you Unknown and Donis! Light is all important I think and if you catch Scottish light correctly it really helps. Donis - by all means get to Scotland but perhaps spare yourself the acting. Or whatever it is I do. As for a book, it's been suggested before but it would be too prohibitive cost-wise. I do have a 2021 calendar now and some of my images are on sale on a site called Picfair.