Thursday 21 June 2012

RIP, Jan

I consider myself a lucky man in that I have three best friends - of these, the most longstanding is Nick. We met on the first day at Rothwell Juniors, in September 1976 - my parents had just moved us from Corby to Rothwell, I knew nobody and I was sat next to him by the teacher.

We got on like a house on fire and remained friends throughout our school career and beyond (we’re meeting him and his wife Jane for the day when we go on holiday in August). I spoke to him today and ended the call with a smile on my face and tears in my eyes. Jan, his Mum, passed away this morning.

Childhood was slightly different in the 70s and 80s than it is today. During summer holidays, we’d wave goodbye to our Mum’s and go off in search of adventure, without a phone, without any money, often without a Roughneck flask. But when we wanted to be fed, we went to whoever’s house was closest.

Nick’s Mum & Dad were craftspeople - Alan is a skilled carpenter who could fashion anything out of a bit of wood, working with no seeming regard for what he was doing, until he showed you a small mouse on a delicate ear of corn. Jan was likewise talented, creating beautiful handmade flowers (she made Alison’s bouquet on our wedding day, plus the button holes).

Jan was a big hearted lady, in every sense of the word. She was kind and gregarious, warm and caring and nothing ever seemed to be too much trouble. My Mum is the best lady in the world, of course, but if I’d had to choose a “Mum 2”, Jan would have got the job. During those schoolboy summers, as my Mum did to Nick, Jan fed and watered me, taught me card games, made me laugh and always looked after us - I don’t think I ever heard her say a cross word. Later, once we’d discovered the joys of pubs and nightclubs, we’d often stay over at their house, watching Night Network and having a laugh, before getting up in the morning to bacon sandwiches.

When Alison & I got married - Nick was my Best Man, as I’d been his - Jan stood by proudly, both because of us boys and also because she and Alison had quickly developed a mutual love for one another.

The Duncan’s moved to France not long after that, so we didn’t see them as much as I’d have liked, but we still spoke and saw them around when they were back visiting family. Alan rang me late last year, to say that Jan wasn’t very well and I kept up with the news through Nick and his brother Chris, via phone, emails and Facebook.

I can only imagine how Nick and Chris, let alone Alan, feel today and I wish there was something I could do. They showed great strength and friendship to us when we lost Tracy and I only hope that I can do the same.

Jan Duncan was a genuinely lovely woman and she will be sorely missed by everyone who knew her. I just wish I could have said goodbye.

Playing cards, as often happened when you went to visit Jan & Alan.
Me, Alison, Jan and Nick, August 2000

RIP, Jan.

Wednesday 20 June 2012

Trees Of Insolence

A while ago, whilst reading a lot of Harlan Ellison, I wrote a story called "Trees Of Insolence". It's a bizarre little piece, based around Alison's old house in Duke Street in Kettering and some kind of terrible future where books and music are banned and I experimented with form and typographical tricks. I liked it a lot but finding a home for it was a bit of a problem - it's not horror and it's very different from what I normally write.

Well now it's found a home. In a post to celebrate International Short Story Day, Emma Audsley & Shaun Hamilton's Horrifically Horrifying Horror Blog has published it (along with shorts by many other brilliant writers) and I'm really pleased.

The story is on this link, search for my name.

If you get a chance to read it, I hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday 6 June 2012

Our 20th Anniversary

Twenty years ago today, I was driving a Fiat Panda. I only remember that because, on my way home to get ready to go out with a friend of mine called Alison, on a kind-of-date, I ran over a coat-hanger and the metal bit got jammed into the tyre, puncturing it. I spent an unhappy half hour at Dolphin Tyres waiting for it to be repaired (Panda tyres were tiny, it didn't cost much thankfully), raced home and got changed and rolled up at Alison Brooks' house twenty minutes late. I explained what had happened, I think she kind of believed me and we went on our way, to the Point in Milton Keynes.

We booked tickets to see two films - Waynes World and Basic Instinct - and watched the first. It was funny, we had a laugh, life was good. We had something to eat, then went into a pub for a drink before the 2nd film and I asked Alison if she wanted to go out, properly, "you know, as boyfriend and girlfriend". She said yes, which surprised me enough that I couldn't think of anything to say - not the best start. Speaking of which, it also meant that the first film we saw as boyfriend & girlfriend was the Paul Verhoven sleaze-fest. Hmmm.

Six years later, to the day, we got married. It was a lovely occasion, Alison looked stunning and I was as happy as I could be.

Today, in 2012, Alison & I celebrate 20 years together as a couple, 14 of them married. I can't take much credit for it - her love, kindness and tolerance have helped a lot - but I like to think we make a great team and I hope we continue to do so for many, many years to come.

Happy anniversary beautiful.

Friday 1 June 2012

Hauntings (and me) at Forbidden Planet London

As regular readers of the blog will know, my story “Fog On The Old Coast Road” will be published in the NewCon Press/Un:Bound VE anthology “Hauntings”, edited by Ian Whates. The wraparound cover, created by Ben Baldwin, is below (and it's a thing of beauty, I'm sure you'll agree).

The concept was launched at The Hauntings Event on the 11th of March (which I wrote about extensively here) and the video of my reading (professionally edited by Vincent Holland-Keen to take out my break, halfway through, due to the heat from the open fire!) is here (links to the blog post and video).

The launch itself is taking place on Saturday 30th June, from 1pm to 2.30pm. And not just anywhere - oh no, it’ll be part of a small press expo held at the Forbidden Planet Megastore in London. For more details, here’s the link, but essentially it’s a mini-convention of four small press publishers - NewCon Press, Jurassic London, Myrmidon Books and Snowbooks - being held in the books department to “celebrate the love of genre which brings us all together”.

In attendance will be (from the official listing) - Nina Allan, Christopher Priest, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Pat Cadigan, Sophia McDougall, Lavie Tidhar, Rod Rees, Gareth L Powell, Una McCormack, Ian Whates, Paul Kane, Marie O'Regan, Andy West, Mark West, Rebecca J Payne, Theresa Derwin, Ben Baldwin, Adele Wearing, Esther Saxey, David Thomas Moore, Glen Mehn, Thomas Emson, Alan Baker, Danny Acacio and Sarah Anne Langton.

I am really excited to be involved in this - both the anthology (which I have high hopes for), the signing event and for being included in such terrific company. There's a lot of people on that list I'd love to meet, I just hope I don't get so nervous I end up standing by the table trying to look inconspicuous.

Hope to see you there.