Other People’s Chutney

That’s a really interesting phenomenon: people who don’t just want to poke their noses into other people’s business (since we all do that) but who then presume to tell other people at length how they would do that business better. For various foolhardy and inexcusable reasons I recently agreed to be Acting Chairperson of the British Fantasy Society, you know, just for 12 weeks while we sorted out e things that had gone wrong with the Society of late. One of the issues was a stereotypical poisoned chalice sort of job – sorting out the annual Awards. Plenty of people inside the Society had plenty to say about how we should do things, as is right and proper. But what astonished me was the contribution to the debates by a few pompous oddballs who were not even members of our small society but who saw it as their duty to dispense, online, lengthy instructions about how we should order things.

This sort of behaviour always intrigues me. I know a nice elderly lady who runs an annual Women’s Institute pickle-and-chutney-bottling award at a local agricultural show, so I asked her if the same thing happened in her equally small world. ‘Oh, yes,’ she said. ‘There’s always someone who won’t pay the £3 membership fee but who will spend hours telling you why your rules specify the wrong size chutney jar.’ I had to ask, ‘So what do you do about them?’ ‘Well,’ she said, ‘they’re just people who think they’re important, aren’t they? So you pretend that they are, but you take no notice.’

God I love that. Take no notice. I wish I could take no notice. My problem is that when these types thrust their noses in my blood pressure shoots up and I’m not happy until I’ve told them where they can go. Surely a lack of maturity on my part. But I’m 57 for God’s sake, Heinz varieties, so when is this maturity going to come?

Part of the trouble is the facility and venue for these disproportionately opinionated folk offered up by the internet. Before the net these energy-vampires would have been confined to skulking in the Flower Show tent or mournfully scrutinising the Dog Agility Display; all before securing the full attention of the Village Idiot on whom they would lavish their portentous advice. Now they have an audience of indeterminate number and their self-importance can be puffed up to potentially infinite size.

Anyway my tenure is almost over, my blood pressure is coming back to normal and I hope I can return to my quiet writing life again, where the most stressful thing that happens is when the printer runs out of paper. The truth is I haven’t done a lot while I took this on, apart from growling. But I’ve had some great support. Membership of the BFS was just over 300 when I took over and it is currently over 400, so we can’t have done all bad. However I’ll be quite happy to step down. I’m not cut out to be politic (which is a fancy word for being nice about people you don’t much like.)

Meanwhile there have been promising noises from the film world. Focus Features attached Oscar-winning director James Marsh to direct The Silent Land. I can tell you I’m very happy with that. You never know if a film project will find its way into production, but if this one does then it will have a very fine director.

Secondly, my next book Some Kind Of Fairy Tale, which is scheduled for release this coming summer has also sold to Hollywood. Paul Lister, producer of The Men Who Stare At Goats has optioned the book and I had some fascinating conversations with Paul over the summer about how the book might be rendered as a movie.

Thirdly filming is complete on a lo-budget production of one of my short stories Black Dust. This supernatural story of mining people has been directed by James Lawes and was filmed over a few of week-ends in November.

I did script Do The Creepy Thing but I don’t what’s happening with it because funding was coming from the Regional Film Boards that have now been collapsed into an entity called Creative England. Future prospects are in the Dunno category. As for the French production of Dreamside, well the phone never stops not ringing about that.

On the subject of French I continue to collaborate on writing lyrics with Emilie Simon, whose new album is called Franky Knight. This is Emilie’s 5th studio album and it is to be to be released on December 27th. The title is a direct reference to Emilie’s former fiance, François Chevallier, who passed away in September 2009 after catching the H1N1 (swine flu) while travelling abroad. The album is delicate and powerful at the same time, and resolved. I think it’s her best yet. You can sample a track here http://www.emiliesimonmusic.com/ Many tracks also serve as the soundtrack for the forthcoming film La Délicatesse, featuring Audrey Tautou who was the star of French movie-hit Amelie.

Aside from that I have made an ebook collection available with some short stories I’m not ashamed of. The collection is called Tales For A Dark Evening, and it contains the award winning novella Leningrad Nights, first published by the magnificent Crowther operation PS Publishing.

In fact it was their first title. There are seven other stories in there for your Kindle at


Very good very cheap, as they say in the Arab souk.