The Lift (My first attempt at writing fiction)

Personal Blog

I wrote this very brief introduction almost four years ago, at a time when I felt brave enough to see if I could try to write fiction. I admit that I’ve tidied it up a little, but when I read it last night, I felt very proud of myself for having tried, which as many writers know, is quite literally half the battle.

Anyway, I thought I’d share it here, and who knows, maybe one day I might breathe life into it enough to see where it takes me.

With blue skies you can see for miles, life in the English broker belt was financially enviable, but today was proving different. The rolling grey clouds were mirroring Jack Enroy’s persistent misery, and so the enveloping countryside instead felt claustrophobic and oppressive. 

With his childhood dream firmly eclipsed, Jack had become a wealthy business magnate wanting for little, yet demanding everything, both from himself and anyone foolish or brave enough to occupy the space around him. 

With heavy breath, Jack monitored his slowing heart rate and put his daily morning run behind him. 

“Twelve seconds slower today. Not good enough Jack, and don’t even try to bullshit me with your age.” He berated himself with a self-loathing he’d always confused for discipline, and now it was just a short walk back to his palatial family home nestled in the Surrey countryside, where he would shower in a bathroom worthy of a mortgage. 

As the steady hum of rush-hour traffic interrupted his dream, Alex Jones reluctantly raised his pale frame from  a poorly constructed IKEA bed and meandered into his dishevelled squat bathroom, unsure why he ever bothered to groom himself when it seemed that nobody really noticed his boyish good looks. 

As the head of an expansive I.T. department, it was a long-held fantasy that his technically brilliant mind would one day afford him a huge salary and a sense of command, particularly within a leading financial institution like the IBF. Unfortunately, it seemed that life always had other ideas, and so at twenty-three, his ambition was slowly dying with every rejection, and despite a hard-wired optimism, the glass was now beginning to appear very much half empty.

Making coffee and listening to the bleary moans of a self-righteous and sexist managing director does not a happy girl make, and Valerie Smytheson could tell you exactly why, if you’d only give her a couple of martini’s and an hour of your time. 

The lure of a well paid personal assistant role seemed to offer great opportunity in the jet-set world of corporate banking, but had she known the price her self-esteem would pay, things would have been markedly different. Now she would happily trade business suits for jogging pants and the domestic joy of motherhood, but hindsight is often a romantically depressing experience, and so with a deep breath and her best foot still foraging for happiness, she entered the lift, silently preparing herself for another day of verbal abuse. 

“For Christ’s sake, use your fucking mirrors you prick!” cursed cycle courier and accident escape artiste Derek Zimmerman, as he narrowly avoided the ineptitude of yet another faceless cab driver. 

Having scraped through university with a business degree, Derek still retained a false enough sense of security to imagine his career would begin immediately after his finals, yet a year and a half of daily internal confusion and countless flustered interviews, he was still pedalling across London just to pay the rent. 

The thirteenth floor of IBF House was home to more workstations than you could shake a stick at, and with young and seemingly unbreakable bank staff working sixteen-hour days, and snorting most bonuses up their noses, Farris Stein considered himself a key player in the power game, and so loss of face was never an option. His grand design was to retire before thirty and invest hard, because he genuinely believed that failure to secure himself financially would leave him homeless and alcoholic.

The facade of IBF headquarters shone like a new penny, and with acres of reflective glass walls, it was almost impossible to avoid critiquing one’s appearance as you travelled the miles of corridors, and as the latest face of modern finance, no expense had been spared to convey an image of utter superiority and swarthy affluence, and if fortunate to receive special invitation, your arrival would always be greeted with the finest coffee, enjoyed in hand-stitched leather chair with a copy of the Financial Times and an array of biscuits exquisite enough to make a vicar blush. 

Central to the reception area sat two spacious lifts powered by the best technology available, because after all, time is most definitely always money, and with the one of lift doors about to close, Derek  Zimmerman thrust his hand between them, nodding brusquely as he made his entrance. The scent of Starbucks lingered, and as he looked about he felt distinctly separate from the suits encircling him. 

“Why do I have to share the lift with these fucking losers?” thought Farris resentfully, as he propped his ego against the previous night’s coke binge. “One fucking day, I’ll have my own fucking lift, or better still I’ll fly to work in a fucking chopper” he sniggered to himself. 

“Yeah, a fucking gold-plated whirly bird that will show everyone just how fucking minted I am”. No sir, Farris Stein was not one to think small.

Valerie Smytheson’s nerves overtook her caffeine rush as she questioned whether she still looked attractive, or  if she’d gained weight over the weekend. “Damn my bloody hormones” she thought, “chocolate and chips will sit on your hips.” This was her new mantra, and once again she began beating herself over the head with it. 

“I need to get a personal trainer, because let’s face it, I suck at this diet lark, and I’m too bloody tired to lie to myself any longer”. It was a vicious cycle of self-examination and resignation that had driven her this far, and the only peace she found was in her hope a better day would come.

The presence of women always proved unnerving for Alex, and yet the familiar shape of Valerie Smytheson always lifted him from his quiet reflection, reminding him he was still very much  alive. 

“It’s crazy” he thought, “I know her password, I can check her emails, see what she looks at on the internet, but I just can’t talk to her.” That painful truth caused his shoulders to slump, and yet Alex knew that he would trade all of that unrestricted access for the chance to actually talk to her face-to-face.

Standing quietly at the back of the lift to avoid unnecessary attention, Jack Enroy wondered if the other four strangers knew how miserable wealth could really make you. “What would happen” he thought “if I just turned around, right now, and gave each of these people a million pounds sterling? Would they take it, or would they laugh at me? I’ll wager they would laugh, after all, nobody does that kind of thing do they?” 

Suddenly he felt like his day might be somehow different. Suddenly, he was tingling with a power he had never experienced before, an almost god-like and yet humble sense of compassion, and yet was also crippled with the shame of knowing how he had made his money. 

“Get hold of yourself Jack, you can’t trust these clowns with money like that, they’ll just piss it away and leave you humiliated.” His fear reminded him that whatever impulses triggered his sense of humanity, they were to remain just that.

And with his seemingly ‘wild’ idea now back in its box, the lift announced its arrival, as everybody adjusted themselves before going about their mundanely painful existences.

Emotive writing.

Personal Blog

I’m honestly not sure exactly what I’m saying in this blog, it just felt right that I wrote something at the very least.

It’s been a few weeks since I devoted more time to my fiction novel in terms of my working day, and on reflection its been the best thing I’ve ever done on my journey as a writer.

It’s not that I no longer enjoying writing around law, far from it in fact. It’s more about letting my imagination loose, probably for the first time since I was a young boy growing up in a lonely, and often scary world. One where my father had been long since gone by my tenth birthday, where my mother cared less for my welfare than I deserved, and where I felt I had no way to escape the pain of my own existence. In fact, to write about this now leaves me heavy hearted and sad, so I can only imagine how it felt way back then.

The premise for my debut novel came to me a long while ago, and yet as I slowly build a world that readers can invest themselves into, I continually have to overcome emotional and logical obstacles that threaten to stand in my way. Not because this book is so impossibly challenging to write, but because it’s like learning to walk moments after waking from a forty-year coma. And if there’s anybody unfortunate enough to know how that feels, I can only extend my sympathy as I reach out for some empathy of my own.

I suppose if there’s anything positive to take from all of this angst, it’s that my future is cemented to an insatiable pursuit of storytelling through the written word, and I feel as if I’m just starting out, even though I’m almost fifty, which leaves me to assume (rightly or wrongly) that I’m what’s known as a ‘late bloomer’, or at least I hope that’s true, and that I’m not just kidding myself here.

Anyway, that’s all I can think of sharing today, however I would just add that while these emotional moments will one day become points of interest in this thing we call life, it always feels as if they’ll never end when I submit to their power.

I guess that’s why I spend so much of my time avoiding them.

What is a blog, anyway?

I’m only too aware that the internet is rammed with bloggers of all kinds, and in all honesty, I’m painfully lost as to what blogging really is?

I get the sense there’s no script, no structure, more a stream of consciousness that others may want to read or even skim through, but then again I’ve probably got it all wrong, or maybe I’m just overthinking it.

Either way, this goes down as another entry into what is I suppose, suitably described as my personal blog page, and so with that out of the way, here are the thoughts that threaten to consume me today.

Right now, I feel more lost and more confused than perhaps at any other time in my life.

I graduated with a law degree in 2016, during which I discovered what I still feel is a passion for the subject in all its incarnations, and yet I am now writing, or attempting to write, my first work of fiction, which to some people may not seem like that big of a deal, however to a man who has read nary a handful of fiction novels in my 48 years of existence, it’s akin to swimming the local pool for three minutes before attempting to cross the channel, even worse, the Atlantic ocean.

To date, I have spent hours if not days now, browsing writer help sites, author forums, navigating the countless pitfalls of seeking out and appointing literary agents, and watching as established writers dissect or ‘critique’ emerging writers, while charging for the privilege, and its all left me somewhat cynical about the whole thing.

When I say cynical, I don’t mean apathetic, or even ignorant to the stark reality of this world, but I would be lying if I didn’t feel a twitch of resignation and an urge to just give up now, before I suffer even more rejection, judgment, misguided feedback, or even mockery by those who have at last carved out a safe and perhaps established writing career, or those who have widely read but never taken the risk to write anything original.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m trying very hard to let go of my doubts and fears, while I’m also trying even harder to remember that if writing is something I have grown to love, then who hell cares what a percentage of the populous think? After all, If you enjoy doing something then you should just keep on truckin’, right?

Pump your fist if you agree.

The Rower

Personal Blog

Rower
‘Rower’ by Graham Berry

The Concept 2 rowing machine, while not uncommon in most gyms across the United Kingdom (and perhaps the wider world) is now my church, boardroom, centre of gravity and now primary source of reflection. It is where I spend forty-minutes early morning, four days per week, because at almost fifty years of age, cardiovascular health  is now to me, far more important than anything.

Having spent many years favouring weight-training over fitness, I now  look forward to several miles of sweaty, gruelling escapism in the hope that it will enable me live longer than my father, particularly given that he passed away at age sixty-three, to the hell we all know as cancer. In fact, when I calculate that sixty-three is merely fifteen years from today, a wave of nervous gratitude reminds me to just ‘let go’ and enjoy my life.

While the view in front of the rowing machine is one left wanting, my personal approach is one of closed eyes and total detachment, accompanied only by the uplifting sound of numerous ‘Anjunabeats’ trance albums pouring from my cherished blue Bose SoundSport wireless headphones (far and away the best wireless headphones I’ve had to date). It’s become a sanctuary of sorts, a place where I can listen to my innermost thoughts, while soothing myself with reassuring calm and earnest praise.

As a compliment to my physical health management, I maintain a non-meat lifestyle supported by a genuine passion for cooking world cuisine. By non-meat, I admit that I do still have a fondness for fish, and so while I appreciate the contradiction, I could easily remain solely vegetable reliant, but with a wife and two children to consider, it’s just not practical (at least not right now).

When cooking, I consciously try to experiment with at least several new dishes a month, and although some inevitably prove disappointing, I feel the benefits of trying new recipes far outweigh the occasional flop, while those considered ‘keepers’ by us as a family, will often find themselves on my social media feeds (for whatever small pleasure they might bring viewers).

Upon reflection, I suppose you could argue that I live a rather uncomplicated life, either spending time with my family, or sitting at my desk, again facing yet another wall, but gratefully one adorned with the creative musings of my five year-old daughter Nadia, who loves to bring her new creations for me to proudly display.

My greatest wish is that one day we will all be able to live in a home affording me a work space with a view as inspired as it is nourishing, because nobody should strive to earn a living in the corner of a bedroom (at least not for long), and yet that vision can, at times, still feel more like a fantasy and less of a destination.

For the record, I try to work every day for around 5-6 hours at a time, fuelled by fruit smoothies, taking occasional breaks for green tea and chance conversations with my wife Natasha, who herself owns and operates an online high-end vintage clothing store (www.barefoot-vintage.co.uk), and so when we’re not sat at the diner table discussing our thoughts and emotions, or brainstorming our commercial objectives, she can likewise be found either studying for her psychology degree, or working at her own desk in yet another corner of this, our home for the last seven years.

I do however take time off for our family holidays (largely because Natasha arranges them for reasons of sanity), but generally speaking you can pretty much guarantee my whereabouts, until I am instead found happily preparing the day’s dinner in the kitchen, accompanied again by music from one of my many playlists.

In the last few years, I have become acutely aware that all work and no play is not the best recipe for a ‘fun’ life, and so I do consciously try to achieve some semblance of work-life balance; however without my writing and hopefully selling a reasonable number of books, our dream home will not simply build itself, nor will my current view change for one now long-imagined and eagerly anticipated.

I would like to stress my immense gratitude for having found a vocation that gives me tremendous satisfaction, and although my first book has not yet found itself in the hands of as many people as I’d initially hoped, my goals remain staunchly resolute, which means that right now, it’s business as usual, despite all of my worries about dying undiscovered and penniless.

Crossroads

Personal Blog

Crossroads by Cliff Knecht
Image: ‘Crossroads’ by Cliff Knecht

Today is my first blog entry and having reflected upon my efforts so far, it feels as if all my work will never be seen, purchased or benefitted from by law students either now and in the future. I’m sorry if that sounds all doom and gloom but there it is.

The truth is, marketing your book to an international audience is virtually impossible when you have literally no money, despite my dropping the retail price, and trying to promote it across numerous social media platforms. At forty-eight I am no spring chicken, and so would be the first to confess that I have no real idea how to exploit this side of things when trying to reach young students looking for genuine help in the field of law.

I can write all day, everyday, primarily because I love what I do, and because I passionately want to share my gift with as many people as possible, however as I am sure plenty of you know, marketing and promotion of any medium is not free, and it’s not as if I can give away samples, as every copy costs me money, which again, I simply do not have.

– A typical case of chicken and egg.

Worse still, the one and only review left on Amazon.co.uk (which appeared on my birthday of all days) was difficult for me to read and understand, particularly given how hard I had worked on this debut publication, and how my family had barely seen much more than the back of my head for months on end, as I sat in the corner of our bedroom facing the wall, studying and writing like a man possessed.

I never once imagined that the first piece of feedback would be so damning, and in all honesty I have not sold another copy on Amazon.co.uk since. It is obvious that the reviewer could not have cared less for how that has left me, or how it has most likely deterred others from buying a copy for themselves, but there is nothing I can do except hope that somebody else buys my book, loves it, and feels compelled to offer their version of events.

So as I sit here this evening, having enjoyed Christmas more now than ever before, I am torn between continued hope for a future filled with writing, and a creeping sense that I have deluded myself into thinking people care about case law even half as much as I do.

Deep down, I want to believe that there is an audience for my work, but to date I have had no lasting sign that I am making any difference, and that’s incredibly hard for anybody to take, no matter how much faith you have in yourself and your craft.

I’m not trying to come off as depressing here, I’m simply reaching out through this section of my site as a genuinely passionate human being, who having spent my life blindly (and painfully) searching for the answer to the question as to why I am here, fell in love with law the moment I set foot on university soil.

Its also important for me to stress that this love has not waned in the slightest, and I plan to continue simplifying case law in as many jurisdictions as possible, if only in the knowledge that somebody, somewhere, chooses to pursue the subject because they felt they could at last understand why it exists and how it functions.

It’s equally strange for me to be pulled by a vision, which at this very moment feels frayed at the edges, yet there is a voice reassuring me that it’s just a matter of time, and that far from giving up, I just need to let go and keep moving forward.

As I type these words, I just hope that voice is right, I really do.