... but I stopped. Now I'm a dad, and may blog again...

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Having finished reading The Wind Up Bird Chronicle in record time - for me (I usually drag it out when reading long books, get distracted by other books and lose focus) - I have decided to undertake one of the unread pile of books marked 'massive books I own but may never read'. The one in question is Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.

Others in the pile include Moby Dick, Dune, Don Quixote, and of course Ulysses by James Joyce. One of the books on this I highly doubt I will ever read. See if you can guess which one. Spoiler alert, the answer is Dune. I read the first chapter or so and the best I can say about it is, what a boring load of shit. Very much like Tolkien in that sense, a boring load of shit.

It took me forever to get through We, The Drowned by Carsten Jensen, but bloody hell it was worth it. Read it, it's incredible. I have the next four days off work so if I sit here reading without eating or breathing I might be able to make a significant dent in Infinite Jest's 1000+ pages. That's if I can concentrate what with it being Halloween, all these bloody ghosts everywhere, getting on like they own the place. Putting the willies up me, and whatnot.

We never get trick or treaters, which is lucky because we have nothing to give them. Doubly lucky because my wife isn't in right now, and she is the one with the patience for all that stuff and nonsense. I'm a Halloween Scrooge.  They can all piss off, grr.

Infinite Jest is extremely exhausting to read. Especially compared to Wind Up Bird... which I finished last night. Maybe it's just because the words are much smaller. And there is more of them. And the sentences are just so long. Or the book is much heavier and it hurts my delicate little hands just to hold the book. Or because I am suffering from reading fatigue after yesterday's Murakamiathon. Any of these could be the case. Maybe it's just harder going, in a general wishy-washy un-defined sense that I can't explain, yes, that might maybe a little bit be it.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

I look around for something to write about. Nothing has happened today. I have shaved, had breakfast, and read. On my desk there are things, general things. The walls are white with a few pictures. All the stuff around me I have chosen to keep around me, but right now none of it inspires a few words. The kettle has boiled. The book I am reading is calling me back.

The Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami. It is astounding. Every single event that happens is an impenetrable mystery, one after the other compounding and piling, surreal occurrences disrupting a mundane Tokyo suburban life, oddball characters with intricate stories helping and hindering the slow reveal of what is actually happening. It is awe-inspiring.

As the characters in the book feel strange inexplicable pulls - to wells, to infidelity, to aimless wandering, to unexpected violence - I feel an almost tangible pull back to the next room, where the book waits for me on the sofa. Water is round in a round receptacle and square in a square one, but water itself has no shape. People, apparently, often forget this fact.

The more I read the clearer it becomes to me that I am still an extremely poor writer. Thankfully I have chosen, or being given, writing as a passion. Had I wanted to be an athlete or a dancer or a model, or whatever, I would already have long missed my chance, my only chance. Writers become writers when they become writers and not before. The only deadline is death. In most cases ... Stieg Larsson's was a journalist before his death, and the world's best selling novelist after. John Kennedy Toole committed suicide after being unable to get published, 11 years after his death he was first published, A Confederacy of Dunces, which went on to win the Pulitzer Prize.

In Wind Up Bird Chronicle the main character is drawn to a well after an elderly ex-army man tells him about his near death experience in a dry Mongolian desert well. Both characters experience a taste of something holy, magical, transient in their respective wells. Both characters lives are aimless and drifting and empty afterwards. The main character has a chance to re-enter his well and attempt to reconnect with whatever it is that is happening down there. Where is my well?

I don't even want a well. Who, but a character in a magical realist story, would want to starve themselves in a well like a subterranean pre-enlightenment Siddhartha Gautama? I have no answer. To anything. What would it be like to live as a particle of dust? Again. No answer. It's almost as though it's not a real question.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

"I tried to think, but I couldn't get my head to work."
- Haruki Murakami, 
The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, pg. 238

- sign outside a Shell garage,
seen on A55 in North Wales

My recent reading - Raymond Carver, Amy Hempel, Philip K. Dick, Robert Silverberg's World of Wonder (a compilation of some of the best Golden Age sf short stories with accompanying essays), Kurt Vonnegut, Haruki Murakami - has done good, but at the moment it feels like terrible damage. I tried to write, but I couldn't get my head to work. If I can't think I can't write.

But a thought has formed: These excellent, world class writers are showing me how far I have to go. I have frozen in awe, dumbstruck by the glare, the power, the ability of their stories and the quality of their words. Now as I write this a voice in my head is saying, I can't do it I can't do it I can't do it. But another voice in my head, a voice that sounds suspiciously like my wife's, is telling me that of course I can do it, I just need to do it. She is reassuring me that I have ability and a story, but I can be lazy.

Today a garage in North Wales made an unusual claim, a boast. Proud not to serve garage food. What does it mean. Garage food we imagine to be mainly, I think, Ginsters pasties. Ginsters pasties, Peperamis, sweets and chocolate, perhaps even a bacon buttie kept warm for hours at a time in a hot cabinet. I imagine this is probably what you think of in response to the phrase garage food (unless you are American or something and then it might be, I dunno, those battered-hot-dog-on-a-stick things you all go on about). But only because this is what garages tend to sell, they have brought it upon themselves, this association with quick artificially flavoured meat and sweets. This is what people want to eat when they are driver - or - this is what people eat because it is convenient and it is there.

But 'Proud not to serve garage food', what does this even mean? Does it mean that it does not serve the sort of stuff listed above? It does not sell sweets and crisps? This would make it unique amongst all shops in a way that is surely not conducive to good business. And it has replaced the standard fare with a better class of food, goats cheese tart, seared swordfish, limocello semifreddo? Doesn't that sort of food then enter the classification of 'garage food' rendering the statement on the sign a lie. A sign incapable of telling the truth.

The only conceivable conclusion is that the garage doesn't sell any food at all. If that is the case should the sign not read, 'Proud not to serve food'? And how is that something to boast about? I can't understand the implication of that sign. 'Proud not to serve garage food.' I must meditate upon it.

Proud not 
to ser
ge f

To be foolish and to recognise that one is a fool ...

A spoon cannot taste the food it carries ...

To conquer oneself ...

Further down the A55, the cleanest brightest cherry red gate - wide and long and flanked by immaculate blue posts - marking the entrance to a farmer's field. They looked like a brand new Fisher-Price my little farmer toy, still and unplayed with, mint condition in the box. The mud of the field, the weathering of the wind and rain was yet to touch them. Even for newly installed farm furniture they seemed more than is needed. So bright.

We traveled past the garage sign and the immaculate gate at the national speed limit stopping neither out of purpose nor curiosity. We just went on. I saw them and noted them as I was the passenger. The driver, my wife, noted neither - her eyes on the road, her hand on the wheel. And we don't know how the message on the sign manifests itself within the garage shop, and we don't know our reflections in the unlikely uncanny lustre of the red gate with the blue posts.

Monday, October 28, 2013

I ate all of my share of the afternoon tea: welsh cake, bara brith, sandwiches (ham and pickle, cucumber and cream cheese, and smoked salmon), goats cheese tart, crumpet with bacon and rarebit, a single mini profiterole, and two scones with butter, jam and clotted cream, plus a glass of champagne and four cups of tea. Then I sunk into my leather library armchair and lapsed into a coma.

Earlier I bought four 1960s and 70s Rupert the Bear annuals from Sue Ryder and four xmas decorations from somewhere called Choo Choo. Further down the street was a further shop called Choo Choo Etc Etc. This is not linked to reality, I'll have to move on, explained the doctor on itv's OCD Ward programme. The gingerbread man is cute, but what does it have to do with xmas? My wife tells me it's a German thing, Weihnachten.

I awoke on the bed with a fizzy stomach and a light hint of headache, but a few farts, burps and a glass of water and the prosecco was chilled and popped. It's dark outside and we wonder where the peacocks, the peahens and the peababies roost in the wind and the rain. An advert on telly for an Audi that isn't available until Autumn 2014 - what's that about. There must be a reason, but what is it. The promised storm didn't manifest here in North Wales, and today had rather beautiful weather for the season. We scaled battlements and descended dark dank helical staircases that lead to nowhere. We threw 2p into a wishing well that was no deeper than floor-level.

Notice I say helical staircase and not the technically incorrect spiral staircase. That's the kind of guy I am. A bit of a twat. Good night.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

How do I write a blog on a nice wee mini-break weekend holiday-type thing? When I originally abandoned this blog as a daily thing was the short break we had in Donegal after our wedding, as mini honeymoon. Now I am in North Wales at Ruthin Castle and we have spent the last couple of hours drinking whiskey (whisky?) in a wood-paneled library heated by an open fire.

The wood-paneled library heated by open fire, eh? Not all it pretends to be. The books were mostly pretend-old. Fake leather-bound Readers Digest Condensed Books, and a random selection of PVC-bound classics (Moby Dick, Vanity Fair, Jane Ayre). The only genuinely old book I saw was a rotten moldy copy of the British Medical Journal from the fifties. The first article we saw upon skimming was about how to judge a baby contest... wtf.

And the bar. A bar in a posh hotel in a medieval castle in North Wales. A tedious generic selection of lagers on tap. One local ale which was off. And apparently there is a Welsh whiskey but they have sold out of it. And the fire was gas....

It was nice and I had fun.... but it was pretend nice and pretend fun. And come on, fucking hell, no local drinks. That is too shit to articulate. Ruthin Castle, sort your fucking bar selection out will you... Now we're off for our dinner and the menu is amazing. I'm dribbling as I write this. I've had a few drinks now, so it's getting harder to notice the bad stuff and the good stuff is getting better and better...


Back from the meal. Drunk. Food: nice. Drink : nice too.
Night. Bye.
When the doorbell rang I was heating up a scotch egg in the oven. I always used to eat them cold, like you would from a packed lunch or picnic, but I had looked at the packaging and noticed the phrase 'delicious hot or cold'. This was the previous year and since then I had had occasion to eat a hot scotch egg no less than seven times. The fat would run out of the meat and add an oily glimmer to otherwise dull-coloured bread crumb coating.

I didn't answer the doorbell immediately. It was Saturday morning and the only callers we ever got then were disparate oddballs. Elderly ladies in Islamic headdress door-to-door selling colourful scarves. Chaps in ironed white shirts who like to talk about Jesus. Chancers hoping to make a few quid with a sponge and an empty bucket. If it rang a second time I would go out of the flat and look down the stairs. Through the obscured glass in the front door I would be able to discern vague shapes and colours.

The postman never came before midday and besides I wasn't expecting anything. I couldn't imagine the bell would ring again. It never did. Instead I checked the timer on the oven. Two minutes left until my hot scotch egg would be ready for eating. Not long enough to undertake most activities so I stared out of the window. Across the way a neighbour stared right back at me. Our kitchens looked out sideways from the building, into each other across the yard. Light from high up brought white reflections and shadow patches of trees in silhouette falling across the window obscuring the identity of my neighbour.

A pigeon flapped across the gap landing on my neighbour's sill. I watched it settle and heard it's coo through the single-pane glass. The timer rang and my scotch egg was ready. The neighbour was gone, the doorbell was silent, the pigeon was settled, and the scotch egg was hot.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

BBC2's Killer Whales - Beneath the Surface. An incredible fascinating look at the life and habits of the orca. The best bit was right at the end when the credits rolled and I read the following:


So cute. But it would have been nice to have seen a bit of recognition for Steven Snuggles and Sammy Bibble.

Writing that joke was hard work. Not real hard work mind. I just mean working out each word as the sentences formed on the page was like a fight against my brain. A rusty gate I'm too weak to push open. I wouldn't mind, but I'm not even happy with the way it turned out. Clumsy, lumpy, amateur and unfunny.

Dear god.

Tibbles and Niblett.
I think those names are funny names.

And I like killer whales.
Whale killers.

Fuck me, this is like pulling teeth.
See, I even had to resort to cliche.
Pulling teeth, bloody hell.

No squirrel/magpie battles today.

Ooh, but magpies and killer whales are both black and white animals. That is a link, no matter how tenuous, that I could work with. Perhaps I could think of something interesting and/or amusing to say. Maybe there is a specific evolutionary advantage or niche that is filled by having such stark contrasting colouring. And if there is I could read about it somewhere and then repeat that information here, albeit with much less authority or understanding.

Friesian cows.
Cats (black and white ones).

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Used plasters. Stuck to the floor, rolled into a tube as if fallen from a finger, or lying with adhesive side upwards waiting to adhere to the sole of my shoe. They make me sick.

Finger tips placed together in the style of a Mr. Burns from The Simpsons 'Excellent' hand gesture. That makes me cringe. Seeing other people do it, attempting to do it myself, or even just thinking about it. They all make me extremely uncomfortable. Having my finger tip touched by another finger tip. Disgusting. I think this comes from when I broke my finger about fifteen years ago and had to wear a plastic sheath on it for six weeks. The entire time I could feel the touch of my finger tip. Constant unwelcome stimulation like Chinese water torture.

I can feel it now in that very finger as I think about it. Every time it touches a key as I type I feel that cringe and I shudder. Unpleasant. Yes, it is.

Writing those words was agony. Not because they are so painful, clearly they are not. It's just stupid. It really felt like hard work. Every time I tried to think of a wordy, rhythmic, playful way of expressing my dislike for used plasters and touched finger tips my mind clammed up and I felt sleepy and just wanted to click links.

I thought about the plaster thing at work today. I saw an old plaster lying sticky side up on the grey dusty floor of the stock room. Everything in there is covered in a thick construction-y powder that stains anything it touches, leaps up in clouds whenever anything moves, and fills your nostrils with a black substance that gets stuck under your fingernail. This plaster  was probably rendered stick-less by the dust but nevertheless I would not have enjoyed stepping on it. Having seen it however I was able to avoid it.


A magpie and a squirrel circled each other on foot. I watched from my bedroom window. The action happened on the grass at the base of a tree in the park behind my flat.

Something in the grass must have provided a desirable food source for bird and rodent alike. They paced and circled. The magpie hopped and shouting in machine gun fire. The squirrel flowed a pure sine wave.

Sometimes the squirrel would feel the upper hand and stop for a nibble of the precious grub, at which point the magpie would advance rapidly and take a nip at the squirrel's tail. Other times the magpie would peck at the ground and and the squirrel would advance with tooth and claw.

Both magpie and squirrel stopped, took time out to watch a second squirrel walk from up-stage right to exit up-stage left. And they went back to stalking and striking.

A vicious nip from that beak sent the squirrel a couple of feet up the tree. The magpie strutted and flexed and took a successful jumping gulp at a passing bug-on-the-wing.

A third squirrel entered down-stage right sending the magpie up and away. The squirrel came back down the tree and began sparring with the third squirrel. Both squirrels squabbled before exiting stage right in a clusterfuck of squeaks and scratching.

Curtains close.
Open. Players return for a bow.
The End.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

We got a new kettle yesterday.

The old one was still functional despite having served us for many years. The problem was that the on switch had become detached. This happened in stages. Over a year ago the outer casing of the switch broke off and has since been waiting on the window sill for a fixing that never came.

Last weekend the inner lever of the switch left us leaving no trace of its whereabouts. It just upped and left. To the woods, as my old granddad might say.

It was still possible to switch the kettle on by inserting a finger into the void and digitally manipulating the inner mechanism. This, it was decided, was a step too far and we made the decision to get a new kettle. Maybe one that goes with the toaster.

And that's what happened.

This morning my wife experienced a pang of regret. Before even opening her eyes to the light of the bedside lamp she said, "I miss my old kettle".

She had never previously expressed any overt attachment to that little old kettle. In fact it was she who pushed for a new one. And as soon as we installed the new one she was quick to chuck the old one out of the flat onto the communal landing. In the dark under the bust light bulb.

By the old fish tank with the broken filter and the small box of bathroom tiles.

We've lived over 24 hours now with the new kettle and it is proving a welcome addition to the family. It has already made valuable contributions, boiling water for tea and stock. I look forward to many happy years together.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

  is a poor start to a piece of writing.
  is an annoying way to start a sentence. Written or spoken.

I am Kevin. This is my blog. It was a thing to keep away writer's block. Writer's block is a thing that probably doesn't really exist; a thing that would be more accurately labelled as writer's laziness.

I stopped writing this blog on a daily basis some time ago. It was probably about 16 months to 2 years ago. It's all there down the right of the screen if you are interested. I am not.

I wasn't indulging in writer's laziness, or so I told myself. Blogging time would be better used writing a novel. Or so I told myself. So I stopped writing this blog. In reality I had writer's laziness and writer's excuse-making. I still have them now. I am being lazy as I write this.

Right, so:

The blog is back. It might not be about anything today. All I want to do is write again. I have not written much in the last couple of months. I have been lazy. And depressed.

And I wonder what comes first the writer's laziness or the depression, and I wonder how much the two are connected. Does one bring about the other, or are they both brought about by a third unidentified thing?

I went to sleep a writer and woke up a moper. It's not as though I have nothing to be getting on with. There's plenty of writing to be done. First there is my novel. The one which, when asked what it's about, I say 'an unlikely meeting between the worlds of contemporary Western art and traditional Mongolian wrestling'. This is true.

  there are all the other things.
Lots of them.
More than I know the numbers for.