Rubber Bullets


School is out on Wednesday. I’ve got a date with Daniel Craig on Thursday. This is gonna be a busy week, but most importantly of all there’s a novel to write. It’s utterly blasé, saying that in Paragraph One, knowing full well exactly how much work there is involved in this project. Except that’s not how any of this works any more. Many, many things have changed since the start of the year.

My plan is to have a first draft complete by the end of August.

I see you people, laughing over there, except you don’t know me well, do you? This is the most determined and ready mind and body have ever been in this situation. That timescale is utterly doable. In fact, it’s already begun. It helps that bones of idea already exist, meat is already quite easy to place. What isn’t as clear yet is what form this work will finally take but I know my idea’s already golden.


That alone makes this whole thing worth pushing for.

There also exists a number of notional deadlines for other work in the next couple of weeks. They will act as my distraction and breaks between the novel. An hour was required on Sunday matching WIP’s to potential awards and contests. Then I had to sort laundry for at least the majority of the evening as distraction. Sometimes, you don’t get to choose the form of your penance, it just has to be served. That’s totally fine with me.

This is where it all begins to work together.


It’s taken thirty two years to reach this next point, where personal narrative finally diverges from a very well-worn path. There’s no fear either, which is a surprise. Maybe that’s because, for the first time in fifty years, understanding isn’t a problem. Running yesterday, it was fun. You know, the stuff the rest of the world experiences on a daily basis but was somehow lost in the last twelve months.

Just how off course were you on this particular journey?

The last time a book/s affected me so significantly was The Bridge by Iain Banks back in 1986. Thirty years of literature hasn’t so much passed me by, it’s that I’ve not really ever felt it as much as perhaps was possible. That’s the biggest take-way: not you books, most definitely me. I, the party of the first part, am most definitely the one at fault. It’s not just words either: lots of stuff has been eaten, seen and listened to without the correct level of mindfulness applied. There’s a lot to catch up on.

I tried reading this trilogy last year, but my brain couldn’t cope with it. Having finished the final book, the reasoning for that has become abundantly apparent. The chain of my subconscious, delicate silver, remains knotted and dense. It requires patience plus a needle to unravel. Now we’ve established this is not a five minute task, that there’s a LOT of work to do straightening links, it’s time to get working. It wasn’t just meditation and mindfulness that was required, but my own admission of inability.

Last weekend sorted that out for good.


Weeeeellll, yes and no. I get what’s gotta be done now, even if that’s just broad strokes in some places and being oddly specific in others. Life is no fun unless you live it, bad and good. That’s happening: as we get a bit of momentum up, there’ll be time to tweak the plan. The biggest step forward however is that going back to the way I was will never, ever be an option, because that person no longer exists.

That’s a positive I’ll never get tired of celebrating.


My legs still hurt. I don’t remember that happening for a while, either. This is what happens when you stop worrying about falling off a treadmill at incline and just run on it. It’s also a reminder that doing what you’re told sometimes is not the end of all independent action. Stuff in exercise class is given to you for a reason. Growing is a subtle combination of taking what you need from experiences and then going the extra mile to make it stick.

This was also the result of more weight in squats (bar on your shoulders, squat with it up and down) where the long term aim is to exceed body weight lifted. What happens when I train and up weights is very simple: it exposes muscles that are weakest. In my case I suffer with wrists and ankles, tops of legs and lower back. They need to be stronger, or progress doesn’t happen. That’s why I’m here on a Saturday planning a gym trip later.

I’m also up early preparing to organise the next four weeks of my life to include wring a novel pretty much from scratch. I know it’s doable, NaNoWriMo tells me it is. It’s now how much this matters and how immersed in the world created I can become, and they’re both easy things to do. It will means a reschedule of a few things and organising others around the writing change, but I can do this. Of course I can.

In fact, I’m really looking forward to it :D

Let It Be

If I felt like it, I could posture a state of mild dudgeon from the title of this article. This worthy venture by the Places of Poetry team is not slightly mad, and its uniqueness is not something to be highlighted as folly. Quite the opposite, in fact: if I had my way, this kind of industry and unique use of the online space would be far more common. I’d see welcoming environments where poets could contribute, regardless of age or experience, and all be embraced under the same, literary umbrella.

This is a place where winning is not the point.

My hero’s right: the real point of any artistic endeavour is translating that stuff within you into something more than just the pictures in your head. That means, as a neophyte poet, a couple of choices. I can publish my own stuff on the internet until I’m blue in the face, and hope someone might notice, or try entering the almost constant stream of prizes, awards or events that encourage new writers to take part. The problem is, of course, not everybody can win.

This month, I crossed a magic threshold: 100 poems have been rejected from events as varied as the BBC Proms contest to the Poetry Society’s own flagship quarterly publication. The problem, such as I see it, is knowing how to pitch your work to fit the brief those publishing work or deciding ‘winners’ looks for, and no two judges/editors are the same. Without a decent brief or a clear idea of what an individual enjoys to read, I may as well just stick poems to my wall and throw darts at them to make reasonable choices.

Like David says, you don’t learn truths until a lot later on.


What makes the Places of Poetry so joyous as an exercise was the complete lack of entry restrictions. The brief was beautifully, nay poetically simple: write about a place you love. Unique then becomes a totally apposite description of this project, because 65 people from age I can use a pencil or tablet so I can be a poet to age whatever you want write about the exact same place and they’re all relevant. No longlisting, no shortlisting, no weeks of hanging about hoping you’ll get an email telling you that eventually, a poem stuck.

The only entry criteria is you, in effect: are you prepared to write yourself into a piece of history? Where else can my 24 poems on Southend stand shoulder to shoulder with the work of the Poet Laureate? I didn’t need to pay to do so, and there’s no expectation that somehow, you’ve been specially chosen or this is a particular honour (though I acknowledge the work being done by specific groups in key locations to encourage the writing of poetry celebrating place). This is the most level playing field ever, our country, and we get to make it whatever we want it to be.

End of the Fear 800px

I’ve had a quite interesting journey in the last twelve months: my poems co-incided with mental health counselling, brought me into a far more significant relationship with the town I’ve lived in for over thirty years. I’m also pretty confident my style of poetry means this collection would never be accepted by a publisher looking at current trends and interests. It’s so niche, utterly subjective observation from a poet who is still finding her feet. At 52, I can be a realist about my chances.

However, what the inclusion of these poems has done for me personally I may never be able to accurately quantify. For the six weeks it took to write, photograph and organise the project, I felt more alive than had ever previously been the case, and being mentioned in that article above was just glorious, because I was finally a part of something that mattered. It isn’t always the money and the glory kids, never forget this. Sometimes, you just need to feel you belong.


We need to encourage more people to participate, and yet our entire existence as artists pushes commercial success as a goal. Maybe that’s not the way we move forward on a planet whose obsession with consumerism is driving slow, irreparable destruction into the DNA of every living thing. Perhaps we could, every so often, decide that nobody wins and try and encourage everyone to take part. Projects like this are very simply constructed: you put something in, and then your reward is what presents itself afterwards.

Satisfaction, achievement and belief are far better prizes for those of us who just want to let our voices be heard.

You can find my 24 poems on
Southend on Sea

[Edit: in a tweet on July 20th, Places of Poetry have clarified that their site is curated:  there is an effort made to ensure poems are not just relevant to the locations pinned but suitable for a general audience. These are rules that don’t restrict entry, simply guidelines that ensure the final work is accessible to as many individuals as possible.]

Wherever You Will Go

Today, we’re going to talk about learning.


Learning is not just a grasp of information, it is a combination of many, disparate factors. Experience counts for a significant amount of the process too: how things work, so that over time you can better understand the best means to optimise and streamline processes. By far the best way to learn, is to do. This, for me, means a fundamental change in approach to… well, just about everything.

Firstly, it is dealing with issues as they occur. Take this morning: on the way back from the School Run, for the first time ever, my petrol warning light came on. Normally I’ve programmed myself to always ensure there’s no less than a quarter of a tank at all times. This week, I’m fatigued and other issues have deflected this base level preparedness. Looking at the dial on the car, two thoughts presented:

Go home, you’re hungry and thirsty, you can get petrol when you go out again


Go find the nearest petrol station and DO IT NOW.


This might seem odd, using summat so trivial to explain the basic trouble I have with life, but it’s a metaphor. Doing the right thing was, for so very long, summat that would be ignored over keeping myself safe, and by that I mean happy and unstressed. It’s always easier not to tidy up the big pile of mess and just find summat easier to deal with… which is all well and good until the sum of your mess piles overwhelms you and everything else. It’s the deadline you’ll never make, or the scary thing that never gets finished.

Failure really is no longer an option.


You see, I’ve only just learnt that failure is less about other people and you, but more about you and other people. It meant I went and got petrol, then came home and did the stuff that I didn’t want to do ahead of the things I do. Learning is prioritising the importance of other people’s desires on a par with yours, and then working out how the whole thing can be harmonised. My daughter can be critical of my housekeeping skills with absolute certainty she’s right, but if she’s not practising self care and eating the lunch I give her, that’s not accepting my efforts at support.

Arguing with a 14 year old is absolutely the best way to learn and grasp your own shortcomings.


I don’t care who you are and how much experience you claim to possess: EVERYBODY can do better right now. Whether it’s recycling, food choices, personal habits, online etiquette or just living each day in a reasonably worthwhile fashion, somewhere in your personal existence there will be room for improvement. I accept the esoteric need to learn fancy stuff like a second language, but as I’m still unable to adequately communicate in the single language known, sometimes going back to basics has merit.

What ought to happen most, it occurs to me, is the process of gentle exploration of self before anything else of significance takes place. Three people, in separate situations this week, all have suggested that mental health is the key to true learning comprehension. Maybe, if we all possessed some rudimentary mental health support during childhood or even on a regular basis in adulthood, it would become far easier to recognise the warning signs when stuff begins to go wrong.

Maybe that would make it easier for more people to recognise truth when it is presented.


I had to stop the car this morning, to write when an idea struck me, and this is happening with increasing frequency. There’s also an emerging, almost infant sense of understanding that never really existed in my head until now. It will undoubtedly be the combination of my time away at the weekend with a series of current events that make some uncomfortable truths unavoidable.

On this lifetime journey, I’ve made some pretty significant wrong turns. There’s no avoiding that now, what’s done is done, except it is apparent that the consequences of those actions is yet to be successfully resolved in the eyes of others. That means stuff has to be fixed. It’s not nearly the huge deal it was pre-counselling either. All things are doable. They’ll be done. Once they are, maintenance becomes far easier overall.


Some things however I have never been good at. I’d try, then fail: for many years that’s happened with the same depressing consequences. This time I’ll try and know deep down I’m the problem, and that’s okay. Accepting you are fault is an important step forward, in the general scheme of things. Knowing you are the thing that keeps refusing to fit and tow the line is a bit of self-awareness that was never really apparent until now.

More important still is the understanding that it is selflessness that you’re being looked to provide. Is that something I can do better now than was the case before counselling? The only way to work that out is to do it, but at least now all of this isn’t being fuelled by anger or resentment. That’s the biggest shift of all. Before, everything was bad. Now, far less so, and because of that there’s a way forward that didn’t exist.

Understanding I’m different was never the problem. Dealing with it has always been problematic. Let’s see if we can’t finally break the cycle.

The Living Daylights

Thing #1: Can I sue Phoebe Wallet-Bridge for stealing my fanfic idea? Probably not. This was and always will be the best way to get around the biggest cock-block in the franchise. Respect is due. As I say in the above tweet sequence, I’ll probably even go and see the damn thing now. However:

Thing #2: There’s a reboot coming. After La Craig hangs up his suit, there is likely to be a Bond 26. Is this movie now a test bed for changing Bond’s sexuality? I really doubt it, and as Barbara Broccoli’s on record saying that, we should accept the truth, amirite? This looks and smells, from a certain angle, like a smart PR stunt to cash in on current trends. If it stuck, I’d be fucking staggered.

How does it go from here? Well, after April 2020, who knows. Needless to say, how this tests on audiences and how predicted changes goes down especially with the female demographic might yet alter the course of this franchise, but if it doesn’t people can not really get that upset. Go look at the last film each Bond actor made before they were replaced. With the exception of Tim Dalton’s, they all stank to high heaven.

There may yet be a twist in this plot.

I’m not here today, so you’re reading this written yesterday for convenience. I’ll be on my way into that there London to meet up with someone I’ve not seen for ages. It’s kinda cool to be out more often, this could become a habit if the experiences continue to be convivial. I’ve got an invite to visit Manchester now as well, and that’s utterly bloody happening at some point in the future. Gotta go and take pictures and hang around there. I might do that for my birthday, actually…

There’s still a lot to spill over my weekend away too. STAY TUNED.