The Dad Diaries Chapter 4: In which shirts are ironed but neither passion nor purpose are discovered

Thursday, 27th January, 2005

The news said it’s 60 years since the liberation of Auschwitz. One of those sobering “Lest we forget” moments.

It would seem disrespectful to write anything else today.

Friday, 28th January, 2005

I did the ironing. Not quite as momentous as yesterday’s anniversary, I grant you, but still, in its own way, remarkable. Why? Because it proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am not only Wise Middle-Aged Man but also distinctly New Man. He loves his kids (and frequently tells them so, especially in public – which they particularly appreciate although claiming to find it “embarrassing”); he’s as ready to push the vacuum cleaner as the lawnmower; and now, he can de-crease even “proper” shirts with a vengeance.

 

Monday, 31st January, 2005

Joe came round to give Sarah more maths tutoring. Allegedly. Spent 34 minutes figuring out how to casually walk through the dining room giving Joe a hard stare without Sarah spotting it.

Jack, on the other hand, asked me what I thought the purpose of life was and what the church was for. Such a joy to be able to teach one’s child the ways of the Lord. Or, at least, it would have been if I’d said anything that made the slightest bit of sense. After a couple of minutes Jack remembered he had to load some music onto his newly-arrived MP3 player.

Wednesday, 2nd February, 2005

New month! New ideas! Time to leave the January Blues behind! Rejoice! Enjoy life!

We’re thinking about going to see Les Miserables.

Friday, 4th February, 2005

It was the first session of the Finding Your Place in the Kingdom of Our Righteous God and Playing Your Part in the Spreading of His Glorious Gospel course at church. The topic was discovering your passion. Didn’t discover my passion, although the Garibaldi biscuits were a pleasant surprise.

What am I passionate about? What drives me? What gets me out of bed in the morning? Not sure that being quite keen on holidays in Cornwall is what they’re getting at.

Tuesday, 8th February, 2005

Sarah took part in Police cadet training in a local shopping centre, acting the part of a disrespectful rowdy youth. I know she’s keen on drama but she seemed to enjoy the chance to steal a police officer’s helmet whilst swearing just a little bit too much. I’ve just paid her bail. (Note to diary: that was a joke.)

Shrove Tuesday. Naturally we all had shroves. (Note to diary: another joke. I should do this for a living.)

 

The Dad Diaries are fictional. Probably.

 

 

 

 

The Dad Diaries Chapter 3: In which an MP3 player fails to arrive and the gospel is preached

Monday, 17th January, 2005

Jack said he had a boring day at school. I said I’d had a boring day at work. Other family members didn’t comment on how boring (or otherwise) their day had been.

On the other hand, F. did report that a colleague at work had had their house vandalised. We were suitably appalled and prayed for fire to rain down from heaven and consume the culprits. (Although we also requested that the fire would be at a safe distance from the house, in order to prevent further damage.)

Tuesday, 18th January, 2005

Jack was crestfallen when the postman again failed to deliver his eagerly-awaited MP3 player from eBay. F. is also waiting for an MP3 player from eBay, but being an adult her degree of crestfallen-ness was naturally much lower.

We attended a church house group where the “ice-breaker” consisted of sharing your opinions of President George W. Bush. The main opinion we came away with was that as an exercise in sharing something about yourself and learning something about others it was an unmitigated failure.

Wednesday, 19th January, 2005

I announced to the family that since it’s now post-Christmas we are officially allowed to discuss where we want to go on holiday this year. We need to get our skates on, given that we only have 7 months to decide.

Saturday, 22nd January, 2005

It’s cold. I have a headache. And I worked until lunchtime. On. A. Saturday.

On the other hand, we had F.’s parents round for chippy takeaway and games of Uno and Pass The Pigs. Both exceedingly fine games of skill, judgement and strategy. (When I win. If I lose, it’s just down to luck.)

opplanet-encross-wave-x-wv-430c-512mb-digital-audio-mp3-player-wv430cF.’s MP3 player arrived, much to the dismay of a by now extra-crestfallen Jack, who remains MP3 player-less and must console himself with old-fashioned CDs or humming to himself.

Monday, 24th January, 2005

Sarah had her TB jab. It hurt. She was consoled by our visit to the Town Hall to see Jesus Christ Superstar, featuring, it seems, one of her teachers.

For some sound educational reason Jack has to find pictures of a rhino’s back on the Internet. He’s drawn a picture of a boy crying uncontrollably. I think it’s the MP3 player thing.

Tuesday, 25th January, 2005

Met Dave Morrison near Morrison’s (co-incidence or what?). He didn’t remember me so I had to remind him we met at the German evening class two years ago. He then told me about various health and financial troubles he had. Moved by the Spirit, I told him Jesus cared about all that stuff and wants him to get right with God. Dave said he really needed to pop in for some salt and a tin of peaches.

 

The Dad Diaries are fictional. Probably.

Exclusive: Traycer Band album artwork revealed

It's been more than two long years in the making, but The Traycer Band's album is finally due for release this autumn. Solomon himself told us of the recording plans in his last guest post. Now, in another MMW exclusive, we get to preview the cover artwork for the album.

And here it is:

As widely forecast, the album is named after the hugely popular track The Staircase, a song which, as Solomon described in his Postcard from Barcelona, is always a great crowd-pleaser.

As for the music, that's being kept tightly under wraps (other than the title track) by ROTA Records for now. Be assured that any sneak previews or other inside info will appear here first!

 

The Dad Diaries Chapter 2: In which a storm is weathered and pipe-smoking is rejected

Saturday, 8th January, 2005

Fierce winter storm last night. So bad I had to tie the barbecue cover back on.

Monday, 10th January, 2005

We now have three decorative stone heads in the back garden. Kind of Easter Island-ish but significantly smaller. Jack suggested they constitute pagan idols and will entice demons into the garden. I said I didn’t think Green Lane Garden Centre sold pagan idols.

Said an extra prayer for protection over the garden before going to bed.

Tuesday, 11th January, 2005

My American niece Anne-Louise is 21 today. I have an officially grown-up niece. This presumably makes me officially middle-aged and full of wisdom. Perhaps a pipe would underline my maturity and vast life experience. Not to smoke, naturally (I’m far too wise for that): just to suck on as I contemplate some conundrum troubling one of the young people.

Of course, had Anne-Louise been British she would have been officially grown-up three years ago and I would have been officially middle-aged in 2002.

Wednesday, 12th January, 2005

There was great excitement when I announced we were going to see Daniel Bedingfield in concert. I really am quite hip for a middle-aged bloke with pipe-sucking aspirations.

Thursday, 13th January, 2005

At Sarah’s parents’ evening we finally got some explanation of the convoluted grading system on her report. Something about a mark for the last test, a projected grade based on current performance, a second projected grade based on the student’s real potential if they just decided to work a bit, and a third projected grade based on a combination of local education authority demographic averages, last year’s median grade and what mood the teacher was in.

The net result was that while she’s a delightful person (gets it from her parents) and doing well in most subjects, she’s doing less delightfully in maths. Jack offered to help her out, being “well good” at maths despite being younger than Sarah. Sarah thanked him and I think suggested he go boil his head, but I couldn’t be sure.

Friday, 14th January, 2005

Sarah helped at the church’s Kidz Klub (that’s a deliberate, cool, mis-spelling, incidentally) and afterwards got some maths help from Joe, a university student who, she explained with a disdainful glance at her brother, “really knows what he’s talking about”.

If necessary I will notify Joe that I’ll be monitoring Sarah’s enthusiasm for maths.

Saturday, 15th January, 2005

Sarah did extra maths homework. Jack played on his PS2 and bought himself both a new ink pen and a new calculator battery. I cleaned our bedroom and both bathrooms. F. cooked us a Saturday tea worthy of Sunday lunch, followed by cookies & cream pie. After dinner we all laid on the dining room floor looking at the ceiling and just talking for three quarters of an hour.

Sometimes a family Saturday just goes well and leaves one deeply grateful.

Stubbed my toe at the bottom of the stairs on the way up to bed.

 

The Dad Diaries are fictional. Probably.

 

 

 

The Dad Diaries Chapter 1: In which 2005 arrives and a card is not sent to the Emperor of Japan

Thursday, 23rd December, 2004

My diary helpfully tells me it’s the Emperor’s birthday in Japan. If I’d realised sooner I could have sent a card. The shops have been full of Christmas cards for weeks so I probably missed the Japanese Emperor birthday card section.

More importantly, it’s Christmas Eve-Eve! Jack came back from the market with four new Santa hats to replace our rag-tag, scruffy collection. He’s a thoughtful son. We will of course now have to wear them for the next week.

Wednesday, 29th December, 2004

Bought a new pair of trainers and the ABBA Gold CD. They are so underrated (ABBA, not the trainers). Can’t believe it’s 30 years since Waterloo. Can’t believe I’m old enough to say it’s 30 years since anything. Well, obviously, I’ve always been able to say that; it’s just that now I can say it for events for which I was present, well, not present (since I wasn’t actually at the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest – although I could have been, it being held in Brighton and all) but, you know, alive at the time of the event which is now 30 (or whatever) years ago.

Friday, 31st December, 2004

Decided I will not wax philosophical about another year drawing to a close, where does the time go and all the rest. Instead, reminded Jack and Sarah that, once again, they’re in danger of failing to write their thank-you letters before the end of the year in which their Christmas gifts were received. Once again they argued that it doesn’t matter, that it’s not even a week since the said gift receiving and that if Christmas was in August it would be different. And besides (they continued), it’s holidays from writing and stuff (everything’s “and stuff” with them these days). I then reminded them that while they may not set great store by a £5 Boots gift voucher (which we will inevitably end up swapping for cash because they don’t want anything from Boots), Aunty Muriel and Uncle Norman were very kind to think of them at all and that ingratitude is just downright rude.

They adopted suitably penetant expressions and asked if they could do it after Friends.

Sunday, 2nd January, 2005

Played squash with F. but was rubbish.

Christmas wasn’t cancelled after all

Monday, 3rd January, 2005

Took the Christmas stuff down despite it being only ninth night. It now consists of six boxes and a bag. Reminds me of that episode of The Good Life where Margot declares Christmas as cancelled “because it couldn’t be delivered”. After all, we all know you don’t need tinsel and chocolate Santas hanging on an artificial tree to celebrate the birth of Christ. Although sherry and re-runs of Morecambe and Wise always help.

Wednesday, 5th January, 2005

Sarah and Jack finally wrote their thank-you letters. I suppose it’s because they’re back at school and are allowed to do “writing and stuff” once more.

The Dad Diaries are fictional. Probably.

Plectrum to Pen: Traycer hints at next writing project

Following our exclusive interview and Solomon's guest post during his sell-out Spanish tour, the multi-talented and somewhat mysterious Mr Traycer has been good enough to write for us once again.


This music lark is a delight. I mean, at my age, to discover one's writing seems to work in a completely new context is just so thrilling. To have a bunch of superb musicians willing to make me look good is staggering. And then to find that the notoriously fickle public are actually prepared to part with money to listen to us is the cherry on the proverbial icing on the jolly cake. I feel like a kid again! And believe me, it's a very long time since I really was. So long, in fact, that I struggle to remember who was on the throne at the time. Vague recollections of bedtime stories of a failed rebellion in Scotland but that's as far as it goes…Sorry, I digress.

Well, after Spain we had a big conflab about the planned Traycer Band LP, sorry, I mean album. Apparently the first two singles sold well enough for Goldstar to give us the backing for a full studio session and it's all due to kick off in August! We have about six songs lined up, ideas for another three and no idea about the rest. It's a while off yet but it'll come round soon enough so we need some serious creative juice-flowing to happen pretty soon.

I like to keep a few irons in the fire so at the same time I'm talking to my publisher about the next book. After an epic historical fantasy series like Rider of the Ages I decided to dial back the mythological / extra-terrestrial / sci-fi element but still run a little wild with some what-if history rewrites. The classic example is “What if the Nazis had won the war?”, and it's been done a few times. So I'm trying to be somewhat more subtle but no less surprising.

Naturally I'm only at outline stage and haven't even signed a deal yet, but I wondered whether I could do a bit of the modern “focus group” thing and offer a little taster for your considered opinion? Good. Bearing in mind, then, that the finished product may quite possibly bear absolutely no resemblance, here for your delectation is the possible blurb for the forthcoming Solomon W. Traycer novel, A Kingdom Divided:

In a post-war Britain where Churchill was re-elected and Ulster stands on the brink of leaving the UK to create a united Ireland, the Prime Minister enjoys a surprisingly warm relationship with Soviet Russia's Josef Stalin. Unbeknown to the PM, Stalin's agents are behind a resurgence in Scottish and Welsh nationalism creating unrest and pressure for independence. Angered by the UK's cosying up to the USSR, the USA threatens Churchill with a trade embargo.

Why is the British PM so willing to co-operate with Stalin, and what does the USSR hope to gain by destabilising the UK? Top civil servants, horrified at the turn of events, send out secret cries for help to other countries. Secret Service agents are staggered to receive a reply from a most surprising source – disgraced Nazi Rudolf Hess. Under the guise of a trade mission, agent Sammy White arranges to meet Hess in a secret location in Berlin…

So there you go. Does it grab you? Would you want to read it? I'd be awfully grateful for your thoughts.

Why is the British PM so willing to co-operate with Stalin, and what does the USSR hope to gain by destabilising the UK?

(Feel free to use the comment thingy below, or if you're an old-fashioned soul at heart you can write to me c/o my agent, Shackleton Promotions, 3rd Floor, Blackstone Building, Heath Lane, Bath, BA32 7JH.)

 

Guest Post: Solomon Traycer’s postcard from Barcelona

In what we hope will be the first of many guest appearances, renowned author and musical newcomer Solomon Traycer takes time out from touring to reflect on his new experiences.

Barcelona's a gem; a great place for extra leisure time between shows (sorry – I know one ought to say “gigs”, but I'm a creature of a bygone age). While I may be a rookie in the music game, my modest success with the written word has given me a bit of influence – meaning I was able to put in special requests to the tour manager!

We seemed to go down well last night, despite breaking not one but two strings in the space of three songs. Astonishing how fast Jay can change them and tune them up. And the audience were very tolerant of my appalling Spanish. I was very moved when we came back out for the curtain call (sorry, encore) to hear them chanting – chanting! – for The Staircase. It's not as if it's sold that many copies; I suppose they must have heard it on YouTube. Anyway, it was a real high to end on; such a buzz, as they say!

The band and crew went out on the town till goodness knows what time but they understand that an old crock like me can't stand the pace after a couple of sweaty hours on stage. I preferred to get to sleep by midnight and have most of today to explore, so that's what I did. Don't get me wrong, we get on really well; in fact we're all out for dinner tonight to review the set before heading to Madrid tomorrow.

View from the bullring

I wandered round the Ramblas this morning and then headed across to the Montjuïc side where there's an old bullring that's been turned into a shopping centre. As I stood on the viewing gallery taking in the magnificent view it struck me that I ought to set one of my novels here, maybe back when the bullring was still used…there you go; if it's not lyrics it's plot lines!

Right, back to the glamorous rock star life. I've got sore fingers, the novelty of being “on the road” is a distant memory and I long for a certain quiet cottage in Sussex. No! This really will not do! I always used to despise musicians bemoaning their lot as they travelled around lapping up adulation and indulging in their favourite pastime, and look at me doing the same! Shameful.

Well, I hope that's OK. “Give us a bit of the real Sol,” they said, so I trust I've obliged. Having spent decades speaking through my characters it's rather novel (pardon the pun) to be speaking as myself. It remains to be seen whether I, and you, take to it.

 

Interview With Best-Selling Novelist Solomon Traycer

Recently we at Mark: My Words were fortunate enough to spend some time with renowned thriller writer Solomon Traycer. Although we’d hoped to catch up with him in his Hampshire cottage, his agent was adamant he would only talk to us at the M:MW offices.

 

Our first job was to find some offices. The best we could come up with was hiring the British Leyland Business Suite at the Travelodge just off junction 3 of the M42. Not exactly opulent surroundings, and having to nip to the Little Chef every time you wanted a Danish pastry was a pain. We just hoped Solomon would understand, having been a struggling artist in his time. In the end we needn’t have fretted, especially as Sol (as he’s known to his friends) brought a bag of six Morrisons croissants.

MMW: Thanks for giving us your time today; it’s a pleasure to meet you.

ST: You are absolutely welcome. The West Midlands is quite charming and grossly under-rated in my opinion. If you like that sort of thing.

MMW: Can we start by asking you where you were born?

ST: Of course.

MMW: So…where were you…born?

ST: Right, right. Well, to be honest, depends who you talk to. Been told everywhere from Barecelona to Huddersfield over the years. And I had a cousin who insisted I was born on another planet.

MMW: Nobody seems quite sure how old you are.

ST: Hah! You and me both. I have a lot of memories…so many…just not sure how far back they go.

MMW: Surely your birth certificate…?

ST: How about we talk about my books? I have one due out next month.

MMW: Absolutely. I know it’s the tenth in the Rider of the Ages series, but is it the last?

ST: I honestly can’t tell you. When we published Fury of the Ages four years ago it was designed to be the last. The loose ends were tied up and that was that. I had so many other projects on the go I was ready to move on, but the demand from the public for more was overwhelming. I left it for a couple of years while I worked on The Ash Pit but now here we are. I’ve learnt always to leave a little something in a novel so it can be picked up again should the opportunity arise, and this time I needed it! So, who knows? Never say never again, I say.

MMW: Those other projects included a venture into the music scene. What prompted that?

Traycer Band gig, 2011

ST: I like to surprise. Many authors take to writing later in life after doing other things. I’ve been writing as long as I can remember, so why not do it the other way round?

MMW: And the indications so far are that fans love this latest surprise. You seem to be in more demand than ever. I’ve even heard it said that the papers want to know whose shirts you wear!

ST: It’s exciting and very humbling. Almost like being born again. Me, a guitar, a bunch of outstanding musicians and instant interaction with my audience. Out of this world and quite, quite cosmic. Oh, and mostly they’re BHS. The shirts.

MMW: Solomon, there’s so much more we’d love to ask you but unfortunately we could only get a morning’s booking of the British Leyland Business Suite as it’s needed by the Wolverhampton & Dudley Austin Allegro Preservation Society this afternoon. So, for now, thank you very much.

ST: No sweat.

MMW: Might we be able to persuade you to write guest posts on our blog?

ST: Call my agent.