The story of a story – how my novel came to be

Me and the sea. Image by Matthew Facey Photography

I remember very well the months I spent living in a van, trundling the Cornish lanes, stopping here and there, never for long, always leaving early. Nobody ever bothered me; nobody banged on the side in the nighttime; the police never moved me on, but then I guess I played it right and stayed well off the beaten track. You wouldn’t have found me parked up at Pendennis, Porthtowan, or any of the other sites popular with van dwellers; if you had spotted me, you might have seen me cooking up some food on my camping stove or towelling myself down after a swim or a surf, but other than that, I suspect I blended into the background, which was just fine by me.

I’d been living in a house share in Penryn while I completed a Master’s degree at Falmouth uni. When the course finished, everyone went their separate ways but I was doing a bit of work for BBC Radio Cornwall, and freelancing as a copywriter in Truro, so I recruited new housemates and stayed on. Gradually though, these new housemates also moved away, and I was left alone in the property through most of the winter and into the spring of that following year. As houses go, it was alright – from the perspective of not having a house at all now, it seems quite palatial, as in, it had plumbing, but it was north-facing, cold, gloomy, and a little bit spooky. I don’t know if it was me or the house, but I became depressed, and I couldn’t seem to shake it off.

I needed to make a move but couldn’t think of what to do. In the end, the owners decided they wanted their house back, and so my hand was forced. I went around looking at bedsits and house shares but couldn’t face the thought of living in some landlord’s claustrophobic studio flat or sharing anyone else’s space. There had to be a solution, but what could it be?

Back in the day, I did what many other surfers have done and packed up a van and headed to the beach breaks of South West France, Spain and Portugal. What an adventure – big waves, sunshine, new friends – it was a wonderful time. Why don’t I do that, only stay here in Cornwall? I thought. Over a weekend, I made a big plywood box with a lid and a divider down the middle. One half was for my camping stove, gas bottle, and cooking gear, and the other for clothes. My pillows and duvet, folded on top, made the box into a seat. I had an old mattress from a folding bed which, when not in use, I could strap up against the side of the van. I bought a 40-litre water tank with a tap at the bottom, strapped my surfboard to the roof, and I was set.

I used the loos at work or the supermarket; in the early morning, I would head for the beach, soap up, wash in the sea and then rinse off with fresh water from a 2-litre milk bottle with holes melted through the lid with a hot needle. I swam, I surfed, I worked, and I went to Kath Morgan’s weekly writing class – Kath now co-owns The Writing Retreat. To begin with, living in my van made me feel vulnerable and exposed – I didn’t have a home to go back to. But I got used to it, and that feeling wore off. I began to feel a bit better, and then I felt a lot better.

Secret sea pool

I was born less than a mile from the sea, and apart from my uni years in Scotland, I’ve never lived far from it. During my lifeguard days and as a surfer too, I was in the sea all the the time, all year round. As a tall ship sailor, I was on it (and thankfully never in it). I paint the sea, I write about it, I swim in it, I make wooden fish; it’s where I go when I’m celebrating, and it’s there when I want to escape. I’m not Cornish, but I’m deeply connected to this county, and that’s partly because I have family here and came here as a child, but it’s also – mainly – because I’m a saltwater human, and this place has sea on three sides.

There’s a secluded sea pool I used to frequent; its whereabouts is a secret. It’s hidden by cliffs and is connected to the open sea via a gully perhaps 30 metres long. I’d skinny dip there in the early dawn, the sea stingingly cold and clear and vivid, and afterwards, I’d stand on a rock, hidden from view and dry off and dress for the day. As I stood there one day, bathed in the morning light, just like that, my depression lifted.

Lighter, brighter and wholly refreshed, it wasn’t long until I found myself at Porthtowan on the north coast. I’d been surfing and was sitting eating my chips when suddenly, like a shoal of pilchards, children poured from Porthtowan Surf Lifesaving Club. As they messed about in the sand or trotted down to the sea carrying boards, they reminded me of my lifesaving days at Dawlish Warren Lifesaving Club in Devon. I was due to attend Kath’s writing class that evening but hadn’t written anything. I grabbed a pen and, on the back of an envelope, began a story about a kid called Jacob.

My first novel, Fulmar, is the result. I wrote it mostly in lay-bys, never far from the sound of the sea; it came so easily, this story of a boy in trouble, his mixture of positivity, determination, humour, and vulnerability. Surfing and surf lifesaving saved him, just as they once helped me. As I wrote, my friends in the writing group gave me valuable feedback; Kath helped me with the editing and, after much re-writing, Fulmar, was finally finished. It’s a lovely story, full of the sea. Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones once remarked that he doesn’t write his songs; the songs are out there already. All he does is put up his antenna, and the riffs come to him. I think this is that: I opened up and let the Ocean in.

Fulmar has now been published by Cornish Publisher, Hermitage Press. It’s available to order at bookshops across Cornwall, and can be ordered from any bookshop in the UK. You can also order direct from Amazon or, alternatively, from the publisher’s website.

If you’d like to hear more of my journey to publication, plus Cornish adventures/misadventures, creative efforts, and more, please do sign up for my newsletter, via the form in the sidebar. Also, if there’s any aspect of the writing life, whether it’s novels, articles, or copywriting, that you’d like to know more about, please leave a comment, and I’ll try to answer, or include your question in a future blog post.

Armed Forces Day comes to Falmouth and why I’ll stick to watching the Red Arrows.

The UK is one of only a handful of countries that still recruits children into its armed forces

I experienced a considerable amount of violence growing up, and through my uni days, discovered some unhealthy ways of dealing with its aftermath. I could so easily have gone down a dark path, but luckily, didn’t: I found a better way. 

I had finished university, was living back at home, and was having a difficult time of it. Something had to give. I realised I wanted more from life, but how to get it? To start with, I stopped smoking and to quell the cravings, I ran – and ran and ran. I got shin splints, so I swam instead. 

I found a booklet at work. It was a Devon County Council publication detailing all the voluntary groups in the area. I found an entry for Dawlish Warren Lifesaving Club and called the number; I went to visit – the club captain told me to come to training on Sunday, and so I did. 

It was the natural thing for me to do, to write my debut novel, Fulmar, about a vulnerable kid who finds a better future because I understand what it is to be desperate, and I know what it is to need something – anything – a path, a way forward, and once I’d found it, to latch onto it with all my might. Becoming a Surf lifesaver was the saving of me, and later, as a surf lifesaving instructor and club captain, I’ve seen the positive effect this incredible voluntary service has had on lots of other young lives too. 

Many of the young surf lifesavers I knew (and still know) eventually left the beach and went on to excellent careers as police officers, paramedics, firefighters, and more. Some joined the armed forces and excelled there too. Like the emergency services, a career in the military offers many of the same things as surf lifesaving: fitness, friends, purposeful employment, and a bright future to look forward to. 

When I think back to how impressionable I was as a young person and how impressionable some of the young people I helped to train to be lifeguards were, I can see the appeal of a career in the services as it’s portrayed in the military’s slick advertising campaigns. That’s particularly the case for kids from less well-off backgrounds, with fewer opportunities – and kids who, like me, have had some rough things happen in their lives and who’re desperately in search of something. 

Jacob, the character in my novel, is just like that – the product of domestic violence, needing something, finding, luckily for him, the right thing. He’s 15 in the story – 15 years and 7 months, is the minimum age for beginning the process of applying to join the military. I defy anyone to read my novel (release date, 3rd August) and tell me that my character – an approximation of many vulnerable boys of that age – would be mature enough to make a decision with such far-reaching consequences.

The circus comes to town

Saturday is Armed Forces Day, and this year the circus has come to my town – Falmouth.  While I have great respect for the armed forces, I do have a problem with the MoD’s policy of recruiting children into the ranks. I think it’s wrong, and here’s why.

Look beyond the banners and marching bands, calls to duty and belonging, adventurous training, and the chance to learn a trade, and what you’ll discover is the sleight of hand that lies at the heart of armed forces recruitment. All that razzmatazz obscures the very real possibility of a disastrous outcome: disfigurement, dismemberment, death. 

A few years ago, I wrote another book – called Sacrifice. It’s about a Cornish boy who joins the army because he can’t find a job. It’s set in the twilight of the war in Afghanistan when the teenage soldier is already dead, blown up by a suicide bomber here in the UK. It was shortlisted for the Bath Novel Award in 2019.

It took me about a year to do the research for Sacrifice. I read a heap of books, watched lots of documentaries about the armed forces, and I interviewed people who had served. In particular, I conducted extensive interviews with a former soldier– an Afghanistan vet who had joined the armed forces as a teenager and who had left only four years later after a single tour of Afghanistan.

He told me that by the time he’d finished his military training, he’d wanted to kill someone – had considered it the logical conclusion of all that training – a blood rite. He’s not the only former soldier to have told me this. In Afghanistan, there was lots of killing, the man said. He went on to describe the terrific high of battle and the awfulness of the comedown—the aftermath. He spoke of the horror of seeing comrades – friends – disintegrated, blown up in front of his eyes. In the end, he said, he’d tried to put himself in the way of enemy fire. He’d just wanted it to be over.

The state needs a lethal capability and must therefore recruit men and women into its armed forces. But, surely anyone considering pursuing a career in the services must be capable of understanding the potential consequences of their decision. We don’t believe under eighteens understand the full ramifications of smoking, drinking, marrying or even driving; how can we allow them to join the forces when the potential outcome is maiming or death?

All the evidence shows that the younger the recruit, the more likely he or she is to come to harm. Under 18s are more likely to develop a problem with substance abuse. Service personnel recruited at 16 are also much more likely to get killed or injured in action than those who joined at 18; they’re more likely to be abused both during training and after they’re sent to their unit; they’re more likely to suffer from PTSD, and they’re much more likely to take their own lives. 

We’re the only country in Europe that recruits children into its armed forces and one of only a handful around the world. Underage recruitment is something we have in common with places like Iran and North Korea. This month, the UN released a report which criticised the UK government, calling for it to raise the minimum age of military recruitment from 16 to 18 and to address the many complaints of the sexual assault, rape, and abuse of child recruits.

When you look at who the military recruits at 16, it’s predominantly kids from working-class backgrounds. These children are much more likely to end up in the infantry where, contrary to the advertisements, they won’t learn a trade and won’t be promoted as quickly as they would if they had waited until age 18 to enlist; once in, after the first 6 months have elapsed they won’t be able to get back out unless their commanding officer agrees to their discharge, and will have to stay in until they’re 22 years old. They will end up in the firing line.

These kids are canon fodder, and if you want proof, ask yourself – what’s the minimum age to join the military as an officer? Answer: 18. In fact, the average age of recruits at Sandhurst, the army officer training centre, is typically 23. Of course, that has a lot to do with the level of education necessary for the officer role, but still, when you consider that nearly half of all officer recruits still come from public schools, the implication must be that they –  the upper classes, believe your kids are worth less than theirs, because it’s not their kids they’re sending into the front line, is it? It’s ours – yours. 

“Oh,” they say, “but a career in the forces is the making of so many young boys and girls.” 


That guy I interviewed for my book: destroyed – tormented by what he had seen and done – ravaged by it. Covered from head to toe in psoriasis, he twitched and scratched and squirmed and kept talking because the army doctor he saw before he was unceremoniously dumped by the army had told him it would help his PTSD. There seemed to be no support – his family wasn’t there for him; he’d spent time on the street. He was trying to put things back together, but he was so shattered it was hard to see how he could.

I asked him, “Having seen what you’ve seen and done what you’ve done, what do you think war is?” His eyes shone with agony as he smiled sadly. “War?” He said. “It’s the worst drug of all.”

So yes, if you happen to be in Falmouth, do enjoy watching the Red Arrows, and then go home and write to your MP. Peace. Out.

Iced memories: how boredom inspired my writing journey

Image by Distillated

“Am I keeping you awake?”

The young chap managing the checkout at B&Q blinked his eyes into focus.

“Oh, hi,” he said, stifling a yawn. “Yeah, you are, actually. I was having a nice little daydream before you showed up.”

“I was an ice cream seller once,” I said and began to tell him about the time I sold cones outside a cafe and takeaway in my hometown of Brixham.

It was a long time ago when I was looking for my first ‘proper job’ after uni. I had spent a miserable winter being unemployed or working in pubs. Now it was early April, and I stood there overlooking the oily waters of the harbour, nursing a Mr Whippy machine. I was cold, bored, and, because of the ice cream seller’s outfit – white coat, white mesh trilby, and shirt and tie – humiliated. Why, I thought, had I bothered with all that studying? I was an ice cream seller; I needn’t have bothered with any of it.

The checkout guy chuckled.

“It gets worse,” I said, and I recounted how, as I stood there, my eyes glazed over, youthful optimism bleeding into the cold reality of a rundown seaside town in early spring, a woman came over, peered at me and poked me in the ribs. I jumped, and she shrieked and nearly toppled backwards.

“I’m so sorry,” she’d said, clapping her hand to her chest. “You were so still, I thought you must be one of those plastic manikins.”

The lad’s face lit up.

“No way!”

“It was just one shit job among many,” I said, and he nodded.

“I know what you mean, mate.”

It’s funny how what goes around comes around. Back in Brixham on that chilly afternoon, I, too, had laughed; the boredom momentarily lifted. I asked the lady if she fancied an ice cream. She pulled a face.

“Not really, love. It’s more of a hot soup day, don’t you think?”

I sighed. “You can have it for free if you want.”

She looked at me, pity in her eyes and, wrapping her scarf a little tighter around her neck, smiled. “I’m not sure it’s supposed to work like that, is it?”

“Suppose not.”

She laid her hand on my arm. “Something better will come along.”

The end of my ice cream era

Not so very long after that chance encounter, I did indeed find another job – I’m not sure I’d say it turned out a great deal better. Still, I do remember the exhilaration of handing in my notice to the cafe owner, a mean little man with a voice like a flat foghorn, who sliced his lemons to slivers as thin as membrane and put powdered milk in his coffees.

“I’m leaving,” I said.

“Oh,” he replied, hooking his thumbs into his lapels and poking his nose in the air. “Not good enough for you, are we?”

“Something like that,” I said.

“And when will we be departing?”

“Now.” I put that stupid trilby on the counter and walked away.

“You never,” the lad at B&Q said.

“I did,” I said. “Best move I ever made.”

The first ending of many

That was the first job I left under my own steam. Since then, there have been other happy leavings, but chucking in jobs once you’ve had as much as you can stand is never without consequences. When my friends were buying their first houses, I was surfing in France; when they were trading up, paying off, and renting out, I was sailing a tall ship through the Southern Ocean. I’ve spent years writing and painting and making stuff – earning small and living cheap. Now some of my peers are sitting pretty while I have none of the things you’re supposed to have when you reach middle age. Regrets?

Put it this way. It’s a bright late spring morning – sunny but cool. Inside, I’ve got my wood burner lit with a small fire, and the faint smell of woodsmoke reminds me of my grape-picking days. It was twenty-odd years ago now – I’d left another job via the window and had driven across the grass verge and out onto the road. It was probably a silly thing to do, but I was young, and, having plucked up the courage to rebel, I wanted to make a statement. What better way than by making a dramatic exit?

After a summer of surfing France’s stunning beach breaks, I found myself hard up for money and being near Bordeaux, grape harvesting was the obvious solution. It was hard graft. Up at seven for an eight o’clock start. I remember standing with the others – a motley band of locals and other drifters like me, waiting for the off.

The air clouded with our dewy breath, the sweet scent of woodsmoke and French tobacco, the sour wine smell, the sound of our feet tramping gravel and wet leaves to mulch. La Patronne would arrive. Her name was Elena, the wife of the Chateau owner; she drove a jeep loaded with a barrel of drinking water and, in her bag, she kept paracetamol for the hungover. She’d announce the day’s picking and drive off, and we’d follow on foot or in cars and vans, depending on how far away the section was.

I carried a sort of dustbin thing on my back. I’d walk the row of vines, and the pickers would toss their baskets of grapes into it as I passed. When it was full, I’d walk to the end of the row and mount a ladder propped against the side of a deep trailer. Up, up, up, and bend and twist and shrug, and a slew of grapes would rush from my shoulders into the mass of black, glistening fruit. The smell was full and rich and sticky.

I’d begin the day stiff and sore, but by ten, I would be limbered up and in good spirits. Jokes, jibes, the occasional, “Oh putain, oh la la,” as a picker inadvertently snipped a finger or thumb with the secateurs. There was English banter and funny stories from a middle-aged Scotsman called Eric. Aggressive, vulnerable, attention seeking and shy, my fellow pickers and I liked and feared him in about equal measure and were not a little relieved when, one night, he disappeared from the dilapidated cottage we shared and never came back.

Bored on the job

Some of what we picked were of a special grape variety used for making Sauternes sweet wine. The grapes had to be wizened before plucking – apparently, the little region of Barsac, where I was, was a microclimate which favoured a type of mould that did this without rotting the fruit – it turned the grapes into raisins, but not at a predictable pace. As the harvest wore on, what had looked like an opportunity for quick cash, turned into a waiting game that dragged through October and into November.

While we waited, we ate the delicious food Elena would bring for us – “Just a few basics”, she would say as she dumped a box of chickens, duck breasts, and pate on the kitchen table. That and a dozen bottles of the delicious estate wine between five. She was a kind lady. I wanted to thank her and, because I had bought a box of cheap watercolours at the supermarket, decided to do her a painting on a scrap of cardboard. Only I’d lost the brush, so I had to make do with a cotton bud borrowed from my housemate.

I painted ‘la vendange’, the grape harvest, and I remember how, as I bent to the task, I sank into it and was lost to it, only bobbing up again two or three hours later with a finished picture. I’d never felt so absorbed by anything, ever. I don’t know if it was a good painting, but La Patronne loved the gift. In lots of different ways – painting, writing, making – I’ve been sinking into that same picture again and again ever since.

When I wasn’t painting, which I did a lot from then on, I was often to be found writing in a journal I’d started. My housemates would sometimes wonder whether I was writing about them, and though I denied it, of course I was. They were the characters who populated what was, in retrospect, one of several introductions to what would become my career as a writer. Once I’d learned how it felt to give myself over to something for the love of it, I began to make sense of myself. If work didn’t feel like that, it wasn’t worth doing. So that’s why I’d been so bored.

Only three photos from that trip survive, and none of them are of me or the people I met, but I’ve never lost the diary; its contents are pure gold to me now. Reading it is to experience that incredible journey all over again. That’s the power of words – to record our most intimate thoughts and feelings and to transmit them through time.

When I look back at my life so far, I realise that boredom is fuel for exploration and adventure. Without it, maybe I’d have stayed an ice cream seller or an IT guy, or any of the other roles I have filled over the years. I might have owned a lot of stuff by now, but then I’d never have experienced the richness of those mornings in the French countryside – maybe I would never have put pen to paper. Fast forward to a bored lad in a hardware store, and all I can hope is that one day soon, he takes off his orange apron, leaves it on the counter, and walks away. Given the choice, it’s better to live a little.

If you’d like to hear more of my journey to publication, plus Cornish meanderings, creative efforts, and more, please sign up for my newsletter via the form in the sidebar. Also, if there’s any aspect of the writing life, whether it’s novels, articles, or copywriting, that you’d like to know more about, please leave a comment, and I’ll try to respond or include your question in a future blog post.

A Coronation Fit For A Lazy Hound

The seated King Charles Lazy Hound

A magnificent friend of mine loves what he calls ‘shit cars’. He has owned a great quantity of them, so much so that the DVLA once queried why he was buying and selling so many. Was he, they wanted to know, a vehicle trader? And if so, why didn’t he have a vehicle trading licence? 

But no, my friend was not a vehicle trader, and the proof was that he’d so seldom made a profit from a vehicle sale that, if he were buying and selling to put food on the table, he’d have starved to death. Over the past twenty-five years or so, I’ve watched with bemused interest as this car-obsessed individual has bought, briefly driven, and resold an endless succession of rusty old bangers, some of which are now considered classics, but which were mostly, at the time, well, ‘shit’.

Highlights have included Ford Cortinas and Capris, a Zephyr, a Toyota Crown, at least one Nissan Sunny, a Vauxhall Viva – many more. So numerous have been these clattering wrecks that, to celebrate his 50th birthday, my friend decided to have a count-up to see if he’d managed to own the same number of vehicles as he had had years on the planet. The answer: nearly but not quite.

When the time came for my turn to summit the hill and begin my careen down the other side, I, too, had a numerical query. Had I, I wondered, undertaken a number of jobs equal to or exceeding my age in years? 

Serially employed

Ranging from aircraft rivet counter to fish frier and from lifeguard to finance company receptionist, my 53 jobs have, like my mate’s cars, offered variety; unlike his vehicles, however, they’ve brought little in the way of enjoyment. In fact, regardless of the merits of most of my roles, I reckon I could count the number that I’ve enjoyed on the fingers of one hand.

How mad I have driven family and friends over the years. Moaning about work, barely progressing in even the most initially promising of careers. Switching from one thing to another, never settling, always out of step, seldom able to do anything in a way that complied with anyone else’s sense of logic, even as it made total sense to mine. 

If I could just have stuck, I could have been a management accountant by now. Or a lecturer. Or I could have owned my own ice cream van. But no. I would have to keep buggering off – to France, to the beach, to the other side of the world, to the swimming pool, the office, the workshop, the radio studio, the newsroom.

Though people have tried to ‘help’, I sometimes wonder to what degree they meant to assist and to what they sought to save me from myself, or worse, get me to conform to their idea of a sort of acceptable ‘norm’. I have, I must admit, spent much of the time feeling fairly terrible about all this serial employment. I thought I was malfunctioning. 

All the times when I was thinking about this when I should have been doing that. All the pondering of the ‘what if?’ All those daydreamed scenes of disaster and triumph, longing and surrender, all those odds and ends of journals and short stories, blogs, and truely awful poetry. My radio reports on football and cricket matches; articles on tall ship sailing. All that time, I thought I was getting it wrong when it turns out that I was getting it right, and here is the proof of it: a signed contract with Hermitage Press.

I don’t care much about jobs; it’s stories that matter to me. Like dragons hoard gold, I hoard my experiences. I sit on them and mull them over until they make a deep impression on my laurels. My what? My laurels. Don’t tell me you don’t know what your laurels are.

Resting on my laurels

In my childhood, there was a sliding scale of laziness which began at ‘zero’ – acceptable, and descended all the way to extreme laziness – at which point you would be branded a ‘lazy hound’. I remember waiting anxiously for my mother and father to return from my school parents’ evening with their report on my progress or the lack thereof.

I was never actually lazy at school but was, from time to time, accused of ‘resting on my laurels’, something I was advised one must never do. Oh, sure, I would reassure my concerned mum and dad, I would redouble my efforts and get off them directly. Afterwards, though, nobody having actually told me what my ‘laurels’ were, I would lie in bed wondering where they might be found.   

I reasoned, quite sensibly, I think, that if resting on your laurels was halfway to lazy hound, then the creature doing the resting must be a dog. The ultimate lazy hound would be the lying down lazy hound lounging unproductively on its slothful belly. The halfway lazy, lazy hound must be the sitting lazy hound, and it stood to reason, therefore, that a lazy hound’s ‘laurels’ were its furry bum cheeks. 

I pictured myself as a lazy hound, sitting on my laurels, waiting idly for my owner to bring me a bone. It was hard to see what was so offensive about it; after all, nobody likes an annoying lazy hound that pesters visitors for biscuits and tidbits. In my view, the seated lazy hound is the best lazy hound. This hound rests on its laurels while it waits unobtrusively, for destiny to smile upon him.

All of which brings me, at long last, to the coronation of King Charles III, about which I have virtually nothing to say except that he has waited an awfully long time to become what he was always supposed to be. No matter what you might think of the monarchy, how nice it is to think that, whatever your true calling in life if you just keep on keeping on, every dog – even the laziest of laurel-resting hounds – must surely have its day.

If you’d like to hear more of my journey to publication, plus Cornish meanderings, creative efforts, and more, please sign up for my newsletter via the form in the sidebar. Also, if there’s any aspect of the writing life, whether it’s novels, articles, or copywriting, that you’d like to know more about, please leave a comment, and I’ll try to respond or include your question in a future blog post.

Lost treasure, black dogs, and the moaning of a self-conscious neurotic

Some of my my earliest writings

I had a lovely weekend in Devon, visiting friends and attending a rather special 70th birthday party. I arrived home with several boxes of junk, which an old lifeguard pal had been storing for me for the past 16 years, and had at last offloaded into my car boot.

Wondering what might be in the boxes, I was particularly keen to find out if any of it might be sellable, things having descended to a level of dire threadbareness that’s increasingly hard to hide. Unfortunately, what was junk all those years ago is just older junk now. Except that nestled among the old towels and balled-up holey socks from yesteryear, I did discover my writing history. 

It begins with a holiday diary I kept when I was six or seven; there’s another journal I wrote when I began secondary school at 11; after that, a wodge of typed and handwritten papers contains various attempts at storytelling, dating from my early 20s to my mid-30s. 

My childhood diaries are quite charming, but other than that, contain plenty of spelling mistakes and lots of reports of what was for dinner during the early 1980s. None of it would make me think, ah, yes, this is the early work of someone who would end up becoming a writer. Except that all of it is readable. It is – I sat down to have a flip through, and hours later, was still consuming a story about a boy and his pet ‘homing’ mouse. 

Readability is King/Queen

Turning to my early diaries of 40 and more years ago, what stands out for me, isn’t a splendid style or gift with words, because neither is apparent. If there’s anything there, I’d say it’s an ability to convey, without really intending to, how I felt – it’s not what I said that creates the spark that brings these snippets of writing to life for me, but what I didn’t say. 

Take this, from 15th December 1983. I’d been ill in bed:

“In the evening, my little brother had a school carol service. I’m glad I didn’t go because the violins couldn’t keep in time.”

I would have loved to have been there to witness the unholy scraping of violin strings in the church. What 11-year-old wouldn’t? Imagine the hilarity of it, a half dozen kids, their brows furrowed in concentration, making the most unholy cats’ chorus out of Silent Night. I’d have relished it, but missed out and had to hear of it second hand – it was a joke I wasn’t in on. I was disappointed but didn’t want to admit it, so I wrote one thing and meant the opposite, and that’s what makes those lines sing for me. 

Fast forward nearly 40 years, and, turning to my debut novel, Fulmar, my protagonist, Jacob, comes through the door of the flat he shares with his mum to find her watching daytime TV:

“‘Hey, Mum, you’ll never guess what.’


‘Some dude gave me a surfboard.’

‘Uh huh.’”

I guess becoming a writer is the process of learning how to make your characters say stuff without actually saying it. You engage your reader by making them work to fill in the blanks. 

Speaking of which…

Blank is what I’ve been. People keep saying to me – and it’s lovely that they do – why don’t you blog more? But the more they say it, the harder it is to think what to write about. And yet, without getting myself ‘out there’, nobody will ever know I wrote a book, and nobody will buy and read it. This simultaneous need for ‘an audience’ and my cringing embarrassment at the thought of it is further exacerbated by my writing this stuff in the first place. It’s my own fault!

How will I manage book talks? I should feel pleased to have the opportunity to talk about my work – I am pleased – and I’m sure it will be fine once I get going, but the thought is a terrifying one.

As well as a writer, I’m also a keen hand tool woodworker. Someone recently ordered a set of the seahorse shelves I make. I completed the order – busted a gut to meet my self-imposed deadline, packaged the shelves with extreme care and posted them off. I spent the next several days in a state of trepidation, imagining the customer opening my package and viewing the contents with disappointment and increasing rage. 

After a week, I could no longer bear the tension. I contacted the guy and asked if my shelves had arrived and hoped that they were OK.  His response: they’re lovely, and my three-year-old is beside herself with joy. I was relieved. All this self-doubt is exhausting, and when things hit a certain fever pitch, I can’t write anything. Luckily there are a couple of things that help. One is what I call ‘the earth cure’.

The earth cure

Whereas some practise the noble art of gardening, and others opt for no-dig simplicity, I go for the ‘no-gardening’ approach, which is to say, I frequent my allotment for the purposes of weed clearance and seed scattering and then let nature take its course, only returning spasmodically to utter words of despair, flail at the undergrowth, and pluck a few withered runner beans. 

Over Easter, I met a lovely friend of mine for a spot of digging on our respective plots. I favour a tool which I call the ‘hacker’ because I have no idea of its real name – it’s like a half-pickaxe thing with a flat blade angled for hacking. You can do everything with it, from severing weeds from their roots to digging holes and trenches and even, when swung wildly, for scything through long grass. Fantastic thing.

After a couple of hours with the hacker and having laid waste to an insect and worm-rich micro-ecosystem with every swipe, I was about ready to fling down my weapon and declare a ceasefire on nature. My friend, who tends a very splendid plot, had also had enough, and so we moved on to relaxation, part two.

The pebble cure

This part of relaxing involves wandering slowly towards the beautiful beaches at the mouth of the River Helford while moaning to each other about trials and tribulations of life, she because her employer is working her to death, me, mainly because I’m a fantastic moaner. 

I love that part of the Helford dearly and swim there as often as I can. It’s more than stunning, it’s a tonic for the soul, and, what with the hawthorns breaking into their white spring blossom, the path is a shimmering garden of God’s own creation.

We arrive at the beach and slump, exhausted, onto the flat pebbles and lie there, legs outstretched, no longer complaining but bathing in the soft late afternoon sun, the heave and sigh of the lapping waves soothing our frazzled spirits.

After a moment or two, our peace is disturbed by an older couple walking a couple of handsome – and very well-behaved black dogs. As the dogs play in the water, the lady throws sticks for them. Probably in her mid to late seventies, she’s a tartan skirt-clad, knitted cardigan, sensible shoe-wearing, no-nonsense dynamo.

He’s of a similar age and, one suspects, beginning to flag. He spotted us and flung himself down next to us as if in solidarity. 

“Oh, it’s been a long day,” he sighed as his wife berated one of the hounds for its failure to keep up with her stick chucking.

We concurred, and for some minutes, the three of us lay there like beached seals resting from the relentless ocean storms of life. 

Back to it

In the end, the guy’s wife announced she would return to the car, and, in short order, she was off, dogs trotting obediently behind her. Sighing deeply, he heaved himself to his feet and followed in their wake. One suspects he’ll never quite catch her up. 

As for my friend and I, the sun went in, and so we wandered back to the car park, and as we walked, we sowed our conversation with small hopes for the week ahead, and all was well. I  am so very fortunate to have a paradise in my backyard. Does it make it easier to overcome the unease and uncertainty I so often feel? Well, not really, but it does give me the headspace to get over myself and finally write something down.

If you’d like to hear more of my journey to publication, plus Cornish meanderings, creative efforts, and more, please sign up for my newsletter via the form in the sidebar. Also, if there’s any aspect of the writing life, whether it’s novels, articles, or copywriting, that you’d like to know more about, please leave a comment, and I’ll try to respond or include your question in a future blog post.

Summary Justice For Mawnan Smith Hate Figure

At least he went out with a bang

​​20 mph is an awkward speed to drive at. Halfway between second and third gears, you either stick with the former and rev the guts out of your engine or change up and over-tax it to rattling point. Apart from the dodgems, I’ve never driven an electric vehicle, so who knows what that’s like, but I suspect many motorists find the new low-speed zones annoying.

But, and it’s a big but, the lower speed limit is expected to save an estimated 100 lives per year and prevent 14,000 injuries nationwide. Add the fact that there’s an infants’ school near the main road through Mawnan Smith, and that’s more than good enough for me; I’m happy to stick to the limit, even as I reserve the right to curse under my breath as my car dithers in third.

What I don’t like is the Mawnan Smith pointing dummy – that’s the chap in the high-vis hanging from the pole. For those who don’t know the place, Mawnan it’s a pretty little village near Glen Durgan on the lovely Helford river. It has, if I may say so, a rep for housing retirees of the well-heeled, snooty variety. Whether justified or not, and I confess, I don’t know – they’re always very friendly in the village shop – but, for the past year or more, that dummy has occupied the entrance to one of the posh houses, pointing accusingly at every passerby.

Well, I don’t like it. Every time I’ve driven by, it’s rankled me, causing me to mutter to the effect that I can read the sign for myself, thanks very much, and I don’t need some busy-body reinforcing the message with a dummy that looks like a zombie crossed with a postman.

Imagine then, my delight, when returning from assessing the unpromising condition of my allotment, I discovered persons unknown had taken the law into their own hands and meted out summary justice to the Mawnan pointer. Sending him aloft with a sex doll to keep him company was a stroke of genius; whoever you are, I salute you!

There’s more. The individual(s) to whom I will now refer as the ‘Mawnan busybody’ has retaliated. Drive past the same entrance now, and there’s a new high-vis-wearing dummy, only this time, you can only see the top half of him because he’s been tucked behind the garden wall, presumably to deter thieves. For me, though, the cat is out of the bag; the boil of annoyance is lanced. As I pass the new dummy, I shall assume there’s another sex doll on the other side of that wall, only you can’t see her because she’s busy.

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Good news – I found a publisher for my debut novel

Hermitage Press is now home for this Cornwall-based writer

Those who know me will know I’ve been writing, nearly winning the Bath Novel Award (shortlisted three times), and narrowly missing publication for quite some time. But no more rejections for my debut novel, Fulmar, a coming-of-age story set in Cornwall. There’s a new publisher in the county, a traditional press for writers living in Cornwall called Hermitage Press. They’re based near Liskeard, and I’m truly honoured that they’ve chosen my book to be among their first to be published. Here’s the announcement and my author profile, which went live on their site.

New Author: Robin Falvey

We are thrilled to announce another author and title we will be publishing this year. Read on to learn more about Robin Falvey and his wonderful novel, Fulmar. 

“I was living in an old Post Office van, trundling the Cornish lanes, stopping here and there, never for long, always leaving early. One day, I’d been surfing at Porthtowan and afterwards was sitting, eating my chips when, suddenly, a bunch of young people poured out of Porthtowan Surf Lifesaving Club. I was reminded of Dawlish Warren Lifesaving Club back in Devon, where I had been club captain. I began writing, and, Fulmar, is the result.

My protagonist, Jacob Penhallow, is a messed up fifteen-year-old looking for connection and belonging but finding it in the wrong places. It’s a story about how a young person can grow and change, and heal from trauma, and about the role a community can play in that recovery. It’s such a personal book, written with optimism from the back of a van in laybys, and woven through with my love of the sea. As someone said – I don’t know who – ‘It’s in the personal that we find the universal’; I think this is what shines through in this book and makes it very relatable and accessible.

A Devonian by birth, I’ve been living in Cornwall since 2009. I’d recently returned to the UK from a stint in New Zealand and the South Pacific, where I’d been working as a deckhand on the tall ship Soren Larsen and came to Penryn to take a Master’s degree in journalism at Falmouth University. Cornwall is culturally quite distinctive, but in some ways, doesn’t feel so very different from the Devon fishing town of Brixham, where I was born and raised during the 1970s and ‘80s. Back then, we visited Cornwall regularly because we had aunts, uncles, and cousins living down here. They were always lovely with us kids, and I have very happy memories of those times.

Fulmar  was runner-up in the prestigious Bath Novel Award in 2015 but narrowly missed out on finding a publisher at the time. I’d more or less given up on finding a home for my book when a friend told me about Hermitage Press. I thought, why not give it a shot? I reworked it, submitted it, and here we are. I’m so pleased my debut novel is to be published here in Cornwall and that people will finally have the chance to read it. If you’re looking for a book that’s gritty, funny, hopeful, and full of heart, Fulmar is for you.”

Join me on the journey to publication

I’ll be blogging about the rocky writing road so far, plus my journey to publication as it unfolds. I’ll also be responding to questions about writing and copywriting, and, as always, I’ll post about my various creative ventures, plus adventures/misadventures in Cornwall. If you’d like to come along for the ride, please sign up for my newsletter via the form on the sidebar.

There’s gold in St Mawes!

The pot of gold is in St Mawes

It’ll hardly be a surprise to anyone familiar with Falmouth and its surrounds, that the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is to be found in St Mawes or that, if you’re coming from there, you’ll find it somewhere around Restronguet. Property prices in the millions of pounds for either location are a dead giveaway. Still, as I sat at Pendennis munching my lunchtime pasty from the magnificent Dog & Smuggler in Falmouth, I suppose it was useful to know for sure that I was in the wrong place for riches, although, again, there are other, more telling clues to my current financial status. Not that I’m complaining because it could be worse – I could be eating a rank sausage roll sat on a bench somewhere bleak.

When one is facing financial ruin, it’s tempting to give in to a glum feeling of helplessness, but no, that won’t do. Even as I write this I remember the runner beans in my coat pocket – a whole two of them – and hope springs anew. My allotment, which has been a total failure this year (as every year) has finally – in the middle of autumn – decided to burst into life. The lone surviving runner bean plant which had hitherto delivered a paltry six beans, has just added a further two to the tally with signs of possibly as many as a dozen more. No, it’s not much but it does show that even the most blighted of crops can make a swift turn around given any improvement in its conditions – it’s got water now, which it didn’t during the summer.

Which is a good thought to have during a time when we’re probably all a bit worried. It may be useful to note that whether we think we can cope with what life throws at us or not, life throws and somehow we do tend to manage. In terms of poverty survival, I already know how to do without electric, lights, gas, a fridge, a shower, running water. I’ve been there and, in some respects, am still here and, while that’s no comfort to anyone else about to go down the gurgler, at least be reassured that in spite of all, the life principal applies. The what? The drive to thrive and survive, it’s the force Luke, strong in us all and, whatever the situation, we can rely on it to inspire and motivate us when we need it the most. It has never failed me, and it won’t fail you. Here’s another nice picture to look at:

Saturday morning, the mouth of the Helford river

This was me heading down for my morning swim the other day. It’s just incredible, coming through the trees and out of the wood to be confronted with that incredible view. Plus the delectable tingle of anticipation of a chilly autumn dip. Bloody ansum. It was my 101st swim since Easter, too – a nice touch to have a fine morning for it. After I’m done swimming, I usually hotfoot it back to my caravan to fire up the wood burner and cook myself back to life. It’s a good start to the day. Then off to the workshop to where the life principle applied to a delicate bank balance produces the inspiration a fellow needs to be inventive. It’s always been the same – cometh the hour, cometh the latest fish-related inventions…

Hand carved fish key rings and oak fish tea light holders

I’m quite chuffed with this sudden burst of creativity, not least because it’s just in time for Christmas ordering. These items form part of my Christmas gifts for under £10 range which you can find on my Etsy shop. I’m hoping to add some new cards soon too, which will be a bit daft possibly. I must say, I get a lot of nice comments from customers which is very encouraging and gives one cause for optimism – which reminds me – good things are transpiring on another professional front. Could the ducks – or fish – finally be lining up? I do hope so. Watch this space and in the meantime, try to stay positive. There is gold in St Mawes. You may not have it yet, but at least you know where it is.

A storm in a slow cooker

There are storms, and there are Southern Ocean storms

I’ve left it late, but today marked the beginning of my New Year healthy-eating campaign severely delayed because I’m way too fond of my lunchtime pasty. Not only that, but cooking in a less-than-optimally-lit caravan in a dark and windy field invariably involves balancing ingredients, pots and pans, and chopping boards on the bed, over the sink, and, most controversially, on top of the wood burner. Accidents are messy and I’m often late back from the workshop where I’ve been busy making things for my Etsy shop – Cornwall Art and Crafts. When I’m starving hungry, takeaway food or ready meals from the supermarket are easy, if not always that tasty when the only way to heat them up is to chuck them in a sauce pan, add water, and boil them until they look like soup. Also, I just can’t be arsed. But it’s not good enough, is it?

The other day I was lambasting myself for getting chips and curry sauce for the second time in a week, when I remembered the slow cooker buried at the back of a shelf in my workshop. Get that bugger out, I thought. Fill it with tasty veg and meat and eat stew all day long.

A stew is much needed on windy days and, of late, days have been windier than average. When people ask me how I manage, living in a small tin box on top of hill in Cornwall in the teeth of a gale like Eunice, I usually tell them that once you’ve experienced a storm in the Southern Ocean, other gales pale by comparison. That’s partially true I suppose – a more direct answer might be to pose another question: what choice do I have? The answer to that one would be long and probably confusing. Then again, there have been times when I’ve enjoyed the drama and excitement of a good buffeting – but not lately. One can have too much of a good thing.

I remember another winter about eight years ago when storm after storm ravaged the field I live in. That was a hellish experience – the sheer volume of noise and the constant shaking drive you mad in the end. My sister had got a job down here and was looking for a house to buy. I went with her to look at a tiny, overpriced cottage in St Agnes. While she was upstairs, poking around the pokey bedrooms, I sunk onto the sofa and tried, partially successfully, not to weep with sheer relief at the sudden silence and that sense of solidity that four stone walls and a slate roof bring.

Another unintended display of emotion almost overcame me another time too. I’d discovered via the inadequately-homed grapevine that the refectory at Falmouth University had started opening for evening meals. What a Godsend that was. Hot food and electric light do have a lot going for them. Back then, before I had electric, I used to store my ham under the duvet to keep it cool – it could be disconcerting when, having slipped into bed at the end of a long day, I’d roll over and feel clammy flesh against my thigh. Never forget where you put your cooked meats, that’s my advice.

Cooking in a caravan is mainly a balancing act

I decided to head for Sainsbury’s for my inaugural slow cooker stew ingredients. I’d thought, if you’re not buying pasties anymore, you can afford decent veg and a nice bit of fish to make that recipe – ‘Mediterranean fish stew’. Why not make an outing of it and treat yourself to a coffee and a croissant and read The Times? It only ever seems fitting to read The Times in Sainsbury’s. The server at the cafe counter wasn’t fooled by the right wing broadsheet lying on my tray – he must have noticed my muddy wellies and two holey jumpers. When I told him I hadn’t paid for my paper yet, he said, “Don’t fill in the crossword then, ‘cus if it’s a crap paper, you can just put it back.” How true.

I finished my coffee and decided to press on with my mission. Red pepper, onions, mushrooms, sweet potato, green beans, a tin of tomatoes – not all these ingredients were those listed in the recipe but, what the heck? A vegetable is a vegetable and once it’s slow cooked to slurry, it all tastes the same doesn’t it? As I wandered the aisles, I overheard a bloke in pink trousers asking an assistant if they had his favourite Guatemalan coffee; another lady was laughing with someone about Brie – what’s so bloody funny about brie? Two old ladies blocked the aisle for a discussion about a recent trip to Tuscany. It all began to make me feel a bit panicky. I would have been more at ease scrapping with the other customers at the reduced cooler at ‘Azders’. Actually, last time I lost a fight over the 11p grapes, the guy who’d scooped all eight punnets in his spade-like farmer’s hands, handed me one as a magnanimous gesture, which I thought was a nice touch.

Back home, I rested my ingredients on the bed, the slow cooker teetered on top of the gas hob; I chopped and sliced at my desk; I tried not to get juice on the woodcarving book I got from the charity shop. As I cut veg, I thought about houses or even a flat. But I don’t know. After so long not in a house, things that never would have seemed an issue, somehow now are – affordability is the obvious stumbling block, but lots of other things too. Would it be claustrophobic after being outside for so long? Would I worry about the mechanics of doing the utilities and stuff, because hasn’t it all changed by now? Most of all – oddly – would there be ghosts? I wouldn’t want to be in haunted house – well I never said I was sane did I?

The view from the window – sunlight on gorse

Then again, the way the light catches the gorse outside my window is lovely, and so’s the fresh air, and the feeling of space. Songbirds, owls, badgers, foxes – I’ve even seen deer up here from time to time. Then again, again over a decade of harsh living takes its toll. It never used to bother me to wake up in the morning to find the thermometer reading 5C; I used to sleep through storms at least some of the time; I could cope with the heat of summer and, in the winter, the lashing rain and the constant mud, and the sheer effort it takes to stay warm and dry.

“Get your stuff in the stew pot – a good meal inside you and you’ll perk up,” I told myself. “Then think of a way to get rich.”

I’ve had some tremendous get rich schemes float past me at times, some of which I’ve grasped, others I’ve let float by, and others still, I’ve relished watching friends latch on to. I think my favourite was when some mates floated a derelict wooden yacht down the Helford around Pendennis Point and up Carrick Roads into the Penryn River where they beached it and, over the course of a weekend, burned the entire thing on the beach, returning to dig up all the copper and bronze fastenings for scrap. Hats off to those geniuses, who will remain nameless, but they know who they are!

Money making schemes seem a bit thin on the ground lately, but you never know what might turn up. In the end, I expect I’ll just stay where I am for as long as I can and then panic, and then, hopefully, land somewhere else. Or, sell about 250,000 greeting cards and buy a new build house with no ghosts in it. It could be done – but only if people buy stuff. Do have a browse of my greeting cards, Penryn Peace Pilchards, lovely seahorse shelves, and more. When you buy stuff, it’s much appreciated and great for morale here in the field – it also buys veg for slow cookers.

Speaking of slow cookers, mine is now bubbling away and filling the air with the aroma of mixed veg and a stock cube.

But what, I hear you ask, of the fish in the ‘fish’ stew? A slight miscalculation I’m afraid. Once I’d cut and chopped and slid the whole pile of veg into the pot, there wasn’t any room for the line caught – hand petted –haddock. As I write, the ‘veg’ stew is actually bubbling over and dribbling fluid over the work top, and then running along the slanted surface and dripping onto the floor. Why’s it doing that? You might ask. Because, dear reader, as I sink ever deeper into the mud, I’m slowly listing to starboard.

Flaming hell.

Nietzsche, the pilchard that calms, and a very romantic little flatfish

I sat bolt upright in bed, my heart thumping away. Panic gripped my chest. How could I be this old and yet still be this ignorant? But there it was – I had once again Netflix’d and YouTube’d my way through the long dark evening, the latest in a long line of internet binges. It began with my usual washing up routine – dancing around to some Steely Dan while trying not to knock anything over – before I graduated to Russell Brand’s latest bit of truth-telling / conspiracy theorising. Then on to some movie that I got half-way through before I ditched it and watched half a Faraday Lecture about quantum physics, which I jettisoned in favour of going to bed. My final thought before passing out was, ‘Who knows what it all means anyway?’

‘Well,’ I told myself as the clock chimed four, ‘you should know, by now but since you clearly don’t, you should find out, and fast’. Life was gurgling away like a bath emptying down a plughole, and soon all that would be left would be hair and nail clippings and I’d wish I had made more of the hot water. I would read Nietzsche. He’d been cleverer than anyone – he would know the meaning of it all; reading him would be a multivitamin for my mind. I went back to sleep.

The next day I was down at my workshop contemplating a warped plank of ash my friend Camilla had given me. What the hell could I turn that into? I had almost decided to chop it up to take home for my wood burner when I grabbed a bit of cardboard and sketched out the shape of a fish. I cut it out, traced around it and, picking up my coping saw, began hacking out a small spratty-looking thing. An hour later, my first pilchard was born.

I peered at it and poked it with my finger – not so much a Eureka moment as a hmmm moment. Arty people eulogise about the glory of this ‘hmmm’. If you’re going to come up with anything original, you have to learn to let yourself follow ‘the thread’ – the thought of which makes most people, including me, feel quite queasy. But there it is: the golden thread of artistic pretentiousness. Grasp it and you’ll soon be smiling like a modern-day Mona Lisa: creative, enigmatic, and yet smaller and less impressive than one thought one would be.

Fact is, I don’t know if it was the thread that made me make it or not, but it was quite a nice pilchard. I picked it up, weighed it in my hand and thought something along the lines of, ‘Hmmm, it fits across my palm in a nice way.’ When I gripped it… it felt nice. So then I got to thinking, why did it feel so pleasant? Answer: because I, along with everyone else, am stressed, and somehow, when you’re stressed, holding onto a piece of wood that’s been shaped to fit your palm feels kinda good. A bit of sanding and oiling, and kinda good became, yeah – good. A hop, skip and a bit of cartooning later and I’d made a Penryn Peace Pilchard, along with a daft, quirky instruction manual. The very latest innovation in worry bead technology had been born. I put it on Etsy, and it began to sell.

I was down at the local arts centre recently, dropping a friend off. Something of an artistic nature was in progress. In the central space, a paint-smeared, and extremely bored-looking little boy was ‘playing’ in a mound of damp paper slathered with the brightly discordant remains of a children’s poster-painting party. He was being filmed by a fellow in full possession of a Mona Lisa smile – not only had this guy grasped ‘the thread’ but he knew it too. My first thought was, ‘who’s going to clear up all this mess?’, my second, ‘why would the sight of someone trying to be creative be so cringe-making?’. Maybe Nietzsche would know. Over the next few days I read, I absorbed, I composted.

Meanwhile, the success of the pilchard led me to follow the shoal in the direction of Valentine’s Day, and the by now marginally more philosophical contemplation of another piece of aged wood: this time, a nice bit of antique pine from an ancient Welsh dresser I’d helped dismantle. I dismissed the usual tropes – who’d buy a wooden oyster anyway? In the end, I came up with the Falmouth ‘Sole’ Mate, a new way to show your lover that you love ’em. Neat. Plus, there was a new user-manual, which was great fun to design. I was set.

The Falmouth ‘Sole’ mate – A novel way to tell your lover you love ’em

I must admit that after all my inventing, my study of philosophy, my pondering on the meaning of things and my new, exalted position in life – an artist inventor, no less – I felt it was time to pass on all I’d learned. I smiled my own Mona Lisa smile and sat down to write this piece. What had I learned? A quote from that Nietzsche book I’d been reading floated into my mind. It ran something along the lines of this, I paraphrase:

You should never listen to the majority opinion on anything because by the time an idea has percolated through to the masses, it’s already a wizened and corrupted thing, devoid of the originality that made it powerful in the first place.

My heart swelled. I’d never listened to anyone, no matter how sensible they seemed. I didn’t like contrived ‘art’ because it was already so passé. I must be a great thinker indeed, but so mild mannered, so self-obfuscating, that for all this time I’d hidden my light from the world. No more. Picking up my own pilchard, I gave it a squeeze and scanned the first pages of Beyond Good and Evil looking for the full quote. I couldn’t find it. I looked harder. The more I looked, the less sure I was that I’d read this bit before. Could it have come from a later chapter? Impossible: I’d paused at the end of chapter one and had yet to resume.

Then came the bombshell. Where was the quote? Where was it? Ah. There. In the preface to the introduction – the bit some bloke wrote for the benefit of the ignorant.

I wonder what’s on Netflix tonight…