Friday, 21 August 2015

Lifetime underachievement award # 12. (1989)

In my final year at Goldsmiths' a poster appeared on the English department noticeboard advertising the chance of a scholarship to go to the US to do an MA at a university there. I overheard another student, who was one of the dimmest and laziest on the course, talking about her plans to apply. I was amazed at her sense of entitlement.
Realistically, I probably would have had a better chance of success than anybody else on the course had I applied, but I didn't. By that stage I was living in the flat where I still live now.
Because of all the hostility I'd faced from the Fat Controller, I felt I'd lost my home at the age of 16. It therefore meant a huge amount to me to have a secure home where I was entitled to be. If I'd gone to America, even if only for a year, I'd have needed to give up the flat. I couldn't do it.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Lifetime underachievement award # 11. (2005).

After I ran out of steam at writing fiction, I went through a phase of doing jokey, throwaway travel writing about my cut price day trips around the UK. Though I didn't take the pieces that seriously, they were well-received at the writers' group I was chairing at the time. One member of the group worked for a national newspaper and thought my travel stuff would work well as a regular column. She offered to put in a word for me at the paper and invited me to pop in to their offices for an informal chat with somebody who had the clout to approve such things.
I havered at the suggestion, saying I wasn't sure about the form, meaning I wasn't sure of the form the writing should take. She thought I meant form in the sense of the etiquette of such negotiations. It struck me that the misunderstanding was quite revealing.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Lifetime underachievement award # 10. (1996).

Towards the end of my two years performing stand-up comedy, I was getting paid gigs more often. I did two in one night for the same promoter, supporting Mark Thomas. After my set I popped outside for a breath of fresh air. Mark said hello and said, 'I really enjoyed the start of your set.'
I immediately wondered what was wrong with the rest of it. Stand-up's a medium that can make you very insecure.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Random access memory # 47. (1997)

Me and Sean the Obscure went to a free music festival in Clissold Park, Hackney. A very drunk bloke, who looked like he might be street homeless, tried to sell us a bag of what he claimed was weed. It was evident that it was a lump of turf he'd just bagged up fresh from the park. When we politely declined he chuckled knowingly and wandered off to try somebody else.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Random access memory # 46. (1991).

I went on holiday to Portland in Dorset. One night in the pub, I overheard a group of women discussing their sex lives. One of them described having recently got off with a crusty with dreadlocks. Her friend asked if he'd stunk. When she replied in the negative, her friend seemed pleasantly surprised.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Random access memory # 45. (1977-1978)

At secondary school for a while there was a trend for playing hangman on the blackboard in the lunch hour. The subject was always the names of bands and albums. I used to do well at it because my musical tastes were seen as obscure.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Random access memory # 44. (1978).

There were no music venues where new bands could play in my home town. In the five or so years after punk, bands would put on their own gigs in village halls. Short of a full blown gig, bands would rehearse in the skittle alleys of pubs and invite friends along.
I saw a band called Valley Forge at one of these skittle alley rehearsals. The drummer would later play for the Mob and Zounds and would form Blyth Power.
I think that night was probably the first time I got ill with drink. I didn't feel drunk but walked at least two blocks on the way home before realising I'd left my jacket in the pub.
When I got home I immediately threw up in the toilet. It didn't help that I'd been smoking heavily. The next day my fingers were dark brown with nicotine stains.