vendredi 27 janvier 2017


I got up this morning at 5:30am to travel from Brighton to Sunderland.  This was my first ever ‘proper’ school visit – talking about my books, answering questions and leading a creative writing workshop.  Fortified with much coffee and a good book for the train... yep, I was still mildly terrified.

At the time of writing, it’s now 8pm and I am still on a train an hour and a half away from home, feeling that weird combination of over-caffeinated and bone-tired.  However, it was totally worth it.  I’m feeling better about the world in general than I did this morning.

The girls I met today were charming, bright and very, very kind to me.  They were an absolute delight.  I was struck by how little has changed since I was that age, to my immense relief and slight surprise (they even still love Nirvana – well, one cool girl did).  They started off shy and gradually became noisy and hilarious.  I love teenagers so much, and this was a great reminder of it.

In my talk about books and writing, I brought up one of my current favourite phrases: ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’.  I truly believe that there is enough good fortune and positivity and general good energy to go round.  We should support and encourage each other, never pull the ladder up behind us.

I usually kind of hate nebulous talk about ‘creativity’ and ‘being creative’, but I tried to talk today about how I believe we can all make and do great things if we want to.  Writing a book isn’t a rarefied activity that is for ‘other’ people.  I have known people who have tried to make out that writing a book (or learning the guitar or singing ‘properly’ or becoming a serious actor, etc etc) is some mysterious and difficult thing that is only for the special, talented few.  It’s not true.

We all have stories in us and telling them is a great and brave thing to do.  Nobody can tell your story like you can.  I don’t believe in that ‘X Factor’ type trope that ‘you just have to want it enough’ – that’s not what it’s about – but I do believe that ideas and imagination and hard work can take you a long way.

In the past I have been accused of having a slapdash ‘that’ll do’ attitude towards my work.  And it’s true.  Maybe it’s not always a virtue but I’m kind of proud of it and it has served me well.  I’m not a perfectionist.  But I’m a person who gets things done.

It doesn’t have to be perfect.  It just has to exist, and then you can do what you like with it.  This is probably why I am such a big fan of DIY culture – fanzines and underground bands, and people making stuff and general enthusiasm.  I always want to be an enthusiast, and meeting brilliant teenagers is a great reminder of why.

In a workshop today, we came up with ideas for stories – there would be a hundred ways of telling them and nobody’s story would be the same.

I am sure that the girls I met today are going to do many great and interesting and brilliant things, and that makes me feel much better about a world that can sometimes seem very bleak, and for that I am grateful.

Fittingly, Sunderland is the hometown of Kenickie, one of my favourite teenage bands and a perfect example of DIY brilliance – friends who decided to be a band, made up the rules as they went along and just did it (and incidentally, in a pleasing circular twist, Ms Lauren Laverne once sent me a lovely encouraging letter about my long-ago fanzine)...

The joy this video brings me is basically off the scale.

samedi 21 janvier 2017

Almost a mirror

I think 2017 has got off to a rough, or at least shaky, start for a lot of people.  January feels very bleak.  We are all doing our best and struggling.

My theory is we all got so hung up on '2016 was the worst, can't wait for it to be over!' (which I guess was broadly true), that we're all extra disappointed that nothing has magically changed.  I mean, with the wonder of hindsight, why would it?  What were we expecting?  But we had to cling on to something.

As for me, I've been struggling to write, struggling to stay healthy.  I started the year with good such good intentions, also with 108 sun salutations (of which possibly more later).  Then I hit a wall.  A grim, cold, dark, January wall.

And now it's about whatever gets me through the days, which seems to be through the media of hibernation and carbohydrates.  I may be aiming for morbid obesity by February, but I'll deal with that when the days get a bit lighter.

As always, in the meantime, there is joy in the tiny things.  Dancing.  Winter sunshine, today, for the first time in a long time.  Running at night - I never usually do it, but the mood struck me the other evening and I set off at about 10pm for a long run through the streets of Brighton; it was something close to magic.  Porridge and coffee on cold mornings.  Over-the-knee suede boots that have turned out to be surprisingly practical.  Staying in bed, frankly.

On another whim, I took myself off to the cinema to se La La Land.  It was just for something to fill the hours, really.  I knew very little about it and expected only some jolly singing and dancing, maybe some bright colours to perk up my poor tired eyes.  Well, if you haven't seen it yet then I'd say the less you know about it in advance the better.  I have been badgering all of my friends to see it so that we can discuss at great length.  It was not in the least what I anticipated and it smashed every possible expectation I had.

So, here's to those who dream and those who are struggling.  It seems to be a lot of us, at the moment.  It's a hard path to take but here we still are.  I'm with you.

Current soundtrack, conversely the most gorgeously romantic imaginable, which is transporting me swooningly out of this endless dark winter today*.  When your heart is really on its knees, I can only recommend listening on a semi-permanent loop and thinking of that beautiful man who you don't know very well in the real world but reads you Rimbaud from 6,000 miles away...  It's all out there somewhere.  It's got to be, right?

* Yes, I do know that Rowland S. Howard meant it ironically, but I don't care.  I don't care so much that if I ever get married I think I would like to dance to this song.  I don't think Nick Cave cares either.

vendredi 6 janvier 2017

Sounds of 2017 (nothing new here)

So, I stayed in by myself for new year.  It was nice.  I did a lot of writing, built a fire (burned a bit of sage), sipped a bit of tequila, watched TV.  That was basically it.

As midnight approached, I thought about myself, my friends and family, my neighbours, the world.  All the things I am wishing for us all.  I honestly felt a great sense of joy and peace, sitting there alone on my sofa.

I could hear kids outside in the street (there was some sort of rowdy teen party going on down the road), see lights on in neighbours' houses and hear voices drifting in through my window.  I hoped for good things for us all.

When midnight hit, and fireworks went off outside and I heard someone shouting 'happy fucking new year!', I listened to this song - and it was true.

When I woke up in the morning, it was sunny.  As I got up to make myself some coffee, before a long wallow in a hot bath, I thought about what I wanted to be my first song of the first day of the year.  And what I put on the record player - of course, of course - was this.

jeudi 5 janvier 2017


A belated happy new year...  It's been a slow start, courtesy of dark mornings, broken sleep patterns and The Good Intentions Paving Co.

I'm not sure how I feel about the current climate of '2016 was the worst year ever' / '2017 has GOT to be better!'.  I find it a bit dispiriting.  Not feeling sorry for myself here, it's just the way it goes.  However, I  honestly feel that I've had four or five years now of utter turmoil, intermittent disasters, unwanted change, diminishing returns and fruitless soul-searching - interspersed with moments of success and joy.  I don't buy this idea that a good year must follow; it doesn't work like that.  I also can't quite subscribe to 2016 being as bad as people made out - most of the people bitching about it have their health and a roof over their heads.

What I do know is that we can try to be good people and work hard, and make the year as good as we possibly can in our own way.  I believe there is great comfort in managing to find a kind of happiness in the unhappiest times.  You can find flashes of joy in the smallest and most unexpected places.  This is what keeps us going.

Sermon over.  In other news, here is What I Did In The Holidays:

  • A lot of self-imposed solitude and writing.
  • Fires.
  • Fell in love with Rogue One.
  • Stayed home alone and sober on New Years Eve, accidentally got falling-down-drunk on New Years Day.
  • Went for a long country walk by myself, enjoyed it.
  • Meant to read many books, read none.
  • Cried over broken washing machine, got a new one, felt like a grown-up.
  • Watched A LOT of 'Brooklyn 99' and 'Garfunkel and Oates'.
  • Stayed in bed.