All Change for 30

VIEW OF MANCHESTER 1870

So as you may or may not know I turned thirty at the beginning of this month. Typically this was a time to take stock and reappraise a few things. What this revealed, in sharp relief, was that I think Manchester and I have come to the end of our time together.

I moved here in 2007 and I do not say this lightly: The years in between now and then have been my most formative. It is only now I feel I know who I am and what I want to do with my life and almost all of that was done here. I love Manchester dearly and am sorry to leave the place but the fact of the matter is, I have nothing to keep me here anymore. I have no job keeping me here, various creative outlets are (whilst enjoyable) only occasional and don’t pay, my room (whilst fantastic and cheap) is not a permanent residence and has the worst flatmate in history, work up here is scarce (we’ll come back to that), most of my friends have either moved on or away and whilst the friends I do have here are great, a lot of them have their own grown up lives that cannot be there to entertain the unemployed scrub. But most of all I have been completely unlucky in the dating game up here. My main relationship I had whilst here was with a girl living in Kent who had to travel and the only other relationship ended so acrimoniously I basically lost a lot places to go and acquaintances. Again I love the North and its populace but I feel like the Tories and pits of old, I have mined it of all its main worth to me so I’m ripping its guts out and leaving you to fend for yourselves. Or something I’m fairly certain I shall return however…

So what’s next? Well in the immediate future I have my super amazing jaunt to America in September which is going to be pretty fantastic by the looks of it but after that it looks like I will be heading for the big smoke of London. Now anyone who knows me will know this sounds like gross hypocrisy. And it is. I absolutely HATE our capital, not because its a horrible place but because its populace are rude, unpleasant, self-important dicks and its identity is equally self-important. The fact it is basically the only centre for industry and work for the whole of England frankly disgusts me. Having lived in the ‘provinces’ so long and observed the cold disinterest of the capital to every other city or town outside of it I have nothing but contempt for its self-obsessed indulgence. Unfortunately this also means its the place to go for work and particularly my chosen field of career, and probably also a liveable working wage. In short, yes I will be moving there but expect an awful lot of online chatter from me about how much I hate the stupid fucking place and its city boy twats.

My other rationale is that it is nearer my family in Kent and it will be easier to get back up North and down South quicker and cheaper so I can spend less time and money keeping up with family and friends. Who knows though? As people keep suggesting I may never come back from the states (this is unlikely but its an exciting thought) so there could be all sorts of changes ahead.

So that’s it really. Just wanted to say thank you to everyone I’ve met here in Madchester for all your help and support through the rough times and the good. Its still an amazing place and I would recommend everyone live here instead of London, largely because the water’s better. I’m hoping to be gone by the end of the month so if anyone wants to meet up before I go let me know but I’m going to have a pretty busy schedule between now and then so get in quick. Like I said, its here that coaxed me into being the person I am and that’s down to all the friends I’ve had here and all the really fun and cool things I’ve done. Its been a great 7 years and I shall never forget it. I’ll be back to visit, you can be sure and I’ll certainly let you know when I am. In the meantime I’ve got two weeks to get my affairs in order so I’d better get cracking!

…Said Stephen Blackpool.

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Summery Summary

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I have had a busy week or two and should follow up on the previous post but feel like there’s not quite enough of certain topics to fill a whole post so am going to amalgamate a few topics. As such, this will probably be a little scattered and disparate so apologies for that. Anyway, in no particular order:

  • Man of Steel

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I bloody loved this film. I have little more to say than that. It reminded me very much of Batman Begins and I think it was a great introduction to the character and world. Complaints about it being to action-ie I think are stupid. I would have been very disappointed if shit didn’t get smashed to crap in the modern age of CG etc. This is exactly the sort of film I wanted of Superman in this day and age. Wasn’t too deep, was perhaps a little too convoluted in places, but generally a blast from start to finish. A great set up for what is likely to be a stonking sequel if they focus on a battle of wits between Luthor and Kent/Superman. Excited already at the prospect!

  • Peppa and Picasso

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I have spent a lot of time with children recently and similarly a lot of time watching children’s television. One favourite is Peppa, its happy, bright and has a gentle yet warm sense of humour I really like. My main interest is its animation style though. It is an indication of the kind of absorbent culture we live in that can cherry pick from any of the arts in such a way that you can now have a cartoon drawn in a neo-cubist style. Bear in mind this particular style was massively controversial even fifty years ago. Picasso got hate mail and paintings were spat on for his, now appreciated, artistry that dispensed with vanishing point and perspective allowing for a freedom of artistic depiction that still adhered to the human eye’s recognition. And now the same technique is being used by a children’s cartoon for under fives. It never fails to amaze me how easily we have assimilated such revolutionary ideas into everyday life and mass consumerism. Futurism, minimalism, discord, avant-garde, pop-art, cubism and many other ‘schools’ of change that literally altered national perception within the given art forms are now on kids TV, album covers, films, soundtracks and coffee cups. As my spirit animal and cultural commentary guru once said “Only in a truly decadent society can you use the phrase ‘Standard Fantasy Setting’.” – Yahtzee Croshaw

  • Other Films

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I spent a week in Manchester recently to see friends and try and find somewhere to live but whilst there saw a massive amount of films (even for me). In addition to Man of Steel I saw: Silver Linings Playbook, Argo, Wreck It Ralph, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, World War Z and Behind the Candelabra. Uniformly they were all pretty excellent and I thoroughly enjoyed sitting through them. Silver Linings was a surprise as despite being a predictable Rom-a-com-a-ding-dong it was actually a good laugh and every character was interesting, my overwhelming crush on Jennifer Lawrence helped in this too. She is genuinely too good to be true. Her performance deserved every inch of that oscar and combine that with an honest appraisal of her job/situation in real life she is set to rule the world. Highly recommended. Wreck It Ralph was another surprise. Despite starting very similarly to the Toy Story movies and appearing to be nothing more than a collection of nerdy computer game in-jokes (one or two took even me a minute or two to twig) but about a third of the way in I suddenly got involved after a rather shocking moment. After that it was twists and turns at every corner resulting in a couple of genuine gasps from Stella and I. Will have to get that one on DVD. Nick & Norah was a bit paint by numbers RomCom but again it was the supporting cast that made it stand out a little more. The drunk girlfriend and the three gay bandmates were a real hoot and had a fascinating B Story. Also I fancy Kat Denning. Yes I am that shallow, deal with it. Argo was a surprise, I knew the story and am normally dubious of Oscar wins in many ways but apparently two for two as this was a real edge-of-your-seat thriller. It lacked any actual commentary on the politics which meant it was a little shallow for something that garnered such awards praise but it was an absolutely gripping story and I was hooked. Rob and I literally screamed at the screen for the last half an hour. Beautifully shot on old film too. Go with the directing thing Affleck, you’re much better at that. World War Z was also an enjoyable bit of fluff. It was basically an action movie and a Zombie film second. This was largely due to the budget and requiring bums on seats that an 18 rated film would not attain. You could tell it was taken from a book as there were lots of details and ideas you don’t normally see in a low budget zombie film: tying string round one another, taping magazines to arms to stop bites getting through, removing teeth, the ‘count to twelve’ bits. Sadly though there was none of the gore or real horror and they opted for “Runners” not slow trudging Zombies. It was great to see everything on a bigger scale though and the piles of Zombies and whole cities falling to the waves of undead was great. I also liked the finale which ditches the blockbuster nature and reduces to a few corridors and some nice tension. It was apparently a rewrite and it pays off admirably. Not much of a horror film but a great action flick. Pitt is still my favourite Hollywood leading man too. The only let down was Candelabra really. It isn’t for me though. I’m not a fan of the biopic and it did feel very much like a TV movie (HBOs presence I suppose), that said Damon and Douglas were utterly fantastic in their roles and the production was faultless. Just not my bag baby but I’d still recommend.

  • The End of the World

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Does anyone else think its more than just a coincidence we have two ‘Meta’ comedies about comedians and the end of the world? Since the millenium we have been served a cavalcade of disaster/apocalyptic movies, books and comics so that it now represents its own genre of “Apocalyptic Fiction”. I blame the Zombies. They started it with their dystopian, last-man-standing ideology but these days its anything from a virus, aliens, monsters, nuclear war, dreams, the weather or fucking TREES (yes you Shyamalan) that’s out for our extinction. Despite the fact this could not and will never happen (we’d either ALL die or more than 20% would live in the event of some of the more plausible catastrophes) It seems to imply something bigger going on. It does seem to be indicative of a certain zeitgeist at the moment though. Our postmodern society where we are cripplingly aware of all that has gone before to the point where everything created now is already something else; a desire for a blank slate seems to be prevalent in the art and popular culture we create these days. I have no solution for this and can expound no further other than “Look at that, isn’t that a little sad?”. I’m noticing it more and more at the moment and I’m kind of hoping we can move on from Post-Modernism now as I’m pretty sick to death of it. I watched Nathan Barley again while I was visiting Manchester too and it was genuinely frightening. It is less of a sit-com now more of a scary docu-soap. This has been burrowing around in my brain since reading Women in Love which feels like an early progenitor of ‘Apocalyptic Fiction’ and was a direct influence on the novel I just wrote which is also about the End of The World but more specifically about this idea itself, that perhaps an ‘Apocalypse’ (not a doomsday I should add) may in fact be necessary for culture to move forward. THE NOVEL WILL BE FINISHED SOON YOU SHOULD TOTALLY ASK ME TO SEND YOU A COPY TO READ. THANKS.

  • Gigs

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In the week I was oop narth I did three gigs and they were all a lot of fun. I played electric for all three and finally feel like I ‘get-it’ now. I normally wrestle against a certain inability to play guitar but I think I’m past that now. I’m still not a ‘Guitarist’ but I can definitely play the guitar these days. It also helped that I was playing Joel’s tear inducing ’77 Les Paul that not only looks the dogs doodahs but plays and sounds it too. I ran through my widdle Marshall for the last two as well and the two together are still a match made in heaven. You can see why the LP and Marshall combo was used by EVERYONE back in the day. They just fit. It was great to see some of the other old loons playing too and generally reminded me why I like living up there and much prefer the ‘scene’ allowing, as it does, me to play what I like with like minded musos to a receptive audience. Fun fun fun!

  • Manchester

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I somehow managed to cram in everything I wanted to do in the short week I was there: Lunch at Fyg, Art of Tea, Home Sweet Home and breakfast at Cafe Creme, book shopping, trips to the cinema, Fuel and One Lounge gigs, dinner and dates with all but a couple of friends, day out with the boys, Didsbury Arts fest and seeing Paul Magrs, in addition to long walks and trips on the new trams I even managed to squeeze in some bowling (not my choice I should add…). In short, it was a painful reminder that Manc is where my life is and I need to get back there ASAP. Such a great city and lovely people, miss it already.

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  • Shakespeare

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I am an unequivocal Shakespeare fan boy, particularly as someone who writes and writes poetry it would be foolish and impractical to dismiss him, and lately I have been spoiled by a glut of fine performances of the great bard’s output. I saw a production of Macbeth at my local amateur dramatics society which was a great variation on the original setting and was set during the first world war and featured some damn fine performances, particularly from a young Emma Thomas who gave a frighteningly assured performance as Lady Macbeth. I then got inside tickets to a touring version of the Globe’s all female cast of The Taming of the Shrew which was so much fun from start to finish and used the bare minimum of set and props to create an absolutely hilarious and fast paced update of what is essentially a horribly misogynistic and out of date story. The whole (very small) cast were all perfect, particular favourites were Petruchio, Kate and Tranio. If its touring near you SEE IT. Even if you don’t like Shakespeare the production is a riot. On Thursday I am also going to see the filmed version of Twelfth Night that starred Stephen Fry at the cinema in Ashford which will also be a treat I’m sure. AND THEN Mum and I are going to do our annual visit to the Globe itself to see the Tempest for my birthday. In short, ain’t nuthin’ but Bill lately. Fine by me, I at least know the script is never going to let me down.

And that’s all I wrote. Still no job, no home, no money and no girlfriend but to be quite honest I’ve given up on expecting any of the above anytime soon and am just doing what I’m doing and hoping something will come along. I can do no more than what I have been doing so I can only assume there are larger gears turning, the working of which I am not privy to. Hope you are doing well and I’ll see you soon with a long and boring post on poetry and the internet that I have planned.

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“Farewell! God knows when we shall meet again!”

“Recent changes to your circumstance…”

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Life’s been a bit mental lately so haven’t had time to give anyone any news or updates so will try and get everything out of the way on here. As such, this will be an ‘update’ sort of post so may not be of interest to many of you. So, buckle up:

Moved –

Due to continued unemployment and lack of funds I have been living off the kindness of strangers (good friends actually) of late by sleeping on their floors, sofas and sparerooms. Naturally then, due to my constant Catholic guilt I could no longer impinge on the goodwill of my friends so instead of running around and living out of a rucksack it came time to depart my beloved Manchester if only for a brief time. I hope. As such, I have returned to the bosom of my family in Kent and am living back in my old room at my Mother’s which is not ideal for either of us but I think we are all hoping this will only be temporary. This does however take the pressure off things somewhat and gives me the time I’d like to get more writing done and other stuff that is generally steps toward my fledgling “career”.

Maladies –

Predictably, due to me being such a runty little dweeb, just when I didn’t need any other additional setbacks I got some sort of horrible infection that is going around giving me a sky high fever and causing me to faint in my friend’s kitchen, this was further compounded by my own idiocy in breaking two of my ribs. All this was not ideal when having to move from house to house and sleeping on sofas. Ouch.

Mingling –

My good friend David Hartley invited me to support him for his launch of his collection Threshold at Fyg in a sort of tit-for-tat repayment for having him support me for my own launch. It was quite a stellar night and the place was packed with a very receptive audience. Sadly this fell at the same time as the ribs, the infection, a debacle regarding finances and being unable to get there on time and other personal issues that meant it was, only for me I reiterate, something of a shambles sadly. Everyone else seemed to have a great time and it was indeed a success but as always seems to be the case with me at times of great importance, things go quite specatcularly wrong. David and Ian did great readings though and it was great night. Fyg is such a lovely place too, go if you’re in Manchester.

Manchester Poets –

After my splatter gun effort of applying to every magazine and competition towards the end of last year one has actually stuck and I am being featured in Puppywolf Press’ “Best of Manchester Poets, Vol.3”. Its not that big a deal but its a small bit of recognition and I can officially say I am a published poet now, which looks good on the CV. The poem selected is ‘Anaesthetic’ which some of you may have heard and was noted by my pal Luke Kennard (a proper poet) as being of a good quality. The collection is due for release toward the end of March so I’ll keep you updated but you can check out their website here.

More Poetry –

I wrote a sequence of some eighty sonnets over Christmas (I was bored) and after initial interest from a publisher who in the end didn’t have room to publish it, I have decided to YET AGAIN self-publish it as a pamphlet. However, this one is slightly different… I will be publishing this collection digitally on a website I have set up with my friend Amelia. It is still being developed at the moment and not having my computer with me hinders its progress considerably but I am hoping to have it up in the next few months. It will be completely free and open to all and will have no other posts or pages purely the poems themselves. I will keep everyone updated however, so watch this space.

Media (Social) –

Due to being all over the place at the moment I am trying to stick all my media together so everyone can keep an eye on me. I have a variety of online presences and would like everyone to have a look at each one as all of the refer to something different. So if you want to stay abreast of my doings, comings and goings day to day check my twitter here. I have an iPhone so am always on it and check it regularly. I am on Instagram and Vine, of which I am also a “heavy user”. I have a music site over at leocookman.tumblr.com if you want info of that nature (there will be updates on there soon). I have a facebook page too that could do with a few more ‘Likes’ to be honest so head on over here. I’m also over at youtube with some silliness you can watch here. I also have another ‘comedy’ blog over at tumblr that you can have a giggle at here. Generally I am all over the internet so just google me and I’ll appear in some form or other.

Music –

I have two albums essentially written that I would like to record at somepoint in the near future and being back in the Bubble in Kent means I am back amongst the regular gigging fraternity so keep an eye on the mentioned social media for updates and ‘ting. If you can’t get enough I have two albums on iTunes and have my very own soundcloud which has B-Sides and demos galore if that’s your bag.

My True Love –

So I’ve had a crush on Jennifer Lawrence since Winter’s Bone came out and have weathered the storms of the fickle public through X-Men and Hunger Games hoping her fame would disappate and our non-existant love could blossom. Anyway, she just won an Oscar so that’s that crush ended because now everyone’s all like, “oh she’s so great”, “I totally have a crush on her”, blah blah blah. Yes I KNOW she’s dating Nicholas Hoult but that would mean nothing were we to meet. Obviously. Anyway, I’ll stick with Christina Hendricks then… WHADDAYA MEAN SHE’S MARRIED?!

That should keep you for the time being and I seem to be a busy bunny at the moment so must fly. Please do comment, subscribe and all that crap as I have big plans for 2013 and would love to be able to share it all with you lot. I will hopefully at least be visiting Manchester soon as my friends recently got engaged, some other friends have babies on the way and generally all my stuff and life is up there but if you live in the south please get in touch. I’m actually quite bored.

 

Giant

“I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”

– Isoroku Yamamoto

I promised there would be a third. This is largely due to the fact this was written before the second one…

I speak of course of my third, and final, poetry pamphlet. I made my first back in 2010 in response to the pretty dire turn of events after the joke that was the general election. Bile duly spilled, I wanted to write something less reactionary and more considered. The idea for Giant was inspired by a track of the same name by one of my favourite bands the Bad Plus (you can listen to it here). I say ‘idea’, more of the mood. This track in particular has a connection to a certain point in my life defined by a relationship at the time. It is a very important piece of music to me. The plot for the now pamphlet, such as it is, came about as I was listening to this whilst walking through my old hometown in the winter. The town was empty and quiet. From there I originally intended the story to be a screenplay with almost no dialogue but considering I had two other screenplays that will probably never get made I liked the idea too much to just let it disappear in my pile of “to do’s”. As such I decided to make a poem out of it. I also liked the idea of a poem about a “real” giant. I initially tried to argue it was one or the other but at the suggestion of my then girlfriend I decided to write both. Happily they both coincided with one another’s themes and overall mood. As such, I decided to make them separate poems but in the same story.

I wrote them both over the course of three evenings with the particular track played on a loop, much to my then girlfriend’s annoyance no doubt. The poem/s are written in what is known as Heroic Verse. If you think you don’t know it, you do. Translations of The Illiad, The Odyssey, The Canterbury Tales, Paradise Lost and many other ‘Epic’ poems are all written in this style. It is basically defined as unbroken couplets of iambic pentametric verse, its name comes, ordinarily, from its subject matter i.e. Heros and their doings. Heroic verse is intimidating. It is a long block of text that is normally pretty dense due to the poets need for interesting, multi-syllable words. Most ‘Epic’ poems are tricky to read and fairly hard to untangle for this reason but are immensely rewarding when you do. Ironically all the meter and so on is designed to make it easier to read, giving it rhythm and bounce. A lot of the time this verse will rhyme, I took a leaf out of Milton’s book and decided to leave it Blank i.e. Unrhymed. HOWEVER. The story the poem tells is odd, faltering and (hopefully) dreamlike and as such I have done as much as possible, and as subtly as I can, to break up these conventions. I deliberately have used several instances of internal rhyme spread over three or four lines to break up the couplets as well as pretty strong alliteration to jar in the middle of lines.

Fun Fact: Neuroscience has settled on what humans define as ‘A Moment’ – that which we call upon as a specific memory of an event, etc – as 7 seconds. A line of Iambic Pentametric verse, strangely enough, takes roughly this length of time to read. We utilise rhymes as an echo of a previous moment so as to tap into our memory or nostalgia for a previous moment. Stretching this band of time by placing the rhyme just out of sight of its 7 second predecessor should instead create discomfort in a more de ja vu effect. Furthermore, by placing hard consonants in succession K’s, G’s and the like, you halt a specific flow created by liquid vowels causing a typically 7 second memory to elongate perhaps to the point where the beginning of the line drops out of the moment. This is particularly effective if you are using enjambement from the previous line as this further muddies the memory of the previous line…

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Sorry I’ll stop with the nerdy, techy bollocks now.

Fact is, this poem went through a lot of revisions and was quite a bit of work. It is a very technical piece of work on a purely structural level but also on an intuitive level. The pamphlet in its entirety is actually a metaphor within a metaphor within a metaphor. As usual with most of what I write I have no idea whether it is any good or not. I am proud of it however.

The pamphlets themselves were printed where I live right here in Manchester by Marc the Printers who have done a bang up job. They’re definitely the prettiest of the three pamphlets I’ve made. And less than half the price of the other two for the same amount and better paper! Bargain! Needless to say the papers and inks are all recycled and environmentally friendly. The cover/s are based on the classic Russian Propaganda posters from the second world war which, whilst evil and wrong, are still gorgeous works of art. I refined them to a similar standard of three colours inspired by the beautiful alternative posters to Black Swan posters. The design, layouts,  typesetting and proofing is all my own so I accept all responsibility for any errors in the printing or production. I have already spotted one or two but ultimately there are no ‘Deal Breakers’ I don’t think.

The pamphlet will be Launched sometime this month. I don’t know where or when but it will happen. I am selling this one. My previous two were free to anyone who wants them and still are but I am unemployed and need the money now so these are available for the princely sum of £3 each, which I think is more than fair. There is hopefully enough inside to reward repeated reads.

I would like to thank people who will never read this blog for the influence and assistance in getting this written and made: Alex Herod, The Bad Plus, Don Patterson John Milton, Homer, Alan Moore, Alex Proyas and Dark City, Michael Rosen, Roald Dahl but most of all to the man who will read this blog; Joel Swann, without whom I’d never have got this printed and who encouraged an uneducated simpleton to pretend what he wrote was worth reading. Thanks Joel.

Follow my Twitter feed for updates and info on the launch but in the meantime, Happy National Poetry Day for Thursday and I hope to see you soon and enjoy my little story.

Rockstar Status +1

Okay this post isn’t going to be about anything interesting or intelligent or even popular but I feel like swinging my phallus around for once and having a boast.

So basically at the beginning of last week I was told (at about the same time) that A). My work was moving to somewhere quite a way away and B). My contract on my flat had expired at the end of last month. So I was in something of a pickle. I had the option of staying at work and it costing me a lot of money and time to get there and back for a job… well, y’know… and re-signing on the flat for another six months costing me another extortionate resign fee OR moving out and quitting in six days. To say I was STRESSED would be an understatement. Anyway after going into work everyday and staying late everyday I had little option but to re-sign or be homeless and stay at work or be homeless. So I worked Sunday, re-signed Sunday and was resigned Sunday to living life still on the wearying  treadmill I’ve been on for the last two years (despite my best efforts).

AND THEN

Tuesday came along.

A little background:

I write poetry (I have talked about this several times on here) and have printed two pamphlets. The reception of these has been disinterested to say the least but that is largely due to my total lack of self promotion. My friends know about it but that’s about it. I like poetry and I like writing it but announcing this apparently makes you a pretentious dick so I keep it to myself by and large.

I used to be in a band. NO REALLY! Several actually but one in particular. The Psychotic Reaction were a great band I played drums for before I moved to Manchester (I have also written on here about them and the last album) I haven’t played a gig with them since last August and that was un-rehearsed and slapdash to say the least. I also haven’t played drums properly in quite some time either.

So last week, my friend James, tells me about this event his friend/colleague Allison Robb was organising in this trendy cafe in the Northern Quarter where she was asking for writers to give readings of their stuff. James put my name forward as a Poet and was asked to come along to give a reading of some of my poems. I’ve never read my poetry aloud so this was daunting to say the least. Other than the lovely Luke Kennard saying he liked my pamphlets I have had no independent confirmation or affirmation of quality with regards to my poems so they could be utter tripe for all I know. Anyway, I agreed in an effort to try to widen my non-existent circle of writing pals and because I’m a shameless show-off.

My buddy Alex Williams then announces his taking a trip up North to see us and was intending to do a gig. He asked if I would be up for playing? Of course I would. I added the addendum I would have no time to rehearse so we’d just have to wing it (as usual) but other than that: count me in.

It was only later that week I realised they were both on the same night. So in full on Sit-Com farce mode I formulated the plan that if the reading was at 6pm I would have just enough time to finish work, jump on the bus, make it to Fyg in the Northern Quarter for the reading, read some poems, say thanks, run across town to the Tiger Lounge, grab a drink, play the gig and be home before midnight. Piece of cake, right? What could go wrong?

People who know me would now be reading on eagerly expecting my usual bile-spitting tirade against whatever Gods were at work to make this all become a Basil-Fawlty-style, pigs-arse-car-crash of a day. Well you’re shit out of luck sunshine because that schedule is exactly what happened! What I didn’t expect was the reaction…

9 days into a 13 day stretch at work I left the shop at 5.30 on the dot. I dashed home and hastily stuffed some drumsticks and poetry pamphlets (too few it turned out) into my rucksack and put on a clean t-shirt. Jumped on a bus that didn’t stop for half an hour at each stop (a rarity) and made reasonable time getting to Fyg. I was greeted but quite a few friendly faces I wasn’t expecting which worried me. The friendly faces of whom I speak are PhD students studying literature. I may have pointed out I am an uneducated prole on here before, I failed every exam I’ve ever taken and never did any higher education, therefore as far as ‘Leagues’ go I am very much 3rd division on the border of relegation. So I greeted them all as friendly as possible, ate some of the DELICIOUS food, admired the beautiful waitresses, and enjoyed the brilliant readings from the other writers. Lorraine, Lorrie and Tom were all great readers who didn’t try to oversell anything and gave really honest readings of their stuff. It was all wildly different too. Flash fiction, short stories, poetry, good fodder for this sort of thing in that you didn’t get bored with hearing the same style or genre every time. Fyg was the perfect place too, it felt like some sort of Parisian or Spanish hideaway where they have readings all the time and famous writers all come to hang out while Chopin or someone plays piano in the corner. Or maybe that’s just me… The audience was small but responsive and very, very friendly which, seeing as I was left till last, actually made me feel more comfortable as I was less worried by the “judgement” of the crowd by then. My turn rolled around and I decided to put my best foot forward and read from the last Pamphlet/Chapbook I printed. I explained the reasons behind it and began to read…

You could have heard a pin drop. It was one of the strangest experiences of my life. Maybe 30 people or so staring at me wordlessly while I read stuff that was incredibly personal and trying not to make myself sound like a pretentious dick. The other readers had received nice, encouraging applause after each part of their reading, each of my poems was met by an achingly painful silence. I became horribly paranoid these were going down very badly. I got the odd laugh but I am familiar with nervous laughter so merely tried to plough through as quickly as possible and get off. And then I got to the poem about my Dad. Now, I’m pretty good with dissociation. My emotions are my own and I can keep them to my own time (apart from my grumps and my temper but that’s just my resting state) normally but I got to this one and I’m suddenly getting very husky and bright-eyed. I think I got away with it though and tumbled to the last poem pretty much throwing the pamphlet down when I finished to get off when I was met with something just shy of a standing ovation. We took a short break and everyone wanted a copy of the pamphlet and I was asked by most people there about the structure, the meanings and forms of each poem. I felt like a celebrity. A poet admittedly but still…

So we had some readings and then I was asked back up to read from my other pamphlet which got a similar stirring response and again had people shoving their chairs over to chat and generally be very, very, overwhelmingly complimentary about my poems. And the majority were women! Attractive and intelligent women! I was agog. I’ve been gigging for fifteen years and never received this kind of response/interest. Certainly not from the opposite sex. I spent a little while chatting to the other writers and the staff and my pals and generally basking in the very warm glow of searingly honest praise, attempting to direct the fair share to my fellow readers when I suddenly glanced at my watch.

Mildly panicked, I informed my friends and organisers I had a gig to get to, whereupon a few of them said they’d follow me there (a sure sign you’ve won over a crowd). I made my excuses and dashed out into the rain of Manchester and hot footed it to the Tiger Lounge. I stepped through the door to find my buddy and band mate James greeting me with “Hey dude! D’you wanna set up? We’re on.” I didn’t even have time to get a drink. I don’t know how much you know about drumming but it is physical. And tiring. And we were in a very warm basement. Either way, I turned the kit around in about a minute flat (I’m a lefty), didn’t even have time to warm up and launched into a high energy, bombastic, 25 minute set.

We got everyone stood at the front to watch somehow, got people dancing and got an encore. I can count on one hand how many times that happens to me at non-function gigs. I did nearly die of heat exhaustion though. Sure enough some of the mob from Fyg appeared in the middle of the second song and I was greeted on leaving the stage to cheers and hugs from well-known and completely unknown parties. I chatted with lots of people, shared jokes, received some more compliments, then had to grab my bag and made tracks. I got outside to find it was raining so treated myself to a taxi home whereupon I dumped my bag, left last night’s takeaway uncleared away in the kitchen and collapsed into bed. It was 11.45pm.

I allow myself very, very, very, very few quiet, smug grins of satisfaction but I indulged in one on the cab ride home that night and Dreamed Blissfully of a time where I could do any of that for a living.

Then I was up at 8 for work when I stubbed my toe on the shower. Rough with the smooth…

Standard End of Year Post: 2011

Yeah, everybody does it but whatever.

To be honest this year hasn’t been anything special, it had its highs and lows undeniably but there were no titanic shifts like last year (a good thing in many ways). My main gripe with this year is I really don’t feel like I accomplished anything. I have “done stuff” but don’t have a great deal to show for it. All in all, merely an underwhelming year personally. A ‘Coast’ as Dad would say…

HOWEVER

This year globally has been out and out bizarre. You need only read any of today’s newspapers or next month’s magazines to realise how spectacularly weird or just down right awful this year has been for most. What with mass murderers, raging unemployment, nuclear meltdown, financial meltdown and Russell Brand & Katy Perry separating this year has been a doozy. The list is far too long to go into and there are plenty better places to get that information so I will instead say that my particular highlight was the end of News of The World and low point (personally) was the riots, poor show Manchester.

Okay so my ACTUAL goods and bads of the year:

Cons –

  • Work work work work work
  • Dave
  • Being made single yet again
  • Bills
  • Dave
  • My ‘chat’ with Edgar Wright on Twitter
  • The crippling anxiety that stopped me doing anything with my poetry pamphlet
  • LOTS of rejections and or complete screaming apathy
  • …And Dave

Pros –

  • Josh and Vic’s wedding!
  • A fun day in September
  • New Drum Kit!
  • My ‘Chat’ with Edgar Wright on Twitter
  • Making my second poetry pamphlet
  • Getting my new guitar and learning to play a bit better
  • Arkham City (seriously, loved that game)

That’s the best I got. Not the rollercoaster/soap opera I’m used to of recent years but hey, I’m fit and well and have a roof over my head for the new year which is more than a lot of people can say at this time of year so bring on 2012, see what she has to offer. I don’t really do new years resolutions, there are things I hope to accomplish next year but I can say that at any time so lets just say there’s stuff I need to do in the next couple of months. Nothing too exciting but I will keep you updated. I CAN say there will definitely be another pamphlet, though that will be the last one for a while I think.

I will end by saying a big thank you to all my friends and family who, as usual, have put up with all my grumps and sulks throughout the year and got me through to the other side with a minimum of fuss. Lots of love to you all and have a good time this evening and an excellent 2012. Merry Christmas.

I’ll leave you with some pics from my year:

See you next year!

Manchester – A Town on the UP!

1901

2011

Again, without a political agenda, I love where I live. Due to its recent media interest (for all the wrong reasons) I thought there deserved to be some photos of something other than a boarded up Miss Selfridge from my home town. There are more on my Flickr feed here.

Enjoy!