Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Ghost Of Christmas Past.

I’m in the back-seat of my mother’s car. It is nine o’clock on Christmas morning. She, her husband and I are driving to see my youngest brother, his wife and their two sons for an hour.

It’s their turn to spend the day with the family of my brother’s wife.

My Mother: Mind, your Aunty H may drop in as well, but your Dad won’t be there so it’s alright. Your brother asked him along but he said “Whey I’m tae busy for that, man”.

Me: Mmph. Sounds about right.

I’m hung-over and disorientated by the light and warmth of the balmiest Christmas day on record. I’d been up late wrapping presents for my children – neither of whom I’ll see for another two days.

My Mother: You’re ok with H though?

Me: No problem.

Save for a brief confrontation at Younger Brother’s wedding five years previously I’ve not spoken to my father in over twenty-five years due to mutual astonishing stubbornness and animosity. I don’t expect to see him ever again. His sister – my Aunt H – and I had ‘words’ at the same event but parted on good terms.

We arrive at Younger Brother’s house and exchange gifts with all concerned, including my nephews who, despite not being old enough to speak, are ridiculously charming and handsome. Tea is offered and I sit and amuse the children in lieu of doing so with my own.

My mother looks out the window.

My Mother: Ah here comes Aunty H. Oh…

A moment later.

My Mother: Aaand your Dad.

My younger brother freezes. His wife looks at me in horror. My mother – who has not seen my father in far more time than I – does not look content. Her husband – who has never met my father – does not look like he is having his ideal morning.

Me: [Clapping my hands and rubbing them together whilst putting-on my best ‘game face’] Well. THIS will be FUN.

My mother, her husband and my brother’s wife discretely retire to the kitchen. I entertain my nephews alone in the front room. My father walks in, sees me and stops dead.

Me: Merry Christmas.

I’m smiling. After a split-second my father's shoulders relax and he grins at me.

My Father: And to you.

He sits down on the sofa opposite the armchair I’m in.

My Father: Aye I’m bliddy shattered me, like. Up till four this morning.

Me: Christ, what were you doing?

My Father: Y’knaw, wrapping presents and that. The young’uns didn’t even get to bed till midnight so by the time we’d had a chat and a bit cup of tea and wrapped presents and stuff….

Me: Yeah I was up late doing the same for my children. I’ll see them in a couple of days.

His hair – which was always grey – is now snow white. I don’t know how old he is. Maybe in his seventies. He has a lady-friend who has grown children who still live in their house. As I discovered later. And we chat like normal people. Because it’s Christmas morning.

After awhile I go outside for a smoke. My father and Aunty H leave the house a moment later on their way to their own festivities and say goodbye to me on the front lawn.

My Father: Here. For the bairns.

He puts a bundle of cash into my hand. I check it later. One hundred pounds.

Me: Thanks J…[I nearly call him by his Christian name] ...Dad. I’ll make sure they have fun.

He nods at me and walks to his sister’s car. I put my cigarette out and walk back into the house.

Everyone looks at me.

Me: Well. That was odd.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Big Night Out.

It’ll be fine, I tell myself. Nothing ‘weird’ is going to happen.

Not having left my house in several days I’m rattled by the prospect of a ‘big night out’ but feel I’m coping. Admittedly the fact that the restaurant we begin the evening in is a converted nineteenth-century railway carriage is a bit odd.

This is not helped by the fact that the carriage rests adjacent to one of the city’s metro lines and whenever I go outside to smoke a cigarette and hear a metro train pass-by I briefly panic, thinking the completely-stationary restaurant is leaving town without me.

Smiley Lady: Hi, can you help me and my friends settle an argument?

We’ve retired to the outside drinking area of a nearby bar. My half-dozen all-male companions are at one side, a similar-sized group of women at the other, one of whom detaches herself to address us – choosing me as our spokesperson. She’s wearing a nice dress and a friendly smile.

Me: Yeah, of course.

Smiley Lady: Well, we were wondering – by the way actually, are you single?

Me: Well actually yes I am.

SL: Yeah we thought so. So anyway –

Me: Wait, what?

SL: We were wondering, when you’re with a woman – you know, like 'that' – do you all prefer anal or just the usual way?

Time stands still for a while. The traffic noise stops, the band inside falls silent.

Me: Erm. What? I mean…what?

SL: You know. Up the bum or in the fanny?

Me: Right. Yes. Ok. That’s what I thought you meant.

I look at my companions for support, all of whom have developed an intense interest in their shoes, watches and/or mobile phones. This one’s up to me. It’s a relief to be honest – most of them are close family and I don’t really want the feedback on this subject.

Me: Well, I, er, I’d have to say I was a vagina man.

There are general sounds of agreement.

SL: [smiling triumphantly] I KNEW it!

She goes back to her friends. There is much vigorous nodding of heads.

The conversation has not really gone as I had first imagined. I glance at my companions whilst rubbing the back of my head. Silence reigns.

Me: Well. Ok. Right. So. Whose round is it?

I briefly consider making a joke about a new superhero named Vagina Man but decide against it.

Some time passes. As one we have decided to move from beer to spirits. No reason.

Smiley Lady approaches once again.

Smiley Lady: I just wanted you all to know we were just having a conversation about how, if we had to re-populate the species, which one of you we would choose…

There is a murmuring of sudden interest.

SL: Oh but I’m not going to tell you!

She turns to leave, not before looking me in the eye, placing a conciliatory hand on my shoulder, almost-imperceptibly shaking her head and smiling sympathetically.

She and her friends leave.

My Brother: Fancy another drink, mate?

Me: Go on then.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Girls And Boys.

It’s Easter Half-Term and Favourite Son and Favourite Daughter are staying with me for a week, four hundred miles away from their usual home with their mother. We’re in an Italian restaurant discussing the film we’ve just seen at the cinema.

Favourite Daughter: [12 years old, sipping her drink] It was a lot better than I expected. I actually cried a bit at the end. Did you Daddy?

Me: I did. A little bit.

(Whether or not I cried at the end of a children’s film is not important to this story. Leave me alone.)

FD: [To Favourite Son] Did you?

Almost 10-year old Favourite Son is engrossed in his dining experience, methodically rolling his dough-balls in his dish of garlic butter so they are all fully saturated to his required standard.

Favourite Son: What? No. Why would you?

Favourite Daughter: [Filled with soon-to-be-teenage imagined sophistication] Because WE are in touch with our emotions.

Favourite Son sighs with the full weight of his soon-to-be 10 years, puts his perfectly-garlic-butter-saturated dough-balls to one side and picks-up my mobile phone from the table. He puts it to his ear.

Favourite Son: Hello? Is that My Emotions? Hi. Just want to say we’re not really speaking, ok? And I’m eating. Bye.

He puts my phone down, briefly glances at me and his sister and returns his attention to his food.

All is silent for a while.

My nicoise salad (oh piss off) came with far too much of the same baked dough that FS is currently enjoying. I ask if anyone wants any.

Favourite Daughter: No thank you Daddy.

Favourite Son: [Absently, not looking-up from his plate] Yeah. Whatever.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Falling Down.

Some time ago – I’m not great with the chronology on this one – and I’m at the bottom of my stairs like a discarded crushed cigarette packet.

I’m not sure which way up I am. Or what time of day it is. Or even what day it is. Or how long I have been there.

Attempting to move, I howl in agony. Genuine agony, not that ‘ouch, that hurts’ nonsense but the proper stuff.

To be honest it’s a bit blank for a while after that, but after some time it occurs to me that I need to be lying flat somewhere. Looking-back on it I know that only my most essential lizard-brain is working at this point and calling Accident and Emergency wouldn’t have even crossed my mind, although it should have.

Besides, finding my mobile phone would have been mentally and physically impossible at that point. Looking back.

I remember the ordeal of trying to get up the stairs to the safety of my bed. THE BED IS ALWAYS SAFE.

My right hand is fucked, I can’t put any weight on it and can’t move the fingers. My left arm is fucked from the shoulder down to the elbow. I can’t even move it. My lower-back is not doing so well. Using my legs alone I push my body back up the stairs, using my head to drag myself up each stair.

I’ve no idea how long it takes, howling in pain with each stair.

It’s blank for a while again, but I do remember being in the safety of my bed at some point, spitting-out teeth fragments.

Probably – at a guess – twenty-four hours later and I can’t move. I can’t even roll-over the pain is so bad.

Pieces come back. Some time ago I had successfully walked to the top of my stairs – which shouldn’t be a cause for celebration but you’d be surprised – and realised that everything was going wrong. It’s the only way to describe it. I remember that.

Some unspecified time later I remember realising it was about to happen and desperately flailing to grab the banister in time. Obviously I didn’t make it.

I know I went backwards down a flight of stairs with every muscle in my body in seizure and incapable of preventing it.

Forty-eight hours later – another guess – and I can roll over in bed; it causes agony but I can do it. I can’t sit-up. Try doing it without the use of your arms when your lower-back is screaming in pain. Try it.

Thirty-six hours later and I’ve made a cup of tea that I need both hands to lift. Another day after that I’ve managed to have a shower and get dressed. I have to move my left arm with my upper-right arm but I can do it. Another day after that and I leave the house and buy some food like a normal person.

And now. Some time after all of this. The bruises are fluorescent yellow and deep purple – they look like badly executed tattoos and cover the bulk of my upper-body. Everything still hurts but in a sensible manner. My lower-teeth are more jagged than previously but they never looked great anyway. I know it’d taken place in the morning and I was heading upstairs after breakfast to have a shower and get dressed.

At some point before all this I know I’d gotten tired of measuring-out my life in medication (T.S. Eliot reference if anyone wants it) and ‘being sensible’. I’d grown tired of feeling defined by anything, stopped worrying about when or what I ate, how much or how little I exercised or slept, what I did or didn’t drink (and how much or little) and the fucking massive orange tablets. So I’d stopped.

I’m a father of two. Yes – I know.

Anyway. As anyone who has ever read this appalling blog will be aware, I’m not much for this sort of thing but I think next week or some day this week is Epilepsy Awareness month or week or something. I don’t know. Google it – I’m not your Dad. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Unfinished Business.

“I am absurdly masculine” I think to myself, despite all physical evidence to the contrary.

I have just fixed my shower all by myself and am feeling very impressive, despite the whole process involving little more than unscrewing a knackered shower-head and screwing a new-one in it’s place. In my defence I had to figure-out this solution, source the replacement, successfully and correctly purchase the new shower-head without looking like a complete buffoon and then faff about fixing-it up.

Such things are not my forte.

But now it’s fixed, after my spending nearly two months showering under a lacklustre stream of kitten piss because I couldn’t be chewed to do anything more about it. I’d have just had baths but I’m not allowed for fear I may die doing so (a real thing) so I had little choice.

Additionally I finished re-reading Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy. I started it again to help me sleep, realised it really wasn’t very good but couldn’t give-up. But I slept.

This reduces my pile of reading material to Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell (terrible TERRIBLE author but signed by my grandmother and given to me by my mother who adores it) and We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler.

I finished watching - after several months – the fourth series of Homeland on VHS of all things (it still works for recording stuff), and adored the final episode. As a result found myself briefly falling-in love with the actress Claire Danes. This vanished very quickly when I realised I was actually in love with her character Carrie Mathison which is a VERY BAD THING.

This also wore off.

And also a lady with whom I’d become very fond of informs me she’d fallen-in love with someone else. I have mixed-feelings but am pleased for her.

My love of 1990s television show Moonlighting remained undiminished despite my inability to watch the final two episodes of the two-series box-set my mother bought me for Christmas two years ago. Oh it was just too good. I’ve not watched it yet.     

Additional to all of this I finally sort-out the SCART sockets/leads round the back of my telly/VCR/DVD/Freeview box.

An odd week.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

I Go To An Optician.

A small woman I do not know pushes her knee between my thighs and moves her face closer to mine. I can feel the jets of breath from her nostrils upon my face.

I’m unsure when I have last felt so awkward, unhappy and anxious to be somewhere else.

“Is this any better?” She asks.

It’s really not.

I have not visited an optician in nine years. My existing spectacles have one arm and the lenses routinely fall-out. It has become a Sisyphian task to keep them assembled long enough to watch thirty-minutes of television. Something I rarely do anyway but it’s not the point.

People being close to me, touching me or having their face near mine is not a favourite. My own mother, after the death of her father - my grandfather (obviously) - has recently become a ‘hugger’ after thirty-nine years of perfectly comfortable physical and emotional distance.

That’s bad enough. But this unknown young lady putting her fingers behind my ears and breathing her lunch in my face is intolerable.

“Any better?” She asks again.

I resolve to say ‘yes’ to anything she ever asks so I no longer need to be near her.

“How’s this?”

“How’s this”?  It’s like this : I’m in a distressingly unfamiliar situation, I’m about to be robbed of my routine short-sightedness which has been a source of comfort as I’ve not been able to see anything that may trouble me whilst enjoying the subconscious effect of not being able to see anyone too far away – as a result one’s brain assumes no-one can see you, it’s like having a superpower  - and I’m jittery and just want to be on my own.

I say none of this.

Three days later I have an uncomfortable pair of spectacles for the first time in years.

And realise I am due a haircut. Will this hell ever end?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine’s Day.

Eight years ago. I’m in a newspaper office. I do advertising-type stuff.

A client rings. She represents a ‘speed-dating’ company and advertise their events in the publication I work for.

Client: So yeah hi and ok, so, need some advertising for the next one and…well. You’re single, yeah?

Me: What? I mean…what?

Client: You just sound single. Always have. So the thing is...we’ve got this event on Valentine’s but we’re a bit short of boys. You know?

Me: Oh. Ah. Ok.

Client: So obviously we’re going to advertise as ever but erm… We could do with someone to make-up the numbers. Gentleman-wise. You understand?

Me: Ah. Erm…

Client: So you’re obviously alone…


Client: Oh GOD sorry. Have I got it wrong?


Me: Anyway. What are you saying?

Client: Well. You always come across quite well so wondering if you’d come. No charge, we’d pay for everything. We just need another body. Yeah?

I consider the fact that I have been recently abandoned by the mother of my children and now live alone and shall probably be spending the evening in question staring at the wall and wondering at what point I first started ruining everything. Or I could do this silly thing.

Me: Yeah. Ok.

Client: Cool. Any discount on your absurd advertising rates?

Me: I’m helping you out here. What do you think?

Three days later.

Client: Bloody hell! You actually did alright! You got some ‘matches’ and that!

Me: What’s that supposed to mean?

Client: Oh. Nothing. And the ladies running the event were so pleased you arrived so early and helped them set-up. Really appreciated the help.

Me: Yeah well. I hate being late for things.

Client: Totally. Totally. So, shame nothing went further for you...according to our records. Anyway. Another event coming-up in a couple of weeks. What can you do with your absurd advertising rates?

Me: Nothing.

Happy Valentine’s everyone.

Monday, January 26, 2015

A Woman Touches My Testicles.

Receptionist: … And when you’re finished with the doctor you can sit here and have some breakfast.

I glance at the ‘breakfast area’. It consists of cereal bars, porridge and various teas. I’d noticed a Greggs across the street. I know what I’ll be doing.

After a while I’m invited into the examination area of the local Private Healthcare office my employer pays for. It is a condition that I come here every six months.

The very nice doctor explains that she is about to give me a full check-up.

Doctor: Are you bothered by me taking blood – are you ok with needles? And do you mind if I stick my finger up your bum?

I’m not in love with people sticking needles in me to be honest. As such, it’s a given that I’m not fond of people sticking anything anywhere else.

Me: I’m sort-of used to it so I shan’t pass out or anything. I’ve had my colon checked [10 years ago but she didn’t need to know] so I’m fine without that.

She checked my height, weight and blood pressure. She calculated my BMI. She did a load of other things I don’t fully understand. She took some blood. And then some more as she spilt it over the floor the first time. And it hurt like hell.

The verdict is that I am absurdly fit and well. I begin to suspect she is not a real doctor.

Doctor: When’s the last time you checked for testicular cancer?

Me: Erm. [I’m assuming she’s referring to MY testicles and is not assuming me to be very philanthropic and have been checking random gentleman left-right-and-centre]. Dunno.

Doctor: Well I’d best have a look. Do you mind?

I’m confounded. I’ve already said ‘no’ to the ‘finger up the bum’ suggestion so it actually feels REALLY RUDE to say ‘no’ to anything else. And she’s been perfectly polite about the whole thing. I don’t feel I can do anything but agree.

Me: Em. Ok.

Doctor: Drop your trousers and pants – get on the couch.

Some time passes.

Doctor: Well. They’re fine.

Five minutes later I’m in Greggs with a bacon sandwich and a cup of tea.

“You’re damn right they’re fine.” I think to myself.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

I Make A New Friend I Instantly Dislike. As Usual.

I am bored so I go to the pub.

My Local Pub is closed until further notice for reasons I don’t understand so I go to the Rough Pub quite near me despite vowing I never would.

All is quiet.  I purchase a pint of Strong Drink and take a seat. I enjoy my drink without incident.

“Maybe it’s not so bad in here,” I think to myself. “Anyway, I’m off outside for a cigarette. I may actually come back here.”

I exhale a lung-full of smoke outside the door in the howling wind and freezing cold. A massive gentleman clad in t-shirt, trainers and tracksuit-bottoms comes out and, after several attempts, lights a cigarette. I ignore him.

Massive Gentleman: Alright, like?

Me: Mmm? Yup.

MG: Yeah. I’ve just got out of prison, me like. Y’knaw.

“Here we fucking go.” I think to myself.

MG: It was all a mistake.

Me: Yeah? [Deciding it’s going to be LESS trouble to actually engage with him]

MG: GBH wasn’t it?

Me: Right. [I am now thinking of the inside of my house, which is not filled with track-suit-clad radges convicted of Murder whilst claiming it to be Grevious Bodily Harm]

MG: Out of order. Really.

Me: Mmm?

MG: ‘Cos I’m schizophrenic. I was off my meds so you get blamed for everything…

I take another drag on my cigarette and think about how pleasant and not full of mentals guilty of murder the inside of my house is. I look my new friend up-and-down. He’s bloody enormous.

MG: Yeah. So I live with my Mum now. I’m on licence. I shouldn’t really be here, drinking. I knifed him. It was a knife I used on him.

Me: [Exhaling cigarette smoke] Mmm.

MG: I killed him because I thought he was a paedophile. But he wasn’t.

“That’s enough for me.” I think.

I go back inside, finish my drink, go home and vow never leave my house ever again.

Friday, January 02, 2015

An Odd Encounter With A Person Of No Fixed Abode.

I’ve finished work and am waiting for a bus.

Whilst waiting, I smile at the memory of an earlier conversation with one of my colleagues – a man almost half my age from Essex who fancied himself a Cockney (God knows how he found himself in the North of England – I believe a young lady was involved) – who had that day been educating me as to the phenomenon of being “Tobied RIGHT off”.

A “Toby” being a “Toby Jug” which is, of course, a “mug” – someone who has been taken for a fool or is not worthy of proper attention. If someone “Tobies-you off” they are fobbing you off - giving you the brush-off. They are treating you as a fool, unworthy of their time.

Such chatter is unusual in my neck of the woods and he’s amused me. Some weeks later we go our separate ways I am genuinely sorry to see the back of him, despite initially despising the cocky young buffoon.

Checking my watch I see my bus is due and begin to gather myself, noticing a homeless gentleman approaching. I sigh inwardly. I have about my person a bus-pass, no money and no valid life-advice.

He approaches me - straggly of hair and brandishing a dog on an actual bit of string.

Homeless Gentleman: I’m sorry to bother you sir, and I wouldn’t normally ask but could you spare…”

He pauses mid-sentence and looks me up-and-down.

HG: Do you know what? [contemptuously flicks his fingers at me] FUCK OFF.

The Homeless Gentleman swivels on his heel and strides-off with his chin in the air exuding an air of superiority.

My eyes and mouth are wide-open. I look down at myself. I’m wearing an ok suit and good shoes. I look around me. All nearby avert my gaze. I look after the Homeless Gentleman, striding-away like he has better things to do. I briefly consider chasing-after him and dragging him to a cash-machine.

I have just been MUGGED-RIGHT-OFF by a TRAMP!

My bus rattles-by and I miss it, so astounded am I by recent events. A person needs to take a good hard look in the mirror when even a gentleman who has NOWHERE to live, has NO FIXED INCOME and no means by which to WASH or do any of the things that HAVING A HOUSE usually involve will look you up-and-down and think:

“Nah. He’s beneath me. I wouldn’t even lower myself.”

I inform my young Pretend-Cockney Colleague of this incident the next day.

PCC: AAAaaaaah! You were Tobied-RIGHT off by a BEGGAR!! HOW BAD IS THAT!!!

 It amuses him to the extent that he attempts to fist-bump me. I’ve no idea what he is doing and we stare at each other, him with his fist awkwardly held in mid-air.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

My Grandfather.

My Mother: Shall we walk the dog down to the allotment together?

I blink briefly and agree. Something I’ve inherited from my mother – and she from her father – is an emotional distance. We've never really had a traditional mother-son relationship, being very close in age.

I hold the lead of her dog as we walk. We chat about nothing much and gaze across the valley, not acknowledging that this is odd. We get to her allotment.

As a child I would visit my Grandfather’s house every Sunday with my father and younger brother – post-divorce we’d stay with my Father in his rank bedsit, top-to-toe in a double-bed with sheets that had not been washed in living memory  - and have to get used to a couple of days of bad food, poor hygiene and the loneliness of pub lounges whilst our father drank in the bar with his friends.

We would then return home to our mother and her new husband who also drank and despised me. I dreaded that also.

Sunday was another matter. My Grandfather sang opera, painted, read, gardened, acted in his local amateur dramatic society, listened to Radio 4, played the piano and was the opposite of any man I’d ever known. And each week my father – who did this much – would take me to see him.

They were precious hours. In later life I would take the still very young Favourite Son and Favourite Daughter to see him of a Sunday and Favourite Son would inform his mother “Guess what Mummy? We went to the big house today!” And it was a big house, filled with art, books and peace. It was an escape, a refuge and was presided-over by an absurdly strong-willed man who constantly smelt of cigarettes, gin and learning.

“They call me ‘Great’ of course.” He would inform the family. They didn’t, but they couldn’t quite manage “Great Grandad” and he liked his version.

He was the only person who wrote to me when I left home for university – typewritten, signed by hand, naturally – the only man who took me to one side and offered me his wisdom before I did. But a cold, distant man who was also one of the funniest people I’ve ever met.

He was a frightening and impressive man who commanded every room he was ever in. There was always an easel in his front-room with a work-in-progress, a new piece he was trying to learn for the piano (he wasn’t very good to be honest) or something new he was trying to cook, his garden was an oasis and he was a joy to be around.

At this point he had died two days previously. Practicalities aside, we'd not spoken of it.

My Mother and I both gaze at each other for awhile. We smile at each other.

My Mother: Anyway. Shall we go back?

William Kemp 1915 - 2014

Saturday, December 06, 2014

“Previously, On ‘Tired Dad’…

A little over six months have passed since I last updated this foolish web-log (I hold the term ‘blog’ in some distain and will not entertain it) and – partially inspired by the excellent Belgian Waffling and her ‘forty updates over forty days’ thing – I have decided it is time to make some sort of effort myself.

Normal service will, therefore, resume shortly (ie: weekly, fortnightly or maybe monthly posts depending upon events and/or my mood) but it seems only reasonable to briefly update my no doubt now limited readership on the events of the past few months. So, in no particular order:

  • Made redundant by Evil Multi-National Media Corporation (last week in fact). People of my acquaintance have argued that if one decides to work for an Australian media mogul of limited morals then one gets all one deserves. They can fuck themselves.
  • Fell in love. With an actual real-life woman. Anyone who has ever met me will be unsurprised to hear that this did not end well.
  • Afflicted with a brief attack of labyrinthitis (look it up, I can’t be bothered to create a link.). Colleagues, paramedics and Accident and Emergency doctors all thought I was having a stroke. Not embarrassed to admit that I’ve never been so scared.
  • Also had a similarly dramatic epileptic episode in my place of work. Unsettled some people, but it did have a positive outcome. Unfortunately, I have also had more related incidents in the past six months than in any time since my diagnosis.
  • Have spent more time this year with my Favourite Son and Favourite Daughter than at any time since Tired Mam decided everyone’s life would be improved by moving four hundred miles away without me. “It’s been a ‘Daddy’ year” Favourite Son solemnly intoned whilst discussing this.
  • I do not normally give much time to Halloween but, as offspring were staying with me at the time, we had what they described as the “best one ever”.
  • Met Tired Mam’s new ‘fella’. He seemed alright, to be honest. Nodded his head a bit too much but nobody’s perfect.
  • Got my VHS video-recorder to work again.
  • Appalled by the fact that my now twelve-year-old Favourite Daughter has become – without any consultation – a Young Woman, resplendent with hips, bum, tiny waist, vest-tops and constant flirtatiousness.
  • My Grandfather died. Being a massively self-involved person, I didn’t realise until after his funeral that he was the only constant elder-male figure throughout my life and the only man I’ve ever looked-up to. I still haven’t cried.
  • Finally figured-out the SCART leads at the back of my television so I can have the VHS, DVD player and Freeview box all workable at once. I don’t watch television much but, you know.

That’s about it, I think. I can elaborate upon any of the above on request (aside from the ‘falling in love’ thing) – assuming anyone now reads this – otherwise the next update will involve an unusual encounter I’ve recently had with a gentleman of no fixed abode.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Old Skool And That.

Deciding to watch some television – for the first time in days – I switch on my ageing CRT widescreen television at the power socket. It promptly explodes. I actually leap away as it dramatically expires.

It really exploded.

I stare at it in the manner of a man who can’t actually believe that anything else in his life could go wrong. It’s been a difficult few weeks. I roll my head on my neck.

Twenty-four hours later and I am delighted. I’ve dragged the old 21” square black television from the cupboard under the stairs, wired all the SCARTs and the FOUR other cables that have no obvious purpose, put the big silver widescreen dead thing back under the stairs without back injury. These CRT things are heavy and I’m no Geoff Capes.

I watch an episode of Cheers in its intended aspect ratio. The colour depth is astonishing, the resolution is astounding. The bass and stereo is amazing.  I switch channels for a while just to see people without horizontally-elongated heads and to hear them as they were meant to be heard on my twenty-year old television.

Everything was fine the way it was. Really. Vinyl was better than CD. Old televisions are better than the new ones. Low-tech is the best.

I turn the television off, deciding instead to spend the evening reading. That’s as low-tech but also as cerebral as it gets.

I turn my Kindle on.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

An Aching Leg.

Not so long ago. I am sitting in my front room, reading. My Favourite Son and Favourite Daughter are staying at my house for a few nights, there are three toothbrushes in the toothbrush glass in my bathroom instead of the usual lonely one and I’m feeling ok.

It is nine at night and my children have been asleep for an hour.

The door slowly opens.

Favourite Son: I’ve got an aching leg.

He hasn’t even opened his eyes yet and is tousled of hair and rumpled of pyjama.

Me: Come here son.

I gather him in my arms, he tucks his head under my chin and puts his arms around my neck. He’s nine now and such spontaneous displays are becoming increasingly rare. We head upstairs.

Six or seven years ago this was a regular occurrence; to the extent that his mother managed to convince herself he had rickets or something. I finally worked it out – he was finding himself half-awake as we all often do, disorientated, alone, in the dark and wanting only the proximity, touch, warmth, familiar smell and the gentle warm breath on his skin of someone he loved and trusted beyond question before he could rest.

So he’d tell us he had an aching leg. And we’d rub it better and kiss him and hug him and he’d go back to sleep.

It’s been at least five years since he’s had an aching leg. Tonight he is four hundred miles away from his mother and their familiar home, sleeping in a bed he uses rarely. So I 'get it'.

I put him back down in his bed.

Me: Just lay there a second, son. I’ve got some Magic Cream that’ll be perfect for this.

I don’t think he buys the age-old ‘Magic Cream’ placebo thing any more than I buy the ‘aching leg’ nonsense but it’s an important routine. Returning from the bathroom with the Tiger Balm, I roll up his pyjama leg and gently massage a small amount in.

Me: It’ll feel quite warm but it’s great for aching legs, ok?

He silently nods his head, eyes still closed. I give him a small hug and tuck him in.

Me: I love you.

Favourite Son: Love you too.

I place a gentle kiss on his forehead, and return to my front-room and my book.

And smile to myself. I suppose we all get an aching leg from time-to-time.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Inappropriate Jokes And Massive Insults.

I am in the office, checking my emails in lieu of doing actual work.


I telephone the ex-Mrs Tired for one of the few times since she decided her life and those of our son and daughter would be considerably improved without me in it. (She usually calls me.)

Me: This school trip of Favourite Daughter’s is NEXT WEEK! I’ve just had the email from the school! I didn’t realise it was so soon – she’s only bloody eleven why the hell is she going to FRANCE on her own?

Her: She won't be on her own, it's with the school. And I think it’s Belgium actually…

Me: WHAT? We don’t even know what fucking country it is? CHRIST! We’ve both seen Taken…

As the words tumble from my five-foot-fuck-all eight-stone body I know I’ve misjudged things.

Her: WHAT! Why would you even think something like that! Why would you say it! What is wrong with you?

I belatedly realise that silence is my best option at this point.

Her: And I’ll tell you something for nothing – you're no Liam FUCKING Neeson!

It’s a valid point. And probably one of the funniest things she’s said to me.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Yet Another New Job.

Interior. Day. Office building of Evil Multi-National Media Corporation.

Me:..so yeah if you just cut the sprouts in half and fry them face-down without boiling the flavour is totally different.

New Blonde Colleague: Actually that sounds really good. I might try that. Maybe with a bit of garlic. And I'd probably use single cream...

New Blonde Colleague is no substitute for the original Blonde Colleague who has tiresomely decided to give birth and is no longer available for my amusement but she has become an immediate and close friend which is a bit odd for me.

Me: Sounds good. If I were to make it again I'd add some mushrooms...

NBC: Ooh yeah...

Me: Use pancetta though...

New Blonde Colleague is rake thin and eats like a horse and adores food, as do I. Also listening is New Thug Colleague, who is a skinhead, over-weight, plays bass in a punk band and is a massive Newcastle United fan. He has been surrounded by a predominately female working environment for some time and has been struggling with it.

New Thug Colleague: You know what Tired?

Me: Mmm?

NTC: When I heard you were joining us I couldn't wait to have another bloke here.

Me: Ok.

NTC: I hope we get one some day.

Me: Bite me.

It seems to be going well.

Friday, February 07, 2014

My Eight-Year Old Son, Ladies And Gentleman - The Writer. Below Is All His Own Work.

Death Valley 

Bridge squinted at the shimmering scenery in the distance, the desert sands seemed to stretch for a thousand miles. The blazing sun was slowly sinking and the night sky was creeping in. He pulled his flask out of his pocket and took a long, thirsty gulp of water.
“Rats,” he hissed. “I'm nearly out of gas.” He quickly scanned the arid landscape for a gas station, but all he could see was sand and the dry bones of desert animals.
Bridge slid down the side of his motorbike and sat on the cracked ground, thinking.
All of a sudden dust rose into the air. Bridge looked up, noticing a large truck approaching. He jumped up and waved his hands to let the drivers know he was there. The truck stopped and two men wearing sunglasses stepped out. Bridge held out his hand.
“Am I glad to see you!” smiled Bridge, shaking the bearded man's hand.
“We ain't got nothing better to do, we just spend our days in the desert. Always someone who needs help” he said slowly, staring at Bridge and holding up a container of gas.
“I'm Hank, this is Ray,” he added, pointing to the man next to him.
Bridge jerked his hand back from the shake; it felt cold and scaly. Both men removed their sunglasses, revealing shining violet eyes.
Bridge backed away and the guys knew that he thought there was something strange about them.
Bridge jerked his head around, searching; there was nothing.
Nowhere to run. No gas. 
Bridge slowly reached for the knife on his belt.
The men moved forward and each time their boots thudded to the ground, grey, mirrored scales swept up their bodies, swiftly transforming them from men to giant lizards! Their forked tongues darted from cave like mouths and knocked the knife from Bridges belt.
Bridge stared at the knife, almost defeated, it was too far to reach. Quickly, he grabbed his flask and squirted water in their eyes. As the lizards pulled back, Bridge grabbed the container of gas and splashed it over them.
He took his lighter from his pocket and lit the trail of gas dripping from the overgrown reptiles, WHOOOOOF
A ball of orange flames engulfed the scaly assassins.
Bridge ran to his bike as fast as possible and poured what was left of the gas into his motorbike. He swung one leg over his bike and... a flaming lizard grabbed his leg and started to drag him into the fire! Bridge dug his nails into the sand as he was pulled, but it was no use, he could already feel the heat burning through his trousers. He kicked his legs wildly trying to escape and put out the fire. He kicked the lizard right in the face and he let go. Bridge jumped onto his bike, he'd seen the last of them.

As he sped away the shapeshifters slowly regenerated back into human form, watching with their violet eyes.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Rocket Man.

Interior. Day. It resembles the waiting-room of a doctor’s surgery. A disorientated woman in her late-fifties wearing gardening attire enters and takes a number from the ticket dispenser. The number on the ticket reads ‘65’. She glances at the LED display above the reception desk. It reads ‘43’. She sighs and takes a seat, glancing around her in a bewildered manner. The other people seated do not look healthy. Some are bleeding.

After a moment or so a side-door opens and a wiry gentleman of perhaps sixty or seventy years of age enters. His grey- to silver-hair is swept back, he is wearing a plain t-shirt, jeans and sturdy boots.

Wiry Gentleman: You. Come with me.

Disorientated Woman: What? Me?

WG: No. The other woman I’m looking at and talking to. Yes, you.

DW: What’s happening? Where am I? A moment ago I was in my garden doing the weeding before winter set in…

WG: Look, I’ll not beat about the bush. It’s like this: you’re dead, aren’t you. This is the after-life. There’s a bit of a queue and they thought – you know, considering the circumstances – I should rush you in. [Eyes the seated people, the LED display above reception] Fucking bureaucrats. Justifying their eternal existence. Sheep.

DW: Wait! What circumstances? All I remember was doing the borders in my back-garden and looking-up to see this bloody great rocket hurtling toward my head…

WG: [Taking a glug from a can of Carling and then drawing on an oddly-fragrant hand-rolled cigarette before fixing her with a steely-blue gaze that many would find intimidating] Yeah. That was me. Me in the rocket. That did you in. It was decided it was ‘polite’ I do this for you. Come on [gesturing toward the side door] hurry in before the fucking lemmings get wind.


Five days ago (oh, this is me now) and I’m standing in a back garden. It’s a beautiful garden – my favourite kind; utilitarian, a place that produces; that grows useful stuff - things you can eat, things you can use - a man’s garden. A place to work, to drink, to smoke, to reflect. A place that brings satisfaction to whoever tends it. It boasts a tremendous view over one of Gloucestershire’s valleys.

There are loads of people milling around, some gazing with concern at the sky and the light rain it is sprinkling. Among them are my Favourite Son, Favourite Daughter, their Grandmother, their Uncle James and the ex-Mrs Tired Dad, Their Mother.

The garden is huge, and Uncle James is half-way down it, separated by some yards of electrical wire and a detonator from a three-foot tall model rocket. The rocket contains the ashes of his and of the ex-Mrs. Tired Dad’s father – my children’s Grandfather. Ashes I had escorted on my lap from the crematorium in the passenger-seat of his ex-wife’s car.

With the strains of Pink Floyd playing from the house behind us Uncle James pulls the trigger and the rocket shoots what seems hundreds of feet in the air before the payload detonates over it’s passenger’s favourite place in the world.

And then instead of descending straight ahead into the valley it veers to the right. Quite a lot to the right. And disappears over the roof of a neighbouring house into what can only be the back garden.

Bloody hell, I think to myself, I hope there was no-one out there.

John Bridge-Williams 1945 - 2013

Thursday, August 22, 2013


I approach the bar of the ale-house I have met some old friends in, slightly giddy with the odd experience of being neither in my office nor my home and of being surrounded by people I have a genuine fondness for.

Slightly Attractive Barmaid: What can I get you?

Me: A pint of Strong Drink, please.

I’m not entirely sure what ‘banter’ is. It seems to have a bad reputation. However, I’m feeling a bit excitable so decide now is the time to give it a whirl.

Me: Oh, and can I have it in a normal straight glass and not one of those vases?

SAB: You don’t like the chalices?

Me: No. I’ve quite small hands and the weight and balance feels weird and I always end-up spilling some.

She glances at me with professional polite dis-interest. I ‘up my game’.

Me: Plus, they look gay.

SAB: [Giving me a contemptuous look] I’d have stuck with the ‘small hands’ story were I you.

Me: [Warming to this now, resting my elbows on the bar] Well. You know what they say – ‘small hands, small…...’ Ah. Erm.

She gazes at me blankly and places my drink in front of me.

Me: *sigh* Sorry. Forget that. It didn’t work. I…erm. Thanks.

I turn to walk away with my drink.


Me: [Startled, slopping Strong Drink everywhere] Christ. Yes. Sorry.

Transaction complete, I return to the table of old friends – who have thankfully been out of earshot – and put my drink down.

Old Friend#1: [Cheerfully] Alright, then?

Me: Fuck off, will you?

I go outside for a cigarette. As I close the door I hear:

Old Friend#2: He hasn’t changed.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

I Nearly Die. Putting On My Trousers.

I am getting out of my mother’s car after the obligatory Thursday-night dinner at her house.

Me: So. Thanks. Oh and I shan’t injure myself whilst putting my trousers on again. Haha.

My Mother: [chuckling] I told M [M is her husband] about that –

Me: Why? When?

MM: Oh you were out having a smoke. He thought it was really funny. If you tell anyone, though, you must say it was one of your ‘episodes’…

Me: *sigh* Goodnight.

Two days previously:

I’m late for work but this as yet presents no immediate physical danger. I’ve kept my ablutions down to 10 minutes and am getting dressed.

I begin to put on my trousers. I have done this many times. I am getting quite good at it. I have no immediate fears for my well-being.

Time slows.

I plunge my right leg into my trousers. I have not cut my toe-nails in some time. I am single. If I were in a new relationship my toenails would be immaculate. If I were once again in a long-term relationship they would be as dreadful as they are now.

My ragged big-toenail catches-upon the lining of the right-leg of my trousers.

As any man owning well-tailored apparel will know, the lining of one’s trousers cease about half-way between the crotch and the knee. My toe catches there, takes hold and forces my entire body weight into the knee of my right-trouser leg.

This then sends my head hurtling toward the wall over my dressing table, propelled by the entire weight of my body and the effect of gravity also. I don’t weigh a lot, but it’s enough when it’s propelling your head toward brick and plaster.

I think all of this in the milliseconds that are to follow:

“Oh dear,  I will eventually be discovered, rotting, with my trousers around my ankles. People will think ‘Micheal Hutchence’ or ‘David Carradine’. I can’t have this.”

I imagine my children having to explain this to their friends in later life, perhaps at University or something, “So, they found him with his pants down?” They will be asked. They’ll just shrug and say that their mother left me “before all that”.

The local newspaper will describe me as ‘troubled’. Possibly a ‘loner’.

And time returns to normal and at the last possible instant I put my hand out.

The shock ricochets up and down my arm.

My right eye-socket – already circled with scar tissue – is millimeters away from the wall. I know from experience that had it been my face instead of my hand I’d be unconscious.

I flop back onto my bed and finish the normally danger-free process of putting my trousers on. I pick the flakes of paint from my hand – which had hit the wall with such force it had removed them from the plaster and lodged them into my palm. I stand up with difficulty – my hips had hit the top of my dressing-table and limited my ability to walk for days after.

Five minutes later, I get into the car of the colleague who kindly gives me a lift into work each morning. She notices my limp and the burst blood-vessels and blood-blisters on my hand.

Kind Colleague: Oooh! What happened?

Me: Oh. Nothing.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

So. This Bloke Tried To Bum Me...

It all started innocuously enough, as I imagine receiving an unwelcome and unwanted bumming attempt usually does.

Heading home after work I notice Ex-High School Friend about to get in a car, armed with takeaway food.

Me: Fuck!

EHSF: Bloody hell!

We’ve only seen each other a couple of times in the last twenty years.

Me: How are things you twat?

EHSF: Awful! My wife’s leaving me, I can’t remember the last time I saw my daughter and I’m back living with my parents!

Me: [Laughing with genuine delight at his misfortune] Brilliant!

EHSF: You?

Me: Oh you know. Other-half left me, took-up with an unworthy and lesser man then moved hundreds of miles away taking my son and daughter with her. I wasn’t invited. Oh and I've just had an MRI that showed I’ve got brain damage. You know how everyone used to say I was ‘fucked in the head’? Turns out they were right! We should have a drink sometime.

We shake hands and exchange mobile numbers and I go home. Ten minutes later I receive a text.

How about now?

He arrives a short time later armed with beer and vodka. We drink and talk and may as well still be in high school. He’s that sort of friend – the type you don’t see for years and it’s as if no time has passed when you do.

We call it a night at about three in the morning and he goes home.

(Yes, I know he hasn’t attempted to bum me at this point – this is just some back-story. Don’t worry – it’s on the way.)

A couple of days later - as his parents are away for the weekend - he invites me round to their house for some drinks. I accept, on the reasonable basis that I do not expect to be bummed at any stage.

We drink far too much for far too long. At some point we begin wrestling. Which is very odd. It’s not the sort of thing I tend to do of an evening. And at some point he is on top of me, I’m flat on my back on the floor, he’s much bigger and heavier than I and he is attempting to unbuckle my belt and unzip my fly.

At this point I should add that he may not have been trying to bum me. He may have just wanted to wank me off. Either way, if anyone is to spontaneously tug me off I prefer that person to be a woman. And I'd rather my bum-hole remained intact no matter what the situation.

With this in mind, I manage to get my feet under him and kick him to the other side of the room. Taking no chances I then put him in a head-lock, the inside of my elbow blocking his wind-pipe and carotid artery. Understandably, he struggles against this and three days afterward I still have the cuts and bruises incurred whilst he fought against impending unconsciousness.

It was llike that scene in Unbreakable where Bruce Willis confronts the kidnapper using the same method and is slammed around leaving dents in the walls and holes in the plaster-board. By which I mean an ashtray was kicked over. It was carnage.

Eventually he passes-out and I sit on the floor panting. After a little while the blood and oxygen flow to his brain returns and he awakes.

Me: [Experiencing the sobriety that comes with a sudden burst of adrenalin] Hi. So. Have you ever had any gay feelings before now?

EHSF: Not until tonight.

Me: I’m going for a wee.

By the time I return from the toilet he is unconscious again. I calmly finish my drink and put his half-full cigarette packet in my pocket.

It’s the least he owed me.

I limp home.