Bonne Année – Happy New Year

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What a year 2018 has been…

I started it bottle blonde and I’m ending it as nature intended: brunette.

I finished my Master’s.

I argued with far too many people on Twitter.

I read a truckload of books, too many to count, but here are the ones I particularly enjoyed – in case anyone is looking for random recommendations:

The Immortalists – Chloe Benjamin

Patronising Bastards – Quentin Letts

Lethal White – Robert Galbraith

The Nix – Nathan Hill

The Destroyers – Christopher Bollen

See What I Have Done – Sarah Schmidt

Priestdaddy – Patricia Lockwood

This could hurt – Jillian Medoff

Marlena – Julie Buntin

Sing, unburied, sing – Jesmyn Ward

The Chalk Man – C. J. Tudor

Grist Mill road – Christopher J. Yates

Death in Bordeaux – Allan Massie

Dark summer in Bordeaux – Allan Massie

Cold winter in Bordeaux – Allan Massie

End games in Bordeaux – Allan Massie

Magpie murders – Anthony Horowitz

Ill Will – Dan Chaon

Sharp Objects – Gillian Flynn

Narcissus and Goldmund – Hermann Hesse

Sapiens: a brief history of humankind – Yuval Noah Harari

Homo Deus: a brief history of tomorrow – Yuval Noah Harari

The Craftsman – Sharon Bolton

The death of Mrs Westaway – Ruth Ware

The woman in the Window – A.J. Finn

Snow Blind – Ragnar Jónasson

Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore – Robin Sloan

The Marriage Of Opposites – Alice Hoffman

And my all-time favourite this year, and also the one I finished only yesterday: The improbability of love – Hannah Rothschild.

(I absolutely adored this book)

I did take too many selfies…I could say I’ll try to stop doing that but…who would I be kidding – I’ll most probably be as bad next year.

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I ate too much generally (definitely far too much chocolate) drank too much alcohol but I worked out almost everyday. I took long walks on the beach and out in the countryside, I got lost among trees, I danced in my house, outside it, I laughed, I cried, I tried hard to remember that life is all too short and you’ve got to take the time to do the things that matter to you. I’m stating the obvious, I know, but who cares, it’s the truth.

2018 started with a real low: I lost my beloved grandmother in January, and ended with a high: there was a very special 2 year anniversary this December…such is life: pain & happiness and a range of other emotions in between.

Happy New Year to all of you lovely, lovely people – I’ve got high hopes for 2019.

*the pics are last week’s (19th) before a night out in London – I haven’t taken any selfies since…they might as well be the last ones to appear on this blog in 2018*

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What’s the best thing about being a Writer?

Idle blogs of an idle fellow

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
Ernest Hemingway

With New Year intentions often to write a novel in a year, or in some cases a month, this is a good time to consider what’s so bloody great about being a writer. I do wonder if some people get writing confused with reading. One is a strangely magical experience, which tingles otherwise untouched parts of you, like sausage rolls but without the guilt. The other is the challenge of typing whilst simultaneously wringing your hands and swearing quietly.

Perhaps it’s despair at such sudden disappearance of Yule Logs from the shops after Christmas that drives people into the collective arms of writing groups, or perhaps it’s just to emulate all those fantastic books read during the holidays. But don’t be rash, those rather delicious afternoons with nothing to do but…

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Album of the Year 2018 – Paper Kites: On The Corner Where You Live

Idle blogs of an idle fellow

The worst thing about Albums of the Year pieces is  realising how much music has been released without anyone having told you. Mind you, most music sites seem to be competing in who can chose the most obscure albums.

The second worst thing is writing them. It’s my own fault. No one asked for my opinion on a rather narrow selection of albums released each year. And yet another annoying thing is that albums such as the brilliant Haiku from Zero by Cut Copy was actually released in 2017.

I was going to write a long list, but really there’s only one album of this year. Albums that stop you dead in your tracks are few and far between, which is probably a good thing, as I was driving when I first listened to it. But they do exist, and as neither GENTS nor Real Lies have released their 2nd album…

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Happy New Year and thank you all.

Idle blogs of an idle fellow

“I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph.” – Shirley Temple

It must be Christmas because I’ve just spent half an hour trying to remove sellotape with forensic levels of care from the wrong part of the parcel I was wrapping without tearing the paper.

James Bond is on the TV and he’s already seduced a woman with nothing more than a one-liner and a ruffled hair do. I was caught up in the timelessness of it until I spotted one of Ken Livingstone’s hated bendy-buses crossing Westminster Bridge. The weather is mild and damp. The fridge is full of food that no one is allowed to touch, and the tree in the living room needs its own security force to keep inquisitive children away. It must be Christmas

I want to…

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The Absolutely Best Advice on the Internet is…

“Life advice is something people once went to pubs for, alongside flat beer and sticky carpet. Being regaled with ancient wisdom from bedraggled men escaping their wives at the bar was once a rite of passage for younger folk, who now deliberate whether to like pictures of restaurant food on social media with a thumbs up or an emoji instead…”

Idle blogs of an idle fellow

Remember this, folks – I am a Hillbilly, and I don’t always bet the same way I talk. Good advice is one thing, but smart gambling is quite another. 

Hunter. S. Thompson

Perhaps it’s because everyone is an expert these days, but people have an opinion on everything. The most liberating thing to say is, ‘I can’t comment because I don’t fully understand it.’ I’ve been supporting a football team for 20 years and still don’t understand the point of substitutions in the 90th minute. To be honest I’m beginning to wonder what the point of football is full stop, but that’s another blog. Advice is much the same, dished out like Sunday newspaper supplements without much thought as to where it all ends up.

Live every day like it’s your last‘ is the sort of advice that flies about like a flu bug: impossible to pin down…

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Merry Christmas

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I’ve been unwell for the past 4 days (bad cold) but this morning I had to go look for my Little Miss Christmas t-shirt (which funnily enough only comes out of the wardrobe at this time of year) to try to get into the spirit of things since the big day is almost upon us. (I can hardly effing believe it) 

There’s no way we’re going to get a white Christmas and that makes me bloody sad…and so many others happy – the snow-hating bastards. But… Santa knows where they all live (and he’s a special friend of mine) 

*Inserts Machiavellian grin* 

Merry Christmas to all of you lovely people  – eat, drink…whatever else…and whoever you’re with: enjoy it. 

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Book Plug

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I’ve just finished reading Pantheon by Eric Syrdal (his blog can be found Here )

I don’t do book reviews for a good reason: I’m no good at writing them. So you’ll just have to trust me when I say Pantheon is an epic, unforgettable read: it’s a novel told in free verse poetry and I could not put it down. Granted, I was already an Eric fan before picking up his book because he’s a master word weaver…but this blew me away. If you’re looking for a new book recommendation, you could do much, much worse.

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Controversial writer

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Anyone who’s followed this blog for a while will know I’ve been studying for a Master’s in Creative Writing for the past 2 years.
Well, it’s officially over. On Monday I got the result of my 15,000 words on Freedom of Speech. I knew all along my chosen subject was highly risky in the current climate, but I felt compelled to write about it.

Monday was tough – the result came in a day early – I didn’t get the high mark I was hoping for. I should say I was hoping against all odds.

I’m one of those annoying people who is academic, who gets the A* and the distinctions, etc…it’s embarrassing to admit and it’s rather sad but on Monday when I saw the mark I was awarded I wanted to cry. I DID actually cry later on in the day. People were congratulating me on having passed and I was thinking: Nat, you’re a failure.
I did try to put a brace face on it for the benefit of others: “I kept my integrity and that’s more important than a distinction” I told them. But oh, how I wanted that fucking distinction!

So I mourned all of Monday. I did think WHY didn’t you pick a subject that wasn’t controversial?

By Tuesday I was over it. I knew what I was doing when I chose free speech, I knew the risk – someone said when I told them what I would be writing about: “striking in the heart of academia, it’s bold, I like it” – I knew I wouldn’t end the masters on a high, grade-wise, but there was genuinely nothing I’d rather have written about than Freedom of Speech. So now the mourning is over, I can honestly say I have no regrets and that integrity IS indeed more important than a distinction.

I’ve been fighting for freedom of speech for so long, it has cost me friends, lots of followers on this blog, it has caused me untold grief already but I will never stop because it’s something I passionately believe in and the assault on free speech has been relentless in the last couple of years.

But, anyway, I have a Master’s now – I guess that makes me a writer. An opinionated, controversial type apparently, but I wouldn’t have it any other fucking way.

Oh, And I’m in a selfie mood today –

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Lonely in Paris

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5 am: he’s shivering, cold seeping into his bones, teeth shattering, he turns up the volume on the radio – it’s playing that song everyone hums, everyone knows. Alone in his bed, twisted in a wrinkled sheet which has seen better days, he can’t sleep, looks at the ceiling, thoughts turning, colliding – deadly ennui.

He’s losing his head and his cigarettes are all gone, stubbed out in three different ashtrays displayed around the bed. His studio is a mess of used tissues and empty bottles – it smells just how it looks: stale.

He’s lonely, fucking lonely.

He finds just enough at the bottom of a bottle to have one last drink but the glass escapes, shatters on the floor – he cuts his hand while picking up the pieces, it’s shallow, he sucks the blood on his fingers, vaguely thinks he should disinfect but on the heels of that: fuck it, let it kill me – who the hell cares anyway.

6 am: he needs to find a drink, black coffee or something stronger – he’s not sure yet, thinks: let’s leave this place, leave it to fate. Once in the street he sees some stars – in a Paris sky it’s pretty rare, what with all the réverbères – he cranes his neck to talk to them: “do you have anything to tell me?” he asks, feeling kinda foolish. They don’t reply, keep looking at him from afar.

He gets in his car, roule au hasard, goes through a red light, thinks: don’t get stopped, the last thing you need are the cops – slows down, which is how he spots a small bar squeezed between two bulging buildings. He parks the car, goes inside the tiny bar, takes a seat by the window lit so bright he’s relegated to the role of shadow. In a dark corner a platinum blonde sips on a liqueur, she looks at him, says: “champagne?” He nods: “okay.” Within seconds she’s sitting next to him, one hand on his shoulder, the other in her hair and whispers: “a hundred?” He says: “why not.”

7 am: hotel. He pays, has to dig deep in his pockets for crumpled notes, feels cheap, the clerk looks bored. The room is small, it’s a hellhole, the blonde walks to the bed, gets straight down to business. She takes off her pantyhose and the rest quickly, expertly – revealing tanned skin with an orangey hue which screams ‘fake’, like her platinum hair. She pats the empty space next to her: “coming, darling?” He takes three steps, she grabs him, her painted nails leave a faint trail on his face. Her lips are artificial red, her arched back a practised pose, his cold fingers don’t warm up on her frigid skin, her eyes are empty, blind mirrors. They’re both thinking of nothing while moving in tired synchronicity – there’s no heat between those two writhing bodies despite the groans and moans. The bed creaks, the shutters slam, he thinks: fuck it, I can’t even cum. Frantic, he makes a last desperate effort, increases his rhythm, her eyes lose their vagueness, she’s getting pissed off, it’s taking too long and she’s had enough – he pulls out, he’s gone limp, she simply says: “tough luck, time for sleep”, snatches her clothes and leaves, not even bothering to close the door behind her.

She runs away, the morning is grey, there are no taxis, she has to walk, she feels ugly, needs to go home.

8 am: she’s shivering, cold seeping into her bones, teeth shattering, she turns up the volume on the radio – it’s playing that song everyone hums, everyone knows. Alone in her bed, twisted in a wrinkled sheet which has seen better days, she can’t sleep, looks at the ceiling, thoughts turning, colliding – deadly ennui.

She’s losing her head and her cigarettes are all gone, stubbed out in three different ashtrays displayed around the bed. Her studio is a mess of used tissues and empty bottles – it smells just how it looks: stale.

She’s lonely, fucking lonely.

She finds just enough at the bottom of a bottle to have one last drink but the glass escapes, shatters on the floor – she cuts her hand while picking up the pieces, it’s shallow, she sucks the blood on her fingers, vaguely thinks she should disinfect but on the heels of that: fuck it, let it kill me – who the hell cares anyway.

How Writers Survive Bad Reviews.

“If there is one thing that writing teaches an author, other than how easily the semi-colon might be misused and how gleefully people love to point it out to you, it is to prevail. Writing gives purpose to an aimless day and teaches resilience….”

Idle blogs of an idle fellow

“Every time I read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.” Mark Twain.

There is so much focus upon writing, on the magic tips and tricks that at times the real skill is neglected. And that is the art of disallowing poor feedback or bad reviews from ruining your day, and your ENTIRE BLOODY LIFE AND EVERYTHING THAT HAS LED TO THIS DISASTROUS MOMENT, which is pretty much what neighbours heard when I read my first 2-star review of the Life Assistance Agency on Amazon. Ironically writers chase these reviews because it helps with algorithms and sales, although no one has yet provided a coherent answer as the relationship between the two without ending up sounding like a conspiracy theorist. And what reviews don’t help with is your mental stability. Or do they?

(Yet) another great thing…

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