Gandalf! Motorcycles! Butternut Squash!

And that’s it! I’m not going to publish anymore of my story because (and I know this sounds mad, yes, pipe down) I want to do… something with it. I’m not sure what, but I think it’s very fun and good and I am in love with writing it and I dunno, maybe I’ll try get it published.

It probably won’t get published. But hey – gotta try.

It’s a shame because I really love putting it up here. But if I whap the whole thing online no publisher is gonna want to touch it. So, as the silly king I made up and love very much would say: Alas!

I suppose I’ll just go back to posting little articles about London and whatever.

London’s good!

Really good, actually. I still have very little money, but enough to get by. Not enough for a holiday yet – this is my only real gripe, and it’s magnified because everyone I know who has a ‘Proper Salary’ and ‘Holiday Pay’ and ‘Security’ is going away this summer, flying all over, going to festivals, whatever. The Philippines, the Cayman Islands, Chile, Mauritius! My housemates travel well. Good for them! Bad for me.

See — that’s me comparing again. It’s silly! There’s that quote isn’t there: comparison is the thief of joy. I think it’s a quote. I’ll Google it to check. Wait there  — 

It is a quote! By Theodore Roosevelt. Who knew.

But yeah — I’ve been feeling a tad angsty about dough, bread, wonga, dosh, moola, WEALTH, but I realised it’s because I’ve changed my goal without realising. In November when I first moved here, my goal was simply to earn enough to be able to stay in London. I achieved that goal without really acknowledging it properly, and in my head I just casually chucked in a new goal (earn enough to have a holiday and buy nice things) without realising, and in doing so, somehow began to consider myself a failure. Whatever! I’m not a failure I’m a good egg and I’m doing my best.

My plan is to finish the Siege book over the next couple of weeks. I’ve got it all planned out (it’s gonna be dope) (I’ve started saying dope, picked it up from Annie now I can’t stop). I know I ought to be focussing on growing my teaching empire and becoming un-poor and whatnot but I figure I can just do that later. It’s summer! Summer is the time for doing whatever you like — skipping around and looking sexy and writing silly prose about mediaeval kings.

I put my swoop into this new mad inspired writing phase down to London. I owe my lovely new inspiration to this city — the city I swore I hated not three years ago. But there’s so much to like about it here! My flatmates (who are also my friends) and my house are a great big boon, obviously. The sun’s out like crazy and we have a large patio with an L-sofa to sit on and cloud watch. That said, I think my real big revelation this year has been the theatre. I know! I know it sounds wanky! That’s why I never went before! But man it’s actually good. I’ve seen so many shows the last six months. Here is all of them:

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One & Two (with my brother Jack)

Much Ado About Nothing (with a friend I met through teaching, Avi)

The Picture of Dorian Gray (also with Avi)

The Book of Mormon (with my friend Alex, on my birthday, as a treat from my brother Charlie)

Player Kings, a mash up of Henry IV Parts One and Two featuring SIR IAN MCKELLEN, GANDALF, MY THIRD GRANDFATHER (with my good chum and housemate Sarah Rose)

I fucking love the theatre. I love Shakespeare; I didn’t know I loved Shakespeare! Why did nobody tell me how brilliant the plays are? They teach it so dry in school. As a kid without patience or appreciation, I never got it, it never clicked, I considered it a different language like Python or theoretical physics and I just accepted the fact I’d never understand it because I was too stupid.

But I do understand it! Everyone can! You don’t need to catch every line, the actors bring it to life and you laugh and feel stunned and awed and ugh. What a city to be in where, on any given weekday, weekend, whatever, you can just totter through to your friend’s bedroom door and knock on it and say ‘Shall we go see Richard III today?’ and then you buy a ticket to the Globe — for £8! EIGHT QUID — and you go that same day and stand and listen to some of the most beautiful prose (verse?) ever written.

I’m surrounded by inspiration. The people I’ve met at parties, the students I teach, who tell me about their lives. The free events, the day festivals — the Lambeth Country Show, of all things.

Here — I went to it two weeks ago with my friend Rob. In bygone years I’d have drunk a bottle of wine on the walk over, rocked up pissed, and made a mess. But no: we visited the sheep pens and looked at weird goats, we looked at a vegetable competition (which admittedly was quite shit), we queued up to a tent in which they had vegetables carved and stuck together to look like politicians, and then — and then—

We went to the ‘Wall of Death’ motorcycle show. Have you ever been to a Wall of Death? It blew the top of my head off. It’s a carnival thing, a rickety wooden chamber like an old bear pit, and you stand around the top ring of it with a load of rocky, leather clad adrenaline people, and in the centre, five metres below, three stuntmen in white shirts on motorcycles rev their engines to fuck and whiz around and around, higher and higher up the wall, clung on with centrifugal force, and they drive so fast and so high and so damn near to your vulnerable, precious, beautiful face that you flinch and have to use every ounce of willpower not to shriek and cower away. It was haywire. I was laughing with mad fear. Absolutely wild.

And then, immediately after, at the same festival somehow, we went to a joust. A fucking joust! A mediaeval joust with knights on horses barrelling up a grassy field to splinter lances on one another’s shields. A beautiful princess on a horse whose eye I kept trying to catch. Fake swords going ‘ting’ on each other. And the Shard in the background! I thought about the aeroplanes flying over, imagining Americans looking down as they fly over England (‘I wonder what the Brits are up to?’) and spotting, with shocked growing eyes, a full Dark Ages fairy-tale tourney taking place, at the damn Lambeth Country Show, with vegetables and motorcycles and David Rodigan spinning reggae vinyls. Mental.

I cried when I saw Ian McKellen in the theatre. It reminded me of the time I saw Blink 182 at Leeds Festival years ago and also cried. It’s just — both times, I was overcome with the feeling that I was looking at my childhood, right there in front of me. Those people, Mark Hoppus, Tom Delonge, Sir Ian (I doubt they’ve ever been listed together before) don’t know I exist, and yet they have soundtracked my adolescence, or else filled me with wonder when I was a kid, or taught me stuff about life, or just made me want to make my own things, tell my own stories. And he was right there on the stage — a real flesh and blood human, a few metres away, talking with his rattly deep comforting voice. It made the hairs on my arms stand on end. Grandalf ❤️🧙‍♂️

I started writing the Siege story because, for my birthday (for which I gathered with friends to get exceedingly drunk on Hampstead Heath (where by the way, you can visit the Spaniards Inn, where Lord Byron and Charles Dickens used to sip and write in the shade)), my friend Liv – the Liv with whom I travelled a good chunk of Central America in 2022 — bought me a book. The book is called A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, and it’s about writing; it’s written by a lecturer who’s an expert on the great Russian writers like Chekhov and Tolstoy, and in the opening chapter it says (I’m paraphrasing):

All a writer needs to do is make you want to read the next sentence.

The book is supposed to inspire you to write. It worked too well: I’ve not read a page more since, because I’ve been too busy feverishly working on my new story.

Oh and last night I went to a Midsummer Night’s Dream-themed party where everybody was dressed as fairies and I spoke to a rave-girl from Iran, a Bristolian man dressed as donkey, and a French guy who’s working on a video game where you play as a chicken exploring the universe.


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