Alex Marsh came a long way from being a member of the unknown and unsuccessful rock band ‘Wildebeeste’ to become a bowler / chicken keeper / househusband in rural Norfolk. He revealed all in his autobiographical book Sex and Bowls and Rock and Roll. The original blurb stated: “He hoped he’d die before he got old. It didn’t quite work out that way.” We were curious to hear more about how he swapped his rock dreams for village greens.
CBF: For a city boy you adapted amazingly well to living in the country. What tips would you offer anyone dreaming of chucking in their job and heading for the rural life? What do you miss most about city life?
Alex Marsh: My main tip would be to try to get a better Plan B together than I did, as my plans really stopped at A, and that probably wasn’t sensible. The thing I miss most? This is very sad, but honestly – having a pile of menus of different sorts of foods in a drawer in the kitchen, and knowing that you can pick up the phone and a man in a moped will turn up half an hour later with something nice. Having said that, one of the ‘last straws’ for moving out of London was when our moped man was mugged and my curry was stolen.
CBF: I really enjoyed reading about your and Short Tony’s adventures in chicken keeping. Did you really not know that chicken’s could fly and what else have your chickens taught you?
Alex Marsh: Thank you! It was less ‘not knowing’ than ‘not really thinking about it until it was too late.’ Chickens are – ummm – well they do teach you quite a bit about recycling. It is a joy to scrape your plate, knowing that your leftovers will be converted into delicious eggs, via the medium of hen.
CBF: I remember in my teens that bowling shoes were very fashionable. What would it take for Bowls shoes to shake off their ‘deeply, deeply unfashionable’ reputation? Is there any hope for fashion adopting any other aspects of bowls clothing?
Alex Marsh: Geek-chic has, of course, become popular. NHS-style specs, etc – I even saw on my last visit to London that the cardigan was back ‘in’. But I think that it would take a seismic shift for the deeply, deeply unfashionable bowls shoe to become fashionable. Perhaps if some celebrities became interested in the game…
CBF: Sex and Bowls and Rock and Roll is a book about learning to love the life you’ve got rather than the dreams you left behind. If you were given the chance to go back and pass on some useful lessons to your 20-year old self, what advice would you offer?
Alex Marsh: Yes. That’s a lovely summary. I would probably advise myself to cut my hair, as my haircut then was the hair equivalent of the deeply, deeply unfashionable shoe. Perhaps I would ask myself to slow down a bit, and savour the joy of watching the world go by?
CBF: How does your wife put up with you and what does she think of you getting published? Did she get jealous about your crush on the Veg Box lady?
Alex Marsh: Yes. Ah. You would have to ask her that, probably. She is… ummm… she is obviously very close to the subject material and is a little touchy about it occasionally – she hasn’t the distance to fully appreciate that the joke is (hopefully) always on me. The Vegetable Delivery Lady and I never consummated our relationship. It was like Brief Encounter, but with celeriac.
Alex Marsh: They all seem to love it. From the early days of keeping a blog I had a strict ‘never say anything about anybody that I wouldn’t say to their face’ rule, and I would advise everybody to follow suit. Nobody has objected (that I know of). Short Tony is sometimes taken a little aback, as people who’ve met him have expected him to be very tall – like ‘Little John’. But he is minuscule.
CBF: Are the dreams of rock and roll stardom now buried forever, and if so what new dreams have taken their place?
Alex Marsh: I would like – I would love – to be in a band again. I have, I think, got over a lot of the stage fright that I wrote about, and a lot of that is learning to be a bit more relaxed about failure. So I will, one day, do this again but with more realistic expectations about the future.
CBF: Do you have any more books in the pipeline?
Alex Marsh: I will write another book. But it won’t be autobiographical. I used up the best bits of my life in Sex and Bowls and Rock and Roll and don’t want to do a diminishing returns thing… but I have been floored by some of the nice things that people have said about this one. So I’d be stupid not to write something else to see how it goes….
Thanks to Alex Marsh and koshkha for making this interview for Curious Book Fans.
You can catch up with Alex on his blog Private Secret Diary or Twitter @JonnyB.
You can read full review of Sex & Bowls & Rock and Roll: How I Swapped My Rock Dreams for Village Greens by Alex Marsh here.
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