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Heading home

We're heading home and what a strange feeling it is - to be leaving the equator and arriving back in England in December, ready for the run up to Xmas.

It's not like any overseas homecoming I've known before.  It feels as though it's happening in slow motion. 

Usually you fly away, enjoy the heat and sunshine, then you're back in the matter of a few hours in the air.  When you're cruising it's a far more protracted process, the weather getting noticeably colder and more grey by the hour.

Lecture 5, the E of my MURDER has been presented.  It was Environment, the backdrop or setting for a book, and seemed to be well received. 

I talked about how writers try to create a vivid sense of place, and even played a little game with the audience.  They had to close their eyes and trust me while I toyed with their senses of smell, touch and hearing, which may not seem like a wise idea to you (and I might well agree), but it made the point.

Even if it left some of the group traumatised...

That just leaves R, for the last full day at sea, Sunday.  I won't give away what the R stands for, but it's all about some of the more bizarre events that can befall a TV reporter and writer. 

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The ups and downs of life at sea (literally)

There's a hugely under-rated advantage about the wonderful thing called the land - it doesn't wobble up and down all the time and make you feel nauseous.

We've just made port in Tenerife and I was so glad to see the island that I rushed out and hugged the ground. 

Yes, I've been suffering seasickness again, and it's been horrid squared, plus some more horrid thrown in, with a bit of added yuk. 

Anyhow, I'm feeling better now, so 'tis time for a quick update on the Hall at sea saga -

Lectures three and four are done, and with differing degrees of success and enjoyment.

Lecture three in my MURDER acronym was Reality.  I talked about the truth of crime, its dreadful impact on victims (including my experiences of being sent into London to cover the 7/7 terrorist attacks), and that strange contradiction - people are horrified by crime, yet also fascinated.

Part of it was heavy going, but I don't think you can talk honestly about crime without that.  Still, we also found some much-needed lightness in the lecture, about the reality of broadcasting and how it can make for embarrassing moments.  And yes indeed, I have plenty of anecdotes in that department.

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Cruise curiousities

It's a strange feeling, writing this on a November Sunday afternoon with the sun in full glory, whilst bobbing around off the third of our Cape Verde islands. 

But there are many oddities to a cruise.  To illustrate -

Here's a question; what are the three most redundant features on the ship?

The answers...

1. The "late night disco". 

The Balmoral is filled almost entirely with older people, who get up about 6am and go to bed before 10.  The disco is entirely empty, night after night, but all the more memorable for that.

In fact, when a group of we "entertainers" went up there (it's on the attrium deck) a couple of nights ago, just to see this marvel for ourselves, one of the wholly unemployed bar staff began cleaning windows with a mop on a long pole.

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Still afloat

I'm pleased to say that I'm still afloat, both literally and metaphorically. 

Lecture Two went jolly well, so much so in fact that I was delighted to receive a wonderful and original piece of feedback. 

A lady said to me - "I've seen alternative comedy.  But you do alternative lecturing."

And this I'm very contented with indeed.  I may even adopt it as a motto!

I've done my best to make the talks entertaining and a little different.  There are six in all, and as they're on the theme of Crime and Punishment, I've given the series the acronym MURDER.  How cheery...

But, it seems to be working.  Talk one was "Meeting", as we were all getting to know each other and I was talking about the basics of the writing art.  Yesterday's was "Unexpected", as I was focusing on some of the cunning ways that crime writers put twists into their work.

I popped in a little game, which both entertained and infuritated the poor audience (as was the intention), and an interactive exercise too, along with the usual strange Hall anecdotes and some ramblings.

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Simon at sea

This cruising lark so far has been one of ups and downs, and I don't just mean due to riding the waves.

(For those who don't know, I'm on a Crime and Punishment themed cruise to the Cape Verde islands for 17 days, talking about my writing.)

Let me be a true journalist and deal with the bad news first.  It was seasickness, and it was yuk yuk yuk (translation = horrid and worse.)

Most of day two I spent an unedifying shade of green.  We were several hundred miles from home, but given the option I'd have happily started swimming back for Blighty.

I was sore afraid of being unable to deliver my first lecture, which was due the next day.  But, I was happily saved, and here comes the start of the better news -

Some people are so kind.  My wretched state was observed and I now have sufficient tablets to fill a pharmacy. 

All manner of seasickness cures are mine, courtesy of the kindness of my fellow passengers and their endless donations.  I even have a wristband, which was attached to my arm, despite my protestations that I didn't much believe in such remedies.

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Confession, angst, apology

That's quite a title for a blog, and one which leaves me wondering whether I'll be able to live up to it.  However, here we go -

I'm away on this cruise thing later in the week, and it's got me in a mild flap.  Not a dreadful one, like a swan's frantic attempts to take off, but enough to irk.

The curious thing is why.  I'm giving six talks about my books and writing, each of an hour's length.  These were daunting enough, but I've been working on them, on and off, for the best part of a year.  And now, at last, I'm mostly happy with how they look.

The concerns centre on ... and here comes the confession ...

The packing for the trip.

Yes, I'm in a state of turmoil about what to take.  And before you start laughing, it's not simple.

I've got to have clothes for presenting the lectures, clothes for formal dinner nights, for semi formal nights (whatever that means), and for leisurewear.  And all that not just for equatorial climes (that's where the cruise is heading), but leaving England in November and returning in December means I have to be prepared for that, too.

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Another world

I'm continually being asked questions about the curious world of social media, so I thought I'd try to answer a few here.

Firstly, my view on Twitter, Facebook, Linked In etc.

That's straightforward.  I'm instinctively not an online person. I prefer the hideously old fashioned way of communicating, that was once known as "going out and talking to people."

How passe!  However...

I do think the online sphere has a place, so long as we don't make the fundamental error of mistaking it for that weird existence known as "real life".

For a writer, social media is very powerful.  You can reach lots of your readers simply and in a few seconds.  You're now expected by publishers, agents and all else in the business to be there.  So there you have to be.

When I was told to get on Twitter, some 18 months ago, initially I resented it.  But now I've become a convert.  I think it's more useful and flexible than Facebook, and that its brevity is its strength.

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Energy and passion

... a pairing that I'm pleased to say, even after near to 44 years residency upon this fair planet, of which I still seem to have some reserves.

I was chatting yesterday about what it takes to be a decent teacher, following the lecture I gave to the teaching students at Plymouth University.

A brief digression here - thanks to all of you for being such a great group to work with, for not minding my strange ways of teaching, for not complaining about being frightened, or molested, or sprayed with my scents (particularly the lady who wanted to know how she was going to explain the waft of male deodorant to her partner when she got home).

Also for playing along with my games, even laughing with my Tweets, and especially for the lovely feedback you sent me - it's hugely appreciated.

At the start of the lecture, I had to make a confession.  Which is that I have no formal qualifications in teaching at all - and that means everyone else there knew much more about it than I did.

So why did it seem to work?  I think the answer came down to belief.

Teaching is a job which can easily be argued as amongst the most important in the world.  If you can read this blog, for instance, thank a teacher.  I know the profound and inspirational effect that teachers (and two in particular) had on my life. 

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