What’s the point of having a blog if you never post anything? Well, I often think posting’s such a self-centred thing to do. Why should anyone spend any of their precious time reading my pearls of wisdom (or ignorance)?

The reason for this one, however, is that I’ve collaborated (again) with Canadian friend Eden Bayley (aka Helen Yee) on writing stories for RB Wood’s monthly Word Count Podcast and, for any writers who look at this, I think it’s an exercise worth trying.

I’ve written before about how fictional characters seem to act autonomously and how those in my books often surprise me by seeming to take directions which have nothing to do with me. Those in our collaborations behave in the same way, but with the added twist that, even though I may have created  one, given him/her a specific identity, and sent him/her off on a particular path, when Eden sends back her version of how the story and that character develops and progresses, he/she may have become a relative stranger to me. However, the constraints of what has by now become a structured, recognisable narrative, (which the character – having been part of it from the beginning – knows even better than I do), seem to remove even more of my control over who he/she then becomes.

But it’s not only that twisting of the relationship between author and character that’s of interest, it’s the fact that the co-author may have incorporated undreamed of (by the story’s originator) elements of the setting, introduced objects or actions absent from the initial conception, interpreted the first author’s words in an unexpected way, added themes not necessarily related to the original intentions or led the plot/story in any number of unanticipated directions. And that, in turn, forces the first writer to readjust his/her thinking and, almost, start afresh.

As I list those possibilities, it makes me wonder how on earth we managed to reach a satisfying conclusion with any of our efforts. But we did, Richard was content enough with them to include them in his shows and, in my opinion, in at least two of them, the results of the ‘double narrator’ approach produced twists better than any I might have dreamed up on my own.

So, rather than drone on, I’m posting the first of our collaborations here. There are 3 more, which may follow. Meanwhile, if you’d like to hear some of our solo efforts, you’ll find them on Richard Wood’s site.

More recently, Richard’s prompts have been mainly visual but this one simply had to include the three words Frozen, Whiskey, and Time. Our effort is called The Wrong Shoes.



Stanley at Christmas

Stanley at Christmas

In keeping with the spirit of the season, and in response to Facebook friend, DIanne Ness, I’m posting this audio of one of my Stanley stories. Stanley is a fairy who lives under a dripping tap in my bedroom. He calls me Jack. If I’d been able to find an illustrator, his adventures would have been on the shelves by now but you’ll have to make do with me reading this one.

Stanley as envisaged by my nephew Joe Kirton

The Second Coming

I’ve been very lax about posting things this year and I think part of the reason (although it’s no excuse) may be that I find it hard to be entertaining or funny in the present socio-political climate, and I’d prefer anyone reading this to finish it feeling better than when they started. So a spoiler alert is in order – this time, you won’t.  Why not? Because nothing I’ve read or heard anywhere comes close to expressing my fears and despair better than the concluding poem.

Fears? Despair? I’m supposed to be the bloke who’s never been a depressive, finds lots of things funny, lives in the moment. Ha, maybe that’s it – maybe it’s the fault of ‘the moment’. But hang on a minute, I wrote most of what you’re about to read and posted it on another blog at a different ‘moment’ in February 2016. It was when, despite all the cock-ups, the ravages of austerity and the Old Etonian clan’s clear contempt for us lower orders, bloody Cameron (remember him?) got voted back in. And that’s one of the reasons for my title.

But it’s a title that’s been used many times before, specifically, as far as this blog’s concerned, by two writers. The first is John Niven, whose novel, The Second Coming is hilarious and not only envisages the sort of heaven I’d love to spend time (indeed, eternity) in but also gives a highly believable version of how the story of Jesus might repeat itself in a 21st  century context. I’ll get to the second writer later.

As well as having already appeared well over a year ago, the most, indeed only, powerful bit of this post was not even written by me. Sometimes, though, we need our real writers, our geniuses, to capture things, movements, stresses, fears, Jungian and Freudian nightmares which the rest of us apprehend but can’t satisfactorily fix in words. It’s not being melodramatic to find the prevailing political ideologies and rhetoric sinister, dangerous and potentially toxic.

Hang on, though – that’s how I felt in February 2016. Since then, Brexit, Trump, the feeble nobodies in (nominal and, unfortunately, actual) charge of the UK, and the fact that we’re a laughing stock in Europe and world-wide makes it seem like a Golden Age.

The messages coming down from our ‘superiors’ (i.e. Theresa May, Boris Johnson, David Davis, and the absurd Liam Fox) are predictable: ‘England’s wonderful because it had an empire; won the war; has the mother of parliaments; can manage without foreigners who, by definition, are substandard; has better human rights than Europe. Yeah, go us! Health and education are in good shape (if you can afford them). Any infrastructure still in public hands? Flog it. Single mothers? On your bikes. Tax evaders? Help yourselves. European Union? Nah, we’re bigger and better than that. Trump? What a guy!’

But, as I said, there’s nothing new there. The trouble is that – impossibly, one would have thought – it’s actually getting worse: the opening up of sour divisions between citizens who face the same ‘enemies’, share the same interests; the good old divide and rule. It’s cynical, insulting, driven by self-interest, ignorance and darkness and we’re letting it happen so here in the UK we deserve to have our arses kicked out of the organisation that’s been subsidising so much of our ‘progress’ in recent decades.

And here’s where my second title source comes in.

One morning, I heard on BBC Radio 4 a very familiar poem, written for a different troubled time (and, coincidentally, by a man with sometime fascist leanings) which (spookily) summed up the fears I had and have about what the outcomes of ‘our’ referendums and choice of government may prove to be. It’s the W. B. Yeats poem The Second Coming. It was written in 1919 but its opening stanza is almost a literal description of recent events and its shudder-inducing final image may well represent a real future.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Rule Britannia, eh?