I’ve always known that I want to write fiction: probably novels, since they are my preferred reading. Great thick things that wrap me up for weeks, like a blanket woven out of words.
Unfortunately I studied literature — and German literature at that — at university. I had to let the effects wear off for a decade or two.
Then there was the notion that I had to have something important to say. That took even longer to dispel.
Fortunately, life experience is a good antidote to pomposity. I know now that I’m a complete fool. …
This experiment in fiction started as a loosely interwoven collection of short stories, dialogues, monologues and vignettes set around my home — Corio Bay in Victoria, Australia — and featuring the misadventures of an amateur bluegrass band.
As I wrote, however, I found (a little to my surprise) that the concept firmed up, became tighter. Like so many tales, it grew in the telling, taking on a life of its own. Plot strands insisted on intertwining; characters showed a disconcerting will to develop.
I think the result is best described as a serialised novel. However, each episode is conceived as…
It was shortly after losing her that he began to lose himself.
Just little things at first. He lost words for days at a time, only for them to return unbidden. Familiar faces became difficult to pin a name to.
Speaking of pins: he stumbled over a PIN while accessing his bank account, and then all at once forgot the bloody lot. They just fell out of his head.
One day he couldn’t even open his phone. The fucking thing wouldn’t recognise his face after restarting and wanted a passcode. ‘I don’t KNOW!’ …
Tuesday, 28th April, 1925
Some people are quite impossible!
Life is always such a rush in the city. Today is no exception. My mission: to get to the free lunchtime concert at St-Martin-in-the-Fields. It is the highlight of my new life in the capital. Did I mention that it is free?
At five-to-twelve I was eyeing the clock. The trick is to finish the document, quickly scan for errors, place it in the ‘out’ tray, tidy one’s desk and reach the coat hooks first — all without apparent haste. This feat requires both timing and poise.
Miss your chance and…
It’s not that I’m a lazy bastard, honest. Maybe I’m just an optimist, perpetually looking forward to tomorrow, when stuff will actually get done. And if not tomorrow, then there’s always tomorrow’s tomorrow. Übermorgen (‘overmorrow’) as it’s called in German.
procrastinate (vi) — to put off or defer action, [C16: Latin procrastinare from pro- in favour of + cras tomorrow]
‘Procrastinate’ is first attested in English in the sixteenth century, so I wonder what they did until then. Probably they just ‘putte it offe unto the morrow’.
In the meantime, while I’m not doing what I should be doing, I’m…
It’s more difficult than you’d suppose to mix potassium nitrate and sugar in the right proportions for an explosion. Twisted toilet paper is not a good fuse system.
Bullies don’t back off when you stand up to them. They thump the crap out of you. They choose smaller and weaker victims for a reason, and when you’re a kid, there’s always a bigger kid.
If a smaller boy is a bully, he’s probably a psychopath. (Lookin’ at you, Dave. Scary little guy. That high-pitched giggle when a fight kicked off …)
Laws of physics, dude. You ain’t gonna beat Jeff…
When I was a kid, growing up in the 1970s on the outskirts of London, there was a TV sit-com that I adored. A quirky, optimistic show with wit and warmth, in the best tradition of British comedy. It was called The Good Life, with Felicity Kendal and Richard Briers.
It was the story of an irrepressibly resourceful couple in a snooty middle-class suburb of London, who absconded from the rat race in pursuit of self-sufficiency. …
‘Hi, I’m Stan. You’re going to teach me to play banjo.’
My mate Stan swears this isn’t how our first conversation began, but it’s how I remember it. Possibly my ears were ringing from an evening in a crowded pub with a hundred ukuleles and lusty singing voices. Maybe Stan really said ‘What’s a lone banjo player doing, trying to compete with a hundred tiny guitars?’
Be this as it may, our meeting had consequences. From occasional afternoon beer’n’banjo meet-ups à deux to desultory attendance at the local bluegrass pick.
Somewhere along the line, a plan was hatched to start…
I’m not a person to rush into new things, but I’m easily led into them by more intrepid souls.
It was the beginning of the Nineties, and I was already in my late twenties, when my friend Nikki introduced me to music festivals. I was a shy young editor: a single, bookish, southern English fish-out-of-water in northern, family-oriented, no-nonsense Wigan.
Her programme of education for me was eclectic, including the Llangollen Jazz Festival and the London Fleadh in Finsbury Park.
We drove down to London in her battered old car, parked in one of the terrace-lined side streets and joined…
Brenda’s and Justin’s house was a pleasant 1930s Californian Bungalow in Middle Park. Opening the wrought-iron gate, Hugh was greeted by squeals of delight from two tiny pigtailed girls, who rushed to hug his knees while their mother waved cheerily from the front veranda.
Nigel was introduced to the littlies as ‘Uncle Nigel’ and after brief, dark-eyed evaluation was accepted as suitable uncle material. Their mother turned out to be Hugh’s younger sister, Amy, who gave Hugh a ferocious hug and smiled up warmly at Nigel, blinking into the light, giving him her delicate hand in a weightless handshake.