Sunday, 24 September 2017

The Schoolhouse: a tale of the supernatural

My father is a prodigious marathon runner who once ran from John O Groats to Land's End. He's run over a hundred marathons around the world.

 Unfortunately, he's been unwell lately and he can no longer run, but he's  been talking to the press about his life and this story emerged.  My sister Marie is currently raising funds for MND research and I shall be joining her next year, as will my son.

Full story here:


Do you believe in ghosts? Well...read this...

The Schoolhouse
by Tony Barry 
(as told to Mark Barry)



I ran the coast-to-coast walking/fell route on three occasions, running from west to east, through Lancashire, across Yorkshire, and into Humberside.

There was one incident that’s worth recalling, an incident I still cannot believe happened – but it did.

______

Throughout the trek, I would run around twenty miles a day and my plan was to book a guest house “on spec” as I finished.  

One day, half way across the country, because of bad weather, mammoth fells and rocky terrain, I realised that I had completely miscalculated the distance between villages and found myself stranded in the middle of nowhere.


It was starting to get dark and cold and I was surrounded by forbidding moorland and overhanging crags. Luckily, I kept running as best I could in the remaining dusklight, and found myself in a tiny hamlet at the base of a giant fell.

The place had no more than ten cottages and I knew instinctively that I would be lucky to find a guest house here. As it was now almost completely dark, I found a cottage with lights in the living room window and knocked on the door. 

A ruddy-faced old gentleman in a cap and a green pullover came to the door, arms folded. I explained my position: He told me there was no guest house for twenty miles, but – kind of him - he pointed out an old schoolhouse at the end of the Hamlet, which was always unlocked and where hikers and stranded runners like me could stay overnight: I was clearly not the first to make this miscalculation!

I thanked him and ran swiftly to the schoolhouse, an old stone building with two big windows, surrounded by trees and framed by a colossal fell in the background, now illuminated by a full moon. 


Opening the gate, I walked up the path to the front door and with a shove, opened the door. It was warmer than I expected. The building was functional, with two floors, connected by a rusting spiral staircase right next to the door. 

The room below was empty of furniture and deathly silent – it was basically a long-empty space surrounded by four walls.
I removed my torch from my pack, climbed the rickety staircase and investigated the upstairs space for something I could sleep on, but that floor upstairs was empty too – it had been clearly a long, long time since this place had ever been witness to a child’s education!



All I could see was a chalkboard at the far end, which the faint guidance of my emergency beam revealed to be in serious disrepair. 

I went back downstairs, removed my sleeping bag and, exhausted after a twenty five mile day, wrapped myself up, rolled up my sweatshirt as a pillow, and lay staring at the moonlight coming through the windows.  I am the type of person who can sleep on a washing line, so it wasn’t long before I was asleep

________________________________________

That’s when it all happened. 

At five, still dark outside, I was awoken by a sound from upstairs.

I sat up, wondering what it could be. Strangely, it sounded like the moving of a wooden chair being pulled across a concrete floor.



Then I heard another.

I wondered who was in there with me, wondered if I were dreaming and realised that I wasn’t. I could see little, the moon obscured by night clouds and the morning darkness.  I unzipped my sleeping bag and rationally realised that someone had come in after me and had obviously gone to sleep upstairs.

At least that’s what I thought before I heard a wooden desk top being closed with a subtle click.

Not slammed, but closed carefully, with consideration. Then footsteps walking across the floor above me, shuffling, beams creaking.

The hushed, mischievous giggling of children.  

Curious, and, in general, no believer in the supernatural, I got up, reached for my torch, and climbed the staircase not quite sure what I was expecting to find.

Of course, when I got there, I was surrounded by darkness and emptiness. There was nothing there and the sounds had stopped.

But just as I began to think I was imagining things, I could feel a presence in the gloom.  

Someone was there. 

I cannot explain it even now, but there was definitely someone there with me in that upstairs classroom.

And I also cannot explain how I know this, but that someone was looking at me.

Curious no longer, I skipped down the rickety stair case. Put on my running shoes, rolled up my sleeping bag and organised my pack in double quick time. 

Left the schoolhouse and put as much distance between that place and me as I could.

That next three miles was the fastest I ran that week!!





Sunday, 20 August 2017

Free From Fear: The Highlights

Some of the highlights of the Free From Fear gig, which everyone who attended thoroughly enjoyed.



I have absolutely no idea how much money was raised, nor how many people turned out on an August Friday night, but there was a great atmosphere, a fun vibe and the message of hope and support came across loud and clear from the lamp-lit stage.

The gig was in aid of Nottingham Central Womens Aid and if you would like to contribute, all the details are in here - they receive very little, if any, government support.

http://centralwomensaid.btck.co.uk/

Highlights

The Lord Mayor of Nottingham opened proceedings and then I interviewed Aimi McCaffrey and he about the origins of the gig. Apologies for the sneaky finger intrusion on the bottom right hand corner.



Two sets from Mansfield/Nottingham avant garde Indie act, New Apostles, followed. Comprising of Phil Pidluznyj (vocals and keyboards), Andy Whitehurst (lead guitar and support vocals) and Andy Pidluzny (bass), they've been tirelessly gigging their way around the City and beyond in the last two years. 

Big supporters of charity and causes like this, I've seen them many times and tonight, they were at their best.

Here's their Soundcloud

https://soundcloud.com/andrew-whitehurst-384266683



A set from Alice Short followed, a local rapper, who writes about Nottingham, growing up in the small towns around it, with shades of Bukowski and Alan Sillitoe in her lyrics. She's been featured on Radio 1 and had played many venues. She played the Maze first, though. 

Firstly, I interviewed her...then she rapped!




I'm a big fan of Alice and I am sure we shall more of her in the future.

Alice Short Soundcloud which contains the brilliant, "Patti Smith"

Before a final set from the New Apostles, we heard some spoken word from two local authors. 

Here, Nick McCaffrey reads a short story especially written for the event.



Writing in a variety of genres, and a prolific blogger, he's about to release an anthology of short stories so be sure to support that - I shall feature it here on the blog.

Here's his blog - a weekly short story and well worth a read.

http://www.themannwrites.co.uk/blog/holiday-celebration/


The gig was in aid of Nottingham Central Womens Aid and if you would like to contribute, it's all in here - they receive very little, if any, government support.

http://centralwomensaid.btck.co.uk/


I'd like to thank everyone for inviting me and I would be happy to help again. The best of luck everyone.

Mark "Wiz" Barry
_________________________________________

An old school bus



The New Apostles Fan Club: Leicestershire Branch



Mark Barry Retires

Oh, and I read from my best selling novel, "Ultra-Violence" - a dissection of a night out in Nottingham from 1988 entitled "The Fountain"  And believe me, I've tried and tried, and tried and tried, and I've even had lessons, but I simply hate reading aloud, so it's a good job that it never recorded ha ha.





http://greenwizardpublishing.blogspot.co.uk/2015/12/archives-fountain-chapter-8-from-ultra.html

Monday, 14 August 2017

Free From Fear Night: Maze - August 18th



On Friday night, at the Maze on Mansfield Road, Nottingham, there's a gig in aid of Nottingham's Women's Aid. I've been invited and I'm going. Tickets are a fiver and all the money goes to charity.



And what a charity. Let me tell you a story.

Just recently, I've been working with a young Muslim woman I met on a college course. 

She's one of the nicest women I have ever met, but more importantly, for the work I do, also one of the most determined. 

She wants to be a trainer, or work in the (currently becalmed) employability market. She wants to help others, as others have helped her.

I'm happy to help, even though all she really has is her determination to succeed, her enthusiasm and natural effervescence. 

Ten years ago, she left her native Yorkshire, at midnight, under the cover of darkness, with Police protection, after her husband attacked her and her two young kids with a claw hammer.

This was just one day of it, one tiny incident in a campaign of catastrophic terror which began on the fourth day of her honeymoon and lasted a decade. 

She had been hospitalised on many occasions and abused daily. She couldn't even go to the shops to buy a packet of fags and a pint of gold top without being followed by a friend of his, who reported back her less-than-nefarious movements.

In the days following his beatings, his belts and punches, his cigarette burns and barking dogs, he didn't even offer bitter tears, dog-eared flowers, heartfelt apologies and steadfast promises, in the time-honoured fashion of the repentant domestic abuser - it was just the way he was. 

She had to escape.

That winter night, her choices were limited. She couldn't stay. She couldn't escape to her family because, in Muslim culture, there are matters of honour to consider and a stigma that the word divorce rides all over, so she would have been asked to go back and conciliate. That wasn't going to happen.

Nor could she go to the local women's refuge, as all the rooms were full. 

As were the rooms in every women's refuge in Yorkshire at the time. 

So through a worker at her local Housing Aid, and a friendly Police liaison officer, she found a place with a Nottingham refuge. 

Part funded by Nottingham Central Women's Aid. 

She had never driven on a motorway before, nor did she know where Nottingham was. So the Police escorted her on the left hand lane of the M1, one car in front, one car behind. 

From their seats in the back, her kids watched every move their mum made, her gear changes and manipulations of the steering wheel every inch as interesting as children's TV. 

They knew what it meant - none of them were ever going back.

Suffice to say, ten years later, she's on her way. Working hard and trying her best. Step by step she's fought her way forward. I'm proud to help her out.

But without having that inner-city refuge open to her, and also willing to help, funded by Women's Aid (and organisations like Children In Need and the National Lottery), she would probably have had to stay where she was.

And she would be dead by now, she knows it. I know it. You know it.

That's just one example. 

I once worked with a man whose speciality was protecting sex workers from their psychopathic pimps. He has saved at least two young women from having their throats cut. 

Once, in scenes reminiscent of "Assault on Precinct 13", he single-handedly defended a sex worker in a Radford refuge from a pair of angry pimps and their henchmen who were desperately trying to break in. He succeeded and probably saved her life.

He was one of the few men allowed inside one particular Nottingham refuge, for sex workers and other seriously abused young women, which shall remain anonymous here. 

I worked with a woman recently whose jaw was broken in three places by her boyfreind for the crime of being late home from sixth form. She spent six weeks in hospital. 

Again, that assault was the tip of the iceberg, so she escaped her mining village at twenty one with the help of a family friend and thanks to that refuge in Hyson Green, she's never looked back. Nor has she returned.

You all know stories like this. 

What you don't know, is that many of these refuges are not publicly funded, or if they are, they cannot survive on that alone. 

They are absolutely essential asyla for women escaping shameful violence and serious, repetitive abuse that even a writer like myself couldn't conceive on a dark night. 

These refuges need funds and donations and ongoing cost to survive.



On Friday night, there's the afore-mentioned charity gig at the Maze. 



My great friend and colleague, Phil Pidluznyj and the New Apostles are playing, along with BBC1 playlisted Nottingham rapper, Alice Short, who I also know and like. 


I'll be reading something from the stage, as will my friends Nick Mann and possibly up and coming YA author, Carla Eatherington, if we can persuade her. 


There's an open mic so come along and join us. Poets welcome. Most of all though, pop in, give us a fiver, or give me a fiver and I'll pass it along. 

If you cannot be arsed to come out on a Friday night, let me have a fiver and I'll go out for you. 

It's needed: The whole country's women's refuge network is on its knees because of Tory cuts. 

The network needs your fiver.

Incidentally, on average, 85% of donations benefit the abused clientele. I know one famous, lavishly patronised and nationally advertised charity where the figure is more like 20%, so your money on Friday night will make a huge difference.

Come and see me on Friday and I'll give you more info or buy you a half. But, please - try and make it. These refuges make a huge difference to people's lives. 

The life of my Muslim friend is owed to that Nottingham refuge, and those who tirelessly keep them going.

Thanks, Wiz

xx

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Shiny's One Star Review - and How I Dealt With It. Plus more FREE stuff.

Thank You

Just wanted to thank everyone who participated in Kindle Countdown last week for A Shiny Coin For Carol Prentice.  

I sold a bundle (well, relatively - I was happy) and, for a brief moment, hit some decent rankings, particularly in the US, thanks to E-Reader News Today and a terrific little site on Fiverr.

She's also hit 20 reviews on UK, where the Storyteller Contest is taking place. I'm delighted with that.

And that's down to you. Thank you xx. 

Carol, Steve, Marin, Rob, Pippa and the lovely people of Southwell/Wheatley Fields thank you too. 

Except Toby, of course. He's nasty.

Designed by Brenda Perlin
A Bad Notice

Shiny got her first 1* review last night. Quite a bitter and scathing one too. I'm actually glad in one way: I have been wandering about on little fluffy clouds about this book. That's dangerous for an artist so this was a much needed dose of reality. 



Thank you, E. Nicol, for firstly buying the book and secondly completing it. Sorry it wasn't your thing.

Contacts, colleagues and friends of mine all talk about how to deal with shocking notices. I shall find some links and include them. If you are reading this, and you have a link, please add it to the comments. I'll embed tomorrow.

My favourite, though, is from "Birdman" starring Michael Keaton. 

A once famous Hollywood actor, down on his luck, invests his life savings in a Broadway play. In a bar, he spots a critic enjoying a G and T on a bar stool at the other end. He wanders over to ascertain her feelings: They aren't particularly supportive.

I felt like Keaton last night, if I'm being honest with you.


 Here's another nice link:

Generally Beloved Books with Bad Reviews

It won't be the first bad review I've had and it won't be the last. It just looks worse when written down. 

I am used to verbal criticism about books from friends. I once had two really good football friends of mine come up to me in the stands at Meadow Lane to destroy my second-least popular book, Violent Disorder. 



This was in front of my dad and son. They didn't mince their words. VD, which I really like, and consider underrated, is now known between my son and me as the "less popular sequel".

I have other friends who have given kickings to The Ritual (a load of crap) and the second-person written Ultra Violence (why didn't you write it properly?) but mostly, you can tell whether someone likes a book you've written, not if they buy it, or even read it, but whether they complete it. 

Think of your own reading behaviour. You have to know how it turns out, right? If you can't be arsed with that, then the writer has failed and it probably isn't a book they would give even a 3* review to.

I generally know - of my acquaintances, contacts, networks, friends and family - who likes my stuff and who doesn't. I'm not offended.



Of course, the pagan high priest in any artist's fevered unconscious with that pathological need to be universally venerated will never be satisfied with that level of indifference, but life goes on - there's no need for the one star shocker - which is just exposition, really, when you think about it.

The Best Writers

I would say that the best writers get terrible notices. 

One of my favourites is contemporary fiction/avant garde author Tom McCarthy. 

My favourite trad-book of last year was Satin Island. It's a masterpiece. A beautifully written shaggy-dog story with some memorable set pieces and a sad recollection of institutional torture during the aftermath of a Turin G8 protest.


Satin Island Amazon UK

To my shock, it has some of the worst reviews I have ever seen. It also has an average rating which has me baffled. I stare at that rating and wonder what planet people are on - and why, exactly, they picked up a book like this in the first place. I

I guess it takes all sorts, a perception, which, fundamentally, in the cold light of day, is how I dealt with my own savage notice.

Paperback

I've still got some paperbacks left if you want a free one. They're pretty nice for the shelf. Drop me a message on Twitter DM or FB DM with your address and I'll send the very next day.

Here's my friend, futurist YA author and psychologist, Carla Eatherington, reading Shiny. 


Carla, incidentally, has made her debut e-novel, Utopia, free this week. For YA fans and fans of apocalyptic fiction, it's a superb book that I read in three sittings. You'll be wanting the paperback yourself afterwards. Details here.

FREE Download of Carla Eatherington's Utopia - HERE




And that's it for this week. Thanks for listening.

Marky xx

You can buy Shiny and other Mark Barry books by clicking the icons on the top right.

Mark Barry Author Page











Thursday, 4 May 2017

Amazon's Contest for Best Self-Published Novel 2017 - Help Needed!

Like a blind squirrel will eventually bump into a succulent acorn in the forest, I have apparently written a pretty decent book. 

It's called A Shiny Coin For Carol Prentice and I've entered it in a big literary festival.




It has twelve reviews in six weeks since release - eleven 5*reviews amongst them.

*Shiny Reviews UK

Most say it is a page turner and most say they read it quickly and speedily. 

In today's day and age, busy people, living in the brooding shadow of FOMO**, are grateful for books which don't get in the way of a busy life. 

This fits the bill, yet its still complex and psychological. It will keep you guessing all the way through.

Best Self-Published Novel 2017

So, quite proud of what I have achieved, I have entered it into the aforementioned literary prize. Here are the details.

https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2017/jan/23/amazon-uk-literary-prize-kindle-storyteller-direct-publishing-authors



The prize is £20,000

Twenty large: Love those words when connected together like that.

I know I'm 100/1 to even get selected, but a few friends and I have had a look at the field of likely winners - and the books I'm up against aren't that intimidating.

There are some beauties, and there are some beasts - but there's nothing scary in there.

And I'll have well known supporters like Georgia Rose, Terry Tyler, Brenda Perlin behind me - all of whom rate Shiny and have blogged about it.

And Barb Taub too. 

I'm lucky that one of the best reviewers in the caper likes my work. That's a real stroke of fortune.

Have a read of this review when you've got time. 

She explains in one superb essay what contemporary fiction is all about and what I have tried to say in this book. Do you remember that? When novels tried to say something?

(Thank you, Barb).

Barb Taub's Review


I can win this competition. But I need your help. 

I will at some point be judged on the content of the book, and that's when things will get interesting, but first, I have to demonstrate to Amazon that I can sell a book and can get people to review it. 

In many ways, this element is more important nowadays than a writer's ability with a pen. 

Sad but true. It's the way it is.



I can win this or go close. 

Anyone who knows me knows that I am generally shy about talking about my stuff, but not this time. 

Shiny is a decent book. I worked hard on it, drafted endlessly, then redrafted, delayed publication, sliced off 15,000 decent words, and thought about every line.  I even, like Carol, had posters up on my wall to work out my Plan.

I'm going all out.

Here's how you can help me?



How YOU Can Help

1) Over the weekend beginning May 4th - that's today - Shiny is on Kindle Countdown. 

Which means that the price of the ebook for 160 hours is either 99c or 99p depending on where you are.

If you don't have a Kindle, download the book to your Phone/Laptop. 

The software is simple to download.

Seriously, you don't even have to read it: I need the sales/downloads to have credibility in the competition. 

Eventually, someone on a judging panel will read the book and that will hopefully be enough.

(Shiny is one pound/one dollar too. A quid. Please don't make me use the coffee comparison :-D  )




Over the weekend, I am being promoted on E-Reader News Today and several other websites. This is thanks to the managerial skills of my great friend, Georgia Rose. 

The book should therefore go out to around fifty thousand people, possibly more. 

If this works, I'll submit to Bookbub for a few quid and take a proper gamble.

Bookbub


2) If you are feeling daring, read as far as you can and then review it. 

I don't care what star rating you give me, it's 
immaterial. 

It's the number of reviews that count in a competition like this.

(I have a hilarious 1* review on one of the football books. I had a tee shirt made, which I sleep in. One of them said that there was "too much shit about clothes," which makes me and my son, Matt, roll.)

Here's a few easy tips. In this case, if you don't want to go through all this. 

The words I Liked It will do, plus the star.

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/neal-wooten/tips-for-writing-amazon-r_b_6959118.html

I need plenty of reviews to stand any chance. No idea how many sales. Even then it is a longshot. 

But longshots win plenty of races.



3) If you don't like the book, send it back to Amazon. They will refund 100 per cent with no comebacks. I hardly ever inspire the refunding of books, which is a good sign.

4) If you don't have a spare pound or cannot be arsed with the downloading, then write to me and I'll send a PDF/Mobi file. For those who definitely like to review, I have twelve signed paperbacks left. I'll pay the postage. Contact me on the usual channels and I will send them to you.  Pass them to a friend.

Your help will be much appreciated. 

Marky xx


BUY Shiny Coin here - UK

BUY Shiny Coin here - US and ROW



*Loads more information exist about Shiny on this blog including it's origin, extensive reviews from Georgia Rose, Terry Tyler, Brenda Perlin and others, and an Outtake/Extract.

**FOMO = Fear of Missing Out: One of the prime reasons Psychologists believe people spend an inordinate amount of time staring at phones.

Wiz Green = Mark Barry

Saturday, 15 April 2017

A (Reluctant) Outtake from Shiny Coin - plus FREE stuff.

Don't forget - I have ten free paperbacks left. 

Drop me a line on the usual channels and I'll despatch a signed paperback, free of charge, after Easter. It's a lovely looking book and so far, it's been well reviewed.

Reviews


For e-book readers, I'm on Kindle Countdown on May 4th. 

You can avoid the Twitter Countdownquake by getting one of these, for free :-D


_________________________________________________

EXTRACT

Here's an extract from Shiny Coin. 
Well, its an outtake, but, really, it should have gone in. 
I'm kicking myself.



I have this idea, oft expressed, that readers don't want long books nowadays. 
Shiny, well reviewed so far, is under 70k words, but it is actually closer to 90k in uncut form. Contemporary dramatist, Terry Tyler, who has become a good cyber friend of mine in the past two years, commented in her review that the beginning was a slow one, like many of my books. 

I wasn't surprised, nor was I offended: Many people say the same thing. 
I guess this is how I roll. 

One of my favourite books is Harvest Home by Thomas Tryon. 



That opening is so funereal it is like reading backwards, yet the ending is utterly memorable, I realised that a slow, in-depth introduction was, in that case, a fundamental investment in the climax. 
I have forgotten much of the beginning of that book, written in the nineteen seventies, but I have never, ever forgotten the ending. 

Because of this, and some of King's best stuff, the early stuff, Rosemary's Baby (or any Ira Levin), and Burnt Offerings by Robert Marasco, and films such as The Wild Bunch, Straw Dogs (a major influence on Shiny Coin) and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, I write climaxes. 
That's my be all and end all. 
I want to make readers remember a climax for a long, long time. 

The 101 bloggers and MA lecturers tell you to put your best stuff at the beginning. 
I never understood that edict. A reader should trust a writer and they have more than enough evidence nowadays, with the free preview, swift reviews, and blogs and social media, to know what they are getting when they spend their two pounds or so on an ebook. 

Those of you who are into horror will, of course, remember Robin Hardy's The Wicker Man and it's astonishing, unpredictable climax. Yet, the vast majority of the book (and the film) is an introduction to that ending.  Nothing much happens. But I remember I didn't mind. I trusted the writer.
I knew something big was going to happen.


Times change and so do readers, it seems. 
I support work on a Creative Writing course. One session, I put up three free Amazon introductions as part of an exercise in Literary Openings. 
One, a popular Indie thriller - so poorly written I would have given up long ago if that were the extent of my ability - begins in the middle of the action, mid-torture, as it were, a young boy in a modern Nazi torture scenario, a bit of an Apt Pupil rip-off by the looks of it. 
I was expecting my students to laugh along with me, (which is, in itself, a cheap and nasty populist gesture), but to my astonishment, they liked it - some decent writers among them too. 
I took that away with me, still astonished. 

So, when I wrote Shiny I resolved to be brutal, without compromising my principles. So I have taken notice of the market, what's out there, and come the drafting stage, I was savage. 
I chopped 15k words from the initial draft. 
Nothing superfluous survived. 
Mark Twain's famous dictum was observed as if it were a Parliamentary white paper.

This extract, placed before the appearance of Toby Gifford, the nasty villain of the piece, would have slowed the beginning down even more so it had to go. 
Yet, it explained, with minimum exposition, Carol's love of the night, and the darkness, and, again, without the need for explanation, it attempts to explain her love of the Gothlife too. It's a huge metaphor, which, I reasoned, would probably have been missed. 
So I binned it on draft three. 

I looked at it the other night and I found myself longing for the seventies and a world where people had time and patience. It probably should have stayed in.

Marky xx

PS: Oh, and beware; this extract contains a mother of a run-on sentence. I love a good run-on sentence. If it was good enough for Trollope, it's bloody good enough for YOU. 

PPS: Aren't you sick of staccato sentencing yet? :-D

PPPS: I mean, like, generally?



Night time. 
That night. A time for sleep and for peace, but I never sleep. Cannot sleep for more than an hour or two at a time. When I was a child, I slept normally and safely, my father in the next room, but that ended in my teenage years and the insomnia continues to this day.
Yes, I nap in the afternoon after the bookshop, and I can fall asleep listening to my music or reading a particularly relaxing book, but I come to life at night and have done for the past four years. 
I suppose it is only to be expected, of course. 
I have taken the tablets and the pills and the ointments and the alternative treatments but none worked for me and thus, I embrace the night and work with it, confront its messengers, accept their offerings.

I once stayed with a girlfriend on the Kent coast, on the estuary, within sight of the nuclear plant on the escarpment opposite those calm seas. 
My friend was from a prosperous family and their house stood sentinel, detached and severed, in the middle of acres of hop fields, rows and rows of orchards growing apples and pears and grapes and figs, and at night, as I tried to sleep, failing miserably, I cast my consciousness as far as it could go, but I could hear nothing and the night outside my window was a glorious, unequalled black.
I could see nothing and hear nothing.
Not rain, nor wind, not the hooting of owls, nor the crossing of geese, nor the passing of gulls. 

I experienced nothingness, the intense silence of the void. I learned that the night was something to embrace and experience and it was a thing of sheer wonder. That somnolent, endless quiet, that eerie hush of the grave. 
We sleep and we miss this. 

That insight was a wonderful feeling; sleep was an option, not a necessity. In Kent, I stayed up all night, by the window staring into the void, listening to its nothingness and it felt like sleep. It felt like peace in my soul. It calmed me and by the time the first cock crowed and the sun began its crimson ascent into its natural domain, I felt wonderful. I may have slept for an hour. I may not. 
My consciousness was calmed and somewhere in the distance, enveloped in the black of the night outside. 
I simply could not get that where I lived, in Manchester, where there is no silence. 
There is nothing but life and movement and noise.
I couldn't remember if I could get it in The Fields, my home town, but imagine my delight when I did finally come home and discovered I could.
I had forgotten how peaceful it could be here, in a town of old people, a country town, a town of conformity and order over chaos, a town of early nights and parish ordnances, of expensive beds and respectful neighbours.
It felt like peace in the middle of a conflict. 
These nights can be as special as those in Kent. They can be silent and dark and peaceful. Nights here are like death might be, a darkness of contemplation. 
At three in the morning, on a weeknight, no cars pass by on the way to Oxmouth or Follow Field, the drivers tucked up safely in bed. It almost seems rude here to drive past midnight. Streetlights are dim and there are no midnight walkers on my street, save the odd student full of themselves as they pass, and they are soon gone. 

Night rain is the best, for an insomniac like me. 
I can sit, in my armchair, my recliner by the window, my dad’s old chair, and watch the rain fall and better, I can listen to it, unsullied by the sounds we humans make and which they now call pollution. 
In the darkness, the rain is even more glorious as it pitter-patters on my window and some nights, it is accompanied by a magnificent wind from all points of the compass. 
I have, in the conflict of a summer night, walked into the garden and stood, naked in the rain, my pale, guarded, protected body exposed to the elements, rainwater pouring from head to my varnished toes, the moonlit sky, blue and black and scarlet, the cloudburst a foreboding omen, a warning from Thor, maybe even Odin.
I have stood there and felt each raindrop touch me, the accompanying wind in my hair, tendrils stroking my face like one of the hundred lovers I have foregone this past four years since...since...
Toby. 
Toby, who came from a different kind of night, a rampaging night, a horror night, a night of vampires and beasts and monsters; a night so cold, I could never embrace its beauty, because what beauty there may have been was coated in fear and loathing and nothing but.