Don’t ask . . . . . .
Here’s some sort-of abstract works instead
Don’t ask . . . . . .
Here’s some sort-of abstract works instead
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.
So where do you begin?
(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.)
From the book “To Me”
Most of what everyone does is unnecessary and harmful.
Stop doing what is unnecessary
Grow or forage for your own food
Cook your own food
Make your own clothes
Build your own shelters
Help each other to do this
Use or abuse no other sentient being
Do what you want but harm no one
What are the secrets
you’ve discovered today?
Did you find out
where the wizards play?
Are they as wise as they claim?
Or is it just a clever game?
No one can win.
No one can lose
No one can challenge
the life that you choose.
Me and a mate chatting – some people think it’s a bit funny – it’s a lot more than that . . . . .
(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:
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.
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?
The thing about Jill is . . . .
What is the thing about Jill?
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.
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 . . .
This, of course, is to no one. This is just me babbling in the dark, somewhere in the depths of the universe. This is no where. I am no one.
But – things go on, around me, inside me, in other places I can’t imagine right now but may become known, in a small way, by reports in the media tomorrow.
It emanates out and becomes weaker for every centimetre; it sends back small titbits for consumption to make stories.
We all live in the howling wilderness at the edge of the universe. Where else could we live? That is what life is.
The Sixties are finally ending. The signs are everywhere. The characters that populate the sixties of our shared imagination are shuffling off their mortal coils faster than newly elected politicians shrugging off their promises. It won’t be long before finding a genuine sixties survivor will be almost as impossible as getting an honest Tory to open your village fete.
So, from our vantage point half a century in the future, what was it all really about? Well, it’s kind of defined my generation’s life, coloured it in at least. But did it really mean anything? Was there a cultural revolution? Did we achieve Sexual Liberation and Gender Equality? Did we Ban the Bomb and Make Love not War?
I don’t think we did any of the above, but did we at least stall the inexorable rise of capitalism? Nope, never got far with that either. But, the sixties were special, with the music, the art, the fashion, the technology, the social movements – weren’t they?
Maybe The Sixties was just an idea. Ideas are powerful, everything comes from ideas. I mean, the music, the art, the fashion . . . and all the rest of it, they all started with ideas and then they happened. But – so what? Nobody wears mini-skirts and hot pants now, nobody marches from Aldermaston to London demanding nuclear disarmament – yet the nuclear arms are still there, more than ever. The reasons to do all those things still exist.
So, what’s happened then? Maybe the sixties were about hope, and now we’ve given that up in this topsy-turvy post-Trump-election world. There are too many billionaires, there is more wealth concentrated in the pockets of a couple of percent of the population than all the rest of us combined. The sixties itself has been commercialised more than any other decade in history – it has become a product, a facsimile designed to mesmerise, and squeeze money from, naïve punters like you and me.
Now that The Sixties is finally expiring maybe it’s time to bury the last of its warriors or at least let them sink into the shadows in retirement homes. We need to get on with now – the future.
In the meantime if you can think of anything positive that’s stood the test of that half century then write it on a banner and parade it proudly around town – or maybe just make a jpeg out of it and stick it on Facebook – job done.
I’m just an ordinary bloke and I used to be a vegan. Is that a contradiction? Can you be a vegan and be ordinary? Can an ordinary bloke even be a vegan? What’s ordinary about being vegan?
Well, it used to be impossible to be thought of as being ordinary and a vegan at the same time. Everyone’s perception was that vegans were weird, far from ordinary, sub-ordinary if you like, not worthy of any respect or consideration.
But now, apart from the opinions of some knuckle-draggers in the comments sections of online newspapers and your auntie Betty, who still swears by steamed sheep’s brains on a bed of fried bull’s balls, being a vegan seems to have become accepted as quite an ordinary thing to do. So, that’s why I’m done with this vegan thing.
More than two decades ago I became a ‘vegan’ and long before that a vegetarian. Almost forty-seven years eschewing (not chewing) animal flesh, and you know what? I’ve had enough of it.
I don’t want to be a ‘vegan’ or even a vegetarian any more. I just want to be a normal human being who goes about their daily life without a big neon sign above their head declaring their foibles to the world.
It’s not just me. I was in Berlin recently and visited a small vegan supermarket. The company was all over the vegan grapevine a few years ago because they were opening, or planning to open, vegan supermarkets all over Germany and there was talk of them opening in the UK. At the time it seemed to herald the new golden age of veganism, at last there was enough of a market in providing for such a diet to make it commercially viable. Hooray!
Bu no, the guy in the vegan supermarket in Berlin said their plans to expand had fizzled out and their entry into the UK market never happened. Why? Was it because the vegan revolution itself fizzled out? Was the market smaller than they thought?
No, it was because regular supermarkets and shops started to stock the same ranges of specialised vegan products as they did. There is nothing unique about them anymore. Veganism has entered the mainstream, there’s unashamedly vegan options everywhere.
We may be a few years behind in the UK but it’s starting to happen here too.
So, I’m hanging up the label, I am no longer a vegan. I’m just an ordinary bloke eating an ordinary diet. I just don’t eat any animal products – but that is normal – right?
radical writers gather
at the dylan thomas centre
on wednesday night
in early march
during st david’s week
also known as ty llen
in the maritime sector
with nigel jenkins,
who says ‘i’m just a gower farm boy’
and ‘i make bugger all from my writing’,
others discuss cabbage soup,
and mike jenkins talks of majis,
we drink pints of cwrw,
and don’t live in red wine republics,
with sculptors’ sons,
near seven sisters rugby club,
published by seren,
or even honno,
and the university press
to see mike jenkins
and 2 women
one a filmmaker
the other an historian
look at the 1930s
and wives of miners
sheep roll over cattle grids
while welsh nats
listen to stories of shop boys
who steal your breath
the writer sought three wild bards up a mountain
to make his name – alun richards
back to a muddy car park
past the books on sale
down the m4
past the traffic lights
with our own agendas
to beat own drum
words like dirty snowdrops
at home a welcoming spliff
away the celtic warrior
and weasels of valleys
present voices of wales
bits of llais cymru
chasing arts council
why not try self-publishing
like roddy doyle
where’s irvine welch
on the internet
in a web
handing out pamphlets
to a welsh mam
she’s barefoot & still nuts
but, harry, he’s a poet