Learn to accept the compliment. And give one

It’s one of my many failings; someone pays me a compliment and I think it’s a trap. Most likely because of the way I’ve been brought up.

I use self-deprecating humour quite often. It’s so I can get the harsh insult in before anyone else can. It steps on their point and grinds it into the floor before it can do any harm.

Take for instance an email from the people who are going to publish my second novel. They’ve had a read and are saying all sorts of lovely things – I had to look up ‘denouement’ at one stage because I didn’t know what it meant.

There were ‘talenteds’, ‘ingenious’s’ ‘noteworthys’ and ‘seasoned professional’ all over the text of the email and all I could think was ‘Is seasoned professional a dig at my age?’ or ‘Yes, but what about my book?- see, I’m doing it again!

I can’t help it. Worse thing is, I’m conscious that I do it to other people. I find it difficult to give a compliment as well. I have to fight every ingrained piece of ‘conditioning’ to actually turn round and say ‘that is brilliant’.

A relatively new but most excellent friend of mine ‘Adam’ leant me a CD of music he’d written, performed and produced and mixed called ‘Animal Magic’.

At first, me being the critical and cynical fucker that I am, I thought ‘It’s going to have Johnny Morris talking as if he’s a camel on it.’

On first listen I was completely amazed and a little jealous. Not only is Adam a phenomenal guitarist, he’s also an ingenious bass player and inventive keyboard player.

Not only did he perform the material, he fucking wrote it and recorded it and even drafted in the talent to complement his music.

Every track was bursting with ideas and in some places you can hear the influences of Miles Davis, Jeff Beck, Tangerine Dream, Herbie Hancock and there’s even a bit of Steve Vai in there.

It may sound like a hotchpotch of styles but it works and it is great. He may have to claw the CD out of my cold, dead fingertips if he wants it back.

I’m writing this so when next I meet Adam I can turn round and say ‘that was amazing mate, thanks for letting me listen to it’. ‘Your work is fantastic’.

Cheers Adam, you’re a genius, mate.




We can’t eat here. The wi-fi is terrible

I kid you not. Real words from a real human being. The ‘real’ is debatable because the lady in question will have to remain nameless.

‘So what we’re you going to do? Spend your whole evening photographing your food and putting it on Instagram? Because that’s original.’


‘Texting your friends every few minutes in the middle of our conversation?’


‘Work on a PowerPoint presentation between courses?’

‘Don’t be fucking stupid!’

So, I’m being stupid because the restaurant where we are going to eat food, good food I might add, has a questionable internet connection.

When did we become a society so preoccupied with our connectivity that everything else pales into insignificance?

The filet mignon at your favourite restaurant may be ‘sublime’ but please do send my compliments to your internet provider instead. Your mbps were large enough to satisfy even the most data hungry diner.

I know of other people who immediately ask for their wi-fi password as soon as they walk in for dinner. They’re spending the evening physically connecting with friends but they don’t want to miss an email or someone posting on social media

We live in an always-on society now. Where we play electronic pass-the-parcel. People want something off their desktop so they send it to you. It’s your problem now, deal with it.

And God help anyone who isn’t switched on to receive it. There’s hell to pay. Phone calls asking why you were offline at a certain point? I’m offline because I don’t want to get any stupid requests from pricks like you. Satisfied? 

It doesn’t matter that it’s 6 o’clock and you’re on your way home on the tube. Some people don’t respect the rights of an individual’s free time.

We’re plagued by emails and phone calls at every turn. The price we pay for being connected is that we’re always available for some marketers message about their product or service.

Quite often I leave my phone at home. It infuriates people who want to get in touch with me. But they forget my philosophy on technology.

‘It’s there so I can get in touch with you. Not so you can get in touch with me.’


Just finished my second book. I’m a slow reader

I jest. I have now finished writing my second novel and am ready to send it off for reading, ruminating over and then rewrites.

The first book was easy to write. Just one main character and a fairly linear story that didn’t need too many diversions. This one has our main protagonist and a few more fleshed-out characters that add to the narrative.

It has, been a bit of a bastard, to put it mildly. This week I threw out a chapter and did a bit of a salvage job on it.

I also realised that book two will lead to book three – I can’t leave this fellow with all these unresolved issues.

God help me it may extend into a fourth but I’m hoping I can leave this poor man alone and torture someone else for a change. I have some other ideas which I need to progress and I need to get to them before I lose my thread.

One thing I know is true, I love writing. This morning I was up with the sparrows and pecking away at the laptop before I heard anyone stirring in the flats and I didn’t stop until 4 o’clock this afternoon.

Even after that I did some research for the cover design and then hit the blog. I even missed lunch. But didn’t miss it because I was head down and hard at it.

I find it amazing that I get ‘lost’ when I’m working. The whole day vanished. I was listening to music and didn’t realise that it had stopped.

(I was listening to KISS so some people would argue that the music never started, but that’s their problem.)

I hope that I can keep up with this strange obsession of mine. I’ve never been happier. My only problem is that I’ve become a bit of a hermit.

Not that I was ever the most gregarious of characters. But I do miss daylight.

Keenleyside’s London Tours. A bit foggy for everyone

The last time I met up with Ross Keenleyside we did a whistlestop tour of Acton boozers and shared a few beverages, a few observations and generally got smashed. Just because we could.

We jokingly called it Keenleyside’s Acton Tours so this time we talked about extending his tour guide abilities to London Bridge.

We met at 1 o’clock in the afternoon and headed to the Globe Tavern, a beautiful little hostelry that served its first ale in 1445 – or a quarter to three as I pointed out much to Ross’s annoyance.

The facade of the building was a little crooked due to subsidence and it was one of those places that would have been ‘heaving’ if the sun was out. Fortunately for us it was colder than a witches tit and mid-afternoon. The place was empty.

From there we avoided the obvious pubs. Opting instead for those little hidden gems that you wouldn’t find if you were staggering down the main thoroughfare.

One by one we walked in their doors and quaffed a few frothing ales all the while checking out the histories of the venues.

It was one of those afternoons where time went by too quickly. I don’t remember a lull in the conversation. To be fair I don’t remember a few things but I will always remember the story about the ‘King’s ginger’ a lovely little tipple that Mr Keenleyside has now adopted as his very own.

Seeing as how we were in the area we gave our ‘Third Amigo’ a call and he joined us after work to partake of the shits and giggles in the Rose and Crown.

(The fourth member of our party shall remain anonymous at this point because he doesn’t like his name bandied around in public or on social media.)

I left the area probably a bit too early. Mainly because of the foggy nature of my recollection at this point. I was aware however that I had to get home by negotiating a train journey and two bus connections.

It was a foggy day in London yesterday and more so for me. But I did have a ‘right laugh’ with some good beers and some good company.

Thank you Mr. Keenleyside. Next time you’re coming down to Colliers Wood and we’re doing the Davies Tour. But let my liver have a bit of a rest first, please.




Happy Birthday, Mum. Rest In Peace

After 22 years I still miss her. She was one of those people who was fiercely protective of her family and tolerant of all its flaws to anyone who dare say anything against any one who dare say anything different.

She died far too young. At the age of 57 she succumbed to the same terrible disease that stole her father from her at an earlier age.

My nieces ask ‘ who was this woman who could control the personality of Grandad? Who can describe this force of nature?

If you ever saw them together, it was like watching lightning meeting thunder- the perfect storm.

Joan Davies was not just a lioness protecting her cubs. She was a person who would fight anyone for what was ‘right’.

Joan could verbally destroy any man, woman or international heckler who dared to pit his mediocre wits against her.

In the end, she lost her physical and mental battle against cancer at the far too young age of 57.

She was the woman who stopped me picking petals off the roses with a swift flick of her arm. One that could send you careening sideways and breaking through the Hawthorne in next door’s garden.

This tall willowy woman taught me about painting. Shoved a typewriter in front of me when I said ‘I like stories’.

When I was down, she picked me up and said ‘go on’.

Even at the end of her life she refused to give up. Her heart beat too powerfully to let her body die without a fight.

I wish she was around right now to see what wonderful women her grandchildren have become.

All we can do is offer a few words now and again

Joan Davies was an amazing woman. Who, once in a while, beat the crap out of me for being an arsehole.

I wish you were around today, mum. Miss you. But I really don’t miss the stinging rebukes. I love you, mum. always will.

Your loving son, Mark.


Continue reading Happy Birthday, Mum. Rest In Peace

‘Is Ernie writing one of his plays again?’

A half-hour ago I was on the phone to a lovely lady from the Barnsley Chronicle. We chatted for awhile about my book, my background and then she asked ‘had I always enjoyed writing?’

It was a confusing question because I never even stopped to consider if I enjoyed it. It is something I do, something I did, something I’ve always done.

A good friend Bob Ashwood recently said “it is something we are compelled to do”. “An itch we have to scratch.” And I do tend to be an itchy person.

As far back as I can remember I’ve been jotting ideas down. I even used to write lyrics for songs and then turn them into heavy metal dittys. They were a bit ‘dark’ but my writing and my thoughts tend to lean in that direction.

One early memory was my mum’s typewriter. She used it off and on for her own correspondence and I remember borrowing it from time to time.

On these occasions I’d sit at the dinner table and tap out a short story or two. I have no idea why, I just did it.

This was a constant source of amusement for my father. When he heard me one-fingered typing in the living room he just had to make a comment.

“Is Ernie writing another one of his plays?” He’d shout through the door and walk away laughing his socks off.

(Anyone who knows Morecambe & Wise will remember Little Ern’s, literary ‘masterpieces’ were a constant source of amusement.)

I told this story to the lady from the Chronicle and she found it hilarious. For the next 5 minutes we were reciting Morecambe & Wise stories to one another.

Now I am compelled to find some Morecambe & Wise and watch it over again. I can’t say I was ever inspired by Ernie’s writing but Eddie Braben, the man behind their scripts was a great influence on me.

Besides, I’ve been living in the dark world of my character for far too long – I think I need a laugh.




We all judge a book by its cover

One thing I’ve learnt over years in advertising is that first impressions, however wrong they may be, are the ones that last. The same lesson was drummed into me by my publisher. (Well, not drummed, but definitely spoken about at length.)

Despite the old saying, we all fall into the trap of projecting our views on something just by the way it looks. It’s wrong, but it’s what we do.

My ex-wife never chose a bottle of wine by the vineyard, price, year or any of the usual criteria. If she liked the look of a label, that was the wine we were drinking, even if what was in the bottle tasted like hog’s swill or could strip paint off a wall.

(I chose wine by its percentage of alcohol, but I’m a lush, guess there are no surprises there.)

I now have a shaved head, wear a leather jacket and speak with a distinct northern accent. Later on, people have said ‘I never expected you to be such a gentle giant’. ‘You look like a rapist.’ (And that’s one of the kinder statements.)

We’re all guilty of it. I try to stop myself making snap decisions about people by the way they look, but it’s difficult. We all have some sort of ‘mental’ need to place people in categories.

Good-looking people are thought to be good. Watch any film. The hero is a square-jawed perfectly proportioned Adonis. While the bad guy always looks a little strange. Or he’s British.

We all fall for the packaging. It doesn’t matter if the ‘uggo’ devotes his or her life to charity and the care of others. If that person looks like a bulldog licking piss off a nettle then they are immediately consigned to the ‘that’s one evil motherfucker’ part of our brains.

We also still judge people by the colour of their skin, their sexual preferences or even whether they are male or female.

Despite our ‘civilised’ ways of thinking, anthropological studies still show we are racist, sexist and homophobic. In varying degrees.

They also show that we are not born that way. We are taught these views by our parents. our peers and by society.

Hopefully, one day we as a race will leave all these ‘conditionings’ behind and accept people for what they are and not what they look like.

But it’s not going to happen any time soon. Especially when films television and fashion control our view of the world.

And we keep feeding them.




Nothing Important Happened Today. 5 stars, so far

Yesterday I went to check out my book on Amazon. It’s been on sale for a month now and I wanted to have a butchers at the reviews, if indeed there were any.

Turns out the paperback has 3, 5-star reviews and the Kindle version has a 5-star review. And everyone has said good things. So far.

It’s reassuring. I did put a lot of time and effort into the project and I’m pleased that people are entertained and intrigued by the story and the strange and troubled character, Jack.

A friend who has read the book explained a problem to me though. As she read through the story her mind’s eye pictured me, not Jack.

She’s known me a number of years and recognises some of my ‘quirks’ and behaviours.

Well, that’s only to be expected. At first I had to ‘ground’ the character. Make him human and believable. The same with everyday occurrences. They had to be ‘real’. So that when the worst happens, the situations that follow are not too fantastical and the reader can say ‘could happen’.

I have to point out to anyone and everyone; I am not Jack. There are parts of me in him. But there are also parts of me in the other characters that make a fleeting appearance.

My next book ’28 Days Without Incident’ is teetering on the brink of completion now.

It’s going to star Jack again because I haven’t finished torturing him quite yet. As he emerges into his dystopian future, he encounters more people who have suffered. But in very different ways.

These people have some of my characteristics too. Again, they’re not me. They’re characters. There’s a little bit of me in them and the rest is ‘made up’.

I hope to continue with ‘Jack’ for one more book. Then I have a vampire story I want to develop. And a horror story that I am very excited about.

What started as a ‘I wonder if I can write a book?’ moment has become much more. It’s something that keeps my creative juices flowing.

I just hope that I can maintain the quality of writing that’s currently giving me 5 stars.

If you haven’t already bought my book, give it a go. I’d love to hear what people think about it.

Just click on the link below:


What day is this? What year?

After all the Christmas and New Year’s festivities I have emerged on the other side like a time traveller appearing in some far-flung future grabbing passers-by and asking them that question with wide-eyed hysteria.

At my desk this morning I started setting up my Direct Debits for the year and each time I got to the date I had to check and double-check.

I had to watch my hand as it filled in the forms just in case muscle-memory or autopilot kicked in and started writing 2016 instead of 2017.

It usually takes me  a few weeks to get used to the change in date even though my new Iron Maiden calender is now fully installed by my desk and every device is flashing the date at me electronically.

I must admit I have some sense of relief that 2016 is over and done with. For some reason there seem to have been an inordinate number of celebrity deaths that have made most people wonder if it’s some harbinger of greater doom.

Plus Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. If he’s not a Horseman of the Apocalypse then at least he’s the Donkeyrider of the Maelstrom.

‘It’s only a year!’ People have been saying. There’s no sense of foreboding about it. Then they go on to say that all the celebrity deaths are due to their ‘recreational habits’.

I can understand that argument for people like ‘Prince’ ‘Lemmy’ and ‘George Michael’ and even ‘Keith Emerson’ or ‘Greg Lake’, but what about Ronnie Corbett or Richard Adams? They weren’t toking until the early hours of the morning or chugging back unfeasibly strong beers while pumping money into fruit machines.

‘They’ say that 2017 will be worse. More heroes will be laid waste by the ‘demon drink’, prescription medication and recreational drugs.

While the less famous, fed a diet of sugar and Big Macs, will suffer more ill-health due to a lifestyle filled with ready meals, takeaways and nutrition-deficient food.

There are even cases of ‘scurvy’ occurring in the Western world because their diet is deficient in vitamin C.

If the Western world with its vast stores of food is undernourished then what state is the rest of the world in?

The first Horseman of the Apocalypse is Famine and he seems to have arrived. The second seal has been broken.

We are well on our way to the end of times as written in the Book 0f Revelations.

The rapture will take the good to their place in heaven and spare them the inevitable ‘final battle’.

Soon the angels will blow their horns and Jesus will be resurrected he will rally his armies to fight the Prince of Darkness and his hordes for possession of the earth.

And the only question I keep asking myself is ‘which side shall I fight on?’

Like ‘Brexit’ I know I’ll pick the wrong one again.