Monthly Archives: September 2010

Men’s Health

I’ve been wanting to write for Men’s Health for years. The magazine pays very well, sells lots of copies and if I featured in an edition and received one free in the post then I could learn how to build big arms fast and please my lover. The people at Men’s Health must know how to do these things as, for the past ten years, whenever I see a copy in the newsagents these straplines* are plastered across the front.

Now, I know slagging off a magazine within seconds of pitching it is not the way to go, but once you read the below you’ll realise that my pitch has less than zero chance of getting scooped up, so what the hell.

And by the way, dear readers, the irony of one of the unhealthiest men in the country pitching a magazine exclusively dealing with the health and well-being of men has not escaped me.

Commissioning Ed,

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Or so said Winston Churchill. But perhaps he was wrong, perhaps it should be: “If you’re going through hell, stay there for a bit.”

Let me explain.

The last few months have been tricky: my marriage has broken down, I’m being treated for alcoholism and I’m practically homeless. My Dad hasn’t spoken to me since I posted a semi-jokey comment on my blog about having a nervous breakdown on holiday. I had to be carried off a football pitch recently by four men after getting cramp. My hair’s falling out. So, yes, things not good.

And yet, in some ways I’m feeling better than I have done for years: they do say that tough times make tough people and I feel as if I’m coming out of this tough part of my life stronger, fitter, more confident and…well, perhaps not ready to take on the world, but certainly ready to take on some of it. So how about a feature on how your readers can deliberately put themselves through testing situations – physically, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, financially and so forth – and come out of the other side better people?

Happy to flesh out with examples if you’re at all interested. And if you’re not, this quote from Proust may help to convince you: “Happiness is beneficial for the body, but it is grief that develops the powers of the mind.”

Probably won’t help convince you though having re-read it. I have better quotes.

Best wishes,

Pitchy

* I think I mean coverlines

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Journalists I’d like to kick the fuck out of

This is the first of a five-part series. Remember a year ago, during the very first entry in fact, when I said I would write about the writers I would most like to fight in a pub car park? Well here it is. Kind of.  Each entry will feature two journalists. That means over time – I don’t know how long it will take, probably years – there will be ten journalists in total who I’d like to kick the fuck out of. But who knows, I might get on a roll and find hundreds more journalists who I’d like to kick the fuck out of. Let’s start with ten though. Or, rather, let’s start with two. And don’t worry, I’m on the list as well and although I’ll probably put myself at the end, it doesn’t mean that out of the ten people featured I’m the journalist who I’d least like to kick the fuck out of. I’m probably at the top, along with these two:

1. Alexis Petridis

Alexis Petridis, earlier

The inspiration behind this series – a series that is going alarmingly well so far – lies with my brother. On Saturday I bought the Guardian. I stopped buying the Guardian some time ago. Actually that’s not strictly true, I bought one this morning, but generally speaking I stopped buying the Guardian some time ago. I stopped buying it on the grounds that I began to find it a bit shit. Yet occasionally I’ll buy one or steal one and think ‘actually it’s not bad at all, I’ll start reading it again’ and then as soon as I make an effort to regularly buy (or steal) the Guardian again I gradually come round to the opinion that it is, in fact, a bit shit.

Anyway, Alexis Petridis. He writes for the Guardian and every Saturday in the magazine section he writes a column about fashion. I rather like Alexis’s stuff on bands and music but at the same time am of the opinion that any man who writes about fashion regularly is a dick. This week Alexis was writing about hiking boots. Pitching the World’s brother recently bought some hiking boots to yomp up and down Snowdon in and has taken to capering around town in them too. He reckons they’re comfortable (and looking at them I can quite believe him) and wears them for purely practical reasons. Yet after reading Petridis’s column – a column in which he writes about ‘the current vogue for wearing hiking boots in town’, and chucks around phrases that make you want to cut your own throat open, like: ‘you can always rely on fashion to bring you the WTF? factor’ – he got a bit irked. His beef lay with  Alexis Petridis writing: “Given that my idea of an outdoor activity is smoking in the doorway of a pub…”. I don’t know why this annoyed him – and I don’t really think he was annoyed, he was being funny with it – but he ended his mini-rant by saying he would “love to kick the fuck out of” Alexis Petridis. And this got me thinking. It got me thinking that maybe I too would like to kick the fuck out of Alexis Petridis – and not only that, but there were probably loads of other writers and journalists who I would also like a piece of.*

Incidentally, I think I saw Alexis Petridis in a north London newsagents about a year ago on a dreary Monday night and he struck me as a nice man, albeit one who looked as if he was coming down from a load of Class A drugs. It might not have been him though. But it probably was. In fact, it definitely was and he had definitely been taking loads of drugs all weekend. His employers might want to have a word.

2. Neal Butterworth

Neal Butterworth, earlier

About ten years ago I was broke and depressed and sleeping on the floor of my Nan’s dining room. This might not surprise some readers. As well as being broke and depressed I was also incredibly frustrated as my dreams of becoming a writer had never been realised. They had never been realised because I didn’t used to do any writing. Or much of anything else, really: I would read books and smoke and drink and try and make women have sex with me (but not on my Nan’s floor, we had to do it round the back of supermarkets. In bins), but I didn’t do any writing.

But one day I became inspired and wrote a letter to Neal Butterworth, the editor of the local paper which, I think, is called The Evening Echo. Yep, the name sucks. Yep, the name sucks. Yep, the name sucks. etc. In this letter I pointed out that I was mad and poor and sleeping in my Nan’s dining room and having sex in bins round the back of supermarkets and, to get me out of this dire situation – although writing about it, it seems ace – could Mr Butterworth allow me to do some work experience at the paper. I told him that my employment and education history was patchy but that I had changed (I hadn’t. I still haven’t.) and needed a break.

He gave me that break. Well, he offered me three days work experience at his paper which I gladly snapped up. And then fucked up. A week before my work experience was due to begin I wrote a letter to Neal Butterworth complaining about one of the features in the paper which I assumed had been written by a freelance. It was poorly researched, I said, clunky, hammy, unfunny in the bits where it was supposed to be funny and vice versa. You should have seen the letter. It was a good letter.

What I didn’t know at the time was that the feature had in fact been written by the deputy editor. And what I also didn’t know at the time was that Neal Butterworth was away and that the deputy editor had taken to reading and answering his mail. So when I turned up for my work experience – dressed as if I had just been released from prison – the atmosphere was frosty and although I offered my apologies to anyone who would listen and said I was mad, broke, having sex in bins etc. it stayed frosty for the three days I was there and I can’t remember really doing much work beyond skulking around outside Asda trying to conduct vox pops on people who couldn’t give a fuck.

About a week after my bleak work experience, I got inspired again. One evening I sat down and – without having any idea how to do it at first – did a mock up of a tabloid front page. The headline was something like ‘DEPRESSED MAN ENJOYS WORK EXPERIENCE SHOCKER!’ and then the main bit of copy was about how I had messed everything up by writing this letter (although it was a good letter) and that I’d learnt invaluable stuff at my three days on the paper and, once again, I wanted to apologise to the ed and deputy ed for my behaviour. I used quotes and all sorts and made it look good. Anyway, I sent it to Butterworth and he just wrote back saying something like ‘You shouldn’t have sent that letter.’

So, I sort of want to kick the fuck out of Neal Butterworth. But at the same time I sort of don’t. He seems like a good man and I think he was in the right; if I had had me hanging around and writing insulting letters I would have been pissed off. And he also offered me work experience when he knew that I was old and had shown no previous enthusiasm for journalism. He gave me the break I wanted. So I don’t want to kick the fuck out of Neal Butterworth.

This, by the way, is where the series goes downhill. It’s already the opposite of what the series set out to do. Perhaps the series should be called ‘Journalists [who are in fact editors] who I quite like.’

*Although my beating-people-up abilities have been in decline since the breakdown of my marriage (I’ve lost a lot of weight) and my once muscular arms have atrophied. I think if I did try and kick the fuck out of Alexis Petridis, he would end up kicking the fuck out of me. And although I can put up with a lot, I think being kicked the fuck out of by Alexis Petridis might just be the last straw.

A Year on the Ponce

It’s almost a year now since the spectacularly unpopular (yet multi-award winning) Pitching the World came into being. Over the year we’ve seen several nervous breakdowns, borderline alcoholism, chronic alcoholism, divorce, a football trial for Colchester United, me eating some beetroot, a pie chart and precious little else. Maybe a handful of pitches, but that’s about all. But Pitching the World isn’t – and never really has been – about pitching. Nor is it really about the world. Rather – despite me stressing on numerous occasions that the whole idea behind PTW was to pitch all the magazines listed in the frankly terrifying Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook – it’s always been about the life of a freelance journalist. 

And if Pitching the World is about trying to give an honest and accurate account of the life of a freelance journalist, then I suppose it’s been a success. And it’s nice to have been a success in one aspect of my life because every other area of my life – financial, matrimonial, professional and plenty more – has been a colossal fuck up. But I’m beginning to think that colossal fuck ups could become a thing of the past.

Since the breakdown of my often-wonderful marriage and my divorce from the always-wonderful booze, good things have started to happen. I’ve been asked to write a book for someone in Dubai. I’ve been asked to go on a covert mission with a team of detectives and write about it. I spend a lot of time reading philosophy. I also write really dull posts – much like this one – and completely neglect the idea of pitching or putting up pitches. But if Pitching the World is going to survive for the next year – and survive it will – perhaps this is the way of the future. Little talk of pitching, much talk about the life of a writer whose life has fallen to bits. Not that much of a deviation, then, from the previous year.

Thank you.

Alcoholics Anonymous

“My name’s Pitching the World, and I’m an alcoholic.” Yep, this was me earlier this morning at AA in Belsize Park, London. Good, isn’t it? And perhaps not too much of a surprise for many of my regular readers. What I thought was a pretty laboured comic device and simply a prolonged (15 year) period of heavy drinking has actually turned out to be good old fashioned alcoholism. I realised this on Tuesday after starting the day with two Valium washed down with a Pernod and brandy cocktail, although ‘cocktail’ is used in a very loose sense. It was then, really, that I realised I wasn’t simply a heavy social drinker as my Tuesday morning party was a sad, slightly scary one-man affair.

So I’m off the booze. For a bit at least. Good news for my pitching, bad news for what was an often colourful blog.

Wish me luck. Oh and I’m no longer in Bournemouth, I’m living in Clapton. At least I’m living in Clapton until Monday when I become homeless. Wish me more luck.