Saturday, 28 April 2012



Nothing deafens more
than the sound of your own tears
hitting the pillow

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Advert for Crunchy Nut

Here's a script I wrote for a TV advert, when I was 18 at college. The campaign was for Kellog's Crunchy Nut breakfast cereal. The project was for my course, and it didn't go past the storyboard stage. I bit off more than I could chew in terms of production, but someone out there might like the screenplay. The advert's closing strapline was being used as an actual campaign by Kellogg's at the time- around 2000-2001.


Prison Guard #1 walks the perimeter of the building, with his dog on a leash. A scratching noise comes from behind the wall. The dog turns to the brickwork and begins to GROWL. The guard becomes panicked, expecting a breakout.


A convict in stripy attire leans forward towards the camera with a spoon in his hand and a determined look on his face.


Prison Guards #1 and #2 run down the corridor towards the suspect's cell. Guard #1 reaches the door and swings his baton around. He opens the cell door and shines the torch in...


The convict, lit by the torch, sits with a bowl and spoon at a small table. At his side is a box of Kellogg's Crunchy Nut.


Text Banner: “Good at any time.”

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Being a Poetic Bastard

At Writers Connect this week organizer Oz brought in a selection of small intriguing ornaments as prompts for a ten minute exercise. This session was- as usual- the morning after the night before, being on a Sunday, and I'd had kind of a weird night out in Manchester involving a group of very drunk Welsh girls. Not as good as it sounds. But anyway, I was feeling kind of melancholy. There was something about this sculpture

that struck a chord with me. I felt like being a poetic bastard.


She puts a cheek against his face
and brings him to a warm embrace
his view of her is now distorted
nomadic plans are all but thwarted
becoming one, a human boulder
with his hand upon her shoulder
he is there for her to hold
and soon enough, they start to mould
into an almost rock-like feature,
no longer separate, now one creature
his gratitude for having met her
has turned him to an oaken texture
he starts to think of when he met her
and how his life became much better
he plans to live in pure monogamy
alone with her, cast in mahogany.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Meeting Irvine Welsh

Irvine Welsh's new novel Skagboys is on sale now. The prequel to Trainspotting has just been released by publishers Jonathan Cape.

Mr Welsh did a signing in Waterstones Manchester on Friday 20th. I booked it off and got down there. A good day was had by all I think! And if Trainspotting and its sequel Porno are anything to go by, Skagboys should be a winner of a book.

Monday, 23 April 2012

“Pad Thai” Stir Fried my Noodle

Okay, this recipe book is getting weird. The first few meals were really tasty and proved to me that there were more types of food that I like than I thought there were. It also proved to me that I can cook for myself- something I was convinced I couldn't from about age 11 onwards.

I didn't see the point of recipe 25: “Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce”. It's basically boiling spaghetti and adding the sauce, which I already made for the pizza

I had no enthusiasm for Spinach and Squash Lasagne. I'm not a big veg eater, although I know how important greens are. But there's actually nothing but veg in the recipe. I can make a salad if it comes to that.

I turned the page straight over for “Pasta with Lemon and Cream”. Tesco's Carbonara sauce would do fine for that kind of dish. I'm not a cream fan, and seeing as cream is fat, why should skipping this one be a problem?

And that led me to the noodle dish. This was a semi-successful venture. The cooking of it was fine, but finding the Goddamn ingredients, not so. The shelf stackers in Tesco were convinced they stocked tofu, although not one of them could fucking find it on the shelves. Neither could I. I also came up short when looking for spring onions, which according to the book look a bit like carrots, although I'd never seen or heard of these things before in my life. I stuck with regular onions.

I used chicken as a substitute for tofu, seeing as chicken goes in stir fry. Here's Tesco's mint sprigs supply:  

I substituted this with a sprinkle of “Chinese Five Spice”. Due to an apparent case of mental retardation, I also bought a bag of monkey nuts instead of standard peanuts and egg noodles instead of rice noodles. I don't have a nut crusher, so I substituted the monkey nuts with some pine nuts that I had left over from the pesto recipe. Check the creativity!

I was supposed to use a rolling pin to crush the peanuts (now pine nuts). I do have a rolling pin somewhere inside this one-bedroom flat, but I STILL cannot find it. So I used a pestle and mortar instead. Hard work!

I continued through the instructions. There's no further mention of spring onions in the recipe, after all that searching for them, so I ended up with a chopped onion that I didn't throw in.

Keda seems to think you can eat bean sprouts raw. The Tesco packaging suggested otherwise, so this added three minutes to the cooking time.

It tasted good, and not like anything I'd eaten before. It took so long to get all the ingredients together- a number of shopping trips- that I'm not sure all of the elements were particularly fresh. I've been fine though...

A few days later I had another bash. I used roasted peanuts from a packet, chicken again, and some white wine vinegar that I manage to find. It was a lot more flavoursome even though I forgot to put the mint on the plate at the end.

Hard work, but good food.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Positive feedback

A friend of mine, Tomleecee, sent me some words of encouragement recently. Tom is the founder of the million-plus-hit blog The Dreamcast Junkyard, covering all things Sega Dreamcast-related. 

In fact, you might recognise this crazy guy in this 2006 post

I was also present with Tom for this excursion

Last week, Tom texted me to say:

I read your blog today. It caused a wan smile to dance across my palid, anaemic lips on several occasions. Gratis.”

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Well, I am just fucking hilarious.

Last week I got a shout out on Ideal Club World Radio, an online station that claims that “the world has been missing a radio station with a strong identity that universally covers all non commercial /manufactured music and reports on news and gossip in the global underground music world.”

My friends DJ Bini and co-host Hema present the Asian Invasion “Taking you through a journey of classics, funky & upfront house. Reflecting on the previous months hot tracks being played in and around Manchester and very special guest DJ mixes.”

The girls were asking us to tweet the show April Fools pranks that we pulled on the 1st of the month. I told them how I'd put this as my profile pic

and that loads of people who I'd known for years fell for it. Hema read out my tweet! Superbo!

After I put it up I had an hour-long conversation with one young mother in my friends, who advised me on a range of sensory mattresses and radios that I'd need to buy. Tee hee.

Asian Invasion is a great show, so be sure to tune in on Wednesday nights at 9pm to get some good house into your system.

On the subject of good music, Rififi Stalybridge had a local Manchester legend gracing their decks on Good Friday. Capital Radio's David Dunne span a few classic house tracks while a stunning podium dancer showered us with metallic sparks from her angle grinder. Great music and a great night. I tweeted to Mr Dunne to tell him this. He retweeted back. This made me happy.

Twitter round-up: The lovely Cathy Heaven (6K followers)  wished me a Happy Easter. I got blog retweets from the superb ladies Charlee Chase (59K) and Tina Lee (4K). Respect, girls. 
I also had the banter with Jodie Connor (35k), the astoundingly beautiful singer from Roll Deep's No1 hit “Good Times”. 

 A native of my own town, Oldham, Jodie tweeted that she had “fallen back in love...” I replied that she had, hence, broken my heart. Turns out she was on about Jack Bauer. “Oh don't you love 24 too! Lool” she said.

You got me there, Jodie.

Bad news: I've had to put Mixed Martial Arts on the back burner again as I cannot justify the price of membership. Good news: I've now taken up Street Dance at the Dancehouse Theatre in Manchester. I've been meaning to give this a shot for a long time. I'm a pretty good dancer as it stands, but I thought, I might as well go and learn to do it properly. Not only that, but I came to a revelation recently- people are happiest when they spend their time doing the things they enjoy and the things they're good at.

Well, duh.

I got pretty good at MMA after a few years, but had to quit in 2010 when I got my own gaff. It was always a struggle learning the techniques in the class, even though I enjoyed it and felt like it helped me develop in so many ways: I was more confident, less afraid and stood my ground more in minor disagreements. Dancing, on the other hand, is something I just know how to do somehow. So why shouldn't I go to a class and sharpen up more? Not only that, but the people I meet there, I thought, will probably be on my wavelength. It seems they are. Oh, and who'd have thought? There happens to be loads of fine young women there as well!

A lot of my friends are staying in and saving up for things, so this class could just be a major lifeline for me. It's going well so far. You know what? A lot of things are. Here's a quote by someone who was ALSO a total failure in school. It displays the importance of sticking to your strengths.

Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
-Albert Einstein

Monday, 9 April 2012

Reading on a Treadmill

Endurance work. Fat burning. It is a slow, tedious task- one that I could certifably not be arsed with until recently, when I decided it might be good to bring a book to the gym to get through the monotony of it. After the questionable success of my reading-while-cycling thing I tried a month back (various posts on the right, see “Reading and Working Out”) I decide to give reading and walking a shot.

Since November I've been dipping in and out of Monty Python's Flying Circus: Just the Words, a back-to-back compilation of the screenplays of the zany 70s TV show. What better book is there for a zany task of reading on a treadmill?

I used a treadmill at the back of the gym for this task- away from the speakers and right in front of the floor-to-ceiling window where I could get plenty of daylight. If you're going to be indoors for a substantial part of the day, you might as well get what seratonin you can while you're there. It will aid concentration, and I found that pages lit by sunlight were easier to read than pages lit by the gym's ceiling lights after dusk.

The movement of walking is a very up-down motion- your body level raises when your legs are together and dips when your legs are apart. This movement causes the text to go squiggly before your eyes, meaning it takes a few minutes for your vision to adapt to the rhythm of walking. Concentrating can be difficult- especially when the content features 18th-century kings headbutting each other.

Also, because your eyes are fixed to the page, you aren't looking at the horizon or the features of the room. This causes you to lose your balance slightly, so you start to walk with your feet slightly wider apart, almost in a shat-yourself waddle.

As for the pace, I found 6kph practical and 5kph more so (predictably). I couldn't concentrate at 7kph. If you're taller than 173 cm (5'8 for those still catching up), you might manage at a slightly higher speed being able to walk with a wider stride.

I walked for 1 hour 50 mins (until the gym closed) on day 1- and started this straight after 45 mins of short cardio and weights. On day 2 I did the same, reading for 1 hour 15 mins. In order to burn fat, in theory, you need to work out for 90 minutes first. So, I fat-burned for 65 minutes on day 1 and 30 minutes on day 2. Yet I STILL have no six pack. Bastard.

Do long cardio and you notice certain things that strength training doesn't inflict on you- an intense tiredness, for one thing, along with concentration difficulties, isolation and pain in the feet. This will be more so if your laces aren't tied tight/slack enough.

An interesting, if slightly odd, task. The task was made odder by the Pythons' surrealist comedy sketches, of which I have now read the scripts to EVERY ONE. I actually LOLd at quite a few of the depictions. Some were classics (the “argument clinic” is something we can all relate to), others forgettable. It's the kind of thing that's easiest to read in small portions- the only people who can read this kind of silliness for extended periods are probably loons themselves.


But what struck me reading this was that they were using a fairly traditional method to develop these comedy ideas.

I suspect that John Cleese, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Graham Chapman, Terry Gilliam and Eric Idle were well-versed in surrealist “cut-up” techniques. This old art is performed by writing down as many ideas and scenarios as you can, cutting these sheets of paper into strips and shuffling them together to make a mish-mash of characters, places and happenings. You then look through these ideas and try to form scenarios from images that wouldn't normally go together, like vikings celebrating Spam in a village tea-room, or a WWII RAF pilot called Pip, “the half-parrot, half man, half-woman, three-quarter badger, ex-bigamist negro preacher, for whom banjo-playing was very difficult.”

I'm not an expert in these techniques, but I did go to two interesting workshops on cut-up a few months ago. The writeups are here, coupled with poems I wrote at each one:

Outcome: reading and cycling was MUCH easier. Also, taking 5 months to read a book is ridiculous. But in all fairness, it was a ridiculous book.

Saturday, 7 April 2012


Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history.

April is National Poetry Writing Month, or NaPoWriMo, an annual project organised by Maureen Thompson, a publisher in Washington DC. Yes, I know. If I'm writing this in Oldham in Northwest England, it should be International Poetry Writing Month, or InPoWriMo, which I think has a better bouncy sort of rhythm to it. Well. I'll suggest it next year, then.

The idea: write a poem on every day of the month. I'm writing this on the 6th and, so far, I've written 0 poems out of 6 days. Oh well.

There's something about this project that could really help to raise the profile of poetry, and the task could involve and enthuse people who otherwise would never have taken to it. The site has a collection of links to good poetry blogs, although there are probably thousands of sites you could read to get a grasp of what poetry is all about. The first site I’d recommend is Duotrope, a searchable list of fiction and poetry magazines.

As noble as the cause is, I'm not sure that the principle of writing a poem a day is particularly going to work for many people. Here's why:

  1. Ideas come and go. Sometimes they come five at once, sometimes none for ages. If you don't have a strong idea, you won't have a strong poem. Forcing ideas out, to fill the days, makes for lame poems.
  2. This scheme should be more than just a bunch of newbie writers trying to write some poems sat at their computers in solitude. Poetry is something that can be learned in a class. Where are the free classes? Where are the lists of writers groups operating throughout the country? Wouldn't they be places to hone poetry skills? They exist, but they're not advertised on the NaPoWriMo site.
  3. Also not advertised are the poetry reading events that anyone can get involved in. Writeoutloud, a national hub for participation in poetry, would be a good place to link to. Search this site for your town to see what poetry-related happenings are near you.
  4. Most importantly, poetry has a really bad image. Most people are reluctant to read anything at all, beyond their own Facebook news feed. I'd say poetry, being one of the hardest writing forms to decipher, is among the least popular. But I think there is a form of poetry somewhere for everyone, even if it's rap lyrics or something abstract that doesn't feel like a poem, but technically is.

So even though I won't be doing a poem a day for NaPoWriMo, I'm keen to have a bash at something poetry-related- maybe I'll find a poetry slam somewhere in Manchester. Maybe I'll polish off some old drafts or think of a few new ideas. I might also investigate a few more feedback sites. If you're having a go at NaPoWriMo, I wish you all the best. Let's see what we can come up with!

For further info on what a poem is, as opposed to what it is not, and how to write one, see this BBC 5-minute interview with former Poet Laureate Sir Andrew Motion.

Friday, 6 April 2012

I Hadn't a Clue What She was Talking About


For this week's writing exercise, the group was asked to write for ten minutes using the above title as a prompt. There were a few minutes at the start of the exercise when I hadn't a clue what to write about, until my mind drifted back to October 2000 when I was 18 and hammering through a GNVQ.

I hadn't a clue what she was talking about. “Er... what?” I asked.

This was really uncomfortable. For the record, I know nothing about prostitution, on either side of the exchange. It's not a topic that's particularly easy to talk about, particularly not when you're eighteen and you're talking to your own mother.

Your 'ookers form,” she reiterated. “Have you filled it in yet?”

You need to fill a form in before you visit a hooker? I thought. Why does my mum know this? And why is she asking me this?

I looked down at my desk for a clue, the work surface plastered in A2 sheets and essays- an almost-complete college module. Hookers would not be an option I'd go for, even if I did have time. I shifted a few sheets around for a clue.

On the edge of my desk, under a university prospectus for next year, was my higher education application form.

Aaaand... there's the penny dropping.

"Oh, UCAS!"

"UCAS," she corrected herself. "Whatever."

"Not yet, let me tidy this up first."

I breathed a sigh of relief and shook my head clear. I had eight months to go. Eight more modules. Eight more deadlines before- in theory- I was to go to uni and do it all again.

"You don't want to be late, or you'll have to defer for a year."

"I'm aware of that," I said, and started to collate the sheets in order. The cereal advert I'd come up with was brilliant. The rest of it, probably garbage.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Adventures in Writing

At a recent writers' group, I was handed this cheeky little leaflet for another writing workshop based in north Manchester.

Do you want to see yourself in print,” the ad says, “or just write for pleasure?

Either way, join us, in Prestwich Library on Wednesday mornings 10:30am-12:30pm for a friendly, stimulating, refreshing discussion group.

We will awaken your curiosity and help you to explore your writing potential.

Phone Jean Tarry 01204 884080 or just turn up one Wednesday morning in term time. You'll be very welcome.

Cost varies with numbers – the more the merrier (and cheaper)”

If anyone goes to the meetings and sees this, get in touch and let us know how you found it! If you have a review of the group or a writeup of an exercise you took part in, I'd be happy to publish it here.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Literotica Forums- pass

"I think the whole glory of writing lies in the fact that it forces us out of ourselves and into the lives of others."
-Sherwood Anderson, US novelist

Oh dear. I've been searching for a site that provides constructive feedback on creative writing. My search took a nosedive this week with the Literotica Forums

As mentioned, I planned to spend a week dabbling around on the site to see if I could use it to my advantage. But no. I could not. Here's why.

It's really a site for finished pieces of erotic stories and poems, not a place for critiques of unfinished work. Or so it seems. The purpose of the forums seems to be “getting attention”, rather than “getting and giving advice”. People are asking for comments, but not particularly for constructive criticism. 

Some of the writing on this site fairly well-written, but not particularly erotic. Some of the writing is really, really bad. I know that a feedback site is a place for people to develop their skills as a writer, but you'd expect a certain level of ability from people if they are serious about writing- serious enough to use a site like this, at least. Example: reviewers are having to point out to writers that they have accidentaly changed from first to third person. One writer describes her story as being set “in the 1800th century”. Okay, so some people are beginners and are there to learn, but what support is there for fairly competent people who have already been published and who want to further hone their skills? Not much. 

This brings me nicely onto my third point: not only are there a lot of terrible writers, these contributors are also (predictably) awful at reviewing. One story, written from the perspective of a milionare rapist preying on lapdancers, did not get in my books. And I'm a BIG American Psycho fan, so it wasn't the content that particularly put me off. It was just badly written, more than anything, and the wafer-thin depiction of the female characters proved how few women the author actually knew in real life. Yet the majority of reviewers loved it! They all congratulated the author for his “brilliant” stories (he'd written a few) and gave nothing in the form of constructive criticism. One fairly eloquent reviewer- older than most, seemingly- put it to the author that rapists generally don't make good protagonists. They aren't likeable individuals. This particular main character was a brat with no redeeming features, even when he wasn't sexually assaulting pole-dancing nineteen-year-olds. I added that I agreed with this reviewer. I didn't hear back from the site as to whether I'd received any correspondence from that comment.

Some writers upload unfinished work in the hope of gaining feedback. One story I critiqued contained no reviewer's notes indicating that the piece wasn't actually finished, so of course when I reviewed it to say that the ending didn't work I got an earful as they “obviously” hadn't finished writing it yet. Generally speaking, people on Literotica don't take criticism well at all.

On the flipside, some of the poetry is really good- well-thought out pacing, thoughtful word choices, graphic without being vulgar, sentimental without being gushy. Some of the poetry is not so, but at least a handful of examples really stand out. It doesn't seem to be a place for feedback, though, and when the site lets you communicate, it isn't easy to use. After submitting a comment, the text disappears and there's no notification of whether it has been submitted or not.

The site itself isn't particularly easy to use- some pieces will have an obvious text box for you to submit your comments in. Other poems or stories won't. I couldn't tell why this was.

This left me wondering- is the site a place for working on your stories or not? On Literotica it isn't clear. I tried to upload a story of my own for the purpose of gaining feedback. When you find the upload form, the instructions read like you're submitting a finished piece for publication on the site- like the magazine. “You are granting us non-exclusive rights to publish your submission”, it says. I debated this, then sent the piece anyway. I wish I hadn't in retrospect- If I could have made the story better, I would have had a better chance of being noticed as a writer. But, if Literotica decide to publish the piece, I can link it up regardless.

I'm also a little disappointed that the submission form knocked out all of my italics. The story I uploaded was mostly internal monologue, so it was particulalry important with that piece and I spent some time checking that it was right. 

So. A FAIL of a week on the writing front. Do you know a better feedback site that I should be trying?

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Fuel shortages: a self-fulfilling prophecy

So the Conservatives, who are supposedly running the country, have reversed their stance on the supposed fuel shortages due to the supposed strike by tanker drivers this week. Our thouroughly retarded Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude has now been asked to resign over comments he made advising storing petrol in jerrycans. This was days after drivers in the Unite union voted in favour of strike action. We've been told “no need to panic-buy”. Then we were advised to fill up to 3/4s of a tank. The government seem not to be able to make their minds up over what we should do. Well, let's suppose I throw a bit of light on this ridiculous situation.

As it happens, the unions have said there would be no strike after all.

But there WILL be a fuel shortage, regardless. Why? Because people have already queued, all over the country, for their petrol. The moment drivers hear the phrase “fuel shortage”, what do we do? We top up our cars, no matter how full they already are. Why? Because we want what we can get our hands on.

Occasionally I blog about greed, a trait we all have within us. This, I usually explain, is a part of human nature. When we are posed with a threat of any kind, we prepare to handle that threat. We prepare to see ourselves through that ordeal with as much resources and as few potential problems as possible. Hence, the moment drivers hear “fuel shortage”, they drive straight to the nearest forecourt. Some say this is a knee-jerk reaction. I say, preparedness makes you powerful. We're all paying for the fuel. Once it's in the tank, it's ours 'til we use it.

Not to mention, if the media gets wind of this potential fuel shortage- which, this week it did- and it promotes the situation as just that, the concept becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Tanker drivers strike. So there'll be no fuel. So people buy what's left. So there'll be no fuel. Those who have the time and the money, and want the upper hand, will dive into the forecourt and fill up. People will call them stupid, until the tanker drivers DO strike. Which they may. In the meantime, the knee-jerked won't have to get fuel for a while, so that's one thing off their minds.

But seriously, until we're living in a Mad-Max style apocalyptic vision of hell, don't be a 'tard like some people and start filling up jerrycans. We'd all prefer that the Watford Gap didn't look like this any time soon: