The past five days for me have illustrated that sitting here at my desk isn’t the single monotonous activity it may seem to be to an outsider. The ongoing background activity finds me in the early 19th century reading about people such as Samuel Martin, a hatter in
who was way ahead of the game when it came to advertising. In 1842 a competitor
advertised ‘new patent washable beaver hats’ and almost immediately Sam was
advertising his own ‘superior beaver hats which never require washing’. (That’s
from Edward Ranson’s The Mad Hatter of Aberdeen.) Sam would have been all over
Facebook and Twitter – he insisted that you should ‘never omit an opportunity
of placing your name in printed characters before the world’. Aberdeen
Anyway, in order to earn some money I’ve had to switch from that to writing a DVD about how to get stuff out of the hollow concrete legs of offshore platforms to decommission them, another on the responsibilities of security personnel on ships' gangways and a third on the awareness of the procedures and systems needed for gas testing where hydrocarbons are being produced.
But there are two more projects which are much more interesting. One is a project with a local charity, the Aberdeen Safer Community Trust. It's aim is to make the city's streets safer, bring crime levels down, etc.
They're organising their annual fund-raising event called CSI Aberdeen. It involves people in groups of five combining to solve a mystery - it might be a murder or an accidental death. They get to study documents, interview witnesses, take and compare fingerprints, do experiments in a lab on substances and whatever else the scene of crime team produces. They asked me if I'd be interested in helping, so I've been creating the scenario and, in between the commercial stuff, I'm now writing briefs for witnesses, the scenario itself, notes to help the forensic chemists to decide what sort of experiments to devise, etc. I've never been to one of those murder mystery dinners so it's interesting to see how the process works from the inside. (In fact, as I write that, it strikes me that it might be worth writing a wee blog about it and maybe asking the readers to come up with their conclusions on the events.) The writing is different in that I have to think very carefully about what to reveal and what to conceal. Those taking part should really get the information they need from interviewing the witnesses but if they don't ask the right questions, they won't - and they'll probably feel cheated. It's a fascinating balancing act.
So I’m piecing that together but now there’s another, quite scary event coming up soon. I’ve been asked to go to a primary school and read one of my kids’ stories then talk to them/work with them to create another story or do something related to writing that might interest them. I’ll have 45-50 minutes with each of the 7 classes and it’s part of what the school calls a ‘literacy week’. I think it’s a great initiative and I’m actually looking forward to it. I won’t even mind if a 5 year old butts in as I’m reading my masterpiece to tell me it’s boring.