A Song Lyric - 'Sheer Force of Habit'

One of the many fun things about following quite a few people on Twitter is that things pop up in the stream that can sometimes inspire or, at least, incite a piece of writing action.

One of my weaknesses is that I like to try to write song lyrics from time to time.  They're really pretty much doggerel and the fact there are no tunes for them rather emphasises that perception but, hey, I 'm not hurting anyone and it keeps me off the streets, right?

My simplistic view of lyric writing is that many songs spring up out of little phrases which we know and use regularly without thinking about them.  Others arise out of odd, distinctive, expressions which make you stop and think when you hear them.  So, whenever such a phrase turns up, I like to try to mess with it a little.

It happened previously when @cherrymorello told me she was 'Driving up to Glasto with the offspring in the back'.  The resultant lyric is here.

@Gerrymulvenna also set one of my lyrics to a tune and sang it on his blog.  That was great and gave me a lot of pleasure.  Here's a link to it.

This time it was @SianMeadowcroft who put forward the notion of loving something out of 'sheer force of habit'.  I thought it was a very neat idea.  

If this has been done before, please don't sue me, I'm not aware of it.

Sheer Force of Habit

I’m trying to kick you
To give you right up
It’s stupid, I know, but it’s true
I’m still loving you out of sheer force of habit
There’s no patch for my craving for you.

I’ve been to the doctor
I’ve been to the church
The witch and the hypnotist too
But I’m still loving you out of sheer force of habit
My heart just needs something to do.

Should never have started, should just have said no.
The memory of you makes me shake
I should have been stronger and told you to go
You’re a mighty tough habit to break.

I pace down the hallways
I scratch at my arms
I’m restless the endless night through
Cause I’m still loving you out of sheer force of habit
I’ll never be all-clear of you

I think it would have a sort of overblown Engelburt Humperdink or Late Elvis kind of a vibe to it but what do I know?

I just scribble this stuff down...

PS:  The inestimable Gerry Mulvenna sings his version of the song here.

What a guy!

Peein’ on a Jet Plane

(Written after poor Gérard Depardieu was placed in an intolerable position on a plane)

Well my bags are on
We’re up a mile
I’ll have to wee out in the aisle
I hate to do it but I have no choice
Me bladder’s breakin’, feels like hell
The steward’s waitin’, he’s rung his bell
I haven’t been this ‘caught-short’ in a while

My Piss
He won’t wait for me
So mind my auld prostate for me
Hold this bottle while I try to go
Cause I’m pee-in’ on a jet plane
Wonder will they let me on again
Oh babe, I had to go
Uh oh, uh ohhh…

There’s only so long I could hold you in
On account of I had too much gin
But a man’s gotta wee when he’s gotta wee.
Every drink I saw I thought of you
Thank heavens I don’t need a poo
I hope this bottle’s big enough for me.

My Piss
He won’t wait for me
So mind my auld prostate for me
Hold this bottle while I try to go
Cause I’m pee-in’ on a jet plane
Wonder will they let me on again
Oh babe, I had to go
Uh oh, uh ohhh…

Doodling With the Dice

In October, which is coming up fast,  I’ve been asked to do some children’s workshops in creative writing as part of the Linenhall’s annual Roolaboola Children's Festival.

I’m planning to use a really cool toy called ‘Rory’s Story Cubes’ to show how stories can be made up and hopefully then crafted a little.  The cubes are lovely things – made up of nine dice with pictures on each side.  You roll the dice and make up a story on what you see.  The kids in the workshops will make up stories and then we will work together to make up a story which I will read aloud to an audience the next day.

If I’m going to do this, I figured I’d better get some practice in so, here, for the first time ever, is me rolling the cubes for a story.  I’m only allowing myself one throw.

(Roll, throw)

Okay… I got the following:  A question mark,  a bee, a magnifying glass, a sad face, a lock, a mobile phone, a crescent moon, a tower and a bridge.

Jaysus… is there still time to cancel?


Dial Bee for Blunder

Bee mobile phones are incredibly small and that’s why you hardly ever see them and even scoff at the thought that they might even actually exist.  But they do and you shouldn’t scoff., if the wind changes when you’re doing it, your mouth will be left stuck in a permanent scoffing expression and you will never again get offered cake.

On the day that Roger the Bee lost his mobile phone, he tried to cover it up out of embarrassment.

When he returned from his pollen scouting session, he tried to convey the location of the bounty he had found by the old fashioned method of bee-dancing.  His colleagues looked at him in unbridled dismay.  They even phoned up their friends to come and see Stupid Roger trying to do the Ancient Honey Dance.  One of those that flew over scoffed and the wind changed and, well, you know the rest.

Honey watched the sad dance from a distance.  She was a gentle, kind, lady bee who hated the incredible obviousness of her name.  She had sweet and sticky feelings for Roger and, now, after she saw him trying to dance out his directions like their grandfathers used to do (in the days before mobile phones) she took him aside and buzzed softly in his ear.

“Where was the last time you saw it?” she buzzed and Roger didn’t even bother pretending that he didn’t know what she meant.

“I had it down by the Old Stone Bridge this morning,” he said.

Honey knew that because he had used it to call her and ask her whether she might like to go to the hivetop and spoon under the crescent moon that evening.  Bee-spooning, like hedgehog mating, is a careful and tentative affair but it is very rewarding, particularly in the early spring moonlight.

The call had ended in a rather dreamy, achy, manner and Honey could quite understand how Roger might have neglected to take his phone along with him when he flew back.

“Let’s go back there now and see if we can find it.”  Suggested Honey.

So they buzzed off back to the bridge blissfully unaware of the trail of alliteration they left behind them.

There was plenty of signs at the Old Stone Bridge but, alas, there was no sign of a phone.

Roger felt as if he could break down and cry and so that's exactly what he did.  It was neither a resilient nor a macho thing to do but Honey did not love Roger for such qualities.  She loved him because he was in touch with his Inner Apodia and because he spooned really really nice.

She came to a decision about what to do and, before she could think herself back out of it, she did it.

She put her feelers to her temple and used that magical fourteenth sense that lady bees have but that men bees have long since given up in favour of bigger stings.  She pushed her senses out into the world of nature around the Old Stone Bridge seeking the gentle carrier of a lost mobile phone – or ‘Handy’ as German bees tend to call theirs.  Then, against all odds, she felt it, a tingling in her senses like a tingly bee sense thing.

“It’s over there,” she said excitedly, pointing to the Old Stone Tower which stood beside the Old Stone Bridge, “it’s in there, lying on the top floor.”

“But how do you-“ started Roger but then he understood that Honey had used her fourteenth sense to help him.  He also knew that girl bees can only use their fourteenth sense once in their entire lives and that they invariably save that moment for when they are bopped by a rolled-up newspaper at a human picnic and need to bring themselves back to life.

“I can’t believe that you did that for me,” Roger said as they flew into the old locked tower in search of the phone, “what will you do now when the humans strike you?”

Honey smiled.

“I’ll just have to rely on you coming to rescue me,” she said.

And later that evening, as the pale crescent moon rose slowly above them, as they spooned so gently and so very dangerously, Roger swore quietly on his newly-rescued phone that, when the time came, he would do exactly that.

Acting and Me Acting

Although I love to write for the theatre, and although I can seem to be quite a boisterous person when I’m ‘on show’, I never imagined I would actually perform in a play.

But I did.  Three of them, in fact.

It’s over now and I don’t think I will ever do any more.  Thinking back on it, though, it was an adventure that I wouldn’t have missed out on for the world.

My friends Donna and Oísin and Eamon are all into theatre and they’ve all acted and directed and produced stuff down through the years.  

They had this idea of forming a theatre group to do amateur productions and tour them on the national play circuit competitively. 

They had a play in mind and they needed a fourth actor… so they came and got me.  In fairness, my credentials for this role were quite impeccable – you had to sit on a chair, be tortured, say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ quite a bit and look unshaven and distressed.  I do that stuff all the time in real life so I said yes.  We formed our theatre group called KODE (our first name initials) and things got rolling.

If it had been a ‘hard’ role, with lots of line to learn, I would probably have said no.  I wasn’t sure I could learn a pile of lines – I can’t even remember a person’s name without a half-hour’s study – but this play had very few lines for me and that helped.

Of course it wasn’t an easy play at all.  It was ‘One For The Road’ by Harold Pinter, a play of power and torture and neglect of human rights in which a husband, wife and child are tortured by a dispassionate and rather terrifying authority figure.  As it turned out, I had to ‘act’ much ‘harder’ than I ever could have dreamed.

We took the play around the country.  Friday evenings, when normal people were watching the latest comedy show on Channel 4 and swigging cans of beer, we were shivering in the dark wings of some community hall in God-knows-where, waiting to spring out and alarm a reluctant audience.

Eamon invariably asked me the same question as we were standing in the dark waiting to go on…

“What is my first line?” he would ask. 

He was joking of course.  Eamon and Donna are both consummate actors.  In their scenes together they threw such vitriol and physical violence at each other that the audience often recoiled in shock.  It was something to see.

I often think that ‘One For The Road’ was our best play.  But I was hooked now and came back the year after to play ‘Golly’ in ‘Ritual For Dolls’.  I guess, of the three I played, this role suited me best.  I got to dress up pretty wildly and hide my face behind a ton of boot polish.  I also had a ton of lines but I managed to learn them and even retain them to this very day… “Behold”, my heart says to me, “here is the love of your life…”.  

Before I went on, I used to sit on the floor in a corner, in full Golly regalia and people walking by would jump when I said hello to them – they thought I was just a big dummy… yes, yes I know…

They were exciting times, comradely, tense, hilarious, fulfilling, memorable and I think it helped my theatre writing too.  I think I got a better sense of what was possible and actually expanded my view of what could be done on stage rather then contracted it.

Every night we went out there without prompts of any kind.  If we messed up or forgot our lines, we were on our own.  There was a real element of the high-wire act about the whole affair and I won’t soon forget it.

Time has moved on and now, happily, at the end of this week, Donna and Oísin get married so KODE will all be together again, at least for a little while.

We may not go so far as to put on a play but we’ll surely remember those good times and re-tell a few of our  ‘war-stories’.

It was the best of times it was the worst of times…

… and all that jazz.

It’s When They Talk Back…

I took a little break from posting for a few weeks there.

The truth is, I am reaching the end of a bulky writing project and I felt happier putting everything else aside to try to get it over the brow of the hill.

I may be wrong but I think I’m over it now.  There may be another hill halfway down this final descent, we’ll see.

It struck me, while doing this work, that writing can be hard.  This may seem obvious but I don’t think it always is. 

I reckon there are people who have tried their hand at writing and given up because it didn’t come easily to them.  I also reckon there are people who it comes really easily to, and they believe they’re great, but really they’re just not working hard enough at it.

It is my experience that great writers often grind and sweat and push really hard to get their writing out.  Granted, sometimes it just rolls along like a Summer breeze but they don’t get to stop just because it stops being easy.  They just have to crank it out.

So my point, I guess, is this.  If you’re writing and it’s not coming easily, don’t take that as a sign that you can’t do it.  And, if you’re churning it out without a care in the world well… ask yourself, is it any good?

I’ve always found there is a point in writing something where I know I've largely cracked it and that, regardless of whether it will be good or bad, I will get it to the finish line.  For me, that moment occurs when the characters in the narrative start doing and saying things for themselves rather than what I tell them to do.

I realise this may sound like a load of pretentious rubbish nonetheless I’ve always found it to be quite true. 

You set up a story and characters and motives and emotions and such and then you write.  And, for such a long time, the characters lay there and do what you tell them to do – go here, do that – no problem.  Then, when you’ve done enough work, and if you’ve done it well enough, a character will just get up and walk in the opposite direction to where you think they should be going.

“I wouldn’t do that,” they will say, over their shoulder as they go, “I would do this.  Don’t you know me at all?”

It’s quite a glorious moment and a bit scary too because the story may now go somewhere you never quite envisaged it would go.

I reckon you’ve got to run with it, when it starts.  What’s the worst that can happen? 

At worst you might write yourself up a dead end and have to go back.  Who cares?  The writer who puts it upon themselves to chart a linear course through their writing is seriously damaging their chances of creating anything good, in my opinion.  It’s only ink and paper, you have to be prepared to write some stuff you will not use.  You also have to be prepared to learn almost subliminally from that stuff you leave behind and bring it along with you into that stuff you keep.

Ack.  I’ve been away too long, I’m rambling now.

Still if it gets me back in the blogging habit again, that’ll be okay.

I missed it, this last few weeks.