@eddsnotdead

I can remember how I first ran into Ed. We talked seriously about WWF wrestling on Twitter. I checked his timeline, as you normally do. It was clear, and has been proven so, that Ed has a lot of time for a lot of people. A kind decent man. Unshakable in some filthy conviction. He was perfect online company for an impending, frightening job interview in his home town. He might know he made my day a whole lot easier. And he writes beautifully. A pen and hammer combination. Sturdy and delicate. Like so.

“Hi, my name is Ed. I was born in London but I really became who I am now in a town on the south coast of England. I didn’t apply myself at school at all and so I never did the great university adventure. Instead I married, we had a whole bunch of kids and I let life teach me what I needed to know.

I first started writing with conviction in 2002. I discovered quickly that I wasn’t very good at it, so I practiced. I’ve gotten much better since then. I’ve written eight books (I’ve self-published two of them), and three screenplays. My greatest achievement to date is clearly my marriage and relationship with my kids and family. It always will be.”

edhead

Who is Gita Askari to you?

When I came to write Blank Canvas I laid down a series of rules that I would stick to. Rules that would shape the story, yes, but also ones that would shape this character. I wasn’t allowed to shout ‘Zombies Attack’ when a problem appeared in the book, or I found it difficult to get to the next piece. I wasn’t allowed any random violence or any untimely explosions to create chase scenes. I wasn’t allowed to take the easy door. At first this seemed like I setting myself up to fail by removing some basic plot shake-ups, but then I realised that the book was purely about this character. It was her, alone, and that I had to focus all of my attention on her, or I’d lose. So I did just that. I focused and found that she represented the single hardest challenge I’d faced in writing to that date. I knew she’d make it through, and I knew she’d triumph in her own way, but I also knew her story wasn’t done.

Gita Askari represents much of what I think makes up modern Britain. She’s complicated – a product of a difficult relationship that continues to prove turbulent. She is royalty, and yet she has no power, no sway. She reminds me of the past and yet she wears the face of modern Britain – an empowered and artistic Anglo Asian woman that is aware of her roots, but is very much a part of the thriving western society. Yet within that society she sees the lies and the ugliness of privilege, and though she feels great waves of emotion her default setting is one very much set to stiff upper lip.

The decision she makes at the beginning of the second book sets her on a path that many must walk. How do we cope when everything is taken away from us? How much can we really take before we brake and realistically, above all those things, are we really strong enough to make the hard decisions to affect change in our lives.

Gita Askari has a wounded soul, but it doesn’t stop her being an explorer, a philosopher, an artist and a human being. In fact, it’s that damage that drives her forward.

How deep do you go in terms of character manifestation?

For me, I don’t do method stuff (is method writing a thing?). I have a great key that unlocks the story, the characters, the events If a and the reactions of those people I include in the story – they are unlocked by the wonder of music. I find albums that have the right ‘feel’. Those albums are listened to as often as possible before I start and then I use them in the writing time. It becomes an easy way to switch off, meditate and just write, plus, I can make decisions about the book while washing up, because the music is there for me to feed on.

Mood, that’s the key. If I get the mood right then I can smash out large word counts and be safe in the knowledge that they are going to at least be partially useable. That they will fit into the rest of the work, if they are indeed good enough. The characters come from the mood I strike when I think about them. They do what they want to on the page. Obviously there will always be pieces of me in there, and pieces of the other important people in my life too. That’s unavoidable. And they have to drive the story forward. They have to follow some rules. But the majority of the time they write it for me and I just stick my fingers on the keys.

As an experienced self-publisher what lessons have you learned?

Write as much as you can. If you have finished a book, great! Get on a blog and write about it! Don’t gather dust waiting for the ‘breakthrough’. You have to make your own luck, you have to push your own story and you have to keep your eye in. Write.

Don’t rush. Approach agents when your work has been edited. Get someone else to do that. You won’t find the mistakes, they will. Once a piece of work is done I’ll run through it, then I’ll send it out to readers. I know there are a tonne of mistakes, as do they, but I also know a copy editor will sort them out. The readers are there to make sure it actually works. If a certain event is flagged up by one test reader as having a problem then that’s probably taste. If three people highlight it then it bears looking at seriously. If five people point to the same bit of the book and flag up problems then I have to swallow my pride and change it, no matter how much I like it as it is.

Sink all the love you can into the book. Write with passion and pleasure. Make yourself cry and laugh. Invest your soul. Then, when you have finished writing it take a day or two, before returning to the beginning and editing, picking at the fabric of the rug, neatening the edges, being anal. Each stage of the writing process requires commitment to the work. You have to put your head down and go at it. It’s hard work. Take the leap and get an editor. She/he may be a copy editor or be up there for a full editorial role, that’s up to you and your wallet to decide, but engage one so you can selfpublish with confidence, or approach agents and know they are getting a book in the best shape it can be.

Oh, and don’t give up. If you write one hundred words a day for three months then you end up with somewhere around nine thousand words. Do that for a year and you have thirty six thousand words. Do that for two years? Seventy two thousand words. Boom. Even better, take a target date and give yourself a realistic goal, but one that requires you to really put the hours in. Let the people around you know this is happening, so they understand you will be going into writing tunnel vision mode, and then write with conviction. Make the story come alive. You have to put the hours in to improve, to reach your goals, to find the things that work for you, and also the things that don’t.

A diamond is a pretty piece of coal. It was forged with the application of time and pressure – make your own diamonds.

How do you find the time to write?

I work in the construction industry as a labourer. There are times when work just simply isn’t about. When that happens then I write all the hours I can and make the most of the time. When I’m working then that becomes more difficult. In the end though, it’s important to me, so I make the time. Currently I’m engaged in a fairly long contract and I’ve been booked for work straight after this one finishes. That means I have to MAKE time, this is one of those times that the music comes in handy. I have the mp3 player rolling all day. I get home and cook for a family of nine, then pitch in and either do the washing up or bath the kids. Realistically, eight o clock is the earliest start I can make on a week day. That’s not so bad though, I’ve spent all day preparing through the music. I stick the c.d in, switch the computer on, spend twenty minutes checking email, talking to my Twitter pals and looking into the movie news, then I write.

Generally I’ll set myself a goal based on how hard a day I’ve had, what time I start and what kind of period the book is in. If it’s flowing then I’ll give myself another five hundred words to hit on top, generally I don’t walk away from the computer until I’ve hit at least one thousand five hundred words. I generally hit one thousand eight hundred an hour if I’m flowing and typing well, so that isn’t so hard to hit for me. I like the feeling of knowing I’ve done a full days work and then still cranked out three thousand words. That makes me feel like a writer.

What is your favourite smell?

An odd question for me as I have a really bad sense of smell. I think it’s probably due to all the dust from building sites, but I can’t say I have strong reactions to smells. I can tell you I love the smell of slightly sugared tea just as it slips under my nose. Tar and also the distant whiff of tobacco are up there too (I used to smoke, and in truth, I loved it).

If you had superpowers (you can choose two) what would they be and how would they combine to benefit the other?

Well, on face value I’d be interested in some standard hero packages. You know? The Wolverine – Healing factor and Adamantium skeleton. Or the Nightcrawler – Teleportation and stealth. Looking closer though I know I’m not a fan of pain and so would hate being cut up constantly, and if I could sneak about I just wouldn’t trust myself. Before long I’d be watching people getting naked, or nicking their bank codes and accounts. It wouldn’t be good.

From a standard role I’d have to pick Captain Britain’s power set. Flight and super strength. Big amounts of power that are aided by his magical force field. He’s powerful, but not like Superman. The burden would be less, I feel.

In reality though I’d much rather have the ability to connect with technological equipment and interface with ease. I could write while I worked on site, getting ideas down and always storing those stray story ideas that I get but lose because I don’t write them down quick enough. Back that up with an ability to conjure tea out of thin air and I’d be laughing.

Why the beard?

As it stands, I have a very young face. I was always getting carded in pubs and clubs in my drinking days (now long gone, I’ve been t-total for about ten years now). I always used to grow what I could thinking that it would make me look older. It didn’t, it just made me look scruffy. Why do I have the full on mountain man beard now? Well, shaving is boring. My wife likes it. It keeps my face warm in winter. I like to know what I had for dinner yesterday?

You can follow Ed at @eddsnotdead and purchase the stories (and lovely cover art) of Gita Askari here (Still Life) and the following Blank Canvas here. I’d suggest doing all three.

Still Life Final

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Instructions

Everything dies, Everything is born. Again and again. Just like you.

There is no meaning to life. It just is. Unrelenting chaos. Why search for something that you know isn’t there? To become another flapping flesh socket blabbing about itself?

Life has no meaning, You give it some crutch. Make it your own. It is that simple.

Bully

To be a bully. Flicking cigarette ash in hoods. Leaving vile drawings in books. Tipping bags on the floor. Sitting next to victims on the school bus. Watching them quiver. Feeding off the power. To be a bully. They come in many shades. I have learned that essentially they are all the same.

But it makes us who we are. Bullying does that. When you have enough fingers in your face. Being told you’re worthless. Violence. Intimidation. When you just keep being beaten and can’t face standing up again.

I was bullied at school. I moved around a lot as a kid. Starting a new primary school for six months before being moved to another. Another country mostly. Settling but not settling. Making friends and losing them. Mostly because I haven’t quite learned how to keep them. Preferring my own company from an early age.

I have a strange accent. An odd mix of Aberdonian and rather posh sounding English. My skin is quite dark as I grew up in the Middle East. When we moved to Aberdeen I was six. I had already been to five different schools. As a regular newcomer to many a class I was earmarked from the beginning until I left school. My father tells me “moving your kids around at a young age is fine. They adjust really quickly.” I don’t agree with that at all.

I was bullied because I was different. The wrong accent in a small town. Trying to fit in again. For me I reached breaking point and stopped trying to fit in altogether. Moving up through the education system I made some friends. Only one of them I would truly count as one today. Ask me how many friends I would invite to my wedding it would be her. Don’t ask me who I’m inviting to my funeral.

It started gradually. Small meaningless scuffles. Nothing I couldn’t handle. My reaction to it was to laugh. Revel in my differences. I grew my hair. Got tattoos. Socialised with an older peer group. I was a “freak” and remained one, purposefully or otherwise until I left school.

To be different. To stand out. To be beaten at the school gates and have no one in your corner. No one to pick up your bag. No one to wipe the spit from your face. I was hated for the sake of having something to hate. The first real bully I came across hated me because his sister thought I was attractive. He came with cigarette burns and a regular fist in the back of my skull. He also came from a large extended family. For my regular beating after school his backup was ten to fifteen family members of various sizes. I didn’t have anybody. People were afraid to be seen with me.

I kicked back. Started drinking. Putting myself in dangerous situations. All of this was of course some sorry attempt to find some level of confidence. I felt like I was nothing. A pointless worm. The more I hated them the more I hated me. The more I altered my own self the more I isolated myself. Trying to isolate myself yet paradoxically putting myself in the spotlight even more. I became accustomed to fear.

One of the worst. Followed home by a large gang of local kids spurred on by an older girl I’d never seen before. After refusing to fight with this girl I received a fair beating from her and her family in arms. After kicking me in the testicles several times she then suggested to her brother that he might like to drive over me with his car. I don’t remember much after hearing that. I was twelve years old.

This went on for a while. Small town mentality. It escalated to a ridiculous level. One particular loon became very fond of terrifying me after school. It reached a rather odd point whereby he had become so fanatical about me he searched every single bus after school, tearing up seats and smashing windows as he went. A desperate search as I was hiding at a friends house. This same individual later made several death threats, tried to burn my house down and eventually turned up outside our house threatening to rape my mother.

I went back to Aberdeen several years ago for a short while. One morning I saw that same bully begging for change outside the post office. He didn’t have any teeth. Track lines all down his arms. I dropped some change in his hat. The same orange skull hat he wore at school. The same fists that pummeled me in the face every day for months.

My most humiliating. Having my gym kit stuffed down the toilet. A very unpleasant young man with a gang of uglier friends behind him. Kicked to the front of the bus. Covered in spit and blood by the time I got home. I think I was ten.

My daughter is beautiful. She attracts a lot of attention. Already she tells me that she doesn’t like the boys at school. I’ve watched from a distance and seen her being targeted by a couple of them. It is hard not to get involved when you see it. Your child being hurt. Because that’s what bullying is. It is nothing more than a vindictive, often long term need to cause pain to something you don’t like or understand. So you try to destroy it because that is what humans do. Sometimes it is all we do.

Many of my assailants had abusive parents, drug problems, no real prospects or safety net. Yet I’ve witnessed hideous bullying from wealthy, comfortable people in very powerful positions. The only common, and general denominator between each party is despising oneself. That burning frustration. Remembering all those private moments you never tell anyone about. Clutching your skull in agony with the weight of it all. Carrying an ache in your chest wherever you go. Perhaps in retrospect my bullies and I were more similar than we might think. Each living some hell. Disappearing without the other.

And all of this was before the days of social media and smart phones. I did try to kill myself at one point and I’m certain that I would have done with todays modern technology.

From my experiences meeting bullying head on with further violence is a grey area. Learning how to defend yourself is vital. It does however rarely solve the problem. And what is the problem? What are the solutions? I don’t think there are any. What I do know is I never asked my bullies why I was being bullied in the first place. Perhaps then, with a little more understanding, it might have been a little bit easier.

Authority

I’ve never been a fan of authority. I’ve rarely taken direction from someone I haven’t respected. I don’t like being told what to do. This in itself can be somewhat of a problem.

I’ve been wrestling with the authority I now have as a parent. Because there is some degree of authority to being a parent. Now that Eve is three she’s able to communicate freely, express her emotions and her intentions. It is sometimes the case that her intentions and/or actions go against what constitutes as normal behaviour. Which can require a variety of management techniques.

“Normal” behaviour is only what we as her parents perceive to be as such. In reality we can only bring to the table what we have learnt. The totality of the essence of any being comes from that individual being’s experience of life at that point in time. So what is normal? I’m not normal. I’ve met lots of people who don’t feel normal, all with brilliant, sparkly eyed children. All somehow guiding their children through their lives with particular patterns of behaviour. Somewhere a level of authority has to come into it. And power. A dangerous ability in the wrong hands.

Her actions which are life threatening to her or others need to be managed with a tight lipped diplomacy. I frequently lose sleep imagining some horrific accident involving my children so seeing it nearly happen first hand is quite stressful. It could be very easy to lose control in that instance, to rage at the child. I’ve seen it happen countless times. My daughter is three. She doesn’t understand the perils of deep water. Or why she can’t place her hand onto a opening door on the underground. These things need to be explained to her calmly so she can understand the situation. Life is filled with life threatening things. I don’t feel that using anger to make a point is of any use. Controlling my own stress levels is important.

Sometimes she feels that it’s her fault and that we’re angry with her. Sometimes her behaviour is just plain embarrassing. Occasionally her behaviour simply goes against what I feel is correct. I’ve now come to realise this is wholly irrelevant to her. My idea of what is correct, and my subsequent behaviour, is only based on what has been passed down from my peers and my own personal misadventures.

As I am now her peer I have to pass on what I know to her. In the finer details of life this becomes interesting. Table manners for example. Why I expect her to understand the importance of something like table manners is beyond me. Yet it bothers me. And I start to remind me and others around me of my father. My father was very strict about table manners.

But I’m not my father. And do I really care that much about table manners? For me this is where it all gets a bit messy. Who am I to tell her what’s right and wrong? I’d rather she developed the instinct and confidence to find out for herself.

I think it’s about finding what works for you. What you think is important and giving them the space to work it out for themselves. Allowing them to question it. But also being genuinely interested in what information they bring back to you. Because they can’t wait to tell you how they did it all by themselves. And to see how proud you will be.

Often what they’ve learned from a certain situation can be very different to what you might think or feel. It’s important to remember that your preconceived notions or ideas are yours, not your children’s. They might feel you’re wrong which is great because then you’re learning something. If you choose to listen to the reasons why. In any case if my children weren’t challenging me I’d be disappointed.

There are too many variables in so many lives to make any judgement calls. But my daughter sees the world through a curious telescope. I want her to tell me all about it.

Coming out the Other Side

Sometimes you have to wait for the right time to write about something. The journey has to be taken in order to fully understand the process.

We all know that the past months have been challenging in various ways. Life for some has become rather savage. The truth begins to drip out. You start to lose control. And it all suddenly isn’t OK anymore.

I’ve starting attending CBT. Starting something new begets the old which explains why I feel I can now write about it. Makes perfect sense. I also find it very interesting.

In November last year I approached my local NHS GP and was referred to a brilliant psychotherapist. We started working together and, after a brief time, struck up a rapport. He told me I “told a good story” while I had been explaining my symptoms. I’m still not sure what to think about that. He asked if I would work with some students he was mentoring. I felt it could only add to my self exploration so I agreed.

As this was all going on I had been asking Twitter various questions about depression and mental health. I asked;

How does your partner feel about you mental health?
What one word would you use to describe your partners mental health problems?
What one word defines you or your partners mental illness?

Simple enough. My reason for asking about people’s partners was because it was clear my partner was quite scared. Scared and frustrated that she was unable to do anything. I wanted to see how others felt. As a father, and as a person blessed with life, it is my responsibility to fix my head. I need to function. I love my family too much not to. I’ve taken that responsibility which in turn gives me some control.

However I keep wondering if the partners of the mentally ill are disregarded in the treatment process. When do they get a say? I had a brave response to my questions. Most people with experience of mental illness either don’t want to talk about it or don’t want to reveal their problem to others on a social network. Fair enough. Here are some of the responses.

Frustrated, weary, looney, weighted, scared, lonely, natural.

Natural. There’s something beautiful in that. What startled me was that the word “natural” was the only positive word I was sent. Every single other word or comment was negative. Not surprising I suppose given the stigma surrounding mental health. It’s fair to say that that in itself is part of the problem.

At the CBT workshop introduction there is a short session detailing what the course comprises of. In this there are group discussions about how people feel about depression and anxiety. In a group of fourty five people nearly twenty words were shouted out that define depression. All of them negative. I kept my mouth shut and smiled, thinking about how natural the word “natural” felt at that precise moment. Recent strangers on the street now in a hot room shouting over each other to make themselves heard. Talking.

As is usually the case I was asked to contribute something. I don’t know why I always get picked out. I must have that kind of face. I said “The Cure” (then had to explain to most of the room who The Cure are). I said that the poignancy of Robert Smith’s lyrics and the aching delicacy of the music he and his band produce helped me start to mould some sense of who I am. The room went a bit quiet.

I then went on to say that the suffering, endurance and exploration of mental health has produced breathtaking pieces of art. Soul deafening music. Enough books to wrap around the planet. Jung, Joy Division, Henry Rollins, The Cure, Glyn Dillon, Chris Ware, Bill Hicks. Why is there never a focus on the positives of depression? For me life is always about achieving a balance. You have to understand the parts to fully comprehend the sum. Depression cannot exist without some other force balancing it out. Tricky part is figuring out what the components are. Good and bad. Overall, the more you know the easier it becomes for you and your loved ones.

The energy in the room shifted focus after my contribution to focus on happier times. Times of a brief inner peace. People visibly relaxed. Smiled.

As you can imagine I left a fair amount of feedback at the end of the session. A simple thing to introduce a positive idea. One thing that’s interesting is the perception and availability of mental health services is beginning to change for the better. It appears to be in high demand at the moment as some struggle to be normal. But what is “normal”? Perhaps our surroundings and culture mechanisms are to blame? Perhaps our society is a little sick?

As long as we keep talking everything should be just fine. Things will occur naturally.

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Seeing Red

(Original published via @mammapolitico on bodkinpress.com. A collective, collaborative ezine which you can download here for free.)

I used to have violent flashes. Imagining streets falling apart. Pushing that bully off the bridge. Picturing a horrific car crash around the corner. Lucid images of my children being hurt. I would bite my bottom lip that hard. Leaving scars. I wasn’t allowed pets for a while. It’s under control now.

I’m a married father to two girls (2, 14 yrs). I am surrounded by females. Pets included. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Regardless of gender one thing I cannot stand is public displays of parents violently thrashing their children. Physically or verbally. Witnessing it starts a sick little fire in my gut. That horrible, uncontrollable little part of me. It’s familiar to the ashen faced, savage determination I display if my family are under threat. Yet horribly, indirectly misplaced. I start to bite my bottom lip.

There are parents who forget that they are extremely physically strong in comparison to their tiny child. There are parents who forget that their words resonate in that cold afternoon. Memories remain and expand beyond your own personal experiences and as my grandmother tells me; “your children always remember the bad things that happened. The bad memories.” Push hard enough and they leave a foul mark.

My main issue is that ultimately that parent has forgotten why they had the kid in the first place. Believe me I’ve been in situations where I would happily have thrown my child into the sea and walked away whistling. I realise I’m fortunate to have learned how to control these feelings. Meditation helps. But there is never any excuse for treating your own child like an inconvenience. Parents forget that their tiny, powerless versions of mushy genetics mashed together grow into frustrated, impressionable, endlessly demanding humans.

All children can turn out to be proud, kind, self assured adults. Or emotionally crippled, broken, scared versions of what they could have been. A parent thrashing their child in public for demanding something only makes me see how hard they want to beat themselves. How hard they hate themselves for putting themselves in their position. How much that child has ruined their life. How much they deserved to be punished for wanting more for themselves.

A two year old being punched in the back of the head for asking for a magazine. Then being told to shut the fuck up for crying. I have seen far worse. Categorically the broad necessary scope of the charity sector aiding vulnerable children and young adults leaves me cold. I’ve met parents who they can barely look after themselves let alone know how to cut their newborns nails.

It is easy to conceive a child. I can see the attraction believe me. But why have them when you don’t even love them? Why have them when all you do is pour your own self disgust down their throats? Why have them when all you do is lock them in bathrooms? Why have them when you leave deep scarlet bruises on their faces? Why have them when all you do is avoid them? Or hold them by the throat in the freezing depths of an ice cold bath? Or sneak into their bedrooms to do unimaginable things? Why would you have children in the first place when you can’t even bring yourself up?

I’m not judging anybody. Yet I lay the blame at the door of anyone who has children and believes that belittling, disrespecting, abusing and refusing to take the time to understand them is the proper way to bring up a child. Parenting is difficult but there is no excuse for taking your own self hatred out on someone who didn’t choose to be here in the first place. Doesn’t seem fair, does it.

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Buy My Book

I’ve written a book about my experiences of becoming a parent. Sometimes you have to Bite the Dog published by Soul Rocks Books. They also published an interview with me which you can read here.

If you’re looking for some guidance on those first few months of fatherhood then there may be something here for you. As long as I make you think.

Essential reading for all parents, In this honest and heartfelt book the author shares the emotions he feels at his daughter’s birth, how life changes with the responsibility of becoming a father and oh so much more, that I won’t spoil by revealing here.

So many books are written for new mums and pregnant women. This is for Dads and it is powerful stuff.

I wish it had been around when I had my two babies as I think it would have given my husband a much better understanding of what I was going through and how to give me the support and love when things were difficult – not only during labour but also in the months that followed when I sometimes felt I really didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing.

“You need to keep writing. We all need you to do that. Parenthood is an elusive club to people like me but thanks to you I really get it.”

Book Chapter Sample: Information

This will be incomprehensible to some of the younger generation.

There was a time when a person could live a life without carrying a phone. There was a time when you could set out to explore the back-end streets of a city with only your house key tied around your neck. There was a time when parents would have no idea where their children were, no idea what they were up to and very little fear for their safety.

I remember fishing with my father when I was very young. My father, who I rarely spent time with, was sucking testosterone like a breath mint that morning. He spat on the grass and swore. He may even have grown chest hair before my very eyes. I was twelve and much more intrigued by a discarded Razzle I had seen in a bush as we got out of the car.

There’s not much that happens in the early hours of the morning. There’s a stillness to it which momentarily freezes you. We got to the river early to avoid the ranger. In hushed whispers we walked side by side, fishing rods in hand, parallel to the lazy slip-slopping gurgle of the water by our feet. The morning mist swirled around us like a gigantic, enveloping spider web. It felt like the world had died and we were walking over a stone-cold carcass.

Dad swore magnificently, spat and bent to rest on one knee. He stared over the river looking like he knew what he was looking at. I scoffed at him and he grunted at me before moving further down the river bank away from me. I looked to what he’d been staring at.

A kingfisher. A dazzling, rainbow of a bird perched quite happily on a log on the other side of the river. They are a fizzing, zipping, beautiful creature. Blink and you would miss one. I took a step closer and it vanished. It disappeared before my very eyes. I looked down the bank at my father who had started unpacking our fishing tackle. He’d walked a fair distance and he waved, silently beckoning for me to go towards him. Smiling.

I sucked in the fresh, morning air and looked to the horizon. The sun had started to dress for the morning. A purple-tinged bank of clouds wrapped itself around a spinning arch of reds and oranges. By the river bank I could hear the warm rustle of animals. The soothing plip-plop of fish breaking the surface of the water. The lazy buzz of insects warmed by the sun only added to the symphony of the morning. I was witness to a sensory experience that even today stirs not only memories of watching the world wake up but also how close I felt to my father that day.

Now let’s think about how that day would have been if we both had smartphones. I would have tweeted about it. I would have texted someone. I would have felt my phone roll around in my pocket. My father would have had his phone holstered to his belt. I would have checked my phone for messages as I waited for a fish to bite instead of talking to my father. I would have tried to take a picture of the kingfisher rather than witnessing it with my own eyes. In fact I would have strolled right past it more interested in tweeting than anything else.

Is there a Fishing App? What are the reviews for this area? Where can I buy a better fly? Are there any local businesses in the area that stock that item? “Hey everyone I am FISHING! LOL!”

Technology would have made those memories very different.

I watch parents in the park playing with their children while talking on their phones. I see no engagement with the child. Only a complete disengagement from that very moment in which tiny shards of relationships are born and nurtured. It saddens me and I remember that when my father and I strode out that day, more intent on catching memories than fish, we were alone. No one knew we were there. We were adventurers. We had the fizz of excitement in our bellies. We were swallowed by the world. Neither of us was carrying these portable tracking devices. We were both enraptured by each moment of our connection with a simpler world. The real world. The world that doesn’t endlessly trying to sell us something. The world that doesn’t track and report your every movement. The world that isn’t ruled by anything except nature itself.


This sample chapter is taken from my book Sometimes you have to Bite the Dog published by Soul Rocks Publishing.

 

Parenting is not a social club

Based on situations being as they are I’m now looking after Eve on a full time basis. Keeping any toddler fed, entertained, happy and alive is a tough job. I spend a huge amount of time with her now. Some of which is spent having to remind myself that the time with her is a blessing. But that’s my choice. Some fathers may not choose to do so but again it’s a personal choice. It’s a question of finding a balance with what suits the situation best. Let’s just say I’m not well suited to capitalism or indeed having a boss.

As a result I’m spending time with other parents. In parts of Tottenham I’ve never seen before. In old, decrepit rooms with toys that deserve to be melted into something else. I want to start meeting other dads so poor Eve has to be dragged along.

One thing I’ve noticed as a parent in the field is that I am constantly judged. Mostly by women. It’s fair to say that I do have a slice of paranoia to my personality but I know when I’m being spoken about. I’ll give you an example.

Soft play. Eve is two. I have to go in with her otherwise she won’t climb the stairs. A group of boys were whooping like rabid gibbons which Eve found quite terrifying. The thing about kids is when they spot a weakness in another child, and they’re at that pokey, vindictive age, they’ll exploit it. So we spent twenty minutes trying to find our way through a brown edged, piss soaked maze while being howled at by ten year olds. Not quite Apocalypse Now but I would not have been surprised to get home to find faeces on my back.

I was the only dad there. I was the only parent talking to their kid and showing her around. I think each woman on the premises either sneered or leered at me at least once. I’m sure not one of them smiled at me. I don’t like being stared at but if you have something to say I’d rather hear it from you. I don’t like being whispered about and I have very good hearing. I don’t appreciate being treated like a piece of meat. Most of all I will not tolerate being judged. Especially for acting weird in public just to make my daughter laugh.

Also when did parenting become a job? Why do people hide behind their children, using them to define and fill their repulsive little lives? The garden furniture tables, weak tea, sad plates of cold oven chips and stale crisps, piggy little poisonous eyes, strange lies, horrible conversations, sickly judgement, dead air. Parenting is a way to meet other people just like you? What a hideous thought. I’d rather meet someone who makes me feel alive.

Step outside the norm. Live your life the way you want to. Cut out guilt and self judgement. And you can judge me all you like. I know I walked out of there with my head held high. My daughter’s laughter filled the cold, empty warehouse like she was pouring in sunshine. Until some little shit stole her balloon.

Sometimes you have to Bite the Dog by Sam Coleman – Audio Chapter sample “A Gentle Savagery”

We were burgled recently. They took watches, hard drives and computers mostly. We lost nearly all our photos but I’d backed up most of them on various disks and odd looking usb sticks. While doing this I found a video I’d made of an author reading I’d attempted. At the time of making it I’d just had the news I was going to be published.

I’m not sure it’s on the mark in terms of message. I wanted to portray the content as a recollection. I think my voice works as the chapter isn’t gender specific.

Anyway I hope you enjoy it. I wanted to do something different.

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