TGBOL – Dinner Party!

For this week’s Great Book of Lists prompt, we’ve been asked to host a dinner party, and invite anyone we like, alive or dead.

Where to even begin with this one? Well, as seems increasingly to be the case, my first thought was for writers… then musicians… then people who generally inspire me… plus a few who would liven up any party (who wouldn’t want to dance the macarena with Einstein on the dance floor after a few sherries??). I have left out those who I would like to have met one-on-one, but am not sure about inviting to a party situation (Van Gogh, Roald Dahl, Queen Elizabeth I, Marie Curie…)

So, in no particular order, I would invite:

Neil Gaiman
Stephen Fry
Nelson Mandela
Albert Einstein
Maya Angelou
Nick Cave
David Bowie
Frank Turner
Muhammad Ali
Shel Silverstein
JK Rowling
Joss Whedon
Amelia Earhart
Bill Hicks
The Dalai Lama (these last two to sit next to each other)

My co-host for this party would be Dorothy Parker. I am also tempted to invite Brian Blessed, the actor/ explorer, although I’m not sure my ears would take it… perhaps we could lock him in the next room?



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The Soundtrack of My Life (TGBOL)

This week’s prompt for The Great Book of Lists is “the soundtrack to our lives”. To explain:

“We’re going to write about the music themes and songs that are engraved in our dearest memories that can evoke a memory faster than anything else, or make you feel good and giddy. What music is so intertwined with your life and personality that you can play it in your head without actually hearing it ? What musical pieces remind you of a particular time in your life like it was yesterday ?”

So many great songs with fond memories to choose from, but this is THE soundtrack to my life, in roughly chronological order…

Childhood –

Adam Ant – Stand & Deliver –

The first music that I remember ever getting into was Adam & The Ants. I’m stupidly excited by the thought of seeing him play at the Isle of Wight Festival this summer.

Honourable mention here for the Bouncing Song from Not The Nine O’Clock News (“I like bouncing, boing boing boing, Up and down until I get a pain in my groin”). I had an album – on VINYL – of their best sketches… and look at what I’m writing now. It’s all there…

Uni Days –

Led Zeppelin – Whole Lotta Love –

I co-hosted a student council party at the end of my second year… the opening riff was played every time I took to the stage, looking rake-ish with painted-on sideburns, the jester king in court. Or something like that… great night, great memories.

Honourable mentions for Total Eclipse of the Heart, Bad Medicine, or Roxanne – any of these jukebox staples take me back to the dingy, red-linoleum-floored college bar, spending hours avoiding writing that essay that was due in the next day, and endlessly trying and failing to “beat” the quiz machine. (The quiz machine, incidentally, at which me and my future wife first got talking. She was much better at it than me!)

Love –

Rolling Stones – Wild Horses –

Our choice of song for our first dance at our wedding. This may have been slightly Buffy-inspired on my wife’s part…

Honourable mentions to Spandau Ballet’s Gold, or Flight of the Conchords’ I’m Not Crying: my wife’s two favourite songs!

Friendship –

Blur – Country House –

This is a song that takes me straight back to the second greatest party of my life… a best friend’s wedding. A ridiculously good night.

Honourable mention here for Vanilla Ice’s Ice Ice Baby, and one of my best friends taking this with him everywhere he goes in the world… no karaoke bar, or living room, is safe! Also, Gin and Juice as covered by Hayseed Dixie. 

Personal challenge –

Rocky theme –

I ran a half marathon a few years ago. (I’m a big lad… I don’t know what I was thinking.) I went really overboard on the playlist to get me round the course, and it was predictably, fittingly, inevitably the Rocky theme that got me through the toughest part of the race.

My boys –

Blur – Tender –

This was my “go-to” song to soothe both boys when they were little babies; a perfect nursery rhyme for those parents who are sick of actual nursery rhymes! I’ve included the link to the live version they performed at Glastonbury in 2009, which adds another layer to my love for this… I was there in the crowd with my friends singing it back to them. A magical moment.

Honourable mentions:
Muppets – Ma Na Ma Na. You know the one. More addictive than crack, and stickier than superglue. 
Pharrell – Happy (aka “Minions song!”). Even stickier than Ma Na Ma Na!
These are both big favourites in the Lane house… I have shortcuts to these on my phone to wheel out when needed!

And because this is me, this is also the soundtrack to my death… these are the songs I’d like played at my funeral.

Nick Cave – Death Is Not The End – (Listening to this again now, I realise how similar this is to Tender…)

Lynyrd Skynyrd – Freebird (the full ten-minute version, as my coffin is cremated… the silly side of me likes the thought of the audience looking at their watches, tapping their feet in boredom, wondering how much longer they have to stand there for!) –

Johnny Cash – The Man Comes Around –


What are the songs that form the soundtrack to your lives? I’d love to hear them in the comments below.

Words That Matter (TGBOL)

This week’s prompt for The Great Book of Lists is “words that matter”.

“Words, as simple as they may seem, possess power. Once spoken, you cannot take them back. Once said, it’ll be either white or black.

“So today, let’s make a list of those words that has pushed you forward, to do good, to be glad. Words that kept you standing. Words that encouraged you to keep moving. Words that picked you up. Words that lit you up. Words that introduced you to an unknown world. Words that explained you the meaning of life, even beyond earth.

Those words deserve to be shared, so let’s share them today.”

Here is my list of words that matter:

“I will”
The promise made on my wedding day. Not the “I do” that you tend to see in films and stories, but the forward-looking “I will”. And I will.

“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”
This is a quote from Yoda in Empire Strikes Back, back when his lines actually carried some deeper meaning rather than just being backwards-spoken gibberish (yes, this is another moan about the prequels). If you set out to “try”, you are already accepting the possibility of failure. Set out to “do”, and let your positivity carry you forward.

“Try this at home”
Frank Turner is a particular inspiration to me. His folk-punk music, and “try it yourself” attitude, directly led me to take up the electronic pen and try poeting on my own. I could quote so many of his lyrics, but the following two are particularly important to me:

And I won’t sit down
And I won’t shut up
And most of all I will not grow up

Because we write love songs in C, we do politics in G,
we sing songs about our friends in E minor.
So tear down the stars now and take up your guitars:
come on folks and try this at home.
“Try This At Home”

“Love you, Daddy”
Yes, it’s cheesy, but I could hear this all day long, from either of my boys. They light me up, every single time.

“More money, more doughnuts”
I wanted to end on something different… this phrase is one my six-year old came up with recently. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a more succinct summary of capitalism 🙂

So, these are the words that matter to me. What words matter to you?



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The 5 WORST on-screen kisses (TGBOL)

This week’s prompt for TGBOL is for our favourite on-screen kisses… not a topic that’s particularly designed for me. So with my usual disregard for the rules, and tongue (my own) firmly in cheek, I will instead give you my Top 5 worst kisses… because Hollywood absolutely has to cram some “romance” into even the most ridiculous of situations!

Drum roll please!

5Howard the Duck and Lea Thompson… in her bikini panties, on the bed, no less…

4 – Tom Hanks and Elizabeth Perkins in Big… it’s a beautiful farewell kiss, tender and loving… and then you remember that he’s a 12 year old boy in a man’s body

3 – A little more anthropomorphic bestiality for you… it’s Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes, awkwardly kissing scientist-ape Zira goodbye

2 – It’s Lea Thompson again! This time, kissing her son, Marty McFly, in Back to the Future. This at least had the grace to try and play it for laughs, but still…

And the undisputed number one…

1 – it’s family relations once again, in The Empire Strikes Back. A peck on the cheek from Leia in Star Wars becomes something a little more full-bodied in Empire, when she grabs (her brother) Luke by the lips… with Han and Chewie watching on too. Remember her line when Luke tells her they’re related at the end of Return of the Jedi – “somehow I’ve always known”. Really?

So, now I suggest you take yourself off to the other participants’ blogs for some mind bleach, and an altogether more romantic take on this challenge 🙂

Until next week!



Dream Travels – TGBOL

This week’s prompt for the Great Book of Lists is to list our “dream travels” – “travels we’d love to do, places we’d like to go to,  that we’ve been dreaming of”.

So, in the real world:

1. A long holiday touring across Australia,taking in a British & Irish Lions rugby tour, and specifically going to Melbourne (we didn’t have chance to visit on our previous visit to Australia)
2. Prague, Czech Republic
3. Canada, especially Vancouver
4. Those incredible white sandy beaches of the Maldives
5. Black Forest, Germany (visiting castles that have that ‘Disney’ look, but for real)

But as we’re talking “dream travels”, here’s a day spent in fiction

 – First and second breakfast in The Shire;
– a light lunch of a “sausage inna bun” from CMOT Dibbler in Ankh-Morpork;
– afternoon tea at Mole’s House;
– dinner at the restaurant at the end of the universe; and then
– off to the Mos Eisley cantina for some blue milk, repetitive space jazz, and the company of various scum and villainy, watching the twin suns of Tattooine set.

And one place I wouldn’t go

To Tahiti. Even if it is a magical place.



The Ten Books That Changed Me- TGBOL

The prompt for the Great Book of Lists this week was to list books that “transport” us to another time or place, out of our daily lives. I found this difficult, purely because every book that I enjoy transports me into that particular world. If it doesn’t, I stop reading it – life’s too short, and my reading pile too big! Choosing just a handful on this basis was also beyond me…

So below is a list of the ten books (not necessarily novels) that have had the greatest impact on me, that have transported me either through the power of the storytelling, or in the influence they have had on me personally, or both.

In no particular order:

1. Cormac McCarthy – The Road
The book that put me off wanting to be a writer, because I’ll never write anything as good as this.

2. Nick Hornby – High Fidelity
The right book at the right time can have a huge effect. This tracked and amplified my obsession with list-making… and look where that’s got me!

3. Julia Donaldson – The Gruffalo
I could have chosen one of half a dozen of her books – she directly inspired me to write children’s stories in rhyme.

4. Shel Silverstein – Where the Sidewalk Ends
I was recommended this by my American critique group (I hadn’t heard of him at that time), who paid me the great compliment of being Silverstein-esque. I only wish!

5. Max Brooks – World War Z
A great book, bold in scope, unique in vision. This was unfortunately made into a distinctly average film of limited scope and generic, by-the-numbers vision. (Note to film-makers – zombies DO NOT run. They are the reanimated dead, not Olympic sprinters.)

6. Iain Banks – The Wasp Factory
I can still picture every detail in this slightly bizarre, yet surface-normal, world, even though I haven’t read it for at least a decade.

7. Douglas Adams – The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
A huge influence on my sense of humour. I was too young for the radio series, but grew up with the original TV show, and even remember playing a text-only computer game of it. Must read this one again.

8. Roald Dahl – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
A children’s story with both lyricism and darkness.

9. George RR Martin – A Song of Ice and Fire
I’m not normally a fan of fantasy, but these had me gripped. I raced through all the novels one after the other (courtesy of a friend’s generosity in lending me them… There isn’t room on my bookshelves for this weighty series!). After reading one of the books, I read Hunger Games. It was like drinking lemonade after a fine wine.

10. Neil Gaiman – The Graveyard Book
Gaiman is the writer I most want to be, and The Graveyard Book is the book I most want to have written.

So, feel free to analyse away about what this list says about me… What books have transported you, in one way or other?



The List of My Desires (TGBOL)

The prompt for this week is to “list our desires”.

Instead of listing material things to buy, I suggest we list things we feel like doing in 2016, things that really inspire us, make us smile, giggle. It’s not a resolutions list.

Obviously, with this prompt, my first thought was to have a little fun with the “desires” part, and list some famous people who’d be on “the list” (you know, “the list” of 5 people that you’re allowed to fantasy cheat on your partner with, should the opportunity arise… it’s best not to list people in your social circle on this one…) At this point, I realised that I currently have no idea who’d be on said list… I can remember some from the past, but can’t think of anyone from the present… This shows either:

(a) I’m growing up, and no longer play such childish games (yeah, right… how do you think this train of thought started??)
(b) Being a parent of two young monkeys, most of my time revolves around them, doing what they want to do, and watching what they watch… Octonauts just aren’t sexy (although they are wonderfully educational)…

I digress…

So, here’s some stuff I feel like/ need to be doing this year, in no order of priority!

1 – Focus. Spend one day per week COMPLETELY offline, so that when I spend time with my family, they have my full attention.

2 – Self-publish. I am still working on children’s picture book stories with the help of my SCBWI critique groups, but I also have some ideas for self-publishing some poetry collections, and non-fiction.

3 – Fail more, and faster. Enter more competitions, both for poetry and short stories, and send off submissions to agents/publishers for picture books.

4 – Family fun! Finally arrange that day trip to the Natural History Museum that we’ve been considering for ages (our 6 year old, especially, will love it – his favourite person in the world is David Attenborough!). Hopefully we’ll get an opportunity to go on holiday later this year too, but as ever that will depend on our finances.

5 – Learn more. Learn to play the ukelele, at least to a very basic standard. (You have no idea what a low musical baseline I’m starting from…) Sign up for the FutureLearn screenwriting course, and make time to complete it.

6 – Go on dates! Rope the babysitters in more often to have date nights with my wife. Watch new films at the cinema! Plays at the theatre! Eat grown-up meals! Crazy stuff!

Wish me luck!



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The Little Things You Love (TGBOL)

This week’s prompt for The Great Book of Lists are the little things you love…

1. A hug from my wife after a rubbish day at work.

2. Walking my eldest son (aged 6) to school, holding his hand, talking about everything and nothing.

3. Giving my youngest son (aged 2) the “prompt” line from his favourite book (Ten Little Pirates), and smiling as he says “no ship, no food, no way home”. Every single time.

4. Writing a line of poetry that makes me smile, or makes me feel … hopefully others will share this feeling.

5. Emptying the fluff filter of the tumble dryer, while the fluff is still warm. Seriously. I love this. This is like the best bit of owning a cat, without the mewling for food every time you walk through the kitchen.

6. Crossing things off lists. Write week 2 list post. 

7. The first “like” on any blog post I publish. I fret incessantly until “someone” in the world has read my words, and taken the trouble to click on the “like” icon. Only when I get that email ping do I allow myself to relax. I’m not at all sure this is healthy!




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The Great Book of Lists, Chapter 1.2 : The little things you love

Treasures from Childhood (The Great Book of Lists)

Judy mentioned on Edwina’s Episodes – that she was going to give this challenge a try for this year, and I thought it sounded fun too! It might also provide some useful material for future poems or stories.

Every week, there will be a prompt on a different theme for you to make your list. The prompt for the first week is “treasures from childhood” – see here:

Now, I don’t remember a great deal from my own childhood. I don’t know whether this is typical of most people, whether my memory has failed me for whatever reason, or even just that it was a reasonably happy, “boring” childhood, without getting overly sentimental about specific objects. So, I’m going to list three items that I remember, and three random memories.

1 – A Millennium Falcon toy… my Dad said I could have one for Christmas when I was 7/8(?), if I could spell it. So I did! (I wish I still had this, for my sons… yeah, okay, maybe for me too)

2 – Fighting Fantasy gamebooks. These were Dungeons & Dragons-style games, which I played with three friends, as well as reading the “choose your own adventure” books on my own. I have very happy memories of these FF evenings, especially when we used most of that time playing garden cricket instead.

3 – Atari computers… anyone else remember typing in hundreds of lines of code from magazines to make a blob move around the screen a bit, with no fancy graphics or sound? From there to here…! Then there was the “Atari vs Amiga” debate slightly later on at school, when games like Elite and Xenon 2 were the big sellers. (I can still “hear” the music from Xenon 2 – it was such a great mindworm track.) I also remember seeing Chaos Engine on the Amiga, and being blown away by it. That ended the debate for me, although true nerds would still claim the Atari ST was great for writing music (something which I did not do!).

1 – the simple pleasure of being sat up on the counter at Danny Dyke’s fish and chip shop in Gloucester, and being given two (impossibly hot) chips on a wooden fork to eat while we waited for our order. Bliss.

2 – accompanying my Dad to endless local games of football (he played, then managed a team for many years). I don’t think I ever watched more than five minutes of a game, although I’d sometimes watch the crowd, and enjoy some of the non-age appropriate banter/sledging. I’d spend most of the afternoon exploring the edges of the fields, just wandering around, not bored, but investigating… I remember discovering the “motherlode” at the edge of one playing field, where some houses backed onto the field, with only a handful of trees to divide them off… someone had left all of their Star Wars toys out, on a muddy mound beneath those trees. I played with them for ages! I have to admit, I do need to send an apology back through time to the owner of said toys. I was unable to resist taking the Wampa toy. If it’s any consolation, I played with it a lot on your behalf, and it often bested my Luke toy in combat…

3 – I also remember following in my father’s footsteps early, by “managing” our playground football team when I was 8 or 9. We would play “our year” versus “the next year up”. I managed to persuade two older boys to defect, and then bored anyone who would listen that these two would “really strengthen our defence”… I think I remember it so clearly because I bored myself saying it!

Do you have any childhood treasures – either memories or items – that you think fondly on? I’d love to hear them in the comments, or for you to join this challenge too. 🙂


The photo below is me… I cropped off the budgie smugglers!


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