Ignore me. I’m sick.

What is this art form? This theatre of words moving across a page? The trade of building images out of symbols? Carving literary statues with grammatical chisels? Writing is so much and so little. A bad sentence is almost indistinguishable from a good one. It takes a person with a degree to know what is good and what is not. They will tell you Dan Brown paints his words with turds and shake their fists at the pages of The Bookseller magazine which dares to print sales figures that contradict their assessment.

The average reader has no idea. Nor do they care.

You can have a novel, 120,000 words long, and find nothing of meaning within its pages. Heroes running the same course as many before them. A save-the-cat journey of write-by-numbers plots designed to move and thrill. The same story sold bought and read again and again and again.

Another book. Which follows no particular pattern. Does not follow the rules of grammar exactly. And does not dance around a story circle. Filled with depth and aphorisms and wit. Is never read.

If a genre book is considered literary is it no longer genre? If a literary book is blandly written is it still art? Is storytelling itself art, regardless of the prominence or not of adjectives in its prose?

I always wanted to write whatever the British equivalent of The Great American Novel is. In wanting to learn how to do this I have become more and more interested in turning a collection of words on a page into a continuous moving image in the reader’s mind. I write westerns now. The goal of the books is not to blow you away with a skilful display of my vocabulary and the wrangling of obscure and rarefied words, but to put the words out of your mind entirely. I want my stories to grab you by the hair and drag you through the dirt. I want you to read them in one sitting and turn that last page with your heart racing and your eyes raw with fatigue and belly hungry. But instead of eating, or sleeping, I want you to turn right back to the start and read it again. Is that art?

To do that, maybe I have not created art. I have created entertainment.
Will that do? Is that enough?
I still want to write The Great British Novel, but writing pulp is too much fun.

Right now I am sick. I’m sat on the couch amidst a snowstorm of crumpled tissue. My nose is red. I’m sniffling. I have a tickle at the back of my throat that I have been refusing to turn into a cough since I started writing this incoherent nonsense. I should be writing the next chapter in my book but instead I am rambling about, what? Whether or not writing is art? I have no idea. I have lost the thread of my original thought. The cold that has turned my brain into a red hot storm of snot has forced my imagination into some kind of fevered spasm of bollocks.

I have the urge to write but not the clarity to do so usefully. So now I have done this. I started writing with no plan and have ended up here, and you’re right here with me, wondering what the point of any of this is.
We are conjoined in an existential crises of blog gibberish. I will set you free so I can go and sneeze.

Let me leave you then. I am going to drink coffee, cough up some lung-butter (as Rachel so juicily calls it), take some Sudafed, and try again to write what I opened my laptop to write in the first place. Some good old fashioned gun-slinging pulp fiction.

Tripping the Night Fantastic – Chapter 2

Knock, Knock, Knock. Simon waited for a few seconds.

Bang! Bang! Bang!

Inside Charlie’s apartment something stirred under a bed sheet.

Bang! Bang! Bang! ‘Charlie!’

Charlie opened his eyes, a little confused and world weary thanks to a large bottle of Jack Daniels the night before.

Bang! Bang! Bang! ‘Charlie! Open the door!’

Charlie sat up and climbed out of his bed.

Bang!…

‘Shut up! I’m coming.’

Charlie un-chained the door and opened it. Simon Squeezed past him and went straight to the kitchen.

‘What?’ Charlie demanded wearily.

‘It’s Tuesday, we have to be at the studio in an hour.’

Charlie’s face tried to respond and failed, so far only his legs, eyes, part of his brain and at least one of his arms was completely awake. He tried speech ‘nmph?’

‘GMTV. I’ve got you three cups of coffee, drink this.’

Charlie took the coffee.

‘And a bacon and egg sandwich,’ continued Simon.

‘mm.’

‘Eat your sandwich and get in the shower, I’ve got you a new shirt and some razors.’

‘You’re ever so nice.’

‘I know, now get in the shower.’

Simon edged him toward the shower and gave him his second coffee as he entered and closed the door behind him.

‘Make sure you shave!’

‘Alright, stop shouting.’

 

Fifteen minutes later the shower door opened and out came Charlie. To Simon’s astonishment he actually looked close to presentable.

‘Right, you look good, let’s go.’

‘Wait, wait… wait.’

‘What?’

Charlie looked around his room and grabbed his keys, a small cantina and half a cigarette out of the ash tray.

‘Ok.’

 

In the underground car park Simon unlocked his car. Charlie looked at him with an expression like pity.

‘What are you doing?’ said Charlie.

‘Getting in the car.’

‘We’re not taking your car we’re taking mine.’

‘Really?’ Simon ran a disapproving eye over the trashed vehicle, ‘why don’t you buy a proper car?’

Charlie composed himself and prepared his fragile mind for coherent conversation.

‘It’s not about how new and shiny a car is that makes a car great. I’m not getting in your car; it has no handbrake and no keyhole, so in my book it’s not even a car. Having no keyhole is like a woman having no vagina.’

‘Charlie it’s a modern car, this button is the hand brake, and it doesn’t have a keyhole because you start it with a button.’

‘Your sexless freak of a car is the automobile equivalent of a blonde-tipped, spiky haired prick with no penis, whereas my fucked up little Jaguar is the car equivalent of dishevelled rough sex.’

Simon closed his car door and got obediently into Charlie’s.

 

Concise and in control is how Charlie would describe his driving. Most others would describe it as erratic, dangerous, fast, and suicidal. Neither is right, he actually drives in a way that is both oblivious to other road users and apparently, as he has never crashed, safer than flying. In-fact, his record is so clean that being driven by Charlie is statistically safer than driving. It is frightening nonetheless.

Charlie spoke loudly over the sound of the engine.

‘Now your wife has a good taste in cars.’

Simon looked at him suspiciously.

‘How do you know what my wife drives?’

Charlie took no notice.

‘A 1971 British Leyland pick-up 4×4. Cool car.’

‘I’ve never introduced you.’

‘It even has a damn snorkel and a roll cage!’

‘Charlie!’

Charlie looked at the slightly panic stricken face of his agent.

‘Not getting paranoid are we Simon? She dropped a box of books to my last book signing. You weren’t in so she offered.’

‘She’s been acting strange recently, that’s all.’

‘Of course she’s acting strange, she’s a woman. It’s when she starts acting normal you have to worry. It is a cool car though.’

‘It’s not hers her dad left it to her.’

‘Simon, fucking relax.’

‘You’re right. I’ll start acting like you shall I? Get drunk for days on end, eat shit, swear at everyone?’

Charlie pulled the car up outside the studio and stopped the engine.

‘Sure, if you want to.’

‘I wasn’t agreeing with you.’

‘Ok.’

Charlie gave him a friendly pat on the back.

‘You know, it’s a pretty easy life, just doing what you want.’

‘Yes, I’m sure.’

 

A man in a suit was waiting by the entrance of the studio. He noticed Charlie and Simon and waved them over.

‘Ok, that’s the producer. He’ll brief you before you go on. You must do what he tells you. Marcus, how are you!’ Simon called from a distance.

Marcus ushered them to hurry up.

‘Simon, I didn’t think you were going to make it,’ said Marcus.

‘It’s nice to see you again,’ said Simon.

‘And Charlie,’ said Marcus turning to Charlie, ‘I’m a big fan of your work, very funny stuff, glad to have you on the show.’

Charlie considered this interesting critique of his work and replied dryly, ‘My next book is about a blind alcoholic orphan. She gets raped by a ghost and spends most of the story sitting in a dark room swearing at the walls until she finally dies of aids.’

The good thing about people like Marcus, or anyone who has a job that involves holding a clip board and having a wire leading to your ear with people telling you to tell someone else to hurry up, is that they never really hear anything anyone says to them. This is why his response to Charlie’s reply was, ‘Looking forward to it. The green room is on the right. The makeup girl will be with you in a few moments.’

Charlie looked at him like a wizard looks at a clown.

‘I fucked your dad,’ he said.

‘Hm?’

 

Charlie sat in the green room staring at the mirror.

‘Simon.’

‘Yes?’

‘Do you really think people who watch GMTV actually want to read my books?’

‘Yes.’

‘The only people who want to read my books are either drunk students or bored serial killers.’

The makeup girl came in wearing a short mini skirt and a low cut top. I would describe her in more detail but I’m not sure it’s necessary.

 

To Simon’s initial relief Charlie seemed to be behaving himself on set. He answered the questions well with a light sense of humour and gave witty anecdotes about how the book was written. He even offered to sign a copy for the interviewer, Ben Shepherd. (It later transpired that Charlie had just drawn a picture of a penis with a smiley face on the tip and the word BEN in big letters along the shaft). The segment came to a close with a final question.

‘Thank you for coming on the show. We’re all big fans. What do you have planned for the rest of the day?’

Charlie smiled and said, ‘I think I’m going to fuck your makeup girl.’

Ben went red.

‘Err… sorry about that ladies and gentleman. We’ll see you after this short break.’

 

Charlie and Simon hurried back to the green room to get their things and get out before the producer had a chance to come down on them.

‘What the hell is wrong with you?!’ said Simon.

‘What? He was asking for it.’

‘How does Ben Shepherd “ask for it”? He’s the most unthreatening man on TV!’

‘He said he was a fan of my book.’

‘How is that a bad thing?’

‘He’s never read the book.’

‘How do you know that?’

‘It’s Ben Shepherd! He’s never read any book! He would struggle with The Very Hungry Caterpillar!’

‘What!?’

‘Exactly!’ Said Charlie.

‘You won’t be allowed on ITV again and the BBC probably won’t have you.’

‘I don’t really care.’

 

Tripping the Night Fantastic – Chapter 1

A monster, of indescribable horror – ravaged by booze and lack of sleep – sat at his laptop. Charlie Deavon; an unholy disgrace, stained shirt, stained boxer shorts, wild hair, harassed unshaved face, a dying cigarette hanging from his mouth, and on his desk beside his laptop, the potion that keeps his appearance so ruggedly shambolic; a half dry bottle of scotch.

The room was dark and his tired nicotine-aged face was lit up from the light of the monitor. He took a final drag from his cigarette and dropped it in a half empty glass of whisky where it turned grey and died with its two dead cigarette companions.

The cursor blinked. Only six words were on the screen:

Amelia Heart, is going to die.

 More words try to find their way to Charlie’s fingers but fail miraculously. Not because he has writer’s block, he is just a lazy drunk with no appreciation for deadlines; a common ailment for many writers.

He turned his head and stared impassively at his bed in the other room. He looked back at the monitor for a moment, made a sound like ‘mph’ and then closed the lid. He managed to slump from his study to his bedroom and land on his bed with less effort than is possible to describe.

His bed was a stained mattress on a carpet-less floor. The wallpaper was old and nicotine stained. The ceiling lights didn’t have light shades and the curtain was an old damp towel slowly getting heavier with mould.

The digital clock on the floor blinked slowly. He turned his head and looked at it, unsure if his eyes were tired, hung-over, still drunk or simply still closed. He could just about make out the time; 6:30am. He stared at the ceiling.

3 hours later the alarm went off. Not a nice tune or the radio, just a beeping drone. A few dramatic moments later and the towel landed heavily on the lawn outside followed by a shower of glass. Inside the towel the alarm clock beeped lamely on. A neighbour shouted the word ‘cunt’ in Charlie’s direction. Charlie stood naked in the smashed window. He showed his neighbour his middle finger and then headed into the kitchen.

The kitchen occupies the same space as his lounge. The fridge consists of one rasher of bacon, three cans of beer, four empty cans of beer and a courgette. In the cupboard are one can of beans, a full packet of pasta, a packet of custard creams (half empty), some tea bags, a jar of coffee, and a pile of newspapers. In the toaster is a failed experiment; it turns out that it is not quicker to cook an omelette in a toaster. In-fact it takes longer and is far more dangerous.

After several minutes of staring at the courgette, and wondering where it came from, he slammed the fridge door and stared blankly over at the laptop for a minute. He opened the cupboard again, stared for a while, and then came to a decision and grabbed the closest things to his hand. Tea with a spoon of coffee and a packet of biscuits would be today’s breakfast.  He sat on his couch and wondered once again why he doesn’t own a TV. He leaned back to reach for the half-full bottle of scotch on his desk, nearly knocking it over, and poured some into his coffee/tea. He made a sound ‘urghmph’ and had a sip of his brew.

A phone started ringing. A slight dread fell over Charlie’s brain. This ringing sound meant he would have to impart some brain activity, some physical movement, and finally speech. Three things he had absolutely no interest in doing. He looked left and then right and then down. He dug it from under him and looked at it. He answered it and put it to his ear.

‘Charlie?’

‘Eurh.’

‘Charlie! It’s Simon, what are you doing today?’

‘Mmpth.’

Charlie stared at his tea/coffee/scotch and wondered if he’d rather talk to that instead.

‘When can I come over and see a few pages?’ said Simon.

‘No.’

‘Ok. I’m coming over. I’ll bring Starbucks and some food.’

‘Fuck off Simon.’

Click.

 

 

Ring Ring.

‘Charlie, I’m in Subway, what sandwich do you want?’

‘Don’t come to my house.’

‘I’m having a Foot-long Meatball Sub, I’ll choose something for you shall I?’

‘I’m not letting you in when you get here.’

‘I need to see you.’

‘Fine. I’m coming to your office. If I get there before you I’m going to dismantle your desk.’

‘Charl…’

Click.

 

 

Simon put his phone back in his pocket, gave the girl behind the counter £10, and grabbed the sandwiches. He checked his genuine Rolex watch and ran outside and across the road to his car.

 

 

Charlie left his apartment and stumbled haphazardly into the bright offensive sunlight outside. He shielded his eyes from the day’s carelessly cheery mood and got in to his car.

Charlie’s car is a 1993 V12 Jaguar XJ-S. Its dark blue paint is faded from years in the sun, the passenger door is a faded race-car green colour from where it was replaced but never re-painted, the rear bumper is held on by wire ties, the air conditioning doesn’t work and only the driver side window goes down without requiring a mechanic to get it back up again. But the CD player works and the engine starts with the kind of rumbling purr that makes your heart fill your lungs.

Charlie sat in the driver’s seat. This is one of the only times during Charlie’s normally miserable day when his smile is actually genuine. Even the dry heavy feeling of a hangover takes a back seat while pure juvenile pleasure takes over for a while. This is Charlie’s perfect car.  The engine misfired causing the exhaust to vomit black smoke and the car turned a corner and drove off towards Simon’s office.

 

 

Simon parked in the underground car park of his office. He slammed the door of his brand new white Audi A4 and made for the fifth floor as fast as he could. His secretary was sitting at her desk looking slightly violated. Simon sent a questioning glance her way which was returned with a worried look towards his office door, which was slightly ajar. Simon relaxed and prepared for the worst.

He edged the door open and looked inside. Everything seemed in order. He looked to his right. Charlie was sitting on one of the comfortable chairs against the wall in his office with a smile on his face. Simon looked suspiciously at him and sat down behind his desk.

Charlie had his right foot resting on his left knee in the most nonchalant way imaginable. His boot-cut jeans were torn around the heel of his scuffed brown shoes. Three buttons remained un-fastened on his shirt, the sleeves were half rolled up in a way that suggests the wearer couldn’t care less if they were up or down and, although his shirt isn’t tucked in, you could just make out a brown leather belt being held tight by a pretty average and uneventful belt buckle. Simon looked suspiciously around the room. Charlie spoke.

‘I pissed in your plant.’

Simon looked over at the plant and then back at Charlie.

‘I got you a turkey Sub,’ he said, handing it to him.

‘What do you have in yours?’

‘Meatball.’

‘Give me yours.’

‘No.’

Charlie stared at him.

Simon gave in.

‘We can split it,’ said Simon.

Simon gave Charlie half of his Sub and took half of Charlie’s. Simon took a bite out of his and decided now was the best time to talk.

‘Mm, So, mmph, how many err, pages have you done?’

‘You’re the reason I hate people,’ said Charlie.

Simon swallowed.

‘I don’t mind if you haven’t written very much, I just need to see what you have written.’

‘If you carry on being nice to me I swear to god I’m going to kill you.’

‘Charlie, I’ve arranged an interview with GMTV for next week, they want to talk about the film deal and re-release of your first book and they’re really eager to hear what your plans are for your next book. And there will be some fans there so take a pen so you can sign things.’

‘I’m serious. I will throw you through the fucking window. I know there’s a bastard in there somewhere!’

‘Come on, Charlie, stop being a twat.’

‘Oh! Simon! That’s more like it! Come on, touch me.’

Charlie lifted his shirt and twiddled his nipple with a finger.

‘No. Are you finished?’

Charlie folded his arms.

‘I haven’t written anything,’ he said.

‘I know.’

‘How?’

‘You’re always like this when you can’t write.’

‘I can write. It’s just the lack of plot that’s the problem. And the lack of characters. Just the lack of book in general is the problem. What’s the rush anyway?’

‘If you’re off the shelf for too long people will forget about you.’

‘Good.’

Charlie opened a bottle of scotch from Simon’s alcohol cabinet and poured two glasses.

‘Are you finished for the day?’ he asked.

‘No, Charlie, it’s 10am.’

‘We’re going to the pub for a business meeting about drunks,’ Charlie smiled ridiculously at his own infantile sense of humour.

‘Charlie.’

‘Stop being a fucking cunt and drink with me! I’m shit bored and hanging out with you here is making me more bored so if we have to spend time together you have to be pissed! That’s the rule from now on. Ok?’

‘No.’

Charlie put a glass of scotch down in front of Simon and downed his own.

‘Charlie, I have a lot of work to do.’

Charlie put on his best Simon impression, which sounds more like Bugsy Malone than Simon, and shouted.

‘Receptionist, hold my calls! I’m going to be away from my office for the rest of the day!’

Charlie, feeling pretty proud of himself, looked smugly at Simon. Simon looked wilfully back.

Amanda poked her head into the office.

‘Do you want me to hold your calls?’

Simon threw what was left of his sandwich in the bin and brushed bits of sandwich off his shirt.

‘Yes, hold my calls, thank you.’

‘HA!’ exclaimed Charlie, feeling victorious.

Amanda left the office without looking at Charlie.

Simon picked up a schedule from his desk and walked over to Charlie.

‘I’m giving you a schedule, there are only two things on it, GMTV and casting auditions for the film, I need you to remember them.’

‘You’re not coming to the pub are you?’

‘I’ll pick you up on Tuesday morning at 6am for GMTV, please try to be awake.’

‘I make no promises.’

 

Charlie left the office and wandered around the building for a couple of hours trying to find something interesting to do or disrupt but no one took much notice of him. A receptionist gave him a funny look when the elevator opened to reveal Charlie’s rear mooning at her. A security guard told him he wasn’t allowed to beg on the premises, and an old writer friend stopped him to congratulate him on the success of his last novel to which Charlie replied, ‘Go fuck your book’. Finally he went home to immerse himself in his favourite, if only, past time; drinking.

The Obscene and Criminal Malice Inflicted by Time

End

You know when you lose your TV remote and it drives you crazy. You look everywhere. You search frantically, chucking the pillows off the couch and lifting it up to look underneath. You check under newspapers and lift up the rug. How can it have disappeared? It’s a TV remote! After looking everywhere you finally give up and sit down, defeated and dejected. After your internal tantrum has abated, after you’ve mentally blamed everyone and everything that could have caused it to vanish, including the cat, you finally calm down and look up at the TV. And there it is. Right in front of you, on the TV stand. Of course it is. It’s obvious now. The thing you were looking for was right there in front of you the whole time. For fuck sake.

I have that feeling. I have it all the time. The problem is, that moment of sitting back and finally finding it hasn’t come. I don’t even know what is missing.

It is that feeling that makes you want to travel. The urge to explore. You don’t know what it is you expect to find but you’ll be damned if you’re going to stop looking before you find it. But it’s not just that. And it’s not just travel. It’s everything. You don’t just want to explore new lands, you want to learn everything. You want to try everything. All the food. All the music. All the booze. All the knowledge. Time is being pulled from our veins with each passing minute. Aging us. Every day that passes, every second that tics, every Christmas that zooms past; we are being killed by the calendar, one day at a time. Fill those days before they are rudely taken from you.

You don’t have to pack up all your shit and spend the rest of your life travelling. That would be a form of hell for some. It is a feeling that surrounds everything. You wish you had learned how to play the piano when you were younger. You can buy a second-hand piano or keyboard for £20. Get one. Learn how to play it. You will love it. Want to write a book? It costs nothing. Just start typing. It doesn’t matter if you know what you want to write about. That will come. Just start slinging words together and see what happens.

People have no urgency. People don’t seem to want to do anything anymore. They are content dedicating their life to a career. Have a career, why not, I have one, get promoted, do good work, but be ready to put your foot down and leave work early to go to your kid’s school play. Let your job pay for the things you love. Don’t miss out on life so you can get more money. You want that money so you can have a better life so what is the point if you are giving up on life to get it?

I write because I’m going to look back tomorrow and release that yesterday was thirty years ago and I have left nothing solid to justify the wasted years. I write so I can trap time and keep it there.