Tuesday, 29 September 2009


Some time ago I had a conversation. It was one of those slurry, blurry, almost pointlessly argumentative conversations and it went a little like this:

“You see, I believe there’s such a thing as the Midlands,” the other bloke began. I looked at the person I was supposed to be talking to, but he just shrugged apologetically. I was well and truly stuck. “It’s just north and south, when you come down to it. There’s no such thing as a Midlands mentality. People identify themselves as northern or southern, as hard manual labourers or softy cultural divas. I’ve never heard anyone proudly say they’re a Midlander.”

“Oh, fuck off bollockface,” I may have less than eloquently retorted – after all, it was that sort of conversation.

“So, you’re from Birmingham, right?” a girl asked more recently as we sat down into the sofa on the bar’s mezzanine with our white wines. ‘And that’s in the…north?
Oh, no, I can tell by the look on your face that’s not right.”

I am quite proud of my roots. Coming from the Midlands is an important part of my self-identity; the very fact that it can transcend a northern-southern divide by taking the better bits of both suits my purposes ideally. It is where my family is anchored (with a couple of dollops of Northern Irish and West-Coast Scotland thrown in for good measure). My surname is liberally scattered around the country’s heartlands. Long Marston. Marston Green. Marston, Sutton Coldfield. Marston brewers in Burton.

“Are you from Birmingham, young David?” a prospective yet patronising client once asked me.

“I am indeed,” I replied wondering what that had to do with anything we were talking

“I like Birmingham,” he continued, “it’s pleasant along by the canal these days. I went for a walk down there when I was last in town and I came across a guy fishing. I asked him if he’d caught anything and he replied ‘a whale.’ Well, I was somewhat surprised so, ‘a whale?’ I asked. ‘Yeah,’ he continued, ‘a bicycle whale.’”


I’ve never had a terribly thick accent, but it is something I resolutely hold onto – even though it makes me sound like an idiot, especially “Dooiive”. “Dooiive”, sounds like possibly the stupidest trick in the box. Whoever he may be he sounds like a bit of a berk, but that’s my name and that’s how I could say it. If I was ever to try hard enough.

Why I’ve struggled to retain these tones, I’m not sure. I guess it just says something about who I am, despite it giving me a bit of trouble abroad.

Snorkelling off Sardinia, the Italian lady guiding us seemed to struggle with interpreting my pronunciation and decided it was simplest to call me ‘Dive.’ Which, as I kept drifting off and being called back caused confusion for the other swimmers.

“Dive! Dive!” indeed.

Or in the Yosemite Valley having to ask someone to interpret for me that I didn’t want tomato or tumartoh or tamaito or however you want to sound it on my sandwich.

Or in New Orleans airport where the after a lengthy explanation as to why I just needed to take my bag back for two seconds the big dude behind the counter turned to his colleague and said, “hey is this guy even speakin’ English or what?’”
I’d have retorted with ‘well, let’s drop you in Wolverhampton and see how you get on, you redneck hick,’ but as he wouldn’t have understood me there didn’t seem much point.

“You’re accent gets stronger the drunker you get,” another girl pointed out recently.

“Sorry,” I shrugged.

“No, I think it’s cute,” she giggled.

‘Ah crap,’ I thought.

“The problem is, David,” said Justin in his decidedly non-West Midlands accent at yet another recently, “I’m just not sure about the voice. I don’t think it’s convincing or consistent enough.” But, of course, he was talking about a completely different sort of voice. This is the narrative voice, the way a story is conveyed so it sounds like the word of truth, of authenticity. It’s a crucial part to get right and probably the element to writing I struggle with the most (aside from metaphors, but that’s for another time).

Raymond Chandler, for example, is not a great writer, but the Philip Marlowe books are simply brilliant because of the voice Chandler employs. The books are riddled with a sarcastic, down-beat, seen-it-all, pissed off, vaguely romantic, doom laden voice that shudders at the spine. Without it, no-one would have given them a second look, for they have few other merits.

Other writers do it in different ways (and usually not just as the only point of the book). Irivne Welsh does it partially though the Scots dialect, partly through the desperate sneer. Martin Amis’ early, good novels have it in the misogamic fury and intellectual wordsmithery. W.G Sebald did it through the calming meadering confused storytelling. Joseph O’Neil did it with Netherland and it’s grasping, failing despair of isolation. Graham Greene did it time and again just by being himself.

I think I’m nearly there with this piece. I think it just needs a little tightening and it’ll work. Perhaps, the final trick of concocting another genuinely believable authentic written voice is to be entirely comfortable in my own spoken words.

“You can definitely tell this is a David piece,” said Jonathan at another session, although he didn’t clarify whether that was a good thing or not.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009


Ronnie O’Sullivan was, allegedly, once asked if he ever got bored playing snooker.

“You see,” Ronnie in this particular anecdote replied, “I make a big mess at the break and then it’s just tidying up. I love tidying up.”

If, as I recently suggested, that the majority of writers have some sort of control freakery element to them, is that why they write? Is the part of their mind that demands order also compelling them to sit for hours at a keyboard purging their souls?

(If, indeed, that is what a writer could be said to do.)

I find this something of a myth. Most of the writers I know will do anything other than sit at the keyboard or empty page and put words down. They procrastinate to hideous lengths. It’s not that they don’t want to write. It’s not that they don’t have any ideas. It’s just that there’s often a more fun, far more sociable activity to do than shackling yourself to the desk and looking inside your heart for universal truths.

I am, perhaps, a bit of an exception. I, typically, write for between two and three hours an evening, three or four nights a week and six or seven hours Saturdays and Sundays, most weekends. Of course there are reasons for this. a) I don’t tend to write in my head. I have start putting words down before I can grapple them into some sort of shape and I spend far more time looking at a blank page than many of my contemporaries who it would seem sit down and rattle off a thousand words straight from their imagination. b) If you wanted to, you could easily accuse me of being a bit of a hack writer, only without the financial rewards. So, a bad hack. I can live with that. Just. c) I don’t, actually, have a huge amount else to do at the moment.

I listened to AS Byatt in conversation with Adam Thirwell recently and she said that an old boyfriend had once told her that writing is about power. It is the writer exerting their will over a whole universe that they are fashioning out of nothing. The writer gives birth to everything and therefore we are the masters of the world.

I think I agree with this. These people, these characters I construct, they are mine to do with what I please.

Balzac, allegedly, once looked upon a painting of a house on a hillside with a wisp of smoke escaping from the chimney. He turned to the artist and he asked, ‘how many rooms does the house have?’

‘How many rooms?’ the artist exclaimed, ‘why, I have no idea.’
‘What are they cooking for dinner?’

‘Don’t be ridiculous.’

‘What is the daughter’s dowry? Was the harvest successful? How many chickens do they keep? What is the son’s favourite food? What does the mother do every midsummer’s eve? Where did the father lose his virginity?’

‘How you can expect me to know all these things?’ The artist was indignant.

Balzac was more so: ‘If you do not know them, if you do not truly understand your subject, what right do you have to paint them?’

The act of writing is more than the words that appear on the page. The writer knows more than they are giving away, but they control the way the information is given to the reader. They create drama.

Control. Creation. Intrinsically linked.


I have, in the past, been accused of being so much a control freak as to be a bully. As someone so determined to get their own way, to have the world bend to their desires so that I coerce people into doing what I want irregardless. I used to live an ordered life. I liked tidy. I liked my dinner not too late in the evening. I liked to drink coffee in the morning and tea in the afternoon; three cups of coffee, five of tea. Every day. I liked to get a Guardian early on a Saturday Morning with my breakfast and work my way methodically through it, starting with the sport and finishing with the review. I was never late. I never missed a train. I never overslept. I went to bed at about the same time every weekday evening. I ate cereal for breakfast during the week and toast at the weekend. I kept my CDs and books in alphabetical order. The grocery lists I wrote would be in the layout of the supermarket to avoid doubling back. I didn’t lose things. If I did ever lose something, then it must have been because someone else moved it. I showered Monday to Saturday and took a bath on a Sunday.

All that has changed. My flat is a dirty tip, subjected to irregular half-arsed cleans. I’m perpetually late. I don’t know where anything is or often where I’m supposed to be. I fail to recognise people in the street. I have to rely on alarms in my mobile to remind me to, well, pretty much anything. I rarely sleep the night through anymore and so consequently oversleep with alarming regularity. Do I care? Actually, I don’t give a monkey toss. The only pattern that exists is that I will spend time at my desk with the word processor open and my fingers anxiously, nervously battering their way around the keyboard.

It is common for authors to suggest that a certain character came alive, took control of the story and demanded that it progress in a certain direction. I don’t believe them. Characters are our creations. We made them. They can do anything we want them to do. If it does not seem believable that they would act in such a way then the fault lies with us. We have made them with an error. We must start again. We are, for all intents and purposes, their God.

Has my need for control has been transplanted out of reality and into the world of my own making or was I just being a bit of a twat before?

This transformation into a shambolic unreliable dishevelled figure is not the only change. I feel as though I am between phases of self. It is arguable that certain authors write to expose the human frailties behind us all, so that society can look upon itself and reflect. Is it, I wonder, also arguable that certain authors write to try and shine that revelatory light upon themselves, that in the invention of others they will discover their own identity?

I have been, am capable of being, many people. I can be the sarcastic git running up the side of a mountain cracking bad jokes the whole way. I can be the besuited businessman capable of selling the right thing to the right person by a stretch of empathy that makes them like me. I can be shy. I can be outgoing. I can banter about football or cricket or anything else I’ve read in a newspaper recently. I can talk about the merits of an artform. I can make people laugh at my self-deprecating wit. I can make people scowl at my squirming arrogance. It feels as though, sometimes, I will say anything to anyone. I can go and listen to a writers’ conversation panel and then go to a wine bar, drink a solitary glass of wine and spend an hour discussing the unknowable point of literature, the nature of the novel and a little over twenty-four hours later I can be largered up in a pub off Old Street offering back up to the guy I just met who’s about to start a fight.

Who am I?

Tuesday, 15 September 2009


How long does it take to write a novel? How long does it take to construct a book? How long does it take to turn a single idea into a collection of themes and characters? The book I’m currently grappling with was started in late March and whilst it’s very nearly there, it’s not quite made it over the finish line as yet.

For some, however, it would appear the effort is significantly less.

The popular American thriller writer (can you tell how restrained I’m being here?) James Patterson writes up to eight books a year. Or roughly one every six and a half weeks, presupposing he writes all the time and never takes a holiday. Which is unlikely for a millionaire. Not only is that an incredible feat to come up with all of those words, but it seems an impossible number of ideas to conjure up.

Doesn’t it?

Of course Patterson has help. Quite blatant help, to be fair.

He has an extensive team of co-writers or assistants who receive a (very small) cover credit, but as they all sign confidentially agreements there is no way of knowing how much involvement Patterson really has. I’ve never read a Patterson book, let alone several, so I have no way of knowing whether they have a consistent sense of voice that tells the reader that they are reading a James Patterson novel. Or, I suppose, if they do have a consistent voice – how easy that voice would be to imitate?

(Mind you taking your time over a novel isn’t necessarily an indication of quality. Dan Brown has spent six years crafting The Da-Vinci Code’s sequel. It finally comes out today and is called, God I can’t remember – The Populalist Riddle Behind Some Not-that-Obscure Society I Once Read About In Another Book Written By A Less Well Marketed Writer. Or something like that anyway. Hopefully, six years will have enabled Brown to raise the quality of his prose above the magnificently emotionally wrought “The famous man starred at the red cup.”)

I find the idea of collaborative writing unusual. Aside from the arguable lack of credit for probably doing the majority of the work on the co-writer’s side, I am surprised at Patterson’s willingness to release control of his words. It’s his name at the top; doesn’t he want everything between the covers to be his too?

I think the closest I’ve ever gotten to this collaborative writing is having my work analysed by other writers – the workshopping process – which can become addictive. It can reinforce that you’re doing the right thing, that somebody out there likes your writing, but it’s taken me a little while to be comfortable with not being able to please everyone. Some people, will most definitely not like my writing. Okay, so if everyone has the same problem with the same part, then it probably needs looking at, but otherwise - if someone’s questioning a phrase, or style, or the believability of a character and I, the writer, am totally committed to that section, then I should probably stick with it until it rights itself. We are not, surprisingly enough, writing by committee.

You see, the thing about most writers is we’re normally complete control freaks. We tend to be a bit, at the very least, obsessive.

True collaborative processes are exciting and interesting – the communication between director and actor; the symphony of the band; even the near factory approach to some forms of visual art. Andy Warhol, Damian Hirst, Jeff Koons have all employed legions of assistants to actually produce the art from their ideas. In many ways I can kind of see the sense in devolving the actual task of painting dozens of brightly colour dots on the side any given immovable object as it must quickly become pretty damn dull once you’ve had the idea in the first place. There’d be that brief eureka moment of “yes, a boat/horse/barn/tank/bank/etc, etc” but then after you’d painted thirty-six identical splodges, surely you’d be distracted, bored and thinking about what to have for tea. The glamour’s kind of gone before you’re halfway through.

There is, admittedly, an argument for the actual creative process of doing; of constructing something out of nothing; of the physical weary joy of labour intensive work that must be lost when you delegate downwards, but it would be laughable to assume that Philippe Ramette could ever produce his work alone.

But anyway, back to writers. I think in many ways writing, as in fiction prose writing, is often seen as the most direct form creative communication. It isn’t performed by an actor. It hasn’t been bent into the right shape and contextualised by its surrounding environment. It is just words on a page. Words straight out of the mind, through the fingers and onto the page and nothing else.

Probably, extensively redrafted, ripped apart and put back together before anyone’s seen it, but still – I said a perception, not necessarily an actuality (and I’d be prepared to argue several dozens exceptions from all manner of other creative mediums which prove the above statement to be complete and utter rubbish, but I’m rambling now).

So, yeah, virtually everyone I know who writes admits to being very controlling.
One of the most perfect examples of this would be Nabokov (not that I knew him, obviously).

Upon granting an interview for the Paris Review, he asked for the questions to be sent out in advance. When the interviewer arrived he found a package waiting for him containing not only the completed answers to the questions, but also the bits of banter between interviewer and interviewee. Nabokov had written the whole damn thing. He claimed that this was because of concerns that, as English wasn’t his first language, he might misrepresent himself.

That, in itself, sounds controlling enough, but then when you consider that Nabokov was arguably one of the finest manipulators and impressional stylists of the English language ever it’s starting to drift into the realms of mentally unstable. Go read the first page of Lolita if you don’t believe me. That whole opening passage is, essentially, the deconstruction of the word Lolita until it becomes a pure force of repressed forbidden repulsed sexual desire. The ability to manipulate language (even if not your mother tongue) to such a degree cannot mean that the author is worried about a slip in an interview. Can you imagine James Patterson trying to explain that level of linguistic trickery to one of his assistants?

“So when the butch maverick cop hero finds the dame’s body,” (I’m just guessing here, but I suspect they’re the sort of books that include butch maverick cops and dames being murdered) “I want him to stare into her glassy tear torn eyes, lose himself in that swirl of loss, reciting her name again and again until it becomes a whisper of the murder’s hidden past.”

“Sure thing, boss, but what is the dame’s name?”

“Details, details. I come up with the ideas. You’re supposed to handle the details.”

You see, control?

Some of us embrace the self-control side, some of us try to rebel against the instinct.

‘But I think everyone’s got to be on something when they’re creating,’ a friend of mine recently half-joked over a glass of wine.

I don’t know about that. It may surprise you to know that I, certainly, can’t be.

Now, I realise I may have a reputation for liking a drink every so often, but I can’t write after a drink. Oh, sure, I sit with a notebook and do broad scope stuff; think about themes and character’s histories and ideas and narrative arcs and sometimes I scribble down random lines of dialogue which feel great, but the morning look rubbish. So, when I’m actually trying to get the text to say something, for it to operate on more than a linear level, for it (hopefully) make the reader think beyond the immediate – then I have to be stone cold sober. I have to be in complete control.

But does this leading to levels of obsessive compulsiveness in the rest of my life?
Sure, but you’ll have to come back to find out what. I have some egg cups to arrange.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Writing is killing me.

Or at the very least causing some considerable discomfort.

This week I have placed myself on a self-imposed clampdown, a lockdown; I am, as they say in the military, confined to quarters. I am not having any physical contact with the outside world beyond the owner of the local off licence.

I am redrafting.

This blog therefore forms a single communiqué; a warning sign that I’m still alive. It is my only message to the outside world. For the rest of the week it’s just me and the words.

Having written the first draft of a novel in two-three hour chunks across just under six months it correspondingly reads exactly like that. It’s formed of short, punchy, castrated chapters; it has a narrative that skids from side to side and occasionally lurches out of control; the characterisation is inconsistent in places; one character never gets to finish her story, another disappears halfway and returns and the end simply because I forgot to write the bits of his journey in-between.

It is, however, I think rather good.

So in order to be able to put all the above right I need to fully immerse myself in this screwed-up dystopia I’ve clawed out from the poisoned shallows of my imagination and batter the bastard thing until it makes sense.

A week, then, off from paid work with robot babies and nine days running through another London of tomorrow.

It would have helped, though, if I’d made some of these people a bit more likable.

Aside from the inevitable mental problems of spending twelve hours upwards a day in a fictional dreamscape, this is also taking its physical toll. I’m trying to look after the body. I have stocked up on beer and whisky and vodka and wine and some food and plenty of coffee, but still my fingertips blister from thracking their way across plastic keys, their nails splintering and falling loose. My eyes are getting screen burn so as starry lights flicker through my vision. My left arm, already suffering from rsi, squeals with every four hundreth click of the mouse until the point where I am lying fully clothed on the bed at four in the morning seriously contemplating drilling a metal spike through the shoulder joint to strengthen it. Deep vein thrombosis is causing clots and violent bouts of pins and needles through my left calf. My kidneys sting.

My flat is starting to resemble the home of serial killer. It’s like the moment in A Beautiful Mind when the audience realises just quite how bonkers Russell Crowe is, as the camera pans through his shed showing walls amassed with random newspaper clippings, yellowed and frayed, flickering in the artificial breeze. Every centimetre of my walls not blocked off by bookcases has sheets of paper blue tacked to it. Reams and reams showing lyrics from punk and sixties girl group pop songs stolen from karaoke websites and printed out in an attempt to help me understand their structure and format. Random quotes read in books late at night and illegibly scrawled down in notebooks torn out and plastered to the walls. Ripped extracts from literary newspaper supplements across the windows the autumnal sunlight dappling through the thin paper making the type translucent. Photocopied pages from a stolen bible; the word of the lord pasted up and then torn apart to be reinterpreted as lyrics of disturbance.

I am drowning in words.

“This machine is a kind of devil, feeding my pride by giving my words substance. It promises to order my thoughts, declare their rationality and significance, promises value and weight, mercury hardened by iron and hammered onto paper. Even that impact is a promise: that my words will strike like a fist. It lies.” – Jason Lutes, Berlin: City of Smoke

Recently, in the context of a conversation about Nabokov, somebody asked whether I thought writers had a tendency to self-mythologise.

‘Of course they do,’ I replied, ‘aren’t we doing it right now?’

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Love Life.

My old friend cupped his hand around the lighter’s flame and inhaled sharply on the cigarette. The silhouette it cast cut across the shadows of the early evening. Down amongst the closed up market stalls, the scent of smouldering tobacco intermixed with the remains of vegetables strewn to the night.

‘Pint of watery, mass produced piss for you,’ I said handing him a pint of Fosters, ‘pint of something cringe worthily named, from an obscure corner of Yorkshire for me.’

We chinked glasses and took a long draught each.



‘Uh-huh,’ I nodded. ‘You all packed up? Ready to fly away to the other side of the world?’

‘Shipping company comes round Wednesday morning. Flight boards later in the day.’

I took another sip. ‘Excited?’

‘You know, it’s weird? I’m not nervous, but… When it was further away it was just… I dunno, something intangible. But this close… I can taste it. I just can’t wait to see her again.’

‘I didn’t need to know that you had the horn.’

‘No,’ he laughed. ‘That’s not what I meant. It’s just… It’s just that I love her.’

‘Yeah,’ I chinked his glass again. ‘I know what you mean.’


A long time before, I sat in a window seat in a Devonshire cottage the exterior walls of which were stained pink. I was surrounded by cushions of lace in a style now lost. Aged eight or nine or ten, when the rain tumbled down, whilst my Mum prepared our holiday teas I would sit in that seat and read old copies of the Funday Times archived in the cupboards. In particular, I remember reading again and again the two panel gags of ‘Love is…’. The sexless, naked caricatures of man and woman bumbling through life with regular explosions of fluffy red hearts around their heads for the simplest things, the things that seemed so natural to a relationship – this was the time, I think, that I first fell in love with the idea of being in love.


‘I know it appears we have nothing in common,’ the curly blonde told me over a sun soaked beer down by the canals, ‘but he makes me feel secure. He makes everything seem okay and I just… I just love him. That’s all there is to it sometimes. You can’t always rationalise emotions.’


‘I think I love you,’ I told my first girlfriend aged sixteen far too soon and for all the wrong reasons.

‘No you don’t.’ she broke our cumbersome embrace, her lips still glistening slightly with saliva. ‘How could you? You don’t even know me.’


‘I’ve always had a soft spot for you, David,’ whispered the shortly cropped dark-haired girl, into my ear.


‘Want her, have her,’ growled Alex Turner in my head, rather charmlessly.


‘I just don’t fancy anyone at the moment,’ lamented the brunette on a rooftop bar as threatening clouds sidled over the horizon. ‘It’s like I’ve been neutered.’


‘I don’t know how to talk to girls,’ I moaned to whoever was in the bar at the time. ‘I’ve never had to do it before. Or not in that way, at least.’


I sat on the floor of my childhood bedroom last weekend, surrounded by stacks of boxes. Each was full of packaged up books and a life that seemed initially simply on hold and then, perhaps, discarded. Forgotten about. More or less.

I peered into the draw of a bedside cabinet that never used to be there and took out a manila card envelope.

Inside I found reams of scrappy, yellowing paper, frayed at the edges. Each sheet was marked either with the type of a dot matrix printer, or the physical metallic indent of a typewriter, or my own illegible scrawl.


The stories I wrote as a teenager. Stories and scenes and snippets of plot ideas.
Precocious and pretentious trying to tell everyone about life, before I’d even had one of my own. Poorly executed, trite ideas. Overwrought, heart wincing cries of deluded, failing, youth exhilarating romance. Again and again, the same variations on a theme.


‘How’s the writing going?’ my old friend asked.

‘Not bad.’ I took a sip on the fresh pint and grin. ‘I’ve pretty much finished the
first draft.’

‘Of the new novel?’


‘So,’ he paused: ‘Are you finally going to tell me what it’s about?’

I was reminded of a Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros song:

“So anyway, I told him I was in a band, he said oh yeah? Oh yeah? What’s your music like? I said it’s errm… Errmm… Well it’s kinda like… You know…It’s got a bit of… Um… y’know?”

How could I sum it up before I’d got it clear on paper? It’s about punk versus motown, about the corruption of authority, it’s about the frustration of believing you know the answers and no-one listening (and the pit-falls when it transpires you don’t), it’s about the anarchy of tomorrow and the God in the machine and drinking and smoking too much and the spatial lapses in your own thoughts.

‘Meh,’ I conceded, ‘it’s a love story. Aren’t they all, in the end?’


Late at night I rummaged through the cupboards in my flat for something useless. It was dark outside, the windows were wide open as a hot breeze drifted past, the lights were down low and Laura Marling sang sweetly in the background. As I looked, I took sips from a glass of iced water with a tot or two of whisky in it.

I pulled out from under the bed my leather briefcase. A birthday present from my ex a few years back that I no longer used and couldn’t remember why not. Inside, it was stuffed with random sheets of paper, damaged fragments scooped up in the frantic evacuation of my last home. I finally sorted through them, binning anything pointless, until I came to a homemade birthday card.

The front showed a photomontage of castle battlements torn asunder into ruins by the years. In the centre I perched atop a Croatian tower, uninhabited for centuries. I was fooling about on the precipice with no regard for safety, just the funny photo.
Underneath it read ‘You’re the King of my Castle.’ Inside it said ‘with all my love,’ and runs of little ‘x’s. I counted them.


Fifty-three kisses.

‘These are the ghosts that broke my heart before I met you,’ Laura sang.

I sat and looked at the card. I wanted to throw it away. I wanted to keep it.
After a minute or so I took a sip of watery scotch and slid the card into the back of a draw, buried underneath utility bills and cheque stubs.

Four months after she’d written it, she was gone.


‘The thing is,’ dark hair said and sat back to make her point: ‘I won’t be hurt again. I can’t allow that.’

‘I’m not the hurting kind,’ I lied before I could even stop myself – a lie because that sort of decision wasn’t, strictly speaking, mine to make.


‘You shouldn’t have hope,’ she interrupted me in the lonesome dark of winter and slowly turned away.

The thing was, without hope all that was left was despair and a shredding emptiness of fear.

But in the end that became anger.

And eventually, quite unexpectedly, sometime around Easter, it was gone leaving a serene calm, a quiet elation of freedom from self-pity, a renewed belief in… well, everything.


‘You know,’ said the brunette, ‘the cynical grouchy routine doesn’t fool anyone.’


If you could read my mind love,’ the dying voice of Johnny Cash croaked, ‘what a tale my thoughts would tell.’


‘You could always stay the night,’ curly blonde said with a smile when it was far too late and we had drunk far too much wine.

‘I think that would be a really, really bad idea, don’t you?’ I said although I really didn’t believe myself.


My old friend tossed the butt of his last cigarette across the empty market. The final embers bounced across the concrete and disappeared into the gloom.

‘I’m done,’ he said.

We walked away from the pub and back towards the light of night. At the top of the stairs to the underground, we took an awkward masculine embrace and began to go our separate ways for the final time.

Suddenly, I jumped up onto the railings caging the steps down to the Northern Line.

‘Hey,’ I shouted and he looked up. ‘It’ll be amazing, you’ll see.’

‘Of course it will,’ he shrugged. ‘It’s only life.’