Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Ragged Edges

One of the things I am coming to love most about Whitstable and the surrounding coastline is the way the landscape dissolves into the sea. The ragged edges you might say...

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Wheat The Fuch?

Born and brought up in London I now find myself in a state of semi-retirement beside the seaside. (What does an anarchic ex-bookshop owner do for work? No, I'm asking you!) We live close enough to the sea to take a stroll there with the kids before bed when the days stretch beautifully as they did yesterday. But we also live on the doorstep of some gorgeous Kentish countryside.

In the city I obsessed over power cables and derelict buildings. The strange interaction of departing daylight and arriving electric illumination on the metropolis beguiled me - ever noticed those clingfilm shadows? Now I find there are a million tiny things to get excited about in the country too.

Such as wheat. I kept cycling past fields and wondering if that sturdy, stocky-looking stuff could be wheat. We have a Samuel Palmer print on the wall that depicts a harvest scene.

I have also been to several pubs named The Wheatsheaf the signs of which involved an illustration of, you guessed it, a sheaf of wheat. Tall, slender stalks bunched and gathered in the centre. Well it turns out the wheat in Kent these days is New Wheat. Since the 1950s farmers have grown wheat that was blended with a Japanese variety. The result is more wind-resistant and highly nutritious.

The Samuel Palmer wheat is no more. Like many old plants it has been bred out of existence.

(I should insert a caveat here. I am no farmer. If there are any farmers out there hurt, offended or outraged by the ignorance of these observations then I can only apologise.)

One of the writing projects I'm working on involves transferring Lermontov's A Hero Of Our Time from the 19thC Caucasus to 21stC Harlesden. I may have moved to the seaside but my imagination remains stained with Grime...

Friday, 24 June 2011

Glastonbury Bore aka The Best Things In Life Are FREE

I went to Glastonbury at least twice. I was definately there in 1994. I clearly remember seeing Bjork in a red dress from the other side of a field full of many thousands of people...

In those days Michael Eavis had the attitude that if you got in for free well good luck to you. Scraped from the streets of West London we took him at his word.

That year we snuck in using dodgy wristbands. We arrived and headed off into the fields around the site. Pretty soon we saw some people huddled together and went to investigate. They had worked out a way to get their wristbands off and offered to sell them to us for a tenner each. We were a little doubtful. I volunteered to give it first try. I marched up to the gates. A bloke in a fluorescent jacket turned to a group of youngsters he was training.

"Ok, here comes someone now. I'll show you how to tell if the wristband is genuine or not."

Oh dear I thought to myself. 

"Give it a good hard tug! The bands are impossible to get off this year so if you tug it and it stays on then it's ok. In you go mate."

That was quite a rush of addrennaline. The rest of our dastardly crew followed soon after. We were in. For (nearly) free.

The following year there were more of us. We got a coach to somewhere near the site then started to walk. We were constantly told by security people that the entrance was in the other direction but were not the only group to be quite obviously without tickets and looking for a way in. Some of our party had massive backpacks and though we might have looked like a rag tag army dressed as we were in our finest army surplus gear we were not so fit as soldiers. They had jeeps patrolling the fences full of men with sticks. We hid in some bushes near a spot where we could see an oil drum by the fence. When the jeep patrol passed, three of us rushed over to the fence and stood up the oil drum. I was boosted up by a mate and managed to grab the fence. I heaved myself on top of it then used a diagonal scaffolding pole inside to swing down. As I got to my feet I was almost killed by another mate hurling his backpack over! This time about five of us got in but two, including artist David Blandy, were stuck outside. They hadn't made it onto the oil drum before the security guys came back. We headed to the top of the site where there were loads of people outside trying to get in and hundreds inside trying to help them. I sat on top of the fence and pulled people up but others were undoing the bolts on the fence inside. Eventually a huge section of the fence was dismantled and those outside were simply able to stroll in.

Yes I had a great time both times. But I hardly saw any of the bands. Portishead were on the jazz stage but their debut album was everywhere and there were so many people trying to see them you couldn't get to within a quarter of a mile of the tent.

I have to say getting in was probably the most fun. Apart from that the best of the action always seemed to be on the edge somewhere. Joe Banana's blanket shop was always good. Mostly I remember dancing a lot. The music was new to me. The vibe was close to revolutionary. A field, a sound system and people. Perfect. Food? Don't need it. Sleep? Waste of time. When I hear people moaning about wellies and bad toilets I just don't understand it.

As the sun rose on the final day of Glasto 95 we were dancing outside the official festival site. Police vans were arranged in a semi-circle around 100 feet away, hemming us in. The DJ was spinning Detroit classics from the likes of Underground Resistance, Kenny Larkin and Carl Craig. Mmmm. The edges are where it's at people, cling to the edges...

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Me And My Short Stories

Scott Pack has reviewed the opening story in my collection Washed Up on his site Me And My Short Stories.  Speachless...

Washed Up

On the day that JK Rowling announced that she will be selling e-books herself without the help of her print publisher I am thrilled to say that Washed Up, a collection of six short stories, is up online and ready to download.  It's completely FREE so please do take a look and let me know what you think.

Quite apart from their literary merit I am interested to know of any problems etc with downloading the files.  I have tested with MOBI reader and it looks fine.  I don't have a Kindle though so it would be great to know how it looks on one of those.  You can also download a Word doc.

All of these stories are recent.  I hope you like them...

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Re Cycling

Pegwell Bay with a field full of wild flowers in front and some derelict cooling towers behind.  I have now linked my phone to the blog so expect many pics from my cycling trips to appear here over the coming weeks and months. 

I'm limbering up for a London to Canterbury ride on September 11th.  It's an 80 mile route.  The ride this pic was taken on was about 50 miles. 

It was a great ride with only one or two hairy moments. 

The first hairy moment involved this cow.  (Bull? Too hairy to tell!) He/she/it stuck a horn out of a bush as I was whizzing past.  Nipped back to take this pic.  The second hairy moment was more of a series.  I have heard of a "back crack and sack" wax and scoffed at the whimpy pathetic excuses of men who might indulge in such things.  But maybe some of them were cyclists.  Sitting on a rather small and hard saddle for mile after mile in the blazing sun involves a problematic interaction between sweat, hair and fake leather that starts out as uncomfortable and ends in agony! 

I've been quiet on here for ages, not that anyone will have noticed or cared much, but being reborn is a lengthy process.  I'm still bookselling part time but my reading has collapsed.  Where I used to polish off more than a book a week I now struggle to finish a book a month.  Why?  Partly I think I'm probably shattered by the loss of my beloved bookselling empire.  Partly I have been writing a lot myself.  100,000 words of a novel and a series of short stories.  I am formatting the shorts as a Kindle E-Book and hope to have them published next week. 

Watch this space...