camino, creation, life, my shit

19 Mistakes I made Publishing my First Book

Many people are self publishing these days. Aside from the Success stories of 50 shades of Grey, The Martian and a few others, is it possible to actually make a living from this?

I say NO! At least not until you have published many titles and have a solid fan base. My book has received positive feedback from anyone who has read it which is lovely but it has failed to spread into the world and make me rich!

Here, are the mistakes i think i made in publishing my first book.

  1. I failed to generate any reviews from any media. Aside from one review from a friends news site, I failed to get the book into the hands of the people who could have got the word out there.
  2. The content of the book was spread out over a measly 84 pages, much of which were illustrations.Was there enough literary content to make an impact strong enough to engage the reader to recommend it?
  3. I gave away approximately 50 copies of the book to people I thought may scream about it. I received a few private messages with feedback on the book, which done nothing to promote the book!
  4. I priced the book too low, at just £5, the profit was only £1.40 per book and therefore it was impossible to make enough to pay the contributors and make it profitable. (see point 20)
  5. My writing style was very messy. It was my first book and with little experience felt I was yet to find my voice. Luckily I had a friend who was an editor who made the whole thing make sense before we went to print.
  6. The spine on the book failed to print, and I only learned later that the minimum page count for spine printing is 130 pages. The book can never be recognised on a shelf, and looks more like a pamphlet from that angle.
  7. A team comprising of Welsh author, Welsh illustrator, Welsh graphic designer and Welsh editor then relied on an American company to manufacture and deliver the product. Shame we couldn’t complete the whole thing locally.
  8. I failed to get the book into any stockists or reviewers in Portugal or Spain where the events of the story took place. Or in Wales, the living place of the author.
  9. I failed to mention the Camino in the title of the book which has made it impossible to market it to people who are keen walkers or are familiar with the Camino de Santiago. I would definitely re-title the book to appeal to these people, as i am yet to sell one book to actual Camino walkers!
  10. The Web address that I printed on the inside cover is a dead link. I need to build a website.
  11. I did not arm my early adopters with the tools to spread the word about the book, and only gathered a few Amazon reviews. If they liked it, I just prayed they would recommend it, but a more solid plan could have helped it spread.
  12. The author should, as recommended by successful self-publishers, have a follow-up book within 3-4 months to keep the buzz going and build momentum. I am writing, but i dont have a book. I just have pages and pages of nonsensical rants with absolutely no thread – Brain Farts. (Now there’s a book idea!)
  13. We made the book paperback only, forcing physical copies of my work into the world, as real books are my preference. I now think it would have made more sense to release the Kindle and other E-book versions simultaneously, as many people read this way, the price is much lower and the profit MUCH bigger.
  14. Making my 1st book illustrated, although beautiful, made the whole process much more difficult, as we had many problems with formatting. Also it made the task of creating an e-book version much more difficult and contributed to the decision to postpone it.
  15. Having so many people involved in the book, unpaid, also extended the time frame as I was reliant on people for favours who had other more important things going on (ie. Paid work!)
  16. I had little capital to invest in marketing or promotion and compared to a publisher’s marketing clout my marketing plans were pathetic.
  17. Contacts in the world of publishing were minimal as I am a music producer. This means it was difficult to acquire advice or experience in this world. I failed to reach out to many people who had done it successfully. (Apart from Sue at Starships & Aliens and Derec at Opening Chapter – Thank You!)
  18. No Pre Promo, no buzz built, No launch party – locally or online, again just a facebook post on day of release. I relied solely on social media for promotion.
  19. I walked 200 miles, wrote 15,000 words and untold hours were spent by various friends editing, formatting, designing and illustrating the book. All in all making it a labour intensive project which has so far only netted approximately £300. Take away the cost of the free copies and i have so far made about £200. And i haven’t paid any contributors to the book!  Was it worth it?

 

There’s nothing more exciting than seeing your first book in print, and i would highly recommend it! When i ripped open the box and first cradled it like my first born, i squealed and popped like cheap bacon in my new tefal titanium pan.
The book is getting great reviews on Amazon and it has inspired a fewfriends to change things in their life and has made others laugh. Surely effecting people is more important than MONEY?

Huge thanks to everyone who has read it and had the time to share their thoughts or recommend it.

If you don’t have a copy yet, some Amazon sellers have now completely devalued my art, and for some reason you can grab a copy for £3.01, here!

massive thanks to Norris Nuvo, Laure Lajarthe, Paul Bevan, Cai Hughes and Eleanor Burns.

 

 

 

‘PAIN? It makes you more spiritual!’
-Thomaas the Astronomer

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camino, creation, life

Switzerland Day 3: Abort Mission

I woke up late and had completely missed the concert, the whole reason why I had flew to Switzerland. I drew a large JP on my map. The bottom end of the curl of the J started at a very large church and it curled up across a river and up along it’s bank, where the arc of the P curled seemed to be the easterly suburbs of the town. It was cold and raining. I entered the church. It was very dark with long strips of stained glass allowing strips of dust to dance diagonally over me. I walked down the centre aisle, some woman happily filmed me coming down on her ipad. I walked past her cursing under my breath. I walked to the back of the church to behind the alter. Up some steps and into a small raised section that seemed to trap the sound of the organ magnificently.
The organ was a huge collection of pipes raised on a platform in the roof at the opposite end of the church. The guy playing it was obviously practicing and was stopping and starting. It sounded very solemn and he barley changed notes. The reverberating bass of the organ shook my cold body. I wondered why I was here. Was I running away from my problems again?

I found a door for the tower. I seen people hanging out of it before I entered and there must be an amazing view of the city up there.
“Groups only,” said a chap on a near by desk.
“But it’s only me,” I replied.
“We cant allow it sorry.”
“But I am traveling alone, can’t I go up?”
“I am sorry Sir, I can’t allow you to go alone, you will have to find someone to climb it with,” said the man, looking back down to his papers.
“Why is that?” I asked.
There was a silence. He slowly rolled his eyes up, without moving his head, until they met mine
“Suicide.”
The word seemed to echo into nothing as he held my stare. I smiled and walked back out into the freezing cold rain.

Around the back of the church a distressed dog barked like a demented bear from the tease of it’s young owner. I looked over a wall. Why am I here? Basel. Oh yeh, I came to see a concert, get some space from my life and try to make a decision on a job offer in France this summer. To keep following the JP that I had penned over my map I would have to cross the wild gushing brown river far below. I climb down a few hundred steps and met a small tugboat at the riverbank. I threw the grimacing man a couple of Francs as the boat rocked wildly, I think he would have been happy with a Fisherman’s Friend, or a cwtch. He invited me into the cabin where a lovely fire burner crackled and a single solitary candle flickered. A couple joined us and the guy, the older of the two, constantly took photos of her and him, with the captain, and together, and on the deck and holding the steering stick. People just love photos of themselves, what’s the point I grumbled to myself pushing my hobbit feet further under the burner.

The boat spat us out on the other side of the river, where I zipped up my puffa jacket (90s chic) and walked into the spray and mist of the relentless Swiss winter smudge. I followed the stem of my J up the river bank for about 20 minutes. I was getting pretty wet now. I got to the second bridge and crossed over it to complete the left hand side of the hat of my J. Symbolism. What’s the point? I got this from Bill Drummond. One of my heroes. Right now I was thinking the guy must be fucking nuts. I was in a very nasty part of town, called St Johann. My stage name. Serendipity. It was empty. Who in their right mind would be out in this weather. Blocks of flats. Graffiti. ‘Fuck the police.’ Piles of bin bags. I walked to the far left corner of where the J ended on my map and there was an Anatomy Museum. I needed to get dry.
A young lump hunched inside a kiosk, frantically whacking his smart phone with his fat hands, covered in a large black cloak. He sensed a wet figure up ahead and paused his Candyflaps. He looked up towards me, his triple chin wobbled to a stand still, an emo hairdo gripped onto his acned round face. Five crooked tiny yellow teeth poked through his lips as he began his customer service routine.

“Ein a Klein a Kleng a Eeeben Skwelch en Stein”
“Sorry, English?”
“We Close in 20 minutes, I am sorry.”
“I see. Could I just have a quick look around? I have come a long way and didn’t realise you closed so soon.”
He looked me up and down. He must have felt for the rain-soaked marmoset that dripped on his tiled floor.
“Ok, I won’t charge you but at 4pm you will have to leave,” and he unpaused his game and the 8 bit music beeped out once more as he began slapping the machine again.
“Thank you sir.”
I squeaked my way across the shiny floor into a sterile room filled with large glass tanks. Each tank was filled with jars, bottles and smaller tanks. Mainly these smaller glass containers seemed to be housing some pretty freaky looking things. Anatomy, yes. But real body parts, preserved in formaldahyde? Isn’t that what they call it. Many young kids no older than 6 or 7 were quizzically studying, like old professors, dismembered organs, penises, eyes, throats and brains. I felt a  little feint.

I turned around after casually gazing at an arsehole in a wedding ring box and was confronted with the top half of a bloke, floating in an old rectangular tank. He appeared to be of a similar build and age to me, but it was hard to gage this as his head was missing. I was only judging it by counting the wrinkles on his bent old penis that was pushed against the glass. His skin was yellowing and creased, like an out of date pickled artichoke. His entire front section from collarbone to belly button had been cut open and the skin discarded, so we could see all of his organs. I could follow his entire digestive tract and wondered what his last meal was, and then how he died and where his head, legs and front skin had gone. I walked on. Next was a lady’s vagina. Just there in a jar. It looked wrong and rotting. Next up was a large cabinet of fetuses. They were in ascending order of age by weeks. I worked along the cabinet looking at the development of the human in the womb. Two girls, smartly dressed, were taking selfies with some of the dead fetuses. I worked my way up to 10 weeks. The age of my baby when we decided to terminate him.

A hard lump formed in my chest. I couldn’t breathe. He had fingers. And tiny closed eyes.
I flashed back to the year 2000. We were in a dirty gloomy room with the rustle of leaves and a smattering of broken light outside. My partner had to take some medication and wait. I’m not sure if something was put up inside her too. I don’t remember, the whole thing now seems like a dream in my mind, a nightmare. The events of that afternoon have haunted me ever since. She was in pain. Lying in the bed, holding her stomach. The entire pregnancy and termination was a secret. No one knew, I was 23 and didn’t want a kid and didn’t want my parents to know. I felt like if I had a baby my life would have been over. I begged her not to have it. She said if I showed one incline to wanting it she would keep it. I was a selfish cunt. I couldn’t imagine fatherhood. I was young and stupid and scared out of my mind. I didn’t think of her or my baby that was nestled up inside her warm womb, awaiting to meet us. All I thought of was myself. And I wanted freedom. No responsibility. I didn’t want this. This wasn’t the plan. We were fuck ups! In debt. Always off our faces on wine or ecstasy. Arguing and fighting. I cried. And she decided not to have it. I don’t know why I reacted like this. And I have been trying to forgive myself ever since.
So I was pacing around the room as my beloved laid doubled up in pain. The nurse came in and checked her a few times. After a few hours we headed into the little bathroom on the side of the bedroom, I placed a cardboard pan over the toilet and held her hand. A tear streamed down her cheek. A small amount of watery yellow blood exerted from her into the pan followed by a click. Something small. We looked and there it was. Our son. Our son we had just killed. He was as tiny as a thumbnail. Helpless and unloved. Murdered though selfishness. The worst dad in the world. The shock of seeing the fetus made us gasp and hold our mouths in silent despair. This image will never leave me, and neither will the ever building guilt that stemmed from my actions. I am Pro Choice, but if we give young people the choice, they need to be fully aware of the emotional and psychological long term effects it may have on them. Saying that, I know some people who have had an abortion and never let it bother them ever again. Maybe I am just a hypersensitive freak.
I honestly don’t remember what happened next. I think we called someone. And she went back into the bed. I do remember what I said next though. And this is probably the worst thing anyone could have ever said. The most heartless thing. I sat next to her and held her hand, and genuinely believed I was being helpful.
“Okay, now that’s sorted all we have to do know is pay off our debt and we can be happy again.”
Now, re-read that. The words of a sociopath. A Heartless cunt? But in my mind all that I wanted was the happiness of my love, and us to be the most sorted couple in the world, I genuinely thought I was doing the right thing in trying to sort everything out this way. I was playing God. What the fuck was I thinking. I had always said I would never abort up to that point. But when the time had come. Crunch time. Your chance to stick to your principles and show the world your integrity, I crumbled. I was the weakest and the most hypocritical. I felt I hadn’t started living and so took a life and caused untold pain to a poor innocent beautiful 21 year old girl. I turned her into a murderer. For my benefit.
I said no. Fuck you nature. We doing things my way.

And now I was stood there looking at a similar fetus in a glass box. Fingers. I could see it was a human. I fought back the tears. The guilt enveloped me. I felt like a cunt. A murderer of my own blood, and not the protector I should have been. My throat now jammed with that sharp dry lump. Had I killed my baby all those years ago so I could have freedom to come to a city and draw my initials in a map and walk around in the cold rain? For what? Surely life is about connection with other humans. I felt so alone. I thought of my ex with her husband and three kids in her home now. I wondered what they were doing. All sat around hugging on the sofa. And I was here. On my own. Cold and surrounded by cold dead body parts. I had got what I wanted. Freedom. And it was ugly. I followed the jars of fetuses up to the new born baby. And then I left. I aborted my JP map mission and escaped the rain. A small cafe offered warmth and hot tea. I got my pad out and wrote. And wrote. And wrote. Escaping my thoughts. Or at least processing them was vital now. I felt on the edge. The more I wrote the better I felt. The pain of my younger self’s decisions slowly evaporated as the pages filled. I flew home that night. Fuck traveling. I’m too skint and too many things to sort. Need to stop running and face some things. My flat was a disaster. Shit everywhere. No self respect. I threw my wet bag into the corner and dived into my unmade bed.

Then the dream came back.

I had a repetitive dream between 2002 and 2005/6. It would be most nights back then. It was terrifying. It would not go away. It would involve a dead body. And me as potential murderer / accomplice or at least me hiding the details of the incident. The body was usually buried. And I knew where. And I knew what happened. My state of mind was in turmoil as I was trying to keep it a secret, and praying no one would find out. This dream must have happened well over a hundred times. I would wake up and for ten minutes I would try and work out what I was going to do about this situation, and I would be petrified, and slowly it would dawn on me that it wasn’t real and I would feel a huge relief that I wasn’t about to get imprisoned and then get on with my day.

Mother’s day one year I decided to cycle over to my Mam’s house about 15 or so miles away and had ended up on the grounds of the hospital while on my way, I had phoned my Ex, and I don’t remember why, we occasionally chatted over the years after we had split. We were chatting away, it may have been Mother’s Day in 2005 or 6 or something. I suddenly realised I was outside the window, directly where we had committed the offense. I dropped the phone. I cried. A man passing by asked if I was ok. This was in real life. I was in tears, I cycled to my Mam and fell onto the sofa and slipped into the dream, and this was the final time I dreamed that dream, it resolved itself…. The body had been found. I had been caught. The police had found a ring on a finger poking out of the muddy grass where we had buried the young woman (this time). The body had been exhumed and I had admitted my part in it and I was being arrested. I woke up and felt a huge sense of relief that I no longer needed to keep this secret. I never dreamed the dream again. Ten years passed.

It had been a weird weekend in Basel, Switzerland and I was tired and glad of my own bed. The heating clicked on, the noise of the traffic melted and the smelly quilt disappeared from beneath my nose. I was on the mountain behind the house I grew up in, in the Welsh valleys, rusty cold shovel in hand. The pylon wires buzzed above us and a single crow crossed the moody sky. Me and my big brother were patting down a mound of earth in the rain. And he was saying to me that no one can ever find out about this. This is our secret. Never ever say a word. Forever. That was it. The old dream, it was back after a decade. It didn’t resolve either. Same details, different scenario, as it always was. I woke up. I laid there. And stared at the ceiling. And I wondered how we were going to get away with it.

 

 

 

If you want to read more of my travels then grab a copy of my first book for a fiver, here. Thanks.
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camino, life

Switzerland Day 2: Penile Dementia

A gentle knock, I opened my eyes and slowly remembered who I am and where I was. 7.30am. Basel. Jason. Oh, yeah. Shit.

I couldn’t have had more than two hours sleep. I had been worrying about a decision on a job offer in France for the summer. Sixteen weeks work for a basic wage, in the sun. I had tried to stave off the insomnia by reading Alan Mcgee’s book, and this had got me even more wound up. Here was a mouthy council estate bastard with an attitude, running amok in the music industry. He didn’t appear to have anything I didn’t, the only one difference being an unwavering self-belief (possibly fueled by cocaine). He surrounded himself with people he believed in and people who believed in him and he chased the dream. His balls were commendable. He would talk to any fucker and tell them what he wanted. I suppose it’s easy to ask for shit for your friends. He had failed with his own band, but was the master at managing his mates’ bands. This was the key difference – it’s very easy to let yourself down and be gentle on yourself – but would you fuck up your best mate’s career?
In becoming responsible for others the focus had shifted from himself and he was forced to fight in order to not look a cunt. And fight he did. Eventually ending up with the biggest band in the world on his label, all the major labels in a bidding war for his company and walking off with a cool 14 million.
And I’m contemplating going to France for a gardening job. For fuck sake, I had no bands or people to be responsible to, I was just coasting along. Was I running away from my dreams, my true vision. Going for the easy option? This shit had had my head spinning all night.
“Breakfast?” said Bram from behind the door.

I threw some clothes on and joined Bram at the dining table. He had served three perfectly poached eggs on toast and some chilled OJ. He opened the curtains of the living room to reveal a huge balcony poking out into a misty mountain. Rain fell upon the black fir tree tops that poked up through the mist, a feint outline of a large rocky mountain fell back into the grey sky. We quickly got dressed and headed out into the relentless rain. A short train and bus journey and we entered the Spa.

We headed into a bubbling hot outdoor pool that spread out into the misty day, surrounded by castle-type buildings and fir trees. We lazed around with lots of old people enjoy the lovely warm bubbles, somehow, despite the cold rain, our heads didn’t freeze over. After chatting for ages I was left wondering if Bram was looking for love, he seemed fairly desperate, a little lonely, I thought.

We walked down some wide steps into a huge cavernous paddling pool that nestled underground. It was lit beautifully, dim, red. People lazed like crocodiles in the water. Knees, noses and the occasional pot belly breaking the surface. We lay on our backs. The pool was full of a salt that enabled our bodies to float. It was impossible to sink. It was like being in space. No friction at all. We just floated there. As our ears entered the water our minds were met with beautiful violins. They were sending music under the water and it sounded gorgeous, water was an amazing conductor of sound, why had I never encountered this before. For half an hour or more we floated on a chorus of violins. Heaven must be like this.

On returning upstairs, we slipped through some plastic butcher flaps.
“Ok there’s no shorts allowed here,” said Bram. He  stood there completely naked pointing his Malaysian pepper shaker at me. He pushed his shorts into a small pigeon hole, and waddled off, his naked arse gyrating up the corridor.
“Um…………”
“Come on!”
I stumbled for a moment then whipped my shorts off and into the pigeon hole next to Bram’s and ran after him. We walked through a corridor. It was full of naked old men everywhere. I didn’t want to look but it was difficult, we were in the middle of a Swiss Cock Theme Park.
We entered a sauna. It was rammed. Two shelves of peni all around the walls. There was a little bit of room on the top shelf to our right. An old guy with a walrus moustache had his legs wide open on the shelf below. I made eye contact and politely pointed above him with my eyes. Then I looked down. It was shaped like a comedy cartoon bomb, thin at one end, long and tapering out to a really wide end, rounded off with a huge dense bell. He looked at my penis, lifted an eyebrow, and closed his legs as much as his huge dong would allow.
We squeezed past him with our button mushrooms and I’m sure he smirked as mine sailed past his temple. We sat down and took a look around, Cockfest. Jesus, I didn’t feel too comfortable, how the fuck did I end up here.
My Welsh hobbit penis was attracting a fair few glances and I couldn’t help looking at the  plethora of peckers around the room. Opposite torpedo cock was a shriveled member, an Alf’s nose; the Malaysian maggot was out of my sight line; there was one that looked like a butternut squash and a curly one up over in the far corner. I’m sure I had read in some girly magazine some time, that all penises were basically the same. No way oh say! Not here. This was Fraggle Cock. There was one with no shaft, just a bright pink round bellend, nothing else, like someone was blowing a tiny bubble with a hubba-bubba. There was one like a PG Tips pyramid tea bag. Next to him was an old long worn sock that looked like it had been filled with sprouts. Down on the shelf below to my right I spotted a woman. Phew. She was leaning back with her eyes closed. I noticed she had quite a mane of pubic hair, which also appeared in her armpits and shins. I looked around the room again, and it hit me. Every willy in the house had been shaved clean and splashed with Brut before being put on display here today. That is every willy except mine. I looked down at my hobbit muff. Holy shit. It was only me and that lady with any pubes. My penis was trying to climb back inside, shy just like it’s owner, it couldn’t handle all the attention. I closed my legs a bit, painfully aware of the glances my muff was getting. They didn’t think I was a German lady did they? A chubby hobbit like lady with a big hairy muff and some bumfluff between my adolescent tits? I tapped Bram and we rapidly bounced down the shelf and out of the sauna. I breathed a sigh of relief. Bram, with his gyrating spotty cheeks, led the way through another door and outside into the rain. I followed sheepishly.

I looked up ahead, there were several wooden huts. No doubt full of more bald Swiss genitals proudly on display, even Bram’s had been plucked, I noticed!
Bram sharply turned back, the cold and rain was too much for him and he headed back in doors. My feet were stinging on the cold concrete floor. The rain icy and painful hit every part of my body. What a strange sensation. I stood there naked in the rain. I don’t think I had ever done this, I started singing that Blue Pearl track from the nineties. Not realising while bopping along that I looked nothing like the Amazonian beauties who were gyrating in the video for it. More like a Moomin who’d lost his pants.

It was as if all the comedy cocks I had drawn in my French book in school had come to life and came to live in this park in Basel. Gaggles of peni stood in semi circles facing each other, arms folded, genitals almost kissing as they chatted away, nonchalantly. I guess it’s normal here, this is everyday life! Like popping down the shop for us. Some stray peni strolled past and others rested on benches or danced in the outdoor showers up ahead.
I stood there on my own, chubby and white, hair all over the place with a perplexed look in my eye, naked as the day I was born. This was the REAL ME. Bow down baldy cocked mother fuckers! She-Male Hobbit Muff has arrived!
Hiya!
I pulled open a large wooden door and stepped into the hottest room in the universe. I think it may have been build around the mouth of a volcano. I sat down next to a guy who was dripping pints of sweat into a large towel, while more pints dripped at his feet. A lady with massive round breasts lay on her back to the other side of me, with her knees up. Every once in a while she would open her glistening legs and let out a puff of Aroma D’Herbs Des Alpes. Sweat began to gather all over me. I was trying to work out what temperature my penis needed to be for it to look it’s normal flaccid self. Too cold it disappears and too hot it looks like a bacon frazzle made of putty. As I looked down it seemed to be coming back to life. Not only the temperature was helping, but also there was no one looking at him here. This was a small darkened room. And the fire in the middle obscured any peeping freaks.
The sweaty guy next to me started to rub himself all over. He started caressing his droopy wet thighs, then his long tits and then his droopy face. It was squelching and dripping all over the place. I couldn’t cope. I ran for the door. On contact with the freezing rain my nob disappeared instantly and I somehow was now sporting an erect foreskin. Work that one out. A nipple. If only i had some viagra i may have been able to make it 3d again. I stepped into an outdoor shower and was knocked back by a torrent of ice water. FUCK THIS!

I headed back for the door where Bram had disappeared.

I paused. There it was. In the flesh. Stretched over a bench, leaning back, chatting to an older lady, was the biggest cock I have ever seen in my entire life time. Now, let’s get one thing straight, I ain’t seen that many in my life, in the flesh, and I have no interest in them, it’s just in this place, I was surrounded!

Rhino Cock. His legs were wide open and his arms spread wide across the back of the bench. The woman stood next to him with her muff, hypnotised. They chatted away.
Imagine you got a hefty set of bolt cutters and cut about a metre off of an adult elephant’s trunk. This was something like it. Maybe God had made a mistake: somewhere out there in the African desert is a fully grown elephant with a tiny human penis for a trunk and all his mates are laughing at him and pointing.
But the dude on the bench didn’t give a fuck. He was looking pretty damn satisfied with his heffalump. He looked up at me. I was frozen. A cherub in the rain. I thought about peeing, you know, and pretending to be one of those fountains. Our eyes locked. On each other’s manhood. His lady friend brought her eye line up from his pecker and slowly locked on to mine. I waved! Then ran.
Through the door I came panting. Bram lay on a lounger reading a magazine, his bald shroom instantly calming me.

Later on I was so tired from my Spa experience and the insane bout of insomnia last night, that I managed to sleep though most of the concert that I had come to Switzerland to see. The first part was hours of a Punjabi chanting, I drifted off into genital-free dreams. Phew. I headed off to the Jean Tinguely museum with some friends I had met, finding that his Dance of Death installation was no longer on display. I felt it was part of the reason why I had come to Switzerland. A fire had broken out on the farm next door to Jean’s house many years ago, and all of the family – his neighbours – had died. Many months later Jean had collected the debris and left over farm machinery and made an animatronic sculpture of deathly figures, that danced. I was OK with it thought, too tired to worry. I looked at the final piece in the museum, in large writing ‘DO NOT TOUCH’, and below it a huge thick bent penis hung from the wall. Arrrrgh!
I dreamily snoozed through part two of the concert, which also entailed an hour lecture, in fucking German.
On climbing into my bed that night I collapsed into a deep empty sleep. Nothing. No worry, no thinking, just blackness. Tomorrow was another day of live music from Scelsi. I was looking forward to it. But for now I was happy to escape the peni.

 

if you like what you read, grab a copy of my 1st book for a fiver, here.

 

 

 

 

 

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Switzerland Day 1: A Bitter Distance

I had been ill since Boxing Day. I thought I had recovered three separate times, only for it to hit me again, like a rabbit punch from Muhammed Ali, and get me hanging off the ropes reaching for my dressing gown. I was depressed and needed a break.
Every flight to Europe seemed to be twenty quid on Easyjet so I decided to head out to a Festival celebrating the work of my favourite composer, Scelsi. The alarm had failed to wake me. It was 8.59am, the train to Bristol airport was 9.30 and I hadn’t packed and had hardly slept a blink.
Luckily, I had scored a bed for the weekend from the popular traveler’s website, Couchsurfers. I was going to stay with a chap who, he had said in his message, was lonely. A Malaysian geezer called Bram. As is customary in the Couchsurfing community, it would be considered good manners to cook a typical Welsh dish for Bram tonight. Crumpets? Cheese on toast? Lava-bread and Cockles? I’ll decide later, I thought.

I scraped half the bum-fluff off my face with an old blunt razor; forced the least smelly clothes off my bedroom floor into my little rucksack along with books, pads and pencils; drank a bowl of cold watery porridge and off to Switzerland I went. I had a fartful of money and a loose plan. I knew Sunday night I was not going to want to board that flight home, back to my boring life in Cardiff, in the dead of winter, and I might well not. My life had become like a sink of cold dirty dish water, blocked up with soggy lumps of old toast. I cleaned my teeth in the train bathroom, sat back and got stuck into some reading.

After all the rushing, I arrived at Bristol airport with lots of time to spare. I bought the Telegraph which included a free bottle of water.. The Telegraph is SHIT, and the comedy size pages make it impossible for my arms to hold it out far enough to read. Like a frustrated T-Rex I gave up, gathered up all the scattered and crumpled pages and binned the fucking lot in a big ball of paparazzi bollocks.

I threw all my money to a grumpy woman behind a counter. He hair was so tightly scraped back that the her fringe was on the back of her neck and her nose directly on the top of her head. She refused to crack a smile on her grumpy forehead, as she counted my measly amount of Swiss Francs back to me. Ripped off.
I was stripped to my pants by a five foot smiley security guard, good job I put some on this morning. I looked at the shelves of WH Smith. ‘Chav Punk Hobbit‘, my first and only book, needs to be here, I thought. People could read it on their flight, it’s the perfect book for that! Instead, I was confronted with every word Jon Ronson has ever written. Shelf upon shelf of his shit. Last night I had read a Guardian article he had written about his all-expenses-paid trip to Lapland for his son to meet Father Christmas. It made me want to rip my eyes out and it was launched against the far corner of my bedroom wall, joining the ever growing shit pile, along with Harry Potter and Dalai Lama. Jon’s ‘Psychopath Test’ was a little better but I was yet to read his big hit, ‘The Men Who Stare At Goats’, and after that overly cute, pompous Santa shit I was unlikely to bother. I feel a lot of his real life stories are so lamely hyped up to try and make his middle-class audience titter while sipping their champers reclined in their roomy first class seats. He seemed to have one strategy: fly around the world, on expenses, and interview people who are more interesting than he, and then make himself out to be the hilarious outside observer. It don’t cut it for me. What does he actually do? FUCK ALL. Shit, am I a little bitter? Yeah, probably. I don’t know how to get my book – that attempts to illicit the same effect but upon the chavs and benefit cheats in Ryanair cattle class – onto the shelves of WH Smith at Bristol Airport. That wild jealous beast was momentarily awoken, but in my progressing years, I had the skills in my armoury to tame the bastard. I simply walked off frothing at the mouth whispering expletives into mid air, looking like a slightly lost rabies victim.

Trundling along, the airport was dead, I got to my gate, no one there, no wonder those flights are so cheap this weekend, I thought, no one is flying! The lady at the desk hurried me along as, in fact, the plane was full and they were waiting for one more passenger. Me. The flight attendant asked me if I minded moving to a a full three seats to myself, I agree and stretch out. She then informs me that I am in control of the emergency exit. When this plane erupts into a ball of flames and we are sent screaming through the air in a vertical nose dive into the ocean, it’s my job to open the door, inflate the slide and save everybody. I politely agreed.

A few moments later a kid, in the arms of it’s mother, decided to kick the living shit out of the back of my seat, sending me into an epileptic sit down river dance. It then sang up and down it’s octaves until it tuned its shrieking scream of all screams into the exact frequency that my brain is programmed to launch my system into a state of frenzy. I clenched my teeth. I could taste blood.

I frantically tried to skim a copy of The Independent from my bag and ignore the fat toddler screaming beast thing that was now grabbing at the back of my head. I managed to get through an article that made the point that the ultimate key to happiness lies in the act of selfless, altruistic giving. It was a guarantee for instant happiness, everyone a winner.
The sun beat upon my face through the tiny dusty oblong window. The big wing poked out into the cloud-tiled heaven, written on the back it in large print, DO NOT WALK HERE. I sat back and opened my Alan McGee book. He told me how his dad beat the shit out of him at a young age and how he had nowhere to run. He told of this feeling of no escape had led to him being argumentative, hedonistic, self-destructive, provocative and occasionally down right nasty. I could relate with these feelings. I had been all of these, but surely it couldn’t have derived from the occasional wallop my dad would dish out when I was a kid? Or the slipper across the arse / head from Mam?

The kid screams now pierced my cranium and fingered my brain, and I somehow managed to quash my desire to drop kick it up the plane. The kid, that is, not my brain, although right now, either would do. Altruism, I thought, agreeing with the Independent article: selflessly relieving this poor Mum from her agony, would indeed make me instantly happier. Everyone’s a winner!

Sheet rain welcomed me to Basel. Colder than Wales. Great. I boarded a bus behind a bunch of giggly fat old Brits in panamas who looked like they were on their first ever holiday. I located a supermarket near central and panic bought a pile of ingredients.

Bram tapped me on the shoulder at the train station. He was short. had soft sad eyes and spoke very gently. We boarded a busy fast train and within minutes were entering his apartment. The place was huge. This was a far cry from the cat piss puddle on a pull out smelly sofa I had woken up on in France, with a stinking hangover, during my last Couchsurfing experience. This was pure luxury. He showed me around. Open plan, huge 3 bed apartment. HUGE. The floor was black slate and completely heated throughout. The central heating came through the floor, woah. The sofa was about the size of my bedroom back home. He showed me to my room. My own room! Spotless. Nothing was out of place. Except me.
We hung out in the living room and got to know each other. He had split with his wife just a few months previously and she had moved back to Malaysia, now he was alone in this massive place. He was a scientist, a researcher of the kidney. This seemed significant to our meeting somehow, but I couldn’t place my finger on why.
Then it was time. I am a little mental in the kitchen. And need to be left alone. And then the crazy mess I leave behind I expect to be cleaned by the person I have so expertly fed. I chopped and diced and tossed and stirred. Heat was sizzling and there was shit everywhere. 20 minutes later Bram took his seat, as I presented our meal. One omelette each, but this omelette was different. It was fucking huge, with rings of leak, and covered in grated goat’s cheese and then fluffed up like a souffle under the grill. In between us, a bowl of stir fried peppers, mushroom and green beans with soy sauce and some bread. I hadn’t brought the wine, not only was I currently tee total but also the food alone had smashed in half of my weekend budget! This city was more expensive than London.

Bram loved the food and we retired to the comedy size sofa. I could see him in the distance. He offered to take me to his spa in the morning, after I mentioned my love of swimming. I was falling asleep. I got off to bed after a lovely hot shower and crisp clean towels. I slotted my clean body between the beautiful blankets and then drifted off into a paranoic state of worry and  stayed awake all night.

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Camino Portugues Day 11

Teo – Santiago : 13 Km


Hungover. Everyone gone. I raided the fridge and headed out into the pouring rain.
Just 13 Km today maybe i’ll make the Mass at Santiago Cathedral.

I walked and walked and walked. 13km my arse. I hit the outskirts of Santiago and it kept on going. Where the fuck did these arrows finish. My feet were soggy and i was tired.

Crows circled the grey skies around the Gothic spirals of the Cathedral. The nun sung spookily to a packed out service and i shuffled through the people and slumped onto the floor with my smelly bag and dead laptop. I closed my eyes.

Was i supposed to feel emotional? I know when i arrived here in 2004 after walking the 800Km Camino Frances a tear rolled down my reddened fat cheek as the organ hit its 1st bassy chord. But today after just 11 days walking, i was feeling, i dunno. I guess the hangover didnt help. I was tired. Soggy. Pissed off. The huge cold cathedral offered no warmth to my heart or soul.

“Jathon” whispered a voice, as a tiny hand touched my shoulder.
“Heeey.” I inaudibly hummed as i just about turned round…
It was Esther smiling her big Spanish smile.. she looked refreshed and bent down to join the pathetic soggy lump that was me.

I couldn’t be bothered to speak. All i wanted was a bed. A Priest started chanting some weird monk type stuff real quiet and a baby cried behind me.

“I’ll meet you at 5pm by the Cathedral Entrance.” was about all i could muster up.

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Got a bed. TRIED to sleep. Some Italian guy had a 1 hour animated conversation with his Mum on his iphone, so happy he finished the Camino, crying…. GRRR. So much for that….

We had a coffee in the town. It was swarming with the biggest pile of tourist shit all built around St James and the Camino. The old town was nice.. but yeh i was stuck in a tourist trap.. Everything was expensive. WE talked lots of how Esther was lost and needed to get the headspace to think things through. She had the perfect life back home but for some reason was unhappy. She didn’t know why. I was surprised as to how open she was with me. I wondered if all the Lone Pilgrims were lost.

She invited me to dine with her at her hotel. It was the one next to the Cathedral, 5 star, there were stretch limos out front and horses and carriages. Several wrinkly men in white robes were being escorted in. Women in gowns and diamonds. Men in suits. More religious looking people in robes. And then an old dude draped in a purple curtain.

I weaved between the gaggle of rich weirdos with my toe poking thru the hole my trainer and my muddy combats tucked into my socks. My TK Maxx raincoat hugged my cold body, the sleep crusted in the corners of my eyes and my hair stuck up in a sleepy mess..

We ordered the finest food you can eat in Galicia while a guitarist weebled sweet harmonics into the atmosphere between us. We gulped wine and talked and laughed. I ordered another vino as her husband paid for the lot on his credit card over the phone.

I spent the night listening to a guy sleeping on the bed above me snore like a diplodocus with the flu.

I had made it. Santiago. This was it. I had arrived.
The destination didn’t move me a great deal. Crazy walkers walked for miles to reach this place for centuries. But it’s not the destination that matters i thought. I had heard people along The Way say that the Camino could be a metaphor for life. Your life. And everyone must walk their own Camino. No two caminos are the same. One thing ringed in my mind while lying here:

It’s The Journey That Counts.

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Camino Portugues Day 10

Pontverda – Teo : 25 Km




Walking has a way of ripping you into the moment. Empty sparse landscapes; no people; nothing, alone. What you find though is that it`s hard to think, as the simple repetitive act of putting one foot in front of the other, and following yellow painted arrows across beautiful wet countries forces you into the moment and empties your mind. Kind of in the way they talk about in meditation but this pulls you into the moment without no hippy nonthinking ability from you. It’s a great place to be and all the important encounters of the day are all put into separate drawers in your mind and filed away at night as you sleep – just before you enter dream mode. This is the way it was supposed to be. Thinking can be bad for you!

And now the only thing that stopped me from being in the moment, my laptop…..  was dead.
This is it! The Universe was FORCING me into the moment. Really the past and future only exist in our mind. So by shushing your mind you are in the moment.

The sun tried to peak out of the eerie Galician mist. Around a corner a sunray beamed onto a rock next to a lovely tiny waterfall where, munching through a slab of chocolate, sat Thomaas the Astronomer!

I told him about my writing up of my Camino on my blog and how he featured in it.
“Eeeeers. Why bother?” he replied, “No one gives a shit! Your grandkids won’t give a shit, your friends will be too busy to give a shit, I don’t give a shit and in a coupla weeks you wont even give a shit! Eaars”

His excited Yes – “Yeeeeeeash!!” of the other day had calmed into “Ears”. Like the way English people say Ears.

I told him of my laptop disaster and, thinking of his rant of how computers were fucking up the world the other day, thought he would respond with some negative quip. I was shocked to see genuine concern on his face as he tossed me a slab of chocolate;;; “Izfor Youu”
i scoffed the lot as i rubbed more cream into my bulbous varicose looking leg.
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We tucked our brollies into the bucket by the door as a huge ball of a human rolled over to us and threw two bowls of piping hot soup in front of us. This perfectly round barman was hairy on his chins n arms, and slotted into oily dungarees – emitting a moldy stench.

“Heil Hitler!” shouted Thomaas throwing his arm in the air:
The perfectly round barman and his three round friends stopped and looked over in shock and Thomaas excitedly burst into an animated monologue about how the cabbage in our soup was popularized by Hitler and actually prevents cancer. “Yeeeeears. Its why we are called Crouts!”
“I thought you were South African?”
“I’m a citizen of the Universe!! Ears.”

Back in to the relentless rain and for several more hours he spoke his special kind of fucked up wisdom at me…

How today was Friday 13th, and was one of the most common phobias, to the point where whole harbours of boats would not sail. It is known as Triskaedekaphobia.

Thomaas had been building up the importance of River Ulla which we would pass today. This was the river that the angels and the apostles of Saint James pushed the stone tomb up to take his remains to Santiago. It was a biblical and ancient story and a sacred river, I looked forward to crossing it.

He spoke of Hannibal – the greatest military commander in history. And of how in about 200 B.C. he took 37 elephants across Europe and over the alps to shock attack Rome. Thomaas had retraced his steps on foot recently.

And about cutting the Gordian knot – a metaphor for solving tricky problems by cheating or thinking outside the box. How Aristotle’s student Alexander had solved the knot probem. It was said whoever could untie the knot would rule all of Asia. Many tried and failed. Then Alexander the Great simply took his sword and cut straight through it.

He told me how history was written by the victors. And therefore probably everything we knew was fiction, written to make the victors look good.

He also said how no real great businessmen in history had ever made money a goal in their vision of changing the world.

I recalled a line from The Teachings of Don Juan something about knowledge not being knowledge unless it has a use to you.

We stepped onto the bridge over River Ulla. and.. well, um, the sacred river was ….ugly. A big factory on the other side bellowed yellow smoke out into the grey day as the stinking river spued its mess below us. It looked a bit like Newport where i grew up. but more desolate and desperate. Ugly. This was a shit hole.

“What makes you truly happy?”
“Life is not about happinezz Jazon, What is this preoccupation you have wiz Joy? It is not important. Eeeeeears.”
“Why are you walking the Camino?”
“I am a Theoligian.”

I dared not tell him how, that when he asked me to pray for him, I had asked the Universe to send him a lovely Spanish wife to show him happiness(!)

Through a drizzly grey empty depressing looking fairground, through rows of knobbly trees and then i sat on a wall in the dodgy town of Padron.  My legs hurt and i was cold, shadows sloped behind corners eyeing me up. Thomaas told me he would leave me now and find a hotel and tomorrow we would arrive in Santiago but statistically the chances are we would not see each other again. I rubbed my leg and moaned something about my laptop and he cracked a wicked smile and blurted out his favourite line “It makes you more Spiritual!!” before he turned round and disappeared into the fog forever.

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I decided to walk on out of Padron to the next town but it was getting late and just kept on raining. Finally after another two and a half hours i reached the tiny village of Teo.

I took a glass of the house red from a tiny woman in a tiny bar. The doors swung open like in cowboy films and in from the torrential black rain strutted a mysterious dark triangular looking figure. Everything was pointy. His big white pointed quiff. His protruding pointy chin. His strong isoscoles nose. His goaty. His thin pointy moustache. His arms n legs were tapered and even his torso was a equalateral triangle. His pointy boots finished off the pointy man.
He leaned on the bar clicked his fingers and lit up a pointy cigarette. In a puff of smoke he threw back his triangular head swigged down his wine and his pointed adams apple rose up to his chin and then dropped back down under his triangle collars with a gulp. Leo Vignola from Uruguay, now living in Galicia and playing the blues for a living.

He demanded to buy me a drink and then took me to his house down the road. A crazy little place where a fire burner crackled in the gloomy dusty den. He filled up a random bottle to the brim from a old battered looking barrel; and whacked a cork in it with the palm of his hand. “For your final day of the Camino!!”, he barked with a wild massive dairylea grin… he looked like the singer from Gogol Bordello. He winked and shook my hand vigorously for about 8 minutes almost dislocating my shoulder,  grinning and staring at me, winking occasionally.
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At the albergue i got drunk into the early hours with a German guy who looked like the plasticine man Morph. He couldn’t speak a word of English but could sing “Jingle Bells” perfectly and jump round the room, this guy was happy, and completely nuts.

13 Km to Santiago!

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Camino Portugues Day 9

Pontverde – Caldas De Rais : 22 Km

I woke up with the usual rustling n zipping and instead of waiting for everyone to fuck off as i normally did to get some kip, i got up and headed out into the sun before the noisy bastards. I was so excited about writing that i flipped open Smaragda, my trusty Mac laptop in the first cafe i found and began to type furiously while scoffing sweet shit and cafe con leches.

After 5 hours i thought i better get a move on and headed out with the umberella in hand, into the unkown again. I thought about what i had just wrote and wanted to change it immediately. I had more to say. And wanted to change the way I had said certain things. It was live on the blog and people were reading it but it was all wrong. Ah fuck. I thought about it more and more and was obsessing with all i wanted to say.

I completely ignored my lessons that were rammed into my brain during my 7 hour rainy grey onslaught yesterday. The lessons of appreciating the moment. And now the weather was better, as i dreamed of yesterday, and  i was hardly aware. The sun shined and I walked as quick as i could. Kept on going. All i wanted was a Wi Fi connection so i could type more. Nothing for hours. More dogs on chains barked like rabid fucking wolves at me through large gates. In my frustration I began to bark back at them and try and scare them off. This only served to make them more and more angry and try harder to ecsape to eat me.

Three bars, 2 cafes, still no WiFi. Today was getting on my tits. I just wanted to write. I ingored all the scenery and people and just kept trying to get there. Fuck the journey get me to the WIFI!!!

I started to drift off after a few boring hours and began to think of technical ability in creativity. And how my writing and my music always seemed better when i just blurted it out with no respect for technique. Trying to capture something. The essence of something. I thought it`s far more important to capture the spirit of something than to be technically brilliant at something. But then how do you create or summon a spirit. Spirituality. Has to be the essence of something. I remembered Thomaas saying about my hurting legs how it would make me more spiritual. So is Pain the creator of Spirit?

Then from around a corner came hurtling two dogs who were on the lose. No chains. No gates. No protection for meee! FUCK!! they came straight for me. Going for one ankle each – their jaws salivating and barking like fucking beasts from hell. I must admit they werent the biggest dogs i ever seen. OK. They were tiny. But that aint the point! They were ANGRY and had sumthing to prove! As if all the other dogs in the region had howled through the hills and communicated that i had been barking back at them all day. These little fuckin insane slippers with jaws were now ready to make me pay.

I flipped around my umberella and swung it wide between the two little fucks. They kept barking but it was becoming more of a roar, like an angry pair of bears or somthing. I shat myself! And starting shouting FUCK OFF YA CUNTS and other random English abuse at them. Being Spanish dogs they probably had no idea what i was saying…

Another wide swing and as i brought the brolly up the fucker on the right darted for my ankle. i brought it down and clipped him right on the end of his nose with the bend of the brolly handle. He yelped a pussylike squeek and darted off around the corner. His freind still roaring at me. I kept swinging the umberella and screaming like a woman til he edged off backwards in the direction of his friend. My heart was pumping blood round my shit scared shaking body. I composed myself, muttering “Little Fuckers” as I turned round to get out of there. I almost walked into a tiny Spanish granny who was stood speachless having witnessed me jumping round like a bellend with an umberalla screaming at two chihuahuas.

“Olaaa!” I offered loudly
“Ola” came the stiff quiet response as i shuffled off.

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CAFE!!! WITH WIFI! and BOCAFUCKINGDILLOS! and COFFEE!
in there! sat down. was served the biggest bocadillo known to mankind.

A bocadillo is basically a sandwich. a huge sandwich. dry. no butter. no fillings except a dried piece of thin dark red meat slapped in there. like a rotten minging toungue in the middle of a crusty old loaf. I gulped it down trying to whet my pimply dry white mouth inbetween bites with the miniscule cup of coffee i was served.

I flipped open Smaragda The Laptop, ready to WRITE!

Two policemen walked in and my laptop started having a spack attack. Could it be their equipment i thought. I waited til they went. Then again the screen went nuts.. like never before.. letters and numbers all over the screen. things going bananans. then it just died.

OH. FUCK.

Now this is my intrument on stage with the band. It´s made thousands of people dance and that´s it´s main use. It´s also my communication device for keeping in touch with people. My production tool. My accounts. My diary. My Cinema. My bank. My porn beatermax. My type writer. My Skype machine. My flyer maker. My video maker. My marketing machine. My library. My… my…. My fuckin everything basically. . PLEASE DON´T FUCKING DIE!!!

i tried everyting. i ended up with just a flashing question mark on the screen everytime i tried to switch it on.

There was a big lesson for me to learn here. This happened for a reason. and i knew it.

At the albergue i drank lots of lager and was half asleep and half crying draped over an arm chair as the chorus of snores and guffs fluttered all over me.

“Technique doesn`t come into it. I deal in emotions.” -Jimmy Page

38Km to Santiago!

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