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Monthly Archives: December 2019


I’ve really enjoyed Christmas this year. Caught up with most of my friends, spent time with my family, think I bought some decent gifts, and I got lots of books as gifts in return. Plus, I’m looking forward to 2020.

But weirdly, on Friday I got sick. And my left ear began buzzing to the point I went deaf. Then Saturday I recovered. Then Sunday, the same.

I haven’t been drinking much and, despite the festive season, my eating isn’t over the top, so if it happens a third time I’ll be round the docs.


More Abbey

On reflection, I think post-Sgt. Peppers, all the Beatles albums were iterations of the same unfocused approach to music-making.

Maybe it was Epstein’s death, coming so soon after Pepper’s release; maybe it was the breakdown in Lennon & McCartney’s relationship that meant neither could say to the other, ‘that’s just not very good’  but for me, I don’t think McCartney wrote a better song than She’s Leaving Home in the three years and three and a bit albums after Pepper. Ditto Lennon: The Beatles could have retired after the final chord in A Day In the Life.

The White Album, Let it Be and Abbey Road are fractured, peacemeal and occasionally brilliant, but they’re post-scripts. All three albums feature brilliant musicians producing ok music, with occasional extra-ordinary moments. None of them match Help or Revolver or Rubber Soul or A Hard Day’s Night.

I’m glad I was introduced to Abbey Road yesterday, I’ll be listening to it for a while longer no doubt, but it isn’t an essential album.

(I’m writing this while listening to Sgt Pepper).

Abbey Road

Jas introduced me to the Beatles album Abbey Road, yesterday. It’s a curious mishmash, some great tracks, actual real songs, on side 1, with a lot of bits and pieces on side 2. Acerbic Lennon tracks plus McCartney granny-piano songs throughout. Not that I subscribe to the Lennon=rock and McCartney=schmaltz narrative. For undiluted schmaltz, listen to Lennon’s Double Fantasy. Dire.

With tracks like I want You and Sun King, I get the feeling they’d been listening to Fleetwood Mac (Peter Green era, obs). But then I think, I’m hearing it with fifty years’ hindsight, and I need to just listen to it as it is, stop looking for connections. And it struck me that Something, is one of at least three classic rock songs written about Patti Boyd, the other two being Clapton’s Layla and Wonderful Tonight. There might be more that I haven’t thought of. Not bad for a model who got started via a bit-part in A Hard Day’s Night

On the third play of the album, it’s growing on me: the vocals and harmonies are astonishing and the medley is beginning to make sense.


As a side note, I’m dubious about putting in HTML links to what is, I realise, a great album, cos of the whole EU/GDPR nonsense. I dislike the entire EU ‘censorship, control & power’ project. It’ll be nice to see 1600 years of English common-law reinstated in 2020.


If I look at a map and draw a line across from where I live to north America, it turns out that I live on the same latitude as  Hudson Bay. And if I look east, my hometown is level with Moscow.

But we don’t get extreme weather here in the North East of England, due to the Gulf Stream, which drives warmer waters north-east, across the Atlantic from the Gulf of Mexico towards Ireland and Britain.

We get rain. And clouds. Christmas is rarely white.

I blame the comet that gouged out the Gulf, some 60 million years ago. It gouged out the dinosaurs too. Which, after much evolution and adaptation, produced us.

So, on balance, I can live without a White Christmas. It’s a fair trade for being here.


There are lots of explanations/rules/guidelines for narrative structure. This one sums it up most clearly to me:

  • Equilibrium
  • Dis-equilibrium
  • New equilibrium

Here’s musician Nahre Sol explanaing Beethoven’s approach to structure.


This year I mostly got books for Christmas, which is the best thing.

Charlie bought me three books for Christmas: The Railway Children, Goodnight Mr. Tom, and The Borrowers. Danny James got me a massive book on tanks and stuff. Jas gave me a selection of thrillers. Chips got me another book on tanks because, inspired by the research I’ve done for the book Sid Beckett’s War, I love tanks*.

I also got a tiny little book called The Gift of Reading by Robert Macfarlane. Not really a book, more essays on book-giving, which is apt. I gave book presents too.



* Seeing as your asking, it’s the Panzer III with the long 50. But also the the M3 Grant.


On my to-do list:

I’ve got a completed draft of my dystopian YA novel Jago ready for a final draft in 2020. Hope to have it in print by the Autumn. There’s an almost complete draft of Gun Jesus, the third Mark Barrett action/adventure book too.

And there are other completed drafts that I need to go back and work on at some time in the future, including The Portrait Artist, Sid Beckett’s War and the Mark Barrett novella, Spenderella.

And I need to re-edit my short-story collections.

But the two novels will do for the coming year.

no sideman

I really like the legend of Robert Fripp turning up in Berlin for Bowie’s Low sessions, plugging directly into the desk, knocking off some typically atonal riffage and then leaving.

Like this.

Or from a later session, this.

Fripp’s always been my creative hero, whether leading his own outfits, working as a sideman or coming up with his concept of a “small, independent, mobile, and intelligent unit.” As a musician, being able to access the talents of a Fripp or similar must be a great aid to getting things done. But as a writer there’s none of that. You’re pretty much alone. And as an independent writer you barely get so much as an editor, unless you can find a friend to read your stuff. Even covers are difficult to procure; trying to persuade an artist pal to create something for you, mostly for very little money, isn’t easy.

But, the freedom of writing is something I would never change. To be able to create an entire world and the people who live in that world, is to be blessed.





If you live in the northern hemisphere today is the winter solstice. The shortest day of the year. From tomorrow onwards the days begin to get longer, though you can’t really tell until mid-end of February, when the dark really begins to lift.

Officially today is the actual beginning of winter, but that’s daft. Today is midwinter. Christmas itself, as much as I love the whole thing, is the grafting-on of a Christian festival to an ancient pagan festival celebrating midwinter.

Either way, today is the shortest day of the year, and the day after tomorrow is my birthday. Then Christmas.

All good.


One of the parallel tasks in 2020, to run alongside my writing, of which more later, will be to copy-edit all of my existing books, one by one, plus reorganising my short story collections into more coherent documents.

After which I will be able to put them on the shelf as the works they always aspired to be.