Writer as cartographer

In which the author compares himself to a cartographer, a small hairy mammal, and talks about towels.

My long fiction is largely centred around Tom, and the universes he creates for himself. This opens up lots of useful metaphors, and occasionally, expectations in the reader. Although as the criticism I most frequently receive is ‘what the fuck?’ (except my readers are usually a smidgeon more polite) I guess these are very dark universes. Ridden with black holes of plot. And humour.

Whatever, they need more light to show the way. A chart perhaps. Some light orienteering is permissible, but guided tours are preferable.

And speaking of Guides, I guess, at some very low wattage somewhere in the basement of my mind is the idea that I’m trying to write the anti-Hitchhiker. No benevolent omniscient narrator. No philosophy. Just confused, selfish narcissism. Less ‘where is my towel’ and more ‘who’s responsible for manufacturing towels around here anyway?’.

Oh dear. That sounds dreadful. I must have swallowed an undergraduate piece of toast this morning. I’d probably have written an essay with that title once (the towel manufacture bit, not the undergraduate toast…). I seem to remember handing in a prose poem as an essay once. Serves ’em right say I, for killing all the elephants of certainty. Give me a blunderbuss and we proles will fire holes in your ivory towers.

Or some such nonsense. I’d have a stern word with my younger self now.

Anyway. Today’s idle musing was brought to you (a) by tiredness – I wrote a lot yesterday, and I am much more nervous about the result than usual. I kept finding editorial continuity errors. Or imagining things or phrases that the reader might find odd if omitted. I even had one of those dreadful sequences when you find you are about to type out the exchange between two people saying goodnight to each other.

The problem I find, is that I imagine my scene as a film – and yet I only have the one voice to tell the story. As the action is told only from one point of view I have to manoeuvre other players around the ‘stage’ in what feels like quite a clumsy fashion.  I guess that’s why it’s called a craft. Practise the practice.

So I’ve been thinking about the amount of hand-holding I do in the book.

And lo… (b) a train of thoughts instigated by an interesting tweet from @jscarroll (Jonathan Carroll)- the God of interesting things on twitter. Seriously. He’s my (and countless others’) personal curator of the curious. Or ticket-inspector of oddness, I suppose, if this is really a train. Ahem. The quote:

Writing allows you to draw a map of your world for others to follow if they are interested.

Which is so true.  And it chimes with something Neil Gaiman says a lot (on his journal, I have yet to meet the bird’s nest in question) about why he writes.

I write to find out what happens next.

Of course the logical problem with combining the two sentences is that you end up with someone who doesn’t know where they’re going leading a bunch of people in blindfolds and hoping the lot of them don’t fall off a cliff.  Or wander around in ever decreasing circles looking for a checkpoint that doesn’t exist (one for the orienteers there).

So having started this post with grandiose ideas of author as swashbuckling pioneer, one foot firmly on the stern of the good ship adventure, I find that I am really a hopeless creature, frantically running from one checkpoint to another and hoping that I can see the next one from where I am. Like a really bad episode of Scooby Doo. Without the dog biscuits.

Or to put it another way, your hapless author is in fact, a mole, simply pushing dirt out of the way in the hope of finding either wormvana, the mythical land of vermicelli feasts and celestial mole virgins, or the sky. And hoping that neither is poisoned, or about to be clouded by a farmer/gardener’s shovel.

And all the while, being worried about being sued for the wrongful manufacture, use or distribution of towels, or items fashioned to be towels but in fact simply pages from a still-to-be-completed novel.

Fear and paranoia are not good map-makers.

Dreaming of an end

I had a dream where I pitched my novel as a series of author-based equations. Which I don’t think is the done thing, dear boy.

I had the most ludicrous thought yesterday.  Yes, even more ludicrous than the time I pointed at my Accountz application window and said, ‘yes, and all these…(points finger up and down screen) are my accounts’ to my ex-accountant wife, having allowed her once-in-a-lifetime driving seat of the main Mac-status.  Not so much sinking out of my depth, as existing in some kind of flubberverse where mere drowning in your own ignorance is not good enough, one must become one with it.  Must be hard for her to keep up sometimes.

Anyhoo. Ludicrosity. Or ludicrousness.  As I brushed my teeth last night (something I find much easier than doing accounts, although the time commitment involved is similar) I reflected on my writing achievements for the day. Nonsense blogged in various places, emails sent, a slightly panicky and forlorn author (think Eeyore on a very British speed – tea) buckled down to work at about 3:30 and eventually tallied 1,952 words. Of course, if I didn’t have to spend time whittling notches in little sticks as I wrote, I’d probably get more done.  Anyway, I’d easily surpassed 4,000 words for the day, in all.  And I’m brushing my teeth thinking ‘Four thousand a day, five days a week – I could be finished in two weeks’.

Finished in two weeks? Reader, I nearly read the instructions instead of the How To. It’s nice to dream, isn’t it? And yet it doesn’t feel that implausible. Or Im Plausible, if I’m following yesterday’s theme – although I should have referred to ‘the wife’ as Er Indoors. Which must be confusing for German cockneys. Gockneys? I digress.

So I dreamt about finishing. And about the mythical query letter – the next monster on the horizon. Funny that, almost all the fear of writing creatively has now gone.  The fear has moved on to the commercial aspects. My lack of thousands, nay, billions of friends all demanding I be published. Immediately! Damn it! Odd twitter follower patterns and well, singular lack of non-client related internet presence to show for my ‘efforts’ at behaving normally (ie my oh so stellar career). And that’s before we get to the subject matter. No obvious readership! One of the main characters is made of plastic and never speaks, another appears first as a leopard and then spends the rest of the novel transmogrifying from one bad pun to another, AND the narrator spends half the time talking to himself in italics. Mentalist! I mean, he tries to be funny and learn things along the journey in a clumsy, albeit affectionate way – covering himself in bittersweet sauce lessons. But still…

So, I worry about the pitch. I have already prepared a formal pitch document, in Scrivener, that I torment myself with every now and again. I mean, why leave worrying about until the novel’s finished when you can waste endless hours worrying about it now?  Excellent displacement activities young Jedi.

And yet what I really want to say is that it’s a mixtape. Or a sum of some sort:

Tom’s Universe: Monk Quixote = Cervantes x Douglas Adams + Nick Hornby – sidekicks / relative talent variances. Where N is a number of increasing improbability and Y is the number of pints it would take to explain this.  I mean, I can’t really pitch a book to an agent as ‘Amelie for boys, with added drinking and swearing’?

And that got me on to Tom’s Universe II: Paranoise Alley = Kafka x JM Barrie + William Gibson.  Which is approximately 2/3 Michael Marshall Smith.  I have yet to understand what the remaining 1/3 is. But it’s probably where the cats live.

Which makes Tom’s Universe III: The Circus = Roald Dahl x Steinbeck. I’m less clear on this one. But it involves Dorset, motorcycles, feral children and strange women in bandanas. Which reminds me, I must read some more Russell Hoban.

Although whether to mention the other two universes is a point in itself. Sigh.  Does one mention to agents that there is more of this crap, in the hope they liked the first bit of crap? Or does one simply stick with the crap one’s got? Creativity poker.

Anyway. The point is, I’m excited. Although I’ve just read back my descriptions to myself and I feel like I’m just trying to have Terry Gilliam’s career, but in words, not pictures. Although he’s already had his. And I am but a flea on the pimple of something or other.  Not a bad thing. That sort of career. But prone to mishaps. Perhaps my first edition could be en route from printing in China and get kidnapped by Somali pirates. The ransom demanded is the inclusion of the bandit leader’s second wife as a main character. And then they want to finance a film of the book. And there’d be guns. And beards. And narwhals. Probably.

Anyway. Distracting myself into the day. Nice to dream though.

My name is Im Probable Nonsense. You killed my vanity. Prepare to die.

Sigh.

I think, on reflection, that I should simply cut out the middle man and change my name to Nonsense. Or possibly Non Sense.  Not my middle name, obviously, as that would be too obvious. Plus the middle man would think he’d still got me somehow, and come after his 15%. Which in this case, pleasingly would be ‘No’. After rounding.  And there is no rounder figure than zero.

Equally obviously, I could not change my Christian name – wouldn’t want to be done for pundanamealism.  Plus it would be giving in to extremists. That which is not in the middle, by definition, must be extreme. And is there any further extreme than the senses?  So simply denying one sense, or implying there is only one, true, non-sense, then I would be putting myself up for some impromptu beheading action.

We could name our children Im Promptu and Im Plausible. Assuming they were boys. Or Vanity and Verity, should they be therefore, of the flowerier gender.

Our pets would be Project Execution Plan (dog) and Mass Digression (cat). We’d also keep a swarm of pygymy (word of the day) butterflies in a bell jar. I’d train them to use their wingbeats to create soundwaves that when attuned through the correct ear trumpet would transceive as the rules of Monopoly.

As I typed this post a hollow bell sounded in my ear. Most odd. Perhaps caused by the noisy plane flying off course overhead. Off course because the magnetised pygymy ions from my Nonsense has travelled upwards in an Unlikelihood Vortex and tickled the First Officer’s moustache. (Back to Movember, I see).

Let’s hope no airliners on their way to Peru go astray over Western London. As I wouldn’t want to explain what had happened to a Pig (these feature in novel #2).

Reader, it’s going to be a long day. Let’s stop this nonsense and see what dragons/blaggards/name changing dullards I can slay today. At once. (Aside: why must all nonsense be stopped ‘at once’ – why can’t it simply be talked down from the ceiling like any old thought plane?  Or herded tenderly, like a flock of sillies?  All very anti-nonsense, it would seem.  Especially the Victorians. And Thatcher.)

A.Ny. Way. The novel’s that way ==> (not you, dear reader. Pour moi. Amuse yourself among the increasingly accurate category cloud girdle-busters)

National Navel Gazing Month

As the Great Eric once said, when the cats follow the sardine tin, it is because they wish to perform on the Miaow Factor.

Ahh… November. The time for splurging words on keyboards and growing moustaches. Two activities I can start, but have yet to accomplish (in the latter category I can grow some very fine individual hairs, but persuading them to huddle up in some form of hair-buddy bonding ritual appears beyond me.  Tant pis.).

So instead, I am proposing new time-based challenges for things that I am good at, and perhaps you are too.  Navel-gazing. Sighing. Forgetting the plots to CSI episodes before the Five announcer has asked her ‘where you watching closely’ question. (Actually, that’s a lie – I sometimes forget the plot during the Kia Soul adverts. Ok, ok, that too is a lie. I forget to watch the episode and then simply make up the plot.  And then wonder why there’s so much talcum powder on the floor in my house.  And why there’s a decaying pig swaddled in blankets in the garden. I digress. )

What else?  Tut-tuesday, where one ‘tuts’ a lot. ‘Pretending to watch a lot of BBC 4, but only ever actually tuning in for Wallander.’ ‘Losing the enthusiasm for running the day after entering lots of expensive races.’ Ooh! Cheese-nibbling. I do like a nibble on some hard cheese. I’m also a chocolate block nibbler.  But not a cheese block nibbler. And when I say hard cheese (old bean) I don’t mean fromage de ma tante.

Silly. It’s posts like this that give my neurons a bad name. I’m simply warming my fingers and tangents up (speaking of which, I wonder what a tangent looks like – is it like an appendix, or more like a little toe?). In the novel Tom is currently a little giggly and stoned and he is about to be told some serious shit (man). So I need to get myself into the right frame of mind. Which, despite all appearances to the contrary, dear reader, I’m finding quite hard.

Perhaps this is due to the first chill of autumn. The sky is a Wedgewood-blue, and I keep making elementary typing mistakes. The two could be related, although to keep this up I would have to know more than one porcelain maker. Denby! Ha! Fooled ya. I suppose Poole doesn’t count.  Anyway, my feet are cold and I’m fidgeting. And transposing letters and typing too many rrrrs.

I have taken to writing in the kitchen, as it’s light and I can keep an eye on my nemesis, Mr Nuts. He pays me frequent visits.  And displays a full gamut of rodent-inspired bastardry.  I like ‘bastardry’. It’s my new favourite made-up word.  I can also watch in mild amusement as the local CSI-episode cats (it’s taken me two years to realise that my neighbour has twin cats, so cunningly had they played their ‘never be seen in public at the same time’ routine.  Hmm. Or is it perhaps more likely that the sun refracted off the glass and made two images.  Or I just hallucinated it having inhaled some peyote dust that had brushed off a passing grey heron when it collided with a pygmy mosqueetle, the most unlikely insect in the universe, that only grows in tartan picnic blankets wrapped around dead pigs.  Or I simply  transferred my hostility towards Mr Nuts towards Fat Kitty and in the resulting time-space stargate banjax I created his alter-matrix cat, Dopey) edge their way along the garden wall and hop past bushy/tree obstructions with all the grace and charm of a tub of lard. Not good feline spokescats. They would be voted off the Miaow-Factor, pronto.

Speaking of being voted off, I can hear the distant bing of disapproval. Or is it a microwave? Anyhoo, mes chums and chummettes. I approach halfway to final wordcount of the novel and I must depart for more difficult mental pastures, where the grass is smoked, not green, and secrets not told for forty years are about to be revealed.

Ritting routine

On feeling almost a writer. Or at least being someone with a writing routine. A ritting routine.

I am almost a writer, I feel. In that I feel a little more like a writer than yesterday, last week, last month. Although, never having been one before, I am not entirely sure what it should feel like. I mean, by the same definition,  I also feel more like a bear, because I am looking for excuses to hibernate, punctuated by adventures in marmalade and/or honey. Plus I have very little brain. Trust me. I’ve forgotten if I had any toast this morning.

Better have some more to make sure.

And this feeling writerly / ritterly is on top of imagining my writing skills as some form of dog, inspired by a cow. It gets quite noisy, and messy, in my head sometimes. Lots of paws for thought. I said, ‘lots of paws for thought’. Oh all right, suit yourselves.

Yes, it’s animal month in the Ivan imagination. In the novel so far we have monkeys, seagulls, crows, pigeons and a rabbit. And, obviously, the first law being write about what you know, it’s drinks year. Those already named include whisky, port, Guinness, rum and vodka.  Perhaps I should abandon all attempts at fiction and simply produce lists of things. I’d need a hook, though. Some variation of ‘The most crap top-tens for un-adventurous boys in 2010 ever’. Yes, that will get me published.

Although now that I think about it – yes, dear reader, the poor sod writing this actually thinks like this – I should name some of the drinks that Tom erm, drinks, after animals.  Which would normally be the perfect excuse to lose myself in the intertron for a couple of hours researching animal-themed names for drinks that have some loose connection with children’s stories. (Feel free to comment if any spring to mind).

But I digress. Of course. This is half the point of my writing. To wander around. Turn the corner. Open cupboards. See what’s inside.

Of course there are different definitions of ‘writer’.  To a degree, I get paid for putting one word in front of another. It’s just that they’re not necessarily English, and they tend to have more logic and structure than my fiction. They’re also, mercifully, shorter.

I have yet to meet another definition of ‘writer’ – that of being referred to as ‘a writer’. My greatest envy/pleasure at the moment, is that my friend-through-marriage As is referred to as a film-maker.  All the prizes he’s won don’t help (the envy) but it’s the plain old simple introduction that I’m most jealous of. ‘He makes films’. One day – one day I’ll be referred to as ‘he writes books’. Until then, it’s plain old ‘puts some funny stuff in email / on his blog / gibber jabbers like a crazy fool’. Sigh.  That’s a long old Native American name.

But in the sense that I’m ‘working at writing’ – that I now write most days, in volume and vaguely to a plan. Well, yes. I am a writer. I need a few hundred words to warm up – hence this post about nothing, but I do feel a bit more of a writer than I used to. And that’s mainly down to routine. To work. And a little discipline. I take the knocks a little easier now. I don’t let myself by side-tracked so much. I don’t spend hours lost in researching the name of a pub or person who only appears in bookspace for two paragraphs.

I can’t remember if I’ve blogged this before, but Doctorow has a good tip – if you are in the flow of something and you need to look up a reference, simply star it (or in my case I type *elephant*, as I’m pretty sure I won’t write about elephants.  I mean, I’m not saying never, a gig’s a gig, but for the most part, my animals are domestic.  Hmm, except I’ve just realised the first time you meet the main character he’s dressed as a leopard.  But that’s just Tom. You get used to him. It’s the kind of thing he does.)  Anyway – *elephants* – means you can keep writing the rest of the sentence / story without breaking off to lose yourself in the wikifacetwitverse looking up trivial details.
And it works. Except when you send a scene off for sense-checking proofing and realise that the priest* (I was unsure as to whether priests can/do officiate/speak/wander around in that English vicar tradition at civil crematoriums) is still referred to as an elephant.  Of course, it says something about these readers’ tolerance of my writing that it did not strike them as odd that the person conducting the service was an elephant.
*Actually, I haven’t formally established this yet either.  But seeing as this happens about half way through the novel, and I want to finish the bloody thing first, it will just have to wait. So a priest in an elephant mask it is.
I suppose I should be proud of this. Get a badge made: ‘Can write pachyderms into main story arc without confusing reader’. Bit of a mouthful for a badge. Perhaps a certificate? I could frame it next to the one that says ‘Ivan has developed a writing routine that seems to work and he’s now over 30,000 words into the novel.’
So there you have it – my writing routine. Dreaming up prizes for myself while anthropomorphising well-loved animals (and cows), observing my tea get cold like a lost tourist in this strangely disorganised place.  And letting my four typing fingers dance around a bit and hope they will magically co-operate and produce something coherent, as rendered by dots on a screen. My other fingers get jealous, and try to trip them up every now and again. Which is why you hear ‘click click click’ so often if you hear me type – it’s the backspace key.  The music of error – the music of chance.
Right. To writing. Now that the brain is functioning (ha!), the *elephants* are back in the cupboard and I’m used to the clacking sound on the keys, it’s time to fire up the mighty Mogwai and make Tom have an awkward conversation with a man about a piano, quadratic equations and old copies of the Racing Post.
And perhaps it’s time to write some mogwais into the story too.  They can join the mcguffins.

The return of the cow(s)

Most writers’ muses are ladies, or cats, or lady cats. Occasionally, very occasionally, they are cat-ladies. But I feel my own muse is an over-friendly cow, breath steaming and nostrils foaming. Its eyes are wild, and it has a purple sticker on its flank. And like all good city boys, I haven’t a clue if it is male or female.

I have returned from deepest, darkest, Devon. No, not the metaphorical Devon of the mind – all rugged tufts of thought and sanity-rescue landrovers.  The Devon of an Arvon writing retreat.  Think thatch, intermittent showers and people waxing lyrical about the earlier works of Graham Greene. The sounds you can hear are the gentle benevolence of poets, and the frantic herding of cat-like egos, anxious and well, more anxious, fuelled by tea, cheese and red wine.

And the bellowing of cows confused by the changing of the clocks.  Well, I say clocks. Whisper it quietly but I think some rocks could give cows a run for their money on an IQ test.

I have eaten my own bodyweight in Nutella, hopefully made new friends, conversed with a winner of the Orwell Prize (I’m convinced that you don’t talk with people who’ve won big awards. One converses. Darling. Actually, this is entirely unfair, as she was one of the nicest, most humble, sensible people I’ve met).  There have been wild thoughts, and messages sent through the ether – through time and space. Many of which appear to have ended up written in shaky biro or felt tip pen in the drawer in the desk in my room.

I’ve shared secrets and madnesses, and told complete strangers the most unbelievable things. Except they were all true. Well, except the lies. A bit of heroic lamplight never hurt a good telling.

I’ve listened, and nodded, and read aloud. Prodded and probed. Been skewered – ‘I lost interest’ is possibly the most disheartening thing an individual can ever say to another.  But I found new strengths. And revenge is best served in lines on a page. And there has been a lot of that. My shit list has lost a few names these past few days. Shame, by definition, they will never read the lines and recognise themselves. But still, the fun is had, regardless.

Catharsis. Only bettered by love. I’ve been excited by monologues and disgusted by chicken parts. I have written – every day, and in reasonable amounts. I feel I have grown from a writing puppy, keen, eager and needing to be toilet trained, to a more…controllable sort of writing dog. My paws are dirty, but my snout is clean. I still chase after cars. But they deserve it, for the most part. For being shiny and noisy and smelly and fast.

I steer clear of the cows. They stare. They know. I am sorry that I eat you, big, clumsy shaggy thing. But you are a cow. And I have opposable thumbs. And the wit and imagination to eat you. If not the skill and courage to kill you.

But I digress. Writing is good. Writing is fun. The novel moves on, and new faces come and go in reasonably bite-sized vignettes. I feel, at times, that I am writing something like Amelie-for-boys meets Poirot-with-the-black-humour-cells. And this pleases me. And the realisation that this pleases me, pleases me even more.

I’m not as scared as I once was. I can see the vaguest possibility of me finishing this book. And the freedom to write other things. I will no longer be trapped by these people. By Tom. By Monk Quixote. And there’s a slim chance that some people will find it interesting enough to publish. If I can hold their interest.

I will do what I can, dear blog, to write my little sporadic nonsense. But for now, the flow pulls me in the direction of a cab ride across London. And a man wearing a neckerchief will open the door to a surprise visitor.

I’ve written it before, and said it to everyone I can. But for any writer who feels unsure of themselves, or feels guilty about the selfishness of writing – retreating inwards, downwards – then I simply cannot recommend going on an Arvon Foundation course highly enough.

It was magic the first time. And the magic – and the cows – are back this time, too.  And you know what, I think the cows have followed me home….

Yes, folks, my moo-joy has returned. (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. I tried to resist, but it was staring at me in another window. Like a big, shaggy, cow).

Running voices in my head

A stream of consciousness about a stream of consciousness. A little messy in places, but then so’s my head. Soundtrack – The Mission, Sisters of Mercy, Ministry, The Cult.

(NB My username on the running site I log my training on is monki)

I’m running. Well, somewhere between plodding and running. Pruning, that will do. Yes, I’m pruning the air. I approach the steps down to the Thames Path on the unmentionable side of the river. Must avoid the fourth step on the second flight going down. ‘Potential deathtrap’ as Lynn Faulds-Wood would say. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve imagined myself tripping over at this point, usually leading to at least a shattered ankle, if not full on runner’s breakdown.

Ah. Safe. Once again I outwit you Mr Step. That is because I have opposable thumbs. Ok. Don’t waggle thumbs in public while running again. Unless running towards Bobby Ball doing his Rock-on Tommy thing. God! Did I really used to watch Cannon and Ball. Yes, I suppose I did. Right, that’s the steps done, let’s rejoin the path.

Curses! Who’s this joker who’s cruising up on the right? He appears to have pipe cleaners for legs and arms. He’s milky white, accentuated by an all black kit. His scraggy backside is enhanced by a mahoosive bum bag. So. We meet again Mr Bean.

No time to laugh. He’s about ten feet in front. We both have headphones on, so I’m not sure if he’s heard me or not. I’ll catch him up. Hmm. Or not. Both doing exactly the same pace. This is tedious. I should drop back, give him some space. Or just run up his arse the whole time. Ok. Not literally.
Annoying. We’re still ten feet apart. Oh, I see. He’s speeding up is he. Well, we’ll see about this. Hmm. Or not. Tired. And still seven miles to go. Let him go. He’s not worth it. Let his bumbag bob gracelessly into the distance.

I switch off for a while. I do that sometimes. It’s like having a holiday in your head. But forgetting where you’ve been. I hope it wasn’t somewhere expensive. Anyhoo. Wind’s picking up. Oh. Nerd-man is coming back to me now. HA! You don’t like it windy, do you stringbean. Although it should be me that suffers more in this headwind. More surface area and all that basic physics. Physics, man! Get a grip. Prune the air!

And then something magical happens. The Goth Mix arrives unbidden on my iPod. My feet are suddenly thumping in time to a distorted drum machine. I can feel my eyebrows sharpen. I have to resist the urge to fling my arms about and studiously avoid eye contact with everyone in the bar, I mean Thames Path. But for the greater glory of emo, fill me with your baritone speed. Or something. I mean.

Who listens to goth lyrics anyway?

It’s working though. I’m catching him. HA! Hear that Beany-boy? That… is goth. Here comes Wayne Hussey to mow you down. All over this wasteland….Dum dum durrum. Amphetamine buzz. Etc. Catching him. Less than half a mile to the tree. The Tree At Which I Must Turn. I will catch you, sonny. I will catch you. I am a running black metal machine.

I’m catching him. I’m going to make it. He’s gone. Shot. Dust. HA! Look! It’s easy. I’m flying. Straight past. Grind him into dirt. Eat my backside, loser! Ha. Made it. With fifty yards to spare. I rule! I am the Monkinator. The Great Monkitron wins again. I rule! Who’s the King of the Nerds now, Geekboy? Eh?

And then, seconds too late, Jesus Built My Hotrod comes in the mix. And I feel bloodlust in my nostrils. I swear I’d have ripped him limb from limb and eaten him for a protein shake. All hail the Monkinator! Grrrrrrrrrrrr.

Oh. Happy trance. Five miles back now.

Where was I? Oh yes. Funny what you think about when you’re running.

(Sub)urban towpath running

I’ve been away. Sorry. I’ve been running, and working, and not-working. And most definitely not writing. But hopefully I’m back now. Here’s a little something about running.

I’ve been away.  Sorry.  I’ve been running, and working, and not-working.  And most definitely not writing.  But hopefully I’m back now.

I ran ten miles yesterday. Pretty unremarkable, other than it’s my longest run in several months and only the third 10+ this year. Pretty poor effort. But I’m blogging about it because:

(*) First time this year I’ve fitted into a Fetcheveryone.com (Fetch) top. So I wore it. Good to be back in fluorescent yellow stripes.
(*) Listening to an audiobook for the first time on a long run (Transition by Iain Banks). Never listened to an audiobook before. Bit of an odd experience. I struggle to remind myself not to start drifting off into my own thoughts as I run. I can’t hear it while running alongside the A4, but it makes the towpath section much more … exotic.
(*) I was passed in mile 1 by two wannabe-Olympians. Skinny posh boys in school running kit – maybe 12 or 13. No big deal, I’m going long. I can take it. Fepping hell, what’s this? A girl? A girl is running faster than me? Not just a young woman – an actual, proper to goodness girl! Witch. And random other middle class tyros pootle past me in mile 2. I smile as I see the ones at the back ‘casually’ turn an earlier corner than their mates to loop home. The two budding Crams are away off in to the distance. They’ve probably hit Reading by now. (Does the Thames go through Reading? I can’t remember. Windsor then….)
(*) I pass a coffee-skinned girl with blonde frizzy hair and her mum. She might as well be called Miss Mischief.
(*) Various dog emptiers are out on their poop and scoop duties. ‘Travels with my beloved’s waste in a polythene bag’ as the romantics would have it.
(*) Speaking of romantics, I cross Chiswick bridge and note the absence of rowers. No ladies in stripey socks and wellies today. Would that ever enter my consciousness as a fetish if I didn’t run? But there is a man sat on the bench with no shoes or socks on. He has filthy toenails and muddy feet. I feel karma is watching me.
(*) More dog emptiers, yummies, eastern european posh-pram-pushers and the odd thousand-stride-stare runner, eyes glazed, iPod cocked to disguise the sound of their labours.
(*)The smell of sewage.  Only for a quarter of a mile.  But it’s as well that I breathe through my mouth.
(*) A policeman, ambling up the towpath. Operation Trident are out in Chiswick today, as there was a shooting earlier. I pretend that the suspect they are looking for is hiding in the bushes, waiting to ambush passing runners for their GPS enabled watches. But in all probability he’s PC Plod, plodding along, keeping the peace. Perhaps he will fine some dog emptiers. Or he just likes the sounds of leaves under his boots.
(*) I can’t find my tree. My garmin is on a mediterranean day, beeping when it can be bothered. So I look for my tree. My five mile tree, as opposed to my 3.5 mile tree. I mistake others for it. I apologise, when I eventually reach the right tree. It shrugs, in as much as a tree can shrug.
(*) In mile 6 I run past the man who sleeps in a tent by the side of the Thames. He always wears one of those woollen beanies with toggles, and I sometimes see him sat on a box outside Holland and Barrett on Chiswick High Road. I have a highly romanticised view of this individual – perhaps because he looks quite rugged for someone who’s been homeless for at least three years (that I know of). A better person would stop and talk to him one day. But instead he fulfils the dubious honour of being the only beggar I still give money to (having been burned badly in Cambridge by scam artists).
(*) Mile 7. An old lady in the distance, jogging. No. Not jogging. Doing something ludicrously like intervals. When she runs I make no ground on her. It’s only her walk breaks that let me move past her. I’ve had enough pride-assassination for one day.
(*) Mile 8. An insect flies straight into my eye. It gets stuck there, and no amount of rubbing can remove it. But I do not stop. I have visions of bugs drowning in tears. But at least I haven’t swallowed it. Once again I fantasise about owning a pair of Oakleys. I’m already wearing a Fetch top and compression socks – how much more of a tit do I want to look like?
(*) I cross the bridge back. The audiobook has spent the last 20 minutes discussing various ways to torture and kill people. I feel odd. I’m running on trail now, having avoided the conkers in the path, and still to receive one on my head. Ahead is a bench with a bike parked up. Someone is lying on the bench, looking at the clouds. It is a woman. Pretty freckles. She has her eyes closed in a smile. Perhaps she is waiting for someone. I see lots of assignations on this stretch of the run.
(*) Two older kids are throwing things at each other. They look at me but don’t hurl anything, verbal or physical, my way. Must be the fep off fluo stripes.
(*) Plodding now – nearly at the end. I run down Chiswick Mall and smile once again at the completely ineffectual ‘No cycling’ sign that some exasperated resident has taped to a lamp post.
(*) I don’t turn for home – deciding to go to the gym instead to use their physio couch for stretching properly. The Thames is high. It’s flooded the road. People are stopping and vehicles reversing. Wusses, I think, it can’t be more than a couple of inches. I splash on. It is up above my ankles. My feet are soaked. I feel stupid. But it’s ok. I’m wearing a Fetch fluo top and compression socks. No-one was expecting any better from me.
(*) I cross the A4 by the underpass with the big bug-eyed mirrors. I’m nearly there. Just time for the obligatory count of builders’ vans and pallid men with vein-snaked arms smoking and chattering to themselves along this road.
(*) Beep. I’ve made it. I stop my Garmin and my legs, in that order. I take my headphones off – forgetting I’m listening to a continuous drama. I catch my breath. I’m pleased it’s over.

Just another sub/urban/urbane towpath run.

Writing – a funny buzzing in the fingers

Of mice and men. Or more accurately – of foxes and bees. More howling at the moon from yours tru dat.

I think I need a bee or an m.  A writing buddy.  Or a mentor.  Or some form of mechanical prodding.  In fact, make that eletrical prodding.  Pavlovian writing.  That might do the trick.  Bzzt.  Hundred words.  Bzzt.  Hundred words.  Of course the quality aspect might suffer.  Particularly as more and more neurons in the brain are fried.   Bzzt.  Hundred dodos.  Bzzt.  De do doe don’t dey do? Bzzt. What’s a hundred?  Etc.  So how to increase my output?  How do I get more word-goods to market?  Who’ll be my role model, now that my role model, has gone, gone, ducked back down the alley and declined any further mention of latte, cake or wii.

Continue reading “Writing – a funny buzzing in the fingers”

Storyclash

Ever dreamt that you were offered your dream house, to live in rent free, but you had to give in to the dark side – literally. An officer in the Imperial Army in exchange for self-closing drawers?

It’s been an interesting week.  A week of clashes.  Between the old me, the new me and the whatever me.  On Monday, I did whatever the business equivalent of ‘not turning up at a friend’s gig because you don’t want to bump into old bandmates’ is, which was a little sad – in both senses.  But I guess I skipped the ‘getting over yourself’ classes at school.  Probably had my nose in a book.  A book about people who don’t get over themselves.  Or short stories about shitlists and wishlists and global mofo domination.  But not shitwishing or lists of lists.  You only buy those books as stocking fillers.  Anyhoo, I digress. Quelle surprise. Continue reading “Storyclash”