#31 Tommy McManmon

I leave everything to the last minute, and this response to your blog is certainly no exception, being written on a jolting coach of funeral-goers on the day before your project ends. I sometimes wonder if my tardiness is because I’ve never quite recovered from the freedom given to me as an adult to live my life as I please, which to me means I can kick back and relax in the lead-up to a deadline. The ensuing rush to complete work usually results in good, if not spectacular, work – but the accompanying stress easily outweighs any benefit from the supposed “chill time” beforehand.

So, here we are. Me constantly finding excuses to not complete projects I know will benefit me in the long run, and you finishing one which has taken up so much of your time and emotional energy for the past year. I’m envious of your ability to complete something, to produce art that comes from within. I had initial doubts about the call for responses, though, for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, there was the nature of your film, which seems so intensely personal. I’m uncomfortable with expressions of personal matters in such a public forum, and I wondered at first if the call for responses might be an ego-boosting request for friends, family and strangers to affirm your project, your ideas, and your life choices. But it’s been nothing like that: people have genuinely thought about the issues you obliquely raise, and in every case they are producing something that comes from their heart. The responses are creative, personal, and all deal with how we cope with one of the few unstoppable (yet self-constructed) forces of nature: time.

I also wondered how one could possibly respond to a project that was still in progress. Very few artists like to reveal an unfinished work, perhaps because interpretations of it could vary wildly. You suffered from this to a certain extent when the press picked up on the story, although I suppose their right-wing howls of protest at another artist wasting tax-payers’ money pander to an opinion an unfortunate amount of people have (even this, though, proved positive in the end, as I think it made many of us consider more carefully the uncomfortable relationship between art and money: I would say the British man in the street is getting a very good deal). Overall, the unexpected benefit of your request for a response to an unfinished work has been the sheer range in replies, both in terms of medium and content.

For a while, I was planning to use my exciting new Veho Muvi camera to record the life in a day of, well, me. My film was going to be a point-of-view record of 24 hours in Knoydart, from getting out of bed, to showering (there had to be a bit of exhibitionism), to driving to work as a ranger, and finishing the day as a postie. But I soon realised that I am not a film-maker, and have no real desire to be one. Any efforts would be painfully amateur next to yours, and what’s more it would take too bloody long to edit to a vaguely acceptable standard.

So I decided to write something. I’m using a posh notebook you gave me as a birthday present over six years ago, which has a slip of paper inserted. This is what it says:

Instructions for Use

1.Carry around with you at all times* and use pencil** to write down;



Things people say









Things you want to tell people




Lists of things





2. Fill up

3. Never show to anyone

4. Put on shelf for few months

5. Take out, read, discover beginnings of stories, articles, and genius inventions

*Should fit in pocket of postie jacket

**Good psychologically because you can rub it out

There’s not much of the above in this notebook, apart from a curious passage on the first page about the nature of beauty, and a plot line for a novel on the second page involving religious amnesia (neither of which I remember writing). I tell you what, though, there’s a theme emerging here, and it’s your drive to encourage others to explore their creativity, and reap the resulting benefits. I wouldn’t be writing in this notebook if it wasn’t for you, and I thank you for that.  It took the combined efforts of your Stay the Same project and that slip of paper to get me to do it, mind you.

So. One year. What can we learn from the passing of a single year of our too-short lives? On the face of it, my twelve months have been unremarkable, but looking closer a lot has happened that has made me change and grow as a person (I cringe when I write that sentence, but it’s staying in). I’ve met some amazing people, some of whom I hope will become life-long friends. I’ve had lots of fun with work, drink, sex and parties (not all at the same time if my admittedly bad memory serves correctly).

I don’t know what the next year is going to bring for you, Sam, or myself. But I do know that the incremental learning experience of life provides lots of learning opportunities for improving our happiness. I wish you well with your film, and look forward to the finished product. Even if it will (presumably) mostly consist of your face. That was a joke.

Keep reminding us about the important things in life. Keep creating.

Tommy 20/06/12


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