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Slowly re-emerging from novel-writing hibernation to see a government that is there for the taking

Posted on 9 January 2013 | 9:01am

It’s flattering I suppose when people notice … that I have not been blogging much. It is becoming a new year tradition, like stomach upsets, broken resolutions, sacked football managers and tiny FA Cup crowds.

A year ago it was because I was going through a bad bout of depression. This year it was because a two year bout of bad writer’s block (fiction branch) suddenly unplugged and a novel I have been wanting to write for ages came pouring out. We were up in Scotland and I got into a routine of two hours on the bike, then four or five writing, though once I really got into it I was waking in the middle of the night with ideas and lines and twists to the plot, getting up and writing it all down. There are few more wonderful feelings than being in full flow as a house sleeps and daylight starts to fall upon Ben Nevis.

The Highlands scenery was definitely part of the unplugging, even if the novel is mainly set mainly in Highbury and Islington. (Apologies if you live there and have seen a mad cyclist stopping to take photos of your homes in recent days, but finding the right place for key characters to live has been an important part of the post-Scotland creative process)

Anyway the first draft was done more quickly than anything I have ever written, finished in a Lancashire hotel on the eve of Burnley v Leicester, rewritten with a different ending by the time we won away at Sheffield Wednesday, a third and fourth draft have followed, with help from experts and friends, my agent loves it (and he is hard to please sometimes, unless you’re Nigella Lawson) and it is now ready for the publisher to take a look. Nice feeling. It is about alcoholism, by the way.

I barely followed the political scene while I was full on, hence the lack of political comment on twitter and the lack of blogging on here. I did catch coverage of the Cameron-Clegg mid-term thing on Monday and it looked a bit tired and going nowhere. If 2012 was the year the government got found out for its basic lack of direction, competence and delivery, 2013 has to be the year they get really punished for it, and Labour put forward alternative ideas, policies and vision with a clarity and conviction that blows this lot away.

In football parlance (I did stay plugged into sport even if I unplugged from politics) … they are there for the taking. I look forward to commenting and contributing more regularly than I have in recent weeks, in the hope it may help the said taking.

  • Randal

    Yes, there for the taking – which is not where they were in Dec 2011. They have fallen back enormously from a position of apparent strength for a variety of reasons including the bust up over constitutional reform and the LDs deciding to not back boundary reviews, and for omnishambles etc. But the odds remain heavy against Labour forming a majority government in 2015, What are the main obstacles that we need to overcome and how do we overcome them?

  • Gilliebc

    ‘There are few more wonderful feelings than being in full flow as a house sleeps ………..’ I fully concur with that. So that’s what you’ve been up to AC. I shall look forward to hearing what the book is about in due course.
    Having just re-read the blog post, I see it’s about alcoholism. In that case it won’t appeal to me. But I’m sure there are many other people to whom it will appeal.

  • Anonymous

    I had wondered if the absence might be due to a post christmas, or christmas triggered bout of depression, very pleased to hear it was for a much happier reason.
    Not a fiction man myself but some day I will get round to reading Alastair’s diaries which I have on my table here!

  • Dave Simons

    I hope the novel is better than the new David Bowie single! ‘The Times’ had three pages devoted to it today, which, thankfully, included one piece that dared to be a bit negative. Otherwise the hype and hagiography you hear and read make you wonder whether there are such things these days as standards or whether any old rubbish will do. Over the last half century I would say that Bowie’s three albums, ‘Space Oddity’ (1969), ‘The Man who Sold the World’ (1970) and ‘Hunky Dory’ (1971) represent the best in popular music. After that, and starting with the over-acclaimed ‘Ziggy Stardust’ (1972) he started losing it, and he never recovered it, except maybe in some Bertolt Brecht recordings he did around 1980. Some of the hype merchants talk about Bowie’s three Berlin albums as being some of his best. I bought ‘Station to Station’ in 1976 before I’d heard it, thinking it must be good if it was David Bowie, but after a few plays I gave it away and never bought another Bowie record. I think ‘Low’ really was a low, and he didn’t do himself any credit by romanticising the Nazis and announcing that he would like to be Prime Minister of a fascist Britain. The new single is supposed to look back to his Berlin period, but I just wish he’d look further back to the free festivals of the late 1960s and the Tibetan Buddhism he got interested in at about the same time. At least he could write poetry in those days, something conspicuous by its absence in the new single!

  • Gilliebc

    So you reckon Alastair’s diaries are fiction then reaguns!
    I’m only teasing btw 😉

  • Xavier

    Looking forward to your views Alastair!
    Can Miliband win with Balls though?

  • Gilliebc

    @ Ehtch,
    If you happen to visit this site today. Happy Birthday to you.

  • Anonymous

    It is something of the night, when the world (more or less) has come to a stop, that the unconscious mind comes out to play, and does seem to be the best time for creative ideas to appear and flow.

    As when DT, amongst thousands alike, do explain at times, as he himself does here,

  • Anonymous

    Many thanks Gilliebc, but I have to say – Bah Humbug!, one is getting older, fast, and one does not like it.

    HRH’s Kate’s birthday yesterday, another fine goat too, you could say – oh to be 31 again.

  • Anonymous

    Rod Stewart too today Gilliebc, and Dave Bowie a couple of days ago. More interesting goats.

  • Hippie!

  • They may be there “for the taking” but we really need to make sure we limit the damage in the meantime, and to be honest I don’t know how. We have Gove et al screwing over the education system and Hunt busy destroying my NHS. I say “my NHS” because it is, I work there, they have saved and cared for me and my family with our horrendous gene pool of death. Labour needs to distance itself from the PFI (not our best idea by a long way) and make sure we take the Tories apart piece by piece. The public have no idea how desperate the situation is. Yes I’m angry and yes I’m sober. What do we do?
    I fear I have wandered from the point as usual, but i’t fear of being in a society that cares more for the rich than it does for the poor

  • Dave Simons

    Thanks Steven. Not strictly correct but these days I’m inclined to view the hippy subculture much more favourably. It’s all relative of course. Is there anything more sick-making than listening to ageing punks being so sentimental and sloppy about the past, when all you had to do to change the world was shoot your mouth off and make every other word a swear word? David Bowie was a big inspiration for the punks, but none of them were anywhere near him when it came to quality of lyrics in his early days. As for youth subcultures I can’t help thinking that there is a collective fear of solitude at present which has people constantly texting, jabbering on mobile phones or earphone-deaf to the world around them. Some of the hippies valued solitude, peace and quiet, surely the beginnings of something spiritual?

  • Anonymous

    not to be tried, if you are amateur, though.

    Should come with a government warning – you are either built god given to be awake at night, from young, or you are not.

    Could send you crazy, if not capable.

  • Anonymous

    reaguns, your imagination knows no bounds.

    So how was that Xmas for you reaguns? Any good?

    A belated card for you, and spot the welsh indians, charging after that english stagecoach,

    And oh yes, the twelveth day of Xmas, 6th, wasn’t it? When bah humbug lights should have come down.

    HNY by the way too, reaguns, may whatever you wish happen in 2013. It should be interesting…

  • Anonymous

    fuck reaguns, the fifth of course. HNY all. Get your coats on, it is turning well parky.

  • Anonymous

    Excellent Lucy – used to be called in the middle of the night when young for mortuary duty, when a patient, from years of mind suffering, had passed during the small hours. They don’t chose the time to die, God it is.

    I felt truthfully that I was serving mankind, come what may, and it made me proud.

    I really did love those patients, minds away from us.

  • Methinks McClaren, Reid, Westwood and Lydon did something far more inspiring than merely ‘shooting their mouths off’, but point taken.