This is where I stick everything that doesn't fit easily elsewhere. I am considering a sort of blogging effort to link to things, say what's going on. We shall see...
29 March 2006
There's a good reason why there hasn't been a post here for almost a year. I succumbed to blogging, and have been building an almost-daily updated blog at www.kierenmccarthy.co.uk. I am also building a pseudo-blog at my new site - www.sexdotcom.info covering how my book is going on the Sex.com story (yes, I finally got a publishing contract).
So if it's updates you're looking for, you're wasting your time here, I'm afraid.
2 May 2005
Not really updating this site very much. Just noticed have barely put any of my journalism from this year or last up. While I'm here, I might as well stick up this piece I felt the urge to write for The Spectator. Sparked by a second subscription offer for the mag, I thought I'd put down some of my recent musings and rantings about the general election and see if the Spectator would publish them.
Of course it was a pointless effort seeing as it was a political piece, The Spectator doesn't know me from Adam, and we are in the middle of a general election campaign, but you've got to write these things if they're in your head. I got a letter back three days later (I'd sent the article by post as they are harder to delete than email), saying: "Thank you so much for sending in this piece. Much as I enjoyed reading it, we have, alas no space to publish it. With best wishes, Yours sincerely, Boris Johnson."
I still can't decide whether he actually did read it. Anyway, here is:
Your country needs you... to vote LibDem
Kieren McCarthy longs for a three-party system, as long the top two spots stay the same
So I opened the door to a bright, smiling young woman who told me she was from the Labour Party and were there any local issues that I was concerned about. She had clearly taken two steps back after knocking as she was an unusually large distance away. Who can blame her? This was not the working-class area of Oxford East that current Labour MP Andrew Smith gets his votes from. This was the posh bit of the constituency and anything could happen.
As luck would have it, I did want to know why the council had spent thousands of pounds installing anti-bicycle barriers on the thin little path between my flat and the river and then spent several thousand more digging them up, moving them an extra foot apart and putting them back down again. I strongly suspected this was the work of a city council official living secretly among us; that the four-foot-high rounded metal barriers were Oxford’s equivalent of the inexplicable speed bumps that reveal council officials’ home residences across the country.
So I asked her to find out about them, quipping: “And if I get a letter explaining why they’re there I’ll think about voting for you,” and closed the door, expecting to have an equally pointless conversation in five years’ time. But, four days later, I received a letter from my local (Labour) councillor explaining why the barriers had been put up (although not why they had been reset or how much they had cost). I felt impelled to find out just how safe Mr Smith’s seat really was.
Rather disappointingly, it is very safe. The ex-pensions minister has romped home since 1987, most recently with a 26 percent lead. That he is out of the Cabinet is unlikely to matter much to Oxford East. He continues to lives among them in the city’s least exclusive neighbourhood, despite being periodically abused from his garden by one of the local mental health service users.
But nevertheless I was impressed by the response. Or I was until I mentioned it to my parents who live in Surrey South West.
My little home comes a measly 86th on the LibDems target-seat list, but my parents have the ill fortune of living in their number three spot. And to make matters worse for the local Tories, Virginia Bottomley has decided to retire this year, leaving in her stead the fresh-faced and largely unknown Jeremy Hunt. With just 861 votes preventing the seat turning from blue to yellow, he has his work cut out.
So you can imagine the impact of the email that winged its way to the local Conservative office from Mrs McCarthy asking about postal votes because she and her husband had planned to be on holiday on 5 May. In fact, it took less than three minutes for a response to arrive. And less than 10 minutes later, a phonecall from the local co-ordinator assured both of them that it was all perfectly simple and the postal votes would be there before you could say “marginal”. Whether my parents will become the main protagonists in a Home Counties vote-rigging scandal in a fortnight’s time only time will tell.
Not that I want the LibDems in power. God no, I don’t even want them in opposition. But it is becoming increasingly obvious, to me at least, that the country desperately needs a three-party system if we are to make any sort of progress in the next 50 years. And without the LibDems winning another tranche of seats, on 6 May we are going to arrive at the same stagnant position all over again.
Every year, at by-elections and local elections, politicians and the media wail despairingly about falling voter turnout, voter apathy, and the lost youth vote. Numerous ridiculous and frequently embarrassing stunts are dreamed up to engage these foolish masses and when they fail, it turns nasty and the non-voters are accused of living in a self-centred modern consumerist hell-hole with no regard for the society that nurtured them. The same will happen again this general election.
What is so strange though is that it is perfectly obvious why people aren’t bothering to vote: because bickering is boring.
So long has it been the Conservatives on one side and Labour on the other that the very real business of politics has become little more than a slanging match. The running of the country has been reduced to an unhappy marriage between two parties who only feel obliged to stick together because the children need looking after. While the daily fights and spats and vicious sideswipes are all-involving for the two parties concerned, they have a quite different effect on those who are supposed to be being supported.
The last time there was a significant sentiment of real politics in the country, where the choice you made was important for the country, was just after the Second World War. There was a sniff of it in 1981 with the Gang of Four, and a deeper inhalation in 1997, although that was more to do with fatigue than anything else. But with politics all about one side or the other for so long, political expediency has become the main currency rather than trade in ideological certainties.
The LibDems are frequently dismissed with the glib assertion that they have not been burdened with the real-world complexities of office, but that rather ignores the fact that it is the beliefs and solutions built up from considered reflection that have always proved the biggest social changers - and which have enthused and driven the wider populous the most. Politics is the home of ideology. The fact that it is currently a dirty word in Parliament is a sorry reflection only of the current inhabitants.
What British politics really needs is a strong third party, with a stout ideological bent, to kick the complacency out of the system. With the Opposition having to watch its back, it would have no choice but to pay the third party attention and the Government would have no choice but to observe both. And with that, the new ideologies borne of wider changes in society and formed while the two main parties exhausted all their energies in battle, would find their way into British politics again. And with them would come wider public interest.
It happened, albeit briefly, in 1997 when Labour stole many of the LibDems best ideas while skirting past them to the middle ground. But without the belief behind it, they were poorly implemented and fell to pieces, leaving Labour in power but stranded, unsure of what to fall back on.
It is all Churchill’s fault by the way. When plans were drawn up to rebuild the bombed Commons chamber in 1943, he personally intervened and insisted that it was rebuilt the way it was before - with the two parties facing each other. Plans for a semi-circular chamber were dismissed. So were seats. There was more than enough room but Churchill insisted on a constrained room with benches that could not comfortably contain all MPs to give “a sense of intimacy”.
What he achieved was a Commons instantly stuck in an era where Churchill reigned supreme and where every subsequent prime minister would be forced to live in his shadow. A good clean-out of the Commons’ stuffy ways is inevitable but history has taught us, nearly always belated.
That’s why the LibDems get my vote and should get yours too. Although only enough to see the Surrey South Wests fall. If Oxford East comes a cropper, we really are in trouble."
7 October 2004
Been nearly six months since my last effort on here - there goes the blogging idea. And what's happened? Well, have moved into my own flat closer to town in Oxford. It had to happen sooner or later, but have got my own flat (although not bought it of course) and it's just before I turn 30.
Of course, soon after I'm 30 and living in my own flat, the whole perception of it changes from independent man about town to emotional cripple unable to commit to a serious relationship. Still going out with Karen, who I met at my brother's wedding. It's still great. And being with her has started showing up the holes that there were in previous relationships, many of which I didn't recognise until now. Well, you don't notice something isn't there until you know what it is, do you?
Managed to pay off all my debts, which was an unbelievable weight off my shoulders. Paid off the last £1,000 of my fucking student loan in one lump. Since then though, moving into the flat - unfurnished, you see - and taking a short holiday and not getting paid by people, have pushed the debt right back up again. Still the money should start coming back in in the next few weeks so impending poverty can be staved off.
Not happy about the solicitors I hired to get money out of this new mag called Blink. I wrote a long feature on Sex.com, was mucked about and mucked about but finally it was taken. Then saw the magazine and knew it was so bad that there was a very real chance it would go under after two or three issues.
With that in mind, I immediately set lawyers on them when they failed to pay and lied about paying with the explicit instructions to immediately sue them. That was the start of August and the bastard lawyers have still yet to do anything except invoice me for their services. I bet they haven't even checked if the company's gone into bankruptcy. And when I called them today to have it out, no one answered the bloody phone. Am I going to have sue the lawyers to get my money out of them? And the money owed me for the article is looking increasingly lost. Shit. Put that one under Lessons Learnt.
Talking of which, still thinking about doing a proper law course just so I don't have the whole side of occasionally the most important thing in life - the law - being taken out of my hands by over-paid, arrogant and self-important lawyers. Level playing field is what I'm after.
Mind you, that means I still need the two eternal factors for all my plans - money and time. I have managed to build myself a comfortable freelance life as I promised myself I would do. Now I have to find a way of making the same money but having more free time to write, write, write and learn, learn, learn.
Have done 20 weeks of Spanish lessons and have embarked on another 10. So at least one of aims is being achieved. Must get around to signing up for a martial art soon - but have realised that due to getting increasingly blind, I will first have to get used to wearing contact lenses. Not much point being thrown about with glasses on.
What other plans do I need to get on with? The eternal Sex.com book. My Definitive100 website, and my other assorted websites. And my books, must get on with my books. Only really happy when I'm writing so it's insane that I do so little of it - creative writing that is, not basic journalism.
Ho hum. One of the great lessons that everyone in life learns sooner or later is that things will never go as fast as you want or hope they will. Unless you are lucky (or unlucky depending on which way you look at it) in which case things go too fast.
We shall see how far I've got by the next time I write something here.
21 April 2004
Very short and unusual update, but this just entertained me so much that I figured it was worth it. An email that has gone round media circles is apparently the before and after shots of some actress from the trash-soap Footballers' Wives.
The story goes that the woman in question annoyed one of the art staff of an unnamed magazine, so he decided to release the original pic of her in the photoshoot and the touched-up version that appears in the magazine. I reckon the pics are genuine.
Incredibly, people seem amazed that this happens. Of course it bloody happens, but it's not often you get to enjoy it quite so starkly. Here is:
8 April 2004
Been a long time since I've done an update and wotta-lotta stuff to be getting on with. First of all, weddings. Lance wedded Sonia and it was great and I was an usher and I can't help but wonder how long it will take me to put the footage taken by Taff onto a video and send to people. Or maybe save as an mpeg and stick it up here for people to download (something that would be alot easier if the USB cable for the camcorder wasn't residing in Essex).
Still on weddings, Johnny is getting hitched to Elsy in Mexico at end of July, start of August, which simply cannot be missed. Traditional Mexican wedding, Johnny, Elsy, dare I say Tequila, some crazy aunts rabbitting on in Spanish - wouldn't miss it for the world. And it seems that Owen is getting married to mickie in November some time. Ian Burnley turns out to have won the best man tombola by dint of the fact he was the last one of four to be asked.
What's going on with Sex.com, you cry? Well the Sunday Telegraph is in possession of a another feature on the tale. I had written, as agreed, a 2,500-word piece from the perspective of con-man Cohen which I thought was a bloody good read, but the features editor turned out to want a basic story rundown so had to rewrite from scratch. It will go out just before the Channel 5 documentary - TX date 10 May, 11pm, apparently. God only knows how I'll come across in it. It may not have helped that I was filmed on the Monday morning after my brother's stag weekend and that the lawyer's office it was filmed in was minus ten. Still if you get the chance to appear on national TV, why not come across as a hungover idiot going through cold turkey?
As for the Sex.com story - come to a bleedin' end, ain't it? Don't have full details yet. But then am far from finishing book. Shit. And what about my publishing deal? As Withnail says about his agent: "Bastard must have died." I suspect mine has been too busy with Rageh Omar's new book and PR tour to bother making my fortune and taking 15 percent of it with her.
Oh, living with Derek in Oxford now. Love Derek but my god, in the intervening years since we last lived together at university, neuroses have clambered over neuroses and now they are falling under the weight of the new ones. Mind you, there's Malic isnow a psychiatrist for a London prison, and Smith was telling me about how he won't check his female patients until they've been x-rayed to make sure they haven't stuck razor blades up their vaginas. Apparently it's a fairly common attempt to hurt the doctor.
Have car. Mazda 626 bought off a returning Aussie for £50. It's not exactly impressive but it bloody works and it has opened up that whole on-the-road life again after years of not having a car. I have also taken on some responsibility as a news editor for Techworld.com. It's driving me a little crazy in that it's like a proper job, have to be up and working on stories every day. Especially since I have loads of other stuff I need to be getting on with. But it's news editing experience and it's very satisfying to be there building something up from the ground, and everyone thinks I'm doing a wonderful job, so that's nice.
Oxford is a good place. Got nearly everything London has, except the arseholes. Still kinda itching to get to Paris and then Latin America though. Should be starting Spanish lessons in next few weeks. Ah - and in two weeks time I will finally finally be out of debt. Am going to pay off last £1,000 in student loans in one lump sum just to get rid of the bloody thing once and for all, and then next month or so will throw big Back to Black party to celebrate. Have already registered ww.backtoblack.info for the corresponding website.
And, basically, that's it. Apart from thanking Karen and her friend on the Isle of Man for being the only people to ever read this mindless regurgitation of thoughts and feelings. See you Saturday.
24 December 2003
Christmas Eve and lots has happened in the past two months. Am now, for the moment, living with my parents in Farnham having moved out of lovely Newquay. Will really miss the place but I just didn't know anyone there and I finally realised I'd separated myself too far. Plus, I suspect, Owen and I were about to drive each other mad. So to Oxford in the New Year and really time to make a name for myself in 2004.
Sex.com has suffered a setback in that my New York agent decided to leave ICM and go to another agency and no one else at ICM in the US was interested in taking me on. One was fairly interested, it would appear, but thought the story was more of a magazine article than a book. This did not please me greatly since I can't think of a single reason why I should need an agent to get a feature in a fucking magazine when I am a freelance journalist. Book, yes; magazine, no.
Anyway, that has screwed things up and so it seems I will have to get a feature in one of the top mags - Vanity Fair, Esquire, New Yorker - that sort of thing, to get the ball rolling again. Oh well, it was all going too easy anyway.
Money is tight because of the cost of the US/Mexico/Colombia trip - not helped by my laptop dying on me. Should have it back just before New Year with any luck but currently having to use my Mum's PC and dial-up connection. Plus, of course, don't have access to loads of information on the laptop. Arrgggh.
Phillip Knightley's site is up at last after literally months of screwing about with rip-off domain name merchants. Have to stick up his other articles - but waiting for laptop to do that since I bought Dreamweaver at last and set it up so I could post stories literally 10 times faster than normal hand coding and FTP.
Created and stuck up a site for Kathy Burke like I said I would a few months ago. Her agent isn't happy though. Can't actually think why - it's a hugely positive site and gives her an actual online presence. Think the agent is being a bit precious here - hopefully we can smooth it out in the New Year. Or maybe I should track down Kathy Burke herself and explain.
What else? Loads of work to be getting on with. Plus may have to write about Rockall trip soon. It's a great tale and now the anger and irritation is over I will be able to write it more objectively and with greater humour. Lester, I hear, is still ranting and raving about it. Easier I suppose to focus your blame on someone else than question yourself. It'll eat away at you though. He's apparently restarting the Rockall Times in February. I wish him all the luck in the world just so long as he never bothers me again.
Anyway, is Christmas very very soon and then a new year and I am in the rather odd position of not having a single constraint. A completely clean sheet. Could be rich and famous by the end of next year; could be still typing up IT stories; could be living in South America with a beautiful senorita. But it's not the destination that's the best bit, it's the travelling.
2 November 2003
Blimey, back from my trip and finally back in Newquay by the sea, resting, relaxing and preparing to really go to town over the Sex.com book. Have two weeks to myself and plan to use it. Have set up the new super laptop in the lounge, so I'm out of the pokey study and in the bright, airy lounge with a view of the harbour.
Far too much stuff to write about the trip but travelled up and down the west cost of the US then onto Mexico, then Colombia and then in London for a week and a bit. Lovely. Have just stuck up all my Mexico pics which has taken all bloody day. See here. It may therefore be some time before all the others appear.
Anyway, things all look good. Don't have publisher yet, but my agents remain confident. Could do with the advance as the trip has pushed me back to my previous unenviable financial situation, but hey, such is life. Bright horizons. Now just have to work my bollocks off.
20 September 2003
In San Fran. Over my jet lag fairly quickly. Think it was because I only managed to finish packing at 4am in England and then had to get a 5.50am cab to the airport. Arrived local time 7.30pm - which basically meant I'd been travelling for 26 hours or so. Ugh. Anyway, San Fran is nice - big 40th birthday bash for Gary Kremen in just a few hours and have stuck on some of my photos taken earlier today. You can find them here.
The hotel is interesting. A classic old grand hotel fallen on tough times. It has clearly been recently taken over by some Chinese management as most of the staff are Chinese and are surly and haven't got a clue yet the few remaining old guard are absolutely brilliant and courteous. Shame. It's on one of the main streets in San Fran - Market St - which is a thoroughfare but not the nicest bit of town. It has clearly gone downhill in the past decade or so, with a few grand buildings with Sex shows occupying them. Lots of homeless people as well.
What is it as well about poor Americans - usually black - just hanging around outside certain stores just doing nothing at all for hours and hours? And why is the street lighting so bad? Anyway, it's America and it's all strangely familiar.
Much to write but no time. My favourite thing though was the flight from Houston to San Fran - three hours. The in-flight meal consisted of - microwaved meatloaf in a bun (basically a hamburger), a plastic pack of weird tiny carrots, some tasteless crisps and a nut chocolate treat. You know you're in America when that is served to you.
15 September 2003
It's all go. I'm off to San Francisco on Friday to interview everyone for my Sex.com book. And while I'm over that way, I'm finally going to get around to see Jonny in Mexico and Tobi in Colombia. Still haven't got a finalised book proposal but we're very nearly there. As such no advance yet and so the cost of this trip, plus the new wonderful laptop I have just bought (IBM ThinkPad T40) has reduced my comfortable financial cushion back down to a hearty hanky. Oh well. It'll all come good soon as the publishers see the proposal.
What else? Newquay is lovely at the mo - great weather but few tourists. Unfortunately I am bogged down in work at the moment so I'm not getting to enjoy it as much as I'd like. I've also had a bad run of things recently with old friends letting me down. Just as well I'm getting out the country. Get some new perspective. Lester it seems is going to continue The Rockall Times. I'd be happy if he did, even if, sadly, I have nothing else to do with it. I strongly suspect though that he will do it for a couple of months, realise that his ridiculous belief that he will make loads of money selling T-shirts is nothing but a fantasy and tire of the whole thing. We shall see.
Owen bought a beer fridge the other day while having one of his strange purchasing temporary psychoses. It is evil. It has a glass front so not only can you always see the beer all day every day but it also compels you to keep it full. Now I like beer, perhaps too much, and I have somehow found myself getting through an extraordinary amount of it just because it's always there looking so nice and cold and tasty. It can't be good. I'm designing a curtain for the bastard.
I have also done a rather strange thing and signed up on an Internet dating agency. Just another one of those clear indications that things change as you get older. My logic behind it is quite simple: I simply don't meet any decent women any more. Now it is nearly always in the daft environment of loud bars or clubs which is useless for judging someone's character. In the past, that was fine because you met women elsewhere and pubs and clubs were fun just for flirting and having a laugh. But now I find myself only having pubs and clubs in which to meet people. And it is an extremely inefficient way of finding someone half decent.
Anyway, I'm certain plenty of decent women are out there and probably in the same frame of mind so fuck it, I've signed up and I'll see what happens. Even if it amounts to nothing, at least I'll have spent some interesting time with some interesting women. I may even be well behind on this - I did a search for women in Cornwall between 25 and 32 expecting there to be about four single mothers living in Bude - and there's loads of people. Incredibly, one of them is extremely attractive and comes across as just the sort of woman I'm looking for. The question is: Do I extend this experiment into actually emailing her? I don't have the answer yet.
I may also set up a website to Kathy Burke. Bit strange maybe but I did a Google search on her this weekend and there is only one website to her and it's rubbish. Since Kathy is just one of those great people in life, it seems wrong that she doesn't have a site when the vacuous non-entities that clutter up the TV and media in general have dozens each. People need to know about Kathy Burke. And just as soon as I've done my other five sites, and written my three books and done all my freelance work and got myself some hot dates and got a beer fridge curtain, I'll get stuck straight into putting that situation straight.
13 August 2003
Well, it's the day after my 28th birthday, it's 4.46pm and I've only just started functioning after my hangover. Had a night out in Newquay town with Owen and Mickie after a meal at Finns in the harbour. I wasn't actually that drunk by the time we left naff nightclub The Beach, but it was the tequila that Owen had bought me as a pressie, but the new freezable glasses my parents bought that had to be tested out - both of them of course. I'm sure there was some whisky in there somewhere. Plus for some ungodly reason I had bought a packet of Embassy Number Ones from a fag machine and was smoking them. Finally passed out at around 5.30am or so and was woken up by four or five phonecalls on the mobile just a few hours later. Ugh.
My trip to Rockall was a disaster. Months in the planning and it all fell apart almost as soon as we actually arrived at the rock after nearly three days constant sailing. For reasons too tedious to go into now, Lester and I have fallen out, which may mean the end of The Rockall Times. Which, after nearly two years of working most of the weekend to produce clearly the best satire site on the Net, is extremely sad.
What's even sadder is the ridiculous situation I now find myself in with Lester threatening all sorts of nonsense, ostensibly over about 30 minutes of camcorder footage of our one and only attempt to get on Rockall. I've stuck up the post-trip emails on this site - click here. Hopefully this can all be sorted out soon and I can get on with other things.
Such as my Sex.com book. I have an agent, I have written a book proposal and sent it to them and am awaiting a response. Hopefully they will love it, I can get a book deal, an advance, and then just spend a few months researching it (including heading over to the States and Mexico) and writing it. It's a cracking story and I'm determined to do it justice.
Apart from that, same old. Too much work, too little time. The beach is lovely, even if the hordes of tourists aren't. Owen's got engaged to Mickie which I really hope will work out but I have my reservations. I don't have my laptop yet and this machine is really on its last legs. And the phone has stopped working for no reason whatsoever. At the moment however, my main concern is how to get rid of this aching hangover. So, pretty much the same as usual.
5 May 2003
Okay, Bank Holiday Monday. Lovely weather down in Cornwall. Steve Wire came down for the craic. I am hence in huge pain from over-indulging in beer, tequila, sambuca, vodka, etc and have also managed to tear half my knee off. Can't remember how.
So, green tea and water and I figured I'd stick up loads of new pics taken with my digital camera - Canon PowerShot G3 - which is everything thing I hoped it would be.
Too much stuff to do as ever. And why have I still not got further with any of my books? I have a HUGE amount of information coming regarding Sex.com which I need to read and start forming into a book. Maybe in the end, it will be this one that I will finish first.
I also have a couple of brilliant article ideas that want doing this week as well as Discovery Health features, Phillip Knightley's website, a few stories for The Register, and then of course the Katko website and building the Teknic website. And then chasing up the Surf Centre and organising press coverage for the Rockall trip and somewhere along the line remembering to enjoy life.
I might use this as a place to stick my ongoing and finished short stories and then tell people where they are. It would be a stupidly brave thing to do.
Here, however, are some pictures I've taken recently of Newquay. Unfortunately my scanner is a bit old and so the colours and sharpness are lost. Also, the camera itself is good but not brilliant. This will all be sorted when I can eventually afford to buy a class digital camera.
And here are pics of my friends and family. At the mo, there are very few and they are taken on a super-fast b&w film. I can't remember why I put such a fast film in, but judging from the pics I ended up taking, whatever the occasion was went past without being recorded. In the end, I pulled the film out only about 10 snaps in because I wanted to stick a slower, color film in. Ho hum.