Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Keep The Curtains Closed Today

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,
For precious friends hid in death's dateless night,
And weep afresh love's long since cancelled woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanished sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o'er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restor'd and sorrows end. 

(Shakespeare's Sonnet 30)


‘Just write down the first thing that comes into your head.’
‘Like what?’
‘Well, like that, for example.’
‘What? “Like what?” ’
‘Not exactly Shakespeare, is it, Reggie?’
‘What do you want to write like Shakespeare for?’
‘I don’t. I want to write like David Foster Wallace.’
‘Well, there you go, then.’
Writing a story wasn’t nearly as easy as it was cracked up to be. Mick must have written the equivalent of War and Peace ten times over in his head, but the moment he sat down to put his thoughts to paper, he invariably drew a blank.
‘Just write down the first thing that comes into your head,’ Reg had told him.
OK, here goes . . .
‘Once upon a t—’
Gosh, this was pathetic!
I’ve started, so I’ll finish . . .
‘Once upon a time, there was a would-be writer who didn’t know where to start. Nor did he know where to finish. All he really knew for certain was that he wanted to write. So write he would.’
So help me God.

No one will read this rubbish!
Rule number one of writing: don’t write for no one; write for number one.

fifty shades of Spain, chapter 2, "This Is How It Always Starts"

Sunday, November 29, 2015

These Are The Days Of Our Lives

Oh dear! It’s the end of the month again and, as always, I have nothing remotely worth telling you. I’ve written nothing, sold nothing, done nothing, posted nothing, contributed nothing to society and, in brief, made no progress whatsoever on whatever it is I had been meaning to do when I began writing ‘seriously’ seven years ago. I haven’t even started my Christmas shopping, though that is, of course, quite usual for me. So, anyway, in the absence of anything to report, I thought I might bore you with a few lines on what I get up to during the week. Fascinating, eh? I’ll try and keep it brief because, let’s face it, how complicated can being an English teacher be? If you only knew...

I’m one of the privileged ones in my company. My first class is at eight o’clock (in the morning) and just a couple of miles down the road from where I live. Fortunately, I have a car. Many of my colleagues are already in class by half past seven (or earlier), often teaching in freezing classrooms in godforsaken locations  where nobody in their right mind would dream of setting foot at such an early hour in the morning. I too did more than my fair share of the graveyard shift in the past, the only advantage being that there is no shortage of parking spaces available at a quarter past seven in the morning.

As you can imagine, that first class tends to be the highlight of my day, after which it is all downhill. I’m incredibly lucky with my students – and  incredibly unimaginative with my choice of adverbs – because, on the one hand, they always pretend to be enjoying themselves; and, on the other hand, they rarely remember anything that I ‘teach’ them, which means I can regurgitate the same exercises week after week, year after year. ‘Don’t you ever study your notes?’ I’ll chide them, knowing full well what their answer will be. Anyway, everybody seems quite happy with this state of affairs in the tacit knowledge that the real point of these early morning classes is to warm up for the day ahead.

After my first class, I’ll grab a quick coffee and get to the office for about 9.30. Some kind soul will usually have already turned on my computer for me, so I really have no excuse for avoiding those dreaded emails any longer. Officially, you see, I am also director of studies, which suggests that, when I’m not teaching, I should be “directing studies”. And so the emails pour in about teachers who didn’t show up for work today (they overslept); teachers who are threatening not to show up for work tomorrow (they want more money); teachers who can’t understand why they haven’t got a contract (we forgot to do one); teachers who don’t know what they have to do (we forgot to send them the programme); teachers who don’t know where to go (we didn’t tell them); teachers who urgently need books (we forgot to order them). 

Then there are the mails from customers or HR directors who urgently need a 20-page report by midday because ‘the auditors are coming this afternoon’ (a likely story); customers who want to know why you billed them for classes they never received (it was worth a try); customers who want a training plan for Pepe who needs to be fluent in Italian by Christmas (because we never say No to a challenge); customers who have thirty people to be tested immediately and who want to start classes next week (or tomorrow if possible). And so on, and so forth. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. After all, I am paid to cause solve problems like these, and, as I say, I am one of the privileged ones: I have an interesting job, a fair salary, good holidays, delightful students, supportive colleagues... and countless headaches. Thank goodness for Ibuprofen, I say.  

At some stage during the day, I will be off to give further classes, sometimes in the local university, at other times in the farmhouse where we give immersion courses. The latter is always a welcome opportunity to enjoy the beautiful Basque scenery whilst listening to Meat Loaf’s warning that objects in the rear-view mirror may appear closer than they are.

Back at the ranch, and time permitting, I’ll try and create a worksheet for future classes. This is the nearest I ever get to being creative at work and, basically, keeps me sane. Here’s an extract from my latest creation, “Doctors, Operations, etc.”:

Choose the best word to complete the sentence... 

  1. I went to the doctor's to have my ears _____.
 removed  /  syringed  /  vacuumed  /  waxed

  1. They advised me to have the mole on my back _____.
 fed  /  removed  /  shaved  /  waxed

  1. I'm thinking about getting my ears _____.
drilled  /  holed  /  pierced  /  screwed

  1. The dentist said I needed three _____.
fillings  /  pastings  /  stuffings  /  toppings

  1. They said I should have my chest _____.
X-factored  /  X-plotted  /  x-rayed  /  X-waxed

  1. Doctor Scalpel is in the operating _____.
room  /  stage  /  studio  /  theatre

  1. ...

And it goes on in similar vein for another 44 questions. I look forward to using this worksheet in all my classes over the next week or so. After all, what subject could possibly be more important than one’s health and well-being?  

All being well, I’ll call it a day sometime between half past six and seven o’clock – at a quarter to seven, for example – and head home via the supermarket, fishmonger’s or wherever I have been instructed to go before reporting home for dinner duty. But that’s another story, so I’ll save it for a rainy day.

Thanks as ever for reading.


–¿Puedo ver su tarjeta sanitaria?
–Soy británico, no la necesito.

–Can I see your health card?
–I’m British, I don’t need one.

–Bien, bájese los pantalones, por favor.
–¿Para qué? Mis piernas están estupendamente.
–Haga lo que le digo, ¿quiere?

–OK, drop your trousers, please.
–What for? There’s nothing wrong with my legs.
–Just do as you’re told, will you?

–¿Cuándo fue al baño por última vez?
–¿Y a usted, qué le importa?

–When’s the last time you went to the bathroom?
–Mind your own business!

No le puedo ayudar si se niega a colaborar.

I can’t help you if you refuse to cooperate.

–¿Cuánto tiempo me queda, Doc?
–Querrá decir, ¿Cuánto dinero me queda, no?

–How much time have I got left, Doc?
–You mean, How much money have I got left, don’t you?

–Tómese estas pastillas.
–¿Para qué son?
–No pone.
–¿Qué clase de médico es usted?

–Take these tablets.
–What are they for?
–It doesn’t say.
–And you call yourself a doctor!

El problema con vosotros los británicos es que no tenéis sentido de humor alguno.

The problem with you Brits is you have no sense of humour whatsoever.

Spanglish for Impatient People, Lesson 10, “At the doctor’s”

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Mr. Blue Sky

Deserted Fields, Somewhere near Shrewsbury, August 2004

‘What’s the weather going to be like today?’

With these words, my wife greets me every morning, followed by, ‘Where’s my coffee?’ and ‘Pass that towel, will you?’

‘Rain,’ I’ll reply. Or, ‘Dry but cold’. Or, ‘Hurricane on its way,’ if I feel like living dangerously. Of course, so long as there genuinely is a hurricane on its way, I have nothing to fear; but God help me if the day turns out to be a scorcher and I’ve sent my poor wife to work disguised as a windshield. Naturally, the Internet is to blame, and in particular, AEMET, the Spanish Meteorological Agency, who never get it right; at least, as far as my town is concerned. 

Deserted Streets, Aretxabaleta, December 2014
For reasons known only to themselves, the happy-go-lucky people at AEMET always forecast sunny spells for Aretxabaleta at some stage during the day, even if anybody with one eye and half a brain can see that there’s no way those black thunderclouds will be going anywhere for the next 24 hours. That said, the more fool I for throwing caution to the winds and telling my wife she can wear her favourite sandals to work, to leave her brolly at home, and to have a nice day, darling. After all, the Internet never lies, does it? 

Even worse, however, is that for a short period in my life – twenty years or so – I actually took these blasted weather bulletins seriously, only to pay the price for my naivety. On more than one occasion, I found myself freezing to death at my desk, wearing just a T-shirt, summer slacks and sandals, simply because those b******s at AEMET assured me that it was going to be a belter of a day. ‘Aren’t you cold?’ my friends would ask, at least giving me a welcome opportunity to explain that we Brits are made of sterner stuff than my sensitive Basque colleagues. Conversely, on those days when I went to work armed with scarf, gloves and duffel coat, the sun would come beating through my window as I melted in my chair.

I am truly blessed to have friends, colleagues and students who are always forthcoming with advice: ‘Serves you right for using AEMET!’... ‘Personally, I use El Tiempo’... ‘Haven’t you tried Meteoblue?’... ‘Why don’t you use Euskalmet?’... ‘What’s wrong with the sodding newspaper?’...

It’s so easy to be wise after the event, isn’t it? Nevertheless, I suspected that maybe it was about time I checked out the competition, so last Saturday I did just that: I devoted my entire day exclusively to studying the local weather – in between getting breakfast, doing the shopping, getting lunch, washing up, cleaning the car, chauffeuring loved ones, taking out the rubbish, etc. – and comparing how accurate or random the so-called weather experts’ forecasts for my town actually were.  And here’s what I discovered...

AEMET, weather forecast, 24/10/2015
I started my investigations at the very top. The Agencia Estatal de Meteorología – 'AEMET' for short; 'crap' for shorter – had it coming to them. I was not remotely surprised to see that they forecast sunny spells towards the end of the afternoon. The morning, on the other hand, would be a miserable grey affair, with not a ray of sunshine in sight:

Time will tell, I thought to myself, and turned to my next victim...

El Tiempo
El Tiempo, weather forecast, 24/10/2015
I know it's hard to be impressed by a website that simply calls itself "The Weather", but I am a fervent believer of equal opportunities for all – unless I've got it in for them – and, besides, this site came recommended to me by Nekane, one of the nicest and, more importantly, most sensible people I have ever met. Well, according to El Tiempo, it was going to be cloudy and grey all day, and that was that:

At this stage, my money was firmly on the merchants of doom at El Tiempo. I sincerely hoped the sun would stay hidden all day just to prove my point about AEMET's never getting it right.

And so on to our third contender...

Meteoblue, weather forecast, 24/10/2015
Several people had recommended this site to me, so I thought I should give it a whirl. I'm glad I did because its forecast was exactly the opposite to what AEMET was promising. In other words, we were in for a beautiful  sunny morning, followed by a depressingly grey afternoon:

My research was going better than I could ever have imagined: three sites and three completely different forecasts! In a moment of madness, I switched my loyalties immediately to Meteoblue for the rest of my life. I had a hunch that I had already found my winner.

Alas, The show must go on, I told myself, as I moved reluctantly on to Contestant Number 4... 

Euskalmet, weather forecast, 24/10/2015
Euskalmet, the Basque Meteorological Office, is everything that AEMET, its Spanish counterpart, is not: serious, professional... and totally incomprehensible to the average surfer. Jabier, my dear university lecturer friend, has sworn by this site all his life. Unfortunately, you need a degree in rocket science, like the one Jabier has, to find your way around. For starters, you have to realise that your town is in a "Cantabrian valley" if you are looking for Aretxabaleta. I got there eventually by a painful process of elimination – Are we a coastal town? No. Are we in the mountains? Well, sort of...

Once you have reached your destination, however, and read what's in store for the day, you are still none the wiser. ‘You can expect some early morning mists... mid-to-high cloud cover... getting very cloudy by night-time (when you no longer care about the sodding clouds)... some light rainfall in the late afternoon, evening and/or night... gentle southerly winds turning to north-westerly as the day progresses...’ Are you still reading? I can't say I blame you.

And imagine the reaction I would get if, on being asked what the weather was going to be like today, I replied, ‘Well, darling, we can expect a little morning mist up in the mountains, but don't worry, there'll be a nice warm southerly wind. On the cloud front, it appears they'll be up and down all day, but mainly up. We might even get a spot or two of rain, but don't quote me on that, or indeed anything’. That coffee mug would come flying back in my face well before I'd got to the end of my summary. For all its faults, at least AEMET is willing to stick its neck out and declare, ‘It's going to be a bloody miserable morning in Aretxabaleta’, regardless of the actual accuracy of its forecast.

Fortunately, the eggheads at Euskalmet are thoughtful enough to include a simple diagram for birdbrains such as yours truly. In brief, according to Euskalmet, temperatures would drop, we would have clouds and sunshine (though we didn't know in which order), and winds would be travelling in an anti-clockwise direction:

Thirty minutes later, and even more confused than when I had entered their site, I decided it was time to pull the plug on Euskalmet, and move on to my final candidate...

El Diario Vasco
El Diario Vasco, weather forecast, 24/10/2015
Let's be fair. In this age of instant Internet updates, it's a pretty impossible task for any printed publication to compete with their Net-friendly competitors when it comes to providing a reliable weather forecast for the day ahead. Indeed, I suspect that my Basque daily only offers a weather map because this is what its reactionary readership – average age 83, and rising – has come to expect since it was first launched back in 1934. Publishing a Basque newspaper without including a weather map would be akin to making a Spanish omelette without adding potatoes, to going to your grave without reading Angela's Ashes, to starting a pointless metaphor without feeling remotely guilty. But I digress.

Being a rather small town, Aretxabaleta doesn't even appear on El Diario Vasco's map, so I added it myself – just below Arrasate. You'll see that the DV weathermen decided very sensibly to keep their options open by forecasting a bit of everything:

I couldn't really argue with such a pragmatic approach and, besides, I no longer cared. The church bells chimed seven as I grabbed my mobile and shot my first snap of the day. Let battle commence!...

Aretxabaleta, 24/10/2015, 07:00
At seven o'clock, it was still pitch dark outside, and, for the moment at least, all five contenders were still in the race. I thought about going back to bed, but Britain didn't become Great with that attitude, did it? So, I spent the next couple of hours watching the football highlights on YouTube.

Aretxabaleta, 24/10/2015, 09:00
By nine o’clock, things were still pretty gloomy outside. And they were even gloomier inside when I remembered that this was exactly what AEMET had forecast for the morning. Mind you, these were early days yet, weren’t they?

Aretxabaleta, 24/10/2015, 11:00
Hallelujah! By eleven o’clock, the Basques of Aretxabaleta were basking in glorious sunshine; well, those who had made it out of bed, let’s say. Sure, there were still a few clouds around, but right now Meteoblue was trouncing the competition. This was, quite possibly, the happiest moment of my life weekend.

Aretxabaleta, 24/10/2015, 13:00
By one o’clock, the grey skies were already back with us; rather sooner than Meteoblue had predicted, if truth be told. In the case of Meteoblue, however, I was more than happy to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Aretxabaleta, 24/10/2015, 15:00
At three o’clock, there was absolutely no change. It was a depressingly grey day, but I didn’t care too much because this was exactly the result I had been hoping for.

Aretxabaleta, 24/10/2015, 17:00
Oh no! What was this? Did I detect the sun pushing its way back through the clouds? I sensed an invisible force of evil at work as AEMET fought their way back into the race.

Aretxabaleta, 24/10/2015, 19:00
Luckily, the threat of late-afternoon sunshine turned out to be a false alarm, leaving us to enjoy a glorious grey evening. Mopping my brow in relief, I triumphantly declared Meteoblue the winner of this year's “Weather Forecast on Demand, Best of a Bad Bunch” contest.

Aretxabaleta, 24/10/2015, 21:00
Having blatantly rigged the results to suit my purposes, I visited Meteoblue's website, and was delighted to discover that this is a Swiss company, whose forecasts are, by their own admission, much more accurate than anyone else's:

‘Meteoblue provides the best documented weather forecast on the web... Meteoblue users check our forecasts daily – and they like them, because of their reliability... For the general public, we offer a free high-resolution weather forecast that is second to none...’

Need I say more? Probably not, but I will: Doesn't it strike you as odd that the distant Swiss can give an Englishman a far better forecast for his Basque town than our Spanish neighbours ever will?

Thanks for reading!


‘Lovely day, isn’t it?’ said Colin. He wasn’t going to win any prizes for this conversation. He wasn’t going to win any prizes, full-stop. For all Colin knew, there could be a blizzard outside. He never listened to the weather forecast; it was just too damned depressing. Still, the great thing about being English was your listener never knew whether you were being ironic or not, so Nicola could interpret his “Lovely day, isn’t it?” whichever way she pleased.

dayrealing, chapter 8, “Have You Ever Seen The Rain?”


Well, so much for the logical alternatives. What about the illogical ones? This called for some blue-sky thinking. Colin looked up, but he needn’t have bothered for there was nothing to look up to; or at. Nothing, that is, but a universal sheet of … well, of “nothingness”, for want of a better word. How odd. It was as if he had stumbled into some kind of parallel looniverse, rather like those children in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It made sense; from a nonsensical point of view, at least.

dayrealing, chapter 41, “Don’t Fear The Reaper”

Wednesday, September 30, 2015


"You might be poor, your shoes might be broken, but your mind is a palace." (Frank McCourt)

I decided to call this post “Seven” because that’s what it is: seven of my favourite authors, seven gosh-I-wish-I'd-said-that quotes, and seven must-read-before-you-die recommendations. That's a lot of sevens, so, without further ado, here we go in no particular order. Well, actually, that’s a blatant lie; I’ve ordered the authors chronologically. It was either that or list them according to the year they were born...

1. Jerome K. Jerome

Jerome K. Jerome, 1859-1927
“It is impossible to enjoy idling thoroughly unless one has plenty of work to do. Idleness, like kisses, to be sweet must be stolen.”  Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow

“I don't know why it should be, I am sure; but the sight of another man asleep in bed when I am up, maddens me.” Three Men in a Boat

“It is so pleasant to come across people more stupid than ourselves. We love them at once for being so.” Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow

“It is always the best policy to tell the truth, unless of course you are an exceptionally good liar.” The Idler Magazine

“I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.” Three Men in a Boat

“Cats and dogs never talk about themselves but listen to you while you talk about yourself, and keep up an appearance of being interested in the conversation.” Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow

Read before you die: Three Men in a Boat (1889)

Be careful with Jerome, he's seriously addictive! I enjoyed Three Men in a Boat so much, I moved straight on to Three Men on the Bummel, raced through Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow and, before I knew it, I had downloaded his complete works to my Kindle. That said, Three Men in a Boat is the absolute must-read, in my opinion. 

2. Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut, 1922-2007
“Life happens too fast for you ever to think about it. If you could just persuade people of this, but they insist on amassing information.” Conversations with Kurt Vonnegut

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” Mother Night

“Practising an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow." A Man Without a Country

“If you can do no good, at least do no harm.” Slapstick, or Lonesome No More!

“Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.” A Man Without a Country

“The universe is an awfully big place.” The Sirens of Titan

Read before you die: The Sirens of Titan (1959)

I must have read most of Vonnegut's works over the years - they all contain flashes of brilliance - but, to my great frustration, I never found one to match The Sirens of Titan, the first novel of his that I read and, to my mind, head and shoulders above anything else that he wrote.

3. Joseph Heller

Joseph Heller, 1923-1999
“When people disagreed with him he urged them to be objective.” Catch-22

“Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them.” Catch-22

“There is no disappointment so numbing as someone no better than you achieving more.” Good as Gold

“Destiny is a good thing to accept when it's going your way. When it isn't, don't call it destiny; call it injustice, treachery, or simple bad luck.” God Knows

“Insanity is contagious.” Catch-22

“The enemy is anybody who's going to get you killed, no matter which side he is on.” Catch-22

Read before you die: Catch-22 (1961)

Essentially, there are two kinds of readers: those who love Catch-22, and those who loathe it. No prizes for guessing which side I'm on. I re-read this recently and enjoyed it even more than the first time; I even managed to follow parts of the plot. Yes, this is definitely one of those books I'd want to take with me to that desert island. It's such a shame that many of Heller's other greatest works - Something Happened, God Knows...  - are still unavailable on Kindle. 

4. Frank McCourt

Frank McCourt, 1930-2009
“Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.” Angela's Ashes

“There are so many ways of saying Hi. Hiss it, trill it, bark it, sing it, bellow it, laugh it, cough it.” Teacher Man

“Are we put into this world to be busy or to chat over a nice cup of tea?” 'Tis: a Memoir

“It’s lovely to know that the world can’t interfere with the inside of your head.” Angela's Ashes

“There's nothing sillier in the world than a teacher telling you don't do it after you already did it.” Teacher Man

“Sing your song. Dance your dance. Tell your tale.” Angela's Ashes

Read before you die: Angela's Ashes (1996)

To my knowledge, Frank McCourt never wrote a bad sentence in his life. My only complaint is that he didn't write more of them before he was cruelly taken away from us. I've recommended you start with Angela's Ashes, though I might equally recommend 'Tis or Teacher Man as, regardless of which book you start on, you'll end up reading the lot. 

5. Robert Rankin

Robert Rankin, 1949-
“Now, it's a fact well known to those who know it well that prophets of doom only attain popularity when they get the drinks in all around.” The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse

“I had a happy childhood, so I can't blame my parents for the fact that I'm barking mad.” Bizarre Magazine

“Have you ever heard this theory about drinking yourself sober? It's a very popular theory. Amongst drunks, anyway.” The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse

“What is believed to be a fact is only a fact until another fact supersedes it.” The Book of Ultimate Truths

“Everyone gets away with as much as they can get away with. And the more they can get away with it, the more they will.” The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse

“There was a lot of joy to be had in the contemplation of a pint glass; in terms of plain reality of course, there was a deal more to be had in the draining of one.” The Antipope

Read before you die: The Antipope (1981)

The father of  'far-fetched fiction', Robert Rankin never disappoints. This particular title, The Antipope, is the first in a series of nine, the so-called Brentford Trilogy. It sounds to me as if he nicked that idea off my next guest...

6. Douglas Adams

Douglas Adams, 1952-2001
“You know what a learning experience is? A learning experience is one of those things that says, You know that thing you just did? Don't do that.” The Salmon of Doubt

“The quality of any advice anybody has to offer has to be judged against the quality of life they actually lead.” Mostly Harmless

“Don't believe anything you read on the net. Except this. Well, including this, I suppose.”

“Nothing travels faster than the speed of light, with the possible exception of bad news, which obeys its own special laws.” Mostly Harmless

“We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works.” The Salmon of Doubt

"A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools." Mostly Harmless

Read before you die: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979)

Surely the most famous trilogy of them all - "in five parts" - and undoubtedly the most entertaining. In contrast, I found the Dirk Gently novels very hard-going, although I seem to be in a minority here. Either way, we all mourned when Douglas left our galaxy at the tender age of 49. His gravestone in Highgate states with admirable modesty, "Douglas Adams, Writer, 1952-2001". I'd argue that he was rather more than that.

7. Karl Ove Knausgård

Karl Ove Knausgård, 1968-
“But Dad was no longer breathing. That was what had happened to him, the connection with the air had been broken, now it pushed against him like any other object, a log, a gasoline can, a sofa.” A Death In The Family: My Struggle Book 1

“Saying what you want others to hear is, of course, a form of lying.” A Man In Love: My Struggle Book 2

“I have a longing for fiction - to try to believe in it and to disappear into it.” The Telegraph

“I can’t speak for other writers, but I write to create something that is better than myself, I think that’s the deepest motivation.” The Paris Review

“There is only one thing children find harder to hold back than tears, and that is joy.” A Time for Everything

“And death, which I have always regarded as the greatest dimension of life, dark, compelling, was no more than a pipe that springs a leak, a branch that cracks in the wind, a jacket that slips off a clothes hanger and falls to the floor.” A Death In The Family: My Struggle Book 1

Read before you die: A Death In The Family: My Struggle Book 1 (2009)

I was hooked on Knausgård from the very first sentence: "For the heart, life is simple: it beats for as long as it can. Then it stops." At times, Karl can be a little too depressing for many people's tastes - he takes about 200 pages to describe his father's funeral, as I recall - but he never fails to raise my spirits. Does that make sense? Probably not, so now seems as good a time as any to draw this post to a close before I write any further nonsense.

By the way, can it really be seven years since I sat down to write dayrealing, my first and last novel? That thought alone depresses me seven-fold, so I think I’d better read some Karl Ove to cheer me up. 

Thanks as ever for making it this far.


Colin’s recipe for literary success consisted of seven simple steps:

1) think of something to write about
2) write it
3) find an agent desperate enough to consider taking me on (or in)
4) persuade a publisher with a large screw missing to publish my work
5) pray
6) cash cheque
7) run away to a nice country home in Devon before angry punters start asking for their money back.

Think, write, find, persuade, pray, cash, run. Piece of cake, especially the last three.

So what now? Taking a leaf out of Julie Andrews’s book, Colin decided to start at the very beginning. After all, no publisher was going to pay him for writing thin air; well, not until he was rich and famous. It was a Catch-22 situation; or so he believed, for he had never read that book, either.

dayrealing, chapter 45, “Wonderful  Life”