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 for the first time since 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 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. 

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…

Me: HANG ON!

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

Pause.

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

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