Careful what you wish for . . .

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?

Who knows, maybe I’ll see you then.

Cyfarchion y Tymor

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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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To Me – New Book coming soon

To Me is the title of my next book. It’s been written specifically for myself and it is dedicated To Me, but I don’t mind if others read it.

I think everyone should have their own ‘To Me’ book. Luckily I have the experience and skills to publish my own.

Using Print on Demand it doesn’t really cost anything but time plus the cost of any printed copies, and you can buy just one copy if you like.

I’m working on the final edit, it looks like it will end up being about 103,000 words and 310 pages long in an 8.5″ x 5.5″ format.

Here’s a sneak peek of the cover:

TO-ME-308pages-FULL-resTO-ME-308pages-FRONT-res

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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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Objective: Say that life is temporal.

temporal

  • Character A: Life is temporal.
  • Character B: Uh!
  • Character A: You know, it exists in time.
  • Character B: Yeah? What’s your point?
  • Character A: Your life, my life, whoever’s life, has a very limited existence. Against the background of eternity it is infinitesimally small. It’s not worth getting so worked up about.
  • Character B: Who’s getting worked up?
  • Character A: Well – I am I suppose.
  • Character B:  Yeah – that’s your problem. Do you fancy a cuppa?
  • Character A: Why not.

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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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Message to the BBC Radio 4 Today programme

A personal message to the BBC Radio 4 Today programme

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Public Bloody Transport

Another one from the archives – written on Tuesday November 30th 1999

Public-bloody-transport. How did it come to this? Me. Having to catch a bloody bus of all things. It’s my fault I suppose. By my age you’d think I’d know that you have to do something to earn a living. I mean, you get up in the morning, you go to bed at night and you have to do something in between. That’s why work was invented – to fill the gap.

Most people know that instinctively, they just get on with it. But me? No, not me. I’m so bloody stupid; I don’t know where I get the ideas from. It’s as if I thought I could live on thin air or something.

That’s why I’m on this bus. Look, there’s another pair – fellow-travellers, I’ve seen quite a few in the last two weeks, since my car broke down and I couldn’t afford to get it fixed. Couldn’t afford it – me? After all the money that’s passed through my hands in my various (failed) business ventures. Perhaps one day that poor bloke will start a business of his own – he might as well. At least then he’d have the illusion of doing something useful for a while, until he goes bust. Continue reading

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Chilling Out

From the archives – First published on unmadeup.com

The freezer bit of our seven-year-old fridge-freezer packed in a few months ago; it had been stuttering along since the guarantee ran out, often needing a good kick or a shove to encourage it to actually freeze anything more than a tray of ice. Being skint we haven’t been able to replace it until now, and that’s only due to the grace of a new flexible friend; and what with the sun coming out last Tuesday we thought it would be nice to have some ice for the summer – so it was essential really.

fridgeCoincidentally my mother-in-law’s fridge packed in a couple of weeks ago. It was 39 years old; she’d boasted about it when she found out about the demise of our under-maintained modern rubbish. Since she doesn’t drive and since she’s getting on a bit, it would have been churlish of me to refuse the opportunity of a joint excursion to a nearby retail park.

We identified the fridges we wanted – a Bosch combo for us and a Hotpoint larder fridge for the mother-in-law., then went home to order them on the internet – a combined saving of £115 – not bad for ten minutes on a price comparison website.

We promised we would go round the mother-in-law’s last Thursday to give the decrepit old thing the heave-ho, making room for the sparkling new arrival due on Friday. Continue reading

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Catsssss – A warning!

catsssssSsh! Keep it to yourself for now, you don’t know who, or what, is listening.

Also, and this is important – be sure to delete this web page from your browsing history after you’ve read and digested this vital piece of information about the most deadly threat to the human race as we know it.

This threat comes disguised as what appear to be cute fluffy creatures, but beware, they are actually agents of a vicious alien intelligence whose only aim is to enslave and abuse us.

Yes – Catsssss are e.v.i.l. Catsssss are the definition of control freaks, their purpose is to delete our brains and replace them with a computer program that will take over our bodies and use them for their own ends – or rather for the ends of the hive mind alien intelligence that connects all their consciousnesses.

Their attack utilises two main strategies:

1: Replace our memories with Internet search engines so that our brains gradually empty as we increasingly depend on them to supply us with information.

2: Replace the whole Internet with pictures of Catsssss so that in the end that’s all we will ever know.

Please check back here regularly for more revelations and information about a bold new strategy to combat this threat.

But – ssh! Keep it to yourself for now.

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Happy New You

Something I wrote ten years ago on January 3rd 2006 – nothing changes?

January Tree

January Tree

I’ve just realised it happens every year. Usually it gets overwhelmed by Christmas, or it’s just forgotten, smothered by January frost and burnt away by the low winter sun and the urgent need to get on with it.

But this year the restart was delayed by illness and crushing indecision.

Lost in the dark again. A couple more days lolling around in dressing gowns, still too much left over food in the cupboards to merit a serious expedition to the large world of other people out there.

There’s a decline that begins the day the clocks go back – late October. The world gets more claustrophobic every day, the darkness comes and it stays.

At first I think I can beat it – keep busy, have a book launch, start worrying about Christmas, the essential festival of light and unfettered stuffing; like a willing goose, turn yourself into pate. Swill it down with ferments of fruit and grain, buy presents. Can’t afford it? What the hell, max the plastic.

Then – the day – the darkest day and the day filled with the most light and the most abandon – no buses to catch or cars to drive, no limits, no mercy to your lives.

Loved ones come and go, bins overflow. ‘Thank God it’s all over.’

All over.
All over.

Crisp New Year
except it’s not
it’s wet and not cold enough
and the places you’ve been
stay with you
and make you cough and moan

Get a grip on yourself
Get a grip

So you do
and you notice
the nights lightening
the days’ cool sun returning
– reviving.

And you return
You are you again
but you are a different you
an evolved through pain
and darkness you

A new you

A happy new you

But then again

Everything changes
it’s always the same,
it all rearranges
no-one’s to blame

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Just because you’re a woman doesn’t mean you’re right!

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.

giving-flowersTalking 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

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Quantum Relativity

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

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This is it

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.

 

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Poetry sucks!

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

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Vegan burgers and the Con club

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.

cons-clubRiverside ‘Cons’ club – open for business – hmm!

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
  • salt
  • pepper
  • tamari
  • 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

voila!

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