We live in a world of images, which makes wanting to use words all the time seem a strange choice.
No matter where I have been, or what I have been doing, I have never been far from the urge to get my pen out and describe it. Much of the time, it is just about trying to make people laugh, describing a situation that should be mundane and boring, but in a way that makes a reader sit up, notice and smile. Equally, I have stood on a street corner in North Belfast and written a poem about the riot that was going on, and in a hospital ward writing a limerick for a dying friend. I have tried and failed to describe beautiful views, and then I have succeeded above my wildest dreams in finding the right words to describe an apparently indescribable emotion. Much of the early stuff was truly awful- the diaries from my ski season stand out- but some of it still brings me a curious pleasure forty years after it was written.
This series of blogs was born out of a suggestion by a friend who writes for a living, who put it to me after just enough glasses of wine that perhaps I should aim higher than the odd giggle-provoking one liner on Facebook, and lower than the occasional book that I write. Somewhere in between, in other words. ‘Do what a columnist does,’ he said, ‘and then try not to be boring.’ ‘Maybe one day they’ll give you your own column,’ he added, advising me enthusiastically not to apply to the paper that he happened to write for, and thus compete. There are nearly 200 blogs here already, and there have been many tens of thousands of views, not all of them mine.
There is no binding thread, no tight editorial line. Instead, if it works as it is designed to, it is an occasional glimpse into the mind of a man in transition. Transition from the last vestiges of youth to undeniable middle age; transition from paid employment to the irregular crumbs that fall off the busy literary bird table; and transition from full time parent to empty nester. The things that fascinate and delight me, like bees, cricket, golf, travel and my family, dominate, but so must the snapshots of the extraordinary times we live in, from drones at Gatwick to speed awareness courses, via the endless pantomime that Brexit has become. A theme over which I have had no choice or control is my flashbacks to my childhood; at a time when I don’t even remember to pick up the milk on the way back from work, I find I have total recall of things that happened half a century ago. The ones of which I am most proud, if you want to know, are the Viciousness of Piano Lessons and the Very Dark Side of Walnut Whips, both, I suppose, tackling PTSD.
Above everything, it is an attempt in the manner of a cartoonist to find some crumb of humour just about anywhere. Just about. It cannot help but seem self-referential, and perhaps it is, but only as a means to an end. Believe me, I don’t really think that I have anything more important to offer than others; the only difference is that I actually want to say it.
Are my motives pure? No. Like any honest artist or performer, I suppose I crave approval. But I also want this thing to go as far as it can, which will of course be only as far as it deserves. So the more of you who share it, like it, and enthuse about it, the further you will have helped me on my journey. Please comment as well, even if only as a means of starting a conversation to which others can pile in. Above all, please scroll down and sign up to it, if you can bear to! Social media has created a miasma of insecurity, but it has also allowed people like me to be adventurous, and to believe that, forty years later than they had planned, they can be grown-up writers.
I hope you enjoy the blogs. (If you do, copies of my four books are available from this website via one of the UK’s best independent bookshops.)