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?
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
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.
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?
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 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
you know the score
in a movie
or a tv show
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?
Everything is ordinary, birth, life, death, flying, swimming, running, climbing. That’s what this world is. You can take any one of those ordinary things and zoom in and you’ll find that the closer you get the more it fragments, the more complex it gets. Zoom in some more and you get lost in the endless billions of sub-atomic particles. I mean, did you know that there are like 10,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms in just one grain of sand?
Now you have to admit that’s ordinary. It doesn’t get much more ordinary than a grain of sand; there are plenty of them everywhere. Nothing is really ordinary, in the sense that it’s banal, run of the mill, ‘normal’ – even those attributes ascribed to things or concepts are in themselves infinitely complex and interesting. Take a word like banal. I mean, what does it mean? Where does it originate? What are the other words that come from the same roots? In what context is it best used? Where is it best avoided? Does it have to be negative?
Sorry, I have a tendency to repeat, repeat, the things I want to say, maybe I’m subconsciously trying to build up a rhythm – I don’t know. I’ve also got a tendency to end up at the ‘10,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms in just one grain of sand’ thing when I get too analytical. But that’s OK really, because it’s ordinary. I mean even the most seemingly unaware human being, and I would probably extend this to all animals, has these kind of thoughts, even if not in the same word patterns; maybe they manifest as feelings, or emotions, or something that isn’t so easily defined as language is.
So the point is: All things are ordinary, but ordinary isn’t dull, or worthless, or unremarkable.
Ordinary is extraordinary.
Here’s a short video of something ordinary.
the river Taff from Fitzhamon Embankment in central Cardiff
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
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.
(i) As the planets roll I am caught in a bubble on the sub-atomic motorway Trundling at the speed of light there is only one view, an overall that covers all and warms this creature All the magic of all the ages is contained in my pocket.
(ii) The balls of our vision roll as I roll bubble beneath the lowest life form So slow, the speed of light.
(iii) There is light, there is love There is no doubt no sullied nag no wind to blow the sun away no darkness deep enough to stay
(iv) Create, begin to live again another flame-flash try A gleaming clear stack of light AAAAAAAAAA*
(v) Undulating via carpets of cloud I ride another tiger tail catch a star and put it safe for when I need to get away.
(vi) Survive – and when survival’s beat when time grows longer when the silent air threatens to lay bare the screaming of the soul what remains but self (expression).
(vii) Garbled Gobbledy Gook gooks garbled on my face and many loving arms wrap the long nights in their comfort.
(viii) More words spilling falling perhaps until my arm is empty and needs a fix to stay (alive).
And at the end we all must ask all the (same) question.
Inside the darkened life it’s too weird too much to cope too little as it is without you going.
(ix) So where will this creature find its rest where it can make a comfy nest where will it lose itself in joy where in the world is its new toy?
(x) It’s a night of sadness of meditation a night to forget a night to sigh again.
(xi) Scratching dudes create the tunes Caring hands caress the bands All around the people shout Let me out, let me out.
Today we went to the National Museum of History at St Fagans, a village on the western outskirts of Cardiff. They’ve recently revamped their visitor centre and we wanted to check it out and to visit the famous castle that is situated there.
The outdoor museum is spread over a one hundred acre site emanating from the castle and consists of reconstructed buildings from all over Wales, including farmhouses, chapels, shops, a woollen mill, a blacksmith and many others. It’s definitely worth a visit since it does throw some light on the kind of places people in Wales have lived and worked in over the centuries. The visitor centre alone is a gem; it’s been well designed and is a lovely airy building full of space and light, though this is partly because it is still in development and they haven’t crammed too much stuff in yet.
We found our way to the so-called St Fagans Castle – the former home of Lord and Lady Windsor as far as I could tell from the kitsch memorabilia propped up in some of the rooms. It doesn’t look like a castle and in fact it reminded me more of a prison with dark dingy rooms and a dank stink of rotten privilege and oppression. I came out of there strangely disturbed due to the nauseous feelings it stirred up in me. If it was up to me I’d blow the bloody monstrosity up and let the ruins decompose into a sickly sculptural reminder of how inherited position and privilege is a disease that has infected society for too many lifetimes.
I would probably have crumpled into a gibbering wreck if I hadn’t escaped when I did. And it really did feel like I was escaping; it was as if I was connecting with a version of myself from a previous life who had once worked there as one of the servants and I imagined that self doing a runner from the hellhole before dawn in the dying days of the nineteenth century when Lord Windsor’s power was at its terrible peak.
Today, as I looked back at that monstrous building from a safe distance across the ornamental ponds I felt utterly relieved and imagined that former self bounding off into the wild Welsh mountains to commune with mystical nature spirits.
As I bathed in the relief of my escape I noticed a huge beautiful tree which probably existed at the same time as that previous incarnation of myself; it had a tiny metal plaque screwed into its bark.
I am not a number, I am a free tree! *
The little oval of metal had been stamped with the number ‘0014’. After that I noticed similar plaques with different numbers screwed to other trees and wondered if they felt as trapped as I had and whether they would like to uproot themselves and head off into the hills.
Then I realised that they were trees and didn’t have the disposition to move anywhere other than where they had first sprouted from the earth, but I still hung on to the idea that they might resent being tagged with a silly scrap of metal. I guess I needed to make a connection to ameliorate the awfulness of the feelings stirred up by that dreadful monument to greed and inequality.
* This is a reference to the 1960s TV show The Prisoner.