Thursday, 28 June 2018

Keeping on...

You know what? As a writer, I might not have had the rewards, awards, and various forms of recognition that many get, but no one can take away that fact that I've kept on and on. For more than thirty years I've kept on working and doing the thing that I'm supposed to do. I think there's about three times I've come close to thinking - I can't keep doing this. It's too lonely. People either take no notice or are sniffy, and it's just too hard. But i've kept going anyway. It's not easy. But I keep on.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Tapas in Ambleside

June, 2012

We had thick tomato soup and cheesy croutons and it was all very nice, except that they had butchered old hardback books to make a fancy display of fake bookshelves in the gents toilets, and there were pages of vintage Punch magazines papering the walls.
            We listened to two older ladies having their lunch, discussing their book club choices, and the BBC coverage of the Jubilee. ‘That young presenter is lovely on Countryfile but he was out of his depth with the flotilla. None of it was respectful enough, was it?’
            Then it was all talk of hip replacements, and the kind of help you get. ‘With me, they came out to the house and they were measuring everything, checking the distances between things, so I would have my maneuverability. And then they brought out the – you know – the little toilet thing to the house. Delivered it and, when it was finished with, they came and picked it up for the next person to use.’
            It’s been quite different for a mutual friend of the ladies – a male friend - who’s due to have his op soon. The old man has been told that they won’t be coming out to his actual house to see him. ‘They’ve told him – you can come up here and pick up your own toilet. But then, you see, they’re just chucking money away because they’ve told him – we won’t be taking it away for you. You might as well toss it out. It isn’t worth our while.’
            The friend considers this. ‘Is it because he’s a man?’
            ‘No, it’s the cuts. Things are different now. There’s been all the cuts since I went under the knife.’
             ‘What a waste of a good toilet!’
            ‘They said it’s not worth our while sterilizing it for someone else. And the next person would rather have new, anyway. And so you see, this is what I mean. This is where all the money goes. It’s the throwaway society.’
            ‘Hm. It’s gone very quiet in here, hasn’t it? Shall we go into Windermere, to that place with the cake..?’
            ‘We could go mad, couldn’t we? But here, let me give you half for this coffee…’


(This is an excerpt from 'Tapas in Ambleside', newly available on my Patreon page - )

Monday, 11 June 2018

1988: The People You Were About to Meet

It's almost thirty years since I started university, and this week I've written a piece about first going to Lancaster University in 1988. You can read the full piece on my patreon - - but here's an excerpt...

I want to go back in time and tell myself to go to that wonderful library instead. Just start reading now. Reading properly. Forget about the rubbish reading lists your courses have given you. Read this, this, this and this instead. You should get a head-start on yourself. (You would do this eighteen months later, in the glorious summer of 1990. You’d take control of your education and reading and slowly start to teach yourself to write all over again.) Just imagine starting that earlier, when you lived so much closer to the library, when there was nothing much to do on campus but read and talk.
            I’d tell myself to start writing now. Write in your journal. Write some stories that have actual endings, for God’s sake. Write down all the wonderful details of this campus life, because this kind of university idyll – it’s going to change very quickly, very soon.

            You should sit in the sun in Alex Square. You should even sit in the rain. Under the walkway, watching the rain drum heavily on the flagstones. The benches are wide and set deep into the walls and so it’s dry to sit here with your library books and maybe a vegetarian pasty from Birketts. Wholemeal Cornish pasties filled with bright green, buttery, peppery cabbage were the most delicious things that year. You’d have them with black coffee and Marlboro Lights. You’d be thinking about Italian New Wave cinema and about existentialism and sexy men. You could get a head-start on figuring all this stuff out. On really stormy days you could sit once again in the Nelson Mandela coffee bar, watching the short-loan library books flapping by as thieves dropped them out of the windows of the toilets above.