Music, memories and other stuff beginning with M

In the absence of any productivity in my writing (I have a long list of pre-prepared distractions. I am proud of their efficacy) I thought I’d go back to one of my true loves…music. And, in particular, the ability of the humble choon to stir long-dead memories. It is a fact.  Probably – see previous posts on my hatred of research.

First up I will have to announce my chequered past. I play(ed) the violin, and as such it is my first love when it comes to music. The majority of my bittersweet memories of youth come from music played in orchestras. I loved that, absolutely loved being part of an orchestra. I also played in a rock band, mainly with my rock-steady and impossibly hardy Yamaha electric violin and once or twice with an electric guitar.

There is a point to this post, I promise.

Recently (the last fifteen years or so – I have a determinedly loose definition of the word ‘recent’) I have gone off ‘regular’ music. This coincided with my rock band years. I can say with absolute certainty that I have not listened to Radio 1 since Mark and Lard rocked my world in 1997. Such is my disdain of all modern music I now have a rapidly increasing iTunes collection of classical music. Even in this my tastes are quite specific.

I used to love stuff like Tchaikovsky and Sibelius, Dvorak and that ilk (romantic period, I suppose) and I was pretty much guided by the music I played as a callow youth. But as I have aged I have become less enamoured of that genre and more focussed on the more modern period.

This is mirrored by by rock music tastes. I was a massive fan of the Stone Roses, Charlatans, Blur and all those bands. A proper nerd for them, I was, but now I can’t really listen to them with feeling bloody sad that the feelings of positivity they garnered in me no longer exist. Of gigs, partying, great lifelong friends and youthful high jinx. Likewise if I listen to Dvorak’s sixth all I remember is the beautiful smile of a percussionist I fancied from my County Orchestra days, or Catherine X (who I idolised for all of about four formative years).

So I have had to change my music listening habits to avoid those old memories. One does not like to dwell.

Hence my current tastes. Arnold Bax, Bruckner, Vaughan-Williams, Mahler, Nielsen, Walton, etc. These are all examples of composers that I did not play enough of, or avoided associating memories with. As such they are all I can listen to while I read or write, because anything else engages me too much. That’s why I never write while listening to violin concertos. I can’t help being distracted by them – following them actively. I would get nothing done!

This is a shambling post; the post equivalent of an old man in a queue wearing his coat inside out, and so I apologise in advance to any complaints, of which there may be millions.

In postscript, I would like to complain that my mind now associates Tintagel, by Arnold Bax, with GRRM’s Game of Thrones. I must have listened to it too many times as I trawled through the existing books in the series and now when I listen to it and write I am tempted to make my characters do stuff with swords, dwarves and mud and the say the occasional ‘fuck’.

By the way, if you feel the urge you can hear my old band (and why wouldn’t you?), The Plug, in some recordings we did. It’s a myspace page I’d forgotten about. Happy deriding!

The Coward’s Remorse

Yeah, I know, I never saw this coming either. A poem, or rather, my poem. It’s my only one. My excuse is that I wrote this long enough ago to officially be able to say I did not know better. Nowadays I’d berate myself silly for such shash. Enjoy!

Everyone ducked at the sound of the shot,
“We’re coming to get ya, ready or not!”,
It’s lucky there’s nothing to trouble a mind,
So empty of reason there’s nothing to find.

Will my last train of thought involve leaving her here?
Screaming my name as I run, filled with fear?
In a flash of inspired, fear-fuelled stupor I stop,
“Babe, I’m coming to get ya, ready or not!”.

Its a tenuous thing; this cowards remorse,
It’s too late to find God; for life to reverse,
So why is there some space, some reason to doubt,
Why I charge in hell-bent on getting you out?

The room’s full of smoke and there’s blood everywhere,
And in a heart-beat my resolve starts to tear,
When a scream from my girl sets the steel to my back,
I’ve decided, “No more! Its time to attack!”.

As the bullets zip past me I jump through a door
And roll like a gymnast over the floor,
I stop as ahead I see my girl – she’s weeping,
From a hundred new wounds her blood is now seeping.

She looks up at me and a smile lights her face,
But her eyes start to fade and my heart starts to race,
And then there’s the moment where all sentience fades,
And my heart is thrust open with millions of blades.

For a moment or two I feel hope beyond hoping,
But inside I know that I’d better start coping,
With the agony rolling around in my head,
That bitterest knowledge – I’d left her for dead…

Love spreads around…

Love is the topic for today. Love…rhymes with glove, which is interesting in ways I have yet to think of. Perhaps something about it sheathing the hand or something to do with fingers. Unpleasant and leathery.

But I digress.

I have been scribbling away in my sporadic manner, and I have found myself describing a scene where the thorny issue of love has raised it’s head. I am sure that many writers out there absolutely LOVE a bit of the old romance – it appears to be easy for them, although I have not looked into it (that spanks too much of research which itself spanks too much of organised effort, which all right-minded people should avoid at all cost). But I find the whole process enormously ridiculous, despite its necessity. Or perhaps because of that necessity.

Of course, LOVE is a part of life, as much as tedious local TV news and the rightful aversion to camping out, and as such it should feature in my character’s lives, but why do I find it all so, well, embarrassing?

Can it be my Britishness? We do have an aversion to overt expressions of intimacy or feelings (at least we did prior to 1997…Lady Di and all that….wow…talk about over the top. Thanks US). Or could it be more personal? Probably the latter.

It’s not a big issue, don’t get me wrong. I can write romantic shash until the cows wend their way back to their barn-of-birth, but while I am doing it I am realising with increasing annoyance that it IS shash. To me it seems that any real attempt to impart the feelings that occur in a romantic triste cannot help but be tawdry, tedious and contrived. It is so subjective.

Romance is the bedrock of a lot of stories, as is action, adventure and a beginning and an end, but the extent to which it features is up to the author. I am going to be careful that it does not become a central theme, which I admit is a decision of personal taste.

I’m just not going to dwell on it. I’m going to be doing the equivalent of sitting down, having a cup of Yorkshire Gold and being sensible about it, like a good old fashion Brit. I prefer it that way.

All the above is an excuse to post this drawing of mine. I LOVE IT!

Blank Holiday

Argh. I cannot overstate that expression of frustration. Maybe an exclamation point will help. Ahem, let me try again.


I have been reading a lot of blogs recently. This wordpressy thing is new to me and I am trying to get into the swing of things by trawling the blogs offered, which is turning into a discouraging process.

I don’t know what I expected, but I know what I hoped for. I hoped for enlightened, intriguing discourse, or wit and those special, beautifully phrased, pithy little phrases that make reading a thoroughly wholesome pleasure. I wanted crafted posts, lighting the fire of my turgid imagination.

What I got was the complete opposite. Bland, self-obsessed, regurgitated shash, mostly. And about as much wit as can be summoned up by a wounded antelope hurtling across the savannah being pursued by a pride of hungry lions.

Of course, this is a MASSIVE exaggeration, purely for effect. There are some blogs out there that have genuinely delighted me and, to those bloggers, I offer my insignificant and pointless thanks, but to the rest of you I would like to say thanks for wasting my time. Insert your own sarcastic tone here.

This whole post obviously stinks of hypocrisy. I rail against the forces of self-obsession while perpetrating my own navel-staring, but the difference is that I AM NO DIFFERENT (ha! – no, I don’t get it either), which is why this post exists. I am as bad as all of you.

So here is my offering, written in the full knowledge that nobody is really interested in what I have to say and that I will be dismissed by others as I, myself, dismiss others. This self-obsessed,  ego-centric, strangely self-aware post doesn’t care, which is probably how it should be.

If you think you are one of that small amount of bloggers that can entice me with wares they TRULY believe are worthwhile, then let me know and I’ll have a looksee, and if I like I will, er, ‘like’ or even ‘follow’, so best of luck with that.

If not you can shove it up your arse. Happy blogging!



The writing blog WILL continue, but as I am in an arty mood I will stick another doodle up. The lack of any real quality is due to my inability to actually DRAW. This should serve as a life lesson, whereas you should infer that being rubbish at something is not necessarily a reason NOT TO DO IT…and share it with the internet wizards (with a complete lack of regard for the keeping-up of artistic standards). It occurs to me I may be tangentially referring to my writing too.


Damn you BT. Damn your feeble attempts to connect me to the internet with indifferent effectiveness. Damn your blocking of the pirate bay, damn your corporateness (I think I just made that up) but mostly, er, well mostly the first one. STOP DEPRIVING ME OF THE SERVICE I PAID FOR.

And don’t get me started on the miraculously diminishing download speed, where it appears phantom cyber-monkeys are throttling the living hell out of some wires in a tube underground.

But, meh, I’m not really that bothered. It’s too warm to bother. Why bother, I think in intemperate misery.

Yeah, the internet keeps freezing, or becoming the wiry equivalent of an annoying dribble. When I write (and I do, despite the lack of evidence in support of that fact at the moment) I find I am forever nipping off to obscure websites to gather bizarre and, on the face of it, completely pointless spasms of information (yes, that is my new name for piles of pointless information).

For instance, how do you address a Seneschal? And then what are the ingredients required for candle making? How do you make leaf-spring suspension? How do meteors work?

I simply don’t have the wherewithal to make a note, search later and then seamlessly remember what the hell I was scribbling about and why I suddenly needed to know what the best knot for a rabbit snare is. I need instant access. Evernote (bless the damn thing. Really…I love it) can only do so much. It is simply INTOLERABLE I cannot get on the tinterwebby thing on demand. My toys are hereby ejected from my cot.

It’s either that or actually plan what I write, but forty years of evidence to the contrary says that ain’t gonna happen.

As far as the new effort goes, well I realise that I was having problems with my character development. This is not news, and I do not mean to imply that I now do not have a problem, but I am trying to amend that by concentrating on a solitary character a bit more. I borrowed strands from previous efforts, and decided that the quest idea should be less central to the story and I am also trying to address the character of the city I am choosing to set this stuff in. This is the city of Alagaunt (oh yeah, they say, that’s the name of the blog! How clever… Fade to black).

I reckon the city needs to be more central too. So I am working on less overall main characters which always helps. One has to start small, after all. Of course, this will probably all change…but therein lies the interesting bit. I get to pack the characters and city with spasms of stuff. Cool.

Learning to appreciate the learning curve

Learning. We’re always learning. Ta daaa (I felt the introduction needed a salutary fanfare).

Some learn more than others, obviously (you dullards know who you are) but they are always learning nonetheless, despite evidence to the contrary (no, you do not spell etcetera with an ‘x’). Take maths. No…don’t….bad example. I know, take WRITING!

I have ditched a 55k word-fest and now a 35k one had joined its fellow on the rubbish heap of misadventure. But I have realised that every time I go through this ridiculous exercise (typing away like a wordy squirrel with a penchant for diet coke, agoraphobia and a squirrel-sized iMac) I find myself improving. Not creatively, necessarily, but definitely craft-wise, which is erratically rewarding enough, as it happens.

For me writing is not simply about the result (although it’d be nice), it’s more about the sheer joy of scrambling together a scene that does justification to the idea behind it – that paints it as I saw it. Or phrasing something in a way that immediately resonates. It is rewarding in itself, too.

So here I am, 4k into yet another start. The world I have created continues to come into focus at every failure. Although the word ‘failure’ is incorrect. The result of those  tens of thousands of misconceived words means the 4k I have are better than the last two. It’s a learning curve after all. The nature of the beast means it’ll never plateau either so there is endless LEARNING.

The concern is, of course, that I may never finish anything, but I am heartened by the knowledge that I am not a perfectionist so I can see myself, one day, saying, ‘Yep. That’s it done. I am happy with that” although I would hope to use more profound words – words I could one day tell Parky I used and people would quote and Paxman would question fresh-faced under-graduates about.

The igloo dweller

Progress, like the amount of fun a man can have in an igloo (apparently), is minimal. I have been slogging on, losing the plot (literally) and re-writing like I have nothing better to do than get mired in a morass. I don’t even know what a morass is.

I have managed something like 500 words a day on average, a quite feeble effort, and I am struggling to figure out why. I haven’t got writer’s block, it’s more of a problem than that. In all honesty I might not be cut out for this. No amount of scraping at the icy walls will do it, it seems.

How’s that for negative thinking?

But I will persist. I know that I will get reinvigorated just as soon as my slow mind works out something interesting. My main problem are my characters, I reckon. The character development is meagre – it’s quite difficult to work out how to do it without it being overt. Subtlety has ever been my downfall. Belief sometimes too.

It’s lucky that I know that dips are only part of the journey. There’s always a resurgent peak to look forward to, isn’t there? Bah, just get back to blogging  and writing and stop this introspective babbling!

Oh, I’m not really in an igloo…