Wednesday, 31 July 2013

David Gillespie Resolution Way extract 1

David Gillespie sits in his living room. It would be hard to say he was in good mood, hard to say that the future was looking rosy, that the past was something he looked back on with anything but a general remorse.

He was drifting along nicely there wasn’t he, in a way, sitting in the house his grandfather left them, doing a bit of work here and there when it came up, pursuing his interests such as they might be, and now Alex Hargreaves has turned up out of the blue and shaken things up a bit.

He should probably open the curtains. It is two in the afternoon and looks to be a nice day out there. Instead he rolls himself a cigarette. Conflict. IRL. Probably this is good for him, break him out of his inertia. He wonders what Alex Hargreaves thought of him, what he saw when he looked at him.

Now let’s not get into all that. Oh to see yourself as others see you. He doubted Alex Hargreaves was asking himself the same question, what kind of impression he may have made on David Gillespie. Don’t do it to yourself David! Don’t get into all that, you are on a hiding to nothing.

Ash drops onto the carpet as he sits forward scanning the coffee table for the ashtray and he grinds it in with his foot. Well Alex Hargreaves had taken him by surprise. He hadn't meant to be so quite so hostile but it was a bad start, turning up like that, got him jumpy. No one apart from David Gillespie has set foot in the hours for eight years, the entire time, in fact, that he has lived there. To say that the place was a mess would be an understatement. For the first year or so he made an effort but after a while he began to wonder what the point was. Same with going upstairs to go to bed when there was a perfectly comfortable sofa and sleeping bag right there and it only meant heating one room. Fire, tv, laptop, kettle all in one room. The ambit of his world has shrunk, hasn't it, reduced down to lying on the sofa and squinting at screens. He’s not unhappy, he doesn't feel or hasn’t felt in many ways, that he was at a loss, lacking in anything. and then along comes Alex Hargreaves.

Then, on the other hand at least it is just about Vernon. First thing he thought when the door went yesterday was that the debt collectors had come for him, then that it was the police, the Authorities, looking into his Internet habits, his browsing and posting activities. He should be careful. He hasn’t done, looked at anything strictly illegal, but his own fear and guilt then when someone started knocking on his door told him something: be careful. What are you sliding into David? Perhaps you have been alone with your thoughts too long, perhaps you have been alone too long, too few checks on where you can let your mind roam., too much accessible, previously taboo material just sitting there waiting to be discovered.

His internet connection is slow as fuck, the most basic package anyway, but eventually he has his gmail account up and as he waits for the first of the selected emails to open he decides to make a cup of instant coffee, and is greatly displeased to find the kettle empty, meaning he has to go all the way to the fucking kitchen to fill it. Once a week he fills up a five litre plastic bottle of water that he uses to make coffee and tea with, rehydrate the value pot noodles, moisten the bags of value muesli that he more or less subsists on these days, except for the occasional bit of toast. He dragged the fridge into the living room a couple of winters ago too.

It isn’t an especially big room, but even so, some days the distance from the sofa to the fridge seems immense, partly because the pain in his leg has flared up again, partly just because his sense of scale is diminishing. The kitchen is an ordeal away, upstairs an Everest, the front bedroom a distant country and yet the whole of time and the whole of space are within easy reach, all there on the computer screen a foot away.

He goes and fills the kettle, stands with it in one hand, the water running, gazing out of the window at the wildly overgrown garden and the dust and pollen rolling over it in the sunlight. There’s a last teabag in the box, meaning later he will have to go to the shop. He still owes them twenty quid for the tobacco he got on tick a month ago. Ah, now then. You have been asleep, haven’t you? You thought that emailed Fuck Off would be the end of it, but this Alex Hargreaves is a tenacious wee fucker, is he not?

He will have to go upstairs. That upstairs bathroom though, eh? He won’t be able to resist popping his head round the door for a peak at that will he? See how the mould on the shower wall has been coming along.

“I don’t wanna fucking think about the dead”, he says out loud. “Not the fucking dead.”

Those cunts. He sits down on the floor, back against the empty fridge.

Vernon especially. Not that he has ever stopped thinking about him, really, but he doesn’t want him foregrounded again. He doesn’t want that whole period of his life brought back into focus. Not because it was bad but because of the loss, the losses.

He’d get drunk if he had any money. Good job he is skint. Smart move that.

The kettle boils, he pours, he stirs to try to blend the floating granules in, sniffs the milk then pours some, breaks through the light crust and adds two heaped teaspoons of sugar from the sticky bag, sips at it, rinses it round his gums. Perfection. Winces his way back to the living room. The email has finally opened.

He responds to Alex Hargreaves. Should he use his name? Nah. Stay distant, Don’t look desperate.

“I don't know how successful you are going to be in this search around for Vernon’s work. But you're not going to find it without help or information are you? And I have that. So we need to cut some kind of deal.”

Sing off with his name? Nah. He knows who its from.

So, upstairs. He stands up again and his left leg throbs, his knee a bit wobbly a sharp point in his groin like someone trying to poke a crochet hook between the muscles. The front bedroom is an assault course of broken and unwanted furniture, boxes of crap, bags of clothes, his old bike, piles of records, magazines, tapes. He remembers chartering a van and getting it all down from Castleford, all this crap he can’t throw away. He was certainly dissolute enough with his other meagre possessions, his energy, his body, his mind, but things, objects, scraps and tatters, totems and tokens of his life, he has clung onto. He hasn’t taken care of them, or filed them away, merely dumped them in ever increasing mounds from one place to the next. And if he has to leave here? If his sister decides they need to sell the place. Will he take all this with him again to the next place wherever that might be? A bedsit? He’ll be up to his neck in it all, like that old dear in Happy Days.

He should bin it all, burn it all, but in through the doorway and taking in a lungful of damp musty air, out of breath from climbing a single flight of stairs he feels the past overwhelm him, all rich and heady spiced with rot, the damp and dust of ages. He longs for the grave, for old stone and moss, the patient work of water on brick and bone. Don’t get distracted, he tells himself, knowing familiar things will loom out to take hold of him, how easily he could sit going through piles of yellowed clippings or old journals, reading the tracklists on old cassettes as the day disappears.

The box he wants is in the wardrobe and he battles manfully forward through the siren song of the half-forgotten. Here it is, a shoebox. He pulls out carrier bags and assorted flotsam and ephemera and sticks it down on a patch of empty floor space behind him, lifts the lid. pulls out the brown A4 envelope. VC96 1-6 6 written on the front in black felt tip. There's any number of other fascinating, heartbreaking, memory stirring odds and ends in there too, all set to provoke, doubtless, an intense and overwhelming concatenation of atomistically interlinked, sublime, ineffable reverie.

Walk away, David. Walk away son. He does, more or less, half bolting for the bedroom door, turning so quickly he almost stumbles on the bags hes just put down behind him, sending a long, thin filament of pain down the inside of his leg and into his toes, ah fuck, he cries out and hobbles angrily to the landing. The pain peaks and subsides to a dull ache. He should go to the doctor and get some more painkillers, stronger ones. He is officially on them for his back but any problems with that seems to have been supplanted by this leg thing now. He puts pressure on it and feels the ball in his groin balloon and chafe at his hip bone.

It takes him ten minutes to get back to the living room, where he lies back on the sofa, duvet bunched up behind his head, massaging his thigh. His laptop pings. A new message from Alex Hargreaves. Hi. Glad you got back in touch. I certainly could use some help. What kind of deal did you have in mind? Alex.

Very good. Something falls over in the room upstairs with a bang and the vibrations run down the stairs, soak through the floor, make the window glass tremble slightly in the frame, the letterbox creak expectantly. He jumps and then takes a while to settle down. He’s on edge alright. He sits listening for more. Vengeful spirits. Nothing. A car starts up a few streets away.

That reminds him. He should talk to Andy.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Resolution Way Nick Extract 1

For some reason he has had a lifelong desire to see the Northern Lights and to Teresa’s repeated question as to why he could find nothing more to say than that they were beautiful and that anyway wasn’t she supposed to be a lover of nature, a lover of beauty, the ephemeral, the transient? Scotland had always held a fascination for him, the Isle of Skye, a beautiful name, he thought, Inverness, The Firth of Forth. Magical places. He had heard about the Northern Lights when he was a child, seen them on TV perhaps or in a film and his mother said, didn’t she, he remembered it suddenly now, that she had always wanted to see them but that his father would never take her.

Yes. Perhaps that made him feel that when he had a child or a wife he would take them and that somehow became a sense of obligation that concretized over the first few years, that they must go, it was in some way vital to their survival, it would heal things, make things right between them if they stood together, he and Teresa arm in arm, Joanna up on his shoulders no-one around for miles, mutually enraptured, entranced. He imagined it as though he were viewing the three of them from behind, from a distance, silhouetted against the sky and its enormous otherworldly weft and warp of multicolored lights. Not facing each other of course but outward to some spectacle so enormous and overwhelming that it would fuse them, they themselves were one interlinked single entity, the contours and boundaries of their own bodies lost, their focus on what lay before them intense and wordless.

He didn’t know why he believed this.Except that Nick was not a quitter, he didn’t just give up on things, on people. And so they had doubled down at every point in their relationship, after their first night together when it seemed they were incompatible, had little in common, he had insisted on a further date, when they had conducted a fraught, lacklustre affair he had decided that they should move in together. When that rapidly became unbearable the solution was marriage and when they could no longer tolerate that, a child. Each time he held out the hope that the next stage, rather than compounding the errors of the past would magically sweep them away. Deeper and deeper, and the more they were sundered together the greater the distance between them became. Still. He wasn’t a quitter. And this was the proof.

Yes, yes, they had to go. He had believed, hadn’t he, that it would change everything,that there was some key, some cardinal image, some attainable moment that would bond them, the three of them and though he was generally happy to give way on most matters in this he was quite insistent. Of course it took the best part of a year’s weedling and cajoling and even then it almost fell apart at the last minute when Teresa came down with a cold two days before they were due to leave and immediately took to bed telling him that he would just have to cancel their plans, there was no way she was going to be dragged up to Scotland in October in this fragile state of health. When she found out the hotels and B and Bs were non-refundable though she reluctantly relented and agreed to go, then spent the whole holiday dictating every move they made, demanding stops and refusing outings, constantly complaining about the weather and what a ridiculous idea it was to bring them somewhere so wet and cold, to have booked such inadequate or such overpriced hotels.

First they drove up for the twice yearly nightmare of the visit to her mother in Harrogate. She was a generally sympathetic and decent woman whose interaction with Nick and Joanna Teresa watched like a hawk, killing everybodies’ spontaneity and the chance that a relationship of any warmth might develop between them, everyone so attuned to the micro shifts in Teresa’s voice and demeanour. The year before she had caught them exchange a sympathetic, pained smile at one of her outbursts and then had to endure a two day fit of sulking and door slamming, long periods of absence as she stormed around the town with Joanna in tow, wild, sometimes obscene accusations that even now it pained him to remember. The next year they were ultra cautious, but of course the more cautious they were the more intense her scrutiny became, the more irritated and angered that she was by obviously affecting them until everything was ratched up to a point of almost transcendent tension and the slightest move or gesture became so fraught that a slip or an unintended thoughtlessness or an aside seemed potentially deadly, evidence that somehow they were siding against her.

From Harrogate they drove North to spend the night in Aberdeen, a long drive up through increasingly mountainous countryside that Nick found bracing but which seemed to do nothing for Theresa’s sunken hostility and the moment they got to the Hotel she went to bed early, left Nick under a strict injunction not to go out and then a volley of complaints that he would wake her up when he came back, repeated accusations of selfishness for leaving the two of them especially when Teresa was ill. Despite it all he went out to meet up with Rob.

Nick was shocked to see him after a decade of intermittent emails. He looked to have aged twenty years in the space of ten. How was he doing? Rob looked at him intently. I am skint, he said. I have been doing a bit of work here and there for B.P. would you believe, covering Maternity leave, after that I will be out on my ear. I don’t blame them. He took a sip from his pint. Looks like we are all about to eneter the shitzone anyway, am I right? Big financial problems heading our way. Nick shrugged. Maybe. Always maybe, with Nick. But he didn’t want to talk about that, he wanted to talk about the Northern Lights. Scotland. We are up here hoping to catch the lights he said. Aye well, you want to head up the coast a bit more for that I reckon. Yes, yes we are going to go up to Inverness tomorrow. You still love driving then? He nodded. I still haven’t learned, can't afford a car anyhow. He paused for a second. The Merry Dancers he said with a wry tickle at the corner of his mouth. That’s what they call them you know. The Lights. The Merry Dancers. Then there was a pause while both of them allowed the moment to fill up with shared past.

After an hour or so and three or four pints in and a few whiskey chasers as Nick sipped his J20, Rob became more intense and difficult to understand, trying to explain something to Nick about time and radicalism and he excused himself earlier than was really necessary, found himself on the streets of Aberdeen at dusk, free for a few moment, suspended between the pressure of the past, its meanings, its old associations and commitments the claim he still felt those relations had on him in some way, and those of the present. The incommensurability of any two people’s lives, of any one life even, over time, the eternal and inevitable non- coincidence that haunted everything, how Rob no doubt viewed Nick’s life, with its routines and responsibilities as a failure, just as he couldn’t help but pity David Ferris’s obsessive pursuit of theory and mysticism.The way his wife viewed him as an emotional cripple of sorts while for him she was simply a hysteric and on and on it went and that moment he realised in an odd way how close he was to suicide, not that the thought had ever directly crossed his mind, that indeed was the whole worry of it, but wordlessly, thoughtlessly one day having reached a pitch of concentrated blankness and stoical remove he would, without volition almost automatically take the final step in cancelling out either the effect he could have on others or the effect he had on them.

Was this what happened to Vernon?

When he got back to the hotel he got quietly into bed. Teresa was not asleep but made a great show of being disturbed by his return.

He lay facing away from her, sensing that she was sniffing the air to see if there was alcohol on his breath.

If only they hadn’t had a child.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Alex extract 1. Resolution Way opening.

Alex Hargreaves first heard the name Vernon Crane at one of his publisher’s parties.

The next morning, after he had made tea for Karen and taken it up to her he Googled the name and found a few sites referring to a children’s author who had died in 1943.

Sitting in the kitchen he thought back to the night before but couldn’t remember much. The party had been held under London Bridge. A series of tunnels converted into a venue. As they were leaving, someone took him to one side, drew him into the shadows, asked him in a whisper: have you ever heard of Vernon Crane?

Whoever that was Alex must have trusted their judgement enough to remember the name, but apart from Facebook profiles and this one reference to a dead author he couldn't see much that was likely to be relevant to him.

His head began thumping, his hangover coming on. Glancing up at the clock he saw it was still only 7:30. He had woken up early, still drunk and decided to go back to bed. His Barbour jacket was lying on the sofa and he picked it up and went through the pockets. There was a flier for future events at the club folded up in the inside pocket. He'd scribbled down a website address

He typed the address in and clicked enter. There was a black page with a message and three links.

A page dedicated to the life and work of Vernon Crane.”

The links were all dead.

He clicked on the email address and sent a message to

Hi Paula
My name is Alex Hargreaves. I’m a London based novelist and writer who has just published his first book Corrigan’s Century. A friend passed on your website address to me. I’m very interested in learning more about Vernon Crane, but unfortunately the links on the page are all broken. I wonder if you could tell me where I might be able to get more info.

Alex Hargreaves,

The rest of the weekend passed pleasantly enough. On the Saturday evening they went out for Vietnamese food with friends and on the Sunday to his parent's place for lunch. They said they had read the reviews for Corrigan’s Century and felt they had largely been positive. His father said that if he had listened to the critics’ views on his first play he would have given up there and then.

Karen went to bed early as she had work the next day. Alex was restless and sat down to watch a DVD from I.C.A. online but he found it hard to concentrate. He deliberately put his phone down on the floor next to the sofa, out of reach, but twenty minutes into The Colour of Pomegranates he decided to check his messages. There was a reply from Paula Adanor.

RE Vernon Crane.

Hi Alex.

Thanks for getting in touch. I didn’t realise those links were broken, anyway that website’s quite old (2005. Internet stone age.) You know it’s so weird/typical that you emailed me yesterday, on what was/would have been Vernon’s forty fourth birthday. Are you thinking of writing a piece on him? I knew it was just a matter of time. Who mentioned Vernon to you? The person you really want to talk to is David Gillespie. If you need any more information please feel free to get back to me. It’s so funny, the idea that Vernon might get known after all this time, but he was brilliant and so sweet and troubled and it’s just such a tragedy (or maybe not from his perspective, I firmly believe he’s still out there somewhere) that he’s not around anymore.

I’m London-based too so if you want a coffee and a chat, I’m sure we can arrange something. Though as a working mum I don’t have an awful lot of free time as you can imagine.



He had a mountain of work still to get through that he’d been putting off, deadlines for book, film and music reviews, opinion and comment pieces looming, not to mention the long article he needed to finish off on the enduring influence of Paul Henry Garigs' work for the Guardian. And of course he should be focusing on the next novel too.

Immediately he felt depressed. The next novel. He had some ideas he had been playing around with but he didn't like any of them. They felt stale, generic, contrived. But he had to produce something. He was contractually obliged.

Plus, there was several things in the e-mail that intrigued him.

After all this time. Brilliant. So Sweet. A tragedy. His instincts told him that here was a scoop, of a sort. Maybe.

It also occurred to Alex that he didn’t even know what Crane had been involved in. He wondered how to phrase his email back.

To be honest at this point I know absolutely nothing about Vernon or his work, just that a friend recommended I check him out. Any chance of filling in the rather large blanks for me (in fact all I have at the moment are blanks!)

Very Best,

The email he got back sketched out Crane’s life.

He was born in Barrow in Furness in 1970, attended Manchester University for a year before dropping out, was heavily involved in writing and music-making through the late eighties and the early nineties up to his disappearance and probable suicide in 1996. He published a series of short stories in various fanzines and underground magazines. With his friend David Gillespie he also wrote and produced a large number of different electronic based pieces of music, much of it put out on ultra obscure labels or distributed privately on cassette among friends. With the advent of the Internet it became possible for his friends to start collecting his work and putting it online which is perhaps how someone got to know about it and pass the information on to Alex.

All of this was of great interest to Alex Hargreaves. He sent back an e-mail asking if Paula had any photographs of Crane. She replied that she did but that she would have to dig them out, they were in a box somewhere, and she really ought to go and get them, open up that box, even though it brought back painful memories because there was all kinds of stuff in there, letters he’d written her, an old ideas’ book of his, cassettes filled with music he’d made and sound collages and field recordings. All stuff which she should really find some way of uploading. She said she’d get back to him in a day or two and meanwhile here was David Gillespie’s e-mail address.

He sent a message

Hi David

My name is Alex Hargreaves, a London based novelist and journalist. I have been corresponding with Paula Adanor about Vernon Crane, whose work I’m very keen to track down and have a look at/listen to with a view to writing a piece on him for a major publication. Paula tells me that there are several sites connected to Vernon and his work out there but I’m having trouble tracking any of this down. I know that you’re responsible for the online curating of Vernon’s work and I wonder if you could point me in the direction of some of the stuff you’ve been uploading.


Alex Hargreaves

Alex got out of his chair to make more coffee and when he returned to the sofa he already had a response:

Dear Alex.

Go fuck yourself.