Monday, October 09, 2017

I Kill A Dog.

“Oh my God I’m going to bloody kill that dog.” I think to myself.

Three weeks previously – myself and half-a-dozen residents of my terraced street and that of the parallel street are gathered.

The general consensus of the meeting seems to be that Something Has To Be Done. That seems sufficient for me.

A week later and still the unidentified dog howls. From seven in the morning until eleven at night. Including weekends. It’s not the howling as such – that reverberates around my house and that of every other person on my street – it’s the two seconds when the dog draws breath leading one to believe it has stopped.

“I work nights.” Says one man on the lane a week later when another gathering of the aggrieved takes place in the lane.
“I just get up again at nine. There’s no point with that noise. I’ve not slept in a month.”
“I’ve got two babies. We’re going mad.” Says another. There are now a dozen gathered. They don’t have pitch-forks but may as well have.
I’ve considered grinding-up a month’s worth of my epilepsy medication and whatever else I can lay my hands on and mixing it with a pound of mince and finding the bloody thing and feeding it to him/her if I could figure-out where the dog lived.
“It’s your landlord’s sister at number nine who owns it.” Says Tony Next Door.
I beam at the assembled masses.
“Leave it to me.” I say. I make a phone-call ten minutes later.
“I’ll have a word,” says my landlord “It’s been an ongoing thing and it’s causing a load of friction between her and her husband. That’s been why they’ve been putting the dog outside. It’s been tearing the house up when it’s alone if they leave it in when they’re out. They’re trying to find a new home for it. They had no idea this was happening. This has probably brought things to a head to be honest”
I believe the problem to be solved. I tell my landlord I can find the number of someone I know who has a re-homing service if need be. Imagining the high-fives and fist-bumps I shall receive on my way down the street the next day I go to sleep. It’s another day before I pass the phone number on.
“Thanks for the phone number,” my landlord texts me “but I fear it’s a bit late for this dog. They’ve had it put down.”

The street is very quiet.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Boat Trip.

The city I have an unusual love/hate relationship with offers boat cruises on the river that grew it, up-and-down the length of the city and under it’s seven bridges. As my Favourite Son and Favourite Daughter are staying with me for a rare few days I decide we should take the cruise. It’ll be ‘fun’.

We board the boat and take our seats. Curved Perspex glass serves as a roof and we’ve a table seat next to the windows. All is well, although eleven-year old Favourite Son is a bit jittery. He’s only ever been on a ferry before - which is essentially a small town with cinemas and amusement arcades and everything. This is a boat, and each swell of the river, each movement of the passengers, each change in the wind can be felt.

Favourite Son is terrified and we both know it.

A group of ‘boys on tour’ join the vessel. There’s about eight of them, all at least six-foot tall, reeking of testosterone and bravado. Their accents are from out of town – Essex by the sound – and they’re probably on a stag weekend. This city is a destination’ for such people.

They settle themselves.

“Is there a bar? There better be a bar mate.”

“Yeah there’s a bar mate, settle down.”

“This feels weird mate, it’s rocking about I don’t like it mate.”

“It’s fine mate don’t worry.”

“Yeah mate I don’t like it neither this isn’t right”

“Mate this is all over the place.”

“Mate settle down yeah”

The diesel engines start and the whole boat shudders. Favourite Son grabs and hugs me for the first time I can remember. I’d love to say I told him that a person can never be brave unless they are scared but I’m not sure I did.

The Boys On Tour are troubled.

“Oh mate this ain’t right”

“Mate see if you can talk to the guy. Get a refund or summink. I ain’t doin this mate. This is mental.”

“Mate I don’t even care about no refund. Let’s get out of here. This ain’t normal.”

They all disembark, reeking of fear. The cruise starts.

It’s a gorgeous day, the river sparkles, the wake we leave is hypnotic as we look back on it. The city is beautiful when seen from the water. There is a recorded history of the city narrated over speakers, a steward brings us tea and refuses my payment for reasons known only to himself.

We return to our starting point after a couple of hours. Favourite Son beams at me, seeming inches taller.


“Can we do this again?”

Sunday, August 20, 2017

I Step Out Of The House Into A David Lynch Film.


I haven’t been outdoors in some time for tiresome reasons. It’s already dark and snow is falling amidst the streetlights making everything seem a bit odd.

Needing the proximity of people I go to my local public house. It’s empty aside from the landlady and her tiny son who sits staring into a device of some sort and jumps and yelps strangely.

A man comes in.

The child jumps and yelps.

“Alright Tired?” He says.

“Are you well?” I say as a default. Fully aware, a split-second later, that his wife had recently died and I’d spent some time consoling his son on a similar subject a week ago.

“Oh, you know.” He shrugs.

The small child yelps and jumps. He has the face and gait of an adult man despite being about six years old. The place is silent otherwise.

I quickly begin to down my drink as an unfamiliar couple with a small dog enter. I just want to be somewhere else, go to the nearby ‘super’ market and return to the safety of my home. Rolling a cigarette, I go outside and am greeted by a regular with his own dog, which is adorned with LEDs.

We briefly say ‘hello’, I return to the bar to see the two dogs fighting – one of which is adorned with LEDs, the small child yelping and Whitney Houston wailing.

I finish my drink and touch the bereaved man on the arm as I put my empty glass on the bar.

“I meant to say that I’m sorry for your loss, but I’m pretty sure you’re sick of hearing it”

The child who looks like a man yelps and jumps.

“I am Tired, and thank you.” He says.

After negotiating the terrors of the bland super-market I make my way to the exit. I am stopped by a man a full foot shorter than me. I am not a tall man.

“How old are you? Fifty?” He asks.

It’s out of nowhere. I’ve not even raised my eyebrows at him. And I’m not bloody fifty.

“No. What? You?” I say.

“Me? No. I’m seventy. Going home. Read the paper [gesturing the morning newspaper] and that.”

He’s four-foot tall at best and is an old man in the body of a ten-year old. It is the strangest thing I have ever seen.

He turns and stares at the wall and does not move.

As I leave I glance back. He hasn’t moved and is still facing the wall.


Not for the first time, I vow never to leave my house again.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Doppelganger.

There’s an Easter family gathering at my Mother’s and it’s all getting hectic with children, dogs and cats.

My twelve-year old Favourite Son and fourteen-year old Favourite Daughter are staying with me for a rare week away from their home with Their Mother four hundred miles away. Also present are my sister, her beginning-to-crawl twins, one of my brothers with his toddler son and daughter and two cats, three dogs and three other adults.

I retire to the kitchen to escape the chaos and help my mother with dinner preparations. After a minute or two I return to the the living room.

For an instant Their Mother is there as she glances at me over her bare shoulder, raven-haired and her face – as it always is in repose – absurdly beautiful and looking as though she were plotting murder.

My tongue fills my mouth and tastes of metal and my brain feels too big for my head. It’s only a split-second and she immediately becomes my Favourite Daughter again and looks away. My finger-tips and toes feel a bit odd.

Later, and my sister and I are smoking a cigarette in our Mother’s garage – my sister is in her thirties and still believes our Mother doesn’t know she smokes.

“God though, isn’t Favourite Daughter starting to look like her mother now?” She says.

“I hadn’t noticed.” I say.


My fingers are still tingling.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

V

Three months ago.

I’m in the biggest comic-book shop in the North of England.

My son and daughter are browsing the Manga section, I’m in Graphic Novels.

They saunter over.

Favourite Daughter: Oh it’s that Anonymous dude.

She’s looking at the cover of Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta.

Me: No. They just adopted the image. The story is about a totalitarian England the government of which don’t tolerate anyone who is brown or gay and don’t allow any form of popular culture and the man here – V – makes it his business to destroy that government.

Favourite Daughter: Sounds like my kind of hero.

Favourite Son: [Overhearing] That Trump idiot would hate him.

Me: There’s an actual TARDIS over there…

They look at my like I’ve lost my mind.


My son is twelve. My daughter is fourteen.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Bars.

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.

Potentially.

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

Xxx

(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…..so 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.

.............