Monday, December 31, 2018

Sort of memorabilia lost and dog okay

Last week I was at home with a recuperating old dog. I'm decluttering the place. We're living in a terraced house beside a wide, busy city street. I put the section of concert seating that was used in a famous recording (John Lennon and Jagger/Dirty Mac?) into the front garden, thinking maybe I ought to get rid of it. I changed my mind and went back out, but a clownish Beatles memorabilia merchant and assistant had already loaded it into their van. I explain that I'm not discarding it, look inside for a minute and ensure the dog won't get out, but when I return they've already gone. And a little way along the road, they have left a long panel they didn't want. It's sticking out in the street, a hazard to cyclists etc. I walk there and move the panel straight alongside the kerb. The dog has managed to get out but he's pottering about in the front garden and goes back in with me, safe and sound.

Dad rolling a spliff

There are big bales of herbal marijuana here. I'm not too worried. Dad is game to try some and begins working on rolling up a spliff, something he has never done before, at the table. But then someone's boyfriend is coming in. I hope he's not a policeman, looks a bit like he might be, a big guy. I ask him and he says he is. He stands looking out our window. I assume he won't bother about us having or smoking dope but no, he says he cannot overlook it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

"You want a little pepper with that?"


I dabble in cartooning. Sometimes I even amuse myself. I expect this gag has been done before, not sure, but probably a lot better. That's one of the problems with cartoon ideas.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Longhand return, headlights & Italo Calvino

I just can't be creative typing into a box on the screen, as I am now, after all. It's too busy, too noisy, too bright, too oppressive. When are they going to make silent desktop computers? The one I have has a solid state disc drive but still runs a cooling fan. (Notes: "Still Runs a Cooling Fan" possible bodice ripper?) I had to seek out my writing book and call up the old fountain pen out of retirement. So how did I get on? I spent a while getting the ink to flow (hint: put the nib for a second under a warm water tap). Then I wrote out something about why I'm not writing anything.

That turns out to be because I have no end in view. E. L. Doctorow (?) said that writing a novel is like driving unlit roads at night: you can only see as far ahead as your headlights reach but you can get to your destination that way, so not to worry. He might not have said not to worry. But that presupposes you know where you're going. Otherwise you're just driving around at night for no purpose. There might be novels that do that, perhaps Italo Calvino style, but more usually you need to know your ending. You don't need to know exactly how you're going to get there but when you start out, it helps to have an end in view, and I think in fact it's essential, at least for me.

So I wrote something like that in my writing book (A4 hard cover, spiral bound), admiring the flow of ink from the gold plated nib. And nothing else.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

The wet edge

My son is an artist, among other things, and told me about the need to keep the wet edge going in certain sorts of painting. Don't ask me what sort, I'm here to talk about writing. So, right or wrong, and I'm not checking effing Wikipedia, I say that leaving a story unfinished for too long can make it hard to resume. This I suppose is like the wet edge that you have to keep going. Also, I read an idea recently from someone that you should stop writing each day (yes, in case you didn't know, you're supposed to do it every day - do as I say, not as I do) when you still know what you want to write next, instead of draining it all out, the theory being that it will then be easier to resume.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Writing: If I can’t do it with a light heart…

…I’m not going to do it at all. There are so many other things to do. Re-sealing around the bathtub, for one. What, that’s not important? It is. And when you realise that nothing you write will make a bit of difference, won’t stop your kitchen ceiling from coming down if your bath seal leaks, won’t stop the ivy from strangling your trees, won’t hoover the stairs, won’t do much of anything at all, then it had better be pleasing, amusing, joyful, exhilarating. Okay, let’s not reach for the stars, but it had better make me smile because if it makes me frown, it’s out the window.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Learning to write again

Imagine you were someone in popular music who, many years ago, made some records that were pleasing but that never troubled the charts very much and then you spent most of the rest of your life doing drudge work in an office till the mortgage was paid off. For your biggest hits, such as they were, you just bashed out the chords on a guitar and reeled off whatever words came into your head and it seemed to work. There was energy. People got enjoyment from it.

What do you do now? You've just realised that you don't really know how to play guitar properly at all. You try to perfect some more Travis picking, learn a classical piece, try something jazzy. You feel like you're back to kindergarten, trying to play London Bridge is Falling Down on a tin whistle and hitting bum notes. It's the same with writing. Not a day goes by when I don't think about deleting this website and throwing my hat at the writing game.

It's not that I haven't been writing, I have, but not enough and not purposefully. I start on a whim, noodle about for a while, get distracted and let it die. (Apparently you have to water these creations with words every day.) Or was it going nowhere because I never had any end in view? I think of new things I'd like to write every morning, and before I forget I write a clue to it on the whiteboard in my office. But then the day goes by, and another, and another and eventually, after weeks, I might even forget what the clue meant.

After organising my notes and fragments, which I wrote about in my previous post, I have not come to a place of easy progress with a clear road ahead. Instead, it turns out that most of what I have is unusable, poorly written and sometimes completely wrongheaded and amateurish. It's better to know that. This is part of moving on, recognising where I am and finding a way forward. The image that comes to me most often is of someone recovering from a stroke, as if my day job had been a long coma from which I have only just awoken. The world I knew has gone. Everything is new to me.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Quick note about leaving Facebook

I got out of Facebook a couple of months ago. I went without a farewell post, because I knew that would entail a discussion that would be impossible to resolve, what with me being gone. Many would have a great laugh at my expense, one last dig from some, and some inveigling me to or assuring me that I would return before long. So I thought, no, I’m deleting not deactivating. And the requisite time has passed so that I can’t go back on again as if nothing had happened.

However, I’m still around and open to email, WhatsApp etc. (I wanted to quit WhatsApp as well because it’s linked to Facebook and I don’t like Facebook or Instagram, but I have family connections through WhatsApp, so that’s that.) I prefer the world of blogs and email, and there’s nothing you would really want to do – as opposed to what commercial operators want you to do – that can’t be done as well and more simply with email and blogs.

I gave up Facebook because I was putting a lot into it, had done for many years, but getting next to nothing out of it, other than a constant battle to repel unwanted adverts, invitations and ever more tiresome distractions. I hope to use my time for something more constructive in future.

One could go on and on, but I promised a quick note, so there you have it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Longhand chaos begone!

Now that I'm a full time writer, I regret the years I spent writing everything longhand in notebooks, while doing the day job, which was computer programming. The first thing I've had to do while trying to get myself organised is to transcribe everything into computer format, where I can work with it, to "clear the decks" as they say. My mind tends towards chaos, as you would know if you saw how many different writing projects are jumbled and intertwined in the pages of my notebooks. One thing that can help to overcome one's natural chaotic nature, is to make use of technology to the full, and let it deal with that part of the problem. I bought myself a copy of Scrivener desktop app a long time ago, for this very purpose, and I'm now using it for everything, and it's great. Instead of having separate files in folders on the computer and having to open and close them, with Scrivener I can jump in and out of things just by one click in the list of scenes, works-in-progress, etc etc. It has other useful features as well, but it's keeping everything together, yet separate in a list, that is so helpful. I don't have to riffle through pages looking for bits of text, nor do I have to keep opening and closing documents directly from the computer, nor searching up and down through long computer files. I'd show you some screenshots only I don't want to give away my work-in-progress, as that's a sure way to kill it stone dead.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Small Faces favourites

It's ages since I shared any YouTube videos. So here are some Small Faces videos that always perk me up.

All or Nothing

Itchycoo Park

Sha La La La Lee (A pity the screen is stretched wide, distorting the picture. No?


If you want some more, here's a bit of a riot of a TV show, where they start before the suave host finishes talking and generally muck about. It's a lot of fun. "Colour Me Pop" entire show, with lots of Ogden's Nut Gone Flake and links by the hilarious Stanley Unwin. Very London.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

At the demo for "a People's Vote"

My day at the March for a People's VoteCaroline Lucas gave the best speech of the day. But Tony Robinson got the biggest cheer for the hilarious end section of his speech. "Now we all know, I'm only up here today to say five words. I HAVE A CUNNING PLAN!" He brought the house down, and went on to explain his cunning plan was the People's Vote. That was a good laugh. Others were good too, of course, especially David Lammy and Vince Cable and the redoubtable Anna Soubry MP who closed the show with eclat and with an emotional call for love and fellowship.

Here's a noisy video that "Google Photos" made all on its own from some of the contents of my phone-cam. It's easier to post this than choosing and uploading individual items. There's a picture of me near the end, looking like someone whose feet were killing them. Then there's a picture of some nice people who allowed me to take a picture of them with their charming dog.


Thursday, June 21, 2018

Willesden Herald Story of the Month

I have a new gig, editing the Willesden Herald New Short Stories "Story of the Month". The series kicked off with Con Chapman's engrossing account of a relationship in trouble, "The Woman Who Listened to Britten". Link: Story of the Month, June 2018.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Helping the king to cross the road

In the workplace, there is no desk in the empty office, nothing. In the other two offices, there are meetings of men in progress round the desks. So can't work there either. I have forgotten to bring even a basic notebook and pen or pencil, so I won't be able to work here today. Back into the street, beside a very wide road, more than eight lanes, possibly twelve or more. Not much traffic though. I meet the king at a bus stop, a famous actor, recognise the face. I'm not sure if it's Jack Palance, or could it be John Cassavetes? But he's in a bad way, tall but stooped, dirty. The back of his parka is filthy across his shoulders. I will help him to cross the road. He leans on me and we set off to cross when there's no traffic. It's a very long way. We haven't reached the other side, haven't even seen it, when he decides he wants to go back. It's a bright day. The concrete looks more like the expanse of a car park than a road, it's so wide. As we're about halfway back, a small, odd vehicle is approaching from the wrong side (our right). We will have to be careful. But its course is wavery, uncertain.

Saturday, June 02, 2018

White yam


When you cut one, the juice looks like coconut milk* and dries to a white powdery residue on the knife. The taste is truly bland. In the Philippines, they peel and boil them, then eat them as a sweet, dipped in sugar.

* The photo is not showing the coconut whiteness of it. Something wrong with the colour balance.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Tipsy r.i.p.

Fear no more the squibs of the fall,
No more climbing up the wall.
Thou thy worldly task has done,
Home and ta'en thy tennis ball.

(2012)

Thursday, March 29, 2018

In prison

In jail in NL (?) for not paying hospital bill. Finding my cell. Read a vague label. Can make out my name & name of hospital. (I thought I said jail.) So this really is it. It's rather cosy, cluttered. But I check further along the corridor to get my bearings. Passing a narrow way where prisoners are socialising. A bit worried they'll pick on me, but no - okay. One guy's jacket or jumper almost blocks the way. I get by but they ignore me. A civilised kind of jail. (And I will only have three months to do. It's on my door label.) I want to take pictures for Facebook but guess it's not done to show other inmates. I will only show my own cell. Not as bad as I feared. Still, to be locked in is not good - scary.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Uninvited guests

The sound of a car sweeping by, into the next empty room. I go in to investigate and there are a man and a woman looking around and a small child somewhere. I ask what they want. The man is very tall and stocky, whereas I seem to be far below, near the floor. He says something but I can't make out the words. I tell him I can't understand what he's saying. The woman takes a step forward. She is even bigger than him. The child whizzes by below, out of sight, with the noise of a car. She speaks to me but, again, I can't make out the words. Except the last one might be "religion". The man starts to speak again. I am getting a little agitated, because I don't know who they are or what they want here in my house. I say, "I can't understand a word you're saying!" Then, "I want you out of here now." I repeat it but they show no sign of going. So I call upstairs to my wife to phone the police. But my voice won't work right. I try again.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Demo

I went on a big demo with Dad. He's one of the leaders. On the way back there was a bit of argy-bargy and an obstreperous kid got hauled away. Back to our home in B-. It's crowded, with so many of the activists here. I think they've taken the interloper outside, and I'm worried they may have killed him. It's night already. I go out front to see what's happening and they are just in the process of launching a nuclear missile from the field outside our house into the city. The flames of its rocket engines fire in the dark.

Inside again, beside the wall in the crowded living room. I go out the back with my acquaintances, with my overcoat on. It's a sort of cul-de-sac with the back gardens around it, and it is crowded here too. Police are arriving to look for the missing kid, a youth really. I say I'm worried I will be mistaken for my father and blamed by the crowd. "I'll be lynched." In the distance the city is a conflagration, with fires everywhere, but the police arriving have not seen it, as they're coming from that direction and facing this way. People try to tell them about the nuclear attack, but they are officious and insist they must follow-up their search for the kid, one thing at a time.

But they soon realise they must investigate the source of the nuclear missile, as people are telling them it came from in front of my house. We go inside, and I feel I must tell them about the murdered kid, as I think it's only right, and anyway, it would be worse for my Dad to be blamed for the nuclear missile. Nobody knows where the kid is. They've got Dad in handcuffs now. I don't feel I have done anything wrong, but I'm not feeling righteous, it's just something I had to tell them. He's brought it on himself.

But now the floor of the room is flooded about a foot deep. Everyone else has gone. Somehow they drain it. I don't know what's happening. The floorboards are lifted. It's not the kid. There are what looks like two sacks there, possibly the size of a big person and a smaller one but they're shapeless, so it's not certain, it might be something else. I am seized with anxiety and guilt.

Monday, March 05, 2018

On a balcony

Getting to the place is alright, it's finding the way back afterwards that's difficult. I see a station down that way and set out. But I've gone down the wrong side somehow and now I've lost sight of it. And I've forgotten my phone, so I can't check maps. The further I walk, the bigger the streets. This is a big city, I know. Office blocks, etc, vast expanses everywhere I look, but no sign of a station. I am totally lost.

It's later. Running, we leap into a sort of silo, as big as a huge barn, half filled with whatever. We go out onto a little outside balcony on the opposite wall above the huge pit. It's barred above with giant beer pump handles. Dad doesn't have a care, chatting away. I can jump and pull one of the giant handles down a bit but that's not going to get us out of here. Dad is in a good mood, talking and, in that way of his, making himself laugh, while I realise we're never going to get out of here.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The twilight zone

Up in the office block. Briefcase? To the top floor to get something that's mine, while the boss is not around. Was that a sound, is he here? To get away, go out and back to the past.

The woman in a big dress tags along with the others. I wish she wouldn't. At last she has drifted away, I can see her float down the landings. This building is mostly glass.

There's nobody else on the stairs or in the corridors in this block. I wonder if there is anyone inside behind some of the doors, as we reach the end of the corridor where my apartment is. The others are still just behind.

The apartment is modern, spacious, open plan, minimal. There is a small saucepan sizzling on the electric hob. Further on in, another identical little saucepan, steaming, boiling. And there's another one ahead on the next worktop too.

I realise that no one else I know is here, no one else can be here, because this is the past and they've all gone. Everyone else is in the future.

But the ones who tagged along came into the apartment behind me. I point at them. My speech is feeble, so I strain to raise it, but it's rough and fluctuates. I say, "You are in the twilight zone."

Monday, January 08, 2018

In Rye



By a kind of logic that says if you post pictures of other people, you must post pictures of yourself, I give you me and my better half in Rye a couple of weeks ago. Thanks to the kindness of strangers who take photos for people on their own phones, and to the photographer lady who made such a good job of this one.

By the way, someone told us that Mermaid Street in Rye, where we're standing, is the most photographed street in England, for touristic purposes. (No doubt, someone will contest that.)

We stayed at the Mermaid Inn, up that hill, a building that dates back to the 14th century and is built on top of cellars that date back to the eleventh century. You can ask to be shown the cellars, used for wine of course. They're a little bit spooky, dungeon-like. Rye was rebuilt in the late 14th century, after being burned to the ground by a French raiding party. The inn is a fascinating place, not least to think that Shakespeare's company may have performed or sojourned there. It's also like a fairground "crooked house", because everything leans every which way.