Monday, December 31, 2018

As The Year Recedes

This blogpost should have been a review of Nadine Shah's December gig in Brighton but her tour was cancelled as she had to return to the North-East to be with her family. I am not sure of the exact reason but I sincerely hope it is not something too disastrous. Instead, as the year recedes, here are three things I learned in 2018:

There Are No Grown-Ups - In Lord of the Flies, when Piggy bleats that "Grown-ups know things...they ain't afraid of the dark. They'd meet and have tea and discuss. Then things 'ud be all right", he is showing a touching faith in the adult world to solve problems and act in the best interests of the little people. As we hurtle towards the EU exit door, spinning like a car on black ice (I appreciate that we are running out of similes for Brexit but this is one I have personal experience of and it was the most scared I have ever been), I have realised that I am Piggy no longer. Once upon a time, I was: as a child, I adored Harold Wilson (still do, really) and felt that no harm would come to my family all the while he was looking after things. Although I hated Margaret Thatcher and was not over-enamoured with Tony Blair, I still believed that they would act maturely and make decisions that they thought were for the best, even if I did not agree with them. And, oh, if sturdy Gordon Brown was still Prime Minister I am sure we would not be in this mess. Now I am Ralph; not Jack, who greets the lack of grown-ups on the island with all the glee of a rapacious hedge fund manager who has just realised how much money he can make if he says bollocks to the rules, but Ralph. Ralph the leader, whose nervousness and indecision are borne from the knowledge that no one else is going to come along and make things better. Our current Prime Minister is not a leader: she behaves like a civil servant who has been given a brief and has the job of delivering it no matter how ill-conceived the original idea; a leader would question the specification but she is too timorous to be honest with the British people. The Leader of the Opposition, still wedded to the fantasy that he could negotiate a better deal at the last minute, is being equally dishonest. And when you look around, there are absolutely no politicians that could salvage this situation as they are all too busy with their pettifogging party squabbles - "What's grown-ups going to say?"

It's Never Too Late (or Write What You Know) - Having spent a lifetime writing, I finally finished and published a novel this year. Freed from the shackles of full-time teaching, I was able to sit, hunched over a laptop in my kitchen corner, for long stretches while the kids were at school; but that was not the only reason I was able to make the sort of progress that had eluded me before: the difference, this time, was that I was enjoying what I was writing. If I am being honest, I only really have three strong ideas for novels; the one I had been working on for the last few years - an imagined tale involving the Modernist writer Malcolm Lowry and the tattooed curiosity, Horace Ridler - necessitated detailed research. This, coupled with the dense, literary prose style I had chosen to write in, made the whole process slow and, frankly, unenjoyable. One day, I decided to start writing my second idea, for which I had long ago produced a reasonably detailed plan. Set in 1977, with David Bowie, punk, the Jubilee and the Lewisham riot as context, the story charted the coming of age of a fifteen-year-old boy - all stuff I know about. Between October 2017 and April 2018 I wrote two drafts and then a final one and in September this year, two months after my fifty-sixth birthday, When Two Sevens Clash was published.

You Have To Tell Them - I have had cause for regret this year: I never told someone I was very close to that they were my best friend and I dearly wish I had. I think they knew but they have gone now - in tragic circumstances - and I have missed my chance. I am not sure that me telling them would have made a difference but it might have done. My New Year's resolution is to let those close to me know how important they are and how much they would be missed; I respectfully suggest you do the same.