Sunday, October 16, 2011

A whinge, and I go out on a limb and come clean. Will it end in tears?

Not written here for a week or two because quite simply I have nothing to write about and I don't feel in the mood for waffling or bullshitting (not even for fun). I thoroughly enjoyed my break with Mark in France and, as usual, was just getting into the swing of it when we had to come home again. And what then? Before my holiday, I was looking forward to it, but now there ain't really much on the horizon which is exciting me. About the only thing is that by Christmas I shall, for the first time I shall be out of debt. I shan't owe anyone a penny. I was once in that position a few years ago when, for one or two reasons I shan't go into here, my stepmother sold the shares she inherited from my father and gave all of use four stepchildren a sum of money. I shan't say how much, as I feel embarrassed that I more or less frittered it all away. But how exciting is 'looking forward to not owing anyone a penny'? Not a great deal, really.

I am sitting outside a pub near Mark's on this Sunday night enjoying a pint or two of cider and a cigar or two. I can connect to the net courtesy of the pub (The Atlas in Fulham, which begins just a few hundred yards from Mark's flat in Kensington and Chelsea) and have been trying to download a pdf manual for a piece of music creation software (a lite version) which came with a midi keyboard I bought earlier today at Maplin's. Trouble is that for some reason I can't download the manual. I have also been eavesdropping on some dickhead or other who is so full of it that it makes me laugh.

I shall tell you what I have gathered so far: he must be in his mid to late 20s, is married to someone he refers to as Masser, which probably means her name is Mary or Maria, sounds as though he went to public school, is sitting with a friend but, as my father used to say (about me, if you have to know) permanently on transmission. His friend isn't really getting a word in edgeways. He is a qualified accountant and 'financial analyst', hopes in the future to start his own firm, once lived in Newcastle and has more opinions than you can shake a stick at. He and his wife are going to get the builders in to extend their house, he lives next to a woman whose house was once a council house, which means his probably was, too. He thinks Britain should cancel all foreign aid, cut taxes drastically, cancel national insurance for firms, feels democracy in Britain is a sham ('we're no more democratic than China'), wonders why 'stupid people' also have the vote and is generally a pain in the butt. At some point in the future he wants to live and work in Ireland ('when all this nonsense is over') and his friend works there now. His friend wonders whether or not he should move back to London: out in Ireland he is one of a few in his firm's branch, back here in London he will only be one of many. He has spent the past ten minutes outlining why almost all the civil service are useless and should be sacked.

. . .

What else? Nothing, really. Not feeling fed up or anything, but I'm wondering what there is to look forward to.
OK, so I'll come clean. I have in my head a novel I want to write. I have the mood, the 'attack', the style, the setting but I don't have a fucking story. Nothing. One central character is Simon Smugg and his wife Sian, who are childless as yet. You will gather their personalities from their surname. He works in a juniorexecutive position for a newspaper. The newspaper is where I want to have my fun. There is one angle I want to use, but I don't want to use it quite yet. (Pain in the arse: 'We should never have bailed out the banks.') It will consist more of dialogue than description (a trick - I shan't call it a technique because that would be too high falutin') I shall crib from Armistead Maupin. It worked for him, so why shouldn't it work for me. I gather some would-be writers simply take off and see where they are taken, but there are great dangers doing that, and I want to have some kind of basic structure on which to build and to keep it all in shape. Hence the need for a 'story'.

I'm afraid that as it deals with newspaper people, it won't have many attractive characters, although I dare not take the risk of making everyone a bastard (the technical word is 'a cunt') because that will - actually, I'd better play safe and say 'would' - put people off. ('Would' rather than 'will' because if you didn't know it you'll find out now, there must be a million and one would-be writers out there of whom something like one-thousandths actually finish 'my novel', and of those less than one-thousandth find a publisher and of those novels less than one per cent is any good. And of those that are published - not necessarily the good ones - about one in a million is read and makes any money. (BTW I subscribe to the unfashionable view that payment is the sincerest form of flattery and a writer who doesn't write for money is wasting his or her time. So, in the the grandest way possible I am setting myself up for pissing in the wind big time.
. . .

There is also another piece I want to write which, oddly, as far as the thinking is concerned, is further down the line in that I do have a four well-defined characters (in my head), a story and - hey - a 'theme'. But that is a little more 'serious' in that I want to do it well and don't want to go off half-cock. A teaser: central to it is the following limerick:

An ambitious young poet named Hinds,
wrote limericks with the usual five lines.
Then a change in the law,
made the maximum four.

It's not by me but by a former flatmate and fellow hack I used to keep up with every so often. Haven't been in touch for years. He last worked for the Daily Mirror, which is called The Mirror now, I think.

The point about that particular limerick is that, strictly, it isn't a limerick: it doesn't have the accepted form of a limerick - only four lines. Yet because of its content - read it again - I am prepared to argue that it is a limerick, though a very unusual one. And from that I have drawn my theme: 'description' and 'prescription'. When does 'description' evolve into 'prescription'? Or how does 'what we do' evolve into 'what we should do'? The problem I face with my 'story' is how to mesh together that train of thought and illuminate it with the 'story' I have thought up? Answer: I still don't know. And that is why I want to leave it on the back-burner until I do know and can do it as best I can.


  1. Kev says: 4-line limericks can be clerihews, as in: Did Descartes
    With the thought
    "Therefore I'm not"?

  2. I must admit I don't know what a clerihew is, except that years ago the Sunday Times used to print one and I thought them uninteresting, unfunny, pointless and coming from the corner of Englishness which has always pissed me off.
    The point about the four lines of verse I offer is that it could well be a limerick, although a unique and extraordinary limerick, becasue of what its four lines say. On the other hand as it doesn't follow the rigid rules which prescribe a limericak, it could most certainly be argued that it isn't a limerick. One for the bores.