Monthly Archives: May 2010

Holiday

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in. My afflictions that is. As if being sort of fat, sort of bald, sort of mad and sort of broke wasn’t enough – and, come on, it should be more than enough – I’ve only gone and developed a twitch. My right eye’s going. My right eye has had enough and is trying to get out of me. I don’t blame it. I’d get out of me too, given the chance.

My right eye wants to go, I think, as result of my recent nervous breakdown. It happened last week on holiday. ‘Oh splendid’, I thought mid-breakdown, ‘of course who but me should be having a breakdown whilst on fucking holiday. How boringly predictable’. My breakdown was spectacularly pathetic: one moment I was sat eating breakfast, the next I was shaking, (sort of) crying, and wondering whether or not I should ask the waitress to call someone (I didn’t know who), hold me, or slap me in the face. In the end I didn’t, I just lost my mind for a couple of days and resolved to give up the booze.

Which of course I haven’t. But I am cutting down and I am addressing the root cause of the breakdown. It’s these bastard restaurant reviews. Loyal readers will remember the day when I officially received the commission and spent the afternoon watching Balls of Fury and wondering “Why? Why am I not working on this commission that took months to land?’ 

Well, it’s got worse. At the time I thought that two and a half months was ample time to conduct 130 restaurant reviews. Even if I did three or four a day they would get done with weeks to spare. Then, as time went on, the maths became tougher. Maths became my enemy. A month or so ago I was thinking ‘Well, if I do thirty-odd a week – and that’s more than manageable – then I should make it.’ Then I went on holiday and went (sort of) mad for a bit, but I was still thinking ‘Okay, I’ve fucked up, but I can still manage ten reviews a day when I get back. It’ll be tough, but it can be done.’ Now that figure is nudging up and my time is running out. What if by this time next week I’m still wrestling with the maths? ‘Right’ – and I know this is exactly what I’ll be thinking – ‘right, I’ve got three and a half days left. If I do 40 reviews a day I’ll be fine – more than fine’. And so on. Regular, loyal readers will know that the day before the deadline I’ll be sat in my sad flat wondering if I can manage 12 reviews an hour.

Why do I do this to myself? Put myself under such pressure? Partly because I’m an idiot, I think, but mainly because I know when the restaurant reviews are done the only work I have to look forward to is Pitching the World. And Pitching the World ain’t ace. I see Pitching the World as a kind of oddball son, a son who unnerves me a little and, if it were an actual son, I would keep him locked in the attic.

If anyone has a calculator, please let me know. 

A holiday, earlier

A Bug’s Life

I’ve been reviewing restaurants today. It hasn’t been pretty. Throughout the day tiny insects have been falling from the sky and making me their home. I’m not sure why. They nestled in my hair, in my ears, below my eyes, in my shirt pockets. I was a bug magnet. But I didn’t know. I didn’t know until I started going into the restaurants I had to review. It wasn’t until then that these creatures decided they’d had enough of me and began to leap out. 

Like I said, it wasn’t pretty. A man fizzing with mental health issues, a spectacularly chaotic rug (if you thought my hair was bad before, you should see it now) and an unconvincing story about being the section editor of a well-regarded restaurant guide was previously enough to make the managers of the places I was reviewing to regard me with suspicion. A man with all the above but with bugs flying out of him clearly made them terrified. “Ah well,” I thought to myself as the insects dropped from me onto the floor, “this is a new low point in my life. In a life peppered with seemingly unbeatable low points, this just about trumps everything. From now on, I’ll be known in restaurant reviewing circles as the man who reviews restaurants with bugs falling out of him”.

What’s next, I wonder? Larger animals crawling out of my trousers as I try to convince my in-laws that their daughter married the right man? Stuff crawling out of my ass at the bus stop? Getting sectioned under the Mental Health Act? Nothing, frankly, would surprise me anymore. 

Whilst I drink away my problems and impress people in the pub with my bug show, here’s the reason I decided to do what I do. Arguably the greatest fictional journalist of all time.

The Life of Kings

Of course there are many good things about being a freelance writer, despite this blog relentlessly suggesting otherwise. I haven’t quite found it to be “the life of kings” as H.L. Mencken suggests, but if there weren’t parts of it that I didn’t enjoy, then why would I do it? Because I can’t do anything else? Because I either got booted out of or quit somewhere in the region of 70 jobs in the wilderness that was pre-Pitching the World? 

Partly. I do it partly because although I’m not quite good enough to do this, I’m better at doing this than I am at doing other things. Worrying, perhaps, but you should have seen me, for example, as a plasterer’s labourer. But there are other reasons.

Look down there then, and you’ll see the definitive guide to what I’m snappily calling “some good things – but not all the good things – about being a freelance journalist”:

1. Anything can happen. This is true. As a journalist you never know what’s going to happen from one day to the next. Well you sort of do, but other journalists say that you don’t so you might not do. You could get a call one morning from an editor asking you to go on an all-expenses trip to the Antarctic, or to spend six months undercover in a crack house in Tottenham, or something else equally exciting. This has never happened to me but it might do. See? Exciting. Knowing that ‘anything can happen’.

A crack house in Tottenham, earlier.

2. You get to interact with the public. Even though you may hate the public, get scared by the public or not know exactly who the public really are, you get to interact with them. Even if you just sit at home chain smoking Camels and the only public who you interact with is yourself in the mirror whilst you’re ‘trying out’ other personalities, point 2 is still a valid one.

The public, earlier.

3. You can make a difference. Whether this is exposing a scandal, helping to shape policy, or simply putting a smile on the public’s faces, journalists can and do make a difference to the world. That this journalist doesn’t – nor ever will – do any of the above is moot.

The earth, earlier.

4. The pleasure of writing.  Doesn’t really need examining – can be pleasurable. Plus, I’m getting a kick out of being able to insert images into my posts. It’s only taken eight months to work this out.

Someone getting pleasure from writing, earlier.

5. You can be your own boss. Meaning you can choose when to work, and how to conduct yourself when you’re at work. I choose to conduct myself by smoking and drinking lots, opening the fridge lots and seeing how many kick ups I can do with a tennis ball lots (14, at the last count). That said, this is exactly how I behaved in my previous 70-odd jobs; perhaps an indication of why they didn’t last.

Someone smoking lots, earlier.

Sabotage Times

This morning I sent a pitch to Sabotage Times. I say pitch but it wasn’t really, wasn’t really at all. More of a bio. I had been on the recently launched Sabotage Times website and wanted to be part of their impressive list of contributors. They all had bios. Here was my effort that I sent to the editor: 

“Pitching the World got thrown out of Truro School at 16 for handling stolen goods and selling drugs. Since then he’s worked as a door-to-door salesman, a croupier, an antiques restorer, a chainboy, a removals man, a barman, and an unemployed man. He’s now a writer man and has contributed to all the usual toss. Steven once made a film about a man who claimed to be both Clint Eastwood and the King of Spain but just as it was about to get commissioned, he fucked it up. In December 2009, aged 34, he had a trial for Colchester United but fucked it up. He did go on to write about his experience for the Guardian, but fucked that up as well. In June 2009 he worked as a political speechwriter in the Caribbean, and for a while didn’t fuck up at all, but in the end he did. He now runs the award winning Pitching the World (www.pitchingtheworld.wordpress.com) – a blog about pitching all of the 642 magazines listed in the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook. He hasn’t fucked this up yet, but will do. He is married to a psychopharmacologist and lives in Stoke Newington. He claims to be ‘a regular guest’ on Radio 4, but research suggests that he has only been on there once.”

The Radio 4 stuff is true, I was a guest last Saturday. The other stuff is (mostly) true, too. 

Anyway, Sab Times is run by James Brown, founder of Loaded, contributor to just about everything and bearer of an uncanny resemblance to the anti hero in The Adventures of Pitching the World. He was once voted more influential than the Pope and Margaret Thatcher (and presumably, more influential than the other James Brown) by Channel 4 and The Observer. In short, a big deal. But not so big a deal that he didn’t respond to Grandmaster Pitchy almost immediately.

His response:

Two things: one I like your pitch, two we don’t pay. 

So if you fancy pitching some ideas on these terms go ahead.

cheers James  

What to do? Pitchy doesn’t like to work for free (and has never done), but does want to work for Sabotage Times. Here’s the next instalment of The Adventures of Pitching the World, which neatly sums up my dilemma. 

Alright Shoulders. I’ve had that James Brown emailing 

me all day. Bit persistent really. Wants me to write for them.

Might – might – not get paid for it though. You may have

to get a second – I mean third – job. 

Please don’t leave me. 



The continuing and ever-declining and not really adventures of The Adventures of Pitching the World

– This is fun, isn’t it? Us, being in a cartoon. Means 

I don’t have to do any pitching. Can’t, can I? Not in

a cartoon. 

– Your hair could do with a bit of work. Shoulders a bit

big too.

– Please don’t leave me.