Are you lonely? Does it ever feel almost like you’re living outside your own life? According to a fairly recent school of thought, you might be doing just that. Robin Williams once famously said: “I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel all alone.”
I found a letter in my attic the other day: it was written by myself, aged either five or six. The spelling wasn’t great, but when corrected it basically read: Dear Geoffrey from Rainbow, I am worried about you because I watch you every day and you are my friend and I have to tell you that there is a man inside Bungle did you know this do not say anything to Bungle in case he gets angry and the man comes out I never want you to die. Love from David Stone from Ramsgate.
I can remember the first and the last time I ever went in there: the first as an 8-year-old kid and the second as a 22-year-old man gaffer-taped to a wheelie chair.
I grew up in a family of smokers who smoked in between smokes. My mum was the lesser of the these: she only smoked Superkings and bought them in packs of twenty at the local shop. When she couldn’t get Superkings, she would smoke other brands but the fact that she needed to get them from the shop did at least mean she didn’t smoke constantly.
During one of the worst years of my childhood, my mum returned from a hospital stay literally wreathed in pain. She’d had a hysterectomy, but something had gone wrong at the end of the operation and all I really remembered from that Winter was constantly turning up the music on my walkman to drown out the sounds of her sobbing in the bathroom. It was a grim, terrifying time: being an only child, you have a certain amount of fear tied up in the fact that there’s really just the two of you: my nan was a borderline alcoholic, and could really only be relied upon to provide unpredictable problems whenever she came back from the pubs.
It would be easy to say that I don’t like cats and cats don’t like me but it’s just nowhere near as simple as that. The war between the cat kingdom and myself began – as many things do – in a pub.
Then it happened. I was at an airport, getting ready to fly out to Italy, when a friend called me and said: ‘What do you think of Neil Gaiman?’
I first read the Discworld novel Eric by Terry Pratchett when I was twelve years old. I was a huge fan of Fighting Fantasy, and I’d gone into town to get the 50th FF book, Retun to Firetop Mountain, but they’d put the price up to £3.99 and I only had £2.99 in my pocket. That meant I either had to go home and spend a Saturday on my own with nothing to entertain me, or I was going to need to find a book to read: an actual book.
The year is 1991, and I am sitting in the manager’s office of Ramsgate’s old Pleasurama arcade, accused of trying to steal cars in the car park. My best friend, Russ, is sitting beside me: he’s accused, too. We have been in the office, waiting for the police to arrive, for around twenty minutes….but it feels like we’ve been there for hours.
Dominating the Ramsgate skyline, the Granville Hotel is now a (mostly) restored and beautifully unusual landmark. To those of us who grew up in the 80s, however, it will always be that half collapsed old ruin with Dracula’s Castle rising out of the end, sticking one MASSIVE middle finger up at the sky. I’m serious, back in the 80s, the rumours were strong: there were things in the basement at the Granville that would snatch you out of the dark and wicked old ladies in the tower offering you tea and biscuits before hitting you over the head with a twenty pound lump-hammer.