I’ve received a number of mails recently from people who are keen to write books and need advice on how to go about it.
Invariably, these mails ask about finding an agent and/or a publisher as well as any one of twenty questions relating to the actual process of getting a book from brain to bookshelf. However, whilst I’m always keen to encourage new writers, it’s fair to say that most of the people who contact me need (and receive) a reality check.
The truth is that when you’re starting out on the rocky road of penmanship, you don’t need an agent and unless you are incredibly famous or staggeringly lucky, the chances of you securing a publishing deal are pretty much zero. What you do need however, are words on pages. Lots of them.
So if you want to write a book, the best way to start is to simply sit down and get writing. And once you have a few thousand words on your hard drive, you’ll soon realise any number of things. Not least if you have the imagination and drive to actually see it through. Most don’t, but if you actually reach the point where you can say ‘yes’ to both of those questions, that’s when you need to start thinking about the next stage in the process.
Until then, it’s all about actually doing the graft. And you do know it’s hard graft right?
This morning, suited and booted, I will be joining the ranks of the masses commuting into London.
This in itself, is hardly a big deal. After all, there are millions of people who do the same thing every single day but for me, it’s a very rare occasion. Normally, I avoid the rush hour like the proverbial plague.
Today however, isn’t a normal day. It’s actually a very special day. For at 11.30, a large group of military veterans led by a sizeable contingent of former Royal Marines, will gather in Parliament Square in a silent show of support for Sergeant Al Blackman who is currently serving a life sentence for the murder of a Taliban insurgent. And I will be one of them.
Don’t get me wrong, Sgt Blackman served in a very different military from the one I did. His career as a member of one of the worlds elite military fighting units involved front line combat in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan amongst other places. Mine, as a ground engineer in the Royal Air Force, generally involved avoiding work where possible and trying to squeeze as much money as possible from the RAF Motorsports Association.
However, we have one thing in common: we wore a British military uniform and whilst the colour of our beret’s was, and is, vastly different, it gives us a common bond. Which is why, like all the veterans in attendance tomorrow as well as the many thousands who cannot make it, I will be doing my utmost to show my disgust at the fact that a brave man languishes in prison simply because he was hung out to dry by the very people who were, and are, supposed to protect him.
So if you’re in London todayand you see anyone wearing anything which marks them out as ex-military, you know where they’re either going or have been.
*I first posted the following blog in the spring of 2012, ironically, the same year that footballer Andre Gray posted the homophobic tweets which recently saw him spread across the sports pages.
You would hope that things would have changed in recent years but as we have seen with the Greg Clarke article that’s splashed across the media morning, that is far from the case.
Tragic doesn’t come close. Shameful does.
As you may or may not know, Downing Street will today play host to a summit which will discuss, amongst other things, the issues of racism and homophobia.
Leaving aside the simple truth that I actually think our PM has more important things to be doing at the moment, the reason this summit is taking place is apparently to take a fresh look at both ‘problems’ in the face of recent events and, in the case of homophobia, in the wake of the BBC documentary which looked at the lack of any openly gay players in the professional game.
Now my views on racism at football are in black and white for all to see, be that on this very blog or in my book Kicking Off. Homophobia however, is something I have never really discussed before and there is a reason for that.
You see speaking as a football fan, it is my assertion that there isn’t actually a problem to address at the moment and nor will there be until such time as we have a player with the bottle to actually come out and admit to his sexuality. At that point things will change immediately because then the anti-homophobia campaign will have an actual focal point or to be blunt, a potential victim. As a result, then, and only then, will we know if we actually have a problem at all. Because at the moment, it is all supposition.
That is I know, a very simplistic way of looking at things but let’s face it, once inside the confines of a ground, football fans become fairly simplistic beings. All too often the concept of right and wrong is neutralised by raw emotion but as we saw with racism, when people eventually began to realise how futile and pathetic it was, it soon became so ingrained in their psyche that to even utter a racist term stopped occurring to all but the most rabid of morons. Indeed, far from knocking football for being racist we should be applauding it for driving the anti-racism message deep into the heart of British society.
I believe that exactly the same thing will happen with homophobia and I would argue, it will happen in a fairly short space of time if not immediately. After all, one only has to look at the TV to see how much has changed with regard to British societies acceptance of homosexuality in recent years.
Yet as the noises being made ahead of this summit clearly seem to prove, both the game and the authorities would like the great British public to believe that the second an openly gay player steps onto a field, the terraces will resound with cries of ‘they don’t like it up ‘em’ or ‘I’m free’ and the sight of fans mincing up and down behind the goals. Indeed the reason I sat down and wrote this very blog is because I have been so offended by some of the things I have been hearing this morning. How dare they accuse us, as citizens never mind supporters, of thinking like that!
The question of course, is why they are inferring such things and the answer, like most things to do with the great game, is fairly obvious. It’s a basic diversion tactic. Because if you point the finger of blame toward the fans, you don’t actually have to apportion any blame to yourselves.
Like it or not, if you are a pro-footballer be it at Old Trafford or Roots Hall, the nature of the beast is such that getting abuse from the terrace is going to be part and parcel of your career. Brutal though this might be, it is a fact and if you don’t like it or don’t think you will be able to take it, don’t do it. It really is as simple as that.
The key to dealing with that abuse is to understand why it happens and what it actually means because for the most part, it will only be coming at you from opposing fans who you are pissing off by doing a good job. And as long as you’re doing a good job, as recent history has proven only too well, your own supporters will not only forgive you anything but they will continue to heap adulation on you. Since they are the ones who ultimately pay your wages, they’re the only ones you really have to worry about.
However, if that grief comes not from the terraces but from your peers, especially your own team mates, it is something else entirely because it goes beyond banter from the crowd, it becomes personal. Anyone who has even been in a changing room knows that many of them are like a scene from Animal Farm (the George Orwell book, not the porn movie!) and anyone who shows even the remotest sign of being in any way different becomes fair game. Remember the stick Graham Le Saux used to get simply because he has a brain in his head? Much of that focussed on his supposed sexuality and let’s face it, if you were gay and saw that as a potential warning of things to come, why on earth would you want to put yourself at risk?
Of course not all players are like that and I’m sure that there are certain changing rooms which are delightful places to be post-training. But there are plenty which aren’t, especially if you’re not one of the towel-snapping, prank playing, tart shagging brigade and it is that ‘closed shop’ lad mentality which David Cameron and the various cronies and cling-ons should be discussing not the old chestnut of fears of abuse from the terraces.
But that will only happen when the game actually admits it has a problem in-house and we all know how reluctant it is to do that.
Thanks to all those people who continue to keep both The Crew and Top Dog at the top of the various download charts. It really is humbling. Could I please ask that if you have read either book you leave a review of some kind as they are a great help both to me and to potential readers. And don’t forget, my latest comedy ebook Wings of a Sparrow is also available both in print and to download.
Given my youthful good looks (sic) it might shock you to discover that I’ve been around for a long time. Truth is, I’ve made so many trips around the block that I frequently navigate it in my sleep.
Along the way, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some incredible people but inevitably, I have also encountered some who are, shall we say, less than incredible.
That’s life of course. It would be a bizarre world indeed if we liked everyone we met just as it would be extremely odd if everyone who met us were dazzled by our individual charms. I’ve certainly met plenty of people who have come to regard me as an arsehole. Or worse.
But I can live with that. Life’s too short to work with people you don’t like and that obviously works both ways.
However, whilst normally I consign these individuals to the ‘bad experiences’ folder of my meagre brain, there will occasionally be someone who irks me to such an extent that they make it onto my s**t list. And if you make it onto that, watch out. Because at some point I will repay you in kind.
Oh yes, I carry a grudge.
I mention it here simply because I was recently given the opportunity to dust off said list and cross two people off it. Not because I had forgiven them for their transgressions, but because the opportunity had arisen for the delivery of some payback and I’d grabbed it with both hands.
Yes, I know it’s childish and yes, at my age I should be above such things, but when I’m looking at a potential cast list and see that two of the actors on it also feature on my s**t list, there is no way on earth that either is ever going to get a sniff.
The only sad thing, as I sit here basking in a warm glow of revenge, is that I doubt either of them will ever know that karma paid them a visit on my behalf.
But I know. And ultimately, that’s all that matters.