Saturday, 31 August 2013

Even If We Try

You know when you read a book or see a movie or a painting or or or we all have our things that just stop us. Dead halt awe.

And you read over passages or rewind or circle round again, and it stays with you, well, forever.

You never forget that feeling, how your life feels now. Now that you have this as well.

For me it's not quite "filling a void you never knew you had". It's almost enough to make me want to stop what I'm trying to create, because how can the world need my work when THIS exists. But then it starts to encourage me as well.

Anyway, I'm talking this up a bit much, but as soon as I heard the vocals on the album 'Country Sleep' by Night Beds, I had to stop.

I hope some of you might feel something like that, and come back to it when you need to feel it again.

And I'd love to know what book, song, painting, movie, sculpture, wine...does the same for you.

nb this isn't my favourite song on the album, but I couldn't find an official video for the opener, Faithful Heights.

But they are touring across Europe over the coming months. I'll be at Scala (London) on December 3rd.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Time Out Track

Not wanting to be controversial or push any particular's a quick fast track, and if nothing else may remind you how beautiful and inspiring silence is.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

And they're off...

‘Who was that love?’
I hit the volume one two three bars louder.
“Looked like that was a bump on the rails there,we may well have a protest later but just behind…”
‘Who was that?’
‘Get outta the way woman.’ I sweep my arm through the air. Christ, can’t a man just watch his races on a Saturday afternoon? Haven’t I earned this? ‘It was just Stan.’
‘Oh, Stan. What did he want?’
‘Look at this folks, Atomic Force is charging through the middle. He’s come from the back of the pack and had to get there the long way but I don’t think they’re gonna catch him now. That’s a magnificent ride…”
‘Frank, what did he want?’
‘You bew-ty. You little bloody ripper. Clay’s dead. Thadda boy, I knew you could get him home.’
‘What? Frank, what do you mean Clay’s dead?’
‘Jees that’s a good win.’ I flick my eyes away from the telly to look at the wife, who’s face is screwed up somewhere between disbelief and disgust in me.
‘I don’t understand,’ she says, looking every bit as daft as the grandkids can.
‘I’m not sure how to break it down for you. Clay’s dead. It’s pretty simple.’
She grabs the remote.
‘Whoa, hang on there, I just want to check the places.’ 
She shuts down the telly just as they show that Horsethief Canyon came second at 12:1 and the favourite, Golden Willow, just held on to third by a nose.
‘But, he was just here the other day. He looked alright.’
‘Yeah well we all do and then we drop. That’s how it goes.’
‘That’s awful. How did he…what happened?’
‘Heart. Packed up a few days ago but no-one knew until the Bulgarian woman dropped in with her bucket and mops this morning.’
‘She's Romanian,' the missus says, like it matter. 'That’s awful.’ She wipes her hand on that damn floral apron she’s been wiping Mr Muscle and Domestos on for so many years the purple carnations are even more disfigured than her face is right now. ‘When will the funeral be held?’
‘Don’t know don’t care.’
‘Oh Frank, you have to pay your respects this time. You can’t miss another one.’

I don’t do funerals. When I retired I knew I’d run out of material. Nothing left to talk about so I don’t do anything bigger than a six. Got a wife a daughter a son-in-law and two grandkids and they don’t need me to talk when they come round. Daughter talks to her mother, son-in-law looks at his kids, captivated, like everything they come out with is genius. Like, ‘Daddy I can get my peas on my fork,’ is some kind of miracle. And mostly the little punks don’t need me to talk, they just yell out, ‘Grandpa, look at me? Can I do this? Look at what I can do,’ so mostly I’m good for the hellos, I’m fines, goodbye see you soon with them, and that’s all they need and sure is enough for me.

‘Paid my respects every Friday night for the past twenty five years and it was a whole lot more respectful when I talked to Stan and Stan talked back.’ I flick the tv back on.

'Grandpop, what does…’
‘Not now sonny jim. They’ll be lining up for the Sandown mile in a few minutes, and I gotta see what some of these old haymunchers have got left in them.’
‘But Grandpop, for homework I have to write a sentence with the word deceit in it.’
‘C’mon Paddy James, redeem yourself son. If you reach for that whip too late again you’ll be as washed up as that old beast you’re riding.’
The whippersnapper’s still there.
‘They’re lined up in the gates now. Just waiting for Brimstone, who we think could be running for the last time here today.’
‘Decent is letting an old man watch the Saturday afternoon races in peace.’
‘Lights on. And they’re off…’
‘Not decent, Grandpop…’
‘Damn straight it’s not decent. Come on Paddy James, don’t get boxed in now.’
‘Not decent, Grandpop, deceit.’
The kid’s standing in the corner holding a multi-coloured crayon and a notebook wrapped in paper with two rainbow-striped balloons on the cover.
‘Deceit is letting an old man get comfy in his favourite chair that’s got his arse marked in it even when he’s not there, and letting him think he can kick back and watch his races in peace, and then barging in here with your homework.
‘Dear me, Paddy James is having a shocking day today…’

Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge - see the ten words to be used in less than 1,000 words here

Saturday, 24 August 2013

My vegan experiment

My Italian housemate has just gone out to buy an almond croissant. My other housemate said sorry as she took a packet of bacon out of the freezer.

It's okay. I'm only on Day 5 and haven't really craved anything yet. I'm happy with my power bars packed with chia seeds, flaxseed, dates, raisins, coconut oil and cacao nibs. I'm looking forward to ginger peanut somen noodles for lunch, and I've even made my own hummus.

So far it seems like it's just a matter of being organised. Beans soaking overnight and lots of tupperware containers for the bulk buy of obscure products from an online health food store. This week I've spent at least three times my usual food budget, but if we're struck by a natural disaster, I'm the one who'll be full, not to mention regular, and we'll see who's saying sorry then.

I don't actually know what made me start this experiment. I usually rebel against any imposition of order. I once joined a gym and subsequently stopped going to the classes I'd been attending regularly as a casual user.

But the other day I was walking through the common trying to figure out why I'd been feeling a bit off for a while. I usually eat fairly well and keep fit, and I hadn't changed anything to account for it. A couple of hours later a friend mentioned he'd recently gone vegan and has never had more energy. I stared at my Lucozade collection in the bottom of the fridge and thought that maybe there was something to this.

When I looked at my spreadsheet of ingredients for my first order, I wondered if maybe I hadn't gone mad rather than vegan. But it's worth a try.

In true form I kicked off Day 1 with honey toast, honey being the divisive product between hardcore vegans and, well, us less fanatical people doing it for health reasons rather than the more virtuous grounds of protesting against animal cruelty. Of course I'm all for that as well; back when I ate meat and dairy I always went for free range organic stuff.

I can't say I feel any changes yet, but I'm not sure how long it'll take for any noticeable difference to kick in. I'm also not sure that taking a raw carrot cake with cashew cream cheese frosting to a party tonight is a good idea, but if I keep their glasses filled with Loire goodness maybe they won't think anything of it.

Anyways,  Day 5 and all going well. Time to go grate some carrots.


Thursday, 22 August 2013


Fruit for sale on the roadside in Surat Thani, the rows and rows rows and rows of black and white portraits in the Tol Sleng museum, rough floorboards underneath hammocks by the Mekong, paper serviette holders on the tables in Nha Trang, the drug dealers' ziplock pouches a quiet man in Jaiselmer slips our silver jewellery into.

The rockers of an empty chair on a front porch in Cuba.

Things that are dusty: teeth hair socks boots fingernails, hiking on the Australian Alps Walking Track until you get to the YHA in Thredbo three weeks later and wear your dirty thongs to the communal showers. You talk about the colour of the water going down the drain, about walls. There's no view like the wild brumbies as you bathe, no trangia to light, no billy to boil, no tent poles to click or spiders to keep out or sleeping and waking by the moon and the sun, climbing tree trunks that have collapsed across your path, banging your stick to get a long thick snake lazing in the sun's heavy heat to move out of your way. No more climbing a mountain to get a signal and check if anyone has left a warning message about the fires you can smell.

Almost city clean. Fresh clothes that were saved in a plastic bag at the bottom of your pack. A man behind a bar in an ironed shirt, two beers, two plates of fresh food, the noise of people ordering more drinks, talking about photos, weather, where they're going next. Talking about showers that aren't hot enough, steak that's undercooked, wine that's too dry, what they're children said today. Looking forward to the drive tomorrow.

And us. Creased and coloured despite the sunscreen we rubbed in with our filthy hands. Familiar aching in our lower backs, our calves, our thighs. Our toes wriggling in their freedom, knowing back in the room, beside our packs, the settled achievement of our boots' latest layer of dust.

Response to Sarah Selecky writing prompt to write a list titled: Things that are dusty.

Friday, 16 August 2013

I don't mind what you call it, just make sure it's available

I've heard and read a lot of discussions about categories lately, particularly on the 'new adult' debate - is the term patronising, what is an appropriate target market for books with detailed sex scenes - and at the crux of it for some, what shelves do you put them on in a bookshop?

I don't have any answers, or really strong opinions, but it did make me think about the categorisation creativity in the music industry, where it's almost a challenge to come up with something new. A bit like the names of paint colours, or car models.

A few of my favourites are:

"emerged as an experimental reaction to the predominance of grunge, the indie-rock's sub sub genre: slowcore".

Here's one of the hits from their latest album

John Paul White (The Civil Wars) "could well be the co-inventor of a new musical genre: the gothic-folk power ballad"

A hit from their debut album -

And genius - apparently coined by the Haitian band, Foula - "voodoo jazz".

Be it books, music, films, art, as long as I can find it and try it, I really don't mind what you call it.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Time out track - Pink Martini

Doing some writing warm-ups this morning I was listening to Mary Robinson, on Desert Island Discs. Her second song of choice was 'Non, je ne regrette rien.' Edith Piaf entered my room and curled her finger, and I followed her to a radio station based on similar sounds. When Pink Martini joined the party I knew I had my soundtrack for the relationship I'm working on.

They've been playing to me for the last 1,000 words, and maybe they'll help you with your characters.

Or you can just enjoy a little time out  Friday sway?

I love the combination of awe and care through the opening - analogous to a successful romance?

Things that feel like rain

First drop loops from children conducting sparklers. Testing testing one two three; a sniper's lead; a spoon of ice cream. Made-it, breathe, made-it, breathe, made-it-safe-finisheddonerelief.

Shower tracks of a lover learning your body. Head tilting back in the hairdresser's sink, feet freed from ski boots. The delicate veil of deciding to trust.

Phantom rain when dark and heat-red meet in unreciprocated desire.

Rain crashes saucepans into the cupboard. It's surrender, it's survival. The wail of people forcing their priorities; the door slam full stop.

Clearing doors open in Arrivals, anywhere. Hand on the waist ready to waltz. A floor-to-ceiling window, cinnamon buns, cotton sheets, a camera. A very first step.

Response to writing prompt from @sarahselecky