Is a strange thing living in that place you’ve made up; it’s like leaving the fort you’ve built under your mam’s kitchen table only to be greeted with the annoyance nobody else knows the stained bedsheets and pillows are really moated stone walls with their feet paddling in crocodile-guarded waters while they sit there to eat dinner on your roof.
The first draft of my second novel is done. Over the past couple of years I started to set stories in Manchester, at first in droves of pretending it’s not a real place – a little like America, which everyone knows doesn’t exist outside of TV and fiction. But in trying to turn my home into fiction to keep it as far away at arm’s length as possible, I’ve somehow recreated it exactly as it is – to me at least, I don’t mean that in a conceited way, bellend.
Since our last pilgrimage to Dublin and the James Joyce museum, I’ve looked at his poster several times a day. On it is Joyce’s quote about, if Dublin should be erased from Earth and not exist anymore, he’d want someone to pick up Dubliners to rebuild it from his words. Some bad paraphrasing there; you’d think I’d have learnt to quote, having seen it “several times a day.” At least there’s no need to edit a blog, as I’ll be going back through the book and editing it to shreds when the dust’s settled.
In the way that history is a relative series of stories, the place you live is built from memory – just like Joyce’s Dublin. The buildings have eyes and memories, the streets have been the much-treaded boards of acts in your life. Writing a fictional story set in the place you call home, becomes another story you’ve lived out on those streets, in view of the well-worn paths you regularly travel.
Having pressed save and backed up a thousand times, and left emergency hard copies in obscure places around the city centre, (no-one check the underside of the bench at the Castlefield tram stop now) I can’t help but think that with time, just like with the first book, the memory of everything that happens in those pages might as well have happened, if not just for me.
Coming soon: this website, jackboardman.com, in all its glory, as promised. Bloggers and authors looking to showcase your work, contact and follow at facebook.com/jackboardmanwriter