Wednesday 2 September 2020

Separate thinking by Steve Way

I’ve not really noticed the phenomenon in other cats, but our cat Bella literally chases her own tail. She seems to have two separate brain functions; one that causes her tail to move and one that locks onto any nearby moving object and activates her hunting instinct. It is the funniest thing to watch, especially when she’s lying down. To begin with she glares at her tail as though it is affronting her dignity by waving around so freely and disrespectfully in her close vicinity, like a mouse dancing around nearby and sticking its tongue out at her. To begin with she flicks at the tail with one of her front paws, as though trying to swat an irritating fly but as this doesn’t seem sufficient to prevent this independent tail of hers from continuing to taunt her, this only serves to increase her sense of annoyance. She then lurches towards her tail with the front part of her body and does a summersault because of being prone to begin with, in her failed attempt to catch her errant tail. This either leads to more unsuccessful attacks or a period of self-cleaning, her displacement activity for whenever she makes a fool of herself – I recently saw her charge up the garden at the peg basket that was still bobbing up and down slowly after Jan had got the washing in, only to find of course that the basket was high above her when she reached her target.

I mention my cat’s apparent double-brain function, where there seems to be no communication between the two separate sections, as it’s made me wonder if the same disconnection occurs in people – specifically in this case teachers – and in search engines – especially the one used by Amazon.

A few years ago, I was responsible for taking my eldest grandson to primary school in the mornings. I mentioned to the infant teachers responsible for him that I was a children’s author and offered to work with the children for an hour for no charge. The staff asked to see some examples of my work and I lent them a couple of my science story books. When I returned the next day, still holding my grandson’s hand, one of the teachers affirmed that they’d appreciate a visit and then in the next sentence declared, ‘Oh and by the way we photocopied your books… you don’t mind do you?’ Now if I hadn’t had a small hand in my own at the time, I may well have suggested that actually, both my publishers and I would mind rather a lot – but I did, so I didn’t. To add further insult to injury when I turned up to work with my grandson’s class – and the parallel class – it turned out that the teaching session was two hours long, rather than just one. Still, I didn’t mind – did I?

I’ve had a few similar experiences where schoolteachers have blatantly photocopied my work – or the work of other authors – and in each case have been placed in an awkward position, either by protesting or biting my lip.

This is where my disconnected brain theory comes in. Having been a class teacher I understand the unrelenting pressure to collate – essentially aggressively hoard – material and resources to use with the children. That brain function I sympathise with. The disconnect seems to be with the part of the teacher’s brain that must know that what they are doing is not only illegal but immoral. I’m an ardent defender of teachers in most instances, my book Escape from Schoolditz about four teachers who attempt Colditz-style methods to escape the school they get locked in every night, is testament to that. Whilst teachers’ salaries could never be described as excessive, they can rarely have them robbed or reduced by the actions of others. Surely everyone knows that on average full-time teachers earn considerably more than full-time authors – and of course don’t necessarily have to buy the book themselves, since – hopefully – a portion of the school budget is spent on books!

Thank goodness for organisations such as ALCS that help ensure that we receive some compensation for our material being photocopied.

That brings us to the Amazon search engine. Now I realise I’m not in the strongest of positions having abbreviated my name to Steve. Just shout ‘Steve’ in a crowded place (when you can again!) and watch half the people turn around. Even if they aren’t called Steve themselves the know someone who is. Then there’s my surname – ‘Way’ – which of course is a common word, often integral to the sub-titles of tomes dealing with religious or spiritual issues. Nevertheless, you would think that when typing a name into the ‘book’ category of the Amazon search that it would initially focus on where these two words are found adjacently. Apparently not.

First on the list now is a dog training book by author Steve Mann. Second a motivational book that includes the word ‘way’ in its long title, followed by another motivational book authored by Dr Steve Peters. So it goes on  – the tenth in the list is the most interesting as it’s a book by Billy Connolly, the title of which is entirely devoid of the words ‘Steve’ or ‘Way’. Not that I particularly trust search engines of course but supposedly the most common female name in the UK is Mary. I wondered if I was named something like Mary Quest I would suffer the same problem being located as an author by Amazon. (I tried it and I suspect my imaginary Mary would remain as obscure to searchers as I clearly am already.)

Writing this has been quite aggravating – I think I need to go and watch Bella chasing herself!


Escape from Schoolditz ISBN 978-1720047940 Inspired by the prisoners in Colditz, four teachers attempt to escape from the school they are locked in every night.

PS If you’re at all interested search the book title not the author 

1 comment:

Andrew Preston said...

Must admit. my first and second thoughts were that you were getting personal, family, stuff mixed up with business.

Also wondered if in doing so, you were coming across as, in effect , asking to do stuff for free, rather than making an offer that makes clear who is doing the giving, and how, why, it is of value to them. It looks to me a little like you opened yourself up to other parties taking liberties.

If the Connolly book you're referring to is 'Made in Scotland'.., it's very much on my to read list. I was aware of it, but only when a couple of weeks ago I happened online across a publicity excerpt in, I think, the ( Scottish ) Sunday Mail, did I actively decide to read it. Particularly enjoyed the part where he describes his admiration for Gerry Rafferty, his ex-partner in The Humblebums. Apparently one night, at the end of a gig of Connolly and his banjo, Rafferty approached him with..
"I've got some songs..." Couple of years after the Humblebums ended, Rafferty made it big, with 'Baker Street'.