Thursday, April 07, 2011


Back from Crawley

I'm back from the Crawley WordFest now; thoroughly enjoyable it was too. First of all, let me publicly thank the organisers for their hospitality. They were just so very nice. The exact opposite of the inept and pompous organisers of the Odyssey 2010 convention I attended this time last year... Special thanks to Jo Harrison and Alex Harrison for putting me up; and also to Jamie Harrison and Sarah Maple. Based on that representative sample, 75% of people in Crawley seem to have "Harrison" as a surname. Weird, huh? I wonder if the excellent writer M. John Harrison comes from Crawley? Let me check. No, he doesn't. I tell you who was from here, though: Simon Jeffes, founder of the illustrious Penguin Cafe Orchestra. This fact adjusts the quoted percentage above, reducing it to 60%. That's still a heck of a lot of Harrisons for a town with a population of 101,300... I asked a random pedestrian if he knew exactly where in the town Simon Jeffes was born, so I could go there on a minor musical pilgrimage, and he replied, "Out of a woman."

Anyway, I arrived on Sunday morning. First I sat on a panel devoted to the subject "satire" and then I read from a Hemingway parody I wrote a couple of years ago, 'The Sun Trap', which hasn't been properly published yet but does form part of my Just Not So Stories book that is currently being considered by a publisher down under (I least I think they are based down under; by which I mean Australia, not Hell)... It was great to meet Adam Lowe at last, the fellow who runs Dog Horn Press and who republished my Mister Gum novel recently. Also sitting on the panel was the writer Robert Dickinson, who did a reading from his latest novel, The Noise of Strangers, a dystopian SF story set in a futuristic Brighton. This photo shows us blabbing to a small but attentive audience.

Talking about Brighton, on Monday I treated myself to a trip there, the first time I have ever visited it, or so I thought... When I arrived, the place looked familiar; I don't mean the famous sights, the beach and two piers, etc, but some of the less obvious features, an old stone aqueduct, an oddly designed house, even the angles at which certain alleyways intersect bigger streets. I now believe that I probably went there when I was small... One of the reasons I travelled to Brighton this time is because Adele lived there for many years and I wanted to see this place that she keeps raving about. I was inevitably impressed by the Royal Pavilion, an architectural confection that is surely the product of an eastern hashish dream. I wish all buildings in Britain looked like this. I wish that all prose looked like this, if you see what I mean... I got back to Crawley just in time to attend an event that was marketed as a "book swap" but was in fact far more interesting than that, involving not only the swapping of books but a question and answer session with a panel of writers (including MD Lachlan, with whom I disagree on most things, but who is always erudite and entertaining) and lots and lots and lots of free cake.

Tuesday was the day I was scheduled to sit in the window of Waterstone's and write a story based around a keyword. So that's what I did. The keyword had already been leaked to me two days earlier but that didn't help much. I just went with the flow and ended up writing a very loose and open (i.e. disjointed) story that could probably benefit from some tidying up; and yet I'm pleased with some of the prose that went into it. And certainly it is representative of my style. 'The Paradoxical Pachyderms' is the title of the piece and I think it will be available as a PDF download soon, and maybe also it will form a segment of a chapbook that will include the stories produced by the other window writers (see top photo for a list of names). When I finished, I took this photo of my working space. One random member of the public poked his head inside and said, "You've been here for hours. I want a turn now!" and then he ranted a strange freeform poem at me before turning on his heel and stalking away. Only one weirdo in an entire day is pretty good going, I think.

After my session I had planned to catch Wilbur Smith giving a reading in the local library, but I would have missed my bus back to Wales had I gone to see him. Apparently his event was a great success. To sum up, the organisers deserve a massive pat on their collective backs for pioneering a new festival (no easy task at the best of times) that will hopefully go from strength to strength in the future!

Great picture of you next to the Brighton pavilion, Rhys; Brighton is my old 'foam town', where they make good beer!
Thanks Clyde. I tried to arrange it so that one of the domes looked like a hat on my head. It didn't quite work...
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