Book Clubbed

If it be true that “everyone has one novel inside them”, I must have taken the quota for an entire postal district. Going through the memory banks I have brought to mind some of the aborted attempts at getting my name on the Waterstones bookshelves. Here’s what the Bestseller lists won’t be featuring anytime soon…

1) “Write about what you know…”
Get a group of lads forming a band at the height of Britpop, a group of girls hoping to win the prime-time “What It Takes” talent show, and with a bit of mild political satire the ingredients for an acceptable first-novel. In reality a dozen pages of rough drafting created a dozen characters who all sounded the same and no actual storyline.

2) “Write about something you don’t know…”
Take “Catcher In The Rye”, run over it with assumption and speed-reading, and…Get three or so scribbled pages on which there is nothing of much attention. I was young(er), there is that as an excuse…..

3) “It’s like Handmaid’s Tale but with blokes….”
So I borrowed far too much from Margaret Atwood (well, songwriters always get something in from a song they just heard on the radio…don’t they?). Despite my best efforts – “Sperm Bank Corporation”, “Bloke Farms”, that sort of thing – nothing, er, came.

4) “Dystopian futures, they’re popular…”
Drug taking, bored layabout northerner (I’m good at imagination) wakes up in Earth-like planet meeting strange people along the way. Twelve pages of drafting resulted in countless backstories, bad sex scenes, and a lead character who was essentially a Chinese Whispers version of me. Next!

5) “No, dystopian futures always work, try again…”
So in a Britain where homosexuality was never legalised…Twelve or so pages of drafting resulted in pretty much everything above, with the added secret ingredient of a lesbian who sounded like the most boring woman on Earth.

Essentially, I have more of the failed novels which everyone attempts to write at least once, all tucked away inside my head. It’s not as though every character killed along the way is still chunnering in my imagination craving atten….Wait, I have an idea……To the writing pad!

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Europe needs vision. Eurovision, that is.

On June 4th, a voter in South Holland, Lincolnshire, will perform an act at the same time as someone in southern Holland, in the Netherlands. In an act of choreographed synchronicity and glorious democratic union, voters from across Europe will vote for the same institution across a heady long weekend. In a parallel universe the whole event will be covered in full colour, round the clock news, maybe a special series of programmes at prime time following twenty-seven voters swotting up on each and every manifesto before casting their votes. On Sunday, all schedules would be cleared for a live results programme in debt to the grand musical charade of the Eurovision Song Contest. “Helsinki, can we have your provisional ballot counts, please?”

Back down to earth, the coverage of the European Parliament elections is derisory. Front-page headlines in the United Kingdom are taken up by MP sleaze and failed singers. On the fringes, the United Kingdom Independence Party and far-right British National Party are set to win big; the bookies Ladbrokes has closed the book on the BNP winning a seat. Politics has not been knocked around the waves as much as it has with the strong winds of “expenses-gate”, crashing and crumbling around the dark storm waves. It is time for MPs to be recalled, an election to be called, change to come…With live phone-voting and gunge!

Okay, not gunge. Gunge is so 1994. But there should be a line-up of lead candidates whose names are read out in a random order to determine who has won the first seat in a given region. The presenter – Claudia? Davina? One of the Kirstys? – has to wait for the fake heart-beats before announcing each failed candidate. Then straight to a live feed from a news studio in Warsaw featuring a dance routine and abstract graphics. “That green arrow must mean a gain of something!” chatters the presenter – John Barrowman? No…..

Although the Internet has made it possible to watch live-feeds from news channels across Europe, surely television can do far better? If we can have three hours of multi-lingual singing and voting, then we can have nation-by-nation political “It’s A Knockout!” too. Dance routines representing each nation – Diversity! Of course! There’s enough of them for the whole of Western Europe in the first opening section – and of course the famous douze points. Who would declare the British votes – Robert Kilroy-Silk? “Will you stick…or shaft?” Or Anne Robinson, sneering with over-rehearsed theatre whenever Labour win something. There should be segment where a Belgian is slapped for every time somebody feels fed up with the d’Hondt voting system.

The European Parliament elections should be sexy. The whole of Europe linked together as one democratic superforce has so much potential, if not political than definitely for television. So away with relegating coverage to supplements and comment columns. Now is the time to shake up the process, inject some showbiz, and make it shine. Lord knows, the expenses scandal has gone on long enough, bring on the dancing horses…But not John Barrowman, please….