January Blues

I’m not sure there’s such a thing. I don’t really believe there is a particular ‘Blue Monday’ in miserable January either. I live in the north of England which feels pretty grey for several months of the year but is January particularly grey in comparison to say October or February?

Maybe the concept was thought up by those who have an intolerance of misery. Stick it in one month then get in with your blissfully happy and fulfilling year. After all Feb has Valentines, March/April have Easter and the beginning of spring, May starts to warm up, June is just lovely surely etc? Its as if our lives should be organised into clear little boxes. I used to get annoyed at the serving suggestions on wine bottles telling me when and how I should enjoy their wine. I never saw ‘drink at dawn slouched on a patio with no friends’. I don’t get annoyed anymore as I hardly ever drink wine. I also get less annoyed about everything now (although those close to me may dispute this).

It is frustrating as a creative person to experience a void in that creativity. All around there are those on New Years projects planning their forthcoming industrious and fulfilling year ahead. Write lists, announce the way ahead, upbeat statements about beating those old January Blues.

In truth, I have been less creative for a few months now. When you get convinced that you have little original to offer, it’s easy to grind to a halt. Us creative types need inspiration and not the sort other people tell you to be inspired by. If you enjoy it so much, go out and use it. I am slightly obsessed by Peter Gabriel at present. His approach to music and composition in particular. He approaches the work back to front, often starting with a rhythm and the words coming last. Maybe there is a writing process that mirrors this approach?

January can be beautiful. The grey fingers of tree branches either glistening with rain or covered in snow. The dramatic skies that can either foster a sense of optimism or act as a precursor to a winter storm. There is the theory that there is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes. I have some sympathy with that but it has been tested recently. The good thing about the grey, cold, wet weather is coming inside to somewhere warm. The Hygge approach to surviving winter does work for me. The feeling of warmth, protection, comfort. An understated, gentle, kind way to beat the blues. Its been hijacked by interior design and homeware manufacturers as a way of selling the required lights, candles, throws etc but it is more about a lifestyle.

So the month of January should not be written off as a dead loss far from it.

Guess it must be just me then! I shall listen to Peter more and hope he lifts me up.


Thoughts of This Middle Aged Writer

This fella was very unfortunate. He was hunted to extinction. He now lives in the Natural History Museum London, partly as a lesson to us to not eat those birds in such great numbers, whoops they’ve all gone. They were apparently docile flightless birds who more or less sat there whilst ‘hunters’ despatched them.  I’m saying he because I can only speak as a he and he looks like a he. Well I think he does. He most likely sat there watching two strange creatures approaching and before he could ask them politely their business, he was bumped off. Dead as a Dodo. There’s something very sad about those eyes. As if he knew his days were numbered but couldn’t do anything to prevent that.


Some days I wake up and I feel older. Not as old as him and certainly not stuffed and on display. But he is knocking on a bit. He probably never reached middle age. Mind you the alternative isn’t too appealing.

I can’t remember what it was like to be 20. Its further away now you see. Did I think, behave, act differently or have the years taught me something? I am reminded by some of how old I am. Some delight in telling me I’m past it. They have their own agendas of course. In truth I generally don’t see middle age as the descent to decrepitude. I lost my career too early. My close friends who remained in nursing have gone on to greater things although we all have experienced loss and hardship of some sort. They have careers though. I have had to reinvent myself (which at times doesn’t always feel like its going very well). I cannot blame anyone else only my lack of ambition. Early retirement is a curse in many ways. Yes its a new start but on the other hand it is a curse. No job, no status or identity that goes with a job, loss of respect. Respect is still associated with position, wealth, material accumulation.

Deciding to become a writer seems at times a foolish decision. There are thousands, tens of thousands of accomplished writers out there all chasing a very small and illusive market. We all want our work to be published and to earn money from it. Admittedly most of us also write because we have to because the alternative would eat us up. I enjoy writing enormously but it is frustrating and at times hugely disappointing.

It is hard to live with the feeling that you may have outlived your usefulness. Speaking from the male perspective, the prospect of becoming a grandfather does not reverse that. Grandfathers seem to have less status than Grandmothers, slightly  more detached. Having a growing family prepares fathers for this. Teenagers often detach from their parents which is and how it has always been. It is a preparation for adulthood. It is hard to be an active father to teenage children as they often fail to see your relevance. Why do you need a father when you’re growing up and becoming independent? Mum can be a taxi, bank and the other roles often carried out by fathers. Maybe that’s why some men take up golf or mend things in sheds. I don’t play golf and my handiwork is rudimentary at best. To top that of course, I don’t have a proper job. If I was a published author bringing in handsome book advances then maybe it would be different.

I’ve said before that none of my children have ever read any of my work. I don’t expect that to change. I am past worrying about that. I am in truth not worried about being over 50. It has its advantages (apart from Saga Holidays) and I haven’t died early. If I died tomorrow would it still be regarded as a tragic waste of one so young? No, more like he was only 52. To a 20-year-old however, that must feel geriatric. I still have all my limbs, my eyesight, hearing, majority of internal organs ( although cancer treatment did remove a few) and my mental faculties. I only have a couple of years left on my mortgage and debts only equivalent of a very small insignificant African state. I look around at friends with successful careers, lovely houses, new cars, endless foreign holidays and I’m not the slightest bit envious. I am also a terrible liar as you may have gathered. Yes they all have worked for their wealth and good luck to them. They didn’t decide that they were going to be writers. Maybe if I had started writing at 20, I would have been a success now? Maybe I would have ditched it and got a safe steady job instead. I think I’ve got things arse about-face frankly but it’s too late to change that now.

I’m not really sure what conclusions I can reach from this rambling stream of consciousness other than it is easy to feel lost, empty, invisible, forgotten by the world. I am lucky to have a significant other who feels otherwise about me and I her. It isn’t easy being a middle-aged unsuccessful writer. I won’t stop being a middle aged writer until I’m too old to qualify as middle aged but hopefully by then the ‘unsuccessful’ bit will not apply!


Letting Go

This morning, in fact just a short while ago, I threw my past away.

Three years of my past away to be precise.

It had been neatly (well kind of) stored in my cellar.

In this box .


Hundreds of thousands of words, hundreds of diagrams, a plethora of articles, notes too numerous count.

Now being recycled or at least in the waiting room of recycling (the green bin).

I kept hold of them because

1.They may have come in handy.

2. They showed how much work I put in.

3. They were a physical copy of three years study.

4. I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away.

But now I have. No pieces kept for sentimental purposes. Just an empty box where my degree once lay. For interested parties to rifle through and select nuggets of wisdom. I once thought my children may find them useful but that idea long faded. I have said on several occasions that despite self publishing six books, My children have never had any desire to read any of my work. I realised a few years ago that my work counts for very little with those who are still forging their own paths in life.

I ended up with a respectable 2:1. A BSc Hons in Wildlife Management and Conservation from Leeds Metropolitan University. In truth the study took place at Park Lane College in Leeds which is now Leeds City College. Indeed I believe the University is called Leeds Beckett University. Is nothing the same ?

I enjoyed my three years of study immensely. I came to university late in life and threw myself in with comparative abandon. Those were good years although the final one was more of a slog than the first two. A not uncommon experience in higher education.

I finished my degree and believed that the world of conservation or land management lay in wait for my skills and knowledge. The world of conservation particularly land management is being squeezed and shrunk because of central government cuts. Private companies use very small workforces and organisations such as the RSPB and National Trust have also felt the pinch. My completion also coincided with a life threatening illness to one of my children and then my own treatment for cancer a year later. It slipped away. I have kept my hand in although less so nowadays. I still do ecological surveys in summertime and volunteer when possible with the countryside service in Bradford.

I have worked in films and television with the civil service, in the employment service (also civil service), trained as a psychiatric nurse and worked win mental health for 15 years. These are my past. I have added my degree to that list as well. As I said in a previous post , I believe you have to be defined by what you do not what you were. They tell a story. I write because I enjoy writing. A few people also enjoy my writing and even pay for it! I don’t write because I get paid, I write because I want to.

It will feel liberating to have a space on a shelf where thousands of pieces of paper once sat. I have let them go. I still have electronic copies of my work and if ever anyone is desperate to want any, it’s there. I may return to study one day in the future. History of Art or English Literature both appeal. Study for study’s sake. So many go to university with a career outcome in mind. My adult life has taught me that however many plans you make, life takes over. This box of papers should be the beginning of a de cluttering process. To rid myself of useless history. It may help in a tiny way to live more in the now than the past.




Ghosts of Underdale

ghost copy

Theres witches, elves, magic, ghosts, murder and a good plot.

Writing a trilogy has been a challenge but an enjoyable one. Writing for younger readers is enjoyable too although to be honest, I write for myself and I’m 52.

The book has a new cover design courtesy of my girlfriend and ace artist Kate Boyce. She has breathed new life into the covers which were to be honest a little dull.

Please go and follow the links to my Amazon page. I urge you to buy the book and if you’re patient, the second book will have an updated cover too, so you can buy the whole trilogy!


The Ghosts of Underdale: Underdale Trilogy Volume 3 by John Linney et al. The Ghosts of Underdale: Underdale Trilogy Volume 3
by John Linney et al.
Link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1535188413


Please also check out Kate’s website



Thanks and share the sellout of this !!!!