Monthly Archives: May 2009

The Day Ian Heddle’s Brain Farted

I ‘need’ to write a blog tonight but, truthfully, have very little motivation to do so. Part of me even wants to write a blog, but I have no real idea what I want to say.

I should be meticulously detailing the, by now, longstanding high drama around Max’s book, which has found itself in the truly unexpected and divinely ironic position of being banned. We’ve been consulting with intellectual property lawyers, writing to the House of Commons, the Liberal party, and over forty national newspapers, and I just do not have the energy to tell the story. What’s to say? People are scum-bags, politicians are corrupt, and Orkney is a hell-hole.

Poor old Orkney. For the past eleven years I’ve squarely taken the blame for putting us on there in the first place. I have believed every single inch of the way, both on the island and, now, off it, that every misery I endured there was entirely of my own making, but now – well, now I find it very hard indeed not to believe that everybody on the blasted island is a moron and a retard (except Gillian, who is perfect), and that if it sank into the sea tomorrow not only would I not miss it, I’d dance on its watery grave. And all this because one neurotic man’s ego was so over-inflated he managed to star himself in a book from an eleven line description. Not bad going for a half-witted rural fucktard. See what I mean? I just used the word fucktard.

But I don’t want to fill you in, tell you what he said and she said and he said again. It’s boring for me. We’ve talked about it – a lot – so it has no thrill of indignation any more. Also, I’ve vented a lot of my anger already, yelling and ranting at each fresh revelation of idiocy, but how odd it is to find myself indirectly embroiled in a big publishing barney that isn’t about me. It doesn’t even vaguely involve me, other than the fact I share a home with the author, and, of course, I’m going to hell in a handcart with him at the abrupt loss of revenue. (The book’s sales have been picking up steadily, selling at least one copy a day on Amazon, even although it’s not yet published). I’ve had nothing to do with writing the book (if I had it would have been a whole lot sharper – I lack Max’s generosity of spirit in the face of human stupidity). I didn’t even proofread it. Max never let me near it, and yet here it is, an innocuous (you’d think) “humorous look at downshifting to Orkney” mainstream title, suddenly in the middle of a bona fide publishing scandal involving wealthy businessmen employing corrupt politicians to have it silenced.

Does it get any better?

Of course, in view of the fact it will almost certainly push our current financial disaster into actual bankruptcy I should be saying, Does it get any worse? We’ve lost not only all the book’s (potentially big) revenue, plus the potential revenue from the options on Max’s next book/s, but two-thirds of the advance as well, a second third of which should have been paid to us but was somehow, conveniently, forgotten, and now is lost forever, unless we take Brealey to court, which, according to the lawyer, we have an excellent case for, but which, of course, will cost us oodles of money (£225 an hour, folks, if you ever want to hire an intellectual property lawyer).

Of course, the real villain at the centre of this debacle is said publisher – one Nicholas Brealey – who has to be the most spineless creature since the first slug was squashed flat by the first bike. But close contender number two is said wealthy businessman, Ian Heddle.

Ian runs Heddle Construction of Grainshore Rd, Hatston, Kirkwall, KW15 1FL, telephone number: 01856 888666. Please feel free to write to Ian, phone him, or fax him on 01856 877666 and tell him he is a fucktard. I apologise to anyone who feels soiled and cheapened by my using this most egregious of invented words, but for some reason it seems to fit. Perhaps because Ian’s ‘behaviour’ most resembles that of a neurotic middle-aged aunt who has been offended by someone drawing attention to the fact that her wig has slipped.

I know some of you, knowing me as well as you think you do, are feeling confident right now that Ian has been victimised by being forced to star in Max’s book as the comic relief, some poor soul lampooned to death by Max’s acid wit. To correct this misapprehension allow me to show you the complete and total entirety of Ian’s huge starring role in Chucking It All:

“One of the leading lights of the Traditional Dance Fraternity is a silver-haired, gold-medallion-wearing local builder called Jason, who made his packet in the mid-seventies and built himself a luxury “lurve pad” from the proceeds. Twenty-five years on and one quickie divorce later, a very slightly thicker-round-the-middle Jason, who still sports his original Beatle-fringe and tight white Levi’s, has been Sharon-shopping on the mainland and has returned to Orkney in the autumn to set up house with a willowy, chestnut-haired trophy girlfriend almost thirty years his junior.

“Come Christmas, some twelve weeks later, the transplanted lass doesn’t appear to have withered and died on Orkney’s frozen soil, and, overjoyed with his purchase, our aging Lothario subsequently invites everyone to a huge New Year party in his ostentatious retro mansion to be introduced to his latest acquisition.”

There it is. Out of 242 pages, that’s Ian’s part. He is never discussed again. And in case anyone thinks that it’s an unfair portrait, this is what you’d notice about Ian if you met him face to face:

Ian has a fringed Beatle-cut hairstyle. It’s on top of his head and hanging above his eyes and is, therefore, in a one-on-one sense, unmissable. He is a builder. He owns a firm called Heddle Construction. He has a big blue crane and shit with his name on it all over Orkney. His job is not secret, illegal or disreputable. Or it wasn’t until he got an MP to do his dirty work for him. He is ‘married’ to a woman – I think – twenty-three years, or more, his junior. Said woman used to refer to herself jokingly – but not – as “Ian’s trophy wife”. This was, in fact, where Max picked the idea up. Ian owned (and probably still does) a pair of white jeans. We often – we being “the dance crowd” – used to tease Ian about his 1980’s white jeans. Ian laughed and went on wearing the white jeans quite shamelessly. Ian also wears a gold medallion. Specifically, he has a custom-made chunk of gold round his neck in the shape of his company ‘logo’, such as it is. Go along to his website here: Yes, his logo is his name, and yes, he wears that round his neck, folks and see this big ugly macho logo. Visualise this as a big slice of gold hanging round a man’s neck, in plain view of the world, and you have Ian’s medallion. We used to mock Ian’s medallion. In fact, we had a replica one made for his baby’s christening present. Ian was thrilled. He laughed and went on shamelessly wearing said medallion. It’s who he is, he’s proud of it, and everyone knows it

Now, though, for some bizarre reason Ian finds all this stuff deeply shaming. His haircut, his jeans, his medallion, his ‘marriage’ to a girl younger (yes, actually) than his own daughter – deeply, deeply shaming. And yet, I’ll bet you any money you like that Ian still wears the jeans and the medallion, and is still a builder, living with what one of our (other) friends genuinely believed was a Russian mail order bride – even although he is allegedly deeply shamed.

So this means if you were to (insanely) go to Orkney tomorrow you could see Ian for yourself and see all these things in real life, and Ian probably being not very ashamed of any of them at all. In fact, Ian flaunting them in his normal cheeky style as cock-of-the-walk in his – once again, often mocked – very outdated monstrosity of a 1970’s architect ‘designed’ house, complete with velour surround-sound love chair and white leather sofas. I kid you not.

This, then, is the entirety of the ‘case’ behind Ian getting his local MP to phone up the publisher and threaten him. The MP, one liberal democrat MP for Orkney, Alistair Carmichael, told Nicholas Brealey that Ian’s terrible shaming had to be removed and that after it was removed he personally wanted to see the revised manuscript to make sure that Ian – and a couple of other names he threw in to make the call sound more plausible – was no longer being so callously lampooned by a vicious attack of “tone”. Yes, the MP for Orkney and Liberal Democrat spokesperson had in fact phoned up the publisher about a modern-day Whisky Galore style comic book because he “didn’t like the tone”, which he found “vindictive”.

Ahhh, vindictive? That’ll be Max changing Ian’s name to Jason. After all, what’s left? The rest of the description is entirely factual, even kinder than the truth. Gosh, poor old Ian. He has an awesome 136 word role in this terribly evil book, where his name has been cruelly changed to Jason, which was only done, ironically, to protect his identity (isn’t protected now, Ian, old son). You can see how desperate his motivation to have the book banned must have been.

Ian… he was always such a practical joker. Whenever someone in the ‘dance crowd’ had a hilarious prank played on them you knew it was Ian that was behind it. Strange that when it comes to an albeit brief and not very harsh joke on himself he suddenly has a severe sense of humour deficit, only surpassed by a truly frightening narcissistic view of his own importance. Maybe he wants to think about the deeply shaming aspects of that.

None of this, of course, detracts from the fact that Nicholas Brealey is still the real villain here. Instead of telling the Rt. Honourable Carmichael where to stuff his fat interfering neb (that’s nose in English) and pointing out that if Mr Heddle had a grievance there’s this thing called The Law and these places called The Courts (Carmichael is a lawyer – oh, the irony) where he can do this thing called Suing; he immediately folded and pulled the book. This despite the fact that Heddle would never ever fork out money to take anything to court, even supposing someone barbecued his child; he’s too bloody mean, as well as humourless and narcissistic. After all, why the hell was he using Carmichael to get free ‘leverage’?

But so it goes. Publishers were ever thus. But to add insult to injury, all this at the eleventh hour too, literally one month before publication, because some rural inbred hick has a brain fart and imagines that although everything written about him was true, and can transparently be seen by any passer-by on two seconds acquaintance, this little walk-on part somehow defames him. Worse, though, is his inhuman conceit that although the whole book is about Max’s life on Orkney, and his personal experiences, no-one is reading it for that. No, they’re all actually reading it to see the 136 word description of Ian on page 142. Because, of course, the whole world revolves around Ian. Ian Heddle is everything. He is alpha and omega, the start and the finish of the universe. God is a white-trousered, middle-aged man with a young wife, a sorry taste in jewellery and a BIG BLUE CRANE. Well, fuck me.

Of course, aside from suing everybody and anybody, I immediately wanted to write my book on Orkney, only this time all the real names were going in, the real dirt on Ian Heddle – and I have plenty. He should consider himself a very lucky man indeed that it isn’t going in this blog, because I have more decency and sense of fair play than he has in his little finger. But, of course, the notion of writing my version of events lasted all of two minutes, until the actuality of having to revisit Orkney, even in memory, sunk in. So suing, official complaints and going to the papers – a campaign christened Shock and Awe – ended up being the way to go. After all, Ian didn’t want people talking about him, so here I am, TALKING ABOUT IAN HEDDLE. Who’s sorry now, Ian?

So…. please feel free to go and see Max’s revised website, now entitled “Gagged!”. He will be publishing the press releases on here too – they’re not on yet (ETA they’re on now) – but you can hear his interview with Radio Orkney and how the saner Orcadians reacted to the book before this absurd debacle. Please also feel free to write to the House of Commons and complain about Alistair Carmichael illegally using his weight as an MP to gag the publication of a book as a ‘favour’ for a wealthy man who was quite capable of fighting his own legal battles. And, lastly, please feel free to e-mail Nicholas Brealey at rights@nicholasbrealey.com and let him know what you think of publishers who need to grow a pair.

I’m done.

Me Andy, You Jane…

Pity the poor for all the good we do them. There they are, trying to live their lives with whatever half-starved emotional poverty they have, while all the while, over their shoulders, there lurks goodness.

Can you imagine what it must be like to have so much goodness coming at you?

I’ve had a lot of goodness recently. From the other end, of course. I’ve been learning to be good. Or trying to. And it’s been hard.

I lasted around three weeks, that’s how not good at being good I was, but hey, I tried. What good have you done recently?

The reason I gave up trying to be good was Andy.

Andy had not quite a goatee beard, more a tuft of gingery blonde under his lower lip. Andy had a kind of rumpled trendiness that indicated ‘bed-head gel’. Andy frowned a lot. Andy had a particularly nice heavyweight chain on one wrist – big thin rounded links; unusual, kind of expensive-looking. It had more than a hint of a folk-rock thing going on, along with the rumpled, casual charm, that was about as deep as a mosquito pond. That’s a puddle to you and I.

I just couldn’t warm to Andy. There, the truth is out. It was nothing specific, it was an attitude. One of those growing ones that kept leaping into the conversation with a lot of tics and posturings.

Andy was one of those people who kind of rides a conversation to see where it will take him. Who rides you, rather like you were a dolphin in a Good Earth theme park and he was going to commune with you, read your spirit.

Andy didn’t like me.

It wasn’t immediate – oh, no – it was one of those growing sneaky things where you just know it’s taken a wrong turn but you can’t exactly pinpoint why.

Andy had pounced on me in the reception. He’d wandered out there with no intention of interviewing me – although my appointment had actually been booked with him – spotted me and suddenly he was all smiles. He “might as well” see me, “don’t disturb Jane.” Oh, it was “no bother”. In I went.

You would think with this promising start – surely, sexual attraction from a man ten years my junior – that I was in but good. Not so.

I always see these moments, frozen in time, and wonder what happens to that alchemy. What happened in the bright little synapses of Andy’s brain? From the moment he wandered out into reception, did a double-take and decided that the appointment he’d just brushed off was now ‘okay’ – in the most nonchalant way possible, of course – what leapt into his head?

How did he see me? What did he see? How did he think this would play out?

Who knows? He thought what he thought, but what we do know is somewhere between the cup and the lip there was a slip.

Was it something I said?

Hell, yes. Isn’t it always? And isn’t it my job, as a woman, to find out what that is? If something went wrong, I must have done something to cause it. God forbid he should be at fault. That wouldn’t help his ego any.

What could it have been? Let me see………

Well, there was my assertion that he only thought Orkney was a great place to live because he’d never lived there. Turned out his wife had taken him there for his last birthday and he’d loved it. When he said he loved Celtic history so Orkney was nirvana I think I looked unconvinced, maybe even dryly amused. Funny little man. Certainly there was banter. At one point he said something about enjoying the island’s grey landscape and bad weather and I quipped, “Do you suffer much with this depressive thing?”

Hey, I was joking, but there was a little silent voice in there that was whispering, “Not good, Chancery. Not good.”

Oddly, although that first interview went well enough, it didn’t feel well enough. There was the fact that I couldn’t remember my phone number. I don’t think he found that very funny or endearing. The fact that I told him I never phone myself, or that my partner went everywhere with me so I never bothered to remember it, did not seem to make me any cuter either. You’d think it would be no big deal – so I don’t remember my phone number, I promised to deliver it – but I could feel that ticking, just under the surface, out of sight. She’s a kook. Who doesn’t remember their own phone number?

But it wasn’t because I was a kook, not really. All was revealed – eventually.

Over the weekend I had to fill in a rush application form, we had to take passport size photos and make them look plausible – thus saving £4, for which I am truly thankful in light of future events. I had to walk into town and post my application – with my phone number written on the outside, like a good girl – through their office letter box on the Bank Holiday Monday.

I was set. I had an interview time and date. I had no idea why since I thought I’d already done an interview, but if I’ve learned one thing in life, it’s that people need their procedures.

And Tuesday, Real Interview Day rolls round. I walk into town on the wettest day of the year. By the time I get there I am soaked to the skin. The rain has gone through my cagoule and I’m sure I’ve got panda eyes. I get to wait in the vestibule since they’ve still got another interviewee with them. Good, I mop up as best I can with paper hankies. I dry my jewellery, the back of my neck. I wipe under my eyes hoping like hell I don’t have runny mascara.

Eventually I go in. Notably, the person who comes out and gets me is the other co-ordinator, Jane, the one I’ve never met, who Andy had fobbed my appointment off onto that first day, then reclaimed it when he saw me. Maybe if Jane had interviewed me that first day I’d be in a whole different place right now. But then again, the way Andy’s ego is running his brain I seriously doubt it.

I go through to the same board room I met Andy in the first time, and there he is, still tufty, tousled and bedecked with silver. Andy looks at me and he’s very serious. My fine female brain, highly-tuned to pick up unhappy male signals, immediately spots Andy is not happy.

This makes my slight anxiety worse. Much worse. I sit down and make some nervous quip about said panda eyes, seeking reassurance that my face is in fact intact. This is met with blankness at first then a distinct lack of hilarity from Andy who obviously considers me frivolously obsessed with my looks. Already my sixth sense is telling me this is a disaster. I feel as if I’m about to fight an unfightable corner. And God, my instincts are good.

Andy displays such stereotypical body language you could be forgiven for thinking he read a book on it before he left the house. Andy doesn’t meet my eyes. When he does he either looks away or fixes me with an angry penetrating gaze as if to say, Say that again. His tone and attitude is challenging – and I’m being nice to him here. He repeatedly sits back in his chair with one arm hung over the back. It’s tantamount to picking excrement off the bottom of his cage and chucking it at me. If he could have jumped on the table and screeched at me he’d have done it.

It takes very little time till Andy dives right into what’s bothering him. “How long do you think it would take you to decide if the job was right for you?” he asks cunningly.

I, naïve to the nth and desperate to convince him of my sincerity, say, “Oh, I’d know straight away. Not more than two or three visits, tops. I wouldn’t keep a kid hanging on if it was wrong.”

OH GOD, NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If there was a planet for saying the wrong thing I’d be queen of it. So not the right answer. And the irony is, I was only saying it to convince him that I wouldn’t mess about with a vulnerable child’s life. In actuality, if my pairing had been wrong I’d have done one visit, tops, and if I thought it might work I’d have kept going until it did work, or die trying. But it’s too late now, I’m done for. Of course, as this is in the heat of competition, I’m floundering. I know I’ve committed an enormous blunder but I HAVE NO IDEA WHY.

He’s shaking his head before the sentence is even out my mouth. His lips are pursed. He’s looking down at my application form and leaning back in his chair with his arm over the back – all at once. What the fuck have I said?

I find out soon enough. Andy gives me a very serious dressing down. All that was missing was a finisher of how I had let the academy down and they were going to strip me of my rank.

After that it was all downhill. Nothing I could say could fix it. I found myself wading into blind alleys, trying to explain my feelings, while Andy’s mouth got tighter than Calista Flockhart’s anus. Tighter, tighter, tighter it went. Now he never looked at me at all. He stared at the table and listened to all my answers as if he could hear encoded messages of evil.

I, of course, talked almost entirely to Jane, so that we had: Andy fires accusation question at Chancery, Chancery delivers answer to Jane, Jane smiles, scribbles on her notes, Angry Andy scowls harder and fires off next accusation question. Now he not only has a dilettante weirdo who doesn’t even know her own phone number, but she patently doesn’t respect his authority. Remember, it wasn’t him who came out to get me in the foyer. There’s a pecking order here, and instead of me being crushed by his condemnation of dubious uncommitted carers like me, I’m trying to win over the next-best bet – Jane.

It wasn’t deliberate. I was just desperately trying to convince the only person at that table – and I’m including myself in this – that I have good intentions here, even if I’m not expressing them very well.

But if I’d been Chaucer, Shakespeare and Gandhi in one delicious package I couldn’t have saved myself. It turns out that right before me they have had two carers walk out on them, both after less than two visits. Gosh, exactly the figure I’d named. I have, in effect, made myself one of those women. I am irredeemable.

What’s worse, inside, a tiny, tiny part of me is fuming. How dare this cocky tufted little asswipe sit here, with his holier-than-thou attitude, throwing blame around like the Queen of fucking Sheba? What the hell is his problem? How in the name of al that’s holy can it be my fault he’s had two carers walk out on him? Maybe that’s an indicator there’s something wrong with his selection process. Maybe – here’s a thought – he picks them by wandering out into reception and seeing which one he fancies. Maybe he’s such an arrogant little cocksucker, with a such an overweening God complex, he thinks we’re all his fucking disciples and I ought to wash his feet.

Needless to say (sigh) I do not say any of this. Being a woman, and worst of all, me, I am unable to do anything but flounder, digging deeper and deeper, feeling the disapproval come across the table at me in waves.

Eventually it’s over. I am almost in tears when I leave. Part of me wants to grovel apologies for my failure to please and I am, literally, inches away from it at the door when Jane (surprise!) shows me out. She’s nice, chatting away, trying to make me feel better. I have no proof of this, and it may simply be that he was so obnoxious she seemed shiny in comparison, but my gut says she was feeling sorry for how hard I had tried to win Dad over. Because, let’s face it, that’s what I was doing. That’s what every woman who went in there does. That’s what Andy likes, and why he does the job. Rub my saintly ego. Ohhhh, rub it harder.

Although he has speeches about caring for children so off-rote you’d think they were tenets of a new religion, the real religion in there is the cult of Andy. And behold, it is good.

I run off into the night and am so upset that I finally do start crying, so badly I scare Max, who misses an art class to comfort me. I feel beyond stupid. Crying is not my natural state of being – although you wouldn’t know it to see me this year. Quitting will do that to you – I warn you now.

I cry all the way home (that’s forty-five minutes, folks). I cry at home. I cry and cry and cry.

I’m getting a hurt vibe, here. Something in me is wounded. No shit, Sherlock, and it would take way too long to explain all the nasty family dynamics I think were at play here, but slowly, surely, when my contempt for myself and how low and horrible and stupid I am passes, I begin to see Andy. Yes, there he is, the real Andy. The Andy that somehow changed halfway through my first interview. The Andy that never found a single one of my quips funny, despite being a hip kind of guy. The Andy who never took anyone to or from the foyer, despite being the same rank as Jane. The Andy who went completely off the deep-end, blaming me for two of his carers leaving that week as if I had personally recruited them and defiled his temple. The Andy who needed to pet and sulk and pout to show his displeasure and who hated being ‘ignored’. The Andy who shouted the odds about the children’s care while all along I got this feeling that really this ‘betrayal’ was about him. It was all about him. I’d just been so busy beating myself up for not being a good enough prospective parent I didn’t see it.

And this, my friend, is what the poor get. Andy is what we think they deserve. Andy runs a voluntary organisation called Befriend a Child. Andy was interviewing me to be a volunteer. Andy is what happens to you when your parents don’t love you or beat you up or fuck you. Andy finds someone to befriend you so that you won’t be utterly alone. Andy does this by running a tight ship, with him as Captain Bligh. This means that Andy gets antsy if people don’t know their phone numbers; Andy makes all the jokes, which are never at his expense; Andy takes and drops appointments as a show of casual power, and, best of all, Andy gets to kick the dog when someone lets him down. I was that dog and, like a dog, I well and truly took my kicking.

Except, of course, after I stopped joining in I wrote him – and his boss – an email wherein I told them what I thought Andy’s histrionics were really about. And then I wrote this blog, putting in all the special stuff I missed out the e-mail.

Andy hasn’t yet learned there’s more than one way to give to the poor – and this is mine. It’s good to share.

Publish first, learn later………


Well, I’d been going to write a blog tonight, but instead I spent the whole evening answering (asinine) comments on this Good Reads forum: Independent press authors need to go back to school. It enriches your creative soul, don’t you know…

Or this one, where I am, yet again, running counter to everyone else’s opinions: Why don’t the public buy our books? (Well, the answer lies in the ‘Get back to school and be enriched forum’, folks. And it’s just a click away.)

This whole thing – and particularly the ‘here’s a creative writing course for after you publish’ thread (lucky readers) – shows exactly what is wrong with self-published novelists and the availability of POD publishing.

On the first forum, I go so far, audaciously, to say so. But tactfully. I never say it out loud, not as such. After all, we’re discussing here. But it still gets messy. Eventually there’s flouncing and a lot of (the same old) accusations of “personal attacks”. Which, of course, they convey by outright name-calling, having no sense of their own behaviour.Apparently if someone says something you consider stupid it is not etiquette to say why you think it’s stupid, or to highlight the point with examples. Assumably you should just say, “You’re stupid”, or perhaps “You’re batshit”, or even the good old “You’re a fuckwit”. Much more conducive to informed debate. Or perhaps, better still, you should just swallow your opinions and let them say and do what they like, untrammelled by rational thought.

Once again, I do not know why I bother to present arguments or point out acts of nonsense, contradictions, unvoiced implications, direct implications, and, of course, mad assertions. What I should do is agree with everyone on the forum or, presumably, leave.

Well, there’s one thing I do agree with, POD publishing was a bad invention, and these supposed professionals on this supposed Small Press forum prove it. They are living proof of exactly why readers do not trust self-published books, or self-published authors, or small independent presses. And the worst of it is, I don’t blame them.

It’s a sad, depressing and pointless world, full of narrow-minded trolls with shit for brains. There you go, that was the kind of comment we really want.

I die……………..