Tuesday the 25th of October 2022
The Scissorman has returned.
The Elderly Gentleman
Tuesday the 25th of October 2022
The Scissorman has returned.
The Elderly Gentleman
Sunday the 23rd of October 2022
I hate continuity.
Given a choice, I would always rather my right hand never knew what my left hand was doing. As a child, I would often steal another child’s glove. In that way I could wear two gloves that were not a pair. I would do this in the hope that neither hand would know what the other was doing. Sadly, I learnt this did not work. But instead of embracing this failure as some sort of life lesson, I have continued through the years trying to discover new ways for my left hand to not know what my right hand is doing, or come to that matter, for my right hand to not know what my left hand is doing.
One of the reasons why I used to love making patchwork quilts is that I could cut a square out of the back of my paisley patterned kaftan…
And then cut a square out of the inside leg of my father’s pinstripe suit.
And then cut a square out of a pleat in my sisters Drummond tartan kilt.
And then cut a square out of the sleeve of my brother’s favourite shirt.
And sew all four of these squares together.
But it would not stop there.
While I was in the swimming pool changing rooms and nobody was looking, I would cut a square out of some random persons jacket lining that was hanging on a peg.
And then at school I would cut a square out of an anonymous blazer while it was being used as a goal post.
And on and on it would go, sewing each new square together, until I had the whole quilt made.
I never completed that patchwork quilt. My teenage years arrived and there were new tempting fences to teardown, or at least squeeze through a crack in.
One of these fences, was spending stolen hours in bookshops, where I would select random books from a shelf near the back of the shop and using my pen, boldly REDACT certain words or even lines, from the book. I wondered how this might change the flow of the narrative for some future reader. For some reason I was never drawn to actually ripping out a page. Maybe this was because I feared the book seller might hear the page being ripped, thus become aware of my attempts to wipe clean a random slate of history.
As I got older, and less bold, I began to just REDACT books that I had on my shelf at home. It started with On The Road, but I had soon done the whole Sexus, Plexus, Nexus trilogy. I think this was the first signalling of my mistrust of the memoir driven book form. And once I began to write books myself, I would only REDACT words and sentences from the books on my shelf that I had written. In my head this was taking self-harm to some high conceptual art form, that only I could appreciate.
It was around then that I used to have fantasies of Damien Hirst breaking into the Saatchi Gallery with a crossbow. And then Damien would fire a bolt from the crossbow into the casing of The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living. And then as the formaldehyde began to flow across the floor of the gallery, Damien would disappear back into the night. And no one would ever know it was him that had done it. But sadly, the reality was that Damien Hirst did not do this, instead he just put all his energy into becoming the richest artist in the land.
The great thing about Jesus is, that he never wrote a word of it down. You write more than one word down and all your vanity is revealed.
When Boris Johnson first resigned back in July, or was it June? I started to listen to the podcast The Rest is Politics, up until then I had only been listening to The Rest is History. And then when The News Agents podcast was launched at the end of August, I could not stop myself from listening to that as well.
I didn’t miss and episode of either.
But the more I listened the more I became disillusioned by them.
As much as I wanted to hear what Alistair Campbell, Rory Stewart, Emily Maitlis, Jon Sopel and Lewis Goodall had to say, I could not help but be more disgusted at them than the politicians they were supposedly calling to account. They seemed to be more interested in entertaining us than informing us.
But worse than that, far worse, was the fact that they were themselves reading out the adverts for the podcast’s sponsors. The first thing I imagined was watching The Avengers on the TV when I was in my early teens and when it got the adverts (the commercial breaks) it would be Emma Peel and Steed stopping whatever they were doing attempting to entrap the baddies, and then talking direct to the camera as if trying to sell us Smith’s Crisps or Player’s Navy Cut cigarettes.
Or even worse…
If we are to follow the current libertarian approach to running a country…
Every five minutes during Prime Minister Questions, between noon and 1pm on a Wednesday, either the leader of the opposition or the Prime Minister of the Month would stop what they were saying and turn to the camera and quote some lines they had learnt by heart. These lines learnt by heart being an advert for Amazon or Tesla cars or whoever it was that had got the sponsorship deal for Prime Minister’s Questions that season. And if they did not do it properly, The Speaker for the House would fine them on the spot.
And then I got into wanting to REDACT the words coming out of Alistair Campbell’s mouth every time he attempted to say the words ‘Tony Blair’ or anybody else famous he had ever met.
Emma Peel and Steed’s job is to catch the baddie. As in its Alistair Campbell. Rory Stewart, Emily Maitlis, Jon Sopel and Lewis Goodall’s job to call the politician of day to account not sell us stuff. It makes a mockery of the whole thing.
Then at 13:39 last Thursday morning, just when the news alert came up on my phone that Lizz Truss had resigned, a fully formed idea came up in my head. I would write a novel about a young footballer from Bolivia. He is only 19, but he is already the greatest footballer in the world. Probably the greatest footballer that had ever been. All the big European clubs want to sign him. They were all offering his agent millions. But…
This young lad from Bolivia had different ideas, he saw the world in a different way. He told these clubs – from Barcelona to Manchester City, from Bayern Munich to Paris Saint Germain – he would only sign to play for them, if…
His contract stated clearly, he would not wear any kit with a sponsor’s names upon it. And if that meant he had to accept a far lower wage so, be it. As in, whatever club was to sign him, were to sign him for his footballing skills and not for whatever branding they could attach to him.
Of course, none of those major European clubs would accept this, thus he would end up signing for some club in Bulgaria. But that club’s fortunes on the football pitch began to rise and rise. And this young player’s status
began would begin to rise and rise. He would be the hero of the moment. Other players in various clubs in all of the leagues would begin began to make similar demands. And bit by bit football became would become the people’s game once again. And not just another form of global capitalism that did not give a fuck.
By the time I was listening to The Rest is Politics that evening, while doing the washing up, I was wondering about the young players back story. I mean all classic heroes are orphans as in Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Harry Potter, The Baudelaires etc etc. So, he had to be an orphan.
Then I pushed it further…
I had to make it more contemporary.
This young lad was not a lad at all, he was a They, and this They had started life as a girl, but at the age of twelve, when she was told she could no longer play in a boys’ football team, and her parents had been killed in some climate change flash flooding disaster, she ran away from all her pain and small town constraints, as only orphans in stories do. And she arrived in La Paz, as in Bolivia’s capital city. And in La Paz she lived on the streets. And it was there on those streets that she repositioned herself as a They. And she found a Sunday morning football team to play for. And she hid the fact from them that she had been born a girl. And her skills outshone all the boys in all the teams in all the Sunday morning leagues across the city of La Paz. And in her new Sunday morning football club, no one knew she had been a born a girl as they all assumed she was a boy. And did not even know she was a They, because in Bolivia back in 2017, they did not know what Theys were. And so, it goes. Until the end of the story, when our Hero, lifts the European Cupand her shirt for Their Bulgarian side and reveals to the world that they are a They. The End.
When I woke up the next morning, I knew I did not have it in me to write this novel. And if this were to be a novel, it should be written by some young They, who loves football. As in not a man who is fast approaching his 70th birthday and is not that bothered about football.
So, I put all that to one side and got on with pulling the 193 names from the hat made from yesterday morning’s Financial Times. Then spent the rest of the day sending out all the emails to all those that are going to write my memoir.
It was only after I had hit send on the last of these emails that another thought presented itself to me, thus the whole patchwork quilt thing at the beginning of this letter to you. For this whole 70 memoir thing to work, there must be no continuity between all of the chapters contained within it. If I detect continuity, I will, whatever the actual quality of the writing, have to REDACT it.
Because I love to REDACT and I loathe the way that Alistair Campbell is always referencing his time with Tony in Number Ten, any mention of The KLF or money burning in any of these patches in my memoir, will sorely tempt me to REDACT them totally. I mean those two subjects have already been overmined / fracked to extinction elsewhere on the cultural landscape of the recent past.
I am sure this band of memoirists will find ways to completely reinvent those ‘episodes’ into their own version of whatever all that was, without just embroidering what they have read in books and seen in films elsewhere. Of course, they could use this as an opportunity to make up their own band or whatever it might have been, with a totally different name and trajectory.
Like I said…
One of the things I hate about genre of memoir is that the writers of them, attempt to present the supposed real them, the one with all the struggles as well as the glories. And in doing so, they try to create an ark to the story of their life. They try to present a continuity.
One of the reasons, that has instigated me to encourage over 140 people to write my memoir was there would be no continuity to it. Yes, each patch would contain 1,000 words and they would be all sewn together. But not one patch would relate to the other. Have no knowledge what their neighbouring patch would look like. If I was to find any sort of knowing continuity between patches, the Scissorman in me would have to be restrained from cutting one or even both patches from the memoir.
Then when I woke up early this morning, but before I looked at my hand-held device to see if Boris Johnson had thrown his hat into the ring, I was confronted with another thought that seemed to have no continuity. Or if it did, I was going to ignore it.
Earlier this year I had a black three-piece suit made to measure. It was the most expensive article of clothing I had ever invested in. It was to be the uniform of The Elderly Gentleman, as in the person I had now become.
This thought that I had earlier this morning and I guess prompted me to write this letter to you is…
Between now and my 70th birthday on the 29th of April next year, I will slip into local charity shops, and if there is any material the catches my eye, and the article of clothing that is made of this eye-catching material is not too expensive, I will buy it. And from this article of clothing, I will allow the Scissorman in me to cut out a square of the material – maybe not much bigger than ten-by-ten centimetres. And then I will visit a local tailor and ask her or him to use their scissors to cut a hole into my suit and replace it with this ten-by-ten square of my recently acquired material.
By the time I turn 70, I plan to have done this seventy times.
Will it still be the same suit?
Or is it gradually shapeshifting into another suit?
Am I the same person I was forty years ago, let alone the same person I was seventy years ago when I was still taking shape in my mother’s belly? That is the question I will leave this letter to you hanging on.
The Elderly Gentleman
Up until the age of six, the two books that I was exposed to the most (other than of course The Bible) were A Children’s Garden of Verse by Robert Louis Stevenson and Struwwelpeter by Heinrich Hoffman. All of the poems from A Children’s Garden of Verse still live with me on a daily basis in my head. But it is the story of Tailor the Scissorman in Struwwelpeter that has had the longest lasting influence on me. It was this story that inspired me to always carry a pair of scissors on my person in case I was approached the by that Scissorman. Thus, the reason why I have been able to cut squares of material out items of clothing, at any time, without second thought. It is also the reason why I love to watch a tailor sitting crossed legged on his table at work.
My dad would always read to me at bedtime, the poems in A Children’s Garden of Verse, but it was always the Struwwelpeter ones that I wanted to hear. It was also the illustrations in this book that totally captivated my imagination. No graphic novel over the past 177 years has come close, at influencing me and several million other children across Europe.
Like Robert Louis Stevenson, I spent month after month under a counterpane alone in my sick bed as a young child, with only my budgie Charlie Boy for company. As for Charlie Boy, we had many a conversation about how the world was and worked. And it was in that bed when Charlie Boy and I were not deep in conversation, I would spend hours poring over the illustrations in Struwwelpeter. That said I was saved from whatever this was and the dark dreams they inspired, by being given my first Rupert Bear annual, and my father reading Treasure Island also by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Saturday the 22nd of October 2022
Dear Daniel Pickard,
It has been brought to my attention that I did not re-paint the words WE LOVE YOU, on The WE LOVE YOU Wall in Corby on Thursday the 13th of October 2022.
I have been reliably informed, that whoever did paint these words on this wall on the given date, was filmed doing it on CCTV. And that this footage is proof that it was not me.
If this is the case, can I assume that you, as the honorary curator of The WE LOVE YOU Wall, must have instigated the repainting of these words?
If this is the case, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you. I think the choice of colour Flamingo Pink is amazing.
Would it be possible for you to share with me that CCTV footage you have? This would then be both vital and classic content to be used in the 2026 exhibition documenting the ongoing life of The WE LOVE YOU Wall.
The Elderly Gentleman
Automatic reply: PRETTY FLAMINGO
From Daniel Pickard firstname.lastname@example.org
I am away from my office until 1st November without access to email. If your enquiry requires an urgent response please call my office 01536 200073 or email email@example.com
Wednesday the 19th of October 2022
I bought a copy of today’s Financial Times.
I had never bought a copy of the Financial Times before in my life.
I then read the editorial page over a mug of coffee in a café that I had never been to before in my life.
I then walked home with the Financial Times rolled up under my arm.
I then folded the Financial Times into a paper hat.
I then tried the paper hat on for size.
I then placed paper hat on a tin of Flamingo Pink paint…
The tin of Flamingo Pink paint that I took to Corby last week to paint The WE LOVE YOU Wall.
I liked the look of the tin of Flamingo Pink paint wearing the paper hat made from today’s Financial Times.
My phone took a photograph of the tin of Flamingo Pink paint wearing the paper hat.
I then stopped doing anything.
I then wondered…
I then stopped wondering.
I then filled the paper hat, with all the names, of all the people, who in the past seven days, have asked me to put their name in a hat.
There were one-hundred-and-ninety-six names in the paper hat.
I then went out into the street, with the paper hat containing all the names.
I then placed the paper hat containing all the names, on the top of a drain.
I like looking down drains.
My phone took a photograph of the paper hat containing all the names, while it sat on the top of the drain.
I liked doing these things.
I drew the first 70 names out of the hat.
These 70 names are the names of those people that might write 1,000 words of my memoir in exchange for a year of my life.
I then drew a second 70 names from the hat.
These second 70 names are the names of those people who might write about my dark subconsciousness in exchange for a vial of water from the Black Loch.
The remaining 56 names might be invited to write about recurring disturbing dreams.
I will email all of those whose names were in the hat, letting them know what is what.
I then put the kettle on and made a pot of tea.
And while drinking the tea, I wondered why the apostrophe in The Pink ’Un goes before the U and not after the N.
Then I wrote this letter to you.
The Elderly Gentleman
The 13th of October 2022
You got my arms, You got my hands
You got my fingers, got my legs
You got my feet,You got my toes
You got my liver, got my blood
Got life, You got my life
If you have thrown your name into the hat, as in you plan to write 1,000 words in exchange for a year of my life, please read the following letter to you.
Or at least skip to the paragraph that starts with the sentence “I am now on the top deck of a bus somewhere in North London.” And read from there to the end.
But if you have the time, please read the whole of this letter to get the context.
I have never bought a record by Nina Simone, never gone to see her live.
My relationship with Nina Simone began sometime in 1968, when I was 14 or maybe just 15, Nina was already in her late 30s, thus there was somewhat of an age difference. But this relationship, even if it was a one way one, seems to have lasted over 50 years and is not showing any signs of waning.
On Monday afternoon…
I was driving down the M6 from Spaghetti Junction in a White Ford Transit Van. I had been under the Junction repainting my wall black in readiness to paint a painting of a tin of white paint the next day. I was on my own in the van. I switched on the radio – BBC 6 Music, I was hoping to hear some music I had never heard before. I hate hearing old music. But as soon as I switched on the radio I heard this piano riff – that piano riff, then in comes the drums – those drums, then in comes the emotions. And there is no stopping it and them. It is Nina, my Nina.
Nina is reaching out to me across the decades and over the oceans, and down the…
I don’t think I have ever been a woman, or ever been black, but it is like Nina is singing this song just for me, even though I am a white entitled male, doing what the fuck I want, because several million black slaves did what they did not want for several hundred years.
And the tears flow down my cheeks.
I was in the middle lane and an artic with a Bulgarian number plate overtook me in the inside lane, and a Tesla overtook me on the outside lane.
And the tears flowed as Nina sat at her piano at the Westbury Music Fair in the Spring of 1968 and sang those words to the 14-year-old me in Corby and the 69-year-old me in the middle lane of the M6 heading south in a White Ford Transit Van.
Then the next day as in…
On Tuesday afternoon…
I was again driving down the M6 from Spaghetti Junction in a White Ford Transit Van. I had been under the Junction again, painting that painting of a tin of white paint on my wall that I had painted black the day before. My colleague Tracey Moberly took a photograph of what I had painted on the wall. I took a photograph of the tin of white paint and the roller that I had used to paint the tin of white paint on the wall.
On the drive down the M6 I did not think about music I had not listened to before; I did not think about my relationship with Nina, I did not wonder if I had ever been a woman or ever been black. What I was thinking about was these 25 paintings I have been in the process of doing, one on top of the other, on my wall under Spaghetti Junction, over these past few months, and I hope to have done before I turn 70 next April.
Up until now I had been thinking of them as the rivals to The 25 Paintings that I have been on some sort of World Tour with since 2014. Everything needs a rival. My two sets of 25 Paintings were rivals like The Joker and Batman, like Celtic and Rangers, like North Korea and South Korea, like The Beatles and The Stones or The Clash and The Pistols. But now I am thinking they are not rivals to those other 25 Paintings who are in their bright primary colours on canvas, on easels exhibiting to appreciating members of the public.
These 25 paintings, that I am in the process of doing one on top of the other on a wall under Spaghetti Junction only using the cheapest black or white emulsion paint are not rivals but, are the dark subconscious to the same thing as The 25 Paintings that each have their own canvas and easel.
Over this past decade, I have become more and more aware that it is that dark subconscious that lurks inside myself, that in reality has had the hand on the tiller navigating me through this thing called life. As in those decisions that I thought I had made in life had little to do with my conscious self, weighing up the options and making the rational decision.
It was on Wednesday morning at the Blue Boar Service Station on the M1, when and where I hit send on the letter inviting seventy people to take part in something.
On Wednesday afternoon…
I was driving back down the M6 from Spaghetti Junction in a White Ford Transit Van. I had been under the Junction again. This time painting a tin of black paint on my wall that I had painted white at the back end of the day before. My colleague Tracey Moberly took a photograph of what I had painted on the wall. I took a photograph of the tin of black paint and the roller that I had used to paint the tin of black paint on the wall. On the drive down the M6 I did not think about The 25 Rival Paintings, that are not rivals but the dark subconsciousness, that I am in process of painting on my wall under the Junction.
On Thursday afternoon…
I was not driving down the M6 from Spaghetti Junction.
I was driving down the M1 from Corby in a White Ford Transit Van. I had been to The WE LOVE YOU Wall. I had just repainted the words in Flamingo Pink. My colleague Tracey Moberly took a photograph of the words I had re-painted on the wall. I took a photograph of the Flamingo Pink paint that ended up in the puddle at the bottom of the wall.
On Friday morning…
Back to Nina and me, probably the only thing we have in common is our joint love of Bach. Or at least his music. Or at least his Well–Tempered Clavier. Anytime I hear Nina play her piano, I hear Bach play his Clavier.
It is now Monday morning…
As in a week from the Monday referenced earlier in this letter to you.
I am now on the top deck of a bus somewhere in North London. I don’t know where the bus is taking me. The sky is grey, and the suburban streets are passing me by. I open my laptop. I open my emails for the first time in a few days. What I find there shocks me. There are over two hundred unread emails waiting for me to respond to. The vast bulk of these emails are from people wanting to write a chapter in my memoir SEVENTY, in exchange for a year in my life.
Last Wednesday, when I first hit send on the idea of “a year in my life in exchange for 1,000 words”, I assumed I would get somewhere between forty to fifty positive responses, that’s if I was lucky. Thus, I was willing to go ahead with the idea, in the full acceptance that some years of my life would go un-memoir-ed. I liked the idea that there would be those missing years. Like missing episodes of Hancock’s Half Hour.
What did I do?
I get off the bus at the next stop and found a café and ordered a mug of tea – black no sugar. And I tried to think. Sometimes thinking is hard. What I was thinking about was…
Should I pull the first seventy names out of the hat. And those seventy folk get their designated year in my life in exchange for the thousand words of “memoir” for their said year?
I would pull a second seventy names from the hat.
And those second seventy get something else. They still get to write a 1,000 words memoir for a designated year in my life, but what they get to write about is that dark underside of life, that even the subconscious is not aware of.
Some nights I wake from a recurring dream…
In this dream I am standing on the shores of the Black Loch. This is a small loch up near the source of the Penkiln Burn, in the Galloway Hills. The waters of the Black Loch are the darkest and stillest waters that I have ever seen in my life. And then in this dream someone throws a stone out and the stone lands far out into the still waters of the loch. Sometimes the person throwing the stone is me. Sometimes it might be my father. Other times it is some unknown person. But what I do know is that when that stone hits the dark waters of the Black Loch, I am one of the ripples caused by that stone hitting the water. And that ripple passing across the surface of the loch is my life.
I don’t own the water that I am passing through, let alone the sky above me or the Galloway Hills that surround the Black Loch.
I mean I don’t really own anything. Let alone the years that I have lived through, or even what fading memories I might cling onto.
And I watch as the ripple begins to fade until it is gone. And the dark waters of the Black Loch return to their mirror like calm reflecting the sky above it and the Galloway Hills that surround it. There is no logic to any of this, just unsettling dream stuff. But somehow that dream seems to work for me as some sort of analogy for the life that I am passing through but have never owned.
It is that dark underside and unknowable life that I would like those second seventy names, with their corresponding years, drawn from that hat, to write 1,000 words about.
There would be two books published at the same time, both with the same title SEVENTY. And like the two paintings that I have done on the wall under Spaghetti Junction in this past week, one would have a cover that is black out of white, and the other would be white out of black.
I have briefly spoken with my colleague Cally about the logistics of publishing two books with the same title at the same time. He suggested there should only be 200 copies of each edition and that when I am selling these books, people could not choose which one they were buying, it should be down to me tossing a coin as to which one they get. He also thought I should not wait until my 70th birthday before drawing the names from a hat, but I should get on with it now. Thus, being able to publish the two books on my birthday next April.
I will pull the two lots of 70 names, with their corresponding years, from the hat tomorrow. Then get back to everyone this week letting them know. And also let them know they have until the 1st of January 2023 to get their 1,000 words written and emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thus, giving enough time for the two volumes of SEVENTY published in time for the 29th of April 2023.
The first 70 names will still get to own their year of my life.
What the second 70 names will get is a small vial of water from The Black Loch. Thus, committing me to make that journey to a place that I have not been to since I was a ten-year-old boy back in 1963. And with me I will have 70 small pebble stones that I will have picked up from the beach at Sizewell. And while I stand on its shore of the Black Loch, I will begin to throw each of those stones into the water. And as each stone lands in the water and a ripple begins to make its journey, I will fill a vial with water from the edge of the loch. And I will number each of these small vials. And by the time it is done I will have filled and numbered all 70 vials. These 70 vials will then be named and dated with a year in my life and posted to whoever is going to write about the dark unconsciousness of that year in my life. They will not own that year like the first 70. All they will own is that vial of water and my commitment to publish what they have written in the white out of black volume of SEVENTY.
As for those other forty-odd folk whose names never got pulled out of the hat to be part of either of the seventies, they, if they choose to, can write about a imagined disturbing dream, and these might be slotted randomly, inbetween the chapters in each of the two volumes of SEVENTY.
Time to order a baked potato with beans and cheese.
The Elderly Gentleman
We love you
We love you
And we hope
That you will love we too
We love they
We love they
And we want you
To love they too
The café I am sitting in that I have never been to before is in Enfield and is called the Bonito. All the other customers that have been here since I started to write this letter to you, have been retired women, meeting up with friends. But ironically or not the music being played on loop is not the music that one would assume these women would choose to be listening to while catching up over a coffee. The music playing is the 1978 album by AC/DC Highway to Hell. As in one of the all-time classics for white men of a certain age.
And I’m going down
All the way
I’m on the highway to hell
Post Script to the Post Script:
This is being written a couple of hours after writing the above Post Script. I had to pick up my partner’s car after it had been serviced. I got into the car and turned the key, the radio came on immediately – BBC 6 Music – now I am not one for synchronicity, but what was playing was Paint it Black by The Stones. I assumed the quote from AC/DC was what would close this letter to you but I have to close it with this…
I see a white wall
And I have to paint it black
No colours anymore
I want them to turn black
Saturday the 27th of September 2022
Last night I awoke from a fevered dream.
I was drenched in sweat.
All that was left of the dream as I lay awake in the darkness, was a short sentence going around and around my head. And I could not get back to sleep. So, I wrote the short sentence down in my notebook that was on the floor beside the bed. Once this was done, I was able to get back to sleep and back to my troubled dreams.
When I awoke properly in the morning, I had completely forgotten about this short sentence, or anything else about the troubled dreams, then I noticed the words scrawled across two pages of my open notebook on the floor beside the bed.
The short sentence was and still is…
THE PAST IS NOT FOR SALE
Although I could now remember writing it in the middle of the night, I had no idea what it meant, or if it related to what I had been dreaming about.
I knew that the past is not something that can literally be sold.
Over these past few years, we have become more and more aware of how the music industry generates a huge percentage of its revenue from its combined back catalogue. And this percentage seems to be getting larger all the time. From what little I know; the music industry seems to be more interested in exploring and exploiting its past than imagining and investing in a future.*
And adjacent to this…
Nearly every band or musical artist that has ever existed and is still alive can generate more income from being a heritage act, than they could have ever earned, when they were actually in their prime having hits and being part of the cultural force of their times. And that even those bands and musical artists that meant next to nothing when they were in their prime, can seem to reform, and claim some sort of stake in a history, that can then be developed and exploited, and the next thing you know they too are out there on the festival circuit in a way they could never have dreamt of back whenever they were first trying to make their mark.
This disturbs me…
Then there is the fact that nearly everyone, that has ever been in a band, has written or is planning on writing their memoir. And the few of these memoirs that I have read, they all tell a similar story, where it is their contribution that created the spark that made so much happen. As in we all see our own history from our own perspective. It is for this reason; I have begun to loath the whole memoir division of the book publishing industry. And have made some sort of vague promise to myself that I would never attempt to write one of these memoirs. Our own memories are a fiction that we are constantly recreating. My memory of an event might be totally different to your memory of the same event. And then there is the whole thing of us living vicariously through the lives of others – it should be banned.
That said, there is a strong argument, to say that most of what I have written to date, over these past thirty odd years, is basically memoir based. Maybe even including this letter to you Dear Reader.
I also have this notion that it is part of the job of an artist to explore where they are in life now, and not just peddle their past, as in just because there is more money to be made from those that want to wallow in nostalgia for a time when they were young and still had a future. As in, if you are about to turn 70, you should be making art that explores what turning 70 feels like.
So where does that leave the statement that I scrawled across two pages of my notebook in the middle of the night. My instant impulse is that I should use these words to graffiti across ‘my’ wall under Spaghetti Junction – I mean I have not been up there for some months, and I don’t think I have done any words there this year, and I am sort of committed to doing one of my “Twelve Step” statements there each year for twelve years.
I text the words THE PAST IS NOT FOR SALE to Tracey, with no explanation.
Tracey texts me back later, as in just before I started writing this. She wanted to know what it meant. I guess I was hoping she might be able to tell me. I was afraid that it might contain some “grumpy old man syndrome” to it. As in that maybe I was unwittingly attempting to have a go at those who brazenly exploit those that want to wallow in nostalgia, when raves were proper raves, and bands were proper bands, and protest marches were proper protest marches, and rebels were proper rebels, and the Labour party was the Labour party, and drug addicts died young when they were still beautiful etc etc.
But then something happened in my head.
I decided to flip this statement.
If I was to sell my past, how would I do it.
And without giving it any further thought, this is what I thought…
I turn 70 next April. On the 29th of April 2023 to be exact. As in I will then have lived my Biblical, Three Score Years & Ten, that’s if I get to live until then.
And this is it…
Maybe I should sell each of those Seventy Years. As in each of those Three Score Years & Ten, that I hoped to have lived. As in I would sell my past in as pure and total way as possible. But maybe with a squeeze of lemon. And I would sell each of those Seventy Years of my past to 70 separate individuals who wanted to buy them. And the price for one year of my past would be One Thousand Words. That works out at about 2.74 words per day.
Nobody could buy more than one year.
Here comes that twist of lemon…
Each of these One Thousand Words had to be the buyer’s version of my memoir of my life for the particular year that they are buying.
Those purchasing a year would be free to be as adventurous as they want with the writing of the memoir for their particular year of my life. They could focus in on one event real or imagined, or just lay out the day-to-day drudgery. Or they can attempt to do some research into whatever is out there regarding my ‘real’ life. I mean I did that whole year-by-year thing at the back of the book 17 that I wrote and was published in 2008. That would at least give some sort of outline for the first 55 years of my life.
But I would rather they went for the more ‘adventurous’ angle…
And this being a memoir and not an autobiography you will get your ‘provisional poetic licence’ if you sign up for this.
They could write about all those affairs that I did not have, those scenes that I was not part of, those months I spent in rehab, those days when suicide seemed like the only way out. And of course, all those mountains I did not climb.
And if, or maybe after all Seventy Years have been sold, a complete memoir of my life can be published containing all these seventy, One Thousand Words written by seventy different people.
And the memoir would have to be more interesting and creative than any memoir that I could ever write. And as we know – truth has many facets.
And of course, there is the fact that my memory is so corroded, there is no way I could categorically state what did or did not happen in any particular year.
People wanting to buy one of the years of my life, could not chose which of the years they could buy. There would have to be a “year out of a hat” system. I mean, if I didn’t do that, everyone would want to be choosing the more obvious years. I guess I could not do the pulling the names out of a hat until seventy folk had put themselves forward for the transaction. Or maybe I should do the pulling of the names out of a hat on my 70th birthday – as in on the 29th of April 2023. The first name pulled out of the hat would be for my first year (29th of April 1953 – 28th of April 1954) and on it would go until the last name was pulled out for my 70th year.
They would have up to forty days and forty nights to get their one thousand words written.
And only when I had received and read and counted their One Thousand Words, would I send them in the post a birthday card stating they now own that year of my life. And only then will the transaction be considered complete. And if per chance they don’t write those One Thousand Words and send them to me in the post, they will forfeit any ownership of that year of my life. And I will have to find someone else to write that year.
I don’t do interviews, so nobody could do interviews with me about their year in question. And they wouldn’t own any of the things that I did in their year. Or the physical things that I might have owned or bought in their year. All they would be getting is the most important thing – which is the memories of that year of my past life. And they could recreate those memories or reinvent those memories and they could own those memories forever or sell those memories to whoever they wanted, or just throw them away, off the top of a cliff, or in the dustbin. Or just leave those memories on the top deck of a bus somewhere.
They could reminisce about that year and complain how the media or Wikipedia got it all wrong.
And with a good wind and God willing this memoir could be published in hardback book form in time for our 71st birthday.
Although I would take the overall credit for it, each of the individual 70 chapters in the book would be credited to the person who wrote it and who actually owns that year of my life at the time of writing.
And it would probably only ever be published by Penkiln Burn Books in and edition of 400. But you never know, someone might option it and the next thing you know it is a major motion picture, or a Disney + / Netflix series.
And remember – where there’s a hit, there’s a writ. I mean who owns anything?
I mean, you did watch the Pistol mini-series on Disney +?
If you want to put your name in the hat for a year, email email@example.com now. I will let you know within a week of me getting your email, if you are one of the seventy.
What do you think?
The Elderly Gentleman
*I have been reliably informed by my colleague Cally, that I was wrong about the music industry not investing in its future and that one only needs to look at who gets the most streams on Spotify, to see that sometimes it is the current and not the past musical artists that get the most streams.
On reading through this letter to you but before hitting send, I have been wondering if the book publishing industry should have a Seven Year Moratorium on publishing memoirs. And as they probably will not go along with this idea, maybe you should sign up to an imaginary pledge to not read any memoirs for seven years, thus giving you time to live your own life and not live someone else’s vicariously.
Anyway, these are my Seventy Years that are up for sale, with the age I was at the time…
0: 29th of April 1953 to 28th of April 1954
1: 29th of April 1954 to 28th of April 1955
2: 29th of April 1955 to 28th of April 1956
3: 29th of April 1956 to 28th of April 1957
4: 29th of April 1957 to 28th of April 1958
5: 29th of April 1958 to 28th of April 1959
6: 29th of April 1959 to 28th of April 1960
7: 29th of April 1960 to 28th of April 1961
8: 29th of April 1961 to 28th of April 1962
9: 29th of April 1962 to 28th of April 1963
10: 29th of April 1963 to 28th of April 1964
11: 29th of April 1964 to 28th of April 1965
12: 29th of April 1965 to 28th of April 1966
13: 29th of April 1966 to 28th of April 1967
14: 29th of April 1967 to 28th of April 1968
15: 29th of April 1968 to 28th of April 1969
16: 29th of April 1969 to 28th of April 1970
17: 29th of April 1970 to 28th of April 1971
18: 29th of April 1971 to 28th of April 1972
19: 29th of April 1972 to 28th of April 1973
20: 29th of April 1973 to 28th of April 1974
21: 29th of April 1974 to 28th of April 1975
22: 29th of April 1975 to 28th of April 1976
23: 29th of April 1976 to 28th of April 1977
24: 29th of April 1977 to 28th of April 1978
25: 29th of April 1978 to 28th of April 1979
26: 29th of April 1979 to 28th of April 1980
27: 29th of April 1980 to 28th of April 1981
28: 29th of April 1981 to 28th of April 1982
29: 29th of April 1982 to 28th of April 1983
30: 29th of April 1983 to 28th of April 1984
31: 29th of April 1984 to 28th of April 1985
32: 29th of April 1985 to 28th of April 1986
33: 29th of April 1986 to 28th of April 1987
34: 29th of April 1987 to 28th of April 1988
35: 29th of April 1988 to 28th of April 1989
36: 29th of April 1989 to 28th of April 1990
37: 29th of April 1990 to 28th of April 1991
38: 29th of April 1991 to 28th of April 1992
39: 29th of April 1992 to 28th of April 1993
40: 29th of April 1993 to 28th of April 1994
41: 29th of April 1994 to 28th of April 1995
42: 29th of April 1995 to 28th of April 1996
43: 29th of April 1996 to 28th of April 1997
44: 29th of April 1997 to 28th of April 1998
44: 29th of April 1998 to 28th of April 1999
45: 29th of April 1999 to 28th of April 2000
46: 29th of April 2000 to 28th of April 2001
47: 29th of April 2001 to 28th of April 2002
48: 29th of April 2002 to 28th of April 2003
49: 29th of April 2003 to 28th of April 2004
50: 29th of April 2004 to 28th of April 2005
51: 29th of April 2005 to 28th of April 2006
52: 29th of April 2006 to 28th of April 2007
53: 29th of April 2007 to 28th of April 2008
54: 29th of April 2008 to 28th of April 2009
55: 29th of April 2009 to 28th of April 2010
56: 29th of April 2010 to 28th of April 2011
57: 29th of April 2011 to 28th of April 2012
58: 29th of April 2012 to 28th of April 2013
59: 29th of April 2013 to 28th of April 2014
60: 29th of April 2014 to 28th of April 2015
61: 29th of April 2015 to 28th of April 2016
62: 29th of April 2016 to 28th of April 2017
63: 29th of April 2017 to 28th of April 2018
64: 29th of April 2018 to 28th of April 2019
65: 29th of April 2019 to 28th of April 2020
66: 29th of April 2020 to 28th of April 2021
67: 29th of April 2021 to 28th of April 2022
69: 29th of April 2022 to 28th of April 2023
Been thinking maybe NEVER STAND OUT IN A CROWD would be a better statement to paint on my wall under Spaghetti Junction.
Wednesday the 5th of October 2022
As of right now the remaining 360 copies of the book PAINT by Tenzing Scott Brown are available for sale via Alimentation.
The Elderly Gentleman
Wednesday the 5th of October 2022
The hired white van did not break down on my drive from Southgate Van Hire in Suburban North London to the benches in front of Sizewell Tea, by Sizewell B Nuclear Power Station on the Suffolk Coast.
I arrived there on time by noon.
The weather held.
The sky was big.
The grey clouds were glorious.
But more importantly The Penkiln Burn Players turned up. They did not know they were members of that shifting cast of Penkiln Burn Players until I asked if any of these Adder Stane Finders would be prepared to take part in a reading of the play SIZEWELL TEA. This being the world premiere of this play, a play that is physically and conceptually and emotionally set on these very benches outside Sizewell Tea.
The Adder Stane Finders traded the Adder Stanes that they had found that morning on the beach in front of the Sizewell B Nuclear Power Station, with The Travelling Salesman for copies of the book PAINT by Tenzing Scott Brown.
I asked if that days cast of The Penkiln Burn Players would be willing to stand in front of Sizewell Tea, to have my phone take a photograph of them standing in line. They agreed.
And then as two o’clock neared, and I said my farewells to this shifting cast of The Penkiln Burn players cum Adder Stane Finders, I decided to have my phone take a photograph of the Adder Stanes lined up on top of the lid of The Travelling Salesman’s.
I carried The Travelling Salesman down to the beach. And as I was lining up the Adder Stanes on his lid, I was approached by two women. These two women had just driven down from Leeds. They had only just found their Adder Stanes. They traded them with The Travelling Salesman. And then I lined up all of the now 18 Adder Stanes on the top of the lid of The Travelling Salesman. And my phone took the photograph.
I asked the two women from Leeds if they would mind if my phone took a photograph of them posing on the beach. They agreed.
What I did not tell them ,this was in the exact same position as The 25 Paintings had posed at the beginning of their twelve year world tour back in 2014. The Phone took the photograph. We shook hands. And I walked back towards the hired white van. And I began my drive back to Southgate Tube Station in Suburban North London.
It is only this morning that I looked at the photographs that my phone took and decided I should ‘share’ them.
There is so much that I hate about the publishing and promotion of books, but something about yesterday seemed pure and beyond. It felt like a turning point for the better.
For me, yesterday, was one of the great moments during the constant flow of The Penkiln Burn over these past 27 years and counting. It was intimate, it was transient, it was epic. And I would very much like to thank those 18 Adder Stane Finders for taking the risk and making the journey to be there.
The Elderly Gentleman
The play SIZEWELL TEA would not have been written if I had not received an email from the storyteller Steve Lally from Limerick, Ireland. I had taken a copy of PAINT to Sizewell with me yesterday. I asked those members of the shifting cast of The Penkiln Burn Players to sign the copy of the book for the storyteller Steve Lally. I have just posted that copy of the book to him. And now I am sitting in the Kozzy Café around the back of Southgate Tube Station writing this letter to you.
Monday the 19th of September
Yesterday I got my fourth Covid jab and the flu one at the same time.
This afternoon the nation has been watching the television.
This morning I got the response I had been hoping for from Mx Redacted.
It had the words I was hoping he might write in response to him becoming the first owner of the BLOCK CHAIN OF SILENCE.
What he has written is brilliant and moving and… well I hope that Mr & Mrs Fox found their cubs.
I also love the fact that there is now a piece of art out there, that has no one’s signature on it…
And can never be commodified into something that can be sold for money.
And if someone attempted to sell it for money it would instantly evaporate into a cloud of nothing.
And it can never be “validated” by being displayed in some public gallery somewhere.
And it does not exist on the internet anywhere.
It just is.
Like a passing cloud or breaking wave, just is.
What I have copied and pasted after this letter to you, is what Mx Redacted wrote.
THE RESPONSE was Mx Redacted’s chosen title.
The Elderly Gentleman
I don’t know whose idea it was, whether its genesis lay in the hush left by Scott-Brown’s last breath, whether it was long in the mind of The Elderly Gentleman, percolating, leaching, filtering its way through the spaces between the other ideas, and projects, and daily life; Bill Drummond may have been involved, who knows what alchemy lies there? Secretly I believe it was The 25 Paintings exerting their influence, they have form for that kind of thing and an understanding of the subject that few can equal. It doesn’t matter, it doesn’t change things.
The Silence was finding a way through.
Why did I volunteer? Several reasons; I have recently found myself confounded, I don’t know where my life is going and I feel trapped in my own procrastination; because I wanted a time apart from the increasingly tempestuous world; because I wanted to experience silence at some deeper level; because who knew what I would find there?
I am nobody.
I had space in my life and a period of contemplation seemed attractive, necessary even. My life was dark and empty and I was too tired or lazy to fight the current, or to know or care which direction it was carrying me, not even waving, just drowning.
Maybe a lot of people feel this way.
I live alone but for my companion MxK9, I spend my time fairly quietly, wandering empty paths and gennels through the borderland where the estates meet the nature that abuts it. I like silence, I have nothing to say. I don’t have an ‘online presence’, I pay for goods using real money, avoiding as much as possible the Demi-Gods of Data, privately owned social over-watch, social intrusion, social control. I largely keep myself to myself. The Silence was in my bones, so when I saw The Letter, on Penkiln Burn. it seemed to fit. I didn’t care about the painting/s yet, I couldn’t judge them from the picture anyway, but the words; the letter…
I like words, I can’t do numbers, but words… sometimes I stub my toe on a word, or a line, or a statement and I am pulled up short, stunned, screaming, confused, my progress sharply halted.
I stubbed my toe on The Letter.
I applied for the post, I had heard the call of The Silence and answered it…quietly. The decision came down to a coin toss, and I lost.
But The Silence wanted me.
I told my family but no one else, it’s easy to be silent if no one expects you to to speak; this had to be a trial for the magick to work.
This goes beyond not speaking, it was a statement of intent to isolate myself, not just audibly. No speech, no sign language, no written word, my communication was beholden to The Silence.
Before midnight I turned off my telephone, my computer, and put away the notebooks which serve as my memory. I had no appointments and ignored recent contacts that might result in appointments or explanation. I went to bed. I had but one absolute commitment, to walk MxK9, so I got up early and but for the grim-faced joggers we had the paths and parks to ourselves.
I was to learn a lot over the coming Twenty-Five Days that The Silence comes at you on many levels, poking and prodding like a dentist looking for a reaction, a doctor testing reflexes. The elderly lady who lives alone below me likes a natter, dog walkers can’t help their inconsequential conversations and the whole nation wants to make comment on the weather.
There are, of course, reasons for this, the weather is a shared experience, the discussion of which opens doors to the opportunity to communicate, and it is a need. A need I had underestimated and could no longer fulfil. Meet someone on a lonely rural footpath, you will find they greet you as they never would on an urban pavement. It offers them some sense of security, a security I could not offer.
There is a Pavlovian element to communication, its instinct, it’s very hard not to reply, the unconscious ‘Mornin’, the nod or wave to a stranger walking an ancient track with an ancient dog at dawn. I am not frightening, but before I had MxK9 I would roam the woods and without the MxK9 you are unintentionally, innocently, unnerving. There are no wolves or bears, just human monsters, and maybe in me they saw one, without that simple greeting I remained one. Nodding is the optimum alternative but ‘no sign language’. Also pointing, reacting to choices made by others, expressing anger or any other emotion are both instinctive and prohibited.
These are seemingly throwaway things until you remember that some of the people you ignore will have no other human contact that day. Your own choices, preferences and advice will be null and void. I don’t want to hurt people, this matters, but doesn’t change my circumstances. I find relief in learning from this and perhaps altering my future behaviour. I didn’t contemplate my life: I contemplated lives. I don’t know if this was the intent.
Noise became a nuisance, an intrusion. I couldn’t binge boxsets, listen to music, or even read. This wasn’t a choice. My Silence demanded totality. I saw and heard the things hidden in my normal days; I watched a dog Fox and his Vixen search out their lost cubs, screeching in the undergrowth, the dog fox stood guard as the Vixen went into the scrub to find the pups. I saw stars in clear skies beyond the interference of light pollution. I smelt the change in the perfume of the forest at night. All the secret communication.
I learnt that communication is almost as essential as food and water, yet far more complex, and I didn’t understand this before: I don’t think many people understand this. This matters.
When the time ran out, I found it difficult to reintegrate. My phone remained turned off, my emails unchecked. I had found an empty cave which met my requirements but perhaps not my needs. This matters.
The Silence seems at first a void, but it allows other new things in. Communication is not the antithesis of The Silence, but their relationship is a complex one which I have only had a keyhole glimpse at. The world can be The Lord of the Flies. We are indifferent. We are isolated. We lose sight of the parameters. Rather than finding ourselves we become lost, we become scenery, We stop communicating with any sincerity: we eat each other.
I still don’t fully comprehend what The Silence taught me; only that I am the beginning of understanding something that is secret and important and vast.
Tuesday the 20th of September 2022
Is an income stream for skimming stones across?
Is an income stream for wading in the water of?
Is an income stream for fishing eels in?
Is an income stream for building a bridge over?
These were some of thoughts that were meandering through my head in the early hours of this morning. This is when I had just woken from one of my dreams in which I was trying to find my way through a strange land back to home. The trouble is, in these dreams, I never know what home actually looks like. Or even feels like.
Then I started wondering if the Penkiln Burn, as in the stream that runs into the River Cree at Minnigaff, was an income stream.
Then I started thinking about what I was going to be doing today between noon and 2pm with The Travelling Salesman. As in selling copies of The Pied Wagtail from the eight-sided bench outside of Southgate Station.
And then I realised I had not mentioned in a previous letter to you, the price of the books that The Travelling Salesman would be selling at the four stopping places on his tour this Autumn.
And because my mind was still in some sort of dream state, I started imagining asking anyone that turned up to buy a copy of The Pied Wagtail today, instead of handing over some money, they should go over to the Fio’s Turkish supermarket across the road and buy me something, or things, that caught their imagination. Something for about a tenner. And they should hand that over to me in exchange for The Traveling Salesman letting them take a copy of the book.
That then led my imagination to think about the other three stopping places on the tour. And what my imagination started to deliver to me, in its semi dreamlike state way was…
At the benches outside Sizewell Tea* between noon and 2pm on Tuesday the 4th of October, it should be a pebble from the beach with a hole through it. Every time I visit the beach there, I try to find one of these pebbles with a hole through it. I usually do within ten minutes of looking. When I was kid, we called these stones Adder Stanes, but down by Sizewell they call them Hag Stones.
And when I am handed over one of these pebbles with a hole through it, The Travelling Salesman will allow The Adder Finder, to take a copy of the book PAINT from him. And I will make a necklace of all these Adder Stanes and I will wear this necklace at The 25 Paintings’ Tea Rooms.
And just for the record PAINT is the third last original book by Tenzing Scott Brown and consists of 112 pages.
At the Breakout Caffe on Caledonian Road, London, between noon and 2pm on Tuesday the 8th of November, you, I mean if it is you, should bring me a second-hand teapot that has caught your eye in a charity shop near where you now live. And on handing over this teapot to me you will be able to take a copy of SEMAPHORE SIGNALS from The Travelling Salesman. And this teapot will be one of the forty displayed teapots used in The 25 Paintings’ Tea Rooms.
And just for the record SEMAPHORE SIGNALS is the second last original book by Tenzing Scott Brown and consists of 124 pages.
Under Spaghetti Junction in Birmingham between noon and 2pm on Tuesday the 13th of December, you should bring me a copy of the book you are convinced should be part of The 25 Paintings’ Tea Rooms Library of Forty Books one should read, after you reach the age of 40 but before you die. And in exchange you can take a copy of the book UNDER THE JUNCTION from The Travelling Salesman.
And just for the record UNDER THE JUNCTION is the last original book by Tenzing Scott Brown and consists of 189 pages.
Then I drifted off back to sleep.
It is now the morning proper. I have just walked my youngest to school. And I am about to go for a lung X-ray. Then it is the walk up to Southgate Tube Station with The Travelling Salesman.
Hope to see you at one of these stopping places along the banks of The Income Stream.
The Elderly Gentleman
I am aware that the Forty thing is a bit of a recurring theme in what I do. This I must put down to The Biblical influence in my early years. This also means that The Travelling Salesman only ever has a maximum of 40 books within his Crocodile Skin at any one time.
Just after I had delivered The 25 Tribute Paintings of Silence to Mx Redacted last week, he handed me a fossil he had found on a beach on the coast of Lincolnshire. I instantly knew it to be a Gryphaea, as in a Devil’s Toenail. In my early teens I was very keen on collecting fossils, thus knowing the name of this one, and the fact that it came from the Triassic period which is over 200 million years ago. Thus, what Mx Redacted has unexpectedly exchanged with me for the BLOCK CHAIN OF SILENCE is something that had been alive way before the Dinosaurs roamed the earth and has been completely silent ever since. I think it might have been this exchange that inspired my dreams to inform me that The Travelling Salesman should trade goods for the books he has on offer and not merely cash.
*WARNING: Sizewell Tea as a functioning café will already be closed for the season, thus if you might be in need of refreshments while searching for an Adder Stane, I suggest you bring a thermos.