Call me a novelist

(This is a personal note to myself – please ignore.)

I’m a writer. There’s no doubt about that, as you would see if you bothered to explore my website. It’s mostly about writing and most of it has been written – by me of course. Problem is ‘writer’ is too wide a term to be meaningful to anyone who doesn’t identify as a ‘writer’. I mean, what am I? I write blog posts like this, and . . . well . . . here’s a list of the other things I write:

Poems
Short Stories
Articles
Plays for the theatre
Television Scripts
Jokes
Monologues
Rants
Rambles
blah
blah

But if I was forced to define more finely what it is that makes me a writer then I would say: “Call me a novelist”. I would say this even though I have not published a new novel for three years because there is something divine about writing a novel, something that takes a direct line to the absolute essence of my being – it is an experience, or a conglomeration of experiences, that means everything, forever.

So yeah – get on with it.

A little Work in Progress from a novel

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Old Heads at the Apothecary Cardiff

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Cannabis is so much stronger than it was in the sixties?

Cannabis is so much stronger than it was in the sixties?

Short answer is: No, cannabis is not so much stronger than it was in the sixties.

Some sort of Weed

How do I know? Easy, I was there then and I’m here now. I started smoking cannabis on April 20th 1968 when I was sixteen. They say that if you remember the sixties then you weren’t there, so how come I can remember the exact date on which I smoked my first joint?

Easy – there was a gig starring Geno Washington and the Ram Jam band in the Glen Ballroom in Llanelli then – I found the exact date on the Internet. That’s the night I inhaled for the first time. It was a tiny bit of hash I bought for a few shillings and it had no effect whatsoever on me,

The next day I went for a walk in the countryside near my home and smoked the other half of my stash. Minutes later I was dancing through the damp fields like a demented hippy, smiling and laughing at the beautiful planet I was privileged enough to live on.

Over the next three and a half years I smoked a lot more dope and had my share of most of the other drugs that were available, and there were a lot, even in our town in the sticks. For a few months during that period I shared a flat in London with a bunch of blokes, mostly from Llanelli. Early December 1969, we bought a large bag of what we were told was Mexican Grass.

There followed three weeks of mayhem, when I often forgot who I was, where I was and even what I was. Time chopped itself into short sequences and rearranged itself so that the thing I’ll be doing 5 minutes ago came after the thing that I was doing in half an hour’s time. I was reduced to my essential essence of being a consciousness floating in the continuum of space-time loosely connected to a seventeen year old boy from Wales.

This hallucinatory surreal journey continued until Christmas Eve when most of the Llanelli contingent hopped into a hired transit and belted off down the M4 to reconnect with our roots and reassemble our splintered brains. As it turned out I didn’t go back to London after that. When the transit came to pick me up the day after Boxing Day I was too exhausted after the grass and a bit ill after Christmas over-consumption. Just over two years later I was married with a child.

I stopped taking any kind of drug, even laid off alcohol for a few years and didn’t have another spliff for more than a quarter of a century. By then the good quality hash and grass of the late sixties had turned into impure and probably toxic ‘soap’ and ‘slate’ – concoctions of cannabis resin and god knows what bulking agents,

Gradually better quality weed came on the market – mostly strains of skunk grown in someone’s attic in small batches. The quality of the drug continued to improve and become more pure. I continued to smoke, and later vape, on and off, until quite recently, and I can vouch that nothing comes close to the strength and effects of that innocent sounding Mexican Grass that altered the course of my life in 1969.

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A random bit of live writing (Feb 2016)

How do you choose which bits of your life to focus on when you write or attempt to write some kind of autobiography like this? What are the criteria? Hmm. I suppose it depends on who you are writing to – yes – because when you write, or at least when I write, I have a ‘reader’ in mind, even if that reader is just an abstract notion of myself – my future self. Like a diary I suppose.

But so much happens in just one day, one hour, one second even, if you drill down into the depths of your psyche and think out to the expanse of the universe(s). Continue reading

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Something New

There seems to be nothing there, but there are the uncountable billions of past experiences in this or other lives. Then there are the uncountable possibilities of future experiences plus of course the endless experiences occurring now.

And out of this nothing something new has to emerge . . .

 

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Dani Girl

Some Work in Progress

Dani Girl – Acrylic on Canvas – approx 8″ x 10″

There’s always a story.

I was sitting in the studio staring at the walls, feeling despondent. There was nothing there. No inspiration – no focus – no purpose. The universe was empty. All I had was some dregs of acrylic paint and 5 or 6 old failed canvases that had been painted in some form of pseudo-abstract meaningless squiggles and splodges.

In desperation I squeezed random bits of paint on the canvases and pushed them about with a brush until they each one was completely painted over in whatever colour emerged from the random scraps.

I left the studio for a couple of hours and distracted myself by eating, feeling even more miserable, and trying to catch up on some sleep. When I returned I picked up the same brush and the same dregs of paint and looked for some form. I chose one of the blanked out canvases and traced the shape of a head on the ridges of dried acrylic and found its features.

Thus Dani Girl emerged and the universe wasn’t empty any more.

Job done.

Update: the next day

Here’s the other 4 canvases

Continue reading

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Whodunnit?

Whodunnit? You just might find out over the next two days.

Tomorrow and Saturday, June 1st & 2nd, Cardiff Central Library is the location for the Crime and Coffee festival, a very special gathering to celebrate Crime Writing.

Meet some award winning crime writers and find out what makes them tick, how they approach their work and where they get their inspiration from.

Full details here: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/cdfcrimefest

I am very pleased that I will be appearing at 1pm on Friday as part of a panel discussion with two other local authors Phil Rowlands and Evonne Wareham.

Details of the panel discussion here: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/event/FHFHEJ

Come along and discover the gems that this unique collection of talent has to offer

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Crime and Coffee – Panel Discussion with local Cardiff authors

This should be interesting . . .

As part of the 2 day Crime and Coffee festival hosted by Cardiff Libraries I, along with two other local authors will be discussing our very differing approaches to Crime Writing.

My focus will be on my trilogy of stories featuring Detective Inspector Frank Lee, an ex punk New Age Traveller, who, to the dismay of his family and fellow travellers, became a copper to catch the ‘real bad guys’.

Bums, the first novel in the trilogy is already available. the second book, Beats, is due at the end of this year and the final in the trilogy, Bones, will be published in 2019.

Come along on Friday June 1st at 1pm to find out more about our unlikely police detective.

The other two authors on the panel are Evonne Wareham and Phil Rowlands, both are great writers with their own unique take on Crime Fiction

Here’s a link to more info about the panel discussion and the rest of the festival: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/event/FHFHEJ

Click here for more about Bums, Beats, Bones and DI Frank

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Crime and Coffee at Cardiff Central Library

Coming up:

Friday June 1st and Saturday June 2nd 2018, Cardiff Central Library has organised this unique and very special event.

I’m very pleased that I was invited to take part and will be appearing as a panellist for the Friday lunchtime event at 1pm.

The Festival itself is spread over two very full days and features many amazing crime writers including two great local authors Evonne Wareham and Phil Rowlands who will be on the panel with me. We will be discussing our motivations and differing approaches to crime writing.

More about Evonne at: http://evonneonwednesday.blogspot.co.uk/

More about Phil at: http://www.philrowlandswriter.com/

More about the festival at: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/cdfcrimefest

 

 

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An Ordinary Bloke writes about knowing everything

So now you’ve got to the point where you’ve had enough, done enough, know enough. You don’t need to learn any more about any thing. Well, maybe that’s pushing it a bit, that’s a bit too arrogant. You still learn at least one small lesson every day, you will always learn. But all the rest of it, well, you don’t need any of that any more – you don’t need anyone else telling you what you need either, or telling you what to do and how to behave, how to think. No! Fuck them.

You are who you are. You know everything. You know it all. You know as much as you need to know anyway. Note – how much ‘you’ need to know, not what ‘they’ think is how much you need to know. That’s what it’s all about really – you know everything.

Up to this point what has been written was written ‘before’. From now on what will be written will be written ‘after’. You don’t believe you know everything anymore. In fact you believe you know nothing, Take water for example, you know nothing about water, truth is no one does, not even the most scientific scientists. Electricity – that’s another one.

We live in a world which should not exist, it’s so improbable it’s impossible. You are impossible. Yet you are, you know that at least, you are, you do exist – whatever existence is.

Can it all be true? Can you know everything and know nothing at the same time?

Who knows!

(Shrugs)

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Croeso – Welcome

Featured

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What’s it all about then?

No one’s got a clue really, but we try to do our best.

This website exists to display a bit of one person’s attempts to do their best. When I say ‘best’ I’m not sure if that’s true in the sense that everything here is perfectly crafted, because it’s not. Some of it is roughly hewn or not hewn at all, simply pointed at, but then again, maybe that’s the best I can do.

I dunno.

I reckon that less than 1 in 100 visitors to this website are actual human beings so if you’re one of them and not a bot, and have managed to read this far down the page, I hope you can find something of interest here.

Just scroll and click and search. Turn over some metaphorical stones – there’s quite a lot to uncover even if I do say so myself.

blah blah – you know the score – here’s a poem from 1999 about knowing the score

ninetyfivefive
 
 you know the score
 in a movie 
 or a tv show
 the flaws
 small flaws
 idiosyncratic flaws
 twelve flaws
 or just one 
 we’re allowed to be flawed 
 it’s ok as long as in the end 
 we’re fucking good at our job
 in my real life i’m an artex ceiling of cracks and fissures
 with some small redemption
 
 it’s kind of arse-backwards ain’t it?

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Lord Harry for the ZX Spectrum

One from the archives – a game I wrote for the Spectrum in 1983

Might do a T Shirt or a painting or both based on this

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Being 66

Today is my 66th birthday. Because of the conditioning we gather from the weird cultural sewer we all bob around in, that feels like something I should be ashamed of. I mean who the hell wants to be 66 years old? That’s old, really old, beyond doubt old. You can kid yourself you still possess some vestiges of youth as you pass 60 and edge up towards 65, but 66, hell yes, that’s properly ancient. You’re so decrepit that you start to notice different things about the world, like the way your fellow codgers behave when they use their bus passes.

Here in Wales you are entitled to claim a bus pass when you are a fresh-faced 60. It took me a few months after I passed that long-dreaded birthday to overcome my shame and get the necessary documents together to prove I was ancient enough for free travel but eventually I gave in and shamefully presented myself to the local council hub to get photographed and approved. I collected the magic plastic rectangle and left the building, head down in case I bumped into someone I knew and had to explain what I was doing coming out of that emporium of benefits and social needs.

Anyway that was nearly six years ago and since then despite the odd pang of shame I have accepted that I am a member of that gang still politely referred to by some as Senior Citizens and more honestly, usually under the breath, as Old Gits.

So the way it works, on the local buses at least, is that you enter the bus and place the pass, which is the size of a credit card, on a pad near the driver. There is a beep, you then thank the driver and board the bus. Sometimes, depending on the bus company a useless ticket is printed, which you take from the machine and stick somewhere or discard.

Now, what I’ve noticed is this.

When an eligible woman boards the bus she will use her left hand to put her bus pass flat on the card reading device, remove her hand, wait for the beep, and then use her right hand to retrieve the pass, before shuffling off into the guts of the vehicle.

When it’s a man he will place the magic card on the pad with his right hand, keep his hand on it until he hears the beep, then remove his hand and the pass together.

In practice it means that men take a few less seconds to go through the formalities.

What I want to know is: What does this mean? Is this significant? Are men more efficient or are women more artistic? Will the proximity of a man’s hand to the reading device when it beeps have an effect on their health? Is this the sort of behaviour that contributes to women’s longer longevity?

I haven’t got a clue.

These are the sort of things that preoccupy a 66 year old.

God help us.

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There’s always Hope

This is something I wrote nearly 24 years ago after attending an event at the Hay-On-Wye Festival Of Literature.

Saturday May 21, 1994, 12:20pm

‘The First Novel’

A motley gathering of aspiring authors collect together under the grubby canvas of a  large marquee. Two hundred or so enthusiastic literary souls eagerly await the arrival of an editor from a famous large publishing house. She is to be accompanied by two of her latest discoveries – two brand new novelists just about to have their first works published. There is hope, it is transmitted by the excited breathing of the assembled scribes. Books from new authors are being published, despite the economic climate; someone with the power to rescue the diligent, lonely aspirants is prepared to take a chance with new writers.

Four smart middle-class women enter the arena and arrange themselves tastefully on the dais; the background hubbub fades, all eyes face front. A dedicated wannabe novelist, a cloth-capped round man is scribbling frantically into his filo-fax. An elderly lady with a limp finds herself a last-minute seat near the front and sits down with a tired sigh – it’s been a long road.

Let the lesson begin. The editor speaks first: OK, let’s forgive the carefully cultivated tones of her voice, the expensive haircut and the cigarette dangling from manicured fingers. Let’s give her a chance. The slush pile is dismissed immediately; nothing of any value comes from that. The audience fidget, embarrassed, thinking of their own contributions to that bane of the publishing world. OK, what is it then? That magic spell to get your first novel published.

Let’s have examples. The two new authors are discussed.

Writer A is an old friend of the editor, her father was a well-known poet and her mother is an accomplished novelist. Poor thing had a deprived childhood with her arty father, even had to slum it in the castle-like homes of her family’s aristocratic Mediterranean friends. The editor and this princess of words spent months, meeting for lunch and at each other’s houses, trimming and buffing her manuscript until it eventually emerged as a thin and delicately polished literary flower.

Writer B is a senior literature journalist with the Times. She was wooed by our editor (why?) until she produced a delightfully funny piece of work based in the offices of a gardening magazine. Wonderful gimmick – a free packet of geranium seeds with every book sold.

Both writers have got friends who are literary agents. So what is that magic?

The two authors speak about their work and read extracts to the sinking audience, and finally, a marketing superwoman from the publisher explains how new authors are launched with minimum expenditure and maximum publicity (in the literary sections of quality newspapers no doubt – ah! that’s why); but none of these discourses mattered, all hope had long vaporised along with the few quid each of us had paid for the privilege of a sharp slap in the face. Maybe that was the point of the event after all?

Go back to your kitchen sinks and your allotments, you’re a punter – not a writer; writers are smart cultured people with friends in the ‘write’ places.

There was to be a question and answer session afterwards. In the back of the auditorium, a disappointed and disgruntled working-class man stands up, touches his forelock to the dais and makes a quick exit. It is me.

NOTE (December 2017): I don’t think much has changed in the quarter of a century since I wrote the above piece. Maybe I should have concentrated on running my computer business. I was quite good at that until I walked away from it to focus on writing, a couple of years after that Hay session.

Still – that’s hope for you.

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A Poem and a Painting (and a book)

The full cover of Blodyn – my latest collection of poetry
Blodyn the Painting

acrylic on board 520mm x 670mm (20″ x 26″), 2001

Blodyn the Book

Collected poems 2017

Blodyn the poem

You are a creature
Petal-haired
Mouth-organ lipped
Smudge nose askew

You are a flower (an open flower)
A head on a stalk (A face on a stick)
Seeds like eyes
Seed-like eyes

You absorb the earth
Soak up the sun
Flow with the wind
Grow with the rain

You are raw life

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An Ordinary Bloke writes about Being Stupid

I’m not stupid. At least that’s what my family, friends, and teachers have always told me. And there is evidence to support this view. For example, I once sat the Mensa IQ test. I think it’s agreed that intelligence is the opposite of stupidity, and I soared to the top of the class in that test with a supposed IQ that was higher than more than 99% of the rest of humanity’s.

I’m not convinced.

I mean, if I’m not stupid why am I broke?

And if Donald Trump is stupid why is he the billionaire president of the USA?

That’s it!

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An ordinary bloke writes about the Gents

Due to my cisgender conditioning the inside of women’s public toilets are not familiar to me, but as someone who seems to urinate twice as much as I drink I am a frequent visitor to the Gents. Maybe I’m anti-social but I’ve got to the point where I prefer to use a cubicle even if all I want is a pee. I’m not comfortable standing thigh-to-thigh with strangers as we merge our steamy urine against the ceramic. It’s not them, it’s me, and that’s just the way it is.

The consequence of this is that I do spend more time than most out of sight behind a closed door, so get to hear the comings and goings of others as they use the facilities unseen. I hear them come in, position themselves at the urinals, and release their streams. Sometimes you hear only one person at a time and sometimes you can hear more. After they’ve wetted that wall I’ve noticed that people behave differently, depending on how many others are in the toilet at the same time and where they are.

A row of urinals in the toilet at an arts centre

For example, in scenario one; if I am alone in the cubicle and a solitary bladder-emptier comes in to the room, it’s more than ninety-percent certain that when they’ve done their business they will leave immediately without bothering to use the hand-washing facilities. That is probably the most consistent behaviour pattern I have observed but there are many other scenarios and responses, for example:

Scenario two: If when I walk into the gents there is only one person already relieving themselves, then after I’ve gone into the cubicle and they’ve shaken it dry the probability of them walking out without washing their hands is reduced to around sixty percent, although I think that more than half of the people who do visit the sink don’t actually wash – they just push the tap and walk. The other half of those ‘gentlemen’, splash about a bit then put their hands under the blower for a couple of seconds in a pretence at cleanliness.

In scenario three, when there’s more than one other person using the urinals then the first one to finish will actually wash and dry their hands. All the others will behave the same except for the last one to finish, whose behaviour will revert back to that described in scenario one above.

Scenario four is a variation of scenario three, based on the times when I finish and come out of the cubicle and there is still someone lurking or peeing. Of course I walk immediately to the sink, wash my hands then dry them thoroughly. If the other person is ready before I leave then they too will walk over to the sink and go through the motions. If I leave before they finish then my educated guess is that they revert to scenario one.

There are many other variations on these scenarios but the moot point is that if no one is looking then the overwhelming majority of people using the male toilets to urinate do not wash their hands or at best make a feeble pretence at washing them.

I don’t even want to think about the other things they do in the Gents, especially when they’re cosy and invisible in a cubicle.

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An ordinary bloke writes about being culled

Have you ever been ‘culled’?

Yes, removed from the herd because you are surplus to requirements; more than that – you are persona non grata. I’m talking about social media in general and Facebook in particular.

The other day I was browsing my wife’s Facebook page, as you do. After decades of being together we don’t have any secrets, not one, zilch; well apart from the little bit of ‘private browsing’ I do now and again, just to see what it’s all about like. Anyway, enough of that . . .

DJ Self Portrait digital version

So there was a post in her newsfeed from one her ‘friends. Not that they’ve ever met in real life of course, this was one of her ‘Facebook Friends’ who only added her up as a friend because they mistook her for someone with influence in the publishing industry. They are more of a networking contact than a friend, but that’s how it goes on social media – everyone’s got something to flog, even if it’s just their blog, the one where they like to entertain you with ramblings about what sludge they had for lunch or what they thought of the over-hyped gig they went to last night,

OK, I know it’s ironic that I’m doing the same thing – sort of, but I’ve long since given up actively trying to sell or promote anything. I won’t even draw any attention to this post except maybe by way of a solitary tweet to my meagre hundred or so alleged followers.

So this post, from one of my wife’s friends said “Congratulations! If you’re reading this then you have survived the cull.” Now I was initially quite pleased by this, because I had thought of this ‘friend’ as an interesting person who possibly had some talent in the writing department, and who was my Facebook friend as well as my wife’s. But then I remembered that I was reading my wife’s Facebook feed instead of my own.

I jumped back to my computer and looked at my own Facebook feed, just to make sure. Nope not a sign of that post, and when I checked my friends’ list the person was missing.

So yeah, I had been culled.

What am I supposed to do about that? Do I just accept that I’m the sort of person that gets culled, i.e. either a non-entity or an annoyance, then just shrug and get on with my pathetic life? Or do I log in again to my wife’s Facebook account and defriend the offender on her behalf?

I don’t know what to do, I’m just an ordinary bloke.

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An Ordinary Bloke Writes About . . .

This may turn into a regular column, maybe I’ll try and do it once a week.

To read all the posts tagged with An Ordinary Bloke – Click Here

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Three thoughts

To be a good gardener, sow the seeds with love
Believe in what you’re doing, do what you believe in
Even the best words dissolve into mush when you read them too many times

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