Apologies for the protracted absence, I’ve been busy doing things. What things I don’t know, I tend to forget easily. Things though, definitely things. Ah, I do know one of those things: playing poker, lots of it. I’ve been playing poker (a lot) and winning (a bit) and writing about it for my new weekly column which has somehow managed to limp into its eighth week without me being fired or arrested or set on fire. Other things have been happening too but those things have all been choppy and bleak and I’m beginning to hate things – things happening to me, things consumed by me, things thought by me, things other people out there are doing. Things. We’ve all had enough of things, haven’t we?
I’ll tell you what else we’ve all had enough of: Me being homeless. Haven’t we all had enough of that thing by now? I certainly have. Since splitting up with my wife two or five or ten years ago (or, indeed, in July 2010) I’ve been officially homeless. Oh, I’ve lived in places but it’s been a blur of Finsbury Park, East Horsley, Dubai, Mallorca, Boscombe and my Nan’s dining room. Now although that’s a blur, it’s not a heady blur. It may well seem like a heady blur, but it isn’t. And the appeal is beginning to wear a little thin. There are things about homelessness that I like – living on the fringes of society, working in cafes, sitting on benches, occasionally feeling like an animal – but the things that I like are being kicked to death by the things that I don’t like. It’s gruelling. The main thing I don’t like is being scattered all over the place. I have toothbrushes and socks and bits of paper where I’ve written ‘Is everything going to work out?’ floating around the south-west of England. This I can handle. What is less easy to swallow is that bits of me have been scattered around: skin, clumps of hair, bits of my mind. It’s not easy living like this, when you’re living in several places at once.
You’ll be delighted to hear there’s a point to all of this – and an uplifting one, too. None of it matters. Not really. I know I pretended it does, but it doesn’t. All that matters is this book that I’m writing, everything else – socks, homelessness, bits of skin that have fallen off – comes second. I was reading about an artist the other day who lived by the maxim ‘Paint first, starve later.’ His wife, his children, what he was going to eat later that day, what his hair looked like – it all came second to painting. I’ve had to adopt a similar attitude to my work. ‘Write first, starve later,’ I go around saying to myself and although it’s slightly awkward when people stop me in the street and ask “Did you just say, ‘Write first, starve later?’” I can live with such awkwardness thanks to my new-found mantra.
I’ve gone mad, haven’t I? Again. Jesus, why can’t I stop going mad all the time? Or why can’t one bout of madness cancel out the previous one rendering me sane again? Who knows? Who cares? Write first, starve later. The writers among you out there would do well to remember that.
In the meantime, I’d be very happy if you wandered over and took a look at my latest poker column and let me know your thoughts. Thank you.