Reality Television: outrageous plots abound

If I was ever in doubt that there was one medium that could produce a thousand storylines, it’s watching reality television.

It is truly horrible, and is somewhat akin to a ‘train wreck’.

Why, then, do we watch it?

Where I live, among a few with dubious titles, we have a show called ‘Married at first sight’.  Going by the title, you can guess the premise, two people are matched by ‘science’ and meet for the first time at the altar.  They then live together, with and without external influences for a number of weeks before deciding if they want to continue after the show ends.

As it happens, the experts here have yet to get it right in a number of series (or, I think they may have succeeded on one occasion).

Whilst the fact it looks to be scripted, a fact the Producers vehemently deny, it is impossible to wrap your head around some of the antics, and especially the words used by the ‘participants’.  Decent people do not ‘act’ in the manner of some of these people, and more often than not, several of the ‘participants’ are labelled by the public as ‘actors’.

I guess, in most reality television, ratings can only be achieved by controversy.

Certainly, the Twitterverse goes off after an episode, championing the good and railing into the bad.  Each will, good or bad, get their fifteen minutes of fame.

And, is it not surprising we have learned one of the participants is going to write a ‘no holds barred’ account of her time in the show.  That, I suspect, will be canned very quickly by the NDA that’s signed by all participants, so we’ll never get to know the truth.

I was considering doing the same, from an armchair perspective.  Damn, missed my opportunity!

There’s others, like Love Island, The Bachelor, and The Bachelorette.  Where they find the participants is anyone’s guess, but there couldn’t be such people in reality, could there?

“The Price of Fame”, A Short Story

I’ve been toiling away and this is the result.  My stories are usually longer, but I thought I’d try my hand at writing a piece of short fiction.

 

The Price of Fame

 

I looked at the invitation, a feeling of dread coming over me.  It was not entirely unexpected but like a great many things that had suddenly come into my life it caused equal measures of fear and excitement.

The gold edging and the perfect script displaying my name in the exact centre of the envelope made it almost unique.  Very few people ever received such an invitation.

I held it in my hand for a longer than necessary, then put it down on the desk carefully, as if it would explode if I dropped it.

My first instinct, driven by fear, was not to accept.

But, fear or not, there was no question of me not attending.  Circumstances had painted me into a corner; I’d agreed to go a long time ago when I thought there was no chance it would come to pass.

Way back then, I had been compared to the aspiring painter in an attic having to die before I made any sort of impression.  In those days people thought it amusing.  I thought it was amusing.  Kirsty, in particular, had thought it was as impossible as I had.

Now it was not amusing.  Not even remotely.

 

My life was once quiet, peaceful, sedate, even boring.  That didn’t mean I lacked imagination, it was just not out on display for everyone to see.  Inspired by reading endless books, I had the capacity to transport myself into another world, divorced from reality, where my boring existence became whatever I wanted it to be.

It was also instrumental in bringing Kirsty into my life.  In reality, I thought she’d never take a second look at me, let alone a first.  So I pretended to be someone else.  Original, witty, charming, underneath more scared than I’d ever known.

And yet she knew, she’d always known, and didn’t care.

As we spent more time together, she discovered I liked to write, not finish anything, just start, write a hundred pages, then lose interest.  Like everything I did.  Start, and never finish.

Why not?  It would never be published.  It would never succeed.

So she bribed me.  If I didn’t finish my first book and send it away, I couldn’t marry her.  It didn’t matter if it was rejected, all I had to do was finish a book, and send it.

The thought of marrying her had not entered my mind, because I hadn’t thought she would.  Incentive enough, I picked out one of the unfinished manuscripts and humoured her.  She read bits of it, not saying a word.  Sometimes she’d put a note or two on the manuscript, her equivalent to sweet nothings, and with it I gained an inner confidence in my own ability, not only to write, but in many other aspects of my life.

When it was finished, it was Kirsty who sent it off.  She read it, packaged it, addressed it, and sent it, before I had a chance to change her mind.  Once gone, I heaved a huge sigh of relief.  It was done. That was, as far as I was concerned, the end of it.

 

It was not possible that one letter could change a person’s life so dramatically.  I came home to the all knowing smile, and mischievous whimsicality that had always suggested trouble.

Trouble indeed!

My book was accepted.  With a cheque called an advance.  For more money than I knew what to do with.

This was followed not long after by publication.  And a dramatic change to my life, one I didn’t want.  To become a public person, to face an enormous number of people, people I didn’t know.

I went back to being scared.

 

Kirsty smiled at me, and told me how wonderful I looked in my monkey suit.  Why couldn’t I go in jeans and a dress shirt?  All the best actors in Hollywood did it.

“This is not Hollywood.  You’re not an actor.”  It was a simple, practical, answer.

The hell I wasn’t.  I could act sick, dying, fake a heart attack, anything.  “What am I going to say?”

“You could talk about books.”  Quiet, efficient, oozing the confidence I didn’t feel.

She didn’t fuss.  She took it in her stride.  She dressed in her usual simple elegance, in a manner that made me love to be seen with her.  I couldn’t tie my tie, so she did it for me.  She straightened my jacket, because I couldn’t do that either.  Nerves.  Can’t live with them, can’t live without them.  Or was that a reference to wives, or mistresses, or something else?

The palms of my hands were sweating.  Meatball hands, I thought, the sort of palms that betrayed the pretenders.  Me, I was the pretender.  My neck felt too large for the shirt.  Beads of sweat formed on my brow.  Where was a sponge when you needed one?

“I can’t do this.”

“You can.”

We hadn’t even left the hotel yet.

“How long before the execution.”

She looked at me with her whimsical smile.  “Long enough for me to give you a hard time.”

 

I lost count of the number of times I had to go to the bathroom, for one thing or another.  Nerves I said.  Perhaps a dozen Valium or something similar.  Did I have any?  Had she hidden them?  Why did she keep smiling?

In the car, I looked at my watch at least a dozen times.  I couldn’t breathe.  It was too hot, too cold.  She held my hand, and it served best to stop the trembling that had set in.  Why did I agree to this?  Why?

We were greeted by the Events Manager, who was polite and genuinely interested.  He took us inside where he introduced the interviewer, another woman who oozed confidence and charm, who went over the format, and generally tried to set me at ease.

I didn’t let Kirsty’s hand go.  Not yet.  She was my lifeline, the umbilical cord.  When it was severed, I knew I was going to die.

Bathroom?  Where was the bathroom?  Hell, five minutes to go, and I felt like passing out.  No, Kirsty couldn’t come in.  Comb my hair.  Straighten my tie, no it was straight.  Maybe I could hide in here?  I looked around.  No, maybe not.

Time.

The cue man was standing beside me, hand gently on my back.  He knew the score.  He knew I would turn and run the first chance I got.  Kirsty was on the other side, smiling.  Did she know too?

Then the announcement, my cue to walk on.

The gentle shove, the bright lights, the deafening applause, the seemingly endless walk to the chair, dear God, would I make it without tripping over?

How many times had I made this trip?  I stood, facing the audience, waved, then sat.  It was the fifteenth.  You’d think I’d learned by now.

There was nothing to it.

 

© Charles Heath 2016-2019

 

In a word: Flight

There is a saying, if God wanted us to fly then he would have given us wings.

Unfortunately, he didn’t, so we do not get to know what it’s like to be in flight,

Unless…

We take an aeroplane, which usually has a flight number such as QF607, or in conversation, ‘I’ll be taking the 6 o’clock flight’.

If someone runs away, then we say they have taken flight.

If we roll back a few years, say about 80, to World War 2, flight tales on a whole new meaning.

It refers to a group of planes, in one case a number of spitfires, or,

The man in charge, a flight lieutenant, also colloquially known as ‘flight’.

This is not be confused with the word flite which has several very obscure meanings,

First, it means to quarrel or argue, or engage in a debate, and

Second, to make a complaint.

But one that sticks in my my mind is Flyte, from Brideshead Revisited.  they were a very interesting family.

“What Sets Us Apart”, a mystery with a twist

David is a man troubled by a past he is trying to forget.

Susan is rebelling against a life of privilege and an exasperated mother who holds a secret that will determine her daughter’s destiny.

They are two people brought together by chance. Or was it?

When Susan discovers her mother’s secret, she goes in search of the truth that has been hidden from her since the day she was born.

When David realizes her absence is more than the usual cooling off after another heated argument, he finds himself being slowly drawn back into his former world of deceit and lies.

Then, back with his former employers, David quickly discovers nothing is what it seems as he embarks on a dangerous mission to find Susan before he loses her forever.

http://amzn.to/2Eryfth

whatsetscover

OMG, it’s Friday again

Someone, many years ago, told me that once you turned 65 the weeks just flew, you know, like when a day was a long time, days will seem like hours, weeks like days, and years, well, it’s like watching the time clock on a time machine.

That last week went really fast.

But…

I finally knuckled down and got some work done on the multitude of writing projects I’ve got going on.

I’ve recently been working on a story I’ve been calling ‘The helicopter story that’s been keeping me awake’, that got to the fifteenth episode, the end of what I now call part one, and as of the sixteenth episode is now under the ubiquitous title of ‘What happens after an action-packed start’.

Now written through to episode thirty, it starts on the third part and the climax of the story, and I may call it ‘What happens when you’re sent on a fool’s errand’.

The story will have three parts and will become a novella.  The title, “Under the Cover of Darkness”, and Part 1 is called “Crash Landing”.  More news on the other parts soon.

The latest episode is here:  http://bit.ly/2kr8X9Y

Another that I have been calling ‘I Always Wanted to go on a Treasure Hunt” was a whimsical idea that cropped up because I was stuck on an aeroplane, where the initial idea was formed, then home where it was a hot afternoon, and it reminded me of a desert island, just where you’d expect to find treasure.

Of course, the treasure isn’t on an island, it’s somewhere on the Florida coast, and there’s an intrepid adventurer who had the ‘real’ map, sought after by a variety of bad people.

It’s now rounded out into about thirty episodes, and there are more on the way.

The latest episode is here:  http://bit.ly/2JaJ9Ir

Last week I even began drawing up the treasure map, after all, you can’t have a treasure hunt without a map, can you?

Then there’s Betrayed, we maybe it will be called that.  It’s the third time I’ve put the title up for grabs, and it might not happen again.  It got to episode 16 when I found I had written myself into the proverbial corner, so a rewrite of the next three episodes put it back on track.

It’s in WW2, and the Germans are about to discover all is not going their way.

The latest episode is here:  http://bit.ly/32hFFeD

There is a fourth story, under the title “Was it just another surveillance job’ that has surprisingly found a new life, and I’m having fun trying to work out the lies from the truth, except in the spy business, no one ever really knows which is which,, do they?

And the latest episode is here:  http://bit.ly/2nVr6OX

Stay tuned for another progress report.

In a word: Stern

It’s what I’d always expected of my teachers, having to stand up the front of the classroom and look like they were in control.

These days, not so much, but back in my day, teachers, and particularly the men, were to be feared, and stern expressions were the least of the features of an effective teacher.

So, in this context, it means a hardness or severity of manner.

Whilst in a sense that was frightening to us kids, another form of the word also can be used to express a forbidding or gloomy appearance.

Grandfathers also have that stern look, but it’s more forbidding, more authoritarian, more severe, more austere, well, you get the picture.  A six-year-old would be trembling in his or her boots.

There again, in facing up to either possibility above, you could stand firm with a stern resolve not to buckle under the pressure.

Of course, not a good idea if you’re facing a tank (with a stern-looking tank master)

Then…

If you’re standing at the end of the boat, not the front, but the rear, you would be standing at the stern of the boat, or ship.

Oddly, when issuing instructions to go in reverse, not something you would say if you were on the bridge, you would instead say, or possibly yell, full speed astern, because you’re about to hit an iceberg.

Or some idiot in a jet ski who likes to think he or she can beat the bullet (or 65,000 tonnes of a ship that has very little mobility).

Back to those ‘old days’ again

I started out by saying I didn’t want to be a lone voice in the wilderness.

Apparently I am, still.

Well, that might be a little harsh in the circumstances, but the monkey on my shoulder is telling me I should start writing something that someone might want to read.

I guess the trials and tribulations of a writer who basically is a lone voice in the wilderness is as boring as everyday life.

I mean, who wants to read about someone’s miserable, or, on rare occasions, good, day.

Yet, if I was to pick up any book written in the 18th and 19th century, all it seems to be about is everyday life, but what makes it interesting is the fact we never lived it, nor realized how hard it was for some, and how good it could be for others.

Best not to be born poor.

So, I was wondering, in 200 years time when someone sits down to read about the vicissitudes of my life, will it be interesting to know what it was like back in the ‘old days’ that is really today for me?

Interesting how a change in time frame makes something interesting, and ‘classic’ literature.

But one difference between then and now is the fact we, today, can write about science fiction, spies and all manner of events that come out of recent inventions.  Odd too, that people are still the same, those that tell the truth, those that are pure of heart, those who are as evil as the devil himself.

Some things never change.

Just the when, where, and how.