THE WRITER’S LIFE
Who lives in a place like this? After many false starts, it’s pretty clear that the new life starts here: in my studio with the mews address, in a lovely village. I watched a documentary recently about NASA’s future plans and one of the latest is to submerge a craft beneath the ocean on one of Jupiter’s moons. I realise that there are arguments against spending trillions of dollars on space exploration and science, when the sums involved might be better directed toward more worthy or ethical concerns: poverty and the wellbeing of humanity on earth. I see the bigger picture and I understand how space exploration and science in general will benefit our race in the longer term. I think big. The counter argument I would propose in a debate is the vast sums of money avoided in taxes by organised religion. In America at least, church profits are tax-free. Creative accounting aside, the simple fact is that far less has been spent on broadening our scientific horizons than has been avoided in tax by religion. I’m an atheist science fiction writer, so I’m bound to be slightly skewed.
As a writer, the landing of a submersible on Titan throws up many ideas for stories. Perhaps a peaceful aquatic race already resides there and our presence would be the elephant in the room. That’s a situation which I can relate to personally; one which I still find myself in occasionally because by my my own admission, sometimes being around me can be like walking on eggshells. If I could to be granted one wish, it would be to be born right now. I’d still live the life I had; I wouldn’t cheat and change it but it strikes me that this is a very exciting period in man’s evolution. How might we continue to change over a life which might last over a century or more? I’ve said to the teenagers who ask me for advice, be grateful that you are young. Your lives are full of teenage angst but you are so lucky to be alive now, at such an exciting time and with so much to look forward to.
This spontaneous blog post is brought to you by the letter A and the number 26. The A26 is the road which separates me and the shit hole I came from. This post is also my chance to exercise my typing hands between projects. Over the last couple of days, I’ve written the 15th chapter of Infana Kolonia, taking the word count to 45,000 so far, so it’s about 10% written, in first draft. It’s a big book and one which is gathering very positive feedback. I also knocked out a 3000-word short story for the pulp fiction market. Daniel is the book of the bible which follows Ezekiel and Before Daniel is a clever little tale which will be published soon. I have the next book chapter drafted and at least four more shorts at the planning stage. Once those are done, I’ll have hit my target of 42 and I’ll be ready to start assembling my anthology, The Perpetuity of Memory. I’ll be doing that on the new laptop, once I get it back early next week. A friend with more patience than me has stripped the thing down, installed a new OS and all of the open source software I like to use. The laptop was a gift from the mother ship, to help with my writing. The laptop is less important to me than the recognition from my parents that I’m a writer. Everything will be easier on the new computer and it will allow me to do things which I wouldn’t ask of Little Blue (my tablet), like paginating books so that they’re print-ready and redesigning my website.
This is the new life for me, both as a person and a writer. Many of my peers would envy my location. My studio may be modest in size but what it lacks in dimensions, it more than makes up for in personality. I lost a lot but I gained much more in some respects. Chief among these is my closeness with immediate family: those who begat me and those whom I begat.
Tomorrow I make my monthly trip to Milton Keynes, to meet my ex-wife and children. As relationships have improved, the days in Milton Keynes have got more pleasant. Now that we have our divorce finalised, I can’t deny that I look at the mother of my children and still feel a lot of love for her. But I fucked up and I have to live with that. I can’t deny either that I wipe a tear from my eye as my train pulls away from Milton Keynes Central and my kids turn and walk away. I’m looking forward to tomorrow, of course; more than usual in fact. Where traditionally the first leg of my journey has been from Tonbridge to London Charing Cross, from now it will be from West Malling to Victoria: a new journey, with different scenery. I like that kind of thing. After lunch, my son and I are going to do some writing together. He’s started on a story and he’s showing a great deal of imagination. I’ve said that I’ll help him to polish it up a bit. I’m not stealing it from him. He understands that all writing needs to be polished before it’s submitted for publication. Obviously, his dad is a writer and I’m hoping that one of my editors comes through for me on a little surprise I have planned for my budding author son. I also have a proposal for the littlest, which I think she’ll enjoy. Although getting home will still be sad, it will be nicer than before, because I no longer have to fear the reception when I step over the threshold.
All is well and almost all in place at The Studio. The few things that were missing have now been either acquired or are on order. A very first world problem but also one which might be smirked at by those with satellite or cable, is one which I have solved with the simple purchase of a few bits. Now I can watch one Freeview channel, whilst recording a second: how radical. It’s all I need on the TV front. Unique visitors to The Studio currently number five since I moved in. There is little I miss in Tonbridge, apart from having friends close enough that things could be spontaneous and not pre-arranged, so as not to do my head in. Two of my wing nuts have visited. The ones I miss the most are the girls. I fear I may become just a picture on a phone. I was a teenager once and I know that’s how it works sometimes. Other than that, things are almost perfect. Where once I cherished my London postcode (SE6), I’m far happier in the ME one.
A self-guided tour around the village a couple of days ago revealed many treasures: listed buildings and no fewer than 22 blue plaques. Many relate to military personnel who were stationed at the old airfield just up the road. There are some pretty incredible individuals who lived and worked around here; lots of characters and stories to research and some which may even lead me into some non-fiction work. It is a writer’s paradise here. There are some household names commemorated in the village, including The Beatles, who filmed the beginning of Magical Mystery Tour outside what was then the village newsagent and which is now a kebab shop. Admiral John Forbes (1714 – 1796) was mentor to John Locker, Horatio Nelson’s “Sea Daddy.”; Eric Arthur Blair (1903 – 1950) stayed at the West Malling Spike (workhouse) and wrote much of the conditions and people therein. Blair was better known by his pen name: George Orwell. There are many others, including one in particular which has a very local relevance for my parents and I have a small surprise planned for them when they next visit. I can’t say what it is because the mother ship still reads this but a five minute walk will allow me to lead them to something really quite beautiful and romantic. If I have no-one to make a romantic gesture to, why can’t I give one to my loving and much loved parents? They have taken on a much greater meaning for me and I don’t think I’d ever have known this depth of love exists were it not for my breakdown. The same goes for my ex-wife. It really is as though a lobe of my brain which I was previously unaware of, has suddenly woken up. As life imitates art, this concept is one of many in Infana Kolonia.
The Studio has allowed me to become more prolific as a writer, and the surroundings have given me plenty of material. I’m hoping to have a short holiday later in the year, to a writing retreat. These are advertised in the writing press and are popular among authors and artists. The return trip to America is firmly on the back burner because I can’t promise that I would return: my English accent would be an aphrodisiac there and there are people here who are much too important to leave. The busman’s holiday which has caught my eye and my imagination is a short break in a log cabin on the shore of a Scottish loch. There’s a kind of poetry, given that my ex-landlord was a Scot (I speak in the past tense because it makes it sound like he died). Among his many objectionable traits was his habit of bursting into my room without being invited. With no lock on the door, I was powerless to prevent this. Well, there’s no door to Scotland, so I’m just going to stroll on in. I’ll take great pleasure in having a shit there.