SCENES FROM THE COFFEE HOUSE - OPEN FOR BUSINESS

Let’s get it on. I’m now taking pre-orders for Scenes From The Coffee House (Volume One). You can order from today right up until December 5th and I’ll be doing a mail-out on December 14th which means everything will be delivered before Christmas. (If you’re new around here, that extra week or so is due to the way I print my books for minimal environmental impact and absolutely zero wastage/storage… blah, blah, blah).

There are two variants available.

(1) the regular softback version that you can find in the store here and

(2) the 100 copy limited edition hardback version of the book which will also feature the short story The Eternity Ring… and you can find that here. All copies will be numbered, signed and dated.

As always, if you click through to the product page in the bookstore, there’s an extract so you can see what you’re getting yourself into and if you’re doing the hardback edition thing and would like a specific number, I’ll do my best to make that happen.

(When I mailed out #1 of The Family Of Noise, I got an email back asking why I wasn’t keeping that one for myself… the answer is that the run actually stops at #99 and my copy is numbered #0. I think my maths is correct.)

Here’s the cover of the softback:

And here’s the cover of the hardback:

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…and this is what it would look like if you were to flatten it out:


And just because I could - I wanted to see what would happen if I threw such a thing out into the wild because once upon a time, I would have paid ‘buy a house money’ for a Kiss lunchbox - these Scenes from the Coffee House travel mugs are stupidly expensive at £25 + £3 p&p each but if anybody wants one, they’re in the store as a separate item. I’m sure they could be a lot less expensive than this but printing one at a time has such drawbacks. That said, you can feel mighty noble by taking it into Starbucks with you and not doing the whole plastic cup thing…

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If a stack of orders for these happen to come in all at the same time to bring the price down, any profit will be thrown into the Big Bear Rescue jar.

WHAT I THINK ABOUT WHEN I THINK ABOUT RUNNING

I’ve never liked running. That’s why I drive a car.

On the other hand, I do believe the hype that running might actually be good for me… though when we left school and decided to keep fit by running in the mornings, I fell on the first time out and broke my arm. Split a bone from elbow to wrist. All of the years between then and now has not dimmed this memory. Most notable perhaps is that I had to cycle five miles back home afterwards.

Anyway… eight weeks ago (I know this to be true because an app tells me so) I started running again using the Couch to 5K app. I tried it earlier this year but blew my knee but this time… so far, so good. Week eight is upon me and ends in week nine. Two weeks to go. I ran tonight, so that means five more runs to the end.

My goal was to run the 5k by the end of the year, so even though I’m finding it tough as hell (probably not helped by running about 9pm in the dark with the wind and the rain whooping my ass in the bargain) I’m getting there. So, with two weeks to go and two more weeks in the back pocket to train some more, I should make it… though I guess a little snow and ice any moment now will make it even more of an adventure at some point.

Maybe I should strap my arms up before we get to that point.

It’s a great app if you ever think you’ve sat on the sofa for quite long enough… and I’ve been helped along the way by a running buddy (Mr Cole) who, even though we live 200 miles apart and he runs in the morning, just having somebody else telling you they have run today is enough to keep you from slacking off.

But to answer the question of what I think about when I think about running:

  1. The first few weeks, I mostly thought about how nobody at Apple - despite their best intentions, health apps etc - ever actually did any running at all (or even any walking quite fast) because trying to keep those slippery ear-buds in your ears (and my ears are a pretty regular size) is impossible. Apple say they are all about the design but when you find the best solution is using masking tape to stick them to your head, they are wrong.

  2. Sometime later, I got my work phone upgraded from the 6S (a loyal soldier) to the XR. I don’t know what I would have gone for if it had been mine to choose but this is what I have. With no headphone jack and a slight rash from the masking tape, I figured I would go bluetooth… surely any old bluetooth ear-phones would do.. but alas… I tried a couple of pairs and they suck diesel. Plan C needed…

  3. Then I discovered these things called earskinz - little silicon sleeves that go over your slippy Apple earbuds to secure them in your ear. They suck too. They did last about five minutes before they started falling out but by then I was too far away from home to launch my back up plan of:

  4. Using the adapter thing Eleanor got with her 7 from a couple of years back to bypass the lightning port issue, I went back to a £6 pair of Betron things that do what they are supposed to - stay in my ear and deliver music. The only downfall is, they don’t work the volume with their on-board controls because of that adapter thing. Trying to find the volume button through my pocket last week, I somehow placed a call to 211 or 112 (one of those) which is an emergency service I didn’t know existed. The guy was pretty cool about it when I told him I was just trying to turn up the latest Shinedown album. Maybe he was a fan. Maybe it’s not the first time it’s happened.

  5. Trying my best not to call an Air Ambulance while running, I fished it out of my pocket to go into manual mode but in the dark, the new face i.d. security feature has some problems too. I’m not sure in what world an individual thumb print scan was not secure enough but such is progress in 2018.

Tonight was a good run though. I adjusted all these things before I left, made a new playlist and it was perhaps the first time I ran without thinking about technology and how the people that make it really should do some of the things that make up their USP’s.

For my last few weeks of running, I hope to think about more positive things, but if I break my arm again - or anything else for that matter - I’m going to hand that time back to Gretsch.

OTHER PEOPLE AND THEIR STUFF INSIDE MY HEAD

In no particular order, here's the albums that made it past my gate-keeper skills to languish forever on The Shelves Of Permanence this week.

The new Smashing Pumpkins album (in case you didn't recognise it by the cover) heads right on back to 1991 for its self-referential cues... if you were once a fan but subsequently thought they got bloated and lazy, this should put them back on the radar for you. At just over half an hour long, it's worth finding out for yourself doncha think?

The Chris Robinson Brotherhood: always under-rated so far as I'm concerned but then, wasn't that always Chris Robinson's cross to bear? Great album artwork probably won't help the band out with having people buy/listen to this but don't say I didn't give you a good shove in the right direction.

I've also rewound my ass back in time this week looking for inspiration from those who did it first and did it best. I fired up these two spoken word albums from Kerouac and Ginsberg and came to the conclusion that the majority of spoken word albums that came after these was just pretending.

Thus inspired, maybe I'll get on with that spoken word album of my own I kept threatening to release.

Finally... Electric Boys are a band I have loved very much since forever ago. Dumb people overlook them time and again as something they're not but those people will miss out. If you're on a streaming service, do your soul a favour and fire up the Quattro...

And while I've been giving those things access through my ears, I've been dancing with Murakami:

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It's special. I'll never convince you to pick it up if you've never lived into Murakami's house before but I'll give it a whirl: 

Portrait painter splits up with his wife and moves into a house in the mountains that belongs to his friends' father (who was also a painter). Said portrait painter finds a picture in the loft and in the corner of it, there is a man from a different time peering into the scene through a trapdoor. There is also a bell that won't stop ringing in a pit in the woods, a two feet tall concept, a peculiar neighbour with more money than sense and a phantom stranger in a white Subaru... who may or may not be important to the story.

Come on. You're either in or out with Murakami after that, surely.

Boots. Made For Walking.

This past weekend, I’ve been ghosting around the streets of Brussels. Wandering, wandering, wandering... I saw a big black W on a sign, so I did what any book lover would do and went to investigate. Imagine that... a Waterstones in the middle of Brussels. Imagine also that the entire stock was books in English - not what I expected at all. Imagine also that the store manager was a Welshman who got to choose his own stock. 

i know about fifty bookshops back here that could learn a lot from a trip out there. It’s easily the best bookshop I’ve been in for years. There was a huge stash of books I could have walked out with but alas, I had things to do and my plans to head back and make another Welshman very happy were derailed by that old nugget of running out of time. 

The moral of the story is... out in the world there are people who care, who are discerning, who want to sell you good books based not on an algorithm, nor a publishers need to shift copies of certain titles but based on knowledge and taste.  

2018. It’s easy to forget how things used to be before it was all about money.

It’s also easy to forget that art can be fun:  

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...and then, when I got home, I watched the last episode of The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair with my mouth open. One of the finest shows I’ve seen in a long time. I wish I’d read the damn book now. 

Meanwhile, in Brussels and back home, it’s been raining like Noah’s in town and three days ago, somebody left their boots out in the garden. 

Fish now live in my boots. 

The Shape Of Water

Why has it taken me so long to watch this? Strictly speaking, it’s a no brainer and I should have been first in the queue at the cinema but I wasn’t. Maybe I was away.  

Its times like these I wish I had a TV the size of The Hanging Gardens Of Babylon. 

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I love del Toro. He’s made some of my favourite films - The Devil’s Backbone answers to nobody - but this is in a different league. It may have drifted into the public eye as a ‘fairytale love story’ kind of thing, but it’s not really. What it’s getting at is how The Monster Is Not Really The Monster In The Monster Movie. All of my favourite films are about that, whether there are monster-looking creatures in the movie or not - and that probably says more about my psyche than I care to dig into.

Footnote. Somebody asked me just a few days ago what my songs were about and I couldn’t explain them very well at all... but now I’ve written this, there’s my very succinct answer to all of it: They’re about The Monster Not Really Being The Monster... 

Hey, that’s as close as we’re going to get right now.  

Baby, You Can't Drive My Car

November 1st huh. Sounds like a good day to trade in a Saab that’s been rescued one too many times from the Jaws of Death for a Mercedes. That’s my news of the day, though I can appreciate it’s not very exciting for anybody else but me. Still… she’s a sexy beast. Makes me want to wear a suit just to get in it… and maybe form a band called The Bad Seeds. Having said that, having a band called The Deadbirds is just as cool… and it’s mine.

  An initial concept for er… something by my buddy Nick Devine.

An initial concept for er… something by my buddy Nick Devine.

News From The Coffee House

It Is Done.

Scenes From The Coffee House will be released on November 16 and damn, it feels good. I’ll post properly about it a little closer to the time, a newsletter will come out and ummm… whatever else needs doing, but for now, I am satisfied that this book is ready to roll.

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Which means I am now free of everything I ever had planned and can stare at 2019 with a blank slate and a little piece of chalk in my hand.

Whenever a book reaches this critical mass, I’m always left feeling like I should release them into the wild more often but if you’ve ever tried such a thing, you’ll know why writers don’t.

Anyway, with that in the system, I’m free to turn my attention to some other soul food.

The idea of releasing some songs is proving more difficult than I thought. Not so much the songs - they are fine, growing and bedding themselves into my head with every passing day. It’s the demo process that’s cloudy. It’s about as frustrating as somebody like me saying ‘if you’re going to release a book yourself, you have to do it with InDesign or it will look amateur’, when that somebody like me has lived with InDesign for about fifteen years and doesn’t feel sick when they sit in front of it.

I know GarageBand can do what I want it to, it’s the bit in the middle I’m struggling with - the bit between me sitting here staring at it and a finished song - but I guess it will come with time and patience. It’s easy to overthink these things and I blame myself… there’s this guy called Dan Tedesco (I may have posted about his album a while back) who recorded his self-titled album on an iPad. That’s red rag to a bull stuff for people like me.

File under: it can be done and it can sound good.

I mean, we’re talking demo tracks here not Led Zep remasters and if I can get into the guts of it, that means I’ll be able to turn up at the machine and do it a lot in the future.

Honestly… how hard can it be!

I guess the more you care, the harder you make it. I’m just happy to be looking at an empty December to make solid attempts at nailing it to the floor.

IRON THINGS

I didn’t post anything last week and some of you thought the Saturday Morning Club Type Thing was broken. One person asked if I was dead. Nope - neither of those things.

I have almost not posted anything this week either but figured I would at least turn up at the keyboard today so that something will happen tomorrow morning. Let’s see where it takes me:

I’ve been reading the collected letters of Sylvia Plath this week and have become enthralled over how often she would write to her mother, friends and various others in a way that is not unlike blogging. If blogging had been around, Sylvia Plath would have blogged for sure. The letters are nothing but a giant emptying of her head with very little editing and it’s brilliant.

I’ve always like Ted Hughes - which is I came to be reading about Plath - The Iron Man (or The Iron Giant if you happen to have come late to the party) is one of my all time favourites (and is the reason I wrote The Eternity Ring which will appear in its entirety in the hardback edition of Scenes From The Coffee House which will be along anytime now).

What I didn’t know until I started reading these letters by Plath was that Hughes had also written a book called The Iron Woman in 1993 as some kind of sequel to The Iron Man. I went out to find a copy and after digging around in the dirt found this cover was available for it:

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…and while it’s pretty neat and fits with the similar cover of The Iron Man, this other version strikes hard at the heart of what the book is really about:

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If there was ever book that needed a renaissance in today’s world, it’s this.

But more than anything, it’s a crying shame how little has changed in 25 years - and when I say ‘little’, I probably mean ‘nothing’.

Great book though. The world should not forget Ted Hughes… not that it has, but when people like me rattle on about American poets more than those closer to home, its easy to see how that might happen.


Is that all I got? Hmm. Maybe. There’s something else that’s gotten under my skin this week. I read this article that challenged my perception of myself as a writer. Amongst all of it was this:

“There is much to be said for our responsibility as creators and consumers of that constant dynamic interaction we call culture — which side of the fault line between catering and creating are we to stand on? The commercial enterprise is conditioning us to believe that the road to success is paved with catering to existing demands — give the people cat GIFs, the narrative goes, because cat GIFs are what the people want. But E.B. White, one of our last great idealists, was eternally right when he asserted half a century ago that the role of the writer is “to lift people up, not lower them down” — a role each of us is called to with increasing urgency, whatever cog we may be in the machinery of society. Supply creates its own demand. Only by consistently supplying it can we hope to increase the demand for the substantive over the superficial — in our individual lives and in the collective dream called culture.”

I read that and big-ass alarm bells went off in my head.

How could I have been so dumb as to not think of this myself? My job as a writer really is to lift people up. Not that I ever purposely lowered them down but if I think I may have been guilty of it, then maybe I was. That E.B. White dude, he banged the nail right on the head with this:

“Writers do not merely reflect and interpret life, they inform and shape life.”

Otherwise, what the hell is the point in sitting down with your pencil and your brain free-falling through your soul (which is on fire) in front of a sheet of paper?

If I haven’t got that going on, I might as well send cat GIFs out into the world… but no… I’m a dog person.

I want to shape life not kick it to death.

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SHOW ME HOW TO LIVE

My eldest daughter recently lost her job when the place she was working at shut down for a refurb. Sadly, the people in charge have had so many food and drink-based meetings about the refurb, there’s no money left to actually do it.

Thus, she did what anybody related to me would - she took her redundancy money and went to Majorca for a week.

Every now and again, she sends me links or screen grabs of ridiculous things modern employers think are a good idea when they’re looking for staff. Superdry, for instance, think it’s smart to make you fill in something like thirty pages of junk online just so that you can stand around in one of their stores looking like you’re waiting for life-threatening blood test results for something like £6 an hour under the guise of being a professional t-shirt seller.

I’ve been buying t-shirts for years and can’t recall one instance when I ever needed help… particularly from somebody who was so desperate for a job that they actually made it all the way to the end of the magical psych-hoops SuperDry want you to jump through.

If you think I exaggerate, go see for yourself right here.

Anyway, in this infrequent series called Show Me How To Live which I just made up because it’s not a series yet but it might be, (aka: I have nothing to write about today but the Blog On A Saturday Morning Coffee and DoughNuts Cardiac Arrest Club will be disappointed if I don’t at least look like I’m making an effort) I will be dispensing Life Coaching Advice that is useful. Life Coaches charge thousands for things like this but I’m giving this stuff away for free because I love you.

Here, I’ve borrowed a list of 15 of the Best Job Interview Questions To Ask Candidates from HubSpot where they are full of useful advice if your idea of a life well lived is standing around a chrome plated kettle that costs more than my car wondering who had the audacity to leave a yoghurt in the work fridge over the weekend.

Let’s get some dirty realism under the belt here:

Tell me about a time you set difficult goals.
A few years ago, I had a great idea for a novel. I worked out that a reasonably large novel had around 70 chapters and if I wrote 1000 words a day, I would have a 70,000 word novel in just over two months. In theory, it sounded easy. All it needed was a commitment from me. That was in 2004. Turn The Lamp Down Low remains unfinished because I am sometimes stupid…

Tell me about the relationships you've had with the people you've worked with.
They fall into two camps. Camp One are friends to the end. Camp Two, I slammed the door forever on. Camp One I will never write about. Camp Two are fair game. Some things are sacred. Some not so much.

What project would you consider your most significant career accomplishment to date?
Talking an old boss down from a ledge one New Year’s Eve. A real ledge. True story. Best not repeated. He was an asshole but you know…

What have you done professionally that is not an experience you'd want to repeat?
Slept under the post-sacks after breaking into an office I used to work at to make sure I could get to work on time the next morning after catching the very last Lords of the New Church show. Hessian is a poor material for a bed and spandex is not suitable work attire. Apparently.

Is it better to be perfect and late, or good and on time?
This really is a good question. If you’re in a real life job interview situation, there is no correct answer to this because if you choose one, they’ll ask you why you didn’t choose the other. If anybody does ever ask you this, I would quote Jim Morrison and say “How can you be late for your own show?”. You won’t get the job but if they do ask this question, they have been looking for questions on HubSpot aka: they can’t think for themselves. It will save you from a world of hurt and will make a funny story later.

In five minutes, could you explain something to me that is complicated but you know well?
Yes.

What is your definition of hard work?

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If I were to poll everyone you've worked with, what percentage would not be a fan of yours?
1%. I know his name, I know where he lives and he had best stay far away from me. You know who you are motherfucker.

Tell me about a time you screwed up.
Just the one? The person who never screwed up, never did anything.

Who is the smartest person you know personally? Why?
Hector. Yep, he counts as a person. He knows what time he goes out but doesn’t own a watch. He knows the route and who he might meet. He knows where the gravy bone jar is. He doesn’t care if his hair is perfect nor if it’s raining or Christmas Day - every day is another opportunity to bark at the moon. He is Hector. He does what Hector wants to do with the days he has been given. Everything else is just noise.

What is something you'd be happy doing every single day for the rest of your career?
See previous answer.

If you had $40,000 to build your own business, what would you do?
Buy a Triumph GT6 in black and tell everybody I had just sold The Family Of Noise to Tom Hanks’ production company. Fake it ‘til you make it right?

What's the biggest decision you've had to make in the past year? Why was it so big?
Gretsch or Hagstrom. If you know what they are, you know why.

What has surprised you about this interview process so far?
”How much faith you put in the actual process when really, you knew whether or not you wanted to employ me the second I walked through the door”. There is a lot of truth in this if you happen to be an employer - think about it. It’s your own time you're wasting.

Do you have any questions for me?
”Yes. What did you really want to do with your life before you found yourself surfing around HubSpot to look clever and took your eye off the ball?”

•••

Life huh. It comes and it goes. Figure out what’s important today because there might not be a tomorrow… but there probably will be a tomorrow, so you have to kind of balance it without being a dick.

Oh … and don’t let the past define you. It ain’t coming back. If the past was so great, how come it’s not still here?

OTHER PEOPLE AND THEIR STUFF

There’s some big albums out this week that I should love but I don’t. I’m not even disappointed by this. There’s too much great music out there to be crying over some guys who can’t get it together this time around… Steve Perry (one of my favourite singers of all time) made a comeback with a bunch of songs that are lacking in the extreme. Slash and Myles threw an album out as well but I can’t find any songs on that either. There are other guilty parties out there. Maybe it’s me… but I don’t think so.

Anyway, all is far from lost.

Clare Bowen plays Scarlett in Nashville but that aside, this is a great slab of songs. I come and go with country music (which strictly speaking, this isn’t) and I really got hooked on Nashville. Probably because it’s fascinating watching an entire industry about singer/songwriters battling the world.

Here’s a clip of Clare from the show. Melt from the inside out:

And then get your head around the big one:

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Then there’s this EP of songs from First Aid Kit that didn’t make their last album is better than the album itself. Go figure…

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Meanwhile, over in movie-land (which I don’t talk about much because it’s quite the wasteland these days) this movie called ‘Border’ in English scores a Huge Ten on the scale of ‘I Really Need To See This’.

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Here’s the trailer… always good to see something out of the ordinary worth waiting for:

Then there’s this, which needs me to say nothing at all:

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I’m not much of a ‘sequel’ kinda guy, particularly when they deviate from original authors or actors and try to ride the coat tails of a great story with a cheaper, inferior one, but The Girl In The Spider’s Web looks like it might be worth a visit. The remake of the original trilogy sucked gas in the extreme. Kudos for ditching the rest of them and going with something we haven’t seen before:

And finally in the movie world, this (aka Sicilian Ghost Story) looks equally fine:

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Later edit: Not purposely, all of these things feature women in leading, valuable roles. There’s always a lot of noise in the press about women not getting the breaks they deserve - and while I’m not dismissing the fact that there is a warhead worth of imbalance out there in many fields, if you look beyond what marketing and publicity people want to sell you, here are women doing their thing with no flags being raised in my head at all about there ever being a gender stereotyping issue.

As a man, it’s hard writing about things like this. It always feels wrong for me to do so but I’d like to nail my cards to a mast here. I (like a lot of people) just want to see and hear great work when it comes to entertainment - or anything else in my world for that matter.

Weirder still… over on Netflix, the image used for Luther features some white guy. Who the fuck in their right mind thought that was a smart idea? Why do I get pushed ‘Women In A Strong Leading Role’ as a film-type I might be interested in when such a movie genre doesn’t exist and most of the things in that category are garbage? That’s not good for women at all.

A book is a book is a book. A film is a film is a film. Don’t ever let anybody tell you otherwise just because they want your money.

Imbalance, over-thinking and this kind of shit is everywhere. You just gotta do the best you can to keep your own corner clean, vibrant and positive for everyone. As human beings, we should be looking after the planet, being cool to each other and that’s about all.

The rest is just noise because we’re dying out here if you hadn’t noticed.

BULLET-TIME

A few weeks back, my buddy Scott Cole was kicking around the idea of publishing another book of his work. I threw some well aimed props of fire over the castle wall of his defences and he got down to it… fast too, staying up more or less for five days and nights putting it together to embrace said fire.

Cut to present day and the Dodging Bullets And Dirty Looks is alive and kicking:

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  The ‘Man In The Box’ picture you see above, I wrote that. I love doing book introductions for cool people creating magic out of nothing but a handful of dust.

The ‘Man In The Box’ picture you see above, I wrote that. I love doing book introductions for cool people creating magic out of nothing but a handful of dust.

It’s a monster too - everything I think a photography book should be. Some of it I’ve seen and worked with for Skin Deep but the vast majority is new even to me and I see a lot of his work on a weekly basis. There’s a pretty extensive post here about it (so I won’t steal everything he has to say) and details how you can get your hands on a copy. It’s a limited edition run so you’ll need to move yo’ass.

One day, you don’t have a book cataloguing months and months of work… and the next day, you do.

The world is a very simple place if you let it be.

FELL ON BLACK DAYS THAT ARE NOT SO BLACK AS SOME HAVE BEEN BUT ARE STILL PRETTY BLACK

I just watched a show on BBC iPlayer called Drowning In Plastic and was wiping tears before the credits had even kicked in. I dare you to watch it and not feel ashamed that every single one of us is a part of this somehow. Here’s the trailer… which is the tip of an iceberg:

Most people get angry and then ‘facebook up in arms’ about the whole thing, spout red mist on social media, start a campaign to bring down a corporate plastic giant before going right back out and doing something else that contributes to it…. because even if you shopped in a supermarket, picked only loose items and carried them home in the sleeves of your jumper like it was 1976, you’re still shopping in the supermarket that sells it all, putting solid financial foundations under the supply chain responsible.

I don’t even know where to begin with this. It makes me feel weak and frustrated - my two least favourite emotions - that short of heading out to an ocean with a hessian sack the size of Jupiter, I can do nothing to help other than sort out my own corner of the world and hope that by writing “sort out my own corner of the world”, others might do the same.


This whole ‘living a life that matters’ though… it’s a tough question. How do you do it when there’s nobody out there to show you how to live?

There are not many people I can point at and say ‘that person right there… there’s a great example of a life that matters’. I’ve thought far too much about what the word means to me and it’s probably a whole lot of things that don’t mean anything at all to you.

For instance, if pressed, we could maybe all agree that Gandhi is a good name to put forward… except, I have no idea what he did. I always assume it was something cool because his name always springs to mind when you’re playing in this ballpark. But if he lived a life that mattered… how did it matter to me or you? I don’t think anything he did made a scratch of difference to me but I am ready to stand corrected if you know different.

So what have I got in the arsenal? How can I live a life that matters? And how do you do such a thing without spreading yourself so thin, any contribution you make is transparent?

File under pending but it’s better than it not being on the desk at all.


Meanwhile, after a few months off, because ummm… because I can be as lazy as the next guy… I started running again yesterday. Slowly at first, using the Couch to 5K app. It’s good company along the way and starting from scratch was a good plan.

Much like my blind-guitar-’where-is-that-chord’-rehearsals of not being able to see what I’m playing in the studio/shed late at night, I was keen to multi-task in the smartest way possible. Thus, I went out in the dark because a really stupid part of me thinks being able to run well in the dark is more useful to me in the long term than being able to run well when it’s light.

Here’s a picture of the pub I could see from the running track:

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Running in the dark means you have to keep your wits about you lest you trip in a hole or get set upon by coyotes - all of which rather takes your mind off the actual running and how much you would rather be sitting at home watching Netflix until the job is done.

One day, all will become clear.

A TRIP TO THE BOOKSTORE

I went to hang out at the bookstore for a little while today. Sometimes I just feel the need to surround myself with books for no reason at all... see what’s out, check out what’s going on in the land of cover designers, who’s hot... who’s not - those kinds of things.

It’s not a huge week for essential releases but I did find a little book called If Cats Disappeared From The World by Genki Kawamura. Not even sure why I picked it up but I’m good at being drawn to things I need to see for no reason at all. 

Here’s the official line:

Our narrator’s days are numbered. Estranged from his family, living alone with only his cat Cabbage for company, he was unprepared for the doctor’s diagnosis that he has only months to live. But before he can set about tackling his bucket list, the Devil appears with a special offer: in exchange for making one thing in the world disappear, he can have one extra day of life. And so begins a very bizarre week . . .

Because how do you decide what makes life worth living? How do you separate out what you can do without from what you hold dear? In dealing with the Devil our narrator will take himself – and his beloved cat – to the brink. Genki Kawamura’s If Cats Disappeared from the World is a story of loss and reconciliation, of one man’s journey to discover what really matters in modern life.

And that’s the question of the moment for me. What really matters in modern life? In a week/month/year in which I’ve been searching for some meaning, I did what needed to be done and brought it on home. 

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As an aside to this, five years ago, I had no Japanese authors on my shelf. Now there are three or four. They sit amongst Norwegian, Spanish, Icelandic, French and Finnish writers. Five years ago, none of those were on the shelf either. We’re living in a golden age for those of us who love books. No longer confined to the English speaking world, as a veteran reader, I’m finding new styles, new trains of thought outside of the norm. 

That has to be a good thing.  


When I wandered off to pay for my cat book, I found an author table and behind it, one Katerina Diamond who some of you might know if you’re a modern crime reader.

If you can remember far enough back on the blog here, she showed up at my author event about three or four years ago (same bookshop) and we got on great. At the time, she had just signed with an agent and things were looking hopeful for her. 

Be careful what you wish for I guess because she’s just put out her fourth book with another coming down the line, and is doing just fine. I have much respect. Katerina knew exactly what she wanted to do, how she wanted to do it and the rest is history. A Sunday Times bestselling author is not to be sneered at.

If I was the type to wear a hat, I would take it off to her. Maybe one day soon we could co-host an event where we can both - with some authority perhaps - present a good evening of brain-food on traditional publishing vs the DIY route.

Any excuse to drink coffee in a bookstore. 

OTHER PEOPLE AND THEIR STUFF

Last week bled tumbleweed for new releases but I still did track down some things worth talking about (and remembered a few things I had otherwise forgotten too).

This came out a little while back but I must have got caught up in something because I forgot to give it the thumbs up. I love Lera Lynn. I love John Paul White. The album is called Plays Well With Others and here’s a video of them er… playing well together on the track Lose Myself:

The Magpie Salute (which is Rich Robinson from The Black Crowes) High Water I is superb. A group of guys who can write and play in a tradition that won’t leave you wondering what happened to music, is always to be welcomed with open arms:

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Mostly though, I have been hammering away at the entire back catalogue of Jesse Malin. An acquired taste perhaps but if you’re in the mood for underground New York singer/songwriters, this might set fire to your tree:

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Meanwhile, over in book-land, I bought this:

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I didn’t think I could get more supernatural than I already am but I’ll give it a whirl.


Next week… it will be time for this:

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And I’m very much looking forward to it.

COFFEE HOUSE - TEMPORARILY CLOSED FOR REPAIRS DUE TO A LACK OF COFFEE

A picture of one of your own books in action being read is a beautiful thing… or in this case, just about to be read. Thank you Mr Cole.

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Talking of which… Scenes From The Coffee House was due out in a few days. I fell off the horse… I’m maybe a week behind schedule.

I know no excuses are necessary but Eleanor has been away in Argentina for almost a month (which is cool - I can cook) which had the knock on effect of me logging around six miles a day with Hector while there was a magazine to get to print that, whilst not a difficult birth, took a little more attention than normal. Then my soul thought it would be a good idea for my body to play host to some passing cold-type-thing. I’ll give it a couple of days just to share the pain of the world for a while and then it’s getting evicted. It can go and live with somebody with less to do.

Bit off a little more than I could comfortably chew perhaps. Back on track from tomorrow to get it finished as soon as inhumanly possible.

FIGHT THE FUTURE

I was scrolling through the blog posts here after posting yesterday just to make sure everything was working OK and I stopped to look at the picture I posted of my grandmother and a three year old version of me.  

That little boy is dead. He exists nowhere other than in that photograph and various others just like it. I guess I could fish around in a box and find a photograph of me at 15 and say the same thing. That teenager is dead too.  

But as you get a little bit further into adulthood, I can’t say the same thing. I don’t have many photographs of my early twenties but I recognise that guy. A lot of him is still around but maybe a lot of him isn’t too. Fast forward a little to a thirty year old me and I would say that was definitely the same guy as I am today. Maybe it’s because I became a father and identified myself as such. Even though the tiny badgers are much older now, I still think of myself in the same way.

I haven’t grown taller or shrunk - that makes me similar by default. I haven’t put on or lost five stone and I’m pretty sure I still have some of the same clothes from back then too (that happens when you buy expensive coats). I also still have all my hair thanks to a handy deal I made with a demon. That guy really is still here apart from subconsciously deciding to change said hair colour from black to grey… and yet, he can’t be.

He must be dead too.

The guy I was yesterday must also be dead. That I got up today and decided to do all the same things that I did yesterday is all that makes him similar… but maybe I could get up tomorrow and do everything different. I could kill that guy rather than let him die a natural death. I could kill him for better or worse in the blink of an eye.

I could shave off my beard and shave my head for a start. Nobody would look at me the same then and I don’t think I would recognise myself in the mirror either. That would take about 20 minutes. Strange thought huh.

I could go shopping, buy clothes I have never bought before, throw all my books in the trash, delete my thousands of albums from Apple Music, put a hammer through my phone, give my car away, quit my job… all of this could be done in the next few hours and to the rest of the world I would cease to exist.

If you were going extreme about it, I could walk out of the door, get on a train and start a new life somewhere hundreds of miles away and I really would be somebody else. This is actually more or less what I did at 20 but all I found was no matter how hard you try, how far you run or how fast, you can’t run away from yourself, but that’s not the point…

What I’d like to do is identify that moment in which the middle period version of me might turn into a very much older one. Whoever that guy is, I’m going to keep an eye out for him and murder him to death before he gets a grip on my life because I don’t want to be that guy.

I see some people on a daily basis who are 70 (which is a fair old chunk of time in the future really) who seem ancient. Then I look at Alice Cooper who is out on the road, doing his thing, being creative, doing his radio show, playing golf… generally not being 70 at all in a way people usually interpret it.

I think it’s called being alive.

That’s the kind of person I must be. It’s the kind of person you must be too.

And when you’ve finished reading this… you’ll find your first mistake is thinking you have all the time in the world.

The Philosopher

I’m taking a road trip in a few weeks to Evian in the French Alps and then on to Brussels - I have also made a valiant attempt to book myself into hotels that are not occupied by assassins and passport forgers.  A man can get weary of hotel rooms where the toilet doubles up as somewhere to sit while you have a shower. Sometimes a man would like just a little more floor space than somewhere to put your bag and boots before there is none left. Sometimes a man wonders how some hotels manage to stay open.

In spite of this perceived luxury (because hotel room pictures on the internet lie like a rug), I’m certain there will be magic to be found in the cracks. These two trips (though Belgium is a repeat offender) means I will have enough pins in the map to punch out a second volume of Cities Of The Dead - and that in itself is going straight into the win column. That’s a fine project to open 2019 with. 


Life as a magazine editor can be strange. It messes with your head. For instance, it’s not yet October and I’ve just begun work on an issue cover dated December. Yesterday, the schedules for the next twelve months got handed over - which means I can see all the way to 2020 from here. It should be frightening but you get used to it.

Double that up with working from home seven days a week, I hardly ever know what day or month it is. After Christmas, sometimes I even forget what year it is.

This is a good thing. In the Sign Of The Times live footage of the Prince tour of the same name, he delivers a stage rap about how you only have one birthday, the day you are born, and the rest are just days until you die. That sits well with me. It makes me at least try to do something with every day because many years back, I spent far too long wishing it was The Weekend. Wishing your life away to use up 104 days out of 365 is not a good way to live your life.

Everybody knows that you should live ‘in the moment’ - any dog owner can see how this should work - but doing it sure is hard. Maybe if you’re one of those people based in Alaska who truly live in an “if I don’t do something constructive today, I will die” manner, it would come easily, but most of us don’t ever have to think like that.

For most of us, I think The Moment is there to be wasted.  I struggle with this stuff. I struggle with how to make a life that means something a lot of the time if I’m honest - and I am one of the lucky ones who gets to do what he loves all day long too.

Figuring out how to stuff the days of your life with silver is a tall order. (Yeah, I did write ‘gold’ in there originally but I don’t like gold. It’s an awful brassy metal. I tried wearing a gold ring for about five minutes once but it just looked like I had stolen it.) Regardless of what you think of your circumstances, if you’re reading this, you are privileged. Politics be damned - you have more information available at the tips of your fingers than anybody in the entire history of the world. You probably have a fridge and a car. Hector probably eats better than half of the people alive on the planet today.

We have no worries… and yet, here we are worrying about stuff.

Right now however, I have signed my life away on the next magazine to hit the shelves and I am going to purposely live in the moment by eating chocolate, drinking tea and watching this for an hour because I think it’s excellent:

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Even Dirty Realism Philosophers need an escape.

The Commuter

Damn. I freaking love Liam Neeson movies and I am not ashamed in the slightest. Not indiscriminately but you may throw as many stones as you like at Taken (and maybe the second one too... but not the third) and I will bat them all back over the net at you. I love that movie.

The one about the plane is cool too but I can’t remember what it’s called. There might be one set on a train as well but I can’t remember what that’s called either. I enjoyed the hell out of it all the same. The insides of planes and trains are easily confused inside my head - maybe it was the same film.

Damn... I can’t even remember what the movie is called in which he’s an assassin who gets ditched into the river and forgets who he is.

Jesus, maybe there are films of his I’ve loved that I’ve forgotten I’ve even watched because I think it was one of the others.

People who think of names for Liam Neeson movies really need to get their shit together.  

A Walk Among The Tombstones is up there in the top three though. It also has a catchy title and I mention it here with pride.

Anyway, ten minutes ago, I discovered The Commuter is available on Amazon Prime and although it’s nearly midnight on a Saturday, I’m doing it.

I should be writing lyrics or an article or wrapping up Coffee House or the latest issue of Skin Deep but I am unashamedly going to sit here for two hours, drink tea, eat chocolate and watch Mr Neeson save his own little slice of the world. 

I think that’s the appeal. When the bullet hits the bone, Liam steps up and sorts that shit out for his family (or indeed, a bunch of total strangers) regardless of circumstance because it’s ‘the right thing to do’.

Maybe that says a lot about the kind of man I want to be when I grow up... as I said to my daughter only yesterday, when she asked if I could pick her and a few friends up from a party: “I’m not a taxi service but if you’re late, I will find you and I will bill you.”

Let’s do this.

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SHARPENING THE SAW

First, this…

…for which I am soulfully grateful at something new to hear.

I don’t have anything else to say.

Normal service resumes beneath this line.


Sharpening The Saw is a phrase I read somewhere years ago that means whatever you do in your life, don’t take it for granted that you’re great at it or will always be seen as being great at it. You should keep working at being better at it just like the days when you were Hungry Like The Wolf to prove yourself… or else some young gun with a beard/boob job*, a custom made espresso in an eco-friendly cup and an iPhone the size of my windscreen may well come and snatch it all away from you.

*Delete as applicable. Or not.

It’s a good thing to pay attention to - and here’s a good example…

My buddy John sent me a message this morning asking if I was going to see Kiss on their final tour over here - which I assume has just been announced because that was the first I ever heard of it. I thought about it and decided, no. I don’t think I will. The band that meant more to me than anything for more years than I care to remember are looking tired. Love them as I do, last year’s tour was a little like sitting at your mothers hospital bed… waiting for the inevitable. And it kinda hurts to say that.

It doesn’t need to be that way. The train of thought is “nobody buys albums anymore and nobody wants to hear new material”… but this is not true, unless your only motivation is money. And I know it’s not true because my other great love - Alice Cooper - brings it every single time. The Cooper band is not going through the motions just because the motions are there to be gone through. The Cooper band is having a good time. Alice is having a good time.

Anyway, the point is, the Kiss saw is blunt. The Alice saw is super freaking sharp. When Mr Simmons does a radio show for Radio 2, it comes across like one of those Classic Rock For Dads albums some idiot at a record company thinks is a good idea around Father’s Day. Alice’s syndicated show (Nights With Alice Cooper) however is superb. It’s fresh, exciting, funny, interesting and he plays songs I’ve never heard before… and I have heard a Lot Of Songs.

It didn’t need to be that way for Kiss… and yeah, frankly I expected more.

Damn it all to hell… it was them who trained me to expect more.


So… the saw thing. I believe the original quote runs along the lines of: ‘you must never be too busy sawing that you can’t stop and sharpen the saw’… or something like that. The best thing about sharpening the saw is that you can’t ask somebody else to do it for you. You can’t get somebody else to eat properly so you might feel up to a five hour rehearsal tomorrow… you gotta do that yourself - and so on.

You’re on your own. As most of us have found out already, when it comes to the things that are important to you, you always are.

I’m not sure where I was going with this originally - I’m sure I had something in mind but you get the gist. The most important thing to remember however is: there’s a big difference between stopping to sharpen the saw and putting the saw down.

Motivational psychobabble over. Maybe I just wrote it all for myself.