Nearlies of Sharjah, Free Word, British Council, Koln, Crouch End…2013

I nearly…compered at Pila Wayne’s party but when she rang I had got the plane back to the U.K. the day before.  (Pila Wayne is John Wayne’s widow)                                                                                             – John Row
I nearly.. opened the giraffe house at Chessington Zoo. There was going to be a photo shoot with the giraffe putting his head over my shoulder as I read (from my book) “Giraffes Can’t Dance”. But the giraffe was ill so it never happened.                                                                            – Guy Parker-Rees
Guesting on a radio show in Lawrence Kansas, the DJ phoned a local poet, Bill, to say I was in town. Bill had a cold, apologised, said he’d see me next time. Later I said to the DJ, “Bill who?”…”Burroughs”.                                                                                                                                                                                         – Nick Toczek

I haven´t really told many people about this, no idea why, it´s just been like that, dark as it is…but as a young art student of 23 in London during the mid seventies I was travelling to college one day on the District Line from Parsons Green to my destination South Kensington which meant changing trains at Earls Court. After minding the gap there, I entered the carriage and found myself facing the painter Francis Bacon who had just got in himself. We were both standing near the door and I noticed he was staring at me somewhat intently with those melancholic eyes set in that beefy turnip head of his. I of course recognised who he was (after all he was at the time one of my painting heroes) but he almost certainly had absolutely no idea that I knew who he was, so I returned his smile. This promoted a comment about how tall I was (standard observation here..I am after all very tall!)) followed by a quip about how he really liked the “John Lennon” glasses I was wearing and would I like to have a drink – tea or coffee with him in his studio, because he was a painter. Naive as I was, and nervous with curiosity, I decided to accept his offer in order to get to see where my artist hero worked. (I seemed to recall a few photos I´d seen of his studio in a book somewhere).

So I ended up walking back with him to his studio (I cannot remember exactly where it was now, I was so wrapped up in the fact I had met Francis Bacon and all that). Anyway, we got inside and went up a flight of rather steep and dirty stairs where he showed me the room (studio) he painted in. I remember the floor being thickly covered in squeezed out tubes of paint and fragments of ripped photos, newspaper and rags. The walls and remnants of curtains smeared with colour where he´d obviously wiped his hands. There were no finished or half-finished paintings in the room (unfortunately). He told me he was going to make tea and left me there to sit on a painted wooden seat. The iconic naked light-bulb hanging from the middle of the ceiling and the intense smell of turpentine and rancid oil-paint together with the claustrophobic atmosphere of the space really freaked me out. I started to feel as though I was in one of his paintings somehow, not a good feeling to be honest, my heart was pacing and the dark corridor outside became something like a Polanski film. I heard someone talking in another room and I panicked!

Without dramatising here, it really felt like a nightmare…so I rushed out, down the stairs and into the Mews outside. Point is, I still have no idea about what was nearly about to happen. Just tea? A talk about art after outing myself as an art student who recognised him (was I a fraud?) Some sort of sexual advances or whatever? Did he want me to model for him? (Oh really???!!.. Was I about to be nearly immortalized in a painting by Francis Bacon complete with screaming mouth and glasses??!) None of these things? Point is I will never know.

When I look at his paintings today, the memories of this experience come flashing back like a 3-D scratch and sniff coloured clip – there´s a very evocative song by the Honolulu Mountain Daffodils called “I Feel Like a Francis Bacon Painting” which somehow really sums up the experience I nearly probably had or maybe even not. Actually, I wish now I had stayed.

 – Andrew Clive Davies, Koln.

I can NEARLy… swim 100m in the pool! cool+true (Ruby age 8)
I nearly… beat Grace, Zoe, Millie, Rhiannon, Adrianna… Oh wait, I did!

I nearly… drowned in a whirlpool and got eaten by a crocodile
I nearly… became a member of the school council but I was outvoted by one vote by someone with a two letter difference in name.
I nearly.. threw out my grandson’s sweets this Easter thinking they were bits of old electic flex


NEARLIES from Twitter (hashtag #nearlyo) 28/3/13

David Pollard @davpol8112

I nearly… became PM but then I decided not to enter politics.

Mark Antony Owen @MarkAntonyOwen

I Nearly had a threesome with two bi-sexual women until one of them delivered flowers to the girl I was dating … and worked it out.

Imogen Forster @ForsterImogen

@ifbook #nearlyo I nearly electrocuted myself by leaving a drill on a wet floor.

NEARLY from the Arvon Jerwood Mentored Writers at Totleigh Barton, March 2013

I nearly…didn’t burn the wedding photos

NEARLIES gathered at the Free Word Associates Evening, March 2013

I nearly… got eaten by angry swans

I nearly.. drowned in the sea, but pulled myself out covered in blood and was patched up by nuns in an Israeli monastery

I nearly… very very nearly got run over by an orange Volkswagen beetle on my way to youth club when I was 6

I nearly… ran for MP. I was shortlisted in one constituency… and then I had a baby. So it became a plan for later.

I nearly…took cocaine in an Ecuadorian prison but thought better of it.

I nearly… didn’t come back from my gap year, volunteering in the Caribbean.

NEARLIES GATHERED at a seminar with literature activists from around the world held at the British Council, Spring Gardens, on March 8th

I nearly got married but was saved at the end.

No regrets at all.

I nearly… took a Masters course when I was 23. (I’m now doing a Masters course at the age of 36)
– Stephen

I nearly… ran off with a Kashmiri freedom fighter. Nearly moved to England to play county cricket.

I nearly… went to see Alice Walker at the Southbank this weekend, but decided to go to the Bath Literary Festival instead!

– @sisterkilljoy