The process of writing a non-fiction book is fascinating. Mr Agent now wants to know if I’m going to write ‘Forever England’ as a straight narrative or as a more guide book shaped affair.

Which is better? 14 chapters of 5000 words (narrative style) or 40 chapters of 2000 words (guidebook style)? I have to decide this now, really.

My gut reaction is go with 14 long chapters with a decent index, as once I start to write about something, I like to really explore and get settled in. But maybe shorter chapters would be more readable, more dip-into-able, and perhaps make the book more commercial, in these days of compact attention spans. Ultimately, I want as many readers as possible. Which path to take?


Saturday last – a trip to Brighton for the wedding party of Simon Price and Jenna Allsopp. Staying with Rhoda B at a hotel near the station.

Venue is the basement of the Al Duomo Italian restaurant, round the side of the Pavilion Buildings. Inside, each table has its own designated 7-inch pop single floating above it, anchored to a helium balloon. I look inside each sleeve, and it really is the actual records. All impeccable choices, given the bride and groom DJ at their own long-running club in Camden, Stay Beautiful. There’s The Specials – Ghost Town. Siouxie and the Banshees- Spellbound. Manic Street Preachers – Love’s Sweet Exile (underrated in my book). The single which happens to be above the table I’ve randomly installed myself at turns out to be David Bowie – Ashes To Ashes. Perfect.

I drink too much and enjoy myself too much, with the result that I spend the day after with a twitching right thumb. I’d collapsed into bed drunk and slept on a nerve or muscle in the wrong way. It’s a new degree of hangover for me- actual palsy.

At the party I boozily flirt with younger people yet bemoan (and bore them with) the tragic way one’s romantic taste doesn’t change as one gets older.

There’s no solution to this, really. There are those of my age who think nothing of visiting their paramours in student halls of residence, happy to attend birthday parties full of 20-year-olds when they’re nearly 40.  I enjoy the company of the young, but if I’m the only person at a party who’s over 22, part of me thinks, ‘This Looks Unseemly, Frankly’.

And then again… Another part thinks, ‘Well, I’m not getting any other offers, damn it. And they can’t be after me for money.’

It can be  about casting oneself in a role, before you’re cast by someone else. How does this look? It’s all very well saying ‘who cares what others think’, but if you take an interest in your external appearance per se, you can’t help considering the outside view when it comes to companions, too. Here is a man, you are saying, with someone far too young for them.

There are those who feel a younger lover keeps them young, while others think an age difference makes them feel twice as old. ‘Who’s this then? Kasa-been?’ ‘Kasabian, Grandad.’ ‘Ah, heard it all before. It reminds me of The Wedding Present circa 1987…’ ‘Who?’

I realise Kasabian don’t sound anything like the Wedding Present. Probably. I could find out. But the fogey-ish image suits me, and takes less effort, so why bother?

In fact, if I DO investigate new pop music, it arguably makes me look sadder.  I absolutely adore La Roux, a tomboyish Brixton girl singer sporting heavy 1980s make-up and a quiff (Tilda Swinton meets Molly Ringwald, as someone put it). She looks like she has no friends – except the posters on her wall. I’m sure she DOES have friends offstage, but the image is clear: defiant and refreshingly aloof.

Her records go from sounding a bit like Prince’s ‘When Doves Cry’ (‘Quicksand’) to budget synthpop recalling Romo and Post-Romo bands like Hollywood, Riviera, Client, or Baxendale (‘Bulletproof’).

But if I were to go to a La Roux show, given I’m 37 and she’s about 12, I’d just look deeply, deeply sad. Well, unless I hang onto the bar at the back for dear life. My taste is the same, it’s only my body that’s changed. My body isn’t me – sometimes.

In fact, I’ve just written an Angela Carter-ish fairy tale about this, ‘Gepetto’ (sic), which should appear in a fanzine for the comic Phonogram. It’s an attempt to map the story of Geppetto & Pinocchio onto a relationship between an older man (who’s keen to pull the strings), and a younger female-to-male transsexual who dreams of becoming a Real Boy. Or at least, that’s where it starts: I quickly became bored with the Pinocchio-transman idea (‘yeah, that old chestnut!’), and went onto, well, everything I had to tell the world full stop. There’s musings on rebelling against the body (the wrong age versus the wrong gender), and Phonogram-esque references to a song by the 90s band Belly.

I wrote the story just before leaving for Gibraltar, in three handwritten drafts (fountain pen, A4 lined), followed by a fourth on the computer. Heaven knows what others will make of it, but I’m pleased I did it. Next step: more.

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