100 Things About Me

  1. I am 46, white, male, straight, English and 6’1” in my socks.
  2. I grew up in Whitstable, which is a coastal town in Kent, south east England.
  3. My upbringing featured a unusual ‘amount’ of love and death, both of which I think there should be a lot more of.
  4. My family are very unusual. I know everyone says that, but in my case it’s true.
  5. When I was ten I had persistent fantasies of aliens coming to Earth and beaming me out of my French class because I was special, and they realised that. I think the aliens knew that there is nothing special about feeling special.
  6. When I was 15 I had an argument with Sean Cosgrove about the end of the world. I said it would happen soon. I’ve been stone cold certain of this ever since.
  7. As a teenager I was fascinated with the mysterious inner experience of girls, which they liked, while, at the same time, being utterly terrified of same, which they didn’t.
  8. I would be disarmingly and fascinatingly honest so that censure of my sins would be outweighed by approbation for my sincerity. A cheap trick common to sensitive men.
  9. Between the ages of 16 and 25 I was fabulously miserable or terrified of everything and everyone for most of the time.
  10. But occasionally I felt enormous rushes of intense joy, for no reason at all, usually when walking up hills.
  11. I graduated from Sheffield University with a degree in English Literature. The course was nonsense, but I quickly learnt to write 2:1 essays very quickly and spent the rest of the three years reading whatever I wanted. I nearly got expelled for going fishing with Sam C. Robb.
  12. After I graduated I went home and spent another year in bed reading.
  13. Then I got a job as a technical author — writing instruction manuals for computer programmes I didn’t understand — in a place called Poole. It was an immensely shit job and I almost went out of my mind doing it.
  14. I’ve done a lot of shit jobs. My worst one was probably working in a tanning factory, trimming cow hides; surrounded by piles of dead cattle-flesh, living-dead humans and a constant overpowering stench of excrement. At least that one served some purpose though.
  15. I don’t own much and I’m usually close to broke…
  16. …because I’ve spent more than fifteen of the last twenty-five years not working.
  17. I used to have soft, golden-white, curly hair — the hair of an angel.
  18. Now I’m bald.
  19. I lost my hair when I was eighteen. It was pretty traumatic — I couldn’t stop thinking about hair for three years — but I learnt to be thankful it happened, because…
  20. …I’m vain and arrogant. Baldness is very instructive to a man in this regard, I found.
  21. Yes, vain and arrogant, but there is also a part of me which finds my vanity and arrogance preposterous, which makes them okay, I think, like I think fear is okay too, provided you don’t pay it much attention or act anyway. Talking of which…
  22. …I’d rather smell shit than shit covered with air freshener.
  23. And I can say very stupid things, but that’s the price of not continually censoring yourself isn’t it? Being a berk is fine as long as you can admit your gaff and move on (or run away) quickly.
  24. It’s not because, or perhaps just because, I’m vain that I’m writing this though and it’s certainly not that low genre of literature, the ‘confession’. It’s just that I think someone who writes about the kind of things that I write about should share a bit of himself. The world I want to speak of is not just there, a thing separate from me, it’s my life. Also and I think I would be interested to read a list like this from writers I admire.
  25. I usually call myself working class, because my parents were working class and I love the honesty, generosity and reckless trust in the future that I grew up with and also because, generally, the middle-class world deeply appalls me; but I went to university, speak a kind of slack RP, love a lot of middle-class stuff and people, and find ‘reverse snobbery’ pretty stupid too, so there you go.
  26. Whitstable was working class when I grew up there, and shonky and shoddy, but became hellishly gentrified during the 2000s and I can’t go home without feeling a sense of sickness and loss.
  27. And my name is working class too, like Wayne and Gary, which is why middle class Brits sometimes don’t like it. Darren sounds alright to me, so does Da: but I draw the fucking line at ‘Daz’.
  28. When I was eight I cried at Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan. I wept over Spock’s death, but that was then. Now I know that Khan is actually the hero of the piece, an idealistic revolutionary battling, but tragically defeated by, the fascist federation.
  29. When I was 24, while watching the last part of Franco Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth, I wept empty cathartic tears of pure sorrow for the condition of the world, for about an hour. It was very weird, almost frightening.
  30. After that I thought I might be a Christian, but then I read the Bible.
  31. I was also Buddhist for a bit, but that didn’t last long either because I realised that there aren’t any enlightened Buddhists, at least none that I’ve heard of, and all the groups I went to were ghastly, serene, beatific and hollow, like expensive massage parlours.
  32. The first living person I encountered who spoke sense about the universe without sounding like they needed a picture of a sunrise to do it, was Jiddu Krishnamurti. I read all his stuff — and never heard a cliché — and then I followed an Australian spiritual teacher, called Barry Long, for about seven years (I suppose the Daily Mail would say I ‘was in a cult’). Barry said some things which were just nuts (and his website does have pictures of sunrises) but I still think he was one of the most original and profound speakers ever to have lived.
  33. Until 2015 I hadn’t lived anywhere for more than a year since 1996.
  34. I’ve written two hundred songs, none of them finished.
  35. I can’t sing, which makes me sad two or three times a year.
  36. It also makes people who hear me sing, sad.
  37. I did a few open mic nights in London, one of which was so bad I threw up afterwards.
  38. I can’t do my shoelaces up like an adult; I have to use the ‘two-loop’ technique.
  39. When I’m concentrating too hard I hold my breath and make these stupid high-pitched creaking noises at the back of my throat.
  40. I’m short sighted in one eye and long sighted in the other, which means sometimes, when I’m tired, I look completely demented.
  41. I am pretty argumentative. This used to be a problem, because I HAD TO WIN. Now it’s okay, because I don’t (see 20). I’ll still go longer than most people down that particular rabbit-hole though.
  42. I’d much rather have an argument with someone who was listening to me than a friendly conversation with someone who was waiting for their turn to speak.
  43. I find it very hard to find trousers I like (nicely fitted, straight or ever so slightly subliminally bootcut — it’s all carrots nowadays).
  44. I’ve lived in Oman, Russia, Japan, Spain, Australia, Saudi Arabia and I’ve travelled to lots of other places, but that doesn’t make me an interesting person.
  45. Anyway, I mostly travel to avoid work.
  46. And I’m also a bit of a compulsive bridge-burner. I like not having a choice. Choice is overrated, and so is hope.
  47. I think old friends are overrated too, although I do miss a couple that I recklessly jettisoned in my youth.
  48. I also think that you should spend all your time with your partner. Not in a creepy addicted fusion of lives, but in giving up the need to get away.
  49. When I was 26 I went to Spain and lived in an anarchist squat, on a very remote farm and then in my own flat in Valencia. Thank you Spain.
  50. I am very grateful to Spain and I love living amongst those friendly, friendly Spaniards, but I do find them painfully loud, literal and unsubtle — and Christ how they stare.
  51. I get on very well with people who somehow know or enjoy life at the core; utopian brickies, two-year-olds, outsiders, whistle-blowers, Japanese carpenters, autodidacts, the actually dying, the broken-hearted, outrageous extroverts, ultra-sensitive introverts, levellers, layabouts, ne’er-do-wells, bunkers, woodland folk, respecters of small gods, mad scientists, media-botherers and ecstatic artists who can draw hands.
  52. I love Japan. Just thinking about the place makes me get a bit choked up. I love the small beautiful things everywhere, and the palaeolithic style of reaching a decision, and the volcanic baths, and the lack of awkwardness about the body, and the implicit acceptance of quiet eccentricity.

    Promotional poster for a book-signing tour.
  53. I can handle a hell of a lot of stress, but can’t handle teeny tiny amounts so very well, at least they bother me inordinately and I go to stupid lengths to find out where they are coming from.
  54. In Oman I worked twenty five hours a week in a language school. The rest of the time I spent alone in a huge flat next to a slag heap learning French verbs and practicing the piano.
  55. Eventually I had an affair with a married woman (my piano teacher) and got fired for it.
  56. I can’t speak French or play the piano.
  57. I split up with my piano teacher because I wanted to become a postman in France, but that didn’t work out either.
  58. I can’t make anything physical with my hands. I’m not proud of that, and when society collapses I’ll probably regret not learning to make kerosene or weld, but there you have it.
  59. 2019 update: I’ve learnt to fix bikes.
  60. I can dance alright though. I wonder if that will help?
  61. I am getting into gathering mushrooms and wild fare, although the seasons are all fucked up now, so such things don’t grow like they should.
  62. I love animals and I don’t understand people who don’t pay them much attention.
  63. I want to start a revolutionary broadcasting company, run as an omnarchic collective.
  64. Or a theatre group. Or a cult. Or a theatre cult.
  65. My porn name is ‘Brutus Dean’.
  66. Every time I go to a large city I’m amazed at how transparently unhappy everyone is there.
  67. I’ve spoken in speaker’s corner a few times. Nobody paid any attention.
  68. I studied to become a pick up artist, but wasn’t very good at it, because the whole thing sort of confused and disgusted me. I enjoyed learning to not be afraid of talking to women though.
  69. I did internet dating for a while too, which led to an emotional apocalypse.
  70. When I was about 30 I went through a period of doing ridiculous things in public in order to try and defeat fear of doing what I feel like doing. It kind of worked.
  71. My favourite music is Velvet Underground, David Bowie, Talking Heads, Can type stuff, but I also listen to lots of roots reggae, old blues, foolish disco, eighties pop and classical music (Bach, Beethoven and Mozart). And I dig this kind of thing. And this. Also, when people say to me ‘I don’t like the Beatles’ it feels very much to me like they’ve just said ‘I enjoy torturing children.’
  72. I’ve been rejected by publishers and agents about, oooh, four hundred times? The first 370 of those were good judgements on their part. Now agents and publishers regularly tell me ‘I love it, but I can’t sell it,’ and they’re probably right.
  73. I enjoyed living in Russia, because Russian food was excellent, and Russian people were deeply warm and the sense of bigness was literally awesome, but it was also pretty scary and the lack of joie de vivre there was fairly disheartening.
  74. I wish I could go more often to the tailor. If I had money I’d do that. I’d get a decent bike too.
  75. Nice clothes and a bike are probably my weak points, ‘stuff-wise’… and the computer of course. I think it is possible for us to live with all the benefits of computers, and the internet, without either — but it will take an extraordinary revolution. I’m glad I’ve got a good enough computer now to be able to write about that.
  76. Philosophically I’d describe myself as a kind of pantheist transcendental idealist; which is to say my experience is that the entire universe is conscious and the sense that it isn’t — that only bits of it are conscious — is, ultimately, a useful illusion (of time and space).
  77. I’m also an anarchist in the straightforward electrifying sense that I reject all ‘legitimate authority’, all kinds of states, all laws (including all conceivable laws of human nature), all rigid hierarchies and all rights as inhuman shams. I occasionally describe myself as an omnarchist though, to distance myself a bit from anarchism which, for all my love for Kropotkin, ThoreauWoodcock, Goldman and co, is as a whole, too rationalist for my taste, tends to neglect the intelligence and ludicrous strangeness of the context and absurdly tends to reject, as the name indicates, all leadership, which is childish.
  78. Because I say that the divisions of the self are ultimately illusions (that, for example, theism and atheism are the same thing, that ‘left’ and ‘right’ are the same thing, that capitalism and communism are the same thing, that the ‘schools’ of western philosophy are superficial illusions, that modern feminism is as loveless as sexism and that pharmacratic totalitarianism is no different from theocratic totalitarianism) people who gain the largest part of their identity from a cause, club or cult — which is to say, who take their selves seriously — don’t tend to enjoy what I have to say about the ghastly virtual reality that self creates and inhabits.
  79. How can people relax in rooms with direct ceiling lighting? I also agree with Schopenhauer that people who can tolerate loud noises, continual door banging, dog barking, etc, etc have reduced mental powers.
  80. When I lived in Saudi Arabia the first time (I’ve been there twice) I felt as if I could be killed at any moment. I learnt to just accept it — ‘I am a body of glass in a storm of bowling balls’ was my mantra — which is one of the more useful things I’ve learnt.

    An ordinary, wanky, author’s photograph.
  81. I have an extremely low opinion of emotion (as opposed to feeling), schooling (as opposed to doing), high speed transport, the medical profession, photography, progress, modern art, video games, pornography, feminism, sexism, democracy, tourism and smooth, inexpressive faces.
  82. Talking of video games, I was extremely good at Mario Kart when I was eighteen, but I’m a dreadful, overly hesitant actual driver now — I resent how focused you have to be on a road and I’m forever hyper-conscious, while driving, of hurtling through space and time in a tiny metal box.
  83. And taking of faces, I’m very interested in why good folk look like good folk, and why arseholes look like arseholes and why so few people seem to see that they do.
  84. I’m very sensitive to the inner (face-creating) state of others.
  85. I’m am interested in religion, occult sciences and conspiracy theories — but I don’t take them literally. I believe in God, but not literally. I’m ‘Aries sun, Pisces moon and Gemini Ascendant,’ but not literally. I think the world is controlled by The Forces of Evil, but not literally. I think taking any kind of theism or idealism literally is as small-minded as taking the theories, measurements and facts of science literally.
  86. I sleep well, about eight hours a night. During the summer I wake up half way through and get up and read for a bit, or sit in a cupboard.
  87. I’d rather spend time with a boring person than a tight-fisted one — although they’re usually the same.
  88. When I was in my twenties I used to get emails from some guy called David who thought I was someone else, a relative of a woman called ‘Marjorie’, who was getting very old. He would update me every month or so on her deteriorating condition, until she died. I’m ashamed that the person he thought he was writing to never found out about Marjorie, but I’m also glad that Marjorie was part of my life. Thank you Marjorie.
  89. I practice meditation, but usually when I’m single.
  90. I like getting old. Inconvenient though, isn’t it?
  91. I like feigning elk.
  92. I don’t watch any modern television. Not because I’m too cool for it, but because it is completely shit.
  93. I don’t drink, as such, but I love a single malt whiskey every now and then. My theory is that this is because my Mum abstained from drink during her pregnancy with me, but got smashed on whiskey one night after an argument with my Dad.
  94. ‘Why should I farm when there are so many Mongomongo nuts in the world?’
  95. I currently live in Reading, an extremely average madhouse / half-decent dystopian shithole in the UK.
  96. ‘Okay, that’s enough about me. Let’s talk about you; what do you think of me?’
  97. I would like to make a lot more trouble.
  98. I met Terry Gilliam recently. I threw my television script at his house and he loved it and invited me and William Barker, the co-creator, to lunch. We spent five hours listening to him rage — we felt like two psychotherapists having lunch with King Lear — and that was pretty much the last we heard of him. The script is, I have to say, unbelievably good, and it’s frustrating that I can’t get a producer to help me make it.
  99. I don’t really want to settle down, mostly because I don’t like living anywhere. That might change though.
  100. Cheesy as it sounds, I love being alive. Although reading is and can only ever be a stand-in for life, and I do my best to read direct, as it were, from The Unspeakable Book before everyone’s eyes, the reason I love reading great literature, is that the feeling for the love of life that transmits itself down the centuries from those who went before us is an immense consolation and pleasure. I wish that I could surround myself with more actually alive people who live that same way, and give voice to it, but there you have it; we live in a lonely world. But the world is not life, and for those who feel it in their bones, life is not, nor ever can be lonely.