Keynsham Writers 2.0

After a busy few weeks (including a big question mark over wether we should move area, and how the workshops I helped facilitate for clients were going at work, etc, etc) I forgot all about the writers group kick-off meet I’d organised until on the day; which is not like me at all.

As it happened -and despite zero expectations- the venue worked out and the people worked out (as in they came – there was no exercise involved!). I’d picked the place I assumed would be quietest on a Monday night on Keynsham highstreet. OK, so there were only 4 of us, but nobody dropped out, and an extra person turned up. Plus, they all seemed nice and friendly, reciprocal, and two were already published! Chats and drinks ensued, despite no format imposed by moi. We set up a rough structure for upcoming meetups, had a few laughs and went on our merry ways.

I’ve tried Meetup dot com to organise the group before, but their business model seems to be an automated tool inviting a bunch of people to your new group (regardless of any real vested interest or commitment on their part) so you think you’re making it a success from day one. Very few of these “interested” parties communicate or turn up (I myself am a member of many groups I’ll probably never interact with). Once Meetup has invited folk its algorithms deem appropriate, they join (this can be as simple as clicking a link in an email). Meetup then warns you that you need to pay more when you inevitably max out your members on their lowest tariff. It’s already expensive, soooo no. Just no. I went for a Facebook group and page, which requires a bit more legwork and marketing, but they chucked me a free £5 budget (with the caveat that I could only trigger a “boosted post” about my writing group if I forked out £5 of my own cash to make it up to a tenner). I haven’t distributed any flyers/cards on the high street yet, but did ask for the updated group to go in the local paper, which is free to do and hopefully we’ll gain some more traction from it.

Which goes to show that literally anyone can pull off setting up a group with a small amount of effort, especially in this technical age. OK, so it may all go belly-up from hereon in unless I pull up my socks and regulate it, but there you go. My choice, really. I’m sure you can do the same! If it does continue positively then I’ll post updates and tips on writers groups as my experience grows.

Keith Flint

For me and many others, things are not OK. Sometimes they are, but we don’t fit in and rarely feel quite right (whatever that is).

I get bouts of death anxiety. I always have. It got almost unbearable the year my childhood died, circa 2016 and early 2017. Death had taken my cool aunt and cleared out a chunk of my (and my peers’) childhood icons. In life I’ve felt underprepared for most things; anxiety and social isolation are like comfortable slippers. The kind that slowly cut into your ankles and shut down your vital systems one by one. So I was pretty fucked off to hear another one of ours, the tortured soul Mr Flint (apparently – I had no knowledge of his depression until this point) had taken his life.

It’s important to get things out in the open. Society does so much damage. We don’t talk about death (in the West), we ostracize and outcast people. Often by saying nothing or labelling the depressing shit as depressing shit we don’t/shouldn’t talk about. We only speak about pointless shit instead. We put up those fucking “Just be OK”/”Everything is la-dee-da all of the time” throwaway Social media posts that might as well have been assembled by the cat unicorn thing from the Lego Movie. We are ultimately discouraged from giving a balanced view of our world. I’m not saying we should mope all the time -and I for one do much too much of that already- but let’s put our thinking caps on and act appropriately.

Fuck you, death. And fuck our inability to cope with it. And you, depression. And the showing emotion thing we all know is frowned upon, especially if you’re a man. As a clever race, we’re still so backwards.

And another thing. I did not know Keith Flint personally, but he stirred me and a whole crowd up into rapturous togetherness in a way I have only felt a handful of times in my life. I felt a horrible knot in my stomach as my girlfriend had idolised him more than I*, and as she doesn’t subject herself to the news and was working from home, I knew I’d have to be the one to break the bad news. Plenty of people found The Prodigy and Keith vital before we had, but that didn’t stop his death being a nasty, gut-smacking blow. It’s OK to be sad about someone you’ve never met checking out, despite what society would sometimes have you believe. If you got something from that person – hope, inspiration, anything, then that counts. Here’s hoping that as decent human beings we can learn to admit. To cry and be lonely and fucking depressed without labels and stigmas. No, I mean it. Without labels and stigmas. That we can be accepted without being in such a shitty place we don’t want or know how to go on. That nobody will listen or care. That we may have the chance to turn things around when we’re standing on the precipice.

Anyway, here’s an awesome cruelty-free male grooming products company called Kings, whose founder mentors and champions men’s mental health and what I’ve been rabbiting on about. And here’s the man doing his thing. May you continue to shine brightly and inspire, wherever you may be:

“Normal” business will resume next blog.

*Keith singled her out in a gig, mouthed something she’s pretty sure was “I like you!”, kissed her on the lips and proceeded to lick her hand. Pretty rock n roll, really! She also spent most of sixth form drawing and painting him and plotting a stake-out outside his mansion.

2019 – the far future!

As usual, as much as I’d like to have had everything prepped for an arbitary date (like this post for instance), life had other plans.

2018 saw some big changes. One of the biggest was that we went and had chickens; the decision to have them spiralling us into a now Vegan territory.

I’m back up to five days after 9 months of free Fridays and I escaped a toxic, corporate hell and am now working for a small creative agency.

I jumped off a mountain (sort of) and swam with dolphins in the wild. I also did a bunch of charity work, had more thinking time, and landed some paid work on the side.

This year I want to be more social, and more social media-err-y. I want to draw, to animate. Most importantly though, after the best part of a year’s hiatus from writing I want to finally stop obsessing and just get the bloody book out there and run with it. Watch this space. Hopefully this time it’s not a 2 year long space!

If anyone’s reading this and cares and/or is a writer, give me a shout on the usual channels. Looking for writing buddies. Let’s talk. Updates soon. Promise.

Phonebook mausoleum and The World’s End (2013)

Over Christmas I checked my mobile phone to see who I could visit whilst near the old stomping grounds. It was then I realised I needed to do some long overdue phonebook weeding. From phone contacts I moved onto text conversations. Drunken crossed communications, unfulfilled dreams, misfires and (more often than not) complete radio silence. My formulative drinking years were not pretty. Last time I went clubbing in the city I grew up in -at a place they’ve since closed and demolished- it was an unremarkable night. Crap, even. Sometimes I sigh at the memories. To celebrate these freshly-resurfaced “memories” from reading the texts in my post-Christmas food-and-booze-addled brain I watched The World’s End (2013). This film marks the final part of the “Three Cornettos Trilogy” and is arguably the runt of the litter. I must admit I was perfectly underwhelmed on my first viewing, although it definitely had its moments. Determined to give it another crack, I realised something – this film pretty much sums up my “night out” experience. You expect it to be brilliant and then it turns out to be crap*. Though crap, I’ve decided, this movie is not.

 

A lot of my time spent pubbing and clubbing was bloody rubbish. The best part was repeatedly copping off with sausage rolls at the close of each night, the worst part was repeatedly copping off with sausage rolls at the close of each night. Probably because I got too pissed to think, possibly because I was fixated on unattainable goals (like trying to cop off with something other than a sausage roll in a near-comatose state) rather than the simple enjoyment of where I was and what I had (youth, freedom, dreams, blah blah). Basically, I preferred to sabotage my own happiness.

 

For me, The World’s End encapsulates the sorrow of realising you are, in fact, not immortal and probably doomed to some office-based mundanity for the rest of your life. It’s a hiss before dying -but what a hiss! I implore that you watch it with fresh eyes and renewed melancholy. Everything’s there. First and foremost Edgar Wright’s wonderful running gags e.g. the meaning of “WTF”, references to the disabled toilets and what that thing above a door is called**. Also there’s the death of the great British pub (crushed by wanky chains – whatever happened to The Winchester?) with bar staff who don’t give a fiddle-dee-dee because they work in soulless pits and they just want to knock off and stop dealing with pissheads (and perhaps they’re also ink-blooded drones).

 

In The World’s End everyone’s grown up and moved on save for Simon Pegg’s sad clown Gary King who’s gone all Metroland to bring the lads out of retirement. It’s the little touches that resonate -the car he still drives, the cassette tape he still plays and that last pint he must at all costs finish. Twelve pints, twelve steps. Nick Frost’s a boring bugger who has had enough of poor old (hard-to-like arsehole) Gary. So of course (jokes aside), the dynamics are about as far away from Spaced and Shaun of The Dead as you can get. Still, a few pints in and Frost generates the biggest laughs. There’s nothing like watching him put his arm through a pane of glass on a pub door or the piledrivers he delivers to hapless “blanks”. The supporting cast are all wonderfully plausible grown-ups who soon revert to wonderfully plausible boyhood fantasies, squabbles and childish jokes. It’s a spiked pint of happiness and sadness, to an extent that the other two entries Hot Fuzz (my current favourite) and Shaun of the Dead (my old favourite) could only dream of.

 

The World’s End is a fantastic  epitaph to these fantasies, thoughts of immortality (or lack thereof), broken friendships and the great British pub. It also feels like a night out – the (possibly rare) sort where you land up getting plastered and having a good time despite it all. A sombre note to end the “trilogy” on perhaps, but by no means a bum note.

 

 

*I’m being subjective of course, you may have fond memories but for me they were filled with terror, self-loathing and occasionally reheated pastry-based snacks. Then again, there was the odd night that booted a great deal of bottom and chewed a decidedly large amount of chewing gum where I landed up kicking back on the side of a hill overlooking my world, watching the sunrise and believing all of my dreams would come true.

 

**A lintel