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Memory dividend 
Greetings from the shed...
This is a wordy one. You ready?.
The guy I’m with in photo below is Richard Bailey. Despite him being one of my oldest friends, he almost killed me this week.
The attempt on my life was not with malice, but with unfettered love and generosity.
I’ve known Richard for 40 years, but as is often the case with childhood friends, our meandering paths to and fro. This week, they intersected at the Brixton Academy in London. Back in July we missed each other at the Pearl Jam tour by a day. So Rich picked up Black Crows tickets for another reminisce-fest.
I thought I’d be sensible and stick to ale as I’d already had a couple of waiting-in-the-pub beers. But Richard was having none of it and went into full regression mode. Many of our chosen tipples from decades ago are either not served or now extinct. So Rich over compensated by supplying double Jack Daniels with every pint. And we were kids again. Drunk kids, without a care in the world. Who in this instance probably looked like two old men let out for a night of dad dancing.
We remembered old adventures and some friends who hadn’t made it this far. How thankful Richard was that he himself had cheated death more than once. And the night was amazing. Up till about 11:30pm. It might well have been amazing after that. But I have no recollection from that time. Despite my memory and reasoning having left me, some neo-primeval section of the brain could still text and Tweet. Glad we couldn’t do that in our youth.
The photo of the empty carpark was taken at 01:20am. I think I was home by 3am. Not bad. Back in the day we were lucky if we got home at all. Nights were as random as a dice throw. They could, and did end in:
Wet knees in a graveyard
A puddle of blood and beads
Ankle deep in pickled onions
Waking up under a bus in a city
Helping the police with their enquiries
A drunken dash to retrieve a VW camper from the sea
And countless other moments now forgotten, erased or waiting to resurface over future pints.
After such a good night reliving our youth, I can forgive him for enticing me into plague ridden London. For plying me with enough booze to down a rhino. I’m still broken four days later. [Reaches for Lemsip] I must have hoovered up all the London germs. That night, my wife stayed up elbowing me back to life every time I stopped breathing.
A quality evening with an ageing band on top form, a friend I dearly missed, and a head full of snot and stories. Thankfully I can’t drink like I used to, and these last few years have reset my immune system. But I survived. And thankfully we have survived. Something 21 year old us would find hard to believe.
I loved the short film about what Graeme Obree achieved with his unusual riding position on a homemade bike.
Asked what it feels like to be a writer, as opposed to being someone who writes, got me thinking.
September the 5th was when I announced I was writing a book. I didn’t announce thinking people would give a collective sigh of relief saying “at last!” I mostly did it for me. I need to say it out loud to make it real. And I needed to say it to you so I could be held to task. For protection against drifting off into other projects and letting this stagnate for another twenty plus years. Yes it has been on the cards for twenty plus years.
I rediscovered some old email newsletters I sent to friends. Stories from the road, hammered out in shabby internet cafes. Back then I was writing in the hope someone would read my words. One day. I can also now see how I censored myself a bit in journals. More about that in the book I suppose.
Saying I’m a writer out loud, when only I can hear it, makes me feel a lot of things. It reminds me of when I used to say “I’m a photographer”. I knew where I stood back then. And I could wear that hat with confidence. I had blagged it for long enough to feel like I knew what I was doing. It suited me. I even got to exhibit in London’s prestigious ‘The Photographers Gallery’.
Having published photos the world over, I don’t remember there being an assignment I wouldn’t take. I looked up to and even idolised photographers like Salgado. Even considered that with dedication and preparation I could take photos in his style. But would I spend 20 years on themes like he did? Probably not.
For the most, I was confident. Working hand to mouth for all those years, people knew what I did, and I felt I could deliver.
Saying I’m a writer sort of gives me a sense of identity. But I have no idea if I could deliver to a brief. I did a few things for the Guardian. But only because Jemima Kiss asked me. An amazing human. I love her writing. Her editing was and is respectful and thorough. Plus she made me sound smart.
Since then, I've only written for me. Perhaps I’m hoping that writing a book (that’s not totally shit) will enable me to cast off whatever trauma my English teachers left me with. My lack of confidence with writing started at first school. Told to sit on my left hand to see if my right would take over. It didn’t. ‘Lefties’ were also singled out in high school. Or at least I was.
Actual thing said to me in English class... “Left handers Mr Payne can be gifted. But most end up in prison.”
There was a kind of hidden hope in that sentence. At least I had something to aim for. She did teach me a thing or two though. Although not allowed for writing in class, I nurtured a deep respect for the humble pencil. They don’t smudge as much. I also became suspicious of any statement that sounded like a victorian myth.
So if inflexible teachers were the seed of insecurity, reading great writers compounded it. Creative minds whose wordplay astounds me. Could I ever write like Hesse? I wish. Or Cervantes, Hugo, Brecht or Murakami? Never.
I’m so glad I have this weekly email. That people not only subscribe, but some feel it’s worth supporting. That I can share what interests me. In the hope some of it resonates and we can make a connection.
Back to the original question... Having just got started, less than a month in, I’m loving this new focus. Of course I’m shovelling words from one place to another at the moment. Piecing together fragments. Reliving past adventures so viscerally, I feel as though I'm there again.
There is still a little daily doubt of course. Less in myself and more in the project. It starts to take one shape, then another, and I go to bed having no idea what the final thing will look like. That’s a little scary. But I'm told it's all part of the process.
If my writing could sustain the family I’d be living the most incredible life. But switching to a marketing mindset is like kicking the table with this big jigsaw on. Then when I return to it, I’m back to looking for the corners.
Strange. After writing the above paragraph, I found the most pretentious piece of twaddle in the back of my 23 year old journal. Entitled 'Forgers of reality' it reads like a drunken stream of consciousness. In it I'm discussing exactly this. Writing and what it might take to be a writer.
With excerpts like:
Mentally things have got a little cluttered and in some way writing clears me a little headspace. Clears the mind, quietens the voices and cleans out a few jigsaws. I can even complete a few and frame them like you see hanging on walls in cheap hotels. To call yourself a writer though, people seem to think the framed jigsaw, your thoughts and ideas, should be handed round. For everyone to scrutinise.
...I can't help but think I should recreate the mental state I was in back then. With wine perhaps? And then attempt to read the whole rediculous piece in a bonus podcast.
If the 905 words above didn’t properly answer the question I apologise. Writing still feels hard. If I look in the mirror with my metaphorical writers hat on, it doesn’t quite fit. But I like how it looks and it feels bloody great. I’ll grow into it.
Did someone hack into the inflight intercom?
I have no idea what it’s called. But it cost £3 from a Colombian fast food place in Brixton. It was mostly rice, onions, possible meat and maybe potato. It was certainly deep fried and mildly spiced. This incredible food stuff was the only thing that stood between me and a bad case of alcohol poisoning. If I can learn to make it I may have found something to rival the portability of a sandwich and belly filling abilities of a scotch egg. Know what it is? Please let me know in the comments.
Still looking for this bag…
Click the tweet to read the thread but in the ALT text I write that the bag contains a knife, some fresh flatbread and a chunk of cheese. There is also some weed and a small pipe. I had forgotten how much local Swiss weed featured on that particular adventure. Some of my writing from that time reflects this. No doubt more on that later.
I must thank the paying subscribers that pay $5/month to get all the content I share into this feed. If you are able, please upgrade to become a paid supporter. Or if you prefer you might like to buy me a coffee or send a tip via PayPal. ;-)
How to start a podcast.
Love me a bit of NSFW A.I. King parody. I can’t count how many times i’ve watched that.
There are lots of lovely people on the Documentally community map and yet I have a sneaky suspicion it’s not everyone. Feel free to share this eclectic email to others who might subscribe. You never know. It might stick.
Substack’s new RSS reader will take any RSS feed. I think. Not tried it myself but if my inbox gets too crazy I just might.
Thanks to one of those questions that pop up at breakfast, we learned all about how the turkey is actually originally from North America but possibly first domesticated in Pre-Columbian Mexico. Turkeys were first exported to Europe via Spain around 1519 and arrived in England in 1541. The name ‘turkey’ allegedly came about because when it arrived in Europe people people confused it with guinea fowl from Africa, which were traded through Turkey. (Should I have a #TheFact section?)
The decline of Icelandic driftwood.
How big is infinity? Depends which one.
Thanks for reading. I hope you are ok. Next week I’ll be in Paris, teaching people how to tell better stories with technology. I can still do that you know. Should you ever need me.
“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” ~ Anais Nin
See you out there.