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Monthly Archives: August 2009


Took a walk along the coast – 3 days of trudging along beaches and spotting ruins of old castles, and buying cups of tea from WI volunteers raising funds from the shelter of Lifeboat Stations, and waking in pub bedrooms and enjoying scrambled eggs and fruit juice for breakfast.

Physically, it was great; tough but invigorating. Monday I was coming down with a head cold, I felt sluggish and tired, but when I left home at quarter to six on Tuesday morning the cold melted away and didn’t return and I found myself feeling very healthy.

It gave me time to think, to unwind.

Wednesday evening I sat on a bench in a churchyard and watched the sun set behind low hills. The clouds glowed pink and and cream and palest blue and they rippled as the sky darkened.

Do less, I thought.
Be less.

yard dog

‘You hide behind the words you write’, she told me. ‘Your writing is like a shield wall that you raise to protect yourself. You make the world safe for yourself by writing about it.’

She’s right.
This is my defence.

It always will be.


It’s strangely gratifying that someone writes a detailed study of one of my stories, even if I don’t understand a word they’re saying.


I think it’s about the fundamental language construction of Zippo* but I’m not really sure. Anyway, it’s all good. As someone who likes to stand on tall buildings, I’m all for people who understand structure, and engineering.

(* what is it with this story?)


Raymond Carver once said, in an interview, that he wrote short stories because he did not have the time to write novels. He had to work. He had to buy food. Wash. Sleep. Eat. He had to do all the domestic stuff that keeps us alive.

He wasn’t rich. He didn’t have the luxury of space, or time, or a private income that would allow him to complete a novel. But short stories, these he could write in one sitting.

It was, he explained, a simple matter of logistics.

This is my roundabout way of excusing why I didn’t finish the gods. And why Murton Passport is so short and fractured.

Murton Passport

Annie told me the story of Saint Claire, the hermit, and how he moved up the coast and tried to become a better man. All I did was change a few names and imagine how some of the conversations might have went.

But Annie told me most of it, and repeated some of the stories attached to him; how he’d been a motorbike courier at sixteen, and then a dealer-pimp; the story of the nutty guy with titanium knees called Tinmouth who’d leaped out of the window at the back of the club where he worked; about his friend and mentor Benson and how he’d died, and how he, Saint Claire, had beaten a man to death in a back lane below a railway bridge.

And how the the shadow of the city he’d left behind followed him, all the way up the coast.

I met her after she’d sold the place down on the quayside, the place where she’d lived when she first came to the city, where she painted and dreamed and grew into adulthood. The place Saint Claire gave her.

She’d bought an apartment next door to me and we quickly became friends; spending afternoon’s drinking wine and advising each other on how to chat up members of the opposite sex; she’d tell me about her life and her plans, I’d show her my attempts at writing. And one day, because she knew I liked stories, she told me about Saint Claire.

Annie had a matter-of-fact earthiness; a dirty laugh, an ability to drink copious amounts of cheap wine, mixed with a nervy, slightly fearful wariness that would come over her at times. She always carried a sketchbook, and watching her focus down on a sketch, as she did when something interesting caught her eye, you could almost swear she was glowing from the inside.

She had huge hair, a mass of unruly chocolate brown curls, and wide cheekbones that made you think she was bigger than she was, but the one time I saw her naked she was only small, and vulnerable, and painfully thin.


Haven’t been able to complete the gods as I’d wanted to. I need to write about Astel and Matthias, and some more about Ghent too. He’s central.

Think I’ll wander down to the British Library and mooch around there for a couple of days; see if the quiet and the smell of books will help me squeeze the first draft from out of my bones. If that doesn’t work, I’m bailing.

on writing

The best advice on how to write is from Stephen King in his book On Writing. He’s an excllent craftsman and fully aware of how plies his trade. It’s available on Amazon and well worth the seven pounds plus postage.

More succinct advice comes from Ernest Hemingway’s Top 5 Tips for writing well, which he was apparently given as a cub reporter at the Kansas City Star in 1917. Google it.

I can’t top those guys but I will add this three tips:

  • Read every day.
  • Write what pleases you.
  • Edit everything.

My main inflences are, probably:

Cannery Row and Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck.
Punk Rock.

If you triangulate these three, you get my short stories.


I had this excellent dream where I’d become, by the usual sort of dream-magic, a world-class spin-bowler. I was the slowest, trickiest, most accurate spin bowler in the world.

I was a zen bowler.

It wasn’t about the batsman, or the wicket, or the bails or even the match itself; it was about the moment of release; the disengagement of ball and bowler. It was about that specific moment when everything is possible but the outcome is already inevitable.

* *

Sometimes, when I meditate I focus on the image of my finger, half-immersed in a glass of fresh, cool water, and I contemplate the sensations in that part of me that is neither wet or dry.

Maybe next time I’ll focus on a cricket ball as it leaves my hand.


‘So you’re the girl who finally snared Lishman?’ I said.

Jesse is cool, I reckon, a good match for him, and the three of us were having a coffee at the station while they waited for the train to Tunbridge Wells.

Tunbridge Wells is a place that I thought didn’t really exist; like Surbiton or Purley, I thought it was a contemporary suburban, chintz-windowed myth, an incarnation of Arthur’s Camelot maybe, brought small on a diet of tinned soup, ITV drama and the Daily Mail.

I was wrong.

But TW isn’t their final destination, it’s just a stop-off to see Jesse’s sister, because Lishman and Jesse have chosen the rural life – they’re dropping off the grid; taking a lease on a cold-water shack in the mountains west of Barcelona, where wild boars, dragging water from the well, a cash economy and an uninterrupted view of the stars at night will compete with Lishman’s urban, conspiracy-addled brain.

I’m betting on reality to win, but we’ll see.



from August 2009


Driving through town on my way back from Wilson’s I passed Imelda. It was the first time I’d seen her in about five years and I smiled in her direction and she saw me but she blanked me, like I expected her too, and like she does every time I see her.

That’s cool, I wasn’t kind to her when we were together. Slept with all her friends.

She has black hair and pale skin, huge cheekbones and she always looks a little closed-off. I don’t know if she’s beautiful.

I used to think she was.