Thursday, 31 January 2019


It starts with a low hum, a chord played in B minor, like the first flush of shy blue light on the horizon as dawn breaks. Sustain. I add the same chord, but two octaves up. Then rays of light as the single notes – B, D and G – prick through the darkness.

I smile to myself and take a swig of my coffee. I’m liking this. It feels good. Moody. Right. And it’s all mine.

Early morning, or perhaps I should say very late night, is my favourite time to work when I’m in a fit state for it. It’s that silent time before the garden’s dawn chorus starts tugging at the edges of night’s blanket. One of the few times I can fill the void with something that comes from me, and me alone.


Spoke too soon. A rasping from the corner of the room signals that he’s here, uninvited as usual. Bloody attention whore.

“Bugger off, Mogwot. I don’t need you right now.”

The scratching stops, for a moment, and is replaced by a tapping that makes a little more sense. A small grunt and some hurried shuffles, and he climbs up onto the desk. Small, barely the height of my coffee mug, dark, and far from handsome. His squat body looks like a badly drawn cartoon and his eyes glint greenly as me.

I reach over to the bulging bowl of jelly babies and pick out a black one, his favourite, and hand it to him.

“Just let me get on with it. Keep quiet.”

In a few wet chews the treat is gone. Mogwot stands, hands on hips and looks at me like a defiant three-year. Raps the side of my laptop in an erratic rhythm. Settles into a pattern which, despite myself, I realise will work perfectly with my dawn break sounds.

“OK, OK. I know. Percussion. I got it. Now sit down and shut up.”


I can’t remember a time when Mogwot wasn’t in my life. He was there when I was a lonely only child, making my mother’s life difficult when I threw a tantrum if she failed to lay a place for him at the dinner table or we missed the bus because we’d left him at home.

She’d humoured me at first. It was a phase, she figured. It would pass. But I saw the first flickers of concern in her eyes after my baby brother was born. I was no longer alone, yet Mogwot was still around. She didn’t realise that with Sam such needy baby, I needed my ‘imaginary’ friend more than ever. He wasn’t going anywhere.

But I hated to worry Mum, so I stopped talking about him. We only spoke at night when sleep had settled on everyone in the house but me, and I could hear his soft breathing from the top of my wardrobe.

Mogwot only revealed his true nature when I started playing music, declaring himself my ‘muse’. In the process, he became a giant pain in the arse. A tyrant. A dictator. But a part of me, as surely as my fingers, my nose and my toes.


The tablets helped. Quietened the chaos clamouring for attention in my head. Slept ten hours straight for the first time ever - deep, dreamless sleep.

But that’s not all they did. They numbed me, fed my lethargy, turned me into a useless slug incapable of anything more than plodding workmanlike through a few chord changes. I felt like I was sitting outside myself, bewildered, incapable, confused. The umbilical cord linking me to my creativity was severed, like chemical castration.

Mogwot was gone.

I missed the little bastard. And the music dried up, like a lonely slice of cheese forgotten at the back of the refrigerator. Still usable, at a stretch, but tasteless, unappealing and curling up at the edges.

So, I stopped taking the meds. On the quiet, of course. No-one could know. I couldn’t handle the endless well-meaning nagging that would start if they found out. Instead of dutifully chucking them my throat, they went down the toilet pan. And quietly, secretly, I welcomed back Mogwot and all the tumultuous, chaotic creativity that came with him.

No-one suspected. I become an expert at presenting a calm, functional exterior to the world as I embraced the maelstrom within. Like a manic orchestra tuning up every morning, with Mogwot on the podium waving the maestro’s baton about like a newly discovered Pokemon on speed.  


We’re really getting into it now, Mogwot banging a chewed pencil against the desk, stamping his feet, grunting and snorting with excitement. My fingers race to keep up. It’s coming to a crescendo – a fabulous, cacophonic swirling of noise. Better than sex – or at least, any sex I’ve ever had. Building, building, getting there, oh, yes, really, yes, yes…

the intercom buzzer rudely breaks into our mutual musical masturbation. Talk about chorus interruptus. Mogwot flashes me a look of fury like a spurned lover, throws down the pencil and stomps away to sulk behind a pile of papers.


Unsure of where I am, who I am, or why we stopped. Then I remember. Some hack from one of the Sunday supplements, come to interview me as a rising young star of the music world. Mogwot bares his teeth, snarls softly and pulls a page of scribbled notes over his head.

I get up, close the workroom door, lock it behind me and pocket the key. Just to be sure. It’s one thing to be considered a quirky prodigy, quite another to be revealed as a raving loon who takes orders from a pint-sized demon with a penchant for jelly babies.

I open the apartment door. Wide eyes smiling from under a short blonde crop greet me, all eagerness and enthusiasm for a job she hasn’t got cynical about – yet.

“You must be Alex,” I say, waving her through to the living room, undisturbed since Elena the cleaning lady from Hell gave it her magic touch over at the weekend.

“Maybe we could talk where you work?” Alex says, looking around the immaculate room.
A slither and a soft flump sound through the locked door.

“No can do. Tempo, my cat, is in there. He doesn’t take kindly to strangers. Or friends. Or anyone.”

She shrugs then holds up her phone, her exquisite eyebrows forming a silent question. “Mind if I record?” I nod my agreement.

“So, how does it feel to be one of the 30 musicians under 30 to watch?”
(God, I hate this. So bloody embarrassing. If I hadn’t been mates with George, who’s sleeping with the producer’s assistant on the surprise indie box office smash of the year, no-one would have ever have heard of my work…  But it’s gotta be done.)

“It’s humbling, of course, to be included in a list of so many great musicians.” (Like hell it is, at least half are talentless, overhyped idiots churning out tripe to feed the mainstream appetite for mediocrity. But you can’t say that, can you?) “But what really matters to me is knowing that my work resonates with people, moves them, expresses something inside that we all have in common.”

(We all have our monsters. Don’t we?)

And we’re off. The same old copy-paste interview I’ve seen with countless up-and-coming wunderkind in pretentious middle-class magazines. Written for people who want to seem arty-farty, without having to put in the sleepless nights, caffeine-fueled frenzies, crippling self-doubt and the temptation to just give up and settle for playing covers at weddings and second-rate festivals in muddy fields. 

But I behave myself. The interview goes well. It should go down nicely with the quinoa salads and stripped pine of suburbia. She’s sweet, easy to impress. No harm in giving my ego a little massage, is there?

  right on cue, just as I’m about to bask in the glow of my own self-satisfaction. Mogwot isn’t having any of it. Perish the thought he’d let me take all the credit.

Floomph, booph, bang!
The smack of wood against wood as the piano lid is thrown open. Random notes, jarring discords, track his way across the keys.

Alex looks alarmed. “Maybe you should go and check on your cat?”

“Nah, he’s just acting up. He’ll settle down when he gets bored.”

And he does. The rest of the interview is a breeze. For once, I’m feeling good about myself.
(Maybe I should ask her for a drink?)

“Just one last question. In one sentence, where do you get your inspiration?”
(Oh sweetheart, if I told you, you’ve never believe me.)

“Good question” (Yeah, if you like the all-time most clichéd things to ask any artist.) “I suppose it’s something that’s always been part of me.”

A thump and hum of reverberating strings echo from within as my favourite acoustic guitar hits the floor.

“I honestly couldn’t tell you.”
(Pathetic. Say something else.)

“But if I did, I’d have to kill you.” 

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