Where the opportunities open up because people move on.
I’m not thinking about media organisations in particular, but imagine a news broadcast that wasn’t presented by the same tired old faces repeating the question to each other at length and then replying that yes, the issue is complicated and no, nobody knows what’s going to happen next.
“Grumpy again today, aren’t we?”
“Ed! You don’t come in until further down.”
Is it just me, or are universities and colleges packed with young people studying the creativities up to and including reading off an autocue in a gloss-painted plyboard studio? Most of them could do a half-decent job, and all of them have access to the technology.
“It’s just that–”
At times, you could think that the right to interview politicians seems to be held within families and passed down through the generations. I mean, yes, there’s–
“You’re just in a bad mood.”
“Have you seen the news recently?”
–there’s YouTube, and there are podcasts, and blogs, and vlogs, and all that, and the future is full of young people talking at us through our screens.
But there isn’t a bridge between “trad” TV and “indie” TV. Same as in publishing. Think of all those young, idealistic, cheap-to-hire students who won’t get the job they’re training to do. The best of them will make their own futures, but–
“Oh, I get it. You’re talking about barriers to entry.”
–the “trad” industry, in its present form, will just wither into irrelevance. If I flick through Freeview, for example, I don’t come across an entry-level TV station populated by recent graduates doing a half-decent job of gaining experience for their CVs while standing outside in the dark holding furry microphones to their faces and telling us that nobody knows what’s coming next.
“A really bad mood.”
Universities are expanding, so where’s the joined-up thinking? There are so many trained young people available to the creative industries. They’re a resource; why not use them?
All I can find on Freeview, some nights, is re-runs of shows from my childhood back in the Cretaceous Era. Not a single entry-level–
“You were enjoying Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased).”
“I was, but–”
“That was worth finding, wasn’t it? Black-and-white classic from the sixties?”
“Ed, I just wanted to say–”
“Something about the old ways dying. Organisations closing themselves to the new. Not regenerating.”
“And the false promises of education.”
“Don’t get your knickers in any more of a twist, ha ha.”
Ed and I are riding horses along the northbound road out of the walled town. They’re slow old horses, with copious manes and plate-sized hooves. Ed’s relaxed in the saddle but I haven’t yet, er, found my rhythm. It’s so long since I rode a horse that I don’t know how to describe the experience, let alone live it.
“Do some research,” he murmurs.
“Shh! That’s my omniscient-narrator voice. You don’t hear that.”
“Unreliable narrator, more like.”
“Besides, I’d fall off.”
We’ve agreed that we need to be nearer to the action. If there is any action. We’re both a bit worried about the magic kitten.
“You shouldn’t write things into the story if you don’t know what they're going to do,” Ed had said, and we’d argued for a while, good-naturedly, about spontaneity in writing. You know – about relaxing enough to allow spur-of-the-moment ideas – even kittens – into the flow. Not resisting what comes.
Then we’d made our way down the mountain – doesn’t matter how – and hired two horses at the farrier’s in the village.
I can see from Ed’s profile now that he’s laughing at me.
“You had to write that we’re on horses, didn’t you?” he says, reading my mind.
“It just came to me.”
“And we need to be nearer the action because?”
“That just came to me too. But Pipsqueak’s forgotten all about the lamp.”
“The one that summons you.”
“Yeah. Not sure about that. Maybe I should go back and delete it.”
“Leave it for now. They’re all asleep anyway.”
“They’re my friends, Mother!” Stace had said forcefully, and the guards hadn’t dragged Pipsqueak and Myrtille out of the Royal Presence.
But there had been an argument, conducted mainly in not-quite-inaudible hissing between Mother and Daughter, at the end of which a compromise had been reached: Stace would sit with the Queen at the banquet, while Pipsqueak and Myrtille would sit at a secondary table – with Roland.
“I should be up there!” Roland had hissed. “This is an insult!”
“Have another drink,” Myrtille had said. “Far more fun down here.”
It was true. The Queen and Stace – Princess Eustacia – hadn’t been able to eat yet.
Every time one of them raised a fork, another gaudily fancy-dressed fool, in cap and bells and tights and pointed slippers, would prance out onto the open space in front of their long table, and start another long, boring, rhyming-doggerel, interminable series of couplets about the glories of the Royal House.
Two more long tables had been set, one along either side of the performance space, and the guests there hadn’t been able to eat, either. They were equipped with foaming tankards that they crashed down at the end of every couplet. Sometimes, the foam slipped off a tankard, and had to be fixed on again.
Whereas Pipsqueak, Myrtille and Roland were at a round table towards the back, holding bottles of the soft drink so that the label could be seen from over there – they’d been coached in this – and faking a laugh – this, too – when the man over there – beside that screen, see him waving? – held up the board with LAUGH written on it.
And the soft-drink bottles had turned out to contain something stronger. Pipsqueak had been reluctant to co-operate at first, turning his bottle so that the label couldn’t be seen from over there, but after several long swigs, he’d been wassailing away with the best of them.
Even the people at the side tables, facing in towards the entertainment, who had been swigging furtively from soft-drink bottles concealed in their breeches and – Pipsqueak now saw – munching on sandwiches concealed beneath their plates piled high with varnished-for-the-camera traditional fayre were beginning to smile.
But the Queen remained stony-faced. As did Stace – Princess Eustacia.
“Iss hopelesh,” Roland was saying. “Ai luff hurr.” He straightened up, and enunciated “I Love Her, yes, that’s right, I Lovvvve Her. But I can’t–”
“Why don’t you–” Pipsqueak began, but Myrtille shushed him with her hand.
“Does she know how you feel?” Myrtille asked, leaning forward.
“Don’ you unnerstann? Her murther’s ther Queen. How can I–?” Roland slumped forward onto the table.
“I thought you said they were asleep.”
“Yes, sorry, that was just scene-setting.”
Everybody in the camp was asleep.
“Except the kitten.”
Except the kitten, which stepped lightly across Pipsqueak’s face and made for the flap of the tent. Myrtille was flat on her back, snoring, and Roland – he’d followed them into their tent – was face down mumbling to himself.
The kitten nudged a paw at Pipsqueak’s backpack and instantly recoiled, as if expecting it to retaliate. For a long time kitten stared at backpack and backpack didn’t move, and then the kitten extended a paw again and touched the knot in the cord holding the backpack closed.
As the kitten watched, the knot untied itself.
The backpack fell open, spilling its contents.
Onto the floor in front of the kitten rolled – a lamp.
“Oh, too easy.”
The kitten looked up at me, and its expression seemed to say: there's your lamp.
Then the kitten darted across the floor to the flap of the tent, stopped, looked back at you – yes, you – with an expression that seemed to say: there’s about to be a major plot twist – and slipped out into the night.
When the rains come the stream swells. In the past, the stream has contributed to flooding in the village.
But a few years ago, a farmer introduced two beavers into the patch of woodland, and they began to build dams in the stream.
For a while, those two beavers were the only beavers in Cornwall. But then they built a comfortable lodge in the middle of one of their newly formed lakes, and now there are four beavers in Cornwall.
They build dams. They wake up in the evening (they’re nocturnal) with a single thought: tonight would be a good night to build a dam. They go to bed thinking: tomorrow night would be a good night to build a dam.
Except for a brief window in the early part of the year when their thoughts turn to making baby beavers (kits).
You are interested in this story for two reasons.
One: since the beavers started to regulate the flow of water by building dams, the stream hasn’t contributed to the flooding problem in the village.
Two: in the wet ground and shallow water curated by the beavers, there’s a lot of biodiversity wriggling around and eventually turning into butterflies, et cetera. Beavers kick-start the food-chain. Beavers know the recipe for primordial soup.
We’re all in favour of biodiversity, aren’t we? And flooding is a climate-change issue, so you can’t not be interested in that.
You might also like watching wildlife at night. Wear your wellies.
There’s a website. Look for the Cornwall Beaver Project. They do guided walks to visit the beavers and watch them at work. Wrap up warm.