Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Life after CBeebies

There's often much talk bandied about in the press about television ratings. Such and such a show got 8 million viewers, what the most watched programme was on Christmas Day and such like. 8 million is quite an impressive number when you consider the vast choice of channels on offer these days.

However for a few of us - several hundred thousand in fact, there is only one channel of choice. In fact thee isn't even a choice if screaming toddlers are to be avoided. From 6am to 7pm daily, if the television is on, the default and only option is CBeebies.

Now don't get me wrong - I think CBeebies do a fantastic job. If the children must watch television at least they can watch one with me safe in the knowledge they won't come to any harm (the infamous "Jimmy Savile" episode of The Tweenies aside). They also aren't being marketed to incessantly with adverts. In fact I wish there had been something like CBeebies when I was a kid - all we had to look forward to was Rainbow at lunchtimes and children's TV at teatime. Which was pretty good, admittedly.

The trouble with CBeebies is that as an adult, you gradually become drawn into it yourself and it addles your brain. You start doing strange things. Where once you'd be humming along to the latest dance tunes on Radio One looking forward to a bit of clubbing at the weekend, now you catch yourself singing the theme tune to Balamory. Or you get back from the school run, put the telly on and watch half an hour of Mister Tumble and his antics before you remember that the children are not actually there.

Some of the programmes are actually quite good. I love Gigglebiz which is sketch show for kids - a bit like a junior Fast Show. My favourite character on that is Keith Fit, an overweight, hopelessly unfit northerner who wears a track suit and believes he is good at sport. Others shows I enjoy include Charlie & Lola (animation), Timmy Time (junior Wallace & Gromit) and Swashbuckle (gameshow). However even these begin to grate after seeing ever episode about 20 times. Apparently children don't have long term memories so it's OK to keep repeating them over and over again.

Those that I do not like include the aforementioned Balamory (lame), and Mr Bloom's nursery, which is some rubbish about gardening with talking vegetables. But the undoubted lowlight of them all is the horrendous "In The Night Garden" which has been on at 6:20pm every day without fail since Ollie was born. Whoever dreamt up this utter pile of codswallop must be applauded for their sheer audacity. How they ever hoped to get it commissioned I shall never know but commissioned it was. There have been 100 episodes made so far and unlike the other shows that repeat the episodes over and over again this programme has taken things one step further. It appears to me that every episode is virtually identical with only a few minor tweaks. Take that bit at the end where Derek Jacobi says (as usual) "Wait a minute! Somebody's not in bed! Who's not in bed?" And lo and behold - it turns out to be Iggle Piggle - every fucking time! For years I've been watching in the vague hope that perhaps just once it might be one of the others, just for a change, but it never is.

Anyway if you've never seen In The Night Garden then congratulations. Your life will be considerably richer for the lack of experience. And if you have kids on the way or plan to have any at some point then good luck - you'll have something to look forward to - not!

CBeebies is aimed at 0-6 year olds. Ollie will be 7 next month. Just as it looked like there would be no light at the end of the CBeebies tunnel he's suddenly woken up to the realisation that there are other channels available - and even found one he likes. Maybe there is life after CBeebies after all. The new obsession is "Food Network". So it's all Barefoot Contessa, Nigella and Jamie Oliver. I must admit there's something quite enjoyable about watching someone carving up a full roast chicken at 10 O' Clock in the morning - in fact it sent me scurrying to the fridge to see if there were any left over slices off the Sainsbury deli from yesterday. (There weren't - I must had had them during the night so I had to have a bag of Walkers Roast Chicken crisps instead). I'm not sure how long the novelty will last but if it keeps Iggle Piggle and his twattish friends off my screen for a while it'll be worth it. Bloody annoying adverts though.


Jason Ayres is the author of three humorous non-fiction diaries and the time travel novel "The Time Bubble", available now from Amazon http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Time-Bubble-Jason-Ayres-ebook/dp/B00L3K1B8G/ref=pd_ecc_rvi_1

Friday, 18 July 2014

The End Of An Era

Today was Jamie's last day at the Courtyard Preschool, bringing down the curtain on his two years there, and our own four year association with them as a family. It's amazing to think it's nearly four years since a very small Ollie first walked (very reluctantly) through their front door.

I am going to hugely miss walking up with one of them every day, chatting to the other mums and dads and of course the staff, at least three of whom, Donna, Tracey and Sarah have been there throughout. I imagine the end of the year must be quite a wrench for them too - saying goodbye to the children for the last time.

Jamie seems remarkably unfazed by it all. It was just another day to him. Perhaps children at that age don't measure out the passing of their lives in the way that we do.

It certainly made its mark on me - yet another landmark in a life that's pegged out with first days and last days here and there. I've been trying to think back on my own experiences and the key thing that stands out for me is that I can remember my first and last days almost everywhere in finite detail, but a lot of what occurred in between is lost.

I remember my first day at Primary School. It was January 1975 and I would have been almost five. I remember an older boy (all of six) called Terry being asked to show me around the school. I remember the last day too. The Headmaster had all of the leavers in to the hall for an assembly and I remember his exact words - "You may think this is the end, but in fact, it is just the beginning". I can remember some of my schoolmates thinking they were escaping, but in fact we'd had it easy there.

My next school was very different. I remember my first day there too, as well as the day I sat the entrance exam. Amazing the trivia you remember. I even remember in the school hall them sending us off for lunch that day with the announcement: "Able to Disley - go and get lunch". In case you haven't a clue what that means, Able and Disley were surnames - first names were frowned upon in this austere seat of academic learning. Fortunately I fell into the Able to Disley category so I got to go to lunch first which meant I got chips. My friend Gavin Dixon was highly annoyed - he was the very next one after Disley and they'd run out of chips by the time he got there. That was a feature of the canteen at the school - they only made a limited amount of each dish so all the best stuff went first. There were no end of scams played out to get the hallowed "Early Lunch Passes" which were like gold dust. I even joined the choral society at one point to obtain one - useful training for my future karaoke career. I wonder what my music teacher would have made of that.

A good alternative to the canteen was the legendary "Brett's Burgers" just around the corner on the Cowley Road. In 1981 a portion of chips from there was 25p, and the cooking of the burgers was amazing, I've never seen flames so high.

On my first day, my first lesson was Maths. My teacher was Mr Cooper, a young graduate in his first job and it was his first lesson too. He's still there, 33 years on, in fact I saw him just the other day.

On the day I left, a student prank took place. On the day that all the posh parents came to the school for the annual commemoration. The teachers were horrified to discover that someone had painted "THE END" in six foot high letters on the wall at the end of the science block. Clearly I wasn't the only one who was pleased to be leaving. The solution was to park a large van up against the wall and hope nobody noticed. It wasn't me who did this by the way. In fact I never did find out who did, but you have to chuckle.

Over the years every time I have left somewhere I've felt sad and nostalgic, even if I didn't really like the place. Facing the final curtain somewhere marks off a stage of our lives. Of all the last days I have had, undoubtedly the most significant took place almost ten years ago, just before my 35th birthday. We're all familiar with the phrase "three score years and ten" which is a long-winded way of saying 70. It's how long people were generally expected to live when this biblical expression was coined. On this particular day, Friday 28th January 2005, I was leaving Nielsen for the last time after almost fifteen years in the market research industry. It was a hugely significant day and one that bearing in mind all I've written above marks the dividing line between the first half of my life and the second.

Those two halves could not have been more different. The first half was about academic achievements, careers, and conformity. The second half has been about family, creativity, and individuality. I should point out that when I walked out of there back in 2005 I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do with the rest of my life. It was scary.

But what an amazing ten years it has been. A family, running my own business, writing books, presenting videos about pork, and all the rest. None of this would have come my way if I was still driving up and down the M1 to and from clients. Yes, life part two has been infinitely preferable - and it's also very unpredictable. I've no idea where my adventures will take me next.

Meanwhile Jamie will go on to St Edburg's to join Ollie who will move up to Year 3 - two more steps on their own personal journey. It's fascinating to see them develop as they do. I wonder what life holds in store for them - if their lives are as colourful as mine has been, they are in for a lot of fun.


Monday, 14 July 2014

The Monday Sketch Part 2: The BBC Interview

Recap: Jason has been invited to the BBC to pitch his programme ideas. He's just arrived and been shown into the meeting room where Geoff is waiting...

Jason: Good evening!

Geoff: Good evening? It's 11am!

Jason: Ah, sorry about that - I thought I'd come in character, you see. I was playing the role of one of my favourite characters, Lord Bicester. He always greets people by saying that, morning, noon and night.

Geoff: Hilarious, I'm sure. Perhaps it'll grow on me. Would you care for some coffee and biscuits?

Jason: Have you got any sausages? Pork Pies, anything like that? It's nearly lunchtime after all. Can you organise a buffet?

Geoff: I beg your pardon?

Jason: I was told you could have anything you wanted in the BBC? Sorry, I was in character again. That was Bloaticus. He eats a lot. I am actually a bit hungry though. Had a few beers last night, need to soak it up a bit. You know how it is.

Geoff: I don't actually. I tend to keep my drinking to the weekends. Don't you?

Jason: Oh no, I'm the opposite. I tend to drink Sunday to Thursday. Then I can have all my hangovers at work. Don't want to mess my weekends up feeling rough all day. It was a habit I got into when I was at Nielsen's. Only way of getting through the week.

Geoff: Is this another character?

Jason: Erm, no, that was me this time. Never mind, these biscuits will do for now. Is it OK if I have the chocolate one?

Geoff: Be my guest.

(The door opens and Phil comes in).

Geoff: Ah, this is Phil, he's recently joined us from BBC3. I think you've spoken to him on the phone.

Jason: Alright, mate. How's it hanging?

Geoff: Jason's been introducing me to some of his characters. Perhaps this is another one.

Phil: Hello, Jason. I've been going over your CV and I've got a few questions to ask you.

Jason: Fire away.

Phil: Now, it says here that you were a superstar DJ from 2006 - 2013. You've written underneath that you were big in Ibiza in 2011. Can you tell us more about that?

Jason: Oh, yeah, I was in San Antonio for the summer. Fucking awesome, mate. You should have been there.

Phil: Where exactly were you based?

Jason: This really banging place called The Sirenis.

Phil: I don't think I've heard of that one. I've heard of Es Paradis and Pacha but not the Sirenis.

Jason: It's very exclusive.

Geoff: I'll look it up on the internet. (consults iPad).

Jason: Oh you don't want to do that.

Phil: Now then, what's this you've put down here for the period 2005-2006? You've put down "Creative accounting" and the telephone number of an office in Headington. But when I rang the number earlier it turned out to be a Ladbrokes.

Jason: Oh well, you know what it's like. Places are changing hands all the time. Bloody betting shops are springing up everywhere these days. I blame the roulette machines.

Phil: Perhaps we'd better talk about some of your characters. Let's have a look. Now what's this one, "Serial Drama Sid"?

Jason: Oh he's brilliant, one of my favourites. He invades TV programmes with inappropriate behaviour. Usually Downton Abbey, because there's so much material there. Take that scene where Lady Edith's confiding in her aunt that she's pregnant. Well Serial Drama Sid would come barging in, common as muck and come out with something like "Ey oop, Edie, what's all this about that bloke off the newspaper getting you up the duff? Better hope Lord Grantham doesn't find out. Oh, hello Lord Grantham, didn't see you standing there!

Phil: We don't make Downton Abbey. That's ITV.

Jason: Doesn't have to be Downton Abbey. Any old costume drama crap will do. There is loads of it on Sunday nights.

Geoff (annoyed): I was head of costume drama for eight years until I became chief commissioning editor.

Jason: Bet you wish you had me then, I could have livened it up a bit for you!

Geoff: Well, leaving that for a moment, I've looked up the Sirenis and it doesn't seem to be a club. It seems to be an all-inclusive Thomas Cook hotel.

Jason: I never said it was a club. And I was very big there.

Geoff: In what capacity?

Jason: In the restaurant, actually. Have you ever been to Butlins?

Geoff: It's not really my sort of thing. My wife and I prefer Center Parcs.

Jason: Well anyway, it was like that, all you can eat and 3 times a day. You should have seen the breakfasts! I used to have eight rashers of bacon and eight sausages a day, just for starters. I was very big. Put on two stone while I was there. All in the interests of research of course. I was developing my Bloaticus character.

Geoff: Yes, getting back to the characters, what else have you got?

Jason: Oh loads. What about Captain Chubbchaser?

Phil: What's that?

Jason: Well he's a kind of superhero who is meant to go around solving crimes but spends most of his time drinking cider and trying to shag fat women.

Geoff: We can't possibly use that in this day and age. It's completely politically incorrect. Even Channel 4 wouldn't touch it.

Jason: But that's what people want now - they are sick of all the political correctness. They secretly miss Benny Hill but daren't admit it.

Geoff: What else?

Jason: Gerald Mincen?

Geoff: What does he do?

Jason: Well, he's this straight bloke who everyone thinks is gay, leading to lots of hilarious misunderstandings. Plus he loves crisps and has even formed his own crisp eating society.

Geoff: No, no, no.

Phil: Why don't you tell us about some of your cookery ideas?

Jason: Oh, yes, now you'll love these. Get this - you know my best-selling book, "The Sausage Man?"

Geoff: It doesn't rings any bells.

Jason: Well, you're a busy man. Basically, it's a bit like a cross between Palin, Pilkington and Man vs Food where I go around the world and eat a sausage in every country.

Geoff: I'm not sure if our audiences would go for that.

Jason: Well Love Pork did. They invited me to be their chief sausage taster on the strength of that.

Geoff: Anything else?

Jason: Well, there's Kebabylon. You'll love this. What I do is travel around Britain getting pissed in a different town in each episode. Then I go and check out all the local kebab shops. It's a winner.

Geoff: We are a public service broadcaster, we can't be seen to promoting binge drinking and eating junk food.

Jason: But it's entertaining! And I'll have you know, Channel 4 are very interested in that one. Well I think they are, I'm still waiting for a reply, but it's probably in the post. We could always tone it down a bit. I could ask them to put lots of salad on top of the kebabs. We can always take it off again once the cameras stop rolling. I always have my Doner without salad as you get more meat that way. And I can always order a Diet Coke in the pub if that looks better. The cameraman can have it, because he'll probably be driving anyway.

Geoff: I think we've heard enough, Phil, don't you?

Phil: I think so.

Jason: Brilliant! So when do I sign the contract.

Geoff: We'll let you know...

The End.

Jason Ayres is the author of three humorous non-fiction diaries and the time travel novel "The Time Bubble", available now from Amazon http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Time-Bubble-Jason-Ayres-ebook/dp/B00L3K1B8G/ref=pd_ecc_rvi_1

The Monday Sketch: Prime Time Schedule

To make a change from the recent discussions, I thought it was high time I did something more light-hearted on here, so I'm introducing a new fictitious segment to the blog which I'm calling "The Monday Sketch". This will give me a chance to play with some ideas that have been knocking around in my mind, as well as a chance to re-introduce some of my old characters you may remember from the past.

Picture the scene:

Two busy BBC executives are sat in their office, trying to make plans for the new Autumn season on BBC1. We'll call them Phil and Geoff. Phil is a young, excitable man, fresh from an assignment on BBC3 and looking to liven up BBC1. Geoff, his manager, is old school, a grizzled veteran who likes to stick with tried and trusted ideas.

Geoff: So, Saturday nights on BBC1. We've got Doctor Who, Strictly and Casualty. That still means we've got a half hour slot to fill before the News and Match Of The Day. What else can we put on?

Phil: What about something new and cutting edge, boss? Like we make on BBC3.

Geoff: Hmmm...I'm not sure about that. Sounds a bit too trendy for my liking. That's not what people want on a Saturday night.

Phil: We had some great new sitcoms on BBC3. Don't forget that's where Gavin and Stacey started.

Geoff: I didn't really like that, to be honest. Very overrated. I think the family audience prefers a much more traditional type of sitcom on a Saturday. My Family or something like that. Why don't we make one like that - you know the sort of thing - middle aged married couple, two or three kids causing them to tear their hair out, lots of contrived scenarios, bit of canned laughter. Never fails.

Phil: With all due respect, sir, that sort of thing went out in the eighties. Audiences demand more these days.

Geoff: Well, I'm not that keen on sitcoms anyway. What else can we do? How about bringing back The Generation Game? Get Norton or someone like that to do it.

Phil: I think that's a bit old hat, sir. What about a sketch show?

Geoff: Oh yes, I like it - Morecambe and Wise, that sort of thing?

Phil: Morecambe and Wise were great, sir, but of their time. I was thinking of something more modern. More like The Fast Show if you like, but bang up to date.

Geoff: Go on, I'm listening.

Phil: Well, there's this bloke, Jason Ayres.

Geoff: Who's he?

Phil: He's famous apparently. Or at least claims he is. Keeps sending me scripts and ideas for TV programmes. Maybe we should give him a try.

Geoff: Well, I've never heard of him. What's he supposed to have done.

Phil: Well he claims he used to be a superstar international DJ. Apparently he was big in Ibiza in 2011. But then he gave all that up to become a writer.

Geoff: And what's he written? Can't recall seeing his name last time I was in Waterstones.

Phil: Apparently he had a hugely popular newspaper column in The Mail. He has also published four best-selling books. I've read a couple of them. Quite funny, if you get his humour.

Geoff: So he can write - but how does that translate into a prime time TV show?

Phil: Well he's got all sorts of ideas. He's sent me several ideas for food based shows. There's "The Sausage Man", something he claims to be an expert in, and something else called "Kebabylon" - it might be better if you got him to explain that to you.

Geoff: Cookery shows are better in the daytime I think. What else?

Phil: Well apparently he's got this huge range of "hilarious" comic characters he's created. That's where the idea of the sketch show came from. We could be sitting on the next Harry Enfield here.

Geoff: Right, well, no harm in giving him a try I suppose...you'd better get him in for a chat.


Sunday, 13 July 2014

Writing a sequel

It's nearly a month since I launched The Time Bubble and I've been really pleased with the response.

It's selling steadily, if not spectacularly, averaging about 4 copies a day and maintaining a healthy position in the Amazon sales rankings.

Most of the sales in the first few days will have been to friends and fans (yes I do have a few - thank-you!). But since then there has been a steady flow of people discovering the book, and I get a little bit excited every time I see that someone has bought a copy. Out of the millions of books available online, people are spotting mine and finding the cover, blurb and "look inside" attractive enough to pick up a copy.

It's early days and I live in hope that the readers will enjoy it, tell their friends, and the word will spread. I am one of thousands of indie authors out there chasing the same dream - some of us will make it, some won't, but we have to believe. I guess we are no different to all the thousands of hopefuls in any other arena - we all have the dream but only a few will make it to the very top. I have got the World Cup Final on in front of me as I type - a very different skill set to writing but it all boils down to the same thing - for them, scoring the winning goal is as good as it gets. For us the equivalent would be reaching #1 on the Amazon.com sales chart.

Spoiler alert: I am going to talk a little bit about something that happens late on in The Time Bubble that was deliberately included in order to set up a sequel. I'll try not to give too much away. If you've read the book, you'll know that there is a time about ten years in the future where the whole of England has become buried under several feet of snow. This was left open in the book with only a brief explanation.

I also left quite a bit of room for development in my characters and they are going to be more fully fleshed out in the sequel. It is going to be set ten years after the main events in The Time Bubble, in the year 2029. My teenage characters will now be in their late twenties and building careers - some high flying, others not. You'll be pleased to hear that the likes of Kent and Andy will also be returning. Kent will have found a new vocation in life which I'm sure you'll agree suits him when you find out what it is.

As with the earlier book, the story will be very character led in the first instance with the main focus of the story developing against the backdrop of their daily lives. I've always wanted to write an apocalyptic type tale and that's where I am going with this. It's not going to be some gory zombie apocalypse type thing or anything like that. I like the idea of a slow-burning disaster where it creeps up on an unsuspecting populace and this is what is going to happen. A large meteorite strike will cause devastating damage in another part of the world - but we in Britain will think we've escaped it - until the temperature starts to drop.

The story is going to follow Charlie, Hannah and the others as what starts as the usual British grumbling about the snow turns gradually to a real battle just to stay alive.

I've mapped out the rough draft of the story but won't be actually starting to write it until September. And that is because I have two very lively little boys about to finish school and nursery for the summer who are going to be keeping me extremely busy until then!

I hope to have "Global Cooling" (the working title) out in time for the winter market.

Jason Ayres is the author of new time travel novel "The Time Bubble", available now from Amazon http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Time-Bubble-Jason-Ayres-ebook/dp/B00L3K1B8G/ref=pd_ecc_rvi_1

Thursday, 10 July 2014

The BBQ Masterclass

Tuesday was a momentous day here at BaconHam Villa. It marked my first foray into the realms of presenting in front of camera.

We had gathered to shoot some promotional films for Love Pork on getting the best out of the great British BBQ. I was teamed up with Andy Annat, 3 times UK BBQ champion and world championship finalist. We made a good double act - with me asking the questions and Andy showing how it's done.

Having not worked on a film set before I didn't appreciate how many people and how much work and time goes in to creating just a few minutes of footage. Along for the day, as well as myself and Andy were Andy's partner, Penny, Oliver Harrison, the cameraman, Alan Harrison, the director and photographer and also Tony Goodger from BPEX Marketing and his son Henry. We were also joined by my old friends Keith Fisher and Claire Holland from BPEX who I'd worked with before at last year's sausage awards.

The team began arriving around 10:30am, having come from all over the country. We spent a good couple of hours getting everything set up and planning ahead. Our brief was to make five short films for the Love Pork (Consumer web site) showing how easy it is to barbecue supermarket pork cuts at home. These were as follows:

1. Pork Collar – To be served as home cooked slow and ‘pulled’ meat suitable for serving in a bun.
2. Pork Collar steaks
3. Pork Belly slices
4. Pork on a Plank
5. Baby back ribs

Now I don't know about you, but I guess I am fairly typical of the average barbecue host in that I consider myself a bit of an expert but on the vast majority of occasions, my idea of a barbecue is to chuck a few burgers, sausages and chicken drumsticks on it and leave it at that. What I realised on Tuesday was that there are a whole world of cuts of Pork out there that are tailor-made for barbecuing - some that I hadn't even considered using before. Not only that but there are all sort of hints and tips about the barbecuing process itself that I hadn't picked up on before.

To give a few examples: Lump word charcoal is far better than briquettes or those self-lighting bags. It burns better, doesn't produce as much waste, and doesn't taint your food with any self-lighting residue. Also, oil the grill and not the food - prevents sticking better and stops fat splashing on to the coals.

There were all sort of other tips that in hindsight seemed obvious but that I'd never considered before. For example, just using a standard B&Q style drum barbecue, once you are cooking, pile most of the coals on one side, and less on the other in order to create a hot and a cool zone. Another new way of cooking Andy showed me was pushing the coals to both sides to create room to place a silver foil tray in the middle of the barbecue, filled with water. You can then add fresh herbs (my garden is full of rosemary), lemon juice, apple juice, whatever you like really to create flavour. With the lid of the barbecue down this then creates a lovely moist atmosphere which permeates the meat and keep it from drying out. 

There are many more tips I could tell you, but I'll save those for now - as you will be able to see it all for yourself when the films come out. So what about the actual meat itself? Well, again you'll be able to see all of the cooking techniques in the video, but the end products were absolutely amazing.

I have to admit to being one of those people who generally goes for leaner cuts of meat, so when I have cooked pork on a barbecue it has normally been loin steaks. I've never really tried cuts such as collar and belly slices before perhaps perceiving them to be cheaper and more fatty, but it was only after I had tried some cooked by Andy that I realised what I had been missing all this years. There was no edge of fat on the finished product - the lean and fat meat had merged together along with all the flavours that Andy had added to create the most succulent, delicious tasting meat you could ask for. It was around 2pm by the time these first dishes were finished and placed on the table. By this time, having worked through lunch the team was more than ready to tuck in so the large plate of it on the table soon disappeared.

Here's a few pictures of the finished products, kindly supplied by Alan Harrison:

Pork Collar - the proof was in the
tasting - these didn't last long!

Belly Slices - delicious!

I also learned some interesting things about ribs. There's quite a few things Andy recommends doing with them which I wasn't aware of e.g. removing the membrane and cutting off the "tips". The tips are the gristly end bits that you often get with ribs from takeaways. Another useful tip I picked up is to only put the barbecue glaze on right at the end of cooking. These sauces have a lot of sugar in them and will burn if you put them on before cooking.

Here's the finished rack of ribs:

Cooked using the "Texas Crutch" treatment!

So that's the cooking, so what about the filming? Well, it was very much like you've seen it portrayed - "Action" and "We'll take it from the top, Andy".

My role as presenter was to play the average guy wanting to get more out of his barbecue, but needing a little help. So many of our sections would begin with me saying something along the lines of "Hi, Andy. I've been down to the butchers and picked up these pork belly slices but I'm not really sure what to do with them". At which point Andy would then take over and show how it's done.

We filmed many short sequences of a few seconds at a time, all of which will be spliced together to make the finished product, editing out the fluffs and taking the best cuts of each bit.

We developed a good rapport and finished many of our sections off with one of Andy's catchphrases. Much of his cooking is done with the lid down leading to this little exchange.

Andy: "And then we put the lid down, because remember, if you're looking..."
Me: "You're not cooking!"

It was brilliant fun and I really enjoyed the day. Who knows, perhaps this could mark the beginning of a new presenting career for me. After all I've stood up in front of audiences in my Nielsen years and my subsequent DJ career. Perhaps this is the natural next step for me. Just in case anyone from the BBC/ Channel 4/ Food Network etc. is watching I am currently available! 

Seriously, I do really enjoy working with Love Pork and hope that it does lead to some opportunities for me in the future. Both my children are going to be at school full-time from September and I do need to find new ways to earn a living. That is all assuming of course that sales of the Time Bubble don't begin to rocket and it shifts a million copies before Christmas, which would be nice! 

To finish off the day we filmed a few family party scenes which was fun, though some of it might have to be edited out. When Ollie was asked what he'd like to eat he said "chicken" which wasn't the ideal answer for a video promoting cuts of pork but it did get the biggest laugh of the day. 

Eventually all was packed up and the day came to an end. I have to say it was a wonderfully enjoyable experience and I met some really nice people on the day who I hope to keep in touch with in the future. In fact, this is true of everyone I have met through Love Pork over the past year and I was delighted when they invited me to once again come along this year to be a judge for British Sausage Week 2014.

That's all for now, but I will be back with a second blog on the subject once the videos come out because I know you're all just itching to see my film debut!


Jason Ayres is the author of three humorous non-fiction diaries and the time travel novel "The Time Bubble", available now from Amazon http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Time-Bubble-Jason-Ayres-ebook/dp/B00L3K1B8G/ref=pd_ecc_rvi_1

Monday, 7 July 2014

Monday Musings with Mohana

I've been spending a fair bit of time over at Goodreads recently. If you aren't aware of what Goodreads is, the easiest way to describe it is as a kind of "Facebook for readers and authors" site.

When I joined I found that quite a few of my Facebook friends and Twitter followers were already there. I also found it was a great place to meet and share experiences with other authors. I have found this invaluable as I still see myself as very much in the fledgling stage of my writing career.

Making contact with other authors has led to a first for this blog today. After three years and several hundred posts, I am delighted to welcome today my first guest blogger: Qatar based writer Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar who has some valuable insights to share on the writing process:


First You Write it, Then You Raise it
By Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar

Writing is a solitary activity: I’ve already been at this desk in the library for 3 hours this morning alone. The humid air from the underperforming air conditioner is not helping my extroverted tendencies.

What people tell you, but perhaps not in enough detail, is that like a pregnancy, a story can take a while to gestate. Unlike a pregnancy, however, stories do not have a deliver by date.  

I’m promoting the paperback release of a novel this week: The Dohmestics. The story follows the lives of six women, three employers and three housemaids, through the ups and downs of their everyday lives in a walled neighborhood in the Middle East.

My journey to finishing this book was as intricate as the plot itself. I wrote the first draft in a maniacal tear related to National Novel Writing Month. This is otherwise known as the month of insanity for those who sign up to write 50,000 words in the month of November. Yes, the same month with American Thanksgiving, the lead up to the harrowing retail time known as Christmas, and often coincides with grading university exams.

I wrote the novel and spent a month revising it: the eBook version was released in January. 

Like a new baby, you flood your friends’ timelines with photos and factoids. Here’s me with the book club! And other exclamation worthy posts on Instagram.

From the moment the eBook is published, you are pushing yourself to get the paperback version ready. The paperback is another opportunity to revise, reshape, and reconsider. And I make the most of this, knowing that the many people still prefer print over Kindle apps. The revision process for The Dohmestics took 2 months and almost 10,000 more action packed words.

For many authors both versions of a book are released at the same time. For me, it’s two years later, and almost a new book, to both my readers and me.

The reason there’s such a lag between the digital publication and print publication dates is that I spent 10 years writing 8 books. I revised them for 2 years; then I realized one on average of 3 months to get readers’ attention. With a steady backlist of titles ranging from novels, to memoir, to how-to, I turned my eyes to paperback.

This system has worked for me because I’ve attracted a loyal following of eBook readers who have given me solid 4, 4.5 star reviews. When the paperback comes out, I’m not only attracting a new audience, I’m also reminding my faithful readers to tell their print preferring friends about me.

You see, it’s not all sipping mint juleps in Key West at Earnest Hemingway’s house. Writing is hard work. Getting someone to read your book, well that’s probably even harder. 


Mohana is considerably further along with her writing career than I am with mine, having published 8 books already on a variety of subjects. Like my own books, these are a mix of fiction and non-fiction including parenting memoir Mommy But Still Me, a parenting diary in the same vein as my own Fortysomething Father.

The paperback edition of her latest novel The Dohmestics is available from Amazon - here's the UK link The Dohmestics - UK edition - there is of course the Kindle edition also available. If you are in the US, you can find it here: The Dohmestics - US edition.

To conclude, I would like to thank Mohana for being my very first guest writer and wish her every success in her continued writing career.


Saturday, 5 July 2014

A day out in Oxford

This weekend is one of those rarest of moments - a weekend without the kids.

Now, you all know how much I dote on Ollie and Jamie but even I need a break occasionally. This is the first time for some months that they have been able to go and stay with the grandparents due to house renovations. So, we intend to take full advantage.

For once all of the cards have fallen into place - Claire has the weekend off, I don't have anything to do that's particularly pressing, so we can actually get out of the house and make something of the time.

A pity that it's started raining after several dry and fine weeks, but you can't have everything.

So the world is our oyster. Or rather anywhere within reasonable travelling distance and in today's case, that means Oxford, about 15 miles away.

I never ever tire of Oxford. I was born there, went to school there and conducted many of the ritual passages of my growing up there. Almost every corner of the city evokes some memory of some event of the past - a long lost girlfriend here, a carefree teenage night out there. And every time I come back, usually by bus, the sight of the dreaming spires takes my breath away. It's everything portrayed in Morse, Lewis and more. If you're reading this from far away and have never been to England, well, if you ever get the chance, come to Oxford. You won't be disappointed.

My memories of those teenage years are so strong still that I even set a couple of chapters of "The Time Bubble" within Oxford as a small homage to those years. I won't go so far as to say what Charlie and Kaylee did on that day was autobiographical, but it wasn't a million miles away from an experience I remember having a that age - particularly the bit about sitting in the cinema trying to pluck up the courage to hold a girl's hand.

It just so happened whilst we were making plans for this trip into Oxford that an invitation popped into my mailbox from my old school, inviting me to their annual end of term celebrations, "Commemoration" as it is known. This is an opportunity to go back to visit the school and enjoy a pleasant afternoon on the school field. It is right in the heart of Oxford, on a natural island between two branches of the river Cherwell where you can watch people on punts passing by. It's the quintessential image of the English University City and it never changes as the years pass.

A most pleasant way to pass an afternoon.

I have mixed feelings about this field as it holds both pleasant and unpleasant memories. The pleasant memories were of tennis (fun) and cricket (not too strenuous) in the summer time. The bad memories were of the organised thuggery that passed itself off under the name of "rugby" in the autumn term (or Michaelmas term as it was known in our school). If anyone remembers the scene with the Masters vs. the boys rugby match in Monty Python's "Meaning Of Life" movie - well, it was a bit like that.

It has been many years since I went back to the school and I am curious to see how it has changed - in particular, some of the strange anachronisms and traditions that used to prevail. I have already found out the answer to one of them.

Back in the summer (Trinity) term we all longed for a spell of hot weather come June as there was a very real chance that The Master might "declare summer". Don't be alarmed by my usage of the term "Master" as that was how the Headmaster was known. He wasn't an evil genius like The Master in Doctor Who but quite an affable chap really. At the school chapel service and assembly every morning during the hot spell we would eagerly await The Master's daily announcements at the end of the service, eagerly waiting to hear if he would declare. When he eventually did - usually a few days later than we hoped, we would be allowed to take our ties and jackets off for the rest of the term. This would usually be for about two weeks at the end of June.

It is quite amusing now to think that for us in that hallowed hall, summer didn't officially begin at the start of June or on the day of the summer solstice, but on the day that The Master decreed it. I didn't think this unusual in any way at the time. Anyway, when I got the invitation to Commemoration from one of my old teachers, still going strong after 34 years I emailed him back to ask if The Master still declares summer and it appears he does not. So one of our old quaint traditions has passed into history. However, I have decided to keep the tradition alive by modern means so from now on I shall be declaring summer on an annual basis on Facebook and Twitter.

After our visit to school we plan to go into Oxford for a meal and a few drinks. Such opportunities are rare so I imagine we shall be making the most of it! The kids are due back at lunchtime tomorrow so we've got a good recovery window.

Enjoy the weekend