I found out it was International men’s day yesterday so I dug this piece up. It was written over 9 years ago and already seems dated and a teeny bit silly.
I am a man and a feminist, and no, I’m not a woman trapped in a man’s body; truth is, I love women, in all respects – they are magical and beautiful beings, but it’s bloody hard work being hitched up to one. They expect you to operate on the same telepathic level of communication that they do. They don’t like long, rambling analytical speeches about the origins of the universe; they don’t like miserable ponderings on the injustices of the world’s political systems – they just know these things instinctively and get on with it.
Women want long walks on a beach at sunset; they want to marvel at the beauty of a cathedral; they want to cuddle strangers’ (and strange) babies; they like to be given flowers (what the hell is that all about?) and they’re always right. That’s not meant to be sarcastic, they ARE always right and we men know this, perhaps that’s why we are so afraid of them. We know that the biggest problem women have with this life is the existence of men. It’s men who cause all the grief: wars, glass ceilings, debts, leaking taps and the overgrown weeds on the patio.
Talking about women, the queen is 80, and what a bloody fuss – she’s been given ‘endless bunches of flowers’ according to Channel 5 news. I guess that makes her the happiest woman in the world. I imagine she gets to visit cathedrals too, but probably has to decline the strolls along the sands in case suicide frogbombers emerge from the sea. Still, even the queen can’t have everything. Anyway, I don’t get it, this false fondness when commentators refer to her highness – “isn’t she wonderful”, “isn’t she strong”, “let’s give her another bunch of dead vegetable matter to show her we care.” Would a king be patronised in the same way? Continue reading
A poem from about 10 years ago
After the storm
There is a puddle in my garden.
In the puddle
There is next door’s trousers
They are dark and grey
and meant for chapel
they normally contain
are old now
but still roadworthy
After the storm
he is smiling
he has to re-wash
There’s at least
half a dozen
more in him
but he’s not so sure
so he won’t buy
a new pair
He doesn’t want to rob his grandchild.
One of the projects I’m working on has the physical attributes of a book. It looks like a book and it reads like a book (or will do when it’s finished). In its present state it contains about 80,000 words all typed up in the same Word document. The content is snippets from diaries, journals, and scraps of paper going back to when I started writing such things half a century ago when I was twelve or thirteen.years old.
I’ve got a few more bits to type up – say a couple of thousand words. When that chore is complete the real work will begin and I reckon it will take about a year. The idea is to then superimpose a story over these seemingly random unconnected scribblings, so the end result will be a kind of meta-fiction-autobiography-fantasy type of thing. So far it looks like there’s a Magic Elf and a thirteen-year-old Alien girl involved in the plot. Continue reading
Overheard on a train on the Heart of Wales railway line. Notes found on a scrap of paper in one of my old files. I’m not sure when this was, probably in the last ten years.
‘The annoying thing is all the boys said – don’t, he’s gonna cheat on you.’
‘He took this scale (girl) back to his house then at 2 o’clock there was this scale leaving.’
‘They brought the family down from Newcastle. Newcastle paid the council to take them off their hands. They’re causing obstructions there. None of them working of course.’
‘Look at that fridge – they must know whose house it is from.’
‘There was a banana skin on the bus.’
‘It’s the politicians – they’re ripping us off.’
‘The word is foreign and that’s what you see all the time – what’s wrong with Welsh timber?’
‘They just chuck their McDonald’s all over the car park.’
‘I go to Aldi for all my veg, then mop up in Tesco.’
‘I’m trying to get them to eat healthy – but all they want is fish fingers and chips. So, I boiled some potatoes and put them with some faggots – all they had to do was microwave them – but they still wanted fish fingers and chips.’
Besides the work on other people’s books I do as a publisher I am working on at least three of four of my own.
The second and third books in the DI Frank Lee trilogy – Beats and Bones – the first book Bums has already been published. These are two full-length novels.
The second edition of my poetry collection – The Words in Me, though I may rename it.
This is it – is a full length novel-cum-autobiography. The title and content may change
So this is something I wrote about This is it just now
Friday October 30th 2015
For the blog
As well as all the other stuff I’m working on at the moment I’m writing an ‘experimental novel’. Its working title is ‘This is it’. It’s not easy to explain without sounding like an apologist for Tracey Emin’s Bed, but that is what it is – the Tracey Emin’s Bed of literature – at least that’s the sort of thing is might look like to the casual reader (which is what Tracey Emin’s bed looks like to the casual observer – or I may be wrong and Tracey Emin’s bed might actually be rubbish as may the book I’m working on.).
The point is, it doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks of my book because I’m writing it only to myself – my future self in fact. So I make the rules and revise them or break them as I please. So, if you were really nasty and / or cynical you could say it’s a wanky book, created only to please myself.
The process by which I am writing (or constructing) the book might be of interest though.
So far I have compiled a total of almost 45,000 words. Some of it is new writing, some of it is copied from old documents in the depths of my hard drive and some of it is typed in from the many dozens of notebooks and thousands of loose papers usually lurking in cardboard in my attic, or more accurately, because I’m working on them, they are now dominating the dining room.
There is so much material in my personal archives that I am having to be very selective in choosing which pieces to include in the new book. This is a good thing because most of the material is so unpolished as to be unrecognisable as writing in the first place – still I hang on to it because I know that underneath the patina are gems waiting to be revealed – whether I will ever have the time to hack away at them is another matter.
The book is a novel, and it is also an autobiography. Obviously it can’t be a full autobiography because how can you get a whole lifetime into a book, or even a library. As a novel it is hard to pin down to any genre but let’s say it has elements of fantasy, magic-realism, science-fiction, crime, suspense, literary, historical, speculative (whatever that is) and I can’t be bothered to carry on searching for words to describe stories.
Let’s put it this way – it is definitely a story, it is definitely fiction, and it is definitely true.
And another thing – this piece is being written for a blog post, but I’m also going to put it in the book.
A couple of off the cuff verses inspired by two photos I took yesterday on a walk through Llandaff Fields to the allotments.
How many trees are on the Earth
How many leaves
How many stars are in the sky
How many moons
How many days are in a life
How many breaths
The tree knows where to grow
The stream knows where to flow
The breeze knows when to sigh
The leaf knows when to die
So, now it’s Wednesday October 21st 2015.
Over ten years ago, at the end of March 2005, I wrote the following piece. I found it in the same notebook as the last piece on here about poetry – Poetry Sucks which was written at the beginning of the same month. I guess the posts are related because I must have been thinking along those lines for the whole month but there was no deliberate link, so it’s a coincidence that the article I read reinforced the conclusions I’d come to weeks earlier.
so here it is: Continue reading
I was just reading through an old notebook-journal type thing and came across the following ramble about poetry. I scribbled it down over ten years ago and promptly forgot about it. I do this all the time and have dozens, if not hundreds, of such books lurking in damp cupboards and up the attic.
It’s a bit of a rant and probably only serves to display my ignorance and may actually get me excommunicated from the edges of the literary establishment where I sometimes lurk in the shadows, but, what the hell – it’s as much a question as an opinion, and I would be ecstatic if someone would enlighten me since I am genuinely puzzled about poetry.
Here’s the original piece, written on March 1st 2005 at 11.30 pm (ish) according to my notebook. Bear in mind that’s it’s a bit roughly written, but I’d like to think, raw and real.
It is titled: Continue reading
It’s not often that I write about the writing process but this morning I discovered the central story of Beats, the novel I am writing and wanted to record the moment when it clicked together to make sense.
Note: Beats is the second book in the trilogy of stories featuring DI Frank Lee. The first book Bums was published a few weeks ago, and the third book, Bones, will follow Beats next year sometime.
Yes, so, Beats begins with the discovery of a body – click here for the first 5,000 words of an earlier draft. Yesterday, the current draft reached over 11,000 words, almost 15% of the finished novel, and I thought it was time to work out what the actual plot was. Yes I know, I’d written 11,000 words of something and I didn’t know what it was about!!
The thing is, every writer is different and the same approach doesn’t work for everyone so I’m not trying to write a prescription for writing a novel, just explaining what works for me – and that seems to be that I need to write a substantial amount of the story before I know what’s going on.
It usually starts with an image, like this, from the first paragraphs of Beats:
“. . . Tucked beneath the Orb Stage, in the undergrowth of struts and scaffolding, lay another kind of detritus – the as yet undiscovered dead body of a man in his sixties . . . The body was lying face down in a tangle of wires, a pair of vintage denim jeans pulled down around its knees, exposing a bare white hairless backside . . .”
So, who is this man, what’s he doing dead under the Orb Stage?
And it’s begun.
I already knew that the story was set amongst musicians of one kind or another, and that it was the second book in a trilogy where each book has a story of its own plus a story that spans the three books, so, many of the characters and locations were already defined.
And I already knew that I wanted the book to be structured in the same way as Bums, i.e. the story is told from the point of view of 8 separate characters – that’s 7 plus our hero DI Frank Lee. And I’d already decided that the 7 additional POV characters would not be the same characters featured in Bums.
And, you can’t really introduce a Point-Of-View character without telling their story. So now I had the overarching story of the trilogy to develop, the story of the book Beats itself, plus the stories of the 8 POV characters, nestling neatly inside the arcs.
The challenge was to make it all hang together in a way that made sense, and to make it interesting enough to engage the reader. So I just started writing. 11,000 words later the list of characters in the story, both POV and non-POV had grown enough to fill almost 2 pages of an A4 notebook.
These are the POV characters:
- DI Frank Lee – Our hero – late 40’s
- Old Steve – a roadie – 65/66
- Billy ‘Heartthrob’ Harries – an old rock musician – 65/66
- Lucy – An acclaimed actor and Billy’s ex – 64
- Freda – Lucy and Billy’s grandaughter – 17 year old folk musician
- Tariq – A reasonably successful Indie musician in his late 30’s
- Young Steve – Old Steve’s nephew and a folksy-blues musician in his 40’s
- Lottie – 24 year old singer, songwriter, poet, artist – broke
Names of some of the other characters who have been mentioned or made an appearance so far: Beth, Anwen, Andy, Tony, Guto, Dick Plum, Ffion, Zac, Mack, Lottie’s mother, Lottie, Lottie’s father, Shaz, Flora, Revti, David Roberts, Samantha Taylor, Bob Harries, Rita Mathias, Ernie, Leo, Terry Taxi, Paula.
So when I was writing I had to introduce all those characters and introduce them in the context of the story, and to fit the structure I’d already committed myself to, but I still didn’t know anything about who the killer was, or why he or she did what they did. Then it clicked – I already knew who the killer was and I already knew the motive.
Now all I’ve got to do is to write another 70,000 odd words to tease out that central story, to develop the overarching story of the trilogy and to figure out satisfactory story arcs of the 8 POV characters.
So yes, now I know who done it and why. I’m not telling you though. You’ll have to wait for the book, which I’m hoping to publish next summer.
If we were rich, would we still have a table like this?
A table covered in the most recently used bits of shit?
Like scissors and glasses and ashtrays and tips.
Like candles and radios and needles and sticks.
There’s last Thursday’s mailshots and yesterday’s news.
There’s this week’s TV guide and half a pair of shoes.
A table that’s creaking and sagging with clues.
Yes, we’d still have a table like this – it’s the truth.
(This is a poem I just found lurking deep in the entrails of a hard disk – I don’t think it’s been published anywhere (but I may be wrong) – so here it is)
When I was growing up in Llanelli we always referred to the Conservative club as ‘The Con Club’. There was no malicious intent in this, after all, in those days, the Conservatives, in Llanelli at least, were not even significant enough to be regarded as a sideshow. I have noticed that in Cardiff the Conservative clubs are referred to as ‘Cons Clubs’ and even labelled as such on their signage. I suspect this is because when you add the ‘s’ it sort of dilutes the meaning of ‘con’ which, when you strip away all the bollocks, is what all political parties, and in particular the Conservatives, are – a great big fat con.
But never mind about all that – I’ve typed the word ‘Conservative’ far too many times for my mental health so I want to turn to the issue of making a decent vegan burger.
This one is pretty good:
Vegan Black Bean and Mushroom Burgers – Gluten Free
We made these last night, I forgot to write down the ingredients so I hope I haven’t forgotten anything
Makes about 6 burgers
- 2 or 3 cups of cooked black beans – mashed roughly
- bunch of spring onions (scallions) – sliced thinly
- 1 chilli – chopped
- 4 large cloves garlic – crushed
- 2 tablespoons gram flour
- 1 tablespoon ground flax / linseed
- 1 dessert spoon chia seeds (optional)
- 1 huge mushroom – chopped finely
- some liquid from the beans
- rapeseed (canola) oil for frying
- a bit more gram flour for coating
Mix all the ingredients adding salt, pepper and tamari according to your taste – the mixture should be firm but moist
- Form into burger shapes
- coat with a little gram flour each side
- chill before cooking if you like
- fry on a moderate heat until browned and warmed through
It’s probably a mistake but I’m the sort of person who likes to show the process as well as the finished product – so here are the first 5000 words or so of the very early draft of the second book in the trilogy of crime fiction stories featuring DI Frank Lee.
The characters in Beats are mostly musicians of one kind or another; there’s Billy Heartthrob Harries, lead singer of legendary seventies rockers The Redcurrents, now in his sixties and still banging it out, and his granddaughter, folksy singer-songwriter, seventeen year old Freda.
Billy and Freda are just two of the people Frank encounters as he investigates the murder of a man found dead under the giant Orb Stage of the Elchurch Spring Music Festival.
The first book in the trilogy – Bums – was published a few weeks ago – click here for details of that.
OK, here we go. Continue reading
Bums is my latest novel. I’ve written bits about it on here. It turns out that it’s the first book in a trilogy of crime fiction stories featuring Detective Inspector Frank Lee. Frank is an ex-punk new age traveller – a hell of a background for a police officer, but that’s just the way he revealed himself to me – it’s not my fault – he is who he is.
As the story unfolded it became obvious that it was too big to fit into just one volume and it became the first of three. the other two novels are called Beats and Bones. Where Bums is set amongst the people who live on the edges of society – sometimes known as bums, Beats involves musicians of all types and ages. Both Bums and Beats are self-contained but also part of a longer arc that is eventually resolved in Bones the final book.
Both Bums and Beats are quite complex stories, albeit presented in a simple and readable format; each is told from the point of view of multiple characters with DI Frank Lee at the centre of the action.
Bums has already been published and I have started writing Beats, so have a fairly good idea of its plot and structure. Bones, on the other hand, hasn’t been started yet, and still exists as an abstract cloud of ideas in my head – it will probably involve a character called Fagend – a contemporary Fagin who runs a gang of young boys selling drugs and engaging in petty crime. It also features Jack, a tall giant of a man who runs a training centre for unemployed young people and is also a magistrate. There’s a lot more in that cloud but it’ll keep.
In the meantime I guess I’m only writing this post because I’ve been trying to get on with writing Beats today and have been unable to focus.
Back to it!
My first serious attempt at Rajma – a.k.a. Red Kidney Bean Curry
The basic recipe is drawn from here: – thanks to Ceri for the variations and the live tips
First the ingredients:
2 cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed under running water
2 tbsps vegetable/canola/sunflower cooking oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 medium-sized onions chopped fine
2″piece of ginger jullinned
6 cloves of garlic minced
2 large tomatoes chopped into 1″ cubes
2 fresh green chillies chopped fine
2 tsps coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
Salt to taste
A pinch of asafetida
Chopped coriander to garnish
Due to the aforementioned tips I added another small onion and two more tomatoes
Now the method:
Heat the oil in a deep pan and add the cumin seeds. When they stop sizzling, add the onion and fry till soft.
Add the ginger and garlic and fry for 2 minutes.
Add the green chillies, tomatoes, coriander, cumin, turmeric and garam masala powders and fry till the oil separates from the masala.
the asafoetida / hing really does make a difference when you do it right. It’s not essential but to perfect it, it’s good. You can use wraps or gluten-free wraps but proper roti is best.
the fresh coriander is pretty key too, but don’t overdo it this can ruin the balance
also don’t skip the three cups of warm water part – it takes ages to reduce but worth it, cooking it early and turning it off for about an hour before reheating slowly makes it a lot better too, it goes into a lush thick sauce,
and even though it says to rinse the beans, save the tin water and use it as part of the three cups of warm water (heated in a separate pan) – also put the hing in the water as it’s heating, also put a very very small amount of finely chopped fresh coriander in the dish as it’s coming towards the end of reducing, and the rest is used as a sort of garnish on the top, put any left over coriander in a bowl to be used by people as they see fit, and freeze any leftovers
put salt in in stages, so a bit about 5 mins into the onions cooking, a bit with the spices and a bit while it’s cooking (you can taste test while cooking to see if it needs more)
all of that, plus turning it off for a bit really helps
I also made stewed apples and Victoria plums with turmeric and vanilla soya milk custard
Custard is made with 500ml soya milk, 2 tbs cornflour, a pinch of turmeric, a couple of tablespoons of sugar and a splash of vanilla extract
It’s good to see you again.
We missed your damp blowing.
We need: your field-wide energy;
to breathe your lullaby,
before winter drops
its dark drape
and wraps us safe,
Sitting outside the New Conway, a pub in a leafy street in Cardiff, on a Saturday night at the beginning of September, sipping a pint of cider while waiting for some friends to turn up.
I had a blank piece of A4 paper and a pen in my pocket. I’d folded the paper before leaving home; it was meant as a stand-in notebook, since I couldn’t find one with any empty pages.
I decided to write some haikus to pass the time. The paper had been folded three times giving eight rectangles of pure white space on each side – each rectangle the perfect size to accommodate a handwritten haiku. I thought, if, by the time I’d written sixteen haikus, our friends hadn’t turned up, we’d go home,
I managed to write six – here they are, straight from the paper – unedited. Turns out they are a bit of a haiku sequence.
haikus, things to do when you're bored outside a pub and friends don't turn up
autumn is delayed by a burst of summer sun birds take advantage
near summer's end yellowing leaves start their trip to the brown gutter
like a dance they swirl on the pavements, in the road then they separate
noisy crows in trees saying goodbye to the sun when it's gone, they stop
on the bark of trees forests of green moss congeal it's complicated
I had an unexpected arrival this morning.
It was a cardboard box containing the first dozen copies of my new Novel ‘Bums’. This is the first consignment of what is a limited hardback edition of 200 books. It’s the first time I’ve published a hard-cover book and it’s turned out brilliantly.
In the end it all came together much more quickly than expected, so this is just a quick note to say that signed copies of this limited edition are available to buy for just £20.
Click here to go to my publisher’s website and order a signed copy.
Bums is my next novel – it is the first in a trilogy featuring Detective Inspector Frank Lee – the next two books are titled Beats and Bones and will be released next year.
Bums will first be available as a limited edition hardback – that will be available by the end of September. The paperback and kindle versions will be published in October.
Contrary to previous versions I’ve posted, this is the front cover of the hardback dust jacket.