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Friday, December 31, 2010

Greetings from Bath!

Hello dear readers,

Well, might miracles never cease, I have left the cosy confines of my beloved London and arrived with my 78-year-old neighbour Mrs Donaldson in Bath, Somerset. The journey was stressful, as one might imagine, and I have spent the past several days in a fascinating state of recovery, anxiety and dare I say excitement.

It is another world. I spent much of yesterday afternoon drinking warm tea while watching street performers in the main square. First there was a young man who did a number of cover versions of John Lennon and Beatle songs. He was stupendous, a dead ringer (no pun intended). He was later followed by two young blond men from Scandinavia who looked cold and were bloody awful, completely lacking in confidence and off-tune.

As I dropped 50p into their basically empty hat on the stones, one gave an embarrassed shrug and explained they didn't know how to play any instruments but were in need of finances for a big New Years Eve drinking session. I noted the northern European economies were much stronger than that of the UK, hinting that perhaps a little 'shoulder to the grindstone' back home might offer a more fulfilling, beggary-free getaway in future. They thanked me again for the donation and subtly asked me to move, as I was blocking the view for their 'audience' (mostly indifference pedestrians hurriedly seeking indoor warmth).

So, yes, I am compiling notes to write a few sample chapters for my new Bill Bryson-style book about travelling around Britain. I would like to share more, but there is a queue waiting impatiently for the Guest House's sole 'Guest PC' (with unlimited internet access!). The rooms have free wi-fi, so if these VIP types are that desperate to get on-line they should have brought or purchased a laptop computer.

And yet, I shall be the better man and relent to their sighing.

So long from Bath, or as the Romans called it, Aquae Sulis! I shall endeavour to update again shortly.

Stay well (and Happy New Year),

Friday, December 24, 2010

Lowdown Big Top Christmas

Mancunian Monkey Boy and Dave the Circus Midget were escorted through the large wooden door, which was adorned with the largest, most intricately woven wreath either had ever seen. The room was blue with pipe smoke, making the walls of classic hardback books appear hazy and dreamlike. A muscular man with short black hair sat behind an imposing oak desk, his head down over a printout of papers. His suit was well-tailored, Savile Row. The gold nametag said: Santa – the sleigh stops here. Behind him stood a block of meat with knuckles as big as brass bells and a look as blank as a field of new fallen snow.

“I thought you were supposed to be fat and jolly and wearing a red suit,” Monkey said, flopping down on a red leather chair and slouching back.

Santa looked up, his eyes dark and distant. Long nights and not enough sun this high in the Arctic. He put his gold pen down.

“I thought man would shave his knuckles when they get so furry,” he replied, looking at Monkey’s hands on the armrests. “Stereotypes, monkey person. Red suit is Coca-Cola marketing campaign from 1920s. You should know history, or be bound to repeat it. Like cheap shampoo.”

Ukrainian accent, Monkey though, surprised. He had clocked it within two words. Monkey had dealt with Kiev types before. They were unpredictable and notoriously tight-lipped. He wondered how the world had been so misinformed about a man at the centre of the biggest holiday of the year. Fucking Rupert Murdoch.

Santa looked down at Dave and cocked an eye.

“You work for me in past, little man?”

“No, Santa. I’ve only ever worked in the circus and as a roadie with The Happy Mondays before they made it big. But it’s a right pleasure to meet you.”

“Ah... Step On. Very good song.” He motioned to the slab of meat at his shoulder. “This is body guard, Vasily.”

“Is he?” Monkey said.

Santa looked confused. “Vhat?”

“Monkey…” Dave moaned.

“Silly?” Monkey continued.

Santa picked up his pen and silently flipped through his stack of papers. He made a dramatic slash. “You just lose one present for terrible pun.”

“I don’t need new socks or a bicycle anyway. What we need is information, Santa.”

“Everybody want something,” the big man replied. “I want two penises and vaginas on palms, but life not always work in way we wish.”

“What do you know about April Mills?”

“Model, mono-ped, fleeced a Beatle. Now very rich but hated by world.”

“That’s Heather Mills. We're after April Mills, barmaid in the Elephant and Lettuce pub. Pretty face but unfortunate tight perm. She's Polish, so she has an excuse. Been missing since last weekend.”

Santa’s eyes narrowed. “Maybe she give bad service to someone.”

“Highly probable. She was a shit server, but if spilling your pint was a reason for someone to disappear half the staff in England would be MIA.”

Monkey had a feeling Santa was holding back. Ukrainians…

“Why should I know information?” Santa asked.

“Because the word is you know everything – naughty, nice, the whole ball of wax. You’re like Wikileaks, but less arrogant and further out of reach of US black Ops. I know you’re a smart man and have no reason to play dumb.” Monkey looked up at Vasily. “Unlike him. Can you ask him to stop staring?”

“He is body guard. He watches everyone.”

“I thought that was your job.”

Santa got up from his desk. He looked like the type who went to the gym at least five times a week. He walked to the window and looked out on the dark snow drifts.

“There was a time. But accountant convinced me to outsource. Now I am glorified manager. I feel out of loop of my own operation.”

Monkey leaned forward. He hadn’t expected melancholy from the legendary elf-man.

“But you can get us the information,” Monkey said.

“If I share rumour little bird whispers in ear, I need … compensation.”

“Milk and cookies?”

Santa turned around.

“I want be acrobat. On high-wire. Maybe I grab pretty girl on swinging bar. And later I shoot tiger from cannon. I have enough of toys for children and dealing with elf union.”

“What would happen to Christmas?”

“I appoint new CEO. Nigel Claus, nephew. Branding stays same but I get to live my dream.”

Monkey smiled. “Everyone deserves to follow their dreams, Santa.”

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Stieg Larsson alive?

Hello dear readers,

Well, my desire to write Stieg Larsson, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and ‘new Stieg Larsson manuscript found’ in every blog post to attract search engine traffic has certainly touched a nerve. One associate termed it misleading and unethical; another took offence to my not understanding the author's genius and popular appeal. Each to their own. You can't please everyone.

No doubt entitling this post Stieg Larsson alive? will prompt do-gooders to accuse me of scraping the bottom of the morality bucket. But frankly, I desperately need new readers and he's not likely to either mind or pursue litigation. Besides, the world runs on suspect conjecture. And it's not like I've accepted blood diamonds from Charles Taylor.

Speaking of ethics, you would think responsible workmen would be keen to finish a job, especially when it involves a missing half of a roof and rainy weather. But no, I am still living under plastic. They failed to leave a contact number, the Louse of the House (aka my landlord) has disappeared and my Google search for ‘shifty old roofers’ has come to naught.

Beyond this, The Independent – that bastion of free expression – has excluded my comments from appearing on a recent article about the rapid rise in commodity prices. I made the erudite point that an increase in feed stock will result in higher prices for meat, which as a semi-vegetarian (who still eats seafood and admittedly bacon on Saturday mornings), I view as a positive outcome of the whole palaver, as people won't consume as many animals.

The expected rise in food prices is worrying and simply adds to the atmosphere of economic misery pervading most of the nation. Many readers laughed when I stocked up on large quantities of rice and tinned goods during the brief Ash Cloud uncertainty. Well, when food prices go through the roof due to these wild fires in Russia and the Ukraine, I shall be enjoying my reasonably priced wares with a satisfied smirk on my lips.

Of course my lips would be happier if Madeline would return even one phone call or email. But I shall not dwell.

Finally, I have had a return of the death worries that drove so many readers away from my blog not long ago. As I rapidly approach my 48th birthday, I have become aware of how much I've outlived so many of my fellow scribes:

Virginia Wolfe, dead at 39
Franz Kafka, dead at 41
Chekhov, dead at 44
Robert Louis Stevenson, also dead at 44
Lord Byron, flung from this mortal coil at 36
Robbie Burns, planted at 37
And though I haven't outlived him yet, Stieg Larsson, reduced to ash at 50

Or is he still alive and living in Norwich?

The list of dead writers goes on. Sober reading.

Right, I'm off for a quick wank.

Stay well,

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Ash Wednesday - Chapters 1 & 2

Hello dear readers,

Well, as mentioned yesterday, I have begun work on an apocalyptic genre novel (ala The Da Vinci Code) entitled Ash Wednesday.  I've decided to post the first two chapters in order to gauge reader interest and entice publishers. Like Dan Brown, I have decided to utilise short chapters with suspenseful endings to drive the narrative.

The novel features a British protagonist (former Beefeater turned MI5 operative Rudger Hewlitt) as well as several Americans, including Obama liaison Veronica Strong. As I am aiming for an international audience and film sales, casting a wide net of nationalities seems wise.

For fellow writers, note my use of subtle plot enhancers, such as Rudger's achilles heel (his nut allergy). Also, I've used the Hollywood trick of showing he's a good egg by giving him a pet dog. In the movies, having a dog means you can do no wrong.

Please have a read, tell all genre fans to take a look and post your feedback! Let's get the buzz and word of mouth rolling so that publishers fall over themselves in a bidding war!


Ash Wednesday copyright 2010 Nate Fitzgerald - all rights reserved. 

Chapter 1

Rudger Hewlitt took his black military-style satchel from the overhead compartment, his well-defined bicep bulging beneath the wool of his coal grey jumper. He always packed his own snacks for flights, the lifelong habit of a man cursed with a potentially lethal nut allergy. He noted the sleek woman in the beige business suit look up for a split second from her Time magazine. He removed a plain Yorkie bar and packet of Quavers from his satchel as if he didn’t see – as if he didn’t recognise her from the television as Veronica Strong, Obama’s tough and sharp-tongued liaison to Downing Street.

Rudger smiled and sat back down beside the snoring Asian man to his right. They had conducted a good chat upon take-off during which Rudger had shown him a photo of his trusted beagle Bernard, making the man snort with the classic line, “but he’s certainly no saint. Not after what he did to my tennis shoes.” Rudger had that effect on people, an easy charm to go with a physique that could have been chiselled by Michelangelo himself. Rudger had seen the master’s David outside Uffizi gallery in Florence and had feigned awe for the benefit of the tourists despite knowing that the statue was in fact a replica. Of course, he had been in Italy on business, not pleasure.

“So what do you do?”

Rudger looked up, startled. Not many people could sneak up on him. Veronica Strong’s face was angled on his, her body close enough that he could smell her Chanel perfume and feel the faintest touch of body heat.

“Pardon me?” he said.

“Consider yourself pardoned, buster. You do have a job, right?”

He both admired and loathed American abruptness.

“Care for a drink?” he replied.

“You expect me to stand here and drink alcohol with you?”

“No, I expect to convince your seat mate to exchange places so that we can have a civilised conversation.”

She sighed, but he could tell she liked his strategic mind.

“That seat mate happens to be my body guard,” Veronica said. “I doubt you can convince him to leave my side.”

Rudger undid his security belt and moved to get up. “You’d be very surprised at what I’m capable of, my dear lady.”

Chapter 2

Pilot Dirk Gilloly of the New Jersey Gillolys rubbed his raw eyes. He had been a professional pilot for a little over three years and had moved up the ranks through balls, bravado and the influence of certain members of his mafia family who wanted to see one of its own reach the starry heights of legitimate command. He wanted to think he had earned his stripes, but always had a seed of doubt in his mind. This was the cause of his constant shakes and extreme sweats. And his symptoms were getting worse, not what you wanted when flying with a green co-pilot and a navigator with a bad reputation.

And now he had these strange lights on the windscreen.

“I’m sure it’s simply the effect of Aurora Borealis,” his Welsh co-pilot Reg said again.

“It’s the wrong season,” Dirk snapped. “That there is a winter-based phenomenon.”

“We are flying near Iceland. Maybe their seasons are different.”

Dirk rolled his eyes and cursed BA’s cost cutting. When you paid peanuts, you got monkeys. They were flying the red-eye from New York to London Heathrow, the flight called thusly because of the false idea that rising early caused puffy, red eyes. In fact, the irritation of the eyes and sinuses had more to do with dryness than the time of morning. Often a poorly maintained air-conditioning unit was to blame – and since so many commuters stayed in inexpensive hotels…

“Anything on radar, buddy?” Dirk asked again.

His co-pilot Serge La Crisp blew air from his nostrils in the typical French style. “No, like I say to you before, it is nothing on the little mechanism for looking.”

So what was this mysterious full-spectrum light illuminating the windscreen? It looked like a prism and Dirk had to repeatedly push the ridiculous notion of extraterrestrial contact from his mind. The idea was preposterous. Yet there was nothing on the radar and no visible causes of the phenomenon. Could this be some new invention from the US military?

“Well, it doesn’t appear to be a matter of concern,” Reg chipped in.

Dirk frowned. He was a believer in luck, and knew you didn’t tempt fate. Oh how he wished he was in a sports bar in Manhattan watching his favourite professional basketball team, the New Jersey Nets, and eating a plate of Mexican-style nacho chips. 

As if on cue, a red button lit up and a pulsating alarm chimed. 

"Oh shit."

“What is dis dreadful noise?” Serge inquired.

Dirk frowned. “Engine One appears to be overheating.”

"Zut alors,” Serge replied. "Dis is bad news."

Even Dirk knew this was an understatement, though he conceded the comment could have been caused by the language barrier. He had told BA more than once that navigators with suspect English skills were potentially lethal. Now his theory would be put to the test.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

New book

Hello dear readers,

Interestingly enough, on occasion alcohol does nothing more than make me tired - no euphoria, idiocy or melancholy, just faint sleepiness. This is the typical midday effect, I suppose, which is why lunch pints have never been a habit. My resistance to alcohol's more profound effects must have something to do with my incredibly strong constitution and cast-iron stomach. Though I now suffer outrageous indigestion from hot curries, in my youth I really was able to eat anything and rarely suffered food poisoning, aside from the cockle nightmare of 1979.

Of course the three-day cockle wee/diarrhoea/vomit extravaganza could have been a psychosomatic illness in response to a forced seaside holiday in Blackpool. If the Catholics are right about this Purgatory business, I expect after being struck by a speeding bus to wake into a blinding white light only to find myself on the pier staring into that ghastly town's tacky illuminations. The fact that my father was forced to pay for a private cleaning company to service the room was clearly karma in action - though at the time I was not yet an aspiring Buddhist.*/**

*Granted, nor am I now, as that phase ended several years back
** Sorry, at this point I should probably mention that I have had a few tipples - it is 1:30pm - if you have an issue with this, perhaps we should have a bare knuckle fight on the pavement

I realise that I promised to narrate my night with Cousin Douglas and the Thais, but after noting the lack of hits on the blog at the weekend, I completely lost interest. No point slaving when half the nation is on holiday.

Despite my busy schedule, I have begun work on a new novel, this time opting for pure genre in an attempt to penetrate the trite consciousness of our superficial age. Frankly, I'm desperate for the money. It's an apocalyptic tale of society going tits up due to the spread and intensification of this year's ash cloud. Violence, pettiness, perhaps a bit of romance... I'm considering adding some vampires to the mix, but fear their appeal may dissipate before the long journey from writing to editing, finding a publisher to actually seeing the book in print. Mind you, this vampire trend has been going for quite a few years now and every second book on shop shelves seems to feature bloody fangs. We shall see.

Title: Ash Wednesday (spooky, pseudo-religious, ominous).

I had considered doing a travel journal, having already prepared some very thorough research for a trip around Britain. I thought perhaps I could mirror Bill Bryson, who made an absolute killing by conjuring up nostalgic half-truths about English society, like noting that we all like nothing more than sitting on benches for days at a time staring at nature. He neglected to point out that the people who do this are either homeless alcoholics or old people and that the elderly do this in virtually every nation on Earth because they a) can't move, and b) never have any money. I suppose the same goes for the alcoholics...

I notice Mr Bryson didn't go to the heart of, say, Newcastle and reminisce fondly about packs of football hooligans battering one another with pipe and steel-toed Doc Martens. Or touch on the gentle loveliness of the 1980s strikes. Or mention the quaintness of post-war ration cards and creeping demoralisation.

Mind you, I do very much enjoy Bill Bryson's books. Waxing lyrical about a mythical past simply isn't my shtick. I'd rather blow up half of Iceland and have frothy mouthed hooligans destroying a Marks and Sparks (planned for Chapter 8).

Oh, and for the reader who inquired via email asking if I am a recluse, I am a perfectly normal man who values his privacy and personal time in an age of mass communication. In other words, I'm a semi-recluse. I have issues in social situations and don't like being surprised (ie, having anyone phone, drop in, see me on the street and initiate conversation, or ask me to go out in public to a venue I'm not comfortable in). I do have friends and acquaintances and am selectively social. As Bill Bryson might tell you, this is how we all felt before the advent of the mobile telephone.

Stay well,

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Natesy Awards

Hello dear readers,

"Nate Fitzgerald's love-of-turnips blog is by far the funniest on the Interweb" - QI host Stephen Fly*

*Host of pro-government Hunan quiz show Quite In-Sync-With-Party-Dogma, a Chinese television program in which guests earn points for giving the most politically acceptable answer to dull questions about quotas and five-year industrial plans

Well, I must say that I am absolutely exhausted this morning after attending the inaugural Natesy Awards. Guests were decked out in fashionable fur and collar (with bell) as well as cotton lounge trousers and plain blue t-shirt. With cider free-flowing, dinner was a culinary adventure consisting of assorted cheeses, Fray Bentos pie and mash, followed by always delectable Hobnobs. Though the selection committee debated such hosts as David Mitchell, Rob Brydon, Bill Bailey and Sarah Ferguson (who needed the money and would come cheap) the festivities were hosted by Nate Fitzgerald.

Winner: Best Blog: love-of-turnips.blogspot.com

Best Cat: Linus

Best web personality: Nate Fitzgerald

Yes, I've cleaned up and am now going to refer to my blog as award-winning in every missive I send or publish. I'm sure no one will care. Frankly, I believe with this post, the blog has sunk to an all-time low, which is remarkable given some of the drek* that's been slopped onto this site in the past...

*A great word, Yiddish in origin

I've reinstated comments and have added a new blog counter. The last one I had went belly up for some unknown reason and registered that I had 300+ hits from France and next to none from the UK and stayed that way for several months. Oh, free start-up technology. This one is more basic but will help convince publishers that my blog is a thriving enterprise. I've been reading up on publishing in the modern market place and editors want to know that you have a presence on Twitter (check) and a website for self-promotion (double check). There are other social media bits I'm missing, but given that Facebook treats personal information like yesterday's fish wrap, I'm not about to place my vitals in their grubby paws.

Remember, tell your friends about the blog. The more the merrier.

Stay well,