Saturday, 20 December 2008

Review of Flesh Feast: The Human Brain

This magical thing found its way through the tiny opening of my letterbox the other morning. It is the perfect size of thing to fit through my letterbox. It meant that I didn’t have to run downstairs in my pyjamas while the postman hammered on the door. I don’t know why our letterbox is so tiny. I know it’s an old house, but did people only write tiny letters in the days of yore? This house holds so many unanswered questions. But back to the magical thing.

The magical thing is a chapbook by Socrates Adams-Florou. He’s a bit brilliant. It is a haunting tale of a man who is terrorised by his neighbour. It is gripping. Parts of it filled me with actual terror. It is only a short thing, but in these ten chapters, Socrates manages to convey such turmoil and such overwhelming (and deserved) paranoia that it’s a good thing it ends when it does.

If ‘Flesh Feast’ was a film, the back would read “contains mild peril”, and then it would be scratched out and would say instead “warning: contains shocking scenes of a disturbing nature”. It would not be a PG.

I read it excitedly. I wanted to know what was going to happen to the protagonist.

I liked the part where the protagonist thinks "I am trying to imagine being like Linford Christie". It is the Rocky-running-up-the-steps part of the story. It is uplifting.

I am now a bit scared of snails, though. And I have toothache.

My copy is number 13.

If you would like a copy, all you have to do is email Socrates and he will send you one. But hurry. There can’t be very many left, and you do not want to miss out on this visceral reading experience.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Is it potato time? Yes, it is.

I like potatoes.

I just found this website whilst searching for a photo of a potato. This person made this website. This person is a lord.

I was looking for a photo of a potato because I have a new story up today at The Pygmy Giant. The story is called Mash and it has a potato-theme. It is also the story I talked about here.

I wish I had one of these.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Josie and the H-Bomb

He came at me warm. I couldn’t see, not really. I thought I saw the bones of people. No skin, no faces. Just bones and shaded-in bits where lungs and other organs were. They glowed red in the upside-down of my eyes. For a fraction of a second. Like a stammer. Like time catching itself up after a big, forget-everything shock.

He had something to prove. It’s how it always is with these things. One step and then another, and before anyone knows what’s hit them there are atoms splitting and colliding and the world is forever changed. He changed everything.

The stammer interrupted a noise that was a thousand aeroplanes taking off, and the slamming of every single door, and the cracking apart of the continents, and. Think of the loudest thing you can possibly imagine. Multiply it, and multiply it again. And then, just as you feel your eardrums begin to implode and your bones start to shatter, imagine a silence so great that it’s hard to believe there even is a world, an earth, a place for your feet to be standing on left.

There was no hand holding with this one. He lit up the molecules of me. And he shook me until everything I knew had fallen away. Until all that was left was the in-out, in-out of my breathing, and the idea of me, smaller than a grain of salt but still pregnant with possibility.

I think I shielded my eyes. I think I covered my ears. I think I buried myself in the sand or burrowed into the guano. I was trying to keep myself safe. I knew what was coming. It was bigger than both of us. Not land, this time. Not bodies. A few thousand birds heartattacked and dropped from the sky. A few billion fishes disappeared where they swam. But this was safe. Necessary. Part of a bigger plan.

And I stretched out in the dryness, felt the crackle of the breeze. And knew this romance, this new thing, could only ever end badly.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Bomb/Xmas-themed Reading Night

There is a golden light filtering through my curtains. It is one of those rare December afternoons where the sky is crisp and blue and the sun is a blinder. The last time I experienced light like this was in the old house I shared with my friend where we painted the living room red. I had the front bedroom, and at around four p.m. the light would rush through the window and hit the mirrorball and throw a hundred Will o' the Wisps around the room. And even if I was thinking about all the sad things that were going on at the time, the quality of the light, and the dazzlement always made me smile.

I'm working on a story about a girl who falls in love with a hydrogen bomb, which I'm reading tonight at this...

...along with fellow TTOs Biff and Nath. I think it will be a good night.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

New(t) Story

Rainy City Stories is a site with a brilliant idea. I wish I'd thought of it myself. Based in Manchester, it links stories and poems with their places on the map, all within the Greater Manchester area. I spent hours clicking on the lovely cloud markers and reading the stories they pointed to. And then I found the house I grew up in, and the pond under the railway bridge, and I started writing a story of my own. It's called On The Count Of Three, and is now up on the site, putting Newton Heath on the Rainy City map. I'm (as I used to say in my formative years) dead chuffed.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Writing From The Angry Well

I think if I didn’t write I would go mad. I remember watching the first series of Big Brother, and the thing I couldn’t get my head around was the No Writing Instruments, No Writing At All thing. Even if I’d been au fait with weeing on national television, the not being able to write, for even a few days, never mind weeks, would have stopped me from applying anyway.

I’m sure Henry Rollins wasn’t the first or only person to refer to writing as “Poor Man’s Therapy.” He’s so right. I think he originally meant it in a ‘journal’ sense, which I agree with, but from a fiction point of view, writing a story in which the protagonist gets to wreak whatever havoc they want on their enemies is great therapy, too.

L’esprit d’escalier keeps me awake at night. I spent two hours last night thinking of things I could’ve, should’ve said. I thought my head was going to explode. So I grabbed my notebook and started scribbling away, in the dark so as not to wake up the Mr, and five minutes and four pages later, I managed to drift off to a lovely sleep. I’m going over what I wrote now, and I’ve managed to turn a hellish day at work into a story about a murder, that will hopefully prevent an actual murder. Writing works like a pressure release at times. I can plot horrible revenges whilst still maintaining my sanity. If I didn’t write, I would probably be that woman who shouts on the bus. Or I could be much worse, I could be the woman they find in the textiles department of Debenhams every Thursday pounding her fists into the display bed. I would be escorted home with achy wrists and goose feathers still stuck in my hair.

Don’t get me wrong. Not all my writing comes from this angry well. I’d even go so far as to say only about ten percent of my writing is grrr writing. It’s just at times like this, I’m really glad I have this outlet.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Let There Be (Tea)Light(s)

I'm writing something big that I am excited about. It's making me wish I could stay home from work and kick everyone out of the house and change my body clock so that my day starts around 4pm and ends with a 7am bedtime. If I were a lady of leisure, then I would definitely be nocturnal. But then I would miss out on the new and fantastic characters one can only encounter as a public servant. You couldn't make it up.

Special things are happening at my library tomorrow, though. (Apart from the multitude of weird traits and ticks.) To tie in with the National Year of Reading's November theme of "Live Lit", we are holding a storytelling/poetry event at the library. If I can breathe through my nose, and if my voice stops croaking, then I'll be reading a story. I'm quite excited about it. I'm excited about buying the cakes and wine, and about having actual naked flames in the library(if Health and Safety deem this acceptable), and about having poets and writers doing readings in the space that's normally reserved for the One Week Loans and the table with the leaflets. Hopefully, all will go swimmingly, and no firemen will have to be called out.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

There are never enough fireworks

I love fireworks. Sometimes I write things that start off as stories and then I get into them, and sometimes it's vice versa. I like stopping abruptly. I like things to sometimes be snapshots. Exciting things are in the offing. I could dance the "mashed potato". I could do "the twist".

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

That famous day in November

I'm sitting by my window watching other peoples' fireworks. I don't kid myself that I'm part of anything. The pain in my stomach is back. I'm not sure it ever went away. I think that I am slowly coming apart. That the things that were once fixed inside me have come unmoored. I’ve swallowed the tablets before I realise I’ve swallowed them. I stare at the drink in my hand, the sensation of pills slipping down still fresh. They never really work. Taking them is an exercise in pointlessness. Outside, the tar sky is dotted with points of light. Not stars. Gunpowder. In blues and greens and reds.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Party Time

This Saturday, Michael 'Fierce' Frearson is releasing his second book of poetry on Time Travel Opps. Which basically means this week is going to be a busy one. Lots of folding and sewing. Hooray for bone folders, though. I love bone folders. I love folding paper with bone folders. It's possibly the most fun you can have with a pile of paper, a flat surface and a ...well, a bone folder. Or maybe I'm lacking in imagination there. Maybe there are a hundred and one other things you could do with these three items.

The actual event and more details can be found by clicking on this here sentence. If you're around at the weekend, then it'll be a "proper good shindig" and everyone's welcome. It's free, and there will be Party Rings a-plenty. I am very much looking forward to it.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Poncho Cold

Right now, in my room, it is "poncho cold". "Poncho cold" is an utterly different kind of cold to "extra jumper" cold. "Poncho cold" smacks of the Andes, where the air is thin and clear, and the cold is a crisp thing that numbs your face and hands, but leaves your sock-encased feet alone. My feet are fine. My fingers are numb. My nose is freezing. And so I have dragged my Joan of Arc poncho out from under the desk, and I am now sitting here, warmer, happier, feeling ever-so-slightly medieval and warriorlike, and wishing I had bought that sword the other week.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Neil Sedaka

Last Saturday I came this close to buying myself a wooden sword. What stopped me was the fact that I would have had to buy two, and then I'd have had to convince someone to have a fight with me. Which would've been fun until one of us lost an eye.

Don Quixote

I hate it when the washing machine is on and I am in the shower. It takes a few minutes of screaming "I'M IN THE SHOWER!" before I realise it is not just someone running the tap downstairs for the hell of it. And then I just feel stupid.

Bill Gates

Today I put my toes under the shutter as I was closing it. I wanted to see if it would hurt. I stopped the shutter before it pressed on my toes too hard, though. I chickened out. I wondered about the strength of the shutters. I wondered if they would crush an aluminium can if it was stood underneath them. I think they would. I don't think they could crush a brick though.

The shutters are white and they have a key with a sticker on so you know which key matches which shutter. You have to hold the key and twist it, or else the shutter won't work. You can't just put the key in and leave it. You have to oversee the task at hand.

I always get the Indiana Jones theme in my head. It's a good theme song. But it sticks in my head a bit too long. Sometimes I'll pass it on to other people. It only takes a few bars. It makes me smile when I hear another person humming it. I feel like I have accomplished my mission for the day.

We can't just leave the shutters half-way, like they do in some places to HINT to people that the place is closing. It is a public safety issue. The shutters must not be touched until all members of the public have left the building. I have a daydream where I start closing them when people are still inside. In the daydream, all panic breaks loose. It is great. There's a mad scramble for the door with people belly-sliding underneath the shutters, feet-first, head-first, arms outstretched in front like Superman. And I'm just there with the key, turning it, laughing.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Polarbears And Apple Men

I have been avoiding typing things on the internet, apart from at work, where I have to type a lot of things on the internet all day long. Things like: Books On Falconry; and Where Is Balmoral; and Heller, Mandasue; and My Local Councillor; and This Postcode On; and The Meaning Of Dreams; and lots of names and surnames and titles of books and authors of books and lots of stuff that I've forgotten already.

I don't hate the internet. I think it is brilliant. I think it is the 'best thing since sliced bread'. But sometimes I just don't feel like being on it very much.

On Friday I went to see Polarbear's If I Cover My Nose You Can't See Me. He completely blew me away. He's one of the best storytellers I've ever encountered. I left quietly stunned.

Impending rain doom prevented the Norfolk boat retreat and Alan Partridge impersonations. Probably for the best. Saturday was spent instead in the windswept grounds of Rufford Abbey, touching sculptures and taking lots of photos of trees. I can't help myself if there are trees and I am 'with camera'.

a sheep on a bench

what the artist could see from that spot at the time (this appeals to my love of all things pylon)

big ole wooden dragons

a real live fly agaric

The following is my favourite quote from the internet this week so far:
"the advent of World War I reduced interest in fairies along with fly agarics."


Exciting and good things have been happening on the internet. This is one such thing. You might have already read it, but if you haven't, you should do that now.

And then there is the Beat The Dust October birthday bonanza. Ten writers, one story, much amazingness.

And I think I may have found my mojo. Maybe.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Where Is My Mojo?

Whenever I set a day aside for writing, I end up staring at a blank page for hours, with brief internet interludes. I think up lists, and I come up with brilliant plans for other things. Sometimes I even start sorting out drawers or piles of papers. Often I do the washing.

I am going away at the weekend on a writing retreat to a houseboat in Norfolk. It will be very Alan Partridge. I think I will probably say “A-haa!” a lot. I hope I will do lots of writing. I hope I feel suitably ‘inspired’. I feel like I haven’t finished anything in ages. I have misplaced my story mojo. Will I find it on a houseboat? I hope so. I tried to find it today, but I’m two cans of pop in and still nada. I’m going to do some right-brain drawing now, and then see if a little stream of consciousness will kick start something. These are desperate times.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Home Launch "Review"

The launch night went well. Really well. There was much brilliantness. On the previous two launches, when I arrived at Big Blue the doors were closed and we had the place to ourselves to rearrange tables and put out bourbons. This time, the doors were open, and people were already seated at tables and milling around in and outside. This panicked me a bit, because I was used to the sanctity of being there with just the other writers and performers for the start of things, but I managed to calm down after a while. I worried about not being able to put the bourbons on the tables, but the tables were already decked out with Tracy Meek's cards and Ms Mischief's carrot keys, two of which I managed to snaffle the tags off. I had a glass of wine and felt instantly better.

First up was Biff with his House Cooling story. It was poignant because he's just moved out of Time Travel house, and there are white squares on the walls where his pictures were. Next was Richard Barrett. He'd travelled from Manchester for the day, as is detailed in his travel diary. He read some poems that had everyone chuckling away. Aimee Wilkinson was up next. Considering the fact that she nearly didn't read because of nerves, she handled it all with perfect aplomb. Then it was me. I read Waiting For Centralia To Sink. Gareth Draper was next. He'd come all the way from Bedfordshire to read his ace story, Looking Up. Next, Jenn Ashworth read Garden Refuse, and had everyone in her thrall. Again. She's just been shortlisted for next year's version of this, which is bloody brilliant news. Nathan was next, with a long story he wanted to split into two parts, so we had a break in between.

After Nathan, Rob Hodkinson mesmerized everyone with his poems. He should definitely be on the BBC. Next up, Chris Killen read The Itch. He'd travelled from Manchester via Preston with Jenn, and Sian Cummins. Chris' first novel, The Bird Room, is out in January 2009 on Canongate. He's an old hand at this 'reading out loud' lark, putting on a night in Manchester with the excellent Sally Cook. His deadpan delivery definitely got the laughs.

Michael 'Fierce' Frearson took over next and managed, mid-poem, to verbally battle his way out of an altercation with a crazy man in a puffa jacket who'd wandered in off the street and wanted to do boxing. If it had been me, I think I would probably have just cried, but Fierce didn't let it stop his flow at all. No party rings this time, though. Booo. I think I was up next, reading a short one, and then Biff closed the night with a song.

Drew Gummerson wrote a story for us but couldn't make it to the launch, so he made a recording of his story Catch The Pigeon, complete with sound effects. We were going to play it on the night, but things didn't go quite as planned. You can listen to it here, though. It's better than Jackanory.

As you can see, I managed to take a total of TWO photos that weren't blurred. Jim took more, which I'll post either here or here soon.

Afterwards some of us went across the street to a club to do some dancing. The club was very empty. The deejay played a lot of Michael Jackson and No Doubt. A lot. Last time we went there the deejay played the Pixies and Devo. I think it might have been a different deejay. It was disappointing. We danced to Thriller anyway. We drank blue drinks. Jenn didn't try to start fights with anyone this time. Perhaps she's become more acclimatised to Derby now.

Chris did a write up here, Jenn did one here, and Duncan Cheshire wrote about it here.

I think everyone enjoyed the night. I wasn't as nervous as I had been at the other ones. Big Blue felt nice and warm and cosy. It was also a huge relief for me, Biff and Nath to have this book finished. It's definitely been a learning curve. I know we've all neglected stuff over the last month or so. It'll be nice to catch up with what we've been missing. I had a plan at the start of September to write a post every day. That fell by the wayside early on. This post feels like I've been writing it forever so I'm going to post it now.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Home (on the range)

click the picture to make it bigger. technological advances. the magic of the mouse. my fingers are numb from sewing books. my brain is numb anyway. enjoy the poster.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Home (is where the heart is)

On Saturday, it's the launch of our third TTO book, Home.

I'm excited. This is our biggest venture to date. Not only does the book have stories by Biff, Nath and myself, but we opened it up for submissions and we have some real treats in store.

Reading at the launch will be Jenn Ashworth, Chris Killen and a disembodied Drew Gummerson, as well as Richard Barrett, Michael 'Fierce' Frearson, Joe Coghlan, Gareth Draper, Rob Hodkinson, Aimee Wilkinson and me, Biff and Nath. And maybe some other people too. It's going to be a corker of a night.

It's all taking place at the Big Blue Coffee Co. on Sadlergate in Derby.

Doors open at 8pm and it's totally free to get in.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

It Really Is The Ninth Of September

Could tomorrow be the end of the world? At the library, I get asked many many questions, some brilliant, many inane. But today, I was asked if the world was going to end tomorrow. Of course I said Yes, which seemed to worry the questioner, but I just shrugged it off and forgot about it. When I got back I remembered the question and wondered about it enough to Google it. And then a cartoon I'd seen a while back made sense.

Is the world going to end? I hope not. Will crazy things happen? We'll see.

According to this, everything's probably going to be okay. And you can't argue with science. Well, you can if you're a Creationist. But I'm going to go with the 'okay' scenario. I got way too overexcited by the Millenium Bug. I'm keeping my opinions 'hopeful' on this one.

Monday, 8 September 2008

September the Eighth

Woody is back. He's a lovely dog. All is well in the world when Woody's around.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

The First Sunday In September, The Seventh Day Of The Month

Was all dedicated to TTO stuff. Lots of it. Reading and emailing and making more envelopes and planning out orders of things and thinking about boxes and getting angry at Word's mad hyphening 'ideas'. And in all of that flurry of activity, I forgot about my jacket potato.

To be forewarned is not always to have four arms.

I am enjoying cheating with dates. I feel like a proper time traveller. (I am writing this from Tuesday.)

Saturday, 6 September 2008

September 6th

This came in quite handy today.

Friday, 5 September 2008

The Fifth Day Of September

I am cheating here. I saved a draft of an empty post, so I could do a retrospective September 5th post. But that was four days ago now. (I am writing from the future.) I am going to write some instructions for myself.

1. Take an umbrella to work.

2. At the bit in Wolf Creek where the bad man slices the girls fingers off, leave the room. You really don't want to be thinking about "a head on a stick" every time you see cutlery.

3. Don't forget about the jacket potato!

I hope these help.

Emma from four days in the future. xx

Thursday, 4 September 2008

September the Fourth

Home is coming together. The tiny map envelopes will hold the Home badges. I can't find any Home-themed biscuit things as yet, though. At the minute, actual home is weird, because Biff is in the process of moving out. This has been Time Travel House for such a long time, from when TTO was just a record label and Biff and The Mr were screenprinting, badge-pressing, racket-making maestros. And then I hijacked the name, deciding TTO should have a small publishing imprint, and convinced Biff and Nath that we could take over the world. So Time Travel House changed, became a place for stories and binding and bone-folding, a place of stamps cut from erasers and flower paper torn into deckle-edged rectangles. This latest incarnation is one that fits with the character of the house. I'm sure some tasks will undoubtedly be 'outsourced' to Biff's new pad, and I'll be sad about not hearing the crunch of the badgemaker through my bedroom ceiling, but the core things, like the Mythbusters sewing circle and the walk-round-the-table collating will always be part of this old house. So i think things are going to be okay.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

September 3rd

Today, I took a lot of painkillers (see yesterday) and made lots of tiny envelopes from old maps. I have a crush on my tiny envelopes. I am going to carry one in my pocket all day tomorrow. I am going to maybe keep some painkillers in it, and my locker key, which I will have to take off the plastic fob so it fits inside. But that’s okay, because my locker key falls off the fob at least once a day anyway. The fob is almost superfluous. Its only purpose is to make the key harder to misplace.

I got Shane Jones' chapbook I Will Unfold You With My Hairy Hands in the post. It is a thing of beauty. It has a cover of textured card, with a print of two trumpeting angels. The title is printed in red. Inside, the endpaper has green roses on it. The paper it's printed on is lovely paper. It is all beautifully written. It feels sparse and important and true. So far, I've read it twice. I keep picking it up and looking at it and looking at the pages and reading bits over and over. I want to write a review but I don't feel I can 'do it justice' right now. I'm going to read it again. Included in the parcel was Walden Book by Allen Bramhall. I haven't read it yet. It comes in an envelope with a print of a branch and a sticker that is stamped with the title and author's name. Its cover is a map. In a strange turn of coincidence, a couple of days ago, I was thinking about where I grew up, and I remembered a rock I'd sit on in the middle of a stream, writing bad poetry, trying to emulate Thoreau. And today I get this book. Spooky.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

On The Second Day Of September...

...I managed to convince myself I have Lupus.

Monday, 1 September 2008

The First Of September

September is my favourite month. When I was at school, a friend and I would write screenplays and the boys would all have 'exotic' (i.e. made up) names like Tember (from September) and Tober (from October). Influenced heavily by The Lost Boys, we were going through our spooky/vampires phase. It lasted a good few months, and served to inspire many plot ideas and daydreams. It passed. But I'm always reminded of the silliness when September comes around.

I have been very sporadic with this blog of late. I think I had a crisis of confidence, of sorts. But September is my 'doing' time, and so I have a plan to 'do' something every day and write about it. Maybe I will set myself tasks (of things I want to do). Or maybe it will just mean that I'll write something here every day. I'm not sure yet. Maybe it will just be a mix of both.

Sally wrote something about waiting for your life to start, and I can't get it out of my head. There's a sense that I should be doing more. But I can't decide what, and so I do nothing. Option paralysis. But not this month. This is my doing month. Bring it on.

No Point In Not Being Friends 2: The Aftermath

I really enjoyed no point in not being friends. The basement bar felt like a ’70’s porn lounge, resplendent with red velvet curtains and curved walls. That, or a dungeon. But it was cosy. It was also incredibly busy. Lots of people had showed up. I always get excited by the fact that people will go out to a place just to listen to stories and poems and tales. I was nervous, too, (for a change) even though it was nice and dark. I read a story called Dancing In The Dark, which is an homage to Bruce, but isn’t really. He might like it, though. Everyone was nice and I even got a couple of laughs, which were unexpected but made me happy. Everyone who performed was ace. I am going to try and poach some people for TTO things in Derby. Chris Killen read some of his chapbook Paul Simon, which is a work of literary genius. Jo Bell was brilliant and engaging as usual, and also offered a hefty dose of Derby(shire) solidarity and support. And Sam Pink was beamed in live from Chicago (or his dog was, and it wasn’t exactly live) to read Move In With Me. You can watch it here. You should watch it. It’s good. I think he’ll get a lot of takers. All in all, it was a brilliant night. Sally and Chris did an amazing job of bringing it all together.

I just came up with the title for this post, and I actually google image searched ‘dead swans’. I feel awful. I am not going to use the picture I found of some dead swans. I found an almost comical one of a dead swan propped up against a tree with a passive-aggressive sign round its neck. But it made me sad. I’m still smirking at it though, and I feel terrible about that. Bad Emma. I think it’s just that passive-aggressive notes are one of my smirk triggers. So it’s unfortunate for the swan and the writers of the swan’s sign that they chose to take that particular route. Did they think that people would think the swan wrote it?

Getting back from Manchester, I felt kind of dazed. A lot of that is the three-hour bus journey. The Transpeak does exactly what it says on the tin. No motorways for this bus. It winds its way through the green hills of the Peak District, picking up speed in the valleys and old ladies in the market towns. Even though I find it exhausting, I still really enjoy the bus journey between Manchester and Derby. It gives me a lot of time to think. I stare out at the hills and cliffs and sandstone cottages and I think of all the lives I might have had and the ones that are yet to come.

I got back to Derby and power-napped for an hour. And then I went to Nottingham with friends for a gig. I was too tired to go, but I went nevertheless. I pretended I was watching Springsteen, and that I was in the eighties and the only things that mattered were singalong choruses and fists punched in the air. I thought about the thing I always think about at gigs, how when the band are playing and everyone’s caught up in that, I feel the greatest solitude and the greatest sense of belonging, all rolled into one. I'm going to stop now before it gets any cheesier.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

No Point in Not Being Friends

I am going to be reading at the second no point in not being friends night.

It starts at 8pm, in the Basement Bar of the Deaf Institute, just off Oxford Road in Manchester.

There will be fiction and poetry from: Annie Clarkson, Emma Unsworth, Zack Wilson, Richard Barrett, Chris Killen and Michael Halmshaw, a video-reading from Sam Pink, plus lots more things TBC.

It's free, and it should be fun and interesting. I don't think anyone will be wearing berets or anything like that. Today, I had a beret placed on my head as a joke. I didn't get to see what it looked like, but I am sure it scored 2 out of 10 in the 'amusing' stakes. I think I'll smile every time I see someone wearing a beret from now on. I think I do that already. I've just decided on the story I'm going to read. I think, anyway. I am a bit nervous, but I am mostly excited. I am looking forward to hearing all the people above 'do' their thing. I think it will be a brilliant night.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Jealous of Outdoor Walkways

I watched a lot of Grand Designs yesterday. I used to watch it all the time, but gave up when I realised it would be a good long while before I would be building my own house. But it was on yesterday, and it must've been Grand Designs Day or something, because episode followed episode followed episode. It was great. It was grand.

I live in a rented house. I will be living in a rented house for quite a few years to come. I like the house I live in. It's three storeys tall, old and rickety, and it has a lot of heart. It is also next to a funeral parlour. The funeral parlour is an amazing building. It has outdoor walkways connecting parts of it, and loads of adjoining buildings and secret bits.

They have CCTV cameras, so I've only ventured into the yard once. I got a close up look at the coffin chute, and also got to see the side of our house, and all the flowers that are growing on the walls of it that I never knew were there.

I think if the funeral parlour was a house, it would be great to live in. Our house used to be part of the funeral parlour, but I don't think they did any "dead body" stuff in it. The owner just used to live here. I think.

I'm thinking about home a lot. We are putting HOME together tonight, so we can print it this week and hopefully get it all bound before the last minute, this time. We'll see. There's a lot going on. But I think it will all be okay.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Captain Casio

Tomorrow I am doing writing at a summer school. I think it will be fun, but I am also a bit nervous. I’ve had to come up with a superhero identity. My superpower is the ability to stop time, obviously, so my name had to somehow reflect that. The best I could come up with was Captain Casio, though I’m not even sure Casio make watches anymore. I think they are all about the keyboards nowadays. Oh well. My costume, I think, will be a clock worn over my normal clothes, just like Flavor Flav. I think he’d be okay with that.

It’s taken a bit of planning. There is a tear in the space-time continuum scheduled for 11:20 am, or thereabouts. I hope 8 year olds are still cool with suspending disbelief. I’m a bit worried they might just see it as a chance to have a cigarette break.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Being That Person

Last night was the launch of this little bugger, and I mean the book not the man. Mr Michael 'Fierce' Frearson released his first collection of poetry, Being That Person, to a packed house on a Saturday night in the city centre. Despite the crazy sub-tropical heat, Big Blue Coffee Co. was full to the brim with a fine assortment of party people. There were many fine poets and lovely musicians and funny funny bastards. Me and my fellow TTOs did our first collaborative piece, too, which was a new thing for us. We kept it short and sweet this time. The highlight of the evening had to be Fierce's rendition of Howl, accompanied by Poppa Fierce on double bass, both of them decked out in full Beatnik attire. With the lights dimmed and the aroma of freshly ground coffee in the air, it was easy to transpose the scene to '50's San Francisco. Everybody was definitely 'digging' it.

The book is our third TTO publication. You'll be able to buy it from here in the very near future. Biff likes to do the "organising" of that kind of stuff, so I'll leave it alone. It comes with a Mini Fierce, a badge and a very special ID card. And we figured out a much better method of binding for this one. It meant that sewing 100 books on the night before the launch was a piece of cake. (The previous method involved using a miniature clothes-peg to 'hold' the thread while the knot was being tied.) We are now bookbinding machines.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

A Messy Room is a Happy Room

If your living space is a reflection of your state of mind, then I am clothes draped on chairs, a menagerie of empty glasses, a confetti of shoes and a big blue furry cushion. I am also more books than I will ever read, a hundred and one pens, scraps of paper with “important” things scrawled across their surface, a flowery sleeping bag, and a desk heaped high with a landscape of paper, cotton reels, travel bags, more pens, shoeboxes of ephemera, more clothes and a blue bonnet-style sun hat that turns me into a Victorian lady explorer when placed on my head.

My best place for writing is bed. It is a gigantic expanse of crisp white cotton, and it loves me. I try and filter out the complete rest of the room, and focus on the whiteness and sometimes I wish all the other stuff wasn’t there at all, ever. My housemate has few things, and these things he keeps immaculate. His room is a shrine to tidiness. His room is a small point in the universe of this house that has an order to it. And his life is ordered, too. You can set your watch by him. You can map out exactly what he will do before he even does it.

I would like to have a little less of the tornado-stricken about the room. But unless I happen across a magic Narnia-style wardrobe whereby I can transfer all my “clutter” to this other place for storage and thus have a spotless room, then it isn’t going to happen. The most I can hope for is an empty desk or an empty floor. And I have already resigned myself to that fact that it’s probably never going to be both.

Friday, 18 July 2008

It was time for a photo

I took this picture on the way to an airport. I like how you can't tell if it's dawn or dusk. I am drawn to landscapes. I used a long exposure to try and capture the car headlights as just lines. It makes it feel emptier. I have been reading about myth today. About how myths have been interpreted and used in different ways from the Paleolithic to the modern day. I have spent the day lost in books and stories, and I have found it meditative and inspiring. I really love having the house to myself.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

The Knack

I have not done any internet writing lately. I have done shedloads of in-my-book-with-a-pen writing, though. It has been great. It has been a bit fantastic, actually. I thought I had lost the knack. I was worried the stories had all deserted me. But they were just waiting for me to get away from my computer. I will remember this next time.

Sh went quiet. In part, I think, to let people catch up. Fifty chapters is a lot to read. But two weeks is long enough and there’s a new installment, finally. You can read it here.

There’s been lots going on behind the scenes at TTO, too. Fierce’s book launch is a week on Saturday. The proofs are being printed on Monday, and we will be binding it hopefully that night.

Then on Tuesday it's a trip to Leicester for Drew Gummerson’s Me And Mickie James launch. I think that will be a fun evening. I think, also, that there will be free wine. Which is always good.

We are piecing HOME together, too. It’s still open for submissions till the end of July, so if you have a story/poem/collection of words loosely based on the theme 'Home', then send it to
home [at] You know you want to.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

A Strangle Is Different To A Choke

Today, somebody tried to strangle me. A strangle is different to a choke. They tried to choke me, as well. Many times. I tried to break their hands. And then punch them in the neck. It was a fun day. I wriggled myself out of headlocks and slid myself out of holds, all the time thinking: I could do some real damage if I was really in danger.

I just got home now and tried to get Biff to fight me. He is a wuss. He just said, “The internet is not working, can you reset it.” And then went back upstairs. No attack, no nothing. If only Jenn was here. She’d be up for a fight. Maybe I can get her to ‘surprise’ me with a stranglehold at the HOME launch? Though I’ll probably have forgotten all my moves by then. Maybe I will practise in the bathroom when I’m brushing my teeth. They say the best way to remember something is to incorporate it into your daily routine. Perhaps I should spend the minute after spitting out the toothpaste imagining hands on my throat, and twisting my body in accord, taking care to scrape the imaginary shin with my imaginary stilettos in the process.

I *heart* the Industrial Revolution

On Monday I got to go to Richard Arkwright’s mill in Matlock. The one he built in 1771. The one that helped kick off the Industrial Revolution and all that malarkey. I had a love affair with the Industrial Revolution. Maybe it was coming from Manchester, and being aware of the buildings around me and what they meant in the grand scheme of things. I passed Victoria Square, the world’s first tenement flats, every time I went into town. I spent art school afternoons sketching the old weavers cottages in Cheetham Hill, imagining the world they knew changing so much in just a short span of time.

I like to know the history of places. I like to be able to put my finger on changes and to understand how and why they happened. I’ve been past Arkwright’s Masson Mill many many times, without ever venturing inside. It is now part factory shop, part restaurant, part conference rooms, part museum. It is great inside. There are lots of old weaving things arranged on windowsills, and little rooms with old scales and mechanical bits and bobs inside. I definitely felt excited to be in a place so steeped in history, a place that played a huge part in moving the wheels of time forward for the entire world. It was nice to be there in a Time Travel Opportunists capacity, because it really did feel like we’d stepped back through time. It was also nice to nerd out on the history part of it.

Monday, 30 June 2008

I Had A Good TIME

Saturday night was the launch of TIME, our second TTO book. It went surprisingly well, considering the amount of wine that was consumed. The ‘official’ write-up should appear here over the next day or so, complete with photos of the evening and a bit of ‘buy our book’ spiel, so I’ll just say I had a brilliant time and it felt like everyone was having fun, which I hope is correct.

I finally met Jenn Ashworth in the flesh, after working with her on Sh for what seems like ages now, but has only actually been the past two months. She tried to start fights with at least ten of my friends. I like her a lot. She did a reading of a story she’d written earlier that day, under mounting pressure from us to comply with the Time theme. It was brilliant, and everybody laughed a lot. She definitely stole the show.

Jenn brought along Sian Cummins, whose story Gap Years would have fitted in perfectly with our theme. Sh contributor Duncan Cheshire popped across from Nottingham, too, so it was nice to meet him in real life. Jenn had never met him, either, so it was all a bit like a big strange blind date. In a good way.

Afterwards, we did some dancing. It was very good dancing, I might add. Luckily there are no photos of that, though.

And then I wowed Jenn and Sian with the coffin chute behind our house, and the promise of late night ‘body truck’ action. I forgot to mention the R.S.P.C.A. though, so I think they were woken pretty early by the sound of a hundred howling dogs. Oh well. Hopefully they’ll come back for the HOME launch in August, and at least then they can bring earplugs.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Back To School

I have been accepted onto possibly the greatest MA course ever.

I just need to hunt down a kitten and I'll be all set.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Taking a Break from Time

I am taking a break from TIME.

I have spent all afternoon stamping a clock face and the word "TIME" onto sheets of recycled paper. We got the paper that has the bits of leaves and grass in it, so I had to "encourage" them out with the tip of my craft knife before I stamped anything. It took a while.

I then had to tear the paper around the stamps to separate them. I have a nice stack of 100, and another stack of 58. Like I said, I am taking a break. There are 7 sheets left to do. They will have to wait.

I was going to take photos of the process, which would have broken it up a bit, but my camera seems to have died. It it now "in the shop". Actually, it is just in the shop, waiting to be fixed. I hope they're quick about it.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Time Travelling with John Hegley

I am going to be telling stories with John Hegley on Saturday. John Hegley is famous. I am not. I enjoy telling stories, though. Even though I am quite shy, it is strangely nice to tell stories to people, and have them listen and hopefully enjoy the listening part.

I am probably going to only tell one short story. But I think that will be okay. Biff and Nathan are telling stories also. We are billed as “Time Travel Opportunists”, which makes us sound a bit more exciting than we actually are, maybe. It’d be good if we could travel through time. Other people will be doing poetry and music. I think it will be a good night. The pub it’s happening in is The Brunswick, which is an old railway pub that serves Real Ale and has its own brewery. It also has a million tiny rooms full of railway pictures. In some of these rooms it feels like it is still 1901. It used to be my local pub, when I was lucky enough to live in one of the railway cottages. I loved living there. There was a walk behind the row of houses that instantly transported you back to the turn of the century. I might go and sit on the bench there beforehand, and let myself drift back. I might pretend for the rest of the night that I am from a different time, and do it as an experiment, and see how it all feels.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Another ramble about my dream superpower of being able to stop Time

It’s almost two a.m. and I am not one bit tired, but I know I have to go to bed very soon so I can get up for work tomorrow. I would really like to stop time right now and do more writing, and maybe drink some pop, and do a bit more writing, maybe for this, or maybe just in my special notebook. Then, after a while, I would probably think about swans again, and re-read this and then this, and still laugh at the part that goes

“He is not going to press his trousers in front of a swan.”

Then I would probably think for a bit about the time there was a swan in the road and it stopped the bus and caused ‘traffic chaos’. That was a good time. Then I would think happy thoughts about this and get excited, and not just because there are biscuits in the photo. And then I would probably practise reading my TIME stories out loud and roll them round in my mouth for ages. Then, I think I would feel satisfied that I had packed in all I wanted to do, and I would start Time again, and head upstairs for the cosy loveliness of bed.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

What I Did On My Holidays

Before I went away, I did a spot of emergency dog-sitting. This is Woody. I love him. I really miss having a dog but our contract doesn't allow pets, and we only have a tiny yard and no grass, so it wouldn't be fair right now. One day, though.

Then it was off to sunny Barcelona, mainly for Primavera Sound, to see lots of good bands and eat lots of tacos in the lovely Parc Del Forum by the sea...

...this was one of the smaller stages. I like that you can see boats in the distance. It is all very picturesque. And there is no mud anywhere.

Tim Harrington's crowd forays were the big highlight, even though he got sweat on my arm. His swimsuit was fantastic.

And this guy was just a bit good. You don't get massive bronze cats just anywhere you know.

I like that there are snogging figures on a church. Looks like they were trying to do sudoku and got bored.
And then there was a bit of messing about on a lake. I got a wet bum. But it was all good fun.

The flight was delayed on the way back by two hours. Which wouldn't have been so bad if I hadn't got it into my head that we flew at 8 a.m. rather than 10 a.m. Oops. So we arrived 4 hours earlier than we really needed to. Oh was a nice sunrise.

I came back to find I'd had some writing published at The Pygmy Giant. It's something I'd been trying to write about for a while, and I'm glad I did it.

And then I went to Sh to see how everyone was getting on, only to find this!

Hopefully Jenn is sleeping with one eye open.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

More Sh-ing

There is another submission up at Sh. It is by Duncan Cheshire, the man behind Untitled Supermarket Nightmare 2, which was part of the inspiration for Sh. It's all a bit good.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Good Thing Frenzy

Gosh! Today has been a day of good things.

First this, which further elaborates on the Great Bourbon Cream Disaster of last week.

Then this...

2) Librarians are an odd bunch (I believe we’ve established that time and again in this blog!) They like to write about themselves as a profession. They’re often quite glib, or very very depressed about it. And they’re often quite isolated and alone about it, which is what makes Sh…, an interactive blog novel about a bunch of fictitious library workers, so interesting. If you liked “The Librarians”, or even “The Office” (probably more the UK version, not that awful Yankee ripoff) you might very well enjoy a peek…

...Our very first Sh 'review', from LiberryDwarf, which made me a bit giddy when I read it.

And then this, a very lovely and kind review of our first TTO chapbook, Coffee.

I am grinning.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

The Wit Of The Staircase

When I’m nervous, and I’m asked an in-depth question, my mind goes instantly blank and I start just talking, and I can’t really hear my thoughts properly as they come out of my mouth. I ramble on, hoping I have at least covered part of the question, whilst trying to remember what the question was. I have a tendency to only think of my answers clearly after the fact. I’ve heard this referred to as “the wit of the staircase”, which is a phrase I really like. It’s a literal translation of the French saying “esprit d’escalier”. I’m glad it’s an universal thing. Did I mention I love Wikipedia?

I think that’s why I like to write. Or, at least, it’s one of the reasons I like to write. In person, I am timid in a crowd, I don’t like to speak out. I tend to sit quietly, taking in everything, forming my opinions and brimming with ideas. Until I feel completely comfortable either in the situation, or with the people I’m with, I keep most of my thoughts and feelings to myself. But ask me to write and it’s a totally different scenario.

On paper, or in type, I have no problem speaking out and sharing whatever’s going on inside my head. I am (fairly) eloquent on paper, whereas I can be a bumbling mess in person. Written down, my thoughts make sense, I can see where they’re coming from and where they want to go next. If I have a big decision to make, I have to write about it in my journal until the answer shows itself. I like how writing something down makes it clearer, easier to understand.

The superpower I’ve always dreamed of having is the ability to stop Time. I’ve wanted to be able to do this for as long as I can remember. I still find myself saying it now: If only I could stop Time, I’d be able to x or y or z.... I think the Time-stopping ability would be so brilliant for me, because, if I was called on to say something, or to figure something out on the spot, I could simply click my fingers, stop Time, get my pen and paper out and scribble away until I had it all worked out perfectly.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

The Great Bourbon Cream Disaster of 2008

Paul came over. He brought a packet of Bourbon Creams. As a household, we are a little obsessed by Bourbon Creams. He was acting only in our best interests. It was a really nice thing to do. People so rarely bring gifts when visiting nowadays. Whether he brought the Bourbons as a means of being more quickly accepted as “one of us”, or whether he brought them purely out of a selfless urge to please is not up for debate. The reason behind the Bourbon gift is not important. Only the fact of the gift matters. He brought the Bourbons into our home for us to enjoy. What a lovely man.

But when it comes to Bourbon Creams, there is a definite hierarchy, with Asda’s basic Bourbons vying for first place with Morrisons own yellow-and-white packaged offerings, and all others falling elsewhere on the ladder of Bourbon Greatness. Right at the bottom, under tumble-dryer lint and dry cream crackers, come Londis Bourbons. They are not even proper Bourbons. They are from the school of “Custard Cream-shaped Bourbons”, which some biscuit-makers believe is acceptable. These biscuit-makers are wrong. The true Bourbon is a rectangular affair, not a squat, pudgy “pretend” rectangle. It was Bourbons of the Londis variety that Paul innocently brought into our house.

Even from a glimpse of the packaging, we could all tell what he had done. None of us wanted to make eye contact, all of us hoping he had just got a bit hungry on the journey over here, and had absent-mindedly picked up the closest packet of biscuits to hand and bought them to eat on his way home. Glances shot around the room, willing him not to say the words he said anyway: I know you all like Bourbons, so I brought you a packet!

At this, we had to smile and say Thank You. We forced ourselves to focus on the gesture, not the faux pas. You could hear a pin drop. As a vegan, I was excused from the obligatory eat-a-Bourbon-gratefully scenario that followed. They are one of only two brands of Bourbons I’ve found that manage to be not vegan. I was thankful of my vegan-ness. Everybody else had to chomp away “happily” on the gift Bourbons.

It was after a small bout of this chomping that Paul realised the Bourbons he had brought were, in fact, quite horrible. He was the first to say it, which was a great relief to everyone else. They pulled hankies from pockets and spat Bourbon mush into them almost immediately. And then we laughed. And Paul apologised. And we forgave him. And we all laughed some more.

And then we sang this song:

Paul came over.
Paul is a nice guy.
But he brought the wrong Bourbons.
And it made us cry.

Paul came over.
He was wearing a vest.
He didn’t mean to bring bad Bourbons.
He was trying his best.

(Nobody actually cried, and Paul wasn’t wearing a vest.)

Monday, 5 May 2008


I like staying up late to do writing. I love it when everyone else is fast asleep, and the house is mine to spill myself into. It’s almost four a.m. The birds have started to sing. I guess that means the sun is coming up soon. I think I’ll be in bed before it actually gets light, because my eyes are not working very well now. Tiredness is creeping in like a hungry monster.

I’ve just written a story, or what I think is a story. I can’t tell if it’s finished, but it feels finished. I’ll have a look at it in a few days and see if it makes any sense. Tomorrow is a Bank Holiday, which means I get an extra day off this week. I like days off. I always think I’ll be able to get lots of writing done, when in all actuality, I get most of my writing done on the nights before days off. Days off are generally spent doing busy things, or sleeping in late, or pottering. There is perhaps a bit too much pottering methinks. Tomorrow will most probably be a mix of bed and pottering. And I have to help make an origami frog into a dog that will pop out of a matchbox. That will be fun, I think. And then I’m sure there will be things happening at the interactive library, perhaps things that need documenting. Better get some kip now, tomorrow’s looking like a busy day.

Saturday, 3 May 2008


This is the thing I was excited about...


and then there is also this...

Sh Fanclub

and then this...

sh submissions: sh.librarynovel [at]

Friday, 2 May 2008


Something I've been really excited about is going to happen tomorrow. I am giddy just thinking about it. I had dreams about the thing last night, which was a bit strange, but also good, from an "ideas" point of view.

It is a secret right now, but by the time anyone reads this, it will no longer be one, and the thing will be out in the world. I can't wait.

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Me as a Fire Warden

Tomorrow, which is really today, I am going to let off fire extinguishers. I am excited by the prospect of this. I hope they make noises like klaxons when they are fired. I am trying to imagine how it is going to feel. I wonder if there will be a kick-back, if the force is going to be strong enough to knock me off my feet. I would like to think so, but I doubt it will be. I bet the noisiest they get is a “Whoosh!” And I bet that “Whoosh” doesn’t even warrant an exclamation mark. I hope I am wrong. I hope they honk and make a right mess. I hope my “training” is fun. Otherwise, I will be really annoyed that I volunteered myself for it on my day off.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Coffee Launch

This is what I've been spending my time on lately. In five hours it all kicks off. I am a bit nervous but also very excited. Last night was spent stamping the backs, and this morning I numbered the sixty-six that were in the bathroom because I needed a shower. The other thirty-four we can do in a bit. I am going to do some dancing beforehand to get my endorphins going. I think I will need a lot of endorphins. I will have vodka on stand-by, though.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Take-away Dave

This is the third instalment of the "Take-away" tale.

Take-away Dave

Dave lay in the darkness. He couldn’t get his legs to work, but he’d managed to drag himself away from the steps using his arms, in a different take on the “commando crawl”. He could feel a soft, damp dust on his skin. It was how he imagined the colour grey would feel. Every now and then, Dave flicked on the lighter to try to get an idea of where he was, and then he’d crawl in the direction that seemed most promising. He was wary of using up all the fluid. Lighters generally didn’t last too long, and he had no idea how long he would be down there.

He thought over his last hour of freedom. He had not used it wisely. He had used it up shutting out the words Jo was trying to get him to hear. He had closed his eyes to her and mouthed ShutupShutupShutupShutupShutup over and over again, until she’d screamed at him and pushed him out into the street. He’d walked around for a while, smiling to himself, before stopping in at work to see if he was needed that night. He’d delivered to two other houses before he got to this one. He wished he’d done this one first, and then maybe when their food didn’t show up, the other customers would’ve raised the alarm. The records would trace him to this house, and the police would come and rescue him. It’d been a good few hours now, though. Surely when he didn’t return with the money, they would have reported him missing?

He’d fallen on cardboard. If it had just been concrete then Dave knew he’d be in a lot worse shape. His legs had hit a stack of hundreds of tins of paint, though. Maybe not hundreds, but lots. They’d crashed down on him; metal, cylindrical and heavy. Most were full. Hence the non-working legs.

He illuminated the cellar again. He realised it was not one room, but a series of rooms, connected by doorless openings. From one he heard the whirr of meters, of numbers falling down on counters. Ahead of him he could see a corner that had been tiled white, floor to ceiling. And then he spotted the hooks.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Guest Post

Jenn Ashworth has written a sequel to "Disappearing Takeaway Man". Well, it's actually more of a prequel. It would seem she has cottoned on to my fibbing.


I lied to the police. That isn't something I ever considered doing before, but it was easier than I thought. I might have blushed, I might have stuttered - but it was 4.14 in the morning, I was wearing monkey pyjamas and it would have been strange if I hadn't.

This is what really happened:

When the man arrived at the door, I was feeling a little low. I was having what some of my friends call 'an episode'. Normally, when this happens I order take-away and sit up all night watching The Sound of Music. Sometimes I drink green tea with slices of lemon in from a mug with a map of the world on it. Sometimes I drink other things. What I am trying to say is that although the beverage may vary, the take-away must remain constant. There might even be chemicals in it that make me feel better. Who knows?

When he arrived I was already waiting behind the door. I heard his car, and opened it while he was taking it from the back-seat. He had a bright red insulated bag to keep the foil cartons in. I remember that, because I'd never seen it before and it was detail about a job I'd never done. I wanted to save it in my mind in case it ever came in useful for a story.

When I paid him he smiled at me and because it wasn't the usual man I smiled back and asked him if he'd remembered to bring the free prawn crackers. He laughed and said he would never forget. He said that free prawn crackers was a major selling point of the business and one of the many reasons why they were ahead of their competitors. He asked me if I liked them, and said he was thinking about changing his supplier.

I told him I didn't eat them, but set fire to them in the dark with a cigarette lighter because the flame glows blue.

Now if someone told you a little known fact about one of your own products, a product that you've just admitted is the mainstay, the core of your livelihood - you'd want to know, wouldn't you? You'd show some interest. You'd ask questions. You'd perhaps want to go into the house and try it out.

I don't know why he had to make such a fuss. The cellar, I said, is the darkest place in my house. Wait until you see them go. It's like slow fireworks. He was unconvinced. He was, to my mind, really quite rude. I was forced to, well, use force. I'm not proud of it. I stayed with him in the cellar for a little while, but it was cold and I wanted to watch the film so after not too long I left him on his own. I let him keep the lighter and the remains of the crackers. I made a little joke as I closed the door. I said, 'I'll be back soon to 'take you away' from all this.' I don't think he got it. I did all the laughing myself, turned up the sound on the television really high, and imagined the little blue lights flicking on and off in the dark under my feet.

I try never to be impulsive. It makes things complicated. I had to steal his car, drive it away, and park it somewhere secret. I got a taxi home. I sat in my bedroom. I messed my hair up and put on my pyjamas so I would look plausible when the police came.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Disappearing Takeaway Man

Today, I was woken at 4:15 am by incessant knocking at the door. My first thoughts were “G has another eBay delivery,” and I paused there, head slightly off the pillow, debating whether I would get up and answer the door, or whether I would lie back down and snooze on. As I was deciding this, I checked the time, which was not the expected 7 am, but was 4:15 am. No way was I getting up at 4:15 am. And then I heard smatterings of conversation, and what sounded like a police radio. I peeped out from the tiniest gap in the curtains and saw a car with the number 21 on its roof. It was indeed a police car. So I went downstairs in my stupid slippers that fall off if I try to descend too quickly, and I opened the door. The police. They were at the door. I was confused. I wondered if I’d inadvertently committed any crimes.

“Hello?” I said.

“Hello,” said the policewoman. “Have you had any Chinese food delivered tonight?”

This struck me as a weird question to be asking someone in monkey pyjamas at 4:17 am.

“Yes.(?)” I wondered how she knew. I couldn’t figure out where this was going.

“Did you know the delivery person?”

“Err...not personally, but we have ordered from there before.”

“Right. Okay, then.”


“He hasn’t returned, and you were the last people to see him.”


“Sorry to have woken you. Thanks for your time.”

I hope he just got tired and went home. I hope he’s okay. I’ve been thinking about it all day. There’s nothing in the local paper about a disappearance or a kidnapping or anything, so hopefully all is well now. I want to ring the takeaway and ask, but I think it might be a bit inappropriate. I think it’s best if I just try to forget all about it.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Ten. Handstand Competition

We are having a handstand competition. Our hands always seem to be leading the way, in everything we do, lately. I don’t think it is like this with other people. I don’t remember it being like this with anyone else I know, anyway.

We are hand-standing against the hill. When I was younger, I used to be able to kick my legs right over and plant my feet against the grass, and then kick them back again, up into the air. Now I’m not so brave, or bendy. Nowadays, I can hold my own against gravity for between ten and twenty seconds, never much more. Ivan can’t handstand for shit, though. The longest he’s managed to stay up is seven seconds. I am winning gloriously.

From upside-down, the world looks so much bigger. The sky becomes the ground, spotted here and there with the cotton of cumulus, and in turn the ground becomes the sky, stretching out forever in greens and browns and greys. Things don’t make any more or less sense, though. Even with all that extra blood rushing to my head, I’m still confused as hell about what is going on between us. It seems I’ve gone from a carefully executed nonchalance to being this animated bundle of anxiety and wishings. And I’m not quite sure when and how it happened. And I don’t know how Ivan feels in all of this. Part of me wishes I could get back to the time when I didn’t care.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Internet Death Panic

When the internet dies, you go into a blind panic. You start shouting at people, hoping it is something they’ve done and so can also fix. You urge them to fix it, and quickly. You are waiting for an important email. Actually, you’re not at all. You were just about to take your turn in Scrabulous, and you were also sending out invites to something, and you’d even taken the time to go down your friend list and only check the boxes of people who you know might be interested AND available, rather than spamming everyone. You understand that someone living in Minneapolis will not be able to just hop on a plane, no matter how good a friend they are. This goes for London, too. Spam annoys you. You cannot understand why some people don’t have the courtesy to think about what they’re really putting out there. You are mindful of this, and always endeavor to be considerate. So, you were in the middle of all this when the page was not found. Internet death. You unplug the modem. You wait, then you plug it back in. After thirty seconds you click on the Firefox logo. Nothing. Again. Nothing. Unplug the modem again, for a bit longer. Still nothing. The internet is dead. There is nothing anyone can do. It is not just your network, it is the provider. Your friend across town has just phoned to confirm this. What to do now? The invites haven’t gone out. It’s not a problem. You think about them, hovering somewhere in cyberspace, all those zeros and ones lost forever. You probably won’t bother sending them out again. If people want to go, they will go. And then somewhere just at the end of the panic, there is a new feeling. It is freedom. You feel like you’ve been given an evening to do things with. You spend the next few hours writing, and then you watch a film. The film is beautiful, and it inspires you to write well into the early hours of the following day. There are birds singing when you finally decide it is time to get some sleep. You dream of connections lost and found, and of people all across the world spilling thoughts and ideas that can be seen and referenced and imprinted in memory, kept safe in the hearts of strangers and friends.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Speaking Is Sometimes Scary

When it all gets out of control, you will sit in the dark on the sofa in the too-big bathroom, and you will wonder how it happened. You will retrace your steps, visualize the footprints retreating into the past, backing away from where you are now. You know it’s not a bad place. You know others would kill for this. But you can’t help but feel it’s snuck up on you somehow, that you’ve been caught in an ambush and you can’t even remember there being any cover from which to ambush you from.

Breathing helps. Deep breaths. You try to imagine the worst thing that could happen. This makes you feel better. You are pretty sure the likelihood of all your clothes disappearing from your body is fairly slim. But there is still the threat of silence. The havoc your voice can wreak on this whole thing is massive. Without even doing anything. All your voice has to do is nothing, and it will be a disaster. It’s this disaster that scares you the most.

You will be kind to your voice for the next few weeks. You will let it say what it wants, whenever it wants. If it wants to sing in the shower, it can. It doesn’t matter that your housemates are waiting at the door, sleepy-eyed, bathrobed. And when you walk past them, hair dripping, you will just shrug at their raised eyebrows; your voice will not explain a thing. And on the bus, your voice will mumble at the window, it will replay conversations, inserting words that should’ve been said at the time. You will pretend you don’t notice the stares of the other passengers. You will not bite your tongue.

After a while, this incessant speaking will be second nature to you. You will strike up conversations in the unlikeliest of places: in public toilets, at the chemist, in the “feminine hygiene” aisles of supermarkets. You won’t be able to help yourself. Words will be dripping from your mouth without thought, without relent. And then, when finally it’s your turn to stand under the spotlights, it will be a relief to be there solely for the purpose of speaking. It will feel like it’s the one thing you were born to do. And every atom of you will be pure joy.

Monday, 31 March 2008

Nine. Black Hole

He wants to go up onto the motorway bridge and take photos. He has convinced me this will be a good way to kill a few hours. I watch the cars go by underneath us. He sets up the camera for a long exposure. He is only trying to capture the light. When he shows me the first of his pictures, there is a road in the dark and there are lines of red and white lights where the cars have been. I understand. He presses the button and the shutter opens and stays open. Everything has to be still for a long time. He smiles at me as the light is going into the camera. We can see the cars, but the camera is telling lies. The camera doesn’t see the cars, the shape of them. I like the pictures he makes. I like seeing where the cars are going to, coming from. I like that the cars are invisible. He tells me I can be invisible, too, if I want to be. He tells me that all I have to do is move very fast, and hold a light of some kind, like a torch or a flash or a lighter. It is that easy.

I want to be invisible. I want him to take a photograph of me and me not be in it. I want to be captured like that, and know that it is all lies. In the photograph, I will be smiling, but only I will know that. All there will be is a shape that I will draw with his lighter. I will feel like I am the darkness where a star used to be. I will feel like a black hole.

An hour passed in a second

So last night the clocks went forward. We had a Time Travel Opps meeting, and holed ourselves up in Biff’s room at the top of the house, waited for 1:59 am. In the hours that preceded that particular time, we managed to get the final edit of Coffee done, practised reading our stories out loud for the forthcoming launch, read each other’s new stories, wrote a silly paragraph-each-then-pass-it-on story, drank lots of coffee, and wine, ate crisps and houmous, and listened to Tom Waits.

When the time came around, when the clocks hit 1:59 am, we started to write. From 1:59 am, the time skipped forward to 3 am. An hour passed in a second. And we got to leap through time. We wrote through this leap. We wrote messages to be recovered in Autumn, when this hour that we loaned to Summer is returned.

I know nothing really happens. Nothing vanishes or reappears. But it feels like it does, and it’s nice to imagine that an hour is popped in the post to be delivered back when the nights are getting darker. I really love thinking about things like this.

Friday, 21 March 2008

If i popped up in the seventies i would wear a bandana that read Peace 'n' Love

I want to curl up into a ball so that I am so small I am invisible to the human eye. I want to disappear completely, and pop up in another place and time, and be a new person, with new ideas about how things are. As this new person, I will march through streets with purpose, I will stop and sit on benches and say Hello to other people. I will be brave and outgoing and never feel nervous about anything.

I will wear a bandana that reads Peace ‘n’ Love. It will tie at the back of my head in a knot, and the ends will dangle down my back like two fishes, and they will dance together and seem as though they are trying to swim away, but they will never really go anywhere. Except where I go. Even on the days when I forget I am wearing a bandana and get into the shower with it on, they will dance under the warm water until it runs cold, and they will pretend they are salmon, or trout, and try leaping upstream, but they still won’t really go anywhere. And I will spend the day with my back damp but it will be hot outside, it will be summer, and so having a damp back will be quite a pleasant experience. So I might even purposefully wear my bandana the next time I take a shower. I might never take it off again.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Hospital is not a good place to spend Wednesday

When you think you are going to die it is a funny feeling. Not funny “ha ha”. When you think you are going to die, you are not really thinking at all. It is more of a shiver, a chattering of teeth. You forget who you are. They could ask you your name and you wouldn’t be able to answer. They could say a name, any name, and you would nod, and accept it, and think that it was yours.

And when you think you are going to die your body no longer matters. The gown could be undone, it could be on the floor, and parts of your body could be bare under the lights, the fur of you poised, like an animal, and you don’t have any thoughts about it. It just is.

The pain is the only thing. The pain swells and grows and makes you it’s bitch. It tells you how it is, how it’s going to be from now on. And by then, you can’t even nod that you know, you can’t even accept it. There’s nothing real of you left. You’re not even a whimper.

Even when the drugs kick in, the pain still hovers up close, breathing hot on your face, letting you know it’s not really gone, that it will be around for a while yet. It kicks back in the chair with it’s boots on the bed, reads the paper, winks at you.

You think you’ve managed to lose it in the corridors, and you get in the car and yell Drive! Drive! But you get home and it is like in that film where Juliette Lewis sucks Robert De Niro’s thumb: The pain has held on to the underneath of the car and travelled with you all the way. And now it’s letting itself in with your spare key. It is breathing heavy at the bottom of the stairs.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Eight. Bed

He puts on a record and cranks the volume. I dive across and turn it down, worried about my sleeping housemates. I am wearing my striped pyjamas. I am ready for bed. I don’t know what’s really happening here, or if anything is happening at all. We are not drunk enough to not care.

He sits on the edge of the bed. He sings the lyrics almost under his breath.

I’m afraid of the dark without you close to me.

I listen to the guitars and to his quiet words. I climb under the quilt, warm and sleepy. He is welcome to stay. He knows this. All he has to do is crawl under the covers and lie down in the space next to me.

We should be whispering all the time.

He shrugs his jeans to the floor and leans back on the bed, still humming. After a time, he wriggles like a caterpillar to cocoon himself under the covers. When his head gets to the pillow he turns to face me. I suddenly feel nervous. I feel unprepared. I’d thought I’d be able to just go to sleep, but my heart is beating too fast. I try to slow my breathing, take deep breaths, all the while acting like I’m cucumber-cool.

We lie there quietly. The words seem to be everywhere around us except in our mouths. I listen for clues in the guitar parts. I try to close my eyes, but there are things that need to be said.

I want to say “This is nice.” And “Being with you like this makes me happy.” And “I am feeling quite hopeful about the future of us.” But none of those things come out of my mouth. It just opens and closes again, and I have to make it into a sort of yawn instead.

Ivan chews his lip, and then he opens his mouth in a way that makes me think he is going to say something really important, but he just says “What a good night,” and lies his head back down on the pillow. I “Mmm” my agreement and we both stare up at the ceiling. The space between us fills up with electricity and creates a point beyond which neither of us can cross. This space crackles away long after the lights have gone out.