Tag Archives: writer

Your Empathy Amuses Me…

Mid-way through a particularly dry conference call one of the participants fell down a flight of stairs. The sound quality was unusually crisp and we heard ‘…We should be able to hit the milestone, but a note of cau…CHRIST [Two category A swearwords] followed by a tumbling ‘Huhhh,’ then silence.

We already knew the speaker was in the fire escape as he’d told us moments before.

The guy running the call said ‘Hello?…[NAME]? Oh…well I guess he’s gone…shall we carry on?’

‘Are you two in the same building?’ I replied.


‘How bout maybe checking he’s OK?’

‘No, I’m sure he’s fine.’

‘Probably, but let’s take five minutes to be certain.’

‘I’ve only got ten minutes before my next meeting.’


Yes, I thought, you definitely said that out loud.

My mind wandered to a TV programme many years ago featuring Phillip Schofield talking with a circus knife thrower and his ‘fabulous female assistant’ strapped to a spinning table. After a big build-up the man threw his first knife straight into the woman’s head. Rather than help her Phillip stood directly in front of her to shield the garish spectacle from viewers – The consummate professional / massive prick! Others scrambled in behind him to untie the woman (who was later revealed to be shocked and scarred, but otherwise OK).

The incident annoyed me a little. At what point did it become OK to place making a sale over the well-being of a colleague?

When five minutes became ten I thought: Yep, definitely dead, or else hideously deformed.

But when we finally reconvened it transpired that the man in question had suffered minor cuts and bruises and had broken his phone. We were now free to find the whole thing hilarious / mock and abuse him.

Proper etiquette MUST be observed.

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Adios Stink-Town…

‘Why are my hands adhering to the steering wheel? This is deeply unpleasant.’

I peel my palms from the upholstery and sniff the offending digits – honey – the remnants of a squeezy bottle placed in the bin on the way out the door. By my reckoning it’ll be 15-20 minutes before I’m near a sink – No, I am an overly pampered westerner and cannot possibly wait that long. It’s early morning and there’s dew on the ground. Sweet Mother Nature has provided the means of my cleansing. I run both hands through a wet hedge and a giant spiderweb clings to the honey and creates a gloopy gossamer membrane. This is way worse! No matter – I’m passing a row of cars – windscreens glistening with moisture. Again – both hands. Apparently there’s more dirt than water. My webbed appendages now resemble the fur of a badly stuffed animal. A car alarm goes off. I make good my escape…

…At the station I realise that my ticket has expired. So now I’m at the counter, trying to fish a wallet out of my pocket with my wolf hands and the cashier’s judging me and I’m thinking of clever things to say (‘Full moon last night’ or ‘you should see my sheets,) but not saying any of them…

…OK…on the train…good…only not good! The loo is semi-occupied by a large man, door ajar, his head angled so as to hold a phone against his neck and both hands working furiously to scrub food from his tie, carriage too packed to seek alternative means of hiding my shame.

‘My password?’ he bellows. ‘Sure. Are you listening carefully? it’s Asswipe123…Yes! I thought so too…I was gonna use Fu…Oh shit! I dropped my phone down the toilet!…Hello? Can you still hear we Jerry? Nope, he’s gone.’

He retrieves his phone from the U-bend, dries it as best he can on the septic rag that Great Western were kind enough to provide and places it in his pocket whereupon further bog water seeps into his crotch and midriff like a burst colostomy bag.

I go into the now vacated loo to find that Asswipe123 has used up all the water. So we stand side by side on our journey to London – a man who’s soiled himself and a man with terrible hygiene.

‘Were it not for social conventions,’ I think ‘I could put my hands down his pants where there’s moisture aplenty’…

…I tell the woman who now hates me. We should be on my leaving lunch, but instead we’re sitting on the floor of a tiny lift waiting for the emergency services to arrive. An hour previous she asked me to put into words what it felt like to leave the company. I jumped up and down in elation, the breaks kicked in and you’re all caught up.

‘Do you have enough air?’ a facilities guy shouts down the lift shaft.

‘What are you going to do if we don’t?’ my colleague replies…

…Thank God that’s over I’m thinking later in the check-out queue.

‘Planning on murdering someone?’ the cashier asks.

I look down at my shopping basket: penknife, bleach, bolt-cutters, gloves, plastic container, washing up liquid.

I consider the truth (‘I only came in for the washing up liquid,’) quirky (‘What was it that gave me away?’) and unhelpful (‘Imagine how much more incriminating this would be if I still had honey, web and dirt all over me!’) before opting for ‘You realize I cannot allow you to live?’

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Benevolence & Balzac

God westerners suck! Greedy, whining little brats banging on about their first-world problems. If our forefathers could see us skulking around posting trolly reviews about how our i-phones won’t pick up Wi-Fi or how the local coffee emporium used full-fat by mistake they’ve give us the hiding we so richly deserve.

Never has this been brought home to me so clearly than by the conversation I had with a work colleague yesterday.

That he’s Indian is relevant.

We were talking about the process of testing software. We meandered.  I asked what he did in his spare time.

‘My father left me some land. I get back whenever I can to check on the crops and oversee the harvest.’

‘How much land?’

’40 acres.’


’40 acres! If you owned 40 acres in England you’d be king.’ (I’m pretty sure that’s how it works).

‘In India it is not so big – We produce maybe 60,000 bags of rice per year – 50KG apiece – enough to support the 40 families who work for me.’

‘But you make a healthy profit?’

‘No, no profit, a small loss actually, but it is good to give back. When I am older I will travel home and become a farmer full-time. It is a divine trade. A doctor you need maybe once a year, but a farmer you need every day.’

I have two thoughts: 1. What a profound thing he is doing for his fellow man. 2. I want to beat him up. I am a whiny westerner and he’s making me feel bad. I must go and blog about my hurty tummy and have total strangers reassure me. (‘Cheer up! You are only part-turd’ MARTIN LIKES THIS).

‘You own land?’ he asks.

‘Yes,’ I reply, ‘not 40 acres, but a nice house, on a hill.’

‘And you live in this house with your wife and kids?’

‘No, I’m divorced – Not a pleasant experience – Gonna take a decade or so off.’

To do his response justice you need to imagine it spoken in a Punjabi accent: ‘That would be a mistake. You need to get a move on before the sperm shrivel up in your scrotum…’

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Pub quiz etiquette…

A previously lucrative Sunday night quiz has hit the skids in recent months due to the arrival of a pair of annoyingly clever rivals. Having won almost every week since first appearing they now sit in a diminishing pool of disillusioned competitors like vast toads: bloated from eating all the flies and croaking at the scarcity of food. My irrational bitterness at repeatedly losing has been countered in some small way by a mid-week conversation with one of the barmaids in which it was confirmed that:

1. Management has considered watering down / tampering with their beer in order to drive them away as they are affecting the pub’s revenue stream.

2. They are indeed ‘douche-bags’ (although I may have led the conversation somewhat).

Compounding this middle-class outrage is the fact that the ‘Best Team Name Award’ (tankard full of jellybeans – not to be sniffed at) always goes to some lame, innocuous guff and not talented wordsmiths (i.e. us). For example, the week Whitney Houston died we were called ‘Shaving all my glove for you’ – Nothing, not even an honourable mention or look of disgust (‘Let’s get quizzical’ claimed the goodies) – Week of the Greek bail-out our ‘Papandreou don’t preach’ lost out to ‘Quiz on my face.’ It’s almost as if they don’t see us for the geniuses we are!

And so we come to my abandonment of the moral high ground. For months it has been a little-known fact that a pub on the other side of the village does the exact same quiz a few days later. Well this is splendid (if ethically questionable). Last week I finally succumbed to temptation, sauntered on over, paid a pound and duly received £60 for two hours work (I say work)…

But then came that nagging suspicion that I’d done a bad thing.

The thought followed me around for days – taunting and poking and chastising. I kept the 3 crisp £20 notes in a separate pocket from my wallet. It was as though I subliminally knew the ‘clean’ money would be tainted if it came into contact with the ‘dirty’ money. Eventually, when I could take it no more, I hit upon a scheme to be free of the torment. Spotting a homeless man in town I made a beeline and bet him £60 that I could guess his name. (This way, I reasoned, he would technically be winning the money rather than receiving a hand-out):

‘Go on then.’





‘You could have lied.’

‘That would’ve been dishonest.’

See now I’m really in a bind. On one hand I want to give him the money, but on the other a bet’s a bet…

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Damn you gentile upbringing…

I’ve been feeling pretty chipper of late, so thought it was high-time I balanced things out with a healthy dose of crushing literary rejection. With the trusty writers & artists year book in hand I suppressed my flat-vowelled midland vernacular with the received-pronunciation of a BBC newsreader and set about calling agents to enquire as to whether or not they were taking on any new protégés…
‘I’m sorry,’ came the (first) exceedingly plummy response, ‘not for 7 years now.’
Stifling a bemused chuckle I apologised to the woman in question for wasting her time, wished her a good day and rang off. Almost immediately she rang back.
‘I don’t normally do this, but you sounded so forlorn I thought I’d take a punt. What’s the book about?’ Cursory details were exchanged, at which point she added, ‘Don’t send me a synopsis or a covering letter. I’m 65 – Haven’t got time for any of that ole shit – the first 3 chapters should suffice. Don’t expect a response before the end of the week. I’m reviewing Rodriguez’s new book on imperialism. I’m sure you have some appreciation of how tetchy he can get…’ Evidently I was expected to know who she was talking about, so took a stab at empathising ‘…Having said that, his last few offerings have been more than a little slap-dash. If he thinks I won’t fire him he’s living in a dream world…anyway ta-ta.’
A little over a week later she phoned back to say that the first 3 chapters had aroused her interest and that the full manuscript would now be appreciated. I duly obliged. A further week passed whereupon I received another phone call. Without introduction she proceeded thus:
‘No, no, no. Your antagonist arrives far too late, your main character should be Jewish and…’ barking noises halt her assault ‘Roy…ROY! I’m sorry – I have 3 dogs and am married to the politician Roy Hatterley – ROY! Get the dogs out…and I’m going to have to pass I’m afraid…ROY! May I suggest Bogdanivich as a surname…as in the film director…keep up the good work. Thank you good bye.’
Though technically a knock-back I was strangely buoyed by the conversation as it marked the furthest I had yet reached in pursuing a literary career.
The agent’s cryptic comments reminded me of a long-ago work debacle where, in discussion with a Jewish 3rd party contingent, an overenthusiastic colleague had described his three-pronged business strategy as ‘Blitzkrieg.’ Whilst the Nazi’s no doubt considered simultaneous air, land and sea attack to be an impressive feat, the comparison was less than appreciated by the suppliers whom we were destined never to see again.
Later that evening I was still pondering the bizarrely one-sided exchange when there was a knock at the door. As I drew near I heard my elderly neighbour utter the immortal words, ‘I know that @!#$er’s in there. I saw him go in,’ to which her husband replied ‘This is the final straw. I may do something I’ll regret.’
The list of inane and petty matters this harmless but deeply annoying pair have complained about over the years includes rogue ivy, the length of my lawn and not liking the colour of the house (to which my subsequent attempt at humour (calling them racists) had bombed spectacularly). Without even the remotest interest in finding out what tedious crap they’d come to rant about I stood motionlessly until I was sure they’d buggered off…
…None of which explains why my lead character should be Jewish!
In an entirely different vein I’ve added a new page ‘Music’ with links to some of the songs I’ve recently released:
I thank you…


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Grovelling personified…

Once a week I write to Mariella Frostrup at Radio 4’s ‘Open Book.’ At first I begged her to grant me an interview on the show, but now I mostly compliment her on her hair. I thought about sending one that read ‘Can you see me? I can see you,’ or perhaps ‘Did you get that finger I posted?’ but people rarely take stalker-humour in the spirit that it’s intended.

Latest Google searches to find me: ‘Pot urinals,’ ‘Guerrilla night-clubs’ and ‘Sally Gunnell bikini.’


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“You are my Kryptonite…”

…Was universally agreed last night as the answer to the question ‘What’s the worst chat-up line you’ve ever received?’

The relevancy of which is that the lady in question had also tried to order The Melting Pot via Waterstones, but had subsequently been refunded after they were unable to source it…all despite my having gone to great lengths to get a wholesale agreement in place with a company called Gardners. I checked on the website and it seems that the agreement has been cancelled without my knowledge!

This kind of occurrence is the biggest obstacle to a self-publisher – the bulk buying view – where a company will say that’s it’s not in their interests to buy (or even take on sale or return) from a single seller due to it being inefficient time-wise. I’ve mentioned before that I sometimes approach a bookshop in or around Reading (where I live), agree a sale, but then have to post the books via a warehouse hundred’s of miles away rather than just take them in myself!

…And relax.

A guy from the Isle of Man ordered the book on Amazon a few days ago and was kind enough to write and say he liked what I was trying to do. I always massively appreciate strangers taking the time to do this, and it more than counters any frustrations I feel at the logistical constraints of fulfilling orders. This particular reader also relates back to the Waterstones rant and goes a long way to explaining a bizarre phone-call I received from a bookseller a few weeks ago – which went like this:


‘Hi, I’m on the Isle of Man.’

[PAUSE] ‘I’m happy for you.’

‘Oh…sorry…One of my customers would like a copy of your book. Can I buy one?’

‘Of course you can.’

‘Great! Bye.’

‘Wait – how were you planning on ordering it?’

‘I thought you could send it to me.’

‘I can, but I don’t know who you are or where you live.’

‘I’m on the Isle of Man…’

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Spot the impending tragedy…

It’s amazing how often the London underground catches fire! Following general gridlock / alarms several thousand people were kicked out of Paddington yesterday morning; thwarting the efforts of the sneaky soul who kindly fly-postered the Bakerloo 12032008001.jpgline the night before.

To date my exploits have brought me into close proximity with such acolytes as The Henry Kelly of Going for gold fame, and Oscar-winning-Turkish-assassin Kevin Spacey.  

12032008002.jpgStaying on the famous people theme a lady in the office says that she knows Nurse #3 from BBC’s ‘Casualty,’ (or ‘Spot the impending tragedy,’ as it’s known in the Cororan house-hold). We’ve conceived an idea based on the exploits of Sid James from the ‘Carry On’ films. He famously used to supplement his meagre actors salary by surreptitiously placing bottles of whisky in shot and collecting advertising royalties. In similar fashion we hope to get the book into view on the set. The current thoughts are along the lines of ‘man and book impaled on spike,’ or ‘traffic warden-book-anus incident.’ 

…Following this through to its natural conclusion I think I’ll try and get The Melting Pot on the set of ER where it can be used to deflect a bullet fired by a lesbian heroin addict before being shredded by an exploding helicopter…

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Throw me a frickin bone…

If this blog were a graph, then every six weeks or so a whiney, ranty, high-pitched spike would emerge – today would be one such moment…

Why is getting noticed so hard?

The impetus for this mood-swing came from approaching several libraries earlier in the week and asking if I could put up a poster. One of them made me fill in a two page form detailing what I hoped to get out of the experience, and said that someone would call to let me know if my request had been successful.

‘Surely you jest?’ I reasoned. ‘There’s a space on the wall. Here’s my poster. I could’ve put it up while you were explaining all that.’

‘SSSHHHH,’ her colleague interjected!

Annoyingly, every time I think about jacking it in (almost to the second), someone gets in touch and tells me that they enjoyed the book. I then feel suitable reinvigorated to throw myself once again on the merciless bureaucracy of the literary world.

If any of you reading this have any ideas – they would be gratefully received. A work-colleague suggested going up to Camden and setting up a market stall – not a bad idea at all. I’m also toying with the concept of Bus-tagging (i.e. running up behind moving billboards and eliciting sneers from old-age pensioners).

Finally – following legal advice I should point out that I’ve been burgled, that my posters have all been stolen, and that all future campaigns will (may) be perpetrated by an unknown third party…

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Let the illegal activities commence…

I received a shock this week when I enquired as to how much it would cost to advertise in the London Underground.  (Proper) marketing is phenomenally expensive. A TV program a few days ago said that the average Hollywood blockbuster spends around £36 million pounds on advertising. By contrast I’ve just spent about a ton on some high-resolution posters. This represents my entire marketing budget:

My entire marketing budget

I wrote a list of all the best places to put posters in order to gain the maximum effect. Most of them appear to be illegal (which is a shame). Working on the assumption that it’s better to apologise after the fact than to ask permission I set about spreading my message of literary joy.

Initially I’ve started fairly tame and flyered a few phone-boxes…more daring schemes to follow in the next few days…

leicester.jpgLeicester square – Pretending to make a call whilst prit-sticking a poster to the inside glass whilst being heckled by McDonalds pikeys.


The throbbing night-life metropolis that is Reading high-street.

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