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  1. Does your oven have at least one umlat in its name? If not, you’re some kind of prole.
  2. Chefs refer to table salt as “shit salt”. Behind your back, they probably refer to you as “shit customers”.
  3. Three glasses of white wine – also known to chefs as “bitch diesel” – will aid your fine motor skills as you chop onions.
  4. Cous cous was invented by the Nazis as a cheap, barely edible alternative to rice.
  5. Chef: “You’ve touched worse things than that.”
    You: “My God … how does he know? He is some kind of SORCERER.”
  6. No, it is not just like a TV cooking show, apart from the comparable levels of shame, fear and ostracism.
  7. Your “hilarious” gluten jokes will die a horrible death when someone says they’re coeliac.
  8. When someone says your spring rolls are “fatty boom-bahs”, remember to scream “Don’t you fat-shame me!”
  9. Have you added pine nuts to everything? Go back and add pine nuts to everything.
  10. No matter how many movies you’ve seen featuring buxom Tuscan peasant women blissfully serving elaborate, time-consuming meals to grateful hordes, no meal tastes better if you’ve cooked it yourself.
    In fact, they taste worse.

    Laugh at any of these jokes? Go on and buy my ebook military thriller The Spartan.
    I know you probably won’t but I always ask anyway.

Inspired by the excellent story in The Guardian about how Wyl Menmuir wrote his first, Booker-longlisted novel, The Many, I offer you the uncensored diary of writing my own, unpublished, second novel, The Last Newspaper On Earth.

Day one: Bursting with ideas. This will be the best book ever!
Day two: Put in a killer second sentence: “And then the murders began.”
Day three: Drink four coffees in quick succession. Manage to pound out 2000 words. And they said Graham Greene only wrote 500 words a day. Slacker!
Day four: Reduce the 2000 words I wrote yesterday to 500 as the rest are mostly caffeine-infused gibberish. Wonder if Greene had it right all along, seeing how he wrote Brighton Rock, The End Of The Affair and The Quiet American.
Day seven: Ask a friend to act as my editor. He says he’d be honoured, as long as it doesn’t take up too much time and that I know how to take criticism. “I’ll show YOU criticism,” I mutter to myself, an instant ball of rage.
Day 10: Wonder about padding out the plot with copy from 19th-century horror novels out of copyright. Laugh like a maniac. “This secret will remain between you and me, Bram Stoker,” I cackle as I hit control “c” and “v”.
Day 11: Friend/editor wonders whether aristocratic vampires have any place in a tale about the decline of newspaper publishing. “Of course they do,” I reply.
Day 20: Read a story, possibly apocryphal, about an author who shot himself in the foot so he would be forced to finish his novel. I stare down at my foot, wondering where would be the least painful place to shoot myself. Also wonder where I could get the least-painful gun.
Day 40: Friend/editor says the main character isn’t likeable.
“Is he based on you?” he asks impertinently.
Day 50: Spice up a dull scene where journalists are sitting around a table at a news conference with a sudden explosion.
Day 55: Make my character visit an orphanage so he will seem more likeable. Friend/editor loves it.
Day 60: Filled with sadness as I glance at the Amazon ranking of my last book. Is this new effort also destined to end on the scrapheap, next to the biographies of sporting heroes who have fallen out of favour due to sex scandals?
Day 61: My main character interviews a sporting hero who has suddenly fallen out of favour due to a sex scandal.
Day 65: Up to 20,000 words. Celebrate by throwing in a spicy sex scene for my unlikeable main character.
Day 75: Reward myself with a digestive biscuit.
Day 80: Wonder if Tolstoy also had days where he thought everything he wrote was crap. Day 85: Friend offers to install a social media blocker on my computer to remove distractions. “Hemingway never would have agreed to that,” I tell him.
Days 90: Wonder if it’s too late to change it into a children’s book. Anyone can write those! Just look at all the celebs who do it.
Day 125: Editing a particularly dense piece of text, my friend/editor says: “You should consider the reader’s point of view.” “Why would I want to do that?” I reply.
Day 145: In my novel, the internet is starting to affect newspaper sales. The fictional newspaper editor shows the staff a website that is eating into our classified sales. “As the editor hits ‘return’, the computer suddenly explodes,” I type.
Day 150: Break the 50,000 word mark. Huzzah!
Day 170: Friend/editor whittles the 50,000 words down to 40,000. Leave an anonymous one-star review of his own book on Amazon, accusing him of being a “pulpy hack”.
Day 171: Friend accuses me of writing the one-star review. I deny it. When the review is mysteriously deleted, we both mutually agree to never bring it up again.
Day 180: My character is disturbed by the number of redundancies in the newspaper industry. I go down to the harbour and stare moodily at the sea for a few hours.
Day 200: Italicise the name of a book, but don’t bother unitalicising the comma next to it. No one will notice it – or the gaping holes in the plot.
Day 201: Friend/editor notices the gaping holes in plot.
Day 210: My character has an Aaron Sorkin moment, standing up on a table in the newsroom and lamenting what will happen to the world if quality journalism continues to decline. Pathos!
Day 220: Up to 80,000 words! Friend says more needs to be cut. I remind him of a story from my days in magazines where a company actually sold their magazines by weight. “Is that what you plan to do?” he asks, incredulous. “Sell your books by weight?” “Why not?” I reply. “It works for chocolate.”
Day 250: Near the end. I wonder if I really need an end. Can’t it just end abruptly, like in The Sopranos? Maybe even mid-sentence? Or with an explosion?
Day 265: Hurrah! I finish the final sentence. Light a Cuban cigar, then choke as I remember I hate smoking.
Day 270: Friend/editor yet to get back to me. Does he love the ending? Or hate it? I can’t bear the almost Hitchcockian suspense.
Days 277: Friend hates the ending. “It’s simply not believable that our ‘hero’ goes back in time, destroys the internet from ever being created, and thus ensures the survival of newspapers forever.” “That sort of thing works for Doctor Who,” I reply meekly.
Days 278: Friend gets back to me. “I know how to rewrite your ending – and realistically save newspaper journalism forever!” he says. The simplicity and brilliance of his subsequent idea astounds me. I wonder why no one ever thought of it before.

My ebook military thriller The Spartan is out now on Amazon.

Because we just can’t wait to see what he’ll do with it.
I’ve been a huge fan since his days on The Mighty Boosh.
If he’s anything as surreal and witty as he was in 2012 when I interviewed him, viewers are in for a real treat.
Gothic bun cake, anyone?
And yes … Julian Barratt MUST make a cameo.
Check out the interview here.

My ebook thriller The Spartan is out now on Amazon.

What becomes of the hero when he is no longer needed?
What happens to the gunslinger who hangs up his gunbelt?
What is the fate of the knight who slew the last dragon, the soldier whose wars are long over, the warrior who has seen all his friends and loved ones die … the cowboy who realises that killing is a brand on his soul that will never come off?
There is no such thing as a Retirement Home For The Formerly Fantastic Action Hero (except, perhaps, The Expendables movies). Valhalla is for dead heroes only. There is only a lifetime’s memories of regret and pain and hurt, both received and inflicted, waiting for the hero at journey’s end.
Happily ever after is not on the agenda. To quote one wit, a man stops being a hero when he is happy.
And judging by the Wolverine of 2029 in Logan, he – and the world – are unhappy indeed.
Logan is Hugh Jackman’s swansong for the Canadian mutant with the adamantium claws, mutant healing power and surly attitude.
And the critics are right: it is Jackman’s Unforgiven.
As someone who has read the X-Men and Wolverine comics for years, I can attest it is a tone-perfect final outing for Wolverine. It’s dark. It’s brutal. It’s unforgiving. And it’s not for kids, even if one co-stars in it.
You could even call it “the X-Men’s Dark Knight”.
Jackman’s pain – and the pain etched into Wolverine’s soul after more than a century of being an unkillable superhero – stays with you long after you leave the cinema.
Which brings me to my main point: it is time “the critics” got over their prejudice about superhero movies.
It is time to look beyond the critical stigma attached to “comic-book films” and realise that they have something worthy to share about life, suffering and the human condition. (And what are comic books, except a newish medium for the communal campfire at which stories, myths and legends were told for millennia?)
It is time a fantastic outing such as Jackman’s gets the recognition it deserves.
In short, Jackman should be nominated for the Best Actor Oscar for 2018 for Logan.
There is nothing stopping Jackman getting the nomination apart from the belief that the superhero crowd aren’t considered high art. Take a look at Jackman’s performance and tell me you don’t see every aspect of the acting craft in there.
Don’t take my word for it. Go see it for yourself.
Then go tell the Academy if you agree.

My ebook military thriller The Spartan is out now on Amazon.

It used to be a cake shop.
In the years Before Gluten (BG), in the years Before Gentrification (B$), long before the median price for a Sydney home was $1 million, it used to serve the type of giant, triple-decker desserts and pastries that would’ve made the Country Women’s Association proud.
There was only type of bread (white), the type of wonderbread our ancestors fought and won two world wars with. Kids also ate the crusts because otherwise you’d grow up with curly (or even possibly ginger) hair.
There was only type of sugar (also white).
There was only one type of coffee (unknown).
And everything was packed with glutens.
Later, in a nod to the times, it started serving sandwiches along with cakes, scones, lamingtons and Chiko rolls. If you ordered a salad sandwich, it only came with lettuce (not “cos” – cos didn’t exist yet), onion and beetroot. No one wanted the beetroot, but it was reassuring to know it was there. It was a touchstone of cultural consistency every bit as valid and reassuring as the gherkin in the Big Mac. Sure, no one wanted to eat the gherkin either, but somehow, it was important that it was there.
It was the sort of unpretentious place beloved by tradies and sparkies and labourers and mums with their kids: more school tuckshop or canteen that sophisticated café.
A simple place harkening back to a simpler time before iPhones and property portfolios and MasterChef teaching five-year-olds to expect penne alla arrabbiata in their school lunchbox.
A place that had perfected the bacon-and-egg roll and large coffee as its signature takeaway dish.
A Café for Old Men.
It was the bottle of pink Himalayan salt that first alerted me to the irrevocable changes in my Old Man Café. It rested on a metal table that looked like it had been crafted out of the wing of a Boeing 787.
Looking up, I realised that my Old Man Café has irrevocably morphed into a Middle Class Café.
Gone were the tuck-shop types, replaced by younger, better-looking waitstaff.
The menu was partially in Italian and full of dishes I barely understood.
For instance, the Caesar salad had become a “Contemporary Caesar Salad”, as if Caesar, former ruler of Rome and conqueror of Gaul, no longer cut it in a world where Asian slaw was served on cement slabs and watermelon juice came in mason jars.
I looked enviously at the kids’ menu – which served all the delicious things that were once on the adults menu like fish and chips and spaghetti and meatballs – knowing I could now never order off of it.
I imagined there was some kind of detector at the door that loudly went off if it detected anything with glutens in it.
I stared around at the young, hip types enjoying what I assumed were Bonsoy cappuccinos.
This was clearly a suburb in the throes of gentrification.
The mothers with their kids now wore activewear and lived in million-dollar houses and drove 4WDs.
The men were younger, bearded, aspirational, one eye on their dining partners, the other on the iDevices upon which they were furiously tapping.
The well-behaved children nursing babycinos were probably in Advanced Reading Classes and knew the difference between a tortoise and a turtle.
It was no longer a Café For Old Men.
I imagined all the tuck-shop-volunteer mums, the labourers in King Gees and checkshirts and even the roving pigeons and ibises all being bussed away to a less-salubrious suburbs to make way for the new customers.
I couldn’t fault the food and the service. But this café was no longer for me. Yet another sanctuary of my youth was no more.
This Old Man’s Café was heading the way of the Old Man’s Pub.
“And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?” I muttered.
But there was no longer anyone old enough – or interested enough – to understand what I was saying.

My ebook military thriller The Spartan is out now on Amazon.

The Dad Dancer According to evolutionary science, “dad dancing”, as performed by dads and older males in their forties upwards, “unconsciously repels” young women, leaving the romantic opportunities clear for younger, more fertile men. It would be cruel to point that out to the Dad Dancer. Leave him as he gyrates away, four Rum and Cokes under his straining belt, remembering the time he saw Rod Stewart in the ’80s.
The Synchronised Swimmer Almost a subset of the Dad Dancer, the Synchronised Swimmer flails his arms about in a thrashing motion, perhaps paddling for the forgotten shores of his youth. He does this because he literally has no other moves.
The “It Rubs The Lotion On Its Skin Or Else It Gets The Hose Again” Desperado From Silence Of The Lambs  Like serial killer Buffalo Bill in that acclaimed movie, this dance is deeply confusing and deeply scary. Just back away and never look back.
The Ageing Headbanger  Seen as recently as my last Nick Cave concert, the Ageing Headbanger suddenly stands up in front of you to treat you to a megamix of unco-ordinated moves.
Bizarrely, he will often add freestyle rap and disco moves to his staccato headbanging, his body furiously gyrating away in his studded leather jacket (so edgy! so ’80s!) and groaning leather pants. And no, he won’t sit down, no matter how many times a “narc” like you politely asks him to.
The Stevie Wonder This is my favourite kind of dancer. They remain firmly in their chairs, eyes closed and smile on their faces, their heads gently weaving back and forth to the music. I was charmed by a balding, ageing Stevie Wonder type at the Cave concert – why can’t I enjoy the music as much as him, I thought – only for him to morph into a full-on Synchronised Swimmer to the amusement of all.
The Peter Garrett  Seeing the former Midnight Oil frontman dance is like nothing else on Earth. He does everything from jazz hands to stamping out imaginary fires, his long limbs flailing around the stage as if he’s suffering a seizure. And yet, somehow he can pull it off because he’s PETER GARRETT.
Keep your loved ones close and that drink you lined up for 20 minutes for even closer if someone attempts to pull off this whirling dervish (there’s always one).
The Goth Jellyfish  Like the creature it imitates, The Goth Jellyfish is a harmless, gentle creature, content to simply sway side to side with the music. The world would be a better place if there were more Goth Jellyfish.
The Drummer Ever seen Whiplash? Picture Miles Teller beating invisible drums spurred on by the J.K. Simmons in his head. Fortunately The Drummer usually gives up after a while because there is no J.K. Simmons traumatising him right there in person (thank God).
The Irish Dancer  In a nod to both Irish dancing and the tight space constraints of modern arenas, this chap or chapess will dance on the spot with their arms firmly rooted to their sides. The correct response is to point at them and say loudly “look at Michael Flatley, Lord of the Dance over there”.
The Sexy Person With Perfectly Co-Ordinated Dance Moves  If you’re like me and attending a medley of nostalgia acts, cultural icons past their prime and pop stars trying to frantically top up their superannuation before they become uncommercial and/or retire, you won’t be seeing to many of these dancers.
Sexy dancing is usually the province of the young (see “Dad Dancer” above) … and they either can’t afford (“$200 to see Barbra Streisand? Why?”) or aren’t interested (“I thought John Farnham was dead”) in the heroes of your youth.

My ebook military thriller The Spartan is out now on Amazon.