As promised last week, today is my stop on the blog tour for Alan Jones’ new novel, Bloq. Alan has been pondering on the ten people who have inspired him most – I was impressed that he was able to pick only ten!
He’s first on the list because he made a leap of understanding that probably had more impact on the study of natural history and on the fundamental truth about planet earth’s inhabitants than any other single discovery. He had the bravery to publish his findings in the face of the religious beliefs of the establishment and those close to him, and the patience to wait until the time was right and he had all the evidence in place. I know that other scientists played a part in it, as with all scientific discoveries, but it was he who pulled it all together and gave us the first look at the big picture that was evolution. I read On the Origin of Species when I was 17 and it had a fundamental influence on the way I looked at the world from the day I read it.
Martin Luther King.
Words. That’s all they are, but in the right hands, they’re dynamite. I dare anyone to listen to his ‘I have a dream’ speech and not feel the hairs on the back of their neck rise. His insistence on peaceful but resolute protest in the face of the hatred and violence that he and the rest of his race were subjected to, and his vision that that the day would come when his kids were equals were more than inspirational. He must have known that he was a target, but the unflinching nature of his campaign made him one hell of a human being.
Not anyone you’d have heard of, but my Gran was an amazing woman. She lived in the notorious Red Road Flats in Glasgow, but every Monday, she travelled down to Ayr to keep house for her two brothers and an invalid sister until she was well in her seventies, returning to her home every weekend, in the 30 storey stark concrete high rise blocks that have only recently been knocked down.
Despite being a very down-to-earth and ordinary Glasgow working woman, she had amazing tastes in antiques, which she picked up by scouring second hand shops and trawling through the famous Glasgow Barrowland. In the days when food was plain and simple, she was a bit of an unlikely epicure, and we tasted exotic fruits and foods that we’d never heard of, and cheeses from all over Europe, when most shops just sold Cheddar or soft cheese triangles.
We stayed with her every weekend, and she would trail us to the Steamie, the iconic ‘Barras’ and the junk shops of the East end, followed by a visit to one of Glasgow’s museums or fantastic parks. As a kid, I soaked up knowledge without realising it and I developed a curiosity about every stratum of life in Glasgow and beyond, because of her influence. My love of remarkable food, and my interest in furniture and old stuff in general started with her. Does she belong on this list? Yes.
The ability to make people laugh at the smallest of life’s anachronisms is a gift given to very few, but The Big Yin is a master at it. He also brought the brand of humour that has existed since men started congregating together to build things into the main stream, using the richness of his native Glasgow tongue to enhance the monologues that often left me crying with laughter. He has been a great ambassador for Glasgow and Scotland, and he made it easier for working class comedians throughout the UK to break through into the international comedy circuit. His championing of the Glasgow dialect was one of the reasons I felt confident about using ‘weegie’ slang in my first two books.
My first boss, and a real Welsh gent. He taught me a lot of things about work and life and, despite the initial fear and awe I felt, I quickly developed a friendship with him that, despite long periods when we didn’t meet up, endured until his recent death. The downside of our relationship was that he introduced me to the game of golf and a lifelong chalice of sporting pain and frustration, punctured occasionally by the joy of having a good round, when I believed, for a fleeting moment, that I could actually play the game.
Leith’s favourite son is probably my favourite writer and, as the most globally well-known proponent of the Scottish urban dialect in literature, he has made it easier for books with a Scottish accent to be picked up by readers and not immediately discarded. OK, so for my first two books, both written without shirking from the language that their Glasgow street characters would have used, I felt it necessary to provide an online slang dictionary to help readers with any word they might not immediately grasp. But people are still reading them, and doing so from all over the world.
That’s not all. He’s been accused of glamorising the drug using culture in Scotland, but I can’t believe those people have read the same books as I have. I’ll concede that he doesn’t discount that there’s humour and vibrancy that comes with living so close to the edge within the drug community, but he doesn’t shy away from its horrors either. I believe he tells it more or less as it is. The thing is, he has made it less of a taboo subject to write about.
His greatest gift to mankind was not leaving prison and becoming the first black president of the Republic of South Africa. It was forgiving the people who imprisoned him for 27 years, 18 of them on Robben Island, doing hard labour. I, along with 99.9% of the population, probably would have found it very difficult to do the same, but it gave legitimacy to his efforts to democratise South Africa and make it work. It’s not perfect, but if you’d been asked just four decades ago if it was possible, what odds of success would you have been given? His autobiography, Long Walk To Freedom, is the best I’ve ever read.
I was, and still am, a big fan of The Jam. As a slightly younger contemporary of Weller, I couldn’t get my head around how, as a seventeen year old, he could write such incredible lyrics that articulated all the questions that the young people of the day were asking, and the songs still have the same relevance to day. This is the modern world, In the City and Town called Malice are only a few of the searing tracks which accompanied my teenage years and beyond. Although he’s one of the few who has continued to keep writing and performing at a high level, it’s still his early work that I admire the most.
I had an interest in natural history from a very young age, mainly nurtured by books, but when I first saw Mr. Attenborough describe so vividly how nature worked, it blew me away, and the fact that he has continued to uncover amazing facts and footage of the natural world that we are slowly killing, into his eighties, has for me made him one of the most influential conservationists of all time. He probably converted more people to the opinion that urgent action needs to be taken to save our planet than any other person. Why else would the president of the United States request a personal audience with him?
I only ever saw him play through the medium of television, but from the age of eleven I watched him play for a Scotland side which, at that time, was full of the cream of the crop from England’s top division. Although watching Scotland at successive World Cups became a source of collective national pain, for a while we were the only home nation who regularly reached the finals. His exploits for Liverpool, where he won six championships, two FA Cups, four League Cups, and three European Cups made watching Match of the day and European football nights a must. He was Scotland’s most successful footballing export and was only pipped to the title of European player of the year in 1983 by Michel Platini. Kenny’s Autobiography, Kenny Dalglish: My Autobiography, didn’t quite reach the heights of Long Walk to Freedom, but was it a good read? Maybees aye, maybees naw.
I felt bad about leaving Jackie Stewart, David Soul and John Smith out of the list but it had to end somewhere.
The tour continues, so please do take a look at some of the fab blogs (below) that are hosting some exclusive content from Alan. For more information, check out www.alanjonesbooks.co.uk.
Bloq is available to buy now in Kindle format and hard copy will be following shortly.
ps. I know Alan spoke about Kenny Dalglish playing for Scotland primarily, but any excuse to get a picture of a Liverpool player on my blog is ok by me 🙂