So far so fiction

Just for my own vanity and to convince myself there’s actually something getting done (and of course to give myself an excuse for not writing today, because I was doing this instead) I thought I’d make a list of the things I’ve written.It’s not a hugely long list, nothing that should worry Will Self or Julie Burchill. 

In the beginning, there is, was and will be A Day For Pyjamas, to lift shamelessly from The Once & Future King. That’s something I haven’t read for years, not since I stayed up half the night reading it one May morning long ago in Veryan, down on the Roseland Peninsula, gone there for the usual reasons. ADFPs was written when I was 18, in a flurry of activity immediately after my A Levels that might possibly have been better expended before them. It was short at just under 50,000 words although for years I was convinced it was 82,000; there were no word-processing programmes back then. It was staccato and brittle and when I read it now I think that it could have been developed into something more. I had no clue about how to go about getting it published and I’ve told that story elsewhere here, how I sent it to Pan thinking if they published Sven Hassel they’d probably want a crack at this too. They didn’t. After some shambling around with and by Bath Arts Workshop, so much a part of the right-on revolution that they managed to burn their own building down experimenting with a cooking fire on a 200 year-old wood floor, it went in a drawer to be taken out periodically to impress the more impressionable girls I wanted to convince I was artistic and that they really ought to.


Over twenty years later in 1999 I wrote Unfinished, a radio play based on a true story. All my writing is based on true stories; I don’t have much imagination, but I like tales and talking. Even listening, sometimes. When I was about 10 years old there was a plan to build a big new road through marshland near Nailsea in Somerset, where my mother’s family lived for hundreds of years. In those days it was a big village outside Bristol rather than the sprawling commuter suburb it’s become and being close to Bristol it had its share of bombing in World War Two. Before that, around about 1920 my grandfather became the first man in the village to fly; two airmen put down on the Moor and held a raffle for fuel. My grandfather, born in 1901 won the raffle and saw the world he never left circumscribed by his ten or so minutes in the air. Several of the older people in the village knew there were un-recovered and certainly unexploded bombs on the Moor. They were all over the village. My grandmother had a German incendiary bomb on her windowsill all through my childhood; all of her friends did, until the day when predictably, someone discovered that one of them quietly sitting there for the past thirty years wasn’t the emptied-out metal casing everyone had happily assumed it was. That was the story really, the war lingering on in this quiet, sunny rural place where my grandfather ran the pub and the Air Raid Patrol, just before the village was swept away under a tide of breeze blocks and hire-purchase.

Suffolk Blue was a short story about a man who finds some valuable stamps and wonders how to sell them without the owner noticing, whoever the owner might be. I had a story about the fall of the Twin Towers in my head, about a man who simply walked away using the cover of the disaster to re-start his life. Selling some maybe stolen stamps was part of the imagining of that bigger story I still haven’t done anything with.

Golden Cap was a bit of flash fiction I liked a lot, apart from the fact it’s too short. That’s not meant to be funny. I don’t really see the point of flash fiction if you’re going to take the time to sit down and read something anyway. It was about Dorset, theft and the sudden realisation your life is going to change that day, in this case that of a wealthy female City worker who finds herself unceremoniously out of a job.

School Lane or more properly The Universal Boy was entered for the Bridport Prize last year and didn’t get anywhere; when I saw the school-run sagas that did I wasn’t that surprised. That was another true story I heard at first hand from a man in a pub around about 1998. A thin, white haired man in his 70s was arguing with a thickset shaven headed drinker in his 20s. The old man was furious at being called a Nazi just because he’d been in the Hitler Youth. He told how his village had been visited one day in April 1945 by a car load of SS men who collected all the boys together, marched them up to a bunker, gave them machine guns and grenades and told them to stop the Americans who would be there in about half an hour. Job done, the SS men bravely drove off towards Switzerland. The village schoolmaster paraded all the boys in the village square then beat them senseless before he made them throw all of their new weapons in the ditch and saved all of their lives. I keep meaning to do more with that; it needs quite a lot of work finding out about German villages first and there are other things to do.

There was Recover written for Ip-Art, which was a runner-up last year, a daft bit of nothing about an imaginary new drug used to alleviate the symptoms of old age, essentially by putting patients into a coma. That was quite fun to write and fun to be at the festival, in the Spiegeltent.

I Was An Accidental Sex Tourist is repeatedly failing to get published in any of the self-proclaimedly edgy and street magazines.  It’s a mystery to me, really. I think it’s quite a good story, putting me in mind of a day I went to Tijuana. No, I don’t know why either. It wasn’t for the donkey-show.

The very most recent thing I’ve written is No Batteries Required, which might well be coming to you on a local radio station very soon, if you live in Suffolk. It’s about a bankrupt chicken farmer who blames an Eton-educated celebrity chef for the EU ban on battery hens and decides to kidnap him to make him recant, live on TV. It’s not the farmer’s fault that the Prime Minister wants to make the chef Minister of Food and drives down to his farm the very same day.

Not Your Heart Away, well, you can read the story of that all over this blog. Is a book, might get an agent, might be a film. I’ve done one proper pitch for it and someone’s really kindly helping me get it into shape for another, much more grown-up and prepared pitch soon. Which reminds me I’d better finish tidying it up.

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