The book of forgotten things

THE WRITER’S LIFE

words-and-deeds-notebook

My notebook, also a novel, Words and Deeds: Essays (1942) by Henry Nevinson.

Imagine you’re in a room, with no visible means of escape: How do you get out? Well, you stop imagining.

So began a story which I started to write yesterday, when I had my monthly meet up with my kids in Milton Keynes (but it’s the people you’re with who make a place). Nowadays, the trust placed in me extends to me taking the kids for lunch at a pub, without a chaperone. It’s a testament to how my drinking is under control and to how mature the kids are. Because unlike some adults, they understand that I can still drink, and that I’m an alcoholic. Because they questioned, listened and learned. Now they see the proof. But the plastic police still judge without cross examination. Well, that makes them ignorant: The one human trait I can’t stand, because there’s no excuse for it.

That humans only use a small percentage of their brain is a myth. But many people’s brains are under-utilised, meaning that there is much potential in all of us, even those with a below average IQ. Just as if people stopped to think before they speak, the world would be a better place if they opened their minds. In my own mind, I imagine these people still think the world is flat and that they’ll eventually fall off the edge.

Yesterday I made notes in a new journal. I don’t like to carry the typewriter (laptop) around with me, as it contains all my work (backed-up but still, I just don’t). My Filofax, which was meant to replace notepads, is so full of notes it hardly closes and is pretty bulky. So I’ve reverted to individual journals, which are much more portable, so that I can write anywhere. The current one is a rather splendid thing: A Pelican imprint paperback, published by Penguin, entitled “Words and Deeds” and containing just blank, ruled pages.

Just as I started this blog by writing in journals wherever I could, then stealing what time I could on public access computers, so I’m doing now. Having a notebook and pen about one’s person at all times is important for the writer to record and report on life’s moments as they happen. A moment is a subjective term, which has no real definition. A moment can be a fleeting one, or it can be one which makes minutes last for days.

So yesterday was a perfect day and one which I didn’t want to end. But they all have to. But for as long as that moment lasted, the kids and me just gallivanted. I’m a liberal parent but I respect my ex-wife’s values and won’t contradict her, so I’m also responsible. But gallivanting with my kids is just like young cows or horses gambolling in a field: It’s simple, happy fun.

It’s nice to be writing on the hoof again. Perhaps I subconsciously resisted because of the mental association with homelessness. When I last wrote in journals, I was doing so just wherever I could: McDonald’s, the library, the train station waiting room, or by candle light in the concrete bunker at the abandoned Gilbert House in Tonbridge. There were some good times during that period of darkness, not least of all me finding myself with nothing to do but write. Now, three years later, some of the stories I wrote back then are soon to be published. I should receive the final printed book proof this week and once I’ve signed it off, The Perpetuity of Memory will be available to buy in paperback for £7.99. Here’s what it says on the back cover:

The Perpetuity of Memory is a collection of short stories, some written in libraries, cafes, bars and on park benches, and anywhere warm, dry and light by day. Others were written at night, by street light or candlelight.

In 2013, an addiction to alcohol saw the author lose his family, home and business. With nothing else to do without going insane on the streets, he begged money to buy exercise books and stole some bookies’ pens.

These are the stories written during a period on the road; in squats, doctors’ surgeries, court waiting rooms and hospital beds. Some were written in relatively safe surroundings and others, while in a state of vulnerable and anxious terror. Sometimes, there was plenty of time to write. Often a flash fiction story was all that time permitted.

Ranging from humorous science fiction to psychological horror, these short stories are a glimpse of what goes on in the mind of an alcoholic with depression, out on the streets.

I’m still writing a couple of books in the background and I’m still doing freelance work but with so many ideas for new short stories, I’ll keep writing everything I can. In perhaps a year from now, there should be a second collection of short stories published. I have so many ideas and plots that the easiest way to share them is in short stories.

The Words and Deeds journal, like the 10 before it, completes me when I’m away from my comfort zone (my studio) by providing the comfort of writing within it. It seems to attract attention and even though that makes me anxious, cognitive behaviour therapy taught me that those people who look at me are just naturally curious about someone who’s writing. Of course, if they’re paranoid, they might think I’m writing about them. But I have no secrets and just as I wear my heart on my sleeve in life, I would offer my notebook to anyone who’s curious and invite them to read it. I did this many times when I was homeless and several people signed my journals beneath encouraging personal sentiments. I treasure those memories and I managed to retain seven of the ten old journals. Some of those people became characters in my stories: a writer’s way of saying thanks (and hoping they’re read). With my dress sense and facial furniture, I look the part but for the avoidance of doubt, I wear a badge: It’s a simple tin badge with a picture of an e-reader with a red line through it. Like the steam punk watches I wear, it can be a conversation starter. People ask, listen, learn and hopefully, they read.

I wish I had a bigger badge, which read, “If there’s something you don’t understand, don’t be afraid of it. Engage with it instead. Ask, listen, learn and share. For if you are wise, then others can be too.” But make what you say or write interesting and accessible. I explained to one of the girls recently how ghosts are a paradoxical reality, as she’d recently suffered a loss. My explanation was not one based on faith and as such, it didn’t require a leap of faith on her part. My explanation was grounded purely in science and I explained quantum mechanics, spacetime and other concepts to arrive at ghosts as the truth. She thanked me later. She said I’d opened her eyes to completely new things and now she saw things differently. She’s not afraid any more. Everyone has a capacity in them like that, if they just listen, learn and think. Those with closed minds are welcome to their own company in the flat world I imagine for them. I guess my mind didn’t really open until I had a breakdown and found myself with nothing. I suppose those who have things have yet other things to think about. Unfortunately, they’re the same ignorants who don’t check facts and end up spreading false information on social media.

Never one to forget where I came from, when The Perpetuity of Memory is published, I’ll get a quantity of author’s copies. Some are for family and friends but others I’ll most likely give to the street homeless. I don’t think it’s too narcissistic to think some of them might be grateful of something to read and that it might mean something to have it given to them by the guy who wrote it, who was in the same position as them not so long ago.

So imagine you’re in a room, with no visible means of exit: How do you get out? Well, you stop imagining and close your mind. Then the room is destroyed, along with all that was in it and all which might have been. People, places, and the situations they create: Stories. Tales lost in that room of forgotten things, unless they’re read, learned from and shared.

It’s a Paul Auster reference and it’s a device I’ve used in a previous story. My second volume of collected tales will most likely be called The book of Forgotten Things.

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