Wednesday, 1 February 2012

The Collins Review of January

I plan to do these Round Ups every month. Knowing my ability to keep on top of things, that'll mean this is the only one we ever see. But if you all pester Gavin Mills and Jon Arnold to pester me to keep up with them, maybe not!


Sad news to start everyone off in January, I'm afraid. Mandy's gran, Theresa Steel, died January 3rd after a short battle with pneumonia. At the funeral, the Humanist quoted me (thanks to Mandy) as saying she was "some woman". Had I know I was to be quoted, I'd have produced a longer quote: "She was a hell of a woman." When we saw her in the hospital in her final hours, she was disorientated, but still managed to get in a few good lines - her summing up the visitation of her entire accounted for family in the one hospital room with her was "Am I dying then?" Even after they took the oxygen mask off, she managed to survive on for another two hours, in a performance that would have done a Barton proud. She had the whole lot of us at her bedside when the time came.

I remember the last time I saw her before, which I am afraid, due to her increasing frailness (she suffered from Charcot-Marie Tooth, you see) was at my wedding. Some rotter had gatecrashed the event and was saying mean things about Mandy. Her gran gave them a stare which could melt a supernova, said "That is my granddaughter" and the miscreants never troubled us again.

Terri worked as an auxiliary nurse in a geriatric ward for the mentally ill for years. Then, after her retirement, she became carer for an elderly neighbour for a decade, solely so the neighbour didn't have to leave her home and go into a care home.

She was a formidable and often terrifying woman, yet when my grandfather died, she and Karen Anne were first on the scene to check up on me and Mandy.

She was an absolutely lovely soul, who deserved more than her seventy one years, and whose influence and presence extended beyond the times she was merely in the room with you. We will all miss her dreadfully.


Interesting fact I learnt this month: Sophia Loren was once related to Benito Mussolini, through her sisters marriage to the dictators son.


The Short Humour Site has taken some more of my rambling short daft pieces.

The Mummy Long Legs is a poem, about campers taking on wildlife, and losing. I thought it would make a good childrens piece, but apparently whilst I thought my Dahl influence was Matilda, it was actually Skin. Ah well.

Man's Best Friend is a vignette in the life of a very familiar horror film told from the point of view of an unfamiiar source. I call it a vignette, as the story kind of fell away from me. It may lead to more in the future, like all Short Humours. Or we may laugh at the outline and realise nothing ever came of it.

Combustura Subitus is, in the words of Jim Steel, "a very good story" and he is not a many to lie. There's always a problem with miracle cures. Admittedly, this might be a bit of a drastic one.

What's The Time Mr Wolf is again a vignette. A better writer might have strung ten thousand words out of the scenario, but here, the topic wanted merely a brief exposure. That's the problem with stories. They have lives of their own.

At Dads Funeral isn't new, but given recent events, I found it quite appropriate. They say its quite dangerous when a writer laughs at his own work. Well, given the amount of funerals we've had to go to in recent years, an amusing look at the type of scrapes a family completely not like mine at all (honest) could have got into at the events, taken to their most ludicrous extremes, was fairly needed.


Have heard through the grapevine that one of the Tory bigwigs (read, not of Camerons lot, or Maggie) is seriously ill with cancer, but continuing to work on despite it. Not a fan of Tories since Super Mac stopped being PM, really, but cancer is a hideous illness I wouldn't wish on anyone, and I like to think health is a devolved matter from political affiliation, so best wishes to the Lord and his.


Tom and Sam's latest podcast is out. On Star Wars, Wikipedia, SOPA, citations and The Simpsons. A recommended listen.

As is Gavin Mills new blog, except you'd be reading and not listening. Unless you get someone to read it to you, which might be a useful experience!


Michael's top ten most listened to tracks of the month, in no particular order:

Andy Williams - The Impossible Dream/Moon River
Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Titch - Hold Tight
Jimmy Nail - Ain't No Doubt
Johnny Cash - Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream
Kinks - Death of a Clown/Animal Farm
Paul McCartney - Band on the Run
Pulp - Death Comes to Town
Simon and Garfunkel - I Am A Rock
Simply Red - Moneys Too Tight to Mention
Soul Asylum - Runaway Train
The Seekers - The Carnival is Over
The Divine Comedy - Bang Goes the Knighthood

Fourteen is smaller than ten, right? (Says he who failed Higher Maths)


As you might have guessed, I love a lot of things over a wide variety of areas. Writing, acting, music, to name but three. The problem with having such a wide range of interests means that people involved in those interests die on a fairly regular basis. So sticking to the Toby Hadoke tradition of a moments notice when those things happen:

In Memoriam (January 2012)

Larry Reinhardt (1948-2012), Iron Butterfly guitarist
Charles W Bailey (1928-2012), co-writer of Seven Days in May.
Harry Fowler (1926-2012), British actor (Doctor Who, The Army Game)
Frederica Sagor Maas (1900-2012), silent era Hollywood screenwriter
Bob Holness (1928-2012), the host of Blockbusters.
Bill Dickie (1929-2012), SFA President 1993-7, Motherwell VP
John McCarthy (c1950 - 2012), Irish mental health rights campaigner
Miljan Miljanic (1930-2012), Real Madrid and Yugoslavian national team manager
Johnny Otis (1921-2012) Legendary American singer.
Etta James (1938-2012) Singer
Jenny Tomasin (1936-2012) Actress (Upstairs, Downstairs)
Dick Tufeld (1926-2012) American voice actor (Lost in Space robot)
James Farentino (1938-2012), Actor
Alex Eadie (1920-2012) Labour MP, junior Energy minister 1974-9
Oscar Luigi Scalfaro (1918-2012) Italian President 1992-9

May they all rest in peace.


On happier notes, here is a short review of Planet Dinosaur:

Wahay!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Bloody brilliant!!!!!!!!!!

Without enough exclamation marks to get one banned from most writing circles for life.

I used to think Cat was joking when she said some TV had been made specifically for her. Now I know what she meant.

Daspletosaurus hunted in packs! This changes a massive part of my childhood.


The second part of Duncan Lunan's interview is out at last.

For those interested in the three part series I wrote for the same magazine on The Rise of the Supernatural (and by wrote for, read: lifted from my utterly failed dissertation), you can find that here:

That interview has been used to fill  up Duncan's Wiki entry, though by who we don't know, as neither I or Joe, the editor, have a clue how to edit Wikipedia.

This did lead to my first Wikipedia citation though, which was dreadfully exciting.

And the follow quote about me being cited, from one of the editors - "the citations are atrocious" - which amused me a lot.

Twitter comment of the month:

CewshReviews Cewsh Reviews
@m_s_collins Yes yes, rub it in. Stupid Brits and their stupid winning Royal Rumbles.

(yes, the Cewsh Reviews Rumble article bet was won! And yes, I am very, very smug.)


Finally, the health update. I put this at the bottom so that people who don't wish to see it can avoid it. It twigged to me that if I did write that massive blog on Depression, and it did seem to touch so many people (surprisingly), then I ought to touch base - after all, these things don't leave us.

So how have I been in January. Well, one unkind way of putting it would be...rather shit. I had a very long (three months!) dose of the flu last year, which, coupled with my asthma issues and the cold snap, has weakened me considerably.

You gain one thing and lose another. So I can now cook, when Mandy is in the room, a con carne style dish of rice, mince, onion and garlic, and it is lovely, and healthy. The flipside is I have lost all ability to go outside on my own. Balance issues coupled with severe social phobia leave me unable to take even the smallest steps outside without hanging onto Mandy for dear life. Last Sunday, we went to the shops - it took ten minutes and felt like a marathon. It was the first time I'd been out in a fortnight.

I've spent most of that time writing. I figured if you are stuck with one thing you CAN do, you might as well attack it like the devil, or else what more can you do but wait out eternity? Twenty-thousand words written in January, with several projects drafted entirely. I owe it all to  my most supportive wife and friends (who keep in touch via text and the internet even when I don't get to see them as much) and stubborn bloody mindedness.

It's that same stubborn bloody mindedness that is going to get me better. Eventually. Unless of course, the job centres fears this issue was deteriorative are true. But don't think of bad possibilities till they are breaking news.

Changing Doctors too. Six months ago the psychologist wanted me checked out for a few things. Not happened yet. Mandy not convinced the old place was the right place for me, so off to a new place. It's all very tiring.

To sum up: I'll list the things I told folk about under marks out of 10.

 Listlessness - 6
- Memory trouble 9
- The "Nobody Likes You" issue 10
- Severe social anxiety/panic 10
- Confidence issues 10
- Stress/Temper 9
- Balance/co-ordination 9
- Psychosomatic Symptoms  7
- Insomnia 10
- Concentration 8
- Suicidal Thoughts 8
- "You're Going to DIe" 9

Which gives me the utterly unscientific score for January of 107/120. Still, there will be better months, when fewer friends or family die, one would hope.


So there goes the first Monthly Update. Will there be more? Time will tell.

If you've been affected by any moments in tonights blog, feel free to leave a comment in the box below.

Later issues might even have more of the actual writing stuff. That'd be nice.

Remember to check out Great Work by Other Writers. There are only three people in there just now, but that list will grow. I know some great stories by Jim Steel but the internet has eaten them up, unless someone shows me how to use the Google Cache machine thing. There are also some other great writers I've come across lately I plan to add in. If you ARE a great writer, introduce us all to your work. The worst you'll get is constructive criticism. Or fans.

And this was the Michael that was.

As Lemmy says, "The trick to staying alive is to keep breathing". So let none of us give up.