Well, I have finally, and after spending the best part of £800, crossed the is and dotted the ts on my trip to the U.S. in April. My job isn’t good for many things, but it’s given me a fairly comfortable disposable income that has allowed me to pay for a holiday that I’ve wanted to take for a long time.

 I’ve been to the United States before of course, as many Brits have. And like most of my compatriots I ended up in Orlando, Florida, an area as representative of the country as a whole as, say, the Madam Tussuad’s is of the UK. Most of our fourteen days (I was twelve. or eleven) were spent experiencing the pleasures of the various mega-theme parks, and only twice did we get a flavour of the real country that lay underneath all the tourist tat. Once, when my mother was attempting to find some shopping centre on International Drive she managed to get us hopelessly lost, until we found ourselves stopping at an archetypal run-down gas station nestled under some trees on a dusty back road, somewhere. She bought us glass contour bottles of coca-cola while she asked for directions. I have this half-memory of us finding a locked gate preventing us getting on to a beach, but I’m not sure that ever actually happened. It’s plausible perhaps. If the past is a foreign country, then that’s when my mother was a different person. A few days after getting us lost in Orlando, she had the peace of mind to drive us down to West Palm Beach, a round trip of some 300 miles. Bearing in mind she doesn’t like parking in multi-storey car parks these days…

 So yeah, I now have two weeks in California and one week in New York to look forward to. I hope to see a bit more of the country that tends to get obfuscated by war and glitter and empty promises, and as I should be accompanied by natives most of the time, I should hopefully achieve this. I’m not sure what I’ll get up to, other than being sure I’ll see and do a fraction of what I want to, but I will do somethings.

*I’ve already started planning my next two trips. Next summer, I’d like to do a bit of a tour of the Danube. This notion came to me from a combination of developing interests in Munich, Vienna and Belgrade quite independently, and then the Danube came to join them all up, to borrow from Bill Bailey. The year after…well, I’d love to be going to South Africa, but I think Japan is a slightly more realistic prospect.

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About ten years ago, after becoming fed up with the limited selection of novels my local library stocked that weren’t large print Mills & Boon romances or Westerns, I decided to write my own. Last night, or in the early hours of this morning, I finally finished the first draft.

 That’s not to say I’ve spent the whole of the last ten years writing it. I wrote a large part of it in 1998, and didn’t return to it until 2003 or 2004 when I finally got myself a computer that worked. Like Douglas Adams, I prefer tying in a word processor to writing longhand, mainly because as I can touchtype, my hands can keep up with my train of thought more successfully. I put it to one side once again, until one night in conversation with a friend we touched on our respective attempts at writing. Bob told me he’d written 100,000 words of his novel, a figure that boggled my mind at the time, stuck as I was on 14,000. He suggested I try and write at least 1000 words a day, just to bulk up the body.

 More often than not I didn’t manage to meet that target, as circa 85,000 words in two years means that there were many nights when I wasn’t writing a bloody thing. But still I set myself the somewhat meaningless target of 100,000, just because it was a nice round number, and because it was slightly longer than the debut novels by some of my favourite authors. I also wanted to prove I had the stamina to write a novel, and I needed to stop sometime, so this is a good a time as any.

My plan now is to have a little break from writing. In addition to this so-called book, I’ve written two children’s stories as part of the NaNoWriMo, and I’m feeling a bit tired about it. In addition, I’ve started having more and more ideas that are better suited to another idea that’s been germinating in my head, so I might indulge myself in that. In any case, I plan on having a guilt-free (as in oh my god I should be writing) spell away from this story, to let it bed down before I start the editing/second draft process.

 Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a long way to go before I’ll be happy to let anyone else see it, never mind submit it for publication. I’ve written it in a very odd way, and some bits and bobs need to go in different places for it to make sense. Still, most of it’s there, and I think the makings of a good novel are there. I just have to bring all the ingredients together successfully. This may be the hard part.

It was birthday yesterday as well, providing another reason to get the draft finished. I am now 28, and I’m feeling oddly sanguine about it. I think I had become stymied about being 27, an age I associated with death due to the various rock stars that have popped their clogs at said age. Just like the 100k target, my age always holds too much of a significance for me. 27 was my dark year, the turning from still a boy into undeniably a man. 28 is no longer an age where one can claim to be naive, or green, at least not to me. Late 20s lead to the big 3-0, which I’m a little more relaxed about than ever. I’m getting older, but I’m not that old…yet.

I’m supposed to be working on my novel right now, but I’m too tired, both physically and mentally and I have the sneaking suspicion that whatever I wrote would turn out to be even greater tripe than normal. One of my new year’s resolutions was to get my approx. 100,000 word first draft finished by my birthday. So, I have around 20 hours of dedicated writing time, including the day itself. Yes, setting myself a target like that probably isn’t conducive to good fiction, but I needed it damnit.

I’m tired due to the now customary game of five a side football after work on a Tuesday. I haven’t felt this exhausted in a good while, but then with each passing week (including two games), I feel I’m getting fitter and fitter. I do have an age advantage on the other guys, but I’ve never exactly been athletic. That said, since I’ve cut the sugar and fats out of my diet, I am feeling fitter. Tonight was the fifth game in a row where I haven’t needed to take a turn in goal (I feel like I’ve already typed this, but I shall press on), so there’s something going right.

My performance unfortunately didn’t match my new found stamina. I was average, apart from one well-hit left-foot shot that rebounded the whole length of the pitch after hitting the post. Still, if I was any good at football, I’d be writing this in my hotel room before/after my latest Champions League game.

One of my trinity of managers spoke to me about further education today. Apparently work are more than happy to pay for an HND or degree course for me, but it’s a lot to think about. I’d need to fully commit to a complete career change, I’d need to stay with my employers for another six and a half years…but there are pros, like almost guaranteed employment and a very good salary scale. I’m torn to say the least. Still, I hope to buy a new lens this month, something of a cheap filler, but maybe it’ll give me some intuition.

I really must go to my bed now…so sleepy.

And so, in approximately 873 hours time, I will no longer be of the age at which males are most likely to commit suicide. This age (27) is also apparently the mean age of rock and roll death, so to survive the year unscathed may or may not be another minor achievement for the somewhat dubious curriculum vitae.

 I have nothing but questions. Why have all my questions already been asked by other people, and why does it not bother other people that their questions have already been asked, and don’t even show the remotest sign of being answered?

You’ll have to forgive me. My mind, which earlier was so focused on working out what I need to find out by delineating what I’m already sure of, has become blunted by means of me working my way through a case of Peroni. Drinking myself into the middle of Saturday afternoon alone is something I’m doing more and more, much to the angel on my shoulder’s dismay. Still, continental lager is proving to be my only engagement with culture at the moment. There is a better, braver me that wants to read the Guardian and the Independent daily and go to the theatre and finally swear of meat, but he finds himself subsumed by the dominant lazy me that comes back from work and just wants to sleep and masturbate. Maybe this is a sign I need to find a new job; I suspect it is, but I’m still struggling to find anything better. This week hasn’t been so bad; I’ve actually been entrusted with some responsibility and free reign to indulge my oddly mixed analytic/artistic brain, with fairly satisfying results.

 I bought Control, the Ian Curtis biopic earlier during one of my usual desperate Friday night forays to Tesco. I mean to see it in the cinema during its theatrical release, but the limited showings and my aforementioned laziness combined to ensure I didn’t. Perhaps watching it on a Friday night while already miserable and lubricated by alcohol wasn’t such a good idea; the DVD kind of passed me by. But then I’m fairly well kent with the story, having read ‘Touching From A Distance’, seen ’24 Hour Party People’ and being a fan of Joy Division/New Order in general. There’s not much they could have done between telling us the story we all know and the story no-one ever will. Anyway, I’m quite a devotee of Anton Corbijn as a photographer, and the visuals didn’t disappoint.

 The Manics once prefaced a song with a sample of some dialogue from a mother of one of Peter Sutcliffe’s victims (I can’t remember which song off the top of my head, but The Holy Bible has never been my favourite MSP album) that starts with “I wonder who you think you are?” I do quite often wonder who I am. I also wonder what image people on the Internet have of me…am I as prescient as I like to think I am?

I think it’s time to gently put my Livejournal out of its misery once more. Yes, I have done it before, but I reinstated it just before the 30 day cooling off period was up. I’m fairly sure than no-one reads it, which is not a situation I’m entirely happy with; as someone who pretends to be a writer, I need people to read my blithering comments on life otherwise what’s the point of doing it?

 This may be part of a grater malaise however. I’ve felt somewhat fed up for the last eight weeks, and it’s showing no signs of abating yet. I had hoped the days lengthening and the weather improving would inacerbate (not a word, but it bloody well should be) my mood, but as yet it hasn’t.

 I’m currently lying in bed looking at the cloud covered morn through the window, letting sense memories rise to the surface. A single engined plane has just flown overhead, something that generally only happens in Spring and summer. I recall being taught about ‘The Whitsun Weddings’ on a gloriously sunny May or perhaps August day in the early 90s, still the greatest poem I’ve ever read and an inspiration to me in its studious and impressionistic dissection of nothingness. Now I’m thinking about the stillness of comfortable days. Even though it’s not that warm today, it’s mild and the only noise I can hear is my occasional clunking on the keyboard. When I need spurred onto achievement, my environment is convincing me to do nothing but relax.

 Here’s the rub; ten days away from 28, I’m ensconced in a job, nay a career, that could well support me and keep me in food, football shirts and foreign travel until I retire. I have a driving licence, a degree, I can read and write and swim. At this juncture in my life, I’ve achieved all the targets that were set for me by the expectation of others. There’s really not a huge amount else I need to do in life.

 Which is a horrible situation. Thus, I need to set new targets, but aims I have for myself are always prone to compromise, if not utter annihilation. I need to find a better job, and I’ve decided I shall start doing so upon my return from the U.S. in late April (see the compromise there?). If this job entails relocation (preferably South or West), then that’s fine. The trouble with being an atheist is that you are sure that you only live once. And I’m acutely aware that I’m (at the moment) leisurely running out of time.

Carnival of Light

So, Saturday night and I find myself in the house yet again, posting an entry to my blog. And almost tragically, this represents almost dizzying heights in non-work based achievement. I’m not sure if it’s the lack of daylight or the ongoing attempt to cut sugar from my diet, but I just have no energy at the moment. That’s a little disingenuous; it’s not purely energy as I have generally enough kilojoules in my system to play five a side football twice a week, but when I get through the door of this house I seem to sink into a fug of ‘can’t-someone-else-do-it-preferably-tomorrow?’ I’ve had a list of things I’ve been meaning to get done for two weeks now, but all I hear is the whoosh of my self-appointed deadlines as they pass by my head (with apologies to Douglas Adams).

Speaking of Douglas Adams, I’ve yet to finish the Salmon of Doubt, which has timeously and inconveniently disappeared. As has ‘The Steep Approach to Garbadale’. They may well just be in the living room, but a fair amount of my stuff goes missing on a regular basis, due to members of my family ‘borrowing’ things without telling me. I have also developed an irritating habit of moving my own possessions and then completely forgetting about them though.

I’m continuing on my tentative diet/healthy eating and exercise plan. I still feel like a bit of a twit using those words, as it does convey the impression that I need to lose weight and I’m massively unfit. And while I do need to lose weight, and I am massively unfit, I don’t really want to admit it to anyone, least of all me. At the start of February, I’m feeling a little better; I’ve cut down on my spare tire a fair bit, and I was doing a bit more running on Thursday at football. It’s hard to really tell if you’re getting anywhere though because fat turning to muscle can cause you to gain weight, so unless you take photographs like ‘that scary man on the internet’* you’ve got no frame of reference. I’ve got the best of two months to go though, so I’ll hopefully gain a bit of tone before long.

The problem then with healthy eating is that you (well, maybe not you, but certainly I) have to cut out a huge amount of crap from my diet. Now, I like eating crap (mainly because I don’t like fine cuisine for whatever reason), which is one of the main contributories to me having to get a filling next week, so suddenly having to do without it is both a bit depressing and a bit stupid. I don’t think you’re supposed to make sweeping changes quite the way I have, but that’s the only way I’ll do it. I did go out for the traditional long Friday lunch with some of the guys from the office on Friday, but that was more because I needed a drink than anything else. We went to a recently opened, painfully trendy Scottish pub near work (yes, a Scottish pub. I know by default all the pubs round here are Scottish, so that’s a bit of a tautology, but there you go), where I once more because a compressed streak of raw sexual frustration due to the short skirted waitresses and the 45 minute wait for our food. I was kind of toying with the idea of declaring myself to be an asexual celibate, which to be honest is just jumping before I’m pushed, but I wouldn’t be fooling anyone.

So what am I going to do for the rest of the weekend? Well, for a start I’m going to continue to listen to the Beatles’ Anthology 3, flick (ho-ho!) between ‘Imagine Me And You’ and ‘The Last of the Mohicans’. The latter is one of the few period pieces I can actually watch and enjoy due to its ridiculously contrived moodiness and its damned fine soundtrack and cinematography. The former is one of those films you stumble across on BBC late at night, an Aunty financed sub-Curtis lipstick lesbianism fluff job. One thing about British film is that due to our climate, they every film shot here has to have its location filming done during June until September to avoid the majority of the rain. This is why you get such a wide panoply of UK films, covering a huge range of subjects and themes, all shot in this wonderfully evocative and poignant range of sunbeams, from glorious noon through to the vibrant angularness of magic hour. It’s has the effect of making even the most trite, badly scripted mess strangely alluring to me. I’m watching ‘Imagine Me And You’ at the moment, and the array of brass and copper really is making me long for late September again, which is fast becoming my favourite month. And it’s also vaguely making me wish I was a lesbian, but that’s another story.

I’d like to describe light in terms of harmony and melody and counterpoint, but I’m not sure I’ve got the talent to get away with it. You can describe music in terms of light and shade after all. Ah, here goes. I like my light like I like my music; rich and varied and heterogeneous and like listening to Abbey Road, or whenever Paul and George took John onto new levels where you just wonder how they got away with such wanton brilliance. But that they did, and I’m all the more grateful for it.

 I fear I’m reverting to my adolescent habit of avoiding anything of any nutritional value, be it physical or mental, and instead withdrawing to a slightly worrying world of OCD-lite scribbling. At this very moment I’m fighting the strong urge to compile a list of every Beatles song I have a copy of, and which I don’t. That wouldn’t actually take so long as I have the information at my fingertips, but I can’t let myself start shutting all the doors and windows again.

I have to write more. While all of my other dream professions have become lost to me over the years, I’ve clung doggedly to the possibility that I might be able to earn my keep being a word wrangler, but I’m rapidly becoming more pessimistic, nay realistic, about that. Like in every other sphere of life, I have a modest smattering of technical skill with my chosen language, but the perspiration is nothing without the inspiration, and there’s just not enough going on between the lines. There’s no form or subtext.

In contrast, reading ‘Revolution in the Head’ by the late great Ian MacDonald, and even Russell Brand’s column in the Guardian today, I was faced with two people who have an instinctive, incisive grasp of English; which word, used exactly where, is just exactly right to get what you’re trying to say across the greatest number of your readers. Of course, I could be mildly off track and they struggled as much as I do, and eventually had to reluctantly turn their copy over to the sub-editor upon threat of violence, but I’m not sure that’s the case.

 So, I am now faced with struggling to document my struggle against the struggle that is my life. I’m fairly sure it’s not going to be Flowers for Algernon, but hopefully it won’t turn out to be Mein Kampf either.