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Monthly Archives: January 2020

3 coffees

I wrote a short story called Three Coffees and, while it has potential, it just doesn’t work as it stands. I couldn’t get the structure right, the weight of the narrative couldn’t support itself. Too much space; too episodic; not enough punch.

But then I thought, ahh, that’s it.

I know what to do with it now, I know where to put it, and I know how it will work.

makers and destroyers

I’ve been a vegetarian for almost all my adult life. I’m not a proselytiser, humans are omnivores and they have canine teeth for the specific purpose of tearing meat into bite-size chunks, so I don’t pretend to be some sort of improved specimen due to not eating meat, if anything I recognise meat is good for you. But when I was nineteen or so, I worked in a photographers that was next door to a butcher’s shop, and the offal wagon that arrived every night put me off eating animals. So I don’t.

You can, that’s fine by me, but I don’t.

Someone said the other day that Mother Nature is not kind, she’s not loving, she’ll tear you apart the first chance she gets, and I agree. Today I saw a short film on the front page of a newspaper showing a lion dragging a warthog out of its burrow by the nose, and the obvious intention of the lion was to eat the warthog, probably while it was still alive. The ‘Hog looked extremely frightened but was doing his best to pull away. Because we always have a chance.

Don’t we?

But when a lion is dragging you out of your home and it’s got you by the face, your chance of being anything other than lunch is small. Predators survive by killing others.

This sort of thing is of interest to me right now because as soon as I complete my editing I’ll be redrafting Jago and a big element of the story is violence, the male predilection for violence in particular, and how a society deals with that and focuses it into something more productive and useful.

As Dakota says to Jane:

“Men. Makers and destroyers.”

To which Jane says:

“Women make things too.”

And Dakota replies:

“Women make men.”

I’m still working on the body of the narrative but it’s a love story, a fish-out-of-water story, a revenge story, and it reaches back, and forward, to other stories I’ve yet to write. It’s fully sketched, but it needs colour and detail and connective tissue.


Hey Bulldog

I’ve been listening to Abbey Road by The Beatles a lot the last few weeks, it was a gift I received for Christmas and I’m really enjoying it. I’m no expert on The Beatles but I’ve always thought that the four-album, two-year stretch from Help, Rubber Soul, Revolver to Sgt. Peppers was their golden period, and after that they dropped off to the point that we don’t really need the subsequent albums to really get their greatness.

I was wrong.

However, right or wrong, what I really never understood until recently about The Beatles was the quality of their vocals. They’re astonishing, quite simply the best vocal group I’ve ever heard, every listen rewards me with vocal performances and harmonies I hadn’t recognised previously. McCartney, of course, has a belter of a voice, but Lennon had a sort of reedy, raucous joy in his singing, and his timing was superb, often just a little late, riding the groove, letting it slide beneath him like a surfer slides across a wave.

And Tomorrow Never Knows is probably my favourite track.

So I’m just getting to grips with the post-Peppers albums. Today I heard Hey Bulldog for the first time. Which for them was just a throwaway, but for me is a game changer.



I’m not convinced by the entire anthropogenic global warming argument, we had higher temperatures in the UK in the Middle Ages and in Roman times, with mini ice-ages in between. But it’s mid-January, and my home town, which is on a level with Edmonton, Canada, hasn’t seen any snow. In fact, there’ve been very few days when it’s even been frosty.

Maybe I should plant vines, make my own wine.


post script: just got back from the beach. It feels like March, not mid-January.


Going through a phase of editing my back-catalogue at the moment. Working through every book and nailing the typos, the clumsy sentences, the excess words, everything. My short-story collections are going to be pruned, edited, rejigged and put back together too.

No more writing before that’s all done.

Then writing.

job done

Sometimes the having proves the not needing.

I got offered a place in a band tonight, and for a moment I thought, great, I could see myself in the band playing the stuff they do. Then I stepped back and thought, no. No bands for me. I’ll stick to busking from now on, maybe do the occasional function or party with friends, but that’s it.

And last week I got the chance to do a permanent job, working for the government. Holiday pay and everything. Local too. I thought about it and there were lots of good things, but none of them to do with the job itself. So I decided, no. Sure, I could do it, but why? Why launch back into office politics and middle management oversight and performance management targets, when I don’t need to. Sure, the holiday pay would buy me extra toys, but I already have all the toys I need. If anything, I want less.

So I’ll stick with the writing, the tuition and the busking. Works for me.



under control

Finally decided to get a knee op. It’s not a major issue, except it stops me walking without pain, and makes me throw my back out a little bit as I tend to limp a bit.

So a minor op on the torn meniscus, hopefully, and I’m speaking to a consultant next Friday. I’m hoping to get it done under a local anaesthetic as I have a fear of being ‘under’ – I don’t like drugs at all, my early experiences of them have put me off for life – if it aint actual sleeping, I prefer not to be unconscious.

It’s a control thing, I suspect.



I write stories. I teach a bit. I’m not exceptional. I’m not brave.

This is exceptional. This is brave. They murder people for saying this sort of thing, and yet she said it.


Purely out of interest I logged onto a site to test my unconscious bias. To be fair, I think the methodology is junk, it’s based on the speed with which you tap the E or the I key on your keyboard, the idea being that you will tap quicker on those things you prefer – say an image of a white or black face – and slower on those things you don’t. It’s an in-group/out-group thing, I guess. But I did it anyway.

It turns out I’m not racially biased. And I’m not biased in terms of gender.

Which was a bit of a shock. I’m male, working class, and from northern* England. We’re riddled with prejudice. Aren’t we?



* the ‘north’ in England is sort of equivalent to the Deep South in the USA. ┬áDunno what it’d be in Norway or Canada or Iran or elsewhere.


I did a quiz on the BBCs top 100 books to see how many I’ve read. I got 37. Apparently that’s higher than the average of 30, but to me it’s not particularly high. I read the classics between the age of sixteen and nineteen, that is, in the early years after leaving school*, while I was eating barbiturates and finding it difficult to hold down job, and devouring whatever they had on the shelves at East Herrington library. I stopped reading ‘literature’ before I was twenty. I mostly read junk now, and enjoy it.

The BBC list didn’t include Chandler or Woolf or a lot of other good writers, so I guess it tells you as much about the people who wrote the list as it does about what is supposed to be a comprehensive and nutritious reading list.

It’s a strange thing to do, evaluating a reading habit numerically. I guess it’s aspirational, giving people a list of 100 books. It’s doable.



* school being the last place I’d have gone to read books, quality or otherwise.