Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The future was now

The great thing about getting old is that you get to see how the future turns out.

If, like me, you hang around this mortal coil long enough you get to stand on one side and watch that handsome young man metamorphose into a lugubrious old git. I've even got a picture to prove it. That's the one portrayed in the photo alongside this post, peering out myopically into the blogosphere. More importantly, if you live long enough you get to find out whether or not all those callow hopes and aspirations you once cherished were actually fulfilled. You can see from my expression how I thought it turned out for me.

Armed with this knowledge of the future I've been looking back into my past and turning it into a new novel, called Mummy's Boy. The odd thing is, though, that despite my proven powers of clairvoyancy, I don't yet know how the novel is going to end.

Not with a death-bed scene I hope.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The greatest golfer who has ever lived

For a very brief period in time - about ten minutes all told - my ten year old son Christopher was the greatest golfer who has ever lived. Indeed, if he had taken my advice at the time his incredible performance would today eclipse anything Tiger Woods or Bobby Jones has ever achieved. Here's how it happened.

I was playing golf with my eldest son David at Tarland Golf Club, a beautiful rural course not far from where we live. Christopher was caddying for me and up to that point had never swung a golf club in anger. We reached the short par three eighth which is hidden in the trees well out of sight of the clubhouse. Christopher begged me to let him have a go. I looked around. The course was deserted and there was no-one coming up behind.

"Okay," I agreed with a somewhat condescending smile on my face, "I'll tee the ball up for you as long as you give me time to stand well clear."

I handed Christopher a seven iron and he addressed the ball. Well, he didn't so much address it as send it a very long letter written in an extremely shaky hand. Eventually the club tottered high above his head and he wound himself up to take a mighty slash at the ball. Somewhat to our surprise as the club descended with an audible swoosh he actually managed to strike the ball a glancing blow and it shot off to the right, ricochetting about twenty yards down the fairway. He looked downcast.

I suddenly felt sorry for him. Golf looks such an easy game but of course it's anything but. "It's okay, Christopher. Don't worry about it. Just slow your swing down a bit and you'll be okay."

David and I played our shots but neither of us found the green. Together we walked up to Christopher's ball and this time I handed him a nine iron. He took another mighty swipe and the ball rolled forward thirty yards as he fell over backwards.

"You're still swinging too fast," I muttered as I gently picked him up and brushed the mud off his back.

David and I played our second shots and this time we both found the green, albeit neither of us was close to the pin.

"What will I hit this time?" asked Christopher, as he peered down at his ball nestling in the rough about twenty yards from the green.

"I'm not sure it matters," I replied, looking at the nasty lie, "Here, try this." I handed him a sand wedge but it could equally have been a driver for all the difference it would have made to his control over the shot. Even at this early stage in his career I could see that finesse wasn't going to be a major part of his golfing armoury.

We watched with some trepidation as he took another mighty swipe at the half-hidden ball. To our surprise the ball jumped cleanly out of the rough and curved gracefully towards the green where it bounced twice then trickled along somewhat erratically for several yards before tumbling into the hole.

"Good God," said David, "That's unbelievable."

I was too stunned to speak as the realisation of what my son had just achieved began to dawn on me. If he stopped now his record would be unique. The list of his achievements ran through my mind like wildfire. In his golfing career my son had parred every hole he had ever played. He had never had a bogey. He had never taken more than three on any hole he had ever played. He had never missed a put. In fact, he was so good with his irons that he had never even needed to put. If he stopped now his average score on any round would be fifty-four, way better than anyone who has ever lived. If...well, the list seemed endless. A marketeer's dream. Pound signs began to flash in front of my eyes and I suddenly felt faint. For a moment I even believed that there actually was a God.

As we made our way to the next tee - David and I both having bogied the hole - I tried to convey to Chris the momentous import of what he had just achieved. I begged him never to lift another golf club again. I promised him sporting immortality, his own entry in the Guinness Book of Records, untold wealth and fame (which I, naturally, as his manager, would share).

He was having none of it. Buoyed up by his success he insisted on playing the next hole. Reluctantly I handed him a three wood. Twenty-three stokes later he finally cajoled the ball into the hole. In the space of two holes he had gone from being the best player who had ever lived to one of the worst. Again I begged him to stop. The Rolls Royce was rapidly disappearing over the horizon but the manager in me figured we could still make a modest living peddling the story of his precipitous descent into ignominy.

Again he was having nothing of it. He insisted on playing the next hole and the one after that. Even worse he subsequently took up golf as an enthusiastic amateur becoming, as the years passed, a pretty decent player.

Which is why neither you, nor anybody else, has ever heard of him and Tiger Woods sleeps soundly in his four-poster bed at night, safe in the knowledge that HE, and not my son, is the greatest golfer who has ever lived.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

More debauchery

Several years ago I overheard a conversation on the radio about orgies while I was driving to the local garden fete. The interviewee was a well-known writer and minor celebrity who had attained a certain notoriety for her outspoken views on sex. I believe she's largely forgotten now and for the life of me I can't remember her name. I do recall that at the time she was middle-aged and rather overweight.

The interviewer asked her if, as well as writing about them, she had ever actually been to an orgy.

"Oh yes, I've been to several."

"Really? And, er, did you indulge?"


"I see. You write about these things but you don't actually approve of them."

"Oh I approve all right. But the trouble with orgies is that people are only interested in the youngest ones there."

I pictured her sitting alone on a couch at the orgy dressed only in her faded pink underwear, a fag dangling forlornly from her lips, her fleshy knees knocking in the draught. She is gazing across to the far corner of the room where a slavering scrum has formed over the giggling, wriggling body of the hosts' youngest daughter.

Maybe there's something to be said for leading a sheltered life after all.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


For the past couple of weeks I've been investigating the feasibility of writing a non-fiction book, something I've never tried before. I don't want to give away too many secrets at this stage as to the subject matter, but the working title is "A modest history of debauchery". The title should give you some idea of the subject matter.

At the moment I've got a lot more web-based research to do - about three month's solid - before I will be in a position to green light the project. However, if anyone out there has any academic or first-hand knowledge of the subject which they think might be relevant please don't hesitate to get in touch. I'm particularly interested in ancient Greek and contemporary examples of deviant behaviour.

Rubbing salt into my wounds

I've been trying to get published for far longer than I care to remember.

I wish I had a pound for every submission I've made to Jonathan Cape, Harvill Secker, Chatto and Windus and Vintage over the years. If I did I'd have enough money to start my own publishing company. All I've actually got is enough form rejection slips to line the walls of my study so that it is now fully compliant with building insulation standard BS 5422:2001. At least I won't freeze this winter as I toil over my next masterpiece.

All these publishing companies are members of the giant Random House group. And the curious thing is, although they don't think I'm a good enough writer to be published by any of their imprints, they do think I'm good enough to review the books they actually do publish. I know this because some of their publicists have taken to writing to the Pundy House and offering me free books to review on this blog.

Sadly I'm too busy with my next magnum opus to take up their offers. Too busy also to explain my refusal in detail.

So whenever I receive a request for a review I've started sending them form rejection slips. On headed notepaper. Their headed notepaper.

I might freeze to death as a result but at least I'll die with a smile on my face.

Second thoughts

When I sat down at the keyboard this morning I had already mapped out in my mind the arguments I would marshal in support of another typically downbeat thesis propounding the futility of blogging as a mechanism for any aspiring writer who wishes to reach a wider audience.

I planned to begin my exigesis by explaining, in the starkest possible terms, that the best any ingenue with literary aspirations can hope to achieve in this medium is to reach out to a small circle of similarly unrequited, slightly desperate, albeit desperately nice, publishing virgins.

And just as I was about to begin my assault on my readers' senses my fingers froze above the keyboard.

Two things happened to undermine the certainty of my proposition.

Firstly, I found myself wondering why I appeared to dislike nice people so much.

Was it because, I wondered, in the face of all the evidence to the contrary, this seething mass of niceness is to a woman a body of such relentless optimism, repeatedly taking issue in the Comments section of my blog, with my own easy pessimism? Could it possibly be the case, in other words, that I was wrong in my enduring negativity?

And that thought led me to question exactly why was I so reluctant to be drawn into the circle of aspiring writers that has gradually evolved into a sort self-sustaining life-support sytem, a double helix safety net woven out of the DNA of all those nice-but-unpublished would-be JK Rowlings drifting hopefully around the blogosphere?

In search of an answer I looked back on my own long and undistinguished career as an unpublished author whose literary achievement reached its apogee with a mildly encouraging rejection slip from Secker & Warburg circa 1973.

Nostalgically I recalled my long-forgotten youthful determination to dedicate myself to my muse. My naive resolve to remain unrecognised and neglected for as long as it took, a lonely genius starving in a garret, a martyr to my art, bravely churning out manuscripts that no-one would read until after my death, when my brilliance would finally be recognised by a remorseful, not to say repentant, world. Never mind the fact that in all the years since I have never once set foot inside a garret. And the nearest I've ever come to starving is on those rare occasions when I've been late home for a meal.

No. Reluctantly I have been forced to conclude that my dislike of nice people has a less idealistic cause. Envy. Because I have looked into my heart and I know, despite the facade, I am not one of them. Ah well. No-one's perfect I suppose and some of us are more imperfect than others.

So on reflection, if you are an aspiring writer looking for help with your vocation my advice to you would be to seek out the comfort of like-minded strangers. There's a load of them listed on the blogroll beside this post. They're without exception a nice bunch and their support may be just what you need to clear the next hurdle in your writing career.

I said at the beginning of this post that there were two things that gave me pause for thought. While I was vacillating over what I was going to say at the beginning of this post I wandered off into the blogosphere in search of inspiration. And I found it too - right here. Not for the first time the estimable L Lee Lowe stopped me right in my tracks. Lee has recently published online her YA fantasy novel "Mortal Ghost" and already it's been downloaded more than a thousand times. A thousand times! That's incredible.

In fact, it's more than incredible - it's truly inspirational. What it means is that at long last the internet is delivering on its early promise and that anyone can become a real, proper, widely-read writer without being forced to find a traditional publisher.

So if you have the talent and are prepared to work hard - and maybe use your blog to get some invaluable feedback and support - there really are no barriers left any more.

And that should give you a nice warm feeling. Just like it gives me.