Lost in Translation

Back in the mists of the 1990s, I was involved for a while in negotiations in Geneva, where everything you said was translated into several languages as you spoke.  Here’s a little piece I wrote at Holmfirth Writers a while back, about how simultaneous translation might not always be a good thing …

Words cannot express the pride and hope that I felt as I first entered the parliament chamber. To be the representative, the voice of my district in the national assembly; to have the opportunity to raise the issues that the people who elected me care about; to be their advocate, their champion – this is what I had devoted my whole life to. Everything else I had ever done had been merely preparation.

I was among the last of the representatives to arrive, and there was a polite ripple of applause as I took my seat. As soon as I had done so, a functionary approached me.

“Excuse me, sir. Here are your headphones, and this is your microphone. Please press the red button when you wish to speak.”

“Is this really necessary? My hearing is good.”

“It is for the simultaneous translation, sir. The interpreters” – she pointed out a booth at the back of the chamber where a line of people could be seen – “will translate as you speak.”

“But I speak the same language as everybody else.”

“There are some minority languages, sir. Simultaneous translation enables everyone to hear what is said clearly, without misunderstanding.” Sure enough, I could see all the other representatives putting on their headphones. Meekly, I followed suit.

After some preliminaries, it was to be my turn to speak, as a debutant. The Chairman of the Party spoke my name and extended his hand in my direction. This was the moment I had waited years for! I must not waste it.

“Colleagues and compatriots,” I said, “it is a great honour to be here today.” I was about to continue when I saw the red light on my microphone go off. I was struggling to get it back on again when a female voice sounded in my ear. “Colleagues and compatriots, it is a great honour to be here today.” Then, magically, the light went on again. I continued.

“I represent a group of people who for many decades have struggled against tremendous hardship and injustice. I see it as my duty to do everything in my power to alleviate that hardship, to rectify that injustice.” The red light went off, and the woman’s voice resumed.

“I represent a group of people who for many decades have struggled against tremendous hardship. I see it as my duty to do everything in my power to alleviate that hardship.”

Something did not seem quite right, but I carried on.

“I hope that the friendliness and respect that you have shown me today will continue, even when I have to speak harsh truths and to demand change.”

Again, the voice filled my headphones. “I hope that the friendliness and respect you have shown me today will continue.”

“No, this is not right! The translators have not repeated everything I said.”

The voice resumed, bland and reassuring. “I believe there is a problem with my microphone.”

I was angry now. “Is this not supposed to be a parliament, the place where the voices of the people can be heard. Why are my words not being repeated?”

A few seconds later, the voice came back.

“I pledge my undying support to the Chairman of the Party.” I was furious, but the red light was off, and nothing I could do could get it back on.

The Chairman of the Party congratulated me on my maiden speech, and the representatives gave me a standing ovation.

Summer Fate

Looking out of the window at the rain has reminded me of a poem I wrote a year or two ago about the joys of the great British summer. 


Summer Fate

We were waiting for weeks, all though April and May

for those much-vaunted months that begin with a J.

We’ve had three weeks of sunshine, it’s gone to our head

and we’ve thrown out our wellies, bought sandals instead,

now it’s out with the barbecue, off with the shirt

and we go red like prawns – ooh, that’s going to hurt!

and as for the prawns, well they’re all going black

but who cares? We’ve got beer, and we’re knocking it back

like there is no tomorrow, and maybe that’s wise:

in the morning, one cursory glance at the skies

shows that if that was summer, it’s been and it’s gone;

once again, the sly sun has been having us on.

But are we discouraged? What, us? Not a bit.

This is Britain, and we’re not allowed to admit

that we’re not having fun at this time of the year,

at least, not until August, by which time it’s clear

that summer’s a season that lives down in Spain:

it drops in if we’re lucky, then goes home again.

But hey, it’s July, we’ve got weeks still to share

of short-trousered jollity laced with despair,

of those trips to the seaside to plod down the pier,

those postcards that desperately wish we weren’t here.

And of course, all those tedious summer events,

endless rows of jam jars all lined up in a tent,

and you find yourself wishing “can it be autumn, please”,

at least then we can stay in, and cover our knees.

Fat chance, it’s July, so we just have to wait.

We’re in Britain in summer, and this is our fate.

Welcome, Adrian

Today I welcome brand new Crooked Cat author Adrian Martin, whose first novel, The Helland Reckoning, was published this summer.  Welcome Adrian! As this is your first visit to my blog, would you like to tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hi, Tim. Thank you for having me on your blog today, it’s great to be here. Please allow me to introduce myself; I am a horror writer and I live in Newquay, Cornwall with my wife and four children. Despite no longer being in my youth I am a full time student having returned to education last year, completing an Access course in English, Literature and Creative Writing, which is the equivalent to 3 A-Levels in 9 months and passing it with an overall Distinction grade. I start my Creative Writing degree in September at Falmouth University, which I am looking forward to.

And about your novel, The Helland Reckoning.

My debut novel, The Helland Reckoning has recently been released by Crooked Cat Publishing. It is a horror novel set in the heart of Bodmin Moor in Cornwall. It is a desolate part of the country, but its moody character is a great setting for such a dark book. With its free roaming animals, barren rolling uncultivated fields and towering Tors, it could transport you back to a time before concrete jungles conquered the planet.

The novel is about Katie Tremain, a divorcee who wants to get away from her ex-husband and moves to the country with her twin daughters. When she arrives, one of her daughters, Sarah, goes missing. It is then a stranger arrives on her new doorstep wanting to help. His only condition is that there is to be no police involvement. Reluctantly, she accepts his help and they search for the missing girl. What they uncover is a history so torrid that Katie struggles to accept it.


What was your inspiration for the novel?

Helland is a real place in the middle of the moor and it was this tiny hamlet that was the inspiration for the novel. The story actually developed around the place rather than the other way around. There is nothing more than a few dwellings including a handful of houses, a couple of farms and a church here, but there was something about the place that has remained with me since I stayed there as a child. It is so small that it does not have a shop or pub. Despite it being the place that played a huge part in the development of the story, I was also reading a lot of Dean Koontz at the time and it was him who introduced me to the horror novel, more his earlier stuff than his latter writings. Until I discovered Koontz I was more interested in books such as Bravo Two Zero by Andy McNab and The One That Got Away by Chris Ryan. These are military books books, but had no bearing on my decision on joining the army. That came from cleaning toilets in a meat factory and telling my prick of a boss to stick his job so far up his ass it tickled his tonsils!

Do you have any further books on the stocks that you’d like to tell us about?

I am currently working on a few other projects, one still set on the horror genre, but another two away from the genre as I look to broaden my writing skills. Over the last year I have also written several short stories for my course, one of which I am really proud of about an old soldier who found friendship in a shell hole with an enemy soldier. I do enjoy writing short stories, and another of which is being turned into a full length as I feel it would do it more justice. I have currently written the first 10k words of it. I am looking forward to learning more about the art of creative writing so I can employ new devices within these novels to help me improve.

Your Crooked Cat page tells us that your introduction to writing was through poetry. Are you still writing poems?

I originally started writing in 1999 while serving in the British army, in particular on tour in Kosovo, when I started writing poetry. I suppose I used it as a form of escapism and self therapy at the time, so it meant I wasn’t bottling up what I saw. I would write about things around me and it also helped with being away from home. I have recently looked at the poems as I still have them. Although they make me cringe, it was something that helped me cope and get through.

I see you’re also a keen sportsman. Any sporting (or other) achievements/anecdotes you’d like to share?

Away from my writing most of my time is taken up with my family (4 kids can be quite time consuming) and the good thing about being a student is having the same holiday times as them. I still play football (11 a-side) and make the most of it before my knees wave a little white flag of surrender and no longer permit me to play. My wife comes to every game, and so do the kids, albeit it chained and gagged! I do have to travel a fair distance to play, but it is a club I have been involved with for several years and find myself condemned to eternity with. I do not really have many sporting achievements as I’ve never been that competitive where I have to win everything, but the one feat of endurance I am extremely proud of is completing the Nijmegen marches in Holland. I did this in 1998 and walked 105 miles in 4 days following the British Para’s walk in World War 2. The baking heat and concrete took its toll, but it was worth the pain.

What question would you have liked me to ask that I didn’t?

Have I achieved any dreams?

And what is the answer?

It was never a dream to join the army, I fell into that, as I did with so many other jobs, but when I started writing my dream was finish my book and get it published, which after many years I have achieved. Another dream was to go back into education, which I have also obtained and particularly in a subject I feel so passionate about and in a career direction of my own choice, rather than the lesser of two evils and letting life pass me by. Dreams can be achieved by passion, desire and damned hard work.

Thank you, Tim for having me on here today, it’s been a privilege and a great experience.

You’re very welcome, Adrian!  Good look with your novel and thanks for those interesting answers.


Book links

Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/Adymartin177/

Universal link: myBook.to/HellandReckoning

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Helland-Reckoning-Adrian-Martin-ebook/dp/B01FB8NVSI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1467027689&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Helland+Reckoning

Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/Helland-Reckoning-Adrian-Martin-ebook/dp/B01FB8NVSI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1467027743&sr=8-1&keywords=the+helland+reckoning

Twitter: https://twitter.com/adymartin63


What should have been a fresh start for Katie Tremain and her twin twelve year old daughters, (Sarah and Tegan) in the heart of the Cornish countryside, quickly turns to tragedy, when Sarah goes missing in the bleak and snowy surroundings of Bodmin Moor. There are no footprints surrounding the house from where he has gone missing, and no evidence of the girl.

Before the police arrive, delayed by the unpredicted snowfall, a stranger arrives claiming he wants to help find Sarah. Katie has never seen this man before, yet there seems something familiar about him, and Tegan appears to have a connection with him. He has one stipulation – No police. Why, what are his true motives?

A missing girl, a broken mother, a lonely sister and a stranger. Together they look for the missing girl, and Katie is shocked when the stranger’s true identity is revealed, and sickened when she finds out who has her daughter.

This supernatural horror takes a mother to face her worst nightmare.

About Adrian

Adrian lives just outside of Newquay, Cornwall with his wife, Lisa, and four children. He began writing while serving in the British Army, starting with poetry written on blueys (blue sheets of paper that fold into envelopes) as he was on a peacekeeping mission in Kosovo. After leaving the army, he tried being a security guard, but found walking around the supermarket for fourteen hours a day somewhat monotonous, so decided to give long distance lorry driving a go. It was whilst doing this he began to pen “The Helland Reckoning”. The novel was inspired by the small hamlet of Helland, where Adrian stayed with a friend as a child. It had remained in his thoughts for many years, so it became the natural setting for the book. After five years of tramping around the U.K and Europe, he decided it was time to be home more, so began driving fuel tankers around Devon and Cornwall. After breaking his ankle playing football, Adrian was made redundant so set to work rewriting the manuscript. However, Adrian’s last job, working for a portaloo company (which was actually a lot of fun) made him want to chase his dream as a writer, so in September 2015 he returned to full time education studying English, literature and creative writing, achieving mainly distinction grades along the way. He begins a creative writing degree, at Falmouth University, Cornwall in September 2016. His hobbies include spending time with his family, writing, football, skiing, walking and Facebook! Feel free to hunt him down and chat.




Another taster of my work in progress

I was encouraged by the response when I shared a taster of my current work in progress, back in May.  So I thought I would do this again from time to time as the novel develops (about 30,000 words so far). The book follows the relationship between narrator Claire and her elderly father, Herbert, as his memory deteriorates.  This is starting to cause some serious problems ….

It started when we were watching TV – I think it was a video of Morecambe and Wise, something like that. Normally, the half hour of the show would be punctuated at regular intervals by his laughter (I envied him this one compensation of his condition: jokes never lost their freshness and impact, however many times he heard them). Tonight, though, he could not focus on the show. He seemed distracted, agitated. Eventually I just switched it off and gave him his supper early. But that didn’t help. He took barely a sip of his Horlicks and ignored the biscuits altogether. Instead, I noticed that he was fumbling in each pocket of his jacket and trousers in turn, muttering unintelligibly to himself. Then he turned out the contents of each pocket – bits of paper, coins, handkerchiefs – out onto the sofa, sifting through them carefully before returning them. At one point he walked out into the hall to get his coat before scouring the pockets of that as well.

“Dad, what on earth is the matter? What are you looking for?”

“Have you seen my keys? I can’t find them anywhere.”

I gave an inward sigh of relief.

“Dad, what are you like? They’re on the key chain in your coat pocket. You got them out not five minutes ago. Look …”

I rummaged in the pocket of his coat, which was still on the sofa, pulling out the key chain and dangling it in front of him. He took it and examined each of the four keys in turn – two for his house, which we had not yet got round to selling, two for mine.

“No. These are house keys. They’re Yale locks – look, it says on the key.” He showed me the letters Y-A-L-E on the key. “I’m looking for the shop keys. Those are Chubb locks, the long, thin, silver ones. I can’t find them anywhere.”

“Dad, why would you be looking for a shop key? I don’t think we even have one any more. We gave all the keys to Mr Nazir when we sold the shop to him.”

He turned and looked at me as if I were some kind of idiot.

“I am looking for the shop key so I can get into the shop. Do you expect me to climb in through the bloody window? And how are the customers supposed to get in if the door is locked?”

I had to take a deep breath and sit down. He took no notice, and began to rummage through his jacket pockets again. Then he turned to me.

“Have you got it? Maybe you took the key for some reason. Why don’t you have a look in your handbag?”

I spoke as calmly as I could.

“Dad, I don’t have a key to the shop. You don’t have a key to the shop. We sold the shop over ten years ago to Mr Nazir. It’s an Indian takeaway now.”

“Don’t be ridiculous! You should be ashamed of yourself, telling stories like that. Now stop playing silly buggers and help me find that blasted key.”

My patience was rapidly disappearing.

“For the last time, there is no shop, there is no key! You’re eighty-two years old; you don’t need to work any more – you have a pension, a home, you’re well looked after. You just need to get that into your head, Dad, okay? Just have your supper and go to bed.”

His face went purple with rage. “You wicked woman! You just want to take the shop away from me, don’t you? Keep all the profits for yourself. That’s why you’re telling all these lies, trying to trick me into letting you get away with it. I bet you’ve stolen the shop keys, haven’t you. Well if you won’t look for them, I will.”

He walked over to the table at the side of the room, where my handbag was hanging off the back of a chair. He picked it up and started to peer inside it.

And finally, I just lost it. Stupid, stupid, stupid! I grabbed the handback off him and emptied the contents out onto the table, then I opened every single side pocket right in front of his nose.

“Look. No fucking keys! Are you satisfied now?

An expression of frightened bewilderment came over his face, as if he were a pig in a slaughterhouse. At this point, something inside me just broke. I am not an emotional sort of person, I rarely cry, but at that moment I rushed upstairs and wept helplessly for about five minutes. Then I cleaned myself up and lay on the bed, as a violent headache started to lay siege to my skull. It must have been at least a quarter of an hour before I felt able to go downstairs again. I shuddered to think what I would find.

It was as if nothing had happened. He greeted me with a smile.

“Oh, hello Claire. I wonder if you could help me. I’m having some trouble finding my shop keys. Can’t think where I put them.”

Something occurred to me that I hadn’t thought of before.

“It’s Saturday night, Dad. Tomorrow is a Sunday.”

I pointed at the digital clock on the mantelpiece, which sure enough bore the letters “SAT”.

“Silly me. Of course it is. We’ve got all of tomorrow to find them, then. In that case, I think I’ll go to bed. I’m feeling rather tired. It’ll be nice to have a bit of a lie in in the morning. Good night, then.”

I gave him a little kiss.

“Goodnight, Dad.”