March 29, 2013
Harper has been exploring the world in her own style these past few months. We’re chronicling it all. Have I mentioned how awesome being a dad is?
January 30, 2013
Hey, I never told you this but
You know sometimes I get a little blue
Wouldn’t have nothing if I didn’t have you
Dance with me
I wouldn’t have nothin’ if I didn’t have you
I wouldn’t know where to go
Wouldn’t know what to do
I don’t have to say it
‘Cause we both know it’s true
Six years ago I began WindyHarbor.com as an homage to my screenplay series and to continue my self-reflexive internet writing endeavors. While I’ve rarely been able to afford the time to post here the past few years, I’d like to begin focusing more on my writing with what is left of 2012; a year that has been immeasurably good to me.
It goes without saying that the birth of your first child (and any child for that matter) changes your life in wonderful, inexplicable ways. Harper has been the piece I was missing all this time. She is a constant source of inspiration and a token of wonder. The birth of my daughter has completely changed my way of seeing things and she takes precedence over everything in my life. It is my hope that I can turn her immense impact and focus it into an unparalleled creative streak. We’re not talking oil on canvas. More like Christo and Jeanne-Claude, 2 miles of fabric, and a few squares miles of rural landscape.
Today, November 1 brings NaNoWriMo; the perfect opportunity to dust off a story or two I have buried on my hard drive, put a few ounces of fuel in them, and see where they go. I have the utmost determination to get these stories back on the road, but…
My mind is drawing an absolute blank at this point.
A powerful new drive to write, miles of blank paper, an inspiring 12 pound, blue eyed, chubby cheeked muse, and I honestly can’t figure out where to start. I think I’m suffering from performance anxiety. Hence, this forward.
I blame this hiccup partially on my job, through which I do an ungodly amount of writing. I can throw together a formal ask for sponsorship at the drop of a hat, I can weave magic through a grant application, and even my archaeology reports (far and few as they are at this time) are easy as pie when I compare them to baking a few bits of fiction together. So even with the determination I have firmly grasped in my mind, I have to wonder if I can soldier on when I often spend my days sewing an entirely different sort of banner.
I’m also a bit nervous to see my characters again. It’s been almost three years since I’ve played in a few of my sandboxes and I’m afraid I’m out of touch with the heroes and heroines I’ve created. We’re like friends who went off to college and now three years later we meet for the first time. It’s just awkward.
So for what it’s worth, to my characters, I’m sorry. I never called, I never wrote, and I don’t have a single good excuse. But it shouldn’t matter because we’ve been through it all. We’re cut from the same cloth you and I and whatever is sitting between us it’s nothing we can’t hash out with a few hours in a quiet room. Besides, three years apart, we’re bound to have plenty to catch up on. I’ve got a hundred stories and there are a dozen or so of you; the loner, the stoner, the damsel, the vengeful, the victim, and so on. Surely you’ve got tales from these past few years. Let’s start there. Who is first?
And before I know it, I’m settled. I can see my path, where it starts and where it can lead. The words are flowwing once again.
I can hear it now: my muse is calling. She speaks to me in soft babel and melodic coos. It’s not the next page or the next paragraph. My muse is speaking… and she wants her bottle.
Today Channel Four announced that Time Team would cease to be broadcast after Series 20, which goes out early next year. So what went right? How come we managed to keep a big-budget TV series on the nation’s free-view screens for twenty years? That’s an extraordinary achievement. Time Team has been the longest-running archaeological series in the history of television. There’s going to be a documentary about the history of Time Team, which is currently being filmed, so I don’t want to pre-empt any of its conclusions, but it’s essentially a story of humble origins, steady growth, a huge flourishing – what could be bigger than a synchronised ‘live’ dig at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and Holyrood House – and a rather sad, if mercifully short, decline, which reached its worst in Series 19. I’ll talk about the decline shortly, but first a few words about why I think Time Team worked so well for so long.I think the main reason is simple, like the idea at the programme’s heart. Time Team is a true reality show: it reflects the real world of a true-life excavation. Thousands of smaller versions of Time Team happen every year in the world of commercial archaeology. These rapid, often small-scale excavations are known as assessments and they’re the first stage that any developer has to go through ahead of a major scheme, such as a housing estate, new road or gravel pit. After that first investigation, there’s often a larger-scale rescue excavation which focuses on areas of interest revealed by the assessment. So, claims often made by some hostile academics, that our three-day format is somehow false, are simply not true. And for what it’s worth, I fear that already hard-pressed university archaeology departments will find fewer students enrolling for their courses, once Time Team is no longer on our screens.The simple three-day format worked well because it was conceived by an archaeologist (Mick Aston) and a film-maker (Tim Taylor) who had, and still has, a deep interest in archaeology. So its roots, its very heart and soul, lie within real-world, hands-on, practical archaeology. That’s the original format’s greatest strength. Then, in 1999, we were able to persuade Tim and Channel 4 to make the first of their documentaries (at the time they were known as ‘specials’), which departed from the strict 3-day format. This one was on the Early Bronze Age timber circle at Holme-next-the-Sea, in Norfolk, today known to the world as Seahenge. There have been many more made since then, but few have been bettered. I can’t think why my wife Maisie wasn’t offered a job in feature films by MGM. Trouble is, she’d have turned them down. But I digress.As the years rolled by, Time Team became bigger and bigger, with more people and personalities. In some respects this was good, as it meant we could take on more ambitious subjects and do them justice, but it also meant that each programme had to be more tightly scripted. So spontaneity, especially as regards what was happening hour-by-hour in the trenches, began to be lost. By Series 19 there was scarcely a scene shot of anything actually coming out of the ground. This so disgusted Mick Aston that he walked off. I should add that matters had not been improved by Channel 4 who made a number of inexplicable changes to transmission times and for two or three series failed to provide any advance publicity. All in all, the scheduling of the last few series was a mess.I would have walked off with Mick, as I still have sympathy with him, but I believed the assurances I was given by the Producers, that the prime focus would return to archaeology. I have to say I did have a few remaining doubts, but decided to give them one more chance. Thankfully, that first shoot – at a hillfort in Wales – was just like old times: lots of archaeology and no superfluous, silly ‘history’ scenes. And the remaining five episodes I filmed were, I think, first rate. And that was in great part due to the efforts of Jim Mower, the Development Producer (also an archaeologist), who arranged a great succession of sites for us. The Machine Gun Corps training camp, the copper mine in Cumbria and the Roman Saxon Shore Fort were outstanding. It’s a terrible shame that the programme rediscovered its roots too late. But at least we can say we sank with our heads held high. The orchestra was playing in the dining salon, as the waters lapped at our chins. I knew it was a mistake to trowel-through the hull.And the future – is there one? Channel Four have announced that they will commission 4 or 5 Time Team documentaries in 2013 and there are plans afoot to re-invent the format on a smaller scale on the internet. But unless something miraculous happens I’m afraid that’s it – certainly for the time-being.And what are my plans? With luck I’ll take part in one of the documentaries, but I’m being leant on by the nice people at Penguin to produce the book I should have delivered last May, were it not for Series 20. So I’ll be getting back to what I enjoy most of all: writing. And of course this blog will continue, getting ever-more testy, ill-considered and intemperate as the weeks, months and years roll by. I can hardly wait – can you?