Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Mixed bag

I haven''t blogged for a couple of weeks as I've had lots of small things I could write about, but none that could really justify a full entry on their own. I could have expanded some of the topics out in long rambling anecdotes interspersed with a few pictures nicked off other people's websites, but instead I've decided to combine them all into one omnibus edition.

Here we go then: in random order.

I-Spy books:

One of our trips out over the Easter holidays was to Blenheim Palace, a most enjoyable outing. Whilst the kids were enjoying the various rides and entertainment on offer, I was delighted to discover that the outdoor barbecue did a most agreeable "Gloucester Old Spot" hot dog. Now that is what I call a proper sausage. I really can't be doing with those cheap and nasty hot dog sausages that come in a tin, eight for a quid and are made of goodness knows what. Oh dear, I've rambled off topic already. I probably could have got a whole blog entry out of this. Let's get back to the subject matter. In the gift shop, I was delighted to discover (the second time I have used that phrase in this paragraph, but never mind) a little book carousel full of I-Spy books, something I used to love doing as a kid. The kids are really into anything to do with cars at the moment, so we picked up a copy of the "Car Badges" book.

£2.50 - bargain for the fun we had with it.

For the uninitiated, I-Spy books are small handheld books containing lots of things you can spot with varying amounts of points according to difficulty. So in the case of the car badges, bog standard Fords and Peugeots that you can see on every street are worth 10 points, but harder to find badges such as Ferraris are much more - up to 50 points.

So yesterday, I took the boys out badge spotting. We walked up Chapel Street and into Priory Lane and found lots of badges very quickly. Of course the more you get, the harder it becomes and once we'd found all of the well-known manufacturers it got more tricky. We then walked up to Bicester Village, where the beautiful people shop, and had a look round the car park there. This yielded Jaguars, Porches, Alfa Romeos and others, but nothing really special - certainly no Ferraris. I guess it wasn't a good day for celebrity visitors. Anyway we spent about two hours doing this and it was good fun - I think we may have to invest in some more I-Spy books.


I don't do politics on my blog so this will be a very short entry. Suffice to say that living in a safe as houses Conservative seat (held by that party since 1922) means that as usual my vote will be irrelevant. Effectively I would compare voting in this (or any other general election) to being asked to place a bet on this year's Premier League winners at this moment in time. Blue is the colour, and if I wanted to place a bet on Chelsea, it would be have to be at the current odds of 1/100 (that's the opposite of 100/1). i.e. a pretty pointless bet. Put £100 on for a £101 return. Or I could bet on Arsenal, or Man Utd (representing the reds) or alternatively flush my money down the toilet as there would be about the same chance of ever seeing it again.

Surely some form of proportional representation has to be introduced at some point in the future to at least make a vote have some relevance at a national level, even within a safe seat.

The new book:

Thank-you to everyone who has bought, reviewed or otherwise showed an interest in the new book. For a few moments this weekend it was close to breaking into the Top 1000 of books on Amazon, an amazing performance for an independently published book.

I don't have to tell you how much work goes into writing my stories, but it doesn't stop there. Getting the message out to people (and I don't mean endless self-defeating spamming on Facebook and Twitter), cover design, and endless other marketing tasks are essential. But one of the things I enjoy the most as an Indie author is engaging with the people who read my books. I receive many messages, comments and emails from people all over the world who have discovered my writing and it is a pleasure to get that feedback and engage with them - it's certainly given me self-belief in what I am doing. I wasn't really sure when I started writing the novels how well they would be received. I ignored a lot of conventional writing advice and just wrote from the heart in my own natural style which was nurtured and developed through this very blog. I think this, and the originality of my ideas has stood me in good stead.

To see my new book sitting at #2 on Amazon in the time travel romance category (out of 2,785 books) and at #2 in the Science Fiction time travel (out of 4,940 books) feels pretty amazing. I took a big gamble giving up the DJ'ing to focus on this - not the first time I've made a radical change of career, but when I'm truly dedicated to something, my desire and energy to succeed knows no bounds. This might come as a surprise to any ex-Nielsen colleagues reading, but I can honestly say, not in 15 years there did anything inspire me in the way that this does.

There were other topics I was going to cover tonight, but ramble I did, so you will have to wait a little longer for those. In the meantime, thank-you for - well, just for reading, if you've come this far down the page, I must be doing something right.

Until next time :-)


Jason Ayres is the author of six books, including his brand new novel, My Tomorrow, Your Yesterday, available here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00UDHAD0M

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

The 10 most useless policemen in TV history.

I got the boxset of that old Batman TV show from the 1960s for my birthday - a show I loved as a child and it's fascinating to watch it again all these years later. Despite the campness and Adam West's hilarious moralising, I absolutely love it. One thing I did notice that I didn't remember from the original is the absolute uselessness of the police characters in the show. This got me thinking - there are basically three types of coppers in television as follows: a) Maverick Geniuses b) Corrupt or c) Thick and/or useless. Quite what the average real policeman makes of all these portrayals is anyone's guess, presumably most of them in the real world are fairly ordinary but that wouldn't make good television.

Therefore I thought as a bit of fun I would present to you my 10 most useless policeman in TV history. Note this is based only on my own personal experience of shows I've actually watched, so I apologise if there's any glaring omissions but I can't write about what I haven't seen.

So here we go then, in descending order of uselessness:

10) Andy Bellefleur - True Blood [2008-2014]

"Looks like this one's got me stumped"

To be fair to Andy, it can't be easy to be a sheriff in a town filled with vampires, werewolves and assorted other weirdoes, but even so, Andy is pretty useless. Even when he's not either pissed or on "V" (vampire blood) his crime-solving capabilities are pretty non-existent. He spent the whole of the first season barking up the wrong tree in a murder mystery and things went downhill from there. I presume that Andy's character was created for a bit of light diversion in a show which has more blood and gore than than any other I have ever seen. He is one of my favourite characters in the show.

9) Frank Drebin - Police Squad [1982] + The Naked Gun movies.

A true comedy legend, if you've never seen the original Police Squad episodes on which The Naked Gun movies were based on, they are worth checking out. Again to be fair to Frank, he was probably the least incompetent of the Police Squad team, Norberg and Ed being truly useless, but even so, most of the crimes were solved more by luck than judgement and usually involved a fair amount of mayhem either on the road (crashing into every trash can going) or at the scene (burning down an entire office destroying vital evidence). In one episode he found some vital missing evidence in the back of filing cabinet proving a man's innocence years after the trial. When informed the man had gone to the electric chair, he threw it away.

8) Sergeant Chisholm - Minder [1979-1994]

"I'll get you, Daley".

Chisholm was one of a number of police officers throughout Minder's run who Arthur and Terry ran into as a result of their dubious activities. Although seemingly a reasonable competent officer to begin with, over the years he became obsessed to the point of paranoia with "nicking Arthur Daley" leading to increasingly desperate attempts to outwit him that always ended in failure and humiliation. Arthur was simply able to run rings around him and eventually he was forced to quit the force as a result.

7) Bob Louis & Dave Briggs - The Detectives [1993-1997]

Quite how these two idiots lasted as long as they did in the police force is a mystery, but probably down predominantly to luck more than anything else. Both single and hopeless failures with women, their jobs and each other are all they have. More interested in trivia (such as coming up with all the second names of football teams in the English league) rather than concentrating on what they are supposed to be doing, their ineptitude knows no bounds. Usually by some fluke or other they end up solving the crime against the odds and survive to another day.

6) Chief Wiggum - The Simpsons [1989 - present]

"Sorry, can't come right now, I'm busy".

More interested in eating than doing any actual work (hey, there's hope for me yet), Chief Wiggum is pretty useless most of the time. When he does bother to do any work he frequently gets the wrong end of the stick, failing to follow any sort of proper procedure. Often he doesn't even bother responding to emergency calls, especially if he's busy lazing around or eating. He's not the laziest policeman on our list, though, the worst is yet to come.

5) P.C. Reg Deadman - Goodnight Sweetheart [1993-1999]

This idiot was seen in two different eras - as a moderately competent policeman in the 1990's and a truly useless one during WWII. He is generally portrayed as being completely thick and never seems to do any actual police work, preferring to hang around in the pub which Gary visits in the 1940's. Despite Gary being so obviously out of place and mysterious, Reg never seems to cotton on to this - perhaps it is just as well he didn't encounter any spies during the war as it's unlikely he would have rumbled them.

4) Phil and Nige - Early Doors [2003-2004]

"Crime won't crack itself!"

Possibly the laziest police officers ever to grace our screens, Phil and Nige used to turn up at the pub for a free drink, knocking on the back door and making themselves at home in the kitchen rather than mixing with the regulars in the bar. It goes without saying that all drinks are expected to be on the house. If calls come in while they are there, they ignore them, "someone else will probably go", unless it's something they can turn to their advantage such as a ram raid on an off-licence where they can be first on the scene and help themselves to some goods.

3) PC Plum - Balamory [2002-2005]

What's the story in Balamory?

OK, I know it's a kids show so is not going to be full of murders and robberies but even so, PC Plum is exceptionally lame. His job seems to consist of helping children look for wildlife, popping in to see various other characters for a cup of tea and riding about on his bike singing songs. His main piece of detective equipment appears to be a magnifying glass. Like I said, there's not a lot of crime in Balamory, though Miss Hoolie should be arrested for that hairstyle alone. If a real crime ever did come along he'd probably shit his pants.

2) Chief O' Hara - Batman [1966-1968]

"Hmmm, this is a tricky one, Commissioner".

The man who inspired this blog entry, he is exceptionally dim. He reports to Commissioner Gordon and most episodes include a scene with the two of them in the office discussing the latest crime to have been committed and deciding that they need to call Batman in. Gordon himself seems reasonably competent, but they still prefer summoning Batman to trying to solve things themselves. O' Hara himself is portrayed as incredibly thick, unable to work out what is going on most of the time, e.g. The Riddler's comparatively easy riddles. Presumably Gordon keeps him on hand to make himself look good by comparison. O Hara's contribution to the crime-fighting is minimal, usually arriving on the scene just in time to cart the villains away after Batman and Robin have done all the hard work.

And finally...

1) PC Joe Penhale - Doc Martin [2004 - present]

Joe is actually the second policeman to appear in Doc Martin, the first one being only marginally less useless. From the off he's up against it as a policeman, suffering from narcolepsy and agoraphobia but it is his over enthusiastic approach that usually leads to the most problems. Far from helping the Doc, he usually ends up making things worse in his desperate attempt to show everyone what a crime-fighting superhero he is. Some of his finest moments include:

a) Stapling his hand to a lamppost whilst putting up warning notices about asbestos.
b) A disastrous siege at a farm when a gun goes off and he thinks he has been shot.
c) Going on a survival course in the wilds, attempting to shoot a rabbit for dinner and instead shooting himself in the foot.
d) Being left dangling on a hook by the Military Police after trying to get involved in army business.

And many more...

So that's my all time Top 10 incompetent TV cops. Hope you enjoyed it!

Jason Ayres is the author of six books, including his brand new novel, My Tomorrow, Your Yesterday, available here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00UDHAD0M

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

A Day At The Races

I tend to look forward to the Easter school holidays more than most of the others because they fall at the beginning of spring. After months of cold and darkness, suddenly the weather is getting better again (in theory), the days are longer and there's suddenly lots of places we can go and things to do.

Since New Year, I've been more or less sat at my desk 24/7 writing my latest novel which came out in March. The kids have been at school every week except the half-term break in February and there's not a lot going on at that time of year. So, here we are in the Easter holidays and I'm determined to shake off the chains of winter hibernation and get out there and do things.

The children are getting older now which increases the range of things we can do. There are all sorts of days out we can now have, however, like most families there are budgetary limitations. Much as I'd love to spend all our days out at theme parks, all of those things cost money. There are plenty of family days out where you'll be lucky to see change from £100. Fortunately there are many others that are not so expensive. In the past I've championed the joys of museums and trips to local parks, but today we did something different. We went out for the day to a race meeting.

Now this might not immediately strike you as an obvious cheap or even child friendly day out, but in our case it definitely was. We are lucky enough to live less than half an hour's drive away from Towcester Racecourse. Not only is this the nearest track to us, it is also the only one in the UK that offers free admission to most of its fixtures. By taking along all of our food and drink with us (in true Austerity Dad tradition), we were effectively able to enjoy a free day out - if I didn't place any bets, obviously - more on that later.

Whatever your views on horse racing or betting, there's no denying that a day out in the fresh air somewhere like Towcester has got to be better for you than sitting around the house. Towcester is on a hill and it always seems to me that no matter what time of year you go there for the races, the weather is always bracing. Up there today we truly had four seasons in one day - from bright sunshine to gales, to hail and torrential rain. Anticipating this I wrapped the children up in four layers of thick clothing - and they certainly needed it.

Towcester is only a small course - it's no Cheltenham or Ascot but it has its own unique charm. Unlike many of the other racecourses I've been to, you can get up really close and personal to the action. For most of the races, we walked up to the final fence, just after the furlong pole, where you can stand right next to the fence as the horses jump over - almost close enough to reach out and touch if you were daft enough to do so. It's quite breathtaking watching them soar over the fence, which I'm pleased to say all of them did. We had a good chat with some of the guys down there whose job it is to fix any odd bits of birch that might get knocked out of the fence when the horses jump, but they didn't have too much to do today, just a few odd twigs to hammer back in. They were very friendly and enjoyed chatting with the kids, telling them about their job. Later on we bumped into Matt Chapman, a TV presenter I used to correspond with years ago. He was presenting the day's proceedings but still found time for a quick chat - he always comes across as a thoroughly nice bloke.

Wrapped up against the cold by the final fence.

So, no money spent thus far other than on petrol, but how did we do with our bets? Well, I placed modest bets on five horses over the course of the afternoon, one of which won at odds of 10/1. We managed to get 12/1 with the bookie we placed it with - it would have been 14/1 had Jamie not decided he needed to go to the toilet about ten minutes before the race, but these things happen when you have kids.

After an enjoyable afternoon in the fresh air we headed off to McDonalds to spend some of our winnings and it seemed my luck was still holding. I had some of those little Monopoly stickers on my meal, and when I peeled them off, lo and behold I'd won both a milkshake and an apple pie! Happy days!

Every one's a winner!

Jason Ayres is the author of six books, including his brand new novel, My Tomorrow, Your Yesterday, available here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00UDHAD0M