Category Archives: Books

Your Pal Andy

EbookcoverI’m very excited to announce that my first novel, “Your Pal Andy”, is coming out this month. Written during the second year of my writing residency at Selkirk FC, it follows the misadventures of former Selkirk player Andy Fairbairn on his tortuous road from Yarrow Park to the big time.  I have always wanted to write a football novel with no obvious market or commercial appeal, so huge thanks to Selkirk FC for making my dreams become reality. Sneak preview below!

 

March 18th

Well Joe old Donaldson named the squad for this Satterdays game and I am in it. I guess that is a little bit of vindicashun for all my hard work sints I got back and it just goes to show Joe that you shoud never give up on your dreams altho of coarse Joe it is not true for everybody and for some people it woud probily be best to reign in your expectations a bit and not hope for too much and that way you wont be so dissappointed.

The game is away to Ross Country and is a twelve noon kick off so we will be travelling up on Friday night and sleeping in a hotel. The other lads dont like staying away from home and they were all mumping and moneing on acct that they will miss there familys etc but we are not away for long and at lease when they are home they have got their wifes to look after them but I do not Joe and hotels are the only chance I got to have someone else take care of me for a change.

So I am looking forward to it Joe even if they are not and the only down side is that the club are too mean to spring for a room each so we are haveing to share and my roommate is a lad the club just signed from France and his name is Vidian. Apparently he plays for Guadeloupe Joe which goes to show you what the standard of football is over their as he does not know what direction we are shooting ½ the time altho that is maybe on acct he does not speak any English. But it takes all sorts as they say Joe and he has not done me no harm and in fact he never says anything to anybody so I will probily be able to get threw the whole weekend without even noticing he is their and I guess he will be glad to have me as a roommate too instead of 1 of these other loud mouths that has always got so much to say for themselfs.

Burdon has got a room to himself of coarse and Brady says it is because no one else will room with him but to me Joe it is just pure favritism and it is old Donaldsons way of letting me know that I am still person non grata round this club and that he is only keeping me in the squad on acct that the owners woud scream blue murder if he left me out.

I do not know if I coud ever get a job as a scout Joe on acct that I do not have a face like a burst melodian but if I did I woud be prity good at it on acct I can look at any player in the world and tell you why they are no good. Now that I am back training with the 1st team I have been able to have a good look at this Burdon guy and for all the talk of him being a wonder kid and a golden boy etc Joe I can read him like a book and the only reason he is able to get by in this league is because people buy in to the hype and they have not got the sents to see threw it all like I have eg whenever he is on the right hand side he goes to cross with his right foot then faints and cuts inside. Well Joe our players is so dumb that he coud have a thought bubble comeing out of his head with a picture of him cutting inside in it and they still woud be none the wiser but once he comes up against 1 of these big guys at the proper teams they will go right threw him the 1st time he tries it and they might not even wait until then if they happen to here him speaking first as he is a proper no user Joe and you can take that from me.

For example Joe at training this am I had a chance to put 1 in to the near post and so I took it and as usual no one was on the same page and it went strait in to the keeper and Burdon threw his hands up in the air and said I am right here why dident you cut it back and I told him I dident see him and he said you woud have seen me if I had been between 2 slices of bread and then he says I know you are desprit for money but we dont get goal bonuses for training and I told him it was a pass not a shot and he said I coudent tell the diffrents which I guess goes to show you how much he knows abt football Joe.

Well I have got a prity good read on old Donaldson by now Joe and I already know that I wont be starting the game agenst Ross Country but he will put me on with 15 minutes to go just so he can say afterwards well I gave you a chance in the 1st team and you dident take it. Well Joe whenever you see 1 of these supersubs or impact players or whatever they are called all it reely means is they have got no football brane at all and it doesent matter to them what point of the game it is as they are just going to do the exact same thing irregardless. But a player like me that actually thinks abt the game needs time to feel things out and probe at the other teams weakness etc and it is no good throwing us in with 15 minutes to go and if you were fighting against an alien invasion Joe and you had Steven Hawkings in your team it is obvious you woud have him involved from the start makeing plans and working things out etc and you woud not just wait until the aliens had almost landed and then shove a rifle in his hands and push him out the door.

Well Joe I will try and let you know how we get on but by all accts Ross Country is a prity small place and you can only get on the Internet their when your phone is plugged in to the wall so you might not here from me until Sunday but the game is on tv Joe so I am sure you will be tuneing in anyway to see your old pal Andy back in action and make sure the Selkirk chareman puts the game on in the clubroom Joe as if it was up to him their woud be nothing on any tv channel in the world exept horse racing and Diagnosis Murder.

Your pal,

Andy

Selkirk FC vs the World!

Selkirk FC Vs The World CoverWith the new Lowland League season kicking off today, Selkirk Football Club and myself are awfy pleased to announce the publication of “Selkirk FC vs the World!”

“Selkirk FC vs the World!” is the end result of the first season of my poetry residency at Selkirk Football Club, and collects together twenty-five poems and short stories I wrote for the club throughout the course of the year. From a Subbuteo league in post-apocalypse Glasgow to the 1930 World Cup Final, these pieces are, I suppose, a wee mind-map to what I think about when I think about football; or, in other words, the whole book is a kind of 200-page paean to the act of being grimly resigned.

Not that I’m done thinking about football just yet, or writing about it, for that matter. But the residency has been a fantastic platform to write about the things I’m really interested in (i.e. post-apocalyptic Glaswegian Subbuteo leagues) and also to learn a bit more about how lower league football (i.e. the vast majority of football played in this or any country) actually happens. Huge thanks to Selkirk FC and everyone involved with for that.

You can pick up a copy of the book here – you can even review it, which would be lovely and make me feel as if I’m not just banging my head repeatedly on the dangerously low overhang of the Selkirk dugout. It’s nicer than macaroni pies, better for you than Bovril, and cheaper than actually going to a game. Best of all, if you buy it this weekend it’s completely gratis. There’s not a lot in Scottish football nowadays which is free, Kris Boyd apart. So you can’t really say much fairer than that.

Salman Rushdie and the Establishment of the Left

Couple of years ago, Salman Rushdie wrote a memoir of his time in hiding from the Iranian fatwa. It’s called “Joseph Anton”, and I had read two-thirds of it when I decided to give up. It wasn’t badly written. It was just depressing me a bit, and I couldn’t understand why.

Yes, Rushdie comes over as being something of a wanker. He is shifty and inauthentic and views himself and his books as actual bulwarks of Western literature – except when it doesn’t suit him, and he just wants to be an ordinary person again. He seems constitutionally incapable of acknowledging any other point of view but his own, and I don’t mean simply on the fatwa but on anything. His wives are wrong, the police are wrong, the public, the media, his publishers, all wrong. Apart from his son, an idealised portrait of beatific childhood lifted wholesale from one of those Victorian melodramas which end with the infant being bodily assumed into Heaven, everybody in the world is at best a coward and at worst a monster. The consistent leitmotif of the book is that anyone whose interests diverge however minutely from the agenda of Salman Rushdie gets it both barrels.

None of which I mind, by the way. The character of “Joseph Anton” (Rushdie’s pseudonym throughout his years in hiding, and a decent indication of where he sees himself in the canon) is a magical piece of comic caricature, right up there with Adrian Mole and Mister Pooter. Rushdie’s lack of self-awareness never quite grows endearing, but it is usually funny, except when he is being gratuitously mean to and/or about someone who has helped him but not enough, which he usually is. No, what I found depressing about “Joseph Anton” was the absence from its pages of any kind of ordinary person – by which I mean someone who is unlikely to have went to Oxbridge or to public school.

The ‘ordinary’ people in “Joseph Anton” are the kind of off-stage rabble you get in village hall productions of Les Miserables. You don’t see them, you rarely hear them, and if they play any significant part in the story at all it is in the nameless role of “the waitress” or “the driver”. They are invariably slack and incompetent, with the implication continually being made that Rushdie’s life is dependent upon the random bumblings of ‘these kinds’ of people. There are several moving passages in which Rushdie speaks about the indignity of having to hide in his room whenever a cleaner comes round. The indignity of having to clean other people’s houses for a living goes strangely unremarked upon.

And what makes “Joseph Anton” interesting is that, finally, it all boils down to human dignity, a subject about which Salman Rushdie has an awful lot to say. Specifically, the circumstances in which it is impossible to maintain one’s dignity. There are things, Rushdie comes to realise, which are basic human rights, and which it is intolerable to be expected to live without. These are some of the rights for which Rushdie makes fairly explicit provision.

  1. The right to freedom of speech.
  2. The right to spend time with your family.
  3. The right to live and work wherever you like.
  4. The right to go on foreign holidays, anywhere, anytime.
  5. The right to go to awards ceremonies, and receive awards.
  6. The right to have your book published to your exact specifications and timetable, regardless of the potential economic, moral or human cost.

And so on. You will have no doubt have noticed that most, perhaps even all of these rights are currently denied to the average citizen of the United Kingdom. Rushdie doesn’t. For the vast majority of the book, Rushdie and his web of Oxbridge contacts are making strenuous appeal for the author to be allowed to live an ordinary life. The problem is, the disconnect between Rushdie’s idea of a ‘normal’ life and anybody else’s is so vast that it feels as if you are being personally insulted on every single page – which you probably would be, by the way, if you’d met him.

It is just an accepted fact that folk like, say, Martin Amis or Salman Rushdie are ‘men of the left’ – but what does it actually mean? Well, what reading “Joseph Anton” has made me realise is that it means exactly fuck all. It means that they are part of a familial squabble which, to the extent that it is happening at all, is taking place in an entirely different room and has nothing to do with the rest of us. Because the Establishment has a left wing as well. It’s the left to which writers, journalists, Labour politicians and the BBC belong. It is a left which is concerned with culture and heritage and being kind to animals and other such vague and worthy generalisations. It is a left which behaves as if the important battles against poverty and privilege have already been won, because, of course, those battles have been won, at least to the satisfaction of Amis and company; and they are therefore perfectly entitled to spend the rest of human history in public school debates about whether the Turner Prize winner is art this year or not.

To the Establishment Left, politics is basically extra-curricular. It’s something you do for extra credits instead of cricket. There’s nothing at stake. “Joseph Anton” is a book about a man who finds, to his horror, that everything is at stake; that his life depends upon the one box out of a million which an unseen bureaucrat might choose to tick that day, or might not. In other words, Salman Rushdie wakes up one morning to find that his life is now, well, ordinary.

Or almost. Rushdie still has his friends. He meets the Prime Minister. He meets the President. The Tory government are too busy dismantling the welfare state to talk to any of the people whose lives they’ve ruined, but they talk to Rushdie. Hitoshi Igarashi, the Japanese translator of The Satanic Verses, presumably did not have the ear of the Prime Minister of Japan, and is stabbed to death. Rushdie has the same reaction to this as he does to every other tragedy that comes of the fatwa, which is one part unconvincing regret to four parts defensive insistence that it’s not his fault.

And it isn’t, of course. The Kafka parallels are obvious. For all his faults, Rushdie has not actually done anything wrong. But unlike Joseph K, ‘Joseph Anton’ affects to have no conception whatsoever that he might have done anything wrong, ever. And that’s interesting. Very few of us, except maybe psychopaths and leaders, have led such blameless lives that, when something terrible happens to us, we have no cosmic inkling that we might have had it coming. Is that, in the end, what separates us from the Establishment? Is that all it is – guilt?