Monthly Archives: May 2015

The End of the Beginning

You’ll never guess what I found a few days ago. Go on, have a guess. You probably think that I found myself living in a bin, perhaps even turned to your partner and said, “Haha, bet he found himself living in a bin,” through a mouthful of toast before clicking on to the Guardian website.

But you’d be wrong. I haven’t found myself living in a bin. Not yet at least. No, I found this little beauty:

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Life-wrecking equipment, earlier.

Whoops, what do we have here? Well, what we have here is the 2010 edition of the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook. I bought it in September 2009. My plan was simple: (1) Pitch all of the 642 magazines listed in there with ideas for features, (2) write features, (3) make money, (4) write book, (5) make more money, (6) sell film rights to book, (7) make yet more money, (8) live on an island.

Regular readers will know that it hasn’t quite worked out like that. Very, very close, granted, but not quite. It worked out a bit more like this: (1) Pitch hardly any of the 642 magazines listed in there with features ideas, (2) write very few features, (3) make no money, (4) write no book, (5) make less money, (6) sell everything of value I own, (7) make even less money, (8) live in an office.

Admittedly it was a very thrilling and heartfelt attempt at the whole thing, but I fell ever-so-slightly short. I think I know why. Here’s why:

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Aeroplane Monthly and friends, earlier.

This is the first page of the section, “Magazines UK and Ireland.” See what a spirited and industrious start I made? I’ve scribbled all over it – have made all kinds of notes. I’ve written “FLYING DOCS” next to the entry for Aeroplane Monthly, presumably because a month or so earlier I had visited the Flying Doctors museum in Alice Springs, Australia, and I thought that would make a good feature. Me visiting a museum. That the editor of Aeroplane Monthly perhaps wasn’t even aware of the Flying Doctors and it was down to me, a hard-nosed go-getting journalist who had visited a museum in Australia but left after about ten minutes because he was bored to highlight their fine work to both him and his readership. Underneath “FLYING DOCS” I’ve written “BRYSON GUY” but I have no idea what this means.

Elsewhere on the page I’ve written “Tax?” next to Accountancy and also “Stress?” I know, another pair of mind-blowers. Next to Acumen Literary Journal, a publication focussing on “Poetry, literary and critical articles, reviews etc.” I’ve written “Poem?” Clearly, I was on fire in early September 2009.

Rather unbelievably however, it only gets worse. There are oceans of empty space where I’ve written nothing at all. Six years I’ve had that book. Six years. I look at the F’s. The F’s aren’t good. Please don’t look at the F’s. Oh come on then, let’s have a good old look at the F’s. On one page I’ve written one thing. It’s a page containing magazines I could actually write for: FHM (I’ve written at least eight features for the current editor), Film Ireland (I’ve been paid to write film reviews before), Film Review (I’ve written features – features for god’s sake – about films), I could have even potentially have written for The Field, focussing on “The British countryside and country pursuits,” if I had sat down and thought about it for a bit.

But no. No, I seem to have bypassed all of that and made one note in this section, adjacent to Family Tree Magazine. Next to Family Tree Magazine, I’ve written “OUR FAMILY TREE?”

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Inspiration, earlier. 

Nothing for FHM. Nothing for any of the film publications. Nothing for any magazines that might have paid me reasonable money. Nope, instead I’ve plumped for Family Tree Magazine, despite having practically zero interest in my own or anyone else’s family tree.

And not only that, it’s not even an idea. I don’t know what it is, but it’s certainly not an idea. Really? “OUR FAMILY TREE?” I’ve even gone an underlined the “OUR” as if to stress what a precise, unusual and original idea this is, as if when the editor gets my pitch (which I imagine wouldn’t have been much more developed than, “Dear Editor, I’d like to write about MY family tree…”) she’s going to summon her co-workers and say, “You’re not going to believe this. You better all sit down. This is going to blow you away. I received an email this morning from a writer and he wants to write about HIS family tree. That’s right: HIS OWN FAMILY TREE. How could we have been so stupid? Why are we not running this sort of stuff? It’s been staring us right in our fucking faces all of these years but we’ve just not seen it…”

Wow, the editor of Family Tree magazine is certainly sweary and colourful. Maybe I should try and write for her. Then again, maybe I shouldn’t. Maybe I should just get rid of the book, draw a line underneath it, much like the line that I drew underneath “OUR FAMILY TREE?” But how? The obvious answer, and one you are no doubt all thinking, is: “Ceremonially burn it. You know, as a sort of cathartic experience. Go on, burn the fucker. Burn its bastard brains out.”

Well, I hear you. I really do. I love the sacrificial burning of books as much as the next man. But I’d want it to be dramatic, would want to take the book down to the beach late at night in a metal flower pot and set fire to it whilst barking at the moon. I don’t have a metal flower pot though, and don’t really have the means to buy one. Plus I’d need a beard. It would take me two months to grow a good one. If you’re going to set fire to a book in a metal flower pot late at night on the beach whilst barking at the moon you have to have a beard. Anything less is amateurish.

Or I could leave it on, say, a bench in the park. But then it could fall into the wrong hands, it could fall into the hands of a writer and, well, I couldn’t live with the responsibility.

So I think I’ll just throw it away. Just let it go and move on. Yes, I think I’ll do that. Tomorrow though, after I’ve had a proper think about Family Tree magazine, Flying Doctors and poems.

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Am I Living in a Box?

Check me out. Go on, I dare you. Check out where I’m living these days. Guess where? You probably think a bin, may have even mouthed “bin,” or perhaps turned to your partner and said, “Haha, bet it’s a bin,” through a mouthful of sandwich before clicking on the Guardian website.

But you’d be wrong, I’m not living in a bin. I’m living in an office. And not only am I living in an office, I’m living in an office in an entirely illegal fashion. Have you ever lived in an office in an entirely illegal fashion? Oh, you must. You really must. It’s liberating. And not only liberating, but the thrill of the illegality coupled with the cut-and-thrust of business in Bournemouth makes for an ideal creative environment.

The only worry is that I’m not sure quite how illegal it is. I think I need it to be more illegal than it really is, if I really want to get all nice and pumped up creatively.

I tested the legal waters earlier. There’s a woman downstairs on reception who oversees all of this cut-and-thrust. When I first met her she stared right into me, gave me the sort of look that said, “I’d like to have sex with you.” At least I think that’s what it said. At the time I was feeling a little squashed-head-on-tracks so I didn’t attempt a fuck-stare back. A week or so later I was back to gliding around rather than stumbling around and so when I saw her I gave her my best fuck-stare. I don’t think it worked. I think she just thought I was really angry with her about something, that perhaps I was a bit demented.

So I’ve been avoiding her. Until earlier. Earlier I glided down to her office. I couldn’t make eye contact, so my eyes were just darting around the room as if a tiny bird had somehow got in there and I was following it.

“Is everything okay?” she said.

“Yes, yes,” I said, perhaps a little too aggressively. “Fine. I was working late in the office last night and, um, I fell asleep for about half an hour. Late at night.”

“Okay,” she said.

“That’s probably bad though, isn’t it? You know, against the rules. If I was to sleep in the office – that would probably be against the rule of the…building.”

My eyes kept following the imaginary bird.

“Yes, if you were intentionally going to sleep the night. You’re not allowed to sleep in the offices overnight. Are you telling me you’re sleeping in your office?”

“You tell me,” I wanted to say, while lighting a cigarette. But I didn’t, I just said “Hfft, of course not,” and semi-stumbled out of there.

So it’s definitely not allowed, which I’m absolutely delighted by. You know, creatively speaking.

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This was probably my fuck-stare, earlier.

The other thing about this office, is that it is not my office. And not only that, but the person whose office it is doesn’t even know I’m here. If you haven’t lived in an office that you’re not allowed to live in, that isn’t yours, and the owner doesn’t know you’re there…well, you’ve barely lived at all.

The owner could find out of course. He could read this and then email me saying, “Hold on – are you living in my office?” Naturally, I have a ready-made reply. I’m going to tell him that of course I’m not living in his office, that his office is a literary device – a metaphor.

And if he comes back one night? Comes in after a late night flight to catch up on some paperwork and there I am on the floor in the dark, covered in towels and cardboard boxes and shirts?

“It’s okay,” I’ll say, gesturing around the room. “This isn’t what you think it is. This is all very…metaphorical.”

That’s the plan, at least. One thing I’ve learnt from illegally living in an office is that you have to have a plan. More on that next time, my house and flat dwelling chums.

Why I Started Writing Again*

Many things over the years could have got me writing again: gnawing poverty, misshapen emotions, a sense of doing something beyond myself, boredom, envy, borderline homelessness, getting older, getting madder, dressing in rags – the list, unfortunately, goes on.

It was none of those unsavoury things, though. It was a Soreen Cake. For well over a year now, I’ve been wanting to write about one. I saw a Soreen Cake in a cupboard in a house I was living in and it immediately depressed me. An image landed in my head. That of a middle-aged woman, alone, on a Friday night watching television. In front of her sits a slice of Soreen Cake. She eats the Soreen Cake and tries to be buoyant and unalone but the buoyancy of Friday night television only serves to strengthen the cloak of loneliness she wears. Still, she perseveres. She shoves more Soreen Cake down her  throat and thinks about that time last year when one of her male colleagues felt her up in a car park after they’d both had too much to drink. He was married and she sometimes thinks…well, I don’t know what she sometimes thinks because I became simultaneously bored and depressed thinking about my imaginary Soreen Cake woman and I stopped thinking about her.

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A car park, earlier. 

I’m not sure why all of this depressed me so much. Perhaps it was because I too sometimes wear the cloak of loneliness that my imaginary Soreen Cake woman wears. Perhaps it was because I too want to get felt up in a car park after work by a married man. Perhaps (although there is no perhaps about it) I too want to much to drink. But it wasn’t any of those things, not really. It was something else. Something I had seen written on that Soreen Cake wrapper had annoyed and frustrated and depressed me. I went to read it again but suddenly lost all interest in anything other than lying on the floor and moaning and so I lay on the floor and moaned.

A few months later I decided to start writing again. It had been a while. But what to write about? I sat and thought. Nothing came. Find something then, I said to myself. I tried to find something. Nothing could be found. Then, bliss. I know, I thought, I could write about that Soreen Cake and about that woman getting felt up in a car park. That would be something.

So I sped off to the supermarket. In there I felt I should buy other stuff to overshadow the Soreen Cake buying: spinach, any kind of tablets, canned fish – anything, really, to cover up the Soreen Cake horror. Yet I didn’t. Emboldened by my decision to start writing again I just bought the Soreen Cake on its own, didn’t even take a bag, and strode flamboyantly out of the shop.

Outside, I immediately regretted my flamboyancy. Everyone knew. People could see the garish yellow and purple Soreen Cake and knew what I was all about. They could see my cloak of loneliness and could tell I was on my way home to stuff cake down my throat whilst thinking about getting fingered in a car park. “It’s not that,” I wanted to blurt out, “Honestly – it’s for this thing I’m trying to write.” But I didn’t say anything. I tried to shove the bastard thing into my jean pocket but it wouldn’t fit, it only highlighted what I had in my possession and made my cloak billow out behind me so I just ran home in near-tears with the whole town laughing at me.

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A bastard-thing, earlier. 

At home I was happier. “You may well save my career, dear thing,” I told the Soreen Cake as I cuddled it. “You may well be my muse.”

I read the packaging. “The secret’s in the squidge,” it began. “Give it a squeeze. Come on. Don’t be shy. There. Feel that? That’s delicious chewy fruitiness, that is.”

Fuck, I thought. I thought “fuck” because the writing wasn’t at all bad – was actually pretty good for what it was – leaving me nothing, seriously nothing, to write about. And I also thought “fuck” because I found the writing slightly erotic. If I’m getting turned on by that writing and by squeezing a malt loaf, I thought, then perhaps I need to get out more.

The Soreen Cake went back into the cupboard unopened and I went off to bed in my cloak. A few weeks later, I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about giving that Soreen Cake a good old squeeze. I opened the cupboard. There it was, all yellow and purple and sexy. I read the packet again. Good stuff, I thought. Then I lifted up a bit of flap – as you can tell, this was all getting a little heated – and there it was. “Slice me, tear me, chop me.” Oh yes, I thought, this is what I wanted, this is what I’d been looking for. “Why not toast me? Grill me, smother me with jam, or just enjoy me as I come…” OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A cloak, earlier. 

And I remembered. That’s what had annoyed and depressed me all those months before, that infantile series of me’s. And not just on a Soreen Cake, they are everywhere. Buses are people. Boxes of tea bags are people. Towels are people. Car parking spaces are people. All these things are telling you stuff: Please don’t park in me. This is where you open me. Are you sure you want to wash me? I remember seeing all this and the Soreen Cake wrapping and thinking, “That’s why I want to start writing again, to help put an end to all of the cutesy, whimsical bullshit.”

But I’m not sure I do. Having had time to think about it, I could barely give half a fuck about what makers of malt loaf choose to put on their packaging. Do I think “SORRY I’M NOT IN SERVICE,” on the front of a bus is any better or more palatable than the taut and muscular, “NOT IN SERVICE”?  Obviously not. Are we being treated like infants? Probably. Do I give many fucks about it, so many fucks about it that I decided to start writing again?

No. But I do care about writing, even though I’m not sure why. And if I can stay in on a Sunday night (on a bank holiday, no less) to write about not writing about what is written on Soreen Cake packaging, then the future could end up not being as disastrous as it once looked.

* Beadier-eyed readers will have noticed that this post is not called “Why Online Poker is Ace.” Nor is it about why online poker is ace. I know I promised that. It’s forthcoming. Thank you.