Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Feastmas!

If you click on the image then it will take you to a page where you can print off a foldable version to stick on your mantelpiece

I hope you all have a great festive season, regular readers, lurkers and random stumblers alike!

All the best!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Attempts to enter the film industry

This morning I received this letter in the post with regard to my screenplay submission for a short film:

Dear Kim

Thank you for your application to GMAC Shorts Talent Pool. We received a high number of applications this year, the quality was exceptional and so the competition for places in the Talent Pool was tough.

Your Cineworks Narrative Fiction application has now been read and reviewed internally as well as externally by independent industry professionals. Your project ‘I Met Myself The Other Day’ ref. Number CINE W14 has not been selected for the GMAC Shorts Talent Pool…

Telling me that a huge number of extraordinarily talented people applied so I didn’t get in, isn’t really any kind of compensation, yet those who compose rejection letters regularly favour this approach. Are they implying that it’s really just a lottery, so the more entrants, the lower the odds in my favour, or are they saying that if there’d been less applicants of lower quality then maybe I’d have been considered? Either way it doesn’t exactly reduce the crushing sense of disappointment.

I’d felt really good about my application too. Still, for all I know, “independent industry professionals” could mean the people who clean camera lenses. Once again those who should know better are failing to recognise huge talent when it’s plonked right down in front of them. Either that or I’m still suffering from the Dunning-Kruger effect*

Still, last night Rogan & I went along to the Gracefield Arts Centre in Dumfries to join about 120 other people putting themselves forward as potential extras for a few scenes in a forthcoming horror film to be shot only a few miles from my house (see last post – Extras).

We filled in the application forms, which were purely about physical characteristics (height, collar size etc) and contact details, then were photographed with an ID number scrawled in felt pen on the back of the form while we tried to look Eastern European.

Rogan, however, along with the rest of the children who turned up, was videoed for a minute or two and asked his name, his school, his favourite subjects and whether he’d ever acted. His responses about his performance at school assembly had me swelling with fatherly pride. That boy has star material written all over him (not that I’m biased in any way, you understand).

Standing next to a couple with blonde highlights and surfer dude t-shirts, I began to think we had as much chance as anyone else. However, I found out this afternoon that several genuine Serbians turned up after we left, so I’m not holding my breath. Apparently if we’ve not heard anything by the end of the month then we can safely assume we’ve not been picked.

Whether we’re successful in getting the role of Body Part #27 or not, Rogan enjoyed our wee foray into the world of casting, and happily regaled his pals in the playground with his adventures, probably convinced he is the next Johnny Depp or Orlando Bloom. Meanwhile I can see that at this rate I’m going to have to start a sideline of inserting horses heads into producer’s beds** if I’m ever going to make headway into the movie business.

* See Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments

The Godfather

While Rogan and I were at the dump this afternoon, putting out a car-load of cans, bottles and cardboard for recycling, Maggie took the call to say they weren't going to use us as extras. Apparently they were rather taken with a 6 year old who looked cuter and more vulnerable for the part of the kid.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


A couple of months ago I heard about an opportunity to submit a short film script and apply to join a pool for emerging talent in Scottish film. I wrote a script, filled in the application form and sent it off.

I haven’t heard back yet, but the process did bring me into contact with the South West Scotland Screen Commission, based in Dumfries, the upshot of which is that I’m now on the mailing list of film related things going on in this corner of Scotland.

Anyway, it turns out that a film company are going to be shooting in this corner of Scotland in the New year and require extras for a number of roles in the film. They’re looking for:

Males aged between 19 – 60s, Eastern European looking
Females aged between 20s – 50s, Eastern European looking
Young boy aged 11-12, Eastern European looking
1 Man aged 30s – Able to speak Serbian
Fit men 20s – 40s, meant to be professional soldiers

There’s a casting session this Wednesday evening in Dumfries so I thought it might be fun to go along, and as Rogan’s 11 he wants to come too.

Could this be our first step towards superstardom?

I doubt it - neither of us speak Serbian or are particularly Eastern European looking, and I’m certainly not fit enough to look like a professional soldier, but maybe we could be bodies in the background.

It might be a bit of a laugh, and an excuse for a few blog entries, but chances are I’ll be writing on Thursday about how they were unable to recognise star potential when we were right in front of their eyes.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Sunrise Wholefoods

“Before you take your coat off, just nip across to the health food shop to get some eggs will you?” asked Maggie as Meg pushed her way past me into the house, dropping her schoolbag in my path and kicking her wellies off. I put my gloves back on and strode off down the road.

As I reached the till, eggs in hand, a rather nice unbleached cotton bag was placed in front of me. “For you,” I was told.

Sunrise Wholefoods- the finest health food shop in South West ScotlandI looked up quizzically. Was this part of a Christmas promotion? I didn’t really need a bag for only one box of eggs.

“My computer’s been offline for some time,” she continued. “I finally got it working again and did a Google search on the shop…”

Sunrise Wholefoods

It appears that my blog entry, Carrier Bag Etiquette, is on the second page.


It’s been quite a while since I last blushed.

I’ve suspected for some time that blogging under my own identity has the potential for embarrassing encounters.

Did I mention what wonderful people they are in Sunrise Wholefoods? Great selection of products, personal service and infinitely better value than Tesco.

Nice bags too.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Spirit of Christmas...

2 weeks to go so today the decorations are dug out of the shed, the tree goes up and the kids are allowed to stick on the CDs of festive songs whenever I’m out of the room: Feastmas is upon us.

But things were not always so jolly in the Ayres household, oh no. For there was a time, only a few years back, when the season was almost lost to us altogether. Gather round the log fire, relax with a glass of Bailey’s, pass round the bowl of brazil nuts and let me tell you a tale of when logic and reason threatened us all…

When my stepdaughter, Holly, was in her mid-teens, she announced one October that she was not going to be celebrating Christmas that year, or ever again for that matter. We were not Christians and politically had socio-anarcho-greeno leanings, so the idea that we would worship consumerism in the name of a god we don’t believe in, was the height of hypocrisy.

This turned out to be extremely difficult to argue against.

Ok, we’re not Christian, but we could celebrate the midwinter solstice instead… We’re not pagans either – you’re just swapping one religion for another.

But really it’s just a time of year for the family to be together… Well we could choose a day that was significant for us rather than pay the inflated prices during the high season of a world geared up to take as much money from us as possible.

But what about the magic of Christmas for the little ones - Santa and all that…? So you want to teach Rogan and Meg that it’s ok for a complete stranger to come into their house, and that they should accept gifts from someone they don’t know, before eventually discovering that one of their finest childhood experiences was nothing but a lie fabricated by you, the very people who bang on about the importance of honesty in life.

But what about the presents…? So you want them to grow up believing consumerism is the only viable route to happiness, while overloading your house with stuff you don’t need, rarely use and simultaneously reduce the amount of money you have to put towards the really important things in life. Besides, anything you really want can be bought for half price 2 days after the event.

We lost the argument. She was right. Given our religious and political beliefs, to celebrate Christmas seemed hypocritical in the extreme.

And when it came down to it, in truth I’d been trying to avoid much of Christmas for years anyway. Bombarded with Christmas carols and Christmas paraphernalia in shops, not to mention all the Christmas adverts on TV starting from as early as September, I’d become a cynical and grumpy bastard when it came to the festive season. We rarely got round to putting up the tree and decorations before the 23rd of the month and I did my utmost to avoid thinking about it until the very last moment.

So she won. We agreed that we would abandon Christmas. We would have a quiet family day, but we wouldn’t bother with trees, presents, decorations or fat men dressed in red.

Initially we felt good about taking a hard line stance against a world gone mad with greed, marketing and acquisitions. There were inevitably going to be a few complications trying to explain to friends and relatives why we would not be exchanging cards and why they shouldn’t be sending the kids any presents, but we felt confident that we were doing the right thing.

Well, nearly confident.

As time wore on the doubts grew, and grew, and grew.

We could be as politically highbrow as we wanted, but it was Rogan and Meg who would be going without. Christmas really was a magical time when I was a child and now I was denying it to my own children. It wasn’t like we spent extravagant amounts of money on it anyway- we’d always kept quite a tight rein on the budget. I may have heard all the Christmas songs ten thousand times, but the wee ones hadn’t. And in the bleak mid-winter there was something rather comforting about bringing colour, sparkle and a little bit of magic into the house.

Instead of feeling noble, it began to feel that the whole exercise was one of negativity. We weren’t embracing some positive alternative, all we were doing was kicking against the system but running the real risk of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

So in the last 2 weeks we chickened out, back pedalling furiously against our high ideals, put up the decorations, bought some presents and stuck a school-made fairy on top of the Christmas tree. We heaved a sigh of relief, feeling that we’d almost lost something quite precious and actually gained a far better perspective on what it was important, for us, which is family being together and exchanging gifts. The gifts are not expensive – we probably spend less than 10% of the average consumer - but they are tokens of warmth and love and I don’t think anyone has ever felt hard done by.

It turns out that by keeping Christ and Consumerism out of Christmas it can actually be a very pleasant affair. I enjoy it now more than ever.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Rain, Floods and Loch Ken

For the past 40 days and 40 nights (give or take a day or 2) the weather really has been pretty lousy. Rain, wind, rain, downpours, more wind, more rain, occasional calm spells then more rain again.

As mentioned in the last post (It was a dark and stormy night) Loch Ken had burst its banks and there was a fair amount of flooding. Water levels have dropped by a metre or two since the weekend, but many fields are still completely submerged.

Loch Ken this morning - click for larger version

Thinking it would cheer me up, I was delighted to see I'd got an email from my friend Dave (see Dave and Beb are moving to Spain) this morning. It says:

Howz it going Kim?

Well we just got back from the beach, the beach in December ! Sunny, hot, tapas
by the ocean... hows Scotland


Thanks Dave...

Sunday, December 03, 2006

It was a dark and stormy night

It was a dark and stormy night. I had finished attending a storytelling workshop, held in St John’s Town of Dalry, 17 miles North of Castle Douglas. Several weeks of heavy rain and Loch Ken had burst its banks. The road home was closed.

Forced to detour many miles down back lanes I was aware the petrol warning light had been on for quite some time and the gauge was pointing at Empty.

The roads were strewn with broken twigs and fallen branches. Through the lashing rain, the glare of the headlights combined with the constant throbbing of the windscreen wipers was producing a headache of tectonic proportions.

I tried to call home but there was no signal on my mobile phone.

Several miles had passed since I last saw a house showing the slightest sign of occupation.

The scene was set for a terrible tale of calamity, misfortune and possibly death…

But as it happens every thing turned out fine. I arrived home safe and sound just in time for Maggie to dish up a warm and welcoming dinner.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Leftovers soup

This is tasty soup. What is it?

Leftovers soup.

Yesterday’s soup? I thought we finished that.

No, leftovers soup: soup made from the week’s leftovers.

The red bean pie from Monday?


The sausage stew from Tuesday?


Rice from last night?


What’s that other taste… cumin…

The falafel from Wednesday.

Wow. Nice soup.

Don’t expect it every week.

Who needs Nigella when I’m already married to a domestic goddess?