Towards the end of 2015 I had the idea that I wanted to write another book. Since “There’s Always Something Or Other With Mr Neary” in the Spring of 2013, I have contributed to other people’s books but have put my literary ambitions on the back burner. I didn’t have a long story to tell like the Get Steven Home book and I didn’t want to recycle my blog posts again like I did for the second book. I toyed with the idea of a fictional piece but inspiration deserted me.
I’ve always kept a diary. I like the discipline at the end of a day of sitting down and writing down my thoughts. Should I publish a diary? Once the seed was planted, it started to make sense. A year long diary would hopefully encompass the two things that I try to present whenever I blog: the humanness and ordinariness of Steven’s and my life together, and secondly, the relentless wading through quicksand that is the world of adult social care.
So that’s what I did: I kept a daily diary for the whole of 2016 and in the week between Christmas and New Year, I started to put it together as a book. For Christmas, I treated myself to Alan Bennett’s new book and I thought that I could shamelessly copy him. His book includes 10 years worth of diaries but lots of other stuff as well: eulogies from memorial services that he’s spoken at; the screenplay to The History Boys and lots more besides. If it’s good enough for Alan…..
Everything but the kitchen sink will be going in. I think the social care world took very sinister turns in 2016 and has effectively killed off my Committee Room Five stories. It can’t be sent up anymore; the reality for too many people is too dark to satirize. The new book will include the complete collection of Committee Room stories, with a final story that I haven’t published on my blog that brings a dark end to Deidre Trusell, Bob Bibb and the Newport Pagnellshire crew. I have included the script for a play that I’ve written for the next 7 Days of Action campaign. The book will come out after the Spring campaign, so supporters of the campaign will know the story. I’ll also probably include the Griot of Cowley stories that I’ve written for Steven about our family tree, for no other reason other than he likes them. And finally, as Steven has lost interest in his Massive Good Songs Radio Show, I’ll include some of the highlights from last year’s Monday programmes.
The editing has been bloody hard work. Ever since I was a kid, I would have short creative moments but never had the discipline to polish the original writing into shape. My drawers are packed with half formed stories and half baked plays that will never see the light of day. This book has forced me to tackle this failing. I’ve now done four edits and I think it would benefit from a couple more.
One thing that I’ve had to greatly revise is my original premise of showing the relentless grind of being trapped in the social care system. I write about it enough on this blog but put together in a single book, it just doesn’t work. For the reader, it becomes unremittingly boring. There’s only so many times someone can read about the monthly chore of doing the personal budget audit before they toss the book into the bin. I would. So, I’ve cut a lot out but I hope the drear still comes across. Because September was taken up with the house move, that chapter does get a bit repetitive, but then again, I didn’t do anything else for the whole month.
The thing I like most about putting together a diary is you can cheat. As I said, I didn’t want a rehash of my blogs but I’ve been cutting and pasting like mad. Good lines that I spent ages coming up with can now be presented as a spontaneous thought whilst I pushed my trolley around Tescos. Another cheat is you can include some of your favourite anecdotes from the past. For example, you can write, “I went out with the support worker to get Steven’s fish and chips. Oh, that reminds me of the time back in 1992 when we saw Cilla Black get into an argument in The Golden Plaice over the size of the haddock”. I’ve done a lot of that.
Two more edits so I don’t get a libel claim from Southern Health, Mencap or any other of my favourite targets and the introduction to write and I think that’ll be it.
I appreciate this post is nothing but a blatant advert but if you can’t plug your new book on your own blog, where else can you?