Thursday, February 28, 2008

Mark Reid: every end is also a beginning.

So there we go, eh, Mark?

When I wrote this for you back in December, I said I assumed you would have no funeral, no loved ones to care and no closure to mark your passing.

How wrong I was.
On Tuesday I went to the funeral I never thought you would have.
Your mum was there, and your twin sisters as well as some old family friends and some new friends from recent years.
It’s clear that you were indeed loved.

So the inevitable question - why did you take the path that you did?
No one can answer that.
It’s perhaps hardest of all for the people who loved you as a child to come to terms with – that you made a choice to live the way you did.
You were a free spirit, Mark, and you defied the stereotypes.

You’ve taught me a lot since you left this life behind, Mark.
You taught me never to make assumptions ...
And that there are no easy answers.
We see someone who seems to be on a self-destructive trajectory and we want to know why, we need reasons, justification, meaning ...

If we believe it’s because they suffered unbearable pain and abuse, it somehow comforts us.
Ah, we say, so that’s why it happened.
And then we secretly reassure ourselves it could never happen in our own families.

The truth is far more subtle.
Like I say – no easy answers.
Maybe we’re just not asking the right questions.

Thank you for enabling me to meet your family, Mark.
I think I know why you never told me about your lovely sisters – you were protecting them.
We plan to meet again soon, when we’ll visit your bash on
London Bridge.
Our lives will continue, but forever affected by what happened in yours.

I couldn’t hear what was said at the funeral, but your family were kind enough to give me a copy of the moving speeches made, referring to the ‘happy, lively boy, full of energy and enthusiasm’ they had known as a child.

I imagined a soundtrack – Led Zeppelin, Stairway to Heaven, and perhaps some Pink Floyd.
And afterwards they told me these were indeed the tracks played during the service.

So next time any of us sees someone who is homeless, we should take some time to wonder.
They may well have a tragic background filled with abuse and pain.
(And there is no doubt that life on the streets is brutal and fraught with
But they also might have a kind and loving family who are left wondering where they could possibly have gone wrong.
Everyone has their own unique story to tell.

You may not have been born a child of the streets, Mark, but it was ultimately your choice as an adult to live in the way that you did.

Oh and I’ve remembered something else too.
The flowers.
You knew all the people who ran the florist stalls in the station.
They would give you the flowers that were considered just past their best.
You would put them in jars and pots around your bash, to brighten up the days of those who passed by.
One day, I came along and you were waiting for me.
You gave me a huge bouquet.
I was blown away.
When I arrived at work everyone wanted to know who had given me these beautiful flowers.
I watched the confusion on their faces as I told them they had been given to me by a friend who was homeless.
See, Mark? That’s what I mean about you defying the stereotypes.

And so fare thee well, Mark Reid, Stargazer.
We’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Safe and good sounds

The weekend certainly lived up to expectations.

You wanted visuals, so that's what you'll get.
(Unfortunately it was all I had too, since I was/am deaf as a whole row of posts.)

We started off with lunch here - which, you'll be delighted to know, included gin and chocolate cake.
Drumroll: l-r John Ahearn/Wordcarver/(US), Kate B/Minx/(Cornwall), Barbara Smith/Cailleach/(Ireland), Bill Liversidge/Pundy (Scotland), Karen S/Riverwillow (Kent), Emma M/Meloney Lemon (down the road).
Oh and that's me perched at the back there - I'm the one who lacks the imagination to come up with an interesting bloggy name.

And here we are at the venue. That's Babs with Emma Darwin, fellow Bookarazzi buddy who blogs at This Itch of Writing.

And that's L Lee Lowe/Lowebrow with Babs.

I do know, in spite of barely functioning ears, that both John and Babs were predictably wonderful, as were all the other performers in a pure class eclectic lineup.

Pipe & Slippers is going from strength to strength.
And people I know and love are part of it.
Who needs ears?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Weekends are made of this

I'm building up to a top notch, platinum standard, highest quality, pure class weekend.

First and foremost, First Born is due back from his 8 day trip to France tomorrow.

Please, please, please Mr France Coach Driver, take care.
Watch out for slippery roads, precipitous edges, rockfalls, fog, blizzards, exhaustion, other drivers ...
Please, please, please Mr Ferryman, take care.
Watch out for unexpected currents, mechanical failures, stray ships, ice bergs ...
(Ice bergs? In the Channel? Come, come now. That's taking the anxious parenting too far.)
Please, please, please Mr UK Coach Driver, take care.
Just because you're nearly home, this is no time for a lapse in attention.
It's been a long journey.
Take a break if you need to.
You carry a cargo more precious than gold, rubies, diamonds and every coin in every currency across the globe.

The rest of the day will be spent on a family love-in of monumental proportions.

Meanwhile, back in the Real World, bloggers will be flocking from all points of the compass for Pipe & Slippers (and some of them will be crashing on various bits of our furniture).
On Sunday, they'll be descending on our tiny loved-up abode for lunch.
I haven't told them yet that they're going to need to sit on each other's shoulders.
Or that the reason I'll be serving finger food is that we don't have enough forks.

Oh and I must warn them about the toilet seat.
It's ... um ... not actually attached to the toilet, which can make for a less-than-relaxing lavatorial experience (unless they find rollercoasters soothing ...)

Then on Monday, it will be back-to-normal day.
And I'll probably be wondering if I dreamed it all ...

Oh - and did I mention that I'm deaf? Again?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

If I've told you once ...

... I've told you a thousand times. (Or at least five ...)
(See here and here and here and here)

Don't write because you hope it will make you rich.

An article in The Times (thanks to Absolute Vanilla for the link) makes the case crystal clear.
The words 'brutal' and 'reality' leap to mind.

Here's an extract for those who can't be arsed to check the link:

Last month The Times published statistics from Nielsen Bookscan, which tracks book sales nationwide, showing that, of 200,000 books on sale last year, 190,000 titles sold fewer than 3,500 copies. More devastating still, of 85,933 new books, as many as 58,325 sold an average of just 18 copies. And things aren't much better over the pond: I read recently that, of the 1.2million titles sold in the United States in 2004, only 2 per cent sold more than 5,000 copies.

Tatiana has a new friend

Sarah Salway, who has been described by Authortrek as 'one of Britain's best writers', has posted a wonderful new review of Trading Tatiana, which you can see here.

It's always great to receive a good review, but when it's written by someone you admire and respect, it's especially sweet.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

It's that time of year again.

Another year ... another London marathon ...

This year my partner, Greg will be running his 8th marathon.
He's just turned 50 and, for those who don't know, is a maniacal runner who just happens to have insulin dependent diabetes.
Following a recent ghastly chest infection, he's also been diagnosed with exercise-related asthma.
Yeah. Like he needed that.

In spite of all this, he's still desperate to break the 3 hour mark.
(You can read about last year's dramatic attempt here.
And Greg's running story is here.)

Now for the important part:
He's running this year for SOS Africa and the charity guarantees that every penny raised will go directly towards paying for the care and education of the children who need it most.

I will of course be keeping you up-to-date with Greg's training and progress.
Meanwhile, you can donate directly to the charity by clicking on the widget ...
(which in the interests of accuracy should say sponsor him, not me. I just do the admin and carry the bags.)

Let the blogger beware

Shameless has a lesson for us all on how easily blog posts and comments can be twisted, torn from context, stripped of intended humour and take on a life of their own.

It's enough to bring on a panic attack to your typing fingers.

One of the best things ...

... about blogging is when this medium is used to put a little bit of goodness back into the world.

This is a perfect example from Peach:

'We're putting together a book for WARCHILD written by bloggers and here's where you come in:

We would like you to submit (to us at a written piece about something you've been through from any aspect of your life that you want to share. It can literally be about anything: your relationships, your past, a road not taken, being a parent, an illness or your regrets etc. We've called it "You're Not The Only One" to reflect the camaraderie of blogging.

Proceeds will go to WARCHILD . The book will be published through This is a no upfront fee internet publishing site who charge £4.70 per book. We're pricing the book at £9 so £4.30 will go to straight to the charity.'

Monday, February 18, 2008

Nearly there!

The lineup for Pipe & Slippers has been finalised.
And in case you need reminding, it's THIS SUNDAY - 24th Feb at the Ivy House, Stuart Road, SE15.

3.00 Doors open

3.30 John Ahearn – “Pomes” Book Launch

Barbara Smith – “Kairos” Book Launch

4.00 Music from Rebecca Jade

a short interval

4.30 Wes White – “Starlings”

Ben Holden – “Mynatour”

Music from Mat Huntley

5.00 Jack Blackburn - Poetry

Music from Ricardo Garcia

Music from Tim Hogbin

People will be crossing the Atlantic and the Irish Sea to be there.
Some are even rumoured to be coming from North London!

What's your excuse ...

There's a first time for everything

I've never before amended a post once it's published.
It's unlikely many (if any) people would notice the changes, so altering the content later feels dishonest to me.
The comments made would have reflected the original, which would stay in people's minds.

In this case, I'm sure the post really would have lingered in people's minds, as it was a very sad tribute in memory of a tragic life.

I published a later post, but have continued to feel uncomfortable with certain elements of the original that I was concerned may have caused further suffering to those who were already struggling.

So I've amended it with an explanation.
I dedicate this to all those who are homeless and struggling with addiction as well as to their families.

Friday, February 15, 2008

I'm not really here

My presence here is an illusion.
I don't really exist.

Allow me to explain.

First Born may be nearly 2" taller than me and weigh nearly 2 stone more, but he's still my baby.
And later today he's going away with his school.
For 8 days.

It's like someone's sucked out my soul.
I'm mooning around with a constant feeling that I've forgotten something vital.
A savage cold has kicked in, which I can blame for the streaming eyes and nose, but we know better, don't we, my bloggy friends?

This is ridiculous.
He hasn't even gone yet!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Do you have a good reason not to sign this?

Following the announcement that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport plans to reduce Public Lending Right (PLR) funding, a 10 Downing Street e-petition has been set up to protest at the cuts.

Public Lending Right is the right for authors, illustrators, photographers, translators and editors to receive payment under PLR legislation for the loans of their books by public libraries. More than 23,000 people are entitled to receive payment under this scheme, and for many the annual PLR payment is an important part of their income. PLR is particularly valuable to those people who receive little or no royalty on book sales — their books are more often borrowed from libraries than bought in shops.

Please spare a minute to sign the petition.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

What do you REALLY want?

A friend just told me about someone he knows who was offered - not one, but TWO - music deals at £100,000 each.
That's a lot of £££ by anyone's standards.

The problem was that the company faffed and farted and the end result was that no record was ever produced.

So - translating this to the publishing world, my question is this:
Given the luxury of a choice between a large advance but no book actually produced in the end
... or a far smaller advance but a Real Book ...
Which would you choose?

Obviously the answer would depend on your finances at the starting point.
If you're struggling to put food on the table, you may well feel unable to turn down the money.
But even if that was the case, where would your ideal preference lie?

If you're honest, your answer will speaks volumes (!) about how you feel about your writing.

Excellence in indolence

I still haven't quite worked out what this is for ...

Either my blog has been awarded a gong for being excellent ...
... or I've been congratulated on being a little less lazy than others ...

The one thing that is certain is that somehow along the way a pointy heel was inserted in my nether regions, so I'm off to A&E now to have it extracted.

Friday, February 08, 2008

X rated

I'm usually fairly chaste in my blog (though not in my books) but I just couldn't resist sharing this.

It's supposed to be from a gen-u-ine chat forum, but I don't care if it is or not.
It made me laugh ...

ChatZ-STUD: Hello, ChatZ-BABE. What do you look like?
ChatZ-BABE: I am wearing an expensive red silk blouse, a black leather mini-skirt and high heeled boots. I am tanned and very buffed. I workout every day. My measurements are 36-24-36. What do you look like?
ChatZ-STUD: I'm 6'3'' and about 250lbs. I wear glasses and have on a pair of blue sweatpants I just bought from Primark. I am also wearing an old t-shirt, it's got some tomato sauce stains on it and smells kind of funny.
ChatZ-BABE: I want you. Would you like to screw me?
ChatZ-BABE: We're in my bedroom. There's soft music playing on the stereo and candles on my
nightstand. I look up into your eyes and am smiling. My hand works it way down to your crotch and I begin to feel your huge swelling bulge.
ChatZ-STUD: I'm gulping. I'm beginning to sweat.
ChatZ-BABE: I'm pulling up your shirt and kissing your chest.
ChatZ-STUD: Now I'm unbuttoning your blouse. My hands are trembling.
ChatZ-BABE: I'm moaning softly.
ChatZ-STUD: I'm taking hold of your blouse and I'm sliding it softly off.
ChatZ-BABE: I'm throwing my head back in pleasure. The cool silk slides off my warm body. I'm rubbing your bulge faster now. Rubbing and pulling.
ChatZ-STUD: My hand suddenly jerks spastically and tears a hole in your blouse. I'm sorry.
ChatZ-BABE: That's OK, it wasn't really too expensive.
ChatZ-STUD: I'll pay for it.
ChatZ-BABE: Don't worry about it! I'm wearing a lacy black bra, my soft breasts are rising and falling as I breathe harder and harder.
ChatZ-STUD: I'm fumbling with the clasp of your bra, I think it's stuck. Do you have scissors?
ChatZ-BABE: I take your hand and kiss it softly, I reach behind my back and undo the clasp. My bra slides off. The cool air carresses my breasts. My nipples are erect for you.
ChatZ-STUD: How did you do that? I'm picking up the bra and inspecting the clasp.
ChatZ-BABE: I'm arching my back. Oh baby, I just want to feel your tongue all over me.
ChatZ-STUD: I'm dropping the bra. Now I'm licking your, you know, breasts. They're neat!
ChatZ-BABE: I'm running my fingers through your hair. Now I'm nibbling your ear.
ChatZ-STUD: now I suddenly sneeze. Your breasts are covered in snot and phlegm.
ChatZ-STUD: I'm so sorry, really.
ChatZ-BABE: I'm wiping your phlegm of my breasts with the remains of my blouse.
ChatZ-STUD: I'm taking your sopping wet blouse and throwing it in to the corner of the room.
ChatZ-BABE: OK. I'm pulling your sweatpants down and rubbing your hard tool.
ChatZ-STUD: I'm screaming like a woman! Your hands are cold! Yeee!
ChatZ-BABE: I'm pulling up my mini skirt. Take off my panties.
ChatZ-STUD: I'm pulling off your panties. My tongue is going all over you, in and out and nibbling on you. ummm, wait a second.
ChatZ-BABE: What's the matter?
ChatZ-STUD: I've got a pubic hair caught in my throat. I'm choking.
ChatZ-BABE: Are you OK?
ChatZ-STUD: I'm having a coughing fit. I'm turning all red.
ChatZ-BABE: Is there anything I can do to help?
ChatZ-STUD: I'm running into the kitchen. Choking wildly. Looking for a cup. Where do you keep your cups?
ChatZ-BABE: In the cabinet to the right of the sink!
ChatZ-STUD: I'm drinking a cup of water. There, that's better.
ChatZ-BABE: Come back to me, lover.
ChatZ-STUD: I'm washing the cup now.
ChatZ-BABE: I'm aching for you lover.
ChatZ-STUD: I'm drying the cup. I'm putting it back in the cabinet. Now I'm walking back to the bedroom. Wait it's dark. I'm lost. Where's the bedroom?
ChatZ-BABE: Last door on the left at the end of the hall.
ChatZ-STUD: I found it.
ChatZ-BABE: I'm tugging off your pants. I want you so badly.
ChatZ-STUD: Me too.
ChatZ-BABE: I kiss you passionately. Our naked bodies pressed against each other.
ChatZ-STUD: Your face is pushing my glasses into my face. It hurts.
ChatZ-BABE: Why don't you take your glasses off?
ChatZ-STUD: OK. But I can't see very well. I'm placing my glasses on the nightstand.
ChatZ-BABE: I'm bending over the bed. Give it too me baby!
ChatZ-STUD: I have to pee. I'm fumbling my way to the bathroom.
ChatZ-BABE: Hurry back lover.
ChatZ-STUD: I find the bathroom and it's dark. I'm feeling around for the toilet and lift the lid.
ChatZ-BABE: I'm waiting eagerly for your return.
ChatZ-STUD: I've finished. I'm feeling around for the flush handle. Uh-ho!
ChatZ-BABE: What's the matter now?
ChatZ-STUD: I just realised I peed in your laundry hamper. Sorry again. I'm walking back to the bed now. Blindly feeling my way.
ChatZ-BABE: Mmmm, yes. Come on.
ChatZ-STUD: Now I'm going to put my, you know, thing in your umm, woman's thing.
ChatZ-BABE: Yes! Do it, baby! Do it!
ChatZ-STUD: I'm touching your smooth butt. It feels so nice. Umm, I'm having a little problem here.
ChatZ-BABE: I'm moving my ass back and forth. I can't wait another second. Slide it in! Screw me!
ChatZ-STUD: I'm flaccid.
ChatZ-STUD: I'm limp. I can't sustain an erection.
ChatZ-BABE: I'm standing up and turning around; an incredulous look on my face.
ChatZ-STUD: I'm shrugging with a sad look on my face, my willy all floppy. I'm looking for my glasses to see what the problem is.
ChatZ-BABE: NO! Never mind. I'm getting dressed, I'm putting on my underwear and my wet nasty blouse.
ChatZ-STUD: No, wait. I can't find the bedside table. I'm reaching across the dresser, knocking off cans of hairspray, your picture frames and your candles.
ChatZ-BABE: I'm buttoning my blouse. I'm putting on my shoes.
ChatZ-STUD: Now I've found my glasses. My God! One of your candles fell on to the curtain! The curtain is on fire! I'm pointing at it with a shocked look on my face.
ChatZ-BABE: Go to hell! I'm logging off. LOSER!
ChatZ-STUD: Now the carpet is on fire! Noooooo!
© 2000-2008 Gausie UK

Thursday, February 07, 2008

A challenge

The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to come up with an alternative sentence using every letter in the alphabet.

Here's a sample to be going on with:

I must wear quilted boxers to pluck very jagged firze thorns.

Boatman dips across the Styx; quake not, vapid jock, gaze farewell.

Thick hazy vibe from queasy axe wielding Jap.

(Credit: Janey, the Sutton Sista.)

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Extremely bad hair day!

This is what happens when you give your 12 year old son a pair of scissors and ask him to trim 'just an inch' off your hair.

It's an ... er ... extremely interesting asymmetrical bob.

The fact that it would have looked better if I'd chewed through it using my own teeth is neither here nor there.

The fact that it's gone from almost waist length to just above my jaw (on one side anyway) shouldn't be taken into account.

It's only hair, isn't it?
It'll grow again - given 3 or 4 years.

I mean it's not like he chopped off my leg or something, is it ...

Remind me never to ask him to trim my toenails ...

Friday, February 01, 2008

Get ready ...

The lineup for Pipe & Slippers has been finalised and can be seen here.

So draw up a chair to the fireside, kick off your shoes and fill your pipe...

And prepare to have your newly-revealed socks blown off.

Booky Bits in the Sky

I've been contacted by the lovely people at Artswom.
(You may remember them from when I made Hay last year.)

They started off by earning their place in my affections for ever by being very complimentary about FB & Co's film.
(Praise from an arts organisation of their standing is praise indeed.)

They've also asked me to pass on some booky bits that I'm sure will be of interest.
Click here for a post about Sky Arts' Book Show, where guests are asked to choose one book they wish they had written themselves.
Each book is being put in a prize pot for one lucky viewer to win at the end of the series in April.

Artswom have also come up with their own initiative.
They're inviting bloggers to share their recommendations for the last book to read before the end of the world.

Admittedly, this is something of a morbid topic, but when the end comes and this fragile orb finally cracks, it may be too late to panic buy, too inappropriate to copulate, and just too ironic to pray – so what else is there to do other than settle down and read a quality novel.

Click here for details.

(Note to self: This is fun. Try to find time for thinking about this ...)