Hemingway’s Block

There had been a time. There had been a time when he had known there would be time like there was now. But he had not known it would be like this. He had not felt it.

He had watched the sad old men down on La Playa del Mar and laughed at their sadness. How they tapped at a typewriter. And from their tapping came only letters on the page. Men scribbled on cigarette packets with biros long turned white with their emptiness. No words, not even letters for them. The memory of letters indented on wood pulp. Indented like the memory of words in his head.

But now was the time he had known would be his, but had not known that it would be like this. The time he had not felt before it arrived.

He looked up from the sand and watched the young men, the men with juice in them, with life in them, with words in them. Words they did not use, or used too much as the fancy took them because for them, now, there would always be words.

He should tell them, shout to them as they promenaded past him, laughing. He should shout, ‘Write. Write right now’. But they would laugh more, and go about their laughing with a joy, because that was what there was now, for them. Laughter at the endless flow of words. As he had once laughed.

He looked at the empty screen. He could write on the sand. It would be the same. It would be better.

Would he have laughed at writing in the sand when he walked where they now walked, laughing?

He would. He knew he would have laughed. Laughter was cheap when one had words.

They would laugh. Writing on sand. The wind and sea and feet would erase the words. Why write words to have them erased?

But the memory of the words was in the sand. Clearer than in the memories of men. Sand and sun, red in the Plaza de toros would sanctify the words. Each spilling and recasting of grains and blood recast the words anew.

He would write in the sand and die.

Other deaths would retell his tale.

And he would laugh again.

He took his laptop.

He could not write in sand with a laptop.

He would go and drink Sangria and think what one wrote with in sand.

Maybe he would ask one of the men and they would laugh together and watch the young girls laughing.

In the morning he would write.


Too Much Stuff

There’s been so much ‘stuff’ happening recently (and continues to happen that writing anything except essential material has been problematic to say the least. It isn’t that I haven’t had a desire to write exactly or a lack of ideas. Time has been the main issue. It takes me at least half an hour ‘reading in’ to a pre-existing work before I get going in the groove of taking it forward. That said, the continual intervention of other things to do has taken the edge of even thinking about writing. It has just been too frustrating.
However, I wondered how another dinosaur would solve the problem:

See ‘Hemingway’s Block’


On Sunday morning I was listening to the slot on Radio 4 at 0845 where someone talks in an extended secular version of thought for the day. Will Self had a few sessions a while back, Howard Jacobson had a slot a couple of weeks ago, and this coming Sunday it will be AL Kennedy. It isn’t always authors but they get a lot of the gigs.

The thought occurred to me that, whilst I like all these writers, both in terms of their work and listening to them talk about our society and the problems and joys of the world, (probably not so much the joys with those three! Although Jacobson can be good for an uplifting insight), I wonder why we should listen to authors so much.

Yes they sometimes have an insight into the human condition, but here we are giving them a slot on national radio to pontificate to us on matters about which frankly there are experts who should be able to speak more authoritatively.  Not necessarily the human condition of course; unless we are looking at psychiatrists, sociologists, anthropologists, behavioural scientists of all ilks, but in matters of security, policing, military, employment, cultural direction (writing is one little bit) and myriad other subjects. Why do authors get the nod on these?

Probably because they are seen as communicators. Increasingly part of the baggage of being an author is being an all round communicator. As publishers withdraw  to a greater or lesser extent from publicising their own products, and as agents want the cash but not the effort of pushing their clients, authors get jiffed with doing the spadework of marketing themselves. Fine, they should be positive about their own work, but if they were great PR people, or market savvy tech heads or schmoozers personified, why would they have chosen a profession that involves being shut up in a room on their own with their imagination for company? Authors generally don’t want the hassle of that other side of the business, that’s why there are publishers and why agents managed to horn in on the process. But it seems authors get wheeled out anyway, when one might think they were better employed, er …writing.

So there we are, with authors being paraded to smile, sign books, chat on radio, contribute to TV arts shows if un/lucky, give lectures at literary events, peddle advice to wannabes on the writing for everyman/woman circuit. And now because some of them can string a coherent sentence together about the mythic resonance of the washerwoman as a mother earth figure in their latest oeuvre, they are invited to blab about anything that takes their fancy in a regular repeat radio slot.

What privileges their opinion over anyone else’s? They have a facility for the medium but is the medium really the message? Are those who are easy with creating an imaginary world and filling it with their interpretation of how people should behave, always the best people to comment on the real world where the characters are different and reactions intractable?

Just a thought.


And by the way BBC, I have many useful insights and I am available for recording whenever you want on any subject.

AF Weekend

Most (all?) of my scribblings on here have been about writing so far. The clue is in the name I guess: Guy Farrish Writes: About Writing and Stuff. The writing comes first and the stuff has come a long second.

I did have an experience over the weekend however, which although it is definitely stuff and not writing, does have a peripheral bearing on my writing and my life perspective on writing. 

I was running, not far, just a couple of miles, on Friday lunchtime, when I was suddenly very out of breath and felt very light headed. I had to stop and walk for a bit. I managed to jog in the last half mile and shower okay though, and as my 13 year old daughter was at home (teacher inset training day) I put the episode to one side.

When I later started walking to the village to do a bit of shopping however, the slightly spaced out feeling became acute again and I finally twigged.

My heart was pausing and racing and then bumping about like an old motorboat hitting a river full of logs. My atrial fibrillation was back. I first had it back in Jan 2012 (after running) and in May 2012 (after running). On both occasions my heart reset itself to normal rhythm after three days without intervention. I stopped running for a few months after the second instance and moved on to more weights, a little light circuit training and in the January, stair climb runs. No AF. Good.

I resumed serious road running in July and was okay. I say serious but really it was fast jogging and not too far – 4 miles max. Then out of the blue on Friday – bang; this happens.

I gave in this time and went to hospital straight away (prolonged irregular heart rate of 120+bpm not good for valves etc).  So they chemically reset the heart rhythm but the electrical pathway it has resettled into is slightly abnormal. The cardiologist prescribed beta blockers and I have to attend for an echo cardiogram some time soon.

I know it is precautionary and a ‘good thing’ but having a normal resting pulse of 54bpm and a blood pressure of 118/78 when I am away from the white coat hypertension merchants I am v t’eed off about taking medication.

But how does that affect writing and perspective? Well spending a couple of days in a Clinical Decisions Unit certainly puts day to day worries into perspective. It also caused me to reflect a bit on my own mortality. I also realised how much I missed my family when they weren’t around. I have always thought of myself as being self sufficient mentally and emotionally when push came to shove but this experience made me realise how much I wanted them near. When my seven year old son came to see me on Saturday tea time he was visibly upset and that was by far the worst part of the whole experience. Worry about heart rhythms, ECGs, blood samples, Venflon Cannulas etc just paled in comparison to his distress.

So, recognition of mortality, what counts in life and the relief (for the moment at any rate) of being discharged. Not the way I would have chosen to spend the weekend but it gave cosy normality a spin, which probably of itself isn’t a bad thing.