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Idle blogs of an idle fellow

Journeys from the fax

Writers – Are you past your sell by date? 

One of the problems of being a writer, apart from the frown and that the last thing you wrote being a shopping list, is the fear you’re only as good as the last thing you wrote. Although parsley, butter and cheese might be significant at the time, they offer poor legacy were the Southbank Show to popup, intending to  document what you’re currently working on. Of course the Southbank Show was taken off air in the Middle Ages so the likelihood of their interest in my shopping list is unlikely, but it’s important to be prepared all the same. After all I’ve had a ten pence piece in my pocket since I got the Scout’s Nuclear Winter Survival badge. To be honest that’s as much as most writers are due to earn according to new research suggesting only 10% of writers now earn a living from their endeavours.

The thrill of being a writer is like being wired up to a drip delivering tight succinct lines that will change the world (or at the least your novel), the only problem being that you are also the administrator and the drug manufacturer. That means for every laser-guided metaphor there’s also asparagus and toilet roll. And refusing to write shopping lists won’t help, that simply results in wandering around the supermarket like an overwhelmed time-traveller. You’ve probably seen people looking baffled in the cereal aisle; they’re writers with their mind firmly on the last thing they wrote as opposed to what they should have; was it oaty cereal, or cereal oats? But there’s something else.

Tesco have recently announced that they’re scrapping sell-by dates on fruit and veg because people don’t understand them. What are these people doing in the supermarket and how did they even get there? Please don’t tell me by car. People incapable of comprehending food sell-by-dates should NOT be allowed in supermarkets, much less the road. In fact anyone’s who’s intellect is challenged by dates on, well, dates, should be stopped at the door by DVLA and stripped of their licence before they reach their car. Unless they’re writers of course.  It’s exactly this sort of thing, along with royalties cheques, that carves those frowns upon writers’ faces. If people can’t read sell-by-dates on fruit then what hope is there for your carefully arranged words being read in comprehensible order?

Of course there are some readers out there and it’s lucky writers don’t know where they live, because they are what makes it all worthwhile. I will forever remember a reader at the Curious Arts Festival last year where I was signing copies of the Life Assistance Agency. A charming woman, well I would say that, asked me if there really was an abandoned police station in Marble Arch. ‘Yes, there is,’ I replied, stunned that someone I had never met before had actually read my book, and clearly enjoyed it. She said there should be a sequel, and I agreed on the spot, before writing the idea on my hand to remind me. And it’s those readers who make writers momentarily content with those lines they wrote, that they might live on in some way. And it gives confidence in being able to write a shopping list without compromising their artistic integrity, besides it’s worth it to not get lost in the cereal aisle.

The first Life Assistance Agency novel of an ill-planned trilogy was selected by WHSmith Fresh Talent 2017 –  is available here – http://myBook.to/lifeassistance and (spoiler) features Marble Arch.

and here –

http://www.foyles.co.uk/witem/fiction-poetry/the-life-assistance-agency,thomas-hocknell-9781911129035

and on ebook here –

 

 

 

 

 

We need to talk about what’s Cool.

It’s been apparent for years that some people are cooler than others and it has to stop. No UK political party has ever addressed it, not even Corbyn’s Labour, so it’s clearly not a vote winner, which once again is cool people’s gain. And the rest of us? Well, we’re just left on the slag heap of credibility.

These days its harder to determine who’s cool thanks to art students and hipsters who dress like children fumbling in the dark with access to nothing but high-waisted jeans, 70s beanie hats and shoes rounder than Cobbler Smurf’s. I saw someone with a rolled up cigarette inserted through her ear apparently pierced for this exact purpose. She’s clearly someone who wants the people to know that she smokes, even when she isn’t. Is that cool? She clearly thinks it is. Of course it’s hard to define cool, through doing so you instantly lose touch with what it is.

It’s hard to know when the mass-concept concept of being cool arrived; it was probably with Elvis in 1958. However, in light of being unable to sing, or growl like an anteater warning predators away from its nest, I concluded that the quickest route to cool was to dump my Level 42 records and start writing a novel, or at least carry a notebook on me at all times. And for a while it worked, I thought I had it, without needing to enquire what it was. I was cool, until I noticed I wasn’t.

It was obvious when the façade dropped, like a ice sheering off glaciers in global warming documentaries, it was when I found myself excited at the news coming on the radio. I had already noticed tremulous antipation at buying a newspaper and opportunities to get annoyed at the world it provided, but excitement for a three minute radio bulletin was something new. This was deeply uncool, so I kept it to myself. Not that I was punching the air like I’d scored a hoop (or whatever its called) in basketball, but there was a definite wave of contentment that I recognised from the anticipation of PopMaster at 10:20am on Radio 2 weekdays.  My next thought was that I’m turning into Alan Partridge. I must never blog about this I thought to myself, and even wrote that in my notebook.

The thing with cool is that for something so subjective, its incredible objective. You could show any participants a list of things and they’d be an 80% accuracy rate on what was cool. For example, everyone knows stable doors are cool, particularly if you’re a horse; they provide the opportunity to be inside and outside at the same time. Stable doors are probably the nearest we’ll ever get to a teleportation device, and are imminently more achievable. A VW Golf Mk 1 GTi with sunken rear window and golf ball gear stick handle is cool, while an Audi A7 with wing mirrors the size of a mk 1 golf and a public display of an inferiority complex two inches off your rear bumper at 90mph with Trump-esque disregard for the rule book, is not cool.

 

So what’s uncool? Putting your Iphone in you pocket and missing is clearly uncool, as is painting yourself into a corner of a room and waiting for the paint to dry until you can leave. Even Dire Straits, a rather well-produced band with a tendency for lengthy guitar solos and a level of sincerity even rejected by Bono, remain uncool, and are only allowed in public under security protection as an entry on a guilty pleasure playlist.

It might be worth asking my seven year old what he thinks is uncool, but I know he’ll just point and no matter how hard I pretend he means the table behind me, it’s clear he means me. The only response is to retort with snappy analysis as to how uncool he is too, but that’s just childish, which is definitely uncool and will just prove his point for him, meaning you’ve lost an argument to a child not yet able to tie his shoelaces. This means a plummet into the lower reaches of the uncool charts last visited by MGMT with their 2nd album.

Like midnight piñata, cool is a hard thing to hit and let’s be clear, printing stickers with ‘So cool I’ve been putting the arty into party since 1987’ is not cool. If you’d put 1989, well…

The very cool and first Life Assistance Agency novel of a planned trilogy was selected by WHSmith Fresh Talent 2017 –  is available here – http://myBook.to/lifeassistance

and here

http://www.foyles.co.uk/witem/fiction-poetry/the-life-assistance-agency,thomas-hocknell-9781911129035

and on ebook here –

The sequel is in the post…

 

 

Why A Writer should NEVER attend a Job Interview.

The problem with work is that it happens during the day. 

Why be a writer? is the sort of question that should be asked of any aspiring scribbler – in a tone suggesting profound concern whilst shaking them by the shoulders and marching the towards the job centre. You might be your own boss, which sounds like a good thing, but unless you work for the council’s Parks Dept, do you really want a boss who lets you start gardening simply because the sun comes out? Mmm, perhaps it’s best leave that question unanswered, because smelling the bloody roses doesn’t pay the mortgage. And nor does writing.

I recently applied for a job, you know, it was a quiet day on Twitter and sadly the Life Assistance Agency doesn’t really exist; although if so it would probably be attempting to hook car keys from a drain with a coathanger. I wasn’t entirely sold on the job application process after it took 30 mins for the agency to find me in their reception. If they can’t find me at the appointed time in their own building then what’s the chance of them finding me a job?

I was busy stuffing my face with Foxes glacier mints generously presented in a bowl when a woman called Megan asked if I was Tom, before realising she had forgotten my surname. To her credit she pressed on. ‘Are you Tom.. someone?’ I paused. ‘I’m Tom, but get it right. I mean who has Someone as a surname?’ Megan had no answer to this and the ride up in the lift was, well, let’s call that tense. It seemed a poor time to inform her that people have called themselves Mr Amazing by deed poll, and even King Arthur Uther Pendragon, although the less said about StopFortnumAndMasonFoieGras Cruelty.com the better. Yes, she exists. 

Megan disappeared to photocopy my original documents as proof of my ID before I could claim, along with voters required to provide ID, that it was racist. She left me to complete a questionnaire which included the question: Can you give an example of a time where you have done something you weren’t proud of.

Well, I could think of several times within five minutes. I was still sucking a glacier mint and my pockets were rattling with them. I stared at the question like it was some kind of joke. I half-expected a Harry Hill voice over. A social care recruitment agency was asking me the sort of question I struggled to ask myself. Did they mean that time I nicked my Dad’s car while he nipped into the pub? Or worse? I mean how was answering this question honestly going to assist me in ANY way to get a job? I was pleased not to be a Catholic, and wondered if anyone had ever answered it truthfully. I scribbled some nonsense about the time I had been not proud of not unclaiming overtime in a previous job and handed it over.

And that’s the thing with being a writer. Friends might occasionally ask why you’re taking notes, but unless you’re on a book promotion tour, you seldom get asked awkward questions.  An ideal job for a writer would be an MP. The House of Commons too frequently looks like a pub nearest the football ground two minutes after kick off, providing ideal opportunity to write. Although, being your own boss means you don’t get free Foxes glacier mints, but to be honest I’ve had my fill.

The first Life Assistance Agency novel was selected by WHSmith Fresh Talent 2017 –  is available here – http://myBook.to/lifeassistance

and here

http://www.foyles.co.uk/witem/fiction-poetry/the-life-assistance-agency,thomas-hocknell-9781911129035

and on ebook here –

The sequel is in the post…

 

 

 

Why we all need to slow down…

Busyness is an important topic for Idle blogs, which has been put off for too long… 

‘Keep busy’ someone once advised me, which would have been helpful had the reason for my seeking their advice not been due to doing too much. Now, before anyone who knows me has choked on their cornflakes, I’m not renowned for industriousness; as I’ve said before, writing a book doesn’t appear to be doing much beyond quietly swearing under your breath, and I’ve avoided real work like the moon avoids the sun. It’s no coincidence that my greatest inspiration has been Jerome K Jerome and his Idle thoughts of an Idle Fellow.

Beware the barrenness of a busy life, Socrates once said, which someone (probably himself) astutely wrote down before it was forgotten. Coming from someone who was a stonemason, hoplite foot soldier and later a founder of western philosophy, this is possibly a bit rich; much like Madonna advising people not to be ambitious. If you’ve ever seen a bust of Socrates, which might have been a self-portrait as he was skilled with stone, you’ll probably think, ‘there’s a worried man looking like one of those turtles supporting the world while the other three pop off for some lunch’ He has too much on his mind. As we all do. He looks like he could do with a lie down after throwing his  western philosophy notes on the fire.

We are all so busy: working, driving, and playing angry birds, all too frequently at the same time. There appears to have been an unconscious internalisation of ‘the devil finds work for idle hands’ without a moment spent on looking at what alternative work options the horned chap might have to offer. Perhaps it’s a hangover from the Victorian era, like geraniums.

Not that there’s anything intrinsically wrong with being busy. We might pronounce it business, but the world is run on busyness, and the Western world has engineered suspension bridges, flying machines and teas maids rather than sit around and be accused of idleness. The industrial revolution might be boiled down to the fact that too many people didn’t know what to do with their hands.

With an instinctive dislike of work, writers often moan about having a novel to finish, but what’s even more horrifying is finishing one. Working on a novel is like having a mobile shed to potter about in, without the wood shavings, unlabeled paint pots bearing no relation to paint shades in the house and spiders (unless you’re Stephen King). ‘What’s a writer if they aren’t writing anything?’ the little voice whispers as you sit down with the TV to relax, before you give up trying to comprehend Dr. Who, and decide to do something instead. Anything.

But doing nothing is important. Retrenchment is crucial, as a traditional army, of which Socrates would have been familiar, needs time to rest after advancement, so do we. It is a chance to look at the territory conquered, and consider what is next; to lean across large maps and push wooden horses across them with long sticks. Aboriginal people would frustrate earlier settlers they were guiding by sitting down every few miles, when asked as to why, they replied ‘to let our soul catch up.’ Perhaps we could all learn from that without having to first colonise other countries and then die of scurvy. It may not get you out of doing DIY, but next time someone asks why aren’t you doing anything, just say you’re allowing your soul to catch up.

The first Life Assistance Agency novel was selected by WHSmith Fresh Talent 2017 –  is available here – http://myBook.to/lifeassistance

and here

http://www.foyles.co.uk/witem/fiction-poetry/the-life-assistance-agency,thomas-hocknell-9781911129035

and on ebook here –

 

 

 

 

How important is the Title for a novel?

‘And I thought writing a novel was hard. Try naming it.’ Me, April. 2018 

We all know the difficulty in naming things. I don’t just mean first thing in the morning when you’re pointing and mouthing at the kettle in the hope someone might translate despite living alone. But you’re not alone. Since Ug first turned to Ug and pointed at Ug, it became clear that it was important to differentiate some things from others.

In fact it’s what humans do, it’s a defining feature of our dominance of the planet, we go around naming things and then kill them off, but that’s not to say it’s easy, naming I mean, not driving species to extinction. The Americans often get it wrong, what’s with egg plant as opposed to aubergine, while Eskimos found themselves with too many words and too little to name, so chose to distinguish fifty types of snow, which is still about 1000 less words than the English have for rain.

Of course car manufactures constantly struggle with names. That there was a meeting at Renault in which the Twingo was agreed as capturing the essence of their new model is the sort of event that those participating in have since drowned in Villages Macon. Mind you, at least they retain the ability to look people in the eye, unlike those involved with the Ford Ka.

Meanwhile, HP clearly don’t struggle with product names, with the rather snappily named dv8000z printer, but then I guess you don’t spend pub conversions recommending printers to friends, that’s for books, films and bands. They live or die by their name; it doesn’t matter how good the prose is if it’s called Mr Front’s Behind.

There’s still a list of unused children’s’ names in my phone, which makes naming future dogs easy, although they all answer adequately to ‘Oi.’ But book titles are far more important than pet names. Titles need to be catchy, intriguing, and ones not used before, which is a shame because George Orwell nabbed them all. Of course no one ever judges a book by its cover, (which is why illustration is a multi-million pound industry), but the title needs to promise everything even if it fails to deliver

Annoyingly I have a title for the unwritten 3rd Life Assistance novel, yet the completed 2nd one is without a title, or rather has more names than Eskimo snow. Of course asking people for opinion only confuses things, as they all like different ones and not my favourite. A Twitter poll of alternatives doesn’t help, you just get loads of support for the title you put in as a joke to provide some balance.

Neil Tennant has frequently named songs after books, Can you Forgive Her? for example, but that doesn’t help when entitling other books unless you want to test ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity’ by a visit to court. Perhaps songs are a good inspiration., but then there is also the Ronseal approach, but if my new novel did what it says on the tin, the tin would read – The Life Assistance Agency abandon their USP by refusing to scry for angels opting instead to write biographies for fading pop stars, yet become entangled with 400-year-old unfinished business- which is definitely too long as a title.

Ah, perhaps I’ve just found it…

The first Life Assistance Agency novel was selected by WHSmith Fresh Talent 2017 –  is available here – http://myBook.to/lifeassistance

and here

http://www.foyles.co.uk/witem/fiction-poetry/the-life-assistance-agency,thomas-hocknell-9781911129035

and on ebook here –

 

 

 

How to Survive those Tough moments in Writing

Contrary to popular quotes, it isn’t always sitting down at the typewriter and bleeding (Hemingway.) 

It seems timely for a blog about when writing gets tough, and I don’t mean losing your wi-fi connection and having to actually do some, but when the task appears to have been set by some vindictive boss you no longer have the contact details for.

Sometimes writing is a summer breeze on a stifling hot day, it’s oil on a bat, or sugar in tea, but sometimes it is hard work. This was unlikely to have been part of the plan when some younger version of yourself thought being a writer seemed appealing. The job spec. was all mid-distance gazes, dented typewriters in war zones and thoughtful drags on cigarettes, but it’s not. And of course there’s no one to blame, not even the Conservative party or Brexit. This is your own doing, and a predicament familiar to writers everywhere.

We all get stuck sometimes. Of course it’s always advisable to leave a scene as the bullet leaves the gun, but what if you just had to press on and leave the scene with the closed door. Now what? Does he fall down the stairs? Make a sandwich? Sometimes it’s best to just stare at the enomity of the task and weep. Or blog of course. Or do some research.

Research is difficult. No one really likes doing it. Those inclined only want to run the marathon alongside football mascots and people dressed as rhinos, they don’t want to do six months of training with no one watching. But like prepping for painting a room, and research, that’s the tough bit. I’m currently researching the historical novel, although how watching youtube clips of Jay Leno jacking off over a remodelled merlin v12 is a mystery the book is unlikely to solve.

If tough moments is something Sean Penn didn’t experience when writing his recent novel then his readers certainly will. That’s if there are any following the scathing reviews. I recently blogged about terrible novels, which Sean Penn clearly hasn’t read, although he does us a favour by giving his a pretentious title – Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff – that appears to have been constructed by choosing words at random. Penn has clearly not only failed to read my blog, or his own book, but also Stephen King’s marvellous book On Writing, in which he reminds us that ‘The road to hell is paved with adverbs.’

Apparently Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff  is worse than Morrissey’s List of the Lost, which is the sort of thing I’d love on the cover of my next novel, but suspect Penn not only takes his name far too literally, but also himself too seriously. I do wonder if he will be doing imminent talks in support of how there is no such thing as bad publicity. However, it is galling how actors think writing novels is so easy, and can then get their stinker published with the ease of leaning on a wall.

However, Penn has done the writing community (is there one?!) a favour. If you are writing with sentences and a readily understood vocabulary then your book is unlikely to be as unreadable as Penn’s. Now, where was I?

 

The Life Assistance Agency – selected by WHSmith Fresh Talent 2017 –  is available here – http://myBook.to/lifeassistance

and here

http://www.foyles.co.uk/witem/fiction-poetry/the-life-assistance-agency,thomas-hocknell-9781911129035

and on ebook here –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Importance of Sitting in the Corner when Writing.

Regular visitors to idle blogs, idlers as they might be known, will be familiar with the coffee shop as an important element to the writing process. It’s all very well setting up a lovely study at home from which children are banned to sing the theme tune to Yo-Kai Watch if you have opportunity, but chances are that instead of writing you’ll spend the day enmeshed in the intricacies of telephone banking, or rearranging your books in the order that you recall reading them. Leaving the house is a good idea for anyone, particularly writers, before you’re talking to yourself and hearing the furniture reply.

It’s good for people to see writers at work. It may not hold attention for long, after all, how entertaining is a person sighing loudly, but still, we need to publicise our existence. One of the most common responses to discovering you’re a writer, after initial shock involving a slack jaw, is the question ‘are those still going?’ You reassure them that books are indeed ‘still going’ despite a part of you being deeply aware that needing to explain this shows how the battle lines are already redrawn.

Our local coffee shop has a such a regular clientele that no one needs to order anymore. As in PG Wodehouse novels, customers are known by their regular order: Flat white, English breakfast, Tight arse who brings in his own banana, etc. And as any creative knows, the fetish of how  and where you write is crucial. The aforementioned Wodehouse invariably wrote with a Pekinese warming his feet and was finished by an early lunch, while Hemingway’s prose was soaked in whiskey and manliness and probably started at lunchtime.

As a tea drinker in a coffee shop I feel like an imposter, but as I’m tapping studiously away into my laptop, carefully compiling playlists for future unwritten novels, I feel at home. That is if I’m in a corner, although I’m unsure why being cornered is the perfect muse. Where sailors had mermaids, I seek a nice secure corner. I’d rather not analyse this too closely, but the knowledge that your back is covered is reassuring.

However, I’m not alone in seeking a corner for creative purposes. Sadly there are only ever four in a room, and there are clearly other writers on the run, refusing to sit back-to-the-door. I had been hoping for a blue plaque on the window seat corner, but another writer has started arriving before me. He’s too tired to write, and sits there with a smug look, occasionally mingling with a bafflement as to who or where he is, but at least he has the best table in the house. I have little sympathy, and he had better be writing a better novel than me. He’s got no excuse not to be. In fact there should be some method of measuring this, to ensure the corners get the writers they deserve. I’d suggest this, but who wants competitive writers kicking off and knocking over inkwells.

I suppose writing at home might be preferable, there’s less competition, but no one can see you sighing there. Although perhaps the most lucrative future might be subverting the laws of physics and invent rooms with more than four corners to accommodate more writers.

The Life Assistance Agency – selected by WHSmith Fresh Talent 2017 –  is available here – http://myBook.to/lifeassistance The sequel is due to be published in March 2019, depending upon whether I get a corner table.

and here

http://www.foyles.co.uk/witem/fiction-poetry/the-life-assistance-agency,thomas-hocknell-9781911129035

 

and on ebook here –

 

 

The problem with Terrible Novels

Some books are best left forgotten… 

It’s hard to remember bad novels because good ones make such a lasting impression that they thankfully obliterate the memory of the poor ones. The only impact the poor ones make are on the sides of recycling bins.

I’m not going to name (m) any names, after all, I’m a novelist. I know how much goes into writing a book. For some writers real life is just noise in the background; simply material with which to mould stories and tricky plot knots.

To be fair it’s all a matter of taste. To some people my debut novel the Life Assistance Agency is a glorious collision of the Blues Brothers meets Da-Vinci Code,  while others think it’s really good. The clearest sign that a book is rubbish is when you’re accompanying the reading with sighing sounds. Pages are turned with the sort of dread familiar to anyone who has to take young children swimming later in the day*. I’m pleased no one has yet compared this with mine.

There was a time when I felt obliged, in accordance with some unwritten code rumoured to exist atop himalayan mountains, to finish any book I picked up. I’ve been more loyal to books I dislike than friends I like. This once meant trawling my way through The 91 principles of Cataloging when I mistakenly held it for someone while they jumped off a bridge. To be fair it was a text book. Mind you, even that’s preferably to Morrissey’s novel List of the Lost, which somehow exceeded his own autobiography in verbosity, and made sex sound like the sort of substance found stuffing Victorian cushions.

It’s always awkward when friends recommend a book that it turns out to be less readable than a doorstop. (BTW Alan, thankfully I’m currently enjoying A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman!). You sometimes return a book with a vague nod at having enjoyed it, praying that they don’t press you for enlightening thoughts on what happened at any point beyond page 32.

It’s hard to be objective; one man’s If on a Winter’s night a traveller by Italo Calvino is another’s 50 shades of Grey, and to be honest it’s hard to slag off books when it’s admirable to find people still actually reading and not scrolling through anodyne updates on social media. However, the idea of reading another novel encompassing cross- generation Irish families with hidden secrets makes me want to suggest taking the kids’ swimming.

Bigger targets are the easiest to hit, and the aforementioned Dan Brown’s Da-Vinci Code really is unreadable to anyone who likes English, sentences and words. One of the best examples of him failing to capture an instantly recognisable human experience is:  

He could taste the familiar tang of museum air – an arid, deionized essence that carried a faint hint of carbon – the product of industrial, coal-filter dehumidifiers that ran around the clock to counteract the corrosive carbon dioxide exhaled by visitors.

Although, perhaps if most people walk into museums, sniff the air and think ‘is that the arid, deionized essence carrying a faint hint of carbon?’ or ‘how corrosive is my breath exactly?’ then I’ve been kept in the dark. Or rather, the night-long gloom that envelopes sentient beings with an inability to envision where they might be traversing in the dim blackness, as Dan Brown might put it.

It was at the museum point that I decided I had better things to do than follow Robert Langdon running through corridors and libraries, and thought I’d do something else. Like anything. Even DIY, or glossing. It’s so bad that even Ron Howard and Tom Hanks couldn’t make a watchable film of it. The book I mean, not my glossing.

Perhaps its sensible to get in with preemptive attacks, like Daniel Pitts’ book called The Most Boring Book Ever Written, which almost demands critics to argue otherwise.  And the critics are baffling. The Evening Standard described Hanif Kureshi’s The Last Word as ‘brilliantly funny’. Now, I’m aware that daily reporting of London stabbings must cloud your judgement, but it must’ve been a very quiet day in the office for the self-absorbed protagonist, who changes characteristics quicker than you can keep up with them, to be described as brilliant, much less funny. Mind you, Kureshi might think I’m lucky to have my novel beside his, and he’d probably be right.

*More of this in a future blog post.

My novel can of course be reviewed, so I’m hoping Dan Brown or Hanif Kureshi are not reading this.

The Life Assistance Agency – selected by WHSmith Fresh Talent 2017 –  is available here – http://myBook.to/lifeassistance

and here

http://www.foyles.co.uk/witem/fiction-poetry/the-life-assistance-agency,thomas-hocknell-9781911129035

and on ebook here –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simple Minds – Between Two Worlds – live at the Roundhouse.

If there was one resounding image from tonight’s gig, it was Jim Kerr, alone on stage after the band had exited following a silky Don’t you forget about me, dancing alone to Roxy Music on the PA, like the teenager so in love with music he still can’t stop.

Guitarist Charlie Burchill is the same. No one’s told him not to smile like he is the band’s biggest fan been allowed on stage. He’s one of music’s underrated players, utterly intrinsic to the Glasgow band’s sound, even if it’s music now appealing to men who’d get thrown out of their golf club for the leather jacket they’re wearing,

Simple Minds have played 3000 gigs since their first at Glasgow’s discotheque Satellite City 40 years and sometimes you want a band that once sound-tracked your bedroom posturing to play new songs. The songs you imagined they might write all those years ago; new songs in which to sink your still-bruised soul and discover understanding. Well tonight they did. Simple Minds are so pleased with their new album Walk Between Worlds they are playing it live. The entire thing. To a crowd who are probably wishing they’d bought it.  For those hoping to skip and instead bounce in new ways to old songs were destined for disappointment, although the band did start with the haunting European trance of I Travel, and hopes were raised by swamp funk morphing into the proto trance of a pulsating Love Song.

With a new line-up joining Kerr and Burchill, inc. drummer Cherisse Osei, the band look like the upper deck of a night bus, however their prize still glitters. Kerr is in awe of Osei, although where one goes after describing previous drummer (long-standing Mel Gaynor) as ‘the greatest drummer in the world’ is beyond even Kerr’s hyperbole.

There’s a steel-tight riff of Magic, which is so new even Charlie isn’t mouthing along to every lyric, and although not everything sticks it’s fascinating to hear the band as you might a new group. Most songs feel like growers, although Summer sounds like an ill-advised Chris Rea remix.

They break after side 1 of the new record for a brief chat, ‘so we can have a sit down’ Kerr jokes. He enjoys the stage like a seal enjoys water. Of the new songs side 2 is better: Barrowland Star hits like a classic and they know it. Kerr points at his old school friend with another ‘Charlie!’ who unleashes swelling waves of guitar chops. Kerr’s final words will either be ‘Let me see your hands’ or ‘Charlie…’ Sense of Discovery succeeds in not only referencing Alive and Kicking (which they later play to rapturous reception) but does so with a beautifully segued new riff. They revisit synth new wave with the title track, before a pause to announce the godly Waterfront, announcing the victory lap of a joyous Someone, Somewhere, in Summertime and The American. However, there remains the inexplicable absence of All the things she said.

A subtly spruced up New Gold Dream is perfection as-ever and still illustrates how they found their ambition before U2 had recovered from New Year’s Day. The crowd leave; grinning as Kerr still dad dances alone on the stage, miming the lyrics of Roxy Music, reluctant to allow the night to end.

My novel, The Life Assistance Agency – selected by WHSmith Fresh Talent 2017 –  featuring Simple Minds and Bruce Springsteen is available here – http://myBook.to/lifeassistance

and here

http://www.foyles.co.uk/witem/fiction-poetry/the-life-assistance-agency,thomas-hocknell-9781911129035

and on ebook here –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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