We would like to make it clear that the clown problem has been effectively neutralised. Clowns have been eradicated from our towns, cities, and countryside.
Should you see a clown, please report to the authorities immediately, in order that you can be inoculated against further sightings.
In the event that you repeatedly see clowns that are legally disallowed from your vision, a minor medical procedure shall be undertaken which will effectively resolve the fault.
Law-abiding citizens will not see the clowns.
There are no clowns.
At five ayem, all you can hear is the sound of the river rushing below your window, and the gurgle and spit of the coffee machine. You still have the night, and all its velvet mystery. The day hasn’t yet started; you are there to call down the moon and raise up the sun.
Peaceful. Your neighbours are sleeping. Not one door slams, not one voice is raised. You even feel kindly towards them, at this hour. They’re so sweet, when they’re sleeping. They don’t bother you at all.
You’re someone different at five in the morning. Someone meaningful, purposeful. Because only those who suffer from meaning and purpose force themselves to wake at that hour. Nothing is beyond you then. You can do anything at all. What you do, naturally, is write. It should be no easier or harder than at any other hour, but the muse looks kindly on those who come early to work. She likes to see you there every day, washed and dressed and properly humble.
You learn. It’s a glamourous hour.
The absolute best bit about writing is when you get a lovely new copy of a book containing one of your stories. There are other good bits, but this has got to be the best. It never gets boring.
It adds to the brilliance when you are sharing covers with some flipping amazing writers, like Priya Sharma, Nina Allen, and Carole Johnstone, to name but a few.
You can buy this book here or here or in a good bookshop.
I’ve never grown out of wanting to stay up late. There’s a glamour to the night time, a certain electricity in the air. When I was younger, I liked to stay up all night with my friends. I was always the last to go home or go to sleep. Now, all my friends have grown up, and the last time I stayed up all night I felt horrible the next day, like my body was made of gravel and dirt, and my brain was busy with voices… So I thought I won’t do that again.
I used to like to write at night, because I felt like I had the world to myself. Growing up in a big, loud family, you learn to carve out time, solitude, peace, and then to defend it tooth and nail. I read a lot and was usually able to leave my body and live inside the story. Sometimes I think that I wouldn’t have survived my family at all if it weren’t for books.
Nowadays, night times are not so peaceful. My neighbours disturb me. Living in cities, so close together… I hear them moving around. Their music is intrusive, the boring thump-thump-thump of a bass line. I want to live somewhere I can hear silence. I want to see stars in the sky at night, and be a little afraid to walk along the path to the water, and stumble, and hear the unearthly cries of the foxes in the woods.
For a long time I’ve been feeling that I want my life to change. But I have not known the shape or way it should change. I don’t want anything, or the things I want are everyday things. To sleep without earplugs. To hear the rain. To spend my time reading and writing. A very simple kind of life. But I’m not a simple kind of person, I’m complicated and full of contradiction. I want courage, is what it is.
I travelled down to Birmingham this weekend to attend the launch of The Sea in Birmingham, an anthology of short stories set in and around the city. My story is set around some of the city’s hundreds of miles of canals – we have more canals than Venice! That’s a true fact.
I had thought I wouldn’t be able to go to the launch, due to a lack of funds. But a kind friend (who prefers to remain anonymous) decided to be a Good Fairy and sent me some cash! In their words, ‘one of the few perks of being a writer is getting to go to your own book launch.’ I was utterly blown away by this person’s generousity, and hope I repaid it in some measure by going along and having a really fantastic time.
It was wonderful to meet some of the other contributors, including those I’ve chatted with online or admired from afar but never met in person. The event was in Birmingham’s swanky new library, which is a fine and glamourous place, although I’m pretty sure I did manage to lower the tone at least a little. There wasn’t much chance to explore, but at one point a few of us broke away from the crowd on the way to the studio theatre and got excitingly lost in the guts of the building. A kindly lady guided us away from the kitchens and other steamy workings, and back to where we were supposed to be.
We sold a lot of books. I signed my name on a few of them, and learned that I have absolutely no idea what messages to write. Even now I am cringing as I recall writing ‘Hope you don’t find any dead bodies in the canal’ on a mate’s copy. This is clearly an Area for Improvement.
After the launch and a few complimentary glasses of wine, I popped in to another launch – this one for Pigeonwings, a self-published collaborative novel by some members of Birmingham Writers’ Group. They didn’t have free wine, but they did have free salami and haloes. A few of us sat at the back of the pub and played a giggly game of consequences. It was rather like old times.
The Tindal Street antho is on sale through Amazon, and you can buy it here. I’m only sorry I can’t provide the full Officer-and-a-Gentlewoman experience to everyone who buys a copy. If you can make it up to Edinburgh, I could probably do you a fireman’s lift.
So the last few weeks have been crazy busy but yesterday I finally handed in three assignments, cleaned my flat (sort of), made dinner for some people, drank a lot of red wine and laughed a lot and rolled my eyes a lot at the silly things everyone was saying. And later I said goodbye to a friend who is leaving for America and never coming back. She gave me a load of stuff she didn’t want to take back with her, like curling tongs and a blanket and the biggest pack of q-tips I have ever seen. I said goodbye to her on my doorstep, and I wanted to say something big and important that she could hold on to, but I didn’t know what that might be and life isn’t really like that.
This morning I had a dream about being at a party with my best friend. We were about to go home, when another friend turned up and told us – you can’t go, I’ve got you some drugs. And the drugs were all completely legal, smart drugs. They were in the shape of big lozenges and they had words embossed on them, like Friends and Just Friends and Sweet. I had a ‘Friends’ and it made me feel really happy.
Then I woke up and I lay in bed the whole morning, reading a book. Because for the first time in weeks and weeks I didn’t have to get up and do things or worry about not having done the things. My course isn’t over yet, but it nearly is. Assuming I pass my assignments (not a given,) the worst of it is over. No more classes, none to speak of, anyway. I mean, I have to write a novel, but I would be doing that anyway. And I have two jobs now, so it’s not completely easy. But it feels like a big, horrible thing is finally done with, and now I can start to get over it.
So, here I am again.
As you can imagine, for a site with such great big teeth, I’ve been having a few teething problems, but things are slowly getting sorted out. Thanks to everyone for your comments and links. And those of you who have complimented me on the fantastic design of the site, I have to tell you it was all my brother’s doing. His name is Matt Bruce, and if you pay him vast sums of money, he might just be persuaded to design something for you.
In other news, I started back at my day job last week so have been swamped under a pile of lesson plans and new students, and have hardly written anything at all. What I have written is quite a lot of personal stuff about being ill and fucked up, and I’m not sure anyone actually wants to read about that. I am considering how personal I want to get on this blog. I know everyone has a different approach – I haven’t worked out yet what I want mine to be.
Your thoughts? Do you get personal on your blog, or do you keep it strictly business?