Monday 10 May 2010



Good Morning Troops! Hello can you hear me? Bleeeep! This is The General, Hello General calling England Town? Hello! Hello? Book Club Boutiquers can thee hear I and I? Hello!? They have caught me again, Arvon, this time I and I is being held captive at the concentration camp in Devon, bloody isolated, miles from civilisation or pub, the silence is deafening. As you know I am no stranger to war and love and all is fair... just as it was last summer at The Hurst - The John Osborne Centre – they too have a torturous continual recording of twittering birdsong playing from hidden speakers in the hedges. Tweet tweet go the birds but I can see right through them. And there are herds of cardboard cows in the distant fields. But The General, as you well know, is not so easily fooled! There is no phone signal nor internet and so I am sending this via a bribe to a native here. The General, I and I, had to do unspeakable things to get access to this line to the outside and I do hope you can hear me. Please pass this word on to all parties concerned, all the troops and citizens of BCBoutique - although understand you do this at your own peril! Beware and have stealth and the Queens own thumbs up you. As I type this, right now, they are playing a soundtrack of rain, soft and constant, and there is a lavender mist lining the woodland on the edge of what I imagine to be the Dartmoor. And also as I type this I plan my escape, waiting for a opportune moment to make the break for it. Perhaps I could find my way by foot to Jamaica Inn or some such place. If only I could steal a torch and a brolly, I believe I could make it to the Cornwall in a week and find some respite or pub, but I know allowing myself to have these thoughts is a fools paradise. The author and scriptwriter JEREMY SHELDON is also captive here, we harbour some hope, but have little faith of freedom, memories of the outside world fade somewhat. We alternate workshops and this seems to keep us all on our toes. We are forced to eat lovely meals they prepare for us daily. Although one knows they are lulling us into a false sense of security and fattening us up for slaughter. Every morning we breakfast, and then sit at a long table with notebooks, studying and scribbling things - it is un-nerving to say the least. During these tortures they seem to think one knows something about books, booze and boogie-woogie but I keep shtum. I bid them to write, to write poetry and prose and ask them to read it aloud to each other and so far this seems to keep them distracted. I have made secret notes that I keep well hidden beneath my mattress. It occurs to me that this is a safe haven for real books. There are books here from before the war, before the invasion, books from the outside. I have been reading the two O’Connor’s, Frank and Flannery, in my what-shall-we-call-it ‘free’ time, but I know I’m being observed, that the cameras and the electric fences keep me here for a reason: the books, booze and the boogie-woogie. Each afternoon I am interrogated on a one-to-one basis. They take it in turns to come to talk to me in a small library room at the top of the main building. This room is filled with copies of books by you all, real books, made with paper from trees. In this library I spotted my friends, dear friends, you are there, Maggie Gee and Lemn Sissay, Stella Duffy and Sir Brian Patten and that Apples and Snakes VELOCITY anthology so many of us are all named in...I cannot help but think it was those 20th century anthologies and old skool fanzines that got us in this damnable trouble in the first place. Nevertheless, it seems I am permitted in this library whenever I please and these books have brought me great comfort in my confines. There is light at the end of the tunnel, last night, most cleverly JOE DUNTHORNE sneaked in under the genius disguise of ‘guest speaker’ My eyes could not believe themselves that he fooled them all so brilliantly. He read beautifully from his wonderful novel SUBMARINE. He also read from a new poetry collection which is out today, this very day in May with FABER publishings. Boutiquers, if you can find a real booksellers, you must seek it out. Joe also brought bright word from the outside - that the HOMEWORK series of monthly live events starts this month with the Aisle 16 fellows in the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club. This brought me great happiness and with fresh hope I now look forward to breaking out of here and witnessing some of these miracles of which he speaks. Long live books, booze and boogie-woogie! Sadly, however, this morning Joe Dunthorne was already gone at dawn. I heard some screams, I heard some cattle, I heard the screech of tyres and I will say no more. I saw nothing, in fact, there is no evidence of his ever being here less a copy of 'Submarine' placed in the library with my other friends. Let me take this opportunity to tell you, he, Joe Dunthorne, was so brave, a brave soldier to come here, a warrior in fact and let us never forget that. Deep down I harbour a hope that he has escaped on the locomotive engines to England Town - but I won’t kid myself until I see it with my own eyes.

At night I barely sleep suffering the most terrible torments. These nightmares are a nightmare. Memories of books, booze and boogie-woogie ravage my mind and vibrate in my very soul. I wake up screaming ‘I SAY BOOK CLUB AND YOU SAY…BOUTIQUE” It doesn’t help that this prison is haunted by long ago authors, the Ted Hughes and the Philip Larkin types, carousing and bantering in the lofts and arbours. Their ghosts play football with the severed heads of jobbing writers, waving bloodied workshop notes in my face and caterwauling lesson plans through the gaps in the woodwork and doorframes. Blue cheese and stilton at midnight do little to stop these carry-ons. I will end with correspondence with an up as they say and the best news of all - I have heard word that on JUNE 1ST 2010 The Book Club Boutique will march valiantly back into the SOHO with a new summer season, a series of assaults which will take place monthly in the pumping aorta of the heart of England Town. That’s a whole new residency and a new venue for the summer season. Therein we will expect to find the finest examples of exemplary authors, the most wonderful and wild poets and the most inspiring musicians all performing live for our own eyes and ears and hearts, alongside DJ’s in a pretty bar and a garden to sip cocktails in... I cannot tell you anymore now for walls have ears and ears have eyes and legs have tables...but I cannot tell you enough how happy this news makes me and as soon as I break out of here I will announce the location and line-up for the first battalion to go up over the trenches upon my return to the England Town.

I ask for you to just remember this part: JUNE 1ST 7PM. BCB. SOHO and then set fire to your lap top. Now I bid you well, the lion sleeps tonight, in the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight. May the spirit of BCB be with you all. May the books, the booze and the boogie-woogie rise and rise. Now do wish me luck dearhearts and fellow citizens of BCB, there is a good chance I will have to crawl on my belly commando style across marsh and moor to get to you, but by Jove it will be worth every stinging nettle and cowpat.!
Yours Most Generally
The General