Monday, 20 March 2017

Close Shave



Monday 13th March 2017

Not liking the waking up around six regardless of when I go to bed. Nearly two o’clock when I turned out the light. Hard to get back into the swing of regular session prep after all the work on the book. Got my two big worshops prepped but still need something for Wednesday. By the time this blog post hits Facebook I’ll have done promo for the next Poetry Jam. Don’t think the standard format poster is going to cut it. I’ve done a bit of a mock-up but it looks shit. Gonna wait until I get word back from Rose tomorrow. Chuffed the temperature has risen considerably in the last few days. No need for a hat indoors. No work on the book today. 11.15 pm.


Tuesday 14th March 2017

Rose Condo was in touch this morning.  Unfortunately she won’t be filming at Waddy, but she’ll be at Poetry Jam on 6th April with her full 'How To Starve An Artist' show. I posted the event page just before ten. Anticipating a good turn out. Today was good. I got a mint cover mocked up for the proof copy of my book. The real thing will look brilliant. Session at Waddy was relaxed. We ended up doing a Univocalism. During this evening’s class at New College I felt a bit of a sniffle coming on. I have a big Lemsip and it’ll be lights out by half ten. Already done sixteen days without a proper break. I’ll be going till Sunday if I can keep this cold at bay. Missed my stop on the bus home. Walked back from a few streets away. Cherry pie and custard for supper. Lemsip tonight, Lemsip tomorrow. 10.27 pm.


Wednesday 15th March 2017

Got a bit lost on the bus to St Cuthbert’s Hospice this morning. ‘Oh, you can’t always trust Traveline,’ said the Arriva driver, bringing me back towards Neville’s Cross. Still got there in time. Session was brilliant. Lovely place. Eleven of us in the Hawthorn Room. Simple warm-up games – absurd words, acrostic poems, objects and lies. A good hour and a half filled with fun and laughter, surreal imagery, nonsense and some cracking little pieces of poetry. A privilege to be asked to work there. Afternoon at Cambian was collaborative poems and self-editing. Went to Jenni’s this evening. It was the longest time we’ve spent together in the last two weeks. But I’ll be in Gateshead all weekend. Been averaging about five and a half hours sleep a night for the last two weeks. Then nodding off on buses and at Jen’s. No proofreading or editing since Monday. Last session tomorrow afternoon then straight home. 11.15 pm.


Thursday 16th March 2017

Great day today. Nice and warm and I got loads of proofreading done on the bus to Durham. Made some more flyers for the Rose Condo gig at Poetry Jam. Did a standard week seven conflict and suspense workshop in Newton Aycliffe. Looked at lots of flash fiction from David Gaffney and the big book of tiny stories. Been working on some final punctuation revisions on the book. Just the bike poem and ‘Haunted...’ Been battering Jen’s head for over an hour or so. Need to get fresh proofs printed out.  Have one more big read through and see how it looks. Been listening to Alison Moyet. She is touring this year. Dates announced tomorrow. 
11.57 pm.


Friday 17th March 2016

Good to have a morning in the house. Talked on phone with Sheila about final tweaks. We have quite a bit of time to get it 100%. Went to Consett for food and bank transactions. Third ream of paper in as many weeks and second toner cartridge. Went to Barry’s for my Bonners soups and curry. Saw some bloke new to the Bargain Store getting a selfie with the man himself. I’m at Jenni’s tonight.  Good to have an evening off and not talk about work so much. Enjoyed watchng The Likely Lads, drinking hot Ribena and eating crisps. Serious change of diet needed soon. Want to get out on my bike after the book launch. Probably not stand on the longboard until summer. I have a 30-min gig tomorrow lunchtime then off to The Sage for The Verb at The Free Thinking Festival at seven. Bed soon. 10.43 pm.


Saturday 18th March 2017

Had a great gig at North Tyneside Writers Circle workshop at lunchtime. Thanks to all for making me so welcome, listening to a 30-min set and chatting afterwards. Thanks for buying books and asking about upcoming events and publications.

Saw Gus Gunnion in Tesco before going to the Sage. Was shocked to hear of his health scares but he says he’s now feeling the best he’s been for decades. Free Thinking was good. Kate Fox, Richard Hawley, William Fiennes and Emmy the Great hosted by Ian McMillan. Theme was trees. Enjoyable evening – until about nine o’clock.

In addition to the hassle with lousy staff at Gateshead metro raising my blood pressure by being lax when asked to oversee dodgy ticket transaction this morning, I could have lost another of my nine lives when struck by a taxi - that made an illegal left turn at the junction near the bridge just up off the Sage - while the pedestrian crossing lights were on green. A group of women behind me were well shocked, phoned the police, took details. 'Really, I’m okay,' I said, 'I’ve had worse damage from a supermarket trolley.' I didn’t want to put anyone to any trouble. The women, however, were furious with the taxi driver.  I wasn’t thrilled about it but didn’t want the hassle of legalities. He made a stupid mistake. He was lucky. I was lucky. He wasn’t going fast.

Pleased to be back at Jen’s. Had my ravioli on toast and some crisps. WiFi signal isn’t strong. Sick of being online so much anyway. Jenni is out at a music gig somewhere up Westgate Road, Don’t expect her back before one. 11.05 pm.


Sunday 19th March 2017

Up around nine o’clock, prepared breakfast for Jenni’s guest (our friend Caroline, who was staying in the spare room) then got ready to walk back down to The Sage. Me and Jenni saw The Verb this morning, this time on Englishness. Guests were Jacob Polley, Scott Tyrrell, Beccy Owen, Rahul Kohli; and a man from Sheffield Uni – whose name I missed – reading Caedmon. Met Caroline at the Baltic for a look round the exhibitions. They were okay but nothing really noteworthy. Then a walk along the quayside looking at the market stalls. Then back to The Sage to see the Writing Life discussion featuring Simon Armitage and Alexandra Harris chaired by Philip Dodd. We got home about four o’clock. Had pizza and waffles then cherry pie with custard and attempted to stay awake during a game show and an episode of crime drama Vera. Didn’t quite manage it. Missed who committed the murder.  Bus home is the one that goes through Chopwell. Will be midnight by the time I drag my wheelie case over the doorstep. 10.37 pm.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Laughter and Chocolate



Monday 6th March 2017

Very little workshop prep today. Lucky for me we’ve reached the point in the course where it’s writing from picture prompts, so I made an A5 proof copy of LAUGHTER TO SPLIT GLASS to help me iron out my glitches. Pleased to have the day to myself to crack on. 11.47 pm.


Tuesday 7th March 2017

Session at Waddy went well. Actually came up with some imaginative stuff despite feeling a bit exhausted. Now isn’t that a funny thing. Writing from images. Hopper pix. Repeated the process at college this evening and will do so for the rest of the week. Was good to talk about performance poetry. One of the women in the group, I think, would enjoy Poetry Jam. Proofed a bit more on the bus home. 11.22 pm.


Wednesday 8th March 2017

Great to have a publishing meeting with Sheila Wakefield of Red Squirrel Press this evening. She is helping me move towards the completion of ‘Laughter to Split Glass’ with advice on the layout tweaks and proofing. We have a killer cover from my good friend Stephen J Clark, some cool blurb options and a selection from over a decade of the best material penned by Victor Meldrew’s so-called goth nephew: Diamonds of Death Street, Bible of ill Will, Oliver Dearest, Yesteryear’s Lunch, Fuck Hotels, many others; and poems cherry-picked from four years of NaPoWriMo – a full-length gig on paper; a portable rant pack, a lyrical log book of my poetry journey. But really, without Red Squirrel Press picking me up at Hexham Book Festival in 2007, things might have turned out less favourably. Many Thanks! 11.55 pm.


Thursday 9th March 2017

Computer screen went haywire today. Wrote about eight pieces in the workshop at Newton Aycliffe. Group were good. Nice to visit Mam and Ernie this evening. Mam gave me a load of chocolate and Ernie made us a meal then drove me back to Consett. Thanks to Jenni, Sheila and Valerie for feedback on the book. Looking forward to a more relaxed day tomorrow. 11.50 pm.


Friday 10th March 2017

Aye, it’s getting there. Good to hear from Sheila this morning. Nothing like a phone call from your publisher to get you in the right frame of mind for another book session. Firefox published a message saying their web browser won’t be supporting outdated Microsoft systems from September 2017. And what a coincidence; yesterday the computer shop said my desktop hassle was a driver or browser issue, not the graphics card. Today miraculously perfect again. Maybe just a sneaky prompt yesterday to upgrade. Anyway, things moving along nicely again. Reckon the book will be mint. 11.47 pm.


Saturday 11th March 2017

I started eating the odd bit of chocolate here and there about six months ago after years of abstinance. I've recently been downing a six-pack of alt-brand Mars-style bars from Barry's Bargain Store every few days. On Thursday my mam gave me four boxes of Cadbury chocolate xmas tree decorations. The first box was opened last night. The second is under way. This isn't going to end well, is it? 9.44 pm.

Another productive day. Reassuring feedback from Valerie Laws. Went into town this afternoon in the rain. Bank transactions and food supplies. I’ve got poems for at least twenty-eight workshop exercises in my new book. I’ll be able to do a ten-week course without a formal lesson plan, no sweat. Been taking it easy this evening. Watched some Alison Moyet videos, ate chocolate, sorted some acknowledgements. Good to hear from Jenni. 
11.28 pm.


Sunday 12th March 2017

Another day of book-related work. Launch notes, another read through. Great feedback from Jenni. I made a colour cover for proof copies. Sent it to Tricia Warden in New York. Massive thanks to her for a positive response. She is happy for me to use a variation of her poem title ‘Written in the Style of Yellow’ – bet you can’t guess Stevie’s colour choice – and liked my prose poem, was surprised and chuffed to be an inspiration. Bigly playing Alison Moyet today. Hope to see her in concert later this year. Lush apple and black currant doughnuts and chocolate. 
OK. 11.54 pm.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Frazzled!



Monday 27th February 2017

Didn’t get to bed till two o’clock this morning after editing and posting my long blog from half-term. Woke early with blurred vision in right eye. Did some work until lunchtime, but had to go back to bed this afternoon. This evening pretty much spent catching up on prep for the week. Legal papers, session handouts, clearing away equipment from last Sunday’s bookmaking workshop. Pretty chuffed people took time to read my long blog. Listened to The Slits this evening. Watched a bit of Venom and Classic Albums: Never Mind the Bollocks documentary. Haven’t sorted my finances yet. I’ll not be able to focus on my own stuff until Thursday afternoon. Won’t be writing much this week. 10.47 pm.


Tuesday 28th February 2017

Problems with new book this morning, so no work on Cambian Appletree group poems. Stressed all day. Session okay at Waddy. New people in the room, not enrolled on course. Evening class fine, but I’ve not been on top form today. Envisage some challenging days ahead. Workshop in Newcastle tomorrow. 
10.37 pm.


Wednesday 1st March 2017

Started a bit stressed and harassed. Four hours sleep. Printed a load of mini-zines at home for tonight, but when I began to fold them the toner came off on my hands. Seems those two for twenty-one quid cartridges are only good for white 80gsm – use coloured paper or heavier stock and toner doesn’t ‘fix’ well at all. Wasted half an hour and a fair bit of paper. Made more on Waddy printer. Proper office industrial drum toner – the good stuff. Session at Cambian was fine. Good to be back. Gentle warm-ups after the half-term break. Then a delayed bus from Meadowfield to Durham Bus Station made early arrival for relaxed set-up of Newcastle workshop impossible. Still a great little gig and enjoyable workshop. Enjoyed meeting the young people and encouraging them to write and read. Some great ‘I am’ poems at the end. Then met Jenni and went to The Goose for a carvery. Enjoyed the bigly eats and the post-food laughs. Got offered a paid slam gig. Three months to rehearse. Tempted. OK, homeward. 10.45 pm.


Thursday 2nd March 2017

Canny session at Newton Aycliffe. Great night at Poetry Jam. All the guests were spot on. Lots of great open floor. Was good to do some old NapoWriMo stuff I’ve never read before. Good to be home by half ten. Thanks Fergus. I’ve done a lot this week. Looking forward to a few days at home working on the book. 11.37 pm.


Friday 3rd March 2017

MASSIVE THANKS to all who came down to Poetry Jam last night. Sensational sets from our three fabulous guests: David Roe's The Zulu Poet is extraordinary, Amy Wardley's debut feature set was a real gem; and James Oates was dipping in and out of the back catalogue alongside unpublished work for a cracking twenty-plus minutes. Loads of top open floor readings: slam poems tested; poignant stuff, powerful messages; and some silliness just for fun. New pieces, new voices: eclectic, engaging, entertaining. We get all sorts of greatness. Thanks as ever to Waddington Street Centre for the lovely venue, and staff member Fergus for setting up the room, working the café (and lift home). Next month’s event will be an extra special one-off. If you were at Waddy last night you already know. Full details to be officially announced by Talking Pen in the next week or so. Thanks again. See you all soon. 12.27 pm.

Go ages without gigs then onstage three nights in a row. Thoroughly enjoyed Writers’ Café Fifth Birthday Party. Some brilliant turns. Loved James Wilkinson’s opening comedy song about online stalking. Good to see Asa J Maddison and Lou Driver onstage. And some people I’d never met before – serial killer for God was pretty freaky. Tony Gadd did Chunky Chips and gets stronger each time. Alix Alixandra was outstanding – love her singing. And David O'Hanlon always does well. Diane Cockburn was getting celestial in a seventies disco. Chris Stewart’s Uncle Bukowski was off the wall. Sarah Hammersley did an hilarious personal grooming poem. Jenni praised organiser and host Marie Lightman from the stage then did a revised ‘We Are Not Silent Poets’. There were numerous others: Ian Waugh with his dodgy Limericks, Mandy Maxwell on Brexit war path, Juli Watson; I did a rather sketchy version of Hypomaniac, which was probably a mistake. And of course there was the full-on surreal assault that is Jeff Potts and his chicken philosophy – what a way to end the show. Well done everyone involved. 11.42 pm.


Saturday 4th March 2017

Re-proofed all the ‘Laughter to Split Glass’ poems. The worst person, of course, to proof a book is the author – coz they see what they think is there, not what actually is. Could use a fresh pair of eyes. Been working for thirteen and a half hours. Still have acknowledgements and contents pages to check. Then all the changes to type up as a list for Gerry the typesetter to amend on PDF. How people do all this solo for novels is beyond me. 
11.39 pm.


Sunday 5th March 2017

Okay, so another full-on day of book corrections. Took about ten hours to key in nineteen pages of instructional notes. But less than ninety minutes to implement most of them on a check through a Word document copy of the manuscript on screen, ticking off as I go. Will still be going after midnight. Okay, suppertime. 11.50 pm.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

BIG WEEK OFF



Saturday 18th February 2017

Buses leave Consett for Newcastle at 3 mins past and fifty minutes past the hour on Saturday evenings. How fucking convenient. So that’s two buses within 13 minutes of each other, then fuck all for another 47 minutes. Brilliant fucking planning, absolutely! Especially as buses from Moorside to Consett are only one an hour after eight o’clock and leave a minute past the hour. So I’m sat in the bus station at quarter-past nine with a thirty-five minute wait for the bus to Jen’s place. I’ll get there about quarter to eleven. If she has no bread in the house I’ll go up to the big Tesco.

Consett seems pretty fucking deserted for a Saturday night. Wrenched my back a little hauling the wheelie case off the No 16 bus. At least it’s the smaller case this time for the bookmaking session in Seaham tomorrow. I have a spare change of clothes, some doughnuts, a box of ham trim and a tub of pease pudding. I have the manuscript for my new book ‘Laughter to Split Glass’ and a copy of Bill Drummond’s book ‘45’. I forgot to bring Black Static magazine. I will probably only see Jenni for a few minutes tonight then have to be asleep. Need to be up and out by twenty-past eight in the morning. Getting to Seaham by ten o’clock from Consett on a Sunday morning for me would be fucking impossible. Luckily, the temperature is eight degrees this evening; otherwise I’d be taking refuge in Tesco, tempted by cakes and pies, and music magazines. The bus I’m getting is actually here. It pulled into the station five minutes ago. Driver nowhere to be seen. These steel seats aren’t great for the haemorrhoids. But at least I’ve got some breathing space. Hope the workshop goes well tomorrow.

Saw a Simon Armitage book and a Steven Berkoff book in the library this morning. And the latest Consett magazine, with Lorraine Weightman’s piece in it about local theatre. I’m pleased she made a booklet of her monthly memoir pieces. I still haven’t got round to buying one off her yet. Though hopefully soon.

Bus station now has a load of kids by the door and impatient people jangling coins. I will probably fall asleep on the way to Newcastle. Hope the luggage holds up. OK. 9.27 pm.


Sunday 19th February 2017

In the bus station last night I sat for half an hour waiting to get the 45. Saturday night is bad connection night. A bunch of kids – a pack of about twenty young teens – got off the X71 bus and proceeded to board the 78A Sunderland bus and harass a couple of kids at the back. There were no other adults around save a bloke and his infant daughter. I wondered what the girls going to Sunderland must have done to warrant the pack mentality response from this other bunching screaming at them to get off the bus. The gang stayed there for a minute then got off and left the two girls alone and the bus pulled away.  But for a little while I thought it might get really nasty.

On the bus I got an awful feeling that I’d left the grill on back home. This feeling stayed with me for the remainder of the evening. I had a cheese toastie about half-past seven and I left the house at five to nine. Think I would have noticed the strong burning smell if I’d left the grill on for nearly ninety minutes. I’ve had these kind of panic doubts on numerous occasions over the years whilst on my way to somewhere that I won’t be returning from for a long time. Once, on the bus to Manchester to see The Beautiful South I thought I’d left the front door unlocked. Last year on the way to Jen’s I got to Consett and was convinced I’d left the heating on; I had to go back home and check only to find that I hadn’t. Another time I got up one morning to find I’d left the oven on for eleven hours. So, I hope I’ve got a house to go back to on Tuesday. Think I’d hear about it somehow if it happened.

I have about twenty minutes to finish this entry then an hour to get my shit together and out to Gateshead for the metro over to Sunderland. All my stuff is packed up except for food. I’ll make my ham and pease pudding sandwiches and take two doughnuts plus a snickers bar.

Fingers crossed there are no problems today. I need to allow about 45 minutes at the end of the workshop to get the books pressed. I don’t know if a group bulk of seven books will finish properly when pressed together. Usually I only do them one at a time. I might have to leave the press at the venue and go collect it on Tuesday.

I still have bad vibes about the house. I might go back home tonight to check it out. Suppose if anything was going to happen then twenty four hours would be long enough for the disaster to ensue, but it probably hasn’t.

Jenni, as soon as I started these morning pages, turned over and came in for the big cling on. Which makes writing very difficult coz I can’t support both our weights on one arm. Nearly done now though.

Wish there was some way of knowing how things are back home. I am an idiot. My levels of concentration are getting worse and worse. I’m rarely present in the moment, I’m usually thinking about the next thing. Or a distantly previous thing that may or may not have been good enough. Well, if the house is wrecked I’ve got my new book manuscript with me and a memory stick of Anomalies; and last year’s morning pages. I’d miss my book collections, my bikes and my private space; but materially, there’s not much else. I seriously hope to fuck I turned that grill off. It’s going to bug me for the whole day. What a fuck up. I don’t really like being away from home for long periods of time. Will have to be extra careful with things from now on. Getting worse. Fuck! 7.02 am.



Out early to get the Metro to Sunderland. Read a bit of Bill Drummond’s ‘45’ for a while but somewhat distracted. Had a good workshop with the East Durham Artists’ Network making hardback books. Five and a half hour session. Seven people. Good day. Went back home to check on house and drop off my bags then back to Jenni’s. She very kindly cast an eye over the manuscript of my new book. Had chips for supper. Then watched Dinner Ladies. 10.50 pm.


Work-Log: morning pages, day in Seaham doing bookmaking workshop. Five and a half hours. Proofing session with Jenni for my new book. Journal. 10.52 pm.

Thanks: to everyone at EDAN for a good workshop. To Jenni for helping on the proofing of the book. To Mandy Maxwell for sharing the previous blog post. 10.55 pm.


Monday 20th February 2017

I can breathe easy now. The workshop in Seaham went well yesterday. The books, bar one, came out okay. And my wheelie case didn’t break like last time. I took all my stuff back to Consett and checked on the house which was of course fine, but it set my mind at rest. It’s made me think about the amount of stuff I have to do – all the things I’m supposed to remember each day, the mile-long lists of things for writing sessions. I’m going to have to slow down and be more present in the moment, rather than hurtling onto the next thing.

Regarding the read-though by Jenni of my new book; some irregular use of uppercase and lowercase letters on brand names, a few commas; we ditched the last two lines of a very long list poem and changed one key word on a small piece of free verse, put italics on speech rather than speech marks. It seems like a pretty solid collection and I’ll be able to think about the set-list for the launch soon. I am going to do the alterations to the file in the library today then email it back to Sheila at Red Squirrel Press this afternoon.

The book seems to have come together okay. We’ll get the cover blurbs done soon, I think. I have one from Sophia Walker. And Sheila has sent the manuscript to Ian McMillan. Maybe use a previous bit of praise for Shades of Grey from Katie Metcalfe. Those three, plus my biog note will be enough for the back of the book.

Set-list, I think, will be a mix of big hits and the more pagey stuff. I’ll start with Terrible Business, the first poem in the book. I’m not going to do a whole run of family dysfunction stuff. I’ll probably go into Yesteryear’s Lunch pretty early. I don’t know, I’ll see how I feel over the next couple of days coz I’ll want to talk a little bit about the work, about Red Squirrel Press. I’ll mention Stephen Clark’s artwork; maybe something about those evenings in our late teens when we used to sit at the No 1 roundabout and put the world to rights. ‘Minds Like Sewage Plants’ was one title we came up with. Stephen went on to write surreal stories, a novel and other works, as well as produce an astounding array of artwork – some for book covers and record sleeves. And I do books such as ‘Tightrope Walker’ and ‘Hypomaniac’, lead writing workshops, rant and moan a lot.

I reckon I should get the ‘Laughter…’ book cover printed up as a postcard with launch info on the back, like we did for ‘Shades of Grey’. In fact I’ll just refer to the PDF of that card when I come to do the layout. See what sort of gloss card Pete can print on at Waddy. I’ll do some posters as well. And as I’ve stated on numerous mornings this year, I want to do some sort of tour. A regional one, a national one? Not sure, but for now I just want to take things easy and get this book spot on for Red Squirrel Press. Then the rest of the year is edits on other stuff.

Think I’d like to get the ANOMALIES book finished by the end of May. It should really have been finished before ‘Laughter...’ – long before. Then it’s just editing ‘2016’ morning pages – almost a quarter of a million words of them – and making a start on the selection and layout of a ‘2017’ book; I’d like to do a notebook with a few poems, some essays, some journal, morning pages, graphics, memorabilia, etc. Maybe it should just be about eighty pages. Of course, I’d lose about six to eight pages for title, verso, acknowledgements, etc. seventy-two pages divided by twelve is six pages per month. That’s only about one-and-half pages of A5 per week. Nahh, it’ll either have to be 120 pages or do one every six months. Anyway enough of my pipe dreams, rabbiting on. I need to get breakfast and surf the internet. Great times. 8.45 am.



The police are putting tape across the walkway in front of Newcastle City Library. People are trying to get in the side entrance, but a policeman tells them to walk round to John Dobson Street and go in from there. The men in the poetry section are talking about it. Apparently a young man was attacked and crawled his way up the steps. Bloodstains on the pavement? A stabbing in broad daylight on a Monday afternoon? If the young man doesn’t pull through, the guy in the library says, then it’s murder.

I am cocooned in this massive edifice of thought, learning, communication. Seated by a triangular glass table in the poetry section, having browsed Armitage, France, Graves, Kenny, McGough, I chose ‘The Door’ by Margaret Atwood. I’ve been reading her poems sporadically for over twenty five years. But her novels don’t hold me. Not many novels do. It’s a luxury to be able to just sit here on a Monday afternoon while others are working. I’m just going to sit here – quietly reading, eating my ham and pease pudding sandwiches, my salt and vinegar crisps, my orange and banana – till early evening then head off to the Lit and Phil to find out what writers are worth at a lecture on making a living with words. But for now. It’s cool just to sit here reading poems written over a decade ago by an elderly Canadian. 
5.10 pm.

Work-log: Morning pages, reconfirmed appearance at The Stanza in April, Keyed in my storage poem, did corrections on LAUGHTER and made a list of previous Urwin publications as requested by Red Squirrel Press. 5.11 pm.

Thanks: to Sheila for updates on publishing. To Jenni for all the laughs. To Newcastle library for workspace. Lush day off so far. Great to be able to just sit and read poetry in the library. 5.13 pm.


Tuesday 21st February 2017

Woke up early with Jenni about half six. TV on: women going on expeditions across snowy landscapes for three months, people who urgently need help to modify the family home because their daughter has a serious illness. Hospitals facing further budget cuts. There’s famine in the Sudan, Yemen next, as well as other areas because civil war is on the rise. There's a shortage of school teachers because people are leaving the profession in droves. But hey, if you're an investment banker and can manipulate stocks and shares you’re a fucking god; or if you can build a nuclear warhead and overthrow an enemy of the state, that's okay. There's always money for fucking war. Coz there's always money to be made from war. Money is just a fucking idea. There are plenty natural resources and willing participants so long as you feed and house them. Austerity? Economic growth? It's all bullshit! Maybe those who claim a plan to reduce world population is in place could be onto something. But you aren't going to stop people wanting to reproduce, are you? Okay, so there may be a few ‘nutters’ who just want to sit in a room and scribble delusions and if they’re very lucky they may be able to get seven grand a year to prolong their avoidance of reality; just over half the minimum wage. But mainly, people expect the good life, the one they’ve been shown, told to aspire to…  For some, it’s another case of no news is good news, and other pre-breakfast clichés.

Okay, so just crack on. Try not to let shit get you down. I'm on a go slow at present: half-term holiday. Yesterday I got the manuscript off to Sheila via the library internet. And will hopefully have blurbs done for the weekend. We have a cover image courtesy of Stephen Clark and I reckon it'll be a good book. Just over five weeks to go. I'm looking forward to it. Today I'll probably just stay at Jen's till lunchtime, working towards my gig set for the launch. This afternoon I'll have a look into the library to do some typesetting of journals and morning pages. I'll be meeting Jenni at six o'clock then we’re off to the Split Chimp on Westgate Road for Babble Gum. If I can work up a poem I'll put my name in the hat for open mic. Could do one of the pieces that I read at Poetry Jam or King Ink or The Stanza, but I'd prefer to do a piece I haven’t done before. I'm pretty much just waffling. I had the idea of putting morning pages up for my blog post this week. I reckon I will go for that actually. I'll have to key in at the library and on the tablet. I think it would be good to put up a full week of everything I've written on my big week off.

Jenni is still a tiger. She's hilarious. Her third alarm has gone off. It’s the one that prompts clothes selection and shower before leaving for the job. I'm going to get a doughnut and some peanut butter on toast them I'll check the interwebby and see what's what. I'm aiming for Alnwick tomorrow. I might go to Barter Books in the morning then come on back down to Newcastle and on to Sunderland to check out the Punk 76-78 exhibition. Then maybe the noir crime writing event. I think it will be good to get some cultural nourishment. A big Explorer ticket will get me about the region for less than a tenner. Can buy some stuff to stick in sandwiches and have a bit of a wander. That will be good. Then I'll take Thursday to Saturday to prep for next week.

Last night's ‘What Are Writers Worth?’ lecture at the Lit and Phil didn't really tell me much that I didn't already know about the situation for creative writers in the UK. You don't choose to be a writer for the money; there fucking isn't any! Well, you can't afford to have a family and nice middle class life on the proceeds of scribbling make-believe, unless you're really fucking lucky. Most fiction writers earn less than minimum wage for their efforts. Go fucking figure. 7.55 am.



Jen went out to work. I lay in bed till nine. TV still on, the same three or four stories on rotation every half hour. I just switch off a lot of the time.

This morning I edited a new little thing into a poem. Then worked on the gig set for my book launch. There are over twenty poems that I consider to be big performance pieces and another twenty that are solid alternatives, then some shorter things that could be interspersed throughout the set. But I’ll only use about a fifth of the material in the allocated thirty minutes.

I had a slow walk into Newcastle after my chicken soup for the soul – well, the body actually; not bad, those Tesco own brand tins. The library is still cordoned off round the side. I keyed in material for a few hours – two on the library desktop and an hour on my tablet. The same guys who were seated near the poetry section were back today. The young man who was attacked outside yesterday is going to be okay, apparently.

Jenni arrived just after five. I’d already eaten the last of my ham and pease pudding sandwiches but still went off in search of a sweet treat. A Cadburys fudge from Sainsbury’s.

Got some cash out of the machine for Jenni. Sat in the Lit and Phil for a while. I like the comfy leather chairs and wanted to just sit and drink my Tango apple juice. But Jenni wanted to move on so we made our way down to the Split Chimp micro pub.

I put my name down for the Babble Gum open mic. And what do you know, I got picked out first. I did the thing I keyed in this morning. Should’ve read it from the tablet instead of scrawl on lined paper. It’s okay, but I need to do it better. I used to read stuff to tape, play it to death, rework the delivery a dozen times. Maybe need to start doing that again.

Anyway, the night was good. Lots of open mic drawn from the hat by Jenni Pascoe: Aidan Clark, Mark Smith, Charley Reay, James Fisher and others. The folk-influenced music from Tamara and Mae was outstanding. Good set from James McKay who read very old Tyneside stuff that had never been aired before. Enjoyed his delivery. Joshua Judson is writing 1,000 poems this year; he’s up to one hundred and fifty and shared some sonnets and other stuff with us. Enjoyed Ken Creen on the open mic again with a poem of French phrases that may have to be axed from English speech in light of Brexit. Another good mini-set of Ken Brady’s stand-up comedy. Ian Waugh did his Kibble dog sketch dialogue. I was at Scratch when he wrote that. Good to hear it again. Brilliant poem from David Roe about the death of a teenager. I’ve seen Catherine Ayres a few times in recent months; she had to compete with the background noise from the bar below and train overhead, but read brilliantly from her new book Amazon – plus a couple of new things, including a piece about thinking of friends which was very touching. Again, good night hosted by Matt Miller.

Jenni went to the Head of Steam afterwards. I got a lift to Tesco with Ben Dickenson and Sky Hawkins. Checked out the music magazines and bought supplies for tomorrow. 11.46 pm.


Work-log: Morning pages, edited a small poem about snoring. Started on the set for book launch. Into town to key in everything from Saturday night onwards. Open mic at Babble Gum. 
11.48 pm.

Thanks: To Jenni for the space to write without having to deal with Consett distractions. To everyone at Babble Gum for a great night. Enjoyed all the acts. Tamara and Mae, open mic people, James McKay, Joshua Judson and Catherine Ayres. Great stuff. Thanks to Matt Miller for hosting and Jenni for running the open mic. OK. 11.50 pm


Wednesday 22nd February 2017

Half way through another notebook. Enjoyed Babble Gum last night but the noise from the bar downstairs was very distracting. Discussed this with Sky Hawkins. Gave her a copy of my Babble Gum set booklet from last month.

It’s just gone eight o’clock. I’m aiming for Alnwick this morning. Need to get up and be ready by about half nine. I have chocolate chip cookies and I’ll make some peanut butter sandwiches. Need a shave. I’m going to have a little look in Barter Books then come back down to Sunderland to check out the Punk 76-78 exhibition. Must take my big self to the bank again for cash.

TV news now on. £6.7 million repair bill for Britain’s old schools. Jenni is taking the piss out of someone who is saying that ‘the deterioration will continue to deteriorate’. Blustery winds today. But it should stay dry and there won’t be snow until tomorrow. I’ll be home by then with a lot of work to do. Keyed in a load of stuff yesterday. Just wanted to put a bit more into the blog while I’m off to show a contrast between the working week and one where I’m free to wander.

Tiger Jenni is up and about, despite only going to bed at half two this morning. She has a health meeting first thing and is working twelve till eight this evening. I don’t think she’ll be going to any events.

I’m hoping to get word on a book blurb this week. I’ve got a few more tweaks to do on the big ‘What Am I? #2’ poem. Think I need bigger handwriting or font onstage. Not so confident reading new pieces at present. Need to rehearse a bit more.

FUCK THIS CUNTING WIND! It’s really getting bad. Hope it all fucks off bigly soon. At least I don’t have any workshops this week. OK. 8.17 am.



The bus up to Alnwick being a furnace and lovely clear skies almost made it feel like summer. Until I alighted and was buffeted by the wind. Bought a pie in Morrisons and walked by the Playhouse. I’d like to come back to do a gig in Alnwick, but I don’t think the Bailiffgate nights are running anymore. Good to talk to Ann Porro in Barter Books and pick up an original cover paperback copy of Clive Barker’s WEAVEWORLD. Checked out the poetry section. Was tempted by a couple of slim volumes from John Hegley and a Helen Mort pamphlet, but opted for the novel. A bargain at just £1.80.

Now on my way back south and aim to be at the Punk 76-78 Exhibition by about four o’clock. 2.33 pm.

Unfortunately the Sunderland Museum shuts at four and I didn’t get there till half past so unable to see the exhibition. I’ll try to catch it before closing on Saturday afternoon. I stayed in Newcastle this evening – library and Eldon Square – then went to meet Jenni from work. Went back to hers for a while and ate chocolate caramel. Some bloke pissed on the floor on the bus home. Got here at quarter to midnight. My DBS form arrived; covered at Waddy till 2020. OK. 11.52 pm.


Work-log: Morning pages, email checks, offered a gig near Otterburn. Journal. 11.54 pm.

Thanks: Ann Porro for chat in Barter Books this afternoon. Jenni for checking out transport for a gig and David Roe for inviting us to perform. 11.55 pm.


Thursday 23rd February 2017

Complained to Jenni last night about Sunderland Museum closing at four o’clock. Such bullshit, especially during half-term. She says the whole city closes pretty much by five except for pubs and takeaways; basically just a bigger version of Consett. Well, I’ll know for next time. I should have gone to Sunderland first, then up to Alnwick later in the afternoon. Barter Books is open till seven. I could have stayed in there a good few hours. But I’ll go back soon. Maybe I could take some of my unwanted poetry zines, ones I’ll never re-read, and exchange for others. Or maybe I should continue to hold onto everything; maybe I should have my own little poetry kiosk somewhere, my own little lending service. Most of my books are just sitting on shelves, tucked away in cupboards. It’s a nice idea to let people make use of them, but like most ideas it would take a lot of time and energy to bring to fruition. I can lie here and dream up any number of schemes and projects before breakfast, but sustaining focus and fitting them in around workshops and time on the road (sometimes four or five hours during a busy working day) is nigh on impossible.

So, it’s Thursday morning and I’m back in Moorside. On my trip to the toilet I noticed that there’s no snow yet, and the wind has dropped considerably. Maybe Storm Doris will decide not to pay us a visit today.

Earlier I dreamt that a guy bought my new book from Forbidden Planet. I doubt very much that ‘Laughter to Split Glass’ will be stocked there. But, to be fair, they did take five copies of ‘There Are Easier Ways of Living than Bleeding to Death’ back in the nineties. I don’t care much for the layout and décor of the superstore that just opened a few doors down from their previous premises on Grainger Street. The new place looks like a huge minimalist mobile phone shop or clothing outlet – acres of blank space and a few multiple quantity items displayed on the periphery. I think genre shops should be cosy and crammed – a bit dusty, a bit dingy, have a bit of an old backstreet shop feel, not some aircraft hangar of contemporary art vibe. But what do I know, I don’t buy comics or sci-fi or Manga or anything like that anyway. And there’s a Travelling Man not a stones throw away from FB with an indy press section that stocked three or four of my DIY publications last year. Then there’s the Geek Retreat over the road. Maybe the megastore is the future, but I prefer the crammed ‘old station’ feel of Barter Books in Alnwick any day.

I’m now aiming to get over to the Punk 76-78 exhibition on Saturday. Viv Albertine (The Slits) is doing a reading and interview at 2.00 pm but it’s sold out. I’d hazard a guess that the event will take place in the exhibition space, so that would require me to be there by lunchtime in order to have a good look at the memorabilia for a couple of hours. I’d best check. It will be good to just stay at home today and catch up on typing.

I read the opening passages of WEAVEWORLD when I got to bed last night, but at 700+ pages I think it’s one to set aside for the end of term. I still haven’t put much of a dent in the Bill Drummond book. Or Black Static magazine. That old Schopenhauer idea: ‘purchase of a book should include time required to read it’, or words to that effect.

Anyway, no use crying over spilt milk. Unless there’s a poem to be had from it, of course. Must remember to order a new toner cartridge. 9. 11 am.



‘To Do’ List 23/2/17

1)  Check bus times for Saint Cuthbert’s
2)  Key in Appletree poems and make preliminary 20 page booklet
3)  Key in all the journal stuff
4)  ORDER TONER CARTRIDGE
5)  Check travel for Redefest and get back to David
6)  Look at Katie quote / blurbs / biog
7)  Tweak ‘What Am I? #2’
8)  Ask Cheryl for number of participants at Streetwise
9)  Edit some 2016 manuscript
10) Find two poems for Poetry Jam
11) Previous Waddy Lesson plan type-up
12) Prep for Tuesday afternoon and evening
13) Ring Saint Cuthbert’s to arrange first session
14) Do blog post for Monday evening
15) Contents lists / page numbers for ‘Anomalies 1989-2014’
16) INVOICE EDAN
17) Email the College with new course titles / ideas




Can’t believe how little I got done today. Put the computer on to be met with email requests for stuff which, during half-term, I should just fucking ignore. Then hours spent trying to get a docx to open from an android attachment sent to desktop. Corrupted file, I find out after emailing Jenni. At least I got to watch the BBC Tom Waits documentary and planned a poetry / performance taster session for next Wednesday, but I read fuck-all except bits and bobs on Facebook. Oh, and the excellent article from NARC by Jenni Pascoe on getting into performance poetry. Well done, there. Listened to a few tracks by Echo and the Bunnymen, having read a bit about them recently in Bill Drummond’s ‘45’ book. I never liked them much at school. They sound okay to me now, but I can’t commit to taking on someone’s entire back catalogue on a whim, especially with my shit short term memory/retrieval. Swans have added more UK dates for May. Doubt I’ll be going though. This pen is really scratchy. OK. 
11.40 pm.


Work-log: Morning Pages, session plan for next Wednesday at Streetwise, ordered new toner cartridges, did totally frustrating urgent paperwork requested this morning, then an evening of trying to sort out why a file transferred from android tablet to desktop wouldn’t open. Read Jen’s article on spoken word, passed ideas back and forth. Journal. OK. 11.44 pm.

Thanks: Jenni for help with corrupted file, Waddy’s Ali Lee for feedback on paperwork. iPlayer for Tom Waits documentary. OK. 11.45 pm.


Friday 24th February 2016

Biros drag; and Tesco gel pens, although pretty good, have a wide line to begin with, but get pretty scratchy when they run low on ink. Thanks to Jenni for buying me a few of these Mitsubishi UM-170 Uni-ball SIGNO Gelstick 0.7 pens – lush to write with first thing of a morning.

Now, where did the last six-and-a-half hours go? In fact, where the fuck did yesterday go? Was good to see the Tom Waits documentary last night. Haven’t paid much attention to his back catalogue since Bone Machine in 1992. In all the time since, I think he’s only made two visits to the UK for concerts: one London appearance in 2004, and two nights each in Edinburgh and Dublin on the ‘Glitter and Doom’ tour in 2008. Face value tickets for Edinburgh Playhouse were £102.50. That’s pretty fucking outrageous, to be honest. How did shows get so expensive? Probably when music became available for free on the internet.

I don’t think SWANS will be coming back to Newcastle. In addition to London and Manchester, cities added recently are Leeds, Sheffield, Birmingham and Bristol. I don’t think I’d go see them again. It will be good to see Einsturzende Neubauten in May at The Boiler Room in Newcastle. Be good to get this fucking entry done too.

I will mostly be at the computer keying in all my stuff today. And I’ll do more in transit tomorrow after the Punk 76-78 exhibition and again on Sunday afternoon in Newcastle City Library when Jenni is at her book club.

It would be good to get some weekend workshops. It would be good to do another writing marathon. Perhaps I should have booked one for April. I’ll be busy for a while in the run up to the book launch, rehearsing my set and doing bits and pieces of promotion. I think after ‘Laughter to Split Glass’ there’ll be a good few years before I get another substantial batch of poems together. I scribble like hell all the time, but so little of it actually becomes poetry.

This week has flown by. Although it was nice to be out and about I don’t feel that ‘days away’ are always a good use of my time. After a week of those I’d need a week to get back into my routine and catch up with all the stuff I’ve let slide.

My head is itchy. My scalp is dry. I thought: no hair, no dandruff. But that’s not the case. I glance up at the side of the chest of drawers by the bed: Julia Eff in goth make-up is giving the camera the finger; and a seated, black-clad Lydia Lunch looks absolutely menacing. I’m sure they both have good days; I mean, Lydia published a cookbook, so it can’t all be doom and gloom – I saw her smile on a video once; and Julia can be funny too – little DIY publication on Goth skincare should be hitting my door mat this week. I love Julia’s zines; the graphics are always brilliant, the writing highly charged, angry, witty, funny – brutal in places. Excellent!

I wonder if I’m going to freeze again today. I want to be at the computer and typing by eight o’clock. No more fucking around. Must remember to message Cheryl from Helix Arts to ask how many teenagers will be at the poetry taster workshop next week. Still need to confirm a date for the start of the course at Saint Cuthbert’s. Busy, busy – will I ever catch up with my own stuff? 7.32 am.

Okay, so self-referential journal entry number ten thousand and something. Been at the computer most for the day. Proofreading takes a hell of a long time. But it’s much better with the Alison Moyet albums playing one after another on Spotify all day. If she tours ths year I’ll be going. Seriously, her voice is mint.  I’m still waiting on my ‘Are You There Brian? It’s Me, Moisturizer – Skincare for Spooky Kids’ zine from Julia Eff’s Crapandemic Store Envy shop. Hopefully here tomorrow. I’ve only been out briefly to get strawberry cheesecake flavour Oreo biscuits, a one pound pizza and some black currant juice. Haven’t shaved my scalp for a week. only had the heating on a few hours today. Haven’t done much proper work. Making books takes a fucking long time. The big ‘2016’ thing will be a bugger to edit. 10.40pm.


Saturday 25th February 2017

Tinnitus, weak bladder, bleary eyes, snotty nose. Aches in the ankles, the spine, the knees, the wrists. Welcome to middle age. Ha, like I’m going to make it to ninety-four. I’ll be lucky to keep this chassis in service till I’m seventy. From the age of fifteen onwards I’ve never been able to imagine myself reaching the next decade. I don’t really feel all that much older in my thinking. When I was in my early twenties I wanted to be older in order to justify all the grumpy thoughts that don’t sit well on a young man. Too cynical for my years. But when you’re getting on, over the hill, it’s okay to be disillusioned with life.

I don’t really have much wisdom to impart. I am a creature of habit. Silly routines like scribbling pretty much the same shit in three different notebooks daily. All I can tell you is what I did, what I remembered and what was important to me at the time of composition. My memory is bad. I’m a poor speller and I’m too impatient to hang around and glean the full picture. I struggle to sit still long enough to absorb a novel. In my twenties I could do it. After a forty hour grey breeze block cold steel shelved warehouse working week I could hide out for two whole days reading Charles Bukowski, Paul Auster, Samuel Beckett, Knut Hamson, and numerous others I’ve now forgotten. I used to read a book pretty much cover to cover. I’d listen to Radio 4 programmes, watch Late Review on BBC2, record as many arts programmes to audio and video as possible. I still have some of those recordings and refer to them in my writing workshops and lesson planning.

I never actually went to a creative writing workshop till I was nearly thirty. I tried an English course at the local college in my teens; I showed the teacher a piece of my prose and was told I’d easily pass an exam with more of the same, but perhaps I should try to relax a bit and expand the narrative. My natural instinct is to compress narrative. It’s why I like to read flash fiction – really short stuff, less than three hundred words, sometimes only half that length. I also like poems that aren’t multi-layered with far too many similes and metaphors. I like clear snapshots, mini stories, slices of life. In the moment stuff. I never try to be clever with my words. Just honest and faithful to the experience. Sometimes I scribble dreams, sometimes I steal the speech of total strangers whose faces I’ve never seen because they boarded the bus before me and sat behind someone I didn’t take much notice of. I don’t really go in for poetry by numbers; I’m not a builder of intricate rhyme schemes. I want to get a quick sketch down and then leave it in a notebook for a couple of months, maybe years, to ferment.

When I was in my late teens to early twenties I didn’t have a stockpile of written material and couldn’t really wait around. I was craving the poem, the story. I rarely wrote beyond my own personal experience and still don’t because I don’t think it’s my place to write about the lives of others. I’d much rather they wrote their own stories. In workshops, I’m all for encouraging people to be themselves, to use exercises and techniques that will lead to autobiographical poems and stories. Of course I show the nuts and bolts of short stories as well. But every piece of fiction I try to write ends up revealing more about my personal experience and that of people I’ve known rather than being a work of pure invention. Characters are composites of people. I make up very little – confessional rather than creative. I often change the names and gender to protect the guilty. The innocent need no disguise. What’s that line: give a man a mask and he will reveal himself? Some of my stuff might be fiction, exaggerated truth, some of it is surreal stream of consciousness – but most of it is just ‘What I Did Today’ or yesterday.

It would be nice to have all the time in the world to pursue experiences worth committing to paper and the time to write about them. It would be a luxury to have a secretary – someone to go through all the notebooks, type them up and email the text back to me so I could chop and change and prune at leisure, then send it off to a proof reader. Most of my personal creative energy is spent typing stuff up and editing it. I usually have other people’s creativity to put before my own on a weekly basis. I can’t imagine trying to proofread a novel. Typing is laborious and I rarely compose anything straight from the keyboard, so I’m always doing the work at least twice. Takes me all my time just to stay afloat. 7.33 am.

Julia Eff’s new zine “Are You There Brian, it’s Me – Moisturizer” hit the mat this morning. Full colour cover with a picture of a smiling Marilyn Manson sporting Micky Mouse ears, b/w handwritten illustrated pages with Julia’s inimitable layout skills cranked up to eleven. At 47, I’m a bit late for tips on skincare and shaving off eyebrows. But this guide for spooky kids is really informative. Which products to buy, which to avoid. How to look after your face and how to decorate it properly. Goths and horror make-up maniacs, you need this in your life. I am decrepit, way beyond fucked, but with Julia’s expert advice you can stay youthfully ghoulish for decades. Keep it going Julia Fucking Eff. You rock!

Also in the airmail envelope was “Hell Will Be Easy” – a 72 page typed and illustrated chapbook zine of dirty stories from Marina Morrissey. Very much out of my comfort zone – fictitious sexual exploits of various alt / goth rockers in abundance. The first story made me feel dirty, voyeuristic. It took me twenty minutes on the Sunderland bus to recover. I don’t do erotic literature, so it’ll take me a long time to get through these nine stories of perversion and depravity, but I do appreciate the time and care that went into presenting them in this Crapandemic release. And I am always willing to support my favourite zinester and her label whenever possible – so long as it doesn’t lead to prosecution. And who knows, this particular volume might become a collectors item. Now, can we have something nice and wholesome about gardening or stamp collecting to take our minds off all the sordidness? After all, it’s only another hour till lunchtime. 
11.10 am.

Yeah, Barry’s Bargain Store stacked all the peanut caramels (Snickers copies) and caramel biscuits fingers (Twix copies) on top of the smooth caramel (Mars copies) but I found a hole in the bottom box and got me a five-pack of my favourites for a mere fifty pence. Another forty pence got me a five-bag pack of fish and chips snacks. Consett was pretty empty due to a late visit from Doris, or one of her blustery cousins.

Anyway, I’m still on the 78 to Sunderland. Now hitting Woodstone Village near Lumley brickworks and still almost half an hour before I reach Park Lane Interchange. Today I will see the Punk 76-78 exhibition if it kills me. I wonder if people are allowed to take photographs? 11.17 am.


So, I got to the exhibition. Just inside the entrance, I looked at a blow-up display of an early punk family tree, some timeline details from 1976, a few front pages of newspapers following the Grundy interview and subsequent punk explosion, then a voice came over the loudspeaker: This exhibition is now closed for a private event. I couldn’t fucking believe it. “You are shitting me!” I went up to a member of the museum staff and told them it took me two hours to get there, asked if it was going to stay closed all day and yes, of course it was. “Bloody hell!” I said, “this is the second time this week I’ve tried to see this exhibition and I’m going to miss it again!”

A woman nearby setting up a table by one of the exhibits was talking to Viv Albertine. The woman came over and said I could stay a little while to have a quick look round. But a quick look wasn’t going to fucking cut it, was it? There’s was a lot to see. I debated whether to have a mad dash round the whole thing or just continue taking my time to read all the information cards at the side of the exhibits.

Another woman with a black bob framing a kind face came over and said, “I hear you’ve had a bit of a journey, take as much time as you like, so long as you don’t mind us setting up in the background.”

Viv Alberine finished checking out the space for her book talk appearance this afternoon and left. I got back to looking at the fanzines and the MaClaren Westwood t-shirts, the Situationist hardback book under glass and some early graphics from Jeremy Reed. It took me a good hour to get round all the exhibits – The Vulture Books of Baby Berlin, all the record sleeves; Rat Scabies’ motorcycle jacket with the letter of thanks he wrote when he returned the garment decades later as a gift to Lewis Leathers, the shop who sold it to him originally; the Rock against Racism stuff and John Peel’s personal copy of Teenage Kicks by The Undertones; the rehearsal sheets written in biro by Johnny Rotten. I wish I’d had longer to take notes. One of the technicians apologized for placing some sound equipment on the case of an exhibit. “No problem,” I said. “Just pleased to be here.” Having clocked Viv earlier I was now keen to see her talk and asked the guy if there was any possibility that in the event of a no-show from some of the ticket holders I could buy a place in the audience. 
“It’s worth a try,” he said.

Twenty minutes later, after listening to an excerpt of an upcoming film about the women of punk through headphones, the woman who granted me extra time asked if I’ve enjoyed it and said a couple from Blackpool were now coming to have a look round. I took the hint and thanked her then repeated my query about the book talk. “Come back at twenty to two,” she said, “and we’ll see what we can do.”

I went up Holmeside for a bacon sandwich and returned five minutes early. The same black clad member of staff approached all smiles and said, “You don’t know how lucky you are.” She pointed to a smartly dressed middle-aged couple seated by the exhibition door. “Two people here have a spare ticket” she said. I thrust a tenner into the hand of the woman that I later learned was called Kath and thanked all involved. There was an awkward silence as we waited and the queue grew down the stairs. Kath asked if I’ve travelled far. “Not far exactly”, I said, “but it took a long time on public transport.” She was from Sunderland, so had obviously heard of Consett.

Ten minutes later we we’re in the exhibition space. Front seats before a tiny raised platform with two comfy chairs on it. The place filled up and Marie Nixon, one of the former members of the band Kenickie, took to the stage followed by Viv Albertine. Short questions from Marie prompted long monologues from Viv on fashion, life in the seventies, punk, going down on Johnny Rotten, playing with and leaving The Slits, twenty years of creative indolence, marriage and parenthood, divorce triggered by objections to her picking up the guitar again. She did about an hour then nipped out to the toilet. There were a few questions upon her return which she answered for twenty minutes mainly on the legacy of punk. “The exhibition, both here and in London, is total tat,” she said, and expressed the opinion that modern art and music are no longer mediums for radical change. But I don’t care. I love the Pistols, I loved hearing her talk about the seventies, I love the DIY ethos, the imagery. I don’t give a fuck if it’s deemed totally and utterly passé – the music still sounds every bit as vibrant as when I first heard it in Gary Bibby’s garage in my early teens, almost a decade after the fact. I’m really chuffed to have had this as the grand finale to my big half-term week off.

After the Q & A, Viv went to the end of the room and began signing books, speaking to all who queued up to meet her. I mentioned what she’d said about the pace of life in the seventies, the lack of technology and resources that kids now take for granted, the time it took to get anywhere and do anything then, as opposed to now. “You were pretty angry at lunchtime,” she said.We laughed and she signed a copy of ‘CLOTHES CLOTHES CLOTHES MUSIC MUSIC MUSIC BOYS BOYS BOYS’: To Steve, love from Viv Albertine X and added Glad you got in. I shook her hand. “All the best Viv.”

On the way out I spoke to the man whose partner sold me the ticket. “Pleased it went to a worthy person,” he said. Thanks to Russell and Kath, I had a far greater experience at Punk 76-78 than expected.

“Ya jammy lil’ bugger, ya!” Jenni posted on Facebook. When I got back to Bensham she said it was highly appropriate that 'kicking off ' got me a private view in the punk exhibition. She made us a lush tea of vegetables with steak pie for me, and vegetarian cottage pie for herself. We watched Let it Shine and Taggart on TV, had lots of laughs and all the bigly cuddles. Great day! 
10.35 pm. 


Sunday 26th February 2017

Wrote a bit more about the exhibition in my morning pages today but it was really just a rehash of what I said in the previous entry. Jenni didn’t go to her book club as she is feeling a bit under the weather. I typed and edited in the library this afternoon for a couple of hours then returned to Bensham. Jenni told me the lad who got stabbed last Monday didn’t make it. Also learned via Facebook that veteran longboarder Victor Earhart was killed in a road accident whilst riding his motorcycle last December. He was seventy years old. 11.50 pm.