Monthly Archives: January 2011

The Final Countdown

I think I may have had enough. My beef isn’t with pitching – I don’t do nearly enough of it to have had enough of it – and nor is it with the semi-award-winning Pitching the World which I don’t update enough for me to be truly sick of it. No, my beef lies with my lifestyle. I think the whole commuting from Surrey to London thing and the whole prancing around all day like a tit thing isn’t quite right for me. The whole constantly-doing-sums-in-my head-because-I-never-have-enough-money-thing isn’t quite right for me. Nor is the whole grinding my teeth down to nubs and my soul down to a husk quite right either. And this state of affairs has been going on for some time. Towards the end of 2009, I wrote:

Another 600 magazines to go. It’s good having something to work towards, something with a bit of a resolution. After said 600 magazines have been pitched I reckon I’ll either be: (a) rich (b) mad (c) divorced (d) sick of bananas or (e) a combination of (b), (c) and (d). Depending on where I’m at mentally, financially, and in my relationship after all the pitches are complete, I can then decide whether I want to carry on writing for a living, become a male prostitute, or get a normal job. Whatever the hell that is.

How astute of me. As is stands I’m half-mad, half-divorced, three-quarters sick of bananas and wholly un-rich. Rather than become fully mad and fully sick of bananas I’ve decided to take a break, go to Europe and complete the necessary pitching in order to finish Pitching the World. Romantic, no? Europe in the spring? And I will do the necessary pitching. There’s no way that I’m just going to book a National Express coach down to Paris, skulk about a bit, chainsmoke my way around the cafes whilst becoming increasingly frustrated at my attempts to land a sugar mummy, then come back to the UK and my nan’s dining room floor. No way.

There is, as far as I can see, only one problem. I have nowhere in Europe to stay. True, I did spend 10 days eating out of bins and sleeping on the streets of Paris, Lyon and Barcelona when I was in my early-twenties, so I can do that again if necessary, but that was in the summer and it was warmer. True, I am going to be applying to various writing retreats in Scandanavia, France and Spain after posting this nonsense. But I’m also on the look-out for potential benefactors, sponsors, anyone really who would fancy a writer around the house for a month or so. If any Pitching the World readers fit the bill or know someone who would, then please get in touch. I can offer some money and the following skills:

  1. Good at smoking
  2. Good at building walls
  3. Reliable gardener
  4. Good at cooking stew
  5. Can write decent copy, occasionally

That I’ve put ‘Good at smoking’ at the top (the top!) of my ‘skills’ list suggests, to me at least, that if there were a sixth item on the list it would be ‘Excellent at being a fucking idiot’.

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A Walk in the Park

“To get out of hell, you’ve got to use power. Tell ten people.” Or so someone told me earlier today as I was strolling to the beach. I’m in Bournemouth by the way, not Surrey. Surrey, to the best of my knowledge, doesn’t have a beach. In fact, I’ve lived there for a month and Surrey doesn’t have anything. It might have a shop, somewhere. And trains – loads of trains. But nothing else. Surrey might not even have Surrey in it, I’m not sure yet. Surrey’s only purpose, it seems, is shuttling people out of Surrey.

But I’m not talking about Surrey, I’m talking about strolling. Have you tried strolling? You must. Walking is for the birds, jogging even worse, but strolling, strolling is the new booze, the new black. No longer do I start my days with a brandy coffee and a can; now it’s a banana and a stroll. In the afternoons, when the fear sets in, I take a stroll. In the evenings, when the fear really takes hold, so does my relentless strolling. Oh, you should see me stroll. I’m better at strolling than I am at sobbing and keen-eyed readers will have noticed that my sobbing is not to be sniffed at.

“To get out of hell, you’ve got to use power. Tell ten people.” That’s what the kid with the angelic face, can of super strength lager and joint told me earlier today. It took a while for his message to sink in. For a start I was mid-stroll and I don’t like to be disturbed when I’m strolling. Second, he had massive, brilliant, crazy eyes that I just stared at for a while. I wouldn’t mind those eyes, I thought, and I wouldn’t mind that can of super strength lager you’re drinking and those drugs you’re smoking. In headier days I might have grabbed the lot – can, joint, eyes, face – but these are days of sobriety and strolling and my grabbing days are firmly behind me.

“To get out of hell, you’ve got to use power. Tell ten people.” Well Angelface, consider them told. Sometimes more than ten people read this award-winning love child. Sometimes twelve people read it. What’s the point? Well, there isn’t one really. Last week I landed my most lucrative commission to date and I suppose there was a part of me hoping that I could’ve said I’d ‘strolled’ into it, but that would be stretching things. I suppose if you want a neat link, here’s one: all this strolling is keeping my head clear and I need a clear head if I’m going to keep down my regular writing job and also take on surprise commissions from time to time including this most recent one which is essentially writing the forward to a book on architecture and pays – wait for it, because this is what all the nonsense beforehand about cans, angelic faces being grabbed and strolling has been leading toward – £3 per word.

Three pounds for a word. Sounds a lot, doesn’t it? And it is a lot. Once you consider, however, that I know nothing about architecture then the deal might not seem so rosy. If I were being paid £3 per word for writing about strolling I’d be running – well, perhaps strolling – through the streets. Or if I were being paid £3 per word to write about architecture but could somehow shoehorn my newfound love of strolling in there then I’d be equally happy. And perhaps I can. Perhaps my introduction could be along the lines of:

“To get out of hell, you’ve got to use power. Tell ten people.” Or so someone told me earlier today as I was strolling to the beach. As I was strolling to the beach I was thinking about the fine work over the last two decades of Famous Architect and the relationship between architecture and strolling. Have you tried strolling? You must. Walking is for the birds, jogging even worse, but strolling, strolling is the new booze, the new black. No longer do I start my days with a brandy coffee and a can; now it’s a banana and a stroll and deep contemplation of Famous Architect and his work. In the afternoons, when the fear sets in, I take a stroll and think about Famous Architect’s clean, yet daring lines. In the evenings, when the fear really takes hold, so does my relentless strolling. Oh, you should see me stroll. I’m better at strolling than I am at sobbing (though I’m not better at sobbing than Famous Architect is at architecture) and keen-eyed readers will have noticed that my sobbing is not to be sniffed at.

I think I’ve nailed it.

The Erotic Review

“And twenty Camel Lights please. Thanks.” Me, Friday.

“Twenty Camel Lights. Please. Thanks.” Me, Saturday.

“Yes, and ten Camel Lights. Thanks.” Me, earlier today.

Seventeen words, all spoken to the same garage attendant and the only words I’ve spoken all weekend. I don’t want to speak to anyone and have turned my phone off. The only person I want to speak to for the time being is the garage attendant, and if I’m being honest I’d rather not have to speak to him. I’d prefer to just point and grunt.

Sexy, aren’t I? I’ve made other sounds; sobbing sounds mainly. You should see – you should hear – me sobbing. Oh you’d like it, I’m an excellent sobber. I’ve got sobbing nailed. Me and sobbing are pals. Why sob? Why not? It’s been a long time coming. Prior to this weekend I don’t think I’d properly addressed the breakdown of my marriage. I tried once when I was living in Clapton. My attempt involved spending most of the morning in the (mirrored) shower drinking Pernod out of the bottle and masturbating. Sexy, isn’t it? Occasionally I’d take a break and chainsmoke but my heart wasn’t really in the whole endeavour and at the end of my grieving session I didn’t really feel like I’d addressed much at all really. In fact, looking back, I wonder what on earth I was playing at.

I’m still not drinking by the way. I’d love to not be still not drinking, but I’m still not drinking. It’s tough, and made tougher by this borrowed flat I’m in being crammed with booze. Most of it hangs out in a locked cabinet. I unlock the locked cabinet, take out the bottles and then line up the bottles on my desk as I write and (in my head) swear at them. Fuck you Remy Martin XO, I think. Fuck you 10 year old Glenmorangie. Fuck you – really, fuck you – Bells. Fuck you Teachers – and you White Satin gin. Wow, I think, this is more like it, I’m doing brilliantly; I should do more of this, I should get in more.

But it doesn’t stop there, it never does. I take my friends back to their cabinet and lock it. Periodically, I open it and (in my head) swear at them. Good, isn’t it? All this? Haven’t I turned out well? Going mad in a flat in East Horsley. I was always going to go mad in a flat in East Horsley – it was so obvious.

But what better time to test out the whole madness versus creativity debate? More specifically, what better time to try and pitch Leisure Painter? Unfortunately Leisure Painter (‘Instructional articles on painting and fine art. Payment: £75 per 1000 words’) doesn’t have an email contact so they won’t be getting the benefit of my banana-sharp mind this evening. But Executive PA – they might. I flick to the Executive PA entry. ‘Business to business for working senior secretaries’, it reads, ‘Payment: £140 per 1000 words.’

And I begin to crumble. But mid-crumble it hits me. It feels as if God comes down to my borrowed flat in East Horsley and puts his hand on my shoulder and I say my eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth words of the weekend. “Fuck”, I say, “Of course.” Of course it’s going to drive me mad and of course I should be sobbing: it’s impossible. Trying to pitch 642 magazines that I don’t care about in an industry where Caitlin Moran can win Columnist of the Year is not only impossible, it’s stupid. And I’ve spent 16 months doing it. And I’m living in a borrowed flat and I owe pretty much everyone in the world money and I have a job in Mayfair as a professional writer which I need to concentrate on and just what in the hell am I doing trying to pitch the world. I should, I realise with a sigh and an entirely welcome loosening of the shoulders, just give up.

And so I do.

But not for long. Just as I’m closing the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook for what I hope is the last time I notice The Erotic Review entry, a few up from Executive PA. It reads: ‘Up-market literary magazine for sensualists and libertines. Length: 1000 words (articles and features), 1000-2000 (short stories).’

Could I sell them my wank-in-the-shower-with-Pernod story? Would sensualists and libertines like that? Possibly. I resolve to write it up on my commute from Surrey to Mayfair in the morning but if The Erotic Review doesn’t go for it, I reckon it could just about be the end.

A Room Without a View

Some good news: not only have I managed to stop drinking, I’ve managed to not stop stopping drinking. I’ll start again at some point. Oh, I’ll start again all right. I know I’ll start again. And I know you know I’ll start again. And I also know that you know that I know that you know I’ll start again. Stopping drinking, apparently, can lead to short-term confusion.

More good news: it turns out that stopping drinking can result in mental clarity. Clarity is both good and bad. Good, in that you can see things clearly. Bad, in that the things you can see clearly – curtains, meaning, other people – aren’t really worth seeing clearly. Still, there’s something to be said for detoxification, there must be otherwise the papers at this time of year (which, unfortunately, I can see clearly) wouldn’t be screaming about how fucking brilliant it is at every opportunity. I’ve yet to see the brilliance. Perhaps I will. Perhaps the grapes and muesli that I eat and the herbal teas that I drink and the walks in the country that I take really are something, but at the moment I can’t see it, at the moment all that the vitamins and air and clarity do is annoy the piss out of me and make me look forward to the day when I can drink or smoke or crack cocaine myself to death. Stopping drinking, apparently, can lead to depression.

Thankfully however, there’s even more good news: a friend of mine who is a GP (wish I was a GP) and my brother who is a scientist (wish I was a scientist) are getting a flat together in Finsbury Park (wish I was Finsbury Park). They say I can stay there in their alcove. According to my brother (wish I was my brother), the alcove is big enough to ‘just about’ house a sleeping bag. And according to the friend of mine (wish I was a friend of mine) I can stay there ‘for a bit’. Frankly, I can’t put into words how happy I am about this. Nor, simultaneously, can I put into words how depressed I am about becoming so happy about this – that at 35 I’m overjoyed that I can stay in an alcove ‘for a bit’ that is ‘just about’ big enough for a sleeping bag. That is in Finsbury Park.

I suppose my over-enjoyment lies in the prospect of getting out of Surrey and getting back in to London. There’s nothing to do in Surrey but drink and walk – and I’ve given up drinking. If walking isn’t careful, if walking continues to piss me off, then I’m going to give up that too. All I can do in Surrey, really, is pitch a bit more of the world.

And so with my eyes shut and pen in hand I flicked through the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook and blindly selected five publications that I’m determined to pitch this weekend. They are:

Leisure Painter

Digital Camera Buyer

Executive PA

Fly-Fishing & Fly-Tying

Backtrack

Fun, isn’t it? On a Friday night, doing this – it’s fun. Isn’t it fun? Oh, it’s so much fun. I can’t wait to pitch Backtrack in particular (“British railway history from 1820’s-1980’s”; payment £30 per 1000 words) but all the others are solid gold too. Assuming I haven’t gone mad or started drinking again (either, or both, entirely possible) expect to see pitches for some or all of the above by the end of the weekend.

Africa-Asia Confidential

It appears I’m experiencing the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned on the revelation that is Pitching the World that I tend to drink now and again. Well if I have – and I suspect I have – then it’s true. I do. For the last fifteen years I’ve drank almost every day and since the summer I’ve drank heavily every day and since my last post I’ve drank like a madman every day. On Saturday, after my New Years Eve celebrations had been going about a week, it all got a bit too much. On early Saturday afternoon I had to drink four cans in 15 minutes just to be able to get on the tube at Finsbury Park. And once I’d got off the tube from Finsbury Park, I had to drink another can to get me on the train at Waterloo. And once I had done that, I had to drink myself to Surrey and then drink myself from the train station at Horsley to my place a mile up the road in East Horsley and then I had to drink myself to sleep. This last bit, in particular, took some effort.

So I’ve decided to give up for a bit. For how long I don’t know, but for a bit. But what does one do when one gives up for a bit? If you’re anything like this one – and bad luck if you are – the options seem limited and terrifying. So far (and it’s been less than 48 hours so far. The bad bits are to come, apparently. The bad bits come in 72 hours) I’ve spent a lot of time walking from room to room and staring at things. I like to have a little shake now and again. I’ve been sweating lots. I’ve become fascinated by how, underneath the boozy exterior, emotionally delicate I am. I’ve been drinking lots of sugary drinks (good, apparently) and trying to take vitamins – though I’ve pretty much forgotten what vitamins are, and unless they’re in cigarettes then I’m not really taking vitamins.

This stuff is small fry though. In 72 hours, when the bad bits come, I can expect the DTs. It turns out the DTs are nowhere near as glamorous and far more dangerous than I had once thought and can lead to convulsions, fits, a stroke, a heart attack and powerful hallucinations involving snakes, spiders, and falling coins. The falling coins in particular strike me as odd, though a lot of things strike me as odd right now.

There is, however, hope. There is always hope. I’ve got responsibilities, you see. My love child, my weird kid in the attack, my darling Pitching the World needs looking after – and what better distraction than a barely-award winning blog that not that many people give a fuck about? What better distraction indeed. So, after a quick check that I’m not seeing any falling coins or snakes (I’m not) and a sugary drink (good, apparently) I open the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook for the first time in a long time. Although I haven’t pitched the publications in there alphabetically – I’ve jumped all over the place pitching whichever magazines appealed or paid the most – I’d carried a feeling around with me that my finest work was on the A’s; that if nothing else, the A’s were looking in good shape. Well they’re not. It appears that I’ve pitched the first six magazines listed in there (Accountancy; Accountancy Age; Accounting & Business; Acumen Literary Journal; Aeroplane Monthly; Aesthetica Magazine) then given up. Next on the list, rather alarmingly, is Africa-Asia Confidential.

I stare at the Africa-Asia Confidential entry for a long time. It seem that Africa-Asia Confidential is concerned with ‘news on the Africa-Asia axis’. I stare at the Africa-Asia Confidential entry for a longer time. I wonder if I know what the Africa-Asia axis is and if I did know what it was then would I know any news about it. I decide that I don’t and I wouldn’t. I’m not even sure if I know what an axis is. I stare again and decide that the best thing to do is stop staring at the Africa-Asia Confidential entry and go and have a sugary drink. Sugary drink drunk and snakes and falling coins not seen, I go back to staring at the Africa-Asia Confidential entry and, after much deliberation, decide that Africa-Asia Confidential can – for now – go and fuck itself. I move on to the next entry.

The next entry, far from hilariously, is Africa Confidential. Africa Confidential is not terribly dissimilar from its counterpart and contains ‘news and analysis of political and economic developments in Africa’. I stare at this entry for a while but not too long, quickly realising that I don’t really know a great deal about political and economic developments in Africa. If I hadn’t spent the last fifteen years drinking, I think, then I might do. But then again, if my nan had wheels she’d be a bicycle.

It’s going to be a bit of a slog, this.