Lime green leather biker jackets, red rubber platforms, Nepalese paper light shades, 1950s prom dresses, antique books, a £46 million house: you can get anything in Camden. Since Dickens immortalised its oldest, dingiest places in his stories this labyrinth of decaying, workhorse Victoriana has layered itself in paint and legend. And, once a year, it throws back its head and roars to its very own rock festival.
We all lie. It’s a fact of life. We use white lies to mask painful truths, make others feel comfortable and protect our fragile egos. We might say we prefer nasty truths to nice lies but even that’s a lie: how many fat people like being told they’re fat? Lying is normal. And it’s OK. It’s completely different from knowing you’re doing something wrong and doing it anyway.
What I did learn was that Tramodol goes down exceptionally well with brandy, broken stuff can end up stronger and Italian mountain dwellers love a bit of the impossible.
The echoes of new year resolutions are still ringing around the streets, even as the first ‘dry-athalon’ casualties slink back to the pub. True story: A friend of mine, one January years ago, joined a gym to get fit. He only ever went there on his way to McDonalds to buy fags from the bar.
What start out as the best new year intentions for self improvement largely crash and burn. Why? Maybe we’ve got this whole thing wrong …
It’s done. 50,139 words and my NaNoWriMo writing challenge is complete. It’s a good start, I’m happy with the words I’ve written but there’s still a very long way to go until this book is finished.
For now though, I’m catching up with work and indulging in ‘chewing gum for the eyes’ TV. Phew. Novembers are never going to be the same again.
In 1997 I went to Asia with a friend. We were obsessed with travelling light and bought tiny rucksacks, easy to haul on and off of buses and trains and use as pillows to help prevent them being stolen.
Great plan, you might think. Apart from the proportions of our packs not matching at all the volume of things we might require or want for a supposed year-long trip. Of course, only once we were well into our overland crawl from Nepal to Goa, did we realise quite how ridiculously ambitious our light-living ideals had been. Thus, we always had more stuff to carry than our bags could hold.
Ever wanted to write a novel? Most of us have at some point thought, Man! This would make a good book.
We might get really enthusiastic about our idea, might even get as far as writing a few notes on a phone, laptop, or – in a fit of romantic literary cliche – a napkin.
Then life, the great dampener of creativity, invades our spirit and the writing spark fizzles out. Or we start over-complicating what it is we want to write.
What’s this story about, anyway? Do I really have time to do this? Who would read it, who would actually care?
Answer: If you care enough to write it, then you should. And as to the time thing, what about you try to write as much as you can but only for a short time – say a month?
I’m pretty sure plenty of people would agree I’ve fallen flat on my face – physically as well as metaphorically – quite spectacularly many, many times. But apart from a few obvious ones like smoking cigarettes and drinking too much wine, I’ve tried hard to never make the same mistake twice.
Mistakes are important – they teach us what works and what doesn’t and sometimes, lead us to create something that works extremely well. So my new aim is not to stop making mistakes, but to only make good ones. If I’m going to fail, I want to fail big. From now on, I want all my mistakes to matter.
I watch a terrified child in her arm bands, clinging like a barnacle to the edge of the pool. Her father bobs nearby, his outstretched hands insistent but goading. A battle rages between them; his conviction of her safety versus her fear of sinking beneath the twinkling water that looks so inviting from The Edge. Go on, I find myself saying under my breath to the girl, You’ll love it! But you have to let go of the side …