Tuesday, 17 June 2014

My Book Has A Cover

You can file this one under 'shameless plug.' PANTHER, my debut novel, now has a cover. Here it is!


The cover is designed by Jon Gray, who is a veteran of designing amazing covers for many venerable books. My book is almost certainly the least venerable of them. But I don't care, because look at the cover! It's lovely! And beautifully evocative of what the book is about.

While I'm in plugging mode, I might as well say that the book might be of interest to some of you who read this blog - it deals with depression and the stigmas that surround it in a way that I hope is genuine and poignant, as well as funny. It's sad but not sentimental, and I've packed in as many jokes as I reasonably can. Here is a shameless blurb:

Panther tells the story of Derrick, whose family is being torn apart by his sister’s depression and her recent suicide attempt. When rumours start to circulate that a panther is roaming wild in his south London suburb, Derrick decides to try and capture it. Surely if he can just find a way to tame the panther, he’ll be able to put his life back together too?

Panther is a funny, touching, and occasionally unsettling coming-of-age story, which deals candidly with the stigmas and misunderstandings surrounding depression.

It's not out for a little while: May 21st, 2015. I may start banging on about it quite a bit before then. I may also start screaming 'BUY IT' at people in the street. I'll let you know as this develops.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Job Hunting Demotivators

I have been unemployed now for what science refers to as 'quite some time.' During this extended period of mid-afternoon nudity and naps I have applied for many hundreds of jobs (I stopped keeping track when the official tally became too lengthy to manage). This mostly involves sending email. In the process of sending applications, enquiries, etc. I often require something from my old computer. The easiest way to get them is to email myself with an attachment.


It began as a few words to simply occupy the body of the email. But anyone who has ever been engaged in a prolonged job hunt knows it is rarely a happy process.



One of the worst parts of job hunting is having to spend a great deal of time on an application that you know will come to nothing. You have to try - there are only so many days you can wile away singing the Game of Thrones theme to the cat - but the certainty of failure looms large.


Soon I was writing emails to myself that didn't even contain attachments. They served only to break up the inexorable tedium of bullshitting cover letters, and made the dearth of replies seem slightly less absolute. For a while, they were even vaguely positive.



It wasn't long before this soupcon of optimism became a trickle of bile, a leaky catheter staining the trousers of hope and decency.


Job hunting cuts the Achilles tendon of your self-esteem, writes your every regret large across your mind, and forces you to panic about every penny you spend, despite your propensity to hypocritically spunk everything you own on ice cream because you're miserable and at least diabetes will give you something to do. 


People will tell you to keep trying. I don't disagree with that advice. But in the festering abyss of the job market, nothing is more exasperating than the false cheer and vacuous enthusiasm of the gainfully employed. 

So I give you unemployment demotivators instead. Give up! Eat ice cream! Watch pornography in the morning! After all, it's a lot more fun than applying for jobs.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Big Bush

For as long as I can remember (and therefore forever) there has been a big bush at the front of my house. Whenever I have had to give people directions to my house, I have instructed them to look out for the big bush and its ever-changing collection of dog faeces.

It started life as a rosemary bush. A single touch would make you smell indelibly of a potpourri pot. Unfortunately time allowed ivy, ever the Amazon.com of nature, to stage an aggressive takeover that sapped it of all that made it great. In recent years it has been little more than an untameable afro of ivy and fox urine.

This week we are having our drive done. The big bush is dead. Long live the big bush.


Here are some largely uninteresting memories of the big bush:

As a child I took great pride in being the weirdest kid in school. It was an affectation I worked hard to maintain. I went so far as to give my neighbourhood friends ‘mental lessons.’ These invariably culminated in an offensive approximation of disability and a headlong dive into the big bush. Mental.

If I couldn’t be bothered to go inside I would stand on the street and urinate into the bush. I thought of it as marking my territory. The big bush would return the favour: the merest contact made my penis smell of rosemary for numerous hours afterward.

A common theme of my childhood was being hopeless at everything. I trailed even the most basic of my peers’ accomplishments by several years. This included learning to ride a bike. While my friends were zipping about on BMXs I was still safely coddled by stabilisers. One evening I came home to find that my mother had removed and disposed of them. It was an ultimatum. I went straight outside to prove everybody wrong. Many hours and six painful falls into the big bush later, my skin torn to ribbons and covered in dog piss, I had learned to ride a bike.

Over the course of my life the big bush has been the hiding place of vodka, wine, orange squash, eggs, brownies, Doritos, assorted sweets, broken plates, newspapers, pornography, money, myself, and my fragile sense of self-esteem.

Godspeed, big bush.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Nose Problems

My nose is rubbish.

It bleeds like a plague of Egypt, chokes off my breathing if I ever dare lie on my back, and once brought a premature end to guaranteed sex.

My nose is rubbish.

This is why Voldemort got rid of his.

It used to bleed so profusely that it would fill a cereal bowl to the brim (with the cereal still in it), an unsavoury alternative to milk. The blood clots that would squeeze themselves out were like engorged ticks. In hot weather my face was like a game of Buckaroo; the slightest touch or sudden movement would set it off. My sister quickly picked up on this and took gleeful advantage: on a coach to France, in church, in the two-hour line for a rollercoaster, prompting tourists to wrench my head in whatever direction they believed would stem the tide.

When it became too much I was taken to a doctor. He donned inch-thick safety goggles and murmured ruminatively as he gingerly inserted an apothecary’s-worth of creams and ointments into my nostrils.

Actual picture.

It worked, a little. These days my nose has a weekly menstruation cycle, with daily spotting to remind me of its potential for devastation. More of a problem now is the tides of snot it produces if I dare step outside, and how it bungs up like a Russian road blockade whenever I lie down. The nasal spray I use to alleviate the issue insists it not be used for more than 4 weeks straight. I’ve been squirting it up there for 14 years.

What's the worst that can happen?

My nose’s most nefarious crime was its jealous destruction of a promising relationship. I had stayed the night with a girl I was seeing, too tired after a late cinema trip to attempt anything too vigorous that evening. There would be plenty of time in the morning.

When I woke up I felt instantly that tendrils of illness had claimed me overnight. My head was pounding, my chest felt heavy, and my nose had battened down the hatches. But because I am an irresistible specimen of the male species she was not to be deterred.

Who could resist someone who looks this good in the morning?

The problem was that, with my nose having closed its borders, kissing made it terribly hard to breathe. I had to pause every few seconds to take a lungful of air, giving the impression that I possessed the stamina of an asthmatic discus thrower.

‘Give me a second,’ I said, rolling away and plucking a tissue from the bedside table.

I blew my nose as hard as I could. It spewed gouts of thick orange slime like viscous Fanta. It was to be the only ejaculation I achieved that morning.

I arranged the tissue into a hobo’s bindle of luminous sputum and flung it at the bin. It missed, and fell open on the carpet.

I ignored the look of disgust on her face and tried to resume where we had left off. As I leaned in towards her I took a breath, and my nose made a noise like a micro-pig caught in a lawnmower. She caught me by the shoulders and pushed me forcibly away.

‘I’ve just remembered I need to meet someone,’ she said, swinging her legs over the edge of the bed.

It was almost certainly a lie. But soon afterwards she met another guy.

My nose is rubbish.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Saudade

I was recently introduced to the Portuguese word saudade (I am reliably informed that the ‘de’ at the end is pronounced more like ‘je’). It doesn’t have a direct translation in English. To butcher the elegant translation given to me (and to pilfer from Wikipedia), saudade describes a deep emotional state of nostalgic or melancholic longing for things or people that have been loved and lost.

Although the word is new to me, it’s a feeling with which I am intimately familiar. I am a slave to melancholic nostalgia.

I miss going to my Grandma’s house. I would spend an entire summer kicking an air floater football against the garage, smashing Hot Wheels cars against each other on Grandma’s footrest (which she unfortunately called her ‘poof’), accidentally mashing orange silly putty into the carpet, eating Special K for breakfast every morning. I miss creeping out of bed to sit on the landing in the dark and listen to the TV downstairs, sneaking into Grandma’s room with its lurid pink carpet. Those summers were so solitary, but I was so content.

I miss falling hopelessly in love with women who didn’t reciprocate, the intensity of that pain and longing. I miss gripping my phone and begging it to ring, reading more in every text message than was ever present, thinking of her as soon as I woke up every morning. I miss being the kind of person who would get up at 5am just to walk with her to catch her bus, pretending that I had been awake anyway. I miss writing poorly conceived love poetry.

I miss the sense of possibility.

I miss my friends. I long for the time before they moved off around the country, around the world, got married, had kids. I hate that I am becoming less important in their lives. I miss playing Guitar Hero before it was cool, meeting for impromptu evening walks, competing at ping pong in a cramped garage, writing 15-minute songs about Arnold Schwarzenegger, putting our pictures on Hot or Not (my highest ever average was a 5.5/10). It feels like they have left me behind.

Saudade is beautiful, but it is also painful and irrational. I know that I can’t have that time again. It has slipped through my fingers like grains of sand.

For all my best attempts to foster new memories in the present, it feels like my life has fatally stalled. Nostalgia rules me because now feels so much worse than then. In those memories there is joy, and hurt, and curiosity. These days I am empty; an ambulatory chalice for things past.

I miss hope. I miss excitement. I miss love. Saudade is a lifeline to all of those feelings of which I used to have in abundance, and have since lost.


Saudade is a bitch.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

My First Story

I've just stumbled upon one of the first stories I ever wrote. It had escaped being thrown away by sliding down the side of a bookshelf. I must have been 9-10 years old when I wrote it and, given that I now call myself a professional writer, I think it's interesting to share it. I shall reproduce it in its entirety below - all spelling, grammatical, and formatting oddities are very much [sic].

WHEN MY BUM WAS BITTEN
By David Owen

Hello, I am a BOFF JOB called Robert and I am a nerd. One day I was walking down the road when a dog with the black plague jumped out of a dustbin and bit me on the bottom. " You binraider " I screamed but the dog had jumped in a pile of horse manure so I couldn't put it in a paper shredder. I walked back home but I went mental and killed my parents with my sock that has not been washed for 2 years. My bum throbbed so I licked it. I ran to the Hospital and jumped on a dead body and threw it out of the bed. It landed in a paper shredder. The next second shredds of skin were flying everywhere. A few went down my throat and I swallowed them. My bum was so swollen that my pants and trousers ripped so everyone could see my private parts. I screamed several swear words then ran into the toilets and wrapped myself in toilet paper. I had a heart attack 6 times but each time it only lasted 2 seconds. I killed a nurse every day and put them in a paper shredder. I played bouncing the Nurses head with the ceiling until I died. When I died everybody screamed " YES ". They screamed so loud that the hospital collasped. 

THE END.



This is not the first story that I ever wrote - I distinctly remember writing about a band of vigilante hamsters that battled a sunglasses-wearing carrot. But this story, if I remember correctly, marked the beginning of my writing with serious intent. From here I continued to write nonsense and continue to do so today.

I must have shown this to my mum, and it's testament to her as a parent that she likely didn't bat an eyelid. It's a clear attempt by a 9 year old to be as risque as his pre-pubescent mind can manage. Perhaps most worrying is that my sense of humour has hardly matured.

I wonder what my 9 year old self would say if I told him that I was soon to be a published author with a book about SERIOUS ISSUES. He would probably call me a boff job and a nerd.

He would be right.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Hot Teachers

When you spend the duration of puberty at an all boy’s school, an attractive teacher feels like a lifebuoy descending from a helicopter to pluck you from a tumultuous sea of dicks. It would also turn every single pupil within a twenty foot radius into a blundering idiot. A school comprised entirely of sexually frustrated teenage males was hardly the ideal environment to hone romantic ability and, these alluring teachers being our only chance to practice, attempts to work our magic tended to go altogether poorly.

Sting knows what I'm talking about.

The teacher that engorged our imaginations the most was unwisely assigned to orchestrate Biology just as the textbook arrived at sexual education. She was young and in possession of generous mammalian protuberances that resulted in the frequent hiding of swollen laps. The entire class would engage in daring flirtatious games such as pushing our pens off the table when she was nearby and jockeying for view, or calling her over to assist us in our work and sliding our hands across the desk as she leaned over it, in the hope of making tantalising contact. It was a true game of chicken, complete with breasts.

The Biology lessons were sometimes mind-bogglingly graphic, including a video of a grotesquely hairy TV scientist depositing his man batter in extreme close up. It was almost enough to put us off the idea entirely. Almost.

‘Miss,’ said a boy who sat behind us, enthusiastically waving his hand in the air. ‘What does semen taste like?’

He was removed from the class. It seemed to be a tipping point. A few weeks later, due to what I can only assume was pent up thwarted desire, we made her cry by throwing balls of paper at her head and then locking her out of the classroom when she went in search of help. My few break-ups since have barely been more mature.


Then there was the geography teacher who, rumour had it, once had her skirt blown up in the playground by an errant gust of wind to reveal she was without underwear. Whenever she was on lunch duty a small cluster of boys perpetually lingered nearby, just in case.

An attractive French teacher, no doubt proudly exercising her English, admonished a boy for chewing gum by loudly insisting that he ‘stop masticating at the back of the room.’ For a long uproarious moment we all feared she’d somehow climbed inside our collective mind.

A special shout-out must go to the seemingly plain teacher who upset our reality by arriving on owns-clothes day in school uniform so mouth-watering to our teenage selves that we spent the entire day clustered outside her office, engaged in a game of verbal brinkmanship describing the things we’d do to her given the chance (the reality of course being shaking with terror and making a mess of our underpants).

I'd like to say it gets easier when you're older, but...

Attractive teachers were such things as dreams we made on. Whereas the idea of a male teacher acting on fawning schoolgirls was repugnant, the reverse seemed the most exquisite fantasy. We imagined how events would conspire in our favour, where we’d go to commit the deed, how we’d live in pubescent infamy. It was unflinchingly pathetic and shamefully misogynistic, and yet, in the dark ages before easily accessed internet pornography, a vital part of our stymied sexual development.


People are frequently shocked when I reveal I attended an all boys school, though with some thought I’m sure it makes sense to those who have ever seen me try to talk to a woman. It is a worthy scapegoat for my many years since of romantic indecency. Here’s to you, hot teachers.