Thursday, 30 April 2009

Swine Flu Alert - Outbreak UK

The headlines are screaming, I envisage in a few days people in the UK wearing those silly masks that get moist and hot with breath being a regular sight, and the 24 hour news giving us more sneeze by sneeze accounts of the action. Given that people get flu all the time, and that only a few hundred have died from it so far (how many people died of flues etc over the last winter?) I was wondering if there are any really unpopular laws that will be being passed that were not being told about, which of our civil liberties are up for erosion. Call me Paranoid - Thank you. but I bet ya....

Real questions on life and death

A late phone call last night, one of those dreadful phone calls that makes you wonder what life is about. An old friend whose name I will spare here got out of his chair on Saturday night, leaving his wife and kids doing what they were doing, took himself into the garage and hung himself.

I had known ______ in my early twenties, in the days when I had began to clean my act up. We used to hang out, go to gigs, walk around, discuss everything and anything. then as friendships sometimes do life took us onto different paths. We became stories and photos in each other’s albums, then forgetfulness twined her green shoots about us to obscure those days.

The last time I saw him was when he came to one of my readings a couple of years back, with his young family, he looked so proud and glad that his life had turned out well. What the hell happened _____?


All I could do was say a prayer for all his people and him at the shrine last night. Then the questions come knocking, clear as knives to try and cut through the years of no longer knowing each other, to cut back the foliage which made the current view and had grown over and through the old times. I won’t impose my questions on you, but I’m sure you can imagine. The legacy of suicide is one of questions. They will place themselves at the centre of his children’s souls, go round and round always now for his wife and family and friends.

In time there will be many stories and his will be the one not being spoken. I would like to know that story, even though when you know something you can’t take it back out of your head ever again – you can’t unring a bell…  you can’t unask the questions, but by telling stories we may find the other story.

Friday, 24 April 2009

How you write through the crap

“I write one page of masterpiece to ninety one pages of shit,” Hemingway confided to F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1934. “I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.”

I know there’s quite a dismissive attitude towards Ernest Hemingway these days – but then these are the days when someone’s reported biography is more important than what they have done so I never pay much attention to that otherwise you get people who have never read or seen something telling you what you should not read or see it, and why their opinion is right. Anyway I love old EH’s stories especially the Nick Adam’s stories such as ‘Big Two-Hearted River’ forget all the blah and just enjoy this incredible writing if you get the chance.

I’m working on a longish story at the minute – a story I’ve wanted to write for for about twenty years or so. I’ve had to wait until now to have enough skills and taste to try to get it down. I’ve had to write everything I’ve written up to now, and just enjoying my reading as the layers of possibility built up so that now I can look this piece in the eye. When I’m done I’ll wonder what all the fuss was about. That’s the way it goes, and another poem or story will need approaching. I make no promises for this piece, writers and all artists need to right to fail, it could just be 15000 word of crap, but it leads to the next thing, as long as the crap goes in the bin and the writer in me sits down at the desk again – then it’s worth doing.

Here’s a Hemingway short story in 6 words, it is complete and profound and looks like nothing:

“ For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”


currently playing Miles Davis’ Steamin’ and Workin’ albums, and quite a bit of Bach as usual. Though now it’s time to make a cup of tea, stand and look at the garden while I drink it, think about what needs doing, what to plant. There is a lot of cutting back  and shaping that has to be done before anything else.

I’ve been unable to do much after my operation on a lifelong inguinal hernia six weeks ago, but I saw my surgeon yesterday, and I’ve healed really well – so I’m excited to be able to get back to things especially a bit more dynamic stuff in the garden, and getting back to my training, I don’t like it much when my body is not toned up, and not training affects the writing as I don’t feel as vibrant or connected or grounded.. I know – gently does it.. I will.

Just love Strindberg & Helium, oh god these make me laugh.. We could all do with a Helium Character following us around – can you Imagine when we start going on about the things we do, up pops a pink balloon creature and… well watch the video and see…

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A Slice of Prison Life

I wrote this piece for BBC Radio 3 based on stories from my time working as Writer in Residence in a Yorkshire prison. The challenge was to write a piece with real grit, life and some humanity that would only be eight minutes long…


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Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Lady Parts

Here’s a question – How do you best relax to have your photo taken, one piece of advice i was given was to relax yourself below the waist, if you get my meaning, this will give you a good look when your being snapped. Honestly I think it was a photographer from ‘Dazed and Confused’ Mag who go me to do that during a shoot.

Here’s a very intellectual discussion on that very subject that my some friends and I recorded to contribute to the greater understanding of this phenomenon.

Sunday, 5 April 2009


SETLIST - London
Originally uploaded by John Siddique

Setlist for the UK launch at the National Portrait Gallery of my new book 'Recital' published by Salt.. I thought you might like a peek. The crossed out pieces are things I decided not to read whilst on stage.

It was a hell of a night, my dear friend Xanthe Gresham opened the show for me with a wonderful story about Aphrodite and the Moon, and my dear Abha hosted wonderfully. We did get affected by the G20 nonsense, London was like a grave and the NPG had very few visitors over the last few days with the turmoil.

So now we're gearing up for Manchester on the 9th at the Central Library at 6.30 pm - would be lovely to see you there if you can make it.

I've been very naughty with my reading this week, got stuck into 'From Russia With Love.' i adore the Bond books, he's actually a really good character, the films are such a flat experience next to the books and the film stories suck. 'From Russia' is a wonderful complex thriller, and it might be a surprise to those who haven't read any of the books, but Bond is capable of complex thought and feelings and love..

I've been invited to read in Mexico in June, so I'm thinking of going straight there from Los Angeles. Really could do with picking some brains about LA and Mexico. The thing I'm most nervous about is driving on the wrong side of the road, but I gotta do it this time, I've only ever driven in the UK, and I gotta have a car with a gear stick. Will let you know the dates as they pan out.

The weather in the valley is very strange, but my garden is looking wonderful. even though the daffodils are starting to fade, there is much to admire. i put an apple tree in last year, and it is showing real growth, we'll have first apples this year, amazing. given the current silly money crap we're all going through, wouldn't it be great if we just lined the central reservations and public gardens with fruit trees and veggies..