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Idle blogs of an idle fellow

Journeys from the fax

Paddington 2 – review.

Reading reviews of Paddington 2 you might be mistaken for thinking reviewers were dishing 5 star reviews after too many marmalade sandwiches. The lack of dissenting opinion might be due to recovering from them writing up the apparently deadened Murder on the Orient Express, or that criticising Paddington is akin to hating crumpets or tripping old ladies over in the street. Not only is he the only bear we allow to store sandwiches under his hat without judgement, but he represents an innocence we all lost. Apparently the director Paul King walked around the block rather than sit through the original’s preview screening with Paddington’s creator Michael Bond in case he disliked it. He loved it and so did everyone else.

Both films are gorgeous, switching from animation, to stop-start, to traditional illustration and pop-up books, to CGI and 2d drawings with the abandonment of an anniversary party marking early a-Ha videos.  Much like the population of London, you don’t question the existence of a duffel coat wearing bear for a moment, and that animating a bear that once had two dots for eyes and a little smile is something my grandmother would have fainted at after asking how they’d trained it.

So, is the new film any good? The first film was watched through the hands of childhood memories, before revealing itself as charm personified, as the Peruvian bear negotiated the modern world with the comedic competence of Crocodile Dundee . When I say modern, the films depict tranquil west London streets without an agitated deliveroo rider, clueless Uber driver or over-congested roads in sight. The seconds it takes the refuse truck to negotiate Ludgate Hill outside St Paul’s would take twenty minutes in real life. The existence of Notting Hill’s victorian architecture will be a revelation to easterly hipsters rarely straying beyond Old Street roundabout, with barber quartets on every corner and wood panelled barbers. It looks more like Paris, another over-romantacised city. Yet it works. It understands the importance of escapism.

You might expect bigger bangs for a bigger budget and there is a car stunt involving driving through a small black board. It’s not exactly the Fast & the Furious. Otherwise it’s much the same, other than a steam train chase, which I’m sure most viewers noticed involved the Class A1 Peppercorn 60163 Tornado: the first steam engine built in Britan since 1960.

Although it’s a lesson in tight scripting there are fewer set pieces than before and could have benefited from more. Laughs are sharp and mannered,  but not wrung perhaps as dry as they might be. Hugh Grant hams it up, but again perhaps not to the peaks reviewers suggested. That his Phoenix Buchanan hates working with other people is something most people on a bad day can relate to. Otherwise it’s a gentle romp involving the restorative main of marmalade.

I certainly missed any Brexit references that the New Statesman rather predictably read into it, unless it meant a prison break reminiscent of Wes Anderson’s Budapest Hotel. Every toffee apple from previous scenes counts, and perhaps the film’s only flaw is that expectations are high. Already having been awarded 5 stars it feels more like 4.

My debut novel, The Life Assistance Agency – selected by WHSmith Fresh Talent 2017 –  is available here –

 

It features no bears.

and here

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

and on ebook here –

 

 

Too busy to bath? The importance of being clean.

It has always been the intention of Idle Blogs to provide sanctuary from the partisan politics and vitriol of Twitter, until now. It is time to embrace the pressing issues of our age. The fabric of society is threadbare, which might be due to globalisation, Trump, the EU or daylight savings. So who needs a new rift? But it’s here nonetheless. After all, it was only the other week that MP Tim Loughton – the co-chair of all-party parliamentary group on Mindfulness – admitted to spending up to an hour in the bath each morning.

There are many issues with Tim Loughton’s statement, the most striking of which is the existence of a parliamentary Mindfulness group. I’d ask for how long it’s existed, but if it’s effective they’ll have no idea. However, there are few national institutions that currently look more in need for restorative mediation. I’d like to be on the all-party parliamentary group on real ales, good chats and afternoon naps, which one suspects is mindfulness.

Anyway, I thought the morning bath went out of fashion with Roman emporers and admittedly my sister, who spends an hour in a morning bath while the rest of her family hop about with crossed legs outside the door. She sails out an hour later with the purpose of a ship finding momentum on the slipway to its maiden voyage. Surely in a world that requires mobile coffees and hands-free phones we don’t have time for baths in the morning do we?

My sister, and presumably Tim Loughton, would argue that it’s a peaceful way to begin the day, even with concerned family outside knocking ensuring you’ve not drowned, although I’d argue another hour in bed is more tranquil. It’s certainly more relaxing than a shower at Bates Motel.

Of course the shower is the epitome of modern living. Easy access, efficient with water, refreshing and clean; all it lacks is wi-fi, unlike the bath. Perhaps Tim Loughton is checking his emails. Gone are the days of bathing being a public ritual – when the family sat around the tub, smoking pipes and playing whist while you crouched ankle deep in water better suited to tarring fisherman huts than cleansing.

We’re urged to save water, which in our climate feels like Saharans being asked to save sand. Save water? I spend half my life standing in it and the other half under it. A shower is basically inviting rain into your own house, although baths might be accused of being a puddle, albeit topped with a foot of bubbles and lost soap dissolving before you have time to use it. Each to their own, if that’s still allowed, but if the hour in the morning seems too languorous to kick start the day then why not have it in the evening.

My debut novel, The Life Assistance Agency – selected by WHSmith Fresh Talent 2017 –  is available here – http://myBook.to/lifeassistance . It features a great deal of music.

and here

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

and on ebook here –

 

 

 

 

 

Stranger Things 2 – Some thoughts.

No spoilers – unless you are unaware of the 1980s taste in peach bathrooms.  

It’s hard to remember a more eagerly anticipated TV series than Stranger Things 2. Even the NME has jumped the bandwagon, where once it would have sneered from the touchline.

There were some new episodes of Peppa Pig recently, but even that pales against ST2, which it isn’t called as it sounds closer to STD than is comfortable. There is always Dr Who of course, the anticipation of which invariably outstrips the actual experience of watching it; viewers are generally lobotomised by incomprehension twenty minutes in. Dr. Who takes its incomprehensibility seriously. If at least one person doesn’t abandon it screaming with frustration at tattered memories of having been once able to coherently understand TV programmes then it’s not doing its job.

With its immaculately 80s synths soundtrack Stranger Things is the Ryan Gosling neo-noir movie Drive, but with a small town Americana back drop, and aliens, well, monsters, or at least strange things. Actually it’s nothing like Drive, but is snap shots of an 80s films fancy dress party. It’s Gremlins, the Goonies (not that I’ve never actually seen it), and Stand by me, which I can’t recall much about beyond train tracks and Ben E King’s song that may not even be on the soundtrack. There was an invasion of the 60s half way through the 80s, as though it lacked the confidence in being itself. Levis adverts put Ben E King, the Commodores and Marvin Gaye back in the charts so frequently that it would have confused any strange visitors what decade it was.  We even had quiffs. Some of us still do.  Anyway, the fact is Stranger Things has this familiar feel of how you remember films, as opposed to what they were actually like.

It’s Netflix own show, as opposed to buying it in, and they’ve helpfully given it a five star rating, which feels like them completing their own customer feedback forms. It starts with a car chase, and is basically an exercise in spotting the 80s references – Patrick Swayze’s  Red Dawn – tick. Rob Lowe lookalike, tick. E.T. check. Cool hand Luke – tick. It’s unsurprising that the Duffer brothers who wrote and direct the series sought advice of Steven Spielberg because otherwise they’d be meeting him on a less voluntary basis in court.

The budget has quadrupled, most of which appears to have been spent on sound effects and dramatic red skies.  The lack of mobile phones is addressed by walkie-talkies, a must-have of the 80s, alongside soda-stream and the Rayleigh gold Burner. The tension’s as taut as before; complete with all kinds of terrifying moments, such as them watching the best-forgotten 1983 film Mr. Mom, eating home delivered KFC and a peach bathroom.

There will already be plenty of people who have binged the entire season in less time than it took the crew to eat their early call breakfast, which feels wrong. Instead I’l be watching daily like I once viewed the creaky Australian soap Neighbours, when the 80s references were harsh reality and not nostalgic .

My debut novel, The Life Assistance Agency – selected by WHSmith Fresh Talent 2017 –  is available here – http://myBook.to/lifeassistance . It features a great deal of music.

and here

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

and on ebook here –

 

Writing Diary. Putting your novel in the drawer

There is so much writing advice out there that it’s hard to know which bit is most annoying.  Is it Write, Write, Write? Or Read, Read, Read? I mean honestly who has time for such nonsense in the age of Crazy Birds and Candy Crush Saga and the new series of Stranger Things?

Then there’s show don’t tell, which is actually sound advice, until you’re required to tell something and it turns into a complete charade. If someone is too near the cliff edge you don’t show them, you bloody well tell them before they fall off.

Obviously the most annoying is Elmore Leonard saying – if it sounds like writing, then rewrite it, but that’s because it’s good advice, yet like a a moth in the dark is impossible to grasp. It’s certainly the writing advice best ignored if you’re hungover, or driving.

However, having spent the last 2 weeks following another popular piece of advice – lock the first draft in a drawer and don’t look at it for two months – this is presently the most annoying. Having told a few people of my intention, so many added ‘to let it bake’, that I thought I’d fallen into an alt-universe of the Great British Bake Off.

Let it bake? How hot are these drawers? And surely if a drawer is locked you can still tip the entire desk out of a third story window and pick through the pieces… Yes, I’m that desperate.

Apparently the break provides a more objective view when you re-read your manuscript. Presumably, ‘objective’ being euphemism for running to the nearest pub in tears. But once you’ve unloaded the dishwasher, how do you spend your time while your manuscript is baking? Start another novel is the advice of a lunatic, so I put that new paragraph aside.

Where writers once had moleskin notebooks or dictaphones, they now look like anyone else incapable of lasting longer than 3minutes before looking at their phone. I’m always making important notes in my phone I never see again, so I decided to investigate. Perhaps these nuggets of wisdom too important to be trusted to memory might be sewn in to enliven the 2nd draft. However, at first glance the only way they belong in a novel would be as a malfunctioning Kindle ™.

My favourite so far is : Maniquoncwoyh jo say on what they wear, which sounds like the evolution of a novice learning to write compressed into 10 seconds and somehow dying before reaching the full stop. I’m glad I took the time to capture it, or at least some drunken, previous version of me is. This one is toying with the idea of putting it into the google Welsh translator.

There’s also time to weigh up new novel ideas, and the advisbility of adapting a Danger Mouse plot to novel length, which is worrying; it’s not exactly Zadie Smith re-engineering E. M. Forster’s Howards End (for the storyline of On Beauty) and the red letterbox HQ would be a give away, although my protagonists (I can’t call them heroes) do also have an office they can ill-affoed in Soho.

It’s fascinating what you get up to without a book to be writing, and is the sort of personal revelation that occurs two hours into watching Jason Orange’s best bits from Take That *

Talking of Take That, patience is a virtue in writing as it is elsewhere, and the further you are from your work, the clearer you can see. Which reads like poorly translated advice found in a fortune cookie, but it’s the only opportunity you get to be the reader of your own work. I guess this is a good thing. Now, to plan which pub…

*Yes, all you wags out there, there is more than 5 mins of his best bits, although 2 hours might admittedly be pushing it.

My debut novel, The Life Assistance Agency – selected by WHSmith Fresh Talent 2017 –  is available here – http://myBook.to/lifeassistance . It features a great deal of music.

and here

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

and on ebook here –

 

 

 

 

The Dangers of a Bucket List…

Presumably everyone has heard Sam Smith’s Bond theme Writing’s on the Wall by now. He claims it only took 20 minutes to write, but it sounds more like 10. His boast smacks of over confidence. It sounds more like he’s satisfying a Bucket List ambition – Write a Bond theme – than making an effort. Not only does it lack a chorus but it has the sexual swagger of a Tinder profile without a single swipe.

A Bucket List is all the things you failed to do in life, but wanted to, and I don’t mean the washing up. It’s the hope that listing ambitions might bring you closer to achieving them, like buying a map brings you closer to a holiday.

It’s desperately listing things which never occurred to you at the time because you were too busy watching TV, or sleeping off a hangover. If it was truly a list of things you intended, but neglected to do, then telling parents you loved them more frequently should make the list instead of ‘Airboating across an alligator swamp,’ whatever that is. Mind you, with some parents this might be the same thing.

Timing is everything, and it’s essential to consider a bucket list only at a point in life when it’s too late to do most of them, otherwise you might actually end up visiting all the Harry Potter locations dressed as Fridwulfa. Achieving it too prematurely might result in the inclusion of

  • Get to sit in front seat of car
  • wearing a dinosaur costume to bed.

Bucket Lists are a last bid attempt to achieve some semblance of a life by parasailing and then bore anyone still listening with what happened (i.e. you para-sailed, which is actually a surprisingly difficult thing to expand upon.)

There’s a website for people lacking enough personality to even have ideas for a bucket list. It suggests things they never knew they wanted to do, like Send a message in a Bottle (27) or had already done, like Stand in a Red Telephone Box in England (43), without realising it was a life defining experience.

Swimming With Sharks (3) is a popular choice, but if you wish to complete the list, this is probably best left until the end. Meanwhile, Studying for a Degree (56) can inadvertently lead to the afternoon naps that a bucket list, with its I’ll sleep when I’m dead ethos, is endeavouring to avoid. After all, nothing screams you’re studying like waking up on the sofa surrounded by text books on the floor.

And that’s the problem with Bucket Lists, people who’ve happily spent their afternoons sipping tea suddenly want to do so while jumping from a plane. Besides, like Writing’s on the Wall, any close look at a Bucket List, will reveal the strange absence of sex. I guess Chasing a Tornado (18), or Walking the Abbey Road Zebra crossing (37) is easier, but surely all anyone really wants is hot group sex that doesn’t involve Essex cul-de-sacs with a hot tubs contravening current EU health and safety standards.

Actually, one of the most entertaining things on the Internet is a webcam of Abbey Road’s crossing, where local motorists out-do each other by running over Beatles fans. Discovering that they are also people aiming to complete their Bucket List will only increase injuries. Mind you, Save a Life (14) is also on the list, which perhaps kills two birds with one stone – which strangely doesn’t feature on many lists.

Anyone pressed for time will be pleased to find Watching the film Bucket List (64) included, but probably the most annoying thing on the suggested Bucket List is Write a Novel (20), like it’s something you might do while queuing for the Abseiling (32), mind you, some self-published efforts read like they were written while actually while abseiling.

Frankly, anyone with any sense will spend life doing what they want to do, without it needing to look like a still from a Red Bull commercial, because for most people it’s sighing contentledly at a cup of tea, listening to a new album, or reading a novel. The most important thing missing from the Bucket List is, don’t try too hard. Unless you’re Sam Smith.

My debut novel, The Life Assistance Agency – selected by WHSmith Fresh Talent 2017 –  is available here – http://myBook.to/lifeassistance . It features a great deal of music.

and here

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

and on ebook here –

 

Beautiful Creatures by Lawrence Osbourne .

As a writer I know the value of good reviews, so it would be disingenuous not review the best novel I’ve read since I was last compelled to review one. This is while being yellow with either jaundice or envy at how perfectly this book is executed. Even Lee Childs likes it. It’s enough to make me weep into the first draft of my new novel. Lawrence Osbourne is even likeable despite having written his first novel back in 1987 on an olive farm in Tuscany.

Despite being widely unknown and criminally ignored by the literary awards cartel back in London, Lawrence Osbourne lives the life every writer hopes for. He’s lived everywhere, often while writing a novel with a stray dog at his feet. He has stared at life and said ‘yes’ not ‘later’.

Living in Bangkok alone would adequately answer ‘So what attracts you to this job?” but it’s just one location he’s mingled with. He is the archetypal rakish novelist abroad. You want partying at millionaire riad parties in Morocco? Read The Forgiven. You want a missing young schoolteacher in Cambodia? Read Hunters in the Dark. I would go on but I’ve not read the others (yet).

His recently published Beautiful Creatures is more of the same, i.e.. well poised prose.  The eloquently tight observations, often of outsiders in alien environments remain, only this time there’s also a breathtaking pursuit through Italy, and (slight spoiler alert) just when you want guns to feature – an Itaian Benelli Montefeltro Silver semi-automatic shotgun no less – you get them.

We find ourselves with two twenty-something girls semi tanned and semi bored on the Greek island of Hydra, who meet a young Arab man who has been dropped off by boat from who knows where. The allure of the unknown flirting with the rash idealism of youth soon associates with unexpected twists of fate, yet always with an extraordinary lack of judgement or political correctness on the part of Osbourne. It’s startlingly contemporary.

The novel does what I aim to do. In place of postcolonial guilt, shades of regretted love affairs and stubbed-out Gauloises, he gives literary fiction a story. And the story is only predictable in that it turns into every corner you want it to; as opposed to many novels this days that spend too much time navel gazing to look at the road. There’s magnificent sense of place. Anyone who’s spent a fortnight on a Greek island will recognise the smell of countless donkey generations, ouzo and the dry scrape of cfafe plastic chairs beneath that ancient aegean sun.

He says “novels should be bleach boned”, which is exactly the sort of advice budding writers don’t want to hear, as it intimates hard work. He then rubs salt into the wound by adding “it’s a question of cumulative observation and lived suffering. It takes time.” Damn him, but at least he follows his own advice. If I’m honest his much heralded (by me) last book Hunters in the Dark is forgettable compared to Beautiful Creatures. He’s finding his stride in his late 50s. This an absorbing, beautiful and exciting read. Prepare to get lost.

My debut novel, The Life Assistance Agency – selected by WHSmith Fresh Talent 2017 –  is available here – http://myBook.to/lifeassistance . It features a great deal of music.

and here

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

and on ebook here –

 

The Killers – Wonderful Wonderful?

Wonderful wonderful has the warmth of a drunken embrace in an air-conditioned Vegas casino lift. 

Something is amiss in the Killers camp. Two of their members have ducked out of future touring duties, while guitarist Dave Keuning has even forgotten to turn up for the album photo shoot.  In light of the other three holding up conch shells like phones who can blame him. Perhaps he was out of shot with his head in his hands instead. Meanwhile, despite Flowers’ two solo albums, there’s a sense of losing their songwriting mojo, which closing song Have all the songs been written? does nothing to dispel.

The sense of instability pervades recent interviews, but is thankfully missing from the actual record. A tentative opening title track which despite its title sounds as wonderful as having a suicidal wife, which much of the lyrics capture. Its pomposity could be U2 circa Rattle and Hum, while Life to come is the sound of New Order gatecrashing the Joshua Tree.

Despite popular opnion, Killers’ albums have always been patchy, apart from the unfairly maligned Battle Born from 2014, on which sterling songwriting was matched by ambitious production and open roads. Runaways justified admission alone, but it had the lyrical ambition a novel and its intricate melodies rewarded repeated listening.

You’ll have heard the Man. It struts about like it’s been thrown off a roundabout onto a disco dance floor, as Flowers reflects upon the (possibly) misplaced confidence of his youth. The gentle sincerity of Rut follows it perfectly.

The ballsy Tyson Vs Douglas will have Brice Springsteen flicking through his catalogue to ensure he didn’t write it in the mid-80s, but it somehow tiptoes between defiant and vulnerable without losing its balance. Some kind of love is exactly how you imagined Brandon Flowers writing a track over a Brian Eno instrumental might sound like, shortly before releasing you need to get out more. It’s the warmth of a drunken embrace in an air-conditioned Vegas casino lift.

The new wave abandonment of Out of my mind is a surprising highlight, as it cheerily echoes the synths of Mr Brightside. It’s more throwaway than they’ve recent dared and it works. Meanwhile there’s a dusty bar room band somewhere missing the Calling as its late night sleaze set closer. You can almost hear the bottles spinning through the air before a car park brawl and home to bed. But it’s splashed with enough electronic flourishes to maintain its pose.

There’s a blur developing between Flowers’ solo albums and the Killers, but if Wonderful wonderful is the sound of a crisis in confidence then there’s more fuel in the band’s tank than recent problems suggest.

My debut novel, The Life Assistance Agency – selected by WHSmith Fresh Talent 2017 –  is available here – http://myBook.to/lifeassistance . It features a great deal of music.

and here

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

and on ebook here –

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing. The First draft – now what?

I recently tweeted that finishing a novel is akin to chewing through the wires of your own life support machine and it’s true. Either that or it’s cutting the rope suspending you above an alligator pen. There’s plenty more metaphors to spare; there’s a mountain  already cut from the first draft of the Life Assistance Agency’s sequel, with plenty more to join them. I might sell them on eBay, but fear that like repeating a joke they won’t work the second time. Of course there’s plenty of work to be done on a first draft, but reaching the end is as terrifying as buying a one-way ticket for the Siberian Express.

I finished the first draft without entirely realising what had happened. A glass of wine, a new LP on the stereo (Arcade Fire – two word review: strangely unrewarding) and an hour later I’d unwittingly written The End. In Impact font no less. I blame the wine.

There’s nothing better than having something to work on. It’s an airborne fork incoming to a chocolate gateaux suspended indefinitely; all delicious potential. Writing is basically fiddling around. It’s the equivalent to owning a classic car for restoration, minus the oil spills, RAC recovery from next door after its yearly spin around the block, the smell of rotting brake pads and need for a garage. You’re not supposed to actually finish the restoration. it’s not about the actual driving on open roads in driving gloves with the roof down and picnic hamper in the boot, it’s the fantasy that counts. And similalrly writing a book is coming to terms with how widely you missed the mark of your original vision.

The glorious sense of achievement upon finishing was almost instantly replaced by the vision of endless afternoons spent reading blogs on the top 5 best nose hair trimmers, and arguing with strangers on Twitter about politics and the best available nose hair trimmers.

So, now it’s written, you can see what’s wrong with it. And it’s well worth leaving in a drawer for a few months to truly see the flaws. You have to accept that as with restoring cars, by the end so much of it is replaced that only the original car’s ashtray remains.

In the meantime there’s temptation to go on a long holiday that easily outstrips your work holiday allowance and puts your job in jeopardy, but sadly, despite the instinct suggesting that completing a novel means you no longer need to follow mainstream rules, you do. The bins still need taking out and nose hair still needs trimming.

Once you’ve taken the manuscript out of the drawer three days into the few months you’re faced with the lacuna between what you envisioned and what sits before you. Make changes, and then send it to all the people kind/foolish enough to volunteer reading it, some of whom will have forgotten the drunken agreement to do so in a taxi over Battersea Bridge.

You then suppress the urge to ask them how it’s reading at 2am. you want them to say it’s the best thing they’ve ever read, while also wanting some constructive criticism. The diplomacy required makes writing the bloody thing look easy. They are the equivalent to a professional classic car restorer frowning before saying, ‘Well, I wouldn’t have done it like that… and that ashtray needs replacing.’

My first novel, 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 –

 

 

 

 

How to work in an Office – a guide.

With so many people blogging, napping and reading Polly Toynbee articles through their fingers, sorry, I mean working from home, traditional office life feels somewhat neglected of late.

There are various skills in negotiating life in the office environment. The most important one is to ignore so-called colleagues constantly moaning that it’s cold if the room heat dips below temperatures generally associated with New York heatwaves. This is best achieved by flinging open the windows upon your late arrival, turning down the air conditioning and suggesting they put on a jumper. After all, this is what I do at home, until I can see my breath and admit defeat by putting the central heating on. People moan about their heating bills whilst wearing shorts and Haitian shirts.

I’ve been working from home for so long now that life has moved on elsewhere without me. Any encounter with rush hour commuting is like being deposited into a dystopian future of overpopulation and automatons programmed to pick up free newspapers for which the carriage is too cramped to read.

At a recent interview for an office job, I was asked what I might bring to the team. I presumed they didn’t mean a weekly Victoria sponge, although I suspect one of the interviewers might have instantly given me the job had I offered one. Instead, I froze. ‘Humour’, I ventured, instantly regretting it, aware the only immediate demonstration of comedy would involve a joke I had recently heard that belonged to after the watershed. I wanted to add ‘playlists’, ‘intolerance of overheated environments’ and a healthy disregard for authority, but thankfully managed to stop myself. I’m good at organising the milk whip? I said. They nodded non-commitedly, like you only ever see during interviews.  What could I bring to an office that didn’t involve anecdotes about how much I used to enjoy working from home?

I remember office politics and the slow clocks. The day peaked at lunchtime, because there was food, with another highlight at 3:30 for afternoon tea, if there was milk, but repetition has little else going for it. Of course there was the opportunity to chat, and I miss that, but the postman is a good stand in, even if it’s clear he needs to escape. The screeching of van tyres as he finally leaves always reminds me to take less of his time in future, after all, I’m starving other local home-workers of his company.

In offices there are meeting rooms with whiteboards containing words such as Targets or Planning, with arrows pointing to some forgotten half-rubbed out conclusion. To be fair there were probably people in that meeting who forgot where it was going 5-minutes after it started. Being in a meeting is bad enough, but walking past one and looking in? It’s like seeing human beings robbed of their soul.

I have still found no answer as to what I might bring to a team environment, other than using the printer to churn out countless drafts of a novel to edit during lunch breaks, but I know what not working in an office brings, and I don’t just mean having somewhere designated to sit. It’s about doing your work without also having to socialise with people you otherwise would cross the room to avoid. And having milk and teabags without having to send a group email requesting funds.

My novel, The Life Assistance Agency – selected by WHSmith Fresh Talent 2017 –  is available here – – 

A farcical road trip around Europe. ‘This is what would happen if the Blues Brothers went on a search for the Holy Grail.’

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

and on ebook here –

 

 

 

 

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