dead ink

GREASE GUN

By Harry Gallon

Stephanie stood in the workshop doorway, holding the padlock, sucking the key. Before she crossed the garden to the workshop she stood by the fireplace, looked out of the window and wondered what her youngest son was doing after school. Before she stood by the fireplace and looked out of the window she’d poured a glass of wine and then gone upstairs to her bedroom to get the workshop door key. Only she knew it was there, tucked under the old newspaper lining her drawer, weighed down by the vibrator wrapped in a sock that was no longer a pair.

Stephanie signed out of the psychiatric wing and walked slowly back up the hill, past oncology, past the bright yellow medical waste bins, past the new student accommodation that yesterday she’d read were beginning to slide down the hill, even though they’d only been built in the summer. Several undergrads were smoking cigarettes by the pub next to the outpatient clinic – a gray portacabin that’d been forgotten and left to rot.

Stephanie stood in the workshop doorway, breathing slowly, savouring the smell of the workshop air like you savour the smell of the sea. The workshop doorway was low because it was built into a larger set of double doors. The keys tastes like blood, thought Stephanie. She thought that every time she stood with one foot on the wood at the base of the door, one hand being caressed, as she half-entered the room, by cobwebs that were weighed down with dust. Stephanie breathed through her nose and looked at the grease gun.

The main hospital building was old. It looked more like a Victorian train station, thought Stephanie, as she followed the main road past the garden centre, the lawnmowers, the chain smoking paramedics and the wheezing security guard. It looked more like an old station for an abandoned railway line. At least the psychiatric wing was relatively new, not red brick and chip board, not hired-out portaloos, thought Stephanie, walking slowly. It was quicker to go through the cemetery. But it was also the second time her eldest son had been in the psychiatric wing, and she had the afternoon off.

A blob of black grease had been gradually leaking out of the end of the grease gun. Lava flow. Stephanie had noticed it a while ago, but hadn’t bothered to wipe it up. The blob had been leaking out for so long it’d become covered in dust and turned brown. All its moisture would eventually soak up and it’d turn hard. Then she could pick it off, roll it in her fingers, drop it in the pond to see if it floated. Stephanie tried to forget the pond. It needed work. And the rhododendron bush had nearly doubled in size over the summer. Stephanie could see her breath. She took a sip of wine, and entered the workshop.

It was quicker to walk through the cemetery. And nicer. The cemetery was full of wild flowers and long grass. It was dug into the hill, which was rich and loose, rolled over and over like tired sand dunes, caught the wind across the valley and teased the nostrils of mourners and commuting student doctors with the smell of the sea. It wasn’t fear which made Stephanie walk around it. Stephanie was used to graves by now. She was used to the walk to and from the car, which she always parked at the top of town, and the psychiatric wing. The gravestones are still comforting, thought Stephanie, though Luke had died years ago.

When she stepped through the low doorway into the workshop, her shoulder caught the bike chain that hung on the wall by the door. The thick bike chain. The grey bike chain. Like the blob of grease, it’d it was covered with dust, and Stephanie smiled when she saw that, as always, there was a faint, slightly sticky black smudge on her jumper. She touched the chain, gently at first, with just her fingertips. It didn’t move. Then she took the whole thing in her hand, and it moved a little. It was a heavy chain. A motorbike chain. There were several others like it, jammed with dust and hanging up from nails that her husband had hammered into wooden blocks on the workshop walls. When she let the chain go and opened her hand, the creases of her skin were black too, and she held her hand up to her nose.

Stephanie sat in the car with the door open and one foot on the ground. It hadn’t been a particularly good visit. It could never be a particularly good visit. Stephanie had walked through reception to sign in. They recognised her. She knew they had to recognise a lot of mothers, too, and she thanked an orderly who’d told her that her son was in the courtyard. Stephanie walked out through the big glass doors to the lawn, and sat with her son on the grass. The reception area had wooden panelling, and looked like an old community swimming pool, thought Stephanie. All it was missing was the shallow foot pool for containing verrucas and spreading athletes’ foot. Stephanie’s son was cross-legged in the grass, smoking a cigarette and pulling the heads of daisies. ‘Hello you,’ said Stephanie, and he smiled, but didn’t look up.

Stephanie held her hand up to her nose for 16 seconds. Then she took it away again. Then she held it up again, smelled the grease deeper, then had a sip of wine. She’d left the bottle in the kitchen. Her hand smelled like Luke. She swallowed more wine then steadied the chain, which had begun to swing. Stephanie turned and looked further into the workshop, towards the small wood burning stove. There was a chair there, next to an old pile of logs, dusty, like everything else in the workshop, and dry. I should burn those, thought Stephanie, longing for smoke.

Stephanie’s car was parked next to the entrance to the cemetery, which was a large metal gate painted black and a small brick gatehouse with a sign that said owned and maintained by the council. There was an old horse chestnut tree there too, halfway through shedding its leaves. Conkers lay squashed on the road, their shells getting less and less green. The leaves had been swept into piles and left on a patch of grass by the gatehouse. Their shapes were imprinted in tanned little patches on the concrete. The first time Stephanie’s eldest son had been in the hospital’s psychiatric wing, she wasn’t sure if being so close to the cemetery would be good for him. But Robert had been cremated too, though more conventionally than Luke. All that was left of her husband and brother-in-law were slightly discoloured shapes on the floor. Stephanie shook it off. She always shook it off, because it was never a good visit. Her son, like his Uncle Robert, had barely spoken at all.

The chair wasn’t covered in dust like everything else in the workshop. Stephanie walked over to it carefully, past the skeletons of unfinished motorcycles, past workbenches and hydraulic jacks and unopened packages addressed to Luke that contained air filters and exhaust pipes. She wanted to pick up the chair. It was one of those old church chairs. Wooden. The kind that line the nave, with room to hold a hymn book, in the unlikely event that the congregation grows so massively that there aren’t enough pews left to seat everyone. Stephanie always left the chair by the wood burning stove, where the kettle was. And she always picked it up, but not to move it. It was as though she wanted to weigh it, as if the older she got, the lighter the chair would feel.

Stephanie only smoked when she was stressed, which was often. She’d smelled the cigarette on her son as soon as she’d sat down with him on the grass. She kept a pack of Marlboro Lights in her handbag, would smoke them out in the garden, by the rhododendron bush, at night. Both her sons knew. While she sat in the car her mouth felt like an ashtray. First cigarette of the day. First nicotine high. As she indicated to pull away, a police car slowed down to let her out. That poor girl, Ruth, whose father had abused her, had come over and sat with them in the courtyard. Stephanie had brought her son a book. ‘What’s that?’ Ruth had asked. It was a collection of American short stories. Stephanie’s son looked vacant. Stephanie said, ‘I’m sure he’ll let you borrow it, Ruth.’ Oh, she remembered Ruth. Her son remembered, too. He turned to them and said, ‘Can you even read, Ruth?’ Fucking little shit, though Stephanie, as she coasted down the hill past the cemetery, one eye on the police car behind, unsure if the nicotine had made her over the limit to drive.

On a hook behind the wood burning stove hung some overalls. They were Luke’s overalls. Stephanie had tried so many times to wash them, but he’d always grabbed them out of the pile and hung them back up. The chair weighed the same, and Stephanie put it back down in exactly the same place. She reached over the stove and took the overalls off the hook. Then she sat on the chair and lay the overalls on her lap. She held the collar up to her face, smelled the worn-in sweat from the back of his neck, and unbuttoned her trousers.

Their cat, Rodney, had gone missing again. Ruth was sitting beside her son. She was sobbing. ‘I’ve been up and down the village,’ said Stephanie, trying to lighten the mood. ‘I’ve put up all the same posters again. Posted statuses on Facebook asking if anyone’s seen him, though no one’s replied yet.’

‘That’s good though,’ said Ruth.

Her son said, ‘I don’t know why you bother.’ He’d never liked that cat.

Stephanie shook her head. She was angry. She was always angry, at this point, driving down the hill from the psychiatric wing of the hospital. She wasn’t sure if it was the traffic on the one-way system in the centre of town, or if it was just how much her eldest son reminded her of Robert.

Luke had been her mechanic. That’s how they’d met. When they were young. When Robert, Luke’s younger brother, had been away, in his first year of university. Stephanie had been driving to work. She’d stopped at a red light, and when she started again there was a deep, loud voice, accompanied by a guttural scraping sound. It lasted for 30 yards before she stopped the car and a police officer who’d been passing knocked on her window. ‘Think your exhaust’s fallen off, love,’ said the police officer. ‘Sounds like a bloody tank.’ She gave Stephanie a piece of string to tie it up with, and Stephanie drove four miles to the nearest garage. There’d been sparks. At the garage, there was a young mechanic. There’d been sparks. Stephanie slid her hand into her knickers.

Robert hadn’t been in the psychiatric wing of a hospital. Robert hadn’t needed to talk to anyone. Not even after the crash. And it wasn’t that her eldest son looked like Robert. Why would he? He looked so much like Luke when he was born. Everyone said so. But Stephanie had never been able to shake the feeling that he was becoming more like his uncle. She felt it more after the visits. It’s probably just in your head, thought Stephanie. It’s not like he accidentally killed anyone, is it? She turned off the one-way system and pulled up outside the Co-op. She went inside to buy a bottle of chardonnay. The man queuing in front of her was reading a local newspaper. The headline said new halls fall: students in uproar. Stephanie began to laugh. She didn’t feel angry anymore. After Ruth had walked off, no longer crying, her son had tried, once again, to convince her to start dating. He’d taken her phone, while they sat on the grass, and started downloading a dating app. But there wasn’t enough storage space left. ‘Fuck sake,’ her son said. ‘You’ve got to delete some stuff, mum.’ When Stephanie walked back to the car, it had started to rain.

They’d bought their first house together after their eldest was born. Luke wanted somewhere that had enough space to build his own workshop. Somewhere close to the sea. The garden was a mess. The remains of an old panel fence decayed gracefully at the end, by an elder tree. The lawn was full of weeds and wire and pieces of plastic that had broken of old toys. The lining of the pond was cracked. There was a large rhododendron bush in the middle, which they’d tried digging up several times but which always seemed to grow back. It’d become a family ritual. They’d have a bonfire every year, or used to. Eventually, Luke built the workshop behind it, so that when it grew big in the summer, its branches almost covered one side of the large double doors from where he’d wheel out the motorbikes to test them. Luke hadn’t got round to painting the inside of the workshop. He wanted to work inside it instead. The day it was ready, Stephanie had been gardening. She popped the cheap bottle of Prosecco she’d bought at the Co-op on the way back from work. Their first son was lying in his pushchair in the garden. Stephanie said, ‘I’m proud of you,’ to Luke, who put down his glass and kissed her. He put his greasy hands on her shoulders, her neck, her cheeks, and they conceived another child against the wall.

Stephanie laughed on the drive back home. She didn’t really know why she was laughing. It wasn’t the dating app thing. She wasn’t laughing at her son’s situation, or how much she just fucking hated him sometimes, or how much more she hated not being able to help him. The first time it’d happened he’d disappeared for three days. None of his friends knew where he’d gone. The police found him on the edge of a reservoir. The second time her youngest son had been with him, at home. Something had happened. Some episode. Her youngest had called the ambulance. Stephanie had been working a late shift, and spent the night in the hospital, talking, again, with specialists. She came home to find her youngest son clearing up the glass from a window that’d been broken. ‘He just went mental, mum.’ There was blood on the floor. Muddy footprints. A spade by the back door and a square of almost perfectly replaced turf at the base of the rhododendron bush. Stephanie sighed. Her youngest son didn’t tell her about the cat.

She moved her hand slowly, wanting it to last. She held the overalls more firmly against her nose, and breathed in. She breathed in hard, savouring the smell of old sweat, the damp of the grease which the cold of the workshop would never truly allow to set. It felt heavy. She wanted to taste him. The overalls kept her pinned to the chair. She curled her toes then stretched her legs out as far as they would go. She held the collar more firmly against her nose and mouth until they choked her.

It had begun to rain quite heavily. Stephanie had always been a cautious driver, especially since the crash. And it had been such a violent crash. There hadn’t been any ashes to scatter. What’d been left of Luke after the car had stopped rolling had been incinerated in the passenger seat, while Robert lay unconscious and broken at the side of the road. She didn’t blame him. How could she now, anyway? After what then happened, he was clearly just as much of a victim. Stephanie took the country roads carefully, avoiding large piles of leaves in case they were hiding potholes, pressing the horn for three seconds when she went round sharp bends, flashing her lights. The sky had become a disorienting pink, the air thick and cloying, as though, when she finally pulled into the driveway, stopped and opened the door, she was constantly in the presence of a dead body. Stephanie stepped over the junk mail behind the front door. She took off her scarf, put the wine on the kitchen table next to the glass jar of dried lavender, then removed her coat. The basket under the stairs where Rodney occasionally slept was still empty, but at least the window to the garden had been replaced.

Stephanie breathed heavily. She sat, slouched, in the wooden chair by the wood burning stove in the workshop. Her eyes were closed. When she opened them she saw that it was getting dark outside. Her breath had slightly misted the windows. She refastened her trousers, stood, and hung the overalls on the hook on the wall. She walked over to the workbench and touched the dusty blob of grease. Still wet, she thought, and smiled. Just then a light went on in the kitchen window. Stephanie saw her youngest son leave his school bag on the side then fill up the kettle. Stephanie finished her glass of wine, put the glass back down then picked up a gardening fork. When she stepped back through the workshop doorway her youngest son was standing at the other end of the garden. ‘Mum, what are you doing?’ he said.

‘Just thought I’d have another crack at that rhododendron bush,’ said Stephanie. She looked at the bush. It was smaller than she remembered. ‘Looks like someone’s already had a go.’

Her youngest son coughed. ‘Bit dark for that,’ he said. ‘Come inside for some tea instead.’

*          *          *

Harry Gallon is the author of The Shapes of Dogs’ Eyes, out on Dead Ink Books.

Every Fox is a Rabid Fox, his next novel, is out this year, also on Dead Ink Books.

Twitter: @hcagallon @DeadInkBooks

REVIEW

Scott Manley Hadley Reviews
The Shapes of Dogs’ Eyes  (Dead Ink)  by Harry Gallon

[Buy Now]

Arguably the most self-involved book review of all time.

This might be a long one. I feel ready to digress.shapes-of-dogs'-eyes

Buckle up!

Harry Gallon’s The Shapes of Dogs’ Eyes is a novella, a gritty, earthy, boozy, druggy, sexy novella set all up and inside of Hackney in about 2014.

It’s all craft beer and cocaine and marijoowuanwua and sleeping on sofas and fucking with condoms and smartphones and Tinder and Twitter and pubs and bars and clubs and stubs and fags and cash and theft and middleclass, mid-20s angst about turning into an adult, the central conceit (theoretically) being that dull domesticity is brought about by dogs (all of who[m][i] are sentient) for the propagation and comfort of their own species. This idea, which flows in and out of the novel’s text like a hangover at a picnic, is not fully explained, and the phrase “The shapes of dogs’ eyes” recurs throughout, moving from an idea to an ideology to a presumed piece of prose – is the character within the novel writing the novel in our hands? Is this real life? Because it feels real, it feels like taking a short from where I live and it feels like many, many adventures I’ve had myself, because I too am an East London dickhead[ii], as every single character in the book is and – I’m afraid – there’s a pretty high likelihood you are too. Are you? Are you suuure you’re not?

I’ve lived in Gallon’s hipster bartender scene, so close that a friend of mine is listed in his acknowledgements. I messaged her and asked what the connection was, and she informed me that Harry Gallon is her boyfriend’s brother. This is even closer than I’d imagined. The only important difference is that his alcoholic interest is craft beer, and I’m more Cocktail.[iii] When I was a wannabe writer working in bars, I saw myself as this:

(That wasn’t what I looked like to outsiders, and that isn’t how that period of my life looks in hindsight.)

The difficultly I had with The Shapes of Dogs’ Eyes is that it felt like a terrifying flashback to my own past. I’ve been in most of the situations in the novel – I’ve worked in bars with cockroaches and broken equipment, I’ve gone from bar to bar to bar to party, I’ve passed out on strange sofas, I’ve coasted through months at a time doing nothing to develop my life, I’ve been to Pub Watch meetings, I’ve had conversations with chefs about GP[iv], I’ve been on holiday to Tuscany, I debated getting a dog for years whilst doing bar work, and now have a dog and am not doing bar work. The first change has been wonderful, the latter not so much.

Bar work is great. Like, I mean it, it’s the best job [I’ve ever had]. Gallon captures bar work excellently – the routine, the poor diet, the sleeping in, the constant drinking, the huge prevalence of theft[v], the normalisation of constant use of legal and illegal intoxicants[vi], the self-importance, the belief that knowledge about booze is the best kind of knowledge and a rising snobbishness that gets validated every shift by the shared snobbishness of your colleagues.

#craftbeermatters

#ginmatters

Eee Tee Cee.

And Gallon gets it. He’s clearly lived it, he imbues his scenes with a vivid, visceral, realness. There’s dirt and damp and insects, there’s drug use and fucking and dog turds under furniture[vii], there are all the right street names, all the right beers, all the right pubs and parks and fences, the managerial and compliance procedures he details are standard industry practice, and that’s all great for gritty social realism, but, and this is a big but for me: is it interesting?

Was I deadened to the excitement of The Shapes of Dogs’ Eyes because it was all so familiar, because I know these places and these people[viii] and these lives? Would it be exciting for office drone 9-to-5ers in the same way I enjoy watching (though not reading, I’m almost 30) Game of Thrones? Because I cannot deny that it’s evocative, and a lifestyle different from the average UK experience, despite it being one I’ve known first-hand. Gallon’s writing is full of description and emotion and energy, and is often quite funny, quite witty.

BUT where that wit comes to the fore is in places quite traditionally middle class. There’s a good joke about it taking as long to get to Florence from London as it does to cross the city in rush hour. That’s not a bartender gag, that’s a middle class dinner party quip, and I felt in a few places that the novel missed a trick by the level of comfort the unnamed narrator seems used to. We meet his parents and they seem affluent. He sleeps on other people’s sofas, never paying rent, and no one ever questions him about this. Reminiscent of that line from Withnail & I:

In fact, the whole thing is reminiscent of Withnail & I, especially the idea of choice. All of the characters are living in squalor as a lifestyle decision. Let’s go to another pop culture reference and bang in Jarvis Cocker’s line “if you called your dad you could stop it all”. For all the Hackney hipsters in The Shapes of Dogs’ Eyes, comfort is available, is there, is at a reach. Tuscany is a common holiday destination, their parents live in nice houses in rural England if they wanna get out of the city. Domesticity as presented as an evil by Gallon’s narrator is very much a middle class domesticity. Getting a dog, the evil action that signals the end of youth[ix], is a middle class signifier, a pet is intrinsically a luxury, especially one that is a breed, not a mongrel, as every dog in the text is. Pedigree dogs aren’t cheap, I know because I’ve bought one[x], the idea of working in bars as a precursor to something more “serious” or “worthy” or “adult” is a little patronising to people who spend their whole careers in hospitality.

The narrator’s life is an adventure, he has parents and a home to go to, a girlfriend he can move in with and a dog-filled future ahead of him. He isn’t trapped in the city, homelessness and unemployment aren’t fearful things for him because there is always somewhere he can crash. So although I initially described this novella as “gritty”, it’s not, because there isn’t really any threat. The threat – if one exists – is in the narrator succumbing to a heteronormative nuclear family life, which he kinda does, happily. The idea of dogs controlling people is an entertaining metaphor, or a fun idea, but Gallon doesn’t hold onto it or go into it any deeper than that. The narrator has his suspicions about sentient dogs, he decides it’s correct, refers to it throughout, never expands.

If I sound overly critical, I apologise, but I’ve a) been asked for an honest opinion and b) I find it difficult to give praise without also giving criticism, and I’m about to get pretty praisy.

There are moments of great joy and real emotional depth within The Shapes of Dogs’ Eyes. In fact, there were a few sections I circled in my copy of the book that work as great little vignettes. This, looking back, was my favourite:

Evan came in looking jowly. He brought his short Scottish hair and black glasses with him, eyes you mistake for a frown but they’re smiling in faint autistic consternation. ‘5am Saint and a-’
‘Malbec?’ I can still finish his one sentence for him. Pint of ale and a Malbec for his wife. When I started there she had long blonde hair. By then she was bald. Chemotherapy, said Dee. Rumours of leukaemia, maybe, cap on, blue scarf. ‘5am Saint-’
‘And a Malbec?’ Of course I was already pouring it. Evan smiled. Pleasurable state of late night hesitancy. Glancing over at his wife perpetually. Did his eyes frown? Lips in a constant state of pursing. He’d hold her gaze across the room and hold her hands across their table.

This works on its own, and that last sentence, oof: a beautiful piece about love and mortality, capitalised Art’s two great themes. If Gallon can write so touchingly of love, it’s clear he doesn’t believe in romance as a horror, and this belief seeps into the text. A man railing against the end of his youth is a common theme, but the nameless narrator doesn’t really rail, he accepts it before he has to, it’s almost like he’s trying to persuade himself to feel an anger he doesn’t feel. The narrator is charmed by a life he claims to hate far too easily: he’s ready for it and he wants it: his interest in dogs’ eyes and their “power to control” never becomes fully formed because he doesn’t believe in it. The narrator wishes he didn’t have the small c conservative leanings that are inherent to him and his middle class peers: they all kinda want the nice, cushy, life their parents have, and for all of them it’s an option.

I enjoyed The Shapes of Dogs’ Eyes, I liked its dirt and its truth and its tone and its use of language.

If you want to experience East London hipster bartender life like it actually is, read this book. This is exactly it. If you want a portrait of working class London, you’re in the wrong place. This is the London of artsy, hipsterish, over-educated, self-important, middle-class wasters like myself. If you’re interested in that, Gallon gets it down as accurately as anyone could.

Gallon’s at his best when he writes about people and places and things. The Shapes of Dogs’ Eyes succeeds when there is no pretence, just descriptions of life as lived. Gallon is a keen observer and expert chronicler of hipster East London. Whether that’s the “real” East London is someone else’s argument to have, and not one – rightly or wrongly – that the text engages with.

Buy it for your bartender housemate with three degrees, or your favourite middle class drug dealer.

An interesting read and definitely not boring.

I’m off to walk my dog and bang a negroni. Until later: keep reading, folks!

BUY THIS BOOK

*          *          *

About the dickhead who wrote this review

Scott Manley Hadley blogs at TriumphoftheNow.com and is currently writing a series of articles about being young and bald for Huffington Post.

[i] I don’t know how and when to use this form of who. I suppose I should, given that I have two English degrees. I’m gonna leave it like this and hope the guys at Open Pen make me look more literate than I am.

ED – Would then have to actually edit. Would also render this notation redundant, which would be a shame because I like it when you mention that you have two English degrees all the time. [It’s whom.]

[ii] I’ve recently received online abuse to this effect. Here I respond to someone trying to offend me by anonymously messaging me: “kill yourself, you hipster faggot”: https://triumphofthenow.com/2016/07/25/kill-yourself-you-hipster-faggot/

[iii] There’s one reference to negronis in the whole book, though, which either dates the text or shows that me and Gallon aren’t quite so similar after all…

[iv] Which means “Gross Profit”, though Gallon doesn’t say and doesn’t seem to acknowledge this might be something a reader wouldn’t know. Likewise, the afore-mentioned Pub Watch meetings. What are they? I reckon you could work it out from the context, but I didn’t have to, because I’ve been to several. I almost miss them, they evidenced that no one else working in hospitality in the area was half as tired, half as hungover or half as articulate as me. Created simultaneous senses of “I’m better than this” and “I’m not good enough for this”, which cancelled each other out and allowed an easy forgetfulness of my own stagnation. As did all the booze.

[v] I myself am honest to a fault, but am very good at thinking of ways to steal. I found a glitch in the till system in the last bar I worked in whereby it would’ve been possible to steal cash without leaving any trace (i.e. stock discrepancies), but rather than exploit that, I told the bosses like a good boy. What a man.

[vi] The main legal high I’m referring to here is caffeine. People who’ve never ridden the brown donkey don’t how deep you can go. When I used to do dull office work I figured out that the most wasted I could get at 9.30am (without suspicion or judgement) was to drink an entire, strong, cafetiere of Taylors of Harrogate’s ‘Hot Lava Java’. If you’ve never done that, you haven’t lived.

[vii] When my dog was a tiny puppy, he did a bit of diarrhoea in a hidden spot that I didn’t discover for months. I couldn’t clean it as it’s permanently fused to the exposed floorboards. Here’s a picture:

[viii] What the earlier-mentioned point about my friend living with Gallon’s brother means is that I know people who know Gallon, our degree of separation is one at best, in fact we may have even crossed paths or piss streams in a warehouse in Hackney at some point over the last few years. We may have made friends, we may have chatted, too intoxicated to remember, over a pile of books on a handmade coffee table. Gallon is so close to me it is genuinely possible that we have already touched. And that’s actually a bit creepy. The characters in his book are also based on people I may have met. The narrator – no name – has a friend called Max who works in a craft beer pub [before his music career takes off]. I have a friend called Max who works in a craft beer pub.

ED – And he writes too, of course, and he writes well.

[ix] I’ve had a dog since the winter and I am still as selfish and reckless as I ever was, I just have a furry bundle of fluff to cuddle as I lie on my bed, staring at the ceiling, hungover, shaking, in the middle of the afternoon. Help me.

[x] Expensive, but worth every fucking penny. If I could, I’d buy one every week. Check out my Instagram feed for shitloads of pictures of my dog, plus loads of videos of me singing Tom Jones songs. @smanleyhadley