There will be no book. Last week I unilaterally resigned from the project and withdrew my consent for the publisher to ever use my material. He had sat on the manuscript for over 3½ years, dithering, equivocating, prevaricating, trotting out endless lame excuses and stringing me along (I’ve kept all the emails; when I’ve got time I’ll upload them in a blog). Publication was always imminent, always in the near future, and never reached. Ignoring all advice to the contrary from friends, for season after season, year after year, I patiently went along with his leisurely agenda – a ridiculous delay that meant I had to do a complete rewrite last winter to bring everything up to date. Yet still the publisher couldn’t get it together, and when the edited proofs finally started trickling through to me this summer I was appalled at the amateurish, anodyne and nonsensical mess my, uh, epic had been turned into.
To give you a flavour of the edit, here’s just one tiny example. My original introduction to the Children’s Cardiff chapter read:
Thatcher’s grandchildren are socially isolated and deskilled by the games console, the smartphone and the facebook page, hounded at school by relentless testing, cornered at home by aggressive kiddie-marketing, over-protected and over-loaded, under-estimated and under-loved – and all to be moulded into servile shoppers when they inherit a world their elders are busy ransacking. But there are places in Cardiff where they might be prompted to imagine other futures…
And this is what it was replaced with:
Children and families are well-catered for in Cardiff and at nearby attractions with beaches, boat trips, wild places, rivers and lakes all easily accessible. Many of these are free. Check opening times and prices before you set off.
Admittedly, there are issues with my hectoring and apocalyptic effort – but at least the intensity and density might, if you can get past the hybrid-word-dash-rash, encourage you to read on (and thereby discover radical, unorthodox challenges for kids in Cardiff). The feeble edit, on the other hand, would be rejected as too bland, dull and rose-tinted even for the Visit Cardiff website, and would encourage you merely to yawn and turn the page. One thing’s for sure: it could not have been written by Dic fucking Mortimer! And that missing comma after “attractions” also told me I was going to have to go through all 400 pages correcting multiple illiteracies and grammatical howlers in these ‘final proofs’. I’d informed them back in the spring that the book had to be out in 2013, yet the state of these proofs plus his snail-like pace with photos and maps meant it was not going to happen. I’d had enough of the trajectory of my life and work being decided by a Bristolian I hardly knew. I needed to be back in the driving seat and in control of my own affairs; in no uncertain terms I let him know I wanted nothing more to do with the farce. Got at by the establishment so such an outright Welsh republican critique of every aspect of the UK should never see the light of day? Put nothing past them…
One week on, my feelings are best summed up by borrowing words from Martin Luther King (1929-1968): Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty I’m free at last!
What next? Why, Plan B of course! All that work shall not be wasted. It deserves to be available to anyone who wants it, and Cardiff cries out for such a massive feast of original interpretations, ideas, perceptions and alternatives. I will have further details later this month.