Remember that I’m not saying that making music is easy, far from it – making music is very difficult – I know that there are tens of thousands of very talented musicians in the UK and at least thousands in Wales – and I know a few of them so I know how hard they work to make those sounds.
But I am saying that making music is a cop-out – compared to writing it’s a doddle. I mean once you’ve learned an instrument and the tunes to a bunch of songs all you have to do is play and sing. Unless you’re a composer of course, but even then it’s still easier than writing. It’s still following a bunch of rules and usually that means repetitions of things like beats and lyrics.
I know a point of view like this might upset a lot of people, especially those who have spent decades learning their craft and those who profess their love for certain musical artists or genres, but it doesn’t matter, because my opinion of music doesn’t matter. I’m just an ordinary bloke, that’s all – one ordinary bloke out of tens of millions of blokes in the UK alone.
Besides, I’ve got no influence, no respect, no kudos, so just chill the fuck out – I’m only writing about how I feel – and even then I’ll probably change my mind next week or have an epiphany or something. Yeah, so just chill the fuck out. And there’s no reason or need to dislike me either, just for my opinion. I am not disrespecting you, in fact, I admire you a lot, it’s just that I don’t think music is such a big deal.
Recently I told someone whose life is music that I regarded music as just like the wind – it’s just there that’s all. They and others they spoke to in the music business were horrified. I’m a little puzzled by that reaction to be honest because I think it’s a complimentary thing to say – I mean, the wind is one of the most amazing, wonderful, varied, profound, powerful and beautiful things there is. It is an actual force of nature.
Writing on the other hand is like taking the whole of history, the whole of human evolution and experience, the whole of the universe even, in your brain all at once and issuing words that encapsulate the magic and the majesty in a conscious way. It’s not like just standing on a beach and feeling the wind in your face and the sea air in your lungs, it is the very act of creation itself. Writing is divine in the true sense, not in the namby-pamby repetitive sense.
But yes I still admire and envy you – I wish I could sing and play an instrument like a guitar or a key board.
Maybe I’ll try to learn. Is it too late for me to do this at 67 years old do you think?
Excerpt from Work in Progress Novel “The Flying Boy”
Also a version in the Novel “To Me”
You used to think you were especially gifted at school – this is because in your immediate circle of family and friends you were tagged as the brightest and cleverest. It was never true, but you suppose you were usually just about quick enough to figure out almost anything, and if you couldn’t figure it out, you’d put it in a box marked ‘later’ – it wasn’t that you couldn’t solve it, it just wasn’t the right time.
You can’t remember how many of those ‘later’ issues you revisited and solved, or how many sunk to the dark bottom of that box and are still there now, silting up the foundations of your being. You’ve never found life easy but it thrills you to be alive. It scares you silly too.
And so, you see, you have as much right as any one of those greats to tell your story in your way. You won’t promise an easy read, and you may not like many of the characters that feature, or many of the characteristics displayed by our man in the middle – the main protagonist – you!
The only thing you will guarantee is that this will only be about the truth. It will be completely true. You guarantee that.
It was a dampish, coldish, Saturday in October when it all began – this looking back, and the looking forward, and the imagination. The imaginary man.
Yes, The Imaginary Man – that’s you, that’s who you are. You are the original imaginary man. If someone said to you: who are you? You’d probably shrug. But if instead they asked you a series of questions such as: ‘how old are you?’, ‘what is your name?’, ‘are you male or female?’, that sort of thing, then you would already know the answers, and from those answers it could easily be deduced that you identify as a man, born in the middle of the twentieth century, now living in the twenty-first and so on.
So, you do have an identity – a strong identity, the only identity you have ever known and probably will ever know. So, get this – you are fucking important. You are as important as the fucking Queen. You are as important as the Pope, the fucking Pope. You’re not sure about people like the Buddha, or Jesus, or Muhammad, or Guru Nanak, or Krishna, or any other ancient or current inspiration for a religion – or some spiritual leader with a direct connection to the idea of God – like a conduit to the eternal love. No, You’re not sure about them; they may not even be or have been human beings in the same way as the rest of us, they may be or have been like angels or messiahs or prophets or something that operate on a different plane than human existence.
But you’re just as fucking important as any of your other ponces or plebs, and of course to yourself, you are the most important. Though you don’t need anyone else to put you down; you’re an expert at putting your-fucking-self down.
The only reason you’re writing this by the way is to draw a line between that old sucker you and to kickstart the new wiser tougher you.
(Interjection on Wednesday November 18th 2015 – as I’m typing this into a Word document ready to be copied into the book that this will end up in. The interjection is this – is it possible that an intelligent person could practise a skill – say, like writing, for decades, and write countless words until they have accumulated at least 6 medium cardboard boxes full of their scribbles plus gigabytes of hard drive space, is it possible for that person to be a crap writer – I mean if you practised all the those years and still didn’t get even the tiniest bit of appreciation and recognition for your work – is that the time to just say “Fuck it – I’m a crap writer – give it up, find something you’re good at.” And what if I won’t accept that, because I have to write – I have to write – there is no choice for me – appreciated or not – so then my voice, however much it doesn’t fit with what is regarded as a good voice is, as good as, as important as, as interesting as, as honest as any other voice of any other human being, whether expressed in words or visual art or, god forbid – dance. End of interjection.)
Extract from Work in Progress novel – The Flying Boy
You. You.You. It’s all about you isn’t it? Yes of course, you think. Who else is it going to be about? There is only you, in your life anyway. Is that sociopathic? Or some kind of pathic? You only know about yourself. You can’t know about anyone else – only what you are allowed to know by whatever this universe is. Ah – there it is, it’s about a u-niverse, so, yes, it is all about you.
But you still have to breathe air, share, and even you admit you don’t know everything. In fact you know hardly anything, possibly nothing. For example you tell people you are writing meta fiction but you don’t even know what meta fiction is until you look it up in the great big dictionary in the sky, just to check that you aren’t talking crap and could be called out by a first year literature student. But you are talking crap aren’t you? You are talking crap because for one thing the great dictionary told you that what you think is meta fiction probably isn’t – for one thing it seems to be spelled metafiction as one word, and the rest of it, well, there’s too many subtleties in the definitions of the word and not many come close to the sort of thing you’re writing. So yeah, you are writing something that is probably not metafiction, but you’re not sure – maybe it’s meta fiction or even meta-fiction.
So what. You’re not writing according to some spurious literary rule. You are writing the truth. You don’t know who Jill is. This is important. Because Jill is . . . Jill is what? Hmm. You can’t deal with all this now. You have bigger fish to fry, or maybe you would if you fried fish. But you don’t fry fish; you don’t do anything with or to fish except look at them now and again in a friend’s pond or dead on the slabs of a fishmonger in the market.
There was that time, maybe thirty years ago, when you were involved with fish more than you wanted to be, more than you should have been. It was an actual fishing competition organised by your brother. He was a fisherman. Not a professional fisherman. He didn’t sell them or anything, though he no doubt traded the odd fish for some other advantage because that’s the sort of person he was, but he had a boat and loads of tackle, and he organised a sea fishing competition. You helped him by creating and managing a little computer database to record the details of the fish the competitors brought back to the weigh-in.
Stop! Pardon. Pause at least. OK.
When you’re writing like this it’s like applying the first daubs/splodges/lines of paint of an abstract painting on a canvas. You step back to look and at first it’s just random marks, random colours, random shapes and textures. Then you catch a hint of form. It starts to mean something and you start to realise that that meaning was there all along, it possessed your hands, your eyes, your brain. It used you to express itself. This is a divine thing – its form and its meaning will reveal themselves.
(Martin Amis is your inspiration. Is he? Yes. Every time you read something about him or by him or see his name on a book cover you find yourself writing seconds later. Is that true? You’re doing it now. Ah! OK.)
Now really restart, resume maybe.
So helping your brother out at the fishing competition means sitting in a damp portakabin behind a makeshift desk, typing bits of information into a computer database. Things like contestant name and number, boat name, time of weigh, species of fish weighed, weight of fish.
Each species of fish has a specimen weight attached to it. So, a sardine say, has a specimen weight of a few grams, while a great white shark has a specimen weight of almost two tonnes or whatever. Not that you weigh any sardines or great white sharks, though there is a shark the size of a spaniel dog and some kind of flatfish with the circumference of a saucer.
At the end of the day there is a winner, the person whose fish is bigger than its species’ specimen weight by the largest factor. The spaniel-sized shark doesn’t win but the saucer sized flatfish might do. You can’t remember. You don’t want to remember.
All that must have been around the same time , late 80s, early 90s, that you read the book London Fields by Martin Amis, coincidentally, you’ve just read an interview with him in the Guardian (online) about the film that has just been released based on that book – London Fields (the film is rubbish apparently). Maybe that’s the reason you’re thinking about your brother’s fishing competition, some feint connection from three decades ago.
So yeah, maybe you have to admit that Martin Amis is your inspiration, your muse perhaps? I wonder what he would think about that? Being a muse for an also-ran novelist. You know what he is. He’s not a muse, he’s the sort of arrogant male artist who employs muses, uses them at least. He’s as much a muse as a jockey is a horse or a fish is bait.
But there you are, there he is, each in your respective universes, and there you will remain. Though Mr Amis does remind you of a dope-smoking friend you had for a while as a dope-smoking teenager. That friend was called Martin as well. He was not a tall person and used to walk around in a thick woollen coat that was too big for him.
Your Martin used to knock around with Jill. Hold on. You’d better stop there to think about it. Jill? Even that far back? Half a century? Is that possible? Are your memories real?
Let’s get the fucking paper the right way round. Let’s get the correct pen. Let’s get the fag rolled, the ashtray emptied, the fag lit and then let us begin. This is an exercise in creative writing, no, that’s Creative Writing, with two great big fucking capital letters, one at the beginning of each word to signify they represent more than the expression they convey. This is an exercise in Creative Writing.
The first rule of Creative Writing, they say, is to write about what you know, your own reality (ies?). So then it’s not exactly Fiction (another word with a capital first letter, watch out for these, and italics, and underlined, and bold – they mean that you’re not being creative enough), but it’s not exactly fact either (should Fact be capitalised?). You’ve heard of poetic (or artistic) license? Well that’s the third rule, (I forgot the second rule is not to use words with Initial Capital Letters unless they’re proper ones and not to use things like italics,underlining, bold etc. (or things like etc. come to that) Are there any more rules? Not really. In fact, the first three rules aren’t that important, in fact, fuck the rules, all of them.
There are no rules in this game boy.
That’s when I usually wake up, but get this, sometimes when I wake up it’s only into another dream, but it takes a few seconds to realise that, sometimes longer, and then, after squeezing my eyes tight shut before opening them again and finding myself in another place that could be a dream, and it is, and I’m getting suspicious by now and wondering if I’ll ever get back to fully conscious reality, so I settle for this.
But it’s been a long time now, in this reality, so I guess it must be the real one, at least it will have to do for the time being because I’m too tired to fight it any more and here I am, here is where I’ve made my home.
So, in this reality, there are things I have to deal with, things besides the essentials, like sleeping and eating and earning a living. Things like Ken and Lucy and Her (capital allowed), because that’s all that’s left now. These are the only things I have to deal with now, so what’s stopping me? Maybe I’ve just run out of steam, maybe there’s no oomph left in me, I’ll just have to accept all these unresolved things that are bugging me.
But then again, maybe not.
OK, Ken. Here I come.
I’m going to sort you out at last.
Ken will be in the club, he’s bound to be, it’s like his domain, his kingdom, and he likes to sit on his throne in the bar, his fat gut pressed against the dark wood table, the cheeks of his fat arse hanging out the sides of the chair. He’ll be drinking as usual, smoking dope, nipping off to the toilet or his office now and again to stick some cocaine up his ugly nose (although he pretends to have a weak bladder), that’s the one thing he seems to be ashamed of – his weakness.
Problem is, I can’t be seen in the club, can’t be seen by anyone tonight, got to avoid the CCTV cameras and the nosy cops – got to get through the network of Ken spies like Gollum – got to kill the bastard. That’s the only way it will end unless I just disappear, vanish into that land of bumness where nobody knows and nobody cares. But I’m not going to do that, because I’ve got pride, and besides I wouldn’t leave the rest of them in the shit like that, because there’s bound to be some repercussions (not all of them bad I’m sure but I can’t take the risk).
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.
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.