The Lonely Art

To take a quill in hand and dip the elegantly wrought nib in ink made from ground hawthorn bark, water, wine and iron salts. The momentous thing that is setting words upon a page. Even with the invention of the printing press, the writer first had to render the words by hand.

Wood-block and typesetting, proof-reading and editing. Making the best of your friend’s enthusiasm for, or indulgence of, your peculiar hobby to improve your craft. Perceptions of smoky rooms and chattering crowds as literary magic is forged in speech before being quenched upon the page. Inspiration from the world about or dredged from within by opiate, alcohol or solemn thought. The legends of writers becoming dissolute as they trawled the gamut of human experience to give insight and grit to their prose. Adventures writ large or small upon the senses to conjure grandiose vistas drawn in sentences for those who cannot escape to have adventures of their own.

The dreamers given haven or the marginalised given hope. Focus imparted and passion kindled. Words are mighty things, instruments of enlightenment and accomplishment, of wonder and epiphany. Histories bear witness because of writers so long ago, and stories work visions of histories that could have been. Everything is grist to the mill of imagination and the simple act of wondering ‘what would have happened if that had not?’ has provided the nascent moment for so many tales.

There is one thing that many do not see, a common trait shared between the Chinese scribe of four millennia ago and the writer on a quiet street today: solitude. Writing is a thing of focus, a pact between creator and creation that is simple in its fundamental tenet: the dedication to the work is revealed in the quality. It is a love, an addiction and a calling. If it is within you to write, then you will know this solitude: the calm of forming words and recording them, of refining them and sorting them, of knowing what is right and revising your work to become closer to what you envision with every pass. It is a bleeding of the soul to fashion what you see into words arranged to be emotive and elegant, expressed with finesse and balance. Family, fear, duty and worry evaporate before the solitude of writing. They will influence your words, but for the time you write, they are nothing; but never diminished. A calm that is the whole of you gently places all possible distractions aside whilst the idea that caught your imagination consumes time to realise itself. Solitude, meditation, cold fire of creation; the joy of making and pain of shaping will come later, when the piece is done.

I lay fingers upon keyboard and pause, honouring those who created so much using rudimentary tools in comparison to what I have available from here. Then the solitude descends and only forty centuries of writers know the place I visit.

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Posted by on October 25, 2014 in Life & Self


The Art of Party and the Shoggoth in the Punch

My previous post about the Birthday Trophy Shelf reminded me about a couple of parties I’ve been involved in. Which has engaged the rock ‘n’ roll time machine. We’re going back… Way back…

Early eighties. The local rocker community still considered Metallica’s Kill ‘em All to be the precursor of a new heavy metal genre. Hell, I still liked them. :) Anyway, I had a birthday approaching and it fell on (or near – memory is unclear) a Saturday. As we had all come together at a local venue call ‘The Balmoral’ and adopted it as our rockin’ home – even after it moved – it seemed only natural to invite my shaggy, fiercely independent and deeply clique’d extended family back for a shindig.

There was a ‘problem’. My mum. Deeply religious and as fierce in her belief that I was ‘going through a phase’ as I was in my belief that rock ‘n’ roll was my home. So, careful negotiations ensued. Lies were told. Permission was granted after a month-long parental objection erosion campaign.

On the afternoon of the day, breakables were cleared away and the downstairs was ‘streamlined’. My ridiculous hi-fi was moved into the dining room with due reverence for the sacred wiring. (The dining room being the furthest point in the house from mumsie’s bedroom.) Something like having ground zero next door instead of on your own lawn, in effect. The lounge would be the ‘crash room’. The kitchen was, of course, the hub of the weirdness.

And on that note, we approach the heart of this tale: the punch. Using a twenty-litre wine-making drum, we started to pour litres of fruit juice with glee into a Smirnoff (several litres) and sugar base. This was enhanced by using up all the spirits in the wine cabinet that mum was happy to get rid of. As early evening approached, we geared up and departed for the pub.

Upon the kitchen table, the lidded drum of punch stood. Using a camera view from horror films, our vision slips inside. In the fruit-scented darkness, a dim light helps us see: the liquid, nascent party fuel, stands quiet. Then a little bubble rises to the surface. It is followed by another. More follow. A happenstance of frankensteinian fermentation. It lives. :D

Several hours later, a motley crew staggers the two-mile journey back. It had been a long walk. The punch, served in half-pint glasses, was welcome. Everybody quaffed except the few non-drinkers (me and err… no-one else). Music started. A convivial evening of mild rock ‘n’ roll excess was expected.

The punch had other ideas. It had waited, quietly fermenting, for between four and six hours. It would have its victims.

My party took off. I was sober. I watched perfectly ‘normal’ (yes, sceptisism is valid) rockers lose their inhibitions, to a greater, lesser or weirder extent. Everyone was what, to this day, I take to be the quintessential definition of ‘blotto’ – that fine English term for happily, harmlessly, utterly drunk. The night became an exercise in damage limitation. Not that I considered it that. I was just preventing people getting too out of hand. Thankfully, there were no pugnacious types. But things happened outside my purview and the night, while being rather a lot of fun, became a series of discoveries:

A friend of my ex, and her fella, retiring to an empty room for some together time. My bedroom. My bed. GERROFF!

The lounge door stuck. People couldn’t get in. The hall became a packed traffic jam for a while, until I forged across the melee and tried the door. It swung open to my mates happy grin. He’d just discovered that the lass he fancied was taken with him too. Party be damned, immediate carnal discovery on and over the three-piece suite had to be done.

Someone was violently ill in the downstairs toilet. Unfortunately, they didn’t lift the lid beforehand. (It was twelve years before the culprit finally confessed.)

My ex and her best girl getting very friendly on the stairs.That was the moment I learned to divorce my emotions from my actions, because an awful lot of me (and half a dozen other voyeurs of both sexes) wanted to let that bout continue.

Someone fed the dog what I suspect to be chips and curry sauce… Poor Dusty. The next day his arse was the world’s first poop airbrush. (I still don’t know who did that.)

And so on. Random groping, surreptitious fucking, a lot of falling over, headbanging, a stack of heavy metal kids shootin’ the shit and puttin’ their narrow world to rights; character assassination, bonking in the bath (your secret is still safe with me) and mother complaining – until being so scandalised upon her second foray that she retired to her bedroom and did not emerge until daybreak.

Come dawn, I stood amidst a scene of devastation. About thirty bodies carpeted the downstairs floors. Not even snores were to be heard. The Party Shoggoth had laid them all out, rearranged the joint, and shlarfed off to find a place to rest and digest.

Mum descended the stairs, and in that silence of unwitnessed mortification, she looked at me and quietly said: “We are not doing this again.”

Then she looked about, and with that wonderful sang froid that only mothers can bring to bear, she said: “I’ll put the kettle on.”

And so, the survivors were roused with a NATO standard coffee (white with two sugars) apiece. Everybody got one, regardless of preferences. Most tellingly, they all happily drank it.

Except Paul. He woke, smiled, said: “Good party”, then rolled over, pulled out the unopened bottle of Bacardi he’d hidden behind the dresser, popped the cap and took a breakfast-sized slug.

He was still hitting the bottle happily as he departed into the clear morning, wandering off up the road singing an obscure rock ballad to himself, around puffs of his cigarette.

In his wake, but in other directions, the rest of my guests departed. Bleary-eyed, dishevelled, grinning into the morning sun. We rocked.

I may achieve little more in this life. But I have thrown one proper rock ‘n’ roll party.



The Birthday Trophy Shelf

Most of us collect something. Mementos of some kind that either have emotional value, make us smile, grant us the respect (or envy) of others, or fulfill an undefined need – or any combination of those. I have suffered from it and over the last few years have been forced to relinquish many collections. It is something that is both painful and uplifting. An addiction to material things is never a sign of a soul at peace.

My point? Read on.

Imagine that every year, you get a trophy on your birthday. They should be up there – on that dusty shelf in the corner of your mind.

Of course, like any collection, there are criteria. In this case, let’s keep it simple: you can only put a trophy on the shelf if you can remember something specific about the birthday it is for.

So, I’ll go first… Oh.

  • Twenty-first – A rather out-of-hand party to celebrate it.
  • Thirty-ninth – A friend bought me an insane present during a night out.
  • Forty-eighth – A home-made lemon drizzle cake arrived without warning.
  • Fiftieth – I got my first tattoos.
  • Fifty-first – I received a card from someone who I never expected to hear from.
  • Fifty-second – My brother got me an unexpected present.

Trophies without number:

  • A party at my house that ended with me and my mum serving coffee at 7AM to thirty wrecked rockers. Bloody marvellous – and scandalised mum’s church community as a bonus. :D
  • My first party at a place called The Hungry Years. A heavy metal rock ‘n’ roll extravaganza.
  • My second party (and last) at The Hungry Years (stupidly trying to recreate the atmosphere of the first). A bit of a faux pas.

Nine trophies. Forty-three spaces.

How did you do?

If you’re going to collect things, don’t forget the things of real value that we miss so easily: memories.

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Posted by on May 21, 2014 in Life & Self


The New Great Fear

Neo Cold War… Wouldn’t they just love that great fear to return? Rabid military budgets, ghosts of original McCarthyism presented as protection against terrorism, tighter controls on the public ‘for our own good’. All while the elites traverse the world without hindrance, for they will know that the spectre of war is nothing but that.

These days, nobody makes war unless there is a profit to be made. Truth, justice, humanitarian care, it’s all secondary to the wealth to be had or retained.

Fear stops people thinking better than hatred. Combine the two, give the masses something to hate and fear. That should stop them wondering where all the money goes.

Add this to the climate crisis, impending food shortages and fresh water scarcity…

There’s a profit to be made when wealth becomes the new natural selection.


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Posted by on March 21, 2014 in Uncategorized


The Days When the Dream Wears Thin

Everybody has them, I presume. Some more often than others, if recent analyses of social networking impacts on mental and emotional health have any bearing on reality. I get them. Had one earlier this week and am riding the turbulence in its wake as I type.

You know them well. Those days when you’re restless, or bored, or both. When nothing seems to interest you and you cannot summon up anything to raise a hint of doing anything. You wonder about what you’re doing or have done, and hindsight gives you a kicking when your defences are down.

The best way to alleviate your ‘man-flu’ or some other socially acceptable term for this sort of psychological constipation is do something. Do something now. Do something alone if possible but of your own determination regardless – it’s got to ‘feel’ right. Spend a few hours rewatching that TV series. Browse the net for utter trash that makes you grin or raise your eyebrows. Rearrange the bookshelves/DVD racks by topic.

This ennui is a feature of your mind and your mind is waving a little flag saying “Gimme a moment, I need to sort a few things”. Most of the time, sleep is when your brain tidies house. Sometimes it needs you to be awake but diverted while it deals with something. Chances are that you may never know what it is, but you will feel the ‘cloud’ fade away. More likely, you will suddenly become aware that it has gone.

There is no crime in giving yourself time in this hectic world. “Physician heal thyself” is entirely appropriate for non medical people too. Now, there may be an underlying problem. In which case, this time you take for yourself should allow you to discern the nature of the beast. And, more importantly: how to leash it, send it away, or accept it and add it to the zoo of psychological traits that comprise you.

Sometimes, you will only succeed in identifying the cause as the solution lies without. That’s good. Of all the things people can deal with, the unknown cause is the most detrimental. You’ve identified it. From there, it may not be simple, but a remedy (if necessary) can be worked towards.

Above all: don’t stop, don’t give up and don’t let anyone rein you in. It’s you body, mind and soul. Learning it takes a long time. These moments can be some of the most beneficial after the bleak part is over.


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Posted by on March 13, 2014 in Daybook


The Green Park Hop

Sitting here with a mild outbreak of lonely-and-pissed-off-with-life caused some eccentric connection to occur and a memory surfaced… The rock ‘n’ roll time machine is taking me back three decades…

I spent a lot of my time going to gigs at Hammersmith. It was a long train journey and the last train back to the South Coast meant you could just about see the whole gig, encore/s and catch the train if you left quick and got lucky.
Anyone who’s heaved out of a gig in London will remember the roiling crowd. In my case, it was a moving mass of leather, denim and attitude, with side orders of chips and loud. Getting into the tube station could be a problem, let alone getting a train.

After that herculean task was achieved, most folk changed at Earl’s Court to head for Victoria. But an old gig-going companion introduced me to a cheat: rather than fight the hordes, ride the line to Green Park and change onto the Victoria line. No crowds, more room to get a move on.
But getting a move on is where the ‘last blast of the night’ came in. To go from Piccadilly Line to Victoria Line at Green Park, you had to traipse down a long, straight corridor. We didn’t have time to walk if we wanted to avoid kipping on the platform at Vic for a night. You had to run. Flat out, just short of a sprint, hair flying, cutdown and leathers blowing back, ‘normal’ people heading for the walls as the pack stormed through.

It was a rush. The momentary power of mob-induced fear giving us a grandiose coda to the gig. Heady but harmless, I thought. Until one of the last times: I had linked up with a different crew to blow through the corridor on the ‘Green Park Hop’.
As we hollered and ran, an old lady loudly commented: “Bloody hooligans running wild!”.
One of the gents with me pulled up and turned to her with a smile: “We’re not runnin’ wild, missus. We’re runnin’ fer the bloody train.”
Her indignation vanished and with a smile she said: “Thanks yer for stopping. Now yer better bugger off sharpish.”
We did, chuckling – and we made the train.

That running with the pack feeling was superb. But what I remember most is the relief in that old lady’s eyes when she realised that we weren’t a threat.

Leather and denim and respect.

No matter what your tribe, have courtesy towards everyone until they prove unworthy.


Benefits for Who, Exactly?

I read about the The Big Benefits Row programme being televised on Channel 5 last night. I have had a dim view of such fare since ‘Benefits Street’ played upon public perceptions to have anyone receiving benefits damned as nothing more than criminal stealing from everyone and getting a ‘government salary’ for doing it.

Today I read this article by Ms Jack Monroe

It was a sad telling of what, for me, was the obvious aftermath of a televised debate over benefits. She is a brave lady for her honesty and her determination.

I have seen some of the other reactions to The Big Benefits Row, such as “Gas them all“. Seriously. The venom invoked by the merest hint of people even appearing to ‘live for free’ in Britain is festering nicely, it seems.

I’m one of those people, watching my friends on low incomes struggle from week to week in a manner similar to mine, just to stay ahead of the demands and debts of modern life. I have them too, but as I’m unemployed, they have been placed in abeyance. There’s no use fleecing me until I have a job and thus a wage that they can take every, even remotely, spare penny from, and do so for the rest of my working life. Note well that I, like most people on benefits, do not receive enough to live, let alone live well. I get by, choosing what to go without and selling possessions and mementoes from my life to cover the shortfalls. I admit that I’m one of the ‘lucky’ ones, to have such things to fall back on.

The next time you see someone ‘on benefit’ with something you consider to be a luxury, ask yourself a question that I know you have encountered in your own life: what did they give up to have that? You only see one item, yet the propaganda and media hype causes to you make a sweeping judgement. You may be right. Chances are you’re wrong – benefit fraud makes up only 0.7% of the welfare budget. It’s still a big number, but compared to tax evasion by big companies and ‘perks’ for government officials, it is trivial.

Our government is stealing and wasting money faster than they can claw it from the public. They are lining their pockets from you every day. Yet people still take their misdirection and obfuscation as truth. Why is this? Is it so hard to accept that you have delegated every aspect of the fabric that supports your life to anybody who said they would do it for you because they had your best interests at heart?

Obviously it is. The madness of grand delusion has set in. The ringmasters watch as the performers turn on any who seem to be the slightest bit different.

They are lying to you. Blatantly. And all you are doing is following their lead, under obvious goads such as programmes like The Big Benefit Row.

Britain has become a joke because of the leaders you chose by your indifference and the laws you have let them pass. Even if you get off your arses and vote in 2015, the next bunch of frontmen for the government machine are not going to sacrifice the level of cart blanche you have gifted them. Why on earth should they? It’s not like they are affected in the slightest.

I have no good answers and fewer solutions. I see and I comment, but with diminishing hope that what I foresee with my paranoid, cynical view will not come to pass.


Save. Our. Society.


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Posted by on February 4, 2014 in Uncategorized


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