And Lucifer Bid them to look at the Walls – Birmingham

I love the chutzpah of any municipal gallery that confronts you with a statue of Lucifer as you walk in.
Birmingham is another of those under-praised midlands destinations with an oft-derided accent.
I have no idea why the Birmingham accent is so often ridiculed, I think it suggests a delightful innocent sarcasm, scepticism without guile, a knowingness that may be missed by the casual visitor keen to delude themselves into a position of superiority.
It seems fitting that curators chose Jacob Epstein’s disconcerting Lucifer, with its male body and female face, to lure us into their Pre-Raphaelite wonderland (with added penguin portraits).

I was particularly drawn to the feet, human but inhuman. Unlike Epstein’s Paul Robeson bust in York, there was no touching suggested, which might have been for the best, what if my palm sweat awoke the dark, sleeping spirit of the satanic, just in time for the Hallowe’en screenings of They Live.

Spending time in local art galleries, I have been impressed by just how prolific some British artists seem to be. You’d be hard-pressed to find a gallery without a few LS Lowry paintings or a Walter Sickert. I am also sure I have seen David Cox’s very similar capturing of the sands of Rhyl on at least four occasions. My hankering to go to Rhyl is no longer at a subconscious level, though I need to work out how to get to Rhyl in 1854, and though most privatised train providers are able to drag out time to a destination, they are sadly unable to do anything useful like shatter the laws of physics for the purposes of a Victorian holiday. Anyway, being a Philip Larkin fan, I should probably go to sunny Prestatyn, or to Barmouth for the giant crabs.

Looking at Alfred William Hunt’s Norwegian Midnight, I remember that for most of the gallery promenaders of the 19th century , this would be the nearest they would get to experiencing a Norwegian midnight. We have grown to blasé in our ability to travel the world, one more currency collapse and it may be better to get an art pass than a holiday abroad.

The Tate Britain exhibition of the epic biblical paintings of John Martin recreated the theatricality used to bring hell and damnation into the original exhibition, and looking at Samuel Coleman’s Delivery of Israel out of Egypt, I see it as the Charlton Heston movie of its time.

One room is dedicated to images of the personalities of Birmingham, including the Arthur Shorthouse’s portrait of the Official Ratcatcher of the City of Birmingham, Big Issue seller Vernon Burgess, and Emily Spark’s Ode to Christian Joy.

And then there was a container filled with copper coins and congealed milk. This was the work of Donald Rodney. At York Art Gallery there was a photograph of his father’s hand with a small, paper house resting on the palm, except it wasn’t made of paper. The house was made from a skin sample of his son, now looking dry and sharp. This is one of Donald Rodney’s art reactions to his own sickle cell anaemia, a genetically inherited disease. There, from his own skin, he had built his father’s house.

Inside this container of milk and coins, we can see the decline and corrosion of its contents. This is Land of Milk and Honey II. From other matter, he has constructed a representation of his declining health. Donald Rodney succumbed to sickle cell anaemia in 1998.

Barbara Hepworth’s garden is one of my favourite places to see the meeting of sculpture and spiders’ webs, in Birmingham Art Gallery you can see her H Graph works. They are unembellished by arachnids. Inspired by the surgeons who operated on her daughter to treat her bone disease, Hepworth became fascinated by “the extraordinary beauty of purpose and co-ordination between human beings all dedicated to saving a life”. It reminded me of the Ken Currie’s Three Oncologists, a painting that continues to obsess my partner in anger, Michael Legge. During the Edinburgh Fringe, he would go to the National Gallery almost every day just to look at that painting.

Waiting to see Arab Strap, he took a trip to see Ken Currie’s Jesus and is now similarly obsessed, he may now have to commute daily from Lewisham to Glasgow. This is the first time he has felt any need to make a pilgrimage for any Jesus.

(other works of excellence in Birmingham Gallery include
-Spencer Gore’s Wood in Richmond Park from his final series of works, painted shortly before he died from leukaemia.
-Edward Burne Jone’s Pygmalion series
-Germaine Richier’s emaciated, leaf patterned sculpture of depleted man)

Dead Funny Encore – a horror anthology with stories by Stewart Lee, Alice Lowe, Alan Moore and many more including me, is out Now.

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Long Live the New flesh..and the old Flesh…and the tattooed flesh – York Art Gallery

I am not happy with my flesh.
Who is?
One of my earliest stand up routines revolved around my breasts and the hatred of having to go topless in PE lessons. (it had a punchline involving “my sister’s cock” and was quite popular with some soldiers in Bosnia).
When there’s not too much of it, it’s too flaky. I know Autumn is coming, the light flecks of psoriasis are here. My skin is an effective detector of seasonal change, though that’s not much of a superpower as a calendar or just looking at the fucking trees works pretty well too.
Our flesh is our appearance, so we worry if there is too much or it is too mottled or it showing the signs of our built in obsolescence.

The first room of York Art Gallery’s Flesh exhibition had Steve McQueen’s film of naked wrestling between him and a friend. The other spectators were some teenage boys on a school trip, their lewd or embarrassed comments about the projected artist genitals before them were surprisingly few. They were more bothered about “Isaac!”. I presume Isaac is a favourite amongst them as they seemed to be calling after him through most of the rest of the gallery rooms. I was one of those publicly quiet teenagers, these were those teenagers that must constantly make noise for fear that if they weren’t they might stop existing. Silence spells vaporisation.

On one wall were photographs of tattoos cut away from dead prisoners and suspended in formaldehyde. It is a macabre hobby. If all the tattoos now were flayed away upon death, we’d have a world formaldehyde shortage by 2050. Is it better to have a few square inches of your life and imagination in a preservation jar than to be an utterly forgotten criminal?
Opposite these photographs was a big lump of pig hide, shaped into an oversize human torso and covered in highly elaborate thin lined, black ink tattoos. This is Edward Lipski’s Tattoo.

Worryingly, this lifeless dried flesh slab reminded me of the great anti-war novel, Johnny Got His Gun. I didn’t stare long enough to trick my brain into believing it had moved.

As a comfort, James Deville’s cast of William Blake’s head, made when Blake was still alive, is cased in a corner. This was from the times of phrenology and was intended to illustrate the shape of head that represented the imaginative facility. It doesn’t take much to project onto that head the sense that you need such a stocky, rounded, kind-looking lump of bone and skin to create The Tyger or Nebuchadnezzar.

Across from William Blake’s closed eyes are the challenging, open eyes of Jo Spence. Standing topless, she has written on her breast “property of Jo Spence”. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 1982, she communicated her experience with her photography. This was a reaction to the way a doctor marked her breast during examination. It was questioning the boundaries and how they should or could be crossed between doctor and patient. Next to it, Jo Spence stands topless and in profile, a motorcycle helmet on her head, a puckered scar by her nipple. With such limited variety in the photographic images of topless and naked women in the mainstream media, this provokes us into thinking about the limited variety of exposed flesh we are exposed to. If we are not to be disgusted by our own less digitised and computer manipulated flesh and other people’s, then we should experience more shapes of flesh than the shapes a group of advertisers and executives insist are the only correct ones to arouse and sell.

In the previous room, the notes by Harold Gilman’s painting of a middle-aged nude comment on his wish to show the change in form as we age and our elasticity declines. And next to it, is a Jenny Saville self-portrait, similarly rejecting enforced notions of acceptable shapes for naked display.

The horror nut in me was very taken Adriana Varejâo’s Green Tile Work in Live Flesh, where smashed and splintered tiles reveal an outpouring of heart, colon and other offal.
My sister would not have taken to Leon Kossoff’s seated nude. Similar to the work of Frank Auerbach, whose smeared feature faces threw her off-kilter, Kossoff creates the form of the nude via smears and scars of thick paint. At first, it is a shape, as you look for longer, the shape, the light and the colours form the sitter.

This is an exhibition dense with information and ideas. I was fascinated by the 12 Japanese prints that told the story of “The death of the noble lady and the decay of her body” and Gina Pane’s Azione Sentimentale, a photographic record of a performance piece that involved her piercing her flesh with a succession of thorns that ran up her arm, cutting her hand with a razor, and then offering herself, Christ-like, to the audience. I would show you more, but the Birmingham Symphony Hall wifi tells me it does not comply with acceptable usage policy.

I also enjoyed listening the old couple in anoraks as they watched Sam Taylor Johnson’s film of hare rotting and being consumed by mites while the genetically modified peach at the foot of the carnage remained untainted. They were delightfully fascinated.

Upstairs and out of the exhibition, I looked at Jacob Epstein’s bust of Paul Robeson. The plinth said, “hands on”, but I thought that must have been a trap. It took some while and some steeling of nerves before I managed it. I am conditioned.

A new volume of Dead Funny, Dead Funny Encore is now out, stories by Alan Moore, Josie Long, Stewart Lee, James Acaster, Alice Lowe, Rufus Hound, Isy Suttie, Natalie Haynes and me and more. It’s HERE.

Book Shambles is back. Latest episode is art/science/cyberpunk author Simon Ings, plus there’s Noel Fielding, Sarah Bakewell, Alan Moore, Geoff Dyer…

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Are You Sure this is the Best Way into the Valley of Death…

This blog post is a lesson. It shows you what happens when you have an idea on the 9:45 from Berkhamsted, but you don’t write it out until you are on the 13:00 to York. Standing, watching a succession of people fail to get up for the elderly, I was distracted by a recent memory of a political debate and the desperation for the Brexiteenies to get everything going as fast as they could as evidence was getting in the way of their faux noble intentions. I saw the 600 words I needed, but had to interrupt them with a quick interview about entropy with Sean Carroll. The heat death of my thoughts is clearly evident below. 

The final presidential debate is in Las Vegas. What a perfect place to highlight that politics is a lurid carnival, but it is a lurid carnival that will destroy people’s lives and won’t care much that it has.

We live in Charge of Light Brigade times.
Though I also have flashbacks to Peter Weir’s powerful, if not entirely historically accurate, Gallipoli.
“Marker flags have been seen.”
However strong the evidence against a course of action, it seems we are always offered far less evidence based evidence that demands we keep marching on.
Meanwhile, the generals that have put great effort into creating the parlous situation leading to sanctioned decay, haughtily condemn their critics for not having the vision and empathy to understand the plight of the people.
Standing around their steaming stools, some still with their trousers and pants around their ankles, others still shitting, their cheeks stained with excrement patches, they look to those who warned them against shitting everywhere, and blame them for the mess.

“Look at all this shit everywhere! the poor people have been stunk out by it and many are slipping in it too. Now some may point the finger at us because some of the shit is still hanging out of our bottoms, but I hardly think that has anything to do with it. The people want less poo, and we are the ones to deliver that dream, except when we are pooing”.

It is a spectacle of remarkable cognitive dissonance to see these politicians blame others for failing to listen to the people when they used to have so little interest in them and will return to their regular tinnitus when it suits them.

I don’t want to believe we are in this “post fact” world, but the UFO abduction/JFK assassination and “naked, priapic Henry Kissinger worshipping an owl” mindset seems to have become mainstream. There are plenty of half-cocked conspiracy and corporate duplicity scenarios that I unhappily fear hold some water (maybe with fluoride and maybe without), but the integrity of the story and evidence trail doesn’t seem to make any difference if you want to believe it, whether it is a pig head fuck or Trump’s prescience at a fixed election. (from my left-leaning perspective, I am drawn towards Greg Palast’s investigation into the fixing of the US election in 2000).

It is spikily comforting to imagine some grand scheme behind all of your life’s failings, but the puppet masters may be spending more time trying to cover up the fact they are tangled up in their own strings than actually managing to manipulate anyone else. It seems we have been overrating the abilities those who wish to project their power and spite upon us, though they still have the power to fuck up what they have in front of them while the population take on the role of collateral damage.

Meanwhile, establishment figures from the more scurrilous side of financial manipulation are recast as everyman saviours despite track records of not giving a fuck about any man let alone everyone of them. Emotion beats evidence. Our guts dominate our minds as well as our bodies.

“For too long the working person has been abused, conned and underpaid…and often by me, so if you want to see an end to that, vote for me, as I may have less time screw you over due to being busy working on a much scale of destruction”.

The Jackie Collins-ification of politics into lewd and glossy spectacle pushes more and more people away from it, and so the pit gets murkier.
Dungeon orgy politics.
What commentators can I trust without believing that I must spend 3 hours a day fact checking their 800 words?

Each step further away from witnessing any incident creates another crack wide enough to let fogs of misinformation and disinformation to pour in.

Do you just stay in your cellar screaming at the dressed rats or do you replace the centralised political world with grassroots activity and direct involvement in activities that are impervious to obfuscation due to your proximity.

I’ll just go buy some taffeta and take a tape measure to my rats, then I’ll decide.

A new horror anthology with stories by Josie Long, Alice Lowe, Isy Suttie, James Acaster, Rufus Hound, me and many more is available now.

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My Charlatan Status is Restored – The Turner Prize

As I was drying my hands in the Tate Britain, I realised that I was more mesmerised by the blue light projected on my knuckles by the hand dryer than by anything I had seen at the Turner Prize exhibition. I think I could project more meaning onto this installation as well. I really liked that hand dryer.

I am thinking of making a film called Turner Prize and Hooch, a cop buddy movie in which a police dog is teamed up with an ice cream tub filled with excrement and Sindy dolls.

It is a cliché to be non-plussed by The Turner prize, and I don’t think I even reached that level of emotional reaction. I went with an artist friend in the hope they could “translate” for me.

Sometimes, my problem with contemporary art is that I will be informed that it will make me see cotton buds or rawlplugs or pedal bins in a new way. Liberated from their domestic or plaster board habitat, new light will fall on the everyday. Unfortunately, as an oddball, I quote often outstare domestic objects in my humdrum life as well as in gallery spaces, so the eldritch spell doesn’t really work for me.

I stared from different angles, I peered casually and intensely, but nothing struck me, either delight or disgust, in room number one. My dissatisfaction is that I don’t want to dislike the work. It takes a lot of effort to come up with concepts and make them flesh or plastic. I would rather enjoy the work, but all I thought of was the horror my wife would feel if I brought something like this home, and as she beat me about the head with rolled newspapers and plant pots, i would protest, “but darling, it is art!”.

Room 2 holds the much-heralded giant bottom that has been the hot selfie spot of the last few weeks. We were disappointed in the lack of detail. A more realistic giant bum may have been more aesthetically pleasing or suspenseful. This bum lacked a bummishness. Sadly, I imagine it will be out of the price range of Margate’s Dreamland, but I think it could create some joyousness there.
There was a prettiness and playfulness in Anthea Hamilton’s room and the recreation of June London sky reminded me of Magritte skies but without the interference of a floating obelisk or bowler hatted men.

Then there were some big pictures of hands doing boring things with a big toy train you couldn’t sit on in the middle of the room. My friend suggested it may have been more fun of a track had been set up to take us around the four rooms, but maybe it wasn’t meant to be fun.

I am told Michael Dean will win as his art is political. He has created a landscape of one penny coins that looks like a Beckett set if a production of Waiting for Godot was sponsored by the Royal Mint or a nickel poisoned version of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe . The pile is one pence less than the minimum amount the government believes a family can survive on, though it seems that some hostile vandals of meaning have been adding pennies (while others have taken some pennies, so it might balance out).

I left the exhibition with a ho-humification of my senses.

The cork board of comment outside was light on praise.

“Coin guy is the best…followed by butt girl”

“spotted a 2 pence coin in the pile”

“The art of no art?”

“the giant arse is a new low. It mocks this gallery. please give it to The Louvre”

Then I went into Trip (the light fantastic) by Sophie Michael. It had pipe organs playing and a magic band filmed on 8mm. The balance was restored.

Book Shambles is back with Alan Moore, Noel Fielding, Lisa Dwan, Sarah Bakewell and more to come.

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The Boys in the Band

“You shouldn’t wear heels when you do chin ups”

Would some people still consider The Boys in The Band a “gay play” and therefore mainly of interest to gay men, in much the same way as Ionesco’s Rhinoceros is mainly of interest to people who have been affected by their family or friends turning into a rhinoceros, or that Ibsen’s Ghosts is best enjoyed after a bout of venereal disease and incest? Hopefully not, because if they counted themselves out of seeing The Boys in The Band for that reason, they would be missing an engrossing, moving and very funny revival.

Petula Clark’s Downtown plays as we enter the auditorium (my personal Petula favourite, Don’t Sleep in the Subway, is saved for the interval music). On the walls before us are illuminated photographs of icons such as Barbara Stanwyck and Bette Davis and film posters which include Hitchcock’s Rope (based on Patrick Hamilton’s play that was based on the Leopold and Loeb case and parodied in an episode of Psychoville which guest starred Mark Gatiss).

The stylish apartment is being readied to host the 42nd birthday party of Harold. As so often with staged front room social gatherings of friends, this is an event which will lead to relationships unravelling, ravelling back together, amidst further revelations and drunken bouts of honesty.

As the shelled crab is placed in the centre table ready for consumption, host Michael receives a call from his college roommate, Alan, who is apparently unaware of Michael’s sexuality and may well be taken aback by this gathering of gay men. The ability to disguise this reality by sitting with legs wide apart talking about “the game” in low growls is short-lived.

The first act belongs to James Holmes as Emory, who has a delightful, uncontrollable flamboyance, the sort that masks a sense of an unrequited life, but we’ll find out more about that in the second act. Holmes performs slapstick with aplomb, one particular head bump leads to a little corpsing (and debate with my cohort as to whether this was an accident of matinee, or a regular delight). This is not to dismiss this very strong ensemble cast, Emory is the sort of person who would dominate any party…until the fraying begins.
John Hopkins as Alan perfectly conveys the inarticulacy of limb control that happens when pissed. In fact the whole cast play drunk to perfection, so much so that I started to hanker for brandy.
While the first act is predominantly comedy, it is a comedy that we know is concealing something darker and inevitable. The second act descends into that maelstrom that occurs when the alcohol pierces our carefully constructed outward appearances.

This is a play about outsiders when they are inside their world.
It is about the unrequited hopes.
It is about reaching middle age, that time when you are old enough to see the mistakes of your past, but also realise those things that will no longer be available to you as age advances.
It is about trying to elude your reality.
It is about the cruelty we can use to escape ourselves, something that Ian Hallard as Michael excels at to the point of a hideously sad howl, like a Lear in 5th avenue loafers.

It also has some of the wittiest dialogue to use the word “cunt” that I can remember hearing.

The script knows exactly when to pierce the pity with wit, and this cast time it to perfection.
Just as the audience may dawdle into melancholic empathy with Emory, Mark Gatiss’s Harold chips in with, “Well, I for one need an insulin injection”.

This is a play that has pity, but it is not self-pitying.

During moments of verbal cruelty and bullying jousting, members of the Sunday matinee audience I was in let out gasps of horror. Rarely have I been as immersed as I was in the lives of these nine characters.

Written and performed a year before the Stonewall Riots, the near 50 years that have passed since its first production have not turned this tightly written character display into a museum piece.
This is ensemble acting at its finest.

It has a couple more weeks at The Park Theatre, Finsbury Park, and then a brief tour that goes to Leeds, Brighton and Salford.

Josie and Robin’s Book Shambles is now in its 4th series. Latest episodes include Noel Fielding, Alan Moore and Lisa Dwan, and you’ll also find a long chat with Mark Gatiss. they are all HERE.


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Continue the Experiment – just letting the bad thoughts out of my skull

One of my intermittent acts of trepanning on the train. 

“Imagination, working at full strength, can shake us out of our fatal, adoring self absorption and make us look up and see – with terror or with relief – that world in fact does not belong to us at all” – Ursula K Le Guin

24 hour television.
24 hour news.
24 hour social media.
Constantly in the market square, hearing all the preachers heckle and scream and we don’t expect to go mad?

It is best to assume that none of this is real.

The rich man boasts that he pays no tax.
The rich man uses every government aid and subsidy possible for him to maximise his profit and build his casinos, where he can have your money again.
There is no clash in ideology between requiring the benefits of others’ tax to make his profit and paying nothing in tax.

He’ll make everyone the same as him. They’ll all become rich enough through tax benefits and loopholes that they’ll be able to avoid paying all their taxes.

Then, they can reap the rewards and eat the delicious cardboard and sand that will abound in this new Eden.

And remember, if the new Eden of bigotry, big walls and silly putty doesn’t happen, it can only be due to some fix, because the rich man can only be a winner, there is no other possibility, no other universe, return to your cabins and prepare for war because it will be so unfair if he doesn’t get what he wants. Please riot for him.

Continue the experiment.

A wise man said that it was called the American dream because you had to be asleep to believe it.

Would you like to see affordable housing and society that does not require food banks?

You sound treacherous.

What is more unpatriotic than being against your county’s rapid decline?

You are the sort of person that demands your tropical fruit is Euclidean.

Continue the experiment.

Trust no experts.

Employ the useful experts and trust them implicitly until they veer from the path of your required righteousness.

Reject the curiosity that led to humans being able to start fires.

Burn down the academies with fire.

Every Tuesday, the papers will create a photofit of the sort of human who is a traitor to Britain based around 1000 descriptions sent in by readers. The reader that most effectively attacks, with bin lids, someone who looks like that photofit will win Marmite.

Respect the will of the people. The people are wise. (If, and only if, also confirmed as the will of newspaper editors and proprietors. The non-domiciled must lead on what is best for the domestic).

Fuck the will of the people on health services and public transport.
The people are idiots.

The elite must be dismissed and sneered at, they know nothing.

The position of elite will only be given to those contrary to the will of the people.
(please note earlier amendment to the good will of the people and the bad will of the people).

Millionaire status will be ignored when compiling venn diagrams of bad elite and good cabinet ministers when appropriate.

Continue the experiment…

A new anthology of horror stories by comedians, Dead Funny Encore, is now available.

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On Nightingales and Hidden Libraries

“If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad”- Lord Byron

I do like a surprise library.
A library like Brigadoon but that continues to exist after you have had your first adventure in it.
I was walking upbeat through Nottingham.
I had hit my word count target for number of words per day for the new book. I am aiming for 500 more words a day than Graham Greene’s daily target, knowing full well that, unlike Graham Greene’s precision verbal aim, I would probably be junking 50% of the words after careful consideration. I am currently writing without careful consideration. It’s dynamite pockets of fingertip blistering typing to be reviewed when I have hit 120,000 words, at which point I will find out if I have written a book, an epic beat poem, or an impenetrable conundrum. The, the chainsaw of self-doubt will hack away at the paragraphs.

The only blot of on this tram route walk was the unfortunate timing of looking down into a concrete corner directly into some pale sick that was being pecked at by a pigeon.
I did not order scrambled eggs this morning.
The day before, biological expulsion had also got in the way of my appreciation of Fournier’s The Funeral of Shelley at the Walker Art Gallery. Staring into the detail of Shelley’s face above the burning pyre, I was scrutinising the cool fleshiness of his death mask when the man behind me farted in a loud and relaxed manner. My nostrils flared as the molecules around me psychosomatically became decaying flesh on a compost heap.

The surprise library was The Bromley House Library. Unobtrusively positioned in the midst of the loud shops trying to lure you onto the rocks of their latest bargain blouses and flat televisions, the doorway whispers, “shhhhhhh, there’s books in here. Ring the bell. come and see”.

So different from all else around you, walking through the door, you feel as if you are in an Edwardian children’s ghost story where the adventurous but lonely girl finds a house still possessed with all that lived in it one hundred years before.

The library is two hundred years old and was, and is, a photographic studio. Photographs by Eadweard Muybridge are on the entrance hall wall and the back door opens onto an unexpected garden so peaceful despite its mere metres from bustle that you expect the last nightingales of Nottingham to be singing in it. Upstairs, the library begins. It’s labyrinthine steps and stairwells place it somewhere between the imagination of Borges and Escher.

There is no computer on top of the lending desk, but ledgers and cardboard library cards.
In glass case, there is a display of letters of complaint.

On 11th May, 1840, WB Carter aired his grievance that he had been asked to replace a book in which he had written corrections in the margin.

In 1894, Mrs Allcock humbly suggested that the Sub-librarian be sent to night school as “the handwriting on the covers of the magazines is dreadful.”

While A Bradley and WJ Bromley found the light in the library so bad that you could only read the names of the books if you were directly under the lamps.

The spiral staircase warns that there should only be one person on it at a time.

Beyond the still functioning darkroom and the studio with the painted rural backdrop for pleasant Victorian portraiture was the room of biographies. I knew this was a good place because right in front of me was Dance and Skylark, Naomi Sim’s story of her 50 years married to Alastair Sim (and if you are looking for someone who really embodies “British values” amongst all these Mcarthyite cries that you are traitor if you want affordable Marmite and sceptical rigour over the lie led BREXITing, Sim may be a good place to start.)

Bromley House Library is also home to Nottingham City of Literature, which has many projects to celebrate writing and celebrate Nottingham authors from Lord Byron via DH Lawrence to Mary Howitt (and Alan Sillitoe of course. I am on the mood to read Saturday Night, Sunday Morning again).

I am not a clubbable man, my last one was the Young Ornithologists, but if I was a midlander, this is where you’d find me, among the dark leather spines and fixing solution.

I left with a copy of These Seven (have you read These Seven Nottingham Writers), containing stories by John Harvey, Alison Moore, Paula Rawsthorne, Brick, Shreya San Handley, Megan Taylor and Alan Sillitoe, and handful of postcards, and a homemade brownie in tupperware, and that is how days should be.

“The art of writing is to explain the complications of the human soul with the simplicity that can be universally understood” – Alan Sillitoe

I hope that Josie Long and I can record a Book Shambles at Bromley House Library. Out latest podcast is a hiking and existentialist special with the superb biographer, Sarah Bakewell. So far in series 4, we have also interviewed Alan Moore and Noel Fielding. All 34 episodes are HERE.

I have compiled a new horror anthology with Johnny Mains. It has stories by Stewart Lee, James Acaster, Alice Lowe, Isy Suttie, Josie Long and many more. It is HERE.

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