Category Archives: Banging on about… the Arts

Bullseye! Look at what we could have won…

“That’ll kill you,” I cheerfully called out to the car parking attendant at the Covid-19 Vaccination Hub as he lit up a surreptitious cigarette on the side of the road. No doubt attuned to the futility of my off the cuff remark, he ignored me and kept his stare on the argumentative pair of security guards who were at it hammer and tongs down at the security gates.

“If you don’t like the fucking job why don’t you just fuck off?” remonstrated an elderly man heatedly to his younger colleague who was no slouch when it came to returning the insults. I missed the rest of the barbed comments between them as I turned the corner and entered the inner sanctum of the Hub: a long queue of hopefuls and sorrowfuls were stretched out in front of me, all waiting our turn for what we fervently hoped would be our promise of happier days ahead.

The inner sanctum had in a previous life been the hallowed ground of the Central TV studios where the ITV gameshow, Bullseye, was produced. Mixing general knowledge questions with darts, Bullseye was fronted by its once famous compère, Jim Bowen, who used to encourage his participants with several catchphrases: “Super Smashing Great” (although he disputed he ever said that); they’d receive their “BFH: Bus Fare Home” if they gambled but lost; “Keep out of the black and in the red; nothing in this game for two in a bed” referred to how contestants would have to avoid hitting the dart board in the same place twice; and perhaps the biggest killer catch phrase of all time, particularly in these Covid-sensitised times, “Look at what you could have won!”.

There was plenty of time to think about the irony of a site of a popular TV quiz game turning into a mass Vaccination Hub where the only prizes were of the Oxford / AstroZeneca or the Pfizer variety because the queue wended its way slowly into and around and through the studios.

There was no random throwing of darts into an outsize dartboard though; just the careful and attentive work of many NHS staff and volunteers, ensuring we were all focused on one common purpose: our salvation and wishes for better days for our friends, families, communities and nations after the disasters of 2020.

Look at what we could have won. You just had to read the news on your phone or in your newspaper to catch up with the recent mortality figures. 121,000 and still counting inthe UK; unimaginable numbers across the planet.

But for all the solemnity and patience of the queue, the ability of the staff to react swiftly to an ever changing situation was remarkable: one young lad with diabetes was brought through the Hub at pace. He’d been struggling but his carers were dealing with it swiftly, directly and with the minimum of drama or game show pizazz.

It was one tiny insight into the myriad of struggles that people here, across the country, across the world, have been enduring over the last year. “Look at what you could have won!” I nearly called out to the car park attendant on my way out but thought better of it. He was enjoying his cigarette in the warm early Spring afternoon air and didn’t need any more reminders of what is just around the corner.

Game, set and match: Janice Owen reads Confessions of an Ageing Tennis Player for Mothering Sunday.

To celebrate mothers and their impact of tennis players of the future, Janice Owen reads Confessions of an Ageing Tennis Player

Janice is a mother, writer and an ageing tennis player. Living in the village of Beetham as a small child her fascination for tennis was lured by the grass court at the big house which was very much a private court. Curiosity killed the cat in the summer of 1969 when her primary school class was invited to play croquet and have homemade lemonade on the adjacent lawn. She thought it was all very proper and very nice.

Janice’s grand slams were truly focussed on her father’s garage door where she practised and played against the her tennis opponents of the day in the 1970’s. Her mother’s objections to such activities led to quicker returns and an improved back hand. A family friend, John Ladell, realising her potential, gave her his own racquet, a gift treasured to this day.

Great tennis players of her school, and village club, Arnside, took court priority but that did not deter her spirit. Seeking out lessons she sought to modify her self taught bad tennis habits at the village club and appreciate the more competent players of every age.

Her grand slam and croquet techniques were later transferred to the squash courts and hockey pitches. As a mother she continued garage door grand slamming, she was the best solo player. Teaching her three sons to play and having matches on a sloping driveway, not ideal but great fun.

Today alongside her ageing but much loved tennis racquet she is the proud owner of a croquet set. Her continuing love of hockey, and the speed of ice hockey sit alongside her ambition to grand slam in walking tennis.

Whilst Mothering Sunday is special, some mothers are isolated from their children through estrangement. 50% of all donations received by 23 March will be made to MATCH, the charity supporting Mothers Apart from Their Children.

Confessions of an Ageing Tennis Player: all episodes now available on YouTube

In light of the very difficult times we’re all facing, I shall now be putting out every single episode of ‘Confessions’  on the YouTube, so If you stick with it, you’ll hear the whole book in its entirety!

Episode 1: Warm Up: One day I will play Roger Federer at Wimbledon and probably beat him.

First Set: how to Play Tennis.

Episode 2: First Game: How to deal with the irritation of 13 year olds on the other side of the net.

Episode 3: Second Game: How to Enjoy Net Play.

Episode 4: Third Game: How to Fly Solo in a Doubles Pair

Episode 5: Fourth Game: How to Play Percentage Tennis.

See the full campaign here.

Confessions of an Ageing Tennis Player: it’s your go!

Hi Y’all!

Hope you’re keeping well in these very difficult times! In the next few weeks of the Tennis Player campaign, I’m offering you the opportunity to become the tennis player you always wanted to be!

Just imagine you’ve become your favourite tennis player, write me a short blog about you as whoever it is, and I’ll post it along with the promotional video! It can be as long or as short as you like!

And if you fancy reading the script of the promotional video, just email me at richardnyowen@msn.com and I’ll help you sort it out.

Keep safe!

Confessions of an Ageing Tennis Player: ‘May I Be The First’ played by Robert Coyne

This year, I’m planning to give Confessions of an Ageing Tennis Player a major re-boot by publishing it with Troubadour books.  I’ve been fortunate to meet a Derby based illustrator, Paul Warren, who has provided a fantastic set of images for the book which you can see on the campaign page here.

I’ve also been very lucky to involve the work of Kevin Coyne and his two sons, Robert and Eugene, all of whom are also donating tracks.

Robert  plays guitar, bass, keyboards, drums and sings. For this campaign, he has donated ‘May I Be The First’.

He and Eugene appeared on some of Kevin’s recordings including Tough And Sweet (1993) and Sugar Candy Taxi (1999). As a guitarist and multi-instrumentalist, Robert eventually joined Kevin’s band and contributed to several further albums, including Room Full of Fools (2000), Carnival (2002), Donut City (2004) and One Day In Chicago (2005, with Jon Langford and the Pine Valley Cosmonauts).

You can see more about his work here.

Confessions of an Ageing Tennis Player: read by Candace Lott.

This year, I’m planning to give Confessions of an Ageing Tennis Player a major re-boot by publishing it with Troubadour books.  I’ve been fortunate to meet a Derby based illustrator, Paul Warren, who has provided a fantastic set of images for the book which you can see on the campaign page here.

I’ve also been very lucky to involve Candace Lott who has generously donated her time and skills to support the campaign.

Candace’s passion for reading, started out when she was a little girl. She loved  reading books with unique characters and a lesson weaved into each story. Reading was a clear escape to an adventure, whether she experienced a bad day at school or wanted to expand her knowledge. When Candace entered elementary school, she discovered a new love centered on writing. After high school, Candace enrolled in college and worked hard to improve her writing skills. After graduating college, it still didn’t occur to her, that she was born to be a writer. Until one day, God led Candace to her calling.

Candace is now, a ghostwriter, proofreader, freelance editor and voice-over actress.  Here, she writes about her life as a writer.

Have you ever heard that writing is an art form? Well, whoever said it, they weren’t kidding. Writing has been one of the most challenging adventures—I’ve ever signed up for. One because some days the writing process can drive you nuts. Does that word fit? Should I put this word, instead of that word? Will my audience enjoy this style of writing? Or will they hate it? What to do? I don’t know! Boo, who! And sometimes you have to start over from scratch. Because nothing works. Wowser! However, I wouldn’t change this writing phenomenon. I started writing early on as a child. Before anyone says, “how can a child understand writing?” Let me stop you! Sometimes people know early on. Sometimes you don’t get it, until you’re into your adult years. So, it has always been relevant in my life. From writing stories, poems, lyrics, plays, and now books.

The Child Writer vs. Adult Writer

The child writer vs. adult writer. Highly different. Child writer has tons of fun. No pressure. That’s my childhood experience as a novice writer. Child writer does it without second thoughts. Child writer doesn’t take him/herself too seriously. Adult writer doubts him/herself. Hyperventilates over the thought of a rejection letter. Fears judgment from others. Pours hope in receiving representation from publishers and agents. Anywho, like most things in life, if you want success and longevity, it will require much practice. Every day I write and then edit. Write and then edit—some more. The cycle continues. I am blessed to have earned both titles, writer and editor. Yay! Pretty lucky, eh? I’ll say, it serves a great purpose. Can’t have one without the other.

For more information on Candace Lott on her website or follow her on Twitter:  twitter.com/lott_renay

Confessions of an Ageing Tennis Player: ‘The Story is Told’ by Martin Milner.

Martin Milner, a long standing colleague from my work in Wallasey, UK, has kindly donated one of his songs, ‘The Story is Told’ as the backing track for the promotional video of Confessions of an Ageing Tennis Player.

Martin says:

“Music and education have driven my life and career since I can remember. Music making, and being involved with learning in a general way. I am not a fan of big institutions, although I have co-existed with some (eg, LIPA -Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, BBIS -Berlin Brandenburg International School).

I am a creative improvisor, and not just musically. Also a father, a poet, and I like to cook. Cycling through the woods makes me happy. So does meditating. I stand up for my beliefs and support causes such as anti-capitalist initiatives, community-building projects and good work generally, but not because I think it will make a big difference.

Maybe I’m too small to save the world, but I can help out in the neighbourhood.  After 30+ years as a singer-songwriter I finally produced an album of 13 songs in 2015, for the record. A second set is on the way.  Like the rest of you, I am too caught up in my own life to really pay attention to what people write in places like this. Anyway, peace and music be with you, dear reader!”

You can hear more of Martin’s work here.

Martin and I collaborated between 2007 and 2008, together with Nicki Dupuy and Andy Escott. We developed some exciting creative music opportunities with pupils and staff at Riverside and Somerville Primary Schools and the Oldershaw School in Wallasey, Wirral. Funded substantially by Youth Music and a host of other charitable donations, the project – Deschooled? Re-Engaged! aimed to bring about the inclusion of vulnerable and ‘at risk’ children aged between 5 and 14 years from the most socially deprived areas of Wallasey by ‘re-attaching’ them to learning and routes of positive personal development through collaborative working practices between musicians and educators.

You can read all about that project in The Routledge International Handbook of Creative Learning here.