Last year I wrote a novel. I know, I haven't mentioned it for a while. Think yourself lucky. You thought you'd got away, didn't you? The novel - or rather the first draft of it - has been sitting on a memory stick since I finished it at the end of November and I haven't gone back to edit it.
Why? Because.editing is hard work and I'm lazy. Creating stuff is fun. Going back and making it slightly-less-crappy is difficult. There will always be something else more attractive to do. Like sitting on my sofa, drinking tea, for instance. I need a sizeable kick up the backside.
So this is what I'm going to do. Below is an (unedited) exerpt from the book. Have a read. Let me know what you think - in the comment box, Facebook, Twitter or your social network of choice. Because, after all is said and done, I'm a tart, and feedback flicks my switches, presses by buttons and turns my dials to 11. There's an image for you. Anyway, here goes for nothing:
Ken Hamilton was a clockwise man and proud of it. Asking him to drive in the other direction would have been like making him betray his very soul.
He checked the time on his watch; still six minutes until he needed to get going. Good, he thought. I’m ahead of schedule. Can’t mess up the timetable, especially not with Inspectors out on the route today.
Hamilton considered himself at the very peak of his profession. He was, he thought, similar in many ways to an airline pilot given the keys to a 747, only in his case he was in the driving seat of a National Express West Midlands Metro-Cammel Turboliner double-decker bus. But it wasn’t the vehicle that was significant – it was the route.
The number 11 bus route following Birmingham’s Outer Circle was, he would tell people, the longest scheduled urban bus service in Europe. He wasn’t entirely sure if that was true. More often than not, a listener’s eyes would get that strange faraway look whenever he started to talk about it. He was rarely challenged by people when he made claims like that.
He used to tell the very same people that he was just like his namesake, Lewis Hamilton. “He too drives his own single-seater around circuits all day.” By this point in the conversation the other party would rarely take him up on this claim. The other seventy seats on the bus surely should count for something. And the clockwise 11C bus route was hardly the same as Monza. Normally though, he’d get comments like, “Is that the time?” or “Excuse me, I think I’ve just seen my wife carrying a week’s supply of humus,” or some such.
Ken had been on the 11C for fifteen years and had resisted all attempts by the management to move him onto other routes. The 11C was the gig for him. He was a man with a passion. He knew every inch of the 27 miles, every one of the 68 stops, every turn, every junction and every sleeping policeman. It was a pity the passengers got in the way somewhat, but he supposed they were a necessary evil. And he was not going anti-clockwise, no matter what.
It wasn’t as if he had any personal enmity against the 11A drivers. Ken had spoken to one once for a few minutes before realising, and in fairness he’d seemed almost reasonable. But anti-clockwise was retrograde, against the natural order of things. Some things happen for a reason. On one occasion he’d absent-mindedly missed the terminus at the end of his shift. He couldn’t face driving against the flow of the route, so he’d simple completed another circuit.
The Inspectors hadn’t liked that one bit. What did they know, the philistines?
He glanced at his watch once more. Still three minutes before I can get going once more. He looked out of his window, at the nefarious delights of Acocks Green Laser Quest. This is the life. I am master of all I survey.
BANG BANG BANG BANG!
Oh, this was really too much. Someone was trying to get on. Really, he thought, it’s the passengers that make this job so difficult. Always wanting to get somewhere, that mad dash from A to B. In Ken Hamilton’s mind there was a lot to be said for starting out from A and ending up back there once again, a mere hour and a half later.
BANG BANG BANG BANG!
For God’s sake. This was completely unnecessary. It was putting him off his Daily Express. He had half a mind to drive off, but that would mean arriving at the next stop ahead of the timetable. He wasn’t having that.
With a hiss of hydraulics, the passenger door folded open and made further argument academic. Ken stared madly – he hadn’t even touched the controls. “What’s going on?” he asked out loud.
“Please don’t be concerned, Mr Hamilton,” said the figure, stepping lightly onto the bus. “I am sorry to have inconvenienced you. I need to take you somewhere.”
“What? I’m in the middle of my shift. Don’t be daft. Now, unless you have correct change or a pass I’m going to have to ask you to leave.” He thought it a little odd that he couldn’t make out any features. The youth of today, always in hoodies or some such clothing. Strange, I can’t actually make him out at all. It’s like the light just skips over him. Must get my eyes checked out. He blinked.
“Mr Hamilton, please step out of the cab and follow me. You will understand.”
“I understand,” said the driver. An alarm sounded briefly as he opened the door to his compartment, then silenced as he slammed it shut once more behind him. “Where are we going?”
“I cannot tell you at the moment. But the journey is necessary.”
“We’re not going to have to go anti-clockwise, are we?”
“Probably best that you don’t worry about it, Mr Hamilton.”