A kindly gentleman of medical bent but without any previous recorded convictions once stuck an endoscope up my nose. He found a cavity carved out of my solid skull by the eons of torrential flows of Hendrick’s gin and Indian Tonic Water, a cavity almost dry now except for the slow drips between stalactites and stalagmites and a couple of aromatic stains that we can blame on the dog. In the exact centre of this cavity, comfortable in a high-back chair carved directly out of my pineal gland, sits a deranged old homunculus who goes by the name of Ian Hutson Minor. He may be the last of his kind, he may be the first of his kind, nobody knows for sure. All that we can say with absolute certainty is that he looks like the grown-up love-child of Mr Bean and Queen Victoria, what do you think?
He is the reason why I couldn’t write anything serious to save my life. All day long he moves me about the real world but he views it through caricature and cartoon-coloured lenses, usually to a backing track supplied by Slade or ELO or Shirley Bassey. The most mundane of things can happen and by the time it appears on the little screen in front of Hutson-Minor it will have been warped into nonsense. Stuck in a traffic jam? I can’t help but re-imagine it as though tarmac roads had been invented but not the motor-car so that I’m in a vast queue of impatient horses and carriages, all cursing as the lone riders on horseback weave in and out of us. Thrown out of the pub yet again for playing with the darts but not with the official dart-board? Give yourself Hobbit-feet, a wizard-hat and put a spell on them. Quite literally; I mean stand up, dust yourself off and intone something in Latin about the landlord having three buttocks and all of them hairy. We should all blur the lines between the reality we are supposed to accept without question and the worlds that we see in our mind’s eye – it helps maintain a sanity that is awkward to the establishment.
When I was born I was the third child of two, fifth in a family of four. Dependant upon my mother’s prevailing frame of mind I was either “a little surprise” or “a bloody mistake”. This scarred me deeply, but only because the obvious corollary was that my parents were still having gratuitous sex in their mid-thirties! Eeeew! My father was a deep-sea trawlerman turned Ministry of Defence Cold-War spy and electronic-warfare expert turned published naval historian. My mother was a socialite, home-maker, factory-worker and lady in all senses of the word. When I was seven months old we moved to Hong Kong just in time for the worst cholera epidemic of the century, the worst drought of the century and the worst typhoon of the century. My first language was Cantonese; as a child I couldn’t speak English. Then I spoke Cantonese and some pidgin English and now I speak only English to pigeons and no Cantonese at all to anybody.
I learned finally to read and write at the age of nine, thanks due to an amazing teacher by the name of Miss Crichton, at the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland (where, while my mother ran our croft home for two years, my father monitored and blocked signals from the USSR). One of my most formative years was aged about ten, when the family were between houses and we lived in a friend’s open-to-the-public zoo in Norfolk for a summer (and I got to skip school for the year too) – we had a shack between the bears and the primate house. I learned to drive thanks due to my Aunt who gave me the keys to her Audi when I was aged fourteen, and employed me (in lieu of my going to school) as her driver, delivering her discreetly to a long list of innocent bookmakers to lay-off and collect-on her semi-professional bets on the gee-gees.
I’ve been in love twice; once with a true sociopath and once with the human equivalent of a fig biscuit, and neither foray ended well. Shan’t be doing that again in a hurry. Having absolutely no life-plan in mind I studied maths, physics and operational research systems analysis at university, and then followed up by studying for an MA in Industrial Relations (left wing insurgency by any other name).
After wandering into the Civil Service once to ask to use the lavatory, and being offered tea and a job for ten years, I worked for soul-free corporations such as IBM, EDS, ITSA and AVIVA. On only the one occasion in thirty years was my car shot at while we were stationary at a road junction, and the idiots missed me by at least an inch and a half – and I wasn’t even on duty, what incompetent fools they must have been! The other twenty-nine years, eleven months, thirty days, twenty-three hours and fifty-eight and a half minutes of my various “employed” careers were spent trying to not catch “Stupid’s Disease” or to die of boredom. My efforts were to no avail; I still came as close to catching fatal Idiotitis and terminal boredom as the slug from the cover of the bushes had come to my head.
Thoroughly (and mutually) in disgust with those deplorable corporate monoliths I took redundancy, ran a couple of brief and spectacularly adventurous companies of my own, hurtled like a lead baboon (sic) through personal bankruptcy (and wasn’t that just a bundle of County Court laughs) and I now live as a peacenik non-theist vegan hippie in a hedgerow in Lincolnshire, England. When I’m not actually physically starving or patching my winter underwear I tell everyone that I earn a living as an Edwardian-style photographer and as an author of blatherings.
My passion is an unpopular one – the English language. No, not the plastic ticky-tacky beast of “commercial global English” and not the most splendid but utterly misnamed American language, but English with consistent grammar and adverbs and punctuation and delicious old-fashioned words and sentence construction running to more than one hundred and forty characters or a sound-bite, whichever comes first. Talk about setting myself up for a fall eh? Has anyone checked this for errors? Doubtless there will be many. Yes indeed, I am stuck in the past and I am wandering virtually alone in an A4 wasteland, but it’s my past and the wasteland is familiar and oddly comforting. You’re good; I’m fine. You give it gas; I’ll keep my gas to myself and floor the accelerator instead, that sort of thing. My punctuation is my own, or from some degenerate inveterate of Oxford, and for proper rhythm, meter and scansion you’ll probably need to switch the little voice of your own homunculus to the “Alastair Sim” setting, or to “James Robertson Justice” or, occasionally, “Margaret Rutherford on helium” and “Kenneth Williams on a butch day”.
I hear my plant in the audience cry out; “So, what’s the WIP?”. Why, thank you, that was NGLND XPX, just published last Saturday12th October, so the eBook ink may still be wet on the copy you download. “Whats it about?” I hear my well reimbursed rehearsed plant cry out, it’s a collection of ten peculiar rants with titles ranging from ‘Je pense it’s all going very bien’ to ‘Robots knitting with rubber needles’ and from ‘Begging your pardon m’lord, but Cook’s been eaten again’ to ‘Blood-curdling screams and the Whitworth screw-thread’. Storylines include the Industrial Revolution re-imagined, a bit of a re-working of some key elements of the theists’ handbook The Bible, some cute little robots and a few terribly English upper-crust zombies. I’m not kind to Hollywood, but then Hollywood has never been kind to me. Well, not since Doug McClure regularly brightened up my childhood Saturday afternoons by taking his shirt off on-screen and smiling, anyway, and even Hollywooden (sic) has to do something right once in a while just by accident.
NGLND XPX is, this old fogey fervently hopes, a cunning play on the translation of England Expects into “text message speak”, which is yet another source of exasperation to my fuddy-duddy glands. It surely has to function as proof that I too can be groovy, and can bend with the wind like the proverbial bamboo, Boo-Boo. The characterisations in the stories are nice and thin and the plots are virtually non-existent but the ideas, the visuals and the language are all juicy. If you haven’t had a chuckle or three by the end of the book, then my name’s not Doris Dampen-Gusset.
At this point I feel that a stick should be offered from stage left to which is pinned a note asking about my reading habits. If it were to be so then I should have to answer yes, I do read and my preference is often and all sorts of things. I read and re-read Robert Heinlein from the days before his works became a little too smutty for my tastes, I loved Pournelle’s Ringworld, and I consumed the choicest cuts from Asimov to Wyndham to Aldiss and onwards, et al. I also grew up on a diet of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, and W.E. Johns’ Biggles. Add to those a reverence for Tom Sharpe and you will see that my library is quite balanced. The books within it are peculiarly skewed, but the library itself is carefully balanced, architecturally speaking. Since those auspicious beginnings I’ll read anything.
Do I buy new books on the basis of reviews? No, never – reviews are so subjective that it is mere coincidence if someone else’s stated tastes match my own. I’ve loved books with lousy reviews and I’ve hated most of the books that have been prize-winning best-sellers. I trust in serendipity and I dive in. Talking of diving in, Nanny has just indicated that my bath is ready. She is at the door holding up a plastic duck in one hand and a large model battleship in the other, and looking quizzical. Life is just an endless succession of serious decisions.
To sum up, be happy, remember you’re a Womble and if you must eat the daisies, at least plant some buttercups or something in their place. Do some good unto others before they do anything untoward unto you.
My Amazon.co.uk Authors Page (with all my books displayed for your titillation)
My Amazon.com Authors Page (with all my books displayed for your titallation as well)