Me and a mate chatting – some people think it’s a bit funny – it’s a lot more than that . . . . .
Last Saturday, December 8th 2018, along with Dafydd Wyn Roberts, I held an event at the Apothecary in Cardiff. They have a lovely little caff at the back of their shop.
Dafydd played 4 songs accompanying himself on an acoustic guitar, and I read three excerpts from my novels.
It went like this – Song-Reading-Song-Reading-Song-Reading-Song or something like that.
Before, during, and at the end of the song-reading cycle we chatted to each other and to the audience.
It was a great night and everyone who was there loved it. Dafydd’s act was excellent, good songs well sung and played. We may do it again – watch this space (well not this space, but some other space)
here’s the poster for the event again
(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:
Plays for the theatre
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.
So yeah – get on with it.
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?
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).
So it’s got to be Ken.
He’s got to have it.
He’s got to go.
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.
How do you choose which bits of your life to focus on when you write or attempt to write some kind of autobiography like this? What are the criteria? Hmm. I suppose it depends on who you are writing to – yes – because when you write, or at least when I write, I have a ‘reader’ in mind, even if that reader is just an abstract notion of myself – my future self. Like a diary I suppose.
But so much happens in just one day, one hour, one second even, if you drill down into the depths of your psyche and think out to the expanse of the universe(s). Continue reading
Some Work in Progress
There’s always a story.
I was sitting in the studio staring at the walls, feeling despondent. There was nothing there. No inspiration – no focus – no purpose. The universe was empty. All I had was some dregs of acrylic paint and 5 or 6 old failed canvases that had been painted in some form of pseudo-abstract meaningless squiggles and splodges.
In desperation I squeezed random bits of paint on the canvases and pushed them about with a brush until they each one was completely painted over in whatever colour emerged from the random scraps.
I left the studio for a couple of hours and distracted myself by eating, feeling even more miserable, and trying to catch up on some sleep. When I returned I picked up the same brush and the same dregs of paint and looked for some form. I chose one of the blanked out canvases and traced the shape of a head on the ridges of dried acrylic and found its features.
Thus Dani Girl emerged and the universe wasn’t empty any more.
Update: the next day
Here’s the other 4 canvases
Not sure of the size – around 12″ wide?
Discovered this snippet in a ‘journal’ from 2 years ago
The other day I was reading something – or listening to someone on the radio – a writer who said that him/her/they write by hand in unlined notebooks because him/her/they don’t want anyone or anything to tell him/her/they, guide him/her/they where to write- i.e. between the lines.
Well Mr/Mrs/Ms/Mx ‘Rebel’ – ‘Free thinker’, whatever – you’re constrained/restrained by the page, by the pen, by the letters and words, by the language, by everything you’ve ever thought, felt or experienced in any other way – so shut the fuck up – if you don’t want to be constrained/restrained by the lines then fucking don’t be.
That’s how it comes
That’s how it goes
As if from a parallel world where:
You are a Goddess
And I am not your lover
But I am
### Continue reading
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?
What’s it all about then?
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.
blah blah – you know the score – here’s a poem from 1999 about knowing the score
ninetyfivefive you know the score in a movie or a tv show the flaws small flaws idiosyncratic flaws twelve flaws 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
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.
The balls of our vision roll
as I roll
beneath the lowest life form
So slow, the speed of light.
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
Create, begin to live again
another flame-flash try
A gleaming clear stack of light
Undulating via carpets of cloud
I ride another tiger tail
catch a star and put it safe
for when I need
to get away.
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
Garbled Gobbledy Gook
gooks garbled on my face
and many loving arms
wrap the long nights
in their comfort.
More words spilling
until my arm
and needs a fix
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
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?
It’s a night of sadness
a night to forget
a night to sigh
Scratching dudes create the tunes
Caring hands caress the bands
All around the people shout
Let me out, let me out.