Thursday, June 21, 2012

My life while writing Ruby and the Stone Age Diet

Piatkus issued their new edition of Ruby and the Stone Age Diet this month. The book was first published in 1989 and I was living in a bedsit when I wrote it. It's the only time I've lived in a bedsit (Do they even have bedsits any more? I don't recall hearing the word for a while) I ended up there because I had to move out of the flat I was living in very quickly, when the two alcoholic tenants I shared it with invited a third, equally unpleasant person to stay, and it rapidly became too much for me. An immediate move was required, and I ended up in that bedsit in Clapham. It was tiny. All it was really, was a room in a house which the landlord had 'converted' by putting a small cooker. So there was me, a tiny cooker, an uncomfortable bed, my comic collection, and my Amstrad Word Processor, all struggling for space. I did however have a nice girlfriend at the time, and I remember having a lot of sex in that uncomfortable bed, so things weren't all bad, though I did end up with a sore back.

I gave up work around this time, believing that having two books published meant I could now earn my living from my writing. A foolish mistake, as it turned out. But I was still working as a clerk for the council while writing Ruby and the Stone Age Diet, as far as I remember.

The Amstrad Word processor would seem very primitive now, but at the time I thought it was great. I bought that just before I wrote Lux the Poet, and it was a big step up from the broken down typewriter I'd used to write Milk, Sulphate and Alby Starvation. The carriage return was broken, and every time I finished typing a line, I had to take hold of the roller, and click it up a line, and move it back into position. So the Amstrad was an improvement, apart from from printing, which was always a nightmare. It was so noisy, and took so long. I don't think there was a spell checker on the Amstrad either, which, with me, is a problem. I'm not such a bad speller, but I do have sausage fingers at the keyboard.

What else was going on when I was writing the book? I'm scanning my memory. I suffered a bad spell of anxiety, which has troubled me, on and off, for long periods in my life. I remember going to see a therapist at St Thomas's Hospital, after being referred there by my doctor. I also suffered quite a lot of IBS, which has also troubled me at times. I remember some good gigs around that time, including the Pixies, who were fantastic live. I emerged from the auditorium dripping with sweat. The Gaye Bykers on Acid were excellent too, they were so colourful. I remember enjoying the Senseless Things, and I was at a good Jesus and Mary Chain gig around that time.

By the time Ruby and the Stone Age Diet was published, I'd stopped working, I'd moved out of the bedsit, and was sharing a flat with my friend Andi Sex Gang in Rushcroft Road in Brixton. That was a nice old flat, I liked living there. I seem to have mislaid my girlfriend along the way, which was a pity, although after I started getting my books published, I did feel more confident, so it wasn't the crushing blow it might otherwise have been. Before I was published I had no confidence whatsoever. I was hopeless at talking to women, among other things. But after my first book came out, I liked myself better. Hmm. Probably you should like yourself no matter what, and not be dependent on achievements. But anyway, that's how I felt.

Ruby and the Stone Age Diet is published by Piatkus in Britain, ISBN-13: 978-0749957827


  1. I think Lux is by far the best of your books I have read so far, though I do still need to read the one that I think is about the travelers, I had to get an import copy on that one. I might reread Ruby though, to see the framework of what appears to be an early draft of Lonely Werewolf Girl now that I have read the latter as well.

  2. I still love that book. Still makes me chuckle thinking about it. Oh, they call those studio apartments now. If they're up a dodgy staircase, that's "loft living". If it's just a squat in an attic it's an open plan bohemian industrial- style loft space. In fact I'm thinking of renting out my own actual loft, maybe to someone who thinks he's a squirrel. Not students, they live in luxury friends- style apartments with concierges to do their laundry now. Pah for the old days with the ancient flowery armchairs, single radiant rings and slot meter for 50p pieces...

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. How did I miss that this was out? I need to go & buy a copy.

    And I agree with Lucy, bed sits are 'studio apartments' now. . deeply grateful I don't have to live in one, I must say..

  5. I enjoyed Ruby quite a bit, and I really like the cover to this new edition.

  6. Ruby was the first one of yours that I read. A friend lent it to me, I started late one night & literally didn't put it down till I finished about 5am. Then the ending - so understated, so real - had me lying awake in melancholy shock & I ended up going into work without any sleep.

    I wanted pretty much everyone I knew to read it so lent that copy on & had to buy a replacement. Subsequently lots of friends have lost their copies in the same way, compulsively lending it to people who then do it again. I think that's a good measure of its worth.

  7. It's amazing what goes through your mind in a bedsit.

  8. Scibby10:13 pm

    They still have bedsits. Not so sure about Baby Belling Cookers though; they seemed to be in every bedsit I ever lived in..