One Hothouse Project writing course closes, another one opens

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An utter triumph, dwahlinks. Another term of North London’s finest indie writing course comes to a close.

Next Hothouse writing course starts Thursday May 29th at Emmanuel Church, West Hampstead, NW6.

We laughed, we cried, we hurled, we learned stuff … well, apart from the ‘crying’ and ‘hurling’ bits.  The latest Hothouse Project course wrapped last Thursday night and, as ever, yr correspondent learned at least as much from the students as they learned from me. (Or, as I told them, if they enjoyed it half as much as I did, then I enjoyed it twice as much as them.)

The Hothouse Project, as those who’ve checked out the more recondite bits of my site will know, is my 8-week course in Journalism As Craft and Art (held at the Emmanuel Church in West Hampstead under the joint auspices of Aaaargh! Press and Storm Books), and we’re already gearing up for the next one, which kicks off on May 29.

Remember: unlike the myriad classes and courses running under the umbrellas of major publications and educational institutions, The Hothouse Project  is the guerilla-stylee, underground-press, 100% indie writing course … about as uncorporate as it gets.

So come sign up, awreddy … we’re ready for you, and I hope you’re ready for me …

The Hothouse Project writing course is an eight-week part-time course of weekly evening classes in West Hampstead, London NW6. Next one starts 7-9pm, Thursday 29th May.

Hothouse Spring 2014 is GO – we have lift-off!

541398_10152227691108012_967829795_n This is just a quick word to announce that the first session of the first Hothouse Project course of 2014, “Journalism as Craft and Art” kicked off with the proverbial BANG. Another intriguing bunch of students showed, and it looks like the next seven weeks will generate fun and enlightenment for all concerned … me included, of course.

And, equally needless to say, I can’t wait for the first batch of homework to arrive.

(Yep, there’s homework … I’m’a work ’em like DAWGS.)

Two schtoopid ways to lose £80 —

Elvis Bowie

…  both of which concern smoking, and neither even involves the cost of buying the dyam tings in the first place.

This morning, I stepped out onto the front porch for the second cigarette of the day. Because smoke tends to drift indoors when the door isn’t fully and firmly shut, thereby prompting protests from my emphatically non-smoking sweetie, I have been attempting to train myself to close said door behind me on these occasions. And so I did.

It was only when smokage had been completed that two awful realisations struck, more or less simultaneously. Realisation the first: because, somehow, my keys (which normally reside permanently in the front-right pocket of my jeans) had gotten tangled in their ring, I had simply dumped them on the coffee table and not reinstalled them in their proper trousery location.  Hence: locked door … no keys. I blame it entirely on the after-effects of celebrating the shared birthday of two one-time jewels in the crown of was once RCA Records — David Bowie, now 67 and Elvis Presley who, were he still amongst us, would’ve been 79. Or maybe I’d been prematurely celebrating Jimmy Page’s 70th. Or mourning Phil Everly  – the only people as divinely ordained by the universe to sing together as The Everly Brothers were Lennon & McCartney and Sam & Dave.

Wha’evah …

Realisation the second: since aforementioned sweetie was away on an outtatown visit, I couldn’t simply buzz the door, get called an absent-minded idiot and then readmitted to the premises to continue the designated activities of the day.

In other words … I was oudoors, in jeans, slippers (no socks), T-shirt and a lightweight jumper, sans keys, phone, wallet or even cigarettes. Total assets: £15 in cash, a Zippo about to run out of fuel, a copy of Bill Bryson’s A Short History Of Nearly Everything … and, of course, my wit, charm and personality. None of which were, in this eventuality, of the slightest bit of use.

Fortunately, my Lovely Upstairs Neighbour was hand with a mobile on which to call a locksmith, and to provide cups of coffee, offers of a sandwich and even to pick up extra cigs from up the road. Just as fortunately, the weather was only mildly inclement as opposed to full-on Biblical.

Locksmith duly arrived on a Vespa after a shivery hour, did summat arcane to door which obediently swung open, waited patiently while I added socks, shoes, jacket, hat, wallet, phone and keys to the Tout Ensemble, escorted me to the nearest cashpoint, accepted £80 in notes and scribbled me out a receipt.

I reflected, in a philosophical kinda way, that a friend of mine had recently been separated from an identical sum in a different variety of cigarette-related incident: fined by a representative of his local council for being spotted ditching a ciggy-butt in a gutter. At least, in his case, he hadn’t had to freeze on a doorstep for an hour. Many years ago, I’d committed a similar offence  outside San Diego airport and had an Actual Proper Gun pointed at me by an off-duty cop cunningly disguised as an overweight middle-aged  woman. ‘Pick that up!’ she ordered in a scarily Clint Eastwoodesque tone of voice.

There were several hundred ciggy butts at my feet. ‘How can I tell which one’s mine?’ I asked.

She made the gun do the clicky thing. My American compadre elbowed me in the ribs, hissing ‘Shut the fuck up!’ out of the corner of his mouth. I bent down, picked up the nearest butt from the carpet of similar items, walked a few yards and dropped it in a bin. Off-Duty Cop Lady grudgingly nodded, holstered her piece and waddled away. It was very scary, but on the other hand it didn’t cost me £80.

So what should you do with £80 rather than give it to a locksmith or a representative of your local council? Easy-peasy. Add it to the sum you’ve been saving up to buy yourself a place on the upcoming session of The Hothouse Project!

Charles Shaar Murray’s New Year Message

5801_10151800295393012_1187020312_nGood morning, good evening … and Happy New Year, one and all. Even Tories and Republicans, in the hope that a sudden attack of conscience and common sense will show them the error of their ways …

My sweetie and I were planning a gala gathering for New Year’s Eve, but managed to lose eight of our ten guests, for a dizzying variety of excellent reasons. Some dropped out because of health issues (an occupational hazard when you’re as old as I am and move in a social circle which includes so many of my contemporaries and near-contemporaries); some because of economic issues (our designated Boxing Day guest missed out because his benefits were abruptly cut and he literally didn’t have tube fare); some because of family issues … undsoweiter.

So: 2013, we hardly knew ye. Hail and farewell to Nelson Mandela and Mick Farren; Lou Reed and Gypie Mayo; John Fortune and James Gandolfini; Peter O’Toole and David Frost and … well, let’s just say I cried no discernible tears for Margaret Thatcher. I shed enough over the effects of her policies while she was in office (and those policies’ longterm effects through Blair, Brown and beyond), so I was all dried out.

Praise be: Wilko Johnson is still with us. Yay, go WIlk!

What I’d like to see in 2014: the worldwide application of Ice-T’s invocation ‘Get together! Open your mind! Get wise! Get your brain in gear!’ I’d love to see more and more people, all over this beautiful-but-allowing-its-potential-to-be-pissed-away planet, realise what their political, economic and religious ‘masters’ are doing to them … and somehow find a way to do something constructive about it.

Face it – there is NO EARTHLY FUCKING REASON for poverty, disease, hunger or oppression (let alone Simon Cowell) to last another nanosecond … unless we can somehow be persuaded that these things are somehow in our best interests. Which they aren’t, nu?

So: be nice to your neighbour. Persuade said neighbour to be nice to his (or her) neighbour. And make it spread.

I’m an ancient fuck now, but I was just old enough to be a hippie, and just young enough to be a punk. I believe that the world can be changed for the better, if We The People can overcome artificially instilled fear/hatred of each other in order to work together long enough to see off the robber barons who hate us all and the (not necessarily rubber) bullets they’ll use to protect their trickle-up economics.

From my ridiculously brave, brilliant and beautiful beloved – see above pic – and my grizzled old self … peace be upon all y’all. (And a special shout-out to those of my friends who’ve dived into the fire to drag me out of imminent disaster … and to those who would’ve if they could’ve.)

Here’s to an infnitely better tomorrow … against all the odds.

Oh yeah — and it would be lovely to see a bunch of y’all on the spring 2014 Hothouse Project course, where I pass on my accumulated journalistic wisdom and tell a few stories.