Something has to be written about these times; sorry that my skills are not as good as they should be. There is nothing I can do about that – my skills are the only skills that are available. I am the only one left and time is running out, so there is no time to get any better at this. Perhaps in a hundred years, someone will find this account interesting enough to rewrite it as a work of fiction – it’s dramatic enough. It would make a good film. I wonder if they’ll still have films in the twenty-second century? It’ll probably all be holograms by then – total immersion in a fake reality. But then what is reality anyway? And if what has happened here happens more widely there won’t be much left to fret about by then.
I’m sitting in an empty oil barrel inside a deserted factory – it used to be a machine shop. I used to work here. Now all the lathes and grinders have been sold for scrap and all that’s left is this oil drum and the run down building that surrounds it.
All around me lying in various awkward positions on the cold greasy floor are the bodies of the others. These were my fellow travellers, my crew, my gang, formed from an alliance of survivors. It has been six months since the coach crashed and it took us six outlaws every one of those 180 days to get here. I can’t look at them any longer, and there is nothing I can do but wait until the dangers have passed and all I have is this notebook and this pen. I hope it doesn’t run out . . .
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.
At the end of next week – on Saturday January 7th, I will be appearing on stage at the Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff along with a wonderfully disparate bunch of performers (which is what you might expect considering it’s a Wyrd Wonder happening). I won’t explain too much here but there is more info on the Facebook event page which should be accessible if you click this :- https://www.facebook.com/events/551824065014351/
The thing is I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet, but the fallback position is that I read a story or perhaps some poetry. What I would like to be able to do is some kind of stand-up comedy, or a funny narrative, something that will make people think they haven’t wasted their time sitting quietly for fifteen minutes watching some idiot making an idiot of himself.
So I thought of the opening joke:
“When I told my wife I was thinking of doing a stand-up comedy routine, she pissed herself laughing, so I knew I was onto a good thing . . .” – Ta-Da!
What do you think? It’s a bit Tim Vine isn’t it? In fact it probably is one of his that I’ve subconsciously absorbed and regurgitated.
I’m only kidding of course – ‘kidding’ – get it? (ha ha)
But seriously, I’m not serious about the stand-up idea – or am I?
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.
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.
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.
What do I mean? I mean this is a short story with no style and no substance.
Why not? Style is taste, substance is an illusion.
Fair enough, but I don’t understand.
You don’t need to.
I mean I don’t understand the point of it.
Your short story. This.
Nor me. In fact I’d go so far as to say that there is no point to it.
But what’s the point of that? Why should I read it?
I don’t know. Do you need a reason?
Well, yes, otherwise I’d be wasting my time, my breath, my life.
Look at me shrugging. Read what you like, or not. Who cares?
Well, you should, it’s your short story. Don’t you want people to read it?
Yes of course, but I still don’t care if they do or not.
If you say so.
So what’s it about?
Nothing. It’s got no substance.
What’s the point . . . oh, never mind.
Good, you’re learning.
No I’m not.
Yes you are. You’ve learned that there’s no point.
No point to what?
No point trying to find a point in something that has no point.
OK. If you say so.
I was being sarcastic.
Because you’re winding me up.
Because of your stupid story that has no style and no substance.
And no point.
So what’s the problem then?
You’re doing my head in.
With all this story nonsense.
Well you don’t have to read it.
Fuck off then . . . .
Myself is in a shell, Being hung up And that. I shed my shell, From now And then. I am being sat; Upon a wave Of Freeness. My shell is shed, But what Do I find to be done. In the phase, It’s hot Outside, it’s muchly warm. I am being moved myself, But be looked Onto Scorn
We Us-self do change Our scenes and our shells And in the interim of truth We’ve such a much to tell
Last Saturday I attended a screenprinting workshop at the Printhaus in Llandaff Road, Cardiff.
The Printhaus is an amazing and unique place which is equipped with comprehensive screenprinting facilities. I have always loved the idea of screenprinting and did a bit a very long time ago when we lived in a shared house in Cardiff associated with an Ashram in the seventies.
We used to print posters and sometimes on canvas bags.
Blodyn – 16″ x 24″ (40cm x 60cm) – approx, on card – border added digitally
This is what I printed – actually this is a photoshopped photograph of what I printed, the original is much more organic and lovely.
Just 4 copies were printed and the stencils were washed off the screens in between each colour. As you can see it was designed in 4 colours – red for the hair/petals, dark reddish-brown for the face and lettering (although it looks more like black in the photo), green for the body and yellow for the features and the buttons.
Each of the four prints is unique because of the slightly arbitrary way the card was positioned under the screen when applying the paint through the stencil. The stencils were made of thin tracing paper and were destroyed during the process of cleaning the screens, so this truly is a limited edition.
all the little Blodyns drying after the workshop
Blodyn is Welsh for flower btw
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.
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
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 →
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.
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 →
I’m just leaving the Co-op Shop and I’ve got a bag of “All Original Starburst Chews, Bursting With Real Fruit Juiciness”, a Grab-Bag of Walkers Salt and Vinegar Crisps, the last manky copy of today’s Guardian newspaper and one Silk Cut cigarette. I’ve got more cigarettes at home, of course, loads of them. Thing is, I’m not going to get home. I’m going to die before I get home. I’m going to die; I know I am.
Somewhere in the fifteen minute walk home, I’m going to die, I don’t know when exactly, but I know I’m going to die. Thing is, what am I going to do with the last half-mile, or less, of my life? It’s a difficult question. Perhaps if I run as fast as Flash, I can cheat death, slip past on its blind side maybe? Get home before it gets me. Continue reading →
OK, 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.
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.
It 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 →
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.
If 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 →
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)
Hi! 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 →