Tag Archives: writing

The Unsung Joy

Recently, whilst undergoing the trauma of a Virgin trains journey from Watford to Manchester, I met a woman. She was middle aged, expensively dressed, stunningly pretty in a Helen Mirren type of way and remarkably intelligent. All attributes which marked her out as being on a slightly different social and intellectual plane than myself. Indeed, it’s fair to say that in any other circumstance, we would never have met in a million years. However, on this occasion, fate threw us together and as a result, we spent two glorious hours sharing one of those experiences which come along all to rarely but which, when they do, leave you glowing with fulfilment and achievement. Sad to say, we never even exchanged names and when she left the train at Stafford, we both knew that we would never meet again. But we’re adults and we knew what we were doing. So why not?

What did we do? Well, we moaned. Non-stop. Not just about Richard Branson and his trains, but about the Labour Party, today’s youth, the weather and even the state of English football (not a subject I would never normally enter into with a female but hey…). It was fantastic.

Reflecting on our conversation as I went on to eventually complete my journey some hour and a half late, I realized how much I love a good moan. It isn’t just good for the soul it’s good fun. Which is a good job really, because I have a lot to moan about. After all, not only have I been cursed with decidedly average looks, but I’ve always been a bit on the ‘plump’ side. Add this to the fact that I began losing my hair quite early on in life and an arse the size of the Isle of Wight and you can see why I harbour a deep rooted resentment toward my parents. To make matters even worse, in my teens, I developed an affection for Watford football club. And whilst that was great at first, I have since learnt the full implications of such an obsession. Especially the financial ones! I could go on, but you get the drift.

However, since I’ve been writing, I’ve learnt that moaning has other benefits. For not only does it provide a much-needed outlet for frustration and stress, it is also a fabulous defence mechanism. Let’s face it, being a pessimist means you are rarely disappointed.

But more importantly, moaning is actually a valuable and under appreciated research tool. Listening to people moan can be an incredibly useful and informative experience because unlike any other form of communication, moaning is completely disarming. After all, we only really do it when we feel passionate about something and you can’t fake that like you can flattery or self-importance. It’s as real as it gets. And when you get that degree of feeling, that’s when you get truth and genuine opinion. Two things that are vital if you’re a writer searching for information or even some inspirational dialogue.

So please bare that in mind the next time you get on a train and the only empty seat is next to a big bald miserable looking bloke. It might be me and you could be just the person I’m looking for.

The Wasted Years (I think not!)

Like many people, I am at my happiest when I’m sitting down and doing bugger all. There is, as I’m sure you’ll agree, something incredibly gratifying about doing nothing.

Indeed, it is fair to say that these days, having passed the magic five-zero, the avoidance of work, be it paid or domestic, doesn’t just give me huge amounts of pleasure, it’s actually a source of pride. Something that the half built brick barbecue in my back garden stands as a monument to.

I actually first grasped the concept of idleness whilst serving in the Royal Air Force. For having worked hard for years and got nowhere, I suddenly realised that all of my immediate bosses were lazy so-and-so’s who were getting all the praise –and wages- while mugs like me did all the graft. However, in the forces, it’s not regarded as being idle, it’s celebrated as delegation. And once I embraced that idea, with both hands I might add, I pretty soon found myself flying up that promotion ladder.

Tragically, outside the confines of HM Forces, things weren’t so easy. I soon learnt that being expected to actually work for a living wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. And I could never escape the idea that someone was driving around in a Aston Martin which I had paid for. I wasn’t happy with that at all, hence, the move into writing. It was the only occupation I could think of which allowed me to work from home, for myself and remain sitting down all day.

Of course, I quickly discovered that being a writer does have other advantages. The most obvious of which was that I was able to justify my love of lounging around as either ‘thinking time’ or ‘clearing my head’ time. Both things for which, somewhat ironically, daytime TV is perfectly suited. After all, I have to get inspiration from somewhere. And if you watch This Morning long enough, sooner or later, every known form of life is going to pass by in front of your eyes. Watch MTV and you’re mind goes blank in minutes.

Sadly, my wife has always been wise to this. And as time passes, and her life as a full-time mother, housewife and carer to her husband shows no sign of easing up, she is becoming increasingly irritated at my pathetic attempts to justify watching Sky Sports or reading Zoo at times when I should be working.

And, it is fair to say that for a while, I started to feel a degree of sympathy for her case. Because the truth is, I have never really been inspired by either The Real Deal or Loose Women. And although the gloriously wonderful Holly Willoughby merits a fantasy-laden mention in my next movie, I hardly need to watch This Morning every day.

However, recently I have had not one, but two odd experiences. Both of which made me realize that not only might my pangs of guilt be misplaced, but that maybe my commitment to time wasting has not been in vain.

The first of them happened in Manchester. I had ventured North for some reason or another and was returning to the sanctuary of the South when, upon my arrival at Piccadilly Station, I was greeted by the stench and noise that can only be created by that relic of the so-called good old days, a steam engine. Of course, realizing that such a machine was in residence, my heart sank. For I knew exactly what was coming and sure enough, as I walked around the corner, I couldn’t see the beast for the hoards of middle-aged saddo’s pointing and muttering excitedly about piston sizes and boiler pressures. These weren’t your ordinary feeble part-time trainspotters you see standing on the platform at Euston with a notepad in one hand and a flask of tea in the other. These were the real deal hard-core spotters of the type who wear sleeveless anoraks covered in small metal badges and smell of meths. But as I watched what was going on, in a kind of detached bewilderment, it struck me as decidedly odd that in this day and age, not only could grown men be whipped up into an almost orgasmic frenzy by the sight of a simple machine, but that they would want to be.

Then, two weeks later, for reasons to banal to relate, I had to endure a day at an old RAF airfield in Gloucestershire. As we were having a coffee in a café in the control tower, I happened to notice a group of elderly chaps in stained overalls, sitting in the corner and arguing over an old book. Being naturally nosey (it goes with the job) I soon learnt that they were aircraft enthusiasts in the middle of restoring an old De Haviland Comet. And they were having a heated discussion about the markings on a particular fuse box. Believe it or not, the book they were using contained the actual manufacturers drawings. It was a picture of tragedy.  

Reflecting on this and the Manchester experience as I headed homeward, the thought suddenly struck me that not only were all the people involved in the fuse box debate men, but that you never see any female trainspotters. And then I began to consider the possibility that maybe something else was going on. Maybe the people who indulge in these most unfathomable of practices do so not because they’re sad loners, but because it’s something to do with their spare time. And why on earth would anyone need to fill time? Isn’t it obvious? 

These poor men aren’t sad, they’re victims. Driven out of their own homes by bitter women who refuse to sit back and allow them the luxury of enjoying their hard earned time-off in the comfort of their own homes. Think about it. It makes perfect sense. I mean, why else would blokes have sheds? They’re the only space in the house that they can call their own!

So, having deliberated over this at length, I have decided that rather than feel guilty about being idle, the fact that I am able to spend most of my time here in my own home at all should be regarded as a moral victory. And while it might not appear that I’m doing much, at least I’m happy which is the most important thing.

 My wife may not like that, but maybe if I explain it to her just one more time………