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On nothing

22nd June 2008

Hello and good day. At least I trust it’s a good day wherever you are. This end it’s rather miz – drizzly, grey and overcast. Plus I must confess to being mildly hung-over. Still, that’s what you get for drinking in moderation.

Since this is my first ever blog, a spot of housekeeping. Would all of you please make a note of the emergency exits such that if things become too boring, repetitive, repetitive or self-indulgent, you can make a bolt for it. Also, you’ll have to provide your own tea bags. I’m looking into making teabags available as attachments but for now you’ll have to bring your own.

Enough prevarication. It is time for me to launch nose-first into the subject of this composition. Ready? Sure? OK. Today’s treatise is on the notion of… nothing. That’s right: nothing. Or, at best, very little. Now before you start feeling short changed, I have to explain what I me…oh dear, I fear I’m already too late: “Christ,” you’re saying, “he’s lured us all the way to his silly little blog, the silly little man, and he hasn’t even bothered to come up with a subject. I’m not sticking around for this. I’m going out to buy melon.”

Ever since Seinfeld and the ‘show about nothing’, people from all five corners of the globe have been struggling, mainly it must be said in vain, to create something worthwhile, interesting and amusing, by riffing on the subject of ‘nothing’. Sadly none of them had Larry David as their principal writer. Also, Seinfeld is not about nothing. That’s an urban myth. Sure, it’s not about a lot – but then, day to day, nor is life itself. Wiser people than I have observed this.

Never does one have to be more careful than when attempting to create something out of, and about, nothing. Nothing is, of course, an essential part of any person’s life. Without downtime we’d never have time to pause, to ponder our hasty actions of the night before or contemplate suicide. Earlier today I conducted a brief survey in my head and found that busy people are less prone to apologise than those with more time on their hands. Really busy people get on my tits, but that’s another blog.

Paul Morley Ruined My Holiday

So what with this, that and the occasional indulgence of the other, I’d been pretty busy of late and hadn’t had much chance to think of anything to write for my first blog. In my defence, I’m not long back from holiday. I had a most excellent time, even if around the pool it did smell of cat shit. There was, though, one long, black, Mancunian cloud that hung over the week, dangling menacingly above us like the sword of Damocles: no, it wasn’t actually a cloud, nor was it actually the sword of Damocles. No. It was the malign presence of Paul Morley. That’s right, Paul Morley was there too – the bloke from The Late Show who formed The Art of Noise, wrote for the NME, had something to do with Frankie Goes To Hollywood and seems to have little compunction about appearing on those ‘Why I Love 1874’ compilation programmes. So yes, Paul Morley ruined my holiday. It’s up there with ‘Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster’. Thankfully he wasn’t actually there in person, but his autobiography was. Guess what it’s called? That’s right: “Nothing”. See – I told you this blog was about ‘Nothing’.

Why let a book ruin a holiday, you may ask. Why indeed? Well….I’m not sure why. Sure, I could have stopped reading it, put it away, fed it to the cats in an attempt to get them to change their diet and tame the pungent pong, at least for a day or two. Even the book was trying to speak to me: by the fifth day it was falling apart, scattering itself around the pool or across the apartment. It was running away. “Leave me Saul!” it was saying. “Go. Save yourself!” But I couldn’t. I couldn’t quite believe that this man, who speaks interestingly, has always written interestingly, is extremely knowledgeable about music, and has many of the same interests as me (The Smiths, himself etc), could produce something that was so far up its own jacksy that it came out of its mouth and went back up its own jacksy for second helpings. I am talking excruciating pretension of the very highest order. Three thankful weeks have now passed since I returned from my holiday and the wounds have begun to heal: my sleeping patterns have pretty much returned to normal and I’m no longer dreaming that for sins of a previous life I will have to read this shitfuckcunt of a book into perpetuity.

I should have headed the warnings: there was nothing on the cover to recommend it. The picture was…what was it of – a rock? With what looked like a weird bit of pee or snot coming out of it? There was no, “‘This book kept me up all night’ – Stephen Hawking” or some such. Also – and I really should have take more notice of this – strangers kept leaping out of bushes as I walked by, screaming, “don’t read it, don’t read it!” before setting fire to themselves and running down the street. Again, I should have taken heed. Again I did not. I must be stoopid.


So I read on. I was determined to beat the f*cker. I needed a game plan: to start with this consisted of rewarding myself with regular snoozes. The plan was: read one line, then have a snooze. Though this suited me in many ways – one line was just about as much as I could take in one go, and I am a borderline narcoleptic at the best of times –I found that progress was slow. The next plan: read every third page. This again worked well for a while, but after a period I lost track of what writers like to call the narrative arc, which is a bit like Noah’s Ark only harder to draw. Next I looked for words or phrases that might be interesting: “Morrissey”, “Joy Division”, “this bit is not about me”, “The End”, those sorts of phrases. This, again, worked well for a bit but, as a censorious teacher once said to me, “you’re only cheating yourself Saul. Take him down…”

Then, just when I thought I really couldn’t go on, something extraordinary happened. No, I didn’t reach the end. Nor did a dingo come over and snatch it from me as I slept.


It got good.

Yep, this book, the one that had caused me no end of agony when I was supposed to be relaxing, suddenly got GOOD. Well shit on my shoes and kiss my face. It got GOOD. REALLY GOOD.

How so, Saul?

The reason I had stuck with it all this time was that the subject matter, Morley’s childhood in Manchester and his father’s suicide, were of interest to me. This, coupled with my general impression of him as someone with something to say, made me stick around. And, dear reader, I was rewarded. Not with purple prose or resolution, but with enough. There was a fifty or sixty page section where he had transcribed an interview he had conducted with his mother and two sisters. It was their voices I was enjoying, not his. There was no more, “in a book I might have written entitled…” No, it was straightforward straight talk between a family who had never before, collectively, discussed the death of their father/husband. Suddenly I whooshed through it. I was distracting my girlfriend through my voracious turning of the pages. I was probably breathing heavily, too, most likely through my nose. It was great.

Then, of course, it stopped. And it went back to Paul. And Paul took a trip to the place where his father had killed himself. And there was a ten page description of Paul’s taxi ride from his home in north London to Paddington, even though his father committed suicide in Gloucestershire. So I threw it in the swimming pool.

That’s probably (probably?) enough from me. How are you supposed to end a blog? I’ll do some research on that. Nothing extensive, just a few glances at a few blogs. Then, next time I write one, you can nod contently to yourself and say, “now there’s a man who knows how to finish a blog.”

I’m writing this a few days before the site goes live and do not yet know whether there will be a comments section. If there isn’t and you want to say something about this blog, or had a dream revealing all six number for The National Lottery on Saturday 19th July, you can reach me through the contact page on this site.



To purchase ‘Nothing’ by Paul Morley, go to: