January has been a busy and productive month. I’ve finished three short stories. (Or rather I finally reached a point where I found their imperfections tolerable, almost likeable. Call it a kind of marriage.)
Most of my recent stories – “World of Trevor”, “The Bury Line” – have been urban affairs. John Gray, George Crease, Savoury Vince and others inhabit a zone of sodden pubs and airless offices. Thrusters, topers, mumblers, texters: they breathe the sullied air of the city, its spores and dirt.
One of my new stories, however, takes place in the north-west of Ireland, where the raw Atlantic brawls and roars along the coast. It’s a landscape I know well, having spent many a long summer there as a child. Damp rooms and pictures of Jesus. Red lemonade and soda bread. Cowpats, silage, incessant rain. But it wasn’t these memories that drove the story. It is based on an old Irish myth.
With my second January production, I returned to more familiar territory. A love-affair (of sorts) set in the type of ordinary, concrete and glass office-block we see in most cities. (Or perhaps we don’t see them at all.)
The third story features, among other delights, an encounter in a fried chicken shop.
The stories are out there now, in the ether, looking for a home, a refuge. I’ll let you know if any of them find shelter.
Earlier this month I took the train to London. I visited two exhibitions: Terror and Wonder – The Gothic Imagination at the British Library and the Institute of Sexology at the Wellcome Collection. Both were highly enjoyable. The Institute of Sexology runs till September 2015 and is free to enter. So if you’re ever strolling along the Euston Road and fancy something stimulating, the Wellcome is well worth a visit. Natty cafe and shop, too.
I have not bought any new clothes. This is not really a resolution. More a vague aim. I reacquaint myself with those hardly-worn shirts at the back of the wardrobe. I tell myself that not buying clothes is a very eco-friendly, earth-loving thing to do. But it is probably no more than the start of a rampant miserliness. By the end of the year I will be reduced to digging out ever more obscure items from the wardrobe, from under the bed: I’ll be drinking my fruit mocktail in the Ape and Apple wearing pink swimming trunks and a leather poncho. Please note: accessories do not count as clothes. So I will no doubt acquire a scarf-a-day habit. I’ll be bandaged in scarves, a Tootal mummy.
I continue to amass books. The other day I popped into Oxfam on Oldham Road. I merely wanted to escape the cold. I came out with Astrid Proll’s Baader Meinhof: Pictures on the Run 67-77, a first edition of Burgess’s MF (with dustjacket), and a cheeky little volume on saucy seaside postcards. They join the ever-expanding, ever-rising ziggurat of unread books . . . Derek Raymond’s He Died With His Eyes Open and A State of Denmark; Walls by Marcello Di Cintio; The Drinker, Hans Fallada; Another Part of the Wood, Beryl Bainbridge; Nightmare Movies, Kim Newman; Nightmare Alley, William Lindsay Gresham; DF Lewis’s The Last Balcony (signed); John Collier; Knausgaard; Woody Allen; Gogol; Stephen King; Vivid Faces by RF Foster; This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen by Borowski; Lee Rourke’s The Canal; Ann Quin, Berg; Randall by Gibbs; Nikil Saval’s Cubed; Elspeth Davie’s The High Tide Walker. And the list of the Unread keeps growing. One night, as I lie in bed, these books, the great Unread, will rise from their dusty shelves and entomb me.
But before I sleep I must work. I must get back to the real stuff. And so should you.