SLOW PLAY – 2 THOUGHTS

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Slow Play is not a recent phenomenon. In an essay from 1934 on ‘The People in Front’ –you know who you are – Bernard Darwin describes them …….

“They waggle for hours; they stroll rather than walk; they dive into their monstrous bags for the right club, and then it is the wrong number, but they are not sorry that we have been troubled. Their putting is a kind of funereal ping-pong. We could forgive them all this tricks, from which we are conspicuously free, if it were not for the absurd punctilio with which they observe the rules. They will insist on waiting for the people in front when it must be palpable even to their intellects that the best shot they ever hit in their lives would  be fifty yards short.”

The final word on slow play.. a sign that will…encourage people to play quicker…

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School Reunion – I’m sorry I can’t be with you tonight…

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….. but I’m afraid I’ve still got the teeniest, tiniest part of self-esteem and self-respect left. I’ve also realised, albeit belatedly, that I have limited time left on this planet. No, no I’m not terminally ill or anything – just getting older, practically by the minute.

But a reunion – really? I know that, for some people, it’s fun to see what’s happened to people they knew forty years ago. Some people love to listen to the heartaches and the tears, the joy of children brought into the world and sadly those who didn’t make it. They love to compare where you go on holiday, why you left your last job, how you ended up in Guantanamo Bay on a misunderstanding. But honestly – it’s not for me. I’m fifty-nine years old now and if there’s one thing life has taught me in those fifty-nine years is that I do not want to be stranded like some Robinson Crusoe / Victor Meldrew character on an island for several hours (which seems like several lifetimes) with people I have chosen, yes chosen, not to contact for a very, very good reason, for two thirds of my life. I really, really don’t need to be shown photos or videos of holidays, wives, husbands, cleaners, gardeners, children, homes, second homes, holiday homes, ‘the nice yurt we spent three months in when we ‘found ourselves’ in Turkmenistan’, cars, caravans, mid-life crisis motor bikes, pot-bellied pigs, cats or dogs – on the latest ipad, iphone 7 or Huawei P9 (Max).

I’m too old and too stubborn to willingly submit to that “hello, you haven’t changed at all” handshake. The thought of staring at someone trying desperately to think of an answer to an interrogation on the values of your life that begins with questions such as “So, what do you do now?”, “Are you married?”, “How did you find the food in prison?”,”Didn’t you used to be Byron Kalies?” or “Shit, what happened to your hair?” feels me with fifty shades of dismay.

I would like to say I’m too busy. I would like to say that I’m busy that evening on a bender with Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, Jack Nicholson and Woody Allen drinking, doing drugs and chasing women in a downtown bar in Port Talbot. I would like to say that, but that couldn’t possibly be true – I’m not allowed back in Port Talbot after the incident involving Peter O’Toole, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in the summer of 1986.

No, I’ll be at home – watching Coronation Street with the best company I could ever imagine – myself. Yes, you were right all along – “He was an egotistical, self-centred bastard forty years ago and he’s an egotistical self-centred bastard today.”

To be completely honest I do have one regret. I would have happily turned up if I could be assured that you are all fatter, more miserable, unluckier and poorer than me. If it could be guaranteed that at least half of you have only been released from prison for the day, and the rest of you have had to borrow the money for bus fare from your current probation officer. Alas, I know that it would be practically impossible for any of you to be on a lower social standing than myself.  My dream was to be a writer. I am a prolific writer who last book sold fewer copies than Linda Wright’s ‘Toilet Paper Origami’ and Brugemmeier, Cioc and Zeller’s seminal work ,’How Green Were the Nazi’s’ combined.

I’m sure I have some hilarious stories and happy memories of school somewhere. There is a place deep, deep in my subconscious where  memories exist of midnight feasts, Defence against the Dark Arts lessons, Olly asking for ‘more’ and jolly pranks throwing first years off the roof. However, I’m struggling desperately to remember the difference between Pontllanfraith Grammar Technical School, Greyfriars and Hogwarts. I do remember all the boys at school being taller than me, more handsome than me and having better haircuts than me. I also remember every one of the girls scaring the shit out of me. I assume none of that has changed. I certainly haven’t.

So it is with great reluctance that I really, truly, deeply, honestly, genuinely and sincerely can’t be arsed to travel the three and a quarter miles from my house to the pub to wallow in glorious memories of dorm raids, tuck shops, six of the best, quidditch and picking up the ball, running with it and inventing the game of rugby. Honestly, I remember practically nothing of my time at school. I remember vaguely there being teachers, walls, windows, bells ringing, floors, shoes, people with heads, chairs, unhappiness and frustration. Nowadays at the best of times I have a memory like a … oh you know, what do you call it. I barely remember my cat’s name now so the thought of trying to guess, give up, ask and then remember the names of people from four fifths of a century ago just seems like too much bloody hard work. I don’t do hard work anymore.

All the best and I do hope you have fantastic evening on this very important n (insert number here) th year of some memorable event. I won’t be able to make it this year, and probably next year, and quite possibly the year after, and so on and so on. However, please feel free to contact me for the oak anniversary.

Grumpily yours

Byron

Literary Agent – Worst Job in the World?

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Worst Job than a Literary Agent?

I wouldn’t be a literary agent if my life depended on it. Could you image a more unpleasant job? Well, maybe a few (like the illustration above), but really. It must be like being a parent to a needy, whinny child who needs constant reassurance, love and patting on the head – without any of the good bits. Even before that stage you would have to wade through a torrent of needy, whinny or arrogant, presumptuous pitches. It’s this that must make it so, so, so bad. If you ever had any modicum of compassion to begin with you couldn’t possibly have any left at the end. Could you?  How can you retain any sense of humour? Any degree of patience? Any respect for humanity? You can’t. The evidence is below in a list of the ‘best’ elements of pitches kept by my friend and Welsh literary agent, Chrissy Bach  – enjoy.

(with massive acknowledgements to ‘Slushpile hell’).

‘This sublime submission will leave you in an uncontrolled and irreversible state of ‘wow’’.

‘My attached 2000 word novel will make you laugh, make you cry, make you stand up and cheer. It will help raise the bar in human literary prose.’

‘I happen to have pen-ed a witty, hilarious book.’

‘Attached is, quite possibly, the funniest book known to humanity. After reading it I am convinced you will call me up and offer me a contract. I await your call.’

‘I want you as my agent. The book is ready. The writing is final. I do not want a word changed. It is a very good, well-written book.’

‘I guess my love of writing started in the second grade when Miss Harris gave me a large red tick on my composition on ‘What I did in the holidays’. I can still remember that composition. I wrote about the two weeks I spent in Porthcawl…’

‘You’re my last hope. I have sent this to many, many other agents without a positive reply. I’m counting on you.’

‘A quick question before I send my pitch. How many words are there in a novel?’  

‘My 432,000 word novel may seem to start a little slowly, but after the first nine of so chapters the pace changes dramatically.’

‘My dream agent Andrew Wylie, is not taking on ‘new’ writers, so I’m querying you.’

‘Attached is my synopsis and first four chapters. If I don’t hear from you by the end of the day I will give you a call. I have your home number.’

Is Anyone on Twitter Not Writing a Book?

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Is Anyone on Twitter Not Writing a Book?

I ask this because, obviously, I am and I‘m wondering who is going to have the time to read it, and more importantly.buy it. In the spirit of prevarication / research I’ve started to explore the twitter / writer phenomenon. I began, and ended, with the question – why do people write? Specifically. why do people write and tell you why they write on twitter?

I decided to look at twitter bios – I thought this may give me a clue. Three hours later I feel so, so sad and exhausted. If I see one more ‘I write because nobody listens’ I will cry. Don’t try this at home. I feel you all owe me one now. I’ve spared you the time, energy and heart break.  I’ve gathered the best / worse/ saddest / funniest and most moving.

I like the straightforward ones –

‘Please buy my book. I owe people money.’

‘I write books, so I can buy food. Sometimes they have sex in them.’

‘Writer, dreamer, procrastinator. Author of fantasy books, curator of nonsense.’

‘Author. I make stuff up and write it down.’

I like the sad ones –

‘I write the TV commercials you’ll never see because you got up to use the bathroom.’

‘Married stay at home mom of two kids, a dog, and a cat with more cleavage than me. I write because it’s safer than jumping out of a plane half drunk.’

‘I write books and not just because I can’t bear the thought of a real job. But that’s part of it.’

I like the strange ones –

‘I’m not smart. I just wear glasses’.

‘Wordy bird. Reader, Master of Arts. Twitter addict. Compulsive RT-er. Old soul. Author of ‘Letting Go’. Had a glass of champagne at my cousin’s wedding once.’

‘I write because writing is therapeutic . and i apparently am in need of therapy.’

I quite worry about the very strange ones –

‘I feel words all day long. They reach inside me. Tug at my heart. Make me think. Want to share. My Atmosphere. Would like an agent for my memoir.’

‘I write because I keep searching my lost soul in the strings of words I weave. Have a far-fetched dream of making sense.’

‘I write because the dead girl told me to.’

‘I write stuff on my hand because it helps me remember things and when I can’t think of something I make grunting noises til I can figure it out… ‘

I love these –

‘I write because they won’t let me play with the scissors anymore.’

‘I write fanfiction. It’s a fun hobby and I’ve met a lot of wonderful people because of it. 🙂 I’m not a pro writer & I’m not trying to promote my work.’

Poker Players say the funniest things

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“In a game of poker, I can put players’ souls in my pocket.” – Beausourire

“Poker reveals to the frank observer something else of import—it will teach him about his own nature. Many bad players do not improve because they cannot bear self-knowledge.” – David Mamet

“In the absence of any mathematical explanation, one thing is for certain; if you engage in games of chance long enough, the experience is bound to affect the way you see God. Successfully draw to an inside straight three hands in a row, and you’ve got to be blessed. But if you’re the person drawn out on, the one whose trip aces just got snapped for the third time, you will go home feeling cursed. ” – Andy Bellin

“Poker’s a day to learn and a lifetime to master.” – Robert Williamson III

 “Poker is a microcosm of all we admire and disdain about capitalism and democracy. It can be rough-hewn or polished, warm or cold, charitable and caring, or hard and impersonal, fickle and elusive, but ultimately it is fair, and right, and just.” – Lou Kreiger

 “In life’s poker game, the optimist sees the pessimist’s night and raises him the sunrise.” – Robert Brault

“Cards are war, in disguise of a sport.” – Charles Lamb

“No matter how much you may want to think of Holdém as a card game played by people, in many respects it is even more valid to think of it as a game about people that happens to be played with cards.” – Phil Hellmuth

“I believe in poker the way I believe in the American Dream. Poker is good for you. It enriches the soul, sharpens the intellect, heals the spirit, and – when played well, nourishes the wallet.” – Lou Kreiger

 

Golfers say the funniest things

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“In no other sport does the nature of the contest allow the players to be so free of jealousy and enmity, so willing to help and support each other and be so sincere in their acceptance of each other’s success.– Jack Nicklaus

“Golf is a game, not a sport” – Larry Ramirez

“To find a man’s true character, play golf with him.”- PG Wodehouse

“Golf has made me and shaped me into the person I am here today.” – Tiger Woods

“Golf is a spiritual game. It’s like Zen. You have to let your mind take over.” – Amy Alcott

“The main idea in golf as in life, I suppose is to learn to accept what cannot be altered and to keep on doing one’s own reasoned and resolute best whether the prospect be bleak or rosy.” – Bobby Jones

“Eighteen holes of match or medal play will teach you more about your foe than will 18 years of dealing with him across a desk” – Grantland Rice

“Yes, I did talk to my players, but my vice captains were very instrumental in making decisions.” – Tom Watson

“What other people find in poetry or art museums l, I find in the flight of a good drive.” – Arnold Palmer

The picture non-golfers have of golfers

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The picture most non-golfers have of golf is odd.

They believe that golf is a Victorian game of etiquette, politeness, civility and manners;
“After you.”
“No after you. Please. You go if you’re ready.”
“Well only if you’re sure.”
“Oh I insist.”
“Charmed I’m sure.”

They believe that golfers are the most polite people in the world. They are incredibly patient and especially helpful to newcomers. Golfers will  spend an entire round standing behind a new 28 (with a star) handicapper watching closely to determine which side of the fairway to begin the search. We’ll do this without a thought of resentment.

They believe that golf is an unusual game where winning isn’t everything. It’s a game where ,they have read, someone gave up the prize of a new car in order to retain their amateur status. They believe all golfers would do this. It’s a game where players call fouls on themselves. It’s the only game where you form a queue, wait your turn and smile.

This is not entirely true 100% of the time.

Some golfers are human. Some cheat – yes you heard it here first. Some golfers lie, complain, moan, grumble, curse and fight. They have their own agendas and will look to get away with things if they can.

I feel guilty now. I feel like the child in school who told you there was no father Christmas and your parents were, basically, lying to you. I’m sorry.

 Golf is a game. Like all games it’s a test of character and there will be times when you will be tested. I know that but please.. some sort of reality check. If golf is played by such a wonderful divine bunch of angels why are there so many rules?

I do love the game but can’t really buy in to this sacramental vision of it though, as you may have gathered. People who play golf are frequently humans and as such are a bit like us – they have that fatal flaw – they are human. Golf has far fewer problems than many other sports – this is true. The amount of cheating and bad behaviour that goes on in golf is infinitely less than most other sports.

I have played with people who cheat – and heard about golfers who cheat. So, why are there less cheats at golf than at football?

I don’t believe it’s because it’s generally played by people with more money.
I don’t feel it’s because it is still an elitist sport in many places.
I think it makes a difference that it is a game that can be by people of all ages and abilities.
I also think that the way people are introduced to the game helps a great deal;
The game of football tends to be picked up as a child as you grow up playing against peers. The values are the values of your group – in most cases groups define their own rules, their own standards. As a child playing football it was acceptable, even expected, to shout and argue for throw ins, free kicks etc.. It’s what you do. In our version of football tough tackling was the norm and sending off’s were non existent.
In golf people tend to be taught one at a time. They are indoctrinated into the game through the mores and values of the group. Generally a group of established golfers who were inevitably introduced individually by a group of similar individuals. The values are handed down and generally these standards involve no cheating. Added to this the stigma of being caught cheating can be incredibly devastating. But hey let’s not be silly about it, Jack;

“In no other sport does the nature of the contest allow the players to be so free of jealousy and enmity, so willing to help and support each other and be so sincere in their acceptance of each other’s success.” – Golf and Life – Jack Nicklaus