Why do you write like you’re running out of time?

Here was are in 2019 and I was supposed to have a summary of 2018 already posted for you, but life got in the way so I’m going try to fold that into my first post of the new year as I talk about what it was like to be in the room where it happened. Now, that’s a second Hamilton reference in this post already so no prizes for guessing what I saw last week. Now, I won’t win any prizes for originality or foresight if I tell you that Hamilton is brilliant so rather than rehashing what others have written I’ll talk you through my thoughts as I look back on the last year, including some bits of pieces that hit me at the show and after.

So, where to begin? Always an important question for a writer to answer. When you last heard from this plucky scribe you either were reading about my Halloween trip to see The Dresden Dolls, or you got an insight to how December was treating me and some thoughts on books that I’d been reading from my newsletter.

What’s that you say? You didn’t know I had newsletter? Well indeed I do. It comes out roughly once a month, covering what I’ve been up to, thoughts on mostly books but films and other things get in as well and that’s where you’ll get early warning of things I’m scheming up. You can sign-up at https://tinyletter.com/Gavin_Writes and I’d love to hear from you or for you to share it with the writer or reader in your life.

So looking back it’s been an up and down year, much like most of life. The stories that I could spin you about health, love, death and illness, but they’re not all mine to tell. Some of them might creep into something because a as writer life’s events have a habit of slipping into stories one way or another, but if I’m doing it right it will be in ways that services the story and won’t be recognisable. The early advice to a writer is always to write what you know, but I don’t believe that should be the limit and as long as you do your research and start with good intentions then I don’t think you can too far wrong.

It has been a good year for seeing and doing though.

I managed to complete my fourth year of blogging about the NFL and have completed the regular season on my fifth.

I published my second book, a sequel to A Ghost Called Dog, entitled The Price of Magic, that picks up four years later from the original events in Ghost and carries on the story arc. I have also made a good start on the third book, but there’s a long way to go before I start to think about publishing it. There’s plenty more to do with the first two in terms of sales before I know how to publish the third, but I’m thinking about it. Right now I’m making lists and jotting down ideas, but you’ll be hearing from me.

I’ve kept this blog ticking over with posts about the second book and a couple of events I have been to. I plan on doing the same next year as it’s nice to keep the writing hand in when book research takes over, plus it’s always handy to try new things. I managed to see two bands I never thought I’d see last year, writing up my experience of both The Dresden Dolls and The Gaslight Anthem.

I perhaps should have written up my experiences with the band I’m in, called Diceratops, who got through to the finals of the Metal 2 the Masses Leicester competition and so although I didn’t get to play Bloodstock, we got to play at the De Montford Hall in Leicester, and network with some very cool musicians. I got a new phone last year that seems to help no end taking decent pictures (so much its even helping me learn what I need to work on with my digital SLR) so here are a few of my favourite photos from the competition. We are entering again this year, and perhaps it will be third year lucky to get to the festival.

I’m not good enough at lists to be able to say with absolute certainty what my favourite things were of last year other than book, which was undoubtedly Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers who is rapidly becoming one of my favourite authors. I wrote about it in a newsletters so feel free to follow the link there to take a look.

I also got to see a few shows in 2018, including Matilda and Agatha Christie’s Love from a Stranger at The Curve in Leicester, and both parts of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child where I was suitably nerdy.

I also got to start the year seeing Hamilton as I previously said. My partner and I really wanted to see it, even before various family members saw it (some of them multiple times) and so off we went last week. I had become pretty obsessed by the soundtrack in the last couple of months. I’m still not good at learning whole songs, but various lines and bits jump out to me. Whilst I don’t exactly relate to all the experiences of the ten-dollar Founding Father without a farther, but the title of this post comes from Non-Stop and I certainly know why I write like I’m running out of time. Mostly because I am, which is probably the kind of thing a therapist would want to interrogate me about. It certainly might explain me trying to do all the things I can, but back to the musical. I might actually just be belatedly falling in love with Lin-Manuel Miranda having discovered his previous musical In The Heights through getting the digital copy of Hamilton:The Revolution. I’ll be getting the full book from my friendly local book shop as I didn’t fancy hauling it back on the tube and nursing it under my seat at the show.

‘I will send a fully armed battalion
To remind you of my love!’

I’m pretty familiar with the soundtrack, but it was great to see Hamilton performed so you can correct all the lines you’ve wrongly attributed by voice and it’s pretty amazing to see how it is staged. I’ve always had a soft spot for King George in the play and he was suitably fantastic, but then so was everyone. I missed the doubling up of parts before reading the programme, but the nearest thing the whole show has to a misstep is having to suspend disbelief for an adult playing a nine-year-old son. However, I was taken away by the story and had new record set for number of times the second half made me cry. I’ll try to avoid spoilers, but let’s just say the senselessness of duelling over honour is really jarring to a modern ear.

‘Look around, look around, at how
lucky we are to be alive right now.’

Stepping back out into the world was also a jar but I’ll take a lot of memories with me, including the cheers at:

‘Immigrants: We get the job done.’

It feels like we are living in tumultuous times right now. A cursory glance at the news will generate a litany of things to sap the mind and spirit, so it’s been nice to take stock and remind myself of what I achieved and the things that lift the spirit. Art should challenge and throw a mirror to the world, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be entertained and cheered by it at the same time. There is space for different types and I hope to produce more in the coming years, including some more things for this site ahead of the next book.

So, as ever, to all the things!

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A Halloween Night Out

‘There’s no end to the love you can give
When you change your point of view to underfoot’

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I have had a good year for gigs. My band played De Montford hall as part of the Metal 2 the Masses competition, I got to see The Gaslight Anthem earlier this year for the tenth anniversary of The ’59 Sound and on Halloween I got to see The Dresden Dolls for the first time on their 18th bandiversary as Brian and Amanda met at a Halloween party. The warm up show and the two nights at the Troxy were the first time they played in London since 2006 so I had hardly been negligent but I’m so glad I got a chance to see them.

I met up with some friends before the show, but once we got there we all ended up going our separate ways but I had a brilliant time. There were plenty of people enthusiastically embracing both the Halloween and punk cabaret aesthetic but for me, I was happy with seeing the show from a distance and taking everything in. I don’t have the kind of brain that gives itself over wholly to anything, plus I am too old and fragile of head for moshing these days. I will sing lines and bits of songs but as much as anything I watched the night unfold over a couple of hours quietly taking away different memories and thoughts.

There is something glorious about the way Amanda and Brian interact whilst playing. As someone who has been playing music and been in bands for closer to twenty-five years that I’d care to admit, the simple and not so simple interaction of two people playing off each other is a joy to behold. I’ve played in various bands over the years and there has always been a sacrifice to the collective but watching this duo there was a playful push and pull that interwove throughout the songs. I’m lucky in that I’m usually not the kind of drummer who sits and only focuses on the drummer at a show, I generally listen to the entire sound but with this duo I could afford to focus more on Brian as he played on his kit, rims and even hardware. I’m not sure I have ever had quite that level of musical freedom when playing on stage. Someone has to be the bedrock a band can build on and whilst in the groups I play with that is more often the bass that is usual, Brian was playing the kind of tricks that for me remain firmly stuck in the rehearsal space.

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What I also enjoyed was Brian talking about the importance of being open to possibility and creativity, which are the kind of words that are easy to make sound earnest and worthy but in this gig space felt warm and truthful as he discussed their first rehearsal.

A mention should also go to the theatricality of Dolls. There’s a reason they term it punk cabaret and not just because Amanda took the opportunity to sing Amsterdam from the staircase of the Troxy, which is a pretty amazing venue, although I’m a sucker for Art Deco, and is definitely sympathetic to the Dolls style.

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Then there are the songs. I’m a serial lover of moments and snatches of lyrics. I have loved the start of Delilah since I first heard it, and as much as I enjoyed the whole set, it’s those moments where I feel literal goosebumps that stick with me.

I found Amanda Palmer through Neil Gaiman and so it was a nicely circular moment when his choice of song for the band to play turned out to yield a personal highlight of the night. The way Amanda introduced the song Boston, the situation it was written in, and the way they performed it was damn near perfect. It’s not that I stood there relating to the lyrics personally, but the writer bits of my brain that wander round the world putting me in other people’s shoes and asking questions shut up and latched on to the story being told. I may not have shed the tears Amanda mentioned in the intro but I really wasn’t far away.

The Halloween spirit of trickery wandered onto the stage as ‘Oasis’ reformed with Andrew O’Neill retaking the stage to provide lead work and a certain writer, who had come to the gig as himself playing bass to boot.

Finally, after an evening of coming together and reminders of the importance of voting in the upcoming American elections the band finished up with Sing, bringing the whole venue together in song along with various guests lined up across the stage. A great couple of hours to celebrate with Amanda and Brian the eighteen years from when they first met.