Thursday, 13 October 2016

You're the Worst, 'You're the Worst'

I see the producers of 'You're the Worst' decided to turn this blog into a television show without asking or paying the author. Well I noticed and I'm examining my options you thieving bastards.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Back and to the Left

I have finally accepted that Sid has failed to find a publisher for my blog (as apparently "writers writing about writers writing is self-indulgence on an obscene level" - Harper Collins) and have reopened the page so people can consume it for free, which seems to be the standard now anyway. All art will become a hobby.

This is the original first draft that poured out of me moments after the events described unfolded, when I was still deeply affected, often lying behind the sofa pressed up against the wall with the water damage. I did rewrite the blog for submission, but clearly not to a high enough degree. Remember, the posts appear in reverse order. Obviously.

My new blog is at See you there.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Thanks for reading this blog...

Sid thinks that we should submit it as a novel so I'm trying to rewrite it to make it entertaining. I'll close the blog in a few weeks to non-subscribers while we collect rejections.

I have to go, I have a late shift at Bid TV. For now, so long.

Friday, 26 December 2008

The End

I was up into the opening hours of Christmas Day after everyone else, involuntarily glancing every few minutes at the fireplace below the hanging stockings. It isn’t even a real fireplace and there is no chimney, so I’m not sure what my eyes were hoping to catch.

My belief in the existence of Father Christmas was rudely shattered one year when my mother burst into my bedroom at one am, throwing my presents onto the foot of my bed and saying ‘There’s no point in pretending anymore, is there?’ Both my siblings are older than me and I suppose my mum and dad had just become tired of the whole ordeal. Although, to be fair, I was thirteen.

Last night I was holding a microphone plugged into my laptop and attempting to record an audiobook version of my late novel with the intention of selling it on iTunes, with or without Harper Collins’ backing. I was, of course, also drinking whisky and I remember little of the process after chapter three. Listening back to it this morning, wearing a garish, hot, itchy jumper my sister Sharon gave me, I am disappointed with the results. My flat monotone becomes more erratic as the story progresses until I am babbling incoherently. It is, frankly, shit. I will send the novel to a professional next week - David Attenborough, perhaps - and try to drum up some interest.

We are at Sharon’s for Christmas. She has the biggest house in the family because her ex-husband possesses a successful company and enough guilt to pay handsomely for Sharon and their kids’ lifestyles without having to see them. Sharon is constantly elated because she never liked men very much but wanted kids and security and now she has both without the man. She certainly doesn’t need a new kitchen from me.

Brian, of course, showed up alone. He claims that he has several women he sees casually, and we all gleefully make fun of him whenever he says this. It is a rare bonding exercise for the family – albeit at the exclusion of one of us - and we seize the opportunity frequently. In fact, all our joyful moments are at the expense of one of us; Sharon’s suspected borderline lesbianism, my father’s habit of marrying any woman who shows an interest in him, my little sci-fi nonsense novel. To be honest, I believe they cross the line with me, and it is genuinely hurtful.

My father has brought a new flame along. She is disappointingly nice. Somehow it seems wrong that he is walking around happy when my mother is dead. But it makes things easier to have someone we can like. We all tell her they’ll be married in a few months if she’s not careful. This makes her uncomfortable.

I tell Cheryl that she should have one of my sister’s cigarettes. A couple of weeks ago Cheryl smoked her first cigarette for three years on a night out with friends. At first I was annoyed but after realizing that it might be nice to have a few bonus years of bachelorhood at the end of my life, I have been encouraging her to take up the habit again. Brian, Sharon and I are already involved in a three-way sibling death-race featuring food, cigarettes and alcohol, but there’s always room for late entries.

“I don’t want one,” she hisses.

“Spoil sport,” I say.

Sharon’s dinner is uncharacteristically delicious and I gorge myself on sausages and turkey and stuffing and potatoes and my annual Brussels sprout.

Afterwards I unpack my Wii and the family takes turns to play the bowling game. My father’s girlfriend lets her controller slip out of her hand as she bowls and it shatters on the TV screen. She is mortified and secretly I am pleased to have a foothold of some kind over her. My five year-old nephew, George, has a supernatural ability at the game and embarrasses us all.

Afterwards, the kids fight in the front room over their new toys and the adults sit in the living room, half-watching a film and slowly digesting the meal but constantly topping ourselves up with chocolate.

Brian sits slightly apart from us and says very little. I realize that I will never understand anything about him and I accept it.

Sharon buzzes around, topping up drinks and offering snacks around and filling all the conversational lags that threaten to become silences.

My father seems happier than I can remember him in many years, and he surprises me by quietly saying to me, “It’s a bit violent your novel, isn’t it?”

“It is a bit, yeah,” I say.

“Makes sense at the end, though."

“Good,” I say. “Thanks.”

And then I go to the toilet and splash water on my face and realize that I am genuinely emotional for the first time since I saw Edward Scissorhands.

Later, in the guest bedroom, Cheryl lies on the bed, half-drunk and exhausted. I slowly empty my pockets onto a chest of drawers.

“When are you next working?” Cheryl asks me.

“New Year’s Day. Six am early shift.”


“Yeah. Although if I’m still drunk I find the first half of the shift goes a lot quicker.”

“I’m so glad I have the holidays off this year,” she says. “Saturday can we just stay at home all day and lie on the couch?”

“Maybe. Sid texted though. I might be having my first rehearsal with Down Wit’ It that day.”

“Oh. Fun.”

“Yeah.” I sit on the bed and pull my jeans off and then suddenly lose all the energy required to do anything more.

“Are you okay?” Cheryl says.

“Yeah,” I say. I sit and stare at the wall for a long time.

“What’s wrong?”

“I think I’ve just hit middle age,” I say. “Right then. Thirty seconds ago. I thought it was when my back went out last year but no. This is it. This moment of realisation.”

“What realisation?” Cheryl says. I can hear her popping the cap off some kind of cream she smears on her face.

“It’s too pathetic to talk about, really. I just… I always wanted to be different. I know everyone does but I did too, and I kind of thought that I was different, that I would actually be one of the people who did something interesting. And then I went and did all the ordinary things anyway. I actually got married. I mean, how boring, how average, can you get? I’m a thirty-two year-old man, married, who doesn’t own a house, who has to work for a living.

“I thought that getting a novel published would validate everything in my life. That it would excuse my bad behavior – past, present and future – and that everyone would look at me in a different light. But it hasn’t changed a thing. Maybe if I had sold a million copies but not…three hundred or whatever it was.”

“That can’t change who you are, what you do,” Cheryl says to my back. “Only being a better person can make you feel better about yourself.”

“I know. I just…thought I’d feel fulfilled, maybe. That I would have achieved my life’s goal and could live the rest of my life satisfied somehow. But it never stops. There’s no…completeness. Life just plods on in its mundane routine.”

Cheryl puts her hand on my back. “The things that make you happy are always closer to home. The most basic human needs and urges. The cycle of life. If you want to give your life meaning then maybe now’s the time for us to start trying to have a baby. A little son or daughter to pass everything on to and pour your life into.”

“I’m not sure if I’m that empty yet,” I say.

“It would make me happy. To move back to America and start a family near my parents. If you can never be content, if you’re going to be miserable no matter what then at least give me the opportunity to be happy.”

I sigh and lie down next to her. “Okay. Throw your Pills away, then.”

“So romantic.”

I kiss her, and then, for better or worse, I give in to her again.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Clean Break...

Firing Sid is largely a symbolic gesture. With agents, as with girlfriends, it’s probably better to find a new one before getting rid of the old, but (as with girlfriends) this is easier said than done. But as we approach the beginning of a new year, I’m all about clean breaks and fresh possibilities. It is the only way I have managed to keep remotely upbeat in the last week.

The simple truth is that Sid is no longer effective in any business capacity, and he will probably interpret the termination of our professional relationship as the firing of him as a friend. Which is, of course, part of the problem. This is the first time I’ve had to sack anyone since I got rid of the Colombian drummer of my old rock band. He was the most popular member but he couldn’t play in time. But as Cheryl says, Sid’s in a ‘gots-to-go situation’.

He’s already in the pub when I arrive, drinking with two long-haired surly seventeen year-olds in trench coats. He introduces them as Down Wit’ It, an urban drum and bass duo. They stare menacingly at me and I don’t bother trying to shake their hands. I buy Sid a beer but ignore them. Sid gives them some pound coins and they sulk off to the pool tables.

“I’m excited about this,” Sid tells me. “They’re good kids. Very talented. Could be huge.”

“You’re definitely moving into the music business then?”

“Why not?” Sid says. “Don’t worry about your career, though. I won’t let them overshadow our relationship.”

“Sid, I don’t have a career.”

“You need to diversify,” he tells me. “Fingers in pies. You could join Down Wit’ It and be a novelist and a musician.”

“I'm not that desperate," I say. "What do you know about drum and bass anyway? Do you actually like their music?”

“I haven’t heard them yet, I must admit. But it all sounds the same, that stuff, doesn’t it? It’s all about aesthetics and they’ve got It, haven’t they? The X Factor. Look at them.”

I watch the pale spotty kids playing in silence and missing balls and find myself nodding my head. Then I try to summon a grave, troubled expression in an attempt to encourage him towards asking me what’s wrong, at which point I would sigh and look down at my hands until he coaxes it out of me. But he is totally oblivious of my efforts.

“Here,” he says. “I’ve been seeing a girl from the Singles Club for a few weeks now. Things are going really well.”

“That’s great.”

“Yeah. Trouble is… It’s been so long that I’ve kind of forgotten how to, you know, make the move.”


“Yeah,” he whispers. “I get nervous and never seem to find the right moment to kiss her. So we just end up shaking hands at her door every night. She’s sweet and I don’t want to blow it.”

“Hmm. I never really had that problem. In fact, I was always the opposite. I’d lose patience and pounce on them far too early and at completely the wrong time. Like when they were trying to hold the biting point in traffic half way up Primrose Hill Road or relaxing with a mouthful of Marmite on toast.”

“I don’t want to scare her away.”

“Well what’s the problem? Does she like you?”

“I think so, yeah.”

“Then take a risk. If you do it nicely then she’ll either respond or reject you. If the latter, you say goodnight and see her again and try again. You’ve already signaled your intentions and it makes it harder for her to turn you down each time. But you’ve got to at least try.”

“Yeah…” he says. “I guess.”

I don’t know why people ask me for advice because they never heed it.

“So, any new developments?” I ask, giving him one final chance of saving his ‘job’.


“Yeah? What?”

“Got Down Wit’ It a gig at the Black Swan a week from Tuesday. Apparently there’s a pretty good PA setup and the stage is…”

“I meant with me for Christ’s sake.”

“Oh. Not yet. Still sending stuff out, crossing my fingers. A lot of publishers aren’t interested in sci-fi at the moment.”

“It’s not sci-fi though, is it? The new stuff is contemporary fiction. Why are you telling them sci-fi?”

“I haven’t been sending out the new stuff,” he says. “I thought Clear History made more sense.”

“No, that makes complete nonsense seeing as Clear History has already been released and my new novel is what we’re trying to sell them.”

“Oh,” Sid says. “Yeah, I suppose so.”

“How can you…” I stop and take a deep breath. “You know what, it doesn’t matter. You’ve made my job a lot easier.”

He nods vacantly, sipping his beer.

“Sid, I think we need to end our professional relationship.”

“We do?”

“Look, we had a go and we got a book published which is great, of course. But I think we both need a fresh start, a new perspective. I want to go to the next level and I feel like I need a new source of inspiration. You know?”

“You’re going to find a new agent?” he says with a breaking voice.

“We haven’t met our targets,” I tell him. “You’re not exactly…the easiest agent to work with.”

“But I just sent it to Bilbo Hewlins. He wanted to read it, remember?”

“See, you’re not listening to me. I’m not writing a follow-up to Clear History anymore, am I? Remember? I’m doing something else. The thought of trying to find an agent again doesn’t fill me with joy, and I appreciate you taking me on in the first place but we’ve stalled. We’ve reached the end of our journey together.”

Sid takes a soothing gulp of beer. “I can’t believe this,” he says.

“It’s not the end of the world,” I say. “In fact, nothing will really change. You can stop going through the motions of pretending to find me a new deal.”

A nasty look has come over Sid’s face. “You blame me for the book not selling.”

“No. Absolutely not.”

“You know, you’re not as talented as you think. You’re not some great author. You’re a spoiled brat.”

“Sid, don’t do this.”

He leans forward, pointing. “You’re the one who doesn’t listen. Not to me, not to your editor or your publicists or anyone who tried to help you.”

“That’s not true…”

“You’re not going to find anyone else to represent you. I was the only one willing to take a chance. No one else wanted to deal with you. Because you’re a whiny, selfish, precious hack.”

“You really think that?”

“If you’d toed the line and kept quiet and blended in you could have had a long life at Harper Collins.”

“If you’d accepted a two book contract then we’d still be there you fuckwit,” I shout.

“Then you’d be having to write another sci-fi novel and you’d be bitching and moaning about it and they’d drop you anyway you cock.”

We’re both suddenly standing in the pub. “Let’s not fight,” I say.

“Fuck you,” he says. “I’ve got other talent now. I don’t need you. These boys are my future. They’ve got drive and commitment and there’s a bond between us that we never had.”

He joins them at the pool table across the pub, telling them something, and I distinctly see one of them mouth ‘Piss off’ at him.

The Colombian drummer took the news better.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

"You Blew It..."

After waking up from a sweaty mid-afternoon dream involving Pauline, Mavis and napalm, I leave the flat while still half-asleep and take the tube to Hammersmith where I sit across the street from Harper Collins, getting up from the concrete wall every ten minutes or so to walk off some of the cold.

Mavis leaves the building around four o’clock, throwing a large scarf around herself like a cape, but I ignore her.

At five, a man who I think is Jason - one of the executives or at least someone high up – emerges and I run across the street and accost him before he can get to the staff car park.

“Jason,” I say, and he looks up, startled. I can’t think of anything else to say so we stare at each other until he recognises me.


I nod.

“You look freezing. What’s going on? Are you okay?”

I nod again, shivering. “Yeah, I’m okay. I just…no one’s talking to me and I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know what to do.”

The first patches of red are already forming on Jason’s face. Our breath plumes out of our mouths and noses like smoke machines. “This isn’t the most convenient time or place to talk, Christopher. Let’s arrange something through the proper channels.”

“No, because nothing will happen. Chris doesn’t return my calls or emails.”

“I’m sure he’s very busy.”

“It’s been months since we spoke.”

His face twitches. “Well, that’s not acceptable.”

He pulls his phone out of his coat pocket and pushes a few buttons and holds it to his ear. “Chris, are you busy right now? I have Christopher Hardy with me outside. Can you meet us in the Starbucks? We’ll find out, won’t we? Very good.”

He hangs up.

“Let’s get a coffee,” he says.

I drink my hot chocolate quickly even though it is scolding hot and try to stop my hands shaking. Jason is clearly disturbed by my appearance but it is hard for me to care at the moment. He asks after my family and my plans for Christmas until Chris arrives.

A Cappuccino is already waiting for him on the table. “I remembered what you like,” I tell him as he sits down.

“Thanks,” he says without enthusiasm.

“Christopher was waiting for me outside,” Jason says. “He tells me that he’s having difficulty contacting you.”

“Yeah, I’m sorry I haven’t had a chance to get back to you,” Chris says. “You know how it is.”

“Not really,” I say. “I just wanted some feedback.” I know that I look and sound pathetic but my spirit is broken.

“I haven’t heard anything from higher up so I’ve got nothing to tell you,” Chris says. “Sorry.” He looks to Jason.

Jason clears his throat. “It’s my understanding that you’re no longer working on a follow-up to Clear History. Is that right?”


“I think that’s really what we were looking for from you. But at any rate, sales, unfortunately, haven’t met any of the targets we set.”

“No one was behind it,” I whine, unable to summon any dignity. “There was no support.”

“I hear your frustration,” Jason says. “But I can assure you that we were behind you.”

“No you weren’t.”

“Christopher, we signed you because we wanted to publish you and sell your book. We took a chance on you and it didn’t pay off. But you have to accept some responsibility for that. You haven’t been the easiest author we’ve ever had to work with.”

Chris says nothing. He stares at his coffee.

“I wanted it to be a success,” I say.

“Of course you did,” Jason says. “We all wanted it to succeed. But not everything can."

“At least put out a paperback.”

“There’s no demand. Look, if it’s any consolation, I thought it was good work. A really interesting novel. I wish more people could have got to read it.”

“If you like it then you could take another chance on me.”

Jason smiles sympathetically. “It’s not my money I’m playing with, Christopher. We have directors, shareholders.”

“But… I feel like what I’m working on is something really special. Yes, it’s not the follow-up you asked for but forget that, let’s start again. It’s… I really think it could be great.”

I realise I’m almost pleading but I can’t help it. I turn to Chris. “I’ve sent you about five chapters now and you haven’t got back to me. If you just read them I know you’d like it. I’m sure of it.”

“Have you read them?” Jason asks him.

“I have,” Chris says. “I’m afraid we just didn’t see anything in them.” He talks to Jason and won’t look at me.

“You read them?” I say. “You swear to me that you’ve looked at them and that you gave a fair evaluation?”

He glances at me and nods.

“Tell me what it’s about. Tell me what happens.”

“Sandy read them thoroughly,” Chris says, addressing Jason again. “I read a little and I agreed with her.”

“Sandy is your assistant?” Jason says.

Chris nods.

“And you trust her opinion?”


Jason looks at me. “I’m sorry, Christopher. It sounds as though we’ve reached the end of our journey together.”

“No, wait,” I say. “I want someone else to look at it. I want another editor to read it. I know that what I’m doing is good.”

“I know it’s tough, Christopher,” Jason says. “But I think you should look at taking it to other houses. A fresh start, new eyes, a new perspective. Let your agent loose.”

“No, please,” I say. “I’ll do better this time. I’ll do what Chris says, I’ll put the work in. Don’t close the door on me just yet. I know I can do something great.”

I am whining at an embarrassing volume and the rest of the patrons are looking over.

“This is painful,” Chris says. “Be a man, Christopher. You blew it.” He stands up and waits for Jason to do the same.

I stare at the table as Jason rises and buttons his coat. “I wish things could have been different,” he says, and they leave.

I sit alone in the coffee shop for awhile until I notice a young couple waiting for the table and I force a smile and move out of their way and they thank me and I leave the coffee shop and stand outside in the cold for a long time, just looking around and waiting for my brain to make some kind of decision as to where I should go and what I should do.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Book Signing...

I have organised a book signing two months after my novel’s release primarily for my own amusement. On a whim I called my home town Dartford’s only local bookshop and the owner, Graham, said Yes immediately. I could almost hear him shrugging over the phone.

“I’m not expecting a great deal of people,” I warned him.

“I shouldn’t hire extra security then?” he said. I like him.

When I arrive Graham is sitting behind the till reading a huge hard backed account of the Sandinista National Liberation Front.

“What do you do for fun?” I say by way of introduction.

He lowers the tome. He is about fifty and wearing glasses and a cardigan, perhaps as a comment on the stereotypes of bookshop owners. Or perhaps because stereotypes exist for a reason. “Mr. Hardy, I presume,” he says.

“Indeed.” We shake hands. I glance around his tiny, empty shop. “How’s business?”

He just laughs.

I smile and look round again. He has set up a table at the far end of the room. Next to it is a blackboard on which he has actually written, exactly to my specification, Christopher Hardy - King of Sci-Fi’s Christmas Signing Spectacular in shaky handwriting.

“Just set yourself up over there and I’ll wait for the masses to begin filling my till,” he says.

“Right.” I put my bag under the table and take my jacket off, revealing my ‘King of Sci-Fi’ shirt. I sit down and finger the felt-tip pen on the otherwise bare surface. “Where are the books?”

He looks up from the counter. “Which books are you referring to?”

“My books. Clear History.”

“I don’t have any,” he says. “I assumed you were bringing them. We usually just buy the copies the author sells, and a few more for stock.”

“Oh,” I say.

“Oh indeed,” he says.

I lean back in my chair and laugh, suddenly giddy with the sheer absurdity of the event.

“There appears to have been a lack of communication,” he says.

“It doesn’t matter,” I say, still laughing. “Really. No one will come.”

He smiles and shakes his head. He nods towards a door marked ‘Staff Only.’ “Make us a cup of tea then, will you?”

“Sure,” I say, wiping a tear from my cheek.

The door opens onto a small kitchen area and a toilet. I make the tea, dancing to a song in my head.

When I come out there are two young girls in the shop. Graham takes his tea. “Your first fans,” he says.

I laugh again. “Yeah, right.”

The girls hear me and turn round. They giggle and take the few steps required to cross the shop.

“Hi,” one of them says.

“I looove your book,” the other one says.

“Shut up,” I say, stunned.

Their smiles fade.

“I mean…that’s great,” I say. They are even prettier than the girls who asked James Hardy for his signature and this pleases me. “Wait, I should be sitting at the table.”

They follow me over and I sit down. We look at each other, smiling. No one is sure what to do.

Eventually one of them says, “Will you sign a book for us, then?”

“I’d love to, but I don’t have any.”

They look at each other. “We came from London.”

“Hold on.”

I ask Graham to call the local W H Smiths. He does so with a bewildered expression.

“Smith’s has copies,” I tell the girls. “It’s just down the road.”

They leave the shop in a state of confusion and almost immediately a huge guy in a leather jacket holding a motorcycle helmet comes in and approaches me.

“Good to meet you,” he says. “Big fan.”

“Thank you,” I say, a little scared. “Look, I’m afraid we’ve…sold out of copies already, but…”

“That’s okay,” he says. “I’ve already got one. I want you to sign something else.”

He pulls his jacket off and then his shirt. His torso and arms are covered in tattoos.

“Christ,” I say.

“I love my tattoos,” he says.

“Looks like it. That’s…great.”

“I’ve got a space here,” he says, pointing to a fleshy area over his left nipple. “Sign it and then I’m straight down the parlour to get it inked.”

“Wow,” I say. I stand up and move warily around the table. “What’s that one?” I say, squinting at a large amateurish scrawl on his shoulder.

“‘The Ebonic Plague,’” he says cheerfully. “That was the name of my Nazi punk band in my misspent youth.”

“Wow,” I say again. “That sounds…fun.”

“It was okay,” he says modestly. “We put out one single; ‘Rosa Parks Should Have Stood The Fuck Up.’ It didn’t do that well.”

“That’s a shame,” I say, gingerly stretching out his moist skin with trembling hands and marking it with my childish signature.

I step back, awaiting judgement. He looks at it for a long time and my heartbeat doubles. Eventually he looks up. “That’s brilliant,” he says with genuine emotion.

I smile with relief. “Excellent.”

“Quick photo,” he says. He holds his mobile phone out and crushes me against his flesh. I smile the best I can. He checks it, and again appears delighted.

When he has left, I sit at the table and recover my composure. “Is he a regular?” I ask Graham.

The two girls return with copies and I sign them and they take photos and I am slightly less uncomfortable with the whole process than I feared I might be.

Graham is less happy. “Those are sales I’m losing out on,” he says.

“Don’t worry, no one else will come,” I assure him, but only ten minutes later a middle-aged woman comes in and flirts for awhile and goes off to Smiths to buy the remaining three copies for Christmas presents.

“This is silly,” Graham says.

“I know.”

I call Pauline at Harper Collins. “How quickly can you get copies of my book to Dartford?”

A courier is dispatched from the warehouse. Two groups of young men come in and I ask them to return in two hours but they don’t have time, and they run off to another nearby chain for copies, and when I sign them thirty minutes later, Graham is furious.

More people arrive and I do photographs but they leave empty-handed.

“I’m sorry,” I tell Graham.

The courier finally arrives and the tension is relieved a little and he stacks forty copies of my book on the table and Graham signs for them and he leaves.

I sit behind the table for the rest of the afternoon. No one else comes in. The silence, at times, is almost unbearable.

I leave Graham in his shop at seven pm, staring forlornly at the stack of books. I can’t think of much to say.

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