Tuesday, 19 August 2014

I chased the cloud shadows up over the moor...



I chased the cloud shadows up over the moor and onto the estate where the men still drive Rovers and wear their hair in elaborate comb-overs that flip up in the wind like busy, beige peddle-bin lids. Wind-assisted lapwings flocked in the field behind the abandoned Renault camper — £500 ono, the pretend duck by the bin-store ‘quacked’ as I passed, and a replica of a basset-hound peered out from the large stone handbag in Mrs Hinchliffe’s alpine rockery, its head bobbing on a spring. People in comfy shoes were restraining small terriers, frying liver and onions, smoking cigs, and scraping fluvial sediment from a storm drain with a butter knife. A man with a bit of dinner on his face was sitting on a collapsible chair outside his conservatory door. He was surrounded by marigolds, begonias, gladioli, Sport For All stickers, a faded Basil Ede print of some ducks, a pile of VHS video cassettes, a dozen or so pretend meerkats, and a miniature wooden wheelbarrow stuffed with pansies and snapdragons. Next door, a ten year old dusty-pink Kia Picanto pulled up and a grey haired man with thick, plastic rimmed reactolite glasses and a three-quarter length beige anorak climbed out. He slammed the door, opened the boot, and unloaded three heavy looking Lidl bags-for-life. He pulled out a small packet of dog biscuits and held it up high to show the man with the dinner on his face who shouted, ’Thanks, Derek!’ and pointed towards the open door of his green plastic shed, ‘Wob us it in there, can you?’

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Under the overgrown brambles, through the spider’s webs...



Under the overgrown brambles, through the spider’s webs, past the tethered cat asleep on the lawn at the limit of its chain, to Mr Briggs’ front door.
“Good weekend?” he asked.
“Not so bad, thanks. You?”
“It were all right. We went down The Railway. I said to Robert, ‘Have you any food on?’ He said ‘Yes, we’re doing bacon sandwiches for a pound.’ I said, ‘I’ll have two’. So we had a bacon sandwich each”.
“Very nice” I said.
“Aye, but when I got up to go for a piss they had a bloke on the toilet door trying to charge me 50p because of the Tour de France! The robbing bastards! I said to Robert, ‘You’re not charging me 50p for a piss, I’ve been coming in here thirty-five year.’”
Did he charge you?” I said.
“Did he fuck. Robbing bastard.”

The roofers were listening to Tracey Chapman on their bright yellow, heavy-duty radio while they discussed what a great night-out Brighouse is.
“Aye, I went-out there last weekend. It wasn’t a bad night but I didn’t go out to get rat-arsed” said the younger one, rolling a cigarette.
“Fuck me!” said the older one, “I did! I got absolutely fucking bladdered.”

The occupants of the little Fiat 500 ahead of me at the lights were engaged in some kind of gobbing-out-of-the-window contest. The big man with the moustache in the near-side passenger seat appeared to be winning; he’d landed a large greeny halfway across the pavement outside the doctor's surgery. Two of the beige pensioners in the long line of mainly-beige-with-accents-of-navy pensioners at the bus stop looked on disapprovingly. They started to remonstrate but the wind blew something heavy by Yves St Laurent into the van and I wound-up my window so I didn't hear what they said.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

The Most Difficult Thing Ever audio extract / new stockists



Two new Manchester stockists of The Most Difficult Thing Ever book/CD:

Magma
22 Oldham Street
Manchester 
M1 1JN

Trouble at Mill
50 Beech Road
Chorlton-cum-Hardy
Manchester
M21 9EG

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Just down from the The Sun pub where Elvis performed last night...



Just down from the The Sun pub where 'Elvis' performed last night, the man who still has his Christmas decorations up was singing Everly Brothers songs at the top of his voice while he did his ironing with the window open.

Two fifteen year old Vauxhall coupés driven by slack-jawed snapback wearers sped past. The silver metallic one in front hit the speed-bump by the bus stop too quickly and its wide-arch body-kit came off in one piece. The second coupé, a red one, ran over the body kit, smashed it to pieces and dragged it up the road for a few hundred yards. The elderly man with the Scottish accent and a spaniel asleep in the basket attached to his walking-frame said, ‘There are some right fucking idiots about’.

On the terrace with more plants in the guttering than in the gardens — next door to the house with the Twix wrapper, the AAA battery, the ear-buds, and the dustpan and brush in the concreted-over yard — a man of about 60, wearing a sweatshirt, jeans, and slippers was sitting on his front step listening to The Eurythmics at very high volume. He occasionally joined in with the chorus between drags on his roll-up.

Out in the sticks, Builders of all ages listen to 80s chart hits all day long and chubby young white men with no socks, beards, tattoos and flat caps say, ‘Thanks, boss’ to the Asian shopkeepers or do some cycling. A man of about 60 with a grey crew-cut-and-rat-tail discusses his Mercedes with another younger Mercedes owner. They both refer to their cars as ‘She’.

Friday, 6 June 2014

I was talking to Mrs Kaur in the shop...



I was talking to Mrs Kaur in the shop, “You know her from number 14?” she said, “Well, every time she comes in here she’s different; one day she’s a goth, one day she’s like, normal, like, white, normal, and then yesterday she came in and she was a bloody muslim!”

In Union Terrace, Mr Coldwell was in his yard trying to spray an old push-bike yellow in the rain. He told me it was for the window display of the florist’s shop on the route of the Tour de France. He was well into his second can of paint but the rain was washing it off as fast as he could spray it on. “I should have waited for a finer day, it looks crap,” he explained. At the house next door, they have finished laying their new plastic lawn and have now embellished it; in one corner stands a plastic statuette of mole wearing a little miner’s helmet and, in the other, a shiny fake plastic dog turd.

In the road, the magpie was squawking hysterically and dive-bombing the fat black cat which eventually hid underneath a Suzuki Vitara for cover. 
Two cars down from the Vitara, the young mum was struggling to load baby equipment around the large custom built speaker system in the boot of the new VW Polo.
A bit further down again, next to the children's playground that the children never play on, a man with a good two-thirds of his arse showing was mending his old Transit Connect. "Can I borrow your drill, Trevor?" he shouted to the man drinking beer in his front garden, "You cheeky bastard!" the man shouted back.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

In Town: On my way into work at 6am, the lank-haired transvestite in the flared capri pants...



In Town:
On my way into work at 6am, the lank-haired transvestite in the flared capri pants and anorak was rolling a cigarette by the bins near the open market, she glanced up as I passed, “It’s a bit wet, pet” she said, sneering up at the weather.

Later, in the suburbs:
Four women in their thirties passed me near the junction box that has been vandalised with the slogan WALTER SCOTT IS A BATTY BOY. They walked two abreast with arms folded tight, the hoods of their bath robes pulled over their heads against the driving rain. The old man whose garden smells of chives was putting out his bins. He saw the women pass and rolled his eyes, blood from a nose bleed congealing thickly on his top lip.
On the corner of the main road out of town, the man with the ear defenders and jackhammer paused to stare at the young Asian woman in the dark glasses and the brand new Porsche Panamera.

Out in the sticks:
The sun has come out and there are dog walkers with ski poles, gaiters and fleece jackets. Only the pony’s head is visible above the sea of yellow in the buttercup field. There are rhododendrons, stripy lawns, BMWs (summer), Range Rovers (winter), and those panelled front doors that look like massive chocolate bars. Queues of men in shorts and T-shirts stand outside the Sandwich Barn, all pumped up torsos and skinny legs, and the old man in full motorcycle racing leathers pulls off his helmet to reveal a somehow immaculate and astonishing 1970s hairdo.

Right out in the sticks:
The sun is out but the cow-parsley lined roads are still littered with leaves and twigs after all the wind and rain; crows scatter as I approach. There are broken Zafiras, Vitaras, ancient Land Rovers, and mucky trainers. There are midges too, and I think I saw a lone oystercatcher down by the reservoir. Puffs of pollen explode from the pine trees and I definitely heard a cuckoo.

Monday, 12 May 2014

On Tuesday, 20th May, I will be reading from The Most Difficult Thing Ever at the Marble Beerhouse.



On Tuesday, 20th May I will be reading from The Most Difficult Thing Ever at the Marble Beerhouse in Chorlton, Manchester as part of the Chorlton Arts Festival. It's a free event and it starts at 7pm.
          There's a Facebook page dedicated to the event here. If you use Facebook or Twitter etc and could spread the details around it would be fantastic — especially if you have Manchester connections. As far as I'm aware, the only person currently intending to come along is the woman in the video above. She's only just set off and she's got to go via the chemist so I'm concerned she won't make it in time.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

I was out in fucking Leeds at the weekend



“I was out in fucking Leeds at the weekend,” said the man sitting in front of me on the bus. “There’s some fucking talent over there compared to Huddersfield, you know? It’s a different world.
You need some Bromide,” said the man in the bent glasses next to him.
“Bromide? What’s Bromide?”
“It’ll calm you down — stop you thinking about it all the time.”
“But I like thinking about it!”
I looked out of the window. The plump woman with the thick, dry, curly hair was sitting at the lights in her mauve Vauxhall Corsa, eating yoghurt from the pot with a metal spoon.

At the house with the garden with the single gatepost and a gate but nothing else — no fence or wall etc, nothing to mark its boundary with the pavement — a boy of about 10 years old stood staring, his face smeared with streaks of fake tan.
“How come you’re just standing there?” he asked the delivery man, who was writing out a card on the step of the house next door.
“How come you’re just standing there?” the delivery man asked back.
“I don’t know” said the boy.

Out in the sticks, surrounded by dog groomer’s vans, the sun came out and the flies were bouncing off my face. Trees cast dappled shadows across ivy covered walls that buzzed with bees. I heard a cuckoo, saw dunlins, lapwings, pheasants, (close-up)swallows, ducks, geese, and a beautiful peacock butterfly, all within half an hour.
    Back in town, Craig Bainbridge told me he’d seen two ducks eating chips outside C.Booth’s hardware shop on his way into work. He said he’d have taken a photo but he was on his scooter.

Results of an hour spent researching what to wear in the countryside at this time of year:
Knitted beige lurex cardigan — no sleeves, tied at waist.
Brown hoodie
Green overalls
Green anorak with hood — North Face
Black and navy woollen jumper
Hi-vis coat — green/muddy
Pink polo-neck jumper with black gilet
Navy blue overall/shop coat
Fleece jackets — various and sundry
Blue cagoule — torn
Green zip-up raglan cardigan
Light blue cotton shirt
T-shirts — various and sundry

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

World Book Night Special: Wednesday 23rd April 2014



This year, the World Book Night annual collaborative book event at the Centre for Fine Print Research, University of the West of England, will feature Charles Bukowski's 1971 novel, Post Office. I'm pleased to have been asked to contribute some thoughts.


Bucket of Crabs*

I left the post office in 1990 to study art at university in Liverpool. I graduated in 1993 and spent the next twelve months looking for a job and doing voluntary work in galleries. The only ‘DSS welcome’ place I could find was a room-share with a neo-nazi who burnt my belongings and threw them out of a first floor window. 
Frustrated, I decided to spend my time more productively; I mainly smoked weed which I rolled with tobacco sourced from the ashtrays of a biker bar in town. When I wasn’t doing that, I was drinking 25p cans of Skandia Green lager and trying to stay away from my flat. 
One day, I went for a Restart at Toxteth job centre. I was told to bring three job cards with me. I searched the racks but they were all empty; not a single card in the whole place. I went in for my interview and the R.E.M song, Shiny Happy People played over the P.A. as the job centre man signed me on again.
Cutting a long story short, I eventually found myself back at the Royal Mail in Huddersfield, utterly defeated. This is when I first read Post Office. It was an easy read and very funny. As objectionable as the book's main protagonist is at times, I could identify with him. Henry Chinaski's impeccably flawed combination of bravado, cynicism, righteous indignation and pissed-up bewilderment made him seem real and authentic and he operated in a very familiar world. 
I think Charles Bukowski wrote himself into the book as the Chinaski character; a fantasised, exaggerated version of himself in a profoundly observed environment.
Where Bukowski wrote himself into his books, I write myself out of mine. I’ve found that being a postman makes me almost invisible on the streets. Drama is everywhere and it is my anonymity that facilitates my access to it. I am looking in from the outside. In effect, I have escaped the post office by writing about it from the outside on the inside. Unfortunately for Charles Bukowski, he never thought of this clever little conceit and his only option was to leave the post office and fall back on his career as a massively successful writer of short stories, novels, poetry, and films.

Suffice to say that reading Post Office this time around was like pulling teeth. In fact, I was struggling through it in the dentist's waiting room the other day and was relieved when the receptionist called me for my treatment.

*The Centre for Fine Print Research handed out copies of Post Office and asked the recipients for three word reviews which were then made into a book (see video above). My review was 'Bucket of crabs' and I thought I'd also use it as a title here. It is a reference to Charles Bukowski's posthumously published poem 'The Great Escape' in which he explains how he finally overcame the post office.