Book Chapter Sample: “A Gentle Savagery” (The Milk Diaries)

(An imagined diary written from our daughter’s perspective)

I awake with stomach cramps too painful to bear silently. So I scream. The things above me stare silently into the distance.

There are no feelings in those colour-filled eyes. No feelings at all. As a pale green light creeps slowly into the room I begin to visualise my surroundings. While surrounded by the cold expanse of a soft prison encasing my view I see little except a vast white space above me. The things weightlessly bobbing above won’t respond to my enquiries. At times they follow each other ominously in a moronic, circular parade. There is an accompanying music to their slavery. It sounds as if bones are being crunched between the blackened teeth of giants. My stomach cramps even further and in the mangled chaos of the morning I soil myself.

The pain ebbs away, yet now I lie here in my own faeces. A familiar acrid smell fills the room. The white space above me offers no respite. So I scream harder and longer. There is a muffled shuffling in the distance. The soft padding of feet. A brief gust of wind as the door to my room is pushed open. The things rotate backwards against their mechanical shackles then morosely swing forward to their original positions. Sometimes if I kick them hard enough I can induce their musical clatter but this is an effort I am unwilling to partake in this morning.

It’s Mummy.

“Good morning little one!”

“Good morning. I have yet again soiled myself,” I tell her.

The wrinkling of her nose indicates that she is more than aware. of this. She bends over the side of my cot. Her hair brushes against my face. I stop screaming for a moment to gaze at her face. Her eyes are half closed. Her smile sits awkwardly on her face. She leans over and tucks each hand under me to lift me out of my cot. I am free. The room and the occupants stand to greet me. My loyal silent subjects.

First there is Flat Teddy. A useful companion when initialising a cot-exit strategy. His time will come but for now he sleeps.

Next to greet me is Milly. A strange and weird creature with dark, soulless eyes. She makes me feel endlessly uncomfortable. Why she persists in starting at me is a peculiar matter. She remains one to watch.

Oliver is my trusted companion. Long into the night have we conversed on matters close to my heart. Along with Flat Teddy he too provides a platform for potential escape. His eyes speak the language of trust and accompaniment.

Best of all is Bunny. I cannot sleep without this soft-faced companion wrapped around my fingers. Ever will he be my most treasured of friends.

But the observations of the morning are drawn short by Mummy. She draws me close to her. My head now rests against her warm, soft skin. Her essence is my rapture. Her smell wraps around me. My fingers, once clumsy and inept, feel strong and supple. I curl each digit into a fist and bash her chest in my ecstasy. I cannot help but squeal in delight. She moves me in ways I cannot control. I am addicted to her. I hear clumsy footsteps. Daddy, the one who elates yet saddens me in equal measure, is leaving me. Again. I turn from Mummy and call out to him:

“Daddy! Don’t leave us today. There are so many things to accomplish with the morning. I can show you my rolling trick I showed Mummy yesterday. She must have told you about it? I turned on my front then turned back over again. Mummy was ecstatic and I’m sure you will be too? Daddy!”

Yet it is not to be. He is leaving us again. He shows his face at the door to smile at me, dashes into the room to kiss my head before heading towards the bathroom. I will enjoy ripping the hairs out of his chest later. But no matter. My soiled clothes are removed. I am nude for a short while which pleases me no end and I squeal in my short freedom and the anticipation of what is to come next. The euphoria of breakfast. The supple, warm combination of aroma and taste entangle me in their web of hedonism. I am at one with her and at one with myself. My very being centres itself in a slow passionate dance of blissful elation. The universe speaks to me in these moments.

But not for long. Daddy enters the room and bends to kiss me again. I cannot help but smile at him. In my intoxication I can forgive him for anything. In the paradise of my inebriation the world is a joyous kingdom indeed.

I fart loudly which induces fits of laughter from both of my companions. At times I struggle to understand this world. Its gentle savagery grants little comprehension.

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

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The Future

Sometimes I just want to rip the world off it’s hinges. To throttle mankind by it’s own teeth and shriek, into a thousand year shadow, of how putrid and pointless we have become. And so proud of us we are.

There is a hot white glow in the corner of my vision. I cannot ignore the reality of how small a lifetime is. Thirty years. A lot can change. Yet here we are. The future for my children is random enough to be exciting, yet foul mouthed and greedy all at the same time.

I like to think I know where happiness grows. Where true love is. And how time has no purpose in the spreading of love. With the harmony of it. Once it’s there, inside you it grows happily.

And the world is not interested. Our pitiless leaders show little favour to the welfare of our expectations. Or existence. I cannot understand why making the world more complicated, when we are just beginning to learn about each other, is such a commodity.

Or perhaps I can.

I fear for the future. More so because my children will spend more time in it than me.

100 Little Words via @charlieplunkett

Spring. Growth. Nurture. New beginnings. A fresh start. Breeding. All of these things make me think about Mother’s Day.

My friend, the delightful Charlie Plunkett, is celebrating all aspects of parenthood by sharing details of a book she’s compiled, along with around 100 fabulous mums, dads, grandparents and experts. People like me. 100 Little Words on Parenthood is a beautiful collection of anecdotes, poems, words of wisdom and humour on all aspects of parenthood. From the miracle of birth and those early days of sleep deprivation, breastfeeding and teething each childhood milestone is charted. First steps, funny things children say, toddlers, tantrums, teenagers and grandchildren are all celebrated in this book that will appeal to new parents, experienced parents, grandparents and those considering becoming parents.

From 26th February until 4th March 100 Little Words on Parenthood will be available on Kindle Countdown to download for just 99p. For an extra special gift order the paperback version as a gift for £9.99.





What parents are saying about…

100 Little Words on Parenthood

‘Gorgeous book, love it. Great little anecdotes and laugh out loud moments. Amazing how just 100 words can also make you cry the minute after you were just laughing…’

‘What a marvellous little book about parenthood … heart-warming, wonderful and happy … well observed and really a lovely collection …’

‘100 little words is a little treasure, perfectly complemented by the little truisms and quotations interspersed between each contributor’s special memory. A joy to read, a delightful gift.’

‘I feel this could be great for new parents for a fun and intriguing read to see the enjoyment others have experienced. Yes; put away those guide books and get this!’

‘A beautiful collection of thoughts and anecdotes that makes you smile, laugh and shed a tear. Very well collated and a joy to read….’

‘When I was pregnant I read everything I could about pregnancy and parenting. Most books went into great detail. But 100 Little Words on Parenthood gives you all the best bits cut down into 100 word snippets. It makes you laugh, it makes you cry, but most of all as a parent it makes you realise your not alone!’

‘A really nice collection of poems, anecdotes, true stories and helpful tips about babies, kids and parenting. Touching, informative and amusing too.’

‘A beautiful, poignant and funny collection. Thank you Charlie for creating such a magical little book.’

‘100 Little Words is an insightful collection of accounts of parenthood from the front line. Covering every aspect from birth to becoming a grandparent Charlie has managed to pull together a rich variety of writers to contribute to this masterful collection of parental reflections. It’s genuinely funny, often heart-breaking and always honest. Any parent would be wise to purchase this to gain insight into the often bewildering world of parenthood.’

Book Review “Sex, Drugs and Techno” by Paul Eldridge

Personal journeys are hard to write about. So often it can be felt that there’s a frustration behind each word. A pulling at the thread of their own tangible experience, unable to weave the tapestry of their own meaning.

In “Sex, Drugs and Techno” Paul Eldridge tells the story of his experiences with a variety of drugs, his life as dictated by them and his emergence into a drug free existence. The writing overall is strong, especially the recounting of his early years as a DJ. Anyone with an understanding and experience of any clubbing scene will see familiar patterns here. In his story Paul guides you through the smoke ridden, sweat stained  crowds and invites you to see the part of you that he himself is all too familiar with. In any case, drugs or not, this is a story of the self.

The questions that arise from Eldridge’s hedonistic, self destructive lifestyle are questions I often ask myself. Who am I? Why do I do that? What is the point? Why do I keep doing this to myself? Ultimately the question is always “why?” We search for meaning everywhere. We define ourselves to ourselves as soon as we wake. We all seek the eternal truth. Eldridge’s descriptions of the clubbing scene fizz by and use a host of cleverly used metaphors. The surroundings transforming from a joyful, collective union into a macabre, horror filled nightmare is painfully and clearly written. At this breaking point Eldridge is brought to his physical and psychological knees. It is here we see him then begin to transform as he unfolds the story of his path to healing. 

The story of the Balinese folklore is an intriguing one. The experiences Eldridge recounts in Bali of his convalescence are far more inspiring and powerful than his earlier drug fueled life. It is here that the writing becomes clarified and condensed to a point. Eldridge has experienced much in his life and the unmasking of his own ego is a highlight of the story.

There are times when the author’s passion for his new path are over embellished. There are instances of repetition but these can be excused. To share a first hand experience is a challenging task. No words can quite describe the inner journey when felt so personally. Eldridge has managed to distill a lifetimes worth of inner turmoil and self transformation into a furious, beauty filled novel. The passion for his journey is evident as much as his desire to share his experiences with those who choose to listen.

“Sex, Drugs and Techno” is published by Soul Rocks books.

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Book Review: “A Monster Ate My Mum” Story by Jen Faulkner, Illustrated by Helen Braid

The first aspect of this book that intrigued me was the artwork. The cover shows an exhausted, confused child face to face with a monster of some kind. Eye to eye. Toe to toe. It’s quite disturbing.


“A Monster Ate My Mum” by Jen Faulkner, and illustrated beautifully by Helen Braid, is a children’s book about post natal depression. It’s a bold move to convey such hidden, violent feelings into a book. It can’t be an easy thing, explaining post natal depression to your own child. With what limited experience I have personally I doubt I’d be able to get to the nub of it. Any form of depression is a monster of an unknown quantity. It is born in a place unfathomable to the mind. It cannot help but grow.

The plot follows a young boy as he searches for the answers for his mum’s PND. Along the way he meets a handful of monsters who have not only eaten his mummy’s spirit, they each appear to symbolise aspects of the author’s depression. Her smile, her laugh etc. Interestingly each of the monsters play a rather passive, somewhat friendly part. There is a feeling that the threat has already passed. That the monsters have been there for a long time. Certainly it’s evident that the author is all too well acquainted with each one.

Perhaps this is an indication of when the author had begun to turn a psychological corner with her illness. The characterisation of an inner problem. The unknown becoming all too real.

At times the prose doesn’t quite roll off the tongue. There are some parts that need explaining. The end has a touch of sadness to it. However this only adds to the layering of the experience of PND. The infinite uncertainty on all sides. For subject matter such as this, explaining it must a tread onto a murky but evidently personal path. Some feelings are almost impossible to put into words. Jen has done a fine job of explaining her story to us but, as with any depression, you can’t put everything into words.

The illustrations add a mood laden vibrancy to the story.  The use of rich, textual backgrounds show an almost dreamlike state as the boy wanders through his mother’s mind. The choice and use of particular colours cleverly indicate mood and setting. Each monster is less than threatening which makes it an easier read for younger children.

In conclusion I would say that this book tackles a personal and often devastating subject very well. I respect the author for exploring these depths of her illness. I enjoyed the emotional, colour fueled journey of the young boy. It is important that these journeys, and these feelings are discussed and explored. It is important that they become less of a stigma and more of a strange comfort.

You can find out more, and buy the title, here.



When I think about faith I think about the following panel from Shannon Wheeler’s brilliant book Too Much Coffee Man.

Wheeler, S. (2001) Too Much Coffee Man  (Atlanta: Dark Horse Comics)

Wheeler, S. (2001) Too Much Coffee Man (Atlanta: Dark Horse Comics)

When we think of faith we often think of religion. Our faith in a higher power. Certainly as parents we have to consider our opinions of any religion. It is undoubtable that our children will be exposed to some of them. There are enough of us. And at the same time I would like to think our children would take interest in these ideas, these beliefs and these faiths. Some if not all of them have had their part in the physical, mental and spiritual growth of the world around us.

In nearly all societies these ideas remain steadfast in their relevance and in their power. Yet in almost all of these belief systems it is fair to say that they have been taught. Our beliefs and our inherent faiths are taught to us from a young age. Whether they be religious or otherwise the mind of a young child is eager to take as firm a belief in a faith as their elders may do.

We forget that believing in something doesn’t necessarily make it true.

Faith anchors communities. It binds families. It gives reason for an individual to not lose hope. To struggle further. To never shatter that belief. To never weaken. To find that inner strength.

For me I guess I’ve learned not to be disappointed. My belief is that life is short. My faith is that there is still blood pulsing through my body. My faith is that my family wake every day alive, healthy and happy (marginally). Everything else is just part of the experience.

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The time it has taken to put this book together is a brilliant accomplishment of sorts. The self belief I had to generate was a hot fast lesson. The help and support I’ve received along the way from a handful of glittering humans has become almost the point of the publication itself.

So. Here it is. A piece of me.

Sometimes you have to Bite the Dog, published by Soul Rocks books is my personal account of parenting from the nerve shredding arrival through to the mind rattling first birthday. Joyous and deadly all at the same time.

If I’m honest I can barely bring myself to open it. The words melt on the page. The recollections of that time drive a spear through my chest, like it couldn’t have been prevented in the first place. These words had to come out. They had to slither, burn and smash into the minds of others. I couldn’t hold them in anymore.

Parenting is hard work. We are sleep deprived, dead eyed keepers of the eternal flame. We love without fail. We fail without pause. We wake each day with fireworks in our hearts and stones in our bellies. We take our children by the hand into a future unsure of itself.

So thank you to all who commented, who shared, who loved and believed. Your names are too numerous to list here.

Thank you to those who saw something in my writing and recognized it as their own.

Thank you for making me realise I am not alone.


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Digital Publishing vs. HipHop (Part 3)

In parts one and two of this discussion we touched upon various elements that tie publishing and HipHop together. It is important to remember that both Publishing and HipHop are slaves to time. Both have evolved over time due to advancements in technology, financial spending power and the internet.

It is also fair to say that publishing has been around a lot longer than HipHop. The spread of art and literature has given birth to the successes and downfalls of the human race itself. Yet the organic nature of HipHop cannot be ignored. There are lessons to be learned.

HipHop for me is about the beauty of content. The power of words, music and art. The beauty found in artistic freedom.  HipHop is constantly reshaping itself to suit the needs of the audience because the artists are the audience.  The collaborative, artistic nature of HipHop at it’s purest form is solely focused on the content.

How that content relates to the user can be specific visually (via ESTUM), musically (via KRS One and Marley Marl), physically (via @RegularJoeDurt) or mentally (via Chester P). There are other examples of course but the important aspect to recognise here is that HipHop relates to a wide range of very different audiences as well as encouraging participation.

Today electronic reading technology is cheap and accessible. This technology is now able to alter content to suit specific user requirements. An example of this would be changing the font size on an ebook or allowing the text to be instantly translated into a character based foreign language. The user can engage and modify the content, become part of it and learn in a way that suits their needs.

In summary we are looking at two very different industries that have similar patterns of evolving behaviour. As Publishing evolves into a new era, whatever that may be, there is a sense of collaboration, of doors opening. Of ideas being born. In some ways the industry itself has had to go back to square one. In the same way as HipHop continues to recycle itself Publishing is going through the same motions. The two can only succeed with audience focused content, whoever that particular audience is.

A huge thanks to @RegularJoeDirt who, to my mind, lives and breathes HipHop.

I’m out. Peace.

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Digital Publishing vs. HipHop (Part 2) via @regularjoedurt

(View my original post here which HOPEFULLY helps to tie the two together.)

HipHop as a term is continuously misinterpreted and misunderstood, mainly for the benefit of marketers. It has become the corporate shortcut to “youth culture” (whatever that is) and its good name has been hung out to dry as a tool to sell things to those with a desire to connect with something. The plain truth is that HipHop is more integrated into everyday life than ever and that you don’t need to chuck energy drinks down your neck to be part of it, despite what Professor Green says, it is Relentless already and you probably are part of it without even knowing it.

The impact of this culture is beyond the measurement of record sales and cultural trends. Lyrics inform and reach kids that don’t want to read books or watch the news, who they choose to listen to may have a profound impact on their ideas about life and can alter their motivations. The typical example is the “get money” ideology, pretty straight to the point. For every rapper gaining airplay telling people to reach for the riches there are also the dudes spreading deep philosophies and political ideas. Rap music cannot be categorized as violent or damaging, that would be like saying that all books are violent and damaging. It’s something that has been hard to grasp for the people of my parents generation and people of my generation will struggle to grasp later waves of the culture, clinging to our favourite artists of our day.  That’s the point, its from the streets and its for the streets and does not require explanation as it evolves with the streets.

The cliches tell us that HipHop is a state of mind and a movement. Whatever you want to call it, it is definitely a something. There seems to be a call among the tedious debaters to provide a solid definition for the term and I’m sure there are plenty out there but for me, personally, HipHop means an education in certain aspects of life and a belief in the power of the individual within a community. It wouldn’t exist, after all without the drive and commitment of a young community. In its rawest form HipHop mirrors gang culture to the tee and that is no accident as that is what it was intended to do way back when the first block parties were being thrown in the Bronx. Gangs such as the Black Spades would attend these cease-fires disguised as parties and as time went on things changed for the better. Gangs evolved into Crews, scores were settled by rap battles, not violence. Tagging and graffiti evolved into true artistic expressions and enveloped the New York cityscapes in the colours and characters of its disenchanted children. The value of this culture to the youth of the time is unmeasurable and it’s crazy to see how it’s grown and developed into what we recognise today as HipHop. It’s roots are embedded in the vision of creating something new from something old.

HipHop is cultural recycling.

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In this quiet time, in a moment of solitude, it comes to me that one day very soon I will have to become a grown up. There is no questioning it.

I crave my time with Eve. Yet I crave my time with my other half. That moment when you realise that your child/children is/are finally asleep. And you can both finally, purposefully relax. And drink. And laugh at humans on television. The television that seems infinite now.

We hold hands. And talk. We’ve known each other for a long time. Our memories and recollections and loves are entwined. She is everything to me.

I will miss her when I’m taking Eve to a swimming class. I will miss her when she’s out with her friends. I miss her now. In a very selfish way I don’t want to lose any time with her. I don’t want to ever lose our enjoyment of each other,

Eve is talking in sentences. She can count to ten. She is obsessed with grabbing huge handfuls of macaroni in a tight fist, then letting them gently fall onto the floor. She then rearranges the macaroni into various, specific tins and pots that she’s placed on the floor. We stand and watch her. We hold each others hands in a tight, joy filled, anxious grip. We smile at each other. We hold each other. The phone rings. Eve falls over. Two hours till bedtime.

She takes up a lot of time. Children do. But she is the reason I walk home with a smile on my face. Even if I had spent some part of the day nervously shuffling through endless, hot humans to wrench my own punished body from the guts of the city she never, ever fails to make me kill myself with laughter. She’s joyous. She makes everything beautiful.

So, as it is and what it will be. I need to change. The child in me will always be around for Eve. The connections between all of us will become deeper. But let’s put it this way. The faster I kick start this change in myself the more likely I’ll be better prepared for her as a teenager. We fear it.


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Echoes of Alchemy

Finally. I’ve managed to get my hands on a copy of Bryan Talbots‘s mind bendingly brilliant Brainstorm from a lovely little headshop in Portabello road called Alchemy. After leaving the shop it came to me that I may in fact have had one of the most fascinatingly coincidental and deeply rewarding experiences I have ever had.

The story runs as follows;

I’m a huge fan of the Hip Hip group Taskforce for various reasons. Their use of the English language is spectacular.

One of the founding members has named himself “Chester P Hackenbush” after Brainstorm’s main protagonist. After realising this, and being a passionate advocate of graphic novels, I couldn’t help but become marginally obsessed with finding this lost artefact of the underground comic scene. Comic writers and sequential artists across the globe have most certainly been influenced by Bryan Talbot’s work, Brainstorm being of notable mention.

I had to have it. My curious, oddly tenacious mind had me scanning endless dusty shelves in numerous, often strange establishments trying to find not only a comic of influence but the literary source and inspiration for one of the country’s most inspirational and powerful lyricists.

Stick with me.

I finally, recently discovered through my sources that the publisher themselves were selling copies of Brainstorm over the counter for £9.95. In a lovely little headshop in Portabello Road. A shop called Alchemy run by a certain, gold infused, dream chasing, truth howling man named Lee Harris.

Lee is a counter culture hero. Lee Harris is an actor, a playwright, an author, a visionary, a humanitarian, an obviously beautiful creation of a human being. He ran with Kerouac, Burroughs and Ginsberg. So many others.

And the first time I spoke to him I felt love. Holding his hands in mine as I met him for the first time was an honour. I felt it. The sign of the times that feeds through us all. His connection with me felt so gentle, yet so honest.

As we talked I discovered that he has published a collection of his written work called Echoes of the Underground – A Footsoldier’s Tale. I’m reading it at the moment. If you want to read a first hand, gritty, beautiful, in-depth account of the 60′s and beyond then do read Lee’s life story. It’s as honest as you can hope to read. And he’s an accomplished, powerful writer.

So I mentioned Chester P to Lee. He knew exactly who he was. We talked some more. We laughed. We connected. Bryan Talbot turned out to be a very close friend of Lee. It then became clear to me. Lee Harris had, in his free spirited way, published Brainstorm. The domino effect fluttered at the back of my head. The afternoon swam blissfully into the early evening.

Bryan Talbot is a writer and an artist who has been responsible for such works as Alice in Sunderland, The Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes (a fascinating contrast and insight into the life of James Joyce’s daughter) and of course Brainstorm. A particular fan boy reference for me is the fact that Bryan’s character of Chester P Hackenbush was reworked by Alan Moore as Chester Williams for Swamp Thing. You can find out a lot more about Bryan Talbot at his fanpage run by the marvellous @bryan_talbot

This sudden powerful mash of coincidence has resulted in me finding a friendship with Lee. I don’t make friends easily but with Lee there is no option. The other exciting news is that I’ve relayed all of these strange events back to Chester P himself who, while delighted, has offered me some time with him and his brother Farma G. The details of this venture may, or may not be, arriving soon. They are extremely busy.

If you are at all interested in Hip Hop, and have grown tired of the current chart topping nonsense, do take some time to listen to this extremely raw and passionate piece of music from Farma G.

If you are ever in Portabello Road do pop in to say hello to Lee. And buy a copy of Brainstorm.

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