Social climbers.

There was a time when my friends and I would collect and head to the nearest watering hole to exchange our thoughts on the world, women and the latest indie releases. They were good times of making plans, of it being fancy to order anything besides draft lager and of talking about women. Last night however, we went rock climbing.
I know. I was as miffed about it as you no doubt are. The truth of it is my friend Ben got a set of climbing holds for Christmas which he has affixed to the inside wall of his stable and he has been bounding across them ever since. In pursuit of our ‘most outdoorsy’ of chums, we have apparently decided to follow suit. I like climbing things as much as the next man, who was my friend Luke, who really likes climbing things, so we were set to have a good time. The issue in it for me is why people would take time out of their lives in order to climb things. We live in an age where if you need to reach a higher level, be it physical or metaphorical there are much easier ways of achieving that; either meditation or taking the stairs. There was however a part of me that couldn’t remove the opening credits of Mission Impossible 2 from my head, so I begrudgingly folded myself into the back of Luke’s Mini Cooper amidst the mass of a quarter-consumed bottles of water and takeaway wrappers.

When we got inside the fairly newly built ‘Basildon Sporting Village’, which mildly interesting fact my brother helped to mastic, we were told we had to sign a disclosure form. Nothing good has ever come from signing a disclosure form. We were asked what our level of climbing experience was. I admitted mine was climbing into bed with beautiful women while Luke and Ben fudged their way through an explanation to limit the amount of outside observation our ascents would be given.
We were then given harnesses, carabiners and a belay device. There is no getting around the fact that wearing a harness will make your genitals more obvious than Bowie’s in Labyrinth. The instructor checked Luke and Ben knew how to ‘tie on’, which is a cover for how Cub Scout etiquette the knot required to climb is before we were just left completely on our own in front of a thirty-two foot climbing wall with no crash mats in sight.
Fuck, I thought, this is how I’m going to die, In Basildon.

One after the other my friends climbed, checking each other’s knots and belay devices. It should be mentioned that belaying sounds a lot more like a form of decorative cake making than it is in actual genuine life. It’s the act of pulling in the slack in the line while your partner climbs and ensuring that if they fall, you hold their weight and stop them plunging to a gruesome but supported-crotched death. In addition once they reach the top you have to slowly give out the rope so they can repel themselves down the wall like an A-Team reboot.
Against his better judgment Ben let me hold him as he climbed. I had the incredible sensation of holding my best friend’s life in my hands. In my head the lyrics to Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time would not stop playing as I fed the rope in and pretended that if he were to slip I wouldn’t be thrown into the wall like a poor man’s Buster Keaton.
If you fall I will catch you I’ll be waiting, time after time.

Then it was my turn to climb. I flipped out at Luke twice for trying to explain to me how to tie off a line, because his instructions were like the Swedish side of an Ikea flat pack, and then I was up. Suddenly all of my qualms about why anyone would waste their time going up and down a wall were resolved. It’s actually brilliant. For people who are built like pipe cleaner replications of real humans it can give you an experience akin to being an action movie star. I was John McClane and Ethan Hunt and Lara Croft and the Spy Kids all rolled into one. I felt awesome. Aside from the fact as soon as I got over ten feet I started to shake through a fear of heights and a case of altitude sickness it was a lot of fun. I feel I should explain, as I did when I returned to Earth that I am not scared of heights, but I do have a fear of them. They are very different. I don’t know what that difference is, but it is there, and it is very real.
The issue comes when you look down and see that the person with your life in the balance is one of your friends, who no doubt probably wants you dead anyway.

I guess the lesson in all of this is to go out and try things, to embrace the things that you have a fear of, and to never forget the immortal words of Cyndi Lauper.


Here’s Looking At You – an almost review.

In what they considered to be a joke at my expense my good fiends Terri and Sarah bought me the chick-flickiest book they could find as a Christmas present. They made me swear I would review it. Here is that review.

Here’s Looking At You is good in the way any vacuous post-millennial, heavily-abbreviated for the kidz literature can be. It’s about a girl who is fat and finds out that if she is thin men will do outrageously over-the-top gestures for her fair hand and fairer mound.

Anna was bullied at school, for being the textbook kind of unappealing that children prey upon as though it were a weakness. She eventually breaks free of this to become unrecognisably and acceptably hot. At this point, failing to make any of her Internet dates work out she runs into the bastard James Fraser from school. He’s so handsome and cruel and I bet she can’t change him by page 431. Oh wait.

Through a tenuous back story involving apps and Theodora they are forced into a working relationship. It gives Anna the chance to get back at the boy but instead she starts to fall for him like a shmuck. They fight. He pays for her sister’s wedding dress when she gets into a lot of debt in a lovely attempt at character development and social commentary and then they end up together.
The lesson here is that you can buy your way out of anything and that you need to be thin to snare a man.
It’s cut and paste stuff, but it’s done well.

I quite liked the cat.

Flat bouting

This week I have been trying to satisfy one of my New Year’s Resolutions – find somewhere to live. Owing to the fact I’m old enough to vote, drive and drink (not together and never in that order) the next logical stepping stone in my life is to have my own Schiernecker Towers. Of course this comes with a number of drawbacks, chiefly, money. Fortunately I have enough for a deposit and so out into the world of property I wander, still wondering if I have to ask permission from both my parents before I venture into the houses of people who are essentially strangers. That was definitely a thing when I was younger. Avoid strangers.
My primary school head teacher once told us that all child-catchers, nonces and strangers in the night drove red cars. He also told us if you pressed a button on the side of your Thunderbird 2 toy it would take off and return to Tracey Island. The guy was full of shit. It’s only now I realise his whole existence was built on a mustachioed house of cards. Anyway, that’s the real reason I took my girlfriend with me, just to make sure I wasn’t gang raped.
The first place we viewed was absolutely stunning. When someone says ‘one bed flat’ you conjure something in your mind, and I imagine it isn’t far from my Irvine Welsh-esque vision of squalor and junkies. That’s what growing up in middle-class and middle-minded Britain will do to you. This place was a palace though. I could happily imagine myself whiling away my days there (because let’s face it, if you’re paying a mortgage then you can’t afford to live the dizzy high life you experience when suckling off the teat of the family home). There was room for an office area, as well as a fine dining set so I could entertain guests. The bedroom was longer than Pinocchio’s nose at maximum lying capacity and the kitchen would allow a man to boil a kettle and ping a microwave at the same time. I sort of loved it a bit, in the way I love anyone for a bit when they show me attention or pay me a compliment.
Trying to maintain a firm poker face in front of the owner Kate and I absconded to a local café where she bought me a tea and we discussed where we could put her crockery and my books.
The second flat we viewed was also nice, but not as nice, and I almost got in a punch up with a frail old bint in the doorway. I won’t go into it but it had something to do with neither Kate or I being able to understand her bizarre OAP witterings whilst she blocked our access. I’m not a violent man but she was one tut away from a chokehold. The flat itself was nice but even for just me it seemed a little on the small size. It did have a lovely little boxer puppy though. He didn’t come with the leasehold and pissed on the rug just before we left. I admired his gumption.

Since then I’ve spent hours on the phone to brokers and estate agents, I’ve used my email address for something other than novel submissions and stockpiling junk emails from Nigerian princes and I’ve found myself pretending to know what I am talking about on far too many occasions. The good thing about looking into buying a place is everyone has some advice. The down side to the experience is that everyone has some advice, and a lot of it centres around the bizarre notion that it is down to my choice.


Everything That Remains

I’m actually quite fortunate in the fact that I enjoy what I do for a job. I know far too many people who don’t so if you could be sure not to tell them about this I would really appreciate it.
I spend five days a week, from nine am to five pm sat in a little cubicle punching keys and I enjoy it.
This morning I caught myself having a conversation with an actual adult, who does her job, and knows, presumably, what she is talking about and I thought to myself:
“Look at you. Having a conversation about something which you have absolutely no idea about. Look how good we are at feigning interest, or at pretending we know what we are doing. This is amazing. You’re like a real person now. Well done. Well done us.”
Of course while all of this beautiful self-aggrandising was going on the other party to the conversation continued to speak and I completely lost track of what I was supposed to say. As it turned out a simple ‘Hmm’ and a headshake seemed to do the trick and she went on her way to probably carry out hari -kiri in my name because of the Hmm and a headshake.
I’ve decided I don’t want to be one of those people who just rips off over social networking about what an absolute tool their boss is (mine is genuinely very nice) or talks about how they can’t wait for Friday. I don’t want to live for the weekend. I’m living for now, and I thoroughly enjoy it.
This week I have read Everything That Remains, the brilliant memoir by The Minimalists. In it they talk about how they walked away from their six-figure salary jobs in corporate American retail in order to realise their dreams, unload their baggage and embrace who they are and what they are passionate about. It’s a wonderful read and a truly embracing experience they went through. Maybe in time I will be able to let go completely. I found myself agreeing with each point they made, particularly those of Joshua Fields Millburn’s comments on writing and habits.

My point is, while it would be nice to make it out of the rat race and it would be incredible to embrace what I want and what I truly want to be it is only recently that I worked out exactly what that is and so I must continue on until the path splits.


New Year’s Resolutions 2014

2013 was a billboard year for achieving my goals and I am going to push myself even further this year. I’ve lined up ten resolutions. I tend to avoid the cliche ones that people tend to fail. I’m not going to join a gym and I’m not going to get out of debt but I am setting up a number of things to assist me going forward. They are:
Publish The Stamp Collective.
Finish a first draft of Devillenerve.
Write three books.
Record 12 EPs.
Write and record a rap album.
Save money.
Find somewhere to live.
Get fit for Peru.
Research family tree.
Blog at least once a week.

The Stamp Collective is a novel I am in the process of re-drafting. It’s my favourite piece of writing to date and one way or another I’m going to get it out there this year. I’ve sent it to a number of agents and am waiting on feedback. If they aren’t willing to take me on from that then I’ll submit my other works in progress later in the year. If that occurs I will self publish The Stamp Collective and hopefully have a little launch party for it.
Devillenerve is a sitcom I have joked about writing with my wife-to-be Jocasta since around 2007. He won’t get it done. He’s my Antfleck.
Last year I wrote three books; The Stamp Collective, Yallah! and Sue Key. This year I need to write another three. A very smart young man recently told me that it takes most entrepreneurs seven attempts before their idea gets aloft. If that’s what it takes then that is what I will do.
In October I had the brilliantly stupid idea of 12 in ’14 where I would record an EP every month for a year. Each EP will be themed to the month and I am setting myself the rule that it must be at least three tracks, feature one entirely new composition and one cover. The rest is open to interpretation as we move through 2014. It’s going to really test my time and patience but I’ve started on January and really hope I can see it through.
I joked about recording a rap album but I would genuinely love to do it. I know James wants to get involved with it as a project and there is the possibility of The Shoe Brothers making an appearance at Flopsfest this year so it is on the cards.
I really do need to save some money. This goes hand in hand with finding somewhere to live. Unfortunately I can’t live with my old man forever, as much as he would like me to. I need to rent a flat above a shop, having already cut my hair and got a job and therefore fulfilling the prophecy laid down by Cocker in the Britpop wonder-hit Common People. It’s going to be brilliant and also very hard work.
Getting fit for Peru is going to be hard. You can’t prepare for altitude in the same way I could prepare for the heat I knew I would have to face in the Sahara. I just hope I am not one of those people who is badly effected by it. Generally I just need to make sure I go walking a lot, and continue to run, as well as my usual bits of yoga to keep on a level.
Since being contacted by extended family in Amsterdam/Holland I have a renewed interest in my family name and my family tree. I would love to know more about what makes me the person I am. I think it is fascinating.
Although I do try to blog I need to start doing it more often. I’m going to try and come up with a weekly blog where I get an idea down, something that has been bothering me, something interesting. I’ll set a day when I am due to do this by. I’ll be my own editor chasing it.

That’s it. There’s nothing urgent in there. I can just assimilate.

Here is to a cracking 2014 though. Let’s make things happen.