Yesterday evening a reader of this blog expressed polite frustration at what can only be described as my ceaseless self-promotion of late. I told her that I know exactly how she feels. And I swear I do. Sadly, my hands are tied. My hands are tied by a rapacious desire for bags and bags of money. I have changed. I have foresworn myself. I have broken every law I have sworn to uphold. I am become a starving flea, suckling at the tiny teats of Jabba Mammon...
But without meaning to jerk your tears, it’s a case of needs viciously musting. I am a popinjay in penury, teetering on the slippery rim of actually accepting hand-outs from my grandmother. ‘Call it a loan,’ she says, toasting my genitals over the emasculating flames of her kindness. Do you see now? You see how my hands are tied?
It’s time now to stand up, to grow up, and to be a man. And if that means I have to do a little whoring along the way… then so be it. As long as I believe in the product, I can sleep. All day if necessary.
Besides which, it is worth remembering, whoring can actually be fun! That’s what people forget. It’s not just a case of being forced into it because of financial difficulties and drug dependency. Na-ah. Part of me actually enjoys it too.
For example, I was positively crack-high with glee at being offered the opportunity to write something over at the blog of renowned bookman, Scott Pack. I like to think I was accorded this very special honour because of the delightfully winsome comment I left here over a year ago, rather than merely because Mr P happens to work for the same company that just a month ago published my book. That’s what I like to think. And you can't stop me.
Here is what I wrote:
As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a writer. To me, being a writer was better than being President of Real Madrid. Better than managing a branch of Nat-West in Dartford or Orpington. Better than being trapped in a chocolate shop with a cloak of irresistibility and Audrey Tautou. Maybe.
Then a couple of weeks ago, it finally happened. My dream came true and a book, a real-life, flesh-and-blood, tough-bodied book, full to gushing with words from my very own fingers and heart hit the shops and shelves like something from an outlandish daydream being dreamt by somebody else. I don’t mind telling you, for a while there I think I felt a little of what Susan Boyle must have felt, shortly before it destroyed her.
And so I did all the things I imagine first-time authors do: I developed a fleeting obsession with the Amazon Sales Rank; I skulked into Waterstone’s, located my beautiful memoir wedged uncomfortably between Belle de Jour and Les Dennis, took a surreptitious photograph and skulked out; I became briefly obsessed with the fate of my book, much like a mother fearing for her first-born – what was going to happen to her? Would she be loved? Would Les Dennis jostle her to the floor of the shop and do her a mischief? Why was my book a lady?; I discovered insomnia – I was either up all night rehearsing award speeches or else repeatedly throttled awake by cruel nightmares in which I was writhing in human ordure, trapped in the base of the portaloos at the Hay-on-Wye literary festival, with both Martin Amis and Margaret Drabble above me, in adjoining cabins, voiding themselves vigorously into my eyes. I also did a few interviews, sent a few emails and flounced about like the whore one automatically becomes when one has a book to hawk. But without the sex.
This week things have gone a little quiet. And apart from the sempiternal dread of the book disappearing like sunburn – flare, fade, peel, pillow – and the failure fuelling thirty years of abject misery, I’m actually rather relieved. My life is the calmest it’s been for about a year. And despite the fact that it’s become like something out of one of Alan Bennett’s rejected monologues, I like it.
Yesterday afternoon, for example, I was lazing in the living room, watching the tennis like a lump of lard whilst Grandmother peeled turnips and carrots in the kitchen. ‘There’s no need for that,’ she said, as one of the Russian girls grunted like a scalded cat with every stroke of the ball. Then she shuffled into the living room brandishing her peeler, spits and spots of carrot skin stuck to the bandages on her hands. She shook her head and despaired. ‘Is nothing sacred?’ she said. I said I didn’t think so. Not these days... Then last night I crept through to the kitchen to find – amongst the shadows and the silence and the silverfish – that Grandmother had put some new jellies to set.
So this is my life. This is the life of a writer. A proper writer with a book in Waterstone’s. Just like Les Dennis. And all the other whores.
My book by the way, is called ‘The Intimate Adventures Of An Ugly Man’ and I want you to buy it. It has its roots in a blog I’ve been writing for the last 18 months. The blog is about me – face like a bag of elbows, gut like a pastry parade, bed like a beached windsock – trying to sort myself out and find someone to love. The book is about my life in general: my trials, my tribulations, my triumphs, my hilarious neuroses and my recent family upheaval.
Because the blog was highly confessional in nature, and genital-warts-and-all in its approach, and because I still had the remnants of a fairly ordinary life that I didn’t want to entirely besmirch, I decided I would write anonymously. So I became Stan Cattermole.
In eighteen months then, my life has changed substantially. I still haven’t found the everlasting wholly reciprocated love I was seeking. I still haven’t lost all of the weight I was hoping to lose. And if I’m honest, I still struggle with tobacco consumption. But at least now I have a ridiculous fake name and I eat a lot of jelly. Oh, and I have a book in Waterstone’s. Next to Les Dennis.
Whatever happens to my book – whether it becomes the bestseller it thoroughly deserves to be or disappears like a toddler in the Algarve – I decided today that I’m going to try and write another one. This one will be a novel, however. I’m going to write it as much of it as I can over the next two months, then move back to London in September and have a party. Anyone who’s ever left a comment on my blog will be invited. And Audrey Tautou. She’ll be invited too.
So here’s to the future. Feel free to buy my book, won’t you? And if you fancy coming to my party, you’d better go make your presence felt at my blog.
There will be jelly.
Then I washed, put on my clothes and left.