That ol’ black dog caught up with me again recently, bloody thing.
Regardless of the political turmoil that has riven the land this week, I was experiencing some grandiose doubts myself – not however, concerning the European Union. I spent much of the week brooding, feeling decidedly unsure about my life as a whole; despairingly so, at points. All very self-indulgent in the big-scheme of things I agree, but such emotions arrive unbidden, and are as open to reason as a crowd of drunken English football fans. Chaos and destruction breed creation, renewal often follows.
Walking and soul-searching essentially led me here (yes, here). I met a man on a wall you see, a writer – a real one! He was sitting outside Cambridge Station, waiting for a train to London, which had been delayed due to flooding, when I asked to blag a roll-up. He kindly obliged me and we got chatting. He’d just returned from India he said, to vote. I was grateful for the distraction of his company after spending the week listening to the morose mantra playing on repeat within my head. I asked him what he did in India. He explained he lived there with his girlfriend, working as a travel writer. I was in awe. “Rough Guide,” he said. “Lonely Planet.” Only Robert Plant would inspire greater emotions. Or possibly Penélope Cruz (each for very different reasons you understand). This chance encounter appeared to me to be entierly fortuitous (perhaps, I like to think, even prophetic) because at the time I was feeling unloved, literarily so. This is a new blog, inspired by these recent events. It’s not my first. I’ve written stuff for Medium and similar platforms. I’ve submitted short stories to Interzone. I’ve submitted a novel excerpt to a couple of agents, albeit with zero success so far. I’ve harassed various magazines such as Esquire, in an attempt to convince them I am the next Gay Talese. Or even Grub Smith. So far no-one’s buying it. Other than that my literary career consists of a tweet once displayed on the tunnel wall at Twickenham, a mention on Michael Swanwick’s blog, and a brief email correspondence with darling of The Times (and its dating columnist) Dolly Alderton – which concluded far-sooner than I had hoped. Thus, I reached an event-horizon where it seemed only self-delusion lay beyond me like the Asphodel Meadows of Greek myth. Painfully aware of my mediocrity – I was approaching the grim zenith that it wasn’t going ‘to happen for me’ because, thus far, it hasn’t – that my rather menial, low-paid existence as a stonemason’s labourer would be my lot in life. Well bugger that!
I used to masquerade under the Twitter handle @Paper_Wizard
This slightly aloof chap with a mischievous glint in his eye did me a favour. He convinced me, indirectly, to go at it again. I’d been searching all week for a reason. Praying for some twinkle at the end of the tunnel. I was struggling to find it when he appeared in the most unassuming of forms: he didn’t have golden eagle’s feathers sprouting from the heels of his hiking boots. He wasn’t the benevolent ghost of Ian M. Banks all aglow in spectral light, à la Obi-Wan Kenobi. He was just some guy with a rucksack, windburned features and spare tobacco. But he did grant me the impetus to keep going. He listened. He didn’t smirk when I told him of my ambition. He seemed, from what he said, to have endured the things I’m currently struggling with. It was inspiring to see someone who had made it, so to speak. He said he was the other side of forty and still didn’t own a house. Well, I figured a long time ago, if I could be what I wanted to be – possess that elusive ‘integrity’ I both covet and crave – material things wouldn’t matter so much. Hell, I’ve never had money, and if I have – I’ve probably bought you a drink with it. It is richness of life that I seek, not wealth for its own sake, at least not above all other things. So this grizzled veteran gathered up his bags, preparing to head-off in the general direction of Platform 1 and London Liverpool Street. “Just keep writing,” he said. “Just keep sending it off. Someone will eventually take notice.” Then he shook my hand, and ambled away into the stifling heat of the afternoon between the swarming throng.
I hope sombody does.