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An English Trip: John Doran aka 'Jolly Lad' Book Tour

An English Trip: Arabrot featuring John Doran - BOOK TOUR

'JOLLY LAD' by John Doran

Published in hardback, paperback and electronic edition by Strange Attractor in June 2015.

Cover art by Simon Fowler and illustrations by Krent Able. 

Hardback Edition comes with free CD of readings and music from Nicky Wire of Manic Street Preachers, Abi & Neil of British Sea Power, Eccentronic Research Council, Teeth Of The Sea, English Heretic, Grumbling Fur, Mark Dicker, GNOD and Bronze Teeth. 

JOLLY LAD is a memoir about the recovery from alcoholism, habitual drug use and mental illness. It is also about the healing power of music, how memory defines us, the redemption offered by fatherhood and what it means to be working class. 

In 2011 VICE magazine asked music journalist John Doran for a weekly column. The only instruction they gave me was simple: “You can write about whatever you want but it can’t be about music.”

The column ended up being called MENK – a shortened version of ‘mental’ used in some, but by no means all, parts of Merseyside, to mean intellectually feeble or mentally handicapped rather than mentally ill. Doran grew up round the corner from the largest Victorian insane asylum in Europe, Rainhill Hospital, and this harsh epithet would be shouted at him by other kids when he got off the bus after school.

The column ended up being about the minutiae of Doran’s life. It was about gentrification; being diagnosed bipolar; attending Alcoholics Anonymous; living in a block of flats on a housing estate in London; the psychological damage done by psychedelic drugs; depression; DJing; factory work; friendship; growing old; hallucinations; street violence and obsessive behaviour – especially regarding music and art.

The column proved relatively popular – or at least no one asked him to stop writing it. By Spring of 2014, after three years, he had filed 66 chapters of MENK so decided to take a hiatus while he worked on this book. Instead of releasing an anthology of columns however, he decided to completely rewrite the material into a narrative, which would concern his recovery from alcoholism, the attempt to cope with mental illness and becoming a father.

He says: “I was determined not to write a ‘my drink and drug hell’ kind of book for several reasons – the main one being that I had, for the most part, had a really good time drinking. True, a handful of pretty appalling things have happened to me and some people that I know or used to know over the years. But I have, for the most part, left them out of this book as they are not illuminating, not edifying and in some cases concern other people who aren’t here to consent to their appearance. Instead this book concentrates on what you face after the drink and the drugs have gone.

“In my experience, being an alcoholic is debt consolidation for your life. Drink becomes the only thing you care about – eventually to the point where you don’t even care if you live or die. So when you stop drinking... well, that’s when the real trouble starts. Everything you drank to avoid dealing with — which in my case included mental illness, debt, depression, the impulse to self- harm, the impulse to commit suicide, anxiety, social dysfunction, body dysmorphia, stress, anger, violent rage and hypochondria — suddenly comes back into focus the second you stop. 

“I started drinking when I was 13. I was drinking every day by the time I was 15. Then I stayed constantly drunk until I was 37. When I stopped I had no idea what I would be like as an adult.

“Picture a reservoir surrounded by mountains. You have been tasked with draining the massive body of water away to repopulate the area. But once the water has gone you are faced with the former town that was initially flooded and the now wrecked buildings which need to be pulled down. Call several construction firms. People have been fly tipping here for years. There is tons of rubbish here. You will need help to clean the area up. There are corpses wrapped in carpet and chains. It was the ideal place to dump bodies. You’ll need to call the police and the coroner’s office. The press are on their way. 

There are rotten and half eaten animal carcasses that need to be cleared up and disposed of. Environmental health need to be involved.You have never seen so many mangled shopping trollies, broken children’s bikes and unwanted cars.The clearance job will be massive. There are burst canisters of toxic waste that have long since leached into the ground. It will be years before you can do anything with this land. The water was merely the stuff that was making this area look picturesque. What you have left in its place is an area of outstanding natural horror. It probably feels like you should have left well enough alone.” 

For more details contact John Doran or Mark Pilkington

Support from performance poet and comedian Louise Taylor: "You Can't Cook a Poem Like an Egg!". More info at