My best achievement has been to marry and bring up children. No contest. So many life lessons packed into that process. And four bedrock relationships here in the present day.
Outside that, I especially love that I wrote and published ‘Out of Essex’ during the years from 2013 to 2015. Sometimes I look at its orange spine up on the shelf and think: “That’s yours, you persevering, semi-talented bastard!”
It came out of nowhere, then geminated at a surprising pace. It is not boasting to claim the book as unique. Is it any good? That may depend on your political stance.
Like most wannabe writers, I had droned on for decades about writing a book. I started one over a decade earlier, writing about 90 pages. Here’s how that one commenced:
East London, October 1999. Neil Finnegan streamed with the crowd up the stairs of the tube station, stomach knotted at the prospect of meeting Vince Bull in the flesh. Selling him the deal was another matter.
In late 2002, I wrote a mini-autobiography, six months before Maureen and I had our financial crash. After that, I had to work my nuts off to stay financially liquid.
Was still working like a dog in April 2013, when Margaret Thatcher died. I hadn’t thought about her for years. To my mind, she had one positive to her name: the first female to become British prime minister. You cannot knock that, given the deep patriarchy of her time in office. Credit where it’s due.
But that’s it. Britain won the Falklands War under Maggie, but our army and navy was so superior that there could only ever be one winner. After that, when you examine her record in office, it is a litany of moves that divided the country. Sending the UK’s mining industry into terminal decline, decimating workers’ rights, cutting benefits, kicking the mentally ill onto the streets. And, more than anything, opening the gates to private debt, and where that leads. It’s all been listed elsewhere. In short, she was not benevolent. That’s me being polite.
When a series of accolades began to pour out of the media, anger began to swell in me. A state funeral, for God’s sake, with dignitaries flying in from around the world. WTF?
Knowing her religious convictions, I imagined the passage of her soul. And began to write a vicious short story detailing her arrival at ‘The Place’, met by angels. But then steered onwards.
Maggie was ushered on, past two black cats sniffing her feet. The temperature had risen. The corridor was narrowing, sloping downwards. Images on each wall terrified the root of her soul. British and Argentinean sailors flailing and screaming in the Falklands waters, and then Pinochet’s torture rooms beneath the Chilean football stadium. Blood on the ceiling. Detached limbs and eyes on the floor.
Another image. Showing Maggie and her blue team howling in derision at the red team’s support for the “terrorist” Nelson Mandela and the ANC. Something inside of her died further as the wall beamed an image of a July 2002 article in the Wall Street Journal, entitled “Don’t Go Wobbly”. She read her own words. “It is clear to anyone willing to face reality that the only reason Saddam took the risk of refusing to submit his activities to UN inspectors was that he is exerting every muscle to build WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction)”.
This was fun, as she began to intuit her destination.
Well over seven foot, blackly-clad, he looked as formidable as she had often fantasised. For a fleeting second, fighting down fear, Maggie wondered whether he might be “somebody I can do business with”.
Satan provides her with the memorial tribute that half the country was thinking but none of the mainstream British press would print.
“You devolved British thinking back to grocers’ epithets and crude sums involving the value of their houses. It was – still is – medieval, you moron, and now it’s your legacy.”
When finished, with Maggie looking aghast at a torture rack, I sent it to some friends, some of whom seemed to enjoy it. The pleasure throb was irresistible. I needed to write more.
What soon became evident, the more I read about Maggie, was how the fruits of her campaigns to privatise major UK industries, and open the City of London to global banking, were mainly a widening chasm of nationwide poverty, umbilically linked to the further enrichment of the richest. By 2013, all of Britain’s major cities and towns were experiencing growing levels of homelessness, the welfare state was being hacked back, and debt had become the foundation of the British economy. Banks were untouchable, despite their catalytic role in the 2007-08 financial crisis.
The most eye-opening factor, which I had never found reason to look into, was that the interest attached to the money created by commercial banks (which is about 87% of all money) gradually pulls wealth away from the bottom rungs of society. In short, that debt stealthily and slowly impoverishes the less resourceful members of society.
So what would God do, to challenge Maggie’s legacy, and the egregious financial systems? As my first few chapters fell into place, it dawned on me that she (yep, she) might send down a ‘benevolent ninja squad’ to sort things out. How about dusting down the souls of Gandhi and Buddha. Satan could be their minder.
But where to send them? I had recently rekindled friendships with old school friends from Southend-on-Sea, and decided that the Essex town could be the home for a breakaway society that made an effort to live without money. Growing its own food, using barter. And creating the seeds of a new consciousness that would overcome the material illnesses afflicting much of the modern world. God decided, drunkenly, that Maggie could be reincarnated to act as a kind of PR voice for the community, located in Southchurch Park, a real place at the eastern end of the town.
And so it went. The joy of creating a River Thames tsunami engendered by Jesus was not to be under-estimated. Nor that of sending Satan on a fast, night-time motorbike ride along the A127 to confront and dine with the Puppet Master (the PM), who controls one of the main banking families. Also Maggie learning martial arts, from Satan’s sons Beelzebub and Belial.
I wrote things that made me crease with laughter (particularly Satan’s love of single malt whisky), and welded them to chunks of polemic explaining how the money system grips, and manipulates and fucks our world. And how paying attention to newspapers and TV is almost the equivalent of a self-lobotomy.
And I threw in a lot of real conspiracy facts, with enough detail to separate them from the theories that are casually chucked around.
The climax had Maggie murdering a death squad sent by the PM to the park, and then Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi and a female car windscreen cleaner walking from Southend to Canary Wharf in a day. Instead of loaves and fish, Jesus distributes Gold Bars, the type made by McVities, to the suits. And then it all kicks off. And the change comes, as ‘Yesh consciousness’ gradually permeates.
It took about 18 months to write. Standing back, I was so chuffed.
‘Well done Kev, that is an audacious achievement,’ I told myself. Of course there were many areas for improvement, but – even if nobody ever reads it -you have surpassed yourself in terms of the book’s ambition.
I tried various agents and publishers with a few chapters, but none wanted to know. So I re-edited it, and tried again, with similar results. So be it. Fittingly, I used some PPI money from a few banks to print 50 copies, for friends and family.
Should I e-publish ‘Out of Essex’? It seems like a lot of trouble for little reward.
I would like to write another book, and await the muse rushing in again.