…When I clock the hand gun on his sofa,
he sternly informs me that I’ve not seen it.
So, I get an email asking me to contribute a piece loosely about “Winter”. Such is life that I happened to be in the middle of moving, and Christmas was shambling towards me like an aggressive drunk.
I hate moving at the best of times. But it’s not the best of times, not by a long chalk. It’s winter, and we have to be out of our flat by the 6th of January. The writing gets relegated to the back of my mind. Me and my wife look through an endless series of adverts for two bed flats.
I should point out that my wife is very picky when it comes to property. Me, I’m far less choosy. This has lead to me living in a range of less than salubrious places. For example, a house of bedsits in Brighton in the early 1990s. Complete with a junkie upstairs just back from the hippie trail in India, and next door, a shaven headed kid, who’d been sent down to Brighton from Crawley to avoid “the heat”. When I clock the hand gun on his sofa, he sternly informs me that I’ve not seen it. Still, he was quieter than the previous occupant, a woman who was sectioned, but not before having loud sex with Wayne, her imaginary lover, in the shower directly above my bedsit.
So we see flats that are tiny, or 15 minutes away from public transport up a steep hill. Or even in a state of disrepair. All are more than we wanted to pay. All are varying degrees of difference from what the estate agent or advert claims them to be. We extend our catchment area, but to no avail. Which is a relief, because I don’t really want to live in Norbury. It sounds far too much like a parody of a suburb. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a real place. I’d bet that there are even people proud of living there, despite it sounding like the sort of place where John Major should have been born.
But still I’m wracking my brains about what to write. Damn it. “Winter”. What about “the best Christmas songs”, I think. But I know I’d just write “Are found on A Christmas Gift To You by Phil Spector”, and then be short by hundreds of words. Bollocks. I briefly consider just copying and pasting that sentence 66 or so times, before realising that it’s almost 2 decades since I was a student.
Then it’s the last few days before Christmas. A time of panic. I rush around trying to buy presents, and end up in Soho clutching DVDs for my brother, amongst other hastily acquired presents. Gimme Shelter and The Punk Rock Movie, if you must know. I should have paired Gimmie Shelter with Cocksucker Blues, but the chances of the latter ever being released are as remote as Brian Jones turning out to be still alive, and working in a chip shop in Basingstoke.
Then it’s Christmas, and we may have found a nice flat in Streatham, but I’ve still not come up with even an idea of what to write. Scrabbling around my head in the manner of an alcoholic at the end of a party vainly going through bottles in the hope of one more drink, I think “what about The Christmas Party”. Yes! Finally, an idea. It was probably spurred on by this year’s works Christmas party. Soft drinks, and nibbles from Marks and Spencer at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. It was as fantastic as it sounded.
But as soon as the eating of Christmas is over. It’s back to the packing. I ate packing. Putting all your life into boxes. Wondering what you’ll inevitably lose in the move. We still don’t know if we have a flat. Although we’re assured that we do have the flat, and it’s just a matter of signing the contract, we still haven’t actually signed the contract. We pack everything. I’d completely forgotten how much arguing and swearing is involved in the packing process.
After getting the keys, signing contracts, and actually moving in. I sat down to write about The Christmas party. I waffle on, repeatedly and desperately checking the creeping word count. It’s like crawling through mud, with a severe hangover.
Then life kicked us in the teeth. And my writer’s block got forgotten under a reign of tears, hugs, family rallying around, and grief. But when I sat back down to write. Nothing came. Absolutely nothing. I wondered if I could get away with writing about one of my colleagues at a job I hated years ago, who dropped an E, just before finding out that he would be sitting next to the CEO. But I realised I’d just end up ranting about the inability of drugs to make a dull job, interesting. Especially if you work making training packages for huge corporations.
The deadline was fast approaching. I had about 400 words or so. Not even remotely enough. Fuck! So I started writing about the kick in the teeth, and hundreds of words poured out. Therapy if you will, as I couldn’t put it up for publication. Then I spotted something in my failure, I could write about the writing. Despite the risk of it being seen as a long ‘my dog ate my homework’ note.