A visit from The Magic Elf

This is an extract from one of my books.

And now it’s the morning of March 15th 2016. One of the things that’s prompted this bit of live writing is my desire to reach 100,000 words. As I type I can see the word-count at the bottom of the screen and it says, hang on, I’ve got to catch it unaware because of course it will increase as soon as I type in the number: The number of words that are in this book so far is 98,951 (including the number 98,951), but of course it’s more already – it’s relentless, nothing really stops, everything changes.

It’s a bit like that with life – as soon as you think you’ve got a handle on it, the second you think you’ve got it sussed – it changes, it becomes something else, that’s one of the consequences of getting older, you lose the certainty of youth, and when I say youth I don’t mean childhood, I mean adulthood, from your early twenties or whenever it is you feel as if you’ve grown up at last, all the way through to old age in your sixties or whenever it is you feel as if you’re old.

Continue reading

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Tools of the Trade

tools-of-the-trade-rsSome work in progress.

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Reading and discussion at Cardiff Central Library Open Space Event

On December 15th 2016 from 5:45pm until 7:00pm I will be at Cardiff Central Library reading from and discussing two of my novels – Boys from the Backfields and Cheats and Liars. I might also discuss some of my other books and possibly talk a little bit about the publishing process.

Backfields-front 1 cover oct 8-2013Cheats-and-Liars-Front

The two novels

Boys from the Backfields  is a murder mystery set over half a century. The story begins in the 1960’s when Mick a young teenage boy and his little gang witness the murder of Betty Fish while out blackberry picking around the Backfields council estate in South Wales. Mick is haunted by this tragic event for the next 50 years until finally the truth is revealed and the mystery is solved.

Cheats and Liars is set in an affluent inner suburb of Cardiff and follows Brian Llewelyn, ‘The Greatest Living Artist in Wales’ as he comes to realise that his success depends on the sycophants, cheats and liars that share in it. The novel follows Brian as the foundations his life is based on crumble from under him and he has to redefine what is important.

There will also be plenty of time for any questions from the audience.

This is part of the Library’s Open Space Events series and it’s free but space is limited so it might be best to book through Eventbrite where if you search ‘Open Space Cardiff’ you should be able to find them, though, as I write this it may be too early for the December event’s listing.

More about Cheats and Liars

More about Boys from the Backfields

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Blodyn – Legalise Poo

Here’s a painting from nearly 15 years ago – one of the first I did. It was painted on the back of a placard/protest sign that I had previously used in a satirical community play I wrote called ‘The History of Llangennech – Part 2’

Blodyn has become a bit of an icon for me since I painted her. She was used on the cover of my poetry collection “The Words in Me” and will be used again on the cover of my new collection “More Words in Me” due to be published in a couple of months.

Here she is:

blodyn-rsBlodyn – 2002: Acrylic on board: 520x670mm

And here’s the back of Blodyn

blodyn backLegalise Poo

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Reality is the Biggest Myth

An extract from my book To Me

I’m told I ate the dog’s biscuits and drank a lot of water. I dunked my blond locks in a bucket of lime and nearly died of pneumonia at a few weeks old. The pneumonia and the bucket of lime are unconnected, at least in the normal linear way we deal with time.

The truth is that after nearly sixty years of being me, (and being me involves a lot of thinking about these things) I still know nothing about myself. I am here – that’s all I know. I accept that here may not be ‘real’. I accept that reality is the biggest myth.

***

 REALITY IS THE BIGGEST MYTH

***

“We are all in touch with everything at all times. There is no separation in reality. This life is an illusion created by a random collection of sub-atomic particles and no doubt sub-sub atomic particles. Because we are conscious we have to make sense of it so we make up stories.”

I’m sure the story of me will all come out in some way or other at some time or other. Here on the road this is a signpost or a post or just a sign. So the point is that if I was to represent the sun with a full stop . like that, then there are stars out there that are the size of this page – this room even, and we all know that the earth is tiny compared to the sun and we are tiny compared to the earth and if I could look into my fingernail or any other material thing I would see that it is composed of sub-atomic particles which really don’t exist and I can write my own story but even then you could say it is already written because there once was nothing then there was some sort of bang or expansion that emanated from some point in the middle of that nothing, nowhere, and the force that propelled that and created those stars the size of a hundred million Earths also created me and I am just a consciousness on some sort of trajectory through time and space and all I’m really doing is observing as I zoom past and I don’t have any choices except perhaps which dot to focus on.

***

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Everyone’s a Writer and an Artist now

listApart from the odd shopping list or doodle, there was a time when the content most people created was limited to school work or writing reports at work.

When the Internet took hold a small proportion of people started keeping blogs or journals of their thoughts online. Then Facebook and Twitter and all the other social media platforms emerged,  and now everyone tells everyone else every day what they’re thinking, whether that’s by sharing content they relate to from other sources, or whether it’s by the creation of their own original text and imagery.

This is all welcome of course, it gives those whose voices were previously unheard a way to let the world, or at least their extended social networks, know what’s important to them. It doesn’t stop there either: if you want to publish a book it’s easy, just open an account with Createspace, upload the text and cover image and it will be available worldwide almost instantly. It’s free and you don’t even have to buy a copy yourself. Fancy getting your artwork onto T-Shirts or mugs or greetings cards? – just as simple. And if you haven’t got the time or skills to do it yourself there’s always some student willing to do it for the price of a pizza.

As a bonus, now and again a seemingly random scribbler is raised from the ranks and elevated to the status of superstar vlogger or best selling writer of tacky fiction, thus giving us all hope that one day, as long as we continue with our prattle we might be discovered and earn those millions we have always deserved.

But what does it mean to all the people who previously defined themselves as professional writers or artists or photographers? Those who spent time and money studying, and dedicated most of their lives to improving their skills and producing ‘work’? I mean nobody wants to pay for anything anymore, least of all for the witterings and snapshots of some stranger when they can get all the above and more from their ‘friends’ for nothing on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

If you’re someone like me who has been writing since long before the advent of social media then it’s tempting to believe that all the noise now being created by every person and their companion animal is somehow diluting the literary or artistic merit of published work. I mean, without the traditional gatekeepers, who knows what kind of hideous barbarians will enter the citadel?

On the other hand you may think that the privileged few who were allowed entry in the past have finally got what’s coming to them, and now have to be judged by the whole hive mind rather than just protected by a small cohort of praetorian guards.

I’m not sure, but I do believe that most people, whether they define themselves as writers or artists or neither, are capable, with lots of practice and a little guidance, of creating work that is every bit as good as that which was previously created by the few patricians lucky enough to have had the opportunities in the dark ages before the Internet.

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Stacked Vegan Pizza

I fancied making a pizza the other day but was fed up of those pale lacklustre crusts available from supermarkets so decided to make my own dough.

I chose wholemeal bread flour and quick yeast since that’s what was in the cupboard, made the dough and used half of it to make a pizza base, rolling it out into a large rectangle to fit the oven tray. I made a round loaf with the other half of the dough.

Unfortunately the pizza base didn’t rise and then I burnt it in the oven – probably because I’d flattened it too much with the rolling pin and cooked it too quickly.

The bread turned out lovely – and a tasty, if dense, loaf emerged. So I cut that into rounds and used them as pizza bases.

I made far too much topping, stacked it on the rounds of bread and baked it slowly until the cheezly made an attempt at melting.

pizzagIngredients

  • Tamari-marinated taifun tofu fried in olive oil
  • red, green and yellow peppers
  • pimento stuffed green olives
  • artichoke hearts
  • tomato puree
  • onions
  • garlic
  • sliced aubergine
  • birds eye chillis
  • white cheddar cheezly
  • spicy salad leaves from blaencamel farm on Riverside market
  • sliced chestnut mushrooms
  • salt and pepper
  • homemade wholemeal pizza bases bread

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Help to publish

book-text-djI love publishing

I have published ten of my own books including novels, poetry, short stories and miscellany. I have also published or helped to publish books for many other people.

Sales of my books are steady but modest but I still have to publish them and will continue to do so. I love publishing and I’m good at it. So, if you feel the same and have to publish your own work but don’t have the time or skills to do it yourself then come to me and I’ll help you.

I won’t rip you off but I will charge you for the work I do. How much work I do is up to you, for example if you just want the book designed, typeset and formatted for printing the cost will be between £300 and £800 depending on what condition your original document is in and how much there is to do- average is probably £400 – £500.

This service depends on you supplying the manuscript as an electronic document such as Word. It does not include editing but does include cover design and the help you need to get you set up with Creatspace and Amazon so that you can publish the book as a paperback and/or as an ebook.

If you want any editing services then I will charge you a reasonable rate for my time.

Everything depends on exactly what you want help with so please contact me by filling in the form below to start the conversation.

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Cute Rescued Animal or Food?

The hypocrisy of the animal rescue industry

Whenever I see appeals for money or support for animal rescue charities the first thought that comes to my mind is ‘What do they feed the animals they rescue?’ I suppose in the case of naturally vegetarian animals the answer is vegetable material of some sort, but what about carnivores like cats, or omnivores like dogs?

For example, just today, on a vegan Facebook group someone issued a plea for donations to save a charity in Cwmbran, apparently if they do not get funding they may have to kill the hundred or so animals in their care since it costs £5000 a week to run the place. According to their website the list of animals they look after includes: Horses, Shetland Ponies, Sheep, Goats, Pigs, Chickens, Ducks, Geese, Ferrets, Guinea Pigs, Rabbits, Rat, Cats, Birds and Dogs.

chickens

Now, excuse me if I’m being daft but don’t cats eat birds and ferrets eat rabbits?

They also say on their website that one of their staff has an interest in ‘goat husbandry’, which is the keeping of goats in order to harvest their milk and meat. They are also planning a horse tack sale, which I presume is equipment used to control and abuse horses?

On the same Facebook group I recently asked the organiser of the so-called Welsh Vegan Festival, why is it that the Farplace animal rescue charity they are raising funds for keeps rescued chickens yet has included dog food containing chicken meat on their Amazon wishlist. He ignored me.

So how about this animal rescue centres – feed the rescued carnivores with the rescued birds and rabbits, and a bit of sheep, or pig, or horse-meat if you like – that way you would have a lot less animals to look after and you wouldn’t have to raise so much money to buy them food.

Win win!

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There’s Always Burnt Jam

I thought I’d written about this before but can’t find it anywhere. I know I did write a poem at least, and I know it ended with the line ‘But there’s always burnt jam.’ I can’t find that either. I wonder how many other poems or snippets of writing I’ve lost, many of them on paper from my teenage years, and many more on broken computer disks since. Ah! Sometimes you just have to let things drift down to the dim depths of the Akashic Records.

It was the late sixties, possibly 1970; I was seventeen or eighteen years old. I used to hang around with a group of young people from around the town of Llanelli, where we behaved in ways that defined that period if you believe the myths that have arisen since. The truth was there were not that many of us, no more than a few dozen – a hundred or so at the most, and that from a population of around 77,000.

Llanelli Beach - Stradey Woods in the background

Llanelli Beach – Stradey Woods in the background

We were a small group, but we were highly visible because of the way we dressed and the way we behaved – roving around the streets, openly smoking joints and tripping on acid, as well as squatting the grass opposite the town hall, playing guitars and engaging in free love, well free foreplay at least. Continue reading

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The Artistic Imperative

The Artistic Imperative

* Warning – this is a self-indulgent ramble *

When I was young I was told I was very clever. ‘You are so intelligent,’ they used to say. I was also a very nice kid – generous, gentle, helpful and uncomplaining. I was full of life – ‘Fond of play’ as my form teacher wrote on my final report from the primary school. I was top of the class, number one of thirty-four, and that was in the A stream in the final year at that school – so at that time I was the top pupil of the whole school.

Allot-profile01

Me writing in the chalet/shed at the allotment. pic by Rhian

To be fair my teacher recognised this and wanted me to apply for a scholarship to go to Llandovery College – a private school around thirty miles from my home – it would have meant boarding I believe.

But, my parents didn’t have the wherewithal, either in monetary terms or in imagination to pursue the idea and the teacher realising it was an impossibility, let it go. As it happens, I’m glad about this, I don’t think I’d like the person I would have become if I’d spent those important years of my childhood in such a place.

Now, I’m approaching my 65th birthday – my mother is disappointed in me. I can see it in her eyes – and anyway, she says it often enough. ‘You used to be so clever,’ she’ll say. ‘You could have done so much.’ Continue reading

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Detritus on Llanelli Beach

We visited Llanelli Beach yesterday. There were little piles of material along the tidelines. The piles contained a mixture of natural and man-made material. After decades of humankind’s neglect and selfishness God knows how much of this crap is in the sea.

When viewing the images, scroll down and click to view images full size then zoom in on the images for a closer look.

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There’s a Spider on the Ceiling

spiderOK, so that last bit was a bit rushed – a bit fake, a bit gratuitous, but I’m back already and I want to write about something in particular but I want to put that on hold now, in an instant, for a bit, to digress into something that happened twenty-one words ago.

The words were flowing out through my hand and the pen at an astonishing rate and I knew exactly what I was going to write about next (but as it happens – funnily, I did not write those words next) – the feeling was one of some kind of communion – the words were forming in my gut or even lower, like a kind of chakra writing they moved up into my head and down my arm like a river of light and fire – painful and blissful at the same time. I don’t know if I can describe it properly maybe later. For now back to the thing I was going to write about.

There is a spider in the corner of the bathroom ceiling above the toilet. The roof slopes down there so that corner of the ceiling is just above head height and is easily within arm’s reach as you stand peeing into the bowl. The spider has been there a week at least. I have been peeing a lot lately so I see it quite a few times every day. I always forget about it until I’m standing there – in the act – and look up casually. When I see it I always think ‘God, it’s still there’. I’ve often thought of cupping it and putting it outside but then think ‘Don’t interfere boy’ – leave the creature alone – besides, spiders eat flies and they are a pain.

The spider is a long-legged-tiny-body variety and it sits upside down on the ceiling – immobile. I’ve blown on it a few times to see if it reacts – and it does – but only by a slight adjustment of its legs. There is some sort of haphazard web around it and I saw it fussing with a small package once – like a little fly cocooned.

I’ve taken to thinking about the way it perceives me – every couple of hours I appear before it – a huge shape emanating whatever kind of energy it receives – shimmering perhaps – or vibrating in some way. I wonder if it’s scared – probably not, since it doesn’t even budge – even though a simple swat with a newspaper would end its conscious existence – but then maybe it will reincarnate in a more interesting life, but then who am I to say whether my life or anybody or anything else’s life is more interesting than the life of a long-legged spider who lives in a corner of the bathroom above the toilet.

***

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Extracts from: “The Diary of an Ordinary Man”

Saturday

Despite the sobs, I am not sad. I know what it’s like to feel the weight of the black dog, as Churchill called it, but that’s not what I feel right now. It’s more a sort of extreme frustration, like seeing the taillights of the last bus disappear on a cold, rainy night; the mobile phone’s battery is dead and there’s no money for a taxi anyway.

diaryIt all came to a head in the Asda car park after a silly argument about shower curtains. We’re poor you see. Buying a new shower curtain is a luxury I can’t contemplate, even if it was only ten quid, and would have brightened up our gloomy bathroom, adding a little light to this dark phase of our lives.

Fuck off, she said, just fuck off. So I did. I got out of the car and walked. I cried all the way home. Continue reading

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Tafftown – a new Cardiff based Soap Opera

tafftown-header-image02

So, it looks like Tafftown is becoming a reality – when I say reality, of course I mean it’s not real, but it’s a drama of the sort that’s commonly known as a soap-opera – a term originally coined to mean a programme that depended on advertising revenues from soap (or washing powder) companies, or as Wikipedia says (although I’ve never heard the term ‘soapie’, it sounds Australian?):

“A soap opera, soapie, or soap is a serial drama on television or radio which features related story lines about the lives of many characters. The stories usually focus on emotional relationships to the point of melodrama. The term soap opera originated from such dramas being typically sponsored by soap manufacturers in the past.”

So that’s what Tafftown is, and it’s based on an idea of mine, influenced by several factors, including the fact that I have lived in an area similar to the one depicted in Tafftown for the last ten years and for a period in my twenties. I’ve been thinking about such a television series for a long time, and it finally came to a head a few days ago when after a meeting with my co-writer Dafydd Wyn Roberts and consultations with the other as yet unnamed people involved, we decided to announce it to the world.

So there it is it’s a reality.

The first episodes will be short – ten minutes or so – and will be broadcast online only.

Scripts and characters are in development and several parts have already been cast.

There’s a little bit more info on the Tafftown website and on the Tafftown Facebook Page or you can follow Tafftown on Twitter

see ya soon

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Oggy Oggy Ugly

Bore Da

rugby-ball-castleRugby again today. Sorry about that, but since I live in Wales I find it difficult to avoid what is effectively a national religion, especially if you listen to Radio Wales in the morning. I used to tune in to Radio 4 but I can’t bear to have it on any more (click here for a video about that).

It looks like I will also have to abandon Radio Wales because of its obsession with rugby, a sport I already have major issues with (see yesterday’s post for more). And then, earlier, on Good Morning Wales, there was a discussion about a report suggesting that conventional rugby is far too dangerous for young children to play, due to the risk of serious injury and the long term consequences of the heavy tackling involved.

The presenters of the programme said they were finding it difficult to find anyone on social media who agreed with the report. They spoke to an ex-player who had to retire because of epilepsy brought on by injuries he received playing rugby, and even he defended the game. I’m not surprised – a while ago, when I worked as an IT consultant I helped two ex-rugby players with their computer setups; both seriously injured by their dalliance with the oval ball. They were in wheelchairs, one was paralysed from the waist down while the other, a quadriplegic, had to operate the computer with a plastic stick attached to a headband, and couldn’t talk properly.

Neither of them blamed the game in any way and I got the impression that they regarded themselves as wounded warriors rather than victims. The Rugby Union paid for their computers and for my time and no doubt for other equipment and services to help make their lives more comfortable. I suppose the money also helped to keep them sweet. I wonder how many other people are tucked away unseen in adapted accommodation nursing their rugby wounds for the rest of their lives.

Like all my contemporaries I was forced to play rugby in my early years at Llanelli Grammar school and was good enough to be selected for the school team, until I fell out with the gym teacher – bastard that he was. After that incident I began to hate the sport – so yes, my antipathy towards it is personal.

If it was up to me I would consign the whole game to the same bin of history as press-gangs and sending kids up chimneys. I accept that not everyone feels the same as I do and if you’re an adult and you want to play then no one’s stopping you, but please, stop forcing children to engage in an activity that can cause them irreversible damage and ruin their lives.

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St David’s Day in Wales

This is a piece I wrote this morning, on St David’s Day. If you would prefer to listen there is an audio recording at the end.

lambIf you believe the hype, the Welsh are rugby-obsessed lamb-eating choristers. As with most lazy stereotyping this is completely wrong of course. I’m as Welsh as they come and I don’t like rugby, lamb or male voice choirs. It’s not just me though, but most Welshies are too afraid to admit it. For example, a friend persuaded me to go to a rugby international in the Millennium Stadium a few years ago, to see a match involving our Celtic cousins Ireland. Because of a ticketing mix-up I ended up sitting up next to strangers in the upper hinterlands of the stadium. Continue reading

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This time next year

Another extract from some work-in-progress on my new book ‘This is It’

NOTE: After writing this I forgot about it for eleven years, if I hadn’t I would definitely have made that first million.

This Time Next Year

(How I make my first million)

***

1-millionHi! It’s seven minutes past ten in the evening; it’s Monday May 16th 2005. This is the beginning of the story of how I made my first million. As of now, I have no idea how I’m going to do it, but do it I will. This time next year I’ll be a millionaire. Continue reading

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I may have written about this before but it will have been with different words

Another snippet from This is It.

(Disclaimer: I can’t guarantee precise historical accuracy – all these memories may be mixed up and reconstituted in a skewed way, probably due to the bin-bag full of potent Mexican grass we consumed during the period – it was the sixties after all!)

oxford-and-cambridge-mansions

In 1969 when I was seventeen I went to London with my friend Dave. He picked me up in a transit van from where I lived with my parents and my siblings in the small council house on the outskirts of Llanelli. Dave was a roadie; well actually Dave was a brilliant guitarist but worked as a roadie in London at the time. He was a couple or more years older than me and he died in his twenties but that’s another story. Dave was one of my two best friends – the other one was Stu, who was younger than me and who also died in his twenties – that’s another story too of course. Continue reading

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UNDERNEATH

A snippet from some work-in-progress on my autobiographical-novel This is it

***

slade-poster-res‘It. Is. Art.’

‘No. It’s. Not.’

‘Hah!’ Samantha stood up. ‘Gotta go,’ she said, leaning down and puckering her heavily-lipsticked lips.

Benedict tilted his head upwards and reciprocated with the puckered lips.

Their puckered lips met.

‘Mwah,’ they said in unison. Continue reading

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