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TRCH - Caitlin Moran

Shedfixman Interview

1 February 06 interview: Jared Wilson

I joined the Chimneys because I was sick to the back teeth of music. The entire premise was fuelled by seething hatred of the local music scene

A few months ago we got sent a copy of a book with an intriguing title sent to LeftLion HQ. It was accompanied by some general ramblings from the author on paper and as we began to read it we realised it was set almost entirely in Nottingham. The book tells the tale of The Chimneys, a Notts rock and roll band in the late mid-late eighties, who became local legends for their boozing and partying, more than for their music. They get tanked up, break stuff, play practical jokes with food and sometimes get arrested. Author Tom Hathaway (aka the Shedfixman), was one fifth of the band (alongside Crocodile, Sticky, Planet and The Skipper) and we immediately began to warm to his no-bullshit approach.

Full Bacon Jacket is your debut work as an author. How and why did you come write it in the first place?
Most of the reasons for writing FBJ are other peoples’ reasons. Some alive people, some dead people, some dead lucky to be alive people. A lot of these were often telling me how I ought to write a book about the capers we’d been involved in. and eventually I had to agree with them. For myself, I have just two reasons; firstly and most importantly, it was written as some futile attempt to say ‘thanks’ to Mark and the Lads for dragging me out of the solitude and depression of bedsit land, back in ’82. Secondly, it serves as one sure, hefty and lingering boot up the arses of each and every distopic, pucker-mouthed, small-minded snotsack who ever looked down at the way I conducted my life back then and since. As if properly enjoying yourself was a crime!

You say that the book was begun in ’96, finished in ’99 and yet, it’s now six or so years on from there. What kept you? 
The first main problem was that I was completely computer illiterate. I was having initially to rely upon delivering manuscripts written in tiresome block capitals to a dedicated alcoholic who owned a computer. The deal was that I “Oil his fingers” with a fortnightly supply of drinking whisky and rolling baccy and he would then sort the typing-up. Some twelve distilleries and fifteen Dixie plantations later, I suspected an ongoing secret agenda and although he’d done a great deal of work, he’d also managed to inject a great deal of personalised crap and formative damage into the document which would later take ages to sort out. I then passed it over to someone else to try and have a go at, while I flew out to a contract in Holland for a couple of years, just to get my head straight and break the booze loop in Nottingham. I left England with a bag of rice, a bottle of soy sauce, a Jif lemon, four cans of out-of-date baked beans, the burnt out remains of a giro and a cocky attitude and returned five months later, driving a Chevrolet Silverado with a tall blonde tart in the passenger side. 

Sounds fun!
It was, but things soon fell apart and I returned to these shores in ’02, determined to take a well-deserved one year break from women and hit the sauce with Tallbob Weedley every night, as well as getting churched up on a free drop-in computer course. So, steadily, one free evening at a time, with the priceless help of the Girls at South Notts College IT, I was gradually able to turn the project around into a far more fluent and viably formatted proposition.
The first main problem was that I was completely computer illiterate. I was having initially to rely upon delivering manuscripts written in tiresome block capitals to a dedicated alcoholic who owned a computer. The deal was that I “Oil his fingers” with a fortnightly supply of drinking whisky and rolling baccy and he would then sort the typing-up. Some twelve distilleries and fifteen Dixie plantations later, I suspected an ongoing secret agenda and although he’d done a great deal of work, he’d also managed to inject a great deal of personalised crap and formative damage into the document which would later take ages to sort out. I then passed it over to someone else to try and have a go at, while I flew out to a contract in Holland for a couple of years, just to get my head straight and break the booze loop in Nottingham. I left England with a bag of rice, a bottle of soy sauce, a Jif lemon, four cans of out-of-date baked beans, the burnt out remains of a giro and a cocky attitude and returned five months later, driving a Chevrolet Silverado with a tall blonde tart in the passenger side. It was, but things soon fell apart and I returned to these shores in ’02, determined to take a well-deserved one year break from women and hit the sauce with Tallbob Weedley every night, as well as getting churched up on a free drop-in computer course. So, steadily, one free evening at a time, with the priceless help of the Girls at South Notts College IT, I was gradually able to turn the project around into a far more fluent and viably formatted proposition.

The ending of Full Bacon Jacket alludes to a sequel. When can we expect it? Ten years time?
Absolutely not. The politactics and timings of release could still hold it on the blocks for a while yet; but that shouldn’t read as a problem. In the meantime, I’ll be looking to release a collection of some thirty or forty crap poems entitled ‘The Ravings of The Shedfixman’, probably in the spring of ’06. Additionally, there is a collection of travelogs underway (The Rovings of The Shedfixman), in case people including myself, end up waiting around too long.

Is the booze under control these days?
I boozed for days or weeks on end, I was a Chimney! But then, we could always pack it in for days or weeks on end, too. No doubt, in the eye of the shandies, we were alkies. We practised devout alcoholism for sure, but we were never alcoholics. Well, speaking for myself, anyway. Sadly these days, my hands are somewhat tied in the matter, as alcohol tends to immediately inflame my most recent acquisition, gout. It’s the latest in a line of ailments I’ve incurred by sitting in front of a computer screen for three years solid.

Curry for you, sir?
I still hold an avid fascination for the pantalonial testings of the Subcontinent. After Sue and I got chained, I decided to properly get into the actual science of curry making and grind my own spices from origin. The Ma-in-Law got me a dinky little mortar and pestle set for our first Christmas and, to cut a long story short, I’m still making diabolically crap curries that I wouldn’t give to a starving hyena. In the event of yet further disaster, we’re actually spoiled rotten for multi-national ‘haute cuisine’ restaurants around where we live, which is lucky, because I’m renowned for eating absolutely haute.

What and who do you read? Which authors have been an influence on your work?
If I said no-one, I’d probably get away with it, because I’m so crap that no-one living or related to or besotted with the eloquent living or dead would dare besmirch their heroes’ good names by drawing the remotest of comparisons.

Not even Nottingham’s own Sillitoe?
Some two or three years after I’d finished writing FBJ, I decided it was time I both watched ‘Saturday Night/Sunday Morning’ all the way through for once and had a look at the book for the first time. Well, I got through the film at last, but typically only stuck at the book for the first chapter or so, due probably to getting a phone call to the evening; but I was absolutely stunned by the many glaring similarities between the leery attitudes of Sillitoe’s characters and my own! The ‘rebels without a snap tin’! Maybe it’s a Raleigh thing… my old man worked there too and, having met a good few of his workmates over the years, I would say that being a dedicated practical joker or stand-up comedian was a useful qualification. I remember him telling me about the favourite ‘Friday night, after work’ trick of letting a bagfull of ball bearings go across the lino floor in the busy tap room of the White Horse Pub, then him and his mates biting their tongues as various jiving Jack-the-Lads proceeded to break their necks all over the place. The women were okay, because their manoeuvrings were forged primarily upon stiletto heels - plus the blokes always fetched the drinks in those days. Very Silletorical, eh?

What music are you listening to these days?
Ah! Music! The Zimmer frame of the young! What fucking music? I joined the Chimneys in ’87 because I was sick to the back teeth of ‘music’. The entire premise of the Chimneys’ formation was fuelled by seething hatred of the local music scene, specifically inverted West Nottingham snobs, all cred-starved into religiously visiting each other’s gigs to forn for England and put fruit up each other’s arses backstage afterwards. ‘Yeah, I dig your stuff, Man!’ Yeah. Heard it a million times in St James Street, alone. The real statement read: ‘Yeah; come to nick your bird, your bookings, your drummer or his job, Man! ’Ere! ’Ave some more fruit!’ No, I seriously think that as a society we’ve become a bit too reliant on music in our days and that we’re over exposed to it to the point of devaluing the specialness of what we like best. Juh! Music, eh?

What’s your idea of a perfect night out, these days then?
Walk thirty five miles, spend an hour in a stinking, ripped up pub which, not unpredictably, is half-full of strange, vindictive morons, kip peacefully out on a park bench and wake up around dawn, reminding myself that I’ve got a fantastic wife, home, fridge and telly to walk thirty five miles back to for a perfect night in, without any trouble whatsoever when I get there.

Full Bacon Jacket is available from all good bookshops (as well as Amazon) now.

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