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 firstname.lastname@example.org and let him know what you think of publishers who need to grow a pair.