The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Writer

Every generation has its comedy shows full of lines to be quoted ad infinitum. For the just post-Python generation, that show was Fawlty Towers. Clearly “don’t mention the war” is the runaway winner in that regard.

When I went for an interview at Cpt. America’s* place of work back in 2009, this was also the last tip he gave me – he worked for a German investment bank. However … I did … twice … both of them. Also, at the end, when the interviewer asked me the usual “do you have any questions?” question “Is that an MCC tie you’re wearing” was not something he was expecting. It wasn’t, but it transpired that a lot of people had asked him that in non-interview situations.

I got the job.

Before I launch into this weeks main topic – the results from the last two weeks:

Beer: (Week 1) Guinness, because Warnie* was having a problem with his ale supplier and all the barrels were settling. (Week 2) Guinness, because we had winnings, and Brakspear Bitter
Quiz: (Week 1) A win, beating Amber Nectar* on the gamble question of the final round. Regular readers will be sad, but not surprised to hear that QuizPants* were absent this week. (Week 2) see week 1

These results give us a recent 11112211 record. If only the Royal Blokes* were racehorses, we’d have been put out to stud by now.

Unfortunately, three of us are built for comfort, not speed so the only studwork we’ll be getting will relate to internal wall construction. Only Iron Man* breaks the mould, but as he is but a whippersnapper, the deadly combination of time, beer, cake and man snacks has yet to take its toll.

Anyway, back to the purpose of this tome. One of my favourite lines from Fawlty Towers, uttered by a disgruntled Basil (aren’t they all?), is “Can’t we get you on Mastermind, Sybil? Next contestant – Sybil Fawlty from Torquay. Special subject – the bleedin’ obvious”. Now the bleedin’ obvious (or may I say bloody obvious, as we’ve all grown up a bit since the 70s) is not always that obvious to everyone.

I no longer work at the official bank of the Nazi Party (this is not some mildly comedic anti-German slur for those of you with an image of Basil Fawlty goose-stepping around a hotel in your mind’s eye – they really were the official bank of the Nazi Party) and I work in a fairly senior pseudo-public sector role. It’s also become bloody obvious to me recently that I’m actually a professional writer.

My day job involves me writing legally binding decisions based upon facts and evidence, at the rate of 10 a week. My second day job, is Perfect Pub Quiz, which heavily involves writing questions and answers for the drinking public’s consumption (as those of you who have been paying attention so far, you know I worked for an investment bank. Now I do a ‘normal’ job, I’ve freed up enough spare time to comfortably have a second day job). Finally, for relaxation(?) at weekends, I do this – write a blog.

The realisation of being a professional writer is doubly satisfying as I left school not knowing the difference between a noun and a verb (when you tell people this, they feel inclined to tell you that a verb is a ‘doing’ word. I am aware of this now so please don’t feel you have to comment on the blog and remind me). Adverbs and personal pronouns were a foreign language and grammar was a type of school the clever kids went to.

Hell – I couldn’t even conjugate the verb ‘to go’.

While I can be justifiably proud of my subsequent achievements, I still feel the need to write a book, or at the very least get published in one (like sproglet#1 managed when she was just 11!!).

I have two main ideas for my book (the one that will never get written). It’s a toss-up between a 1,000 page epic following the non-linear stories of five men (referred to as The Patriarch, The Penitent Man, The Land Waster, The Fighting Man, and The Bastard) whose lives intertwined during the mid-11th Century (think Pulp Fiction but with a lot more violence); or a murder mystery set in the pre-dissoloution abbey in my hometown, the main character being a Premonstratensian monk with a past. I’d call it ‘The White Friar’.

My issue with option #2 is timing – for him to have the past I want, he would need to be born in c.1395, but that would put him at least 20 years too old for the events in which the story needs to be set. This is a problem that will probably tax me until the day I die, without me ever putting pen to paper.

Lucy also has her own idea of what it is to be a writer.


(you can’t see it in this picture, but Lucy was wearing flip-flops when it was taken – stockings and flip-flops are strangely sexy in a weird way and probably goes some way to explaining my lack of progress on the novel front). At least I don’t have the problems that Black Widow* has with her book (a biography of the sun, or somesuch nonsense) – she’s being accused of plagiarism.

UPDATE: between writing and publishing this blog, I was chatting to a woman in a pub (someone much older and wiser that me). It turns out that she knows someone who has just published his first kids book and has been signed by Bloomsbury on a 3-book deal. The phrase ‘the next JK Rowling’ has been bandied about. It’s also creeping into the lower ends on the Best Sellers chart  – so I give you Spacejackers by Huw Powell.

The upcoming week also sees the annual inclusion of August 4th – which is almost always falls around this time of year. This August 4th is also the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War One – at least from a British perspective. As with all of these things, dependent upon where you live, the date may change – Austria-Hungary started the ball rolling by declaring war on Serbia on 28 July. The only thing you can be sure of is that the Americans arrived late.

In common with most British families, I had relatives who fought and died in both this war and the next one, most of whom are just names on memorials scattered across Flanders. This year also sees the 75th Anniversary of the outbreak of World War Two (again from a British perspective – the Chinese and Japanese kicked it off back in 1933, eight years before the Americans joined in).

While there are plenty of decent (and not so decent) films about WWII, this cannot be said for WWI. And most of the WWI films are all about the war in the air, not on the ground. While Aces High has some good points, and Wings has yet to make it into my collection of Best Picture winners; you are pretty much stuck with The Trench or All Quiet… (the original, not the John-Boy Walton remake) for decent films about the trenches.

I suppose Paths of Glory also counts in this respect, although it’s mainly set behind the lines. If you want WWI in an informative yet entertaining manner, I would heartily recommend Charley’s War. This is an anti-war comic strip, originally published in Battle Weekly in the late 70s / early 80s; recently republished as a 10 volume graphic novel. It’s well-written, well-drawn and well-researched. Most importantly, it has no ‘Hollywood feel’ about it – there are no happy endings.

Reading back, this has been a very self-indulgent blog. Not necessarily what you may have wanted given last weeks absence, but there you go. I would like to right a perceived wrong though and, ongoing, Mrs America shall be known as Electra*. The reasons are twofold (1) Mrs America is not a proper Marvel character, and (2) the only female Avengers character left is Pepper Potts, and she’s a bit rubbish.

Footnote: The Mastermind line is from the series 2 episode “Basil the Rat”. Without wanting to go all QI on your ass, World War One is actually World War Three. If you define a world war as one that is global and involves most of the great powers of the time, then the Seven Years War of 1754-1763 (yes, I know it took nine years!) was the first – and the Americans were in at the start of this one, although at the time they were still technically British. The Great War of 1792-1815 was the second (renamed the French Revolutionary & Napoleonic Wars during what is now called World War One, but was at the time was itself called the Great War) – the American’s joined this party in 1812.

I really don’t have a thing for stocking and flip-flops. It was just an easy (read lazy) way of shoehorning in one of the three things I needed for my Daily Prompt qualification. Lucy in stockings alone does it for me.



You didn’t expect that!

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

*see Cast List


3 thoughts on “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Writer

  1. Pingback: Daily Prompt: Odd Trio Redux | tnkerr-Writing Prompts and Practice

  2. Pingback: Anniversary Waltz | Beer and Quizzes

  3. Pingback: Enigma | Beer and Quizzes

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