Thursday, January 07, 2016

After the Celebration

The bright part of my 2015 was only ever referred to in passing. A mention on Facebook a couple of times and a few of my mates were treated to updates, whether they wanted it or not. No less so than Tony, my one friend with no real interest in reading my latest novel, but the man charged with having to listen to me SPOIL it for him completely, should he change his mind and decide to read it.

When I first decided that I wanted to write, I used to put lots of effort and energy into things and I got to this point where I knew if I talked about my latest project, it would very quickly become an unfinished idea. I have loads of them. I can offer you at least 50 unwritten/finished novels, arguably more.

I talked earlier in the year about this not wanting to tell people what the idea is about; I also talked about reaching the tipping point - that position where I actually know I'm going to finish a project and the mental thing I have that almost without fail kills a project off - if I discuss it with anyone.

My mate Tony knew I was writing this story; I talked at him all the time about it when we get together (it must be great fun for the old boy), but I'd made sure I'd got past the point of no return first. And I didn't actually mention anything to anyone else until the magic 20,000 words was a distant memory  (20k appears to be my specific point of no return - only once have I gone further than 20k words and not finished something) and even then, considering it's me, I was very conservative, nay vague, about any mention of it.

I really like the idea so I didn't want to put the mockers on it.

I finished the first draft; almost immediately went through it and did what I would class as a kind of 2nd draft (all the bits I remembered I'd missed or needed elaborating on), then I left it alone for a few months. The idea however never left me, I just felt burned out, yet equally elated.

When, in September, I decided it was time to try and turn it into something other people could read, I never realised just how difficult that was going to be; you see, all through my time working on magazines I had a good editor, who took the energy, enthusiasm and raw ability I had and polished it up; it wasn't until I lost that safety net that I started to actually really concentrate on things I wrote and even then, without an editor, you could easily critique it (and in some cases attempt to humiliate me). I'm not saying that I never self-edited, I do and have, it's just I've never really had the time to approach it in the correct manner.

The editing of this 'novel' has been a laborious job, not least because I've been extremely serious about it and have not just hacked my way through allowing cliché and stereotype to dictate the pace and the narrative. I attempted to do something that is both a mystery and unsettling and like I said, I had a framework for the plot. When I started to fill in the gaps, I realised that my subconscious appeared to be in control - I presumably had everything already up there in my noggin, it was just a matter of coercing it out - this is when you think a story is writing itself; which of course it isn't, you've just got it sorted in your head already, unless you write endless waffle.

Two years ago, I started writing something called The Dry Rot. It was something that I struggled to get out of the plotting stage. I knew what I wanted and I had a narrative in my head, but it kind of dwindled away and after a few thousand words, I shelved it. During the writing of The Imagination Station I realised that The Dry Rot was the third part of the trilogy I wasn't aware of but was currently writing the first part of.

Shortly after this I started to discuss the idea with Tony. I didn't need a sounding board, I just needed a real person to talk at; he didn't need to offer anything because I believed it was all up there, it just needed to be wheedled out.

For instance. I turned up at Tony's one Friday evening to drink his Corona and shoot the breeze and proceeded to talk about Jimmy Walker... "I did something today in that book I'm writing. I introduced this character called Jimmy Walker; I don't know why, he just seemed to spring out of my fingers for 10 pages until I killed him off. I don't know why I even introduced him."

A few weeks later, during our next social evening, he asked me if I'd worked out why I'd introduced a character just to kill him off and I spent the next half an hour gushing about how brilliant I was in creating a character that the entire story pivots on, without realising it was even needed. Except I probably knew full well that this character was going to enter the scene at some point.

As you can see, I'm being very specific to not give anything away that could spoil it for whoever may want to read it. The thing is this preamble just leads to the fact that it's as finished as it can be at the moment and it seemed the timing couldn't be better, what with me soon to start an agency job.

I walked around for most of this week like a porn star with his most impressive erection ever; I really felt like 2016 had started positively, despite my growing dislike of The Guardian and general right-leaning media outlets, allowing me to continue ranting and therefore restoring balance in the world. We took a depleted team to the pub quiz and won for the 7th (a record) consecutive quiz (and getting on for £350 in free beer, meals and safeguarding our dwindling finances for a wee bit longer).

You can't avoid the unexpected, but when you've had far too many unexpected things happen recently, you just kind of hope you can get into a nice rut for a while. This morning - Thursday - tore the fairness rule book up, chucked all the paper at me, then pissed up my leg...

I have had relatives and friends moan at me because I've suggested under the Tories the NHS will get to a stage where it kills people. I was accused of scaremongering (hah!) and reminded that my brother, my cousins' stepfather, my best mate's missus and various others have all had cancer in the last few years and done bloody well out of the old NHS. Excellent news all round and I'm bloody glad for them. I just hope I don't get it, because it would appear that I've used up my allowance of medication...

I turned up at the chemist this morning to collect my pre-paid repeat prescriptions and found the wrong thing and a note from my GP that said, "Ventolin allocation exceeded, can begin prescription again March 4" - What The Absolute FUCK???

This was actually just the tip of an iceberg. Not only was I being told I couldn't have one of the key things to allow me to breath normally, I also didn't have the other things prescribed because - this was later changed and I was told I misunderstood (Hah!) - According to their computer system, I'd exceeded my individual patient prescription allowance. This caused me to lose my temper and accuse the doctor's surgery staff of playing Russian Roulette with chronic illness sufferers' lives; to which I was told it wasn't anything of the sort and could be easily sorted out by booking an appointment and having my repeat prescriptions reassessed, to see if there was anything I could still get, but in the meantime I'd be given a prescription for Ventolin.

The chemist looked at me like I was talking Albanian when I told him and he recommended I go back next door (fortunately the two are connected) and get it sorted. This is what I did and eventually, 50 minutes later than my usual less than 5 minute trip to the chemist, I was given everything I requested (except nothing had been signed by a doctor and it was going to be retroactively signed) and told that there would be no limit to whatever medication I required to keep my chronic illness under control. What do you think would have happened had I not queried this?

Then I had to go to Sainsbury's, in a bad mood, with a headache and face the walking dead on a limited budget... It wasn't easy.

Doug the dog is in everyone's massive bad books at the moment - after two free weeks of destruction free living, he's been chomping his way through the house since Monday, culminating in finding the wife's bag and destroying EVERYTHING in it - cards, glasses, important papers, whatever women keep in their bags - fortunately only the money was unharmed. So today he wasn't expected to rip the zip from a cushion and then steal a fresh loaf of bread and then eat it all. After he did this I felt the day couldn't get any worse, but waited patiently for it anyway.

I didn't wait long. The agency that offered me work on December 19th phoned to tell me the job no longer appeared to exist, so I wouldn't be starting it and they were terribly sorry, even if they told me I would be starting on either the 4th or the 11th. To say I was a mixture of angry, upset and utterly stunned would be understating it; but I managed to hide the anger - just.

Taking the dogs out for air and the need to just get out and forget about everything seemed to be the best solution and we'd got 80% of our way round our excellent walk when this huge lumbering oaf of a Scandinavian man starts shouting for help because Doug was 'growling' at him. I explained that it might seem like growling but he was wiggling about at the same time and he's just pleased to see people. I was really pleasant about it, but this utter wanker (twice the size of me) would not let it lie, saying he'd had dogs all his life and the dog was threatening him. Then it turned out he wasn't talking about Doug, but Max the neighbours' GSD/Rotty cross; it was at this point I realised I'd met the Bradlaugh Fields version of the loony on the bus.

I was dismissive and disdainful towards the man. I didn't raise my voice or swear. He did. I just explained to him that the dog he claimed growled at him a) had no balls, something he should grow if he's scared of a dog that looks and acts like Scooby-Doo, b) had never growled at any human before and was playing with Doug at the time so could he have been confused - 'he' being any of them.

I think you can guess the response I got. But, I was good, I just turned around, called the dogs, who all trotted next to me like good animals do, and ignored twat man and his shouting and swearing at me. The funny thing was once many years ago when I'd had a bad day, I got called out by someone who wasn't going to be the brunt of my bad day and told to stop being a twat. I got the distinct impression that man-mountain Norseman had had a bad day and had just chosen the wrong person to have a bad day at. I wouldn't have minded had I not seen everything.

So, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to start the new year's blogs off with a rant bordering on a self-entitlement sermon, because I reckon if I'm being punished for some past indiscretion or mistake, I think I've paid for it now; so can I please have a break?

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