Month: January 2012

The After-Effect of Paul McKenna – and Relearning Skills

The strange thing about having Paul McKenna hypnotise me to get me writing again was that my creative power was out of control. I had this unregulated emotion to write, which over the last 4 years I have been honing into a skill. I have just finished rewriting The Tube Healer – the story I wrote after he worked on me. I have to say that I am now satisfied with this. It took time to relearn the skill. It is better than it ever was, now.

This I think is really important in the work you do with hypnosis and NLP. What it does is switch on the desire to do what you want to do again. It doesn’t necessarily make you brilliant at it – it doesn’t teach you the skills. But it gives you the emotional drive to be fascinated enough to want to improve – to work with the skills that you have – and to improve them over time.

There is still hard work to be done after being motivated by NLP. It is just that after it, you feel that the work you are doing is not hard. It is enjoyable. That is my experience of the way NLP works.

This, I think is one of the key things that people leaving Prac courses don’t get: that there is still a whole load of application, skill building and work to be done after the course. You may believe that you are a genius at NLP, but you will also need to build up and acquire real experience before you become really competent at it.

What you have learned is a whole series of attitudes and beliefs that will help you on that journey.

Audition With The Three Belles More Than I Expected

Yesterday I had the most interesting, amazing and slightly bizarre experience. After years of doing no acting whatsoever, I went for an audition with the lovely Three Belles.

The Three Belles, doing their thing

For those of you who don’t know them yet, The Three Belles are a retro / vintage singing group who formed at Portsmouth Uni.  Ambitious, smart, funny and very focussed, they have gone on to make their livings from gigging all over the country.  And in Portsmouth Guildhall later this year, they are going to take the show to the next level, with a full evening of dance and musical entertainment from the 1940s.  Which means they need character actors to fill in and add to the feel of the night.

Hence the audition.

For me, it was the strangest thing to be doing.  I haven’t done any acting for over 25 years, and I had no idea what to expect of myself.  At the audition, there were plenty of young, talented people who really knew their stuff, and could dance and sing.  Like Tom, with his beard and his charming smile,  Tamzin with  her big red hair,  Sophie with trim figure and a kind of marvellous presence, and the effervescent Nathalie – who is producing Die Fledermaus at the King’s Theatre.

The set piece I did for the audition, went okay, I think.  But then there was the recall.  I learned a lot about myself in that recall.  I learned I am completely unafraid of making an arse of myself, which came as a surprise.  I found that I really enjoyed myself immensely.  And I also discovered that I really need to work more on improvisation in a group setting.  It’s in me – it’s just getting hold of it quickly.  That is something I’m going to have to really work on.

It was also a massive discovery to see The Three Belles running an audition.  Wow.  There’s a reason those women (I keep calling them “girls” but it’s just wrong.) are making a go of their careers in singing and acting.  It’s because they are serious and deeply dedicated to it.

For anyone looking at how people who get on really do it, there are massive lessons to be learned from those three.  As for the lessons I learned, whether I get a part or not, I have decided:

  1. I will act more
  2. I will learn to improvise more – that is a weakness I’ve got.
  3. I have so much to learn from those other actors.
  4. I will write more stories about The Three Belles (I have already written a novella about them)

Watch this space for more news on how the show progresses – if I am lucky enough to be picked!

The Tube Healer – An Opening

The Tube Healer
Matt Wingett

1. Above and Below

Someone that pretty shouldn’t have to cry.

Those are the very words Gary thinks just before the transformation.

He admires her elegance, her pouting lips and long dark hair, and creases his brow at her sorrowful face. He notes her tears with special interest, then with his lower lip jutting a little, considers the 8-month-gone bump. It makes him feel a pang of his own sorrow. He wonders what it means.

He thinks: The tube is the most private place for public grief: the way we all travel drawn in on ourselves. Zombies lolling against each other at rush hour. Exhaling “scooz” quietly as we push by.

After a few seconds, he notices another man is also watching her. Gary doesn’t get sight of him properly, but senses an interaction between the other man and the crying woman. Then, as he watches, something happens. It’s like a moment of acknowledgement between them, and – right there – the first miracle happens. Among the crammed flesh in the tunnelled underworld, a new future offers itself for the woman to take.

She stops weeping in a moment, and from her smiling mouth a peel of laughter rings out across the carriage: big, rich and joyous, a bubbling fountain bursting from her body. Her eyes turn from iron grey to sky blue. All in an instant of surprised transformation.

Gary sits back for a moment, unsure what is going on – but realises that something has just happened. He stands and pushes through the crush to take a closer look at her. He feels like the photographic negative of witness at a crash scene. Where once there was a body trapped in a wreck, now there is a person sitting and laughing in dazed joy.

He leans close to her. “What happened to you?” He asks, fixing her with piercing eyes.

She looks up at him with shining blue irises. “Did you see him?” she asks. “Did you?”

Gary looks around to see that the object of her gaze is already walking from the train, out through the sliding doors, turning into a shadow in the underground.

“What happened?” he asks again, bewildered

“I don’t know,” she says, laughing once more. Puzzled, Gary steps towards the doors, but they slide shut in his face. Peering through the glass on to the platform he can see a shape, indistinct among the other indistinct shapes. An army coat, he thinks, and long hair.

This is his first experience of the phenomenon that will come to be known as the Tube Healer.

And The Next Version Of The Cover For The Tourist – by Matt Wingett

Well, now I am a little tired of all the re-designs I’ve made for this cover, so this is going to be the last one. Having had to replicate a series of effects I had done on an earlier image, I then saved the Photoshop doc as a thumbnail size, and can’t reverse it.  So, if I want to make further changes, I will have to go back to the original document and replicate the changes again… Enough!  This will do for now!

The Latest Design of the cover - which was far more trouble than I expected!
The Latest Design of the cover - which was far more trouble than I expected!

A Cover for The Tourist – A Portsmouth Horror Story

Below you’ll find the provisional front cover of my latest e-book – The Tourist. This is a freebie that I’m giving away, and is a ghost story set around Portchester Castle. I found the engraving in a pile of pictures I bought at auction, and thought a little bit of colouring would be absolutely perfect!

The Tourist Cover
Put together from an engraving of Portchester Castle, from 1772

A New Southsea Gothic Story – First Draft

Below is the first draft of the opening to a story provisionally entitled “The Snow Witch” I am writing.  Will let youknow how it goes!

The Snow Witch

The musician blows in one winter night, as the weather is at its most severe. That is why no-one sees her arrive.

She is a violinist with a distinctly exotic look. Beneath a shawl like an Eastern European gipsy, she walks in heavy furlined boots through the snow, the ermine edging of her skirt tumbling over the drifts like little winter creatures at play. Her face is a delta of narrowed chin and wideset eyes above a fine, straight nose and emotionless mouth – a line that forever promises to turn upwards but does so only rarely. The hair that pokes from beneath her white fur hat is long and straight – and dark as the winter night. Tall and lissom, she holds a violin in her right hand, and where she walks she leaves a trail of thawing snow behind her, as if she is so used to the cold that she keeps a fire stoked in her soul as its natural counterpoint.

The following day, she sets up outside an empty shop on Palmerston Road – and as people hurry by, huddled against the bitter air, she lets out from that tropical wood a stream of long, sinewy, sensual notes that flutter upwards into the winter light. She plays bewildering melodies with dips and turns and something quite alien and Eastern in them, melodies that make one or two of the locals wonder if she might perhaps be a refugee from a country with a deep, sorry history – an extreme terrain with snowclad mountains and hot dusty plains.

There is something in that music. When people hear it, it even seems that for a moment the sunshine breaks out from behind a snow cloud, and the trees shake off their white dusting in the sudden gust of warm wind that swirls around them. It is as if the sound holes in her violin are windows onto another island in another sea far warmer than that around Portsea – hot air rushing through.

As she plays, a child skips by to the noise, and an elderly lady recalling something in that melody of childhood, takes a slide on the ice with a deftness that speaks of childish delight long before the osteoporotic danger of broken hips and cracked bones and blueing bumps ever filled her mind.

At home later that day, the old lady will smile to her empty room, and with a kind of youngster’s joy in her heart, declare the house “open” – inviting neighbours and their children to come and play, and baking a cake to take it to her neighbours.

During that unusually cold winter in which the snow is piled up on the shore, and beachbound snowmen stand in pebbledashed ranks on the shingle beach like a frozen amphibious invasion force, it seems the thaw has started.

Still the musician plays – sending up into the air little notes from the chestnut box of her violin, and turning the notes, it seems, into a blizzard of sunshine.

It is a fluke of the weather that when she stops in the darkening afternoon, as the shadows gather, that the snow starts to fall again, piling up higher on that whiteness, and making a scrunch scrunch beneath her feet. Then she is gone, her fingers icy cold, her fiddle a block of icy granite in her hand.  She will start again the next day.


Nobody knows where the violinist goes to at nights. True, over the following evenings she appears in pubs, stepping in with her trademark graceful presence and inner calm, causing locals to stop a moment and drink her in. A fine line to her jaw and large dark eyes, she is framed with a border of hair as ebony as the neck of her violin, her light brown skin a kind of caramel to savour. But afterwards? Nobody knows.

In The Barleymow on Great Southsea Street, that funny 1930s utility pub with its high windows, a local asks her “if she plays that thing” and once again she raises it to her chin and begins to send magic into the air.

In The King Street Tavern, she joins the Irish Session and weaves in a sumptuous series of harmonies to the Irish jigs and reels.  A chorus of tweets flutters through the twittersphere pulling pale hordes of Uni students in, until the landlord is prompted to speak closely with her, urging her with his boyish smile to come back again.

In the RMA Tavern at the far end of the long beach that fronts the island of Portsea onto the south sea she meets Riley. Riley of the dark eyes, who looks her up and down, drinking in her skin and her notes, and feeling a sense of hunger in his body, a yearning to possess her that burns like a fire inside. When she leaves in the black night he follows her out, tracing her melted steps in the fresh snow – until they seem to vanish, suddenly into nothing – ending at a roadside and not appearing on the other side. He stands swaying on his feet, a lot drunk and a little angry and promises himself that he will have her. Yes. He will have her. He thinks it again, saying out loud to the snow in the air with a kind of frustrated ferocity. I will have her!

Then he turns, and heads back to the pub, where his guitar is waiting for him, next to a pint. As he walks, he notices the icy white powder tingling his nose as it settles on it, and remembers the little twist of cocaine in his pocket. It reminds him to pay a visit to the toilets. A little snort his solace at losing his quarry in the snow.

The Arts Council – Your Local Artistic Banker? – Portsmouth Writer Hub January 11th 2012

On Wednesday January 11th, Portsmouth Writer Hub at The New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth was visited by John Prebble, from the Arts Council South East, to talk about that “strange, confusing beast” (as one writer put it) – Arts Council Funding .

From the outset, the context John set to his talk was businesslike and down to earth. He pointed out that his job title was “Relationship Manager, Literature”, that the only other “Relationship Manager” he knew of was involved in banking, and, just like in banking, there would be a lot of form-filling before money was released.

Even his remit, “Great Art For Everyone”, was a slogan that would fit nicely on a mug, he said, cupping an imaginary one in his hands and holding it for all to “see”.  With this idea of merchandise pervading his thinking, it was no surprise to hear the  word “product” to describe the outcome of the work – even if he did use it a little tentatively lest he might offend the artists in the room.

John explained it was his job to get money to people with good ideas – but those good ideas had to be well-formed with a clear time-frame, ending point and outcome.

Although finance and business was implicit in the language he was using, John was explicit about what the funding was not for: “If you can afford to support your own writing project, you need not apply,” he said. A grant is not Working Tax Credit to top up your writing income.  The money paid out by the Arts Council is to support projects that otherwise wouldn’t fly because the artist is short on time and/or money.  So, in some ways it’s a bit like the old patronage system that 17th Century writers like Milton enjoyed.

John then went on to explain that there were four main criteria by which applications would be judged: Artistic Quality, Public Engagement, Management and Finance.

Looking at each of these in turn, the first is either vague and subjective or completely self-explanatory, depending on your perspective.

“I’m not saying that public art should be easy.  But if it isn’t easy, it should at least be engaging.”

The second, “Public Engagement”, John explained, did not necessarily mean a numbers game.  It might mean getting at a few people who would not normally be engaged by arts – and who would benefit from it.  For example, a book of poetry is not going to get out to as many people as a popular play. This criterion is really there to require the writer to acknowledge that he or she has an audience and isn’t  writing in a vacuum.

The third in the list, “Management”, really means showing a plan of how the project will be managed, and the fourth, Finance,  requires the applicant to show where the money will be spent.

There are other things that the Art Council looks for in applications.  Is the work innovative?  Is it collaborative? (This was something that John recognised might not apply to writers)  Does it have objective endorsement?  What other funding streams does the project have – including the writer’s own input?  Does the writer have a track record?

With all these considerations, we were taken back to the business paradigm.  It is exactly these evaluations that an entrepreneur will make when backing a business idea.  It was interesting to me to see this business-like attitude applied to the Arts, and, to be frank, quite refreshing.

“None of this otherworldliness emanated from John.”

Now I’m going to get on my hobby horse for two paragraphs, so bear with me.  As someone who is at times suspicious of worthy arts projects, I have a nose for bullshit.  For example, the Ultrasaurus, part of the Luna Park installation which graced Southsea Common in 2010  was a wonderful statue.  However, it came with a great big pile of… well, I guess it was dinosaur shit… which comprised a badly executed plaque talking obliquely about a Serbian village. Struck by how this plaque had  failed either to entertain or inform, I went looking for further information and ended up enduring the grindingly boring Luna Park video installation at Aspex Gallery.  It was unwatchable, as the tumbleweed blowing across the room testified. I give that part of the project nul points for Public Engagement – unlike the statue, which was brill.

I’m not saying that public art should be easy.  But if it isn’t easy, it should at least be engaging.  The surrounding materials for Luna Park were, I would say, deliberately obscure in their presentation. It’s never eddifying to see a great idea disappearing up its own, albeit large, reptilian and muscular, back end. That project was Arts Council funded.

There, hobby horse now dismounted.  None of this otherworldliness emanated from John.  He was clear about the purpose of the grants the Arts Council gives out.  His work is designed to support writers who would otherwise not be able to get their work produced.  It is not his job to support commercial projects, but if one of the projects he supports is a commercial success, then that is good for everyone.  For me, this was a really interesting evening.

The public art concept is not something I have considered before, and I won’t be rushing to fill in my form.

But it will be in the back of my mind should the context arise. Thank you Portsmouth Writer Hub.

For further information about Arts Council funding, go to:


Anti-Pasti League

The question the quizmaster asked at the Leopold pub down Albert Road tonight was (I am pretty sure):

“What Nazi used to make pesto sauce.”

Should have been “nuts are” but Pompey diction can be poor.

The answer? Well, all suggestions are gratefully received. A free e-book to the winner!