Sunday, June 16, 2013

Voices In My Head: Article writing

There was a strange moment on Friday evening. I was listening to the playback of the latest edition of Radio 2's "The People's Songs". It went under the title "Y Viva España". The theme, as the song title might suggest, was holidays; foreign holidays as they were when the British, first discovered them. These were the days of innocent adventure, the discovery of what really was a new world or a very different world.

The strange moment was when the presenter, Stuart Maconie, made a reference to those things we took on holiday. One of them was a Harold Robbins novel. Why might this be strange? Because some weeks previously, I had written a history of Mallorca's tourism. And in it, I had mentioned the packing of the Harold Robbins novel into the suitcase to be taken away to the sun and heat of Mallorca. Moreover, I had considered how popular culture reflected those early days of tourism in the sixties and into the seventies. A key element of this popular culture was music, and in the article, I had quoted from a song which, while it was truly dreadful, summed up much about Mallorcan and Costas holidays of the time - "Y Viva España".

Invoking Sylvia's far from classic was hardly very original; in fact, it was very unoriginal. A Robbins novel, on the other hand, I had thought was less obvious. It came to mind only because my father was an avid reader of his stuff. Perhaps it was more obvious than I had thought, though, and so Maconie cited it as well.

But then there were further references in the programme. One was to Vladimir Raitz, the founder of Horizon Holidays and effectively the founder of the package holiday. In my article, Raitz played a key part, one reason having been because Raitz tends to be forgotten in tourism history, his place in it overtaken by those who came later, such as Harry Goodman.

All the references in Maconie's programme were coincidences. My article clearly hadn't informed his script. It isn't available online, and the programme was doubtless recorded some time ago, so I am not for one moment suggesting that the references were anything other than obvious or perhaps less obvious examples of two people writing from a similar page.

There is, however, something stranger. When I conceived the tourism history article, I had been influenced by a previous episode of "The People's Songs", which deals with the anecdotal. I didn't end up with the volume of personal accounts that I might have liked that went into the article in the fiftieth anniversary special of the "Majorca Daily Bulletin", but I got some. It's an idea I'd like to revisit and see if more can be generated, but that's for another time; I had wanted the article to be that much more personal.

Even more than this influence was Maconie himself. A good part of that article was written with a voice in my head. Maconie's. Much of it was structured in such a way that it was as if a radio script was being read out, one of Maconie's, so the style was similar. It wasn't anything like as good as Maconie, but his style of delivery was firmly in my head as I wrote it.

There are different influences on how one writes. Usually, they are influences found in the writing of others. But I had never written something in the way I did a good deal of the tourism history article, so it was this which was really very strange, because, as I was listening to "Y Viva España" with its various common references, that I half imagined it was me doing the talking. It was most odd.

That tourism history article isn't online. Indeed, the one that appeared in the special supplement was heavily edited because the original was very much longer. I'm minded to seek permission to be able to put it up online. If I do, then you might read it and think of Maconie. Alternatively, you might think I'm crackers. Voices in my head. Mad or what.

"The People's Songs", "Y Viva España":

Any comments to please.

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