Nicola Monaghan's news, events and general thoughts about life and writing.

Monday, 19 October 2009

The Hockley Hustle

Am appearing in the Left Lion spoken word event again, this time at the Hockley Hustle. This one's not free, but the tickets you buy gives you an armband for access to all the events, and it's for charity.

Murder, Madness and Fantasy....  

Celebrating the last day of summer, LeftLion presents their darkest spoken word event yet. From 4pm – 8pm they’ll take you to the oddities of the Victorian freak show, down the cold clean corridors of the mental asylum, across time, space and galaxies and then back for one final fantasy you’ll never forget...   

Final Fantasy
7.40 +: Al Needham (Todger Talk)

Speculative Fictions
6.50 – 7.30: Damien Walter (Guardian blogger) in conversation with Mark Charan Newton (Nights of Villjamur)
6.20 – 6.45: James Johnson (erth chronicles)

Madness and Murder
5.50 – 6.10: Nicola Monaghan (The Killing Jar, Starfishing)
5.10 – 5.50 Ann Featherstone (Walking in Pimlico) in conversation with Rod Maddocks (No Way to Say Goodbye)

Myth, Magic and Mayhem
4.40 – 5.00 Aly Stoneman and Milk
4.20 – 4.40 King Henry (England, my England)**
4.00 – 4.20 Joss Ink – (Leading a Horse to Water)

**Extreme content warning, imagine P G Wodehouse with turrets... 

Sunday, 4 October 2009

The Circus versus The Fair.

'It's not fair!' I used to moan at my mum when I was a little girl, in that annoying, whiny voice kids use when they want something, the kind of voice that makes you want to give them anything they say if they'll just stop. 'It's not fair till October,' my mum used to say. That used to be true when I was little. And when October came and you went to the fair, made yersen sick with too much candy floss and mushy peas (an appetising mix) and then the waltzers, your head snapping back as they went too fast and you screamed to make them go faster. You came away wearing your Kiss me Quick hat feeling nauseous, worn out and completely satisified with your lot.

These days, though, I don't know. Me and the dear husband have a bit of a problem with the fair in October, the Goose Fair. I mean, it looks kinda pretty, from the road at night with all the lights on, and there are a few rides that look kinda impressive. I noticed this time round some contraption of flying swings that went way higher than any similar fairground attraction I've ever seen, as well as a log flume and a smallish rollercoaster, all really a mile away from the big wheel and Wall of Death that were the highlights of my teenage fairs.

The problem for me starts when you walk down Gregory Boulevard or any of the surrounding streets. There's a lack of atmosphere. There's a lack of, well, a lack of much sign that you're approaching the fair. The side shows and fortune tellers used to run all the way down the boulevard, and lots of the other surrounding streets, but they just don't anymore. Maybe these kinds of attraction just don't get the punters in anymore, but it doesn't feel like Goose Fair with so few of them.

It doesn't get better as you walk inside. For me, these days, there's just something missing from Goose Fair. A vital thing, like a heart or a soul. It feels dead inside, and smaller than it used to. That could be the difference in my relative size but I don't think it is. I've been there as a teenager and as an adult. I believe it genuinely is smaller than it used to be. And don't get me started on the prices, or the rip off stalls where you are guaranteed a prize, but it never turns out to be one of the massive, great stuffed Disney cuddlies on display... There's inflation, and then there's taking the piss.

This year, we went to the circus instead. That is, the Circus Extravaganza organised by Left Lion. This event was free. Yeah, you heard right. Free. It didn't cost a thing. To be honest, I couldn't really go to Goose Fair instead because I was signed up to read at the spoken word. But that's not the point.

I was really glad we went to the circus instead of Goose Fair. We hung around for the entire spoken word event. It was by far the best event of its type I've been involved in. I read with a lovely young lady, and a fabulous writer, Megan Taylor, and we had conferred beforehand so that we chose pieces with a certain synergy. I shared a new story, one that no one had read or workshopped. It was a dark story about childhood, and some of the daft things adults tell kids. It seemed to go down well. After this there was some fabulous poetry, including the beautiful Aly Stoneman, accompanied on guitar by her friend Milk. After this Al Needham interviewed Rebecca Dakin, author of The Girlfriend Experience. Somehow I knew Nottingham's Mr Sex would find the right questions to ask, and he didn't let us down. Rebecca came across as bubbly and very genuine, and we bought the book.

The event climaxed (a good word under the circumstances) with a reading by Al of extracts from his award winning blog Todger Talk. It were mint, as our Al would've said. It was all bloody funny, but the highlights for me were this little peach, and then this one, which was his closing shot, if you'll pardon my exact choice of words, under the circumstances. Brilliant. I can't wait for Al's book, which he bloody well better write or I'll send some of me mates from Broxta after him.

We left all this behind and went out looking for a good band. We were spoiled for choice, with stuff going on at all the pubs in the area. We were also lucky enough to catch Shop's dead celebrity reinactment of the Thriller Video. It's not every day you get to see Michael Jackson, Freddy Mercury, Kurt Cobain, Audrey Hepburn, Heath Ledger and Marilyn Monroe, amongst others, dancing together on the streets of Nottingham. You definitely wouldn't get it at the fair. It was class. (And they knew all the moves.)

Perhaps the best thing about the entire evening was the way it felt around Canning Circus. There was a real sense that there was something special going on. A proper atmosphere. You wouldn't get that at Goose Fair either. 

Nice one Left Lion crew. You did real good.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

The funniest thing I have EVER seen on TV

I'm sure it will be no surprise to readers of this blog that I tuned in to Derren Brown tonight. I'm left, well, laughing all the way to my keyboard. Derren's deadpan 'Oh, one out.' The face of the man whose money's on the table, clearly utterly convinced that the ball's going to somehow jump over the divide in the roulette wheel yet, because Derren Brown wouldn't mess up on this scale. The production assistant, standing outside the trailer with a giant cheque at the ready for a hundred and eighty grand and the way he walks up, gingerly. 'Don't worry mate, we'll get your five grand back.' The silence as the series peters out could almost define dramatic anticlimax. It brought to mind the ending of The Blair Witch Project.

Of course they'll get his five grand back because they ain't gambled it away in the first place. Derren Brown ain't been nowhere near no casino tonight, not unless it was after the show in his own time. I know Casinos and I'm telling yous; that was a Channel Four studio 'somewhere in Europe', or a Casino they'd borrowed and closed for the evening.

For starters, it was too quiet and empty. There was no sound of other gamblers, of other roulette wheels, or cards being shoed or shuffled. Sure, it could have been a small casino but the problem with that is there was no evidence whatsoever, either visual or audio, of slot machines. They ain't not one casino in the world that don't got slot machines, girlfriend, and they make noise and flash lights all the time to try to hypnotise you and get your money (not unlike Derren Brown). There were no croupiers rushing past, or people serving drinks, and none of the small trolleys you get given as a punter to put your drinks on. You don't stand at a table with holding your wine glass while you play. You don't change your chips when you're putting them all on the same number. You don't walk around holding your sleeves up to stuff so the hidden camera can catch it. Well, not unless you fancy getting taken away and being beaten up in the basement.

Then there's the size of the bet. Five grand on a single number? Casinos risk manage their exposure. You don't just walk over to a table and put that much cash on the nose of a 35 to 1 payout without the pit boss having a look see if he's happy. At least, you don't unless you're in Aspinall's or one of the other super exclusive casinos on Curzon Street. And the thing about those Casinos is that A. you have to be a multi-millionaire to join (although mebbe our Derren's been playing the lottery) and B. you have to get a personal invitation by someone who's already a member. And like even if Derren did all that, they're gonna let him join, four weeks after the TV schedule announces he's going to bring the place down? Yeah, right, whatever.

It almost goes without saying at this stage that Derren's explanation of how he did it was complete rubbish. Brown claimed tonight to be able to assess two different speeds going in opposite directions by tapping his feet to their different rhythms. Hello? Anyone here ever tried to rub their stomach and pat their head at the same time? Well this would be harder, you'd have to do it faster, then apply a load of complicated calculations and take into account rebounds and bounces on the wheel. And all that in the few seconds you've got between the croupier spinning the wheel and you putting your chips down. Derren's clever and quick. He ain't a computer. Add to this the fact that there's a camera in Derren's sleeve, he is tapping *both* of his feet but at slightly different rhythms and yet we don't see its picture (or our Derren for that matter) shake any more than it was doing before. He would also have looked mighty strange while he carried out this little trick. If you don't believe me stand up and try tapping both your feet. Hmmm...

So, if what I say is true and it's all a big set up, why on earth not just go all the way and get the number exactly right?

Well one big reason springs to mind right away. If he did that, he'd have had to give Ben that blooming great cheque. There's a second thing too. By getting the figure one out, he makes the trick more believable. People think he came so close to pulling it off, and assume that if he was cheating he'd have got it exactly right so that he must be telling the truth. Paul Daniel's even suggested Derren should get one of the lottery balls wrong, for this exact reason.

But it was well done and it was funny, I'll give him that. I suspect there will be some kind of link between The Events and Derren's next series, where he'll be scam busting. Starting with his own scams mebbe? Just a hunch.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Circus Tricks.

Am at the circus tomorrow. No elephants that I know of, just Left Lions. If you can make it over this way, should be a peng night. And it's free.

My event kicks off at the Hand on Heart at ten to five and other writers are reading there from four. I'll be reading new stuff and everything, as well as some old fave passages from that Killing Jar book what I wrote. There's comedy, music, all sorts all at pubs with easy reach of each other around the Canning Circus area, so you don't even have to walk very far.

Hope to see yer there.

While we're talking Left Lion, there's a lovely new Write Lion podcast too, featuring yours truly and a whole host of other Nottingham folk what like their pens. Check it out.