Saturday, 31 May 2008

Goodnight, now

Well, that’s it.

No more daily blogging. Doing it for a month has pretty much run me dry. Davidmarstonwrites from now on returns to its weekly schedule, although I may still pop up with the occasional three or four sentence tirade about the state of something or other, or some random thing I’ve just bumped into.

I’ve quite like the immediacy of it. Sometimes (like, indeed tonight) I haven’t known what I’m going to write until I’ve started. That in itself, is quite unusual for me. Usually it’s eighty percent in my head before I’ve put metaphorical pen to non-existent paper.

There’s an idea not just a need.

It was fun, but having to produce something every single day is actually surprisingly demanding (especially when I’m also trying to produce a couple of thousand words of fiction). I really don’t do that much which is interesting to people.

The oddest thing about it is that everything interesting that happens to me gets displayed to the wider world. I met my friends Stu and Clare for a drink last night, haven’t seen them since my birthday and we’re doing the whole catching up thing when Clare says “I can’t really ask you what you’ve been up to, because I already know. I’ve read it all.”

Normal service resumes Tuesday.

Friday, 30 May 2008

Old Tricks

I might just have taken a step backwards. I haven’t decided yet.

The thing is, the formerly a deposit on a flat money is running low and the course isn’t over yet. Actual hours in college are limited, but I want to get a first draft of the novel finished by September (do I really want to give myself a public deadline like this? Oh well, too late now) plus I’ve a 20,000 word portfolio to hand in. I need paid work, but I also need time to do the fun work.

So, I’ve gone back to working behind a bar.

Those who know me reasonably well will no doubt be aware that I used to tend the pumps at a pub very close to my heart in Birmingham.

(Well, you should be, I tend to go on about it enough).

In Sally Maclennane Shane MacGowan sings of “the pub where I was born” and the Railway Inn feels, in many ways, like that for me. It was one of the first pubs where I got served, it was one of the first places I got drunk, it was the place Beck and I had our first date, at one point I seemed to pop in virtually every single night. I worked there for two years during University holidays and then full time for a year after I graduated. This sort of pub is such a fundamental part of the community that I really enjoyed my time there (athough after a year it was definitely time to move on).

Even if at one point I did have to put up with being nicknamed Rodney*.

I once looked it up on once and it doesn’t get very good reviews and this is because the people who writing just don’t get it. The main joy in a locals pub is being, well, local. Of knowing the names of ninety percent of the people in the bar and a drink of what the staff know you want on the counter before you’ve even reached it.

Yes, okay, I have an incredibly over-romantic image of pubs. I’m in love with the idea of the perfect boozer.

But I think the Brockley Jack’s got the potential to be as full of characters as the Railway was. It’s been there for years (although has recently undergone a major refurbishment); I first went in there in 1998 when down to visit Beck. There’s a little theatre upstairs. It’s allegedly named after a highway man who used to roam the south London, north Kent borders.

I like that.

I could go and temp, I could even go and get a proper job which pays decent money. But the pub’s at the end of the road. It’s a five minute commute. I tend to do most my writing in the morning, nice and fresh, come the evening I’m running out of steam from that part of my brain. Might as well go and earn some money. I’m standing up, rather than even more hours sitting behind a computer, I get to talk to people.

I’m not drinking - which is probably a good thing.

Plus I don’t have to clean out any ashtrays these days.

Short term solution, probably, but what’s wrong with that?

*: All right for those of you who really want to know why. Beck also worked there for a while and it was know that she’d moved down to London. One of the regulars found out that she lived in New Cross and that New Cross was down the road from Peckham. Peckham’s then most famous fictional residents were of course Only Fools And Horses. Trigger, who mainly features in the pub scenes, always called Rodney Dave. Invert that and there you go. Hilarious, no?

Yes, Ma'am!

I’ve just realised something rather unnerving. I’ve been sitting at my newly designated work station for two days now, typing away with a nagging feeling that something’s amiss.

Let me set the scene.

The old bedroom is lopsided. The door is in the one corner, adjacent to one wall, the windows are opposite and the wardrobes on the wall to the right, furthest from the door. I’m essentially confined to the corner under the window directly in front of the door. There are some shelves behind me which as the moment mainly contain my stuff, but only because most of Beck’s is still in boxes.

I have to cross her territory to reach my space.

But that’s not the issue. Previously we both faced opposing walls. There was a degree of equality in the arrangement, although she always had more space no indication of superiority.

Now, Beck dominates the room. She has more space than before and significantly more than me, but she also has her desk in the middle of the room.

“It’ll be interesting to reach it from all sides.”

Indeed, but in practice she has only sat around the one side, the side that enables her to look over my shoulder. I’m being watched all the time.

This leaves me with the sensation of her somehow being in charge; an employer-employee relationship. I’m essentially in the place her PA would be, should she have one. Close enough to be shouted at and unable to surf internet sites without being asked exactly what I’m looking at.

Oh, well. At least I get a window. Previously I looked into the recess made by the fireplace. Just white plaster until I put up a poster of the Manhattan skyline.

Hold on, I’ve swapped a panorama of Manhattan for a quiet street in Brockley, admittedly static skyscrapers for the a line of net-curtained nineteen-twenties terraces.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008


Some people either have too much money or too much time on their hands.

Or indeed other parts of their body.

From this Sunday’s Observer Magazine, which I had the misfortune to read over breakfast this morning:

“Waxing is quite easy really…At first I thought the Brazilian looked strange - but now I have it done on myself too. It feels better… I have women of 60 coming for Brazilians - I think they are the ones who do it for their husbands. One of my clients is 86.”

Ewwww. Put it down. It’s nasty.

But too late - it's disturbing the images that can form out of a slice of peanut butter on toast.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Where am I?

Waking up this morning in the reprocessed place that is now the BEDroom I feel somewhat confused.

(Although not as confused as the guy I used to work with who occasionally woke up and wondered "who am I?")

The room seems like one of Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen’s wet dreams, only one where he’s ejaculated too soon. A tiny little space almost pointlessly reworked and yet unfinished. Whilst the old bedroom has its fairly tasteless pine built-in wardrobes and tatty ancient sub-ikea blinds it did at least have the nice red walls we painted last summer and the huge, deep wood coloured chest we removed from Beck’s parent’s garage not too long ago.

The new BEDroom has the hybrid-dimensions of a cheap hotel and one of those pods in Toyko which were popular in the nineties. Sleep chambers I think they were called. Stacked up on top of each other like a drunk Star Trek episode the occupant couldn’t even sit upright inside, yet had a mini-bar, a music system and little cinema.

The walls are the same colour as every other room, bar the bedroom, a sort of off-dirty magnolia, but with absolutely nothing on them they seem dirtier. Almost offensively blandness.

Strangely the bed feels lower than it did in the other room.

At the end of the bed is a set of book shelves tucked into the recess formed by the old fireplace. Adjacent to that the plastic kids furniture chest of drawers atop which sits a montage of stills from one of Beck’s videos. A welcome flash of colour.

On the floor, leaning against the wall, is the tall mirror I liberated from my parents. It should be hung on the wall but the cheap plaster means that anything bigger than the tiniest of nails sends hairline cracks sprinting across the walls. So it’s propped up, like it’s sleepy.

I roll over and half the globe comes into eyesight. Our old guide books have relocated to one of the shelves in the recess by our heads. Paris. Venice. Sicily. The Languedoc. The USA. A 1999 European Rail Summer Timetable. Above that clothes are stuffed into the gaps between the MDF.

I get out of bed, bang my knee on the wall and then stub my toe on the weights I haven’t properly put under the bed.


I’ll get used to it. The bedroom in Whatman Road was pretty small and there wasn’t much room between my side of the bed and the wall then. Although, as the table that used to sit there is now adjacent to my new desk location, I know that the gap was forty-three centimetres.

The gap here at it’s widest is thirty-four centimetres. At its narrowest, nine point five.

Better hurry up and loose some mass.

So what did you do for the bank holiday?

Did you sit around in the sunshine grilling dead animals on an open fire, did you consume half your own body weight in lager, did you strive to make the world a better place?

If you were me, and let’s be honest you’re all glad your not, then you’d wake stupidly early in the morning (five-thirty to be exact) because the window has just blown itself inwards, the blinds are shaking in the wind and a horizontal rain is flinging itself across the room.

I get out of bed and close the window. I sit back in bed and look at Beck, but she’s still fast asleep. Three hours later and there’s no change and the rain still rattles the guttering steadily so I go and make some coffee and bring us both a mug up.

Four more hours and one over-emotional conversation later we head off to buy a tape measure. You may recall the several tape measures we own are lost somewhere around the house, buried under mounds of paper or dying plants, snaffled away by the undergrowth in the garden or, more likely, left on a bench at some art-construction site.

Or they could just be at the bottom of the tool box.

But anyway we buy another one and decide against the runner bean plants, because they don’t look like good value.

You may also remember the vague plans to completely rearrange the whole house. This is where the tape measure is deployed. We take the dimensions of every single item of furniture and of the lounge, bedroom and studio/office. Then we draw up scale plans and cut out scale boxes that represent everything from the bed and the table we got out a pub to the TV and the CD towers. I can’t pick the tiny little paper squares up. They’re too small.

Several redesigns of our lives later and we eventually compromise. Beck wants to turn the lounge into the studio/office, the bedroom into the lounge and the studio/office into the bedroom. I really like our lounge. It’s my favourite space in the house. It feels like an extension of my mental happy place. So as some middle ground we switch the bedroom and the studio/office around. Something I’ve always suggested would be a good thing if we owned the house as the bedroom is a bit of a waste of floor space - after all, we only sleep there.

The problem has always been the fitted wardrobes are only really suitable for holding clothes. But, bugger it, we’ve decide to just do it and the clothes will have to stay away from the security of our slumbering bodies.

In order to do this we empty the studio/office into the bathroom and then shuffle the furniture around between the two rooms.

“A hour, tops,” she says with a smile.

Six and a half hours later we’ve got it to a point where we can actually sleep somewhere. The studio/office is now a bedroom in that there is no room for anything else in there other than a bed, but, hey, that’s fine. I might graze my nose on the shelves we drilled into the wall when we first moved in specifically to accommodate art books, DVD tapes and drawings and now hold our shirts and my jeans, but that’s cool.

I finally produce some dinner at about ten. There’s a little ache in the small of my back from lifting. I’m looking forward to my book when Beck remembers that we’re supposed to have met some friends at a nearby pub three hours previous. We drive down and I enjoy a lemonade, but struggle to follow the conversation partly because I’m tired, partly because my hearing suffers to varying degrees different days.

“Uh-huh,” I nod in what I hope seems a cheerful fashion.

Home now, typing this and technically it’s late. Technically it’s Tuesday and on the 26th day of this one-a-day challenge I’ve failed to deliver on time.

I don’t like that. I don’t like being late (okay, I know I often am, but it’s never my fault).

Well, I suppose it is still my same waking day. I haven’t been to sleep more than once since the last posting. And I could have got it up earlier but the office/studio didn’t have any form of curtains so I have to remove the blinds from one of the bedroom windows and transfer it across.

These things happen. I’ve been busy. What’d you do? Eh? Eh?

I know what I’d liked to have done…

Sunday, 25 May 2008

"Well I haven't moved it!"

Where do all the random things in your life disappear to? Those little objects you don’t use all the time, but every so often prove to be essential. They sit around in draws and on shelves for years and invariably when you actually, finally need them they’ve disappeared off the face of the planet.

Big things disappear too, like the days that you intend to use to clean the car and vacuum the cat, but their disappearance is usually easy to trace. I tend to find the solution involves the words ‘arse’ and ‘sit-on’ rather than ‘do’.

But I’m talking about smaller things.

The TV remote is the most obvious one. That tends to be under the sofa. Car keys and (in our case) the removable part of the car radio are also pretty high up the list. Those tend to be in one of Beck’s handbags, but as the content of these bags can also include rotten fruit, scalpels and various other dangerous and/or unpleasant things, I now take the bag to her rather than dive in myself.

The variety of things going missing is getting more interesting. Several years ago we, in a typical moment of indecision, bought two ice-cream scoops - unable to decide in the shop which would be better I lost patience and paid for both. Now both are missing.

This afternoon I fancied brewing some traditional tea. Loose leaves in a pot, not a tea bag flipped into a mug. Having made the tea, I discovered the tea strainer was nowhere to be found.

We’ve been considering converting the lounge into the office/studio, the bedroom into the lounge and the office/studio in the bedroom (because, you know, there’s not enough important stuff to fill our lives). I’m not convinced that all the relevant pieces of furniture will fit in their new homes. We’ve tons of tools (you tend to accumulate these sorts of things if your partner runs around the country building wooden huts) and have previously owned not one, but two, tape measures. Now I want to use one they have both, predictably, vanished.

Even the mice that used to lurk around the kitchen have mysteriously vanished. Perhaps that’s it. Perhaps the mice have been stealing things and have crushed themselves with a phillips-head screwdriver.


That’d just be silly.

(It’s far more likely to have been that talking badger I sat in the garden with yesterday afternoon.)

No, I have my suspicions as to where they might be. I just can’t find the right, tactful, words to broach the subject. I seem to have mislaid the power of effective communication too.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Possible Patricide

My desk has gone on its holidays again. Beck is reprising her talking and drawing performance at Somerset House in central London.

So I'm at home risking the existence of future children by typing with my laptop on, well, my lap. I can feel its battery pack heating up and burning away the contents of my testicles as I work.

Guess I better not linger here today...

Friday, 23 May 2008

I fought the law

Did you see this? A free pistol with every car bought from a dealership in Missouri.

It’s a familiar story - in Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine there’s a bank that gives away a free rifle with every account opened - but the quotes from the owner make it particularly funny, I think.

“We’re just damn glad to live in a free country where you can have a gun if you want to…We all go to church on Sunday and we all carry guns.”


In a country where guns are still pretty rare (despite what the Boris-and-Dave-Show would tell you) this sort of attitude seems completely alien.

“Hell, yeah! Let’s all get loaded and go up the ranch and shoot some buck-shot off! Yee-haw!”

Etcetera, etcetera.

The right to bear arms. Americans (not all of them, admittedly) love it.

But it’s all a bit of a myth. What the second amendment to the constitution actually says is this:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

Now, that’s a little vague I guess, but really it means in the early years of the country coming to terms with independence and then the days of the wild west it probably wasn’t a bad idea to carry a gun. This was back in the days where fighting with Native Americans was a bit more organised and before police departments sprung up across the entire country. Having been to the USA I would suggest that a well regulated militia (and doesn’t that imply a better more organisation than just registration documents) outside the regional and national police services is not necessary for the security of the state.

It’s kind of doing all right on its own.

In fact, crossing the states we had more encounters with police than I think I’ve ever had in this country.

(oh, hang on - there was the time I got a lift home after a few drinks when I was sixteen, but otherwise I think I’m pretty much clean)

In the space of two weeks we had three meetings with law enforcement agencies. One was when entering an Native American reservation where they had set up a roadblock and were searching cars for alcohol.

There was the time Beck got pulled over for speeding in Texas, the preamble to which went something like this:

“That’s a police car over there,” I say taking my feet off the dashboard.

“I know,” she replies barely glancing at it.

“Do you know what the speed limit is?”

“No,” we shoot past the idling car.

“H’mmm, you’re going quite fast. I’d slow down if I were you.”

Beck checks the rear view mirror. “He’s turning around and heading this way.”

“Could be a coincidence. The only town for about sixty miles is in front of us. Keep an eye on him.”

“He’s put his lights on!”

“You better pull over.”

“I could try and outrun him.”

“I’d just pull over if I were you.”

Mildly amusing. Funnier when taken into the context of our third meeting with the police about three hours earlier. We’d been in Big Bend National Park, on the border of Mexico, and about twenty miles out of the park there’s a customs point. We got flagged in, a little pointlessly because whilst we’d been for a look at Mexico we’d not actually crossed the line. Beck was driving again.

“Evening ma’am,” the officer said taking off his shades and leaning into the car. Three other officers came out of the temporary building on the side of the road. “You guys been across the border?”

“Nope,” we say in unison.

“You sure?”


“I need to see your passports.”

I rummage around in my pockets. Beck says: “Mine’s in the boot.”

“You keep your passport in your shoes?” They both look as confused as the other.

“In the trunk,” I try to clarify.

“We need to make sure you ain’t been to none of them Islamist countries, like Turkey,” one of the other officers says. I look at the large Turkey stamp in my passport and wonder whether it’s worth pointing out that as a member of NATO and a secular government Turkey’s kind of pretty low of their list of rogue states.

Fortunately everyone gets distracted.

Beck has, by now, got out the car and opened the trunk/boot. “It’s in here somewhere,” she chatters happily along to the officer standing next to her. Now, in the car park at San Francisco airport it took us ages to actually make the car move forwards. I could cope with the automatic gear-boxt fine, but the fact that the hand brake was in the foot well confused the hell out of me.

Beck has simply forgotten it’s existence.

I suddenly become aware that I am rolling away from the officer at my window.

“Hey, we’ve got a run-away,” he shouts.

I dive across into the driver’s foot well and hold the brake pedal down.

“Dave, sweetie, could you pop the handbrake on, please?”

“Right you are,” I call back, upside down next to the pedals.

On second thoughts, perhaps Americans do need to bear arms if two gormless English tourists attempting to drive implausible distances in a short period of time can happily occupy half of Texas’ police force for an evening.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

How to scare off the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Actually there’s a couple of ways, as I found out this morning. The first thing that seems to put them off the pace is opening the door. These two seemed happy to spend the day knocking on doors for no response and then to turn to their God and say “sorry, but everyone’s at work.”

They appeared more than a little surprised that I was in at ten o’clock on a weekday.

Of course this could have been partly down to my appearance. I was dressed and even shaved off the sort-of beard earlier in the week, but having not had a hair cut since August it now seems to be growing out of control. Gone is the bird’s nest Highway 61 era Dylan-esque look and it’s now like a hybrid of Jesus and the Mary Chain and a drunk mammoth.

I probably need a cut. Well, it does, definitely, need a cut, but I can’t really be bothered and I don’t know in what style (using the word loosely there) to get it cut in.


I think my opening comment really freaked them.

“Oh great. I’m glad you guys have come round. There’s thirty-two boxes of Jehovah’s Witness literature in the attic someone left here in the eighties. Could you take it away with you?”

Honestly. It’s true. Trevor-the-odd-job-man discovered it fixing yet another leaky pipe last year.

They didn’t believe me, though.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

You know what the best thing is?

The very bestest thing about being on this course?

No, it’s not sitting around on my arse all day creating worlds and people in my head and secreting them out onto paper through my fingertips (although that’s pretty damn good).

There’s basically two sorts of students. There’s the ones like me who want to force themselves to find time to focus on their writing in a general sense and then there’s those who arrived with the specific intent of writing and finishing a novel or similar project. Unlike me, who turns up to workshop and tutorial going “I’m not too sure what this is supposed to be, but I was trying to invoke a sense of space/abandonment/displacement/etc, etc,” we get to read a narrative being born.

And that’s pretty special.

You get to see the early tentative steps where the voice perhaps isn’t quite distinct and watch it develop into fully grown characters you really care about.

Equally, the worst thing, the very badest thing is that I’m not likely to see the end. To see what happens to these fictional people I’ve invested time into getting to know.

(Well, at least not for some time anyway - and it’d be very different reading them nicely bound in a paperback than on scraps of photocopied pages; kind of like when you meet someone down the pub and they seem really nice and then the next time you run into them it’s at a wedding and they seem… different, somehow.)

This has, only just occurred to me, as we clatter towards the final period of the course and I send out another batch of CVs for jobs I’m over-qualified for but still won’t get an interview. I’ve just realised that I won’t get to see how Angie and Theresa get on in their trip to Greece; whether Juliet finds her Russian anarchist prince charming; whether Pete and Billy survive the long night and, more crucially, the rising sun of morning; what relevance the artic explorer ancestor has to Julia’s marriage and what exactly Simon is going to do to put that union in jeopardy; whether anyone who visits Sanj’s corner shop has a happy ending; just what the hell is going on at the mysterious oxbow lake?

H’mmm. Feeling sentimental when sober. That’s a new one. I’m sure I’ll be back to irate ranting soon. In the meantime I’m off to write about a guy probably not called Nigel and a cafĂ© on the Norfolk coast where there’s a telephone people ring to report rare bird sightings.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Two to One

Do you ever feel like you’ve lost a bet, or a contest you had no idea was taking place?

Years ago, back when we lived on Manor Avenue, when we still had time to slouch around on a rainy Saturday afternoon with nothing in particular to do, we’d just had a spot of lunch and I had been half-heartedly browsing through the paper. In the background the TV was on - that old wooden clad box Beck inherited from her Grandfather, the inner tube for which eventually burnt out during Euro 2004.

Anyway, it’s Grand National Day and for some reason we’re sort of watching the BBC’s race coverage.

“Do you ever fancy gambling?” Beck asks.

I think about this for a moment. Usually I’m so unlucky that I steer clear of anything involving potentially losing money. I just don’t have the concentration required to bet properly.

“Maybe. Sometimes.” I shrug. “Why?”

“I don’t know. I suddenly feel as though I ought to bet on the Grand National. That it’d be a bit of fun.”

“There’s a bookies down the road,” I pause for a moment. “Tell you what. Why don’t we have a bet between us? Pick a horse. Whichever does better wins. The loser has to do the washing up for a month.”

“Okay,” she says enthusiastically. “That one.” A jockey in a pink and yellow checked shirt trots his house through the paddock.

“Why that one?”

“I like the colours.”

“All right,” I pick the favourite as I remember it from the sports pages earlier.

They’re off. We bounce on our old sofa for a couple of minutes, initially excited, then the tension wanes quickly. Horse racing clearly has limited appeal. Mine comes in second, Beck’s falls at the third hurdle and is, no doubt, hauled off to be shot.

“A whole month,” I chuckle.

At ten o’clock last night I pulled on the rubber gloves to scrape off the Mister Muscle oven cleaner, having already washed up (although not, admittedly, cooked) and run three loads of sweaty, mist-damp clothes through the washing machine I wondered what I’d bet against and what the stakes had been.

Monday, 19 May 2008

All Misty-Eyed

As revealed yesterday we’ve just spent four days on Dartmoor. Sort of our summer holiday. Only a bit early.

And sort of not, as Beck went on a training course we only spent a couple of hours a day in each other’s company.

It was a training course in sound. Which, as near as I could tell, involved wandering around a forest with a myriad of recording equipment ranging from a large plastic satellite dish to a fluffy microphone and oversized headphones with an earnest look on your face.

I’d been planning to some hiking across the moors.

On Wednesday I was even becoming concerned about it being too hot and was rummaging around the house for extra water bottles and sun cream.

But, of course…

Four days of persistent drizzle that only let up for it rain properly, mist that gave you a maximum visibility of about forty metres and a minimum of your feet and a severe weather warning that forecast flash floods when we were right on top of the River Dart. All this rather dampened my dream of romping along deserted paths; just me and the hills, feeling the spring of grass under my boots. “Why hello, sheep,” I’d say with a wink.

I still went walking - it was either that or lurk around a youth hostel all day - and I could well have been finding the solitude I’d fantasised about. I could also have been meandering up the middle of Exeter High Street for all I could tell. Is that a cattle feed or a special offer display for Burtons? Who knows.

Especially if a herd of cows had crapped its way up the street about thirty minutes before which, given that this is Devon, is more than feasible.

Ah, I shouldn’t be so sarcastic. It’s a lovely part of the world.

I just couldn’t see any of it.

For example:

I crossed the lane and jumped over the style into a field. There’s a handy post with two path arrows. I check the map, decide which one I need and strain through the mist to see where it goes.

No luck.

So, I take a compass bearing off the map and set off into the murk.

Thirty minutes later and I’m thinking I should be reaching the top of the hill before long and suddenly a wall appears.

H’mm. Wasn’t expecting that. I walked up and down the wall for a few minutes trying to find a crossing point and avoid the barbed wire on the other side. Nothing. Not a gap, a ladder nor a style and I can’t see where it’s supposed to be on the map.

Thinking altitude might help I clambered onto the top of the wall, but then I couldn’t even see the ground, so I got back down.

A gauze bush attacks my face.

A sarcastic sheep baaas out of the mist.

After twenty minutes trying to work out where the fuck I am, where I go next and, indeed, which direction I came from I give up and started to romp towards the road might, possibly, be.

Five minutes later I came across a rather well marked path. Deciding that’s got to be better than walking the however-many miles around the hill, with the hostel just on the other side, I wander off down it.

It turns out that the path marked on my map had been moved several degrees to the right to allow walkers to pass by a couple of standing stones. An experience I was, obviously, oblivious to. So, thanks a lot, whoever sets where public foot paths go. That really helps.

As I stomped back down the other side of the hill it did occur to me that I’d just had a rather convenient metrological metaphor for, well, pretty much anything. There must have been dozens of ways I could have used it to cast opinions across various subjects, but I thought I right it straight instead.

Bit fed up of not being able to see clearly.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

I’m not actually here.

I am, as mentioned two posts ago, in a youth hostel on Dartmoor. If this is working properly then blogger has cleverly been posting these on my behalf, at the times and dates I asked it to.

Of course if it hasn’t worked then this is all redundant, but, no, I’m going to presume that I’ve mastered the technology. For once.

The drawback is that I’ve only realised this would be possible on Tuesday. Which means I’ve had to write five blogs on the spin.

(Who’s stupid idea was it to make this daily?)

Fine. No problem. I can produce words under pressure. To a deadline. That’s what I do.


Usually when I’m stuck I trawl through the weekend papers for a story I can try and work something out of, but I’ve already done that. Badgers, thank-you.

Or I’ll turn to some recent embarrassment that’s befallen me. Nope, been there too.

Or some moment of vaguely comic bickering between Beck and I. Damn.

Or my physical surroundings, perhaps. But, I’m not there yet. Can I imagine what Dartmoor’s like? Open scrubland, plenty of heather, remote, isolated, jaguars and lynx (the big cats not cars and deodorant) stalking sheep.

Or is that Bodmin?

Hmm. I could watch Hitchcock’s Jamaica Inn to get an impression of Dartmoor? No, there isn’t time. I still need to find my hiking boots.

Ah, sod it. This’ll do.

Saturday, 17 May 2008


I’m sitting in the front row at this talk. One of the guest speakers is a woman, in her early thirties, wearing a summer skirt.

She sits down and crosses her legs, elaborately rearranging her skirt as she does.

And flashing her pants at me.

Nothing wrong with that. A simple mistake. Nothing rude in my mind, certainly nothing erotic.

Big black pants.

But being the nice too-English-at-times boy I am, I automatically flinch and look away.

When I look back, she’s staring straight at me as though she knows I’ve just seen her underwear. And she seems to think I’ve done it purpose, that I sneaked a peak in a pervy way. As though I’ve just visually groped her.

As things are settling down, I turn and talk to my friend, but all the time I’m conscious of these eyes watching me and I can almost hear her thoughts ‘you…you…you…”

If women are going to wear skirts and dresses surely they have to take responsibility and keep them under control?

Of course, there are plenty of pervs out there. A few years ago I was at London Bridge waiting for a train home from work. A really sweltering afternoon. I noticed a fairly pretty girl with long legs and a very short, white skirt on. Behind her a guy squatted down as though to tie his shoe lace, but the slid his phone across the floor so it was aligned between her feet, took a picture, looked at the result, decided it wasn’t good enough and had another go.

It wasn’t me, I hasten to reiterate.

Friday, 16 May 2008

There’s something inherently funny about badgers.

Those funny shaped paws, the elongated noses and the whole gangland face paint thing - that and potentially carrying cattle killing doses of TB.


Beck and I have always thought so, anyway. From the Paul Weller badger on Harry Hill in the late nineties to a sign in the Lake District reading ‘Beware Badgers’ that made us think of heavily armed creatures lurking behind the hedgerow waiting to carjack passing motorists.

When a plantation of diseased trees on the railway embankment were cut down the Brockley Society Newsletter (putting the rock back into bROCKley - no, seriously) ran a poem lamenting the poor trees. I can’t remember the exact details, but it did wistfully imagine badgers living in the trees and using the railway lines as a means to traverse the city.

On the way out to Sevenoaks there’s a village-of-sorts called Badger’s Mount. When we drove through once, years ago, a crap song by some forgotten American pop-punk band came on the radio. The chorus went ‘she’s the girl all the bad guys want,’ but I heard ‘she’s the girl all the badgers mount.’

There were some other equally filthy lyrics, which fortunately are lost to memory.

At the Camra beer festival at Earl’s Court a couple of years ago Steve, Jamie and I wandered onto the Badger Brewery stand. In the corner was a telephone box with a direct line ‘to the badger’. Obviously, we rang up and some bored woman in Dorset had to endure yet another group of slightly inebriated blokes asking ‘are you really a badger?’


A friend of mine is a sci-fi writer and has a short story involving a disease that enhances pets so they become intelligent. His character owns a fairly psychotic, talking cat.

(It’s better than I’ve made it sound, so apologies to the writer.)

In trying to get published he’s discovered that several short story specialist sci-fi websites have in their submission guidelines ‘no talking cats.’

I suggested he change it to a talking badger, but he didn’t seem too taken with the idea.

Can’t imagine why.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Time to get up

It’s always the same. We’re off to Dartmoor today.

“What time do you want to leave?” she asks.

“Seven?” I reply.

“Oh, not that early. Surely? I don’t need to be there till three.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“It won’t take that long. Look AA route finder says four hours.”

“That’s four hours fifty-six minutes. I can read it from here.”

“I know.”

“That’s based on the speed limits of the roads it expects you to travel on and the distance. It doesn’t allow for London congestion, stopping for a wee or needing some lunch. Seven.”



And so on.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

People Everywhere.

It’s funny. Even though London’s a city of however many millions you keep seeing the same people here and there again and again.

A group of students from my course have been continuing to workshop each other even though, officially, that part of the course is over. It’s a support network. However, at the end of one we were sitting downstairs in the Royal Festival Hall, by the windows next to the walkway between the embankment and Waterloo, chatting about this and that and watching people wander past. One of them thinks she’s seen a friend of hers, but no, they’re mistaken. Then the conversation turns to one of our tutors. All complimentary, but no sooner have we finished discussing her then she walks past the window, waves and comes and joins us. The next time we’re in the same place, except on the other side with the less pleasant view of the road in the National Theatre’s carpark, and one of the other students appears waiting for the lift.

Perhaps the Royal Festival Hall attracts writers. Sub-consciously we drift towards its bright, airy confines.

I was thinking of this, though, because of what happened today.

Walking down to college I cut through the back streets as usual. It’s a short cut for pedestrians or cyclists, but not for motorists as there’s several barriers across the road preventing it becoming a rat-run. As I approached one of these I noticed the line of parked cars on the opposite site running tight up to the barrier. I had been thinking of crossing the road, but it’d have to wait for a couple of hundred metres because there wasn’t even room for me between the bumpers.

As I got closer a motorbike pulled alongside me. The driver waited for me, then mounted the pavement and followed me through the gap.

Perhaps it’s because I’m a car driver, but that sort of thing really annoys me. He’s not on a push bike. It’s a diesel engine throbbing between his legs. In this case a gold painted crap looking one, but he should still be on the road, not the pavement.

So, of course, I walked carefully up the centre of the pavement, stopping him from passing by on either side. I wandered along, taking my time, almost tempted to stop and smell some flowers in someone’s window box. Behind me the engine chugged away impatiently. I was aware of the tyre getting closer and closer to the back of my heel.

When a gap eventually appeared he dropped into the road turned and scowled at me. He furrowed his white eye-brows and his equally white goatee waggled at the end of his chin.

On the way home six hours later I started to cross a junction and suddenly realised that the bike whizzing up the main road was unexpectedly turning in without indicating. I jumped back onto the kerb and the same waggling white goatee whizzed past.

I wonder how many times we pass exactly the same people and simply don’t realise it. Perhaps we should try to wind more people up, then we might notice them more often.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Heal thyself

I haven’t been sleeping that well. In fact, it’s now been five nights since I got more than a couple of hours kip.

Now, that’s not really that much of a problem. I don’t normally sleep that much anyway and I know a couple of insomniacs who don’t get more than twenty minutes at a time for weeks, months even. They’re still able to exist and participate in everyday activities.

Except, I never have a problem sleeping. I’ve always been “time for bed, okay,” head down, eyes closed, bang. Everyone has the odd night, sure, but I’ve never had a sequence of nights contorting my body restlessly under the covers, getting increasingly irate with myself and anxious about the rising sun.

I put it down to a few things. Not getting enough exercise. Too much coffee. Too hot. That weird guy on Saturday night freaking me out somewhat.

But then yesterday it got a little worse. Rather than just feeling a bit tired all day I felt like I had the world’s worst hang over (without actually getting drunk this time). My thighs ached; I felt heavy limbed and weary; a little nauseous but also quite tender round the abdomen; stiff neck and shoulders; hot skin, but oscillating between feeling cold and sweaty. a real bitch of a headache - proper burning zings every time I moved my head. And when I closed my eyes to try and sleep odd little pops of colour behind my lids and really trippy half-dreams.

“Do you want to go to the Doctor?” Beck asks.

“Be all right if I can get some sleep,” I’m bloody-minded in continuing not to go to the doc unless it’s really necessary. Seven years and counting, now.

Besides, where’s the fun in trying to find out what’s really wrong when you can use the internet to do a unreliable self-diagnosis.

According to a couple of sites I could have anything from a brain aneurysm to flu, or sunstroke, sunburn, LSD flashbacks, appendicitis, an infection of my intestine, whiplash, posture problems, dehydration, muscle strain, the D.Ts.

(The D.Ts for Christ’s sake)

What do I think the matter is? Constipation, over-tiredness and an internal-thermometer that takes a month or so to cope with surges in temperature, but sometimes it’s far more exciting to err on the side of the dramatic, don’t you think?

Monday, 12 May 2008

Time to change the reel.

There’s something romantic about using a typewriter; the physicality of punching out words in the dull of the early morning, cigarette smoke in the air and a coffee laced with scotch to hand. The extra effort will somehow make the words stronger.

Well, maybe, but today I’m very happy with a computer thanks very much.

I’ve just gone past the fifty-thousand mark.

That’s fifty-thousand words of the thing I’m still refusing to call a novel in fear of jinxing it and grinding to a halt the day after tomorrow.

This was always going to be the first point where I printed everything out and started making changes. Re-reading everything for the first time and, wow, am I glad I don’t have to retype the whole flaming thing. It took most of yesterday afternoon to print.

I seem to be going quite quickly, four months effectively, but with an extra thirty-five-thousand words of short-stories (some of those words again and again, too) and however many are within this blog. Quite a work rate. I’m pretty smug, to be honest.

It is, of course, important to remember that this is all daft one-point-five stuff. Not very tailored. Not honed. Regurgitated quickly as they trip across my mind and a few amendments made here and there as I type up.

One of my tutors calls it Serbo-Croat, but I think that’s probably an insult to Serbians and Croatians.

Consequently, it’s highly debatable whether they fifty-thousand good words , fifty-thousand crap words, or a mixture of the two.

It looks nice, though. A big pile of paper covered in size ten Times New Roman.


(Heh-heh, I’d forgotten that joke. Oops typo there. God that’s rubbish. Oo. Nice.)

Sorry, a little distracted.

Come back tomorrow when I promise to be more focused.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Improvised Weapons

So, this is a bit odd, right:

Last night, about twenty past twelve, I’m sitting on the sofa listening to Elvis Costello, reading Graham Greene and having a quiet beer. It’s hot. All the windows are open and to help the hopeful breeze come through the lounge curtains are open a couple of feet.

The porch is shared with our neighbours and they tend to have visitors at odd hours so it wasn’t until the second rap-rap that I realised someone was knocking on our door.

At times it seems like there’s thirty people living next door, but I vaguely recognised the woman in the porch.

“Hi,” I say more than a little confused.

“Hiya. I thought you ought to know.” She sounded on verge of panic. “I’ve just parked up and there’s a guy watching your house.”


“He’s standing on the other side of the road smoking a cigarette and just staring at your window.”

“Where?” I go to open the porch but she grabs my arm.

“Don’t go out there. He’s just outside. He could be casing out the joint.”

“Let’s have a look.” She puts herself between me and the door.

“He might be dangerous.”

“Okay.” I step back. “Okay. Thanks.”

I go back into the house and upstairs to the bedroom. All the lights save for a couple of lamps in the lounge are turned off and I leave them that way. From within the gloom I look out the open window.

He’s there all right. Nicely hidden, half in the bush. You wouldn’t spot him unless you were looking for him, but I can just see his white trainers catching the edge of the street light. There’s the very faint glow of a cigarette.

I head back down the stairs and out into the utility. I slip the rubber mallet we use for hammering in tent pegs into the back of my trousers and grab the maglite as well. I’m barefoot so I need some shoes, but rather than my trainers I dig out my heavy boots.

“Come on, then, fucker,” I mutter, already not in the best mood.

Tooled up I head outside intending to stand in the middle of the road and ask “you all right there, mate?” and see what happens next.

But he’s gone.

Looking up and down the road I cross over to where he had been standing. There on the edge of the kerb is a half smoked cigarette looking as though it was hastily discarded.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Too Much TV

What happens when you end up spending Friday night confined to the house with your girlfriend sitting on Margate breakwater waiting for the nice RAC man to come and extract the keys from the boot of the car?

If you’re me it seems you spend too much time watching/listening to satirical news quizzes.


Interestingly both Radio 4’s The News Quiz and Have I Got News For You threw up the same story, one I hadn’t noticed before, of the man in Sedgley who went to went to vote in his council elections last Friday and was most irate to be told that he couldn’t vote in the London Mayoral election. So disgruntled was his that the Boris and Ken show was only open to residents of the capital that he even went as far as to accuse the staff at the polling station of trying to rig the election.

Okay, so he’s clearly pretty stupid, but I can kind of (almost) understand why you’d get so confused. There was a huge amount of coverage on the national news and the national press - more so, certainly, than if this had been the battle to be mayor of York.

Is there even a mayor of York?

It did, however, also serve to remind of this (and as I’ve spent all day writing today it’s the only anecdote I can think to tell):

In 2004 I was pressed into a train on the way home from work. It was an October evening, you know the sort of thing - when the sky’s just starting to turn dark and there’s a hint of nip in the air. Every so often on the trains you find yourself in an unexpectedly silent carriage. No mobile phones going off. No one listening to their iPod blissfully unaware that it’s cranked up so loud everyone knows they’re tapping their feet to S Club 7. Consequently I overheard these two women talking.

I wasn’t listening in.


They were in their mid-twenties, quite smartly dressed, probably worked in the city and both had broad south London accents.

(I was going to write the whole exchange below in a south London accent, but can’t be bothered. Try and read it in one. It goes a little like this: saaarrfff Laaannden. Okay? Good.)

Woman 1: I just don’t know what to do.
Woman 2: What about?
Woman 1: I mean, it’s getting really close now.
Woman 2: What?
Woman 1: Who’re you going to vote for?
Woman 2: Oh, that again. I haven’t decided yet.
Woman 1: No. And it’s so important to make the right decision.
Woman 2: Mmm.
Woman 1: I mean, Kerry seems like a nice man. Decent. He wants to bring the troops home. He seems more human.
Woman 2: Yeah.
Woman 1: But then Bush says ‘you don’t change horses in mid-stream’ and I think he might be right. You know? He’s got experience now, yeah?
Woman 2: Too true. Still. Neither of them seem in touch with real people. People here. Like us.

(Or words to that effect anyway.)

I don’t know. Perhaps it was an extended gag between the two of them about America’s apparent dominance of the UK.

But I doubt it.

They seemed genuinely concerned over who they should vote for in the US Presidential elections and equally annoyed that no candidate represented Londoners. I can only presume they thought they should be voting because of the amount of coverage over here. Presumably they’ve spent the past six months trying to find out to register their support for either Obama or Clinton every couple of weeks.

Friday, 9 May 2008

Sun Is Shining

I think that I might have chosen the worst possible moment to be half-heartedly seeking gainful employment.

No, I’m not referring to the fact that soon every single student will be looking for a job, nor indeed the current economic climate.

I mean, the weather’s just getting nice.

I spent the past few years bemoaning that with an autumn show the summer was the busiest part of the year and I have to wait until October to take any leave. Years of sweltering on the tubes, arriving at work stinking, virtually vomiting from the smouldering crush on the way homes. Finally, I don’t have to do all that and what do I do?

Take the winter off and need to work in the summer.

Idiot, idiot!!

The past few days have been so pleasant in the sudden sunnyness. I’ve had all the windows open plus the back door giving a gentle breeze and yesterday afternoon I ended up sitting in our poor excuse for a garden, extension wires trailing through the kitchen to the laptop. Bliss.

On Wednesday having been in college in the morning and with another workshop starting at six-thirty I decided not to go home and tried to work in the library. I think the air-con system must have been broken, though, for it was stifling. I lasted about forty minutes before having to escape into the fresh air. On my way out I passed a girl slumped seemingly unconscious at a desk; a friend was helpfully using his phone to take pictures of her stricken form.

I retreated to the back field and leant in the shade of a tree, continuing to write the first draft of something by hand. At the same time I tried not to look at the underdressed eighteen year olds.

Later, we sat on the balcony of the Royal Festival Hall, a cold beer to hand and chattered about books. The Thames stretched out below in one of those rare days when it feels a little like the Mediterranean and not disease riddled sludge.

It’s the little things.

Of course, today, I spring up in the morning, dress in loose cotton trousers and a thin t-shirt, eagerly anticipating another day of sunshine.

And it’s cloudy.

That was probably summer, then, now where’s my CV?

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Boris 1, Civil Liberties 0.

The first move by the new Fuhrer-Mayor is to ban the drinking of alcohol on public transport, effective from the 1st of June.

Nice one, Boris. Good prioritising.

Apparently, the widespread drinking by intoxicated hooligans on the tubes, trams, trains, DLR and buses is a serious cause for concern amongst the city’s population.

What widespread drinking?

Okay, first up I use public transport at all times of day and night from Dalston to Peckham, from Willesden to Deptford and very rarely do I feel threatened in any way - but, admittedly, I am a six foot something late-twenties bloke and not an old granddad or a young woman.

There are plenty of loonies on the public transport network. Some of my favourites include the guy on the Victoria Line who would try and empty out lighter fluid from a disposable lighter across his hand and then attempt to light it, failing every single time. The shouty-sweary couple who always used to be on the train out of London Bridge to Brockley on a Sunday afternoon (“You stupid slag, what’d you leave the fuckin’ dog in the Thames for?” “Eh, it’s your bastard fault for burning the fucking house down.” Etc, etc. It never made any sense.) The eating and spitting guy on the local buses. Always a mistake to sit next to him - always got something to eat, or chew rather for he would move food around his mouth generating plenty of salvia and then flob it out onto the floor next to him. Or the feet of someone who got within range. Finally, just for a couple of examples, there was the grey-haired guy in the smart suit who came charging through the carriages on the Northern Line just past Camden, paused, howled and then flopped down next to me, pulling out an enormous spliff which he proceeded to light.

None of which was particularly pleasant, but it also wasn’t scary or threatening either.

Oh, and, you’ll note, no alcohol involved either.

Most of the booze I see being consumed by people on the network isn’t being consumed by those who’re actually drunk. The intoxicated are the ones who’re running through the Chelsea terrace chants (“If she don’t cum, I’ll tickle her bum with a stick of celery, oh, celery,” eh?), trying to force a kebab down their mouth as fast as possible, covering one eye to focus on the departures board, or the guy who slumps down and says “wake me when we get to Brixton,” and you think “is this bus even going to Brixton. Which of us is drunker?”

The people sipping cans of lager tend to be (not exclusively, but in the main) one of two groups. Tired looking guys in suits, their top button open and their tie akimbo, gently nursing an over-priced can of Stella from the concourse off-licence. Or they’re a member of that slightly odd group that fancies a solitary can on the way out, as though they’re not ever going to get enough beer in the pub they’re meeting their mates in.

This really isn’t going to work, Boris. It’s currently not applying to the overland trains because, apparently, he needs to get dispensation from central government for that. But even if he does get it, how’s it going to work? The national services with refreshment carts and carriages that stop off in the suburbs on their way to Stevenage or Brighton SELL booze on the train. And what about the Eurostar and the much-hyped world’s longest champagne bar in St Pancreas?

Here’s the really good bit, though. Who does it look like is going to be enforcing the new law? Not the four hundred and forty extra transport police Boris promised in his manifesto. Even when they’ve been recruited they’re going to be too busy issuing fixed penalty notices to teenagers with their feet on the seats or playing their iPods too loud. No, it’s the drivers and the conductors and other TFL workers.

Nice one. So, if the tubes and buses are stacked with violent, drunken psychos who better to tell them to hand over their alco-pops than people with no training, weapons or protective clothing?

Please remember that public drunkenness is a completely different matter. That’s already illegal. It’s called drunk and disorderly and you can be refused access to the public transport for being drunk. This is needless legislation against adults capable of being responsible for their own actions.

And all from a man who opposed the smoking ban. Oh, the delightful hypocrisy of it all.

Just you wait. I tell you. Next it’ll be no chewing gum, wearing hoodies or the burka, or being homosexual on the tube.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

The Paradox Of Beck #1

“You really are getting fat.”

“Don’t wear that shirt again until you’ve lost some weight.”

“Walk? I thought we’d drive.”

“I’ve baked you a birthday cake, darling.”

Ah well. If she made sense it wouldn’t be so much fun.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Meanwhile, back in Margate...

Ah, yes, the seaside Bronx after fooling me for a moment that it might actually not be such a bad place, shows it’s true colours.

We’ve been to Margate a few times before last week. We went to see a rather excellent Mike Nelson installation a couple of years ago. It’s was the 17th of December (I remember as it was Beck’s birthday) and we spent the whole day driving in pouring rain from Eastbourne where she’d had a private view the night before to Margate. Good show, but as with most of Mike’s work it took place in an abandoned building with hints of a nefarious past. Typical Margate. Not exactly pleasant, but Beck seems to like it.

She was excited about the show.

Walking down from the station last Friday I was staggered by the concentrated number of boarded up buildings. Given that this is the so-called affluent south (and okay, so the Kent and Essex estuary-coast has never really been included in that) I still don’t think I’ve a British town quite so run down for many years. And, remember, I spent three and a half years driving around the country to light and heavy industry estates which never give the best impression of a town.

Unfortunately I’ve been proved right.

Sunday night our early-morning wake-up call (or someone else entirely) came back, with a screwdriver and broke into the shack stealing the DVD player, inside of which was Beck’s film.

Now, okay, it’s not like someone’s stolen a painting or a sculpture or anything like that. The thief isn’t even going to care what’s in the player, he just wants to sell it for a tenner to someone down the park and the film is easy enough for Beck to replace.

Burn new DVD?
OK. Cancel

But there’s still something particularly unpleasant about this. Margate’s current big plan for regeneration is through the arts. Cheap studio space for artists, cafes and bars for them to lounge around in being all bohemian and watch the property prices soar. Just like in Shoreditch and various other bits of the East End.

Of course, it’s hugely debatable as to whether you can force this in the first place. In sixties speak this is the man trying to effect a counter-culture movement. Which just doesn’t work. These things happen organically and under completely different sets of circumstances.

Which is a shame. A real shame.

But, I guess, the town’s tried everything else and this is a last roll of the dice. Mind you, if it can’t get up off its knees in ten years of continual economic growth I’m sceptical that it’ll be able to do that now.

And perhaps that’s what our friendly proprietor of the local electronics van-store (aka the thief in question) realises? That even though the council thinks that inviting all these arty types down from London to slum it at the beach is going to benefit the locals, he (or she) realises that it ain’t and rather than wait for the non-existent payoff in three years time, decides to get ten quid now.

Monday, 5 May 2008

How To Avoid A Hang Over Rule #3

Well, okay, so I wasn't technically hung over, but I did get more drunk than is generally advisable for one's health on Saturday night.

Generally speaking when you've been on a heady mixture of various Belgian beers and the odd Essex bitter for the best part of six hours and it's approaching midnight end it there. Call it a night. It's been fun; that's enough.

It's rarely a good idea to listen when someone says, "hey, my friend's band is playing around the corner. The don't come on til one. Let's go there."

Of course, when the person doing the encouraging is your girlfriend you just assume she has your best interests at heart.

Round the corner proved to be a half hour walk to a pub with more, h'mmm, how shall I put this? Local colour than many? A pub so off the beaten track it doesn't even make it onto the normally excellent

Anyway the band were pretty good...

Actually I have no idea if the band were any good or not. I've seen them before but Saturday night I could have been watching a Bangles tribute band for all I knew.

Rolling in just before four I'm pleased I resisted the little voice in the back of my head whispering "nightcap, nightcap." That would, I suspect, have been one too far.

Who am I kidding? I love going out and drinking and wandering around odd parts of London in the middle of the night. It's what makes the city so much fun. The sheer delight in being alive. And after a few years of being old before my time I seem to have bounced back in the other direction and at twenty-nine am being more like a twenty-two year old than I was at the time.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Margate Rocks.

Or at the very least tilts gently in the pleasant ocean breeze.

The exhibition that Beck and I traversed the country for opened on Friday. I popped down to join her for then private view in the evening. Any excuse for a free beer.

Although factoring in the cost of the train fare it’s actually quite an expensive beer.

We’d originally planed to spend the night in the campsite just outside the town. A campsite that turned out to be one of the most expensive in the entire country, which coupled with a taxi fare was going to get pricey.

And Beck had just effectively built a little house.

So, yes we slept inside a piece of art on Friday night. Not often you get to say that.

We pitched the inner tent inside for added insulation, unfurl the sleeping bags and nip for a pee in the toilet of the gallery organising the exhibition.

It has, of course, just occurred to me that as we had the key for the gallery we could have just slept there. Then I’d be able to say we spent Friday night in a old pie factory. Ah, the clarity of daylight.

To secure ourselves in we manoeuvred a large sheet of plywood in through the entrance and then drilled it into the frame. Nice and safe.

So far, so much fun.

A few hours later I was awoken by the walls shuddering.

“Don’t kick their little house,” said a squeaky voice.

“There might be something worth nicking inside.”


“I reckon we can break this bit off.”


“Leave it, mate.”

“Nah, I reckon it’s nearly off.”

Sitting half-naked in my sleeping bag and a little dazed the only defence I can think to muster is to pretend to be Brian Blessed.

“Oi!” I bellow, trying to amplify my voice as much as possible, to make myself sound gigantic.

There’s a pause, then a tiny voice whispers: “Oh, sorry mate.”

Beck, needless to say, slept through the whole thing.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

I Hate You All

How could you do this?

The warnings have been there, but nobody ever listens, do they? You all go ahead and vote for that funny looking chap of the telly.

For God’s sake.

Boris Johnson is Mayor of London.

Well, don’t come crying to me when he pops your right eyeball out and skull fucks you until spurting devil’s jizz all over your brain, because YOU allowed him to that. YOU gave him power. YOU elected him.

It’s all YOUR fault.

“But Boris is all right. Boris tells it like it is. Boris is funny on Have I Got News For You.”

In four years time Boris will probably still tell it like it is and will probably still be vaguely amusing on celebrity panel games, but London will be a smouldering mess of disaster after disaster. Cross-Rail will be a failure. The buses non-existent. The congestion charge zone a thing of the past and any car journey requires you to leave yesterday. Race tensions will be at an all time high because every three months the Mayor forgets the microphone is still on and says what he really thinks. Crime will be on the up because, let’s be honest, no-one is going to take someone who sounds like a the deranged offspring of an inbred Lord and a tortoise seriously.

And Boris will be happy in his Oxfordshire mansion watching the chaos descend.

Fine, you can have him if that’s what you want. You deserve each other.

I’m emigrating to Norwich which at least had the intelligence to elect more socially-environmentally conscious councillors than anywhere else in the country. Even if there is a risk of becoming a tractor molesting Delia Smith fetishist, I’m off.

God, even the young lad who stood for the Hull Mayoral elections in a monkey costume a few years ago was better than Boris. At least he had no opinions on anything other than trying to raise the profile of Hull FC. Boris has got views and ideas and lots of them.

And they’re nasty.

Friday, 2 May 2008

Apples Rolling On A Damp Afternoon

Walking down to college this afternoon to finally discharge my assignment into the ether of the marking system I witness something really quite distressing.

At the bus stop outside Jam Circus a guy in his mid-twenties stands with his shopping. He’s a bit beardy, hair a bit tousled. A bit like me at the moment; he’s probably a student somewhere. As the bus approaches he picks up his shopping and the one bag handle rips. Loose apples fall out to the floor and roll like red and green marbles across the concrete slabs. Some pass through puddles, some whiz off down the road, a couple bounce off the edge of the kerb and into the gutter.

“Oh no,” the guy says sounding quite upset.

People around scramble to grab the apples for him. Arms outstretched they try to push them back into the remains of his bag, or into his hands, which just hang by his sides. Everyone seems quite keen to help.

But he’s just staring into the middle distance and then, ever-so slowly, he squats down and puts his hands over his head so his arms cover his face.

“Noooo,” he groans in little more than a whisper.

“Hey, it’s okay,” a woman proffering an apple says. “We’ve got them.”

“It’s all spoilt. They’re all ruined,” he says a little louder.

He ignores those trying to help and gives what can only be described as an anguished howl. I’ve never heard anything like it, but it seemed to come from deep inside. It was the sound of despair. I don’t know how else to put it.

Finally he burst into tears. Great big, shuddering sobs.

I felt really quite sad watching this spectacle. I felt like I was intruding just observing him. It’s not like I was gawping, but it was taking place right in front of me. Part of me wanted to help, but I don’t know what the problem was or if, indeed, there was anything anyone could have done for the poor guy.

It puts things in perspective, though. I mean, we all have our problems, but what could have made someone break down like that?

Anyone would have thought the Tory's wet dream of winning the London mayoral race had a chance of coming true.



Thursday, 1 May 2008

The Daily David - Limited Offer Only

So, for one month only davidmarstonwrites is going daily.

I’m not exactly sure why I’m giving myself a load of extra work, but I’ve been reading quite a few other blogs recently. I quite like the idea of popping up and briefly saying something irreverent without my usual (hah!) more structured work.

Like the guy I saw just before Christmas. It was nearly midnight, absolutely freezing cold and he’s walking along holding a piece of broccoli out before him like a religious icon. I had something funny to say about that, but managed to forget it over the next couple of days.

I’m mean, it’s not as though I’ve much else to do. I spend most of my time sitting at the computer writing.

God, I spend most of my time sitting at the computer writing? How the hell am I going to find enough copy to write something every day???

Prepare to have a conversation near you pilfered very soon.

Right. You know that thing we all do when something’s finally gone right? When you want to pump your fist in the air or, if it weren’t for carpet burns, slid across the floor on your knees, the soundtrack in your head a big triumphant rock band. With strings.


When I was a salesman and I got a particularly large order confirmed I wanted to run laps of the building waving the contract in the air. Instead, because I’m terribly English at times, I’d just smile and get on with processing the order through the computer system.

I’m a lot less reserved at home (not least because there’s no-one around to tut disapprovingly) and this morning I finally figured out why a story wasn’t working. It all suddenly clicked into place perfectly - not a moment too soon, either, the deadline’s tomorrow. There was something suitably raucous on the stereo and before I knew it I’d finished the problem-scene and was standing in the middle of the lounge playing air guitar.

Now, the front gardens (front concrete, rather) on our road are about two foot long. We’re the only house to not have one of the following: blinds, net curtains, handy bushes. Which is my fault (obviously) because I enjoy the light coming through the big windows. The drawback is we get gawpers; people who unashamedly walk past with their heads turned, mouths open, dribble running down their chins.

When I opened my eyes, mid-riff, I saw a what appeared to be a dozen Japanese tourists, over-night bags and all, staring in.

Quite what they were doing in Brockley I never found out. I was too busy mentally shrivelling into a ball of goo.

At midday I, sheepishly, went out to vote. Elections, love them. Admittedly the locals aren’t as much fun as a general election, but I’ll still be there tonight, glass of whisky in hand, watching the BBC’s coverage of pensioners counting pink forms as fast as their fading eyesight allows.

I think I might be the only person not directly involved in politics to watching, though.

As I made my mark today, I wondered why I get quite so obsessed with politics. Then I realised: It’s pure vanity. It’s a little bonus point for my ego that gets all romantic about changing the world, about fighting the good fight. I’m doing something worthwhile.

Whilst, of course, the rest of my time I spend sitting at the computer in the spare room.

I might need to get out more.