Saturday, March 11, 2017


I don’t remember a great deal of my early childhood but something that sticks with me is my mother arguing with my father about a household health and safety issue.

One that involved my early death.


My father was a working-class man living in the North-East of England in the 1970s. A man of his calibre would leave the house before I woke to do manual labour all day and then spend his time in several public-houses propping-up several bars until they closed at which point he would go home fully expecting his dinner or ‘tea’ to be on the table.

As a child I would be stood on the windowsill of my bedroom with my hands at the top of the window hoping for a glimpse of my father as he came home at midnight.

Double-glazing did not exist at that time. Leaning on a window could cause it to break.

My mother ‘pointed-out’ to my father that this was quite dangerous. I don’t recall the conversation too well but I knew that she was saying that if he came home at a sensible hour and spent some time with his son I would not risk my young life just to witness him stagger up the path to our front door.

I don’t know how that conversation went but I do know that my father hammered some bars of wood over the inside of my window.

The wood was untreated and wasn’t pleasant to the touch – I’ve no idea which of his friends he’d got it from or indeed where he’d sourced the hammer or the nails. But I remember the hammering and that it was a weekend before twelve in the afternoon when the public houses opened. And I remember my bedroom having bars on the windows.

Lateral thinking at it’s best. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

I Solve A Mystery.

The envelope is good quality, stamped  and has been beautifully written in a hand I half-recognise. I'm not familiar with the post-mark.

The street-name is similar to mine and the postcode is incomplete. It’s addressed to a Mr. D. Surname.

This feels familiar. I look-up the street-name on the envelope – it doesn’t exist.

“Bugger this” I think and open the envelope, aware that I am committing some sort of ‘thing’.

Inside is the flimsiest of of those 'self-published' greetings cards, with feasibly the worst Warhol-wannabe bullshit print upon it. The publisher has plastered “Happy Birthday Day Danny” in the most basic font across the worst area of the most dreadful attempt of ‘art’ I have ever seen.

Within is the handwritten message –

“Wishing you the best

With love

Dad & Fleur


(Fluer’s artwork) “

I study this for a while. We’ve all received cards like these – cack-handed attempts at artistry from imbeciles sponsored by partners/parents who are blind to their every failing.

I’ve even sent them. Good quality Christmas cards illustrated by my seven-year old son featuring a young, beardless Santa brandishing a burning golden sword toward a supplicant bearded older Santa discarding his gloves in defeat into a pile of Christmas debris. Another illustrated by my ten-year old daughter involving anime-style reindeer and dolphins because why not.

Obviously they were actually really good. I wouldn’t have sent them to people otherwise. This is something different.

I look at this card. “From Dad & Fleur”. The ‘Dad’ in question is obviously proud of ‘Fleur’ and the recipient is not a child. ‘Fleur’ is not the recipient’s mother. Or any other direct family member.

I look at it some more. And I’m not sure what the story is.

But I do know that if I had a sister so uninterested in my life she couldn’t be chewed to remember the family surname and who thought a cheque was a genuine gift I’d not be happy.

And if I had a father so dreadfully passive-aggressive he would send me the tablature for the worst songs on earth and then also send appallingly-cheaply made examples of his new wife’s lack of artistic talent to an address he couldn’t even be bothered to verify then -

I’d have disappeared off the face of the earth as well.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Aaah, More Work ‘Frieend’.

“Yeah why not” I reply to the skype message, because I work in the sort of business where people communicate in that manner despite sitting ten feet away from each other.

I don’t particularly ‘fancy a beer’ with Counterpart or anyone else but I’m trying to be nice. So long as he doesn’t start banging-on about his dead kid again.

Counterpart: It’s nice in here yeah? Beer’s ok as well. So. I’ve been on Tinder and that…

Some time passes.

Me: Right. Why? What is that? Is it a sex thing or something?

C: Nah not really it’s just a hook-up you know?

I don’t know, but I’m just glad we’re not talking about his dead kid.

C: Just to see if I’ve ‘still got it’…

I start laughing. Then look at his face. He’s being serious.

Me: Oh. Sorry. Ok.

C: You’re not exactly a film star you skinny twat. So anyway I start seeing this girl...she’s no looker or anything…

He shows me a picture on his phone of a beautiful young woman.

C: But, y’know… we’ve been out a few times and I’ve seen her and her son when me and my daughter had some free time and her mother didn’t know…

Me: [Head reeling] Err, do you think that’s really…

I’d much rather be at home and I don’t really want to hear about someone committing sort-of-adultery whilst making his daughter borderline-complicit. At least he hasn’t mentioned his dead kid.

C: …but I’m thinking I might not be so fond of her as just want to be with her son. You know? Because of what I’ve lost? You know? I’m thinking I might only be seeing her because I’m falling in love with the son I had who never lived.

I finish my drink and stare at the wall. A long night beckons.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Ghost Of Christmas Past Part 2

By definition, you don't really see a crisis coming. Certainly not a mental and/or emotional one. They tend to wear the most nondescript clothing.

Dinner at my mother’s house has become something of a ‘thing’ each Thursday. I’m not sure how it started but it punctuates the week and it’s always good to catch up with her news of the allotment committee.  

After which her husband and I discuss the world in general over too many drinks in the conservatory whilst my mother makes dinner.

We all have a chat and a drink first. The subject skirts around upcoming yuletide festivities.

Mother’s Husband: …But that was a funny Christmas morning last year though, eh?

My ever diminishing number of regular readers will remember that last Christmas I met and spoke to my father with whom I’d had next-to zero contact in nearly thirty years. We had a pleasant chat with the result that I felt rather content for the bulk of this year.

Mother’s Husband: Your Dad turning up! And he DIDN’T EVEN RECOGNISE YOU! His own son!

Me: What?

My mother gives her husband the sort of 'look' I’d grown accustomed to in childhood.

Mother’s Husband: [Quite drunk and not noticing The Look]: Yeah! After he’d been chatting to you he came into the kitchen and asked your Aunty H  “who that bloke was in the sittng-room” he’d just been talking to! Amazing.

My mother kicks her husband’s calf. He notices THAT, looks at her and then at my face.

Mother’s Husband: Oh.

I light a cigarette in silence.

Some time passes.

My Mother: It’s lasagne tonight.

Me: Sounds great, thanks.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Ahh Work ‘Friend’.

It started fairly innocuously. After a mere six weeks at my new job I am promoted and become the manager of my new colleagues. This causes some consternation amongst some, many of whom have worked at the company for years. Stuff them. Empathy is not one of my ‘big things’. My counterpart in another department is also bumped-up. After a couple of weeks he feels we should go for drinks after work and ‘discuss things’.

For the first hour or so things are fine. We discuss work like normal people. And then things get a bit ‘not my area’.

Counterpart: I’m so committed to this company. That’s why I’m staying here. My wife is moving away you see. For her work. Taking our daughter with her. For her job. She’s doing really well.

Me: [Unsure of how we got here] Oh. Mmm.

Counterpart: I’m not worried. They’re my life. I know she’ll be loyal.

Me: Ok.

Counterpart: [Showing me pictures of his daughter on his phone] It’s all for her.

Me: Totally. [I glance at a photo of him and his daughter looking happy] Erm. Are you sure you’re making the right decision? I’m quite a stubborn man myself and looking back on some things…

Counterpart: I know she’ll be loyal. She isn’t ‘that sort of person’.

Poor bastard I think to myself.

Me: Right.

Counterpart: We had another baby you know. Before. He didn’t make it.

Oh for fuck’s SAKE I think to myself.

Counterpart: He lived a month and a half. We named him.

He tells me the name. He shows me pictures on his phone. The child is full of tubes. He looks like a fucking cyborg I think to myself.

Me: Mmmm.

Jesus Christ, I think myself. I just fancied a drink. I didn’t know I’d have to deal with some 'dead kid and impending marriage break-up' nonsense.

Counterpart: We haven’t slept together in two years though but it’s not that sort of relationship.

Oh for God's sake I think to myself.

Me: Anyway my bus is in ten minutes so…

Counterpart: Oh mine too! We get the same one!

Me: [unaware of this] Splendid.

He tries to hug me when he reaches his stop. We settle on a firm handshake

Monday, September 19, 2016

New Job.

“I hope things have gone alright.” I think to myself as I leave the plush building that houses the company that I now work for.

It’s the end of my first week. It’s important to make the right impression and to ensure that people feel they can successfully work with you. I hope I have done so.

I reach into my right-hand suit pocket to take out my cigarettes and a lighter. As I remove my hand a shower of at least two-dozen PostIt notes drop from my pocket and drift down the street. Instinctively I scamper to collect them.

My new office is on one of the biggest ‘party’ streets within one of the biggest ‘party cities’ in the north of England.

I grab one PostIt. Upon it is drawn a massive cock-and-balls. Without thinking I collect a few more. They feature similar illustrations. A theme is emerging. I become the recipient of some cheers from early-evening revellers who have also observed this thematic street-theatre.

Discarding my quest to collect the rest of my stationary-based gifts I get my bus home and review the remainder of the PostIts still in my suit-coat pocket.

Some are rather throw-away although some feature the classic three droplets of spurting ‘liquid’. A few even have hairy balls. One in particular features nothing but the word ‘PENIS’; obviously in case I were in any doubt as to what the other illustrations represented.

“Things seem to have gone well.” I think to myself.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

I’ve Got To Find A New Job.

Tom The Accountant: I’ve no idea why Boss has even asked you to speak to me about this. I’ve no idea. Only he could have done this.

I’m at work and am angry. Not your low-level ‘oh I’ve put the recycling bin out but it’s actually refuse collection day’ angry but actual laser-guided cut-glass steely-cold ‘don’t even look at me funny I will kill you’ angry, the sort of anger that would frack gas from the core of the planet without all that need for chemicals and such.

Tom The Accountant knows it and knows it’s ‘well above his pay grade’ to deal with a swivel-eyed skinny madman who looks like he is about to get himself in the news.

He wisely tells me he’ll ‘look into it’.

Ten minutes earlier:

Me: [Brandishing my payslip, which has had twenty-five percent of my salary deducted under the heading of ‘sick leave’ despite my not being unwell in the past month] Explain this. Now.

Boss: [Rattled, one eye desperately looking out of the door of the meeting room] I’ve no idea. I can tell you’re really angry –

Me: Angry isn’t the word.

I could turn the office upside down with a glance. I’m beyond anger – a place where I’m so eerily calm a mere look could take someone’s head off.

Boss: The fact is I don’t know. You’ll have to speak to Tom The Accountant about it.

Tom The Accountant is employed by the shadowy venture capitalists that fund Boss’s company.

Me: I will. As he’s here today.

Boss: [Suddenly panic-stricken, clearly forgetting that today was the day that Tom actually comes into the office and is in the next room] Oh, erm, yes. Ok.

Some time passes.

I’m again in the meeting room with Boss.

Boss: [ Having had a few minutes to regain some calm but still rattled by my thousand-yard stare] I may seem like a hard boss but I’m actually a good guy. I mean, all this –

He makes an expansive gesture to take in what I assume to be the whole enterprise which once consisted of a mere twelve employees and now consists of only Unfeasibly Young Zac, Methodical Mike and I, the xbox 360 that is kept in a cupboard and only taken-out to show strangers what a ‘fun’ company we are and the coffee table he has from the local charity shop ‘on trial’.

Boss: - may make me look like some sort of Alan Sugar-type but I’m actually ok. So I’ve paid you your salary short-fall out of my own pocket. Because I’m good like that.

The next morning I send him a text message from my mobile phone.

“Good morning, it’s me. Shan’t be returning to work. All the best for the future.”

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Young Writers.

Indulge me. Young Writers run – amongst other things – writing competitions which are often taken-up by the English departments of schools nation-wide. Recently the theme was ‘spooky stories’. Favourite Daughter’s school was involved, and OF COURSE her entry was chosen for publication. A tale that had to be told in ONLY ONE HUNDRED WORDS. It was published in a book entitled Spine Chillers that people can ACTUALLY BUY. It’s got a BLOODY ISBN NUMBER AND EVERYTHING!

Her tale is below.

Dead, Alive or Insane?

I see spirits. Remember being an infant in bed with heartbeats pulsing thick beneath you? Or them reaching out from your ceiling, hair wringing their necks? It was real for me. I was left in an asylum before I could remember. I could see the corpses in every room – how they died. Spirits stay. Why won’t they leave me? The birds caw like victims. Fog rolls. ‘I’m sick of it. Kill me.’ OK. I don’t know if I’m here or insane, but it’s dark, I’m motionless. I hear spectral laughter, it won’t stop. Is this my waiting punishment for killing?

Reading, Writing and Stories.

It’s another Father’s Day and I sleep late. I feel I’m owed it after a long working week following another - the bulk of which was spent in a strange city in an unfamiliar apartment with colleagues I eventually dreamt of murdering. But that is another story.

I have oven-chips for breakfast because I can and spend the bulk of the day in my pyjamas for the same reason. I open the Father’s Day cards that have arrived in the post on time in the first instance I can recall.

I drink tea and smoke cigarettes and stare out the window. After finally dressing and going to the shops I re-read the story my daughter wrote. And then finish reading the graphic novel I’d bought as a treat for myself whilst hanging-out in the local comic book shops with my son and daughter to feed their manga obsession when they visited only two weeks previously. The memory makes me chuckle recalling their laughter when I tell them a story one of my employers related to me about his language problems whilst living in Japan. But that is another story.

I speak to sister on the phone and we tell each other stories before finishing the story I’m reading and think about the novel I’ll almost certainly never begin.

Then I write this.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Conversations With My Boss #3

I am once again alone in the office. I am beginning to despise Methodical Marketing Mike and Unfeasibly Young Zak who have once again left me alone in the office with our boss.

He is – as usual – behind the ridiculously large screen of his Mac wearing earphones and watching youtube videos but I know it’s only a matter of time. Time that he saves for me, for some reason.

His head moves from behind his screen.

Boss: [One eye staring sternly at the server room but the other staring at me] There was a phrase when I used to run a recruitment firm in London….

I’ve checked with Companies House. He never ran a business in London. He ran a recruitment firm in the north-of-England city we’re currently in. By ‘run’ I mean ‘into the ground’.

Boss: …which was “Never pitch the bitch”. London. I don’t like the phrase. It’s SEXIST.

I stare at him in silence. I have things I need to be doing.

Boss: But in a way it’s true. I’d never sell to women.

Some time passes.

Boss: Or Pakis.

Some more time passes. I stare at his good eye without blinking. My brain does cartwheels in my skull.

Boss: They’ve got ulterior motives. All of them. 

“I’ve got to find a new job.” I think to myself.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Conversations With My Sister #2

Some time ago.

My Sister: Have you bought a bin yet?

I realise that it’s going to be one of ‘those’ conversations.

Me: What?

MS: You know.

Me: [Lighting a cigarette and feeling weary] I really don’t. I’ve got a bin.

MS: For the bathroom.

My bathroom is used for a number of very key functions in my life – household refuse disposal is not one of them. I frown at her.

MS: The children. Favourite Daughter?

Me: [Exhaling a plume of cigarette smoke] And?

MS: She’ll be coming to stay with you soon?

I shrug. These are established facts.

MS: [After gazing at me for awhile] She’s thirteen now?

I stare at her some more. I know my daughter’s age. I don’t see the connection between that and the need for additional refuse receptacles.

We stare at each other a bit more.

Me: Oh. Riiiight.

My sister nods with a “fuck me, finally” look about her.

Me: I should probably buy a bin with a lid for the bathroom.

Friday, March 04, 2016

Conversations With My Boss #2

It’s a freezing cold morning here in the North of England. The office I work in has a temperamental heating system that has yet to kick-in.

My boss enters. It’s nearly ten o’clock. Early for him.

Boss: Brisk this morning. Days like this I’m glad of the heated seats in my Porsche.

He twirls the key-ring around his index-finger.

It’s an eighteen year-old 911. It cost less than a Ford Mondeo. The unopened letters from the car finance company are piling-up in his in-tray. But it’s still a Porsche and he still thinks it’s a big deal.

Boss: [Sneering at me] Does the bus you get to work have heated seats, Tired?

Me: No. No, it doesn’t.

He winks at me and goes to make a cup of the Marks and Spencer instant coffee that no-one else is allowed to drink.

“I’ve got to find a new job.” I think to myself.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Growing Pains #2

It’s just after Christmas. I don't see my son and daughter 'as much as I would like' so I’m overjoyed to be home with them after an eleven-hour round trip to collect them from their mother, who inconveniently lives four-hundred miles away. Of course, we’re in our local chip-shop. I'm not fucking making dinner after all that.

Chip-Shop Lady: Eeeh well was Santee canny ta yee pet?

My daughter looks at me with panic in her eyes.

Me: Was Santa good to you this year?

My Daughter: Oh. Right. Yeah. Totally spoilt.

She looks at me. I nod my approval. All is well and she receives some free stuff.

Some time later.

My children are on the upstairs landing of my house. I've taken a spare moment from removing tissue-paper from the pockets of their discarded jeans before I put them in the washing-machine.

Favourite Son: Is Daddy really going to make us watch that Stars Wars or whatever film with us?

Favourite Daughter: Dunno. We’ll just tell him he can watch it on his own and we’ll go shopping and have some lunch and get the bus back to his house if he’s still in the cinema. We do it at home all the time.

FS: Yeah. He’ll be all “Ok son”. With his accent.

FD: God it’s not as strong as most people around here. Remember that lady in the chip-shop last night? I had no idea what she was saying.

They’re unaware that a two-up two-down terraced house is not the place for private conversations. I go back to putting their dinner on plates.

And decide that maybe they’re a bit too old for me to be still holding their hands when we cross the road.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Work Night Out.

Methodical Marketing Mike, Unfeasibly Young Zak and I are suffering. It’s a work ‘Christmas Do’. Consisting only of us and unwanted Boss.

Boss has given us each a Christmas card that contains a bonus £100 in cash. It’s out of character and we’re surprised.

We are eating in an unbearable restaurant that serves mountains of smoked meat of doubtful provinence on metal trays – without plates – accompanied by big glasses of beer in handled glasses that inexplicably have jam-jar tops making them almost impossible to drink from. It's the choice of our Boss, as it's cheap and he believes it to be 'hip'.

I’m already irritable and the clientele of twenty-something men sporting full beards, immaculate side-partings, sleeve-tattoos and check-shirts loudly discussing the forthcoming evening’s “bants” is not helping.

We retire to a nearby bar for cocktails as beer is no longer an option - all of us feel sick and bloated following our consumption of tourist-bait hipster food. Boss has to return to the office for ten minutes to check ‘something’.

We decide to ‘do one’ and lose him, because we have become fifteen year-olds again and that’s what we now do. We're not proud of ourselves but the man is unbearable.

Boss rings Zak who promptly bottles it and reveals our location. MMM and I are furious. After a while Boss joins us.

"Trying to lose me were you?" He loudly says, jokingly.

Silence reigns. Zak, Methodical and I glance at each other, our shoes and our phones.

We stand with Boss and look out of the window of the bar and watch a Twix wrapper float by and discuss the outrageous changes in confectionery prices over the years until Boss finally goes home out of sheer boredom and the three of us begin to enjoy ourselves.

Come January we examine our pay-slips and discover the £100 wasn’t a bonus and had merely been a cash advance that had been deducted from our normal salaries - money we could all have made use of after Christmas.

“I’ve got to find a new job.” I think to myself.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Black Hole.

April last year, and my son and daughter are staying with me. What is of special significance is that it is my son’s birthday. He NEVER stays with me on his birthday so this is a big thing. Fuss is made. My mother, brothers, sister and I make a big deal of it.

And it’s great. But I’ve something more up my sleeve.

The Black Hole was the first film I ever saw at the cinema. I was taken there for my birthday. It was bloody amazing. It was in space and everything. There were robots. And a gravitational anomaly. It was superb.

I explain this to my son, and that I’ve bought the DVD of the film so we can watch it together, what with it also being his birthday. I think that this will be a significant father-son bonding moment he will always remember. Favourite Daughter has a pre-teenage ‘thing’ of disappearing to her room and not emerging until she’s hungry or thinks something may be happening without her. So we have the living-room to ourselves.

He glances at the front of the hard-to-find DVD case and methodically examines the back of it. He then hands it back to me.

Favourite Son: Nah. You’re ok.

I'm devastated.

Some weeks later I recited this story to my Mother as a tragi-comic tale.

She explained to me that I must have imaged the whole thing and that no member of my family ever took me to the cinema to see that film.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Conversations With My Boss.

I’m at work. Methodical Marketing Mike and Unfeasibly Young Zak have gone on their usual lunchtime burrito quest leaving me alone with my boss.

It was once a bustling small office with ten people. It’s not now.

In the awkward silence my boss mutely and invisibly resides opposite my desk behind the unfeasibly large screen of his Mac wearing earphones and watching youtube –as he does all day in the rare hours he deigns to come into the office.

I have a tiresome business telephone conversation.

Me: [Clanking-down the phone after the other party had hung-up] Prick.

Boss: [Not as involved in youtube as usual] Had that client actually hung-up?

He fixes me with his best steely gaze. Or he does with one eye. The other one gazes at the door of the server room. It sort-of ruins the overall effect.

I look at the eye directed at me.

Me: Of course.

Boss: Let me tell you a story. Some years ago – I was running a recruitment firm in London – I had an executive who thought he’d hung-up on a client and called her a bitch. She heard. I had to fire him. She was a good client so I had to go over there and eat her out.

I say nothing but stare into what I believe to be his good eye.

He shrugs and makes a ‘harumph’ noise and grins.

Boss: That’s not true of course.

I continue staring.

Boss: I actually had to go the whole way and fuck her didn’t I. Bloody good client.

I say nothing. He says nothing more but gives me the double-gun air-fingers and disappears back behind his monitor.

“I’ve got to find a new job.” I think to myself.

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.