Wednesday, April 29, 2009

well, it’s been a couple of weeks since I updated this – not because of one massive reasons, but more because of lots of little ones…

Easter weekend George, Lisa and I spent together – we pottered about and did very little apart from relaxing. We didn’t see anyone, or go out or do anything particular. We just relaxed together – which was great.

Ok, we did a couple of things – we replaced one of our goldfish – Kieth who died last week. Our new goldfish is called Martin – for no good reason. We were asked to do a survey at the pet shop in which we were asked how long we’d had our fish. They seemed surprised they’d all lived as long as 2 and a half years…However another fish, (Kathy Rindhoops) bit the dust less than a week later, and the new replacement (Dave Thermos) is now swimming happily in its place.

Is there a mystery Goldfish killer on the loose?

We also managed to go clothes shopping in Croydon – where I speed-shopped (you have to with a baby) grabbing random garments and rushing them to the checkout before either George or I lost the will to shop. George is at that stage where he’s suddenly grown out of all his clothes and for the first time, we’re into an age range where we haven’t got a dustbin bag full of handmedowns for him to move into.

In addition (and I realise this is now sounding pretty full for a “free” weekend) we made a trip to Hampton court. It’s an excellent day out, and they’ve really brought it to life this year with a selection of actors wandering around in costume planning one of Henry VIII’s weddings, and trying to work out whether to invade France (similar conversations have gone on daily in the British establishment since they rather embarrassingly invaded us in 1066).

George loved it – he’s at the stage now where we just set him down and follow him around rather than trying to tell him where to go. This means we generally miss most of what’s going on, but it gives him a chance to explore….

The next weekend, Mum and Jan came up to stay – and seemed to have a good time pottering round London trying to track down ancestors (Mum’s latest project) and going to see theatre plays featuring puppet horses….

We went on the London Eye – George taking far more notice of it than he did last time (last time he was just a couple of months old). And we had lunch in Covent Garden.

After they’d left on Sunday, we went round to Mons and Abi’s (via the Peckham dog show – in which two enterprising youngsters entered a remote controlled k9 in one round). Mons and Abi have just bought the last part of their flat, so were celebrating with roast potatoes and prosseco.

Having run out of prosseco early on, we decided to make our own using cheap white wine and a soda-stream…. Mons decided the result couldn’t be called champagne because it came from Peckham, so Pec-va it is….

Lisa went to Krakow in Poland this week with Sam. Sam had decided she wanted to see the concentration camp at Auschwitz. I’ve been already, but I can’t say much about it. There isn’t much to say. It’s worth seeing. But you won’t want to go back.

Obviously it leaves you wondering how it could have happened and how we can safeguard against it in the future – and it’s tempting to talk about a charismatic madman taking over a country– to look at extremist groups and try to work out what makes some of them able to seize power. But I think that’s too easy. It’s like trying to create a contraceptive by trying to work out what made the sperm that fertilised the egg so special and how we can neutralise it.

The truth is that there are enough potential Hitlers in every town – and that all they’re waiting for is the right mixture of pride and desperation in the public – just waiting for the views of the Daily Mail and the Sun to become the centre ground. And the only thing that stops that happening is ordinary people keeping their eyes open for the erosion of civil liberties.

I don’t think we’re ever more than 10 years from Auschwitz re-opening. In 1929 we had the great depression and global financial crisis. By 1939 we had a world war.

As a side note - It’s strange how the London Dungeons – where similar atrocities were committed (not on such a scale, but nonetheless…) and that’s done up as some kind of gruesome theme park. Why? What makes torture fun in the London Dungeons? Just the time that’s passed since it happened? Doesn’t make any sense to me.

….anyway, Lisa’s trip left me on my own with George for the week – which was nice. We had days out in the park, and generally played. On Tuesday, I looked after Nathan as well (he’s acquired a broken arm in a dog-related biking accident and he’s great with George). And the weather’s been great, so we’ve had a nice week.

I even managed to file (or, at least pile) some of the paperwork that’s been forming in untidy heaps all over the living room over the past few months… essential recipts and warning letters are now separated from take away fliers and 3 month old copies of the Guardian Guide…

I’ve even made a special pile for all the greetings cards Lisa has bought. Lisa has a strange and uniquely female ability to buy greetings cards just because she likes them. Hence we’ve now got about 6 blank get well soon cards. I don’t know whether they had an intended target who got weller sooner than expected (or didn’t) but certainly, the next time someone gets sick, we’ll be well prepared on the sympathy front thanks to our teamwork (her work in buying the cards, and my work in retrieving them from the pages of Marie Claire so we stand a chance of actually finding them when we need them).

It’s good to have Lisa back now though. Although we haven’t really caught up – we’ve had Lisa’s Mum staying last night, and Anne staying over this weekend (she’s attending some kind of brownie conference – as a leader, not as a brownie).

George is learning all the time now. He’s suddenly decided he hates swimming though. He’s gone from loving every minute of it to screaming all the way through it in a matter of a couple of weeks. I’m not sure what the problem is. He also can’t bear having a bath – to the point that we have to push him into it. He’s gone from loving it to hating it in a week… perhaps he’s got hydrophobia…

It’s tempting to assume that something must have triggered it, but it’s possible it’s not something external, but something internal – in other words, he’s just simply thought about it and decided he doesn’t like being pushed underwater, and now he’s equipped to remember when it happens, he’s not best pleased with the whole experience.

Instead of just living for the moment and enjoying it as 90% fun, he’s weighing up the experience and deciding there are bits of it he can do without, and that’s spoiling his enjoyment of the fun bits – I guess we all do that to some extent.

His transition from cot to bed has worked really well – except that he’s worked out how to get out of it. I’ve gone in a couple of mornings and found him curled up on the floor with his bottle of water beside him – so he must have climbed out of the top of the bed, made it over to the chair where the water is left on the arm, taken it back to the bed, drunk it, found a pillow and gone to sleep on it… all without waking us up in the next room.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

ok – I managed to rescue my Premiere file – I had to load it in with all the clips Offline and then re-link them one at a time from within the programme… not sure what happened there.

Anyway, this week saw the re-appearance of 10x10 ( – a great resource for (London based) documentary makers. It’s a meeting in which filmmakers can screen 10 minutes of their work in progress and get 10 minutes of feedback from an audience of (mostly) other filmmakers. It’s very useful if you can go along with very specific questions you need answering (rather than just because you want to show off your work).

This month, I got a slot for my trilobite movie – so I spent a day or so cutting together a 10 minute sampler. This was a great help in itself actually – just the process of creating something “finished” rather than just slogging through hours of footage picking out the odd usable clip without knowing quite how it will be used is a great tonic.

I got the edit finished at about 5pm on Tuesday and hit render – expecting it to take about 10 minutes on my quad core 8gb machine. In fact, it took close to 80 minutes to write the DVD and I had to get taxi through London in rush hour just to get to the venue minutes before the deadline.

The showing was very helpful – lots of constructive criticism – the characters need to be explored more deeply (probably a symptom of me trying to cram everything into 10 minutes – but it’s a bit of a worry that I haven’t really got all of them opening up about the roots of the passion for prehistoric bugs….) - and I need to watch the balance between emotional and scientific content closely.

There was also a consensus that there’s too much narration in the version I presented and I need to let the characters speak for themselves. However, people did set my mind at ease about the actual quality of my voiceover work.

Basically, I’ve been quite nervous about my ability to do a competent job as a narrator and so when I’m editing my own voice, I’ve always got a bad feeling about what I’m doing – this probably stems from about 10 years ago when I did a short radio package for radio 4.

The producer of the programme liked the interviews I’d done and the editing, but thought my voiceover work was awful – eventually I had to bring in a friend (Mary – a journalist with a great broadcast voice) to voice the piece for me.

Since then, I haven’t really been comfortable appearing at the pointed end of a microphone.

So, that’s given me a bit more confidence – apart from anything else because my next project (if I ever commit myself to doing such an ambitious project) is going to have to have me at the centre of it….

In the meantime, I’m now re-energised about the trilobite documentary and I can almost see it taking shape. I’ve realised that editing all day every day isn’t the way to go once you get to fine-editing. After about 3-4 hours of this kind of work, I tend to start slowing down – it’s so tiring. Doing regular half days rather than irregular whole days will get the job done faster.

In other news, my last documentary, “how to colonise the stars” is now in the hands of the distributors, Electric Sky
And they’re on their way to MipTV the TV market. Hopefully lots of TV channels will want to buy it!

We’ll see…

In the meantime, they’re still trying to track down the guys who stole my last documentary (Shark Story) and released it without permission as a DVD in WHSmiths. It turns out, the company got hold of a screener for the programme, duplicated it and put it out without permission.

They then promptly went into receivership, so the chances of me getting to know exactly how this happened and who’s responsible seems pretty low.

Still, I’ll get some money for it once the receivers cough up… As much as anything else, I’m looking forward to knowing what the sales were like!

Another plus is the story of my website’s popularity (with search engines at least).

Having removed my advertising on Google (because it was costing so much) I put a lot of effort into SEO (search engine optimisation) and had my site re-written with search engine keywords in mind.

This made my site appear on google, but, to be honest, not very highly.

However, I also wrote some articles about commissioning animation for film, documentaries, museums, etc. and put them up on the site, and employed a company from elance to go out and get other sites to link to the articles…. A process known as backlinking.

Now, the thing about backlinks are that they’re one way google uses to work out whether your site is useful and popular, so the idea is that the more other (relevant) sites that link to yours, the higher you’ll appear in searches.

Only a few of the 150 backlinks I’ve now got are showing up, but already the content from my site is figuring highly in searches (try looking for “cgi for documentary films” or something similar).

Is this permanent? Will it drive more traffic to my site? Will it be the right traffic and generate enquiries and work?.... only time will tell…
Another weekend – another Sunday lunch – this one not hosted by us! We went round to Mons and Abi’s for a lovely afternoon…

I’m looking forward to this coming weekend though– because we’ve got nothing planned. For the first time in ages, we’ve got the whole four day weekend to ourselves. We’re going out on Saturday night, and we’ll probably have a day out at Hampton court or somewhere on one of the days, but we’re not putting anything in the diary – which is pure luxury and well overdue.

Lisa and I are feeling like we don’t get to see each other much right now. We’ve had a lot of visitors (all welcome) and the next few months don’t look any less busy (we’ve even considered putting up an online diary so people know what’s already booked!). And Lisa’s work have just announced they’re going to try to catch up with their backlog by doing 18 months work in the next 9 – which means Lisa is having to work an extra day (Friday) right up until she starts her maternity leave.

All of which is fairly rubbish – especially with her being 3 months pregnant and tired most of the time.

And the recession for me has meant not getting the big jobs I was doing last year and instead doing lots of smaller ones (magazine articles, etc…). This in turn means lots more deadlines, admin and fiddly jobs.

Still, I managed to show a section from my latest documentary to a group of other filmmakers last night and the results were pretty positive.

George is getting closer and closer to speaking - lots of burbling and something which sounds a lot like bye-bye... or it could be baby.... or it could be David Hasslehoff....

Friday, April 3, 2009

New baby
So the big news this week is that Lisa is pregnant again… Of course we’ve known for a while, but Thursday was our first scan.

Scans haven’t been a particularly good experience for us up to now – with our first (before George) revealing that there was no baby, and our second (for George) giving us danger signs and making us believe George had a potentially very damaging genetic disorder…. which turned out later to be a false alarm.

Anyway, this one was better, revealing that everything was fine, and giving us our first pictures of the new baby…. The doctors measured its head, and it’s neck, and took lots of blood tests so they could give us a series of statistics involving how likely it was that our baby had downs, how likely it was to have chromosome deletions and how likely it was to fail geography at GCSE level….

To discover these things, we had to sit in a hopelessly overcrowded waiting room for four hours in front of a TV showing David Dickinson and a programme about autistic children while a succession of Nurses called our names using accents which would have been unintelligible even if they hadn’t been spoken in a low, embarrassed murmur…

My friend Mary stayed for a few days as part of a whirlwind trip from China, and we had a nice afternoon out on Wednesday. We then learnt some strange and deeply disturbing things about the London flat that she’s renting out and I’m looking after for her… this one will run and run, but I won’t say anything about it for now….

The wall
The saga of our wall being knocked down continues to roll on… George, our neighbor is knocking on our door every other day wanting to know if we’ve contacted the insurance – Which of course we haven’t because we haven’t got anything to tell them until the quotes for the repairs come in. And that’s at the mercy of the builders.

I’m pretty sure that trying to claim through George’s insurance is going to turn into a long running and pointless waste of time…. It’s never in an insurance company’s interest to pay up and while they delay, works are stopped, and it costs me time, money and energy….

All of which, I realise comes out sounding quite downbeat and weary considering I’m announcing our new pregnancy – but I’m a little tired right now….