Obsession

Not_Your_Heart_Away_Cover_for_Kindle

 

December 24, 2012 7:50 pm

This is a bit of a long-shot, but would you happen to be the Wendy Hales who was married in Bradford-on-Avon in 1995, who was Wendy Buckingham before that?

Happy Christmas in any case, but if you are Wendy it would be superb to get in touch. For me, anyway!


February 12, 2013 9:50 pm
Hello, you may be totally the wrong person, but I’m very curious! Sorry to bother you, but if this is you in the picture (a) that’s not me and (b) hope you’re well and happy.

I’ve often wondered about Wendy Buckingham over the years. She was married in 1995 to someone called John Hales and there is no trace I can find in the UK. Someone suggested I looked on Facebook and there was/is only one Wendy Hales there. With other friends called Buckingham and a friend from the town where she was married. I only found that out last week. I’m really not a creepy stalker, honestly!

Wendy inspired me to write a book. I used an old photo for the cover. If you actually are Wendy I will use a different photo if you prefer, but she was really rather lovely. I hope that shows in the book. I think it does.

Rather rambling. Sorry. Just not sure if I’m talking to the right person or not. Happy New Year, anyway. I still think of her, wherever she is.

June 17, 2013 6:42 pm

Hello, I’ve tried to message you on Facebook. I wrote a few days ago. If you’re Wendy Buckingham, or used to be, I mean, I’m just trying to say how are you, hope you’re well, I hope the years have been kind. I rang at the weekend, but I don’t know if it was you or wrong number – I’ve only just worked out you got married – not the world’s quickest detective! Seriously, hope you’re doing brilliantly. It would be great to say hi. Friend me on Facebook or something! 

 


September 24, 2013 3:15 am

Ok. I’m in your ‘others’ folder. Obviously it’s late. Obviously drink has been taken. I just wanted to say hi. That’s really all. I hope you’re well and happy. You obsessed me for years. In some ways you always will, as an idea, as an ideal. I don’t know if that’s love, probably it’s not, but I never meant any harm. If you remember me at all you know that. You were a magical vision of perfect world, TV world. It’s only now that I realise you were in free fall, only after I wrote the book. I had to write it to see how things were. I don’t think I’m very sensitive. I wasn’t back then, the time it was about. I just looked at you as if you were something upon an altar. I wish I had looked on you as if you were a real girl then. I might have been more sensitive. I understand now how painful that period must have been for you, not as an expression, but as a real thing. I wish I had known. I wish I had not been so crass. My only excuse was I was 17 or 18. I am sorry. You took my heart away. I never really got it back. I wish I had really cared, I wish I had really loved, I wish I had really known. And if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

I would love to talk to you. I really do understand why you might want to cut off from anything from that time. But I wasn’t your enemy. I was too young, too stupid, too overawed by you to do anything but worship without doing anything at all sensible or helpful if that was even possible back then, being the person I was. I found a diary from that time the other day, about the time your mother loaned me her car for the evening, for reasons that are still not clear to me, other than she knew I was ok with you.

Wend, it would be so good to talk to you. I don’t even know if people still call you that. I don’t know if you’ve read the book. If I definitely knew where to find you I’d post one. It’s on Amazon. It’s not a pornographic fantasy. It’s about a young man who cannot cope. Who was too much in love to actually love. About a feeling that would never leave someone, for reasons that they would only know decades later, that weren’t the reasons they thought they were. I want you to contact me for me. To do my heart good. To tell me that I didn’t do anything bad. I want to hear that your life has been good, or at least ok. That things worked out, or they might do. Just to hear you say ‘hi’ again. That’s all. It really is.

I know. Sad. Pathetic. Late at night. But sometimes late at night is the only real time things can be said. Be safe. Be happy. Say hello sometime. But above all, be you.



Me.

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That place

I used to drive around a lot, just for fun. There wasn’t much else to do where I grew up; everywhere was somewhere else. As I got older I kept on driving for fun, or if not fun then more often to be somewhere I wasn’t.

I bought a house in the Cotswolds one winter, a place I’d driven through when I was eighteen and not that far from where I was born, but we left there when I was two. The real  town I bought the old posting barn, four hundred years old, where footsteps often carried on from the old pub next door straight through where the wall was, six feet thick, and walked through the barn, and still the house I was happy walking around at three in the morning, can’t sleep, leaving the lights off to see the sleeping town was in Not Your Heart Away, the place where Ben and Claire, Peter and Liz stopped after the car crash they’d just escaped having.

But none of that ever happened. Things like it did, but that didn’t, because they were imaginary people. Almost. Just like that place.

That Place

That place we saw once

Driving that bright January day;

I can’t remember the name of the town

Just bigger than a village

I don’t often drive that way now.

But somewhere on a hill,

Stark trees against the sharp blue sky

Up on the ridge, a red phone box

Against the snowy hedge,

The morning almost silent

Now the car’s calmed down.

Our eyes nearly back to normal

Once the motorway’s long behind us.

Cold with the window open.

Definitely not a day you want

To come out without a coat.

That feeling in your throat this time of year

Making you wonder if it’s the weather

Or whether you’re getting a cold

And how long it’s been since you were here before.

The shop’s become someone’s house now

And other new houses built on fields

To let you know you’re getting older,

But still alive. Still alive

As a cat walks across the frosty road

This crisp morning and you’d swear

You caught the Boxing Day fox-hunting

Smell of cigars as you turned the corner

That wasn’t quite where you remembered it was.

Wrong turn; And you drive the length

Of this Cotswold street.

A man on his phone, smiling, carrying the newspaper

Back towards his home or someone else’s.

Safe and warm for now.

If you’d lived here it would have been different.

All of it. And you know that’s true.

How different it would all have been

If I’d never known you.

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All Of Your S**t

"MILF seeks studz #lolI"
“Foxy MILF 28 seeks studz #lols”

This tender, romantic little poem was inspired by an ad I once saw in the Personals, long before there were things like www.swingingheaven.com that nobody knows about anyway so I don’t know why I mentioned it really.

The ad went on and on and on, about how this poor woman loved her children more than life itself, how she’d been left on her own with them and how she’d never let anyone get between her and her most precious darlings. This was a Personals ad, don’t forget. Maybe not the best place to do all that. Right at the end after she’d bled all over the page, she cracked the best pay-off line I’ve ever heard:

“I’m looking for a man without any baggage.”

Without any sense of irony too, obviously. I hope she ended-up with the American she was looking for. It stuck in my head, the way things do, until I wrote her ad again.

 

All Of Your S**t

I’m looking for someone without any baggage

I’m a man/woman/couple looking for

A fun reliable person/partner/soulmate,

Someone tall/short and dark/light

Someone funny/serious and adventurous

Who likes staying at home and going out

Just chilling and doing the same things.

They say opposites attract. LOL.

I love my children, my family, my job, my home, my car

I’d lay down my life for them or never forgive them

Or someone for getting between me and them.

I love my pets and I don’t want any ties right now.

I like walking on beaches in the mountains.

I love going on Citybreaks in the countryside.

I want someone to be there for me when I need them

And I can’t handle anything heavy right now.

I want someone to build a future together.

I love having no responsibilities

And caring and going away whenever I like.

I love staying at home. I’m looking for a life partner,

A serious relationship, a one-night stand.

Who knows? Let’s see. Fun.

I’m married, single, divorced, separated,

Just looking and widowed;

It’s complicated. Delete as appropriate.

Or delete me as inappropriate.

Friend me. Chat. TXT. IM me.

Delete my posts on your timeline,

Block my profile and change your privacy settings

Even as you change mine, forever and ever

Until the next time.

Mark me as flagged until the Xs disappears from your MSGS

And quickly then the TXTS get shorter and less often

Until sooner than you thought

On the screen there’s no reply at all

And quite finally, without appeal and irrevocably

You just unfriend me.

So I’m looking for someone without any baggage.

 

October 2013
 
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Wordle Your Heart Away

Wordle: Not Your Heart Away

 

I always wondered how they did that. Then Wordle.net came along and like a lot of things, anyone could do it now. Sort of.

These are some of the words from Not Your Heart Away, the book what I wrote.  This is from an early section. I think it would be interesting to do it again, from the middle and the end. All it is is cut and paste these days, not weeks in a graphics lab.

Have a go yourself. You don’t even have to write a book or anything.

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Tapas & Tales

Tomorrow night sees the event I was practising for. I wanted to get some practice before I stood up and performed my poetry at Tapas  Tales at The Old Mariner in Woodbridge tomorrow.

So I got up on my hind legs at The Anchor, Woodbridge (5th January), DPs in Aldeburgh (17th), the Anchor again (19th) and a new venue, the Golden Key at Snape on 25th. I think I’ve had some practice now.

It’s been strange. I never do a poem if anyone in the audience could possibly recognise people or circumstances it could have been about. And almost every time All Of Your S**t gets the laughs it was supposed to, In Silence seems to shock, Back To Ourselves makes women look thoughtful and When The Phone Rings, which I’ve only done twice, silences the entire audience.

Men and women are coming up to me afterwards and touching my arm. Always my left arm, above the elbow. I don’t know why, except obviously it speaks to them. Which it was supposed to.

When The Phone Rings is from the heart. They all are, but that one, I think it’s the best I’ve ever done, from the first line onwards. I’m a bit dubious about the one-line stanza in the middle, but it seems to work.

And yes, obviously it’s about a real person. No, she’s never read it to my knowledge or heard it. Which is a pity, because it’s quite a moving poem.

If it or any of them are poems at all. I’m not sure what a poem should be. I know I’m not a good enough musician to play an instrument and sing at the same time. My guitar playing isn’t that good although my sax playing is a bit better, but I still can’t do that and sing at the same time. So I’m calling these pieces words without music. It makes sense to me. The thing that prompted When The Phone Rings still doesn’t.

Either way, this public catharsis is fun once I’ve got past the stage nerves and get behind the mic again.  I had to bowdlerise AOYS for the Golden Key and it wasn’t the place to give Minimum Wage its first outing, given it looked and sounded like Conservative Central Office. Still. Might get paid one day. And it’s all good practice and exposure for something that would be so fabulous if it came off I can’t even write about it, here or anywhere else. Just fingers crossed.

And come and see me tomorrow night at The Old Mariner.

 

 

 

 

 

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Resolutions: 2014

There’s an old Wicca tradition about bad stuff. I know, I’m doing a lot about traditions at this time of year, but it’s a good time of year for it. Christmas is over and whatever you think about that, the days are going to get longer and longer until they’re magically, sleep-stealingly long, the way they were when I swapped stories and dreams with someone with a bottle of wine under a eucalyptus tree last summer.

After this year I have a lot less bad stuff to get rid of. But I’m going to write down some things I’m going to do this year and being a hip and happening kind of guy I thought I might as well put these things here, where everyone can see them and challenge me on them. So here they are. My resolutions for 2014. Or goals. My resolutions are for me and those they affect. My goals, well, this will kick me on along towards them. As we say down the stables.

1) I will direct and broadcast No Batteries Required on radio.

2) I will re-draft No Batteries Required as a screenplay and pitch it to Cascade, same as Not Your Heart Away.

3) I will find an independent publisher for Not Your Heart Away.

4) I will learn to play the ukelele. Actually, on advice from a friend who thinks my saxophone playing is pretty good, I’m sending the ukelele back and making a promise to myself to play the saxophone every single day. A quick blast through Kirsty McColl’s A New England  was today’s effort, copied from the radio. The radio in my head, anyway.

5) I will perform 3 poems at the Open-Mic night at The Old Mariner, Woodbridge, 29th January.

6) I will write The Cloud Factory.

7) I will finish writing Janni Schenck, which started life as School Lane.

8) First I will decide the format for Janni Schenck, film, book or play.

9) While I’m there I might as well re-draft No Batteries Required as a stage play and get it performed, probably using the same actors and actresses who are doing it for radio.

10) I can’t actually think of a tenth thing. I mean, I can, but I can’t really put that on here publically so not that, not here. Instead, I will get better at playing my old low tone saxophone. I might even team up with someone who can do the music while I do a 1940s crooner set. This is a thing in my head. In a progress update I’ ve found someone, but she’s a bit committed. Life stuff. You know. Stuff.

I don’t know why when I was 14 the first album I ever bought was original 1944 RCA Victor Glenn Miller recordings. But it was and they were and they’ve stuck in my head forever. And I thought the other day that a Christmas present to myself might usefully be a mic-ed-up concert uke to accompany the songs I’ve always known. The Nearness of You. Fools Rush In. The Glenn Miller version obviously, not the pathetic Bow Wow Wow lift musak one. And probably Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens, the song my disappeared friend Simon Talbot used to introduce his radio show in Florida, about a thousand years ago. Or maybe How Long Will I Love You? If you want to do something useful in 2014, find Simon and tell me where he is. A lot of people who love him would like to know. And we don’t. It’s been years now. We miss him. A lot.

 

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When the animals talk

I took a trip back through time this Christmas. In those strange days between Christmas itself and the New Year, when nothing is as it should be, when it’s too late to do much about this year and too early to do much about the next I drove to Poole to see an old friend, then up to Warminster to see an even older friend, one whose voice I used as Liz in Not Your Heart Away. I took two of her children to Bath. They wanted to do some shopping and I wanted to see yet another friend in the city. They were about the age Ben and Claire and Liz were in the book.

IMG_1642Along the way I turned off the A36 in Rode and took the old route I’d driven a hundred times and more, the same way Claire and Ben drove in the book to find The Red Lion. It’s fiction. I should have known. And I should have known better. It’s not just that the past is another country and they do things differently there. Whoever wrote that didn’t say ‘and they build executive homes in the car park of the Red Lion and ponce-up what was a brilliant pub into someone’s Disney fantasy of a baronial hall to live in.’

But things are never exactly as they seem. It all reminded me of a Christmas tradition we have or had in my family. I don’t know if anyone else still keeps it. I couldn’t, this year. Our tradition goes that at midnight on Christmas Eve, the animals talk. The year before I was born my mother and father stayed on my aunt’s farm and nearing midnight went into their stable to see if it was true, that the animals really did speak.

Last Christmas I went to church close to midnight but this is a dying village. The church was closed. As I got near the dark and silent building I remembered that Midnight Mass had been brought forward to six pm, a more convenient time for the old people who make up most of the village and all of the congregation. As I walked home along the empty road I remembered my family’s story. I got a torch and went to the tree where my chickens roosted then and shone it on the big young cockerel. I heard the church clock strike and as the light caught him the cockerel stirred and put his head back.

And is it true? Do the animals speak, remembering a stable in a story?

What sort of question is that? Of course it’s true. Nobody ever said they have to speak with a human voice.

 

 

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Year End

IMG_1648A bit like the end of term round-up, this post. If I was marking up 2013 though, I’d have to have a word with its parents and note ‘must try harder’ on its report.

What did I do this year? Some of the things I set out to do. Got rid of my house. Re-homed most of the chickens. Won the BBC Writers Room competition. Did I mention that? Oh. Ok. Well, actually, I won the BBC Writers Room competition.

With a screenplay based on my book, Not Your Heart Away, which I also finished and published this past year.

Wrote some poems.  Got a radio show. Wrote No Batteries Required, about a bankrupt chicken farmer who decides to kidnap a celebrity chef the same day the Prime Minister he was at school with goes to offer him a job as Minister of Food.

Anything else? Quite a lot. Tried to help. Lost my heart. Found it again. Put it in trust for someone who might appreciate it. Tried to stop acting like an arse quite as much as I managed to do for several months this year. Vowed to listen more and decide less. Walked a lot. I liked that. Took some decent photos. Got a new house to live in, that I think is nicer than the one I moved out of. Saw some old friends, made some old friends (no, not like that), caught up with some old friends and realised how fantastically valuable they are when you need them.

Tried to write School Lane, a story that started in Not Your Heart Away, a story about an old man who had been a young boy when he was conscripted into the Hitler Youth, like almost every other small boy in Germany. And I couldn’t do it. Maybe I can next year. It became too complex, too involved, too much about Janni Schenck, the boy whose teacher beat him and his classmates up to stop them being killed by the American patrol coming to their village. Janni’s story expanded to include the Edelweiss Pirates, which meant I had to get him from Hamburg where they hung out to a small village in the mountains, where the real story, the one I heard from an old man in a pub long ago now was set, which was a story in itself.

And alarmingly, bought an electro-acoustic ukelele to do an open-mic 1940s crooner set comprising Fools Rush In, The Nearness of You and either Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens or How Much Do I Love You. Maybe. Or April Played The Fiddle. That bit might need some work. Like learning the ukelele for a start. And it’s sung impossibly high for me. I could do it fine when I was fourteen. Can’t do it now.

So this year coming, 2014 is a new start. New house. A new heart and some new friends.  See you there.

 

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Pedalling on

I’ve cycled all my life. I grew up in the countryside and if you wanted to go anywhere you were expected to make your own way, back then. You walked, you got a bus or you cycled. Only rarely your parents would get a car out and take you, so for example, if you wanted to go to Tellisford to pretend to be fishing, five or six of you aged eleven or twelve would tie fishing rods to your bikes and cycle along the main A361. That was, admittedly, the rubbish bit, sharing the road with huge trucks full or processed meat and pork pies from Bowyers.

When I was fourteen I cycled 40 miles over the Mendips to go and stay with my uncle one Easter. I practised the route for a few weekends, seeing the dawn come up for the first time in my life near Farleigh Castle, on the lanes and unbeleivable main roads Ben drove in Not Your Heart Away. A few miles further on, about six in that summer morning, I turned a corner just before Kilmsersdon hill and found a warren of rabbits hopping about the road. None of them had heard me; there was no other traffic around.

I’d had rubbish bikes before that, single speed steel framed things that were like that not because it was a hipster statement but because the3-speed Sturmey Archer hub gear had seized solid years before. And steel-framed because all frames were, hand-brazed in Nottingham just the way they were in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. Craftsmanship for some people. Mind-numbing drudgery for more.

Mine was lime-green metal flake, back when you ordered the colour you wanted and waited weeks while they made it in Nottingham.
Mine was lime-green metal flake, back when you ordered the colour you wanted and waited weeks while they made it in Nottingham.

But this trip, that trip was on a beautiful lime-green Carlton Continental, the kind of bike we’d now call a light tourer or an Audax, but then we just called it a racing bike, because it had drop handlebars wrapped with white cork tape and 14 gears. Yes! Fourteen!! Could there actually BE that many??? That was my first real bike, £40 I paid for out of my paper round. That was a serious amount of money back then.

Yesterday two more people were killed when they were crushed under a bigger vehicle that didn’t see them. Instantly, lots of people are going to say that’s why children shouldn’t be allowed out on bikes and why every cyclist should be made to wear a helmet.

Horrible though it must be to be hit by a lorry the figures say otherwise. The statistical illiteracy that seems to be fashionable doesn’t help.  A BBC report clamoured alarm when bicycle accidents increased by 3%. But bicycle journeys had increased by 4%; bicycling per mile had actually got safer.

In 2000 , 2.3 million new bicycles were sold in the UK. In 2011 that had gone up to over 3.5 million. Over four out of ten adults in the UK have access to a bicycle, even if they don’t own their own. Three quarters of a million people cycle to work regularly. Three million people cycle at least three times a week. (All figures from CTC).

In my cycling life I’ve been hit by a car mirror and separately a Lambretta. In rural Suffolk  a car driver deliberately try to ride me into the ditch after I politely thanked him for driving towards me at 50 mph and missing me by less than six inches. He bravely stopped, turned around and showed his small son some definitive good parenting role-model work by driving at me. I got into the middle of the lane. I couldn’t do anything about it if he actually chose to drive into me; I could make sure he couldn’t pretend it was an accident. At the first junction he pulled over and demanded I come and talk to him. He got the fingerand I rode off. I didn’t have to use my D-Lock.

The D-Lock. So many practical applications on a bicycle.
The D-Lock. So many practical applications on a bicycle.

In London in the 1980s anyone riding expected about one close call a week on a bike. We found the flat of a hand banged on a car boot was the best retaliation. Some people recommended a Jiffy lemon filled with battery acid but I was always worried it would leak in my pocket. The flat of the hand on the boot worked for me. Inside it sounded as if their car had exploded. When they stopped and got out screaming there was nothing for them to see.

Whatever petty vandalism you do on a bicycle the ending is the same: in a collision with another vehicle  on a bicycle you are going to come off worst. If you go up the inside of a bus or lorry at the lights you’d better make sure they see you in case they turn left. If it was a bus with a door at the front I made sure I got eye contact with the driver, so he knew I was there. With a truck you haven’t got a hope.

I used to hitch-hike when I was a student. If you’ve ever been in a truck cab you’ll know there’s a patch at the bottom of the passenger door you can’t get the mirrors to show. If you’re on a bike and you’re in that blind spot then you are in mortal danger. That isn’t being dramatic. If those wheels roll over you that’s it.

How would you know the driver can’t see you? Well, can you see the driver? It’s as good a test as any. Even if you can, you still don’t know if he can see you.

So dress up like a Christmas tree. Put extra lights on your bike. Wear a hi-viz vest. Wear a helmet if you really think a bit of plastic is going to stop 30-tonnes of lorry going over you from doing anything lasting. But whatever you do, don’t go up the inside of anything at the lights. They can’t see you. And odds are you won’t be there for long for anyone to see.

 

 

 

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Special Offer on Not Your Heart Away

Not_Your_Heart_Away_Cover_for_Kindle

 

A while back JK Rowling brought a new book out. It launched through a major publisher, with the normal promotion given to any book but with one crucial difference. It didn’t have her name on the cover. Instead, someone decided that The Cuckoo’s Calling was going to have Robert Galbraith’s name as the author.

It sold 1,500 copies.

It was written by the same author who normally sells books by the warehouse full, the one whose Harry Potter books have put over £23o million into clearing her overdraft. JK Rowling doesn’t need my help to sell her books. But the story illustrates a point – it wasn’t the author stopping the sales; it was the way people perceived the book.

Known author – good. Unknown author – is it worth it?

So I thought I’d make buying Not Your Heart Away worth your while, baby. From today, Not Your Heart Away for Kindle is available at $0.99, or 77p in real money. Don’t say I never do anything for you.

If you want a real paper copy then obviously it’s a little more expensive. If you haven’t got a Kindle you can download the Kindle reader free and install it on absolutely anything with a screen, except perhaps an Etch-a-sketch. It might not be quite the same on that.

So at last, it’s cheap enough to give it a go. What have you got to lose, apart from 77p?

As Ben the narrator says, maybe it doesn’t matter if it’s true, so long as you believe it is. Maybe that’s how it works.

 

 

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