Category Archives: Shed

>Robust generosity

>In the light of the discussion (and more) over at Fin Kennedy’s blog, I was going to write about how playwrights came together in the 90s to change the rules of engagement between theatres, funding bodies and writers. The playwrights could have concentrated on fighting each other for the diminishing number of new writing production slots, but they didn’t – they formed collectives and changed the theatrical landscape. Then I found this article by David Edgar which encapsulates most of what I wanted to say and points out that the collective impulse had started much earlier – so read that. David Eldridge’s reflection on the “and more” is also worth a read.

Playwrights may be individual artists, but there is common cause, whether it be the year on year business of re-negotiating standard contracts, collating and sharing information and research, campaigning for a broader vision, or a one off campaign to, say, shame the ACE for dropping the John Whiting Award. We don’t have to like each other’s work (or even each other), but there is common ground and it is important.

I have scared myself with the portentousness of this. Next time I will write about the shed.

Meeting about the Birmingham Rep play tomorrow.

First verbal plumbing quote in.

>A Hypochondriac

>My hypochondria has flared up again. I’ve got a radio play to write and a new router (power tool rather than networking device) to play with, and all I can do is feel a bit off. I went to the doctors here for the first time and they were very good (ECG, blood tests – the works).

We were in the rapidly metamorphosing Speke for New Year – two glasses of sherry and Nick Knowles on the telly shouting at fireworks. It was nice to be with P for once though (first time in 3 years). Perhaps the sherry was off! We saw K (step-daughter) and her partner in Chester while we were up North, which was great. P spoke to her son J in China on Christmas Day via Skype videophone. I used Skype to speak to my Sister in New Zealand as well – top product.

We drove back South on New Year’s Day and found that the new shed hadn’t blown away, which made all my gale-based panicking look a bit foolish.

A plumber is supposed to be coming tonight to quote for work. I hope Hell doesn’t freeze over. UPDATE: He postponed – another warm night in The Pit of Acheron.

PS – Playwright, inspirational teacher and good friend Deborah Catesby has a new Web site under development.

>Merry Christmas, everyone – the shed is up


A man and his new outbuilding. I dedicate this shed to P, without whom…

Have a very Merry Christmas.

>One last heave

>One more week of teaching and then I’m done until the end of January. Teaching is the best part of the job (at the Uni), but it is a consuming activity and it’s taken a toll this semester. I am always a nervous lecturer, but the commuting has added another level of fatigue to the process.

Yesterday was cold and fine so we got started with the outdoor work on the shed. It took all day to get the base right and cut the floor. We now have about 1.5 inches of height with 6 feet to go. Today was supposed to be wet and windy, but looking out the office window it’s a beautiful day. Unfortunately, with the short day, it’s already too late to start work (the superstructure has to be erected in one go or it will blow away apparently).

Today – preparation for tomorrow’s sessions, marking student work, radio play and structure of Birmingham play (some breakthroughs with this, but they need to be tested).


>It’s blowing a hooley here today (tho’ it’s worse in Kensal Rise) , so naturally we decided to have a go at building the shed. No go. We ended up moving bookshelves – doing that thing of finding unread books, and books about learning to play bass guitar, and out of date plumbing how-to books (“first hollow your log”), and travel guides to places you never did get to.

I’m meant to be writing up the structure of the play for Birmingham. It’s killing me. It just won’t lie down. The deadline is 18th December, which is closer than it sounds. It was important to move it forward today, so I’ve vacuumed through downstairs and washed the lounge curtains. I’m such a cliché.

Spoke to my mate D on the phone about writing. She’s willing to talk, to read or to bully if it will help – but I need to sort this. There’s a big chunk (?) of negativity that needs moving. Where’s your psychic crowbar when you need it?

>Perfect weather

>Yesterday and today have had perfect shed-building weather. It’s very still, cloudless and, well, beautiful. We have the base built and will do some othe itty-bitty preparations today, but progress is limited. I have ‘done a shoulder’ and can’t do any site levelling or hefting slabs about. Pathetic.

Yesterday’s meeting about the Birmingham play went well. The exercise had shown me some holes in my understanding of the play and the meeting pointed up a couple more. I now have a deadline in December to deliver the next stage. Lyn Gardner may question the usefulness of play development, but some plays (and/or playwrights) need encouragment.

>An early morning shed

>I arrived home last night to a telephone message saying that the shed would be here at 7am. So much for a lie-in. It is here and it is heavy. I’ve never had the shed fetish that some blokes have, but I’ll be glad to get the bikes out of the house.

I didn’t write at all yesterday. Work was a full day’s teaching and the train journeys were a washout (I was washed out).

It’s a slow start today as well. I’m trying to write character biographies – not something I’d normally do, but these aren’t all characters from my world. What is fascinating is that the least developed character in the play turns out to be the most autobiographical – a point I’d missed before this exercise. I’ve written plays where the protagonist has some autobiographical origins, but this is the first time a marginal character has turned up with these traits. I wonder if part of the problem is my trepidation about putting these ‘other’ characters at the centre of the play (“who am I to speak about these people?”). The passive onlooker might be symptomatic of this. Not that amateur cod-psychoanalysis helps with deadlines.

Do cod receive psychoanalysis? How does it work? Do you need to catch them Jung? Click here for psychoanalysis of Bagpuss.

I was browsing yesterday when I came across a screenwriting wiki site. Unfortunately I’ve lost the URL, but it did contain a link to raising a baby squirrel which for some reason did stick. It’s very insistent that “This is very important . . . Never feed a cold squirrel!”, which I think is sound advice.

>Later that same day

>Some writing done on the play for Birmingham Rep. Good. Some useful stuff as well – you know how it is when it goes off at a tangent, or you find a detail that doesn’t quite fit. I love that. Thinking through doing I suppose.

I read Scenes From The Back of Beyond by Meredith Oakes which is on at The Royal Court Upstairs. It has received a bad review in The Standard (spit) but has been eloquently defended by David Eldridge. I haven’t seen the play, but from a reading I’d have to say that David sounds spot on. The review is one of those that lays into a play for not being the play the critic wants to see, but is nothing to do with what the writer is trying to do (a clumsy sentence – how to phrase it better?).

Also, as this is a writing day, I managed to clean out the bit of the loft the electrican will need to work in when he comes on Thursday. We found a wasps nest – luckily empty. The best writing days seem to encompass and celebrate the displacement activities that usually make you feel guilty and worthless.

Tomorrow is a Birmingham teaching day – leave home at 6am, back by 9pm if all goes well. Tuesday will be exciting (for me) because of the radio play (see below), and the new shed is being delivered. We’ve gone for a metal shed because they’re easier to build and they don’t burn down (next door has an arson attack on their back garden a few weeks ago). It does look like a metal shed though and you can beak in with a tin-opener.